Impromptu cookout (or last minute)

I play golf.  I play for fun and occasionally I play in a tournament.  Not often, but at least once a year.  I recently played in a two day tournament.  I wasn’t sure when I would be done but a friend invited my husband and me to come for a “porch night” – drinks and appetizers on their porch one beautiful summer night and then out to dinner after.  Unbeknownst to my friend or me, my husband decided to invite everyone to our house for dinner… and by so doing invited a few more to porch night as well. Needless to say when I walked off the golf course and heard this, I sort of panicked.  My house was in disarray (a nice way of saying a mess) and I had nothing prepared.

Typical of my husband, Don went and bought huge steaks and farm fresh corn on the cob.  I got home and took to broom and mop and at least made the kitchen presentable.  The extra friends that thought we were going out to eat after porchtime felt terrible that they had not brought something but that didn’t worry us.  After I collected myself, I sliced up some cukes and tomatoes fresh from the garden, boiled some water for the corn and marinaded thickly sliced zucchini, also from the garden, in oil and garlic.  Don seasoned the steaks and lighted the grill.

My friends kindly overlooked the mess that was outside of the somewhat cleaned up kitchen, we  set up a buffet and when the corn and steaks were done, we ate.  I had vanilla ice cream and strawberries at the read for dessert but we decided dessert wasn’t necessary.  Everything was loaded into the dishwasher and we retired to the patio to listen to music around the firepit. IMG_4321

Tea and Garden Shower

Recently, my daughter hosted, with the other bridesmaids,  a Bridal Shower for a friend in my home.  The theme was a Garden Tea Party, not necessarily an original shower concept.  It turned out beautifully and without a lot of crazy running around and planning.  We held a work party the night before.  The bridesmaids set up borrowed 10×10 tents and set up the rented tables and chairs.  The brides mom provided the flowers for the floral arrangements which were in assorted tea tins and tea cups. We brought  a  silver tea set out of moth balls and polished it.  Assorted tea cups were retrieved from the other Mom’s curio cabinets and proudly put into service .  Salads and tea sandwiches were on the menu and beautifully decorated cupcakes served for dessert, all were home made.  Since the bride resides across the country and many of the gifts were shipped to her there she took a video of her opening them.  The video was shown and proved to be very entertaining.  The shower was not a long affair, wrapping up in a little over two hours and the guests went home with a peat plant cup with paper flowers with embedded seeds ready to be planted, tied up in a bow.  A fun afternoon for all, short, sweet, and not at all boring.

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Table settingentrancetotent     GiftsandguestbookDesserts1
Favors
Tea and Garden Bridal Shower

Heavenly Brownies

You are going out to a friends for dinner and you volunteered to bring dessert and you are running out of time for anything creative and out of the ordinary.  There is a box of brownie mix in your cupboard but do you really want to resort to a box of preservatives and flavorings?  Here is my go to recipe, given to me by a friend who is a very good cook.

They are call Heavenly Brownies and the name couldn’t be more appropriate.  They are heavenly simple to make and heavenly delicious to eat.  What makes them so simple is that I make the batter in a saucepan, pour it into a foil lined 9×9 inch square pan for easy clean up and pop it in the oven.  The recipe is as follows:

Line a 9″x9″ square pan with foil, up the sides.  Spray with baking spray. Set aside.  Melt a stick of butter or margerine in a saucepan with 2 squares of semi sweet chocolate.  Remove from heat and pour in 1 cup of sugar, mix.  Next add 2 large eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 tsp of baking powder, again mix well. Lastly add 1 tsp of vanilla and beat with a wooden spoon until batter is smooth. Pour into the foil lined greased pan.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 mins, check, do not over bake!!  If the center still feel really undone bake a few more minutes.  The brownies will continue to bake even when you take them out of the oven to cool so don’t leave in the oven too long.  When cool, lift foil out of pan, slice and serve or store in airtight container. Recycle the foil and put the pan away for easy clean up.

After you make this recipe, you will throw those brownie mixes out!

