Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fancy Dinner: Salmon Wellington, Beef Wellington, and Fruit Tarts

Tonight (Saturday) Hubby and I had my Aunt Randi and Uncle Scott over for dinner and I decided I wanted to be a lil' gourmet chef :) The menu was Beef Wellington (for the men...Uncle Scott doesn't like salmon much) and Salmon Wellington (for my aunt and me), garlic grilled asparagus, and garlic redskin mashed potatoes.  For desert I made cookie fruit tarts.
 PS. I also used my fine china to add some class ;)

I have made the tarts, potatoes, and asparagus before but the main dishes, the Wellingtons, were both new to me, so it was an interesting day.  I also decided to try something new with my tarts and both the Wellingtons and the desert turned out awesome so I thought I would share what I did.

I loosely followed these two recipes for the Wellingtons: salmon and beef
for the tarts I got the idea from this post on Pinterest, but I made my own recipe that doesn't waste a whole container of limeade concentrate.  Here are my takes on these recipes.  Enjoy!

Salmon Wellington

2 pieces of Sockeye Salmon
1 sheet of thawed Puff Pastry
2 Tbsp (about) of Sun Dried Tomatoes
Fresh Spinach (about two handfulls)
minced garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Alfredo Sauce

Saute the spinach with the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until the spinach is wilted and tender.  Set aside and let it cool for at least 20 minutes

Using a VERY sharp knife, filet the salmon skin off of the meat.  

Unroll the puff pastry sheet and roll it out with a rolling pin.  Slice it in half lengthwise.  Place a salmon filet onto a half of puff pastry and put sun dried tomatoes on top.  Add half of the spinach mixture to that and wrap the whole thing up.  Place in a greased baking dish, seem side down.  Slice a slit or an X into the puff pastry to let out some steam while the fish is cooking.

*I forgot to do this, but for a golden brown crust, it is ideal to remember it :)  beat the egg with water to make an eggwash and brush the puff pastry with eggwash.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until the puff pastry is flaky and golden.

Serve with Alfredo Sauce on top.

I baked the beef in a separate dish at the same time and temperature.

Beef Wellington

2 8oz packages of Baby Bella mushrooms
3 tbsp of Spicy Brown Mustard
2 tbsp of Garlic Herb Kraft Mayo*
2 packaged Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignons
1 sheet of Puff Pastry
1 Egg 

FINELY mince the mushrooms with either a "slap chop" type of slicer or a food processor until it is almost like a paste.  Put them in a HOT pan and saute until the water/moisture boils out, but not until they burn.  Set the mushroom paste aside.

Sear the steaks on each side (I did it for about 1 min on each side).  Mix together the mustard and mayo.  Once the steaks are seared, brush them on all sides with the mustard mix.  On two pieces of plastic wrap, put about 1/3 of the mushroom paste on each.  Put the steak down on top of the mix and put the remaining mushroom paste on the other side of the steaks.  Wrap each steak tightly and place in the refrigerator.

Roll out the puff pastry with a rolling pin and cut in half lengthwise.  Take the steaks out and put one on each half of pastry and wrap it.  Place the meat seam side down in a greased baking dish.  Cut a slit into the top of the pastry

Beat the egg with water to make an eggwash and brush the top of each Wellington.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees or until the pastry is flaky and golden.

Fruit Tarts

1 package (24 ct) refrigerated Sugar Cookie Dough
8 oz Cream Cheese
4 tbsp (about) of Lime Juice
3 heaping spoon-fulls of Confectioner's Sugar
Sliced Fresh Fruit (I used what was ripe/on sale: peaches, strawberries, blueberries, & kiwi)

Preheat the oven according to the package directions on your cookie dough.  I used a mini muffin pan and turned it upside down.  I pressed each cookie over the bottom of each cup so that when the cookies baked, they would make tiny bowls.  I baked them according to the package directions and they came out like this:

I let the cookies cool completely on the pan, then I carefully cut the cups apart and removed them from the pan, a couple broke, but there were only four of us needing to eat, so I knew we would still have plenty.

