Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Take it Outside by Lady of the House

Dining al fresco on these hot summer nights? Me too! I've pulled together my favorite sources for patio-friendly dinnerware that'll have you setting the table in style.

These glasses completely justify speaking with a French accent all evening.

A huge, happy bowl for yummy salads.
We all know the ease and usefulness of the skewer. Aren't these beachy and fun?

And this preppy tray may even have you smiling as you tote the dirty dishes back inside.

{ Lady of the House }

P.S. For you bargain hungers out there: Try finding a Target promotional code for picnic ware.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Hot Dinner Happy Home received a cry for help from an Anonymous Reader who I have never met, is not related to me, and who certainly never ripped my Barbie's head off when she was a toddler. This Anonymous Reader (heretofore referred to as A.R.) had volunteered to help her boyfriend get ready for a housewarming party at his new digs. Being a woman known for her party-throwing prowess and excellent hostessing skills, she was perfect for the job. That said, she was feeling a bit daunted at the prospect of preparing food for the large gathering of people...especially since guests would be arriving at the open house throughout the day and late into the night. 

After a series of telephone calls to discuss the fete, A.R. and I came up with a perfect plan for feeding the hungry masses about to converge on the new house: kabobs. These were the perfect meal solution for several reasons:
  1. They can be prepared ahead of time.
  2. You can thread your skewers with a variety of ingredients to please even the pickiest of palettes. 
  3. Kabobs can be cooked throughout the party so guests have something warm to nibble on whenever they arrive. 
  4. By filling skewers with veggies and/or fruit in addition to meat, kabobs are a budget-friendly meal for a large group.
On the morning of the housewarming party, I woke up bright and early and drove down to Illinois, where the festivities were set to take place. A.R. and I set to work preparing about a million kabobs. For meat, we used a variety of cubed steak, chicken, and shrimp. We interspersed the meat with slices of onions, red and green peppers, and mushrooms. We were in a bit of a hurry, so we didn't marinate the meat, but we did sprinkle the beef kabobs with Penzey's Chicago Steak Seasoning and the chicken and shrimp kabobs with Penzey's Mural of Flavor. Although, I'm sure a healthy dose of salt and pepper would have been delicious as well.

The prepared kabobs waited patiently for us until the guests were getting hungry, and then the new homeowner manned the grill. He prepared several batches of kabobs throughout the evening as additional revelers arrived, grilling kabobs for about 10 minutes each, until the meat was cooked to the desired temperature (165 degrees for chicken and 125 degrees for medium-rare steak).

All in all, the party was a huge success. My favorite part, though, was spending an afternoon cooking and chatting with my wonderful little sister, uhhh, I mean, an Anonymous Reader with whom I have never shared bunk beds. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Triple Layer Mud Pie

I was in charge of bringing dessert to a gathering with friends the other day. It was hot, hot, hot out, and the sun was beating down...a perfect summer day in Wisconsin. I wasn't particularly in the mood to turn on the oven in my teeny-tiny kitchen because, I'll be honest, I didn't feel like sweating my face off. So, the husband and I were discussing what I should bring, and he had an inspiration. "I'm thinking...something with pudding," he said. With that statement he declared himself the expert on seasonal desserts.

After flipping through a 2" stack of dessert recipes, I stumbled upon the recipe below. It was delicious, and it was EASY. I braved 10 minutes with the oven on so I could make my own Oreo crust, but you could definitely purchase a pre-made crust at the grocery store.

What's your go-to dessert when it's too hot to turn on the oven?

Triple Layer Mud Pie
Serves: 8

1 Oreo cookie pie crust (see recipe below), cooked and cooled
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 cups cold milk
2 packages (4-serving size each) instant chocolate pudding
8 ounces Cool Whip

Combine chocolate and sweetened condensed milk until well-mixed. Pour into the bottom of the cookie crust and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with pecans. Pop the crust in the fridge while you prepare the next layer.

In a large bowl, combine milk and pudding mixes. Beat with a wire whisk for 2 minutes. Spoon 1.5 cups of pudding over the pecans in the crust. Add half of the Cool Whip to the remaining pudding. Whisk together until well combined. Spread over pudding layer in crust. Top with remaining Cool Whip.

Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Oreo Cookie Crust
22 Oreo cookies
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse cookies in a food processor until you have coarse crumbs. Add butter to food processor and pulse to combine. Press cookie crumbs into an even layer covering the bottom and sides of a 9" pie plate. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is fragrant and holds its shape.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Greetings from Nantucket, Massachusetts! I'm calling this quaint island home this week while I trundle about town sampling the food, devouring the local art scene and dipping my toes in the Atlantic. What an escape! Join me on a brief photo tour of one of my favorite finds so far: the Saturday morning Farmer's market.
Pumpkin Pond Farm had their freshly picked organic lettuces set in an old baby bath tub. What a salad we made!

Nantucket pride was on full display. These people are literally digging for ways to be more sustainable as a community.

How cool is that?

Goodies from Island Organics. (These guys know how to bake a pie, AND wrap it up!)

