Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Rum Chata Balls

It's Christmas Day.

Our family celebrated last weekend, so we are the epitome of lazy today.  We've had breakfast, consumed our annual dose of A Christmas Story, had leftover pizza for lunch and are currently in the middle of a 4 hour documentary about Monty Python.

Not your typical Christmas.

But I decided to do one thing today that I'm calling "constructive."

Along with a good percentage of our friends, we've recently discovered Rum Chata.

Sweet, milky, slightly coconuty rum.  It's good over ice.  It's good hot.  According to Hannah, it's good in coffee.  There are numerous recipes out there for baked goods that list Rum Chata among the ingredients.  But I looked for, and couldn't find, the obvious RC recipe:  rum balls.

So let the Christmas Day experiment begin!

My recipe for Rum Chata Rum Balls

1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup Rum Chata
2 1/2 crushed Nilla Wafers
2+ cups chopped pecans, divided

Put the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 1 minute.  Stir and zap for 20 second intervals until melted and smooth.  Stir in Rum Chata, Nilla Wafers and 1 cup of the pecans.  Chill for at least one hour.

Roll the mixture into balls. I couldn't exactly roll the balls in chopped pecans - I had to "press" the chopped nuts into the balls.

I have to say, the end result was quite tasty.  The Rum Chata balls even got a stamp of approval from Hannah.

Too bad my last name is not Schweddy.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Twas the night before Thanksgiving....

Back in the day, Thanksgiving Eve was one of the biggest party nights of the year.  All of us twenty-somethings arrived back at our parent's house, just in time for the festivities the next day.  Leaving all the big meal preparation to more responsible family members, we met our old crew at a favorite bar.  It was an easy celebration - reconnecting with friends, having too much to drink and sleeping in the next morning only to wake up to an amazing meal.

29 years ago tonight was a very special Thanksgiving Eve. I wasn't at my parent's house, but John's.  We had been dating since August - long distance. He was working in the burbs and I was three quarters of the way through my last semester at Purdue.

When we left the house that evening, the console television was set to MTV and the song One Thing Leads to Another by The Fixx was playing.  I remember it because it was the first song video I had ever seen - back when MTV had the little guy planting the flag on the moon and they actually played music videos. 

We met up with friends at Butch McGuires. The evening progressed just as you would think it would. We consumed lots of beer and greasy food.

When we returned to the house, we greeted John's mom, who was watching TV, and went down to John's lair (the basement).   It was there, on the sleeper sofa, that he presented me with a solitaire diamond ring and asked me to marry him.

Obviously, I said yes.

We went back upstairs to give Dorathy the good news, and she was very happy about it.  She suggested that we celebrate the occasion by having a slice of pie. 

I should remember what kind of pie it was, because I saw it twice - one time going down and another coming back up.

Booze, bad bar food, the excitement of getting engaged and dessert were more than my stomach could handle in a 5 hour time frame. 

He married me, regardless of my sensitive stomach.  At the wedding, a lot of those same friends we met that Thanksgiving Eve were making bets that we wouldn't last.  We hadn't even known each other a year when we got married, so I guess that's fair.  But a lot of them are divorced and we're still plugging along. 

When it comes to choosing your significant other, if your gut tells you it's right - it's right. 

Even if it makes you puke. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Doing it the French Way - The Follow Up

Last week, I posted the menu with recipe links for our Dinner Club feast featuring French cuisine.  It was probably the most fattening meal I've ever had.  I think 80% of it consisted of some combination of butter, cream and eggs.  But my taste buds loved it, despite the ongoing protest from my arteries and thighs.

So to review...

French Onion Marmalade - Confit D'Oignon
This was really good on bread.  I love the sweetness that is released when onions are caramelized.  It was nice that the recipe recommended making it a few days ahead - that it mellows after sitting in the fridge for a while.  I think it would be really good served with pork.  Note to self:  buy chops for later this week.

Chicken Liver Pate with Pistachios
I didn't even see it in the recipe comments, but it suggested stuffing the pate in Cognac poached prunes.  Dave and Barb are always up to the task and brought stuffed and unstuffed.  Dave said the prune step was a general pain in the behind.  From what remained on both plates, I'd say half of the guests would agree that stuffing was not worth it.  I was bi-pate.  I liked it both ways.  I don't eat pate often, but I'm keeping this recipe for when my other foodie friends come to town.  Perfect noshing material.

Cream of Artichoke Soup - Creme D'Artichauts
And speaking of pains in the rear, I don't know if Don will ever ask for a challenging recipe ever again.  This was a very time consuming dish and had enough steps to put it over the is-this-really-worth-it top.  But for those of us who didn't have the daunting task of its preparation, it was wonderful. Smooth and creamy with a nice, rich flavor...  mmmmm... Someone else can make this for me any day.

