Cooking for a Crowd

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A few weeks ago I was asked to prepare a luncheon for my church after one of our services.  Instead of having a sit down lunch we were going to have it in the lobby to allow everyone to mingle and meet.  I decided the best route to go for a feast like this is to go with appetizers.  Not to mention i’m a sucker for appetizers and will go that route whenever I can!  I wanted to share my menu since I know when I am planning a party for a large crowd I love to know some recipes that can be made ahead and can be easily assembled to conserve time.

I will take the time here to thank my church profusely for always being there for me.  I have been attending the Chapel for a little over a year now and I have become a better person because of them.  I kept getting thanked for taking the time to make this meal for them.  I feel I should be the one thanking all of them.  They have been an amazing church family to me and I feel like this is my way to show them thanks.  Thank you Chapel family!

Simple make ahead appetizers

Mango Salsa –

Made this 2 days ahead of time and let the flavors blend together!

Recipe found here

mango salsa

Loaded Potato Skins

Made the potatoes a day ahead of time and layered with paper towels and topped these gems the day of the event

Recipe found here

potato tier

Italian Skewers

I made these a day ahead of time and let them get super tasty in pesto overnight

Recipe found here

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Roast Beef & Brie Bites

All I did was make garlic crostini, added a slice of roast beef, a sliver of brie and topped with a julienne of roasted red pepper.  Simple & Delicious!

beef crostini

Chicken Salad Crostini

On the same crostini used for roast beef I used my famous chicken salad recipe and topped the crostinis with creamy chicken salad!

Recipe Found Here

Mac & Cheese Bites

I used a basic homemade mac and cheese recipe.  I have never really measured mine but Alton Brown’s recipe is pretty similar and a rock solid recipe!  Do not bake the recipe in a regular baking dish!  I  added the finished mac and cheese to mini muffin tins and baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Let them cool a little bit before popping them out gently with a butter knife.  If you take them out piping hot they may fall apart!

mac and cheese bites

Fruit & Crudite with Hummus

A simple go-to option for any get together!

fruit and crudite

Mini Dessert Bites

dessert display

Cinnamon Donut Muffins – Recipe Found Here

Chocolate Chip Quick Bread – Recipe Found Here

Maui Wowie Blondies – I used this blondie recipe but only used white chocolate chips and shredded coconut

The Feast!

chapel buffetbuffet line

The Crowd

chapel crowd

Just a thing to think about…

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Thank you everyone who helped me this Sunday! Andre, Brigit, Mark and my mom are rock stars!

In loving memory of our Sister in Christ Heidi Walsh

Mini Loaded Potato Skins

I know there are many recipes for potato skins out there.

I needed to re-make the recipe to be an easy and affordable appetizer to make in bulk

Instead of using really big potatoes, or the tiny ones cut in half, I used red potatoes and cut them into thick chips.

I thought they turned out great!

Mini Roasted Potato Skins –

  • 1 bag of small red potatoes, cut into thin coins
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, Pepper, Rosemary, Garlic Powder
  • Toppings I used – Bacon bits, cheddar, sour cream, chives

Cut the red potatoes into small coins.  Brush olive oil onto a baking pan and line up potatoes.  Brush olive oil on tops awell.  Top with salt, pepper, garlic powder and rosemary.  Bake in a 425 degree oven until they are tender.

I lined mine up in a container lined with paper towel to make sure they were not too greasy and chilled in the fridge.

potato skins

When you’re ready to assemble the potatoes, you can reheat if desired but it’s not needed.  Add sour cream to a piping bag for easy assembly.  Pipe a dollop of sour cream into the center of each potato, top with bacon, cheddar and sour cream.  Serve and enjoy!

potato skins loaded

Mango Salsa

This is one of the appetizers I make just because it looks pretty and is unique.  It doesn’t make much sense that I make it considering that I am allergic to mangoes and lime juice, but hey, others like it!  This is another one of those simple throw-together appetizers that is very colorful and more impressive than just regular salsa and chips.  I will admit the cutting of mangoes is a dreaded task, but it is also worth it! (so i’m told, i haven’t tasted it!)

