Shish Kebabs, Skewers, Meal on a Stick…How ever you describe it, this method of cooking and eating is popular all over the world. Not only are kebabs easy to prepare, they can be made in advance and customized to suit different tastes. Marinated cubes of meat are threaded on a skewer and cooked over a flame or under a broiler. Vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes and onions are popular additions to the skewer. Years back I attended a party where we made our own kebabs. Besides the traditional meat and veggies, we could choose from shrimp, cubed fish and tantalizing spices to customize our own ultimate meal on a stick. For a sweet ending we ate dessert kebabs — grilled cubes of pineapple and pound cake that we dipped in a creamy caramel sauce — pure bliss!
Kick your kebabs into high gear with these recipes from TSG!
I found these helpful tips from www.homecooking.about.com.
•Wooden bamboo skewers are inexpensive and easy to find, but they must be soaked at least 30 minutes in water (preferably warm to the touch) prior to use. This keeps them from easily catching fire. If you get into the shish kebab habit, then you may wish to invest in stainless steel reusable skewers.
•Meats should optimally be cut in uniformly-sized 1 to 2-inch cubes for quick and even cooking.
•Marinade is not necessary. You can also just season with your favorite herbs and spices.
•If using marinade, be sure to marinate at least 30 minutes before cooking. Overnight is even better if you have time to prepare ahead. Discard marinade. Do not reuse it. Prepare a separate batch if you need a dipping sauce.
•A light spray of cooking oil will help keep the kebabs from sticking. Turn the kebabs often for even cooking.
Inspired by watching Kate Middleton’s fairytale wedding to Prince William, I thought it would be royally fun to have a tea party — fancy hats and pearls optional! According to legend, the creator of afternoon tea was the Duchess of Bedford. Back in the mid 1800’s, your meals consisted of a large breakfast, a very light lunch and a late supper (8-9PM). The Duchess became hungry around four o’clock every afternoon and began to suffer from “a sinking feeling.” To make herself feel better, she started snacking on sandwiches and a pot of tea in the late afternoon. This lead the Duchess to invite friends over to join her in the afternoon for tea, simple sandwiches and assorted sweets. This became so popular that other ladies copied her and started inviting their friends over for afternoon tea.
Tea Party Menu
An easy and fun way to entertain — the sandwiches can be made a couple hours ahead of time and kept in the fridge (cover loosely) and the desserts can be made the day before. And since this is a tea party, you are not required to serve a full meal.
Tea Sandwiches – These dainty sandwiches are traditional afternoon tea fare. Make a vertical and horizontal cut across the sandwich to make four small square tea sandwiches.
TSG Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches – follow the instructions for Over-The-Edge Smoked Salmon Appetizer ~ mix all the ingredients together ~ chill ~ spread on white sandwich bread ~ trim the crusts and cut into pieces
TSG Cucumber Sandwiches – follow the instructions for Great Caesar’s Ghost Spread ~ spread on white or pumpernickel bread and add cucumber slices ~ trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
As April comes to an end, my thoughts immediately turn to sun filled days, chilled drinks, and salsa! In addition to the celebration of Cinco De Mayo, May is also National Salsa Month. I can’t think of a better reason to invite friends over for a fabulous fiesta right at home — no passport needed! Our TSG Black Bean and Corn Salsa and Mango Peach Salsa will get the party started in no time. Delicious on their own served with chips or dippers, these salsas are also great recipe starters. Below are a couple menu ideas that will have your guests saying Ole!
For the tortillas – Preheat oven to 350 ~ mix cinnamon and sugar to taste and put aside until ready to use ~ Spray flour tortillas with any cooking spray you have on hand or brush with melted butter ~ sprinkle cinnamon & sugar mixture over both sides of the tortillas ~ cut tortillas into strips or triangles ~ place on cookie sheet (do not overlap) and bake at 350 for about 5-7 minutes until the chips turn a light golden color ~ do not overbake! Cool chips before serving ~ can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container.
St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday that even the non-Irish love to celebrate. From parades to Irish pubs, there are plenty of local festivities to enjoy. A tradition for my group of friends is to attend the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade (festively dressed in green of course). From there we walk to the local Irish pub for some of our favorite Irish foods — Sheppard’s pie and Irish stew. Add a Guinness and a little Irish dancing and we are transported to the Emerald Isle!
St. Patrick’s Day just isn’t complete without Irish Soda bread. Bake a loaf of this quick and easy bread for your celebration.
Prepare TSG Beer Bread using 12-ounce club soda. Add ½ cup of orange flavored dried cranberries. Bake at 375 degrees F for 50-55 minutes or bake at 350 degrees F if using glass, ceramic or non-stick bread pan.
Perfect for a hostess gift – wrap the loaf in a decorative tea towel and tie with a green ribbon.
An Old Irish Blessing
May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!
