Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ladies Night In

Book Club Dinner
My daughter and her book club assembled to discuss Just Kids (See, eat dinner, drink booze, and swap White Elephant gifts. I got invited because I was once a guest call-in consultant/participant and I volunteered to make the food during my DC visit. But before I get to the food, let me explain the hospitality of their book club.

Book Club 101 Syllabus

Prerequisites: Assemble smart women who aren’t shy about drinking, giving opinions, eating, and taking care of each other.  Most of all, they need a high risibility factor.

Assignments: Pick one of two kinds of books—either one with sex, drugs, violence, and WWII material or a dud that requires only votes for 1) who read it and 2) who liked it.  We read a dud.  So the book discussion consisted of 1) raising hands and 2) thumbing up or down.  If the book’s a dud, the group will spend more time picking the next book than discussing the current book. At first I was disappointed.  I’d gotten up at 6 AM to finish reading the book—rising before my 1 year old grandson.   When I announced that, I was met with a mixture of disbelief and dismay. Undaunted, I kept whining: After the meal...“When are we going to talk about the book?”  After the White Elephant opening...“When are we going to talk about the book?”  After we tossed the bottles into the recycling...“When are we going to talk about the book?” The professor in me just wouldn't let go.  Now, in retrospect, I've come to appreciate the nuance of their style of discussion.  Why should they waste their time on a dud?  Rather, this hands/thumb “discussion” afforded us precious time to converse about far more important issues.

  Discussion: Establish a barber shop atmosphere where everyone can talk about anything in any way she wishes. We talked about the practice of metzitzah b'peh, facial depilatories, embarrassing body functions, the dog vomiting, and buying a turkey breast from Target.  And what I mean by “talk” is shout, swear, interrupt, cajole, openly mock, thoughtfully consider, and hilariously reminisce.  All in good fun.  All with a sense of camaraderie.  I was disturbed that some people may be getting their feelings hurt.  In retrospect, I imagine that these are gals who would pick each other up from an airport the Sunday after Thanksgiving, offer consolation each other’s disappointments, and (far harder), be happy for each other’s successes.

Grading: I want to have a book club like this.
OK, now the food.

Appetizers: mango/peach salsa, bruschetta, nuts
Meal: turkey breast, make-ahead mashed potatoes, spinach soufflé

Before I conclude with the recipes, I want to thank my daughter and her book club for their hospitality.  Best ladies night I’ve ever experienced.  By far. 

The Recipes
 Les plus vieux pots font la meilleure soupe.  

From Karen Walsh
 Here’s the original recipe…
                1 red pepper diced
                1 Mango chopped
                1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
                1 bunch of cilantro chopped
                1 jar of Jalapeno Jelly

Here’s my variation because I didn’t have a mango…
1 red pepper diced
1 jar mango/peach salsa
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 small can sliced jalapenos
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

from Suzanne O’Malley
6 or 7 ripe plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs) [I used cherry tomatoes.]
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped or fresh thyme, cilantro, parsley [I used cilantro.]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 baguette French bread or similar Italian bread
olive oil brush on bread
1 Preheat oven to 450 degrees and set rack to toast bread.
2.  Slice into tomatoes and scoop out juice and seeds. Dice. Why use plum tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes? The skins are much thicker and there are fewer seeds and less juice. That said, you could use others.
3 Mix together tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Add vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4 Slice the baguette on a diagonal about 1/4 inch thick slices. Coat one side of each slice with olive oil using a pastry brush. Place on a cooking sheet, olive oil side down. You will want to toast them in the top rack in your oven, so you may need to do these in batches depending on the size of your oven. Once the oven has reached 450°F, place a tray of bread slices in the oven on the top rack. Toast for 5-6 minutes, until the bread just begins to turn golden brown.
Alternatively, you can toast the bread without coating it in olive oil first. Toast on a griddle for 1 minute on each side. Take a sharp knife and score each slice 3 times. Rub some garlic in the slices and drizzle half a teaspoon of olive oil on each slice. This is the more traditional method of making bruschetta.
5.   Align the bread on a serving platter, olive oil side up. Either place the tomato topping in a bowl separately with a spoon for people to serve themselves over the bread, or place some topping on each slice of bread and serve. If you top each slice with the tomatoes, do it right before serving or the bread may get soggy.
Makes 24 small slices. Serves 6-10 as an appetizer. Or 3-4 for lunch (delicious served with cottage cheese on the side.)

