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Archive for Entertaining

TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate With A Bacon Bar + 21 More Food Bars

Bacon Bloody Mary

Bourbon Bacon

Pancetta

Bacon Cheddar Biscuits

[1] Start with a bacon Bloody Mary (photo and a recipe courtesy Bacon Bourbon USA). [2] Bourbon bacon with bacon-cheddar biscuits and bacon jam (photo courtesy Smithfield). You can serve the different types of bacon on a plate or in a jar or glass. [3] You can include European styles of bacon, like pancetta. Check out the different types of bacon (photo courtesy Fra Mani).[4] Bacon-cheddar biscuits (photo courtesy Food Network).

 

For entertaining, we like DIY food bars. Guests help themselves, and you only need to get involved when a plate or bowl needs to be refilled.

Cocktails, Hors D’Oeuvre & Appetizers

  • Antipasto Bar
  • Apple Cider Party Bar
  • Bloody Mary Bar
  • Bruschetta Bar
  • Flavored Shots Party Bar
  • Gazpacho Bar
  • Guacamole Bar
  • Shandy Bar
  • Stuffed Avocado Bar
  •  
    Main Meals

  • Breakfast Or Brunch Bar
  • Coconut Bowl Bar
  • Lunch Or Dinner Bar
  • Tapas Bar
  • Temaki Bar (Sushi Hand Rolls)
  •  
    Desserts & Snacks

  • Assorted Desserts Bar
  • Brownie Bar
  • Frozen Yogurt Bar
  • Ice Cream Bar
  • Pudding Party Bar
  • S’mores Bar
  • Popcorn Bar
  •  
    Today, inspired by Smithfield, we’re adding to the list with a bacon bar.

    Whether for a casual New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, you can create a memorable experience for bacon lovers.

    RECIPE #1: BACON BLOODY MARY

    The easiest route to a Bacon Bloody Mary is to garnish a regular Bloody Mary with a strip of bacon. (You can do this with any savory cocktail, from bourbon on the rocks to a Martini.)

    Or, you could go whole hog with bacon vodka, bacon Bloody Bary mix and a bacon salt rim, as they do at Bacon Bourbon USA.

    We also have recipe for a BLT Bloody Mary, courtesy of the Hotel Jerome in Aspen.
     
     
    RECIPE #2: CARAMELIZED BOURBON BACON

    You can serve plain bacon, and showcase the difference between applewood- and hickory-smoked varieties.

    You can also enhance bacon with herbs, spices and sweeteners, not to mention chocolate. The next two recipes are from Smithfield.

    Smithfield even has ready-to-print labels to distinguish what you’re serving.

    Ingredients For 12 Servings

  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 2 sixteen-ounce packages thick-cut bacon
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper. Remove the bacon from the package and space evenly on the pan, without overlapping slices.

    2. PLACE the pans in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, rotating them halfway through. While the bacon is cooking, combine the honey, bourbon and maple syrup.

    3. REMOVE the pans from the oven and carefully drain off the grease (you may wish to reserve it in a jar for cooking greens, eggs, etc.).

    4. BRUSH the bacon with the bourbon/maple syrup/honey mixture. Return the pans to the oven and bake for 3-5 minutes. Let the bacon cool slightly and then serve immediately.
     

     
    RECIPE #3: SEA SALT CARMEL BACON OR SALTED CHOCOLATE BACON

    Like chocolate-covered bacon, this recipe from Smithfield qualifies as dessert!

    You can substitute chocolate sauce to make a chocolate bacon variation.

    Ingredients For 12 Servings

  • 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons caramel topping (or chocolate topping)
  • 2 twelve-ounce packages thick-cut bacon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking pans with nonstick foil. Remove bacon from package and space evenly without overlapping slices.

    2. PLACE the pans in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway and continue baking until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven. Using tongs, place the strips on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Let cool slightly.

    3. HEAT the caramel in the microwave for 10 seconds. Drizzle the bacon with the caramel and sprinkle with sea salt. Return to the oven and bake 2 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes. Using tongs, remove to cooling rack. Cool 5 minutes before serving.
     
