Category Archives: Appetizers

3…2…1…

Happy New Year! First I would like to thank our family and friends who came over for New Year’s Eve dinner. We’re so glad you were able to join us! We couldn’t have asked for a better evening…hopefully you all had a great time too. ūüôā

I posted my menu a few days ago, but now I’m able to give you some more details and photos! We’ll start with a photo of our table. Linens are from Christmas Tree Hill (LOVE them). Napkin folding is courtesy of my ever-so-talented husband!


We started the evening with a cocktail, served with the cocktail nuts in my last blog post: Apricot Fizz

Ingredients

3 tablespoons chilled apricot nectar or peach papaya mango juice *I used apricot nectar
1/2 cup chilled Prosecco
lime slices for garnish

Directions

Pour the apricot nectar in a champagne flute and top with Prosecco. Garnish with lime slices if desired.

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The first course was Fallen Goat Cheese Souffles on Wilted Spinach (courtesy of Emeril via Food Network website)



Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons plus 5 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups¬†milk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 4 ounces goat¬†cheese
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon¬†salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large egg whites
  • Pinch cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
  • Wilted Spinach, recipe follows
  • Directions

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter 6 (3/4 cup/6-ounce) ramekins with 4 teaspoons of the butter. Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and use to dust the bottoms and sides of each ramekin. Set inside a roasting pan large enough to hold the cups without touching. Lightly grease a baking sheet with 1 teaspoon of the butter and set aside.

    In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens slightly and forms a light roux, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the milk, and bring to a boil. Simmer, whisking, until thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, whisking after each addition. Add the cheese, tarragon, salt, and pepper, and stir to incorporate.

    In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks just form. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the yolks in 3 additions. Divide among the prepared custard cups and fill the roasting pan with warm water to come half way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake without opening the oven door until slightly puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Let rest uncovered for 30 minutes. Run a thin, sharp knife around the edges of the ramekins to release the souffles. (Note: souffles can be covered at this point in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.) *I refrigerated for a few hours. It worked very well!

    Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Bake the souffles until puffed and heated through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven.

    Add the dried cherries and pine nuts to the spinach and stir to combine. Divide the wilted spinach mixture among 6 salad plates. Arrange 1 souffle on each plate and serve.
    Wilted Spinach

    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
    • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    • 18 ounces baby spinach, tough stems removed, well rinsed and spun dry
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

    Heat butter in a wide 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat until foam subsides, add garlic and balsamic vinegar and cook for 30 seconds. Then cook spinach, stirring, until just wilted but still and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

    Some photos for you of removing the souffles from the ramekins:

    Step 1: Pray ūüôā

    Step 2: Place souffle in palm of hand

    Step 3: Carefully place souffle on baking sheet for later

    These were definitely a hit! They weren’t quick and easy by any means, but they were totally worth it.

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    With the first course, we served a French Sauvignon Blanc:

    Next up: main course! We served a Pork Tenderloin En Croute¬†with Pear and Parsnip Puree¬†(again, both Emeril from Food Network’s website.)

    Pork Tenderloin En Croute

    Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup minced shallots
    • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
    • 1 pound assorted mushrooms, stems trimmed, wiped clean, and finely chopped
    • 1/2 teaspoon¬†salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
    • 2 (1 1/2 pound)¬†pork tenderloins
    • 1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows
    • 1 tablespoon¬†vegetable oil
    • 1 sheet prepared puff¬†pastry, thawed if frozen
    • 1/4 cup Creole mustard or any whole-grain mustard *I used Creloe
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons of water to make an egg wash
    • Haricots Verts, recipe follows *We omitted these because, frankly, I forgot to buy them!

    Directions

    To make the mushroom stuffing, in a large, heavy skillet melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are wilted and begin to caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring to deglaze the pan and until the liquid has almost all evaporated and the mixture is tight, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat. Let cool completely before using.

    Season the pork tenderloins with the Essence. *I actually sliced the tenderloin into 8 smaller pieces and decided to make individual servings.

