Monday, January 31, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Valentine’s Day Cookies

Are you looking for an easy, inexpensive and no-bake Valentine’s Day treat?  In the same tradition as Christmas snowmen and Halloween ghosts, I dipped Oreos in milk and white chocolate, and added royal icing hearts and flowers for Valentine’s Day.  I was trying to come up with a way to use Nutter Butters for a Valentine’s Day treat, but I couldn’t come up with anything except an infinity symbol, and that isn’t generally considered a Valentine’s Day theme.  So, I chose Oreos to dip.

I used Golden Oreos for the milk chocolate and regular Oreos for the white chocolate.  One package of Wilton candy coating will cover a package of Oreos with some leftover cookies.   My kids love these cookies, and they love to help decorate them for whichever holiday we are celebrating. 

I am excited to be participating in Masterpiece Monday over at Boogieboard Cottage.  Check out Mary’s blog for some great decorating ideas!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Trifle with a Valentine’s Day Table Setting

Do you know how it feels when you meet someone new who you just click with?  Someone who likes the same things you like, and shares your interests.  Someone you can talk with, laugh with, have fun with, and who inspires you.  I love connecting with people in this way whether it’s only for an afternoon, or turns into a friendship that lasts a lifetime.  Well I found a blog that make me feel as good as finding a new friend (okay not quite as good as finding a new friend, but almost as exciting). 

I don’t even remember how I stumbled on Between Naps on the Porch, but once I was there, I couldn’t pull myself away.  I probably single-handedly helped the page viewing average the day I found this wonderful blog.  Susan from Between Naps on the Porch lives across the country from me, but we still seem to shop at the same stores (Home Goods, Marshalls and I really need to get to Big Lots!) and we both love dishes and table settings.  I think we would have even more in common, and I’d love to hang out with her.  Though Susan and I don’t live near each other, I can still join her party.  She has a Tablescape Thursday party all about table decorations, and I couldn’t wait to join in!
Table settings ran through my head, and I scoured Home Goods and Marshalls to find the “perfect’ dishes.  I was wandering around Home Goods with cute heart plates in my cart, trying to figure out where I would store these specialty dishes, when I came to the conclusion that I can’t afford, in terms of both money and storage, to buy dishes I was only going to use once a year.  I told Les, who was with me at Home Goods, I was going to put the dishes back.  I had to laugh when he asked me if I was just taking the heart dishes out for a ride.  Yeah, I hope they enjoyed their ride around the store since they weren’t coming home with us!
For my Valentine’s table, I settled on these blue gingham and flower dishes, and the red chargers from Marshalls, partly because I knew I could use them again (I can just see them with yellow for summer!).

To add some actual Valentine's decorations, I printed up these sweet Victorian valentines from to put on top of the lace and linen napkins.

 I gathered up some of my late mother-in-law’s crystal, and used her pretty silver. 
This hand-painted salt-cellar (?) was my mother-in-law’s and I thought it fit in nicely with my Valentine’s theme.

And since this is a food blog, I wanted to give you a great dessert to serve for Valentine’s Day or any day.  I’ve made this trifle at least 3 other times, and I always get rave reviews.  This is the first time I’ve done mini trifles (the recipe worked out this time to 12 mini trifles and 6 small individual bowls).  In the past I’ve served the trifle both in individual bowls and in a large trifle bowl.  This trifle presents beautifully, but deep down it is the ultimate comfort food.

