My brother and sister and their spouses joined us from Ohio and Illinois. So did Sally's daughter Holly who came all the way from Alexandria, VA. My chef friend Suzanne Duplantis and her husband Chris were up from Louisiana, visiting the area as well. Lots of good food all around.
First, one of my recipes...
Brussels & Beans Casserole
One of those spur-of-the-moment creations that was more technique than recipe:
Cooked White Beans
Halved Brussels Sprouts, pan roasted until just tender
Panko Bread crumbs
Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese
Layer the Brussels sprouts, tomato, mushrooms shredded cheese and panko. Pour the Alfredo over. Then top with Parmesan Cheese, more shredded cheese, and more panko.
Bake at 350F until browned and bubbly.
Suzanne Duplantis and I competed next to each other a couple years ago at the World Food Championships, and came to respect each other's culinary skills and achievements. She and husband Chris happen to have a cabin near Little Switzerland, NC, about 20 'crow-miles' from our friends' cabin where we stayed. They also happened to be there the weekend that we arrived; so we planned to meetup and I'd make a mushroom farro risotto dinner.
But life got in the way, and we only had time to share a glass of wine and the fabulous appetizer tray Suzanne made.
Her blogger moniker is Make Over My Leftover, and we had a fabulous array of Pimento Cheese stuffed Pecans, crackers, cucumber, and an outstanding Smoked Trout Dip she'd made from leftover smoked fish and other things. You'll have to bug her for the recipe: http://makeovermyleftover.com
My Birthday Bash
For my 70th birthday, I invited my brother Dave, and sister Nancy and their spouses, our friends Susan and Patrick who have a cabin near Burnsville, NC; Sally's daughter Holly; and Angela and Keith, the deer rescue folks where we held the gathering on Green Mountain.
Awhile back, while ramaging through our Mom's old family cookbook, Nancy chanced upon what has to be my first ever recipe!!! Check this out:
Since then I've learned a LOT about spelling and grammar...
For the party we had 3 vegetarians, 2 sorta-vegetarians, and 6 or 7 carnivores. So I decided we'd have grilled kebabs, so that everyone could pick what they wanted. I bought some Ahi Tuna, Chicken, Beef and Shrimp, and an assortment of vegetables to skewer.
A long time ago I learned to skewer like things together rather than making "mixed skewers" with both veg and meat. Mixed skewers will either result in overcooked veg and undercooked meat, or vice versa. Here's what things looked like part way through the cooking process. Dave did most of the cooking, but I just had to supervise!
As each skewer was cooked, its contents were placed in appropriate bowls -- seafood, beef, chicken, vegetables. Bowls were passed around the table and diners took what they wanted.
Left, back to front: friends Susan and Patrick, and my sister Nancy with her husband Tim
Right: my brother Dave and his wife Judy.
In addition to the kebabs we also had sweet corn, baked beans, and assorted chips, crackers and dips (chef made and bottled).
Sally ordered a beautiful and very tasty chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, from Ingall's, the local "megamart" down in the valley.
As you can see in this photo, even some of last year's rescue deer came out of the woods to see if they could cadge a meal!
Just a week after mine, Sally's birthday is June 21st. We were back home, and "back into the of things" by then. I made her birthday dinner special, of course. A new recipe I created that I call
Sally's Cheesy Eggplant Stacks.
Not really eggplant Parmesan, as there is no Parmesan cheese. I cut 3/4" thick rounds, drizzled with EVOO and dusted with Italian spices, and broiled them about 4 minutes per side -- cooked by still very firm. Then I stacked: eggplant, herbed goat cheese, a slice of tomato, a pinch of panko, eggplant, goat cheese, a slice of Muenster cheese, about 4 tbsp. of marinara sauce, and a pinch of shredded cheddar. Bake the stacks in a 425F oven for about 25 minutes to melt and heat everything together.
Sally's birthday cake will come this Sunday when Mum comes to lunch -- a Mango Upside Down Gingerbread Cake. You've seen me do it before, but I'll have pictures to show next week.
Potato Apple Fennel Soup
Sally found this recipe on the Blue Zones website, I believe. Very rich and tasty. The fennel bulb is the only exotic and a little expensive ingredient, but well worth it for the taste (does not taste of licorice!).
Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a soup pot. Add a large russet potato and 2 red potatoes peeled and chopped. Also add the chopped fennel bulb, a chopped sweet onion, and a couple cloves of minced garlic. Spice with about a tablespoon of Italian seasoning. Simmer until the onion starts to turn translucent.
Add 3 cups of water or lowest sodium broth, and 2 or 3 peeled, chopped apples, bring to a boil, and simmer about10 minutes.
Transfer about 3/4 of the solids to a food processor and puree it. Return to the pot, add 1-1/2 cups of half & half or cream, re-season if necessary and heat everything through before serving.