Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coming up soon....

Be on the lookout for my next Saturday Night Supper Menu coming up following this weekend. My birthday is next week so I plan to cook up something special for myself! While my family has become more adventurous in the eating department (not always by choice) many of my favorites are not what they would choose. While I respect that most of the time, and I will certainly come up with a diverse enough menu that there will be something for everyone, it will mostly be composed of things I love. So do come back and see what is on the menu for Saturday Night.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dinosaur Cake

The cake roll recipe here is from Weight Watchers Magazine with some minor changes. In the recipe they do call for greasing the jelly roll pan, lining the greased pan with parchment and greasing and flouring the parchment. Thus far I have gotten away with greasing and flouring my jelly roll pan VERY well and skipping the parchment part. I do thoroughly loosen the cake all around with a thin spatula before inverting.

3 tbls confectioners sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 oz milk chocolate, grated
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Sift together the flour, cocoa,espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix in grated chocolate.

In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until thickened. Alternately add the flour and milk, ending with the flour mixture.

Pour batter in pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until cake is done and springs back in the center.

While the cake is baking sprinkle the 3 tbls of confectioners sugar over a large kitchen towel.

When the cake is done invert it onto the towel. While it is still warm roll the cake up along with the towel beginning with a short end. Allow the cake to cool while rolled up.

I would like to add at this point that from now on I am going to do the inverting part OUTSIDE. Not that the kitchen did not need dusting anyway BUT the inverting part does make a mess. It has happened time again because I make those yummy pumpkin rolls at Thanksgiving and Christmas. So I have now learned. Take the whole shebang outside.

For the Filling:

1 8 oz container light coolwhip, thawed
2 oz dark chocolate

Put the dark chocolate in a large microwave safe bowl and microwave for 45 seconds. Stir and then microwave for 15 second intervals until completely melted. Fold in coolwhip.

Unroll cooled cake. Spread with coolwhip filling and roll back up. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

At this point the serving options are up to you. We made leaf decorations by melting almond bark and tinting it green. We then painted it on real leaves and let it harden. We peeled off the real leaves and were left with the edible ones. We glued them and the dinosaurs on with canned frosting.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I use my bread machine all the time but only for the dough cycle. It is just so convenient to just toss in the ingredients and let the machine do all the mixing and kneading. I do not like the shape of machine made dough so I take it out after the dough cycle then shape and bake conventionally. For this dinner I made a loaf of foccacia.

1/2 cup water
1 tbls olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp chopped dried rosemary
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 medium onion thinly sliced 1 plum tomato diced
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbls Parmesan cheese

Combine the water and the next 7 ingredients in the bread machine and let it run through the dough cycle. Meanwhile, saute the onion and tomato together until the onion is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely.

When the dough is done, spread it out to 1/4 inch disk on a piece of cornmeal sprinkled parchment paper set on a plate. Spread the onion mixture over the dough. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Let rise in a moist warm place (I bring a mug of water to a boil in the microwave and then put the dough in there to rise) for 40- 45 minutes.

Place a cookie sheet in the oven and heat the oven to 375. Transfer the dough, parchment paper and all, to the baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.

Black Beans and Rice

I love beans and rice. Sometimes I mix the rice and beans together and serve it that way but since we had a lot of kids I served the two separately so the kids could eat just rice if they chose.

8 oz black beans
2 medium yellow onions
1 jalapeno pepper, quartered and seeded
1 Bay leaf
1 tbls olive oil
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tbls sherry vinegar or dry sherry (I prefer the sherry vinegar)
6 cups cooked white rice
Enhancements: Chopped red onion, finely chopped cilantro

Soak the black beans overnight in water to cover. Drain the beans and add fresh water to cover by 2 inches or so. Add one yellow onion cut in half and the quartered jalapeno and bay leaf. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the beans are tender. Remove the onion and jalepeno from the pot.

