Keeping Up With Grace

On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, the gourmet girls had the privilege of dining with friend and cookbook author Grace Ivory Rock.  Grace kindly offered to host a dinner in her home and prepared all ELEVEN recipes herself - ten of them from either Favorites Cookbook or Keeping Up Cookbook.  We enjoyed hearing about the origins of Grace's cookbooks and her love of cooking.  Grace really knocked herself out and we all had a delightful evening of food and fun!  One of the best parts about our meal was that everything Grace made is relatively simple (no crazy expensive ingredients you'll never use again) and I would hands down make everything she served!  All recipes are pictured and listed below.  If you are interested in purchasing either cookbook, please visit

Bridget , Andrea, LS, Grace, Lara & Jodi
Raquel joined us later in the evening, and unfortunately Lynley couldn't make it.
Ginger Juleps (left) and Favorite Sparkling Punch (right)
(Both in Keeping Up Cookbook, page 2)

Ginger Juleps
5 springs fresh mint, rinsed
1 cup sugar
2 cups cold water
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Stir ingredients together in a bowl, pushing on mint leaves to release flavor.  Let mixture stand for at least 30 minutes.  Remove mint.  Fill a large pitcher or punch bowl with ice and pour in lemon juice mixture.
Add: 1 1/2 quarts ginger ale.  Garnish with thin lemon slices and fresh mint leaves.
(Note: Because of all of the added sugar Grace likes to use sugar-free ginger ale.  You may have to search for it a bit.  She did find some at The Store, but of course it was a bit spendy.)

Favorite Sparkling Punch
2 (2-liter) bottles Diet Shasta grapefruit soda
2 (12-ounce) can frozen white grape juice, undiluted
juice of 2 limes
1/2 bag of ice
Mix with no water, just lots of ice.
(Personal Note: Anyone who has attended my parties - this is the punch I always make, although the lime juice is a new addition I'll have to try! I usually serve it in a punch bowl and I love to use the pellet ice from Sonic.  You can just buy it by the bag.  Grace says she sometimes buys the ice at Dan's back by the butcher).

California Roll Salad
(Keeping Up Cookbook, page 98)
1 1/2 cups long grain rice, cooked in rice cooker with 2 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
While rice cooks, bring vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil in a saucepan, stirring so sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat.  Transfer hot rice to a large bowl.  Stir in warm vinegar mixture.  Let cool.
 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (white or black)
2 tablespoons finely minced pickled ginger (sushi ginger)
3 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and diced
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 large avocado, diced
2-3 handfuls baby spinach, sliced into strips
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil.
Add salad ingredients to cooled rice mixture and toss.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Wasabi Dressing:
1 tablespoon hot water
2 teaspoons wasabi (Japanese horseradish) powder
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger (or 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Stir hot water and wasabi together to form a paste.  Whisk in remaining ingredients.  Flavor is best if dressing is allowed to sit for 15 minutes or so.  Drizzle over salad prior to serving.  Yum!  If you like California rolls, you are going to  LOVE this salad!  Make it a meal by adding chilled crab or shrimp.

Kristen's Tuscan Bread Salad
(Favorites Cookbook, page 93)

1 loaf dense crusty Italian bread
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
1 large tomato
1 yellow or red pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
 salt and pepper, to taste
Combine dressing ingredients and blend well; set aside.  Cut cheese, tomato and pepper into 1-inch cubes and transfer to salad bowl with chopped basil.  Pour dressing over cheese and veggies to marinate while cutting and toasting bread.  Cut bread into 1-inch cubes and toast in oven until lightly brown.  Add bread cubes to salad bowl and mix well to coat all pieces.  Serve immediately.
Natalie's Speedy Rolls with Orange Glaze
(Favorites Cookbook, page 45)

2 tablespoons dry yeast
2 cups warm water, divided
1 cup instant powdered milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons slat
1/2 cup butter, softened
6 cups flour
Combine 1 cup of the warm water with the yeast; set aside.  In mixing bowl, mix together the other cup of water with the powdered milk, sugar, eggs, salt, butter and 1 cup of the flour.  Add the softened yeast and blend.  Pour in remaining flour slowly while mixing and knead of 10 to 15 minutes.  Place dough in an oiled bowl and let rise until double in size (about an hour).  Punch down dough and divide in half.  Roll each half into a large circle on a floured surface and cut with a pizza cutter or knife into 12 segments.  Roll up "croissant-style" and place on greased cookie sheets.  Let rise for 15 minutes, then bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden.
Combine for citrus glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Let the rolls cool for about 5 minutes before drizzling the glaze over the tops.