Really lovely designs from Keely Smith, and good chat to go with. She says she doesn't make anything she hasn't tried to swim in and rough-up.

I couldn't resist Jeanne van Etten's whimsical paintings. She said she'd always dreamed of painting her creations on local beach stones and shells, and finally plucked up the nerve to do it. I'm so glad she did!

My favorite purchase was an original print from one of David Lazarus' intricate etchings. His work seems to sum up Nantucket for me, the grit, the history and the haunting sea and all its untold stories.
Nantucket is pure magic, and comes highly recommended by the { Lady of the House } xoxo

Monday, June 20, 2011

Herbed Quinoa

I realized the other day that there are a few ingredients that pop up over and over here at Hot Dinner Happy Home. Namely, dried cranberries (a.k.a. craisins), goat cheese, and quinoa. Aside from being some of my favorite ingredients, I can purchase all of these items at Costco, the purveyor of all things gigantic.

You think it's curious that the husband and I, a family of merely two, shop at this bulk-filled paradise? If you could see how many bags of craisins I go through, you'd understand.

Also, I love their pizza. And a fountain Diet Coke costs, like, a quarter. End of story.

Herbed Quinoa
Serves: 4

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup chicken (or veggie) broth
Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped mint
3 tablespoons chopped basil

Add one tablespoon oil to a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add quinoa and cook until it is toasted, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in water and broth, bring to a rapid boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Allow quinoa to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest and juice, cranberries, and salt and pepper to taste. Set quinoa aside and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, stir in mint and basil.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Glazed Tilapia

Now that the weather is nice, I'd rather be outside doing something productive reading a book on the porch than spending hours and hours on dinner. So, you may notice some super-speedy recipes these days. That, or really short blog posts.

Anyhow, this glazed tilapia was born out of the need for speed. These ingredients are all things I keep on hand, so it didn't require a special trip to the grocery store.  And the double bonus was this: since I was only making two tilapia fillets, I had extra glaze leftover. So, I boiled up some angel hair pasta (that stuff cooks at the speed of light), and stirred in 1-2 tablespoons of glaze and a few drops of pasta cooking water. Et voila! A side dish.

Sigh. How I love cooking quickly.

P.S. Don't forget to comment on Lady's post from Wednesday to win a gorgeous handmade guest book! It's the perfect gift for your favorite hostess...or yourself.

Glazed Tilapia 
Serves: 4

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
Pinch of red pepper flakes
4 tilapia fillets, about 1" thick each
Salt and pepper

Combine brown sugar, soy sauce, hoisin, ginger, garlic, lime juice, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, 15 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the highest setting and preheat the broiler. Sprinkle tilapia with salt and pepper and brush with the glaze.  Broil for about 7-8 minutes, until fish is cooked through. Brush with additional glaze before serving.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Be Our Guest

I'll let you in on a little secret...I used to push paper. Yes, big time paper. We're talking wedding invitations for people that own entire chains of grocery stores, get married in France, fly everyone there and hire calligraphers to write guests' names (yes, i believe the plural possessive is appropriate for this one) on smooth stones. I won't name names, but I've worked with the best from Philly to Berkeley, and I'll never be the same again.

...Which is why I've been set to the heavy task of preparing a guest book for my cousin, Louise. She'll be married in St. Andrews in July, and though I can't attend, I'm sending my love, bound, tied, and all dressed up for her big day.

I ripped apart a perfectly lovely guest book from Paper Source, and did my thang. (Dear Paper Source, you can leave off the "guest book" bit. It's cheezy, and everyone gets it without your ugly tag, front and center. Luv ya!)

So here's the deal. My photos are merely inspiration for those who have an inkling, a vat of PVA (that's poly vinyl acetate or glue for those of you wondering), and enough red wine around to tackle this sort of project. I'm afraid I'm a dreadful teacher which is why I'm offering another guest book in the paper and bookcloth of your choosing (via to the winner of the best comment, subsequent Twitter follow @HDHHLady & @hotdnnrhppyhome, and LIKE on FaceBook.

So who are my brides, or guests of honor? Let's hear it!!

{ Lady of the House }
p.s. Winner will be announced in next week's Wednesday post. Oh, and make sure your email account is within your user profile so I can contact you. Contest closes on Tuesday June 21 at noon.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pasta with Bacon and Goat Cheese

Now that the weather is nice, the good people of Milwaukee are out pounding the pavement. They're running, jogging, walking, biking, skipping. Ok, well, not usually skipping, but you get the idea.

Most sane people would see this activity and think, "Golly gee! This delightful weather and the movement-oriented community around me are inspirational! I'd like to go roller-blading and then toast the occasion with a wheat grass smoothie!" Unfortunately, this wasn't the exact path my twisted brain took. Ever wondered about the inner-workings of Erin's brain? No? Well, I'll tell you anyway. Here is the logic that my mind followed:

Runners = Race = Carbo-loading = Let's have pasta for dinner!

Did I follow up that thought with some sort of athletic endeavor. Well, no. But I did fold some laundry. I think that counts for something.

