Halloween treats

For many years our neighborhood has had a potluck Halloween party.  People brought chili and appetizers and everyone enjoyed wine or beer and trying a variety of dishes.  The kids would play together and then peel off in groups for trick-or-treating.  Sadly this year – no party.  As a tribute to past parties, here are some of the things I brought in years past:

Grilled Thai chili scallops

  • 7 – 10 slices white bread, cut into rounds with a 2 inch fluted pastry cutter
  • 15 sea scallops, cut in thirds horizontally
  • 6 – 8 TB Thai sweet chili sauce
  • creme fraiche

Bake bread rounds in a 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes until crisp and browned.  Cool completely and then store in a zip lock bag until ready to assemble.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Grill scallop slices (dry) for about a minute a side.  Remove from heat into bowl with sweet chili sauce.  Chill until ready to assemble.

When ready to assemble, top each toast round with a scallop slice and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Brush with olive oil.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until crisp.  Cool before topping.  (Toasts can be made ahead and stored in baggies – just make sure they are cool before bagging.)  I did two loaves – one with the spinach topping and one with the shrimp and arranged them alternately on trays.
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Shrimp topping
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble – up to overnight.  Spoon onto toasts.

Blanched Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

This is always a hit.

  • Asparagus spears, tough end broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp wasabi paste

Boil water with salt and blanch asparagus in batches for 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Refrigerate wrapped in paper towels.  Stir together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise for dipping.  NOTE:  Leftover wasabi mayonnaise is great on turkey sandwiches.

Grilled chicken skewers with avocado sauce

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into about 1 inch cubes (I got 50 pieces)

Marinade

  • juice from 2 limes
  • 2 TB honey
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

Sauce:

  • 1 avocado, pitted
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 TB red wine vinegar
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Combine all marinade ingredients and toss with chicken.  Refrigerate for at lest an hour and up to a day.  Soak 6 inch wooden skewers in water while chicken is marinating and then skewer one chicken cube on each skewer.

Broil skewers about 5 minutes a side.  NOTE: I lined my pan with aluminum foil and put the skewers on them.  I did them in our countertop oven and needed to cook in batches as a result.  The skewers started to brown in the first batch even though they had been soaked in water so I figured out that covering the skewers in foil helped to keep them from burning.

For sauce, combine all ingredients in a blender.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: If you push plastic wrap flat on the surface of the dip it will keep it from discoloring.

Tuna Tartar
  • 1 lb fresh tuna, chopped finely
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper with seeds removed, minced
  • 1 1/2 avocados, chopped

Place tuna in a bowl.  Whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Pour over tuna.   Stir in  scallions, jalapeno and avocado.  Refrigerate for a few hours until ready to serve.  This is really good on sesame crackers and I found some with lime.

Party time

Last night we hosted the parent party for Samantha’s Third Grade.  It was a great opportunity to spend an evening with some very nice people and get to know the parents of the children we hear so much about.  This is not a group we have entertained before so I went with a mix of old and new.  I have folders with notes from parties past and I like to go back to those for favorites and then look in my folders of recipes for some new inspirations.  Here is the menu we used (I wish I had taken a picture of the table):

New inspirations

  • Black bean dip with corn chips
  • Chicken Liver Mousse pate
  • Lemon squares (I used the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe which you can find on Google.)

Old favorites

  • Slow roasted beef tenderloin with mustard horseradish sauce
  • Tuna tartar on tasting spoons
  • Shrimp dip with veggies
  • Asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise
  • Mushroom filling in pastry cups
  • Creme de menthe brownies

I always try to mix it up so there is something to suit every taste.  Here are the recipes (starting with the new inspirations):

Black Bean dip

  • 2 cups dried black beans
  • 1 yellow onion, peel on, cut in half
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 12 oz goat cheese

In a medium saucepan, cover beans with about 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and then let beans sit covered for 1 hour.  Drain and rinse beans.  Return to pot and cover with fresh water (about 2  inches)  Add onion, garlic and cumin and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove onion and garlic.

Put about 1/3 of beans in a 1 1/2 quart casserole and top with 1/3 of goat cheese.  Repeat with additional layers of beans and goat cheese.  (I made to this point the day before and refrigerated until ready to serve.)  Bake at 400 for 45 minutes to an hour or until hot and serve with corn chips.

