Craving the Beach? Have an Indoor Beach Party!

When the weather turns cold and you are craving some beach time, throw an indoor party with a beach theme. Here are my tips on YouTube on how to create the atmosphere with decorations and food from the tropics.

Recipes featured in my video are Shrimp Cocktail, Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa, and Key Lime Tartlets. Here are the recipes. For more party ideas, see my series on Being the Best Host. (Note: Captioned version on YouTube here.)

Shrimp Cocktail
Serve these in champagne flutes.

INGREDIENTS

  • Shrimp, cleaned and steamed, tails on
  • Wooden skewers
  • Cocktail sauce (either purchased or make by using 1 cup Heinz Chili Sauce plus fresh horseradish to taste, about 2-3 tablespoons)
  • Scallions, cleaned
  • Avocado, peeled and chopped
  • Lime juice, about 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Mix chopped avocado with lime juice, salt and pepper, set side. Thread three shrimp on a wooden skewer.

Assemble shrimp cocktails in glass by layering ingredients in this order:

  1. Cocktail sauce
  2. Avocado
  3. Shrimp on skewers
  4. One scallion
    Serve chilled.

Fish Tacos
Any kind of fresh, fleshy fish will work, such as Mahi Mahi, Flounder, Grouper. Really, whatever white fish is on sale is great.

INGREDIENTS

  • Fish, about 2 pounds,
  • 2 mangos, chopped into small chunks — everything should be tiny bite-sized
  • 1/2 cup chopped green scallions
  • 1-2 avocados, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Soft taco shells

DIRECTIONS

Make the mango salsa by combining mangos, scallions, avocados, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Season the fish with any type of seasoning you like (this is where you improvise to suit your own taste buds). I’ve used blackened seasoning, Old Bay, salt, pepper, cayenne. Drizzle some olive oil over the fish to get ready to cook on the grill or a stove-top pan.

Cook the fish about four minutes on each side for a total of 8-10 minutes (depending on thickness, this is only a gauge).

Fill taco shells with fish and top with mango salsa.

Yield: 4-6 tacos

Key Lime Tartlets

Use real key limes for an authentic taste. Because the Florida Keys had no refrigeration until the Overseas Highway opened in 1938, bakers had to use canned milk, so sweetened condensed milk became an essential element of Florida’s state pie. This version of Key Lime Pie has a filling that doesn’t need to be baked so it’s perfect for little tartlets. Serve in tropical-colored cups and top with slices of Key lime.

INGREDIENTS

  • Graham cracker crumbs, boxed
  • Sugar
  • Melted butter
  • 1 can (14-oz.) Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/3 cup Key Lime juice (use a citrus reamer to extract the juice) or, use Nellie and Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice, found in some grocery or specialty stores.
  • 2 egg whites, beaten until thick
  • Heavy whipped cream, whipped with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla.

Make a graham cracker crust. Follow the directions on the box for a one-crust pie using melted butter and sugar. Mix and set aside.

Combine condensed milk and Key Lime juice with an electric mixer. Fold in the beaten egg whites into the milk mixture.

Assemble tartlets by pressing about one tablespoon of graham cracker crust into the bottom of a cup. Top with about one-fourth cup of Key Lime pie filling. Chill for at least three hours.

When ready to serve, topped with whipped cream and a Key lime slice.

Yield: one dozen

 

Don’t Try This Trick at Home!

I could have titled this blog “The Amazing Exploding Hungarian Noodle Casserole.” Make no mistake, this is a delicious and hardy accompaniment for a Beef Bourguignon or similar entrée. But, my first experience in serving this to my guests taught me several valuable lessons.

Lesson 1: fire and noodles don’t mix!

The scene was a dinner party at my home with a buffet table full of mouth-watering offerings. Many folks had made their first pass through the buffet table and several us were hovering around the buffet chatting when…“BAM!…SHATTER!…SPRAY!!

