Tag Archives: Ziploc baggies

More Cocktails and Appetizers on the Wild Side!


As the More is More Mom®, I’m always up for more fun with family and friends. We’ve barely scratched the surface of our Safari Cocktail and Appetizer Party. You may recall that the stage is all set to greet our guests with a cool and refreshing beverage (detailed 7/28/10).

 

As for the menu, the warm weather beckoned a selection of delicious, cold appetizers;

  • Prosciutto Wrapped Mango Slices (recipe revealed 7-28-10)
  • Shrimp Cocktail in a tangy homemade sauce
  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Spears
  • Greek Salsa and Pita Chips

 

The beauty of all the recipes that I am sharing with you today is that they are largely prepared in advance, leaving a little bit of assembly just before your first guest arrives. 

Nothing says over the top indulgence better than Shrimp Cocktail (except maybe caviar, but who really wants to eat all of those little fish eggs anyway?) served in an elegant martini glass. Now that’s instant glamour.

 

Shrimp Cocktail in a tangy homemade sauce:

To serve 6;

 

2 lbs cooked peeled shrimp, tails cut off and chopped into chunks (any size will do)

½ – 1 lb cooked peeled Jumbo shrimp. We’re going to artfully arrange a few tails over the rim of the glass for each guest. Beautiful!

Note: For the sake of simplicity and my sanity, I defrost my shrimp the evening before I am going to serve it. I store them in a Ziploc Baggie, lined with a paper towel (I prefer Bounty, the quicker picker upper. This is not a paid advertisement, darn it. I just so happen to be fan!). Rarely do I serve shrimp cocktail individually. As a rule I serve it in a silver platter that I toss in the freezer before the party to help the shrimpies stay nice and cold, but not soggy as they tend to get when directly served on ice.

Tangy Sauce;

In a mix bowl, lightly whip;

 

4 Tbsp heavy cream

Mix in;

 

4 Tbsp mayonnaise (am I a looser for using Hellman’s when I could have made it from scratch? I like to think that I am being practical. As it is, I could be using store bought cocktails sauce!)

4 Tbsp ketchup (now you know it’s good)

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Juice of one lemon…..which in my mind translates to a few tablespoons of bottled real lemon juice

Add more lemon juice as needed to make the sauce super tangy.

 

Stir in the chopped shrimp. Transfer to a container with a lid if you are leaving it in the refrigerator over night.

To Assemble;

1 head of Romaine lettuce, rough chopped (or any other hearty, crisp lettuce)

Fill each glass about 1/3 of the way with the lettuce.

Spoon the shrimp mixture over the lettuce, evenly amongst the 6 glasses.

Drape a few jumbo shrimp over the side of each martini glass.

For maximum impact, I placed all 6 martini glasses on a leopard tray.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Spears:

I order a grilled chicken Caesar salad at nearly every establishment I patronize, so I’m kind of an expert. The individual spears were a party in your mouth! I tossed myself a little salad with the left over dressing a few days later and I’m telling you, there’s not a Caesar salad out there that rivaled it…..

This recipe makes approximately 20 spears.

Grill, on medium heat;

 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into thin strips

Once the chicken cooled, I sliced each strip in half making it a more manageable serving size. As is my M.O., I placed the chicken in a Ziploc Baggie lined with a Bounty paper towel and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

The dressing was so tasty, you may want to double the recipe so you have more for later. In a bowl combine;

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3-4 cloves of garlic minced (there is nothing wrong with garlic, especially if we are all having it)

1 tsp anchovy paste (I don’t care for anchovies, but the paste is essential to achieving that classic Caesar status)

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (and maybe a splash more)

1 tsp dry mustard

Mix well and store in a bowl with a lid overnight.

To assemble;

2-3 heads of small romaine lettuce leaves. I used endive instead because it was the perfect size.

Separate the lettuce leaves.

Place 2 strips of grilled chicken in the leaf (it makes a nice little cradle)

Plop a dollop of dressing on top of the chicken

Garnish with shaved Parmesan (use your vegetable peeler to create perfect shavings)

If it floats your boat, top with capers.

Artfully arrange the spears on a platter and serve to the “oohs and ahs” of your guests.

Greek Salsa with Pita Chips:

The Mediterranean flavors are a welcome respite from your more traditional salsa.

In a medium bowl, combine;

 

2 cups of crumbled feta cheese (Costco sells huge containers of feta, of course, because everything is huge at Costco)

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped

5 scallions, whites and greens, chopped

1 cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped

1 cup Kalamata olives pitted and rough chopped

½ cup fresh, flat leaf parsley chopped (fresh just tastes like summer)

2 Tbsp fresh oregano chopped (fresh oregano is so flavorful)

2 Tbsp fresh dill chopped (okay, I know, enough with the fresh, but is just tastes so FRESH)

1-2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/3 -1/2 cup of olive oil (add slowly to see how much you really need. You just want a very light coating)

Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but overnight is even better.

