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Quick, Simple, Fancy Appetizers

Hello Cooking Friends,

I don’t know about you, but I love quick and simple appetizers that everyone thinks took you forever to make, and are super complicated.

Baked Asparagus Citrus Habañero

Citrus Habañero Asparagus

I have two standbys that I used this weekend for a bring-appetizers-to-share event. I would like to share with you because I got so many “how did you make this?!?!” comments this weekend. I am going to share multiple variations for both just to be fair to all palates!

#1) ‘Fancy’ Asparagus

What you need: 1 bunch of asparagus, flavored olive oils, flavored balsamic vinegars, and various spices, as desired.

Preheat your oven to 350, and spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray (I prefer aluminum ones to bake-and-take-and-toss when I’m going somewhere not at a house).

Keep the rubber bands on your asparagus and rinse the stems in cold water for a few seconds. Then, using a very sharp and long knife (i.e. not a paring knife), cut the bottom 1 inch off the asparagus stems. This is key to taste and keeping the rubber bands on is key to sanity. It also lets you cut your asparagus to mostly equal length quite simply!

So now we have our rinsed, prepped asparagus, remove the rubber bands and dump the stems into your pan (layers are perfectly fine). Over top of this you will drizzle and sprinkle your olive oils and spices. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until they’re to your desired tenderness (18) or crispness (12). I usually do about 15 minutes, to get it right in the middle!

A) Citrus-Habañero: pour about 3 tablespoons of Butter Olive Oil evenly over your asparagus. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of Citrus Habañero Olive Oil evenly over top you asparagus. Bake.

B) Peppery Citrus: mix together 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1 teaspoon Lemon Pepper Olive Oil, and pour over top the asparagus. Using a peppermill or grinder, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of fresh ground pepper over top the asparagus. Bake.

C) Garlicky Mushroom & Fig: mix together 2 teaspoons each Garlic Mushroom Olive Oil and Fig Balsamic Vinegar, 1 teaspoon of dill weed, and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Pour over asparagus evenly. Bake.

D) Butter & Bacon: sprinkle about 2 teaspoons worth of Bacon!Bacon! over top, evenly. Pour 2 tablespoons of Butter Olive Oil evenly over asparagus & bacon. Bake.

E) Garden Veggie: sprinkle about 2 teaspoons each worth of Garden Veggie and Dried Tomato & Garlic Pesto mixes evenly over asparagus. Pour 2 tablespoons of Butter Olive Oil, OR pour 1 tablespoon melted butter plus 1 teaspoon Sun-dried Tomato Parmesan & Garlic Olive Oil, evenly over asparagus & spices. Bake.

**Note, 2 tablespoons butter olive oil is equivalent to just under 1/4 cup melted (unsalted) butter.

#2) Rumaki

BBQ Barbeque Rumaki Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

BBQ Rumaki

What you need: toothpicks, 1 package bacon, 2 cans diced & drained water chestnuts, sauce as desired.

Preheat oven to 350, and either line a cookie sheet with foil or use an 11×7 pan – spray either one with cooking spray.

The basics of what you will do: cut your bacon strips into thirds, and then wrap 1 of these strips around 1 diced water chestnut. Stick a toothpick through starting where the wrap ends, and going through the water chestnut to the other side. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bacon is to your taste (crisp or soft). This does 2 things for you: 1) this keeps the bacon from getting messy and going everywhere while baking, and 2) creates an instant ‘serving’ option for guests to enjoy these without getting more utensils dirty!

So here are some ways to flavor the rumaki!

A) BBQ Rumaki: Take a barbeque sauce of your choice, I used the Laurel Gray Crazy ‘Bout Butts BBQ Sauce, and pour about 1/4 cup into the bottom of your pan. Place your tooth-picked rumaki into the pan in rows, and then drizzle another 1/8 cup of the sauce over top of the rumaki. Bake.

B) Ginger-Soy Rumaki: Place your tooth-picked rumaki in the pan in rows. Meanwhile, mix together 1/8 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Butter Olive Oil (or 2 tbspn melted butter), dash of cumin, and 2 teaspoons ground ginger. For the ginger, if you happen to have pickled ginger on hand, you could substitute either 1 teaspoon of the pickled liquid OR 2 teaspoons of blended pickled ginger (solids only) for the ground ginger. Mix this well. Pour over rumaki and bake.

C) Garden Veggie Rumaki: Place your tooth-picked rumaki in the pan in rows. Sprinkle Garden Veggie and 2 tablespoons Garlic Mushroom Olive Oil over the asparagus, evenly. Bake.

So I sincerely hope that you enjoyed these, and if you try them, please let me know which version you tried (even if it’s your own) and how you liked them!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Easy Dinner – Lobster Boil

Hey Friends,

I was making some hearty meals this week and decided to make a lobster boil!

Lobster Boil – mmm!

