What's Cookin'

Simple Weekday Dinner Party

June 18, 2009

Hosting small impromptu dinner parties in the middle of the week is one of my favorite hobbies. I love catching up with friends as much as I enjoy the process of putting something together. We are as busy as most, so in order to pull it off, I follow a few tips to keep my dinners SIMPLE and SPECIAL.


1) Think of your dinner party as “a couple extras” coming for a meal. If you keep weekday dinner parties small by inviting one couple or one family at a time, it is much easier to “throw” something together. I like to choose one meal a week on my menu plan and add a little extra (or double) the ingredients on my weekly grocery list. Ultimately, this saves time and money and makes the whole idea of impromtu weekday entertaining…not so “big”. If you end up NOT entertaining, use the extra food for left-over lunches or a second meal.

2) Keep the main meal to three simple dishes that take under and hour to prepare. I usually stick with a formula for weekday entertaining…a protein, a carb, a green and a store-bought desert. Last night, I served, Drunken Chicken, Warm Orzo Salad, and a Green Salad (from the garden). Try to have 90% of the meal EN ROUTE by the time your guests arrive. When my guests arrived last night, chicken was in the oven, salad was made, cookies were plated…that gave me the time to “be with my friends” instead of “in the kitchen”.


3) For a quick table setting, keep an “off-the-shelf” table setting ready to go. My stocked option is all things “white and clear”. Clean white napkins, white candles, white plates, glass votives, and a few white accented items. I change the look of my table by switching out flowers and table cloths. White looks GREAT with almost EVERYTHING! I have purchased a lot of my “white collection” from stores like Home Goods or Tuesday Morning for next to nothing.


4) Buy store bought desserts (Trader Joes offers the most AMAZING deserts) or ask your guests to bring one (I don’t enjoy baking so this is a quick way for me to save time). Last night I baked snicker doodles (frozen dough) and served them with fresh fruit salad (brought by friends)…EASY PEASY. This is the perfect item to ask a guest to bring because STORE bought options are so good.



5) If you have time, try to make each place setting special by giving “their” place a name with a little gift. My children LOVE to make place cards so I keep plain white cards (I buy them by the box at Michaels) and cut them down to little squares. Yesterday I asked the girls to make flowers on each card. I gift my guests with SIMPLE, INEXPENSIVE or FREE…sprigs of oregano from the garden, small chocolates, a votive candle tied with ribbon..these are all easy items to keep “on hand” and surely will make your guest smile.


6) Last but not least…stay in the moment during dinner. Weekday meals tend to last a shorter amount of time than a weekend event, so enjoy every moment. LAUGH, SHARE STORIES, TALK POLITICS, BOOKS, DREAMS…this is what makes time with friends so special.

One rule I follow ALWAYS…NEVER do dishes when friends or family are in the house for a small weekday dinner party…You might miss the best part of the night…BEING WITH FRIENDS.

Also, don’t forget…it is “A Beautiful Life” Friday over at The Inspired Room . It is a great weekend treat!

Buttercup Gump EGGS….

June 16, 2009


Our new girls have arrived! What does this mean???? Well, I am reminded of the movie “Forest Gump”….instead of “shrimp” we have “eggs”. We have eggs coming out of our ears…and I am trying to find creative ways to cook them….so let’s see, we have…

Poached eggs, Fried Eggs, Frittatas, Eggs with Hollandaise sauce, Eggs with potato salad, Eggs in a blanket, cookies made with Eggs, Egg Quiche with Ham, Eggs sprinkled on salad, Egg Quiche with Spinach, Hard Boiled Eggs, Green Eggs and Ham Eggs…..

I need your help! E-mail your favorite egg recipe to shawn@lifeatbuttercupfarm.com and I will GLADLY try them out…I am looking for something new, creative, and DELICIOUS!

French Dressing

June 1, 2009

Nana’s Recipe box

French Dressing from Shawn Stratmann on Vimeo.

