June 14, 2013

Easy Party Appetizers – What to Serve

Last weekend, my wife hosted a Bunko party for seven of her girlfriends. She knew that the focus was on fun and the dice. But, who can play on an empty stomach?

What should she serve? A few bottles of wine were a definite, but what appetizers go with Bunko? Anyone could display a cheese platter with some colorful fruit and call it a day. Or fill some bowls with assorted nuts. But not her. She wanted a spread that was easy and would impress. Because our kitchen is storage challenged, we have basic cutlery (carving, pairing, filleting, larding and boning knives, graters and mandolines), a few stainless steel pots, a copper sauté pan, and a couple of cookie sheets. So, she couldn’t be too elaborate.

Puff Pastry Squares with assorted toppings. Parmesan Crisps with Pesto. The ideas started flowing, and the shopping list began to grow. The three focuses were: pretty food, bite size portions, and repeating ingredients.

Appetizer 1: Bruschetta


Slice French bread baguette into ½” slices. Place on stainless steel cookie sheet, brush with olive oil and bake at 350 until golden brown about 15 minutes.

Topping suggestions:
Cream Cheese, basil leaf and sliced tomato, Cream Cheese and Caramelized onions, Sprinkled Parmesan cheese, Olive tapenade mixed with cream cheese, melted Chocolate Chips chips spread on toasted bread sprinkled with chopped walnuts, or Cream Cheese spread with walnuts and honey drizzle.

Appetizer 2: Parmesan Crisps with Basil Pesto


1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme or ½ teas. Dried, 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients together. You can use Terracotta rectangular baker for this recipe, or place on a baking sheet coated lightly with cooking spray. Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture with a couple inches between each, and spread them out into ovals about four inches long and two wide. (You should have about 12 crisps.) Bake in the oven until they turn golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool crisps flat on a metal rack.

Topping suggestion:
Store bought basil pesto

Tip: Stainless Steel tri-ply or Copper Skillets work best when you caramelize.

Appetizer 3: Puff Pastry Squares


Thaw puff pastry and cut in to 2″x2″ squares. Brush with egg wash (1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water) and bake at 350* until golden ~20 minutes.

Topping suggestions:
Basil Pesto and Olive Tepanade from Trader Joe’s, Cream Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts (see recipe), Grated Parmesan Cheese and Caramelized Onions (see recipe).

Caramelized Walnut Ingredients: 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water, 2 cups walnut halves, Cooking spray or silicone sheets

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add nuts to pan, and cook 22 minutes or until sugar mixture thickens and coats nuts, stirring occasionally, watch carefully. Immediately spread nut mixture in a single layer on a edged cookie sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes. Separate nuts with 2 forks. Cool completely.

Caramelized Onions Ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds onions, peeled, halved, and thinly slivered, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon olive oil, Salt and pepper

Tip: Here’s how to caramelize onions nice and perfect.

In a 3- to 4-quart pan over medium-high heat, frequently stir onions and garlic in oil until onions start to become limp; reduce heat to medium-low and stir frequently until onions are very soft and browned, 40 to 45 minutes. If onions start to stick to the pan, reduce heat further and stir in 2 tablespoons water. Add salt and pepper to taste.

All of these dishes were delicious and beautifully plated. But most importantly, they left for her time to socialize with her girlfriends. Food always makes a party better. So she kept it good and simple and all were impressed with the edible easy treats.

May 24, 2013

9 Classic Memorial Day Recipes

Even though it is considered the unofficial start of summer, celebrating Memorial Day with a menu of grilled favorites, sides, and desserts means the start of the great outdoors, picnics, parks, and beaches. Now is also a perfect time to explain to your children what makes our country so special. To make the day more enjoyable, we’ve got a list of classic tasting simple recipe for burger, ribs, chicken kebabs, and other grilled entrees.

What would a patriotic party be without classic pies for a sweet finish? Either way you plan on firing up the grill Monday for a small family BBQ and having a s’mores bonfire later that night, something classic can make a difference.



