Dinner Party Series: August

dinner-party-series-august

I’m failing on the blog front lately, but I can’t help it. My twins are BUSY and I’m hanging on by a thread. Not just from keeping up with them all day long, but making sure they’re learning and growing each day – that’s a challenge. Or maybe that’s just pressure moms put on themselves unnecessarily; babies used to literally grow up in caves and they were still helping their moms hunt for dinner by the age of 5.

Anyway, this dinner party post is too late. You really only have 8 days left to use it. Just kidding! Because I’m selecting grilled pizza for this month, and pizza is good ALWAYS. And I’m using grilled pizza for this month because we just went to a dinner party at my friend Annie’s house and grilled pizzas were the theme, and it was perfect. It was so much fun, really interactive, and at the end we got to eat PIZZA. I also feel like we all really bonded over the stressful yet satisfying act of rolling out pizza crust into something reasonable looking.

I’m offering two approaches here – buy the pizza stuff and make the salad, or make the pizza stuff and buy the salad.

Menu

Appetizer: Simple platter of roasted nuts and summer fruit

Pizza:        Homemade grilled pizza here and here or buy all the stuff    somewhere like Jimmy’s Food Store in Dallas

Salad:        Italian Chopped Salad or buy a prepared/bagged salad at the store

Dessert:    Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

To execute:

  1. Bake cheesecake the day before.
  2. If making pizza, prepare the dough the night before or morning of. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Prepare nut/fruit plate before guests arrive.
  4. Prepare salad before guests arrive.
  5. When ready to grill pizzas, roll out the dough, brush with oil, and grill on high heat first without the toppings. When dough crisps up, add toppings and return to grill until cheese melts.

Teddy Bear Birthday Cake

teddy-bear-birthday-cake

I can tell you right now that one of the greatest joys of my life will be making my boys’ birthday cakes year after year. I love nothing more than homemade chocolate cake, and when I’m making one for such a happy joyous occasion, my heart explodes. I can’t wait to make them in the form of C-3PO or Batman or Sponge Bob of whoever these little guys of mine are obsessed with at the moment. And BTW, they WILL each get their own cake every year. They didn’t this year because they just really have no idea, and I personally am not in a place where I need two birthday cakes kicking around the house. I simply cannot control myself.

I’m not going to say how fast this year went because that’s a given. What has truly surprised me though is the amount of shear joy I get from these two little boys, and the strong bond that we have after only one year of life together. I can’t imagine a world without them in it. I also can’t imagine having only one of them – they are undeniably a perfect pair and my heart grew times a thousand to make room for the true love and obsession I have for these two baby boys.

Onto the cake. Just to put it out there, I am a terrible froster, terrible cake slicer, terrible artist, and I have zero patience for cake decorating. When I make my own birthday cake I literally slap on the frosting and douse it in sprinkles.  So when you consider making this cake, a) you’ll obviously note my less than perfect frosting job – but I’m telling myself that’s part of the baby theme and b) know that if I can make this, you FOR SURE can.  There’s something about my hands that just don’t agree with frosting cakes. So. I would definitely say as far as shaped cakes go, this is easy!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 8 inch round cake pans, buttered, floured, and lined with parchment (bottom)
  • 1 3.5 inch round cookie cutter
  • 1 large marshmallow
  • 2 flat chocolate discs (or something similar, for eyeballs)
  • Black gel icing (in a tube)

Cake Recipe

Frosting

  • 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup + 1-2 tablespoons milk, divided
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted and divided
  • 1/3 cup semi- sweet chocolate chips, melted

Make the cake in the two 8 inch round pans, and let cool completely.  One will be for the face, the other will be used for the ears and nose.  Level the cake with a serrated knife if necessary.  Using the cookie cutter, cut out 3 circles from one of the cakes. One will be the snout, the other two will be the ears. Using a knife, cut off little rounded edges on the bottom of the ears so that they can lay flat against the top of the head.

