Feb 20, 2011

La Crêpe

Whether you are daydreaming about Paris or just wanting something different for dinner or dessert - try a crepe! We took a basic crepe recipe and jazzed it up with our favorite fillings, both savory and sweet. This crepe recipe is really a no fail. So break out that nonstick pan, butter it up, and Bon Appétit!

Caitlin: I spent a little bit of time in France (mostly Paris, but traveled around the South quite a bit) and came back to the states with two things on my mind: pain au chocolat, and crepes -- both of which resulted in quite a few extra pounds coming back with me, as well. One of my favorite things to do was grab a cafe au lait and a pain au chocolat and sit outside reading my book and watching people pass. Later in the day after lunch when I craved something on the sweeter side I'd grab a crepe with Nutella - which were sometimes served with fresh strawberries if I went to the right vendor. Such a simple yet completely delicious treat that I craved for months upon returning to the states. So when we talked about making crepes, my first thought was to slab some nutella in there, put on some Serg Gainsbourg and reminisce. However, I wanted to try something a little different - I mixed mascarpone cheese with a little sugar and cinnamon, put a little inside the crepe and topped it all with a strawberry sauce I canned last summer. It was delicious - simple, rich and just the right amount of sweetness. With the couple crepes I had leftover, I couldn't resist filling some with Nutella and topping it with strawberry sauce - for old times sake - to tide me over until I visit again. 
Mascarpone cheese filling and strawberry sauce
Monica:  I love crepes - both savory and sweet.  A few weeks ago I had the most delicious crepes at Upper West in Santa Monica.  Those crepes consisted of melt in your mouth port braised lamb, spinach, Israeli Feta and a crispy russett potato topping.  If you are ever in Santa Monica, definitely check out Upper West and if you like lamb...get the crepes.  They are labeled as a starter, however, I found them quite satisfying as a main. Okay, so back to my savory crepe... after having these crepes I mentioned it to Caitlin and the inspiration for doing this post came about.  I decided to model my savory crepe after the ones I had a Upper West, but I changed it up. I did a veggie version of the crepes - substituting the lamb for white wine sauteed crimini and portabello mushrooms. 
Monica's Savory Version: Spinach & Musrhoom Crepe with White Wine Cream Sauce
After making the savory version, I couldn't pass up making a sweet crepe. When I have sweet crepes they usually consist of Nutella and berries of some sort.  This time, I decided to use Cajeta Envinada (made by the company Coronado, a company based in San Luis Potosi, Mexico - my mom's hometown - a shoutout to SLP) which is a Mexican dulce de leche made from goat's milk.  I grew up eating this caramel and it really is one of my favorite things.  So I made a sweet crepe with a Mexican twist.  They were so good..I think I might have to make them for dinner (and dessert) again tonight!
Monica's Sweet Version: Cajeta, Cream & Berries

Ingredient List for Basic Crepe Batter
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup flour
Butter, for coating the pan

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds.  If not using a blender, whisk the eggs, milk, water and melted butter in a large bowl, add the flour and whisk until smooth. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.
Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 1 minute and flip. Cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute and remove. Lay them out flat so they can cool.

*Savory Variation Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the egg mixture.

*Sweet Variation Add 21/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to the egg mixture. You can also add cinnamon to the mixture or a teaspoon of your favorite liqueur.

Ingredient List and Method for Mascarpone Cheese & Strawberry Crepes
1 cup or small container of Mascarpone cheese
1 - 2 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Strawberry sauce: if you don't have pre-made sauce, you can cook fresh strawberries with sugar on the stove until soft and sweet. Add a little water if it's too thick.

Fill the cooked crepes with a little of the Mascarpone filling, fold and top with strawberry sauce. You can also sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top for presentation :) 

Ingredient List and Method for Spinach & Mushroom Crepes
2 cups crimini mushrooms
1 portabello mushroom, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1 cup white wine
16 oz fresh spinach
1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
1 cup crumbled feta
3 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced
salt & peper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange the potato slices on baking sheet and add a bit of olive oil or olive oil spray to the potato slices, toss and salt. Once the oven is hot, bake potato slices in the oven until they are crisp and golden brown, almost like a baked french fry/chip texture.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat olive oil in pan with 2 tbs olive oil (more if necessary) and 2 cloves minced garlic for about 1 minute.  Add mushrooms and sautee in pan until soft.