     
    RECIPE #4: BACON-CHEDDAR BISCUITS

    Ingredients For 12 Biscuits

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions (scallions)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (we substituted gruyère, which we prefer)
  • 1/2 cup diced cooked standard-sliced bacon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. In a small bowl, toss together the cheese, green onions and bacon with 1 tablespoon of flour. Set aside.

    2. WHISK together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut in the butter. Add the milk, stirring in just enough to bring the ingredients together and make a soft dough. Gently fold in the cheese mixture.

    3. TURN the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Pat or roll out the dough to a thickness of ½ or ¾ inch. Cut into rounds with a 2 ½ inch round biscuit cutter.

    4. PLACE the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown on top. Ideally serve warm, although they’re delicious at room temperature, too.
     
     
    RECIPE #5: CHERRY BACON JAM WITH THYME & CLOVES

    This sweet-and-savory jam from Smithfield is delicious on biscuits, and also scores as a condiment on sandwiches, with eggs, and with grilled meats, poultry and fish/seafood.

    Ingredients For 9 Servings

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 large onions, finely diced (about 1½ cups)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds thick-cut bacon
  • 3 jars (10 ounces each) cherry preserves
  • 1.5 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the bacon in large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat until just crisp, turning as needed. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels until cooled.

    2. DRAIN all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan. Increase the heat to medium and cook the onions for 8-10 minutes or until soft and translucent.

    3. ADD the preserves and sugar to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot and the sugar has dissolved. Add in the vinegar, cloves, salt and pepper and cook for 8-10 minutes or until thickened and syrupy, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile finely chop bacon while jam is reducing. Add bacon and thyme to pan and stir to combine, cooking until to your desired consistency. Let the jam cool. You can store in airtight jars for up to two weeks.

    TIP: For a smoother, less chunky jam, pulse the cooled bacon jam in a food processor until it is the desired smoothness.
     
     
    RECIPE #6: BACON APPLE PIE

    This pie crust top from Smithfield may be the best-tasting lattice ever.

    Ingredients

  • 8 slices applewood-smoked bacon
  • 3-1/2 pints sliced cooking apples (such as Granny Smith,
    Rome or Gala)
  • 1.5 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 9-inch single pie crust
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  •  
    Preparation

     

    Bacon Apple Pie

    Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Bacon Ice Cream

    Bacon Clothesline

    [5] Bacon apple pie (photo courtesy Smithfield). [6] Bacon chocolate chip cookies from David Venable | QVC. Here’s the recipe. [7] Maple bacon bourbon ice cream. Here’s the recipe from from Cherry Tea Cakes. [8] And then there’s the Bacon Clothesline (photo courtesy David Burke | Fabrick Restaurant).

     
    1. HEAT the oven to 425°F. Place the pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate and crimp the edges.

    2. TOSS together the apples and orange juice in a large bowl. Add the cranberries, walnuts and fresh ginger and mix well.

    3. STIR together the flour, ½ cup brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in small bowl. Add to the apples and toss until the slices are evenly coated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust.

    4. WEAVE the bacon slices together over top of pie, leaving 1-inch spaces between the slices (4 slices by 4 slices); tuck the ends of the strips under the apples as needed. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons of brown sugar over the top of the bacon slices.

    5. BAKE the pie in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for approximately 50 minutes, until the bacon is browned and crisp. Cover the edges of the crust with foil if it starts to get too dark.

    6. LET the pie stand for 15 minutes before slicing. This pie is best served warm because of the bacon. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.

     
    HOW ABOUT BACON CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES?
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BACON.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Blue Cocktails For A Chanukah Party

    We’ve never heard of a Chanukah cocktail party, so we decided to throw one this year.

    The menu:

  • Wine: red, white, sparkling
  • Chanukah beer from Schmaltz Brewing
  • Blue cocktails and cocktails (recipes below)
  • Nibbles: brisket sliders, chopped liver with bagel chips, mini bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, mini potato latkes with crème fraîche (substitute sour cream or applesauce)
  • Sweets: donut holes (fried foods are traditional Chanukah fare, commemorating the miracle of the oil), noodle kugel with dried fruits
  •  
    CHANUKAH COCKATAILS

    All of these are simple: no complex or time-consuming mixology.

