Category

Recipes

Easy Homemade Appetizers to Take to Any Gathering

I’m a big fan of making what I take to people’s gatherings but I follow a few simple rules: I must be able to make it ahead of time, serve it at room temperature and it must be a finger food of just a few bites-no plate required. Recently, baffled by what to bring to a friend’s annual lobster bake, I perused a collection of my family’s recipes and found two gems that fit all my requirements and would please all party-goers-  zucchini bars and pepperoni pizza bars.

Passed down from my great aunts, and compiled to a simple well-worn booklet by a distant cousin for a family reunion in 2008, I knew two things about what I was making to take one of my favorite annual events- both would be darn good and super easy.

Of all the excellent recipes in my family recipe collection, I chose these two because I thought the idea of dueling bars (one with and one without meat) would be ideal for noshing while sipping a summer cocktail and awaiting the main event.  These are not trendy recipes with lots of fancy ingredients, they are easy to follow, mix by hand treats the Italian women in my family served regularly, especially when having guests.

Recreate my family’s recipes to bring to your next gathering:

Aunt Louise’s Zucchini Appetizer

  • 3 cups of zucchini thinly sliced and quartered
  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1/2 cup parmesen cheese
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram (leaves or powder)
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 clove of finely chopped garlic

Mix all ingredients together by hand. Transfer into a greased 13×9 pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cool then cut into bars sized to your liking; serve; enjoy. Excellent served at room temperature; this appetizer satisfies as a side dish for dinner or even as a vegetarian main course.

Aunt Lorraine’s Pizza Appetizer

  • 1 & 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick of pepperoni, diced w/skin removed
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8oz muenster cheese, diced
  • Oregano or Italian seasoning mix

Mix eggs, milk and flour to remove any lumps. add remaining ingredients and combine well. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Cool then cut into bars sized to your liking; serve; enjoy. These can be served hot, or at room temperature. This appetizer look and tastes like a deep dish pepperoni pizza.

Serving suggestion: Be the best guest at the party and bring a plate or platter the hosts can keep. The kindness of your hosts should not end in a flurry of empty dish drop offs the following day. I keep a stock of cute plastic platters and bowls on hand (purchased for a little over a dollar at my local Christmas Tree Shop) so that even when an impromptu gathering pops up I am prepared to plate well.

-Simplifying your appetizers one bar at a time, Jess

Share your easy appetizer success stories with us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch

Oysters & White Wine – A Guide to the Perfect Pairing

Amazing Matriarch is here to help you host the perfect oyster & white wine paring be it for your next party, or a night in with your special someone.

The Oysters

The best way to pick oysters is to do a taste test; whether it be with a marked, mixed dozen at home or at a local raw bar (check out the 10best oyster bars in Boston or search 10best.com  for ideas in your city from other local experts) a sampling will hep you decide what you want to serve.

There’s been a battle between east and west coast oysters for years, personally I find oysters from each coast equally enjoyable, while my husband prefers the more mild flavors and smaller since of west coast oysters. The difference between oyster from each coast is that you’ll find large, firm, meaty morsels of high salinity in the shells of east coast oysters and a slightly sweet melon and cucumber flavor in the smaller, more delicate west coast oysters.

A mix of both is always nice, but  as an east coaster with easy access to briny delights from local waters year-round; who buy into the fresh is  best when it comes to food (especially raw seafood) movement, I recommend sourcing oysters from local farmers and seafood shacks.

Popular east coast oysters, that are easily accessible and worth shucking at home include:

Oysters on the half shell at home
Oysters on the half shell at home
  • Wellfleet – large, meaty, clean tasting with excellent salinity
  • PEI, Malpeque– tender, the brininess and sweetness are in balance
  • Island Creek– rich, fatty meat with a buttery finish in a deep cup
  • Blue Point– medium in size with a mild ocean flavor, meaty and from in texture

Popular west coast oysters worth seeking out include:

  • Kumamoto– cucumber flavor, deep cups, small in size
  • Fanny Bay– strong cucumber flavor, meaty and firm

Serve shucked on a platter of crushed ice or alongside shucking knives and gloves (oven mitts work well) for a more casual “shuck your own” event.

