About Our Group

The group consists of 12 girls, each paired with a partner. Each month a partnership will host a dinner, which entails formal invitations, decorations, menus, a multi-course dinner, party favors, etc. Each year we'll have six hosted dinners, a few potlucks, and then take the summer off. The dinners are a lot of work, but a lot of fun. Each partnership will host once a year, and usually have a few months to plan. There are no set themes – be as creative as you want. This gives each of us plenty of opportunities to not only try out new recipes, but to also share an evening with friends.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back to School

September's Event:

Sara and Liz started our first night of Gourmet Girls with a Back to School theme. Everything was well thought of, from the menu to the school lunch trays with an apple. We had a great night eating and meeting new friends. We just wish school lunch really tasted this good.

Our Hostesses:
Sara and Liz

The Invite:

Grilled Vegetables with Almond Pesto
Gourmet Girls version of the Lunchable

Sparkling Lemonade

Eating on the Roof Top

The Lunch Tables:
School pencils and Rulers in large Jars
Books bound together with Leather belt
Erasers used as Food Labels
and Apples


Bologna Sandwich
(Turkey Pastrami, Roasted red pepper Muffaletta)
Grilled Cheese
(Ciabatta with Balsamic Caramelized Onions, Brie and Greed Apples)
(Brown Sugar Bananas, Nutella and Peanut Butter Sandwich)

Fruit Snacks
(Fresh Fruit with Vanilla Bean Honey Yogurt Dip)
(Rosemary Sage Kettle Chips)

Chips Ahoy
(Toasted Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies)
Pudding Cups
(Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream with Fresh Raspberries)

After School Snack:
Cracker Jacks
(Caramel Popcorn)

The Ladies enjoying the night

Thanks girls for a fun BACK TO SCHOOL night.



Sparkling Lemonade
Serves 12

6 cups water
3 cups sugar
3 cups fresh lemon juice
6 cups cold sparkling water or club soda
Mint sprigs, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice, stir, and remove from the heat. Let cool completely, and pour into a clean pitcher. Refrigerate until well chilled. Add the sparkling water and stir well. Pour over glasses filled with ice and serve, garnishing with mint.

Veggies and Dip
Grilled vegetables with Almond Pesto

Grilled Vegetables

3 eggplants, sliced on the bias (diagonal)
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
3 banana squash, sliced lengthwise
2 red peppers, seeded and quartered
¼ cup olive oil (to coat)
Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat the barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush the vegetables with olive oil to coat lightly. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill the vegetables until tender and lightly charred all over, about 8 to 10 minutes for the bell peppers; 7 minutes for the yellow squash, zucchini and eggplant; 4 minutes for the asparagus. Arrange the vegetables on a platter. The key to getting great grill marks is to not shift the vegetables too frequently once they've been placed on the hot grill. You can also grill zucchini, mushrooms, green onions and whatever other vegetables you like.

Roasted red onions (served with the grilled vegetables)

1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients in a roasting pan and roast for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender.

Almond Pesto

1 head roasted garlic (see recipe below)
1-2 bunches basil
1 bunch parsley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 or 3 tablespoons water (more if needed for consistency)
2 cups blanched almonds (toasted in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes until lightly browned)
2 cups olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Blend the roasted garlic, basil, parsley, red wine vinegar and water in a food processor or blender until it becomes a thick paste. Add the toasted, blanched almonds and blend until the almonds are coarsely chopped. Add the olive oil slowly, either blending or whisking continuously by hand (whisking provides a better texture). Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted garlic

1 head garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
A pinch of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice off the top of the head of garlic to expose some of the cloves inside. Place the garlic on the foil, with the exposed cloves facing up. Drizzle with olive oil, add the salt and wrap in foil. Roast until cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool and then remove the cloves. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Herbed Whipped Ricotta

Ricotta cheese (15 oz)
1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, chopped fine (we used oregano and thyme)
3-4 cloves roasted garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste

Whip the ricotta, herbs, roasted garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper with a hand mixer until light and creamy, adjusting the consistency with olive oil. Chill and serve with your favorite artisan bread (we served this with prosciutto, fresh basil and a tomato ciabatta).


Bologna Sandwich
Turkey Pastrami, Roasted red pepper Muffaletta

1 large round of bread (Tuscan, sourdough, Italian are good)
1 pound turkey pastrami (pastrami and Italian meats can be substituted)
Roasted red peppers
3-4 tomatoes, sliced
Provolone cheese, sliced

Slice off the top of the Italian round as you would a jack o’lantern, reserving the ‘lid.’ Use your hands and hollow out the inside of the bread, leaving only the outer crust. Spread the inside and the bottom of the lid with pesto, covering completely. Add half of the meat and layer, adding the meat, red peppers, tomatoes and provolone cheese in order. Repeat the steps, adding enough ingredients so the cheese will line the lid. Replace the lid, and wrap tightly with saran wrap. Place a weight on the top (plates or heavy cans) and place in the fridge for a few hours, allowing the flavors to meld. To serve, cut slices as you would a pizza. This is a great sandwich for a picnic.

