Garlic Cream – Absolutely Divine!

Diva Entertains Garlic Cream
It may not look like much.  But don’t be fooled.  Not even for a second.  Because one taste of this rich, decadent sauce will have you coming back for more.  And its versatile!  Serve it as a simple but heavenly side of pasta with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Or have it be the basis of a delicious entree like the garlic cream pasta below that features hot Italian sausage and sun-dried tomatoes over spinach linguine. You can even make it ahead and freeze until you are ready to serve it.

Diva Entertains Pasta with Garlic Cream
The ingredients are few.  Garlic Cloves. Chardonnay.  Chicken Stock.  Heavy Cream. But what a combination!

Garlic Cream (my apologies – I don’t know where I first came upon this recipe)

  • 2 heads of garlic, peeled*
  • 1 bottle Chardonnay
  • 1 quart chicken broth or stock
  • 6 cups heavy cream (don’t faint.  This makes a lot and can be frozen**)

Put cloves and wine in a heavy, medium sized sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer until you have about 2 T. of wine left***.  Add the chicken stock and once again bring to a boil and then simmer and reduce until you are left with about 1/4 cup of the reduced liquid.  Remove from heat.

Add the garlic cloves, remainig stock/wine reduction and heavy cream to a blender and puree until smooth.  The sauce will be somewhat thick.  However, once returned to the sauce pan to reheat for use it will quickly deflate.  No worries – it doesn’t change the taste!

*Let’s tackle the garlic cloves issue.  Although I prefer the smash and peel technique when working with a limited amount cloves.  But for a dish like this I bring in the little rubber garlic peel tool:

Diva Entertains Garlic

I’m pretty sure that there are many versions of these on the market, however I think the most well-known is the Zak Designs E-Z-Rol Garlic Peeler.  Simply put the cloves inside (break them up first and put a few in at a time) the rubber tool, rub back and forth on the counter, and then tip the cloves out.  The peels should slide right off.

**I’m partial to freezing left-over sauces and soups in plastic ice cube trays.  Once frozen I put in freezer bags until needed.  Makes it very easy to take out small or large serving sizes as needed.

***The original recipe called for completely reducing all the liquids before pureeing with the heavy cream.  But in my humble opinion that’s crazy!  You want to save a little of the incredibly flavorful reduced liquid to puree with the cream to add depth to the sauce.

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Little Touches: Wasabi Cocktail Sauce

Diva Entertains Wasibi Cocktail Sauce

Hubby and I like food with a little kick.  And this take on regular Cocktail Sauce has it.  As well as a bit of Asian flair.  And it couldn’t be easier to make.  Further, anything with wasabi sauce is all right by us.

wasabi salmon - wasabi

Wasabi Cocktail Sauce (from Food Network Magazine, January/February 2010)

Diva Entertains Wasabi Cocktail Sauce Up Close

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 T. horseradish
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. wasabi paste

Whisk all ingredients together.  Serve with cooked shrimp.

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Cauliflower Popcorn (Seriously…that’s what it tastes like)

Diva Entertains Cauliflower Popcorn

The name of the recipe is absolutely perfect because once baked and salted that’s what it tastes like.  I’m not kidding!  See for yourself if it’s not addictive:)

It’s super easy to make and quite healthy, utilizing a little olive oil and high heat to brown the florets and bring out wonderful flavor.  I like to make 2 heads of cauliflower when serving it to company – you won’t believe how quickly it will be eaten.

Cauliflower Popcorn (recipe adapted from Eat.at recipe forum)

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425F.

Spray a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Put the cauliflower florets in a plastic bag*.   Add the olive oil and shake the bag so that the olive oil is evenly distributed.  Spread the florets on the baking sheet and put in the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes turn the florets over (the side that touched the oven should be browned like in the photo above) and bake another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with kosher salt.  Serve.

Easier Way: Don’t turn the florets over, simply cook another 10 minutes.  (The purpose of turning them over is to brown both sides – it’s the browning that contributes to this recipe’s fantastic flavor.)

*I reuse the plastic bags that I put my fruits and vegetables in at the grocery store.

