Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Kiss

Here's a  little twist on pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Your hands will get a little more messy and it takes time, but they are so cute and make wonderful gifts!

Cookie recipe courtesy of Libby Parr

1 cup butter flavored crisco (or shortening)
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
For dipping another 2 cups semi sweet chocolate - or your favorite dark chocolate.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray cookie sheets (grease).

In a large bowl, mix together the crisco shortening and white sugar until smooth or fully incorporated. Beat in the eggs one at a time whipping them in well.

Stir in the vanilla and pumpkin until well blended.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowel; stir into the pumpkin mixture.

Mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts if desired.

Scoop a small spoonful into your hand and roll fast into a ball. (if you roll your hands slow it will just stick to your hands) then roll some more unevenly so you create a cone shaped ball.

Place onto cookie sheet. This is a very firm dough. however you place it and shape it is how it will stay. It doesn't spread on the sheet so you don't have to worry too much about spacing.

Place in the oven and let cook approximately 8-10 minutes, until the tip is just barely turning golden.

While cookies are baking over a double boiler melt your remaining chocolate pieces until nice and runny.

Remove cookies from oven, cool on rack and continue to bake until the rest of the batter is used up.

Take your cookie and dip the pointy top into the chocolate, hold it in the air to let it start to set and get it's "kiss" look.

Then place a plate of them in the freezer to help them set up while you continue to dip the rest of your cookies, remove set up cookies and rotate remaining cookies into the freezer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chicken and Shitake Mushroom Lettuce Wraps

My Handy dandy sister in law Camille hooked my up with this great recipe. If you are a fan of the P.F. Chang lettuce wraps then this is the post for you. The smokey flavor of the mushrooms, the slight crunch of the water chestnuts, the coolness of the lettuce, it all works together perfectly for a really tasty Asian inspired meal. Thank you Camille!

Cooking Sauce:

1 TBSP hoisin sauce
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TBSP Oyster sauce
2 TBSP water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch (cornflour)
Iceberg lettuce leaves, or any preferred lettuce leaves (keep in mind you need a good head of lettuce since you need an intact leaf to hold the chicken mixture)

Remaining Ingredients
8 shitake mushrooms minced (you can use dried you just have to soak them with boiling water for 30 minutes and remove the woody stems before use)
1 tspn cornstarch
2 tspn red wine vinegar
2 tspn soy sauce
2 tspn water
salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (approx 680 grams)
5 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, minced
2 small dried chilies (optional.. I did not use them this time)
1x8oz can bamboo shoots, minced
1x8oz can water chestnuts, minced
1 package cellophane Chinese rice noodles, prepared according to package


Make sure all your ingredients are prepared and ready for use. The key to Asian cooking is having it all prepped because it cooks so fast.
Mix all ingredients for cooking sauce in bowl, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine cornstarch, sherry, soy sauce, water, salt, pepper and chicken.  Stir to coat chicken thoroughly.  Stir in 1 tspn oil and let sit 15 minutes to marinate. 

Heat wok or large skillet over medium high heat.  Ad 3 tbsp oil, then add the chicken and stir fry for about 3-4 minutes (until cooked). Set aside.

Add 2 tbsp oil to pan.  Ad ginger, garlic, chilies (if you are using them), and onion; stir fry about a minute or so.
Add mushrooms, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts; stir fry an additional 2 minutes.

Return chicken to pan.  Add mixed cooking sauce to pan.  Cook until thickened and hot.

Break cooked cellophane noodles into small pieces and cover bottom of serving dish with them.  Then pour chicken mixture on top of the noodles.

Spoon into lettuce leaf and roll. 

I served mine with Coconut Jasmine Rice.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Vote for My Luxury Fall Dinner

Here we go again.
The voting booths are open for a couple days. If you put it off you know you will forget. It's pretty simple if you have already done it before you will already be all set up. You need be a member of Food Buzz.  Simply go to this link.

Then Click on the love heart on the top of the page to vote. It will tell you "To confirm your vote you need to login to food buzz or join". Simply follow the yellow brick road.

So many of you have commented and I love it. Thanks for all the feedback and by all means keep it coming. I love hearing your thoughts.

Hopefully I will be doing this again next week for the Photo Challenge.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Project Food Blog Challenge #3: La La La Luxury Dinner


The first thing that came to mind when read the word "luxury" in this food challenge I thought..

