Saturday, September 29, 2018

September Cookbook Book Club Luncheon

Each and every month I look forward to our cookbook book club monthly gathering. Our hostess for the month chooses the cookbook from which we cook and we have enjoyed cooking from some of the newer books available to us as well some really tried and true cookbooks. This month was no exception, our hostess chose to cook from a new book on the market but one I was not familiar with. Written by blogger, Jennifer Segal, "Once Upon a Chef". We also had the option to choose a recipe from her blog. This was an excellent choice by our hostess, I bought the book and it is one I will often cook from. I have many recipes book marked to try at another time as well as making copies from Jennifer's blog that are not in her book. It's always great fun to get a taste of some of the recipes that are brought to our luncheon. I knew that this was a book I would use again and again and I also highly recommend her blog, Once Upon a Chef. You can click on to the name of her book and blog to access her blog.
Every month each hostess goes to great lengths to set the stage for a lovely luncheon and this was certainly the case this month.
Seasonal decorations and flower arrangement set the stage as we entered her home.

And an exquisitely set dining table.
As well as the lovely buffet table. And here are the recipes brought to our luncheon.

Our hostess prepared an outstanding Andouille Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo served over rice, of course. Not your typical Louisiana Creole Gumbo but as Jennifer says in her book, everyone has a different take on gumbo. The most important flavor component is of course, the Roux and this particular gumbo had lots and lots of flavor. I was offered to take some home to my husband for his dinner and he was delighted. I was as well, especially on cookbook book club luncheon day, I am stuffed when I leave and never feel like preparing dinner that evening.

Another entrée' served was Chicken Tikka Masala. I don't usually prepare or even order out Indian dishes but this was particularly good and a recipe I would be inclined to prepare at home. Another interesting thing about this dish was that it used a typical Indian spice, Garam Masala that I have never used before. It is a blend of peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. This was a dish with complex flavors but not overly spicy and also served over Basmati Rice.
Creamy Grilled Lemon Chicken Salad, an excellent chicken salad. The chicken is first marinated for six hours and then grilled creating layers of flavor. This is on my list to prepare at home and probably the best chicken salad I have ever eaten.
Corn, Zucchini and Tomatoes with Goat Cheese, what an outstanding blend of flavors. I was so anxious to try this side dish and it did not disappoint. A perfect side to any meat you may be serving and can be prepared ahead of time. I dearly love make ahead dishes especially when company is coming. It is served warm but this was served at room temperature and was just as good.
Cauliflower Fried Rice, an amazingly delicious dish. These days you can find grated cauliflower in the produce section and will often be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores but yet you can also grind your own cauliflower in a food processor for this recipe. I can honestly say that it did not taste like cauliflower to me and that's important since my husband won't touch cauliflower. The general consensus was that I try it out on him to see if he could tell what it was. With all the other ingredients added in and the seasonings, I am betting he would love this and I'll wait for him to go on and on about it and then tell him what he was eating. Oh I do have a little bit of bad in me. This was a dish that could in fact be served as a main dish or pared with maybe some salmon, an outstanding dish.
This was a very different take on a Baked Artichoke and Spinach Dip. It was an updated version eliminating the use of mayonnaise and sour cream. Instead the recipe called for preparing a Béchamel sauce, a French twist and using instead of jarred or canned artichokes, using frozen artichokes. It was delicious and I will make this again and again. I loved the way she changed up an old and tired recipe.
My contribution to this lovely soiree was Golden Orange Gazpacho with Basil. A very different take on gazpacho using yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow bell pepper and freshly squeezed orange juice. I thought the changes were excellent and I said while there that I could make this early in the week and eat on it every day, a healthy lunch.

Golden Orange Gazpacho with Basil

3/4 cup roughly chopped red onion
2 pounds golden cherry tomatoes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 English cucumber, seeded and diced (do not peel)
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of 3 large oranges (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup water
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce, to taste

Place the onions in a small bowl and cover with water. Let soak for 10 minutes, then drain.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine half of the tomatoes, half of the bell pepper, half of the cucumber, and half of the drained onion. Pulse until finely chopped but not puréed, 25 to 30 one-second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the remaining tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, and onion, along with all of the basil, to the food processor (no need to wipe the bowl clean beforehand). Process until the vegetables are finely chopped, 25 to 30 one-second pulses, then add to the bowl with the other vegetables.

