Make Your Own Taco’s

Super Bowl Sunday landed exactly at the half way point of my 13 day work stretch, but I didn’t let that stop me from hosting a small gather of neighbors.   I wanted something easy and fun, that both kids and adults would enjoy, and I finally settled on a make your own taco bar.

I had both corn and flour tortillas as well as some hard shell taco’s.  I made a huge batch or pork carnita’s in the slow cooker on Saturday and then shredded them and reheated on Sunday.

pork carnitas

I fried up a couple of pounds of ground beef with taco seasonings, made a batch of home made salsa and put out all of the accompaniments (shredded cheese, queso dip, sour cream, shredded cabbage, etc).

I made a big batch of chicken tortilla soup with corn and black beans as well as a batch of cornbread with bread and butter pickled jalapeno’s.

chx tortilla soup

For dessert I made a batch of cheesecake squares and a pan of nutella fudge.  My neighbors all brought either an appetizer or dessert to share and we had a ball.   I made a batch of margarita’s and we had soda and juice for the kids.   I think everyone had a good time.  I know I did!  The taco bar was such a success, I think I might make it for our annual family Christmas dinner this year.   Congratulations to the Denver Bronco’s on their Super Bowl 50 win, I really didn’t care either way, I was just happy to be eating really good pork taco’s and enjoying the company of my great neighbors.

Celebrating the holidays with the hubby’s family

Every year we host the hubby’s family at our house for a holiday celebration.  This year we picked the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s.  I love the challenge of putting dinner on the table for a large group.  I enjoy cooking in my kitchen, so this is always a fun day for me.   A few years back I strayed from tradition and starting making more ethnic meals.  I think everyone enjoyed them, but this year, I needed a traditional Christmas dinner and with all of the little ones we have now, I thought it would also be something they would be more interested in eating.

We had appetizers in the afternoon, simple things like pigs in a blanket, brie baked with nuts and brown sugar, antipasta, and chips with dip.  Everyone dug in while watching football on the TV.  The kids were thrilled with the old school board games I bought, I had a basket of games in the family room – trouble, candy land, battleship, scrabble, etc.  It was so nice to see everyone playing games together on the floor.  What a novel idea, people taking and playing with each other instead of buried in their phones…..

I started dinner with a roasted corn chowder soup.  I have been making soup my starter for a few years now, it is such a wonderful way to start a meal, plus you can make it the day before, whoo hoo!

roasted corn chowder

After the soup, we had a spiral sliced ham, scalloped potatoes, pineapple stuffing, glazed carrots, steamed green beans, and homemade bread.  Everything turned out really, really yummy, thank goodness!  Plus I now have a ham bone to use for soup in the coming weeks – double win!

For dessert, I wanted the richness of a cheesecake, I haven’t made one in a while, so I went with a simple chocolate chip cheesecake.  We had rice pudding, and a boatload of cookies.

choc chip cookies choc crinkles pb blossoms

The hubby’s family are BIG dessert lovers.  Over the years, I have slowly come to realize that they are very happy to eat dessert first, so this year, I put out the cookies, hazelnut truffles, and Christmas Crack out BEFORE dinner and figured if it spoiled their appetite, so be it.  Well, it was certainly a great idea, not only did they devour the cookies, they ate the appetizers and dinner.  Who knew! Once dinner was over, I added put out the cheesecake and rice pudding and those were very well received.  I barely had any cookies left to put away so I am guessing they enjoyed them.

I am not sure what I will be serving for dinner in 2015, but I am looking forward to the research and taste testing that I will have to do to make sure it is good enough to serve to the hubby’s family! Anyone want to come over and be an official taste tester for me?

Last Tailgate of the Season

This past weekend was our last tailgate of the football season.  I was only responsible for side dishes, appetizers and desserts this time. Whoo hooo!  I made a batch of chocolate chip blondes.

blog post 11.15.14 008

Bought some rolls, chips, salami/cheese, and smoked kielbasa.   I made a batch of coleslaw to go with the burgers and dogs and called it a day.

Coleslaw, Dressed and Ready to Eat!

Coleslaw, Dressed and Ready to Eat!

Not too shabby, considering I had to be at work early Saturday morning for an event.

Unofficial End of Summer

Well folks….it is that time of year again, autumn is fast approaching.   I came home on Friday, sat on the deck in the late afternoon sun, a cool breeze ruffling my hair, crispy, autumn air, reminding me that fall is approaching.   Summer is drawing to a close, school has started, leaves are starting to turn.  Well instead of whining about the “unofficial last weekend of summer”, I decided to celebrate it with a bang!  Summertime entertaining to me are casual hangouts on the deck, good friends, easy and simple dinners on the grill.  When I think about summer I think impromptu parties, shorts, sun, flip-flops, salty snack foods and grilled meats.  All of that was on tap for the weekend!

I live at the end of a cul-de-sac and Friday I received a Facebook message inquiring about the possibility of a block party on Sunday afternoon.   I responded yes for the hubby and myself and asked what type of menu we were looking at?  Burgers, dogs, chicken, salads, desserts??  Turns out that was exactly what everyone had in mind.  Perfect.

Saturday my next door neighbors invited us to their home to celebrate their oldest daughters birthday.  What a fun time, being relatively new to the development, it was a nice chance to celebrate with our friends in the neighborhood and meet some new faces.  My goodness, it was also a complete baby fest….lots and lots of little ones.  I came home with my arms tired from holding so many cute babies.

