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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

CINCO DE MAYO PARTY!


costaricanews

OK - I have no allegiance to this "holiday" whatsoever, but it's a great excuse to grab some friends and enjoy some great food (and drink!)!

Here's the simple Mexican menu that we're going to enjoy:

MENU:
GUACAMOLE with tortilla chips
HOMEMADE SALSA
TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE (with avocado)
CHEESY REFRIED BEAN DIP
CHEESY CHICKEN ENCHILADAS
MARGARITAS BY THE PITCHER

DESSERT:
TEXAS SHEET CAKE

GUACAMOLE
(The Silver Palate)
This recipe is my all time favorite for guacamole!  It's just just enough kick to it but also has a bit of crunchiness with the onion and fresh jalapeño to give it texture.  And with the addition of tomatoes it's visually more appealing than simply a bowl of green blob.
4-5 ripe (soft) avocados
2 TBSP onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 TBSP fresh cilantro, minced
1-2 plum tomatoes, chopped finely
3 scallions, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2-3 TBSP fresh lemon juice (or use Nellie and Joe's)
Tabasco, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Mash avocados with a fork or potato masher in a bowl, so the consistency is still chunky (rather than baby food consistency). I'm using a gift I got recently from my son to do this chore - a molcajete:




Add all remaining ingredients and stir.




Allow a bit of time for the flavors to blend and serve with tortilla chips. *Note: guacamole does darken when exposed to air for a time, so it needs to be prepared right before serving. But IF you must prepare it a bit before that, cover with Saran wrap and press the wrap directly on top of the guac. It'll keep the air out and reduce the darkening.

HOMEMADE SALSA
(Adapted from Closet Cooking)
closetcooking
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can Rotel tomatoes (regular)
1/2 cup onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
2 TBSP lime juice (~1 lime)
salt and pepper to taste
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Puree everything in a food processor to your desired consistency and enjoy!
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE (with avocado)
(Adapted from Rick Bayless)

recipe.com

3 to 4 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1 hot green chile to taste (roughly 2 or 3 serranos or 1 or 2 jalapenos), stemmed and chopped
About 1/4 cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro, thick lower stems cut off
1 large avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from skin and roughly chopped
Salt

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos, garlic, green chile, cilantro and ½ cup water. Process to a coarse puree. Add the avocado and pulse until nearly smooth. Pour into a salsa dish. If necessary, thin to a drizzleable consistency with a little more water (I often add 1 to 2 tablespoons more). Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.

CHEESY REFRIED BEAN DIP
(Adapted from Closet Cooking)
closetcooking
2 cups refried beans
4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup green onions (sliced)
2 TBSP taco seasoning
2/3 cup salsa (extra liquid drained)
1 4 oz can diced green chilies (drained)
1 cup cheese (grated)

Mix everything, place in a baking dish and bake in a preheated 350F oven until it is bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top, about 45-60 minutes.


CHEESY CHICKEN ENCHILADAS
(Adapted from the AJC)
I've been making these enchiladas for years.  They are super easy and really yummy.  I use lower fat cream cheese and sour cream.

2 - 10 oz cans mild diced tomato and green chiles WITH juice, divided (Rotel is what I use)
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 - 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
4 green onions, sliced
8 oz sour cream
8 flour tortillas
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce for topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9x13 glass dish with PAM.  Mix 1/4 cup of the tomato and green chiles, chicken, cream cheese and green onion together.  In another bowl, mix together the remaining diced tomato and green chiles and sour cream.  Wrap tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave 15 seconds to warm and soften.  Arrange chicken mixture evenly down the center of each tortilla.  Roll and place seam side down in the baking dish.  Bake, covered for 30 minutes. Pour sour cream mixture over enchiladas, and top with cheese.  Re-cover and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  Garnish with tomatoes and lettuce.

MARGARITAS BY THE PITCHER
(Adapted from Rick Bayless)
pinterest image
1 750 - milliliter bottle silver tequila (use a high-quality, 100 percent agave tequila)
1 to 2 cups (1/3 to 2/3 of a 750-milliliter bottle) Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, plus several tablespoons extra for rimming the glasses
Several tablespoons coarse kosher-type salt, for rimming the glasses
About 1 gallon ice cubes

Just before serving, in a half gallon pitcher combine the tequila, the minimum amount of Cointreau or Triple Sec and the lime juice. Taste and add more orange liqueur if you think your margaritas need more sweet oranginess to balance the other flavors. Remember, you're tasting it warm and undiluted; when chilled and diluted, the flavors will be mellower and the lime's tartness will be more attractive.

Pour several tablespoons of lime juice onto a small plate and several tablespoons coarse salt onto another. Have martini glasses at hand (chill them for an extra special touch).

As your guests ask for their margaritas, invert a glass into the plate with the lime juice to moisten rim, then lightly dip into the plate with the salt. For each drink measure 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of the margarita mixture into a cocktail shaker. If you have a 2-ounce ladle that you can keep in the pitcher, measuring goes much faster. Add ice cubes (5 cubes for 1, 8 for 2, 10 for 3). Secure the lid and top and shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into the salt crusted glasses and serve!

