Monday, December 29, 2008

Seafood Feast

I am home! I so look forward to getting back into our routine. Love the holidays...but it's always nice to return to "normal". I'm working on my meal plan today so that I can post it for all of you tomorrow. I'd hate for any of you to get bored with nothing new to read, so I thought I'd show you what I'd give you a glimpse of what I was eating while I was away and not cooking last week.

Some families have a Christmas ham. My husband's side of the family usually has a pork or beef tenderloin for Christmas. At my parent's house it's prime rib. New Year's dinner is corned beef and cabbage or pork roast and sauerkraut. Easter is ham and duck. Holiday food traditions. Most of us have them. Well, at my Grandma's house we have a sort of non-traditional tradition. Christmas dinner at Grandma Shirley's is a Seafood Buffet Extravaganza. It always has been...well, at least for as long as I can remember.

On the Menu:
Peel and Eat Shrimp
Crab Legs
Fried Clams
Fried Oysters
and Ham (for the land lubbers)
Cheesy Potatoes
Homemade Mac and Cheese
A veggie or two (this year it was corn)
And rolls

That's just the stuff my grandma makes. All of the women bring a dish too so we have salads and pies and cakes and cookies in abundance. Hey-I'm just tellin' it like it is. The women cook and the men watch football and talk politics and farm machinery. Traditions...geesh. Here are some pictures of the seafood. I was too excited about eating to take pictures of all of the other parts of the meal.


Lobster and Crab Legs in the warming drawer

More Lobster, before and after being "shelled"

The scallops were my personal responsibility this year. Usually my mom makes these. Since she was busy chasing my children, I stepped up to the challenge. Seriously, stand in the kitchen stirring scallops while catching up with my aunt and sipping a little Asti or run interference between the Christmas tree and my toddler. Hmmm. Let me think about it... "Yeah, I'll cook. No problem." I cooked these scallops in butter and garlic with a little salt until they were no longer translucent. You do have to watch them, though. If they cook too long, they turn into rubber. Not terribly appetizing.

I hope all of you had a happy holiday. I'd love to read some of your favorite holiday food traditions. Feel free to share yours in the comment section. And don't forget to look for my first meal plan of 2009 tomorrow!

Prime Rib Roast

My parents serve Prime Rib Roast for Christmas dinner. My dad handles the prime rib preparation while my mom makes an abundance of sides and my sisters and I pitch in one of our specialties as well.

Here's the roast. To cook evenly, the roast should not be cold. Let it stand at room temperature, loosely covered, for about 2 hours. If the roast doesn't come to room temperature, it will take longer to cook, it won't cook evenly, and you'll end up with well-done slices on the end and raw meat in the center.

Dad gives the prime rib a nice flavorful pre-made rub.

Then it's out to the smoker. He smoked the prime rib for the first hour, then turned the temp up to 305 degrees for the next 3 hours. When the internal temp at the center of the roast reached 125 degrees, he returned to the "smoke" setting for the last hour.

My dad cooked this to "medium" temperature, pulling it when the center reached 145 degrees. The ends were at a well done 160 degrees, which suited the taste of a couple of family members that prefer their meat on the "done" side. The smoker tends to give the meat more of a red hue, so it's important to rely on the meat thermometer rather than the actual appearance of the meat.

Beef Roast Cooking Temperatures

120 to 125 degrees F
center is bright red, pinkish toward the exterior portion

Medium Rare
130 to 135 degrees F
center is very pink, slightly brown toward the exterior portion

140 to 145 degrees F
center is light pink, outer portion is brown

Medium Well
150 to 155 degrees F
not pink

Well Done
160 degrees F and above
steak is uniformly brown throughout

If your tastes tend more toward the carnivorous (as do mine) then the next two picture might just make your mouth water. Here is the finished Christmas Prime Rib Roast. We plate it over rye bread and top with au jus. I also like a little horseradish with mine. Mmmm.

Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce

My grandma used to make bread pudding and I loved it. As a result, when I read bread pudding on a dessert menu, provided I have not stuffed myself to the limit, I will give it a try. Most versions fall short of my expectations. This has prompted me to find a bread pudding recipe of my own. Below I document my first try at bread pudding. The pudding was my contribution to Christmas dinner at my parent's house this weekend. Boy oh boy did I find THE bread pudding recipe. While my sisters complain of desserts with "chunks"(picky, picky, picky) and not a single one of the kids touched this, I was in bread pudding heaven. I noticed that the bowl was scraped clean by the next morning, so there must have been other fans of this recipe in the house.

As you might imagine, the recipe calls for bread. Let's begin by cutting off the crusts and cubing 8 cups of day old bread.

Now, finely chop a couple of tart apples.

Toss in some dried cranberries and raisins. I used about 1/4 cup of each.

Toss the fruit together with the bread cubes and transfer to a buttered baking dish.

