Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. And like any celebration it is best with food! Are you ready to celebrate? Head out for some authentic Mexican fare or stay home and whip some up yourself. We’ve got you covered in the food and drink department!

Chow down on this fantastic Shrimp Cocktail while sipping a Simple Margarita.

shrimp

Or, if you’re feeling a little fancy, this Hibiscus Margarita is a real winner!

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Hibiscus Margarita

Here we have a lovely little salsa that makes a great appetizer.Football Food

What’s your favorite dish to make for Cinco de Mayo?

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March Madness: Recipes & Tips to Make Your Party a Slam Dunk

March Madness: Recipes & Tips to Make Your Party a Slam Dunk

March Madness is upon us! I don’t understand the bracketology or even the enthusiasm, but I’m certainly not going to judge you if you’re into it…mostly because I’m a nice person, but some of it has to do with wanting you to share your game snacks with me. Thankfully, Sarah Buchanan is back and willing to share some tips and recipes to make your March Madness parties successful. I’m going to sit on the sidelines now and pass this to Sarah. (Get it? I crack myself up.)

It’s the time of the year when the madness strikes – March Madness. Fully grown adults will gather around TV sets, scream at refs and at athletes barely out of high school, and feverishly track wins and losses on brackets drawn on huge pieces of paper in the conference room at work.
Before I moved to California, I lived in North Carolina, where college basketball is its own special kind of religion. UNC, NC State, and Duke are the big three, and if you’re a North Carolina native, you probably have a favorite you’re passionate about. Or you could be like me, the fourth kind of NC basketball fan, the ones who may or may not have a preference between State and Duke, but are known as the ABC Fans: Anyone But Carolina.

March Madness games provide a great excuse to get your friends together for sports and food and…more food.

If you’re the host of one of these get-togethers, below are some tips (and recipes!) to make sure your March Madness party is a slam dunk. (Sorry.)

  1. Serve several snacks and appetizers rather than trying to plan and execute a full blown dinner if you’re having more than three people over. You don’t want to be running around, checking the casserole, stirring the beans, and making the salad while the game clock is counting down and everyone else is having fun. Choose some easy to make snacks, and if you really want to have a meal, order some pizzas to go with your snacks!
  2. Make sure that you have everything you need beforehand. Check your stock of drinks, napkins, plates, ice, snacks and ingredients, and cups. You don’t want to have to run out of your own March Madness party to pick up ice in the middle of the game.
  3. Consider making it a potluck. You provide the pizzas and plates and entertainment; your guests provide the apps and drinks. This is a much less stressful way to have a party, and most of the dishes will go home with their owners at the end of the night. Win-win! Just make sure you have your guests let you know what they’re bringing so you don’t end up with 15 cheese plates. (Although, I suppose there are worse things…)
  4. Have fun! Parties are no time to stress out. If you spill a drink on the rug or end up with dip on the armchair or inadvertently give your dog a mohawk in the colors of your favorite team, it’s okay. You’re having a get-together to enjoy your friends and the madness of March, so enjoy yourself, take pictures, and scream at the TV. Have a ball. (Again…sorry.)

Here are a couple of easy recipe ideas for your March Madness party. (Easy is important when you’re whipping up treats for several people!) Feel free to dye the dip the appropriate team color.

Fiesta Ranch Dip

  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch Dip (you can use less for a less intense flavor)
  • 1 10-oz. can original Rotel, drained
  • 16-24 oz. sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips and/or crunchy veggies like carrot or celery sticks

In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream, Rotel, and ranch packet (start with half and taste before adding more). Stir in cheese. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. Serve with chips and/or veggies.

March Madness

Nutella Grape Bites

  • One bunch of green grapes (use roughly 50)
  • One container Nutella
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or almonds, or walnuts, or peanuts, or…)

Wash grapes and dry thoroughly. Dip one end of each grape in the Nutella, then gently roll the grape in the pecans. Spear each grape with a toothpick and serve.

March Madness

What’s your go-to dish for pleasing the crowd on game day?

Printer friendly recipes: March Madness Appetizers

St. Patrick’s Day: Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls

St. Patrick’s Day: Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls

This St. Patrick’s Day, stay in and treat yourself to some ooey-gooey goodness with these Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls. Sarah W. sure knows how to make my mouth water; I knew I was in trouble as soon as I opened the pictures. There’s just something about boozy food that really gets me going…maybe it’s the booze? Anyway, Sarah Weber is my reigning queen of deliciously boozed savory treats, and she does not disappoint with these super easy, intriguingly cheesy pull-apart rolls. Care to join me for St. Patrick’s Day? Let’s have Sarah come, too. Or, at the very least, let’s have her teach us how to make these amazing rolls at home. Sarah, show us your cheesy ways!

