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Monday, January 30, 2012

Super Bowl

It's Super Bowl week here in Indianapolis.  Early Sunday morning, Connie and I took a drive downtown to see what's going on.  It's impressive.  When I was growing up this city was India-no-place to a lot of folks.  Now, there's a LOT to do.  There have already been articles in major magazines saying that all of the naysayers will be very pleasantly surprised.  I do believe that's true.  Our downtown is very compact so folks will be able to get around easily.  There are several districts with special cachet.  We live close to one by the name of Broad Ripple.  Way back in the 1890's when my father's mother was born there it was a small village on a bend in White River.  Now, it's an entertainment destination stuffed with restaurants, bars and shopping.  I hope all of our visitors have a fantastic time!

Now, that being said, since we're going to have a few extra folks in town, it's going to be a good week to STAY HOME.  LOL.  A few extra folks.  Try 150,000.  Yes, indeed, it's going to be a good time to stay home and not try to battle the crowds for dinner.  I've got my menus ready to go.  And, this morning we picked up the last necessary ingredient:  pancetta for pancetta wrapped meatloaf with a red currant jelly glaze.  We're also going to have shrimp and crab etouffee, mojito lamb chops and five spice and clementine chicken.  Before I get to today's recipe, I've got a couple of other things to tell you.

This past week, we traveled north to see some friend's new house.  It's gorgeous.  Perfect for them.  And, Nancy fixed a killer meal.  Olives baked in a cheddar cheese crust.  Like the gruyere olive poppers but with cheddar.  Those were off the charts good.  Then, a beef stew.  She put in waterchestnuts which gave it a wonderful crunch every once in a while.  I loved it.  Salad with kiwi, mandarin oranges, red onion, pecans and a lovely vinaigrette.  Some yummy pita breads.  And, killer brownies.  YUM!  Best of all was the opportunity to relax and catch up.  We're very lucky to have some wonderful friends!!Thank you, Nancy :-)

Ok, listen up you Indy residents.  I'm going to tell you a secret.  There's a destination restaurant that's every bit as good as Bonge's.  It's called 18 on the Square and is on the square in Shelbyville.  Forty-five minutes for us door-to-door.  Fantastic food.  We met our friends Molly and Don there on Thursday evening.  That's when they have a special.  You get half the protein and full sides plus a house salad for pretty much the cost of one dinner.  We split the pork chop, collard greens and sweet potatoes.  Those sweet potatoes were a bit of heaven on our plates.  Chef Joseph said they were his grandmother's recipe.  I'd have loved to have eaten at her house!   Whipped to perfection.  Ethereal.  The collards, well, they were cooked with the ribs left in so they didn't wind up stringy and slimy like so often happens.  These tasted like they had some balsamic vinegar and onion and who knows what else.  I'd drive down there just to have the sweet potatoes and the collards!

Now, on to our feature presentation.  You probably thought I'd never quit gabbing so we could get there, now did you?  One of the recipes I pulled out for a side is from Tampa Treasures by the Junior League of Tampa.  As you probably know, I typically buy a cookbook whenever we travel to a new destination.  This was from our trip to Orlando and Tampa.  I dithered and dithered.  The gift shop in Ybor City had several really wonderful cookbooks.  Finally, the fact it was a Junior League cookbook won out.  Not that I've ever been in the Junior League or even wanted to be.  Nope,it's because some of my favorite cookbooks are Junior League.  Back Home Again is the Indy chapter's most recent cookbook.  I'd highly recommend it. 

I've marked a bunch of recipes to try.  But, this one kept kind of knocking on my mind. You see, Connie loves Rice-a-Roni.  HIs mom wasn't a great cook.  They ate good meals but she loved cans and boxes and jars.  So, he ate a lot of Rice-a-Roni as a kid.  We didn't.  It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I even tried it.  And, then it was just because of the ads.  I figured I'd try it once and never have it again.  Then, I met Connie and he asked for it on occasion.  So, I've now had it probably a half a dozen times in my life.  What if I could cook my own version and make my hubby a happy camper?  Perfect.

What did we think?  Connie loved this.  We both added salt and pepper.  I made it with homemade chicken broth so there was no salt there.  My guess is someone using canned broth wouldn't need any additional salt.  We cut the recipe by about 2/3 and still had half left.  The original recipe says it makes six servings.  My guess would be that eight is closer.

Pine Nut Rice and Vermicelli


1 1/2 c long-grain rice
1/2 c butter
1/2 lb vermicelli or spaghetti
1/2 c pine nuts
2 c chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper


Cook rice according to package directions. 

While the rice is cooking, brown the pasta and the pine nuts in melted butter. 

