Time for Dinner – Setting an Interesting Table

As you can tell by the title of my blog, A Passion for Entertaining, I love to entertain and create memorable dinners. I am always on the search for interesting dishes and serving pieces.  I think the most interesting tables I have set are those with many textures and patterns.  Bold patterns and interesting dishes enhance your table.  What fun it is to set a table with various dishes. Discount home stores, flea markets, estate sales, antique shops are always great places to start.  I have traditional place settings but prefer to switch things up when entertaining;  There is nothing better than expecting the unexpected.  

A few recipes that I have already posted are in the phot:os below:

Warm Caprese Salad – http://apassionforentertaining.com/warm-caprese-salad/

Italian Rolls http://apassionforentertaining.com/italian-rolls/

 

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Bacon Pops

What I thought would be a great addition to brunch turned out to be so successful I would add this to any breakfast, brunch or tailgate.  I always knew cooking bacon in the oven when preparing large quantities was easy.  However,  this time I  wanted bacon to be finger food and decided to thread the bacon on a stick.  I cut each piece of thick cut bacon in half, then threaded each piece on a six inch wooden skewer.  Brushed them all with maple syrup (you will see the syrup on the first piece on the top row), then I sprinkled the bacon with a brown sugar,ground  nuts and cayenne mixture.  In the oven it went …

bacon pops 1

 

and out came the most delicious bacon pops…

Bacon pops 3

Bacon Pops
Yields 22
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Ingredients
  1. 18 oz. package, thick cut bacon
  2. 22 six-inch wooden skewers
  3. 1/3 cup brown sugar
  4. 1/3 walnuts or pecans, ground
  5. 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  6. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Soak skewers in water for 15 minutes. Cut bacon in half crosswise. Thread each piece of bacon on one skewer. Place skewers on rack in a foil lined cookie sheet. Combine brown sugar, nuts, and cayenne pepper. Brush each skewer of bacon with maple syrup. Try to avoid getting the end of the skewers coated (the skewers will be easier to serve when not sticky). Sprinkle each slice of bacon with brown sugar combination. Bake in preheated oven until the bacon is golden, approximately 35-45 minutes. Remove from rack when cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Notes
  1. These would also be a wonderful addition to a Bloody Mary bar.
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A Passion for Entertaining’s Most Viewed Recipe of 2016

I am always interested in the recipe that is viewed the most on my blog.  Peppadew Goat Cheese Appetizer is the most viewed recipe of 2016.  I must admit, it is one of our favorites and evidently it is also a reader favorite.  If you have not tried this appetizer, give it a try, I do not think you will be disappointed, perfect to serve for you New Year’s celebration or while watching your favorite college bowl game.   I wish you all a prosperous New Year, with great friends, great foods, and great finds! 

 

When I was in Atlanta last week, I had an amazing Peppadew appetizer at one of the BBQ restaurants we visited.  It was so good, I came home and  tried my hand at recreating it.  I served my creation this past weekend and all agreed it was delicious. A Peppadew is a sweet piquant pepper grown in the Limpopo province of South Africa.  Interesting how combining a few basic ingredients, you can produce such fantastic results. This appetizer is very unique and if you are not familiar with Peppadews, what a good time to give them a try.  It is very easy to make, you can make this ahead and pop in the oven when your guests arrive.  I served this with water crackers.

peppadew appetizer

 

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Apple Date Cake with Caramel Rum Sauce

This description will be brief – my husband thinks this is the best cake I have ever made! 

apple date cake

Apple Date Cake with Caramel Rum Sauce
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
  2. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  3. 1 1/4 cups flour
  4. 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  7. 1 1/4 cups sugar
  8. 1 egg
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  10. 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  11. 1/2 cup flaked coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a small saucepan bring dates and 1 cup of water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda ( it will foam) set aside and cool to room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Slowly add cooled date mixture. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined. Fold in apple and coconut. Spread in prepared pan. Bake 45 - 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on rack. Run a knife around sides of springform before releasing sides. Carefully remove sides and parchment. Serve with caramel rum sauce.
Notes
  1. Caramel Rum Sauce
  2. In a small saucepan combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, 5 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup heavy cream. Bring to a boil and boil one minute. Remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon of rum. Serve warm or at room temperature.
http://apassionforentertaining.com/
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Rosemary Rolls with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Recipe #4 – Spartan Olive Oil #EVOOChallenge

These rolls are perfect to serve along side any entrée, but also would be great as a hamburger roll.  I know that many cooks hesitate to bake bread and use yeast.  This recipe is so easy and the results outstanding that I encourage you to try them.  You simply mix the dough in a large mixing bowl, knead the dough (simply place the dough on a floured surface and gently incorporate the ingredients – check out this site for step-by step instructions http://www.wikihow.com/Knead-Dough)  Then you let the dough rise, shape into round balls, dip in olive oil, let rise again and bake.  The results – you will be a hero in the kitchen!

IMG_2390

Rosemary Rolls with Olive Oil and Sea Salt
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Ingredients
  1. 3 envelopes active dry yeast
  2. 3 1/2 cups warm water
  3. 9 cups flour
  4. 1 tablespoon salt
  5. 1/2 cup chopped fresh rosemary
  6. 1/3 cup sea salt
  7. 1 cup olive oil
Instructions
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl. Stir in flour and 1 tablespoon salt; mix well. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; kneed until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased large bowl; turn dough to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 2 hours. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Sprinkle both sheets generously with rosemary and sea salt. Punch dough down. Divide into dough into 36 to 48 pieces. Shape each into a 2 1/2 inch ball. Dip each ball into olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Let rise until double. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake approximately 25 minutes or until golden brown.
http://apassionforentertaining.com/
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The Challenge!

