Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Barefoot Contessa Parties!" & "Betty Crocker" & "Adventures in Mexican Cooking" & "Culinary Kudzu" & "Wild Women" & "Complete Book of Dressings"

Dates I made these recipes: December 3-5, 2010

Betty Crocker Party Food – 100 Recipes for the Way You Really Cook by Betty Crocker
Published by: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
ISBN 978-0-470-17349-7 (copyright 2007)
Recipes: Mini Corn Dogs on a Stick – p. 80; Roasted Carrot and Herb Spread – p. 48; Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip – p. 58

Girl Food – Cathy’s Cookbook for the Well-Balanced Woman by Cathy Guisewite and Barbara Albright (Cathy Guisewite is a cartoonist who drew the incredibly popular Cathy comic strip.)
Published by: Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 0-8362-3173-2 (copyright 1997)
Recipe: What Was I Thinking When I Said, “Stop by Anytime,” Major Grey’s Marvelous Mango Chutney Cheese Spread – p. 92

Adventures in Mexican Cooking by Ortho Books staff; recipe manuscript by Angelo Villa and Vicki Barrios
Published by: Ortho Books
ISBN: 071549057206
Recipe: Guacamole II (Avocado with sour cream) – p. 77

The Complete Book of Dressings by Paulette Mitchell
Published by: Macmillan
ISBN: 0-02-052962-7 (copyright 1995)
Recipe: Ranch Dressing – p. 112

Wild Women Throw a Party by Lynette Rohrer Shirk
Published by: Conari Press
ISBN: 10: 1-57324-284-5 (copyright 2007)
Recipe: Bar Nuts – p. 108

Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern by Keetha DePriest Reed
Published by: Pecan Street Press
ISBN: 0-9719877-1-8 (copyright 2002)
Recipe: Mee Maw’s Trash (Chex Party Mix) – p. 106

1995 KCMR Cookbook – Cookies, Bars, Candies, Frostings) by KCMR Radio, Mason City, Iowa (a series of these spiral-bound books was given to me by a friend from Iowa)
Published by: KCMR Radio
Copyright 1995
Recipe: Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars submitted by Lorraine Brinkman and Irmgard Becker – p. 47

Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook by Betty Crocker
Published by: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-470-87403-5 (copyright 2010 – Second Edition)
Recipe: Almond Bonbons – p. 132

Barefoot Contessa Parties! By Ina Garten
Published by: Clarkson Potter/Publishers
ISBN: 0-609-60644-1 (copyright 2001)
Recipe: Lemon Bars – p. 200

Well, folks, we’re into December and you know what that means, right? Time for a holiday party!

My husband and I just threw our annual holiday extravaganza, Mistletoe Madness, and as per usual, the two of us were racing against the clock to get things done before the first guest arrived. I told him I felt like we were on Iron Chef America when we looked at the clock and both said, in unison, “10 minutes remaining.” And so we chopped and baked and sweated until time expired, after which we threw up our hands, platted the food and presented it to our “judges” – our party guests.

I don’t want to say that our friends are a tough crowd but we do have a lot of friends who are phenomenal cooks and total foodies and so there’s always a little bit of sweat equity (and fear) in every recipe. We needn’t have worried, though, as everyone seemed to enjoy this year’s offerings.

As I did last year, I started putting recipes and books aside the minute the party was done; I am nothing if not organized. Then I run everything by the recipe selection committee (my husband, Andy) who gives a final up and down vote. After that, I go through each recipe, make a spreadsheet of ingredient categories (vegetables, meat, dairy, dry goods, etc.), cross check the doors, and we have liftoff! I try to get all the dry ingredients early, leaving meat and dairy until the last minute to ensure freshness. (That being said, I suspect that some of my cookies didn’t fare as well as I hoped because the baking soda wasn’t band-box fresh. I hate to throw out ingredients but it’s not for nothing that Martha Stewart keeps harping on this topic.)

