Monday, July 23, 2012

Apps in a Snap

Last weekend was bittersweet. I co-hosted a going-away party with Ronda and the Yummy Mummy (YM) for our dear friends the Stones. They're moving to Amsterdam (or "Hamsterdam," as Ronda's 4 year-old daughter calls it) for two years. While we're so excited for the wonderful adventures that await them, we're frankly going to miss them like all get out. 

We wanted it to be an evening we could visit and soak up each other's company and not have to fuss around with food. An alfresco event seemed ideal and YM's house provided a perfect backdrop. She styled the table—gorgeous—and also provided the mascots (meet chickens Buffy and Nice Girl) who had no problem mixing and mingling with the group. 

For the appetizer we thought it would be fun to set up a crostini station. The concept is to provide three different cheeses, spreads and nuts that people can mix and match to their heart's content. It proved to be a big hit. People loved being able to build their own crostini according to their preferences but also had fun seeing and trying someone else's combination. 

To lay it out, I used the largest cutting board I have and simply placed the "layers" in a row. YM did create this cute and helpful board to share what the options were:
> Cheese: Goat, Le Petit Creme (which is similar to a brie, and Cream Cheese
> Spreads: Apricot Jam, Hot Pepper Jelly and Roasted Tomatoes
> Nuts: Tasted Almonds, Pecan halves and Candied Walnuts

Personally, I could make an entire meal off bread or cheese so was pretty much camped out at this table for most of the night, but we were sure to leave some room for YM's stunning amaretto soaked peach cake. 

Whether you're having a small intimate dinner, a large party or just want to enjoy an alfresco snack along with the summer weather, it's nice to have a nibble to offer that is as effortless as it is tasty. This will definitely not be the last of the crostini station around here—and we know it's certainly not the last of the Stone's. But bon voyage our special friends! We'll miss you and are already counting down until your welcome back party!  

Build-Your-Own Crostini Station

Baguette sliced about 1/4-in thick
2-3 soft cheeses (such as goat cheese, blue cheese, brie, cream cheese) 
2-3 spreads (such as apricot jam, fig preserves, red pepper jelly, roasted tomatoes)
2-3 toasted nuts (such as pecan halves, almonds, hazelnuts, candied walnuts)

Guests can simple spread on their cheese of choice on the bread slice and then top with the spread and nut of their choice.

Please note: All photography © Yummy Mummy Kitchen. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When Worlds Collide

It's not often that two worlds collide but it happened this year! The Kentucky Derby happened to fall on the same day as Cinco de Mayo, which was the 5th of May incase Spanish is not your strong suit. I'm going to pretend that was just a few weeks ago when I know it was really a few months ago. Anywho....I love themed parties so this double whammy was kind of like crack for me. In an effort to minimize the potential schizophrenia, I decided I would do a transitional party.

First off we "derby-ed" by drinking mint juleps and watching the most exciting two minutes in sports. Then we had Act II with margaritas and tacos. It was literally like a curtain dropped and I switched out the food, beverages and decor. I just didn't do a very good job documenting it.

But boy did we have fun! People could "sponsor" a horse for $5 by drawing a name out of a (jockey) hat, which lead to some crazy shouting at the TV screen as we watched the race.

My friend, Ashley, walked away with the winnings—much to her delight. In the winner's honor, we made sure to have another, which was probably the beginning of the downward slide for many of us. In case there was any question, mixing juleps and margaritas results in a lot of drunk people. 

While the "set change" was going on, there was a salsa tasting contest. A lot of the guests brought an entry so it was fun to taste so many different styles and an easy way to get people involved in the party. 

People cast their ballots and the winner, Meredith, walked away with this awesome prize. 

Then we dined on steak adobo and grilled veggie tacos. 

I made this "prize tested recipe" from Better Homes and Gardens, which will now become my go-to guacamole recipe. It is so good. It veers from the traditional with the addition of pineapple and black beans and then cheats by adding in some prepared green salsa to boost the flavors. I served it as a condiment for the tacos but could eat vats of the stuff. And it's perfect for this heatwave when you're trying to avoid food that requires a stove or oven. This one is definitely a winner!

Pineapple-Black Bean Guacamole
from Better Homes and Gardens

2 medium avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1/4 cup bottled green salsa (salsa verde)
1 Tbsp sour cream
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh (or canned) pineapple, drained
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup feta cheese
In a large bowl mash avocados. Stir in salsa and sour cream until combined. Stir in pineapple, beans, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt, cumin and cheese. Cover and chill for 2 hours or until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips. Note: Recipe easily doubled or tripled.