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We got the skills to work the grills.

6 Jul

Until about now, my July 4th weekend was pretty non-stop, going from one food-centered event to another, spanning across Maryland, DC and Virginia. I was lucky enough to have the 5th off as well, which I pretty much spent recovering from the weekend, doing laundry, burning off my holiday gut with a run, and eating foods other than grilled meat. I think I’m good on steak and ribs for awhile.

To recap, on Saturday, a good chunk of my friends, Team DMV, met to reap the benefits of a grilling lesson. We came, they grilled, we conquered (the food).

Mmm…Ribs smothered in sauce, just the way I like ’em.

Men, by the way, are funny. All the guys met before the designated meeting time of 6pm, and had already started grilling together at 4. They were often crowded around the meat or the grill or the kitchen. It’s almost like a rite of passage for men. There are certain things all guys must eventually check off on their man cards, and learning how to grill and cook a good steak or whatever hunk of meat is on hand is apparently one of them.

The Bf is already ticked off that box on his man card, having made this steak recipe before – it’s marinated in some spicy, succulent sauce that includes brown sugar and chiles before it’s grilled – it’s really delicious. I’m not much of a steak person at all but I will never turn a piece of these down. (I’ll try and snag this recipe from him sometime soon).

We did manage to diversify our spread with plenty of fruit, potato salad and deviled eggs. I love deviled eggs, by the way. I had to keep telling myself that I have to share with others and that I won’t keep friends if I eat half that plate.

Also, you can’t have a pre-July 4th grillout without some fireworks. In the apartment complex parking lot. Classy!


Of course, once you bring fireworks into the picture, we become a bunch of overgrown children and start “battling” with our sparklers, pretending they’re wands. Yes, I definitely shouted out “Expecto Patronum!” while brandishing mine (not when I took this picture, of course). Yes, I am 27 years old. No, I am not mature.

I spent most of Sunday museum-hopping with my wonderful friend Liz, who was in town for work first and stayed for some play. I don’t have any photos from the museums, but if you’re ever in DC, definitely visit the Holocaust museum – it’s very moving and the exhibits are fascinating, especially one on Nazi propaganda. The Crime and Punishment Museum (which unfortunately is one you have to pay for), is also really interesting, especially for those of you who are fans of crime shows like Law & Order, NCIS, etc.

We still had a ton of meat left to grill from Saturday, plus leftovers from the meat we did cook, so we gathered again on Monday to cook some more, play some basketball or tennis, hang out by the pool and just chat the day away. Oh and sweat. It’s damn hot here in DC right now.

 This time around, we did grill some vegetables – eggplant and zucchini, specifically – and they turned around absolutely delicious. Just sprinkle sliced veggies with salt and pepper and whatever herbs and seasonings you have on hand, and stick them straight on the grill. Call me crazy, but I might prefer this to grilled meat.

Sometimes, at the end of a hot day, the only thing that sounds satisfying is a slice of sweet watermelon. I used to hate watermelon, but for whatever reason, I love it now. I gotta say, next to grilled vegetables, it’s probably one of my favorite foods of the summer.

How was your July 4th holiday?

What’s your favorite summer food?

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Something for Santa…or yourself!

25 Dec

Do you remember the last time you left out cookies for Santa? I honestly can’t remember the last time for me…maybe 9 or 10 years old? It seems like it’s been so long since I first found out that (cover any children’s eyes here) he doesn’t really exist. Even though you won’t be making these the big man in the red suit, there’s no reason not to bake some cookies for Christmas. After all the gift shopping, wrapping, card-writing and mailing, don’t we all deserve a little sweet something for Christmas Day?

I found this super easy but wonderfully tasty recipe for White Chocolate and Cranberry Recipes on All Recipes, submitted by Diane Abed. They’ve got just the right sweetness from the cranberries, plus I love that it calls for white chocolate instead of milk, dark or semi-sweet. I think white works best with a dried fruit like cranberry, but definitely try any other kind of chip of your choice. The recipe also uses brandy, but I replaced it with vanilla because I didn’t have brandy on hand. So if you’ve got a hankering for a twinge of booze with your dessert, use brandy. Obviously because the recipe has a good cookie base, it allows for flexibility in the use of additions. But the red from the cranberries and the white from the chocolate just make these cookies so perfectly festive for the Christmas holiday.

