Super Bowl Party!

No matter which team you are rooting for, Super Bowl Sunday is a great excuse to have a party even if you are not a football fan.  Super Bowl Sunday is a day spent relaxing in front of the television with good friends and American snack food—who doesn’t like that?  The Super Bowl is the most watched televised event.  Some like it for the game, some like the commercials, we like the party!

 

Décor

Super Bowl Table Setting A Super Bowl party does not need much in the way of fancy decorations.  If your whole crowd is rooting for the same team, use the team’s colors for plates, napkins and a few balloons.  If you are a super fan and have any vintage memorabilia, team pictures, or game souvenirs like foam-fingers, use them as décor!  For a crowd that is divided between teams, ask your guests to wear their teams colors, sweatshirts and hats.  Divide your living room into two sides with each team’s colors and signs with each logo.  Supply each side with their teams colored pompoms and wigs. Leave out markers and blank poster boards for your guests to make their own friendly rivalry signs.  Watch out, this can lead to a hilarious and rambunctious evening!

The center of the party is the game on television; so don’t spend too much time or money on decorating.

 

Drinksimages-4

Beer, and lots of it. Sending friends out for a beer run mid-game is never fun.  Beer cocktails are another good play for drinks. For a lighter twist on beer, try a basic Michelada. For alternatives to beer, have a pre-made drink or two.  Fill the punch bowls with this masculine touchdown tea or linebacker limeade.

(Look for Friday’s blog on American beer for more ideas!)

 

Food

Finger foods and football watching go together like baseball and Cracker-Jacks. For the best football foods think of easy to pick up items that do not require a lot of assembly.  After all, a Super Bowl party host wants to be cheering on the couch too! Kick off your party with classic football foods like wings, veggies with dip, meatballs, and nachos. In order to really score points with your guest set up a buffet table (not too far from the TV) with a chili or nacho bar.  Set out a variety of toppings like cheese, onion, bacon, tomato, hot sauces, guacamole, and sour cream.  You could also follow the same idea with a slider bar.  Make beef or turkey patties the day before. When guests arrive, just reheat and invite them to create their own “super slider.”

BuffaloChickenCupcakesHave fun with bite-sized desserts.  Cupcakes frosted with team colors, or these Buffalo chicken cupcakes to keep your guests commentating.

Super Bowl Party Foods

Sensational Super Bowl Party Foods

 

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A Wild West Round Up

With the legendary National Western Stock Show in town we like to pay tribute to our hard-working farmers and cattlemen. This event has been a part of our state’s history for years and gets everyone from cow-folk to city slickers in the Wild West spirit.  We have a few ideas to keep the theme alive in your own homestead.

 

A Western Themed Hoedown

cactusRounding up your friends for a western themed party is easy.  With affordable decorations and a laid back atmosphere any cowboy would be happy to kick off their boots.  Hand out inexpensive cowboy/cowgirl hats as your guests arrive. Create the feeling of west by covering tables in red and white-checkered tablecloths and use flowers or cacti in a tin can for centerpieces.  For napkins, use multi-colored bandanas.  Also, line bandanas in cowboy hats to hold chips and rolls as a fun touch.  Set out toy guns, old boots, camping lanterns, and, if you have them, any horse-riding accessories like saddles, spurs, or lassos. If your party is outside, set out a few haystacks for sittin’. For a fun personalized addition make “wanted” posters with pictures of your guests with fun descriptions of their crimes, “Wanted: Peter, for being too handsome.”

 

Food

Hitch up the chuck wagon and think of the simple, hearty foods our pioneers ate.  Foods like chili, ribs, Chili6pulled chicken or pork, baked beans, and cornbread are all easy-to-make foods of the west.  To cut down on hosting duties, consider having a chili cook-off.  Ask your guests to bring their best chili recipe and vote judging for the spiciest, most unique, and best all-around.  The same can be done with desserts using the old time pioneer favorite: pie!  Give the winners ribbons tied to tin mugs as rewards. For sides, serve grilled corn with chili butter and biscuits.

 

Drinks

imagesCowboys are tough and so are the drinks. In addition to serving beers, like the Texas favorite Shiner Bock, serve whiskey (we are partial to local favorites like Stranahans, or Leopold Bros.) and tequila.  Since refrigeration wasn’t big in the 1800’s many of the drinks were straight up.  Of course, we don’t expect our modern day settlers to consume drinks this strong so offer simple mixers like sodas and limeade for tequila.  If you’d like to offer a signature cocktail, serve a batch of Wild Wild West or Juan Collins cocktail mixes in large rustic glass bottles. Make sure you have old-fashioned root beer on hand for designated drivers.  Make a sign over the bar with that reads the “(hosts name) Saloon.”

