Saturday, January 27, 2018

Jeepers Creepers... (Blueberry Stuffed Lychee Fruit)

...where'd you get those Peepers? 
Here's my second installment of taking back the holidays...the Valentine's Day holiday that is...Halloween style! 
The eyes are said to be 'the windows to the soul' and what better way to show your love and commitment by serving this gruesomely sweet fruit garnish of lychees and blueberries with your favorite cocktail. Doesn't it just scream, "I've only got eyes for you!" Watch the flash of uncertainty cross his face when you serve this on Valentine's Day. 💓

These Peepers are made with Lychee fruit and blueberries dripping with bloody gelatin for a realistic look. If you're intimidated by the look of them and if you've never tasted lychees, I understand if you have reservations. My kids wouldn't even try the lychees before the gory wardrobe change, despite my pleas of , "You'll like it! Trust me!" Lychees taste like a cross between pear and guava with a texture that's smooth, sweet and tropical. Add the blueberries and raspberry jello and it's truly divine. A perfect complement to your favorite tropical drink or a sweet side to martinis.

Jeepers Creepers...

(Blueberry Stuffed Lychee Fruit)
Makes ~20 peepers

1- 20oz. can of Lychee Fruit in Syrup, 1/4 c. reserved
20+ blueberries
1 small package raspberry gelatin
1 cup water

Heat 1 cup of water and dissolve gelatin, remove from heat and set aside. Drain Lychees and reserve 1/4 cup of syrup. Add 1/4 cup lychee syrup to cooling Jello. Let cool and begin to thicken but don't allow it to fully set.
Stuff lychees with blueberries and place in a shallow dish. I used a Rubbermaid deviled egg carrier and it worked like a charm. Once the Jello has thickened, use a turkey baster to portion jello mixture over the blueberries. Refrigerate until firm for about an hour. This can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerate until ready to serve. Pierce lychees with toothpick and garnish your favorite cocktail.

Here's the cocktail recipe I used in this blog. Feel free to add 1 oz. of vodka to bump it up a notch. 😀

Makes 1 drink
1 oz. Malibu Caribbean Rum with Pineapple Liqueur
1 oz. Pineapple Orange Guava Juice
1 oz. Cranberry Blueberry Juice

Here's another idea using these peepers...If you are feeding a crowd for Halloween Valentine's Day, Triple the batch, pile them high and serve them as this gruesome "Eye of the Beholder Fruit Salad!" 💕💕

Other recipes to try:

Squirmy Wormy Shots
Bloody Eyeball Bruschetta

Friday, January 26, 2018

My Bloody Valentine (Red Velvet Cake with Berry Sauce)

Valentine's day is not my favorite holiday. Honestly, it's an awful holiday. It puts ridiculous pressure on couples, new and old. And don't get me started on the number it works on all the single gals. I remember depressingly quiet and lonely Valentine's days when I was young and single. It's ironic that what was once a dreaded day to endure long ago, sounds like the perfect Valentine's Day to me today. What I'd give for a quiet evening alone...All kidding aside, what better way to improve a dreaded holiday, than by channeling my favorite holiday...Halloween

I redefined all the hearts and chocolates of Valentine's day with this cadaver quality dessert! Sure it looks like a bloody, gory mess but it is actually a  decadent heart-shaped red velvet cake. Dense and moist like a large cake pop with chocolate buttercream frosting mixed in and drizzled with a deep scarlet berry sauce! Scary enough to chase the faint of heart away. If he doesn't run, you've found yourself a keeper! Happy Valentine's Day.

My Bloody Valentine Cake

(Red Velvet Cake with Berry Sauce)
Serves 4

1 box Red Velvet Cake mix
3 T chocolate frosting*
1 heart-shaped Jello Mold 
a smidge of purple gel food coloring

Bake cake according to package directions. Cool completely. In a large bowl, crumble cake and add about 3 Tbsp chocolate frosting and mix until incorporated.

*I made my own Chocolate Buttercream (recipe below), but feel free to use ready made frosting if desired.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 T cocoa powder
1-2 T whipping cream 
Cream butter, sugar and cocoa with a hand mixer. Add whipping cream and whip until smooth. 

