“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Brunch at Bobby’s Cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Brunch at Bobby’s Cookbook

For the cookbook club’s first meeting of 2016, we cooked from Brunch at Bobby’s cookbook by Bobby Flay. Cookbook club is no stranger to Bobby Flay’s recipes – in fact, we cooked from his Boy Meets Grill cookbook in 2014.

Brunch at Bobby’s cookbook by Bobby Flay

Brunch at Bobby’s cookbook by Bobby Flay

As the title indicates, this cookbook features 140 recipes for Bobby’s favorite meal of the week – brunch. I find brunch to be a treat as well. It’s an easy meal to be laid back, enjoy a cocktail and splurge on indulgent entrees and other treats not normally eaten during the week’s meals.

Terri hosted this cookbook club dinner. To kick off the New Year, we invited our husbands to join us for this gathering – and some helped with onsite cooking, typical with certain brunch items that need to be made fresh.

This cookbook gets the brunch party started with simple and exciting drinks – both spiked and virgin, iced and hot coffees and teas. So we felt it appropriate for our brunch meal to begin in the same fashion. Sharon made an Earl Grey Spritzer. It was delicious simple syrup saturated with the tea and poured over crisp champagne.

Earl Grey Spritzer

Earl Grey Spritzer

Val made Sangria Sunrise. It consisted of a blend of fruits – pineapple, orange, and blackberries – with the fruity red wine bleeding down into the orange base.

Sangria Sunrise

Sangria Sunrise

The drinks were appealing both visually and to the taste!

Terri chose to divide the brunch meal into three sections – starters, entrees and sides and a sweet ending. To kick off the starters, Val made tropical fruit salad with ginger syrup. It was a refreshing combination of tropical fruits – a far cry from your typical fruit salad.

Tropical fruit salad with ginger syrup

Tropical fruit salad with ginger syrup

Sharon made pumpkin-cranberry scones. The combination of pumpkin and ginger, peppered with the dried cranberries made for the moistest scones I may have ever eaten. They were a treat that I treasured the next morning as well.

Pumpkin-cranberry scones

Pumpkin-cranberry scones

Sharon also made our savory starter dish – Fig jam, ham and cheese Panini. The blend of sweet (from the jam), salty (from the prosciutto), peppery (from the arugula) and creamy (from the cheese) is an amazing combination for the grilled sandwich and one that I’ll need to make again!

Fig jam, ham and cheese Panini

Fig jam, ham and cheese Panini

The main course featured a decadent take on the brunch classic eggs benedict and ratcheted it up several notches. Terri made crab cakes benedict with Old Bay hollandaise on Johnnycakes. It’s a rather involved recipe because it consists of four elements that come together to create this multi-layered dish.

Crab cakes benedict with Old Bay hollandaise on Johnnycakes

Crab cakes benedict with Old Bay hollandaise on Johnnycakes

And Terri cooked the dish to each person’s likings to accommodate for any seafood and egg allergies.

The dish was cooked to each person’s likings.

The dish was cooked to each person’s likings.

 

Accompanying the benedict were three sides. Terri made rosemary home fries with pancetta, Parmesan and parsley. The potatoes were wonderfully crispy and flavored with a salty (from the pancetta) and peppery (from the red pepper flakes) combination.

Rosemary home fries with pancetta, Parmesan and parsley

Rosemary home fries with pancetta, Parmesan and parsley

Pat made the other two dishes to complete our entrée portion. For our breakfast meat, she made the maple-mustard-glazed Canadian bacon. Another wonderful blend of flavors that elevates the dish.

Maple-mustard-glazed Canadian bacon

Maple-mustard-glazed Canadian bacon

Pat also made the tomato strata. While this recipe is listed under the “savory side dishes” section of the cookbook, it could serve as a side or as a brunch entrée. The baked dish is bursting with tomato flavor. It would be a great dish to make when the local tomatoes are available.

Tomato strata

Tomato strata

 

Concluding our cookbook club’s brunch was a sweet ending. I stepped aside in cooking for this meal and my husband took over the chef’s apron. Mike made double chocolate pancakes with salted caramel sauce. He spotted the recipe right after the cookbook arrived and was dying to try it.

Double chocolate pancakes with salted caramel sauce

Double chocolate pancakes with salted caramel sauce

For anyone who thinks chocolate-chip pancakes are a decadent treat, this raises breakfast pancakes to a whole other level. Surprisingly the pancakes were not overly sweet or heavy. The addition of the caramel sauce, raspberries and dusting of confectioner’s sugar put this dish into the dessert category in my opinion.

In total, ten dishes were made from the Brunch at Bobby’s cookbook. Everyone in the group had a difficult time deciding what to make because there are so many delicious recipes packed into this cookbook. I will definitely be trying out several more – maybe even for those Easter and Mother’s Day brunch celebrations forthcoming!

