Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chef's Table Cooking Club

My cookbook book group had another gathering on Tuesday of this week. It is always a wonderful luncheon. For our May get together we only had six who could attend so we weren't over whelmed with too much food but as always a delight to the senses.

One of our members made mention that another wonderful aspect of our gathering was that we  can enjoy also seeing each of our homes and how each one of us has decorated. Many of us have not been long time friends so some of us are visiting their homes for the first time.  We were asked to be in this group because of our love of preparing and eating good food and not necessarily because we were already acquainted. I myself am getting newly acquainted with most of the members with the exception of two and it is such a joy visiting in each of their homes and getting to know them. I am enjoying this group of women so very much and what better way to meet and get to know new friends but with food.

It was in the home of my dear friend Diane. She served buffet style from her dining room but because of the smaller number we were seated in the sun room. She lives out in the country so her sun room on a beautiful day was delightful.
The book we were cooking from was "Dave's Dinners" by Dave Lieberman. Our hostess always chooses the book that each of us are cooking from. This book was published in 2006, he is a food network star, and the book was an interesting read with extremely interesting recipes.
Our collection of recipes shared at our luncheon were excellent and I will definitely cook from this book over and over again. Everything we tasted was amazingly good and it was an international collection of recipes in this book.
Orange and Five Spice Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potato Smash, interesting flavored chicken using a five-spice powder and red pepper flakes. An unusual taste but delicious.
 Pan-Grilled Spicy Coconut Shrimp, a recipe that could easily be served as an appetizer or as a main course. The recipe called for jalapenos, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, lime zest, coconut milk, fresh basil leaves and it too was an amazing dish.
Latin Cabbage and Corn Salad, this was such a different take on a slaw and I believe this was my favorite recipe. Fresh corn was used in this salad and it was roasted.
Dessert...... Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake with Shortbread Cookie Crust, oh my goodness was this ever good. The shortbread crust gave it a much richer taste (buttery) and it really was not like a cheesecake but more like a cheesecake pie. If  I made any change at all it might be to add some pecans to the crust. That might just put this amazing dessert over the top. Oh I still cannot stop thinking about this pie. I will be making it very soon and it just happened to be our hostesses birthday so we added in a candle for her to blow out.

And my contribution to this soiree, Fennel, Baby Arugula, and Green Apple Salad. A delicious combination of flavors and the vinaigrette is now one of my favorite vinaigrette's, the citrusy taste of this vinaigrette was truly delicious.
"Fennel, Baby Arugula, and Green Apple Salad"
For the salad:
1 cup walnut halves or pieces
1 small bulb fennel with top
1 Granny Smith apple
5 ounces baby arugula
For the Dressing:
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Lay the walnuts out on a baking sheet and bake in the oven about 7 minutes, until toasted and fragrant.
Cut the top away from the fennel bulb. Pinch off a small handful of the fronds, coarsely chop them and reserve. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and carefully cut away the core. 
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Slice the fennel crosswise as thinly as possible either with a chef's knife or a mandolin, and transfer to the water. Core the apple and slice the apple as thinly as possible. Add to the bowl with the fennel.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients or shake together well in a sealable container.
When all the elements of the salad are ready, strain the fennel and apples and lay out on a kitchen towel or paper towel to soak up the excess moisture. Toss with the arugula, then lay out on a serving platter. Pour the dressing over the top of the salad, then top with the walnuts and reserved fennel fronds.
Dave's Note: Fennel turns brown if left out in the open for too long, so if you want to prepare it in advance, submerge it in a large dish of cold water and squeeze a lemon into the water.
Using Dave's suggestion, I did put lemon in the water and it imparted a delightful lemon taste to the salad which I really liked. Another thing about this salad was that I had never used fennel but I loved the taste and the combination with the arugula and the vinaigrette made it a "Killer" salad. I will definitely make this again and again.
Good food and fellowship, a good time was had by all and I am still thinking about that darn pie. I think I need to make it like now.
I am sharing my post at Foodie Friday hosted by Michael Lee at Rattlebridge Farm. You can click HERE to see other wonderful recipes shared.
I hope each of you have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Stay safe and thank you for visiting.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Patriotic Flower Design

I do not consider myself to have a lot of design skills especially when it comes to flower arranging but I do have a passion for arranging flowers. I guess one would say it is a stress reliever for me and I get caught up in it if you can imagine that. That probably means I should do it more often. It is very different from cutting flowers from your garden and placing them in a pitcher or vase. It is a passion of mine and I hope that I hone my skills each time I arrange flowers.

