One of my favorite Web sites is www.allrecipes.com. Apart from the sheer number of recipes you can peruse, almost every recipe has several comments and ratings so you know what's really good and what you can pass on. I clicked on their appetizer category and looked at "Top 20." After finding a salsa recipe that looked tasty, I had a revelation on the theme. . .
For the main spread, I decided to make three types of salsas as well as guacomole. Add in an endless chip bowl and you've got a party. Yes, I made tent cards for each type - the main reason being each of these had so many ingredients I wanted to make sure people realized if one was chock full of jalepenos or if one had something there might be an allergy to. The other reason being that I'm just that crazy.
The clear winner of the night was the Avocado, Tomato and MangoSalsa. I doubled the recipe based on comments from the allrecipes readers and it went FAST. This recipe was promised to several of our guests. . .
For variety, we also had Guacamole and Salsa de Tomatillo. I never knew these little green guys existed and apparently never thought about how salsa verde got the verde.
The Fruit Salsa was super easy to make, and we ate it in bowls the next morning like a fruit salad. Bob made the cinnamon tortilla chips which was actually much less time consuming than I thought it was going to be.
Salsas are easy to make, but the time it takes to chop all the veggies and fruit was a bit of a drain! Luckily, we just got our new Wusthof Knives that made cutting through the tomatoes and peeling the avocados a breeze. I'd also recommend a food processor and this handy little tool I got as a birthday gift a couple years back! (warning: the Web site has sound that starts immediately, so unless you want everyone in your cubicle area to hear "Tired of all that chopping?" I'd turn the mute on!)
The Cheese Plate
Gotta have a cheese plate. It's not just a sterotype: Wisconsin girls love their cheese.
We stopped at the cheese shop in Binney's saturday morning after buying them out of their New Belgian beer selection. Who came up with this convience of having a cheese stand right in your neighborhood liquor store? Very smart. We decided to go with a mix of hard and soft cheeses. Port Salut is a semi-soft cow's milk cheese from Brittany. It has a mild flavor and has always been one of my favorites. We had a Cheddar flavored with onion to give the plate some color. And, of course, no party is complete without a wedge of Brie. I used a bamboo lazy susan I found at Marshall's ($10!), threw some grapes in between the cheeses and voila. My original plan was to make photocopies of the page in my cheese book - of course I have a cheese book - that talks about each of these types and place the pages underneath each wedge. Alas, time ran short and I had to just print off the names and tape them to the side of the plate. Points off, I know.
I had also found a goat cheese recipe I just had to try. This appetizer took literally 5 minutes to put together, and when Jewel is having a 2 for 1 sale on goat cheese you have to take advantage and double the recipe!
Creamy Goat Cheese and Honey
4 oz fresh goat cheese
2 oz finely chopped pecans (you can find packets in the baking aisle)
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
Divide the goat cheese into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Combine the crushed pecans and cinnamon in a bowl. Roll each goat cheese ball in the pecan mixture until covered. Gently pat the balls into patties. Transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle honey over the patties and sprinkle rosemary on top. Serve immediately.
We kept it simple with chocolate chip cookies and brownies. This brownie recipe is from Cooking Light and one I've made before. I was a little concerned after I accidentally added an extra egg
white to the batter, but I couldn't really tell the difference once the finished product was ready for taste testing.
Now, chocolate chip cookies are about as easy as you can get. I've made them numerous times and have never had a problem. The last time we used the recipe on the back of the Nestle chocolate chip bag, I chalked them turning out poorly to Bob forgetting to add a whole cup of sugar to the mix. However, I followed the recipe to a tee this time around and was sorely disappointed. Really flat, really greasy and not much taste. Again, I turned to allrecipes.com and looked up the highest rated chocolate chip cookies. I made the recipe (this is why I buy 2 bags of chocolate chips at a time when I'm in the baking aisle) and was not 100% convinced with how they would turn out. I wasn't used to cookies with this much texture and such a light color after 15 minutes in the oven. The cookies were a crowd pleaser though: hard outsides with soft, chewy insides. Yum!