 

Have you ever hosted a brunch gathering?

What’s your favorite brunch recipe/ dish?

 

Disclaimer:  While the cookbook book club was provided with copies of Brunch at Bobby’s cookbook, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience.

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“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Fabio’s American Home Kitchen Cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Fabio’s American Home Kitchen Cookbook

For the cookbook club’s November 2015 meeting, we cooked from Fabio’s American Home Kitchen cookbook by Fabio Viviani. You may recognize Fabio as he appeared on the Bravo television show “Top Chef” and was voted as the “fan favorite” by viewers. He returned to the show for an edition of “Top Chef All Stars” and recently appeared on the FoodNetwork television show “Cutthroat Kitchen – All Stars.”

For the cookbook club’s November 2015 meeting, we cooked from Fabio’s American Home Kitchen cookbook by Fabio Viviani.

For the cookbook club’s November 2015 meeting, we cooked from Fabio’s American Home Kitchen cookbook by Fabio Viviani.

This cookbook features more than 125 recipes for his favorite American dishes, infused with his own special Italian flair, which he cooks for family and friends. Chef Fabio Viviani was born and raised in Florence, Italy. That’s where he perfected the classic Italian cooking that has made him famous. In addition to being a chef and cookbook author, he also is the proprietor for several restaurants in the California, Chicago and Miami areas.

This cookbook features more than 125 recipes for his favorite American dishes, infused with his own special Italian flair, which Fabio cooks for family and friends.

This cookbook features more than 125 recipes for his favorite American dishes, infused with his own special Italian flair, which Fabio cooks for family and friends.

Pat hosted this cookbook club gathering. This was our last meeting for 2015 – and what better way to start the holiday season early than with a delicious meal and in the company of good friends!

Sharon and I were charged with the evening’s appetizers. I made the Leek and Brie Pie.

Leek and Brie Pie

Leek and Brie Pie

It was delicious with the combination of the leeks, which were sautéed in butter and white wine, the Brie cheese that was piled on top of pastry dough. The recipe was very easy. I will be making this again, and possibly adding some bacon into it.

The recipe was very easy. I will be making this again!

The recipe was very easy. I will be making this again!

Sharon made Roasted Apricot Tapenade and served it with toasted French bread.

Roasted Apricot Tapenade, served with toasted French bread.

Roasted Apricot Tapenade, served with toasted French bread.

It was a tasty combination of flavors from the mashed apricots coupled with the fresh herbs of rosemary and basil. In the cookbook, it also mentions that this works well as a sauce for roasted meat. I could definitely see using this with chicken or pork.

Moving on to the core entrée of our dinner, Pat made Rolled Flank Steak with Mint Pesto.

Rolled Flank Steak with Mint Pesto

Rolled Flank Steak with Mint Pesto

This dish takes your classic grilled flank steak and elevates it to a level of elegance and makes an impressive presentation to the meat. I enjoyed the blend of the steak and the mint pesto.

Accompanying the steak were three sides. Terri made the Pasta with Bacon, Tomato and Pecorino.

Pasta with Bacon, Tomato and Pecorino

Pasta with Bacon, Tomato and Pecorino

I’ve made a few of Fabio’s pasta recipes from this cookbook since obtaining it, but hadn’t made this one. I’m glad it was selected. The pasta had a rich smoky taste. Everyone loved the dish and I’m betting several will make it again.

Susan made the other two side dishes. For our vegetable, she made the Yellow Squash Casserole.

Yellow Squash Casserole

Yellow Squash Casserole

It’s a wonderful dish that brought out the richness of the mascarpone cheese and the sweetness of the yellow squash. This would be a perfect dish for fall holidays or in the summer when the yellow squash is abundant.

Finally, Susan also made the Savory Mini Muffins.

Savory Mini Muffins

Savory Mini Muffins

Even though they were listed in the brunch section of the cookbook, they worked as a side to our meal. The muffins were very light and airy.

While the overall dinner featured six appetizing dishes from the cookbook, I know there will be many more I will be cooking for dinners.

The main dinner featured six appetizing dishes from the cookbook - but wait, dessert's coming!

The main dinner featured six appetizing dishes from the cookbook – but wait, dessert’s coming!

Concluding our cookbook club dinner was a chocoholic’s paradise. I had seen the recipe for Really Easy Mississippi Mud Pie in the cookbook and asked our dessert expert, Sharon, if she would make it for us. She did and it was the perfect ending to our meal.

Really Easy Mississippi Mud Pie

Really Easy Mississippi Mud Pie

Sharon said the recipe was very easy, which is great because I think all of us will want to make it again. The pie was rich and decadent. You only need a small piece to satisfy your chocolate tooth, which makes the pie feed a large number – or perfect for seconds and thirds!

For our “take home treats,” I made the Chocolate Currant Cookies.

