Monday, July 25, 2011

The Beach Beckons

I suppose I should clarify that title. For me, going to the beach isn't about surf and sand. In fact, there is a chance I may not even see the ocean while I'm there. That is how perfect a vacation it is for me. Tod, Scott and I are off to Rehoboth Beach, DE on Thursday, our annual pilgrimage.

We stay at the delightful Cabana Gardens Guest House, a mere 3 blocks from the ocean. Yes, that close and I may still never step onto the sand. I will be perfectly content to lay by the pool sipping cocktails enjoying the sun and the fact that there is nothing of importance that I have to do.

We eat, shop and drink. Maybe I should have put drink first. Each of us packs his own bar for the trip. Scott brings his vodkas. Tod, his cranberry martinis. I pack the Mojito fixins…and off we go! The beauty of it is that we really don't do anything we don't feel like doing. To me that is a vacation. Our day to day lives are filled with so many thing that have to be done…for me, a vacation is about doing nothing.

Of course we do wind up doing things. That is where the eating and shopping comes in. But still, not if we don't want to. We have discovered many wonderful restaurants in Rehoboth. Hopefully this year we will find some new ones.

Posting may be light while I'm away. The laptop is coming with me, so who knows…maybe while I am doing nothing at the pool, I'll post about it. That or perhaps what shenanigans we were all up to the night before.

It's vacation time…and I am outta here!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Centennial Party Wrap Up

By now you have seen all the detail of the party, I might have left a few things out, so here is the wrap up. Since presentation is everything, I thought I would show you how the table looked as a whole.

So pretty! In the background you can see all of my grandmothers tea cups lined up and ready to be filled. Thank heavens no one broke any of them. I would have cried. Next to them are the 2 different teas I served and then the scones and the scone fixins bar.

There are 2 items on the table I neglected to mention in separate posts. I cut up some fresh strawberries (well Tod cut them up) and then whipped up a mixture of Mascarpone cheese, sugar and whipping cream for them to be dipped in…delish! Also, the items that look yellow…that is Curried Chicken Salad which I bought from my local Amish Butcher and then added my "India-Spice of the Year" to. In case your wondering, I create a spice mixture every year for Christmas…this year was India. It was quite a hit, even though Scott thought at first that I was adding way to much. Turned out so perfect that he took the leftovers home.

I also usually create a themed cocktail for my parties. I didn't this time, however one emerged. The "Mint Julepish".

The Hubby is a fan of Bourbon. and since I already had the fixins for Mojitos, when he asked for a Mint Julep…"That was easy!" The only ingredient I lacked was club soda. So, in the vein of my Mojitos, I used Tonic Water instead and it gave the drink a delightful little tang. People were ordering them left and right. Which means I had The Hubby on my left and Wolfsville John on my right LOL

I think that is it for the party posts. I hope everyone who came had a delightful time and that everyone who didn't come is jealous that they weren't invited or sorry now that they didn't show up.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cookography -- Soo Shee Spinach Salad

I believe I have talked about this appetizer before. Soo Shee Spinach Salad first appeared at my 40ish Birthday Bash a little over a year ago. It's all the ingredients of a spinach salad on a cracker you can pick up and eat in 2 or 3 bites.

This one is all assembly, no cooking involved if you use the pre-cooked bacon and get the hard-boiled eggs at the deli. The trick is to find a sturdy cracker. Then it is just a matter of layering the spinach, bacon, egg, and onion onto it. I topped it with a raspberry vinaigrette. At the end of the party there were 4 left. No one could eat an entire one by that point, so we all just picked off the ingredients that we liked. Yeah, I ate the bacon…and an egg or 2.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cookography -- Butter Cookie Bark

Ah, butter. Aside from mayonnaise, it's my favorite condiment. Of course mayonnaise cookies might not be very appetizing. I'll work on that. These started out as an epic fail. What I envisioned were those cute little square butter cookies you can find in the tin at the grocery store. What I got was this.

