Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Chicken & Sweet Potato Layered Tortilla

I love getting inspiration from other food bloggers... I get an idea, then poof, I run with it! Today’s inspiration comes from Sher at What Did You Eat?, and her stacked enchilada. By the way, Sher, I thought your enchilada looked great!

We had roasted another chicken the other day, and with that we had some mashed sweet potatoes (mashed with Promise, some light cream cheese and a splash of milk). These lovely leftover containers were beckoning to me from inside the fridge and so I decided to get cooking!

I thinly sliced a small onion and started it sweating in a pan in some olive oil. While that was going, I shredded up some chicken, about 2 cups, and set aside. I then thawed 1.5 cups frozen spinach and ½ cup frozen bell peppers. Once thawed, I added that to the onions and also threw in some salt, chili powder, cumin and Mexican oregano. I just let that warm through and then took off the heat.

Time to assemble the layers! First down is a 10” whole wheat tortilla, then I slathered it with the leftover sweet potatoes which I topped with the spices from above. Then comes the shredded chicken!! Top that with another tortilla and spread the spinach mixture on it and top with 1 diced tomato, some cilantro and shredded cheese and place the last tortilla on top. I started this off in a dry pan on medium low heat with the cover on, but that wasn’t having the desired effect, so I transferred it to a 400 degree oven sans lid for 10 minutes. This fed the 2 of us with enough for lunch leftovers! We served this up with some sliced jalapenos and a dollop of sour cream…the sweet potato gave us the impression that there were refried beans inside... what a great way to use up your leftovers!!!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Chicken Tagine

While searching for a good new one-pot/two-night dish on, I came across Chicken Tagine. Wikipedia then informed me that a Moroccan Tagine (or Tajine) is the name for clay pot that the dish known as "tagine" is traditionally cooked in - as well as the dish, itself. Although we are lacking the clay pot, hopefully we can replicate the Tagine as best as possible with what we got!

I started out by coating bone-in chicken thighs, wings and drummies with hot curry powder and browning them in a hot oiled pan, after which I removed them and set them aside. I then added a large onion (thinly sliced), and cooked that on medium low for 5 minutes, at which time I added about 6 cloves of minced garlic and about a tbsp of minced ginger. After cooking that for 5 minutes more, I added in my spice mix (1 ½ tbsp smoked paprika, ½ tsp ground coriander, ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp cayenne and 1/8 tsp cinnamon.) In goes a little more than 2 cups of water, 2 15oz cans of rinsed chickpeas, ¾ cup canned diced tomatoes and their juices, 1 couple tbsp chopped cilantro stems(!), 2 tbsp lemon juice and some very thin slices of lemon. Bring that up to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

At this point, I returned the chicken to the pot for 20 minutes. In another pan I put 1 ½ cups of water, ½ cup chopped dried apricots and some cinnamon…bring to a boil and keep on simmering until liquid becomes glaze-like. After 20 minutes, add the apricot mixture, 2 cups of frozen peas and about 1 cup frozen carrots to the tagine. Also, add some salt to your liking and some ground pepper. Let all the flavors meld for another 5-10 minutes et voila! Garnish with some freshly chopped mint and you have a winner!

The only thing I would omit the next time would be the slices of lemon…although I had sliced them very thin, I still got a little bitterness from the rind. Just add more lemon juice instead!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Braised Beef Brisket with Root Vegetables

You know how much we like to braise – this time we put our dutch oven actually IN the oven to cook a lovely 3lb flat cut beef brisket. Although we would have preferred a point cut, alas the butcher had none so we went flat.

After giving the brisket a good rub down of flour, salt, and mignonette pepper, we seared each side in a pan with some olive oil. After browning, we removed it from the pan and began sweating 2 thinly sliced onions. After 5 minutes, we tossed in about 8 cloves of garlic (minced), and cooked for 5 minutes more. Then, we pour in a couple cups of cabernet while scraping up the lovely goodness on the bottom of the pan. Tossed in ¼ cup tomato paste, several sprigs of fresh thyme and 2 turkish bay leaves and brought this wonderfully-smelling concoction to a boil.

We cooked that until it was reduced by half, then added about 6 cups of beef stock and brought it back to a boil - then finally we nestled the browned brisket back into the pot. We covered pot with a piece of foil and then put the cover on top to seal it tightly. Placed the pot in the lower third of the oven at 325 degrees for about 2.5 hours.

