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Pumpkin Carving 2013

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Hey everybody!  Happy Halloween!  I just had my annual Pumpkin Carving this past weekend.  Sure it was cold and it did rain a little bit, but I think everyone had fun.  We even did it up a little bit and put some bales of hay around the fire pit so folks could carve and still stay warm.  And we did have a fire extinguisher on hand because having a bunch of dry straw next to an open flame isn’t exactly the safest thing to do.

How autumny!
How autumnal!

Folks brought some stuff to share like a nice rice salad and a yummy warm spinach dip.  We provided the pumpkins and made a big batch of chili.  I baked a whole bunch of stuff as well:

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

I haven't made these extra festive yet with my Halloween accoutrements
I haven’t made these extra festive yet with my Halloween accoutrements

Pepita Lavender Brittle

I love this stuff!
I love this stuff!

Savory Pumpkin Rugelach

Savory and sweet!
Savory and sweet!

Ciderhouse Whiskey (Saveur)

I am clearly not talented at making acceptable lemon twists.
I am clearly not talented at making acceptable lemon twists.

I also made a Harvest Spread, but that was from a mix (I know).  I’ll get the recipes up as soon as I can.  Well, maybe not the Brittle recipe because I have done a Lavender Pepita Croquant before and the recipe is very similar.  On a weird side note, apparently I am the country’s leading expert on Pepita Croquant.  I did a Google search to do some research and there I was — I took up the top three spots.  Weird and unexpected, but still kewl.  Anyhoo, keep an eye out for the recipes and be safe during the holiday!

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New look and fun with the Beekmans!

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Hey everybody!  Sure it’s been awhile since I’ve here, but it’s another injury-filled couple of weeks for me.  Maybe I should actually rest instead of still playing volleyball for once.  Humbug on that!  Anyhoo, I just have a couple of announcements.

First of all, Jereme’s Kitchen has a whole new look!  It took me awhile to decide on one and I will probably be tweaking it over the next few weeks.  Of course, I could just change it altogether.  I’d appreciate any feedback and thoughts!

Secondly, I got a chance to spend the afternoon with the Fabulous Beekman Boys earlier this month!  And this time they were both here (well, not here exactly, but close enough in Lansing, MI)!  If y’all remember, I was able to attend a reading by Josh Kilmer-Purcell back in April of 2011 when he came back for a visit of his old alma mater (Go Spartans!).  This go around, he came back and he brought his partner Brent Ridge MD with him!  The focus for this talk and book signing was for their new Heirloom Dessert Cookbook.  The recipes they have assembled are a collection of time-honored gems that have been a part of their own family traditions and histories.  Like the previous cookbook, they do leave a space for you personalize the recipes with your own special twist or just leave some notes on what to do.   There is also a space for you to add any family recipes and include it in this heirloom collection.  It’s a nice touch that other cookbooks don’t offer!  And one lucky Jereme’s Kitchen reader might just get their own signed copy to cherish (hint, hint — stay tuned)

Brent and Josh at Schuler's Books in Lansing!
Brent and Josh at Schuler’s Books in Lansing!
These two guys really do seem sweet and genuine.
These two guys really do seem sweet and genuine.

At the book signing, Brent had told me about a blog project that the Boys and Kenn the Biscuit Guy were planning.  So I got to talking with Kenn the Biscuit Guy (there is a very entertaining story about how his name came about, and it involves Martha Stewart!) and he gave me some of the details about it.  The blog is called Bake Like a Beekman over at Blogspot.  What is so great about this is that they will look at one of the recipes in the book, participants will then attempt to create them, and then everyone gets to share their experiences with the recipe.  You can talk about any changes you made, serving suggestions, concerns that you may have, or just share your results.

Here's the Heirloom Dessert Cookbook!
Here’s the Heirloom Dessert Cookbook!

Now the project did already start this past Sunday, with the first recipe being the Walnut Cake.  There are already some results from the participants posted.  A new recipe will be selected every Sunday, and there will be a deadline for submissions.  That way we can all learn everything we can from each other and then all move on to the next recipe!  I think it’s a wonderful project — it’s like we all are taking an online class together.  I look forward to participating and I encourage y’all to join in too!  If you do decide to partake, tell Ken-with-two-“N”s that Jeremy-with-an-“E” sent ya!

Fun fact that I learned from the Beekman Boys on Facebook -- Josh spent some time working at the State News (the school paper and Michigan State).  While there he had to design an ad for the college book store.  His handwriting was used as the design for the neon of The Student Book Store.
Fun fact that I learned from the Beekman Boys on Facebook — Josh spent some time working at the State News (the school paper at Michigan State). While there he had to design an ad for the college book store. His handwriting was later used as the design for the neon of The Student Book Store.

