Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Holiday Pears

As friends and family begin filtering in for the holiday season, or as you travel to their homes, we invite you to indulge in this recipe for Holiday Pears that will awaken your taste buds. With a decadent mix of spices, this dish will surely become a staple in your holiday traditions.

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
4 firm-ripe pears such as d’Anjou or Bosc (about 2 1/2 lb. total)
1/2 rinsed lemon (about 2 oz. total), thinly sliced (ends discarded)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Sort cranberries and discard stems and any bruised or decayed fruit. Rinse and drain berries. Peel pears; cut in half and core. In a 2- to 2 1/2-quart baking dish, combine cranberries, pears, and lemon slices.

2. In a 1- to 2-quart pan over medium-high heat, stir sugar, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and 1/2 cup water until mixture boils and sugar is dissolved. Pour over fruit. Cover dish tightly with foil.

3. Bake in a 350° regular or convection oven until pears are tender when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

From Sunset December 2001

Chocolate Caramel Apples with Sprinkles

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as taking a bite out of a juicy, sweet and sticky caramel apple. Put a twist on caramel apples this fall with a mix of chocolate and caramel that even the best dieter can’t resist!

5 apples (we prefer Granny Smith and Fuji varieties, 6 to 8 oz. each)
14 ounces (about 50 pieces) unwrapped soft caramels (such as Kraft)
10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 cup sprinkles (your choice of color)

1. Rinse and dry 5 apples (we prefer Granny Smith and Fuji varieties, 6 to 8 oz. each). Insert a craft or popsicle stick halfway into the stem end of each apple. Line a baking sheet with plain parchment paper or wax paper that has been generously coated with butter.

2. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, combine 14 ounces (about 50 pieces) unwrapped soft caramels (such as Kraft) and 2 tablespoons water. Stir frequently until melted and smooth.

3. Holding the stick, dip each apple one at a time into the caramel about three-quarters of the way. Swirl to coat evenly.

4. Hold stem side up and use a knife to scrape excess caramel off the bottom of apple back into bowl. Place apples on the parchment paper or buttered waxed paper and refrigerate until caramel is firm, about 5 minutes.

5. Return pan of water to a boil; remove from heat. Place 10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate in another bowl and set over pan. Stir frequently until chocolate is melted and smooth.

6. Dip the bottom half of each apple in chocolate, turning to coat evenly. Hold stem side up and use a knife to scrape excess chocolate off bottom of apple and back into bowl. Place each coated apple on the parchment paper or buttered waxed paper and refrigerate until chocolate is slightly set, about 10 minutes.

7. Place about 1 cup sprinkles (your choice of color) on a plate. Roll bottom third of each apple in sprinkles to coat. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes.

From Sunset October 2005

Old Glory Cherry-Blueberry Pie

If you’re hosting an outdoor get-together for the 4th of July, fresh summer berries are the perfect treat. Both festive and delicious, this Old Glory Cherry-Blueberry Pie will delight guests young and old.
5 cups fresh sweet, dark cherries, rinsed and pitted, or frozen pitted cherries (see notes)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained, or frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Flag pastry
2 teaspoons butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
Vanilla ice cream (optional)

1. In a large bowl, mix cherries with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. In a smaller bowl, mix blueberries with remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Combine sugar and cornstarch; gently stir 1 cup of the mixture into cherries and 1/4 cup into blueberries.

2. Spoon cherry mixture over 3/4 of the pastry in pan, leaving 1 quadrant free. Spoon blueberry mixture into unfilled area. Scatter butter evenly over fruit.

3. Top filling with stars and stripes as directed for flag pastry. Set pie in a foil-lined 13- by 17-inch baking pan.

4. Bake on the bottom rack of a 400° regular or convection oven until fruit is bubbling in the center and pastry is well browned, about 1 hour. If pastry edges brown too quickly (check after 40 minutes), cover loosely with foil.

5. Let pie cool on a rack at least 3 hours; let stand at room temperature up to 8 hours. Cut into wedges and serve with ice cream, if desired.

Note: If using fresh cherries, buy about 1 3/4 pound; if using frozen, you’ll need about 1 1/2 packages, 16 ounces each.

