Palate pleasing meal from start to finish

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Looking for a little something to brighten up your taste buds? Tired of all the holiday foods and just need a bit of a change from all the norm? Here’s something that is pleasing to most all your family including the small ones.

This can easily be served for a casual dinner party as well.

For dinner:

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Baby Spinach Salad with Warm Panchetta Dressing

1 bag of fresh baby spinach

2 cups baby bella mushroom tops, quartered

1 package of diced panchetta (it’s like Italian bacon)

one-fourth cup good Balsamic vinegar

2 tbs good olive oil

black or calamata olives if you like

In a medium pan, saute the panchetta over medium heat until it renders a good amount of its fat. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms look done. Remove from heat and let sit for 1 minute. Then add the vinegar and oil to the pan. Pour over spinach and olives and serve immediately.

Baked Pinwheels

1 lb pizza dough, purchased (the box kind you mix with water or already made dough)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

7 ounces prosciutto, comes in a package already thinly sliced

1 cup baby spinach, coarsely chopped (optional)

1 tbs good olive oil

salt and pepper

grated Parmesan cheese, the kind that comes in an 8 ounce container

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position a rack on the lower third. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pizza dough into a 12 to 14 inch circle, about a fourth of an inch thick. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella over the dough. Arrange the prosciutto over the cheese in a single layer. Sprinkle with the spinach if using. Then top with the remaining cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

Roll the dough into a thin cylinder, gently tucking the ends. Brush the entire roll with olive oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Place the dough seam side down on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool for 3 to 5 minutes, then use a serrated knife to cut it into slices.

Easy Tomato-Cheese Soup

1 can (about 10 oz.) best condensed tomato soup

1 can (about 10 oz.) best condensed cheddar cheese soup

3 cups V8 juice

1 to 2 tsp Tabasco sauce (depending on how spicy you want it), optional

1 tsp dried basil

Prepare while pinwheels are baking. Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Serve in small bowls or mugs with the pinwheel sandwiches.

For Dessert:

Coffee House Brownies

one-half cup unsalted butter, softened

one-third cup packed light brown sugar

2 tbs coffee liquor or fresh brewed espresso, cooled

1 box deviled food cake mix

1 large egg

one-fourth cup whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup toasted walnuts or pecans

for the icing;

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

4 cups powdered sugar

one-half cup chocolate syrup

2 tsp coffee liquor or cooled fresh brewed espresso

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X13 inch baking pan.

For brownies, in a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar and coffee liquor or espresso. Beat with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Add cake mix, egg, whipping cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in nuts.

Pour batter into greased pan and spread to the edges. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool completely in pan on cooling rack.

For icing, in a small mixing bowl, beat butter and coffee liquor or espresso with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth.

While beating, add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. When sugar is all mixed in, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Beat in chocolate syrup until smooth.

Once brownies are cooled, spread with icing and cut into squares.

You can adorn each brownie with a chocolate covered coffee bean if you like. Serve with coffee, espresso or a super cold glass of milk.

The brownies should be prepared before dinner if you want to serve them after the meal.

Hope you enjoy. Have fun in the kitchen, experiment and indulge your cravings.

Laura Clements is a food columnist for The Demopolis Times.