Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Crowd-Pleasing BBQ Menu

There's a funny thing about Oregonians.  The thing is, there is never a day that you can schedule a BBQ where you know, with out a doubt, that you will have good weather.

So was the case with our Yardwarming BBQ party last week. First day of summer, an entire week of nice weather, and...rain on Saturday.  Actually, despite the weather report (which warned of a 70 percent chance of rain), we decided the party must go on, especially since up until 3pm the skies looked clear and beautiful.  In fact, I think that was the exact conversation we were having with our guests when we rolled out the BBQ, started grilling, and then got ambushed by a complete downpour!

But that's the thing about Oregonians.  Without hesitation, question, or the slightest bit of confusion, every person grabbed a chair, drink, and food item and brought it inside without so much as a single word muttered.  It's like ants in a rainstorm...we just know when to run for cover.

Fifteen minutes later, the storm was over and the party continued.  The clouds, which completely drained themselves, retreated, and we even enjoyed five or so hours next to a warm fire outside.

I guess if we had to spend part of the party inside, the best time to do it was at dinner.  And here's what we ate:

Build Your Own Gourmet Hot Dog Bar
Let your guests create their own gourmet hot dogs with dozens of dogs and toppings to choose from.

Citrus-Mango Slaw
2TSP of Sugar
1/3C Rice Vinegar
1/3C Veggie Oil
2 Navel Oranges (peeled and diced)
1 Mango (peeled and diced)
1 Green Cabbage (Shredded)
Salt and Pepper
1/2C of Fresh Cilantro Leaves
Make a dressing out of the sugar, vinegar, and veggie oil.  Distribute over oranges, mango, and cabbage and toss.  Add salt, pepper, and cilantro leaves.

Strawberry Salsa
1Pound Strawberries, diced
1/4C Scallions
1 Jalapeno, diced
1/4C Cilantro
2TBSP Fresh Lime Juice
1TBSP Honey
Combine ingredients in bowl and mull together.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Peach-Bacon Baked Beans (crowd favorite!)
6 slices of bacon, cooked and diced
2 cans of red beans
2 cans of kidney beans
2 cans of peaches
1C diced sweet onion
1 can of tomato sauce
1/2C apricot preserves
1/3C molasses
1/3C apple cider vinegar
2TSP cayanne pepper
1TBSP dijon mustard
3/4TSP salt
Combine beans, peaches, onion and bacon in a slow cooker.  In a separate bowl, combine tomato sauce, preserves, molasses, vinegar, cayanne pepper, mustard and salt.  Mix together and pour over beans.  Slow cook on high for three hours.

Broccoli Cheddar Bacon Salad 
6C fresh broccoli florets 
1-1/2C (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese 
1/3C chopped onion 
1-1/2C mayonnaise 
3/4C sugar 
3TBSP red wine vinegar 
12 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled  
In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cheese and onion. In a mason jar, combine the mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar. Pour over broccoli mixture; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Just before serving, stir in the bacon.

Passionfruit Iced Tea
8 Packets of Tea (you can always water it down)
2 Gallons of Water
3/4C or so of Passionfruit Syrup (the kind they use in coffees)
One Lemon
Brew tea in the sun the day before.  The day of, add passionfruit syrup.  Stir and add ice.  Create lemon art by zesting lemon in a pattern and then slicing.  Place lemons in iced tea.

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
Ok, I made these from box.  Frosting too!  But put them in mini muffin pans and frost using a pastry bag, and they are hit all the same!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yard-Warming Party with Gourmet Hot Dog Bar

Housewarming party.  Definition: a party given to celebrate moving into a new home.

Yardwarming party.  Definition: a party with a gourmet hotdog bar, giant beer pong, Deschutes beer on tap, and the first lighting of the firepit.
Guests visit and play giant Beer Pong made from paint buckets and bouncy balls
I believe we have coined the term "yardwarming party," and I'm darn proud of it.  The event had everything a good party could hope for: grub food, an awesome guest list, and clear night out by the firepit.

For the event, I decided to kabosh the slider burger bar even though it was a hit at our last BBQ, and instead go with a gourmet hot dog bar.  So EASY! The idea was inspired hot dog recipes in the Martha Stewart Food Magazine.  Of course, we put our own little twist on things, and came up with five recipes for our guests to concoct the perfect dog.

The Aloha Dog:
Turkey Dog
Pineapple Topping (1TBSP of oil and saute' fresh pineapple, red onion, salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper in a pan)

The Yo Dog:
Polish Dog
Bacon Bits
Peach-Bacon Baked Beans
Chopped Onion

The Gutentag Dog:
Polish Dog
1000 Island
Swiss Cheese

The Hola! Dog:
Beef Frank
Corn Topping (Corn, scallions, oil, salt, and pepper sauteed in a pan, then spritzed with lime juice)

The Chao Ban Dog:
Bee Frank
Cucumber Topping (cucumber and carrot mixed with 2TSP vinegar, 1TSP sugar, and 1/2TSP salt)
Fresh cilantro

The hot dog station had menus for the five recommended dogs, plus toppings to come up with 1000's of varieties of custom dog deliciousness. 

Each of the toppings were identified with a handmade sign and condiment bowl (4 for $1 at the Dollar Tree). I pre-made and pre-filled all the toppings the day before, then set them out five minutes before showtime, and my husband just grilled the dogs on a as-needed basis.

