DIY hands-on dinner parties are always fun, interactive and convenient when it comes to dietary restrictions and preferences. It’s also a great way to answer that age old party question, “What can I do to help?”
One of my fave kinds of food parties is a taco fiesta! You can offer a variety of meat and vegetarian options, such as slow cooked chili-pork to ginger-lime marinated chicken and cumin grilled squash. Or go coastal and grill up some shrimp or Alaska cod filets! For your veggie friends, be sure to have slow simmered garlicky black beans or cilantro studded quinoa.
Set out a variety of cheeses like queso fresco, feta, or goat cheese and lots of fresh salsas from red to green to tropical (think diced mango & pineapples, etc.). Offer up soft flour tortillas and corn tortillas for the gluten free gang.
Pickly or crunchy add ins like my Red Onion Escabeche Veggies or shaved green cabbage are a must and are great to top my Chili & Lime Slow Cooked Pork tacos.
And don’t forget to serve it all up with a cool pitcher of margaritas, chilled beers and Sparkling Limeade!
So get your fiesta on with friends and make your next get together a DIY taco party! –Kathy
Photo from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table.
Chili & Lime Slow-Cooked Pork with Red Onion Escabeche and Warm Tortillas
Makes 6 hearty servings
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon coriander seed, crushed
1 tablespoon salt
1 boneless pork butt (shoulder), about 3 pounds, cut into 2 pieces
2 large tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 large carrots, julienned
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons corn or other vegetable oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (about 1 bunch)
1 teaspoon salt
Warm corn tortillas
Salsa or freshly made pico de gallo
Queso fresco (Mexican-style fresh cheese)
Fresh cilantro sprigs
To prepare the pork, mix the chili powder, coriander seed, and salt in a large, shallow bowl. Roll the pork in the mixture, taking up all the seasoning.
Put the pork in a slow-cooker, add the remaining ingredients, and set the cooker on high. Let cook for 8 hours—or up to 10 hours if you’re still at work!
When ready to serve, mix the escabeche ingredients well, then place in a serving dish. Shred the pork and place in a large serving bowl with some of the cooking liquid.
Serve the pork with the escabeche and accompaniments. Diners build their own “soft tacos,” then squeeze lime juice over the filling before folding.
Chef’s Note: To heat tortillas, place them, one by one, on a dry skillet over medium-high heat and turn frequently. As they are heated, slip them between the folds of a clean dish towel or cloth napkin. Wrap the towel in foil (or put into a small casserole dish and cover) to steam in their own heat and moisture. Or, microwave the tortillas very briefly and put into a napkin as above. Or, wrap several tortillas in a foil packet and steam them in a steamer until just heated through; use directly from the foil or wrap in a towel as described above.
Recipe from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table.
3 Tbsp. finely minced lime zest (with no white pith)
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
3 cups chilled sparkling water
Garnish: long fresh lemon and lime zest twists
Combine the zest, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a quick boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute then remove from heat and let cool.
In a large pitcher combine the cooled sugar syrup, lime juice and the sparkling water.
Serve over ice and garnish with citrus twists.
Photo and recipe by Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen®.
Quick: name 3 side dishes for your next barbeque. I bet fruit salad was on that list! Put down that recipe for Waldorf salad and get creative with new fruit salad ideas.
A fave d’lish trick is to mix freshly squeezed lemon juice with a local honey; then add in some chopped freshly picked mint from the garden. Toss this with juicy peach wedges or halved apricots – yum!
Try grilling thick slices of pineapple and then sprinkling them with a touch of ground chipotle chili, a touch of lime juice, and a quick scatter in some chopped cilantro. My mouth is watering just thinking about this one.
Icy cold watermelon chunks are terrific when tossed with feta cheese, chopped fresh basil, kalamata olives and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! Now that’s a NEW salad everyone will love!
So think outside of the box and try a new spin on fruit salad…and don’t forget to tell me how you like your refreshing summer side! – Kathy
Photo by Kathy Casey Food Studios®.
