Tag Archives: Mozzarella

Pitfalls and Parties/Savory Bread Rolls

These easy bread rolls can be made with meat and cheese or as vegan- vegetable.They eaten warm or cold.

I know that the thought of hosting puts fear into many people. I may have jumped into telling you what to serve instead of how to serve guests.
When I had dinner parties, showers or receptions, I found that some people were downright intimidated by my offerings. You may have seen a buffet and thought, “I could never do that!” You probably can, but you don’t have to. Hosting can be fun, rewarding and make everyone think you are something, or it can stress you out, make you swear ‘Never again!” and make everyone think you are a witch, (and it wasn’t even a Halloween party.) You can make offerings short and simple, or pull out all the stops. We will approach all of these, and let you decide which is appropriate and when.  It may take me several postings, but I will try to give you tips and hopefully, some confidence.

 

Plan as far ahead as possible and do whatever you can as far ahead as possible. When you find the confidence, it will come easier each time. You will not only know the pitfalls and learn from your mistakes,( you will make mistakes), but you will have things in mind and on hand that you need, whether it be figuring out what to serve to where overnight guest will sleep. We’ll talk about it all upcoming in this blog.

 

You can over-do a good thing.

The first shower I threw was for an expectant mother. I made homemade cake with homemade filling and decorated it with blue and pink flowers. I molded flavored candy in bootie, rattle, baby bottle, (etc.), shapes in pink and blue. I made Madeline cookies dipped in pink and blue icing. I made finger sandwiches, nut cups and tea; I made coffee with all the amenities .I put up pink and blue streamers, made pink and blue sock dollies. I had several games, one of which was a basket filled with small baby items which I had the guests look at for 30 seconds and whoever remembered the most, got a prize; the mom got the items. It was something, I can tell you. But I did several things wrong:

#1. For whatever reason, when I have asked schools or churches to use their facilities, my group has been bumped at the last minute for someone else. Something about me and my plans seem to scream “Expendable”! Try to have your affairs in your home or pay for a site. In the occasion of the baby shower, I was supposed to have use of a school cafeteria. I was bumped for an Irish step-dancing class. As big as a book-lover as I am, I hated  but was desperate enough, to ask to use the school’s library. The library was on the third floor; the stairs leading directly to it were closed so the dancers’ bored-and-waiting siblings would not wander the school. So I had to all the food, decorations, gifts, etc, across the school, up one flight, across again, up another flight, then across the school again. I had to carry the hot coffee and tea from the cafeteria in the same pattern, very carefully and very slowly.

#2.I just plain over-did it.

I did not hear, “Oh, how lovely” or “How nice”. What I heard was, “I can’t believe how much you did”, to the point that a week later at another function I heard, “I kept telling Jim, (Julie, Bob), that I couldn’t believe how much you did”. It looked like I worked hard. Hosting should never look like you worked hard, and I want to see that you work as little as possible when pulling off your parties. I was not a close friend of the mom-to-be; I had taken it upon myself for the group from the school, but it may not have been my place, which may have added to the discomfort level of the others.

Don’t be too eager to please; only host when appropriate.

#3. I presumed on help.

Now, you should have everything under control, I mean, things happen. But if you accept help, make sure it is something that you can do without, or have a back-up plan. A friend of the mom’s volunteered a special punch. I planned on it; she changed the type without telling me.  What she made did not go with the food I had and the guests drank it because it was too warm for the coffee and tea. I felt stressed; it was a problem as the taste combinations were really being off.

AND I failed to be sure that some of those who attended, (whom I had always stayed to help), would/could stay there to help me. So I ended up doing the hallway-stair set-up marathon in reverse, by myself.

 

On the other hand, for years afterward I hosted a Christmas piano recital in my home for several years running, which were always a huge success.

Always be ready with extra food:

My sons were homeschooling at the time and they were studying with the same piano teacher as some of their homeschooled friends. The piano teacher had stopped having Christmas concerts but I decided that the kids needed to gain confidence and show off their skills, so every December we had our own little recital with their friends, the parents and a few adult guests.