Mango Salsa

  • 3-4 Mangoes depending on size
  • 1 cucumber, diced small
  • 1 red pepper, diced small
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 small red onion, diced small
  • small bunch of cilantro, chopped

First off – be careful when cutting mangoes!! They are extra juicy and can cause your hands to be super slippery when peeling and cutting.  I used a paper towel to hold it into place and avoided touching it with the hand I cut with to avoid it getting slippery.  Also..say a little prayer everytime you go to cut, it helps..

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Mangoes also have huge pits which can be a pain to cut.  I just cut the sides off leaving the middle as a huge cube like shape.  I just kept cutting slices until I reached the pit.  I cut those slices into strips and diced those up.

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For the onion, red pepper and cucumber – I diced those small.  I did peel my cucumber because I felt the texture of the red pepper was good enough and may end up being too crunchy.

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Mix all chopped ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Add the zest of the lime & juice and then the cilantro.  Toss together and chill.  Serve with chips or cinnamon pita chips!

mango salsa

Italian Skewers

Simple simple simple! Yet so very tasty!  This is also a very versatile recipe, you can add just about anything you want.  I needed to make this as a vegetarian option so mine was pretty basic.  Just skewer your desired ingredients, make a basic pesto sauce, pour over the skewers and chill overnight.  Its a very beautiful appetizer and sure to wow any crowd!

Italian Skewers –

  • Tri Color Tortellini (boiled and drained)
  • Container of Cherry Tomatoes
  • Fresh Miniature Mozzarella Balls

Fresh Pesto –

  • 1 Package (or bunch) of basil, stems removed
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • Olive Oil, to drizzle in processor
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Lemon Juice (optional)

Skewer on desired ingredients.  I used tomatoes, mozzarella and tri color tortellini.  You can certainly add other items like artichokes, salami (or other meats) etc.

To make the pesto add all ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor.  Start the processor and drizzle olive oil in a steady stream.  Keep adding olive oil and checking texture to assure it doesn’t get too oily.  It should not be a thick paste, but shouldn’t be too liquidy either.  Taste pesto to assure theres enough seasoning.  You can add lemon juice if desired.  It does help the pesto from turning color.  I did not add any since I have an allergy to citrus.  Be careful with salt since the parmesan will also add saltyness.  Pour pesto over skewers.  Cover and chill overnight.  All you have to do next is place on a pretty platter and serve!

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Danielle’s Famous Chicken Salad

I know my mom hates when I explain how my chicken salad came about, but I feel like it needs explanation!  Since I do something that’s not normal with chicken salad…I completely grind it up in a food processor.  Normally when people see the texture of it they raise an eyebrow as to why I would do such a thing.  Here is why..

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My mom has always had family meals ready for us.  I give her mad credit for that..However! She admittedly says she cooks because she has to, not because she loves to.  This usually results in dry meats, crispy bottomed rice, and black dinner rolls.  Not to say she is a bad cook – she isn’t..she would just rather start cooking and walk away that hover over it like a hawk.  So one day she started some chicken breast..and walked away.  This resulted in chicken that was pretty close to the texture of the turkey made in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.  She comes to me with this sad pan of chicken and says “can you save this somehow?!”.  I know I am good at cooking – but this was a test.  I took the pan and felt like a surgeon bringing a patient back to life.

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I decided that If I completely ground up the chicken and added enough liquids to it maybe I can salvage this.  It worked!  My famous chicken salad was born.  I do however avoid using dry chicken in re-creating this recipe now.  I feel like the secret ingredient I use is cream.  It gives a fantastic mouth feel and totally amps up the flavor.

