Olive Balls

 

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Last night was my annual Christmas party that I host each and every December. I look forward to this party as it starts my holiday season off with much happiness and good cheer.

I love to cook a nice dinner for my friends, along with having an array of appetizers and sweet treats. Sometimes, I order Bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes as my dessert, but last night some of my friends offered to bring treats ranging from brownies (thank you, Pam!), snickerdoodle cookies (thank you, Sandy – and thank you, also, for the chicken sausages … yum!), lemon bars (thank you, Jen!), and array of chocolates and caramels – so yummy! My friend, Marie, brought a wonderful salad (thank you, Marie!) and my friend, JoAnne brought an amazing vegetable platter with asparagus, mushrooms, etc. It was divine (thank you, JoAnne!). My friend, Ethel, brought two wonderful puff pastry shell appetizers … one was stuffed with cheese and a little tiny meatball and the other had caramelized onion jam and cheese, OMG – yum (thank you, Ethel!)

One of the appetizers I make each year is my olive balls. My friend and neighbor, Lauren, loves my olive balls. The first time I made them is when I hosted our Neighborhood Book Club for the first time … this was also our inaugural meeting – and also the very first time some of us met. I remember walking through Trader Joe’s a few days before that first meeting deciding on what I’d make to serve my friends and new friends. I saw puff pastry in the freezer aisle and spotted stuffed olives in the olive aisle. I figured I’d buy them both and come up with a plan …. that turned out to be one of the best plans ever! Not only does Lauren love the olive balls, but my daughter, Kylie does as well. She looks forward to the leftover olive balls each time I make them.

To make the olive balls, I thawed my puff pastry, per the package directions. Once the puff pastry was thawed enough that I could unfold it without it breaking (about 40 minutes), I drained my jar of olives. The olives I chose to use for yesterday were the blue cheese stuffed olives.  I cut my puff pastry into squares (about 3 inches each) and place an olive in the middle of each square. I then wrap the pastry around the olive and roll it in my hands to form a ball. I then place them on baking sheets (I usually need two) that I sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Once the olives are on my baking sheet, I brush them with a little olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on each one. After that, I sprinkle fresh minced rosemary and grated parmesan on each olive ball. I then bake them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until they are lightly browned.

Note: Feel free to use garlic stuffed olives if you’d like or any other type of stuffed olive that appeals to you. If I use the garlic stuffed olives, I add crumbled blue cheese to the “package”. I place a little on top of the olive before rolling it together into a ball.

Once again, my olive balls did not disappoint. I’m sure they will make an appearance at my next gathering … perhaps the Ugly Christmas Party I’m hosting on December 22nd!

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Ingredients

  • 1 package puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 jar stuffed olives
  • 5 sprigs rosemary, minced
  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • sea salt, a pinch per olive ball
  • olive oil, for brushing

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Thaw puff pastry per package directions.
  3. Drain olives.
  4. Cut puff pastry like you would cut a pan of brownies (make them about 2-1/2 – 3  inches square).
  5. Place olive in the middle of each square and fold pastry around olive. Roll in your hands until the pastry looks like a small ball.
  6. Place on a baking sheet.
  7. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
  8. Sprinkle each olive ball with rosemary and parmesan.
  9. Bake 20 minutes, or until browned nicely.

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

 

Italian Garlic Mascarpone Dip

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I’m hosting my Thursday Night Book Club tonight. Book club is always my favorite night(s) of the month. I belong to two book clubs that meet in the evening and another that meets in the morning. We each meet once a month. For Thursday Night Book Club, there are usually 5 of us. Tonight, however, we are going to be a small group of 3. Ralene is out of town and Jen has a long day of meetings that end late. That leaves Jen (we have two Jen’s), Sandy and myself. Tonight, we are discussing the book I chose for us to read called “The Address” by Fiona Davis. I highly recommend this wonderful book. I heard from Jen, while she was in the middle of the book, saying how much she loved it … this was a really good book. Run out and pick this one up if you like to read and are looking for something good. Sandy chooses our next book … I can’t wait to see what we’ll be reading next. Did I mention … I love book club?! As soon as I crawl under the covers tonight, I’ll be ready to download the next read on my kindle. I can’t wait. I am reading Reese Witherspoon’s October book club pick at the moment. Did you know Reese Witherspoon has a book club? I follow her on Instagram where she posts what she’s reading. She chose “The Rules of Magic” by Alice Hoffman. I’m loving this book as well … excellent choice, Reese! I’m about 70% done, so as soon as I finish, I’ll begin Sandy’s choice.