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Crispy Potato Galette (So Darn Easy)

Diva Entertains Galette Up Close

When I first discovered this recipe I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make.   And how delicious it is! On top of that, it always comes out perfect.  And it looks *GORGEOUS*.  Add this to your repertoire and start amazing family and friends soon!

Diva Entertains Galette Slice

The secrets to this recipe: 1) a hot oven,  2) brushed melted butter on the bottom of the pan and 3) the potatoes are first cooked by steaming them (the pan is covered in foil) but the last 20 minutes they are cooked uncovered so the top (which ends up being the bottom) crisps too!

Diva Entertains Galette with Sour Cream

Crispy Potato Galette

  • 3 large Russet (Idaho) potatoes
  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • Boursin Cheese (optional)
  • Salt

Preheat oven to 425F.

Melt the butter.

Using a mandolin*, cut the ends off the potatoes and then slice thin (no slicing device? Just take care to slice the potatoes very thin).

Diva Entertains Slicing Potatoes

Using a pastry or basting brush, brush the bottom and 1/2” up the sides of a oven-proof skillet 9” or 10” skillet*.  Starting in the center of the pan, place one potato slice.  Then start laying potatoes slices around it, slightly overlapping. Diva Entertains Layering Potatoes Repeat until the bottom of the pan is covered.  Sprinkle with salt.  Add another lay of potatoes.  Space little dots of the Boursin over the layer. Diva Entertains Boursin Cover with another layer of potatoes, brush lightly with melted butter**. Continue layering with remaining potato slices, lightly salting one more time.

Cover the pan tightly with foil and put in the over for 25 minutes.  At that point remove the foil and cook another 20 minutes or so until the top is brown.

Remove the potatoes from the oven.  Place a plate larger than pan over the top and very carefully turn over the pan so that the potato galette releases onto the place.  Cut*** and serve (with a dollop of sour cream if you’d like).

Feel free to substitute other cheeses (goat, cheddar).  I often add chives or rosemary to the layers too.

*Slicing ‘machine’. Plastic ones with steel blades can be purchased for under $30 (Target).  Considerably less on Ebay and Amazon.  You’ll LOVE it!

** Only butter the bottom of the pan, one of the layers lightly, and the top of the layers.  Otherwise your galette will be soggy when you serve it.

*** A pizza cutter works beautifully for this.

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Little Touches: Homemade Croutons

Diva Entertains Croutons

Because I always watch what I eat (calorie-wise)  I tend not to add croutons to the salads I make.  Further, the store bought croutons that I’ve added in the past were always a disappointment at best.  Dry, flavorless and small.  If I’m going to splurge than I want to eat a big, crisp, flavor-drenched crouton that has been softened ever-so-slightly be the salad’s dressing.  I have, on occasion, experienced these at restaurants that make their own.

Diva Entertains Homemade Croutons

A few weeks ago I finally decided “enough is enough”.  I may not eat them every night in my home but occasionally I want those delicious, croutons-on-steriods with my meal.  As I  started serving them on our salads when we had company and I was surprised by how many times I received compliments on them.  The salad seemed just ‘a little more special’ because of it.  I guess, at times, it is the ‘Little Touches’ that make the biggest impact.

Homemade CroutonsDiva Entertains 2 Cups

  • 4 cups of 1″ bread cubes*
  • 4 T. melted butter**
  • 1 1/2 T. dried oregano
  • 2 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.

Put the bread cubes in a large bowl.   Drizzle with the melted butter and add the oregano and Parmesan cheese.  Mix well.  Then mix some more.  Then lightly press some of the cubes against the sides/bottom of the dish to ensure that they absorb all possible flavor.

Bake for 5 -7 minutes and take out of the oven to check.  If nicely browned flip them over and continue to bake another 5 – 7 minutes.  Otherwise, bake another 2 minutes and then flip and and continue to bake as above.  Serve same day and store left-over in an airtight container***.

* Use whatever bread you like: Italian, French, White, etc.  If you are going to use pre-sliced bread look for ‘thick-sliced’ varieties.