While the mushrooms are cooking, steam fresh spinach in a separate pan.
Once the mushrooms and spinach are cooked, you are now ready to make the pan sauce and assemble your crepes.

Make the pan sauce in the same pan that you prepared the mushrooms in, in order for the sauce to grab the flavor.  On medium-low heat add 1 minced garlic clove, the heavy cream or half & half, white wine and salt to taste.  Whisk until the sauce thickens.  You can also add pepper and dried thyme to the mixture if you like.  Once the sauce thickens remove from heat.

You can choose to prepare the crepes beforehand or after you make the filling. Use the recipe above.

You are now ready to assemble your crepe.  Lay crepe flat, fill the middle with steamed spinach and spoon mushroom mixture on top of spinach. Fold.  Drizzle the white wine cream sauce over the crepe.  Add feta cheese crumbles to the top and also, crumble the crispy potatoes and sprinkle on top of the crepe.  Add more sauce if you like and enjoy!

Ingredient List & Method for Cajeta & Cream Crepes

Cajeta or dulce de leche, I prefer Cajeta Envinada made by Coronado
2 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tbs sugar
cinnamon,to taste
Mexican chocolate, I use Ibarra Mexican Hot Chocolate 
strawberries, thinly sliced

Beat whipping cream, sugar and vanilla extract in large bowl until firm peaks form. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)

Once the whipped cream is prepared you can now make your crepes.  Prepare the crepe batter as listed above and add the sugar to the batter. You can also add cinnamon to the egg mixture and 1 tsp vanilla.

To assemble the sweet crepes, fill the crepe with about 2 tbs of Cajeta (which can be found in most markets in the Latino food aisle or at any Latin  market) - if you can't find, you can use dulce de leche.  Add as much of the whipped cream as you prefer and place sliced strawberries on top.  Fold the crepe.  

Drizzle a bit more cajeta on top and top with a few dollops of whipped cream.  Sprinkle cinnamon and Mexican chocolate on top.  I use Ibarra which is a Mexican hot chocolate (like Abuelitas, but better).  I just smash a bit of the chocolate up so it becomes a powdery texture and sprinkle it on top. It really adds a great flavor to the crepe - it is a special something, somewhat unexpected.  You can find Ibarra hot chocolate in most supermarkets in the Latino foods aisle or in any Latin market.  You can garnish plate with a whole strawberry & enjoy!

Have fun with the fillings.  The great thing about crepes is their versatility. You can basically put anything in a crepe..some other ideas include: smoked salmon and dill, nutella and berries, artichokes, goat cheese, braised lamb, etc...

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: Cafe au lait.
Monica: A nice, chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.


Caitlin: There's nothing like a little Serge Gainsbourg on a Sunday morning.
Monica: A little bit of 1960's French pop music and anything else French...
1) Mon amie la rose - Françoise Hardy
2) Je t'aime moi non plus - Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg
3) Souvenir De Paris - Dimitri from Paris
4) Kelly Watch the Stars - Air
5) Faite Pour Dormir - Brigitte Bardot

In Search of the Perfect: Doughnut/Donut

There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh doughnuts. Although there is a doughnut shop in every neighborhood, what is it that sets one apart from the other?  Most of the time, they sell the usual: glaze, twists, chocolate bars, cake doughnuts, bear claws, etc... But, what really sets a shop apart from the rest is a specialty flavor not commonly found everywhere.  This was our inspiration in searching for the "perfect doughnut/donut."  Caitlin lives close enough to the famous Voodoo Doughnut shop, so of course, the perfect doughnut was easily found there. After researching Yelp and asking around, Monica ended up in Anaheim at a small shop that is known for their warm blueberry donuts.  So for those of you in the Portland/Eugene area and those of you in the Los Angeles/Orange County area...we are searching to find you the "perfect" places to enjoy some delicious treats. This is just the first in a many more posts to come.  And if you have other suggestions, please share in the comments section below.