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Danielle’s Famous Chicken Salad

  • 1 lb cooked chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups mayo (real deal here)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 stalks celery
  • Dill (to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Garlic Powder (to taste)
  • Cream or 1/2 & 1/2 – About 1/4 cup, enough to make salad creamy

The first step in making the chicken salad is to properly cook the chicken.  You can dry it out if you like, clearly this recipe brings it back to life, I do not recommend it though!  What I do is avoid getting any color on the chicken.  Which I know is completely the opposite in what you’re taught when cooking meat.  I sear the chicken lightly in the pan with salt and pepper and then add just a little bit of water to the bottom of the pan so color doesn’t happen.  Do not drown the chicken because then all the flavor will go into the water.  You’ll make a fantastic chicken broth! But a lousy chicken salad.

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Next dice up the onion and celery, not in any particular size because it will be added to a food processor anyhow.  Pulse the onion and celery until you get a very small dice on them.  Do not blend the onion too long or youll just get a mushy onion paste.  Next dice up the fully cooked chicken and also pulse in a food processor until it almost resembles canned tuna.  In a large mixing bowl add the onion, celery and chicken ground up.  Mix well.  Add your seasonings and mayo.  Mix up and taste test for seasoning.  Add the cream slowly until you get a desired texture.

I normally serve this as a dip which easily can justify the texture.  My family goes nutty for this recipe and even serves it as a sandwich.  The texture may not be for everybody but I absolutely love it!  My favorite thing to serve with is Club crackers or garlic crostini toasts.

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Enjoy!

Fright Night Feast

If you haven’t realized it yet from reading my past posts, I am an absolute kid at heart.  When Foodbuzz sent out that e-mail we all wait for each month about 24×24 I knew I wanted to do a Halloween theme.  There is something so appealing to me about Halloween.  I will save the word ‘magical’ for Christmas but I will label Halloween as whimsical.  It’s the only day of the year where everything is pretend (or is it?).  We all dress up as something were not, and that is the premise of my meal.  Did I really serve snakes, eyeballs, vomit, and spider guts? No, but I certainly dressed up my meals as just that!

Brain DipFluff, Cream Cheese, Vanilla, Marshmallows. Served with Fruit

Pukin’ PumpkinSmashed Avacados with Salt, Pepper & Garlic. Served with Blue Corn Tortilla Chips

Spider Guts – Spinach and Artichoke dip served in a Spider Boule with Toasted Croistini

Blood Shot Eyes – Classic Deviled Eggs with a makeover

Witches Fingers – Asparagus Spears piped with Boursin Cheese topped with a Craisin

Bloated Snake (Italian) – White bread dough stuffed with Capacola, Salami,White American Cheese,Fresh Mozzarella and Olive Salad.

Bloated Snake (Chicken) – White bread dough stuffed with Seasoned Chicken, Portabello Mushroom, Button Mushrooms,White American Cheese, and Fresh Mozzarella

Butternut Squash Shooters – Butternut Squash Soup served in a shot glass topped with a crispy Fried Ravioli. Recipe found here.

Spooktacular Chocolate Pretzels – Chocolate covered pretzel rods in Halloween themed shapes. Recipe found here.

Taffy Apples – Miniature Granny Smith Apples covered in caramel and coated with your choice of sprinkles, Heath crunch, or Walnuts.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Lollipops – Pumpkin Cheesecake skewered on a lollipop stick coated in Orange Chocolate and decorated as a Jack-o-Lantern. Recipe found here.

Wash all that down with some Pumpkin Ale or Spiked Cider!

Can’t forget the Trick or Treat Station!

I would love to thank every one who came out to enjoy the Fright Night Feast!  They certainly deserve credit to come over for dinner knowing they will be feasting on brains, guts, and eyeballs!

Extra Kudos for those who showed up in costume!

