In all honesty, my favorite parts of a meal are the starters, sides and yummy endings. So, with an upcoming family gathering, I wanted to share some things on my “to make” list. For starters, I would love our table to be set with 3 of these…how cute are those peeps and jelly beans with the flowers? Too clever. If you want to find out how to make it, click HERE.
To balance out the sugar high I am planning to be on, I will have to start with something green:
Wilted Arugula Salad with Asparagus, Bacon, Almonds, and Sherry Vinaigrette
7 oz. (8 strips) bacon, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed of tough, woody stems, and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
3 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. baby arugula
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon, stirring often, until crisp, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, leaving the bacon fat in the skillet. Cook the asparagus in the skillet with the bacon fat, stirring often, until crisp-tender and browned in spots, about 3 minutes. Season with 1/4 tsp. salt and, using a slotted spoon, transfer to the plate with the bacon. Add the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a scant 1/4 tsp. pepper to the fat in the skillet and whisk until combined. In a large bowl, combine the asparagus, bacon, arugula, and almonds and toss with just enough warm vinaigrette to wilt the arugula. Serve immediately.
In regards to sides, my sister makes the most A-MAY-ZING cheese grits. I know you’re thinking, “Oh, I’ve had good cheese grits.” No. You have not. Unless you’ve tried these. Don’t lose this recipe. It is a keeper.
Most importantly, do not buy “quick” grits. My all time favorite is Aunt Jemima Old Fashion Grits, but they are next to impossible to find. I now usually use Organic corn grits. They are not quite as smooth but are delicious and probably healthier (if you can use that term in a recipe like this!)
Cooked Grits, 12 servings
2 cups grits
½ stick of butter
1 Tbs. or 4 dashes of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. or 4 dashes of Tabasco
1 tsp. garlic salt
½ tsp white pepper
1 lb. Velveeta Cheese, cubed
8 oz. Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Cook the grits in a large sauce pan as directed, using slightly less water (1/8 cup) so they are a little thicker. Be sure to pour the grits slowly into the boiling water to avoid clumping and stir rapidly for appx. 1 minute, until a fine mixture. Once the water is absorbed and the mixture is thick, add butter, Lea & Perrins, Tabasco, garlic salt, white pepper and stir. Add Velveeta stirring constantly so they are creamy. Once the Velveeta melted and thoroughly mixed in grits, add the sharp cheddar cheese. Of course, you must taste and adjust to your liking by adding more seasoning or cheese. You can also add a can of chopped green chilies or jalapenos for a spicier flare.
Spray a baking dish with Pam and pour in the grits mixture. Once it cools, cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes . Remove the foil for another 5-10 minutes or until bubbly. Serves 12 .
Truly, if it were up to me, we would just start with the dessert. Or maybe I should say desserts. I always prefer a good sampling of yummy confections. In our family, one dessert never cuts it. The majority of my plate would be covered with my my sister-in-law’s UNBELIVABLE , put-you-in-the-hospital Cameo Cake. This is a bit like an Italian Cream Cake, but think white chocolate. Lots of white chocolate.
1 ½ cups butter
¾ cup water
1 bar (4 ounces) white chocolate, broken into pieces
1 ½ cups buttermilk
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided use
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
White chocolate cream cheese frosting (recipe follows)
Garnishes: crystallized violas with leaves, shaved white chocolate, or toasted chopped pecans
Combine butter and water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add white chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts. Stir in buttermilk, eggs and vanilla; set aside.
Combine ½ cup flour and pecans, stirring to coat. Set aside.Combine remaining 3 cups flour, sugar and soda in a large mixing bowl; gradually stir in white chocolate mixture. Fold in pecan mixture. (Batter will be thin.) Pour into 3 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.
Spread white chocolate cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Store in refrigerator. Garnish, if desired.
White chocolate cream cheese frosting
Makes about 5 cups
1 bar (4 ounces) white chocolate
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
6 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
Melt white chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.Beat cream cheese and butter at medium heat with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add white chocolate, beating constantly until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
Then, I’ll have a bite of these “Get in my MOUFFF” Red Velvet Brownies. I think this photo says it all.
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 oz red food coloring (optional)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 9 X 13 baking pan. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then stir in food coloring and vanilla. Mix flour, cocoa and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined. Do not over mix. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl. You’ll want one uniformly colored (red) batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies. Set aside to cool, cut into bars and serve.
At the risk of overwhelming you (please blame this one on Pintrest), I had to share one more thing. While having dinner with some of my favorite couples, this cake came up, and I just couldn’t resist. I think I have to give it a try. I know, like the flowers above, too clever. Wouldn’t the littles just love this one…
- 1 box yellow or white cake mix
- Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
- Tray or cardboard covered with wrapping paper and plastic food wrap or foil
- 1 container vanilla frosting
- Red food color
- 1 large marshmallow, cut in half
- 3 cups shredded coconut
- Green food color
- 2 strawberry or cherry stretchy and tangy taffy candies (from 6-oz bag)
- 1 roll Betty Crocker® Fruit Roll-Ups® punch berry chewy fruit snack (from 5-oz box)
- 3 green-colored sour candies, separated into strips
- Construction paper
- Make cake batter as directed on box. Pour cake batter in 3 muffin cups, filling two-thirds full. Pour remaining batter into 1 1/2-quart bowl.
- Bake cupcakes 17 to 21 minutes, bowl 47 to 53 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove cakes from muffin cups and bowl; place rounded sides up on cooling racks. Cool completely, about 1 hour. If necessary, cut off rounded tops of cakes.
- Spoon frosting into large bowl. Add red food color to make desired pink color. Place bowl cake on tray cut side down; spread 1/3 cup frosting over cake. Use frosting to adhere cupcakes to bowl cake for feet and bunny tail. Use toothpicks if necessary. Place marshmallow halves, cut sides down, on tops of 2 cupcakes to make heels of feet. Spread thin layer of frosting over side and top of cake to seal in crumbs. Freeze cake 30 to 45 minutes to set frosting.
- Spread remaining frosting over cake. Sprinkle with 2 cups of the coconut; press gently to adhere. Shake 1 cup coconut and 3 drops green food color in tightly covered jar until evenly tinted. Surround bunny with tinted coconut. Use rolling pin to press strawberry candies into 2 large rectangles. Cut 2 large ovals and 6 small circles out of candy. Press onto bottoms of bunny feet, using frosting if needed.
- 6Roll up fruit snack to make carrot shapes. Cut green sour candies in half crosswise; press into large end of each carrot to make greens on carrot. Cut ears from construction paper; wrap ends that will be inserted into cake with plastic food wrap. Insert into cake. Remove ears, plastic wrap and toothpicks before serving. Store loosely covered.
Sprinkle chocolate cookie crumbs behind the feet and around the carrots to make it look like the bunny was digging.