I made my batches of Christmas cookies, candies and bread early, and froze either some of the dough or some of the finished goods for Christmas; (I did this up to a week in advance; the candy, maybe earlier.)

The day before the recital, (or the day of, if I held it on a weekday evening instead of a weekend afternoon),

I took the coffee table out, gathered every chair I could find and even a bench, (on which I put a folded quilt), and made several layers of seating in the living room behind the piano. We do not have a large living room; everyone understood when they sat knee-to knee at times.

While people gathered, I had Christmas music playing softly in the background on a CD. And I had small gifts for the performers.

Just before everyone arrived I made tea and coffee and spread them out on my dining table with the goodies for after the recitals. The children did whatever made them comfortable besides playing the piano; some sang, one played the guitar, one read a poem as well.

After one of the afternoon recitals a few of the guests lingered. I could see that the cheese ball and few other non-sweets were gone and the folk looked hungry. Fortunately, I was ready. I knew that I had savory bread roll-ups in my freezer. I pulled them out, warmed them in the microwave them and they were a hit, as expected. These are so handy and good. Make more than one type at a time. Slice, wrap well and freeze. These are great for snacks, late company, late-night movie watching, brunches and are our family’s traditional holiday morning breakfast. They are easy to get ready, are not messy, are a little special and will hold you over while you are waiting to eat a big mid-day meal. Guests will be impressed with the taste, the heartiness and the fact that you have them ready with next to no effort when you need them.

 

Savory Bread Roll-ups

 

If bread making is your thing, make basic dough. If you have a bread machine, pull it out. If not, use frozen bread dough, (thawed, of course).

Roll into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Brush with melted butter or margarine. Spread fillings (recipes to follow), to within two inches from all sides. Fold in the short sides; roll up from one long side to another, Pinch ends and press to close. Place on a cookie or baking sheet, which has been brushed with butter or margarine,(or lined with parchment paper); curve bread roll  if necessary. Slice or snip slits through top layer about 3-4 inches apart. Cover with clean kitchen towel , waxed paper or foil; let rise to double in size in a warm spot. Uncover and brush with melted butter or margarine. Bake at 325F for about 45 minutes- 1 hour, or until the bread is thoroughly browned.(Do not cook at a higher temperature; the middle will not bake).

Meat Filling Suggestions:

Chopped roast beef, or shredded roast beef lunch meat with shredded medium–to sharp cheddar cheese; (a little prepared horseradish sauce optional).

Shredded ham with mild cheddar cheese

Shredded turkey (or turkey lunch meat) with pepper jack cheese

Pepperoni or salami with mozzarella or provolone cheese

Cheese Filling Suggestions:

Any cheese, preferably with sautéed onions

Soft cheeses, (cream cheese, Neufchatel, mascarpone) with herbs and or dried vegetables:

[ Italian blend, or basil, parsley and marjoram;

Southwest blend or any favorite chili powder, (chipotle, mesquite, etc), cumin,for example]

Mixed with red or green salsa

Seeded,(poppy, pumpkin, caraway, sesame)

Mixed with red hot sauce

Mixed with sautéed vegetables; onions

Any favorite cheese spread, (pimento cheese, onion dip, avocado)

 

Vegetable Filling Suggestions:

Sautéed or caramelized onions

Hummus,( regular or vegetable, or mixed with seeds)

Sautéed vegetable combinations, (mix & match): onions, tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, asparagus

Dehydrated vegetable flakes, (available often mixed in supermarkets or separate, (tomatoes, peppers), usually in specialty markets

Drained, mashed white beans (canned or homemade) with onions or garlic; chives, parsley, white pepper; dehydrated vegetables

Experiment and enjoy!

Note: Sometime after I posted this Fae, of “Fae’s Twist and Tango” posted a lovely alternative: use puff pastry instead of bread dough.Fae ‘s post with her version of fillings can be seen  here: Fae’s Savory Braided Puff Pastry.

If you have not visited Fae’s blog, please do!She not only has lovely recipes, but  photos and fascinating  stories from her many travels.

Thank you for letting me share this, Fae!

