Someone to blame

Growing up as an only child, there was never anyone else to blame when something went wrong or got broken. I always thought it would be neat to have siblings just for the very purpose of being able to say, "it wasn't me!" and actually get by with it. Being an only child or not, I am not to blame today.

I stopped by to visit Kristen over at Dine and Dish today. It was my first time to her blog and I only read a few posts before I headed out for errands and a massage. I ran into the grocery store before I headed home and as I was wheeling down the aisles, this post popped into my mind. Kristen gave a review of Reese's Premier Baking Pieces - miniature Reese cups that are just perfect for baking.

When I was a kid, my grandfather drove a school bus and I would ride his bus home in the afternoons and stay until Mom came to pick me up. There was a little convenience store that we passed just before we crossed the railroad tracks to go into his neighborhood. He would always park the bus in the church parking lot across the street and we would go inside the store where I was allowed to purchase a treat. Sometimes it would be a Creamsicle bar, other times I would pick out a package of trading cards that featured not any sport like baseball or football, but Elvis Presley. Yep, that's right and the pack also contained a stick of gum to boot. Most times, though, my treat was a package of Reese Cups. I wouldn't eat those right away like the Creamsicle or the gum, but instead I would take the package to my grandparents' house and put it in the refrigerator and let it get nice and cold and then eat it. I haven't had an ice cold Reese Cup in a long, long time.

I honestly didn't figure that I'd find these little morsels in my baking aisle, being a new product and all. Usually we don't see anything close to a new product in these parts until it has become nearly extinct. But surprise! surprise! there they were. So, Kristen, I blame YOU for the fact that these found their way into my shopping cart. And I blame YOU for the fact that I came home and baked them. And who is to blame except YOU that I have eaten entirely too many of them tonight. But I do thank you for helping me to remember those old school bus/grandpa days!

Like Kristen, I followed the baking directions on the back of the package but instead of dropping by teaspoons per the directions, I used a scoop and my cookies were a bit bigger and took more like 19 minutes to bake and I only got 2 dozen instead of the 3-1/2 dozen that it says you'll get. But click here and look at the difference between my cookies and Kristen's. While her mini Reese's are standing out of the cookie dough all proud like, mine are smothered in cookie dough. What's up with that? Hop on over to
Dine and Dish and check out the recipe.

Now, here's a funny story to end my post.....the weather was really nice today so I thought I'd practice my (lack of)photography skills by snapping a few pics of my freshly baked treats in natural light. I was munching on a cookie when I went outside to clean some fallen leaves and afternoon mail off the picnic table. I had just been outside a little earlier eating lunch and visiting with my fur kids Jesse James and Savory. Brown Dog was also visiting. Although Brown Dog belongs to someone else in the neighborhood, he spends alot of time at our house. I don't think anybody loves B.D. at his own house. I'm quite sure that Brown Dog isn't his real name, but since he wears no collar or ID tags, he is stuck with the name. I think it's fitting, don't you? Anyway, I laid my cookie on the table while I was cleaning up and here's what I came back to....

Brown Dog The Cookie Thief has snatched my cookie and wasn't givig it back! I thought better of taking the entire plate out for a photography lesson. He knows a good thing when he sees it!

Enjoy and thanks again, Kristen!

Breakfast Served All Day Long

I've never really been a huge fan of breakfast foods. In my opinion, the perfect breakfast is served not before 10am and consists of a freshly baked muffin and fresh fruit. Sure, I've been known to eat a pancake or two, maybe a waffle every now and again but it seems like after I eat such items I'm hungry within an hour and I stay hungry all day no matter what I eat.

When I first started my catering business, my menu was loaded with my personal favorites - things that I like to cook and things that I like to eat. One day, while visiting and helping out in the kitchen, my mother asked why I didn't make a particular dish and I answered that it was because I didn't like it. "Just because you don't like it doesn't mean that nobody else does either," she said. The opposite of that statement rang true after I submitted my first quote for an upscale dinner party. The client commented that I must own a goat farm because almost every item on the menu had goat cheese incorporated into it. I lurve me some goat cheese...heart, heart. The client, however, wasn't too fond of it. Lesson mother is always right.

