As many of you know, I usually pack up my family and head to sunny Arizona for spring break. My in-laws have a winter home there, and we all love to hang out together, soaking up the sun by the pool, hiking in the mountains, and yes-I usually cook to my heart’s content. This is win-win for all of us, as my mother-in-law is a willing sous chef, my kids like to get in on the action and my father-in-law loves to try new foods. This year, I had all kinds of new favorites to try out on them, and they didn’t disappoint….
After a long weekend of holiday eating, I have decided to go with something lighter today, Lemony White Bean Salad-in-a-Jar. Yes, another salad. After all it’s spring, and all of the sudden the greens are plentiful and I actually crave them. And this particular salad, Lemony White Bean Salad-in-a-Jar, has some bonus features. This salad is portable AND is able to be made ahead of time. That means it is great for work, great for bringing to a dinner party, great to bring on a picnic (yep -I hold out great hope that picnic weather is coming soon!)….
Some dear friends of ours decided to start a supper club and invited 6 women to join them, including Holly and I. The first Epic dinner party for our little group. It was a no kids, no spouses, affair held at the beautiful home of our friend. We ate, we drank, we laughed-until almost 1 am. We all agreed it was a truly fabulous time. And our dear friends-chefs extraodinaire! We were served an 8 course dinner, complete with wine pairings. It was a foodie dream. And by the end of the night, all 8 of us agreed to pair up and keep the tradition going, at least quarterly….
Are you looking for a decadent dessert? Maybe for a dinner party, or maybe for Easter? Search no more. I have come to bring you what you are looking for. I was headed to a dinner at our friends’ house not too long ago, and my task was dessert. I am not much of a baker and I often struggle with desserts (although I sure do love to eat them!). My daughter, the baker in the house, was gone for the day, so no help there. I couldn’t decide what to make, but actually had a whole day to create, so I decided to make two desserts (it is just in my nature). I chose this Key Lime Cheesecake from Crazy for Crust as well as Churro Cupcakes (don’t worry- that will be a post for another day…)….
Over 70 degrees here in Minneapolis yesterday, which as most of you know, is unheard of early in March here in the frozen tundra! For all of us here in the Midwest, shedding our layers, basking in the sunshine, out reconnecting with our neighbors as everyone comes into the great outdoors, we are needing to shift our menus. We find ourselves moving away from the heavy of the winter and towards the bright colors and textures of the spring. For me, one of those “welcome to spring” foods is orzo….
I was once afraid of making fish. Very, very afraid of making fish. I was even afraid of buying fish (unless at a restaurant of course)! It seemed like such a mystery! But then my daughter, who was a super picky eater, starting ordering salmon in restaurants (She was about 6, and shunned most kid foods) I cannot count the number of strange looks we got from waitstaff. As you can imagine, this got expensive fast. At about the same time I bought a cookbook (sense a recurring theme here?) that had a salmon orzo salad in it that looked amazing. This was all happening around the time that I was just learning to cook and I have to admit, I was initially at a loss. But all roads pointed to learning to cook salmon at home, so that is what I did….
So here in snowy Minnesota, we are enjoying a crazy awesome winter. Sunny, way warmer than usual, and as of today, only a tiny bit of snow on the ground! I can’t remember a winter that has been this mild, well…ever. I have to say all of this very mild weather has kept my mood from heading to despair (although I love living in a place that has 4 seasons- there is truly nothing like watching the snow fall from a window- I have little to no interest in actually spending time out in the cold…and trust me, I’ve sure tried to be interested). At this point of the winter I frequently need rescuing. Even though this winter has has been relatively mild, I’m still ecstatic that spring is on its way. Longer days, daylight when I wake up, birds chirping outside, and egg salad….
Course number 4 of our epic dinner party featured Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin Crostini. This may be my favorite of all of the courses, although I must admit, with this particular dinner menu the competition is fierce. This is not a recipe for your vegetarian friends. This is not a recipe for your spice adverse friends. This is definitely a great crowd pleasing recipe for everyone else!