And please join me and fellow writers on a shared blog: “Four Foxes, One Hound” here, on WordPress.Four Foxes, One Hound

You Know Beans

 I have been asked to post recipes before I go any farther, which is probably where I should have started in the first place. Bear with me, while I get a feel for where this blog should go; I’m open for suggestions and questions.

I should have explained that this all started as a letter to answer a call from an alumna of my husband’s college begging for ideas for ‘meatless Fridays’, as her kids were tired of tuna sandwiches and mac & cheese. I later had the idea to put out a pamphlet when I saw people struggling with meatless or less-meat entrees. Then I started a book when I found that people were intimidated by the idea of  entertaining. I wanted to help put people’s minds at ease. So here I am pulling pieces out of the middle of what supposed to be my book, and kind of making hash of it all! This blog is not about meatless eating. It is about eating and entertaining.

But here are the first recipes, most suitable for Lenten Fridays, Ash Wednesdays, vegetarian, some vegan, some cutting back on cholesterol, and of just plain good food.

I will give recipes with as many optional shortcuts as I can .

 

There will be plenty of meat recipes and tips in upcoming postings.

 

Let’s start with beans and legumes.

A slow-cooker, (Crock Pot), is a blessing when it comes to cooking dried beans and legumes. I will go so far as to say it is almost essential when living at high altitudes.(I had a neighbor who confided that although we lived about 25 feet above sea level, as a young bride she used the ‘high-altitude’ directions on cake mix boxes  when she lived in a nearby  high-rise apartment).

Without a slow-cooker, overnight soaking is required, and at high altitudes, bringing the beans to a boil, soaking, rinsing and repeating is required,(and even  then I could not get them soft enough when I lived in Denver.) A basic slow-cooker can be found at the time of this posting from ten –fifteen dollars; well worth the investment. Cooking times may need to be adjusted because of varying temperatures of brands and the size of the cooker.

 

There are quite usable pre-cooked , bottled white beans available in local supermarkets. Canned beans are too soft and not as suitable for these soups.

Note about oils: Extra Virgin (first pressing) olive oil has the taste of olive; regular,(later pressings), olive oils have a more neutral taste, which is actually more suitable for most recipes. Olive oils burns easily. Peanut oil  is good with beans and is better for frying than other oils as it does not easily burn and never smokes.(It is the only oil used in submarines for that reason).. These are the three oils used in my kitchen; Extra V olive oil, regular olive oil, and peanut oil. A little oil not only adds body but aids in the softening of  beans. It can be omitted. I know some people are against any and all oils.

The Country-boy in my father liked black-eyed peas and they were a ‘must-have’ on New Year’s Day, as they are considered to bring good luck.(Why it was continued throughout the years, I’ll never know, as we never had a lot of luck).  Mom liked to add a little vegetable oil to them and to any bean she cooked. My father once caught her and told her never to do it again. If my father was anywhere near the kitchen, she didn’t, but if she knew he’d be out, the oil would go in. Every time he would ask her which brand of peas or beans she had fixed. If she had added oil, they were a good brand; if she hadn’t, well, let’s remember not to buy that brand again, even though he was sure that was the ‘good’ brand he’d eaten the last time.  And Mom would snicker either way, every time.

Nothing could be simpler than these quick, tasty soups. If you have a vegetarian or vegan guest or in the family, they will love you for these:

 

Basic White Bean Soup: (slow-cooker, or shortcut below)

One pound of dried white beans( Navy or Great Northern)

One Tablespoon Salt

¼ cup minced onion

1/8th cup minced celery

two Tablespoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon white pepper (optional)

one Tablespoon dried parsley (optional)

 

Place all ingredients in a slow-cooker with 1 1/2-2 quarts of cold water. Cook on ‘high’ setting for 8-10 hours, checking and stirring every couple of after the first six. You want the beans fairly soft.

(to cook beans suitable for other dishes, omit celery and onion; cook only for 6-8 hours.

SHORTCUT: Sauté onion and celery in two Tablespoons oil. Add to a pot with  bottled, precooked beans, salt, pepper and one quart of water. Simmer for at least one hour.