When you are ready to serve, transfer to a pretty bowl. I chose a lovely cut crystal to equal the formality of the martini glasses.

Serve with pita chips. I like Stacy’s in the jumbo bag from Costco, though you could certainly toast your own. Instead of tossing the chips in a predictable bowl, I served them in a cheetah patterned planter (that I only use for food service). I like the shape and whimsy of the planter.

Should you have any salsa left over, you might enjoy it spooned over a grilled chicken or fish on another night.

I hope you have as much fun with this menu as we did. What could be better than more time with friends on a beautiful summer night with more delectable dishes, more laughs, more good times and more memories? 

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Fourth of July Celebration, Day Three; Appetizers


The very best way to kick off any bash is with cocktails and appetizers! As your guests gather and visit, it’s the perfect time to nibble and nosh. Even if I’m serving a big meal, I like to treat my guests to delicious starters. My Fourth of July celebration is no exception!

 

Cheese and Crackers

Margarita Chicken Skewers

Grilled Pizza with Bacon and Tomatoes

 

Cheese and Crackers:

 

Really now, what is there to say about preparing cheese?  I like to select a nice variety, for instance, at my 4th of July party I am serving; Chipotle Gouda (creamy and spicy!), Monteray Jack with Dill and Garlic (such fresh flavors!) and a Yellow Cheddar with Horseradish (not your everyday cheddar). For the sake of streamlining my preparations, I cube the cheese the night before and store it in none other than a Ziploc Baggie (the object of my obsession).

I believe that I mentioned a certain fabulous slate cheese board that my friend Mrs. Lilly found for me from William Sonoma…. The night before my party, I write the names of the cheeses in chalk directly onto the slate. Informational and quirky! You know how crazy I am for cracked black pepper, so I always serve my table water crackers and my Triscuit’s with a little kick!

Margarita Chicken Skewers:

Talk about a wallop of flavor, especially if you are partial to a classic little drink from South of the border….

 

 

In a large Ziploc Baggie (again with the Ziploc) combine;

1 ½ lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 12 strips (I actually purchased chicken breast tenderloins, so I was one step ahead of the game, rather than behind the 8 ball)

1 10-ounce can frozen margarita mix, thawed (oddly enough, this can be found by the frozen oj)

2/3 cup tequila (isn’t Jose Cuervo ever bodies friend?)

½ cup fresh cilantro chopped (so good!)

2 Tbsp chicken seasoning

Squeeze the air out of the bag and marinade over night.

Prior to grilling, soak enough wooden skewers for each chicken strip in water.

 

Remove chicken from the marinade and thread each individual strip onto a skewer.

 

Pre-heat the grill to medium. Oil the grate and grill for several minutes per side.

 

Arrange the cooked chicken skewers on a lovely bed of arugula or baby spinach and serve. You can certainly choose to garnish with fresh slices of lime. Garn-y is pretty.

Grilled Pizza with Bacon and Tomatoes;

 

I did pull out the big, bad boy for this one…..my Kitchen-aid.

 

In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup stir together;

2 1/4 oz envelopes of active dry yeast

2 cups of warm water

Let stand for 5 minutes.

 

In your large mixing bowl (attached to the industrial mixer, if you are using) stir together;

Yeast mixture

3 cups of all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1 ½ tsp dried thyme

Option: add 1/3 cup of cheese such as parmesan or asiago, whatever you like

Add;

½ cup of olive oil

Beat at a low speed until well blended (scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary).

Stir in another 1- 2/3 cups of all purpose flour to make a good stiff dough.

 

In a lightly greased large bowl, place;

Dough

1 Tbsp olive oil

Turn to coat

Cover with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes (or until nearly doubled in size). Punch dough down.

 

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4-5 times, kneading in an additional 1/3 cup of all purpose flour (who knew there was so much flour?).

 

Divide the dough in half and shape into balls.

 

Roll each ball into a 14” circle (yeah right! I actually loved the odd ball shape of my dough. It screamed homemade!).

I did this the night before. To store, I placed a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet and placed to dough on top. I layered on an additional piece of wax paper, and placed the second rolled out dough on top of that. Then I covered the whole kit and caboodle with plastic wrap to ensure its freshness until the following day.

NOTE: This dough freezes quite nicely. Simply divide the dough into two balls prior to the kneading process. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in a freezer proof Ziploc Baggie. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and pick up with the kneading process. The dough can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Now you should go crazy with the toppings!

For the adults, I chose;

Shredded mozzarella cheese

6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped (typically, I have cooked bacon on hand in the fridge because I cook it 2 lbs at a time. I store it, layered with Bounty Paper Towels (No endorsement, I’m just a paper towel snob.) and keep it in a sealed container. I pull it out for salads, sandwiches and burgers.).

