Posts Tagged ‘party’

Blog-checking lines: Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

OMG so laaaaaate….I saw that the challenge was potato salad, picked my recipe out, and then work immediately became a fiery whirlwind of stress and drama, and the potato salad never was made. But then Jenn was having a 4th of July pool party, and I said AHA! A time and place for a healthy potato salad, especially one that doesn’t have mayo in it!

I didn’t take any pictures…so I suppose you can’t really believe me when I said I made it. ūüė¶

Original recipe here. Bask in the authoress’s gorgeous photographing abilities. I’m jealous!

I am all about the Indian flavors this year — maybe because I’m working more closely than ever before with my subcontinental coworkers? These flavors were a big hit, both among those who tried it at the July 4th pool party and the neighbors who had it at the July 5th Leftovers Party I lugged it to. This was easy to make on the morning of the 4th while Jim deconstructed the tents in the backyard from our July 3rd party (can you tell our neighborhood takes the 4th of July very seriously?), and the kitchen didn’t even get too hot. Totally a plus.

Indian Potato Salad (no mayo)
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes*
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
couple of shakes of cayenne
3 scallions, sliced thinly
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped*

*I think I used about 3 medium sized white potatoes? 2 1/2 pounds or so?
**As always, what did I do? I left out the cilantro! Yes, always. It tastes like soap. You’re welcome.

Bring water to a boil and add the cubed potatoes. Boil until just tender (about 5 mins). Test with a fork. You don’t want them too firm but you don’t want them falling apart in to mush either. Drain in a colander in the sink.

Heat the oil in a skillet and toast the cumin seeds for a minute. Add the salt and curry powder and stir until well mixed. The mixture will get amazingly fragrant as it heats up, this only takes a minute or so but be sure you don’t let it burn. Take fragrant spiced oil off the heat.

Place the potatoes, scallions, and red pepper in a bowl and add the spicy oil. Toss gently then add a couple of shakes of cayenne. Finally, add the cilantro if you are using it and toss gently.

And enjoy!


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Roasted Onion Cheese Ball

This is an excellent party recipe that can be made, in stages, and ahead of time. I’m going to give you the original recipe from Stonewall Kitchen, the makers of the roasted garlic and onion jam I’m enamored with, but I also give you this caveat: I have yet to make the full-sized recipe come out quite right. But I think that has more to do with the cream cheese than the recipe itself. More below.

Roasted Garlic & Onion Jam Cheese Ball
serves many as an app at a party

16 ounces cream cheese (you can use fat-free)*
1/4 c. Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Garlic Onion Jam
dash of freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 c. Monterey Jack cheese**
1/2 c. chopped pecans

*Caveat: I do not believe that this recipe will work, even in half measures, if you use the cream cheese that comes in a tub. I have tried this twice, once as a full recipe and once as a half recipe, and it didn’t work either time. I think the cream cheese in the tub has a higher moisture content, and it takes more than twice as long to reach a stage in the fridge where it will retain the shape you want to give it. I haven’t tried the full-sized recipe using bricks of cream cheese because only 1 of the stores in my area carries fat-free cream cheese in brick shape, but it works a treat for the half recipe. Stick to the bricks.

**I cannot find low-fat Monterey Jack cheese to save my life. I’ve been using a fancy-shredded low-fat 4 cheese Mexican blend and it’s been a hit all three times I’ve brought this recipe out. If I weren’t striving to make this recipe low-fat, I could use regular Monterey Jack, which can easily be found in the grocery stores; but just so you know, the 4 cheese Mexican-style blend works just fine.

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature. This will make it easier to work with.

When the cream cheese has come to room temp, mix together the cheese, the jam, and the pepper. Fold in the shredded cheese. At this point, I return the bowl with the mixture to the fridge so the mixture can firm to a malleable state and for the flavors to meld. If you are preparing to have guests over, take this opportunity to vacuum something.

Form the chilled mixture in to a ball. It will probably warm up, between your handling it and the warmth of the room, so once it is in a ball return it to the bowl and pop it back in the fridge for fifteen minutes.

When the ball is chilled and firm again, roll in the chopped pecans. Pat the pecans in with your fingertips, gently, to make sure they’re stuck on. Wrap tightly in clear plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator until the guests arrive!

Serve on a plate with a cheese knife and handfuls of small crackers. We prefer Breton Minis.

