Fireworks!

We had a chance to enjoy fireworks on Maryland’s Eastern Shore last night – fortunately unimpeded by rain.  The forecast for Baltimore’s fireworks tonight is not so good.  Here are some appetizers that make for a great fireworks picnic – if the rain continues you could always open a bottle of wine and enjoy them inside!

Vodka spiked cherry tomatoes

These are the ultimate grown up appetizer.  It’s like having a Bloody Mary on a stick and one of the most popular things I’ve ever put on blog.  They are easy to transport for a picnic – just stick them in a plastic container, fill another container with the salt and pepper and bring some toothpicks.  For an indoor party, they look pretty in a glass bowl.

  • 2 pts cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup good vodka
  • 3 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 TB sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper
Make an x at stem end of each tomato.  Dunk in boiling water for about 20 seconds and then in ice water.  Remove peels.  Combine vodka, vinegar, sugar and lemon zest and soak tomatoes in vodka mixture.  Combine salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Serve tomatoes with toothpicks – spear the tomato and then dip in the salt, pepper mixture.
Crab salad in cucumber cups
These also travel well.  Put the cucumber bags in a big plastic bag and bring the crab salad in a plastic container.  Fill them as you serve them.
  • 2 cucumbers, cut into slices about 3/4 inch
  • 1 pound of crabmeat
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp celery salt (or 1 celery stalk minced)
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Scoop center out of cucumber slices with a spoon.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Gently combine crabmeat with mayo, lemon juice, celery salt and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, mound about 2 tsp of crab salad in cucumber cup and eat.

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.

Blackened Cajun Chicken Pasta Salad
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts split
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz. cajun or blackening seasoning mix
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 – 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
Melt butter.  Dredge chicken breasts in melted butter and then in seasoning mix.  Sear 3 minutes per side in a heavy oven proof skillet and then cook in a 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes until done.  Chill.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.  Chop chicken into bite size chunks and toss all ingredients together.  (If you want spicy, you can add extra seasoning.)  Warning – this is addictive!
Lemon iced gingersnap sandwich cookies
This is the dessert that I created for a fireworks picnic when our friend Kevin requested something with gingersnaps.  They have since become a regular favorite.  Alternatively, you can swap the lemon zest for a few teaspoons of cocoa powder and milk to make cocoa frosting.  I like the cocoa but everyone else seems to prefer the lemon.
  •  1 stick butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Gingersnap cookies (I used Anna’s)

Combine first three ingredients together with a mixer.  Add juice and zest of 1 lemon and beat until spreadable.  Spread on purchased ginger cookies and sandwich together.  Freeze and bring to your picnic.

Happy 4th!

Summer side

We went to a picnic today and I needed something that would hold up well.  Anything with mayonnaise was going to be problematic because I didn’t have refrigeration prior.  I made this guacamole salad and added the avocados at the last minute.  I got compliments on both the appearance and the taste along with requests for the recipe.  Always the sign of a hit!  Sorry I didn’t get a chance to take a picture.

Guacamole salad

  • 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow pepper, 1 red pepper and 1 orange pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 finely chopped red onion
  • 2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • zest of 2 limes
  • juice of 5 limes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 6 avocados, diced

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

Fireworks picnic

Last year we took a picnic with our friends to watch fireworks at Oregon Ridge and listen to the BSO.  This year we have other plans but here are some fun picnic suggestions if fireworks are on your schedule:

Vodka spiked cherry tomatoes

These are the ultimate grown up appetizer.  It’s like having a Bloody Mary on a stick and one of the most popular things I’ve ever put on blog.  They are easy to transport for a picnic – just stick them in a plastic container, fill another container with the salt and pepper and bring some toothpicks.  For an indoor party, they look pretty in a glass bowl.

  • 2 pts cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup good vodka
  • 3 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 TB sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper
Make an x at stem end of each tomato.  Dunk in boiling water for about 20 seconds and then in ice water.  Remove peels.  Combine vodka, vinegar, sugar and lemon zest and soak tomatoes in vodka mixture.  Combine salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Serve tomatoes with toothpicks – spear the tomato and then dip in the salt, pepper mixture.
Crab salad in cucumber cups
These also travel well.  Put the cucumber bags in a big plastic bag and bring the crab salad in a plastic container.  Fill them as you serve them.
  • 2 cucumbers, cut into slices about 3/4 inch
  • 1 pound of crabmeat
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp celery salt (or 1 celery stalk minced)
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Scoop center out of cucumber slices with a spoon.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Gently combine crabmeat with mayo, lemon juice, celery salt and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, mound about 2 tsp of crab salad in cucumber cup and eat.

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.

Blackened Cajun Chicken Pasta Salad
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts split
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz. cajun or blackening seasoning mix
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 – 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
Melt butter.  Dredge chicken breasts in melted butter and then in seasoning mix.  Sear 3 minutes per side in a heavy oven proof skillet and then cook in a 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes until done.  Chill.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.  Chop chicken into bite size chunks and toss all ingredients together.  (If you want spicy, you can add extra seasoning.)  Warning – this is addictive!
Lemon iced gingersnap sandwich cookies
This is the dessert that I created last year for the picnic when Kevin requested something with gingersnaps.  They have since become a regular favorite.  Alternatively, you can swap the lemon zest for a few teaspoons of cocoa powder and milk to make cocoa frosting.  I like the cocoa but everyone else seems to prefer the lemon.
  •  1 stick butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Gingersnap cookies (I used Anna’s)

Combine first three ingredients together with a mixer.  Add juice and zest of 1 lemon and beat until spreadable.  Spread on purchased ginger cookies and sandwich together.  Freeze and bring to your picnic.

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.