Friday, March 30, 2012

Appetizers, Artists, and Assembly Lines

I've been quiet for the past couple of days ((well, here at least, I'm actually never *that* quiet)) because I was getting ready for the event at the gallery last night.  It went really well-  I suspect there were upwards of 200 people who came through the show.  Here is the menu: fruit platter with a cream cheese/marshmallow dip, veggie platter with a dill dip, bourbon-soaked grapes with walnut goat cheese, salted cucumber slices with a Mediterranean feta spread, Caprese salad skewers, a brie platter with baby heirloom tomatoes and kalamata olives, and garlicky parmesan spinach and artichoke dip with baguette slices and crackers.

I enlisted the help of one of my dear friends the day prior because this project entailed a LOT of chopping and assembly.  The word "lot" in all capital letters doesn't even begin to cover it.  This was definitely labor-intensive, but it turned out awesome.  Here's the full array:

To the far right of those pictures is the bourbon grapes.  This actually a fairly easy project ((in most regards)) and was probably the most popular item.  I got this idea off of Pinterest ((be my friend there!  User name is Julia Steele.))

As I was assembling these, I renamed them Jules' effed up cake pops...


Bourbon ((as cheap as you can get))
Goat cheese

((I haven't included proportions, because this really varies...  Get one package of each and keep going until the goat cheese is gone.  If you have leftovers of the others, you can use them for something else.))

All you do is wash and remove the grapes from the stems and place them in a good sized piece of tupperware.  Pour the bourbon over until all of them are submerged.  Use the cheapest, and likely most disgusting, bottle you can find.  It had better be plastic and it should probably be dusty.  I bought a handle for something like four dollars!  ((I'm going to use the leftovers to strip some paint later.))  Be sure to seal it tightly and then let them marinate for at least six hours, but as long as two days.  ((You may want to use red grapes for this.  I used green and I was afraid they were going to turn color with the alcohol.  There was just a tinge at the point where the stem had been removed.  Totally fine, but red/purple might be prettier.  Just saying.))

To make the cheese balls, first deal with the walnuts.  You can crush them by putting them in a baggie and then taking a rolling pin to it or in my personal favorite way, by stomping on them and maybe re-enacting a dance routine you made up to a Tiffany song in the 6th grade.  You can then toast them lightly by placing them in a small pan over a medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes.  ((You can also buy them pre-toasted at Trader Joe's and probably other places too.))

Start rolling up the goat cheese.  Roll it between you palms to make small balls.  ((Ours were pretty small, mainly because we were trying to stretch the cheese and get as many skewers as possible.))  Then roll the ball in your crushed up walnuts and smash them in a little bit so they don't all fall right back off.  This is going to be messy, consider yourself warned.

If you attempt to skewer them right now, you will discover that goat cheese does NOT cooperate with skewering.  It falls right apart.  I ended up putting them in the freezer for about 3 hours to get them skewerable ((<---not a word.))  If you attempt to skewer them immediately after removing them from the freezer, you will also find them to not be skewerable and you might stab yourself with the skewer.  However, they soften up FAST.  Within ten minutes they should be a decent consistency where you can insert the top of the skewer into them.  As pictured, I layered two of the grapes with one cheese ball.  Keep them refrigerated until you are ready to serve them.  I actually put the entire tray back in the freezer for about two hours.  The grapes didn't freeze due to the booze in them, but they were nice and cold when I put them out.

The extra grapes were immensely popular.  I'm pretty sure a few people had the equivalent of a full drink in grapes.  I'm not judging.  I might have been encouraging it.  They also went really well with the fruit dip.


Here are some other pictures from the show:

Naked Caprese Salad Skewers
Caprese Salad Skewers Dressed with Balsamic and Parmesan
Brie with Baby Heirlooms and Kalamatas
Salted Cucumbers with Mediterranean Feta Spread
Fruit Platter with Dip in a Mini-Watermelon
Spinach-Artichoke Dip with Parmesan

I'll go over some of the other items later, but for now, I am going to finally go finish drying and putting away all the serving pieces and then take an evening off!  It is so close to being Pool Time in AZ that I can smell it.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Salmon with Dill Butter, Dante, and Assembly Lines

I adamantly maintain that Costco is the 6th circle of Hell and I apparently have pissed off someone, somewhere because I had to go there twice yesterday.  I'm not sure why I'm being punished because I've actually behaved quite well lately.  For me, anyway.  Regardless, the shopping is totally done for tomorrow but for the cherry tomatoes for the caprese salad skewers I'm making which means there is yet another trip in my future.  Hundreds of baby tomatoes aren't as easy to come by as you would think.   However, twenty pounds of cheese?  That's easy to find.  If I get a chance to come up for air tomorrow, I will go over the menu and some of the recipes.  Let's just say there is a LOT of construction/assembly involved, but it is going to be totally worth it.  My lovely, talented, and totally irreplaceable friend helped today and it is going to be amazing.  If I do say so myself.  And I did.  Again.