2 requirements for the turkey breast…
1.        Size; Buy the biggest turkey breast that will fit your slow cooker.  But if you don’t have a slow cooker that would fit the size of the turkey breast you need, buy one that fits into your Dutch Oven.  No Dutch Oven?  Use a large casserole dish with a lid.
2.      Gravy: Buy a turkey breast with a gravy pouch.  No pouch?  But a can/jar of turkey gravy. Worst case scenario—turkey gravy packet with lots of water.

Preparing the turkey breast…
1.        Pat it dry—inside and outside.
2.      Remove any innards & discard.

Cooking the turkey breast…
Put the turkey breast in your slow cooker or Dutch Oven. Pour gravy inside and on top.  Cook on low setting of 170 F. for 4-8 hours.  It’s done when it registers 165 F.

Serving the turkey breast…
Pour the gravy in a gravy boat and carve the turkey.

To recap…I’ve tried to make this look like a respectable recipe.  But, frankly, it’s just cooking a turkey breast in gravy on low until it’s 165 F.  J


16 servings from Mary Ellen Holdsberg

Preheat oven to 350.
Cook & drain 2 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach.
Add to spinach 2# cottage cheese,  6 eggs beaten, ½# grated cheddar cheese (1 cup), 1/2c. melted butter, salt & pepper to taste , and crushed red pepper or garlic powder.
Bake uncovered and without opening door for 45 mins. or until set.
This recipe could be cut in half.

My didn’t soufflé.  Maybe it was because I added 1 large carton of cottage cheese, but I don’t think that’s why.  It was probably because I stirred the eggs into the cheese mixture instead of beating them first.  Maybe I should have cooked it longer than 45 mins. Or maybe the soufflé dish was too deep.
Anyway, it tasted fine.  It just wasn’t a soufflé.

By Helping Hands on January 23, 2004  Servings: 8-10
o    8 medium potatoes (I used 6 white and 2 sweet and peeled them.)
o    1 cup sour cream
o    8 ounces cream cheese
o    4 tablespoons butter
o    1/4 cup chives (I used green onion tops, chopped)
o    1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I didn’t add salt.)
o    1/2 teaspoon pepper
o    2 garlic cloves, minced
o    1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
o    1 pinch marjoram (optional) (I didn’t have this.)
o    1/2-1 cup thinly sliced green onions
o    bacon bits or 2 slices cooked crumpled bacon
o    milk (Add only if you need thinning—mine didn’t.)
o    paprika (optional—not for me)

1.       Boil potatoes until tender.  Drain.
2.      Beat softened cream cheese and sour cream in mixing bowl.
3.      Add cheese/cream to hot potatoes.  Beat until smooth.
4.      Add butter, chives, salt, pepper and onion powder and beat until well-mixed.
5.      Add a little milk if needed.
6.     Add garlic, green onions, and marjoram and beat until well-mixed.
7.      Pour into either casserole dish.  (Or crockpot.)
8.     Dot with additional butter and sprinkle with paprika.  (I omitted this.)
9.     Bake for 25 minutes in 350°F oven or cook on low in crockpot for 2-3 hours. If cooked in crockpot, add a few additional drops of butter and stir, just before serving. (I baked because I wanted a browned look.)
10.  Sprinkle with bacon crumbling just before serving.

NOTE: Can be refrigerated overnight in either casserole dish or crockpot. Warm in oven until steamy.
Nutrition Facts  Serving Size: 1 (230 g)  Servings Per Recipe: 8
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Calories 373.0
Calories from Fat 192

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Glad you had such a good time despite the light book discussion. :) The food was excellent!


"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - from A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf