Saturday, February 28, 2015

Organization for a Large Event

 It's hard to know what to make for 200 people considering I am making it all on my own and I have never cooked for this many before.  This is a cocktail party so it needs to be finger food.  I went with things which have always been hits at other parties I have thrown.  This sun-dried tomato pasta flies off the table.  It will be served in individual cups with small bamboo forks.  I made 20 quarts of this.

 I am not attending the event.  I'll probably be in bed by the time it starts. I got up at 3:00 am to finish cooking and to organize all of this.  I am passing the baton off to my family.  They will prepare the platters and serve the food and clean up when it is done.  Thank god for my daughter, she is excellent at this.  I packed my chefs case with everything she will need including a cutting board.  You never want to forget a cutting board.

Scoops, knives and spreaders, spatulas and spoons.
 Everything is labeled with directions for which platter they go on and how to assemble them.

 Glassware is washed and wrapped, labeled and packed. 

This is just a fraction of the meats and cheeses I've sliced ahead of time.  There is so much that I had to put it in the fridge at my guest house.  I will be making the cheese and meat platters here and then my daughter will just add the fruit and nuts before serving.
It looks like chaos but it is very organized.  If there is one thing I can do really well, it is organization!  The menu for the event is:  crudites with homemade French onion dip,  2 gigantic meat, cheese, fruit and nut platters with crackers, meatballs in teriyaki sauce served on Asian cucumbers, Boursin spread on crackers with pepper jelly, sun-dried tomato pasta cups, ham sliders on homemade buns, grisini wrapped in prosciutto and smoked salmon spread on crackers and topped with fresh dill.  I wonder how long it will take until we run out of food.  I am almost ready.  Too bad I have to get up early tomorrow and make 150 hamburger sliders for a party that The Blog tech is going to. At least I already baked the buns and froze them.  Maybe I will take Monday off.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Italian Anise Cookies

A quick post today as I am in the countdown stage for tomorrow's event.  I was so busy yesterday that I had to make some cookies to calm down and relax.
 I made these Italian Anise Cookies, here's the recipe:


  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of milk


2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/8 tsp. anise extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and anise extract.
  3. Blend flour and baking powder. Start by adding about 1/3 of these dry ingredients to the butter and sugar in your mixer. Add 1 T. milk. Add another third of the flour and another 1 T. milk. Mix in the remaining flour.
  4. Measure out the cookies by using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop. I sprayed mine with cooking spray to keep the dough from sticking.
  5. Bake cookies for 12 minutes. They should just be starting to brown on the bottoms but just barely.
  6. Mix sugar, milk and extract to make a sugar glaze. It should be thin enough to dip the cookie tops.
  7. Turn each cookie upside down and dip the tops into the glace. Sprinkle with multi-colored non pariels.
  8. Place the cookies on a rack to cool. Let them sit out until the glace sets and store in a tight lidded container. The flavor actually gets better after the cookies sit for a few days
 These actually should be round balls but my eggs were very large so they turned out like disks. They are still very good though a bit wonky. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Italian Grisini

I spent the whole day making these yesterday.  They are not difficult but they do take time.  Of course, if you are only making one recipe they don't take nearly as long as it took me.  I made hundreds of these.
 For one recipe:

2-1/4 tsp. rapid rise yeast
2 cups water
1-1/2 tablespoon honey
5 tablespoons olive oil
5-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 teaspoons of kosher salt.
Mix this into a ball and knead until you have a smooth dough.  You can flavor these any way you like.  I used caraway in some and nigella seed in the rest.  Add the seeds when you add the flour.  Place the dough in a bowl brushed with olive oil, cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

 Divide the dough into 4 parts.  Roll each part out and cut it into 16 pieces.  Roll each piece into a long thin rope.  You don't need to flour the surface because the oil in the dough prevents these from sticking.  Place each stick on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Brush with olive oil.  Let them sit for about 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with sea salt just before baking.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.  I turn them over half way through the cooking period.

 The more rustic looking the better.  I make mine look like staffs so that they fit on the cookie sheets.

 Wrap the tops with thin sheets of prosciutto just before serving.

 It took me 6 hours to make these and I am betting they will be gone in 10 minutes at Saturday's event.  They are very addictive.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vietnamese Chicken Meatball Rice Bowls

I like to mix things up a bit when I am packing lunches.  Sandwiches can be so boring day after day.  This is a tasty healthy lunch to pack as an alternative. 

  • 2 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 large egg 
  • 4 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. lemongrass
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup diced fresh cilantro
  • 3 tsp. corn starch
 Place 2 pounds of ground chicken in a bowl.  Add the 4 tsp. of fish sauce.

