When the family’s in town for a visit and you’ve already gone bowling and to the movies, a great place to catch up is in the kitchen....Cooking. During the winter holidays I got to spend some quality time with some of my cousins.
My cousin Jessie from New York is quickly on her way to becoming a great chef. We decided to prepare a meal for the whole family (which hasn’t been done in a while). When I think of family coming together there’s nothing like some good old comfort food. We decided on Paella with a simple orange salad, guacamole, and a key lime pudding cake. My cousin Lauren who lives locally (whom you might remember from an ON-THE-GO) also joined in. We did our shopping and started cooking. First Guacamole (Mexican origin), which is a mixture of ripe avocados, red onion, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, parsley, and a touch of Tabasco. Next came Paella, which is one of my all time favorite things to eat. Paella is a Spanish dish consisting of saffron rice, vegetables, seafood and various meats. To make our Paella “family friendly” we added spicy turkey sausage, seared chicken thigh, mussels and shrimp. A medley of peas, peppers and onion were sautéed and tossed into the Arborio or long grain rice. The Paella was then transferred to the oven in an enormous pot! We had to take out some of the oven racks just to fit it in. Our salad was simple, fresh and overall amazing. Spring mix, oranges, grated fennel, and balsamic reduction, sweet and simple. The Key Lime Pudding Cake was like nothing I had made before, but then again there’s a first time for everything. The batter forms a key lime pudding on top and a cake on the bottom. When the rest of the family arrived the reminiscing began over a large bowl of guacamole, salsa and chips. Before the entrée was served, Jessie was literally on top of the presentation. She grabbed the nearest chair, climbed on top and announced the menu (talk about presentation). Lauren then introduced the salad and I talked about the dessert.
Cousin Lauren mixing the Guacamole
Getting ready to add the Shrimp, Mussels and Chicken to the Paella
Gratting the Fennel
Jessie cuts the bread
The Guacamole (tasted as good as it looked)
Jessie introduces the Paella
The cousins getting ready to serve the Key Lime Pudding Cake
The following week the next set of cousins arrived from Atlanta. This time we decided to bake. What seems to be a popular trend are cake truffles. They consist of shredded cake, icing, dipped in ganache, smothered in candies and occasionally stuck on a stick. My grandmother kept going on about how great they were after trying one a couple of weeks before. My cousins Aaron, Sam, Todd, and Lindsay headed to the kitchen with little knowledge of how to bake (not using a cake mix). That would all change though by the end of the day as I was about to give them a crash course in baking 101 (although Aaron and I once made a giant chocolate chip cookie!). We began by preparing the batter for an easy vanilla sheet cake (eggs, flour, flavorings, sugar, etc). While we baked the cake we prepared the frosting which had an enormous amount of cream cheese and butter in it (Paula Dean approved). The frosting was set aside and we then tested the cake. We took turns shredding the cake and combining it with the frosting to form the sweetest cake mixture you have ever tasted. We rolled them into balls and chilled them until firm. When they were ready we popped a stick into them and dunked them in melted chocolates and coated them in a variety of candies like coconut and multicolored sprinkles. They were chilled again until the chocolate had set and then it was time for a taste test. They were incredibly sweet and fun to look at. My cousins left with the basics of baking and chopping (all that chocolate) and completely sugared out for one day.
Lindsay adding ingredients to the mixer
Sam and Jeremy chop the chocolate
Lindsay and Todd rolling the cake into balls
Lindsay, Todd and Aaron dipping the cake balls
It's great to experience new things in the kitchen and who better to do it with then your family. In the process you’re making more memories and have one you'll have more thing to talk about at your next family reunion.
Keep on Cooking!