Easy entertaining for summer

We’re having a friend over for dinner this evening.  I was chatting with another friend at the pool who asked what I was cooking for company that made it possible to spend the afternoon lollygagging around the pool.  (She didn’t actually accuse me of lollygagging.)  I wanted to have something good and simple that would allow me to visit with my friend rather than fussing in the kitchen.  We bought crab dip at Graul’s so the appetizer was fixed by somebody else.  I bought sorbet and raspberries for dessert so that will be light and effortless.  Here is the menu for dinner:

Grilled lamb chops (marinated in Worcestershire sauce)

Mache salad with vinaigrette, crumbled blue cheese and walnuts

Rosemary polenta – I made this last night and refrigerated so all I need to do is saute the triangles when it is time to serve.

Polenta

  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 cups cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • additional olive oil and butter (for sauteing)

Melt butter with olive oil over medium heat and add garlic and spices.  Pour in stock, milk and half and half and cook over high heat until boiling.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in cornmeal.  Cook for a few more minutes, stirring until thick.  Add parmesan cheese and pour mixture into a 9 x 9 pan.  Refrigerate.

When ready to serve, cut polenta into squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles.  (Or cut into circles with a biscuit cutter).  Dip in flour.  Melt 1 TB olive oil and 1 tsp butter and cook over medium heat until edges are crispy and polenta is hot.  Serve.

We’re serving a pinot noir with dinner and I’m looking forward to a relaxing evening.  Cheers!

Mother’s Day dinner

Even though my parents, my brother and my sister and her family all live within a few miles, everyone has such hectic schedules that we only have dinner together a few times a year.  We usually have Mother’s Day dinner at our house and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.  I wanted a do ahead menu that would allow us to spend time together.  I went with the menu I used last fall for our new neighbor gathering.  Here is the menu:

Bok Choy salad

  • 1 head of bok choy, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions

topping

  • 1 jar of sesame seeds
  • 2 oz slivered almonds
  • 2 packages of Ramen noodles broken in pieces (do not use seasoning package
  • 2 TB of olive oil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute almonds and Ramen noodles tossing with garlic powder for about 3 – 4 minutes.  Add sesame seeds and sauté an additional 3 minutes.  Cool and store in a covered container until ready to use.

dressing

  • 2 TB soy  sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup olive oil

Boil all ingredients and boil for 1 minute.  Reserve until ready to use.

When ready for salad, toss bok choy and scallions with dressing and then toss in topping.

Sesame noodles with peanut sauce

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 TB chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 package linguine noodles, cooked according to package instructions, drained and rinsed in cool water
  • 1 red pepper minced
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 1 TB sesame seeds

In a food processor, combine garlic and ginger, chopping thoroughly.  Add peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and rice vinegar and combine well.  Toss with noodles until well covered and add red pepper, scallions and sesame seeds.  Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Dressing

  • 3 TB low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 TB rice vinegar
  •  1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3 TB smooth peanut butter
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB finely chopped fresh ginger
  •  1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (save the rest in a glass jar in the refrigerator for chipotle mayo and that wonderful marinade)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender or mix well in a bowl.  (If mixing in a bowl, mince the chipotle pepper.)

Salad

  • 2 cup sliced red cabbage or Napa cabbage
  • 2 cup sliced romaine lettuce
  • 2 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup trimmed snow peas
  •  3 thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 whole chicken breasts, bone in
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 chopped peanuts
  • 1 lime halved

Mix cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro and scallions in a large bowl.

Toss chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350 for about 30 minutes or until thermometer reads 140.  Let cool and then shred chicken meat.  Reserve until ready to use.

Toss lettuce mixture with dressing and top with chicken and chopped peanuts.  Serve with lime halves.

Easy company dinner

We had a friend over for dinner tonight.  I wasn’t sure whether she could be with us last night or tonight so I swapped the meals.  We had leftover celery soup last night and tonight we had Steak Florentine.  This is such an easy dinner and it is so delicious.  Only a few ingredients and minimal prep make it a perfect dinner for entertaining a friend during the week.  It was so easy that I had time to make a quick batch of brownies for dessert!

Steak Florentine

  • steak of your choice (Graul’s had Porterhouse on sale so I bought 2 small ones for 3 of us)
  • olive oil for the steak
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • arugula
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 additional lemon sliced
  • shaved Parmesan cheese

Rub steak with garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Brush with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.  (This can be done ahead of time).  When ready, grill steak to desired doneness, let rest and then slice.  (The Porterhouse is nice because everybody gets some of two kinds of steak.)

