Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Make Ahead Appetizers

Have you ever gotten that surprise guest or an impromptu family dinner? Been blindsided by a neighborhood get together or friends show up for the football game that starts in 5 minutes? Before you know it, you are hosting a party. Large or small, don't be caught off guard. Here are some great make ahead hors d' oeuvres that you can grab out of your freezer. Your guests will think you are the hostess with the mostess when you whip this up!


1- 8oz package of philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 cup Franks red hot sauce
1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch dressing
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or other shredded cheese

Combine all the ingredients in a dish (if freezing, use a foil dish). Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through.


10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups lowfat sour cream
8 oz package of cream cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 tsp pepper
1 minced garlic clove

Combine all ingredients together. Mix well. Divide into 4 portions and freeze in ziploc bags.
When you are ready, bake them at 350 degrees, stirring once or twice until heated through (about 30 minutes).


I've posted this recipe before but there are so many variations of it. It is great to freeze and then pop in the oven when you are ready.
Here are some fillings if you don't want mushroom:
Cranberry-Pecan Brie:
Soak 1/4 cup cranberries in water for a minute so they aren't hard.
In a small pan, melt a tablespoon of butter and add 1/3 cup pecans and 1/4 tsp cinnamon and toast for about 3 minutes. Place brie in the middle of the puff pastry. Top with the pecan mixture first then 1/4 cup of brown sugar and finally the cranberries. Wrap up and bake as previous instructions.
Artichoke, Sun-dried tomato and pesto:
Mix 1/2 cup chopped artichokes, 1/4 cup pesto and 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes together. Pile on a wheel of brie. Wrap with puff pastry and bake as previous instructions.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Peach season is in full swing right now so take advantage of it! I took my boys to a local orchard the other day and loaded up on two big bushels of peaches. It was a really fun morning out but it is also going to help stock my freezer and pantry for the coming months. Here are a few great recipes to help you use up your extra peaches!

Peach Whiskey BBQ Sauce

olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp chili powder
1/3 cup bourbon (I used Bird Dog Peach Flavored Whiskey)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 peaches, peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
3 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and slightly browned (about 12 minutes). Add the garlic in and cook until fragrant (3 min). Stir in the chili powder and mustard.  Stir in the peaches, bourbon, brown sugar, ketchup and vinegar. Simmer for 30 minutes until the peaches are really soft. At this point, take it off the heat and let it cool down. When it is cool, puree in a blender until desired consistency. This is great on ribs or chicken! Store it in a container in the fridge for a week or freeze it for up to 6 months.

Mason Jar Peach Crumbles

4 cups peaches, peeled, cored and diced
3 Tbsp Tapioca
1 Tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
1 cup brown sugar, divided in half
squeeze of half a lemon
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp oats
3 Tbsp butter, cold and diced

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Spoon the mixture into clean mason jars (about 3/4 of the way up).  In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the brown sugar, the flour and oats. Cut the butter in until it is combined. Top the mason jars with the crumble mixture.

At this point you can either bake them at 350 degrees for about a 3-40 minutes (or until hot and bubbly) or you can put the mason jar lids on a store them in your freezer.

If you are baking them from the freezer, take the tops off and place the jars on a baking sheet. Put the baking sheet into a cold oven and turn it onto 375 degrees. This will take about an hour but will ensure the jars won't crack and break.

Serve these hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (get my homemade ice cream recipe here)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Garden Party 2014

The highlight of my summer was throwing our annual garden party. We threw a fabulous one last year, so this year we had even bigger plans. As usual, the purpose of this is to get together with friends and neighbors but also to showcase what comes out of the garden every summer. I had been thinking and planning since the end of last summer so I had a pretty good plan for what I wanted the look and feel to be. We went with a Greek theme this year because I had tons of food growing that is typically found in Greek recipes. As for the ambiance I wanted it to be very natural, clean and simple. I stuck with burlap and browns but had pops of blue and white on the table. I used blue and white dish towels as the napkins and had my silver for the utensils to add a little elegance. The wine glasses were small mason jars to keep the simple garden theme and wine corks were used to hold the name tags.

I didn't want to use traditional flowers on the table so I filled large glass vases with lemons and water and had tea lights all around them on the table. I also added a runner of lemon leaves down the table to add a little natural green.
For the menu, I tried to keep it relatively simple. I did as much ahead of time as possible so I was able to enjoy my guests instead of slaving over the stove or grill.
For the Appetizers:
Spanakopita made from the spinach in the garden.
Lamb Sliders with sauteed onions, feta and tzatziki
Mediterranean Pizza with squash, zucchini and an eggplant crust
Zucchini Soup Shooters
Beet Hummus
An assortment of olives and feta cheese

For Dinner:
I pre-grilled chicken skewers which I had marinated in lemon, garlic, Greek yogurt and a bunch of fresh herbs. I served this along with an orzo salad that had herbs, feta, tomatoes and onions. I also pre-roasted tons of cut up veggies from the garden that I put a simple herb vinaigrette over. Same as last year, I tried to make as much ahead of time as possible and served it all at room temperature. I also had fresh zucchini bread and grilled naan on the table.
For Dessert:
I made individual rhubarb raspberry crisps in mason jars. They were baked off right before serving so they were really gooey and hot. I served each with a scoop of homemade basil- mint ice cream. These were a huge hit!
The Cocktails!
I again pre-mixed all the cocktails ahead of time. This made it so fun for everyone to just grab a mason jar and have a garden fresh drink! I labeled all of them ahead of time with little wooden labels so people knew exactly what they were drinking.
Zucchini & Sea salt Vodka Spritzers
Cucumber Lemoncello Splash
Mint Margaritas
Rhubarb Vodka Fizz
Vodka Apple Cider
It was fun having everyone figure out which was their favorite! Mine was the cucumber lemoncello splash! So good but dangerous!
As usual, I would hate for my guests to go home empty handed, so we had a party favor table set up at the gate going to the driveway.
Everyone left with a bottle of hot pepper infused vodka, a loaf of zucchini bread and a jar of dill pickles.
It was a fabulous night with some of our favorite people. I couldn't have done it without help from two amazing "feel like a guest" girls! They made everything run smooth and seamlessly. The kitchen was spotless and I was able to relax and enjoy my friends.  I woke up the next morning and started planning for 2015, so stayed tuned! I am happy to post any recipes, if requested.
Did I forget to mention it was a toga party too??
*Photos are curtious of a fabulous photographer, Lauren Doran.
Check out her website www.laurendoranphotography.com