Mediterranean White Bean Soup-Greek style

 One pound white beans

One cup of thinly sliced carrots

¼ cup thinly sliced celery

one cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons crushed/chopped garlic,(or 1 teaspoon of dried)

one 16 ounce can of tomatoes or 2 cups fresh, pealed and chopped

½ cup vegetable oil (preferably regular olive oil

one bay leaf

1 Tablespoon salt; 1 teaspoon pepper

(Mediterranean White Bean Soup-Macedonian style:

Omit celery, add 1teaspoon dried thyme)

Add all ingredients to slow-cooker with 1-1 ½ quarts water; cook for 6-8 hours.

SHORTCUT: Cook vegetables with oil, herbs and spices for one hour in 1 quart of water; add bottled , cooked beans. Cook for at least one half hour.

OPTIONS: Serve with open-faced grilled cheese,(cheese on bread under broiler for a few minutes.) Experiment with cheddars, Swiss, Provolone, Muenster, Edam, Gouda and Mozzarella with Parmesan.

Adding a little extra water and quick-cook barley to the soups will make a vegan one-dish complete protein meal, as will adding pre-cooked rice.

More about Rice and rice cookers next time.

Meatless Protein Combinations

The key to low cholesterol, Lenten, vegetarian , (lacto/ovo- vegetarians who eat dairy products and eggs; lacto-vegetarians who indulge in milk and milk products),
vegan, (those who consume and use no animal products), or absolutely fool-proof, non-offensive hosting are meatless-protein combinations. Some of them are not complete proteins, but are close enough. There are several types of non-dairy milks that are readily available in your local grocery store: Soy, Rice and Almond, which I find wonderful, and can not only be substituted for milk as a drink, but in cereal,(cooked or cold), rice, whipped into potatoes, etc. Again, please ask any guest as some of these may cause allergic reactions. There are also Oat and Hemp milks on the market. I have not used these; and I need to experiment more with tofu, seitan and other non-meat proteins.
[Recipes for suggestions with asterisks will be in upcoming blogs]
Examples of non-meat protein combos are:
Beans or legumes with grains, corn (vegan)
Beans or legumes with dairy products.
Grains with dairy products.
Rice or potatoes with dairy products.
Confusing? Not really. You already eat many of them without realizing it:
Macaroni and cheese
Pasta Alfredo
Cheese ravioli or tortellini
Cheese pizza
Cheese sandwich; grilled or on plain bread, or grilled open-faced under the broiler
(Try Cheddars, Swiss, Muenster, my favorite, Gouda, or Mozzarella or Brick
sprinkled with Parmesan.)
Cheese pinwheel breads*.
Cheese tacos.
Peanut butter sandwich, or crackers. (vegan)
Bean, (vegan), (or bean and cheese) burritos.
Bean dip* and corn chips. ( without cheese or sour cream, vegan)
Red (or black) beans and rice. (vegan)
Navy or Great Northern beans and rice. (vegan)
Cheesy rice.
Rice pudding, or rice with milks, (served as breakfast in the South.)
Oatmeal, wheat or rice cereal, cooked in milks.
Dry cereal in milks.
Cream cheese on a bagel, rolls, toast or crackers. (try mixing with honey or fruit
puree).
Cheese and crackers.
Baked potatoes, with sour cream, shredded cheese ,or twice-baked potatoes*.
Potato casserole with cheese or milk-based sauce.
Potatoes, scalloped or au gratin.
Potato soup with open-faced, broiled cheese sandwich, or crackers.
Bean soup* with noodles ( non-egg, vegan) or crackers.
Lentil soup* with rice, (or popcorn instead of crackers).(vegan)
Any of the above soups with corn bread or rice (vegan)
Vegetable Pasta Salad* , (vegan)
“Breakfast” burritos,* without meat.
A tossed salad, with cubed cheese and and/or sesame seeds, (vegan) or
A tossed or layered salad with either cheese or with sesame seeds and cooked
lentils,(vegan)
Herbed Garbanzo or other beans, rehydrated bulgur wheat, cooked rice or croutons, without cheese, ( vegan)
(These can be presented in a tomato or baked into a vegetable* )(vegan)

