Monday, March 17, 2008

A myraid of entertaining recipes

I just cannot describe how absolutely wonderful it is to be back in the kitchen! Yes, I know that I stopped using the crutches 2 weeks ago, but to have that darn aircast off and shoes on and to spend hours in the kitchen doing what I enjoy so much—it’s heaven! Heaven, I tell you!!! Of course, my poor foot has to get accustomed to this. And my back, which hasn’t hurt a bit for the first 8 weeks after my fall when I was sitting most of the time, isn’t pleased as well. But the heck with them both. ;)

I just love to spend hours in the kitchen, I love to entertain, and I was able to do both last week with only a moderate amount of pain and discomfort. It has been nine weeks, now, since I broke my ankle and foot and I am finally, finally feeling as though I am getting back to normal. Hallelujah!

For this event I planned menu items which could mostly be made ahead. I think that I have to concentrate more on doing that even after I am *dancing* again. It was nice to actually enjoy a party rather than be worried about the timing of recipes and what had to be done next.

The menus for our friend’s surprise birthday festivities were:



Queso Fundido al Tequila


baked tortilla chips


White Turkey Chili

garnishes of: chopped tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, scallions; crumbled queso fresco

Chipotle Cornbread


Coconut Rum Layer Cake with Chocolate-Dark Rum Frosting



Triple-Berry French Toast

Maple Turkey Sausages


Italian Tomato Soup with Chickpeas and Pasta

Rosemary-Garlic Bread

Assorted cheeses (grès des vosages, raw milk bleu d’auvergne, French smoked rambol)

All Grown-up Chocolate Chip cookies

I made a schedule of what should be prepared on which day, and pretty much stayed with it.

Last Sunday I made the French bread for Saturday’s French toast and also the Rosemary-Garlic Boulé. On Tuesday I prepared the cornbread dry ingredients, the tomato mixture for the queso fundido (and shredded the cheese as well), measured the berries for the French toast into a
plastic freezer bag and popped it back into the freezer, and made the frosting for the cake. On Wednesday, I cooked the chili (through the addition of milk and whole canellini beans), the base for the tomato soup, and chocolate chip cookie dough. Thursday we packed, traveled to the lake house, unpacked, and I frosted and decorated the cake.

We spent Friday morning decorating. Our friend Jack (the Birthday Guy) arrived in the early afternoon (treating himself to a half vacation day for the occasion) and I made peanut noodles with chicken for lunch. Afterward I baked the cookies so that he and Jack (my husband, Jack—it can become very confusing with two Jack's) could eat them fresh from the oven. Although I had milk with mine, they preferred beer! As the cookies baked I chopped garnishes for the chili; later
I made the guacamole, mixed up the cornbread, melted the cheese into the queso fundido, and heated the chili. Our other guests, George and Tammy, arrived at 6 and all was ready. (Friend) Jack, who thought it was going to be “just us”, was nicely surprised when they came into the room. The party began and we had a great time.

One of George’s varied hobbies is distilling spirits; the more unusual, the better. He brought down three bottles. Absinthe, Aqua Mirabilis (made from a medieval recipe—he bought wormwood online somewhere!), and something made from galangal which he has yet to name. They were very interesting. We sipped, since these spirits run about 140-proof, and admired the bottle labels. George is a genius at graphic design and I have to share these.

It was a very fun evening. Tammy appointed herself to be clean-up crew, and I have learned in the past several weeks how to give up control and accept help. I'm beginning to get used to this!

The recipes. I’ll try to get them all into this one post, but I only have a few photos.

First, the Queso Fundido is a Rick Bayless recipe which I first made a couple of years ago and noted that: “this is by far the best melted-cheese dip I have ever tried”. This time I used shredded jalapeno cheddar instead of the Monterey Jack called for in the recipe.

I spooned the tomato base in a mixing bowl, added the shredded cheese, and placed it in the microwave. Unfortunately, in my attempts to keep (friend) Jack’s attention by chatting as to
divert him from George and Tammy’s arrival until they actually walked into the room, I nuked the cheese too much. It curdled. There was nothing else to do but serve it, which I did in a terracotta warming dish, and it was all eaten anyway. This dip had a great flavor (although I was quite disappointed in the not-at-all creamy texture).

* Exported from MasterCook *

Queso Fundido al Tequila

Recipe By: Rick Bayless
Servings: 8

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium tomatoes -- 1/4" dice
2 whole jalapeños -- seeded and minced
1 small onion -- 1/4" dice
3 tablespoons tequila

1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese -- shredded
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the tomatoes, jalapenos, onion, and a large pinch of kosher salt and cook over a moderately high heat, stirring often, until softened (about 5 minutes). Pour in the tequila and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until the skillet looks nearly dry.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese and cook, stirring constantly, until fully melted (about 1/2 minute). Quickly transfer to a heated serving bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately with tortilla chips.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 140 Calories (kcal); 10g Total Fat; (68% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 25mg Cholesterol; 155mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

The guacamole is my standard recipe. I don’t like it to be too onion-y or too spicy, and this fits the bill perfectly. I've made it with both tomatoes and not, and I definitely prefer this with the tomatoes added.

* Exported from MasterCook *


Recipe By: Rita
Servings: 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 medium avocado -- peeled and diced
2 large clove garlic -- minced
6 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 small jalapeno -- minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 medium tomato -- chopped

Coarsely mash avocado in a bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 188 Calories (kcal); 16g Total Fat; (68% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 17mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 3 Fat
; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Can be made 2 days ahead of time. Spoon into a small container and press plastic wrap directly on the surface (and part of the surface exposed to air will brown, but this can be removed with a spoon prior to serving), cover, and refrigerate.

