Meatless Monday Pizza Party

Meatless Monday Pizza Party

Chef J is at it again – this time sharing perfect pizza dough to satisfy any crowd!

There is a common belief that you can’t please everyone. This is correct about 99.99% of the time, and can be especially hard if you practice the growing trend of Meatless Mondays. But there is one delicious exception: Pizza! Pizza might be the pinnacle of cuisine. I doubt that there will be anything anytime soon that can knock that marvelous, cheesy circle off the throne. And though you can have it delivered in under an hour, there is a better way!

Pizza is incredibly easy to make for Meatless Monday – anyone can do it!

Doing it yourself is not only rewarding (you’ll love bragging to your friends about it!), it tastes better, it’s healthier, and it’s something that the whole group can get involved in. Everyone at the party can build their own and it’s perfect for the kids! We’ll go step by step through the process; from dough to done.

The trickiest part is the dough.

People new to the world of home-made pizza are always nervous when it comes to making the glutenous foundation of their next great meal. Fret not; here are a few simple steps that will guide you to your new pie.

The Sponge:meatless-monday-sponge
The sponge will start the process of activating the gluten- giving the dough a nice chew. It also develops the flavor by allowing the yeast to bubble and play.

Mix together in the largest bowl you have:
2 cups water
1 pound high gluten bread flour
1 TBS yeast

Don’t mix it up too much- it should look like lumpy pancake batter. Loosely cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours.

The Dough:meatless-monday-mix
This is the part that people tend to get a little scared about. It’s not going to work if you follow a recipe to the letter; you have to go with your gut on this one (it’s all going to your gut anyway!).

Pour the sponge into a mixer with a dough hook. Add:
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 TBS yeast
Flour…

While your mixer is on low, slowly add more flour, about ½ a cup at a time, letting each addition incorporate. Continue until it starts pulling away from the sides of the mixer. It should be a little sticky. If you are not sure, err on the side of being too wet. Keep kneading it for another 10 minutes.

Put the whole mess back into that giant bowl and loosely cover again. The dough needs to rise now to allow the new flour to absorb the liquid, the new yeast to bubble up, and all the gluten that was just worked up to relax. This will take a few hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. If you really like a yeasty dough then let it hang out in the fridge.

 meatless-monday-pizza-dough

After a while you will see your dough double, triple, or quadruple in size – so keep an eye on it! Punch it down when it starts to crawl out of the bowl. Do this twice. After the second beat-down, when the dough regains its strength and has risen again, it is ready to be formed.

Heat your oven to its hottest setting, 450-500 on convection, with a pizza stone or cast iron pan.
Generously flour your work surface and move some or all of your dough there.

Form the dough into a round lump. Starting from the middle, gently flatten and stretch the dough while rotating it to keep it round. Add flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Don’t beat yourself up if it looks more like a puzzle piece than a circle; it takes a bit of practice (it will still taste good!).

If you are using a pizza peel to shovel the pie onto your stone or pan, it is important to move the dough onto that before you start topping it, and make sure you have a healthy spattering of cornmeal between peel and dough. If you are hosting a party, have everyone put their dough on a piece of parchment paper before they start adding all of the goodies; this will make it a lot easier and cleaner to get them into the oven.

Spread on a bit of sauce and top with veggies, cheese, whatever you want! Since we’re talking Meatless Monday, some of my favorite veggie toppings are corn, olives and squash.

Throw the pizza into the oven and give it about five minutes, until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly. Depending on the size of the pie and how much deliciousness you have piled onto it, the cooking time will vary. Limiting toppings will help the pizza cook evenly and quickly. When it’s done make sure to let it cool a bit before digging in – we’ve all burned the roof of our mouth due to pizza impatience!

The best part is you don’t even need to tip! How’s that for Meatless Monday?!
Printer Friendly Recipe: Perfect Pizza Dough
More from Chef J: BBQ Beef Brisket, Hibiscus Margaritas, Ginger Citrus Grilled Scallops

 

No-Cook Meals for Summer

No-Cook Meals for Summer

I don’t know about you, but turning on my oven or stove when it is 115 degrees out is not my idea of a good time. During these hot summer months I like to eat cool dishes and minimize the amount of time I spend in my kitchen with that hot afternoon sun pouring in. I try to get as much cooking and prep work done as possible on Sunday mornings. This means I’ll spend an hour or so washing and chopping veggies and boiling up a couple batches of pasta to use later in the week. I could eat pasta salad pretty much every day without getting bored, but my family doesn’t share that love (this Greek one is my favorite, in case you’re wondering).

