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Summer Entertaining: Patio Parties

May 20, 2014

Wine Platter 1 | Espresso and Cream
Now that summer is practically here, it seems like everyone in Minnesota is coming out of hibernation and getting outside after a very long winter being stuck indoors. We put our stamped concrete patio in late last summer, so we’re dying to put it to good use this year. It’s amazing how much bigger our house feels when we have an outdoor space that we love.

For the longest time after college, the idea of entertaining sent me into a tizzy, feeling like I had to cook a gourmet meal every time we had friends over. Consequently, I avoided having people over very often because it was so time consuming and stressful! But after Joe and I got married, my extrovert hubby pushed me to entertain more and more frequently, having friends over for dinner, drinks, the NFL draft and for the BCS championship and any matter of other small events. Getting into a regular rhythm of having people over forced me to find a way to entertain without breaking the bank or losing my mind.

I’m still working on setting a beautiful, casual table. That’s something my mom currently helps me with to a great degree. Perhaps she should do a guest post sometime soon? But I do feel pretty comfortable having people over regularly without going crazy. In fact, I have actually grown to enjoy it.

Wine and Cheese 3 | Espresso and Cream
Last weekend we had our friends Ben and Jen over on Sunday night for wine and snacks on the patio. I’ve found that having people over on Sunday night is one of my favorite things because it seems to prolong the weekend a little bit, giving me something to look forward to on Sunday night rather than just thinking about how sad I am that the weekend is over and has gone by so fast.

I didn’t really plan much in advance, but my mom and I did pick up a few items at Whole Foods on Sunday afternoon. The following was included in our spread:

1. 1 bottle of red wine from our wine rack
2. A couple different beers we had in our fridge for the guys
3. “Edamame Caviar” purchased from the Whole Foods deli section (must recreate at home!)
4. Two types of cheese (one hard, one soft; served at room temperature for best flavor)
5. Grapes (cut into small clusters for easy eating)
6. Roasted, salted almonds
7. Chips and crackers (a mix of crackers and blue corn tortilla chips)

It was the perfect combination of sweet, salty and hearty foods that also served as a light dinner. And although we used small white plates from Pier 1, you could make clean-up even easier by keeping a stash of pretty disposable plates on hand. There is nothing nicer than throwing the plates away at the end of a night when you just don’t feel like washing dishes, is there?

Wine and Cheese 2 | Espresso and Cream

How do you like to entertain? Are you comfortable entertaining casually and more frequently? Or do you prefer to do one big party every now and again? 


Breakfast Enchiladas

August 30, 2010

Oh goodness gracious, what a weekend!  A weekend that was about ten steps away from what I had planned. For more details on that and a little lesson in getting up and brushing yourself off visit the Kitchen Confidential tab above, where I’ll be blogging food musings every now and again of the off-the-record variety.

Aside from the things that can’t be counted on, like when you stack cake on top of cake on top of cake, there are a few things that can be counted on. Good food tops that list, and boy did J. and I eat well all weekend.

We stuffed ourselves full at Pita Pit on Saturday afternoon, followed by a late dinner that night at Azalea where I ate the most delicious portobello mushroom fries. There was also lunch at Macaroni Grill and lazy Sunday morning breakfast that consisted of these Breakfast Enchiladas with a few too many cups of dark roast Starbucks coffee.

Most of the time my cooking inspiration comes from magazines, blogs, and cookbooks. But the enchiladas were all J.’s idea. When asked what he wanted for breakfast, he said breakfast burritos with eggs and salsa, which I turned into enchiladas with sharp cheddar cheese and avocados. Couples collaboration at its best. Simple, quick, delicious.

Breakfast Enchiladas
(Printable Recipe)

*8 large eggs
*1/3 cup milk
*1/2 tsp. taco seasoning
*1/8 tsp. black pepper
*4 large flour tortillas 
*6 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
*3/4 cup jarred salsa
*2 medium avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped

*Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 12×12-inch casserole dish. Set aside. 
*In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, taco seasoning and black pepper. Pour into a nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until eggs are soft-scrambled. Remove from heat.
*Place 1/4 cup of the shredded white cheddar cheese in the center of each of the four tortillas. Evenly divide egg mixture among the four tortillas, placing the eggs atop the cheese. Roll up each tortilla, folding in the sides to prevent the mixture from spilling out, and arrange in the greased baking dish.
*Top enchiladas with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and the salsa. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn oven to broil and continue to cook for 5 minutes more.
*Remove enchiladas from the oven and top with chopped avocados just before serving.

Happy Cooking!


Havest Dinner Party

November 15, 2009

I’ve been saving these pictures, from a dinner party I hosted, for a couple weeks, and am just now getting around to posting them. The guests, Drew and Jean Vogel, and their friends Nick and Cindy DeVries, were the highest bidders at an anual auction in my hometown, and were treated to a dinner at my home, with me playing both chef and waiter for the evening. Knowing they paid money to have me cook, (crazy!) I wanted to make sure they had an evening full of great food.

Along with delicious food, I was determined not to stress and enjoy the evening. I stuck with a menu that was heavy on the prep work and low on hands-on time during the actual meal. For starters, a 3-cheese plate of (from left to right) Gorgonzola, Manchego, and buffalo milk cheese, paired with Quince and fig paste, grapes, crackers, and, of course, wine! My favorite, by far, was the buffalo milk cheese: soft, creamy, and slightly salty.

Instead of stressing over a complicated main-course, I selected something that world do the work itself. Borrowing from the master of science himself, Alton Brown, I made a beef tenderloin that was baked inside a salt-dough crust dotted with herbs. If you’ve never made a salt-crusted meat of some sort, I would highly recommend it.The crust, a mix of salt, flour, water, and herbs, is rolled out and the meal placed inside. An automatic thermometer is inserted and the meat placed in the oven until the desired temperature is reached. When the meat is done and had time to rest, peel away the salt crust and throw it away and you’re left with a delicious, juicy piece of meat like nothing you’ve ever tasted. The reviews at the dinner ranged from “delicious” to “the best beef I’ve had in years,” and that was from people who love good food! Find the recipe I used here.

There were a lot of other great menu items, but to keep things moving, I selected just a few of the recipes that received the most glowing reviews of the night. One such recipe: this gourmet macaroni and cheese from Bon Apetit. Called the “Cheesemonger’s Mac and Cheese,” I think it could easily be called the “$40 Mac and Cheese” based on how much delicious, and expensive, cheese it calls for. If you are ever looking for a great groumet mac and cheese recipe for a special occasion when the blue box just won’t do, this is it.

I would, without a doubt, say the night was a success. The guests arrived at 7 and stayed well past 11, chatting, enjoying some great food, and wonderful wine. For me, the best part was cooking for people who love food. Though I was nervous about it at first, I realized that when you cook for people who are knowledgeable about food, it’s all the more fun because you can share so much with one another.

Happy cooking!