Once the pasta and pine nuts have browned, pour in the chicken stock. 

Boil it for five mintues and remove it from the heat.  Add it to the rice and stir to combine.  Cover and set it aside for 30 minutes.  Serve with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rosemary and Pear Martini

Do you believe it!  We're still on the Entertaining with Booze book!  Percentage-wise I've made more recipes from this cookbook than I've ever made from another cookbook.  I turned the preparation of this recipe over to my inestimable sous-chef, Connie, to prepare. 

We thought that this sounded good so, one day, we stopped by Kahn's, our local liquor super store.  This is the weirdest liquor store that you ever want to see.  It is a wanna-be "big box" in that it is a warehouse type building.  On the other hand, it is mostly full of wine, has a amazing selection of beer and has all sorts of liquor.  We drive by and it's closed at nine o'clock!  Never heard of such a thing, but I guess they know their clientele and the folks they sell to are not running out for a six-pack, pack of cigarettes and a lottery ticket at 10:45.  Whatever, it's still the place to find whatever weird liqueur you want.

They also offer tastes.  Look at a bottle of liquor.  It sounds interesting, but do I want to spend $X on something that I'll never touch again?  At Kahn's, they have most of their liquors open to taste.  It's not a sampling menu, mind you, but on the other hand (back to the subject) when you find a recipe and it sounds interesting, you can ask for a taste.  The other thing is that most of these guys have tasted or at least have recommendations on the direction.  So we picked out some pear flavored vodka called Hanger 1 "Spiced Pear".  They didn't have a pear brandy that was called for, but since we sampled it, we said, "I can deal with that!"  Now, the recipe in the cookbook makes about a pint.  Unless we wanted to be snoring on the family room floor, that wasn't happening.  So, we practiced our math skills and cut the recipe down to two servings.

Rosemary and Pear Martini

serves two


2 1/2 tbs simple syrup (we use 2:1)
1 sprig rosemary
2 tsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
4 oz vodka (we use Smirnoff)
2 tbs pear liqueur (Hanger 1 as noted)


We muddled the first three ingredients and pulled out the rosemary sprig.  We then added the rest of the ingredients and ice.  Shake, shake, shake!  Strain and stir.  Holy moly!  This was tasty.  Next time we'll start a little earlier and ummm,,,

Well, here is the secret.  The original recipe was triple of what I said above and a lot more complicated. 

Make a simple syrup from 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, (1:1 simple syrup) and 3 sprigs rosemary.  Simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove the rosemary, then cool.  Combine the cooled syrup, 1 1/2 cups! of vodka, 1/2 cup of the pear liqueur and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Place in the freezer until well cooled.  FINALLY (as if Connie and I are going to wait this long for a drink!), Stir with a handful of ice, strain into martini glasses.  Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and serve.

As it turns out, our drink improved as we slowly savored it.  Therefore we resolved that as good as the drink was, the cooling and removal of any extraneous muddled rosemary and ice shards from the shaking would improve the drink.

So there you have it.  Lovely drink
Option 1: - Follow the recipe, you have enough to intoxicate the cul-de-sac. 
Option 2: - Have patience and consume it over it a couple of days. 
Option 3: - Do it our way and deal with a little detritus.

Have fun either way.  And, remember to kiss the one you love!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tonight I thought I'd have a fantastic new fish recipe for you.  It didn't happen.  We didn't like the dish.  You know, that happens.  It's tough though when you're blogging and busier than a one-armed paper hanger in a windstorm.  We made it through the party the 6th of January.  Then, we were off to client meetings and a board meeting in Orlando.  We finally got back and it was time to prep for a state securities audit.  Now, audits are a fact of life in my business.  Sometimes they're announced and sometimes they're surprise.  But, they happen with regularity.  Which is fine with me.  But, it is a bit disruptive.  Especially when we've had staff turnover and we're deep into the busiest season of the year.  It means I'm really happy to have a deep freezer since there's not a lot of time to cook. 

Tonight we had a winter weather advisory.  Freezing rain and sleet. It meant we came home early.  Straight to the basement and the Kinect to work out a bit.  I beat Connie at tennis and he beat me at football.  Together we did really well at blocking leaks and popping bubbles.  Ah, yes, working out in virtual reality is certainly different from dancing to the oldies with Richard Simmons or Jazzercise. 

Well, well, well.  Sometimes those days just happen.  Fine, so our dinner wasn't great.  I'd chat about duck confit.  Not happening.  I've done that.  So, how about an apple martini we've made twice now?  Nope.  I've done that.  Fine.  About that time, Connie started changing the cat litter and found out there was no more litter in the house.  Freezing rain and the pet store closes in 20 minutes.  Oh, and he's a hot-blooded guy so he has on shorts and a t-shirt.  Out he goes.  LOL.  I know.  These things happen to all of us, don't they? 

