Easy Cheese Plate

I have been known to overdo it when it comes to entertaining. In my past life, I would have steered away from this easy cheese plate, for fear it was too easy to impress. This has lead to disaster on more than one occasion (see: Mother’s Day). Add this to the list of the Taste Tester’s great annoyances. He has been known to complain or even be hesitant to host certain events due to this charming quality. But, he has a point. When you are overwhelmed and frazzled, it doesn’t really matter how good the food tastes, your guests probably aren’t going to have a great time. After all, your guests came to see YOU, not the back of your head as you stir pots and pull things in and out of the oven and maybe set off the fire alarm.

That’s why, when it comes to entertaining, I have tried to adopt the keep it simple policy. I have found that guests are impressed enough with your presence and the fact that they are being served a delicious meal. No need to make complex dishes, just focus on simplicity to maximize time for enjoying one and other’s company. Read more

Shepherd’s Hand Pies

In honor of the holiday yesterday, I wanted to drop in today with a quick little celebration post. What, you didn’t know yesterday was a holiday? Your work and school didn’t close in honor of National Pi Day? That’s Pi, not Pie, as in 3.14 or March 14. So maybe it’s not the most famous holiday, but any holiday observed with the eating of pie is worthy of celebration to me. So, if you forgot to celebrate yesterday, let’s roll out our crusts and make up for it this weekend.

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Chickpea Party Mix

What’s your favorite snack food? It’s hard to pick just one. There are many, many versions of chips, nachos, dips, etc. that I can eat without stopping. But, if I had to pick just one thing that can be found in a bag, I have to choose party mix. My number one favorite is that Gardetto’s brand party mix that my parents used to take in the car on every road trip, along with Milk Duds and maybe some Twizzlers. And of course Gatorade for my dad. A close second would be Chex mix, which is quite similar to Gardetto’s except for what it adds in crunchy cereal goodness it detracts in subpar rye chips. Read more

PB&J Sriracha Sliders

I can’t take any credit for the idea behind this recipe. It was 100% the taste tester. But really, the taste tester can’t take credit for it either, because he heard it on the radio. A few nights ago, as I was making dinner, he said, what do you think about a burger with sriaracha and peanut butter? I’ll admit, I was perplexed. Peanut butter? On a burger? And, I know this puts me on the wrong side of a hot trend, but I am not the biggest Sriracha fan either. So, it should have come as no surprise when he admitted that the idea was not his own, but instead he heard or read about it at some point during that day. Read more

Fig and Olive Tapenade with Goat Cheese

I love having people over. The only hobby I enjoy more than cooking is inviting people into my home so that they can tell me what a good cook I am! A major perk to being in the mid-to-late twenties age range is that most of my friends don’t really expect a lot when it comes to party food. Generally just having food available leads to much appreciation and praise. I can’t tell you how many times I have impressed friends with my ability to make massive amounts of stove-top popcorn smothered in butter and served at an opportune moment when everyone is simultaneously starving and unwilling to actually leave the apartment in search of food.

Olive Center

Even though my regular party guests are easy to impress, that doesn’t stop me from occasionally attempting elaborate, expensive, and exorbitantly messy feats in the name of entertaining. This was a habit pointed out to me recently when I was contemplating the menu for our Super Bowl party. My taste tester, who has witnessed various disasters in the past said this: “Make whatever you want, but try to focus on having fun and not making a mess.” This is my new rule in entertaining. Parties will be so much more fun for you-and your guests-when you can be relaxed, fully present, and not preoccupied with trying to prepare and clean-up a culinary masterpiece. I still try to be adventurous when it comes to entertaining, but now I seek out simple recipes that can be made easily in advance. Read more