Caitlin's Choice: Voodoo Doughnut - Eugene/Portland, OR
Bacon Maple Bar, Glazed and Captain my Captain
*****stars out of 5
As soon as Monica mentioned searching for the perfect doughnut shop, there wasn't even the slightest hesitation or research needed for the place I had in mind. If you're a fan of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show, or just a Portland native or visitor, then there's no doubt you've heard of Voodoo Doughnut. I'm quite lucky enough to live in Eugene, where the 2nd location has been opened since last June. If you haven't heard of them, here's a brief synopsis: a couple of guys (presumably potheads, hence the Maple Blazer Blunt) concoct the most insane yet delicious combinations of things and put them on a doughnut. Case in point: the bacon maple bar - a maple glazed doughnut with a large piece of crispy bacon on top. It's absolute heaven.  There's also the Old Dirty Bastard - chocolate donut topped with chocolate frosting, crushed Oreos and drizzled with peanut butter. I don't have time to list the crazy (yet absolutely delicious) doughnuts they make - so here's the link to their menu. I urge you to browse the menu - if anything, for the comical names and shapes of some of the donuts (the cock and balls which is shaped like, well I'm sure you can guess...). The donuts are so delicious that in 2008 the Portland mayor introduced a resolution naming Voodoo's Portland Creme the official donut of the city.

We got three this past weekend, the aforementioned bacon maple bar, a regular old glazed, and a Captain my Captain which is a donut topped with vanilla cream and captain crunch cereal. My absolute favorite is the bacon maple bar, hands down. It's an amazing combination of ingredients, not to mention the donut is thick and cake-like so you're eating actual substance rather than other donuts that seem to deflate when you take a bite out of them. The same can be said with all the other donuts from Voodoo  - they're thick which seems to deter from the sometimes frightening and overly sweet toppings. 

The final verdict: If you live in the area - please take advantage of this national landmark as much as you can. If you don't, I'm truly sorry for your loss...

Monica's Choice: M & M Donuts - Anaheim, CA

The Blueberry Donut, ****stars out of 5
About a 30 minute drive from my house, in the heart of Disneyland country, I found a tasty, blueberry donut. After researching on the web (primarily Yelp - it was actually the third hottest thing on Yelp last month) I stumbled upon M & M Donuts in Anaheim, CA.  Is this a fancy place? No, not by any means. It is in a strip mall on Katella Ave, about 2 miles west of Disneyland - no hipsters, no fancy dining area - just donuts, and a pretty darn good one at that.

1614 W Katella Ave, Anaheim, CA
The shop doesn't open until 10 pm and closes at 1 pm, the following day.  That means if you want a freshly made blueberry donut, you have to get there anytime around opening until the wee hours of the morning; after that, you run the risk of there not being any left.  Should you order anything other than the blueberry donut? I really don't know, however, from what I've heard and read, it really is all about these blueberry donuts. 
As I arrived, there was already a line formed in their drive-thru (which I've read is slightly quicker than standing in line) and it was about 9:50 pm. I decided to stand in line and wait for my donut. Others waiting in line were all there for the same reason.  It took about 45 minutes in all from standing in line, ordering, and actually getting my donuts.  Quick, they are not.  They are making their donuts in a tiny kitchen space, so you have to be patient. 
Once I received my order, I was so anxious to try these donuts that everyone was raving about. On the outside, the donuts look like a cross between a Krispy Kreme glaze donut mixed with a cake style donut speckled with blueberries.
warm donuts, 45 minutes later...
The donut was warm and I decided to cut mine in half in order to see what the texture looked like on the inside. It looked soft on the inside, much like a blueberry muffin and not as dense as a cake style donut.
blueberry muffin-like texture on the inside 
Now was the true test - the taste test.  Were these going to be as good as everyone said? Was it worth waiting 45 minutes (or longer) to try this blueberry treat?  And the answer is...YES and YES!  They were crispy on the outside, perfectly glazed and once I took that first bite, it tasted like a soft blueberry muffin fried in a butter coated glaze.  In other words...it was good! If you can't wait until you get home (and I couldn't), you can sit in your car with a hot cup of coffee, and feast on the deliciousness.  I shared these with a few other people, and everyone agreed that they were both unique in flavor and perfectly made - sweet, but not overly so, crunchy, and fluffy on the inside. 

The final verdict: I wouldn't advise eating an entire dozen (I don't subscribe to the Sarah Palin mentality of eating junk food all the time - anytime), everything in moderation is more my style. So, if you want to indulge every once in awhile  and are craving a donut - these are a must try. Unfortunately being nearly 1000 miles away from the closest Voodoo Doughnut shop, one must search high and low for these fried gems. If you are near Disneyland one evening, stop by M & M's and definitely try these out - just bring your own coffee. 