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year. Which, unless you’re very dedicated to partying down on this holiday and are willing to take a vacation day, means probably no big wild parties (or green beer). But it doesn’t have to be a disappointment or no fun.

I’m not a huge fan of crowds, so going out on St. Patrick’s Day to see the parades and drink cheap green beer while being pinched by strangers if I’m not wearing green has never much appealed to me. But I do have a small group of friends from college who get together on the weekend closest to St. Patrick’s Day every year for what we call “Green Weekend.” We watch terrible movies, play games, catch up, and relax, which is MY idea of a great weekend. I’m happy because I get to make a giant crockpot of corned beef and cabbage (which might be my husband’s favorite part of the weekend, too!) and I don’t have to deal with a crushing press of people.

Even if you’re not having a big shindig to celebrate the patron saint of getting drunk, you can make a fancy, satisfying, pint-sized appetizer that’s sure to be a hit. And if you ARE braving the crowds and whatever the weather decides to throw at us this year, these are a quick and easy way to start or segue your day of drinking and being merry (have two).

With a few ingredients you most likely have on-hand and about 25 minutes (including clean-up), you can have a cheesy, beery bite to get you in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit.

St. Patrick's

 

Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls

  • 3 large rolls
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 can beer (room temperature)
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Thyme to taste

In honor of the holiday, I’ve chosen to use Guinness and an extra sharp cheddar cheese, but if neither of those is appealing to you, pick a cheese as sharp as you can stand along with a beer as dark as you like. Guinness gives a great caramel taste to the end product here, but is distinctly its own flavor – if you don’t like it, use something else. I can think of plenty of great beer (or wine!) and cheese pairings – Swiss and a mid-dry white wine, goat cheese with a fruit-brewed beer, asiago with a nut brown ale… the options are endless!

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Cut or rip your rolls almost all the way down to the base. The idea here is to get them pretty loosely held together so that once it’s baked with some cheese and beer to soften it up, pieces will pull apart easily in your hands. I chose to use egg knots, and they worked like a charm – they’re basically already marked with perforations to tell you where to rip. I also made rips halfway along the side pieces to give my end result more poof (and more room for cheese!). You want to create as many crevices as possible, while ending up with nice big bites of bread.

Melt your butter. Once melted, add garlic powder and thyme to taste. Add a splash or two (or three) of your Guinness.

Arrange your ripped-up rolls in a dish with sides. These are going to leak a little bit by the nature of what they are, so make sure your dish isn’t too shallow. I used a 9” cake pan, which easily held 3 rolls and could have held more.

Pour half to two-thirds of your butter mixture over your rolls (get those crevices!) and put them in the oven for about 7 minutes.

St. Patrick's

While this is baking, throw your cheese in a bowl (if you have a block of cheese, now is the time to grate it). Pour the rest of your butter mixture over your cheese, and mix in more garlic powder and thyme to taste (a pinch or two of salt wouldn’t go amiss here, but be cautious – the cheese is pretty salty to begin with). Toss your cheese around with clean hands or a fork until your cheese is evenly coated.

Pull your rolls out of the oven and carefully spoon your cheese into those crevices. Load these suckers up – I had juuust enough cheese, so if you have extra, poke around for any crevices you may have missed.

Pop these in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and maybe starting to brown.

This last step is important. Let these babies cool for a few minutes in the pan before you try to plate or move them. That cheese is going to want to ooze in some unhelpful ways unless you give it a minute to set. Use a spatula to transfer to individual plates (or one big plate if you’re doing a big batch for a party).

The result? An oozy, cheesy mouthful of YUM with a deep caramel flavor and a smooth cheese that gives a satisfying melty stringy rip-away from its roll.

St. Patrick's

Pour the rest of your Guinness into a super-chilled glass, and enjoy! These little treats are a quick way to turn up the “special” on this day and can easily be enjoyed while you wait for the corned beef in your crockpot to finish cooking.

What are your St. Patrick’s Day traditions? Do you think the parades and beer specials are worth taking a day off work? What’s your quick-and-easy-sure-to-please recipe? I think everyone should have at least one!