Chocolate Currant Cookies

Chocolate Currant Cookies

The recipe indicates it yields one dozen cookies, but I found it to make almost double that amount. I doubled the recipe so that I would have enough for other events I was heading to after cookbook club.

The cookies packaged well for an impressively looking treat.

The cookies packaged well for an impressively looking treat.

The cookies packaged well for an impressively looking treat. They were so amazingly rich and you don’t even notice the currants other than their added sweetness. I would make them again and highly recommend using your stand mixer to make it easy.

In total, eight dishes were made from the Fabio American Home Kitchen cookbook. I will definitely be trying out several more!

In total, eight dishes were made from the Fabio American Home Kitchen cookbook.

In total, eight dishes were made from the Fabio American Home Kitchen cookbook.

 

Our next gathering will be in February 2016. We will be cooking from Bobby Flay’s “Brunch at Bobby’s” cookbook.

For our next gathering, we will be cooking from Bobby Flay’s “Brunch at Bobby’s” cookbook.

For our next gathering, we will be cooking from Bobby Flay’s “Brunch at Bobby’s” cookbook.

I can’t wait to try a brunch meal with the cookbook club group!

 

Are you familiar with Fabio Viviani from the Top Chef cooking show?

What’s your favorite Italian-inspired recipe/ dish?

 

Disclaimer:  While the cookbook book club was provided with copies of Fabio’s American Home Kitchen cookbook, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event.

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – The Skinnytaste and The CSA Cookbooks

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – The Skinnytaste and The CSA Cookbooks

For the cookbook club’s September 2015 meeting, we cooked from The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka and The CSA Cookbook by Linda Ly and Will Taylor.

The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka and The CSA Cookbook by Linda Ly and Will Taylor.

The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka and The CSA Cookbook by Linda Ly and Will Taylor.

The Skinnytaste cookbook features 150 flavorful recipes that are low-calorie and made from all-natural, easy-to-find ingredients. The CSA cookbook features 105 seasonal recipes targeted to helping you cook your way through your CSA farm share or farmers’ market bounty using every edible part of the plant, from leaves and flowers to stems and seeds.

Sharon hosted our evening. The group was on summer hiatus for a few months so it was good to catch up with everyone – and what better way than over a delicious meal! We started the evening with two appetizers from The CSA Cookbook.

Bacon and Parmesan stuffed and roasted baby bell peppers from the CSA Cookbook.

Bacon and Parmesan stuffed and roasted baby bell peppers from the CSA Cookbook.

Pat made bacon and Parmesan stuffed and roasted baby bell peppers. Not only are they a cute appetizer but they also a wonderful mix of savory flavors. They were a hit at the dinner as well as with the hubbies who enjoy our leftovers, if we share.

Gruyere grilled cheese with chard and caramelized onion from the CSA Cookbook

Gruyere grilled cheese with chard and caramelized onion from the CSA Cookbook

For our second starter from the CSA cookbook, Terri made the Gruyere grilled cheese with chard and caramelized onion. She cut them into appetizer-sized portions. Thankfully she did, because the mini-sandwiches were so delicious that I would have eaten many more. The cooking method detailed in the recipe is a very clever way to make a large amount of sandwiches all at once in the oven, without sacrificing the crispiness.

Sharon made the core entrée of our dinner – butternut squash lasagna rolls from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Butternut squash lasagna rolls from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Butternut squash lasagna rolls from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

It’s a lighter version of traditional lasagnas as it’s packed with vegetables and made in rolls instead of layers – helping to keep the portion size in check. The lasagna rolls are stuffed with spinach and cheese, then topped with a creamy butternut Parmesan sauce and baked in the oven. With the fall season upon us, this is a perfect dish to use the local produce. It was wonderful for dinner, and great for day two lunch leftovers.

The Skinnytaste buttermilk oven “fried” chicken.

The Skinnytaste buttermilk oven “fried” chicken.

Adding another protein packed entrée to our dinner, Susan made the Skinnytaste buttermilk oven “fried” chicken. It’s the lighter version of a popular favorite dish, without the guilt. The chicken was moist and flavorful from the buttermilk soaking.

Accompanying the lasagna and chicken were two sides. Val made Greek chickpea salad from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Greek chickpea salad from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Greek chickpea salad from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

This protein-packed, Mediterranean-inspired salad could serve either as a side or as a great meatless main-dish option. It has a wonderful combination of fresh vegetables and feta, dressed with a very light lemon dressing.

I made the second side dish, which were balsamic-roasted green beans from the CSA cookbook. True to the cookbook, I did use fresh green beans from my CSA farm share.

Balsamic-roasted green beans from the CSA cookbook.

Balsamic-roasted green beans from the CSA cookbook.

I’ve roasted many vegetables, but never thought of roasting green beans. The combination of the high-heat roasting along with my 12-year old balsamic vinegar gave the beans a beautiful carmalization and deep flavor.

