Monday, May 31, 2010

After Memorial Day Sunday dinner thoughts

Well, we had a marvelous time hanging with some of the girlfriends and their families at my sister's & brother-in-law's house and pool. The day was just beautiful! Others brought:
A Mediterranean salad with a Greek-style dressing, feta, and black olives on top of greens.
Another green salad included kidney beans, Fritos, and a green goddess dressing.
A third salad had black beans, roasted corn, and a crunchy topping.
There was also a grape salad with red and green grapes, walnuts, and a dressing.
Mom made a pineapple upside down cake; another friend brought a chocolate chocolate chip cake.
There were a couple of chili cheese dips.
Oh - and a couple brought pork ribs over.

The main attraction wasn't the food, however. It was getting together with a few friends, having a good time, and enjoying the day and the pool. Oh - and Angel, Cindy and Dave's chocolate lab, absolutely loves the pool along with everyone else!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

There something I need to tell you before sharing what I'm making this Sunday. In a few short weeks eleven of my girlfriends and I will be heading to Cancun for 5 days and 4 nights of frivolous fun! We are celebrating 2 40s, 3 50s, and 1 60; that is this year 2 people are turning 40, 3 will be 50, and 1 will become 60 years young! We can hardly wait for the fun to begin.

So, in order to be ready for the sun a little closer to the equator (at least a lot closer than the St Louis area), we feel the need to get a little pre-sunning in. Now, I'm not one to lay in the sun - I personally don't like my life to pass me by in that way. However, Cindy and Dave (my sister and brother-in-law) have opened their pool. Yep - you guessed it, we're heading over to Cindy's & Dave's house this Sunday for a little r&r and fun in the sun.

Cindy is preparing a taco bar: she'll have chicken and beef and all the fixin's for make your own tacos. I don't know what other folks are bringing. Michael and I are bringing a couple of dishes we made last week for bunco - Michael's fresh guacamole and my Mexican Orzo Salad. I feel I can call it mine now because of the adaptations I've made to the original recipe. It's one of the easiest dishes to prepare.

Here's how I made the Mexican Orzo Salad this week:
3/4 cup Orzo, cooked according to package directions, then rinsed with cold water and drained
1 can gold & white corn, opened, rinsed, and drained
1 can garbanzo beans, opened, rinsed, and drained
1 can black beans, opened, rinsed, and drained
1 can light red kidney beans, opened, rinsed, and drained
1 small jar pimentos
About 8 slices pickled jalapeƱos, chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
About 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lime, zested & juiced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon Penzeys medium hot chili powder
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) sea salt
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) fresh ground black pepper

Toss all of the ingredients through the spinach in a serving bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients together until emulsified. Top the pasta, beans, and corn mix with the dressing; carefully toss to coat. Allow flavors to meld by keeping the dish in the refrigerator for at least one hour and preferably overnight.

You'll notice I use a LOT less orzo than in the original recipe. And, because I didn't have any fresh red bell pepper or fresh jalapeƱo on hand I used jarred. I added the lime zest, the chili powder, and the minced garlic. Oh - and the original recipe called for cilantro; I really don't like cilantro so I used spinach instead.

The Mexican Orzo Salad is ready to go. Michael will make the guacamole just before we leave to go over there. When we get there we'll slather on the sunscreen and enjoy what is supposed to be a beautiful day at the pool with some friends. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

After Bunco Thoughts

Bunco,as always, was a lot of fun. All the food turned out great. It was all fairly easy to prepare too - such a nice thing! Michael made the guacamole and it tasted fabulous. The Mexican Orzo Salad was yummy but made way more than was needed. The Hearts of Palm, Olive, and Corn Spread was mmm - mmm good! The Nacho Cheese Pinwheels, while quite tasty, were also messy to make; I'm really not very good with roll-up things. I did find, though, that it was important to only put the cheese about halfway on the tortilla, then roll from the cheese half first (and then the cheese spread to the other side as it was rolled up). The absolutely best item, however, was the Easy Brownie Shortcake Dessert. That said, the Strawberry Charlotte Verrines were quite elegant and had a great flavor; I made a few with blackberries instead of strawberries because I knew at least one guest doesn't eat strawberries.

And, let me tell you - Beer Margaritas are terrific! Here's how you make them...
1 6oz can frozen lime aide

Put 6 oz lime aide in blender. Fill empty 6 oz container with beer, add to blender. Fill empty 6 oz container with Tequila, add to blender. Blend. Run a slice of lime around rim of glass; coat rim with salt. Add blended mix to glass with slice of lime. Enjoy!

Sunday Dinner Update
Since I made so much on Friday I really wasn't inclined to make a home-made dinner for Sunday. We had an enjoyable dinner of frozen cheese ravioli, jarred sauce, frozen garlic toast, and bagged spinach. I "doctored" the sauce by chopping some red onion, celery, and carrots; mincing some fresh garlic; sauteing that in a tiny bit of olive oil; adding canned mushrooms, a can of diced tomatoes, and a teaspoon of sugar to it. After boiling the ravioli I added it to the sauce. For the spinach I cut up a few strawberries, and opened a package of sunflower kernels. We all truly enjoyed the dinner. It was pretty fast and very easy!

Next week is Memorial Day Weekend. When I took Mom and Dad home we talked with my sister, Cindy, about maybe having Sunday dinner at their house next weekend and enjoying the first poolside weekend. I'll let you know what we decide. Have a great week!

