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Juicy steak on barbecue

I’m super-excited today to share some great summer cookout tips from Jack Vogt, Tony Roma’s Pitmaster just in time for the summer barbecue season!

How to prep for an Unforgettable Summer Cookout

 

Before you fire up the grill, you’ve got to get your backyard kitchen aka THE GRILL prepped and ready. Here’s a checklist to get you set for your first summer cookout:

 

  • Grill. If you already own a grill, drag it out of storage and give it a good scrub. Use a stiff wire brush to scrape off the grate and follow the directions in your grill’s instruction manual for cleaning the rest of the grill. If you’re new to the grilling game, check out this list of grills and smokers from AmazingRibs.com to help you find a grill that matches your needs and budget.

 

  • Fuel. If you’re working with a gas grill, you’ll need to fill your propane tank. While you’re there, grab a spare. You never want to get halfway through grilling the perfect prime rib and discover you’re out of gas. If you have a charcoal grill, pick up a bag of charcoal briquettes, a chimney starter and a few pieces of newspaper to get the fire started.

 

  • Grilling tools. Many stores sell BBQ or grill tool sets, but you can also buy each tool separately depending on what you already have at home. The most important tools to have handy are tongs, a spatula, a basting brush and a fork. You may also want to pick up a few metal skewers for kebabs (and everyone’s favorite dessert – s’mores!).

 

  • Instant Read Thermometer. Using a meat thermometer will ensure your meat is properly cooked – no one wants their guests to leave with a stomachache. A thermometer will also help you gauge when to pull the meat off to avoid an overcooked, dry dinner.

 

  • Flashlight or grill light. If you think your summer party will extend past daylight hours, you’ll need some direct lighting on the grill. You can buy a grill light that clips onto the side of the grill so you can work hands free. If you’re using a flashlight, enlist a friend to assist you.

 

Now that you’ve got the grill prepped, here are a few of my tested tips to make this summer’s cookouts the most successful (and delicious) yet!

 

  • Choose the best cut. The best cut (and type) of meat may depend on your budget and the number of people at your party, but these three are my favorites.

Baby back ribs are the most tender cut. While they are one of the pricier options, this cut is sure to please your guests. You can start cooking ribs before your guests arrive and finish them on the grill when you’re ready to eat.

 

Chicken breasts, legs and thighs are all great options if you’re feeding a group. Chicken is less expensive than ribs and it is easy to cook (read: hard to mess up!), so it’s a good choice if you’re a grilling novice.

 

Beef skirt steak may have a bad reputation as a tough cut of meat, but it can be real crowd pleaser when cooked on the grill. Plus, it can be cooked quickly (about four minutes on each side) so you won’t have to worry about keeping hungry guests waiting.

 

  • Marinate to perfection. Marinades are used to enhance the flavors of your chosen meat and your marinade options are almost limitless. Most marinades consist of a fat (like olive oil), an acid (like citrus or wine), and flavoring (herbs and spices), but as always, there are exceptions to this rule. Whether you are making your own marinade or using a prepared one, you’ll want to make sure you give the meat enough time to soak up all the flavor.

 

If you’re working with seafood, a short marinating time is best; an hour or two is plenty of time to infuse seafood with flavor. You can soak hard vegetables anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours and softer vegetables for about 30 minutes. You have more leeway when it comes to meat, which can be marinated anywhere from one hour to overnight (which may be the most convenient if you are planning a party for a lot of people).

 

Keep in mind that the thinner the food is cut, the less time it will need to marinate. Marinades that are high in acid also require less time as the acid breaks down tissue and can toughen the meat if left to soak for an extended period of time.

 

Safety tip: Don’t ever reuse a marinade as it can contain harmful bacteria.

 

  • Seasoning is everything! You may think that since you’ve already marinated your meat, you don’t have to worry about seasoning, but think again! Seasoning with salt and pepper will help bring out the flavors you have infused into the meat. Even if you decide to skip the marinade and go with a dry rub, you still want to make sure you include salt and pepper.
  • Pre-cook meat. Before your guests arrive, heat the meat most of the way so all you have to do is finish on the grill. You can also purchase pre-cooked ribs, pulled pork or chicken at your local supermarket. Easy to prepare and ready to serve in about 15 minutes, they’re the perfect option for entertaining, plus you’ll have more time to socialize and more room on the grill for other dishes.