Thin, way too thin!
I had cut the most perfect little squares out of the refrigerated dough. I placed them so evenly on the cookie sheet and 15 minutes later, I had an entire pan full of FAIL. Not to be one daunted by such things, I cut up the rest of the dough and placed it in the oven. Somehow I was hoping that I would get a different result, but alas, I did not. I got a whole other pan of FAIL.

Still not one to be daunted, and really wanting to have a butter cookie for the tea, I crumbled up the sheets of FAIL, and what I was left with is what I now call Butter Cookie Bark.

This FAIL, turned out to be one of the hits of the party. I'm really glad I didn't just throw it away when I took it out of the oven. It dipped well in tea without leaving crumbs in the bottom of the cup that regular butter cookies would have.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cookography -- Asparagus Stocks

Bacon! I swear you could wrap it around dog turds and they would taste good. I'm not going to try it, but I bet it would. Instead, I wrapped bacon around very tiny, skinny asparagus stalks and then roasted it all in the over for about 10 minutes.

So pretty from above
I used the pre-cooked bacon to cut down on the roasting time. Otherwise the asparagus would have probably burned before the bacon was cooked.

Martini glasses…not just for martinis anymore!
I then whipped up a simple Dijon Mustard and Peppercorn Ranch dipping sauce and placed it in a martini glass in the center of the platter. Who cares if they taste like crap (which they did not!) as long as they look good, I'm happy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cookography -- Scones

What proper tea would be complete without scones? None, I tell you! Scones are not that difficult to make. Well, perhaps I should say they don't require a lot of ingredients. Flour, sugar, butter, buttermilk (which is really gross stuff), and then any additives you wish to include. I made a plain batch which I dusted with cinnamon and sugar.

I also whipped up a chocolate chip version

And last, but not least, a lemon ginger scone.

The trick with scones is that you can't use a mixer. It's all done by hand…literally! The most difficult part is incorporating the butter into the dry ingredients. You pretty much shove your hand into the mix and just keep rolling the butter between your fingers until eventually you wind up with a mixture that looks like small crumbs. I have to tell you, after 3 batches, I had a heck of a hand cramp!

The scones were all well received by the guests. I got a "thumbs up" from the Brit, and if I can impress a british man with my scones, that's saying something. To top the scones I provided clotted cream (not as tasty as it looks), strawberry jam (yummy!), lemon curd (which I did not make myself) and a dark chocolate cream.

I still have a lot of the ingredients left over, so I will probably be "Sconing" again. Maybe I'll make some to take to the beach? The folks at the continental breakfast will be sooooo jealous.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cookography -- Inside Out Cucumber Sandwiches

Let's start the parade of Party Food with my favorite...The Inside Out Cucumber Sandwich. This, and all, of the "fun" food I'm going to be showing you over the next few days was all part of the "Centennial Celebration" that I threw to honor the 50th birthdays of my BFF's Scott and Tod. It was a weekend long series of parties (something I will never so again) culminating with the Sunday Tea.

Lined up like little soldiers
It's not very often that I have a vision of a menu item and then have it turn out exactly as I saw it in my head. This time it did.

These little guys were very popular at the party and were quite easy to assemble too. All I did was cube up some sturdy bread, slice some cucumbers thinly with my mandolin, then buttered 2 opposite sides of the bread and "pasted" the cucumbers to the buttered sides. I added the tooth pick as an after thought, thinking it'd just be easier to pick them up with.

Next time: The cucumber might need to be a little thicker, or the bread a little larger because by the end of the evening, all the of cucumbers had drooped and were flopping over. The other thought would be to keep a tray on backup in the fridge so the butter doesn't become soft. Everyone had eaten their fill by that point, so I really didn't care.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Have Survived!

And so did my oven!

