July 10, 2009

Easy Outdoor Entertaining - On A Budget!

Are you entertaining friends and family this summer? Are you on a tight budget but don't want to sacrifice style? I have the answer for you! Check out my article on budget friendly summer entertaining in Mixing Bowl Magazine on shelves now.


To me, summer entertaining should be fun and relaxing, and taking advantage of the incredible foods of summer. My favorite item is fresh herbs. I grow all that I can, and what I can't find is always available at a local Farmer's Market. I use herbs in everything, from appetizers to desserts. I also love to use items more than once. For example, in the Sangria Tea, I use freshly squeezed orange juice and the pulp, and then save the shell for a beautiful dessert "cup." Nothing is wasted! I always look for ways to save time, money, and energy. Many of the recipes here can be prepared well in advance, so at party time you can relax and enjoy your guests.


3-1/2 cups water
5 tea bags (plain, not flavored)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (save the shell halves for the dessert!)
3 cups sliced fresh fruit of choice, but make very colorful, like sliced strawberries, orange sections, pineapple, peaches, grapes, or apples
1/4 cup granulated sugar (or more to taste, depending on the sweetness of fruit)
2 cups white wine or white grape juice, or a combination
Mint sprigs - optional

1. Boil water in a small saucepan. Add tea bags and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove bags and let liquid cool. Stir in orange juice.
2. Place the fresh fruit in a 2-quart clear glass pitcher. Add sugar and stir to coat the fruit. Pour in the tea mixture and white wine or grape juice; stir to combine. If desired, add mint sprigs to tea, or garnish on each individual drink. Serve immediately in glasses with ice. Serves 6.

Make ahead: Tea mixture can be made a day ahead and chilled. Fruit can be sliced a few hours before the party and refrigerated separately. If I have space, I even store the empty glass pitcher in the refrigerator to get it nice and cold.

Tea can be made half alcohol and half non-alcohol for your non-drinking or young guests. Just use two separate pitchers and divide ingredients accordingly.


1 jar (10 ounces) large green pimiento-stuffed olives
1 sprig each of fresh oregano, thyme, and rosemary
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small lemon wedges
12 whole black peppercorns
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Drain the olives, reserving the brine. Rinse olives and drain well. Layer the olives, herbs, garlic, lemon wedges, and peppercorns back into the olive jar. There will be several olives left over, but layer carefully and tightly as possible.
2. Pour the lemon juice into the jar, then add enough of the reserved brine to fill the jar. Place lid tightly on jar and shake well. Let the olives marinate for at least a week, or up to one month, shaking occasionally.
3. To serve, drain olives and discard other ingredients. Place olives in decorative serving bowl. Refrigerate any leftovers. Serves 6.

This is one of my favorite party recipes. The olive bars found at grocery and specialty stores are great, but very expensive. These are not only more economical, but are always a huge hit, which is why I usually make more than one jar. Talk about a make ahead recipe!


Spice Rub:

1/3 cup chili powder
1 Tablespoon each of smoked paprika, ground cumin, granulated sugar, and all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

8 large chicken legs with thighs attached; all excess fat removed
4 Tablespoons olive oil

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all spice rub ingredients in a small bowl; mix well. Rub mixture thoroughly and heavily over all sides of chicken pieces.
2. Place chicken pieces, without touching each other, in a heavy baking pan. Drizzle each evenly with olive oil. Roast for 35 minutes, or until juices run pale yellow, basting a few times with pan juices. Remove from oven and let sit in pan a few minutes before serving. Serves 6-8.

This is a great budget recipe. The attached chicken leg and thighs are a great buy, and sometimes come in large, economical packages. Since I love this recipe, I will buy extra when they are on sale and freeze.

Make ahead: The spice rub can be made days in advance and kept in small, covered container.


1-1/2 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh flat leaf parsley
2 Tablespoons pepitas (sunflower seed kernels)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

12 ounces angel hair pasta
Additional Parmesan to pass

1. Place all pesto ingredients except oil and cheese in a blender, or food processor fitted with metal blade. Process until ingredients are finely minced. Add oil and cheese and process until blended. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.
2. To serve, cook pasta according to package directions; drain well. Place warm pasta in a large serving bowl. Toss with pesto and serve; pass extra grated Parmesan. Serves 6 as a side dish.

Make ahead: Pesto can be made at least a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.

Pepitas can be found in the ethnic aisle of many grocery stores or in specialty markets. I have found that in the specialty markets, small inexpensive packets of many items and spices are sold.


Compound butter:

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
Grated zest of one lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or to taste

6 ears fresh corn, husked

1. Stir together all butter ingredients until well mixed. Spoon into a 6-8-inch log shape onto a piece of plastic wrap, roll up, and twist the ends. Refrigerate until firm.
2. Prepare corn in any way you wish, either by boiling, grilling outdoors, or indoors on a grill pan. Serve hot with slices of compound butter. Serves 6.

Make ahead: The compound butter can be made days in advance. Slice cold butter and place on small serving dish. The butter can even be made and frozen weeks ahead. Thaw in refrigerator before serving. Keep cold.


1/4 cup flaked coconut
6 fresh orange halves from 3 oranges
1 quart orange sherbet
Crushed ice
Fresh mint sprigs

1. Place coconut in a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir until coconut is brown and toasted, watching carefully to avoid burning; it turns toasted quickly! Let cool.
2. Scoop out pulp from orange halves completely to make a shell. (Remember you used the juice and pulp for the Sangria Tea!)
3. Using an ice cream scooper, scrape sherbet to make balls to fit into each orange shell.
4. Fill clear glass dessert dishes with crushed ice. Place each filled orange shell on top of ice. Sprinkle sherbet with toasted coconut. Place mint sprigs around oranges for garnish. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Make ahead: Coconut can be toasted at least a day ahead and stored in small plastic containers or bags. Orange shells can be scooped out, covered and refrigerated a day ahead.

This dessert is so simple, yet looks so elegant and refreshing.

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