When entertaining friends in the summer, think easy and breezy. Easy to make dishes that won’t leave you sweltering in a hot kitchen all day long and breezy, casual finger foods that match the lightness of summer living. Try these family-friendly dishes when entertaining a crowd on a summer afternoon or eve. Outdoor dining adds a nice touch to summer meals.

Appetizer: Homemade Hot Pretzels and Cheese

You can create pretzels from any basic yeast dough, so turn to your favorite pizza recipe and get started. After the dough has risen for one hour, roll it into a long tube. Now cut small 2-inch bits off to make pretzel bite, cut and brain longer 6-inch pieces for pretzel twists or shape into traditional pretzels. This dish is family-friendly and fun, and you can always take a shortcut by using purchased plain or whole wheat pizza dough. For the cheese sauce, serve a cheddar cheese dip or a nacho dip.

Main Meal: Cheese Stuffed Grilled Peppers with Grilled Kebabs and Corn Salad

To make the peppers, mix equal parts ricotta and cream cheese and add 1/2-part parmesan cheese. Remove the pepper stem and scrape the inside to remove the seeds. Fill the pepper with cheese mixture using a knife. Run with olive oil and grill for 7-8 minutes or until charred. Experiment with different types of peppers, such as Italian, bell or poblano.

When summer tomatoes and corn are at their best, make a simple salad. If the corn is quite fresh, use it raw; otherwise shuck the ears and blanch for 4 minutes. Remove the corn kernels from their cob. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, dice one-half a red onion and add fresh basil on top.

For kebabs, use your preferred meat and marinade for several hours or overnight in a simple lemon and oil dressing or another simple marinade. Slide the meat onto wooden or metal skewers and grill until cooked through. Try shrimp with lemon and oil, Asian-style beef or garlic-rosemary chicken.

Dessert: Watermelon Popsicles

This no-fuss dessert simply spells summer. De-seed and cut 2-1/2 cups of watermelon. Puree in a blender. If you wish, add tequila for a watermelon margarita popsicle or add lime or mint for a child-friendly twist on the watermelon pop. Pour the pureed watermelon into popsicle molds and freeze. If you don’t have a popsicle mold, use paper juice cups to hold the popsicle base and insert popsicle sticks when the liquid is partially frozen. To serve, run the popsicle mold under warm water and gentle slide out the pop.

For beverages, iced tea and lemonade both quench the thirst and are simple to make at home. If you prefer something sugar-free, add some fresh herbs or veggies to water to create a lightly flavored water. Try mint and cucumber or lemon balm and fresh lemon, for example. If you’re serving adults only, upgrade to a crisp white wine or rose, or try light summer ale or a shandy (half beer-half lemonade). With no-fuss, crowd-pleasing dishes like these; you just may become the preferred hostess.

All of these dishes are easy to scale up when you’re throwing large parties and are adaptable to allergens and personal preference. What are your go-to summer dishes for entertaining?

Some of you may be guilty of this – storing ingredients such as flour, baking soda and butter beyond their expiration dates. While you may think that these items can be stored for a long time, they too have their expiration dates.

flour baking soda

It’s about time then that you check their shelf life and label your container to make you aware when you need to throw them away. Here are useful tips you need to keep in mind.

Flour is a common kitchen ingredient that many housewives believe can last for a long time. When stored in the pantry, the maximum time you can keep your flour is six months. If you want to keep them longer for up to a year, though, the best storage space for it is the freezer or refrigerator. Just be sure to store it first in an airtight container before putting it in the fridge.

Butter is good for up to two weeks only but if you want to make it last for a month, again the freezer is where it should be stored. If you have several bars of butter, do remember to put only one of them in the fridge and the rest should be placed in the freezer.
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Memorial Day is observed the last weekend of May and is considered by many to be the official kick-off for summer. Most Americans know that Memorial Day is more than just a great time to fire up the outdoor grill – it’s a day to honor and remember our fallen soldiers. The first official observance of Memorial day was May 30, 1868 when, at Arlington Cemetery, flowers were placed on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers. Though it may have somber roots, Memorial Day is a time to appreciate friends and family and remember those who are no longer with us.

It seems all patriotic holidays are best celebrated with an outdoor barbecue. Maybe that’s because outdoor cooking lends itself to casual, family-friendly entertaining and traditional American fare. This year you can kick up your Memorial Day menu with bold versions of classic summer foods.

Sweet Tea

You need a refreshing drink to balance the spicy, robust flavors of grilled foods, and what’s more Americana that classic sweet tea?

For 2 quarts:

Being an important room in the house, any kitchen should have the proper lighting to ensure that those who use it can see everything clearly even at night. There are tricks in lighting a kitchen and it’s not actually enough that only a single light is installed on the ceiling.