The overall dinner plate was a delicious assortment of foods from both cookbooks.

The overall dinner plate was a delicious assortment of foods from both cookbooks.

The overall dinner plate was a delicious assortment of foods from both cookbooks.

No cookbook club meeting would be complete without dessert, and we were lucky enough to have two at the meal and one for our take home treat!  Susan made the silky chocolate cream pie from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Silky chocolate cream pie from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Silky chocolate cream pie from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

This version has a secret ingredient: silken tofu. It had a delicious graham cracker crust and a light pudding-like quality for the filling.

Using some of the fruits of the season, I made warm apple-pear crumble, also from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Warm apple-pear crumble, from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Warm apple-pear crumble, from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

It uses thinly sliced pears and folds them in with Gala apples, honey, cinnamon, brown sugar and oats to make something warm and sweet – perfect on a chilly autumn evening. I’m thinking this would be a great dessert for the upcoming fall holidays and it clocks in at under 200 calories per serving.

For our “take home treats,” Sharon made double chocolate chunk walnut cookies from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Double chocolate chunk walnut cookies from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

Double chocolate chunk walnut cookies from the Skinnytaste cookbook.

They were so amazingly rich that you wouldn’t believe it’s a “light-in-calorie” recipe. Helping to make the cookies rich and light is the use of avocados in place of butter. In addition to having one myself, I tested them out on a few friends. Everyone loved them and did not detect the taste of avocados at all.

In total, nine dishes were made from the CSA and Skinnytaste cookbooks. I can’t wait to try out a bunch more recipes from each cookbook!

Our next gathering will be in November. We will be cooking from Fabio’s American Home Kitchen cookbook.

For our next gathering will be cooking from Fabio’s American Home Kitchen cookbook.

For our next gathering will be cooking from Fabio’s American Home Kitchen cookbook.

I’m sure it will be another delicious time!

 

Do you have any favorite recipes that you’ve made into a “skinny” version?

Do you try to use the season’s fresh produce in your cooking?

 

 

Disclaimer:  While the cookbook book club was provided with copies of the Skinnytaste and CSA cookbooks, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience with the products.

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – The Pollan Family Table Cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – The Pollan Family Table Cookbook

For our April 2015 meeting of the cookbook club, we focused our cooking on The Pollan Family Table cookbook by Corky, Lori, Dana and Tracy Pollan.

The Pollan Family Table cookbook

The Pollan Family Table cookbook

After years of calling each other to ask about family recipes, Corky, who writes for the Cooking Channel blog and is also former style director at Gourmet magazine and former Best Bets editor at New York Magazine, and her three daughters collected three generations of the family’s recipes. They have shared more than 100 of their best in this cookbook. In addition to the recipes and beautiful corresponding photographs, the cookbook is organized so that each recipe has a pantry and market list of ingredients, making it easy to shop and plan dinners. I thought that feature was really clever.

Susan hosted our evening and had snapdragon flowers on the table to signify spring – that finally arrived here in Connecticut! We began the evening with two appetizers made by Pat. While the cookbook doesn’t have a specific section labeled as appetizers, we purposed a few items as our “starters.”

Spicy chunky guacamole

Spicy chunky guacamole

The spicy chunky guacamole is perfect with chips. The recipe allows you to customize it to be as mild or spicy as you like it. Pat opted for the mild side. The guacamole was creamy and cool tasting. In following one of the recipe’s helpful tips, Pat kept the avocado pit in the center to help prevent the guacamole from turning brown – and it worked!

Crispy parmesan-zucchini chips

Crispy parmesan-zucchini chips

Our second appetizer, also made by Pat, was the crispy parmesan-zucchini chips. The recipe is a healthy version of fried zucchini but it’s baked in the oven and still has all the flavors. We loved the zucchini chips and left the platter empty!

The centerpiece for our meal was chicken marsala with mushrooms and sage made by Susan.

Chicken marsala with mushrooms and sage

Chicken marsala with mushrooms and sage

The combination of sage, mushrooms and marsala wine made a wonderful, rich sauce. The chicken was very tender. I could see myself making this recipe for a weekday dinner or for weekend entertaining.

Accompanying the chicken were several sides. Val made the rich and creamy polenta and it held true to the recipe’s name.

Rich and creamy polenta

Rich and creamy polenta

We enjoyed using the polenta as the base for the chicken marsala. The richness of the polenta and the mushroom and sage sauce was an amazing combination.

For our second side, I made the creamy spinach pasta alfredo with crispy pancetta. I will admit that I substituted turkey bacon for pancetta, as I have not had good luck cooking with pancetta.

Creamy spinach pasta alfredo with crispy pancetta

Creamy spinach pasta alfredo with crispy pancetta

This dish begins as your typical pasta with alfredo sauce. However, with the addition of the spinach and pancetta/ turkey bacon it rises to new heights. It’s a perfect “all-in-one” meal because you have many of the food groups represented in one dish.