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High off the Hog

For the past two years to kick off the summer we have held at our home a pig roast for 150 of our nearest and dearest friends.  This year rain was threatening but we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.  Our three kids and their boy/friends/girlfriends arrived early to help set up. We set up five tents and a borrowed “carport” tent just in case the weather took a nasty turn.  I had rented five 6′ tables and fifty chairs.  We provided beverages and desserts, the rest was provided by the “caterer” Ray, my husband’s customer, and his wife put on a fabulous pig roast that is second to none.  Ray trailers his smoke/roaster from his truck and pulls in with the pig that has been cookin’ since the night before.  Image

Janet arrives with their staff in toe to set up the buffet.  Along with the pig, they provide they 30 racks of the meatiest ribs on the planet, BBQed beef brisket and hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids. We noticed that the kids opted for the ribs and pork, so next year, burgers and dos are out!.

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The sides consist of potato salad, cole slaw and cornbread.

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 We provided beverages and many of the desserts were brought by the invited guests.  For entertainment we had a Corn Hole competition, Volleyball, and our neighborhood band provided music all afternoon and into the night.  After the band cleared out at midnight, Whoever was left sat around the pit fire into the wee hours of the morning.  A great time was had by all.

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A Rustic Wedding

Well on October 26, 2013 we had a wedding.  The reception was held at a rustic locale – a local winery.  It was a brisk October day but the sun was out and that’s all we cared about.  The wedding was outside, the colors were “merlot”, how appropriate, and the flowers were typical fall colors.  The sunflower was the prominent flower.  The brides maids carried a sunflower with berries wrapped in burlap.

We decided to have different “antique-y”vessels for the centerpieces.  This was one of my favorites – a white toy pick up truck for the Sweetheart table.  Notice the tin cans trailing from the rear and the “Just Married” sign on the hood.

This bouquet was on the gift table.  The copper pail has been in the family for years – brought over from Sweden by my Grandmother.  We also use a copper kettle and my mother’s tarnished silver tea set.  Even the floral designers said it was one of their favorite weddings and fought over which container to use.  I had many of the guests take them homes I would be sure to get them back later.

Bakery themed bridal shower

Bridal Showers can be a lot of fun or they can be deadly.  The deadly description was what we were trying to avoid when my daughter and I were planning her sister’s bridal shower.  The bride loves to bake so her very clever sister thought that a baking theme would be appropriate.  She designed these invites (with help from pinterest) tied up with bakery twine and enclosed a recipe card to be returned at the shower.  From the invites we had our color scheme – pastels – yellow, pink, violet, and green. 

For favors, we continued with our bakery theme making vanilla using vodka and vanilla beans and letting it “steep” for 8-10 weeks.  We purchased brown 4 oz bottles, labeled them and tied them up with the bakers twine.  For the tables, we “painted” clear glass cake plates with a mixture of mod podge and food coloring and sprayed them with white glitter. Each were the one of the pastels of our theme and we made pies to act as centerpieces which would later be used for the dessert: yellow – lemon meringue; pink – strawberry rhubarb; green – key lime; purple – blueberry; white – apple.  Pastel sprinkles were sprinkled on the table cloth like confetti and completed the table design.

Because the bride did not want to open gifts a solution had to be found.  Our remedy was that as the guests arrived, their gifts were taken by the bridesmaids, unwrapped, labeled and displayed.  They then were escorted to the far end of the room where they were served mimosas and appetizers and asked to contribute an idea to the date night jar. Some were later read during the meal. The following poem explains the activity:

Many married couples don’t seem to date

Their social lives pause, then tend to stagnate

Their lives get busy, time travels on

They get old and lethargic and often withdrawn

But Tyler and Katie will be wedded soon

And their last date cannot be their honeymoon.

So think long and hard as to what you would do

If given the chance for a fun rendezvous.

Take pink, green or YELLOW and write a suggestion

That will answer their challenging date night question.

PINK:  AT HOME DATE NIGHT IDEAS

GREEN: INEXPENSIVE DATE NIGHTS

YELLOW:  DATE NIGHTS THAT REQUIRE SOME CASH AND PLANNING

 

The meal was a simple buffet of assorted sandwiches, seasonal soup and salad and condiments.  Between the meal and coffee and dessert, a lips and mustache game was played where the guests were requested to guess who said what from a list of questions that were given to the bride and groom.  It didn’t require a lot of work and the guests learned more about the couple.  In the meantime, the pies were taken from the tables and cut and the guests were invited to sample them over coffee.  Leftovers were encouraged to be taken home. Since time was not taken for opening the gifts, concluding activities were to help the bride to write her vows,  to read some of the date night suggestions and perusing the gifts.The shower was only 2 hours long but was plenty of time to allow for visiting, catching up and visiting with the bride.  All in all, a successful and fun time.

