International Chef Spotlight Dinner & Round Up!

Every month I host a Chef Spotlight dinner with friends and is dedicated to the many chefs who have shaped our culture and our palates. In these “Chef Spotlight Dinners” a specific chef or group of chefs are highlighted where attendees prepare a recipe created by the chef(s) and bring it to share potluck style. During the event, we can discuss our thoughts on the chef, their cooking style/cuisine and the recipes prepared.

Everyone’s view on food is different, based on one’s exposure, cultural background, environment, etc. This month, we prepared dishes of non-US chefs who are known worldwide for their culinary creations. Below are the dishes that graced our table, along with recipes…

Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed w/Chicken Apple Salad
shared at the event by Ruby
recipe courtesy of Robert Irvine

shared at the event by Paulo
recipe courtesy of Paulo & Recipezaar

shared at the event by John
recipe courtesy of Tarla Dalal

shared at the event by Robert
recipe courtesy of Ferran Adria

shared at the event by Teresa
recipe courtesy of Madhur Jaffrey
shared at the event by Laura
recipe courtesy of Jacques Pepin


shared at the event by Shirley
recipe courtesy of Massimo Buttura

Cabbage Rolls
shared at the event by Kevin & Marla

recipe courtesy of Graham Kerr
shared at the event by Yumi
recipe courtesy of Vikas Khanna


Roasted Pepper, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

shared at the event by Howard
recipe courtesy of Chef Bahija, Jnane Tamsna Cooking School

shared at the event by Jen
recipe courtesy of Nigella Lawson


Apple Galette

shared at the event by Joelen
recipe courtesy of Jacques Pepin


shared at the event by Joelen
recipe courtesy of Jacques Pepin


Crab & Mushroom Mac & Cheese
shared at the event by Michael
recipe courtesy of (?)
(awaiting recipe…)

Smoked Salmon Black Bean Tostaditos
shared at the event by Janet
recipe courtesy of Rick Bayless
(awaiting recipe…)

Nigeria Chicken Stew, Plantains & Rice

shared at the event by Tricia
recipe courtesy of her Mom
(awaiting recipe…)


Jess of
Cooking Up Memories

from Wisconsin
Margarita Ice Cream
Too cold for ice cream? Never! Jess shares with us a great recipe for Margarita ice cream courtesy of Nigella Lawson. Check out Jess’s blog for the recipe and try this for your next dinner party!
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Oktoberfest Adventure Round Up!

It’s an Oktoberfest dinner this month with wine & beer! Friends came over tonight for a German inspired dinner in celebration of Oktoberfest. Here’s what we enjoyed (my apologies for some of the bad photos):

Sweet Red German Wine by Carl Reh

German Rieslings

German style lagers

Art & Carol’s Beer Bread

Fondue Fixins:
bread cubes, baby gherkins, picked onions, steamed cauliflower

Unfortunately Not Pictured
…but definitely enjoyed!:
Shirley’s Bean & Corn Salad
Tricia & Barney’s German Stollen Bread
Yumi’s apple harvest


To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted their favorite German inspired recipes! As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Jen of Beantown Baker! Jen has won a some German inspired spices from The Spice House. Congratulations Jen and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the recipes submitted by my fellow bloggers…