 Add the diced onion.

 Add the garlic.

 Add the remaining ingredients.

 Mix thoroughly but do not over mix or the meatballs will be tough.  I use a large fork to toss it all together.

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Using a small ice cream scoop, form the meat into balls and place them on a foil covered baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. 
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 inches fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds 
  • Put the first 6 ingredients into a heavy pot and simmer until the sugar dissolves.
Mix the cornstarch with some water to make a thin paste and stir it in.

Cook a minute or two until it thickens.

Here are the meatballs right out of the oven.

Toss them in the sauce.

I packed them with cilantro rice and Vietnamese pickled vegetables.  And always a couple wedges of lime.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Refrigerator Cucumber Salad

 My marathon cooking has begun for the 200 guest event I volunteered to cater for this weekend.  An appetizer that is always a big hit is my Asian meatballs served on this cucumber salad.  I made the meatballs weeks ago and froze them and I made the cucumbers this morning.  They should be made several days in advance to let the flavors blend. 

Bring 2 cups of white vinegar and 1-1/2 cups of white sugar to a boil along with 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tsp. of celery seeds and 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes.  Boil just until the sugar dissolves and remove it from the heat.  Throw in 2 cups of ice cubes and let this mixture cool.

Thinly slice 4 cucumbers and 1 red onion.  It is best to use a mandolin to do this.

 Pack the cucumber and onion alternately in a glass jar.  I added some garlic cloves and some fresh dill too.

 Pour the liquid over the cucumbers.

Put a lid on the jar and refrigerate until ready to use.  These are good all by themselves too.

Monday, February 23, 2015


 I like weird stuff.  I always have.  I thought I would show you some I own.  These are cast iron hands which have screws on the wrists.  Apparently, someone was going to open a shop had these made of his hands and was going to use them to hang things on in the store.  His loan fell through and he never opened the place and he auctioned these off.  They are extremely heavy.

 These knitting needles are my favorites.

 Look at the detail.  I imagine these were made by a sailor who spent a lot of time on a ship.  I'm sure they are made from whale bone and were made for his wife.  Why skulls?  I do not know but they sure are cool.

 These are two Westmoreland glass witch balls and are very, very rare.  The holes in the top suck in all the bad energy in your house.

 This birdcage is an end table in my living room.  It is topped with my crystal ball and lots of hand blown glass pieces I have collected in the States and Canada.  The silver cross is from Mexico.

 My green man fire screen.  He looks really cool when a fire is burning behind him in the fireplace.

 My mercury glass collection.

 My desk in my library.  I designed every inch of that mantel. It took my woodworker and me a whole year to build it.  And on my desk....

is my magic wand from Salem.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snow Storm but Spring is on the Way

 We had a glorious snowstorm all day yesterday until dinner time when it turned to rain and it all went to slush.  I am still hoping for one more big snow before Spring arrives.

 I drove through the storm to a country market yesterday and when I arrived the place looked like Spring was already there.

 There were patio tables and decorative pots and gardening things everywhere.

 I bought these wonderful towels.

 You can find them here:

Wouldn't these make a great Easter present for someone?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Girl Scout Thin Mints Recipe

I've wanted to make these for a long time and finally got around to it yesterday.  It seems like everyone likes Girl Scout thin mint cookies.
Here is the recipe:

    For the cookies:
  • 1 cup ( 2 sticks)softened
  • 1 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour 
  1. Set the oven to 350F
  2. Cream butter until light and fluffy, then add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Stir in the salt, vanilla and cocoa powder. Mix until the cocoa powder is integrated and the batter resembles a thick frosting. Add the flour and mix just until the flour is combined, making sure to not over mix.
  3. Form dough into a ball. Knead a few times to bring together, then flatten into a disk between half an inch and one inch thick, cover with plastic wrap then place in fridge for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove dough from the fridge and roll it out really thin using plastic wrap, about 1/8-inch. Cut cookies using 1 1/2-inch cutter or into squares like I did.  I didn't want to waste any and I also didn't want to re-roll the scraps.
  5. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.
I did cut off the rough edges and re-rolled them.

These were pretty big so you could cut them smaller.

Some had wonky edges but the chocolate icing fixes everything.
Coating:   16 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and 1-1/2 tsp. peppermint extract.  Microwave to melt and thoroughly stir in the peppermint.

Dip each cookie into the melted chocolate.  Place them on waxed paper until the chocolate sets.  If your room is warm, you might want to put them in the fridge.

Apparently these are really good.  I'm not trying them....bleeck!  Chocolate!  But I left a plate of them out when I went to bed last night and lo and behold....there were none left this morning.

A lethal strike by the midnight chocoholics!