Dinner Club – February 2013

SBE 065February 2013 Dinner Club

Our February dinner club was held at Tiffany’s.  Her theme of choice was romance movies.  She asked all the participants to taylor their portion of the meal around their favorite romance movie.  If you haven’t read my blog about Dinner Club and how it works, check it out.  Since Tiffany was hosting, she had the entree.  Her movie was “Love Actually” and she chose to do penne in a red vodka cream sauce.  It goes without saying that the menu was amazing so keep reading.

Dinner Club Romance Media
Dinner Club Romance Media

Dinner Club Themes, Menu and Media

SBE 061

Tiffany – “Love Actually” – Entree – You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce

Tracy – “Gidget Goes to Rome” – Appetizer –  Three Way Bruchetta

Kelly – “Mama Mia” – Side – Mediterranean Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette

Jeni – “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Beverage – Champagne Bar

Stephanie – “Four Weddings and a Funeral” – Salad – Winterfruit Salad

Trisha – “Downton Abbey” – Dessert – Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

SBE 085

Yes, I’m fully aware that Downton Abbey is not a movie, but a television miniseries on PBS.  I was reminded over and over again that evening by multiple people, but in my defense, I love it as if it were a movie and I don’t always run with the pack, therefore making it perfectly acceptable and after all, it’s Dinner Club, so all is forgiven.

Bruchetta Three Ways

SBE 082

What’s better than having bruchetta three ways?  When your lover makes fresh french rolls the morning of Dinner Club day and you get to spoil all the girls with it!  Who needs store bought with that kind of man at home!


1 french baggette, preferably made by your lover, cut into half inch slices on the bias

1 T Olive Oil

1 clove garlic halved

Directions:  preheat your oven to 475 degrees.  Place baggette slices on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and rub with halved garlic.  Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes watching closely so they don’t burn.  Remove from oven and arrange on a tray.  Serve with three sauces.  You can make these as you see them below or come up with  your own.  Personally, the tomato and the goat cheese are my favorite and they are really great together.

Tomato Topping:

2 diced roma tomatoes, seeds discarded

1 bunch fresh basil leaf, chiffonade

1 t. balsamic vinegar

freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and gently mix.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

SBE 136

Goat Cheese and Onion Topping:

1 8oz pkg of goat cheese

1/4 C. of thick sour cream

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. finely chopped chives

1/2 t. garlic powder

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until blended and smooth.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

SBE 055

Drunken Fig Jam courtesy Epicurious.com

2 lemons

4 pounds ripe fresh figs (preferably black), stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 9 cups)

4 cups sugar

3/4 cup brandy or Cognac

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemons (yellow part only) in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips (about 3 tablespoons).

Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in heavy large deep saucepan; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring fig mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens and is reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally mashing mixture with potato masher to crush large fig pieces, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat.

Ladle mixture into 6 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce adapted by Food Network

SBE 099


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

1 cup vodka

1 cup chicken stock

1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)

Coarse salt and pepper

16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate

1/2 cup heavy cream

20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Crusty bread, for passing

SBE 077


Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

SBE 053

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette adapted from Bon Appetit

SBE 107


1 pound orzo

1/4 C. fresh lemon juice

6 t finely chopped fresh marjoram

4 t Dijon mustard

1 t grated lemon peel

1/2 C. olive oil

1 1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 C. pitted Kalamata olives, quartered

24 oz. cherry tomatoes, stemmed, halved

SBE 060


Cook orzo in a pot of boiling, salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occassionally.  Drain.  Rinse pasta under cold water until cool.  Drain well.  Transfer pasta to larger bowl.

Whisk lemon juice, 5 t. marjoram, mustard and lemon peel in a small bowl.  Whisk in olive oil.  Set aside 2 T. vinaigrette.  Add remaining vinaigrette, cheese, onions and olives to orzo; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and let stand 2 hours to allow flavors to develop.  Toss tomatoes with reserved vinaigrette.  Toss into salad and add remaining marjoram.  Serve cold.

Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

SBE 104


1/2 C. white sugar

1/2 C. lemon juice

2 t. diced onion

1 t. Dijon-style prepared mustard

1/2 t. salt

2/3 C. vegetable oil

1 t. poppy seeds

1 head butter leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

4 oz. shredded Swiss cheese

1 C. cashews

1/4 C. dried cranberries

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced

SBE 103


In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard, and salt. Process until well blended. With machine still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream until mixture is thick and smooth. Add poppy seeds, and process just a few seconds more to mix.

