The Hip Hostess

Menus, tips and ideas for hosting with style!

Party in the Garden July 1, 2010

Host a garden party with ideas from my July 2010 column on The Family Groove.


Spring Picnic May 11, 2010

Host a spring picnic with ideas from my May 2010 column on The Family Groove.


Make-ahead Spring Brunch April 2, 2010

Check out my April 2010 column on The Family Groove for a make-ahead spring brunch menu.


Host a Father’s Day “Cook-In” June 18, 2009


Don’t let the rain ruin your plans for a Father’s Day cookout.  You can still throw your favorite father a BBQ in his honor –  just shift gears from a cookout to a “cook-in.”  Here’s a menu that you can make on the grill or in a grill pan.



Cookout or “Cook-In” Menu
Black bean and corn quesadillas
Chips and mango salsa
Coffee and chili rubbed steak
Chopped cucumber, red pepper and tomato salad
Chipotle mashed potatoes (add 2 Tbs. chipotle peppers canned in adobo sauce to your favorite type of mashed potatoes)
Grilled Asparagus
Espresso chocolate chunk cookies
Fruit kabobs (thread chunks of fresh fruit on bamboo skewers and drizzle with honey and fresh lime juice)
Vodka spiked lemonade or peach iced tea sweetened with agave nectar
Assorted ice-cold beer


Spring Quinoa Salad With Asparagus and Feta May 26, 2009



I always enjoy the first asparagus of the season simply steamed or sauteed.  In the following weeks I find more interesting uses for my favorite spring vegetable, like this Asparagus and Feta Quinoa Salad.  If you can find them, use pencil thin stalks in this recipe.  


This salad goes well with grilled meat, poultry and fish.  It’s a great side dish for a cookout or BBQ since it can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature.  Make this salad up to two days in advance and add additional olive oil, vinegar and/or lemon juice if the the quinoa seems dry (it will absorb some of the liquid if prepared in advance).


Spring Quinoa Salad With Asparagus and Feta 

1 ½ C. chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium)

1 C. quinoa

Juice from ½ large lemon (about 1 ½ Tbs.)

1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 bunch pencil thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces

15 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

4oz feta or goat cheese, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste


1.    Bring stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  While waiting for the stock to boil, place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under warm water for 2 minutes to wash away the natural (but bitter) outer layer of the grain.  Once stock is boiling, add quinoa and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover saucepan and simmer until quinoa has absorbed most of the liquid, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, uncover, fluff with a fork.  Cool at room temperature.


2.   While quinoa is cooking, steam asparagus.   Fill a small pot with 1” water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Place asparagus in the boiling water or in a steamer basket fitted inside the pot.  Cover with a lid and steam for 2-3 minutes, or until asparagus is fork tender but still slightly crisp.  Fill a small bowl with ice and cold water and plunge asparagus into the cold water to stop the cooking process and keep the asparagus from over-cooking.  


3.    In a medium bowl combine lemon, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  Whisk until well combined.  Add cooled quinoa, steamed asparagus and tomatoes and stir gently with a fork to keep quinoa fluffy.  Add feta and continue until well combined.  Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. 


Serves 6 as a side


Mother Nature Inspired Mother’s Day Menu May 9, 2009

spring farmer's market, rhubarb

Still looking for ideas for a Mother’s Day fete?  Throw a “mother nature” inspired dinner party by using spring’s bounty as the basis for your menu.  Hit your local farmer’s market or look for locally grown produce at your regular grocery store.  All of these recipes can be made year-round, but using seasonal/ local ingredients will up the “wow” factor in the flavor department.

This menu is fairly simple, even for a novice host/ hostess.  Several components of this menu can be made in advance to streamline your cooking schedule and minimize your cooking time during the party.  Make the spiced nuts up to 2 weeks in advance; the dip, oven dried tomatoes and biscuits for the cobbler can be made up to 2 days in advance; the wheatberry salad can be made 2 days before the party (wait to toss the greens with the dressing until you are ready to serve), and the popover batter and basil pea puree can be made up to 8 hours in advance.  Set our your crudites, dip and nuts while you sear the scallops, heat the pea puree and bake the popovers.  Put your cobbler in the oven when you sit down for dinner and it will be bubbly and perfect by the time you are ready for dessert.  


Mother Nature’s Spring Menu

Crudités (blanched asparagus, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, etc.) with Creamy Dill Dip
Maple Spiced Nuts
Wheatberry Salad with Arugula, Goat Cheese and Green Olives
Seared Scallops over Basil Pea Puree with Oven Dried Tomatoes
Herb Popovers
Mango Rhubarb Cobbler



  • Look for some interesting vegetable varieties, such as candy stripe radishes and purple carrots to serve with your dip
  • Unless you love shelling fresh peas, using frozen peas for the basil-pea puree is perfectly fine (the peas are flash frozen and, unlike other frozen vegetables, the flavor is not compromised by the freezing process) 
  • If you don’t have time to make the Maple Spiced Nuts buy some nice flavored nuts and set those out instead
  • Substitute good quality bread for the herb popovers if you aren’t up for baking
  • If you don’t have time to make the cobbler, buy or bake vanilla cupcakes, top with vanilla frosting and garnish with organic edible flowers for a simply beautiful spring dessert


Seared Scallops Over Basil-Pea Puree April 30, 2009


This dish tastes like spring on a plate.  It’s sophisticated, yet so simple.  It’s a great recipe for entertaining because it can be made in minutes.  Serve it as an entrée, or serve a smaller version (3 scallops per plate) as a first course.


