Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Easy Appetizers Are As Easy as One, Two, Three

June 10th 2010

Easy Appetizers

Appetizers are tidbits of food served before the main meal and are intended to stimulate the appetite. They can be hot or cold and are usually finger food. Appetizers sometimes make a meal all their own and can be better than the entre. Bars will often serve salty appetizers to make customers drink more. When I was a kid, the only time we had appetizers was when dinner was ready but dad was late getting home from work. Then we might get a few crackers with peanut butter. I don’t know why we didn’t just start eating dinner.

Appetizers don’t have to be complicated. Easy appetizers can be as simple as a bowl of pretzels or cracker and cheese. The level of appetizer difficulty can be raised slightly by adding pepperoni to the plate of cheese. One of my favorite restaurants serves a bowl of buttery, salty popcorn upon being seated. Another of my favorite restaurants serves bowls of shelled peanuts while waiting for your meal and encourages throwing the shells on the floor.

Here are a couple of my favorite easy appetizers.

First up is “Ranch Oyster Crackers.” In a large bowl combine ¼ teaspoon each of garlic powder and lemon pepper, ¼ cup of vegetable oil, ½ teaspoon of dried dill weed and a 1 ounce package of Ranch dressing mix. Add in 5 cups of oyster crackers and mix until coated well. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 250 degrees. Let cool a bit before serving.

Next we have “Salsa Crackers”. In a bowl mix 1 cup of cottage cheese, 1 cup of Salsa (mild, medium or hot as desired), and chill for about an hour in the refrigerator. Top Triscuit crackers with a teaspoon of the mixture and eat immediately. (Mixture will cover approximately 36 crackers)

Ham Roll Ups” is another easy recipe and sure to become a favorite. In a bowl mix 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1 can (2-1/4 ounce) chopped olives, 1/3 cup of thinly sliced green onion. Spread over thinly sliced ham. Roll up jelly roll style. Chill for at least an hour before serving, and then cut into bite size pieces. Mixture will cover 8 to 10 ham slices.

If you like shrimp, you will love “Barbara’s Shrimpie Spread”. In a bowl mix softened cream cheese, ½ cup sour cream, ¼ cup mayonnaise, 1 cup cocktail sauce, 2 cans (4-1/4 ounces each) of shrimp (rinsed and drained), 1 cup of chopped green onion, ¾ cup of finely chopped tomato. Put the mixture into a serving bowl and top with2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Chill in a covered container the refrigerator at least 2 hours then serve with your favorite crackers of pita chips.

Here is one more easy appetizer recipe. “Spicy stuffed celery” will compliment any dinner table. In a bowl mix 8 ounces of softened cream cheese with a tablespoon of Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce, a tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper. Wash and cut celery sticks to the desired length and fill each stick with mixture. Shake on celery salt, if desired. Be sure to have a glass of milk handy if you eat these easy appetizers.

Posted by admin under Hostessing & Party Food & Recipes | 5 Comments »

Healthier Fondue Party

January 27th 2010

fondue Healthier Fondue PartyNow is the time to get your fondue pot out of hiding. If you don’t have a fondue pot, go to your local thrift store. You’ll usually see a few inexpensive ones there. Mine gets packed up and trekked off to the shed, a friend of mine puts hers in the attic. I’d be interested in hearing form any of you that manage to store it were you can easily get to it. Maybe you could change my ways. One of the reasons I have fondue less often is that it’s so inconvenient to go and get it.

Another reason you may be avoiding fondue night is your cholesterol. You know your doctor doesn’t want a big pot of steaming cheese on your table for dinner. But there is another way! A non-traditional way, but I always love twists on the original.

White beans are the new main addition. Once they are pureed they actually create a perfect fondue every time. The other change is to use low fat or 2% cheese instead of full fat. Combined with the beans it still creates a richly textured fondue. No one will know the difference. Try a porter beer cheddar version, or the more traditional white wine and Gruyere and emmental. Set the table with a colorful array of dinnerware. My favorite for fondue is Sengware blueberry for the place settings with the white bistro ones to hold the food waiting to be dunked into the cheese. In addition to lightly toasted bread, try steamed broccoli and cauliflower, whole baby carrots, even thickly sliced baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Make sure to save room for a little chocolate fondue too. I make mine when I start the cheese fondue and keep it warm in a small Crockpot until I’m ready for it. Cut up some cheesecake, vanilla cake, and an assortment of fresh fruit. Try pineapple – it’s one of my favorites.

This is a good opportunity to have a period themed party. You could do the 60′s with smoking jackets and cocktail dresses. Or even the 70′s with polyester outfits complete with clashing colors. Pick the one your friends will have the most fun with.