From Sunset July 2001

The Party Starter Watermelon Tequila Cocktail

The summer state of mind has us ready for a party! Get the party started with this recipe for Watermelon Tequila Cocktails. For a nonalcoholic version, skip the tequila and add a little water to help blend the mixture.
The Party Starter Watermelon Tequila Cocktail
1 seedless watermelon (about 6 lbs.)
3/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups silver (also called blanco) tequila

1. Cut melon into chunks and discard rind. Purée chunks in batches in a food processor. Pour mixture through a strainer into a bowl. Pour 4 cups into another bowl; whisk in lemon juice. Save any remaining watermelon juice for another use. Pour juice mixture into 4 ice cube trays* and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

2. Make drinks: Whirl half the watermelon cubes in a food processor until broken up, then add 1 cup tequila and whirl until blended. Pour into a pitcher and repeat with remaining ingredients.

*A standard ice cube tray has 14 cube slots.

From Sunset July 2011

Open-face Caprese Sandwiches

These Open-face Caprese Sandwiches are a refreshing snack you can enjoy cooking on the grill. Ripe, juicy tomatoes are the perfect foil to crunchy, grilled Italian bread and they are a breeze to make. Follow the simple recipe below and be prepared as your family requests it again and again.

5.6.13 - 2
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8 slices (about 1/2 in. thick) crusty Italian bread
3 medium ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
16 medium basil leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare a grill for medium heat (350° to 450°). Combine 1 tbsp. oil and the garlic and brush onto 1 side of bread.

2. Lay bread oiled side down on grill and cook until slightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Turn bread over, lay tomato slices on bread to fit, overlapping if needed, then lay cheese slices over tomatoes. Cover grill and cook until cheese starts to melt, about 4 minutes.

3. Transfer sandwiches to a platter. Put 2 basil leaves over each sandwich and drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp. oil and the vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

From Sunset July 2009

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Golden State Fish Tacos

Start the outdoor season with a creative new recipe for fish tacos. These light, refreshing Golden State Fish Tacos are the perfect meal to enjoy on your patio. The delicious ripe avocado paired with fresh, zesty lemon will perk up your taste buds and leave you wanting more.

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 pounds boned, skinned halibut fillets (1 in. thick), cut into 1 1/2-in. chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 to 14 corn tortillas (5 to 6 in.), warmed on grill
3 cups iceberg lettuce cut in fine shreds
Avocado and Salted Lemon Salad
Yogurt Sauce

1. Heat grill to high (450° to 550°). Mix seasonings in a small bowl. Put halibut on a rimmed baking sheet; coat with oil. Sprinkle with seasonings. Thread fish on 6 to 8 slender metal skewers. Oil cooking grate, using tongs and a wad of oiled paper towels.

2. Grill fish, covered, turning once, until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes total. Fill tortillas with lettuce, fish, and salad. Serve with yogurt sauce.

From Sunset September 2010

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Chocolate Raspberry Shortcakes

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we wanted to share a recipe we love, Chocolate Raspberry Shortcakes. These are a great treat to make whether it’s for your other half, your kids, or even just for yourself!

About 2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) cold butter
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 cups fresh raspberries
Vanilla crème fraîche or lightly sweetened whipped cream
Powdered sugar

1. In a food processor or bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 2/3 cup granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whirl or mix until blended.
2. Cut butter into 1/2-inch chunks and add to flour mixture. Whirl, cut in with a pastry blender, or rub in with your fingers until mixture forms fine crumbs; pour into a bowl if using processor.
3. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks with buttermilk to blend; add to flour mixture and stir just until evenly moistened.
4. Turn dough out onto a floured board and, with lightly floured hands, knead just until it comes together. Pat out to about 1 1/4 inches thick. With a 3-inch round cutter, cut out shortcakes; gather dough scraps and pat out again as necessary to make all six shortcakes. Set 2 inches apart on a 14- by 17-inch baking sheet.
5. Bake on the middle rack in a 375° regular or 350° convection oven until tops look dry and feel firm when pressed, about 25 minutes. Transfer shortcakes to a rack and let cool completely.
6. Meanwhile, rinse raspberries. In a blender or food processor, whirl half the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar until smooth. Press through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard residue.
7. To assemble shortcakes, slice each in half horizontally; set bottoms on plates. Spoon vanilla crème fraîche over bottoms, top with remaining berries, and drizzle with raspberry sauce. Place shortcake tops over berries and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

From Sunset June 2002

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Grilled French Toast Kebabs

Breakfast will never be the same again after you try this recipe for Grilled French Toast Kebabs. A fun twist on a classic, these kebabs are a quick and easy treat you can make on the grill.


