Category Archives: Dinner Parties

Dinner Parties: Espresso Delights

Things rarely turn out the way you plan, but when you adapt and go with the flow, it can all wind up working out anyway.

Sophie and I had another dinner party recently, because the last time we had one, our good friend Anna wasn’t able to attend, being in the Philippines and all. I had originally planned on making Lemon Garlic Shrimp as an appetizer, and pink lemonade cupcakes for dessert.

Yah, I didn’t get to make either.

Because funds have been tight for both me and Sophie, after e-mailing back and forth we decided to forgo the appetizer and leave it for some other time. I had tried to think of alternatives like Tomato Garlic Tuscan Bread, Dinner Rolls, etc, but ultimately came to the conclusion that it would be far easier to just make the dessert.

The pink lemonade cupcakes were also a no-go, again because of the money problem. And after flipping through various recipes, both in books and online, I came up with the idea of making espresso cookies, but as ice cream sandwiches instead of just cookies. I would only need to buy espresso powder and I’d be set!

I got to Sophie’s house around 3 (another thing that didn’t go as planned — the party was supposed to start at 4, but since half of our guests couldn’t make it until later we changed the time to 5). She had already made the main course already — chili — so I was able to start making the cookies pretty much right away.

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And get used to seeing better quality pictures, because for my birthday on the 24th my dad got me a very nice quality camera that was half off on Amazon (still need to get a memory card for it, though)!

Anyway, because creaming butter and sugar is too annoying to do with a hand mixer, I kneaded the dough by hand, which was an arm workout but rather fun, as it always is. Sophie observed that the dough looked like a dinosaur skull, so I did this.

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Yeah, we have fun.

This recipe isn’t really too complicated, and it tastes pretty much exactly like the mocha cookies I did a while ago. Same texture and everything, only these had bits of chocolate in them and weren’t dipped in chocolate. And I used espresso powder instead of the Starbucks Via instant coffee.

But this espresso powder just as a coffee? Kind of gross, to be honest. It did taste pretty good in the cookie, though. Or maybe I just don’t like really strong coffee. Totally a possibility.

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I shaped the dough into bigger balls (heh, balls) than the recipe suggested, since these were going to be sandwich cookies, and flattened them slightly with my hands, just like I did with the mocha cookies. Seriously, they’re pretty much the exact same thing, and I got them from the same magazine. Way to go, guys. Way to go.

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The cookies came out soft and wet at first, but you just let them set for about half an hour or so and they’ll harden up just fine (heh, hard).

It turned out, however, that the cookies were a little too crumbly around the edges for us to feel safe making ice cream sandwiches out of them. So, when the time came to serve dessert, we just inserted the cookies into bowls of vanilla ice cream, which I don’t have any pictures of because the ice cream was melting extremely quickly. Have this photo of the cookies on a wire rack instead.

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Sophie is fancy and has a wire rack while I just let the cookies cool on the table. Like I have room for a wire rack! Please.

The evening was very fun! Wine was drunk, board games were played, conversations were had. I had to leave before everyone else, unfortunately, since I had come by bus, but it was an awesome time. Hopefully we’ll throw another dinner party at some point in the future! Or maybe just a dessert party…

Espresso Delights

(adapted from Ultimate Cookies & Bars)

1 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (or instant coffee if you can’t find any)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 oz. finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate

Powdered sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder (for decorating)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on high for ten minutes, then add the powdered sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and cinnamon. Or, alternately, throw all those ingredients in the bowl and mix with your hands.

Beat in the flour and stir in the chocolate. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls (or larger, if you want bigger cookies), and flatten slightly with your hands. Place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about twelve minutes, or until the cookies edges are set.

Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cocoa powder if desired. 

Dinner Parties: Slow-Roasted Lemon Garlic Chicken & Chocolate Cloud Cake

Wait! What’s this? A non-pastry item on a site called Jackie Ruins the Cake?! What is this madness?

Well, it’s a nice little story.

In my travels across these great internets, I came upon a website called cookstr, which has all kinds of recipes imaginable. This coupled with the fact that I was watching the Food Network at the time meant that I suddenly wanted to make meals. Whole meals. Like pasta or chicken or something. Not to mention the site has all kinds of fancy dessert ideas. It gave me the idea to have some kind of adult dinner party with me and my friends. Problem is, I don’t really have a “dining room”. Or a “kitchen table”, even. It’s just a counter and two stools. So there was nowhere to have this dinner party and I had a sad.

However! My best friend Sophie (who has just started a food blog called Clumsy Kitchen, where she has her own post written up) liked my idea, and we decided to co-host the event at her house, which has an outdoor table and more cooking ingredients and supplies and everything awesome. Sophie would be making the appetizer and side-dish, and I would be making the main course and dessert.