Chop the remaining onion. Saute the chopped onion, bell pepper, garlic, and sugar in the olive oil until onion is tender and translucent. Add one cup of the cooked black beans and mash the beans. Add the mashed bean mixture to the bean pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until the beans just show in the liquid in the pot. Add the vinegar or sherry, adjust the seasonings and serve over white rice. Serve with enhancements if desired.

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Dill and Feta

I just love this salad. It is so refreshing! When deciding whether to peel or not to peel the cucumbers, if I can get them unwaxed, I simply score them top to bottom with a fork all the way around and use them peel and all. If all I can get are waxed then the peel goes.

Fresh dill can be chopped and frozen. I buy a big bunch of it at the produce market. Whatever I am not currently using I chop up and put in a zip lock bag in the freezer. Whenever I need fresh dill it is right there. None of it goes to waste even when I cannot use the whole bunch right away. The same thing can be done with parsley so if you have a bunch you cannot use right away, chop it and freeze it. Use as you would fresh.

1 large tomato, diced
1 large cucumber, diced
1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 tbls toasted pinenuts
2 tbls chopped fresh dill
2 tbls chopped red onion
1 tbls extra virgin olive oil
1 tbls balsamic vinegar
1 tbls red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Greek-Style Spaghetti Squash Salad

I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light. Everyone enjoyed it. I cut the original recipe in half because I had a small squash. The original recipe also called for a can of chickpeas which I did not include since one of my guests is not fond of them. We all agreed that it was great without them. I also changed some of the other ratios to suit my taste. I will definately be making this a lot this summer.

1 1/2 tbls red wine vinegar
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cups cooked spaghetti squash
1 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tbls diced green bell pepper
2 tbls diced red onion
2 tbls chopped, pitted kalamata olives

Combine first 6 ingredients and blend well.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss well. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Mojo Marinated Rotisserie Chicken

This one is easy!

2 Whole 3 1/2 to 4 lb chickens
2 Bottles Mojo Marinade

I use a playmate cooler for marinating. It works great and frees up valuable refrigerator space. I put the chickens in the cooler at least 8 hours before cooking. Pour the marinate over them and add some ice cubes to keep things chilly. Turn the chickens every couple of hours. At the same time, put some wood chips in water to soak. When ready to cook, remove the chickens from the marinade and rinse. Hopefully your rotisserie has a rack to hold the wood chips. Cook the chickens for about 1 1/2 hours or until done. Be sure to let them stand off the heat for 15 minutes before cutting.

Green Olive and Artichoke Tapenade

While this was tasty it was also pretty salty. I think that it will be more successful as a pesto like pasta sauce than as a dip or spread on its own. Since there is plenty leftover I am going to give this option a shot sometime this week. I will report on how it works.

Today is Wednesday, April 28, and I used this tonight as a pasta sauce. While it was much better in this capacity I cannot thoroughly recommend this recipe. Of everything I served at my first dinner this one did not come out the way I imagined it should. So I am going to continue to tinker with tapenades until I come up with a recipe that I find worthy of recommending. In the meantime - enjoy the rest of the menu.

Okay, I was raised in a very frugal household. Nothing went to waste. Indeed, at Easter my daughters decorated a batch of cupcakes. They were bunny cupcakes with marshmallow teeth and noses, M&M eyes and twizzler whiskers and abundant amounts of frosting. A week later 12 or so still remained. So I whirled them up, toppings and all, in the food processor. That became the "sugar" component of the biscotti. I then added the savory part- flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, eggs, etc., but no additional sugar. I baked them as for biscotti. At the end of the crisping part, after I had baked and sliced them and bake them again, I topped each piece with some Easter chocolate that I chopped up from chocolate eggs and mini Easter Hersheys Candy bars. Once it melted I spread it over the biscotti. Boy were they wonderful.

Needless to say, have really been trying to find out where this particular tepenade recipe belongs and think I did today. I toasted up a slice of my homemade bread - more to come on that subject later, and slathered it with the tapenade. I put the bread on a pile of mesclun and topped the whole thing off with a fried egg. It made a fabulous breakfast. I think I will finish it off (the tapenade) tomorrow. In the meantime I will continue to pursue the ultimate tapenade recipe but this one does suit the bill for breakfast with toast and a poached egg.