 

 

Butternut Squash Soup & Sausage Ravioli

I am very excited to announce that I am having a foodie Halloween themed party next Saturday the 29th!  I have loved reading everyone’s blogs on Halloween foods for ideas.  This recipe I created is one of my only non-spooky recipes I will be serving.  Since I work in catering and mainly only worry about other people’s parties, I knew I had to start early on making these recipes.  I have been trying to purchase/prep and freeze when necessary!  My ‘Fright Night Feast’ is all spooky themed finger foods so I wanted to include a soup shooter of some kind.  My inspiration for this dish comes from a dish I made countless times in school – Butternut Squash Ravioli in a Sage Butter Sauce.  I hmm’d and huh’d for a while trying to decide how to make this work.  I already knew the flavor combination was incredible so as long as I kept them same components I would be golden.  My end result was Butternut Squash Soup Shooter with a crispy Fried Ravioli.  Here is how I made it happen:

Ravioli Dough –

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tbs Olive Oil
  • Salt

Add salt and flour to a bowl and combine.  Beat eggs with olive oil and pour into a ”well” in the flour.  Knead the dough until combined.  Wrap dough in saran wrap and let the gluten rest.

Filling –

  • 1/2 lb mild italian sausage
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 pkg cream cheese
  • 2 Tbs dry rubbed sage
  • a few tablespoons milk/cream to thin out mixture a bit

Now I know that cream cheese inside a ravioli dough is strange.  The only reason I did this was to add a creaminess to the butternut squash soup and because I will be frying these bad boys up.  If I was just boiling them as regular ravioli I would not suggest cream cheese but maybe ricotta instead.  Anyhoo!….

Saute onion in a small amount of olive oil (not too much, you dont want the mixture greasy).  When onions are translucent add sausage and break up into the smallest bits you can get.  Break up the cream cheese and let it melt over the sausage.  Add sage and combine.  Use milk or cream to thin out the filling a bit (not soupy though!)

Roll out dough, making sure that any remaining dough keeps covered to keep from drying.  Roll out dough and cut into even strips.  I did the width of a shot glass since that’s what vessel ill be using to serve it in.  Make sure 2 strips match up and add small spoonfuls of mixture with about 1/2 and inch of space in between.  Using an egg wash run your finger around the filling and take second strip and press the dough between filling balls and cut into ravioli shapes.  Keep to the side to dry a bit.

I would have much rather used my dough roller…of course it broke 🙁

I rolled my ravioli out and put them in freezer bags to save for the party.  If you wanted to fry your ravioli then all you have to do is boil them until they float and are finished cooking, let dry and cool, dip into buttermilk and then into breadcrumbs and fry them to a golden crisp.

Now for the soup!

Butternut Squash Soup –

  • 3 butternut squashes, peeled, cleaned, cubed
  • 2 Sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed (I used this strictly to get a darker orange color)
  • 2 small onions diced
  • Chicken stock – enough to cover vegetables (it took 3 cans for me)
  • 3 cups light cream
  • Spices to taste – ginger, nutmeg, all spice, cinnamon, salt, pepper
  • Tabasco – Trust me on this one! I do not eat spicy food but adding Tabasco to cream/puree soups brings the flavor to an extra level of awesome

Saute onion in just a small amount of olive oil until translucent.  I add my spices now (use sparingly, you can add more, but you cannot take away!) I like to heat them up and get toasty with the sauteed vegetables.  Add butternut squash and sweet potato and just cover with chicken stock.  In a separate pot reduce your cream from 3 cups down to about 2.  It brings out a much richer, nuttier flavor when reduced.  Watch it like a hawk or it will bowl over..like it did to me…twice.  When vegetables are fork tender, remove from heat and using either an immersion blender or a simple hand mixer, turn the mixture into a puree.  Add reduced cream and a few dashes of tabasco.  Taste it! Make sure you are happy with your seasonings.  I went heavy on the tabasco and the ginger.