Enter Pinterest, the busy mom’s lifesaver! I have been hesitant to try a lot of recipes found on Pinterest because I constantly hear about (and see pictures of) the failures that come from these untested concoctions. With no-cook meals, though, it’s pretty easy to tell when something isn’t going to work, and no-cook meals are usually simpler to prepare, meaning they are easier to tweak to your liking. After a couple weeks of the kids complaining about turkey sandwiches for dinner AGAIN, do yourself a favor and peruse the internet for some ideas to spice up your routine.

There is an unlimited supply of inspiration for no-cook meals like wraps, salads, and frozen treats on Pinterest!

Here are a few ideas to get you going for your no-cook meals summer:

  • Wash and prep your produce at the beginning of the week so it is ready to use when you need it. Here’s a handy chart we put together for storing summer fruits and veggies.
  • Don’t discount those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens at the grocery store – they add some tasty protein to countless dishes with almost no work. When I get one home I like to pull all the meat off and toss the bones – this way it is ready to use at a moment’s notice!
  • Get creative with the old standbys! Sure a turkey sandwich is boring, but what if you added goat cheese and cranberries and wrapped it up in a basil tortilla instead of sandwich bread?! Yum!
  • Have the kids use cookie cutters to cut fun shapes out of watermelon or other fruits, slide a popsicle stick in, freeze for a couple hours, and you have  delicious and healthy frozen pops for the whole family.
  • Go buffet-style at the end of the week to use up your leftover produce, deli meats, cheeses, and breads. Just pull everything out and let each member of the family come up with his or her own meal. You might surprise yourself and come up with a new favorite combo!
  • Check out our No-Cook Meals Recipes board on Pinterest for some great ideas!

Do you have any favorite no-cook meals or some more tips to help us get through the summer? Let us know below in “Speak Your Mind”!

Our Annual Theme Party!

Our Annual Theme Party!

July 4th, 2003 is when it all began.  The family reunion that year was loosely themed a Hawaiian party. You know, wear your Hawaiian shirt and call it good.  All of our kids were playing outside enjoying the warm, balmy July day, when they came running in the house to show us their “costumes.”  They had raided the neighbors garden, pulling out every green leafy flower in their flower beds, and had pieced together hula skirts for all of the kids…The Annual July 4th Family Reunion Theme Party was born!

This year will be our 10th anniversary, having enjoyed a different theme party each year, without fail. It has brought our extended family closer, with  brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, cousins and neighbors all looking forward to the annual theme party. (Needless to say, the neighbors are forever honorary guests having sacrificed their flower garden year one).  Each year it seems the party gets more extravagant, as we have become pretty efficient at planning, organizing and partying.  What all the theme parties have in common is:

  1. They are held during the July 4th holiday weekend
  2. Awards are given for best costumes in a variety of categories
  3. The house is decorated in theme, inside and out
  4. And best of all, the food must match the theme party!

My brother reveals the “theme” for the party two months in advance, giving the competitive members of the family (namely me) enough time to research, craft or purchase their unique costumes.  Menu planning starts a few weeks in advance as we collaborate, via email, on the various dishes and accompanying delights that fit our theme party.  Decorations are purchased a week in advance. Finally, on the day of the event, we pull it all together including decorating and cooking for up to 45 people!

One of my favorite theme parties was our Bug Party.

If you think about it, you can just imagine how creative the food choices could be.

My sister-n-law created a Caterpillar Cake from two chocolate bunt cakes sliced in half, then pieced together to make an s-shape.  She used frosting to glue it together, alternating chocolate and vanilla frosting for each segment of the caterpillar.  Then we had a blast decorating with dots, candy corn legs, and Oreo eyes (see feature photo above). The buffet table was draped with a table cloth made from red and white picnic pattern with ants on it.  Our centerpiece for the dinner table was a bowl of gummy worm apples.  And finally the hot dog and hamburger buns where garnished with some plastic beetles, spiders and flies.

theme-party-meal

The most visually interesting dish, and the yummiest of all, was the Dirt Cake, complete with gummy worms!

Here is our tried and true Dirt Cake Recipe:

theme-party-dessert2

1 package Oreo cookies

1/3  cup butter or margarine

1- 8 oz container softened Cream Cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

3.5  cups milk

2 – 3.5 oz packages French Vanilla Pudding

1- 12 oz container Cool Whip

 

 

Smash Oreo cookies until very fine.  We use a zip-top bag and a rolling pin to smash.
Mix butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl combine milk, pudding and Cool Whip and mix together.
Combine pudding mixture and cream cheese mixture.
Layer in glass baking dish starting with cookies, then cream mixture. Repeat layers.
Garnish with gummy worms.
Chill until ready to serve.

