Friday, September 18, 2009

Lazy Birthday for the Lazy Man Boyfriend

I had to do an interview yesterday with Gregg Smith who is a famous restaurateur here in Pasadena, because I'm doing an article about him for Pasadena Magazine. I told him I was doing a dinner birthday party for my boyfriend last night for 13 people, and he was pretty surprised by how relaxed I was. I told him the title of our book and he understood!

So, how does a Lazy Woman create a fancy dinner party for 13 with less stress? Here's what I did to create the following menu:

Chicken with Lemon Caper Wine Sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Spinach with Olive Oil and Lemon
Orzo with Peas and Fresh Herbs
Salad with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
Hot Buttery Bread
Two Birthday Desserts

Wednesday Night -- 4 hours work

  • Shopping for all Ingredients (frankly if I wasn't so cheap this could have been done in much shorter order, but I'm cheap!)
  • Prepare the Mashed Potatoes and put in casserole
  • Prepare Orzo with Peas and Fresh Herbs
  • Prepare one birthday dessert
  • Prepare flower arrangements and votive candles for tables

Thursday Morning - 1 hour work

  • Prepare second birthday dessert
  • Pound the chicken breasts and marinate in olive oil and white wine

Thurday Evening -- 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (party started at 7)

  • Set tables
  • Dress bouffet table and place all the serving dishes that will eventually be filled.
  • Par-grill the chicken
  • Prep the salad (without dressing)
  • Put the fresh spinach in the pot with lemon and olive oil and put on low heat to just get it steamy, then turn off so it's not completely cooked, but cooked down a bit -- again, not done, just partly cooked so it can be reheated and finished in a couple minutes
  • Put the caper, wine, lemon sauce together in a big sautee pan, so it's ready to throw the par-cooked breasts into for final minute of cooking
  • Decorate the birthday desserts
  • Put the mashed potatoes in the oven at about 350 for final hour leading up to dinner.
  • Chop chives for mashed potatoes.

Thursday Evening -- 7:45 (at the end of cocktails) to about 8:05 when dinner is served.

  • Put buttered and sliced baguettes or pane rustica in oven for final 15 minutes in with the mashed potatoes.
  • Dress salad with lemon, olive oil, salt pepper.
  • Sautee the breasts in the lemon wine caper sauce for just a minute or so and plate with all the sauce flowing over all the pieces and put on table
  • Take mashed potatoes out of oven, mix a little and throw in some fresh chives. Put on table.
  • Warm up the spinach for a couple minutes to finish their cooking -- being careful to keep tossing in the pot so you don't overcook any leaves....and put in bowl on the table!
  • Take bread out of the oven...and put it on the table!

I've posted a couple of the recipes that I used that I loved. The mashed potatoes are my own variation of the Silver Palate Cookbook "Thanksgiving Potatoes" recipe which has butter, sour cream and cream cheese...this is why you can reheat them the next day and they are actually fluffier and better when you do!

Buon BIRTHDAY Appetito!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Trader Joe's Tuesday -- Barbecuing is ALWAYS Lazy!

What could be lazier than grilling? No heating up the kitchen, no pre-heating ovens, no messing up a bunch o' pans! And, phooey on "grilling weather!" Even if you have to put on a jacket to go throw the food on the grill and put the jacket back on to go flip it, etc. it's not that big a deal. I know some of you live in bitter cold, so I don't expect you to grill then, but even when the stores stop setting up their BBQ fixins' in aisle end displays, you can remember this easy solution for great taste. (By the way for those of you who really don't WANT to grill outdoors due to weather constraints, I HIGHLY recommend the George Foreman grills...they come in many sizes and they are cheap...and worth their weight in gold because you need no butter or oil...they are stick-free and really stuff tastes BBQ'd when you grill it on there!)