I developed this appetizer recently, based on a recipe I found in a cookbook. This cookbook was one that that I bought on a whim at Costco-Valerie Bertinelli’s “One Dish at a Time“. That title is super funny to those of us who grew up watching the sitcom “One Day at a Time” (1975-1984) which starred Valerie Bertinelli (and if you haven’t seen it, you should look it up-for the hair alone). For those of you who are a little younger than me, you may know Valerie Bertinelli as the wife (1981-2007), now ex-wife, of Van Halen frontman, Eddie Van Halen. And if you are even younger than that, you would probably remember her for her stint as a Jenny Craig spokeswoman. For all of her fame on TV, I never knew she could cook. I mostly bought the book for the pictures (does anyone else do that, or it just me?). Sometimes impulsive buys are great buys, because so far what I’ve tried out of this book, proves it…this gal can cook.
This appetizer is based off of her Peppered Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce which I have made again and again for special occasions (for instance, girls’ weekend at the cabin). It has never let me down, and is actually pretty simple. The horseradish sauce can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. The beef can actually be prepared a day in advance as well, and allowing the meat to sit in the spicy rub only makes it better! Although I surely love when I can serve this as the main course, unfortunately 8 total dinner guests makes this cost prohibitive to serve as an entree. I knew I wanted to serve it though-voila-the crostini was born! I make my horseradish sauce a little spicier and have added some peppery arugula and crunchy french bread to make it into an appetizer instead of a meal. Definitely worth trying for your next party, or your next date night in, or just because you think it looks delicious!
Try it-and then let us know what you think!
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 6 Tablespoons peppercorns (you can use mixed or just black)
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 Tablespoons butter (unsalted, at room temperature)
- 1 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 1-2 pound piece of beef tenderloin
- 2 cups arugula
- 2 loaves of french bread
- Combine the sour cream, mustard and horseradish in a small bowl until smooth.
- Transfer into a refrigerator safe jar or container-this can be refrigerated up to two days ahead-and it really does make the flavors better.
- Grind the peppercorns (I use a cheap coffee grinder that I have designated for spices only) until coarse.
- Combine the coarsely ground peppercorns, salt, mustard, butter and parsley until well mixed.
- Rub the tenderloin with the spiced butter, coating completely-use all of the butter mixture.
- At this point you can wrap in plastic and refrigerate-up to 1 day-or go to the next step.
- Preheat oven to 450ºF.
- If you have refrigerated your beef, take it out and allow it to warm to room temperature.
- Place beef in a shallow baking pan (I use a small rectangular pyrex baking pan, you can also use a rack in your pan if you have one, but I have not found this necessary).
- Roast at 450ºF for 25-30 minutes, until your meat thermometer registers 130ºF (for medium rare).
- While tenderloin is roasting, thinly slice french bread and lay flat on a baking sheet or jelly roll pain.
- When tenderloin is done, take out of oven and allow to rest for 10-20 minutes.
- Slice beef thinly with a very sharp knife.
- Turn oven to broil.
- Place bread in oven on broil for 1-2 minutes, watching very closely to ensure bread does not start to burn.
- Allow bread to cool slightly.
- Spread horseradish sauce (made previously) on bread.
- Place arugula on top of sauce
- Place a thin slice of beef tenderloin on top of arugula
- If you are like me and love your sauces, you can place an additional dollop of sauce on the top.
- Serve and enjoy
This Carrot Ginger Soup with Coconut Shrimp was course number 3 in our epic dinner party. (P.S.-don’t worry if you’re having a hard time following along with our dinner party menu reveal, I promise to post the entire menu in order, with links, in a few weeks. And if you just can’t wait, it was already posted on twitter so you can check it out there!). We knew we wanted a soup course to follow our Pomegranate, Squash and Apple salad. While we were initially dreaming up plans for our blog we had a lot of “business” lunches at Lakeshore Grill at Macy’s in Ridgedale (which has been totally redone, and if you haven’t checked it out you definitely should!). Their summer soup was a carrot scallion soup that was so good, I would order it for lunch and then order a cup to take with me to my evening shift at work. Looking around the internet for a soup that would be similar to this one, brought us to this Carrot Ginger Soup with Coconut Shrimp from Food and Wine. Holly made the soup first, and interestingly enough, this soup is not really similar to the carrot scallion we loved-but it is fabulous in its own right, so fabulous that we decided to add it to our dinner party menu. Sometimes you find exactly what you need, exactly when you need it!
I first made this soup for some friends while up at my cabin. My friends loved it and the soup was given rave reviews. This soup is creamy and bright, with a hint of heat that is well balanced by the coconut shrimp. It is ridiculously simple to make and yet tastes complex. We served our soup not only with the coconut shrimp, but also with a peanut-cilantro gremolata. So delicious, your guests will thank you!