I let the cream cheese come to room temperature and whipped it with a hand mixer.  Then I added some lime juice and some sugar, mixed it again, then added more, tasting after each addition, until the cream cheese tasted tart, yet sweet.  The measurements in the ingredients are approximations, it is hard to mess this part up :)

I washed and sliced (except the blueberries) my fruit and got it ready to go in the cups.  I spooned a little of the cream cheese mixture into the cups and filled them with a slice each of peach, strawberry, and kiwi, and then two blueberries.  They came out beautifully :)

On another note,
My hubby has been using MyFitnessPal to track his calorie intake and exercise for the past several months.  Since January he has lost about 30 lbs.  He has told me probably a hundred times how cool the app is and how easy it is to use, but I never remembered to download it.  Well last time we were visiting his hometown, my sister and brother in law said they use it too and they can all "add" each other as friends and share food diaries to keep each other accountable.  I thought that was kind of neat, but then they said you can scan the bar code with your phone on most any food and it automatically comes up with the nutrition facts...WHAT that is so is awesome.  SO I finally downloaded the app and I'm loving it.

I cleaned the downstairs of our house today for about 2 hours and according to my app, burned like 498 calories!  Not to mention, I have decided to get back into the habit of logging what I eat, even if its not all good stuff like the a fore mentioned delicious gourmet meal I made today :)  I had a sensible breakfast and lunch today though, so I am still under my calorie limit for the day.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

S'mores Cupcakes

Hubby and I went to his parents house to visit this weekend.  We had a family dinner with his sister and brother in law and their two sweet children.  I baked these awesome cupcakes for our dessert.

I used the cake recipe from this blog and the icing recipe from this blog.  For the filling I made some heavy chocolate ganache.

Here is the recipe:

S'mores Cupcakes 

makes 24 cupcakes
1 box of white cake
1/2 cup (one stick) of melted butter
1/2 cup of milk*
1/2 cup of water
3 eggs
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
3 tsp of vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients with a mixer until well combined.  Spoon into a lined cupcake pan and bake for 13-15 minutes.
 Let the cupcakes cool completely.
*the fat content of your milk doesn't seem to matter, I have used several different milks (skim, 1%, whole...etc) and they all worked fine

Chocolate Filling

1 cup of heavy cream
1 to 1.5 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 bars of Hershey's chocolate

Heat the cream in the microwave for 1 min and 30 seconds.  Add in the chocolate and stir.  Once the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, put in the freezer for about 5 minutes or so to thicken it up.

Marshmallow Buttercream

1 cup (two sticks) of butter at room temp
1 7oz jar of marshmallow fluff
2 cups of confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter, then add the fluff.  Whip until combined (2 minutes).  Add in the sugar and whip again for a few minutes until well mixed.  Add the vanilla and mix for one minute more.

For a garnish I used 2 graham crackers, broken into 24 pieces and two bars of Hershey's.  

To assemble, I cute a well into the cupcakes and filled it with the chocolate ganache.  Then I piped the frosting on using a star tip.  I then placed a chocolate square and a piece of graham cracker.

Here is another picture of the finished product :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Update and Steak & Mashed Taters Cake

Hello world,
A lot has happened in the month or so since I blogged last.  Here goes...

I got a JOB at an awesome law firm in downtown Raleigh where I am a legal assistant.  This was SUCH a blessing from God because now I am both bringing in some income and gaining invaluable experience that will help me in my future career.  I have been working here for two and a half weeks now and I absolutely adore it.  I look forward to learning more as time passes.

Also, I have signed up for two classes this fall at my Alma Mater, NCSU (GO PACK).  I am taking some extra classes to beef up my transcript in the hopes that a law school who is considering me for admission can see that I have more academic potential than I showed during my undergraduate degree pursuit.  I am taking a Political Science class, Problems in American Democracy, and a Philosophy class, Ethical Problems in the Law.  I hope they go well and that I can pull off two more A's :)

My Lovely and Beautiful cousin Michelle is getting married in September so I have been doing some fun things to get ready for her wedding in the past month as well.  I blogged the making of her bachelorette invitations and everyone totally loved them.  Her bachelorette went off without a hitch (except some guy tried to accost me outside of the bar we went to in downtown Richmond at 3 AM...of all of the girls I was with, he chose the former police officer and current RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) instructor...bad move pal, he came very close to being badly injured, but he let go after we had a "come to Jesus" meeting).  The next weekend I went to Richmond again for Michelle's bridal shower and we had a blast.  The food was great and my mom and aunt did a wonderful job decorating and planning cute games.  Michelle loved it!