1/4 cup of pecans, toasted
1 14 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained
1/3 cup of pitted green olives
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbls capers, drained
1 tbls chopped fresh parsley
1 tbls lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp chopped fresh basil
fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until combined but still a little chunky.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Black Bean Hummus

1 can Chickpeas, drained, reserve liquid
2 Chipotle Chilis in Adobo
2 TBLS Sesame Seeds
2 Cloves Garlic, Crushed
1 TBLS Lemon Juice
1 TBLS Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Chipotle Hot Sauce
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 Can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine the chickpeas, chipotle chilis, sesame seeds, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, hot sauce, cumin and chili powder in a food processor. Pulse until blended. Add enough of the reserved chickpea liquid to make a spreadable puree. Add the black beans and pulse until combined but still somewhat chunky.

First of Many Saturday Night Suppers

Tonight I hosted my first true Saturday Night Supper. We had April and Wes and their son’s, Casey, Jonathan and Stephen, over for dinner.

I have not done as much entertaining as I would like in the last few years. There always seems to be something that needs to be done or gets in the way. Not fun things either - things like cleaning the house or getting it properly decorated before having guests in or worrying that the menu and cooking won‘t stand up to snuff. Lately I keep thinking about that quote from Erma Bombeck, “I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.” The quote was part of a list she made of things she regretted not doing after she found out she was dying from cancer. My wish is for everyone to have a nonexistent, or at least a very short, list of regrets, and then, only minor ones. The above is one I am going to cross off of mine because I do plan to enjoy being surrounded by my family and friends on a more regular basis. I love to cook for people and to watch everyone enjoying themselves. If some things flop (which they will) then so be it. It will provide a good laugh I am sure.

I kept things pretty simple for this menu. I always try to serve a variety of different things so that there is something for everyone’s taste. Tonight we were also celebrating Casey being potty trained. I had promised him a dinosaur cake when he got out of diapers. A few days later he was done. Rather than try to make a cake shaped and decorated like a dinosaur (I am well aware of my limitations), I decided to go the route of placing plastic ones on a cake. The bonus here is that he got to take home some prizes! My 8 year old twin daughters helped decorate the cake. They love being creative and the cool thing about doing it with a cake is that the cake gets eaten and does not produce additional clutter. While I would certainly love to keep every bit of their artwork, it just is not feasible. I always feel so guilty when they ask about a specific piece that I chose not to keep a week or so after it has left the house. At least I can honestly say “I don’t know” when they ask if I know where it is. After all it may be at the landfill or still on the truck!

Anyway, without further ado, here is the menu for this Saturday Night Supper:

To Start Things Off:

Assorted Cheese and Crackers

Black Bean Hummus

Artichoke and Green Olive Tapenade

Pita Chips for dipping


The Main Course:

Mojo Marinated Rotisserie Chicken

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Dill, Feta and Pinenuts

Greek Style Spaghetti Squash Salad




Dinosaur Cake

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lasagna Two Ways

Okay, while my plan is to post menus and recipes from evenings entertaining friends and family, I did make some dinners this week that could be incorporated into such an event although I just made them for my immediate family to enjoy during the week.

The dishes I made are for lasagna. Lasagna is a great dish for entertaining for a number of reasons:

1. It really is best made ahead.

2. It feeds a lot of people.

3. There are so many variations, you could serve it every night of the week and make it different each time.

Lasagna is somewhat time consuming due to the prep work so I say, make more than one. Once the prep is done, things move pretty quickly. I made two different recipes. One for a traditional red lasagna and one for a white lasagna. While the only difference between the two is the sauce, the flavors are completely different and I will serve them two nights in a row and nobody will feel like they are eating the same thing twice. If you are entertaining, you could serve them both and let people decide which is their favorite. I have other favorite lasagna combinations which I will post in the future but here are the two I just made. I hope you enjoy:

The ingredient list is for both recipes as that is how I did it. This will make one Traditional Lasagna and one White Lasagna. I have found that you do not need to precook the lasagna noodles. This saves time and work plus the noodles soak up so much more flavor cooking in the sauce instead of a pot of water! You do not need to purchase the no cook variety, regular lasagna noodles are what I used.