I’m looking forward to making dinner for the ladies, and I also look forward to putting together a few appetizer items. I always have a cheese board – which I will be having tonight. I chose, Saint Andre, an Italian Fontina, Aged Irish Cheddar, and 1,000 day old Gouda (A woman started chatting with me in the cheese department at Trader Joe’s one day and said she buys it every time she heads to there. She was telling me it had a nice, nutty, crunch to it. I bought it to serve on my cheese board for dinner club and it was a hit. I’m also going to put out an Irish Cheddar and Port Salut. Of course, there will be nuts and dried berries on my cheese board as well.) I also picked up a dip I found at Trader Joe’s called Garlic Beet Dip. It looked too good to pass up, so I’m going to serve it with Pita Chips.

Cut veggies are always a nice addition to any appetizer spread, which is why I was also planning on including them in tonight’s appetizer menu. I figured I’d make a dip of some sort for the veggies, which is what I did. Originally, I was going to make a dip using sour cream as my base. As luck would have it (actually this was luck, because I was able to come up with a new recipe that I think you will love), I was out of sour cream. “Oh darn”, I thought to myself. I had just gotten back from the market to pick up a loaf of crusty ciabatta bread to go with our dinner. I didn’t want to run back to the store so had to put my thinking cap on. I looked through my refrigerator and found a carton of mascarpone cheese. “OK, let’s see what we can come up with using mascarpone” I said to Remington … my German Shepard, and main helper for today. Well …. I came up with a dip recipe that is really tasty. Looking back … I’m quite happy I was out of sour cream.

I emptied my mascarpone into a bowl and added the following: kosher salt, minced garlic (out of the jar), Italian seasoning, grated Romano/parmesan cheese and the zest and juice of one lemon. I mixed everything together with my hand mixer and placed it in a glass serving bowl.

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Doesn’t this spread look nice and thick? It is! It’s not too thick, however, that you can’t swipe a carrot, bell pepper, or cucumber through it. I’m really happy with this recipe I came up with on the fly this afternoon. I think there are many ways you could use this mascarpone dip/spread. It would be excellent on a chicken breast, tucked under the skin with sun-dried tomatoes or basil (or both!). I may try that next week. If I do, I will be sure to blog that recipe for you all.

I can’t wait to see what Jen and Sandy think about this dip. I also thought about my Mom and sister after I tried this dip. I think it’s something they would love as well. Maybe on the big fat sourdough pretzels on a Sunday afternoon while they are enjoying The Badger game, or on a Sunday, while enjoying the Packers. It would also be good on crackers. The list could go on and on.

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Ingredients

  • 1 8-ounce package mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated romano/parmesan blend cheese
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)

Directions

  1. Mix everything together with your hand mixer.
  2. Serve with crudités (or pita chips or crackers).

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

 

 

Baked Ricotta with Fresh Herbs

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Last night was our turn to host our Dinner Club. The Del Mar Dinner Club (as we call ourselves). Dennis and I look forward to getting together with our dinner club each time we meet. We gather quarterly, so each couple hosts one time a year.

One of the appetizers I decided to make for last night was a baked ricotta. I saw a recipe in our local newspaper for Fresh Herb Baked Ricotta that I started with and changed it just a bit to make it my own. This baked ricotta was a hit! It was really good. I can tell you, that I will be making this again … often!

I started with two pounds of whole milk ricotta that I let drain. I then added the drained ricotta to my soufflé dish and mixed it right there with my desired ingredients. To the ricotta, I added fresh chopped oregano, fresh minced thyme and fresh minced rosemary.

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I then added 10 cloves of minced garlic and the zest of two limes. Once I mixed all of the above mentioned together, I added a teaspoon of kosher salt, a half teaspoon of fresh ground pepper and a teaspoon Herbs de Provence. After combining the seasonings with the cheese and herbs, I added two slightly beaten eggs and mixed everything together well.