Super Bowl Snacks – Oreo Truffle Footballs

Super Bowl Snacks – Oreo Truffle Footballs

The Super Bowl is almost here! I’m in it for the snacks and commercials, but I hear there will be a football game, too. Thankfully, we have Sarah W. back this week — she actually loves football AND knows how to make great snacks! Let’s keep her around. Last year we had Chef J share some awesome savory appetizers, so this year we’re having Sarah treat us to the ultimate sweet indulgence: Oreo Truffle Footballs! Take us to the end zone, Sarah!

In many ways, I’m a really lucky lady. I’m a total foodie, and live in Cleveland, a city where food and drink is a huge, fun deal. Just named to a bunch of travel sites’ top places to visit, it’s really exciting to be living in a city on the rise. A lot of that excitement tends to drain away when the Super Bowl rolls around, however. The Cleveland Browns haven’t won a Super Bowl since before it was even called the Super Bowl. I’m a season ticket holder with a close group of friends, so tailgating is part of my almost-weekly routine September – December (and it gets COLD here!). We fry turkeys every Thanksgiving, make chili in the snow, and practice a firm “beat what you eat” mentality (pierogies when we play Pittsburgh, fish tacos when we play Miami, chicken wings when we play Philadelphia) during the season. It’s one of my dreams to travel to playoff games and maybe, in my lifetime if I’m lucky, to the SUPER BOWL someday!

Football games are a great combination of friends, food, and drink. It’s no wonder the Super Bowl is one of the most-watched televised broadcasts each year.

The energy of cheering for your team brings a natural closeness with the people around you, and a pride in the place you come from. Seattle and New England fans have that to look forward to this year. And I’ve got the perfect, decadent snack to go along with your celebration — Oreo Truffle Footballs. With just a few ingredients, and some fiddly steps, you can serve up a themed treat for your own Super Bowl party. I got this recipe from one of my family’s closest and dearest friends — they’re a staple at any football-related party we have!

Super Bowl

Equipment:

  • food processor
  • wax paper
  • microwave-safe bowl
  • toothpicks
  • baking sheet/tray

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Oreos (go nuts! Make peanut butter or mint-flavored truffles with flavored Oreos! I’ve used the original ones here)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 12 oz chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp shortening
  • 1 tube white frosting (or red, blue, and green for colored laces)

In your food processor, pulse the Oreos until they are a fine dust. My food processor is a little small, so I did this half a package at a time.

Cut your cream cheese into smallish chunks and add to food processor. Blend until you have a thick, smooth mixture. Make sure the cream cheese is completely incorporated.

Super Bowl

If you have kids who want to help, this is the perfect time — this next step is messy! This is also the moment to remove any rings you may be wearing. Working with small amounts (bigger than your thumb), roll your dough into little balls, then pinch the ends to make them football-shaped. Place them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet or tray. These don’t need to be perfect. The suggestion of a football shape is plenty. If you have an army of kids working for you, have them roll the dough into little oblong shapes and plop them down, then pinch the ends yourself.

Stick your tray(s) in the freezer to let these harden. Once they’re firm, melt the chocolate and shortening in the microwave (about 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between — my chocolate took about a minute and a half all told).

Grab a toothpick, spear a football, and dip them in the chocolate one by one. I used a second toothpick to scrape the bottoms, both to save chocolate (it goes fast!) and to neaten the appearance. If your chocolate starts to get stiff, microwave an additional 10 seconds or so. If your footballs start to get soft and hard to dip, put them back in the freezer to harden up.

Super Bowl

Let the chocolate set a bit, then grab your frosting! You can do plain white laces, or have a little fun and do red and blue or blue and green laces to show some team spirit. Keep these chilled until just before you’re ready to serve them. A great addition to any party spread!

If you happen to have a little extraSuper Bowl melted chocolate when you’re done dipping footballs, I highly encourage grabbing a bag of potato chips, and dipping them. You can snack on these as you get everything ready (which I heartily endorse), or put them on a wax paper-lined tray to save for another party treat.

 

Happy Super Bowl party hosting and attending!

Ring in the New Year with Champagne Lavender Baklava

Ring in the New Year with Champagne Lavender Baklava

As the new year approaches, it is time to start planning your celebration. Thankfully we’ve got Chef J around to supply us with the perfect recipe to accompany our champagne toasts: Champagne Lavender Baklava! This beautiful and delicious dish is a great way to say goodbye to 2014 and ring in the New Year in style!

