Happy Hummus Day!

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To commemorate National Hummus Day, we’re sharing a healthy and delicious Roasted Red Pepper Hummus recipe created by our Executive Chef at Sports Authority Field, Nikki Olst.

 “We love this in the kitchen for a number of reasons; the touch of spice and tang from the roasted red peppers, how easy it comes together, and it goes great with everything!”

-Nikki Olst, Executive Chef at Sports Authority Filed

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Yields 2 cups
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes {includes 30 minutes of chill time}

Ingredients
1 {15.5 oz.} can chickpeas, rinsed
¼ cup roasted red peppers
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ tsp salt
pinch cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions
Process all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 45 seconds.  Transfer to a serving bowl & chill until the flavors have blended, at least 30 minutes.  Serve cold with assorted crackers, tasty veggies & pita bread.

5 Filters to Help You Snap the Perfect Food Pic on Instagram

Last month we hosted a two-day, all out photo shoot to showcase some of the great recipes Epicurean Group will be releasing this fall. We were very fortunate to be able to work with an extremely talented freelance photographer, Laurie Smith for the third year in a row!  Lauries’ specialties are food and travel and she’s absolutely incredible. Visit her website if you can! (lauriesmithphoto.com)

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Often when you see a great photo, you stop and admire the beauty but fail to consider the amount of work that went into creating the shot. I am here to tell you firsthand, it’s A LOT of work! From planning the recipes, to preparing the food and selecting the props, there’s much work to be done. Luckily we had our Inspiration & Celebrity Chef, Jenna Johansen available to guide the way.

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Jenna had a clear vision in mind which was extremely helpful considering we were pressed for time. I’m sure you’ve heard of the clever tricks companies use to market their food such as using glue instead of real milk which can have a blueish hue to it. If you’ve ever eaten a Lean Cuisine before, you know that the photo on the outside of the box doesn’t even begin to resemble what’s actually inside. For our shoot, we didn’t use any of those tricks. We used actual, real food and because of that, timing was everything. Capturing the frothy foam on an espresso is an art form and must be done within a certain time frame before it melts away. Same goes for freshly cracked eggs.

Once we got the final pictures back from Laurie, we were ecstatic! While it might have been a grueling process, the final product was well worth the effort!

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For all of you amature food photographers such as myself that love to post #foodporn on Instagram, here are five filters you can use to make your food pictures more appetizing:

1. Amaro

This setting will brighten a dark photo, which could be helpful if you’re taking a pic in a dimly lit restaurant or bar. But if you’re documenting your kitchen adventures, this could make your meal look like it was cooked under florescent lighting–or worse–in a cafeteria.

2. Rise

Rise adds a soft glow to any image. It is forgiving when documenting anything with a blemish. For example, the fruit salad you made with the banana you forgot to pack in your lunch last week, but are too cheap to toss out. However, if you are indulging in a vibrantly colored dish, why mute its colors?

3. X-Pro 11, Lo-Fi, and Hefe

Have a photo that’s in need of some drama? All of these filter could work. If used on images of crispy cheese or baked goods, you’ll have your viewers drooling. These filters, though, may be a bit much with photos that are already full of depth and color. We don’t want your food looking like it came out of a Little Tikes play kit.

4. Earlybird

Want to give your food pic a vintage feel? This is the filter for you. Afraid of making your dish look like it should have been thrown out weeks ago? Maybe avoid this….

5. Brannan

Perfect when in need of some sharpening and contrast. Brannan will define the photo you blurred while trying to balance your spatula, frying pan, small child, and camera. However, this does add a metallic and muted tint; if you are working with vibrant colors, it could dull down your image.

Peters, Jolie (2013, November 20). Best and Worst Instagram Filters for Food Porn (Martha, Please Take Note) [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://www.epicurious.com/archive/blogs/editor/2013/11/instagram-filter-blog.html

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.