I also made the crispy garlic bread.

Crispy garlic bread fresh from the oven!

Crispy garlic bread fresh from the oven!

It was a very simple recipe to make and can be a nice compliment to many entrees.

The meal wouldn’t have been complete without the cookbook’s hallmark dish – the Pollan signature salad. I was very excited that Sharon signed up to make it!

The Pollan signature salad

The Pollan signature salad

The salad is a delicious combination of lettuce, caramelized walnuts, pears and shaved Parmesan cheese. If those ingredients didn’t already have you salivating, the dressing that topped it was light and bursting with flavor.

To cap off a beautiful meal, Terri made Hallie’s Mixed Berry pie.

Hallie’s Mixed Berry pie

Hallie’s Mixed Berry pie

The pie is filled with blueberries and raspberries coupled with a hint of lemon from the fresh lemon juice and zest. It was delicious and definitely worth a diet cheat.

Packing up a slice to take home!

Packing up a slice to take home!

When my husband saw this pie was the dessert, he told me to make sure I brought a piece home!

For our “take home treats,” Susan made Esme’s S’mores cookies and Mack and Cam’s mini pecan tarts. I love that the cookbook gives credit to the extended family members (in this case the grandchildren) who developed these recipes. Esme, Michael J Fox and Tracy Pollan’s daughter, developed the cookie recipe. She sold them as part of a cookie business she started with all the proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Esme’s S’mores cookies and Mack and Cam’s mini pecan tarts

Esme’s S’mores cookies and Mack and Cam’s mini pecan tarts

Both sweet treats were delicious. I always enjoy having something to indulge on after our dinner. It’s a great way to extend the fun!

In total, ten dishes were made from the Pollan Family Table cookbook.

Ten dishes were made from the Pollan Family Table cookbook.

Ten dishes were made from the Pollan Family Table cookbook.

I know there are several other recipes in the cookbook that I am anxious to try very soon!

Our next gathering will be in June. We will be cooking from the “Skinnytaste” and “CSA” cookbooks.

We will be cooking from the “Skinnytaste” and “CSA” cookbooks in June.

We will be cooking from the “Skinnytaste” and “CSA” cookbooks in June.

I can’t wait to see – and taste – all the delicious recipes we’ll be sampling then.

 

Does your family have special recipes handed down to generations? If so, what’s your favorite?

Does your family gather together for dinners?

 

 

Disclaimer:  While the cookbook book club was provided with copies of The Pollan Family Table cookbook, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – America: Farm to Table Cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – America: Farm to Table Cookbook

For our first meeting of 2015 and commemorating the cookbook club’s 1-year anniversary, we focused our cooking on the cookbook America: Farm to Table by Mario Batali.

America: Farm to Table cookbook by Mario Batali

America: Farm to Table cookbook by Mario Batali

In his latest cookbook, the world-renown chef pays homage to the American farmer, whom he deems as the “rock stars” of the food world, through stories, photos and 100 tasty recipes from 14 farms across America. He celebrates their high quality products and their culture defined by hard work, integrity and pride.

In carrying out the evening’s theme, I obtained a few items that showcase Mario’s products and style at each person’s place setting. Yes, it was true Molto Mario right down to the orange croc keychains!

I obtained a few items that showcase Mario’s products and style at each person’s place setting, including the orange crocs!!

I obtained a few items that showcase Mario’s products and style at each person’s place setting, including the orange crocs!!

For an appetizer, I made zucchini fries with tomato aioli. The zucchini have a crispy baked exterior from the panko breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. With the tomato aioli for dipping, it made for a decadent yet healthy starter. I will be making these again very soon!

Zucchini fries with tomato aioli

Zucchini fries with tomato aioli

To start the meal, Terri made the Focaccia Panzanella.

Focaccia Panzanella

Focaccia Panzanella

Panzanella is a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and basil, dressed in a red-wine vinegar and olive oil. I can’t wait to make this in the summer when the local tomatoes are in season!

For the main entrée, I made the Barbeque Chicken Thighs with lentils and green apple vinaigrette. I thought it was fitting to begin the New Year with a lentil dish since Italian-American families endure the tradition of welcoming in the New Year with various lentil dishes, symbolizing wealth. In fact, Mario Batali himself said, “It wouldn’t be New Year’s in Italy without lentils.”

Barbeque Chicken Thighs with lentils and green apple vinaigrette.

Barbeque Chicken Thighs with lentils and green apple vinaigrette.

This chicken dish combined a variety of flavors from the pesto-like overnight marinade, the rustic lentil base and the apple, Dijon vinaigrette topping. It was delicious.