Sandwich on the bottom plate

Grilled Cheese
Ciabatta with Balsamic Caramelized Onions, Brie and Greed Apples

2 large onions
2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to coat your pan)
3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced thin
Brie, sliced in ¼ inch slices
Ciabatta bread

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the onions until they start to brown, roughly 10 minutes. Once browned, reduce heat to medium and add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Stir frequently until onions are a dark brown, at least 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Slice the ciabatta and assemble the sandwiches with caramelized onions, brie and apple slices, being generous with the caramelized onions. Drizzle olive oil on the bread and cook, using a panini press, a grill or a grill pan. If you're using a grill pan or grill, weigh down the sandwich by placing another pan on top of the sandwich (in order to heat the sandwich the whole way through). Cook until the first side is toasted and flip, repeating the process. Serve immediately.

Brown Sugar Bananas, Nutella and Peanut Butter Sandwich

2 ripe Bananas
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Peanut Butter
White bread

Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat and melt the butter, making sure it coats the pan. Place the bananas in the pan and sprinkle with brown sugar, making sure the bananas are not touching each other. Cook for a minute or two, waiting for the bananas to develop a crust before flipping. Turn and repeat. Assemble the sandwich by layering the caramelized bananas in between the Nutella and peanut butter.

Fruit Snacks
Fresh Fruit with Vanilla Bean Honey Yogurt Dip

2 cups fat free plain yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ of a vanilla bean, sliced with seeds removed

Combine ingredients and mix in a bowl. Serve with strawberries, grapes and pineapple (or any fresh fruit). This is also great over granola.

Rosemary Sage Kettle Chips

6 large Yukon gold potatoes
Canola oil and olive oil, 75/25 ratio for frying
6 whole cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 bunch sage
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash and clean the potatoes in cold running water. Using a mandoline, vegetable peeler or food processor, finely slice the potatoes into chips. Drop the chips into a bowl of ice water as you work to prevent them from going brown. This will also remove any excess starch.
Set a large pot of 75/25 canola and olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic (paper and all) and whole stems of fresh rosemary and sage. Bring oil up to 375 degrees F. As it heats up the oil will get infused with the garlic and herbs. Once the herbs crackle and get crispy they will go clear and you know they are done. Using a strainer drain the herbs and garlic and set aside on paper towels.

Fry the potatoes in batches until golden and crispy. Drain the chips, dry well on paper towels and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with crispy fried herbs and garlic.


Chips Ahoy
Toasted Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Levain Bakery knock-off)

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar – spoon it in the cup and press down lightly when full, sweeping off any extra that runs over
2 eggs
3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups flour – spoon and sweep method listed above
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 ¼ cups good quality semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped (pecans can also be used)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a mixer, cream together butter and sugars until well blended and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder in a bowl until combined, and add it to the mixture. The dough should be moist and easy to portion the cookies in your hands, but not super sticky. Depending on the consistency, you may want to add more flour. Remove the dough from the mixer and gently fold in chocolate chunks and nuts.

Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and divide into 12 equal portions, about 4 oz each. Place the cookies on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 16-23 minutes, depending on how gooey you like the cookies. Bake until very lightly browned, taking care not to over bake. Let cool on a rack and store what you don’t immediately eat in an airtight container. To freshen them after a few days (if they last that long), put them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.

Pudding Cups
Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream with Fresh Raspberries

4 cups whole milk
1 cup white sugar
2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise and seeded
12 egg yolks
8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup unsalted butter
2 pinches salt

Place the milk, half the sugar and the vanilla bean seeds in a saucepan over medium heat. Combine the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a bowl and whisk until light in color. Add the flour and the salt, and mix to combine.

When the milk just begins to boil, remove from heat. Very slowly dribble the hot milk into the yolk mixture, stirring continuously. When about half of the milk has been added, place the entire yolk mixture into the saucepan and cook over medium heat. Using a whisk, mix the pastry cream as it heats, making sure to reach all of the corners of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and let boil for about a minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick.

Remove from heat and add the butter. Strain if you wish for a smoother cream. Place into a bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap to stop a skin from forming on the cream. Chill and use within a few days. Serve with fresh berries.

Cracker Jacks
Gooey Caramel Popcorn

1 cube butter
1 cup karo syrup
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4-5 packages microwave Kettle popcorn
1 cup toasted almonds

Pop popcorn and remove kernels. Melt butter in saucepan. Add karo syrup and stir with wooden spoon until boiling. Add brown sugar, again stir until boiling. While stirring, pour in sweetened condensed milk, and do not let scorch. Bring to soft ball stage.
Pour over popcorn and stir, immediately adding toasted almonds and stir all until well combined.


Sara Jensen said...

Lindsey, you are AMAZING! The blog looks fabulous. Thanks so much for putting it together.

Ashley said...

Nice Lindsey! I am so glad you did this blog. Liz and Sara everything was so tasty and clever. You did such an amazing job!

Michelle said...

Love it! Sara, as your favorite sister I think you need to come cook for me every night. :) Great job!

bradyandbrooke@gmail.com said...

Lindsey this looks great! Thank you for putting this together so we can share it all!


Carolyn said...

What a fun idea! Wish I lived closer so I could be part of the group!