Tag Archives: herbs

SuperBowl /March Madness Party Tips and Potato Skins

It’s time to kick-off some tips for SuperBowl, (and every other Bowl) and get into March Madness parties…and any other ‘Football” parties anywhere in the world.(Too bad it is so long between World Cup matches,I love  them!)

Many of the recipes in the archives would suit a nice and easy buffet, which is the only way to go when it comes to watching events and for all-day parties.

Remember that there is probably going to be a lot of hands-in-the-air and jumping-up, either in celebration or in disgust, decided by the individual on how the plays go and who makes them!

Depending in just how long you anticipate your guests, some or all, to be there will help you to make the choices of foods to offer. Are you going to have fellow fans in for most of the pre-game programs as well as the game itself?Or just for the game, which will be long enough,(expect four hours for the SuperBowl.)
If you are expecting things to go on for some time, you are going to want some of the foods to come out at varying times; some substantial, some snack-type, some sweet. It does not matter how many or how few, people need food , people want interesting food and you don’t want to work too hard to make a nice spread. Much can be done ahead of time.

Ideas for your offerings can be founds among those already posted in this blog. They are:

Lentil Soup, Bean Soup [August Archives], Savory Bread Rolls, Taco Salad, Teriyaki Pork , Meatball Stew[Sept. Archives; which also tells of “Pitfalls and Parties”],Zucchini One-Bowl, Cookies and Sarah Ballance’s Pecan Bars [October Archives], Crispy Veggies, Vegetables with Cheese Sauce[November Archives], Ham, Broccoli, Potato & Cheese Casserole [Dec. Archives],Salads, Vegetable Pasta Salad [Previous Post]
All can be made ahead of the game day and, (with the exception of the Cheese Sauce and Salads), frozen even earlier and re-warmed before your guests arrive.

I will admit that I have waaaaay overdone the football theme at times. I made 2 kinds of cookies, one in cut-outs that were ball-shapes and helmet-shaped and iced them in the teams’ colors and , using the side of a spoon to ‘drop’ the Chocolate cookies, I made them reasonably football-shaped and put ‘laces’ on them with icing.[ October Archives]. I made chicken salad football-shaped, covered it in brown sesame seeds and made cream cheese ‘laces’. I made a Crab Cheese Ball the same way, but in walnuts:Football cheeseballfootballcheeseball

I made a quarter sheet cake and covered it with green colored coconut for grass, used white icing for hash marks and goalposts, wrote the teams names in the end zones and made candy shaped like footballs and helmets,(and colored them in the teams’ colors).

In other words, I went nuts.
There is no need for all of that, really.(OK, I will admit; I made the cheeseball when I made the one for New Year’s Eve; it is in the freezer and it will come out for the SuperBowl. But see? Many things, most things, can be made ahead of time. )

Chili is a traditional food here for the SuperBowl…and I will let you in on my shameful secret: It’s McCormick’s Mild Chili mix in a packet. I brown one pound of ground beef, drain it, add one can of petite diced tomatoes and one can of kidney beans .That is it. I usually two pounds and then it is two cans of tomatoes, two packets of mix and one can of light red kidney beans and one can of dark. How creative can I get?
If you make your own chili, good for you; I have never made one that I like as well as this easy recipe. It is ready in no time, (especially if you have pre-browned the ground beef; it will last in your refrigerator for days, or you can pre-brown the beef and freeze it. You can freeze the chili, too, but it takes almost as long to warm it as it does to toss it together in a pot and simmer it for a short time;that’s all it takes.)
Texans may get really get upset with me; they claim chili has no beans. Here, people add spaghetti; I have no idea why. If you are into trading ground turkey for beef, that is up to your taste but as far as I am concerned, there is not enough chili powder in the world to hide the fact that it is turkey. I don’t dislike turkey at all, but I do not believe that it is a substitute for beef in any recipe.