    Heat the oil in a skillet or Dutch oven large enough to hold the tenderloins over medium-high heat. Add the tenderloins and reduce the heat to medium. Sear evenly on all sides and cook, turning frequently. Remove pork from the pan and cool for 10 minutes.

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Set aside.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 12 by 18-inch rectangle. Place the pork tenderloins on 1/2 of the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Evenly coat the tenderloins on all sides with the mustard.

    Pack the cooled mushroom mixture around the pork tenderloins. Brush a 1/2-inch border of egg wash on the pastry around the meat. Gently pull the remaining pastry over the meat to completely enclose, and press gently to seal. With a small knife cut away the excess pastry to make an even border and crimp the pastry edges with a fork dipped in flour. Make a small slit in the top of the pastry for steam to vent.

    Carefully transfer the tenderloin to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the pastry evenly with egg wash. *At this point, I put them in the fridge for about an hour before baking because we weren’t quite ready for them yet.¬†Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake until golden brown and an instant read thermometer reaches 140 degrees F, an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minute before serving.

    Slice the pork tenderloin and serve with the Haricots Verts.

    Essence (Emeril’s Creole¬†Seasoning)

    2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
    2 tablespoons salt
    2 tablespoons garlic powder
    1 tablespoon black pepper
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
    1 tablespoon dried thyme

    Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
    Yield: about 2/3 cup

    Recipe from “New New Orleans Cooking”, by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993.

    Haricots Verts

    1 tablespoon butter
    1 teaspoon chopped garlic
    2 small shallots, thinly sliced
    1 pound haricots vertss
    1 lemon, juiced and zested
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram

    In a saute pan, melt the butter. Add the garlic and shallots and saute until the shallots begin to soften. Add the haricot vert, lemon juice and zest and cook until crisp-tender ‚Äď about 3 minutes. Add the marjoram and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

    Pear and Parsnip Puree

    Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and chopped
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 tablespoon¬†light¬†brown sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 4 ripe Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch piece
    • 2 tablespoons nut-flavored liqueur
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon¬†salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

    In a baking dish, combine the parsnips, 2 tablespoons of the butter, the brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the parsnips are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and uncover.

    In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the pears and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the liqueur and tilt the pan to ignite the contents. (Alternately, remove from the heat, light with a match, and return to the heat.) *Couldn’t get mine to ingite. Sigh.¬†Cook while flaming for 2 minutes. Transfer to a food processor.

    In a skillet, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan, until the butter is golden brown and has a nutty aroma. Add the browned butter, baked parsnips and their cooking liquid to the food processor. Puree on high speed for 30 seconds. Add the sour cream, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. Serve immediately or cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

     

    These turned out very well… rave reviews from our guests. ūüôā I am fully aware that it looks a bit like a mummy head. Stop laughing. Ok, you can laugh, I’m laughing too.

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    With the main course, we served a French red:

    Finally… dessert! Grand Marnier Creme Brulee with Chocolate Ginger Shards¬†(again, you guessed it: Emeril, Food Network website.)

    Gotta make a mini brulee to test it first!

    Super yummy and indulgent

    Ingredients *I quadrupled this recipe because there were 8 of us.

    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/4 vanilla bean, split in 1/2 lengthwise and seeds scraped out and reserved
    • Very small pinch¬†salt
    • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier
    • 1 teaspoon orange zest
    • 2 large egg yolks
    • 2 mint sprigs, for garnish
    • Chocolate-Ginger Shards, recipe follows

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

    In a small saucepan, combine the cream, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the vanilla bean pod and reserved seeds, and salt and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside. Remove and discard the vanilla bean pods. Stir in the Grand Marnier and orange zest.

    In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks and 2 teaspoons of the sugar and whisk until frothy and the sugar is dissolved. Slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Divide between 2 (6-ounce) ramekins. Place in a small roasting pan or baking dish and fill with enough water to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards are just set and still tremble slightly in the center, 35 to 40 minutes.

    Remove from the oven and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours.

    Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the top of each custard with 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining sugar. Place under the broiler and broil until sugar melts and caramelizes, 1 to 2 minutes, watching closely to avoid burning and turning the custards as they cook. (Alternatively, use a kitchen blow torch to caramelize the sugar.)