The year is almost over! Hopefully it was all that you dreamed it would be — but if not, at least you get to try again. ‘Tis the season to reflect on the ups and downs of the previous twelve months and set new goals for the new year in an effort to create a better life and a better world. But mostly it’s the time to pop some corks and scream as a giant, glittery ball drops. Whether your New Year’s celebration is going to be decked out in tuxedos and little black dresses or pajamas and fuzzy slippers, there will probably be a hefty amount of gluttony …before signing up for that gym membership that you are totally going to use this year. Viva la resolution! So before we all start writing checks that we know we can’t cash, let’s enjoy the one last day to get away with – nay, embrace –  the social acceptance of overeating and public drunkenness (besides Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, The Superbowl, Cinco de Mayo, President’s Day…)!

When I ring in the new year this season (in pajamas, of course) I will be doing so with hefty amounts of alcohol and sugar, so it’s the perfect excuse to make one of my favorite wine-based desserts.

Champagne Lavender Baklava is a delicious treat that is relatively easy to make and will surely stand out in a crowd this New Year’s Eve!

Champagne Lavender Baklava 

  • 1 package phyllo dough
  • 1½ cup sugar
  • 2 TBS lavender
  • ½ t cardamom
  • 8 oz. melted butter
  • 1½ cups finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 2 cups Champagne (or less expensive sparkling wine)

In a sauce pot mix 1 cup of sugar and the champagne and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for 15-20 minutes until syrup is thick. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a mortar and pestle, crush lavender and cardamom; throw it in a food processor with remaining cup of sugar and blend until fine.
Mix ½ cup of the sugar mixture with the hazelnuts and set aside.
In a buttered, high-sided pan or baking dish, begin layering sheets of phyllo dough and coating with melted butter.
Every two or three layers sprinkle liberally with the sugar/lavender/cardamom blend.
After using a third of the phyllo, sprinkle half of the hazelnuts on with the sugar. Do this again after using the next third of the dough.
Continue layering and sprinkling then give the top an extra coat of butter.
Cut baklava into the classic diamonds or triangles and bake at 350° for 35 – 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Pour the syrup over the hot baklava.
Let cool, loosely covered for at LEAST 24 hours.
Top with whipped cream or dip in coffee or cocoa.

Printer friendly recipe: Champagne Lavender Baklava

Wine Tasting Party Ideas – Plus Brussels Sprouts Salad

Wine Tasting Party Ideas – Plus Brussels Sprouts Salad

It’s always a good time for wine, right? Add a little wine tasting into your next party to spice things up a bit! Sarah Weber is back with more great party ideas! This time we’ll talk about incorporating a wine tasting into your next affair. Plus she shares a great Brussels Sprouts Salad recipe to nibble on between wines. So pour yourself a glass, sit back, and let Sarah inspire your next party!

Need to spruce up that dinner party or gathering with friends? Add a wine tasting! Friendly competition over who can guess the most varietals correctly adds fun to your usual gatherings, and you might discover a new must-have wine for your collection!

Here are some ideas for wine tasting games my friends and I have played.

There are several ways to structure a wine tasting — taste multiple wines from the same region or country, taste local wines if you have vineyards nearby, or taste only reds or whites. I live in an area with several local wineries, and it’s always fun to share new vintages and seasonal varietals, especially once the wineries close after the summer season and I can’t spend my nights there. One note about selecting wines for your tasting party — stick to wines that are similar on the dry-to-sweet spectrum, or serve them in order of dry to sweet. It’s very disconcerting to taste a fantastic sweet white wine, and then suddenly assault your taste-buds with a full-bodied red. Trust me.

Wine TastingFirst off, drinkware! Each guest should have a wineglass easily distinguished from everyone else’s. This can easily be done with wine charms, patterned glasses, or decorated wineglasses. There is special paint designed to paint glass that you can pick up at a craft store, but I’ve also used puffy paint. Personalize your guests’ glasses to use as a party favor. As long as you’re not painting the inside of the glass, you’re safe. If you have a guest or two who are SERIOUSLY into wine and need a handicap, look for tinted wine glasses to try and even the playing field. I have read that it’s not recommended to use stemless wineglasses because the heat of your hand could affect the temperature or taste of the wine. Depending on how much of a wine enthusiast you are, take this rule into account. Personally, I like stemless glasses because I’m less likely to tip them over and spill red wine on my carpet.

So once you have drinkware and an idea of how to structure your tasting, what happens next? You need wine tasting games! A blind tasting is a fun way to try new wines without your perception being affected by the label or varietal of wine you’re trying. If you don’t usually like merlots, you might be surprised to find you actually enjoy merlot when you haven’t seen the bottle first. Wines can be poured by a third party in another room (give a designated driver, non-drinking, or non-wine drinking friend a job so they don’t feel left out) and placed on numbered trays, or bottles can be placed in numbered paper bags for people to serve themselves.

