A Crowd Pleaser

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Whether you are expecting a crowd to watch the Super Bowl or enjoying it with family or a friend or two, a yummy Mexican cheesecake is an appetizer that’s sure to please everyone. If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, there’s still time to make a quick trip to the grocery.  Here’s what you’ll need.

Mexican Cheesecake

1 c. crushed tortilla chips

3 T. butter, melted

2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened

1 package taco seasoning mix

2 eggs

2 c. shredded Mexican cheeses

1/2 c. thick and chunky salsa

1 c. sour cream

green onions, ripe olives, tomatoes chopped

Stir together crushed tortilla chips and melted butter.  Press onto bottom of 9″ springform pan.  Bake at 325 for about 10 minutes.  Cool slightly.

Beat cream cheese and taco seasoning at medium speed until well mixed.  Add eggs and continue beating until smooth.  Stir in shredded cheese and salsa.  Spoon mixture over cooled crust, spreading to smooth.

Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes until edges are set.  The middle may be a bit soft.  Top with sour cream and cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI like to make the cheesecake a day ahead and leave it in the refrigerator until time to serve.  Just before serving, all you have to do is remove it from the pan to an attractive platter and garnish with  green onions, olives and tomatoes.  Serve with tortilla chips, sit back and wait for the raves.

I’m on my way to the grocery right now.  See you there!

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Foodie Friday

A Piece of Cake

I don’t know what it is about holidays this time of year and coconut cake, but the two just seem to go together.  Over the years, I’ve tried a number of recipes, some better than others but none a total reject.

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My very favorite is a recipe that was in Southern Living some years ago.  It combines several of my favorite things: coconut, lemon and cream cheese.  The cake is not difficult to make, especially if you use a yellow or white cake mix.  If you are really daring, chocolate works, too.  I’ve tried all of these, but I like best making the cake from scratch.

Between the layers is lemon curd.  Again, you can use a purchased curd, but it is so simple to make and the taste of fresh lemon is so appealing that it’s a shame not to use the real thing.   Here’s all there is to it:

1 c. sugar

1/4 c. cornstarch

1 c. boiling water

1/3 c. lemon juice

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 t. lemon zest

1/3 c. lemon juice

2 T. butter

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan; whisk in boiling water.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Whisk about 1/4 of hot mixture into egg yolks; add to remaining hot mixture, whisking constantly. Add zest and juice.  Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened.  Whisk in butter and let cool, stirring from time to time.

The entire process takes 20-25 minutes and you can do it while the cake is baking.

When the cake layers (I make 3) have cooled, spread the lemon curd between the layers and frost with a cream cheese frosting that is 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1 t. vanilla and a box of powdered sugar mixed together.  Sprinkle generously with coconut and garnish with lemon slices, a pretty green leaf or sprigs of rosemary.

More often than not, there is no cake left at our house, but when there is I wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze it.  That makes for a pretty nice dessert next time company comes for dinner.

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In the Kitchen

pb032656After a full day of seeing the sights and tasting food, wine and cheese, we return “home” to don our aprons and head to the kitchen to prepare the evening’s meal under the watchful eye of Chef Michael. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s no mystery about what we are going to fix as in our welcoming folder the menus and recipes for the week are included.  Can you tell that each dinner is a whole lot of food?

img_8110-1Funny how cooking is much more fun with a group, and it took all of us to prepare the evening’s vittles.

We laugh and joke as we mix, stir, slice and dice

 

pb032650and discover that for some things it takes two!

Everyone has a job,

img_8198 some more tedious than others. I have to confess to being nothing more than a cheerleader when it came to making this dessert!

Everywhere in the kitchen is evidence of our effort,

img_8232-1and when all is said and done we turn out some pretty good eats!  Since I have mentioned cannoli more than once in recent posts, you might guess it was my very favorite dessert, one that will be made at home though I might cheat and use purchased shells as making them from scratch requires quite an effort. 

Now that your appetite is whetted, here is a recipe from the kitchen for you to try.  

Sicilian Caponata

2 medium eggplants

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 celery stalks, peeled and diced

1/2 c. green olives, pitted and halved

1/4 c. capers

1/4 c. sundried tomatoes, chopped

1/3 c. red wine vinegar

2 T. sugar

1 c. tomato sauce

1/4 c. basil, chopped

kosher salt and black pepper

Cut the eggplants into 1/2″ cubes and place them in a bowl.  Toss with 3 T. of salt and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Rinse the eggplant in cold water and drain well.  Squeeze to release excess water, then place on paper towels to dry thoroughly.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Fry the eggplant until it’s well browned.  Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.  Return the pan to medium heat and add the sliced onion.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.  Add celery and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring well.  Last, add the capers and sundried tomatoes and and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the vinegar, sugar and tomato sauce and cook for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is cooked down.  Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.  Season to taste.

The caponata may be used in a variety of ways such as a sauce for fish or pasta or as a spread for crostini.

So, there you have the experience of a Foodie Adventure.  If going to interesting places, staying in a wonderful villa and having opportunity for  hands on cooking appeals to you, you just might want to join in the fun.

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Found!