Add the remaining ingredients to the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours. Before serving, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Ladle into bowls and serve cold. This soup is best served fresh, but will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Serving this in a glass vessel was important, so you could see all the healthy deliciousness.
An unusual take on Gazpacho and it was outstanding.
Is it any wonder why I look forward to this luncheon each and every month. It makes for a delightful afternoon, great food and good friends as we walk our way through our chosen cookbook. There was a dessert brought, Blobbs but unfortunately I failed to get a picture of them. It was chocolaty deliciousness, yummy.

Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope this will be inspiration for others to start their own Cookbook Book Club. Enjoy your weekend.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Delicious Macaroni Salad

I have tried so many macaroni salads over the years but have never quite found one that I really really liked. Now most people don't make much of a fuss about a simple macaroni salad, why most people just throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Wellllllllllll, I came upon a really good one that I would like to share.
It is so very simple and that's probably what my problem has been. In an effort to make that amazing out of this world macaroni salad I was probably adding in way more than I should. I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to a macaroni salad, simple is better.

My Favorite Macaroni Salad

 7 ounces uncooked large pasta shells (2 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
6 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain well and place in a large bowl. Stir in the canola oil until coated. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise and next 7 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until blended and smooth. Add pasta, stirring until pasta is creamy and coated. Stir in onion and remaining 2 ingredients. Serve immediately or cover and chill.
I added in some ham to the mixture to make it a one dish meal. You could also add in some leftover rotisserie chicken or even some tuna fish, would be fantastic.
 Some freshly sliced tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a chiffonade of fresh basil from the garden it made for an excellent dinner. I won't say a lighter dinner in terms of calories but a not so heavy dinner on a very hot and muggy night.
It's a slightly tart main dish salad or side salad that makes an ideal dish to go with any barbecue or just to have on hand for a weekend. This is quite simply delicious.
 I have learned, simple is most often better. I hope you'll try this. You won't be disappointed and I love having an excellent macaroni salad in my repertoire.

Thank you for visiting and please do come again. I always enjoy your comments if you should decide to do so.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Cookbook Book Club

Several weeks ago I hosted my cookbook book club. Since it was just a week before the Fourth of July that's what I chose as my theme. As hostess I chose the book from which we cooked also. It had just come out the month before so I thought there would be a great deal of enthusiasm about cooking from this book.
I was right, everyone enjoyed cooking from this book and I must add that each and every recipe cooked from this book was outstanding. I would cook any one of them for my own family. Now we probably should have thought through all the cheese that was in each recipe, there was cheese in each and every one of them with only one exception. They were all delicious just the same.
I used a vintage floral jacquard tablecloth that I had gotten some time ago from William Sonoma with my blue and white dinnerware in mind.

I used my blue Spode Italian, hotel silver, cobalt blue wine glasses and water glasses and at each place setting I had a small African violet in a wee blue and white container. A "take home" for each guest.
I love using birds on most all my tables and these napkin rings I picked up a long time ago and each one are different. I even used my little bird salt and pepper cellars.
I used in my arrangement blue hydrangeas, whitish pink roses, and added in the flags for a more patriotic theme. 
I prepared the main dish which was what Joanna called, Dedication Casserole. It basically was a chicken and wild rice casserole but the BEST one I have ever prepared. One thing I thought was super terrific was that it called for your favorite rotisserie chicken which that's a no brainer, Costco's is the absolute best. It also called for a jar of marinated artichokes and you add in the liquid from those artichokes and for creaminess it called for cream cheese. Not using cream of mushroom soup which I liked that much better. It called for 4 cups of cheddar cheese but if I were to prepare this dish again I would definitely use much less. Since it was for my cookbook group I like to prepare the dish as it reads. It was excellent and I think everyone else thought so as well. It could feed an army there was so much of it but most of the time my friends take home enough to feed their husbands that evening as they should.

Not sure why I can't get this pic to straighten but I can't.

I also made an appetizer since I had made a rather stout Sangria. I didn't want them sipping on the Sangria without something going in their tummy's while everyone was arriving. It was a great excuse to try this recipe as well and it is excellent.
Joanna calls it Last-Minute Party Dip, the ingredients most people would have in their pantry and everyone just raved over it. It was quite good and one I will make again.