If you have no other choice than to use the tub cream cheese, don’t panic. Follow all the steps through trying to form the cheese mixture in to a ball. Do not even attempt it because it is icky and you will get stressed out. Mix in the chopped pecans and pour the whole thing in to a serving dish, smooth the top over, and cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until party time. This tastes NO different as a dip than as a ball, and at a recent party I watched people spread not only crackers but also vegetables and tortilla chips with the cheese “dip.”

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27th Birthday Party Dinner Menu

The party is this Saturday…I’ll be posting links to some of these recipes this week! Keep coming back!

Giada de Laurentiis’s Stuffed Mushrooms
Fresh veggies with fat-free ranch dip
Crabby Bites (link tk)
Roasted Onion Cheese Ball from Stonewall Kitchen (link tk)
Breton Minis Original-flavored Crackers

Signature Drink
Green Apple Clerico (Kiwi Clerico minus the heinous kiwi)
made with Yarden Mount Hermon White from Golan Heights Winery

Main course
Turkey with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing (link tk)
Salad mixed greens with fat-free Italian dressing
Mix of baked white and sweet potatoes

??? TBD ???

I don’t know what the dessert is going to be at my own birthday…Meghan & Co are responsible for it!

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Chai-Spiced Orange-Cranberry Sauce

Still trying to figure out side dishes for tomorrow’s turkey dinner? Ever thought of making your own cranberry sauce? I know it sounds daunting, but it is really the easiest thing in the world and you can make it up to four days in advance, so you can get it done the day or two days before. I saw this in Yankee Magazine’s November/December 2010 issue in a article extolling the virtues and flexibility of this New England fruit, and the fact that it was spiced with chai tea pushed it over the top and I just had to try it. Conveniently timed was a birthday party/holiday buffet for a friend’s one-year-old daughter!

You can buy cranberries when they’re in season and stock them up in the freezer for up to a year, so buy four or five or six bags when they’re on a really good sale at the grocery store, then use them straight from frozen in your recipes. Just be sure to pick them over quickly before you add them, to get out the “bad apples” and take out any stems that tagged along! A few never hurt anyone but too many is too many.

Yankee Chai-Spiced Orange-Cranberry Sauce
makes 6 cups of sauce

1 1/2 c. water
2 1/4 c. sugar
5 bags black chai tea (I used Tazo)
8 c. fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 c. fresh orange juice

Combine water and sugar in a large pot (I used the 5-quart pot) over high heat. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and add tea bags. Simmer with tea bags for exactly two minutes (set the timer!), then remove the tea with a slotted spoon or mesh scoop.¬†Pay close attention to the timing, though–too much steeping will bring out the tea’s bitter notes.

After the tea bags have been removed, add the cranberries and increase heat to medium-high. Simmer, stirring frequently, until cranberries soften and their skins split and the sauce thickens a little, about 10 to 15 minutes. It will tend to foam up as the berries release juice and pectin, so make sure it doesn’t foam over (this is also why I used a larger pot than Yankee called for). Also watch out because the bubbling mixture is HOT and will splash you. Don’t wear white.

Remove from heat, stir in orange juice, and let cool to room temperature before serving (the sauce will thicken further as it cools). Or cover and refrigerate up to 4 days. Once it had cooled a bit I transferred it to a 2-quart souffle dish, which was a perfect size. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. I made this the night before our dinner party so I could just pull it out and serve it when the buffet was laid.

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A vegetarian dish that even a carnivore can enjoy. The original recipe from Chow.com indicates a homemade crust, of course, but for the sake of ease, speed, clean-up time, and my sanity, I went with a deep-dish frozen crust from the freezer section in my grocery store. You can do your own crust if you have a crust to be proud of, or you can choose a frozen crust without shame.

Broccoli, Mushroom, & Gouda Quiche

2 c. broccoli florets and tender stems (about 6 oz.), large dice*
1/4 c. olive oil
2 c. portobello mushroom (about 4 oz.), large dice
1/2 medium red onion, minced
3 large eggs
1 c. half and half
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 c. shredded young Gouda cheese (about 4 oz.)**

*I cheated a bit again and got frozen florets from the freezer case, then thawed and diced them as needed.
**Do try to get Gouda which is not smoked, just plain Gouda.

I spent about half an hour in the mid afternoon prepping my ingredients. When I was ready to start cooking at dinnertime, I had a bowl of diced broccoli, a bowl of diced mushroom, and a bowl of minced onion in the fridge and all ready to go. While the broccoli was blanching, I shredded the Gouda. While the mushroom mixture was cooling and the crust thawing, I washed up dishes.

Prepare the crust, either homemade or frozen. If frozen, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for thawing and preparing the crust for a one-crust pie or quiche. If you are using a frozen crust and it only needs to be thawed, as mine was, then keep the crust in the freezer until you are about 15 minutes away from filling and baking it, about the time you finish cooking the mushrooms in the step below.

