Thanksgiving is approaching fast. So are the final days to shop for and prepare your feast. If you’re tired of the same old, same old … or want to add a new dish for variety … here are some suggestions. My lovely cherry wood Wine Rack makes a perfect serving station for your feast!
Mashed Potatoes Enhanced – 1. Stir sauteed corn and a bit of sour cream into mashed potatoes; a cornflake-and-paprika topping adds a smoky, crunchy finish. 2. Revitalize garlic mashed potatoes with olive oil and the reserved water from cooking the potatoes; capers, lemon peel and parsley top off this variation. Re-Dressing – Corn bread boring? 1. Try using barley, Swiss chard, squash and Parmesan cheese. 2. For a real change: Pears, dried cherries and sharp white cheddar with whole wheat (or another favorite bread) cubes create a luscious fruit-and-cheese dressing. Veggie Assist – Substitute Swiss chard for spinach in a spinach recipe. For example, try Creamed Swiss Chard.
Recipes for all but the Creamed Swiss Chard may be found in this slide show: http://www.bhg.com/recipes/from-better-homes-and-gardens/november-2013-recipes/#page=1. Find a good creamed Swiss chard recipe here: http://southernfood.about.com/od/vegetablerecipes/r/r90520b.htm.
Previous: Oktoberfest Beer Tasting (10/24/2013) I mentioned the vertical format (one brand, several varieties). Other formats include blind: one style, several brands with guests tasting and naming which brand is which. Another is microbrews from lightest in color and alcohol to darkest in color and highest in alcohol. Or several brands of one style appropriate to the season (Oktoberfest, summer ales, etc.)
Set up a large table anywhere as the stage for your tasting. Since guests will be swallowing and not spitting out their beer when tasting, provide water to rinse tasting glasses and a “swill” bucket to empty them between each beer. Guests should have a clear tasting glass, glass of water, and pen and paper to take notes. If available, provide beer guides or style books for your guests’ convenience. Also handy is a beer menu: each beer tasted (in order), brewer, style and other relevant information.
Cheeses, fruits, and breads and crackers, maybe some deli meats and patés pair well with beer. Or pair your food to the style of beer. Oktoberfest beers pair with German food but also with baked ham, barbecued beef or pork, pizza, grilled veggies and chicken, and steak.
Celebrating Oktoberfest can get expensive for you and your friends, especially with cover charges for live entertainment. Instead, invite friends to your home for a beer tasting!
Beer tastings are gaining popularity. They can be less expensive than wine tastings, although some craft beers and microbrews can be pricey. Create a budget covering the costs of the beers you select plus food. Plan to serve at least four varieties (at 3 ounces per guest) for the tasting plus additional beer (of any type) for post-tasting enjoyment. Add seasonal lights to my 20-inch planter with trellis and it’s a decorative cooler for the beer.
One tasting format is the vertical tasting: one brand, several varieties. For example, Samuel Adams has different beers for assembling a good “flight” for your tasting. Its Web site has sample flights assembled by others and provides a way to choose your tasting’s beers. One sample: Sam Adams Boston Lager, Oktoberfest, Maple Pecan Porter and Harvest Pumpkin Ale. Many local liquor stores might not stock many varieties, but they might steer you to stores that do or will special order them for you. Next: Another Tasting Format plus Food for Your Tasting
My Web site now accepts major credit cards in addition to PayPal. This capability will expand your choices of how to pay for your purchases.
GardenFurniturePatio.com offers many choices of quality garden, patio, poolside and accent furniture. From the Western Red Cedar tables, benches and chairs to the cherry wood magazine stand and wine cabinet, you probably will find whatever piece you are searching for on my site. Now is an excellent time to buy, too, because prices have been reduced, some up to 25 percent.
Check out our new umbrella style in three colors: blue, tan and green. Isn’t it time you replaced that ratty old umbrella on your deck or patio?
Tailgating is a time-honored tradition at most sports events: football, in particular. However, many of us can’t get to the stadium to participate in this festivity. Do you miss the camaraderie? Do you long for the taste of freshly grilled burgers, dogs and brats? How about some nachos and chicken and bean dip? Here is a link to some tailgating recipes you might enjoy: http://www.campbellskitchen.com/Entertaining/Tailgating
Can’t get to the stadium? Invite a few friends over to watch the game and set up a “yard-gate” in the yard, deck or patio. The entertaining ideas I presented in previous posts should help you prepare and conduct your yard-gate.