Tonight I'm making salmon, clean living twice-baked potatoes with thyme, roasted asparagus, and apple crisp for a couple of friends.  Let's talk salmon.

As with most things,  I think simple is better.  This is definitely pretty straightforward and I highly doubt you can mess this up.  That said...

What you need:

Salmon steaks ((just go to the grocer or market and ask for and I quote, "I need decent looking salmon steaks that weigh like half a pound each."  If they ask follow-up questions, just nod and smile.))
A lemon
2 tablespoons butter
*Some* onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt, cayenne, and dill


Preheat your oven to 350.

Start by taking a baking dish and placing foil in the bottom.  Spray the foil with cooking spray and then place the fish on it.  Sprinkle just a little of the onion powder and garlic powder on it ((I actually pour a little in my hand and then pinch it, to sprinkle it on.)).  Crack some black pepper and some sea salt over it.  Then look at the cayenne and think about it and that will be almost enough.  Seriously, just a tiny amount is more than enough.

Take your lemon and slice it as thinly as humanly possible.  It should be entirely see-through.  Layer this over the surface of the fish.

Cut a couple of small pats of butter and throw them on a plate.  Take ((preferably fresh, but dried is okay)) your dill and dump it on the butter.  You can use quite a bit.  Take those pats and put them on the side of the fish, not on top.  You do not want to drown the fish, although I suppose I could now derail into a long internal debate over whether it is in fact possible to drown a fish.  I digress.

Okay, here is my plan.  I do not yet know whether I will stick to this plan or not, and cooking times vary based on how thick your steaks are etc so just use the test I'm going to put at the end.  Bake it covered for 15 minutes.  Uncover, flip the steaks, and bake another 15-20 minutes uncovered.  ((I have no idea if this is actually accurate...  I wrote it in an email to myself in 2008 and I wasn't the most reliable person at that point.))

The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.  Meaning:  you can drag a fork across it and the little pieces come up separately and easily.

Let me add this.  You are NOT going to kill yourself or anyone else if it isn't cooked to the point of being salmon jerky.  I think a lot of people think if that if it is even slightly uncooked ohmyGod immediate death.  If it is too undercooked for your taste once you pull it out, throw it in the microwave for 30 seconds.  No, that's not the most glamorous thing to do, but that is better than psyching yourself out about it all night.  It's fine.  I'm sure of it.

Because this isn't going in for another hour ish, all I've got for you is a before picture.  But let me tell you, these cuts look LUSH.

This was prior to adding the dill butter...  

See-through lemons.  Now available.

All righty.  I must run to do something about myself prior to taking dinner over...  Wish me luck for tomorrow!


Later:  I have to say the salmon turned out fantastic.  I ended up baking it uncovered for 35 minutes.  It was falling apart goodness at that point.  I then spooned more of the dill butter from the bottom of the pan back over it just prior to serving.  Hazzah!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Salad Savoy with Green Apples, Chips Ahoy, and Advil

If I recounted everything I have accomplished in the last 48 hours, you would require a handful of Advil, a back rub, and a renewed will to live.  The quick recap is I have planned and shopped for an event for 200 this week, did a massive amount of unpacking at my mother's new digs, and have almost all the details worked out for a fundraiser that is occurring next week.  Each of those things alone are major undertakings, but let's do this Jules style and cram them all into a matter of hours.  Why?  Because why not?!

Clean living has not been entirely abandoned...  ((Although I do believe moving is carte blanc to drink beer.))  Today I set out to use the salad savoy that was in my fridge.  I get so damn sick of the same old salads.  Here's a glimpse inside my head.  Take cover if you want.  Internal dialogue:  Oh I know.  Let's have another fracking salad with some boring romaine, oh and how about some balsamic for the millionth time, and let's be crazy and add a tomato.  WHOO!  Over it.  #endinternaldialogue

Salad savoy is, I'm not going to lie, a little scary looking.  It's apparently the ((unacknowledged by the rest of the family)) relative of cabbage and does kind of taste like cabbage.  But, it makes for a nice change of pace, especially when you are trying to clean up your act.