So, on a totally different subject...  How many of you have heard the Progresso commercial where the gal whose jeans fit again finally asks if there's a woman she can talk to?  I laugh every time I hear it!!!  But, the best part?  Connie's the one who heard it first.  He says, "You'll love this commercial!"  I do.

Back to food. I finally started through my directory of food photos - hoping to find something fun I've never blogged about.  It's in alphabetical order.  Alton's ribs.  I'd be here til midnight typing.  They were beyond incredible.  Just like his turkey.  But, I'd like to relax for a bit tonight.  Anniversary dinner.  That was last July.  Fresh raspberries from my back yard in a champagne glass started the meal.  Don't remind me that it's January and the only hope I have for anything in the least bit fresh from my yard is kale.  I love kale but I really don't want to blog about it.  Ah, baba ghanouj and cumin flat bread.  Something that you'd probably like to hear about and I'd like to blog about.  Whew. 

What did we think?  The baba ghanouj was good.  Not fabulous.  I'd make the regular recipe next time.  The hard pear cider?  OMG.  That stuff is incredible.  I'd love to be sitting around a lovely fire in the fire pit in the back yard with a couple of those babies.  Darn.  Freezing rain.  Not a chance.  Now, the cumin flatbread.  That stuff was amazing.  A couple of days later I used the leftover dough for pizza.  Equally amazing.   I'll make the flatbread any time!  This was another recipe from Entertaining with Booze - one of my all-time favorite cookbooks.

Hard Cider Baba Ghanouj


1 large or 2 medium eggplants
1/4 c hard pear cider
1/4 c tahini
1/4 c EVOO
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 t cumin
1/3 c cilantro
1/4 t salt
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat your oven to 450F.  Prick the eggplant with a fork.  Roast it for 25-35 minutes until it's almost charred.  It'll be soft and wrinkly by the time it's done. 

Cool the eggplant by immersing it in a bowl of icewater.  Remove it from the water and pat it dry.  Cut it into quarters and remove the skin. 

Put the pear cider, tahini, EVOO, garlic and cumin in the bowl of a food processor.  Puree.  Add the eggplant, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Process until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cumin Flatbread


2 c flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 t sugar
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cumin
2 egg whites, in 2 separate bowls, lightly whisked
2 T sesame seeds, toasted


Preheat your oven to 400F.  Take two baking sheets and line them with parchment paper.

Now, it's time to sift together the dry ingredients.  That would be the flours, sugar, salt and cumin.  Once they're sifted together in a large bowl, stir in 2/3 c of water, one of the egg whites and the EVOO.  You want to mix it together until it forms a stiff dough.  Next, it's time to knead the dough.  Knead for about 5 minutes

Time to roll out the dough.  Divide it into eight equal balls.  To roll it out, put a ball on a floured surface. 

Roll it out until it's paper thin.  Slice it lengthwise - about two inches wide. 

Move to the baking sheets and brush with the 2nd egg white then sprinkle with the sesame seeds.  Bake on the parchment lined sheets.  Serve with the baba ghanouj.

Friday, January 20, 2012

One of my favorite tv chefs premiered his new cooking show last night - Michael Symon's Symon's Suppers.  We've loved watching him on Iron Chef and pretty much anything else he's on.  Not only does he cook like we do - lots of flavor - but he's got such a fantastic personality.  Connie and I were both exhausted and staying up until 10:00 was a major effort.  I know, what babies!  Let me tell you, the show was well worth it!  He made an incredible roasted chicken with salsa verde.  Along side he did fried smashed potatoes.  Oh, and a chocolate pudding cup.  Dessert is not our bag.  Roasted chicken is.  And, smashed potatoes.  Since we'd not been to the grocery in more than two weeks, it was time.  We bought a chicken and some parsley and tarragon.  Everything else we had. 

Now, Friday night is date night for us.  Connie used to play bridge on Fridays but has switched to Mondays.  It means we actually get to either spend a lovely evening at home or go someplace fun like First Friday - a wander around some art galleries.  Since we were supposed to have freezing rain staying home sounded like a MUCH better idea.  And, since I didn't have to be at the office at the crack of dawn it didn't matter when we ate.  Time to roast a chicken.

