Easy Entertaining and Introducing….Ask Mamma!

In another attempt to improve my blog, I would like to make it more interactive. As much as I love cooking, I love talking with people about cooking and sharing ideas. So this is the launch of Ask Mamma! If you have a question about what to cook for dinner when you have x, y, z ingredients on hand or what to make for your next playdate/dinner party/birthday party, click on my email to the right and I’ll answer.

I will post questions and answers for everyone to read (keeping you anonymous, unless you want me to include your name and/or blog)! We all have our own ways of cooking, so someone’s boring every Wednesday night meal, is someone else’s new discovery!

This past week I got a question from a reader about what to make for her son’s 4th birthday party at their house (kids and adults present).

Mamma’s Answer

Making a dinner or lunch party for young kids…Here are three options:

(1) Mexican

Pasta salad – fun shapes for kids or the tri colored (I made one for the boys’ birthday party + added black beans, corn, tomatoes and feta and a mild honey lime vinaigrette). Cook 1 box of pasta, cool and then toss in a can of black beans (rinsed), about a cup and 1/2 of corn (use frozen, canned or fresh), about a cup and a 1/2 of diced tomatoes and about 3/4 cup of feta. To make the vinaigrette add equal parts (about a 1/3 of a cup) lime juice, white balsamic (or white wine vinegar) and olive oil. Whisk together. Then add 2-3 Tablespoons honey (or sugar if kids under 1 are going to be eating it), taste and add more sugar or honey if not sweet enough. If too sweet add a little more vinegar. Add salt and pepper to your taste, whisk all together and then toss with pasta.

Make your own taco bar – have peppers + onions at room temperature, either chicken or beef (I also did this for the boys’ party and made a beef roast in the slow cooker the day before and then just shredded it and reheated it for the day of the party), shredded cheese, salsa and tortillas. Let people build it themselves. To make the shredded beef or chicken, rub with salt, pepper, coriander, cumin and oregano. Sear meat in pan, then transfer to crock pot with 2-3 cups of beef or chicken stock flavored with coriander, cumin and oregano and keep on low until meat is cooked through (use a meat thermometer!). Once cooled, use a fork to shred meat.

Chips and salsa and guacamole for snacking.

Super simple. Make as much as you want or buy already made 🙂

(2) Greek

Meatloaf with greek seasoning (McCormicks make’s a great one) and feta (Rachel Ray has a great recipe that I wrote about here). I actually made this the other night but made meatballs instead of meatloaf. So good!

Tomato, cucumber and feta salad (onion optional). Dice a couple of vine ripe tomatoes, one cucumber and throw in a couple of handfuls of feta. Mix with a couple of splashes of red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. If you like raw onion, dice about 1/2 a medium onion and add in as well. I’m not a big raw onion fan, so I only diced 1/4 of a medium onion.

Yogurt sauce (make or buy). To make, add yogurt, minced cucumber, greek seasoning and a little lemon juice).

Serve with pita bread.
hummus, pita chips, carrots, cucumber, etc for snacking.

(3) Asian

Shrimp and pork lettuce wraps – Marinate cooked shrimp (I used frozen shrimp that had been thawed) + cooked pork or beef (grill or just cook with salt and pepper) + shredded carrots + shredded slaw (I buy pre-shredded) in a mixture of rice wine vinegar, white balsamic, sugar, lemon juice, ginger and olive oil. Marinate separately for at least an hour. (Can cook it all the day before and then just let it marinate starting in the morning of the party and serve room temp)

Serve with lettuce for lettuce wraps and I LOVE the Trader Joe’s Sweet Chili sauce for dipping. So good!

Coconut rice on the side with edamame if you like. Here is a good recipe I found on a blog I recently discovered, Weelicious.
Dried snap peas, shrimp chips, edamame for snacking.

All of these ideas can be made the day before, leaving you with less to do on the day of the party and may actually allow you to enjoy the party instead of being stuck in the kitchen!

Send me your questions!


I love the summer! There is more to do with the kids outside and there are some great foods available like fresh fruits, corn and copper river salmon! There is nothing better on a warm summer night then sitting outside eating fresh grilled salmon and great glass of Riesling. Take last Saturday night for example. We went to a bbq at a friend’s house. Giant copper river salmon on the grill, cheese and crackers, veggie tray and lots of wine and beer. Kids running around. I brought a pasta salad (see recipe below) and the perfect summer fruit (in my opinion) = watermelon.

A blog I follow called Family.Friendly.Food. had some great recipes for Copper River Salmon last week. The author is a local mom who also loves to cook. Check it out. Here is a link: http://www.familyfriendlyfood.com/

What Karina has been eating and I’ve been cooking:

In the heat, Karina has been eating a lot of berries and cantelope. She really loved the nectarine I gave her at breakfast this morning. For dinner we have been grilling quite a bit, especially with our new grill 🙂 I made turkey burgers last week (ground turkey, grated red onion, garlic, palmful of whole wheat breadcrumbs, 3 Tbsp of flaxseed meal, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper). I made a few too many, so I used the leftovers to make enchiladas last night and they were spectacular! I chopped up the leftover burgers and tossed them into a sauce I made. The sauce included 2 cans of diced tomatoes, 2 small can diced mild chiles, palmful of chili powder, tsp of cumin, tsp coriander, salt and pepper to taste, 2 Tbsp minced garlic, 1 diced red onion, 1/2 cup pureed canned pumpkin, 1/2 can of tomato paste, olive oil and 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Cook in saucepan until heated through. Spoon mixture into whole wheat tortillas, roll and top with extra sauce, shredded cheddar and colby jack cheeses. Cook for about 30-45 min at 425 (covered for first 15min). I served it with black beans and avocado, which Karina has decided she doesn’t like this week 🙂

Pasta salad

Roasted Asparagus
Asparagus – chopped (about 5-6 handfuls after chopped)
Shallot – minced (1)
Garlic – minced (1tsp)
Salt – to taste
Pepper- to taste
Lemon zest – (1 lemon)
Olive oil

Whole wheat pasta (1 3/4 boxes of rotini)

Cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes, about 1 1/2 cups diced)

Lemon juice (two lemons)
Lemon zest (one lemon)
White balsamic vinegar (about 1/4 cup)
salt and pepper (to taste)
fresh rosemary (2 springs chopped)
fresh thyme (4 sprigs)
garlic (1 tsp minced)
Olive oil (to taste)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Clean and chop asparagus. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon zest, garlic and shallots and roast for about 12-15 minutes. While oven is preheating, boil water for pasta. Cook pasta until just a little past al dente. While waiting for water to boil, chop tomatoes and put aside. While pasta is cooking and asparagus is roasting, mix all the ingredients for vinagrette, except olive oil. While whisking ingredients, pour in enough olive oil that you don’t lose the sharpness of the lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Once you have drained pasta, pour it into a large bowl. Add roasted asparagus and tomatoes. Then pour in the vinagrette and toss. Chill in the fridge until serving.