Place 1 cup of prepared cake/frosting mixture in a separate bowl and add a small amount of purple food coloring to darken the cake slightly. The darker cake mix will be used to make the veins of the heart. 
Using you hands roll small thin tubes of cake mix and place in the contour of the veins of the jello mold. Refrigerate veins for about 30 minutes to harden a bit before topping with more cake mixture.

Remove from refrigerator and fill mold with the lighter cake mixture and then finish the top with the remaining darker cake mix. Refrigerate overnight or until firm. 
To remove from the mold, place a plate over the mold and gently squeeze the mold until the cake releases. Now prepare the berry sauce.

Mixed Berry Sauce
1 cup frozen mixed berries (strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan and heat until bubbling. Smash berries with a potato masher. Set aside. If you want smooth sauce (blood look only) with no berries, strain it and discard the fruit. If you want it chunky, do not strain the sauce. Here's a picture of the cake with the strained sauce where the top picture is chunky style.  Enjoy!
Other recipes to try:

Black Magic Spellcakes
Valentine Peppermints
Red Velvet Brownies with Cookie Crumble Frosting

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Scallops Piccata with Lemon Jam

Happy January everyone! I'm sorry to say I have done very little blogging since December. Once my kids went back to school, I had that horrible flu for a few weeks. Totally sucked! But I'm back to health and I have a lot of plans for this year. One of the biggest plans is our kitchen remodel. I'm so excited to get a new kitchen! The downside is that I'm won't be able to blog too much during construction. However, I'm hard at work coming up with some interesting recipes to make without a kitchen, like creative crockpot meals and grilling. Mainly out of necessity so I don't have to buy fast food every night. It'll be challenging to prepare food without all my usual equipment or a kitchen sink. I also have some fun Halloween ideas in the works that I'll post in the next few days. I know you're probably thinking...Halloween? Already? The short answer is, Yes!  It's always time for fun Halloween food.
In the meantime, here is a simple and delicious main dish of sweet Scallops Piccata made with Meyer Lemon Jam. Enjoy!

Scallops Piccata with Meyer Lemon Jam

Serves 2-4

1 package angel hair pasta
extra virgin olive oil
parsley, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1/2 cup white wine
2 T Meyer Lemon Jam
2-3 T capers
1 T butter
salt and pepper
12 oz. jumbo scallops
1 T clarified butter
parsley, chopped
Meyer lemon wedges

Cook pasta according to package directions and toss with olive oil and parsley and set aside.
In a large skillet, add chicken broth and reduce to one cup. Add garlic, wine and lemon jam and bring to a simmer and heat for 5 minutes. Add capers and finish with a pat of butter. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Keep warm over low heat as you prepare the scallops.

Dry scallops with a paper towel and salt and pepper both sides. 

In a large skillet, heat clarified butter until melted and beginning to shimmer.  Add scallops and cook for two minutes on each side. Serve immediately with angel hair pasta and spoon over sauce and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. 
 Other recipes to try:

Shrimp and Andouille Sausage with Cheesy Grits
Miso Cod with Tangerine Butter
Easy Tuna Ceviche in Avocado Cups

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Holiday Decorating 2017

I love the holidays but what I love more is when the holidays are over. I put away the decorations and get back to eating normal meals and not spending so much money. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with friends and family and enjoying all the wonderfulness the holidays bring, but I really look forward to a fresh start. A new year to make my to do list and tackle each day of the new year. I have a lot of plans for this new year and as the holidays end I'm already planning for Halloween and lots and lots of recipes in between. But before I move on to New Year or Halloween, here's a quick look at my Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations this year. Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving Decorating

I went with neutrals again, but this time with white and green pumpkins with rustic and floral accents. I didn't buy anything new for my table scape this year, rather I re-purposed items from previous years. So if you look closely, you'll recognize some things from the past. The chargers, dinner plates and pumpkin plates were all purchased from The 99cent Only Store. 

The only thing I did buy were more pumpkins. I waited until they were on clearance 75% off at Michael's. Some weren't even white, they were orange and neon green. I spray painted them cream and aged them a bit with diluted brown paint. I bought the green ones, but some had dings in them.  I concealed the imperfections by turning them around or placing pumpkins or floral accents around them.