In a jar, combine 1/3 cup olive oil with lemon juice and Dijon mustard.  Shake well to combine.  Place arugula on plates and top with dressing.  Top with shaved Parmesan cheese and steak slices.  Serve with sliced lemon.  Squeeze lemon juice onto steak and enjoy.

Steak Florentine

Steak Florentine

Quick brownies

  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Melt chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat, stirring regularly.  Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes.  Stir in flour, eggs and vanilla.  Pour batter into a square baking dish lined with parchment and bake at 350 for 22 minutes.  Cool, cut and serve.

Easy Entertaining

We are having company for dinner tonight – a family whose children go to school with our daughter.  Their 6 year old son is in her class and their daughter is a little older.  I wanted to keep things simple.  We’ll feed the kids chicken tenders and let them watch a movie while we eat.  Here is the menu for the grown ups:

Grilled flank steak, potato gratin and green salad

I made a new marinade for the flank steak

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 TB rosemary, chopped

Combine all ingredients together.  Poke holes in the flank steak using a fork.  Sprinkle steak with kosher salt.  Rub marinade into steak on both sides and refrigerate until ready to grill.  When ready to grill, wipe off marinade so it doesn’t burn and grill until done.

Potato Gratin

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (a food processor speeds the process)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup of cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut garlic clove in half and rub shallow porcelain dish with garlic.  Spread half of the potatoes in dish.  Top with half of cheese and half of cream.  Spread with remaining potatoes and top with remaining cheese and cream.  Sprinkle with pepper.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes.  Gratin should be golden on top.

We’ll have a simple green salad (after the potatoes, we need something with fewer calories!) and I made the Barefoot Contessa’s Orange poundcake for dessert.

Looking forward to a relaxing evening!

Holiday entertaining

One of the things that can make this time of year special is spending time with family and friends.  Unfortunately, many people are afraid to have company and as a result, they postpone inviting people indefinitely.  Make a holiday resolution to host one gathering.  It could be having your 4 nearest neighbors over for a glass of wine and some nibbles, having a few friends back for cookies after an evening church service or hosting a small cocktail party.  If you aren’t used to having company, start small, invite 4 – 6 people over.  Once you are comfortable with that, move up to 10.  Pull out your pretty things, the platter you got as a wedding present that you never use, your grandmother’s silver chafing dish, the holiday glasses that are still in the box, you get the idea.

Make a list of everything you want to serve a few days ahead of time.  If you want a special item (sliced roast beef, Smithfield ham for biscuits, sushi grade fish, etc.), call your local grocer and pre-order.  (You don’t want to assume that something will be available and then find out at the last minute that you can’t get it.)  Go through all of your recipes twice – once to make a list of ingredients for shopping and a second time to make yourself a work plan.  (If I’m hosting a larger gathering, I’ll make a plan of things to do each day leading up to the party – for example, Thursday – bake Parmesan crackers, Friday – toast nuts, make salmon spread, Saturday – grocery store, crab dip, cheese puffs, etc.  You also use the work plan to determine when you need to shop for each ingredient – you’ll probably need more than one trip to the store.)  Get out the serving plates and arrange them.  Make notes and place a piece of paper on each plate with what you will have on it.  The key to making entertaining look easy is having everything done ahead of time.

Buy some beer and wine if you want to keep things simple.  We always put out a bar with gin, vodka, scotch, rum, bourbon and a full set of mixers.  We don’t offer specialty drinks like Cosmpolitans, appletinis or margaritas.  If you are having more than 30 people with a full bar, you may find it helpful to hire a bartender.  Ask a neighbor’s kid who has graduated from college or ask at your neighborhood liquor store or restaurant to see if they can recommend someone.

If the idea of cooking for a group intimidates you, buy everything.  There are so many great prepared items available at grocery and specialty stores, you can entertain without turning on the stove (although some items do require heating!)  🙂  Or buy most of the things and make one thing.  Or if you are like me, go hog wild and make lots of stuff.  The one thing I feel is very important is that people get enough to eat.  Years ago, my husband and I went to a very fancy party.  The home was beautifully decorated and a catering firm had been retained to provide the food.  The food was beautiful – little tiny leaves of endive with delicate nibbles of something in them, etc.  We were stalking the catering help desperately trying to get something to eat.  When we left the party we were so hungry we went to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner.  At the restaurant we saw many other people who had come from the same party.  On the way home I said to my husband “I never want people to leave our house feeling like they have to go out to dinner.”  It is also a very bad idea to serve  people drinks and not give them food to go with it.

