Friday, February 18, 2011

Quarter Century

February always seems to be my busiest month. Between my family and friends, there are birthdays galore, not to mention Valentine's Day. I planned a Vegas vacation for my parents' birthdays earlier this month and two days after Valentine's Day was my boyfriend's 25th birthday. We planned a small get-together to celebrate, so I spent the last couple weeks sifting through countless recipes online and flipping through my many cookbooks searching for appetizer ideas. I've known for a month what kind of cake I was going to make. I thought about turning the celebration into a dinner party, but 10 people is a lot of people to cook for, and it's hard enough to cook for two people in my tiny, two-drawer, limited counter space kitchen. I once had a dinner party for seven people in a kitchen half the size (my current walk-in closet is bigger than the kitchen in my last apartment) which included pumpkin soup cooked and served inside actual pumpkins. It was a success but a lot of work. So appetizers and cake it would be.

I finally decided on cheese puffs made from pate a choux, a light pastry dough.

1 stick butter
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tsp thyme
2 shakes of pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring the water, salt and butter to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce to medium heat and immediately add flour. Stir continuously. Dough will form a ball in the center of the pan. Remove the pan from heat and give the dough a couple of minutes to cool. You want the dough warm but not hot enough to cook the eggs. Stir in one egg at a time and mix until the mixture becomes creamy. Add cheese, thyme and pepper and mix well.  

Scoop about a tablespoon of dough onto a baking sheet. Space the cheese puffs about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes at 425. Reduce heat to 350 and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. 

My boyfriend's mom gave me an amazing recipe for rangoons. I made half crab, half cream cheese, but we preferred the cream cheese rangoons.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayo
handful of green onions, chopped
1 package wonton wrappers 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the cream cheese, mayo, and green onions. Spoon about a teaspoon of the mixture into each wonton and wrap. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. 

The birthday cake was strawberry (from a mix) with cream cheese filling (4 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 2 ounces cool whip), chocolate frosting, fresh strawberries and candy clay roses. 

You can see the candy clay recipe and how to make roses (as well as other fun things) here. It's much easier to work with than fondue or gum paste.

One of my boyfriend's friends is allergic to eggs and of course everything I made had eggs in it, so I had to find a dessert that required no eggs. I ended up making dirt pie sans the gummy worms. 

2 tbsp butter
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 3/4 cups milk
6 ounces cool whip
half a package of Oreo cookies, crushed

Mix butter, cream cheese and sugar in a bowl; set aside. In a second bowl, mix the milk and pudding. Fold in the cool whip. Next, fold in the cream cheese mixture. In a bowl or casserole dish, start with a layer of crushed cookies then add a layer of cream cheese and top with another layer of crushed cookies. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Sadly these recipes didn't make the cut . . . this time.

Baked Potatoes Stuffed with Roasted Garlic

Cajun Onion Rings
Mozzarella Sticks
We also had fresh strawberries with cool whip, pretzels and beverages. It was a good, relaxing evening full of good food and good friends.

Sweet dreams,


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