I’ve always enjoyed board games. It seems the world is divided in to those that do and those that don’t. And I’m here to tell you, be a do. There is nothing better than sitting down with your kids or adult friends and playing a game. My parents like games too and are obsessed with Chicken Feet – a dominos game – Ruckus – a wild and crazy card game and “Are You Satisfied?” – a game you play with pennies and a deck of cards. Every time we visit them, there’s always a round or six at the table. Laughs, real connections and a little friendly competition are good for a family.
Some of my favorite games I play with my boys are Blokus – a strategic piece placement game – Bananagrams – a scrabble like game housed in a yellow banana – and our new favorite Tenzi – where you get to roll ten dice at the same time. There’s something thrilling about all those dice going everywhere. My little guy is almost ten and he would play board games with me every day if I made the time. In these days, when our kids often seem more plugged in to their electronics, it’s a good Rx to connect over a game.
My dear pal and super-fun blogger, Meredith Sinclair, keeps me in the know of all the cool new toys. She was featured in a segment on the Today Show with Hoda and Kathie Lee demonstrating fun new games and tasty snacks and drinks. She was kind enough to get some recipes from me for this televised soiree. Check her out over at www.themeredithsinclair.com She’ll help you add a little more playtime into your everyday life.
In these dreary end-of-winter times, I find myself trying to pull my self out of my Vitamin D starved doldrums. One of the best ways to change your mood is to invite another family over and connect over a game. Or while your kids are at the Middle School dance doing the Harlem Shake, why not have some of your parent friends over to play a few games in between pick up and drop off? Have them bring over a favorite game and set out a few of yours and get your game on. And a Tastearama gathering wouldn’t be perfect without some signature snacks and drinks.
Here are my recommendations for a tasty game night gathering:
Cheesy Olives are a perennial favorite. Our guests have come to expect them. The briny green olive wrapped in a cheesy pastry is delicious. The nice thing is you make them, freeze them and just pop out what you need when guests drop in. Folks ask me for the recipe so often that I printed them on the back of my business cards.
48 green olives with pimentos, drained and dried very well
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salted butter, sliced into six pieces
dash of Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Drain and dry the olives well. This step is critical since the dough will not stick to a wet olive. Cut the butter and cheese together using a pastry cutter. Add flour, Worcestershire Sauce and salt. Once combined it will hold together when squeezed.
Scoop up approximately 1 tablespoon. Place in palm of hand. As it warms in your hand it will stick together. Flatten it into a disk. Place dried olive in center and wrap the olive in dough. Pinch off any excess. Roll into a smooth ball. Repeat with remaining olives. Freeze on a tray for 30 minutes. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Cheesy olives are done when they start to brown on the bottom and just start to brown on top. Let them cool a few minutes before eating. The olive can be hot inside. You can also make these ahead of time and freeze them. Bake straight from the freezer; there’s no need to thaw.
My son and I decided to whip up a few tasty bites to bring to a friend’s house – but challenged ourselves by using the things we already had on hand – in the pantry, the freezer and the fridge.
We found some Fillo tart shells in the freezer first. (Yes, I know it’s spelled phyllo, but the box said Fillo). Now what to fill them with. Then he came up with the brilliant idea – and I mean brilliant – to do a BLT filling.
We chopped up some peppered bacon and cooked it. My home ec teacher in 7th grade taught us to chop the bacon first to cook it. It cooks more evenly and quickly that way. Thanks, Miss Daskivich.
Then we chopped up some grape tomatoes and baby spinach. We used spinach since it holds up better warm than lettuce does.
So I guess it’s a BST but then you wouldn’t know what it was. I cooked the tomatoes and spinach in the partially-drained rendered bacon drippings. Then stirred in a little garlic powder and salt.
I took it off the heat and added a half of a block of cream cheese. It slowly melted, we stirred it all together. Then scooped into the tart shells. I just warmed it all up once it was assembled in the oven for about ten minutes.
Slam dunk, deliciousness. Brought to you by one savvy almost-teenaged boy.
1 package mini Fillo shells (15/package), we use Athena brand
4 strips peppered bacon, chopped
15 grape tomatoes, finely chopped
1 handful baby spinach (approximately one cup), finely chopped
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 block cream cheese (4 oz.)
Cook bacon over low heat until crispy. Drain fat. Add tomatoes and spinach and cook on low until spinach wilts – about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic powder and salt. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese and stir to combine as it melts. Spoon into shells. Warm in the oven at 300 degrees for 8 minutes.
Fill out the rest of your snack table with movie box candy and some gourmet popcorn. Everything is grab and go friendly and ever so tasty. No silverware needed and cleanup is a breeze.
And don’t forget the cocktails. Beer and wine are standard but a special cocktail makes it fun.
Meredith asked me to come up with a signature cocktail using sparkling wine/champagne/prosecco and give it a fun gamey name – so we came up with Lady Luck. This drink is heavenly with hints of elderflower from the St. Germain and the zip of grapefruit juice to balance the sweet. I like to float a blackberry in there. It twists and turns as it floats among the bubbles.
1/2 oz St. Germain
1/2 oz grapefruit juice, chillled
4 oz prosecco (depends on glassware), chilled
Pour St. Germain and grapefruit juice into tall stemless flute or champagne flute. Add one blackberry into each glass. Top with chilled prosecco. For an easy party, pour the St. Germain and grapefruit juice and add in one blackberry. Keep your sparkly cold, then all your guests need to do is fill with prosecco and they are off to the races.
I love to mix up a pitcher – or cute swing bottle – full of my beer margaritas. Then let your guests help themselves. Just lay out salt and ices and glasses next to the pitcher and you’re good to go. These tasty three ingredient margaritas are always a winner.
About fifteen years ago, before any of us had kids, Mr. Big and I went on a camping trip just outside Minturn, Colorado. The 10th Mountain Division had huts of varying degrees of civilization that you could rent. We rented a big one – with a bunkhouse, loft, kitchen and a great deck. There must have been at least 20 people in and out of the cabin that weekend – and a few illegal dogs. It was a no-dog hut, but somehow the dogs snuck in. Colorado folks LOVE their dogs. My brother and his wife along with her twin sister and her boyfriend were along too. We were the only city dwellers in the bunch. When the whole lot of them decided to ride their bikes directly uphill on Sunday morning, Mr. Big and I piled in the Jeep, wrangled down the mountain into town and washed our hands and face in warm running soapy water and read the newspaper while sipping a delicious latte. That was our way of conquering nature, not riding a bike straight uphill.
It was an odd lot of folks, but a lovely setting. The best part of the weekend was that I scored my all-time, easiest and tastiest margarita recipe. Once you have the base recipe, you can always riff on it with different fruit purees or rimming ingredients – salt, sugar, spicy salt, the list goes on. The recipe is three ingredients, equal parts. You can make the first batch clear headed, but it’s easy to do after you’ve finished the first pitcher.
1 can beer, we use Yuengling
12oz. Tequila, we prefer Herradura Silver, I measure it out in the limeade can to rinse out
1 can frozen limeade, we use Minute Maid
Simply mix the ingredients in a pitcher. Pour over salt rimmed (if you are so inclined) glasses of ice. Don’t mix the limeade with any water. Use it full strength. The beer adds a nice sparkle to the drink. Mix ‘em up tonight and make your own fiesta. And call me to come over, I’m thirsty.
Why not call up some friends and get your game on this weekend? Cheers!