The Sauces

Meeting Chef Justin Shoults
Meeting Chef Justin Shoults

Whatever oysters you choose to serve and however you choose to serve them, be sure to have a sampling of sauces on hand:

  • Tabasco: the watery nature of tabasco allows for a hint of heat without too much bulk to overwhelm the oyster’s texture
  • Lemon wedges: technically not a sauce, just a squeeze of lemon over your oyster is all you need to counterbalance the salinity of what’s in the cups
  • Cocktail sauce: “beginners” eat oysters with cocktail sauce, but those who truly enjoy the oyster prefer to eat it without as the heft of the this sauce. It’s strong flavor and dense texture can overwhelm the oyster (do not even think of putting on west coast oysters) so use sparingly.
  • Mignonette– this vinegar based sauce is easy to prepare and can be altered using various add in (herbs, type of vinegar, & flavoring agents like ginger). My favoirte, simple mignonette to make is from Ina Garten and Food Network.
  • Herbed Creme Fraiche– This is delightful on both east and west coast oysters where the mild flavor enhances the oyster; a sorel laced version I tasted at a seminar presented by Brine’s Chef, Justin Shoults at the 2015 Nantucket Wine Festival was perfect, but other herbs can easily be subbed in, just be sure to puree the herbs as to avoid a chunky sauce.

 

The Wine

Sampling of whites with oysters
Sampling of whites with oysters

I typically pair my oysters with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Luckily, when participating in the Flight of the Oyster tasting at The Nantucket Wine Festival there was an expert (Philippe Newlin) on hand to create a perfect pairing with  dry to sweet Bordeaux; changing how I look at my at home raw bar drink selection forever.

Six that worked well:

  • Sirech Les Deux Terroirs Blanc 2013, Pessac-Leognan
  • Chateau Marjosse 2013, Entre-Deux-Mers
  • Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc 2013, Pessac-Leognan
  • Chateau Cos d’Estournel Blanc 2013, Medoc
  • Hauts de Smith Blanc 2012, Pessac-Leognan
  • Chateau Suduiraut 2007, Pessac-Leognan

Pour your sips and savor the oysters finding the combination that calls to you and filling that glass to the top.

-Helping you rock the raw bar, Jess

What’s your favorite oyster pairing? Tell us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch

 

 

Become a Summer Supper Superhero: Grill Once, Eat Three Times

When summer days are filled with outdoor fun, dinner preparation often falls through the cracks leaving this matriarch feeling not so amazing. My default to dinner is ordering pizza, hitting the drive through, whipping up mac n cheese or hot dogs day after day. Committed to ending the cycle of sub-par summer food, I’ve been testing recipes that can conquer multiple nights with simple tweaks that are no more difficult than boiling a box of mac n’ cheese. Grill once and have the making of dinner for three nights- a Monday’s mixed grill, taco “Tuesday”, and a pasta bar.

Night 1: Mixed Grill w/dipping sauce

Choose several meats to grill and lightly season with olive oil, salt and pepper (so you can alter their flavor profiles for future nights). My most recent variety pack included chicken cutlets, pork tenderloin and sausage because each cooks quickly, is enjoyed by all members of my family and offers versatility to transform in different dishes with very little effort.  Whatever you do, grill enough that you’ll have lots of leftovers.

Grill to your liking and serve alongside a salad  (tomato, cucumber and feta & watermelon caprese right now and coleslaw are in my current salad rotation) or a selection of grilled veggies, which will double as add in for your pasta bar and taco toppings.

Since the meats are very lightly seasoned, add a few dipping sauces for a little more “umph”. Cooking Light’s July issue has a recipe for Nuoc Cham that’s easy to prep and stays fresh for several days; it’s healthy and flavorful and works well on everything. My kids will eat anything dipped in ranch dressing so I put that on their plates, alongside my favorite bottled BBQ sauce for a trifecta of fun sauces that everyone can agree on.

Night 2: Taco “Tuesday” (or any day)

tacos-245241_1920 Chop some leftover chicken and pork tenderloin, quickly warm in a skillet and sprinkle with taco seasoning (you may need to add a touch of water to incorporate the sauce into the meat). To save sodium make your own:

  • 2 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika (hot, smoked or regular)
  • 1 tsp red pepper (if you like some spice)

Store in an airtight container to use when needed; add 1 tsp cornstarch to keep from sticking if it is humid. Or save time; buy a packet at the grocery store.