I posted holiday cookie ideas last weekend so if the dessert option appeals to you, consider selecting one or more items from that list.  If you want to go for savory options here are some ideas – I’ve noted the ones that are a little more complicated.

Nibbles

These are things that you can pass or put out on a plate.  Pick one of the cheesy options and buy pate or some nuts or olives.   Perfect low stress pairing along with a glass of wine for a casual cocktail invitation or while trimming the tree.

Cheese Puffs

My mom always made these for parties.  They keep well in a tin and only need to be popped into your toaster oven for a few minutes for serving – they are best served hot.  This recipe can easily be multiplied.

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 TB softened butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt

Combine cheese and butter in a mixer.  Add flour and celery salt and mix thoroughly.  Roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  You can use the tines of a fork to flatten slightly and make a waffle pattern on each puff.  Dust with paprika and chill for several hours.  Bake at 450 for 8 minutes.  Store in tins until ready to reheat and serve.

Rosemary walnuts

Most people love nuts and there are lots of recipes for herbed and spiced nuts.  This is one of my favorites.

  • 5 TB unsalted butter
  • 4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups walnuts

Melt butter with rosemary, salt and cayenne.  Toss with walnuts.  Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for 10 minutes.

Parmesan crackers
I’ve gotten hooked on these crackers.  Keep in mind that these are more like a savory cookie and should be enjoyed as is.  Don’t put them next to a dip – it’s a waste of an exceptional cracker.  Use the store bought crackers with dips.
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated cheese (I used half Parmesan and half Romano)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 TB fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cheese with salt and pepper and rosemary in a mixer.  Add butter and beat to combine.  Add flour in 3 batches combining until mixture holds together.  Roll into balls (about 1 TB in size) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Flatten slightly.  Bake about 14 – 16 minutes until edges are browned.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Cardamom cheese straws
These are a little more involved.  If they scare you, go back to top and make the cheese puffs.
  • 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.
Seafood
Most people really love seafood and it is always a hit at parties.  If you want to expand to a few more people choose one or two of the savory nibbles above, and add one (or more) of the selections below and you are up to a cocktail party.  I usually order roast beef and serve it alongside the seafood with rolls, mayo and horseradish.
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.
NOTE: Since it is going in a dip anyway, you don’t need jumbo lump crab for this recipe – lump is fine.  I do insist on Maryland crab meat though.  The crabmeat from Venezuela is much cheaper but it does not have the same flavor and to me it has a sort of blueish appearance that I don’t fine appealing.  (But everybody knows I’m fussy when it comes to food.)

Salmon Spread

My mother-in-law got this recipe in Alaska.  It’s a great way to serve smoked salmon to a group and can be made a few days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Mix all ingredients.  Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill.  Serve with crackers.

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.

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.  This is a little more effort but it is so worth it.
  • 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.
Other options
Other things that I have made for parties which can be found on blog include:
  • asparagus with proscuitto or asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise
  • mushroom and fontina pizzas
  • bruschetta
  • mushroom and shrimp tartlets
  • shrimp seviche
  • garlic mushrooms
  • crabbies
  • tuna tartar

You can always buy:

  • steamed shrimp
  • Smithfield ham to put on biscuits
  • olives, tapenade, etc from an olive bar
  • pate
  • nuts
  • specialty cheeses
  • smoked salmon

 

Easy Friday entertaining

Friday night can be a tough night for having company but we wanted to play paddle tennis last night and have our playing partners (and two daughters) over for dinner after.  The grilled hoisin pork is a great company dinner – I made the marinade the night before so it just needed to be grilled.  We served it with rice and a salad with Ginger dressing.  Our friends brought some delicious smoked salmon pinwheels as an appetizer and thanks to my new practice of freezing leftover baked goods, I had some brownies and some cookies in the freezer.  (We also had leftover pizza from our last delivery in the pizza for the girls.)  All we had to do was grill the pork, microwave the rice and toss the salad.  The result – a fun and relaxing Friday night dinner with friends!

 

Ginger dressing

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TB fresh ginger, minced
  • 3/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 TB honey
Shake all ingredients in a jar and use on salad.  (I used Green leaf lettuce, shredded carrot, water chestnuts and crispy Lo Mein noodles in the salad.)