NO KIDS! haha.
Don't get me wrong I love the moments I have with my girls in the kitchen, but most of my food revolves around being compatible for little mouths. This subject of luxury gave me tingles and excitement at the possibilities open to me.
Seafood, Lamb, Chocolate.... my head was filled with visions of loveliness.
In deciding who to invite to the party I decided to make this a girls night for dinner. I called some friends that I knew weren't picky eaters (no offense picky eaters) and we all lined up our babysitters.(shout out to Brooklyn the babysitter here!)
I had such a great time, and I hope my friends did too, we talked, laughed and nibbled chocolate mousse long after dinner. Thank you girls for such a great night. I think we will have to do this again!

Planning the Party

First step is to plan ahead. Start at least a week before your party, the more time you give yourself to plan ahead the more you can enjoy your guests and the food.  What's the point of a party if you can't enjoy it right?


In planning what food to choose you can plan whatever you want but it is pointless if you don't have a catering kitchen to create it all in. 
I wrote out a huge list of dishes that sounded great to me. I thought about food available in this region of the U.S., what foods are in season right now locally, what foods are in my ripe in my veggie patch. 

List 1 - Narrow Down Your Dishes
Then I  narrowed it down to what dishes were possible to cook in the kitchen at roughly the same time, this is all about multi-tasking. No point booking the oven for one dish when another needs it.
I worked out that if I did my slow cooked ribs in the oven I would be able to cook my seafood on the stove top and that I could grill other things on the BBQ too.  My list got smaller.
O.k. if you are not a list person, for the sake of planning a party you will have to start now!

List 2 - Work Out What You Can Make the Day Before
I looked at my menu and broke down what I could prep the day before, I saved myself alot of stress by making these parts before hand. I was surprised after writing it all down how much I could pre-do
Pea Puree
Roasted Tomato & Jalapeno Sauce
Apple Chutney & Glaze for Ribs
Ribs Rub
Cut Herbs from Garden
Puff Pastry Cups
Caramelize Onion
Chop Mushrooms & Bacon
..... and so on
List 3 - Check Your Serving and Decorating Resources
Something I learned.. make sure you have enough dishes to feed people, check that you have table clothes, and all those little details we sometimes forget about until the last minute.

List 4 - The Shopping List 
Break it down.. work out what food you need from what store.  You don't want to be rushing around at the last minute only to find no one has marscapone (cough cough).  Browse the stores if you are there.. see what they have so you know you have those ingredients.
List 5 - The Time-line 
Write out a schedule of what you need done by what time.
Don't forget the important things like... cleaning the guest bathrooms, cleaning entire house, and .. TAKE A SHOWER. Just because you have been cooking all day or days doesn't mean you have to look like it. Party's are about the whole package!

List 6 - Whats Left
2 hours before "go time" double check your time-line. Go over all your dishes and write down what you haven't yet accomplished or done. It's easy right before mealtime to check things off the still to do, and easier if you have friends or husbands helping you out to just look at the list and start working for you. (yes there always a hidden motive!)

My Menu

Trio of Puff Pastries
You are guaranteed to find each person will at least love one of these three if not all of them. They are teeny enough that you can snack and munch and save room for the rest of the meal.

Puff Pastry Cups
4 sheets Puff Pastry Sheets(found in the frozen section of your supermarket)
Allow your Pastry to thaw to complete.

Pre-Heat Oven to 400 F.

Spray a mini- muffin tray with non-stick spray. Also do a large regular muffin tray if you would like.

Roll your pastry to thin it out.  Cut it into squares (one sheet cut into 9 squares for me). Place the square in the muffin cups. Press it into the bottom to help it to form to the shape as it puffs up. Trim the edges to match the circle top.
Place in oven and cook until just barely crispy. Do not cook fully as then they will over cook when you fill them. You just want to firm up the middle .
Pastries will Puff up and you might think they are not cup shape. Just get the back end of a knife or spoon and while baking gently press in the middle. Repeat again once the come out of the oven and are a little malleable.


Brie and Cranberry Salsa (must be done 3 days before hand)


1 packet of Craisens (dried cranberries will do)
2 cups Red Wine Vinegar
1 Cup Sugar
1 TBS chopped dried Rosemary
1 large Triangle of Brie.


Combine Vinegar and Sugar in a re-sealable bowl.  Stir and try to break down the sugar as much as you can.  Add the rosemary.
Add Cranberries and mix, thoroughly coat them evenly.
Seal and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To Serve - Place as much brie as you can in your pastry cup without it overflowing. Bake in 400 Degree oven until Cheese is fully melted.
Remove and top with cranberries.