    You can make cocktails blue with:

  • Blue curaçao (an orange liqueur)
  • Blue food color
  • Blueberry juice
  • Blue-colored simple syrup
  • Blue flower extract
     
    RECIPE #1: BLUE MARTINI OR BLUEBERRY MARTINI

    For a standard Martini, add food color to the bottle of vodka or gin.

    For a fruit “Martini,” mix with blueberry juice. You can also use citrus-infused vodka; but note that these sweet drinks are not Martinis. A Martini is a savory drink made with vodka or gin plus vermouth (Martini history).

    For a darker blue, add a drop of blue food color. You can add more curaçao, but that adds more sweet orange flavor.

     
    RECIPE #2: BLUE SPARKLER

    Orange-flavored vodka plus curaçao make this a nicely orange sparkler.

    Ingredients For 2 Drinks

  • 2 ounces orange infused vodka
  • 2 ounces blue curaçao
  • Sparkling wine
  • Rim: blue or white sparkling sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. RIM the champagne flutes with sparkling sugar. Add 1 ounce each orange vodka and blue curaçao into each.

    2. TOP off with sparkling wine. Stirring isn’t necessary but if you want to blend, use one brief stir so the bubbles don’t pop.
     
    RECIPE #3: CHANUKAH CANDLE

    This is a variation of the Blue Sparkler, above, with a different garnish. Orange or gold sparkling sugar puts the “flame” on the “candle.”

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 1 part blue curaçao
  • 1 part orange-flavored vodka (or plain vodka)
  • 3 parts sparkling wine
  • Rim: orange or gold sparkling sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. RIM a champagne flute with honey and orange sugar.

    2. ADD the curaçao and vodka to a champagne flute, and top with sparkling wine.

    NOTE: Sparkling sugar is available online, at baking supply stores and at craft stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby.

       

    Blue Martini

    Blue Chanukah Cocktail

    Chanukah Champagne Cocktail

    Blue Chanukah Cocktail Recipes

    [1] Blue Martini (photo courtesy SKYY Vodka). [2a] Blue Sparkler (photo courtesy Announcing It). [3] The Chanukah Candle, a sparkler with a bit of honey and gold or orange sparkling sugar (photo courtesy Living On Cloud Nine). [4] Blue Star, with a slice of starfruit (photo courtesy Recipe Plus).

     
    RECIPE #4: BLUE STAR

    Ingredients For 2 Drinks

  • Ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup blue curaçao
  • 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • Sparkling wine (to top off)
  • Garnish: 2 slices star fruit*
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Add the curaçao and grapefruit juice and shake well.

    2. STRAIN into a cocktail glass and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with the star fruit.
     
    ________________
    *The Star Of David is a six-point star, but we only have what nature provides: the five-point star of the carambola (star fruit).

     

    Blue Margarita

    Blue Chanukah Cocktail

    Blue Soft Drink

    [5] Mazel Tov Margarita (photo and recipe courtesy Host The Toast). [6] Turn a White Russian into a Blue Russian by substituting blue curaçao for the coffee liqueur (recipe and photo courtesy Mix That Drink). [7] Put a sparkling sugar or coconut rim on a blue soft drink (photo courtesy Garlic My Soul).

     

    RECIPE #5: MAZEL TOV MARGARITA

    Notes from Host The Toast, creator of the recipe:

    The classic Margarita is made with orange liqueur, originally Cointreau but often the less expensive generic orange liqueur, triple sec.

    Curaçao is another orange liqueur, from the Caribbean. It is a clear liqueur; but years ago, blue color was added to create blue curaçao for more festive cocktails.

    Per Host The Toast: “We find the flavor of the blue a little more bitter, so we’ve balanced the drink by using half blue curaçao and half triple sec.” Try it both ways, to see which you prefer.

    Here’s how the different types of orange liqueur differ; from curaçao and triple sec, which are generic terms, to brands like Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Gran Gala.
     

