Friday, January 27, 2012

Superbowl Party Ideas

Alternate Title:  How to Cater a Party for 40

While this was going to be a post about how I catered the party my parents had over the holidays, it seems almost more appropriate to give you some good ideas about what to make next weekend for the big game.

Menu, courtesy of Dad

First, some tips on how to get it done:

  • Figure out how many people are coming.
  • Timing matters!  (or perhaps your inviation will dictate whether people expect a meal or snack)
  • Are there any dietary restrictions/allergies?
  • Plan a menu, taking care to pick mostly things that can be made ahead of time.
  • Make lists your friend. Shopping lists, to-do lists...  better to have it written out than forget it.
  • Accept help!  Whether it be another set of hands, a last-minute grocery run, or a dish you don't have time to focus on, welcome the opportunity to make your life a little easier.
  • When it gets close to game time, don't worry about things that didn't quite get finished.  Chances are good that no one will know what is missing, it's more important to enjoy the party!

And now the Menu:

Bar Nuts
Snack Mix (Made by Mom)
Dips w/crudite: balsamic onion, hummus, eggplant caponata
Brie w/fig preserves and sliced almonds (baked at 350deg for ~30min)
Stuffed dates
Sausage Roll (Made by my Aunt)
Spinach & Gorgonzola roll (Made by my Aunt)
Bruschetta Apple Bruschetta
Chicken Satay w/Peanut Sauce
Herbed Turkey Meatballs w/Cranberry BBQ sauce (I made them smaller and kept them warm in the crockpot)
Kielbasa w/mustard
Herb Poached Shrimp w/Cocktail Sauce (recipe can also be found here)
Carrot Buttermilk Tart (I scaled up, but need to play around with proportions before I share my version)
Assorted cookies (from Mom, Aunt, and guests)
Pomegranate vanilla punch w/prosecco

Are you throwing or attending a Superbowl Party??  If so what will you be making?  Whatever you chose, don't forget to root for the Giants :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Balsamic Onion Dip

A perfect addition to your Superbowl spread, this is a an onion dip with a little bit of character from balsamic vinegar.   If you have any leftover, I can see this as a wonderful spread on your sandwich as well!

Onion dip is on the left
(eggplant caponata in the middle, hummus on the right)

Balsamic Caramelized Onion Dip
adapted from my previous version
yield ~3c

2 1/4lb onions, cut in half and sliced into halfmoons
2T extra virgin olive oil
1/2c water
1/4c balsamic vinegar
1/4c cider vinegar
1t brown sugar
2c greek yogurt
8oz reduced fat cream cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened and become translucent.  Add water, vinegars and brown sugar and continue to cook on medium-low until onions are caramelized.  Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the greek yogurt and cream cheese.  Beat until smooth and then stir in the caramelized onions.  Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or up to two days.

Let stand at room temperature for a bit before serving with crudite.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

POM Vanilla Punch

Unfortunately I don't have great pictures of this punch, but it was party time.  You can understand, right?  I made two batches of this and it was gone before the guests, so you don't have to take my word for it that this was delicious!!  Perfect for kids and adults alike, I served it with some bubbly on the side for those who wished to imbibe.

Pomegranate Vanilla Punch
adapted from How Sweet It Is
yield ~ 10-15 glasses

1 lg orange, sliced
1 lg apple, sliced
1 lg pear, sliced
airls of 1 large pomegranate
2 cinnamon stick
seeds and pod of 1 vanilla bean (optional)
1T vanilla extract
48oz pomegranate juice (not from concentrate, I used POM Wonderful)
1L vanilla seltzer
prosecco, optional

In a large pitcher, combine all ingredients except prosecco.  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Serve with prosecco on this side!

This one's a keeper folks!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stuffed Dates

I like to call Medjool dates nature's candy.  Soft, caramel-y and delicious, I adore medjool dates.  So when I got an email from Laura Hartung asking if I wanted to attend a dinner at Form sponsored by Bard Valley I didn't hesitate to say yes.

I joined some fellow Boston bloggers including Janel, Elizabeth, Nancy and Liz at Forum restaurant for a four course dinner (with wine pairings) featuring medjool dates.  But it wasn't just about tasting-- we learned quite a bit as well!

Did you know that medjool dates are actually fresh?  I had assumed they were dried, but it turns out that's how they grow!  Chock full of fiber, potassium and polyphenols (antioxidants!), dates are a great way to add some healthy sweetness into your life :)

Our meal started with a Medjool date, orange and almond salad with goat cheese was quite delightful, and something I could see myself serving again and again.