May 9, 2013

Creamy Bitter Sweet Coffee Cocktails

For the best dessert adventurer, you should already know by now why Bourbon is famous when it comes to making after meal treats, or why master chefs use notes of wine or liqueur to make fabulous desserts.


This may not be something that you would want to have on your menu, but to booze up even the simplest coffee and cream or milkshake, combining chocolate, coffee, cream and whatever you have in hand with drops of Port or Sherry wine, can already be a cocktail entry. For today’s weekend surprise, I picked some Bourbon revelations for you. I thought the idea of a simple bourbon or any wine pour-over could also begin to gravitate in your list of homemade desserts, drinks and ice-creams.


Coffee and brandy blended in a whiff of creaminess makes for great food and good times. Like coffee cocktails containing notes of chocolate, almonds, citrus, pomegranate, and even jasmine, drops of brandy can enhance any single three-in-one cuppa. But because coffee cocktail is a little complex with the bitter flavor, acids and sugars in the coffee, it is as well important to know various brew methods, bean qualities and basic formula. Equipping your kitchen with basic know-how, and getting a good coffee grinder, coffeemaker, or a blender; even the simplest coffee drink ideas from Folgers will be feast.

Caffeine and alcohol makes among the most interesting blends of flavors. When making coffee cocktails, the more natural the flavor of coffee the more it makes a difference; remember that coffee is freshest within 4 to 6 days of roast. Once coffee is ground, oils begin to go rancid and push to the surface of your cup, which is why it is ideal to only grind beans at home immediately before use. The fresher your coffee, the fabulous coffee cocktail you can serve. Don’t forget to balance the flavors, each should compliment each other. Brandy, rums, cognacs as well as fortified wines are top choices when it comes to coffee pairings. This coffee bourbon milkshake can be the easiest and best you will ever have.

If you’re new to the world of fancy coffee drinks, coffee drinks illustrated is a must read. It will teach you about preparing one and how adding extra ‘shots’ of espresso can make your drink stronger. Even without alcohol, iced-coffee treats are fabulous. Click here.


Don’t Let a bad Wine Ruin Your Wedding Day

While Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular red wine in America that’s best for hearty meats, Sauvignon Blanc, a super-versatile white that goes splendidly with seafood, chicken, eggs, vegetables, and salads, should not be overlooked. These two wines stand out for their exceptional value especially for wedding banquets.

But many of today’s brides and grooms seek more sophistication in the beverages they wish to serve at their reception, with wine playing an increasingly large role. If you’re not in a rush, you should have time to take a few of the recommended wines home, taste them, and, if they’re delicious, go back for more. Don’t let a bad wine ruin your wedding day.



How To Pair Wine with Food

People are sometimes worried that they will not be able to match the perfect bottle of wine with food. So, if you are planning a dinner for your friends or a loved one, and you want everything to be perfect, including the choice of wine, some good reads will help you make the best decision when it comes to wine.

Read the full article here:
How To Pair Wine with Food



April 26, 2013

Brewing Your Own Beer – A Mother Earth News

Home brew may seem to be shrouded in mystique and entirely too complicated, but when you separate the nonsense from the useful information, you’ll discover how good grade home brew beer starts with good amount of bubbles. Brewing your own beer, rather than participating in the shelling out $20 or $30 a case for a product of often questionable quality, has long been a favorite for MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers.

Want to brew an American pale ale? or a chocolate cherry ancho pepper-flavored porter? While the initial cash outlay, though minimal, can be intimidating, it is far cheaper in the long run to brew your own beer than to buy micro-brewed beer. Speaking of which, the craft brew industry is so strong right now, you may wonder, “why even bother trying to brew my own beer?”

What Mother Earth has to say about brewing your own beer can be thoughts to ponder upon. Read here.

