Can do it all. And modest to boot.

The catering side of being a foodie…

Posted: July 12th, 2009 | Author: alyssa | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 7 Comments »

This weekend, my mother, my sister Paige and I threw a baby shower for my sister Leanne.  Of course, the baby shower was at Leanne’s house…so she and her husband did just as much work as we did, but its the thought that counts right?  So as usual for most family events, I ended up being in charge of food.   I have been working on this menu for a while,  but of course things like the guest list tend to guide the menu so it wasn’t truly finalized until the night before the shower when we all went grocery shopping.  We finalized the guest list at 12-15, so here is the final menu that we settled on:

Caprese tomatoes

2 loaves of antipasto bread

Chicken wraps

Roast beef wraps

Spinach Artichoke dip

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and blue sprinkles (Its a boy :) )

The roast beef wraps just had butter, and cheddar cheese.  The chicken wraps were Paige’s idea, and she spread the tortilla with cream cheese and  salsa, then sprinkled it with mexican cheese and added chicken.  It was something I wouldn’t have thought of, but they were really good.

For the spinach artichoke dip, I just used Paula Deen’s recipe which is super easy, and really good.  I haven’t found a recipe I like better yet, so I’m going to keep with that one until I find something better.  The only thing I do differently is add 1-2 cloves of finely chopped garlic…because lets face it, garlic makes everything better.

I also have to report that sadly, in the interest of time and ease, we used a cake mix for the cupcakes…so I can’t really report on that.

The antipasto bread is something that I have been making for a couple years, since I found a recipe in my mom’s recipe box.  Basically you take bread dough, once its risen completely, roll it out and then put in whatever you want.  Leanne requested pepperoni and cheese in one of them, so I just tooke sliced mozzarella and covered the dough, leaving about an inch on the outside, then I put down sliced pepperoni.  From there just roll the dough up like you would a jelly roll, pinch the dough all along the seam to completely seal it.  Score it across the top with a knife a couple times, then put it on a greased cookie sheet, seam side down and bake it at 350 for 30 minutes.    The second loaf is the standard loaf that I make.  Its the same process, but the ’stuffing’ is different.  I take a pound of ground sweet italian sausage and sautee it with garlic and onions.  Then, once the sausage is completely cooked, let it cool down and add one package of cooked chopped spinach and parmesan until it tastes like you want it to.  Line the rolled out bread dough with sliced mozzarella, and then top it with the sausage mixture, again, leaving at least an inch perimeter at the edge of the dough.  Roll it, score it, bake it the same way, and when you open the oven 30 minutes later, you have a delicious loaf of bread stuffed with deliciousness.  I forgot to take pictures, but I make it all the time, so I will be sure to do a follow up.

Now…the dish I am most proud of.  I am a HUGE fan of the caprese salad (for those of you that don’t know, thats just tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil.  Usually with balsamic)  Its a really great summer dish, its easy, its light and its SO GOOD.  So I wanted to do the caprese, but decided to change it up a little bit.  Rather than making it a knife and fork kind of a salad, I wanted it to be more like finger food.  So I searched around and found a lot of stuffed tomato recipes, and a lot fo bruschetta recipes, but nothing that was what I really wanted.  Most of them talked about cooking the tomatoes, or doing some other crap that does not make sense to me, so I took some ideas I liked and came up with the most simple recipe on earth…and freaking delicious to boot.  I got two packages of campari tomatoes which are nice because they are like a two bite size.  I just cut the tops off of them and hollowed them out with a small spoon.  They tend to get a little wet witht he juice, so just wipe them with a towel to dry them off.  Then I took two large balls of fresh, water-packed mozzarella (try to find the firmest ones you can).  I diced the cheese fairly small, and mixed it with some fresh, chopped basil.  Then just stuff the tomatoes with the cheese and top them with some basil chiffonade.  Before you serve it, just drizzle them with balsamic, or you can serve it with a balsamic reduction dipping sauce.  Overall it worked out really nicely, and was delicious!IMG00141-20090711-1041By the way, I think this is also my best photography to date…so thats exciting too :)


The only cleaning I like…

Posted: July 7th, 2009 | Author: alyssa | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Is cleaning out the fridge.  I am going out of town on Thursday and will be gone for almost 3 weeks, so I obviously can’t leave a lot of food in the fridge to rot.  A lot people like to make sandwiches, or random casseroles, but I can only think of one thing when it comes to left overs….Frittata!  Frittatas are the greatest thing on the planet, you just take whatever you have in the fridge, throw it in a pan and add eggs.  This week I had all some GREAT stuff to use, so I was excited.  I used leeks,  chicken, dill, parmesan, garlic, and brie.