Zucchini-Tomato Verrines
This can be classified as an appetizer or a salad, but I called it a salad. I really couldn't find a vegetable dish that rang my French bell, and with 2 kinds of cheeses, eggs and prosciutto, this  matched the fat and cholesterol content of the rest of the menu.  We wouldn't want sneak anything healthy in there now, would we?  And what's not to love about a tiny, multi-textured salad, layered in a glass?  I thought that would be cute.  It was cute - and very tasty.  If you ever have to make something for one of those bite-sized dishes parties (you know, where you serve food already on the spoons and such?) this would be perfect. 

Cheese Souffle
I told John and Marla to bring all the ingredients for the souffle so we could assemble and bake it just before we sat down to dinner. Since none of us had ever attempted a souffle before, our actions hinged on every word of the recipe - which told us to melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a "paste."  When we added the cream to it and everything turned into a gooey, curdled mess, we knew we had done something wrong.  When attempt number two was successful, we decided recipe author's definition of "paste" was a little different than ours.  We looked for something short of wall Spackle, when they wanted Elmer's.  It took a little longer to bake because we doubled the recipe.  The outside edges were done to perfection, so we scooped out what we could and let the rest bake a little longer.  We weren't treated to the beauty of a perfectly crusted, un-fallen souffle at the table, but wow.  It was delish.  I'll be making this again.

Beef Bourguignon - Beef Burgundy
This was really yummy, but I screwed up and made it late Saturday afternoon.  Had I been thinking properly, I would have made this the day before.  Like the onion marmalade, it would have been even yummier after resting for a day.  Oh well.  It was still really good.  This will replace my old beef burgundy recipe, but I'm still going to leave out the pearl onions.  I couldn't find them in the produce department, and I refuse to dump a jar of them in with all of the fresh veggies and choice sirloin. 

VanillaCrème Brulee
Going into it, I thought creme brulee would be hard to make.  It sounded simple enough, but I kept thinking there was something sinister lurking... sort of like the "paste" in the souffle.  But it was actually pretty easy.  My mistake, once again, is that I didn't make it ahead of time. They barely had time to chill before it was batter up time at the table.  But they were wonderful.  Without a torch, the broiler worked well - the glaze on top cracked perfectly.  If I make this again, I'll cut down on the sugar.  It was a tad too sweet for my taste.

The recipe that was omitted from the original post was the casserole that we made for the next morning. Eggs Benedict Casserole
John added 2 extra eggs and we used one package of good ol' Knorr hollandaise sauce.  This is a keeper.

I would say the evening was a success. Great food, along with the resurrection of the old dart board, a beautiful night to sit out by the fire, and borrowing a pinball machine from a dealer friend of ours - an AC/DC pinball machine no less - helped tremendously.

Yes, nothing says oo-la-la like French cuisine and eardrum rattling bings, bells and Highway to Hell.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bobby and Me

Have you ever forgotten about something for years decades, only to have something bring the memory crashing back in glorious Kodachrome color?  That happened to me this week when my niece texted me this:

Albums that you could cut out of the back of a cereal box.  Pure marketing genius.  Especially when your mother wouldn't let you cut up the box until you finished the cereal.  (How many bowls can you eat in one sitting?)  If you click on the link below, you will see some of the cereal box records that I played at full volume and danced to (i.e.made a fool of myself, watching my reflection in our large living room windows) prior to my double digit years.


I'm positive I owned the Archies album.  I had a Jackson 5 album, but not the one pictured here.  I owned the Sugar Bears one too, but who were they trying to kid with that one?  They weren't a real group! Even though I was a huge fan of their music, the Bobby Sherman and Monkeys records eluded me.  They must have been on the back of boxes containing healthier cereal.  I could have cared less about the Sugar Bears, but I was all about the sickeningly sweet stuff inside the box.

And now 4 decades later, thanks to my niece's keen consignment store shopping skills and the instinct to know when to notify me of her discoveries, I will finally own a cereal box Bobby Sherman record. 

Now only if we still had a record player.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Doing it the French way

My niece reminds me that I have a blog and that I should post something every now and then.  Truth be told, without the daily drama of having the kids around, John and I can be pretty boring.  And since the pugs sleep 22 1/2 hours a day, they don't provide much to write about either.

This coming weekend will be exciting - at least for us.  It's Dinner Club weekend and we are hosting.  With everyone driving 3 hours to get to us, that means a sleepover.  With nobody having to drive home that night, things might usually will get out of hand.

We decided to go with French food this time around.  I'm not typically a fan, but for dinner club, why not try some new things?  As I was searching for recipes, I discovered that quite a few clubs like ours have blogs of their own where they post the recipes.