Giddy up!

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Winter Baking at Home – Breads & Cookies!

This long cold snap has kept many of us indoors, giving us time to connect with family, catch up on television, finish books, and watch our favorite football teams (we are picking a second favorite now that the Broncos are out!).  This extra time spent indoors also gives us the opportunity to explore more in our own kitchens.  The perfect compliment to long cozy days indoors are the aromas of fresh bread baking, cookies warm from the oven, or cooling cupcakes waiting to be decorated.  Whether you are perfecting a family recipe or trying something new, these cold winter months are the ideal time to test them out!

Cookies

macaroonsThe nostalgic favorites will always be chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin.  This year’s trendy cookies include French macaroons and whoopie pies.  The macaroons can be brightly colored to cheer up the dreary weather and whoopie pies are kind of like a soft stuffed cookie that can be filled with a variety of flavors.  For anyone baking cookies at home, experts recommend a good layered cooling rack–this way you won’t have to over crowd when cookies are cooling this can cause them over-steam themselves and stick together.  Another fun (though not necessary) gadget is a cookie press.  Cookie presses allow cookies to come out uniform in shape and will keep your hands out of the dough!  For those of us who like dough sampling, use a small ice cream scoop.  Another essential to cookie baking is the Silpat.  This is a product that professionals have known about for a long time.  Silpats are used in place of parchment paper; they are made of non-stick silicone and make for even baking and easy clean up.

Cornflake Chocolate Chip and Marshmallow Cookies

Lemon Sandwich Cookies

Bacon Banana Cookies

Breads

Colorado’s high altitude keeps many of us away from bread baking.  However with a few simple tools and tricks it is vimages-2ery do-able.  Breads can be very easy, such as a simple French loaf, or more complex, like a brioche.  A bread machine is not needed, nor is tons of time.  With only a few pantry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, and, water) your kitchen can crank out bread to rival your local bakery.  A bench scraper is the tool bread bakers use to divide dough and assists when kneading.  This tool makes it easy to separate your dough in half, as most bread recipes make two loaves–which brings us to another essential: two standard sized loaf pans.  A baking stone is also a must have as bread can be baked directly on it or in loaf pans.  It is the best way for a home baker to achieve the tastes and texture of a hearth oven.

BriocheFor high altitude bread baking, start by looking at the yeast.  Be sure that the one you use is instant active dry yeast and not the rapid rise kind, and decrease the amount of yeast called for by one forth.  High altitude breads typically rise faster, which can be a plus! Punch the dough down after the first rise and let the dough rise again until it has doubled.  Be careful not to let the dough over rise as this may cause an unmanageable bread monster!

Of course, if you are impatient and do not want to fuss with all the bread baking techniques there are the easy-to-bake quick breads, like banana breads or blueberry muffins.

 

Honey Quinoa Bread

Jalapeño Cheddar Bread

Hawaiian Bread

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Après Ski (And other Foods for Skiing)

It is the time of year we grab our parkas, gloves, goggles, and ski hats and escape to the mountains either for a few runs, or long a weekend.  After a day on the slopes it is not uncommon to hear, “This is one of the best beers I have ever had.” Or, “These nachos are really hitting the spot now.”  There is something about a hard but fun day on the mountain that makes everything better afterwards.  Many ski areas have a slew of busy pubs and lodges with an après ski offering.  If you really want to kick off your ski boots and warm your toes by the fire we suggest hosting your own intimate après ski at your rental, condo, or even at home.

Food

Mini Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Keep the food hot and familiar.  In Europe, après ski food typically includes warm snacks and beers.  For this approach, we like the idea of friends gathering around a fondue pot, dipping winter vegetables and hearty breads.  Also shrunken comfort foods, like mini chicken potpies, or small servings of tomato soup in mugs with baby grilled cheese sandwiches are all wonderful warm-up foods!

For stick-to-your-bones meals, set a Crock Pot before first tracks to cook cold weather favorites, like beef stew, or chicken cacciatore.   For a really simple shortcut, serve carb-heavy foods like spaghetti and meatballs to keep energy for the weekend.

Straightforward desserts are best for cold-weather après ski meals.  Brownies hot out of the oven, apple caramel bars, hot fudge sundaes, or, if you are lucky enough to have fire, make indoor s’mores!

 Drinks

Colorado is known for our many craft beers, which are perfect for après ski hangs.  A few of our Spiced Apple Cider with Rum Whipped Creamfavorites are the heavier Oatmeal Stout from Breckenridge Brewery, the flavorfully spiced Juju Ginger from Left Hand Brewery, and Boulder Beer Company’s standard Never Summer Ale.  Sparkling wine and spiked apple cider or hot cocoas are also ideal for fireside sipping.

