Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine Banquet 2009

Last year our group at church (Y.A.M.S. Young Adults Married & Single) hosted a Valentine Banquet (2008) for the rest of the Church.
Everyone had a great time, so we decided to do it again this year. It was a beautiful- we had so many people helping, setting up, decorating, cleaning, serving, doing dishes- it went really well. It was a little more challenging with having a 2 month old, but YAMS is a pretty good group of friends and they did so much.

Here's what we had on the menu: (recipes on the bottom of post)

Pasta e Fagioli

Fresh Artisan Bread

Penne Rigate with Grilled Chicken Alfredo
Topped with Diced Tomatoes and Basil
Roasted Asparagus

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake
with Chocolate Drizzle

Last year at the banquet we were low on silverware... so when I found a huge amount at a garage sale this summer I grabbed them. There was soup spoons, so I was determined to make a soup for the first course of the banquet. I got this recipe from my friend Suzanne. It's supposed to be like the soup at Olive Garden. I don't know- because it has been so long since I have tried their soup. But Brian loved this, so I went ahead and made it for the banquet. I stuck the soup in 3 crock pots for the day, adding the pasta and sauce a little while before serving. The smell apparently drove the pastor and his wife nuts while it was cooking, so they had to go get some lunch alot earlier than what is normal for them.

Pasta e Fagioli
1 lb ground meat
olive oil for browning, if needed
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, quartered and diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 24 oz can tomatoes
6 c. beef stock
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. pepper
2 1/2 tsp. parsley
3/4 tsp. tobasco sauce
1 can Hunts Chunky Vegetable Spaghetti sauce
1 c. (8 oz.) ditalini pasta, cooked and drained

Brown the meet in oil, until crumbly. Drain if needed. Stir in carrots, onions, celery and tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Rinse and drain the kidney bean, then stir in. Add beef stock, spices and tobasco. Simmer for 45 min, until celery and carrots are tender. Stir in spaghetti sauce and pasta. Serve.

Artisan Bread
A few months ago I read this post on a blog I follow. I sent the link to my mom, who then bought the cook book. Of which, I borrowed. I found it very interesting and enjoyed reading it. I liked the basic bread, so I used it for the Valentine Banquet and everyone loved it. I changed it a little, so I'll post what I did here. The book inspired me. It was alot of fun and nice to have the dough ready. I really liked the way the crust was so nice and crunchy and crackled when it came out of the oven- just lovely. The texture was great as well and just what I was looking for in an artisan bread.
For the banquet I made all the bread the day before and then before the banquet stuck them in a hot oven with a pan of water for 5-10 minutes. They were great. That made the crust crunchy again.

So, here's what I did:
Artisan Bread
3 c. warm water
1 T. kosher salt (coarse salt)
1 1/2 T. yeast
6 1/2 c. flour

Mix thoroughly, but don't knead. Let rise for about 2 hours, dump onto a floured surface, cut in half and then cut the halves into 3 equal portions. Shape into round loaves and set on parchment paper. Let rise. (This dough was easier to work with after it sat in the fridge for a day, like they suggest.)
Heat oven to 450˚ for 20 minutes before baking with an empty broiler pan (or another metal pan) and pizza stone. When the bread is ready, take a serrated knife and slice three 1/4" deep slits in the top. (Or an "X".) Slide the parchment and bread onto the hot pizza stone. pour 1 c. of warm/hot water into the empty broiler pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool before cutting.
The first time I made it I used unbleached flour, but then for the banquet I used bleach- because that's what I had a 25 lb. bag of. It worked fine, I think they were a little better with unbleached- but really, I would prefer to use unbleached in everything, but it's not so inexpensive here, at least not for the amount of flour I go through in a month.
And since we had 24 loaves of bread to slice- and were limited in our appliances, we used an electric meat carving knife- it worked great.
The loaves were cut into about 5 slices, so we put one loaf between each couple.

Alfredo Sauce
1 qt. Heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese.
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat whipping cream on medium, stirring constantly with whisk. When it starts to boil, add cheese about 1/4 c. at a time. Stir until melted before adding more cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. I think this would taste great with some garlic, but I had a lady who was allergic to garlic, so I didn't add any. I will another time when I make it just for us.

I used the fully cooked grilled chicken strips you can find frozen at Costco. I used a little less than 1/2 the package and mixed the sauce with 1 lb cooked Penne Rigate.
Top with diced fresh tomatoes and basil.

Roasted Asparagus
I love roasted asparagus. Just trim the ends off, line in a 9" x 13" baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. My favorite is no pepper- but garlic salt. YUM!
Bake at 400˚ for 10-15 minutes. You want them to be slightly crunchy (not soft and mushy) and a beautiful green color.

My friend Dawn makes the most beautiful cakes. I asked her to make the desserts last year too and they were gorgeous. She uses this opportunity to branch out from the typical cakes. This cheesecake was wonderful and she shared the recipe- so you get it too!

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake
2 c. packaged chocolate wafer crumbs
1/3 c. butter, melted
3 T. sugar
2 1/2 c. fresh or lightly sweetened, frozen red raspberries, thawed
2/3 c. sugar
2 T cornstarch
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
2 T flour
1 tsp. vanilla
2 egg whites
1 c. whipping cream

combine wafer crumbs, butter and 3 T. sugar. Press onto the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of an ungreased 8 or 9 inch spring-form pan. Chill while preparing filling.
In a blender container, blend the 2 1/2 c. raspberries until smooth. Press though a sieve to remove seed. Add water to sieved raspberries if necessary to equal 1 c. Combine 2/3 c. sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Stir in raspberries. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Stir in lemon juice. Remove 3/4 c. sauce; cool slightly without stirring. Cover remaining sauce and chill until serving time.
In a large bowl combine cream cheese, 1/2 c. sugar, flour and vanilla. Beat with mixer until fluffy. Add egg whites, beating on low speed just until combined. Stir in cream.
Our half of the mixture into crust-lined pan. Drizzle the 3/4 c. raspberry sauce over cheese mixture in pan. Carefully spoon on remaining cheese mixture, covering sauce. Place in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 375˚ oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until center appears nearly set when shaken.
Cool in spring-form pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Loosen crust from sides of pan and cool 30 minutes more. Remove sides of pan; cool 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.
To serve top with remaining raspberry sauce.


Cara said...

I'm beyond impressed that you did this! It looks amazing!

Liz's Random Thoughts said...


A basic bread? Hmm...Want some of my artisan bread formulas?:)
Let me know and I'll copy some down for ya..:)

Rachel said...

Absolutely! Share away!

Jennifer said...

Everything looks so beautiful. I love making alfredo. I will have to try yours and see if I like it better than mine.


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