We served ours up with some rutabaga, celery and carrots along with some of the delicious broth that the brisket was braising in. How could this once-tough piece of meat come out so tender you ask?? Braising. Yup, unbelievable what this technique can do for even the tough guys. Tender and delicious!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa

We made a pilgrimage to Penzey's in Arlington, Mass on Saturday - to stock up on some spices and get a feel for what the whole store would be like beyond the catalog. We certainly had a good time smelling all the spices and mixes - they have glass jars with samples of each so you can experience the aroma (warning: avoid deeply inhaling the powdered jalapeno!), although we also had our nit-picks with the store and it's location, etc. Mr. Penzey, if you read this, call us up for some advice on how to improve your business here in Boston!

We stocked up on a few necessities: cumin, fennel, tarragon, sage, chili powder, and others. We also picked up a bag of chipotle peppers - totalling about 10 of the smoked, dried jalapenos. So we naturally decided to make chipotle salsa!

We decided to try for the "real" stuff - no chunky, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salsa... we wanted authentic chipotle salsa. So we picked up some tomatillos to make our salsa with - like little tomatoes with a husk, you char the outside to get to their tart, lemony flavor. Along with some limes, garlic, and salt - we'll bolster the volume with just a few spoonfuls of canned/stewed tomatoes - and that's it.

So first we had to rehydrate the chipotles by boiling three of them in water for 20 minutes. By the end of that time, the dry, shriveled peppers had re-grown to full jalapeno size and shape. We let those dry and then sliced them open to remove all the seeds and any water left inside.

Next, we husked the tomatillos and then charred each of them over the stove burner using tongs until the outer skin is just barely starting to blacken. You can feel the water inside the tomatillos starting to boil as they heat up on the hot flame!

Peel a couple of garlic cloves and cut two limes in half and we're ready to go! Into our little food processor: the three split chipotles, the eight charred tomatillos, two cloves of garlic, the juice from one lime, and a healthy pinch of salt. Chop, chop, chop... Blend, blend, blend... it almost instantly became a watery consistancy. A little taste tells us that it is SPICY and smokey, and that we need more lime, more salt - and to fill it out with some of the stewed tomatoes.

So we added a few big spoonfuls of the tomatoes and more lime and salt and chopped it up some more. Then it was into a container and into the fridge for a good sit.

An hour later, we gathered some tortilla chips and we were finally ready to taste the result - so smokey and spicy and delicious! It tasted like the salsa from one of our favorite authentic Mexican restaurants - Salsa's in South Boston. Stacey believed it was a little TOO spicy for public consumption - but just right for us. This stuff was ADDICTIVE, we had to physically remove it from the table after a while because we couldn't stop eating it! A cold beer helped wash it down and quenched our burning lips. Awesome stuff!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Italian Wedding Soup II

We finished off our Sunday by making Italian Wedding Soup. We've made Italian Wedding Soup before and we did it up very similarily this time - turkey meatballs, lots of onions and celery and parsley, carrots, spinach, and some good broth are all you really need.

Veggies, Ready To Go

Making Meatballs

Brown the meatballs first, add the veggies (hold the spinach) to the chicken broth/stock, then add the meatballs. When you're near-ready to eat, add your spinach and pasta and cook until the pasta is done. We crushed up some penne with a hammer in a paper bag to have some smaller pasta bits more suited to Italian Wedding Soup!

Simmering Away

The Final Product

A delicious end to a great Sunday - the Patriots won in a very tight and exciting game - so they are on to Indy to play in the AFC Championship on this upcoming Sunday... Sounds like we have another Sunday of food-and-football coming up!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Herb-Sour Cream Stuffed Eggs

Stacey here, interrupting Michael's Sunday Football Live Food Blog thingie! I've been watching my carbs this month trying to melt away the holiday cheer that took up residence in my thighs, so this past week it has been no cereal - even though what I generally eat is Barbara's Multigrain Shredded Spoonfuls. So my breakfasts have been eggs, eggs and more eggs, and if I don't cook them just so, they make me feel icky. So today I thought I'd try a new approach. I was reading through our Southern Living Cookbook (a wedding present from Michael's southern-ish cousin Emily.) Now deviled eggs are one thing, but WHOA, herbed stuffed eggs??? Let me get my apron on and start cooking!