Stunned, we all were paralyzed, jaws dropped as we gawked at the Baked Hungarian Noodle Casserole that had literally EXPLODED!. Glass shards and noodles littered the buffet table. The dinner was ruined — glass penetrated every nook and cranny of the food and surrounding area.

Silence. No…one…said…a…word…and turned toward me.

I wanted to cry, but without missing a beat, I threw my hands in the air and exclaimed, “And now for my next trick!”

The crowd exploded (pun noted) in laughter and applause! What else could we do? Several folks helped with clean up, in disbelief that Pyrex would shatter like that! I pulled some back-up food from the fridge and brought out more wine and desserts.

Lesson 2: It doesn’t matter what you serve people, whether it’s fancy or low-key, hospitality is from the heart. The main thing is to make people feel you are glad they came. Famous chef Julia Child wrote in her autobiography that on a few occasions she served dishes that flopped and she only realized it when she took a bite along with her guests. She never batted an eye or drew attention to the food, focusing on her guests the entire time.

So what happened? I guess I had the Sterno a little too close to the Pyrex? I had no idea  Pyrex could shatter but no glass is bullet proof. For more on this topic read this article “Exploding Pyrex Cookware Mystery Solved.”

I am making this recipe for Christmas Eve dinner this year.

Lesson 3: No Sterno and no Pyrex this time.

Baked Hungarian Noodles

This recipe, from A Private Collection published by the Junior League of Palo Alto, is written to serve 24 guests because it’s suitable for a crowd. It can be easily divided by 2 to serve 12. This can be made well in advance of the party. You might question only one pound of noodles for 24 servings; be sure to use only fine noodles to get the proper volume.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound fine noodles
  • 4 cups cream-style cottage cheese
  • 4 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • Paprika
  • Freshly-grated parmesan cheese

Cook noodles in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain. Combine the noodles with the remaining ingredients except the paprika and Parmesan cheese.

Place in two or three buttered casseroles and bake at 350 degrees until hot. Or, put in refrigerator at this point until ready to use. Approximately 30 minutes before serving, remove from refrigerator and bake until hot.

Sprinkle with paprika and serve with Parmesan cheese.

True Colors

‘Tis the season for red and green and easy-to-carry party food. Spinach stuffed tomatoes provide all the color you need and this dish is easy to make ahead (even the day before) and bake when you need it. This tasty veggie dish is also a hit when you have to take something to a party because baked-ahead tomatoes can be eaten at room temp.

Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 10 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 package frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion of your choice (I use chopped shallots or finely-minced red onion)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese mixed with 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons of melted butter

Wash tomatoes and slice a small slice off the stem end so the tomato will sit upright in a baking dish. Cut off the top of the tomato and scoop out the pulp. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with a little salt. Spray baking dish with cooking spray and place cored tomatoes in dish.

Cook spinach according to package directions, drain and squeeze all water out

Add butter, cream cheese, onions, salt and pepper and combine until butter and cheese is melted.

Spoon spinach mixture into tomatoes. Top with parmesan/bread crumb mixture.

Bake for 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Can make ahead and hold in refrigerator for two days before baking.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not the 1960s Anymore

By this time in 1969, I had consumed at least (at least!) 52 Sealtest ® Ice Cream Sandwiches at the local Clarion pool in the college town where I grew up. Clarion was sleepy in the summer because the college kids left and all the happenings were at the pool on Liberty Street or down at the river.

I remember those ice cream sandwiches from the vending machine – thick with ice cream, not like the skimpy ones today. Maybe when you’re a kid everything just seems bigger and better like the little house you grew up in.

I never deviated from that frozen treat, even though the lure of banana popsicles beckoned. I think I only sat out one week that summer when I had what mom called, “sun poisoning.” I looked like a lobster with bumps and the word “poisoning” scared me enough to stay home, but it killed me!

The pool closed down after that for several years on and off for repairs and I never really got back into going. I found books, bicycling and baking instead. Hang on to those good memories as you build new ones.

