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Category Archives: Adult beverages

Cooking Light’s Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party

Kat is back in the kitchen. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been MIA is in the blogosphere for a while. I’ll get into the reasons why on another post but suffice it to say, I’m back.

What prompted my return to the kitchen (actually it was my friend Vickie’s kitchen) was her request that I assist with a birthday dinner for our friend Brigitte (of the Kahlua making).

As it happens, last year I picked up an issue of Cooking Light magazine in the check out line after the cover story, Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party, caught my eye. I love dinner parties, especially when there are themes involved. My first ever elegent dinner party took two days of cooking so I wasn’t about to pass up a menu that could be ready in one hour. The timing of this dinner couldn’t really be more appropriate in case any of my readers are trolling the net for last minute ways to impress their Valentine.

The dinner went off perfectly and was fairly amazing, if I do say so myself. Vickie and I had everything for the salad, main course and dessert prepped and ready to go according to the directions in the article. The only one change we made was roasting the potatoes before putting the tenderloin in the oven. Otherwise, unless you have two ovens, I don’t see how both the potatoes and roast were going to cook in one hour. For the record, we roasted fresh red potato wedges on 450° for 15 minutes. We covered them to keep them warm and then popped them back in the oven when the roast was resting.

Another change we would make in the future would be to add a small amount of sugar to the whipped cream. We opted to follow the directions because of the agave nectar that the fruit was marinaded in. In hind sight, one-half to one teaspoon of sugar would be a nice addition.

There were a few things that surprised me:

  1. There was no shopping list in the magazine. I created one here.
  2. Two pounds of beef tenderloin didn’t seem like it would be enough to feed 8 people. Vickie got a 4 pound roast. We fed six ladies and there was plenty left over so maybe I was wrong.
  3. The potatoes call for the addition of truffle oil. At $16.99 a bottle, I now know why I’ve never cooked with it before. I did purchase a bottle from a local olive oil producer for this dinner. Based on the cost, rest assured I will find all kinds of new ways to use truffle oil. In the end, though, I didn’t feel like the flavor profile delivered $16.99 worth of value to the potatoes. Perhaps I’m just a heathen, who knows?

I haven’t blogged about wine tasting here but I am an avid wino…hence the number of bottles I brought for the party. It seems like overkill but at the end of the night, they were all gone. I may have splurged a bit on the number of bottles but cost-wise this dinner came in at about what I would have spent had I taken the birthday girl out for a nice dinner.

My wine budget is typically in the range of $10 to $15 a bottle. Here is what I brought to match up with the courses:

Champagne toast: Titziano Italian Prosecco $10.99 with raspberries dropped in the glass.

Champagne cocktail: We substituted vodka for the gin at the birthday girl’s request. I found a lovely bottle of Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling for $12.99 and used this as the base.

Salad course: Kung Fu Girl Riesling. This was one of the specific wines suggested for the menu. I was able to find it at AJs for $12.99. It was crisp for a Riesling but balanced well with the flavors of the salad.

Main course: The Pinot Project Pinot Noir. For $14.99 this is a great medium bodied/soft tannin red that paired well with the red meat.

Dessert: Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Riesling ($8.99). Sweeter wines pair well with sweet desserts. This Riesling is a little softer than the Kung Fu girl and matched well with the berries and cream.

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Kat’s Fantasy Elegant New Year’s Eve Dinner

individual beef wellington

Individual Beef Wellington

Alas, there will be no New Year’s Eve dinner for me this year. Things have been quiet in Kat’s kitchen, mainly because I’m still battling a cold and then have had a headache for four days on top of it. When I’m not feeling good I lose the desire to eat anything good for me (except, maybe soup) and gravitate to Christmas cookies and microwave popcorn. This may be a portent of things to come; I’ve heard that the sweet and salty taste buds are the last to go and that’s why elderly folk prefer sweet and salty food. It’s not a pretty thought, sigh!

