Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Adios chilly Pennsylvania!!

Tomorrow Adam and I are vacating the 60 degree Pennsylvania weather and heading south to the warm Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico to celebrate my birthday (Oct 2) and his birthday (11 days later).

I wanted to go away for my 25th birthday to somewhere tropical and Mexico seemed like the most practical for a 3 night getaway. I'll be gorging in delicious resort food, lounging on the beach (as long as the rain holds off), and spending quiet, relaxing time with my loving beau. I can hardly wait! I'll tell you all about it next week.

And I'm making it my goal to take more time to cook this fall so I have some good, hearty recipes posted in the near future.

But for now, this is all that's on my mind...

Photo from

Monday, September 28, 2009

My French Birthday

So my very generous, kind, handsome and funny friends and boyfriend planned a surprise birthday evening for me last Friday! My birthday isn't until this Friday and since Adam and I will be in Cancun, Rebecca and Jesse wanted to do something for my birthday beforehand. With Adam and Bec's successful secretiveness, they were able to pull off an amazing evening for me.

To begin, I was out to lunch on Friday and got a text from Adam that said 'Meet me at the fountain behind the capitol at 5:30. No questions.' I thought, interesting, but whatever, I'll go with it. Then I get back to my office and find an email invitation from Bec that says my 'presence is requested for a high society soiree to celebrate the birthday of Mademoiselle Hope'. So I continue to sit at work as the afternoon drags on, wondering what's in store for me that evening.

I change into the 'requested' dress and start my walk to the capitol. As I round the back of the capitol, who do I see but Adam holding a mini Arc de Triomphe, Bec holding a 'Bon Anniversaire Hope' sign and Jesse waving a mini French flag! The three of them planned a French-themed evening for me!

Here you will see they brought along a baguette, brie, grapes and a delicious sparkling soda. With the help of Bec's French-teaching friend, we had some lovely little decorations!

Grapes floating in the soda.

Here we are at our little table outside the capitol enjoying our French snack. After the snack, we took some photos around the capitol (if you don't know already, Bec and I love to take pictures!).


Me and Adam training for our their next career: modeling.

Jesse took this clever shot of Rebecca and I.

After dinner, we popped into Carley's for a quick drink and then I was swept away to Confit in Camp Hill for dinner. If you recall, Josh and I went here a few weeks ago for moules et frites and had a delicious meal. I was very happy to go back!

Bec and Jesse made us little French moustaches to wear at dinner. Oh yeah, we got lots of stares but it was fun and makes cute photos, huh?!? Nice moustache cutting skills, Jesse! Even though it's not pictured, Bec got me a beautiful apron with peonies on it, as well as a copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook.

Bec created a game called "What the French?!" for us to play as pre-dinner entertainment. She made up little card with questions about me and the answer either had the word French or France in it or it was French-related. Like "If Hope and Adam don't use sunscreen in Mexico, they will be ____." Answer: French Fries

The boys had the Confit de Lapin.

I had the bronzini fish special - a delicately mild Mediterranean sea bass- with a corn and potatoes. Absolutely heavenly! Our server did a great job of filleting this little guy for me too!

Rebecca had the agneau roti.

Wine, bread and a moustache.

Here is a delicious little chocolate molten cake with a scoop of ice cream and a candle.

Thank you to my great friends for a WONDERFUL birthday celebration! This 25th year is starting out perfectly!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Settings: A Cookbook

I have had this book in my hot little hands for quite sometime now. I made the buttery mushrooms in wine broth two times. Sooo flavorful - I've never had mushrooms this good before and I even made them! Wow!

I wrote a post for the Savvy Grouse about the book. Check it out here.

I made the mushrooms for our Labor Day party but it was the only thing we didn't get a picture of! Oh well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ultimate Scalloped Potatoes

This is a recipe my Aunt Bet makes and it's so delicious! She is an excellent cook but it turned out just as well when my mom and I make it - which we've done twice in the past month! A very rich and creamy potato dish! I'm not sure where the recipe came from but it's a winner in my book!

Serves 6

1 teaspoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper
2 lb russet potatoes, cleaned, peeled and evenly sliced 1/8" thick - use a mandolin if you have one to get the slices even
1 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2 quart glass baking dish. Mix two cheeses together in a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream, milk, garlic and a generous amount of salt and pepper until it begins to bubble around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Arrange half of the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour half of the cream over the potatoes and sprinkle with half of the cheese mix. Repeat. Bake for 60-70 minutes until bubbly and brown on top and potatoes are tender.

This was a big pan of the potatoes my mom made for the Labor Day Party.

Photo by Bec.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Smothered Pork Chops

Adam and I offered to make dinner for his dad last evening so we formulated a plan, went to the grocery store and an hour later, dinner was served! This was the first meal Adam and I made together and I must say, he is one of the best sous chefs I've ever worked with ;)

After deciding we'll make pork chops, I began browsing the Food Network website for an easy and hearty preparation. I came across Tyler Florence's smothered pork chop recipe and thought it sounded very good for a Sunday dinner. After reading the reviews, I decided to add mushrooms, which isn't in Tyler's recipe. And, of course, I had to cook my chops longer than the time in the recipe. That possibly had to do with me not having a large enough fry pan and/or high enough heat. Either way, the pork was good - not too tough. I was sure to make enough extra gravy to eat with the brown rice I prepared. If I would have had more time, I think mashed potatoes would have been good with this gravy and pork too!

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons onion powder (didn't have any so omitted)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne (I only used 1/2 teaspoon this time but will use closer to the entire teaspoon next time)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pork chops, 3/4-inch thick, bone-in
1/4 cup olive oil
1 package of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup buttermilk
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (didn't use)
Put the flour in a shallow platter and add the onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels to remove any moisture and then dredge them in the seasoned flour, pressing flour on the chops and then shaking off the excess.

Heat a large saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is nice and hot, lay the pork chops in the pan in a single layer and fry for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Remove the pork chops from the pan and cover with foil. Add mushrooms and brown for a few minutes. Remove and place in a bowl.
Add a little more oil to the pan and add a little sprinkle of seasoned flour to the pan drippings.
Mix the flour into the fat to dissolve and then pour in the chicken broth in - I used a whisk. Let the liquid cook down for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken slightly. Stir in the buttermilk to make a creamy gravy and return the pork chops and mushrooms to the pan, covering them with the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes until the pork is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

Smothered Pork Chops with brown rice and steamed broccoli and asparagus

I didn't really measure how much seasoned flour I used but I used a generous amount, as well as more stock and buttermilk than called for, just so I had more gravy.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Fête - Part 4

Dessert time!

I had this recipe stashed away in a journal and I forget where I got it! But I've made these lemon cheesecake bars several times. Fresh lemon juice is always the best but I mostly use the kind from the bottle. For the party, we doubled the recipe and used a 9x13 inch pan so ours were extra thick, which required a longer baking time.

For crust:

8 graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
2 8oz blocks of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8 inch square glass pan with foil, leaving an overhang.

To make the crust, in a food processor, process the crackers and sugar until finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until crackers are moist. Put in lined pan and gently pat down so it's evenly distributed in pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile for the cheesecake, add cream cheese to clean food processor and process until smooth. Add sugar, eggs, zest and juice. Continue to process until fully mixed and smooth. Pour over hot cracker crust. Return to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until set but still with a slight jiggle. Let cool; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When ready to cut, take out of pan and pull back foil.

And to celebrate my dad's birthday, I got a chocolate cake with peanut butter icing from The Hershey Pantry. It was so delicious and moist! A beautiful cake! If you're from central PA or visiting, I highly recommend a meal at the Pantry or a cake/pie for a special occasion!

We had one other special dish - a cheesy potato bake - but I still have to finagle that recipe from my mom. Don't worry - the wait is well worth it! These potatoes are always a hit!
Some other photos Bec caputured that day:
Me and My officemate, Natalie

At almost all of our summer parties we fill our big blue fish bowl with fresh fruit

Me and my handsome boyfriend, Adam :)

Old, sweet Chester was enjoying everyone's company

Here my little cousin Chance was enjoying piece after piece of chocolate

The newest member of the family, Katherine the Great!

Me with my best friend and the photographer, Rebecca

The precious, yet mischievous smile of Katherine & Chance's big brother, Chandler

Photos by Bec

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Fête - Part 3

And the menu goes on...

We grilled up some sliced sausages, green peppers (from our garden!) and onions on skewers. We used some spicy kielbasa and chicken sausages. My mom spotted the recipe in a Paula Deen magazine. Once the kabobs came off the grill and were placed in the chafing dish, we poured a sauce over it:
Whisk together 3 tablespoons steak sauce, 3 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard.
As recommended by Paula, you can de-skewer the cooked sausage, onions and peppers, put them in a long roll and top with the sauce.

You can see the kielbasa on the left and the chicken on the right.

