Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Fair Weather Picnic Fare

We have certainly “turned the corner.” We can begin to meet with others who are vaccinated. With warm weather providing a backdrop for outdoor gatherings, it’s time to get together with family and friends. It’s time to put our hospitality hats on and take our masks off to share a meal. 


We may still observe a bit of social distancing, but we can still gather. 


Eat. Talk. Laugh.


A couple of weeks ago I posted a breakfast menu to wow your guests, be kind to your wallet, and give you the time to enjoy your company. I’ve always been a fan of the simple life. If you missed the “breakfast pizza” post, CLICK HERE. 


The next week I offered an “easy-peasy” lunch menu. Both were intended to be simple and fun and appealing to the eye as well as the taste buds. To find the lunch menu post, CLICK HERE.


That brings us to this week. For the dinner menu I considered a grilling out menu, a pasta dish or one of my favorite casseroles. In the end I landed on picnic fare


Let’s start with the appetizer. The purpose of the appetizer is to stimulate the appetite. It is a small portion of food. Our breakfast appetizer was a fruit cup. The appetizer for the lunch menu was raw veggies. Today’s appetizer takes a bit more prep time…but not much.


Appetizer: Peach Salsa with Bruschetta


I’m sure there are great peach salsa recipes out there but this is one I created when I lived in Kosovo. I like simple and delicious and this recipe meets both criteria. I’m also sure you can make your own bruschetta, but again, I’m into simple so I buy it at the grocery already made and sliced.


For the Salsa you will need ripe peaches, sweet onion, and tomatoes, and a lime. (Some people add cilantro and peppers, but since I didn’t have those, I made it without.) 

1) Simply peel and chop the peaches into small chunks

2) Add a bit of chopped sweet onion (No, I can’t tell you exactly how much. I rarely measure.) 

3) Add diced ripe tomatoes. These I don’t peel because the skin is so thin and if they are really ripe you have a mess on your hands.

4) Squeeze some juice from the lime over it.

5) Mix and pop into the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.


Set your bowl of salsa and bruschetta out for guests to enjoy. This recipe has never failed me. It is fresh and delicious. Every time I serve it guests ask me for the recipe. I hope you’ll try it. Add what you like and let me know how it turns out.


Main Course: Your Favorite Meat with Loaded Baked Potato Salad.


If I’m grilling for my whole family, it’s burgers, hot dogs, or sausages. Having a couple of people over? Steak would be nice. Then again, baked ham is delicious for a picnic. I’m not even opposed to grabbing a bucket of chicken at the drive through. But the potato salad? I like my recipe. Made the day before makes it easy on my social timeline and enhances the flavors.


Loaded Baked Potato Salad


1) Peel, cube, and cook about six large potatoes in salted water (enough to cover them) until tender. (If you use small Yukon Gold or small red potatoes, you may need more but you don’t need to peel them.) Let the potatoes cool before adding the other ingredients.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad
2) While the potatoes are cooking, cook 8oz. of bacon.

3) Mix a package of ranch dressing mix into a 16 oz. tub of sour cream.

4) Chop green onions. (I calculate how many by bunching them up and wrapping my forefinger and thumb around the greens. About two quarter size bunches of green onions is about right.)

5) Pop the cooled potatoes and green onions in a bowl. Add the sour cream mix, a package of shredded cheddar cheese, and the cooked and crumbled bacon.


Dessert: Ice Cream 


No need to make your own…unless of course, you are the Martha Stewart type. 


**Please continue to take safe measures against COVID-19. Get your shot. Continue to wear a mask. Use social distancing when and where you can.**








Tuesday, April 20, 2021

So What's For Lunch?

 So What’s For Lunch?


Last week I proposed we are entering a time when we can start thinking about entertaining once again. It may be outside or we may able to share a meal in our dining room with a small group of family or friends who have been vaccinated. 


Personally, I miss having people over for a meal. Any meal. I shared a popular, no fuss menu last week for breakfast. This week I am sharing an even easier to prep lunch menu. I don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen. I want to spend time with my guests. Again, I’m including an appetizer, main course, and dessert


Lunch Appetizer: Veggies


Choose the veggies you like. I chose carrots and celery drizzled with ranch dressing. I served them in individual small cups. I bought a bag of baby carrots and a bag of celery. Of course, you can purchase the celery already cut into small pieces, but cleaning and cutting it is no big deal.


Don’t like carrots and celery? How about grape tomatoes or broccoli? Sweet raw peas are good. So are slices of sweet pepper. You get the idea. Your appetizer is the start of the meal. Why make a big hefty salad when a few raw veggies will do?


Main Course: Rotisserie Chicken with Charred Sweet Onion, Tomatoes, and Avocado


Easier than easy. My local grocery store roasts juicy, delicious chickens every day. $5.99 and one will serve four people with leftovers. I heat olive oil then char slices or slivers of sweet onion in the pan. Add that to my grape tomatoes and chunks of avocado and pour over the slices of chicken I’ve plated for my guests. That could be it. You may decide to add a hard roll or rice. The day I made this last week, I had a pack of couscous in the pantry. The mild Mediterranean seasonings were a perfect complement to my chicken. And the side dish cooked up in five minutes. That I can handle.  


Dessert: Angel Food Cake 


As my granddaughter would say, “Easy peasy.” I bought a premade angel food cake at the grocery bakery. I drizzled chocolate syrup on the plate and a bit on the cake. I garnished each serving with blueberries and raspberries. Use what you have. It makes for a gorgeous dessert. 