 

Other Foods for the Hills

Breakfast is important when heading out for an athletic day.  Before skiing, food should be thought of as fuel.  But that does not mean it can’t be good too!  Pull together a quick vegetable frittata, or pack homemade granola and have with Greek yogurt and fruit for sustained energy to keep you on the lifts and down the hills until lunch.

Vegetable frittataWith ski resorts charging astronomical prices for mediocre burgers and frozen fries it’s easy to see why many resort goers chose to bring their own lunch.  Bagged lunches have the tendency to be boring and child-like so we suggest bringing a lunch with adult tastes.  Make hearty sandwiches like turkey with bacon and avocado, pulled pork sandwiches, or salami, mozzarella, and tomato.  Try a hot wrap with seasoned black beans, rice, and cheese in a tortilla for a warm healthy burrito (most resort cafeterias have microwave for public use.)  Or bring along leftovers from the Crock Pot you had going the night before.

Most importantly, stay warm, well fed, and have fun on the slopes!

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Food Trends for 2013

Now that 2013 is well underway, it is time to look ahead to what we can expect on our plates over the coming year.  Often we find food trends stick around longer than the latest fashions (cupcakes and bacon anyone?) but, it is fun to speculate about what the new “in” foods will be and who will love them, or not care at all.

Popcorn

Popping onto the scene this year is gourmet popcorn.  Popcorn is the versatile snack that has been on the verge of wild popularity for a few years, imagesbut 2013 is predicted to be the year for the familiar snack.  Expect to see over-the-top sweet flavors like dark chocolate, coconut, drizzled with white chocolate, or savory spicy kernels like wasbi or mesquite, and many variations in between!   The best part about popcorn is that it is relativity healthy, can easily be found in stores, and can easily be experimented with by the home cook.  Aside from gourmet popcorn being more readily available in your local grocery store, look for shops like Chicago’s Edmonds, famous for their cheesy caramel flavor, to explode this year.

 

Spice

-gochujang-L-1Spicy food lovers rejoice!  There is a new spicy sheriff in town and it is not salsita, or Sriracha.  The hot condiment of the year is gochujang, a Korean chili paste made from fermented soybeans, red chili, glutinous rice, soybeans, and salt.  The distinctive sauce can be used on burgers, eggs, mayos, and anything else that might need a kick.

 

Bread

Blazing out of restaurateurs’ and caterers’ ovens, expect to see artisan breads.  Wiartisan-breadth the gluten-free fad mellowing out a little, the lovely bread basket is expected to make a comeback to a table near you.  The buzzwords at many restaurants are becoming “bread program” (In 2012 it is was “cocktail program”).  Chefs are expected to even go as far as having bread courses showing off the range of skill and flavors going into different flours, techniques complete with a range of butters to pair with.

 

Tea

Loose TeasThe drink of year will be tea.  Gone are the days of heavy dairy lattes and flavored coffees.  Tea is a more health conscious way to get your caffeine kick without a million calories.  White, green, herbal, floral, earthy, and, spicy teas will be the choice beverages of the year. Tea is also expected to be appearing in dishes like tea-poached salmon, or deserts like Earl Grey cookies.  Also, tea will be seeping behind the bar with many bartenders featuring the new beverage darling both iced and hot.

Of course, these trends may come and go faster than you can say “foie gras,” but we look forward to a year of putting them to the test!

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Winter Parties

For many of us parties are the last things on our mind after a busy holiday season, but it can still be fun to host a post-holiday party that’s full of winter cheer!  As a busy catering company we find that many clients looking to throw social events, like weddings and cocktail soirees, are looking at options throughout the calendar.

A Winter Party at Home

White wine bottle by red fire with corkscrewWinter can feel long and sometimes a little boring.  To make your winter party stand out, think of fun winter themes like a sophisticated après ski party.  Ask your friends to come in their ski coats and hats to enjoy o’douvers and wine by the fire.  If your crowd is on the adventurous side, have an 80’s ski party!  Think campy ski movies from the decade. Serve retro-80’s food like fondue, or potato skins.  If your friends need a more family-friendly gathering, host a winter brunch party complete with to-go mugs of hot chocolate.  Bundle up the kids and head to the closest sledding hill when the meal is over.

Anxious for hot days and sunshine? Beat the winter blues and have a beach party!  Pay no imagesmind to the snow on the ground and create a summer environment by blowing up beach balls, setting out pool towels, playing reggae, or even dusting off the lawn chairs and placing them inside. Serve light summer foods like skewered shrimp, or mini pulled pork sandwiches.  For drinks, serve margaritas or mojitos—don’t forget the mini drink umbrellas!