Succulent Summer Stone Fruits with Lavender- Lemon Honey Syrup
Makes about 6 servings
Lavander Lemon Honey Syrup
1/2 cup high quality local honey
1/2 cup water
8 ea fresh lavander flowers, unsprayed and rinsed (or 1 tablespoon dry)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
an assortment such as the following of fresh ripe stone fruits to make about 4 cups after cutting:
-peaches, peeled, pitted and cut in wedges
-large apricots, pitted and cut in wedges
-plums, pitted and cut in wedges
-nectarines, pitted and cut in wedges
-pitted fresh cherries
Fresh lavender flowers for garnish, if desired.
To make the lavender lemon honey syrup : In a small heavy bottom sauce pan combine the honey, water and lavender flowers. Bring to a low boil over med heat – being careful that ist does not foam up. Slowly simmer for about 10 minutes or until like thin pancake syrup. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Then add lemon juice and strain. Store refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.
To serve: In a large bowl toss with the lavender lemon honey syrup. Garnish with fresh lavender flowers if desired.
Recipe by Kathy Casey Food Studios®.
Todd English’s Watermelon, Fennel and Black Olive Salad with Feta Cheese
One of my all-time favorite watermelon recipes is chef Todd English’s. He embellishes a melon salad with the distinctive flavors of fennel, feta and kalamata olives contrasted against the cool red-glistening fruit. The recipe was originally featured in the Star Palate cookbook, whose proceeds benefited the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Makes 8 servings
4 cups seeded watermelon chunks
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced on a Japanese mandoline (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 large red onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 bunch green onions, green part only, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Put the watermelon, fennel, olives, red onion, green onion, basil leaves, and feta in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Divide among salad plates and serve immediately.
Adapted from “Star Palate: Celebrity Cookbook for a Cure” by Tami Agassi and Kathy Casey
One of the surefire signs of summer is sweet, juicy strawberries appearing at the market! They’re the perfect sweet treats whether eaten out of hand or piled high on shortcake topped with whipped cream or dipped in warm chocolate. Yum! How about getting a little savory with your strawberries this year?
Local berries drizzled with balsamic glaze and a few twists of fresh-cracked black pepper make for a perfect balance of sweet and savory. Ever tried that combo as an ice cream? Check out Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream shop for their inspired balsamic strawberry ice cream!
They’re also perfect in salads – my Strawberry & Spinach Salad with sweet Walla Walla onions, goat cheese and my Poppyseed–Ginger Vinaigrette is one of my favorite summer recipes.
And don’t forget to muddle some in a summer- sipper like in my d’lish Strawberry Shag. It teams lightly-sugared strawberries with fresh basil! Shaken with vodka and lemon juice, this refreshing cooler is perfect to start any patio party!
Get creative and enjoy some “first of summer” strawberries! -Kathy
Spinach & Strawberry Salad with Glazed Almonds & Lowfat Poppyseed–Ginger Vinaigrette
Makes about 6 servings
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon salad oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
8 cups baby spinach
2 cups strawberries, stemmed and halved or quartered, depending upon size
1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet white onions, such as Walla Walla sweets, if in season
To make vinaigrette: In a blender combine the white wine vinegar, strawberries and ginger. Process until it is a smooth puree. Then add the remaining ingredients (except for poppyseed) and blend until smooth. Stir in poppy seeds. Refrigerate until needed.
To make the glazed almonds: Lightly pan spray a baking sheet and set aside.
Place almonds and sugar in a non-stick skillet on high heat. Start stirring with a wooden spoon. Sugar will start to dissolve and then caramelize. Stir continuously to lightly toast almonds and coat with the sugar. When almonds and sugar are the color of dark amber and golden brown, quickly remove from the pan onto sprayed baking sheet.
Spread out with spoon and let cool totally before using. Break up before serving. NOTE: Do not touch sugar or almonds with fingers when cooking or immediately after cooking. It is molten sugar and very hot!
To make and assemble the salad: Place the spinach leaves in a large salad/serving bowl. Toss with the strawberries, onions and about 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette. Sprinkle almonds on the top of salad. Reserve extra vinaigrette for another use or serve extra on the side for those that desire more.