So I decided to focus and expand upon my breakfast catering offerings. We offer your basic breakfast biscuits, burritos, fruit, and muffins. I have an egg casserole and a hashbrown casserole, but I wanted to filter in another selection or two. I've had this recipe in my computer file for a really long time so this week I blew the dust off the hard drive, printed it out, and went to it. I automatically assumed that I wouldn't like it, but tried to approach it with an open research-and-development state of mind. I don't think this is something that I could spring out of bed and devour, but since Captain Sturm and I ate it for dinner with a green salad, it stood a better chance of impressing me.

The recipe met my basic catering criteria of needing to be easy to assemble, using versatile ingredients, and nice presentation of finished product. And I will admit that it also passed the taste test. I'll post the recipe as it was written and then tell you what ingredients that I used....

Savory Bread Pudding

Here's a "master" recipe for a dish that can be made for breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper. You can invent any combination of ingredients for the filling, according to your taste, or according to what leftovers you have in the refrigerator (or choose from the ones listed). Make it simple or complex, homey or elegant. The best part is that the whole thing can be assembled the day before, and refrigerated until you're ready to bake it.
Makes a 2 quart casserole or a 9x13 baking dish, or eight individual (8 ounce) baking dishes

The Bread:
12 thick slices (about 3/4-inch thick)
crust may be on or trimmed off - as you prefer
any interesting bread will do: egg, sourdough, olive, wheat, etc.
Bread should be slightly stale OR may be sliced and baked at 300 degrees until lightly browned - about 15 minutes - to oven-dry

The Custard:
3 cups, milk (or cream or sour cream or creme fraiche - or combination)
6 whole (large) eggs OR 3 whole eggs and 6 egg yolks
Salt, pepper
Fresh or dried herbs
Pinch nutmeg (if cheese is used in filling)
1 T. Dijon mustard - if desired
OPTIONAL: an additional 1/4-1/2 cup liquid such as wine or flavorful broth - which compliments the recipe

The Filling:
Choose any combination of the following (or other) filling ingredients
Onions: up to 2 cups, thin sliced or chopped, sauteed until soft
Garlic: up to 4 cloves, sauteed with onions (or may be roasted)
Mushrooms: up to 1 1/2 pounds, sliced and sauteed
Cheese: up to 1 pound, grated, may be mixture of more than one kind
Bacon: up to 8 slices, cooked and crumbled
Ham or cooked sausage: up to 1 1/2 pounds, sliced or chopped, OR corned beef, pastrami, cooked seafood, cooked poultry or meat

The Method:
Generously butter a 2-quart ovenproof casserole, or a 9x13 baking dish, or 8 individual oven-proof dishes.
Slice the bread into thick (about 3/4") slices. (If oven drying, place slices on a cookie sheet, in a 300 degree oven until lightly browned, and allow to cool.)
Butter the bread slices on one side, and cut each into 4 quarters.
Arrange half the bread in the bottom of the baking dish.
Sprinkle one half of the filling ingredients of your choice over the bread.

Arrange the remaining bread over the first half of the filling ingredients, then top with the remaining filling ingredients. (Note: If you are using cheese, end the layering with a cheese layer, for attractive presentation.)
Whisk the custard ingredients together in a mixing bowl, and pour custard mixture over the bread and filling layers in the baking dish. Allow to stand for at least 30 minutes to allow custard to soak into the bread.
NOTE: Mixture may be baked immediately (after 30 minutes standing), or may be refrigerated for several hours or overnight before baking.
Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes (10 minutes less for individual baking dishes) or until puffed and golden (a knife, inserted near the center of the casserole should come out clean).
Allow the finished casserole to stand for 15-20 minutes before serving.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve hot, or at room temperature.

Whew! That's a long recipe, isn't it? Don't let it scare you because it's not as complicated as it looks. Here's what I did....I cleaned out the refrigerator and tossed it all into this casserole and baked it. Really. I had some white bread and some wheat bread that I oven dried. Then, I uncovered some plain yogurt lurking on a shelf and tossed it in with the custard ingredients. My filling was composed of bacon, ham, onions, garlic and a combination of cheddar, Parmesan, and smoked maple flavored white cheddar cheese. It sat at room temp for about 40 minutes and although my photo is less than pretty, it baked up beautifully. Add it to your breakfast, brunch, or dinner repertoire and you won't be disappointed!

Party for 200 in 48 hours?? No problem!

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been running the "No Day Off Anytime Soon" marathon at work. After returning from my convention, I made some personnel changes in the kitchen and I've been making my presence known by spending quite a bit of time in there myself. A little fine-tuning of the remaining staff and we'll be running smoothly once again.