Because I can't seem to find the time to write one blog, two might be out of the question.  I'll have to put it to a vote this weekend.  In the mean time, this is our menu for this weekend.  Make your own meal and we can skype you in.  The more the merrier!

Hors d'oeuvers  -
Various cheeses
French Onion Marmalade - Confit D'Oignon
Chicken Liver Pate with Pistashios

Soup -
Cream of Artichoke Soup - Creme D'Artichauts

Salad -
Zucchini-Tomato Verrines

Main Course -
Cheese Souffle
Beef Bourguignon - Beef Burgundy

VanillaCrème Brulee


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday in the Garden

I talked John into going to the Missouri Botanical Gardens last Saturday.  There was a special event happening there - the Best of Missouri Market, where local artisans and makers of all kinds of good food were selling their products.  After reading an ad in the newspaper, that's all we knew about it.  We didn't have anything special going on, so we decided to be spontaneous and drove down to it.

We arrived around noon and were shocked at the traffic.  The Gardens are (or is it the Gardens 'is'?) located in an older part of St. Louis with very narrow streets and lots of homes without garages.  The Gardens parking lot was full and the streets were packed with cars for blocks.  I credit John's parallel parking skills for squeezing our vehicle into a spot I would have never attempted.

We wandered in, and the first thing we saw was a fountain with red water.  The Cardinals are once again a force to be reckoned with, so every fountain in town is running red in support.  Really, it's hard not to be a Cardinal fan in this town.

Some local restaurants were selling food, and after meandering through the gardens for a while, we sat down and enjoyed a brat and a Schlafly Octoberfest beer.  Quite yummy.

They had 4 huge tents full of vendors and their wares.  Of course our favorites were the food booths that handed out samples.  We came home with basil and asiago cheese chicken sausage, Italian sausage and a package of Braunschweiger.  Apparently the onset of autumn means consumption of tubed meats in our household.

The Gardens were lovely.  Even John got into it - especially in the domed tropical forest.  So until we go back next spring, I leave you with these - images of a lovely afternoon in the middle of St. Louis.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cape Cod

Warning:  This posting is very self serving, and for no other purpose but to remind me of one darn good vacation.

One extremely hot day in August of 2011, we participated in a Friends of the Children of Haiti golf outing fundraiser.  In addition to the golf there was a silent auction.  To benefit the auction, a nurse who has been to Haiti with the organization several times, donated a week long stay at her family's house in Cape Cod.  John and I, along with our friends Kathy and Leroy, sat as close as we could to the bidding sheet.  Any time we saw someone bid on the vacation, Kathy pounced on it like a mother lion protecting her cubs.  We won the week, split the cost and the proceeds helped our favorite charity.  A lovely trifecta.

We could choose whatever week we wanted, and decided the second week in September would be perfect.  The "season" would be over, but shops and restaurants would still have summer hours.  It would be cooler at the beach, but we really didn't care about getting in the water.  The kids would be back in school = no crowds.

So it goes...

Saturday, Sept. 8--

Flew out that morning and arrived in Boston mid-afternoon.  We rented a Buick Enclave and took off for the Cape.  On the way, we stopped at Hanover for an early dinner and to get groceries.  We ate Italian seafood at Papa Razzi (I think I had the scallops) - the first of many outstanding meals we had that week.

We reached the house and scoped out the area.  The house is a short walk to Slough Pond, and had a nice little place to sit.  John and I took advantage of that one nice morning later on in the week, and had our morning coffee there.

Leroy tried to make a couple new friends.

Sunday, Sept 9--

Kathy and Leroy were good Catholics and went to mass.  John and I were vacation heathens and took off for a power walk instead.  When we reached the main road, we met dozens of groups of people walking the other way - some with matching shirts or hats.  One group donned tutus.  We learned that it was a group that was finishing a 3 day, 50 mile walk for MS. It started to rain, so John and I veered off our planned route and met Leroy and Kathy outside the church to catch a ride back to the house.  After a quick wardrobe change back at the house, we were off to JT's - a restaurant we had heard great things about.  (I coveted John's fried scallops.)

We pigged out and went back to the house, where Kathy assumed the position.

That was the only day it rained.  I was the only one excited about the double rainbow over the pond.

Monday, Sept. 10--

We drove to Orleans - ate at the Old Jailhouse Tavern (I had scallops), did a little shopping, stopped at a nice wine store and went for a 3 mile walk on the Rail Trail at Nickerson State Park (not necessarily in that order).

Later that evening back at the house, we noshed on cheese, pate, sausage and wine...

...and had a fire in the backyard.  It was a perfect day.