Grilled Hoisin Pork

  • 1 jar of Hoisin sauce
  • 3 TB honey
  • 2 TB sherry
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 pork tenderloin

Combine Hoisin sauce, honey, sherry and sesame oil in a small saucepan and heat, stirring for about 5 minutes until thick.  Let cool.  Use about 1/2 of the marinade on the pork and refrigerate for 4 -6 hours (or overnight).  Grill pork about 10 minutes or until 140 on a meat thermometer.  Heat remaining sauce and serve with pork.

New Neighbor party!

We are very excited to have several new families with young children in our neighborhood.  We have been in our house for 5 1/2 years and the only thing I haven’t liked is that there haven’t been any kids around.  When I was growing up we had lots of kids around and as a result there were plenty of spontaneous games of hide and seek, sardines, flying statues, tag, etc.  I’m delighted that we almost have 6 kids between 4 and 7 practically in our backyard.

We wanted to welcome the neighbors with a casual dinner.  I thought about doing a cookout but the weather can be iffy and we have found that trying to cook lots of burgers makes the grill get really hot.  I want to be able to visit with our guests and get to know everyone so I wanted a do ahead menu.  I decided to repeat the menu from the tennis team party we did at the end of August.  Everyone liked it, it can all be made ahead of time and unlike last time, I’m not trying to juggle the preparations with a trip out of town.

Here are all the recipes and ingredient lists.

Asian Snack Mix

I got this recipe from my sister.  At Christmas she put this in containers that look like Chinese takeout containers but they were decorated for the holiday.  Cute gift for teachers and friends.

  • 3/4 lb. butter melted
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 2 t. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground red pepper
  • 1/2 t. brown mustard
  • 2 T. sesame oil
  • 1 box rice Chex
  • 1 box wheat Chex
  • 2 5 oz. cans chow mein noodles
  • 2 9.5 oz. jars cashew halves
  • 3 c. sesame sticks
  • 7 oz. jar sunflower seeds
  • 3 c. wasabi peas
  • 1 jar crystallized ginger

Combine first 10 ingredients. Combine all remaining ingredients EXCEPT crystallized ginger & slowly stir in butter mixture tossing to coat.  (You will need a few big bowls.) Spread in even mixture in 5 or so pans.  Bake at 250 for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Cool in pan 10 minutes; spread on paper towels to cool completely. Mince ginger and mix in.  Delicious and good for a crowd.

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnais

  • 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.)  I did 3 lbs of asparagus and doubled the mayo.

Bok Choy salad

  • 1 head of bok choy, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions

topping

  • 1 jar of sesame seeds
  • 2 oz slivered almonds
  • 2 packages of Ramen noodles broken in pieces (do not use seasoning package
  • 2 TB of olive oil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute almonds and Ramen noodles tossing with garlic powder for about 3 – 4 minutes.  Add sesame seeds and sauté an additional 3 minutes.  Cool and store in a covered container until ready to use.

dressing

  • 2 TB soy  sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup olive oil

Boil all ingredients and boil for 1 minute.  Reserve until ready to use.

When ready for salad, toss bok choy and scallions with dressing and then toss in topping.

Sesame noodles with peanut sauce

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 TB chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 package linguine noodles, cooked according to package instructions, drained and rinsed in cool water
  • 1 red pepper minced
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 1 TB sesame seeds

In a food processor, combine garlic and ginger, chopping thoroughly.  Add peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and rice vinegar and combine well.  Toss with noodles until well covered and add red pepper, scallions and sesame seeds.  Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.  (I am doubling this time for 14 adults and 11 kids.)

Chinese Chicken Salad

Dressing

  • 3 TB low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 TB rice vinegar
  •  1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3 TB smooth peanut butter
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB finely chopped fresh ginger
  •  1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (save the rest in a glass jar in the refrigerator for chipotle mayo and that wonderful marinade)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender or mix well in a bowl.  (If mixing in a bowl, mince the chipotle pepper.)

Salad

  • 2 cup sliced red cabbage or Napa cabbage
  • 2 cup sliced romaine lettuce
  • 2 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup trimmed snow peas
  •  3 thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 whole chicken breasts, bone in
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 chopped peanuts
  • 1 lime halved

Mix cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro and scallions in a large bowl.

