All Posts In Entertaining

Effortless and Elegant Summer Table Centerpieces

by in Entertaining, July 26th, 2012

beach themed table
Summer centerpieces are a great way to add simple elegance to your table. Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or just sitting down with your family for a meal, the perfect centerpiece can do a lot to enhance the whole experience. Plus, finding table decorations doesn’t necessarily require breaking the bank. There are plenty of ways to create amazing centerpieces using items you can probably find around the house. Here are a few of Food Network’s favorite ideas for tasteful and effortless summer decor.

Beach-Themed Table
If you live near the beach, search for different-shaped shells (this is a great activity to do with the kids) and place them in a nautical-themed pot in the center of your table. If you are far from a beach and no one in your family is a shell collector, shells are inexpensive to buy at craft or design stores. For an added touch, try gluing individual shells on each of your napkin holders.

Get more summer table centerpieces

Forkless Finger Foods

by in Entertaining, July 23rd, 2012

asian chicken skewers
Now that we’re in the thick of summer, the July Fourth party is a mere Facebook album and the days just keep getting hotter and hotter. All the while, summertime barbecue season remains in full swing. Grills are still fired up each weekend, drinks are still being poured and guests are still flowing on in. In the spirit of keeping things fresh this summer, a fleet of appetizers is going completely silverware-free, leaving the fork, spoon and knife behind.

Why go without utensils, you ask? Is it our snack-time nostalgia? Our back-to-nature sensibilities? Our last, desperate push at preventing a sink full of dishes? Well, sure, but there’s more to it than that. Fork-free appetizers are both inventive and practical, bearing the power to impress guests from the get-go with their quirky looks and hand-held feel. In the same way that you and your pals opt for the pretty bottle of hand soap at the store (it’s just so sleek), it’s all about packaging when it comes to social summertime dining. When they reach for Crab Cocktail Americana, the only thing swaddling the crustacean will be a delicate “bowl” made of Bibb lettuce. When they move on in for their chicken fix, they’ll grab it by the stick with the char-grilled Asian Chicken Skewers.

Looking for more silverware-free apps? Shimmy on over to Food Network’s Summer Entertaining Guide for more party-ready appetizers and easy summer party recipes.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip for Summer’s Simple Soirées

by in Entertaining, Recipes, July 10th, 2012

roasted red pepper dip
The beginning of summer means a few things, but maybe the most important is that it’s the beginning of backyard barbecues and potluck parties.

I’m sure quite a few of you are hosting parties this summer and even more of you are planning to attend some fun soirees like graduation parties, birthday parties and classic Sunday suppers. I don’t know about you, but I love showing up to a party with something delicious in hand. And that something delicious has to also be something that can handle a trip in the car to a friend’s house in the summer heat.

One of my go-to potluck style dishes is this Roasted Red Pepper Dip from Ellie Krieger. The original recipe calls for almonds, but I like to give it a nice salty kick and replace the almonds with feta. It gives the dip a smooth and creamy consistency, which makes it perfect for some serious pita chip dipping. Not to mention it’s easy to bring to a friend’s house, and I can promise that your friends will become addicted to this dip as I am — they’ll be begging you for the recipe.

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Blueberry Frozen Yogurt — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, July 6th, 2012

blueberry frozen yogurt
When I was 7 years old, my parents’ best friends opened a frozen yogurt business. Their store took plain yogurt and swirled in different fruits, bits of candy and sauces to make your ideal frozen treat. To a kid, having this kind of access to dessert was magical, and my sister and I would regularly beg to be taken to the shop on weekends and summer evenings (where they’d give us extra toppings and overflowing cups of yogurt).

Sadly, the flow of frozen yogurt soon ended when my family moved from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore. Not only did we leave our friends’ shop behind, the cooler climate of the Pacific Northwest wasn’t nearly as welcoming to frozen yogurt as Southern California; frozen yogurt suddenly became quite hard to come by.

Still, thanks to that early conditioning, I’ve had a lifelong affinity for frozen yogurt. I’ve enjoyed the recent resurgence of shops selling the stuff in six or eight flavors, but I always wonder exactly what they’re putting in there to make it taste just like white chocolate or strawberries and cream.

Recently, with these concerns about what I was eating, I decided to try my hand at making my own frozen yogurt. I dug around for a recipe that used simple ingredients and found this one for Blueberry Frozen Yogurt from the Neelys. It features Greek yogurt, blueberries, lemon juice and just enough sugar to cut the tartness. It’s so tasty, it takes me right back to the frozen yogurt of my childhood and is perfect for The Weekender.

Before you start blending your berries, read these tips

Squeezed in the Middle

by in Entertaining, How-to, July 5th, 2012

key lime ice cream sandwiches
Growing up as I did in a house filled with junk food, I had many options. Cookies lined the shelves, each vying for my attention, screaming “Pick me!”

Passing over crunchy chocolate chip, I would quickly made my way to the sandwich cookies. Nutter Butters were my all-time favorites. So much so that my homemade variety appears on the cover of my upcoming cookbook.

I waited all year for Girl Scout cookie season, particularly for the Do-Si-Dos. I’m not sure if it’s the cookies or the filling that I love more. If I had to choose, I would say it’s those soft, peanut-buttery middles.

Baking cookies from scratch allows you to think outside the cookie box for filling ideas. Of course, there is the classic cream filling (think the “stuff” of Oreos), which you can make at home by creaming three simple ingredients: butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. I love adding citrus zest, espresso powder, cocoa nibs or even peanut butter for a twist. Heck, you can even fold in Cap’n Crunch cereal. The beauty of a filled cookie is there are endless possibilities.