To make the frosting, cream the butter and powdered sugar together. Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup of the milk. Add in just 1 tablespoon of the cocoa.  This will be the light brown frosting for the ears and snout. Remove about 1 cup of this frosting to a separate bowl.  In main bowl, add in remaining 4 tablespoons cocoa powder, melted chocolate chips, and remaining 1 tablespoon of milk (more as needed).  Frost the bear’s face and ears with the dark chocolate frosting. Frost the snout with the light brown, and add little dollops of the light brown for the center of the ears.

For the eye, cut two white eyeballs from the marshmallow by cutting off either end about 1/8 inch thick.  Secure the chocolate disk onto the marshmallow using a little frosting.  Place the frosted snout on the bear’s face, then add the eyes on top.  Paint on a nose and mouth with the black gel.  And that’s it! The snout tasted the best.

marinated-grilled-chicken-sandwich

Today is one of those days I feel like I just can’t go on. It is just too hot. When your face starts sweating literally the second you step outside, it’s too hot. Add in 75 trips to the car loading babies in/out and I might just lose it. Add in – getting your eyebrows threaded and your baby B throwing a fit for keeping him strapped down for more than 3 minutes, grabbing a vase and breaking it, having to leave halfway through (yep, one brow done), and going back OUT into the 100+ degrees, and quite frankly I’m surprised I’m here to even tell you about it. I really never get my eyebrows done anymore because it’s too much of a hassle, but I thought it might be a good idea since we’re having our one year photos done tomorrow. Oh well, at least I got one done.

Instead I’ll talk about what we ate last week (in between two bouts of the stomach flu).  Super flavorful grilled chicken sandwiches. I ate this a couple ways – with honey mustard, with pickles, with tomatoes, with a couple different buns, and I landed on the simplest version. The chicken is so tasty that it tastes great on its own, with a buttery toasted ciabatta bun. Of course add what you want, but this is a great simple dinner.

Recipe

  • 3 thick boneless skinless chicken breast halves (~1.5 lb)
  • 6 ciabatta rolls, halved and lightly buttered
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • black pepper

Prepare the chicken breasts by cutting their thickness in half. You can also pound them thin, but our Central Market chicken breasts are so thick that halving them is best. Mix the marinade ingredients in a ziploc bag; season the chicken with black pepper and add to marinade. I marinated for about 8 hours for extra flavor, but if you only have a couple hours that will be fine.  Heat the grill to medium high and grill 3-4 minutes per side.  Butter the ciabatta rolls and toast in the oven.  Top with what you want, but you won’t need it!

Dinner Party Menu: July

dinner-party-menu-july

I’ve got the best tip for all you moms out there. It’s fully researched, tested, and proven to be very effective. It just takes a leeeeettle bit of sacrifice on your part.

Get the flu. Or mildly poison yourself with salmonella.

Yesterday I got the flu (I know, it’s not inFLUenza but the flu as we all know it from our childhood)…or salmonella poisoning, I can’t be sure because I did spend a good part of my day testing the cake batter for my sons’ upcoming birthday…and I’m telling you guys. My husband had to stay home to take care of the kids…and for the first time in 362 days, I didn’t change 16+ diapers, I didn’t make and clean up 6 meals, I didn’t change outfits 4 times, I didn’t pull Bax out of the fireplace 3 times, I didn’t make 4 trips back forth to the car loading and unloading babies in 100 degree weather, I didn’t read 4 books that make little to no sense, and I didn’t give anyone a bath. Oh and my clothes looked and smelled clean at the end of the day.  What I did do, is lay in bed all day and watch Friends. Sure, throw in a little puking here and there but you know what? I feel rejuvenated. Try it.

So now that both babies are walking around like crazy, I have the opposite problem that I thought I’d have. I am not running in 2 different directions to constantly chase them down; THEY are constantly running in one direction to chase ME down. Seriously, I can’t even go to the bathroom without those two pounding on the door for me to come out. It makes kitchen time very tricky- I’ve got two little puppies just following me step for step; into the pantry, into the fridge, into the dishwasher. So today I am doing a dinner party post because I haven’t been cooking.

