Friday, October 9, 2015

Tickets to the Halloween Soiree 2015

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Healthy Eating Night

Usually, we fill our cooking group nights with butter, sugar, cheese and flour, but not tonight!  We jumped on the healthy bandwagon (I do love healthy, don't get me wrong...but I love the other stuff too!)  Brook taught us how to make Kale chips and they are DE-licious!  They are currently a staple in my house and my children love to eat them too--bonus!! You can find the recipe Here

We also learned how to make this amazing Quinoa dish with fresh peas, asparagus and avocado--it has a lemon basil dressing and I have made this a few times and my kids love it too!  It's completely guilt free, full of nutritious vegetables and most importantly...flavor!  The recipe for that is from here

Some tips for cooking with quinoa:

Basic Quinoa Facts

How much cooked quinoa does 1 cup dry quinoa yield?
1 cup dry quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa.
How much liquid do I need to cook quinoa?
To cook 1 cup quinoa, you need about 2 cups liquid.
How long does it take to cook quinoa?
1 cup quinoa will cook in about 20 minutes.
How do I make quinoa less bitter?
Nearly, if not all, of the natural bitterness of quinoa's outer coating can be removed by a vigorous rinsing in a mesh strainer.
How do I make better-tasting quinoa?
Quinoa is really excellent when cooked in vegetable or chicken broth. Also, add about 1/4 teaspoon salt to each cup dried quinoa when cooking. Try adding other spices aromatics during cooking as well: A clove of smashed garlic, a sprig of fresh rosemary, a dash of black pepper.
Can I use my rice cooker to make quinoa?
Yes! Just use the 2:1 liquid to quinoa ratio and follow the instructions on your rice cooker.

Also, it's important to not overcook the asparagus!  You want it to be bright spring green and still a little bit dente!  Nobody likes soggy asparagus....

Now that's some pretty fluffy quinoa!!!

To finish the night, we tried our hand at some sugar free/gluten free donuts.  These were....okay. I just think they shouldn't be called donuts because they taste nothing like the donuts you'd find at Krispy Kreme.  These were tasty and muffin like, but not rich or decadent like the name donut implies.  If you are watching your sugar/fat/white flour intake then these might just do the trick for you! You can find the recipe here

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cheese Night!

For April's cooking group, we decided to have a refresher course on cheese and how to make your own homemade ricotta cheese!  Last year (or maybe the year before??) we learned how to make ricotta using whole milk in your microwave (Recipe here) It is so easy to do and soooo delicious that I think it's safe to say that this recipe is life changing!! 

You simple cook your whole milk in the microwave until it reaches 185 degrees (F), then add in a little vinegar, stir--let cool strain and serve!

Here's our final product--pretty yummy huh?!? Here's we spread it on a fresh baguette and topped with fresh local honey and thyme sprigs but the possibilities are endless!

Here are some more recipes with Ricotta:

Ricotta Recipes

Ricotta is italian for "recooked", traditionally made by reheating the whey left over from making mozzarella.  Ricotta is a versatile cheese.  Try mixing a little ricotta into your scrambled eggs for added fluffiness or olded into an omelet for extra flavor.  Ricotta adds texture and moisture to pancakes and when mized with honey makes a refreshing topping for French toast or waffles.  Tired of prepared spaghetti sauce? Stir in a few spoonfuls of ricotta and transform the sauce into something new and different.  Spread on a toasted baguette and the topping choices are unlimited; peaches, plums or apricots at peak season, tomatoes, basil adn olive oil, caramelized onions, butternut squash, etc. Top toasts with store bought chutney, relish or tapenade for a quick appetizer.  ricotta also can be used as substitute for cream cheese and adds texture to any cheesecake recipe.

Honeyed Ricotta

15 ounces part skim ricotta
2 T honey
1/4 t pure vanilla extract
1/4 t grated lemon zest

In a small bowl, use a whisk to whip all the ingredients together until light and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Store in an airtight container in the refriderator for up to 5 days

Baked Ricotta


2 cups ricotta cheese (full fat/whole milk)
2 large egg whites (lightly beaten)
1 T chopped fresh thyme (try dired oregano as well)
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix the ricotta with the beaten egg whites and add most of the chopped thyme, the lemon zest and salt and pepper.

Brush an 8 inch springform or 2 smaller ramekins with oil, and pour in the ricotta mixture then drizzle with olive oil and scatter a little more chopped thyme over the top.  Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes.  The baked ricotta will rise a little and set dry on top, but will not turna golden color like a cake.

Let the pan cool a little before springing open, and removing to a plate.  Leave to cool al ittle longer, then cut into wedges and eat while still warm.  Add a squeeze of lemon at the end before serving with the baked ricotta.  Can use 1/4 tsp dried herbs in place of fresh, try oregano or Herbs de Provence.

Sweet Variation: Omit the thyme, salt and pepper.  Add 3 T sugar and 1 T honey to mixture.  Once removed from oven, drizzle 2-3 T honey over ricotta cake.