Not a huge fan of duck, I was surprised by the main course, where a pan roasted duck breast was paired with black rice, broccoli rabe and a vanilla date puree.  I can see that vanilla date puree being used as the base of an ice cream...  :)

The last course of the evening left us all swooning- a Medjool date pudding cake with caramel infusion.  Holy moly, this was decadent and delicious.

We were lucky enough to be sent home with some leftovers and dates to enjoy.  And enjoy I did, creating this appetizer from my memory of the ones served at my favorite tapas restaurant!  I've served these two times in the past month and since I had people I didn't know telling me they loved me, I'm going to say they were a hit ;)  Want to make these vegetarian?  Try my friend Cara's version!

Stuffed Dates
Recipe by Shannon

If you're lucky enough to have an additional pair of hands helping you prepare these, it's quickly done in an assembly line-- one person can pit the dates another stuff.  Then both of you can work on the wrapping!

Medjool dates
Marcona almonds
goat cheese
proscuitto di parma (or serrano ham)

Preheat oven to 375deg.

Begin by pitting the dates, slicing lengthwise along half of the date and then removing the pit.

Once the dates are pitted, stuff an almond and 1-2t goat cheese (depends on the size of the date) and then close the date, bringing the two edges as close together as you can.  Set aside as you continue to stuff the remaining dates.

Cut each piece of proscuitto in half lengthwise and wrap each date in one half.  Place on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining dates.

Bake until dates are warmed and proscuitto is crispy, 10-12min.

I think these eclipsed my medjool-based running fuel as my favorite way to use dates :)  What's the most creative way you've used or eaten dates before?? 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Butternut Farrotto

Farro has quickly become my favorite whole grain.  No doubt it was only a matter of time before I threw it into a risotto.  Paired with butternut squash and sage (a few more of my favorite things), this dish should be on your menu next week!

Butternut Farrotto
Recipe by Shannon
Serves 2-4

2c 1/2" peeled butternut squash cubes
2-3T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2c chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced/pressed
2T chopped sage, divided
3/4c farro
1 1/4c broth (or more water)
1 1/2c water
1-2oz gruyere, finely grated

Preheat oven to 400deg.

Toss butternut squash cubes with 1-2T olive oil, some coarse sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Spread out on a baking sheet and roast in preheated oven until tender, ~20-30min, stirring after 15min.

While squash is roasting, begin cooking the farro.  Heat 1T olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened but not brown, 5-8min.  Add garlic and 1T sage and cook until fragrant, 1-2min.  Add farro, stir to coat and toast the grains for a few minutes.

Add broth and water, stir and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring often, until the farro is tender, 20-25min.  Once the farro is tender, stir in roasted squash, remaining sage and grated gruyere.  Taste and adjust seasonings, then serve topped with crispy sage if desired.

Are you on the farro bandwagon yet?  :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cardamom Orange Cookies

The past few years, I've taken to sending some homemade goodies to friends whom I don't get to see all that often.  This cookie was a surprising mention from a couple of people, so I knew I'd be remiss not to post the recipe for you!  These are perfect with a cup of chai tea :)

Cardamom Orange Cookies
adapted from Gourmet
yeild:  5-6 dozen

These cookies can be done in stages, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days before baking, or even frozen for up to 1 month (just thaw in the refrigerator before baking).

3c white whole wheat flour
1t baking powder
3/4t kosher salt
3t ground cardamom
1/2t ground cinnamon
1/4t ground ginger
zest of 1/2-1 orange
2 sticks of unsalted butter, RT
1c evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
2 lg eggs
1t vanilla extract
sprinkles, if desired

In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour through zest).

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, preferably in a stand mixer.  Add eggs and vanilla, then beat until well combined.  Reduce speed to low and add in flour mixture until just combined.

Divide dough in half and place on separate sheets of plastic wrap.  Using a spatula and the plastic, form into logs (squares or rectangles, whatever is easiest!).  Place on a baking sheet or large plate and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

Make sure your oven racks are in the upper and lower thirds of the oven so you can bake two sheets of cookies at a time, then preheat the oven to 350deg.

Add sprinkles to a shallow bowl, a little at a time.  Using a serrated knife, cut ~1/4" slices from one log and roll the edges in the sprinkles.  Place, 1" apart on 2 large, ungreased baking sheets.  Wrap the remaining log and place back in the refrigerator.  Bake cookies 10-12min, switching the position in the oven halfway through, until edges are golden and the cookies are set.  Cool on the baking sheets for ~3min, then transfer to cooling racks.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Store in an airtight container.

