On Saturday night, my family hosted a "tornado shower" for our relatives who lost their home in the Joplin tornado last spring. Over sixty people attended, and my aunt and uncle took home a Suburban-full of fun things for their new home, which is under roof.
I am, of course, going to talk about the food! We had so many people that almost everything was catered. The majority came from Whole Foods, but we had a few things from local restaurants, like mini bbq brisket sandwiches from Lester's. Yum!
The dining room table looked beautiful! Love those stargazer lilies ... (Attention any and all future boyfriend-readers.)
How awesome are those veggie shooters?! My mom found the idea on Pinterest (hey, I'll give credit
where credit is due, but I think ours look even prettier). If you want to try this yourself, buy a bunch of shot glasses, fill them with about a tablespoon of ranch dressing, and add some colorful vegetables. We quickly steamed the asparagus and green beans, and used raw bell peppers (orange, yellow and red) and jicama. Voila! Party-ready.
This was a cheese platter from Whole Foods. It came with candied walnuts and fig jam. (I had to leave the room. But that didn't help, because there was plenty to choose from in the next room!)
These are the shrimp and pork spring rolls from Mai Lee. Classic McAllister family party fare.
I wish these were homemade, but they were (mostly) not. They came from Sugaree bakery
and yes you should be jealous that you did not get any. (Unless you were at the party, and then you can back me up.) The selection included fudge truffles, chocolate-almond macaroons, raspberry thumbprints, and lemon triangles. Sprinkled in the mix were my White Chocolate S'more Bars (see below), which I might add were the fastest to go!
So without further ado . . .Recipe for White Chocolate S'more Bars
From The Picky PalateMakes 12-16 servings.
1 box yellow cake mix*
1 large egg
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4-1/2 full graham crackers (I only used 3-1/2. I don't know why, since my pan was the same size.)
10-oz. bag white chocolate chips (per usual, I recommend Ghiradelli)
2 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with foil and spray generously with cooking spray. Be careful when you're lining the pan that you really get the foil to go all the way to the bottom of the pan ... Pans with round corners are not advisable. (But if you use a glass pan, like I did, and the foil doesn't go down all the way, your bars will be fine. Just a little lop-sided.) Make sure the foil goes all the way up over the edges of the pan, because these bars are s-t-i-c-k-y.
Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter in a large mixing bowl with your hands until a soft dough forms. Press half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place the graham crackers on top in one layer, add the chocolate chips, and then add the marshmallows. Top with the remaining dough and press evenly to cover. (It doesn't matter if you don't have enough or it's not totally even.) Drizzle the condensed milk on top and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the center has mostly set and the top is lightly browned. Let cool for 5 minutes and then run a plastic knife around the edges to loosen the marshmallow (I wish I had read this step when I made them).
Cool completely, and then remove the bars form the pan using the foiled edges. Cut off the edges if desired (for prettier bars), cut into squares and serve at room temperature.
*If you want to give your arteries a little extra lining, you could try using two boxes of yellow cake mix--one for the top and one for the bottom. When I made these, I felt like I didn't have enough for the top. They turned out just fine, but I'm sure extra yellow cake would not be a bad thing. Unless you are at risk for diabetes, in which case I will have to recommend that you leave this recipe alone. Sorry.