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April 5, 2013

Warm Me Up, Cool Me Down (Your Serving Dishes, That Is)

The idea of peeling chick peas could be considered ludicrous. But the idea of warming up dishes before serving guests can be ludicrous, as well. Warmed dishes makes a difference in the presentation o f the food and is quite easy to accomplish. Serving dishes should be chilled for one hour in the refrigerator. For the hot dishes, the procedure is a little trickier. The serving dish should be placed in an oven at about 200 degrees and the guest should be warned of the warmed dishes.

Read the full article here:
Warm Me Up, Cool Me Down (Your Serving Dishes, That Is)



March 18, 2013

What Wine to Drink with Cheese – Time to Rethink

If you’ve been wondering why cheese and wine pairing seem always a hot topic, it’s because there is a strong affinity between the two. Both are fermented products and matching the two requires a little experience and thought that for experts, to be able to discover the perfect cheese and wine matches, you need to sample for yourself. With a good wine and cheese party, there is ample opportunity to wow your guests without much work on your part.

Cheese is food in other words, just as lighter wines tend to go better with lighter foods and heavier wines with heavier foods, lighter cheeses are better with lighter wines. So, when you’re feeling cheesy in the kitchen, which wines do the trick? Don’t you think it’s time to rethink your favorite wine and cheese pairing? Know some wines to drink with cheese dishes. Enjoy them here.



March 17, 2013

How to Make a Pinata Cake

A cake that hides the sweet treats inside, is what is famously known as Pinata Cake. It prepares just like most cakes for the initial bake. However, the inside of this pinata is hollowed out, allowing you to fill it with goodies. The moment you know how to make a delicious pinata cake that you can fill with candy for a surprise treat the whole family will enjoy, you’d be wishing to make another one in a not so distant future. Click the link to read more about how to make this delicious pinata cake!

Read the full article here:
How to Make a Pinata Cake



February 22, 2013

Special Viogniers to Pair Your Spicy Chicken Dish

If we are to follow rules to perfect pairing, then we must serve an unoaked white with a pan-glazed fish dish and low alcohol wines with pan-seared chicken.

The rule says to try low alcohol wines with spicy foods as alcohol accentuates the oils that make spicy food hot. When confused with dishes like a fiery curried chicken or Thai stir-fry, look for wines that are low in alcohol. So therefore, off-dry German Rieslings and Chenin Blancs could be perfect as they carry a subtle touch of sweetness that helps counter spiciness.

Chicken would have a list of wines that can go with it. For a simple preparation, one best wine to pair is Pinot Noir. It is high in acidity, but light and delicate in tannin with pleasant and highly aromatic nose. But a spicy chicken?… the recipe would create a whole different list. Spiciness involves rich and bold preparations of the chicken that might overpower delicate and light wines. Viogniers are perfect and fabulous alternatives you might want to try:

Zaca Mesa Viognier
zaca mesa

This Viognier from California has aromas of white peach hint and honeysuckle at the sweetness needed for a bit of spice. However, this wine is dry on the palate with notes of ripe apricot, lemon-lime and melon pairing nicely with the honey, lime and cilantro in the recipe. The lingering finish will enhance each bite of a spicy chicken meal. I think this is a new taste of wine we’ve been looking for our Roman-Style Chicken, remember?

Alexandria Nicole’s Estate Viognier

zaca mesa

For something richer, Alexandria is the more special Viognier; has a most impressive liquorous crisp that’s full of life. The Viognier grapes were hand-picked, gently whole-cluster pressed and barrel-fermented in neutral oak barrels, using a combination of three yeasts. The wine was then aged seven months sur-lees to create a wine full of character. It expresses layers of ripe pear and green apple with hints of citrus and tropical notes. The complexity of the blend lingers, making it to pair nicely with the complexity of the dish.

Even though many says that strict rules around wine and spicy food have relaxed with today’s innovative flavors, wine experts and connoisseurs of good taste like “Food and Wine” magazine are still suggesting on certain wines for certain foods to make a wonderful dining experience. That’s because there are several strategies for figuring out what wine to drink with spicy food and which types of wines should be avoided if you’re having a spicy meal.

I’m thinking of Zaca Mesa Viognier to try with our old Beggar Chicken recipe with five Asian spices.