We are settling in well in our new house.
I love being closer to family, downtown, and the neighborhood pool. And I especially love the way the sun seeps through the west windows in the early evening. (Sissy likes it, too.)
Now that most of our boxes have been unpacked (or at least hidden in the spare room), it’s time to enjoy our new space. Cue the crickets and turn on the fans. It’s time for a summer dinner party!
Here’s my favorite summer dinner party menu of late:
- Ground bison – for tacos with assorted toppings and cilantro-lime sauce
- Grilled or seared fish — for tacos with assorted toppings and cilantro-lime sauce
- Various tortillas (corn, wheat, white), as fresh as possible
- Big pot of pinto or black beans
- Grilled or boiled corn on the cob
- Chips and a variety of salsas
- Dulce de Leche Icebox Pie (recipe below)
What is it about this menu that makes it so well-suited for summer? Several things.
First, most everything can be made ahead! Nearly everything can be made in the morning and then reheated just before serving. (Which means that even the host can relax with a glass of wine as guests arrive!)
Second, this menu will please everyone! If kids are attending, parents can satisfy even the pickiest eaters with cheese and tortillas (quesadillas), or bean and cheese nachos. Vegetarians can make bean tacos. Gluten-free eaters can have corn instead of flour tortillas.
Third, it’s all fairly economical! The bison runs about $10/pound and the price of the fish will depend on what you get, but everything else (beans, tortillas, chips, toppings, etc.) will be super cheap. This is key when serving a crowd.
Fourth, it’s all easy to serve! I like to line up everything buffet style and then just put a stack of plates at the beginning. Put the items in order (tortillas, taco fillings, toppings, beans, corn, chips, salsa) for quick and easy self-serving.
Fifth, it’s easy for guests to contribute! If you want to host the party potluck style, suggest that guests bring fruit, chips, an interesting salsa, guacamole, queso, or sides like beans, rice, or corn.
Sixth, the dessert is fantastic! No really. FAN-TAS-TIC. Trust me on this one, y’all.
Dulce de Leche Icebox Pie
(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie)
At the suggestion of @islandgirlOK and with the help of Book End Babes, I made Martha Stewart’s Frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie a few weeks ago for a friend’s party. It was both easy to make and delicious, which in my world are the two most important criteria. Still, I wondered, “Could I make this dessert even easier and even better?” Maybe diehard peanut-butter fans will disagree with me, but there is an ingredient even tastier than peanut butter: Dulce de leche. So I swapped those two things, added a cinnamon crust, reduced the sugar (because dulce de leche is already sweet), simplified a few steps (come on Martha – do we really need to gently fold in the whipped cream?! I think not.) . . . and came up with, hands down, the best summer pie I’ve ever served.
For an easily printable recipe, click here.
3 cups cinnamon Teddy Grahams
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whipping cream
1 can (13.4 ounces) dulce de leche
For Topping Decoration:
About 1/4 cup Nutella
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the Teddy Grahams in the bowl of a food processor or jar of a blender. Blend until Grahams are finely processed. Add melted butter. Process again to combine.
Press crumbs into a 10-inch pie plate in an even layer on the bottom and up the sides. Bake crust until set, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. While crust is cooling, make the filling.
Place cream cheese, powdered sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Beat until soft and creamy. (If there are still visible lumps of cream cheese, continue beating until all or almost all have disappeared.) Add whipping cream and dulce de leche. Beat on medium speed until thick, smooth, and creamy, about 5 minutes.
Pour filling into cooled crust. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. (You can see below that there are still some lumps in the filling … no big deal.) Place in the freezer for 2 hours.
Remove from freezer to decorate. Place Nutella into a medium-size Ziplock bag. Press the Nutella into one of the bottom corners of the bag. Using scissors, snip off the bottom tip of that corner of the bag to make a very small hole. Place the bag in the microwave and heat for about 10-15 seconds, just to soften the Nutella.
To decorate the pie, hold the bag in your hand a few inches above the pie. Then, while moving your hand back and forth across the top of the pie, squeeze the Nutella out of the open corner of the bag.
Or, make your own design, like Jack did.
Place pie back in the freezer. Freeze for 1-2 more hours, or overnight. To serve, let pie stand at room temperature about 10 minutes before serving. The pie is very rich, and goes perfectly with a cup of coffee!