Saturday, May 7, 2011

Semi-Homemade Baby Shower Luncheon

I found out a few months ago my dear friends were expecting their first child. I was so excited to hear the wonderful news because I knew how much they've been praying to add this blessing into their family. Since I did not hear of a baby shower being planned, an idea popped in my head to throw them a surprise baby shower.

I contacted a few close friends and one of them who lives out of State already planned a visit to CA so we decided to have it the weekend she's in town...which also meant that we had less than 2 weeks to plan it.

They will be welcoming a baby boy in July so I decided to go with yellow, teal, and grey/white color palette and Bird theme. I ordered the graphics from Etsy to design the Menu Card, Place Card, and Banner.

We originally decided to order from a restaurant for the food since we're pressed for time. But then I took a trip to Sam's Club and discovered something new that I wanted to experiment with. There was a display stand, The Pantry Club, featuring samples of gourmet dip mixes. I had to try each one and they were very flavorful. There are 6 different mixes: Cucumber Dill, Sesame Garlic, Chipotle Chile, Bacon Cheddar, Onion Chive, and Tomato Pesto. They can be used as a dip and mixed with sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese or other plain creamy base. They can also be used to season veggies, beef, pork, chicken, and seafood.

I brought the idea to the group if I can prepare the food instead of buying. I knew I didn't have time to make everything from scratch or anything too time-consuming so I thought these mixes would be a great way to help me cook for the baby shower. This is the menu I came up with.

LUNCHEON MENU
  • Crudités served with Cucumber Dill Dip (with Low-Fat Sour Cream base)
  • Blue Corn Tortilla Chips served with Mango Salsa (Italian Rose Brand purchased at Sam's Club)
  • Crab Cake Sliders (seasoned with Chipotle Chile Mix) and Sesame Garlic Mayo
  • Italian Meatballs (seasoned with Tomato Pesto Mix) with Marinara Sauce over Linguini
SWEET DELIGHTS
  • Chocolate Cake and Cupcakes with Butter Cream Frosting (Sam's Club)
  • Wild Blueberry Tarte (Trader Joe's)
  • Lemon Cheesecake (using Lemon Bar Mix)
  • Mango-Blueberry Parfait Shooter
The parents-t0-be were very surprised and we had a wonderful time celebrating their upcoming bundle of joy. I can't wait to meet this baby in a couple of months!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tiramisu

My hubby is not a dessert person but the one dessert he never says "no" to is Tiramisu. Our particular favorite is the family style tiramisu from Buca di Beppo restaurant. I've been wanting to try making it at home but never got around to it. Well..the time has finally come! I was happy with how it turned out but the happiest person of all is....hubby, of course! :)

Ingredients

9 oz. Marscapone cheese
3 oz. Zabaione custard
1/2 C. espresso rum mix
3 Ladyfingers
1/4 C. Cocoa powder
1 Biscotti, crumbled

Cooking instruction:

1. Whip the mascarpone cheese until light and airy.

2. Dip ladyfingers in rum espresso mixture and place in a deep bowl dish.

3. Top with 1 oz. of zabaione.

4. Using a 3 oz. scoop, layer one-third of the whipped mascarpone over ladyfingers.

5. Repeat process two more times with remaining ladyfingers.

6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

7. Prior to serving, dust with cocoa powder and crumbled biscotti.

Zabaione

When I hear chefs on Food Network shows say "zabaione," it sounds so fancy and sophisticated...and intimidating. What is zabaione anyway? I searched on google and found out zabaione is an Italian dessert made of egg yolks, sugar, and sweet wine...then whipped to make a light and airy custard. It is traditionally served with figs. Surprisingly, zabaione is actually quite simple to make. You can even make it using the microwave, which was what I did. I didn't have figs on hand so I served it over mixed berries.

Ingredients

5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. Marsala
Mixed berries

Cooking instruction:


1. In a microwavable bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the egg with the sugar until the eggs are thick and lemon colored.

2. Whisk in the Marsala.

3. Microwave on high for 30 seconds.

4. Whisk.

5. Repeat this timing for about 4-6 times, or until the pudding gets thick and airy.

6. Spoon over mixed berries.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Quinoa and Pistachio Stuffed Eggplant

Sometimes I'm ashamed to call myself a blogger because I don't write posts as often as I should. I have several recipes and pictures stashed away that I just haven't gotten a chance to post yet but I promise I will get through them slowly but surely. But first, I wanted to share an exciting adventure I've been up to the last couple of months.

On September 6th, the day after my 34th Birthday, I joined a 21-day vegan kickstart program. I decided to join for health reasons because chronic diseases run in my family. Also, out of curiosity, I wanted to see if I could actually do it. I sent emails to several friends and family members to join me but they all thought giving up meat, dairy, and eggs were too much of a sacrifice. I think they all probably thought they would have to eat "leaves" for 21 days. So, I set out on the quest on my own. "What have I gotten myself into!! I LOVE meat!!"

I'm proud to report that I survived the 21-day vegan challenge and lost 5.5 pounds at the end of it and a total of 8 pounds to date. Twelve more pounds to go! Woohoooooo!! And no, I didn't lose the weight from eating just leaves. In fact, I was surprisingly full most of the time because I ate foods rich in fiber, protein, and other nutrients but much less fat and practically no cholesterol.