Have you ever put something away and not been able to find it?  I do that from time to time, and the hunt makes me crazy!  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor two years I looked high and low for these candelabra that fit so nicely into a bottle and are terrific on any table. Finally, they’ve been found  hiding in a basket under some books.  How did they get there!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIroning a tablecloth from Provence, I noticed a border of sunflowers which are the last flower to bloom in Maine.  Right away a tablescape that would combine the found candelabra, sunflowers and the cloth began taking form in my mind. What I liked was the notion that the table would have sunny summer colors and at the same time be a lead in to fall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom there it was easy to make the table happen.  Yellow plates, yes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was was a no brainer to accessorize with the cranberry tones of the tablecloth. I’m crazy about the square shape of the cup and saucer….so contemporary looking but from a set of dishes popular in the 1940’s.  Some things just don’t go out of style.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese little guys, cigalles they are called in Provence, are supposed to keep a table cloth from blowing off the table, but here they are used as napkin rings.  They are fun finds from a street market in Gordes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a matter of minutes, the table is set, and I’m off to the kitchen to prepare gazpacho with which to fill those cups.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATomatoes are at their best right now, and gazpacho is one of my favorite ways to use them.  I throw all the vegetables in the blender with Clamato juice (1-2 cups) and blend until they are smooth. Here I used a mixed selection of tomatoes (4-6 depending on size) and a zucchini in place of the more traditional cucumber.  You can be creative with your vegetable choices.  When the ingredients are well blended, add a teaspoon each of red wine vinegar and sugar and salt and pepper to taste.  If you like a bit of spice, add a touch of Tabasco or red pepper.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI like to top the soup with diced veggies and a dollop of sour cream and when I have it I throw in some chopped lobster.  Hmm, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

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Foodie Friday

A Can’t Miss Favorite

 “Lulu, are we having chowder tonight?”

When the kids come to visit, that’s the first question asked, and I’m happy to respond positively.  Not only is it a family favorite, it is one of those easy to fix failsafe dishes.  Another plus is it’s gluten free which is becoming important to more and more people.

OK, no more wasting time talking about it, here’s how you make it.

Lulu’s Fish Chowder

1 lb. haddock, cod or salmon*

2-3 Yukon gold or red potatoes, sliced

1 onion, sliced

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bottle clam juice, heated to boiling

2 c. milk or half and half, warmed

1 t. dill

2 T. butter

salt and pepper to taste

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a large baking dish, layer the onions and potatoes.  Sprinkle with garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALay the fish filet on top and dot with butter.  Add the clam juice and dill.  If you are using fresh dill, increase the amount to at least 2 teaspoons.

IMG_4358 (1)Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour at 350.  The fish should be flaky and the potatoes and onion soft.

IMG_4362 (1)Remove from the oven and add the heated milk.  Stir gently to break up all the ingredients.  Spoon into heated bowls and serve with oyster crackers. A simple green salad is all that is needed to complete the meal.

Make the chowder once, and I’m betting it’ll become one of your family favorites.  This recipe is about 4 generous servings, but, as you might guess, it is easily doubled.

*If using a salmon filet, bake with skin side up and remove the skin when the dish comes out of the oven.

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King Ranch + Casserole

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Since the 1800’s the King Ranch in south Texas has been part of Texas folklore.  Spanning over 800,00 acres it is known for cattle raising, hunting leases, retail products and so much more.

 Now I can’t tell you whether or not the King Ranch casserole actually had its origins there or why this tasty dish bears its name.  What I can tell you is that if the state of Texas had an official casserole this would be it.

There are a lot of variations to this Texas favorite, but I like best what I think is the original recipe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKing Ranch Casserole

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can Rotel tomatoes 

1 cup  chicken broth (or more, to taste)

1⁄2cup  chopped onion

1⁄2cup  chopped green pepper

16 ounces  monterey jack, colby jack or cheddar cheese

3 c. chopped chicken

12 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  In a large saucepan, cook pepper and
onion in melted margarine until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add soups,
RO*TEL and chicken, stirring until well blended.  In a 13 x 9 x 2-inch
baking pan, alternately layer tortillas, soup mixture and cheese, repeating
for three layers.  Bake 40 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Serves 8.

With this as your base, you can’t go wrong preparing what is surely to be a crowd favorite.  I like having a little salsa, sour cream and guacamole on the side, and you need nothing more with it but a salad and/or black beans or frijoles.   Happy eating!

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Oh So Good…Simple, Too!

IMG_0746 (1)These days roasting is my favorite way to prepare vegetables.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne is wonderful all by itself, but mixing several together is even better and a great way to use a little of this and a little of that from the refrigerator.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEasy?  You bet!  All that is needed is seasonings, oil and always garlic.    I particularly like Herbes ‘d Provence or fresh rosemary and either avocado or olive oil.  

Always we have some veggies left over, and I’ve found they make a great soup.  Already the vegetables are seasoned so just add some chicken broth and maybe a bit of half and half or milk for a richer version.  When the ingredients are heated through puree to a creamy texture.  Here is one of the many instances I find a handheld blender very handy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdd a salad and this is a tasty lunch or dinner on those days when you’re looking for quick and easy!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind