Sunday, November 28, 2010

POM-a Wonderful Party!


Greetings everyone!  The amazing people at POM Wonderful have sent me great party supplies to make a pomegranate themed dinner party. Awesome, huh? When given this opportunity, I knew I wanted to throw a birthday dinner party for my dear husband. It was the perfect occasion!
But hmm… I had never really worked with pomegranate, never had pure pomegranate juice…  The only time I really paid enough attention to it was when I saw an episode about pomegranates on “Good Eats” by Alton Brown. So, with so little experience in dealing with pomegranates, I knew I had to do my homework before I committed to my menu.
I visited POM Wonderful’s website and learned from there how to open and extract the arils efficiently.  Here is POM’s easy step-by-step way to open a pomegranate:

Cut – With a sharp paring knife, cut off the top about a half inch below the crown.

Score – Once the top has been removed, four to six sections of the pomegranate divided by white membrane will be visible. With the knife’s point, score the skin along each section.

Open – Using both hands, carefully pull the pomegranate apart, breaking it into smaller sections.

Loosen – Over a bowl of water, loosen the arils and allow them to drop freely into the bowl. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top.

Scoop – Use a spoon to scoop out the pieces of white membrane that have floated to the top of the water.

Strain – Pour the arils and remaining liquid through a strainer.

Haha, no, this is not what I got from POM :) Although she certainly loved the juice and the box!

Well, that seemed easy enough! I tried it, and actually had some good fun separating the arils off of the fruit (but my kitchen looked like a horror movie…). I tried an aril (I personally did not eat the whole thing; I spit the seed out but I know of people who choose to eat the whole thing!) and it was tart and sweet at the same time. Very flavorful! If you like the taste of cranberries, it is a fruit you would really like!
Now knowing the taste of the fruit, I was able to choose the menu.



For starters, I made an appetizer of Hummus drizzled with pomegranate molasses (I found pomegranate molasses at our local international food store), served with assorted chips (pita chips, pretzel sticks, mini toasts).The hummus recipe (which is sooooooooooooo easy to make!) was from one of my favorite blogs, Annie’s Eats, inspired from Cook’s Illustrated. To go along with the wonderful appetizer, we made (and by we, I mean my husband since he is the drink “connoisseur”) a POM-tini. He modified the original recipe from Drinks Mixer a little bit in the drink presentation. Following is the modified recipe:

Ingredients:
2 oz of citron-flavored vodka
1 oz Cointreau orange liqueur
Lemon slices for garnishing martini glass
Sugar for garnishing martini glass

Directions:
Mix first 3 ingredients in a shaker. Rub one lemon slice along each martini glass rim, then dip the glass upside-down on sugar. Add the mixed contents into the garnished glass and serve. Serves 2 glasses.


 For the main course, I made Pomegranate Lamb with Au Jus, with a side of Sweet Potato, Apple and Onion Gratin and Roasted Asparagus. Now I have to say something about the Pomegranate Lamb: the Au Jus part of this recipe is what makes the whole dish! It takes some time to reduce the chicken stock, but it is worth it! The sweetness of the pomegranate juice really complements the marinated lamb meat. The meat itself comes out so tender and moist! For this party I doubled the recipe, and people devoured all the food!

For dessert, I made a simple Vanilla Cupcake with Pomegranate Frosting. The frosting was my creation, and it is below as well. ThPOM juice added a slight pink/tan color to the frosting, which was a nice touch!

POM Wonderful’s Buttercream Frosting
2 sticks butter unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp meringue powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup 
POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice 

Happy Birthday to my lovely husband. Thanks for letting me share this wonderful day with you! I love you very much!

Credit goes to all the wonderful inspirational recipes I followed:
The POM-tini is adapted from Drinks Mixer, the Pomegranate Lamb is a recipe from Foodnetwork.com, the Sweet Potato side is from the great blog Evil Shenanigans, and the Hummus and Vanilla Cupcakes are from Annie’s Eats.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

German Chocolate Cupcake



Hello again! So for the dessert: this yummy dessert deserved its own blog! As I had mentioned before, my father-in-law’s favorite dessert is German Chocolate Cake. Did you know German Chocolate Cake is not really German? It is an oh-so-very American cake! If you are interested in learning a little about this cake’s history, check out  Wikipedia.
Anyways, I didn’t want to bake one big cake, so I made cupcakes instead! This recipe was amazing! I didn’t change anything from its original recipe, and I must say it came out super moist and fluffy! I highly recommend it! :D So what are you still here reading this blog? Go make these cupcakes!

German Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from 
Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for tins
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted, plus more for tins
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush standard muffin tins with butter; dust with cake flour, tapping out excess, or spray generously with nonstick baking spray. Whisk together cake flour, baking soda, and salt.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each. Beat in chocolate until combined.

3. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes. Run a small offset spatula or knife around the edges to loosen; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature in airtight containers.

4. To finish, make a hole in the top of each cupcake with a spoon or wide end of metal decorative icing tip. Fill hole with frosting and spread more on top.

Coconut Pecan Frosting
3 large egg yolks
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and brought to room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups (7 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Combine egg yolks, evaporated milk, and brown sugar in a saucepan. Add butter, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick, about 10 minutes. Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl.

2. Stir in vanilla, salt, coconut, and pecans. Let cool completely. Frosting can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day; bring to room temperature before using.

Recipe provided by Playing House

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stuffed Pumpkin


Happy Halloween (a day late) everyone! Man, we had a great trick-or-treat night in our neighborhood. Lots of kids came through our house with some pretty ingenious costumes! My favorite was these 2 teenage girls who were “Siamese twins” – they each were a pant leg and wore a very large dress. They were walking around the neighborhood like that the ENTIRE night! It looked so hard to walk with your legs bound by a pant leg, and only having one dress sleeve to stick your arms through. They got extra candy from me just for the costume originality!
Anywho, Sunday was also my daughter’s first go at trick-or-treating. Last year she was just over 3 months, so although we dressed her up, she didn’t quite participate in any of the festivities. This year she actually went trick-or-treating to a few houses, and even got to hand out candy (when she wasn’t keeping the bright-colored candy to herself).
Another also, since today is my father-in-law’s birthday, we invited them over for dinner yesterday and celebrated his birthday a day early. When I asked his girlfriend what his favorite dessert is, without hesitating she said “German Chocolate Cake”. I jumped at the opportunity to turn this yummy dessert into a cupcake. I will post the cupcake recipe separately here, so I can focus on the dinner recipe.
So actually focus on the dinner: Stuffed pumpkin. This is as “autumn-like” as you can get in a meal! The stuffing was very similar to a Thanksgiving dressing. Truthfully, you can add anything you think would sound good in your stuffing. Since my guests were vegetarian, I stayed away from any meats, but adding ground sausage would be really yummy. My husband even suggested apple sausage (and I said “awesome!”). If you like the sweet and salty combination, green apples would go really well too (which I plan on adding next time). Aside from these extra yummies for the stuffing, I will also be adding more chicken broth to the pumpkin to make the stuffing moister. I think it would also help cook the pumpkin more tender.
NOTE: since I didn’t get a picture of the stuffed pumpkin itself, here are pictures of my daughter, one from last Halloween, and one from yesterday:


Stuffed Pumpkin

 Ingredients:
1 (5-6lb) pumpkin (I used pie pumpkin)
3 Tbsp of canola oil, plus more for brushing on pumpkin
6 celery stalks, diced
1 medium leek, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups mushroom, cubed
2 cups cooked rice (I used white)
1 package dried bread (for stuffing), or 6 cups of cubed bread
1 cup dried cranberries or currants
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp dried sage
1 Tbsp poultry seasoning
2-3 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs, slightly beaten
Salt and ground pepper to taste

Directions:
Remove top from pumpkin, jack-o-lantern style. Scoop out seeds and strings, leaving hollowed shell to stuff. Brush canola oil lightly on pumpkin skin if you like, and set aside.
Heat 3 Tbsp of canola oil in large skillet and sauté celery and leek until starting to be translucent. Add garlic and continue cooking. Next add the mushrooms and sauté until done, about 5 minutes. Add white rice, cranberries or currants, and stir to mix. Add coarsely chopped walnuts to the mixture.
Add seasonings, butter, and eggs. Mix everything together, preferably with your hands (don’t be shy to get your hands dirty!). Add more chicken stock or eggs if you like a moister stuffing; skip the eggs or use less stock if you like a drier one. Stuff into pumpkin and bake at 350F degrees for about 1.5 hours, until stuffing is heated through to the center and pumpkin is fork tender.

Recipe adapted from Foodista.com