If you have been reading the past two weeks, you now have a new summer cocktail and a go-to appetizer. Today, it’s time to get to the meat of the menu, literally. This installment of the Summer Entertaining Toolkit features an entree of rich pork meatballs. If this doesn’t strike you as an ideal summer main dish, let me explain the value. The key selling points to this recipe are ease of preparation and versatility of serving. Meatballs are not much work to assemble and can be cooked in advance of your gathering, then simply sauced and reheated when guests arrive. These specific mounds are bold in flavor and succulently juicy thanks to the rich fatty bacon and pungent herbs that pulse throughout. The combination of flavors are not only delicious on their own, but allow for easy pairing with a variety of sauces. Whether covered with a favorite red sauce, creamy garlicky white sauce, such as Alfredo, or Asian-style sweet and spicy red chili sauce, these meatballs compliment both savory and sweet tastes. Serving options are also customizable. Nestle the meatballs atop hot cooked pasta, grilled fresh vegetables, or hearty risotto and ferry to the table spread on a large platter, family style, or serve individually plated. Also, try slicing and layering them on fresh pizza dough spread with a spicy red sauce. Top with fresh mozzarella slices, then bake, grill, or broil to cook and crisp the dough and melt the cheese. Finish with a light covering of torn fresh basil leaves and freshly grated Parmesan. Any way you try them, they are a welcome departure from typical summer proteins and will give your guests a pleasant supper surprise.
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This week’s installation of the Summer Entertaining Toolkit has the hardware to impress guests on the first nibble. Sunflower Seed Pâté and Grilled Bread are your new all-star starters. If you haven’t touched sunflower seeds since your last handful of trail mix, I recommend trying them in this finely ground form. The earthy tasting seeds are mixed with fresh herbs, lemon, and a few golden raisins, to add a hint of sweetness, then cradled to your mouth on a crunchy, smoky piece of grilled bread. It doesn’t sound like much, but Grilled Bread should be put into the rotation as a staple appetizer carrier this season. It holds a variety of cheeses, spreads, and dips alike, is inexpensive, and easy to make indoors and out. I like to grill bread not only for its simplicity and taste, but also for a kind of “batting practice” for grilling season. Although one’s dedication to tending an outdoor fire in inclement weather varies, I would guess most folks probably haven’t used the grill much over the past 4 to 6 months. That much time away necessitates a tune up session. Grilling bread slices helps you get familiar with temperature zones and hot spots without running the risk of turning a 20 dollar rib-eye into a piece of carbon. A 2 buck baguette helps work out the kinks, preserving food from overcooking and letting you know how close you can get to the heat without having a case of burnt knuckles.
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I have pretty routine Memorial Day weekends year after year. I like to be by the water, whether it’s on a friend’s boat or at the pool. It doesn’t really matter which one (or both!), but I like to be feet away from some sort of cool-down option with a refreshing cocktail in hand. To me, there’s no better way to kick off summer. Here’s what I’ll be concocting over the break.
4 Refreshing Cocktails to Try
I found out a little late that today is National Chocolate Chip Day which means I didn’t get to aggressively eat chocolate chips all day. (I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing yet.) But it has given me plenty of time to browse some drool-inducing recipes for later. Tonight may be a dessert first kind of night. Here are my favorite picks, with first place going to the chocolate chip banana bread. That glaze — I can’t stop staring.
Ganache-Dipped Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe >>
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies Recipe >>
Banana Bread With Chocolate Chips and Chocolate Glaze Recipe >>
3 More Recipes!
Since warm weather has returned and daylight has almost stretched to the maximum, summer entertaining is beginning to bloom. If you are dreaming of basking in the favorable temperatures and can’t wait to entertain friends and family with a seasonal gathering, then the Summer Entertaining Toolkit is for you. Over the next 4 weeks you’ll receive a full menu of recipes including a cocktail, appetizer, entree and dessert, that highlight the flavors of the season. Plus, I’ll have some techniques for dressing your table to beautifully accent the dishes. This week say hello to the Baton Rouge. Your new signature summer cocktail.
The most popular warm weather cocktails are often the simplest to make. The margarita, daiquiri, Cuba libre, and caipirinha all contain 3 to 4 ingredients, depending on the maker. The bubbly, sangria-like Baton Rouge is the product of a similar ideal. Choice ingredients of French aperitif wine, orange liqueur, sweetened lime juice and sparkling water combine to make this delightful drink. The cocktail is easily thrown together on a hot afternoon to make a single glass or fill a pitcher. (One bottle of Lillet makes 16 servings!).
