21 March 2009

Underground Supper Clubs & Some Gossip

I'll start with the gossip. It's been brought to my attention that my comment about "changes in my personal life" may have been misleading. These are good changes, people! I got a new job and have been extremely busy with that. Training has taken me 600 miles away from my husband, so we are adjusting to the change. I'm sorry I haven't been blogging as much, but it's tough when you don't have your own kitchen to cook in or your husband's camera to pawn! I just wanted to clear that up.

One more housekeeping note: with this post, I will have 35 posts in the year 2009. This means that in the month of March, I've already surpassed all of my posting from 2008. So, thanks for reading my blog and giving me reasons to continue posting my food adventures!

As for the underground supper clubs, I read a great article on CNN about this new trend, and I find it fascinating. Basically, well-known chefs host supper parties at their home or another location. The events are secretive - diners sign up on a website, like Entre - so elusive, you need a password to view the website. A better site to look at to get a feel for the concept is Guerilla Cuisine, located in Charleston. Once diners have signed up, they receive an email that tells them where to go and when, sometimes with a menu. When they show up for dinner, they are served a meal, sometimes by a mystery chef they never see.

What's so cool about this is that the food is gourmet - local, seasonal ingredients are prepared with creative interpretations and beautifully plated. Typical menus are prix fixe, and one meal is served, as would be the case at a dinner party in someone's home. This is not a restaurant experience, more of a "foodie" experience.

If you've ever been part of one of these supper clubs, I'd love to hear from you. I'd also be extremely interested in finding a supper club in Ohio or Connecticut. Do some digging to see if a supper club may be available in your area. It sounds like a fantastic way to meet new people, experience amazing cuisine, and step out of your dining out comfort zone.

(The photo above is courtesy of CNN's website)

17 March 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Hope your St. Patrick's Day was fantastic! I haven't been able to post in a while due to some changes in my personal life, but I thought this would be a great meal to share with you.

I love the Americanized version of St. Paddy's Day fare - corned beef, boiled potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Tonight, I put together a delicious dinner that didn't require much effort at all.

I cooked the corned beef last night, following the directions on the package. The meat came with a spice packet, which I used when I boiled it. I thought it imparted nice flavor and saved me some time and effort. My mom and I wrapped it in foil and stored it in the fridge overnight. We sliced it while it was cold and then heated up the slices. I made all the side dishes tonight, and that was definitely the way to do it.

Parsley Dill Potatoes

3 large baking potatoes, peeled
2 tsp. butter
1 tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. dill seeds
salt & pepper to taste

Halve potatoes lengthwise, then halve each piece lengthwise again. Chop the potatoes into chunks - I got 5-6 pieces from each quarter. Place potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook potatoes until fork tender. Strain potatoes and move to a bowl. Toss with butter, parsley, dill, salt, and pepper.

For the buttery carrots, I boiled six handfuls of carrots in an inch of water. I strained them, then added a pat of butter and a little salt. I cored a head of cabbage, then chopped it into ten pieces. I placed them in a steamer basket and boiled water under it for steamed cabbage. Lastly, I made sauteed onions by slicing onions into 0.5" wide half moons and sauteeing in cooking spray.

My mom opted for a St. Patrick's Day sandwich - American cheese, corned beef, sauteed onions, and steamed cabbage piled high on wheat bread. Yum!

It's a lucky day, so I'm reflecting on my good fortune, and I feel so lucky for all I have. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

01 March 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Shapes

After I adopted a soldier, I decided I wanted to send him treats in the mail. I wanted to send something that would stand up to shipping and last as long as possible so they would (hopefully) still be fresh when they got there. I thought chocolate chip cookies would be a nice homemade treat.

I haven't done much experimenting with chocolate chip cookie recipes. I typically use the Nestle recipe - with one variation.

I add one box of instant vanilla pudding to the dry ingredients before I mix the cookie dough. This makes the cookies stay soft for a longer period of time. They puff up nicely and stay puffed.

My pan was 12" x 17" - too large for one batch of cookies. I did some calculations based on the information on the bag of chocolate chips, and decided multiplying the recipe by 7/3 would be the right amount.

It worked out well. Once my giant batch of cookies was mixed, I dumped it all out onto the pan.

I spread the cookie dough out with a spatula as evenly as possible and baked according to the recipe directions.

To cut the cookies into shapes, I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter. I sent the cookies out the week before Valentine's Day, hoping they would get there in time.

In order to cut them out, I pressed the cookie cutter down, then slid a spatula underneath. I kept the cutter in place and lifted the whole thing to a rack to cool.

The cookies were large - my increased recipe made about 12 hearts. I cut up the "crusts" and Andrew and I ate them for three days!

I wrapped the cookies individually in plastic wrap. The ones that were shipped, I also wrapped in bubble wrap so they wouldn't get crushed. You could use this method for any shape - the cookies are scrumptious and festive.