Sunday, April 11, 2010

Comfort Food

Saturday, March 20, 2010
Hosted by: Matt and Erin
Theme: Comfort foods.... with a twist

This month's theme centered around comfort foods.... but we twisted them up a bit. The results were delicious!

Our main dish was a twist on burgers. We made meat-free grain burgers, served on Boston lettuce leaves (a la a wrap), accompanied by a variety of homemade condiments.

Grain Burgers
Courtesy of: Erin and Matt

1/2 c uncooked brown rice
1/2 c uncooked bulgur
2 c water
2 c finely chopped fresh mushrooms
3/4 c old-fashioned oats
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 c finely chopped onion
1/2 c cottage cheese
2-3 eggs (may vary to get proper consistency)
breadcrumbs, as needed
2 T minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • In a saucepan, combine the rice, bulgur, seasoning (we did a variety of oregano, basil, rosemary, etc. use whatever you like or have on hand!), and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from the heat; cool completely. Refrigerate.
  • In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, oats, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, and onion. In a blender or food processor, process cottage cheese and eggs until smooth; add to the mushroom mixture. Stir in the parsley, salt, basil, and chilled rice mixture. Shape 1/2 cupfuls into patties. (We also added breadcrumbs to the mixture... you're going for a consistency that will stay together in patties. It may take a little experimenting to get it right.)
  • In a large nonstick skillet, cook four patties in 1 tsp. oil for 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and crisp. Repeat with remaining patties and oil.
recipe courtesy of "A Taste of Home" Reader's Digest Cookbook (with alterations)

We also made a variety of sauces to top the burgers.... it was hard to choose our favorite!

Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
Unfortunately, this one is a family secret.... but a delicious one!

Spicy Mustard

½ c tarragon or cider vinegar
½ c water
¼ c olive oil
2 T prepared horseradish
½ tsp. lemon juice
1 c ground mustard
½ c sugar
½ tsp. salt
  • In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients: cover and process for one minute. Scrape down the sides of container and process again for 30 seconds.
  • Transfer to a small saucepan and let stand for 10 minutes. Cook over low heat until bubbly, stirring constantly. Cool completely. If a thinner mustard is desired add tablespoons of water to reach desired consistency.
  • Pour into small containers with tight fitting lids for refrigerator storage.
recipe courtesy of "A Taste of Home" Reader's Digest Cookbook

Cilantro Cream Sauce

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 c. sour cream
salt, to taste
fresh lime juice, to taste
  • Blend cilantro and garlic in a blender until smooth (do not use a food processor). Remove from blender and whisk into sour cream. When well blended, season with salt and lime juice. Keep cold until needed.
recipe courtesy of

Tomato Topper

1 16 oz can whole tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 hot or bell pepper, chopped
1 c granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the tomatoes, onion, and pepper until onion and pepper are tender. Add amount of sugar preferred. Cook until thick.
  • We blended ours in a food processor to make it smoother and more like a ketchup.
recipe courtesy of

Spring Vegetable Bundles

4 green onions
1 c water
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed
1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
1 medium sweet yellow pepper, julienned
2 medium carrots, julienned
12 thyme sprigs
1 and 1/3 c white wine
3 T butter
  • Trim both ends of the onions; cut the green tops into 7 in. lengths. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add onion tops; boil for 1 minute or until softened. Drain and immediately place onion tops in ice water. Drain and pat dry. Chop white portions of onions and set aside.
  • Divide asparagus, peppers, and carrots into 12 bundles. Top each with a thyme sprig. Tie each bundle with a blanched onion top.
  • In a large skillet, place wine, chopped onions, and vegetable bundles. Bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes or until vegetables are tender and liquid is reduced by two-thirds. Carefully remove bundles with a slotted spoon to a serving plate. Add butter to skillet, cook, and stir until melted. Spoon over bundles.
recipe courtesy of

Spring Macaroni and Cheese
Courtesy of: Sarah and Brad

1 bunch (about 12 oz.) asparagus
2 leeks
4 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
12 ounces dried orecchiette pasta
3/4 cup frozen petite peas
2 slices sourdough bread
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
6 ounces fresh chèvre (goat cheese)
1 1/2 cups shredded romano cheese
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Snap tough ends off asparagus; cut spears into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut root ends and tough green tops from leeks; cut leeks in half lengthwise and rinse well under running water, then thinly slice crosswise.
  • In a medium pan over medium-high heat, stir the asparagus with the leeks, 1 tablespoon butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until the asparagus is just tender, about 7 minutes, then remove from pan and set aside.
  • In a large pan over high heat, bring about 3 quarts water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions; stir in peas at the end. Drain and return to pan.
  • Meanwhile, tear bread into chunks and put in a food processor with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Whirl until crumbs form.
  • In the medium pan over medium-high heat, melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Add the flour and thyme; stir until smooth and bubbling, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in milk and stir until boiling and thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add lemon peel, mustard, pepper, and remaining teaspoon salt. Remove from heat and add goat cheese and 1 cup romano; stir until smooth.
  • Pour sauce over drained pasta and peas. Add asparagus mixture and stir well. Scrape mixture into a 2 1/2-quart baking dish and spread level. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup romano and the bread crumbs. Bake until sauce is bubbling and bread crumbs are browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
recipe courtesy of

We concluded the night with a special treat- Guinness chocolate cupcakes! It was a perfect way to end the evening.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
Courtesy of: Nicole and Jerel

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  • Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Baileys Frosting

3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)
  • Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
recipe courtesy of SmittenKitchen

Next month we head to another Mediterranean country.... Greece!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Italian Night

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Hosted by: Nicole and Jerel
Theme: Italian

The chilly month of February seemed the perfect occasion to pretend that we were all somewhere slightly more exotic... and warmer. Thus, Italian night was created!