** I made multiple batches of croutons with butter and croutons with olive oil to see which I prefered.  Hands down the butter had more flavor and browned faster/better.  But of course it is up to personal taste and/or diet preferences. If you’d prefer to use olive oil just substitute 4 T. olive oil (you can go as low as 3 T. if you’d like).

***Depending on the humidity level in your home, how dried out your bread was before you bake the croutons, how long you baked the croutons, etc. the croutons in the airtight container might become a bit soft within a matter of days.  No problem whatsoever.  Simply toast them for 3-5 minutes in a 375F oven, before serving, to crisp them up again. (You can also put them in a 250F oven but it will take a bit longer – just watch them until you determine how long they need to be in there to crisp (start at about 12 minutes).

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Little Touches: Homemade Dark Chocolate Pudding (So easy!)

Diva Entertains Dark Chocolate Pudding

When I first began dating my husband I quickly learned that he loved everything chocolate.  Especially dark chocolate.  So basically anything I made I either added chocolate chips to it or I dipped it in chocolate.  And he was happy.  But then I came across a recipe for homemade dark chocolate pudding and, having never made pudding, decided to give it a try.  It was easy.  Very easy.  And sinfully delicious.  And J was very happy.  So much so that here it is, nearly 15 years later, and it is still his all-time favorite dessert.

A girlfriend of mine mentioned that she often made ‘miniature’ desserts and they were always always a big hit so I thought I’d give it a try.  I used shot glasses that I picked up at T.J. Maxx (6 for under $5) and I just loved the look of how the pudding looks in them.  Although ‘portion-controlled’, they felt indulgent.  And way more special than putting it in a bowl!

Diva Entertains Trio of Chocolate Pudding

*I used Hershey’s Cocoa Special Dark.  If you can’t find it (or dark cocoa), no worries.  Regular cocoa is just great.  If you want a bit deeper flavor – use 2 1/2 T. of the cocoa.

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Seared Salmon with Balsamic Glaze

Diva Entertains Salmon Up Close

I make this recipe often for a quick week night dinner, as well as serve it when we have company.  It’s great for both because  there’s little prep and it cooks quickly.  Not to mention that it is absolutely delicious.  Also  pretty darn healthy (you only need a little bit of the glaze for each serving).  Its presentation is nice too.  Fancy.  Like you know your way around the kitchen:)

Some helpful hints before you start: 1) make sure that you pat the salmon pieces dry before you salt and pepper them and add them to the pan.  Otherwise the liquid on them will ‘steam’ instead of sear. 2) Before you add the balsamic mixture to the very hot pan, remove it from the burner. And if there is any oil remaining in the pan, remove it (otherwise it will inhibit the sauce from reducing). Add the mixture off heat and then return skillet to burner.  And most important, 3) once the balsamic mixture is added to the pan let it reduce until it gets syrupy.  Believe me, you are going to think it is finished before it gets to that stage (or you are going to think that it is at that stage when it really isn’t).  It’s not that the sauce still isn’t good – its scrumptious.  It’s just thinner (see pic below)

Diva Entertains Salmon Thinner Sauce

and, therefore, the flavors aren’t as concentrated.  Reducing it down to the syrup stage isn’t going to leave you with a lot – but you don’t want to cover the fillet with it – rather just drizzle the sauce over the salmon.  Don’t be off put if you need a couple of tries to figure out the timing to reduce it to the stage you prefer.   It will be worth it!

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Dressed Up Broccoli (or “How I Got My Husband To Eat Broccoli”)

Diva Entertains Dressed Up Broccoli

Diva Entertains Dressed Up Broccoli

I came upon this recipe ages ago and it has been a work horse in my répertoire ever since.  What I especially love about this dish is that people who SWEAR they hate broccoli gobble this up.  And that gives me great satisfaction:)

Dressed Up Broccoli

  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • Steamed broccoli florets

Mix sesame oil, lemon juice and brown sugar together.  Drizzle over steamed broccoli (bring left over mixture to table for guests to drizzle more over their portions).  Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Easier: Skip toasting the sesame seeds.

Easiest: Skip sesame seeds altogether.

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