Quick cocktail party appetizers #2 — Cheese and Endive

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This is round #2 of my cocktail party appetizers.  Now I don’t necessarily recommend making all of these at once, especially if it’s just you hosting because there is a lot of assembly involved with everything I made (check out my last post for the full listing).  Even if all the prep work is done, getting things to look right takes time.  But taking these in small steps and you should be alright.  Or you could be better at planning than me even though timing really was a non-issue since everyone was at least an hour late!

Anyhoo, the  quick recipes in this post revolve around goat cheese.  One is a double cheese Napoleon and the other is Endive with Herbed Goat Cheese.  What makes this easy is that the goat cheese filling is the same for both!  So I don’t know if this then actually qualifies for 2 recipes, but I’m going with it.

Endive with goat cheese.

This serving tray seemed like it was designed especially with this dish in mind.

The big step here is making the herbed goat cheese.  Which, again, is also a step for the napoleons, so essentially one step = 2 appetizers.  And it’s not even a big step — you just mix everything in a bowl.  This one I adapted from Martha (again!  but that’s a good thing!).  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 11-oz. pkg. goat cheese
  • 1/2 c. cream
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 T. chopped herbs (I used oregano and tarragon)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 heads endive, washed and separated into leaves

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together the cheese, cream, and oil until smooth.  You can use a food processor if you like or even a hand mixer, but I didn’t want to have to wash extra things afterwards.

2.  Gently mix in the herbs, salt, & pepper.  Place a teaspoon on the individual endive spears and serve.

Double Cheese Napoleons.

These definitely look pretty. Tasted pretty good, too!

The two cheeses here are parmesan and goat cheese.  You make tuiles of parmesan and have some herbed goat cheese in between the layers.  I am not really sure how I came up with this one, but i really wanted something with some height.  These look a little rough, but again, I felt pressed for time since I had several things to assemble.  No real specifics here; I just grated some parmesan and kept on making crisps until I ran out.  You can use any extra ones as croutons on salads or in soups.  Or just eat them as is.  Here’s what you need:

  • herbed goat cheese (see above)
  • grated parmesan

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Drop 1 t. grated parmesan onto Silpat lined baking sheets.  Slightly flatten the cheese and bake for about 5 minutes or until nice and golden.

3.  Allow to cool for about a minute and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

4.  Assemble napoleons starting with a parmesan crisp.  Place a small amount of the goat cheese, about 1/2 teaspoon.  Gently press another crisp on top and repeat until you have three layers of each.  You can put a garnish of herbs on top, but I just served them as they are.  If you want to be extra fancy, you can use a pastry bag with a star tip to place the goat cheese.

Quick cocktail party appetizers #1 — Tartlets and Bourbon

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So I’ve been a little preoccupied lately (and that’s why, but that’s because I’ve been busy planning a cocktail party).  But I’m back now and these are some of the things that I came up with.  I wasn’t sure what to serve even got some suggestions from other bloggers like The Breakfast Bachelor (I ran out of time to make his suggestion of Rosemary Sweet Potato Fries).  Since it was a cocktail party I wanted to do things that were easy to eat — finger foods, really.  Here’s what I had decided on serving (in addition to 2 big main course type things [pulled pork sandwiches and tater tot casserole] which I hope to discuss soon) — smoked salmon tartlets, leek and artichoke tartlets, double cheese napoleons, salami crisps, endive with herbed goat cheese, chocolate dream cake — black forest variation, Deviled Eggs, gougère, and Kale – radish – fennel salad.  Unfortunately I don’t have pictures for everything, but I do for most things.

Alright so it wasn't a cocktail party -- it was a bourbon tasting. This is what we had. And I am aware that Rye is not Bourbon.

Here, I’ll focus on the tartlets.  These are easy and quick to make.  If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll already know how to make the shells (so visit me on Facebook).  But since that includes only 13 of you, I will go over it here.  This idea I adapted from Martha, but she used mini cupcake pans and cut the wrappers into small circles.  I don’t bother with cutting and I use a standard cupcake / muffin pan.

Such a quick step. These can last on the counter in an airtight container for about 2 weeks or in the freezer for 2 months or so.

Here’s what you need:

  • one package wonton wrappers (square or round), mine had 4 dozen in it
  • vegetable oil

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Brush both sides of the wrapper with oil and stuff it into the cups of a muffin tin.