2016 Ice Cream Sandwiches

Pictured above is my brownie bar filled with Breyers® Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Cut the brownies into squares, freeze them. Take them out of the freezer and slice in half crosswise and top each half with your favorite flavor of ice cream/gelato/frozen yogurt. Make little ice cream sandwiches and wrap each individually with plastic wrap. Make a ton and keep them in the freezer for when the kids come in looking for something good.

Cookies work well too. I used molasses cookies here. And, keep enjoying summer with all those food memories!

Spring Cleaning

The pantry was cluttered with ingredients from holiday baking. A half of a bag of red and green chocolate chips, a half box of red and green Rice Krispies, dried cranberries, some chopped pecans in the bottom of a bag — you get the messy picture. It was time to make room for spring stuff.

Basically, I threw everything into a cookie batter. I know that nowadays you can buy cookies as good as, or even better than, what you can make at home. But, there’s something about warming up the oven and allowing the sweet smell to waft through the house. It all screams, “Mom’s home!”

Hopefully, the sights and smells of a spring day, still cold and damp outside, will linger in the memories of those I love.

House Special CookiesSpring cleaning use this one

These are chewy cookies and you can improvise on how much of what you want to add (e.g. raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.). Use what you have on hand.

  • 1-1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled outs
  • 1 cup Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 nuts or 1/2 dried cranberries/raisins

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars together in a large bowl using an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, blend until combined.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Working with 1/4 cup of dough at time, toll the dough into balls and place on baking sheet about 2-1/2 inches apart. Slightly flatten the balls of dough.

Bake until the tops of the cookies are lightly golden but the centers are soft and puffy – about 22 to 25 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes then transfer to a cooking rack to finish cooling.

Let the Kids Do the Smashing

CoverI was in Balducci’s last week stopping in for a fresh-brewed cup of their wonderful coffee on my way to the office. I noticed the gorgeous display of chocolate-covered pretzels. Price: $15.99 for 20 ounces of hand-dipped pretzels cleverly decorated with colorful toppings. I don’t know if prices are high this year or I’m feeling frugal, or just wanting to do things myself, but for whatever the reason, I re-created the pretzels, Easter style.

I took some ordinary, bagged Easter candy and used them for the pretzel toppings. Whoppers’ mini Robins Eggs and egg-shaped M&Ms are easily ground in a food processor. Or, put them in a Ziploc bag and smash them with a rolling pin. (The kids love to do the smashing.) I also used some spring-looking toppings.

In the end, I produced about 100 chocolate-covered pretzels for around $20 max. Be creative, use various toppings, different-shaped pretzels, bag them in cellophane with ribbon

Ingredients

  • Pretzels
  • Chocolate for dipping. I used white and dark chocolate. You can buy the Wilton Candy Melts where cake baking/decorating supplies are sold or Dolci frutta meltable chocolate from your grocery store. Check the baking aisle for other brands.
  • Various toppings: crushed candies, mini M&Ms, nuts, mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, and more.

    candy-close-up

    Crush candies for topping after you dip the pretzels in chocolate.

Have at It!

Melt the chocolate according to directions. Dip a pretzel in the chocolate, and then dip in the topping. Place on waxed paper to cool.

That’s it! Have fun! And, please, don’t get me wrong, Balducci’s is great.

good

I used four different toppings with white and dark chocolate.

Ringing in 2016 with Thanks to 50,000+ of You!

Can you hear me screaming? Kelley Hospitality hit the 50,000+ mark in hits in 2015 and I have you to thank for that. We go together like salt and pepper. You wanted to know about all-things hospitality – food, family, friends, and folklore. And I had a passion for writing about it.

What is the All-Time Most Popular Blog Posting on Kelley Hospitality?

Ding! Ding! Ding!…It’s “A Fork Supper.” You needed a delicious meal you could serve at a large party and I had just the recipe! Here it is again for those of you just tuning in.

I wish you the best in 2016 and I look forward to more memories of hospitality recorded in these pages. Thank you and Happy New Year!