In the name of being somewhat healthy, rather than using 8 full eggs, I used 4 full eggs and 4 egg whites.  I just put them in a bowl and mixed them with a fork to break them up.  Throw in a couple of splashes of milk to help them stay light and fluffy.  Then I just threw in what I had…some salt and pepper, the dill, and shredded parmesan cheese.  While all that was going on, I cleaned the leeks and sauteed them with the garlic and some olive oil until they were tender.  Then I threw in the cooked chicken just to heat it up.  When that was done, I left everthing in the pan, and threw in some butter to coat the entire pan.  The just pour the egg mixture over it and cook it over medium heat until it is set on the bottom and edges.  Once the eggs were set, I took the brie(cut into medium pieces) and just dropped it on top of the eggs. Then I put the pan into a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes until it was completely set.    DELICIOUS.  The good thing about frittata is you can put in whatever the hell you want, and it is ALWAYS good.

Now, apparently I didn’t take my own advice and fully coat the pan with butter, because I had a little trouble getting it out of the pan…

Hideous...but delicious

Hideous...but delicious

Lets face it…presentation has never been my forte, but who cares, as long as it is delicious.

Happy Frittata-ing!


Any excuse for cake

Posted: July 4th, 2009 | Author: alyssa | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

And I will take any of them :) .  For most people, cake has that mellowing effect.  One bite and the endorphins flow, but for me, the comfort is less in eating the cake, although I’m a big fan…its making the cake that calms me down.  Something about putting various parts together to create something that satisfying just clears my head.  When I am baking, I am focused on nothing but the ingredients, the taste of the batter or dough or whatever, and how it feels, too dry, to soft…whatever.  No matter what else is going on, I am only focused on the things I can taste and feel at that moment.

I have been trapped in my own head for the past couple days, and I have not been able to shake it, so I decided to try and clear my head the good old fashioned way…a bake fest.  I decided on chocolate cake, because when done right, can be the best thing on the planet.   Although just chocolate was not enough…I needed to create and construct not just mix and pour.  So I threw in a twist.  Two layer chocolate cake with chocolate raspberry filling.  I used this recipe for the cake, because I have yet to find one that I love enough to be faithful to (thats right, my cakes are like my men).  Since the filling is the best part, I’m going to gloss over the baking of the cake…just follow the recipe.  Although one hint: the recommended bake time is 30-35 min at 350, but I would lean a lot closer to the 30 minute side of that so that your cake doesn’t get dry on the edges.  IMG00131-20090702-1816Once the cakes are done, just take them out and set them on a rack to cool.  The easiest way to get the cakes out of the pans without damaging them  is to put a flat surface  on top of the pan, then just flip it.  Although if you have a large enough cooking rack for both cakes, set the pans side by side, put the cooling rack on top of them upside down then just flip it.

While the cakes are baking and cooling you can focus on the filling, which is pretty simple.    Take a pint of raspberries (save a few out for garnish if you like)  and soak them in bourbon or brandy, whichever you prefer for about 30 minutes, until the liquid starts to turn a little red, and the raspberries look like they are breaking down a little.  IMG00134-20090702-1915I acutally used American Honey, which is basically Wild Turkey mixed with honey, which is SO GOOD.   So just cover the berries with the liquor and let them sit.  Once they have started to break down, put it all in a sauce pan and simmer it over medium high.  Stir it to break up the berries further.  Keep it bubbling a little to help burn off the alcohol, because you don’t want a drunken cake, you just want the flavor in there.  Once the liquid has reduced a bit, start adding sugar by the spoonful until you reach your desired flavor.  Keep stirring until the raspberries are completely broken up.  Let it cool for a few minutes, then once it is cool enough to handle, pour it through a cheese cloth or strainer, to remove the seeds.  Set the remaining liquid aside to cool.

While that is cooling, You can go ahead and make the frosting.  Put one and stick of softened butter in a mixing bowl, or in your standing mixer.    In a separate bowl, combine 3 cups of confectioners sugar and 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa.  Finally in a third, much smaller prep bowl, put 4 Tbsp of heavy cream.  Add one cup of sugar mixture and one Tbsp. cream to the butter and mix until fully combined.  Keep adding them one cup and one Tbsp at a time until everything is mixed together.  Then take about 1/4 of the frosting and put it in a separate bowl.  The raspberry liquid should be cook enough at that point so you can add it to the separated frosting until you reach the desired raspberry-ness.  I personally added the whole thing.  If it is a little liquidy, just throw it in the freezer for a few minutes until it thickens.

Construction time….

Put one of the cakes on the plate, leaving the flattest surface as the top, so that it is easier to frost.  Take your raspberry frosting and spread it out on top of the cake, starting in the middle and working your way out towards the edges.  I personally like a thick layer of frosting, but add however much you want.  Take your second cake, again flat side up, and put in on top of the first.  Then using the chocolate frosting, frost the entire cake.  Again starting in the center and working your way out to the edges, then frosting the sides.  It is easiest if you have the plate on a surface where you can turn it easily to make sure you get full chocolaty coverage.  Again, use as much or as little frosting as you like, and viola!:

IMG00136-20090702-2043IMG00138-20090704-1152Hopefully you enjoy this cake almost as much as you enjoy my absurd ramblings on…

Happy Baking!


Even better…

Posted: July 1st, 2009 | Author: alyssa | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The best part of using brie and prosciutto in a recipe, is the fact that out of my left overs, I made a brie and prosciutto sandwich when I got home from the bar tonight….perfect!