ALL POSTS TAGGED "“summer entertaining ideas”"

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Sweet Potato Salad

Falling somewhere between appetizer and side dish, this unique tasting salad is a welcome alternative to mayonnaise-laden versions offered at backyard barbecues. The tender sweet potato slices tossed with a lime-based dressing and fresh herbs, then topped with crispy tortilla strips and queso fresco offer a combo of flavors that are bound to get the conversation going at any gathering. The recipe easily doubles to accommodate more people and you can make the recipe to serve with grilled chicken for a colorful and interesting weeknight dinner.

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Sausage, Onion, and Potato Hash

If sitting on a sunlit patio in early hours of the day, while sipping hot coffee, reading the paper and eating a sensible breakfast sounds appealing, then I’ve got the ideal meal to match the mood. Awaiting is a home-style breakfast spread that features a smoky Sausage, Onion and Potato Hash. The robust flavor of the sausage permeates potatoes that are peppered with hints of sweetness from sauteed red onion and bursts of spice from fresh jalapeno. This morning meal is  tailored for cooks who want to be the one who “gets it while it’s hot,” and I’ve included some wonderful hints on how to assemble a hot cooked breakfast and join in on the fun around the table.

Norm’s Notes: Breakfast of Champions

My biggest issue with cooking breakfast is its à la carte nature. Pancakes, waffles, toast, eggs and many more often have to be made to order which often means the cook is the last to partake in the meal or the food quickly cools while guests wait for the cook to finish and to come to the table. In order for one to finally make it to the table and actually sip coffee sitting down, the number of hot cooked items has to be reduced. In this meal I made the hash the only hot cooked item, kind of; but it’s not complete on its own, the meal needed filler. So, I took a page from classic diner menus and added fresh tomato slices sprinkled with salt and pepper, fresh cut fruit and hard boiled eggs. Hard boiling eggs is a great way to include them in the meal without having to don the skills of a short order cook.

Begin by assembling a platter of sliced fruit, sliced tomatoes and shredded lettuce before starting the hash. Start boiling the eggs at the same time you begin cooking the hash so that they’ll be slightly warm when you’re ready to eat. Once the hash is finished and eggs are cooked, peel and cut the eggs and arrange them on the lettuce. Drizzle them and the tomatoes with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Don’t worry about transferring the hash to a platter. Just bring it to the table, place on a trivet and serve out of the skillet. It will help keep the hash warm throughout the meal, and reduces the amount of dishes you’ll have to clean later. Now all you need to do is serve the coffee and enjoy your wonderful breakfast.

Egg and Fruit Platter

Arranging the fruit, eggs, and tomatoes on a platter, in rows, cuts down on the amount of bowls and plates that you need to carry to the table. Adding a bit of shredded lettuce to the platter separates the savory tomato and sweet fruit. It will also act as a bed for the eggs, keeping them from rolling around on the platter and absorbing any of the fruit juices.

In case you need a refresher, here is how I boil eggs.

Place 6 eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water until fully submerged. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover with lid and let stand 7 to 10 minutes. (Less standing time means a more tender cooked yolk.) Drain. Rinse with cold running water until cool to the touch. Peel eggs and slice into quarters.

Breakfast Spread

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Crispy Chicken

Here is a skillet supper that truly uses one pan to create all the components of a great meal. Crispy Chicken Breast Filets, flattened to quicken the cooking process, are paired with sweet corn medallions, bulb onions and fresh tomatoes. It’s a delicious party menu that utilizes peak seasonal ingredients to keep the flavor high and costs low. Outside of the pan, I’ve also included a dessert of Cherry Cream Pie which is a revelation in contrast to the recipes found on the back of cream cheese packets.

Norm’s Notes: Seasoning Salt and Blends

In today’s culinary world, salt and pepper reign as the undisputed kings of flavor enhancement. The numerous variants of sodium chloride and pungent berries are prized among cooks who often adjust and combine different types to meet specific uses. However, store-bought seasoning salts and blends, popular with most home cooks, often get no love. Since many peoples’ cabinets are littered with half full cylinders of them, I think salt and pepper elitism needs to be addressed.

Seasoning salts and blends are great because they will go with just about anything you can think of, quickly enhancing the taste of foods with little effort. The main problem is many of the seasonings lose potency and pungency over time. So that seasoning you bought for that one recipe you made, for that thing, two years ago, may be past its prime. A good rule is if you haven’t used it within the current calendar year, it probably needs to be discarded, but check the expiration date to be sure. My advice is to use seasoning salts and blends often and boldly. Shake a bit on fresh cut veggies, salad, eggs, grits or anywhere you would use salt and pepper or hot sauce. If anyone sticks their nose in the air about your love of seasoning salt and blends, smile at them, shake on more, and enjoy.

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Greek Style Baby Artichoke Salad

Baby artichokes are one of those farmers’ market purchases many people commit to due to a persuasive salesperson or solely based on their attractiveness, but soon regret the purchase when left pondering “how do I cook these?” To solve this common problem, here is an illustrated guide on the bare necessities to preparing those prickly pears into something delicious. Included are 4 simple ways to serve these babies to your friends and family.

