Baby Shower

October 5, 2010

My bother and sister-in-law flew me to Richmond, VA to cater a baby shower for one of their friends.

It was a Saturday afternoon, so the menu was small bites:

Shannon Baby Shower Menu

My mom was a great sous chef, except when she insisted on using like 10 cups of flour to roll out the flatbread.

Here are some close-ups:

Healthier Mac & Cheese

August 24, 2010

I *HEART* Mac & Cheese and could probably eat it every night.  Last night I experimented making with a healthier version….no butter and no cream!  This served 2 – with leftovers.

Ingredients
8 oz (1/2 box) Mini Farfelle pasta (or other small/mini pasta)
1 – 10 oz package frozen Winter Squash, defrosted
1 Cup Non-Fat Milk
1 Cup Cheddar Cheese, grated
1/4 Cup Ricotta (I used low-fat)
1/4 Cup Parmesan Reggino, grated
1/4 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Salt & Pepper

Directions

Cook pasta for half the time as instructed in the directions.  Drain, set aside.

Put Winter Squash and Milk in saucepan and heat till warm.  Add Cheddar Cheese, Ricotta and 1/2 of Parmesan Cheese to the mixture and stir till melted.  Mix in pasta, cayenne, salt & pepper.  Pour into baking dish – lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Mix together Panko and remaining Parmesan Cheese, then sprinkle on top.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp Olive Oil.

Bake in 400 degree oven till lightly browned and bubbley, about 25 minutes.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

We love Asian food, but the San Gabriel Valley seems so intimidating — and with good reason, as our tour guide informed us that the “626″ area code has it’s own business bureau.  We learned a lot from our friendly and knowledgeable tour guide – Mike.

Six Taste offers 6 tours – from Downtown to Thai Town to Santa Monica.  http://www.sixtaste.com/index.php

We met outside the first stop – near New Capital Seafood at 9:30am.  There were 2 other couples.  We all introduced ourselves and talked about what our favorite foods were, and what we would never eat again.  We all got a reusable “Six Taste” bag for leftovers…and in the bag included maps, menus, etc. of all 5 places we would be trying.

New Capital Seafood was already packed at 10am.  Food was immediately delivered to the table along with 2 pots of tea.  We learned that the host should pour tea for everyone first and then someone else needs to pour the hosts first cup.  When the pot is empty, tilt the lid to signify to the server you need more water.

Now the Dim Sum!

We started with Shrimp Har Pow, BBQ Pork Buns (steamed and baked), Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf…

Next items included: Xiang Sui Gok, BBQ Pork Rice Noodles and CHICKEN FEET! Yes, we tried them.

I loved the Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf.  The rice was moist and had a smoky flavor – apparently the rice is raw when it is wrapped in the leaf.  The Chicken Feet had a good flavor, but texture reminded me of Jell-O (which I hate).  Mike told us how to eat them – put the entire foot in your mouth then spit out the tiny bones.

Next we had Pork Siu Mai and these Sesame Seed Fried things, with sweet paste inside (I can’t remember the name)…these were Casey’s favorites:

Next stop – Sam Woo BBQ, which was in the same plaza.  We sat at a table, but Mike explained this place was good for pick-up/take-out…you just order at the counter by weight:

At Sam Woo, we had BBQ Duck – it was moist and very flavorful.

It was served with “Duck Sauce” — the sauce that I know from being served with Egg Rolls.  Mike told us it got it’s name because it is supposed to be served with duck. Makes sense.

We also had Chow Phun Noodles with Beef at Sam Woo.  They were a bit greasy, but tasty.  Tea is served to help counter the oil.

Kee Wah Bakery was the next stop – here we learned about the intricate Moon Pies and sampled Pineapple Bread, which doesn’t even have pineapple in it.  It’s called that because it looks like a pineapple.  It was sweet and crunchy on the top.

The other baked items also looked amazing….

We were all definitely getting pretty stuffed…but forged on to Happy Kitchen.  This is a mom-and-pop shop and the owners were so friendly and welcoming.  “Mom” was shy, but she still have us a super quick demonstration on how she makes her homemade dumplings.  If you blinked, you missed the demonstration!  She even makes the wrapping from scratch…and makes over 500 a day!

“Pop” was so proud of the restaurant and the food he serves…poor Mike had to translate for close to an hour as “Pop” described his favorite things on the menu and some of the health benefits of some ingredients – specifically the lamb & snail soups that you are supposed to have in the summer to get the fulls benefits.

At Happy Kitchen we sampled his Tea Smoked Chicken Leg (which “Pop” himself picked out the chicken from a local farm), Beef Roll and, of course, some of those wonderful Dumplings (“Mom” said she puts a full shrimp in each one)!

