Thursday, December 27, 2007

Flood of Food

Flood of Food. What does that mean, you might ask. Well, it pretty much sums up the amazing, wonderful, beautiful, fun, and delicious bridal shower hosted by the lovely Teri. (A flood is more than a shower--get it?) Yes, her house looked like it had been plucked from the pages of Southern Living/Martha Stewart/Better Homes and Gardens, and yes, everyone who braved the wintry weather was treated to the majestic beauty (a bit much?) of the snow falling outside. Of course, sparkling conversation was had amongst friends and family (who all happened to be wearing paper crowns)...despite the strange ritual of watching me open gifts.

But that's not the point of this post. It's all about the food. Teri so graciously shared the yummy recipes from the food she served, and I feel it is my duty to pass along this valuable information. So, if you want to re-create the shower in your own kitchen, whether or not you were there for the live show, enjoy!

Mushroom Turnovers
Prep: 30 min., Chill: 1 hr., Cook: 15 min., Bake: 20 min.

1 ½ (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Combine first 3 ingredients. Shape dough into a ball; cover and chill 1 hour.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion, and sauté 12 minutes or until onion is golden. Stir in chopped mushrooms, and sauté 3 minutes. Stir in thyme, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour evenly over mushroom mixture. Stir in sour cream and sherry. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Pat or roll chilled dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 3-inch round cutter.
Spoon 1 teaspoon mushroom mixture on half of each dough circle, fold dough over filling. Press edges together with a fork to seal. Place turnovers on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned; brush tops evenly with melted butter.

Note: To make ahead, place uncooked turnovers in a single layer on baking sheets, and freeze. Transfer frozen turnovers to large zip-top plastic freezer bags, seal and freeze up to 1 month. Place frozen turnovers on ungreased baking sheets. Bake as directed.

Yield: Makes 3 ½ dozen appetizer servings

Southern Living, DECEMBER 2005

Pear, Hazelnut, and Blue Cheese Salad
To keep pears looking fresh once you’ve sliced them, dip slices in lemon water (1/4 cup water plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice).

1 cup whole hazelnuts in the skins
8 cups mixed salad greens (such as red leaf, green leaf, Bibb)
2 ripe red Bartlett pears, unpeeled and thinly sliced
2 ripe green pears such as Anjou, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 (4-ounce) package blue cheese, crumbled
Raspberry Vinaigrette
Freshly ground pepper (optional)

Place hazelnuts in an ungreased 15” x 10” x 1” jellyroll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until skins begin to split. Transfer hot nuts to a colander, and cover with a kitchen towel. Rub nuts briskly with towel to remove skins; chop nuts.
Combine salad greens, sliced pears, hazelnuts, and blue cheese in a large bowl; toss gently. Pour Raspberry Vinaigrette over salad just before serving; toss gently. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, if desired. Yield: 8 servings.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a jar; cover tightly, and shake vigorously. Cover and chill thoroughly.
Yield: ¾ cup.

Holiday Mix

In a bowl, combine equal amounts (begin with 1 cup each) pistachio nuts, honey-roasted peanuts, dried tart red cherries and/or dried cranberries. Break up white chocolate bars [or coconut bars] and add to mixture. (Use a 3-ounce bar for every 3 cups of mixture.) To wrap, place mixture in silver foil muffin cups with paper liners. Wrap in clear plastic wrap; secure top with string.

Better Homes and Gardens, DECEMBER 2005

Cranberry Tapenade
Purchased sweet potato chips make sturdy dippers for this festive red relish.

1 small sweet potato (about 6 ounces)
1 small navel orange, unpeeled and quartered
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup sugar
2 jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
½ cup chopped pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Sweet potato chips
Garnishes: additional cranberries, fresh cilantro sprigs

Cook sweet potato in a small amount of boiling water just until barely tender. Drain and cool completely. Peel and finely dice sweet potato; set aside.
Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add orange quarters. Process until coarsely chopped, stopping once to scrape down sides. Add 2 cups cranberries, sugar, and jalapeño pepper; pulse 2 or more times until mixture is finely chopped.
Transfer mixture to a bowl; stir in reserved sweet potato, pecans, and next 3 ingredients. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Serve with sweet potato chips. Garnish, if desired. Yield: 2 ¼ cups.

