Quick Tips For An Effortless Get-Together

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Creamy Corn Soup with Bacon Toasts

It is the time of year in the Rim Country where the evenings are beautiful and beckoning — perfect for outdoor entertaining.

Whether it’s simple dinner for a few friends or a big bash for a crowd, taking the party outside takes entertaining to a whole new level. If you’re planning an outdoor get-together, don’t spend all your time in the kitchen. These quick and easy tips will help you spend more time with guests and ensure your gathering is an effortless success.

• Preparation is key. Prepare any appetizers you’re serving the night before and keep in the fridge. This will allow you to focus on any last-minute arrangements on the day of your party.

• Think outside the box. If you’re worried that you may not have enough serving dishes for your get-together, look for cups and glasses that may double as a dip bowl or unique container for fruits or vegetables.

• Candles are always a quick and easy way to add ambiance and class to any space. Keep several on hand to grab when the sun goes down, but the party is still going strong.

• Serve a delicious iced coffee cocktail. These cool drinks provide guests with a sweet treat that no one will be able to resist. Plus, they’re so easy to make you’ll have plenty of time to tend to all of your other host duties. Just double brew your coffee in the morning and stick in the fridge until you’re ready to mix and serve.

Try these easy, indulgent recipes to host a party all of your friends will be talking about.

Visit www.Facebook.com/Baileys for more recipes, and videos of top baristas and bartenders from around the country making delicious iced coffee cocktails.

Baileys Original Iced Coffee

Makes 1 serving

3.5 ounces Baileys Original Irish Cream

7 ounces iced coffee

Pour ingredients over ice in a tall glass.

The Simple One

Makes 1 serving

1 ounce Baileys Original Irish Cream

3/4 ounce cognac-based orange liqueur

3 ounces iced coffee

Pour ingredients over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

Guatemalan Spice

Makes 1 serving

3/4 ounce Baileys Original Irish Cream

1-3/4 ounces iced coffee

1-1/8 ounces rum

1/16 ounce cinnamon syrup

Pinch of freshly ground cinnamon

Add Irish Cream, rum, cinnamon syrup and iced coffee to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously with ice, strain into a Delmonico or other glass of your choice, and garnish with freshly ground cinnamon.

Source: Baileys Original Irish Cream

How to dress a naked salad

No salad deserves to be naked. After all, a dish that can deliver so much taste and nutrition in one meal should always be served with style! With all the healthy convenience items available in supermarkets, it’s easy to liven up a lonely bowl of lettuce. Here are some easy ideas from Mrs. Cubbison’s Test Kitchens:

• Chicken Nugget Caesar Salad: Toss chopped romaine lettuce with bottled Caesar dressing; top with boneless chicken nuggets. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Caesar Salad Restaurant Style Croutons.

• Hamburger Salad: Toss iceberg or green leaf lettuce with diced tomatoes and pickle slices. Top with grilled, cut up beef, turkey or vegetarian burgers. Drizzle with light or fat free Thousand Island dressing and top with Fat Free Seasoned Restaurant Style croutons.

• Baja Fish Taco Style Salad: Place baby salad greens in a bowl and spoon bottled black bean salsa over the top. Sprinkle grilled fish fillet pieces over the salsa and top with shredded cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream and Seasoned Restaurant Style Croutons.

• Pepperoni Pizza Salad: Arrange a bag of mixed salad greens in a large salad bowl. Top with thinly sliced red onion, tomato wedges, sliced pepperoni, and shredded Italian blend cheese. Add sliced, fresh mushrooms if desired. Pour a 1/2 cup of bottled Italian dressing over all ingredients and serve with Cheese & Garlic Restaurant Style Croutons.

• Steak and Potato Salad: Start with leftover grilled steak and oven-roasted red potatoes. Cut the steak and potatoes into bite sized chunks. Toss meat and potatoes with sour cream, chives and cracked black pepper in a bowl; cover and chill. Serve over fresh salad greens and top with Garlic & Butter French Bread Croutons.

• California Chicken & Fruit Salad: Use bagged salad greens and freezer section breaded chicken strips that have been heated and chopped. Add fresh strawberry slices, halved, fresh grapes, and peeled navel orange sections. Sprinkle shredded Monterey Jack cheese and Fat Free Seasoned Restaurant Style Croutons and serve with light vinaigrette.

