Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day Picnic

So Valentine's Day is less than a week away.  Still have no clue what to do?  Well....people gotta eat right?  And while a restaurant is cool.....picnics are even cooler!  Last year I took my boy on a picnic up in the White Tank Mountains.  Nothing too fussy to be a pain in the ass but creative enough to look like I'm thoughtful haha    Here's the spread

When I think of guys I think of meat and potatoes. When I think of picnics I think of sandwiches and  potato salad.  Put them all together and you have yourself a man-friendly feast.

For starters we had an antipasto platter.  Pepperoni, Genoa Salami, Kalamata Olives, baby heirloom tomatoes, and mozzarella balls marinated in balsamic vinegar and basil

I made steak sandwiches for our main course.  Toast yourself some nice crusty/chewy bread like ciabatta.  I made a simply basil aioli using about a 1/2 cup mayo,  2 tablespoons of chiffonade basil, a clove of garlic, and a squeeze of lemon.  Season some steak liberally with salt and pepper.  Cook to medium and thinly slice on an angle so it isn't chewy.  Pile it all up on your bread with some provolone, arugula, and roasted red peppers.

Now, you probably don't believe me judging by the photo....but this is a potato salad with green beans.  I can't see a single freakin bean here, but I promise they're there......somewhere.  Here is one of my non recipe recipes.  Very rough and just a starting point for you to adjust to your taste or how big of a batch you want.

 Red Potato Salad With Green Beans

3 lbs of red potatoes (cooked, diced, and cooled)
1 lb. Green beans (cut bite size, blanched and shocked)
1/2-1lb bacon diced and cooked
(I pretty much use a full pound of bacon anytime I use it because really...what the hell else are you going to do with a few left over strips of bacon?.  And it's delicious so why not?)
1 bunch of green onions  chopped
1 cup (or so) of Romano or Parmesan cheese

Toss the above ingredients together and dress with your choice of vinaigrette.  I like to make my own red wine vinaigrette

1 cup olive oil
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1-2 cloves of garlic (I like a punch so 2 for me)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Whisk well and pour a little at a time over your salad to make sure you don't over dress it.  Let it all sit in the fridge and soak up the flavors.  Add more dressing if needed while it sits.

And last but of course not least.... Coconut cupcakes!  My boy loves him some coconut so it was an obvious choice for this occasion.  And cupcakes are good travel food.

3 sticks butter softened
  2 cups sugar
  5 eggs
  2 teaspoons vanilla
  1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  3 cups flour
  1 teaspoon baking powder
  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  1/2 teaspoon salt
  1 cup milk
  14 oz bag shredded coconut (make sure to get the sweetened)

Sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside.  Cream together the butter and sugar.  Let it get light at fluffy.  I used to make the mistake of only doing it for a minute or 2 but let it beat for about 5 really makes a difference!  Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs one at a time.  Then mix in the extracts.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk to the egg, sugar, and butter mixtures.  Mix until it just all comes together.  Then carefully fold in half the coconut.  Pour into cupcake liners and bake at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean.  About 15-20 mins.  After they have cooled, frost them with this delicious cream cheese frosting.

2 blocks of softened cream cheese (16 oz)
3 sticks of butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond
1 1/2-2 lb powdered sugar

Cream together the cream cheese and butter.  Stir in the extracts then slowly add the sugar a little at a time.   Start with a 1 1/2 pounds and check for the consistency you want.  Sometimes it can take up to 2 lbs depending on the day.  Frost the cupcakes and then roll them in the left over coconut.

There ya go!  A meal and somewhat of an "event" all in one. 

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