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Sweet Cola Ribs — A Fourth of July Simple Soirée

by in Entertaining, Holidays, July 3rd, 2012

sweet cola ribsIs there really anything better in life than a rack of slowly cooked ribs that are doused with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce? I don’t think so. Whether you celebrate the Fourth of July tomorrow or this coming weekend with family and friends, it’s time to start thinking of great grilling recipes.

These Sweet Cola Ribs from the Neelys’ are the perfect addition to your Fourth of July celebration. They cook nice and slow over your grill so they become smoky and tender, then you add the sweet cola sauce and it’s a match made in heaven. You can use any kind of dark cola for this recipe, but I think my favorite has to be Dr. Pepper.

This year I’m hosting my own Fourth of July party and you can bet that there will be multiple Sweet Cola Ribs on my grill throughout the day. Be sure to whip up extra of the barbecue sauce;  you might even want to double the recipe because it’s great on all sorts of other fun Fourth of July sides like corn on the cob and potato salad. Plus, you can throw some on the side for your guests to dip their ribs into while they eat.

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Easy Parmesan “Risotto” — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, June 8th, 2012

easy parmesan risotto
The first time I made risotto was with a friend. She pulled out her heaviest cast-iron pot and unearthed a well-worn wooden spoon that was bent ever so slightly. Its curve had developed over many years of use and it fit her hand perfectly. In order to preserve its form, she kept it hidden away so that well-meaning family members wouldn’t accidentally run it through the dishwasher or use it to encourage the blender to blend.

We started by chopping onions and sweating them in a puddle of melted butter until they were translucent. Then the rice went in and the heat went up, so that the individual grains would become slick with the butter and begin to toast. Just when the room began to smell impossibly fragrant, she poured in white wine, causing a puff of boozy steam to hover over the stove for a moment.

Then we started the process of stirring and adding hot chicken stock. The time went quickly because we were together, catching up and taking turns minding the pot. However, even in the joy of that moment, I could see how some people might find the necessary stirring a tedious act. That night, we finished our risotto with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, peas (from the freezer but still tender and sweet) and cubes of salty ham. With a salad, it was a complete meal and one we both enjoyed.

A few weeks back, my husband and I were having friends over for dinner. I was making grilled salmon and a chilled asparagus salad and needed one more thing to serve. Awash in deadlines and errands, I needed to find something easier than a classic risotto, but more refined than a simple pot of rice. Internet searches led me to Ina Garten’s recipe for Easy Parmesan “Risotto.”

Before you preheat your oven, read these tips

Tuscan Pesto-Dressed Penne With Crispy Kale — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, June 1st, 2012

tuscan pesto penne
Every year when summer rolls around, I find myself on the hunt for a fresh, seasonal potluck dish. The requirements for the winning dish are that it needs to travel well, taste good whether warm or at room temperature and must not require immediate refrigeration upon arrival at said potluck destination.

Several years ago, I made many batches of a barley salad that included chunks of feta cheese and chopped cucumber. Through summer 2010, I fixated on a dish of made from chickpeas marinated in a vinaigrette made from olive oil, lemon juice and minced rosemary. Last summer, I opted for halved grape tomatoes, red onion and basil dressed lightly with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Each of these salads did an excellent job throughout their particular season, but by the time the cooler weather rolled around, I was ready for something more autumnal.

Happily, I think I stumbled across this summer’s salad just this last weekend, and with the hot weather we’ve been having, its arrival couldn’t be timelier. It’s Rachael Ray’s recipe for Tuscan Pesto-Dressed Penne With Crispy Kale. It’s light and tastes terrific freshly made or after a night in the fridge (I’ve tried it both ways and it’s a winner). The next time you have a summer potluck to attend, stir up this Weekender.

Before you start blending your pesto, read these tips

Easy Appetizers for Spring Entertaining

by in Entertaining, Recipes, May 18th, 2012


Appetizers. Hors d’oeuvres. Starters. Nibbles. Snacks. Whatever you call pre-dinner eats, you can be sure that they will make a meal, offering your dinner guests early tastes and textures and a sneak peek of what’s to come in the later courses. As the spring season winds down, invite friends and family over to celebrate the warmer weather and serve a simple, quick-to-prepare spread of first-course munchies. Food Network’s no-fuss appetizers below are ideal for relaxed, casual entertaining, and include charred lemon-scented shrimp, velvety deviled eggs and bacon-wrapped veggies. Check out our recipe selections and tell us what you’re cooking up this weekend. 

Robert Irvine’s Antipasto Platter With Grilled Vegetables (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine is a go-to pre-dinner pick when you’re pressed for time or if guests stop by unexpectedly. This tray can be customized to any size party or taste preference, though some staple snacks include a mixture of hard and soft cheeses, buttery prosciutto, fresh vegetables, crusty bread and more.

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A Mother’s Day Simple Soirée

by in Entertaining, Holidays, May 11th, 2012

blueberry raspberry muffins
It goes without saying that Mother’s Day is always a fun day in our house. Instead of giving her gifts every year, I like to cook up a big delicious brunch so we can all lay around the house, eat great food and relax. It’s something we do quite well.

My mom is also quite the picky eater, so I have to tailor my menu to fit her palate. One thing that I can never go wrong with is any kind of baked goods. We have a sweet tooth in my family and these Blueberry Muffins that I’ve adapted from Alton Brown are always a hit.

I brightened them up with lemon zest and raspberries, and then whipped up the most addictive Chantilly Cream. Heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and a vanilla bean is a match made in heaven.

These blueberry-raspberry muffins topped with Chantilly Cream are the perfect way to show your mom some love this Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mothers out there, and thanks to my mom for being so amazing.

Get the recipe for Blueberry-Raspberry Muffins