Poppy Seed Dressing

I am having a salad bar of sorts for our party on Friday night so I was trying to decide what I should do for salad dressing.

The chef told me to use Colman’s mustard but I couldn’t find it at my local grocery store.

Our chef at work always makes fresh dressing and my favorite is poppy seed.

On Cooking is a textbook for chefs.

He uses a recipe from a culinary text book entitled On Cooking.

Honey, vinegar, and olive oil figure big in this dressing.

The ingredients are:

  • 8 fl oz cider vinegar (I used a mixture of cider vinegar and balsamic.  Red wine vinegar makes a pretty pink dressing.)
  • 6 fl oz honey
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp celery leaves, minced

    Minced celery leaves.
  • 1 green onion, white only, minced
  • 8 fl oz vegetable oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp poppy seeds
Honey (sinks to the bottom) and vinegar.

The directions are simple mix everything except the oil and poppy seeds together.

I pour the oil through the hole in the top of the blender.

Beat in the oil by droplets then a thin stream.  I do the mixing in a blender for a creamier texture.

This recipe yields approximately 20 fluid ounces.  Plenty for a party.

Do you have a favorite salad dressing?

Haven’t Made Beef Stew in a Long Time

Most of what I cook I just know how to make. I rarely use a cook book but that means I sometimes leave out an ingredient or 2.

Even before the new kitchen I would make multiple pots of soup.

For instance we’ll be serving 2 soups at Friday night’s party: Chicken noodle  and beef stew.

I try to made the cubed meat and vegetables approximately the same size and able to fit on a spoon.

I’ve been making beef stew very infrequently for decades. The last time I actually remember making it was in 2012 for my Soup Swap.

The ingredients are:

  • Beef cubes (I’m using a top round roast cut into cubes.)

    This tough cut works well stewed.
  • Oil to brown the meat
  • Celery and onion, diced

    I add celery first because it takes longer to cook than onion.
  • Heaping tablespoon of flour to help thicken the sauce (optional)
  • Cubed potatoes

    Diced potatoes go in last.
  • Carrots cut in a similar size as the potatoes
  • 32 oz Bottle of V-8 juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1.   Brown the meat in vegetable oil.
  2.   Add diced celery and onion and wilt in the pot with the meat.

    Beef, celery, and onions sautéing in olive oil.
  3.   Add flour and cook until it is browned a little. (At this point feel free to add herbs: parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, etc.)
  4.   Add V-8 juice. I used about 48 ounces in a 6-quart pot. Add water (or canned tomatoes) to cover the meat and vegetables.

    This recipe can be proportioned for a smaller or bigger pot.
  5.   Add carrots and cook until meat is tender.

    Carrots are colorful and give some sweetness to the broth.
  6.   Add potatoes.
  7.   Simmer until the vegetables are tender.

I never use bouillon cubes or granules to flavor my soups because it seems to make them too salty and adds odd artificial flavor.  That’s just my opinion.

Do you have a favorite soup or stew?

Timeline for a Friday Night Party

I’m a little nervous about next week’s surprise party because I work Monday through Friday.

I always make a party plan even if I don't stick to it and post it in a conspicuous spot.
I always make a party plan (even if I don’t stick to it) and post it in a conspicuous spot.

I’m making a detailed timeline so I, too, can enjoy the party once it starts.

Shrimp gumbo, Carrots, Punchbowl Cake (L to R) at a previous party. I provided the carrots.
Shrimp gumbo, Carrots, Punchbowl Cake (L to R) at a previous party. I provided the carrots.

I have a menu of sorts which will be filled in with desserts by some of the attendees.

Menu

  • Beef stew
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Homemade croutons
  • Vegetable plate with hummus
  • Chopped salad fixings:  lettuce, eggs, avocado, craisins, slivered almonds, cherry tomatoes, chicken breast, shredded cheese.
  • Beverages: Glade Fizz, Coffee, Tea

The original Glade Fizz (which I invented so I should know) is about one (1) part chilled cran-grape to three (3) parts chilled gingerale . You may add ice if you desire.

I had a special message piped onto the cake.
I had a special message piped onto the cake.

But I also need a birthday cake so I ordered it last night. The think I’m expecting about 20 people — give or take so quarter sheet cake should be sufficient.

Thursday: Order cake.

Friday: Go shopping for soup making supplies and staples.

Saturday:

  • Make chicken broth and freeze.

    Chicken broth making is scheduled for Saturday.
    Chicken broth making is scheduled for Saturday.
  • Make ahead any food possible.
  • Declutter and dust and vacuum downstairs.

Sunday: Finish any cleaning and organizing left from Saturday.

Charlie has started to clean by removing everything from the conservatory. Aiiiieeee!
Charlie has started to clean by removing everything from the conservatory. Aiiiieeee!

Monday:  Iron tablecloths and set out decorations.

I have a good selection of tablecloths from which to choose.
I have a good selection of tablecloths from which to choose.

Tuesday: Make Beef Stew.

Wednesday: Set out all dishes for the party. Including glasses and coffee cups.

We'll set up the coffee station on the peninsula.
We’ll set up the coffee station on the peninsula.

Thursday:  Final shopping for salad fixings and fresh food items, including fresh flowers.

The covered item in the center of the mantel is part of my idea for the party's theme.
The covered item in the center of the mantel is part of my idea for the party’s theme.

Parteeee Day!

Before work: Prep salad fixings and chicken soup vegetables.

After work:

  • Pick up the cake on the way home.
  • Set up salad and soup bar.
  • Light candles.

    I have plenty of candles.
    I have plenty of candles.

Guests arriving at 7.

What have I forgotten?

A Million Different Directions

We are trying to tie up lose ends on our projects both in the house and in the Cottage but new items keep cropping up.