The White Turkey Chili is from a Cooking Light recipe of several years ago.

Sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? But this is truely delicious. I used ground turkey, browned, instead of cooked turkey breast. Having prepared it both ways in the past, I prefer it with the ground turkey better. I pre-prepared it up to the adding of the whole canellini beans and milk, and added those when it was reheated. Then chili didn’t thicken up as much as I wanted, so I ladled some of the liquid from the chili, stirred in cornstarch, and poured it back into the pot, stirring as it came to a boil and thickened. I also added a half
chopped Scotch Bonnet chili for some fire.

Tomatoes are a must for garnish, as is the queso fresco and extra cilantro, but the avocado and onion added a good flavor and crunch as well.

(note: CL photo by: BECKY LUIGART-STAYNER)

The cornbread was the result of mixing of two recipes I found online, plus a few additions of my own. I always like to preheat the pan or skillet in the oven because when you pour in that batter it sizzles and forms a nice crust. The shredded cheese added flavor and a creamy note to the bread. This isn’t my standard cornbread recipe (which is by Jane Brody and incorporates whole wheat flour and only a little oil), but I wanted something extra-special for this meal. I will add this recipe to the post soon (having just realized that it's still written on the back of a junk-mail envelope...).

The coconut rum cake is featured in a previous post. I created it for (husband) Jack’s birthday last June and have been dying to try it ever since. It is an awesome cake, if you like rum and coconut… and cake! I could eat the whole thing by myself (although it might take a day or two) and honestly, I may choose a big bowl of the chocolate dark-rum frosting for my last meal. If given the

The cake is simply a doctored white cake mix which has a wonderful flavor of coconut rum. The only mistake I made was to make the quantity of frosting in my June 2007 blog posting (for an 8" cake), and I would have liked a little more for frosting this 9" cake. And some to eat out of the bowl.

Several weeks ago I found a recipe for Triple-Berry French toast on Joe’s "Culinary in the Country" blog, so there was no decision as to what would be for Saturday breakfast. George stopped at Whole Foods and picked up a few packages of Wellshire Farms maple-flavored turkey breakfast sausage links. The sausages are excellent, my absolute favorite (and he brought me an extra package!).

The French toast was a cinch to make ahead. I made and froze the French bread earlier in the week, so all I had to do on Saturday morning was to cut it into cubes. The berries had been measured and mixed and were in a plastic bag in the freezer. The cinnamon, sugar, and cornstarch mixture was pre-mixed in a small container. All I had to do was beat the eggs and milk, let the bread cubes soak in it while I mixed the berries and sugar mixture, then arrange the eggy bread cubes on top and bake.

This recipe surpassed all of my expectations. The bottom layer of berries was hot and sweet and fragrant, the bread cubes on top made a delicious crust. Everyone loved this and I will make it

Because I try to prepare more than I think that we will eat, there were about 2 servings left (I increased the recipe by 50%). This tasted almost as good reheated 2 mornings later!

Lunch was an Italian tomato soup. I had made the soup base (sautéing onion and garlic, pureeing the whole tomatoes and simmering all together for a bit) earlier in the week and refrigerated. All I had to do was heat it, add the chickpeas, pasta, parsley, and shredded Parmesan. I also added some cayenne for a bit of a kick. It was quite delicious, thicker than most tomato soups, and a very hearty lunch.

Tomato Soup with Chickpeas & Pasta

From Food & Wine's "Quick From Scratch Soups & Salads Cookbook"

2 (28 oz) cans tomatoes with their juice
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 t. dried sage
2 c. chicken broth

2 c. water
1 3/4 t. salt
1/2 c. ditalini or other small pasta (I used orzo)
1 (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 t. black pepper
1/3 c. grated Parmesan

Puree the tomatoes & their juice; set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic.

Add the pureed tomatoes, sage, broth, water & salt to the pot. Bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and chickpeas. Bring the soup back to a boil, then reduce the heat. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the parsley, pepper, and the 1/3 c. Parmesan. Serve topped with additional

With the soup I served the Rosemary-Garlic bread which I made on Sunday and froze. This is from a CL recipe for Rosemary-Walnut Bread. The fresh rosemary added a nicely subtle flavor, but I could barely discern the garlic so I will increase it by 50% next time. It is a relatively easy bread, and in the 5 or so years I have been making it, I have not been disappointed.

And, aaaaaah, chocolate chip cookies. These were what I could keep Jack and Jack from snarfing down yesterday. And why wouldn’t they be good—butter and chocolate! Plus an undertone of both chocolate malted milk powder (I used Ovaltine) and vanilla made these positively addictive. I used a mix of semisweet, milk, and bittersweet chocolate chips, only 12 ounces total instead of the pound called for in the recipe. They are long gone, and I want more! Again from Joe’s blog, All Grown Up Chocolate Chip Cookies.

As a result of this 2-day food and drink orgy, we are trying to eat a bit lighter than usual during the next few days. Easter is this weekend and although I'm not baking much this year, we will be visiting my parents and Mom has been baking (and making chocolate eggs with various fillings) for weeks now. From the minute we walk in the front door to when we leave (with a small plastic bag of goodies "to keep you awake on the drive home"), we will be constantly tempted.

I love it.