Now, I don't want to offend true vegans by calling myself a vegan. I have to be honest and admit that I cannot deprive myself of meat, dairy, and eggs for the rest of my life. I guess I'm someone who eats a vegan diet most of the time. I will consume lean meat or fish maybe twice a month.

This experience has allowed me to see food in a whole new way and introduced me to new ingredients I wouldn't have tried otherwise, like lentils, quinoa, and agave nectar to name a few. Although the program gave a daily meal plan and recipes, I ended up only trying one recipe, which I did like very much. But, I found myself excited to create my own meals and thinking of ways to create vegan dishes that are packed with flavor.

When I saw Indian eggplants at the store, they're so cute I couldn't resist to buy them. These eggplants are about the size of hen's eggs. I already bought a package of quinoa at Trader Joe's that I haven't used so I thought this would be an opportunity for me to experiment. I also incorporated pistachios because I read an article recently stating that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a qualified health claim that states eating 1.5 oz. (about a handful) of nuts a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.

I thought these eggplants were too cute to just cut up and cook so I decided to make them into little shells and stuff them. I used spices common in Indian cooking to make the filling and they turned out very aromatic and delicious.

Ingredients

8 Indian eggplants
3 shallots (diced)
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1/4 C. chopped pistachios
1/8 t. coriander
1/8 t. cumin
1/8 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. turmeric
salt, or to taste
1/2 C. quinoa
1 C. coconut milk
olive oil
paprika

Cooking Instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 325 F.

2. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Use a melon baller to scoop out the eggplant flesh, leaving about 1/4 inch thick shell. Make sure to keep the shell in tact. Cut the flesh into small cubes and place in a small bowl.

3. Rub the inside of each eggplant shell with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

4. While the eggplant shells are baking, in a small pot, cook quinoa with coconut milk by bringing it to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand (with lid on) for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

5. Heat 2 T. olive oil on medium heat in a pan. Add shallots and garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add eggplant cubes and all the spices (except paprika) and salt and cook for about 10 minutes until eggplants become soft. Turn off heat.

6. Add quinoa and pistachios to the eggplant mixture and stir to mix well.

7. Fill each eggplant shell with a generous spoonful of the eggplant/quinoa mixture. Sprinkle paprika on top.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Zucchini Bread

I love zucchini in general and zucchini bread is like the icing on a cake. I got this zucchini bread recipe from my co-worker. The first time I had her zucchini bread was at one of our office potlucks several years ago. I think it was the best zucchini bread I ever ate. I was so happy she shared the recipe with me. Now I don't have to wait for the next potluck to take a bite of this scrumptious treat!

Recipe Courtesy of Karri Smith

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

Mix 1

3 C. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
2-3 T. cinnamon

Mix 2
2 ¼ C. sugar
3 eggs
3 t. vanilla
1 C. vegetable oil (I’ve used 2/3 cup oil and the bread is still moist!)

Cooking instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Once Mix 2 is combined, stir in 2 to 3 cups of grated zucchini.

3. Add and combine half of Mix 1 at a time to Mix 2. Pour batter into 2 loaf pans (I used 1 bundt pan).

4. Bake for 60 minutes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Insalata Caprese

Insalata Caprese literally means "Salad, Capri style." This simple Italian salad only has 3 main ingredients: sliced tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. Just layer them around a platter and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar (if you like), salt and black pepper.

I wanted to have a little fun so I decided to make the salad into bite size pieces. I used grape tomatoes and small mozzarella balls (you can find them in a small container). I cut the tomatoes in half, rolled the basil leaves, then skewer them with a toothpick. They make adorable and colorful appetizers.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Creamy Tomato-Basil Sauce

Today, I'm proud to announce that made pasta sauce from scratch for the very first time. I've heard many people say it's so easy but somehow I've been intimidated by it. I went to the market to pick up a bottle of pasta cause and a Creamy Tomato-Basil sauce caught my eye. Then I got the urge to try to make it myself. So, I read the ingredients on the bottle. Hmmm...the basic ingredients seem simple enough, it's just going to be a matter of figuring out how much of each ingredient to get. What really opened my eyes while reading the ingredients was that there are so many unnecessary additives and preservatives in the sauce you buy at the store.

So I got really excited about making it myself. I put the bottle back on the shelf and picked up fresh ingredients to make my very own Creamy Tomato-Basil Sauce. Oh my goshhh....I can't believe I waited this long to try it!! I'm going to become one of those people who will say "it's so easy!" :) I cant' wait to try making other sauces.

The sauce came out delicious. I can really taste the freshness of the tomatoes and basil that I can't get from sauce that come in a bottle. I served the sauce with Linguini and Pan Fried Fish Fillet. Next time I'm going to try it with seared scallops...yummm!

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

10 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 large onion, diced
6 garlic cloves
10-12 fresh basil leaves
1 t. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 C. heavy cream
3 oz. aged Asiago cheese
1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. butter
Crushed red pepper (optional)
Pasta of your choice, cooked according to box instruction

Cooking instruction:

1. Heat oil in a large pan. Add onions and garlic and sautee for 3-4 minutes until onions turn opaque.

2. Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 8 minutes. Turn off heat.

3. Stir in butter until melted.

4. Transfer tomato sauce into a blender or large food processor. Add heavy cream and cheese, and blend for 15-30 seconds.

5. Pour back into pan and cook until just bubbling, then turn off heat.

6. Serve hot with pasta. Add crushed red pepper, if desired.
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