    Stick the sharp ends of the shards down into each custard, garnish with mint, and serve immediately.

    Chocolate Ginger Shards: 

    1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

    1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped

    Line a small baking sheet with foil and chill. 

    In the top of a double boiler, or in a small metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the ginger and spoon onto the center of the baking sheet. Spread with a rubber spatula into a rough rectangle and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of ginger, pressing lightly to help adhere.

    Chill until firm, about 30 minutes, then break into triangle-shaped pieces (shards).

    Yield: garnish for 2 brulees

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    With dessert we served a Sauternes:

    At midnight, of course, a champagne toast! We watched the ball drop on TV, raised our glasses, and kissed a little. ūüôā

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    Overall, it was the best New Year’s Eve I can remember in a long time! Happy 2009!!


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    Nuts over these nuts…

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    These are still cooling on the baking sheet upstairs; I had to come downstairs for a bit to get away because I couldn’t stop eating them!

    This is the first of the New Year’s Eve recipes I’m making for tomorrow night’s dinner. I plan to put a dish of them out for guests to snack on as they arrive and sip their champagne cocktails. It’s a recipe I found on the Food Network Website. Thank you Emeril!

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    Spicy Cocktail Nuts

    (recipe courtesy of Emeril via Food Network website)
    *note: I halved the recipe because there are only 8 of us for dinner tomorrow! For the egg, I whisked with water and then only used about half of that mixture. 

    Ingredients

    • 1 large egg white
    • 1 teaspoon water
    • 4 cups assorted shelled nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts) *I used cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, and macadamias.
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons Essence, recipe follows
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne *I omitted, since there is already cayenne in the Essence and I didn’t want the spice to be too strong for mixed company.
    • 1/4 teaspoon¬†salt¬†*I used coarse ground salt.

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    In a large bowl, whisk together egg white and water until frothy. Add the nuts and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, Essence, cayenne, and salt. Add to the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Spread the nuts on the prepared pan and bake until dry, about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. *Note: I left the nuts in the oven for about 60 minutes because they didn’t seem quite done at 45 min.¬†Remove from the oven and stir to separate. Let cool on the baking sheet. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Essence (Emeril’s Creole¬†Seasoning):

    • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
    • 2 tablespoons salt
    • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
    • 1 tablespoon black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon onion powder
    • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
    • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

    Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container. Yield: about 2/3 cup

    Recipe from “New New Orleans Cooking”, by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993.

    Indian night!

    I love Indian food. I hardly ever get the chance to eat it because I really don’t like any of the Indian restaurants around here… but I really do love it. I was a bit intimidated to try any recipes at home, but then some recipes appeared in the May 08 issue of Cooking Light. Yippee!

    The menu was:
    Appetizer – Indian-Spiced Roasted Nuts
    Entree – Grilled Tandoori Chicken
    Side – Green Beans and Potatoes in Chunky Tomato Sauce

    Indian-Spiced Roasted Nuts
    1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons honey
    1 teaspoon canola oil
    3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
     Dash of freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 cup blanched almonds (I just used raw almonds because I could only find slivered blanched.)
    1/4 cup cashews
    1/4 cup hazelnuts
    (Note: I used all unsalted nuts)

    1. Preheat oven to 350¬į.
    2. Combine the first 8 ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds; stir until blended. Add nuts to sugar mixture; toss to coat. (I actually had to throw the nuts plus mixture back into the microwave to get the coating melted enough to…well, coat! I guess I didn’t work fast enough.) ūüôā
    3. Spread nuts evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350¬į for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

     
    [Have I mentioned that I LOVE MY NEW CAMERA!??! I’m still figuring out how to use it, and I need better lighting, but holy cow it’s a lot better than my old one!]
     
     
    Grilled Tandoori Chicken
    (Serves 8 as listed here…I actually cut down by 4 to serve 2. It worked just fine!)
     
