Alley's Recipe Book
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Purple Cauliflower Gratin

I am not a big fan of cauliflower... not sure if it is the texture or lack of flavor, but this gratin is loaded with flavor!  I have heard of people using cauliflower for mashed 'potatoes'... but without all the milky cheesiness in this recipe, I don't think I could do it.

1 head of cauliflower, chopped
3 tbsp butter
.25 cup flour

1.75 cups milk
.25 cup cream
1 cup gruyere cheese, grated
2 cups bread, torn into small pieces
.25 parm, grated
salt & pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a pot.  Slowly add flour while continuously stirring.  Once combined, slowly add some milk while stirring.  Add remaining milk and cream.  Add chopped cauliflower, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cover for five minutes.
2.  While cauliflower is cooking, tear bread into small pieces.  Mix in bowl with grated parm.
3.  Remove cauliflower from heat and very slowly add a little shredded gruyere cheese and stir in completely before adding more.
4.  Pour mixture into casserole dish, add bread-pam mixture on top, cover with foil.  Bake fore 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake 15 additional minutes until the bread is toasty brown.

Purple cauliflower!

Cheesy goodness!

Baby Shower Planning

Pinterest is a great resource for inspiring creativity, especially for party planning.  It is easy to pick and choose ideas to make it your own.

Chocolate covered pretzel roads are and easy sweet and salty treat to make fit into any theme.  All it takes is a bag of pretzel rods, a bag of colored (or regular) chocolate, and a double boiler (or microwave oven).  Scoop the melted chocolate to cover the pretzel, lay on wax paper, and put tray in freezer for a couple minutes to set chocolate.  Serve in a cute jar or dish!

A fun game the doubles as additional gifts for the baby is having everyone decorate a onesie!  Have fabric paint, paint brushes, fabric markers, buttons, ribbons, and more available for the guests.  Make an example onesie to get their creative juices flowing.  The activity can last the whole shower so they can think about it and everyone won't be at the table at the same time.  Then have the new momma choose her favorite and the designer gets a gift!

Presentation makes a big difference and eating fruits and veggies of many different colors gets you a range of vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients!  Just because a baby shower is a celebration doesn't mean you can't have healthy options!

Little Hershey bars are a quick sweet and great if there are little kids joining the shower.  Make it special for a baby shower by highlighting the babies gender on the wrapper;  HERSHEY'S or HERSHEY'S.  Having some homemade treats adds a personal touch to round out snack table. Here are the recipes for the treats pictures: Very Berry Cupcakes and Chubby Hubby Truffles.

There is a good amount of planning that goes into hosting a baby shower, but remember to enjoy it!  It is a party, so have fun!  :o)

Very Berry Cupcakes - total time 1 hour

These cupcakes are both light and rich at the same time.  It has that taste of summer from the berries and the buttercream is so rich and sweet.  Perfect for any summer party!

2 cups flour
.75 cup sugar
.5 cup brown sugar
.5 tsp baking powder
.25 cup juice from berrries
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
splash of milk

Buttercream Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
.75 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp cream

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a mixing bowl.  Add eggs and mix well.
2.  Smash berries in another bowl (frozen or fresh) and strain to get juice.  Add juice, milk, and vanilla to the bowl.  Pour mixture into muffin tray.  Bake for 22 minutes.
3.  While cupcakes are baking,  mix butter, cream, and vanilla together in a bowl.  Slowly stir in powdered sugar a little at a time.  You can try using a piping bag for the frosting, but my frosting was too thick to get through the icing tip.  Instead, I molded the frosting like fondant (this tastes so much better than fondant).  The add a couple berries on top for decoration (and more berry flavor) and enjoy!

Optional:  Since I already had melted chocolate from the chubby hubby truffles, I added some cream to the chocolate to make ganache.  I spread the ganache on top of the cupcake and then put the frosting over top for a tasty surprise!


Chubby Hubby Truffles - total time 40 minutes

The name chubby hubby truffles in based on the Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor... not making your hubby chubby (but they could do that too)!  A great bland of sweet and salty... kind of like a buckeye with pretzel bits... kind of like a Take 5 candy bar (I thought about mixing caramel in some way).  Either way you looks at it, these truffles are a tasty treat and are not hard to make.

