30 October 2010

Bloody Brew and Moldy Bones

Today we hosted a small gathering for our close friends with young kids, mostly around our son's age, to have some good clean Halloween fun!

While I was hoping to make a lot of the edibles from scratch I decided to take a page from Ina Garten's many books and go with a few store-bought items and a couple of simple, but delicious, homemade treats.  It turned out to be a great decision!

What I made:
Bloody Brew: Pom juice, Grape Juice, Lime-Pom Sparking water
Spinach and Blue-cheese Pinwheels: Puff pastry sprinkled with smoked paprika (a favorite spice of mine!), blue cheese crumbles and whole leaf spinach. I intended to omit the spinach and just go with the blue cheese and cut the pastry into "bone" shapes but the pinwheels were slightly less time consuming and just as tasty in wheel form!
Sugar cookies: Pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies (used a recipe I'm not too pleased with) sprinkled with orange sanding sugar
Caramel apples: Granny Smith apples covered in caramel, extra dark chocolate and chopped pecans
Creepy crawly crunch: Three types of cereal, coconut and 2 types of nuts coated with a cocoa honey sauce and roasted. It's completely addictive and full of healthful things like honey, whole grain cereals and pecans!

We also served veggies and chips with hummus, various cheeses and wheat Ritz, and, of course, a candy bar well-stocked with gummy brains, worms and teeth, wax lips and mustaches and other assorted sweets and treats!

It was a wonderful day shared with some beautiful, amazing families who enrich our lives by simply being part of them. I hope your holiday weekend is a smashing success with loads of treats and perhaps a few tricks to keep us on our toes...

Happy Halloween, all!

22 October 2010

Pork Chops and Applesauce

Welcome! As an introduction to my world and the art of food, as well as the enjoyment of it all, please savor a few tidbits from my family's kitchen history. 

Mom Gina: An amazing cook and baker. Everything, from chinese food to maple bars, was made from scratch when my sister and I were young. Jump ahead about 10 years: The nest becomes empty and she resorts to sauces and gravies from jars and cans, potatoes from a box and...gulp, frozen pie crusts. Cut to present day: She's back in the kitchen with fresh ingredients, enormous cookbooks bulging with new ideas and she's loving it! 
Best meal: Fried Chicken, Potato Salad and Lemon Meringue Pie (even with a frozen crust it's pretty fantastic)

Sister Gwennie:Didn't have much interest in being in the kitchen or cooking/baking when we were kids. Now she cooks often using whole wheat pastas, doctoring up boring canned foods with some seasoning and spice, and creating great family meals.
Best Meal: Whole Wheat pasta with from-scratch Vodka cream sauce

Gram (Mom's mom): A wonderful woman full of stories, sass and song, but a dreadful cook. Eating her buckwheat pancakes was like trying to chew through a manilla envelope filled with chunky glue, bless her heart. 
Best meal: Toast with honey

Grandma Shirley (Mom's step-mom): I'll just say this. Every holiday when I was a child was spent at her house with all the kids setting the beautifully huge family table, the passing of creamy mashed potatoes, green tossed salad full of love and veggies from her garden and perfect homemade desserts. There were a lot of imperfect things about that home, but food an drink were as close to perfection as a child can hope for, especially considering in the garage there was a huge shelf full of every beverage you could ever want and a freezer stocked with ice cream treats for months!
Best meal (from what I recall only having been a teenager when I saw her last): Sandwich made with Humboldt Bay sourdough bread, mayo, mustard, thick slices of ham, homegrown "frilly" (green leaf) lettuce and tomatoes, and sharp cheddar cheese, on the side of which was always a nice cold glass bottle of V8. I'm not a fan of sandwiches but I truly, madly, deeply love this sandwich.

Grandma Robbie (Father's mom): I'll put it this way. If ever we were headed to her home for a meal, we'd stop and eat on the way. Not only was the food inedible, there was rarely enough to feed everyone, try as she might. 
Best Meal: Delivered Pizza 

As for me...
I was always in the kitchen, even if it was just to watch what mom was creating from bottles of spices, sacks of flour and sugar, crinkling packages of chocolate and simmering pots. Together we made fortune cookies, no-bake drop cookies, swedish meatballs, roasts with all the trimmings, and on and on. For my 9th birthday I decided I was old enough to prepare my first full meal and would do so for my birthday dinner. I grabbed one of mom's sticky drip-covered, well-loved cookbook (probably Betty or Joy) and found a simple recipe for Lemon Pork Chops. They were thick-cut, seasoned with S&P and topped with a slice of lemon. After baking a while they were smothered in a sauce made of ketchup and brown sugar. For the sides, I seem to recall scratch mashed potatoes with loads of butter, and frozen peas or something along that line, and of course, we can't have pork chops without apple sauce! Mom and sister were both very surprised at the meal and I was incredibly proud of creating such a feast. My abilities and tastes have matured quite a bit since then, thankfully, but the foods I most enjoy sharing are those that warm the belly, the soul and create memories through simple, healthy fresh ingredients and buckets of love. Still, I continue to learn and grow as a cook and a baker and am incredibly fortunate to have a precious son who already enjoys cooking and baking as much as i ever have, and a darling husband who is always up for being the quality-assurance expert on any new recipes! There's an entire world of flavors, ingredients and methods to explore and I look forward to sharing the journey with you! 
Best Meal: BBQ Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad, Grilled Veggies and for dessert, Sea Salt Almond Caramel Brownies OR Apple Pie.