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Category — Holiday

caprese flag

Everyone loves caprese salad, or at least everyone I know love it!

There are many variations of Insalata Caprese, but the classic Italian salad consists of layers of ripe tomato slices, sliced mozzarella and basil leaves that are seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper and sometimes drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It is made to represent the colors of the Italian flag.

I have made it as an hors d’oeuvre before, but this time I assembled it to resemble our American flag for a 4th of July appetizer. I wish I could take credit for coming up with the easy idea on my own, instead I saw a video on the Food Network Instagram page on the morning of the 4th. I immediately jumped in my car and headed to Trader Joe’s to pick up the ingredients. This was too clever and yummy to NOT make!

 

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July 11, 2017   1 Comment

Patriotic Kabobs

Independence Day has come and gone, but there are plenty more patriot holidays between now and July 4, 2018. Labor Day is only eight weeks from today. Columbus Day is a month after that and before you know it, Veterans Day is upon us! The point is, don’t wait a year to make these fun and easy dessert kabobs.

I whipped a few of these up for the grilling tips segment I did last week and then made them again the next day for a 4th of July party I was invited to. Technically, I may have invited myself. But I tried to make the hosts feel it was worth it by bringing these kabobs along with an awesome flag appetizer, the recipe for which I will post tomorrow.

When I made the kabobs for television, I used pound cake. I quickly discovered that pound cake is not the best choice. Angel food cake works better, so that is what I used on the 4th. The pound cake is too dense and has a tendency to break apart when skewered. The angel food cake is light and fluffy and stays in place. Large marshmallows would be a great choice too.

I’m not providing you with any quantities here. I made as many as I could until I ran out of one of the ingredients. The first thing I ran out of was strawberries, then I was done.

After making four or five, it was getting tedious, so I decided to make three at once. I held three skewers in my left hand and added the ingredients with my right. I was done in no time.

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July 10, 2017   2 Comments

Happy 4th of July!

I hope you and yours are having a festive and fun 4th! I’ll be spending mine with Steve, Tram and Fam.  Holidays are always more fun spent with toddlers, especially Zak & Zoey! Above is a cute picture taken earlier this week during their Staycation at the Scottsdale Princess. Adorable!

Yesterday was a whirlwind for me. I was at an appointment when Tram called and asked if I’d be willing and able to do a “grilling tips” segment on 12News at 4:00. Mind you, the call came in at about 11:00, I still had more than 90 minutes left at my appointment, but I can’t say no to her. I was making mental notes of what tips I wanted to give and what I needed to shop for, prep and pick up at home before I headed to the station in downtown Phoenix.

Straight from the appointment I went to the grocery store to buy meat, fish, buns, veggies, fruit, a cherry pie, brownies, angel food cake, ice, etc. Then I raced home to load up the ice chests, prep some of the food and pull out what little 4th of July decorations I have – that aren’t boxed up and in storage.

I changed my clothes and put on fresh make-up, which was basically useless, since the segment was to be filmed outside on the 12News patio and it was 107 degrees out, so the make-up would be melting off my face while I was unloading and setting up anyhow. I packed it all up and drove well above the speed limit (not unusual) to get to the station by 3:00.

Here are the two carts of stuff I schlepped down there.

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July 4, 2017   6 Comments

Easter appetizer

I may have gone a little overboard with the flowers this Easter.

It’s hard not to. Tulips. Daffodils. Freesia. Hydrangea. Gerber Daisy. Runuculus. It’s impossible to pick just one, or two for that matter!

The funny thing is that I didn’t use a one of them on my Easter tablescape. They were all too fragrant and floral scents often interfere with the food.

But they were enjoyed throughout the rest of the house.

All of the flowers came from Trader Joe’s, along with the fresh English spring peas that I used to make this appetizer.

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April 19, 2017   1 Comment

trial and challenges

This is the extraordinarily lovely vegetable tart I made for our Easter brunch. I saw it on one of Martha Stewart’s social media pages several weeks ago and fell in love. I have to admit, I did run into a few challenges making it though.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this here yet, but my house is on the market. I packed up boxes full of household items and accessories back in January to make it “show-ready” before we listed it.

My garage has stacks upon stacks and row after row of boxes filled with items from every room in the house. When potential buyers look at your house, they open closets and cupboards, so those had to be pared down too.

