Tag Archives: Entertaining Tips

Strawberry Yogurt Ice Cubes

Strawberry Yogurt Ice Cubes
Substitute these cubes in place of regular water ice cubes for a more flavorful smoothie. As an additional option, you can add the puree of one ripe banana.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup Vanilla Yogurt
  2. 1 cup Strawberry Puree
  3. 1 Tbsp. Honey or Granulated Sugar (Optional)
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together and freeze in ice cube trays.
Nino Salvaggio https://www.ninosalvaggio.com/

Very Cherry Ice Cubes

Very Cherry Ice Cubes
These decorative ice cubes are a festive addition to any drink, but they’re especially beautiful in beverages that are clear enough to show off the embedded cherries.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup Hot Water
  2. ¼ cup Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate
  3. ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
  4. 1 dozen Sweet Cherries, with Stems
Instructions
  1. Stir together water, cherry juice concentrate and sugar until thoroughly dissolved.
  2. Place a single cherry in each ice cube compartment (stem up) and pour in cherry mixture to cover then freeze.
Nino Salvaggio https://www.ninosalvaggio.com/

Make Holiday Dinners a Snap

Mark Twain was once quoted as saying, “There’s nothing as annoying as a good example.” And when it comes to preparing for large dinner parties or even a good-sized family meal, watching a chef prepare a multi-course dinner for a large group (solo) must be pretty annoying for someone who would give anything to prepare just ONE Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without stress, aggravation, or failure.

I bring this up because the week before Thanksgiving I entertained about 30 guests in my home for a dinner reception, and I did it all on my own, with relative ease.

It amazed people that one person could create that much delicious food so quickly and still have time to enjoy himself.

I hope I didn’t annoy anyone. I was just doin’ my thing.

The buffet menu consisted of a salad, four entrees, a vegetable, starch, breads and two different desserts–one a Pumpkin Baked Alaska, which I finished as many looked on.

Now admittedly, I have a nice kitchen and that helps, but honestly, I really only used one of my ovens and three burners to finish the dishes I chose to flash sear and re-heat at the last moment.

SO? How did I do it? Well, I’ll tell you.

www.ninosalvaggio.com

Probably the most important first step is to create a menu that allows you to prepare a great deal of the items in advance. In some cases, you’ll want to prepare items as many as two days in advance. This will spread out your work load so that you’re not stressed just before the party trying desperately to finish many items at the last minute.

The second most important thing is to choose menu items that don’t rely on just one cooking device (a burner top, oven, or just a microwave, for example). Create a menu that utilizes as many of your appliances as possible, so you’re not unintentionally creating a food traffic jam of dishes waiting to go in and out of your oven. Your Char-Griller or even a Crock-Pot can be dedicated to one menu item.

For example, one of my entrees was Char-Grilled Mongolian Pork Tenderloin. In this case, I made the Mongolian Marinade a week ahead and froze it. Then two days before the party, I thawed the marinade and marinated my tenderloins overnight in it. The evening before the party, I char-grilled the exterior, leaving the meat rare, and placed the tenderloins on a sheet pan to finish at 400 F just before the party. Done. All I had to do was pop them in the oven, baste them with more marinade and then slice them–easy peasy. And if my oven had been a bit taxed, I could just as easily have finished them on the Char-Griller.

I did something similar with my Chicken Enchilada Egg Rolls. I made those a day ahead of time too. Then, I fried them in oil until light brown in color and placed them on a sheet pan. All I had to do was uncover them and finish browning them in my oven just before my guests arrived. It was all scratch-made food, but it was made to be convenient for me, by me.

I prepared my salmon likewise, choosing 2” x 2” pieces of salmon fillets, which I placed on a silicon baking mat, brushed with butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then topped with a spinach and artichoke mixture. Once again, it was a dish ready to place into the oven, under the broiler. And it only took minutes to finish.

My salad was pre-cut, washed and all prepped, covered tightly with plastic film and just waiting to be tossed with a kit of garnishments also nested right there. I didn’t have to search the cooler for a thing.
My starch dish was a Wild Rice Pilaf, which I prepared in its entirety the day before and placed in two Pyrex casserole dishes. When the time came, they just went into the microwave oven for 6 minutes each, and I had a perfect rice pilaf once again. No fuss, no muss.