SBE 056

In a large serving bowl, toss together the romaine lettuce, shredded Swiss cheese, cashews, dried cranberries, apple, and pear. Pour dressing over salad just before serving, and toss to coat.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Champagne Bar

SBE 093

This is such a wonderful idea.  If you have a number of guests over, grab a few bottles of your favorite champagne, mixers and your gorgeous glassware and have a ball mixing up your favorite champagne cocktails.  Don’t forget the must have cute napkins and drink stirrers.  With a champagne bar, everyone makes their own special version!

SBE 112


1 1/2 oz. orange vodka

1 1/2 oz. lemon juice

1 1/2 oz. orange juice

2 bar spoons Apricot preserves



Combine ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and serve chilled in your favorite glassware!  Too many of these and we would have really had breakfast at Tiffany’s!

SBE 058

As you can see, our champagne bar had the following ingredients, but you can use virtually anything.  Be creative and taylor your bar to a specific holiday or celebration.  Here are some other ingredients you may wish to use to stock your champagne bar:

Peach puree

Mango puree

Orange Juice

Lemon Juice

sugar cubes


Triple Sec

Simple syrup

Raspberry puree

Strawberries, raspberries, cut pineapple and marischino cherries for garnish

SBE 114

Downton Abbey Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

SBE 044

Makes 18 to 20

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 glass Pyrex.


2 C. all-purpose flour

½ C. powdered sugar

1 C. butter (you can mix ½ cup butter and ½ cup shortening as an alternative to all butter)

1 tsp. grated Meyer lemon peel

Dash salt

Mix ingredients together with your hands until crumbly and press into the greased 9×13 Pyrex dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool before adding filling.

SBE 035


4 eggs

1 C. all-purpose flour

1 ¼ C. granulated sugar

1 t. baking powder

Dash salt

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 t. lemon peel

1 t. lemon extract (optional)

Add all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and beat with a wire whisk until combined.  Pour into 9×13 over cooled cookie base and put in oven at 350 for 25 minutes or until center is cooked through.  Remove from oven and cool on counter.

SBE 052


1 C. powdered sugar

8 oz. cream cheese softened

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix sugar and cream cheese until smooth.  Add lemon juice until desired consistency.  Pour over lemon bar cake.  Let icing set for about an hour before cutting lemon bars.    When you cut, they will look a bit rustic.

Serving Tip:  Serve inside large white paper muffin cups or on top of sweet little decorative doilies covering a cake stand.

SBE 024


After Party Macaroni and Cheese

After the party guests leave or go home from a long weekend, I have a leftover mish mash of cheeses in my fridge.  Why not gather them together for a little cheese reunion and make something delicious?  Most cheeses you are going to use on a cheese tray are friendly enough to mingle with other cheeses.  They get along with eachother and blend well together when melted down in one dish.  Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food next to potatoes. Truth be told, I make this recipe, then I separate it out into smaller dishes or personalize them in ramekins and freeze until the right moment.  You bust out one of these and put it in the oven and you have instant comfort food that is not from a box.  Plus, your home smells amazing and clean up is simple.  Pair this dish with an ice cold glass of Pinot Grigio, take a deep breath and relax.


3 1/4 C. whole milk

3 T. butter

5 T. flour

10 oz. assorted cheese

1 T worchestershire Sauce

1 t. dry mustard

1 T. hot sauce of choice

1/2 t. salt

1 lb. macaroni or other small noodle

Topping Ingredients

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin

1/4 C. grated parmesean cheese

1/4 C. breadcrumbs

Freshly ground black pepper


Over high heat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add noodles and cook until they have completed cooking or al dente.  Drain your noodles and set them aside.

Shred or crumble up the cheeses you intend on using in your dish and set aside.  Separately, warm the milk over low heat in a saucepan.

In a deep skillet, add butter and melt.  Immediately add flour and using a whisk, gently stir until butter and flour combine.  Cook over heat whisking for about five minutes.  The flour will start to turn brown.  Gently add warm milk whisking constantly.  Bring contents to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 4 minutes.

Using a heat safe spoon, stir in the grated cheese, followed by the worchestershire sauce, mustard, hot sauce, salt and pepper.  The mixture will be thick.  Keep warm over low heat, but be careful not to burn.

Gently add the noodles to the sauce and stir to coat.  Poor contents into a prepared 9×13 dish.  Cover with sliced tomatoes, bread crumbs and parmesean cheese.

Place macaroni and cheese in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until bubbly and top is browned.

Sinfully Delicious!