I tried to be careful about what I packed away, but inevitably, I have times when what I need is somewhere unreachable in the garage. In the case of this tart, it was the mandolin and the pie weights I needed but were out of reach. It’s frustrating, but luckily, I was able to adapt.

Instead of my mandolin, I used a vegetable peeler for the vegetables and instead of professional pie weights for the blind baking of the tart shell, I went old school and used rice (dry beans work well too).

I’m going to be 100% honest here and tell you that this recipe is A WHOLE LOT of work! To be doubly honest, I’m not sure that it was worth it, I didn’t find it flavorful enough. That being said, please don’t let those statements stop you for reading on! There is a solution to at least half of that proclamation!

I did modify the original recipe a bit; I added nutmeg to the filling and sprinkled Parmesan on top. I also found that the squash did not need to be blanched, only the carrots needed that treatment to roll easily. And I was lucky and found extra fancy tri-colored carrots at Trader Joe’s. They added vibrant extra pops of color.

Everyone enjoyed the tart and thought it was quite good, but for all the time and effort, I didn’t think it was good enough.

Before we ate it, I posted a photo of it on my Facebook page. My friend, Sue, left a comment saying, “My daughter posted the recipe for the tart to my timeline earlier this week for us to make! You’ll have to let us know how it tastes!!

After I tasted it, I went back to reply to Sue with my thoughts, but before I did, I checked out her timeline and found that the recipe her daughter posted was not the same recipe as the Martha Stewart recipe that I used. After reading over Sue’s recipe, I can say that I will make the tart again, but next time I’ll be using the recipe posted on her page, it sounds so much more flavorful! Instead of only eggs, cream and Parmesan for the filling and pie dough for the crust, hers added in ricotta, mozzarella, and oregano for the filling and used puff pastry for the crust. YUM! Here is the link for that recipe.

Oh, and if you’ve ever had difficulty removing the rim from a tart pan and wondered if there is a trick to it… there is! Set the baked tart on a bowl and let the rim just fall right off.  Easy as pie.

There is one fact that is not contested – this is one gorgeous tart!

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April 18, 2017   4 Comments

gold speckled robin’s egg Easter eggs

If you haven’t dyed your Easter eggs yet, there is still time. Time to do something more creative than the dye kits from the grocery store.

Many years ago, when my now 20-something kids were in grade school and we had our own egg-laying chickens, I tried dyeing our eggs with natural ingredients for Easter.

I used onion skins, beets, coffee, Red-Zinger tea bags, spinach, turmeric, chili powder and red cabbage. The only one I remember turning out as beautiful as the ones I’d seen Martha Stewart do were the eggs dyed with red cabbage. Maybe that is because instead of getting the red or purple eggs one would expect, the cabbage eggs come out a lovely shade of robin’s egg blue.

I was inspired to make these gold speckled robin’s eggs when I thought back on those red cabbage blue eggs combined with the memory of the Robin’s Nest Cake I made last Easter.

This is a “Do as I say – Not as I do” sort of recipe. I didn’t use enough cabbage and water to completely cover the eggs.

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April 15, 2017   3 Comments

where flowers bloom

My plan for this week was to get ready for Easter. I was going to make some gold speckled robin’s egg Easter eggs, start decorating the house, get my table ready and have fun doing it and then share it with you. The only thing I’ve accomplished this far is the update of my letter-board.

Instead, I’ve spent countless hours at the Verizon and Apple stores.

While I type this post, on Thursday evening, I’m actually sitting at the Apple Genius Bar. I’m dealing with my Mac laptop and issues with my Photos library. Basically what happened, is that I lost all 49,000+ of my photos when I updated the operating system, late on Tuesday night.

I installed the update because I needed to back up my phone, so that I could transfer all content from my iPhone 6S to a new iPhone 7.  The reason I needed a new phone was because on the morning I was leaving for my NYC trip (a week ago Wednesday) my phone fell from my back pocket into the toilet.

I know, it’s the worst!

I put the phone in a container of rice to dry it out and carried that container with me throughout the two flights from Phoenix to Houston to New York. All seemed fine on Wednesday night when I arrived in NYC and pulled the phone from the rice. It was still working fine on Thursday and on Friday morning. Then, out of the blue, on Friday afternoon, the camera stopped working. I had no front camera for the rest of the trip, only the back “selfie” camera worked.

