Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fall in....

Tonight was the first night that it felt like fall was soon as the sun went down, there was a chill in air and you could just feel it. I'm not complaining :)

Here is a quick idea to get a jump-start on fall without leaving too much summer behind.

Line a clear, straight-edged container with glassine paper, fill with water and add flowers. I used seeded eucalyptus and mini-mums in a small footed trifle bowl. The glassine paper is similar to wax paper and can handle the water without getting moldy (my arrangement lasted more than a week) or breaking apart like tissue paper would. I used a bit of clear tape to hold the paper in place against the glass.

Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend!

[Don't forget to check out all the centerpiece ideas posted at Whistlestop Cafe each month!]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

BBQ Dessert Platter

Hey everyone! Running around like crazy as I have a wedding to shoot tomorrow and some friends coming into town for the holiday weekend, but I wanted to post this super easy and festive dessert platter. I made this for my mother-in-law's July 4th BBQ, but it would easily work for Labor Day too and it feeds a crowd!

Here is what I included on the platter:

Soft & Chewy 10-minute cookies (both the vanilla and chocolate versions)
Mini-cherry crumble tartlets (I used a mini-muffin pan)
Vanilla brownies (cut them fairly small since they are pretty rich-tasting)
Mixed berry cakes (recipe from Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine)

I own a bunch of plain white ceramic platters from when I used to do some catering - they are perfect for parties and pretty inexpensive at a bunch of different discount stores (I got several of mine from TJMaxx, Marshall's, Target and Homegoods). Arrange all the desserts in groupings in different sections of the platter - it looks great and keeps everything in one place.

Enjoy & Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

As easy as it looks!

This recipe is totally easy - plain and simple. I love making appetizers or finger foods, small plates, tapas, or whatever you call them :), but so many times, they really require more work, more ingredients and a lot more effort than a main dish would. Not that it stops me, but this dish that works as an appetizer or main course and it is really as easy as it looks. It will be done and ready to eat in about 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Tasty Lettuce Wraps
Note: My friend J (not the jam J, a different J) and I used to make this when I lived down in Miami about 5 years ago. I have since lost the original recipe, and I can't find the cookbook, but have pared down the recipe so much that it is totally different and one that I now call my own. For those looking for great Asian cookbooks, I'll try to dig it up and post some more recipes from it eventually.

1-2 heads butter lettuce (also called Boston or bibb lettuce)
1 jar hoisin sauce
1 can sliced water chesnuts, minced
1 knob fresh ginger
1 package ground turkey (or chicken or pork)
Kosher salt / freshly ground pepper
Garlic powder and/or minced fresh garlic
Vegetable oil

1. Add a swirl of oil to a saute pan and bring up to medium heat. Add fresh garlic (if you are using, not totally necessary). Saute for a few seconds. Add ground turkey. Break up the turkey with a wooden spoon until it is in small pieces, rather than large clumps (think sloppy joe style). After it has been cooking for a few minutes, season with salt/pepper/garlic powder.

2. Peel ginger (about a 1-inch knob) and use grater or zester to add it to the turkey mixture.

3. Add jar of hoisin sauce (the amount depends on the size of the jar - I usually get an approximately 8oz jar and add about 3/4 of it; if your jar is smaller, add the whole thing and if its bigger, use a bit less) and water chestnuts. Mix throughly. Let mixture continue to cook for a few minutes (lowish heat) until it is bubbling and uniform looking.

4. While cooking, wash, dry and separate lettuce leaves. I serve a portion of the hoisin turkey mixture in a small bowl with lettuce on the side for a dinner (with other side dishes; salad, dumplings, etc). Also works great as an appetizer - serve family style and let guests make their own wraps. This would be great paired up with sesame noodles and Asian-style chicken salad!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sick of blueberries yet?

Hopefully not, because I have one more blueberry recipe here. In finishing up the rest of the fresh wild blueberries that I brought home from Maine (I keep meaning to blog a few photos, but haven't got to it yet!), I made a quick batch of my "famous" weekend pancakes. Now, I despise most all breakfast foods - pancakes, waffles, eggs, french toast, coffee, but I do like to cook them and Tim LOVES breakfast. So if we are hanging around the house on a weekend, I'll cook up some fun breakfast foods (I make myself these potatoes which are my favorite).

Now these pancakes are only famous to Tim, but he does say that they are really, really good and I consider him a pancake expert :). They turn out super light and fluffy and I pretty much always have the ingredients on hand. I add different concoctions of fruit to them depending on what is in the kitchen at the moment. So, give them a try this weekend!

Simple Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes (adapted from the Food Network website)

Either 1 cup AP flour or 1/2 AP flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter
1/2 wild blueberries (or any other fruit [chopped apples w/ a dash of cinnamon, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries])

1. Stir together dry ingredients.

2. Add buttermilk and egg; stir until combined.

3. Add melted butter and stir until combined.

4. Cook pancakes as usual - fairly low heat in a skillet or using the Perfect Pancake! Don't ask me where we got one of these, but we totally have one and use it. Hilarious.

5. Keep pancakes warm in a super-low oven while you make the rest. I serve them sprinkled with a few more blueberries and a little bit of powdered sugar.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Strawberry Jam

I'm sorry if you opened this post thinking there was going to be a recipe...because I don't have one!

But there are some photos of an awesome gift a friend sent me :) I'll call her J. Maybe if we gang up on her, she'll pass around a recipe for one of these:

You're looking at what I found on my doorstep a few days ago - 2 jars of homemade jam: Strawberry Jam and Organic Apricot, Key Lime & Ginger Preserves. She's pretty awesome right? Don't you love her packaging too? Totally simple, but beautiful - I love it and I'm totally stealing her idea (Sorry J!).

I used some of the strawberry jam to make a variation of the ever-popular ___ [insert fruit here] __ crumb bars. I, too, (like Katie) saw them on Smitten Kitchen and was well, smitten :). I changed up the recipe a bit, used strawberry jam instead of fresh blueberries and they were delicious. Seems like you can do pretty much do whatever you like with the recipe and it would hold up well. I burnt the bottom of mine because I was watching the Yankee game and forget about them and they still tasted awesome.

Here is a photo of the J the jam-maker (2nd from right), 2 of our other friends (Hi S & P!) and me (right) at J's wedding a few years ago :)

Thanks J - I love finding packages at my door!