While meat is warming (about 5 minutes as to not overcook), wrap soft taco shells in foil and place in oven, set to 350; when oven has preheated shells will be warm.

Serve with your favorite salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream and leftover salad from Monday (a spicy slaw tops tacos nicely).

Night 3: Pasta Bar

spaghetti-709337_1920Set up two or three sauce options, dice  and warm (the microwave works well) the remaining meats and place in separate bowls. Sauté vegetables (or use pre-grilled veggies from night one) while pasta cooks. Then set out for everyone to make their own pasta creation.

My kids love pasta with “red sauce” so I typically keep a container of my homemade sauce frozen at all times, but when I run out and it’s too hot to even think of making more I turn to a jar of store bought. Rao’s wins taste test after taste test but comes with a hefty price tag ($9). My kids are just as happy chowing down on Ragu and at a much lower cost, I’m happy saving.

A tip to buy the healthiest sauce available is to read the list of ingredients, check preservatives, sodium and sugar content and try to buy a sauce that has very few ingredients.

I enjoy a fresh pesto and if I don’t have some on hand I buy a container from a local farmer’s market or Whole Foods. If you’re inclined to make your own, pesto freezes well if you divide the olive oil and drizzle some over the top in an airtight container adding the cheese when it has been defrosted.

My husband’s favorite is alfredo sauce; it’s tasty but not waistline friendly. I trick him by providing all the flavor with fewer calories using a tried and true Food Network recipe that I can prep while the pasta is cooking. I like to mix my alfredo with a pinch of red pepper and a tablespoon of tomato sauce.

Pair with a leafy green salad (use the bags to save time), a tall cup of cold milk for the kids, a glass of wine for yourself then sit back and enjoy the creative combination your family puts together without any complaints for the third night in a row.

-Making it easy to feed your family when the weather’s warm, Jess

Tell us how you simplify supper-time via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch

 

An Unexpected Recipe: Use Your Scraps To Make a Great Stock

Amazing Matriarch’s Recipe for Using it All in Two Simple Stocks

Th last time I was taking the final bits of meat off of a store bought rotisserie chicken (one of my favorite dinner cheats since it can become so may wonderful things with so little effort), I created a savory stock that was easy to store and was ready to use:

  • toss the bones into a big pot

Added

  • an unpeeled onion, chopped in half
  • 2 wilted ribs of celery
  • 2 unpeeled, limp carrots
  • a few cloves of smashed garlic
  • a bay leaf

Fill the pot with water and sprinkle in some salt and pepper (and any herbs of choice; I tied a bunch of thyme together because it was in need of use) then let it come to a boil.

Once it boils, reduce the heat to simmer, set a timer for an hour to 2 and walk away.

Letting the stock develop it’s flavor for the two hours I had at home while my 2 year old took a nap, the stock was ready before she woke.  I strained the mixture, saving only the stock, which I cooled that afternoon while at a playdate, poured into freezer containers upon our return, and put away until I was ready to use.

This simple stock was made from things I was ready to waste; it’s been used in an easy and excellent lentil soup:

  • Boil lentils in stock according to lentil package directions
  • Add a bit of spice with a pinch of red pepper flakes while boiling
  • Top with a dusting of grated parmesan cheese

And as the base of a sauce in a 20 minute, one pan, Pork Medallions with Grainy Mustard Sauce I found in the July, 2015  issue of Cooking Light that even my picky eater ate all up.

But the stock magic does not stop there as I found myself wondering if I could create a delicious vegetable stock from the stalks of broccoli, and cauliflower I was cutting, and use the entire vegetable rather than let it go to waste. This recipe tricked my carnivorous husband into thinking it was regular chicken stock in his favorite side dishes:

  • Put all your broccoli and cauliflower, or scraps from any vegetable of choice (leaves, stems, etc) into a large pot

Alter by adding any vegetables you have on hand; the broth’s flavor will alter based on what’s in it. I used:

  • A few ribs of celery (a great use for when it goes past its prime)
  • A few carrots (I like to use the ones that hid in the back of my produce drawer too long and go limp)
  • Several cloves of crushed, unpeeled garlic
  • One unpeeled onion chopped in half
  • One bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper (and any fresh herbs you may have on hand)

Then I followed the same procedure as with the chicken stock and ended up with an equally as delicious, meat free broth at the ready. It’s been added to quinoa and couscous; filling my grains with flavor before adding any mix-ins.