If possible, position your TV so guests can watch the game while lounging outside. Otherwise, set up the grill and food outside, perhaps on one of my Western Red Cedar picnic or market tables or a teak dining table, so your guests can chow down outside before and after the game. Provide munchy foods (chips and dips, veggies and dips, etc.) inside for during-the-game snacking. After the game you can adjourn to the outdoors to continue your yard-gate … if anyone is still hungry or has tummy room left!
(Continued from August 20, 2013) Lighting can consist of traditional tiki torches or hurricane lamps. Use strings of red, white and blue lights. Many party, hardware and home design stores sell these. Also try placing red, white and blue candles in clear Mason-type canning jars or clear jelly jars. Don’t leave real candles unattended. (Otherwise, use battery-powered votive lights.)
Delegate responsibilities to a few of your guests so you’ll be able to relax, too. One of them could be the greeter/bartender who provides the first drink, then guests can help themselves. If you’re grilling, have more than one cook; unless, of course, your cook prefers to hold court at the grill! If children are attending, ensure that a few adults share the oversight duties. And check out my Child Chair/Table Set as an addition to your outdoor furniture. I’m sure it will help your little ones feel more included (just like mom and dad’s)!
Provide insect repellent so guests can spray themselves. And don’t forget that Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate, so have a Plan B: to move indoors or announce a rain date if you don’t have room indoors for all the guests. Happy Labor Day!
Labor Day approaches, so a few tips on successful outdoor entertaining are appropriate. Get organized (making a list will help)! Ensure adequate equipment and supplies you need for the type of party you’re having. For example, if you plan a cookout, test your fancy gas grill to be sure it’s working properly. If you use a charcoal grill, stock plenty of charcoal and charcoal lighter; clean the grill and grilling tools (this applies to the gas grill also).
Check bar supplies to ensure enough liquor, mixers and garnishes for the cocktails you plan to provide. If your guests enjoy beer and wine, provide buckets or coolers to keep those libations chilled. Check your pantry to ensure an adequate supply of condiments and accompaniments for the food you’ll be serving.
Survey seating arrangements and display space for side dishes, desserts, condiments and other food items. Do you have enough tables and chairs? (Still time to order additional Western red cedar or teak chairs!) Plenty of napkins (cloth or paper, depending on the food)? What about dishes, glassware (plasticware?) and tableware (nice for a nice dinner, rugged for ribs and other barbecue)? (Continued)
Kale isn’t one of my favorite vegetables, but it might be yours. So, here are some tips for growing, prepping and cooking it. According to Betty Sanders at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, July is a good time to plant kale when a light frost (as it grows in the fall) can make it sweeter. (I know it’s August, but there’s still time!) You can grow it in pots of minimum 8 inches deep and 8 inches wide, with at least eight hours of sunlight.
Kale should be stored in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag. Strip leaves from the stems, which are tough. Wash the leaves before cutting and blotting them dry. Kale’s texture can be tough in raw salads. Try this: thin-cut it, then rub it in a dressing that includes lemon, lime or vinegar. Kale’s bitterness can be released by cooking but don’t overcook.
My cedar 10-inch planter box or raised garden boxes are perfect for growing this “wonder” vegetable. To get the proper depth with the raised garden box, buy two (photo).
I ran out of space the other day before I could include a couple of final tips for refreshing the look of your outdoor space. One idea is to mix different pieces into your grouping. For example, a teak bench or Western red cedar bench provides additional seating around a circular or octagonal table. This idea provides an instant solution if one of your chairs is broken or otherwise unusable. It’s also less expensive than purchasing a complete new set.
One or two rattan wicker pieces, such as rattan chairs with a rectangle teak table or a Western red cedar oval table. Or consider using benches with any of the teak tables. Use your imagination to create cozy, charming seating arrangements that bring your guests closer together.
Now that your deck or patio is clean (see “Tips on Sprucing Up Your Outdoor Living Areas,” August 6, 2013) you’ll want to “accessorize” it for a fresh look. Try these ideas:
Add or change seat cushions. If you haven’t added seat cushions to your chairs or loungers, try our Adirondack Cushion Set, which fits our Adirondack Chair plus Ottoman and is available in Forest Green, Navy Blue or White. Also available are cushions for our teak chairs, steamer and lounger in blue, white and green (some styles also in red).
Try basing your decorating on a theme; for example, your and a loved one’s birth month. August’s gemstone is peridot, a pale green-colored stone; it’s flower is the gladiolus or poppy (http://www.birthdaygems.org/birth-month-flowers/). Between the two items, you have an instant color scheme: pale green and bright red (although poppies are available in other colors). Use the scheme to mix and match inexpensive cushions, place mats, curtains or drapes, rugs, and table cloths or runners. You could even use the colors to create a mural or hanging for a conveniently located wall or fence. Make it a family project!