Entries in Martie Knows Parties (297)


Martie's Easter Ideas: Speckled Egg Dye Techniques, Easter Menus, Deviled Egg Bar and more!


Easter is early this year and if you are just beginning to think about what to do next weekend with your children, family and friends, here are some easy ideas for Easter recipes, Easter egg dying techniques, and Easter egg hunt party ideas.... you get bonus points if you can convince a friend to dress up in a big bunny suit! 

































Want to have some fun with the kids and make memories that will last a lifetime? An Easter Egg Hunt that includes egg decorating along with a craft station is interactive and creative... much more fun than simply stuffing plastic eggs with candy and throwing them around the yard.

Set up a table with lots of decorating supplies... the dollar store is a good source. I usually dye the eggs in advance since that is the messy part and simply let kids decorate their own. Think Fabrege eggs... the kids use paint, glitter, felt, fabric scraps and beads to create their little jeweled masterpieces.

Use items you have or can easily get for decorating. I used bunnies, birdhouses and nests and a few daffodils in colorful little pails to tie the theme together.


Hide a few eggs and other inexpensive prizes and let the kids hunt for them afterwards. I also love to get those wind up bunnies and let the kids race them.

One fun tradition is to have the budding author in your group write an Easter story and read it to the kids. My niece even illustrated her story and I made copies of her "book" for the other children to take home. She even did a book signing for the kids. I still have my copy, of course.


Speckled eggs give your decorating an organic appeal... these eggs colored in a rich blue and speckled using tea are to dye for! For Easter Sunday, these natural looking speckled Easter eggs make a lovely table decoration and you can eat them! Bonus! The French often have a bowl or wheel of hard-boiled eggs on the table as a starter to a meal. One of my favorite French bistros always has a wheel of hard-boiled eggs at the bar. Guests are invited to simply crack them open and season with a little salt, pepper and perhaps a dollop of Dijon mustard.... yum! Here's how to make speckled Easter eggs: Read more...

Always have trouble getting your hard-boiled eggs just right? Click here to see how!

If you don't feel like dying eggs, try this virtual egg dye app from Heinz PAAS Easter's website! No muss, no fuss, and a lot of fun! Best of all, the Make-a-Wish Foundation will receive $1 from each decorated egg you make and share using this app! Get started now, it's free and for a great cause.


One of my favorite things to do for Easter Sunday is to have a deviled egg bar where guests can dress up their eggs in a very different way... by topping deviled eggs with with all sorts of favorite flavors and condiments. Here's how to do it...


Another Easter favorite is my Bourbon Baked Ham. Once you've tried it, this one will become an instant classic on your holiday menus. Get the recipe...



Martie Duncan's Easy St. Patrick's Day Food to Feed a Crowd: Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie is a great, inexpensive recipe for St. Patrick's Day or any time you need something comforting to feed a big crowd. Ground meat, potatoes, onions.... the ingredients are simple, the prep time is minimal and you can bake it off right before guests arrive. With the ground beef and potatoes, your picky eaters will never notice the carrots or peas hiding in the filling. I normally use the ground beef for this recipe but made it once with the traditional ground lamb and it was fantastic.


Makes 4-6 small ramekins or 1 medium casserole

1/2 T. olive oil

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or use ground lamb if you prefer- or a combination of both)

1 t. kosher salt

1/2 t. black pepper

1 small yellow onion, diced small (about 1 1/4 cup)

2 carrots, diced very small

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

2 T. Worcestershire sauce

3 T. tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup frozen English peas

1 t. fresh Thyme leaves, minced fine

1 t. fresh rosemary leaves, minced fine

For the mashed potato topping:

2-3 large potatoes, peeled and diced small

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided n half

1 egg yolk

1/3 cup whole milk

1/2 t. kosher salt

1/4 t. black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350

Dice the potatoes. Rinse in some cool water. Fill a pot with water. Add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are just fork tender. Drain well. Use a fork to mash the potatoes while they are hot and allow to cool slightly. Add the milk, salt, and pepper. Using a hand mixer or any method you prefer, whip the potatoes until they are fluffy. Add the egg yolk and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Reserve.

In a large skillet or pan, heat up the olive oil. Add the ground beef and brown. Add the onion and carrots. Brown until they are softened, about 3-4 minutes. Drain off excess fat if there is any. Add the tomato paste and brown for about 2 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and cook that for about 1 minute. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits of flavor on the bottom of your pan. Add the thyme and the parsley. Cook until the wine is mostly evaporated. Stir in the chicken stock. Cook 3-4 minutes more. The mixture should be quite thick and paste like. If it is not, cook and stir until most of the liquid is cooked out. Check the seasoning- you may need a bit more salt and pepper at this point. I often put a dash of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne pepper into mine also...

Spray your ramekin or casserole dish with non-stick spray if you want a shortcut. I prefer to lightly brush the ramekin with a little olive oil and then dust it with some of the grated Parmesan cheese. Fill the ramekin 2/3 full with the meat mixture. Top with the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Use a fork to pierce the top so the juice will bubble up through the potatoes. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly hot.










Party with a Purpose: A Heartwarming Cupcake Party in Newtown

February 14, 2013. Valentine's Day. For most people, it was just the typical annual excuse to eat candy and to make sure to tell those you love that they are loved. Valentine's Day should be an oooey-gooey sappy day of unabashed sentiment. A happy day... or at least it should be. This year, February 14 meant something completely different to Newtown, Connecticut. It was the second month after the Sandy Hook school shooting that left Newtown residents forever changed... a day too horrible to even imagine.    