Toss chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350 for about 30 minutes or until thermometer reads 140.  Let cool and then shred chicken meat.  Reserve until ready to use.

Toss lettuce mixture with dressing and top with chicken and chopped peanuts.  Serve with lime halves.  I am doubling this time.

Lemon iced gingersnap sandwich cookies

  •  1 stick butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Gingersnap cookies (I used Anna’s)

Combine together with a mixer.  Add juice and zest of 1 lemon and beat until spreadable.  Spread on purchased ginger cookies and sandwich together.  Freeze until ready to serve.

Brownies

  • 2 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat.  Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Stir in flour, eggs and vanilla.  Transfer to a  baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit in pan for at least an hour before cutting.

Orange Pound cake – click on link for the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe

Friday night entertaining

Friday night is not the best night for company when you work full time but our friends had family in from out of town and last night was the only time we could get together.  We had a cookout – chicken and burgers on the grill.  I used some “crabbies” from the freezer for pre-dinner snacks and made dessert Thursday night (a repeat of the extremely popular ginger snap sandwich cookies).  The guacamole salad only took a few minutes to assemble and the deviled eggs are a snap.  I invented a new variation on my potato salad which I was very pleased with – apparently everyone else was too because it was all eaten!  Here is the full menu with recipes:

Crabbies

  • 12 English muffins, split
  • 1 lb lump crabmeat
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Melt butter.  Add cheese, mayonnaise and garlic powder.  Gently fold in crabmeat.  Spread muffin halves with crab/cheese mixture.  Freeze in freezer bags until ready to use.

To serve, preheat oven to 375.  Bake on cookie sheets for 10 minutes.  Using a pizza cutter, cut each muffin half in 6 pieces.  Serve hot.  (For those who like a lot of spice, top with red pepper flakes.)

Deviled eggs
Classic picnic food – not the easiest to transport but worth the trouble.
  • 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.

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Perdue Perfect Portions work really well!)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 TB chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used a mix from my garden – parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram and rosemary)

Wash and dry chicken breasts.  Put in a glass dish with all ingredients.  Mix well and marinate up to overnight.  Drain off marinade and grill until done.  Serve on hamburger buns with toppings – lettuce, tomato, red onion, etc.  NOTE: Chipotle mayonnaise is great on these!

Guacamole salad

  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • zest of 2 limes
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 avocados, diced

Combine tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, red onion, jalapeno and lime zest in a bowl.  Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, garlic and cayenne pepper in a separate container and pour over veggies.  Mix well.  When ready to serve, add avocados and stir to combine.

Lemon chive potato salad

I usually make my potato salad with dill, scallions and mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice.  I wanted something a little bit different and was thinking about the delicious flavor of the grilled lemon chive potatoes that we often serve.  I decided to make a lemon chive potato salad.  Here is what I did:

  • 20 oz small red potatoes
  • 2 TB minced chives
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • fresh ground pepper

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender.  When done, drain and put in a glass bowl.  Chop in the bowl using two knives.  Top with fresh ground pepper and chives.  Pour lemon juice on potatoes (it’s important to do this while they are still hot.)  Toss well.  Add mayonnaise and stir.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Ginger snap sandwich cookies

  • Ginger snap cookies – I used Anna’s ginger thins
  • 1 stick butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 4 TB cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp milk

Combine butter, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar together with a mixer.  Split in half.  For chocolate add 4 TB of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 tsp milk.  Beat until spreadable.  For lemon add juice and zest of 1 lemon and beat until spreadable.  Spread on ginger cookies and sandwich together.  Freeze until ready to serve.

Summer appetizers

We are hosting a meeting at our house tonight.  It’s a neighborhood board that my husband is involved with and once a year they do a potluck dinner.  This year we had someone who generously agreed to supply the dinner.  I felt that the least I could do was appetizers.  These are all easy, always a hit and I got most of the work done yesterday.  The asparagus and wasabi has always been a favorite as has the bruschetta.  I tried a new bruschetta topping with shrimp in addition to my stand by spinach and tomato.  Here are all the recipes:

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.)

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Broil about 1 minute per side about 4 inches from broiler.  Let cool and keep crisp in a plastic bag.  (Make sure toasts are cool before bagging or the steam from their heat will make them soggy.)  You can brush with olive oil and garlic but I seem to run out of time before I get to that.
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Shrimp topping
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble – up to overnight.  Spoon onto toasts.

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.