Back to blogging and the dinner I wish I was cooking…actually I did cook this dinner a few years ago and it was then the culinary highlight of my cooking experience. As background, I joined a local group called Table for Six. The moderator cooked a five course meal for herself and five carefully chosen guests…but she only did this four times a year. I was blown away by the experience and offered to cook a dinner the following month. I’m flattered to say that this was the only time that her group dined outside her home. I still feel all warm and gushy when I think about it. However, after hosting a six course meal I can see why she only did this four times a year. I cooked all six courses from scratch and spent two full days in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, I was still whisking the gravy as the guests were pulling up. I also had to purchase and borrow extra dishes so that I could individually plate each course. Oh, but what a night!

In actuality if I were going to do it again, I would change a few things. Even though I spent weeks researching the perfect pairings, I’ve expanded my culinary repertoire so a few changes might be in order.

Champagne cocktail – I chose a dry champage which, ironically, tends to be slightly sweeter that Brut or Extra Brut. I dropped a raspberry in the bottom of each class for color instead of the lemon wedge.

Appetizer – Shrimp ceviche (served in martini glasses)

Soup – Cream of broccoli soup (served in Grandma’s crystal fruit cocktail bowls)

Salad – Tossed salad with artichoke-Parmesan crostini (served on salad plates)

Main course – Individual Beef Wellingtons, garlic mashed potatoes with green beans amandine to which I added a small amount of diced pimento for Christmas color (served on dinner plates) garnished with fresh rosemary sprigs

Dessert – Chocolate Cavity Maker cake with mint-infused whipped cream (served on dessert plates) garnished with fresh raspberry and mint leaves

Coffee with homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream and port. I had never been a huge fan of port until I had it alongside the coffee and chocolate cake.

It was a great night. Even though I won’t be cooking this year I enjoy reminiscing. Don’t feel too sorry for me though. I am going out tonight with friends where someone else will be serving me.

I hope your New Year’s Eve is filled with good food and good friends.

Cheers!

Kat

 

 

 

 

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Classic Tiramisu

We had an Italian-theme party last weekend for La Mama’s milestone birthday. Although we had the appetizers and main course catered by a family friend, my sister and I elected to do the desserts. My sister makes my mom cheesecake every year. This year she changed it up a bit and did mini cheesecake cupcakes with a strawberry topping. They were quite yummy and I’ll be posting them later this week when I get my hands on her recipe.

In an impulse moment I announced was going to make tiramisu from scratch. Once the commitment was out in the open, there was no turning back. I’d never made tiramisu before and I was a little nervous. I followed the directions on the back of the lady finger package (that took four clerks in my local grocery store to find) and immediately relaxed. I had a mild amount of anxiety over the whipping cream; I’m always nervous that it’s not actually going to whip. Someone told me that the trick is refrigerate the bowl and the beaters which seems to work.

Tiramisu and white russian

Tiramisu, as it turns out, is not really all that hard to make. I elected to build mine in a spring form pan. The good news is that the end result tasted great, my mom was thrilled The pictures honestly don’t do the dessert justice. In the midst of serving 40 people it was really hard to get good photos. Plus using lady fingers meant that the layers were not nice and crisp like they would have been had I used something akin to sponge cake.

I’ve already decided there will be a next time and that I am going to try using a sponge cake cut in half for more even layers. I may even double the amount of coffee liqeure.

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream (divided)
  • 2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfingers
  • 1/3 cup coffee flavored liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate
 Directions:
  1. Combine egg yolks and sugar; whip until thick and lemon colored, about one minute. Place in top of double boiler over boiling water. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring frequently.
  2. Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip *1-3/4 cup* cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.
  3. Split the lady fingers in half, and line the bottom and sides of a large glass bowl or spring-form pan. Brush with coffee liqueur. Spoon half of the cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat ladyfingers, coffee liqueur and filling layers. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  4. Top with sweetened whipped cream. Combine 1/2 whipping cream, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip until stiff peaks form.
  5. Garnish with cocoa. Use a microplane grater or zester to get nice chocolate crumbles. You can also use a vegetable peeler or garlic slicer to shave the chocolate into curls.