1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 TBLS olive oil
2 oz can roasted red peppers
16 oz jar alfredo sauce
1 2lb 13 oz jar spaghetti sauce (I used Ragu)
2 10 oz boxes frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
1 32 oz container ricotta cheese
18 lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
6-7 cloves garlic, divided
½ tsp dried rosemary
1 ¼ cup white wine, divided
1 TBLS dry sherry
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 cups milk
3 TBLS flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 lb grated mozzarella cheese divided into four 4 oz piles
Dash of nutmeg
Sale and freshly ground pepper
4 oz grated mozzarella cheese, for finishing
½ cup parmesan cheese, for finishing

Grease 2 13 x 9 inch casseroles. Brown the beef and sausage together, breaking up large chunks. Drain well and set aside. Saute the onion and enough crushed garlic to measure 1 TBLS in the olive oil until softened. Add one cup of the wine, the sherry, rosemary, Italian seasoning and the meat to the onion mixture. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Divide the meat mixture into two separate bowls. Drain and chop the roasted red peppers and add to one ½ of the meat.

Make the white sauce: whisk the flour into the milk. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring, until it thickens. Add the jar of alfredo sauce. Pour ¼ cup of wine into the alfredo sauce jar and shake to dissolve any remaining sauce. Add to the sauce. Add the parmesan cheese, enough crushed garlic to measure ½ TBLS, a dash of nutmeg and salt and fresh ground pepper to taste to the sauce. Be sure to season this sauce well as it is a basis for the white lasagna.

Put the ricotta cheese into a bowl and add the spinach. Mix well.

Now that everything is prepped, the lasagna can be assembled.

Into one casserole spread ½ cup of spaghetti sauce.

Spread ½ cup white sauce into the other casserole.

Lay 3 lasagna noodles into each casserole.

Spread ¼ of the ricotta mixture over the noodles in each dish.

On the white sauce dish, spread ½ the meat mixture containing the roasted red peppers. Cover with 1/3 of the remaining white sauce. Sprinkle with 4 oz mozzarella.

On the red sauce dish, spread ½ the plain meat mixture. Cover with 1/3 of the remaining red sauce. Sprinkle with 4 oz mozzarella.

Repeat the above layers. Top each casserole with 3 noodles each and cover with the remaining 1/3 sauce. Cover the casseroles and refrigerate until ready to cook.

When you are ready to cook, cover the lasagna tightly with foil. My special trick to keep the foil from dipping into the sauce it so place spaghetti sticks broken to about 3 inch lengths around the casserole to hold up the foil. They will cook and I do not have to worry about whether I got all the toothpicks out!

Place the lasagna into a cold over, heat to 400* F. Start timing from when the oven temp actually reaches 400*. Bake for 1 hour then remove the foil cover. Sprinkle each lasagna with 2 oz of mozzarella and ¼ cup parmesan. Return to the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it rest on the counter for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving. The resting part is very important when it comes to lasagna. Don’t skip it. Your lasagna will slice and serve so much better if you wait it out!

If you wish, the Red Lasagna may be successfully frozen. Just thaw in the refridgerator for 24 hours before baking.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I am so excited to get this Blog started. I send many thanks to my friend April over at April's Little Family for setting everything up for me so all I have to do is type away. While I do know how to cook, computers remain a mystery to me.

My goal for this Blog is to bring friends and family together for food and fellowship on a regular basis (like Saturday Nights). I will plan and prepare the menu from appetizer to dessert for all to enjoy and post the recipes and pictures here. I hope that this Blog will inspire others to entertain more because there is just something so satisfying in watching people you care about having a good time and know that you contributed to their enjoyment.

The first dinner will be held on April 24th and our first guests will be April and her family. Be on the lookout for the first posting. It will be one of many.