Basically I did the following:

In an 8-quart stock pot with a strainer insert, like the below picture, fill up with about 4.5 quarts of water and set the burner to medium high heat.

Stock Pot!

Next add in the following spices (or suitable substitues) to your water and bring to a boil: 2 tspn salt, 1 tspn Garlic Garlic, 1 tspn Onion Onion, 1 tspn Wahoo Chili spice, 1 tspn Garden Veggie spice, 1 tspn fresh ground pepper, 1/2 tspn fresh ground cinnamon, and 2 tspn Lemon Pepper Olive Oil. Stir well to mix spices up evenly.

Add in your (rinsed and poked with a fork) red potatoes, I did about half of the potatoes from a 3-pound bag. Let come to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Next add in your fresh corn on the cob, which I like to chop into thirds for easier sharing and quicker cooking (hey, it works in my head, let me run with it!). Keep this at a steady boil for another 5 minutes. I used 3 ears of corn.

Veggie Boil!

Add in your chicken sausage (5 pieces), or other type of sausage and keep cooking for about 6 minutes. Finally add in your lobster tails – I added 4 for this boil. I recommend using 2 toothpicks per tail to keep them straight while they boil. Past experience speaking there! 😉 Cook about 4-5 more minutes. You may need to poke the sausage with a fork to drain the water if it gets in there while boiling! Just warning!

Drain and serve and enjoy!

Lobster Boil Plate!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baked Lamb à la Beth

Hello Cooking Friends,

I was in the mood for lamb the other night, and happened to have 4 lamb shoulder chops in my freezer. So I thawed them out, then went hunting some recipe ideas. I looked around for some inspiration of lamb chops, and really just decided to wing it… According to my brother, that turned out to be a good call. Whew and Yay!

Baked Lamb à la Beth!

First take your raw lamb (defrosted if had been frozen), and place in a pan to bake. I ended up using two 8×8 cake pans, because I was planning on doing nut and nut-free versions. Once the meat is in the pan, do the following for EACH lamb chop, in this order: pour about 1 tablespoon of Garlic Olive Oil, 1 tablespoon Rice Vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon Sundried Tomato, Parmesan & Garlic Olive Oil, 1/2 teaspoon Blood Orange Olive Oil, 1/2 teaspoon Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar, 3 shakes Dried Tomato & Garlic Pesto Mix, and 2 shakes Garden Veggie Dip Mix. I’m including the links for 2 reasons: a) you can go buy these exact items if you so chose, and b) so you know what they are & what’s in them so you can find an appropriate substitute! 

Back to cooking. Next, top your lamb-in-the-pan, evenly distributed across all chops, with 1/2 cup diced green pepper, 6 oz diced mushrooms, and 1/2 cup Walnut Chips (1 small package). If you’re only doing half of the lamb chops with nuts, like I did, then just use 1/4 cup Walnut Chips. 

Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes, and this will get you a medium-well lamb chop dish. Now, before we go on I need to explain something. I do NOT eat any meat raw-in-any-part except sushi. I get my fish well-done, my poultry extra-well done, my lamb and other red meats well done, hamburgers well-done, and so on. I saw the outside of this lamb (granted partly concealed by so much yummy vinegar-oil-veggie goodness), after 30 minutes, and thought it was well done. I sliced into it and it was still a little pink, but I tried it on a whim. It was delicious. My brother likes his meats medium-rare, but he really liked the way it came out as well. So I figured I’d let you all know in case you are in the WELL family like me! 

We had the leftovers for lunch the next day, and microwaving it for 90 seconds made the meat into well done state (but not dried out), which was still just as delicious since the juices of the oils-and-vinegars were still surrounding the meat and veggies.

Lamb with mushrooms, green peppers, oils & vinegars, oh my!

So that is how I made my lamb chops, and they turned out really well, so I recommend you try something along these lines if you like lamb (or steak or whatever other red meat you so chose), particularly with the Dark Chocolate Balsamic added – that just made it, for me. Not too sweet, but not too chocolatey either. Mmmm. 🙂 Let me know what you think! 

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking is Science for Hungry People: Triple-Chocolate Cake

Hello again baking friends!

I have become a baking fiend again in recent weeks, as I’m sure you can tell, so hope you enjoy this latest adventure I made in the kitchen!

This past weekend, my Aunt was visiting from Michigan for her 60th birthday! She doesn’t look a day over 40, though, so of course my brother found this great card that said “Happy 40th Birthday!” on it from us – she loved it!

I had asked what her favorite type of cake is, after much debate with my parents about it — and her response was “chocolate – and more chocolate!”. So I set out trying to find a good recipe to make her birthday request extra yummy. I wanted to create a Triple-Chocolate Cake for her!

Triple Chocolate Cake!

So I decided upon a recipe based from the Food Network Kitchens’ Decadent Chocolate Cake, and further plotted on making a homemade Chocolate Ganache Frosting, with a drizzle on top of Tastefully Simple’s Amazing Amaretto Chocolate Sauce (truly is amazing).