• Vidalia Onion & Spinach Salad: Toss a bag of baby spinach with thinly sliced sweet onions and chopped, hard-boiled eggs. Serve with vinaigrette and Garlic and Butter French Bread Croutons. Sauté fresh garlic slices in butter and spoon onto the salad if desired.

How do you like to dress up your greens? Enter your ideas in Mrs. Cubbison’s “No More Naked Salads Sweepstakes” for a chance to win a year’s worth of free groceries. Visit http://www.mrscubbisons.com for complete details.

Fresh flavors

Try these seasonal ideas for adding full flavor from Food Network chef, Aida Mollenkamp

Create a menu to remember by incorporating fresh, seasonal flavors into the traditional, comforting dishes of the season. Plus, matching each dish with a corresponding wine is a simple technique for enhancing the flavors in the food and wine.

Chef Aida Mollenkamp, host of the popular Food Network show “Ask Aida” and Cooking Channel series “FoodCrafters,” suggests adding bright bursts of flavor, such as citrus zest, or a unique topping like chimichurri, to give a dish an unmistakable taste of the season.

To start off a great meal, or even as a light main dish, try Aida’s version of creamy corn soup topped with an indulgent cheese toast and crumbled bacon. Paired with a glass of crisp Chardonnay from California’s Mirassou Winery, this is a perfect pairing for any evening.

For a main dish, pump up the flavor of a juicy roasted chicken by following Aida’s recipe that incorporates a spiced pomegranate-orange glaze. Served with Mirassou’s fruit-forward California Pinot Noir, this pairing is a crowd-pleaser for any occasion. Or, try topping a grilled hanger steak with a colorful and spicy basil chimichurri, and pair with a glass of Mirassou’s lush Cabernet Sauvignon to create an unforgettable flavor combination.

For more recipe ideas from Aida, and wine pairing tips, visit www.mirassou.com.

Creamy Corn Soup with Bacon Toasts

Pair with Mirassou California Chardonnay

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes; cooking time: 1 hour and 20 minutes; inactive cooking time: 15 minutes; difficulty: easy

For the soup:

6 ears fresh corn

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped

4 medium garlic cloves, crushed

1 cup Mirassou California Chardonnay

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1-1/2 cups water

1 cup half-and-half

1 vanilla bean, split in half

For the garnish:

1/2 cup fromage blanc or ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons minced chives

12, 1/2-inch-thick slices French bread, toasted

4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

Prepare corn by cutting kernels from cob; reserve cobs. You should have approximately 5 cups of corn kernels from 6 cobs of corn. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it foams, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add half of the corn kernels and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Cook until alcohol smell is gone, about 2 minutes. Add broth, water, reserved corn cobs, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. When soup is boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes.

Remove soup mixture from heat, discard cobs and set aside. Place half of soup mixture in a blender and puree until very smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat with remaining soup mixture. Return mixture to saucepan, add remaining corn kernels, half-and-half, and vanilla bean and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Meanwhile, prepare garnish. Mix cheese and chives and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide cheese mixture evenly among toasts.

To serve, remove vanilla bean from soup and ladle soup into bowls. Garnish soup with bacon and float 1 to 2 cheese toasts in each bowl.

Spiced Hanger Steak with Basil Chimichurri

Pair with Mirassou California Cabernet Sauvignon

Makes 4 servings; preparation time: 10 minutes; cooking time: 10 minutes; inactive cooking time: 15 minutes; difficulty: easy

For the basil chimichurri:

1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, trimmed of thick stems

3 medium garlic cloves

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil

Finely chop basil and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl.

Stir in remaining ingredients and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let sit at least 15 minutes before using. (Serve or refrigerate until ready to use. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Can keep up to two days.)

For the steak:

1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

1, 1-1/4- to 1-1/2-pound beef hanger steak or skirt steak, sliced crosswise into 4 pieces

Combine spices and salt in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Lay steaks on baking sheet, drizzle all over with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle on spice mixture, and rub it in until moistened. Repeat, coating steaks as evenly as you can. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes before cooking.

When ready to cook, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. When oil begins to smoke, place steaks in pan and cook, undisturbed, until crust has formed and blood appears on surface, about 3 to 5 minutes, flip and repeat on second side.

Remove steaks to a carving board, cover loosely with foil, let rest for 10 minutes. To serve, slice against the grain and serve drizzled with basil chimichurri.

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