Tagged: foodbuzz

PANINI PARTY!

Oh goodness!

I can’t even begin to tell you how super excited I am to have made it to Round 3 of Project Food Blog! The best, most exciting way I could think to celebrate was  to  PAAAR-TAAAY,  so it’s a good thing that’s exactly what the challenge called for!

A “luxury dinner party” to be precise. Lucky for me, Foodbuzz was kind enough to clarify that  “luxury” could be interpreted however it works for me, my schedule and budget! “No need to break the bank…luxury can be different things to different people and we just ask that you be creative, personal and have fun with it!” This was a spectacular discovery for me because my schedule is super busy and my budget, heh, we won’t get into that. I know I’m not the only person out there with both of these dilemmas, and I can say with confidence that regardless of a busy schedule and minimal budget that it’s not just possible to have an outstanding dinner party, with the right combination of ingredients, it’s pretty simple, too!

When faced with the decision as to what to make for this party my brain went in a dozen different directions. My thought process went a little something like this…

I could try to do something fancy that I’d never done before… but what if it doesn’t work??? That would ruin the whole night!!  At the same time, though, I don’t want to make something I’ve made a million times before because …well…that’d make for a lame party, wouldn’t it?? Hmmmm…I really do love cheese. And wine. Mmmmmm…wine and cheese party? No. Too easy. I love bread, too. Cheesyyyyyyyyyyy …. sandwiches? PANINIS!!!!! Who doesn’t love a good panini every now and then? How about a three course meal with a panini in every course? A PANINI PARTY!!!!!”

By george, I think she’s got it! Let’s take a look at the menu…

For the first course, I decided to make a crowd pleasing caesar salad with a twist.

Fontina Caesar

2 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped
1 bottle of YOUR FAVORITE caesar salad dressing
4 hearty slices of garlic bread
6 ounces fontina cheese

For Croutons:
Take two slices of bread and top each with half the cheese. Top each slice with another slice of bread. Put both sandwiches on your preheated panini press and close. Let cook until cheese is melted and the bread is a nice, light brown.(If you don’t have a panini press, don’t you fret! Just use a big, buttered skillet on medium-high heat. Weigh down your sandwiches with a smaller skillet, weighted with a can of soup or something heavy. Flip after 4-5 minutes and repeat on the other side.) Remove from panini press and let cool for a minute or two. Slice into cubes.

For Salad:
Toss together the lettuce and your desired amount of dressing in a large bowl. Add croutons. Toss and serve.

I decided to make the croutons for this salad to go with my panini theme, so I didn’t feel bad getting some help with the store-bought dressing. If you’re having a dinner party, don’t be afraid to get help from the store when you can! Just think logically. It’s significantly less expensive to buy a bottle of salad dressing you know you’re going to enjoy than it is to buy all of the ingredients for a homemade caesar dressing.

Fontina, by the way, is my new favorite cheese. It’s reminiscent of mozzarella in that it  melted perfectly but it has a certain subtle sharpness that was absolutely phenomenal in the caesar salad. Because the salad was a light start to the meal, I served it with  a clean, crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

In most situations, the main course is USUALLY the most time consuming dish to make. For these particular festivities, I knew that I wanted to be able to relax (being that I had a full day of work beforehand) and spend time at the dinner table with my guests. The solution? My trusty crock pot. These smoky barbeque pulled chicken sandwiches were a cinch to put together early in the morning and are perfect for a party where you know you may be short on time!

Smoky BBQ Pulled
Chicken Sandwiches

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bottle of YOUR FAVORITE barbeque sauce
½ cup water
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
5 seeded kaiser rolls
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup pickled jalapeños (optional)

Place the chicken, water, half of the barbeque sauce, and seasoning into a crock pot. Cook on low heat for 8 hours. After 8 hours, remove chicken from crock pot and shred with two forks. Return to crock pot, add remaining barbeque sauce and keep on warm setting until ready to serve.

To serve: Split rolls in half. Top with chicken, cheese and jalapeños. Devour!

I served the sandwiches with Shriaz, to bring out the smokiness of the barbeque chicken even more! And because a sandwich is not a sandwich without a tasty side dish, I decided to try my hand at some homemade potato chips! For some fun color, I used purple potatoes AND sweet potatoes.

They were so fun to make that Johnny decided to lend a hand!

Never be afraid to let your dinner guests become a part of the dinner making experience! They’ll love what you serve even more when they’ve  put effort into preparing it!