Accompanying the chicken were two sides. Terri made the Risi Bisi, sweet pea risotto. While risotto is served year round in northern Italy, especially where there are more rice and cornfields than there are wheat fields, the flavor of risotto varies by season. So in the early spring when peas are being harvested, this version is the hero.

Risi Bisi, sweet pea risotto.

Risi Bisi, sweet pea risotto.

The risotto had a wonderful creamy texture and a salty bite from the diced prosciutto. I could have eaten the entire bowl!

For our second side, Susan made the prosciutto, goat cheese and green bean roll-ups. While this recipe is listed in the appetizer section of the cookbook, we chose to serve is as one of the sides and it held up well with the chicken and risotto.

Prosciutto, goat cheese and green bean roll-ups

Prosciutto, goat cheese and green bean roll-ups

I had seen similar prosciutto roll-ups that are typically made with roasted asparagus, but this version adds a twist to the traditional by kicking it up with the goat cheese and the roasted thin green beans. I think this would be perfect for the upcoming spring holidays!

If we weren’t full enough, Sharon made a beautiful strawberry-mascarpone olive oil cake. I’ve had olive oil cake before and was surprised at how flavorful it was.

Wtrawberry-mascarpone olive oil cake

Strawberry-mascarpone olive oil cake

The olive oil cake is a courser cake than you may be familiar with, but the blend of the mascarpone filling, whipped cream frosting and the berries makes for an amazing combination.

The blend of the mascarpone filling, whipped cream frosting and the berries makes for an amazing combination with the olive oil cake!

The blend of the mascarpone filling, whipped cream frosting and the berries makes for an amazing combination with the olive oil cake!

For our “take home treat,” Susan made almond and honey brittle.

Almond and honey brittle

Almond and honey brittle

The candy was crunchy and highly addictive!

In total, seven dishes were made for the America: Farm to Table cookbook.

Seven dishes were made for the America: Farm to Table cookbook

Seven dishes were made for the America: Farm to Table cookbook

The dinner was a beautifully balanced meal, delicious with every bite – or as we say in Italian, “Molto Bene” meaning very good!

The dinner was Molto Bene!

The dinner was Molto Bene!

We had another delicious meal and enjoyed everyone’s company, especially after being cooped up from the snowy winter!

Our next gathering will be in April. We chose the “Pollan Family Table” cookbook to build our next meal.

We chose the “Pollan Family Table” cookbook for our next meeting.

We chose the “Pollan Family Table” cookbook for our next meeting.

 

Have you ever made any of Mario Batali’s recipes? If so, which is your favorite?

Which of these recipes do you think you’ll be making soon?

 

Disclaimer:  While the cookbook book club was provided with copies of the America: Farm to Table cookbook, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience. 

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Buvette and Indulge Cookbooks

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Buvette and Indulge Cookbooks

For our fifth and final meeting for 2014, the cookbook book club focused our cooking on two books: Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams; and Indulge: Delicious Little Desserts that Keep Life Sweet by Kathy Wakile. We decided to use two cookbooks for this meeting because Buvette didn’t have many dessert recipes and Indulge is strictly a dessert cookbook.

Buvette and Indulge Cookbooks

Buvette and Indulge Cookbooks

I will admit that upon first review of the Buvette cookbook, the group was slightly intimidated by the primarily French-style recipes. But Terri, our host for this dinner, reviewed the book and made suggestions of dishes that are less complicated and she even pre-tested a few.

In carrying out the evening’s theme, we began with a glass of French wine and/or Prosecco.

Dinner started with french wine and prosecco

Dinner started with french wine and prosecco

To accompany the wine, we had a beautiful selection of appetizers!

We had a beautiful selection of appetizers!

We had a beautiful selection of appetizers!

Terri made the cheeseboard with marinated olives, orange zest and red chiles. It was filled with so many yummy items. I had to try them all!

Marinated olives, orange zest and red chiles.

Marinated olives, orange zest and red chiles.

Buvette photo 8

Terri also made gourgeres, which are a baked, savory choux pastry (a light dough used to make éclairs, profiteroles and puffed pastry) mixed with cheese. They are similar in texture to a cream puff pastry but savory instead of sweet. Terri commented that they are easy to make. I thought they were heavenly.

Gourgeres, which are a baked, savory choux pastry, mixed with cheese.

Gourgeres, which are a baked, savory choux pastry, mixed with cheese.

For our final appetizer, I made apple and cheese fricos, commonly known in America as a cheese crisp. I made a few modifications to the recipe, which turned out to be just as good as the original. Instead of frying the frico, I baked them. And I used Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese instead of Montasio cheese. The secret to successfully making them is to use a sil-pad or parchment paper and allow the frico to stiffen a little once out of the oven before folding them over.

Apple and cheese fricos hot from the oven!

Apple and cheese fricos hot from the oven!

The frico were delicious with the apple and sage inside. I would definitely make them again and think they would be wonderful paired with a bowl of soup, chili or stew.

