Super Bowl Cream Cheese Penguins

My friend Jean went to a Super Bowl party and we got to make penguins for the event! In this batch we had football players, refs, cheerleaders and spectators.

Super Bowl Cream Cheese Penguins - Overview

Jean printed out a picture of a football field and we put that on some foam board and wrapped it in green plastic wrap. The players have cocktail onion shoulder pads, the cheerleaders have parsley pom-poms and the spectators have carrot flags.

Cream Cheese Penguins - Football Field

Next time one team will wear green olive heads. Or one whole team could be made of green olives! And perhaps a tiny carrot bikini top held on with a dot of cream cheese over the middle of it, for the cheerleaders. Anybody have other ideas on how you can decorate football penguins? Feel free to comment below.

If you like these, you can get the recipe and more details here.

Christmas Penguins

We went over to Gramma & Aunt Susie’s house for Christmas, and this year Aunt Susie requested cream cheese penguins, so here’s what we brought!

Christmas Penguins - Group

This batch was fun to make. The hats are fashioned from grape tomatoes… I cut the pointy part off, scooped out the guts with a knife, dried the inside with a paper towel, and pre-poked the hole in the top so they didn’t squish the head down too much. They made great hats and they tasted good, too!

Christmas Penguin

In case you’re interested… see the recipe and more pictures.

And here is the 2010 batch of Christmas penguins! We made a grape tomato Santa, celery sleigh, reindeer and penguin children.

Christmas Penguins 2010

Note to self for next time… group them into distinct crowds! This would have looked better had I done that. Also don’t forget the dabs of cheese on top of the hats. I took the cream cheese with me, intending to do it once they were set up, and I forgot. Doh!

The reindeer antlers are carved from horizontally cut carrot slices – about 1mm seems to be the optimal thickness. We had some trouble with the heads getting split if the antlers were not thin. I laid down two slices and cut both at once so they would match.

Reindeer Penguin Antler Construction

About 6 man-hours of work went into making this batch of 70 penguins.

We found a good recipe in the South Beach Diet cookbook.

It’s for Orange-Ginger Green Beans (page 145):

1 lb green beans
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the beans, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain and remove to a bowl. Melt the butter in the same pan over low heat. Add the shallots and ginger and saute for 5 minutes, or until the shallots are tender. Add the beans and orange peel and toss to combine.

These were so good with the Citrus Glazed Chicken!

Here’s the Beef!

New GrillYesterday, we got a new grill at Lowes. It’s a 3-burner Char-Broil Commercial Series infrared grill and it is sweet! After Trav spent 3 hours assembling it, he cooked delicious ribeye steaks for the three of us. Here he is putting the first piece of meat on his great new grill (click for a larger version). To prepare the steaks, Trav put a bit of sesame oil, kosher salt and smokehouse black pepper on them. The kosher salt helps to draw protein to the surface and makes a very nice “crust”. Those steaks were perfectly cooked – the best we ever had, either in a restaurant or at home. Very nicely done, Trav!

Our old grill rusted out in its guts, and it cost just as much to replace the parts as it did to get a whole new grill. I have plans to turn the old grill into a storage container of some sort, so that nice steel casing won’t have to go to be recycled just yet.

I’m so looking forward to seeing what delicious creations Trav will produce! We’re hoping to copy a dish Trav had at Up The Creek recently – grilled mahi mahi with lemon pepper seasoning and wasabi plum sauce. Mmmm!

Where’s The Beef?

The other night we had a new recipe – Ground Beef Wellington – and it was good! I have yet to put my review on AllRecipes, but I will give it a 5-star rating. It’s not their fault I overcooked it and the meat shrunk inside the bread shell. I made a couple of enhancements to the recipe, too, but I’m sure it would still be fabulous as written. My changes were to brush yellow mustard on the meat before wrapping it in the dough, and I used the leftover egg whites as a wash for the inside and outside of the dough. I also made the rolls from scratch but surprisingly enough, they tasted exactly like a canned cresent roll!

One of these days I’m going to try a real Beef Wellington, and I’ll make the puff pastry from scratch, which is a three-day process. Whew! Hopefully it’ll be worth the effort.

Quandary

This issue has come up for us before… what to do with food that has been bought and then turns out to be something bad for us, that we don’t want to eat? The most recent item is the hydrogenated lard I bought to make tortillas. Since I’ve found a source of non-hydrogenated lard, I don’t know what to do with the first brick. What’s your opinion?

[poll id=”2″]

Stuffed full of tortillas… mmmm!