2.  Bake for between 8 – 10 minutes until golden.  If you use a darker pan, it will darken faster.  Allow to cool on a rack before filling.

Artichoke and Leek Tartlets.

For the artichoke and leek tartlets:

This is a quick and easy version of an artichoke and leek lasagna that I make.  Here’s what you need:

  • 4 leeks
  • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts; chopped, drained, and rinsed
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 – 3 T. olive oil

1.  Cut leeks in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/4 in slices.  Soak those in water to make sure that you clean out any sediment and then spin it dry.

2.  Heat the olive oil in the pan and add the dried leeks.  Stir to coat; add salt and pepper.

3.  Cover and cook for five minutes on medium heat.  Uncover and raise the heat to medium high and sauté for about 10 minutes or until tender.  Add the artichokes off the heat and allow mixture to cool.

4.  Spoon into prepared wonton cups.

Smoked Salmon Tartlets. I probably could've sliced to pickle thinner but they still tasted good.

For the smoked salmon tartlets:

No real recipe here.  I just made a batch of my smoked fish spread #1, but omitted the capers.  Instead I put slivers of pickle on top.  It would have been better if I used cornichons, but I don’t normally have those in my fridge.  Besides, those are just small pickles anyway.

The tartlets went quick. Good thing I had lots of extra shells.

Roasted Fennel and Carrots

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So I guess I took a little bit more time off than I thought.  But I needed some time to figure out some business decisions.  Anyhoo, I digress. . . I love fennel.  I really don’t use it as much as I should.  Some folks might not be even all that familiar with the vegetable.  It kinda looks like a cross between an onion and celery with a frilly wig.  Honestly, I think it sorta looks like a muppet (I do have muppets on the brain, after seeing the new Muppet movie and watching A Muppet Christmas Carol all during the holidays.  BTW, I recommend both movies!).

What’s nice about fennel is that you can really can use all parts of it — the bulb, the greens, the flowers, the seeds, even the pollen.  In this recipe, I just use the greens and the bulb.  This recipe is great as a side or a main dish, if you’re feeling vegetarian.  I love how roasting these vegetables really brings out the sweetness and intensifies the flavors.  But that is the case when you roast any vegetable really.  So why not roast some vegetables for dinner?  It’s easy to make, there’s not a lot of clean-up, and you get a wonderful flavorful dish!  Now I don’t really know where I got this recipe; I know I jotted down some notes on some paper but the principles are pretty much the same with any roasted vegetable recipe.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 – 4 fennel bulbs, with some of the greens reserved.
  • 5 – 6 carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line two half-sheet pans with parchment or some silpat.  Place the two racks in the oven on the top and the bottom racks.  Now preheat the sheet pans in the oven while you prep the veg.

2.  Trim the tops off the fennel so you just have the bulbs.  Cut the bulbs in quarters.  Then, cut the quarters into thirds on the diagonal so that each wedge has some of the base of the vegetable.  Toss the fennel with some olive oil to coat.  Do the same with the carrots.

3.  Spread the fennel on one of the baking sheets; spread the carrots on the other.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place one sheet on the top rack, the other on the bottom.  Roast for 30 minutes, turn the vegetables and then reverse the sheets.   Roast for another 30 minutes.  Chop the fennel fronds and set aside.

4.  Transfer the vegetables to a serving dish.  Toss with fennel fronds and serve.

Notes — Again, this is one of those recipes where these are estimates.  Essentially, you just want enough of the vegetables to cover the sheet pans without overcrowding them.  If you put too much, they will just steam and not roast, which is fine, if you want steamed vegetables. . . I like to toss the vegetables in a zip top bag.  It helps with the clean up and it also helps limit the amount of olive oil you use because really can coat everything with a much smaller amount by closing the top and tossing the vegetables around.  Plus if you don’t want to be wasteful, you can wash out the bag and keep it for a later use. . . Be careful — fennel can be gritty so be sure to wash them.  They’re not as bad as leeks though. . .

Holiday Menu Planning

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Entertaining and menu planning may seem tricky, but the execution doesn’t have to be all that intimidating.  It just takes a lot of thought and timing.  You have to take into account what the dishes are, how many people are attending, and when dinner is supposed to be served (along with a whole host of other things to consider).  But all this planning can be spread out over a whole month.  Now I just had my “Holiday Feast” the other day and here was my schedule.  The day was busy, but I still got to spend time with my guests before dinner and take part in the festivities (i.e. – drink booze).

3 weeks prior:  send out invitations.  Hopefully you will hear back relatively quickly about who can and cannot attend.

