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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Goat cheese rolled in fresh herbs,classy.

Even classier.
So not classy.
  So last Tuesday we had some friends over for dinner,our first dinner guests in our new house. Hooray for gettin' back in the game.We had a really nice menu filled with slow-cooked pork chops,fried polenta cakes,a mixed greens salad with homemade vinaigrette,a big crusty,buttered loaf of French bread and for dessert bread pudding and vanilla ice cream. 
Good gravy it was good.
   And it felt good to get back in the groove of entertaining and preparing for big meals with pretty flower arrangements and frilly table linens.
It's just how I roll.
   On the other hand getting ready for that kind of meal and doing all the meal prep ahead (yes I know it pays off at meal time) can wear a girl out.
    The appetizer that we served our classy dinner guests was so good and SO SIMPLE. Simple is good. I had some appetizer options in mind but after seeing the folks from the Viking Cooking School in Greenwood,Mississippi serve up goat cheese rolled in fresh herbs I knew that that was the appetizer I wanted to serve our dinner guests.And I already had the crackers in the pantry to serve alongside this tasty goat cheese,how easy was this going to be? 

        Here is that simple,rich,tangy and earthy (all at the same time,it's magic!) goat cheese rolled in fresh herbs and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.
Mmmmm tasty. And not hard. This is perfect for the holiday weekend that is now in progress...or really upcoming summer cocktail party or heck if you're invited to our new house for dinner! I would not turn my nose up at this one,nope it's more than welcome.
Until the next dinner party,here's the low down on this wonderful appetizer:
Goat Cheese Rolled in Fresh Herbs
1 log of goat cheese 
(found in the specialty cheese section at the grocery store)
1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs (I used fresh parsley,thyme,dill and rosemary.)
1/2 - 1 tsp of Paula's House Seasoning or
1/4 tsp salt,1/4tsp gr. black pepper and 1/4 tsp garlic powder
extra-virgin olive oil
crackers to serve
1. Before you chop the herbs,place the goat cheese in the freezer for about 10 minutes,this gets the goat cheese a bit more solid and as it sits out on the serving dish it will soften up. But if you don't chill it for just a second,as you roll it in the herbs the heat of your hands will soften it. You could have a mess on your hands.
2.So while the cheese chills,put all your herbs in a pile on the cutting board. Chop all of them together and put in a small bowl. Toss with the Paula's House Seasoning or the salt,black pepper and garlic powder.
3. Take the goat cheese out of the fridge and unwrap it. Spread your herb mixture on the cutting board and roll the log of goat cheese in the herbs. Coat it good and gently press them into the cheese.
4. Now you can serve it immediately drizzled with olive oil on a lovely serving dish or put it on a plate,wrap the plate in plastic wrap and it will stay good for up to one day in the fridge. (in other words, you can make this one day ahead of time) ENJOY!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sausage rolls,hearty and convenient!