I had asked if I could bring a dish to the party, I was told it wasn’t necessary but I can’t show up anywhere empty-handed.   I was craving a really good dip and some crunchy vegetables, so I foraged in the garden for a whole slew of herbs and minced them up.   The recipe couldn’t be simpler – it is just fresh herbs, minced, garlic, minced, salt, pepper, mayo and sour cream.   My Aunt Barb taught me how to make it years ago and I have never made it the same way twice.   I use whatever herbs I have on hand, sometimes I add garlic, other times grated onion, it just depends on the contents of my fridge, pantry, and garden.   It is such a refreshing dip, it is great with veggies but I really love it with salty potato chips!

garlic and herb dip veggie tray

 

Sunday morning the skies were cloudy and the humidity was beyond ridiculous.   It rained on and off all day, we were totally playing the day by ear.  If the rain stopped at 5pm, we were all going to meet at the end of the cul-de-sac, with chairs, tables, and food.   Thank goodness the skies cleared!  We had such a fantastic night, we put up four canopies and only had to dodge the raindrops one time during the night.  People brought what they had, everyone shared, we had games, music, and a ton of food.

Since the invite had gone out on Friday, I knew I wanted to be prepared so on Saturday afternoon I made this red bliss potato salad, this spicy ketchup, and these refrigerator pickles.  I figured I would round out my offerings with a few batches of cookies on Sunday morning before the party.    Since things were so touch and go because of the weather, I decided to marinate some chicken breasts.  My thought was, if we don’t end up getting together, we can have chicken, potato salad, and cookies for dinner, if we do, I can cut up the chicken and skewer it with veggies.

I thought about taking pictures of everything on the table, but between the rain ending at 5pm, setting up tables/chairs and finishing up the skewers, I decided to heck with it.  I was going to plop my fanny down in a chair, eat some really delicious grub, and enjoy the day.   People came and went, kids and adults played all sorts of games, we brought out some lights and turned up the boom box.   We had all imaginable ages of people, all enjoying the time outside, mingling and laughing with friends.  It was the perfect late summer afternoon and we all can’t wait to do it again soon.   We already have plans for a pot luck Halloween in the cul-de-sac, since it falls on a Friday night.   I am thinking chili and cornbread but I am open to suggestion!

Anyway, don’t let the labor day holiday spoil your summer plans…we still have twenty-one more days of bliss before fall arrives.  Use them wisely people.

 

We had pork, with some more pork for dinner

Sometimes, I like to start dinner with a small appetizer.  It makes everyday, weeknight dinners into something special.   So, I went to the butcher this week, he makes his own sausages and has a smoke house.   I picked up a pound of his smoked kielbasa and some bone in pork chops.  We started dinner with a little kielbasa with some Dijon mustard.

Smoked Kielbasa

It was just the perfect amount to start dinner.   After inhaling our snack, we turned our attention to dinner – bone in pork chops, mashed potatoes with gravy, and my Mom’s favorite, waxed beans.

Pork Chop DInner

It wasn’t a very colorful plate, but it was delicious!  The beans were perfectly crisp tender,  the mashed potatoes were rich and creamy, and the pork chop was juicy and cooked perfectly.  We ate outside, then again, this time of year, you would be hard pressed to see us eating inside.   We love dining al fresco.  I love that we now have a deck and a patio, we have our choice of outdoor dining locations.  Food eaten outdoors just tastes better, doesn’t it? Happy Friday everyone, now go outside and EAT!

 

French Onion Dip

If you end up with any leftover caramelized onions,  you could always use them up in a French Onion Dip.  What is nice about this recipe, you are using fresh ingredients, not the powdered dried mix with all of its additives and preservatives.

 

French Onion Dip

1/2 Cup Finely Diced Caramelized Onions

1/2 Cup Mayonnaise

1 Cup Sour Cream

1 Beef Boullion Cube, Ground into a Powder

Combine all of the ingredients, season with pepper (you don’t need salt because of the bouillon cube!).   You can add some diced chives for color and additional oniony flavor if you wish.

Enjoy

July 4th

I thought it might be fun to make a list of red, white, and blue foods that you can take with you today to any BBQ! Here are just a few ideas….

Salads:

Strawberry, Blueberry, and Feta Cheese over Field Greens with a Champagne Vinaigrette

Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad – use white potatoes, red bliss potatoes, and purple potatoes

Pasta Salad with Red Pepper, Mozzarella Cheese, and Purple Onion

Red Quinoa Salad with Dried Blueberries and Feta Cheese

Layered Jello Salad

Appetizers:

Blue Corn Tortilla Chips, Pico de Gallo, and Sour Cream

Blue Cheese Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Watermelon, Blueberry, and Jicama Skewers

Entrees:

Red, White and Blue Pasta – Penne Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes in a Blue Cheese Sauce

Chicken Kabobs with Red Peppers and Purple Potatoes

Grilled Halibut with a Blueberry, Red Pepper Salsa

Hamburgers with Homemade Ketchup and Blue Cheese

Desserts:

Phylo Cups Filled with No Bake Cheesecake Filling, Topped with Blueberries and Strawberries

Sugar Cookies, Frosted with White Icing and Topped with Blue and Red Sprinkles

Strawberries Filled with Sweetened Cream Cheese, Topped with Blueberries

Flag Cake – Cake Decorated with White Icing, Blueberries and Strawberries in the Pattern of the Flag

Blueberry, Strawberry, and Mini marshmallow Skewers

Strawberries Dipped in White Chocolate, then in Blue Sanding Sugar

Strawberry Ice Cream, Blueberry Ice Cream and Vanilla Ice Cream

Red, White and Blue....with Fireworks!

Red, White and Blue….with Fireworks!

Hopefully this gives you some inspiration, Happy 4th of July.