Wine Tasting

See which of your guests can correctly identify the most wines in your tasting. Another fun twist is to check out the tasting notes most wines have printed on the bottle. If your red wine claims to have notes of cherry, for example, have fresh or dried cherries on hand (or a cherry dessert). Sample the tasting note foods while tasting your wine to see how it changes the way the wine tastes. Fun wine tasting fact? If you’ve ever heard someone comment that a wine has “legs” and want to know what that’s about, tilt your wineglass. When you straighten it, you might see a clear, blurry trail of wine that is sticking to the side of your glass, running down slowly like rain down a windowpane. Those are “legs” and refer to the alcohol content of your wine.

And if you need a side dish to nibble between wine tastings? I have just the thing. I modified this recipe by using almonds instead of walnuts and adding bacon. This is totally better the second day, so feel free to make this the night before, and make extra!

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon

Ingredients:Wine Tasting

2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
½ cup Almonds
1 cup Pecorino, grated or crumbled
1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp whole-grain mustard
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound bacon

-First, preheat your oven to make your bacon and toast your almonds (if they’re raw like mine were). I laid out my bacon on a baking sheet while the oven preheated to 375°F. Eight minutes was a HAIR too long for my almonds, which got a little more brown than toasted, so keep an eye on those while you prep the next step. You want your bacon to come out a little more crispy than usual so it will hold up to the salad with its dressing.

Wine Tasting

-While your bacon and almonds are cooking, start your brussels sprouts. This is by far the most tedious part of prepping this salad, so put some music on and jam out while you’re doing this! Rinse and dry your sprouts, then trim the woody base/ends off. This will loosen up the outer leaves, which may have some stubborn dirt on them. Since we’re not cooking these, it’s important to get rid of any leaves that look battered or grimy. Once those have been stripped off, slice each baby cabbage as thinly as you can. The original recipe instructs you to separate each layer as you add them to your bowl, but if you throw them in as slices and occasionally fluff/smoosh them, I won’t tell anyone.Wine Tasting

-Grate your cheese. Feel free to add more or less to your taste- I added much more, being a fan of punch-you-in-the-mouth FLAVOR. Asiago would also make a good cheese for this salad if you can’t find pecorino, or if that’s more expensive than you’d prefer. Toss it in the bowl

-Once your almonds are cool, rough chop them. Toss them in the bowl

-Once your bacon is cool, towel it off with paper towels to help absorb the grease, then rough chop it. Toss it in the bowl.

-Finally, we’ll make the dressing. Squeeze someWine Tasting mustard into a large, empty bowl. Add lemon juice and whisk them together. While whisking with one hand, pour a slow stream of olive oil into your bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

-Pour your dressing over your salad, and toss it together. If it doesn’t seem like enough dressing, whisk some more together and pour it over. This salad is rather thirsty, and likes to absorb dressing, but don’t be afraid to make too little the first time. You can always mix up more and add it. Now toss this all gently together, and put in the fridge overnight.

 

Printer friendly recipe: Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon

Stone Soup: Community Comfort Food

Stone Soup: Community Comfort Food

Are you familiar with Stone Soup? I had never heard of it, but when I asked Sarah B. if she was interested in blogging about it, of course she knew just what to do! Sarah wrote about some of her favorite football foods last month, but she’s not just about appetizers! Stone Soup is a great way to bring friends and family together, and Sarah’s got all the answers as to what Stone Soup is and how you can go about making it. Take it away, Sarah!

You’ve heard the Stone Soup story, right? Some travelers carrying a pot happen upon a village, and they ask the villagers for some food. The residents say they don’t have anything to spare, so the travelers tell the people that they’re going to make a delicious soup out of water and a single stone. They mention throughout the “cooking” process that it would be just wonderful if they had an onion, and maybe a potato to add, and the villagers all come up with bits and pieces to add to the soup and, in the end, everyone comes together to make a delicious soup for everyone to share.

I’m under the impression that Stone Soup would be an excellent theme for a dinner party – assign everyone an ingredient, throw everything in a pot, and let it cook while you have some drinks and swap some stories. Also, though, it’s a great mentality to have when you want to make something great for dinner, and don’t have an actual plan, but you do have some beef. And some beef stock. And maybe an onion or two.

For me, my Stone Soup moment didn’t come from all my neighbors rallying together to make dinner or even from a dig through the cabinets. Instead, it came from my step-daughter, Kelly, who wanted to make soup, and who had a list of ingredients she thought maybe should go in it…but that was about it.

