Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas eats

Christmas eve dinner
Bread bowls, using Peter Reinhart's hoagie recipe from ABED (best bread bowls ever!) with creamy chicken-wild rice soup

Fresh fruit, green salad, and homemade personalized Christmas ornaments for name plates :)

Christmas morning
BBA cinnamon rolls and a sausage-cheese-egg bake
(based off of this one, halved and baked in an 8x8 casserole dish)

Christmas snack
Hot cocoa (made from this mix) with marshmallows and almond tea bread (made by my dad)

Christmas dinner
Ham from the co-op (made from this CI recipe), au gratin potatoes (made with gold potatoes and half cheddar, half gruyere), broccoli slaw, honey wheat dinner rolls, homemade applesauce, sugared cranberries, and pumpkin custard made by the kiddos for dessert (pumpkin pie without the crust, baked in ramekins)

Hope those who celebrate it had a very Merry Christmas...and Happy New Year to everyone!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Christmas toy

Hubby surprised me with a pasta press this Christmas. Apparently last year during our first unprocessed month, I was bemoaning the fact that, although I'd gotten pretty good at making fresh pasta, I still had to buy elbows for mac-n-cheese and tuna salad and rotini or fusilli for other pasta salads and casseroles.

I hadn't really thought about it much - when I made mac-n-cheese, I just used fettuccini...a little unconventional but just as tasty.

But apparently after hearing me complain a few times, my wonderful hubby jumped online, ordered me the pasta press for my stand mixer, and it's been sitting in the closet of our guest bedroom ever since.

Last night, I mixed up my normal pasta dough (3 eggs and 8.5 ounces of white whole wheat flour) and tried it out. We tested out both the rotini and fusilli plates.

The dough was a little too dry, I think,and the fusilli didn't curl, but we figured it out. We served the pasta with some sauce we received from one of hubby's coworkers for Christmas, and along with some leftover broccoli slaw and Christmas ham, it made quite an easy and delicious dinner!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

First catering job :)

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine from work asked me if I ever catered parties. I thought she was just making conversation. "Well, no, except for my brother's rehearsal dinner last year."

"Would you want to?"

She asked me if I would be interested in handling the food for a bachelorette party she was throwing for another coworker. I put the date in my calendar, said I would for sure at least help if not cook everything myself, and promptly put it out of my mind until Thanksgiving was over.

Suddenly Thanksgiving was over, we were swamped with parent-teacher conferences, dance class, and various pre-holiday social engagements, and it was time for the party! Eek!

My hostess friend has absolutely no interest in or knowledge about food/feeding large groups, so she told me that the bride-to-be likes brie, teriyaki wings, and these special chocolate nut goodie bars from a local grocery store. She'd handle picking up the alcohol and nut goodie bars; the rest was up to me. Twenty guests, five o'clock on a Saturday.

I decided we needed another dessert (after all, some silly people don't like chocolate!), which ended up being a good thing because the store only had one small tray of bars. I made mini strawberry swirl cheesecakes, based off of this recipe from Annie's Eats. I replaced the raspberries with strawberries in the puree and baked the cheesecakes in my mini muffin tin in little foil papers. (The minis baked for about 18 minutes.) I was a little disappointed that the cheesecakes sank slightly in the middle after they cooled, but they were still pretty cute and very delicious. Definitely a recipe to make again.

For our "main dishes," I used this recipe from Tracey for crockpot teriyaki chicken wings. I upped the wings to four pounds, but was still surprised by how few there were. I would double the recipe for a large party next time. I didn't get a report on how these turned out, but the crockpot came back empty.

I also made these turkey-spinach-boursin roll up sandwiches. I first made this recipe for a baby shower, and have made them for several road trips. They are delicious and so easy to eat. Apparently they were a hit and completely disappeared.

Because you never want to run out of food, I whipped up an easy cold pasta salad to fill things out: a pound of pasta, eight ounces of fresh mozzarella, a package of halved grape tomatoes, sliced basil, sliced black olives, and a simple vinaigrette.

For the brie, I made a golden raisin compote from Cooking Light. I didn't have time to try it, but one of the party guests said it was so good, she could've licked it out of the bowl. :) I made six baguette using Peter Reinhart's pain a l'ancienne recipe from Artisan Breads Everyday - always a winner.

Finally (although maybe they should've gone first), I made two dips: my favorite red pepper hummus and a black bean hummus (not an attractive color, by the way!). I served the dips with sliced bell peppers, carrot sticks, and pita chips. And I added some grapes because a meal isn't complete without a little fruit.

Hubby drove me to the hotel and was my faithful assistant, helping me set up. Apparently the party was a smashing success; as for us, we went Christmas shopping for the kiddos.

I'd agreed to do this catering job to help out a friend, because it sounded like fun, but mostly, just to see if I could do it...and I did! :)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Homemade nearly-instant peanut brittle

Let me be clear: this recipe is not even close to unprocessed, calling for a huge amount of both sugar and corn syrup. Nevertheless, totally worth making.

We recently read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to the kiddos, which of course led to a search for a description and then a recipe for Turkish delight. In my search, I stumbled on this NYT article on microwaving holiday candy, which included recipes for Turkish delight, pralines, and peanut brittle.

This afternoon, I was craving a sweet-salty snack and remembered the peanut brittle recipe. So easy, so yummy.

I made a half batch: a cup of peanuts, a cup of sugar, a half cup of corn syrup, 1/4 teaspoon salt, a tablespoon of butter, and 3/8 cup water. Microwaved for 5 minutes, stirred, microwaved for 5 minutes, stirred, and microwaved for 1 more minute. Added 1/2 teaspoon each of vanilla and baking soda, stirred it, and spread on a foil-lined baking sheet.

The whole thing made and cooled while doing the dishes. And hubby declared it the best peanut brittle he'd ever tasted. Try it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Homemade ranch dressing

I have a fairly easy time when it comes to salad dressings during our unprocessed months. I'm easy to please with good ol' oil and vinegar.

The winters are hard for me, though; when it's cold, I crave soup, chili, stew...I have a really hard time eating salads. Of course, especially after indulging in a meal like Thanksgivinukkah, salads are especially important!

The one dressing that can make me eat a salad even in the winter is ranch; I love the stuff in the green and white bottle. Look at the ingredient list, though, and it hardly counts as unprocessed. (Although Unprocessed October is officially over, we have been trying to stick to most of rules.)

I found a lot of recipes online that claimed to taste "just like the real thing - or even better!" but couldn't find one that sounded just right. So I looked at what we had...thought about what we liked...and came up with this recipe.

Abby's ranch :)

1/2 c mayo
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 c homemade kefir
1 tsp dill
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic flakes
1/2 tsp onion flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Whirl it all up in a blender! (Still loving my Vitamix.) :)

Many of the recipes I saw called for fresh chives, so I may try adding them next time, but this dressing was pretty perfect as-is.