Party time: Veggies and Dip Cups

veggiesanddip.TheCubanReuben.comSummer is just around the corner, and for many of us, that means party season is upon us. Throwing a party can be a daunting task when you think about feeding all your guests, but with a little bit of prep time and a little creativity, it can simply be a piece of cake.

This weekend, we celebrated my little nephew’s first birthday. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since we welcomed him into the world! My brother and sister-in-law did an incredible job planning the little guy’s birthday party, and all their friends and family were in attendance. When you combine a Cuban family with a Mexican family, this means that there were 75+ guests in attendance. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Jessica and Jeff made sure all the prep work was done ahead of time, so that they could enjoy the festivities with little Matty.

Matty’s first birthday party.

Even when I host dinners or events for far fewer people, I use the same technique. I always plan a menu that I can be at least 75% finished with before my guests arrive, so that I can enjoy their company. Take my veggies and dip cups, for example. The night before the party, I prepared all of my vegetables by slicing them into sticks, so that the morning of Matty’s party, I just had to pour a little dip into the cups and fill them with the pre-sliced veggies. Easy as pie!

These are a crowdpleaser, as well, because they are easy to hold, and the veggies are contained in a single cup, rather than rolling around a plate. My favorite time to serve these is when we host daytime or outdoor events, when the ambiance is more casual and relaxed. They are essentially the old standard crudite platter, served up in an easy, portable, way. Try them with a variety of vegetables paired with your favorite dip, and you’ll watch them fly off the platter as you  sit back and relax at your next summer party.

Party time: Veggies and Dip Cups
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 60
Prep time:
Total time:
An easy, portable spin on an old veggies and dip tray classic.
  • 4 lbs carrots, peeled
  • 3 large, seedless or hothouse cucumbers
  • 3 bunches celery
  • 6 red bell peppers
  • 1 large container Ranch dressing
  • 60 small plastic cups
  1. Slice the carrots, cucumbers, celery and bell peppers into relatively equal sized strips, long enough to just stick out from the top of the plastic cups.
  2. Lay out the cups on trays, and pour about 2-3 Tbs. of Ranch dressing in each cup.
  3. Add vegetables to the cups, and serve.


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How to cut a pineapple.

They say that opposites attract, and nothing could be more true when it comes to the pairing of me and my husband. He’s a math/science kind of guy, and I’m an artsy fartsy kind of girl. His pulse races at the first note of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and most classical music makes me want to cozy up and take a nap. But I’d say that the biggest characteristic that sets us apart is that I am a big picture type of person, and he takes life one bite at a time.

Maybe it’s his engineering brain, or simply a trait he picked up from his folks, but for the ten years we’ve been together, Kenny has always excelled at taking seemingly overwhelming tasks, and breaking them down to bite-sized, manageable pieces. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to look at that overwhelming big picture, and get paralyzed by the grand scope.

For instance, for the longest time, I resorted to buying pre-cut fruit from the market, because I couldn’t wrap my brain around how to hack at such unwieldy and cumbersome giants like watermelon and pineapple. The task seemed time-consuming, and I envisioned having to use lots of muscle. That is, until my dear husband imparted some wisdom, and encouraged me to learn how to do it myself. In the process, I could even save a bit of cash. It almost always comes down to saving a bit of cash to him.

Since I love to take risks in the kitchen, I thought this might be one worth taking, and I discovered that it is much easier than I ever could have imagined. All you really need is a good, serrated knife, and about five minutes. It doesn’t even take a lot of effort!

First, you take your large, awkwardly shaped piece of fruit, and place it on its side. Slice off the top and bottom sides, and stand the fruit back up on its now level surface.

Cut Pineapple. Step 1
Cut Pineapple. Step 1

Using that sharp, serrated knife, slice pieces of the skin off, one at a time, until the rind is completely off.

Cutting Pineapple. step 2
Cutting Pineapple. step 2

For pineapple, slice the fruit into skewers, and cut out the core. You could also slice the fruit into rounds, and use a small cookie cutter to cut out the core. I sometimes do that for my younger cooking students, as they like the fun shapes.

cut pineapple. step 3
cut pineapple. step 3

That’s it! Simple, right? Let’s try it again, this time with a seedless watermelon.

Cut the top and bottom off, and stand the fruit up, so it is level. Carve off the rind, one slice at a time, then cut the fruit into more manageable bite-sized pieces.

How to peel a watermelon
How to peel a watermelon

Once I mastered this new skill, I haven’t stopped slicing and dicing my own fruit, instead of taking the more expensive help from the store. And my fruit salads have never been the same.

cut pineapple and watermelon
cut pineapple and watermelon

Take a chance, and try it for yourself. You’ll be surprised at how simple it can really be when you take it step by step, piece by piece.



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