Norm’s Notes: Trimming Baby Artichokes in 3 simple steps

STEP 1:

Trimming Artichokes Step 1

Pluck away any leaves attached to artichoke stem. Remove tough outer layer covering the stem with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.

STEP 2:

Trimming Baby Artichokes Step 2

Cut away top ¼ portion of leaves, leaving a flat surface, cut artichoke in half lengthwise.

STEP 3:

Trimming Baby Artichokes Step 3

Examine each artichoke half to see if the choke (the fuzzy parts right above the heart and just below the purple line ends) is a bit overgrown (the fuzz will tend to stick out from the cut side if overgrown). If they are, carefully scrape away choke with the tip of a paring knife.

Artichoke Recipes

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curbly summer round-up

In last week’s Easy Summer Entertaining post, we started to get ready for our backyard BBQs and mellow get-togethers with our friends and family. Since we plan on keeping the cooler packed all summer long, here is Part 2 of low-key, fun, summer entertaining ideas. To start off, we are diving into a meta moment with this summer entertaining round-up by Curbly in my summer entertaining round-up.

Cup of Jo refreshing waters

For a cleansing refreshment, try out these three different all-natural flavored waters on Cup of Jo.

watermelon salad

Any watermelon salad is oh-so-summer and just screams refreshing. This one, in particular, looks mouth-watering and delicious. Via Design Sponge.

More Summer Fun

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metallic brush stroke balloons

Summer just beckons small gatherings of friends in the backyard, firing up that grill, and sitting back in an Adirondack chair with a refreshing drink in hand. We all want to throw that perfect party, but if you are like me, you’re not trying to break your back with all of the prep and planning. Here are some fabulous party ideas that are low-maintenance and low-cost so you can just focus on having fun!

design love fest metallic balloons

Design Love Fest shows the quickest and easiest way to bring a simple balloon to the next level with these metallic brushstroke balloons.

picnic food ideas

Need some food ideas? Check out Design Sponge’s Best of Picnic Foods.

Even More Summer Fun

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Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

If clear summer weather is in the forecast this weekend, consider entertaining off-site and host a picnic in the park. Round up a few friends and have everyone pitch in and bring components to create a fabulous meal. One person should bring sides (store bought or homemade — it doesn’t matter), another brings the fresh fruit and beverages, and another a main entree like fried chicken fingers. Finally, you arrive with this show stopping sandwich and a simple dessert, if desired. I recently pitched in hosting  a picnic in the park and created this grilled vegetable, mozzarella and prosciutto sandwich for the occasion. My friends dubbed it “The Symphony.” I’d like to think it was due to the delicious and harmonious taste of the sandwich, however, since our picnic was at an outdoor symphony performance, I think other factors were involved. Regardless of the name sake, it is a fantastic item to bring to your next gathering, whether indoors or out. Click to see the recipe and tips for packing up a portable outdoor meal.

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Meatballs with Sauce

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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Sunflower Seed Pate

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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In the midst of this heat wave, all I can think about eating is ice cream or orange sherbet. I mean, there’s nothing like a scoop of your favorite flavor in a waffle cone to cool you off when the weather takes a vicious, sweat-inducing turn. Plus, I just found out that July is National Ice Cream Month. Now you have even more reason to treat yourself with some Neapolitan, chocolate-chip cookie dough or toffee-flavored ice cream (as if you really needed a reason). Celebrate this delectable month and stay cool with some of our favorite ice cream-inspired entertaining ideas.

ice cream party homemade ice creamPen N’ Paperflowers: Ice Cream in Mason Jars

ice cream party ice cream diyIcing Designs: DIY Ruffled Ice Cream Cones

More Ice Cream Ideas

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This week it’s all about outdoor entertaining. For part three of our summer party essentials miniseries, event planner Calder Clark of Calder Clark Designs shares her simple entertaining must-haves for a seamless — yet fun gathering for everyone on your guest list. And with events like the Rockefeller-Carnegie wedding under her belt, Calder knows how to bring stylish touches to the backyard. Check out Calder’s decorating and buffet picks for ideas for your next soiree.

hgtv magazine summer party essentials calder clarkEvent planner Calder Clark offers her favorite summer entertaining must-haves.

Every Warm-Weather Party Needs…

hgtv magazine summer party essentials place settingsTeal Stripe Solera dinner plates, target.com :: Chalkboard Vinyl, voguefabricsstore.com

Plastic Plates: “Every summer I stock up on melamine plates from Target. They’re just two bucks a pop, and are dishwasher-safe.”

Chalkboard Place Mats: “This makes a great kids’ table activity — I use pinking shears to cut the reusable fabric into squares and put out chalk for doodling.”

hgtv magazine summer party essentials decor20″ no frills lantern, lunabazaar.com :: 10″ sparklers, sparklersonline.com

Paper Lanterns: “Hang these in abundance from tree limbs. Use all one color to pack a punch.”

Sparklers!!!: “These little goodies are the life of the party.”