    2 teaspoons canola oil
    4 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
    2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
    2 teaspoons ground coriander, divided
    2 teaspoons garam masala
    1 teaspoon ground turmeric
    1 teaspoon ground red pepper
    2 cups coarsely chopped onion
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger
    2¬†teaspoons¬†finely chopped seeded serrano pepper (Note: these things are HOT! Don’t get it under your nail. Ow.)
    8 garlic cloves, crushed
    2 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt, divided
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
    2 teaspoons salt, divided
    16 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
     Cooking spray

    1. Heat oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander, garam masala, turmeric, and red pepper to pan; cook 2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring constantly. Remove from pan; cool.
    2. Place onion, ginger, serrano pepper, and garlic in a food processor; process until smooth. Add spice mixture, 1/2 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons juice, and 1 3/4 teaspoons salt to onion mixture; process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Cut 3 shallow slits in each chicken thigh. Add chicken to bag, and seal. Toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. (OOPS, I forgot I need 8 hours; therefore, mine marinated for 1-2 hours. It just wasn’t quite as flavorful, but it was still ok!)
    3. Prepare grill.
    4. Combine remaining 2 cups yogurt, 2 tablespoons juice, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well. Cover mixture, and chill.
    5. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 7 minutes on each side or until done. Serve with yogurt mixture.


    Green Beans and Potatoes in Chunky Tomato Sauce
    (Again, serves 8 as listed here, but I pared it down to 2 servings with no problem.)

    1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1 1/2 cups diced red potato
    1/2 cup chopped celery
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/4 pounds green beans, trimmed
    1/4 cup water
    1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    3/4 pound plum tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (I forgot to peel them, and they were fine.)
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

    1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add potato, celery, salt, and beans; sauté 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup water; cover and cook 5 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender. Add cilantro and tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 4 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Stir in peppers.

    Macro setting rocks. I can’t decide between the close-up of my potato or my green bean. Thus, you get both. ūüôā

    Everything but the…

    Kitchen Sink Cookies! Yes, that’s what they’re called. ūüôā But that’s dessert.¬† Let’s start with a menu for tonight’s dinner.¬† (I planned tonight’s menu around the fact that I had today off.¬† Sadly, I filled my day with other random stuff, and dinner was late anyway. Oops!)

    **All recipes are from the March 08 issue of Everyday Food (www.everydayfoodmag.com)**

    Apps: Citrus Bloody Marys with Smoked Salmon Canapes
    Dinner: Rosemary Beef Skewers with Horseradish Dipping Sauce and Cucumber Salad
    Dessert: Kitchen Sink Cookies

    Citrus Bloody Marys
    6 cups tomato juice, chilled
    1 to 1 1/2 cups vodka, chilled
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons)
    1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes), plus 8 lime wedges, for garnish
    2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    2 tablespoons prepared white horseradish
    1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce
    1/4 teaspoon celery salt (ack! just realized I accidentally omitted. I guess we didn’t miss it much!)
    coarse salt and ground pepper
    8 celery stalks, for garnisih

    1. In a large pitcher, stir together tomato juice, vodka, lemon juice, lime juice, Worcestershire, horseradish, hot-pepper sauce, and celery salt; season with salt and pepper.

    2. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 day. Serve over ice, garnished with a celery stalk and lime wedge.
    Serves 8. (I drastically scaled down, since it was just the 2 of us!!)

    Smoked-Salmon Canapes with Tarragon
    4 oz. red-fat bar cream cheese (I used regular bar cream cheese, because that’s what I had!)
    1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarrago, plus whole leaves for garnish
    1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    coarse salt and ground pepper
    6 thin slices pumpernickel bread (crusts removed), cut into quarters
    4 oz. thinly sliced smoked salmon, torn to fit bread

    1. In a med. bowl, combine cream cheese, tarragon, and lemon zest and juice; season mixture with salt and pepper.

    2. Dividing evenly, spread bread with cream cheese mixture (about 1 teaspoon per slice). Top with smoked salmon, and garnish with tarragon leaves.
    Makes 24. (Again, I scaled down greatly!)

    ¬†We decided the particular brand of smoked salmon wasn’t smokey enough for us, but¬†other than that we were happy with the results!