 





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing like the comfort of a meatloaf…

It was a typical freezing cold New England evening and since I was making a meatloaf anyway, I decided to invite some friends to share it.  Many supermarkets now sell ground veal, pork and beef in one package which makes making a meatloaf that much easier.  My recipe is partly my mother in law’s and one I found in a magazine.  It is truly delicious and from what was left of the extra large loaf I made, my guests must have agreed.

In 2 tbls melted butter saute:

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup diced celery
Season with salt and pepper

Sprinkle 1 tsp dried thyme over and add:
3/4 cup grated carrot (buy the packaged grated carrots. it’s easier)
several cloves of garlic minced( you can never have too much garlic) I use a small food processor
Stir until combined then remove from heat and cool.

In large mixing bowl combine:

2 pkgs. of combined ground meats: veal, pork, beef (usually each package is 1 lb.)
1 cup panko crumbs ( or Italien bread crumbs for a little more flavor) soaked in 1/2 cup milk ( I use skim)
2 beaten eggs
1 3/4 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper
Mix with hands and shape into a 9×5 inch loaf in a casserole dish.

Mix:
1 can tomato sauce (small)
1/2 cup water
3 tbls vinegar
3 tbls. brown sugar
3 tbls prepared mustard
2 tsp worcestershire sauce

Spread over entire loaf. I sometimes poke holes in the meatloaf so the sauce sinks into it.  Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour or until thermometer reads 155 degrees.

I served red skinned garlic mashed potatoes with a green salad and a nice crusty bread.  There were eight of us and the meatloaf was gone even after second helpings.

Usually, successful entertaining means going the extra mile and being fancy, but this was one I my best dinner parties ever.  Enjoy!!

 

Christmas Newburg


Christmas 2012 – Nothing says Christmas like a roaring fire and a lighted wreath. Add some mercury glass and candles and you have a hallmark Christmas Card.

For Christmas this year we were in a dilemma.  Up to the day, we had entertained a lot serving ham, filet of beef and turkey – leftovers abound but we couldn’t serve leftovers for Christmas dinner!  What ws left to serve that would be special?  Seafood Newburg.  Nothing is better and no recipe is easier than this one.  You can tinker with amounts depending on what how many mouths you have to feed, add salad and rice and you have an easy but elegant meal.

1 can frozen lobster meat
1 lb sea scallops (fresh)
1 lb frozen easy peel shrimp (raw)
4 tbls. butter
6 tbls. flour
2 cups cream
1 cup water from the saved cooked fish
Sherry to taste.
Saute lobster and scallops, reserve liquids.  Boil 8 cups water, drop in frozen shrimp.  When shrimp returns to boil pour into strainer and then immediately douse with ice water.  Peel the shrimp and add to the rest of fish. Melt butter and add flour to make roux.  Add cream and water, stir until thickened. Add seafood and sherry to taste.  Best if made a day before.  (We have steamed fresh lobster for extra fresh lobster meat and used this water to add to the liquids.   One recipe feeds 6-8.  Serve over rice or toast points

Easter

This year my family and I were lucky enough to be invited out for Easter. For once I didn’t have to clean the house, plan a meal, set up, or cook. It was a wonderful day. My family accompanied me to church which always makes me happy, the speakers were good and we all were able to fit on a pew together. The weather was beautiful for April and when we got home, my daughters and I took the dogs on a walk – our two labs and the neighbors three. When we returned, I started on the appetizers I was to bring. I made onion dip – a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa that I love. A baked Brie which my husband asked for, and then some guacamole. The recipes will follow.