Recently my husband and I were co-hostess's with several other couples for a political fund raiser. I was asked to do an arrangement for our food table.
It was a tall arrangement so I had to put it together in my kitchen on my French Pastry table, the ceilings were higher. I most often do my flower arranging in my laundry room since I have a deep sink there. In the laundry room the above cabinets interfered with the height of the arrangement. Most often I would have done this arrangement on site where it would be sitting but that wasn't possible since the Woman's Club would have charged us so much more for a couple of extra hours. Sooooooo, you make the adjustment but transporting this arrangement was kind of freaky. Let me just say that I sighed a breath of relief when it arrived to the destination all in one piece, it was very top heavy.
The added beauty of it was that I brought it home to enjoy for several more days. The container was one I had bought many years ago when my first son to marry had their rehearsal dinner. I had done an arrangement in this container for that event so it has a lot of sentimental value to me. I also used it for my two other children when they married. The container works perfectly on a food table since the arrangement is high enough that food actually can be served under it as well and doesn't take up a lot of room.
I had never done an arrangement with a patriotic theme either so this was fun. From picking out the flowers to actually putting the arrangement together.
I like to think of it as a work of art and I'm enjoying the heck out of the arrangement after our event. It is holding up very well after several days.
Thanks for visiting and please do come again.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Chicken, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad

Like most people these days I am making a concentrated effort to eat healthier, trying is the operative word here. Recently while in the grocery store I found this magazine, "Veggie Full", a publication by Better Homes and Garden.
I knew after thumbing through the first time that this publication was a keeper and I will be preparing multiple recipes from the magazine. Last night I prepared the first one.
"Chicken, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad"
5 Tbs. olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 lb. chicken breast tenders
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 Tbs. snipped fresh thyme
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1 medium cucumber, cut into thin ribbons
2 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup pitted green olives, halved and/or sliced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, (4 oz.) optional
In a large skillet heat 1 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat. Lightly sprinkle chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in hot oil 8 to 10 minutes or until no longer pink, turning once.
For the vinaigrette, in a screw-top jar combine the remaining 4 Tbs. oil, the vinegar, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and shake to combine.
On a platter, arrange chicken, cucumber ribbons, sliced tomatoes, and olives. Drizzle vinaigrette over top. If desired, sprinkle with feta cheese. Makes 4 servings
Assembly was quick and easy. Most ingredients I already had on hand. The thyme came from my herb garden and gave the vinaigrette a freshness that you don't achieve with dried thyme.

A lovely composed salad that had WOW factor.
My Mr. Picky Eater thought it to be delicious as well. He doesn't care for olives or Feta Cheese but ate every morsel on his plate, LOL. Without the olives and feta I think it would have been very bland but this was a combination of flavors that was terrific.

This definitely was a quick and easy light dinner that was amazingly good. Fresh ingredients and the sliced green olives and feta made a huge difference. I have found that buying feta in a block rather than already crumbled is a huge taste difference and I also think fresh thyme from the garden made a big taste difference as well. Many of you may not have herb gardens but they are so very easy to grow. Don't have a space in your garden, grow them on your deck or patio in containers but they can also be grown inside with the proper light. Fresh herbs, a " Good Thing".

I will make this salad again and again. Not only did it get an A plus from Mr. Picky Eater but I thought it was outstanding.
I will also be trying other recipes from this publication and will share.
Enjoy your day everyone,