Kat’s tip: Make the Tiramisu a day in advance so that it has time to set. I made mine the morning of the party and it 9 hours later it seemed a bit jiggly (although everyone loved it). Dust with cocoa immediately prior to serving for the prettiest presentation.

Kat’s second tip: Mascapone cheese is über expensive. As a substitute you can combine 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons of whipping cream and then mix until blended and fluffy.

 
 

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Homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream – Perfect for Last Minute Gifts

Bottled and ready to give away

There is a very good chance I was a bootlegger in a previous lifetime. I’ve come to this conclusion since I *love* making homemade booze. The best thing about homemade Irish Cream (aside from the incredible taste and relative cost savings), is that you can whip it up and serve it immediately. This is in direct contrast to some of the other hootch I make (Kahlua and Limoncello) which takes a lot of prep time and a month or more to age.

There are a number of recipes on the internet for homemade Bailey’s. Many call for light cream or half and half. I opted to use heavy whipping cream because that was what I had in the fridge. The result is a thick, frothy and decadent elixir that can be enjoyed straight up, over ice, or in coffee. I doubt, now, I would make this any other way. I brought a bottle to my cookie exchange and my gal pals polished most of it off. I can hardly blame them. Can you think of anything more fun on a Saturday afternoon than Christmas cookies and coffee drinks?

I love the Grolsch-style self-sealing bottles like the one pictured. You can buy bottles at many big box stores or World Market but the cost of bottles can add up unless you use empties from your kitchen. If you plan on giving the Irish Cream as a gift (and you have time) you can get better deals by ordering bottles online. Because every good bootlegger needs a source for cheap bottles, I use Sunburst Bottle. For years, they have had the best prices I’ve found.

So, if you’re still on the hunt for novel gifts or if you want to be the toast of your next holiday get-together, this is the recipe for you.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup light or heavy cream
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk (I used fat-free)
  • 1-2/3 cup Irish whiskey (I used Bushmills)
  • 2 tablespoons Hershey’s chocolate syrup (I used fat-free)
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

Pour all ingredients in a blender and mix for a minute or two.

Transfer to a bottle with a tight seal and refrigerate. Shake gently before pouring.

Drinkable immediately. Will keep in refrigerator for 30 to 60 days (if it lasts that long).

Kat’s Tip: This recipe is perishable. If you do give bottles away as gifts, make sure you add a label with the expiration date and a reminder to keep the bottle refrigerated tied around the neck with some ribbon!

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Adult beverages, Holiday

 

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Brigitte’s Home Made Kahlua – A Handy Gift for the Holidays

The bottling process

Kahlua is a trade name, of course, for coffee liqeure. Making your own coffee liqeure is sinfully easy. As with most things from Kat’s Easy Kitchen, the prep time is practically nil. The wait time may try your patience, though. Coffee liqeure takes about a month before its good and ready for imbibing on.

This recipe is definitely thicker and more “inky” than ones I’ve used in the past. The amounts provided below result in two 750 ml (fifths) of finished product. What you see in the picture on the left is what happens when you put the recipe on steroids since my kitchenistas and I wanted enough to give bottles away as client gifts for the holidays.

Even though we elected for pretty, clear bottles for our batch, coffee liqeure benefits from being stored in dark bottles to protect it from light. That’s why Kahlua comes in dark brown bottles. Empty wine bottles are a perfect storage device, especially if you soak off the labels first. If you start now, you’ll have a nice batch to enjoy at the holidays or to give away as gifts.