2 weeks prior:  finalize menu.  Here’s what was decided:  Roasted pork shoulder, marinated turkey breast, bread pudding with mushrooms and roasted peppers, roasted fennel and carrots, rapini with fried apples,  egg nog, cranberry cheesecake, holiday biscotti, and sugar plums.  Now that I actually see it written out, that’s a lot of food.  Even more so because it was also a potluck.  I will do posts on all this stuff soon with a focus on the more holiday-ish items first.

1 week prior:  finalize attendees, buy supplies and groceries.  Alright so it wasn’t completely finalized and it hovered anywhere between 12 -18.  It finally ended up at 13.

4 days prior:  clean house, iron table linens.  Now cleaning the house is a daily thing, but I did a major cleaning on this day.  I ironed the napkins and prepped them so that I could fold the “birds of paradise” relatively quickly.  I like this fold because it looks nice and is relatively easy to do.

3 days prior:  buy fresh ingredients (fruit and vegetables), make cranberry compote.  The cranberry compote could even be made the week before.

2 days prior:  make cranberry cheesecake, bake biscotti.  Making this now lets the cheesecake set up in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  Just cover it with plastic wrap after it cools.  The biscotti should stay fresh for several days.

1 day prior:  blanche rapini, peel carrots, make sugar plums, assemble bread pudding.  The sugar plums need some time to dry out a little before rolling in sugar.  The bread pudding can sit and all the flavors can marry while sitting in the refrigerator.  Plus the bread can really soak up the custard.

6 hours prior:  roll the sugar plums in sugar, fold napkins, set the table.  At this point, I still didn’t know how many.  My best guess was 12, which was nice because everyone could sit at the table.

3 hours prior:  start holiday music playlist, attend to early attendees, make beer bread, drink beer.  Now we asked folks to arrive at 3:00pm with dinner to be served at 6:00.  Not everyone will show at the start which is fine.

2 hours prior:  attend to early attendees, roast fennel and carrots, drink wine, eat cheese.  Serve appetizer dishes that guests brought.

1 hour prior:  attend to attendees, bake bread pudding, make egg nog, drink egg nog.  Egg nog is usually a big draw because of all the booze 🙂  I use Martha Stewart’s recipe, which has 3 c. bourbon, 2 c. cognac, and 1 c. rum.

30 minutes prior:  light candles on the table, make rapini and fried apples, place fennel in oven to reheat, finalize drink orders, drink more egg nog.  Everything is coming together and all your hard work and planning is paying off.  Hopefully you won’t be too tipsy at this point.

I know this looks like a lot and that you’ll be in the kitchen and not enjoying anyone, but everyone always ends up in the kitchen anyway so you won’t be missing out.  You won’t really be missing out if you prep everything ahead of time.  Just pop into the kitchen to take out the bread and pop some veggies into the oven.  Then you have an hour to play with your guests before the next thing goes into the oven.

Labor Day with the family

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Batten down the hatches!!!  My parents and my brother are driving up from Florida to visit me for Labor Day.  Plus I got some other cousins and aunts and uncles coming in from about an hour away.  Lord help!  It’s not that I don’t want them to visit — it’s the planning that can be tricky.  And figuring out a menu isn’t going to be easy.  Maybe I can talk my cousin into bringing something to help with the menu.  What would be nice is having a whole roast pig, but since that ain’t gonna happen I’m going to have to improvise.  And too bad my grill just busted.  Good thing there’s still the trusty Smokey Joe. . . and as a side note, here’s what the Department of Labor says about Labor Day.

Luckily, another aunt and uncle (also from Florida) came in for a visit a few weeks ago so the meal they had here was essentially a trial run.  But since there’s gonna be more people, I’m going to need to expand a bit.  I do want to make some stuff focused on local goods and made in Michigan things, but I also want to make some things that I know they’ll like.  I did find some Labor Day ideas at Grilling.com, Martha, and Yum Sugar.  So here’s what I might end up doing (which I hope to post on these new ones soon):

Roast pork shoulder

Sautéed green beans with mushrooms

Ratatouille

Grilled corn

Fresh Lumpia

Bibingka

Zucchini Ribbons with Garlic Confit

Empanadas

Steamed Mussels with Glass noodle

Koegel’s viennas

Something with Rhubarb (probably a Raspberry and Rhubarb tart)

San Miguel

Oberon

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Of course all this planning might just go out the window, so I’m going to wait until the last minute to do any shopping.  There’ll probably be a trip to Windsor in the making.  Or maybe a quick jaunt to Toronto (if I’m lucky)!