  So I have a new-found love... puff pastry. I would love to be a spokesperson for the puff pasrty makes out there. And no, I have not mastered yet making puff pastry on  my own,not just yet but one day soon.Until then the neat and trim little rectangle box in the frozen food section will do just fine.
  And I'm not kidding since we've moved I have made three,count 'em 3 recipes (in the last 6 weeks) with puff pastry. Let see I made these delightful peach/blueberry fruit cups ( the edges brushed with homemade peach jam-that recipe will come closer to peach season),a classic brie en croute (accented with homemade roasted garlic jelly and toasted pecans-roasted garlic jelly is similar to pepper jelly,an entertaining STAPLE here in the south) and my most favorite Jamie Oliver's sausage rolls!!!! Ta-daa!!!!
   Hooray for sausage rolls and an even bigger hooray for just how dang easy they are to make.I also got to enjoy alongside my sausage rolls some very tasty pickled peppers rings. (props to Molly Wizenberg for that legend of a recipe.) Folks the crispy,buttery crust just sang when I bit into it (probably due to the egg wash I brushed on just before going into the oven). The fresh-grated parmesan melted ever so nicely into the whole mix and what just the salty ummph the sausage needed and then oh then...let me mention the herbs.
Lets talk about some herbs...I threw in  some parsley and thyme and heck (I know good and well this is not an herb,don't comment and tell me this next ingredient is not an herb.) some bright yellow lemon zest.
The choirs sang. The rainbow appeared and all was right with the world. I tell you I have my moments.
     Lemon zest was the was the puzzle piece I threw in the mix on a whim and got lucky. The dice were with me that night and it made for some fine eatin'. Parmesan and lemon zest have an interesting relationship and it's fun to sit back and watch the flavor dane these two do together in a dish. Well this time it worked (thank you dice,lucky stars whomever. Otherwise it would have been pizza and like I've mentioned I just moved and sadly enough I only know the pizza delivery number by heart...that delivers from another state.
It might take a while, a long while.
So moving right along here we go with a little info on how to make Jamie Oliver's Sausage Rolls: (ta-da!)
First get together the filling,it helps to let it mix and mingle for a little bit,while you prep your pastry.
Next roll out your pastry dough to a 10 x 11 square and cut down the middle to make 2 rectangles that measure 11 inches long and 
5 inches wide. 
After you have mixed you sausage and rolled out your (frankly amazing) puff pastry dough,use an ice cream scoop to scoop out 2 scoops (try to keep them close to the same size) of the sausage mixture. Put the 2 scoops at one end of each rectangle.Leaving a 1 inch border if you can,you'll have to have an edge to press/seal together to close up these bad boys.
Close up your pastry pouches and fold over the edges to seal in all the sausage goodness.***Now as you fold over the edges of the pastry,GENTLY PRESS DOWN with your hand on the sausage inside the pouch.The sausage won't spread much when it cooks,so it helps to form the sausage into the shape of the pastry pouch of goodness.***And really these sure are the cutest little dinner idea I've had in a while.
 Now whisk together one egg and a tablespoon of water together and brush over the whole roll,in the edges on the top and on the folded edges.This will help and hurt,let me explain.
Mmmmm crusty,salt and pepper crusty with a slight crunch,fine fine fine. You make up the little pouches,brush with the egg wash (sprinkle a little kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper on top,if you want) and bake those jokers at 425 for at least 25 minutes. The pastry will brown and look really done,but the sausage might not be cooked all the way through inside the roll.I sacrificed a roll to check on the sausage,so your best bet go at least 25 minutes and test one. I know you will love every bite.
***OH OH OH,one more thought --from the coolest Jamie Oliver, I made double the recipe and that means I got dinner for another night already ready in the freezer,after I bake them of course,cold and hard sausage roll,not so much.All you gotz to do is make up the rolls,wrap tightly in plastic wrap then in foil. Thaw for 15-30 minutes or so,brush with egg wash and bake. Easy as that.***
Sausage Rolls
adapted from Jamie's Dinners
 written by Jamie Oliver
sausage links ( I used italian)
 frozen puff pastry,thawed
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley
2 TBL minced fresh thyme
1 cup fresh grated parmesan
kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper
  to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the casings and mix together the sausage,lemon zest, parsley,thyme,parmesan,salt and pepper. Roll out thawed puff pastry into a 10x11 square,then slice down the middle of the square to make two 5x11 rectangles.
2. Using an ice cream scoop,scoop out two balls of sausage and place on one end of the pastry dough,leaving  1-inch border. Fold over the opposite end of pastry over the sausage gently flattening down the sausage mixture. Fold in small folds the edges of the puff pastry to close off the pouch. Brush the whole roll with egg wash,make sure to seal the edges with egg wash. Bake at least 25 minutes,check after the time is up for doneness. Enjoy,this is one hearty and convenient dinner!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Classic Yellow Cupcakes

  So what's your idea of a good time after having finally gotten your whole world settled into a new house in a new city in a new state??? How about decorating cakes with a 5 year old,sound like fun? Well to me it sounded like a fine idea and I just knew said 5-year old would love it.She did and we all got a little sick form all the icing,cake and hey how 'bout a cup of coffee at 4 o'clock in the afternoon to go along with that immense amount of sugar?!?!?!
I was of no help to anyone after I cleaned up the decortaing extravaganza. None at all. But! those were some fine cupcakes and so easy to make,let me tell you how you too can enjoy some love cupcakes and all the candy decorations one can stand ( 5-year old not included) :
Dry ingredients: cake flour,sugar,salt and baking powder.
Wet ingredients: eggs,milk and pure vanilla extract. Dang that was easy.
Mix together the dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment ( a handheld mixer will work just as fine I tell ya. It's a sad tale, mine died a few years was too many pound cakes recipes. ) Next after the dry ingredients have been tossed around,pour in the wet ingredients.
 Mix together until the batter comes together nicely...and it tasted ok too. Now I know some folks don't like to enjoy the batter,but for me I think I'll survive if I have one taste. I've made it this far.Onto the baking.
Pour up the batter into your prepped cupcake tins. I use a large cookie/ice cream scoop.It's a clean,easy and stream-lined way to pour up the batter.Oh what the heck! there's a cupcake missing. Wait if you look farther you'll see there's a liquid in the cupcake holder.
I read somewhere (and for the life of me I can't remember where...maybe Alton Brown :/ , I really can't remember) that if you pour a little water in the empty spaces in the cupcake tin when baking cupcakes or muffins it will help balance out the heat in the tin and cook more evenly .This little nifty tool hasn't failed me yet,thanks Alton or whoever. Bless you.
Now it's decoratin' time!!!!!

