Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rebecca's Bridal Shower

Last Saturday was Rebecca's bridal shower. We held it at my parents house, outside by the pool in the sweltering heat. I can confidently say that party was flawless - the guests were charming, the games entertaining, the food aplenty and the bride glowing! Here is Rebecca (center) with her bridesmaids:

I had the pleasure of preparing the food for the 3pm shower. This is the menu:
  • chicken waldorf salad - chicken, mayo, salt, pepper, chopped celery, chopped granny smith apple, quartered red grapes, and walnut - with potato slider rolls
  • turkey, bacon, swiss on mini pretzel rolls with a guacamole sauce - 2 smashed avocados, lemon juice, lime juice and salt and pepper
  • vegetable pizza (recipe below)
  • mini caprese salad skewers
  • strawberry salsa (recipe below)
  • cannellini bean salad crostini (recipe below)

Bec's mom made her famous orange juice & peach schnapps slush topped with 7Up. My favorite and perfect for summer!

Here is the food table (Miriam provided the beautiful flowers):

The mini pretzel sliders:

The guac:

The strawberry salsa:

1 quart strawberries, washed, hulled & chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, washed, cored & chopped
3 kiwis, peeled & chopped
2 tablespoons apple jelly, melted in the microwave for 30 seconds
2 tablespoons brown sugar
juice of 1/2 orange
1 tablespoon orange zest
Mix all together. Best if enjoyed immediately.
Serve with cinnamon & sugar chips: cut a flour tortillas in wedges, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
This is the vegetable pizza. I made it earlier in the summer and Bec requested it for her shower:
2 cans crescent rolls
2 8oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup mayo
1 package ranch dressing mix
chopped vegetables - I use broccoli, cauliflower, carrots & celery
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread rolls out onto a baking sheet to make a crust, making sure all seams are pressed together. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
Mix together cream cheese, mayo and ranch. Once crust is cool, spread evenly over crust. Sprinkle chopped vegetable over cream cheese mix. Cut into squares to serve.
The caprese skewers - mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped fresh basil:
Cannellini bean salad:
*I only have a photo copy of this recipe so I can't give credit to the source
2 1/2 cups dried cannellini white beans
1/2 medium onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
4 green onions, chopped (I omitted cause I didn't have)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used dried)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 cup olice oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt & pepper
2 cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup prosciutto, thinly sliced & chopped (optional - I did not use but regret it!)
Place beans in a bowl and add 6 cups fresh cold water. Allow to sit on the counter overnight. Drain and place in a 6- to 8-quart pot. Add 3 quarts water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 25-30 minutes until barely tender. Drain well and pour the beans out onto a large sheet pan. Allow to cool completely and put in a large bowl.
Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Toss and allow to marinade for at least 2 hours at room temperature before serving.

I made crostini rounds to eat with the bean salad - slice French bread, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper and bake at 350 degress for 15 minutes:
I don't have a photo of the chicken salad but it did look pretty with all the colorful ingredients!
I also made a chocolate sheet cake (click on that link and make that cake. it is to die for!) and peanut butter icing and a Boston cream pie - Bec's 2 favorite cakes. They were a success!!
Happy Bridal Shower to Rebecca!
Only 5 more weeks until her wedding!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Taste of the Nation Philadelphia 2010

Once again I had the pleasure of attending this year's Taste of the Nation fundraiser in Philadelphia - a benefit featuring the city's finest restaurants and bars. The director of the event remembered my post from last year and invited me back so first, a BIG thank you to her!

I took the train to Phila. and made my way - via cab - to the Loews Hotel. I entered the lively ballroom stuffed full of people and food. Wasting no time (my grumbling stomach wouldn't have allowed it) I began tasting all the wonderful offerings.

Here is a sampling of just a few of the things I tried:

A dessert of panna cotta with a raspberry and black sesame pearls was served by 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge. The interesting texture of the seasame pearl made this Italian-Asian sweet dish screams eat me!
Then to the River & Glen, 390 Nina Way, Warminster, which specializes in serving wild, natural, organic & sustainable food, served up a special treat - a corn macaroon filled with radish cream butter and trout caviar. The sweetness of the corn and the very suble taste of the caviar was to die for! Never had I tried something quite like this. It was served with a side of pate that I didn't try :(

I had a cute little, one-bite-sized margarita cupcake from Mugshots Coffeeshouse, 21st & Fairmount Ave., Phila. The cake was moist and the icing flavorful... now I regret not trying the other unique flavors like buttered popcorn and cafe mocha!

Square 1682, 121 S. 17th Street, Phila., offered up a melon gazpacho with shrimp and avocado. This was sooo good! Since I'm not a huge tomato fan, the addition of melon really morphed the soup to add a sweet touch.

This is a caprese salad with a scoop of basil ice cream. So incredible! I loved it! Screams summer. The basil ice cream was only slightly sweet. This dish was presented by Valanni, 1229 Spruce Street, Phila.
Next, stuffed in an endive leaf, I had crab, cantelope, cucumber dill, mint, fennel & grapefuit topped with a mango-chive aoli. Another perfectly summer appetizer. So many flavors going on but they all fit perfectly together. This was prepared by Mercato, 1216 Spruce, Street, Phila.

