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June 30, 2011

Homemade Pesto Sauce | Fresh Basil Pesto Sauce | Pasta, Pizza & Shrimp Pesto

If I have pesto sauce in my refrigerator, I know I can easily make something great at a moments notice - Shrimp Pesto Appetizer with Grilled Bread, Shrimp Pesto Pizza, Heirloom Tomatoes with Angel Hair Pasta and Pesto, Corn on the Cob with Pesto Butter...  The list goes on.  

Do yourself a favor, make a big batch of homemade pesto sauce this Summer while the basil is bountiful (read : cheap).  Freeze it in an ice cub tray for perfect individual servings to use at any time.

Homemade Pesto Recipe...

Heirloom Tomato Summer Pesto Pasta | Angel Hair Pesto Heirloom Tomatoes Basil

It may not be burgers on the grill, corn on the cob, or even a margarita on the rocks, but doesn't this just look like Summer?!  During this time of year I am craving tomatoes and basil for every meal.  Last night, I tossed homemade pesto with angel hair pasta and heirloom tomatoes cut into large wedges.  It is the only way to go on a hot summer day when firing up the grill seems unbearable.

Get my Homemade Pesto Recipe >>
The key to success with a fresh dinner like this is : Keep it simple.  The only addition I would add to this would be hunks of fresh mozzarella.  If I was doing this for a dinner party, I might serve it with a skewer of grilled shrimp or scallops. 
Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes with Pesto in Angel Hair Pasta
serves 4

3 large heirloom tomatoes
1 pound of pasta
1 cup of pesto sauce (homemade is so easy - and much better than store bought)
parmesan cheese
fresh basil leaves

Cook pasta 2 minutes short of the directions on the box (or until al dente).  Drain the pasta and place it into a large bowl.  Pour pesto over the pasta and toss.  Add heirloom tomatoes and parmesan cheese.  Toss gently.  Serve with fresh basil and parmesan on top.

Cucumbers and Onions | Classic Summer Recipes

It is true what they say.  It's the simple things in life...

Sometimes the best things in life are so simple... you can't help but want to mess with them.  You try and try to improve them.  But, inevitably, you end up just where you started.

So is the case with Cucumbers & Onions.  You may recall my jazzed up version from the 4th of July complete with red onions, feta cheese and tomatoes.  Well, last week, I went back home to Kansas City where the summer produce season is in full swing.  My mom and I fixed dinner from the garden, and I was in charge of the cucumbers and onions.  I dared not try out my new fancy version - a stickler for tradition, my Dad would not have been happy.  So, I stuck with the traditional, simple, tried and true, Classic Cucumbers and Onions.

View of the corn field over the cucumbers.  My Mom's garden is just to the right of this.

When we sat down to dinner, I was the one who couldn't get enough.  At the table I confessed my mistake of trying to "fix" the classic recipe into something pretty for a party.  Big mistake!  I can't begin to describe the perfect crunch, sweetness, bitterness, coolness and bite this salad has.

Cucumbers & Onions

4 cucumbers
1 onion
3 tablespoons of table salt
1/2 cup of white vinegar
1/2 cup of sugar

Peel and slice the cucumbers and onions.  Coat with salt, cover and refrigerate for an hour or 2.  Rinse the salt off of the cucumbers and onions.  Place in a large bowl.  Combine vinegar and sugar.  Pour over cucumbers and let them soak in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Did you notice the tea towel backdrop?  It looks like this one was cross-stitched by my sister, Jill, in 1987.  I think it had a duck and a squirrel on it.   I told you we lived very exciting lives as children...  I love that I found this in my mom's kitchen drawer to be used on a daily basis.

Farm to Table Dinner Party Series : 
Farmer's Market Themed Menu

Classic Cucumbers & Onions is part of my Farm to Table Dinner Party Menu & Farmer's Market Table Setting.  To see the entire menu, click here.

Watermelon Blueberry Popsicles | Summer Homemade Popsicles

Homemade Watermelon Blueberry Popsicles

This was THE easiest thing I've ever done.  They are delicious, beautiful, healthy, inexpensive... did I mention easy?  And beautiful!? 

This is as 'real food' as it gets - cubes of watermelon blended, poured into a glass and topped with fresh blueberries.  No added sugar, no other ingredients.  Pure watermelon.  It is so refreshing - the watermelon, when frozen, has the most amazing texture.  Perfect for kids and adults alike.