I decided on Slow-Roasted Lemon Garlic Chicken and Chocolate Cloud Cake (as you can probably guess from the title of this post!). The Chocolate Cloud Cake is flourless, and having had a small cake with no flour in it I was curious to see what a large one would taste like. And the slow roasted chicken! Chicken is my favorite food and the recipe looked absolutely delicious and pretty easy.

Sophie, after some deliberation, chose scallion pancakes as the appetizer and a cold pasta as the side-dish to my chicken.

I made the cake the day before, since the chicken needed two and a half hours to cook, and the cake could be made ahead of time. I made my boyfriend buy the ingredients and the 9-inch springform pan I needed (which, now that I own, expect me to make cheesecake at some point).

The recipe involved separating six eggs, since there was no flour, and for once this did not end in disaster and discarded eggs! Oh my God! It’s a goddamn fucking miracle!

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(we still had to use the egg separator, but ssshhh)

I can’t remember if I mentioned this on here already — I probably haven’t — but in addition to that stand mixer I got for Christmas, I also got this nifty chocolate melter. No more melting chocolate in microwaves for me! Mwahahahahahahahaha! Yeah.

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We melted the chocolate and butter in the pot, then beat the whole eggs and the egg yolks with the sugar, and poured the chocolate mixture in.

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Very chocolate-y and whatnot. Then, it was time to beat the egg whites.

I’m still not entirely sure that I did this right — I mean, the cake turned out decently so I guess I did? But the recipe said to beat with the sugar until it was firm but not too stiff, which I think I did. I think.

In any case, what I was supposed to do next was put a dollop of the egg whites in the chocolate mixture and then fold in the rest of the egg whites. Instead I just dumped it all in there at once because I’m cool like that.

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It seemed fine, though.

Rob lined the pan with parchment paper, only not just the bottom, but along the sides too. This caused the cake, when it came out of the oven a while later, to have this odd ridged edge, like a pie. The cake also wasn’t very tall, so it really looked like a pie after I made the whipped cream later that night and poured it on.

Please excuse the bad photo, by the way. I forgot to take a picture with my proper camera after I had sprinkled the cocoa powder on top, and so this picture I took on my phone to send to Rob is all I have of the finished product. Tears.

Anyway, so that was done, and the following day was the dinner party! Rob drove us to Sophie’s house, where she and I began assembling the chicken.

I had tried this recipe already several weeks ago just to see how it came out, and I already knew it was going to be delicious. I had also pretty much memorized the recipe, so it was nice not having to look over at a computer monitor or a book every two seconds to see if I was doing everything right.

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Although, there was a mishap with the lemons. As I was chopping them up, I accidentally cut my finger and didn’t notice until I was done, so my blood got all over half of the lemons. But we just rinsed them and didn’t tell anyone, so ssshhh, it’s our little secret!

(I don’t have any diseases so it’s okay, don’t worry)

We were left with some chicken left over and no more garlic, though, so we used a spare lemon Sophie had to in the fridge, sprinkled on some paprika and rosemary, and voila! Some Lemon… Rosemary… Paprika Chicken! Yay!

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If you notice that these pictures look nicer than the one I usually take, it’s because I’d forgotten my own camera, and so I had to use Sophie’s better, more expensive one. It’s a hard life I lead.

Anyways, we covered the two roasting pans in foil and had them sit in the oven at 310 degrees for two hours. While that was going on, Sophie started her pasta and I went and bothered Rob, who was sitting in the living room watching The X-Files.

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After that was done, she did the scallion pancakes, which I can suddenly kind of smell from my memories.

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You can read more about the pasta and scallion pancakes on her entry here.

After the two hours, I snatched the aluminum foil off of the pans and cranked the temperature up to 450 degrees. The chicken smelled fucking delicious. The scent of lemon, garlic, thyme, and meat was permeating the kitchen, and it was making my stomach rumble.

Finally around 4, when the guests were set to arrive, the chicken was done and I arranged it “artfully” on a platter.

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Beth was the first to arrive at around 4:20, and after we had all sat outside Bonner came at 4:30 or so. We sat and ate the scallion pancakes, which were tasty, and the juice Sophie had made, which was very refreshing. The chicken was brought out, wine was drunk, laughs were had, stories were shared, and Rob played games on his iPod. All in all, it was a lovely day spent cooking and eating delicious food and having fun with friends. It’s something we’re definitely going to have to do again.

I don’t have time at the moment to type up both of the recipes, so I will instead direct you to the links at cookstr, which is a fantastic website you should give a look-see.

Chocolate Cloud Cake (I actually wasn’t particularly a fan of the texture of this cake, but some might like it.)

Slow-Roasted Garlic and Lemon Chicken (This. Is. So. Fucking. Good. You will not regret making this, trust me. And it’s super easy. You don’t even need to cut a chicken if you don’t want and it’ll still be amazing. I will definitely be making this again sometime.)