Friday, February 24, 2012

Deviled Eggs + The Perfect Oscar Party



Did your ticket for the Oscars arrive this week? If not, host your own soirée in the comfort of your own home. You could dress up in your formal best or simply be in your best lounge wear. The event could be a cocktail party, a casual bubbly and appetizer get together, a glamorous or informal dinner or large blow out party – you choose.

Unfortunately hubby never fully embraced the award show season and I can certainly respect that. It doesn’t stop me from heading upstairs to watch either the Grammies or Oscars, while he catches up on his recorded shows he loves. Thought I would share with all of you my idea of the Perfect Oscar Party.

It would be a smaller affair with approximately 6 to 8 guests. The invitation would be simple with a white background, the Oscar statue on the left side of the 5 x 7 card with the details printed in gold letters and high grade stock paper. The theme would be casual cocktail party attire and bring your slippers, since we are a shoeless house. For fun, I would put a “red carpet” on the front porch to set the theme for the evening along with purchasing a few Oscar statues for the entry, family room, guest bathroom and bar area. To add the glitz, some confetti and gold metallic streamers or ribbon would adorn the various areas.


The festivities would begin around 4 or 5pm, to allow for all the guests to give their reviews of the celebrities walking down the red carpet. A red carpet checklist would be given to each guest to jot down their picks for best dressed female and male, worst dressed female and male along with most outrageously dressed female and male plus a few other notable categories. Everyone can compare notes during the evening.  The result will be great conversation.

Since hosting this special event, the party would be held in our family room where the television is best viewed. All the appetizers would be front and center around the large coffee table and easy access for all guests to enjoy while being more casual. Small appetizer plates and gold napkins would be placed along side the elegant nibbles. Speaking of appetizers, my menu would include:


No cocktail party is complete without a signature cocktail. My signature cocktail would be the St-Germain Cocktail. I would rename it either – “Midnight in Paris”, “Moneyball” or “The Help”. Along with the signature cocktail, would be an assortment of wine, beer and a small bar to make mixed drinks. The bar would be set up on the kitchen island in a serve yourself motif with oscar statues and gold confetti.

During the Oscar event, each guest would have an Oscar Bingo card that you could find here or create your own. The idea being that when a person, action or activity occurred you would be able to mark that square. Probably best to play black out bingo, meaning crossing out each square. Choose a small prize and award the first person to black out the card.

Adding to my bag of tricks would be an Oscar Ballot for each person to predict the winner in the various categories. I would stick with the most well known categories and then award a small prize to the person who has the most correct on the ballot. Prizes could range from movie tickets, itunes gift card to download the songs from the winning movie or a small gift bag with popcorn and assorted seasons to make gourmet popcorn. Let your imagination run wild.


The finale for the evening would be the dessert. Perhaps an elegant crème brulee, a gourmet ice cream bar, assorted handmade cookies or your favorite chocolate truffles placed onto a cake stand. The possibilities are endless.

Deviled eggs are actually one of my hubby’s favorite foods. Perhaps that might entice him to watch the Oscars. Smile. Wink. The simplicity of these two bite wonders make for a great canvas for gourmet topping options that are endless yet add sophistication to a normally simple food. Lately I have enjoyed serving deviled eggs as a fun appetizer. I believe that I have found the perfect balance of seasonings that have earned much praise. Wanted to share with all of you, so if you do host an Oscar party on Sunday, this might be a consideration for your menu.


Deviled Eggs

12 Eggs
1 T. Vinegar

Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with 2 to 3 inches of cold water. Place on the burner and gently bring to a boil and add the vinegar to the water. The vinegar will help to keep the egg whites from running out should an egg crack during the boiling process. Let the water come to a boil and then remove from the heat or you can simply turn off the burner and cover the pan with a lid. Let sit for about 12 to 13 minutes.

Either remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and put into an ice bath or simply drain the water and add cold water. You can then crack gently and remove the shell. I keep warm water running and remove the shells.

Filling

Eggs yolks, cooked
7 T. Mayonnaise
2 t. Yellow mustard
¼ to ½ t. Salt

In a bowl, add the cooked egg yolks and mash well with a fork until no large lumps remain. Add the mayo, mustard and salt. Beat vigorously to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or mustard to please your palate. Use either a piping bag or small cookie scoop to fill each egg.