Before sewing the rugs together I cut off the fringe.
Before sewing the rugs together I cut off the fringe.

I started working on the stair runner two weeks ago.  I finished about half of it before the sewing machine started giving me problems.

We'll be staying in a historic hotel.
We’ll be staying in a historic hotel.

Also we’re heading to New York City soon so I’m trying to make plans for the trip.  Thus far I have reduced our hotel bill $155 by going back to the website and calling for a better deal.  Unfortunately $155 won’t pay our parking for the weekend but it will certainly help.

I have always enjoyed a late-night cabaret.
I have always enjoyed a late-night cabaret.

I have made a short list of Broadway, off-Broadway, and cabaret shows as well as must-see restaurants for the first-time visitor. We’ll be staying near the Waldorf.  Any suggestions?

The Cottage windows are charming but drafty.
The Cottage windows are charming but drafty.

Our Cottage tenant has decided to have all the windows replaced with more efficient ones as well as a new front door and storm door.  Those items along with some interior trim should keep the Cottage “under construction” for a few weeks.

The conservatory sink will get a backsplash that matches the shower tile.
The conservatory sink will get a backsplash that matches the shower tile.

And Charlie and I are getting additional tile installation quotes since the first one was much more than we expected.

Soup is on the menu.
Soup is on the menu.

Then, when we get back from New York I’ll have to begin cooking and decorating for the “surprise party”.  I think I have worked out how it will go but I still need to contact a few bunch of friends.

I'm planning a South of the Border theme.
I’m planning a South of the Border theme.

I’m already planning a bridal shower for May which I hope my choir will actually sponsor since one of our own is getting married in June.

I'm starting in the living room.
I’m starting in the living room.

First thing on the agenda: clean the house!!!

Do you plan ahead and then realize you’re all booked up?

Shhhhh! Can You Keep a Secret?

I need a menu and a theme for a special birthday party.

The Glade is perfectly suited to having large parties with great food.
The Glade is perfectly suited to having large parties with great food.

This person might be expecting something but I hope it’s not what I have in mind.

Soup has been on the party menu before.
Soup has been on the party menu before.

The menu needs to be heart-healthy.  Soup and salad seem like reasonable options.

  • Beef stew
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Homemade croutons
  • Vegetable plate with hummus
  • Chopped salad fixings:  lettuce, eggs, avocado, craisins, slivered almonds, cherry tomatoes, chicken breast, shredded cheese.
French market theme?
French market theme?

I told the first rush of secret-keepers about the party and reminded them that an off-hand comment would be a giveaway to this very astute person.  In the group was one of my favorite cooks who offered to make one of her signature desserts.  We’re on our way.

Have any theme ideas for early March?

Lady Finger Sandwiches with Pumpkin Pastry Cream

Just in time for Thanksgiving I’ve got a pumpkin recipe that will please the masses.  My guests described it as tasting “like pumpkin pie only better”.

24 lady fingers per box at Trader Joe's.
24 lady fingers per box at Trader Joe’s.
Lady fingers are very light.
Lady fingers are very light.

I started by making pumpkin pastry cream according to this recipe except I replaced the nutmeg with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves. Then I chilled it in the refrigerator where it became very firm.

Whipped cream is folded into pastry cream.
Whipped cream is folded into pastry cream.

I whipped up a pint of heavy whipping cream with about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar then folded the whipped cream into the pumpkin pastry cream. It became light and spreadable.

A schmear of pastry cream raises simple lady fingers to a new level.
A schmear of pastry cream raises simple lady fingers to a new level.

Having already purchased some lady fingers at the store I spread the light pastry cream on the flat side. (I also tried piping the cream. Either works.)

A delectable sweet treat.
A delectable sweet treat — light as air.

The cream spread lady finger was topped with another one to make a tiny, sweet, yummy sandwich. This recipe of pastry cream will make about 72 lady finger sandwiches — 6 boxes.

The pyramid on the left is lady fingers filled with whipped cream lightened pumpkin pastry cream.
The pyramid on the left is lady fingers filled with whipped cream lightened pumpkin pastry cream.

Lady finger sandwiches with pumpkin pastry cream is especially delicious with coffee.

What your favorite flavor? Chocolate? Vanilla? Pumpkin?

Two-bite Quiche

This past weekend I wanted hors d’oeuvres-sized quiches.

This Ham and Swiss Quiche can be miniaturized.
This full-sized Ham and Swiss Quiche can be miniaturized.

I have made quiche many times in the past but since we were having an afternoon party I felt a little snacking food would be sufficient.

First the phyllo, then the onions, then ham (or any other filling).
First the phyllo, then the onions, then ham (or any other filling).

I used my same old recipe except I did not cook it in a pie plate, instead I used muffin tins. First I brushed half a piece of phyllo (filo) dough with melted butter/olive oil and folded it in half. I cut the piece into squares and lined muffin tins. I probably should have also buttered the tins before inserting the phyllo for ease of removal.

Although milk is sufficient I replaced some of it with cream. Yum.
Although milk is sufficient I replaced some of it with cream. Yum.

Into each cup section went a spoon of well-sautéed onions, bits of sliced ham, and more bits of Swiss cheese. Then I poured the custard mixture — 1 large egg to 1/4 cup of milk (make as much or as little as you need) — into each cup covering the solid ingredients.  To gild the lily I sprinkled a bit of grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Mini-quiche on the left, chicken salad in pâte à choux on the right.
Mini-quiche on the left, chicken salad in pâte à choux on the right.

The mini-quiches baked until they were set — approximately 30 minutes.

We used the kitchen island as the buffet serving station.
We used the kitchen island as the buffet serving station.

The buffet was small but well-received.

What filling do you like in your quiche?