Grilled Bacon Mushroom and Fresh Herbs

4 cups Button mushrooms medium finely chopped
5 slices Meaty Bacon (chopped to same size as mushrooms)
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
olive oil
2 sprigs fresh oregano
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh parsley chopped
1 tsp beef Bullion
3 garlic cloves smashed
 salt to taste


Get the leaves off your sprigs of herbs and finely chop them all together. Place aside.
Cut your bacon into good sized pieces. I like to know I'm really eating bacon when I take a spoonful of this toss.
With aluminium foil create a tray with good sized sides. (Give it enough room so you can bring the sides into the middle to form a mini lid).

Spray the foil with non stick spray.

Put the bacon and mushrooms on the foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on the herbs and beef bullion powder and salt on mixture.... roll up your sleeves and toss it through with your hands.

Nestle the smashed garlic cloves on the bottom under the mushroom mixture.

When ready place it on your grill and fold the edges of the foil inwards to keep some of the steam in. Let it sit on there without stirring for about 15-20 minutes.

Vegetables should be starting to soften, Drizzle on your Worcestershire sauce over the top. With a spoon start mix/stir the vegetables and let them sit again, open the foil and continue to stir and then mix your toss until are completely cooked through. 
Remove from grill and spoon into your pastry cups.

Caramelized Sweet Onion and Feta


2 Large red Onions (Finely Chopped)
1/2 cup  TBS Butter
Salt to Taste
1 cup chopped Feta Cheese.
1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
2 eggs


Heat pan to medium. Melt 1/2 butter in the pan and add the onion. Cook it on medium low heat.  As onions cook keep adding parts of the butter to keep it moist. They will cook for approx. 20-30 minutes. At the end when the onions have darkened without burning add the balsamic vinegar.

Whisk egg and cream together, adding salt for seasoning.

Place a small amount in the bottom of your pastry cup. Top with some Feta then pour in the egg cream mixture.  Place in oven and cooked until set.

                               Warm Mixed Seafood Salad

Nothing says luxury to me more than warm juicy seafood. I hunted down the best I could find and made it into a light salad.

1/2 cup butter
1/8 cups chicken broth
1/8 cup dry white wine
2 Tsp finely chopped garlic
1 TBS freshly chopped Oregano
20 Mussels
2 lobster tails
crab leg meat (however many you want to shell really)
Mixed greens
small bunch of cilantro
Roasted Tomato and Jalapeno Sauce (see recipe)
1/4 cup Fresh chopped parsley


Heat butter in pan.
Add garlic. and lobster tails. (meat side down)
Cook 1 minute
Add mussels. White wine and chicken stock. Put on lid and allow them to steam. When mussels are open remove lid and add crab meat. Toss gently with parsley and oregano.
Remove from heat and plate on top of mixed greens. Place a little cilantro in the greens.
Serve with Roasted Tomato Sauce.

Roasted Tomato and Jalapeno Sauce
Approx. 3 TBS Olive Oil
4 cups cherry tomatoes (I used ones from my garden.. they are always best fresh)
3 Garlic cloves smashed
1 Pepper (capsicum) de-seeded and quartered.
Salt & Pepper
2 Jalapeno Chilies finely chopped and with seeds removed.
2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Heat oil gently in a pan.  Add tomatoes, garlic, peppers and a  generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and jalapenos.  
If the garlic starts to brown you have your stove too high. Allow to cook slowly and gently on low until tomatoes are totally. This will cook for approx. 30 minutes. It's good if you can get a nice toasted look on the tomatoes. 
When done briefly turn up your heat and add the balsamic Vinegar.
Remove from heat.
Add cream and then pulse with an emulsifier or in a blender until smooth. 
Taste to season if needed.
Serve on the side of salad. 

Seared Scallop with Shaved Lamb and Pea Puree

I LOVED this dish. I decided to try a pea puree after the big "Top Chef" debacle.  It made me think .. what is all the big deal with pea puree.  I am glad I was cheeky enough to try it because I think it was the show stopper of the night.
 This whole dish was simple in seasoning but full of flavor. The teeny sliver of lamb complimented all the flavors of the puree and scallop. I think this was my personal favorite of the night. 