What was your favorite holiday treat this year?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Butternut Apple Bruschetta

I'm posting this recipe today to prepare you for your next party, as this recipe is not to be missed.  First at the cookie swap, and then at another holiday party, these bruschetta got rave reviews and are nothing short of fantastic!

Action shot!  Thanks Cara :)

Butternut Apple Bruschetta
inspired by Joanne & Jen
Serves a crowd

I didn't count how many bruschetta I made, but I'm guessing I could've gotten ~3dozen from this recipe.  The butternut squash and apples can be roasted ahead of time, just bring them to room temperature before assembly.

1 lg butternut squash
1 lg, crisp apple (or 2 small, I used honeycrisp)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt (I used coarse for roasting and fine for seasoning the ricotta)
freshly ground black pepper
1 15oz tub fresh ricotta cheese
cranberry bread (the Savory Cranberry loaf I used the first time was stellar, but cranberry walnut also worked well)
fresh sage
reduced balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375deg.

Cut the butternut squash and apples into similar sized cubes, I went for ~1/2" dice.  Add cubed squash and apples to a large bowl and toss with 1-2T olive oil, some coarse sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-30min, tossing halfway.  Set aside to cool.

Melt a small slab of butter in a skillet (probably ~1T) over medium-low heat.  Add fresh sage leaves (a handful?  I just made sure they were in a single layer in the skillet) and cook until beginning to brown, ~2-3min/side.  Once crispy, transfer sage leaves to a plate lined with paper towels and drain until ready to assemble crostini.

Slice bread into thin slices, then into smaller, easy to hold pieces.  The cranberry bread I used was bigger than a traditional baguette, so I cut each slice into 3 pieces.  Lay out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt and then bake, a few minutes on each side until they are beginning to brown and are crispy.

While the bread cools, finish preparing the remaining components.  Add a bit of salt and a good dose of freshly ground black pepper to the ricotta and mix well (do this right in the container, no need to dirty another bowl!).  Crumble the crispy sage into a small bowl.  To prepare the balsamic vinegar to top the crostini, add 1/4c balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it has reduced by about half.

To prepare the bruschetta, top each crostini with a heaping tablespoon of ricotta and a spoonful of roasted squash and apples.  Repeat with remaining crostini and add to a serving dish.  Once they're all done, sprinkle the crispy sage over the bruschetta and drizzle on the balsamic vinegar.

What was the best appetizer you had this past holiday season?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sweet Potatoes & Red Lentils

Happy New Year!!

I can't quite believe it's already 2012, but hopefully you had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to get this year started right ;)  If you didn't catch my 11 Best of '11, there are some goodies in there!

While there are quite a few things I have to tell you about, I chose something a bit healthier to start off with, in case you're still in a cookie coma!  This dip morphed into a delicious soup, so you could certainly go whichever route you're craving.  Is it 50 in december?  Perhaps you'll prefer some crisp veggies and dip.  If it actually feels like winter where you are, I'd opt for a nice bowl of this delicious soup!

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Dip
adapted from Whole Foods
Yield:  4c

1-2T extra virgin olive oil
1 sm onion, chopped
1 lg garlic clove, chopped
2 sm sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
1" knob of ginger, grated
1t cumin
1/2t curry powder
1/2t smoked paprika
1/2t garam masala
1/4t coriander
1/2t sea salt
few grinds black pepper
1 1/2c red lentils, picked over
3/4c light coconut milk
2 1/2c water
juice of 1 sm lemon

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute, stirring occasionally until softened, ~5-7min.   Add sweet potatoes and spices (ginger through pepper) and saute until fragrant. Stir in lentils, water and coconut milk and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes (and lentils) are soft, ~20min.  If your liquid cooks off before the sweet potatoes are tender, add a little more  water (but not too much, or that will make for a thin dip).

Remove the pan from the heat and let cool a bit.  Add lemon juice to the mixture and puree using a blender or food processor.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or chopped herbs, if you remember ;)

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

leftover sweet potato and red lentil dip (recipe above)
remaining coconut milk from the can
water/broth, if desired

Add dip and coconut milk to a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat.  Stir or whisk to combine and add any water to reach your desired consistency.  Serve warm, topped with chopped scallions or herbs, or some greek yogurt.

How did you ring in the new year?
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