Toppings

Fried Capers – simply place a tablespoon or more onto a paper towel to dry. In a small frying pan, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Heat on medium and place the dry capers onto the pan and cook until crispy. Remove to cool.

Applewood Smoked Bacon and Chives – cook 1 piece of bacon until crispy, let cool and cut into small pieces. Mince the chives finely.

Green olives – let drain on a paper towel until dry. Chop medium to fine.

Crab and Srirachi – use three small bits of crab and a small amount of Srirachi on top of the crab.












Monday, February 20, 2012

Coconut and Marcona Almond Brittle | Secret Recipe Club



Have you heard the secret yet? The secret has to do with a group of food bloggers and a site called – The Secret Recipe Club. In a nutshell, it is a group of food bloggers who joined an online cooking club. The premise is based upon the concept that once a month each blogger is assigned another blogger’s website, selects a favorite recipe to make and post their version on the magic reveal day. You are given creativity rights to make changes or keep exactly the same version.



For February, I was matched with Veronica from My Catholic Kitchen. She is a self taught cook who adores her family that she treads throughout her blog. As she calls them, her family is the core of her cast of characters with “The Hubster”; her daughter is “Monkey Girl” and her rescue doggie “Meeka”. She views her family and friends as her “ingredients for her life” – how appropriate with publishing her food blog. Veronica has many wonderful recipes on her site and it took a bit of time to narrow it down to my final selection – an adaptation of her coconut brittle.


Growing up, I was fortunate that my parents sent me to Catholic school from first grade through high school. I was provided with a wonderful education along with the enhanced learning associated with my faith. It is something that I will always be grateful for and cherish the friends, education and lessons I gained from that experience. Having been matched with Veronica was a great pairing.


I have a true affinity for Marcona almonds and toasted coconut, so why not incorporate these two loves into the brittle. In addition, I have yet to make brittle, so why not carpe Diem – seize the moment. Veronica’s recipe was both simple and straight forward. The result was pure heaven and not to mention rather addictive. Knowing this, I decided to bring the batch of goodness to my office, where by the end of the day, only crumbs remained.

Coconut and Marcona Almond Brittle

2 C. sugar
1 C. light corn syrup
½ C. water
¼ C. butter
2 C. Marcona almonds
¾ C. Shredded coconut, toasted
1 ½ t. baking soda

Directions

Butter two large baking sheets with side. Set aside. In a three quart sauce pan combine sugar, corn syrup, water and butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture reaches 275 degrees on a candy thermometer. (soft crack stage) Stir in nuts and continue cooking until mixture reaches 295 degrees (hard crack stage) on a candy thermometer.

Remove pan from the heat, add baking soda, and stir to combine. Immediately pour onto prepared baking sheets. While hot sprinkle with the toasted coconut. Cool completely and break into pieces and store tightly covered for up to 1 month. Makes approximately 2 pounds.









Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Potato Chip Cookies



Growing up one my family’s favorite snack foods was, and still is, potato chips. There is a debate among many, whether it is ridges or absent of ridges that are the best types of chips. Quite frankly the non-ridge version was categorically the winner with my family and hands down the traditional Lays potato chip was the preferred choice in our household.

To bring it to another level, there was some minor debate about what type of chip was the best. You are probably thinking, are there really types of chips within a bag of traditional Lays - you bet. They can be "flat", "folded over", "slightly brown" or the bits at the bottom of the bag. In our family the prized possession or as we called it – was the “filet” chip.


The filet was a medium sized chip, not folded over and certainly not any declaration of brown hues and absent of bubbles from the frying process. The filet was highly coveted and when one was discovered, or two people went to the bowl of chips to select, one person would exclaim, I have found a filet. Quite often my Mom would get the most excited about capturing the filet with me right behind her. To this day, we still enjoy a large bowl of potato chips and the hunt for prized filet continues.

To be honest, potato chips are the junk food that I crave. If you posed the question: would I rather have a chocolate bar or a bowl of potato chips, it would be no contest – the potato chips would win every time. It is the salty, crunchy and carbohydrate thing that resonates with me. Several years ago the company I was with at the time had their company headquarters in the mid-west. I was working on a special project that took me from California to the mid-west headquarters.


