No Bake Fourth of July Desserts – Let Freedom (From the Kitchen) Ring!

As you may know, I am a fan of desserts. Like, if I were a teenager, I would have posters of cakes on my wall. It’s that bad.

But I am also a fan of feeding my crew healthy, non-food dyed, non-creepy-chemical eats. And that core belief is part of the Epicurean Group Bill of Rights created by our forefather. Real food for real people. God Bless America.

There are several holiday desserts that fit the - um – bill. Or at least almost fit the bill, with a  little modification. And these treats are simple enough to do quickly, don’t require an oven, and won’t cause that post-dessert guilt. I spend my life feeling guilty about the desserts. But those who can not do, teach. Here we go:

Love this portable dessert!

Directions:

  • Puree strawberries in a  blender with a little bit of agave
  • Place strawberries, organic vanilla or lemon yogurt, and blueberries in a mason jar or drinking glass
  • Chill
  • Serve

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If you want to steer clear of the fake stuff, use 100% real chocolate, organic pretzel rods, and  an all-natural food dye to create red, white, and blue pretzel sticks – and skip the sprinkles (they are a mess anyway).Warm chocolate on the stove, dip pretzel rods, and place rods on wax paper in the refrigerator for an hour.

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Alternate bananas, strawberries and blueberries to create this edible flag! This is a great project for little tykes – keeps them busy for a good 8 minutes!

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These are made with Rice Krispie treats, but you can swap out pineapple for the stars – making this a great breakfast, snack or dessert.

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Weddings: It’s Personal

Personalized weddings? We'll drink to that. Then again, we'll drink to anything.

Personalized weddings? We’ll drink to that. Then again, we’ll drink to anything.

 

If weddings should be anything, they should be personal, right? After all, it’s the one day you are pronounced husband and wife. The only other times you are pronounced something it involves words like ‘guilty’ or ‘dead’  - and that’s not nearly as much fun.

With sites like Etsy and tools like Pinterest (what would life be without you, Pinterest?) and caterers like Epicurean, each and every wedding can – and should – be unique. If you are going to celebrate becoming part of a couple, you might as well splash your new coupled name over everything. This is your one shot to be the center of attention (besides the guilty and dead days mentioned earlier, of course).

I love monograms and nameplates and initial jewelry and business cards and Sharpies that leave a permanent mark on pretty much anything. It may be because my mother called me ‘Amy’ for the first three weeks of life, though my birth certificate and every subsequent document since clearly states ‘Stephanie.’ True story.

There are fancy ways to personalize a wedding, and there are simple ways. So if you can’t swing a skywriter, try these tricks instead:

 

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A personalized send off.

Table numbers with personalized photos.

Table numbers with personalized photos.

Stir sticks from the newly married.

Stir sticks from the newly married.

A new twist on the guest book.

A new twist on the guest book.

Fun place cards!

Fun place cards!

Custom wine labels are savvy (and a sneaky way to serve less expensive wines).

Custom wine labels are savvy (and a sneaky way to serve less expensive wines).

Table runners with the couple's monogram is simple and sweet.

Table runners with the couple’s monogram is simple and sweet.

The traditional matchbook with a non-traditional look makes this keepsake more modern.

The traditional matchbook with a non-traditional look makes this keepsake more modern.

 

Peaches vs. Lima Beans – What’s In Your Margarita?

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Peaches are my favorite fruit. I even named one of my children Georgia. Granted, sometimes she is not all together peachy, but … anyway.

The sad thing about peaches is that they are only in season for a short time, so I spend these few weeks making memories with my beloved peaches. Peach pancakes, peach smoothies, peach cobbler, and peach margaritas, to name a few. The memories after the peach margaritas are a smidge fuzzy, but…anyway.

I am making this recipe tonight, if I can keep my crew of four (and their friends) away from the gorgeous peaches on my counter. Epicurean, as usual, is cooking and creating with seasonal items and our kitchens are chock full of this glorious fruit. The peach tarts I eyed the other day  could have been on the cover of a magazine. That’s the other great thing about peaches – they are pretty! Unlike lima beans which are – um – not. And lima bean margaritas just don’t have the same appeal, do they?

Speaking of magazines, this recipe comes from Real Simple. Enjoy.

Chicken with Grilled Peaches and Arugula 

Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 20m| Total Time: 20m
Ingredients

  • 4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 3 peaches, cut into wedges
  • 1 bunch arugula, thick stems removed (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ounces blue cheese, broken into pieces

Directions

  • Heat grill to medium-high.
  • Brush the chicken with 1 teaspoon of the oil and season with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  • In a bowl, toss the onions, peaches, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  • Grill the chicken and onions until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are tender, 5 to 6 minutes per side.
  • Grill the peaches until charred, 2 minutes per side.
  • Toss the arugula with the onions, peaches, vinegar, and remaining oil.
  • Top with the cheese.
  • Serve with the chicken.

 

Brussels (no – not the european city)

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Everybody gets their moment to shine. Same goes for veggies. It was micro greens. Then kale. And now its brussels sprouts. I hated these as a kid, often comparing them to carpet, which was not a big hit with my mother. But now – NOW – I am in brussels sprout love.

I recently spent some time at the Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek. I found myself at the Grouse Mountain Grill and made a meal out of a tasty pineapple mojito and a brussels sprouts appetizer. You wouldn’t think the two go together, but let’s pretend they do.