Chicken Liver Mousse pate

  • 1 lb chicken livers
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB brandy
  • 5 TB butter
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Trim chicken livers and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil over high eat and sear livers on all sides.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 – 4 minutes until livers are browned on outside but still pink inside.  Remove livers to a dish.  In pan with remaining fat, cook shallots and garlic over medium heat until translucent.  Reduce heat to low and add brandy.  Add 4 TB of butter and nutmeg and stir.  Remove from heat.

Add liver and butter mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth.  Add remaining butter.  Whip cream into soft peaks and fold into pate.  Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: This is best if made the day before.

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.  Our friends wanted to know how the beef had been cooked – it is so consistently rare throughout, they thought we had cooked it sous vide.

Mustard Horseradish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 TB whole-grain mustard
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuna Tartar
  • 1 lb fresh tuna, chopped finely
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper with seeds removed, minced
  • 1 1/2 avocados, chopped

Place tuna in a bowl.  Whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Pour over tuna.   Stir in  scallions, jalapeno and avocado.  Refrigerate for a few hours until ready to serve.

Shrimp dip
This recipe came from my mother and it is delicious.  I am generally suspicious of recipes made with canned soup but this is very good and always popular.
  • 1 can cream of shrimp soup
  • 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 4 oz canned ripe black olives, chopped
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • dash Worcestershire
  • 1/2 cup cooked shrimp, chopped

Melt soup and cream cheese in top half of a double boiler until completely melted and combined.  Add remaining ingredients.  Serve hot (in a chafing dish) with crackers and raw veggies.

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste
Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)

Creme de Menthe Brownies

Base layer:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • 4 lightly beaten eggsw
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients in a mixture and mix until well mixed.  Pour into 9 x 13 greased pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.  Let cool.

Green icing:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 – 4 TB Creme de Menthe

Beat together and spread over brownies.  Let set.

Chocolate topping:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 stick butter

Melt chocolate chips and butter.  Cool slightly and spread over green icing layer.  Let set.  Cut into small pieces.

Have appetizer, will travel

We are invited to a party tonight and I was asked to bring an appetizer.  I’m always conscious of bringing something that is easy to transport and requires very little work or use of the host’s kitchen on the receiving end.  (And we will need to be prompt since we have the start of the evening – if you want to be late, bring dessert!)  I decided to make seared tuna with wasabi since I had seen beautiful tuna on sale at Graul’s.  Here is the recipe along with a few other ideas for appetizers that fit the bill for a potluck.

Seared tuna with wasabi sauce
  • 1 lb of sushi grade tuna
  • 1 TB black sesame seeds
  • 1 TB sesame seeds
  • 1 TB poppy seeds
  • 1 TB canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 TB wasabi paste (can be made by combining equal parts of wasabi powder and water)
  • flat bread crackers
Cut tuna into long blocks.  Season with salt and pepper.  Combine sesame seeds and poppy seeds in a shallow pan and dip tuna blocks in seeds, coating each side.  Using a non-stick pan over medium high heat, heat canola oil and sear tuna blocks about 2 minutes a side.  (You want tuna to be rare).  Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator.  Combine sour cream and wasabi paste.  When ready to serve, slice tuna and put on flat bread crackers – top with a small amount of sauce.

Blanched Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

This is always a hit.

  • Asparagus spears, tough end broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp wasabi paste

Boil water with salt and blanch asparagus in batches for 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Refrigerate wrapped in paper towels.  Stir together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise for dipping.  NOTE:  Leftover wasabi mayonnaise is great on turkey sandwiches.

Salmon Spread

My nieces all love this spread and it is a great way to serve smoked salmon to a group of people.

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives
  • pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill. Serve with crackers.

Grilled Thai chili scallops

These are delicious and pretty.  I took them to a Halloween gathering – being sort of orange in color, they looked as good as they tasted!

  • 7 – 10 slices white bread, cut into rounds with a 2 inch fluted pastry cutter
  • 15 sea scallops, cut in thirds horizontally
  • 6 – 8 TB Thai sweet chili sauce
  • creme fraiche

Bake bread rounds in a 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes until crisp and browned.  Cool completely and then store in a zip lock bag until ready to assemble.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Grill scallop slices (dry) for about a minute a side.  Remove from heat into bowl with sweet chili sauce.  Chill until ready to assemble.