What did we think?  This went together really easily.  I actually made some gravy from the pan juices.  We didn't need it.  Let me tell you about the salsa verde.  Connie loves mustard.  I love gravy.  No, in both cases the word is LOVE.  Connie says, "This is almost as good as mustard."  I'm pretty much doing a Meg Ryan on my side of the table.  The salsa verde is seriously good.  It could be used for many dishes.  Connie was worried that it'd be too spicy with the jalapeno and crushed red pepper.  Nope.  It was perfect.  The only problem was the recipe called for the chicken to be pulled from the oven to rest when the thigh reached 160F.  That meant the legs and breast were undercooked.  I wound up putting the roughly chopped chicken back in the oven for 12 minutes to cook it through.  My advice would be to aim for 170F.  When we finally had fully cooked chicken, we loved this dish.  Another note - the recipe called for salting the chicken then refrigerating it overnight.  I didn't have that luxury.  I don't think it suffered a bit for the lack of the overnight salting.

Along with the chicken, Michael deep fried smashed potatoes in bacon fat.  He said that was his favorite fat. I declared mine to be duck fat so mine were drizzled with duck fat and roasted.  They wound up brown and crispy and fantastic.   They're very easy to make.  Just boil potatoes until they're smashable, smash them, drizzle them with duck fat.  Then, top with some salt and freshly ground pepper and roast them for about 20 minutes. 

Connie would like for me to try them deep fried in duck fat.  I don't think that's on the menu.  But, drizzled and roasted.  Absolutely!

Roasted Chicken with Salsa Verde


4-5 pound chicken
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
2 fresh bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion, quartered
1 small bunch fresh thyme
2 T olive oil

for the salsa verde:

1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 T capers, chopped
2 T fresh tarragon, chopped
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
2 anchovies, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
grated zest and juice of one lemon
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 shallot, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat your oven to 425. Rinse and dry the chicken.  Gently lift the skin from the breast.  Tuck in lemon slices and the bay leaves. 

Into the cavity put the rest of the lemon slices, the onion quarters, the garlic cloves and the thyme.  (I left the thyme out and didn't miss it in the least.) 

LIberally salt the chicken.  Slather the chicken with the olive oil.  Bake it at 425F until the temperature in the thigh measures 170F.

While the chicken is roasting make the salsa verde.  Combine all of the ingredients and set aside to allow the flavors to marry. 

Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to sit for 10 minutes so the juices can redistribute.  Serve with the salsa verde.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

On the Road Again

A few minutes ago I saved a document I'd gotten attached to an email.  Typically by this time of year I've learned it's a NEW year and I'm pretty good at typing in the correct info.  Unfortunately, it's the 15th of January and I've actually been in the office for about a day and a half this year so it really hasn't sunk in that it's 2012.  Not that I was goofing off, mind you.  The first week was preparing for the annual shindig.  Then, this past week we were off to Orlando for a meeting.  Since I was going to be in the area, I decided it was a good thing to see some clients.  It was not a good thing to be out of the office but, sometimes that's the way these things work.

Jeff lives in Tampa so he's about an hour and a half away from Orlando.  Not a bad drive at all.  Even to see a Purdue fan.  LOL.  That's our running verbal sparring.  I went to IU, he went to Purdue.  Big-time rivals.  We got in really late on Tuesday so by the time we woke up on Wednesday it was time to drive to Tampa. Connie'd done the research and found a couple of Triple D places.  We've never been anyplace Guy Fieri's loved that we haven't just raved over.  Well, except for the Triple X in Lafayette.  But, Connie wasn't with me when I ate there so that doesn't count.  Do you like the logic there???  Jeff had been to the Taco Bus so he loved the idea of meeting there.  Well, let me tell you, that was some fantastic food.  We all got the lunch special.  Two tacos, rice and beans for $7.99.  Best refried beans I've ever had.  EVER.  And the tacos?  Amazing.  We liked them in this order:  pulled pork (hint of orange from a 5000 year old Mayan recipe according to the menu,) fish, beef, vegetarian with peppers and corn.  Here are a few photos of our visit there:

One our way back from Tampa, we just couldn't resist stopping at Ybor City.  It used to be quite the cigar manufacturing center.  Now, it's a tourist attraction.  Cute shops, lots of restaurants.  And, what we really like, a museum on the area's history.  We were lucky enough to snag a tour from Wally.  He's one of two grand master cigar rollers in the US.  His wife is the other.  He's got a PhD in history - primarily of the cigar industry in the area.  Just an amazing man. 

One of the coolest things about the museum was it's building - an old bakery with HUGE ovens!

On the way home we managed to get a photo of something we'd seen on the way to Tampa - Air Stream Henge.

