PLATES AND PALATES

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gardening For Kids - Herb Boxes


Tilled and prepared the garden tonight. It's that time of year once again. Plant. Weed. Reap the efforts of your labor. Nothing beats fresh veggies and herbs! In our home it's a family event and all hands get treated equally (calloused and dirty) even the little ones. With a surname of Plowman it's more than a hobby... its a tradition.

While my oldest son and I pounded out the earth beneath our feet, my wife and two youngest children created these simple yet functional herb boxes. She then set them on the sills just outside the kitchen windows where they can be easily accessed when needed.

Creating the herb boxes not only got our children's hands dirty but it also showed them the importance of recycling as well. Miss Eva our lovely soon to be 3 yr.old daughter had decided to use mommy's bread pans in the sandbox... and then... left them outside to rust. My wife was so happy with Eva's creativity that she turned shades of color I have never seen before. All is well that ends well though. We have some beautiful new functional  herb boxes from bread pans that once were destined for the scrap pile.

Directions: To create your herb boxes you will need: bread pans, stencils or lettering, spray paint (color of choice), sandpaper, potting soil and an assortment of herb plants.

Begin by sanding away any rust from pans (if necessary) and apply a light coat of paint. Place a second more heavier coat of paint and allow time to dry before lettering. Fill boxes with potting soil and herb plants. Thoroughly water and place on window sills. Water plants as needed. Enjoy fresh herbs all summer long.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Recipe: Chocolate Fettuccine Marshmallow Peanut Sundaes

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Keeping it short and sweet (pun intended) so that I may enjoy the holiday festivities with my family.

Having recently discovered a new gourmet pasta line, over the next several weeks I will devote time to developing summertime side salads, created from some very unique and innovative pasta blends. 

We begin today with dark chocolate fettuccine. I hope you enjoy today's feature of Chocolate Fettuccine Marshmallow Peanut Sundaes - A sneak preview of things to come.

Ingredients:  Vanilla ice cream, Marshmallow Creme, Hot fudge topping, Maraschino cherries, Crushed salted peanuts, Chocolate fettuccine bits, Chocolate fettuccine bowl.

Directions:  For those who have never made a sundae before...

1) Boil fettuccine in large pot of hot water as you would for any cooked pasta until al dente'. Drain and place pasta into a small bowl of choice. Place pressure onto pasta with another dish so that fettuccine may take the shape of the bowl. Cool in fridge until it sets.

2) Once bowl has set and is ready to use carefully remove from mold and begin building your sundae. Start with placing two or three scoops of vanilla ice cream into bowl. Top with fudge, marshmallow, peanuts, fettuccine bits ( small broken pieces of uncooked pasta). And, don't forget to top it all with a cherry. Enjoy!

* Next week - Sweet Potato Orzo

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Profile: The JDK Group


Its been a busy few weeks for our household with funerals to attend, last minute family visitors and an award ceremony to honor my wife. Not to mention its one of our busiest times of the year for catering. Corporate conferences. Weddings. Family picnics. Coordinating special events can be tedious and at times a bit stressful. Alright, it IS stressful!

As noted earlier, I recently attended an American Red Cross awards ceremony. Having attended more than my fare share of banquets and award ceremonies I was certain that this evening would be like many before - "Heated up bulk food in a can, turn and burn, clean up and go home... I couldn't have been more wrong!  On this most momentous occasion I had the opportunity to view first hand quality in action. What does "quality in action" look like? The JDK Group of course!

With over 20 years experience in the event service industry, The JDK Group(www.thejdkgroup.com) of Harrisburg (PA), however, "can make even a novice party planner look like a Pro!" Voted Best Caterer 8 consecutive years (2004-2011) in Harrisburg Magazine's Simply The Best Readers' Poll, The JDK Group (JDK Catering (http://www.jdkcatering.com/), Essential Party Rentals (www.essentialpartyrentals.com) Imagine Event Designs (www.imagineeventsdesignbyjdk.com) is "Central PA's premier full-service caterer and event planner".


