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entertaining

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Grilling Pizza + Rosé Wine

July 23, 2018

This post is sponsored by Olema Wines. Well, they didn’t pay me to write the post, but they did send me some yummy wine in hopes that I would love it enough to talk about it and guess what? It was awesome, so I’m sharing it with you today! Thanks for supporting the brands that support Espresso and Cream! 

Summer has gone so quickly this year! Anyone else? I think it’s due in large part to the fact that we have been working on our patio project ALL summer long and this weekend we finally got it finished! I guess saying “finished” is a little misleading because now our yard looks like a hot mess filled with dirt and piles of rock and we haven’t even started the landscaping around the patio, but the actual patio is finished and I am SO proud of Joe for all the hard work he put into making this possible. He worked alongside a friend who had some landscaping experience and helped with the technical parts of the patio, but the amount of dirt-moving and manual labor that Joe put into this patio is crazy. It also helped us save a LOT of money doing so much work ourselves. A full patio project recap is now in the works, but in the meantime., I’m going to talk about pizza and wine, mmmkay?

We christened our new patio by having a few friends over for grilled pizza + wine and every time I make grilled pizzas for a group I’m reminded why we need to do so more often. We’ve been grilling pizzas for years, and while it’s a little more hands-on than, say, grilling meat, it’s definitely fun to do something different outside of the typical burgers + brats + chicken, etc on the grill. By the end of the summer, we are ready for something fresh. Sitting under our patio table umbrella, drinking some really great rosé wine from Olema Wines, and eating grilled pizza, salad, fresh green beans and mixed berries felt almost like we were transported somewhere much fancier than our house, minus the giant dirt piles and general disarray of our yard. Ha!

While I’m typically a red wine drinker, the hottest months of the summer really do make chilled white and rosé wine my go-to when entertaining. Actually, I tend to think a rosé on the drier side, like this 2017 Olema Rosé, really are the perfect wines to serve at a party since they tend to be crowd-pleasing and ultra refreshing. Plus, the price point ($16/bottle) is about what Joe and I tend to spend on a bottle of wine – bridging the gap between price consciousness and the quality that we expect when drinking wine. I’m not the most knowledgable wine drinker but I do know what I like! 🙂

I will say that I have *no* idea if rosé wine is a good pairing with grilled pizza from an expert’s perspective, but I thought the entire meal was delicious! So let’s talk a bit about grilling pizza, shall we?

A few tips I’ve learned to help make grilling pizzas better + easier + tastier:

  1. Make sure your grill is HOT. Like 450°F – 500°F hot and that your grill grates are clean. Sometimes I’ll get the grill really hot first and then give the grates one more cleaning with a grill brush to make sure they are super clean. Dirty grill grates will stick to the pizza dough and leave you with a mess.
  2. Put together a “toppings tray” ahead of time. We’re talking everything you need to top your pizzas, including olive oil + pastry brush, pizza sauce, cheese + fresh basil and whatever else you want to use for pizza toppings. Grilling pizza at a high temp on the grill goes FAST so you need to be ready to top the pizzas quickly.
  3. Don’t top the pizzas too heavily. The thin dough doesn’t need a lot of sauce and toppings. In fact, it’s better if you use a light hand when topping with sauce, cheese and toppings as to not overwhelm the dough.
  4. Be sure to stretch the dough thin enough. You want to stretch it out as thin as you comfortably can without ripping holes in the dough. The grill is HOT meaning you can’t leave the dough on too long before it burns. A little char is good, too much isn’t, so you want the dough thin enough that it cooks through before you need to remove the pizza from the grill.

Perfect Grilled Pizza Dough
Serves: 4 personal pizzas
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ½ teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Place warm water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the yeast and allow the yeast to dissolve for a minute. Whisk together to combine. (Important Note: You should see some bubbles in the water, which means that the yeast is active, if you don't see any bubbles you may have old yeast or the water was too warm and it killed the yeast.)
  2. Add the salt and 2½ cups of the all-purpose flour to the water mixture and use a rubber spatula to combine. Transfer mixture to a lightly-floured surface and gradually kneed in the remaining ½ cup flour over the course of a couple minutes, adding a little at a time. The dough should be smooth and elastic, and just the tiniest bit sticky but not so sticky that it easily sticks to your hands. Add additional flour if necessary, a tiny bit at a time.
  3. Transfer dough to a lightly greased mixing bowl and cover with a towel. Allow to sit in a draft-free location to rise for 2 to 3 hours, until dough is doubled in size.
  4. Punch down dough and cut into four pieces. Form each piece into a round. Stretch each round into a thin disc (see note above in the tips) using extra flour if you need to prevent sticking.
  5. To Grill:
  6. Heat grill to the hottest it will go - around 450°F to 500°F. Once grill grates are good and hot, brush dough lightly with olive oil. Place the oiled side on grill grates. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes until dough is charred and bubbly. Brush uncooked side of dough with olive oil and flip. Quickly top with sauce, cheese and desired toppings. Cover and cook 2 to 4 minutes more until cheese is melted and dough is cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board and top with fresh basil, grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, if desired. Cut into strips to serve.

Madison

A Wine + Chocolate Girls NIght

January 28, 2016

*This post was sponsored by Ghirardelli. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that make E&C possible. 

