Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cocktails, Dinner and Dessert

Going back through some parties that I never told you about, I found this one.

In August of 2010 I hosted a dinner party for my husband's sales team and their spouses. He owns his own company, and the sales team had consecutively achieved their monthly goals for six months, and we wanted to do something special for them. I made invites, and I was on my way to planning another event. Yay! ( have I mentioned how much I love throwing parties??) All of the team was able to come, including my husband's business partner and his wife, I was making dinner for sixteen. Everyone arrived shortly after six o'clock and were served their cocktail of choice and had an opportunity to get to know one another’s spouses. There were many hors d'eouvres to snack on while everyone made themselves comfortable in our home.

shrimp cocktail

hors• d'oeuvre (pronounced or-DURV) is a noun.
A small portion of a tasty food served as an appetizer before a meal or as at a cocktail party.
From the French, and literally means "outside of work"

hors d'eouvre table


My husband, Brian and his business partner, Steve, grilled NY Strip steaks, and chicken breasts, while the guys had a little healthy competition in our back yard with a few yard games. Most of the wives simply chatted and sipped wine while we awaited the main course. I had the tables already set, and everything else was prepared.

the tables were set in the company's colors

All of the wives took home one of the beautiful flower arrangements that were scattered throughout the dinner party, as a thank you for their support of the company, and of their spouse's work.

one of the arrangements

A great time was had by all. I received many compliments on the evening as a whole. I had a ball planning it. I told Brian I would do that every weekend, as long as he got me a cleaning lady next time! ;)

more arrangements and dessert

The Menu:

Hors• d'oeuvres: Assorted fresh vegetables with a dill dip, Baguette Bread and Bruchetta, Warm Spinach Artichoke dip and Home Made Salsa with tortilla chips, Assorted cheeses and Olives and a large
Shrimp Cocktail Ring

Dinner: "Olive Garden" Salad and dressing, Ciabatta rolls, Grilled 12oz NY Strip steak or 7oz Chicken Breast, Baked potato, with any or all of the following: butter, fresh chives, sour cream and bacon, and Fresh green beans.

Dessert: Coffee with either a Mocha Swirl Cheesecake or a NY Style Cheesecake with cherries.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

That "mystery dish" we named Chicken Fajita Bake

The other day I joked about making some concoction in my kitchen that I would share if it tasted good? Well, guess what? It did!! Everyone loved it!

So, now comes the hard part, trying to "write a recipe."  You see, this is pretty much how I cook.  A lot of my best meals I throw together with something I had laying around here so I wouldn't have to go to the store... again.  I would not call myself a recipe follower...more like a recipe tweaker! Most times, in the taste category this works out to my advantage, other than to replicate it again sometimes doesn't quite work out.

I have been trying to get better at jotting down what I put into something, and measuring instead of just shaking a spice into the pot until it tastes good, so bear with me!

smelled even better than it looked 

Here is what you will need to make "Chicken Fajita Bake"

(at this point I opened my first Dos XXX Amber)

Chicken Fajita Bake

1 package of frozen chicken breast meat for fajitas
1 onion
1 can green chilis
1 can rotel
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more to taste)
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 ozs sour cream
1 can black beans
8 tortillas (I used cheddar jalepeno flavored ones)
large package of shredded cheddar or mexican cheese

Saute your chicken with the onion and green chilis until heated
 (that's they beauty of that chicken fajita meat, it's already cooked!)

Add the rotel, cumin, cayenne pepper and black beans and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

Combine the sour cream and cream of chicken soup and spread about a tablespoon in the middle of each tortilla, a scoop of the meat mixture, sprinkle with cheese and roll "enchilada style" and place into a greased 9x13 dish. Continue to fill all 8 tortillas. The remaining soup mixture is spread on top, as well as the remaining cheese. I placed some of the beans and tomatoes down the center also.

Cover and Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

(here is where I opened my 2nd Dos XX Amber...please don't judge. It's a 114 outside and I am sitting next to my oven!)

gussy it up on the plate with some fresh tomatoes, sour cream and guacamole

Looking toward the future and the next time I make this, here is what I would do different. I would add colored bell peppers to the chicken mixture, and more green chilis to the soup mixture. I am not saying that it was lacking, I was just using up what I had here to make something. But if I was shopping for the ingredients to make this, I would do that part differently!

chicken fajita bake

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Not just "NATIONAL" but "INTERNATIONAL" Ice Cream Day!

Last night while I was tucking my youngest in, she informed me that her iCarly calendar told her that today was "International Ice Cream Day."  I am pretty sure if you google it, (and trust me, I am a googlemaniac) there is a national holiday for something every day...but an international one?  and for ICE CREAM?! Something had to be done about this!

When I was pregnant with our twins, I used to get cravings, like most pregnant women do.  One day I had an overwhelming desire to make and to eat homemade ice cream. I called my mom to see if she still had our old crank ice cream maker. What did I care if it was crank or not? I was pregnant, surely they would crank it for me right?? She laughed and said she gave it to the Goodwill years before that. So, off to Wally World  I went.  I bought a brand new electric one. (figured sooner or later I wouldn't have an excuse and they would make me crank it, and why would I want that?) So, home I went and we made the ice cream.  I remember the hardest part was leaving it in the freezer long enough for it to get hardened. We usually end up with a really soft serve cream, but it tastes amazing none the less. It was awesome.

Two more children for us made four, and that ice cream maker had been used one time since then.  (our twins are almost NINE.) It just sat up on the top shelf of my pantry where I always knew it would be if I needed it. Today I needed it.  I mean, for heaven's sake!


