Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche

Say that you like cooking and catering and enjoy that as a side job with the bonus of added income.  The question that comes up is how do you get that word out?  Advertising opportunities don't just pop up, mostly with catering it is word of mouth which takes time to build.  Kris and I have been working on business cards.  We have some ideas but really haven't settled yet but more important than that is getting people that may buy your food to taste it.  Sure my friends like it when I put a dinner together and I love doing that but lets face it my friends are like me, none of us are rich and most can throw together a meal, which leaves the question still of you to reach that other audience.

Kris works at the corporate office for a large corporation, for their holiday gathering she asked if I would make something a little different to set out with business cards.  Here it is Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche!  For this buffet is is served on fresh mesculin with some flatbread. 

You will need
3/4 of a pound of bay scallops (those are the small ones)
3/4 of a pound of shrimp peeled and devained
Juice from 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange
2 TBS Olive oil
1 green pepper julienned
1 red bell pepper julienned
1 red onion julienned
1 tsp Chipotle chile powder
1 tsp Red pepper flakes
chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
and, kind of a strange one here, some ketchup

Clean shrimp removing shell and tail, I cut mine in half lengthwise.  Bring a pot of water to a boil then put in your shrimp and scallops to blanch for about 10-15 SECONDS.  I keep mine in a strainer so I can pull them out quickly drop them in ice water then lay them on a sheet pan and put them into the fridge.

Juice the citrus fruit into a large bowl then add the shrimp, scallops and olive oil and toss then add the peppers, onions chili powder and pepper flakes.  Toss it all together again and refrigerate for an hour or so then taste, add your cilantro, salt and pepper and the ketchup somewhere between a couple of tablespoons and 1/4 cup.  Toss one more time and serve.

This one has a couple of oddities in it, first is the blanch for 10 seconds, It really works well on the shrimp when the dish is ready to serve it has the wonderful pop of texture but since it is only the 10 to 15 seconds almost all of the "cooking" comes from the acid in the juices.  The ketchup, you want to add enough to turn the liquid into something like a citrus barbeque sauce.  It coats everything with a sweet tangy flavor that plays well with the chipotle and red pepper.

This one is served on spring greens with a flatbread, it really worked best for the venue it was in.  If at home I like to add some avocados when I am done.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I posted this last year but it still makes me laugh.  Now that we are in that time of year where every magazine has a cover article of "how to maintain during the holidays" and bizarre suggestions like avoiding butter, gravy or limiting desserts, Plus what the heck is low-fat eggnog?  Anyway I hope that all of you enjoy your holiday!

Oh and before you get started Frosty did make it outside, but it looks like he has some problems... when we came home a couple of days ago we found this...
 I Said, "Oh No, Frosty Fainted."

Miss Lu shouted, "He didn't faint, He is drunk again!"
When you think about it though; of course he has trouble holding is liquor he only weighs about 3 pounds

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare... You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cranberry Vodka

So it is that time of year you know the wonderful warm holiday season where we get to spend time with our family and friends.  That warm magical season of peace and happiness....


Or maybe it is the season that we need a couple more of these

Yes folks this one is a showstopper!

To infuse the Vodka start like you would with cranberries
1/2 bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup of brown sugar
a little bit of water (just to get the cranberries going)
1 bottle of vodka

Put your cranberries, brown sugar and splash of water into a sauce pan and heat.  You want to cook them about half as much as you do for cranberry sauce, so remove from heat when some but not all cranberries have popped.

Pour all the cooked cranberries into a large mouthed jar then add a bottle of vodka.  Here comes the hard part... set it on the counter for about a week.  After the 6-7 days poor through a cheese cloth lined strainer then put it into a bottle, I have been keeping it in the freezer.

To mix this drink pour about 3-4 oz of cranberry vodka into a shaker, top with about a Tablespoon of orange simple syrup and shake.  Strain into a martini glass, this guy is garnished with candied orange peels.  Altogether an great drink and it should take the edge off of any family gathering.

 Maybe after one more I will be ready to put those annoying lawn ornaments outside

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Potato Flatbread Sandwich

OK I fully admit that posts like my last one are part of the reason that my doctor calls me "fat fat fat"  and I really do have to admit that for me bacon is an evil temptress. I think that all of you are all pretty bright, if you have read even a few of my posts you can see that my friend the pig comes up often, but you don't know the full story... at work we make bacon by the bucket full.  So on any given morning I will walk through the kitchen and look! someone is pulling a pan of bacon out of the oven... "I better try one."  A few minutes later I will go by and there I see someone else putting bacon 50 or 60 slices of bacon into a serving pan "hmm, those look a little more done than the first batch I better try one..."  Then there is always "quality assurance, I had better inspect."  At the end of the day we go through about 700 slices of bacon... no I don't eat them ALL but I don't count on purpose.  I am pretty sure that if I could just walk past the siren song (well smell) of bacon I won't have that conversation with the doctor on my next visit...

All that being said I do try to lighten it up sometimes, this flatbread sandwich/salad does just fine for those *non-bacony meals, when I have something lighter with actual vegetables and other good stuff.  It is as simple as can be the potato flatbread topped with a grilled chicken breast and spinach with blueberry vinaigrette dressing.  It all pulls together well with a nice mix of flavors ranging from the sweet tangy dressing and the bite of goat cheese all wrapped in the warm *potaotey comfort that it deserves.

