Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Indian Night

This is what we ate at Smash's new house with her new man:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Right Stuff

I don't bake alot. It's something I find easy and therapeutic and homey and wonderful, but because of the extra calories it inevitably brings into my diet, I just don't do it. Even as a mom, I think that for the past three years you could count on two hands the number of times I've made sweet treats.

That is until this little bottle of happiness was given to me a few weeks ago.

Enter: Vanailla Mexicana
Ever since this bottle of happiness found its way into my life, I can't stop baking. (because, really, where else do you use vanilla??) I've made frosting, maple syrup, french toast, banana bread, and countless batches of cookies. And I can't seem to stop. As a result, I'm going through eggs and butter at a rate I've only ever experienced at my mother's house!

My latest success was a batch of sugar cookies with homemade chocolate frosting. The cookies are in the shapes of little cellos, made with love by yours truly for a party with students last week. (Yes this vanilla has caused me to loose my sanity: I chose to bake 50+ cookies by hand rather than just buy some from the store. Never mind the convenience of store-bought cookies; think of the flavor you sacrifice when you choose them over those containing Vanailla Mexicana!!)

The cookies turned out nicely, but the frosting, oh! the chocolate frosting! The recipe I use doesn't call for any vanilla, but because my little Mexican friend was in the cupboard, I decided to just add a splash, and now I'll never go back. Neither will you.

Bon Appetit

Chocolate Frosting with a Twist
Beat 2 cubes of butter with 5 tablespoons of milk. Add enough powdered sugar till you reach desired frosting consistency. (it'll be a lot!) Toss in a couple spoonfuls of cocoa (more if you're Meili) and a splash of vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
May be stored in freezer for future use.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

7 Babes & 7 Appetites

L-R: Meili. Emily. Brittany. Nikki. Brooke. Vanessa.
Ashley joined us later.

This month, we gathered at my (Meili's) house for a lovely dinner a la Babes. As the host, I declared the theme of the meal to be inspired by The Pioneer Woman and Tasty Kitchen. After all, Ree Drummond and I are BFFs, as evidenced in this photograph taken at her cookbook signing at The King's English Book Shop in SLC in November. Yes, we had a sparkling moment of intimate conversation wherein I told her how I accidentally borrowed her pet name for her kids ("punks") for my own little man, and she commented on the uniqueness of my name.

Anywhoo, the main dish was a scrumptious little ditty I found on Tasty Kitchen. The recipe is called Scallops 'N Pasta, but I used shrimp instead. It was my first time cooking shrimp. EVER! And I must say, it turned out quite tasty.

See that lovely pink beverage? Brooke contributed this tart/sweet grapefruit concoction.

Brittany made these sweet, gooey, cinnamony, yummy apple fritters.

Nikki brought delicious zucchini cakes, which we paired with ranch dressing.

Ashley walked in the door with this tray of salty, peppery, crisp-tender asparagus. It did not last long. I ate about half of these babies myself.

And for dessert, Emily (Ashley's guest and our new friend) presented this yummy strawberry pie with graham cracker crust and hidden chocolate chips!

As we discussed our experiences making these luscious dishes, we discovered that the theme of the night was patting the food dry. I had to pat the shrimp dry in order for it to sear properly. Ashley patted the asparagus dry before grilling it. Nikki squeezed the zucchini juices through a towel. Thanks to the Pioneer Woman, we all learned how to properly pat and squeeze and otherwise remove moisture.

Then, after that thrilling discussion, the real conversation began. I won't go into details because what happens at the Babes' table stays there. And really. You don't want to know.

Pasta and Shrimp
  • 4 ounces pasta [Meili's note: I used bowtie pasta]
  • Jumbo Shrimp
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1 clove Garlic, Finely Diced
  • 1 whole Tomato, Chopped
  • 1 cup Vegetable Stock
  • 1 sprig Parsley, Finely Minced
  • Just A Bit Of Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • Salt And Pepper

Cook the pasta in salted water per the instructions on the box. [Meili's note: do not overcook the pasta like I did.] Drain and set aside.

In the meantime, prep all the ingredients and have them at the ready nearby. For the shrimp, use a couple of layers of paper towels and pat very dry. Move the shrimp to a clean sheet of paper towel and pat dry once more. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat a large frying pan or saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in the olive oil. Add the shrimp to the pan, not touching. Give each shrimp ample room so that they can sear properly. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes without touching then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes until cooked through. Remove to a plate.

Turn the heat to low. Add the butter and the garlic. Saute for just 10 seconds and then add the tomatoes.

Turn the heat to high and add in the vegetable stock. Let it bubble a bit for 30 seconds and use your spatula to scrape up the bits in the pan. Season with salt and pepper (go light on the salt … remember your pasta is lightly salted now), throw in the parsley and then add in your cooked pasta. Stir well to let the sauce coat the pasta. Serve with the shrimp.

[Meili's note: I quadrupled this recipe to serve 8, but only used 2 C veggie stock instead of 4, which was plenty.]

Pink Ladies

24 oz. Cranberry Juice
24 oz. Grapefruit Juice
16 oz. Peach Nectar
Maraschino Cherries (garnish)

Apple Fritters
  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 3/4 C whole milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 2 whole granny smith apples, peeled and diced
  • powdered sugar (optional, for dusting)
  • glaze (optional)
  • 1 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 C milk

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with a fork, then add milk, melted butter, and vanilla.

Gently fold dry and wet ingredients together until just combined (do not overmix.) Fold in apples. Add enough apples to make a very chunky batter. You want the apples to shine though!

Heat a couple of inches of canola oil over medium to medium-low heat. When it gets hot, drop a little drop of batter into the oil. If it sizzles immediately and rises to the top, the oil is ready; if it burns quickly, turn down the heat.

Drop teaspoons of batter into the hot oil, six or eight at a time. Sometimes they’ll flip over by themselves; sometimes you have to flip them. Just watch them and make sure they don’t get too brown, but cook them long enough to make sure the batter’s cooked through, about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes total.

Remove and drain on a paper towel. Dust very generously with powdered sugar, or dip fritters in a light doughnut glaze (mix all glaze ingredients together, then dunk warm fritters).

Serve warm!

May be heated up the next day in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes.

Zucchini Cakes
  • 1 whole large zucchini
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1/2-3/4 C breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 C 4 cheese Italian blend
  • 2 whole eggs
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • olive oil
Wash and cut the end off of one large zucchini. Shred it using the large holes of a cheese grater. Squeeze the shredded zucchini inside of a clean towel until you've removed as much liquid as possible.

Place shredded zucchini into a medium bowl. Add minced garlic, breadcrumbs, cheese (shredded), eggs, salt, and pepper. Stir with a fork until well mixed.

Heat olive oil (about 1/4 inch deep in bottom of skillet) to a medium heat. When the oil is hot enough, drop a glob of zucchini batter into the skillet and flatten it a bit. After about two minutes, turn the cakes over (they should be golden-brown) and cook on the other side until done (about 2-3 minutes).

Serve with the dipping sauce of your choice and enjoy.

Recipes for the asparagus and the pie coming soon...