April Supper Club

A long time  ago I was looking to join a supper club/cooking club and was very fortunate to have someone reply to my post on Cooking Light and she said ‘we have dinner on Sunday, this is the theme, feel free to come.’  Almost a decade has passed since then.  It’s been amazing!

In the club I am part of, we try to meet about once a month.  The host picks the theme, obviously provides the venue, the drinks (wine, beer, soda, etc), and everyone brings a dish.  We try to use Cooking Light recipes but it can vary a bit.  I tend to use others because Cooking Light isn’t always the lightest.  And since I’m lactose intolerant, I can’t find the best ones there.  What I laugh at a lot is our ‘cooking light’ idea — yeah, everybody eats what everybody brings — we eat so light by the time we consider portions.  It’s awesome!  It’s homemade, it has no calories.  Just like birthday cake, right?

I was the host for this month and the theme I chose was April Observances — it is crazy how many things are observed.  From the ‘normal’ ones like major holidays, to significant ones like Breast Cancer Awareness Month (yes I know it’s not in April).  But, did you know that April is Tomatillo and Asian Pear Month, and it also has International Macaroni Day in the calendar on the 23rd.  Where do these come from?

Well, I opted for that tomatillo and pear observance that I mentioned.  I found a Charred Tomatillo Guacamole recipe to try, as well as a Crunchy Pear Salsa.

To the kitchen I go…

Salsas

 

 

 

 

 

In the guacamole, I had some decent size tomatillos so roasted them for about 20 minutes, vs. about 12-15.  Then when mixing everything together, carefully picked out the tomatillo skin because it just sort of sat in the bowl.

In the pear salsa, I was going to substitute Asian pears for the Bosc, because of the observance, but had no luck finding them.  Had to stick to the darn recipe!!  I didn’t use too much of the (hot) pepper because it can get supper spicy.

I served both of them with lime tortilla chips and baked tortilla chips.

IMG_1052 IMG_1053

 

 

 

 

 

Come of the end of the night, there was none of either of these left.

As for the rest of dinner, some of the other dishes that made an appearance included:

-a Chicken & Brussel Sprout dish with some type of grain mustard accent (Brussel Sprouts and Cabbage Month)

-Grilled Cheese (National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month)

-Pecan Pie with Whiskey Whipped Cream! (National Pecan Month)

IMG_1055                    IMG_1054

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Didn’t have a chance to take a picture of the Pecan Pie because we ate it so fast!!

Overall, great dinner once again.  Can’t wait for the next time we get together to see what the meal brings.

Testing…7,8,9…Fail

I was at a horse race yesterday that required tailgating which means bringing/cooking great food.  I wanted to make something creative, so during the week starting thinking about some new dish I could make.  Out of nowhere I thought of combining these ingredients:

Pic 009
-cauliflower
-prosciutto
-caraway seeds
-shallots
-garlic

 

 

Pic 011Pic 014I opted to blanch the cauliflower then toast the caraway seeds.  Next step was making a mouth-watering aroma spread around my apartment by sauteing the shallots and garlic.  After that I added the caraway seeds and the prosciutto that I’d cut into 1/2″ pieces to the pan.  Sauteed everything for a few minutes then added the cauliflower and some S&P.

Pic 015

End result, hmmm, not what I was hoping for or expecting.  It wasn’t bad, but absolutely nothing to write home about.  After tasting and tasting it more, I kept trying to figure out what I was truly hoping for.

 

 

Pic 016

I still took it to the tailgate and nobody complained about it, but did not rave about it.  And there was more than enough left. There was a large amount of other better stuff to eat (that I also leaned towards).

I was hoping it would taste better today.  Not so much.  I’m just picking the prosciutto out and enjoying that.  If anybody has suggestions, would love them.  But, I think this was just a good attempt and trial and error.

Cooking…4,5,6…Lobster Tail

After making biscotti last night I wanted to treat myself to a nice dinner.  A grocery store had lobster tails on sale so I couldn’t resist that!  Decided to just steam one, saute some spinach with garlic, get some tomatoes and a nice baguette to dip in olive oil & balsamic with Artisan Salt and pepper.  Served all that with a very nice Pinot Blanc from Chateau St. Jean.  Perfect dinner for a Friday night.

