Thursday, September 27, 2012

More food for a party!

Yes, I know, it is very hard to top savory bacon biscotti. It was the star of the baby shower but the other hors d'ouevres were a close second!

Here are a couple of the other easy and delicious hors d'ouevres:
  • Fruit Salad tossed with lime curd and mint
  • Cucumber and Radish Tea Sandwiches
  • Individual crudites served in baguette slices with yogurt herb dip
 My hope is that you might try one or two and let them become an easy party staple.

Limey Fruit Salad
*Lime Sauce is enough for two large bowls of fruit
Any mix of cut fruit you like [I used canteloupe, peaches, nectarines and green grapes] 
1, 10 oz. jar of lime curd
Juice of 3 limes
2 T chopped, fresh mint

This simple sauce adds the perfect bit of acidity and sweetness to your fruit salad. I got a lot of compliments on this fruit salad!

Chop your fruit and try not to let a hungry toddler steal too many bites.
Mix the lime curd, lime juice and mint together.
About a half hour before serving, toss the fruit salad with the lime sauce. 

I divvied my limey fruit salad up into individual punch glasses so that the guests could grab and go!
*Party Trick: If you are in the habit of throwing parties and are tired of having to continuously explain the menu to your guests, go out and buy a couple of cheap picture frames with stands. Print the name of your dish on a photo-sized piece of paper, place in the frame and be free to mingle!

To the left of the fruit salad cups, I served my favorite go to shower food, cucumber and radish tea sandwiches. They are so dainty and freakishly delicious! There is something about the combo of salty and creamy butter with a nice crunch of vegetable on top.

Cucumber and Radish Tea Sandwiches
1 sliced loaf of your favorite wheat bread 
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced cross-wise [English cukes, the ones in the wrappers, are slightly more expensive but are SO worth can use the whole cucumber without having an excess of seeds and skin that tastes like chemical-like wax].
1 bunch of radishes, thinly sliced

Compound Butter
1 stick of butter, softened
1/8 tsp of ground black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp chopped fresh dill
1 T chopped fresh parsley

Start by making the compound butter. [I made mine a week in advance, wrapped and froze it and let it defrost on the counter the day of the shower].

Place all compound butter ingredients in a bowl. Mix together with a spatula until well incorporated.
If using later that day, cover the bowl with plastic and leave on the counter to stay soft. If using in a few days, cut a length of plastic wrap about 1 foot long and spoon the butter into a log shape on the plastic wrap. Fold both side of the plastic wrap over the log and twist the ends to make a shape that looks like a butter Tootsie Roll. Pop in the freezer or fridge!
When it comes time to party, remove the crust from each slice of bread and then quarter the bread. 

Spread a little compound butter over each bread quarter and top with a cucumber slice or a couple of radishes. I kept my cukes and radishes separate but feel free to mix them up. 

And finally, totally inspired by Martha, I served individual crudite cups served in baguette slices. Martha's, of course, were prettier than mine []. I did make them my own by making a Greek yogurt based dip. 

Individual Crudite Cups in Baguette Slices
2 baguettes
Your favorite assortment of veggies [I used carrot sticks, celery and snow peas].
Approximately 2 cups of your favorite dip, feel free to make your own or go store-bought

Kristi's Yogurt and Herb Dip for Veggies
1 cup of Greek yogurt
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper
1 T chopped, fresh dill
1 T chopped, fresh parsley

Mix all dip ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Slice the baguette into 2 inch slices. Hollow out half of the baguette slice by pressing the soft inside against the walls of the baguette [we tried cutting or scooping out the insides and ended up with gaping holes in the bottom of our slices].

Fill the hole with a dollop of the dip and then place vegetable sticks in the dip.

You now have a much sassier and more appealing option to a standard vegetable tray. No guest ends up with a half-eaten scoop of dip on their plate and everyone gets to enjoy a delicious baguette slice with dip once the veggies are gone!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bacon and Green Onion Savory Biscotti

A couple week's ago, I catered my friend Mollie's baby shower. I had a lot of fun brainstorming appetizer-y food and had even more fun because the momma-to-be has a tiny, almost non-existent sweet tooth. This meant that I got to make all savory food!

I will tell you more about the other hors d'ouevres in my next post but will feature the star of the show in this post...Bacon Chive Biscotti.

I knew that I wanted to serve slightly-larger-than-shooter size cups of my mom's beet vichysoisse []. It is delicious. Think pink potato leek soup. I thought that little glasses full of creamy, pink soup would be adorable for a baby girl's shower. I knew that the soup would be great but I wanted it to be a little sassier. 