Do you know all of your guests well? Do you know their tastes and dietary restrictions? Is there any chance that someone will be bringing a guest whom you don’t know? Always have meatless alternatives; always have dairy and gluten-free and low sugar ones. It’s a nicer to have a variety and it’s healthier, too.
Don’t forget to look for ideas for more foods in the Meatless Protein Combinations [Sept.Archives]

No matter what you make, keeping the hot food hot and cold food cold is a challenge that you must meet. Depending on how for your TV is from your kitchen, you can keep food hot in pots on low heat on the stove, or in oven-proof stoneware or bakeware in your oven , set on 200F.(SuperBowl isn’t a time for your finest china and  your crystal anyway.) You can use slow cookers, warming trays, buffet servers and even press electric frying pans and rice cookers into warming service. Just make sure that you have a sturdy table and place it against a wall. Never have electric cords where anyone needs to walk by or around or where people have to reach over hot pots or servers to get to other foods and drinks.

ways to keep food warm for serving

ways to keep food warm for serving

Borrow slow cookers, or warmers if you must, but
you should have at least one slow cooker; you can get them for under $20. The big one here was about $35 and came with the little warmer as a bonus. The mini buffet-style warmer I have here was under $30, (and was given to me by my sister); the warming tray was left behind by the previous tenant and found when I moved into a place nearly thirty years ago. The electric frying pan was my mother’s.(Quality lasts.) If you anticipate doing entertaining, look for sales; you can get many of these at even lower prices. They make things easier, but are not necessities.(That is my rice cooker in the middle.)

It is easier to just prepare to put out small portions of cold foods and replenish the serving dishes, or if you have the room, prepare several dishes/platters and switch them out before the food becomes room temperature. Use a picnic cooler for extra storage room,(and place outside if the weather is cold).

You don’t want to miss the game and the fun …and let your guests see you working too hard; be a gracious host.

Make sure you hit your local dollar market/stores and pick up extra small, covered plastic storage containers for leftovers and for sending some home with your guests. YOU WILL HAVE LEFTOVERS ; that is a commandment! Never underfeed guest and never underestimate the appetite of sport fans, (especially male ones!) You may also want to pick up some covered, compartmentalized ‘carry-out’ containers; men love these and you can find them at dollar stores in packets of 10 for a dollar.
I often keep covered carry-out or pre-made item’s plastic containers in which to give away food. (“Recycle, Reduce, Reuse”). Foil pans are in all stores, (and cheap in dollar markets), and are also good for giving away food. Try never to give food on plates or in containers that you want to keep; you may not get them back. People may be too rushed to remember, or embarrassed if they break, or give them ‘back’ to the wrong person.(My aunt ‘returned’ my mother’s best cake dish to her next door neighbor.The woman took it and never told my aunt that it wasn’t hers!). If you want to use ‘real’ plates or bowls, use any odd pieces you may have or buy some at your local dollar store or  from you favorite charity thrift store. And put a note on your gift to pass the plate/bowl along.

Some people consider chicken wings another ‘must have’. My next post (I hope) will be on chicken wings and how easy it is to make them and how to make a variety of them.

 

3 Potato Skins  (9)

Make your own Potato Skins; make them healthier and wow ’em in the process.
Scrub potatoes and peel them in long strips. Place the strips in cold water and make mashed or Parsley Potatoes [December Archive], withe the insides, especially if you are making the Ham Casserole or other recipe for the party.

Line a flat baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Brush with vegetable oil of your choice,(I prefer regular olive or peanut oil), and sprinkle with salt,(preferably sea salt, but any will do).
Place the potato skins outside-down on the prepared baking sheet, brush the insides (top) with  vegetable oil and sprinkle them with…whatever you like! Some ideas are: Cheddar cheese; Pepper Jack cheese, parsley/ paprika/rosemary; chipotle; garlic/oregano; chives, with salt and pepper; Italian seasoning, (parsley, basil, marjoram); turmeric/ garlic; garam masala; or any group of herbs you like; mix or match them with cheeses, too.

Bake at 400F until very firm. When cool, these may be frozen wrapped well, with paper or plastic between the layers, and after thawing, can then be re-crisped in a hot oven before serving.

Don’t forget a fruit. A fruit tray is not hard to make and much less expensive if you do the slicing yourself. Fruits that will quickly oxidize,(turn brown), like bananas, apples and pears, will not do so as rapidly if they are dipped in either citrus soda or pineapple juice.Some people use lemon juice,[wince!].
If even THAT is too much trouble or you don’t feel that you will have the time, make a fruit salad, and feel free to use canned/jarred pineapple, plums, peaches, mandarin oranges, berries,(or frozen, thawed berries).This can be made a day or two ahead of time, and you’ll be glad it’s there.

Have plenty of ice and non-alcoholic drinks…good water, coffee, sodas and teas, with sugar and sweeteners on the side. Limit the alcohol if serving and cut it off long before your guests need to leave.Make sure they eat and drink plenty of clear fluids before and after.