16 cherry tomatoes, halved, or quartered, depending on the size

Basil leaves, fresh and thinly sliced

NOTE: I prepare my toppings the night before as well. I wrap each individual topping in Bounty Paper Towels to absorb any moisture, especially from the tomatoes. Then I tuck them all safely together into a Ziploc baggie to keep them fresh. You’ve totally gotta love Costco and their bulk products (like baggies and paper towels….and everything else they carry).

Pre-heat the grill to medium heat.

 

Brush oil directly onto the pizza dough and flip over onto the grill, removing the wax paper. Grill for 8-12 minutes (you may need to rotate for even cooking). Brush oil onto the top of the pizza dough and with two spatula’s carefully flip over to the other side.

 

Add your toppings. Cook for another 8-12 minutes (you may need to rotate for even cooking). Remove from grill. Let cool, slice and serve.

 

Now I only hope you and your guests have paced yourselves and are ready for…..more tasty morsels!

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The Story of (and the recipe for) the Amazing Stacked Cobb Salad


I’m so excited to share my tres fabulous salad recipe with you. As I am the More is More Mom® you can imagine that it is not merely a salad, but more of an over the top blend of culinary excellence and artistry. Always one to give credit where credit is due (you do know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery), I must tell you that the first time I enjoyed this beautiful delicacy was at the home of a mom from school. She was kind enough to share with me that she found this recipe in the Neiman Marcus Cookbook, and voila; there you have the Stacked Cobb Salad.

We are celebrating Catholic Schools Week at our grammar school, Our Lady of Perpetual Donations, this week. Our eighth grade class has many fun things planned to commemorate our dedication to academic excellence and show our appreciation to our amazing and devoted teachers. The week started off with flowers for the teachers and doughnuts for the students. There will be hot beverages and pastries for the teachers to begin their day and the week will culminate in dessert for the whole class. As a Room Parent, today was my day. I brought lunch. As you know, I believe that every event-big or small-should be celebrated. Showing appreciation for our incredible teachers is really kind of a big thing, as their commitment shapes the minds and spirits of our children. That my friend is an enormous gift, and there is not a gesture grand enough to express our gratitude to those that touch the lives of our babies. Besides, I live for opportunities to make things special. It totally beats cleaning the bathroom!

Enter the Stacked Cobb Salad.

I am a huge believer in planning ahead, rarely am I a fly by the seat of her pants kind of a gal. My preference for everything, and in entertaining in particular, is to prep as much as humanly possible in advance.
Serving for 4:
1. You will make, from scratch, the Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Combine:
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic (I always use way more!)
1 Tbsp minced shallot (twice as much at least!)
1 Tbsp chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme…….the more the better!)
2 tsp salt (I love sea salt)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper (I prefer cracked black pepper for a little kick)
Toss in a food processor or blender.
Puree on low speed and slowly add 2 ½ cups of olive oil until well incorporated.
Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.
2. You want the dressing to be thick, so you will make it nice and creamy.
The recipe calls for a ½ cup of the Balsamic Vinaigrette and ½ cup of mayonnaise whisked together. I always think you need more, so I use about ¾ of the Balsamic Vinaigrette and eyeball it when I add the mayo to make a nice creamy consistency.
3. Here’s the thing, there are so many variations that you can incorporate to make this salad customized to your own taste and budget.

The meat of the salad as described in the Neiman Marcus Cookbook is Lobster. Delicious! To cook the lobster meat:
• 2 sliced lemons
• 2 dried bay leaves
• 2 tablespoons black peppercorn
• ¼ cup salt
• 3-4 pounds lobster (live….I’m way too squeamish), I use lobster tails and figure one per person. If your budget permits, for a serving of 4, I would use 5 tails… a little more is always better.
• Fill a stockpot with 6 quarts of cold water and add the lemons, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes to flavor the poaching liquid. Add the lobster and cover the pot for about 10 minutes, or until the lobsters are bright red.
• Prepare an ice bath and submerge the lobster to stop the cooking process (so you don’t over cook the meat and it gets rubbery….complete waste of a beautiful lobster!). When cool enough to handle remove the meat from the shell and chop in to bite size chunks. I am all about being prepared ahead of time because I totally hate feeling anxious and stressed, so I do this a day in advance. I wrap the chopped lobster meat in paper towel to absorb and moisture, so the meat doesn’t get slimy and gross. I love paper towel and I especially like Bounty, the quicker picker upper. Store is a Ziploc baggie over night until ready to use.

This time around I defrosted a bag of shrimp, cut off the tails, and chopped it into bite size pieces. As is my method (I have many methods and think in another life I might have been an efficiency expert. I know I was not Cleopatra or Joan of Arc. I was a worker of some sort. I may also have been a purveyor of food, home goods and cloth at a general store, but I’m not sure), I wrapped the bite size pieces in Bounty and sealed them in a Ziploc baggie over night.

