Archive for September, 2008

Lovely Autumn Pumpkins

I know, I know.  You’re probably asking yourself…”No recipe?  No food?  No drink?”  Well, I did make a batch of pesto this morning, but I’ve already shared that recipe with you.  (tip: make a big batch and divide it up into ice cube trays, freeze, and put in a freezer bag.  Pop them out for quick pesto that tastes super fresh!)

I guess I put my creative thinking into a crafty project this weekend.  Fall is in fact my favorite season.  I love to decorate our home with fall colors, pumpkins, gourds, and apple scented candles.  It’s a little early to be busting out the pumpkin bars so I decided to satisfy my fall craving by making these very stylish pumpkins. 

I was reading in a magazine a couple of days ago about how to make these pumpkins.  Except in the magazine they used silver and gold leaf and there were about 5 steps to the process.  I like to make things simple, so I decided to use gold spray paint instead.  I went to my local craft shop and purchased all the materials for about 20 bucks for 2 large pumpkins.  Try this out for yourself!  It makes for a very classy modern fall look!

2 medium/large size white craft pumpkins
1 can gold spray paint
1 roll of 1/2 inch electrical tape

Using the electrical tape, make any design you wish. You can also use round stickers to create a polka dot effect.

Once the tape is in place, it’s time to paint! I did this outside with newspaper underneath. To make sure the pumpkin does not stick to the paper, place the lid of the paint on the paper and sit the pumpkin on top. This way you can paint the whole surface in one step without it sticking.

Once the paint is dry, carefully remove the tape. Voila! You have a fabulous pumpkin that looks like you paid big bucks for!

Try buying a variety of sizes and group them together for a fun look.  You can also use silver paint.  This can be done on real pumpkins, but I like the craft pumpkins so that I can use these year after year.

September 27, 2008 at 11:16 am 1 comment

“Gourmet” Brownies

These brownies are sure to impress.  It will look like you spent hours preparing them!  Just a few simple steps and you will be named “baker of the year” in your social circle.

1 box brownie mix – prepare according to the box.
I was out of oil (gasp!) but used melted butter instead. If it calls for 1/2 cup oil use 1/2 cup melted butter. They turned out so tasty and were a bit more moist.

While the brownies are baking, prepare the cream cheese frosting and chocolate ganache.

Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 cup cream cheese (room temperature)
4 Tablespoons powdered sugar
splash of milk

In your mixer, mix cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and milk until smooth and creamy.

Chocolate Ganache
3 Tablespoons chocolate chips
I Tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and whipping cream until smooth and shiny.

Decorating:

Once the brownies are cooled, remove them from the pan.  (Here’s a trick for easy removal).
Spread on the cream cheese frosting in a thick layer. Using a butter knife, make 4 lines of chocolate about 1 inch apart, going vertically and horizontally. It should end up looking like a grid. Once you have your grid made up, take a tooth pick and drag in between the lines (so the “boxes” of the grid) Pull in both directions to get the best effect. This will pull the chocolate and cream cheese and give you that swirrly gourmet look!

September 25, 2008 at 5:51 pm 1 comment

Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Herbs de Provence

I love roasted chicken and with autumn here now, it’s the perfect dish for a night in.  Leftover chicken is great for sandwhiches and salads too! 

1 large roasting pan

1 roasting chicken
1 lemon, quartered
3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
1 Tablespoon herbs de provence, (rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, and lavender)
salt/pepper
10-15 baby red potatoes

Preheat oven to 350
Clean the chicken and take out any left over parts in the cavity (my least favorite part of the process!)
Place the cleaned chicken in the roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper on both sides and inside the cavity.
Stuff the inside of the chicken with the lemon and garlic cloves. Sprinkle the herbs de provence in the cavity and on the outside of the chicken.

Place potatoes in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper and some herbs if you like.
Roast for about 2 hours.

Serve with the roasted potatoes and asparagus.

Optional gravy/sauce:
There will definetly be drippings left at the bottom of the roasting pan. Capture all of that great flavor by making an easy pan gravy!

2 Tablespoons flour
Dash of half and half or milk

Place the roasting pan on top of one of your burners and turn on to low/med heat. When the drippings come to a simmer, whisk in the flour and then add the half and half. Whisk until desired thickness and pour over chicken and potatoes.

September 23, 2008 at 9:15 pm 1 comment

Foolproof hors d’oeuvres

I’ve been super busy these past couple of weeks and haven’t had a lot of time for creative cooking.  Thus, when entertaining I had to take the easy way out, but keeping it fabulous of course!  I went to my local market knowing they had a large antipasto bar as well as salad bar and lots of cheese choices.  Below are my suggestions for easy appetizers that look like a million bucks.

1.  Get out your coolest serving dishes, bowls, and platters.  That’s the first step to making store bought food look amazing.  Different colors and shapes work well, especially if you are serving multiple things.

