Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Time for a Party

I love this time of year - warm during the day, cool at night, and everyone just seems happier than in the middle of January! What a perfect excuse for a party.

Last Saturday night we had about 15 of our friends over for a casual gathering on our deck. Since I was traveling all week before the party, I planned out a simple menu that could be prepped all in one day.

My homemade pico de gallo
Stasia's guacamole
Tortilla pinwheels
Marinated and grilled chicken skewers with cilantro cream
Crab and asparagus dip
Cheese and crackers
Vegetable crudite
Jenny's chocolate chip cake

I took two pictures of the setup at the beginning of the night, and then totally forgot about taking pictures of anything or anyone once things got going!! I blame it on the wine...

My Homemade Pico de Gallo
This is something Jon begs me to make almost every weekend in the summer. It is very simple and delicious and reminds me of being in Mexico.

- Chop and mix 10 tomatoes, 2-4 jalapenos with or without seeds, 1 small white onion, 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, and about 1 tbsp salt. Chill and serve with tortilla chips.
Here is a picture of the pico from another time that I made it.

Stasia's Guacamole
I love Stasia's guacamole - it is always perfectly creamy and green. This is what she does:


  • 8 soft Haas Avocadoes, save a few of the pits
  • 1 sweet onion, preferably vidalia, diced
  • 2 limes (or to taste)
  • Cilantro, chopped (to taste), remove stems as best you can
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • Mash avocadoes with a fork to remove large chunks. Add onion, cilantro, lime, and sea salt.
  • Keep a few of the pits to put in the guacamole when it is done as this helps to keep it from turning green.
Stasia's Tip: If you buy avocadoes that are too firm for guacamole, place them in a brown bag overnight and this speeds up the ripening process.

Tortilla Pinwheels
These bite sized appetizers are always a hit - I never have leftovers.


  • 10 large flour tortillas
  • 1 cup chopped veggies - I like using red and green peppers, red onion, and celery.
  • 1.5 blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 1 package dry ranch dressing mix
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Mix cream cheese with ranch mix and salsa
  • Spread mixture onto tortilla; top with chopped veggies and cheddar cheese. Roll and place in a casserole dish and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. I like to keep them in the fridge overnight.
  • Chop off the end of each tortilla and discard (or eat as you go along...); chop tortilla into bite sized pieces and serve. Each tortilla should give you 6-8 pieces.

Chicken Skewers with Cilantro Cream
This appetizer includes another one of Jon's marinades. I sliced 15 chicken breasts into 3 pieces each and Jon marinated them in a mixture of tequila, lime juice, olive oil, cumin, and chili powder. They only needed to marinate for about 3 hours; any longer and the lime juice would have started to "cook" the chicken.
Cilantro cream... this is simple, mild, and refreshing and went perfectly with the smokiness of the cumin in the chicken. I mixed 1 cup of sour cream with a handful of chopped fresh cilantro. Let it chill for about 1 hour before serving.

Hot Crab and Asparagus Dip
I found this recipe on the Pillsbury website and changed it up just a bit. I'm not a fan of crab, but everyone said it was great and it went quickly. I served it with crackers (and really wish I had a picture!!).
Ingredients (I doubled this)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 (8-oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (10 oz) bag of frozen asparagus (or fresh; original recipe called for canned)
  • 1/2 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onions
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 (6-oz.) can crab meat, drained
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds (I didn't use these)
  • Added: 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Steam asparagus on stove or in microwave
  • In a bowl, combine sour cream, cream cheese, and asparagus
  • Add green onions, horseradish, mustard, crab meat, and cheese. Mix well.
  • Transfer to a baking dish and bake on 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Cheese and Veggies
Cheese is a must at every party! I normally slice all of the cheese onto a plate, but Stasia arranged this cheese tray for me and it looked a lot better than how I usually do it. I had a bowl of garlic and herb Alouette, a wedge of jalapeno-cayenne cheddar that was oh so creamy and delicious, and a wheel of brie.

I loved the way it all looked on this cutting board. Unfortunately I won't be able to use that cute little brie knife again because Jon dropped it into the garbage disposal when he was cleaning up...he blames it on the Scotch, but at least he did all of the clean-up, right??

Jenny loves to bake and brought another great dessert from the Williams-Sonoma recipe collection - Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake. Jenny doubled the recipe and turned it into a layer cake with strawberries in the middle. It was a great cake, not too sweet, and made you feel like you were eating a cookie!

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

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  1. What a great spread. Everything is so beautifully plated. looks like a great party!

  2. I make a similar pinwheel appy, but may have to try yours next time around.

    Your get-together sounds really delicious!

  3. Sounds like a fun night! Tortilla pinwheels aren't teh fanciest, but they are always so popular at parties.