Tuesday night we shouldn't have been hungry but we were.  Off to a place called Antonio's with my brother John and sister-in-law, Linda.  I know, you usually hear brother John and sister-in-law Pam.  This is John the elder who's legally a step-brother.  But, he's my brother in my heart so that's what counts.  Connie ordered the sausage and escarole risotto.  I got the eggplant involtini.  Neither of us thought to take photos.  We were both too busy catching up to even think about blogging.    What did we think?  If I told you that we went back the next night to get carry out my guess is you'd know we loved the food.  Antonio's is in Orlando on 17-92.  It's got a restaurant upstairs and a deli/wine shop with some tables for dining downstairs.  EVERYTHING we had was wonderful.  The next evening we had lasagna, eggplant parmesan, rosemary chicken and mixed veggies.  All of them were fantastic.  And, Linda had enough leftovers to take care of Friday evening's dinner. 

Thursday was our play day.  Connie wanted to go see Harry Potter at Universal.  I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan but I love my hubby so off we went.  I'd go back in a heartbeat if it wasn't so daggone expensive.  Best ride I've ever been on.  The rest of the park was fun but it included a lot of rollercoasters.  Connie loved them.  I sat to the side and read a book while he rode them.  I'm not a fan of theme park restaurants either but may just have to change my tune after lunch in the Three Broomsticks.  I had fish and chips and Connie had ribs and chicken.  All of it was really good.  Not gourmet by any means but very good.

Friday we were off to the Villages to see Doug and Kathy.  We chatted over lunch.  Split pea soup and tuna salad sandwich.  Some of the best split pea soup I've ever had.  From there, we drove to our hotel.  Here's a photo of the view from our room. 

Beautiful!  We all met in the bar for a cocktail or two before dinner.  Here's my favorite photo from that - my colleague Missy's hubby Thom and me:

Dinner was on property at their casual dining restaurant.  I had the ribeye and Connie the grouper.  But, as usual we split and shared.  Everyone was happpy with their dinner but we were all happiest to just be able to spend some time with our friends!!

Saturday I spent the day in a very intense board meeting.  Some really good things that'll take a lot of work.  I can't go into any of it because it relates to my day job and the rules don't allow me to chat about that unless there are a zillion disclaimers etc.  Let's just say we were all very happy with the outcome.  Those who didn't have to fly out met for dinner at a place called Ocean Prime.  Another restaurant I'd highly recommend.  I ordered appetizers for the group.  We split truffled deviled eggs, crabcakes, ahi tuna with avocado and calamari.   Each bite was just incredible.  I think my favorite was the tuna.  Connie's was the calamari.  He just couldn't keep his fork out of that!  Then, my friend Joyce ordered a caesar salad and I got some of that.  Wonderful.  Dinner was crab crusted tilapia and scallops in a jalapeno cream.  Another fantastic dinner!  My favorite photo of the trip has to be this one of my colleague Tom and his granddaughter:

Lucky me to have a fabulous husband, wonderful friends and clients and such amazing colleagues

Monday, January 9, 2012

Once Again, the Party is Over

My buddies from Girls Night Out.  We've been together for somewhere around 20-25 years!

Last year we had miserable weather.  Cold, icy, slip and fall and break your tookus weather. Somewhere between 125 and 150 people attended our annual open house.  It started years ago when Connie said, "Let's have a party."  I said, "Sure."  Did you expect anything different?  We had the party in Connie's old house.  That entailed dragging coolers back and forth as I really needed to do the cooking in my kitchen.  Finally, we bought OUR house and the party moved here.  It grew over time.  This year the weather was perfect.  We had 180 attend.  Going into the party we had 188 yes rsvp's.  (Editorial comment:  RSVP means respondez sil vous plait - please respond whether or not you're going to attend.  Many folks don't understand this, much to our chagrin.)  Thirty plus didn't show and twenty plus didn't rsvp and tell us they'd be here but showed up anyway.  A total of 180 showed up.  Now, we don't have a big house so we use our garage as the bar.  Last year we opened the door from the family room first thing Friday morning.  We ran heaters all day and finally got the temp up to 62 degrees.  This year, the heater was turned on as the party started and turned off shortly thereafter.  The garage temp?  62 degrees. 