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • Coarse salt (e.g., sea salt or kosher salt)
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce blue curaçao
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CREATE a salt rim on a margarita glass, mason jar or other glass: Rub the rim with a cut lime and dip and twist the glass in a shallow dish of coarse salt until the rim is coated. Place the glass in the freezer for a few minutes to chill.

    2. COMBINE the drink ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake well. Pour into the chilled glass and garnish with a wedge of lime.

     
    RECIPE #6: BLUE RUSSIAN

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces blue curaçao
  • 1 ounce light or heavy cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD two or three crushed ice cubes of ice to a martini glass or rocks glass.

    2. ADD the curaçao, followed by the vodka. Top off with the cream.

     
    MORE FESTIVE GARNISHES: GLASS RIMMERS

  • For sweet drinks: sparkling sugar, shredded coconut, silver or gold dragees, blue and/or white sprinkles
  • For savory drinks: coarse sea salt or kosher salt, Margarita salt
  •  
    And how about:

  • Blue ice cubes, colored with food color
  •  
    BLUE MOCKTAILS

    Mix a clear soft drink with food color or blueberry juice:

  • 7 Up, Sprite, etc.
  • Plain or flavored club soda
  • White cranberry juice
  •  
    WHAT IS BLUE CURAÇAO

    Curaçao is an orange liqueur made from the dried peels of the laraha (LA-ra-ha) citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles (southeast of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean).

    The laraha is a de-evolved descendant of the Valencia orange, which was brought over from Spain in 1527. It did not thrive in the Southern Caribbean climate. The oranges that the trees produced were small, fibrous, bitter and inedible. The trees were abandoned, and the citrus fruit they produced evolved from a bright orange color into the green laraha.

    When life gives you bitter fruit, distill it! It turned out that while the flesh of the laraha was inedible, the dried peel remained as aromatic and pleasing as its cultivated forebear. Experimentation led to the distillation of Curaçao liqueur from the peel.

    The distilled liqueur is clear. Some brands are colored blue or bright orange to create color in cocktails. The color adds no flavor.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Aldi For Christmas Entertaining

    Recently, we went to our neighborhood specialty food store to buy appetizers for a get together with wine.

    Sure, the cheeses we picked were $25 a pound; our favorite crackers from La Panzanella and Raincoast Crisps aren’t inexpensive. And we do tend to buy too much.

    But when the cashier said, “$146.76 please,” we were floored.

    For this weekend’s entertaining, we took a car service to ALDI (we live in Manhattan, where most people don’t own cars). We paid $70 for a the same amount of food; so even with transportation we came out ahead. (And this group of friends doesn’t care about the difference between Fiscalini Bandage-Wrapped Cheddar and Cabot (our everyday brand).

    If you’re inviting friends and family, ALDI is the place to save big bucks on quality foods.

    From cheese and charcuterie to chocolate and desserts to an entire cooked ham, turkey or roast beef dinner: Everything is delicious.

  • There are also food gift items and wines, as permitted by state.
  • Weekly specials include dozens of food and non-food products at a great value: everything from small kitchen appliances and seasonal items to outdoor furniture and gardening tools.
  •  
    All are carefully curated and are backed by a double guarantee. If you’re not 100% satisfied, bring it back for a refund and a replacement product.
     
    ABOUT ALDI

    ALDI launched in 1961 in Germany, the world’s first first discounter. In 1976 they opened a U.S. store in Iowa, and how have more than 1,500 stores in 34 states, expanding to 2,000 stores by 2018. Worldwide, there are some 10,000 stores in 18 countries.

    Forbes Magazine calls ALDI “A Growing Menace To America’s Grocery Retailers.” The store is family-owned, and also owns Trader Joe’s.

    Everyone loves the low, low prices, which Aldi achieves through a no-frills approach to food retailing:

  • Basic inventory displays. As with Costco, merchandise is displayed in their shipping boxes to help save resources in restocking shelves.
  • Selective inventory: the basics, but not the universe (e.g., the 10 most popular cheeses, 1 brand of ketchup or yogurt instead of several choices). There are gluten-free and organic foods.
  • No credit cards: cash or debit cards only.
  • BYO bags or pay for them. As with Costco, you can take empty stock boxes as you find them.
  • Private label products. More than 90% of the inventory comprises store brands, guaranteed to be as good or better than national brands.
  • No non-essential services: no overhead of banking, check-cashing, pharmacy, etc.
  •  
    There is no e-commerce, but you can visit the company website, get the lay of the land and use the store locator to find the ALDI nearest to you.
     
