Party time

Last night we hosted the parent party for Samantha’s Third Grade.  It was a great opportunity to spend an evening with some very nice people and get to know the parents of the children we hear so much about.  This is not a group we have entertained before so I went with a mix of old and new.  I have folders with notes from parties past and I like to go back to those for favorites and then look in my folders of recipes for some new inspirations.  Here is the menu we used (I wish I had taken a picture of the table):

New inspirations

  • Black bean dip with corn chips
  • Chicken Liver Mousse pate
  • Lemon squares (I used the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe which you can find on Google.)

Old favorites

  • Slow roasted beef tenderloin with mustard horseradish sauce
  • Tuna tartar on tasting spoons
  • Shrimp dip with veggies
  • Asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise
  • Mushroom filling in pastry cups
  • Creme de menthe brownies

I always try to mix it up so there is something to suit every taste.  Here are the recipes (starting with the new inspirations):

Black Bean dip

  • 2 cups dried black beans
  • 1 yellow onion, peel on, cut in half
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 12 oz goat cheese

In a medium saucepan, cover beans with about 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and then let beans sit covered for 1 hour.  Drain and rinse beans.  Return to pot and cover with fresh water (about 2  inches)  Add onion, garlic and cumin and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove onion and garlic.

Put about 1/3 of beans in a 1 1/2 quart casserole and top with 1/3 of goat cheese.  Repeat with additional layers of beans and goat cheese.  (I made to this point the day before and refrigerated until ready to serve.)  Bake at 400 for 45 minutes to an hour or until hot and serve with corn chips.

Chicken Liver Mousse pate

  • 1 lb chicken livers
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB brandy
  • 5 TB butter
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Trim chicken livers and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil over high eat and sear livers on all sides.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 – 4 minutes until livers are browned on outside but still pink inside.  Remove livers to a dish.  In pan with remaining fat, cook shallots and garlic over medium heat until translucent.  Reduce heat to low and add brandy.  Add 4 TB of butter and nutmeg and stir.  Remove from heat.

Add liver and butter mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth.  Add remaining butter.  Whip cream into soft peaks and fold into pate.  Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: This is best if made the day before.

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.  Our friends wanted to know how the beef had been cooked – it is so consistently rare throughout, they thought we had cooked it sous vide.

Mustard Horseradish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 TB whole-grain mustard
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuna Tartar
  • 1 lb fresh tuna, chopped finely
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper with seeds removed, minced
  • 1 1/2 avocados, chopped

Place tuna in a bowl.  Whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Pour over tuna.   Stir in  scallions, jalapeno and avocado.  Refrigerate for a few hours until ready to serve.

Shrimp dip
This recipe came from my mother and it is delicious.  I am generally suspicious of recipes made with canned soup but this is very good and always popular.
  • 1 can cream of shrimp soup
  • 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 4 oz canned ripe black olives, chopped
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • dash Worcestershire
  • 1/2 cup cooked shrimp, chopped

Melt soup and cream cheese in top half of a double boiler until completely melted and combined.  Add remaining ingredients.  Serve hot (in a chafing dish) with crackers and raw veggies.

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste
Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)

Creme de Menthe Brownies

Base layer:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • 4 lightly beaten eggsw
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients in a mixture and mix until well mixed.  Pour into 9 x 13 greased pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.  Let cool.

Green icing:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 – 4 TB Creme de Menthe

Beat together and spread over brownies.  Let set.

Chocolate topping:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 stick butter

Melt chocolate chips and butter.  Cool slightly and spread over green icing layer.  Let set.  Cut into small pieces.

Pot luck

Tonight we were invited to a cookout with friends in the neighborhood who have kids at our daughter’s school.  It was a beautiful evening and a fun get together with some people we knew and some we didn’t.  Lots of kids meant that Samantha had a wonderful time running around and playing.  I volunteered to bring deviled eggs and creme de menthe brownies (two of Samantha’s favorite things).  Here are the recipes:

Deviled eggs
When I said I would bring deviled eggs our hostess immediately said “I love deviled eggs.”  Almost everyone loves deviled eggs and we are very happy that while shopping over the weekend we found the perfect carrier for transporting deviled eggs at Sur la Table.
  • 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.

Creme de Menthe Brownies

These are pretty easy to make – you just have to allow time for each layer to set.  They do not do well sitting outside in super hot weather.

Base layer:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • 4 lightly beaten eggsw
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients in a mixture and mix until well mixed.  Pour into 9 x 13 greased pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.  Let cool.

Green icing:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 – 4 TB Creme de Menthe

Beat together and spread over brownies.  Let set.

Chocolate topping:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 stick butter

Melt chocolate chips and butter.  Cool slightly and spread over green icing layer.  Let set.  Cut into small pieces.