Back in the buffet table saddle again were the chafing dish meatballs (with chili sauce and grape jelly) I made from last year as well as my martini dip. (For recipes, see December 2009 on my blog). More recipes from Betty Crocker’s Party Book were also added to the mix, one of which my guests liked but I was lukewarm about (a carrot herb spread) and one that was a home run – Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip. And because they were so popular, I’m breaking my rule about posting more than one recipe from a cookbook and will give them to you here so you don’t have to stress about trying to find them. And the reason I mention difficulty in finding them is…

…that Betty Crocker couldn’t find one of the recipes, either!

Actually, it wasn’t Betty but rather LaVone who couldn’t find the recipes; Betty must have been out that day. LaVone manned the B. Crocker Hotline (of course there’s a B. Crocker hotline!) and when I asked a question about the Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip I totally stumped the panel: “What book is that from?” “What page is it on?” “Do you know when it was published?” “What are some of the ingredients?”

Okay, seriously “Betty?” How could you not know about the existence of a book you published in 2007??? I’m afraid I’m going to have to ding you for that one. But alas, “Betty” had no record of this book and so she had to take the info, consult a product specialist and call me back with an answer to my burning question: “If this recipe is made in a crockpot, do I have to keep it warm in a crockpot when serving or can I keep it at room temperature?

You’ll be pleased to know that Betty gave me the green light to serve it at room temperature and it was promptly inhaled.

By the way, some of you may recall that last year at this time I asked Betty a question about another recipe in this party book and the response was that she didn’t know “because the recipe hadn’t been tested.” I’m not sure I’ve recovered from that answer because how on earth can B. Crocker of all fake people not test a recipe?

But anyway, enough about Betty’s dip let’s talk about the other recipes I made. Here’s the complete lineup: (* indicates recipe is included)

Meatballs with chili/grape sauce (see December 2009 blog)
Crunchy Potato Bites
*Mini Corn Dogs on a Stick (Betty Crocker Party Food)
*Major Grey’s Marvelous Mango Chutney Cheese Spread (Girl Food)
*Guacamole Dip with sour cream (Adventures in Mexican Cooking)
*Roasted Carrot and Herb Spread (Betty Crocker Party Food)
*Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip (Betty Crocker Party Food)
*Ranch Dressing (The Complete Book of Dressing)
Martini Dip (see December 2009 blog)
*Bar Nuts (Wild Women Throw a Party)
*Mee Maw’s Trash (a/k/a Chex Party Mix) (Culinary Kudzu)
Sour Cream Drops (A Salute to Chocolate)
*Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars (1995 KCMR Cookbook – Cookies, Bars, Candies, Frostings)
*Almond Bonbons (Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook) (a runaway hit!)
Cherry Winks
*Lemon Bars (Barefoot Contessa Parties!)
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Hot Mulled Cider (see December 2009 blog)

Winners this year were: Meatballs, Corndogs, all the dips except the Ranch Dressing (at least to my palate), both the nuts and the Chex Mix and the Lemon Bars and the Almond Bonbons. That’s not to say that people didn’t eat everything, it’s just that some were inhaled whereas others were merely nibbled.

Before I get into the recipes, let me just say that I think the Food Network should contact us to put together a “Making Of…” video as what goes on behind the scenes is infinitely more interesting than party day, to wit:

I took my eye off the oven for one second and managed to scorch the first pan of bar nuts. Nuts!! So we went back to Trader Joe’s where the nuts are decently priced (still expensive, though) and Andy took over at the helm. In between times, we had the vent fan going at full throttle. (And how ironic is it that this recipe came out of the book, Wild Women Throw a Party?)

Andy lobbied hard for the mini-corn dogs saying “they would be fun” only to curse up a storm when putting them together one hour before party time. Cutting up the biscuit dough required for the corn dogs (and we made a double batch) was laborious and all the while he kept muttering “next year I’m using phyllo dough!” (I’m not sure that will work but am hesitant to call B. Crocker back seeing as how they can’t even find the damned cookbook the recipe came from.).

