To Celebrate Earth Day: 5 Ways to Save Food at Home from Going to Waste

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While today officially marks Earth Day, at Epicurean Group we believe it’s important to celebrate the environment every day which is why we use a number of green practices in our kitchens daily. By creating partnerships with organizations like We Don’t Waste and Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises, more than 90% of our annual waste output is recycled. Last year at Sports Authority Field at Mile High we donated 63,364 servings of unused food to people in need and we provide approximately 500lbs of scrap food to the Alpine Waste & Recycling Compost program each week.  We’re also recognized as a Colorado Proud company for souring locally and have a Bronze Level certification from the Environmental Leadership Program.

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Did you know that the average American household wastes $1,600 a year on food that gets tossed in the trash? Not only is wasted food bad for the pocket book but once it hits the landfill, the spoiled food releases methane gas which has been linked to global warming. Yikes!

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Here are 5 Ways to You Can Save Food at Home from Going to Waste:

    1. Make a Plan & Stick to it! –Before going to the grocery store, write a list keeping in mind if you have any plans throughout the week that may prevent you from cooking at home. Buy only what you intend to use and cut recipes in half for fewer servings. Look to the meat counter, bakery and bulk food bins where you have the ability to choose the quantity you buy opposed to prepackaged goods.
    2. Start a Compost-Create healthy and fertile soil for your garden by decomposing unused food scraps. To learn more about composting and how you can do this at home, click here.
    3. Repurpose Your Leftovers-Did you know you can make homemade broths using leftover meat bones that are loaded with health benefits? Bacon grease can also be saved and added to virtually any vegetable to give the flavor an extra boost!
    4. Just Freeze It! –Lots of meat and produce can be frozen and used at a later date. During meal prep, freeze and store portions to be used later on. This will save on those busy days when there’s no time to cook!
    5. Donate Unused Food-Many local food banks and shelters accept canned and non-perishable goods. Check with local churches and food banks for more information.

(*Sources cited: http://www.epa.gov/foodrecovery/)

 

Epicurean Sports Featured at Flavors of Denver 2015

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Chef Nikki and Juan getting ready for Flavors.

Last night our very own chef, Nikki Olst, Executive Chef at Sports Authority Field at Mile High was invited along with a few other top local chefs to prepare a multicourse dinner to help fund the research, education & advocacy efforts of the American Liver Foundation.

The event, Flavors, was held at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum and showcased signature dishes from culinary experts beyond traditional restaurant fare and encouraged guests to “unleash their inner foodie.”

“I’m truly overwhelmed by how grateful I am to be apart of this culinary world! The passion and drive I witnessed tonight was very special; it’s not everyday we get to step out from behind the curtain (or shall I say stove) to cook tableside for 10 guests.”

-Chef Nikki Olst, Executive Chef at Sports Authority Field at Mile High

One course Chef Nikki was particularly excited about preparing was the faux oysters, a dish that consists of oyster lettuce, ginger prosecco mignonette, apple chip & fig. Nikki was introduced to oyster lettuce on a recent trip to Napa.

Overall, the event was a great success and everyone including Nikki had a great time!

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Champagne Bar: Two of the Loveliest Words in the English Language

Come warm yourself by our champagne fireplace.

Ain’t that the truth?

Earlier this month we shared some ideas for a Hot Chocolate Bar; after doing extensive research on DIY stations, including ignoring my children and eating an entire bag of butterscotch chips, I couldn’t resist creating a mini-series on this idea of DIY stations for guests.

Today’s Treat: Champagne

Service with a smile.

Service with a smile at Union Station.

Just writing it makes me happy.

Nothing says ‘celebrate’ quite like champagne. My friends, family, and that one know-it-all guy at Corridor 44 who thought I should eat something before having another glass of the nectar of the gods can attest that champagne is, by far, my own personal favorite drink. But you can’t drink it all the time. Because those other mothers at preschool would be jealous concerned.

I don’t need to add anything to my champagne – like dinner – but this is not about me. It’s about you AND me – and anyone else who appreciates a glass of bubbly. Like all of us at Epicurean Group. Parties are our game. And our job. Put those in whatever order you wish.

Let's pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

Let’s pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

The holidays are a perfect time to create a self-serve station for your guests. It allows for more socializing and less stressing. Always a good thing.

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later...

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later…

Today is New Year’s Eve so if you are hosting a soiree or simply want to do something special on New Year’s Day, may we introduce you to the MmmmMimosa Station? Simple elegance, with an emphasis on simple.

Yum.

Yum.

