Naptime Entertaining: Recipes & Ideas for Family Entertaining
Last weekend some good friends visited us in Cooperstown. When they came in on Friday night we had a big feast to welcome them. It was all about easy, homey, summery food that we all could enjoy at the big table. My mom made one of the salads from my cookbook, lots of corn, and a salad. I contributed these Greek chicken skewers my friend Caroline had made for us last month. They marinade couldn’t be more simple and their bright, garlicky flavor is ideal for a summer meal.
Summer vegetables are always my inspiration when I start composing salads for friends and family. This time of year, they are so fresh and bursting with flavor that I am always sure to include as many as possible whenever I prepare a bowl. Lately, I’ve been trying to take my salads up a notch, making them even more flavorful and exciting. This summer, my trick has been to add a generous shower of creamy, natural Arla Dofino Havarti with Dill. The cheese has a delicious, mild dill flavor which adds a wonderful dimension to the salad.
During the summer I’m all about making the most of my edible gardens. My herbs have been thriving ever since they were moved from the sunny raised bed to the shadier porch. Now my daughter and I are collecting bunches of fragrant greenery to use in my cooking. Over the weekend I was inspired by my gorgeous lemon verbena plant. Every year I am tempted to plant it in the garden but have been advised against it since I’ve been told it will take over everything. Instead I just buy a new plant each year and keep it in a pot until the first frost hits. I make sure to use every single leaf in everything from tea to ice cream to baked goods. This shortbread was new to us this year and we loved i
I am a bit of a mayo-phobe so I am always looking for substitutes when I make classics like chicken salad, potato salad, and the like. Usually I end up swapping regular mayo for a sauce that is heavy on yogurt or sour cream. They serve the same purpose, to moisten and flavor a dish, but tastes vastly different than mayonnaise to me. Last weekend I took my first crack at a mayo-free potato salad and made it with tzatziki sauce instead. My friend make Greek chicken skewers as the main course, so the cool cucumber-y salad was the perfect side.
A few weeks ago The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods by Erin Gleeson landed on my doorstep and I instantly deemed it the most gorgeous cookbook I’d ever seen. Not only is it full of delicious vegetarian recipes, it is a colorful feast of Erin’s watercolors, typography, photography, and more. Each recipe features it’s own watercolor by Erin, a unique layout, and original photography. On top of that, the recipes feature vegetables in ways I haven’t seen before. The butternut caprese, for example, is the perfect twist on an everyday favorite. I also love her cool watermelon “cake”, and ideas for vegetable ribbon salads. The first recipe I made from it was the strawberry salsa, it was such a hit at our block party!
Today I am sharing a great chat I had with Erin, the delicious salsa recipe, and a chance to win a copy of this book. I swear, once you crack the cover you won’t be able to stop reading it and you’ll tab just about every recipe to try tout de suite!
As we gear up for the Fourth of July weekend, I am writing up my final list of easy entertaining recipes. For the main courses, we’ll be grilling our favorites like chicken skewers and hot dogs. We might even grill up some vegetables. On the side, I plan to whip up a few of these easy and delicious caprese-style cheese tartines. I use delicious Arla Dofino Creamy Havarti cheese, slices of the fresh beefsteak tomatoes we’ve started finding in our local markets and basil snipped from the garden.
We were strawberry picking up a storm last week so brace yourself for a few upcoming strawberry recipes. Unfortunately, we had to do most of the strawberry picking in the fields north of us. The strawberry patch I planted is very slowly ripening and has so far yielded about 10 berries total. I think next year it will be more abundant as the plants mature. In the mean time, we are happy to pick wherever and whenever and I was thrilled to have about 20 pounds to work with last weekend.
I was never really into flavored cheeses until I started working with Arla Dofino. There cheeses are the first ones I’ve ever tried with actual natural flavors like real peppers or dill incorporated into the cheese. There is nothing artificial about them! The cool thing about naturally flavored cheeses is that can give new life to tried-and-true dishes. For example, a regular grilled cheese can be transformed if you use Pesto Gouda instead of cheddar. Quesadillas take on a whole new life with Chipotle Gouda, and salads taste amazing with a sprinkle of shredded Dill Havarti. Last week my in-laws were visiting so I used the Jalapeno Havarti to make an easy summer entertaining dip.
With summer coming up it is time to transition to no-cook food. Or, at least food that requires minimal heat when it is simply too hot to crank up the burners for hours on end. On these occasions I rely on icebox desserts. Anything that doesn’t require baking is instantly more convenient to make. In this case I whip up a quick lemon curd and assemble the cake before slipping it into the fridge. It really is that easy!
This year my husband’s birthday coincided with Easter so we had a day of dual celebrations. Our morning started off with the usual Easter basket frenzy, then we moved on to birthday presents, brunch, and cake. It was actually a lot of fun to have both celebrations on one day. The kids were so wired with sugar they were in the spirit to do just about anything. Which was good, because, as you might be able to tell, my daughter was in charge of decorating Dad’s cake and she did a great job.
This is a quick post today since I am currently gearing up for a new television appearance (this morning!) in Connecticut. When I was in Cooperstown earlier this month my Dad and I revisited our favorite Lemon Pudding Cake. This time I made it with Meyer lemons and adored the result. The lemon flavor was light and a little more vanilla-y. I made the mistake of using a metal pan when I think a glass one would’ve been much better! The bottom was a tiny bit too solid, but the flavor was still great.
I am all about a great chocolate dessert for Valentine’s Day, but I rarely have time to make something too involved. Instead I keep it simple and make brownie tarts. They are just brownies flavored with a little hazelnut extract and baked in round tart pans. But they are so pretty and decadent, they’ve been upgraded just enough to be perfect for a romantic holiday meal.