Finally, it’s time for dessert! Earlier in the evening, I prepared all of the dessert ingredients so that when it was time to serve it, all I had to do was put everything together. It’s a great rule of thumb when you’re having dinner guests to prepare dessert first, even though you eat it last. If you have dessert ready to go, you get to spend that much more time having fun with your friends and family!

Butter Croissant and Mascarpone Panini

Serves 6

3 large croissants
1 small container mascarpone cheese
(if you can’t find mascarpone, you can substitute cream cheese)

3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large or 2 small bananas, sliced
¼ cup walnuts, toasted

In a large bowl, combine the mascarpone, sugar and vanilla.
Set aside or chill for later use.
When ready to prepare, preheat your panini press.
Slice the croissants in half horizontally. Spread one half with the sweetened mascarpone. Top with bananas and walnuts. Top with other half of croissant. Repeat with remaining croissants.
Place in your panini press and let cook for about 5 minutes, until the cheese begins to melt and the croissants toast.
Remove from press.
Cut each croissant in half and serve with fresh coffee or tea!!!

After all was said and done . . .

My Budget: Intact.
This dinner party, wine and all, served five people for just over $10 per person!
My Time: Well Spent.
Thanks to some early prep work and my super helpful dinner guests.
My Tummy: REAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLYYYYYYYYY FULL… and happy!

So CHEERS, to you and yours!

Fufu and Light Soup: A Taste of Ghana

So here’s a fun fact…

Tomorrow is my one year BLOGIVERSARY!

(you should send me presents to celebrate… you know you want to…)

Anywho, I may have mentioned this in previous posts, but I started this blog for my Online Journalism class. My assignment was to pick something I was passionate about and blog about it. Obviously the first thing that came to mind was my one and only obsession: FOOD! Who knew that I’d still be sharing my obsession with you a whole year later!!!

My original blog title was Twenty-Something and Starving: An American Girl’s Quest for World Cuisine. Throughout the semester I dabbled in all sorts of different cuisines. I made French food for the first time, I was heavy-handed with the chilis in my first Indian curry, and I probably made the least photogenic sheapards pie of all time. Heh. Seriously, not a pretty sight.

For my final project, I was required to make a video about something that I was unfamiliar with. Outside my comforot zone, if you will, just like this second challenge. With the help of my friend Manfred, native to Ghana, I decided to make African food for the first time ever!!! What I made that time around was Jollof Rice, a slightly sweet, salty and very spicy rice dish that is traditional to west African and Ghanaian culture. So for this project food blog challenge, I decided to give Manfred a call so I could take a chance with another, more challenging Ghanian dish.

Fufu.

Fufu to Ghanaians is like croissants to the French or biscuits to Americans. It accompanies just about everything they eat, particularly soups and stews. I made light soup for this fufu, but I’ll get to that in a few!

Fufu is typically made from a combination of boiled cassava, plantains or yams and then pounded into a giant mass using a mortar and pestle until it reaches a doughy consistency. When it’s finished, it looks something like this…
Now, I do not have access to a mortar and pestle but I was told not to fret. Typically in America, when fufu is desired it can be made using easily accessible ingredients in a short manner of time.

Here is what you need and how to make it.
(Recipe Courtesy of Ghanaweb.com)

  • 2 1/2 cups Bisquick
  • 2 1/2 cups instant potato flakes
  • 6 cups water

Bring 6 cups of water to a rapid boil in a large, heavy pot. combine the two ingredients and add to the water.

Stir constantly for 10-15 minutes — a process that needs two people for best results: one to hold the pot while the other stirs vigorously with a strong implement. (They’re not lying when they say you may need two people! I had to call for help in the kitchen for someone to hold the pot while I stirred!!) The mixture will become very thick and difficult to stir, but unless you are both vigilant and energetic, you’ll get a lumpy mess.

When the fufu is ready (or you’ve stirred to the limits of your endurance!), dump about a cup of the mixture into a wet bowl and shake until it forms itself into a smooth ball. Serve on a large platter alongside a soup or stew.

Here is my fufu.

It was a weeeeeeeeeeeeeee bit lumpy, but it’s all good. It usually takes a lot of practice to get it just right! I was pleased with my results for being a first time fufu maker, and it went along great with the light soup that I made!

Manfred was kind enough to share with me his simple recipe and directions for the light soup he enjoys at home!