Friday, July 4, 2014

Peach Sangria

If you need a great cocktail that is crisp and refreshing, then this one is for you. The peaches are sweet and juicy and the drink is cold and amazing. This recipe is from my absolute favorite restaurant, SNOB in Charleston, SC. The best part about this drink is that the longer it sits the better it is! Make it for a special occasion or just to have in your fridge for an evening cocktail.

10 peaches, Halved then sliced into 1/4" thick
2 oranges, sliced into 1/4" circles
4 Lemons, sliced into 1/4" circles
2 small cans pineapple juice
1 bottle of riesling
4 bottles of Pinot Grigio
1 cup Peach Brandy
1 cup Peach Schnappes
1 cup triple sec
Club soda or sprite

Mix all the ingredients together and allow to marinate (The longer the better).

For Serving, fill a glass with ice and fill 3/4 full with sangria. Top with club soda or sprite. Make sure to include a few pieces of fruit!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tomato and Corn Salad

If you are heading to a BBQ this weekend and need a quick and easy dish to bring, try this one out. It travels well and can be made a few days ahead of time.

5 corn on cob
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
8 basil leaves
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Shuck the corn and add it to boiling water. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.
When the corn is cool enough to handle, cut off the kernels.
Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the corn.
Cut the basil into ribbons and add them to the bowl along with the olive oil and red wine vinegar. Mix it all together and add salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, quadrupled....It will absolutely be a crowd pleaser!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ice cream Sandwiches

On any given day during the summer, there are usually about 30 ice cream sandwiches in my freezer. If it gets below 10 I start to panic and make about 100 more just in case. They are a huge hit with everyone (especially my husband)! The best part about these is that you can make them with any flavor or combination you like.

Ingredients for Vanilla ice cream:
8 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups skim milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream

In a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and salt until blended. Whisk in the skim milk until blended.

With a wooden spoon, cook the egg mixture over medium heat until thickens (usually about 8 minutes). Draw your finger down the spoon and if it leaves a line that doesn't run together, it is ready.

Pour this custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Stir the heavy cream. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (have the plastic touch the custard so it doesn't form a skin). Chill this in the fridge for a few hours until cool.

When ready, pour the custard into an ice cream maker and churn until ready. When it is finished, put it in the back of your freezer and let it harden completely.


For the Cookies, just make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and let them cool completely!

This kid hung around while I was making the cookies....I wonder why??

When the cookies are cooled and the ice cream has been hardening in the freezer, you are ready to assemble! To make the whole business a much smoother assembly line, I pre-cut all the tin foil and match up all the same size cookies. You will also need an ice cream scoop and a knife for smoothing and filling.
Put a full scoop of ice cream on the bottom of a cookie. You want this to be a really packed scoop so each sandwich has a nice thick layer in between. Using your knife, lightly press the ice cream down to a disc shape, filling in any gaps around the size with more ice cream. Put the cookie top on and again use the knife to fill in any gaps. You want the ice cream to be filled all the way to the edge of the cookies.

Wrap it up in the foil and put it in the back of your freezer so it gets really cold and hard again. When you are ready, just take them out and eat!!
Here are some really good cookie/ice cream combinations:
chocolate chip cookie/vanilla ice cream
chocolate chip cookie/coffee ice cream
sugar cookie/strawberry ice cream
ginger snap cookie/pumpkin ice cream
chocolate cookie/mint ice cream
The combination possibilities are endless! What would your favorite combination be?
Questions? Comments? I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Chicken Salad

I LOVE chicken salad. It is a total weakness of mine. You can have it as a snack or you can spruce it up for dinner. I have two recipes that I make depending on my mood or what I am making it for. It seems like everyone has their favorite of these two, but I am still on the fence after years of making them. Which one is your favorite?

This recipe was given to me by an amazing chef in Charleston, SC named Chad Glasscock.
Serve this on a croissant for that extra something.

8 chicken breasts- baked and diced
1 1/2 cups mayo
1/4 cup sweet hot mustard
2 Tbsp honey
2-3 Tbsp poppy seeds
2 large Granny Smith apples
salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients, minus the chicken, in a mixing bowl. Put the diced chicken into a large mixing bowl and pour the mayo mixture over the top of it until it is nicely coated, but not dripping. Serve over salad or on a croissant.

This is a recipe that has been adapted from a Whole Foods recipe. This one is really good because there is very little mayo in it so it is light and refreshing. It would be perfect to serve at a luncheon alongside a large salad.
1 lb Chicken, cooked and cubed
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds (you can also use walnuts)
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1/2 cup minced celery
1 Tbsp minced flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp mayo
1/3 cup raspberry walnut vinaigrette
Combine the first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together the mayo and dressing. Pour it over the chicken mixture and stir until evenly coated.
What is your favorite chicken salad recipe? I'd love to hear from you!