This was the one recipe of the evening NOT from Favorites or Keeping Up.  
Grace said she always likes to try one new recipe.  This was a keeper!
Andrea's Tomato Pie
(Keeping Up Cookbook, page 108)
1(9-inch) unbaked pie crust (Grace loves Marie Calendars)
4-6 large ripe tomatoes
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 cup mayonnaise, regular or light (Grace loves Best Foods Light)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Bake crust for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Meanwhile, slice tomatoes and lightly salt.  Place tomato slices in a colander or on a paper towel to drain.  Mix together cheeses, mayonnaise and black pepper.  Place repeated layers of tomatoes, green onions and basil in the pre-baked pie crust.  Spoon cheese mixture  on top of layer tomatoes and bake pie on a baking sheet and 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Let pie cool for 10 minutes before slicing.  Serve warm.

The Dessert Table!
French Banana Cake
(Favorites Cookbook, page 202)
This cake is amazing!  I just made it for my family two weeks ago.  And Jodi actually made it for gourmet night in July of 2008.  We both did 9-inch rounds and layers it, but the bundt was so pretty!  Grace sprinkled sanding sugar on the top to give it a sparkling finish!

2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 package white cake mix
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups very ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup walnuts, optional (Grace omitted)
Mix water, vinegar and soda.  Combine with cake mix and eggs.  Stir until moistened.  Scrape bowl with spatula.  Add mashed bananas.  Beat with electric mixer 3 minutes at medium speed.  Pour into greased and floured 9"x13" pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minute (or until toothpick comes out clean).  Frost, when cooled, with Creamy Butter Frosting.
Chicago Chocolate Cinnamon Cake
(Favorite Cookbook, page 204)

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
Mix flour and sugar in a large bowl.  Bring 2 cups butter, 1/4 cup cocoa and water to a boil in saucepan.  Pour over flour mixture and mix well.  Add buttermilk, soda, cinnamon, one teaspoon vanilla, eggs and salt and mix well.  Pour into greased and floured 9 x 13 pan.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  (Grace used a bundt pan).
1/2 cup butter 
1/2 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans, optional
Bring 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup cocoa, milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla to a boil in saucepan; remove from heat.  Add powdered sugar gradually, mixing until of spreading consistency.  Stir in pecans, if desired.  Pour over warm cake.
NOTE: If you have the very first edition of Favorites, which was printed before Grace moved to Chicago, this recipe is not in your book.  This was added to the 2nd edition and came from the Chicago Jr League Cookbook!
Sherry Cake
(Keeping Up, page 190)

1 package yellow cake mix
1 (5.1 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup cream sherry
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Combine ingredients in a mixer and blend well.  Pour into a well-greased bundt pan and bake at 300 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan.  Allow cake to cool completely (flavor is best a few hours later).  Dust with powdered sugar, slice and serve.
Lemon Ice-Cream
(Favorites Cookbook, page 213 )
2 quarts whole milk
1 pint whipping cream
4 cups sugar
Combine ingredients in ice-cream freezer and let churn for about 5 minutes.  Open and add: 
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 Tablespoon lemon extract
Continue running ice cream freezer until it stops and ice cream is frozen.

As if we did not have enough deserts, Grace broke out the lemon ice-cream!  We loved this because it wasn't a sorbet, it was ICE-CREAM!

More Great Finds!

I have been having so much fun trying so many new recipes this summer!  Monday night I made Honey-Lime Chicken Enchiladas and tonight I tried Shauna Lake's Chinese Chicken Salad, both from Keeping Up Cookbook and both fantastic!  I halved the enchilada recipe and baked them in an 8 x 8  square Pyrex dish for just the two of us.  Here is the recipe and a picture of the Chinese Chicken Salad from tonight.

5 cups finely shredded romaine lettuce (I just chopped it.  I did about 1 and 1/2 heads, but would definitely do at least 2 full heads next time)
1 package oriental-flavored ramen noodles, flavor packet discarded
2 cups diced and cooked chicken (I baked 2 large breasts)
1 (11-ounce) can white shoe-peg corn, drained
1 large tomato, diced
2 green onions, chopped (I used 3)
1/2 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup oil

I baked the chicken and chopped everything up early this morning.  I stored each ingredient in their individual containers in the fridge all day.  When I was ready for dinner I threw everything in together and tossed with the dressing.  Five of us cleaned up, so I would double it for a larger crowd.