I hard-boiled 6 eggs and let them cool. After de-shelling them, I sliced 'em lengthwise and scooped out the yolks. I mashed them with a little over 1/3 cup of low-fat sour cream, 2 tsps white vinegar, 1 tsp dried dill, 1 tsp Fox Point Seasoning, 3 tbsp freshly chopped parsley (or chives as the recipe says), some salt and black pepper. Although the recipe called for 3 slices cooked and crumbled bacon, I was forlorn b/c I had none! However I did have some "real" bacon bits in a jar some I tossed a tbsp in as well.

Well, mmm, mmm, mmm, I stuffed those eggs with my herby mixture and refrigerated them for an hour, et voila mes oeufs sont bons? Okay my French has really deteriorated, but whatever. These are great, and great for a party! Oh la la!!!

A Tour of Our Kitchen

The view across the island to the sink/prep/cooking area, you can see the deck right outside those windows...

When we bought this place over a year ago, an obvious selling point was the kitchen. We were cooking more and more and knew that we liked spending time in the kitchen, so we wanted a comfortable, warm place with room to sit and eat and as much counterspace as we could fit. That's a tall order in Boston, but we definitely got what we wanted in our Orange Kitchen - where we spend most of our non-sleeping hours while at home. And, in the spirit of other bloggers showing their kitchens, here are some pics of our kitchen!

So, how to explain how we're watching football in the kitchen all day...? Knowing how much time we like to spend in the kitchen - and knowing the amount of sports/cooking shows/nature shows/home improvement shows we like to have on WHILE cooking - we decided to hang a television on one wall across from the sitting area of the kitchen. We used a cantilever to hang the TV and we can swivel it over towards any area of the kitchen. Here's the view across the kitchen towards the TV:

Here's Stacey in the sitting area, working on the laptop - our blogging center!

So that's where all the magic happens! Back soon with more!

Bloody Mary

We finished brunch, cleaned up all the dishes, folded some laundry and even gave a cat a bath! Time to relax with a beverage that is certainly unique to Sunday Brunch - and a tradition for us on football Sundays.

We actually mixed up the Bloody Mix earlier this morning - sans Vodka. That way, the flavors get a chance to mellow/mature/mix in the fridge for a little while - enhancing the taste considerably.

So! A bunch of V8 (see, it's healthy!) goes into a big pitcher, then several liberal dashes of worcestershire (maybe 10 big ones), many liberal dashes of Texas Pete's Hot Sauce, a big spoonful of horseradish, a little "dirty" oil from a jar of olives - and a couple olives, too - many shakes of celery salt, plenty of fresh ground pepper, and a big squeeze of lemon.

Take a taste and add more of anything there ain't enough of - and then get the pitcher into the refrigerator for a good sit.

The Bar

Put some ice and then a few fingers of the cheap, frozen vodka of your choice (Gordon's - the "Smoothest, Most Mixable!") in a pint glass and fill with the Bloody mix, then pour into another, larger glass and back into your original glass to mix. Add a lemon wedge and some celery and you're happy... We like 'em as spicy - but NOT bitter - as possible. Cheers!

See, a cat fresh from the bath!

Eggs Benedict

We needed a hearty breakfast to get us going because today is a great day!! It is Sunday in January and that means we get to do one of our absolute favorite things - sit in the kitchen and watch football all day while cooking and drinking our way through the games! Not only that, but our beloved PATS are playing at the San Diego Chargers in the later game (4:30) - in the most anticipated matchup of the weekend... It is rainy and miserable out and we're still in our pajamas in the kitchen, and we'll be BLOGGING ALL DAY! A few cups of coffee and this Eggs Benedict has us ready for the full day ahead.

Let's get it started!

It's almost 1:00 and the first game is coming on - Seattle at Chicago - so we are ready to eat. We started toast in the toaster oven and added some breakfast ham slices to a hot pan. Then we started poaching our eggs in a big saucepan of simmering water with a few splashes of white vinegar added (to keep the egg white from spreading out). We crack each egg into a small glass bowl and add them to the water one-at-a-time as gently as possible.

Those eggs will be ready in 6 minutes so we crack two more eggs for the hollendaise - for the yolks alone. Break up those two yolks and squeeze in a half a lemon's juice. Add that to the double boiler and start wisking and adding 1/2 stick of butter, a little at a time and constantly whisking to melt the butter.