When ready to assemble, top each toast round with a scallop slice and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Vodka spiked cherry tomatoes

  • 2 pts cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup good vodka
  • 3 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 TB sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper
Make an x at stem end of each tomato.  Dunk in boiling water for about 5 seconds for cherry tomatoes or 20 seconds for grape tomatoes and then in ice water.  Remove peels.  Combine vodka, vinegar, sugar and lemon zest and soak tomatoes in vodka mixture.  Combine salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Serve tomatoes with toothpicks – spear the tomato and then dip in the salt, pepper mixture.  For an indoor party, these look pretty in a glass trifle bowl – for a picnic transport in any plastic container.
Crab salad in cucumber cups
  • 2 cucumbers, cut into slices about 3/4 inch
  • 1 pound of crabmeat
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp celery salt (or 1 celery stalk minced)
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Scoop center out of cucumber slices with a spoon.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Gently combine crabmeat with mayo, lemon juice, celery salt and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, mound about 2 tsp of crab salad in cucumber cup and eat.  (Leftover crab salad is delicious eaten with a spoon!)

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread (I used two since I made all three toppings)
  • olive oil
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Brush with olive oil.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until crisp.  Cool before topping.  (Toasts can be made ahead and stored in baggies – just make sure they are cool before bagging.)
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Shrimp topping
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble – up to overnight.  Spoon onto toasts.

Easter appetizers

My sister and her husband are hosting Easter dinner.  I volunteered to do appetizers.  It is a big group – 16 people so I wanted some variety.  Here is what I’m bringing:

Blanched Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

This is always a hit and it is so easy to transport.

  • Asparagus spears, tough end broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp wasabi paste

Boil water with salt and blanch asparagus in batches for 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Refrigerate wrapped in paper towels.  Stir together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise for dipping.  NOTE:  Leftover wasabi mayonnaise is great on turkey sandwiches.

Salmon Spread

My nieces all love this spread and it is a great way to serve smoked salmon to a group of people.

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives
  • pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill. Serve with crackers.

Grilled Thai chili scallops

These are delicious and again, easy to transport.  Since we are having lamb for dinner, I thought seafood in the appetizer would be good.

  • 7 – 10 slices white bread, cut into rounds with a 2 inch fluted pastry cutter
  • 15 sea scallops, cut in thirds horizontally
  • 6 – 8 TB Thai sweet chili sauce
  • creme fraiche

Bake bread rounds in a 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes until crisp and browned.  Cool completely and then store in a zip lock bag until ready to assemble.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Grill scallop slices (dry) for about a minute a side.  Remove from heat into bowl with sweet chili sauce.  Chill until ready to assemble.

When ready to assemble, top each toast round with a scallop slice and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Baby shower

I did the food for my friend Celia’s baby shower today.  Everything turned out well (if I do say so myself.)  I met with Celia and her daughter a few weeks ago and we planned a menu that we thought had something for everyone.  Here is what was served:

  • Chicken Salad
  • Crab salad in cucumber cups
  • Blanched asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise
  • Bloody Mary tomato salad
  • Pasta salad

Here are the recipes:

Chicken Salad

  • 1 whole bone in chicken breast with skin on (I prefer organic chicken)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup green grapes, halved
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup (or as needed) Hellmann’s mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350.  Rub chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a ceramic dish.  Roast until chicken is at 150.  Combine chicken with celery and grapes and season with thyme, garlic pwoder, Worcestershire and celery salt.  Add mayonnaise and stir well to combine.  If salad is dry, add more mayonnaise.  Chill and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Crab salad in cucumber cups
  • 2 cucumbers, cut into slices about 3/4 inch
  • 1 pound of crabmeat
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp celery salt (or 1 celery stalk minced)
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Scoop center out of cucumber slices with a spoon.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Gently combine crabmeat with mayo, lemon juice, celery salt and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, mound about 2 tsp of crab salad in cucumber cup and eat.  (For the baby shower I used 2 pounds of crabmeat and 5 cucumbers.  We could have used at least one more cucumber but the crab salad is good by itself.)

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste
Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)  Everyone loved this – I made 3 pounds of asparagus.)

Bloody Mary tomato salad

  • good tomatoes (I used a mix of red and yellow)
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 olive oil

Chop tomatoes.  Combine horseradish, lemon juice, celery seed, Worcestershire and pepper.  Gradually whisk in olive oil.  Toss with tomatoes.  Beautiful in the trifle bowl and I found one perfect leafy stalk of celery to garnish the bowl.

