Thursday, December 18, 2008

A week before Christmas, Peanut was born!

Attendees: Martin, Jake, Athena, Julio, Simon, & Peanut (Gop stopped by to wish Peanut a happy birthday, too)
Hors D'Oeuvres:
French onion soup with Parmesan croutons
Main Course:
Rib Eyes with Bearnaise Sauce
Vegetable Tian
Baba au Rhum

I can't count how many times Peanut's birthday celebration plans have been thwarted by bars closed for private Christmas parties. Although I may not have had much to worry about this year, I wasn't going to chance it. I would host an extravagant dinner party for him and some of his nearest and dearest!

Gop was in the 'hood and stopped by to wish him a happy birthday, too- and got a cupcake out of it, too!

I was so frazzled, though, that my food pictures aren't that good. Julio and Simon's gal pal Noel had us over for drinks a while back and made a BLT dip that Patrick loved, so I decided to copy her. It's a dip flavored with bacon and sun dried tomatoes, that I even served in a hallowed out iceberg lettuce head, per her suggestion.

He wanted French onion soup as an appetizer, which required that I saute 2 and 1/2 pounds of sliced onions.

Instead of a layer of thick Gruyere and soaked bread, which i typically find too heavy, I served it with finely grated Parmesan...

and some homemade Parmesan croutons:


The side course that was requested was a Vegetable Tian, which is a layer of (more) sliced onions, covered by delicately placed sliced tomatoes, zucchini, and potatoes, and midway through baking, covered with some finely shredded Gruyere. In raw form, it looks something like this:

This is the second time I tried to make Bernaise sauce, one of my favorite ways to eat steak, and I do think that I am getting better. Be forewarned, though: It's somewhat of a cumbersome process and can't really be made too much in advance. I was so tired by this point that all you get is this blurry photo.

But I woke up again when it was time for cake! Patrick and I have really fun memories of enjoying Baba au Rhum when we were in Paris and the waiter brought us the bottle of rum syrup with the cake. I wanted to recreate that, and I did so in four stages of excitement:

First Stage of Excitement: The cake rose (those are rum-soaked currants)!

Second Stage of Excitement: It came out of the kugelhopf mold with ease!

Third Stage of Excitement: Martin artfully displayed the candles (note the whipped cream in the middle)!

Fourth Stage of Excitement: Presentation!


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Grad School Gaggle

Attendees: [Peanut], Ayopie, DJDoubleD
Pomegranate Cosmos

Pepper and Gorgonzola Bruschetta

Main Course:
Dinner Spanakopita

Caramelized Shallots and Salad

Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream

Thank god a year didn't go by without having Ayopie and DJDoubleD over for dinner. These are some of the coolest cats on the planet: Ayopie helped keep me sane during my grad school stint in Balmer, and DJDoubleD has helped keep me sane in DC ever since I moved back! I love having these two in my life, and what a perfect time to celebrate!

Preparation for tonight's dinner started mid-day with some feta:

That was incorporated into the filling for the spanakopita (a fun main course for a vegetarian dinner party)!

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. We started with a delicious bruschetta (no tomatoes AND gorgonzola? Count me SOLD!)

For a side, I thought I would try something different. The Contessa's caramelized shallots won rave reviews.

I love the taste of pumpkin, but actually don't enjoy the consistency of a pumpkin pie. So, when I saw the Contessa's recipe for a pumpkin roulade, I though: why not? It did NOT disappoint- this should be the new holiday staple! A special shout out to DJDoubleD, who was an integral part of the the presentation.

L.L. sent new place mats to Peanut for his birthday on Thursday (stay tuned)! They were immediately put to use.

An Early Christmas

Curl-y sent me a cookbook for my birthday in which she SWORE by the recipes on page 94: Banana Cream and Chip Muffins.

So, when my brothers and I decided to celebrate Christmas a few days early, I decided I would give them a shot.

Moist a delicious-- Curly-y was right! Here's a pic of Belle showing off her princess cape (my gift), before I was upstaged by the "Princess Treasure Chest" gifted by Dolly, Sheik and Bean!

Keep Curl-Y in your thoughts and prayers- I'm blogging a special wish for a speedy recovery to one of my favorite people in the world!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Party Favors

Holiday season means holiday parties, and I like to bring homemade treats to party hosts brave enough to invite Peanut and me. Last year we went a bit overboard and gave a basket filled with homemade granola, butter cookies, a mix CD, and 2 cans of Sophia champagne:

This year, I wanted to give my hosts s'more- literally! L.L. had sent me a recipe for homemade graham crackers a while back from the New York Times magazine:

That were accompanied by homemade vanilla marshmallows, that were surprisingly easy:

And packaged along with some chocolate: