A Mediterranean Menu for Outdoor Entertaining – Opa!

— (Family Features) When al fresco entertaining calls for some flavorful inspiration, look to the fresh and abundant offerings of Mediterranean cuisine.

Inspired by its coastal origins, traditional Greek dishes feature a colorful collection of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and grilled fare. Whether you’re serving friends with a themed event or simply enjoying a homemade meal with the family, delicious Greek cuisine is perfect for sharing with those you love.

From raw to roasted, pickled to caramelized, the onion is one of the most versatile vegetables, and is commonly found among the many fresh flavors of this fare. Plus, when you cook with the mighty onion, you’re serving up a good source of vitamin C.

The growers and shippers of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee and the National Onion Association offer the following tips about onions:

  • One large onion, diced equals about 1 cup fresh and 1/4 cup cooked.
  • Grill and saute onions over low to medium heat. This will bring out a savory, sweet, mellow flavor. High heat can cause the onion to taste bitter.
  • Store onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place with minimal exposure to light.
  • Keep peeled and cut onions in a sealed container in the refrigerator for seven to 10 days.

For more tips and ideas to add flavor to your outdoor celebrations, visit www.onions-usa.org and www.usaonions.com.

Turkey and Onion Meatball Kebabs with Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Servings: 6 large or 9 small kebabs

1 tablespoon cumin seed

1 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped chives

3/4 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound ground turkey

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut in thin wedges

1 green pepper, cut into 1-inch dices

12 cherry tomatoes

Heat small pan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds to toast. Stir frequently, for about 3 minutes or until seeds are fragrant and slightly browned. Remove seeds to spice grinder or mortar and pestle; grind to moderately fine powder.

In medium bowl, combine yogurt, cilantro, chives, honey, salt and 1 teaspoon ground toasted cumin. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

In second medium bowl, combine turkey, garlic, lemon zest, salt, cayenne and 1 teaspoon ground toasted cumin; mix gently but thoroughly. Shape into eighteen 1 1/2-inch meatballs.

Preheat grill. On metal skewers (or bamboo skewers soaked in water 30 minutes), thread meatball, onion wedge, pepper square and cherry tomato. Repeat. Finish skewer with another meatball and onion wedge.

Grill until meatballs reach internal temperature of 160°F, turning as needed. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

For mini-skewers, use 2 meatballs, 2 onion wedges, 1 cherry tomato and 1 pepper square on each skewer.

Lentil Salad with Marinated Onions, Roasted Tomatoes and Olives

Servings: 6-8

2-3 medium tomatoes cut into eight wedges

1 (9.5-ounce) jar whole, pitted Greek olives, drained

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

8 thyme sprigs, leaves removed

Sea salt

1 1/3 cups lentils

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 medium cucumber, chopped

1 (12-ounce) jar artichoke hearts, sliced

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons chives, chopped

2/3 cup crumbled feta

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Fresh ground black pepper


Courtesy of Family Features

Lentil Salad with Marinated Onions, Roasted Tomatoes and Olives

Preheat oven to 400°F. On medium-sized baking sheet lined with parchment paper, arrange tomatoes skin side down. Add drained olives to pan; drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and sea salt. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Cook lentils according to package directions, approximately 20 minutes.

While lentils are cooking, place red onion in small bowl. Pour red wine vinegar over onions and sprinkle with sea salt. Stir and let stand at room temperature while lentils are cooking.

When lentils finish cooking, drain if needed. In large bowl combine lentils, marinated red onion, garlic and remaining olive oil. Mix well and cool completely. When cool, combine rest of ingredients with lentils. Serve cold.

Orange, Mint and Onion Salad

Servings: 6

3 navel oranges

1/2 sweet yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn

1/4 cup black olives, oil cured, pitted


1/3 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup canola oil


Courtesy of Family Features

Orange, Mint and Onion Salad

For salad, cut top and bottom off each orange so it sits flat on cutting surface. Remove peel and pith (white part) by taking sharp knife and running it down sides of orange from top to bottom, following shape of each orange. Slice oranges into rounds.

Arrange slices, overlapping each other slightly, on large platter. Scatter onion, mint and olives over oranges.

For vinaigrette, whisk vinegar with honey, mustard, cinnamon and salt. Slowly add oil while whisking constantly, until well combined.

Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and serve immediately.

Note: Any leftover dressing can be stored, tightly covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

How to make simple, homemade, holiday crowd-pleasers

— (StatePoint) Whether you’re playing host or bringing a side dish to someone else’s holiday gathering, preparing a delicious crowd-pleaser that’s simple and affordable to make is a priority for many.

“The days of spending hours in the kitchen making homemade dishes from scratch are long gone, says Jonathan Spear at Green Giant.  “These days, time-crunched family cooks can take solace in knowing that any dish that starts and ends in the kitchen can be considered homemade, including meals using conveniences such as frozen vegetables and sauces from a jar.”

This holiday season, if you want to stand out by serving that memorable dish that didn’t take hours to prepare, consider the following tried-and-true culinary tips:

• Shed the time-consuming task of washing and chopping vegetables by going frozen. Frozen veggies are picked at their peak, making them just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. 

• Use free online resources to find quick, easy holiday appetizers, entrees and desserts. For example, visit www.seriouseats.com for festive holiday recipes like Cheesy Broccoli Puffs with Sriracha sauce or Roasted Potato and Sausage Quiche.

• Don’t rely on unhealthy ingredients to add wow-factor to holiday dishes.  Instead, add simple ingredients such as fresh herbs and spices to any recipe for layers of flavor and zest. Everyone will be asking for the recipe.

For an interesting new twist on a classic holiday meal, try Green Giant’s recipe for Turkey and Veggie Alfredo Pot Pie:

Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Start to Finish: 40 Minutes

Makes 5 servings


• 1 tablespoon butter

• 1/2 cup chopped onion

• 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

• 1 jar (15 oz) Alfredo sauce

• 2 cups cubed cooked turkey

• 1 bag (12 oz) Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers frozen broccoli, carrots, cauliflower & cheese sauce

• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1 can (12 oz) Pillsbury Golden Layers refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

• 2 tablespoons shredded fresh Parmesan cheese


• Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart glass baking dish with cooking spray. Cook frozen vegetables as directed on bag for minimum time.

• Meanwhile, in 10-inch nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Cook onion and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in Alfredo sauce, turkey, cooked vegetables with sauce, basil and black pepper. Cook until mixture is thoroughly heated and bubbly, stirring constantly. Spoon into baking dish.

• Separate dough into 10 biscuits. Cut each biscuit in half crosswise. Arrange around edge of baking dish, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

• Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

More recipes to accompany this dish — such as Garden Vegetables with Lemon-Scented Quinoa and Broccoli and Artichoke Party Dip are available at Jolly Green Giant TV. 

With simple recipes and the right ingredients, homemade holiday cooking can be as enjoyable a part of the season as gift-giving and sharing time with family!

Practice makes perfect: a dress rehearsal for your turkey

— The holidays are approaching and before you know it, you’ll be thinking about that daunting task of cooking a turkey. This holiday season, make sure your bird impresses all the guests and relatives by conducting a dress rehearsal for your turkey. More than 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, according to a National Turkey Federation survey. But before doing so, why not do a dry run and prepare a turkey, or try a smaller bird like chicken, using a brining technique that is sure to be a crowd pleaser?

It’s the hot new culinary trend that’s got everyone from celebrity chefs to home cooks buzzing. But even though brining may be the latest technique to sweep kitchens, it’s hardly new. Mankind has been brining since ancient times. It probably started out, hundreds of millennia ago, as a way of preserving seafood with sea salt. The technique has come a long way since, and now food lovers everywhere, in typical what’s-old-is-new-again fashion, are rediscovering the benefits of brining.

Think you don’t have the tools to brine? Chef Helen Roberts, director of culinary development at Kikkoman, has perfected the turkey brine. The brine is simple: salt, sugar, water, dried spices and the magic ingredient: soy sauce. Pull out your refrigerator drawer or a large, deep bucket to brine your bird. After you’ve stirred your ingredients and placed your turkey in the liquid, let the brine work its magic overnight.

What’s the secret behind brining? Brining has a tenderizing and moisturizing effect. The brine is absorbed and diffused throughout the meat as it soaks overnight. In addition, Roberts explains that soy sauce has a savory effect that seals in the turkey flavor and moisture. “Brining makes a big difference when you’re roasting meat. You’ll have the juiciest bird you’ve ever tasted,” says Roberts. But, as we all know, a turkey isn’t the only thing on the kitchen table – check out some recipes here that will leave your taste buds craving for more.