Make sure there is a variety of chips, pretzels and/or popcorn or other non-sugary snacks. Avoid messy desserts and melting ones, such as those with whipped cream or ice cream, puddings and ‘molten cakes’. You are better off with cupcakes, muffins or bar-type cakes,(brownies, etc.), than a cake you need to cut. Cakes are seldom  pretty once they are  cut and are often a sticky mess; men, especially, don’t want to deal with the mess, (and you don’t need it on our floor or in the rugs).Plus, it takes up a lot of table room, you can put muffins and bar cookies stacked or in a basket.

I hope to get back with more recipes; if you have any questions, please shoot them my way! And no matter who wins or loses, I hope you at least get a kick out of the SuperBowl ads, like I do

Pitfalls and Parties/Savory Bread Rolls

These easy bread rolls can be made with meat and cheese or as vegan- vegetable.They eaten warm or cold.

I know that the thought of hosting puts fear into many people. I may have jumped into telling you what to serve instead of how to serve guests.
When I had dinner parties, showers or receptions, I found that some people were downright intimidated by my offerings. You may have seen a buffet and thought, “I could never do that!” You probably can, but you don’t have to. Hosting can be fun, rewarding and make everyone think you are something, or it can stress you out, make you swear ‘Never again!” and make everyone think you are a witch, (and it wasn’t even a Halloween party.) You can make offerings short and simple, or pull out all the stops. We will approach all of these, and let you decide which is appropriate and when.  It may take me several postings, but I will try to give you tips and hopefully, some confidence.

 

Plan as far ahead as possible and do whatever you can as far ahead as possible. When you find the confidence, it will come easier each time. You will not only know the pitfalls and learn from your mistakes,( you will make mistakes), but you will have things in mind and on hand that you need, whether it be figuring out what to serve to where overnight guest will sleep. We’ll talk about it all upcoming in this blog.

 

You can over-do a good thing.

The first shower I threw was for an expectant mother. I made homemade cake with homemade filling and decorated it with blue and pink flowers. I molded flavored candy in bootie, rattle, baby bottle, (etc.), shapes in pink and blue. I made Madeline cookies dipped in pink and blue icing. I made finger sandwiches, nut cups and tea; I made coffee with all the amenities .I put up pink and blue streamers, made pink and blue sock dollies. I had several games, one of which was a basket filled with small baby items which I had the guests look at for 30 seconds and whoever remembered the most, got a prize; the mom got the items. It was something, I can tell you. But I did several things wrong:

#1. For whatever reason, when I have asked schools or churches to use their facilities, my group has been bumped at the last minute for someone else. Something about me and my plans seem to scream “Expendable”! Try to have your affairs in your home or pay for a site. In the occasion of the baby shower, I was supposed to have use of a school cafeteria. I was bumped for an Irish step-dancing class. As big as a book-lover as I am, I hated  but was desperate enough, to ask to use the school’s library. The library was on the third floor; the stairs leading directly to it were closed so the dancers’ bored-and-waiting siblings would not wander the school. So I had to all the food, decorations, gifts, etc, across the school, up one flight, across again, up another flight, then across the school again. I had to carry the hot coffee and tea from the cafeteria in the same pattern, very carefully and very slowly.

#2.I just plain over-did it.

I did not hear, “Oh, how lovely” or “How nice”. What I heard was, “I can’t believe how much you did”, to the point that a week later at another function I heard, “I kept telling Jim, (Julie, Bob), that I couldn’t believe how much you did”. It looked like I worked hard. Hosting should never look like you worked hard, and I want to see that you work as little as possible when pulling off your parties. I was not a close friend of the mom-to-be; I had taken it upon myself for the group from the school, but it may not have been my place, which may have added to the discomfort level of the others.

Don’t be too eager to please; only host when appropriate.

#3. I presumed on help.

Now, you should have everything under control, I mean, things happen. But if you accept help, make sure it is something that you can do without, or have a back-up plan. A friend of the mom’s volunteered a special punch. I planned on it; she changed the type without telling me.  What she made did not go with the food I had and the guests drank it because it was too warm for the coffee and tea. I felt stressed; it was a problem as the taste combinations were really being off.

AND I failed to be sure that some of those who attended, (whom I had always stayed to help), would/could stay there to help me. So I ended up doing the hallway-stair set-up marathon in reverse, by myself.

 

On the other hand, for years afterward I hosted a Christmas piano recital in my home for several years running, which were always a huge success.