Handy measurements:

One 750 ml bottle = one fifth = 25 ounces

One 750 ml bottle = three 250 ml bottles

We purchased 250 ml decorative bottles (in the picture above) so the recipe below netted 6 bottles. These bottles are sold in cases of 12. Doubling the recipe will net you enough to fill one case of 250 ml bottles.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz instant coffee
  • 2 cups boiling water (measured after boiling)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups vodka
  • 1 vanilla bean

Directions:

  1. Boil water on stove top. Measure out 2 cups and place in large bowl or pot. Dissolve sugar to create a simple syrup. Add coffee crystals, stirring until completely dissolved.
  2. Place bowl in ice bath or refrigerator until completely cooled. (Pouring vodka into a hot mixture will burn off the alcohol. Let’s face it, that defeats the purpose!)
  3. Once the sugar/coffee mixture is completely cooled, add the vodka. Carefully transfer the fluid into empty bottles. A funnel is very handy to have.
  4. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise in half. Please one half into each bottle.
  5. Cork bottles and store in a dark place for at least 30 days.

Yield: Two 750 ml (fifths) of finished product

Kat’s tip: We stored our brew in larger containers for one month. When we were ready for the bottling, we strained the mixture to capture the vanilla beans and used a funnel to pour the mixture into the smaller, decorative bottles. To avoid overflow, make sure you leave enough room to drop the vanilla beans back in the bottles as a finishing step before corking.

Kat’s second tip: Vanilla beans come in a number of different flavor profiles depending on where they are sourced. We purchased Grade A Bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla.

Related articles and recipes (besides White Russians):

Chocolate Cavity Maker Cake

Mini Chocolate Tiramusu Cakes

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Adult beverages, Desserts, Holiday, Scratch cooking

 

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Limoncello Shrimp and Cous Cous

Scampi-style shrimp with mushrooms and Limoncello sauce over a bed of couscous

I make my own limoncello and am always looking for interesting ways to use it. Years ago I cut this recipe out of the circular for our local grocery store, Basha’s. Credit should go to David Larsen of Scottsdale who won a contest with this recipe. I’ve scoured the internet and didn’t find anything else like it.

I was originally fearful that the combination of lemon zest, lemon juice and Limoncello was going to be overpowering. Cooking the Limoncello actually burns off the alcohol which mellows out the flavor. In fact, I was underwhelmed by the flavors in general. I did skip the “flaming” option in lieu of not burning my fingers which may have made a difference. The dish, as published, was a little bland so I made some adjustments.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups dried couscous
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can mixed vegetables, drained and rinsed
  • 1 quarter cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 pound shrimp, deshelled with tail off
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of mushrooms (I prefer baby bellas)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup Limoncello or vodka
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Bring the water to boil in a medium pan. Stir in the couscous, mixed veggies and cilantro. Bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Remove the shells and tails from the shrimp. Place in a large bowl, sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Set aside.
  3. Heat butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Saute for several minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the shrimp and stir to combine. Cook for about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the lemon zest and Limoncello or vodka.
  6. Stir in the lemon juice, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer several minutes until the sauce thickens slightly and the shrimp is cooked/heated through.
  7. Place the couscous on a platter and spoon the shrimp and sauce in the middle. Sprinkle with aged cheese. Garnish with additional cilantro and lemon wedges, if desired.

Kat’s tip: Because shrimp cooks up fairly quickly, you can use raw shrimp or pre-cooked shrimp with equal results. If using frozen, it should be thawed first.

Kat’s second tip: If you’re really daring you can try flaming the shrimp after you pour the Limoncello in the pan; this will burn off the alcohol and leave with you a pleasantly sweet lemon flavor. I didn’t do this because I couldn’t find my grill lighter and I was afraid of burning my fingers using a regular Bic lighter. If you opt to flame the shrimp, remove the pan from the heat. Carefully light the pan to flame the shrimp and wait until the flame has burned out before returning the pan to heat. Make sure there is nothing above or around the pan that could catch fire.