Last-Minute Party Dip

Two 8-ounce blocks 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
One 7.5-ounce jar marinated quartered artichokes, drained and chopped
1 cup minced green onions (light and dark green parts)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
Bagel crisps or crackers, for serving

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, green onions, garlic powder and kosher salt until well combined.

Transfer half of the dip to a small serving bowl and top with half of the pepper. Store the remaining dip in the refrigerator and refill the bowl as necessary, topping with additional pepper before serving. Serve with bagel crisps or crackers.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes about 4 cups

One of my favorite dishes brought was the Peach Caprese Salad. This was a delightful different take on the traditional Caprese Salad especially since peaches are in season right now. It was light, refreshing and pared well with the fresh mozzarella.
Other dishes that were brought were,
Three Cheese Quiche
Stuffed Broccoli Casserole
Creamy Squash Casserole

 Dutch Oven Cabbage and Bacon
There were two desserts brought and both were excellent. 
 Blueberry Buttermilk Puff
Aunt Opal's Banana Pudding
This was such a different take on most Banana puddings in that it used creamed cheese and sweetened condensed milk. It's not something I would make every week but I must say it had WOW factor.
I think it is fair to say that a fun time was had by all and the book we cooked from was a winner.
I will be sharing this post on Susan's Tablescape Thursday. To see others shared post just click HERE.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Blueberry Season

Blueberry season is upon us and we are fortunate to have several blueberry bushes at our farm in N GA.

This year we have an abundance of blueberries with more coming. I have already spent a morning there getting all I can manage at one time. The unfortunate thing is that it is so darn hot in our area when blueberries come into season so it's a MUST to pick in the early hours of the day.
I have lots of recipes using blueberries but one of my favorite is a Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake. It is rich, buttery, and I love any kind of cake that has the tang of buttermilk.
It's important to begin by gathering all of your ingredients.
This little cake goes together very quickly.

Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Serves 7-8

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons lemon zest or more (zest of one lemon)
7/8 cup* plus 1 tablespoon sugar**
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup buttermilk

*7/8 cup = 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
*this 1 tablespoon is for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 350*. Cream butter with the lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with 1/4 cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with butter or coat with a non-stick baking spray. Spread the batter into the pan, the batter will be thick. Sprinkle the batter with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Note: 2 cups of blueberries sounds like a lot but you will be happy you used the full amount.

As you can see, it only becomes lightly browned and while this is called a breakfast cake it can also be served with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream for a delightful dessert as I did. This did not last long at my house. This was all that was left for breakfast the next morning.
Every morsel was eaten though, delicious. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing other favorite blueberry recipes. Do you have a favorite to share?


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Strawberry Champagne Punch

I recently hosted my YaYa Lunch group and as everyone was arriving I served this punch along with some Stilton Walnut Crackers. This punch was quite the "HIT". It goes down real easy and packs a punch so beware. I will serve this over and over again.

Strawberry Champagne Punch

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus lemon slices for garnish (optional)
1 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, plus orange slices for garnish (optional)
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
1/2 cup Triple Sec
1/2 cup Cognac
2 750 ml bottles dry Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
20-ounce frozen strawberries. thawed

Thaw the strawberries, place them in a blender and blend them until completely smashed. Place in the bottom of a punch bowl.

Combine lemon juice, sugar, orange juice, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, and Cognac in a nonreactive bowl or pitcher and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer to a decorative punch bowl with strawberries and mix thoroughly, add chilled Champagne when ready to serve, and stir to combine. Garnish with citrus slices and fresh strawberries if you like. Serve immediately in Champagne flutes, wine glasses or punch cups.

Note: The punch can be made up to an hour ahead with the exception of the champagne. Store covered tightly with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Garnish with fruit just before serving. I used Prosecco and it worked beautifully and served it over ice. If using champagne flutes you'll need to pour it from a pitcher. I used small Waterford old fashions, the opening was perfect serving from a punch bowl and easier to hold but punch cups would work just as well.
The superfine sugar is so important because it will dissolve easier in the liquors. It is worth the effort to try to find it. Otherwise you could make a simple syrup by melting the sugar in a sauce pan stirring constantly with equal parts of water and sugar. If you should do this I would add the simple syrup a little at a time to your likeness.
This would be excellent for a brunch, lunch or even for cocktails. I enjoyed the leftovers the next afternoon, YUM.
It is sooooooooo delicious and refreshing sitting in a relaxing spot.
If you try it I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and apparently my YaYa group too. Thanks for stopping by and please do come again.