 

  • Maintain the correct temperature. Cooking your meat to the proper temperature can mean the difference between a juicy steak and a dry one. Use your grill’s lid and vents to help you control the temperature.

 

The difference between using your grill’s lid and leaving it open is like the difference between oven and stovetop cooking. The lid is useful in trapping not only heat, but also smoke and flavor. If you don’t use the lid, you’re only cooking from underneath, which is preferable for thin foods, but not for foods that are more than ¾ inch thick.

 

Basic rule of thumb: If the food is thin or you need to watch its color, leave the lid off. If it’s over an inch thick, close the lid and use a high quality grill thermometer.

 

The key to successful grilling is to remain in control of the heat. It’s also important to remember that the charcoal or wood is not the only fuel- oxygen also plays a role. Grills have an intake vent and an exhaust vent, and by manipulating these vents you can control the temperature. The intake damper brings oxygen to the fire, and the exhaust damper helps the intake vent do this, while also allowing gases to escape.

 

Below are a few recipes to cook on the grill this summer!

Open-faced Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Sandwich

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes | Total time: 50 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 8 slices Texas Toast
  • 4 cups prepared macaroni and cheese, warmed
  • 2large onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices Gouda cheese
  • 8 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 pkg. (2 cups) Tony Roma’s BBQ Pulled Pork
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high, about 400°-450°F, and lightly oil the grate.
  1. Place sliced onions into a 6-inch square piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Close foil around onion slices.
  2. Set foil packets on lower rack of a gas grill or directly on top of hot coals on a charcoal grill. Cook for 30-35 minutes. While waiting for the onions to caramelize, heat Tony Roma’s Pulled Pork as per package instructions.
  3. Butter both sides of each slice of toast. Layer each with one slice of cheddar cheese, ¼ cup macaroni and cheese, ¼ cup pulled pork, ¼ cup caramelized onions, and one slice of Gouda cheese.
  4. Working in batches of four, cook the sandwiches until the cheese melts and the bread is golden, about 5 minutes.
  5. Drizzle with barbeque sauce and enjoy!

 

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awonton gooeyI have three words that are gonna rock your world.

Won Ton S’mores.

That’s right, Won Ton S’mores.

If you’ve never had them, run to the store and get the simple ingredients as fast as humanly possible to rectify the situation!

Are you heading to or hosting a Super Bowl Party this weekend? If so, you’ll be the MVP if you make a batch of these decadent little devils.

The wonderful folks at Nasoya recently gave me the opportunity to test out their Asian Style Wraps. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was “how can I make dessert with these?”

Below, you’ll find the Won Ton S’mores recipe along with a few other tasty treats using Nasoya’s Won Ton and Egg Roll Wraps.

awonton ingredients

Ingredients

 

Place a miniature chocolate candy bar in the center of a Won Ton wrap.

Place a miniature chocolate candy bar in the center of a Won Ton wrap.

Add mini-marshmallows. If you use more than three it's almost impossible to get the wrap to seal.

Add mini-marshmallows. If you use more than three it’s almost impossible to get the wrap to seal.

 

Moisten the edges and fold the corners into the center. Press all the edges together to seal. This is very important!

Moisten the edges (use water or egg whites) and fold the corners into the center. Press all the edges together to seal. This is very important!

Heat oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat and fry for just a few seconds on each side until wrap is brown. Do not overcook! If you do, your marshmallows will disappear.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat and fry for just a few seconds on each side until wrap is brown. Do not overcook! If you do, your marshmallows will disappear.

Drain on paper towels.

Drain on paper towels.

Yum! You dust with powdered sugar before serving, if you wish.

Yum! You can dust with powdered sugar before serving, if you wish.

 Won Ton S’mores

1 package of Nasoya Won Ton Wraps

1 bag of miniature marshallows

1 bag of miniature chocolate bars

Place one chocolate bar in the center of a wrap then add three marshmallows. Using water or egg white, moisten the edges of the wrap. Fold the corners of the wrap up into the center  and press edges to seal.