1 loaf (1 lb.) day-old pain au levain
3/4 cup whole milk
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melted butter
Maple or berry syrup
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. Soak 12 wooden skewers (10 to 12 in.) in water to cover for 20 minutes; drain. Meanwhile, heat a grill to medium (350°).
2. Cut enough bread into 1-in. chunks, including some crust on each, to make 2 qts; save extra for other uses.
3. Whisk milk, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Mix in bread to coat, then thread onto skewers.
4. Oil cooking grate, using tongs and an oiled wad of paper towels. Grill skewers, covered, until browned, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes.
5. Serve with butter and syrup and dust with powdered sugar if you like.

From Sunset June 2010

Chocolate Thumbprints

Looking for a sweet treat for Santa that is sure to ward off a coal-filled stocking? These Chocolate Thumbprints from Sunset magazine are simply delicious and will leave Santa wanting more!

1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
About 1/3 cup turbinado sugar (see notes)
Chocolate ganache (recipe follows)

1. In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla until well blended, scraping sides of bowl as needed.

2. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, beat flour mixture into butter mixture until well blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill until dough is firm but pliable, about 30 minutes.

3. Place about 1/3 cup turbinado sugar in a shallow bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll to coat in turbinado sugar. Place 1 inch apart on buttered 12- by 15-inch baking sheets. Press your thumb into the center of each cookie to make a 1/2-inch-deep imprint.

4. Bake cookies in a 325° regular or convection oven until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. If baking more than one sheet at a time in one oven, switch positions halfway through baking. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely (if indentations have disappeared, make them again while cookies are warm).

5. Carefully fill each indentation with about 1/2 tablespoon chocolate ganache. Let cool until ganache is shiny and firm to the touch, about 1 hour (or chill for about 30 minutes).

Chocolate ganache: In a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) barely simmering water in a pan, occasionally stir 6 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 2 tablespoons whipping cream, 1 tablespoon corn syrup, and 1 tablespoon butter until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool until thick but not firm, about 15 minutes. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Note: Turbinado sugar is a light golden brown, large-crystal sugar, sometimes labeled “raw sugar” or “Demerara sugar.” It’s available in some well-stocked supermarkets and natural-foods stores. If you can’t find it, substitute additional granulated sugar. These cookies are best the day they are filled, but you can make both the cookies and the filling up to 3 days ahead. Store cookies airtight at room temperature; chill ganache airtight. Melt ganache over hot water and cool (as described in recipe, above) before using.

From Sunset December 2002

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Thanksgiving Classics

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and if you’re still planning the day’s menu, we’ve got you covered. We’re serving up some of our favorite, mouthwatering Thanksgiving classics from Sunset magazine.

To Drink

Crimson Spice Champagne Cocktail
This is the perfect bubbly drink with a hint of spice for fall. For a nonalcoholic alternative, substitute lemon-lime or club soda for the cognac and champagne.

The Main Event

Dry-Cured Rosemary Turkey
Letting this turkey dry-cure in a home-ground mixture of spices gives it incredible, earthy flavor once it’s roasted.


Sage-infused Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips
Sage adds an earthy flavor to these mashed potatoes, parsnips lend sweetness, and sour cream brings a bit of tang.


Glazed Carrots with Pecans
These sweet veggies are so delectable that even the pickiest of eaters can’t turn these down.


Cranberry Port Sauce
The combination of cranberries, orange, and port in this easy sauce makes a wonderful accompaniment for the turkey.


Pumpkin-Orange Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust and Salted Caramel
Pumpkin and chocolate are surprisingly delicious together, and paired with sweet salted caramel – yum!