Potato Flat Bread
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp minced onion
1 tsp sugar
chopped cilantro
1/2 cup water

Mix the first 5 ingredients together then add the water,** start with half the amount the add until it is sticky but firm.  When it is well mixed cover and set aside for at least half an hour.  When you are ready to prepare cut ball into quarters, dust with flour and roll flat into about 8 inch circles.  Then throw them onto a hot lightly oiled pan, for me it worked best with a quick squirt of pan spray.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes on a side until lightly browned and flexible.  As you take them off stack them and set aside until ready to serve... I can't say how long they will last because I eat them too fast

Spinach Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette Dressing
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
1 tsp sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries)

Puree all ingredients until smooth (I used a stick blender).

To assemble toss some baby spinach with some of the dressing... place a flatbread on your plate, top with the dressed spinach leaves.  Lay a sliced chicken breast on that them top with fresh blueberries, onions and goat cheese.

*it seems that I have taken to making up my own words... lets see what happens in a few years maybe they will be in the dictionary.

** I have made this three times now, twice the water was just right the other time I had to add another 1/2 cup of flour.  I never quite understand that stuff, flour seems to have a mind of it's own sometimes

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bacon Peanut Butter Truffles

I have mentioned a few times my appreciation for all things pork, I really am fond of the pig!  It is one of the things that reminds me that there must be a higher power because, well in one  package you have:
heck I have even seen their feet in a pickle jar at some of the bars that I used to go to and don't forget that yummy fatty stuff from around the belly BACON. 

Bacon is one of those things that transcends any course of any meal; there is always bacon with breakfast,  Spinach salad with bacon dressing(mmm bacon vinaigrette dressing) bacon wrapped pork tenderloin, bacon on any sandwich.  Then you can't forget beverages or dessert...  yes folks this one is about dessert.

I have talked about my friend the cookbook dealer a few times, he made another visit not to long ago and dropped off a few magazines for me, a couple of issues of Food and Wine, (from 2006 and 2008) one issue of Whole Living from 2009 and a copy of Saveur from March 2005.  Since the whole cookbook/culinary magazine thing is kind of an addiction for me I try to keep the gravity of it hidden (is there a 12 step program for that?)  I tossed these in the back of my car so nobody would find them and there they sat there with the other 30 or so cookbooks and magazines until a few days back when I took Miss Lu to dance I was looking for some reading material for the hour I was about to spend sitting in a folding metal chair.
On our way to dance class

I ran out to the car and riffled around for something to spark my interest... then there it was in the upper right hand corner "Seduced by Bacon"  I couldn't pass on that!  inside was "Peanut Butter Bacon Truffles" Ok if you have read even a few of my posts you know I had to follow up on this one!

6 strips of bacon cooked until crisp well drained
1/2 cup salted dry roasted peanuts
4 tsp sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
8 oz chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Coarsely chop bacon then put into a food processor with peanuts and sugar... pulse until  mixture is ground to medium fine texture.  Pour into a bowl then add peanut butter and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is firm.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Roll the peanut butter mixture into balls 3/4 to 1 inch in size and set them on the sheet, when it is all used lightly cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Before you take them out put the refrigerator melt your chocolate chips in a double boiler stirring often to keep it smooth, then set aside until cool enough to touch.  Then take your peanut butter balls out of of the refrigerator and drop them a few at a time in the chocolate to coat then toss in the cocoa powder.

The article said that you can set them in a sealed container with some cocoa powder and they keep for about a week in the refrigerator, just bring them to room temperature before serving.  these guys only made it overnight, yes the breakfast of champions!

OK these little peanutbuttery baconey balls of chocolate really did it!  The salty sweet chocolaty candies were as good as they sound!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cheddar Beer Bread

OK I think I am going to just write November 2011 off as my worst blogger month ever.  The month started out with a computer crash at home and it took us a couple of weeks to get a new one.  Then life went CRAZY at the end of the month with a road trip to sunny Wisconsin, then Miss EL visiting us for Thanksgiving and the weekend plus I had to work the entire time so I was BEAT!  I am going to whine like a baby for a minute here... most mornings I get up around 4:00 to make make my trek into work by 6:00.  On the weekends or holidays that I work I have to open which means that I have to get in at about 5:00 which has my first alarm going of a 3:06.  I know the difference between three and four in the morning may not seem that big but it feels huge when I am crawling out of bed.  Add to that I was trying to spend some time with everybody during my time off, at the end of seven days of it in a row I was starting to get a little addle brained.  We went to see the Muppit Movie one day and the Cunio Museum another, plus picking Miss El up and returning her at the halfway point between here and where her mom lives. 

On my seventh day in a row at work (which admittedly was a short one) someone asked what I was going to do on my days off.  Answer "I think I am going to have a drink!"  Since I think I earned it I decided to take my alcohol in every form that I could. 

Cheddar Beer Bread (shamelessly taken from Alton Brown)
8 ounces all-purpose flour

4 ounces whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
4 1/2 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated
12 ounces dark beer,

Preheat the oven to 375. Coat the inside of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with the nonstick spray and set aside.  Whisk together the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and dill in a large mixing bowl. Add in the cheese then stir in the beer just to combine. Pour batter into your loaf pan then bake on the middle rack of the oven until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 to 55 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

This was the first time that I have checked the temperature of bread, it worked great in this case the bread was moist yet light and fully done.   The rest of breakfast was a mess of holiday weekend leftover hash, really the perfect day off meal.