First, bring a medium saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add broccoli and cook until fork tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and let cool in a single layer on a large plate.

Then, heat olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add mushroom and onion and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft and mushroom edges are golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until incorporated and smooth. Stir in broccoli, mushroom mixture, and cheese.

Pour custard into pie shell and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven until puffed and golden brown, at least 45 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before slicing.

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I’ll bet that not a lot of people out there know whether they like capers, or not. I’m not exactly sure myself what a caper is. Let’s see…

“A¬†caper (Capparis spinosa L.) is a perennial spiny bush that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and big white to pinkish-white flowers. A¬†caper is also the pickled bud of this plant. The bush is native to the¬†Mediterranean region, growing wild on walls or in rocky coastal areas throughout. The plant is best known for the edible bud and fruit (caper berry) which are usually consumed pickled.”

Thanks, Wikipedia!

So the caper, as used culinarily, is the pickled bud or berry of the caper plant. This explains, then, why capers come packed in a brine.

Try this dip at least once. The flavors are subtle, and crab and capers go well together to create a quietly complex flavor profile.

Crab-Caper Dip
serves 8

1/2 c. chopped onions
1/2 c. light mayonnaise
2 oz. (1/2 c.) sliced reduced-fat Swiss cheese, finely chopped*
1/4 c. cooked lump crabmeat, drained and flaked OR
1/4 6-oz can crabmeat, drained and flaked
1 Tbsp. capers, drained

*Getting reduced-fat Swiss instead of regular Swiss is critical. The reduced-fat version keeps itself intact better when it melts.

In a small saucepan, cook the onions, covered, in a small amount of boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain well. In a large bowl stir together the cooked onions, mayonnaise, finely chopped Swiss cheese, the crabmeat, and the capers.

Spoon the mixture in to an appropriately-sized ovenproof casserole. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until heated through. Can be served in the ovenproof casserole, transferred to a serving bowl, or transferred to a hollowed-out round bread loaf for presentation. Serve chips, vegetable dippers, or small toasts alongside.

for 40 servings
2 c. chopped onions
2 c. light mayonnaise
8 oz. (2 c.) sliced reduced-fat Swiss cheese, finely chopped
1 c. cooked lump crabmeat, drained and flaked OR
1 6-oz. can crabmeat, drained and flaked
1/2 c. capers, drained

Prepare following the same steps, but bake in a 350 degree oven, covered, for 55 minutes or until heated through.

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Seized by the desire to make a carrot cake, I found myself confronted with multiple recipes. Some recipes called for whipped egg whites to be folded in to the batter, but after my encounter with whipped egg whites in the lemon meringue pie, I decided that was too much trouble. So I turned to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens carrot cake recipe, which didn’t ask me to whip any egg whites.

Carrot Cake
serves 12

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. finely shredded carrots*
1/2 c. cooking (vegetable) oil
2 eggs
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting

*First of all, what an adventure I had figuring out how to use the shredding blade on the food processor attachment on my stand mixer. I had carrots everywhere, but it was fun, it made my life a heck of a lot easier, and I think I’ll do a better job next time.

Grease an 8×8 pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda. Then add the finely shredded carrots, cooking oil, and eggs. Beat until just combined.

TIP: Do not use the whisk or paddle attachment on your mixer if you choose to mix this batter in your electric mixer. Use the dough hook. The shredded carrots will wrap around your whisk or paddle and you will have one big carroty blob. Either use the dough hook, or mix by hand.

Pour batter in to prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Mine took about 35 minutes before I was well and truly pleased with it. Cool pan on a wire rack. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Since I was making this cake in the morning to serve in the evening, I put the cooled cake in the fridge unfrosted, then mixed up the frosting later in the day and frosted the cake right before serving. Pop it back in the fridge for five minutes to let the frosting firm back up, if the ravening hoardes will allow it.

Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 1 recipe

In a medium mixing bowl (electric helps), beat together 6 or 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened, and 2 teaspoons vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in 2 to 2 1/2 cups additional sifted powdered sugar until the frosting is optimal spreading consistency. Makes about 1 and 1/2 cups.

And because this is the Better Homes and Gardens potluck cookbook, we know there are directions for a larger recipe, right? Right!

serves 16
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 c. finely shredded carrots
1 c. cooking (vegetable) oil
4 eggs
1 c. chopped pecans
1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting

Prepare in a 13×9 inch baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.

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