Adding to the ease of crafting this drink, is the use of sweetened lime juice. I, unlike many of my mixologist friends, have no problem using this “well” bar staple. It provides advantages of a long shelf life and predictable tartness and sweetness, leading to consistent tasting cocktails. Plus, with limes costing nearly 3 metal George Washingtons apiece, I think having it on hand is not a bad idea.
Norm’s Notes: Stocking up on Glassware.
This drink is suitable for a variety of glasses, so it’s up to you on what to serve it in. A simple wine glass, double old fashioned (aka “DOF”), collins, or juice glasses are all acceptable. It’s helpful to take an inventory to make sure you have enough of the same style of glass to suit the amount of expected guests. If you are running low, or have a bunch of mismatch drink-ware, stop by an antique mall or estate sale and pick out a set of patterned beauties to add to your collection. They usually don’t cost much ($12 to $15 for a set of 6 is the max I’ll pay) so, I’ll often pick up a second set of a similar pattern or style so I have more glasses than needed. Knowing you have backups help ease the stress when the inevitable happens and one tumbles to the floor.
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As handmade cards, floral perfumes, silk scarves, and mimosa filled afternoons are harvested by mothers around the country, I recommend flipping to the “B” side of the annual celebration record. Make plans to skip brunch and serve a delicious lunch instead. Try making this delightful menu composed of a soup, salad and open faced sandwich. It retains a lot of the delicious flavors of the standard holiday meal, just minus the eggs and syrup.
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Top: Photo booth props from CleverMartin | Bottom, left to right: Paper straws from Partysupplier4U, Burlap banner from TheRusticChicBtqe
You guys, today is so bitter-sweet.
It’s my last day interning with HGTV.com (nooooo, boo, hiss!), but on the bright side, I will officially be a college graduate in less than a week (woohoo!). Is this real life? How has it possibly already been four years since I graduated from high school? Regardless, I’m pretty excited about not having any more papers to write and for my family and friends to make the trip to my university and celebrate with me.
If you’re also gearing up for a grad party this month, consider these tips and tricks to make it an event the new alum will cherish forever.
- Download free printables from Snapfish.
- Create your own announcements and invites fairly cheaply on Zazzle.
- Purchase invitations from an Etsy shop.
- Decorate an old mailbox and use it as a centerpiece. Have guests put their cards and money gifts in it to keep them all together.
- Arrange old photos of the grad in a fun way.
- Use streamers in their Alma Mater’s colors to amp up the ceiling decor.
- Set up a DIY photobooth with props.
- Create a special hashtag and spread the word so you can easily find photos and tweets from the party on Instagram and Twitter later.
- Make paper grad caps and decorate them.
- Cupcakes are easier to serve than cake. Make DIY cupcake toppers using toothpicks and tiny paper diplomas, caps, etc.
- Serve finger sandwiches cut into grad caps and/or wraps using tortillas rolled up like diplomas.
- Tie ribbons around Swiss Cake Rolls to look like diplomas.
I know a lot of people “dipped” into the guacamole and tequila early and celebrated Cinco de Mayo over the weekend, but it’s not too late to gather your friends and whip up a festive Monday night fiesta. Or you can simply make a batch of homemade fiesta-ready cocktails. Either one sounds good to me.
Top, L to R: HGTV.com, HGTV.com, Domaine | Middle, L to R: Lulu the Baker, HGTV.com, Spoonflower | Bottom, L to R: HGTV.com, The Glitter Guide, HGTV.com
Come back every Monday for an inspirational mood board. Miss a day? See all the posts here.
Moms are the best. Show yours just how much she’s appreciated by making Mother’s Day all about her.
Host an outdoor afternoon tea party for the girls. Pull out the china, set the table and make a spread of decadent sweets fit for a spring soiree. Get inspired >>
Celebrate moms of all generations. Invite family over for a vintage-inspired lunch to celebrate Mom, Grandma and Great-Grandma. Display family heirlooms to set the perfect tone for honoring moms from past to present. Get inspired >>
More Ideas She’ll Love
The start of May is one of my favorite times of year. To me, it means warmer weather, beach vacations with a drink in hand and pedicures. So, what’s the best way to kickstart the month? Cinco de Mayo, of course! For many of us, this holiday revolves around eating and drinking — mainly guacamole and margaritas. (Who’s with me?) Shake it up a bit this year with one of our unique takes on the classics. First up: margaritas!
Sol de Flare Margarita
If you like it hot, then this cocktail is for you — it features pepper-infused tequila. Muy caliente!
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Try More Cinco de Mayo Recipes