Additionally, we sliced a big, red tomato into pretty thick rounds and sprinkled on some kosher salt and a little squeeze of that lemon.

Ok! Toast out, ham slice on the toast and tomato slices on top of the ham, the egg (that has been sitting temporarily on a paper towel to get rid of all that water!) goes on top of the tomato and on top of ALL that is a ladle-full of your hollandaise. DELICIOUS - love the lemony-buttery sauce mixed with the soft-cooked yolk of the egg! We ate these hungrily with a glass of OJ and we are ready to go.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Juicy Turkey Meatloaf

I have previously blogged on Turkey Meatloaf, but I wanted to take it up a level (And I already have ideas for a Cajun Meatloaf for the next go-around!)

This time we made a loaf that smelled like we were preparing Thanksgiving stuffing, and that’s a good thing! Into our mini-Cuisinart went a coupla ribs of celery, a small yellow onion and a handful of fresh parsley. I pulsed this very well until it was a fine chop, but not quite a paste. In the meantime, Michael chopped up 3 slices whole wheat bread and mixed that with a few splashes of milk and some seasoning. The bread and the veggies get tossed in with the roughly 1.3 lbs of ground turkey along with several shakes of Worchestershire sauce, a tsp of Dijon, several shakes of Fox Point Seasoning, a beaten egg, and about ¼ cup grated parmesan.

If the mixture seems a bit too moist, add some bread crumbs, but no more than ¼ cup. We placed the loaf in the oven at 375 for 1 hr. This was by far the juiciest meatloaf in the history of loaves! Smelled and tasted like proper comfort food. We served it up with a saute of spinach, peppers, and small-diced rutabegas.

The next time we want loaf, we'll try a Cajun-style one...until then, happy eating!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tandoori Chicken (or Chicken Tikka)

One of the Penzey mixes we have is Tandoori seasoning, so we thawed two boneless/skinless chicken breasts (well, one "breast" i guess... is it one or two?) and then mixed 1 cup of plain yogurt with the juice of a lemon and many, MANY shakes of tandoori seasoning. We cut the chicken breast(s) into big chunks and put the chunks into the bowl and made sure they were covered well with the tandoori-yogurt mixture. And into the fridge for the whole day long, they went...

We researched Tandoori Chicken and found that it is traditionally cooked in a hot earthen oven (i.e. tandoor) on skewers without searing or anything like that. We also found that - since we were using boneless chunks - we were actually making Chicken Tikka. Tikka, tandoori - it's all good. Next time, we'll make it with bone-full chicken.

So, trying to keep with that tradition, we decided to skewer our chicken and cook them in a hot (400-degree) oven. So we skewered the chunks and suspended them over a baking dish, thusly:

Along with the chicken, we prepared Curried Vegetables by chopping up a green pepper, a medium onion, and a few mushrooms into ~1" chunks. We also added some chopped tomato and some olive oil. Then we stirred in several healthy shakes of curry powder, some salt and some Cajun seasoning. That went in the 400-degree oven first, and 15 minutes later the chicken went in. 45 minutes total time later, everything came back out and was ready to be plated!

Also with that, we made some 10-minute brown rice, adding in a little butter and a few shakes of the tandoori seasoning in there, as well.

Came out really good! The tandoori seasoning isn't "hot" by any means, but it is nice and subtle. Next time, we'll probably just throw the chicken on the grill to add some more flavor. The VEGGIES came out ridiculously delicious - we'll try many more combinations like that. Overall, a pretty good first attempt at Indian cooking.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Penzey's Fox Point Seasoning

Let's be clear right from the beginning - we have no money invested in Penzey's, Penzey's LLC, PenzCorp, Penzelino's Importing and Exporting... or whatever the company is called. We are not being paid by PenCo., Mr. Penzey, or the P.B.B. (Penzey Boosters of Boston). We are merely fans and customers of Penzey's spices, so please know that our intentions are completely pure and unsolicited!

We learned about Penzey's through other food blogs (Kalyn's Kitchen, specifically) and knew we needed to update our old spice rack with some newly-bought essentials from a well-known and somewhat reputable source.