I am heading off to our 10th Annual Family Reunion Theme Party now.  The theme this year is “Heroes and Villains.” Stay tuned for more stories.  And enjoy your fourth of July!

Printer Friendly: Dirt Cake

Need some more inspiration for your get-together? Check out these fabulous recipes: Grilled Scallops, Amaretto Spice Cupcakes, Smoked Brisket

Grilled Scallops with Ginger Citrus Salsa Recipe

Grilled Scallops with Ginger Citrus Salsa Recipe

Our own Chef J shares with us his favorite Grilled Scallop recipe for summer!

Good, fresh seafood in Arizona isn’t always easy to come by. But once summer comes around, our back yard get-togethers seem empty without some shrimp skewers or fish tacos. Luckily we have a few frozen options and some rare, fresh finds. Grilled scallops are one of my favorite things to bring to the summer table; scallops can be found frozen or canned, and both can be quite good. Light, but rich and buttery, grilled scallops can be a delightful addition to fajitas, tacos, on their own, or as the surf to your favorite turf. There is always room for these delicious mollusks; even those folks who say “I don’t like fish” will like them. Who invites those people, anyway? Grilled scallops with Ginger Citrus Salsa is one of my favorite dishes to prepare. It is simple and easy, but oh so tasty! Play around with this recipe, use whatever citrus you have growing in your (or your neighbor’s) yard.

Ginger Citrus Grilled Scallops Recipe

2 pounds of large scallops

Ginger Citrus Salsa:

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 TBS chopped, fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 cup finely diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 small jalapeno, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients (except scallops) and mix well. Let this sit for a while- it’s better the next day.
Bring your grill up to medium-high, around 600 degrees or so. Make sure that the grill is clean, and once hot, give it a rub down with vegetable oil.
Season your scallops with salt & pepper, and arrange flat side down on the grill. Give them about 2 minutes and flip. Grill about another 90 seconds or so and remove from heat.

Top your Grilled Scallops with the Ginger Citrus Salsa and enjoy!

Other recipes from Chef J: BBQ Beef Brisket and Hibiscus Margaritas 

Printer Friendly: Ginger Citrus Grilled Scallops

A Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party

A Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party

Everyone seems to be familiar with the TV show “Chopped” on The Food Network and the concept of a Chopped Challenge. But not everyone gets all excited about actually participating in a Chopped Challenge party.  My husband is a total foodie.  He watches all of the cooking shows on TV, including “Chopped”.  And he loves to cook.  I, on the other hand, don’t watch and don’t cook!  Instead, I am the person who loves to organize, decorate, entertain and socialize.  Oh yes, and eat too!
So when our friends Tom and Cathy invited us to a Chopped Challenge Party, my first reaction was yikes!  I don’t DO cooking.  Maybe I can just drink and watch my husband prepare the entrée!  Fortunately, our friends had a clever twist, a Potluck Chopped Challenge.

A Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party appeals to so many more people.

It is a perfect idea, especially if you are like me:
  • You love food, but don’t like to cook
  • You have limited space in your kitchen
  • Or  limited time to sit around and wait for courses to be prepared
  • You have some awesome neighborhood “chefs” you want to recognize
  • And you enjoy socializing
So here are the “twists” to throwing a Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party:

Twist 1: Instead of cooking at the hosts home, you are assigned your course and  your “mystery ingredients” in advance.

You prepare your course ahead of time and bring it to the Potluck, ready-to-eat.

Twist 2:  Two couples compete against each other in the same course category with the same mystery ingredients.

For example the courses/ingredients could be:

  • Vegetable  – Cheetos, Black Bean Garlic Sauce, Green Beans
  • Soup  – Ginger, Walnuts, Egg
  • Salad – Pomegranate,  Mandarin Oranges, Mint
  • Dessert – Strawberries, White Chocolate, Bacon Bits
  • Cocktail – Coconut Milk, Kiwi, Tuaca

Twist 3:  As you are eating the course, everyone tries to guess the mystery ingredients that are common in the course.

You can make the guessing formal, but we enjoyed just shouting out our answers!

Twist 4:  All of the attendees get to vote a “Winner by Course” and the “Overall Chopped Challenge” Winner.

Criteria is based on Presentation, Taste, and Creativity!

Twist 5:  The Host couple prepares the main course.

As it turned out, my husband and I won the Vegetable category and were the Overall Chopped Challenge Winner that night.  Actually, he won,( real men cook) I just got to steal some credit!  I think my husband’s aoli with black bean garlic sauce, olive oil and mayo really was the key.  Oh, and one more thing I did learn…if you want to win, include BACON!

So try the Chopped Challenge – Potluck Edition, and create your own twist!  Let us know how it goes.

chopped-challenge-potluck-dinner-party

Green Beans, Cheetos and cheese, wrapped in Bacon. Served with Black Bean Garlic Aoli!

Yes, Real Men Cook!

Yes, Real Men Cook!

real-men-cook

Do Real Men Cook?

My dad is skilled at a great many things, but cooking is not among them. Sure, he’s fairly expert on the outdoor grill, but that’s not the same, nor is it unusual. Truth be told, this acorn didn’t fall far from the tree. With so many of my male friends seriously into cooking, it feels as though Dad and I are exceptions to the rule. With Father’s Day upon us, I figured this was the perfect time to finally answer the question: Do real men cook? Here’s what I learned. According to the Pew Research Center,

Men are nearly as likely as women to say they enjoy cooking a great deal: 32% of men compared to 35% of women.

Compared to 20 years ago, more men enjoy cooking today (up from 25%), and fewer women (down from 40%). The theory is that cooking has become more acceptable and appealing to men with the advent of such cooking shows as Iron Chef and Top Chef, and thanks to the growing popularity of such chefs as Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay.

Ok, color me surprised. About one-third of both sexes say they really like cooking, but are there differences in their respective approaches? The faucet manufacturer, Moen, conducted research that identified four distinct types of cooks: Family Cooks (42%), Adventurous Cooks (31%), Carryout Cooks (18%) and Cautious Cooks (9%). No big surprise here:

Women are more likely to be Family Cooks, and more men Adventurous Cooks.

You go, Guys!

Next, I wondered what each sex likes to cook. Definitely no surprises here. The website AllRecipes.com reports that women like pasta and men prefer steak. In addition:

  • Men describe their perfect dish as “spicy” and “meaty,” whereas,
  • Women use the adjectives “healthy” and “savory” to describe theirs.

Further reinforcing some tired stereotypes:

  • Men prefer the grill over the oven (46% vs. 17%), whereas,
  • Women’s preferences are the reverse (16% vs. 42%).

Hence the well-deserved moniker: “the opposite sex.”

And finally, a surprise. Men report (and that might be the operative word here) being willing to spend more time preparing meals.

So where do guys go for cooking tips and ideas? Well, AllRecipes says that men account for 36% of unique visits to food-oriented, social sites. That’s what spurred the launch of ManTestedRecipes.com – a social site for male cooks (as if you couldn’t figure that out). Finally, a website where real men can share recipes with one another. But guys, before you get your hopes up, I must point out that it’s too late to submit your fav recipe and win big bucks. The deadline for submissions for their “Dude Food” contest was April 30. But there’s always next year.

Until then, remember, real men cook!

And Happy Father’s Day, dads!real-men-cook-too

My Favorite Amaretto Spice Cupcakes

My Favorite Amaretto Spice Cupcakes

I love cupcakes.  I love Amaretto.  So Amaretto Cupcakes are simply the ultimate indulgence.

It is no secret that I have a fondness for the taste of Amaretto. My go-to drink is Amaretto and Diet Coke. (Diet, because you have to watch your calories somewhere.) Basically, it tastes like a Dr. Pepper with a kick! My close friends know this about me. Heck, even the waitresses at the restaurants we frequent know this is my drink of choice. So when I celebrated my 50th birthday, it was no surprise that I received not one, not two, but six bottles of Disaronno Amaretto!  What wonderful friends I have.

But the ultimate surprise was when my girlfriend, Alicia, baked me Amaretto Spice Cupcakes for my birthday! Alicia is simply the most amazing cupcake maker I know. (That’s Alicia in the feature photo above.)  Her creations are not only “to die for”, but are truly works of art!  For me this was such a thoughtful gift because I cherish homemade gifts, I crave sweets, and I love my Amaretto!

So, here is the recipe. Give it a try. I think you’ll love them too.  And feel free to sip some Amaretto while you eat them!

