Archive for the ‘Spring Entertaining’ Category

The Elegant Salad

April 25th 2010

nasturtiums small The Elegant SaladThere is nothing more refreshing than the first salads of the season. After being pent up inside the house with warm stews and possibly more Swiss chard than one can or should consume, new veggies are definitely a requirement.

Salad becomes my default meal in the summer once it’s too hot to bear turning on the stove. In spring it seems more like a privilege to have a salad for my main course. Especially when I’m harvesting the lettuce from my own home garden. I have several varieties such as iceburg, Romain, deer tongue, red oak leaf, red romaine, mesclun mix, and spicy baby Asian green mix. If you don’t have any space to grow your own, a quick trip to your local farmers market will give you even more choices. Try as many heirloom varieties as you can. You won’t find them in your supermarket because they don’t ship well and some are only available for a short time in the spring and fall.

One way to dress up your salad is to serve it on Noritake colorwave plates. My favorites are the accent plates. Make sure to garnish the salad with a few surprises such as fresh strawberries and goat cheese, or toasted nuts and dried berries.

My favorite way to elevate a salad is by adding edible flowers. Make sure you are buying culinary grade or eating ones you grow yourself. If they were not grown as food, they may be sprayed with chemicals that you do not want to ingest. I grow nasturtiums which is a beautiful vining plant with edible leaves and flowers. The leaves add a peppery taste to the salad and the petals add so much color that you can even make a side salad out of just lettuce and nasturtiums.

Don’t underestimate what you can add to a salad. Use leftover steak, chicken, even steamed asparagus to make it a heartier meal. A salad doesn’t have to always be dainty. You can serve black beans, pulled chicken, avocado and salsa on top of a crunchy lettuce and even the biggest working man can fill up on it!

One thing I love to do is serve a salad that I toss in a dressing, rather than serve the dressing on the side. I find you can use so much less dressing that way and it allows the flavors to meld in a magical way when each lettuce leaf is perfectly coated. It’s great for dieters too, since you can easily triple the amount of calories with extra dressing.

Posted by Myriam under Garden & Hostessing & Party Food & Spring Entertaining & Summer Entertaining | 5 Comments »

Have a Hot Dog Party

April 22nd 2010

cookout 002 Have a Hot Dog PartyHot dogs are the perfect cookout foods and they work great for parties too. I always plan a few parties a year around them. I like to have campy parties and weenies scream campy!

Have your friends wear their best touristy gear for a fun costume party addition. It’s easy to forget the stress of your week once you’re in plaid Bermuda shorts, sandals with socks and have binoculars or a camera around your neck.

Make sure to have a tropical fruity drink to accompany your festive fare. Something that looks good with an umbrella straw tucked away in it. I usually choose a pina colada or strawberry daiquiri. They may be predictable, but everyone loves them.

You could even go red-neck gourmet and make a hot dog enchilada casserole. Spread about 2 cups of pre-made chili over the bottom of a greased rectangle baking dish. Wrap a tortilla around each hot dog and arrange on top of chili. Top with the rest of the chili and shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven between 30 – 40 minutes. Serve topped with crumbled Fritos.

If you go for the traditional hot dog feast, make sure to have tons of toppings for your guests. Ketchup, mustard, and pickle relish are requirements. Make a Carolina dog by topping it with cole slaw and chili. You could also make a Greek salad dog with feta, olives, chopped tomatoes, red onion, and touch of Greek dressing. Feel free to add gourmet extras like roasted garlic, red peppers, goat cheese or even nacho cheese.

If it’s raining or you just don’t feel like cooking outside, use your slow cooker. I have a Crockpot trio that has 3 small slow cookers on one base. If you have lots of time you can heat the hot dogs up in the slow cooker. Personally I like to heat them on the stove and keep them warm in the slow cookers. I put veggie dogs in one, turkey dogs in another, and veggie chili in the last one. This way everything’s ready for people as they drop in.

Posted by Myriam under Drinks & Hostessing & Party Food & Spring Entertaining & Summer Entertaining | 5 Comments »

Planting with Friends

April 11th 2010

sunflowerincity Planting with FriendsI don’t know about you, but I have spring fever. I have to admit I’m planting a few things a little ahead of the recommended dates. If you risk it too, make sure to hold back a few seedlings in case a freeze takes out your first planting.

This year I’ve decided to involve my gardening friends in my planting frenzy. About a month ago, I had a seed starting date with one of my oldest friends and we planted heirloom tomatoes, Italian roasting peppers, hot peppers, an assortment of eggplants, light green zucchini and winter squash. I had seed starting trays leftover from last year, some seed starting soil, and we each planted different seeds we already had.

This weekend we exchanged the seedlings that we had planted, so now we have twice the variety with no extra work! Plus, it was fun to open a bottle of wine and chat over a salad when we took a break.

It’s great to trade seeds and seedlings with other people because you may find yourself trying varieties of your favorite veggie that you never knew existed. Then you can trade off days helping each other plant them in your yard, in raised beds, or even in contianers. It all depends on the space you have to grow in this year.

This year it’s still not too late. Make a date with your gardening friends to go to a farmers market or gardening store to buy seedlings. I like to get heirloom varieties. Since heirlooms are not hybrids, you can save the seeds from the plants that you grow this year and grow your own seedlings next year. It’s a great way to save money and insure that these varieties get preserved for future generations.

If you’ve never planted any food before, see if any of your friends would be interested in giving it a go this year. Even if you are in an apartment, try to at least growing some lettuce or herbs on a sunny windowsill. If you have a balcony, try a few containers of your favorite summer veggies. You will be amazed at how differently you’ll look at farmers and food in general after you’ve grown some of your own.

Posted by Myriam under Drinks & Hostessing & Spring Entertaining | 3 Comments »

Throw a Seed Starting Party for Kids

March 16th 2010

sm missyredboots139 Throw a Seed Starting Party for Kids

It’s finally the beginning of Spring. Everyone has a little bit of cabin fever and wants to get outside in the sun. A great activity for kids is growing some flowers and veggies. Even if you don’t have a yard or place for a garden, try planting a few things in containers. Your kids will be amazed at how things grow and they might just eat more veggies because of it!

Starting seeds is easy enough for kids to do, but you’ll want to make sure to supervise. After all, you may be surprised at what children will put in their mouths when left to their own devices. This is a good reason to get organic potting soil or organic seed starting medium. You can get seed starting trays that have soil disks that get big when water is added to them. Kids love to watch that!

First make a few invitations and make sure to invite the parents too. You can never have too much help at a crafty party like this. You’ll want to plan out a few treats for snacks. Try to include some of the fruit or veggies that you will be planting that day. Dress up a salad with fresh strawberries, blueberries and nuts. Then serve it on a unique square dinnerware plate to get the kids even more interested. Make lemonade with pureed blueberries. It’s just as colorful as the sugary drinks you can buy, plus you control how much goes in it.

You can buy peat pots and seed starting medium or get seed starting kits. The kits will cost more, but can be used again next year with new refills for the soil. If you are having a slew of children, peat pots will be the most cost effective. Have boxes or waxed paper bags to send the planted seed pots in so the plants actually make it home in the car.

Lettuce is a great plant to grow and can help kids like salad more. Don’t forget tomatoes, basil, pumpkins and fun flowers. One of my first gardening memories is plating a petunia plant in a milk carton in the first grade. This party is the fancier version, plus in a few weeks, everyone can re-pot the seedlings into their own container garden.

Posted by Myriam under Children & Spring Entertaining | 1 Comment »