Savory Turkey Brine


(Recipe for a 16 to 24pound turkey)

2 gallons cold water

10 ounces Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons dried sage

2 tablespoons dried celery seed

1 tablespoon dried thyme


The night before roasting, remove giblets and turkey neck; rinse turkey inside and out. In a large stock pot or 5 gallon bucket, mix water with remaining ingredients. Stir well until all the salt is dissolved. Place turkey in the pot, cover with a lid and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours. Remove turkey from the brine, rinsing well. Follow your regular cooking instructions.

Brining isn’t just for meat though. Brine veggies for a rich, savory taste. Perhaps one of the trendiest veggies, Brussels sprouts, are a prime candidate for a soy sauce brine. Sick of the same old side dishes? Now that you’ve brined your turkey, get creative with your side dishes too. Put a spin on classic mashed potatoes with the Wasabi Mashed Potatoes recipe found on www.kikkomanusa.com. The spice and heat will balance out the creamy texture of the mashed potatoes. If you have leftover turkey, try a completely new dish instead of just reheating. Keep enjoying your juicy turkey by adding to a stir fry, include in a salad or in a tetrazzini. For leftover mashed potatoes, use panko to transform into crunchy, warm Panko Mashed Potato Cakes.

Have you ever wondered … why turkey for Thanksgiving? Turkeys became a Thanksgiving staple after the Native Americans introduced turkey to the Pilgrims back in 1621 during the first Thanksgiving meal. As you prepare to celebrate the holidays, try this brining recipe to keep turkey juicy and moist, and you are bound to enjoy a wonderful meal with friends and family.

Game day party tips for football fans

— Entertaining this football season? To make your gatherings memorable, you’ll need to do more than just turn on the game and hope for the best. With the right party plays, you can treat your guests to a spirited game day and a memorable football feast.

Try incorporating these game changing ideas into your regular party playbook:

Team Spirit

Get your friends geared up for game time from the moment they arrive. Hang a team banner in your entryway and adorn your yard with your team’s colors. Pump up your crowd by playing your favorite game-time tunes. 

Even if all your guests are rooting for the same team, spice it up with some friendly competition, like wagering on who hosts the crowd for the next game.

Have face paint on hand and encourage your guests to arrive early so the party is well underway at kick-off.

Scoring Big with Dips

Food is usually the main attraction at most festivities, and football-themed “home-gating” parties are no exception. Give your spread a thematic look by making a mini football field out of your table. Use AstroTurf as your tablecloth. Then space white tape stripes at intervals for the yard lines.

But you can really score big with the food. Dips are the MVP of home parties, according a recent survey conducted by ConAgra Foods. More than half of the respondents said their guests reach for dips first.  And RO*TEL and VELVEETA Famous Queso Dip remains king at parties, beating out guacamole, salsa, spinach artichoke and buffalo chicken dip.

So please your crowd and make game day delicious with a quick, easy and zesty dip. If you’re one of the many that have never heard of or made queso dip, try this simple crowd-pleasing recipe, made with only two ingredients, RO*TEL and VELVEETA:


• 1 can (10 oz.) RO*TEL Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained

• 1 lb. (16 oz.)  VELVEETA, cut into 1/2-inch cubes


• Combine undrained tomatoes and cheese in microwaveable bowl.

• Microwave on high for 5 minutes or until VELVEETA is melted completely and mixture is blended, stirring after 3 minutes.

• Serve warm as a dip with tortilla chips, crackers or cut-up fresh vegetables.

Ultimate Queso Bash

No matter where the football festivities take place, queso dip is a fan favorite. The VELVEETA & RO*TEL Quesobago, an RV loaded with queso dip, is making a cross-country tour to college football’s hottest rivalries to introduce queso to a new crowd. While it only takes two ingredients to create crowd-pleasing Famous Queso Dip, you can make it your own with a pinch of personality. For queso customizations, or to enter for the chance to win a party featuring the Quesobago on football’s biggest day, visit www.quesoforall.com. Enter the sweepstakes by November 30, 2013.

For the perfect pigskin party, make your football fete fun, festive and creatively delicious.