The basil-pea puree can be made up to 8 hours ahead and warmed as the scallops cook.  If you are short on time you can skip the oven-dried tomatoes, thought they really are worth the minimal effort but advance planning required.  The slow oven drying process really concentrates the flavor of the tomatoes, but you can substitute a few raw tomato wedges instead to achieve the same pop of color.


Serve this entrée with herb popovers or crusty bread so you can scoop up the last of the basil-pea puree.  Trust me, you won’t want to waste a single bite.



Seared Scallops Over Basil Pea Puree

1 package grape tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes

(2) 10oz packages frozen peas or 4 C. fresh shelled peas

4 Tbs. fresh basil (about 12 large leaves)

½ tsp. kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

15 large sea scallops, patted completely dry

Extra virgin olive oil


1.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Slice tomatoes in half and place cut side up on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or coated with a nonstick spray.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.  Place in oven for 2-2.5 hours, or until the tomatoes are shriveled and dry with a tiny bit of juice left inside.   Tomatoes can be oven-dried up to 2 days in advance.   

2.  Place thawed peas in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Shake to remove excess water.  Add peas to blender with fresh basil, salt and pepper.  Puree peas until smooth.  To heat pea puree, place in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Once warmed through, reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.

3.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat.  Once hot, coat pan with olive oil.   Add scallops to pan in a single layer with room between each scallop.  Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the size.  Scallops should have a nice crust on both sides and be barely firm to the touch.  (Do not overcook the scallops or they will become rubbery.)  Serve immediately over basil-pea puree and garnish with oven-dried tomatoes.


Mango Rhubarb Cobbler June 24, 2008


Rhubarb and mangos are both at their peak, so I combined them to make this sweet and tart cobbler.  Serve it for dessert at a backyard BBQ.  It’s easy to transport if you make the biscuits ahead of time, prep the fruit, and bake it at your destination while dinner is cooking.

The recipe for the biscuit topping is inspired by Mesa Grill’s signature Blueberry Cobbler (recipe by Bobby Flay). 


Mango Rhubarb Cobbler


2 C. all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. sugar

1 Tbs. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 stick unsalted butter (cold), cut into small pieces

¾ C. light cream, plus 2 Tbs. to brush on top

1 large egg

2 Tbs. sugar in the raw (or 1 Tbs. sugar), reserved

6 large stalks of Rhubarb

2 large Haitian mangos (or 3 small Mexican mangos), peeled and diced

¼ C. sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbs. tapioca (powder), optional


1.         Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, sift together first 4 ingredients (flour through salt).  Add the butter to the flour mixture using your hands or a pastry cutter until crumbly.  Combine the cream and egg in a small bowl and whisk.  Add the cream to the flour mixture and fold just until combined (do not over mix).


2.         Lightly flour counter or marble slab, place dough on counter and pat dough until it is about ½” thick.  Using a biscuit cutter or the mouth of a glass, cut dough into 10 circles.  Place biscuits on a nonstick cookie sheet.  Brush biscuits with remaining cream, sprinkle with sugar in the raw, and bake until slightly golden brown but slightly undercooked, about 10-15 minutes.  


3.         To make the cobbler, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place fruit in the bottom of a large casserole dish or Dutch oven.  Mix in sugar and tapioca (if using).  Top with biscuits, spread evenly over the tops of the fruit.  Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, until the fruit is soft but not mushy when tested with a fork.  Let the cobbler cool for 20-30 minutes before serving.  Serve a scoop of the filling topped with a biscuit in a bowl, and top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


 Check out the Farmer’s Market Fare for other seasonal recipes and more:


Farmer’s Market Spring Dinner Menu May 16, 2008

After a stop at my local farmer’s market I was inspired to make the following menu for a dinner in honor of my mother-in-law.


Asparagus and rhubarb are at their best time time of year, as are ramps. 

  • As rhubarb cooks, its juices act as a natural thickener, making it an amazing sauce for ice cream or cake.  Rhubarb’s tart, vibrant flavor is amazing when sweetened with a little sugar. 
  • Ramps are young, wild leeks with tender leaves that have a mild garlicy flavor.  They are wonderful sauteed in a little olive oil. 
  • Remember to bring a cooler or insulated cold bag with you if you are going to puchase your meat and/or cheese at the market.   


Don’t forget to buy flowers while you’re at your local farmer’s market.  I had been looking for lily of the valley all week (they are my mother-in-law’s favorite) and although May is one of the few months they are in season, I was quoted $50 for one small bunch.  I was able to get 4 bunches for $12 when I was at the market!  



Seasonal Spring Dinner Menu


Local cured meats
Olives in Dijon mustard
Assorted local cheese and crackers

Main Event

Local flat iron steaks with red wine, shallot and thyme sauce
Asparagus with sautéed ramps (wild leeks), lemon and thyme
Roasted red mountain (pink flesh) potatoes



Sweet corn cake with pinot noir rhubarb compote and vanilla ice cream


 Check out the following site for more farmer’s market tips, ideas, recipes and stories:


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