When it came time to assemble the almond bonbons, I started to wrap the almond paste around the ball of dough when in fact it was the exact opposite. Good thing Andy was there to set me straight. (I was pretty tired at that point and that is never a good time to have to read detailed directions) As I said earlier, these were a big hit and looked very festive with some green and red sugar sprinkles on them. I told a friend who came to the party straight from the Vikings football game (I am a die-hard Packer fan) that the sugar sprinkles also came in purple and gold (Vikings colors) but there was no way in holy hell I was putting those colors on a cookie! (She laughed).

It is never a good idea to leave just-baked lemon bars on a back burner of the stove top (the burner was not on) because the heat from the oven almost over-cooked my lemon filling. Just saying! It was not my intention to do so but I had an open area so I took advantage of it and it almost cost me a pan of bars. And Oh Ina, Ina, Ina! (As in Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa). You made the rolling out of the dough sound so easy but it was an absolute nightmare! The dough was supposed to be a half-inch thick and yet some parts were as high as the Hoover Dam, others were scarce on dough, while other sections were crumbly because the dough didn’t hang together…and yet they were inhaled and praised to the high heavens. Go figure. (And might I also say “Whew.”)

The Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars were almost a disaster because I did, in fact, follow the directions that said to spread the melted marshmallows evenly over the cake. No way should you do this because those marshmallows do not spread well at all (much less evenly) and they started pulling up big chunks of cake with them! So just leave them sit on the cake and you will thank me for it, I promise.

Some final comments: Oven temperatures are NEVER accurate and so I always have an oven thermometer in my oven at all times so I can make sure to bake things at the correct temperature. Believe it or not, I have to set my oven to 380 if I want it to get to 350 (and it’s a new oven and the calibration was checked by the service department. But alas, even they said the oven temperature will still be off, regardless of what they did to it. Phooey).

Also, I often cook things back to back if they are going in at the same temperature but this year, I think the cookies suffered a bit because of it. It’s not that the oven wasn’t at the correct temperature because it was (see note above) but baking one batch of cookies when the oven was just turned on and cooking another batch at the end of the cycle can yield different results. Next year, I think I will bake a couple at a time and then stop.

Almost all recipes are “off” on the count of how many to make. In some cases, I cut the recipe in half and it was just right but more often than not, I had to double the recipe to get enough yield for the party.

Finally, at the end of the day, nobody cares what you made or how you got there, it’s just time to have fun. While I do have a rep for making really good food, all from scratch, it’s the people that make the party fun…and I have fun friends.

Happy Mistletoe Madness, everyone!

Mistletoe Madness 2010 – Recipes

Mini Corn Dogs on a Stick – 40 servings (1 corn dog each) (We doubled this recipe)
40 wooden toothpicks
1 package (16 ounces) cocktail-size hot dogs (about 40 pieces)
1 can (12 oz) refrigerated flaky biscuits (10 biscuits)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
½ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cup ketchup (for dipping)
¾ cup yellow mustard (for dipping)

Heat oven to 400F. Grease cookie sheet with shortening or spray with cooking spray. Insert toothpick into narrow end of each wiener. Separate dough into 10 biscuits; carefully divide each biscuit horizontally into 4 rounds. Wrap sides and top of each wiener with dough round, pinching edges to seal. (Note: It took about an hour to do 80 wieners. Plan ahead.).

In a pie plate, mix egg and m ilk. On a plate, mix cornmeal and sugar. Roll each wrapped wiener in egg mixture, then roll lightly in cornmeal mixture. Place seam side down on cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are light golden brown and bottoms are golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet with spatula. Serve with ketchup and mustard.

Major Grey’s Marvelous Mango Chutney Cheese Spread – Makes 8-10 servings
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Few drops of Tabasco pepper sauce
1 jar (10 ounces) Major Grey’s mango chutney, chopped
5 strips of bacon, cooked until drips, drained and crumbled
6 scallions (including tender green tops), chopped

In a medium bowl, using a fork, stir together the cream cheese, 1 ½ cups of the Cheddar cheese, and the pepper sauce until combined. Spread the mixture over an 8- to 10-inch serving dish, smoothing the surface evenly.