Dell of Cooking & the City
from Australia
German Apple Cake
German cuisine is a great one to enjoy during the fall, especially because apples are widely used in German desserts. Dell joins us to share a wonderful German Apple Cake which highlight cinnamon and apples. Check out Dell’s blog for the recipe!
Becke of Columbus Foodie
from Ohio
Sauerbraten & Spaetzle
What German feast would be complete without Sauerbraten? Becke shares this dish and it looks absolutely fabulous. It’s such a comforting dish, perfect with spaetzle and a cold frothy lager. Check out Becke’s blog for the recipe!
Jen of Beantown Baker
from Massachusetts
Crockpot Kielbasa and Kraut
Jen saves time but doesn’t skimp in flavor with her Crockpot Kielbasa & Kraut. Especially with the fall temps, the crockpot comes in handy and with little effort, you could have a wonderful meal like this! Check out Jen’s blog for the recipe!
Carly of Live. Laugh. Grow.
from West Virginia
Pork with Sauerkraut, Apples & Potatoes
Sauerkraut is definitely a must in German cuisine and I’m glad that Carly incorporates it in her recipe of Pork with Sauerkraut, Apples & Potatoes. It’s an amazing combination of sweet and sour which is common in German eats. Check out Carly’s blog for the recipe!
Kelly of Kelly Cooks… and Other Amazing Feats
from Pennsylvania
Laugen Brotchen (Bretzel Rolls)
In an attempt to make a German bread that her husband liked, Kelly found the recipe for Laugen Brotchen, also known as Bretzel Rolls. These look absolutely wonderful and remind me of the rolls served at a great lunch place downtown (Hannah’s Bretzel.) Trader Joes grocery store also have similar rolls, but I’m thankful to have a recipe that I can try at home. For the recipe, check out Kelly’s blog!

Tamale Time!

Today, friends and I got together to make tamales! It was a great day and a lot of fun to sit and talk, while making tamales. Making tamales is usually a very lengthy and time consuming process. Each component of making tamales can be done in advance, which makes it easy when you have friends over to make/assemble them. Prior to everyone coming over, I made the fillings, masa and soaked the corn husks so all that we needed to do was assemble them.

For fillings, I offered several kinds including:
salsa verde, citrus & lime chicken
beef & chorizo
southwestern pork carnitas
carmelized onions & peppers
corn & black bean
authentic & vegetarian refried beans

Some additional ingredients I provided for filling our tamales:
cilantro
green onions
salsa verde
roasted tomato salsa
mexican blend cheese

To go with our tamale lunch, I also made:
Mexican Rice

Tres Leches Flan Cake


Here are some pics of the event and the recipes to follow:

Masa Recipe

1lb lard or 2 sticks butter + 2 sticks margarine
5 cups chicken broth or water
2 lbs corn masa flour
1-2 tablespoons salt

In a stand mixer with your paddle attachment, mix the lard or butter/margarine until fluffy.
Alternate adding the masa flour and chicken broth/water in the stand mixer with the salt.
Continue mixing the mixture until your dough comes together.
To check whether your dough is ready, take about 1/2 a teaspoon of the dough and place it in a cup of cold water. If the dough floats, the dough its ready.

Preparing the Corn Husks

You can find dried corn husks at various stores including some supermarkets or ethnic markets. I picked mine up from an ethnic market and asked the staff for them since its something they don’t always put out. (It helps to know your neighborhood grocery staff too!)

To prepare the corn husks for tamales, you will need to soak them for 30-45 minutes in hot water. I filled up my large 20 qt stock pot with water and heated it up to a boil. I then turned off the heat, placed the husks in the pot until they were fully submerged, topped the husks with a heavy plate (to keep them submerged) and covered the pot. After 30-45 minutes, I pulled the husks out with tongs and placed them in my large roasting pan. This made it easy to bring to the table for folks to use the husks.

Assembling the Tamales

There are so many ways to assemble tamales, but for my event, we kept it simple. To assemble, spread a heaping tablespoon across the widest part of the corn husk. Spread it to a nice thin layer. Down the middle of the masa, place your filling in a line, being careful not to overfill! Take the sides of the tamale and fold it over towards the middle. Fold up the narrow bottom and tie it with a sliver of corn husk. I’m sure if you did a search online, you’ll find so many fun and different ways to package these tasty tamales.

Cooking the Tamales

Now that you have your tamales made, you’ll want to steam them in a large pot with a steamer basket. If you don’t have a large pot with a steamer basket, crumple a large piece of foil into a ball and place in a wok, dutch oven or the largest/deepest pot you have. Place your tamales inside the pot and have it lean against the foil ball, all the way around. Carefully fill the pot with water until you have an inch of water. Cook over high heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, covered. Check the level of the water every so often to make sure it hasn’t completely evaporated. The tamales are done when it peels away from the corn husk easily and the masa turns a slight shade of yellow.