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Once the cheese, herbs, egg, lemon zest and seasonings were combined, I sprinkled a drizzle of olive oil over the top. I set this in the refrigerator until I was ready to bake it. I had a lot of things to do for my dinner club prep, so got this done earlier in the day. I removed it from the refrigerator a half hour before I wanted to bake it.

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Picture before baking

I’m actually reheating this for lunch today. Did I mention it was amazing?

Our dinner club is a wonderful group of people. We’ve all known each other for about 13 years.

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As well as the baked ricotta I put together a cheese board and we served raspberry potato chips that Dennis and I came across at Home Goods. They were quite interesting, so good!

I always serve wine and beer, as well as several non-alcoholic options (at any gathering I have) to drink with our appetizers and enjoy with our dinner. For dinner club, I always choose one signature cocktail to start out the night. The first dinner club I hosted, I chose a Moscow Mule because I made beef stroganoff. The next time I hosted, I planned an Italian themed night, so chose a dirty martini. Last night, I chose to make a traditional Champagne Cocktail. It is made with a sugar cube, brandy and champagne. My dear friend, Karin (standing next to me, on my left in our group picture) did the honors of making this for us. She is an expert at making this and I now have a new favorite cocktail. I loved it and I think it would be a great cocktail to serve at any holiday gathering. I’m thinking it’s the perfect start to a Thanksgiving feast!

 

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I set the table early in the morning to get that task out of the way. Once the table is set, I feel I can relax just a tad … just a tad, though. I find the prep for dinner club so much fun. I feel I’m right in my element.

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The table was almost complete, I just needed to add the wine glasses.

Friday afternoon and evening, I spent preparing my meat and a corn pesto for a pasta dish I made that I will tell you all about. I chose to make Ina Garten’s Slow-Roasted Spiced Pork. This dish is fabulous! I’ve made it before and it was a hit, so I knew that my dinner club would enjoy it as well … and they loved it, absolutely loved it! You start with a 7-9 pound bone-in pork butt (mine was actually 10 pounds). The pork shoulder is covered with a paste made of garlic cloves, onion, a jalapeño pepper (I used two) chopped fresh oregano, ground cumin, chipotle chili powder, kosher salt, ground pepper, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. There is also a bottle of dry white wine that goes into the pan (over the course of 7 hours … you start out pouring two cups of wine in the bottom of the pan, and add wine every two hours). The meat cooks at a low temperature of 300 degrees for 2-1/2 hours, covered and then another 4 to 4-1/2 hours, uncovered. Wow! Ina has a great recipe here!

For the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/slow-roasted-spiced-pork-3190101.

For my second dish, I made Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto. I used a different noodle than spaghetti, however (it was a chunky, thick noodle from Italy that I found at Home Goods). I started following a blog that I love, Lidey’s Table. Lidey works for Ina Garten and started a food blog that is fantastic. She recently posted her recipe for Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto. It looked beautiful in her picture and the recipe sounded amazing so I knew I wanted to include this dish for my dinner club. I highly recommend checking out Lidey’s blog, she has so many excellent recipes that I know you will enjoy.

Here is a picture of the pasta I made (keep in mind that for Lidey’s recipe she uses spaghetti noodles).

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For Lidey’s recipe go to http://www.lideystable.com. I guarantee you will be looking at her page for quite a while at all her amazing recipes. Her sweet personality really shows through on her blog. I remember watching one of Ina’s episodes where Lidey just moved to East Hampton and was going to have a house warming party. Ina was helping her with some of the cooking and gave Lidey a list of things to purchase to prepare for the party and she was so cute. Ina sent her to the hardware store for several things (Ina’s hardware store clearly has a lot more than just hardware!). She had Lidey purchase flour sack towels to be used as dinner napkins. I actually was going to do just that, but when I went to purchase the flour sack towels, they didn’t have enough of the one color I wanted, so went with a pack of three to use in my bread baskets. I do love the idea of using them as napkins too, however. I love the look of rustic elegance on a table setting, or at a buffet set-up.