Having only one ceiling-mounted lighting fixture creates a glaring effect and causes shadows which is a no-no in the kitchen, according to interior designers. To create a well-lit room, blending and layering four types of light is most ideal. Depending on what you want to achieve in your kitchen, all four should be taken into consideration but you can also choose to use only two of them if you’re after practicality.

kitchen lights

Task lighting is the most important of all and this is one placed above a person’s head and the countertop (work surface). This provides sufficient illumination when preparing ingredients and reading recipes whether from a book, magazine or an iPad. Ideally, this kind of light should be installed below the overhead cabinets.
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cook using laptop

People have a lot to be thankful for particularly with regards to the advancement of mobile technology. The cooks, whether the newbies or the veterans, are among those benefiting from many of today’s smart mobile devices.

The most important role that smartphones and tablets play is providing information on recipes to people who love to cook for their loved ones and friends. With so many websites and apps that feature recipes and tips, it’s fairly easy to prepare and cook dishes with the help of a mobile gadget.

A 2013 survey on the global food trends done by Allrecipes.com showed that a growing number of people are using a mobile device to search for recipes and food inspiration. The survey covered more than 7,000 cooks with many of them cooking for their families as the top users of mobile gadgets.

So what are the top uses of smartphones and tablets for these cooks?

The study found that searching for recipes is the most popular activity with 63 percent of them doing this with their gadgets. Very understandable because with just a few swipes, they can easily find recipes without exerting much effort. Continue reading »

Still: Kitchen

Your kitchen is the heart of your home—the place you cook, eat, entertain and bond with your family. You want this important room to be beautiful and luxurious, but you can’t spend your entire nest egg on renovations. Thankfully, you don’t need a massive budge to create a fabulous kitchen. All you need are a few dollars and these five creative ideas. Continue reading »

lamb kebabs

Barbecue is a favorite food of many people worldwide. Whether in the developed countries or in the developing nations, this food is very popular among kids and adults alike.

A major proof confirming people’s love for barbecue is the high sales of grillers and smokers. In 2010, for example, more than 15 million were shipped in North America with the gas grills as the most preferred type. The latest study on barbecue lifestyle, usage and attitude done by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association showed that majority of grill owners use their grills all year round. The summer are the most popular grilling times particularly during Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Father’s Day.

Barbecues won’t be as tasty as they are without the marinade. Marinating is an important process as it makes the meat softer and juicier. Most marinades make use of vinegar, wine or lemon juice but other products may be incorporated. Continue reading »

turkey-burgers

Spring is here, which means that it’s time to prepare your yard for the barbecue parties you want to have this summer, starting with Memorial Day. This year, take a page from celebrity chefs and prepare a dish that is sure to impress, and easy enough to prepare in home kitchens and outdoor grills alike.

Shrimp-Bacon Kebabs influenced by Martha Stewart

Everything on these kebabs, including the lemons, is grilled. This means super-easy prep for you. Marinate shrimp and bacon in a mixture of lemon juice and Old Bay seasoning for at least 30 minutes. At the same time, soak wooden kebab skewers in water (if you’re using metal skewers, you can skip this step). Load up kebabs with shrimp, bacon and 1/4-inch thick slices of lemon. Grill on medium high heat for 3-4 minutes per side. You can omit the skewers and grill everything separately on the grill grates, but there is a risk of dropping bacon though the cracks. Consider downloading the Martha Stewart cookie app and making end-of-the-meal cookies. Continue reading »

Spring is here and with this season comes Easter. For many people, this time of the year calls for some celebration and when there’s celebration, there’s bound to be food.

EasterCookies

When it comes to Easter treats, pastels and sweets abound. Easter is often associated with pastels because of their sweet color. But besides the sweet ingredients, the egg also takes the limelight during this season.

If you wish to prepare something sweet and tasty for everybody, here are some ideas you can follow.
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It used to be that a kitchen was a utilitarian space used only by the person cooking a meal. Nowadays, though, kitchens are often the focal point of a home and the main gathering place for friends and family. Whether you’re enjoying a quiet conversation over a glass of wine with a loved one, having a coffee date with a friend or helping the kids with their homework, your kitchen should reflect the kind of lifestyle you want to maintain.

A few things you can do to make an old kitchen look new again include:

Change the countertops

Switching from an old scratched laminate counter to granite will not only give your kitchen a completely new look, it becomes more utilitarian. Granite is heat- and scratch-resistant, so you can place items directly on the counter while cutting and dicing. It’s also easier to maintain. A simple wipe with a damp cloth will do the trick for spot-cleaning. Granite is available in many different colors, so your kitchen will have a whole new look. Continue reading »