This is the vision for my appetizer

I plan on adding a demitase spoon and a sprig of green

What I love about this is when you fry up the ravioli it becomes a little pillowy and airy inside.  Which is absolutely perfect for using as a spoon after one bite!

If you do not wish to use this recipe as an appetizer then omit the ravioli and enjoy it with a toasty half a sandwich!

Wanna bite?!

UFC Party – A flavorful punch in the mouth

I am a sucker for a themed dinner party.  It all started out as a joke, but then it just snowballed.  I was thinking of ideas for 24×24 and thought it would be a good idea to do a practice round of what I would do for a themed party.  My boyfriend and I are fans of the UFC.  Very un-ladylike I know.  We invited some pals over for our special dinner party and started brain storming.  I am a huge nerd when it comes to these types of parties, so maybe It got a little out of hand but it was fun none-the-less.

Here is a little side story just to explain a tid-bit of why I have been gone lately.  I was headed to the grocery store, list in hand, totally thrilled about the UFC party the next day.  I was about a quarter of a mile away to the grocery store sitting at a red light, when I got seriously rear ended.  A 16 year old girl slammed into me at 30mph when I was at a dead stop.  I was fine, my car was not.  I have spent weeks trying to battle with the insurance company, get a new car, dr visits for my neck and back.  All is well now, I have a new car, my back pain is improving and yes people…I still had my dinner party!

My poor car.

Okay side story over, back on track! I was very proud of my final menu.  If you are not aware of UFC, its ultimate fighter championship, so keep that in mind while reading my menu –

Knuckle Sandwiches – Crispy Chicken Sliders with Chipotle Mayo

Black & Bleu Beef Croistini – Beef Tenderloin Topped with a Bleu Cheese Mousse

Fried Cauliflower ‘Ears’ – Fried Cauliflower accompanied by Dill dipping sauce

Tap-Out Tater Tots – Crispy tater tots with sriracha ketchup

Dont Punch in the Nut-ella Rice Krispy Treats – Rice Krispy Treats blended with Nutella dipped in Chocolate Topped with Hazelnuts

Knuckle Sandwiches

  • 1/2 lb Chicken Breast pounded thin and cut into slider size
  • 1 cup buttermilk mixed with buffalo sauce
  • flour for coating
  • oil for frying
  • small tomato slices
  • small lettuce slices
  • mayonnaise
  • canned chipotles
  • Hawaiian Rolls
  1. Heat up oil for frying.  In the mean time, dip each chicken piece into buttermilk/buffalo sauce and then into flour.  Coat very well with flour.
  2. Fry each chicken piece until golden brown, set on paper towels to sop up excess oil.
  3. In a food processor combine mayo and chipotle peppers.  If desired, thin out with some cream.
  4. Build each sandwich on a sweet hawaiian roll top with tomato and lettuce, serve with chipotle mayo.

Fried Cauliflower Ears

1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 dash sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup water

Dill Dip

  • Mayo
  • Sour Cream
  • Dill
  • Heavy Cream
  • Salt & Pepper

Combine all ingredients for batter, toss cauliflower until coated.  Fry in small batches.

Combine all ingredients for dip. Enjoy! (warning, very addicting!)

Dont Punch in the Nut-ella Rice Krispy Treats

  • 1 Box rice krispy cereal
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 bag mini marshmallows
  • 1 jar nutella
  • 1/2 lb melted chocolate
  • Crushed hazelnuts for garnish

Microwave marshmallows, nutella, and butter.  In a big enough mixing bowl, dump entire box of cereal.  Once marshmallows and butter are melted completely, combine with rice krispys.  In cookie sheet with high sides, lay down wax paper.  Press in rice krispy mixture and let cool and harden over night.  The next day either use cookie cutters for desired shape or cut into cubes (pictured).  Dip each cube into melted chocolate and top with crushed hazelnuts.

The party was an absolute hit and I cannot wait for my next themed party.  I will steer clear of teenage girls on the road this time too.