White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla (or brandy)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to to 375 degrees and grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper. Cream butter, brown sugar and white sugar in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (1.) until it reaches a smooth consistency (2.). Beat in the egg and vanilla (3.) and you’ll get a consistency like (4.). Combine the flour and baking soda, and then gradually stir it into the mixture (5.). Carefully mix in the dried cranberries and white chocolate chips (6.).

Spoon the dough in heaping spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet (7.). Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until just lightly golden brow and slowly doughy (8.). Remove and let cool slightly while on the cookie sheets, and then transfer to cool completely on wire racks. (Although I don’t blame you if you sneak some bites in while it’s still warm!)

Enjoy and have a wonderful holiday! (9.)

A foray into Thanksgiving…

19 Nov

Inadvertently, I’ve made a few meals recently that I realized are not only healthy, but actually coincide well with the Thanksgiving holiday. You could certainly make the Tomato-Basil bread pudding as an alternative to Stove Top stuffing. And despite the fact that Boyfriend and I simply ate these as our dinner one night, these Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tapas would be great to serve if entertaining your family or having a small gathering for Turkey Day.

Cookbooks for parties and large dinners, like “Great Gatherings-Star Chefs Entertain at Home,” which is where we found this recipe, have ended up being very useful for me. “Great Gatherings” is full of dishes that are perfectly large enough to be doled out at a packed dinner table. So when occasions and holidays that warrant tons of eating roll around, the books get lots of use. In addition to that, having recipes on hand that make one very large portion, which can be slowly eaten by one or two people throughout the week, proves their use on non-holiday times of the year. Now, I wouldn’t fully assemble these tapas and eat them throughout the week. But you could make the mushroom mixture, reheat the next day or after, and put on top goat cheese and bread or baguette slices.

However or whenever you decide to serve these, I don’t think you (or your guests) will be disappointed. Unless you really despise mushrooms. However, The Bf normally hates mushrooms, yet he devoured these tapas. For him, it’s a texture issue, but the creaminess of the goat cheese and the toughness and crunch of the bread significantly lessens that squeaky chewiness from the mushrooms that he hates.

If I was hosting Thanksgiving Dinner this year, these would be on the menu. Prep and cooking is not hard or time-consuming, thus leaving enough time and energy for more arduous dishes. Not to mention it’s a delicious recipe. I just loved the spiciness of the paprika mixed with the goat cheese’s tartness. There are many strong flavors that go into this dish, the combination of which should make your palate open up and stand at attention, ready for whatever is served next.

Chef Elizabeth Brown’s Mushroom & Goat Cheese Tapas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound large cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered through the stem end
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 teaspoon Spanish hot smoked paprika (I didn’t have Spanish paprika on hand; regular works just fine here)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Minced zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound fresh goat cheese (I tried this with Laughing Cow Swiss and shaved Parmesan and both also tasted yummy)
  • 16 slices baguette (we used a whole-grain baguette and it tasted great with everything else)

Directions (adapted slightly)

Slice baguette and spread the goat cheese on top of each piece. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter with olive oil over medium-high heat.  When the butter froths, add the mushrooms and cook, tossing and stirring frequently, until just cooked through and beginning to brown. This will take 3-5 minutes. My mushrooms ended up browning quicker than my timer set at 4 minutes, so just watch them carefully while continually stirring.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer, or until fragrant.  Add the sherry, paprika, parsley, and lemon zest, toss to combine, and stir for 30 seconds, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Take the pan off the heat and spoon about a tablespoon of the mushroom mixture on top of the baguette slices. Or, you can pour the mushroom mixture into a deep bowl or dish and have guests spoon the mixture onto their cheese and bread.