My husband and I also went to and two awesome weddings.  Our friends Laura and Seth got married and are huge comic book nuts, specifically, Batman, Nightwing, and Batgirl.  They had a Batman Themed wedding and a unique reception.  Both their bridal party and groom's party were comprised of girls and guys which was really neat.  They wore batman-like masks and stood at the altar of the church in the shape of the Nightwing symbol.  Their reception was like a carnival at a farm with inflatable jump houses, tons of toys/candy decorations, and fair food.  It was a blast.  It rained shortly after the bride and groom arrived but that didn't phase them, in fact a rainbow touched down in the field next to us so we all got to see the end of a pot of gold, but it was still neat :)

The second wedding was that of our friends Sarah and Matt.  They had a lovely church wedding with one of the most fun receptions we have ever been to.  The food was amazing and the decor was beautiful.  The colors were shades of purple and Sarah had decorated with purple gingham and made an indoor picnic with mason jars filled with wildflowers.  They had yummy pulled pork and grilled chicken with green beans and potato salad.  Everything was served family style in antique bowls.  They had a HUGE amount of guests and after we ate we all danced the night away while one of Sarah and my husband Jordan's college friends James DJ'ed.  It was a blast and they sped off in Matt's white Corvette at the end of the night to enjoy their honeymoon. 

The last bit of news is that my friend John had a surprise birthday party thrown by his lovely fiance Meredith.  Knowing that I am and avid baker, she asked me to make his cake and had an unusual request...Apparently for their wedding John had asked for a steak cake as his grooms cake, but being the ultra classy southern belle that Meredith is, she had to decline because their wedding is going to be the epitome of Southern Charm and just didn't fit into the theme.

Meredith said that they would have about 12-15 guests over for the surprise party and so I suggested making cupcakes to go with the cake.  I had a great idea to make mashed potato cupcakes because what man doesn't love steak & taters?  I know my hubby does :)  I saw Paula Deen make TV dinner themed cupcakes on her show once, and I knew it was the perfect accent to the steak.

Here is what the cake and cupcakes looked like displayed.  Apologies for the grainy pics, the lighting was not great.
 For the cake, I used a scratch red velvet cake recipe found here so that when we cut into it, the cake looked like a perfectly cooked steakInstead of baking cupcakes according to the directions though, I just poured the batter into a well greased pyrex rectangular dish and baked until it was done.  After the cake was done and fully cooled, I cut the cake into the shape of a steak and plated it onto a large platter.

Next, I whipped up this amazing homemade chocolate buttercream.  I iced the cake liberally.  Next I made the cupcakes.

I wanted to do something fun and different for the cake flavor so I decided instead of simple white cake, I would do Almond Cake.  Here is the recipe:

Almond Cupcakes

1/2 cup butter 
4 egg whites 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1 cup buttermilk 
1 1/2 cups sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Allow butter and egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line 20-24 muffin cups with paper bake cups (or coat with cooking spray). Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, vanilla, and almond extract; beat until combined. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.
3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.
4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire racks.
5. Frost using a round tip like the one pictured here.  I used my cream cheese butter cream for the icing.
 6. I then made a small well in the top of the cupcakes and drizzled caramel in the wells making it look like gravy.  To top it off I used unwrapped lemon Starburst candies to make pats of "butter"

 Next, I used some of the leftover cream cheese butter cream and piped it in the shape of a T-bone onto the steak. Finally, I melted some chocolate chips I had in the pantry to make the "grill marks" on the steak.  I put the melted chocolate in a small sandwich bag and snipped a tiny piece off of the corner.  Using this, I piped the "grill marks" onto the cake.  Because the chocolate chips didn't have any cream or liquid added, I knew it would harden back up and keep the lines clean.  I refrigerated the steak cake uncovered for about 30 minutes to make sure the chocolate and the buttercream had set so the would not get ruined by plastic covering.  I placed the cupcakes in a large foil pan and covered them (since my cupcake carrier was full).

Here are some brighter pictures of the finished product!