I was lucky enough to meet the chef, David Gutowski who is sort of a big shot, I now know. And after a little banter, I learned that he is a friend and a fan of our fabulous Jenna Johansen. So he graciously gave me his brussels sprouts recipe. It’s amazing what small talk can get you.

These were the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever tasted and the recipe seems simple and straightforward, always a plus.

 

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, cleaned, halved, and blanched
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBL smokey, crispy bacon, minced

Directions:

  • Mix maple syrup and apple cider vinegar in a small saucepan
  • Cook over medium high heat until boiling
  • Lower heat and and allow sauce (gastrique) to reduce
  • “Fry” brussels sprouts at 350 degrees until golden brown
  • Drain on paper towel and toss with  3TBL gastrique and bacon
  • Season with salt
  •  Enjoy

Because Meat and Cheese Platters Are Sad and Root Canals Hurt (and other reasons to use an expert like Epicurean)

I am a fan of the entrepreneurial spirit. I love the DIYers out there, making their way in the world. In fact, I used to be one of them. But then I got … older.

As you now know, I recently enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Botswana. It was the best experience of my life besides the day I got married and the four times I was handed healthy, happy babies in the hospital. (Actually, Africa was better – but I had to write that other stuff because my children are learning to read and my husband usually buys me jewelry for anniversaries and God knows I don’t want to shut that door.)

Africa was phenomenal for a myriad of reasons, but the biggest? I. Did. Not. Have. To do. ANYTHING. I did not plan this trip. Instead, Uncharted Outposts did all of the work. My little sister was intimately involved, but she also got to get her ears pierced at five years old and I had to wait until I was 10 – so she owed me.

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Using an expert, whether it is for a root canal, an African safari, or party planning, is usually worth the money. We receive several calls every year from lovely individuals who were once Ambitious Catering DIYers and are now hoping to become Happy Epicurean Clients. Why? Because we’ve done the catering and event-planning thing for 35 years; and party platters from Costco leave a lot to be desired.

I could have NEVER pulled this off.

I could have NEVER pulled this off.

Hiring professionals often causes people to panic, fearing that the costs will be enormous. Not so. Using an expert actually saves money. Companies, such as Epicurean Group or Uncharted Outposts or whomever, know what they are doing. They have relationships with vendors, allowing for bulk discounts that are usually passed on to the client. They have trained professionals that can coordinate staff, work within a budget, act as a single point of contact, and save you from the headache and heartache and exhaustion that comes from trying to do everything yourself.

I was considering knocking down a bunch of walls in my kitchen because I never felt like I got to spend time with my guests during parties. Then I started using Epicurean for my catering (I have an ‘in’ you might say) and realized I didn’t need to renovate, I needed to delegate. I’m done standing in my kitchen while everyone else is celebrating on my patio. I’m done trying to do it all myself. And talk about saving money! Using the pros saved me thousands in renovations – and probably millions in marriage counseling. The Blackfords don’t do renovations well, let’s leave it at that.

I guarantee I could have never pulled off an 18-day trip to Africa – one that included a private helicopter tour, a morning spent feeding an orphaned baby elephant, and a hike up the cliffs at the Cape of Good Hope – and I wouldn’t have wanted to. It would have taken a bit of the shine off the whole adventure; instead I simply got to be.

Epicurean is all about allowing our clients to be a guest at their own party. After all, we are in the business of celebrations (a good business to be in – everyone is happy, happy, happy!) and being the host of a party, big or small, should be enjoyable – and shouldn’t include a meat and cheese platter from a big box store. Come on, you deserve more than that…right?

You deserve this. You do.

You deserve this. You do.

Share your worst DIY party stories with us on Facebook.

100 Kitchen Tips from the Pros (here’s one: read the recipe – brilliant!)

Originally posted on Epicurean Group:

Apparently not?

The Food Network recently released their 100 top cooking tips of all time. For real. That’s what it’s called: 100 Greatest Cooking Tips (of all time!) 

I’ve been hoarding this list, which, after some quiet meditation and deep interpersonal reflection, I realize is wrong. We all deserve the greatest tips. Especially if they are the greatest tips of all time. Exclamation point.

Numbers 27 and 87 resonate with me – and for those of you who know me, there is no explanation necessary. Exclamation point.

27. Take the time to actually read recipes through before you begin: John Besh - Author of My New Orleans

87. Make sure the handle of your sauté pan is turned away from you so you don’t hit it and knock it off the stove. It happens all the time.: Jonathan Waxman – Barbuto, New York City

Yes, Jonathan, yes it doesHence the disturbing…

View original 28 more words

100 Kitchen Tips from the Pros (here’s one: read the recipe – brilliant!)

Apparently not?

 

The Food Network recently released their 100 top cooking tips of all time. For real. That’s what it’s called: 100 Greatest Cooking Tips (of all time!) 

I’ve been hoarding this list, which, after some quiet meditation and deep interpersonal reflection, I realize is wrong. We all deserve the greatest tips. Especially if they are the greatest tips of all time. Exclamation point.

Numbers 27 and 87 resonate with me – and for those of you who know me, there is no explanation necessary. Exclamation point.

27. Take the time to actually read recipes through before you begin: John Besh - Author of My New Orleans

87. Make sure the handle of your sauté pan is turned away from you so you don’t hit it and knock it off the stove. It happens all the time.: Jonathan Waxman – Barbuto, New York City

Yes, Jonathan, yes it doesHence the disturbing scar on my left wrist.

What’s your favorite tip from this list or from your own? Or, better, what’s your biggest disaster? Share it with us on Facebook.