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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recipes | Christmas Cookies | Christmas Sugar Cookies





Sugar Cookie Recipe (24 small cookies)

2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 tsp of vanilla
1 tsp of cream of tarter
1 tsp of baking soda
1 egg

In your Kitchen Aid fitted with the paddle attachement, whip together butter and powdered sugar.  Add Flour, vanilla, cream of tarter, soda, and egg.  On slow, stir together ingredients just until combined.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and wrap it with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.  
Unwrap the dough and put it on a floured board.  Be sure to flour the rollin pin, as well. 
Roll out dough until 1/4 inch thick. 
Cut shapes.   Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 6-8 minutes at 350 degrees just until the edges begin to turn brown - baking time will depend on size and thickness of the cookie.  


Utilize scraps of dough by making them into a ball and re-rolling them and cutting shapes. 


Royal Icing

3 egg whites
4 cups of powdered sugar

In the Kitchen Aid fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until almost frothy.  Add in the powdered sugar and whisk on slow until smooth.  You may need to add more or less powdered sugar or water to achieve desired thickness.  For sugar cookies, you want the icing to be thin enough that it will fall back on itself and smooth itself out, but not too thin so it will run off of the cookie.

Good colors are so important to making professional looking sugar cookies.  Here are my tips :

Red : When making red you need to use a lot of food coloring.  I also add orange to the red to make it less pink.  Add just a touch of green to the red to make it less electric.

Green : I add a little bit of yellow and orange to green to make it more of a natural green.  For christmas, I like to use two shades of green - light and dark. 

Blue : I add a little bit of yellow and orange to blue to make it softer.  It is a more sophisticated looking blue. 

















Entertaining | Holiday Flower Arrangement | Flower Arranging Tips | Magnolia Leaves Clove Studded Oranges Roses


For a client this holiday season, I wanted to create a sophisticated but traditional holiday floral arrangement to be the center of their cocktail party.  I am a little tired of all red and green, so I selected a variety of colors : red, coral, tangerine and pink.  The arrangement is made of red, coral and pink roses, with tangerines studded with cloves, white hydrangeas, pomegranates, and magnolia leaves.

 I started with this large pewter footed bowl that I normally use to chill beer and wine (as you might remember from my self-serve bar!).  I put 3 bricks of water soaked oasis foam in the base and taped it down with clear floral tape.

You can buy oasis at any craft store (be sure to get the 'wet' oasis and not the 'dry' used for fake arrangements), or sometimes if I'm in a pinch I run up to a florist (even at the grocery store) and buy some directly from them.  They typically cost a couple of dollars each.
Next, use your foliage to create the shape of the arrangement.  I used magnolia leaves - I love the contrasting brown and green sides.  Sprigs of evergreen (out of your backyard or the back side of your tree!) would work great, too.
Citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines and grapefruits are in abundance this time of year and are a very traditional addition to holiday decor.

I used tangerines because of the rosy color.  They added just the right amount of contrast and texture to the arrangement.  I studded the tangerines with whole cloves - it smelled amazing.  The spicy cloves, when they pierced the skin let out the fresh scent of the tangerine.  It smelled like Christmas!
 I put the tangerines on heavy floral stakes (also purchased from the grocery store florist) to insert them into the foam.  I also used pomegranates staked the same way.
At the end of the arranging, I decided to add some sprigs of white pine (from our backyard) too add even more dimension and shape.  The arrangement was looking a little too formal, so the pine added an organic look.

Recipes | Winter Dinner Ideas | Baked Penne Pasta with Roasted Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce


I love baked pasta - a combination of two favorites... pasta and melted cheese.  This recipe is made with oven roasted chicken, but it would be great with leftover meatballs, sauteed shrimp, or just by itself.

 Baked Penne Pasta with Roasted Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce
serves 4-6

1 pound of penne pasta
1 pound of chicken, breast
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 - 16oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh basil
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  On a baking sheet, coat chicken breast with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake chicken for 20 minutes, or until cooked through - it will vary depending on size and thickness.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted water for 3 minutes less than package instructions.
In a large saute pan, saute garlic on medium-low in olive oil for 1-2 minutes.  Be careful not to burn it!  Add in crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt.  Simmer for 10 minutes.
When chicken is cooked through, cut it into 1 inch chunks and add it to the sauce.  Add pasta and fresh basil.  Toss and coat.
Divide into individual oven-safe bowls and top with mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 400 for 5-8 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recipes | Winter Dinner Ideas | Warm Winter Dinners

Here are some of my favorite recipes for a warm winter dinner.  Enjoy and stay warm!





