Crab feast sides

Most Marylanders love a crab feast.  Picking crabs is a leisurely activity, you pick, you talk, you eat.  We have only had crabs once this summer and are looking forward to a fun evening with good friends and delicious crabs.  The one thing about picking crabs is that you don’t usually get full from the crabmeat.  (You usually get bored before you get full.)  You need some side dishes.  Corn is always popular.  So are deviled eggs and potato salad.  (And brownies for my friend Jack!)

Deviled eggs
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire
  • 1.4 tsp dry mustard (more if you want them spicier)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 TB mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Potato Salad
There are lots of recipes for potato salad and I like most of them but once I discovered this one, it is my default.
  • Red potatoes, 3 pounds
  • scallions, 1 bunch thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper
Boil potatoes until tender.  Let cool until you can handle and then chop potatoes.  Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice (adjust to your taste) and toss over potatoes.  Add sliced scallions and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Brownies

  • 4 ounces Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate (NOTE: They recently changed their packaging – it used to be a box with 8 squares, 1 oz each.  Now it is a box with a four ounce breakable bar.)
  • 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.  I have discovered by accident that these are even better if you make them and freeze them.  When you thaw them they are even fudgier.  So I made a big batch yesterday and when they were completely cool, I wrapped up 3 separate packages of about 12 brownies each.  I’ll get one out this afternoon for tonight and it’s nice knowing that if we have a friend over for dinner, there is always a dessert in the freezer ready to go.

Super Bowl

It is Super Bowl Sunday but here in Baltimore, that is not as big a deal as this time last year when the Ravens were playing for the title.  This year it is much less interesting to many of us.  So we will focus on the food and the commercials and probably switch over to Downton Abbey at 9:00.  The menu has to be chili so as I have done traditionally, I give you 4 chili variations with assists from my husband and friends.  We will start with my brother-in-law’s outstanding guacamole and end with homemade brownies (the leftovers will be frozen for our ski trip.)  Christie is bringing a salad so we have something green in addition to the guacamole.  🙂  Enjoy the game.

Guacamole

  • 4 ripe avocados
  • 1 TB lime juice
  • 1 TB sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 TB salsa
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • cilantro (optional)

Mash avocados, add remaining ingredients and mash until well combined.  (This is the part of cooking where toddlers excel!).  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  This is one of the few recipes I make where I don’t skimp on salt.  Salt and the chili powder are the two “magic” ingredients that you should consider adding.  Let sit in a bowl with the avocado pits in the guacamole until ready to serve.  (That keeps it from turning brown.)

Beef and Sausage Chili (courtesy of Keith – adapted from The Silver Palate)

This is the chili that converted me (I was not a fan of chili prior to tasting this one.)  It makes enough to serve 15 – 20 people so you’ll need a good sized stockpot (we use a 12 qt pot).

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 lb of chopped yellow onions
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs sirloin, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tsps fresh ground pepper
  • 1 12 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 to 3 15 oz cans tomato sauce, as needed
  • 1 1/2 TB minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 oz cumin
  • 2 oz chili powder
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB salt
  • 2 TB dried basil
  • 2 TB dried oregano
  • 3 lbs canned  plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 4 TB lemon juice
  • 1 dash Tabasco
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans (5 1/2 oz) of pitted black olives, drained and chopped

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot.  Add onions and cook over low heat, until tender (about 10 minutes).

Add sausage meet, ground beef and sirloin cubes and cook over medium high heat until meat is well browned.  Drain as much fat as possible.

Reduce heat to low and add all ingredients except olives.  Stir well and simmer for about 25 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add olives and heat through.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped red onions and jalapeno peppers (for those who like it spicy) and cornbread.

Turkey Chili (courtesy of Gill)

  • 1 lb of ground turkey
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can of black beans, drained
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1 can of tomato soup
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • chili seasoning to taste

Brown onions and garlic in oil.  Add turkey and cook (do not drain).  Add remaining ingredients and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and corn bread.

White Chicken Chili  (courtesy of Julie)

  • 2 cans (15 1/2 oz. each) of white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 -2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 4 oz can chopped green chili
  • 1 poblano chili, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Dash of hot pepper sauce
  • 4 cups poached boneless, skinless chicken, cubed

In a large pan combine  the beans with the chicken broth.  In a small saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in oil until soft and translucent.  Add chilis and seasonings and mix thoroughly.  Add onion-chili mixture to the beans.  Add the chicken cubes and cook over low heat about 5 minutes or until chicken is heated through.  Add more chicken broth if needed.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped scallions or salsa.

Vegetarian Chili

  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup small red beans
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large can of plum tomatoes (including juice)
  • 2 – 3 cups of water

Pour all ingredients into a pot and simmer over low heat for several hours.  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.

Easy company dinner

We had a friend over for dinner tonight.  I wasn’t sure whether she could be with us last night or tonight so I swapped the meals.  We had leftover celery soup last night and tonight we had Steak Florentine.  This is such an easy dinner and it is so delicious.  Only a few ingredients and minimal prep make it a perfect dinner for entertaining a friend during the week.  It was so easy that I had time to make a quick batch of brownies for dessert!

