Saturday, July 23, 2011

KATV: July 23, 2011

Three Entertaining Ideas for Summer
As Seen on KATV, Channel 7, Saturday Daybreak

You know I take photos, but I also plan weddings and events and I try to exercise a lot of the ideas I share with my brides and hostesses when I entertain at home.  Now, this has been a doozie of a summer and this means that much of my entertaining has been moved from outside on our deck back into our house.  I thought I would share with you three summer entertaining ideas that have been working for me that you might be able to use in your home.

First of all, have you ever been to someones home or an event where everything was laid out flat on the table.  I like to call this, "When Flat Attacks!"  While this is, of course, a utilitarian way to serve, especially buffet style, I like to vary the height of my food display to give it more interest.  Also, in our small house, it helps to bring items up, allowing two or three items to occupy the same space.  You can pre-purchase stackable serving trays that vary in height or you can make your own.  For a more formal event, you can take sturdy boxes or plastic containers and flip them over and cover with a tablecloth to make different heights on the table.  You can also pull out cups or vases and use them under platters or pieces of glass.  For a less formal look, you could use something like these benches.  My parents have been making these as a fundraiser for my uncle who has cancer.  The colors are bright and cheerful and you can use them to bring height to the table.  A child's bench could work just as well.  But if you'd like to purchase benches like these, please contact us at

Now when it's hot, I hate to sit down to a big heavy meal.  I'd rather nibble throughout the evening as I feel hungry.  You know, I went to a facility once where they taught portion control and it was interesting that the plates they served us on were about 1/4 smaller than what we typically use and the portions significantly smaller.  After a long, hard day working my co-worker was ready to dig into a big meal.  Our host said that he should eat what was on his plate first, drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes.  If he was still hungry he could have a second helping.  So if you want to keep people grazing all night, add to this display smaller plates, like salad sized plates.

Instead of a full meal, I have long followed the idea of serving small appetizer portions.  Now, I didn't know there was a real name for this until about 11 years ago when I was in The Netherlands and a young man at our hotel suggested that we go to a tapas bar nearby; Tapas comes from the Spanish tradition of serving a wide variety of small appetizer portions.  Guest are able to fill a plate with different flavors and experiences and by the end, they have made a complete meal out of it.  I like these bite sizes because you can enjoy them throughout the night as you feel hungry.  Just be sure to listen to your body and know when to stop.

Interesting trivia here:  The word "tapas" comes from the Spanish word tapar which means to cover or a lid.  Legend has it that the tradition started with King Alfonso the Tenth of Castile.  Now King Alfonso was getting over an illness and he would have these small meals with his wine throughout the day.  After his recovery, he ordered taverns to serve a small snack or tapas with their wine.  As you can imagine, you start to mix salty meats with sweet wine and before you know it, you're thirsty for another glass and so alcohol sales were boosted and "tapas" became just as important to pubs as the drink.

There are a lot of great tapas recipes out there, but here are a couple of really easy things that I like to throw together when we are having a cocktail party.  Many tapas start with a base of bread or a Crostini, Italian for "little toasts."  I love that we're getting to really work our Romance languages today.  To make a crostini you just slice a baguette, brush with olive oil and perhaps a sprinkle of herbs and then toast them or grill them.  Now you top with cheese, meats and/or vegetables... heck, I've even topped with fruits (like goat cheese and strawberries with a splash of balsamic vinegar).

This simple tapas recipe is a crostini topped with Boursin cheese and thin slices of a grilled fillet.  Before you ask, let me tell you about Boursin.  It's kind of a specialty cheese that's sold in most grocery stores here in the United States.  It came to us from Normandy and was created by Francois Boursin in 1957.  According to the company's website, Boursin was inspired by the long-standing traditional dish, fromage frais or fresh cheese, where guests would kind of mix their own soft cheese by adding fresh herbs and seasonings.  Monsieur Boursin named the type of cheese he developed Gournay, for the small town in France where he grew up.

Speaking of things store bought, I purchased this chicken salad at Sam's, but I've seen similar at other stores, and I top a crostini with the chicken salad and voila! A yummy tapas.

Another quick and easy tapas is to take cucumbers, dab a bit of hummus on top and then add chopped tomatoes, basil and a little feta cheese.  You can also use pita instead of the cucumber as the base, but I think in the summer the cucumber is so fresh and refreshing, not to mention low in calories.  

I also take the idea of a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) and turn it into a wrap.  Heart of romaine lettuce, a small squirt of spicy may and a fresh tomato and a crumble of bacon.  Sometimes you need to use a toothpick to make it wrap up, but it's mummm good.  For another taste of summer, how about bite size wedges of watermelon with a sprinkle of blue cheese on top?  This combination gives you sweet and savory all in one bite.

One last easy tapas, take Scoops tortilla chips, fill with cooked-seasoned taco meat, sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and bake in a warm oven until the cheese is melted, then serve.  If you're not into meat, simmer together canned black beans with taco seasoning, spoon mixture into the Scoops and top with Mexican white cheese, such as asadero, meaning "roaster" or "broiler" cheese; put into a warm oven until cheese is melted then serve.

So on to item number three for entertaining during the hot summer.  You want to keep people refreshed and hydrated, but you don't really want the refrigerator door opening 500 times, right?  How about stuffing a bucket like this with ice and adding your cold drinks (from beer to bottled water).  You can put it in the sink if you're worried about it sweating and at the end of the night it's really easy to clean up.  Another idea is to have pitchers of drinks sitting out so that people don't have to mix up drinks.  A really fun one is spiked lemonade.  You can have kiddy lemonade and then grown up lemonade.  Since we've been talking about the whole Spanish inspired tapas, how about a Spanish inspired cocktail, Sangria?

I could go on and on with ideas about entertaining during the summer... and maybe I will soon... right now, all this heat and talk about entertaining makes me long for fall.  I'm looking forward to gathering around the big table on the deck with friends and enjoying the breeze from the great big oak tree in our backyard while nibbling on some of my favorite tapas and beverage recipes.