I was peeking at Martha's Hors D'Ouevres Handbook and saw a picture of savory biscotti. I didn't even know that such a thing existed! She packed hers with things like capers and fennel. Martha's sounded delicious but the mama to be loves bacon and I hadn't included bacon in a single dish! 

What would pair perfectly with leeky, creamy, hot pink soup? Salty and smoky bacon chive biscotti! This biscotti recipe, because of the butter and bacon, has a shortbread quality. They are not rock-hard like typical biscotti. So scrumptious!

Bacon and Green Onion Biscotti
*Makes about 3 1/2 dozen
2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 T chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 T olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 1/4 lbs of bacon
3 green onions, finely chopped 
1 large egg, lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water

Begin by frying the bacon until crisp. I like to bake mine on an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet, with sides, in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, flipping the bacon once. The foil makes the grease very easy to clean up and I don't have to fuss over a frying pan.

Once the bacon has cooled slightly, chop it into small pieces [doesn't have to be perfect but maybe aim for 1/2" square pieces].
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, pepper, baking powder, and salt on low speed. Add the butter chunks until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. 

 In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, eggs and milk. Slowly pour the liquid mixture into the dough and mix until just combined. 

Add in the green onions and bacon and mix until combined.

You could also do this in a food processor but be sure to turn the dough out into a bowl before adding the green onion and bacon. Mix the bacon and green onion in by hand because the processor blade would get rid of the yummy chunks.

Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each section into a log measuring 7 inches long and at least an inch thick.
Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

In the last 10 minutes before removing the biscotti from the fridge, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the biscotti logs from the fridge and place the logs on a lightly oiled baking sheet. The logs will not grow that much during baking, so they can be placed pretty close together.

Brush the top of each log with egg wash and bake for approximately 25 minutes until light brown and firm to the touch.

Remove the logs from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Decrease the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

After the logs have cooled, slice them crosswise [you can also slice on a diagonal for longer biscotti] with a serrated knife into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place the slices on top of a wire rack resting in a baking sheet [this way the heat will circulate around the biscotti].

Bake for approximately 30 minutes until the biscotti have dried and turned golden brown.

Once cool, the biscotti will keep in an airtight container for about a week.

Serve with your favorite soup, dunk in your fave dip or eat like delicious crackers!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Shoo Fly Pie

A few weeks ago we were invited to a BYOP [bring your own pie] first birthday party. I knew that, with it being the end of summer, there would be a ton of delicious fruit pies. Also, my pastry chef friend, Elizabeth, would be in attendance and I wanted to do something a little bit sassy and unusual for her.

I was brainstorming for a couple of days, when I remembered an AWESOME pie that my mom made....Shoo Fly Pie. Shoo Fly Pie is apparently a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. It is called shoo fly pie because the molasses used are sweet enough to attract flies that you need to shoo away.

It's flavor is hard to explain but is so flippin good. It has all the molasses goodness of a ginger snap, a little bit of the gooey texture of a pecan pie and crumb, lots of crumb. What could be better?

I tweaked my mom's recipe just a little bit by adding ground pecans and a little cinnamon to my crumb. The result was amazing!

In typical Kristi-fashion, I rolled my eyes when my Mom advised me to use a deep dish/ 10 inch pie pan. "Ughhh Mom...I can figure it out and I refuse to use something that I don't already own."

Well, a house full of smoke from overflowing pie guts later, I found out that Mama knew best.

So, use a deep dish pie pan or cut down on the crumb and liquid mixture by a third if using a normal pie pan.

Shoo-Fly Pie
Use your favorite pie dough recipe or buy a frozen pie shell.

6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1  cup brown sugar

1/2 cup pecans [walnuts would work well too]
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 cut hot water then cooled
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark molasses
2 egg yolks, beaten well
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse the crumb ingredients together until the pecans are coarsely chopped.
 Briefly whisk the egg yolks to break up the yolks. Whisk the molasses into the yolks. Whisk until combined. Whisk in the remaining ingredients for the liquid portion of the pie.
Pour 1/3 of the crumb mixture into the base of your pie shell [hopefully a shell that is within a deep pie dish]. 

Pour half of the liquid on top, followed by another third of the crumb mixture, then the rest of the liquid and the remaining third of the crumb mixture on top. So pretty!
Place your pie pan on a cookie sheet and bake at 400º for about 10 minutes. Turn oven to 325º and bake until the center is a bit firm about 25-30 minutes.
Remember, my pie ran WAY over the sides of my dish because I did not listen to my mama! It still tasted amazing and yours will be much prettier than mine.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Zucchini Pancakes or "How to feed a toddler an easy breakfast"

I will never plant four zucchini plants again. We are mid-way through September and still have zucchini coming out of our ears. Here is some evidence [pardon the "morning fresh" look].