Well, Santa came through this year (Stacey's Parents, actually) with a great gift box containing several Penzey's containers and bags full of spices! Mexican Oregano, ground cumin, sea salt, etc. Plus a bunch of pre-mixed blends, including:

Fox Point Seasoning INGREDIENTS: salt, shallots, chives, garlic, onion and green peppercorns. It is very garlic-and-chivey with certain saltiness, it includes freeze-dried shallots, chives, and scallions, making it fresh-tasting and light, and very green. It probably most resembles a dry vegetable dip packet - indeed they've got a recipe for a vegetable dip right on the container.

We made a different version of the dip for our Ulitmate Veggie Platter at our New Year's Eve Party - 1 Cup sour cream with about/almost/not quite 3/4 cup mayo, a bunch of fresh chives and fresh parsley chopped up real good, and many, many shakes of Fox Point. After a couple hours in the fridge, it came out nicely seasoned and very fresh.

But that's just the beginning... we've put it on turkey sandwiches, as a chili topper, on nachos, in salads, part of the seasoning for burgers, etc. It is great on anything on the light side, but also works with more heavy, meaty stuff if bolstered with some ground black pepper and other spices.

One of our favorite applications is Scrambled Eggs: 4 eggs beaten up and a few splashes of milk, then many, many shakes of Fox Point, and mix again. Start a medium-sized pan on medium heat and add a little butter and, after a minute, some shredded deli-sliced ham - preferably smoked. After a few minutes head start for the ham, in goes the egg mixture and stir/fold gently until the eggs start to come together and they are about 50% of the way there.

Add a handful of shredded cheddar cheese and continue to fold. Take the eggs out as soon as they're ready for you and eat with whole wheat toast - delicious! The Fox Point acts as all the seasoning and the eggs come out great.

ENJOY! And if Mr. Penzey reads this - SEND MORE SPICES, PLEASE!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Chicken Chili

Last night we were reminiscing about winters past and how we'd be holed-up in our old apartment on freezing, snowy Sundays, watching football and venturing out to walk to the store for "supplies" and maybe to clear the car of snow. Both of us having been brought up in some very snowy regions of New England, we certainly love the snow - so we'd always enjoy getting bundled up to head out and otherwise being "snow-bound" on those December and January weekends. For example, here is a picture of our old street in the South End of Boston from the evening of December 6th, 2003:

This weekend, January 6th, 2007? We played tennis at the park and sat out on the back deck in the sun wearing shorts and t-shirts. It was nearly 70-degrees on Saturday! We've had a TOTAL of .5" of snow so far this winter, and - on the Boston Common - the trees are sprouting flowers and the tulips are starting to come up. WHERE ARE YOU WINTER? WHERE ARE YOU SNOW? COME BACK TO US!!! (why do I think I'm going to regret asking that...?)

Regardless, it's still technically winter and playoff Patriots football is on, so we decided to do what we've done for years and make Chili. Chicken Chili, to be exact, but something a little different than our old White Bean and Chicken Chili. This Chicken Chili was going to be meatier - with two different "types" of chicken, breast chunks and ground chicken - and more traditionally "chili"...

We started some water boiling and cut up 1.6lbs of boneless/skinless chicken breast into big chunks before dropping them into the boiling water for ~10 minutes - until they were simply poached and cooked through - then just take them out and let them rest. At the same time, we started our dutch oven on medium-ish heat and browned 1lb of ground chicken.

As that was finishing and after drained, we seasoned with our collection of chili spices that we'd use throughout this recipe: Ground Cumin, Mexican Oregano, Chili Powder, (a little bit of) Cayenne Pepper, Smoked Paprika, and salt and black pepper. The Cumin, Mexican Oregano, and Smoked Paprika were all from the recent Christmas Gift of Penzey's Spices that we received from Stacey's Parents - greatest gift ever!

The now-seasoned ground chicken comes out, we gave the dutch oven a wipe and started some fresh oil and in went a couple of medium onions chopped to 1/2" pieces - to sweat it out for almost 10 minutes on low-ish heat. Then a green pepper and a red pepper - all chopped to 1/2" pieces - joined the party for another 10 minutes. Finally, we added a couple cloves minced garlic and let this all come together for 5 more minutes. We then seasoned with the same combination of spices that went on the ground chicken... and turned up the heat.

When the veggies were cooked down and getting very tender, we added about a cup of chicken stock and used our wooden spoon to rub off all of the cooked bits in the bottom of the pan - getting all those spices and flavor into the new liquid. Then we immediately added 2 32-ounce cans of diced tomatoes and 2 small cans of tomato sauce and got all of that up to temperature.