If you need some visuals, here is a link with some step by step pictures and thorough explanations on how to make tamales.

Picnic Perfect Round Up!

After doing a whole year of wine events each month and focusing on both red and white varietals, this month we did a tasting of various white wines. We paired our white wines with picnic fare to round out the summer. Here are pics of the dishes my friends brought to the table along with the wines we tasted throughout the night. (Please forgive the blurry pics… too much wine… lol)




Beet, Walnut & Gorgonzola Salad
shared at the event by Joelen

White Wine Fruit Salad w/Strawberries

shared at the event by Abbie
Brie & Gruyere Cheese Plate w/Pate & Sausage
shared at the event by Joelen
Cantaloupe, Cucumber & Mint Salad
shared at the event by John
Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad
shared at the event by Shirley

Lemon Basil Pasta Salad
shared at the event by Jen & Wayne
recipe HERE

Fresh grapes & raspberries w/Artisanal Goat Cheese
from the Green City Market
shared at the event by Linda
Antipasto Pasta Salad
shared at the event by Michele
Orzo Pasta Salad
shared at the event by Christy
Japanese Cucumber Salad
shared at the event by Teresa

Beer & Mustard Bratwurst

w/ caramelized onions & mushrooms on the side
shared at the event by Joelen
Chilled Wine Poached Salmon Steaks
shared at the event by Howard

Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake
purchased and shared by Christy

Coffee Toffee Brownies
shared at the event by Susan

After a fabulous picnic dinner spread, we played a new boardgame i got from my friend stephanie! (Thank you Stephanie – I love it!!) The game is called Winerd and can be found wherever boardgames are sold or online. If you’re looking to brush up on your wine trivia or play a non-college frat party “drinking game,” then this is a game you’ll want to check out!
To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted their favorite picnic recipes and recipes using white wine! As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Kate of Paved With Good Intentions ! Kate will be receiving a Spring/Summer 2008 Season’s Best cookbook, compliments of Pampered Chef. Congratulations Kate and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the recipes submitted by my fellow bloggers…
Stina of Eat Something!
from Tennessee
Peach Melba Gelatin
What’s fruity and jiggles when it’s drunk? Kudos if you guessed a fruity gelatin dish made with wine! (Haha!) Stina captures the flavors of peach & raspberry with a hint of white wine in her entry to the picnic party. To see how she makes it, check out her blog!


Laura of Laura’s Home Cookin’
from Minnesota
Pollo all Fiorentina and Pomodoro e Basilico
Laura joins us to share two of her favorite Italian dishes. Her Chicken Cutlets with Spinach and Tomato Basil Sauce are not only quick to make but I really like how they use white wine ! These are recipes I want to make soon. Check out her blog for the recipes so you can make them too!
Kate of Paved With Good Intentions
from California
The Engineer’s Favorite Lemon Squares
Kate shares her recipe for lemon squares even though she’s not a fan of lemons. She made these treats for someone special and decided to share them with us too! To find out who she made these for and why, check out her blog and the recipe!
Karen of Loves To Eat Weblog
from Tampa, FL
Fish in Lemon Wine Sauce
Karen joins us with a dish that prepares fish in a refreshing way. I’m a big fan of fish and seafood so I’m looking forward to trying this recipe soon. For the recipe, check out Karen’s blog!

Tantalizing Tomatoes Round Up!