Always be ready with extra food:

My sons were homeschooling at the time and they were studying with the same piano teacher as some of their homeschooled friends. The piano teacher had stopped having Christmas concerts but I decided that the kids needed to gain confidence and show off their skills, so every December we had our own little recital with their friends, the parents and a few adult guests.

I made my batches of Christmas cookies, candies and bread early, and froze either some of the dough or some of the finished goods for Christmas; (I did this up to a week in advance; the candy, maybe earlier.)

The day before the recital, (or the day of, if I held it on a weekday evening instead of a weekend afternoon),

I took the coffee table out, gathered every chair I could find and even a bench, (on which I put a folded quilt), and made several layers of seating in the living room behind the piano. We do not have a large living room; everyone understood when they sat knee-to knee at times.

While people gathered, I had Christmas music playing softly in the background on a CD. And I had small gifts for the performers.

Just before everyone arrived I made tea and coffee and spread them out on my dining table with the goodies for after the recitals. The children did whatever made them comfortable besides playing the piano; some sang, one played the guitar, one read a poem as well.

After one of the afternoon recitals a few of the guests lingered. I could see that the cheese ball and few other non-sweets were gone and the folk looked hungry. Fortunately, I was ready. I knew that I had savory bread roll-ups in my freezer. I pulled them out, warmed them in the microwave them and they were a hit, as expected. These are so handy and good. Make more than one type at a time. Slice, wrap well and freeze. These are great for snacks, late company, late-night movie watching, brunches and are our family’s traditional holiday morning breakfast. They are easy to get ready, are not messy, are a little special and will hold you over while you are waiting to eat a big mid-day meal. Guests will be impressed with the taste, the heartiness and the fact that you have them ready with next to no effort when you need them.

 

Savory Bread Roll-ups

 

If bread making is your thing, make basic dough. If you have a bread machine, pull it out. If not, use frozen bread dough, (thawed, of course).

Roll into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Brush with melted butter or margarine. Spread fillings (recipes to follow), to within two inches from all sides. Fold in the short sides; roll up from one long side to another, Pinch ends and press to close. Place on a cookie or baking sheet, which has been brushed with butter or margarine,(or lined with parchment paper); curve bread roll  if necessary. Slice or snip slits through top layer about 3-4 inches apart. Cover with clean kitchen towel , waxed paper or foil; let rise to double in size in a warm spot. Uncover and brush with melted butter or margarine. Bake at 325F for about 45 minutes- 1 hour, or until the bread is thoroughly browned.(Do not cook at a higher temperature; the middle will not bake).

Meat Filling Suggestions:

Chopped roast beef, or shredded roast beef lunch meat with shredded medium–to sharp cheddar cheese; (a little prepared horseradish sauce optional).

Shredded ham with mild cheddar cheese

Shredded turkey (or turkey lunch meat) with pepper jack cheese

Pepperoni or salami with mozzarella or provolone cheese

Cheese Filling Suggestions:

Any cheese, preferably with sautéed onions

Soft cheeses, (cream cheese, Neufchatel, mascarpone) with herbs and or dried vegetables:

[ Italian blend, or basil, parsley and marjoram;

Southwest blend or any favorite chili powder, (chipotle, mesquite, etc), cumin,for example]

Mixed with red or green salsa

Seeded,(poppy, pumpkin, caraway, sesame)

Mixed with red hot sauce

Mixed with sautéed vegetables; onions

Any favorite cheese spread, (pimento cheese, onion dip, avocado)

 

Vegetable Filling Suggestions:

Sautéed or caramelized onions

Hummus,( regular or vegetable, or mixed with seeds)

Sautéed vegetable combinations, (mix & match): onions, tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, asparagus

Dehydrated vegetable flakes, (available often mixed in supermarkets or separate, (tomatoes, peppers), usually in specialty markets

Drained, mashed white beans (canned or homemade) with onions or garlic; chives, parsley, white pepper; dehydrated vegetables

Experiment and enjoy!

Note: Sometime after I posted this Fae, of “Fae’s Twist and Tango” posted a lovely alternative: use puff pastry instead of bread dough.Fae ‘s post with her version of fillings can be seen  here: Fae’s Savory Braided Puff Pastry.

If you have not visited Fae’s blog, please do!She not only has lovely recipes, but  photos and fascinating  stories from her many travels.

Thank you for letting me share this, Fae!

And please join me and fellow writers on a shared blog: “Four Foxes, One Hound” here, on WordPress.Four Foxes, One Hound