Family picnic

Our socially distant outdoor family dinner on Sunday included a mix of old favorites and new experiments.

Appetizers

A few years ago I saw a recipe for a Mexican style shrimp cocktail. I tweaked and made my own variation which I wrote down on a piece of paper. While I can visualize the paper, I could not locate it. I tried to recreate from memory. I think it’s pretty adaptable to what you have on hand. Everyone seemed to like it.

Mexican shrimp cocktail

  • 1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 400 for 8 – 10 minutes. Cut in half lengthwise.
  • 1 bottle Clamato
  • 2 avocados, chopped
  • 2 minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 minced shallot

Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate for 1 – 4 hours. Serve in small bowls or glasses with spoons.

Guacamole

  • 4 ripe avocados
  • 1 TB lime juice
  • 1 TB sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 TB salsa
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • cilantro (optional)

Mash avocados, add remaining ingredients and mash until well combined.  (This is the part of cooking where toddlers excel!).  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  This is one of the few recipes I make where I don’t skimp on salt.  Salt and the chili powder are the two “magic” ingredients that you should consider adding.  Let sit in a bowl with the avocado pits in the guacamole until ready to serve.  (That keeps it from turning brown.)

Entree

Keith wanted to try a new grilled chicken recipe and also offered up burgers. The chicken was amazing!

Slaw

  • 1 cup chopped scallions (white and green)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 tsp honey
  • 2 jalapeno chiles, chopped
  • 4 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 package slaw mix
  • 1 package purple slaw mix
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 tsp poppy seeds

Combine first 6 ingredients in a blender. Toss with slaw mix and onion. Add in poppy seedss and refrigerate until ready to serve chicken.

Chicken

  • 1 TB ancho chile powder
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 1 TB ground coriander
  • 1 TB ground ginger
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 2 TB Koser salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 TB chili powder
  • 2 whole boneless, skin-on chicken breasts (if you don’t want to bone the chicken breasts, ask your butcher to do it for you)
  • canola oil

Combine all spices. Brush chicken with canola oil and season with spice blend. (Save the rest for another time.) Cook on hot grill about 5 minutes skin-side down to sear. Cook on grill mat on reduced heat until done. (Our chicken breasts were big so it cooked for another 18 minutes.) Bring inside and pour sauce over breasts (see below). Let rest for 10 minutes.

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Sides

Deviled eggs

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire
  • 1.4 tsp dry mustard (more if you want them spicier)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 TB mayonnaise

Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, turn off heat and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Potato Salad

There are lots of recipes for potato salad and I like most of them but once I discovered this one, it is my default.

  • Red potatoes, 3 pounds
  • scallions, 1 bunch thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • fresh dill, chopped
  • freshly ground pepper

Boil potatoes until tender.  Let cool until you can handle and then chop potatoes.  Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice (adjust to your taste) and toss over potatoes.  Add sliced scallions and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Dessert

Congo Squares

  • 2 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 lb brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 package chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Melt butter over low heat.  Remove butter from heat and stir in brown sugar.  Beat eggs into butter, sugar mixture one at a time.  Stir in flour mixture and then chocolate chips.  Bake in a 9 x 13 pan for 25 – 30 minutes.   Let cool and cut into squares.

Summer entertaining

My daughter has a fall birthday so she is going to do a pre-first year before starting First Grade.  It turns out that none of the other kids from her section of kindergarten are going to Pre-First – they are all going on to First Grade.  Her class won’t be very big and we wanted to start giving the kids a chance to get together so we’re hosting some families tonight.  Samantha is referring to it as our party with new friends!

It is summer time and this is a family event so we want it to be casual and easy.  The horrible heat wave from earlier in the week has eased and although it’s still hot, it isn’t as humid so the kids should be able to run around outside.  We’re going with classic cookout food and I’ve been very mature about letting go of my normal control freak need to do everything (in my opinion!)  One of the families is bringing an appetizer and someone else is bringing dessert.  Here is the menu we’re supplying:

  • Grilled hamburgers and grilled chicken breasts with hamburger buns, cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, etc.  (In addition to ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, I’m going to put out some chipotle mayonnaise
  • Deviled eggs
  • Potato salad
  • green salad

I’m marinating the chicken in a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and herbs.  Here are the recipes for the deviled eggs (which Samantha already helped me make) and the potato salad:

Deviled eggs
It doesn’t matter how many deviled eggs I make, I don’t think I have ever had leftovers.  Typically you’ll hear people say “I haven’t had deviled eggs in ages” as they pop them in their mouths!
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: For fancy parties, a small bit of caviar can be added to tops of deviled eggs.
Potato Salad
There are lots of recipes for potato salad and I like most of them but once I discovered this one, it is my default.
  • Red potatoes, 3 pounds
  • scallions, 1 bunch thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper
Boil potatoes until tender.  Let cool until you can handle and then chop potatoes.  Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice (adjust to your taste) and toss over potatoes.  Add sliced scallions and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.