Chicken Salad
Serves 4-6

3 chicken breasts (thoroughly cooked and cooled, either grilled, boiled, or roasted—or purchased as rotisserie chicken from Costco—and cut into small pieces)
½ cup real mayo
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt (Lowery’s)
¼ to ½ cup chopped celery
¾ cup red or green grapes (halved)
Other optional additions: slivered almonds, water chestnuts, or pineapple tidbits

Chill before serving.

Poppy Seed Bread

Prepare pans by spraying with release spray (Pam)

3 cups flour (all purpose)
2 ½ cups white sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 ½ cups milk
1 1/8 cups oil (canola, but olive oil is OK too)
1 ½ Tbsp. poppy seeds (usually use 2 Tbsp.)
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
1 ½ butter flavoring

Mix all ingredients together; beat for 2 minutes. Yield: 2 large, 4 medium, or 10 tiny loaves. These can also be made into muffins or mini-muffins. Bake approximately 1 hour at 350 degrees or until toothpick comes out clean. Adjust baking time down for smaller sizes, 20 to 25 minutes for muffins. When done, turn out on cooling rack. Pour glaze over top or roll tiny loaves in glaze. Mom’s note: it makes for easy clean up if you put the racks on top of newspapers to catch all the drips.

Glaze for poppy seed bread:
¾ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup orange juice
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp. butter flavoring

You can make the glaze thinner or thicker, your preference. Don’t be tempted to skimp on any of the extracts; they really make the flavors perfect!

Peanut Clusters
Preparation time: 5 minutes;
Cooking time: 6 minutes; Chilling time: 30 minutes

8 (2-ounce) vanilla candy coating squares, cut up
2 2/3 cups (16 ounces) milk chocolate morsels
1 pound salted Spanish peanuts

Melt candy coating and chocolate morsels in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly
Remove from heat; stir in peanuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto wax paper-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm. from heat; stir in peanuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto wax paper-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm.
Yield: 4 dozen.

Note: If desired, microwave candy coating and morsels in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 2 to 3 minutes or until chocolate melts, stirring twice.

Betty Moore
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Carrie’s Holiday Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup flour
½ teas. baking soda
¼ teas. salt
1 cup (soft) butter
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon orange zest
3 cups “quick” oatmeal (one cup at a time)
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Oven temp.: 350 degrees Time: 10 minutes

Mix flour, b. soda and salt together. Cream butter and sugars till creamy. Beat in eggs, vanilla, orange zest. Beat in flour, cho. Chips and cranberries. Bake 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes—on ungreased cookie sheet.

Gilchrist’s Department Store Macaroons Cookie Recipe

1/3 C. flour
2 ½ C. shredded coconut
1/8 t. salt
2/3 C. sweetened condensed milk
1 t. vanilla extract
Maraschino cherries, as needed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, coconut and salt. Stir in the condensed milk and vanilla. Stir well to make a thick batter.
Drop by tablespoons onto the cookie sheet. Top each cookie with half a cherry. Bake until golden brown.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Note: Drain the cherries on a paper towel so the juice doesn’t “dye” the coconut part.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wife Test #1