She handed me a list that said: Onions, carrots, cabbage, beef, celery, potatoes, salt, lemon pepper, beef stock. OK, cool. We were going to Stone Soup this thing. Gather a bunch of stuff. Throw it in a pot. Cross our fingers and let it all boil.

The soup turned out really, really well, and we had enough to eat for a few days, since it was just the three of us.

When you’re making this, against all cooking advice ever given, don’t chop or dice everything ahead of time. Do each after you put the previous ingredient in. If you decide to have people over for this soup and they bring ingredients, have them chop up their own contribution! The point of Stone Soup is that it’s a community effort, so why not bring that into your own kitchen?

Beef and Vegetable “Stone” Soup

  • 50 oz. beef broth or stockSoup meat 300
  • 2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 lbs. stew beef
  • 5 red potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 celery stalks
  • ½ head of cabbage
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Stone Soup 4Place a large stock pot on a burner on high. Add your beef stock and diced tomatoes with juice.
Cut up your beef and add it to the pot.
Dice your potatoes, onion, and celery and add those to the pot. If at this point your mixture is boiling rapidly, turn the heat down a little, to medium-high.
Chop your cabbage and add to the pot.
Add your lemon pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Simmer for 15 minutes, then check the doneness of the meat. (It should be at least 160°F.) If it’s cooked through, move on to the next step. If not, continue to simmer until the meat is done.
Taste your soup and add additional spices if desired.
Chop your green onions and add them to the pot. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
Serve hot (with crusty bread, if you’ve got it!).

Bowl of Soup 300

Sarah Buchanan is a cookbook addict and Riesling aficionado living in Southern California. Even though it’s on hiatus at the moment, her blog, www.sarahcooksthebooks.com, tells the story of her attempts to cook out of every cookbook in her massive collection.

Printer friendly recipe: Stone Soup

Kick Off the NFL Season: Favorite Football Foods

Kick Off the NFL Season: Favorite Football Foods

Football season is upon us! Kick it off right with some great finger foods for your viewing parties. This week, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Sarah Buchanan (not to be confused with my other friend Sarah, who you got to hang out with a couple weeks ago!).  Sarah  is a native North Carolinian turned Southern Californian with a serious cookbook addiction. She blogs about her attempts to work through her massive cookbook collection at  Sarah Cooks the Books, where she is determined to utilize every cookbook she owns (and there are many – I’ve seen ’em!) at least once.  So, Sarah, what kind of football food should I be making this season?

Kick Off the NFL Season: Favorite Finger Foods

by Sarah Buchanan

I’m originally from North Carolina and the beginning of football season is a big deal there. College football is the source of most of the insanity (NC State, UNC, or Duke. Your choice says everything about you.), but there’s some pretty serious love for the beginning of NFL season, too.

Basically, in North Carolina, football season was a thing to be revered. I haven’t lived in my new town for very long, but I’m going to guess that with the start of NFL season, there are football parties to be had here as well.

And the benchmark of any great football party? Great football food!

This salsa recipe isn’t the usual chunky kind you’ll often find. It’s more of a restaurant-style salsa, excellent with tortilla chips and, really, anything you usually dunk in salsa (veggie chips, baked pita chips, spoons, etc.) This was really popular at the last party I brought it to, and if you’re making apps for a large crowd, I would suggest doubling the recipe. It’s really easy to make, and one of the better salsas I’ve had. It’s the perfect football food!

The second recipe I’ll share and would recommend for any potluck is a popcorn and peanut bark. It only has three ingredients, so it’s so easy to make. A lot of food brought to football parties is of the salty variety, so these are a little bit of sweetness for the sweet-toothed among us.

So what are your favorite teams? Who do you think will go all the way this year? (Go Panthers!) And, most importantly, what is your favorite football food?

Easy Restaurant-style Salsa 

Serves 12-ishFootball Food

  • ½ cup cilantro
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 whole jalapeno, diced (remove seeds and membrane before dicing if you don’t like things super hot)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 28-oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes with juice discarded
  • 2 10-oz. cans Rotel (any variety)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ small lime

Combine all ingredients in a large food processor.  Depending both on how large your food processor is and how much salsa you’re making, you may need to divide the ingredients up in several batches, then mix the batches together.
Pulse the salsa until it reaches the consistency you like and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Football Food

 Popcorn and Peanut Bark

Makes 1 pound of bark

  • 14 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 3 cups freshly popped popcorn (If you use microwave popcorn, make sure it’s unsalted and unbuttered. This is best if you pop the popcorn on the stove or use an air popper.)
  • ½ cup salted peanuts
  • A pinch of salt
  • Butter, coconut oil, or olive oil for the cookie sheetFootball Food

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spray or drizzle with butter/coconut oil/olive oil to prevent sticking. (You can also just use a nonstick liner.)