The weekend of parties is over. I feel like I need a vacation. 3 parties, 3 days, 3 themes, 3 menus, and 3 guest lists…who could ask for anything more? So, let's start with Friday night.

The first party was "Candles". This was to be the typical Birthday Party. We wound up with a really good crowd. In terms of the menu…simple. Chips, dips, cake and ice cream. Sounds simple except for the cake. With the over all theme of the party being Centennial 50+50=100, I needed to create a 100 cake. My original plan was to pay someone to create it for me, but that proved to be way expensive. I then thought I could buy blank cakes from the supermarket bakery, that didn't pan out. So, I wound up baking them myself.

I have a spectacular oven! Considering it isn't a full size oven it did a wonderful job. I baked the 3 cakes, let them cool overnight and then came the task of carving out the 100.

Look! It's a 1 in Yellow Cake!
The 1 was the most difficult carving job, so I tackled it first. Turned out pretty good. One of the zeros was a white cake and the other a chocolate cake. Next, I had to figure out how to split them so I could add the fillings.  My Bakerific Work Wife, Serena had a wonderful idea. String a thin wire between 2 rulers creating a giant cheese cutter. Well I didn't have any rulers hanging about, so I used 2 pencils. Worked like a charm! Once I had them split I spread the filling and put them back together.

The chocolate zero with dark chocolate filling
Once assembled and filled I was then tasked with icing the cakes. I am no baker usually and the idea of icing 3 cakes was daunting to say the least. I wish I had pics of the process, it was an ordeal I never want to relive.  A carved cake is nothing but crumbs on the edges so I wound up using a ton of icing just to get coverage and then scraping a lot of it off. Next time, as much as I hate it, I'll use fondant. Wait, there isn't going to be a next time!

So, here is how they turned out, once all iced.

Look at that wonderful patterning of the icing! Ok, it isn't perfect, but neither an I. I wish I had a pic of them with the candles all lit. It was a production involving 3 people getting them ready for presentation and no one else had a camera in their hands.

So that was Friday night. I don't have much to say about Saturday night. It morphed into a much more low key version of Friday night instead of the debaucherous festivity I had planned. There was left over cake and more chips and dip for food. Stay tuned for the Sunday party which I called, "T-Dance". The food was much more spectacular for that one! I was suitably exhausted afterwards.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Be Very Scared!

For those who aren't aware, I am hosting a party of celebrate Tod and Scott's 50th birthdays this coming weekend. I host parties all the time. That isn't the scary part. The frightening part is that I have decided to do all the baking.

I will be making the 3 cakes for the Friday night "Candles" party. I was shocked at how expensive it can be to get a cake made! I was also a little peeved that Food Lion wanted decorated cake prices for blank cakes that I would then decorate myself. That makes no sense, but I wasn't in the mood to argue with the Deli/Cake girl about it. It would have endangered my future meat slicing requests. So I'm doing it myself. I promise to measure all the ingredients…not my forte.

Sunday is the Afternoon Tea. I have also decided to fashion all of the baked goods for that party as well. I mean, how difficult can a scone be? Not very, based on the recipes I have downloaded. Butter cookies…child's play! I can get behind any cookie that requires a pound of butter.

I have to admit, I am the most excited about my Cucumber Sandwiches. I have an idea that is just "Off The Charts" amazing! There will also be little curried chicken salad sandwiches as well.

My only real worry is if my oven will survive?

It may look small, but it's very deep
Yes, in 7 years I have not installed a full size oven. I've never needed one. I found this little gem at Walmart and it fits a 13x9 pan so I don't really need anything larger. It also has convection cooking, so things get nice and brown and evenly cooked. Who knows, after all this baking I might be off to Walmart to get a replacement…or break down and have a full size oven installed. But I hope to prove that one can bake amazing things in what some might consider a less than amazing oven. Only time will tell.

Oh, and I will tell! I plan to document all of the baking adventures right here on the blog. All of you are in this with me. Whether you like it or not!