My brother sent me a recipe for tortillas the other day, and since then, I’ve been craving them. So today we got lard and I made a batch. They turned out great!! I’ll definitely make them again. Here they are cooking (click for a larger version):

Tortillas Cooking

The plan was to make quesadillas, and those turned out good, too! Here’s mine, filled with beef, tomatoes, onion, spinach and cheese:

Quesadilla

Someday soon I’ll make a recipes section and the one for the tortillas will be in there, for sure. Nummy!!

Sauerkraut Rye Bread

One of the items on my list is to try a new bread recipe every month. This month’s selection is Sauerkraut Rye Bread, which I made today. It came out great!! It will make excellent Reuben sandwiches. The recipe is in the book my mom gave me – Bread Machine Magic – but I was able to find the recipe on AllRecipes, too. I think pretty much every recipe from the book is in there.

Sauerkraut Rye Bread recipe

I did three things differently, though… I used plain old all-purpose flour and added a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten, because I didn’t have any bread flour. Chopped the sauerkraut. And I baked it in the oven… 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

This makes up for last month’s experiment of a different rye bread recipe, which came out like a brick! We were able to eat a lot of it, but it got moldy before we finished it… our first homemade bread that’s ever been thrown out. But as they say, practice makes perfect, right?

Update: The center had a giant hole in it, I’m guessing it was due to the wetness of the dough. It did seem a tad moist but I didn’t want to mess with it. The bread on our Reuben sandwiches was very tasty! I can’t wait to eat it tomorrow morning as toast with avocado-artichoke dip.

Award-Winning Chili

Bloss Chili TrophyMy brother Greg has started a new tradition for his birthday – he holds a chili cook-off! This year was the first annual, and my other brother Michael took first place. Greg crafted this awesome trophy made from a white elephant Christmas gift, which the winner will keep until the next cook-off comes around at the end of January (click for a larger version). It’s cool because there’s room for the previous winner’s photo to stay in there so photos can be added and a history kept. Neat!

Here’s the recipe for my brother’s yummy, award-winning chili (originally posted here):

Chile Verde

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos
5 garlic cloves, not peeled
2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
2 Anaheim or Poblano chiles (optional)
1 bunch cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped
3 1/2 to 4 pounds pork shoulder (also called pork butt), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 yellow onions
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh oregano or 1 Tbsp of dried oregano
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
Pinch of ground cloves

1 Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cut in half and place cut side down, along with 5 unpeeled garlic cloves, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle.

If you want the additional flavor of chiles other than jalapenos, you can add a couple Anaheim or poblano chiles. Either use canned green chiles or roast fresh chilies over a gas flame or under the broiler until blackened all around. Let cool in a bag, remove the skin, seeds, and stem.

2 Place tomatillos, skins included, into blender. Remove the now roasted garlic cloves from their skins, add them to the blender. Add chopped Jalapeño peppers, other chilies (if you are using them), and cilantro to the blender. Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed.

3 Season the pork cubes generously with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat and brown pork chunks well on all sides. Work in batches so that the pork is not crowded in the pan and has a better chance to brown well. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, lift pork out of pan and place in bowl, set aside.

4 Pour off excess fat, anything beyond a tablespoon, and place the onions and garlic in the same skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until limp, about 5 minutes. If your skillet is large enough to cook the entire batch of chile verde, with the sauce and meat, then add the pork back to the pan. If not, get a large soup pot and add the onion mixture and the pork to it. Add the oregano to the pan. Add the tomatillo chile verde sauce to the pork and onions. Add the chicken stock (enough to cover the meat). Add a pinch of ground cloves. Add a little salt and pepper. (Not too much as the chile verde will continue to cook down and concentrate a bit.)

5 Bring to a boil and reduce to a slight simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours uncovered or until the pork is fork tender.

Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Spanish rice and warmed flour tortillas or freshly made corn tortillas.

Michael’s note: I varied my batch slightly in that, instead of chicken stock, I used water and added some bones that I had browned at the same time as the meat. Next time, I would do it the same way, except I wouldn’t brown the bones before adding them.

Veggie Pita

Mmmmm. I just had a delicious dinner of a veggie pita and I want to remember what was in there so I can make it again. I think it would be good for a picnic, too. Or breakfast. 🙂 Amounts are approximate.

oat bran pita bread
1/3 c feta cheese
1 green onion
1 slab roasted red pepper
1-2 leaves baby bok choy (or any leafy green that happens to be around)
1 leaf romaine lettuce
1-2 springs parsley
black pepper

Warm pita in microwave for 10-15 seconds. Put cheese in and leave a minute to warm up. Then put in veggies, dust with pepper and enjoy!