This particular company served snacks at 3pm to every floor of the headquarters – not sure if they were just old school or it was a mid-western charm thing. In any event, I had my first encounter with the potato chip cookie. I was blown away by the crunch, saltiness and richness that were encapsulated all in a few bites. I tried for years to recreate without avail to finding the closest match to my memory of this brilliant bite of heaven.

Recently I discovered on Smitten Kitchen’s blog a recipe for Potato Chip Cookies and was intrigued to try it. I adapted the recipe by using salted butter, adding more salt and vanilla, incorporating mini dark chocolate chips and doubling the crushed potato chips to the recipe. I loved the idea of garnishing with crushed potato chips. Originally she adapted from Emeril. I brought the cookies to my office the next day and they were gone within a matter of hours along with many requests for the recipe. Enjoy!



Potato Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

1 C. salted butter, at room temperature
1 C. granulated sugar, divided in half
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. sea salt
1/2 C. chopped and toasted pecans
1/2 C. Mini dark chocolate chips
1 C finely crushed potato chips + ¼ C for garnish
2 C. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Use a stand mixer to cream together the butter with 1/2 cup of the sugar until lightly and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla and salt until smooth. Add the pecans, mini chocolate chips and 1 cup crushed potato chips and mix then add the flour and mix until just combined.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Scoop a tablespoon-sized mound of dough and form it into a small ball with the palms of your hands. I use a cookie scoop to form uniform size balls. (See photo in post) Roll the ball in the remaining sugar until coated. Place on baking sheet and using the bottom of a drinking glass to slightly flatten the cookies. Cookies only need to be an inch apart; they only spread a little. Sprinkle with a few flakes of the potato chips. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake cookies until lightly golden at the edges, about 12 -15 minutes, depending on how hot your oven gets. Transfer to cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Crispy Brussels Sprouts Salad with Citrus



One of my favorite parts of each week is our Friday night. Hubby and I look forward to it all week long. We now have a standing tradition that we spend Friday night together either just the two of us or with friends enjoying great wine and delish appetizers. It kicks off the weekend in style along with winding down from a long work week.



Last night was no exception. I got home around 6:30pm while hubby strolled in closer to 7:30pm. I was inspired by a dish that I enjoyed at Bottega in Yountville a few weeks ago. Michael's version was -  Caramelized Brussels Sprout Salad Citrus segments, toasted Marcona almonds, Prosciutto bits, and aged balsamic dressing. I took that concept and switched it up to the Authentic Suburban Gourmet version. Thank you for the inspiration Michael – you are the best!


When hubby walked through the door, wine was selected from the cellar and the salad was in the final stages of assembly. With the chill in the air, a wonderful cabernet sauvignon was a perfect selection. Towards the front of the cellar was a 2004 Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon and I was immediately drawn to the simple yet elegant label. The rich deep purple color was the first clue we were going to enjoy a stunning bottle of wine. The aroma was complex with clues of deep cherry, pepper and a brilliant earthiness. The finish had hints of cigar, vanilla, spice and juniper berry. A delightful wine indeed.


The fire place was turned on. When we purchased our house, wood burning was not allowed in new construction, however, we have grown to love our “flick of a switch” fire place. With a glass of wine in hand and this divine salad, the evening kicked off to a great start.

Hope all of you had a great Friday night and enjoys each minute of your weekend. Enjoy!!



Crispy Brussels Sprouts Salad with Citrus

Brussels Sprouts

2 C. Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and cut into quarters
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Use a large sheet pan and spread the quartered brussles sprouts evenly and drizzle with olive oil until lightly coated and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 17 minutes and toss about half way through the cooking time for even doneness. Remove from oven to let cool slightly.

Lemon Dressing

1 T. Mayonnaise
Zest of one lemon
2 t. Lemon juice
2 T. Olive oil
Pinch of salt

Add all ingredients to a small jar with a lid. Shake until well combined. Taste and adjust ingredients and seasoning to your taste.

