Thursday, March 29, 2012

Entertaining - Hosting a French Inspired Dinner Party

This is the first post in a new series of blog posts to suggest ideas that would make excellent and easy parties!  I love to host dinner parties with friends be it more formal (for birthdays/engagements) or more casual for brunch.  I also LOVE to tailgate so look for a tailgate post later this year.  The recipes are from this blog and they are tried and true.

This post is about hosting a classic Saturday night French dinner party.  My mother in law taught me to really enjoy the process of cooking French food and I would like to share that with you here.  On a scale of 1 to 10, this meal would be a 4.5.  There are some easy but impressive appetizer recipes which pair nicely with dinner and dessert.  As Julia Child used to say, "Bon Appetite!"

Tips for Success

- Preselect your serving dishes and lay them out so they are ready when the food is finished cooking
- Set the table early (even the day before if you have time)
- Use a seasonal adornment for the table, such as a squash in winter or bowl of lemons in the summer
- If serving more than one drink, set up a bar area where guests can help themselves to their favorite beverages (even sparking water)
- Cloth napkins are super impressive (and environmentally friendly!)
- Sit back and enjoy your hard work because it is mostly done before your guests arrive and you can enjoy your time!

The Menu

Appetizer option #1 - Beet and Goat Cheese Tartlets
Appetizer option #2 - Gougere Cheese Puff
Sparkling Wine - Jaume Serra Cristalino Rose  (which incidentally is not French, but keep it our secret!)

Salad - Classic French Salad with Dijon Lemon vinaigrette (see below)
Bread - Anderson Homemade Bread

Dessert option #1 - Strawberries and Creme Fraiche
Dessert option #2 - Any Berry Crumble

Classic French Salad with Dijon Lemon Vinaigrette

The salad is very simple.  Find the best and most fresh greens you can (I like a mix of arugula and spinach with some frisee).  Wash and dry thoroughly and put in a nice salad bowl.  One or two bunches of each green is generally enough for four people but use your judgment here.

The salad dressing is delicious and simple.  Ingredients are 1 lemon juiced, 2 tablespoons dijon mustard and 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Combine all in a tupperware with a tight lid and shake until mixed well.  Taste and add a bit more olive oil if the lemon or dijon flavor is too strong.  Transfer to your normal container for serving dressing.  You can even pre-dress the salad but make sure to do this just before serving.

One of my favorite dishes for serving salad is this Nambe Butterfly Bowl .  It is worth the investment because you can serve hot food in it as well.  Just make sure not to use metal utensils with the bowl as it will scratch it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Leek and Goat Cheese Bread Pudding - Post #100!

I'm finding it really hard to believe that this is my 100th post for Cooked in My Kitchen.  It's been such a joy to bring all these recipes to life and I look forward to sharing more recipes here in the years to come!

This bread pudding is the culmination of many of our featured items and favorite foods to cook with.  It is also an extremely easy and versatile recipe that you can serve for all groups and at any time of the day.  Enjoy!


5 cups bread cubes, from stale two or three day old bread

1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 large leeks, white parts chopped
2 tablespoons thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
salt to taste
3 oz goat cheese crumbles

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  
2. Combine milk, eggs, heavy cream in a bowl and whisk about 30 seconds to incorporate.
3. Add bread cubes to mixture and stir to coat evenly
4. Heat a saute pan over medium high heat, add a swirl of olive oil.
5. When hot, saute the leeks, thyme and pepper about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and mix into bread mixture
6. Sprinkle with salt and stir to incorporate
7. Grease a bread pan or brownie pan and set a layer of bread mixture.  
8. Evenly cover with coat cheese and repeat making two layers
9. Cook in oven about 30 minutes or until goat cheese crumbles are slightly golden brown and bread pudding is steaming hot!
10. Serve with a friend egg and salad!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Oatmeal Bread

It took me a few times to perfect this recipe and it was worth the trial and error!  I love this bread because it is good with just about anything and it can also stand alone with fresh butter and jam.  After it is done baking you can even pre slice it, freeze it and reheat later on down the road and it will still taste fresh out of the oven. Do yourself a favor and go make this, now.


2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
3 cups flour
1 cup oatmeal (old fashioned style)
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Combine yeast, white sugar, water in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and let sit about 5 minutes.
2. Heat milk and butter in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir and microwave 30 seconds more then set aside.
3. Add flour, oatmeal, salt, brown sugar to the bowl with the water and turn on the mixer.
4. Slowly add the milk mixture until all ingredients are combined and dough shape starts to form (about 5 minutes).
5. You can also take it out and kneed another few minutes by hand on a floured counter.
6. Place dough in an oiled bowl and let rise at least 2 hours.
7. Place dough in a greased 10 inch bread pan and let rise again while oven preheats
8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  When dough is risen to your liking (I go about 30 minutes), place in the oven for about 30-35 minutes or until top is golden brown and internal temp is 190 degrees.
9. Remove from the oven and let cool in the bread pan for five minutes
10. Remove from the bread pan and let cool another 10 minutes before serving

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

It turns out that you can make a lot of dinners with one pound of ground meat.  I made meatball subs one night and then had enough left over for this savory dish.  It seems simple, but it is too good and easy not to share with you all for your next weeknight dinner.


