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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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!

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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!

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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

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Downton Abbey Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mexican Chop Salad

This is a quick and healthy weeknight salad.  I actually saw a beautiful picture of a Cobb salad in one of my cookbooks that inspired it.  On a quick break from work, I ran over to the store to grab a couple of ingredients and bought a pre-roasted rotisserie chicken.  When I returned home for the night, it didn’t take much to get this on the table.  It’s spicy and refreshing.  You can use the dressing featured here or your own.  This is a salad you will repeat.



1 medium head of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 C. chopped tomatoes

1 C. chopped red pepper

1 ½ C.  rotisserie chicken, chopped

2 avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into ½ inch squares

1 14 oz. can black beans

1 C. shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese

¼ cup chopped green onion (optional)


1 C. plain greek yogurt

4 T. half and half

1 T. chopped Chipotle Chilies in Adobe sauce



You’re going to need a wide, flat serving bowl to hold the salad.

Wash your lettuce and spin dry.  Lay a bed of lettuce on your serving bowl.  Starting in the middle of the bowl, lay down the chicken in a straight line.  Next to it, lay down your black beans.  Repeat this step with remaining ingredients.   For the best outcome, cut the white pithy part off the peppers so they are nice and vibrant and remember that those ingredients that have high contrast to each other should be next to one another.  For example, don’t put your red peppers and your tomatoes together because they are both red, etc.

To make the dressing, mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.  If you desire a thicker consistency, use less half and half.  If you desire a creamy consistency, use more half and half.


Cucumber Pomegranate Salad

Cucumber Pomegranate Salad
by Good Housekeeping
This salad was served at my November Dinner Club.  It was a hit.  If you  are looking for a healthy, refreshing and crisp salad with a seasonal flair, you need to try it.  It’s easy, wonderfully festive and looks absolutely beautiful.  This recipe is from Good Housekeeping.  Generally a winter salad when pomegranate is in season, you can also use this recipe in the summer and substitue blackberries or strawberries in place of the pomegranate seeds.
1 lemon, rind and juice, see directions
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
3 T. Champagne vinegar
2 fennel bulbs
1 seedless (English) cucumber
1 Granny Smith apple, halved, cored, and very thinly sliced
1/2 C fresh pomegranate seeds
Peel 1/2 teaspoon lemon peel and squeeze 2 tablespoons lemon juice and add to a jar with tight fitting lid.  Add the following ingredients to the jar;  oil, vinegar, lemon peel, juice and salt and pepper to taste. Shake vigorously until blended. Dressing can be refrigerated up to 2 days.

Take the whole fennel bulb and fronds and remove about 2 tablespoons fennel fronds from fennel tops.  You will reserve this for garnish. Trim and core fennel and toss scraps.  Using a sharp knife, slice fennel very thin.  Add to a big salad bowl.  Using a vegetable peeler, take your cucumber and peel strips of cucumber skin lengthwise, then place on a cutting board and slice cucumber crosswise at an angle about 1/4 inch thick.  Add to salad bowl.  Slice apples into 1/4 inch dice and add to salad bowl. 
Shake dressing again and drizzle over top of salad.  Top with pomegranate seeds and fennel fronds. Sprinkle a little salt all over top and serve immediately.  If you need to take this salad somewhere, assemble ahead of time, but keep the dressing and the salt separate until ready to serve.  This salad is crisp and refreshing and best served cold.  Enjoy!

Michelle’s Vinaigrette

Michelle’s Vinaigrette

My sister in law, Michelle, is an amazing cook.  Every time we go to her home for dinner, everything she makes is extraordinary.  She is great at putting menus together and she has very good taste for blending flavors.  When we have family dinners at our inlaws, we often bring parts of the meal to accompany the main course.  She usually brings the salad and I always look forward to it.   You know how some people are good at baking and others are good at entrees?  Michelle is good at salads!