TEXAS SHEET CAKE
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
OK - so it's not technically "Mexican," but, Texas is close to Mexico, and this sheet cake is the best.  Been making it forever.  It's my "go-to" birthday cake, but of course chocolate cake is good anytime!

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup buttermilk (or use milk mixed with 1 - 2 TBSP vinegar to equal 1/2 cup)
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

FROSTING:
1/2 cup butter
2 TBSP cocoa
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and sugar.

In a heavy saucepan, combine butter, coffee and cocoa.  Stir and heat to boiling.

Pour boiling mixture over flour and sugar in the bowl and stir.

 Add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla.  Mix well with a spoon or mixer.

Pour into a greased 11x17 pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until it tests done.

While the cake bakes, prepare the frosting.  In a saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa and milk.

Heat to boiling, stirring.  Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth.


Pour warm frosting over the cake as soon as you take it out of the oven.  Cool and then cut into ~ 48 bars.  Freezes well.


¡Salud!

Friday, April 17, 2015

THE PERFECT BOOKCLUB BRUNCH


owengildersleeve
I'm hosting my Book Club this month, and I'll be serving brunch for 10 people before we discuss this month's book selection (see below).  It's springtime in Atlanta, and I've come up with a menu that's delicious and includes lots of seasonal foods.  Should be fun!

MENU:
FRESH FRUIT SALAD WITH HONEY, MINT and LIME
DELUXE COFFEE CAKE
FARMERS MARKET EGG CASSEROLE

Coffee, Fresh OJ, Waters



FRESH FRUIT SALAD WITH HONEY, MINT and LIME
(Adapted from Epicurious)
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (or use Nellie and Joes!)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 3-pound cantaloupe, halved, seeded and chopped
1 12-ounce basket strawberries, hulled, sliced
4 kiwis, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups seedless grapes
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Whisk lime juice, honey and mint in large bowl to blend.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Add all fruit to syrup in bowl; toss to combine. Let stand 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. (Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)

DELUXE COFFEE CAKE
(Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli)
I like the idea of a coffee cake baked in a sheet pan - so much easier to serve.  And the topping that includes pecans and walnuts with 2 sugars and cinnamon appealed to me as well.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Topping:
1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon, sifted
1 tsp kosher salt
5 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Coffee Cake:
4 TBSP unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing the pan, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
1 tsp baking soda, sifted
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
1 (13 by 9-inch) baking pan
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
For the topping: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the nuts, flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Stir to blend. Stir in the butter.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
The topping should form sandy clumps. Sprinkle the topping onto the baking sheet to break it up into smaller clumps. Refrigerate.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
For the coffee cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use butter to thoroughly grease the bottom and sides of a 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Set aside. Cream the butter and granulated sugar together until light yellow and smooth, ~ 5 minutes.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
 Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until thoroughly mixed.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Remove the topping from the refrigerator so it has a few minutes to come to room temperature before baking. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and yogurt until smooth.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Turn the mixer on low and alternate, adding some of the flour mixture with some of the sour cream mixture. When all has been mixed, give the sides and the bottom of the bowl a scrape and blend to make sure the batter is thoroughly integrated. Transfer the batter to the greased baking pan, spreading it out evenly.

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Liberally sprinkle the cake with all of the topping. Take care to cover the whole top.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Put the pan in the center of the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving. Your home will smell heavenly!
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

FARMER'S MARKET EGG CASSEROLE
(Adapted from Two Healthy Kitchens)
The great thing about this casserole is that not only is it beautiful and healthy, but I can make it the night before, and then just throw it in the oven before my guests arrive.  No slaving in the kitchen for hours leading up to the brunch! It slices up beautifully, and I love that it has no flour - the hash browns are the base of the dish. This dish is also great for a weeknight meal served with a salad.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage
1 cup diced sweet onion (from about half a large onion)
8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes (I used refrigerated instead of frozen)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup diced green pepper (from about 1 small-medium pepper)
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
6 chopped green onions
12 eggs
1¾ cup milk
1/4 minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, onions, mushrooms, and garlic until sausage is no longer pink and mushrooms have given off some of their liquid, about 10 minutes. Throughout cooking, stir to crumble sausage and break up mushrooms. (You can leave the mushrooms in larger slices or break them into little pieces as you crumble the sausage.)
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

In a 9×13 pan coated with cooking spray, layer potatoes (there is no need to thaw them), sausage mixture, 1 cup cheese, green peppers, tomatoes, and green onions.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, parsley, salt, basil, and pepper. Whisk thoroughly to combine, then add remaining 1 cup of cheese and whisk again.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Pour egg mixture evenly over other ingredients in baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (Alternately, you can bake this casserole immediately.)
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake casserole, uncovered, for about 50-70 minutes, or until egg in middle is just set and edges are lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Photo Credit: Cate Bogue


The book we'll be discussing is:

The House Girl

by 
3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·   
Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than 

justice.