We spent the better part of the 100+ degree day at a baseball game melting, I swear the thought of making that when we got home was what pulled us through!  We mixed it up, put the top on the maker, and plugged it in. Silence. After my husband smacked it swore a little and tore it apart and put it back together about 4 times, I suggested borrowing his sisters, who we are fortunate enough to have living at the top of our hill. So, my son goes to get their maker and brings home TWO!! Good thing I was prepared, I had enough for TWO BATCHES!! Yay! So we got both of them rolling and finished dinner. 

After dinner, I prepared toppings, and we waited.  Not so patiently. We waited. "Ah...just forget it! Let's eat it soft!" we declared. So, here it is, my dish, with fresh berries, soft but OH SO GOOD!!

homemade vanilla ice cream with berries

The best part (next to eating it of course) was that i got to use my cute new miniature trifle bowls I got for my birthday! :) I should have taken the picture more from the side, to show their cute little selves off!

Vanilla Ice Cream

4 eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups cream
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups milk

Beat eggs until fluffy. Add sugar a little at a time until combined.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pour into your ice cream maker. Add ice half way, rock salt and then fill with ice. Blend until frozen. Put in freezer for a few hours to harden.

day two after it hardened, with butterfinger and chocolate syrup

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Little King Salad - It's like a Hoagie in a Bowl!

Little King Salad

Before there were Subway Sandwiches, or Blimpie or Jimmy John's, here where I grew up, we had Little King Deli. If you wanted a deli style hoagie this is where you went.  Their signature sandwich, number 11 on the menu, is The Royal Treat, and THAT it is!!  Now when I can't make it to the deli for a sandwich, I have another option: Little King Salad. It's like their lip smackin' sandwich, in a bowl!

little king salad

A friend of mine had asked for the recipe a couple of days ago, and I just plain couldn't get it out of my mind!!  It's been SO HOT here, on the menu a couple days a week have been salads! My kids get super excited when I make this one though, because it's not a fru-fru salad... It's a fill you up kinda thing!

full of deli style meats, cheeses and it's own home made dressing

Here is the basic recipe, below it, I have shared my tips and tricks.

Little King Salad


1 head iceberg lettuce chopped
1/4 lb chopped ham
1/4 lb chopped turkey
1/4 lb chopped hard salami
1/4 lb pepperoni
1 red onion sliced
2 tomatoes sliced
1 C shredded cheese (provolone or Swiss are best)
Italian Hard Rolls


3/4 c Olive oil
1/4 c tarragon vinegar
1/8 t pepper
1/2 t dried oregano
1 t salt
1/4 t garlic powder

Mix up dressing, pour over salad ingredients, toss well. Before you serve throw in torn up pieces of Italian hard rolls.
From experience:
You can use all of the meat flavors, like it calls for, or just use the ones that you like. i like to use them all. I like to chop some, Juliane some, and for the pepperoni, I love the mini ones!!  I prefer the provolone cheese when I make it. It calls for shredded cheese, but I buy it in the deli section, of the grocery (have them cut it a little thicker) and Julianne cut it instead.  The original recipe calls for iceberg lettuce, that is how I made it for the photo.  I prefer romaine, but again, to each their own! When it comes to tomatoes, I prefer to use the Roma style ones. The Italian hard rolls are best.  They stand up better to the dressing, if you are in Nebraska, I always use the Rotella Bakery ones! Lastly, to me, a little red onion goes a long way, so I usually use less than the recipe calls for.   Follow it how the recipe reads, or if you're like me teak it until it's your own! Anyway you slice it, you won't be sorry you made this one!

Want to check out Little King?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

I few days ago one of the blogs that I follow posted a recipe for "the best cookie recipe she has ever made."  This gal makes a lot of sweets!! Her site is even called "How Sweet it Is." So, I KNEW that I had to try them!

giant rainbow cookies

I had my kitchen floor refinished last week and we have had to stay out of the kitchen quite a bit, so I haven't been doing much baking.  Not to mention the heat index of 111 degrees!! Ugh!  But I had promised my youngest daughter we would do some baking... she voted for cupcakes, but I voted cookies! I won! ;) (cupcakes will come next week!)

The link to her blog where I got this recipe: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2011/07/giant-rainbow-cookies/

This is the recipe:

Giant Rainbow Cookies

makes 18 large or 36 small cookies

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of salted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mini m&m’s (or something else that you love)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the butter and sugars until they are combined (and look like the first picture above). Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed. Gradually add flour and mix until a dough forms – it will look crumbly at first, but it will come together. I even used my hands to help at one point. Fold in the m&m’s.
Divide the dough how you choose (1/4 cup portions for 18 large cookies or 2 tablespoon portions for 36 smaller cookies). Shape each portion into a ball with your hands then pull each ball into two equal pieces. Turn each half so that the rough side of the half (what used to be the inside of the ball) faces upwards and then squish both halves together. Place the dough rough-side up on a baking sheets. If you’re doing large cookies, I’d leave about 2 inches in between each.
Bake for 12-15 minutes (large cookies) or 8-12 minutes (small cookies) or until the edges are slightly brown. The centers should be soft and puffy. Do not over bake. Let cool completely then dig in!

hot and fresh from the oven
How Sweet It Is mentioned that one of her readers said this recipe was the batter for the Cooks Illustrated chocolate chip cookie.  It is a very sweet cookie recipe. I made a double batch, and used regular sized M&M's, making one batch with milk chocolate and one batch with dark chocolate, because when it comes to chocolate, we are a family divided.
I recommend you looking at her wonderful pictures of the baking steps before you try this recipe, not only because she is hilarious, but it explains just how to bake them.  My kids thought they looked like snowmen! Snowmen in July!!