September 16, 2012

Family Dinner

This past Saturday night Michael and I hosted my family for dinner.  It's always difficult to get a date set because everybody is always busy, but we finally settled on this past Saturday to have them over.  Only after we set the date, were we also asked, by Michael's dad, to help out with a town-wide-tag-sale.  This added to the busyness of Saturday, but we managed to get everything done and enjoy a great dinner with great company.

I made my menu a few weeks in advance, and I started preparing certain parts of the meal on Thursday because I knew we wouldn't have much time on Saturday.  Since I knew we’d be very busy on Saturday, I did all of the cooking in advance.  The only thing I left for Saturday was the prep work.

Since my Peach/Mango Sangria was such a big hit at our last dinner party, I decided to make it again.  This time I was smart and doubled the recipe.  I borrowed my mom’s large lemonade jug and filled it with the sweet, carbonated beverage and loads of fresh peaches and berries.

I have so many great recipes that I want to make, but I tend to go back to what people love.  For this dinner, I also served a repeat favorite – Homemade Guacamole.  It was a request from my mom because of how good and fresh it was the first time she had it.  I can’t complain because it’s a healthy appetizer that’s easy to prepare.

In addition to the guacamole, I also made my own version of cream cheese cucumbers.  I found a recipe on Pinterest and made it my own by creating different fillings for the cucumbers.  I was initially going to make a bacon appetizer, but opted to add bacon and chives to the cream cheese and make that instead.  I also made an easy onion and cream cheese spread.  You can always double the recipe and use the leftovers for bagels, crackers, or vegetables.
Cream Cheese Filled Cucumbers
  • 3 to 4 cucumbers
Bacon & Chive Spread 
  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 pieces of cooked bacon (I like mine really crunchy)
  • A few sprigs of chives (Here’s where you can get fancy and play around with different herbs.  I knew my mom was making her dill dip for our salad, so I opted out of using dill, but try using any fresh herbs – dill, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, etc.) 
Onion Spread 
  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • ½ packet of onion soup mix 
1. Prepare the above 2 dips by mixing all of the ingredients together. Refrigerate overnight or for several hours to allow the flavors to blend together 
2. Peel several cucumbers, leaving a few thin strips of peel
3. Cut cucumbers into 1 inch slices
4. Using a small melon-baller, scoop out some of the seeds, leaving a little cup 
 5. Scoop a small spoonful of the filling into each and garnish with fresh herbs/bacon/minced onion

I’d say it was a toss-up between which spread people liked more.  I guess it’s based on personal preference.  My aunt preferred the bacon one, my mom preferred the onion one, and I couldn’t decide – I declare a tie between the two spreads!  I suggest playing around with different herbs and having your own taste test to come up with a great finger food!

For the main course, my mom was helpful enough to bring a nice, big salad and her dill dressing.  To go with the salad, I served stuffed shells.  The last time I made these shells they were amazing.  The only, little problem that I ran into was the fact that Michael wasn’t too fond of the spinach that I added.  This time, I made sure to make a few without spinach which was really easy because I just made them before adding the spinach to the ricotta mixture.  I served the shells with turkey meatballs, which, according to my dad, were equally as good as the shells.

Stuffed Shells

  • 27 9oz jumbo shells
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 8oz reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 16oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed well
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups pasta sauce, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil

1. Boil water and cook shells according to package directions, make sure to cook them al dente
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
3. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, egg, mozzarella, and parmesan 
4. In a large baking dish, spread 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish
5. Once shells are cooked and cooled, fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture and place in the baking dish 
6. Top shells with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with a little mozzarella cheese
7. Cover shells with foil and bake for 40 minutes
8. Uncover foil and bake for 5 more minutes
9. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with additional sauce

  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup Italian bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup dried minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl
2. With your hands, mold meat into balls
3. Place balls into an oiled cooking dish
4. On medium to low heat, cook meatballs, making sure to continue turning the balls so they cook evenly
5. Once cooked, add sauce to pan and allow sauce to heat up in the pan
6. Transfer to bowl and serve

For the "main" dessert I wanted to make a cheesecake.  About 2 weeks ago I made those mini oreo cheesecake bites, but now I wanted to make the real thing.  As I've said in the past, Michael and I both love cheesecake, but it's difficult when cooking for 2 to make an entire cheese cake just to make it.  Therefore, we host dinners and I make the elaborate desserts!

I've never made a cheesecake before, and I was going back-and-forth between trying the water-bath method or the traditional baking method.  I went with the traditional method because my mom has always had great success with it.  I used my mom's recipe and found this delicious looking Strawberry-Blackberry Sauce that I decided to make for the topping.

New York Style Cheesecake

  • 1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup margarine, melted
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. In a bowl, combine crumbs, margarine, cinnamon, and ¼ cup of sugarPress on bottom and 1 ½ inches up the side of a 8 or 9 inch springform pan then set aside
3. In a bowl, with an electric mixer at high speed, beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, and vanilla until creamy
4. Beat in eggs, one at a time
5. Blend in sour cream 
6. Spread in springform pan
7. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until center is set
8. Turn the oven off, and , leaving the door slightly ajar, leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour
9. Remove from the oven and cool completely 
10. Chill for 4 hours or overnight
11. Remove side of pan and top with sauce

Strawberry-Blackberry Sauce
  • 2 cups whole fresh blackberries
  • 2 cups whole fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Place blackberries and strawberries in the jar of a blender and puree until smooth
2. Place a fine mesh strainer on top of a small sauce pan and strain berry mixture into the pan
3. Add sugar, lemon juice, and salt to the pan with the berry juice and whisk together over high heat
4. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes

5. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla
6. Let the sauce sit until it reaches room temperature then serve or place in an airtight container and refrigerate

Adapted from Serious Eats

I'm a "pleaser", I like to make sure that everybody eats something that they enjoy.  Just because somebody doesn't like something or can't eat something, I don't want them to have to skip a course.  Therefore, when my mom said that my dad wasn't too fond of cheese cake, I knew the perfect treat to also make.  Knowing one of my dad's favorite ice creams is rocky road, I decided to make these Ooey Gooey Rocky Road Cookies that I found.  Let me tell you, when I sampled a warm cookie, fresh from the oven, they were just as the name describes them - ooey, gooey, and delicious!

Ooey Gooey Rocky Road Cookies
 2 dozen cookies 
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 extra large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2.5oz almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
2. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper
3. In a large bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder, then whisk in the salt
4. Add the egg whites and vanilla and whisk until combined
5. Stir in the chocolate chips and almonds

6. Use a disher or spoon to portion out small mounds on to the parchment paper, then top each cookie with 4-5 marshmallows
7. Place in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill slightly to prevent them from spreading too much in the oven

8. Bake for 12-13 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown
9. Let the cookies sit on the paper for a few minutes to set, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool

Adapted from Fifteen Spatulas 

Not only do I enjoy the cooking process, but I enjoy the entertaining just as much, if not more!  I like creating a comfortable environment for people to come to and enjoy the great company of those important to them.

Looking back at all of the cooking I did this past week, it was all well worth it because everything was as delicious as the photos make it look!  It’s always nice to treat my family to a special meal!

1 comment:

  1. Six of us are very well! And the company was just as great! Mom