WineNight_4

January is a long month in the Midwest. I mean, after New Year’s there is a long stretch filled with cold days without much to celebrate. So what’s a girl to do? My answer was to get the girls together for a wine and chocolate party. It was the perfect way to break up the weekday routine and host friends in our newly renovated house for the first time. Although the house isn’t finished quite yet, we have a few finished rooms and that calls for a party!

The good thing about not having much on our walls right now was that I had a nice open wall to set up the spread of wine, chocolate, fruit, cupcakes and chocolate-dipped marshmallows. I was aiming to keep things on the simpler side so it wasn’t too hard to pull together on a busy weeknight but I tried to get a lot of “wow” for my minimal effort.

WineNight_2
WineNight_3

Because it was a weeknight and our kitchen isn’t yet finished, I used boxed dark chocolate cupcake mix in these pretty pink foil liners I got from Walmart. The frosting was also purchased, but piping it on with either a piping bag or a zip top bag with the end snipped off makes it look a little more homemade. I topped each cupcake with a Ghirardelli Valentine’s Day chocolate and I think they turned out pretty cute!

The marshmallows were dipped in melted milk chocolate and once the chocolate hardened I used paper pop sticks and ribbon to finish off the look. And I added some fresh fruit to the mix for a lighter option and the fact that fresh fruit feels like such a luxury in the middle of a Midwest winter, doesn’t it?

WineNight_5

When we moved back to Iowa from Minneapolis I was a little worried we would have a tough time finding good wine locally. Growing up I remember the options being seriously limited, but I was happy to discover that has changed. Small-town Iowa has upped their game in recent years. The night’s wines were a selection of red wines (pinot nior, merlot and cab) from Josh Cellars, which has always been a favorite.

WineNight_6
IMG_4862
Sometimes life feels so busy and hectic that I feel as if I don’t have the time during the week to do fun things like girls night. It can be hard to coordinate child care, the busy schedules of others, food and drink, etc. But I was reminded last night that it’s absolutely worth it, and maybe even necessary, to take time to build and maintain relationships with the women in our lives. As everyone left, we all agreed that we should make it a regular thing. Thanks, ladies, for taking the time out of your schedules to make this happen!

Madison

Uncategorized

Food Should Taste Good Party {and Guacamole}

October 10, 2014

Limes(1)
Today marks the final installment of my partnership with Food Should Taste Good. It’s been so fun to have an extra reason to host and entertain friends while serving really delicious chips. But then again, I love any reason to have people over and eat a meal together.

We had our church group over last night for Mexican night. Although entertaining on weeknights after a busy work day used to stress me out, I’ve implemented a few simple strategies that make it much less stressful than it once was. Here are a few of my favorite tips:

1. Plan your meal mindfully.
I think one of the biggest stressors I used to have when entertaining was that I tried to do too much without adequate time. These days I pick my entree and sides with ease and flexibility in mind. The dishes I serve need to be easy to prepare and need to hold up well in case guests arrive late or I put something in the oven a little too early.

For this reason, I think enchiladas are perfect. I served two types of enchiladas (this recipe and this recipe) and prepped them in advance, then just tossed them in the oven 20 minutes before guests were set to arrive and left them in the oven until we were ready to eat. A little extra time in the oven doesn’t compromise the taste and texture of enchiladas, making them a perfect dish to serve on a weeknight.

2. Make the sides easy. 
Once again, the key is to not try to do too much with too little time. Focus on your entree and make the sides you serve on the easier side. Many times that means a pan of roasted veggies at our house that are cooked and seasoned perfectly. Last night, it meant Food Should Taste Good chips, salsa, homemade guacamole (recipe below), sour cream and lettuce. Nothing besides the enchiladas really took much time and most of it could be prepped in advance. Major win!

3. Play with size, color and texture.
A few little touches can make a big difference when setting your table. I’m not an entertaining master, but I do like to make the table look pretty. Place a few pretty cloth napkins underneath your serving pieces, use colorful paper napkins that fit your theme, serve your beverages in a metal pail with ice, etc. A few extra special touches go a long way in making your table look special without a lot of extra work.

Chips(1)

The chips we served at our party were the Food Should Taste Good Cantina chips, which are my absolute favorite. They taste the most like the restaurant-style chips that I eat way too many of when I’m out to eat with a great amount of salt that’s perfect for serving with salsa and guacamole. I probably should have had another bag on hand because they were practically gone by the time I got my food!

Guacamole(1)

I’m sure there are plenty of other more “authentic” guacamole recipes you could find on the internet, but I like to keep things simple with my guac, with just a little bit of lime, salt, tomatoes and jalapenos added to my avocados. The recipe I use is below! Although I have to admit that these days I don’t really use a recipe but rely on taste as my guide. Just be sure not to skimp on the salt!

Beer(1)

Quick and Easy Guacamole
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 4 medium ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into cubes
  • Juice from ½ of a small lime
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1 medium roma tomato, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place cubed avocado in medium mixing bowl and use a fork to mash the avocado until some small chunks remain. Add the lime juice and stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt. Stir in the tomato and jalapeno and stir until well combined. Serve with chips or on top of enchiladas!

This post is brought to you in partnership with Food Should Taste Good. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Uncategorized

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? 

Madison