July – what a great time for a casual, cool dinner party. Something easy, something summery, something casual, and something outdoors is the ideal gathering. Nothing fussy here – just getting together with friends for good food and drinks.

Appetizer:   Veggies and store-bought dip

Main:           Sweet Texas BBQ Ribs

Side 1:          Sweet Potato Skins

Side 2:          Buy the Dole BBQ Ranch Salad Kit at the store (obsessed with this)

Dessert:      Ice cream with hot fudge/caramel topping

To execute:

  1. Arrange veggie platter the morning of; cover and refrigerate
  2. About 3 hours before guests arrive, start the grill and oven. Sear the ribs and then wrap and place them in the oven, basting for about 2 hours.  Let the ribs rest for 30-45 minutes.
  3. During the last hour of ribs, bake the sweet potatoes. In another oven is ideal, otherwise just put them in a little longer. Or, microwave!
  4. While the ribs are resting, finish making the potato skins in the oven or grill.
  5. Put the salad in a bowl.
  6. Um, that’s it!
pineapple-jalapeno-bbq-chicken-kabobs

I would have added more words to the title of this recipe, but they didn’t fit. I would have added ‘spicy,’ ‘soy sauce,’ ‘veggie,’ and maybe even ‘amazing.’  I have to admit I’m not a total kabob person.  I can’t really explain why…except that I maybe feel like they’re pointless. Generally you can eat the exact same thing without having to chop everything up and put it on a stick. BUT, these are different. Because with these, in each bite you get a burst of super flavorful BBQ chicken, sweet juicy pineapple, and spicy jalapeno – a bite that’s hard to achieve anywhere else (except maybe a pizza).  It’s worth it here to chop it into bits and put it on a stick. The flavor combo is perfect and it screams SUMMER’S HERE!! Always a nice reminder.

Recipe

Marinade

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sweet BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha

Kabobs

  • 2.5 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped into large piece
  • 2 jalapenos, cut into rings, seeds and veins removed
  • 1 pineapple, cut into large chunks

Season the chicken with pepper. Prepare the marinade in a ziploc bag, add the chicken and marinate for at least 1 hour (I did about 3). Heat the grill to medium high. Place all the veggies (bell pepper, jalapeno and onion – not pineapple) in a bowl, splash with a couple tablespoons of water and S&P, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, cover and microwave for 3 minutes. This is important, because otherwise the veggies won’t get done by the time the chicken is done on the grill. A fatal flaw of kabobs.

Prepare the kabobs, alternating chicken, pineapple, jalapeno, bell pepper and onion.  Discard marinade. Lightly oil grill grates.  Grill kabobs about 4 minutes per side or until done.

 

pineapple-jalapeno-salsa

Happy Friday! Favorite day of the week. I’m so original! My kids are getting soooo close to turning 1, and every day it seems they have a new skill. Bax is running around, Price is taking a few steps and trying sooooo hard to copy his brother. This might be the cutest thing ever, by the way. Bax will fly past him on his feet and poor Price gets almost panicky and starts launching himself off of stuff. He can take a few steps and I’m sure he’ll be walking any day now, little cutie. He could use a few more steps to add some definition to his knees/thighs (so far I’ve seen no concrete evidence that he actually HAS knees). Other skills? Price loves taking off his diaper and Bax loves poking people in the eye. Like really hard.

On to food. This pineapple salsa goes on anything. Anything. Use it as a dip, but I highly recommend it as a topper for your grilled fish or chicken of choice. We had it on top of blackened salmon and it was perfect. Talk about a perfect summer dinner party recipe!

Recipe

  • 1 1/4 cup pineapple, diced into small 1/4-in. pieces
  • 1 tablespoon pineapple juice (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons canned green chiles or diced jalapeno
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped white or sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pepper to taste

I used fresh pre-cut pineapple from the grocery store, then chopped it up even smaller and used 1 tablespoon of the extra pineapple juice from the container. Place the pineapple and juice in a bowl, then add in remaining ingredients. Mix together, then let marinate at least 30 minutes before serving.

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