Pasta with Bacon and Goat Cheese
Serves: 4

3 cups bow tie pasta (about 1/2 a box)
6 slices bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
3/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper
2 c. peas (thawed if frozen)
1/2 cup crumbled mild goat cheese (next time, I'm going to try Parmesan)
1/4 cup basil, chopped

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserving about 1 cup of cooking water, drain pasta and keep warm.

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Once it's cooled enough to handle, crumble bacon and set aside.

Drain most of the grease out of the pan, but leave about one tablespoon in the skillet. Saute the onion in the bacon grease until it's softened and translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add garlic to the pan and saute, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and stir, scraping browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring wine to a boil, turn down heat to medium-low, and allow wine to simmer for 4-5 minutes until reduced to a few tablespoons. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add pasta, bacon, peas, and cheese to the skillet. Stir until the pasta is coated and the cheese is melted. Add pasta cooking water as needed to thin sauce to desired consistency. At the last minute, stir in basil and serve.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Beef Enchiladas

According to the husband, these enchiladas are "better than my usual enchiladas." And the best part? They're easier than my usual enchiladas, too. Fan-freakin'-tastic.

Lazy Beef Enchiladas
Serves: 6-8

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles (or less, depending on your spice tolerance)
5 ounces cream cheese
Salt and pepper
2 cans (10 ounces each) enchilada sauce
8 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar (or pepper jack) cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the ground beef and onion until the beef is cooked through and the onion is golden, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add green chiles and cream cheese. Stir until the cream cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour about 1 cup enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish, making sure the entire bottom is covered by a very thin layer of sauce. Add one corn tortilla to the dish, flipping it over so it's covered on both sides with sauce. Repeat with three more tortillas until the bottom of the dish is covered with a single layer of tortillas.

Place the meat mixture on top of the first tortilla layer. Cover meat with remaining tortillas, again placing them in a single layer. Pour remaining enchilada sauce on top of tortillas. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the sauce.

Bake the enchiladas for 25 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Balsamic Tuna Salad

The husband had a work function, so I was on my own when dinner time rolled around. Inspired by the gorgeous, summery weather in Wisconsin (and, let's be honest, the stuff I had in my fridge and cupboards), I decided to make myself a little tuna salad.

I threw some stuff in a bowl, and greedily scarfed it down while I watched some high-quality television (in other words, DVR'ed episodes of Real Housewives of Orange County). When I was darn near finished, I had a revelation, "Holy cow! This is awesome!" And I meant the food, not the high-quality television. Although that was awesome, too. "I need to post the recipe on Hot Dinner Happy Home! People should eat this!"

So, I took a picture of my mostly-eaten dinner with my camera phone. I have no shame.

Balsamic Tuna Salad
Serves: 1 hungry person (ahem, me)

1/2 cup cooked small pasta (I like farfalle)
1/4 cup flaked tuna
1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tablespoons really good balsamic vinegar
1 small tomato, diced
2 tablespoons chopped basil
Salt and pepper

Combine pasta, tuna, and red pepper in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and vinegar and stir to combine. Gently stir in tomato and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stuff your face while watching Real Housewives of Orange County.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Monte Cristo Appetizer

I'm a woman who has many fears.

Airplanes? Terrifying. Any movie featuring a psycho killer? Gives me heart palpitations. Those squiggly bugs with a hundred million legs? Oh, sweet mercy, help me. Making appetizers? I just started sweating when I typed those words.

I may have mentioned my appetizer-induced panic attacks before. I don't know what scares me about them. Fun, bite-sized nibbles that taste delicious—they sound so tame! Maybe it's the mental pictures of caviar-topped blinis served by tuxedo-clad hunks that intimidates me. I don't do caviar-topped anything. Not until I get my first Rolls Royce, anyway. (What's that I hear? My bank account chuckling?)

Anyway, I've challenged myself to conquer my fear of appetizers. When the latest girls night rolled around, I mustered up all the courage in my spineless soul and volunteered to bring a savory snack. "I can DO this!" I told myself.  And you know what? I did.

Monte Cristo Appetizers
Adapted from: An Occasion to Gather

2 sheets all-butter puff pastry, thawed
Dijon mustard, to taste
8 very thin slices of ham
8 very thin slices of turkey
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 egg, beaten
Seedless raspberry jam, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place one sheet puff pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard over the puff pastry, leaving a 1/2" border uncovered on all sides. Arrange ham and then turkey on top of the mustard, making sure to leave the 1/2" border of puff pastry uncovered. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of meat. (Don't forget to leave that border clear!) Place second sheet of puff pastry on top of the cheese. Gently press the tines of a fork around the edges of the puff pastry in order to form a sealed packet. Score the top sheet of pastry with a  butter knife, creating as many squares as you'd like. Be careful not to cut through the dough.

Brush the top of the pastry with the beaten egg. Bake for 30 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown. Let stand until slightly cooled (so all the cheese doesn't ooze out.) Follow your scored marks to cut into squares. Serve at room temperature, or slightly reheated, with the raspberry jam.

**Monte Cristo Appetizers also make a great lunch or light supper. You won't settle for plain, old ham-and-cheese-on-wheat after you've tried them.