As a salad, I served spring mix with fresh strawberries that I thinly sliced, parmesan cheese that I shaved into large shards onto the salad as well as candied pecans. For the dressing, I made a lime vinaigrette. I also served dinner rolls with our meal. For dessert, my dear friend, Elizabeth (on the far left on the picture of all of us) made homemade lemon sorbet. (I actually woke up thinking about her lemon sorbet this morning, I’m not gonna lie). I bought fresh raspberries, fresh blackberries and fresh blueberries to serve over the sorbet and brought our a couple trays of chocolates and fleur de sel caramels for everyone. Dinner was a great success, I’m happy to report.

Our next dinner club gathering is in early January, I’m already looking forward to it. Jack and JoAnne are our next hosts.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds whole-milk ricotta (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest of two lemons
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
  • olive oil, for greasing the dish and also for drizzling over the cheese before baking
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Drain ricotta.
  3. Place in soufflé bowl that has been greased with olive oil.
  4. Add fresh herbs to ricotta and mix. Incorporate garlic and lemon zest.
  5. Add salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence and mix well.
  6. Add eggs and combine thoroughly.
  7. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes.
  8. Let cool for 7-10 minutes before serving.
  9. Serve with baguette slices

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

Cinco de Mayo Nachos

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Last night for Cinco de Mayo, I decided to make a big cast iron skillet of chicken nachos for Dennis and myself for dinner. Kylie was out with her friend, so it was just the two of us hanging out in front of the t.v. watching a movie.

I started by seasoning and roasting two chicken breasts that I would later cut into chunks to add to our nachos. For the chicken, I drizzled a small amount of olive oil and the juice of a half a lime over each breast, sprinkled a pinch of kosher salt, a pinch of garlic powder,  and a pinch of Weber’s Chili Lime Rub. (I actually found this at Walmart.)

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On top of that, I sprinkled the zest of that lime. I roasted my chicken in a preheated 425 degree oven for 35 minutes.

While my chicken was roasting, I prepared my ingredients for the nachos and got the toppings ready.

I decided to bake my nachos in my cast iron skillet in the oven … and to serve it right in that skillet as well. I started with a layer of corn tortilla chips and added pinto beans that I had heated on the stove. Over the beans, I sprinkled diced, fresh jalapeńo, and the cooked, cubed chicken and reduced fat shredded cheese. I used the reduced fat Mexican shredded light cheese from Trader Joe’s. I then added another layer of chips, the rest of the beans, jalapeńo, chicken and cheese.

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I put the skillet in the oven for about 10 minutes and topped my nachos with diced tomatoes (seeds removed), sliced black olives, avocado, sliced green onions, and a dollop of sour cream.

These were really yummy and not too heavy. I used all healthy ingredients, even the chips had just a few ingredients (organic stone ground white corn with a trace of lime, organic vegetable oil and sea salt. This was a much healthier option than nachos at a restaurant and we enjoyed them just as much!

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Cinco de Mayo as well. I’m really getting in the mood for the warm, summer months. That usually starts around Memorial Day for me, but this year Cinco de Mayo is starting the summer season out for me.

Ingredients

  • White Corn Tortilla Chips (or any tortilla chip you prefer)
  • 1 15-1/2 ounce can pinto beans
  • 2 fresh jalapeńos, diced (seeds and membrane removed)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • shredded cheese of your choice, as much or as little as you like
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • juice and zest of one lime
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced (seeds removed)
  • 1 large avocado
  • 3 sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • dollop of sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili lime rub
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle chicken breasts with olive oil, lime juice, kosher salt, garlic powder, chili lime rub, and lime zest. Roast for 35 minutes.

While chicken is roasting, dice jalapeño, dice tomato, slice green onion, and heat beans.

Once chicken is done, cut into chunks. In a cast iron skillet, layer chips, beans, jalapeño, chicken and cheese. Repeat. Bake for 10 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven. Top with diced tomatoes, black olives, avocado, green onions, and sour cream. Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

Food for the Super Bowl … And Beyond

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As everyone knows, yesterday was the Super Bowl. I, personally, loved the half-time show and thought Lady Gaga did a fabulous job. It brought me back to when I saw her in concert six years ago. She was quite the entertainer and still is.

Yesterday’s menu consisted of many things … chicken sausages cooked in white wine, brats cooked in beer, guacamole, pan fried onion dip, veggies, the list goes on and on.

