Missing…but still busy!

I’ve been a little absent here for awhile – but that doesn’t mean I’m not keeping busy!

Since moving to a new apartment back in October, most of my free time has been focused on decorating and getting the place in order.  I’ve been posting some updates over here so check back to see the progress!

Don’t worry though, not all my time has been dedicated to home projects.  Recent cooking highlights include blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, spicy shrimp dumplings, some decadent chocolate peanut butter mounds bars and healthy (but delicious!) berry bliss oat squares.

And in more exciting news, I’m throwing a food filled holiday party this weekend in the new digs.  On the menu?  Oh, just some bourbon cranberry duck sliders and eggnog ice cream sandwiches.  Figured that will keep you interested for a bit…

Stay tuned!

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Party Food in a Flash

Parties are meant to be fun.   A time meant to laugh with friends, recounting memories of the past while creating new ones you will look back on someday.

Parties are not meant to be spent hovering over the stove stirring, whisking or making sure nothing is burning.  Even if you are not the host, no one wants to attend a party where everyone is so tired from preparing the food they can’t manage to have some fun.

Both of the appetizers below can be made in advance and put in the oven once you arrive at your final party destination or your guests start appearing.  Either way, they’ll be on the table in a flash & compliments will soon be coming your way.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms are made for crowd roaming & socializing.  Practically bite size, there are no knives & forks needed here.  Using a crusty bread & not over cooking the green pepper gives these mushrooms a good balance of texture combined with the creamy blue cheese.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

(makes 25 mushrooms)

Printable version

25 cremini, de-stemmed & cleaned*
1 cup white button mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup diced green onion
1 cup small bread pieces (I used a french baguette torn into about quarter inch pieces)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup low sodium chicken stock (or broth)
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

* If serving these as appetizers and not first course or part of a meal, cremini mushrooms work better since they  are smaller and more flavorful than the larger stuffing mushrooms. If you prefer, feel free to use the larger stuffing mushrooms.

Directions:

In a large skillet, melt 2 tbs. of the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook about 3 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the onions and cook for another 3 minutes before adding another tbs. of butter and the green pepper. Cook the mixture for 1 minute.

In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture. Fold in blue cheese crumbles. Once combined, add chicken stock and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle cremini mushrooms lightly with olive oil. Stuff mushrooms with mixture, about a teaspoon each (varies depending on size of mushroom. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is hot.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

When done correctly, sandwiches can be wonderful (and even gourmet) food for a get together.  Most ingredients found in this sandwich can be made ahead of time, assembled and then placed in the oven to warm up at the last minute.  Although they are fine on their own, try serving these sandwiches with a side of honey mustard.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

(makes approximately 15 small sandwiches)

1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 lb. thin sliced turkey breast
4 oz. brie cut in thin slices, about 3 inches in length
5 slices bacon
1 cup Vidalia onion, sliced thinly into rings
8 pear slices, half inch thick
3 tbs. butter
Salt

Melt 1 tbs. butter in skillet over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, add onions & season with salt.  Cook until the onions are brown and soft, about 20  minutes.  While the onions caramelize, cook the bacon in skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool on a plate lined with paper towels.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread both sides of the baguette with 1/2 tbs butter.  Place the turkey in a single layer on the bottom half of the baguette.  Continue by adding the pear in another single layer (you may need to turn slightly on a diagonal depending on width of the baguette).  Place bacon on top and then the brie.  On the top half of the baguette spread out the onions.

Bake, open faced, in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese begins to melt.  Slice into two inch pieces and serve.

P.S.  Sorry there is no photo of the finished sandwich (it had just come out of the oven).  I was too excited to party!

Blue Cheese Stuffed Venison Burgers with Caramelized Onions on Sourdough Bread

One of the highlights of our summer vacation at the cabin were the fabulous meals that were cooked up every night.  Of course, given the environment most of the meals were grilled and throughout the week we enjoyed grilled vegetables, potatoes, BBQ chicken and grilled salmon.  All of our meals were simple yet delicious and each night we thought we had outdone the previous dinner.

Towards the end of the week our friends began to arrive for the weekend and the dinners became more varied with a little of this and a little of that since everyone wanted to make something for the occasion.

One of our friends had recently been on a hunting trip and wanted to share some of the wonderful venison he had brought home.  It was absolutely wonderful.  Much gamier yet leaner than beef, the grilled venison steak just tasted so…natural.  It was organic without the $5 packaging.  I was extremely excited when he was nice enough to send us home with some of the extra ground venison that he had.

The weeks began to pass by and back in the city we transitioned into fall .  In all of the chaos of moving and working long hours, we almost forgot about our special package of venison in the back of the freezer.  But how could something so wonderful be forgotten?  We decided that it was time to enjoy the full flavors of the venison and reminisce over the seemingly long gone summer.

First we used the venison to make a simple ragu served over pasta.  Although a certain unnamed someone thought making a sauce would drown out the rich, meaty flavor of the meat it actually did the exact opposite.  The simple combination of tomatoes, onion & red wine actually created the perfect backdrop for such a bold meaty flavor.

After the success of the sauce, I thought that we might as well try pairing another bold flavor with the venison and see how it would stand up.  That is where the idea for these blue cheese burgers came from.  The blue cheese centers really help the meat stay moist, as it is leaner than most beef it can dry out quickly.  Sourdough “buns” also provide a great crunch to match with the creamy, luscious burgers.

Obviously this recipe can made with regular ground beef but I beg you…give venison a try!

Blue Cheese Stuffed Venison Burgers with Caramelized Onions on Sourdough Buns

(makes 4 burgers)

Printable Version

1 1/2  lb. ground venison
6 oz Cashel Blue Cheese*
Salt
Pepper
2 cups sliced yellow onions
8 thick slices sourdough bread
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Once butter is melted, add sliced onions and season with 1 1/2 tsp salt.  Saute for about 15 minutes, occasionally stirring, until onions are golden & caramelized.

Lightly season venison with salt and pepper.  Begin forming half of a burger patty (about 3 oz.) into a circle in the palm of your hand.  Form a small well in the center and place about 1.5 oz. of blue cheese in center.  Take another 3 oz. of venison and place on top sealing edges together.

Place large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once pan is heated, add burgers**.  Cook 3 minutes each side and place in 350°F oven for 5 minutes or until cooked to your liking.  Keep in mind venison can dry out quickly and is best when cooked medium rare.

Brush olive oil onto bread slices.  Place in broiler for 5 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Slice garlic in half and rub over bread.

Place burger on buns and top with onions.  Serve and enjoy!

venisonburgersApologies for the poor pictures – still trying to get camera set up after the move!

Our burgers were served with a side of sweet potato fries and a chipotle dip (plain greek yogurt, diced chipotle, hot sauce).

* Cashel Blue Cheese is a fantastic blue cheese from Ireland.  I chose it for this recipe because it is creamier than some other blue cheeses and it has earthy notes which mimic that of the venison.  Feel free to use your favorite blue cheese!

** These can also be made on a grill pan or on the outside grill