As you can see, presentation is perhaps as important as taste. While the meals I’m suggesting are delicious, they look great, too. Don’t be afraid try new recipes, put new ingredients together, and plate your meals in new ways. Think about how some restaurants serve iced tea in a mason jar. Make it fun. 


The most important part of the meal? Sharing time with people you care about.


Your turn. What favorite recipe do you pull out for guests?

**Please continue to take safe measures against COVID-19. Get your shot. Continue to wear a mask. Use social distancing when and where you can.**

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Company for Breakfast? No Problem

I enjoy having people in my home for a meal, a visit, and perhaps a game. I know many who like to entertain, but feel it is simply too much work. I get it. As a young bride I found having people over to be overflowing with stress. That was before I learned the secret. 


I wrote a story that appeared in two editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul  called “The Secret to Being a Good Hostess.” The latest  is in the Magic of Moms. It featured wise words my mother once gave me. 


“Treat your family like company and your company like family.”


As more of my family and friends are getting the COVID vaccine and the weather is warming where we can gather outside, I decided to share some of my favorite easy meals for entertaining. Each has an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. We’re starting with breakfast.


The focus is on simple, fun, relaxing, entertaining, and affordable. Ready?


Appetizer: Our breakfast appetizer is a simple fruit cup.


No, I did not go out and buy all fresh fruit, spend hours cutting, cleaning, pitting, and everything else you have to do to make a fresh fruit salad. I didn’t spend an arm and a leg either. I opened a can of fruit cocktail, drained it, and put it in a pretty glass. (It is fruit cocktail, after all.) I sliced a single banana and added to all four servings. You could add fresh berries or slices of apple. Add what you like…and what you have on hand. We don’t want to spend our time and energy on this. We want something that looks good, tastes great, and whets those appetites!


Main Course: Breakfast Pizza 


My family loves breakfast pizza. It is a staple when we go skiing and a favorite family breakfast during the holidays. But I enjoy making it whenever I have people over for any sort of breakfast gathering. It can be big and flat like a pizza made on a cookie sheet or a deep dish offering much like a fluffy quiche. Same ingredients. Easy to throw together and pretty. 


For today’s menu, I used one tube of crescent rolls for the crust (just separate them and “smoosh” them together in the bottom of the dish. I browned some ground sausage in a pan, drained it and spread it over the crust. I threw in some chopped green chili, frozen hash browns, covered the whole thing with some eggs I had mixed up with a bit of milk and smothered it with shredded cheese. 


You can add anything else you like. I’ve put a layer of fresh spinach in on occasion, sometimes maybe a bit of ham or sweet peppers. I was going to add tomatoes to this one, but forgot. Like mushrooms? Throw some in. Make it to your liking. Don’t stress over the recipe. Be creative.


Toss the whole shebang in your preheated oven. I think I had mine set at 350F and it took about thirty-five minutes. I stick a table knife in to see if it’s ready. When I make it thinner on a cookie sheet it takes less time. I go by smell and looks and the “come out clean” knife method. While it’s baking, I wash up the pans and bowls I’ve dirtied in the process, set the table, and make the coffee.


A seriously delicious and easy way to entertain friends and family for breakfast. And now for dessert.


Dessert for breakfast? Well, if you’re like me, the breakfast pizza will fill you, but as you and your friends visit or play a game, you may want a little snack with your second cup of coffee. And this blog post is a full-meal, offering. Remember?


Dessert: Breakfast Cookies


These are called breakfast cookies because the main ingredients are oatmeal and cornflakes. They can be made ahead of time (though I love them soft and warm and fresh out of the oven). They are perfect for dunking and you can add anything you like to them such as chocolate chips, raisins, nuts…anything. I’m posting the picture, but if you want the recipe, shoot me an email at rebecca@waterswords.com and I’ll be sure to send the recipe to you.


There you have it. The first of three meal plans for entertaining. Next week I’ll tackle the lunch menu! Let me know if you have a favorite recipe or if you try one of these ideas. I love to hear from readers.

**Please continue to take safe measures against COVID-19. Get your shot. Continue to wear a mask. Use social distancing when and where you can.**

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Cherish the Moments

 What a difference a year makes. 


This time last year, we were all getting our sea legs so to speak, as we navigated the uncertain waters of quarantine. My oldest daughter delivered my groceries and I washed every item before putting it away. I wore gloves and scoured each and every surface with disinfectant. 


We hadn’t learned the language of COVID-19 yet nor the protocols. We were learning as we lived through it. We made masks out of anything and everything. I even tried the “sock” mask before breaking out the sewing machine and stitching masks for myself as well as my family. 


We muddled through. Remember? Rumors about the whole thing ending when the weather warmed gave us hope. Then growing numbers of those infected and the many succumbing to the virus dashed those ideas. 


I don’t need to relive it. We were there. 


And now we are here. 


Easter 2020, my youngest daughter hid eggs in my backyard for her own daughters to hunt. I watched from my bedroom balcony. 


But this year? With many of my family fully vaccinated and with everyone sporting their favorite mask, we gathered at my house for dinner, played games, and visited. We “socially distanced” by sitting in differing areas and set the food service up so everyone had what they needed without getting into each other’s space. 

Cousins. Games. Masks.


My mother visited early before all the hoopla and that was great. My middle daughter with her husband and four children arrived from Wisconsin. I hadn’t seen them in over a year. To have all three of my daughters here at the same time proved incredibly healing for me.


I smiled as the younger children hunted eggs in the back yard, the lightest of snow flurries coming down. My oldest daughter brought beautifully decorated cupcakes for everyone and a candle for each. We sang one big happy birthday to the whole family. 


It was one of those crazy beautiful times when you realize how much you missed through the year and cherish how much you have in the moment.