Garnishs

2 to 3 Blood oranges cut in half and segments removed
1 Pink grapefruit cut in half and segments removed
½ C. Toasted pine nuts

Assembly

Use a platter and sprinkle the crispy Brussels sprouts in the middle. Add the citrus segments on top of the Brussels sprouts and sprinkle the pine nuts evenly over the salad. Drizzle the lemon dressing and serve immediately.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies + Chocolate Bark



Creativity, conversation, food bloggers and a beautiful day outside made for great fun yesterday. Patty from Patty’s Food invited a few Bay Area Food Bloggers to gather at her house for a valentine cooking baking and decorating day. She lives about an hour away from me and with the weather a tad chilly but the sun shining brite, the time passed quickly; especially with Pandora streaming at a moderate to loud volume all the way over. Okay rather loud. Big grin.




Patty is an extremely gracious host and her home felt like our own homes the moment she greeted us at the door. Sparkling water and a lovely boutique chardonnay, were offered within minutes of gathering around the spacious kitchen island. Gina from Spcookiequeen brought a lot of the decorations and special valentine touches for us to enjoy. Her daughter joined us in the fun and is quite the cookie decorating artist.

{Patty and me}

{ Gina with her lovely daughter }
.
Stephanie from Baking Barrister joined in the festivities along with Bonnie from Bonnibella, who I had not met until today. We had a fun day of catching up, talking about blogging, photography, food and laughing. Gosh – what else would a bunch of food bloggers discuss – just saying. Smile. A few other bloogers were unfortunately unable to attend due to prior engagements, but please know you all were certainly missed.



What would a food blogger get together be with out great food? It certainly would not be complete. Luckily for all of us, that was not the case. Wonderful food abounded and it was hard to not over eat my ample share of these goodies. Stephanie wowed us with her Leek confit on toasted crostini’s with goat cheese. Gina make homemade Blood Orange Jam that was too die for and to bring it to the next level she made myer lemon cake to spread the delish jam on top. Patty made a Point Reyes Original Blue, Apple and Walnut Quiche, which I must confess that I enjoyed two slices. Bonni brough firecracker shimp with a wonderful dipping sauce. I made my Stilton and Walnut Palmiers, which were so fragrant in my car and was so tempted to eat one along the way, but refrained.




In addition to the tasty and beautiful cookies, Gina brought the ingredients for valentines day mulit-chocolate bark. So simple to make. Over two double boilers, melt dark chocolate in one and milk chocolate in the other. She used the one pound chocolate bars from Trader Joes. Once melted, add the milk chocolate first in a baking sheet pan and then the dark chocolate and swirl a bit to intertwine the colors. Decorate with various sprinkles and candies on top. Let cool in a freezer until hard. Dump onto a hard surface and break into desired sizes.



Once the cookies were cool enough to frost and decorate, the creativity was bouncing off the walls along with much laughter. Some cookies were small, others large and yet others with sticks attached. Little letters were cut out to attach along with a great selection of sparkely sprinkles that Gina graciously shared. I provided the royal frosting recipe compliments of the wonderful Martha Stewart and the cookie recipe was from Gina – love the hint of almond extract in the cookies. All in all a great way to spend a Saturday – foodie friends, great food and fun conversation.

{Clockwise from the top: (1) Gina (2) Stephanie (3) me with my finished cookie pops (4) Bonnie, Patty and Stephanie taking photos

Sugar Cookies
(Recipe from Gina at SPCookiequeen)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Beat the butter until softened, add sugar, egg, flour, salt and almond extract and mix until combined. Chill dough for 1-2 hours. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface until it's 1/4-inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out the dough and place the cookies 2-inches apart onto cookie sheets lined with parchment or silpats.

Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 7-9 minutes.

Royal Icing
(Recipe from Martha Stewart)

2 pounds confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup water, plus more if needed
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons meringue powder
Gel-paste food coloring (optional)

Beat sugar, water, and meringue powder with a mixer on low speed until smooth. (If icing is too thick, slowly add more water, beating to desired consistency. If icing is too thin, continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes more.) Add food coloring if desired, a drop at a time, until desired color is reached; if making more than 1 color, divide icing and work in batches. Icing can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.


Please stop by Gina, Patty and Bonni's blogs to see their posts all about our fun day together!
 
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