Traders Joe's is BBQ heaven. They have tons of marinades (and even dressings that aren't touted as marinades) in their salad dressing section, as well as littering the displays above the frozen meats and fishes. Just look at the ingredients and see if it strikes your fancy, and marinate your meat either an hour or two -- or overnight, if you are thinking ahead. Fish doesn't need to marinate as long. An hour will do it for fish. And, watch for citrus ingredients which will actually cook the fish, so those you don't need to marinate in anything citrus-y, just brush on prior to cooking.

Now, as a more-than-half-my-life fishetarian (eat fish sometimes, but mostly a veggie) I still LOVE grilling real honest to god red meat for my friends. There is literally nothing better than that smell. I love marinating tri-tip and I can often find pre-marinated tri-tip at my TJs. I love grilling chicken too for my friends.

My boyfriend is a genius barbecuer, so he grills and I do the sauces. This weekend, we made Grilled Chicken with Lemon Caper Butter.

Ingredients for the Lemon Caper Butter sauce for about 6 people -- spooned onto the grilled boneless chicken (pounded thin if you can -- it's fun to get your aggressions out, eh?) are all found in the TJ aisles:

1/2 cup butter (I use salted because I like my salt)
3 to 5 tablespoons of capers (to your taste)
juice of one large lemon
A couple splashes of white wine (any white wine)
A couple pinches of salt

It's delicious! I promise!

But for those of you who are veggies like me, check out the Tofurkey Italian Sausage and the new Gourmet White Hot Dog Buns. Who knew there were great hot dog buns? I always use pane rustica cut up into the right size for my buns, or unique sourdough rolls, etc. because I think most buns are tasteless and/or never fresh enough. But the Trader Joe's Gourmet White Hot Dog Buns are fabulous.

And, unequivocally, their Tofurkey Italian Sausages are the best most satisfying deliciousest veggie dogs in the world! I split them down the middle and throw them on the grill face down and then flip just a couple/few minutes later. I thought they must have turkey in them because the taste is so robust, and checked the label three or four times. They are completely veggie. I think it must be the sun dried tomatoes (which I usually don't like) and basil that make the difference. If you have a veggie in your family, throw these on the grill for him/her, and they'll probably ask for the package label too!

Buon Barbecuing Appetito!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lazy Cake -- Just FIVE Minutes to Chocolate Cake!!!!

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Lazy Women of the World Hear Ye This! You can make a delicious chocolate cake for two in FIVE MINUTES!

Late last night I got an email with this recipe in it. I exclaimed how cool it looked so Aaron said "Let's do it!" Of course, by "let's" he meant for me to do it because he thinks he can't bake. Well, this is for even those with a faint heart of any kind with respect to baking. It's NOT baking -- it's mixing stuff in a cup and throwing it in the microwave!

You mix the ingredients in a COFFEE MUG, put it in the microwave for THREE MINUTES and you have a warm chocolate cake!! It really was good! And, it was plenty for TWO PEOPLE to share.

Here's the recipe that came in the email...except it said the chocolate chips were optional and I say you need them.

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (MicroSafe)

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
EAT ! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).
And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

It's Trader Joe's Tuesday -- Green Tea Madness

We just had dinner at an amazing restaurant tonight -- Equator in Old Town Pasadena. I have to say every bit of the meal was an inspired and delicious Asian Fusion delight... I could write about every divine flavor we experienced but I want to focus on the green tea and what it has to do with Trader Joe's.

They made a green tea cheesecake and it was resting in a little green sea of green tea yogurt and strawberry slices. It reminded me of my addiction a couple years ago to the green tea yogurt at Trader Joe's so I will now be reassuming that culinary habit and I will be slicing strawberries into it because it's so fricking beautiful and tasty!

And, the next thing I'll be trying is Green Tea Mochi in a strawberry puree. These days you can make a strawberry puree so easily because you just throw the berries in a blender and barely have to add any sugar -- if any -- to make a nice puree. Can you imagine how lovely that would look with the one whole strawberry atop the mochi ball?

I'm telling you I didn't know until today that green tea was meant to be wed to strawberries. I am happy to hear about their lovely romance...and that Trader Joe's can support this culinary bliss in many ways.