Friday, July 6, 2007

Rosemary-Grilled Shrimp with Tuscan Bean Salad

A friend called me to figure out how to plan "Fourth of July" party. She had me design her Fourth of July invitations. The invitation to your party really sets the theme. She then said that she didn't want to have the same old thing menu. I gave her my never fail "Rosemary-Grilled Shrimp with Tuscan Bean Salad". This is the recipe that people LOVE!

So here goes:

Rosemary-Grilled Shrimp with Tuscan Bean Salad Recipe

2 lbs uncooked shrimp (peeled)
2 cans of white beans (large cans)
1 cup chopped and seeded tomatoes (you can add more if you like tomatoes)
1 red onion (chopped)
¼ olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon of flaked hot pepper (optional)

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Wisk until well blended. In a large zip lock bag place 3 tablespoons of marinade. Place shrimp in the refrigerator for a 1/2 hour. Turn shrimp once.

Place beans, tomatoes, onion and marinade in a bowl and gently mix. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Place shrimp on a skewer and cook on grill for no more than 3 minutes on each side.

I serve this with either orzo or rice and of course really good bread. This sooooo easy recipe wows the crowds.
Hope you enjoy.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, Ever

I was at a 4th of July party and was again asked to bring my famous “Ultimate Chocolate Chip” cookies. I know what you’re thinking , chocolate chip cookies are chocolate chip cookies. Not once you've eaten these. I usually ask people to sign a waiver stating that I cannot be sued for how tired you get making these cookies for everyone. Once you bring them somewhere not only are you asked back but only if you bring these cookies.

Before I give you the recipe, I just wanted to explain that the cooking time I have on here is not necessarily the amount of time you should cook them. Confused? A great baker friend of mine told me that she always pulled her cookies out before they are fully cooked. Never wait until they have even close to brown. The cookies will come out plumper and softer and may I add unbelievably good.

So that having been said, here goes.

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips*

1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips*
1 cup white chocolate chips*

( I like using Ghirardelli chocolate chips but it's up to you.)

Preheat oven at 375 degrees. Place flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; stir to combine. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture slowly. Beat until well blended. Stir in the chips. Drop dough by heaping teaspoon 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes (remember this could vary from oven to oven. Check after about 6 minutes to see how they are doing.) until the edges are not quite golden brown. Remember, don't overcook these cookies or they will not taste as good. Let cookies stand on a cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Remove cookies to wire rake; cool completely.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Come Down from the Ledge - Dinner Party Advice

A woman that I know was talking to me about how she has never had people over for dinner. She said that she had always wanted to but was afraid of failing. I asked her how she could fail when you have friends over? She said that she was afraid of not serving the right food and not setting things up correctly. She said that she always felt at ease with my get together's and that I always had things in control. I laughed and said you don't see how I am before the party. So I thought I would try to simplify for people how to throw a good dinner party.

1. Planning. From the moment I decide to have people over, I have a theme. What I mean by that is the food is the theme. Whether it's Italian, Greek, Mexican, etc, choose it and stick with it. From appetizer to dessert, it should all be consistent. I also like to look for recipes that are a little obscure. Who wants the same food all the time. Make it interesting, but also make it easy for you. I love "googling" the theme that I want and looking at recipes and deciding what I want to use. Just in case, this sounds too intimidating, you can always do take out and then put them in nice dishes. I've also done that. Quite honestly, I don't think people really care as long as 1) they don't have to cook and 2) they feel relaxed.

2. Inviting the Right Mix of People - I know it sounds strange, but I have a diverse mix of people I know. Although I usually like a lively conversation, sometimes views can differ drastically and some people are very vocal about their views. In that case, it just makes people feel uncomfortable.

3. Send an invitation - The invitation is the first glimpse of what kind of party it will be. It's very important to set to tone early. Decide if you want something casual or formal. Your guests will pick that up from the invitation you send them. Look at the examples that I sell to see what I'm talking about.

4. Preparation - Make sure that you prepare as much as you can before hand. I usually set the table the night before just so I can get it just right. I love an interesting table. I don't mean you have to spend a lot to decorate your table. I've been known to sprinkle jellybeans around the table for Easter or fake spiders for my Pumpkin Carving Parties. Cook what you can and spend the time you have to finish cooking talking to your guest. Everyone loves to be in the kitchen so take advantage of it and have drinks in there.

What I always remind people, these are your friends. Hopefully they are not there to judge you, but to enjoy your company. So relax!

If you have any questions, let me know.