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. 

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.

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.

A Mother’s Day Surprise

A Mother’s Day Surprise

Sharing a wonderful Mother’s Day story from a very special  friend, Kathy Shook.

The mother of two wonderful daughters, I have enjoyed 22 delightful Mother’s Days, but one in particular will always stand out in my memory – May 10, 1992.

After years of trying to get pregnant, in 1991 my husband Mark and I turned our attention to adoption. We learned everything we could about how to improve the odds of being chosen by a pregnant young woman as adoptive parents for her baby.

Back then, a good number of private adoptions were arranged by  “adoption attorneys.” Expecting young women sought them out to assist in finding a suitable couple. Adoption attorneys kept on file letters and photos supplied by would-be parents, and expectant girls/women would peruse them in search of top-notch candidates. So my first task was to put together a Dear Birthmom letter that was sure to stand out – well written with a nice photo.

My next challenge was to compile a list of adoption attorneys from across the country. Combing through phone books from major U.S. cities on hand in the public library, I compiled a mailing list. Off went our letters to over a hundred adoption attorneys.

Over the next few months we found ourselves entangled in a number of wild goose chases. The emotional highs and lows took their toll.

Then we cleared the hurdle with Stephanie and her parents, but having been disappointed so many times, we didn’t get our hopes up. We received a call from Stephanie’s attorney on a Thursday advising us that she was in labor. We heard nothing more until we were awoken by a phone call Saturday morning and told to catch the first plane to this far-off city. The next day our beautiful daughter Kristine, two days old, was delivered into my hands in an attorney’s office. It happened to be Mother’s Day.

Mothers-Day-Surprise

Kathy and Kristine Mother’s Day – May 10, 1992

Most moms have time to prepare for Mother’s Day. Not me! Imagine my surprise and delight when I became a mother on the spur of the moment on the very day we honor mothers.

Moms, may your Mother’s Day be as joyous as my first!

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

We are so thrilled to introduce you to Chef J Whiting! Chef J has played an integral role in many Arizona restaurants, and travels extensively within the Southwest. Today he enlightens us on the common misconceptions of the Cinco de Mayo holiday, and shares his fantastic recipe for Hibiscus Margaritas.

We all love Cinco de Mayo – happily enjoying our margaritas, fajitas and a day off- but most of us have probably never thought much about it. Maybe like me, you had heard that it is Mexico’s independence day; something akin to the 4th of July here in the U.S. With just a bit of digging, though, I discovered the true meaning of this holiday and now have a real reason to drink margaritas this weekend.

Cinco de Mayo is, in fact, not a Mexican holiday at all. The day is a celebration of the battle of Puebla in 1862 in which the outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French, throwing a wrench into Napoleon’s plans to prop up the Confederate South. Many scholars believe that the Civil War would have had a drastically  different outcome if the French had not been stopped at Puebla.

Hearing the news of the battle, Mexican immigrants in America began to celebrate and used that battle as a symbol to rally around. Cinco de Mayo is a holiday to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture and how it has impacted the destiny of the United States.

So while you are enjoying your tequila and maybe something a little spicy, remember that without a small group of people standing their ground against the greatest military in the world at the time, the U.S. could be an entirely different place.

And like any celebration, it is best with food! Cultures move a meal at a time and the American culture has been deliciously inspired by Mexico. I am lucky enough to live in the Southwest where cuisine has blurred the border. We have amazing food to explore here, and Mexican ingredients can be found all over. Do yourself a favor and make friends with a chile!

 Hibiscus Margaritas – Courtesy of J Whiting Cinco De Mayo Hibiscus Margarita

  • 1 handful of dried hibiscus flowers
  • Juice of 6 limes
  • 6 oz of honey
  • 4 oz of triple sec
  • 12 oz tequila
  • 32 oz water
  • Salt or sugar from rimming glass

Bring 1 cup of water to a simmer and add the hibiscus flowers. Let that steep for about 5 minutes or so. Add honey to hibiscus broth and stir to dissolve. Let cool. Combine honey mixture with remaining ingredients. Test for desired taste. Add more lime juice if too sweet or a bit more honey if too sour. Serve over ice in a salted or sugared glass. Repeat if necessary!