The Paleo Diet is officially haunting my dreams. Last night I dreamt that I was out at a party and someone made these little beautiful, delicious-looking cookies. I knew they weren't Paleo-friendly, but *gasp* I ate half of one! It tasted so sweet in my dream that it made my teeth hurt. And I woke up feeling terribly disappointed in myself. Then I realized it was just a dream, and sighed a big sigh of relief. I haven't broken the rules yet, and I am taking the motto "Cheat is Defeat" seriously. So no exceptions for me. It's going to be a long thirty days.This weekend was a test of willpower, though, for a couple of reasons. It was the first time I went out for dinner (and I went out both nights). The first night was rough--we went to a Chinese restaurant. The place was surprisingly sensitive to people with special food requests, and even had a section on the menu that was free of basically everything (soy, salt, MSG, etc.). I had steamed vegetables with shrimp, and seasoned it myself with salt and vinegar. Vinegar is the seasoning of choice in China (you'll find it on the tables more commonly than soy sauce) so it wasn't terrible. But let's be honest: watching my friends eat the crab rangoon and orange chicken wasn't exactly fun. I got through it though, and certainly enjoyed the fact that after dinner, I didn't feel like I needed to drink eleven glasses of water and take a nap. Saturday night went much better. I had dinner with a friend at Harvest
, which is an upscale restaurant that promotes the farm-to-table philosophy and is a proponent of Slow Food
, a movement that really interests me but that I haven't had the time to get involved in yet. The waitress (and by extension, the chef) was extremely accommodating and never once rolled her eyes at the long list of things I couldn't have. I was in the mood for steak, and since the marinade contained brown sugar, the chef cut me my own. He served it with brussel sprouts, turnips, radishes, and broccolini in a mustard sauce. The meal was delicious, and I really didn't miss the carbs. I did wish I could have had dessert (Harvest is famous for its bread pudding), but hopefully that craving will subside. It's only been five days, after all. The other reason the Paleo Diet is "tough" is because it pretty much forces me to eat
only when I'm hungry. Sounds simple enough, but I'm sure I'm not alone in having the occasional boredom snack or celebratory piece of cake when I'm already full. On Paleo, though, if I'm not hungry, I really don't eat. Who honestly turns to celery sticks when they're feeling tired and lazy on a Sunday? Or pops a hard-boiled egg when they're feeling blue? Not me. And that is a very good thing.This afternoon I made some Baba Ganoush to go with the Mediterranean meatballs I'm making tonight. I wanted to call it "Paleo Hummus," because to me, that's what it is (and also because I think "Baba Ganoush" is one of the silliest sounding terms ever). But it's made with tahini, roasted eggplant, and garlic. So Baba Ganoush it is.Recipe for Baba GanoushAdapted from The Clothes Make the Girl, which is quickly becoming my favorite Paleo-friendly blogIngredients:
2 lbs eggplant (her recipe calls for Japanese eggplant, but Whole Foods only had graffiti eggplant so that's what I used)Salt and pepper1/4 cup tahini
*1 clove garlic, choppedLemon juice*I used Trader Joe's Tahini Sauce, which already has the lemon juice and garlic in it. Instructions:Rinse and dry the eggplant. Slice each one lengthwise and place it on a baking sheet cut-side up (if you hate doing dishes like I do, cover the baking sheet in
foil and clean-up is much easier). Broil in the oven for about 15 minutes. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and place it in a food processor with all of the other ingredients. Pulse until the mixture has the consistency of hummus. Chop up some carrot and celery sticks and enjoy!
Image courtesy of Sally S. McAllister
Last night, the founding members of the start-up company I just began working for had a cocktail party-slash-information session for friends and family regarding our upcoming trip to China. I offered to bring an appetizer, and luckily my mom had just the recipe up her sleeve. Over the years, she's brought Martha Stewart's "Endive with Goat Cheese, Fig, and Honey-Glazed Pecans" to countless classy gatherings, and it never fails to impress. She has also, of course, been tweaking the recipe along the way, so the result is nothing short of perfection.
The dish is a rich combination of flavors and textures; it is slightly bitter, creamy, crunchy, and sweet all at once. At the end of the night, there was one filled leaf remaining on the plate, left untouched only because it had fallen upside-down and looked empty.
Image Courtesy of Sally S. McAllister
Recipe for Endive with Goat Cheese, Fig, and Honey-Glazed PecansAdapted from Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook
Ingredients:3/4 cup pecans5 tbsp honey4 oz. fresh goat cheese
, softened6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup port wine6-7 heads endive2-3 sprigs parsley9 whole fresh purple figs, cut into 3/4-inch wedgesPlace softened cheeses in a medium bowl and stir until fully combined. Cover and place in refrigerator until stiff enough to work with, at least 20 minutes.
Rinse endive and slice about one inch off of the base of each head. Trim the tops and remove any brownish outer leaves. Place 36 large to medium-sized separated leaves on a kitchen towel to dry.
Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp honey with pecans and toss. Spread out in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake 4 minutes, stir, and continue baking until shiny, about 4 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
Remove cheese from refrigerator. Using two teaspoons, form 36 quenelles
by transferring small scoops of cheese back and forth between the spoons. Place each quenelle inside one endive leaf, and arrange on serving platter.
Place the port and remaining 3 tbsp honey in a small nonstick saucepan. Cook over low heat until mixture has been reduced to a thick syrup, 5 to 8 minutes.
Place one slice of fig and one glazed pecan on each quenelle, and drizzle with port wine reduction. Garnish each leaf with a small piece of parsley.
Image courtesy of Sally S. McAllister