Now separate 6 eggs and put the yolks into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Save those egg whites and make yourself a nice and healthy egg white omelet the next morning. This may help you to recover from the guilt once you read the next step. Uh oh. The cream step. Hey, it's the holidays...make a resolution tomorrow. Tonight, enjoy the dessert. Heck, pour on a little extra rum sauce. Christmas only comes once a year. Oh, you also need 3 whole eggs. So that's 6 egg yolks and 3 eggs.

Add a cup of heavy whipping cream.

Stir it up with 1 1/2 cups of sugar

And pour it over the bread/fruit mixture.

Place dish in a larger baking dish. Fill larger dish with boiling water halfway up the sides. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from water bath. Cool for 15 minutes. At least that's what the recipe says you should do. I have to be honest here...I completely forgot to put the dish in a water-filled larger dish. To avoid a dry pudding, I covered the dish immediately after I removed it from the oven and it steamed as it cooled.

While the pudding cools, make the sauce. I doubled the sauce recipe. I prefer to douse or smother rather than drizzle. The sauce is more heavy whipping cream, sugar, rum extract and nutmeg. I brought the sauce to a boil and then reduced the heat to low. Really, I was just going to keep the sauce warm until I served it over the pudding. However, I forgot about the sauce for about an hour while we ate dinner and when I returned to the stove to find it still simmering away, it was just perfect. How lucky! It had reduced and thickened and was a nice golden color. It hadn't burned and none of it stuck to the bottom of the sauce pan. Finally, a kitchen accident that worked in my favor. Delicious, delicious sauce. I could just eat this by the spoonful.

Now serve the rich, delicious sauce over that fabulous bread pudding and enjoy!

Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce

8 cups day-old bread cubes, crust removed
2 medium tart apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
6 egg yolks
3 eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla or rum extract
Dash ground cinnamon and nutmeg

In a bowl, combine the bread cubes, apples and cranberries. Transfer to a greased 11-in. x 7-in. or 2 quart baking dish. In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, eggs, cream, milk and sugar. Pour over bread mixture. Place dish in a larger baking dish. Fill larger dish with boiling water halfway up the sides. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from water bath. Cool for 15 minutes.

For the cream sauce, in a saucepan, combine cream and sugar. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved and the mixture has reduce and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla or rum extract, cinnamon and nutmeg. Serve warm with pudding. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Party Recipes

A week ago my sister threw a holiday open house to celebrate the season with friends and family. I happened to be in town for another family Christmas party, so I was happy to help her with the shopping and food preparation. My sisters and I have spent years bonding in the kitchen, so whenever we can get together for a little cooking, I'm in. Unfortunately, an ice storm followed by record low temperatures coincided with the party and we prepared the food as the power blinked on and off. Not many of the invited guests ventured out into the weather, but we did enjoy a nice cozy evening with 9 adults and 5 little ones between the ages of 4 years and 6 months.

I know that I promised these recipes before Christmas, but the holiday and all of it's festivities prevented me from posting as promised. So, here they are now...just in time for your New Year's Eve party.

The following posts contain recipes for:

Bacon Wrapped Water chestnuts
Cheddar Beef Pull Apart Bread
Spinach Dip in Hawaiian Bread
Prosciutto Pinwheels
Ham and Cheese Crescents
Best Ever Chocolate Cheesecake
Gingerbread Cookie-Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

I love this recipe! A little time intensive, but worth it. My mom made this recipe for New Year's Eve parties when I was a kid, so I always think of these savory bacon wrapped water chestnuts as party food. That is, when I think of them. And honestly, I hadn't thought of them in years. Then suddenly on December 30th of last year at 39 weeks pregnant, I had to have these for New Year's Eve. I made a whole batch and we shared them with our wonderful neighbors. Now I've made them again for my sister's holiday party.

Begin by making the marinade for the water chestnuts. You'll need oil, soy sauce, ketchup, vinegar, pepper, and cloves.

I pour all of the ingredients into a resealable plastic container

and give it a good shake.

Now drop in the water chestnuts to marinate. It's really better to use whole water chestnuts and cut them in half. Unfortunately, the store was completely out of the whole ones and I had to settle for sliced.

Time for the bacon! Cut strips of bacon into 3 pieces. Then, wrap the water chestnuts and secure with a toothpick.

Place them on a foil lined baking sheet and broil for about 10 minutes or until the bacon is brown and a little crisp.

Don't they look delicious?

Marinated Water Chestnuts Wrapped in Bacon

2 cans whole water chestnuts, drained and cut in half

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 T. ketchup or chili sauce
1 T. vinegar
1/4 t. pepper
2 cloves, crushed (I used around 1/2 t. ground cloves)

Add the water chestnuts and refrigerate for 4-8 hours.