See the whole grain mustard in the kabob sauce.

I whipped up a big batch of sangria - a staple for summer parties at our house. A good friend Esther, who was a Spanish teaching assistant at Hollins, gave me this authentic recipe:

This is for a very large crowd. You can always divide it down to make less.

2 1.5 liter bottles red wine
64 oz. orange juice
98 oz. lemonade
2 cups white rum
3 cinnamon sticks
3 oranges cut into bite sized pieces
3 apples cut into bite sized pieces
½ cup sugar (more if desired)

Mix together and let sit for 2 hours. Do not let sit overnight because the taste changes drastically. Drink all in the same day (not difficult!).

We added shrimp to the menu at the last minute. Since we had a large supply of skewers and lemons, we sliced up the lemons and added a wedge with the shrimp on each kabob. Due to short notice, we simply added Lawry's Herb and Garlic marinade, olive oil and dried cilantro to the kabobs and let them marinade for a few hours before they were grilled for 2-3 minutes on each side. Easy and wonderful!

Tomorrow I will finish up with a potato dish and the desserts!

Photos by Bec.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Fête - Part 2

On Friday evening before the picnic, I made the Barefoot Contessa's tabbouleh. I made this for Easter Dinner this year so you can see that post with the recipe here. This is a very simple side dish and the bulgur wheat is very nutritious!


With all of the Roma tomatoes we grew, I decided to make bruschetta. I seeded and chopped a ton of tomatoes and mixed them with chopped fresh basil, a few minced garlic cloves, salt, pepper and olive oil. For the bread, we sliced baguettes in 1/2 inch slices, brushed them with olive oil & sprinkled them with salt and put them in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

A very easy snack that you can whip up in no time! A great way to use up your garden tomatoes.


Next, Mary recommended these yummy nuts for a snack. Sweet and spicy, these are a special treat.

Spiced Mixed Nuts (from Cooks Illustrated - from a chopped salad recipe)

Makes about 2 cups

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups pecan halves
1 tablespoon sugar *I used a bit more than this*

Melt butter in 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, then stir in pecans. Toast nuts in skillet, stirring often, until color of nuts deepens slightly, 6 to 8 mins. Transfer to bowl, toss with sugar, then spread out on a plate to cool.

Remember, watch the nuts VERY closely because as you can see in the photo, they can get brown very quickly.

While shopping for the picnic, my mom picked up the new Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook. This iced tea recipe is in there - it's so sweet with the apple juice it needs no further sweetner.

Makes 8 cups

4 Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea bags
4 Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea bags
4 cups pure apple juice

Steep the 8 tea bags in 4 cups of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Combine the tea with the apple juice and refrigerate until cold. Serve over ice.

This is the iced tea dispenser I bought at the Amish Auction earlier in the summer. A classic vintage glass container I snatched up for $6!


Photos by Bec.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Fête - Part 1

Last Saturday we had some friends over for an end of the summer cookout so my mom and I were busy bees in the kitchen from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon. Everything from berry iced tea to shrimp kabobs to tabbouleh to roasted nuts - after lots of chopping, boiling, peeling and stirring, we were ready for our guests. Below are two collages Rebecca created with the photos she took of the food. What great talent she has!

Over the next few posts, I will tell you about what I made, beginning with the Beef Tenderloin Sandwiches.

At our house we get so many food magazines, filled with recipes that look absolutely delicious. There are way too many for us to make! I went back through the Paula Deen magazines and found this delicious recipe from a few months ago. I planned on 1/4 lb of beef per person - so that was a 6 lb loin - fortune for our party and fellowship but unfortunate for the amount of meat - more people came than I prepared for so those 6 pounds went very quickly!

This recipe serves 12

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 (4 1/2 lb) trimmed beef tenderloin
12-15 onion rolls, split, buttered, and toasted (We used regular, poppy seed and sesame seed rolls and we didn't toast them - if I were to make 5 instead of 24, I would butter and toast them!)
Bacon Horseradish Sauce (see below)

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine soy sauce, oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper. Add tenderloin, seal bag, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. ** We used a big plastic container (instead of a bag) that we could keep flipping throughout the marinading processes. We let it marinade overnight and through to our afternoon cooking time.**

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a broiler pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place rack on pan; spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Drain tenderloin, discarding marinade. Place tenderloin on prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion reads 145. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing. ** Of course my mom and I argued over when it was done. I enjoy this type of beef cut medium rare, otherwise it gets tough. You will have to adjust the cooking time depending on how big your loin is but this is a very appropriate cooking temp and time.**

Spread desired amount of Bacon Horseradish Sauce (See recipe below) over botttoms of buns. Top with desired amount of arugula. Top with sliced tenderloin. cover with bun tops. Serve immediately.