Christmas Decorating

I usually don't blog my Christmas decorating because generally I just plain run out of time. By the time I look at the pictures and start going through them, it's already end of January. So sadly I have a few years of pictures that I've never posted. But this year, I decided to just post a few of the dining room and the tree. Two years ago, I purchased both the red oval platters and the green square appetizer plates from The 99 as well as the Christmas goblets from the Dollar Tree for a total of $18. I bought the Cowboy plaid napkins at Tuesday Morning on clearance for $8. The runner, I bought on sale from Hobby Lobby for $10. Total cost for my Christmas tablescape was $36. 

This year we bought a tree that had no top stem for an angel or star to crown the tree. Instead it had a flat expanse at the top. So instead of  looking for another tree with a stem, I used the flat top to place a nest and a snowy owl. I nestled in berries and branches to radiate out of the top of the tree and I think it turned out great. My son said that there weren't enough lights at the top to light the owl up and I have to agree with him. He's kinda hard to see at night,  so I took a picture of him in the daylight. Isn't he cute?
Here's a picture of my dog, Socks crashed out next to the tree. This is how I felt every night after shopping, wrapping, and baking, all on top of my normal workload of school, homework, basketball practice, school concerts, PTA meetings and activities, cleaning, cooking, laundry... phew!

Christmas Cookies and Treats

I couldn't let all this Christmas cheer go without some Christmas Cookies. I made these for my son's teachers, PTA parents and friends and thought I'd share them here. Surprisingly, making 8 different types of cookies is easier than it sounds with the help of two really easy stand in recipes using cake mixes. The lemon Snowflake Cookies and the Spice Cake Cookies were easy to throw together because they only have three ingredients. Cake mix, 1 egg and cool whip. I dropped the lemon cookie dough in powdered sugar and the Spice Cookie dough I didn't and instead drizzled with a Maple Syrup Icing. Both turn out soft and super moist and delicious. Enjoy!

Here are the links to some of the cookies I've blogged before. The last two, I pulled from my Betty Crocker Cookbook. Enjoy!
Mini Shortbread Bites
Lemon Snowball Cookies and Spice Cake Cookies with Maple Icing
Cinnamon Cheesecake Cookies
Red Velvet Brownies with Cookie Crumble Frosting
Blackberry Oatmeal Bars 
Spritz Cookies
Russian Teacakes

Here's one more recipe...
Gingerbread Petits Fours

More Holiday decorating ideas:
Christmas 2014
Fall Decorating 2014
Fall Decorating 2015
Fall Decorating 2016

Meyer Lemon Jam

It's Meyer lemon season! Meyer lemon is a hybrid of a regular lemon that's crossed with Mandarin oranges. Small and round with thin skins, they are perfect for cooking because they are not as sour and they have a ton of juice compared to regular lemons. Here in California, I can find them in the grocery stores six months out of the year but Meyer Lemons are at their peak in the winter. I'm also fortunate that my mom has a Meyer lemon tree in her backyard so I get these little lovelies every year and lots of them beginning in late summer. How do I take advantage of these jewels before they go bad? I make jam. Don't worry, there's no canning or sterilizing needed. This is an easy freezer jam.  You may be asking yourself, so what if it's easy... What can I make with Lemon Jam? 

This jam is terrific on fish, seafood, chicken and vegetables, or simply dilute some with ice water to make a sweet lemonade or add to iced tea. Add to vodka for a refreshing lemon drop martini or tequila for a lemon Margarita. Add to a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a luscious lemon sauce. Add to cakes, scones or frostings to add a punch of lemony goodness to baked goods. Seep for a week in the fridge with vodka for a cool Limoncello for your next diner party. The possibilities are endless. In particular, I'll share my recipe for Scallops with Lemon Jam next, so keep an eye out for it. 
Next time you see some at the store, pick up a bag of Meyer lemons and make this freezer jam to use throughout the year. 
Note: If you can't find Meyer lemons, don't sweat it, substitute with regular lemons, but cut some of the pith out of the lemons so it doesn't get too bitter. Enjoy!

Meyer Lemon Jam

(slightly adapted recipe from Mario Batali)

4-5 Meyer lemons, seeded
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Cut Meyer lemons into quarters and remove seeds. Not to worry if you don't get all of the seeds because Meyer lemons have a ton of seeds (10+ per lemon), but try to get most of them. Place lemon quarters, rind and all, into a food processor and puree. Add sugar and salt and blend until smooth. Place in pint size freezer bags and freeze. Or store in a clean mason jar up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Other recipes to try:
Sweet Pepper Jam
Quick Pickled Onions

Nana's Salsa