Pasta Salad

  • 1 pound tri-color fusilli pasta
  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing (made according to package instructions.)  You can either use the Italian or Zesty Italian – I doubled the recipe and used one of each today.
  • 1 – 2 TB capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cool water to stop cooking.  Toss with dressing, capers and Parmesan and cover.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  You could add vegetables (blanched broccoli, sliced cherry tomatoes but I figured with everything else, we would just serve it straight.

Doesn’t the table look pretty!

Baby shower

Baby shower

 

New Neighbor party!

We are very excited to have several new families with young children in our neighborhood.  We have been in our house for 5 1/2 years and the only thing I haven’t liked is that there haven’t been any kids around.  When I was growing up we had lots of kids around and as a result there were plenty of spontaneous games of hide and seek, sardines, flying statues, tag, etc.  I’m delighted that we almost have 6 kids between 4 and 7 practically in our backyard.

We wanted to welcome the neighbors with a casual dinner.  I thought about doing a cookout but the weather can be iffy and we have found that trying to cook lots of burgers makes the grill get really hot.  I want to be able to visit with our guests and get to know everyone so I wanted a do ahead menu.  I decided to repeat the menu from the tennis team party we did at the end of August.  Everyone liked it, it can all be made ahead of time and unlike last time, I’m not trying to juggle the preparations with a trip out of town.

Here are all the recipes and ingredient lists.

Asian Snack Mix

I got this recipe from my sister.  At Christmas she put this in containers that look like Chinese takeout containers but they were decorated for the holiday.  Cute gift for teachers and friends.

  • 3/4 lb. butter melted
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 2 t. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground red pepper
  • 1/2 t. brown mustard
  • 2 T. sesame oil
  • 1 box rice Chex
  • 1 box wheat Chex
  • 2 5 oz. cans chow mein noodles
  • 2 9.5 oz. jars cashew halves
  • 3 c. sesame sticks
  • 7 oz. jar sunflower seeds
  • 3 c. wasabi peas
  • 1 jar crystallized ginger

Combine first 10 ingredients. Combine all remaining ingredients EXCEPT crystallized ginger & slowly stir in butter mixture tossing to coat.  (You will need a few big bowls.) Spread in even mixture in 5 or so pans.  Bake at 250 for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Cool in pan 10 minutes; spread on paper towels to cool completely. Mince ginger and mix in.  Delicious and good for a crowd.

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnais

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  •   4 tsp soy sauce
  •  1 1/2 tsp sugar
  •   2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste

Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)  I did 3 lbs of asparagus and doubled the mayo.

Bok Choy salad

  • 1 head of bok choy, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions

topping

  • 1 jar of sesame seeds
  • 2 oz slivered almonds
  • 2 packages of Ramen noodles broken in pieces (do not use seasoning package
  • 2 TB of olive oil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute almonds and Ramen noodles tossing with garlic powder for about 3 – 4 minutes.  Add sesame seeds and sauté an additional 3 minutes.  Cool and store in a covered container until ready to use.

dressing

  • 2 TB soy  sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup olive oil

Boil all ingredients and boil for 1 minute.  Reserve until ready to use.

When ready for salad, toss bok choy and scallions with dressing and then toss in topping.

Sesame noodles with peanut sauce

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 TB chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 package linguine noodles, cooked according to package instructions, drained and rinsed in cool water
  • 1 red pepper minced
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 1 TB sesame seeds

In a food processor, combine garlic and ginger, chopping thoroughly.  Add peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and rice vinegar and combine well.  Toss with noodles until well covered and add red pepper, scallions and sesame seeds.  Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.  (I am doubling this time for 14 adults and 11 kids.)

Chinese Chicken Salad

Dressing

  • 3 TB low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 TB rice vinegar
  •  1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3 TB smooth peanut butter
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB finely chopped fresh ginger
  •  1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (save the rest in a glass jar in the refrigerator for chipotle mayo and that wonderful marinade)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender or mix well in a bowl.  (If mixing in a bowl, mince the chipotle pepper.)

Salad

  • 2 cup sliced red cabbage or Napa cabbage
  • 2 cup sliced romaine lettuce
  • 2 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup trimmed snow peas
  •  3 thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 whole chicken breasts, bone in
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 chopped peanuts
  • 1 lime halved

Mix cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro and scallions in a large bowl.

Toss chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350 for about 30 minutes or until thermometer reads 140.  Let cool and then shred chicken meat.  Reserve until ready to use.