Interesting Breakfast

I tried a new breakfast today, after reading about how turmeric is very good for you. I took about half a cup of plain yogurt, added a good bit of turmeric (maybe 1/4 teaspoon?), a dash of onion powder and some salt and pepper. Mixed that all up and then added some veggies… super-thinly sliced carrot and celery, diced tomato, a little yellow bell pepper, a green onion and some parsley. It tasted delicious! I bet it would make a good salad dressing. I’m going to try and find some recipes where I can use it, like this one for Sesame Braised Chicken & Cabbage. Sounds yummy! Anyone have suggestions?

Turmeric

Every time I see the name of this delicious spice, I think of the Tumeroks on Asheron’s Call (a multiplayer D&D-type game Trav & I used to play). Tonight Bleys picked a pilaf recipe that turned out quite good, after we spiced it up a bit. He says pilaf is normally bland, so I can see why it’s not a dish I would remember.

Anyways, while we were cooking I was wondering about turmeric and found this page:

World’s Healthiest Foods: Turmeric

Apparently it’s really, really good for you. So I’m going to try a breakfast of plain yogurt mixed with turmeric, onion powder, salt and pepper. Then I’ll cut up and mix in whatever veggies I can find – probably carrots, celery, radishes, tomato? Should be interesting! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Note to self: Green curry is much hotter!

We discovered tonight that red curry is milder than green curry. The other night we had red curry shrimp and it was delicious. Tonight we had green curry chicken, and I used the same amount of green curry paste as I did of red (the recipe was the same) and boy, was it HOT! A little too hot for us… next time I’ll use maybe a little more than half that amount.

While researching curry heat, I found this really cool kitchen gadget – I want it!!

Coconut Shredder

When making coconut milk, I wonder if it would be better to use the coconut water or just plain water? I suppose both would be needed to get enough milk for a recipe. I would definitely like to try making our own coconut milk, that would be very cool. I’ve recently discovered that fresh coconut is one of my favorite foods – probably in the top 10. Mmm!

Fun With Food

My mom sent this today – I just love this stuff!! I had been looking for ideas on things to make in addition to Cream Cheese Penguins, and here it is. Thanks, Mom!

What Chefs Do When They Are Bored

I think the next time I have to bring a dish somewhere, I’ll try the frogs and sheep. Also be sure to check out some of the links below the pictures… there’s some funny stuff on there!

Dinner Menu – Feb 2 through Feb 9

Drumroll, please! Here are the dishes we’re planning this week…

The other day I bought some naan bread as an adventure food (we ate it with Tandoori Chicken) and there was some left, so I made some hummus to help use it up. And I found another good recipe which I’ll try after this batch of hummus is gone… Spiced Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. Mmmm!!

First Weekly Menu of the Year!

Wow, this week is filled with soup because it’s been really, really cold. We had a hard freeze last night – it got down to 27 degrees. I hope our lone pineapple is OK! I haven’t looked yet because everything will be covered until tomorrow, when it starts to warm back up again.

Anyways, here’s our list for the week:

Weekly Menu – 12/18/07

We have at least one new recipe to try out this week… yummy! Plus I’ll be making the macaroons for a treat.

  • Lamburgers
  • Steak Marsala
  • Skillet Lasagna Florentine
  • Pizza with Pepperoni, Mushrooms and Onion
  • Japanese Stir Fry
  • Mixed Greens Salad with Italian Herb-Crusted Chicken
  • Chicken & Shrimp Fried Rice

Weekly Menu

I’ve decided to post our weekly menus online so all in the house have easy access. Someday we’ll set up an RSS feed so Trav can display it on his site, too. For now, it’ll just be a regular ol’ post. Here’s a list of our meal choices for the coming week:

  • Salad (romaine lettuce, 2 kinds of cabbage, bok choy, radishes, carrots, parsley, green onions and that red & white stuff that’s kind of a cross between cabbage and lettuce… what is that?)
  • Chicken Marsala (Ate this tonight, with Panera sourdough baguette and perogies)
  • Buffalo Chicken Wing Soup
  • Beef Enchiladas
  • Sausage, Noodles, Onion & Tomatoes (SNOT)
  • Sassy Sausage and Black Bean Soup
  • Mama’s Tuscan Spinach Rice Soup (experimental)

I’ll let you know how the Tuscan soup turns out… I can’t wait to try it!

Thanksgiving Day

Being prepared in advance is kind of strange!! I feel like I should be busy, running around the kitchen preparing large quantities of food. But here I am, sitting at the computer, feeding rice to hungry people and then pacing around the kitchen, noshing on pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts while we wait for everyone to arrive. We’re going to eat around 3:00.

The turkey is coming along nicely. The stuffing turned out really good – I think it’s going to be almost worthy of my Dad’s. 🙂

In one of my newsletters, I got a link to a very cool site… Grocery Guide. It allows you to check out the specials at your local stores, and to compare deals. It’s still in beta so it may not have all the stores in your area, but it looks pretty cool!

Time to go baste the turkey.