Feb 4, 2011

Game-Day Pierogies

If you grew up anywhere on the East Coast, or know people of Eastern European descent, then you're no stranger to pierogies. If not, here's a brief description. Every country has their own version of a dumpling: the Chinese have potstickers, the Italians have ravioli, Latin American countries have empanadas - well, the Polish have pierogies. They're traditionally filled with potatoes but everyone has their own twist, be it potatoes, meat or cheese. We both tried a couple different fillings and are sharing our absolute favorites. We figured that these would be perfect for the Superbowl this year, considering the Steelers are playing and pierogies are a staple in Pittsburgh. If you're making them for the Superbowl, you can prepare the dough and filling(s) ahead of time - especially if you're making a meat filling and need to slow-cook it, then you can fill and cook them right before game time.

Caitlin: Growing up in Cleveland, I was no stranger to a good pierogi; they were everywhere, but only a few people really did it right. I took the traditional potato filling and threw in a twist - sauteed pancetta (there's very little that tastes worse from the addition of pancetta, in my opinion). It was delicious! I also slow-cooked a pork loin and then sauteed it with sauerkraut, so the second filling was pork, sauerkraut and havarti cheese - just as delicious! I mixed some horseradish with sour cream and used it as a dipping sauce which went great with both kinds. If you've never made them before, they are a bit labor intensive, but way worth it, and definitely a good finger food idea for a party.

Caitlin's Version

 Monica: I have never eaten a pierogi before making them this past week, however, I've had empanadas, potstickers and ravioli so I had a vague idea of how these might look/taste.  Although making the pierogi is a bit time consuming, once you get going, everything seems to go quite quickly.  As Caitlin suggested, it is a good idea to have everything prepped so that when it comes time to making each one, you don't stress over the fillings.  I chose to make a potato & cheese version and I also made a potato, pancetta, and cheese version.  I have to say that I really loved them.  I served them with a sour cream and dill mixture.  One thing, just make sure you season the filling well in order to avoid any bland taste.  This might occur if you are strictly doing a potato version.  If you are only making one or two things for a party, this is definitely something you should try.

Monica's Version

Ingredient List 
*For the pierogi dough:
1 egg
3/4 cup sour cream
1 stick softened butter
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
Filling options:
*For the potato and pancetta filling:
3 large potatoes
whole milk
3/4 cup sour cream
**To make it veggie:
3 large potatoes, mashed with sour cream, butter, salt
1 cup (maybe more) of shredded cheddar or cheese of your choice
***For the pork filling:
havarti cheese

Start the dough: mix the egg, sour cream, butter and salt together and form a dough. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center - add the sour cream mixture and mix until a dough forms. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
During this time, you can make your fillings. Scroll down to look at the fillings recipes.

Roll out the dough onto a floured work surface until its about 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch thick. Then take a circular cookie cutter (or the top of a glass) and cut the dough into circles. 

Spoon about 1 to 2 tbsp of the filling into half of the circle, then fold the other over it and press the edges down to seal it. Take a fork and press the edges around. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Drop the pierogies in and wait until they float to the top of the water. When they rise to the top, start a timer for 4 minutes. When done, drain and set aside.
Heat butter and oil and a large skillet. Add the pierogies and brown on each side - about 2 minutes per side.
Serve with a dipping sauce and enjoy!

*Potato Filling
Peel and boil potatoes. When done, mash them with the milk and season with s&p. Stir in the sour cream. 
Saute the pancetta and when done, add it with some of the grease to the potatoes.  

**Potato & Cheese
Peel and boil potatoes.  Mash with sour cream, butter, and salt to taste. 
Grate cheese of your choice and fill piergoies with mash and cheese.

*Pork Filling 
Slow cook the pork loin in either the oven or the crock pot. In the oven, cook it at 250 for about 4-6 hours. Just season the meat with salt and pepper, put it in a baking dish with broth and let it cook - basting it often. In the crock pot, do the same on low.
When done, shred it and saute it in a skillet with sauerkraut. Take a few small pieces of havarti cheese and add it to the mix. Drain well (!!) - this is very important because if you're filling dough with moist meat the pierogies won't seal right and open in the boiling water - trust me...

There are a variety of fillings: meat, mushrooms, cheese - just experiment and find something that you like. If you try any of our fillings, comment below and let us know what you thought. 

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: Beer!
Monica: Pear Cider, perfect combination.
Instead of our own playlist this time, we found some Disco Polo.  According to Wikipedia: Disco polo is a musical genre native to Poland, which has existed in its present form since the early 1990s. It was derived from contemporary folk tunes, heavily influenced by Russian folk songs and italo disco.