Bigger Events

When is comes to planning a large-scale event in the winter like a wedding or large birthday bash, it is important to think of a space that creates warmth.  Places like lodges or a venue with a large fireplace or two work welScreen shot 2013-01-04 at 1.57.00 PMl for winter entertaining.  One important factor to keep in mind is, of course, the weather!  If possible, try to choose a venue with little commuting for your guests.  (It’s also a good idea to double check to see if your guests have to walk along icy sidewalks!)  As your guests arrive consider passing around a warm beverage such as apple cider or Mexican hot chocolate.

Winter food is comforting, but often times can feel a bit disheveled.  When planning the menu keep the food winter appropriate and easy to eat.  For appetizers serve items like butternut squash soup in shooter glasses, or mini potpies.  Entrées should be classics, like filet mignon with Rosemary mashed potatoes.  If an item like this is out of your price range, consider a seasonal pasta dish, such as pumpkin ravioli.  Keeping the food simple and cozy for higher end winter celebration is best.

Decorations, like the food, are typically simplified for cold weather events.  Elegant colors like silver and white images-1to match the glistening snow outside, or soft pink and gold for a little glamour.  Lots of candlelight creates a classic look, but for more unique centerpieces place ice carved vases on the tables filled with winter branches, like birch. For party favors leave small throws at each chair, your guests will appreciate this thoughtful parting gift!

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Keeping New Year’s Resolutions and Healthy Eating in 2013

We made it past a long holiday season with cocktail parties, neighborhood gatherings, and large feasts.  Now that New Year has arrived and hangovers have subsided, we take a look at the often-dreaded resolutions.  For most Americans our resolution list includes dieting or eating better.  Unfortunately, most resolutions don’t even make it until February.  With a few adjustments to your resolution it can become a long-term goal that can be achieved!

 

Make a Plan

Screen shot 2013-01-02 at 2.51.33 PMExperts say starting the New Year off with your goals written down gives you a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.  Print you goals out for your fridge, office–anywhere you see them often. Making a strict statement like, “I will not eat white carbohydrates in 2013” can set you up for disappointment. Instead, think of small steps to get you there. We are human, so it is important to allow yourself a little wiggle room! Try not to not deny your “forbidden” food while eating at a fancy restaurant or celebrating a birthday. Having a plan for when a slip-up happens will help you remember next time you are tempted, like “I had a cupcake last night so an extra fifteen minutes on the treadmill today!”  Simple things like looking at menus on-line before you go to restaurants, or bringing food to a party are good ways to stay on track. Keep in mind that there probably will be slip-ups, and that is okay.  Not being too hard on yourself will help you bounce back better than dwelling on it.  And sometimes a cupcake is worth it!

 

Stick to the Basics

There is no magic formula to weight-loss or healthy living.  It is the same song we hear from personal trainers, doctors, and, friends: diet and BalancedMeal-Customer-Serviceexercise. The average adult dining plate should be half fruits and vegetables, the other half should be filled with grains and lean protein.  And don’t forget the fifth food group, dairy!  Add a diary serving with a slice of cheese, a serving of yogurt, or a dollop of sour cream. Seems easy enough, right?  Where most Americans go wrong is over indulging on fatty meats, like cheeseburgers, instead of lean proteins, like chicken breasts or salmon. We also tend to choose complex carbohydrates like pasta or French fries over whole grains like quinoa, and brown rice.

When building your meals think of a rainbow of colors to fill the vegetable portion– Dark greens such as spinach and broccoli, yellow bell peppers, red tomatoes, orange carrots, and purple cabbage.  Choosing a variety of vegetables, preferably those in season, helps boost nutrition and helps keep your plate interesting.  Fresh fruit is best, but frozen fruits and 100% fruit juice count too! When is come to grains, try sticking to whole, un-refined grains like wheat pasta, oatmeal, and brown rice.  These are higher in nutrients as they include the entire grain, which is also a plus for extra fiber.  images-2Proteins should be lean cuts of pork, beef, or chicken and could also be any variety for fresh fish.  For vegetarians, beans, or tofu work well.  As for dairy, add low-fat cheeses, milk, and yogurt to your diet when you can.  Dairy is a great snack option because dairy is high in protein, which keeps you full for longer.

Stick to these eating basics along with at least thirty to sixty minutes of exercise five days a week, and you are on the road to your making your New Years resolution last twelve months and beyond!

Here is to happy & healthy New Year!

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