Kathleen’s Amaretto Spice Birthday Cupcakes

Recipe compliments of Alicia's blog: http://ohmygoshimsoexcited.wordpress.com/

Recipe compliments of Alicia’s blog: http://ohmygoshimsoexcited.wordpress.com/

3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup Amaretto
Cream cheese spice frosting
1 package cream cheese
2 sticks butter
1tbsp vanilla
1-2 tsp allspice (to taste)
Nut & sugar garnish
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pecans
1/3 cup raw brown sugar
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small mixing bowl whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice and ground cloves.  Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk alternately beginning and ending with the dry. Add the amaretto.  When the batter is well mixed and smooth, use an ice cream scoop to divide it into paper lined cupcake tins and bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Mix cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until a smooth consistency. Add powdered sugar and allspice. If the mixture is too thick, add milk until smooth. Cool cupcakes completely then pipe on the icing.
Blitz walnuts & pecans in a food processor until a coarse consistency. Mix in raw brown sugar. Pour mixture onto a flat plate. Roll the sides of the cupcake icing in the sugar & nut mixture & serve.
Are you a cupcake lover too?  Here is another recipe we shared earlier.
Contact Alicia for “Cupcakes for Hire”: [email protected]
Butcher Block Countertops – How to choose the right one for your kitchen.

Butcher Block Countertops – How to choose the right one for your kitchen.

Perhaps this summer you’re considering a kitchen remodel and upgrading your kitchen countertops or island top.  There are a number of different countertop materials to choose from, each with its own unique benefit. Butcher block countertops are timeless, having been around for generations and remaining extremely popular today.  Many people migrate to the natural wood grain of butcher block because it fits any kitchen décor style, be it traditional, contemporary, or eclectic.  Butcher block is often chosen for kitchen island tops because of its durability and versatility, doubling as both a chopping surface and serving table. Choosing  butcher block countertops can be daunting and involves a significant investment.  But here are some considerations to help make the process easy! 

Perfect butcher block countertops fit your kitchen décor, your space, and your budget. 

butcher-block-countertops-choose-a-wood-species

Think about how light/dark and cool/warm you want your kitchen to look.

  • Hard Rock Maple is very light in color and uniform in appearance.  It can help brighten a kitchen and make it feel light, airy and cool.
  • Red Oak is of medium tone, with a golden, red tint.  It falls in the middle of the wood species selection with regard to light/dark or warm/cool.
  • American Cherry has a warm, red tint and can add both color and warmth to a kitchen.
  • Black Walnut is naturally a chocolate brown color, and can help darken a kitchen or visually warm a kitchen with its rich tone.
You can match, or you can complement other wood grain in your kitchen.
  • Matching the color of an existing wood can be difficult since many woods darken with age.  But matching a species and a grain pattern is much easier.  If you have Maple cabinets now, you can consider Maple countertops as a nice match.
  • Often it is more interesting to mix and match woods.   Differences in textures and colors, in moderation, can work nicely together.  It is easy to complement woods, especially when they are separated, like a wood floor and wood countertop. Or kitchen cabinets and counter tops separated by a tile backsplash.  Just be mindful;  make it look well thought-out, not like an add-on.
butcher-block-countertops-choose-a-grain-style

Three grain-style choices for butcher block countertops: Blended Grain, Edge Grain and End Grain.

  • Blended Grain will give a wide variety of color and grain pattern.  Rails of varying lengths are finger-jointed together showing much visual texture.  Blended grain  can look “busy” so it is  awesome when paired with a simple kitchen design, regardless of your decorating style.  It is the most affordable grain style.
  • Edge Grain is the end result when full-length rails are bonded side by side giving the appearance of a solid tabletop.  There is some  color and grain variation, therefore it is well suited for matching with other woods or natural stone surfaces in your kitchen.  Edge grain is moderately priced.
  • End Grain countertops provide lots of color and texture variation within the checkerboard pattern.  It has a very upscale appearance and is pricier, but it is the traditional butcher block look that shouts professional gourmet chef!
Your final considerations are a bit easier and they include your DIMENSIONS and FINISHING TOUCHES.  Choose your butcher block countertops now!
Memorial Day BBQ

Memorial Day BBQ

This week we have another guest post from Chef J!  I can tell you from many personal experiences that Chef J is a master at the grill! Here are simple steps for preparing a delicious smoked brisket, just in time for your Memorial Day BBQ!

It’s almost Memorial Day! Hopefully that means an extra long weekend by the pool, surrounded by family and friends. And if that is the case, you will need to do some outdoor cooking! A Memorial Day BBQ is the only reason I stick around through these sweltering Sonoran summers. Phoenix in May and June will leave even the toughest crying for lemonade and air conditioning, but if you plan it right, the smell of slowly roasting meats and a nice cool pool can make this the best place in the world.