I chose to use my just-before-service time to sauté my colorful medley of fresh vegetables (because you just CAN’T do that ahead of time and do them justice) and to sear my Jumbo Scallops and Shrimp, which (again) I served with a Lobster Sauce I made two days earlier.

Including slicing my Pork Tenderloin, the amount of time I spent to finish preparing all my dishes, plate them and get them to the buffet table in my dining room was about 15 minutes. Of course, I have to admit that a few of my friends, volunteered to run some food to the buffet. I had planned for that by placing tent menu cards, with the name of each dish and what was in it, in front of each of my small chafing dishes and table displays. In addition, I placed the service wares (tongs and spoons) needed for each dish at each station, just to save a little more time.

It was fun, and I had time to enjoy my own party.

What would I do differently next time?

Admittedly, even I learn something each time I do these high-wire acts. And the one BIG thing I’ll be sure to do next time is this:

I love to keep my kitchen clean and organized, even when I’m hosting these big events. Unfortunately, I generate so many dirty pots, pans, tongs, spoons, spatulas, and bowls in such a short amount of time that, well, my sink and adjacent counters are just mounded with debris. And everyone feels bad that I’ll have so much cleanup work afterwards.

Next time, I’m going to drag in my two large picnic coolers and just quickly rinse and toss every dirty pot, pan, and utensil into the coolers just before I finish my last-minute cooking and plating. Then, I’ll drag them out to the garage.

The kitchen will be clean, and my guests will be spared the hum of my dishwasher all evening.

Tomorrow? Well, that’s another story…

Holiday Parties Made Easy

The holidays are upon us, and so are parties with family, friends and coworkers.

And with so many things to do this time of the year, ranging from work, family responsibilities, and shopping to wrapping presents, baking and enjoying the company of loved ones, it’s a wonder we manage to get it all in.

It’s especially challenging when you’re planning a party of your own! Because planning a holiday party can get a little complicated and even a little stressful at times, especially if you have never planned one before and you’re not sure where to start.

So where do I begin?

The old phrase “the best place to start is at the beginning” is entirely appropriate here. Successful holiday parties START at Nino’s!

Great Parties Start at Nino's!

Our full line of foods, beverages and catering services, including our knowledgeable Party Planning staff, is here to help you every step of the way.

From deliciously prepared gourmet food and bakery goods to floral accessories, beverages and even rentals, we’re ready to answer your questions and help you with your holiday party planning.

Whatever you’re planning, whatever your budget, a simple call or visit to our Party Planning team (Annette–Troy, Shelly & Kelly–Clinton Township, and Chef Jimmy–St. Clair Shores) will yield ideas, suggestions and assistance for everything from menu planning to desserts, drinks, and flowers. We’ll even help you decide the quantities needed of each. And we deliver!

You’re also welcome to browse through Nino’s Party Planning Guide, which is online and on display in each of our stores. Or if you’d like a Party Planning Guide mailed to your home, click here. Look through the pages to view the huge selection of trays and platters, menu packages, a la carte foods and everything else you’ll need for the perfect party.

Take a minute to read a few reviews from our satisfied party planning customers.

Great Parties Start at Nino's!

As you consider your upcoming party, let me share with you a few important things to think about to help us help you plan your gathering. I call them the 5 Ws:

WHAT What kind of holiday party or event is it? The answer will help us help you with hors d’oeuvre suggestions, appetizers, buffet items or even a beverage suggestion or two. Do you have a budget? Is it a stand-up reception or a sit-down dinner?

WHO A guest list can help determine what kind of food you’ll want to offer. Knowing your guests’ likes and dislikes and any of their food allergies can be enormously helpful when planning your menu.

WHEN Both the day of the week and the time and length of the party are helpful in estimating the amount of food and beverages you should consider.

WHERE Where is quite often home, and home is one place you know something about. When considering where, think through the availability of space, how your food will be displayed, your kitchen capabilities and any restrictions these spaces may have. These details will also help in determining any rentals you may need.

WOW The wow factor is all in the details and in the planning that helps us help you make your party special and memorable.

In addition, here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction:

Tip # 1 Bland is boring. No one is likely to remember bland food. Don’t be afraid to use bold flavors and spices. Let your food make a statement! Nino’s can help!

Tip # 2 Pre-prepare as many dishes as you can, and have things on pans, ready to pop into the oven when guests arrive. They can cook while you entertain! Don’t be afraid to use the microwave oven to re-heat sauces or side dishes you’ve freshly prepared earlier in the day or even the day before.