Here's my working menu:

Bill of Fare

Meats, Fish and Seafood

Turkey breast with Grand Marnier Cranberry Compote

Jellied Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel

Pork Tenderloins with Scallion Mustard Mayonnaise

Beef Tenderloins with Red Wine Mustard Sauce

Honey Glazed Ham with Spiced Citrus Mustard Glaze

Gingery Chicken Satay

Smokey Chicken Barbecue Skewers with White Barbecue Sauce

Teriyaki Flank Steak Skewers

Cameroon Suya (Flank Steak dusted with Peanut Spice)

Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers

Shrimp with Bloody Mary Cocktail Sauce

Bourbon Brined Salmon

Crab Cakes with Remoulade Sauce




Ham and Cheese



Fresh Herb and Caper Tapenade

Creamy Basil Pesto Dip

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip


Baked Potato Dip

Barbecued Chicken Dip

Blue Moon Cheese Spread

Bourbon Bacon Marmalade

Brie with Cranberry Chutney

Deviled Cheese Ball

Goat Cheese with Rosemary Cream

Gorgonzola Cranberry Cheeseball

Greek Layered Dip

Hot Chipped Beef Dip

Pulled Pork KC Style Dip

Hot Bites

Bacon Crescents

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts in Chili Sauce

BBQ Bacon and Cheese Mini-Meatloaves

Green Olive Poppers

La Brea Tar Pit Chicken Wings

Meatballs in Barbecue Sauce

Pesto Crescents


Slices of Happiness

Wing Eggrolls with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce


Chicken Chili Cheese Dip

Mexicali Salsa

Rum Soaked Black Bean Salsa

Smoked Salmon Tartare

Antipasto and Cold Bites

Antipasto Platter

Deviled Eggs

Cheddar Cheese Wafers

Chesapeake Snack Mix

Cream Cheese Olive Pecan Bites

Crispy Salami Rolls

Peppadew Hot Shots


Apricots Dipped in Chocolate with Almonds

Butterscotch Brownies and Chocolate Brownies

Caramel Dream Bars

Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars

Pirouettes with Cheesecake Sauce

Pumpkin Walnut Bars

Salted Peanut Bars

Tequila Lime Bars

What was most popular?  These items:  crab cakes, pulled pork dip, teriyaki flank steak skewers, Mom's cheese wafers, gorgonzola cranberry cheese ball, gruyere olive poppers, butterscotch brownies and tequila lime bars.  A couple of dishes never made it to the table.  This year it was the jellied cranberry sauce with zinfandel.  It was taken to my brother's in-laws Sunday evening for dinner.  It's now been requested for holiday dinners.  So, one of those side notes pops into my mind.  When my niece Samantha was a little shaver she didn't like any fruits or vegetables.  So, at ever meal red jello was served.  Red jello that was really canned jellied cranberry sauce!  This was a couple of steps up from the canned version. 

Did I take photos?  Nope.  I spent solid days cooking and cleaning and didn't take more than a couple of photos along the way.  Knowing that the weather was going to be wonderful and that we had more yes responses than ever I knew I had to keep my eye on the ball - and not the camera!  One evening though, Connie whispered that I really had to take a look in the family room - camera in hand.  Seems that Gracie Ann thought it was really cool that Connie'd left his water glass on the coffee table:

So, I'd be remiss if I didn't show you a couple of photos from the party:

Mom talking to my colleague Chuck and his wife Karen.  Mark, the guru of all things computer, is behind Mom.  He's one of the funniest guys I know - and he keeps our computers in great shape!

My wonderful friend Lauren talking to Chef Joseph.  She talks like I do - with her hands.  Connie jokes that I'd never be able to talk if I had to sit on my hands... He's right!  Her hubby, Bob and Joseph's partner, Juan are watching.

See the gorgeous gal waving back there?  That's LizzyDo from That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Last, but not least, some of us got to relax and enjoy the sunshine during the clean up phase...

For recipes go to Kate’s Kitchen blog:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Seafood and Seduction

New Year's Eve.  Seafood and seduction.  Connie's a New England boy.  He grew up downtown Boston.  As in right downtown.  By the Bunker Hill Monument.  He went to Boston Latin School.  Worked for the Bank of New England while he worked on his college degree.  Grew up on fresh seafood.  Needless to say, he doesn't find the same in Indianapolis.
We met in 2004 and pretty quickly we knew we were meant to be.  Pretty much love at first sight.  And, that's coming from a gal who'd been divorced for 26 years, had a successful business and really had no intention of ever getting married again.  He certainly changed my mind and I'm ever so glad he did!! 

Over the years, we've created some wonderful traditons.  Our New Year's Eve seafood fest is one of them.  That first year, we went to the now-defunct seafood shop across the street from my office.  What they had created the basis for our meal.  Escargot, bacon wrapped scallops, lobster tail, crab soup, crab cakes, shrimp.  We both got dressed up and I decorated the table.  It was incredibly romantic.  Each year we've done the same.  We've changed up the menu a bit each year.
Now, we start planning the menu about a month or two before New Year's Eve.  This year most of the inspiration came from Entertaining with Booze.  I know, we've talked before about the title.  Not terribly appetizing.  But the recipes?  Oh, la, la.  We've loved so many of the ones we've tried.