The Beef Roll was amazing!  Flavorful beef wrapped in tortilla-like dough, lightly fried and stuffed with tons of fresh cilantro:

It was getting pretty hot out…so the final stop at Tasty was a welcome treat.  Here we had dessert – a delicious “sundae” of black sticky sweet rice, coconut milk and ice, fresh mango and mango ice – served over-flowing in a huge bowl.

The tour was a great introduction to the San Gabriel Valley and I can’t wait to try the Dumpling Tour!

Mateo inspired me to make this recipe.  It was time consuming, but definitely worth it!

Ingredients:
1 small head (or 1/2 large head) of Cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 large onion, thinly sliced (tip from Mateo – use a mandoline)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 whole egg + 1 egg white
1/4  cup Half & Half
1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
Fresh ground nutmeg
1 cup Gruyere Cheese – grated
3/4 cup Parmesan or Romano Cheese – Grated

Pie Crust (I cheated and used prepared)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss cauliflower with olive oil, season with salt & pepper.  Spread on large rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes till browned, but still slightly firm. Set aside to cool.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees.  Press pie crust onto bottom and sides of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Line pie crust with foil, fill with pie weights or beans.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and pie weights/beans and bake for 5 more minutes till golden brown, pricking crust with fork if bubbles form.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, season with salt & pepper. Cook until onions are deep golden brown, stirring occasionally.  About 30 minutes.

Brush bottom and sides of crust with mustard.  Arrange cauliflower and caramelized onions in the crust.

Whisk together eggs and mix in next 5 ingredients – save a handle of cheese to sprinkle on top.  Pout mixture over filling in tart pan, sprinkle with cheese.

Put on sheet pan and bake until golden and center is set. About 30-40 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Dessert for Mother’s Day Feast was Panna Cotta with Fresh Raspberry Sauce, which was made especially for my mom since it is made without eggs (she is allergic).

This is my new go-to dessert recipe. It’s easy, light and looks impressive!

Ingredients:
4 Cups of Half and Half
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean, Split lengthwise
2 Packages Powdered Gelatin
6 Tbsp Cold Water

Heat heavy cream and sugar is saucepan.  Remove from heat and scrap seeds from Vanilla Bean into the cream then add the Pod.  Let infuse for at least 30 minutes then remove Pod.

Sprinkle Gelatin in cold water, mix and let stand for 5-10 minutes.

Pour the warm cream mixture over the gelatin and stir until the Gelatin is completely dissolved.

Spray custard dishes with neutral-tasting oil. Divide Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared dishes then chill for at least 4 hours our overnight.

Run a sharp knife along the edge of each Panna Cotta and un-mold onto serving plate.

Raspberry Sauce:
2 Cups Fresh Raspberries
3 Tbsp Chambord or other Raspberry flavored liquor
3 Tbsp Sugar

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan on stovetop.  Bring to boil and simmer till Raspberries began to fall apart. Use immersion blender or pour into blender till pureed.  Cool and serve with Panna Cotta.

Appetizers for Mother’s Day Feast – for my mom who was visiting from NY and Mother-In-Law who came all the way to WeHo from Torrance. We were starving after hiking Runyon Canyon in the morning!

This is an easy recipe that you can prepare in advance. I like to serve it as part of an Antipasto platter, as I did for this occasion — Breadsticks wrapped with Prosciutto and Cheese Platter.

Ingredients:
2 Bags Frozen Artichoke Hearts (I get them at Trader Joe’s)
1 Shallot, minced
Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
5 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves – Rough Chopped
6 Tbsp Capers – Drained
1 Jar Roasted Red Peppers – Sliced Thin
1/2 Cup Red Onion – Finely Chopped
1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley (divided)
Pinch of red Pepper Flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss defrosted artichoke hearts with olive oil, salt & pepper then spread on sheet pan and roast in oven for 30 minutes.

Make Vinaigrette: Place shallot, lemon juice, mustard vinegar, salt & pepper in food processor and pulse till mixed.  Add 2/3 of fresh basil and process till pureed. With food processor on, slowly add 1/3-1/2 cup of olive oil.  Set aside.

Place cooled roasted artichokes in bowl and toss with vinaigrette and other ingredients.  Let stand 30 minutes at room temp then garnish with remainder of basil.

The LA Sparks Dinner Party was a blast!!!  But I was so busy cooking and getting food out, I unfortunately don’t have any pictures to share of the food…

…except for the amazing menu I came up only 3 days before the party:

LA Sparks Dinner Party Menu

The party was at one of the owners house in the Hollywood Hills and was celebrating the start of the season.  The hosts were a delight to work for and had an amazing kitchen to cook in.  They had everything a chef could ever need!

It was fun meeting the team and I heard through the grapevine that they loved the food!  YAY for me :)

Special thanks to Jennifer, Ali, Kira and Tim; I couldn’t have pulled it off without any of their hard work.

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