A client waltzed into my office this past Thursday interested in a cocktail party for 200 people. "We'd love to help!" I told her, "what date are you interested in having your party on?" She very calmly answered "Tuesday." I politely picked myself up off the floor and regained my composure. If she could be so calm as to try and pull off a party for 200 within 2 business days, so could I. I am, after all, in the business of catering, aren't I? Since I just returned from an intense 3 day bombardment of fresh and new catering concepts, I really wanted to try and sell some of my new ideas but I knew better. I had to make arrangements for an extra food delivery, find staff, clean serving trays, and Lord only knows what else! "Stick to what you know," I told myself and I sold her on twelve of our most popular appetizers. Her menu was as follows....

Stationary hors d’oeuvres displayed on silver trays and garnished with fresh flowers

Smoked salmon spread served with Bella Cucina crackers
Endive leaves stuffed with crab salad
Bleu cheese and walnut dip served with fresh vegetable crudite
Hot spinach and artichoke dip served with pita chips

Cream cheese and bacon stuffed mushroom caps
Domestic and imported cheese board
Fresh asparagus spears encased in proscuitto
Baguette slices topped with roasted eggplant, red pepper and mozzarella

Marinated pork tenderloin medallions served on freshly baked dollar rolls
Mini croissants filled with shrimp salad
Shaved roast beef with horseradish cream sauce served on Parmesan crisps
Parmesan crusted chicken tenders served with honey dijon dipping sauce

The food was ordered, the staff was in place, and we successfully delivered the food on time. No problems...I am in the business, after all! We picked up our trays today and received alot of compliments. I'll leave you with a couple of recipes of my personal favorites from this menu....

* Exported from MasterCook *

Crab Salad on Endive

Recipe By : "Party Appetizers"
Serving Size : 12 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Appetizers Seafood

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 heads Belgian endive
6 ounces best quality crabmeat
1 tender inner celery stalk -- finely diced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
radicchio leaves or chives

Trim the base off the endives and separate the heads into leaves; rinse the leaves and pat dry. In a small bowl, mix the crabmeat, celery, mayo, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. Spoon the crab mixture onto the bottom 3rd of each endive leaf (about a heaping teaspoon for each). Nestle the leaves inside the larger radicchio leaves, or criss-cross two 1" pieces of chive over the crab.

With the time crunch, we weren't able to find decent looking radiccho, but I think it looks great nonetheless. I love to add fresh dill to this recipe in place of the chives.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Party Pork Tenderloins

Recipe By : "Celebrate!"
Serving Size : 24 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Appetizers Pork

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
5 each pork tenderloin -- about 1 lb each
1 cup sherry vinegar
2/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
8 cloves garlic -- finely minced
2 tablespoons tiny capers, drained plus 2 tbsp. brine
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Wipe the pork tenderloins with damp paper towels and place them in two large bowls or plastic containers. Combine all the marinade ingredients with 1 cup water in a bowl and pour it over the tenderloins. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Transfer the tenderloins to a colander, wipe them clean of any marinade pieces, and let them drain for 15 minutes. Then pat them dry with paper towels. Strain the marinade, reserving 2 cups of the liquid. Preheat oven to 400. Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in each of two large nonstick skillets over medium high heat. Sear the tenderloins well all over, in batches, if necessary, turning the meat as it browns. It will take about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer the pork to two 15x10 inch shallow roasting pans (2 in one pan, 3 in the other) and add 1 cup of the reserved marinade to each pan. Roast the tenderloins until slightly pink in the center, 10 minutes. If you prefer to lose the pinkness,
cook 2 minutes more). Place the tenderloins on a cutting board and let them rest for 10-20 minutes. They will continue to cook as they rest. Cut the tenderloins into 1/2" slices and arrange them on a large round platter, overlapping the slices slightly.

I think these tenderloins are more eye appealing when sliced and fanned out on a serving tray as the recipe indicates with the dollar rolls served in a basket and little ramekins of romanesco sauce or various flavors of mustard & mayo, but our client wanted the sandwiches pre-assembled. I prep a smaller version of this recipe for an entree alot of times too. It is delish! Don't let the short roasting time and the pinkness of the finished product scare you. Since it is marinated with vinegar, the meat has a reaction with the acid and actually "cooks" while marinating. Please remember also to only marinate in glass or plastic when using an acid based marinade. Enjoy!!

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