Tip # 3 Go vertical. Flat table displays are a bore. Create visual interest in your buffet composition by elevating platters and chafing dishes to varying heights. Also, use what you have to create interesting table decorations. Things like tree branches, colorful leaves and backyard flowers can really add interest to your display of foods.

Nino’s Party Planning “Concierge” Team

Annette (Troy) 248-879-9222 ext 124
Shelly & Kelly (Clinton Township) 586-412-6000
Chef Jimmy (St. Clair Shores) 586-778-3650

Late Summer Parties

Although summer is winding down, we still have plenty of time to throw together a last-minute party.

Do you feel like you don’t have a lot of time?

Consider ordering the food. This also gives you the time to relax with your company. If you want to cook, focus on the main course and fake the rest. Someone came in just last week; ordered beef tenderloin, seasoned and slightly pre-cooked; and said she was going to re-heat it. She then ordered her shrimp platter, crab cakes and twice-baked potatoes to accompany her meal. As her veggie choice, she selected our Grilled and Chilled vegetable platter–a #1 hit of the season. She was intending to set it out early–as part of her appetizers–while her company enjoyed time on the lake.

Are you worried about your budget?

Consider the timing of the party. A brunch lends itself to less-expensive ingredients (eggs, fruit and breakfast breads). Or how about cocktails and hors d’oeuvres? In my experience, folks don’t expect as much food when it’s presented this way. Plan the timing of this event just a little later in the evening, after the dinner hour. Your guests might grab a light bite of food at home before coming to the party.

Do you feel like you are short on space?

With a backyard, you can create space to accommodate a fun gathering. Lure your company outside with tubs of ice and drinks, or even a complete bar. You can bring appetizers out and set them out on a brightly decorated table. Picture a small tent or shady area, with a round table of sorts; it will be welcoming from any direction of the yard. When it comes to comfort, set out lawn chairs, blankets or even beach towels as a fun option when your seating is limited. Remember to stock your space with party essentials like plates, cups, and silverware. A basket with sunscreen and bug repellent is good for any part of the day. A few sweatshirts, light jackets or light blankets can help the party last into the evening hours.

Do you feel like you want a creative idea?

Here are some fun, unique ideas to set your night apart from the rest:

  • How about an adult pinata night? Grab a themed pinata, fill it with candies of the past, and let the adults have some fun. Who wouldn’t want to take a whack at something and not cause trouble for himself? After a stressful week, this can be a great way to unwind.
  • Having an adult BBQ? How about some fun ice cubes? Fill an ice tray with water and drop fresh raspberries, blueberries, limes, oranges or any seasonal fruit in before freezing it. These fruity ice cubes make a great addition to cocktails, fresh lemonade, and iced tea.
  • How about adding a little salt to your sweet table? Set up a popcorn bar along with your candy table. Fill a variety of apothecary jars with different flavors of homemade or store-bought popcorn. Set some small bags near the jars, and allow your friends to fill them up to take home.
  • How about an old-fashioned movie under the stars? Using a computer and a projector screen, show a movie on your garage door and invite the neighbors over. Have them bring their own lawn chairs. You can even create a popcorn bar (from the above suggestion) to enjoy at the movies.

Do you feel like throwing a party? Go for it! I would love to hear your ideas! If you used any of these ideas while planning that last-minute party for the summer of 2013, be sure to share the details as well!

Hostess with the Mostess

Who doesn’t want to be the hostess with the mostess? We all have celebratory moments in our lives, and even when we want to plan something simple, we still want some level of spectacular. Whether it is a new theme of decor or a fun, new twist on food presentation, we want to be a little different from the rest.

With sites like Pinterest, it’s not very hard to come up with creative twists on food. Recently, a good friend of mine was planning a bridal shower for her son and his beautiful bride to be. My girlfriend was truly inspired by lots of different things she found on the site. Although she had ordered miniature pastries from Nino’s, she came upon these miniature wedding cake desserts that she just had to make. They were adorable, all three layers of them, but she realized that they were too large to fit the dessert plates she’d planned for each table. The centerpieces for the wedding began with a small idea she saw. Now she is etching glass with the last name initial.

Decorating tables can be as simple as creating display layers with shoe boxes or larger boxes for the trays of food to sit on. Just tossing the tablecloth on top of these layers, instead of fitting it perfectly, provides a creative look. Tossing a piece of fabric or tablecloth, in the color scheme of your party, to one side of the table creates a pulled-together look for your event.