And if anyone has a recipe for a good Carrot Scallion soup, please let us know, we are still looking!
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, diced
- ¾ pound carrots, diced
- 1 Tablespoon ginger, grated
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon asian sesame oil
- 1 cup skim milk
- ¼ cup light coconut milk
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 3 Tablespoons salted peanuts, chopped
- 16-30 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
- Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a dutch oven until shimmering.
- Add onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes until onion is softened.
- Add carrots, ginger, and crushed red pepper, and sauté for 6 minutes.
- Add chicken broth and bring mixture to a boil.
- Turn heat down and simmer the mixture for approximately 20 minutes until the carrots are tender.
- Take dutch oven off of the heat and add in soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, peanut butter, and sesame oil.
- Using an immersion blender (or you can transfer the soup to a conventional blender), puree soup until smooth.
- Add skim milk and coconut milk.
- Season to taste taste with salt and pepper.
- You can eat the soup immediately, or refrigerate overnight and plan to eat the next day.
- When you are ready to eat the soup, reheat if not eating immediately.
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- Thaw the shrimp if frozen.
- Combine the shrimp with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil until lightly coated.
- Roll shrimp in sweetened, shredded coconut.
- Spread the shrimp on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- We sprinkled an additional Tablespoon of coconut onto shrimp on the baking sheet.
- Roast in the oven at 425ºF for 5-8 minutes keeping an eye on the shrimp to ensure it it is pink but the coconut is not burning.
- Combine the chopped cilantro and chopped peanuts to form the gremolata.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, top with gremolata and serve with shrimp.
All good dinner parties need treat bags, right? We hadn’t really considered it when first planning our menu. But it is a funny story, how these particular treat bags came to be. My 13-year-old daughter has been learning her own way around the kitchen and has discovered that baking is her forte. For her last birthday I bought her a copy of Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence, because really, it is never too early to start your cookbook library-even if you are only turning 13. (P.S.-If you don’t have this one, it is a must have!) My daughter has been slightly obsessed with a recipe in this cookbook for Dark Chocolate Truffle Cookies. I must admit, they didn’t look like much, so when she chose them for her weekend project several months ago, I wasn’t super excited. I’m not usually too moved by anything dusted with powdered sugar. However, when I tasted these gooey little bombs, I quickly changed my mind. Pure heaven. My daughter has now made the recipe many, many times and they definitely rise to the occasion. Every time.
When my daughter found out Holly and I were hosting a dinner party, she offered to make a batch of these Dark Chocolate Truffle Cookies for us. We already had plans for our dessert course (coming soon!), but what would be a better take home remembrance of a really fun night than a bag of cookies? We took her up on her offer. She set to work, crafting the cookies, and I set to work crafting some bags for the cookies to be packaged in. I’m pretty pleased with what we came up with, and I think our dinner guests were too!
So now that our dinner is over, I can only hope that all of our guests are happily treating themselves to some Dark Chocolate Truffle Cookies. Preferably with a nice glass of wine. I recommend you all try them too. Your friends will thank you.
And a special thanks to Joy the Baker (Joy Wilson).
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder (this can be been somewhat hard to find, you can substitute Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder which is a blend of natural and Dutch processed cocoas-this has worked fine for us)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- ⅓ cup (3 ounces) chopped dark chocolate (we have used both 70% and 72% cacao chocolate bars-both have worked well)
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar (you can likely get away with less of this as this is just to roll the cookies in)
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- In a medium bowl ,combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
- Chop the room temperature butter into small pieces and rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Mix in the chopped dark chocolate.
- In a small bowl, mix together the egg and vanilla.
- Pour the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture and mix until moistened.
- Press the dough into a ball (you'll have to get your hands dirty here if you haven't already).
- Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Put the confectioners' sugar in a shallow bowl.
- Using a tablespoon, form balls of the refrigerated chocolate mixture.
- Roll the ball in the confectioners' sugar.
- Place the sugar covered ball on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Repeat with the remaining chocolate mixture, rolling in confectioners' sugar before placing on baking sheet.
- Bake about 10 minutes leaving the cookies just a bit undercooked on the insides.
- Cool on the pan for a few minutes before finishing cooling on a cooling rack.
- These are fabulous served warm, and almost just as good eaten over the next 4 days (store in an airtight container).