Our Best Bites

For Mother's Day, my mom gave all of the girls in our family the newly popular cookbook, Our Best Bites.  My sister-in-law Whitney has been cooking her way through the entire cookbook and blogging about each recipe.  I was so inspired by reading her blog, I decided to try a few recipes.  Last Sunday I did the BBQ Pork Ribs and they were absolutely amazing!  They are super easy and guaranteed not to disappoint!  We barbecued some pineapple to go with.
The next night, I tried the Coconut Chicken.  I loved it and thought it had great flavor.  My husband, however, did not love it.  So it is  obviously a matter of personal taste, but is easy, so give it a try and see what you think!  I served it with some fresh fruit and Cilantro Lime Rice.

May 2011

The gourmet girls met once again on Wednesday, May 11 for a wonderful meal and a fun-filled evening.  Our appetizer was detained and our rolls were out of town, so we enjoyed a fabulous four-course meal.  Andrea started us off with a Rainbow Chopped Salad.  Lynley chose something simple and "make-ahead" since her pre-wedding schedule was a little crazy.  She shared her favorite recipe for roast in the crock-pot.  After many years of adding, taking away and tweaking, this one is her favorite, and we can see why!  Jodi favored us with a fun side of Caramelized Green Beans from the new Our Best Bites Cookbook (this recipe can also be found on their blog).  And I finished off the evening with Make Ahead Chocolate Souffles.  My friends Matt & Summer Beecher (who are also "foodies") had Rob and I over for dinner the previous week and served these.  I loved them so much I decided to try them myself.  They're so nice because I made them in the morning and stuck them in the freezer.  Then after a long teaching day, I pulled them out of the freezer, baked and served!  Yes, Lara is in the pictures but we excused her from cooking since her wedding was in just seven days!
Lynley, Jodi, Lara, Andrea, Bridget

Jodi, Lynley & Lara

Bridget & Andrea

Somehow Lynley got Fashion Night and Gourmet Night mixed up
Lynley's Rockin' Roast Beef

One Large Rump or  Chuck Roast
1 package dried onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup white wine
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup water
2 cups potatoes
2 cups mushrooms
2 cups carrots

Combine the onion soup mix, cream of mushroom soup, one cup wine, beef bouillon cubes, and the cup water in crock-pot until well mixed.  Season the roast with salt and pepper, then sear in olive oil in a very hot pan until a dark crust is present.  Place the roast in the crock-pot and slow cook the heck out of it.  I usually cook it 6-8 hours.  One hour before serving cut up potatoes, mushrooms, and carrots and add to crock-pot.  Serve hot and enjoy the wine!

Make-Ahead Chocolate Souffles
(America's Test Kitchen, TV Show Cook Book, p. 536)

Serves 6-8  Note: yolk whipping time in step 3 depends on type of mixer; a stand mixer will be 3 minutes and hand-held mixer about 8. If using 6-oz ramekins, reduce cooking time to 20-22 minutes (see tip in cookbook for making foil collars p.536)

Ramekin Prep:
2 T unsalted butter softened
2 T granulated sugar

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped coarse
4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 T grand mariner (I omitted)
1/2  t vanilla extract
1/3 t table salt
6 large egg yolks
8 large egg whites
1/3 cup (2.33 oz) white sugar
1/4 t cream of tartar
2 T powdered sugar
1. For ramekins, grease inside of eight 8-oz ramekins with softened butter, then coat inside of each dish evenly w/ sugar
2) For souffles: melt chocolate and butter together in med bowl set over suacepan filled with 1 inch barely simmering water, stirring frequently until smooth, remove from heat and stir in grand mariner, vanilla and salt; set aside
3) Using electric mixer, whip yolks and sugar at med speed until the mixture triples in volume 3-8 minutes. Fold the yolk mixture into chocolate mixture. Thoroughly clean and dry mixing bowl & beaters
4) Using clean beaters, whip egg whites at med-low speed until frothy 1-2 minutes. Add cream of tartar, increase speed to med-high and whip until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted 1-2 mins. Add powdered sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form 2-4 mins (do not over-whip). Whisk the last few strokes by hand, scraping bowl of any un-whipped whites.
5) Vigorously stir one quarter of whipped whites into chocolate mix. Gently fold remaining whites into chocolate mixture until just incorporated. Carefully spoon mixture into prepared ramekins almost to rim whipping excess from rims with wet paper towel, if making foil collar (see note in cookbook)
6) To store: cover each ramekin tightly w/ plastic wrap then foil and freeze for at least 3 hours or up to 1 month (do not thaw before baking)
7) To bake and serve: adjust an oven rack to lower-mid position & heat oven to 400F. Unwrap ramekins and spread out on baking sheet, bake until fragrant, fully risen, and exterior is set but interior is still ab it loose & creamy about 25 mins (to check interior, use two spoons to pull open top of one and peek). Serve immediately (may dust w/ powdered sugar)

Our dessert guest, Todd