Recipe by Kathy Casey Food Studios®
(Photo from Kathy Casey’s Sips & Apps, Chronicle Books – Angie Norwood Browne)
Fresh basil lends a fun flavor note to the classic combination of strawberries and lemonade. Soda water introduces a lively sparkle.
Makes 1 drink
1 to 2 large sprigs fresh basil
1/4 cup Sugared Strawberries with juice (recipe follows)
1 1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
3 to 4 ounces chilled soda water
For garnishing: fresh strawberry, small basil leaf
In a cocktail shaker, press the basil and strawberries together with a muddler to release the basil’s flavor. Fill the shaker with ice. Measure in the vodka and lemon juice. Cap and shake vigorously. Pour into a large glass, top with soda water, and stir. Garnish with a strawberry and basil leaf.
Makes enough for about 6 drinks
1 pint fresh strawberries, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Mix the ingredients and let sit for 15 minutes before using.
Recipe from Kathy Casey’s Sips & Apps, Chronicle Books.
Getting in the kitchen with kids is always fun; they make the best little sous chefs! I started cooking early with my mom and grandma – peeling fuzzy peaches and kneading breads (into fun shapes and characters). My all-time favorite task: adding lots of sprinkles on the cookies! Letting kids help prepare meals is also a great way to get around picky-eating habits, and get them interested in fun, healthy food too!
Are you throwing a kids’ party? A variety of interactive nibbles is terrific to serve. Try my Garden Ranch ‘n’ Veggie Deviled Eggs. These eggs are easy to whip up with ranch dressing. Kids will love to help peel and fill the eggs and sprinkle on the colorful, crunchy carrot and celery garnish.
Growing up, I always loved a classic Shirley Temple. My sweet twist on this recipe makes for a perfect treat or dessert! My Shirley Temple Cupcakes incorporates lemon-lime soda and maraschino cherries folded into no-fuss white cake! The kids will love to frost and garnish these deliciously adorable treats!
So put an apron on the kids and cook up some fun together! –Kathy
Photo by Kathy Casey Food Studios®
Garden Ranch ’n’ Veggie Deviled Eggs
Whether its after-school snack time or a backyard birthday party, these tasty little eggs are easy to make with the kids. The veggie topping adds a fun crunch.
1 dozen hard-cooked eggs (recipe follows)
1/2 cup pre-made ranch dressing
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp minced red bell pepper
2 Tbsp minced celery
2 Tbsp minced carrot
2 Tbsp pre-made ranch dressing
Halve the eggs lengthwise and transfer the yolks to a mixing bowl. Set the egg white halves on a platter, cover, and refrigerate.
With a fork, mash the yolks to a smooth consistency. Add the ranch dressing and parsley, and mix until smooth. (You can also do this in a mixing bowl with a whip attachment.)
Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain or large star tip, then pipe the mixture evenly into the egg white halves. Or fill the eggs with a spoon, dividing the filling evenly.
To make the topping, in a small bowl, mix the bell pepper, celery, and carrot together. Top each egg half with 1/4 teaspoon of the ranch dressing and a sprinkle of the veggie mixture.
1 dozen large chicken eggs
Place the eggs in a large nonreactive saucepan and add cold water to 1 inch above the eggs. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. Remove from the stove and run cool water over the eggs in the pan until they are cooled. When cool, carefully peel them under running water.
Recipe from Kathy Casey’s D’Lish Deviled Eggs, Andrews McMeel Publishing
Photo by Kathy Casey Food Studios®
Shirley Temple Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
1 box (18.25 oz) super-moist white cake mix
1 1/4 cups lemon-lime soda*
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 egg whites
1/4 cup chopped maraschino cherries (about 12 cherries)
1 container (12 oz) white frosting
Garnish: 36 maraschino cherries, halved
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners and set aside.
Place the cake mix, soda, oil and egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl and then mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in the chopped cherries.
Fill each lined cupcake cup 3/4 full with batter. Place pans in oven on a lower rack. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Frost each cupcake and decorate each cupcake with 3 cherry halves.