Steak Florentine

  • steak of your choice (Graul’s had Porterhouse on sale so I bought 2 small ones for 3 of us)
  • olive oil for the steak
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • arugula
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 additional lemon sliced
  • shaved Parmesan cheese

Rub steak with garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Brush with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.  (This can be done ahead of time).  When ready, grill steak to desired doneness, let rest and then slice.  (The Porterhouse is nice because everybody gets some of two kinds of steak.)

In a jar, combine 1/3 cup olive oil with lemon juice and Dijon mustard.  Shake well to combine.  Place arugula on plates and top with dressing.  Top with shaved Parmesan cheese and steak slices.  Serve with sliced lemon.  Squeeze lemon juice onto steak and enjoy.

Steak Florentine

Steak Florentine

Quick brownies

  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Melt chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat, stirring regularly.  Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes.  Stir in flour, eggs and vanilla.  Pour batter into a square baking dish lined with parchment and bake at 350 for 22 minutes.  Cool, cut and serve.

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!

 

 

Brownies to “bark” for

My daughter’s school is having a “bark” sale tomorrow.  They are selling baked goods to raise money for the SPCA.  As an animal enthusiast, this is a cause I support enthusiastically – as do both of my dogs.  And if you contribute you get to wear pajamas to school.  I made my classic brownies – everyone loves them and my daughter helped.  (If you think that making brownies from scratch is too difficult, it should tell you something that my 5 year old did most of the work!)  Here is the recipe – we doubled it in a pan 14 x 10 1/2 inches.  (A single batch will work in a 9 x 9 pan.)

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.  Here they are cooling:

Easy dessert

For our Super Bowl festivities this evening, I decided I’ll make my classic brownies.  Since we are trying to lose weight, I’m going to make a small batch (I often double the recipe).  My goal is not to have leftovers.  These are simple to make and easy to eat (perhaps too easy!)

Brownies

  • 2 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
  • 1sticks butter
  • 1cups 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 9 x 9 inch baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 22 minutes.  (You can double the recipe and cook in a rectangular baking pan.)  Remove from oven and let sit in pan for at least an hour before cutting.  These are so good and they are so simple.  If you use mixes to make brownies, I hope this converts you to making them from scratch.

Picnic side dishes

We are hosting my daughter’s class picnic today.  We’re supplying sandwiches for the grownups and people are bringing side dishes.  Since I can tend to be a little bit of a control freak, it is hard for me to do this but it is nice that people want to contribute.  It is the time of year when there are lots of events and you  might have an opportunity to sign up for something.  Here are a few of my favorite things to bring to a picnic (or what I would make if I was doing the menu myself).

Fruit salad basket

Carving a watermelon into a basket makes a great container for fruit salad and it looks like it is a lot harder than it actually is.  Place the watermelon on its flattest side.  You’ll want about a two inch “handle” for your basket so start about 1 inch to right of center and make a straight slice about 1/2 way down the melon.  Repeat about 1 inch left of center.  From the right side, slice the melon horizontally towards the handle slice and remove the section.  Repeat on left side.  Carve out watermelon flesh from handle, leaving rind.  Scoop watermelon flesh from “basket” and use a melon baller to turn watermelon flesh into balls.  Combine watermelon with balls of honeydew, cantaloupe and sliced strawberries or fruit of your choice.  Serve fruit in basket.

Pasta salad

I have made this numerous times and people always ask for the recipe.  They are shocked when I give it to them because they think it is more homemade than it is.  This is a great last minute summer side dish and is easily doubled, tripled or even quadrupled.

  • 1 package fusilli pasta
  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing mix prepared according to package instructions
  • 1 TB capers
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Toss to remove water and then toss with salad dressing.  Add capers and Parmesan cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Toss again before serving.  You could add sliced cherry tomatoes and any blanched vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower would be good) to this salad if you like.
Deviled eggs
It doesn’t matter how many deviled eggs I make, I don’t think I have ever had leftovers.  Typically you’ll hear people say “I haven’t had deviled eggs in ages” as they pop them in their mouths!
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: For fancy parties, a small bit of caviar can be added to tops of deviled eggs.
Potato Salad
There are lots of recipes for potato salad and I like most of them but once I discovered this one, it is my default.
  • Red potatoes, 3 pounds
  • scallions, 1 bunch thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper
Boil potatoes until tender.  Let cool until you can handle and then chop potatoes.  Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice (adjust to your taste) and toss over potatoes.  Add sliced scallions and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Brownies
Brownies are a great thing to bring to picnics because they are easy to eat.  These are always a hit.
  • 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (I use Baker’s)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate with sugar and butter, stirring regularly.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 – 10 minutes.  Stir in eggs, flour and vanilla.  Pour into a rectangular baking pan and bake for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit.  Cut into squares.  (For easy cleanup, line your pan with parchment paper  -you can lift the parchment out and cut the brownies and put the pan away.)
Bring any of these along and you will be a very popular picnic guest!

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.

Creme de Menthe Brownies

My daughter and I were invited to a gathering of some old friends from high school last night.  I asked what I could bring and dessert was suggested.  I let my 4 year old choose and she said “The brownies with the green icing”.  These brownies are very rich so cut them in small pieces.  They aren’t hard to make but you have to allow time for each of the three layers to set.

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.