Pea Puree 
(This can be made the day before and simply re-heat when ready to serve)

3 french shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 slices Bacon finely chopped (you can substitute bacon in here)
135g (1 cup) frozen peas (YES FROZEN)
3 tablespoons chicken stock or water
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Cook the shallots, garlic and pancetta for 3 minutes, or until soft but not coloured. add the peas and stock. cook over high heat for 3 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. 
Cool a little, then puree in a food processor until smooth. Season (I used an emulsifier... I LOVE that thing. puree and keep puree-ing until it is almost silky smooth) 


6 Large Scallops
Count your Scallops - 1 per serving is plenty.. unless you know someone will like seconds do one or two more than needed.
Salt and Pepper to Season
Olive oil

Pat your Scallops dry. 
Coast liberally with olive oil.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a stainless steel pan on high. Add in a coating of olive oil.
When heated add your scallops, they should hiss happily when they hit the pan.
Let them sit approximately 3 minutes each side (they won't take long). Be careful they don't stick to the pan.  You should have lovely crispy brown scallops.

while the scallops are sizzling cook your lamb...............

Shaved Lamb Rack of Ribs

3 Lamb Ribs
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Take a rack of lamb ribs and cut off 3.
Like with the scallops, Rinse ribs and pat dry with paper towel.
Heat Pan with olive oil on high temp. 
Season ribs liberally with Salt and pepper on all sides.
Place ribs in pan and let them cook and sizzle to taste. I don't like rare lamb so I cooked my a little longer. It's up to you.
When done remove from pan onto a cutting board and slice very thinly.


On a nice white plate scoop a dollop of pea puree. Add small shavings of hot lamb and then top with Scallops. Clean plate edges if needed and serve. Simple and beautiful.

Apple and Ginger Glazed Fall Apart Ribs
with Zesty Fresh Apple Chutney.
I wanted to incorporate fresh produce that was relevant to Utah and the season. The leaves on the mountain have started turning and the pumpkins are ripening. It's the end of tomatoes and the beginning of ripe pumpkins and apples.
I decided to use my technique for fall off the bone BBQ  ribs (cooking them on low for 8 hours) but I put a luxury/fall twist to it. So here we have juicy succulent Sweet ribs. My husband tasted some left-overs and said they were the best he has ever had.

Look at that Shining Glaze and Juicy Chutney... MMM

1-2  racks Baby Back Ribs (Costco has a great pack of baby back ribs that are excellent quality and cook to perfection each pack has 3 racks)
Apple Ginger Glaze (See Glaze Recipe)
2 TBS Liquid smoke
Rib Rub (see rub recipe)

Rib Rub Ingredients

 1 TBS garlic powder
1/2 TBS Ground Cloves
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup salt (Kosher is best)
1/8 cup onion powder
1/8 cup paprika
1 TBS black pepper
1 TBS chili powder
1 TBS dry mustard
1 TBS red pepper (Cayenne Pepper)
 Makes enough for 2 racks of ribs

Pre-Heat oven to 270F (132C)
Remove ribs from packet. Pat dry with a paper towel.

To prepare the ribs for maximum tenderness you need to strip the back of the clear membranes. 
With a sharp knife (preferably one that is long and skinny) you need to try to slip it between the membrane and the flesh. If you have too much difficulty doing this (it took me 2 racks to perfect it myself) at least scour the membrane so it can split off the meat when it cooks. If you do this be careful
 not to slice too deep so as to get into the flesh.
This takes time but I think it makes a huge difference in the end product, if you can try to slice the membrane 
off altogether that will produce the best result.

Prepare a roasting pan by placing approx 1 inch water in the bottom. Add your liquid smoke to this water.

place the roasting rack in the pan to check the water will not be touching the meat.

Apply rub liberally all over the racks of ribs (note if your ribs are too long for the pan you might have to cut them in half)
Once spiced place them on the roasting rack, it is o.k. to place some on top of each other.
Cover with tin foil. Place in oven on middle rack and cook for 7-8 hours.
 When ribs are done in the oven heat your BBQ/Grill to medium temp.
While the ribs are laying on one side coat it with your Apple Ginger sauce. 
Coat some nonstick oil on the BBQ right before you put on your ribs .. the tender meat will stick! 
(If a thunderstorm comes roller in while you are cooking outside it is o.k. to cook these in a large skillet instead)

Using long tongs or a super long spatula VERY carefully pick up ribs (1 rack at a time people). They are so tender they will slide off the bone when you try to pick them up. Place them on sauce side down. . 

Flip oh so carefully when the front side is heated through. Remember the meat is already cooked you are just basting and infusing your glaze flavor.

this is how clean your bones will be!
When heated on both sides remove from grill and serve juicy hot with your Apple Ginger Salsa!!! 