Cook’s Note: This recipe uses a 10–12 oz jar of maraschino cherries.
* Such as 7-UP, Sprite or Sierra Mist.
Recipe by Kathy Casey Food Studios®
As we’ve all heard, eating a healthy breakfast is important. It’s the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting your metabolism revved up for the day. But some of us just don’t have time to get it together in the mornings (especially without that first cup of joe!). Now, this is where smoothies come in!
Dust off your blender (I love my Vitamix!) then add in either fat-free yogurt or protein powder, some of your favorite fruits either fresh or frozen and filtered water. But don’t stop there!
Try new additions like matcha powder, flax seeds, goji berries, and even trusty peanut butter; these all are great smoothie boosters.
“Green” smoothies are ever popular these days, but don’t let the color fool you. They’re super healthy! I like to make mine with organic “green” juice, some protein powder, half a ripe banana to add natural sweetness, then blend it all up with half a peeled orange and add in more greens with handful of kale! Yes, it looks like Shrek made it – but it’s a great way to start your day and you’ll feel green goodness coursing through you!
For other smoothie-inspired recipes, check out my blogging friend Healthy Blender Recipes‘ recipe for VEGA Vegan Banana Vanilla Chai Green Protein Smoothie – wowza! -Kathy
Kathy’s Jump-Start Smoothie
Makes 1 serving
1/2 cup frozen fruits or fresh fruits
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp agave nectar (or sub honey for another all natural sweetener)
1/2 cup ice cubes
1/2 – 1 tsp flax seed (the more seeds – the more “texture”)
1 fresh kale leaf (optional)
Place ingredients in the order above and blend until smooth. Enjoy your healthy start to a great day!
Recipe by Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen®
Thanks to Washington’s amazingly diverse agricultural community, we are blessed with loads of farmers markets. Shopping for local products means you get the best of the best at the peak of its season!
They are also a great place to pick up produce you might not have tried before like nettles (great for flavorful soup) or freshly picked wild morel mushrooms to sauté serve alongside a sizzling steak, or make a rich sauce to top halibut!
Of course, downtown’s famous Pike Place Market is always a fun trip, but hey — new farmers markets are popping up all the time. Check out www.SeattleFarmersMarkets.org to see what’s new in the city!
Before you venture out, here are a few helpful tips:
-Wear comfortable shoes
-Have a couple of large reusable grocery bags with you (for all your great finds!)
-Bring cash (it’ll make the experience quicker and easier)
-My biggest tip is to carry a small notebook to record cooking notes and varietal info from the growers
So get out there and support local farmers markets! Don’t forget to leave a note on this blog with some of your favorite market finds. I would love to hear all about them! –Kathy
Pan-Roasted Halibut with Morel Mushroom Cream
The morel, one of the richest-tasting wild mushrooms, is a spring delight after long NW winters. Just a few morels will do you in a recipe, for their flavor is intense. Serve with sautéed fresh pea vines.
Makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, minced
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 cup coarse chopped fresh morel mushrooms (about 3 ounces), or 1/2 ounce dried morels, soaked in the white wine and then chopped
3 tablespoons brandy
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of white pepper
4 skinless halibut fillet portions (6 to 8 ounces each)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh chives for garnishing
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the shallot, garlic, and mushrooms, stirring often, for about 2 minutes, or until the shallot is translucent and mushrooms are tender. Add the brandy and wine and cook to reduce for about 5 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and slowly simmer, stirring often, for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to about 1 – 1 1/4 cups and lightly thickened. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth but with some texture still, about 30 seconds; be careful, because the sauce is very hot. Set aside and keep warm.
To cook the fish, preheat an oven to 450°F. Season the halibut with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in a large, heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the fillets until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the fish until just cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of the fillets.
To serve, place the fillets on warm plates spoon the sauce over them. Garnish with chives.
Chef’s Note: Prized halibut cheeks would be a tasty alternative when available. They range in size from 3 ounces to up to 1 pound each, depending on the size of the fish.
Recipe adapted from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table.