This stock is ideal for #meatlessmonday or any day you want to be a vegetarian but don’t want to sacrifice flavor; or to get more nutrients into vegetable averse children or spouses.

Made in spare time; these stocks are an inexpensive and flavorful alternative to store bought that can be easily stored in your freezer, and quickly defrosted when you’re ready to use.

– Making it easy to make use of it all in the kitchen, Jess

Share your use the scraps stocks with us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch

Snacks that Outshine the Lit at Book Club

Hosting book club always leads to a menu complete with snacks from Trader Joe’s, cheese, wine and recipes I’ve been dying to try. My May menu was inspired by spring, a longing for summer and a desire to try something different. Having actually finished the book, The Girl on the Train, I was not only ready to discuss the literature (total thriller, few clues, was never sure of the ending) but excited to sit, eat and drink with the ladies I’ve been sharing lit with since 2010.

Along with my requisite cheese plate and no-fuss heat and serve Trader Joe’ s Shrimp Gyoza, I added two healthy, homemade appetizers and a crock pot dessert that made the ladies in my book club happy.

A big fan of green peas, I’d been dying to try Cooking Light’s Sweet Pea Crostini with Ricotta from the April, 2015 magazine. Feeling a little lazy (and entertaining a 2 year old all day), I skipped the whole make your own ricotta from Greek yogurt thing, and simply bought a small container of fat free ricotta cheese at my local market. This saved me a bit of time and clean-up so I could move along to other recipes before straightening out the disaster area I call my downstairs (in all fairness lots of fun is had here by my kids, but I never can quite keep up with the cleaning).IMG_2112

Assembled beforehand, these look lovely, but I opted for a make your own serving style as to limit waste because this pea spread would be fabulous on We Are Not Martha’s, Lemon Parmesan Spring Flatbread with Ricotta and Peas.

Along with the homemade crostini, I whipped up an Eating Well bean salad. Anyone with a blender, knife and can opener can master this healthy salad. A mixture of pink beans, yellow peppers, and edamame is topped with an herb focused avocado dressing that whips up in the blender in under a minute.  Served cold or at room temperature this meat free, protein packed powerhouse of  salad was flavorful and filling.

To drink we enjoyed our white and red, but in I was inspired to mix us a little sip of summer. Using pre-made Trader Joe’s Watermelon Cucumber Cooler I added a cup and 1/2 of silver tequila and a small bottle of champagne. Gently stirred, it was served in a glass over ice. This sipper was a star.

So much so that I made similar by the glass cocktails for a smaller crowd a few days later, altering the recipe to create something slightly different. Using the same Trader Joe’s Watermelon Cucumber Cooler, I subbed in a shot of  Privateer Rum and a splash of club soda. This cocktail was another winner and has me thinking that I’ll be stocking up on Trader Joe’s Watermelon Cucumber Cooler to use at all my summer gatherings.

A baker I am not; so when I found a crockpot rice pudding recipe in the June, 2015  issue of Cooking Light, I was determined to test it out, and book club gave me the perfect excuse.  This crockpot special features cardamom and vanilla beans and is topped with fresh seasonal fruit (peaches are suggested, I used nectarines).One of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made, all this recipe needed was a quick mix before I set it for 7 and 1/2 hours and forgot it for the day. The results were rich and creamy, with a sweetness that was not too strong and the essence of cardamom and vanilla. Comfort in a bowl that when served room temperature worked well for a cool spring evening.

This spread was as special as the ladies I was lucky enough to share it with.

-Finding excuses for good food and drinks on every occasion, Jess

Share your entertaining experiences with us! Via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch. 

Kidgits is Calling All Young Foodies for 1st Annual Lil Chefs Event

Kidgits

The Simon Malls Kidgits Club is whipping up some creative cuisine and loads of fun with this first annual event for Lil Chefs. On Saturday, May 16th, 2015 from 12pm – 2pm, children will experience, hands-on, the endless possibilities of food pairing. At the end of the day you can expect a new generation foodies to emerge. Hosted in the Macy’s Center Court at the South Shore Plaza (250 Granite Street, Braintree, MA), there will be a variety of food focused activities including:

Never too young to learn to cook
Never too young to learn to cook
  • Healthy Snack Ideas
  • Decorating Desserts
  • Food Samples
  • Disney and Lego Activities
  • Design your own Chefs Hat Craft
  • Kidgits Club Members will receive a Free Chefs Hat & Apron

All Kidgits are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to the event to be donated to The Braintree Food Pantry to help those in need.