Italian Wedding Soup 













Recipes | Poached Pears | Tuscan Pasta Dinner Party | Dessert


Poached Pears

2 pears, peeled
2 cups of red wine
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/2 vanilla bean
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon of ground cloves

In a saucepan, cook over low heat, wine, sugar, orange juice, vanilla, cinnamon & cloves.  Bring to a simmer.  Cut the pears in half vertically, and core them, removing the seeds and stems.  Cook the pears on low in the liquid for 5-10  minutes on each side.   Turn them off and leave them in the liquid until you're ready to serve.  To serve, heat the liquid and the pears for 5 minutes until they are warm.


This recipe is part of my "Tuscan Pasta Dinner Party"  



Recipes | Shrimp Pesto Appetizer | Tomato & Olive Bruschetta | Tuscan Pasta Dinner Party Menu


Shrimp tossed in Pesto with Grilled Bread

1 pound of shrimp, peeled
2 tablespoons of olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/3 cup of parmesan, grated or in chunks
2 cups of basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
3/4 cups of olive oil 

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  On a baking sheet, toss shrimp in olive oil.  Bake for 4-6 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink.

For the pesto, start with a food processor or blender.  Put in garlic and parmesan.  Pulse until the garlic and parmesan is in fine pieces.  Add in basil leaves, salt, pepper & olive oil.  Continue to pulse until a green paste has formed.  You may need to add more olive oil if you'd like it thinner.

In a bowl, toss the shrimp in the pesto sauce - serve warm, at room temp, or chilled.

Grilled Garlic Bread

1 loaf of Italian Bread or Baguette
2 cloves of garlic

Slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.  Drizzle them with olive oil.  Place them olive oil down on a stove top grill pan, or saute pan.  Cook on each side for 2 minutes.  Rub garlic clove on one side of each piece of bread.


Tomato & Green Olive Bruschetta with Grilled Bread

2 cups of cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup of green olives, pitted
2 tablespoons of olive oil
sea salt & pepper
Grilled Garlic Bread (recipe above)

Cut cherry tomatoes and olives into quarters.  Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Serve with grilled bread.  





Recipes | Homemade Pasta | Pappardelle with White Truffles | Tuscan Pasta Dinner Party Menu


So simple and so delicious - this is the essence of Tuscan cooking.  With only a couple of ingredients and a cooking time of about 10 minutes, it is perfect for any winter night dinner.

Pappardelle Pasta with White Truffles

1 pound of Pappardelle Pasta (store bought or homemade- get recipe here!) or 1 pound of fettucine
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon of white truffles, minced or shaved**
1/3 cup of heavy cream
parmesan
black pepper

**You can get preserved white truffles at most gourmet stores.  Truffle Butter can also be used.  Sometimes, in a pinch, you can just use a couple of minced baby portobello mushrooms used with truffle oil.

In a large stock pot, bring water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.  If you are using dried pasta, you will start the pasta before you begin the sauce - as it will take just about the same amount of time to cook the pasta as it will to make the sauce (approx. 6-8 minutes).  If you are using fresh pasta, boil the water now, and add the pasta to the water just when you've finished the sauce.  It will only take 1-2 minutes to cook.

For the sauce, start with a large saute pan.  Put in olive oil and cream.  Cook on med-low, for about 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until it begins to slightly thicken.  Add in the truffles and cook for 2 more minutes.  If it gets too thick, add a little water from the pasta pot.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss.  Sprinkle in black pepper and parmesan cheese.  Serve hot.  You may want to drizzle it with a special olive oil.


This recipe is part of my "Tuscan Pasta Dinner Party"  


 




Entertaining | Tuscan Pasta Party | Easy Holiday Entertaining | Dinner Party Ideas



When we were in Italy (just a couple of weeks ago for our honeymoon!), we dedicated a large part of our trip to consuming great amounts of pasta.  Fresh homemade pasta was by far our favorite.  