There was a bit of excitement as we started our dinner prep this year.  My beloved Indiana Hoosiers were playing Ohio State.  My stepson David's alma mater.  Here are my favorite screen shots:

You can probably read the second one with a magnifying glass...  It says the Hoosiers beat the number one and number two ranked teams in the same season for the first time ever.  All cooking stopped and breathless watching ensued.  The game wasn't decided until the last seconds.  Wow.  It feels like the old days.

This year we had a bit of a twist to our meal.  Leftover escargot.  Turns out the soup I fixed for New Years Eve Eve dinner with Mom needed a dozen escargot.  The can holds two dozen.  No way was I going to waste those!  I didn't tell Connie what I was doing and he didn't discover my plan until I was ready to put the escargot dishes in the oven.  The look on his face was fantastic.  Huge grin.  He practically did a happy dance.  Thanks to Jaden at Steamy Kitchen for the oven temp and the amount of butter to use.



12 escargot
4 T butter at room temp
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 T fresh flat leaf parsley, finely minced


Mash the butter with the garlic and the parsley.  Divide it into 12 balls. 

Place your escargot either into the shells or escargot dishes (or both if you desire.) 

Put the butter on top of each.  Bake at 450 for five minutes.  Serve with sliced baguette.

As we cooked, we drank a bottle of Domaine ste Michelle Blanc de Noirs.  That was absolutely lovely bubbly.  We used the flutes my sister-in-law Pam gave me many years ago.  I love them not only because they're beautiful but because every time we use them I'm reminded of my wonderful sister-in-law.  I love you Pam!  Here's a photo of Connie in the mirror while we're toasting with our bubbly:

After escargot, it was on to cream of crab soup.  While hunting for a new she-crab soup recipe, I came across a cream of crab soup recipe in The Chesapeake Bay Crabbiest Cookbook.  It's one my dear friend Donna gave me.  She said she knew we'd get good use out of it and we have.  Once again, I used my great grandmother's soup bowls.  They're beautiful and a perfect serving size. Connie doesn't really like soup.  But, he loved this.  I did too.  It's VERY rich.  All of the flavors dance together in perfect harmony.  The recipe says it serves twelve.  I made a quarter of that and we had enough for at least six of our small servings. 

Crab House Cream of Crab Soup


1 c half and half
1 c heavy whipping cream
1 T chicken base (I used Penzey's)
1 T dry sherry
pinch of pepper
1/4 t Old Bay seasoning
4 T butter
1/4 c flour
1/3 lb crabmeat


Heat the half and half and cream in a large sauce pan.  Use low heat.  You don't want the soup to boil!  In a small skillet or sauce pan, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour and cook until it's lightly browned.  While that's cooking, whisk the soup base, sherry, Old Bay and pepper into the soup.  Once the flour is ready, pour about 1/4 c of the soup into the roux.  Whisk like crazy so it stays smooth.  Gradually add more soup then, pour the mixture into the soup saucepan.  Whisk to incorporate it.  Add the crabmeat and stir gently to incorporate it.  Heat the soup through and serve.  It may be served with additional sherry.  We chose not to do that.

While we ate our soup, shrimp flan baked away in the oven.  This was a recipe from Wine Mondays.  It was a bit different from our other dishes because of the flavor profile.  Most of our other recipes were dishes we'd had in one form or another.  And, the flavors weren't terribly bold - well, unless you count the GARLIC in the escargot :-)

We liked the shrimp flan but it's not something that I'll make again.  I'd be much more likely to take the marinade mix and grill the shrimp once they've spent their time in the marinade.  This recipe makes a six small appetizer servings.

Shrimp Flan


1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 garlic clove, minced
1 t pickled ginger
zest of 1/2 orange
zest of 1 lime
1 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t ginger juice
1/4 c chopped scallions
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
3 T fresh cilantro, chopped
2 t salt
1 large egg, separated
2 T butter at room temp
3 T olive oil
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
4 T heavy cream


Mix together the garlic, ginger, orange zest, lime zest, lemon juice, ginger juice, scallions, cayenne, nutmeg, cilantro and salt. 

Toss the shrimp with the marinade and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.  At the same time, put the bowl of your food processor in the freezer.  Lightly beat the egg white.  Put the egg white, egg yolk, cream, butter and olive oil in small bowls next to your food processor.  After the shrimp has marinated, put it in the processor and process until smooth.  Add the egg white, followed by the egg yolk then the butter, then the olive oil and finally the cream.  Butter 6 4 oz ramekins.  Pour the mixture into the ramekins.  The recipe calls for baking the ramekins in a bain marie with foil covering the tops of the ramekins.  I simply baked mine at 350 for 25 minutes.