The Kidgits Club, which recently launced at the South Shore Plaza, is a fun and interactive program that focuses on health, wellness, education, safety and entertainment for children ages 3-8. For more information on how to become a member, visit www.simon.com/kidgets.

One Amazing Margarita to Celebrate Cinco De Mayo

Nothing beats a Margarita, be it on the rocks or in the blender, especially when the weather’s warm and the sun is shining. Best of all tequila is the only spirit that is not a depressant (or so a bartender selling me a cocktail once said), so you can drink it all day without getting sleepy (Silver Tequila is a great sub for Vodka in a Bloody Mary).

Because this member of the Amazing Matriarch team believes in the value of a stiff drink, you may want adjust the quantity and add a little extra simple syrup, Triple Sec or Cointreau to your shaker.

Recreate Jess’s favorite recipe (a riff on the Silver Coin served at Jasper White’s Summer Shack), served on the rocks with salt to pair with your fiesta this evening:

Recipe: 

  • 2oz Silver Tequila (Patron is a good choice)
  • 1oz Fresh squeezed lime juice (do not use the bottled lime juice or the drink will not be the same)
  • 1/2oz Simple syrup (more to taste)
  • Salt (for the rim)

Run a lime wedge along the edge of the glass, dip into a plate covered in salt (kosher, sea or cocktail salt) or sugar if you like a sweeter drink. Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, strain into ice filled glass, garnish with lime wheel or wedge. Sip and enjoy with your Cinco De Mayo spread.

-Mixing up a cocktail creation for every occasion, Jess

Share your Cinco De Mayo drink ideas with us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us using#amazingmatriarch. 

Saucy Secret Revealed: One Sauce, Several Uses

This sauce is must add to your regular rotation. It acts as a marinade for grilled meat (pork, beef, bone in chicken) or even vegetables. Then, instead of being discarded, it can be boiled down to use as a sauce to serve over the main course or incorporated into side dishes (I love it mixed into rice, quinoa, or bulgur w/ grilled vegetables, chopped scallions and a few toasted sesame seeds).

Developing an umami packed sweet flavor, this sauce is sure to be a hit with your family. It’s also elegant enough to serve at a dinner party.

Basic Recipe:

  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 3 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 to 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 head of smashed garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Additional Options:

  • 1 tbsp crushed ginger
  • 1 thinly sliced hot pepper (seeded for less heat) OR
  • 1tbsp Sambal olek OR
  • 1tbsp Sirarcha
  • 1 thinly sliced onion or shallots

Replacements:

  • Agave syrup in place of brown sugar
  • canola oil in place of sesame oil
  • eliminate the rice wine vinegar
Photo via Flciker, Courtesy of Steven Depolo
Photo via Flickr, Courtesy of Steven Depolo

Mix all ingredients in a sealable bag, add meat or vegetables, shake to coat and refrigerate at least 2 hours(the flavor intensifies the longer it sits).

While meat/vegetables grill (a grill pan works in place of an outdoor grill), pour remaining sauce into a pot, bring to a boil and reduce until you reach your desired thickness. Serve atop meat or vegetables or mix into your favorite side dish.

You can play with the quantities in a large bowl to reach the flavor you desire. Or transform this sauce into a salad dressing by mixing the same ingredients in the following quantities.

Salad Dressing Adaptation:

  • 1/4 cup oil (canola, vegetable, olive)
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 tsp maple syrup or brown sugar (to taste)
  • Chopped scallions (optional)

If additional heat is desired add a pinch to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or a squirt of Sirarcha. Use to top green salads, or as a dressing (increase recipe to accommodate amount) for coleslaw or mix with your favorite grain.

Now you have one sauce that will pass the kid test, impress your significant other and wow your friends.

-Sharing a saucy little secret weapon to transform you into a kitchen pro, Jess

Share your final product with us! Find Amazing Matriarch on Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  #amazingmatriarch. 

%d bloggers like this: