Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Engagement Party

Last weekend Jeremy and I had our engagement party in Houston. Of course I spent all day getting ready and of course I went overboard on the food. Not so much on the quantity of food, but the preparation effort. Which is fine, because I LOVE cooking, especially for other people.

The week before the party I started to think about what I wanted to prepare. Cakeballs, of course, and some tuxedo strawberries, oh and some caprese salad, and some mango salsa, oooh and meatballs, oh and...

Yea, you can see how it quickly escalated out of control. Thank goodness Jeremy is very understanding of my ambitiousness and he's such a wonderful help in the kitchen, especially the last few hours before the party when there's still like 4 dishes to make.

But I did finally settle on a menu, and now I will share it with you. (click on each photo to see a larger version)

1. Caprese Salad

I loved the presentation here, but when I do it again, I will use roma tomatoes instead of vine tomatoes. I think they'll fit better on the pieces of bread. I'd also like to make my own bread and mozzarella so I have full control over the sizes.

2. Chipotle Cornbread Cups with Southwest Chicken

These were a party favorite and went pretty quick. The chipotle in the cornbread was a really nice touch.

3. Mango Salsa Tortilla Cups

To make these I brushed a tortilla on both sides with olive oil. I then cut it in quarters and placed each one in a mini-muffin tin. Bake for 10+ minutes at 400 until they get crisp and golden. The mango salsa is a recipe that I got from a cooking class at whole foods. It includes mango, pineapple, cilantro, jalapeno, red onion, red pepper, tomato, and lime juice.

4. Cucumber Sandwiches

This was my first attempt at these and they turned out pretty well. The only thing I would do different next time is to add more cucumber and less other "stuff." They were a tad runny. Oh yea, and Jeremy says that he'd use wheat bread instead of white bread.

5. Swedish Meatballs

Okay, I failed to take a picture of these, but they're super easy, and if you cut the meatballs in half they make great one-bite snacks. Plus I got to serve them in my newish Le Creuset bake pan. Oooh fancy.

6. Roasted Eggplant Dip

No pictures of this one either, but it also was a new recipe for me. Jeremy actually handled this one and besides the massive amount of garlic it turned out quite tasty. Kinda like hummus but without the gritty texture. I really enjoy the roasted eggplant flavor, and now that we're growing eggplants in the garden (2 have started to grow!), we can make this dip again sometime in the near future. I will point out that this recipe uses the long skinny eggplants, Japanese eggplant, instead of the large fat ones. The large fat eggplants tend to be a little more bitter.

7. Tuxedo Strawberries

This was my first time making these guys, and I will admit that I was a little rushed at the end. But they turned out better than I though they would. I think with a little more time, the detail on the buttons/bowtie could be much cleaner. To make them you dip them first in white chocolate, let cool, then dip each side in milk (or dark) chocolate. Then, using a piping bag and small tip ("0" worked best for me), pipe on the buttons and bowtie.

8. Cakeballs

I wanted to something very special and elegant with these for this party. So I went down to Michael's crafts and picked up some white ribbon to make bows. While I was there, I found these little heart charms in the wedding isle. I formed each bow out of ribbon and attached the charms using hot glue. I suppose you could use pre-made bows, but I hadn't thought of that until I got home and was halfway through this process. I also affixed the bows to the sticks before sticking them in the cakeball. You don't want any chance of getting hot glue in your chocolate or cake, so all this prep was done the night before. The cakeball was made from banana cake and honey/cinnamon icing and was then dipped in white chocolate. I used just a touch of vegetable shortening to thin down the white chocolate, and then sprinkled each one with cake glitter (click to enlarge second picture). While you can't see it much in the picture, it gave it a nice elegant feel. I'm so happy with the way these turned out, and people really loved them. I even made them wait until then of the night to eat them. Yea, I'm mean.