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    Rosemary Beef Skewers with Horseradish Dipping Sauce
    Serves 4; Prep Time: 15 min; Total Time: 20 min

    2 garlic cloves
    2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
    coarse salt and ground pepper
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    3 flat iron (shoulder top blade) steaks (1 1/2 pounds total), gristle removed if any (I used skirt steak)
    1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
    1 tablespoon prepared white horseradish, drained

    1. Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (I also sprayed the foil with some cooking spray); set aside. Soak eight 6-inch wooden skewers in water for at least 10 min.

    2. Meanwhile, on a work surface, chop garlic and rosemary, and sprinkle with a little salt. Press blade of knife back and forth across mixture to make a paste. Place in a med. bowl, and stir in oil; season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

    3. Cut steaks into twenty-four 1 1/2-inch chunks. Add to bowl; toss to coat. Thread 3 chunks of beef onto each skewer; (I must have cut mine smaller, because I fit 4-5 pieces on each skewer); place skewers onto prepared baking sheet.

    4. Broil (without turning) (I did turn mine, because we like our meat really done, at least on the outside!) 4-6 minutes for medium-rare (we probably did ours closer to 10 minutes!). Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together sour cream and horseradish; season with salt and pepper. Serve skewers with horseradish sauce.

    I put mine over green leaf lettuce and served with some sliced cucumber.

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    And for dessert: Kitchen Sink Cookies! “…everything but the kitchen sink…” Again, from EF, March 08 issue.

    John’s Kitchen Sink Cookies
    2 1/2 cups AP flour (spooned and leveled)
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 cup packed light-brown sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
    1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    2 large eggs
    1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks (I used chips)
    1/2 cup raisins
    1/2 cup chopped pecans
    1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)

    1. Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

    2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

    3. Using an electric mixer, beat together butter, sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Gradually beat flour mixture into butter mixture just until combined.

    4. With a rubber spatula, fold in chocolate chunks, raisins, pecans, and oats.
    NOTE: This is why I freaking work out. No, I don’t mean so I can eat more cookies guilt-free.¬† I mean so I can handle mixing these things by hand. Phew! That was a hard one. ūüôā

    5. Drop 2-inch balls of dough, spaced 2 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheets. Flatten dough balls slightly. Bake 12-16 minutes (mine took 18, and yes, I do have an oven thermometer!), or until cookies are lightly browned, rotating sheets halfway through.

    6. Cool 5 min on sheets; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)

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    I didn’t think of it until I ate one, but I totally think the chocolate and raisins make it taste like there are Raisinettes in there. Mmm. ūüôā The recipe suggests putting in dried apricots or dates instead of raisins, and we think dried cherries would be an awesome combo with the chocolate. It also suggests skipping the oats and subbing sweetened shredded coconut for a tropical cookie. Can’t wait to try those variations too!

    Nothing says “I love you” like some goat cheese.

    Seriously, I had no idea how in love my husband was with goat cheese until I made this dinner. ūüôā Note to self for future meals…

    So here is Valentine’s Day 2008 in a nutshell.¬† Well, not really in a nutshell, although there was some nutmeg in the ravioli… Sorry. Couldn’t help it!

    So this year’s menu was taken from the Jan/Feb 08 Everyday Food (www.everydayfoodmag.com)¬† It included:

    appetizer: Pear and Proscuitto “Carpaccio” with a Balsamic¬†Vinegar Reduction
    dinner: Goat Cheese Ravioli with Parlsey Sauce and Lemony Swiss Chard
    dessert: Sparkling Lemon and Raspberry Prosecco Floats

    Here is a pic of the menu (for V day I like to get all formal and make little menus..it’s a bit fuzzy. So are all these pics, come to think of it. I need a better camera and some better lighting!)

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    Ok, so the appetizer (which we actually ended up eating with our meal for some reason) was so good!¬† Word to the wise, however: when reducing balsamic vinegar, don’t let it go for too long! ewwwwwwwwww. The first batch I made ended up burning and getting all hard. Blech. After round 2 with the balsamic vinegar, though, it was all good.¬† For those of you wondering, “carpaccio” is in quotes because it’s usually super thinly sliced raw beef, or some such meat. Proscuitto does not need to be cooked anyway, and is actually super thinly sliced cured (I think) ham.