 Here we are,oh the goodness and simplicity. You'll notice a priceless blue hydrangeas in the picture above,a MUST-HAVE in all cake decorating party plans. And the to the right of one of the most classic flowers in the world... sugar sprinkles,a various assortment of colored sugar and folks,icing. Whipped creamy goodness in one can. Now I know good and well I could have used my whole morning to make real icing,but really and miss out on all my cooking shows?
For this party time,canned icing worked amazingly well and held all those M&M's in place.
The finished product!!!!! Well minus like 16 cupcakes. All got decorated,some got eaten and most were hand-delivered to our new neighbors on either side of our new house.Hand-delivered,now that's care and love. I mean we had to work off all that sugar somehow. :)
Classic Yellow Cupcakes
adapted from Mom's Big Book of Baking
page 272
Nonstick cooking spray
4 large eggs,at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk,at room temperature
1 TBL pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted butter,softened and
cut into 16 pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Either coat the muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners.
2. Combine the eggs,milk and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Set aside.
3. Combine the cake flour,sugar,baking powder,and salt in a large mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter,mix on low speed until the butter pieces are no larger than a small peas.
4. Pour two-thirds of the egg mixture and mix on low speed until all the ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix on medium-high speed for one minute. Stir in the remaining egg mixture on low speed until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and mix on medium-high speed again for another 30 seconds.
5.Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean,about 20 minutes for cupcakes.Le the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
These will keep,wrapped in plastic,at room temperature for up to 1 day or refrigerated for up to 3 days. Frost as desired.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mid-Week Moment #27

Turbo was not thrilled with the ride to his new house.And yes it's more his house than ours... lets be honest.

"Change is not made without inconvenience,even from worse to better." -Richard Hooker

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mid-Week Moment # 26

This is a picture of myself (on the bottom) and my younger sister Caroline taken a few years ago.    It's one of my favorites.
"Beauty:the adjustment of all parts proportionately so that one cannot add or subtract or change without impairing the harmony of the whole." -Leon Battista Alberti

    Yes sister I put this picture on the blog.
     I sure did...
     Now moving on...I usually am a lady of few words on the Mid-Week Moments,but allow me a few since it's my first day back at this in a MONTH,one whole month.Been too long.
    It's been a while since I've written because a little over a month ago,my husband and I bought a house,packed all our belongings in every liquor store box we could find and moved to a different state.We moved to Tupelo,Mississippi ( I know have to sing the little rhyme that spells the name of that state I now live in,Mi- ssi-ssi-pp-i . Catchy.)
  It's a lovely city and we have chosen to call this lovely city home.And we found our home here,oh what a house it is,love love love it.I have taken just a minute to adjust to all the changes,new names and faces and well just get "settled in." I could expand on the differences in "settled in" and "unpacked" are,but I will spare you for now.( I have a lovely front porch with rocking chairs that we could sit and debate differences,oh and we have ferns hung from the trim on the front porch.Oh how very Southern.)
  What I will expand on is the beauty of adjusting.It really is a beautiful process that takes place and in my case a scene to behold.I couldn't find my spatulas for a few days,was on the lookout for half of my toiletries for a good week and then lo and behold 3 weeks into being 80% unpacked (we busted our behinds for the first 2 weeks,glad that's over) I found a bag of clean mind you,towels that had been sitting in a corner,in the downstairs guest bedroom just hanging out.Oh good heavens more laundry.
 I have although in my adjusting honed a few skills that on my best days I'm not so good at : being graceful,ok well...being gracious and most of all grateful.
I am not the most graceful person and unpacking really showed those skills.I can handle a step ladder with the best of them,but when reaching for a pair of scissors to open another box (at the same time aiming for the stool to sit on) watch our for the basket beneath your butt.
It was a good basket,now a flat basket.
Being gracious is not a skill that just flows freely when you're knee-deep in a U-haul truck or at the end of a receiving line at the end of that U-haul and every muscle in your body hurts.Oh did I mention sweaty,honey even if you are sweaty and know you smell bad HUG THE NECK OF THE FOLKS THAT HELPED YOU MOVE all the boxes out of the U-haul.It means the world to them,thank you goes a long way and they helped make your house your home.
Grateful.Every day I wake up grateful. Yep that's a mighty statement,but at some point in my day I stop and say a prayer,to thank the good Lord up above for all the blessings He has given me and you should too. Period. Bottom line. End of story.
And one last thing,all of those qualities I mentioned above: graceful,gracious and grateful,I have seen in one person,my sister. She has moved a handful of times and never batted an eye at the adjustment. Moving stinks and honey I can tell you I cried like a baby the first time she moved away from home. She decided to go to a college out of state and I knew she would be ok and I would see her in a few months,little did I know how much I had to adjust my daily world without her right there to bug me,laugh at/with me and heck even have a few disagreements with. Her adjustments and my adjustments took time,lots of time and to be honest I don't know if I'll ever fully adjust to all of this life stuff,but two things I do know: 1. If I follow in the graceful,gracious and grateful footsteps of my little sister, I will be just fine. 2. Always be on the lookout for stray bags of towels...but at least I I have a laundry room to wash all of those random towels.