Chocolate Cherry Trifle
Adapted from Nigella Lawson from Food Network
Printable Recipe
1 chocolate Bundt cake (or 2 12oz. each chocolate pound cakes)
½ cup black cherry jam (I’ve also used raspberry)
½ cup cherry brandy
2 cups canned sour cherries, drained (i.e. Morello)

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, 60% cocoa, chopped
1 1/3 cups and 1 tablespoon whole milk
1 1/3 cups and 1 tablespoon heavy cream
8 egg yolks
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

3 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Bittersweet chocolate for garnish, shaved

To make the mini trifles.   Line two mini cheesecake pans with strips parchment that stick up an inch over the edge (about 3 X 6 inch strips).  Slice the cake in ¾ inch slices.  Using a 1 or 1 ½ inch round cookie cutter (or one that fits your mini cheesecake pan), cut circles out of the cake slices.  Sprinkle the cherry brandy over the top of the cake rounds. Spread the jam on the cake rounds, and place them jam side up into the lined cake pans.  Top the cakes with the drained cherries. Set aside while you make the custard.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave on medium heat, stirring every 30 seconds.  Or you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler on the stove.  Set aside the melted chocolate.

Heat the milk and cream in a large saucepan.  Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cocoa in a large bowl.  Pour the heated milk and cream into the bowl, and whisk it into the yolk and sugar mixture.  Stir in the melted chocolate.  Rinse out the large saucepan you used to heat the milk and cream, and add the custard back into the saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until the custard thickens, stirring constantly.  Make sure the custard doesn’t boil.  The custard will thicken as it cools, and the chocolate flecks in the custard will disappear.  Pour into a bowl to cool.  Once the custard has cooled, spoon or pipe onto the chocolate cake pieces in the mini cheesecake pan. (I usually just pour the custard over the cake, but as you can see in the picture I didn’t get the straight lines I wanted, so if you want straight lines in your mini trifles, cool the custard first.)  Refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to serve, softly whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar.  Top the mini trifles with the whipped cream, and garnish with the shaved chocolate.  Makes about 24 mini trifles.

To make trifle in a bowl, slice the cake and press it into one large trifle bowl or 8 to 10 individual trifle bowls.  Sprinkle the cake with cherry brandy and brush on the cherry jam.  Follow the directions for the custard and refrigerate overnight.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Meatloaf: Italian Style

I’ve never really thought about it before, and I’m not sure I would mention it to just anyone, but I have a meatloaf story.  I know what you’re thinking, “Doesn’t everyone have a meatloaf story?”  Yeah, right!

I do have a meatloaf story, and surprisingly, so did my mom.  In fact, it is a kind of family tradition to have a meatloaf story. I never like meatloaf growing up.  I think it had something to do with the ketchup laden loaf my mom served.  My mom loved meatloaf.  She especially liked having a meatloaf sandwich for lunch with the leftovers.  My mom’s meatloaf story starts with her taking the leftover meatloaf out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature.  Then, leaving to take my sister to preschool, and coming back in time to see our calico kitty jump off the kitchen counter licking her chops.  My mom rushed over to see the foil covering meatloaf pan lifted at one corner, and the meat loaf gone.  Meatloaf denied!

So, after a lifetime of disliking meatloaf, my story, inexplicably, is one of meatloaf enjoyed.  I had given birth to my son that morning, and the hospital had fed me a lunch of soup and a hamburger, which I polished off.  Visitors had come and gone, and Les had taken our daughter to stay with my parents, so I was alone with my son in my hospital room.  It felt like forever before dinner arrived, and to my dismay, dinner was meatloaf.  But, this meatloaf didn’t look anything like the meatloaves of my past.  It didn’t have the gloppy ketchup glaze.  It was served with mashed potatoes and gravy, and I ate every bite.  By the time Les came back, my plate was practically licked clean.  He looked at me quizzically, and asked what I’d had for dinner.  I replied, “The best meatloaf ever!”   He said, tongue-in-check “I’ve heard hospitals are world renowned for their meatloaves.”   Maybe I wasn’t the best judge of what was epicurean at that moment, but I was ready to put aside my distain for meatloaf.

It only took me ten years, and one Fine Cooking Magazine to try my own recipe for meatloaf.  Have you seen the cover of Fine Cooking this month?  The meatloaves look amazing.  While Les and my daughter loved this Italian style meatloaf, my son didn’t like it.  He said he didn’t like the texture (This could be the beginning of his own meatloaf story).  I loved this meatloaf.  It didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of my hospital meatloaf; I’m not sure any meatloaf can compete, but this one was close.  The flavors were bright and the texture was moist.  I loved it, and I can’t wait to try one of the other combinations.