Party planning

We hosted my 30th high school reunion last night.  It was great fun having everyone – I only wish we had a slightly higher turnout.  My husband and I love having parties and of course, I was able to spend some of my travel time last week thinking about menus.  I like to have a variety of things so there is something for everyone and I don’t want anyone to leave hungry.  Here is the menu:

  • Beef Tenderloin
  • Crab DIp
  • Shrimp Seviche with tortilla chips
  • Mushroom and Fontina pizzas
  • Seared Tuna with wasabi sauce
  • Vodka cherry tomatoes
  • Cardamom cheese straws
  • Asparagus with proscuitto
  • Salmon and potato terrine
  • Creme de menthe brownies and macaroons
I made everything except the macaroons.  It wasn’t a big party – about 25 people and as usual, I made a little too much food.  I decided to try a few experiments since it was a smaller crowd and I would say the results were mixed.  Here are specifics for fixing each and comments:
Beef Tenderloin
The beef was very good.  First key is to start with good quality meat – we bought the whole tenderloins, trimmed and tied from our local grocery store.  Season the beef with salt and pepper.  My husband cooked them whole but you can cut them in half – it makes them a little easier to handle and reduces the cooking time.  Preheat oven to 475.  Using a heavy roasting pan with vegetable oil, start the beef on top of the stove over 2 burners.  Sear about 2 minutes a side so beef is browned on all sides and then cook in oven for about 20 minutes or until internal temperature is 125 for medium rare.  My husband sliced the tenderloin and we served it with sliced french bread and horseradish sauce, mayonnaise and purchased bearnaise sauce.  We were disappointed in the bearnaise sauce but the beef was great.  And having leftover tenderloin is not a bad thing.
Crab Dip
This recipe came from my mother-in-law and everyone loves it.  It is quick and easy to fix and is easily doubled or tripled for larger crowds.
  • 1 lb crab meat
  • 2 packages cream cheese softened (we usually use low fat)
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 2 heaping TB mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Combine cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, seasonings and half of the cheese.  Fold in crab meat and top with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and serve hot with crackers.
Shrimp Seviche
Christie makes this a lot and I love it.  It’s light and healthy but it’s a little bit hard to eat because it’s juicy.  I made corn tortilla cups from a Martha Stewart recipe and was planning to serve it in those but they were a disaster.  I was glad that I tried them ahead of time because they were so hard to chew, I threw them out and used blue corn tortilla chips.  I thought it was good but we have a lot of this leftover as well.  I think it’s a better summertime thing (along with the vodka cherry tomatoes which I’ve blogged before and are usually popular but did not fly off the table last night.)
  • 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined and chopped into 5 pieces each
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 TB orange juice
  • 1 large garlic clove pressed
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 yellow pepper, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 TB minced red onion
  • 1 mango, peeled and finely chopped
Put shrimp in a large bowl with juices and garlic.  Add olive oil, peppers, cilantro and onion and stir well.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Add mango and refrigerate.  Serve with tortilla chips and plenty of napkins!
Mushroom and Fontina pizza
This came from a Martha Stewart book.  Of course, she makes her own pizza dough but I cheated and bought dough from Trader Joe’s.  The trick is to roll it into longer ovals and cut crosswise in small slices to make it easy to eat.  I made a lot of topping and almost all of it disappeared.  This is also a good topping to put on Boboli shells for a mid-week dinner.
  • 1 1/4 lbs mixed mushrooms (I used oyster, shiitake and cremini), cleaned and chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 10 oz Fontina cheese, grated
  • cornmeal
  • Pizza dough
Saute mushrooms in olive oil in 4 batches, seasoning with salt and pepper.  After mushrooms have cooked, pour white wine into pan and turn heat to high.  Scrape up pan bits and cook until wine is reduced to about 1 TB and pour over reserved mushrooms.  Roll pizza dough in ovals on a work surface dusted with cornmeal and top with mushrooms and cheese.  Cook on a hot pizza stone at 500 degrees about 10 minutes per pizza.  Slice and serve.
Seared tuna with wasabi sauce
I almost always have this for parties because it is one of my favorite things.  I special order sushi grade tuna from my grocery store and it makes the difference.
  • 1 1/2 lbs of sushi grade tuna
  • 1 TB black sesame seeds
  • 1 TB sesame seeds
  • 1 TB poppy seeds
  • 1 TB canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 TB wasabi paste (can be made by combining equal parts of wasabi powder and water)
  • flat bread crackers
Cut tuna into long blocks.  Season with salt and pepper.  Combine sesame seeds and poppy seeds in a shallow pan and dip tuna blocks in seeds, coating each side.  Using a non-stick pan over medium high heat, heat canola oil and sear tuna blocks about 2 minutes a side.  (You want tuna to be rare).  Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator.  Combine sour cream and wasabi paste.  When ready to serve, slice tuna and put on flat bread crackers – top with a small amount of sauce.
Vodka cherry tomatoes
I’ve blogged these many times so you can search blog for recipe.  They look pretty in a glass bowl but not many of them were eaten last night.  My  friend Kevin will be happy – he thinks they make a great vegetable with dinner so I have a call into him to come pick up some leftovers.
Cardamom cheese straws
I had never made these before but they are definitely a repeat.  After the first batch I decided I liked them so much I would make a second batch.  They did not take long to make and I love the cardamom flavor – you could certainly substitute other spices and I think I’ll experiment.
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • large pinch salt
  • 1/3 stick butter, diced
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese grated
  • 1 TB plus 1 tsp milk
  • 1 egg
Pulse flour, cardamom and salt together in a food processor.  Add butter and pulse until mixture is in small balls.  Add cheese and 1/ tsp of milk and pulse until dough starts to form.  Remove from processor and knead until smooth.  Form into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator and on a work surface sprinkled with flour roll into a rectangle – about 10 x 8 inches.  Cut into 1/4 inch wide straws.  Place on baking sheets covered with parchment paper.
Combine egg and milk and whisk.  Brush straws with mixture and bake in a 350 degree oven for 14 minutes, switching sheets halfway through.  Remove from oven and cool.
Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto
  • 1 1/2 lbs of asparagus, tough ends removed
  • 1/2 lb proscuitto, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened
Boil water and blanch asparagus in batches, 2 minutes per batch.  Remove and rinse in cold weather to stop cooking.  Refrigerate to cool.  Spread prosciutto slices with cream cheese and roll asparagus.  Serve.
Salmon and potato terrine
This recipe came from Martha Stewart and was incredibly complicated.  We made it Friday night and it took the two of us about an hour and required the purchase of a terrine pan.  It turned out well and looked pretty.  This is not practical for large parties.  I’m not going to blog the recipe but will try other terrines in the future.
Creme de Menthe brownies
These are always popular and they look pretty.  I’ve blogged before so you can search for recipe.
One of the things you’ll notice about the recipes is other than the pizzas, everything can be made ahead of time.  I have wonderful helpers who I hire when I give parties.  I like to make the food myself so I don’t want to hire a caterer but I also want to enjoy being with friends rather than making drinks and refilling crackers at the table.  Making the food ahead of time allows you to enjoy your own party.  Pick a couple of the above and invite a few friends over!