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

MmmmMimosa Station

Ingredients and Accouterments:

  • Ice buckets or other large bin filled with with ice
  • Four containers for fruit (try IKEA or the dollar store if you don’t have any on hand – or use the coffee cups from your wedding china set because, let’s face it, you’re not drinking coffee when champagne is available)
  • Four glass bottles for juice
  • Labels (for labeling juice and for guests to tag their glasses – I use paint sample cards – free! And any color you want. And did I mention free! )
  • Glasses (one per guest)
  • DIY labels
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Champagne or prosecco
  • Sparkling cider
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Raspberry lemonade concentrate
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple (feel free to improvise)
  • Sugar cubes
How sweet are these sugar cubes?

How sweet are these sugar cubes?

Paint samples make great labels.

Paint samples make great labels.

Directions:

  • Chill champagne, prosseco, juice and cider overnight or in an ice bath
  • Pour juice in glass containers, write or print out labels and tie to the bottle
  • Place champagne in an ice bucket on the table
  • Place glasses, fruit, napkins, juice, labels, sugar cubes, and marker on the table

Pour yourself a glass and say hello to 2015 (and maybe a tiny-but-worth-it-headache)!

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Hot Chocolate Bar: Where Dreams Come True and Reindeer Fly

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“Self-serve” does not just apply to gas stations, you know. Parties that include a self-service component (all or some) make a lot of sense because 1: guests are more comfortable when they can eat and drink what they want, when they want, and 2: because your hostess hands are not bogged down in the kitchen; you can hold a glass of champagne and a cupcake which is much easier than if you try to balance both with one hand (I have tried this, sadly, more than once. It doesn’t end well. And people judge.)

Epicurean Group started doing stationed-catering waaayy before Pinterest was born. We practically invented DIY food and beverage stations. Sadly, we did not invent Pinterest. If we did, we would be sitting on a private beach and someone would feeding us grapes, which is the opposite of self-serve.

We have done lot of stations in our years in Denver. Yes, it’s true the 80s were all about The Pasta Bar, but we’ve grown. Oh how we’ve grown.

If I were asked to rate our station celebrations, I would put the mashed potato one at the top. But I was not asked to rate them. I was just asked to write. But it is hard to write when I am practically starving and mashed potatoes sound pretty good right now. Just saying.

Guests seem to delight in an area that is set for one distinct purpose. This, among other reasons, is why bars are still in business. You, too, can create your own holiday eats and drinks stations for friends and family. This year, we thought we’d treat you to a few station ideas on the topic of stations. (We were going to write one lovely little blog on these ideas, but there’s just too much to tackle. And sample.) So, first up: The Hot Chocolate Bar:

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The Hot Chocolate Station – Where Dreams Comes True and Reindeers Fly 

Ingredients :

  • Hot Cocoa Mix (you can make your own like we do at Epi, but c’mon, don’t get crazy at home)
  • Toppers for All*
  • Mix-Ins for Some
  • Mugs or Paper Cups
  • Stir Sticks and Straws
  • Napkins
  • Hot Milk or Hot Water
  • Extras

*Topper Ideas (notice the word ‘ideas’ here – add or subtract what ever floats your marshmallow):

  • White Chocolate Chips
  • Peppermint Sticks
  • Butterscotch Chips
  • Marshmallows (or those darling snowman peeps!)
  • Chocolate Sprinkles
  • Whipped Topping

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For the adult crowd only:

  • Rum
  • Kahlua
  • Peppermint Schnapps
  • Baileys
  • Flavored Vodkas (Smirnoff’s Marshmallow or Whipped Vodka work well with hot cocoa. Or ice. Or straight out of the bottle if you are dealing with small children or out-of-town guests. Or out-of-town guests who have small children.)

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Directions:

  • Place hot chocolate or hot water in an insulated carafe
  • Place mix-ins and toppings in clear glass containers, white paper bags or any other small containers that hiding in the recesses of your pantry. Or head to IKEA or the dollar store and invest in a few inexpensive stemless wine glasses – they come in handy for this idea and others. Like wine.
  • Add stir sticks, straws, mugs and liquors
  • Print out some labels or write some of your own (I use paint sample cards and a hole puncher)
  • Enjoy

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Tune in next week for our next station blog!

 

 

 submitted by Stephanie Blackford

 

Putting It All On The Table: Delicious Decorating Ideas

 

Cinnamon sticks smell so good...nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose...

Cinnamon sticks smell so good…nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Isn’t that how the song goes? We should know, considering the Christmas music starts earlier and earlier. I, for one, love all things holiday, except the wine stains on the carpet and the required weight gain (I am a certified expert at both – we all have our special talents).

After spending many years in the catering and event planning business, combined with my many years of overcommitting to social engagements that seem to always be at my house, I can set a table in my sleep. Well, not sleep per se, but bleary-eyed zombie-like state from too little rest and too many quality checks of the margaritas during the party prep. I never learn. Does tequila really go with stuffing prep or potato peeling? I say yes. Martha Stewart would be appalled, but Martha had three fewer children than I, and she has a driver, so I am right.

If anyone can pull together a beautiful table, it’s Epicurean. Why? Because Larry DiPasquale is a perfectionist and was born with incomparable taste.

