Chicken Salad… eh.

With the roasted chicken I made yesterday, I made a chicken salad. I usually do the usual salad with chopped apples, grapes, walnuts, etc… but wanted to try something different. I found this recipe at Allrecipes.com. It was okay – nothing that wowed me. It did make for a nice light meal though… Here’s the recipe for Holiday Chicken Salad from Allrecipes.com:

4 cups cubed, cooked chicken meat
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup chopped celery
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup minced green bell pepper
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise with paprika and seasoned salt. Blend in dried cranberries, celery, bell pepper, onion, and nuts. Add chopped chicken, and mix well. Season with black pepper to taste. Chill 1 hour.

*Update: Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions to use curry in the recipe for a bit more flavor. I reached for it and second guessed using it because I didn’t think it would work with cranberries. I should have used it!! Oh well… we live and learn. 🙂 *

Love me a Luau!

I love my birthday, May 1st. For one, it falls on Hawaii’s “Lei Day” and it gives me a perfect reason to throw a luau. This was exactly how I wanted to celebrate with friends and family – lots of color, flowers and of course, a tropical feast of Hawaiian inspired eats.

Roughly 40 people came over to celebrate with me and it was just as much fun seeing familiar faces as it was to prepare (especially my birthday cake pictured above, shaped into an aloha shirt!) From the massive amounts of drinks, fabulous dinner spread, karaoke seranades, friendly smiles and warm hugs, this was definitely a birthday I’ll cherish forever. Here are some pics that were taken during the luau… and I hope to get more from those that were camera ready throughout the night. Mahalo friends!

Kalua Pineapple Pork

Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi
Pineapple Fried Rice

Macaroni Salad

Seafood Salad w/Crackers

Stir Fry Veggies

Chicken Teriyaki Wings

Seafood Combination Lo Mein

Chicken Mini Eggrolls

Rainbow Salad w/Miso Sesame Dressing

Mango & Raspberry Wonton Cups

Tropical Creamy Fruit Salad

My White Buttercream Cake:


Dr. Seuss-ing It Up

Last week my mother in law informed me that my husband’s nephew was having an upcoming birthday. She asked if I would be willing to make him a birthday cake. Without hesitation I was happy to do it! I immediately had thoughts running in my mind to make something pretty simple, given the busy weekend I had planned during the nephew’s birthday party. But then, a challenge was brought on. Little did I know that this nephew had some unique ideas for his cake!Justin was turning 6 years old and has grown fond of Dr. Seuss books. In fact, my mother in law was explaining to me how much he loved the book, Green Eggs & Ham. This book inspired Justin to have a very green birthday… green plates, cups, napkins, etc. So, the challenge was to make a cake that Justin would like as much as his Dr. Seuss books, tie in the color green and have it ready with very little time aside to prepare. I was doomed.

After scoping out ideas from friends and the internet, I came across a cake made in the shape of Dr. Seuss’ famous red & white striped hat. I figured I could make that easily so now my cake plan was coming together. I mean, how hard could it be to stack a few layer cakes, tap in a dowel to hold its shape and place some fondant on it before calling it a day? Wrong.

I still had to think of incorporating the color green into the cake. So fortunately my mother in law suggested a pistachio cake. I was unsure about how an average 6 year old would take it, but knowing Justin, he would eat it simply because it was green. So that was the cake flavor I went with.

As I let my cake layers cool, I made a simple buttercream (butter, confectioners sugar, heavy cream). After that was done, it was time to start building. I started stacking my layers but soon realized that the cake was so moist it could not hold its own weight. In fact, it started to crumble as I started to put the dowels in. Uh oh. Thank goodness my husband saved me from a state of panic.

I ended up having to use my trifle bowl and lining the edges with strips of red & white fondant. With the cake practically crumbling in my hands, I decided to salvage what I could and layered inside the trifle bowl, alternating cake and frosting. To cover I laid white fondant on top and used some red fondant to make the brim of the hat. By the time this was completed, it was well after midnight.

So to finish this cake, I decided to put my scrapbooking skills to work and made a small “book” to adorn the top of the cake. Using the actual Green Eggs & Ham as inspiration, I made the book out of orange cardstock and used the picture from the title page to reflect the “Green Eggs & Ham” piece of the challenge.

In the end, it worked out well. My husband was able to safely transport the cake to the party (which would have been possibly disasterous, had my original plan was carried out) and Justin loved the cake. In fact, the parents that attended the party contacted me and asked if I could make cakes for their kids. (Let’s just hope they don’t have any unique requests for cakes…)

If I were do it again, I would definitely make a denser cake that can stand up to the weight and dowels – a pound cake recipe perhaps? Here’s the final product…


Celebrate the New Year!

For 2008, we started the year with a wonderful meal cooked at home. We have been weening ourselves off of red meats for the past few months and so tonight’s dinner is our own version of a “surf & turf.” (Please forgive my pics… my camera is on the fritz!)

