Wednesday, December 30, 2009

easter 2009

I'm finally getting around to posting about Easter! We had a few friends over for a traditional dinner. The kids did a fun egg hunt outside and we got to share lots of great food and great company.

I set the table with some nice branches I got at the flower market. I was really excited because I showed up there right at the close of business a couple days before Easter and saw them. I was trying to decide which bunch to get and the lady ended up giving me two bunches for the price of one because one didn't have quite as many flowers as the other. Yay! Love deals like that. Zach also helped me make some little birds' nests for the table settings. We melted 1 cup of Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips with 1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter. Then we stirred in 2 cups of corn flakes and dropped 1/4 cupfuls onto parchment, pushing gently in the center to form a nest shape. Once they firmed up we put a few Cadbury mini eggs inside and placed on small plates at everyone's seats.

For appetizers we had three things: Brochettes of Melon, Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella, Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves and these great little cucumber sandwiches my friend Susie introduced to me a couple years ago.

Then we had Raspberry Soup, again (the recipe is in last Easter's post). This is one of my favorite traditions we started a couple of years ago. Again, a Susie recipe. Funny thing, though. It calls for sherry and we decided not to put it in this time (my friend Emily made it for me). The texture was quite different. It has unflavored gelatin in it but it seems to set up quite a bit firmer than with the sherry. The reason why I think this is the culprit is because we made this same recipe for a church "tea party" once and also forwent the sherry and the texture was the same. I thought the person who had made it had made some sort of mistake, even though they said they followed the instructions. I've never had this problem (not that it's really a problem- it still tastes fantastic), but I usually put the sherry in. So, the texture looks a little lumpy and not so smooth, but the mouthfeel is okay. It doesn't feel like lumps of jello or anything. So, feel free to do either way, but beware of the results.

For the main course we had Pineapple-Mustard-Glazed Ham. It was really good! It was fairly minimal effort, other slicing up two pineapples, and just bakes for a while. The glaze turned into this caramelly (is that a word?) sauce with soft pineapple that made a perfect foil to the smoked, salty ham. I love the dark brown pieces on the edge. I hoard them. We also had scalloped potatoes (recipe courtesy of Emily, who brought them), green beans with browned butter and toasted hazelnuts, and rolls.

When we finally had room again (or at least a small corner available), we broke into dessert. I decided to make the Rich Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting and Truffle-Egg Nest. I cheated a little with the white chocolate on the outside of the truffles. I used white chocolate chips, which don't get quite as thin when melted as actual chocolate. I could tell the swirling thing wasn't really an option for me, so I just colored the chocolate with a blue and green paste coloring. I got a system going where I tapped off the extra chocolate really quickly before the truffle started melting to the fork I had the "egg" sitting on. I used a chopstick to push the eggs onto a piece of parchment. I also decided marshmallows might be fun and appropriate (think peeps) so I used the same recipe I used for the coconut and peppermint ones at Christmas (you can find my recipes in this post), but instead of the other flavors, added 1 1/2 teaspoons of almond emulsion (you can just use pure extract instead). They were really yummy. Especially on top of hot chocolate later in the week. :) My friend, Rebecca, also made some mini pecan tartlets which were very tasty. Not too sweet and tender crust. Her recipe is included below.

Scalloped Potatoes (from Emily)

5-6 large potatoes, peeled and sliced as thin as possible
Cheddar cheese, grated or sliced as thin as possible (I used sharp)
1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
7oz milk (2/3 soup can)
salt & pepper

Grease/spray the bottom and sides of a 3 qt casserole (or 9x13 pan). Cover bottom of pan with one layer of potatoes. Cover potatoes with one layer of cheese. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Repeat layers of potatoes, cheese, salt & pepper 4 times. Mix cream of mushroom soup and milk together (I added a little garlic and onion powder). Pour over the top of the layered potatoes. Bake covered at 325 for 2 hours - until potatoes are soft. For a crispy top remove lid for the last 15 minutes. (I also added a handful of Gruyere because I had some in the fridge)

Pecan Tartlets (from Becca)

Crust (24 tarts):
1 cube butter (room temp)
3 oz. cream cheese (room temp)
1 cup flour

Combine butter and cream cheese, then cut flour into butter/cream mixture. Get a small ball of dough (walnut size), and press into mini muffin tin -- push dough all the way up the sides of the tin. Ensure there are no holes in the crust, otherwise the pie filling will stick to the pan.

Pecan Filling (48 tarts):
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. melted butter
1 c. corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 c. pecan pieces

Simply mix all the ingredients together. You may reserve the pecan pieces to be placed individually in the tarts if desired. Pour filling the the crust. Bake 375 for 20 - 25 minutes. Let tarts cool, then pop them out of pan w/ a paring knife. Top w/ whipped cream.