Add enough oil to coat the bottom of a heavy skillet and warm over medium-heat. When oil is hot, add S’more and fry on each side for just a few seconds, until lightly browned. Remove and drain grease on paper towel, then savor the crispy outside and deliciously gooey inside!

***

Sausage Cups

Sausage Cups

Sausage Cups

These are incredibly easy and unbelievably tasty. They’ll score a touchdown with all your football fans!

Four ingredients - that's it!

Four ingredients – that’s it!

Line a min-muffin pan with Won Ton wraps. Gently fold them into the cups.

Line a min-muffin pan with Won Ton wraps. Gently fold them into the cups.

Cook the sausage and drain, then mix with cream cheese and shredded colby-jack. Spoon into cups and bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, until edges are brown.

Cook the sausage and drain, then mix with cream cheese and shredded colby-jack. Spoon into cups and bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, until edges are brown.

Sausage Cups

1 package Nasoya Won Ton Wraps

1 pound sausage

8 ounces of cream cheese, softened

1 cup shredded colby-jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Fry sausage and drain grease.

Mix sausage with cream cheese and shredded cheese. Set aside.

Line a mini-muffin pan with Won Ton wraps by gently folding a wrap into each muffin cup. Spoon sausage mixture into each wrap and bake for about eight minutes, until edges of the wrap are brown.

***

Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls

burger roll plated 2If you enjoy a good bacon cheeseburger, give these easy wraps a try. Full of great flavors, you won’t fumble by serving these to your hungry guests!

Ingredients

Ingredients

Brown the hamburger and drain, then mix with bacon and  cheese.

Brown the hamburger and drain, then mix with bacon and cheese.

Spoon filling onto an egg roll wrap. You'll use about two tablespoons of filling.

Spoon filling onto an egg roll wrap. You’ll use about two tablespoons of filling.

Fold the wrapper (take one corner toward the middle, then fold in the two ends, then finish rolling. Moisten edges with water or egg white to seal.

Fold the wrapper (take one corner toward the middle,  fold in the two side corners, then finish rolling. Moisten edges with water or egg white to seal.)

You can bake these in the oven at 400 for about eight minutes.

You can bake these in the oven at 400 for about eight minutes.

Or you can fry them for just a minute. Of course, we liked the flavor of the fried better than the baked!

Or you can fry them for just a minute. Of course, we liked the flavor of the fried better than the baked!

burger roll platedServe with ketchup or barbecue sauce… and don’t forget the pickles!

Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls

1 package of Nasoya Egg Roll Wraps

1 pound of hamburger

1 cup of bacon bits

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Season hamburger with your favorite seasonings and brown. Drain. Mix with bacon bits and cheese. Spoon about two tablespoons of meat mixture onto the center of an egg roll wrap in a rectangle. Fold the end of the wrap nearest you into the center. Fold in the two side edges, then roll the wrap, sealing the edges by moistening with water or egg whites (I used water, and it worked fine).

You can either bake or fry these.

If baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for about eight minutes or until edges start to brown.

If frying, heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry one side, then the other (takes about a minute total).

Serve with a side of ketchup or barbecue sauce for dipping.

***

Fruit Ravioli

a fruit ravioli pile2 It’s a guaranteed score with these little fruit pies!

Ingredients

Ingredients

Spoon a heaping teaspoon of filling onto a Won Ton wrap.

Spoon a heaping teaspoon of filling onto a Won Ton wrap.

Top with a second wrap.

Top with a second wrap.

This step is really, really important. Moisten the edges of the wrap and fold them up once. Then moisten the new edges and roll them inward.

This step is really, really important. Moisten the edges of the wrap and fold them inward once. Then moisten the new edges and roll them inward.

Crimp the edges with a fork to seal. If you don't get them sealed, the juice will explode out while you fry them. (Not that this happened to me.)

Crimp the edges with a fork to seal. If you don’t get them sealed, the juice will explode out while you fry them. (Not that this happened to me.)

Fry them in oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. It should take a minute (or less) to brown both sides.

Fry them in oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. It should take a minute (or less) to brown both sides.

Drain on paper towels.

Drain on paper towels.