You might also consider using a few grilled chicken breasts. The options are endless.

4. Chopping and cooking…..get cracking
• The recipe calls for 8 slices of thick cut bacon, but I think 16 is more like it (4 per person…I mean if you’re a meat eater, who doesn’t like bacon?). I like a smoked, maple, bacon personally. Fry it up in the pan, chop in to bite size pieces, wrap it in paper towel and store it in a baggie.
• Hard boil 7 eggs, though the recipe calls for 4, I hate to be skimpy. Separate the whites from the yolks. Chop in to bite size pieces, wrap in paper towel and store each in separate baggies.
• The recipe calls for two, but I used 4 Haas avocados. Peel, remove the seeds, chop, wrap and store. The recipe suggests adding 1 Tbsp of lemon juice, tossing together and setting aside. I’ve never tried it that way, but I’m sure the lemon juice prevents the avocados from turning a little brown. I don’t like to deal with a mess while I am preparing to entertain, so I can live with a little brown, it gets covered up in brown balsamic dressing anyway. I’m sorry Martha if I am being offensive, but I am one woman kitchen prep and clean up crew, so on occasion I must take a few shortcuts where my sensibilities will not be offended. I chop the avocado, wrap it in paper towel and store it all in a baggie.
• 4 (or more…personal preference) vine ripened tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced. I wrap tomatoes in a huge wad of paper towels because they are so darn watery, and no one likes a slimy tomato. Chop, wrap, store.
• 2 cups crumbled cheese. I hate blue cheese, so I substitute with feta because it is also a nice soft cheese, but use what you like.
• If you don’t like all of these ingredients, choose what you do like. I have also incorporated diced cucumbers and carrots. C’est la vie!
• Fancy lettuce

• Rolls or crackers (I like to serve this with flatbread crackers)

5. Now it’s time to start stacking!

• You will need a tube type mold to stack the salad, so it stays vertical. The least expensive and simplest thing to do is to purchase a 15 ounce (or whatever is closest) can of generic soup (or be thrifty and use this item to make dinner, perhaps homemade chicken noodle soup), empty its contents, remove the label, remove the lid from both sides, and wash. Now you have a tube shaped mold! I have 8 empty cans for this recipe, as I have made it on several occasions. You really do need one mold per person because the layers needs time to stabilize and the dressing will bind the ingredients together in order for the stack to remain upright.
• Because I will layer the salad earlier in the day, I may use a small bread plate, or even easier a paper plate (because I am all about being efficient, and you can easily toss the paper plate in the trash when you are in the frenzy of putting out your masterpiece, and have one less plate to clean up per person). Place the mold on the plate.
For each individual serving:
• Divide the tomatoes equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange on the bottom.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the egg whites equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the bacon equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the egg yolks equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the cheese equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the avocado equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Top with the meat of your choice; lobster, shrimp, crab, chicken…whatever makes you happy!
• I cover the can with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band while it is in the refrigerator.

6. When you are ready to serve your creation, simply add the lettuce in a circle around the plate, leaving a small flat surface for the can. Carefully slide the can off the paper or bread plate, and on to the dinner plate, and remove the plastic. Gently and slowly slide the can upward, revealing the stacked salad. With any luck it will remain intact. If some of it happen to fall over, not to worry, it will still be delicious!
7. Certainly serve extra dressing on the side (for people like me who only choke down veggies because there is an opportunity to savor tasty, flavorful salad dressing!).
8. I like to garnish with flatbread crackers. If you were brave and cooked a live lobster, then you could certainly, artfully arrange the antennae upright in the salad. You could also garnish with sprigs of tarragon.

As an aesthetic person, I think it is equally important to be surrounded by pretty things, satisfying my sense of sight, in addition to my sense of taste. Today I was serving lunch in the teacher’s lounge, so from my vast collection at home (I do believe that I mentioned that I collect these items in 20’s), I brought placemats, cloth napkins, napkins rings, chargers, dishes, flatware and real glassware. If you are taking the time to make something special, go the whole nine yards! Again, I am all about authenticity. Rather than serve water or soda (because the Board of Education takes this funny stance about consuming alcohol during the school day, on school property, while you are responsible for minors….details, details, details), I served a lovely sparkling pomegranate juice. Sparkly drinks always feel luxurious, even when they are alcohol free (but I avoid that whenever possible. If I’m going to consume the calories, I’d better get buzzed!).

I am so pleased to have had the chance to show Amanda’s teachers just how important I think the job they so lovingly devote themselves to, is to me. As a bonus, Chuck and I are having Stacked Shrimp Cobb Salad tonight for dinner while we watch American Idol. Yum!

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