So here goes for the way I made it.

I preheated the oven to 325, and greased an 8-inch round pan, 2 mini fluted pans, and 3 mini-round pans.

Next, in a large bowl, I whisked together 2 cups flour, 1 1/3 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda (should’ve been 1/2 but it came flying out of the box!), 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon cinammon, and 3/4 teaspoon salt, until completely mixed.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I didn’t use espresso powder),  1/2 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.

In another small bowl, whisk together 1 cup lowfat Greek yogurt (I used vanilla flavored), 1/2 cup lowfat milk, 1/3 cup corn oil, 1 large egg, 1 large egg white, and mix until well blended. Mix in the cocoa mixture until fully blended together.

Gradually add in the cocoa mix to the flour, mixing continuously until fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the pans, but not to the top, then place in the center of the oven (mini pans on a cookie sheet!), and bake for 42 minutes. Yes, that is a random time, but they came out perfectly! Yay!

While your cakes are baking, you can now make your ganache frosting!

First, get your chocolate melting in a double boiler (or an improvised one of 2 pans, like I use!). Put in 3 squares each bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate, and 1/3 cup of unsalted butter. Let this sit over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is completely melted and stirred together well.

While that is working, take 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1/8 cup cocoa powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and whisk together until fully incorporated. Add 1 cup milk, 3 teaspoons Amaretto Disaronno and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and stir until fully combined. This will be more liquid then thick at this point. Which is what you want.

Once the chocolate is fully melted in the double boiler, add it to the powdered sugar mixture, and stir until fully mixed. Mix it about 3 minutes more. Trust me on this, it’s worth it. Let sit 10-15 minutes until starts to thicken.

Once your cakes are done, let them cool in the pans about 10 minutes, then put them on serving plates or wax paper to cool another 10 minutes. Once this is done, pour the ganache over top of them – or you can dip the tops if you have mini cakes, as they are small and easy to hold onto for this process! Set aside and let sit about 10 minutes until ‘frosting’ firms up. Then drizzle or drop dollops of the Amazing Amaretto Chocolate Sauce on top of the mini cakes, and across the big cake.

If you have extra Ganache, like I did, you can also dip in fruit, pretzels and other assorted goodies and let them cool on the wax paper as well!

If you’re feeling really frisky, you could add Crème Fraiche or Whipped Cream or Cool Whip on top of the cakes as well!

Voilà, ready to enjoy!

Mini cakes and ganache-dipped pretzels – mmm!

Once it’s cut open, it’s anyone’s treat!

Until next time, hope you enjoy this cake, or at least the look of it, and have a great week!

Craft you later,
Beth

Upcoming Parties

Hello Party Peoples,

Hope everyone enjoyed their weekends, and had a great time. I actually went to Raleigh and had my annual birthday hockey game with my dad – we saw the Carolina Hurricanes defeated in Overtime 4-3 by the Tampa Bay Lightning, on an arguably horrible call after an unarguably terrifying collision of Stahl-Garon. It was a really good game otherwise, though!

Then I went to the Southern Spring Show in Charlotte Sunday and got some really good ideas for upcoming projects. I was REALLY bad at the show, though, and in 45 minutes spent $186 in stuff, so I decided my hands were ‘full’ from then on, and I could only look, not touch! It went okay, surprisingly, but it was a challenge to resist all the wonderful stuff there!

So I have some parties with friends that I would really like to try out in the next few months. See what you think, and let me know your thoughts!

Wine Slushes!

1) Nectar of the Vine Slushie and Darby Creek Soup Tasting Party – There is a really good thing about having 35+ bottles of wine in your house: you can do wine tastings galore! And what goes better with cold wine slushies than nice hot soups?!?

Soup Samples!

2) Miche Bag Party– I am a very low-key, non-style-focused woman, and not afraid to admit it. But sometimes it’s nice to ‘play’ like all the other girls, and look like you have a care for fashion, right?!? That is where Miche is in my WOOHOO list of products to have. A purse that you change the outside to match your outfit or mood, instead of having to completely switch purses?!?! Yes please!!!

Miche Bags & Shells

3) Tastefully Simple Party– these products are SO delicious that I absolutely have to have a party for my friends to come try and buy with me! Beer bread, potato soup and chocolate pound cake are calling my name like it’s going out of style!

Tastefully Simple Beer Bread!

I picked up all of these things (except Tastefully Simple) at the Southern Spring Show, and since none of my friends that like that stuff could make it out to the show, I thought I could maybe bring it to them… well have them come to me where I will host it, but you know what I mean, right?!? 😉

So I am pretty excited but now I need to find a time to do all of these things, but I am pretty darned excited to be able to host everyone for this type of thing! Gotta love the planning and plotting of parties, right m’friends?!?

Craft You Later,
Beth

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