Easy Party Punch

Party Punch

  • 1 12-oz can frozen citrus blend juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 12-oz can frozen berry blend juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 2-liter bottles ginger ale, chilled
  • ice cubes or ice ring

New Better Homes and Gardens CookbookIn large punch bowl, combine concentrates. Add ginger ale and ice. If desired, garnish with orange slices and fresh strawberries.

From The New Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

Katie: We went to a dinner party at a friend’s house, and I thought that the perfect thing to take would be some punch. But, I didn’t know how to make punch. Well, the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook didn’t let me down! This was super easy to make, the biggest problem being that my punch bowl isn’t big enough. Punch GlassI don’t have a dedicated punch bowl, but rather one of those cake stands that can be flipped around into a punch bowl. I was able to make about half of the recipe at a time. I also wanted to make a ice ring, and I used my pound cake pan. For a punch bowl the size of mine, something smaller would really be better, but it still served its purpose of keeping the punch cold without watering it down. I made a punch ring with ginger ale, and I placed orange slices and strawberries in it. I also had fresh orange slices and strawberries to garnish when serving.

Gray: This was tasty and the ice ring was very pretty.  It would have worked better if the bowl was a little large, or maybe an ice ball would have been better for the size bowl, but in any case looked nice and served its purpose well.  I think that punch is an under-rated treat in this day of bottled soda pop and booze.  It is a fun social drink that we ought to see at parties more often.  If you have thoughts on it, let us know if the comments.  Enjoy!
Punch Ice Ring

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Scottish Shortbead

Scottish ShortbreadPreheat the oven to 300°F. Have ready an 8-inch square baking pan or a rectangular shortbread mold.

Using an electric mixer, beat until light and well blended:

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softenedShortbread Pattern
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Sift over the butter mixture:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Gradually stir the flour into the butter mixture, then lightly knead until well blended and smooth.  If the dough is too dry to hold together, sprinkle a few drops of of water over it, adding only enough to hold particles together and being careful not to overmoisten it. Firmly press the dough into the pan or mold, forming a compact, even layer. If baking in a pan, pierce the dough deeply with a fork all over in a decorative pattern.

Bake on middle oven rack for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the shortbread is faintly tinged with pale gold and just slightly brown at the edges. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool until barely warm.  Cut almost through the dough, forming bars. If desired, sprinkle the top with:

  • 1 to 2 tsp sugar

Let stand until thoroughly cool. Gently retrace the cuts and separate into bars.

Joy of Cooking Christmas CookiesYield: 24-2 2/3″ bars

From The Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies

Gray:  These were so easy to make and they were fantastic.  We checked them at 40 minutes and then left them for 5 more. I found that I liked the edges better than the middle, so I think I would let them cook a couple minutes longer (at least in our oven).  Other than that, I think this is wonderful and I will definitely make these again.

Katie: Wow, I have no idea why I have never made my own shortbread cookies before! As Gray said, they weren’t hard to make and resulted in delicious cookies. I agree that they would have been better if cooked slightly longer. I had fun piercing the shortbread with a fork before baking, and made different patterns. However, when you cut them into bars, you couldn’t see any pattern, so I don’t think it matters how you pierce them. I am excited to make these again, and anticipate that some of our family will be getting shortbread cookies for Christmas! I hope you enjoy as much as we did!

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Shrimp with Fresh Tomato Sauce

shrimp with tomato sauce

  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Shell and devein shrimps, leaving tails intact.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet; cook garlic until lightly browned. Add tomato; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp and vinegar; cook until shrimp change color. Stir in parsley.
  3. Serve with crusty bread.

Yield: 6 servings

TapasFrom Tapas, by Sterling Publishing

Gray: This was tasty, but it was messy to eat.   However as a tapas type of dish, or small appetizer, it might be fine.  We made it as an entree instead of as a small plate and so that affected our experience somewhat.  I thought it had a good flavor and was easy to make.  I hope you enjoy it!

Katie: This was a good recipe, but not something I think I would like to make over and over again. The sauce was a little thin for my preference, and I thought the shrimp were hard to eat with the tails on them. It makes a saucy appetizer, and I do not like to pick my shrimp up and have to pick the tails off, getting my fingers all messy. If the shrimp weren’t so messy to start with, it wouldn’t bother me. But you may feel differently! I definitely think the recipe is worth a shot if you like shrimp. We decided to eat it with focaccia bread, which was wonderful to soak up the tomato juice/sauce. If you give it a try, let us know how you liked it!

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Rachael Ray’s Mexican Fiesta Salad

Mexican Fiesta Salad

  • 2 rip avocados
  • 3 vine-rip tomatoes
  • 1/2 sweet onion, sliced
  • chopped cilantro (about 2 T)
  • 2 limes, halved
  • coarse salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Cut avocados in half, working around the pit. Separate the 2 halves. Remove pit and carefully scoop out avocado halves with a spoon. Cut avocados into wedges and pile in the center of a large platter. Seed and wedge tomatoes and arrange around the avocados. Arrange sliced onion over platter and sprinkle all with cilantro. Squeeze the juice of 2 limes evenly over vegetables. Season with coarse salt, drizzle with oil, and serve.

Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals 2Yield: 4 servings

From Rachael Ray’s 30-minute Meals 2

Katie: I’ll start with a couple of notes. I halved the recipe, and we had more than we thought was two servings. I don’t like the onions sliced so that then I have to cut them up on my plate, so I chopped them. Also, I love the way I learned to cut avocados and so I thought I would share here. Cut around the pit with a sharp knife all the way around the avocado and then twist so that half pops off the pit. Remove the pit from the other half by lodging the knife in the pit carefully and then twisting that half away from the pit. Discard pit from the knife carefully. Then take a table knife (not sharp) and cut through the flesh of the avocado to the skin in the size you want the pieces to be. After cutting, take a spoon and scoop out of the skin. You’ll get already cut pieces so you don’t have to try to manipulate slippery avocado much! I think of this dish as deconstructed guacamole. It is easier to make than guacamole, and tastes delicious! I think I’ll make this again as long as I have more people to eat it since avocados never keep well. Enjoy!

Gray:  This was beautiful and delicious.  Like Katie said, it is basically a deconstructed guacamole.  I thought it was a great twist and it went well with our steaks and cornbread.  This entire meal was outstanding and I would highly recommend you give it try.

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Rachael Ray’s Cracked Corn & Cheese Squares

Cracked Corn & Cheese Squares

  • 1 pkg (8 1/2 oz) corn muffin mix, mixed to package directions
  • softened butter, to grease baking dish
  • 1/3 lb Monterey Jack cheese or Pepper Jack Cheese, cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease an 8″ square baking dish with butter. In a mixing bowl, stir cheese, corn, and scallions into corn muffin batter. Pour batter into baking dish and bake until golden, 15-18 minutes.

Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals 2Yield: 6 squares

From Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals 2

Katie: To me, this is like corn pudding with a kick! I didn’t want to buy a package of frozen corn only to use 1/2 cup, so I bought the smallest can of whole kernel corn I could find and used the whole can. That seemed to work fine. In order to get 1/3 lb of cheese, I had them cut me a chunk off at the deli counter and then I diced it. I think I personally prefer shredded cheese instead of diced, but if you like nice gooey chunks, stay with the dice. Overall, this was delicious! I will probably be making this again soon!

Gray: These were outstanding and we’ll definitely be doing them again.  They turned out to be a touch spicy, but not real hot, with a perfect balance of savory, sweet and cheesy.  I think these would be a hit on almost any table.  Enjoy

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Rachael Ray’s Rio Grande Spice Rub Strip Steaks

Next up is our 30-minute Meals 2 cookbook by Rachael Ray. This cookbook details lots of menus, and we decided to try one. The first recipe, shared below, is the main course. The two additional recipes she recommends serving these steaks with will be shared in the coming weeks.

Rio Grande Steaks

  • 4 sirloin strip steaks, 1-inch thick (8 to 10 ounces each)
  • 1 1/2 T ground ancho chili or dark chili powder (a palmful)
  • 1 1/2 T ground cumin (a palmful)
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1/2 t ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 4 thick slices
  • Extra-virgin olive or vegetable oil, to coat onion
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove steaks from refrigerator and let them rest for a few minutes to take the chill off.

Preheat grill pan or indoor electric grill to high heat. Combine spice rub ingredients: ground ancho chili, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and rub well into steaks.

Coat red onion slices in a drizzle of oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill steaks and onion slices, 5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat. Let meat stand 5 minutes for juices to redistribute. Season with salt. Top with separated rings of grilled onions. Serve with hot Cracked Corn and Cheese squares and Mexican Fiesta Salad.

Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals 2Yield: 4 servings

From Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals 2

Katie: I wanted to make a recipe pick and do most of the cooking this week. I have been studying hard and not taking as much time to cook as I would like. I decided on this menu (this recipe plus the two following ones) in order to make a nice dinner. Gray helped me by grilling outside since we don’t have an indoor grill, but this was primarily my dinner! The rub for these steaks was easy to make and we ended up actually having everything on hand. I had bought some ancho chili powder for some cookies that I wasn’t very fond of some time back. This is a much better use for that spice! I loved the flavor that the rub gave the steaks. Simple grilled steaks are one of our favorite things to make, and this mixes up the flavors a bit without getting too complicated. I hope you enjoy as much as we did!

Gray:  This was really neat.  It is a similar to a steak that we grill fairly often.  The chili rub gives a different twist, so it was nice to “spice things up” for a change.  It was really good with the other dishes that are part of this menu.  I hope you enjoy them all.

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Wild Willy’s Number One-derful Rub


  • 3/4 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup ground black pepperNumber One-derful Spice Rub
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp cayenne [ground pepper]

Smoke & SpiceMix the spices thoroughly in a bowl. Store covered in a cool, dark pantry.

From Smoke & Spice

Gray: This is my favorite rub so far.  This recipe is from a smoke cooking book, and it has a good amount of sugar, so it is prone to burning if get it too hot on a grill.  I typically cook my chicken slowly on the grill so it should work nicely for that.  I can’t wait to try it on pork chops too.  I’m curious to see how that goes.  This really has a good balance of sweet and heat and the spices are just right to boost the flavor of any grilled or barbecued meat.  Enjoy!

Katie: This was a great rub! The sugar in the rub caused the chicken skin to get a little blackened while grilling, but it still tasted delicious. We will be happily using this rub to make delicious chicken until it is too cold to grill! I don’t know if it is my favorite rub, but it sure is wonderful!

Sorry we missed a week! We were traveling and ended up stranded at an airport, so things didn’t really work out like we planned. Don’t worry though, three new recipes are in the works and will be coming up soon!

One-derful Rub on Grill

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