As you know, I have been getting creative with zucchini recipes and trying to unload as many zucchini as possible on unsuspecting visitors. For example, Sam is not allowed to leave for band practice without a bag o' zucchini per band member.

A few weeks ago I thought, "Zucchini bread is so good but I cannot have loaves of rich zucchini bread laying around or I will eat them all." I then thought," I bet that I can transfer the flavors of zucchini bread to a pancake batter but make the pancakes way healthier than a big ole' loaf of desserty bread."

The wee one LOVED them and the syrup and Greek yogurt served on top of them!
Some day this poor child might loathe me for posting pics like this!

After seeing the rave review that these pancakes got, I had a motherly stroke of genius! I made a batch one morning and found that it yielded about 20 smallish pancakes. I served Emm and I a few for breakfast, let the remaining pancakes cool and then placed them in a large Ziploc. 

I refrigerated them and every morning, for close to a week, had a quick, healthy and easy breakfast ready for Emm. I would grab a pancake or two, heat them up in the microwave for 30 seconds and serve them topped with a little applesauce and cinnamon [using applesauce as a topping instead of syrup made me feel a little better about the wild child's sugar consumption].

Zucchini Pancakes
1 small zucchini, grated
3/4 cup of applesauce
2 large eggs
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of brown sugar or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps baking powder
1 1/3 c flour 
Butter or oil for greasing the pan

Mix the zucchini, applesauce, eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.

Stir in the cinnamon, salt, baking powder and flour.
Preheat a skillet or griddle over medium high heat. My mom gave me her old stovetop, double burner griddle. It is awesome and I love it. It helps me whip out pancakes in just a couple batches.
Lightly butter or grease your hot pan.

I use my soup ladle to dole out my pancake batter. I use about 3/4 of a ladle of batter for each pancake. This is the easiest method I have found for pancake pouring, but use whatever method you like.

Flip each pancake once the top has covered in air bubbles.

In between batches, you can keep pancakes warm by placing them on a heat safe plate in an oven set to warm or about 200 degrees.

Serve your pancakes with the usual accompaniments or, if you are like me, with a smorgasbord of whatever might work on top of a pancake: peanut or almond butter, butter, yogurt, syrup, jelly, applesauce, cinnamon, sliced fruit. I like to have options!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Late Night Date Night with Stuffed Mushrooms and Homemade Pasta

Since having our cute goon of a child, we have had to get creative with dating. We have awesome friends who often volunteer to watch Emmett but sometimes we realize in the middle of a crazy week, "Crap, I haven't really talked with you in a couple of days and it is too late to get a sitter for tonight!"

Enter the late night date night. 

Step 1: Enjoy a glass of wine and some light snacking whilst letting the toddler play with trucks or watch Thomas the Tank Engine until bedtime.

Step 2: Put said toddler down to bed.

Step 3: Make a romantic, at-home meal with your boo. Yes, you may not eat until 8:30 or 9 but you have been snacking up until this point and the meal will taste SO much better when you don't have to eat it lukewarm because you are cutting kid-size bites and wiping ketchup smears off of the table.

You can always make something easy so that you have more time to chill together but, at the Spitzer household, we love a little bit of fanciness in our date night eating!

This week we made stuffed baby bella mushrooms and homemade pasta with Pomodoro sauce.

*Warning: The pictures in this blog were mostly taken after the sun had set since it was late night date night. Please pardon the dark pics!

We had a bunch of heirloom tomatoes from the garden that we needed to use!
I wanted a sauce that didn't mess too much with my pretty tomatoes, so I chose a basic Pomodoro sauce. 

For the pasta, we used my $85 pasta machine that I found, unused, at Goodwill for $5 [sorry for the brag, but I couldn't resist].

We followed Jamie Oliver's recipe for pasta but made it in the food processor rather than by the "well method."

We only used half of the dough and it made more than enough pasta for four people.

It was really fun to make together and really easy, especially with the help of our food processor and $5 Goodwill find.

Pomodoro Pasta Sauce
Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan, chop tomatoes [however many you have, I used about a pound and a half] and added them to the saucepan along with a couple cloves of chopped garlic. Sprinkle the mixture with a pinch of both salt and pepper.

Let the tomatoes saute until the juice starts to come out [approximately 5 minutes]. 

Remove from the heat and stir in at least 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil.

Once our pasta was ready [only took about 4 minutes to cook]. We tossed it with the sauce and served it with Garlic bread.

The pasta and sauce was awesome but the best part of the night was our stuffed mushroom appetizer.

This is SUCH an easy stuffed mushroom recipe but it made one of the best stuffed mushrooms that I have ever had!