But... if you really want to please the adults, add a squeeze of lime and a shot of tequila - Watermelon Margarita Pops!  Who needs jello shots...

Watermelon Popsicle Recipe :

June 28, 2011

Barbeque Ribs | BBQ Ribs | Summer Grilling Recipes

 BBQ Ribs
Summer Party Menus

Summer parties should encompass all of the joys of the season.  What is more Summer that barbequed Ribs?  Ok, now that I think about it... burgers are probably more of a traditional Summer meal.  But we have burgers all of the time, so step up your grilling this year and offer your guests great BBQ Ribs as a special treat. 

BBQ Party Menu : Ribs

- Barbeque Ribs
- Baked Cheesy Potatoes
- Classic Coleslaw
- Watermelon

As I mentioned, Mike ordered some barbeque products from some of our favorite Kansas City BBQ joints.  One of our favorites is Oklahoma Joe's...

Watermelon | How to Cut a Watermelon | Tutorial | Summer

I used to do a lot of watermelon skewers when I was a caterer.  Watermelon and cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic skewers, watermelon, strawberry & blue berry skewers, etc.  All of these variations had one thing in common, how do I cut this giant watermelon into perfect cubes without making a mess... in someone else's fancy kitchen?


June 24, 2011

Strawberry Cream Cake | 4th of July Dessert | Easy | Entertaining

If you want impress some people, make this cake.  This cake is "ooh-ed and aah-ed" by everyone that sees it.

Smoke and Mirrors, folks.  Here's the thing... it is a boxed cake mix with whipped cream and strawberries.  Does it get any easier?  As I learned as a caterer, presentation goes a long way.

For your 4th of July Party, put this at the center of some store-bought pies, piles of brownies and cupcakes and you'll have a dessert buffet that is photo worthy.

I've created a Strawberry Cream Cake label for you to print to make your creation look extra special.  If you plan to make other desserts, just print the blank labels and write in (or type in) the name of your dessert.

To print the "Strawberry Cream...

June 23, 2011

Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onion Burger | Sliders & Burger

Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onion Burger
Part of My Favorite Burgers & Sliders Series

This was always the most popular Slider at my catering events.  I think it is the combination of the sweet taste of the caramelized onions mixed with the tangy blue cheese that makes this burger so appealing.

Get the recipes to all of my favorite burgers here!

There are no other condiments or toppings on the burger - just caramelized onions and the blue cheese sauce.  Simple.

Sliders | All American Burger with Special Sauce | Homemade Big Mac | 4th of July Burgers

All American Burgers : 
My Favorite Burgers & Sliders Series

There is a reason the Big Mac was so popular... the special sauce!  I don't know if I've ever actually had a Big Mac (I'm more of a Happy Meal girl - I'm being serious), but I was curious... what is so special about the sauce?  Turns out, it is just a simple Thousand Island dressing.  Wait...What's in Thousand Island dressing, you ask? 

Special Sauce (Thousand Island)
jenny's version

1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup of ketchup
2 tablespoons of pickle relish
Mix together.

Bacon Avocado & Tomato Burgers with Blue Cheese | Burgers & Sliders

You might remember my BAT, the updated BLT with Avocado instead of lettuce... well, this is the BAT burger.  If you want to go really crazy, top it (or stuff it!) with blue cheese!

Bacon & Avocado Burger
Part of My Favorite Burgers & Sliders Series 

Salt & Pepper
Blue Cheese (optional)

See all of my favorite burgers and sliders here.

June 22, 2011

Fourth of July Party Decorations | 4th of July Sugar Cookies

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays.  Most of my memories revolve around fireworks (professional displays - only bad memories are from bottle rockets and black cats!), strawberries, burgers, watermelon, homemade ice cream, swimming... I grew up in the country and from my parents' backyard, we could see all of the surrounding towns' fireworks displays far off in the distance.  

ABOVE : A simple Fourth of July setting on our side porch.  I cut some blue hydrangeas from our yard and put them in a white pitcher - requires very little skill.  Ok, it requires no skill.  Just make sure you have plenty of water - the hydrangeas will drink it up in a hurry.  The handled mason jars are great glasses, especially as they display with small flags.  A light blue cake plate holds piles of stars and strawberry sugar cookies (get recipe here!).   