A Recipe to Remember?
Definitely, there are so many different fillings you can use in the pierogi and it can be a rather unique (and tasty) finger food option.

Super Open-Faced Sandwiches

Whether you are having a huge crowd over for a party or just trying to figure out what to make for dinner, open-faced sandwiches are full of wonderful possibilites. With the Super Bowl coming up, this is a great option for your entertaining needs. Caitlin decided to make different versions of an Open-Faced Roast Beef Sandwich. Monica made Meatball Sandwiches and Open-Faced Portobello Sandwiches. The sandwiches were not only delicious, but they were also versatile and can be altered to your liking. Another great thing about these sandwiches is being able to create a sandwich bar setting for a party, and allowing your guests to pick and choose what type of sandwich they wish to create.
Crafting a sandwich bar
Caitlin: There are so many possibilities with open-faced sandwiches. I knew I wanted to make roast beef, so I slow roasted a top round; which by the way, is a great idea if you're not a fan of the slimy lunchmeat that you often find at the deli. It was actually cheaper, it came out to about $6 per pound, and it was organic meat. We ended up having quite a bit of meat leftover for our lunches during the week - highly suggest it.
I started off each sandwich by making a garlic butter spread - roasted cloves of garlic with butter and oil. I spread that over pieces of crusty French bread and toasted it in the oven for about 5 minutes. Then I basically took about 5 or 6 ingredients and played around with them making 4 different open-faced sandwiches, all of which were amazing (rave reviews from the hubs and the kid). 

Here are the 4 different kinds:
Roast beef with Arugula, Blue Cheese and Red Pepper Dressing
Roast beef with Arugula, Red Pepper Dressing and Horseradish cream
Roast beef with Arugula, Havarti and Parsley Oil
Roast Beef with Mushrooms, Provolone and Red Pepper Dressing (and a little jus drizzled over the top)

I found a recipe for a Roasted Red Pepper spread which went amazing with the Roast Beef but also as a dip/spread on its own. I made enough to have some leftovers which we used a a dip with Pita chips. You can also make French Dip sandwiches with the juices you get from roasting the beef. I topped a little on the mushroom sandwich and it was fantastic.
I highly suggest trying these out - if not for the Superbowl, just as a dinner one night with a salad. They were absolutely delicious and having freshly roasted lunchmeat for the rest of the week was an added bonus.
Caitlin's Open-Faced Roast Beef Sandwiches

Monica's Meatball Sandwich on Ciabatta

Monica:  I decided to make a meat and veggie version of basically the same sandwich. I thought it would make it easier, if you are planning to serve this to a larger crowd, to have the option of either meat or veggie (in this case, portobello mushrooms) served with a marinara sauce and your choice of cheese.  I also had options in terms of bread. The meatball recipe is inspired by a Mario Batali recipe, with some modifications. I preferred to use ciabatta (plain and olive ciabatta), but I also included a Cuban bolillo in the  mix in case someone preferred a softer bread.  Prep was easy, overall.  Making the meatballs was most the time consuming, but it really wasn't incredibly labor intensive.  The mushrooms were easy, just threw them on the grill with a bit of olive oil and salt and they cooked perfectly.  If you want the nice, gooey cheese oozing out of your sandwich be sure to close that open-faced sandwich and squish it together.  Yum!

Monica's Portabello Sandwich on Olive Ciabatta
Ingredient List
*For the Roast Beef Sandwiches:
1-2 pound beef roast
beef broth
rosemary, thyme, parsley (or any combination of fresh herbs)

*Red Pepper Spread:
1 large red bell pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
2 tablespoons  fresh basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

*Parsley Oil
Fresh Parsley
Olive or Canola Oil
Salt and Pepper

*Horseradish Cream
Sour Cream
Blue Cheese
Arugula or other Greens

**For the Meatball Sandwiches:
3 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe to follow)
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Mozarella cheese, sliced
Fresh basil

Your favorite bread for sandwiches, I suggest Ciabatta or French rolls

Marinara Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 cans peeled whole tomatoes (28-oz each), crushed and juices reserved
Salt, to taste

***For the Portobello Sandwiches:
6 Portobello mushrooms
3 tbs Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp dried oregano

Marinara sauce, to pour over mushrooms
Mozarella Cheese
Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
Fresh basil

Your favorite bread for sandwiches, I suggest Ciabatta or French rolls

*For the Roast Beef Sandwiches
Preheat the oven to 225. Drizzle olive oil over the roast and season with salt and pepper. Chop the herbs and pat them around the meat. Place in a baking dish and pour beef broth and mushrooms around the bottom of the dish. Place in the oven for about 2 - 2 1/2 hours, or until the internal temp is at least 135. You may choose to cook it more, if you want it more well done. 