For people who have ordered Mexican food, such as chicken and steak fajitas, I like to use a serape (Mexican colorful blanket) to toss over some of the display boxes. Then I use a sombrero and line the outside rim with nacho chips before serving the salsa and guacamole in large margarita glasses. This is definitely a fun twist for serving Mexican food.

 

This spring’s grad parties often included a “Candy Land” dessert table, complete with several colorful jars of candy for the guests to enjoy or even take home. Along with the typical cake, cupcakes, brownies and cookies, hosts and hostesses displayed jars and bowls filled with candies like miniature candy bars, Swedish fish, Skittles and M&M’s, to name a few. This translates into a blast back in time to the days we used to play the board game Candy Land and wish we could indulge.

Here are a few summer fun table top ideas:

  • Cut fresh flowers from your yard or use store-bought flowers. They look great in Mason jars. Wrap a bow around the jar to pull in your color scheme. For an even more unique touch, use a plastic pitcher as a floral centerpiece vase.
  • Think outside the box, and use a fun beach towel as a tablecloth. Sometimes beach towels fit perfectly, and then you can easily toss them in the washer when you’re done.
  • Use mix-and-match paper plates and plastic silverware. If you are like me and have a pantry full of mismatched paper plates and silverware, set your picnic table with the mix-and-match pieces. Maybe you can find a solid-colored tablecloth that pulls in a consistent color.
  • Find some smaller rocks, clean them up and use a paint marker to write inspirational words on them. Use the simply decorated rocks to hold down the napkins at each place setting. Then use a few larger rocks to hold down the tablecloth.

Have fun with these ideas. Then come back and share how you used these ideas (or made up your own) to become the hostess with the mostess.

Holiday Entertaining Tips

Ahhh, the holidays…

Full of merriment, joy, excitement, and great memories.

At this time of the year, “giving” is always better than “receiving,” they say.

And one of the great ways to give during the holidays is by hosting a party to share these joyful times with family and friends.

Unfortunately for some, the only thing they receive when giving a party is frustration and anxiety. The memories they take away are of festivities gone wrong.

Not very merry.

Even the “pros” have their moments, trust me. The difference is that afterwards, we have the resources of Chef friends and colleagues who have also “been there” and share with us their wisdom and knowledge of how to avoid these pitfalls the next time around. As with magicians who share the secrets of their “tricks” with the “brotherhood,” they were all hard earned.

You might think holiday entertaining success can be easily had with some surefire recipes, table decorations, and music playlists.

But it’s just not that easy.

The truth of the matter is the fate of your party will likely be sealed before you greet your first guest.

So in the spirit of “giving and sharing,” I’m going to share with you some of my best (and most valuable) Holiday Entertaining Tips:

  • Create a menu that will allow you to prep ahead.
    • Fresh foods have a perishable life of 3 to 5 days minimum. For a party, avoid any recipe or dish that has to be fully prepared at the last moment. Foods should be ready to serve, popped in the oven, or easily tossed or assembled.
  • Something for Everyone
    • From the food to the activities, create enough variety to give everyone something he or she might like. It keeps people engaged. The menu should be varied enough to include different food groups, and if there are children, consider something simple that you know they will like. Parents leave early when their children are hungry and cranky.
  • Timeline Outline
    • Make a list of everything you need to get done to prepare for your party the day before and the day of. This list should include food prep as well as cleaning, shopping, or miscellaneous chores.
  • Kits
    • Anything that does have to be mixed, tossed, or assembled just before service should be individually wrapped and placed with its serving bowl or platter to keep everything together. This will make it extremely easy to finish later. Do this for each dish, and you’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll save.
  • Delegate
    • Make a list of anything others can help you with, and make sure they are aware (the day before) that you need them to do these things. Delegating the day of is of no value if there’s no one around to delegate to.
  • Look at the clock.
    • Time flies when you’re busy, and one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to lose track of time. Make it a habit to look at your watch every 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day and re-prioritize your to-do list as necessary. Most last-minute anxiety attacks are easily prevented by keeping an eye on the time and getting more done earlier. Tip: Work hard early. Don’t leave ANYTHING until the last moment.
  • Don’t get stuck in the kitchen.
    • Huge mistake! Yes, the food needs to get on the table, but going back to my earlier point, create a menu that avoids excessive last-minute food preparation; make kits. You deserve to enjoy your party every bit as much as your guests.
  • Be Generous
    • No doubt, you will have leftovers and no doubt, your guests will ask what you are intending to do with all the food. Be generous. Buy food storage bags just for this purpose and offer them to anyone who wants to enjoy some of your “bounty.” Consider it a compliment.