Toss lettuce mixture with dressing and top with chicken and chopped peanuts.  Serve with lime halves.  I am doubling this time.

Lemon iced gingersnap sandwich cookies

  •  1 stick butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Gingersnap cookies (I used Anna’s)

Combine together with a mixer.  Add juice and zest of 1 lemon and beat until spreadable.  Spread on purchased ginger cookies and sandwich together.  Freeze until ready to serve.

Brownies

  • 2 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat.  Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Stir in flour, eggs and vanilla.  Transfer to a  baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit in pan for at least an hour before cutting.

Orange Pound cake – click on link for the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe

Making the impossible possible

When we picked tonight to host my husband’s Interclub tennis team for dinner we knew that we were going to be away overnight visiting friends in New Jersey on Saturday night.  We did not know that I would need to be in the office on Saturday morning from 7:30 a.m. until time to leave for New Jersey.  That left very little time for party preparations.   (We also didn’t know that we would end up with 32 grownups and 8 children coming.)

I had been giving thought to the menu ahead of time (easy for me since I spend lots of time thinking about food) and drew my inspiration as I often do from The Barefoot Contessa.  In her Parties cookbook, she had a canoe party menu with Chinese Chicken salad.  She matched it with pasta with pesto and shrimp salad but I decided to use the Chinese Chicken salad to set a theme and am pairing it with sesame noodles and bok choy salad.  I am also not using her recipe exactly but am combining my favorite elements of hers and one I found in a Bobby Flay cookbook.  (One of the fun things about picking a dish that is in many cookbooks is that you can compare multiple variations and find one that suits you perfectly.)

I always make lists when I’m entertaining so I started with a list of all items.  Here is the full menu:

Snacks

Asian snack mix and asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise

Dinner

Bok Choy salad

Sesame noodles

Chinese Chicken salad

Dessert

A country dessert platter (also inspired by Barefoot Contessa) with lemon iced gingersnaps, brownies, orange pound cake and chocolate chip cookies

From this list I started identifying items that could be made ahead – the snack mix and wasabi mayonnaise were made earlier in the week and I blanched the asparagus this afternoon.  The dressing and topping for the Bok Choy salad are fine to make ahead so the salad just needs assembly on Sunday.  The dressing for the sesame noodles and the Chinese Chicken salad can both be made ahead and the chicken can be cooked.  The lemon iced gingersnaps and orange pound cake can be made ahead and frozen and I’m buying the chocolate chip cookies.  So all that needed to be done this afternoon was one more trip to the grocery store and a fair amount of assembly.

All of a sudden, this is looking manageable.  If you like to live with a little less stress you could simplify by doing any of the following:

–       Choose snacks that you buy instead of make and focus on the entrée and/or dessert

–       Buy one or more of the side dishes and focus just on the entrée

–       Buy all of the desserts from a bakery

–       Let people bring things and make it a potluck

–       Skip the whole thing and have dinner by yourself (many people would go for this option!)

Here are all of the recipes:

Asian Snack Mix

  • 3/4 lb. butter melted
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 2 t. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground red pepper
  • 1/2 t. brown mustard
  • 2 T. sesame oil
  • 1 box rice Chex
  • 1 box wheat Chex
  • 2 5 oz. cans chow mein noodles
  • 2 9.5 oz. jars cashew halves
  • 3 c. sesame sticks
  • 7 oz. jar sunflower seeds
  • 3 c. wasabi peas
  • 1 jar crystallized ginger

Combine first 10 ingredients. Combine all remaining ingredients EXCEPT crystallized ginger & slowly stir in butter mixture tossing to coat.  (You will need a few big bowls.) Spread in even mixture in 5 or so pans.  Bake at 250 for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Cool in pan 10 minutes; spread on paper towels to cool completely. Mince ginger and mix in.  Delicious and good for a crowd.

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnais

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  •   4 tsp soy sauce
  •  1 1/2 tsp sugar
  •   2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste

Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)  I did 3 lbs of asparagus and doubled the mayo.

Bok Choy salad

  • 1 head of bok choy, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions

topping

  • 1 jar of sesame seeds
  • 2 oz slivered almonds
  • 2 packages of Ramen noodles broken in pieces (do not use seasoning package
  • 2 TB of olive oil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute almonds and Ramen noodles tossing with garlic powder for about 3 – 4 minutes.  Add sesame seeds and sauté an additional 3 minutes.  Cool and store in a covered container until ready to use.

dressing

  • 2 TB soy  sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup olive oil

Boil all ingredients and boil for 1 minute.  Reserve until ready to use.