As that was heating up, we shredded that poached chicken breast with our fingers and add it piece-by-piece into the chili. Finally, the cooked-and-seasoned shredded chicken gets added back in. We decided we needed some more liquid, so we had an extra cup of chicken stock on hand, of which we added another 3/4. An initial taste and addition of seasoning and then it was set phasers to simmer and see-how-long-we-can-wait time!

After about 20 minutes, we were ready to add the final ingredient - beans. We knew we had about 20 minutes left total cooking time, so in went a 32 oz can cannelini beans and a 16oz can pinto beans.

After that final 20 minutes, we were back in tasting and re-seasoning... just a little more of that wonderful oregano and a little salt and it was tasting spicy and delicious. Scoop out a nice, chunky spoonful into a bowl with a dollop of sour cream and we were ready to eat.

With great smoky flavor from the paprika and cumin, spice from the cayenne and chili powder, and lots of meat from all the chicken, this Chicken Chili came out wonderfully spicy and really hit the spot on a Warm Winter's Day. The flavor was almost "buttery" from all the spices and the liquid... The leftovers will certainly be even better and a big ziplock bag of this Chicken Chili will end up in our freezer for when the REAL cold weather comes!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Grilled Cajun Shrimp! And a New Blog Template!

We're coming up on our 1-year anniversary at Boston Chef, so we thought a little refresh of our template was in order... We added a few pictures that we've taken over the past year to the header. We threw in some of our favorite color - orange! - and changed the font around, etc... We're still tinkering with it, so tell us what you think.

Beautiful weekend in Boston - 69-degrees yesterday meant we got a little January tennis in... crazy. We're out on the back deck today, in between watching the Pats playoff game, and fixin' to make some Chicken Chili later with chicken breast, ground chicken, peppers, and our new Penzey's Cumin and Mexican Oregano.. Yum!

Speaking of Penzey's, the pic above was some more of our BIG freshwater shrimp covered in Penzey's Cajun Seasoning and oil and grilled on a hot grill pan until plump, juicy, spicy, and delicious!

Thanks for visiting, we'll be back with a post on that chili tomorrow. Go Pats!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year!

We had a great New Year's party here at the House of the Boston Chef... about 13 people in all came over to help us ring in 2007. As you can imagine, we had lots of food!

We had a half spiral ham that we heated out on the grill and finished with an Orange Juice Glaze (1/2 cup OJ, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, some big tablespoons of honey... simmered down to a thick syrup). We had Peas with Proscuitto that we stole from a Giada/Everyday Italian recipe. We also made an easy dip for our Ultimate Veggie Platter (1 cup sour cream, little over 1/2 cup mayonaise, fresh chives and parsley diced up, and our new Penzey's Fox Point seasoning. Chilled for a few hours, came out fresh and tasty). The Ultimate Veggie Platter included celery, red bell pepper, baby carrots, pumpernickel bread, seasame crackers, pepperoncinis, those prosciutto/moz stuffed cherry peppers you can get at the store (love those!), dip, etc..

We had Stacey's Famous Twice-Baked Cauliflower: Boil a bunch (two bags) of frozen cauliflower for about 15 minutes. Strain, then return it to the hot/dry pan to evaporate the last of the water. Add a scoop of margarine and a scoop of sour cream and some salt and pepper and mash until it's a nice, "mashed" consistency. Spread it out evenly in a baking dish, sprinkle a layer of shredded cheddar cheese and some bacon bits over the top, and bake at 400 for about 10 minutes - until the cheese melts.

Our guests brought food too - a delicious baked mac and cheese with breadcrumb topping, some seafood-stuffed mushroom caps with asiago cheese that we melted in the oven, some big freshwater shrimp that we doused in Penzey's cajun seasoning and olive oil and threw on the grill, an eggnog cake dessert (was really good! tasted like eggnog!), crab dip and lots and lots of chips.

Along with a seemingly-unlimited supply of beer, wine, orange vodka, punch, and champagne at midnight - a good time was had by all.

As a gag gift, we received these "anonymous" sunglasses that make it look like you've been censored out of photos when you're wearing them... and they produced many hilarious pictures throughout the night. For example:

Who were those girls?!?!?!? Happy New Year!