For the rest of the evening, we enjoyed cheese tasting with good company and conversation.  If you're short on time but need to make an impressive display for guests, a cheese sampler is the way to go!  You could easily scour pinterest for ideas on how to display your cheeses, but there is no wrong way to do it.

Along with the cheese, you could add something sweet, something crunchy, something fruity and something salty.  On our cheese board, we added salami, apple slices, fresh honey drizzles, pecans, olives, fresh herbs and dried cherries and of course, we had bread and crackers to go with it.

And one more thing, don't forget to label the cheese some way so that people can see the flavors.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Halloween Soiree 2013

I was so excited to plan this year's Halloween Soiree after last years was such a success!  Brook and I came up with a Phobia/Great Gatsby theme.  The menu and decorations all catered to various phobias and people came dressed in their most glamorous '20s attire.  It was kind of fun researching the different phobias--did you know that there is actually a phobia for peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth?!?


This cabinet was used for our curiousities last year and this year hosted a variety of phobias....lemon drops (fear of sour things), ravens, creepy dolls, and even a clown mask (my personal phobia!)

Brook and Heather made chocolate mice (Brook's personal phobia!) for our display case.  They turned out so a creepy kind of way.  But most importantly, they tasted delicious.  And even though the fear of mice might not be one of my phobias, the idea of eating them was a little spooky...

Recipe for chocolate mice can be found here....


Setting the table is my most favorite part.  Lit candles, dripping crystals, gold candelabras, gold, silver and crystal accents...I loved the way it turned out this year!

I have a vaulted ceiling above the eating area and we strung strands of crystals and outdoor globe lights from the window to the banister above.  It turned out so amazing!

We had to do two tables this year because we had such a great turnout!  It was kind of tricky to find enough tableware and decorations to mirror the two tables, but we have a lot of resources in our fun cooking group and it worked out perfectly!  And I'm obsessed with the gold dot burlap table runner--did you know you can buy it just like that at Jo-Annes???

The gold silverware was my favorite thing on the table...Heather had a set and I scored a set of KSL for a great price!  We only had enough gold ware for half of the place settings, but we had enough real silver for the other half (found at Savers and garage sales!)

Brook had these darling napkin rings (silver with a gold bow detail) that she got on ebay--and there's still plenty on there if you're interested, I've checked for myself!


Look how amazing everyone's costumes are!  I loved seeing what people were wearing, we have a very stylish group here!  At the end of the night, there were sparkles and feathers all over the floor--the sign of a good party if you ask me!

Jeremy made this awesome photo booth for our party.  It's just two pieces of plywood hinged together.  He used a jigsaw to cut out the wood inside of the frames and then we glued wrapping paper on top before we nailed the frames on.  It may weigh close to 300 lbs. and is taking up a nice spot in my garage, but it was soooo worth it :)


snakes and crystals graced our drink table.  We had crystal mugs that held our eye newt drink (basically  honey dew melon and white grape juice with tapioca...)

Homemade tomato basil soup filled our test-tubes as an appetizer (recipe here but fresh garden tomatoes were used in place of canned.) 

Our cheese table was a cheese, a variety of swiss and a soft cheese with a vein of green sage running through it.  Camille even brought some honey comb from her beehive for us.  Black grapes and assorted crackers were on the table, along with plenty of creepy worms...

What wasn't shown was our poppy seed cheddar cheese ball (fear of seeds) and our garlic pumpernickel toasts (fear of garlic)--Clara brought these and it was delicious!  Recipe can be found here...


The menu turned out pretty tasty this year!  Everything we made I would definitely make again.  And I think my kids would love these mini pumpkins!

A huge thank you to Hilary and Trisha for making these!  They were out of this world!!!

These talented girls also made the delicious spinach and beet salad (with avocado and feta)

So easy and so tasty--just olive oil, salt and pepper!  I found the mini potatoes at Trader Joes

This roast was probable the best I've ever had!  We found the frenched pork loin roast at The Store.  The butcher was so kind and helpful and gave us a custom cut--it turned out beautifully!

And Heather made our blood orange jello--such a pretty addition to our table!

Such a pretty plate don't you think?!?


Brook made this eye stopping Crouquembouche  These choux pastry balls filled with salted caramel cream filling.  So delicious!  She strung melted sugar over it to resemble spiderwebs and the spiders just couldn't stay away...

And I made this Inside Out German Chocolate Cake with chocolate ganache glaze.  The filling is made by toasting pecans and coconut and cooking sweetened condensed milk in a water bath in the oven until it caramelizes.  So yummy!  The cake was three layers and super tall, and covered with hungry cockroaches....

Cute Marley! She and her friends were so helpful in serving, clearing tables and taking pictures :)

What a fun and memorable evening! It is so fun to get together with fun friends and good food!  Brook and I had a blast planning and preparing and already have fun ideas for next year :) Happy Halloween!!