I did make a slow cooker spinach artichoke dip that was a great appetizer for Super Bowl, and then played a visit in tonight’s dinner when I used it as a pasta sauce. I will talk about how I made the dip and then I will talk about what I did with it for the pasta for tonight.

It was so simple to make the spinach artichoke dip in the slow cooker. I put everything together, set the timer to high for two hours and I forgot about it. I started with 2 cans of artichoke hearts that I had cut into quarters. I then added two 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, 2-1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese and 1-1/4 cups of grated parmesan. To that, I added four cloves of minced garlic, a bag of chopped spinach – that I had thawed and drained, 1/2 cup of non-fat milk, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. I stirred everything together, placed the lid on and let it cook.

I served this with a French baguette, cut into thin slices.

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It was so good that I saved the leftovers and decided to make it the sauce for pasta for tonight’s dinner.

I wanted to add low-fat protein to my pasta, so I roasted a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I put together a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, course ground dijon mustard, zest and juice of one lemon, kosher salt, pepper and minced garlic. I brushed this over both sides of my chicken and roasted it in a preheated 425 degree oven for 35 minutes.

I used Pappardelle pasta in tonight’s dish. They are thick, long egg noodles.

I put about two cups of the leftover spinach artichoke dip into a large pan and added a few tablespoons of olive oil to loosen it up. I squeezed the juice of a lemon into the sauce as well. Once the noodles were done, I added them to the sauce and added about a cup and a half of reserved pasta water. I coated the noodles with the sauce and added the chicken breasts, which I had cut into cubes.

I did add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes to my pasta. Dennis really enjoyed this dish. I hope you will too!

If anyone is interested in my guacamole recipe, let me know and I will blog that as well. I didn’t want to overwhelm everyone with too many recipes in one blog post, so I’ve only included the recipe for the dip and then the recipe for the chicken/pasta.

Ingredients for Slow Cooker Artichoke Spinach Dip

  • 2 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained and cut into quarters
  • 1 16-18 ounce bag chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into cubes
  • 2-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1-1/4 cups grated parmesan
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions

In slow cooker, place artichoke hearts, spinach, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, minced garlic, milk, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Mix together, put lid on slow cooker. Set to high and cook for two hours. Enjoy!

Ingredients for Chicken

  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon course ground dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix together oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, zest and juice of lemon, salt and pepper in a glass measuring cup. Place chicken on baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Brush chicken with oil and vinegar mixture you’ve prepared and bake for 35 minutes. Set aside to use with pasta.

Chicken Pappardelle Spinach Artichoke Pasta Ingredients

  • 1 bag Pappardelle pasta
  • 2 cups of artichoke spinach dip
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juice

 

  • 1-1/2 cups reserved pasta water
  • chicken

Directions

Cook according to package directions, reserving 1 to 1-1/2 cups pasta water. Place 2 cups of spinach artichoke dip into large pan. Add olive oil and juice of lemon, stir. Add cooked noodles to heated sauce, along with desired amount of pasta water. Mix together. Add chicken and toss again. Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charcuterie Board

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Isn’t it nice to sometimes have a dinner where you don’t have to cook a thing?  Well, that’s what we did tonight.  I’m meeting a friend for a movie tonight so wanted a quick and light nibble that would get me out the door and to the theater in time.  I decided on a charcuterie board.  I’ve never actually put out a charcuterie board for dinner, but I think I’ll be doing this quite often.  It was the perfect meal for a summer dinner, or lunch on the patio.

Ingredients (Can vary depending on what you like, but this is what I did)

  • calabrese
  • capocollo
  • prosciutto
  • figs
  • goat cheese
  • provolone
  • harvarti
  • crusty bread
  • cherry tomatoes
  • burrata cheese
  • balsamic glaze
  • apricot jam
  • fig butter
  • Directions

Place cherry tomatoes on a small plate and drizzle with balsamic glaze and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.  Break up one round of burrata cheese over the tomatoes.  Cut figs into quarters and wrap with prosciutto. On the board, lay pieces of crusty bread, crackers, meats, prosciutto wrapped figs, bowls of fig butter and apricot jam, and cheeses. Everyone serves themselves. Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