For Mike's Birthday, we wanted to share some of our Italian favorites with our friends. So, we hosted a Tuscan Pasta Dinner Party last weekend.

Menu : 
Rustic Holiday Table Setting











We started the night with two fresh hors d'oeuvres : Grilled Shrimp with Pesto & Cherry Tomato & Green Olive Bruschetta.  I prepared grilled italian bread with olive oil to be used with both the shrimp and tomato toppings.  We put out our special olive oil we brought back from Tuscany to drizzle over the toasts.  I served them on a rustic cutting board on my kitchen counter... after all, Tuscan entertaining is very casual. The recipes for Grilled Shrimp with Pesto & Tomatoes and Olive Bruschettas here.



This is the perfect winter's night dinner.  It is filling and simple and the truffles make it really special.  With just a few ingredients, pasta, olive oil, cream & white truffles - it is perfect for entertaining, too.  



We became big fans of the Tuscan specialty, Pappardelle al Cinghiale, wild boar braised in red wine and tomatoes served with wide, flat egg noodles.   It is another warm-you-to-the-bones great winter dinner.  Oh, and if you don't want to make homemade pasta, you can find some great authentic alternatives at most grocery stores - even fettucine will work, but for a special occasion, I recommend the real thing.  





Pears poached in wine, orange and spices is the perfect light dessert after a two pasta dinner.  It is very simple to make, and as a bonus, it makes the house smell fabulous as it sits on the stove.  


For the table setting, I didn't want it to be 'fancy', but more of a cozy, casual dinner... but it was still Mike's Birthday, so I made it a little special... using 'masculine' touches and colors.  I used our Everyday White Plates from William-Sonoma, and brown ticking striped napkins tied with olive green satin ribbon.  For the centerpiece, I used lots of candles, sprigs of greenery (snipped from our tree!), and pine cones.

Recipes | Pappardelle Beef Ragu | Rustic Pasta Recipe | Pasta Homemade | Beef & Red Wine Ragu



When we were in Italy (just a couple of weeks ago!), we dedicated a large part of our trip to consuming great amounts of pasta.  Fresh homemade pasta was by far our favorite.  We became big fans of the Tuscan specialty, Pappardelle al Cinghiale, wild boar braised in red wine and tomatoes served with wide, flat egg noodles.  

Here is my US-grocery-store-friendly version... I made if for Mike's Birthday Party Dinner with our friends last weekend.  It is definitely a warm-you-to-the-bones great winter dinner.  Oh, and if you don't want to make homemade pasta, you can find some great authentic alternatives at most grocery stores - even fettucine will work, but for a special occasion, I recommend the real thing. 

Pappardelle with Braised Beef Ragu

1 pound of homemade Pappardelle (recipe below)
1 pound of beef chuck roast
1 - 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 - 14 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of red wine
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of fresh basil
parmesan cheese for serving

For the sauce, place the chuck roast in a dutch oven (I like to use a Staub) or covered oven and stove safe dish.  Pour in the can of crushed tomatoes, hand-squeeze-crush the whole tomatoes onto the beef (I like the rustic texture of hand-squeezed), and add garlic, wine, salt & sugar.  Put it in oven at 250 degrees for 5-8 hours.  The beef is done when it pulls apart easily and is fork tender.

Remove from the oven and let it slightly cool.  Remove the roast from the pot (keep the tomato and wine sauce in the pot for later!) and remove all of the large chunks of fat remaining and separate it from the beef.  Discard the fat.  Shred the beef back into the tomato and wine sauce.

Place the pot on the stove and simmer the sauce until the desired thickness is desired.  If the sauce is too thick, you can add beef broth, crushed tomatoes or water to thin.  Keep it covered and on low until you are ready to serve.

Cook the fresh pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water for just 1-2 minutes... the pasta will float when it is ready.  Remove it from the water with tongs and place it immediately into the beef ragu.  Toss to coat and add parmesan cheese and fresh basil just before serving.

Homemade pasta :


The pasta dough before boiling.
Homemade Pappardelle Pasta :

1 1/2 cups of flour
2 eggs

Start with a KitchenAid mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Dump in the flour, then top with the eggs.  Put the mixer on medium and let the ingredients roll together until they form a ball.