Create an Eco-Friendly Kitchen

Create an Eco-Friendly Kitchen

As we celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day this week, I thought it appropriate to share ways to create an Eco-Friendly Kitchen.  How you design your kitchen and go about your daily kitchen tasks, can make a difference in your home and community.

Eco-Friendly Kitchen Designs – Every so often we upgrade or remodel our kitchens.  Next time, consider eco-friendly options which can be stylish and affordable.

  • Recycled Materials – A variety of recycled materials are available to design and decorate with, like recycled glass used in kitchen décor and lighting fixtures.
  • Earth Friendly Products – New appliances approved by EPA Energy star program can use up to 50% less energy or water than older models.
  • Renewable Materials – Hardwood butcher block countertops from sustainably grown and harvested wood add warmth and charm to your kitchen. (Keep your butcher block healthy by following these tips from our previous blog).   Stainless steel countertops are non-porous, naturally antibacterial, and add a contemporary feel to your work space. Cork and bamboo flooring are renewable options with a “wow” appeal.
  • Eco-Inspired Decorating – Incorporate the natural beauty of fruit for added color in your kitchen. (Like lemons in my favorite teak-root bowl featured above).  Bamboo stalks in vases say environmentally friendly.  Small potted plants add style and color to empty spaces and help to purify the air.

Eco-Friendly Kitchen Habits – Simple steps, when done consistently over time, can create great habits!

  • Try “green” kitchen cleaners – Look for non-toxic, biodegradable and natural cleaning products.  Or DIY and make a home-mixed cleaner.  Baking soda, vinegar, and lemons are my favorite ingredients and can clean almost anything. Baking soda cleans, deodorizes and scours. White vinegar helps to cut grease, remove odors and some stains. Lemons are acidic with antibacterial effectiveness on surfaces.
  • Use your dishes – It’s just as easy to pull a plate out of the cupboard as it is to grab a paper plate. Cutting down on paper waste will lessen landfill waste.
  • Swap out your sponge – Use a cellulose sponge or eco–cleaning cloth.  Cellulose sponges are biodegradable while many household sponges are made of synthetic materials and are slow to breakdown in landfills.
  • Commit to a reusable sports bottle – Keep one handy and feel good about your decision not to grab a bottled water.
  • Remember your reusable bags – I love that so many people have adopted this habit, but the difficult part is remembering them.  Keep them in your car, handy for  carry-out food, grocery and mall shopping.
  • Buy locally grown food – Locally grown food has not traveled across the country for weeks to get to you.  This means fresher, tastier food and less global–warming pollution.
  • Fix the drippy kitchen faucet – Easy to ignore, dripping water can waste gallons of water a day.
  • Recycle, please – It only takes a few extra seconds.  I am so passionate about recycling. Have a garbage can devoted to recyclables.  I have mine in the laundry room closet, 10 steps from my kitchen.

Make one change now and strive to add another eco-friendly habit once a month.  Keep this in mind when you make daily decisions or when remodeling your kitchen.

Please share with us the steps you have taken to make a more eco-friendly kitchen.

And check out this complete resource for Safe Food Handling.

 

Spring Brunch Ideas

Spring Brunch Ideas

Throwing a brunch has always seemed like a daunting task to me –pleasing various palates with both breakfast and lunch foods, all while making everything look a little more fancy than usual? Not exactly my idea of fun. But I’ve been thinking about brunch ideas more lately, as this beautiful spring weather beckons me outdoors and encourages casual family events. I can totally pull this off! Even if you don’t have two chef brothers (I know – I’m the luckiest gal in the world!), the good ol’ internet is full of delicious and easy recipes (there’s one below!).

Use these simple brunch ideas, and you too can pull off a great spring event that will leave everyone talking!

Variety – Make sure you have options for everyone.