This was the first recipe I made from my Nana’s recipe box. There is something nostalgic about French Dressing for me…it is the dressing I probably ate most as a child (that and Good Seasonings Italian).

When I first tried this recipe in the 90’s, I had no idea what the outcome would be because the recipe card called it “House Dressing”. With great anticipation I followed the recipe to a tee…anxious to try the dressing that would accompany me to a family dinner. When I finished making it, I remember laughing out loud thinking…FRENCH DRESSING????? I have to tell you though…it is OUTSTANDING and so easy to make. Enjoy!


1/2 C Oil
1/4 C Vinegar (I use rice wine vinegar)
1/2 C Catsup
1/2 C Sugar
1/2 C Chopped onion
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Paprika

Mix all together in a blender until smooth.

Strawberry Pie

May 18, 2009

My Nana was a GREAT Pie maker. I found this SWEET TREAT in her box and thought it the perfect recipe to share as we near STRAWBERRY PICKING SEASON. What I love about this recipe the most is how SIMPLE it is if you purchase a frozen/refrigerated pie crust and cook it first!

Strawberry Pie from Shawn Stratmann on Vimeo.


  • 1 Quart Strawberries
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 1/3 Cup Water
  • 4T Cornstarch
  • 1 Cooked Pie Crust

Simmer 1 Cup Mashed berries with 1 Cup Sugar and 1 Cup Water for 15 minutes. Mix cornstarch with 1/3 cup water and add to the mixture. Cook until thick and glossy. Cool and fold in rest of the berries (chopped). Carefully pour mixture into cooked pie crust. Refrigerate and serve with VANILLA ICE CREAM!

Blue Cheese Dressing

May 12, 2009


Nana’s recipe box from Shawn Stratmann on Vimeo.

  • 1 cup Mayo
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • 4 oz Blue Cheese
  • 1 TBS Cider Vinegar
  • A shake of Onion Salt

Mix well and refrigerate up to a week.

I was excited to find this recipe for Blue Cheese Dressing in Nana’s box. One of my favorite salads is THE WEDGE!!!!. A quarter head of iceberg drizzled with Nana’s dressing, topped with tomatoes and bacon…YUM…doesn’t get much better than this! Click here to download the recipe card.

Nana’s Recipe Box

May 4, 2009

I was always enchanted with my Great-Grandmother NANA. I RARELY saw her when I was a child…maybe 2 times a year. Each of these visits introduced me to bits and pieces about her that I grew to love and appreciate…even more so now that she has passed. Nana had a thick New England accent, a touch of a cantankerous manner and was sharp as a tack. She didn’t pay all that much attention to me but that didn’t really bother me much because I was always in awe of her. She resided in Maine in the summer, owning two homes. One sat on a typical Maine road where I specifically remember her beautiful flower gardens and spying her bedroom for costume jewelry treasures. Her other home in Maine was a “camp” on Flying Pond. I can conjure up memories of blueberry picking, walks in the woods, and taking a bath in the pond using only ivory soap. These visits each summer were formative to how much I love Maine today.

Her other home was in Florida. It was there that I learned how to shuffle board and was given free reign to ride her three-wheel bike around her community as soon as I was old enough to reach the pedals. Maine in the summer, Florida in the winter. She had BEAUTIFUL treasures in each home…glass and china, a pretty vanity, collectables from her travels, and the most stunning rustic braided rugs strewn on the floors, so indicative of Maine. My Nana was a GREAT baker and cook and loved to travel, garden and complete projects encompassing many home arts. When I think of her now, I realize how much she and I have in common and find myself wishing I could know her today.
When Nana passed away, I became the owner of one of her BIGGEST treasures…HER RECIPE BOX. You know that proverbial question…if you had 10 minutes to grab something out of the house…what you would grab? Well for me…the recipe box is at the top of the list. By sharing her famous edible delights, I continue her legacy for my family. Each Monday, I will share with you a TREASURED RECIPE in new series called Nana’s Recipe Box. I hope you enjoy her recipes and cooking as much as my family has.

This series is dedicated to my Nana, her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren.


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