It must have been a hit, because out of the 80 dog we BBQ-ed, there was only four left at the end of the night!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Inspiration for Today

"A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her."

Just a quick reminder that we are the product of how we react to life's events.  I wish I truly understood the meaning of this when I was young. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Five Things That I Love This Week

I am craving some serious sunshine.  So the other day, when the thermometer creeped up to a near-75 degrees, I was celebrating summer, margaritas and all.  And what do I do when I've got summer on the brain, even if it's still cold as December out? Well, I make summer cocktails, plant a garden, and cook.

So, here are my top things I love this week, that make me feel like it's actually Spring:

1. The Farmer's Market.  I went in with $10, and ended up asking if they take debit.  I couldn't help myself, it all looks so much better in outdoor light, all fresh and piled high!

With these few little things...
 I made this...
 And this...

And this...

2. The Safeway Wine Sale. Right now Safeway is having their annual wine sale. And I love wine. A lot. So how good is their wine sale?  Well, all wines are 30% off. Then, if you buy six bottles, the price goes down another 10%. So I went to the sale because my favorite Merlot (Red Diamond) was on sale for $6.44 a bottle!  But guess what? They were sold out of the Red Diamond Merlot AND the Red Diamond Cabernet.  So what is a girl to do? Well, I just had to opt for a different kind of wine.  When I finished, my tab was $86 and this is what I got:
  • Two bottles of Snoqualmie Whistle Stop Red Merlot/Cab Blend (Delish)
  • Two bottles of 14 Hands Hot To Trot Red (Awesome)
  • One bottle of Red Diamond Shiraz (Never tried but I love Shiraz)
  • One bottle of Cupcake Red Velvet (Yummy)
  • Two boxes (equivalent to 4 bottles of wine per box) of Bota Box Merlot (By the same winery as Gnarly wine and super good for the price) Tip: Put it in a carafe when hosting and no one will ever know you bought box wine!
  • One box (4 bottles) of Bota Box Chardonnay (I actually don't drink white wine but it's good to have around for cooking and guests)
So, I got the equivalent of 18 bottles of wine for $86.  That's like $4-something a bottle and enough to last for...well, a while.  But then I went back to Safeway and they had re-stocked the Red Diamond.  So I bought another four bottles of the Merlot and two bottles of the Cab.  Yes, I'm a wine-o.  And my wine rack is almost full:

3. My New Garden.  We had this really ugly space on our side yard that we didn't know what to do with.  So we decided to use the left over pavers from our patio project and build a raised garden bed.  I'm really excited about it and got to planting right away.  Despite the rain. And the snow. And the hail.  I just can't seem to learn my lesson about planting veggies in June in Central Oregon.
4. Summer Cocktails.  What's better than a good drink after a long day? A good drink with fresh fruit after a long day!  On Tuesday, my sister made up her famous Strawberry Margarita.  All you need is margarita mix from Trader Joe's, Silver Tequila, Fresh Strawberries, Fresh Lime, and Rock Salt for the rim (Silly Straw Optional).  MMMMMMmmmmm!  So good.
Then another night, I took 1 Cup of Orange Juice, 3 Cups of Water, Fresh Basil, and Lime Juice from a Fresh Lime and made this mocktail. Also very delish!

5. Morel Mushrooms.  How can I not give one more shout out to these delish things?  I just knew rain served some purpose.  Turns out it's to make delicious mushrooms!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Two Days and One Pound of Morel Mushrooms

English: The morel mushroom Morchella esculent...
The Morel in Nature
There is something to be said about being at the right place, at the right time.  My "right place" was driving by the neighbor's house and stopping for a chat as they were unloading from their trip to the valley picking morel mushrooms. have wonderful neighbors who offer you a pound of hand-picked morel mushrooms just to be neighborly.

For those of you who know very little about morel mushrooms (as did I, but I faked it because they sounded so delicious I just had to try them!), the morel mushroom only grows in a few parts of the nation. It's looks are a bit deceiving.  Lovers of this mushroom suggest it looks like a "honeycomb".  I think it looks like a mushroom with it's brains falling out.

Either way, this mushroom, popular in French cuisine, is hearty, rich, and at about $5-$15/pound, very desirable.  It has a meaty texture, not slimey or slick like some more common species. And if you can get over the "brainy" look of it, you can begin to explore versatility this mushroom has to offer.

Traditional Fried Morel Mushrooms
The first night, I decided to do them up traditional style.

I soaked them in milk, then battered them in flour, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and a little paprika, then fried them in peanut oil. OMG, for the love of mushrooms, they were amazing.  My husband made a little spicy aioli to dip with them, but they didn't need it! They were perfectly savory without!

The second night, I decided to try them with a little pasta.

Morel Mushrooms w/ Spinach, Olive Oil, and Ravioli
I picked up some spinach cheese raviolis at Trader Joe's, boiled them, and then tossed them in a sauce with 1TBSP Olive Oil, 1 Clove of Garlic, 2TBSP of Low Fat Butter Spread, Fresh Spinach, Salt, Pepper, and the Morel Mushrooms. IT WAS FABULOUS! And to boot? The dish was filling, yet vegetarian and only 7 points for 1/3 a package of the raviolis. Bravo, morel mushrooms!