Dinner Parties, A Lost Art

25 Feb

Here in the Northeast it is not patio season and hasn’t been for a while. So what do we do to entertain, we throw a dinner party.  As you’ve heard me say before, my husband and I love to entertain and we love to throw a good dinner party. From what I hear it is not so common anymore. When I tell people they usually say something like “really, how fun, no one does that anymore” but recently when I told the woman at the shop where I was buying a gift for our guests she said “oh wow, now that’s a lost art!” I guess it is. But not in our house.

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What’s better than good friends, good food and lots of laughs? Nothing in my book. The first thing I do when I decide to throw a dinner party is to come up with a theme. I am big on themes. It can be anything; pick a favorite city or country, type of food, a movie or even a song. Everything springs from the theme, the food, the music, the decor and even the dress code can.

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We always start off in the kitchen. Now I know these days everyone is all about the “open concept”. I am not. I like a kitchen, a living room and a dining room. People say “oh but then you can’t socialize and cook at the same time” and I say “oh yes I can”. We have a very small kitchen but that’s ok, it works. We start out there with hors d’oeuvres while I finish up cooking then head to the dining room for the meal. Many times we end staying at the dining room table until way after we finished dessert; talking and laughing. Other times we will head into the living room to continue conversation and sometimes even having a dance party.

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Wherever it ends up, I would like to say we always have a great time and I would like to think our friends leave with full bellies and great memories. Stay tuned for my next post on the Anatomy of a Dinner Party…

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Shroom’n Good Mushroom Stew

21 Jan

Now that I don’t eat beef or pork I needed to find a substitute for a hearty beef stew and this, my friends, is it. If you don’t like mushrooms then this will not work for you, but if you do, you will love it. It is easy and quick to make, as it doesn’t have to cook for hours like a meat stew and completely fills that need of a hot stew on a cold day.

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The original recipe calls for potatoes. I know this sounds crazy but I don’t like potatoes in my stew. I prefer to serve it with potatoes and I added peas, we love peas in this house. You can use frozen peas or canned but I prefer fresh. Our grocery store now carries organic fresh peas that are delicious, I use them in everything. As for the mushrooms, I like them chopped but not small, nice big pieces make a nice stew, especially since mushrooms shrink so much when cooked.

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Ingredients:

2 Tbs Olive oil

1 10 oz Container button mushrooms, stemmed and chopped

1 10 oz Container baby portobello mushrooms, stemmed and chopped

1 Large Vidalia  or yellow onion, chopped

2 Celery stalks, chopped

2 Carrots, chopped

3 or 4 Garlic cloves, minced

1 Cup dry red wine

1/4 All purpose flour

3 to 4 Cups vegetable broth

2 Tbs Tomato paste

1 Cup peas

3 Tbs Fresh thyme leaves or 2 tsp dry

2 Tbs Fresh chopped rosemary or 1 tsp dry

1 Tbs Bragg Liquid Aminos

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Pour the olive oil into a large pot or Dutch oven and place over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery; cook until they begin to soften about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add mushrooms, cook until tender, stirring as they cook.

Add red wine and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer until wine is reduced by about half. Stir in flour a little bit at a time until fully incorporated.

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Add 3 cups of broth, tomato paste, peas, Bragg Liquid Aminos, thyme, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and make sure tomato paste gets incorporated. Bring to a low boil, then turn down heat to allow it to simmer for 30 minutes. If it thickens too much add some more vegetable broth.

Serve over egg noodles, mashed potatoes, rice or with a nice crusty loaf of bread!

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* Recipe adapted from Connoisseurusveg

 

Chicken Tagine or Tagine Chicken?

22 Dec

Either way, it is delicious! I wanted to do something different, so as usual I go to Pinterest. Scrolling through all those chicken recipes, I came across several recipes for chicken tagine, I like Middle Eastern flavors so they really appealed to me. The only thing was, there was at least one thing that I didn’t like in each recipe, so I took from the ones I liked and made my own version.

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I hope you enjoy  this as much as my husband and I did. I served it with couscous but you could also serve it with potatoes. If you choose to serve it with potatoes you can add some cubed potatoes to the pot for the last 20 minutes and voila!

Ingredients:

2 Tbs Olive oil

2 Chicken breasts with bone-in and skin on

4 Chicken legs with bone-in, skin on

1 Yellow or Spanish onion, finely chopped

3 Garlic cloves, minced

4 Cups Chicken stock

1/2 Cup Cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 Cup Parsley, roughly chopped

2 tsp Ginger, minced or 1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp Cumin

1/4 tsp Saffron, crushed

1 Cup Green, pitted olives, reserve the juice

2 Lemons, juiced

Salt and Pepper to taste

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Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Dry chicken pieces and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place skin side down in a single layer in pan.

Brown in batches until skin is golden and crispy, about 5 minutes then turn over and brown other side for about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add onion to pan and cook until soft, stirring to mix it well with the olive oil. Once the onion is soft, add garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add chicken back to pan. Add stock, cilantro, parsley, ginger, cumin and saffron. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

Add olives, reserved olive juice (I used about 1/2 cup) and juice from the 2 lemons. I also added one of the lemons that I juiced. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for another 30 minutes, chicken should fall off the bones.

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I like to serve it with the couscous and also roasted carrots to round out the meal. And whether you like to call it Chicken Tagine or Tagine Chicken…Enjoy!