Tuesday, Sept. 11--

We drove over an hour to Provincetown, at the very tip of the cape.  We tried to get into a couple of the restaurants that were recommended to us, but one wasn't open for lunch and the other had a line of people that stretched out the door and down the block.  We ended up at Pepe's, and after consuming more seafood, we determined that it would be hard to find a bad meal anywhere on the peninsula.  

We shopped a little, and ended up at The Squealing Pig for drinks and raw oysters.  From time to time over the years, I have tried these slimy things, just to see if I still hated them.  I kept thinking, "Why do people love them?  I have to be missing something!"  I figured if I tried them in Cape Cod and still didn't like them, I never would.  

I did.  And I don't. 

Apparently Josh, our young bartender at The Pig, made very good Manhattans.  

I stepped out to take a phone call from Hannah, and when I walked back in 3 minutes later, the group had made friends with a plumber sitting at the bar, took his recommendation seriously to stay in P-town for the night and had made phone calls about reservations.  We were having too good of a time to leave, and nobody was in condition to drive back to the house.  

We checked in at the Inn, went to the store to buy toothbrushes and combs, and stopped at a little place to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset.  And Kathy needed a piece of pizza.

Then we set out to find a place to have dinner.  We attempted to eat again at the same recommended restaurant we tried earlier, and didn't want to wait 2 hours to be seated.  Again, we found a wonderful, tiny place called Devon's (I had the scallops).

Our last stop of the night was at a gay karaoke bar - only I didn't realize it was a gay bar until I was told so the next morning.  It's obvious that Provincetown is a very gay friendly town, but it didn't even occur to me that it might be a gay bar.  Maybe the drag queen emcee should have tipped me off.  Whatever - we had an awesome time.  I had enough liquid courage to get up and sing Brandy (dedicated to John) and Leroy sang a David Bowie song - couldn't begin to tell you which one.

Wednesday, Sept. 12--

We had breakfast at The Fairbanks, and we all tried to recoup from the night before.

We drove back to Brewster that morning, and chilled the rest of the day.  Kathy and I went to the beach and chilled out.  It was good.

We went to the Pheasant Inn that night for dinner.  The food was great (I had scallops).  The waitress was rude - but we chose to think of it as charming. I put my purse by my chair (seriously, where else are you going to put it?) and she kicked it as she was taking our order.  I said, "Oh, I'm sorry.  Is my purse in your way?"  Instead of the standard waitress answer, she replied in a rather deadpan manner, "Yes it is."  A few minutes later, she brought us cheese rolls and they were very tasty.  When Kathy asked her if we could buy some to take home, she snickered and walked away (think of the snooty maitre d' at Chez Paul in Ferris Bueller's Day Off).  It was like we were in a SNL skit!  We asked the owner/hostess on the way out and was told that they cheese rolls didn't hold up well the next day - a far better explanation than a mocking giggle.  We made up a story that our waitress was a bitter out of work school teacher in need of a job and was related to the owners.  Our story - sticking to it.

Thursday, Sept. 13--

Leroy drug us kicking and screaming to the Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich.  A museum? Gardens?  Really?  Are we that kind of vacation people?  Apparently we are, because it ended up being a spectacular day.  We ate lunch at the Daniel Webster Inn (I probably had scallops).  Then we hit the museum.  They had a display of cars...

... but we missed the Norman Rockwell exhibit by a few days.  It didn't matter, because Kathy and I chatted it up with a guy that worked there that could have been Norman's identical twin.  (Kathy's photos pending...)

The gardens were spectacular. Here is John being contemplative...

... Awe - Leroy and Kathy...

 ... they had a merry-go-round...

... and displays - that I don't remember what they represented, but they were still fun.

We visited Sandy Neck Beach for a little while.

Thursday night was Boy's Night Out.  The Bears played the Packers on Thursday Night Football and the one request the guys had all week was to go to a pub and watch the game.  Kathy and I dropped them off in Brewster and went back to the house and watched The Voice.  We went back to pick them up and found that they had made many new friends and had a very good night, despite the Bears loss.  

Friday, Sept 14--

Kathy and I have the best husbands in the world.  After a very lazy morning, the guys dropped us off at the E Spa for massages.  Oh baby.  They worked out all our kinks in a most wonderful way and then - AND THEN - whisked us off the the Mansion Ocean Edge Resort rooftop bar for a drink.

Then it was off to the Brewster Fish House for our final dinner in Cape Cod.  I had the scallops.

We went back to the house and had one last fire.  And Kathy finally took a shower outside.  Oh - did I not mention that?  That was one of the best showers ever!

Saturday, Sept. 15--

We packed up and left. St. Louis greeted us with an incredible sunset.

What a trip.  Can't wait to go back.