Finally here are two pictures of the full spread. And the rest you can check out HERE if you so desire.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Honey... A Natural Aphrodisiac

"From the Kama Sutra to the Perfumed Garden to the Bible, honey has been connected with love, sex, and sensuality extraordinaire since the beginning of time. In the fifth century B.C. Hippocrates prescribed it for sexual vigor, and tradition in India calls for a bridegroom to receive honey on his wedding day. Newlyweds typically go on a honeymoon, a practice that stems from an ancient tradition of couples going into seclusion and drinking a honey concoction until the first new moon of their marriage. Psychologically, honey encompasses sensuality. The very word, honey, conjures up golden images of the dripping, sticky, viscous substance, of honeybees, honeysuckle, and all things sweet." - The New Intercourses

I know what you're thinking, this blog just got a lot more interesting. Well maybe. The quote above comes from a cookbook that I received last year for Christmas from Jeremy. As far as cookbooks go, it's about 3 stars, missing one of my most important criteria for a cookbook... pictures. However, as a book, it's quite interesting. And it does have a few good recipes, including the one I'm about to tell you about... Honey-Almond Delight.

This is my second time making this snack, and it was a huge hit at work last time I made it. In fact, I was sure that I already blogged about this, but I couldn't find the post, so here's hoping this isn't a repeat. Below you'll find the recipe for this tasty snack. It also goes great with some ice cream.


The Prep:
Line a 15x10 inch jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.
Make room in your fridge for said pan.

Set out the following ingredients:
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 lb), chilled, cut into small chunks
1 large egg
3/4 tsp almond extract

In a food processor combine the flour, sugar, and salt. (If you don't have a food processor you can still do this in a bowl with a pastry cutter, or, if your food processor is small like mine, do this in two batches then combine together). Next add the butter and pulse until the mixture is combine and resembles coarse meal.

Whisk the egg and almond extract together in a small bowl, then add to the food processor. Pulse until the dough starts to come together.

Next you'll spread the dough mixture onto the lined pan. The best way I found to do this, and ensure an even layer, is to rip it into little pieces and place it on the tray.

Then use your hands to pat down the dough flat.

Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until you are ready to use.

Once ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dough from the fridge and, using a fork, prick the dough. This will help prevent air bubbles from forming, so don't be afraid to make too many holes.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until it turns a light golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 lb)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound sliced almonds (I use the sliced blanched almonds from the bulk foods section at the grocery store)

In a medium sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, sugar, honey, and butter over medium heat.

Once the butter is fully disolved, turn up the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes without stirring. You are making a carmel sauce.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add the heavy cream and the almonds. At this point the mixture will become very thick.

Spread the topping over the crust with a spatula. Then bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until bubbly and a nice golden color.

Let the dessert cool, then cut into triangles. Be sure to use a sharp knife when doing this and to press the knife down instead of dragging it. Otherwise you'll pull the almond top right off the shortbread.
You can store these in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If you can wait that long.

(sorry, I just couldn't get a nice picture of this final piece. The lighting was all wrong)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jeremy & I are ENGAGED!

On Saturday July 31, 2010 around 4:30pm Jeremy and I got engaged at Flat Creek Estate. It was amazing and no matter how much you think you know it's coming, that moment just takes your breath away.

So I could tell you the whole story now, but then what reason would you have for visiting our wedding page? (which isn't up yet btw) So I'm not going to tell you all the details, but just know it was perfect and amazing and wonderful. And yes, he did get down on one knee, but at that point it's all a blur. I think I remember him saying "will you marry me?" or maybe it was "will you be my wife?" I was too excited to listen.

So after the hugging and kissing and crying, we took some photos.

These three were taken and sent to our parents via email when we got back to the house. Note at this point we had not told them anything. And in the email all I said was "here are some more photos from Flat Creek."

So we sent off the photos and waited for their call... and waited... and waited. Okay this was going to take a while. So we got ready for dinner and headed to Carmelo's. I've always wanted to go there and Jeremy remembered!

On the way over I called my parents to tell my mom that I sent her a card via email and she should look at it with dad (total lie), and we texted his mom saying there were some pictures in her email to look at. At this point I was so sure that my dad would pick out the ring right away and my mom would totally miss it. Boy was I wrong.

Turns out we had to tell both our parents to "look harder" at the pictures and ask them if they "noticed anything special" about them. :)

Needless to say, they were both very excited. As are we!

No we don't have a date yet or a place, but here is a picture of the wonderfully beautiful ring that Jeremy got me. It's soooooo gorgeous and sparkly!