Meatloaf: Italian Style
Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine
Printable Recipe
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 leeks white and light green parts, chopped (1 cup)
½ cup dry white wine

4 oz. French bread, cut roughly into 2-inch pieces, crust included
1 cup whole milk

1 ½ pound ground beef
½ pound mild bulk Italian sausage
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Worchester sauce
2 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons honey

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion, garlic and leeks.  Cook the vegetables over medium low heat until softened and just beginning to brown about 6 to 8 minutes.  Add the wine and simmer until almost dry, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl and let mixture cool to room temperature.

In a shallow dish, soak the bread in the milk for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until the bread is soften.  Lightly squeeze the bread to remove some of the milk.  Finely chop the soaked bread, and add to the vegetables in the bowl.

Preheat the oven to 375°F, and position a rack in the center of the oven.

Add the ground round, Italian sausage and eggs to the bowl with the vegetables.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese, parsley, lemon zest, Worchester sauce, salt and pepper over the meat.   Using your hands mix the ingredients gently until combined.

Line the bottom of a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, and form the meatloaf mixture into a 10 X4 inch block.  Brush the honey over the top of the meatloaf.  Cook the meatloaf until the inside reaches 160°F, about 40 to 50 minutes.  Let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes, and then slice into ½ inch thick slices and serve.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lentil Sausage Soup

I can’t believe the holiday season has come and gone, and we are already in 2011! I’ve been de-Christmasing my house, and trying to catch up with all of the things I ignored over the holidays. And, the two weeks off were great, but I’m still trying to adjust to working, so I need something quick and easy to put on the table for dinner on during the week. I prepared this soup last weekend for a quick weeknight meal. I love when all I have to do is heat up  soup or chili to get dinner on the table.

I’ve seen a couple different lentil soup recipes lately, and I had a delicious Andouille sausage and lentil soup when I was up in San Francisco on business last month. The soup I had in San Francisco inspired this recipe, but I had to use what I had on hand (read: I was not going to the store again!) I’m happy with the results. The soup is thick and hearty with the sausage adding rich flavor. I will make this again, but I can’t wait to try it with Andouille sausage.

Lentil Sausage Soup
Printable Recipe
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 leek, chopped
½ onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups lentils
6 cups chicken broth

In a large pot over medium heat, brown the Italian sausage, breaking up the sausage into bite sized pieces. Add the leek, onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, rosemary and thyme, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the salt, diced tomatoes, lentils, broth and water. Bring to a boil, and reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until the lentils are soft. You can add up to 1 cup of water to thin the soup if desired.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

I know it’s already January 4th, but I wanted wish you “Happy New Year” and tell you about the delicious drink Les served for our New Year’s Eve party.  Les and I took over the New Year’s Eve party this year when Rob and Barb moved to Tennessee.  Rob and Barb are great hosts, so we didn’t take on New Year’s lightly.  Rob always had a fun cocktail poured and ready when we arrived.  Les wanted to keep that tradition going, so he created a Pomegranate Martini for our celebration.

The Pomegranate Martini is slightly sweet with a subtle tartness.  It was a delicious drink to sip while noshing on appetizers. 

We also served wings, sausages, beans, and these ribs.  Everyone else brought something to share, so we had plenty of delicious food to eat!  And, after dinner we had a blast playing Scattagories. 

Pomegranate Martini
Printable Recipe
1 ounce Vodka
½ ounce Cointreau
½ ounce Pomegranate Syrup (We used Tornani)
2 ounces Cranberry Juice Cocktail
¼ lime wedge

Pour ice into a cocktail shaker, and add the first four ingredients.  Shake the cocktail shaker.  Rim a martini glass with the lime wedge, and pour mixture from the cocktail shaker into the martini glass.  Squeeze the lime into the drink, and add the lime wedge into the drink.  Enjoy!


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