Posted by Myriam under Party Food & Recipes & Winter Entertaining | 2 Comments »

Throw a Leftover Party

November 27th 2009

dinnerwareturkey Throw a Leftover PartyChances are no matter where you were yesterday for Thanksgiving, you have leftovers. Even if you didn’t host dinner, you probably had a bag of leftovers packed up and sent with you. Relatives and friends alike love to think they’re helping us out. Especially when they are overwhelmed with leftovers themselves.

You could heat and eat the same old meal. Or you can think of each dish as a single ingredient and create some new dishes in a mini Iron Chef competition with yourself. By creating new dishes you’ll stretch your food budget, and surprise yourself with your creativity.

Have a pizza shell in the fridge or some dough in the freezer? Try making pizza with some of your leftovers. Try bbq turkey with shredded turkey, pre-made bbq sauce, chopped onions and bell pepper. Add some drained, canned pineapple if you’re feeling adventurous. You could also toss some turkey in pesto sauce spread over a crust, top it off with crumbled goat cheese and some leftover cranberry sauce. Make a vegetarian pizza with sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce on a crust covered in a garlic butter sauce.

Pasta is another great option. You could make a left over casserole with whole wheat ziti, turkey, leftover veggies, Use leftover gravy or a mushroom sauce to bind everything together. Toast leftover dressing and crumble over the top.

Turkey lasagna with a sweet potato cream sauce and spinach is another favorite. Or try egg noodles combined with turkey and green bean casserole – add a little milk to loosen it up if needed.

Have some leftover creamed corn? Try mixing it with diced pepperoncini peppers, and some turkey or grilled shrimp. Toss the mixture with angel hair pasta. Creamed corn is also the perfect base for a corn chowder. Just add milk, diced red peppers, cubed potatoes, more frozen corn if needed, and some fresh thyme. It’s my favorite cold weather soup.

If you made the turkey at your house this year, you can use the carcass to make turkey broth. It freezes great. You can put it in quart containers, or freeze in ice cube trays and store in Ziploc bags. It’s great to be able to take out a few cubes of stock at a time. Much better than opening a carton of stock for a few tablespoons worth.

Don’t forget the power of omelets. Any of the mixtures above would work great. Turkey and goat cheese is one of my favorites, but you can use any cheese you have on hand. Omelets are perfect for using up the tiniest leftovers.

Take these ideas and invite some of your friends over for a Thanksgiving leftover party. It just may be the least expensive party you’ve thrown all year!

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Occasions & Recipes | No Comments »

Halloween Dinner Ideas

October 13th 2009

dinnerware pumpkinsoup Halloween Dinner IdeasYou can go with any theme for your Halloween dinner party, but it just won’t be complete without a few dishes to remind you of the holiday. From mummy hot dogs for a kids party to ribs served on a platter with a carving knife stabbed into a fake heart – they all create an atmosphere your guests won’t soon forget.

I throw a fancy Gothic dinner party. I have my guests dress up in all black or a dressy costume. Each guest chooses a dish to bring from a list of recipes. I make sure there are recipes that everyone can make.

You can create a buffet using ordinary crockpots to keep the food warm, and allow for people to arrive at different times. I do a big sit down dinner with multiple courses. Of course, you have to count on your guests a little more, but the results really shine.

It takes some planning to have each course ready when you want it. After all, you want to be in the party not in the kitchen all night! If you want to do a little bite (amuse bouche) to start your meal, try something cold that you can have plated up in the fridge. Do the same with your salad course, plate it up, and put dressing in the serving bottle you want to use.

Keep your soup hot in a crockpot and ladle out in small bowls you set up nearby the minute you want to serve it. Have your main course cooked ahead of time, and you can pop it in the oven to warm up as you eat the soup or salad. If you have a room temp dessert plate it up and cover with a dish towel until you are ready. Or if it’s a chilled dessert, try and prepare it in individual serving dishes to speed up your time in the kitchen.

Make sure you have enough plates to serve on ready ahead of time in the kitchen. Nothing will slow you down more than stopping to wash dishes for your next course. Pick up a few thermal carafes, and make your coffee and tea while you are heating your main course. It’ll be hot and ready to serve when bring out the dessert. Also have sugar and creamers ready to make coffee service a breeze.

I set my table so that all the silver for the night is already in place. Set a water glass, wine glass, and coffee cup just like a restaurant would do and you’ll have less to haul from the kitchen. Make sure your dishwasher is clean and empty before the party starts, then you can put your dirty dishes straight in for an easier cleanup.