Michelle’s Vinaigrette

Red and Green Lettuce
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly in half
6 oz. mandarin orange slices
1/2 C. chopped, toasted hazelnuts
blue cheese crumbles (optional)

1/2 C. olive oil
1 t. dijon mustard
1 T. honey
1 T. rice wine vinegar
2 T. balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Prepare red and green leaf lettuce.  Add onions, orange slices, hazelnuts and cheese.  Prepare vinaigrette  in a separate bowl or hand shaker by adding all vinaigrette ingredients and blending well.  Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss.  Enjoy immediately.

Tip:  If you are serving this salad for guests as a starter, put your stack of salad plates in the refrigerator or freezer.  When you plate the salad on the icy cold plates, it tastes so much better!

September Dinner Club – "Masquerade Theater"

September 2010 Dinner Club
“Masquerade Theater”
It’s been nine years this month that my girlfriends and I have been participating in Dinner Club.  I chose to host September.  I usually have October because I love Halloween, but this year I thought I would give October up and try another month.  The host gets to pick their own theme and the rest of us are adventurous and usually exhibit good sportsmanship, so we just go with it and see what the evening brings.  My theme, “Masquerade Theater” just came to me.  I’ll explain how it works.
I chose six genres; Action & Adventure, Romance, Horror, Drama, Comedy and Foreign.  I wrote them all on separate pieces of paper.  Then I wrote down all the components of the dinner: Appetizer, Entree, Salad, Side Dish, Beverage and Dessert.  Lastly, I wrote the names; Tina, Tracy, Jeni, Stephanie, Kathy and Trisha.  Since the hostess gets the entree, I left those out and had a friend draw my theme.  It came out, “romance”.  How fitting.  Therefore, I had the “Romantic Entree”.  The others were, Action & Adventure Appetizer by Stephanie, Salad of Horror by Tracy, Dramatic Side Dish by Kathy, Beverage of Comedy by Tina, and a Foreign Dessert by Jeni.  The goal was to make your contribution closely resemble that of the genre.  All of the pairings turned out good.  I thought the Salad of Horror would be the most difficult and the foreign dessert sounded like bliss.  My Dinner Club friends told me that out of all the Dinner Clubs we have been doing over the years, this was the most challenging and the most difficult.  We had met our match.  It thrilled me to hear that.  That was my goal!
I wrote up a menu based on the theme and the recipes they chose.  I created a program scroll keepsake that read as follows:
Appetizer by Stephanie
This riveting dish will put you on the edge of your seat! So moving, it’s almost 3D! Her choice was inspired by the active preparation of the ingredients and the adventure of putting it all together! Autumn Apple Appetizer Bites

Entrée by Trisha
Sicilian Meatballs with Homestyle Marinara  obtained from a Sicilian family that is rumored to have ties in the mob. Her choice was inspired by the romantic interlude that occurs in Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.”


Salad by Tracy

Baby mozzarella, assorted baby heirloom cherry tomatoes, baby basil with dressing made from a 30 year aged balsamic vinegar. Her choice was inspired by the movie “Rosemary’s baby.”
Side Dish by Kathy
Pastry piped potatoes served in individual ramekins. Her choice was Inspired by the dramatically crafted presentation!
Beverage By Tina
Individualized bottles of wine adorned with comedic lables crafted by Tina herself and inspired by the character and personalities of her fellow Dinner Club members.

Dessert by Jeni
Three layer traditional German Chocolate Cake with cocoa filling and chocolate icing. This cake will whisk you back in time as the recipe was published in 1915 in a cookbook titled, “Mary at the Farm and Book of Recipes” by John Hartenstein. Her choice was inspired by German chocolate.
Being that my Dinner Club was so close to Halloween, I was able to decorate with masquerade masks.  For a centerpiece that had a special “theater” effect, I found Shakesperian quotes on a website and printed them off the internet onto cream colored paper.  I carefully tore the edges, top and sides, and taped them to clear glass vases.  Place your tealight in the center and you have a glowing, theatrical effect that your guests can have fun reading. 
Our next Dinner Club is scheduled for November 13th.  Tina will be hosting and the theme is Russian.  I have the side dish!  Can’t wait!