Light Soup

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 habanero pepper
    ( my grocery store didn’t have any, so I used two serranos instead!)
  • 1/2 inch of fresh ginger
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 2 large tilapia filets, cubed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop the tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, and peppers and place them all in a blender. Pulse until liquified.

Pour the contents of the blender into a large pot. Add the water salt and pepper and bring to a rapid boil.

When a boil is reached and a slight foam begins to form on top, add the potatoes and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let cook ten minutes.

After ten minutes, add the cubed tilapia. Let cook for about ten minutes more or until the fish is opaque and cooked through.

Serve with fufu!!

There is a traditional way to eat fufu, too, of course.

With your hands.

Reach on into that soup.
Pull off a piece of fufu.
Scoop up whatever tastiness you can from the bowl… and swallow it.
Chewing fufu is for fufu noobs.
That’s right. Noobs.

*Disclaimer: You may notice a spoon in my bowl. I only made a small amount of fufu so as to not have to clean up a gigantic mess if it didn’t turn out right. The fufu WAS eaten the proper way with my hands. The remaning soup was consumed using the spoon. Thus, NOT a fufu noob. That is all.*

Ready, Set, Blog . . .

Alright folks, this is it. Project Food Blog has opened for entries and I am one of nearly 2,000 contestants hoping to win the grand prize of $10,000 and the opportunity to become “the next food blog star!” Pretty freakin’ sweet, right?!

I know!

Essentially, contestants will be competing in a series of 10 challenges from now through December and  posts will be judged by a panel of judges AND blog readers. Voting opens Monday, September 20th! (Don’t worry, I’ll remind you then to go and vote for me! )

So here I go …

Ready, Set, Make Cookies!

Lemon Raspberry Cookies, to be exact. Let’s take a look at them, shall we.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Cooooookiesssssssssssss.

Of all the cookies I’ve made in all of my years of cookie baking (about 12 I’d say, if you were curious) these lemon raspberry cookies have been the most requested, raved about, likely to be devoured cookies I have ever made. This could be the case for several reasons.

Reason # 1: These cookies are tasty.
I hate to toot my own horn, but these cookies are amazing. Combining the tart flavor of lemon with the sweetness of raspberries creates a sensation that I can only describe as bliss in my mouth.  I’m certainly not the first person to combine the flavors of lemon and raspberry, Martha Stewart’s done it, but there is something special about these particular cookies that make them incredible. Perhaps it’s…

Reason # 2: These cookies are super moist.
Maybe it’s the stick and a half of butter. Maybe it’s the raspberry jam filling. Heck, maybe it’s the shower of confectioners sugar  they get (I don’t skimp, I cover both sides of these babies).
Whatever it is, you can keep these cookies for well over a week
(if you hold out on eating them that long) and they are still perfectly soft and chewy like you just made them. Maybe it has something to do with …

Reason # 3: I absolutely love making these cookies.
Though the list of ingredients is minimal, these cookies are pretty labor intensive. I mean, I wouldn’t go so far as to say you could skip your workout for the day, but you need to be in the kitchen for quite a while to get a proper cookie, and I love every second of making these cookies. Here is how you do it…

Lemon Raspberry Cookies

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 jar all natural raspberry jam
  • Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Begin by combining the flours, baking powder and salt until just combined.
Set aside.

In an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, vanilla, lemon zest and juice and beat on low speed until everything is incorporated. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Gently form the dough together with your hands. (At this point, you can continue to make the cookies as directed, or wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator for about a  week.) By the teaspoon full, roll the dough into little balls and gently flatten them onto a greased cookie sheet.  (This should make at least 50 little cookies, depending on how big or small you choose to make them.)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. The cookies should not be brown, but should be set and once cooled easily removed from the cookie sheet.

When all of the cookies are baked and cooled, take half of the cookies and spread with jam, topping each with another cookie. Once all of the cookies are paired, sprinkle generously with confectioners sugar.

And there you have it! My lemon raspberry cookies!

Now, onto why I think I should be the next food blog star.

Twenty-Something and Starving is not a healthy living blog – though I do my best to be healthy when I can. This blog is not devoted entirely to indulgent sweets – though I do like to indulge from time to time. Twenty-Something and Starving is me sharing the food that I love with others who love food and share this same philosophy. From a lighter take on Chicken and Corn Chowder to my butter laced Cashew Berry Blondies – Twenty-Something and Starving is for any and everyone who are exactly that…starving! The twenty-something part, well, that’s just me!