We started off the evening with a tantalizing antipasto platter, complete with homemade pepperoni bread. This bread gets an enthusiastic 12 thumbs up from the group!

Pepperoni Bread
Courtesy of: Sarah and Brad

1 lb. bread dough. (From your local bakery, homemade, or from the grocery store)
1 stick pepperoni (sliced)
16 oz. Part Skim Mozzarella (thinly sliced)
1 egg
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 tsp oregano
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Crack egg into small dish and mix with a fork
  • Grease a cookie sheet
  • Roll out dough into a long rectangle and place on baking sheet
  • Spread minced garlic onto bread
  • Sprinkle with Oregano
  • Salt & pepper as you see fit
  • Cover with slices of cheese & pepperoni
  • Starting with one of the long sides of the rectangle, roll up the dough
  • Seal edge with egg wash
  • Brush the top of the bread with the egg wash
  • Cut a few diagonal slits in the top of the bread
  • Bake for 30 mins
  • Let cool, slice & serve
recipe courtesy of

The main event was a delicious lasagna, prepared by Nicole and Jerel, which included grass-fed beef from a local market. Mmm! Our side dishes were equally tasty.

Eggplant Parcels
Courtesy of: Erin and Matt

2 large, long eggplant
8 oz mozzarella cheese
2 plum tomatoes
16 large basil leaves
salt & ground black pepper
2 T olive oil

1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 T sun-dried tomato paste
1 T lemon juice

2 T toasted pine nuts
torn basil leaves
  • Remove the stems from the eggplant and cut the eggplant lengthwise into thin slices- the aim is to have a total of 16 slices, disregarding the first and last (each about 1/4 in. thick).
  • Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the eggplant slices for about 2 minutes, until just softened. Drain the sliced eggplant, then dry on paper towels.
  • Cut the mozzarella cheese into eight slices. Cut each tomato into eight slices, not counting the first and last slices.
  • Take two eggplant slices and place on an ovenproof baking sheet or dish in a cross. Place a slice of tomato in the center, season with salt and pepper, then add a basil leaf, followed by a slice of mozzarella, another basil leaf, a slice of tomato, and more seasoning.
  • Fold the ends of the eggplant slices around the filling to make a neat parcel. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients to form eight parcels. Chill the parcels for about 20 minutes.
  • To make the tomato dressing, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, sun-dried tomato paste, and lemon juice. Season to taste.
  • Preheat the broiler. Brush the parcels with olive oil and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden. Serve hot, with the dressing, sprinkled with pine nuts and basil.
recipe from "Mediterranean: Food of the Sun" by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow

Zucchini Ribbons with Goat Cheese
Courtesy of: Sarah and Brad

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely minced shallot
1 clove garlic, finely minced, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 large zucchini, sliced into long ribbons using a vegetable peeler, discarding the seedy core
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
2 1/2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until the butter melts; cook and stir the shallot until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until the garlic softens and releases its fragrance, about 3 more minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and zucchini ribbons, and cook, lightly stirring, until the chicken broth has come to a boil and the zucchini strips are cooked through but not mushy, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with finely sliced basil leaves and crumbled goat cheese.

recipe courtesy of

For our final course, Nicole and Jerel served up a scrumptious lemon-olive oil cake. Topped with berries and homemade whipped cream, it was the perfect way to end the evening.

Lemon and Olive Oil Cake
Courtesy of: Nicole and Jerel

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for greasing the pan
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
1 cup cake flour
5 egg yolks
4 egg whites
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, adjust rack to middle position. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with oil, line the bottom with parchment paper and oil it.

Finely zest entire lemon and whisk zest together with flour. Halve and squeeze the lemon and reserve 3 tablespoons of juice.

With an electric mixer and large bowl, beat yolks and 1/2 cup sugar at high speed until pale and thick, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add 3/4 cup olive oil and lemon juice, beating until combined (mixture may appear separated). Fold in flour mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.

With an electric mixer, whisk egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon salt on medium high speed until foamy. Continue whisking and slowly add 1/4 cup sugar until egg whites hold soft peaks, about 2-3 minutes. Gently fold one third of whipped whited into yolk mixture to lighten, and then fold the remaining whites until just combined.

Pour batter into springform pan and release air bubbles by gently tapping pan against work surface. Evenly sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar over the top of the batter. Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Place on rack and cool in pan for 10 minutes, run a thin knife around edge of pan and release springform. Cool cake to room temperature, remove parchment and serve with fresh whipped cream and berries.

recipe courtesy of Sprinkle with Salt

Next month: Comfort food...with a twist!