So, I don’t know how you were raised, but I was taught never to show
up at a party, no matter how small or informal, empty handed. To hear
my grandmother say it, it is almost worse to show up empty handed than
it is not to show up at all. Perhaps this is part of how those of us below
the Mason Dixon get our reputation for “southern hospitality”.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a good practice and a great reputation
to have, but it can also add stress and chaos to our already busy life.
During the summer, we get invited to many little get-togethers and cookouts–quite
a few of these are last minute and don’t leave a lot of time for
creating something beautiful and delicious. There is always the option
to take the store bought route, which is sometimes unavoidable and understandable.
However, I am going to share with you three of our favorite dishes that
are quick, easy and affordable whether the occasion calls for something
sweet, savory or stylish.
Sweet: What is an all-time summer classic that everyone loves? S’mores,
of course! Here is a modern twist with much less mess.
1) Layer graham crackers in the bottom of an 9 x 13 pan (I prefer a glass
casserole dish so I can see the layers). Make sure to cover the entire
bottom, breaking smaller pieces to fill in gaps.
2) Mix your choice of packaged brownie mix according to the box instructions.
The more fudge-like brownie mixes tend to fit the recipe better.
3) Spray the sides of the pan with non-stick spray and pour batter over
the graham cracker base–careful not to displace the graham crackers,
and bake according to box instructions.
4) About 5 to 7 minutes before the timer goes off, cover the top of the
brownies with mini marshmallows and return to oven.
Tip: I always like to add a little cinnamon on top of the marshmallows
to give my dish a unique taste.
5) Remove from oven when marshmallows are a light to medium brown.
6) Cover loosely with foil to travel. (Plastic wrap will collect moisture
and make the marshmallows soggy.)
Tip: For best results, cut with a wet metal knife.
: The Caprese Salad is a quick and colorful, classic crowd-pleaser.
1) Slice your fresh mozzarella and tomatoes so they are about 1/4 inch
thick, and lay them out on your platter like fallen domino’s, alternating
a slice of cheese and a slice of tomato.
2) Next, cut thin strips of fresh basil and sprinkle them over the spread.
3) Sprinkle a moderate amount of salt and pepper.
4) Finally, lightly drizzle Olive oil and White Balsamic Vinegar, and enjoy!
: Fruit is always in style! It’s all about presentation. This is my
favorite thing to throw together because there is no right or wrong way.
For me, I like to get a little fancy and, even if you don’t consider
yourself creative, you can too!
1) Visit your local grocery store or farmers’ market and get a variety
of fruit. I always like to get things that will hold up well, especially
on skewers. (Avoid bananas, peaches, etc.)
2) Wash your fruit and cut into bite-size pieces. Some fruits, like grapes
and strawberries, are best left whole. If using apples and other fruit
that brown, toss in lemon juice prior to use.
3) Cut a whole pineapple in half. With this you can create two separate
trays or use half for decoration and half for fruit.
4) Place the top half in the center of a serving dish. The bottom half
can be hollowed out for dip or left as is for fruit kabobs and placed
on another serving dish.
5) On wooden skewers, add fruit to the top half. I usually make 8 to 10
to be placed in the pineapple base and 10 to 12 more to place in a section
on the platter.
6) Then, arrange the various remaining fruit around the pineapple centers.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match. If blueberries are in season,
I always like to sprinkle them around the tray to add color. Dipping fruit
in milk or white chocolate also can add dimensions to your tray.
Now, when you receive a last minute invite, you can show up with a great
homemade dish that is sure to impress!