Pecorino Romano Stuffed Mushrooms
*yields approximately 15 mushrooms
1/3 of a small load of good, crusty bread [I used one of the Costco brand rosemary olive oil loaves] 
2 T olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
1/2 tsp of dried oregano
1/2 c. grated pecorino romano cheese [feel free to use parm or asiago]
1/3 c. water
15 baby bella or button mushrooms

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Place chunks of the bread in a food processor and pulse into the bread turns into crumbs. [It helps if the bread is stale. If not feel free to slice and toast lightly before processing]

Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the bread crumbs, garlic powder and oregano and saute over medium heat until golden brown, approximately 6-7 minutes.

Remove the bread crumbs from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. Add the cheese and stir to combine.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the water to bind the mixture. The mixture should still look fairly crumby.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Stuff the caps with about one teaspoon of the mixture per cap.

Place the stuffed mushrooms on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake until the crumb mixture is golden brown, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Cheesy, salty and awesome!

Whoops, how did our mushroom caps fall into the leftover gravy boat full of pecorino romano cream sauce that we served over roasted veggies the previous night? Please don't try this at home. It was gross and you will probably have to force down every mouthful!
I hope this inspires you to think outside the box when it comes to date nights. You don't have to plan ahead, make a reservation and find a sitter all the time. Sometimes all it takes is a little willingness to be intentional and creative when you have some alone time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Coconut Beef Curry

One of our favorite foodie discoveries in the Denver area has been H Mart, a giant Asian supermarket with so many fun finds. The produce area has banana leaves for steaming, funky varieties of veggies that are really hard to find in average supermarkets like Japanese eggplants and baby bok choy. It has a huge selection of sushi grade fish and varieties of meat that I have only seen on Top Chef, like black chicken! They even have a little bakery inside, Honey Bakery, that seriously has some of the most amazing pastries I have ever had!

Sam and I love taking the occasional trip to H Mart and making a meal with our findings. A couple weeks ago we got to bring our foodie friend Scott there for the first time. We wandered, delighted, up and down every aisle, intent on making a meal completely inspired by our fun finds.

While strolling down the meat aisle, I saw a package of paper thin slices of beef rib eye, the type normally used for pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup in which the beef is sliced so thin that it is cooked simply by pouring hot broth over it. [If you have not tried Pho, do it immediately, it is seriously one of the best things I have ever eaten].

I thought, "Oh, this will cook up quickly. We can make a simple stir-fry out of this." I knew that a stir fry would be good and easy but my heart longed for more. Why settle for the often one-note flavors of a stir-fry when you can have the complex flavors of a Thai curry....acidity, spice, salty-sweetness and a little coconutty-ness? It was then that I remembered that I had a can of coconut milk, some limes and my jar of yellow curry paste sitting at home. What came next was amazing...
Coconut Beef Curry
1 can of coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
1 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce 

1 tsp each of grated ginger and chopped garlic
2 T yellow curry paste, divided
1 1/2 lbs thinly sliced steak 

1/2 of an onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced into once inch long pieces
1 T cooking oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 T cilantro, chopped

At least two hours prior to cooking, begin marinating your beef by mixing together the coconut milk, lime juice, soy and fish sauce, ginger, garlic and 1 tbsp of the curry paste in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sliced beef to the bowl, toss to cover in the marinade. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 

*The beef I used was similar, in cut, to the really thinly sliced beef that they use to make Philly cheesesteaks. Use whatever beef is available but slice it very thinly. Placing it in the freezer for about half hour before slicing should help firm the beef up enough to get some good slices in. In addition to cooking very quickly and being pretty tender, this cut of beef lapped up the marinade and tasted amazing!

In the last half hour or so of your meat marinating, begin preparing whatever side you would like to serve this with. We served ours with sushi-style rice. It was sticky and stood up SO well to the curry sauce. This dish would be great with any rice, or quinoa or rice noodles.

Slice your pepper, onion, cilantro and green onion because this will move pretty quickly once the meat has marinated.

Heat the cooking oil in a wok over medium heat. While the oil is cooking, strain the marinade from your beef being careful to save approximately 2 cups of the liquid. I did this by placing a colander over a bowl.

Add the beef, pepper and onion to the wok and stir fry until the beef has turned slightly brown and the peppers and onion are a little tender, approximately 5-8 minutes. 

 The beef will release a lot of liquid from the marinade as it cooks. Once the beef mixture has cooked, remove it from the wok and discard the excess liquid. I used a colander to quickly strain off the extra liquid.
Pour approximately 2 cups of the marinade into your wok. Add the remaining tablespoon of curry paste and let simmer until the sauce has reduced nearly by half.
Once the sauce has reduced, add the beef, onions and peppers into the sauce along with the cilantro and green onion.
Toss to combine and serve!