Pic 004Pic 006

 

 

Baking…1,2,3…Biscotti

It’s Friday, it’s pouring rain, what better a thing to do before dinner than bake?  You have to have dessert, right?  And it helps to prep for a party tomorrow.

One of my favorite things to bake is biscotti because it has (or truly doesn’t have to have) butter, which means those who are lactose intolerant can totally enjoy it!  And, it keeps for awhile.  The crispier, the better!!  With the recipe I use, I take the basics and alter the flavors.  Tonight, I was looking around my kitchen and opted to include dark chocolate (duh!), whiskey and walnuts.  There is a health benefit in all of those, in some way, shape or form.

 

Pic 001The aforementioned recipe I use is from a cookbook I received years ago.  You just combine:
-2+ c flour
-3/4 c sugar
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp cinnamon
-most times I also use 1 tsp nutmeg

Blend. Then add:
-1 egg
-1 tsp vanilla

Those are the basics.  Then you just need more liquid that is flavor and other dry ingredients for flavor, from nuts to chocolates to dry fruit to more spices  You might also need some water sometimes just for that extra bit of liquid.

So for this recipe I used:
-‘some’ whiskey
-about 1/2 cup chocolate chips
-about 3/4 cup – 1 cup walnuts

 

Pic 002

 

Once the dough is mixed, you make it into flat ‘logs’ — I can’t think of a better word — and bake it for 30 minutes at 375.

 

 

 

 

Pic 005

After half an hour, take it out and cut it into ‘biscotti’ shape.  And you know, these crumbs fall off– MUST sample.  They have no calories, come on.  Then, contrary to what the recipe said, I just turn the oven off, put the cookie sheet back in there, with the cut biscotti on it and let it sit in there, be it 1 hour or overnight.  Again, the crispier the better.

 

 

Pic 007Final product, perfect!

Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beerholder

BeerWeek

Source: craftbeer.com

You learn something new everyday!  Yesterday I learned about Malbec World Day.  Today it’s about a beer observance. As such, so many country songs are going through my head right now:

Zac Brown’s Toes with the great lyrics of  “…cold beer in my hand, life is good today…”

Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar  “I love this bar, it’s my kind of place… ”

Garth Brooks’ Beer Run “B-double E-double R-U-N…”

Back on topic, did you know that May 13-19 is American Craft Beer Week?  WHOA!  Mark your calendars, set a reminder, start planning.  Bars, taps, pints, bottles, here we come.

Bartender, a Malbec please

winewall

 

 

 

 

 

It’s April 17th.  Do you know what that means?  It’s Malbec World Day!  What a day to celebrate.  Open that bottle, pour, or grab that bartender’s attention (quickly!) and enjoy.

You might have that one varietal that you are stuck to, that you won’t steer clear of.  Unless you’re already a Malbec lover (which means you’re thrilled and had wine vs. coffee this morning), take today as your jumping off point to sample a new varietal.  You never know…you might have a new favorite.

And, have you ever wondered how many varietals there are for you to try?  Check out this list.

Happy Malbec Sipping.

 

Masters of Golf = Mistress of the Kitchen

What a game, what a game!  Overall the Masters was phenomenal once again, but those last few holes were absolutely amazing.  Both Scott and Cabrera deserved the Green Jacket but in the end only one can wear it.  Congrats to the first Australian to win the Masters.

Backing up a bit, one must have good food to watch such a game.  So yesterday, I prepared (and bought) a nice mix of treats to stay entertained for several hours while enjoying the amazing golfers.  Last week, Whole Foods’ Friday special was halibut, so I found a Halibut Ceviche/Ceviche Verde recipe.  Unreal!  From the fish to avocados, tomatillos and green olives (do we sense the greens here…equating to the jacket…), it was delicious.  I highly recommend it!