Dinner with Friends

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Last night, Dennis, Kylie and I had our good friends over for dinner.  Elizabeth is a dear friend that I met when our girls were in first grade.  We volunteered together for the Holiday Wonderland in Del Mar for several years and our girls were Brownies and Girl Scouts together.  It’s so nice to get together with the Laskers.  Dennis and Paul always have so much to talk about, as do Elizabeth and I, and Kylie and Rachel always enjoy their time together. When I first met Elizabeth, we discovered that we share a love of cooking and entertaining and formed our dinner club, The Del Mar Dinner Club.  We meet quarterly with two other couples and always have a great time getting together and enjoying what the host and hostess have prepared when it is their turn to shine.  Stay tuned on Elizabeth and me in the year or so to come.  We’ve been chatting about starting a tutorial blog on cooking once our girls head to college.  It should be fun!

When I was trying to decide what to make for dinner last night, I wandered the aisles at Trader Joe’s for some inspiration.  I decided I wanted to make chicken and in some way incorporate fresh dates.  As my wheels started turning, I decided I’d throw some fresh sage in my cart, shredded gruyere cheese, fresh garlic (of course), lemons and pancetta.  I decided prosciutto would be what I wrap around my concoction.  I grabbed a bottle of balsamic salad dressing and the ingredients for my chicken were decided.

This is what I did:  I sprinkled kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on both sides of my chicken.  I then marinated six chicken breasts in a bottle of balsamic salad dressing and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.  While the chicken was marinating, I sauteed four ounces of pancetta in a half tablespoon of olive oil and let it drain on paper towel.  I chopped 8 ounces of dates, removing the pits.  Next, I chopped four large cloves of garlic and 16 sage leaves.  I also zested one lemon and set my gruyere aside.

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I was now ready to stuff my chicken breasts.  I cut a slit on the top of each breast, forming a pocket, being careful not to slice all the way through. In each pocket, I first placed 1/4 teaspoon of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of sage, 1/8 teaspoon of lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon of pancetta.  On top of that, I placed 1 tablespoon of chopped dates and a tablespoon and a half of shredded gruyere cheese.  Next, I sprinkled a small amount of lemon zest and a tad more sage.  I then squeezed lemon juice from the zested lemon over the entire chicken breast.  The last thing I did was to wrap two slices of prosciutto around each breast.  I placed these on a foil lined baking sheet with the two halves of the lemon I used and loosely wrapped the chicken.  I wanted to bake them covered in foil to keep them moist.  I baked the chicken in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.  (After 40 minutes, I pulled the foil back and let the chicken finish for the last five minutes uncovered.

I can honestly say, this is the best chicken I have ever made.  The flavors melded together so well and all stood out without any one of them being overpowering.  I am so proud of this recipe I came up with, it was a big hit!  I will definitely be making this again, many times.

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I decided my side dishes would be mashed potatoes, green beans, and a simple salad. For the potatoes, I peeled them and set them aside in a pot of cold water until I was ready to boil them.  Once they were done boiling, I drained them and added my ingredients to mash.  I added two tablespoons of butter and about 1/4 cup of light sour cream.  I mashed them and added the leftover gruyere and garlic I didn’t use for the chicken, added salt and pepper and a very small amount (maybe 1/8 teaspoon) of fresh sage.  I just wanted a tiny bit of color, hardly noticeable.  These potatoes turned out so tasty!

For my green beans, I started with a bag of frozen green beans (16 ounce).  I sauteed them with one and a half large shallots and olive oil.  I only added salt and pepper for seasoning.

For my salad, I used Romaine lettuce (I love the crunch), 16 ounces of grape tomatoes that I halved, half of a large shallot, and shaved asiago with rosemary cheese. I topped this salad with Trader Joe’s Sundried Tomato and Cheese Toasts (Yum, they are so good!). For the dressing, I used the Trader Joe’s bottled Romano Caesar dressing.

I went simple with my appetizers.  Ina says you only need a few things, after all.  I took a wedge of Camembert cheese and topped it with a drizzle of honey, sprinkled dried thyme on top of that and added spiced candied pecans that I chopped up.  This was served with water crackers.  I also put out a bowl of Vegetable chips (Trader Joe’s brand, of course).

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Dinner was served with white wine, it was a perfect night.

Until next time, Kris