2.  Buy a variety of cheeses, I’d say two types for 4-6 people and 3-4 for more guests.  The flavors should be contrasting in the two cheeses.  Choose one that is mild and one that is more pungent (goat cheese and stilton for example)  Arrange with crisp crackers or crusty bread.  Place a bunch of red grapes in the center.  Throw in a few figs and nuts.  Arranging is key.  You don’t want it to look perfect…it should look rustic and carefree.

3.  Look for marinated mozzarella balls (tiny) at your grocery store.  Add some grape tomatoes for an easy appetizer.  Serve with crackers.

4.  Hummus is a great option.  Place in a wide bowl (soup bowl) and spread out evenly.  Create a dip in the middle and pour some fruity olive oil in it.  Scatter toasted pine nuts on top or a little crumbled feta.  Serve with warmed pita bread.

5.  Olives are also a great addition to any of these starters.  Find a grocery store with a fresh olive bar and get a couple different varieties.  Make sure you leave an empty bowl out for the pits.  An assortment of different roasted nuts would also work well with the olives.  Roast a combination of raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, and cashews).  Toss with a little garlic olive oil and some fine chopped rosemary.  Toast in a dry, hot saute pan or on a sheet pan in the oven, until you can smell their aroma. 

I hope this has given you some ideas for your next dinner party!

September 16, 2008 at 3:34 pm 1 comment

Oysters on the Half Shell

This isn’t really much of a recipe, but rather an encouragement to all of you to try oysters if you have not!  Ben and I wandered our local market last night for an hour, just investigating all the really cool things they have to offer.  We decided to get adventurous and try some oysters out at home.  I was a little skeptical, and had visions of being sick all night, but I was very pleasantly surprised.  And you know how everyone says they are an aphrodisiac?  Well, let’s just say…it’s true.

Serves 2 as an appetizer
4 oysters (make sure they are fresh and from a reputable source. The shell should not be open at all)
1 lemon, sliced in wedges
crushed ice

Here is a great video on how to shuck an oyster.

Once your oysters are shucked, place the crushed ice in a bowl of platter, lay the shells in the ice and arrange lemon wedges. Slurp them down and enjoy the wonderful sea flavor!

September 7, 2008 at 1:39 pm Leave a comment

Easy Peanut Butter Brownies

It’s Friday, and after a long week of work I needed some serious dessert…but I also wasn’t in the mood to really bake, if you know what I mean. These brownies are so simple, yet so rich and fabulous. Coffee or milk are definitely suggested!

1 box brownie mix – plus ingredients called for on box
About 20 mini peanut butter cups, wrappers removed.

Prepare the brownie mix according to directions and bake in an 8×8 pan for the allotted amount of time, minus 3 minutes. When they are just about done, take them out of the oven and press the peanut butter cups GENTLY into the brownies, just below the top. Put back in the over for about 2-3 minutes until the chocolate has melted. Using a spatula, spread out the melted cups to form a frosting. Let cool and serve.

*Tip for easy removal of brownies: Cut a piece of parchment paper or foil. It needs to be about twice the length of the pan you will be using. Place the paper/foil in the pan, and press up the sides. There should be extra paper/foil hanging off the edges. This is good! Spray with non-stick spray and put in the brownie mixture. Once the brownies are done, they can easily be lifted with the “handles” out of the pan. Works everytime!

September 5, 2008 at 6:05 pm Leave a comment

Yesterday’s Quesadilla

There was a ton of leftover roast beef left from last nights dinner. Last year at this time, I was trying to be the “perfect wife” by making dinner every single night. And by making dinner I mean something completely different from the night before. Monday – ravioli, Tuesday – tacos, Wednesday – paninis, Thursday – pasta with tomatoes and basil… This method ended up wasting food and money, not to mention helped us both put on a few pounds! This September I’ve decided to be the “resourceful wife” by using leftovers in a new, exciting way.

4 tortillas, soft taco size, sprayed with olive oil (if you haven’t tried the misto, do!)
About 1 cup leftover roast beef, shredded
1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
cheddar cheese, shredded
2-4 tablespoons sour cream (it’s not a quesadilla without it!)
salsa to taste
salt/pepper
olive oil

Coat the bottom of a medium saute pan with olive oil. Heat until it’s good and hot and add the pepper and onions. Let cook for about 10-15 minutes, until a bit charred and caramelized. Add the roast beef until heated through.

Spray one side of the tortillas with olive oil (brushing some oil on would work too). Get a separate pan hot, and lay one tortilla in it, oil side down. Put 1/2 the beef mixture on the tortilla and spread out evenly. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. With the remaining tortilla, spread on about 1 TB of sour cream. and place on top of the beef mixture. Cook for about 2 minutes and flip.

Serve with salsa and guacamole if you please!

September 4, 2008 at 8:42 pm 2 comments

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