With this, we nibbled on some great BBQ chicken from Rockland’s, chips, salsa, veggies, crackers, peanuts and dark chocolate covered pretzel slims.  The wine for the evening was Ferrari-Carrano’s Viognier from Sonoma (oh, had some New Belgium Dig while prepping).  A nice pairing to everything and a great evening all around.

MasterPrep

MasterMenu

Visit to the West Coast

I was quite surprised at my wine tasting last night (that I was preparing the food for).  I thought it would be all Oregon Pinots.  Well, not quite.

Cab

Cab2As soon as I get there, I am served a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington.  My hosts are 90% Pinot drinkers and they said they were blown away by this wine.  I had a sip…smooth, velvety perfection.  Feather is the name, 2009 vintage.

IMG_0979

IMG_0980

Next, we moved moved down a state to where I expected us to be — Oregon!  We had an amazing Pinot Noir.  Penner-Ash is from Willamette Valley and we enjoyed the 2011 vintage.  Nothing can describe this wine unless you drink it.  Nothing.

cakebread

 

Last but not least we took a trip to the most southern state on the West Coast.  We sucked it up and visited Cakebread.  Darn.  We sipped the 2010 Pinot Noir.  Life is good.

Making Simple (No-Recipe) Dishes to Pair With Amazing Wines

I’m catching up with some friends tonight who are more wine lovers than me.  They just received their shipment of Oregon wines and they need me to taste some of them.  Oh, the things we have to go through in life.  Can all things be this bad?  I told them I would provide the food this time (since last time they did both food and wine…come on, let me have at least some of the fun and play in the kitchen!).

I have been debating what to make to pair with the amazing adult grape juice I will enjoy in a few hours.  I’m assuming it’s Pinot Noir because of where it’s from (will keep you posted).  I wanted to make simple snacks/appetizers so we can swirl, sniff, taste, sip, nibble, sip, sip, sip, nibble, sip, and then, next wine…repeat.

I have decide on the following ‘menu’:

-homemade hummus
-homemade guacamole
-store bought (Trader Joe’s) salsa (yes, store bought)
-Manchego (since even those who are lactose intolerant can eat it!)
-veggies for dipping
-tortilla and pita chips
-chocolate covered pretzels

AllIngredients

Had a great time making the dips — short, sweet to the point.  For the hummus, today I just used the basics ingredients — chickpeas, tahini, garlic (yes, the cheater kind), lemon juice, paprika, S&P.

HummusIng

After I open the can of beans I always put a tiny bit of the liquid from the can in the Cuisinart food processor before emptying the can and rinsing the beans.  Then I use ‘some’ of everything else.  Today I blended everything much longer than normal and it’s nice and smooth!

HummusDone

  GuacIng

Next up, guacamole!!  One of my favorites.   Everybody has their own ingredients besides very important one — avocados.  Sometimes I switch it up, but my basics are  the avocados, lime juice, garlic, cilantro (though most of time I go for coriander because I just have it handy), cumin, onion powder, chili powder, S&P.

Then, grab a bowl, something to mix/mash with and go!

GuacDone

I have everything prepared and packed and will be heading to my friends’ place in a few hours.  Will keep you posted on the wine we enjoy and how the food pairs.

Upper 80s Makes it Beer:Thirty

Washington, DC (April 10, 2013) — Upper 80s, early April…last week we had sub-freezing temps at night and wanted to sit by the fire.  If we have this weather now, what’s it going to be like in July and August?

With the warm temps, it was high time for post-work happy hour, aka beer:thirty, outside.  A great place to take advantage of the beautiful weather is in Cleveland Park at the Cleveland Park Bar & Grill.  Roof top deck, happy hour specials, TVs, good atmosphere and Metro accessible.

They have a great variety of beer on tap (though of course the really good stuff isn’t on special, but there could be worse things in life).  I sacrificed and had some Fat Tire and Magic Hat #9.  On the other side of the table was Blue Moon.  My friend and I just sat there for what felt like ages relaxing and enjoying the perfection of weather.

Figuratively the glass was more than half full, literally –‘Bartender…next round.’