Food presentation is a very  important element to a dining experience. It is said that 90% of what we eat is due in part to how it appears to the naked eye. On this particular evening there were two hors d'oevres offerings that from afar dressed my attention - The beef skewers and the meatballs in a sweet tomato basil sauce.

The beef skewers impressed me for the unique heating method used in keeping them warm as well as the use of color in their presentation. Laying atop small smooth rocks, the skewers were kept warm by a babbling brook of heated water below them. The red and yellow sweet pepper pieces added a pop of color against the gray rocks, creating for a visually appetizing presentation. Serenely balanced like yin and yang!



 The skewers may have popped in color but the sweet cherry tomatoes and basil sauce served with the meatballs (There were meatballs. Honestly...) popped with flavor. The shaved Parmesan cheese and black pepper added an additional depth of  flavor to an already satisfied palate.

While the little nibblers served prior to the event saved off hunger pangs, there was still room for desert. What's an award ceremony without some cake?  But, as I mingled with other guests the cake slowly disappeared and I was left with only pie. Silky. Rich. Snickers Pie. And Oh how it satisfied! Ok, maybe you don't need cake afterall.

The quantity and variety of horsdeovres was more than adequate for the event size. The spacious reception room, although larger than necessary, was perfectly executed by the JDK design team. The overall experience on this night was not just in the details of the event but in those staffing it as well. The JDK Group's servers were approachable and courteous while Senior Event Specialist Kim Koch's professionalism and attention to details is to be commended. Thank you JDK for giving me the opportunity to share "quality in action" with the world.

For stress relief in planning your next special event, give The JDK Group a call at 717-730-4661.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Recipe: Chipotle Pork Shepherds Pie

This evening I took  my son and his friend Landon to a Lancaster Barnstormers minor league baseball game. Wow, how the game has changed! When did carousel rides, inflatable slides and bumper boats become a part of the "ballpark experience"? I was a bit baffled. After only two innings and the home team getting trounced 7-0, the boys trotted off to the bumper boats saddened by the score but returned with a ball in hand smiling from ear to ear.  Lucky recipients of a foul ball. It seems that the ultimate of souvenirs had gone for a swim while they were riding the boats. I suddenly saw the genius of an amusement park.

One thing hadn't changed - ballpark grub. OK it's changed quite a bit. There is still plenty of beer and hot dogs being served at the ole ballgame but there are also pita sandwiches and BBQ ribs... Beer and ribs. Now that I understand!

Also discouraged by the outcome of the game, I found my thoughts wondering. Tomorrow is May 5th-Cinco de Mayo. And you, my faithful foodies, were promised a recipe. Upon arriving home I searched through my files and found the perfect recipe for the occasion. I hope you enjoy Chipotle Pork Shepherds Pie as much as my family did last year. It's a quick and easy family friendly meal. The heat from the chipotle sauce is tamed by the creamy mashed potatoes,ensuring that the little ones' sensitive palates will not be offended.

Ingredients:

1/2 stick butter
4 medium red potatoes
2 T. Cabot Greek yogurt

1-16oz. frozen peas
1 medium onion
1-16 oz. can diced tomatoes w/green chilies - DO NOT DRAIN.
2-3 pounds pulled pork
Water - Only if needed to add moisture to dish

Directions:

First prepare chipotle pulled pork. You can find the recipe at my magazine blog  http://www.duluthsuperiormagazine.com/ "One More Bite"

Next, prepare mashed potatoes. Clean, skin and quarter potatoes. Place into large pot and boil until softened. Drain water from potatoes and add butter and yogurt. Mash and set aside.

In a large Pyrex baking dish, assemble casserole. Place a quarter of the diced tomatoes on the bottom of dish followed by mashed potatoes, onions, meat and peas. Continue layering until reaching top of dish. NOTE: The final layer should end with potatoes on top. If needed, add a little water for moisture. However, this should not be necessary.

Place into 350 degree preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown. DO NOT OVER BAKE!

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