The phone could not be fixed, so I spent all day this past Tuesday at Verizon, trying to back it up, to no avail. The Verizon dude told me to bring it home and plug it into my Mac and use iTunes to back it up…. hence the update of the Mac’s operating system before the phone could be backed up.

The new phone is all good but the update of the operating system on the Mac somehow jacked up my desktop. Everything disappeared, so I brought the computer to the Genius Bar on Wednesday afternoon. They fixed that problem and I thought that my technology challenges were over… until I got home and found that ALL of my photos were gone!

Well, I do have most of them on an external hard drive, but I discovered that the last time I used the drive was in 2014. Oops!

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April 14, 2017   2 Comments

Guinness Fondue

Sweet Zoey and me testing the appetizer I made for Tram and Steve’s St. Patrick’s Day/Going-Away dinner party last Friday night. Zoey and Zak were not fans of the Guinness Fondue, but they did love all the dippers for it.

One of the dippers is blanched Brussels sprouts.

To blanch them; trim the ends and cut in half. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add sprouts and boil for 3 or 4 minutes, or until a paring knife pierces a sprout easily. Drain and then shock in ice water. Drain on paper towels and leave at room temperature until serving time. Note: When you’re trimming and halving the sprouts, you’ll end up with a pile of single leaves. I blanched the leaves first for about 30 seconds, shocked and drained them and used them in a salad the next day. Zero waste!

Also a note about another dipper – the pretzel roll cubes. I didn’t have time to get to Costco and buy a package of their pretzel rolls, which are the best around, in my opinion. Instead I bought the Trader Joe’s pretzel rolls. You know I love my Trader Joe’s, but there is no comparison between the two rolls. The Costco variety are saltier and way more pretzel-y. Lesson learned.

One last note before the recipe. I know, I’ve got so much to say about this easy-breezy appetizer! A third and very important dipper is apple cubes. In my rush to assemble and set out the appetizer when I arrived at Tram’s, I forgot to add the apple cubes to the serving tray. I felt like something was missing, but I brushed it off. Finally, a guest asked, “What is this container of apple cubes for?” Darn it! Don’t forget to put them out because they add a much-needed light and bright color to the tray of dippers and are a delicious fresh addition to the overall taste choices. *If you look closely in the left upper corner of the photo above, you’ll see them in their storage container with the purple trimmed lid. Oh well.

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March 23, 2017   No Comments

Irish recipes for next St. Patrick’s Day

On Friday night, Tram and Steve had a St. Patrick’s Day dinner party that was also a going-away party for a special Irish chef we all know and love. Chef Michael Cairns and his beautiful wife, Dar, are moving to Napa, California today. You will now be able to find Michael at the gorgeous Silverado Resort. The last time I was at The Silverado was in 1990-something for the Napa County Wine Auction. Knowing that Michael is there makes me want to go back. The 2017 Auction is the first weekend in June… very tempting!

Michael and Steve cooked up a delicious traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal; corned beef, cabbage & carrots, soda bread, Shepard’s pie, roasted potatoes, boiled potatoes and colcannon (which is another potato dish – you know, for good measure!)

I contributed my favorite things to bring to parties, a cocktail and an appetizer. Today you’ll find the cocktail recipe and tomorrow I’ll post the appetizer.

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March 22, 2017   1 Comment

bacon candy

At last, the end of recipes from the 2016 Holiday Appetizer Pot-Luck.

Marissa made my famous Caesar Dip, the recipe can be found HERE. Near the end of the evening, I set out bowls and platters of holiday sweets and desserts I’d purchased at Trader Joe’s, alongside the coffee and cocoa bar.

Before I share the last recipe, let me tell you the joke I made up about it…

The original name for this recipe was Bacon Crack, that seems a bit crass, so I’ve since changed it to Bacon Candy.

I made the recipe the morning of the party. I tasted it and didn’t think it was all that great. Come party time, I put it in the serving dish and told guests, “It’s called Bacon Crack, but it’s not all that it’s ‘cracked up’ to be.” Haha.

Funny thing was, everyone loved it. I tasted it again and they were right, it was boatloads better once it cooled completely and sat around for a few hours.

I apologize that it has taken seven weeks to post the 10 recipes from a Christmas Eve Eve party. (To easily find them all in one place, just click on the link in the first sentence of this post and it will take you to them)

The good news is that here on the blog, 2016 finally ends and next week, 2017 begins!

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February 24, 2017   1 Comment