Sunday, August 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Chef Aida Mollenkamp’s Tips & Tricks for Easy Summer Entertaining

Peaches and blueberry cream popsicle bites. (Photo via Parade)
Peaches and blueberry cream popsicle bites. (Photo via Parade)

Summer is here, which means it’s time to get going! It’s time to get outdoors in the sun, time to lounge poolside at patio parties, and time to share sunset meals with family and friends. As we pick up the pace with this change in season, our eating habits change too. Making the most of the constant sunshine and hot weather means there’s less time to sit down for meals or to cook labor-intensive dishes.

Since my mealtime mantra is to “make every day delicious,” I’m here to tell you that entertaining can be easy yet still elegant. The laidback attitude of summer entertaining makes it the perfect time to try new recipes, a few bites at a time. I like to serve an assortment of simple but superb bite-sized recipes so I can please everyone without the commitment of a full-sized meal.

I’ve teamed up with the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) to ignite a healthy passion for all things in the dairy aisle. Simply put, it’s the convenient, healthy snack destination in your supermarket. I couldn’t think of a better time to inspire hosts to step out of their comfort zone and kick their party-planning skills up a notch. My fridge is packed with all kinds of cheeses, varieties of refrigerated potatoes, dough products, and, of course, butter and milk for making spur-of-the-moment treats like my Orange Ricotta Cream Cheese Bars.

In a recent survey by NFRA, 26 percent of respondents admitted to being repeat offenders when in the kitchen, relying on the same foods out of habit. I’m sure we all keep our fridges stocked with the essentials (milk, butter, cheese & yogurt), but that means we make the same dishes over and over again. But don’t fret—I’m here to guide you and open your eyes to the creative possibilities waiting to be unleashed. Freshen up your cooking style and expand your recipe repertoire to include snacks to fit any type of mood. Throw your best-ever summer bash with these three simple, mouthwatering, bite-sized dishes:

1. Peaches & Blueberry Cream Popsicle Bites - These are perfect when you crave a little something sweet after dinner, and easy to make since they use everyday ingredients like yogurt, milk alternative, orange juice, and fresh or frozen fruit.

Tip: Customize with your favorite fruit like frozen raspberries or strawberries so you have ingredients ready at the drop of a hat.

2. Loaded Potato Nests – Using a blend of refrigerated hash browns, cheese, and bacon, these adorable nests are ideal pre-dinner nibbles, especially when baked in a mini-muffin pan.

Tip: Add an egg to the recipe before baking and you now have an easy breakfast or brunch dish.

3. Pesto, Parmesan and Prosciutto Pinwheels - Pre-assemble the night before with refrigerated puff pastry, sliced prosciutto, cheese, and pesto. Then slice and bake before guests arrive.

Tip: Make this a vegetarian snack by swapping out prosciutto for roasted red peppers.

Next time you are entertaining guests, tap into the delicious goodness of the dairy aisle. These products are beyond cool! Here are a few additional fridge must-haves to stock up on for party-perfect platters:

1. Refrigerated dough – A quick and easy ingredient that can be a vehicle for a wide range of recipes with the bonus of cutting down prep time. Transforms into quiche crust, potpie, or cobbler topping in a flash!

2. Sour cream – A necessity when it comes to finishing potato dishes, tacos, and all kinds of party-pleasing appetizers. Stir it in to your favorite recipes to add a creamy, rich texture to soups, pasta sauces and even desserts.

3. Cheese – My most utilized ingredient in the fridge. Keep wedges, sticks, and slices on hand for quick assembly of a charcuterie board along with fruit and crackers.

4. Orange Juice – Not just for breakfast anymore! This is a great source of vitamin C and plays a part in everything from sauces, marinades, smoothies, and even tomato soup.

5. Milk Alternative - Keep chocolate almond or soy milk on-hand for a smarter way to indulge your sweet tooth, and a convenient way to add flavor to your morning coffee.

Next time you host a get-together or attend a potluck, stock up on a few staples as well as some new and exciting foods that will effortlessly transform the everyday into a delectable masterpiece! Check out EasyHomeMeals.com for more satisfying and affordable recipe ideas.

 

Aida Mollenkamp is a chef and food expert for the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association and author of the cookbook Keys to the Kitchen.

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Peter Malamud Smith
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