I decided to make some strawberry sugar cookies to go along with the blue and white stars in honor of the Verrill Farms Strawberry Fest and Recipe Contest this weekend.  I'm looking for a recipe to enter into the competition... I'm leaning towards a berry cake of some sort?  Leave a comment with your suggestions!  

Get my Sugar Cookie Recipe Here (from a Valentine's Day Post)  >>

Cucumber Tomato & Feta Salad Recipe for 4th of July | 4th of Juy Pasta Salad

4th of July Recipes :
Cucumber, Tomato & Feta Salad

As I mentioned, I did a little barbecuing this week to get our fix we've missed out on since moving to Boston.  But let's be honest, it's the sides that really make the meal.  This cucumber tomato salad is a combination of a couple of my favorites.  I've made it a couple of times, but this time I added feta cheese - let me tell you - it did the trick.  The recipe is now blog-worthy.  If I was serving this to a large crowd or taking it to a summer party, I would add pasta (maybe bowtie or penne?) to make it stretch a little further - here is a link to the Pasta Salad version!.

4th of July Recipes :
Cucumber, Tomato & Feta Salad (Cucumber Tomato & Feta Pasta Salad)
2 cucumbers - peeled, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onions, thinly sliced
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup of feta cheese
Sweet & Tangy Vinaigrette recipe
1/2 pound of cooked pasta (optional - not pictured)

Combine all ingredients together and toss with vinaigrette.  Best when marinates for 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving, if possible

Classic Sweet & Tangy Vinaigarette

1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of white wine vinegar
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of dried italian seasoning
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

Stir all of the ingredients together.

I peeled the cucumbers in a stripe - I like to leave some of the green on for the color, but leaving the entire skin can be a little bitter and tough.

Slice the cucumbers thinly.

Slice the onions very thinly.  I like these half moons.

In the bowl...

Add the cherry tomatoes - sliced in half.

The dressing is a sweet and tangy classic vinaigrette. 

Add feta cheese.  Let it set in the refrigerator for 1 hour, if possible.

BBQ Chicken | Dr. Pepper Barbeque Chicken | 4th of July Recipes

4th of July Recipes :
Barbecue Chicken

One of the things we miss since we've moved to Boston is Kansas City barbecue - and good Mexican food, by the way...  I wish I would have brought our favorite BBQ sauces with us (Gates and Oklahoma Joe's).  I have placed my orders online (oh, don't tell Mike - it's a surprise!), but in the meantime to get us our fix, I thought I'd use some Jack Stack (also a KC fav) rub I found in my spice cabinet.

I thought I'd try something new - I marinated the chicken in Dr. Pepper and then rubbed the spice on the skin.  The Dr. Pepper made the chicken slightly sweet and the rub had that classic KC BBQ flavor. 

To go along with the barbecued chicken, I made a really simple homemade mac n'cheese and a cucumber and tomato salad with feta cheese that can easily be made into a pasta salad for a crowd.

I took the backbone out of the chicken, then flattened out the chicken to make it easier to grill and marinate.

I poured the Dr. Pepper over the chicken, then rubbed the spice into the skin.

Cook the chicken over indirect heat.  To be sure not to get too much char on the chicken, wait to put the barbecue sauce on until the last 5 minutes.  After a while, I put the legs on the top rack to keep them from getting over done while the breast and wings continued to cook.

Depending on the size of the chicken and how hot your grill is, it can take 30 minutes - 1 hour.  Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Get the recipes for the side dishes (coming soon!) : Easy Homemade Mac N'Cheese & Cucumber, Tomato & Feta Salad

June 21, 2011

Comment Comments - Sorry to leave anyone out!

Okay... so, my sister told me that she had trouble commenting on my blog - 1 year ago.  I never thought much about it until now (sorry Jill).  I thought, "Maybe other readers are having trouble commenting, too!?"  Turns out, I had a setting on my blogger account that only allowed registered blogger users to comment - oops!  I've made the correction... let the commenting begin!

This only decent photo I had of me sitting at my computer...  it was taken 3 years ago - even before this blog existed!  Isn't Mr. Darcy adorable in this photo?  It was his first photo shoot - he was a little shy.
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