Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Company's comin!

My best friend is coming to see me this weekend.  I'm hosting a thirtyone party for her, because she sells thirtyone, and then she can write off a trip to see me. Its terribly exciting!  I'm trying to figure out a menu for while she's here. Have to be careful, though because she can't eat beef or garlic.

Here's what I have so far.

Breakfast Friday: breakfast casserole, some sort of fruit.
Lunch Friday:
Dinner Friday:
Breakfast Saturday: something cold, or left over breakfast casserole
Lunch Saturday: something simple
Party Snacks: veggies/dip, cheese ball, ricotta pie minis
Dinner Saturday: out?
Breakfast Sunday:
Lunch Sunday: Perfect roast chicken with roast veggies, green beans and salad.
Dinner Sunday: grilled cheese and tomato soup with apples.

Now here's the other thing. I don't want to spend all the time she's here in the kitchen.  So prepare ahead ideas would be great.

What are your suggestions?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Family Project

I've had this idea rolling around in my head for a while, maybe a couple years.  I'd like to put together a cook book for my extended family, on my mom's side.  I think I'd finally like to get this project started.

I don't know why, but family memories are tied and intermingled so strongly with food memory that it is nearly impossible to separate the two.  That's probably why I spend so much time in the kitchen. Family equals love in my memory, and family also equals food... Therefore, I make food for people I love.

The food I remember was rich, simple but filling. And there was always plenty of it.  As a kid, I didn't have much to do with the preparation of anything that went on the table, at least not at any of my aunts' houses. My mom and her sisters would shoo us out of the kitchen while they were cooking.  What do I remember? Chicken n dumplings, fried chicken, creamed corn, sausage gravy over biscuits, cold green bean salad, warm coconut cake (and I don't like coconut!), fruit salad, meatloaf, home canned green beans with bacon, grill outs, cobbler, baked pineapple, broccoli salad, macaroni and cheese.  There are foods that appear regularly at family events like Christmas and wedding showers.  I want to gather them up and bind them together so that my generation, the grandkids and great grandkids, will have this collective memory to look back over.  So that even as our family gets larger, and the generations have less and less contact with each other, we will still be able to recall the times we were all together, the blessings that come from family, and the love that we share around the table.

If you are descended from Clarence and LaGrada, from Ohio county, KY, I'd love for you to share your recipes and your memories with me.

Pepper Cheesecake

I have to tell you a secret.  I like to bake sweet stuff.  Cookies and cake and pies and cobblers (Not all for home consumption- we like to share the wealth!)  Give me a dessert, and I'll make it!  I'm not quite so strong or diverse in the appetizer department. I think a lot of women (and those men that cook, too) have this same weakness.  Take a look at the buffet table next time you go to a potluck or holiday gathering.  At a potluck, you'll find a variety of casseroles, perhaps some ham on rolls, a plate of deviled eggs, a plate (or several) of veggies and dip, depending on the occasion, you might find a bag of Taco Bell, or a bucket of KFC, and a whole table filled with assorted desserts.  This is the problem with potlucks and parties that request you "just bring something, you know, a dessert or an appetizer."  Appetizers are supposed to whet our appetites for the main course; they also provide extra filling in your stomach so that you aren't tempted to overdo it with dessert.  Therefore, at least in my mind, fewer appetizers = more desserts.  And too many desserts = tummy ache, a la the Good Ship Lollypop; also = weight gain.
So I've decided that I need to branch out more and find some good appetizer type dishes to bring to the gatherings that are coming up.

Here's the first new dish in my repertoire.  Several people told me how good it was, but I still think it needs tweaking:

Pepper Cheesecake
1 block cream cheese, softened
4 oz hot pepper jelly
1 egg
5 oz shredded sharp cheddar
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Blend everything together with a mixer, or by hand.  Pour batter into a greased 6" spring form pan. Bake at 350*F for 30-35 min. Spread a little jelly over the top before serving, if desired.

I did a couple things differently from this recipe. First off, I added a couple of tablespoons of my last batch of ricotta cheese.  

Secondly, the pepper jelly I made this year was not so hot.  It tastes good, just lacks the spiciness you would hope for.I think the scotch bonnets I bought were not actually scotch bonnets, but a milder pepper.

So I put in the 1/2 cup of pepper jelly, and then I added a hand full of thai peppers.  You know, the tiny ones.  Mostly, I removed the seeds and membranes before chopping; there were about 5 that I chopped up and threw in the bowl with the seeds and membranes.

It needed to be used. Thirdly, I didn't have a 6" spring form, so I just used an old glass dish that I have, probably 6"x4". Maybe smaller on the 6" side.  It worked just fine.

Now, when I put this out at the party, I put a note next to it that it was spicy.  There were kids there, and I didn't want anyone to start a fire in their mouth. But I think the note caused it to be largely avoided. At least until the end of the party.  Then the hostess came into the kitchen, famished from not having eaten in several hours, and raved about it.  She made all her family come in and try it too. I had very little left to bring home.

Just a note, though, when you're working with hot peppers, wear gloves.  Simply washing your hands afterward (even 4 or 5 times) does not get the capsaicin oils off your hands.  This means that if you do anything like touch your face or put your contacts in, you will burn what you touch.  Think of it as really concentrated pepper spray. Trust me.

What's cooking in your kitchen?