1/2 cup minced shallot
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 lb ground beef (best quality you can find)
1 egg, whisked
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
5 small fresh mozzarella ciliegine, drained + more for topping if you desire
1 box of large pasta shells

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large saute pan.  When hot add the minced shallot and let cook about two minutes.  Remove from heat.
2.  In a small bowl combine bread crumbs and egg.  Let sit at least five minutes.
3.  In a food processor add meat, egg, breadcrumb mixture, onions, salt and pepper.  Pulse to combine (about 30 seconds).
4.  From into 1 inch round balls and set aside on a plate
5.  With clean hands use a paper towel to press water out of the mozzarella
6.  Cut each mozzarella into 4 pieces
7.  For each meatball press your thumb into the middle and place the mozzarella piece in the meatball.  Pull the meatball over the mozzarella until the cheese is covered
8.  Repeat and place on a cookie sheet
9.  Cook in preheated oven about 35-40 minutes until the meatballs are nice and browned and cooked inside
10. Meanwhile boil water and cook pasta shells according to package
11. Prep tomato sauce or favorite spaghetti sauce and heat in a pan
12. When meatballs are ready combine pasta, meatballs, sauce in a baking dish and top with extra mozzarella if you have it
13. Place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes until the cheese is nice and brown

Friday, March 9, 2012

Peanut Butter Pot du Creme

A pot du creme is a quintessential French dessert that is surprisingly easy to make!  Don't be intimidated by the name of this dish, Taste Book has an easy recipe I modified to make with peanut butter.  It is so easy and delightful and your friends will think you spent hours making this but you don't have to give away your secret at how easy and simple this was to make.  Top with any of your favorite toppings, i.e. whipped cream or chocolate sauce for an extra sweet treat!


1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter
3 egg yolks
4 ramekins (1/2 cup size)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place ramekins in an oven safe dish (like a lasagna pyrex dish) so that you can fill the pan with hot water later to cook the creme pots.
3. In a small sauce pan pour whipping cream and peanut butter, gently whisk until combined and let cook over medium heat about 10 minutes until peanut butter is mostly incorporated and smooth.
4. When cream is ready gently whisk in one egg yolk at a time until combined.  After all three, you will notice it is a bit thicker
5. Carefully pour equally into the ramekins and carefully pour water around the ramekins until they are covered half way up the side.
6. Place in the preheated oven and cook until top is set and golden brown, about 25 minutes
7. Remove and let cool until you are able to handle the dish, then cover and put in the fridge until you are ready to serve

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spinach and Sweet Potato Lentils

It doesn't get much better than sweet potatoes and lentils...throw in a bit of spinach and cream and you have got a soul warming vegetarian dinner that won't disappoint even your meat eating friends.  We served this with brown rice but it would have been yummy with some pita bread too.

1/2 onion finely chopped
2 serrano chili peppers finely chopped
2 roma tomatoes finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons curry or garam marsala powder
1 sweet potato peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 cup lentils
2 cups water
2 tablespoons cream
1/2 bunch of spinach
salt/pepper to taste

1. Prep all of the ingredients through the garlic cloves.  Set 2 tablespoons of cream in a container to allow to come to room temperature
2. Heat oil in deep pot over medium high heat, when hot add the veggies, cumin, curry powder and stir to coat...cook for about 5 minutes
3. Add sweet potato and lentils and cover with water (about two cups water)
4. Let cook about 20 minutes until lentils and potatoes are tender
5. Remove from heat and let sit about five minutes.
6. Add cream and stir to incorporate
7. Add spinach and let wilt about one minute
8. Salt and pepper to taste and add more curry if desired

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Twice Baked Stuffed Potatoes

Apparently I'm stuffing a lot of food these days but it's such a comforting way to eat meals at the end of the winter!  I made these stuffed potatoes with a lot of what was on hand, so feel free to substitute onions for the leeks, arugula for the spinach and ground beef for the bacon.  Whatever you have is acceptable in this dish (except I definitely recommend you keep the cheddar cheese).

This is dinner for two people so add one potato per person as you add people and of course increase the ingredients in the same proportion.


2 russet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup lowfat milk
salt/pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped leeks
1 bunch spinach, washed
5-6 strips of bacon

1. Wash the potatoes and dry thoroughly, stab with a fork four times and put in the microwave on the bake potato setting for about 10 minutes or until potato is tender and cooked through
2. When potatoes are cooled, cut in half and carefully remove the flesh.  Reserve the skins and put on a baking sheet
3. Add butter, milk, salt and pepper to the potato mixture and use a potato masher to mash and combine it all.
4. Add most of the cheese, reserving about 1/4 cup for later
5. Meanwhile cook bacon in a pan on the stove until crispy.  When cooked, remove and put on a paper towel.  Then chop finely and add to potato mixture
6. Add leeks to the bacon fat and saute about 5 minutes.
7. Add washed and chopped spinach to the leeks and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes
8. Add veggies to the potato mixture and stir to evenly distribute.
9. Preheat the broiler of your oven
10. Carefully scoop the potato mixture into each of the potato skins and use as much of the filling as possible.  Top with remaining cheddar cheese.
11. Place under the broiler for about 4 minutes until cheese is melted
12. Serve with a salad and enjoy!