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

 

Can She Make a Healthy Pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?

cherry-pit-this-one

[Click here for the music.]
Oh, where have you been,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you been,
Charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife,
She’s the joy of my life,
She’s a young thing
And cannot leave her mother.

Can she make a cherry pie,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she make a cherry pie,
Charming Billy?
She can make a cherry pie,
Quick as a cat can wink an eye,
She’s a young thing
And cannot leave her mother.

Every time I think about, crave or eat cherry pie, the traditional folk song “Billy Boy” comes to mind. It’s one of those nursery rhyme-type songs that Aunt Dot used to sing to “Billy,” my husband, each time he scampered through the house.

Last Sunday, in the bleak mid-winter, I was craving cherry pie made with sour cherries which obviously are not in season. To the rescue is Trader Joe’s deep purple Morello cherries, imported from Germany. Here’s a healthy pie – Billy Boy, Billy Boy – made with whole wheat flour and sour cherries resulting in a filling that is not overcome with a heavy sugary cornstarch filling. Besides, a pie like this one is great for breakfast – fruit and a whole wheat crust.

[Healthy] Cherry Pie [Billy Boy, Billy Boy]
Use jarred Morello cherries when you can’ t get fresh. They retain their tart flavor and meaty texture. Do not use canned cherry pie filling. 

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 cups Morello cherries (2 12-oz. jars of Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 double-crust pie dough (recipe below)

Heat oven to 500 degrees and adjust oven rack to the bottom rack. Place a rimmed cookie sheet on the rack.

Mix the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the cherries and the almond extract.

Spread the filling in the unbaked pie crust bottom. Place top pie crust over cherries, seal and crimp the edges and make four air slices. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar.

Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and lower oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet, lower oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for about 35 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.morello-cherries

Coconut Oil/Whole Wheat Pie Crust
Makes enough for one 9-inch pie crust. Double the recipe for a top and bottom crust.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4-7 tablespoon water, cold

Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in coconut oil with your fingertips or use a hand mixer on low speed. Using a fork, stir in cold water until dough almost comes together into a ball. Add water gradually, a tablespoon or two at a time. Press dough into a ball, divide in half, and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least one hour.

When ready to use, let the dough come to room temperature (coconut oil hardens firmer than butter). Use flour on the surface to prevent sticking when rolling it.

Now, start singing!

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.

Give Your Heart Away

When it comes to matters of the heart, there are no short cuts. That’s why you have to make these from scratch. Simple ingredients make up these Linzer Heart Tearts, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I was thinking all day about making these but I am on a deadline, the family stuff, that project in the basement…

But, you know, the deadline always gets met, the basement project isn’t going anywhere, but Valentine’s Day comes once a year. As soon as I started baking, our son walked in the kitchen and said, “I smell goodness.”

So, make these for someone you love. Or make them for yourself. No matter who they are for, make them with love.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Linzer Heart Tearts (no, that is not a typo)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • raspberry preserves

Beat together first three ingredients (butter, sugar salt). Add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy. (You can substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract if you like.) Add the flour until mixture forms a ball. Chill dough one hour.

Roll onto lightly floured surface, about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out and place on ungreased cookie sheet

Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Cool cookies and spread half of the cookie with raspberry preserves and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Hint: If you want the raspberry to show, cut a small heart into the big heart.

Be the Snow House

Photo by Cindy Dyer, January 23, Blizzard 2016.

Be the house where the kids come during the snowstorm. Welcome your kids’ friends for a cup of hot chocolate while you throw their wet duds in the dryer. They’ll have voracious appetites after sledding all day and breakfast at 3 p.m. might hit the spot (and is easy to make).

Hospitality is about creating memories. They’ll always remember the snow house where they could go, get dry and recharge for more winter fun. You’ll remember it too. These days are going fast with our children, so hang on tight when you can.

I hope you find a little time to open your home and heart and be the snow house.

A Fine Brine

It’s complex, it’s big, it’s tangy, it’s the varietal brine of that sweet, yet spicy, fruit called the Peppadew®. I’ve incorporated these morsels of good in many recipes, but I’m telling you, do not throw away the brine!

Use the Peppadew® brine in place of vinegar when tossing your favorite oil and vinegar dressing on your greens. Use the brine when making slaw dressing for some added tang.

Here’s a dressing I created using the Peppadew® brine to go along with a salad using fall fruits. Pair this salad with any grilled beef, chicken or pork. And remember, don’t throw away that brine!

Pear-Apple Salad with Peppadew Dressing
16-oz of mixed salad greens
1/3 cup Peppadews®, chopped
1 cup Swiss cheese, shaved
1 cup roasted nuts – either pecans or cashews
1 red apple (Gala or Honeycrisp), sliced thinly
1 green pear (Anjou), sliced thinly
Toss together all the above ingredients with the Peppadew Dressing (recipe below).

Peppadew Dressing for Pear-Apple Salad

Morsels of Good

Morsels of Good

2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Peppadew® brine
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Process ingredients in a blender or shaker until smooth. Can make ahead and store in the refrigerator for up to one week; bring to room temperature before using.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Tiny Beers

Good things come in small packages. When the boss treated our staff after a long day’s work at the HLAA Convention this summer, we marveled at something none of us had tasted before.

The boss poured Licor 43, Cuarents Y Tes into small shot-type glasses. Then she lightly dribbled a bit of heavy cream on top of the Licor 43. At first it looked like it would mix together but the right amount of cream allowed it to rise to the top. The result – something that looked like a tiny beer!

Licor 43 is made up of citrus fruit and botanicals and its predominant flavor is vanilla, caramel, and honey. A little dash of cream makes it a drinkable dessert. I look forward to serving this and surprising my guests the way we were surprised.

Isn’t it fun to discover something new? We all thought so! See, work can be fun.