I was contacted by Spartan Oil and asked if I was interested in participating in the Spartan Oil #EVOOChallenge.  Next week, I’m collaborating with other food and healthy living bloggers on this challenge. Stay tuned next week for the creative recipes that have been cooked up.  My challenge is to post one recipe each day, January 18 – 22, using Spartan Olive Oil.  Wait till you see some of the unique recipes I have crafted for this event.  I love the label on their bottle – Bold Oil for Fearless Cooks – how could I not accept that challenge!

spartan oil bottle

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A Passion for Entertaining/A Year in Review and Top Five Recipes 2015

I find it hard to believe I have been food blogging for one year.  Here is what year one has taught me:

  1. Follow your passion!  No matter what it is – it will be the most rewarding thing you ever do.
  2. Keep up with every new piece of technology you can get your hands on
  3. Involve your family and friends – I have had the best time involving everyone as my “taste-testers”
  4. Reach out and discover new and exciting things.  I never would have guessed what fun it was to learn about the life cycle of oysters!
  5. Keep reaching for the sky – I am always thrilled when new readers discover my blog and spread the word.  And..thank you to all of my faithful readers.

Now to the fun facts – it is amazing all of the stats I have from my first year. 

Following are my top five recipes according to reader “hits” for 2015.  I thought you might enjoy to see what others are cooking.

Cheers to a fantastic 2016!

A Passion for Entertaining Top Five Recipes 2015

1. Blackberry Cream Cheese Pie

http://apassionforentertaining.com/blackberry-cream-cheese-pie/

apaap

 

2. Vegetable Pasta Salad with Dill Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

http://apassionforentertaining.com/vegetable-pasta-salad-with-lemon-dill-buttermilk-ranch-dressing-vango-salad/

Vegetable Pasta Salad

3. Pasta Primavera

http://apassionforentertaining.com/pasta-primavera/

pasta primavera

4. Chocolate Cloud Cookies

 http://apassionforentertaining.com/chocolate-cloud-cookies/

chocolate cloud cookies

5. Olive Oil Orange Bread

http://apassionforentertaining.com/olive-oil-orange-bread/

olive oil orange bread

 

 

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Italian Sausage Soup

Fall days, cool nights – it’s soup time.  I always love making a large batch of soup and freezing leftover soup for those busy days when I just don’t want to cook or time is running short.  I always cook  pasta for soups separately in additional broth.  Then I add the pasta to the soup just prior to serving.  I think the soup is best with fresh cooked pasta added.  When you refrigerate or freeze soup with the pasta added, the pasta absorbs additional liquid and the pasta looses it al dente texture. This soup would also be great with rice or tortellini added.

Italian Sausage Soup

Italian Sausage Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 1 - 2 # Italian sausage links (mild or hot)
  2. olive oil
  3. 1 yellow onion, minced
  4. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  6. 1 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes
  7. 1 1/2 cup red wine
  8. 5 cups beef broth
  9. 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  10. 1 green pepper, diced
  11. cooked pasta or rice
  12. salt and pepper, to taste
  13. Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  14. Chopped Italian parsley
Instructions
  1. In a large soup pot, add Italian sausage links (prick casings prior to adding) and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove sausages and cool. Discard cooking water. Slice sausage links into slices and sauté in soup pot in a drizzle of olive oil. Once brown, remove sausage, set aside. Add additional olive oil if needed and cook onion and garlic until onion is transparent. Add red wine, tomatoes, beef broth, Italian seasoning and sausage pieces. Simmer 30 minutes covered. Add vegetables and cook an additional 30 minutes. Cook pasta in additional broth or add to soup mixture and cook until tender.
  2. Serve with grated parmesan and garnish with Italian parsley.
http://apassionforentertaining.com/

 

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Easy Chocolate Loaf Cake

I  always shake my head when I think about cake mixes.  I cannot think of one good reason to purchase a cake mix.  I especially do not like the preservatives that are added into any prepared foods including cake mixes.  Check out the ingredient list below of a popular dark chocolate cake mix.

Sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Propylene Glycol Mono- And Diesters Of Fats, Mono- And Diglycerides), Cocoa Powder Processed With Alkali, Dextrose, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate). Contains 2% Or Less Of: Wheat Starch, Salt, Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum

My recipe below is so easy to make and uses such basic ingredients, there is not reason to not make a cake from scratch.  This is so easy, I hope you agree.

chocolate loaf cake

 

Easy Chocolate Loaf Cake
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  4. 4 tablespoons butter
  5. 1 cup boiling water
  6. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1 egg, beaten
  8. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. 1/4 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350. MIx together dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Cut butter into cubes and add to boiling water. Once the butter has melted, stir (by hand or use a hand mixer) into the dry ingredients. Slowly add egg, mixing quickly. Add vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan.
  2. Bake 350 for 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.
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Apple Slices with Caramel Rum Dip

Looking for a sweet alternate to a traditional dessert. Apple Slices with Caramel Rum Dip will be the perfect choice. This is my go to easy to make caramel sauce. I add a splash of Dark Jamaican Rum after cooking and it is just delicious with apple slices. This sauce is so easy to prepare and so much better than the purchased variety in the plastic containers.  You could also serve with crushed pecans to dip the apple slices in after the caramel coating.

apple with rum dip

Apple Slices with Caramel Rum Dip
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Ingredients
  1. 4 tablespoons butter
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  4. 1/3 cup heavy cream
  5. 1 - 2 tablespoons rum
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, and heavy cream. Slowly bring to a boil. Stir frequently. Boil one minute. Remove from heat and stir in rum.
  2. Cool. Store in the refrigerator. This sauce thickens as it cools, for a thinner sauce, heat prior to serving.
http://apassionforentertaining.com/
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