When ready for salad, toss bok choy and scallions with dressing and then toss in topping.

Sesame noodles with peanut sauce

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 TB chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 package linguine noodles, cooked according to package instructions, drained and rinsed in cool water
  • 1 red pepper minced
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 1 TB sesame seeds

In a food processor, combine garlic and ginger, chopping thoroughly.  Add peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and rice vinegar and combine well.  Toss with noodles until well covered and add red pepper, scallions and sesame seeds.  Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.  (I quadrupled this for 30 people and will be happy if we have leftovers.)

Chinese Chicken Salad

Dressing

  • 3 TB low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 TB rice vinegar
  •  1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3 TB smooth peanut butter
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB finely chopped fresh ginger
  •  1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (save the rest in a glass jar in the refrigerator for chipotle mayo and that wonderful marinade)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender or mix well in a bowl.  (If mixing in a bowl, mince the chipotle pepper.)

Salad

  • 2 cup sliced red cabbage or Napa cabbage
  • 2 cup sliced romaine lettuce
  • 2 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup trimmed snow peas
  •  3 thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 whole chicken breasts, bone in
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 chopped peanuts
  • 1 lime halved

Mix cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro and scallions in a large bowl.

Toss chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350 for about 30 minutes or until thermometer reads 140.  Let cool and then shred chicken meat.  Reserve until ready to use.  (We got ambitious and made stock with the skin and bones.)

Toss lettuce mixture with dressing and top with chicken and chopped peanuts.  Serve with lime halves.  I quintupled this for 30 people.

Lemon iced gingersnap sandwich cookies

  •  1 stick butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Gingersnap cookies (I used Anna’s)

Combine together with a mixer.  Add juice and zest of 1 lemon and beat until spreadable.  Spread on purchased ginger cookies and sandwich together.

Brownies

  • 2 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat.  Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Stir in flour, eggs and vanilla.  Transfer to a  baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit in pan for at least an hour before cutting.

Orange Pound cake – click on link for the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe

On the bright side I might have leftovers for another night this week!

 

 

Appetizers

We’re having dinner with friends tonight and I offered to bring an appetizer.  It’s casual – kids are included so I wanted to bring something easy.  I hate to walk into someone’s house with something that needs to be cooked or assembled as I don’t want to get in their way when they are fixing dinner.  I went with something old and something new – the old is my blanched asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise.  It’s springy and always a hit.  I thought it would be fun to try something new so I made some cheese crackers.  I used a blend of Parmesan and Romano cheese but you could use either and still get a great result.  We’ve all tried them and they are delicious – the trick is going to be making sure they don’t get eaten before we get to our destination!

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste
Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)
Cheese crackers
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated cheese (I used half Parmesan and half Romano)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cheese with salt and pepper in a mixer and combine.  Add butter and beat to combine.  Add flour in 3 batches combining until mixture holds together.  Roll into balls (about 1 TB in size) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Flatten slightly.  Bake about 14 – 16 minutes until edges are browned.  Remove from oven and let cool.

These are so good that I might make another batch tomorrow for my book club meeting on Monday night.

Asparagus and Brownies

Tomorrow we are having a pot luck lunch at work.  I was thinking about what to make (a little bit of pressure when you are the one in the office with the recipe blog!).  Decided to go with a savory and a sweet.  Savory is blanched asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise – an awesome appetizer and a sign that spring is on the way and sweet is my mom’s famous brownies.  I grew up on these brownies and did not even know until I was about 11 that you could make brownies from a mix.  When I tasted brownies from a mix, I didn’t understand why you would bother – they only take a few minutes to make from scratch and they are so much better they are not even the same thing.

Blanched Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Asparagus spears, tough end broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp wasabi paste

Boil water with salt and blanch asparagus in batches for 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Refrigerate wrapped in paper towels.  Stir together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise for dipping.  NOTE:  Leftover wasabi mayonnaise is great on turkey sandwiches.

Brownies

  • 4 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat.  Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Stir in flour, eggs and vanilla.  Transfer to a 10 x 14 inch baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 22 minutes.  (You can halve the recipe and cook in a smaller square baking pan.)  Remove from oven and let sit in pan for at least an hour before cutting.  You will never bother with a mix again.