The Buffet Always Has…

hgtv magazine summer party essentials foodAcrylic pitcher, crateandbarrel.com :: Mamie’s Famous Cheese Wafers, mamieswafers.com

Spiked Lemonade: “Gotta love a tasty spiked lemonade! The hot sauce doesn’t change the color, but it gives the drink a spicy kick.”

Get Calder’s signature Cajun lemonade recipe, perfect for hot summer days:

Calder’s Cajun Lemonade

  • 24 oz. store-bought lemonade
  • 8 oz. Bacardi light rum
  • 8 oz. soda water
  • Original Louisiana Hot Sauce

Directions: Mix the lemonade, rum and soda water in a large pitcher. Serve with ice; add hot sauce to each drink, to taste. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Quick and Easy Finger Foods: “Slice-and-bake cheese wafers are my number-one crowd-pleaser. They have a nutty, sharp flavor that tastes homemade, but they come right out of the freezer.”

See more of Calder’s simple entertaining ideas and others in this summer’s HGTV Magazine (check out page 136) — on newsstands now! And for more can’t-miss entertaining ideas, check out HGTV.com’s Outdoor Entertaining guide.

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For part two of our summer party essentials miniseries, upscale event planner Yifat Oren of Yifat Oren & Associates shares her top seven must-haves when hosting warm-weather gatherings. Although she produces high-end events for celebrity clients like Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore, she prefers her own parties to be “laid-back, ecofriendly and fun.” From casual place settings to budget-chic decor, follow Yifat’s essentials for the perfect low-key get-together.

hgtv magazine entertaining essentials yifat orenUpscale event planner Yifat Oren shares her top seven summer party essentials.

Every Warm-Weather Party Needs…

hgtv magazine summer entertaining essentials invitationsSummer Fun Citrus Slice invitation, cocodot.com

Easy Invites: “I usually blast an informal email invite to friends on cocodot.com.”

hgtv magazine summer entertaining essentials place settings7″ compostable starch plates, sustyparty.com :: Rainbow Stripey Straw mix, shopsweetlulu.com :: Tekla dish towels, ikea.com

Earth-Friendly Plates: “These colorful plates are biodegradable.”

Paper Straws: “They’re cute and popular with the kids, but adults love them too.”

Clever Napkins: “I buy these dish towels in bulk — you can’t beat the price — and use them as napkins.”

hgtv magazine summer entertaining essentials decorSmith & Hawken 10-count string lights, target.com :: Alseda stool, ikea.com

Mood Lighting: “Stringer lights make any yard look better. Drape them above the food table or hang them from tree to tree.”

Extra Seating: “Scatter these little rattan ottomans around outside — they’re chicer than folding lawn chairs.”

hgtv magazine summer entertaining essentials lawn gamesTournament Bocce, llbean.com

Lawn Games: “Bocce is perfect for the backyard — lots of people can play or watch.”

See more of Yifat’s low-key party planning tips and others in this summer’s HGTV Magazine (flip to page 134) — on newsstands now! And check back next week for more quick and easy entertaining ideas from the pros.

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Planning a backyard party doesn’t have to be stressful. As a matter of fact, it should be fun! For the next two weeks, just sit back and let us do some of the planning for you. In this Design Happens miniseries, full-time party planners share their summer party essentials, from bocce ball to chalkboard place mats.

This week Jung Lee, event designer and cofounder of Fête, shares her top party must-haves for the season. Jung says she likes to keep her gatherings simple and alfresco. Want to steal her secrets? Check out her tips below.

jung lee hgtv magazineParty planner Jung Lee shares her summer soiree must-haves.

Every Warm-Weather Party Needs…

hgtv magazine summer party essentials

Tablecraft galvanized steel oval beverage tub, Wayfair :: Tava flatware caddy in honey stain, Pottery Barn

A Tub for Drinks: “Ice down Stewart’s sodas in a giant metal tub, and let your guests serve themselves.”

A Utensil Caddy: “I’m smitten with this rattan design for hauling out flatware and napkins.”

hgtv magazine summer party essentials

UniFlame 32″ aged bronze steel wood-burning fire pit, Lowes :: Optoma EP-PK-101 Pico pocket projector, Amazon

A Fire Pit: “For a little campfire fun, I put out marshmallows, graham crackers and dark chocolate for s’mores.”

A Movie Projector: “This nifty gadget plugs into your iPhone and projects downloaded movies onto the back of the house.”

The Buffet Always Has…

hgtv magazine summer party essentials

Govino stemless wine glasses, CB2 :: Clos Beylesse Côtes de Provence Vin Bleu Rose, nywines.com :: Frozen pizza, Trader Joe’s

Party-Friendly Wine Glasses: “These cups look like crystal, but they’re actually shatterproof plastic.”

Food That’s Delicious + Quick to Prepare: “I like to thaw frozen pizzas, then put them on the grill and set out toppings for guests to customize slices.”

The Perfect Summer Beverage: “Serve refreshing rosé as the sun is going down. It’s the perfect summer drink, and this one is one of my favorites.”

See more of Jung’s party planning tips and others in this summer’s HGTV Magazine (page 133, to be exact) — on newsstands now! And don’t forget to come back next week for more pre-Fourth of July entertaining ideas.

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