Have I got you thinking about your Halloween dinner? There are a ton of  ‘clipped’  Halloween recipes saved in the Halloween recipe notebook on Evernote. Happy party planning!

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Halloween & Party Food & Recipes & Table Setting | No Comments »

Plan a Party Around Pears

September 24th 2009

dinnerware pear Plan a Party Around PearsPears are my favorite autumn fruit. Delicious, richly textured, and perfect to use in both sweet and savory dishes. They are a wonderful ingredient to plan a fall party around. You can create a cocktail or a full dinner menu incorporating this luscious fruit. If you have a big kitchen and a well stocked pantry, you could throw an Iron Chef style party. Your guests and you can make the dinner course by course.

If you want to plan your menu in advance and cook yourself, take a look at a few of the following menu possibilities. You’ll be surprised with how versatile the pear is.

Start your guests off with a pear cocktail. Ahead of time peel few ripe pears and puree the flesh in a blender with the juice of a lemon. Strain if you want a thinner syrup or add some water. Use this in your usual martini, or mojito recipe. Liven up the typical mojito by using basil in addition to the traditional fresh mint. If the pear is sweet enough, you may be able to leave simple syrup out of your usual recipes all together.

Assemble a pear-brie bruschetta on top of lightly toasted bread spread with a little pistachio-thyme pesto. It’s a beautiful appetizer. Make a silky pear winter squash soup with a hint of port wine. Serve with a spinach salad topped with dried fruit and goat cheese tossed in your favorite vinaigrette for a complete meal. (Hint: make your own vinaigrette using pear puree, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Incorporate some fresh herbs that you happen to have on hand.)

Create a quick and easy pear main course by getting a pre-made pizza shell at the grocery. Spread the crust with garlic butter or a your favorite pesto sauce, then a layer of thinly sliced pears, top with some truffle oil and sliced fresh mozzarella cheese. You can either bake it in the oven or cook it on top of the grill. As another option, Trader Joe’s has an Italian truffle cheese that makes a great panini combined with sliced pear and crusty ciabatta.

You probably already have a pear dessert recipe in your arsenal. But try a pear sorbet. It’s a snap if you have an ice cream maker. Just puree ripe pear flesh with a little of your favorite sweetener as a base. The pear makes it the perfect ‘ice cream’ consistency. Add fresh or frozen berries and a tablespoon of your favorite liquor to amp up the flavor.

Remember pears need to be stored at room temperature and should ripen within a few days. Throw them into paper bag when you bring them home from the store to speed the ripening process up a little. Once they are ripe you should use them immediately.

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Recipes | No Comments »

Fall Is the Perfect Time for Backyard Dining

September 20th 2009

Fall Colors

Fall is one of my favorite seasons for entertaining. You can finally venture outside without fear that the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes will drive you back in before you can finish a glass of wine. The days may be getting shorter, but there is still plenty of time to enjoy dinner outside. Dining al fresco is a wonderful way to relax. There seems to be a restorative quality about being surrounded by nature even in your own backyard.

The leaves changing into dozens of colors on the trees creates a dramatic backdrop for cocktails or a full dinner. Using a tablecloth really dresses up the table when you are dining outside. Bring out your good china and wine glasses too. It’s just another way to escape a weekday rut. You will find yourself looking forward to eating outside as much as you do your favorite restaurant.

Since it’s getting dark earlier, you may want to add a few candles when you set your table. You can enjoy the gradual darkness as the sun sets, and have a match handy to light them just as you need that extra light. If you are on a deck or in a garden, go ahead and put a few votives around the area surrounding the dining table. Light them before dinner and you can use them to further emphasize the setting sun.

Find some colorful leaves and use them to decorate your table. Make sure that you check them well so you aren’t bringing any unwelcome guests to the table! You could also fill a large vase full of the leaves, if you’d prefer to not leave anything to chance. Make sure to not crush the leaves, but allow space to stay between each one. This creates a one of a kind centerpiece that you or your guests won’t soon forget.

A great and easy mid-week fall dinner is soup and a salad. You can make a simple vegetable soup from scratch, use pre-made, or even soup from a can. The china will dress it up no matter which route you go. For a quick, delicious salad buy a bag of pre-washed baby spinach, Mix spinach in a salad bowl with a handful of toasted walnuts and dried cranberries. Toss with crumbled goat cheese in a balsamic vinaigrette. Serve with a warm crusty baguette and softened butter on the side.

Mark your calendar for a fall dinner escape outside this week. You and your friends will be glad you did!

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Recipes | 3 Comments »