     
    What Does ALDI Mean?

    The discount food business was founded by the two Albrecht brothers. The name is an acronym for (AL)brecht and (DI)scounter.

     

    Carved Ham

    Cheese Board

    Mini Linzer Tarts

    [1] Want an entire catered dinner? You’ll save a lot getting it at ALDI (photo courtesy ALDI). [2] From cheese and charcuterie to other nibbles, you’ll find what you need at ALDI (photo courtesy Cupcakes And Cutlery). [3] For dessert, there’s everything from the classics to the seasonal, like these mini linzer tarts (photo courtesy Aldi).

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Gourmet Dinners From Babeth’s Feast

    Babeth's Feast Dinner

    One of the many dinner combinations you can order from Babeth’s Feast.

     

    What to get for the fine food lover who doesn’t cook?

    As long as someone has an oven and knows how to turn it on, we suggest a gift of Babeth’s Feast.

    There are more than 300 dishes, flash frozen, that heat up as if they were just prepared fresh. People in France regularly entertain this way: buy the main meal and make a salad. That’s why Babeth, who had moved to New York, brought the concept to the U.S.

    Foods can be sent anywhere. There are options for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and everything from haute cuisine to burgers and simpler meals.

    But what we love is the opportunity to have an elegant dinner at home, as is Babeth’s custom. Buy the main dinner—fine hors d’oeuvres and a four-course dinner—soup, fish course, meat course with sides and dessert.

    All you do is make a fresh salad and provide the wine and after-dinner coffee.

    The entire NIBBLE team was treated to a dinner this past summer, and we still haven’t stopped talking about it.

     
    Here’s our original review when Babeth’s Feast was the Top Pick Of The Week.

    Here’s the company website where you get the party started.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Create Ice Cube Art (Designer Ice Cubes)

    We have long made “designer ice cubes” for cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks by:

  • Adding fruit to the ice cube for sweet drinks.
  • Adding herbs to the ice cubes for savory drinks.
  •  
    You simply fill the ice cube tray with water and drop a piece of fruit or an herb into each compartment. Here’s our original article.

    We also use two techniques that don’t dilute the drink:

  • Freeze juice or other liquid into ice cubes; for example, tomato juice or bouillon for a Bloody Mary, pineapple juice for a Piña Colada, coffee ice cubes for a Black Russian or Irish Coffee.
  • Use frozen fruits or vegetables. You can buy them or make them.
  • For sweet drinks, whole strawberries or melon balls are our go-to fruits.
  • For savory drinks, use larger vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower florets instead of frozen carrots and peas or corn, which are small and will defrost quickly. You can also freeze thick cucumber and zucchini slices.
  •  
    WHAT’S NEXT?

    The artiest ice cubes yet, from Let’s Mingle Blog. We just love the look, and have so much fun mixing and matching the ingredients.

    Ingredients

  • Fruits, vegetables, herbs and whole spices of choice
  • Liquid of choice: water, flavored water, coffee, tea, juice or soft drink*
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FILL the ice cube compartments one-third or halfway with your liquid of choice: coffee or tea, juice, water, etc. Place the trays in the freezer until the ice is partially frozen (fully frozen is OK, too).

    2. ADD the fruits, herbs, spices, whatever, and return to the freezer for 20 minutes or more, so the fruit will stick and not float to the top.

    3. TOP with the final layer of liquid, and freeze fully.

    Here’s the entire article from Let’s Mingle Blog, with many more design ideas.

     

    Designer Ice Cubes

    Fruit In Ice Cubes

    The best-looking ice cubes we’ve seen, from Let’s Mingle Blog. Read the full article.

     
    ________________
    *For example, cola ice cubes for a Rum & Coke.

      

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