Breakfast is pretty easy, but make sure you have some good lunch options available, too; a spiral ham on a carving board next to  a cheese tray, for example, can be combined with croissants and condiments to make lovely sandwiches. You’ll also want to be aware of any vegetarians/vegans who may be attending. As much as I love bacon, it’s important not to make every dish meat-centric.  A pasta salad with fresh veggies will be a crowd pleaser. As far as drinks go, though, you can keep it pretty basic – a full bar is not exactly brunch appropriate. If you do choose to serve alcohol, keep it light –  mimosas or a pre made punch. You should definitely have coffee, tea, and water; throw in some lemonade or iced tea to keep things interesting, but anything beyond that is up to your personal taste.

Style – You don’t need fancy china to pull off a gorgeous brunch!

If I had to throw a party with all matching dishes, well… that just wouldn’t happen! You know what’s fun, though? Thrift store finds! Hit up your local thrift stores for an eclectic mix of vintage plates and serving ware – you can stick to a set color scheme or go all out and have a unique plate for every guest. You’ll make everyone feel special without breaking the bank! And if you don’t want to keep them, you can just donate them back (basically just renting dishes!). If you would rather have something more permanent, beautiful wood serving boards never go out of style, and can be used for years to come. Add a few displays of pretty spring flowers and you’ll be all set! Like your drink selection, you can take your decor as far as you’d like – just don’t clutter up your buffet table too much.

Simplicity – Don’t drive yourself crazy – it’s just brunch!

Even if you don’t want to cook, you can still satisfy your guests. A nice layout of pastries from your local bakery (or, you know…Costco), is perfectly acceptable when paired with a variety of fruits, cheeses, deli meats, etc.  The point is to spend time with your guests, right? You don’t have to provide show-stopping delicacies to have a good time.

Logistics – Hammer out those details!

Make sure you have plenty of seating for all of your guests, or at least areas where they can set their plates and drinks and eat comfortably. Cafe tables are a great option if seating space is limited. Also, if you can stick with foods that are fine at room temperature, you will save yourself the hassle of hot plates and ice baths. If you are serving something that needs to stay hot or cold, make sure you have the proper equipment – you want this to be memorable, but not because of food poisoning!

Now go forth and brunch!

To get you started, here is a great recipe for a savory taco quiche:

Taco Quiche

Courtesy of Sandy McGaffic

Yield: 8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (9 inch) deep dish pie shell (frozen ok, just let it thaw for 10 minutes)
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small can diced green chiles
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dash pepper

Garnish

  • shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, chopped or sliced tomatoes, sliced avocado or guacamole, black olives.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Prepare crust and put in pan or pie dish; let stand 5 to 10 minutes before baking.
  • Bake pie shell 7 minutes; DO NOT PRICK PIE SHELL. Remove shell and reduce oven temperature to 375°.
  • In 2 quart sauce pan combine next 8 ingredients. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until ground beef is browned and onions are tender. Drain mixture. Layer shredded cheese, green chiles and ground beef mixture in pie shell.
  • In medium bowl combine eggs, half and half, salt and pepper. Beat with a fork or whisk until mixed well but not frothy. Pour egg mixture over ground beef mixture.
  • Bake 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with remaining ingredients. 

 

Butcher Block Care – Spring Cleaning Tips

Butcher Block Care – Spring Cleaning Tips

The weather is getting nicer, tulips are peeking up through the ground and I am reminded that it really is springtime – even though we still hear of snow storms across the country!  This means it is time for “spring cleaning”!  I may be an odd duck, but I actually find cleaning to be a bit cathartic.  When I am stressed I end up cleaning my kitchen to feel better. Maybe it is a control-thing.  Please tell me I am not the only one who feels this way?

So I thought it an appropriate time to share some butcher block care and cleaning tips for your kitchen.  My close friend, who spends a lot of time cooking and baking, was really surprised to hear that plastic cutting boards are less sanitary than wood cutting boards.  This learning has been blogged about and shared online for many years.  But if you have never heard of it, or need to be reminded of it again, here is the scoop.