While it's cooking, start preparing all the toppings and sides.

Red Pepper Dressing:
Place the red pepper and about 7 cloves of garlic on a cookie sheet and put under the broiler. Turn it over every few minutes to get each side blackened. When it's done, about 7 or 8 minutes take it out and let it cool before you peel it, remove the seeds, and coarsely chop. Squeeze the garlic out of it's peel and set it aside. for something else. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add the shallots, cooking for about 1 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Combine all the ingredients except for the olive oil in a blender and blend for about 30 seconds, then with the machine running slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream and blend until thick and smooth. Transfer to a bowl and put in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Garlic Butter:
Using the garlic cloves that you just roasted, put it in a small pan with butter and olive oil. Turn the heat on until the butter melts and stir it together. Put aside until later.

Parsley Oil
Take about 1 cup of fresh parsley and blend together with oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Horseradish Cream
Combine sour cream and horseradish together, to your liking. If you want a stronger cream add more horseradish, and vice versa.

*When Roast Beef is done cooking, take it out of the oven and tent it with foil. Let it rest for about 15 minutes. After that, you can let it sit out a bit to slightly cool or you can begin slicing it. I sliced it pretty thin and set the sliced pieces aside on a separate plate. Then I took the mushrooms out and set aside to use on one of the sandwiches. You can also pour the juice from the pan into a small bowl and use it as jus for a French Dip.

Slice the bread and put on a cookie sheet. With a pastry brush, brush the garlic butter over each slice and put in the oven for about 5 minutes until slightly toasted.

At this point, you can either make the sandwiches I listed above, or you can go wild with your own creations. Another option is to lay out all of your spreads, oils, cream, cheese, greens and veggies and let people make their own sandwiches.

*The Marinara Sauce for the Meatball Sandwiches & Portobello Sandwiches:
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the thyme. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt once it is done.

**For the Meatball Sandwiches:
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, bring tomato sauce to a fast simmer.
Put the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl and pour the milk over. Set aside.

In the bowl  combine the beef and the eggs. Grate the garlic over the bowl with a microplane. Add in grated pecorino, parsley and salt. Mix briefly just to combine. If you have a countertop mixer you can use it at this time with the paddle or dough hook attached.

Add the milk-soaked bread crumbs to the meat mixture and mix for about one minute until it comes together, but still has some texture and moisture.

Form the mixture make the meatballs, smaller than a tennis ball but larger than a golf ball. Gently add the meatballs to the sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for 30 - 35 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

Place the mozarella cheese on your sandwich bread by top the meatballs with fresh basil, freshly grated pecorino and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.  
 ***For the Portobello Sandwiches:
Heat grill. Combine olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic and oregano.  Brush on both sides of each mushroom.

Grill mushrooms until it softens and absorbs the garlic/oil mixture.

Place mozarella on roll of your choice, pour marinara sauce on bread, fresh basil, then place mushroom on top and crumbled gorgonzola.  You can drizzle some extra olive oil on top if you choose.  If you prefer gooey cheese on your bread, squish with top of bread.  Enjoy!

If you want to make a veggie sandwich, you can also grill some eggplant or attempt to make vegetarian eggplant "meat"balls. If you have a recipe for those vegetarian eggplant meatballs, we would love to have it.

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: If you're serving these at a Superbowl Party, my guess is that you're also drinking beer, which I think would be a great combination. I also recommend Deschutes brewery - a local craft beer here in Oregon, based out of Bend. Good stuff.
Monica:  I enjoyed my sandwich with a Passion Tea Lemonade with Raspberry.  I think any favorite iced tea, lemonade or iced tea-lemonade is perfect.

Caitlin: The NFL song, perhaps?
Monica: Super Bowl Party or just celebrating any occasion...I had to listen to some party music (from various eras) for this.
1)  Groove Is In the Heart - Dee Lite
2)  Ready for the Floor - Hot Chip
3)  You Rock My World - Michael Jackson 
4)  Having a Party - Sam Cooke
5)  Strangers in the Night - Frank Sinatra (not technically "party music", but love the "doobie, doobie, do")

A Recipe to Remember?
Of course.  Who doesn't like an open-faced sandwich or a warm sandwich.  Great for carnivores and vegetarians alike (with the appropriate fillings of course.)