There are, of course, other things you can do to make your Holiday Entertaining more successful and enjoyable. One is to work with Nino’s experienced Party Planning Concierges who can help you with your party and suggest many ways we can assist you with your event.

From prepared foods, beverages, snacks, and groceries to floral arrangements and desserts, Nino’s can help you make great memories anytime of the year.

Happy Holidays, and enjoy the season!

Holiday Parties Made Easy: Nino’s Exclusive Party Planning Guide

The holidays are upon us and so are parties with family, friends, and co-workers.

AND with so many things to do this time of the year, from work, family, shopping, wrapping presents, baking, and enjoying the company of loved ones, it’s a wonder we can manage to get it all in.

It’s especially challenging when you’re planning a party of your own! Because planning a holiday party can get a little complicated and even a little stressful at times, especially if you have never planned one before and aren’t sure where to start.

So where DO I begin?

The old phrase, “the best place to start is at the beginning” is entirely appropriate here because successful holiday parties START at Nino’s!

Our full line of foods, beverages, and catering services, including our knowledgeable Party Planning staff, is here to help you out every step of the way.

From deliciously prepared gourmet food and bakery goods to floral accessories, beverages, and even rentals, we’re ready and anxious to answer your questions and help you with your holiday party planning.

Whatever you’re planning, whatever your budget, a simple call or visit with our Party Planning team of Annette (Troy), Kelly (Clinton Twp.), or Chef Jimmy (St. Clair Shores location) will give you ideas, suggestions, and assistance from menu planning to desserts, drinks, flowers, and even quantities needed of each. AND don’t forget, we deliver!

You’re also welcome to browse through Nino’s Party Planning Guide, which is available online and on display in each of our stores. Or if you’d like a Party Planning Guide mailed to your home, click here. Look through the pages to view the huge selection of trays and platters, menu packages, a la carte foods, and everything else you’ll need for the perfect party.

Take a minute to read a few reviews from our satisfied Party Planning customers.

And as you think about your upcoming party, let me share with you a few important things to think about to help us help you plan your next Holiday Party. I call them the 5 W’s.

WHAT What kind of holiday party or event is it? The answer can help us help you with hors d’oeuvre suggestions, appetizers, buffet items, or even a beverage suggestion or two. Do you have a budget? Is it a stand-up reception or a sit-down dinner?

WHO A guest list can also help determine what kind of food you’ll want to offer. Knowing your guests’ likes and dislikes and any of their food allergies can be enormously helpful when planning your menu.

WHEN Both the day of the week and the time and length of the party are helpful in estimating the amount of food and beverages you should consider.

WHERE Where is quite often home, and home is one place you know something about. When considering “where,” think through the availability of space, how your food will be displayed, your kitchen capabilities, and any restrictions these spaces may have; they’re very helpful to know. It will also help in determining which rentals you may need.

WOW The Wow factor is all in the details and in the planning that can help us help you make your party special and memorable for both you AND your guests.

In addition, I have some GREAT party planning tips in Michigan Design Center’s @home Magazine to help you make this year’s party one your guests will truly enjoy and remember. They’re still available in the checkout lanes at all Nino Salvaggio locations. Here are just a few of my tips:

Tip # 1 Bland is boring…No one is likely to remember bland food. Don’t be afraid to use bold flavors and spices. Let your food make a statement!

Tip # 2 Pre-prepare as many dishes as you can in advance, and have things in pans, ready to pop into the oven when guest arrive, so they can cook while you entertain. Don’t be afraid to use the microwave oven to re-heat sauces or side dishes you’ve freshly prepared earlier in the day.

Tip # 3 Go vertical. Flat table displays are a bore. Create visual interest in your buffet composition by elevating platters and chafing dishes to varying heights. Also, use what you have to create interesting table decorations. Things like tree branches, colorful leaves, and backyard flowers can really add interest to your display of foods.

Nino’s Party Planning “Concierge” Team

Annette (Troy) 248-879-9222 ext 124
Kelly (Clinton Township) 586-412-6000
Chef Jimmy (St. Clair Shores) 586-778-3650