 

Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Fruit Ravioli

1 package of Won Ton Wraps

1 can of fruit pie filling

powdered sugar

*Note – You can use any flavor of canned pie filling.

Spoon a heaping teaspoon of pie filling into the center of a Won Ton wrap. Top with a second wrap. Moisten the edges of the wraps and fold them inward. Moisten the new “edge” and fold it inward a second time. Using a fork, crimp the edges to make sure they are sealed.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry each side for about 30 seconds, or until brown. Drain on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar then stand back and watch them disappear!

***

Enjoy the Super Bowl and party safely!

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Today is National Pizza Party Day!

Since I know you don’t want to miss out on the fun, here are some links to great pizza recipes!

pesto pizza

Easy Pesto Pizza from Budget Savvy Diva

pizza chicken garlic

Roasted Garlic Chicken & White Sauce Pizza from The Best Blog Recipes

pizza greek

Greek Pizza from Two Peas and Their Pod (I will be making this one for sure)

pizza pull apartEasy Pull Apart Pizza Bread from Sweet and Simple Living

pizza brownieAnd we can’t forget dessert! Here’s a Brownie Berry Pizza from Recipe 4 Living

She Who Will Be Making Pizza Soon

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Since Cinco De Mayo is fast approaching, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recipes with you today.

 

Devour in bliss.

Devour in bliss.

Fruit Salsa

The combination of cinnamon-y chips with the fresh fruit is amazing.

Taco Bites are always a crowd pleaser.

Taco Bites are always a crowd pleaser.

Taco Appetizers

These are so yummy and easy to make and disappear almost as fast as you can make them.

enchiladas plated

Beefy or Chicken Enchiladas

Cheesy, filling and delicious!

You can pour a glaze over the top, lavish on a ganache, dust with powdered sugar and accent with berries or whipped  cream.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

The perfect finish to any meal!

She Who Needs to Do some Baking

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st. pat's rice krispie

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d share some links to a few fun recipes today. The one above is from classyclutter.net  Who can’t picture the Leprechaun singing “Frosted Lucky Charms, They’re Magically Delicious!”

st. pat pancakes

st pat quiche

 

st pat preztel

st. pat popcorn

st pat brownie

Yum!

She Who Is Craving Mint… and Chocolate

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Lemon Panna Cotta plated

As the grand finale for my Wish It Were Spring theme lunch, I went with Lemon Panna Cotta for dessert. That was a delicious decision. The smooth custard topped with the lemony curd and candied lemon peel created bursts of spring-time flavor with every bite.

It isn’t hard to make, but does take some time and planning ahead. I prepared everything the day before the gathering, because the Panna Cotta needs to sit for at least eight hours before serving.

lemon panna cotta ingred
The cast of characters
Begin by sprinkling gelatin over 1/4 cup cold milk.
Add sugar to the cream
Add in vanilla, stir well and cook for about four minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Sorry, I forgot to take photos of the next step, but you remove from heat, stir in gelatin then add in the milk. Pour into cups or forms and refrigerate, tightly covered with plastic wrap, at least eight hours or overnight.
Lemon Pavlova flowerI used a silicone pan shaped like a daisy for my mold. Although it is non-stick, I gave it a shot of non-stick spray to make sure I could get it out of the mold when I was ready to serve. Isn’t it pretty?
Next, make the lemon curd. Here are the ingredients.

Next, make the lemon curd. Here are the ingredients.

Zest half a lemon with a microplane. I'm lazy and did mine right in the pan.

Zest half a lemon with a microplane. I’m lazy and did mine right in the pan.

Then squeeze the lemons until you get a quarter cup of juice.

Then squeeze the lemons until you get a quarter cup of juice.

Put everything in a heavy saucepan and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens.

Put everything in a heavy saucepan and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens.
Remove from heat and spoon into a bowl or jar, ready to top the Panna Cotta. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Remove from heat and spoon into a bowl or jar, ready to top the Panna Cotta. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To make the candied lemon peel, I used the two lemons from the lemon curd and removed all pump and pith (the white part).

To make the candied lemon peel, I used the two lemons from the lemon curd and removed all pulp and pith (the white part).

Cut it into thin ribbons.

Cut it into thin ribbons.

Then boil with a cup of cold water and drain. Repeat this step.

Then boil with a cup of cold water and drain. Repeat this step.

Add 1/2 cup of sugar and another cup of cold water to the peel and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugar.

Add 1/2 cup of sugar and another cup of cold water to the peel and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugar.

Continue simmering until lemon peel is soft and translucent - about 15 to 20 minutes. It is better to overcook than undercook because you want to cook out any bitterness left in the peel.

Continue simmering until lemon peel is soft and translucent – about 15 to 20 minutes. It is better to overcook than undercook because you want to cook out any bitterness left in the peel.

Dry on a paper towel.

Dry on a paper towel.

Then dip into sugar, thoroughly coating.

Then dip into sugar, thoroughly coating.

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

You'll have a bunch of sugary squiggles of lemony goodness when you're done. Place in a Ziploc bag or airtight container until you are ready to serve.

You’ll have a bunch of sugary squiggles of lemony goodness when you’re done. Place in a Ziploc bag or airtight container until you are ready to serve.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

A silky custard, made without egg…

1 3/4oz envelope unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold milk, divided

1 ¾ cups heavy cream

¼ cup granulated sugar

1½ tsp. vanilla extract

Sprinkle gelatin over ¼ cup milk in a small bowl. Stir until moistened. Let stand five minutes (it will be lumpy).

Cook heavy cream, granulated sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for about four minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring until completely dissolved. Add in  remaining ¾ cup milk. Stir in then pour mixture into six 4-ounce dessert glasses or wineglasses. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least eight hours. If you have some forms that are easy to get treats out of, you can pour panna cotta into them. I would recommend silicone or something that is easy to work with.

Lemon Curd

2 Lemons

3 egg yolks

6 tbsp. sugar

1/4 cup butter

Roll lemons around on the counter to get the juice flowing. Slice in half and zest one half using a microplane.

Squeeze lemons until you have 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.

Cook egg yolks, lemon juice, eggs, sugar and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a   wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick. Spoon into a bowl or jar, cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Candied Lemon Peel

2 Lemons

1/2 cup sugar plus 1 tbsp.

water

You need the peels off approximately two lemons. I used the same lemons from my lemon curd, so for this entire recipe, you would need two lemons. If you don’t want to use the ones you’ve squeezed into oblivion to render the juice, you can get two fresh lemons.

Take a knife and remove the pulp from the peel then carefully cut away all the white pith. This is the bitter part of the lemon and you want it all gone.

Slice the peel into thin ribbons and add to a saucepan with one cup of cold water. Bring to a boil, drain, and repeat.

After you have drained the lemon peel for the second time, add another cup of cold water and 1/2 cup sugar to the peels in the saucepan and bring to boil. Continue simmering until the peels are translucent and soft. (I let mine go about twenty minutes. It is better to overcook than undercook.)

Remove from heat and drain then let dry on a paper towel. When dry, dip each lemon ribbon in a small dish with sugar, coating thoroughly. Store in an air-tight container until ready to use. These are so, so yummy!

***

To serve the Lemon Panna Cotta, simply add a dollop of curd with a few pieces of Candied Lemon Peel to the Panna Cotta. If you made it in a big mold like I did, cut the Panna Cotta into individual servings before adding the lemon.

She Who Loves the Spring Flavor of Lemon

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pasta nest plated

Trying to think of an entree that went along with my Wish It Were Spring Theme, I liked the idea of something that looked like nests and eggs.

Pasta and meatballs immediately came to mind.

It would be easy to make, filling, and hopefully tasty!

pasta nest ingredients

I found angel hair nests  – pasta preformed into little nests! How fun is that?

Cook the meatballs according to package directions, as well as the pasta.

pasta boiling

I will add a word of caution about not putting too many nests in the pot at once because it seemed to make them lose their cute little nest forms, which was the whole point of having them. (Sigh…)

 

pasta nests on plateSince my nests were no loner nesting, I spooned the pasta onto plates, trying to make it look like a nest.

pasta nest platedThen served it topped with Alfredo sauce, meatballs, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. A bit of cilantro added a pop of green color.

She Who Needs To Practice with the Pasta Nests

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