One of my favorite things to BBQ is beef brisket; it’s rather inexpensive and most importantly, it’s straightforward to prepare. If you are lucky enough to have a fancy BBQ setup like I do then this will justify  your dedication. My blood type is Spicy Hickory, so I love an excuse to spend an afternoon tending coals! But even if you don’t have the fancy pit you can still create some mouthwateringly tender, delicious treats!

For a perfect Memorial Day BBQ brisket, the right temperature and time are most important!

The recipe for brisket is 225 degrees for 10 hours.  That’s it!

Spices, sauces, and smoke are all up to your own taste. If you have ever heard BBQ people talk ,they will  tell you their BBQ is the best. And they are right. It’s all about you. I like to start mine smothered in a spicy rub, uncovered in the smoker, with a pan underneath to catch the drippings.memorial-day-bbq-brisket

My favorite rub:
¼ cup ground coffee
¼ cup cocoa powder
2 TBS chipotle powder
2 TBS salt
1 TBS black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground mustard powder
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp ground coriander

Mix everything together and rub that brisket down!  Make sure that your fire is hot enough to keep the temperature around 225 degrees, and that there is a bit of smoke sneaking out.  The meat will only absorb smoke for the first few hours, so after that you are strictly cooking (you could actually move it to the oven at this point).

After the smoking, I mop it down with liquid about once an hour- this could be your favorite BBQ sauce, vinegar, wine, juice, beer, etc. This will help keep the meat moist but also help build a nice “bark” on the surface. After the ten hours, place the brisket in the pan that will now be full of delicious dripping and cover in foil. Let that sit for a few minutes before carving, and it will be tender, juicy and delicious. If that sounds like a lot of work, you can smoke the brisket in your backyard grill (that black, three-legged dome we all know and love) the day before for a few hours, wrap it in foil and put it in the fridge. The next day unwrap, baste in liquid, put it in a pan and cover it, roast in the oven at 225-250 for about 6 hours. If you throw it in first thing in the morning it will be ready for lunch, and you won’t have to think about it until your timer goes off.

So crack open a cold one, skim the pool, and get your Memorial Day BBQ started!

 

End of School Picnic

End of School Picnic

The school year is winding down and the kids are getting excited for summer!  It’s that time of year for end of school picnics, parties, and potlucks. Kids, parents, and teachers alike will appreciate a fun day to celebrate all of the achievements of the school year!  And the teachers really appreciate it if a few parents volunteer to pull a party together for them.  All it takes is organization and communication. With very little effort you can avoid that party where the only food choices are pretzels, potato chips, cookies and more cookies!

Here are a few tips for a successful end of school picnic:

      • Assign specific dishes to your guests. You can break this up by last name:
        • A-F bring a main course
        • G-L bring a dessert
        • M-Q bring salads and fruit
        • R-T bring paper plates and cups
        • U-Z bring plastic silverware and napkins
      • Get volunteers in advance to bring ice, coolers and some extra serving utensils just in case.
        • This is a great option for full-time working parents who may not have the time to prepare a dish, but will feel uncomfortable if they aren’t able to contribute.
        • Serve food immediately or make certain you keep it refrigerated prior to serving.
      • Make a large cooler of Lemonade, with powder or fresh.  Skip water bottles, juice boxes, and soda cans to avoid wasted drinks and excessive trash.
      • Set up a buffet table that can be served from both sides, so you can accommodate a large number of hungry guests.
        • Serve the kids the main meal and drinks. Get a few parents to help out.  Kids will get their food and drink fast, and you will make certain that portions are controlled.
      • Set up games to keep the kids (and adults) entertained. If you are entertaining at the local pool, this is pretty easy – all you have to do is open the gate and the kids are guaranteed a good time!
        • If it is a backyard pool party, hire a lifeguard for the day so adults can enjoy the party too.
        • If you are having it at a park, there are always water balloons, sprinklers, bag toss…you get the idea.
      • Make sure you have plenty of shade and sunscreen available for adults and kids. No need to start vacation off with a sunburn!
      • Before you let the kids leave, gather up all of the abandoned socks, shoes, shirts, towels and have them at the door and ask every kid to look to see if they are missing one of the lost items before they go!

With just a little bit of planning, you can host a spectacular summer kick-off that everyone will enjoy! We would love to hear your plans for an end of school picnic – share in the comments!

Looking for brunch ideas  or entertaining tips, see our earlier posts.