Are you ready for some Cake Pops?!?

Disclaimer: These are not as easy to make as some might portray them to be. 

In order for us to attempt to make these cake pops, we both researched various recipes and blogs that tried them before.  One thing to know, they are time consuming and delicate.  By delicate, we mean, they can fall apart and be difficult to coat in melted candy.  In saying that, we don't want to discourage you from trying cake pops.  They are not only pleasing to look at, but they are the perfect dessert for parties.  In honor of the Super Bowl, you could even make them look like football helmets or decorate them using your favorite team's colors.

Caitlin & Monica:  We decided to post this a little differently than usual.  Instead of separating our ideas, we decided to collaborate.  We both dealt with a bit of difficulty when it came to actually decorating the cake pops.  We were looking forward to getting creative with the decorating process, but one thing to note, do not make the actual size of the balls too large and make sure they are very firm before you dip them in the chocolate.  Also, an easier way to do it, is to dip it without the stick, roll it around with a small spoon, then place it on the wax paper and then put the stick in them before the melted chocolate sets.  This will allow the outer candy shell to harden and hold the stick.  We are going to post the recipe as a step-by-step process.  Also, you can choose to use boxed cake mix and ready-made frosting if you prefer or are short on time (many of the cake pop recipes we researched suggest this option).  We are also going to include a recipe for a super simple chocolate cake by Martha Stewart which Monica used, and it seemed to have the right texture for these cake pops. 

Ingredient List
Your favorite boxed cake mix
Your favorite frosting
1 lb melting candy - we chose white chocolate (you may want to get more, just in case)
sanding sugar
more chocolate to drizzle
Lollipop sticks

*If you choose to try the Chocolate Cake you will need: 
1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup cold water

**Cream Cheese Frosting (to mix with the cake):
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
4 tbs butter
1 tbs milk (or more, as necessary)

If you are making the Chocolate Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking pan, whisk together all-purpose flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and coarse salt.

Make a well in center of flour mixture and add vegetable oil, pure vanilla extract, white vinegar, and cold water. Whisk until well combined. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

If you are making the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Whip the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and milk together until smooth. Set aside.

How to make the Cake Pops
Step 1:  Make the cake balls
In a large bowl, break up the cake, by crumbling to a fine texture.  Once the cake is crumbled, add your frosting, in small amounts at a time.  You may find it to work easier, if you take your cake and frosting mixture, wrap it up in plastic wrap and set in the fridge for a few hours or even a couple of days before making the cake pops - this would ensure a firmer texture. 

Prepare two large baking sheets by covering with wax paper. Take a small amount of the cake mixture and roll it into a smooth ball - the size of a small meatball. Stick the lollipop stick into the end of each ball, pointing upward, as you put the ball back down on the sheet. You can choose to cut the lollipop sticks so they are not too long. Put in freezer until the balls harden, at least 2 or 3 hours. Again, you can also leave it overnight or for a couple of days ahead of making them.

Step 2: Decorating the Cake Pops
(As we said, this might be a little tricky..so be prepared for the possibility of making a few mistakes, but don't get frustrated, the end result is worth it.)

You can choose to melt the candy in a double broiler or in the microwave.  If you choose the microwave, make sure to follow the instructions on the packet of the melting candy or it is always a safe bet to set it on high for 30 seconds, stir, and return to the microwave to melt if needed at 10 second intervals.

Dip each ball in the chocolate until well coated.  If you dip it without the stick, use a small spoon to help you coat the cake ball. 

Dip in sugar or sprinkle with sprinkles.  You can also drizzle chocolate on top and around the cake pop.  Return to the sheet to harden. You can lay them on their side.

Store in freezer until ready to serve.  Do not put them in the fridge for they will get soft. You can also leave them out if you are serving them that day.

Freeze the cake crumble mixture (once it is combined with the frosting) in order to ensure a firmer texture.

A Recipe to Remember?
It was definitely memorable, due to some of the problems we experienced.  However, once the adjustments were made we pulled through.  We modified the recipe in order to make the process easier for you.  We do recommend the recipe because cake pops seem to be the "new" cupcake and they do taste good!