Melt the chocolate by either using a double-boiler, the microwave (microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each 15 seconds), or over very low heat on the stove. My preferred method is melting it straight on the stove, but your mileage may vary. If you use this method, pay very close attention and use very low heat to avoid burning.

Add the popcorn and peanuts to the chocolate and fold the mixture until everything is evenly coated.

Scrape the mixture onto the cookie sheet and spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle salt over the top as desired.

Put the cookie sheet into the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so, or until the bark is firm. Break the bark into clusters.

Football Food

Friendship Week – Transform Dinner Parties into Brunch Parties

Friendship Week – Transform Dinner Parties into Brunch Parties

 In honor of Friendship Week, we have my friend Sarah Weber here as a guest blogger to talk to us about throwing parties! Sarah and her book club friends come up with some really clever themes and the photos are always inspiring! This week Sarah will be sharing an awesome brunch party with some great ideas to spice up your next get-together. We can always use more ideas for feeding friendships. Take it away, Sarah!

Transform Dinner Parties into Brunch Parties

by Sarah Weber

Dinner parties are one of my favorite reasons for existing. They’re a great excuse to drink copious amounts of wine, build up friendships, and taste the kind of food that’s too much trouble to make for myself on a regular basis.That being said… when you’re having and attending the same dinner party over and over, things get a little stale. Enter brunch.

A themed brunch party is a great way to strengthen friendships and let everyone show off their creativity!

Friendship

I have a wonderful group of friends who get togetherfriendship every month or so for a fancy dinner party — we formed a book club. So we decide on a book, read the book, and bring food and drink related to or themed around the book we read. We’ve been doing this for about a year, and those parties are among my favorite memories with friends.

My good friend Amy is a high school English teacher who blogs over at The Wordy Teacher. She hosted our most recent party. We read a book called Wonder by R.J. Palacio,which her entire school is reading as a One School One Book project. The book itself, I would highly recommend — it’s a quick read, and has overarching themes of “Be a little kinder than you need to be” and “Everyone deserves a standing ovation,” which I think are great principles to live by whether you’re a high school student or an adult.

mimosas

 

We were all feeling a little bit of the dinner party blues, so decided to mix it up by making our party a brunch. We had mimosas spiked liberally with peach-mango juice, which is a great twist.

 

Our kind hostess made each of us coasters featuringfriendship our own faces drawn in the style of the book’s artwork. Cute favors are a great way to make a party more interesting and personal. Coasters are easy to make cheaply, too. Pick up tiles at the hardware store along with some felt to line the bottoms, and then decorate with scrapbook paper, paint, printed photos, whatever you fancy. Don’t forget to seal them (most hardware stores also carry spray sealant) to make them waterproof.

Amy made the most adorable mini quiches using a cupcake pan and Wonder-ful blue lemonade, a friend made cupcakes decorated with elements from the book art, and I made one of my favorite easy recipes to date — a sparkling champagne jello mold studded with fresh raspberries. Isn’t friendship great?friendship

Sparkling Jello Mold

Recipe slightly modified from seriouseats.

  • 3 TBS (3 envelopes) unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 cup cold white cranberry juice
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cold champagne (I used pink champagne — it turned out a pretty pale pinkish color)
  • 6 oz. (one little clamshell) fresh raspberries

Sprinkle gelatin over cold juice in a large bowl and let stand until gelatin is hydrated, about 1 minute. Use a slightly bigger bowl than you think you’ll need if you’ve never bloomed gelatin before.

Add boiling water and stir until gelatin completely dissolves. Stir in the sugar, then slowly stir in champagne. Carefully skim any foam off the top with a large spoon and discard.

Transfer to refrigerator. Chill until thickened but not set (the gelatin should still be jiggly, not entirely firm), 1 to 2 hours. I didn’t have two full hours because I am impatient, but after about 45 minutes (up to an hour and fifteen minutes), this is pseudo-set enough to try the next part.

Spoon in enough of the gelatin mixture to just cover the bottom of a 7 cup mold.

Add more than half of your raspberries, then pour in the rest of your jello mixture slowly. This will make the berries you’ve added move around a little bit. Add the rest of your raspberries to any spots that look sparse. Make sure your raspberries are completely submerged in jello.