Not that we have to set a gorgeous table, because once Epicurean’s food arrives and the wine is poured, we could be serving our fare on cafeteria trays and everyone would still be happy. It’s that good. I’ve told you about the risotto, right?

Anyway, table settings need not be fancy or frilly, but they do need to be pretty and functional. Here’s a sneak peek to some stunning but simple tablescapes that won’t have you reaching for the tequila.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

 

Use a painter's dropcloth as a tablecloth - so inexpensive you won't feel guilty throwing it out at the end of dinner.

Don’t want a bare table? Use a painter’s dropcloth as a tablecloth or cut them into napkins – it’s so inexpensive you won’t feel guilty throwing everything out at the end of dinner.

 

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

 

 

...or deck out your table in creamy white.

…or deck out your table in creamy white.

 

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests.

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests. I just noticed similar ornaments at West Elm – so cute!

 

This menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

This sweet menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

 

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Greenery isn't just for mistletoe.

Greenery isn’t just for mistletoe.

Gold accents paired with chalkboard paint keep this look from being too frilly.

Gold accents paired with earthy add-ons keep this look from being too frilly.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Holiday books get an elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Holiday books get elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This quick decoration adds some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This photo is clearly for decoration only, but by using something edible, you can add some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.

Easy, Now. (Or Later? Why Soup is Good For the Busy Soul)

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You can find recipes for the perfect turkey everywhere. And anyone can build a great day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich (hint: it’s all about the mayo), but when you are staring back at that gigantic leftover … uh…carcass, you might be tempted to toss it out and just cut yourself an oversized slice of apple pie.

Don’t. I mean don’t throw out the turkey. Go ahead with the pie. But that leftover turkey makes some of the best soup of the year; and even if you are turkeyed-out, you can pop this easy soup into the freezer for a weeknight dinner that’s both hearty and healthy. Plus, this recipe can easily be modified for the gluten free crowd out there – simply swap out the pasta for rice, and the white flour for almond flour.

Epicurean’s Now Or Later Turkey Soup

Prep time: 25 minutes | Cook time: approximately 1.5 hours | Servings: 10-12

Ingredients:

  • Large turkey carcass (it’s such an unappetizing word but…)
  • 5 quarts cold water
  • 1 cup celery cleaned and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6-7 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 4 cups fine egg noodles
  • 1/4 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup flour

Directions:

  • Place turkey carcass, water, celery, onion, bouillon cubes, salt and pepper in a large stock pot
  • Heat to boiling; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour
  • Remove the turkey, place on a platter and let cool
  • Add the parsley, peas, carrots and pasta
  • Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Meanwhile, pull meat from bones and return meat to soup pot
  • Add liquid if needed (either water or chicken stock, taste to check seasoning)
  • Heat to boiling; cook uncovered for 10 minutes
  • Melt butter in a small frying pan; stir in flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the flour browns
  • Slowly stir the flour mixture into the boiling soup
  • When the soup returns to a boil reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes

I keep a couple of boxes of cornbread mix in my pantry at all times so that if I am desperate and the cupboards are bare, I have an entire meal at the ready – soup in the freezer and cornbread from a box makes me almost as happy as apple pie.

 

 

 

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Keeping Score at Sports Authority Field at Mile High

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Obviously Peyton Manning and the Broncos team garners LOTS of attention on game day; and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But what happens before, during and after the game for our own Epicurean/Broncos team is something to brag about. If we were the type to brag, that is.

We’ve been the exclusive premier concessionaire at SAF for over 20 years. That’s a lot of football. It’s also a lot of work. And a LOT of fun. What does it take to make game day a winner (at least off the field – we can only do SO much!)? Well, the numbers don’t lie:

  • 1800 pounds of prime rib, tenderloin, strip loin, turkeys and rotisserie chickens (all leftovers are donated to We Don’t Waste) to feed guests in –
  • 133 suites during each game which leads to the clean up of over –
  • 600 hotel pans and –
  • 1000 sheet pans which are par for the course for our –
  • 150 employees on site each game day; they can often be found in our  –
  • 1450 square feet of walk in refrigerator storage – the envy of every chef that’s every seen it. We use every single inch during the busy season which includes –
  • 220 special events including corporate parties and weddings. To get geared up we spend –
  • 3 weeks of traveling nationally and internationally during the off season, allowing our chefs and leadership team to research new trends. And by ‘research; we mean eat and drink our way across the globe. Not a bad gig. By sampling foods in different regions of the country, we can customize game day menus to reflect the opposing team. Think fish tacos when we play the San Diego Chargers; fried ravioli for the St. Louis Rams. Tackling all of this takes –
  • Unlimited amounts of energy and stamina to tackle the 1.7 million square feet of space at the stadium which seats over 76,000 fans, not including us – the biggest fans you’ll find.