Cold Nights, Hot Toddies!

26 Nov

The holiday season is upon us. I have to say it is my favorite time of year.  The decorations, the music, gift giving and of course all the yummy food and drink.

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I am always looking for a new, tasty and interesting cocktail; this year I came across my dear friend and fellow bloggers recipe for the Ginger Citrus Hot Toddy. I love ginger and I love citrus,  so it must be good…it is not just good but really good! Kimbrough Daniels, cocktail maker and product photographer extraordinaire teamed up with Powell & Mahoney to make this age old libation that is a classic winter warm-up cocktail.

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You’ll need:

4 oz Powell & Mahoney’s Old Ballycastle Ginger Mixer

3 oz Freshly squeezed orange juice

1 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbs Honey

2 oz Water

2 oz Golden Rum

2 oz Brandy

Fresh lime for squeezing and garnish

  1. Pour hot water into mugs to keep them nice and hot while you make the cocktail
  2. In a small saucepan add Powell & Mahoney’s Old Ballycastle Ginger Mixer,orange juice, lemon juice, honey and water, bring to a simmer.
  3. Add rum and brandy, stir to mix.
  4. Divide mixture of goodness into two mugs, squeeze a bit of lime into each mug.
  5. Garnish with a slice of lime and cheers to a hot drink on a cold night!

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This recipe makes two generous hot toddies. For other great cocktail recipes check out Kimbroughs blog.

Photos by Kimbrough Daniels

Fall Nights on the Patio

5 Nov

Fall has finally arrived here in the Northeast and it is beautiful. The chilly nights and the colorful leaves always make me happy. And just because there’s a chill in the air doesn’t mean you can’t use your patio.

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Having our friends and family over for dinner and then going out to the patio to a nice warm fire to roast marshmallows or have an after dinner cocktail is absolutely the best. And there is no better fire kettle than the ones from our friends at Sea Island Forge.

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Sea Island Forge is a collection of handcrafted entertaining and cooking tools which celebrate the laid-back lifestyle enjoyed by generations along the Georgia coastline and now everyone, everywhere can enjoy that same lifestyle. They have an array of handcrafted kettles and all the essential tools to go with them.

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Grab some blankets, invite your friends and enjoy a beautiful night on your patio by the fire creating memories that will last a lifetime.

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Souper Easy Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

29 Oct

Now that soup weather is finally here I decided to make tomato soup. Growing up we always had Campbell’s and I always loved it but now that I rarely eat anything processed or pre-made I thought it was time I grew up and made my own tomato soup. I found a super easy recipe and it tasted great.

As far as what kind of tomatoes to use, you can really use any kind. I did a mixture of Roma and Compari. The recipe called for white onion, not sure I’d use that again, I think I’ll try a Spanish onion the next time I make it. Not crazy about the white onion flavor.

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Ingredients:

6 cups tomatoes, chopped

1 white onion, chopped

Salt

5 or 6 garlic cloves, peeled

2 large red peppers

Red pepper flakes, optional, to taste

2 tsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp olive oil, plus more for roasting

To do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss tomatoes and onions in olive oil, spread evenly on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. You may need 2 baking sheets, you don’t want them too close together.

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Peel garlic and place on tin foil, drizzle with olive oil, fold tin foil and secure edges, place in oven.

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Roast everything for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping tomatoes and onions half way through.

 

After removing the tomatoes and garlic from the oven, roast the red peppers under the broiler. Turn on the broiler, place red peppers whole on baking sheet. Put under broiler on the highest rack so they are close to the flames. Roast about 2 to 3 minutes each side turning as they get charred.

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Once they are well charred, remove and place in a bowl, cover bowl tightly to allow the steam to loosen the skin. At least 5 minutes. Remove the skins, just be careful, they are hot. You can leave some of the char as it adds a nice flavor to the soup.

Once the peppers are peeled; cut, core and remove seeds.

In batches add tomatoes, onions, red peppers, vinegar and olive oil to a blender, only till the blender is half full. Blend until smooth.

 

As you blend each batch, put the blended batch in a pot over low heat, once it is all blended and in the pot you can taste and adjust the seasoning. You may need to add more salt or red wine vinegar for a little more tang.

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Serve with a loaf of rustic bread and enjoy!

 

Cocktail Time: The Aperol Spritz

8 Oct

Here is another post inspired by our recent trip to Italy, the delicious cocktail that is quintessentially Italian, the Aperol spritz. As you look around while sitting at any of the beautiful outdoor cafes the Aperol spritz is everywhere.

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The cocktail is made with the aperitif Aperol that is produced in Italy by Compari. It is refreshing and slightly bitter with the perfect dose of sweetness. The most common garnish is an orange slice but while I was doing research I came across recipes that used everything; cucumbers, raspberries, thyme, rosemary and olives among others. I chose to use fresh rosemary from our garden. (Also because I forgot to get an orange and didn’t feel like going back to the grocery store…again!)

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You’ll need:

3 parts Prosecco

2 parts Aperol

1 part sparkling water

Ice cubes

Garnish of your choice

Add a good amount of ice cubes to a pretty glass, I like a wine glass. Pour the ingredients into the glass, add garnish and begin sipping! Saluti!

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This cocktail is also referred to as the 3-2-1 because of the ratio of ingredients.

And if you look closely at the top right of this photo you can see our goat Pepsi…

*Cocktail napkins: Patio Fashions

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