Thursday, February 07, 2019

Snowball Dance Dinner Party: Table Setting & Preparations

some of the table decor options ready to go...

I had Fitzy over for lunch yesterday.  When I showed her a picture of the Snowball Dance tent set-up she said:  "You should put that on your blog!"  Since I always follow her advice it is. :)

We hosted a pre-dance dinner party for 26 teenagers.  Just like with our big Thanksgiving crowd, we can't fit that many quests at one table inside.  The answer is a big tent.  Shout out to Sammy's Rental who we always use for tent, table, chair and linens rental.  We had snow on the ground the week before the party so in addition to the heater we added a wood floor.  The tent is so nice and cozy with the heater and wood floor.  The kids also can enjoy dinner without any parents hovering. ;)  I set the buffet up on the kitchen counter so the kids pick their seat in the tent then grab their plate and head to the buffet line.  The best part is that everyone can sit together at one table - yahoo!

My husband and son hung the strings of lights - we used lots of Christmas lights.  My daughter helped me set the table with the decor and place settings.  I mix and match with the china and silverware - no need to have it all matching.  Same goes for glassware (which is missing in these pictures!) - mix and match is fine.  Less is NOT more when choosing amount of table decorations.  I favor lots of votives, lanterns, little bowls filled with crackers or almonds, small glasses filled with crudités, glass water bottles (sparkling & spring) and lots and lots of little pots/vases filled with plants and flowers.  Nothing too tall that will obstruct the view of the person across the table!

Below is the transformation of the table decor.  We didn't add the edibles to the table this time but it would have been even better if we had ... MORE is best!

That should say: "black & red raspberries and blueberries & strawberries".
When it looks pretty it tastes better!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Dreaming of Madrid and Pan Con Tomate!

The Puerta de Alcalá or Alcala Gate is one of Madrid's best known landmarks.  

I LOVE MADRID!  I fell in love with this beautiful city, their beautiful people, and their delicious food.  My daughters and I arrived the day after Christmas - we were there for 8 days and it was magical.  This picture is the famous Alcala Gate and was just steps away from our hotel.  The very beautiful nativity scene displayed in the center of the gate is just one of (I'm guessing) thousands that are displayed all over the city during Christmas.  Nativity scenes, called Belén in Madrid, are everywhere!  I loved seeing all the Belén, big and small.  I viewed them in not only churches, but museums, hotels, restaurants, and clothing stores.  It was very special and one of my favorite memories of our visit.
We also had so much delicious food.  Marvelous crusty bread was an essential part of every meal.  Many times at breakfast and at lunch people ate Pan Con Tomate.  It is one of those recipes that is essential to the Madrid palate (as are olives and anchovies).  Pan Con Tomate was available everywhere even if it wasn't listed on the menu....or at least it seemed like that was the case!  I need to tell you that the olives and olive oil were amazing.  When I got home I purchased some Spanish Olive Oil right away and have been enjoying it just as much as those I tasted in Madrid.  Italian Olive Oil has always been my favorite but I am not so sure about that anymore.  There is something extra-special about Spanish olive oil. :)  I think to make this recipe you can use any olive oil but Spanish Olive will taste the best.

Pan Con Tomate
  1. Grate one or more ripe tomatoes on big holes of box grater.
  2. Slice a large piece from crusty bread and toast slightly
  3. Drizzle a bit of Spanish Olive Oil over bread
  4. Spoon tomato over bread
  5. Top with a pinch or two of flaky sea salt
  6. Done!  Enjoy!

Carefully grate a large, ripe tomato on the large holes of a box grater.

See how the peel just pulls away as you grate.

Here is a little better view of the peel - all the pulp is captured in the bowl.

We had a few anchovies on the side. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Butternut Squash and Creamed Spinach Gratin

If you follow me on Instagram you were able to see this dish as I made it from beginning to end.  Thank goodness my teenage daughter showed me how to post to my "story" and "highlights"!
I am posting the step-by-step pictures here, as I always do for my blog.  This is a winner of a recipe because it is easy and delicious.  Don't worry about exact measurements for squash or spinach, this recipe will work out no matter what proportions you use.  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash and Creamed Spinach Gratin
recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine, November 2006

3 (10-ounce) boxes of fresh baby spinach plus another 6 oz. box (doesn’t need to be exact – if you only used the three boxes it will be fine)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter plus additional for greasing pan and topping gratin
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste but be careful not to over salt!)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ to ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
2-3 pounds butternut squash (1 large or 2 small), peeled and seeded
¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring 2 cups (or so) water to a boil in a pot over high heat. Add spinach, a few handfuls at a time, and cook, turning with tongs, until wilted, about a minute. Remove wilted spinach to large colander (with plate or shallow bowl underneath to catch liquid).  Continue until all the spinach is wilted (pouring off liquid from plate as needed).  Bring colander and plate over to sink and using a smaller plate press down on spinach until most of excess moisture has been removed.
Transfer to a bowl.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in an 8-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, add onion and garlic, and about ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper, cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion mixture to spinach along with another ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper, nutmeg, and cream and stir to combine.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish (13 by 9 inches; not glass).
Peel and seed the squash and cut squash to separate bulb section from solid neck section, add to Cuisinart using slicer blade.
Layer squash and spinach mixture in baking dish, using about one fifth of squash and one fourth of spinach for each layer, beginning and ending with squash. Sprinkle top layer of squash evenly with cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter, then cover directly with a sheet of parchment paper. Bake until squash is tender and filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. 

Monday, October 08, 2018

Homecoming 2018: Chiapparelli's-Style Salad on the Menu

Um, yes, I mispelled Chiapparelli's on our chalkboard.

We recently hosted my son and his friends for a Homecoming Dance Dinner Party.  This salad was on the menu because it is a proven crowd-pleaser.  Below are some pictures of our evening.  What a sweet group we had here in our home.  It's also VERY sweet when the older brother includes the younger sister and her date.  It was his dinner party after all.
That same little sister likes to take this salad to school for lunch.  She adds toasted, sliced almonds and roasted, salted chickpeas to make it extra-special. (see details at end of this post)
This salad dressing gets better with time although I suspect you will use it up within a week.  It's just that good!

Chiapparelli’s-style Salad
Recipe adapted from several recipes found online

3 to 4 heads of Romaine Lettuce, chopped
1 small clove of garlic, crushed with a pinch of kosher salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
Juice of ½ a lemon
½  teaspoon kosher salt
½  teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (grated)
¼ cup Pecorino Romana cheese (grated)

In a large measuring cup whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and salt.  Once sugar/salt are dissolved whisk in the olive oil, oregano, pepper, and crushed garlic.

Toss lettuce with grated cheeses and then toss again with dressing to coat– not too much!  

Store chopped Romaine Lettuce in Mason Jars - keeps for a week!

Just press knife down at slight angle to crush garlic - salt will help with crushing action.

A small pop of purple for school spirit!
Everyone through the buffet line - always makes it easy to serve a crowd.

Ready for the Lunch Box
Sea Salt Crunchy Chickpeas
This is what their packaging used to look like and below is their new packaging.

This is the brand we like best.  We found them at Whole Foods and My Organic Market.

I like the compostable bowl because it fits easily into her lunchbox.

We keep roasted sliced almonds in our pantry at all times - easy to do See How to Toast Nuts