For a long time it was believed that wood butcher blocks and cutting boards were more likely to harbor dangerous levels of bacteria; given that wood is porous, it would soak up juices from raw meats, allowing bacteria to seep down into the board. And this bacteria could pose a risk of contaminating the next food item placed on the cutting board. Plastic, because it is non-porous, was believed to be resistant to this bacterial invasion.

While it may not be entirely clear, research has shown that wood boards were actually more sanitary than the plastic boards.  It is believed that bacteria can get lodged in the nicks and gouges that form on a plastic cutting board.  High quality wood butcher blocks – made from Hard Rock Maple and other premium hardwoods – are more resistant to this type of knife damage.  Additionally, the wood used to construct these butcher block countertops, kitchen islands, kitchen carts, and cutting boards appears to have natural germ-killing properties which are not present in plastic!

Enough of the technical stuff, now for a few Quick Tips for Butcher Block Care:

  • Separate your FoodThe Partnership for Food Safety Education recommends using one cutting board for fresh produce and a different cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood to prevent cross-contamination.  We agree!
  • Wash Immediately – After use, always wash your cutting boards or chopping block with hot soapy water and dry with a clean towel.
  • Sanitize – Especially after exposure to raw meat. It is pretty easy to use 1 Tablespoon unscented chlorine bleach in one gallon of water. If you prefer, use straight white vinegar instead of diluted bleach solution.
  • Dry – Set cutting boards on edge to air dry completely.
  • Oil  – Once a month use a food-grade mineral oil like John Boos Mystery Oil or Beeswax Board Cream

At ButcherBlockCo we like to tout the many benefits of hardwood cutting boards and butcher blocks, and being more sanitary than plastic is one of our favorites.

Have fun cleaning!

 
“Three-Pointers” for Entertaining

“Three-Pointers” for Entertaining

 

It’s  March Madness once again.  I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face last year when he walked in the door after watching the championship game. His team had won, yet all I saw was defeat, exhaustion, disappointment and …was it hunger?  Our neighbor had invited 5 of “the guys” over to watch the big game.  My husband, who usually doesn’t live and breath March Madness, decided, sure, it’s a good guy-thing to do, should be fun to hang a bit,  drink a little beer, eat a bunch of food and watch a good game.  I guess Fritos and bean dip was the best his friend could come up with!  Why four grown men did not have the courage to say, “hey, this is ridiculous, I’m hungry, let’s order a pizza” I will never know.

Well, March Madness should be all about basketball and not about going hungry. Honestly, it doesn’t take much work to pull together some tasty and relatively healthy food for the big game.  Aside from saying… go to Costco – they have everything you need….here are my “three–pointers” for entertaining:

Point 1 – Always have enough food – The best parties are the ones where the food lasts for the entire night.  Not much fun showing up an hour into a party and seeing only a few whole grain crackers left in a bowl!  It is always easier to have smaller amounts of several different kinds of food, than it is to have a lot of one kind of food.  That way if you have leftovers, it is pretty simple to store in your refrigerator or pantry for the next get together.  Try to have a protein – we’re talking meat –  available too, not just carbs.

Point 2 – Have a variety of drinks – Remember, just because you like wheat beer, doesn’t mean everyone likes wheat beer. Find a mainstream beer, or make it fun and get a wide variety of beer and make it an informal beer-tasting event too. I always have a white wine  on hand for those who don’t feel like having beer, or like me, never acquired a taste for beer. Again, pick a wine that is balanced between dry and sweet, like a Pinot Grigio (please no more Chardonnay).  And finally, keep in mind some folks may not want to drink alcohol, so always have water, soda or lemonade available.

Point 3 – Presentation matters – With very little effort you can make chips and salsa look like a fancy party! Put your chips in a fun basket, display appetizers on a unique cutting board or serving board, add olives or nuts in a few colorful bowls, and drape your serving area with a decorative placemat or tablecloth to pull it all together.

This March Madness, I suspect we will be entertaining.  My husband, who I consider just shy of “a chef” will surely want to whip together some special appetizers.  And I will do what I do, which is clean the house, do the shopping, and get all my serving pieces out of the cupboard to entertain with style!