1 cup peanut butter
1.5 cups pretzels, crushed
.25 cup brown sugar
.5 cup powdered sugar (as much as you need to prevent it from sticking to your hands when you roll into balls)
12 oz. bag of dark chocolate

1. Crush pretzels to really small pieces.  Combine pretzels, peanut butter, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl.  You can kind of mix a little bit with a spoon or spatula, but you'll have to get your hands in there at some point.
2.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  Roll about a tablespoonful of PB-pretzel mixture into balls and toss on baking sheet.  Once all balls are rolled, put try in the freezer.
3.  Melt chocolate in a double boiler while the PB-pretzel balls get cold (which helps the chocolate set).  Dip each ball into the chocolate, coat completely, replace back on baking sheet and repeat.  After all balls are covered in chocolate, put tray back in freezer for a few minutes to finish setting the chocolate.  Then enjoy!

Something From Nothing - Growing Potatoes

Back in February, a few of our potatoes had started to grow roots.  Since they were organic, I thought there was a chance they could grow.  I still used the good sections of the potatoes in a stew and put the other pieces in a pot that had herbs in it last season.  I watered it maybe every week, then put it outside and watered it even less often.  Today I dumped the pot over and there were potatoes growing inside!  Not a ton of potatoes, but considering the conditions... I was still happy with the result!  It gives me hope for my blue potatoes that had longer roots, got better dirt, and were planted during warmer weather.

Potatoes planted back in February.

The plant grew and there were only a couple flowers.

Spilling out the potato pot and finding several buttery potatoes!

Blue potatoes plant two months later.  Looking good!  I took the dirt from the first potato pot and mounded it in the blue potato pot.  Can't wait for it to start blooming!

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus - total time 15 minutes

A delicious, salty way to eat your spring vegetables (and celebrate the last day of spring, summer solstice)!  Be sure to cut the woody ends off the asparagus and they will taste even more tender and sweet.  I cooked it with about a tablespoon of butter, turning every three to four minutes.

Creamy Paprika Sauce - total time 30 minutes

This was a recipe do-over.  Originally taken from an eatingwell crockpot recipe... it just didn't turn out that great (picture at the bottom of this post).  This time I made just the sauce to add on top of some grilled chicken.

1 tablespoon butter
1 onions, finely diced
.25 cup tomato paste (I used tomato juice that separated)
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
.333 cup cream fraiche
.333 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
salt & pepper

1.  Melt butter in pan and add finely diced onions, cook for a few minutes until onions are tender.  Add tomatoes, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Simmer for 5 minutes. 
2.  Add cream fraiche and cream, continue to simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in flour to thicken sauce and then serve over chicken.

Original result...

Creamy Squash Casserole - total time 40 minutes

I wanted make a casserole using as many things from my CSA delivery as possible.  After looking through a few different casserole recipes, I just started combining some of my favorite flavors.  Squash, onions, and spinach came from my CSA and the parsley came from my backyard.  Summer time is delicious!

2 cup summer squash, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 pound chicken breast
1 cup spinach
1 cup rice - I used two kinds because I only had a half cup of red rice left
2 garlic cloves, diced
.333 cup cream cheese
.333 cup cream fraiche or sour cream
.5 cup shredded white cheese
1 tbsp butter
.25 cup shredded parm
fresh parsley
salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook rice according to package.  Saute the squash in a pan with butter, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. 
2.  After the squash is cooked, move pan contents into a large mixing bowl.  Add chicken to pan to cook.  Add cream cheese, cream fraiche, and shredded cheese to bowl.  The warmth of the cooked squash will help melt the cream cheese to make sure it is well distributed.  Add cooked rice and cooked chicken (chopped) to the bowl as they finish (my rice finished first).  Add chopped spinach and stir until well combined.
3.  Transfer mixture to casserole dish, top with shredded parm.  Put in the oven for 25 minutes.  Top with parsley and serve!


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