(To rehydrate bulgur wheat, bring 1 cup of water to a boil, remove from heat and
steep ½ cup of wheat for approximately 20 minutes. Drain and cool. Add to
salad. Serves four. These salads can be a real pick- me- up. They wake Husband
up better than a cup of coffee.)
And Custard or Cheese pies, pastries, torts and blintzes . (These being made with wholesome ingredients.) There are many Mediterranean and Eastern European specialties made with cheeses, eggs, farina or other grains, which can make a light meal when served with fruit .
Maybe you have a family, regional or ethnic favorite that comes to mind when
reading this list. Use your family’s taste and your own imagination for other
combinations. Remember to be careful with the use of dairy products when trying
to avoid cholesterol, and for vegans, who eat no animal products. For all others,
don’t forget the egg, a most useful food for Lent, vegetarians, (who eat eggs,
again, ask), or if your guest avoids beef or pork.
Egg salad*, in a sandwich or stuffed in a tomato*.
Deviled eggs*, or hard-cooked eggs, sliced and on a cheese tray or in a tossed
salad.
Scramble eggs with American or cheddar cheese, tempered with a few drops of
milk. Try using picante sauce or a meatless spaghetti sauce for a surprisingly
filling meal.
Omelets with almost any type of cheese; try adding onions, (with sautéed peppers and
tomatoes for a Spanish omelet), or make frittatas*, which are basically open-faced
omelets, with white cheeses and green onions; add any herb that catches your
fancy. And if you can’t manage an omelet or frittata, or you just break one, turn
it into scrambles eggs and pass it off as if
you’d planned to make it that way. It will taste just as good, and no one will
be the wiser. ( I dropped a Bundt cake on a table just before guests arrived for
dinner. I sliced it at an angle and arranged it nicely on a serving dish. No one would have been the wiser, if my sister hadn’t decided
to make an embellished version of the story the night’s entertainment.)
All of the egg recipes above could be served with a carbohydrate; biscuits,
muffins, croissants or toast, which aid in the absorbing the protein.
Try serving something other than white sandwich bread: toast wheat, multi- grain, Italian, rye, pumpernickel, and your stand-by, raisin, make an interesting and flavorful addition. If you have a bread machine, pull it out. It is an easy way to make something that seems a little special and you have used very little effort in doing so. On the other hand, some bread recipes call for vegan no-nos: egg, milk, or honey, which is not often thought of as an animal product.
Honey is the only food that will not spoil, ( if it crystallizes, you can warm it back to perfection in a microwave or better yet, with its opened container sitting in boiling water, stirring at intervals until smooth), but should not be used by children under two, and perhaps by folks with compromised immune systems, as it can contain spores which can cause a rare type of botulism, and infant digestive tracts are not ready to render them harmless, as older, developed ones do . Science knows that honey consists of about 90 per cent sugar and 10 per cent water, but has never been able to be duplicated it, no matter what you have heard. Once, a very tipsy relative by marriage came in bearing gifts. Lifting them out of her bag, she listed them off ; among which were peanut butter, candy, flowers to plant and a jar of honey. Doing a double take before setting the honey on the table, she woozily and laboriously focused in on the label and added, “This is clover honey, not regular bee honey.” Trust me; it was bee honey. Most of the honey purchased bottled in the United States is clover honey, made from nectar collected from clover flowers, because Americans like a nice, light, mild honey spread, but bees will utilize any nearby flower. There would be no apples, pears, peaches or any fruit without pollination from bees, and therefore there are many different honeys out there, often used in food processing. So, even in eating fruit you are utilizing bee power, so give them some respect, their stingers not bee-ing the only reason. In most larger supermarkets you can find Orange blossom, buckwheat or honeys made from other pollens and nectar. Generally speaking, the darker the honey, the stronger the taste. I suggest fruit spreads, jellies, jams and margarine, ( some softened, mixed with cinnamon and sugar, vanilla ), peanut and nut butters as spreads for you vegan guests…..or, rather, their breadstuff