Our niece and her husband are wonderful hosts. They live in a beautiful old home in Portsmouth, NH that they have painstakingly restored. It was a beautiful afternoon and the kids were out enjoying their Easter gifts while the adults munched on the appetizers and caught up. Dinner was quite a spread. They had roasted a pork loin and a ham the night before, sliced them and presented them in large buffet pans. The ham was served with a delicious pineapple and brown sugar sauce that they poured over the ham and covered in foil. A pearl onion sauce was poured over the pork loin, covered as well then both were refrigerated over night. A whole lamb leg was roasted on Easter as were the sides: oven roasted Brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, and asparagus. The refrigerated pans were brought out to warm to room temperature then placed over the hot water heated with sterno. The meat was reheated to perfection without drying out or over cooking. The lamb was sliced and served on a large platter and the veggies were lined up in a third buffet pan.

There was plenty of food, perfectly presented and obviously, delicious.

Guacamole Dip

Mash up 2 to 3 Ripe avocados
Add 1/2 to 1 chopped medium onion
(I like Bermuda onion for added color)
Add chili powder,cumin, and garlic flakes to taste
3 to 4 drops of tobasco sauce
Chopped tomato, no seeds

Mix it all up and serve with tortilla chips

Pan fried Onion Dip
(Barefoot Contessa)

2 large yellow onions
4 tbls. butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
4 oz. Cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayo

Cut onions in half lengthwise and slice 1/8 inches. Heat butter and oil in sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions, peppers, and salt. Sauté for ten minutes then reduce heat and Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for another twenty minutes until onions and caramelized. Cool to room temp. In Food processor fitted with metal blade combine sour cream, cream cheese, and mayo. Add onion mixture, mix thoroughly. Transfer to container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with chips.

Baked Brie

This recipe, like the Guacamole, I just wing it, no measurements.

I scrape the white coating off of a small Brie. On an ovenproof pan I sprinkle a layer of brown sugar and place the Brie on top. I sprinkle additional brown sugar on top and around the cheese, add a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts and dried cranberries. I bake it in a 300 degree oven for twenty minutes until the cheese so fens and begins to spread out. If bringing it to a party, cover in foil and reheat uncovered in your host’s oven for five minutes more, otherwise bake five minutes longer. Serve with crackers.

March Madness

March Madness is just another opportunity to get together with a bunch of friends have some dinner and watch some great basketball.  It also happens around my husband’s birthday so just another reason to get together.  Because it was a semi birthday celebration, I wanted to provided the food and let my friends off the hook, although they all offered.  We purchased steak tips at BJs.  If I haven’t said it before, we like their meat.  We cut them up and marinaded them in our typical way: Ken’s Italian Dressing, a package of Good Seasons Italian, and a ton of garlic.  For ease I use the freeze dried garlic flakes but of course freshly minced garlic is best.  I load the meat in a zip lock bag and pour the marinade over and refrigerate.  I will take them out of the fridge about 1/2 hour before they are to be grilled. We grill exclusively now over charcoal using a chimney to light the coals.  If you use a webber grill, the chimney is the only way to go – no need for lighter fluid.

My friends potato recipe is my husband’s favorite so, like a good wife I prepared them for him.  Usually, my friend takes care of them but she was arriving late so I was on my own. I cut six large potatoes into six spears and soak them in a bowl of water until ready to bake.  In a ziplock bag mix 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper.  Heat the overn to 450 and using a Pampered Chef cookie sheet(large) melt a stick of butter.  My friend swears by the Pampered Chef sheet but if you don’t have one, use what you have.  Dredge the spears in the flour and line each on its side in the cookie sheet, single layer.  Cook for 20 minutes until golden brown and then flip them over and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Other than a salad I had prepared, I served asparagus spears roasted in the oven for 10 minutes.  I just sprinkled olive oil over the asparagus and seasoned with garlic and salt and pepper.  My husband cooked the tips* when I put the asparagus in the oven and everything was ready at the same time. For dessert I served my always successful, always enjoyed Key Lime Pie, see earlier post for that recipe.

We were able to serve it buffet syle and we all ate off our laps while we watched the NCAA semi finals. An easy meal, delicious, enjoyed by all and some great basketball to boot!

* I’m told steak tips are a New England thing.  I have no idea what cut of meat it is but we get them in strips about 2 inches wide and we cut the strips up into chunks. Maybe a butcher would know what cut they might be.  Good Luck!!