Apple and cheese fricos

Apple and cheese fricos

Terri asked us to proceed into the dining room, which was set in a fall theme, to begin the entrée portion of the meal.

A fall-themed tablescape.

A fall-themed tablescape.

Instead of beginning our meal with a salad, I made the roasted heirloom apples with sausage from the Buvette cookbook.

Roasted heirloom apples with sausage

Roasted heirloom apples with sausage

The recipe was very simple to make. The house smelled amazing from the baked apples, sausage, sage and white wine. The smell reminded me of Thanksgiving stuffing. Terri plated the apples singly for each person.

Singly-plated roasted heirloom apples with sausage

Singly-plated roasted heirloom apples with sausage

As one of the sides for our meal, Sharon made cauliflower gratin. She commented that the recipe was easy to prepare and allowed the dish to be partially made ahead and finished just before serving. There were big pieces of cauliflower laced with yummy Gruyere cheese. It was a perfect dish for a crisp, cool evening.

Cauliflower gratin

Cauliflower gratin

Terri plated the cauliflower gratin on top of a romaine lettuce leaf to follow the tasting courses theme.

Cauliflower gratin on top of a romaine lettuce leaf

Cauliflower gratin on top of a romaine lettuce leaf

For our main dinner entrée, Terri made chicken ala moutarde. The original recipe calls for the dish to be made with rabbit, but specifies that can be substituted with chicken. Terri commented that the dish was easy to make and that she would make it again. The dish’s mild flavors and tender textures go beautifully with its simple, creamy mustard sauce. I enjoyed every bite.

Chicken ala moutarde

Chicken ala moutarde

You’ll want to serve the chicken ala moutarde with plenty of good bread to sop up all the flavorful sauce – and we did! Pat made schiacciata bread, which is a focaccia-type flatbread.

Schiacciata bread

Schiacciata bread

She admitted to never before making bread from scratch with yeast. She did a great job! The bread was light, airy and flavorful.

While we were first intimidated with the Buvette cookbook, we quickly realized that it’s a wonderful collection of French country cooking that meets Italian peasant food style. I think it’s safe to say that many of the recipes we tried will be made again!

For desserts, we featured recipes from Kathy Wakile’s Indulge cookbook. Val made chocolate chili brownie bites. She paired them with vanilla ice cream. Upon first bite, you may think there isn’t enough chili spice to them, but it catches up with you in the after bite.

Chocolate chili brownie bites

Chocolate chili brownie bites

For our “take-home treat,” Susan made beach baby blondies and bitsy brunettes. While she had initially decided on making just the beach baby blondies, she added the bitsy brunettes because blondes can’t have all the fun – ha! Both items were delicious and wonderful treats to share.

Beach baby blondies and bitsy brunettes for take-home treats!

Beach baby blondies and bitsy brunettes for take-home treats!

Many of the desserts in the Indulge cookbook are for what I would call “finger” desserts. Perfect dessert treats suitable for a tasting party.

In total, ten dishes were made from the Buvette and Indulge cookbooks.

In total, ten dishes were made from the Buvette and Indulge cookbooks.

In total, ten dishes were made from the Buvette and Indulge cookbooks.

We had another delicious meal and enjoyed everyone’s company before engaging in the holiday madness.

Our next gathering will be in February. We chose Mario Batali’s new cookbook, “America: Farm to Table.”

Mario Batali’s new cookbook, “America: Farm to Table.”

Mario Batali’s new cookbook, “America: Farm to Table.”

 

Have you ever made a French country style dinner?

Have you tried any of the recipes from the Bravo channel Housewives?

 

Disclaimer:  While the cookbook book club was provided with copies of the Buvette and Indulge cookbooks, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event. 

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook

For our fourth meeting of the “Food for Thought” cookbook book club, we focused on Betty Crocker’s “Picture Cookbook” with an emphasis on retro recipes.

Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook - the 1950's version.

Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook – the 1950’s version.

I thought Betty Crocker was an actual person who built the empire. In searching for my retro recipes, I discovered that there wasn’t a person with that name.

Betty Crocker is an icon built by the Gold Medal Flour Company. It was born in 1921 during a promotion the company ran. The company received thousands of promotion responses and a flood of baking questions. The name “Betty Crocker” was created to personalize the consumer inquiry responses. Crocker was chosen to honor a popular, recently retired director of the company. Betty was chosen simply as a friendly sounding name. Within a few years, the consumer demand for baking information, fueled by the popularity of Betty Crocker spawned the beginning of the home service department, and ultimately the Betty Crocker Kitchens.

Betty Crocker has been a cultural icon and part of families’ food traditions – not to mention a trusted source of recipes and homemaking know how – for more than 90 years. So when Susan decided to host this gathering and selected the cookbook, she asked that we carry out the true retro style and wear our aprons and pearls – and we all did!