Today is National Guacamole Day……Yes, I couldn’t believe it either — guacamole has its own day! And as we all know, the star of this infamous dip is the avocado. My first experience with making guacamole started with trying to get the avocado flesh separated from the avocado skin. Not really knowing what I was doing, I hacked through the avocado and began to scrape the avocado flesh off the pit. Needless to say, there was more avocado on my hands and shirt then in the bowl. Back when I started cooking, we did not have the internet (gasp) or the Food Network to turn to for cooking tips and techniques. What was not learned from my Mom or my sisters came from trial and error. After a quick lesson from Mom, and a few more tries, I mastered cutting an avocado. For a great step by step video check out below –
My favorite way to whip up a tasty bowl of guac is to mash the flesh of 3 avocados (I prefer Hass) lightly in a bowl with a fork leaving it a little chunky. Mix in 1 tomato seeded and diced, ½ of a white onion diced, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, juice of 1 lime, salt and pepper to taste. For a spicy kick I add 1 fresh jalapeno seeded and finely chopped. Serve with white corn tortilla chips.
And what would National Guacamole Day be without some Guacamole and Avocado Fun Facts…
1. Guacamole is Aztec for “Avocado Sauce”, made with avocados crushed by a molcajete, an ancient version of a mortar and pestle
2. Avocados were once a luxury food reserved for royalty
3. About 43 percent of all U.S. households buy avocados
4. The Avocado is a fruit and has 60% more potassium than bananas.
5. Brazilians add avocados to ice cream
6. Guacamole is also delicious as a sandwich spread especially on TSG Beer Bread!
Today, we are shooting for our Winter Spring catalog – so the heat outside doesn’t match the food on the table. My last two weeks have been spent finalizing some of the products for this shoot – and we’ve had a blast! A troop of us went way out in Texas to the test kitchens and ate all afternoon. It’s the one place where all tastes and opinions are created equal.
We ate salad, slow cooked meals, barbeque brisket and preserves – then we had lunch and dinner! It’s amazing what you can learn about someone when you talk about food. You learn about their family life as a child, their ethnic heritage by what’s on the table… but the hot discussion of the day was Mexican!
I have come to the firm belief that great Mexican food is that with which you grew up. I’m from Los Angeles and the formulating chef in this case was from Texas. You would have thought it was the Mexican American war all over again. We had two distinct and vehement points of view on what constituted an “authentic” product – mole in particular.
The word mole comes from the Aztec meaning stew or sauce. In Mexico, mole recipes are passed down from generation to generation, and are as individual as your family. It’s a closely guarded secret. Mole is a rich thick sauce, made from a variety of chiles, onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nuts and chocolate.
And that’s where the disagreement started – the Texans didn’t want chocolate! Where I am from, without chocolate there is no mole. Then there was the discussion about chicken vs. beef.
So we compromised – we sent both up to our research panel at our facility in Chicago and are having our target audience vote! May the best Mexican win.
In the mean time, if you want to try mole easily, go to a restaurant, wait for us, or if you have what can be a considerable amount of time you can try:
Summer time! A little heat! A lot of friends! Looking to have a fun, easy party? Keep it simple! Have a fiesta featuring Margaritas – it’s the thing to do these days!
Mexican food is now the most popular food in America (after pizza!) Having a Margarita is the perfect way to cool off on a warm evening, or to bring the spirit of fiesta to your home. Bright colors and candles can top off the fiesta feel with little money and effort. Add some salsa music to your playlist and you’re all set.
It’s as easy as one, two, three! With the right fixins, a pitcher and a blender start the party by makeing a chilling frozen margarita . A classic margarita features tequila, Triple Sec and Lime Juice.
Then grab some chips and salsa, TSG Black Bean and Corn Salsa or Mango Peach Salsa are great. Add traditional guacamole (if you can’t get fresh avocados, then buy the frozen and jazz it up with some onions, garlic and tomatoes).
If you want a fun dinner inside that takes no time to prepare – have a taco buffet – the only part you really have to cook is the ground meat. Cook with any commercial packet of taco seasoning, lay out lettuce, tomato, sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese. And you’re done.
Easy Recipes for a Great Margarita Party
Here are some easy recipes if you want a little more pizzazz!
Believe it or not, the catalog to be released in August was shot a month ago. I spent a week tasting our new products and looking (and eating) comfort food, holiday desserts and other great treats! I thought it would be fun to show you a little of the behind the scenes effort.
We all know that you eat with your eyes as well as your mouth, so food styling for the catalog is very important. There can be a lot of “bad press” about how food stylists “cheat” the dishes to make it appropriate for a magazine shoot. Take for example ice cream, it’s impossible to get real ice cream not to melt under hot lights. But the attitude of companies, savvy consumers and digital photography have changed the issues in shooting food and allowed all of our photography to be much more “natural”.
When we prepare food for the catalog, we actually create and test recipes (that’s a popular day in the office because they get to taste finished dishes, not just product). At the shoot our fabulous stylist Catrine Kelty prepares each of the dishes (with leftovers) and then works with our great photographer Paul Saraceno to bring it to you in the best possible light.
It’s true that we do help out our dishes a little – after all they do have to sit on the table for hours at a time and need to keep looking fresh. We spritz the lettuce with water to make it glisten, hand arrange the leaves, stack berries just so, and melt our cheese with a gun that peels paint off walls so it gets perfectly brown.