Bacon Horseradish Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (I used like 9 slices! - my rule of thumb: ALWAYS use more bacon than called for!)
4 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons green onions, minced
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, bacon horseradish,green onion, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cover and chill.

** Sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance.

The tenderloin right out of the oven, as I attack it with the electric knife! Oh and thank you to Bunny for taking over that knife for me.

We kept the beef warm in the chafing dish for serving.

The assembled sandwich.

Another creation was Carolina Coleslaw - a very colorful combination with a vinegar-based dressing.

1 head cabbage (red, green or mix) shredded
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated (bought a bag of the carrot matchsticks)

1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp celery seed
1 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup Vegetable oil

In a large bowl, toss vegetables together

In a small sauce pan, mix together sugar, salt, mustard, and celery seed. Add vinegar and oil. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Pour hot dressing over salad; toss well

Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days before serving.

All photos by Bec.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fried Shrimp Salad

Here is a very yummy salad from Paula Deen's September magazine! It makes a filling dinner - chockfull of calories because of the shrimp but you also get lots of green veggies!

Fried Shrimp Salad
Makes 2 large salads

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (6 oz.) bag 5-lettuce mix
1 (5 oz) bag spring lettuce mix
1/2 cup asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces, and blanched (steam for just 2 minutes)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1/4 cup candied pecans (we used plain, chopped)
12 frozen, breaded shrimp (Paula says to fry them but we baked them according to package directions)

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, shallot, honey, mustard and pepper.

In a large blowl, combine lettuce mixes, asparagus, cranberries, bleu cheese, and pecans.

Just before serving, plate the lettuce and top with shrimp. Add desired amount of dressing. Serve immediately.

Playing with my macro function. Oh this looks so good!

You can, of course, fry your own shrimp but I have yet to master frying anything. Grilled shrimp would also be good and be healthier.

You can play around with adding other vegetables like squash - or goat cheese instead of bleu would give it a softer texture and less intense cheese taste.

Even if you don't want to make the entire salad, the dressing is especially good and simple to make together!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Preview of the Yuengling Tour

Last Saturday Adam and I visited the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville. There's so much to tell about the oldest brewery in America but I've been very busy this week with work, spending evenings with my great friends and planning an October trip to Mexico for my birthday (whoo hoo!!), I haven't gotten around to writing a full report of our brewery tour. So here are some pictures until I get the post completed!

The entrance to the brewery.
The Yeungling Brewery has been a family owned business since 1829 - a business passed down from male family member to male family member. However, the current 5th generation owner, Dick Yeungling, has 4 daughters, so the 'Yuengling & Sons' will soon have to change!

The bottling room.

Of course after the tour, we got to choose a sample - Adam had the Porter and me the Black & Tan.

After the tour, we went to Maroon's for lunch.
A lot more to come but overall, we had a very nice afternoon in Pottsville, Pennsylvania!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Moules et Frites chez Confit

Last evening, Josh and I had the pleasure of dining at Confit French Bistro in Camp Hill. We have been planning this dinner for weeks because Monday night is all you can eat mussels and fries. When I was living in Paris, moules et frites was one of my favorite meals and I haven't had any since so I jumped at the chance to try the fare at Confit. Salad, bread, fries and mussels! What a great way to start off the week!

The salad with oil and vinegar tasted just like the salad my host mom in Paris would make!

Josh picked up a growler of Troeg's Scratch #22 - a Belgian style white ale, which was not only perfect with mussels, it's my favorite type of beer.

As pictured here, I tried the moules francaise - mussels in a white wine, garlic, dijion and saffron sauce.

Josh had the moules bruge - mussels in a belgian beer, herb and garlic sauce.

For our second round of mussels, we both tried the moules espagnol - a white wine sauce with onions and chorizo sausage.

And the fries were to die for!

For dessert, we shared some French press coffee and a slice of fresh and warm peach and mixed berry tart with a scoop of ice cream.

In addition to the regular menu chock full of traditional French dishes, there were several other specials at Confit that night including a variety of fresh fish.

This was the first time I visited the BYOB Confit and the experience was phenomenal! I look forward to going back soon! Also, Confit has a small bakery service so you can buy a loaf of their delicious breads to go.