Easy summer entertaining

We have had an insanely busy weekend.  Last week I was away for work and my flight home on Friday was late.  We had friends coming over for dinner on Saturday and were playing golf Saturday afternoon.  I knew I would be pressed for time (did not quite realize that I would get out of the shower less than 15 minutes before our guests were arriving.)  I made shish kabobs since I could make the marinade and get everything prepped in the morning.  We served them with rice which is quick and easy to fix.  Before dinner we munched on crabbies from the freezer and for dessert I planned on hot fudge sundaes.  My daughter had other ideas.  Saturday morning she decided we needed to make “the brownies with the green icing”.  These are three layer creme de menthe brownies and everyone loves them.  Since I knew we were also having friends over Sunday night, I gave in and we made the first layer at 6:30 Saturday morning.  Layer 2 was made before golf and layer 3 right after.  They are delicious.  Planning ahead made our evening fun and kept me from worrying about it on the golf course.

Shish Kabobs

  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 3/4 cups soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TB dry mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TB pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp parsley flakes
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
Mix all ingredients in a large jar and shake well.  Marinate sirloin cubes, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and quartered red onion.  Skewer and grill.  Serve over rice.
Creme de Menthe Brownies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Combine all ingredients in a mixer and pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Bake at 350 for 27 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 – 4 TB Creme de menthe
Beat ingredients together until well combined.  Spread over brownies and allow to set.
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 stick butter
Melt together, cool slightly and spread over brownies.  Allow to set.
Cut brownies into small squares – they are very rich.  Enjoy!

Creme de Menthe Brownies

My daughter and I were invited to a gathering of some old friends from high school last night.  I asked what I could bring and dessert was suggested.  I let my 4 year old choose and she said “The brownies with the green icing”.  These brownies are very rich so cut them in small pieces.  They aren’t hard to make but you have to allow time for each of the three layers to set.

Creme de Menthe Brownies

Base layer:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • 4 lightly beaten eggsw
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients in a mixture and mix until well mixed.  Pour into 9 x 13 greased pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.  Let cool.

Green icing:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 – 4 TB Creme de Menthe

Beat together and spread over brownies.  Let set.

Chocolate topping:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 stick butter

Melt chocolate chips and butter.  Cool slightly and spread over green icing layer.  Let set.  Cut into small pieces.