With so many varieties of tomatoes available, my friends and I came together to celebrate them! Everyone came with a dish highlighting tomatoes and we enjoyed a light and flavorful dinner of the offerings. Here are the dishes that were shared along with the recipes:

Tomato, Cucumber & Mozzarella Salad
shared at the event by Adrian
Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes
shared at the event by Joelen

Tomato & Cucumber Salad
shared at the event by Art & Carol
Heirloom Tomato Tart
shared at the event by Chrissy
To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted tomato recipes. As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Sarah of The Good Wife! Sarah will be receiving Bertolli’s New Pasta Sauce Pouches (compliments of Bertolli) & Bruschetta Seasoning. Congratulations Sarah and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the recipes submitted by my fellow bloggers…
Sarah of The Good Wife
from Illinois
Panzanella (Bread Salad) & Fried Green Tomatoes
Do you ever have leftover bread and wonder what to make with it? Well Sarah shares a wonderful bread salad using tomatoes and whips up some fried green tomatoes too. This is her tribute to tomatoes and you can catch other ingredients she highlights each week too. Check out her blog for these recipes and find out what ingredients she’s highlighting next!
Karen of Loves To Eat Weblog
from Tampa, FL
Tomato & Mozzarella Tart
Karen knows how to put out some great dishes and her entry to the event is no exception. She tops a buttery, flaky puff pastry crust with tomatoes & mozzarella – who wouldn’t love a piece of that?! Check out Karen’s blog for the recipe and make this for guests or for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!
Maggie of Dog Hill Kitchen
from Michigan
Tomato Tasting
What does Garden Peach, Azoychka Russian, Queen Anne’s Lace, Mr. Stripey, Brandywine all have in common? You’ll have to check out Maggie’s blog to find out… and I have to say that she’s got me craving some tomatoes in the worst way!
Shannalee of Food Loves Writing
from Chicagoland, IL
Tomato Pasta Salad
Shannalee shares a wonderful dish using tomato and pasta. I really think that tomatoes and pasta are a surefire combo that is hard to mess up. But what mades Shannalee’s tomato pasta salad so delicious is the simplicity of it. It consists of nothing but common ingredients prepared well. To find out what’s in her salad, check out her blog and take note of the recipe too!

Dorit of Pretty Baking in Israel
from Haifa, Israel
Matbouha
Dorit joins us from the other side of the globe to share a great Moroccan dish! I happen to love Moroccan food for its flavors so I’m extremely appreciative of Dorit joining in. Her dish, Matbouha, is a Moroccan salsa that is pretty commonly used at middle eastern restaurants. Check out Dorit’s blog for the recipe and a little more about this version of salsa!

Stina of Eat Something
Chicken Fra Diavolo
Stina shares the kitchen with her husband this time and presents this tasty dish. I’m tempted to try this out soon and perhaps with seafood. Stina also shares what food she will not eat and would rather starve than pop these in her mouth. To find out what food it is, check out her blog and get the recipe to the dish too!

Laura of Sweet & Savory Stress Relief
from Michigan
Panko-Encrusted Green Tomatoes w/Sweet Tomato Jam
Lauren has some tomato goodness going on with her entry! She uses tomatoes both as a main dish and condiment – so creative and I’m sure delicious too! Check out Lauren’s blog for the recipes and try them out!

Chef Spotlight: NOLA Cuisine Roundup!

Tonight was my monthly Chef Spotlight dinner! In remembrance of Hurricane Katrina that swept through New Orleans three years ago, we paid homage to the culinary talent that managed to withstand the winds and rains. My friends and I gathered around dishes we made using recipes of famous New Orleans chefs or random Cajun/Creole inspired recipes. Here’s what graced our table:


Cajun Caviar

shared at the event by Ruth

Cajun Crabcakes

shared at the event by Ruth

Spinach & Oyster Loaf
shared at the event by Robert

Red Beans & Andoille Over Rice
shared at the event by Teresa

Seafood Jambalaya

shared at the event by Joelen

Cajun Shrimp Pasta
shared at the event by Betsy
Bananas Foster Bread Pudding
shared at the event by Joelen
To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted recipes inspired by Cajun & Creole cuisine. As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Stina of Eat Something! Stina will be receiving a Cajun Cookbook compliments of Tony Chachare and a jar of King Creole Seasoning from The Spice House. Congratulations Stina and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the recipes submitted by my fellow bloggers…
Stina of Eat Something!
from Mephis, TN
Potage Maigre & Praline Bread Pudding
Stina contributes 2 meatless dishes and shares her thoughts on Creole food. Check out her blog for the Potage Maigre and Praline Bread Pudding recipes as well as her views on Creole cuisine!

