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.

birthday cake.TheCubanReuben.com

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.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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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Jewish Penicillin

Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s no secret that I’ve been sixty-five since I was twelve. My friends all jokingly call me mom (and some even call me grandma), as I not only enjoy the senior citizen-friendly past-time of watching 20/20 on a Friday night, but I’m pretty sure I skipped the whole “clubbing” phase of my early adulthood in favor of cozying up in my living room for a more intimate affair with a few friends, a bottle of wine, and smarty pants board game. I’m also the one they turn to when they want a bit of nurturing and comfort, which is how my chicken soup tradition started.

During my senior year at college, on a frigid Chicago winter day, I found myself surrounded by puffy-eyed, crimson nosed, cold and flu-infested friends, whose mothers were all at least 1000 miles away. Somehow, I managed to avoid the plague, and was the only healthy one of the bunch. I remember thinking that if I were sick, and my mom was nearby, she’d rush over with a warm pot of soothing chicken soup, but since our mothers were all in other states, the onus was on me. I called my mom and all of my extended “moms,” in an effort to make the best pot of soup, combining elements from all of their recipes. My goal was to make a huge batch, in order to freeze individual portions, and deliver them to my mom-less friends as needed. As I finished my first round of deliveries, word got out that I may have found the cure for the common cold, and I started receiving requests. I’m pretty sure a couple of those deliveries went to people with fake coughs, but it warmed my heart nonetheless that I was able to provide a little bit of comfort to my fellow students who were far from home.

To this day, I still keep individual portions of soup in my freezer, because you never know when a friend might need a little Jewish penicillin to kick that cold to the curb…Or maybe they’re just looking for a little bit of home-cooked comfort in a bowl.

 

Chicken Noodle Soup
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Jewish
Serves: 8-10
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
My fool-proof, cold-busting Jewish Penicillin, that is sure to warm your belly and comfort your soul.
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 chicken breasts (can be boneless or with bone)
  • 1 Tbs seasoning blend (I prefer salt-free Greek seasoning)
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and left whole
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package of egg noodles
  • 1 Tbs Italian parsley, chopped
  • *A pinch of bijol seasoning (found in the Latin food aisle of your grocery store) (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large stockpot, saute the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in the olive oil over medium to high heat, until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add the chicken breasts, and stir in the seasoning blend, salt and pepper.
  3. Cook the chicken until both sides brown, then add the chicken broth, water, parsnips and bay leaves. Cover the pot, and let cook.
  4. After 30 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and set aside to cool. Lower the heat on the pot to low.
  5. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred the meat, and return it to the pot.
  6. Return the soup to a bowl, remove the parsnips and bay leaves, and add the noodles. Cook the noodles according to their package instructions.
  7. Add more salt and pepper to taste, as well as the chopped parsley and the optional pinch of bijol seasoning.
  8. Either serve immediately, or let cool and freeze individual portions for future use.