    Pear and Proscuitto “Carpaccio”
    Serves 2
    Prep time: 10 min; Total time: 10 min

    1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
    1 red Bartlett pear, cored, halved, and thinly sliced
    2 ounces very thinly sliced proscuitto
    ground pepper

    1. In a small saucepan, bring vingar to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 2 T, about 5 min.
    2. Divide the pear slices between 2 plates, arranging them in a circular pattern; top with prosciutto. Drizzle with balsamic syrup as desired, and season wtih pepper.

    Here it is, with a festive V Day plate (that I bought at Target in Feb 07) :

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    Our next course was the goat cheese ravioli.¬† I used the recommended wanton wrappers instead of making my own pasta, although the thought had crossed my mind. I wanted to be as quick as possible, since I had to work on V Day.¬† This was a hit with both of us!¬† Not that tend to¬†I make things more than once ;), but this is on that theoretical list that *might* get made again…

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    Goat-Cheese Ravioli with Parsley Sauce

    Ingredients

    • 3 ounces fresh goat cheese
    • 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
    • 1 small garlic clove, crushed through a garlic press
    • Pinch of ground nutmeg
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 12 square wonton wrappers (3 1/2 inch)
    • Parsley Sauce

    Directions

    1. In a small bowl, use a fork to mash together goat cheese, ricotta, garlic, and nutmeg until smooth; season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
    2. Assemble ravioli: Arrange 6 wrappers on a work surface, keeping remaining wrappers covered with a damp papper towel.
    3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; reduce to a bare simmer. Drop ravioli into water, one at a time, stirring them gently to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, 5 to 7 minutes. (Cooking time is the same for frozen ravioli.)
    4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and arrange in a single layer to drain briefly. Divide between two plates; drizzle with parsley sauce, and serve immediately.

    For Parsley Sauce:

    In a small bowl, stir together 2 T of finely chopped fresh parsley, 2 T olive oil, 1 T grated Parmesan, and 1 t water; season with salt and pepper. (This reminded us of pesto! Mmm.)

    The side I served with the ravioli was lemony swiss chard (they didn’t have any fresh-looking red swiss chard, which I think may have been the point for V Day… but green it was!)

    Lemony Swiss Chard

    Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 bunch Swiss chard (about 3/4 pound), stalks cut into 1-inch pieces and leaves roughly torn (keep separate)
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

    Directions

    1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add chard stalks, and cook, tossing until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add as many chard leaves to skillet as will fit, adding more as room becomes available; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until stalks are tender, 4 to 6 minutes more.
    2. Drain and discard any liquid from chard in skillet; stir in lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

    Please excuse the pic quality…and I decided to “paint” on a balsamic syrup heart, which looked great at first… and not so great by the time I got the camera functioning.¬† Oops!

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    For dessert (maybe my favorite part because I just love champagne so much!), we had these floats.  Prosecco is actually an Italian sparkling wine, very similar to Champagne.

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    Sparkling Sorbet Floats

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup raspberry sorbet, slightly softened
    • 1/2 cup lemon sorbet, slightly softened
    • 1/2 cup chilled white sparkling wine, such as Prosecco
    • 1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh mint leaves

    Directions

    1. Place two small glass bowls in the freezer until chilled, at least 5 minutes. Dividing evenly, scoop raspberry and lemon sorbet into chilled bowls. Pour sparkling wine over sorbet, and garnish with mint; serve immediately.

    A particularly fuzzy pic of the desserts (in margarita glasses, because I thought it would be cute ūüôā¬† )

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    …and finally, a pic of our table. (Yes, one of the taper candles is crooked, and yes, this bothers me! Oh well… ūüôā¬†¬† ) We had a lovely evening together at home!¬† To everyone who hates V Day, I say to try making it about spending quality time with the one you love.¬† Admittedly, the commercialized aspect of it can make going out crazy, depending on where you live and where you’re trying to go… but we always look forward to another excuse to celebrate the love we share with each other. ūüôā (Ok, I’m off my soap box now!)

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    Hubby’s birthday appetizer

    Crabmeat Cocktail with Watermelon, Mango, and Avacado

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