Holiday Entertaining Tips

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1. Pick a theme:

I find it easiest to pick a theme: Italian, Mexican, Indian, American,…..That way you are more focused when choosing recipes, all the food tastes good together ( you won’t have chips and salsa mixing into your sushi), often recipes from the same general area use similar ingredients (saves you time and money by not having a long grocery list and using 10 ingredients that you only need 1 Tablespoon of)

 

2. Room temperature is your friend:

When serving only appetizers try to have the majority of them able to be served at room temp, that way you aren’t running around the entire party trying to keep hot food hot and cold food cold, and your guests won’t have to be worried about food poisoning! Really a win win for all. Sample appetizer menu: Mini buttermilk biscuits with honey butter, Black eyed pea dip with carrots and cucumbers, Spicy kale chips, Watermelon kebobs, BBQ mini meatballs and lemon shortbread cookies.

 

3. For a sit-down Dinner, stews and braises are your friends:

If you are serving a sit down meal, make a braised or stewed entree. These dishes usually are very forgiving time wise and don’t need any last minute cooking on your part so you can enjoy your guests instead of all your time in the kitchen.  Sample menu: Butter lettuce and snap pea salad with orange mustard vinaigrette and sliced almonds, Coq au Vin served with crusty bread, and pots de creme)

 

4. Dress up your food:

Make the food look as pretty as possible, we eat with our eyes first. Generous sprigs of Italian parsley or cilantro tucked here and there on a platter looks beautiful, plus it’s cheap!

 

5. Arrange your buffet thoughtfully:

When arranging a buffet have plates at one end and napkins and silverware at the other, that way your guests won’t have to hold onto forks and spoons while they try to dish up a plate. Arrange platters at varying heights not only to create a more visually interesting buffet but it can also create more space of platters. Use cake stands, upside down bowls, a stack of books to balance a plate on etc.

 

6. Guests are happy that they didn’t have to cook:

Last of all remember its only food so relax! The majority of your guests will be so happy that they didn’t have to cook that they will be very lax on judging your culinary skills.

Quick Pickled Persimmons

Yesterday I went to the store specifically to buy a red onion so I could pickle a few slices and put it on a roasted pork and blue cheese sandwich. After returning from the store I realized that the cashier put everything except the onion in my bag! That’s when I looked around the kitchen and saw the fuyu persimmon and decided to use that instead. I thinly sliced half the persimmon and tossed it in a bowl with a generous pour of red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt and set it aside for 30 minutes.

They were fantastic on the sandwich; juicy, sweet, vinegary and tart. I think they’d also be a good addition to a cheese plate or relish tray.
After I had eaten I was kinda glad of the cashier’s mistake.

Chimmichurri Sauce

I made dinner for some friends last night who are gluten-free, dairy-free, vinegar-free, sugar and fruit-free. At first I was a little scared I’d only be able to serve them plain brown rice and vegetables. Then the more I thought about it I realized that South American food would easily meet all their dietary needs and all of my flavor needs. So we had grilled flank steak, roasted sweet potatoes, grilled peppers and chimmichurri sauce to serve over all of it. I also stirred this into some plain Greek yogurt for a great crudite dip!

1/2 Bunch of cilantro

1/2 Bunch of parsely

5 Cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2C Olive oil

1tsp Dried oregano

1tsp Dried thyme

pinch of red chili flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Puree the ingredients into a smooth paste. I like mine pretty thick,but you can thin it out with more oil, a little water or a dash or two of red wine vinegar. This is an intense sauce; a little bit goes a long way. It also freezes very well.

Sweet Potato Pizza with Tomato Chutney

I don’t usually think of sweet potatoes in the spring but I heard of 2 recipe contests that require the use of this tuber. I wanted to develop something easy, healthy and of course tasty.

This pizza can made in about 15  minutes, and it only bakes for about 30 minutes. You could even make it faster by replacing my ketchup based sauce with a store bought tomato chutney. It’s an easy appetizer, snack or even a meal. Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A and C, and fiber. When thinking of a recipe I wanted to create something nearly everyone could enjoy, so there is no meat or dairy in this recipe. Almost vegan, but not quite because of the yeast.

Wish me luck on the recipe contests, but more importantly I hope enjoy the pizza!

1/2tsp Ginger, minced

1 clove of Garlic, minced

1 1/4 tsp Curry powder

1/4C Ketchup

1/2 Sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 pound of Pizza dough *

1/2 tsp Olive oil, plus some for greasing the pan

1 T Thyme fresh leaves

salt

Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease a 9in round cake pan. Stir together ginger, garlic, 1 tsp curry powder and ketchup; set aside. Place the sliced sweet potatoes on a microwave safe dish and precook for 2 minutes on high in the microwave. Stretch the pizza dough to fit the prepared pan, and place on the greased pan (you could use a pizza stone if you have one) spread the ketchup sauce evenly over the dough. Arrange the par-cooked sweet potato slices on top of the sauce. (I gently press on the potatoes so that they stretch the dough to the edges of the pan.) Sprinkle the top of the pizza with the remaining curry powder, 1/2 tsp olive oil and a little salt. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Sprinkle with thyme before serving.

*Most pre-made dough is sold in 1# packages

Want to see some of the other sweet potato recipe entries? Check out http://www.shesimmers.com

and

http://www.gourmetfury.com

Tomato Vinaigrette

Tomato Vinaigrette

My tomato plants are going crazy right now; thank you organic fertilizer! As an alternative to whole tomatoes on a salad I’ve decided to incorporate them into the vinaigrette. This way you can get the bright flavor of ripe tomatoes in every bite. The vinaigrette is great on lettuce, but would also be good on mozzarella with fresh basil for a variation on the classic Caprese salad.

1 1/2 C tomatoes*

3T olive oil

3T balsamic vinegar

1T basil

1 Lemon, juiced

1 tsp Brown sugar

Place in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If you dislike seeds you can strain this through a sieve for a smoother salad dressing.

*I put cherry tomatoes whole, in a Pyrex measuring cup and I roughly chopped the larger tomatoes to get the 1 1/2 cups of tomatoes.

Zucchini Pancakes with Feta and Walnuts

Zucchini are everywhere this time of year! These pancakes are fast and easy, a perfect recipe for a hot summer evening. This makes a great side dish or a light lunch. You could substitute Parmesan for the feta if you prefer.

1 1/2 C zucchini, grated (about 1 medium zucchini)

1 Egg

3T Feta

2 T green onion, chopped

3 T walnuts, toasted and chopped

2 T flour

1/4 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Pepper

Stir all together in a medium sized bowl. Heat a large saute pan, add 1 T oil and drop about 1/4C of the batter into the pan and slightly spread out until it is about 3 inches in diameter. Cook until the pancake is golden brown on one side then flip. Continue to cook until the pancake is golden on both sides.

Zucchini pancakes with feta and walnuts

Tomato Goat Cheese Fondue

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I have big plans for this tomato. When it gets ripe enough I’m going to cut a little off of the top, and a little off of the bottom, so it can stand up. I’ll scoop out the inside of the tomato, leaving the sides intact. I will add about half of the tomato innards back to the tomato shell. Then I’ll season the inside with a little salt and pepper, and top it off with a healthy spoonful of goat cheese, and drizzle it with a little olive oil. I will bake it in a 400 degree oven until the cheese is melted and the tomato has softened, about 20 minutes. I will place it in a small bowl, sprinkle it with fresh chopped basil or thyme. Then I will eat it using toasted frechbread to scoop out the lovely, tomatoey, cheesy goodness. Serve this with a big salad for a light dinner, or serve it as an appetizer