All Posts In Entertaining

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

Individual Shepherd’s Pie — Simple Soirées

by in Entertaining, Holidays, March 15th, 2012

individual shepherd's pie
St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and this year I’m celebrating with a classic Shepherd’s Pie. It’s basically my go-to dish for this yearly celebration, along with a few Irish-inspired cocktails and beer.

My favorite Shepherd’s Pie recipe comes from Mr. Alton Brown.

It’s a foolproof recipe that will knock your socks off. I jazzed it up a bit by adding some Dubliner cheese into the potato topping to give it that extra Irish kick. What makes this even more special is that rather than making a big casserole dish of Shepherd’s Pie, I turn this into individual portions by make the pies in a muffin tin. How perfect is that for a fun St. Paddy’s-themed evening with your friends? Grab a mini Shepherd’s Pie and a Guinness and call it a night.

Get the recipe

Tri-Berry Oven Pancakes — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, March 9th, 2012

tri-berry oven pancakes
When I was seven years old, my grandmother gave me a cookbook written for kids. It was something she’d picked up at a museum gift shop and knew I’d love. My mom was not so pleased when it arrived, as she was never a huge fan of cooking with kids. In her mind, meal prep was strictly about efficiency. Adding my sister or me to the mix instantly made things drastically less efficient. Still, once in a while, she’d give in to my pleas and help me make something from the book.

When I turned eight, something happened that opened up my ability to bond with this cookbook of mine. Both my parents started working on Saturday mornings and we had a babysitter watch us until they came home. This babysitter was the teen-age daughter of friends and she was all of 13 (it was the mid-’80s, that’s how it worked back then). She was happy to let me cook, as it kept me busy and she got to help eat whatever I made.

Before you preheat your oven, read these tips

Dos and Don’ts: Accommodating Dietary Needs at Dinner Parties

by in Entertaining, March 7th, 2012

dinner party
So, you’re hosting a dinner party and one (or more) of your guests has a food allergy. What do you do? How do you manage this? Some people do not accommodate special dietary needs at their dinner parties. And while I understand the frustration with the myriad of food needs out there, the question I would ask before I make that decision is: Do I want all my guests to feel welcome? If the answer to that question is yes, then here are a few dos and don’ts to help you navigate this social minefield:

Do:

• Share your menu plan (including a full ingredient list) with your food-allergic guests. If you are using prepared food, like sauces or spice mixtures, save all the ingredient lists for those as well. Ask them to bring up any concerns they might have.

More dos and don’ts

Cookie Exchanges — Simple Soirées

by in Entertaining, Holidays, December 13th, 2011

malted milk chocolate chip cookies
It’s holiday baking time and that means one thing: cookie exchanges. These simple soirées are hands down one of my favorite type of parties to host or attend during the holiday season. It’s a great way to get a ton of your friends together, share the holiday spirit and stock up on lots of different holiday cookies. If you’ve never hosted or been to a cookie exchange, the concept is pretty simple: Make your favorite kind of cookies, bring them to the party and give them away. In return you get a plethora of cookies from your friends that you get to turn around and take home to your family. So basically, you’re spreading a little of your holiday baking love and getting some serious love in return. I always serve some savory nibbles at these parties to make sure no one goes into a sugar coma. A cheese plate with some crackers or a dip duo with some pita chips tends to do the trick.

This year, I’m all about these Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies from Ree Drummond.

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