After the flan we were on the Oysters Rockefeller.  Typically this dish has a topping of spinach and various green herbs.  This recipe didn't.  Connie tracked down fresh oysters at Fresh Market.  He watched a couple of You Tube videos on how to shuck them and started in.  Look how gorgeous they were! 

This recipe called for a very light herb topping.  We loved it.  The flavor of the oysters came through so much better than recipes with spinach.  We cut the recipe down to do 6 oysters but the recipe below is for 24.

Oysters Rockefeller


6 green onions, chopped
3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c Panko bread crumbs
1/4 c freshly grated Romano cheese
1/4 c fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 c fresh celery leaves, chopped
1 T fresh tarragon leaves
1 T fresh chervil leaves
2 T Pernod
dash hot pepper sauce
freshly ground black pepper
4 lb rock or kosher salt
24 fresh oysters, shucked (be careful to reserve the liquor)


Put the butter, green onions, breadcrumbs, Romano, parsley, chervil and Pernod in the bowl of a food processor.  Process the butter until it's blended but still has texture. 

Place the rock salt on a large rimmed baking dish.  Put the oysters on the rock salt, shell side down. 

Top each oyster with a dollop of the butter. 

Broil for five minutes.  You want the butter to melt and the edges of the oysters to curl.  Do NOT overcook these.

After the oysters we took a break and finished our bubbly and enjoyed the candlelight and each others company.  We also had a furry visitor.  Annie knows she's not allowed in the dining room when her humans are eating.  She's a wonderfully behaved pooch.  George on the other hand believes his humans are here to love a cat and take care of his every need.  He comes in and begs.  Since he's 17, I let him slide.

Then, it was time to fondue the scallops.  I'd had Connie pick up a few extra shrimp so we had those also.  The recipe actually calls for using the little bay scallops but Connie got his favorites so we were dealing with mongo sea scallops.

Since we had no sterno for our fondue pot, we "fondued" the seafood on the stove top then carried our plates to the table.  I'd intended to serve a garlic aioli with this but decided we were going to have enough food.  Then, when we sat down to eat our scallops I was very glad I'd not made the aioli.  The flavor was magnificent.  Very light and nuanced.  Aioli would've just covered it up.  This will be our go-to broth for seafood.  It's yet another recipe from Entertaining With Booze.  I think we're up to 15 recipes from that cookbook.  That's got to be a record for me since I normally make a few then am off to the next cookbook.  By the way - do you love the edges of the cookbook?

Seafood Fondue


1 T olive oil
1 small onion minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 c vegetable broth (we used vegetable stock)
2 c white wine - Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
1/4 c brandy
1 bay leaf
1 T soy sauce
1 dash hot pepper sauce
1 T fresh tarragon, chopped
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
seafood:  lobster, shrimp, scallops, salmon...


Pour the olive oil into a large saucepan.  Heat it to shimmering.  Add the onion and saute it until it's translucent.  Add the garlic and saute it for about a minute.  Add the other ingredients other than the tarragon, parsley and your seafood.  Allow the broth to come to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer it for thirty minutes.  Add the tarragon and parsley.  Pour the broth into your fondue pot and dig in with your seafood.  The recipe calls for serving with Bernaise sauce if you so desire.  I'd recommend trying this as is first.

Wow, by this time it was well after 10 pm.  We'd been cooking and eating since about 6 pm.  Two courses to go.  But, alas, we were too full to have dessert when the time came.  Even though we'd eaten tapas-sized servings we were stuffed!  That meant that we really were too full to thoroughly enjoy our last course.  We soldiered through though and did love this dish.  Yet another from Entertaining With Booze.  A couple of notes on the recipe.  We had a small wedge of brie left from earlier in the week.  It was about 4 oz.  We used that instead of a larger wedge.  We also used just half of a lobster tail and cut the rest of the recipe in half.

Baked Brie with Lobster, Mushrooms and Madeira


1 1/2 lb live lobster
2 lb wheel double cream brie
1 T butter
2 shallots, minced
1 c cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/4 c Madeira
1 baguette, thinly sliced


Put the brie in a baking dish that's large enough to accomodate the cheese plus the topping. 

Heat your oven to 425.  Melt the butter in a medium skillet.  Add the onions and mushrooms and saute them until they're softened. 

Put the brie in the oven to bake for about 8 minutes.  Add the madeira and cook until it's reduced by half.  Chop the lobster meat and add it.

Heat the lobster through.  Pour the lobster sauce over the brie and serve on baguette slices.

Another wonderful New Year's Eve with the love of my life.