Perhaps you really do lose all your wisdom when those pesky teeth get pulled. I say this tongue in cheek considering I had my wisdom teeth extracted a couple of years ago, but I think I have some pretty convincing evidence. Jon had three of his wisdom teeth pulled last week. Let me just say that you don't really know a person until you've seen him on pain medication. (I've heard that the "happy drugs" may drive a person into singing James Brown's "I Feel Good"--just a story I've been told...) I thought I was prepared to play Nurse Kristin. I'd gone to the store and purchased Jell-O ('red' flavored, of course), two kinds of pudding, yogurt, potatoes for mashing, and Tillamook (local brand from Oregon) cookies 'n cream ice cream. Since I'd gone through the whole thing myself, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for. I had two bags of frozen peas waiting in the freezer to serve as ice packs to reduce swelling, and I covered the pillow cases with old towels in case of drooling. What I was not expecting was how hilarious Jon was for the first hour or so after the procedure. But allow me to digress... We had a big dinner the night before the surgery since Jon wasn't able to eat anything for twelve hours. That means no coffee...which is pretty rough for a boy from Seattle. I ate breakfast in secret so as not to tempt Jon and off we went to the hospital. We got there in plenty of wait. But once they called his name, the process went incredibly fast. I barely had time to run down to the pharmacy (that's a story in itself) before the nurse came out to explain Jon's post-operative care. I should have known I was in for a good time when she said, "Since the procedure went so quickly, he's still a little loopy." A little loopy?!? That's the understatement of the year. My first glimpse of wisdom-less Jon was of him sitting in a wheelchair frantically waving for me to come pick him up. He then stood up unsteadily and did a little jig. (Actually it was pretty similar to the way he usually dances, so I guess that had nothing to do with the drugs.) Did I detect a little sarcasm from the patient escort when she said, "Good luck!" I must be incredibly insensitive because I basically laughed at him the entire ride home. I couldn't help it. With all the gauze in his mouth he was almost impossible to understand. It was like he was holding on to his tongue while trying to talk (I bet some of you are attempting that right now). To top it off, the oral surgeon had attached three-foot long strings to each piece of gauze (to make them easier to remove) so that he looked like he was in the middle of swallowing a ball of twine. But the funniest part of it all was what he was trying to say. He was certainly in no pain and was completely starving. In fact, he wanted to know when he "could eat pwime wib [prime rib]." And he was simply fascinated by the strings...even asking if he had a certain feminine hygiene product in his mouth. He couldn't figure out why I wanted him to get into pajamas and crawl into bed and insisted on picking out a movie to watch. It was about this point that the drugs caught up with him. He maybe saw the opening credits of the movie, but that's really about it. He slept the entire afternoon and spent the rest of the day devouring all the soft foods he could find and holding packages of frozen peas on his cheeks so he wouldn't get that tell-tale wisdom tooth chipmunk look. And for all intents and purposes, there ends our story. In Jon's defense, he remembers none of this. As far as his teeth--or lack thereof--he's had no major problems so far. Except for a giant gaping hole that he keeps getting food stuck in. All that being said, I truly admire all of you in the medical field. I saw some pretty gross stuff when Jon was rinsing out his mouth that first day (the "honeymoon period" ended right then and there). And it was nothing compared to what doctors and nurses see on a daily basis. It's not that I get squeamish around blood or anything--it's just not that pleasant. Just another sign that I'm not ready to be responsible for another human being any time soon... You might be thinking that I'm throwing Jon under the bus a little bit here. But he's had his chance to write a post, and he hasn't. Besides, I haven't really done anything silly (with the exception of almost melting the plastic pepper shaker on the stove and not knowing how to work the blinds). Yet.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Gender "Rolls"

About a week ago, I realized that Jon and I are fulfilling just about every gender stereotype there is pertaining to married couples. (Never mind that this thought occurred to me moments after shouting obscenities at the Nebraska football game I was watching--a traditionally male activity.) I had just finished doing the dishes after putting another load of laundry in the dryer and was about to ask Jon to take out the trash when I froze.


"Yes, dear?" asked my husband coming into the kitchen wielding one of his many power tools.

"We are following every gender stereotype for husbands and wives!"

With a huff, I spun on my heel and took the trash out myself, feeling as though I had acted in the name of gender equality. What I had really done to myself was increase my own workload.

I'm pretty sure that Jon laughed at me a little before revving up his power drill again, but I did notice that he made a concerted effort to help fold clothes and clear the table later on that day.

We really do split most of the chores, so I'm not complaining. It's just that modern society tells us that there is no longer any such thing as 'men's work' or 'women's work.' I'm not truly a feminist, but my feathers do get ruffled when I hear that a 'woman's place is in the kitchen' or that there are certain things I can't or shouldn't do because I'm a girl (which thankfully does not happen very often).

However, the stereotypes persist. And they are stereotypes for a reason. For example, I cannot fix things, plain and simple, and frankly, I don't really want to. (Luckily Jon is pretty handy; it must be all the engineering training.) Like I tell Mom, "I can't be good at everything." But I can bake a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies and make crescent rolls from scratch. I like having a clean house and I'm really good at remembering birthdays and writing thank you notes (among other things--such as showing off my new mixer).

I know one (of the many) big pushes in education is to promote math and science courses for girls. I think it's a great idea...but honestly, I always enjoyed English and social studies the best (and PE, of course). Taking a quick inventory of my closest girlfriends and female relatives, I immediately notice that an overwhelming majority of them are teachers and nurses, two predominantly feminine professions.

And that's okay.

It's great, really, because that's where our strengths and interests lie. I guess the real question isn't why Jon and I fall under society's stereotypical roles for married couples. It's why should modern society make us feel bad for doing so.

Those are some deep concepts to chew on. In the meantime, I think I'll keep baking...