Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Orient Express Dinner Party...The Recipes

Our Neck of the Woods is now pinnable!
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Throwing together a dinner party - no matter how big or small - doesn't have to be difficult. I've shared with you the details from Mama's birthday dinner, and I promise you, it really was easy. The table was done in about 30 minutes and the meal in less than an hour.

Here's another look at the tablescape. I called this the "Orient Express Dinner Party" because, well - the "Oriental" decorations speak for themselves, and "Express" because I pulled it all together in about an hour and a half. You can read more about the table preparations here.

The menu (teriyaki-marinated pork tenderloin and fried rice) along with the orchid I found at the grocery store, leaned toward an Asian or Oriental theme. I knew that I had a few blue and white pieces in my stash that were Chinese inspired, so then I just took off with the color blue and began to mix and match. Is it perfect? Of course not! But I think it turned out really pretty.

With the table done, I began on the meal. I seasoned the pork tenderloin with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, and then seared it on all sides. I finished it off in the oven on 375 degrees. It was a four pound loin, so it took about 40 minutes for it to cook. As it roasted, I basted it with a bottled teriyaki marinade. I let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing it with my electric knife. It was delicious!

Earlier in the afternoon, I had cooked my white rice, so it was ready to be fried. I washed my asparagus and tomatoes and went ahead and placed them on the roasting pan. I'll share the specifics below.

I don't remember eating asparagus when I was little. When I was teaching school (a million years ago), I remember having an asparagus casserole at a potluck dinner. They used canned asparagus and layered it with sliced boiled eggs. I'll be honest...canned asparagus...well, need I say more? I guess the first time I had it and liked it was when it was in a Spring vegetable pasta recipe at some restaurant. It was not overcooked, and I decided it wasn't so bad after all! Now, I love it. Gerald, too. Still working on the kids.

When I buy asparagus, I look for the thinner stalks (about the diameter of a pencil). To me, they're sweeter and not tough like the thicker stalks. Make sure the tops are pretty and tight, not opening or gooey looking. (Gross, I know, but an important tip!) While the asparagus is still rubber-banded, cut off the bottom inch or so. Then I remove the rubber bands and wash it. I let it dry on paper towels while I rinse and dry my cherry tomatoes.

I place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and then salt and pepper it liberally. I toss it with my hands to mix it all up. I put in under the broiler to cook. I usually set the broiler to about 475 degrees and then place the pan on the lower rack so it doesn't burn. It usually takes about 10-12 minutes. I like the asparagus to get a little color but still keep some of it's firmness. The tomatoes will blister and often burst open spilling their yummy juice. Delicious!

I told you that I learned how to make fried rice by eating at Shogun Japanese restaurant about a million times nearly 20 years ago. My father absolutely loved it, so being a daddy's girl, I decided that I need to learn how to make it! It's really easy, and we love it with lettuce wraps, broccoli and beef, pork chops or anything with an Asian flair. In fact, I've been known to eat it leftover for breakfast...

Fried Rice

1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice (I like to use Jasmine)
1 large carrot
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup frozen green peas
soy sauce (I have been using low-sodium for years and no one even knows!)
sesame oil

Peel a carrot and then cut it into small cubes, about the size of the green peas. Cook the rice and carrots in 2 1/2 cups lightly salted water. (Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce to low. Cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and allow it to sit.) You can also use leftover rice. 

I have a wok, but I have found that this is just as easily cooked in a non-stick skillet, which is what I use these days.

Saute onion in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon EVOO until tender and they begin to turn translucent. Remove to a bowl.

Beat eggs and scramble them in 1 tablespoon butter in the same skillet on medium heat. Don't overcook.

Add rice and onions to pan. Turn up heat and add a drizzle or two of EVOO. I try to get a little bit of color and crunch on the bottom before adding the last ingredients. Try not to stir it too much or it will get gummy.

Add in soy sauce (I usually begin with about four "shakes" of the soy jar and add more as needed) and frozen green peas. They will thaw quickly. If you add them to soon, they'll get mushy. 

Finish with a drizzle of sesame oil and toss it well. That's it! Enjoy!

I really like the extras in the rice like onion, peas and carrots. Adjust amounts as you like.


I told you I had some extra Oreo dirt pie left from the Miss Manners party the day before, so I decided there was no need to let it go to waste. (More importantly, I didn't want it around the next week, tempting me!) So - while I served it to the girls the day before in flower pots...

We had our's served in pretty individual trifle bowls.

I even stuck in some gummy worms at Daddy's request!
Served with coffee, it was a delicious end to a simple, yet elegant meal.

I've had dirt pie before, but this was my first time to make it. I have to tell you - this was by far my favorite version ever.

Oreo Dirt Cake
1 bag regular Oreos, crushed
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 stick butter, room temp
1 c powdered sugar
3 c milk
2 small pkgs instant vanilla pudding
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
12 oz Cool Whip, thawed

Place Oreos in a gallon ziplock bag, and crush until they are a fine powder. Cream together cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar with a mixer. In a large bowl, mix together milk (we drink 1% so that is what I used), pudding and vanilla. Add to cream cheese mixture and combine well. Fold in Cool Whip by hand. I folded in about 1 1/2 cup of the crushed Oreos while folding in the Cool Whip. Chill overnight. I sprinkled the Oreos on top before serving and added the gummy worms. Since I was serving mine individually at both parties, I made them to order before serving, but if you wanted, you could go ahead and layer the pudding mixture with the crushed Oreos in a casserole dish. I just didn't want the Oreos to get soggy and soak into the pudding.

We had a really nice meal and a relaxing evening, and I wasn't chained to the kitchen before or during the dinner. I was able to enjoy an evening with my family, despite the long day I had the day before! I kept it simple and was able to enjoy having my parent's over to celebrate Mama's birthday.

Entertaining doesn't have to be hard to be impressive. It's all about taking a little time to make your guests feel special. And my Mama is the most important guest I'll entertain all year!

Here we are last week at Jewell's dance recital. We ended up accidentally dressing like twins!
Mama hates getting her picture made about as much as I do,
but I'm glad I've got a newer one of us.
I love my mama!


I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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