Tips to Make Your Table Look Great
Here are the top tips that Katrine uses in preparing our food whether for photography or your family table.
Set the table beautifully – make sure you keep a nice centerpiece and candles ready to be lit every night.
Use fresh, high quality ingredients – there’s nothing more sad than wilted lettuce!
My maiden name is McCarthy, I’m sprinkled with kisses from the sun (freckles) and I’ve actually kissed the Blarney Stone (now that shouldn’t surprise you) and I’ve lived in Chicago and seen the river dyed green – but when it came to writing about Irish food and St. Patrick’s Day I actually drew a blank. Even after searching Google.
St. Patricks Day Myths
What I learned is that much of the American hoopla about St. Patrick’s Day is just that – American hoopla. Until recently, St. Patrick’s Day was a religious holiday in Ireland. And we all know it was to celebrate driving the snakes out of Ireland. Right? Except there were no snakes in Ireland. Those snakes were most likely heathen symbols.
And ready for this? St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was actually born in Scotland or Great Britain in 373 A.D., was enslaved in Ireland as a youth and returned in adulthood as a priest when he probably took the name Patrick or Patricus. Oh Well! Why ruin a festive celebration with facts? I think we just needed a celebration in March – a month that is frequently without one. So what to make?
Of course, most traditional Irish plates include potatoes (although that didn’t begin until after the great potato famine) and are very simple – meat, potatoes, vegetables. You can do a great corned beef in your slow cooker or a lamb stew. There boxty which is an Irish potato pancake (rhyme). There’s fun potato and sausage dish called a Dublin Coddle. But my personal favorite, Colcannon (mashed potatoes with onion, kale and bacon), is traditionally served at Halloween.
Easy Recipe – No Bake St. Patrick’s Pops for Kids
For the kids, I found this great, fun, easy no bake idea to help celebrate – St. Patrick Cookie Pops. Now this is celebrating!
So on March 17, I’ll wear my green (the shamrock was a symbol of rebellion in Victorian times), have a Guiness (my one per year) and say Erin go Braugh! (Ireland Forever) with all my other American Friends!
Personally, I love a culture where the proper greeting is “Have you eaten yet?”
Whew! We just finished our New Years and it’s time for Chinese New Years – 2010 the Year of the Tiger! For us New Year is just a day or a weekend,but in China it means that everything shuts down for two weeks! Wouldn’t we just love a holiday like that?
Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, so this year it occurs on Valentines Day, February 14. It was a real dilemma when it came to blog writing! This year is the Year of the Tiger – part of the Chinese Zodiac (think our astrological signs)
As it turns out, most of the country really only quiets for a week, but there is truly a different celebration for almost every day from the first, Family Reunion Dinner , to the Seventh (Everybody’s Birthday) to the final Lantern Festival.
Much of the celebrations and customs have to do with tradition and superstition. Many foods are considered lucky because the name sounds likes other words in Chinese for good fortune, prosperity and long life. Gifts of oranges and tangerines abound as representations of gold and good fortune. Decorating colors are also red and gold. This link will take you to a great overview of the holiday season.
On the eve of the first day, Family Reunion dinner, the main dish served is typically a whole carp, not fully eaten so there will be prosperity for the New Year, with enough left over to carry you through. Traditionally, the first day itself is vegetarian, and everything needs to be prepared in advanced – no cutting allowed in case you cut short the good luck for the New Year.
To make a symbolic dish that everyone will love, I go back to our family favorite – longevity noodles (long noodle-long life).
This is so simple you don’t really need a recipe. Take your favorite vegetables and blanch or stir fry them (be sure to include those golden carrots). Then take and soak a package of rice noodles in boiling water(takes 5 minutes or less) and toss with a dressing that includes rice vinegar, a tiny bit of sesame oil, vegetable oil, garlic and fresh ginger. This is one night when noodle slurping is definitely allowed, no noodle cutting allowed!
If you want to add an American flair, then try the TSG version of a dipping sauce for pot stickers and spring rolls;
Two Sisters Gourmet Dipping Sauce Recipe
2 Tbsp Sweet and Spicy Pepper Jelly
1/2 cup Island Ponzu Sauce
1 green onion thinly sliced
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Mix ingredients in small bowl and serve with pot stickers or spring rolls
The Chinese know about family relations too! The third day of the New Year, everyone stays home. It’s known as the Day of Squabbles! Even in the West we know that family relations get strained on the third day. This is a great time to learn about some of the great and varied dishes that people use to celebrate. If you live in a city with a Chintown, go down to a local bakery and try some of their sweets – sticky rice balls for dessert or rice candy for the perpetual Tray of Abundance (sweets kept out for everyone to snack on during the holiday – not unlike the Italian tray with 12 tastes for the Twelve Days of Christmas).
Tray of Abundance
Bring them home for the Seventh Day Feast – Everyone’s Birthday! Traditionally in China, individual birthdays were not celebrated, and everyone turned a year older on the same day. This is a day for much feasting and festivals. What a great tradition!