*You may need to add a little bit (1-3 tablespoons?) of water or flour if the dough is too wet or too dry.  After a ball is formed, let the dough 'knead' on low-medium  in the mixer for 5-7 minutes until the dough is elastic.  Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.

When it is finished kneading, turn the dough out onto a floured board and kneed it by hand a couple of times.

From this stage, you can roll it out by hand with a rolling pin (or bottle of wine!), or put it through a pasta rolling machine.  Either way is pretty simple.  I've recently invested in this pasta machine that was very inexpensive.  If you plan to make a lot of pasta in the future it can make things a little easier.

By Hand : Roll the dough, flipping it, folding it and rolling it until it is about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Cut it into 1" pieces with a knife, or a pizza wheel.  After cutting, you can cook it immediately, or let it dry on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour too keep the dough from sticking.

With Pasta Machine : Separate the dough into 6 pieces.  Flour the machine and dough well to keep it from sticking.  Feed it through the rolling/flattening part of the machine starting on the largest setting and progressing to a smaller setting each time you feed the dough through.  I find that flouring it each time helps to keep it from sticking.  After it has gone through the smallest (or 2nd to the smallest) setting, lay it flat and cut it into 1" strips with a knife, or a pizza wheel.  After cutting, you can cook it immediately, or let it dry on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour too keep the dough from sticking.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water (1 put at least 2 tablespoons of sea salt in a 6 quart pot).  Cook for just 1-2 minutes, or until the pasta floats and is tender.  Drain pasta water out and put the pasta directly into the sauce without rinsing.

This recipe is part of my "Tuscan Pasta Dinner Party"  


Friday, December 10, 2010

Recipes | Entertaining | Cocktail Party Budet Friendly Menu | Fingerling Potatoes with Blue Cheese & Bacon


This is the perfect solution to "man-friendly" hors d'oeuvres... they are basically dressed up potato skins. You can make them with any popular potato topper - sauteed mushrooms, cheddar, sour cream, chives, caviar, etc.  I like to get a variety of colors of the fingerling potatoes - it makes it that more special.

Fingerling Potato Canapes with Blue Cheese & Bacon

20 fingerling potatoes, sliced in half length-wise
8 ounces of blue cheese*
6 slices of bacon, cooking and crumbled*

In a large pot with a steam tray, put 1-inch of water in the bottom.  Pile the potatoes in the steam tray and cover the pot.  Steam the potatoes for 10-12 minutes, or until they are tender.  Drain the potatoes and place them cut side up on a baking sheet.  Top with blue cheese, then bacon.  Place under a low broiler for 2-3 minutes until the blue cheese melts.  These can be served immediately, or are great at room temperature, too.

*I just go to the salad bar at our grocery store and get the blue cheese & pre-cooked bacon - a huge money and time saver.

These Roasted Beef & Horseradish and Roasted Red Pepper & Blue Cheese Canapes are part of my "Budget Friendly Holiday Cocktail Party Menu."  For all of the recipes and tips for creating a memorable, low-cost cocktail party, visit the "Budget Friendly Holiday Cocktail Party Menu" Page!

Recipes | Entertaining | Cocktail Party Budet Friendly Menu | Beef Canapes | Roasted Red Pepper & Blue Cheese Canapes

Canapes are the quintessential hors d'oeuvres.  You can pile any tasty combination on a slice of bread (or puff pastry, or flat bread, etc.).  These are some of my favorites...


Roasted Beef & Horseradish Cream Canapes
25 canapes

2 baguettes, sliced into 1/2 inch toasts
1 packages of cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons of horseradish
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
salt & pepper
1 pound of Roast Beef, sliced
flat leaf parsley

Mix together cream cheese, horseradish, dijon, salt & pepper.  Spread the mixture onto each slice of bread.  Top with a thin slice of beef and sprinkling of parsley, salt & pepper.


Roasted Red Pepper & Blue Cheese Canapes
24 canapes

2 baguettes, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large jar of roasted red peppers, sliced
8 ounces of blue cheese, crumbled
pepper
parsley

On a baking sheet, spread out the slices of bread.  Pile the peppers and blue cheese on each piece.  Put them in the oven under the low broiler for 2-3 minutes just until the blue cheese melts.  Sprinkle with parsley and fresh black pepper.