Spread the chutney over the surface. Sprinkle the chutney with the remaining 1 ½ cups of Cheddar cheese, the bacon, and the scallions. Serve immediately with crackers or celery sticks. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to two days.

Guacamole Dip (with sour cream) – makes about 2 ½ cups
2 large avocadoes, peeled and coarsely mashed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sour cream
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tomato, diced
½ onion, minced
Few sprigs cilantro, slightly chopped

Combine ingredients in order given. Stir briefly after adding each ingredient. (We skipped the cilantro as people either love it or hate it. We aim to please!)

Roasted Carrot and Herb Spread – 20 servings
2 pounds baby-cut carrots
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges and separated
¼ cup olive or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Baguette slices or crackers, if desired (Note: I think it’s hilarious that they mention serving it on baguette slices or crackers, if desired, because one of my friends wanted to just sit down and eat the entire bowl with a fork!).

Heat oven to 350F. Spray jelly roll pan (Betty says to use a 15 ½ x 10 ½ x 1 inch pan) with cooking spray

Place carrots, sweet potato and onion in pan. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Bake uncovered 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

Place vegetable mixture in food processor. Cover and process until blended. Spoon into serving bowl. Serve warm, or cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Ann’s notes: This dish did not live up to my expectations but my guests loved it. I thought the carrot was too coarse and too sweet and the spices fell short of making this the savory spread I was expecting. I think, though, that this is a recipe you could tweak without too many problems.

Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip – 24 servings (This is now a new party “must” for me!)
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, cubed
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (8 ounces)
1 cup half-and-half
8 slices peppered smoked bacon, crisply cooked and chopped (My husband was so cute. When he looked at the price, he said “Can’t we just pepper it ourselves?” Hahahahahaha…no.)
2 tablespoons cream-style prepared horseradish
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
French or herbed bread crumbs, if desired
Water crackers, if desired

Mix garlic, onion, cream cheese, Gruyere cheese and half-and-half in 1 1/2-quart slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low heat setting 2 ½ to 3 hours or until mixture is hot.

Stir in bacon, horseradish and parsley. Cover and cook on high heat setting about 15 minutes or until mixture is hot. Serve with bread cubes or crackers for dipping.

Betty says that you can use precooked bacon slices found in the deli section of the supermarket. There’s no need to cook; just chop and stir into the mixture.

Betty also says (because I called and asked) that you do not need to serve this mixture warm; room temperature is just fine. But if you do serve it warm, keep it in the crockpot as putting it in a fondue pot will cause it to burn. You need low heat or no heat at all.

Ranch Dressing – makes ½ cup (I doubled the recipe)
¼ cup low-fat cottage cheese
¼ cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced shallot
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano (or ¼ teaspoon dried oregano)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Dash salt, or to taste

Ann’s note: I did not like the oregano in this dressing at all, at all, at all! It just didn’t taste like the ranch dressing I was used to. Were I to make this again (and I won’t be), I might lower the amount of oregano and/or leave it out all together.

Place the cottage cheese, buttermilk, lemon juice, shallot and mustard in a blender; puree until smooth. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Taste; adjust seasonings. Stir before serving.

Advance preparation: If dried herbs are used, allow the dressing to stand for 15 to 30 minutes before serving. This dressing will keep for 2 days in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator.

Bar Nuts – serves 8 (I doubled the recipe)
8 ounces whole almonds (it doesn’t say but I used unsalted)
8 ounces cashews (it doesn’t say but I used unsalted)
½ cup honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the almonds and cashews in a bowl with the honey and oil. Sprinkle the salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper over the nuts and toss to coat.

Bake 15 minutes, stir, and bake another 10 minutes until crisp and golden. (I followed this direction the first time and baked for 15 and then got another 5 or so minutes in and they all charred. When Andy remade them, he started at 10 minutes and then checked after 5 and left them another 5 and then pulled them out. So I’d say no more than 20 minutes tops or you’ll be left crying over charred nuts (expensive charred nuts) like I was!)