Cut strips of bacon into 3 pieces and wrap each water chestnut. Secure with a toothpick. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and broil for about 10 minutes or until the bacon is brown and starting to crisp.

Cheddar Beef Pull Apart Bread

This appetizer is on my "most requested" list. Friends either want me to bring it to the party or write down the recipe.

I start off with chopping the waterchestnuts

And the onions. The recipe calls for green onions. We forgot them at the grocery and didn't want to brave the ice storm for one forgotten ingredient. I used regular onion instead.

Combine the water chestnuts, onions, worcestershire and hot pepper sauces, onion powder and salt.

Add 1 1/2 cups of cheddar and 2 packages of creamed chipped beef.

I cut the loaf of bread 3 times vertically and about every 1 1/2" horizontally. I slice close to the bottom without slicing through the bottom.

Now stuff the filling inside each cut in the bread. It will all fit, I promise.

Wrap the bread in foil, leaving the top open. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until the bread is browned and crispy.

Cheddar Beef Pull-A-Part Bread

2 (11-ounce) packages frozen Classic Meals Creamed Chipped Beef, defrosted
2 cups (8-ounces) shredded cheddar cheese - divided use
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (1-pound) loaf unsliced Italian bread
Combine creamed chipped beef, 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, water chestnuts, green onion, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, pepper sauce and salt in large bowl.
Slice bread three times vertically and approximately every 1 1/2-inches horizontally to within 1/4-inch of bottom crust. Bread will have a 'checkerboard' appearance.
Stuff all cuts in bread with creamed chipped beef mixture.
Wrap bread in aluminum foil, keeping top exposed. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of stuffed bread.
Bake in preheated 400°F (205°C) oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until bread is browned and crispy.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.

*Defrost Creamed Chipped Beef in microwave on 50% power for 5 to 6 minutes.

Spinach Dip and Meatballs...not together, of course

I don't really have a recipe for these, but since they were on the menu, I thought that I would document these 2 easy appetizers as well.

Spinach Dip with Hawaiian bread is always a crowd pleaser. You begin by hollowing a round loaf of Hawaiian bread (usually found in the deli section of the grocery). Reserve the bread from the middle and either cut or tear into bite-sized chunks and arrange them around the bread loaf on a plate or a tray.

Before serving, fill the loaf with spinach dip. You can buy the dip or make it yourself from the recipe on the bread package. This is the homemade dip pictured below. My sister made this dip the night before the party. But remember, do not fill the loaf until right before the the party. If it's sitting in the refrigerator overnight, filled with the spinach dip, the bread will probably get soggy.

Now for the meatballs. I've never made meatballs this way before, but I know they are a popular party recipe. Most people are skeptical when they hear the ingredients: Meatballs, Chili Sauce, Grape Jelly. That's it. Talk about easy. We just dumped a bag of frozen, pre-made meatballs into a crockpot.

Then I poured in a bottle of chili sauce and a small jar of grape jelly. I don't have pictures of the finished product, but they did look and taste pretty good. Just stir them up and cook on high for a few hours before the party.

Prosciutto Pinwheels

These Prosciutto Pinwheels are quick and easy to make, yet still an impressive addition to your appetizer list. The more expensive ingredients in this recipe can be swapped with less pricey substitutes if you're planning a party on a budget. Ham would work fine in place of prosciutto. A store brand flavored cream cheese spread such as Chive and Onion is a less expensive alternative to the garlic herb cheese spread from the deli cooler. I like these crescent roll appetizers because they offer the chance to be creative. The next post shows ham and cheese crescents. The possibilities for flavor combinations with these yummy little roll ups are limitless. Think Pizza Bites rolled up with pizza sauce, mozzarella, and diced pepperoni or Philly steak bites rolled with roast beef, thinly sliced green pepper, and caramelized onion. Oh, and Chicken Quesadilla roll ups with shredded chicken, salsa, and cheese, or...or... Like I said... limitless.

All you need to begin is an 8 oz. can of refrigerated crescent rolls. Just open the package and arrange the triangles into 4 rectangles. Be sure to seal the perforations.

Next spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic herb cheese spread onto the dough.

Now arrange baby spinach leaves and prosciutto over the cheese.

Roll them up, starting with the shortest side.

Cut each roll into 6 slices.

Place the pinwheels, cut side down, on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake them at 375 degrees for 12-18 minutes. They should be golden brown when you pull them from the oven.

Prosciutto Pinwheels
1- 8 oz. can crescent rolls
6 T. garlic herb cheese spread
6 slices prosciutto
24-30 fresh baby spinach leaves

Spread the dough into 4 rectangles. Seal the perforations. Spread the rectangles with the cheese. Top with prosciutto and spinach. Starting with the shortest side, roll each rectangle into a log. Press the edges to seal. Cut each roll into 6 slices. Place the slices, cut side down, on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-18 minutes.
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