These Roasted Beef & Horseradish and Roasted Red Pepper & Blue Cheese Canapes are part of my "Budget Friendly Holiday Cocktail Party Menu."  For all of the recipes and tips for creating a memorable, low-cost cocktail party, visit the "Budget Friendly Holiday Cocktail Party Menu" Page!

Recipes | Entertaining | Cocktail Party Budet Friendly Menu | Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Tart

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Tart




Anytime you say "goat cheese" or "caramelized onions" you hear "ooohs" and "ahhhs" - can you imagine the reaction when you put them together on puff pastry?  This is a great recipe.  It is pretty and special looking, but it is so simple.  It works great cut into small pieces for a cocktail party, in large pieces with a salad or as a side dish with dinner.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart
18 hors d'Ĺ“uvres | 9 medium-sized for salad or side

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry (usually comes with 2 per box, so this is an easy recipe to double)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 red onion, sliced thinly
4 ounces of goat cheese

Start by caramelizing the onions in a saute pan in olive oil over medium heat.  This will take 10-15 minutes.  Keep stirring until they start to turn brown... you're bringing out the sugar in the onion and creating a caramel.

On a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray, place a sheet of puff pastry (unfolded from the package). Cut it along the folds into three long pieces.  Pile the onions down the center of each piece.   Top the onions with chunks of the goat cheese evenly distributed.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes until puffed and the edges are brown.

This Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart is part of my "Budget Friendly Holiday Cocktail Party Menu."  For all of the recipes and tips for creating a memorable, low-cost cocktail party, visit the "Budget Friendly Holiday Cocktail Party Menu" Page!

Holidays | Entertaining | Christmas Cocktail Party Menu | Budget Friendly Party Ideas


Most people host a huge holiday party every other year... they need a 'down year' from all of the effort and expense.

Parties shouldn't have to be stressful and extravagant to be fabulous - in fact, most great parties are just the opposite.  

I've put together a budget friendly cocktail party menu for 20 that you can assemble in 2 hours for less than $50... now that is fun!

          Jenny 



I like to do one food display table that is the centerpiece of the party, then I'll place little bowls of snacks - nuts, olives, chocolate, etc. - around the house.  I'm a symmetrical person - I put two paper whites flanking the display with a boxwood wreath in the center.  I like to use all cake stands as the platters to give everything a special spot.


Who says quiche is just for brunch?  This tasty and simple wild mushroom, chive & white cheddar quiche is the perfect satisfying addition to a light hors d'oeuvres menu.  I made this in a tart pan with removable sides so it would look pretty - I would cut this into square pieces to make it seem less 'quiche-like.'  Get the Wild Mushroom, Chive and White Cheddar Quiche Recipe!


This is one of the most popular hors d'oeuvres I serve at my cocktail parties.  It is made on puff pastry dough (that I buy frozen) so it is super easy, but impressive to serve.  Get the Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart Recipe Here!


Canapes are hors d'oeuvres essentials - I made two varieties of canapes for this menu.  Roasted Beef with a horseradish cream cheese is so simple and always the first to go.  Get the Roasted Beef Canapes Recipe Here!


You can put almost anything together on a slice of baguette and it will be delicious.  I like this combination for its color and tangy bite.  Get the recipe for these Roasted Red Pepper and Blue Cheese Canapes here!



Who doesn't like blue cheese and bacon?  I always tell my Clients that these are the elegant solution to the potato skins that all men love... steamed gourmet fingerling potatoes topped with blue cheese and bacon.  They are 1-2 bites of comfort goodness.  I've also done varieties with mushrooms, cheddar, sour cream and even caviar for really special occasions.  Get the recipe for Blue Cheese & Bacon Potato Canapes Here!



Here is the view from above - festive!  Always use lots of votives on your food table... instant atmosphere.



A cocktail party wouldn't be complete without a cocktail... this is an easy, less expensive spin on my favorite, Kir Royale.  Kir Royales are typically made with Champagne and Chambord, a raspberry liqueur.  I used the red raspberry and black berry gumdrop candies you can find anywhere... I found them at target for $1.50.  They give a lot of berry flavor and great color to an inexpensive sparkling wine or Presecco, an Italian sparkling wine.  Much cheaper than a $40 bottle of Chambord!
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