Salad Savoy...  Sounds like Chips Ahoy

Here's what happens when you rotate the plate about 180 degrees

What you need for two or so servings:

A bunch of savoy, white stems removed
Julienned strips of carrot
1 granny apple ((you know, like, the green ones?))
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons apple juice
1/4 teaspoon smashed caraway seeds

To hell with romaine anyway:

Start by rinsing and chopping the salad savoy.  Get the white parts out.  There.  Good enough.  Julienne some carrots. ((I can hear it:  WTF is JULIENNE-ING?!?!))  To be simple, take your vegetable peeler and get the "outside" off the carrot.  Then keep running it down the length to get little strips like you see in the picture.  Sounds fancy, huh?  Nope, so not.  Chop up a green apple.  Throw all that in a bowl.

For the dressing, just whisk together the lime juice, apple juice, and olive oil.  I actually didn't have apple juice so I took my citrus juice and squeezed a red apple.  It worked just fine.  Then take the mortar and pestle ((which I'm sure you don't have)) and smash up the caraway seeds a little bit.  Or you can take the back of a spoon and pound on the little bastards until they break up slightly and call it good enough.  ((Guess which I did?!))  Whisk that in and dump it over the cabbage relative, apple, and carrots.  Crack a little pepper on top.

Let it sit at room temp for about 30-45 minutes for the savoy to get wilt-y.  ((There's that word again.))  Voila!

Nutritional Info:  HOLY SHIT, YOU WIN!  This has virtually no calories in it.  Just maybe 50 or so from the little bit of olive oil you ingest and 40 from the half of an apple.  Let's call it 120 per serving and maybe 1 gram of fat.

This recipe was adapted slightly from  


I am going to be a cooking MACHINE for the next two days.  Tomorrow we are making salmon, parsley potatoes, grilled asparagus, and apple crisp so stay tuned!  The following day?  Oh good Lord, I can't start thinking about it right now or I'll need another handful of Advil.  See ya tomorrow!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shrimp Avocado Summer Tacos, Movus Interruptus, and Stages

Holy hell, what a weekend.  I am in need of a Stage 4 nap.  I don't exactly know what the stages of napping are, but I want the best one.

The moving project was a huge case of hurry up and wait.  When I arrived, I told Deb we were busting ass for one hour and that if either of us were not in motion, there was going to be a penalty.  We FLEW through packing up basically everything that was left in record time when ((ominous sound of doom here)) the movers announced they had been called to assist with a broken-down truck.  It was rescheduled for Saturday and because of their late arrival, continues on today with unloading.

Saturday was then spent cooking for two different parties...  Both went really well and there may or may not still be dishes in the car.  I should really do something about that.  So far today I have spent three hours in what I can only presume is a reinvention of the wheel ((oh well)), planning the menu for the event I'm cooking for on Thursday, and shattering the toenail on my big toe and being about .287 seconds from passing out as a result.  Ow.

Since I'm limping around feeling sorry for my toe, I just wanted to throw something together for lunch that was super easy.  I ended up with Shrimp Avocado Summer Tacos.

I just added the word "Summer" to the title for no apparent reason.

What you need for two servings:

2 multi-grain tortillas ((I'm back on the Carb Balance ones by Mission))
Handful of small-medium *cooked* shrimp  ((I used them cold))
Romaine, about a cup or so
Shredded jack cheese, maybe 4 tablespoons
One avocado
Salsa, maybe a tablespoon or two
Cilantro ((I was out.  Sad.))
Lime to squeeze on top

This really doesn't need instructions, does it?  I didn't think so.

The only tip I have to offer is in regard to avocados...  Once you slice it in half around the core/seed/what the hell do you call that?! PIT, God, then you can pull it apart.  At that point draw a tic-tac-toe board in it with your knife, being careful not to pierce the flesh.  You can then invert it ((flip it inside out)) and scrape out the avocado in cute little squares.

To keep the avocado so it won't go brown, squeeze lime juice over it and seal it in a bag with as close to zero air in it as possible.  Leaving the pit in it will help as well, because that reduces the surface area exposed to oxygen.

I had this with a side of canary melon.  Take that, clean living!

Nutritional Info:  SAINT.  Approximately 220 calories and 3 grams of fat per taco if you are being responsible and go super easy on the cheese.   Avocado actually is pretty high in calories but it is high in healthy fats so we call that a wash.

I'm off to determine what stage of napping can be accomplished with a throbbing toe...