Chill for several hours (overnight is good).

Before serving, dip the mold into warm water for no more than 10 seconds to help release. If you’re feeling brave, run warm water on the sides of the mold while you’re holding it, being careful not to get water in the jello mold.

Place a large serving platter upside-down over the mold. Holding both the mold and the platter firmly, invert. Gently shake mold to release Jell-O. Serve immediately.

This is a grown-up jello shot that you won’t even feel bad about bringing to a fancy grown-up party. It’s crisp and bubbly-tasting from the champagne, while the raspberries and cranberry juice give it a sweet and slightly tart flavor that is very refreshing in between mini quiches and hummus. The six of us easily ate an entire jello mold, with no leftovers.

Father’s Day Celebration – Sliders and Appreciation

Father’s Day Celebration – Sliders and Appreciation

Father’s Day is this weekend and we’ll all be taking time to celebrate the great dads in our lives. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Chef J is my brother, so I am the lucky lady who gets to sample all of the delicious recipes he shares with us here. Regardless of the great food, though, J is an awesome guy to have around. He was the father figure in my life from a very young age and shared that role when our amazing step-dad came into the picture (J will expand on this awesome dude in a moment). Older brothers don’t often get recognized on Father’s Day, so I’d like to take a moment to give J a little shout out. Thanks for always being there and taking care of me. You have a huge heart and have helped me in more ways than I can count. Double thanks for being such a fantastic uncle. You’re always up for babysitting and cooking lessons, comic books and video games — you’re just pretty super all around!

Before I start crying (ha! you know I’m already crying…), let’s have Chef J share some Father’s Day goodness! The floor is yours, Chef J!

This Sunday is Father’s Day, as the third Sunday of June always is. The origin and history of this holiday is a story with murky details, contentious claims, and the occasional absurd political rant — like any good patriarchal tale. Though there have been numerous claims made about who originally thought of the idea of setting aside a special day to give dads ugly ties, the holiday that we celebrate today is the result of the work of a plucky young lady by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd. She was the daughter of William Smart, a Civil War veteran, widower, and father of six. Dodd rallied support for a celebration of dads, much like the established Mother’s Day. The idea took root in her town of Spokane, Washington, and in 1910 on June 19th, the first Father’s Day as we (kind of) know it was celebrated. Though there was some initial opposition for the first, oh, fifty or sixty years, it was eventually signed into national law in 1972. Many who did not support the holiday spoke out in fear of the impending commercialization they assumed would surely follow. But those naysayers were quieted by the focused promotion of gift-giving by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers in the ’30s. So…

So, this Father’s Day, make sure to get dad that terrible tie he’s been wanting. Or a new grill utensil set! How about some slippers? What do you do for the guy that devoted his life to raising you? I posit appreciation is the greatest gift you could give the old man. My biological father took off after realizing that a wife and four kids cramped his style. So it goes. But my step-dad is the best. Not only is he the wise, strong, supportive guy you would imagine the classic super-dad to be, he stepped into a role that he had no obligation to fill. He took on four kids that, frankly, were kind of terrible at times. He chose to be the father that we needed; he stuck around because he wanted to, not because he had to. So this Father’s Day I will be celebrating the hard work, love, and patience that my old man has given over the years. What’s more, my brother-in-law has recently become a father! Candi has already mentioned the sweet little Piper in her Mother’s Day article; she is a precious little goober, and her parents couldn’t be happier.

So how do I show the fathers in my life how much they mean to me on Father’s Day? With tiny hamburgers, of course!

SlidersFather's Day Sliders

  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • ½ white or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 12 small buns or soft dinner rolls, sliced
  • 3 slices of American cheese, cut into quarters
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Dill pickles, sliced
  • Salt & Pepper

Roll the beef flat until it is about 1/4” thick. Cut into 12 squares and season with salt & pepper.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan.
Add the onions and cook until they begin to turn translucent.
Place the beef patties on top of the onions, place a slice of cheese on each one and cover.
Cook for 4-5 minutes. Don’t crowd the pan; if you need to cook the burgers in batches you can reuse the onions a couple times.
Sprinkle the onions over the buns. Place a patty on the onions, top with condiments and pickles, put the other half of the bun on last. You know, build a burger!
You can get away with a pound and a half of beef for really thin burgers.
You can double them up, add jalapeno, bacon, etc. Whatever Dad likes!
These also go really well with fries and milkshakes!

Printer friendly recipe: Fathers Day Sliders