Cool and separate into individual nuts using oiled fingers. (And good luck with that. We still ended up with clusters!).

Store in an airtight container.

Mee Maw’s Trash (Chex Party Mix) – serves…a lot. And I mean a lot!
2 quarts mixed nuts
2 quarts pecans
1 (15-ounce) bag pretzel rods
1 (7.5-ounce) bag Bugles (plain)
1 (16-ounce) box Corn Chex cereal
1 (16-ounce) box Rice Chex cereal
1 (16-ounce box) Wheat Chex cereal
2 cups butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons red pepper

So about this recipe…I can’t stress enough about how much this makes. We added all dry ingredients to a roasting pan and overflowed so we took out half the cereal. It was still full to the brim and so to mix the cereal with the butter and spices, we dumped everything into a garbage bag so we could coat it all. There was no question of stirring it every 20 to 30 minutes as directed or we would have had a mess in our oven. So I suggest cutting the recipe down into fourths and then go from there. That being said, I liked this recipe because of the addition of the nuts (and boy, will you want to go light on those as they are pricey) and the Bugles, especially the Bugles, because what woman out there hasn’t pretended they were fake fingernails?!

As to the cookbook that contained this recipe, Culinary Kudzu turned out to be the elusive Holy Grails of cookbooks. I saw it mentioned in a magazine a few years back and the article noted that it was out of print making it hard to find and they weren’t kidding! I finally found this a while back on somebody’s website and was downright giddy with excitement. (Kudzu, by the way, is a plant that grows and grows and grows pretty much taking over lawns and other grassy areas. And “Mee Maw” is what many southerners call their grandmother.)

Preheat the oven to 250F. Melt butter in a large roasting pan in oven (I opted for the microwave) and stir in the seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated.

Bake 2 hours, stirring every 20 to 30 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool.

Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars – no amount given
¾ cup butter or margarine
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp Baking cocoa
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/3 cup chocolate chips
3 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups Rice Krispies

Cream butter and sugar then add eggs and vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa; add to creamed mixture. Stir in nuts if desired. Spread in a greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over the cake. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes. (And then I recommend you skip this next part: “Using a knife dipped in water, spread evenly over cake.”) Cool the cake. For the topping, combine chocolate chips, butter or margarine and peanut butter in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat stirring constantly until melted and blended. Remove from heat. Stir in cereal. Spread over bars. Chill.

Almond Bonbons – makes about 3 dozen cookies
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ package (7-or8-oz size) almond paste

Almond Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
4 to 5 teaspoons milk
Decorator sugar crystals, if desired
Note: I made these cookies late on Saturday night and think I accidentally used the entire can (versus package) of almond paste. And if you ask me (and you didn’t) the bonbons were the better for it!

Heat oven to 375F. In large bowl, beat flour, butter, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 2 T milk and the vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Cut almond paste into ½-inch slices; cut each slice into fourths.

Shape 1-inch ball of dough around each piece of almond paste. Gently roll to form ball. One ungreased cookie sheet, place balls about 1 inch apart.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set and bottom is golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix all glaze ingredients until smooth. Dip tops of cookies in the glaze and sprinkle with sugar crystals.

Lemon Bars - makes 20 squares or 40 triangles
For the crust
½ pound unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature (Note: use large eggs if you don’t have extra-large on hand)
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (Ina said 4-6 lemons, I used two)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar; for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9x13x2-inch baking sheet, building up a ½-inch edge on all sides. Chill. (Note: as previously stated, this dough was a bitch to work with. I ended up using a 9x13 pan and most definitely was well over her ½-inch edge but that’s life.)

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh how special it is to have an invitation to Mistletoe Madness! Gracious hosts and fabulous food start the holiday season royally. This year I have to agree with Ann - the Almond Bonbons and Smokey Bacon Horseradish Dip were superb. Happy Holidays, indeed!