Apple Ginger Salsa


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup coarsely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno
2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
2 cups fresh orange juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
6 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, halved and cut into little rectangles
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the onion and jalapeno until the onion is translucent.

Add the ginger, vinegar, brown sugar and honey and cook until the sauce is reduced by half and has a glazed appearance. Reduce the heat to low, add two thirds of the apple slices, and cook until the fruit is just tender.

Turn off the heat and gently fold in the remaining apples. Pour the chutney into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
Mix in the cilantro.  Pour 1/2 of this into a separate bowl to use for your glaze.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Apple Ginger Glaze

Take Apple Ginger chutney and with an Emulsifier or blender pulse until smooth. 
Heat in a pan with 1/4 cup Brown Sugar and 2 TBS salted butter. Cook until bubbling and slightly glaze look again and seal in a container until ready to use.
To use heat up briefly in the microwave before basting the ribs.

Dark Hazelnut Chocolate and White Coconut Chocolate Mousse Duet

Creamy Rich FLUFF.. thats all I have to say about this dessert.

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse


12 Oz Ritter Sport Dark Hazelnut Chocolate
4 egg yolks
1/2 white cup sugar
1 tsp Almond Essence
3 cups heavy whipping cream

White Coconut Chocolate Mousse


9 oz Lindt White chocolate coconut (1 1/2 blocks)
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream


Make each mousse one at a time. Have your bowl ready to spoon it in. Start with your dark chocolate mousse.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler setup.

While the chocolate is melting, in a large mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar and beat, with a hand-held mixer, until very pale and thick and have doubled in size. Whisk in the Almond Essence. When the chocolate has melted, whisk it into the egg yolk mixture. It will thicken .. don't panic it will work out once you work in the cream.

In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream to medium peaks. Using 1/3 of the whipped cream at a time, fold the cream into the chocolate mixture. Repeat this process until all the cream is incorporated. Transfer the mousse to individual serving dishes.
Repeat the process for the white chocolate mousse and pour on top of the dark chocolate.
This is great because you can make it the night before.
Cover and refrigerate for AT LEAST 2 hours.

Palm Sugar Grilled Ripened Peaches and Strawberries 
with Unsweetened Whipped Cream 


I cannot have a dinner party without serving this dessert. It was my job growing up to make the grilled peaches. And it hardly seems like a special dinner without it to me. The brown palm sugar liquefies on top of this fruit and then mixes with the cream to create a creamy sweet sauce. YUM!


Peaches ( firm but ripe. you don't want them mushy or blemished or they will fall to pieces as you broil them) I accounted for 1 peach per two people. Slice them in half and de-seed them.
20 strawberries, fan sliced.
Shaved Palm Sugar (If you don't have that nearby brown sugar will substitute)
Heavy Whipping Cream
Vanilla Essence (just a dash)


Heat broiler on high (Australian - low grill temp) Line a tray with edges (not a cookie sheet) with Aluminium tin foil and spray with non stick spray. Wash peaches - approximately 1-2 per person, cut in half and remove seeds keeping the cavity intact. Whip cream and add vanilla essence.

Place Peaches on the tray with center facing up. Spread out strawberries between peaches. Sprinkle the peaches with sugar so all edges and center are lightly covered.

Place under broiler/grill and watch closely. The sugar will melt and start to bubble. You want it to turn into a liquid. Pull out tray and quickly top peaches again with another light sprinkle of sugar. Remove from oven once the 2nd sprinkle of sugar is bubbling and liquefied. Watch closely or the will burn.

While still hot top each peach center (they should be filled with the liquid sugar) with a dollop of the cream. Pour remaining sauce on tray onto the strawberries.
This creates a wonderful sweet but creamy sauce for your hot peach and strawberries.

Serve hot, juicy and creamy

Pomegranate Pellegrino Mint Spritzer

Refreshing, Fruity and Sweet this drink was the perfect compliment to all dishes. Super easy to make, it sparkles and impresses on the table.

2 bottles Pellegrino   Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
1 bottle Langers Pomegranate Cranberry Juice
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves 
1/2 cup sugar (or simple syrup) to taste.

Combine all ingredients except mint to your taste.  When sugar has dissolved place mint in pitcher and with a wooden mixing stick crush it on the bottom to release the flavors.  
Serve Chilled. 

O.k. .. you've read my post.. stop drooling I am going to go and eat some leftovers, but YOU can go have yourself a party. 
Because good food is SO worth cooking.