Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mystery Cooking Club

Valerie hosted this month's cooking club - her very first in her beautiful new kitchen!! The theme was "Mystery," which meant we each chose a course, but didn't tell anyone what we were making. It would be fun to see how the dinner ended up coming together! We also each got to guess the ingredients in each dish, competing for prizes at the end of the night.

Nancy made two appetizers! First was the Feta Tapenade Tarte Soleil from Smitten Kitchen. This delightful appetizer is puff pastry filled with sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives, served with a whipped lemony feta-y cream cheesy dip that is tart and zingy.

Special guest star Kristi made stuffed mushrooms! The ingredients hiding out in hers were mushroom caps, goat cheese, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, dried lavender buds and ground bison. They were flavorful little guys!

Summer made a cocktail that was ridiculously complicated. It's called a Sorghum Flip, and she even made her own bitters!

Here's Summer preparing the mystery drink. Here's what's in it:


Toasted pecans
Brown sugar
Sorghum syrup
Homemade coffee-pecan bitters


Toasted pecans
Cracked coffee beans
Cocoa nibs
Dried orange peel
Black peppercorns
Cassia chips
Sorghum syrup

She even sent us each home with a bottle!

Nancy's other appetizer was this Skinny Hot Cheesy Caprese Dip, which starred the mystery ingredient cauliflower! This was super yummy, but also healthy!

Nancy being cute watching the end of the Patriots game.

Yumi's soup course also featured the mystery ingredient cauliflower! This soup was crazy! None of us could tell what was in it. I thought it tasted like hamburgers! What it actually had was chicken broth, cauliflower, butter, onion, garlic, yogurt and lemon juice.

The beautiful droplets on top were chive oil (chives and olive oil) and peppadew vinegar (peppadew peppers and red wine vinegar). It was so good!

Time to eat!


Valerie made a mystery bread! This handsome loaf was the pumpernickel bread from the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Some surprise ingredients were cocoa, coffee, and molasses!

I told everyone to look like they're concentrating.

Oops, I didn't get a photo of Emily's salad bowl! But here is my taster portion. Her salad had purple kale, kohlrabi, sliced almonds, shaved Parmesan, tahini, white wine vinegar, red miso, maple syrup
and red pepper flakes. It was very hard to guess! I thought it had mayonnaise!

I made Roasted Leek and White Bean Galettes from Smitten Kitchen. The crust is light and amazing, with a hint of tang from greek yogurt and lemon juice! The filling had lemon zest, garlic, parsley and gruyere in addition to the roasted leeks and cannellini beans.

After dinner we played a super fun game that Valerie taught us! It's called Bowl of Nouns. Everyone writes five nouns on separate slips of paper and throws them all in a bowl. Then divide into teams.

Go around the table, and each person has one minute to get their teammates to guess as many words as possible. The first round you can say whatever you want to get them to guess. Once all the clues have been played, dump them back in the bowl and start again. This round, you can only use ONE word to get your teammates to guess. Then for the final round, you have to act out the words!

So fun!!

Valerie preparing her mystery dessert with Liza helping.

Valerie made this FABULOUS Goat Cheese Cheesecake from Food & Wine with a blueberry coulis! The star ingredient here was goat cheese. A cheesecake with no cream cheese! It was sooooo good! All of us declared we never wanted another cream cheese cheesecake again.

The blueberry coulis (which you might remember from one year ago, the funniest moment in cooking club history: the time Valerie accidentally brought black beans instead of blueberries to top her chocolate cakes with) had a mystery ingredient too, balsamic vinegar! I never would've guessed.

 What a fun theme! 

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy 2016!

Ben and I had the family over tonight for good luck pork tacos! We kicked things off with a trio of salsas from Casa.

Kate entertained us with a party trick she called the Horn Show:

Dad gave a really nice toast! I think we're all looking forward to 2016.

Cheryl brought Chambord to have with our prosecco! Yum, cheers!

Good luck pork tacos! I forgot to get out the pickled red onions at first, wah! Luckily most people hadn't had seconds yet and were able to enjoy some.

Then we played Charades!! Dad went first and his was a hard one!



Little Kate was reluctant to go but then got up and NAILED IT! "Microwave!"

Ben getting some congratulations after his team guessed his clue ("Doug Latz") very quickly.


Mom had "The Last Unicorn"!

Charades was REALLY fun. For dessert I made orange bundt cake with chocolate ganache. Cheryl brought a buttermilk pie also, but I didn't manage to snap a picture of that.

 What a great night with family, and I hope everyone has a super wonderful 2016!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve!

Emily and Mark had a New Year's Eve get-together at their house! Within five minutes of arrival, I dropped a full flute of champagne in the kitchen and it shattered everywhere. CHEERS!

They made a raclette spread! Raclette is something I've never heard of before. It is a Swiss/French dish where you melt raclette cheese and then serve it on potatoes, meats and breads!

Mark scooping up some meats to put raclette on.

Charlotte, Mark and Emily!

Scooping raclette! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dog vs. Unicorn

Uncle Mark got me a GIANT stuffed unicorn for Christmas. Ben and I brought it home and put it in the living room to see what Felix would do. He wanted to play with it really bad, and got pretty irritated that it didn't want to play with him!

Clearly the unicorn will not be able to live at our house, so it now has a home in my office at work! Hopefully it's magical softness will inspire my colleagues to do amazing things.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! We got together at Mom and Dad's this morning for presents and breakfast!

Kate got some chalkboard markers that also write on windows! Marry Christmas!

LOOK at the beautiful earrings and note that Kate got Mer!

Mom and Mer cooking breakfast!

Fresh fruit!


Served with my favorite Farmer's Market sausage.

I'm proud to say I got the BIGGEST present of the day. Thanks Uncle Mark!

Dad gave me a little screwdriver kit and made the sweetest bunny out of cotton products!!

Cottonballs, Q-Tips and paper towels! Awww!

Then we headed to Mer's for Christmas Dinner. Frank brought champagne. Pop it!


Felix planted himself in the middle of the kitchen. Smart.

Christmas toast!

Merry Christmas!

Mer made sauerbrauten and spaetzle and it was SO GOOD!!!!! I love this dinner.

Kate used her window markers to illustrate poisonous vs. edible mushrooms.

Pay attention!

Cookies that Mer, Pete and Kate made!

Bunny cookie! Merry Christmas, everyone.