We carried out the true retro style and wore our aprons and pearls!

We carried out the true retro style and wore our aprons and pearls!

 

...and toasted the night with our champagne cocktails!

…and toasted the night with our champagne cocktails!

In carrying out the evening’s theme, we began with a glass of classic champagne cocktail that Terri made.

Classic champagne cocktail

Classic champagne cocktail

Champagne cocktails became popular during Prohibition, when flappers were desperate to make the available bathtub bubbly taste better. Ha!

To accompany our cocktail, we had three appetizers.

We had three appetizers with our cocktail.

We had three appetizers with our cocktail.

Terri made caramelized-onion bruschetta. She commented that the recipe was “easy” to make and that the directions for caramelizing the onions was “spot on.”

Caramelized-onion bruschetta

Caramelized-onion bruschetta

Sharon made sriracha veggie-cheese balls and sauce. Cheese balls are the perfect party food, because they are fun! This version was true to its retro origin, with kicked up ingredients. The recipe made a good-sized portion – plenty for our party!

Sriracha veggie-cheese balls and sauce

Sriracha veggie-cheese balls and sauce

Sharon also made basil and crabmeat topped cucumbers. The topping was a nice blend of basil with lemon and red onion. Sharon commented that they too were “easy” to make and that you could assemble the topping ahead of time and assemble before serving.

Basil and crabmeat topped cucumbers

Basil and crabmeat topped cucumbers

Susan was tasked with the dinner entrées: Swedish meatballs and chicken a la king. Susan commented that both were items her mom made for dinner when she was a kid.

The Swedish meatballs were served over white rice – in further keeping with the retro style. Susan commented that she was surprised that the meatball recipe called for few spices since today’s recipes typically include more items.

Swedish meatballs served over white rice.

Swedish meatballs served over white rice.

The chicken a la king reminded me of a deconstructed version of chicken potpie. It had nicely poached chicken breasts with a creamy sauce. Susan noted that when her mother made it she would pick out the pimentos but now she didn’t notice or mind them.

Chicken a la king

Chicken a la king

Accompanying the chicken and meatballs were two side dishes and homemade parker house rolls.

Accompanying the chicken and meatballs were two side dishes and homemade parker house rolls.

Accompanying the chicken and meatballs were two side dishes and homemade parker house rolls.

Val made the rolls from scratch. Parker house rolls were invented at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1890. They are considered a staple for many dinners. The rolls were buttery with a soft interior and crispy shell.

Val also made the cranberry orange gelatin salad – another widely popular side dish for our retro-style meal. Gelatin was once considered a sign of wealth, before the advent of prepared gelatin, as only members of the elite classes could afford it. The combination of cranberry and orange flavors would be perfect for the upcoming winter holiday meals.

Cranberry orange gelatin salad

Cranberry orange gelatin salad

Pat made Florentine salad. Any dish that uses the word “Florentine” refers to a recipe that is prepared in the style of the Italian region of Florence and typically is a dish featuring spinach. True to its definition, the salad’s main ingredients were spinach, hard-boiled eggs and bacon. It had a light, red-wine vinaigrette dressing.

Florentine salad

Florentine salad

As we reflected on all the elements on the plate, we made a few observations about the retro meal. First, many of the recipes we cooked used fairly plain ingredients and how the modern versions have ramped up the elements for more bold flavors. Second, we were surprised at how many of the recipes included ingredients that now we wouldn’t consider the healthiest, but back then the obesity epidemic wasn’t as rampant as it is today. We also had some laughs reading through some of the tidbits Susan had collected about the retro time period (e.g., costs of gas, bread).

For dessert, I made a pineapple upside-down cake. To further the retro theme, I baked it in an original Bundt pan. The cake was very simple to make. My only anxiety was in hoping it would come out of the pan intact, which it did.

Pineapple upside-down Bundt cake

Pineapple upside-down Bundt cake

For our “take-home treat,” I made spumoni-chunk cookies.

Spumoni-chunk cookies

Spumoni-chunk cookies

Spumoni is a molded Italian ice cream typically consisting of three flavors – cherry, pistachio and chocolate. These cookies were true to the ice cream representation and included chopped, dried cherries, chocolate chunks and chopped, salted pistachios. They were easy to make, but the ingredients were quite costly. I packaged our “take-home treats” in cute gift bags.

Our “take-home treats”

Our “take-home treats”

In total, eleven dishes were made from Betty Crocker’s Picture cookbook. Each dish was very representative of the retro-style theme. We had another fun meal and enjoyed our gathering.

We scheduled our next meeting for mid November. Terri is hosting. We selected the Buvette cookbook as our focus for the appetizers, entrees and sides recipes. The dessert and take-home treat recipes will be from Kathy Wakile’s “Indulge” cookbook.

 

Have you ever made a retro-style dinner?

What’s your favorite Betty Crocker recipe?