Monday, May 17, 2010


May is my month to host Bunco. If you're not familiar with Bunco, you should know it's really a lot of fun and it's harder to explain than it is to actually play. I'm feeling like Mexican food is in order. Here's my menu:

Hearts of Palm, Corn, & Olive Spread
Nacho Cheese Pinwheels
Mexican Orzo Salad
Salsa (I actually like a store-bought brand the best, however I don't remember the name of the brand - I just know where it is at the grocery store!)
Tostitos Dipping Strips
Strawberry Charlotte Verrines from the May/June 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times, page 49
Easy Brownie Shortcake Dessert

So - the Strawberry Charlotte Verrines are not Mexican; they still look good. I might use some blueberries in place of the strawberries because I plan to use strawberries with the brownie shortcake. Or, I'll use the strawberries in the verrines and cherries with the brownie shortcake. A verrine is a small individual morsel served in a glass; verrines are usually appetizers or desserts that are layered in the glass.

My friend Liz Geisler is bringing beer margaritas over. I may also make some margaritas or at least have some Tequila on hand.

Sounds like a fun Bunco night to me. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts

What a beautiful day for Mother's Day, even if it's a little bit chilly. All the same, a truly beautiful day!

Today's dinner was one of the easier dinners to make. Everything turned out well. The salad, however, was outstanding! And, incredibly easy - spinach, sliced strawberries, sliced almonds and the hardest part - the dressing (which honestly wasn't hard). I made the dressing according to the recipe except I traded balsamic vinegar for the distilled white vinegar. Yummy! I'm having this for lunch tomorrow too.

The pasta was good too. I left the sage out - I actually had the fresh sage and chopped it up but wasn't keen on the smell and so left it out - it would have just been too much. I used whole wheat penne for the pasta; it was a bit too al dente for my taste. Michael says he has this problem with the whole wheat pasta all the time - that it doesn't seem to cook to the softness we prefer. Other than that, this was tasty. I also added mushrooms to the mix. I don't know if I'll make it again, but maybe. It was pretty easy to make as well.

The Chocolate Wonder was a real hit with the parents. It is a bit too sweet for my tastes, plus with real milk and cool whip in it I'm really flirting with disaster (I 'm lactose intolerant and this can play havoc on my digestive system). It was tasty, just not something I'd want to eat much. It made a huge amount so Mom and Dad are taking some home with them.

All in all, we had a nice dinner. It's mostly about being together and in that respect it was a real hit!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

Trying to decide what to make for Mother's Day Sunday Dinner has been, well, trying. I think I've figured it out, though.

We're going to have pasta and salad. For dessert I'm making something called Chocolate Wonder. The recipe was delivered to my email from the Chef's Shoppe Tid Bits, an electronic newsletter I receive. I'm including the recipe below.

So, It's going to be:
Pasta with Crab, Artichokes, Lemon, & Sage
Strawberry Spinach Salad

Chocolate Wonder

1st Layer

1/2 cup pecans (chopped)
1 stick butter
1 cup flour

Blend together and pat into a 9 X 13 inch pan. Bake 18 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool well.

2nd Layer
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup Cool Whip
Whip together and spread on cooled crust gently.

3rd layer
2 small packages instant chocolate pudding
3 cups cold milk
Mix together until thick and spread on cream cheese mixture.

4th Layer
1 cup Cool Whip spread over top.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Can add either chopped nuts or shaved chocolate to the top to fancy it up a bit.

I'll let you know how it all turns out!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts

Well, tonight's dinner was definitely an adventure!

Pressing the tofu was a first for me. I found an article on describing what to do. I used a baking sheet, folded two paper towels per tofu brick, put the tofu on top of the folded paper towels on the baking sheet. Then folded another paper towel, put a cutting sheet on top and used the Joy of Cooking and Passionate Vegetarian (books) as weights. Left it for 15 minutes, replaced the paper towels, and left it for another 15 minutes. The rest of the tofu prep was pretty easy.

Then, I prepared the barbecue sauce! It was good, however there were a lot of ingredients. I don't know if it's worth making your own barbecue sauce when there are so many commercially available. Maybe if it's your own secret recipe.

I also made steamed green beans with carrots. They were fine. This was kind of a dressed down version of green bean and mushroom medley - a family favorite. I didn't have any mushrooms and only used a tiny bit of onion. I talked about this recipe on December 18, 2009.

Everything to this point was fairly straight forward and easy. Then I got to the Hotel Cordon Corn Bread. The recipe itself is not too bad. The trouble came when I didn't have a 10 inch diameter pan that was 3 inches deep. This turned out to be a problem. Instead I used an 11 1/2 inch diameter pan that was only 1 1/2 inches deep. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of baking powder along with the flour and corn meal. You may have guessed it - I had an overflow in the oven. YUCK! I became aware of this when the dish had been in the oven for 15 minutes, I opened the oven to add the tofu in sauce into the oven to bake alongside the corn bread for a final 15 minutes. The overflow of course started burning. We turned the hood fan on which helped; I was worried the fire detectors would go off, we lucked out there. So, if I ever make this again I will make sure I make it in a deep dish. It was really tasty though and everyone enjoyed it.

I also made a lemon pudding pie. Used a store-bought pie crust; baked it and let it cool. The filling was made with 2 small boxes of vanilla pudding, 1 3/4 cups 1% milk, 6 oz frozen lemonade (thawed), and 8 oz cool whip (thawed). The pie was scrumptious!

Overall dinner was a success even if it was a little messy. I've started thinking about what to have next week since it's Mother's Day. I asked Mom what she'd like and she said it's too far in the future and she was too full to know right now. I'll come up with some ideas and run them past her this week. I'll let you know what we decide.