Rachel of The Crispy Cook
from New York
Scallop & Corn Salad
Rachel joins the event with a colorful and refreshing salad, using lots of tomatoes, peppers, basil,and corn right from her garden. Check out her blog for the recipe and “BAM!” your guests with it!

Jessica of New Year, New Name, New Me
from Wisconsin
New Orleans French Market Beignets
What would a New Orleans food event be without Beignets? These soft pillowy treats are what Jessica shares with us. Check out her recipe on her blog and you just might stop eating doughnuts!

Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Edible Experience
from Fairfax, VA but originally from NOLA
Cornbread & Andouille Dressing
Elizabeth joins us for her first blogging event and shares her amazing dressing. It has some great flavors mixed in so be sure to check out her blog for the recipe!
Ally of Culinary Infatuation
from Atlanta, GA
Healthier Red Beans & Rice
Looking for healthy recipes without sacrificing flavor? Give Ally’s recipe for Red Beans
& Rice a try! She lightens it up using brown rice & smoked turkey sausage. Check out her blog for the recipe and give it a try!

Heather of The Shannon’s Kitchen
from Florida
Jambalaya Pasta
Heather made an Emeril Lagasse recipe for Jambalaya Pasta chock full of chicken, shrimp & andoille sausage. Check out her blog for the great recipe and find out what interesting side dish she made to accompany it!

Summer Produce Iron Chef Round Up!

Today was a great event where folks brought in a random assortment of summer produce – fruits and vegetables – and together we came up with a lunch menu using the produce and a stocked pantry. We had a lot to work with so it was pretty easy to come up with something tasty.

Here’s our luncheon menu:

To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted recipes using summer produce. As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Oakley of LemonBasil! Oakley will be receiving a Farmers Market cookbook packed with some great recipe ideas for all produce imaginable. Congratulations Oakley and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the pics submitted by my fellow bloggers…

Stina of Eat Something
from Tennessee
Peach & Blueberry Clafouti
Stina does an excellent job tackling Nigella’s recipe for a Peach & Blueberry Clafouti. She has some great suggestions to use other fruit too! Check out her blog for the recipe and maybe try putting your spin on it with other fruits while they are in season!

Kim of Live Love Laugh Eat
from Virginia
Caprese Inspired Green Salad
Taking the components of a traditional caprese salad, Kim makes use of her bountiful garden by adding some cucumbers. Not only is it a colorful salad, but a refreshing one for the summer. Check out her blog for the recipe!

Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen
from Ontario, Canada
Walnut & Strawberry Salad
Psychgrad recently visited France and brought back some walnut oil. To make great use of this special ingredient, a beautiful Walnut & Strawberry Salad was created. Check out their blog for some beautiful pictures of their trip to France and the recipe for their delicious summer salad!

Rachel of The Crispy Cook
from New York
Stir-Fried Broccoli Shoots & Tofu
Rachel has a great recipe waiting for you in her blog, using broccoli shoots… a summer produce I have yet to work with. For the recipe and to read more about these broccoli shoots, check out her blog!

Oakley of Lemon Basil
from Portland, OR
Fresh Summer Vegetable Stack
Oakley gets creative with presentation using her summer produce! She used some great vegetables and created a simple and elegant dish. Check out her blog for the recipe and take advantage of the summer produce before the summer’s over!

Jason of Dericious Things
from Chicago, IL
Roasted Vegetable Sandwich
Jason makes great use of some eggplant, squash, mushrooms and basil. Check out his new blog and try roasting/grilling vegetables to create a delicious sandwich!