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to do things that make others happy. Back in the depth of winter, a selfless woman named Vikki Grodner invited me to assist her wonderful organization, Life is Precious, in throwing a Valentine's Day party for Newtown. She called it a "heartwarming event" and invited first responders, families, and the community of Newtown to come out and forget their grief for a few hours. She did not do this for press or for pay. She organized this event (from Alabama, I might add) for no other reason than the sheer goodwill of the gesture.


One thing I know for certain is this... a cupcake is one sure way to make someone smile. Try it! Show someone a cupcake and see if they don't bust out a smile for you even before they take a bite.   That was the thought behind this event... cupcakes do seem to simply make life better, if only for a few bites. It was a day that will stick with me for a very long time. I'd like to thank everyone who contributed but especially my very good friends at ORIENTAL TRADING COMPANY who came to my rescue just a few days before the event. They sent in all of the beautiful decorations I used to make the cafeteria look festive including: cupcake stands, tissue garlands, paper lanterns, tablecloths, pennants, and tons of arts and craft supplies so the kids and families could make valentines... and lots of good memories. 

Back home in Alabama, the great folks at CROWDER GULF pitched in to help and did not ask for one thing in return.  THANK YOU Ashley & Crowder Gulf for donating to this party that made a difference for so many. Thanks to my sweet castmate and ultimate cake baking guru, Linkie Marais from Food Network Star who drove 3 hours each way to come help me. You are an angel.

Life is precious. Amen.

Visit LIFE IS for information or to make a donation.


Super Party Recipe: Italian Rice Balls with Marinara Sauce

I have to tell the story of this recipe. My cast mate, Michele Ragussis from Food Network Star made this for us one night for dinner when we were working on the show... and then I got a chance to make it on the show a few days later. She gave me her blessing:) Mine's a bit different than hers AND hers has been perfected from her mom Phyllis' recipe... sooo good!!

These are the perfect party food. If  you just use ground beef they are inexpensive to make, you can easily double the recipe and you can even make them in advance and freeze them- just thaw and fry just before guests arrive. You will love these! Everyone raved about them during our Food Court Challange on the show. I even had a marriage proposal and one Italian guy said my marinara was better than his mother's! These are cheesy and delicious. Try them and let me know!

Italian Rice Balls (Arancini)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced small

5cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground veal
1 cup Italian flat leaf parsley minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 ½ cups tomato sauce

2 cups grated Parmesan cheese grated

2 cups cooked and cooled Arborio rice (cooked until just done, not overcooked)

5 eggs

3 cups breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning

Canola oil for frying

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil

Marinara Sauce (see recipe below or use store-bought)

Special equipment: #10 (small-medium) ice cream scoop


Cook the rice according to package directions but you want the rice to be sticky so I cook a bit longer than I should and don't add butter or olive oil to the water. You don't want it to be mushy. Set aside.  

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté onions and garlic for 2 minutes until softened. Add meat and cook until browned, breaking up large pieces as it cooks. Strain off excess fat from the pan. Add parsley and cook 3 minutes. Add thyme, oregano, and pepper, and salt, cayenne, red pepper flakes. Taste and add more seasoning if needed.

Keep in mind that rice and cheese contain salt so be careful not to over salt the meat mixture. Let the meat mixture cool a bit. Add the tomato sauce. Combine rice with cheese but be careful not to mash the rice. Add the rice mixture to meat mixture and stir gently to combine. Check the seasoning. Add additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use ice cream scoop to shape the balls so they are a consistent size, then hand roll the balls as tightly as you can.

Pour enough canola oil into a deep skillet or Dutch oven to reach 5”. Heat oil over medium heat to 350-degrees.Use a thermometer to check the oil temperature.

Whisk eggs in a small baking dish. Place breadcrumbs in another baking dish. Roll rice balls lightly in the eggs then immediately roll in breadcrumbs to form a coating. Shake off the excess breadcrumbs. Place them on the baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to fry.

To fry:

Carefully drop rice balls into the hot oil a few at a time, taking care not to overcrowd and lower the oil temperature. Cook until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes per batch. Bring oil back up to 350-degrees before cooking each batch. Drain rice balls on paper towels before serving.

Serve with homemade or store-bought marinara for dipping. Garnish with the basil leaves.

Me and Justin frying it up on FNS 2012Marinara Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 large cans (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, including liquid

1 cup fresh basil leaves

½ cup fresh thyme leaves

½ cup fresh oregano leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large pot. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent and softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Use some of the liquid from the tomatoes to deglaze the pan, and then add the remaining ingredients. Use an immersion blender to puree, taking care to leave the tomatoes slightly chunky. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can add everything to a blender or food processor)

Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to keep from burning on the bottom. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour or longer so that the marinara thickens as some of the liquid cooks out. Check seasoning prior to serving. Add salt as necessary.



Perfect Party Food: Charred 3 Onion Dip and Baked Pita Chips

To me, there’s nothing that says party like potato chips and dip. Take the typical chips and dip to a new level with smoky baked pita chips and my charred three onion dip. Also creamy and delicious on veggie sticks if you are trying to cut back on calories. Better make a double batch!


3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt-divided

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

8 pita bread rounds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Combine all of the ingredients except ½ tablespoon of the salt in a small bowl. Whisk together. Brush on the first pita, stack the next one and repeat until you have 4 pitas. Repeat, making a second stack. Use a knife to cut the stack into eight wedges. Repeat with the second stack. Arrange the chips in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes; turn and bake another 5 minutes or until golden and toasted.

Sprinkle the chips with the remaining salt as soon as you remove them from the oven.


1 small red onion

6 scallions

1 cup Mascarpone cheese

2 cups sour cream

1 teaspoon chives

½  teaspoon onion powder

¼ tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ tablespoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire

Dash Tabasco

Slice the onion into 4 wedges. Heat a grill pan. Cook the onions and scallions until they are softened and the outside is charred. Chop the scallions and slice the onion very thin. Put in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.