Next was a ricotta-stuffed and fried squash bloom. The batter was very light and the sprinkling of parmesan cheese was great. Squash blooms are always a treat. This was only the second time I've had one and really enjoy the almost exotic feel of eating a blossom. Prepared by Sole Food, Loews Hotel, Phila.

On to a scallop cerviche with corn and asparagus, served with plantain chips. Cerviche has to be done just right for me to enjoy it and this hit the spot. I love the combination of the texture of the scallop and the plantain chip. Courtesy of The South Philadelphia Tap Room, 1509 Mifflin Street, Phila.
This was a wonderful experience. This culinary benefit helps so many people buy raising money for local food banks and community gardens.
Next year the event takes place on June 20, 2011!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Grilled Potatoes and Veggies with Dill-Lemon Vinaigrette

Last week we got a new bbq grill! It's big and shiny and looks great in the backyard. So to celebrate we had a few guests over so I could test out the big boy.

This is the grill.

While I was in a small grocery store in Pine Grove, a small bag of fingerling potatoes caught my eye. I have always wanted to cook with fingerlings but have found that they are just too pricey at Giant or Wegmans. But at BG's, I got a 1.5 pound bag for $2.70! Can't beat that! So I snatched them up and used Adam's iPhone to find a grill recipe. I found this on Epicurious but it was originally from Bon Appetit Magazine, Aug 2006.

I adapted the recipe a little - it originally called for fresh marjoram but I used dried dill instead because it's what I had.

Photo from

I didn't have a grill pan for this recipe so I lost a few of the little potatoes through the grill plates. A grill pan is a must for this recipe!!

And unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the process or finished dish :(

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced shallot
dried dill (2 teaspoons used in total)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound small fingerling potatoes, unpeeled, halved lengthwise
1 pound assorted summer squash, cut on diagonal into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 large red or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 package baby bella mushrooms, cleaned

Whisk lemon juice, shallot, 1 teaspoon dill, and lemon peel in small bowl. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Prepare barbecue (medium heat).

Place potatoes in large saucepan; add enough cold salted water to cover. Boil just until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer potatoes to medium bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon dill and 1 1/2 tablespoons oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Combine squash and bell pepper in large bowl; add remaining 1/2 teaspoon dill and 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat.

Arrange potatoes in single layer in grill basket. Grill until tender, 5 minutes per side. Transfer to large bowl. Grill squash and bell pepper until tender, turning occasionally, 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with potatoes.

Add vinaigrette; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Buffalo-Chicken Macaroni and Cheese & Baxter's new hair cut

On Friday I was looking for something good to make for Adam and I for dinner. I wanted it to be a special weekend splurge and to make sure Adam would like it. When I asked him about buffalo chicken mac 'n cheese, he lit up. I found this recipe on the Food Network and it had lots of positive reviews. Mine turned out yummy but I put too much hot sauce in it which kind of took away from the taste of the cheese, so I would just pay attention to how much hot sauce you use because you can always add more later once it's plated.

Buffalo-Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
This makes a ton! I halved the recipe (halved what is printed below) and it still made a lot.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup hot sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 pound yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (didn't use)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9x13 baking dish (you may need to use a second dish as well because this makes a lot). Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; add pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain. Place in a bowl and toss with olive oil to keep from sticking together while you make the chicken and sauce.
Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 more minutes, then add 1/2 cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the half-n-half, then add the remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.
Spread half of the macaroni on the prepared baking dish, then top with the chicken mixture and the remaining macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce evenly on top.
Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the breadcrumbs, blue cheese and parsley, if using. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30-40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Then the next day I took Baxter to get a hair cut. Because his fur was a knotty mess from getting wet and from us neglecting to brush him 4 times a day, the groomer gave him a short cut. Despite him looking like a leggy lamb with a fox-like tail, he'll have a comfortable and cool summer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Swim

This is Baxter after his first swim. We don't think he loved it. His dad had to carry him into the water and he did a quick paddle to get out. He looks so different with wet hair. As Adam says he looks like he's covered in Ramen noodles!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scallops with Sage Butter Sauce

My mom gave us some huge fresh scallops so I searched for an easy way to prepare them. I came across a recipe for scallops in tarragon butter, which I thought sounded great and simple. I was limited on time to find my ingredients and the store I went to did not have tarragon, but sage so we made sage scallops! But I think tarragon or rosemary would be good as well.

This recipe was originally published in Food & Wine Magazine in 1998 and I found it on

Scallops with Sage Butter Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops, dried well
salt & fresh-ground black pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or tarragon)

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Season the scallops with salt and the pepper. Put half the scallops in the pan. Cook until browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook until browned on the second side and just done, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in the pan and cook the remaining scallops. Remove.

Wipe out the pan. Put the pan over moderately low heat and add the wine. Boil until reduced to approximately 2 tablespoons, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Whisk the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into the wine. The butter should not melt completely but just soften to form a smooth sauce. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, the lemon zest, and the sage. Pour the sauce over the scallops.

We ate the scallops with mushroom and goat cheese linguine!