Serves four

Nutritional information – values per serving are approximate:

Calories 471.9 Total Fat 8.6g Cholesterol 209.9mg Sodium 544.6mg Potassium 631.9mg Total Carbohydrate 61.9g  Protein 32.5g

Inspiration: Basha’s Fresh is Best circa 2007 – my compliments to David Larsen of Scottsdale

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Adult beverages, Grains

 

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Mini Chocolate Tiramisu Cakes

Bite size morsels of chocolaty goodness

As long as we’re on the topic of sweets from yesterday’s post…especially sweets that include coffee liqueur (aka Kahlua) here is another tried and true recipe. Since I make my own coffee liqueur this recipe seems to call to me. Prior to signing up with Pampered Chef and getting the 24-cup mini muffin pan in my kit, I actually owned a 12-cup tin. The first time I made this, I cut the batter in half and successfully baked two batches of 12 muffins.

Before proceeding I will say that there were a few minor incidents in the making of the cakes. Incident 1: I didn’t read the ingredients, directions or cook’s tip at the bottom closely enough so I bought a standard size box of devil’s food cake (which is about twice as much as the recipe calls for). Not wanting to waste any, I eyeballed about half and then had enough cake mix to make 2 batches. Although it turned out to be slightly less that what is called for in the Cook’s Tip at the bottom, no one could tell. On a side rant, it irritates me that food manufacturers are shrinking the amounts of food in the packages. Nowadays, a pound is no longer a pound; its 14.5 ounces. More than likely there was a day when the Devil’s Food cake mix box would have had enough in it to make two batches according to the recipe. Grrrr.

Anyway, back to more pleasant thoughts and sweet indulgences. Incident 2 occurred when I followed the directions below and tried to fill a plastic bag with whipped topping so that I could “pipe” it on top of the muffins. FAIL! What a mess that turned out to be. Save yourself the time and effort and just buy whipped topping in a can. One spritz and you have a lovely little topper on each morsel. Incident 2a happened when I got over eager about the whipped cream and added the topping WAY too soon before serving. What started as beautiful little puffs of whipped cream turned into less attractive, albeit still delicious, blobs in the fridge (as evidenced by the photo). Lesson learned…top with whipped cream immediately before serving for the best presentation.

Treat yourself with these decadent mini cakes which are paired with a melt in your mouth filling for an impressive dessert.

Ingredients:

Cakes

  • 1 small pkg (9 oz) devil’s food cake mix
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup coffee liqueur (see Cook’s Tip)

Filling & Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups thawed frozen whipped topping (from a can is easiest)
  • 8 oz mascarpone or cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp  vanilla extract
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray cups of Deluxe Mini-Muffin Pan with nonstick cooking spray. For cakes, combine cake mix, sour cream, egg, coffee granules and water in Classic Batter Bowl; mix using Small Mix ‘N Scraper®. Divide batter evenly among cups of pan. Bake 8–10 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean.
  2. Meanwhile, place whipped topping into large resealable plastic bag; secure and set aside. For filling, combine cheese, sugar and vanilla in clean batter bowl; mix until smooth using clean scraper. Place filling into an additional resealable plastic bag; secure and set aside.
  3. Remove pan from oven to Stackable Cooling Rack. Press tops of cakes with lightly floured Mini-Tart Shaper to make slight indentations; cool 2 minutes. Remove cakes from pan to cooling rack. Brush tops with coffee liqueur using Chef’s Silicone Basting Brush; cool completely.
  4. Trim corners of both bags. Pipe filling over cakes. Pipe whipped topping over filling. Sprinkle with cocoa powder, if desired.

Cook’s Tips: If desired, 1 2/3 cups of devil’s food cake mix from an 18.25-oz package can be used for this recipe.

To substitute coffee liqueur, combine 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup  sugar, 1 tbsp instant coffee granules and 1 tsp rum extract in (1-cup) Prep Bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 1–2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved; cool.

Yield: 24 cakes

Nutrients per serving: (1 cake): Calories 120, Total Fat 7 g, Saturated Fat 4 g, Cholesterol 20 mg, Carbohydrate 12 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 105 mg, Fiber 0 g

Source: The Pampered Chef Season’s Best Fall/Winter 200 Recipe Collection

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Adult beverages, Desserts, Holiday

 

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