Crevettes Scampi Pâtes / Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Crevettes Scampi Pâtes or Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Pasta is on my list of romance food.  Last fall when I was researching my dinner club theme, I did some research on romantic food and was surprised that pasta did not show up in the top twenty most romantic foods list.  How can pasta not be romantic?  If it’s good enough for Lady and The Tramp, it’s good enough for me!

This recipe is inpired by a friend of mine.  Upon hearing the February food blog theme, one day she slyly informed me that when two shrimps oppose eachother, it forms a heart.  And so, it does.  So let me slyly inform you.  When serving up this dish to your sweetie, lay your shrimp on the bed of noodles and cozy them up together to form a heart.  If your sweetie is paying attention, then I’de say you’re off to a good evening.

3 T. Olive oil
1/2 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp
4 cloves garlic
1/2 t; dried hot red pepper flakes
1/2 C. dry white wine
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. butter
2 handfuls of angel hair pasta or linguine
1/4 C. chopped parsley
When preparing your noodles, bring the water to a boil and salt it.  Add your pasta and cover with lid askew to let the steam out.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until hot and add shrimp.  Cook until shrimp is cooked through, about two or three minutes, turning once.  Transfer shrimp to a large pasta bowl.  Immediately add garlic, red pepper flakes, wine, salt and pepper to skillet and cook over high heat, stirring mixture for about a minute.  Add butter to skillet and stir until melted.  Turn off heat.  Add shrimp back to mixture.
When noodles are done, drain all water except one cup.  Add noodles to skillet with shrimp mixture and gently toss until noodles are coated.  Scoop noodles out into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Serve warm.

Macaroni and Cheese

It’s 3 a.m. The wind is whipping the rain against the side of the house and it is streaming down the windows. Inside the air is cool, but I lay warm and snug in my bed, listening.

It was my first night back in flannel pajammy bottoms and the coziness draws me to think of other satisfying “comforts”. A bubble bath after a hectic day, a kiss shared by the fire with my sweetie, a great meal after a hard workout, an unexpected belly laugh, that first sip of coffee in the morning, sharing a bottle of wine, good company, good conversation, going out for breakfast and macaroni and cheese! Ahhhh..mac and cheese. The ultimate comfort food. Which I probably should have mentioned first as it is at the top of nearly everyones “favorites” list, except for Julie Andrews who prefers to think, strudel is a favored meal. Food lover and writer that I am, strudel really isn’t on….hmm, let’s see….well any of my lists and seems so yesterday, but macaroni and cheese is about as flexible and forgiving as food gets unless you are the fussy kind that has to eat gourmet mac and then you have to change the name and it really isn’t what it should be or what it started out as which means your comfort meter just blew its top. Macaroni and cheese is for everyone, but don’t try to dress it up because in the end, it’s still just macaroni and cheese the old fashioned way and it doesn’t get any better or easier to make unless you can put all the ingredients in your crockpot like I do.

I work. A lot. And I have a family that needs to eat. A lot. This recipe was an inspiration from a friend of mine who proved to me that macaroni and cheese can be made in a crock pot and when I became a believer, I made her recipe over and over until somehow, magically, it changed over the course of time like recipes do. I like this version because it is fast when you don’t have time and the only thing that would make it better is if you sprinkled cooked chopped bacon over the top. Two comfort foods in one. I like it!

Macaroni and Cheese

* Use cooking spray and coat inside of crock pot. Macaroni noodles are precooked. Do not overcook mac in the crock pot as the cheese will burn.

1 bag Elbow macaroni noodles, cooked
1 can condensed milk
1 C. milk
1/2 onion, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. nutmeg
2 C. grated cheddar cheese
2 C. grated Italian cheese blend, separated
1/4 C. bread crumbs

After you have sprayed the inside of your crockpot, add the precooked macaroni noodles. In a small bowl, combine condensed milk through first cup of grated Italian cheese blend. Mix ingredients and pour over the top of noodles. At this point, I use a spoon and mix all the ingredients together. When mixing is done, sprinkle the last remaining cup of grated Italian cheese blend and bread crumbs over the top. Place the lid on the crockpot and turn on LOW for 3 to 4 hours. Be careful to not overcook. Also, when you are using your crock pot, do not lift the lid despite how tempting it may be. Lifting the lid results in severe heat and moisture loss and it can take an extra twenty minutes to regain the temperature once lost which will not only dry out your food, but extend your cooking time. This is a great side dish or can be used as a main dish accompanied by a green salad. Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food!

Recipe inspired by Esther Stewart 2009