I prepared a turkey mignon, jumbo sea scallops in a citrus butter sauce, potato gratin and roasted tomatoes & asparagus. Here are the my recipes for the dinner:

Turkey Mignon

4 turkey medallions
4 strips of bacon (smoked bacon adds a nice flavor)
2 tablespoons of butter
¼ cup of white wine
1 cup of chicken stock or broth
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap one strip of bacon around each of the turkey medallions, securing it with a toothpick placed straight into the turkey.

Lightly season the turkey on both sides with salt and pepper.

Pour the oil into a medium sized pan and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, about two minutes, place the turkey medallions into the pan and sear each side for about a minute.

Place the turkey medallions onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.

Place the turkey the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until it reaches 165 degrees.

While the turkey is cooking, place the butter into the pan and reduce the heat to medium low. Once the butter has melted, add a pinch of salt and wine. Simmer until it’s reduced by half.

Add the stock or broth and reduce by half. Season with salt and pepper to taste; remove from heat.

Once the turkey is done, remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes.

Just before serving, spoon sauce over the turkey.

Jumbo Sea Scallops in a Citrus Butter

6 jumbo sea scallops
salt & pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon citrus seasoning
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
splash of heavy cream (optional)

In a saute pan, melt butter.
Season scallops with salt & pepper.
Sear scallops in melted butter until a crust forms on both sides.
Remove from pan.
Add seasoning and lemon juice.
Add splash of heavy cream if desired for a creamy sauce.
Spoon sauce over scallops or meat entree.

Potato Gratin
(provided by my friend, Michele)
I divided this recipe by half and made it into 2 individual dishes.

1 tsp. butter or margarine, softened

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 cup coarsely shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
Lightly crush garlic with side of knife.
Heat cream, milk, garlic, salt and pepper in small saucepan over medium-high heat, until small bubbles appear around edge of pan; remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pat potato slices with paper towels.
Arrange half the potatoes in overlapping slices along the bottom of prepared dish.
Pour half the cream mixture over the potatoes, then sprinkle with half the cheeses.
Repeat with remaining potatoes, cream mixture and cheeses.
Bake 60 to 70 minutes, until top is a deep brown and potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.

Tips:

1. Use russet potatoes; they have the highest starch content.2. Use heavy cream–not just milk or half and half–because the fat prevents curdling.3. Prepare this dish right before baking. Parboiling or letting the sliced potatoes stand in cold water before baking reduces the starch content and makes the dish runny.

Holiday Chocolate Pretzel Wreaths

The following recipe was made for my Holiday Food Gifts cooking class. You can read about it and get more holiday food gift ideas HERE.

Holiday Chocolate Pretzel Wreaths

Almond bark or confectionery coating candy melts
Mini pretzels
Sprinkles

Place almond bark or confectionery coating candy melts into a microwave proof bowl; microwave according to package directions until melted and smooth.

Dip rounded bottoms of five miniature pretzels, one at a time, into bark; shake off excess.

Lay pretzels onto Parchment Paper in a circular pattern with sides touching and rounded
sides toward center.

Repeat with five additional pretzels, placing directly on top of first circle in a staggered
circular pattern.

Decorate wreath as desired with sprinkles, nonpareils or colored sugar.
Let stand until set.

Tips: Any color almond bark or confectionery coating candy melts can be used to
create wreaths.

Unlike regular chocolate or chocolate morsels, almond bark and confectionery coating candy melts are made using other fats in place of cocoa butter. This helps the coating melt easily, eliminates the need for tempering and prevents blooming.

Store the wreaths at room temperature in an airtight container up to 1 week. Do not refrigerate or freeze wreaths or pretzels will lose crispness.

Thread wreath with ribbon to use as an ornament or place card holder, if desired.

White Chocolate Cranberry Crunch Bark

The following recipe was made for my Holiday Food Gifts cooking class. You can read about it and get more holiday food gift ideas HERE.

White Chocolate Cranberry Crunch Bark

8 oz Almond bark or confectionery coating candy melts
1/2 cup Dried cranberries
1/2 cup crisp rice cereal
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Place almond bark or confectionery coating candy melts into a microwave proof bowl; microwave according to package directions until melted and smooth.
Add remaining ingredients until fully coated.
Spread mixture on parchment lined baking sheet.
Let stand until set. Break into random pieces.

Holiday Treat Gifts!

Are you looking for a unique gift to give this holiday? Do you know of any other folks that want to get in a baking spirit? Today I had some folks come over to create some edible holiday gifts. We got together and everyone created a bowl gift using dry ingredients for a cranberry white chocolate & oatmeal cookies, perfect for gift giving in a covered glass bowl & wooden spoon. All the gift recipient needs to do is add the wet ingredients, stir and bake! Aside from that, we also made 3 different holiday treats also great for holiday gift giving (or indulging)! Click on the links below for the recipes!

Peppermint Brownie Bites

Holiday Chocolate Pretzel Wreaths