Monday, July 2

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff!

.......or the large for that matter. When you are having friends and family over for an informal outdoor dinner the last thing you want or need to do is spend loads of time in the kitchen. You can prepare easy-to-make ahead side dishes that your guests will savor and enjoy. Simplicity is the key. Don't dwell on making history or you'll drive yourself NUTS!  Do it for the love of the get-together. Believe me your friends are coming to enjoy an evening of good conversation and laughter with you. So relax, take a deep breath and have a wonderful time. Serving tried and true recipes are your best bet providing you with no worries about huge mistakes. The following are a few of my favorite 'Summer Sides'. Enjoy.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice baked potatoes are a family favorite and the perfect choice to serve on the side at a casual outdoor dinner with friends and family. Featuring a combination of cream and cheddar cheeses, these potatoes are easy and impressive, never missing the mark!

INGREDIENTS
  • 10 large potatoes, about 7 pds
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3/4-1 pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 package 8-oz cream cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1 package 8-oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Scallion, finely chopped

WHAT TO DO
  • Bake potatoes at 350 degrees for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until potatoes "give" when gently squeezed, indicating they are done. Cool 10 minutes. 
  • Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh from the baked potatoes into a large mixing bowl. 
  • Place potato skins on a non-stick foil lined baking sheet, skin side down and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until crisp, 8-10 minutes. 
  • Add all other ingredients to the potato flesh in the mixing bowl, except ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup bacon and chopped scallion. Mix well. 
  • Fill potato skins and sprinkle with remaining cheese, bacon and chopped scallion. 
  • At this point the potatoes can be refrigerated for 24 hours or even frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Bring filled potatoes out of the fridge and let sit on kitchen counter until room temperature. Preheat oven. Pop them in the oven when you are nearly ready to eat and cook at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until cheese melts and the potatoes are bubbling.

Twice Baked Potatoes can also be cooked in a casserole dish, making it a cross between mashed potatoes and baked potatoes. When I decide to bake a casserole I double the recipe, cooking one and freezing the other. Making things extremely easy for the next go 'round. I DO EASY WELL!

FREEZING TWICE BAKED POTATOES

TO FREEZE FOR LATER USE: Cover potatoes with plastic wrap and place baking sheet in freezer, leaving several hours until potatoes are completely frozen. Remove potatoes from freezer and wrap each potato in a resealable plastic sandwich bag. Place wrapped potatoes into a 2 gallon resealable freezer bag.

TO COOK FROZEN POTATOES: Preheat oven to 350°F. Place potatoes on baking sheet and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Bake about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or more until potatoes are hot and bubbly. This method keeps the potato skins firm and crisp. If time is short, place potatoes in microwave and cook on high about 10 minute. Remove and then place in 350°F oven to finish cooking. YUM!


Corn and Black Bean Salad
Vine-ripened grape tomatoes and fragrant herbs complement the sweet fresh corn in this quintessential summer salad. So light and fresh, it makes a good accompaniment to any
Summer grilling menu. I could eat the whole bowl by myself.....truly.


INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups fresh whole kernel corn, cut from 6 large cooked ears
  • 1 can {15 ounces} black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 10 ounces of sweet grape tomatoes, quartered or cut in half
  • 1 very small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Zest from half a Lime
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
WHAT TO DO

  • In a very large bowl, combine every thing except the salt and pepper. 
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  • Add salt, if desired, and freshly ground pepper; give it a good stir and serve.


On occasion I will make my grandmother's recipe for Deviled Eggs. 

ENJOY!
~The Domestic Curator~
Ronda



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