Tag Archives: Parties


23 Jan

In the past I’ve written about my serious love of mussels. I know I have at least one post on it, but I’m sure it’s been mentioned several times. Last night, we had a party that was the ultimate indulgence of mussels. A lot of our friends share in my love of this creature and we had been comparing recipes for sometime. I figured, enough talk, let’s throwdown.

It took a little finessing, but the final plan sounded like this. We would provide the mussels and everyone had to come with a sauce or ingredients to make their version of mussels with. There were no limits and no qualifications. It just had to taste good with mussels. I know there are thousands of ways to prepare these little buggers so I was pumped to see what everyone was bringing.

I made my version of moule frite. I did a quick steam in bacon fat, shallots, and prosecco and then garnished with crispy bacon, bleu cheese, and watercress. I did make french fries, complete with truffle oil but they were gone before the mussels were cooked (and that’s saying something.) Our friend Desiree went with a white wine butter sauce with red onion and parsley…

Our friends Lindsay and David went a non-traditional route and made grilled mussels with a sriracha and wine sauce. It was crazy amazing. I wanted to stop eating them, but I couldn’t.

I will apologize to our other friends who’s mussels are not pictured, but I was so busy eating my first round, I forgot to take pictures of the second round. Our friends, Vicki and Steve made the mussels from Bonefish. Not only were they fantastically full of garlic, the sauce was perfect for dipping. Greg and Margot made a Tuscan tomato based sauce that was also out of this world. I know that I’m gushing, and raving about everything, but it’s the truth. There was not a bad mussel to be had!

The best part about this party was that everyone got involved. There was some friendly competition and everyone wanted to impress. We had simple appetizers and free flowing wine and beer. There were lots of laughs and lots of eating. It’s been decided that it was so fun, that we are now going to do a monthly dinner where everyone prepares something. It never ceases to amaze me that food brings people together, and when it’s made with care and passion.

Always thinking about the next meal


Party time

28 Jun

Today was another fun catering gig. It’s getting more and more exciting getting these parties to cook for really makes me feel like culinary school was worthwhile. Today was a Christening for 75 at my client’s house. The menu was changed and debated more times than I’d care to discuss, but the end product was fantastic.

The menu was simple:

Veggies and Hummus

Carrots, celery, red peppers and cucumber with hummus

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach and artichokes in a creamy Parmesan sauce served with baguette and pita chips

Stuffed Mushrooms

Baby portabellos stuffed with crab, spinach, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese

and a vegetarian option with herbs, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese

Cucumber Sandwiches

Thinly sliced cucumber with herbed borsin cheese on white bread

Napa Chicken Salad

Poached chicken with grapes, celery, and walnuts in a creamy herb dressing. Served on sourdough bread

Spanish Style Ham Sandwiches

Ham and manchego cheese with roasted red peppers and garlic aioli on italian bread

Americana Turkey Wraps

Turkey, lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese wrapped with a cranberry mayo

Spinach Salad

Baby Spinach with strawberries, candied walnuts, and blue cheese crumbles with a poppy seed vinaigrette

Caprese Pasta Salad

Curly pasta with basil, tomatoes, mozzarella and red onion with a balsamic dressing


Pineapple, coconut, marshmallow, and orange segments tossed in a sweet dressing

I was a little nervous about this party. I had just come off of another party that had a very different execution. You know when you do the same things over and over how they become second nature? Well, in my business nothing really repeats itself.

I feel like every time I do a party I learn something else and every time it’s a new experience. It really is a great thing. I know I’ll never get bored dealing with new clients or seeing the looks on people’s faces when they taste the food. Anyway that’s a tangent I could take all day.

The party started for me the night before making some of the salads and dressings. I finished things the next morning at the client’s house and had my timing just right. The biggest hit at the party were the stuffed mushrooms, and the ham sandwiches. Here are the recipes:

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 pound crab meat (I use leg meat)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 3 more for drizzling
2 pints button mushrooms, stems removed

Combine all the ingredients except the mushrooms in a bowl. Stuff each mushroom with the filling and press down. Arrange the mushroom caps on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The secret to the ham sandwiches was the mayo. It was a garlic and smoked paprika mayo. Although I didn’t make the mayo base, I did roast the peppers and the garlic. And it made all the difference. This was layered with ham off the bone and manchego cheese and was packaged on ciabatta bread. Not only did they fly off the platter, people were asking for more. Too bad my clients wanted more chicken salad and less of everything else!

I can’t wait for the next party and more opportunities to have fun cooking!

Always thinking of the next meal (and party)


When Irish stomachs are growling…

21 Mar

Although not well known as a culinary giant, the food of Ireland is delicious. Simple and rustic, the traditional dishes of the emerald isle are perfect for entertaining. In the past week I’ve catered 2 events that wanted an Irish menu. One of the best things about Irish cooking is that there are lots of potatoes and everyone loves potatoes.Irish food has a great way of getting the most flavor out of basic ingredients. My Potato Leek soup is easily transformed into the traditional Irish soup, Colcannon, by adding bacon and cabbage. Lamb Stew is given a classy make-over by adding tri-tip and O’hara’s Irish Red Beer. And, while the Irish are big on desserts, an apple oatmeal crisp with whiskey anglaise pays tribute to the warm and sweet flavors celebrated in their beverage of choice.

The first even I did this week was a luncheon for the teacher’s at my mom’s school in Orlando. The menu was simple and classy and did not lack in flavor. Here’s what I served:

Potato leek soup with cabbage and bacon

Pub Salad
Mixed greens with tomatoes, cucumbers, fried onions and Irish cheddar, served with creamy herb dressing and roasted shallot vinaigrette

Banger Sandwiches
Irish sausage on rolls with whiskey glazed onions and Guinness mustard

Traditional Breads
Irish soda and brown bread served with Guinness butter and jam

Apple-Oatmeal Crisp with Vanilla Irish Whiskey Sauce
Apples baked with brown sugar, cinnamon, and oatmeal and topped with a creamy vanilla sauce infused with Irish whiskey

Irish Punch
Lime sherbert and 7-up

The event was really great. I love seeing the teacher’s so happy to have food. There were about 65 fed and I just made it with the food. I really thought that my numbers were right on the money, but I guess those teachers were hungry! Anyway, it the event went off without a hitch. Like I always say, the best events are when the food is gone and people are still talking about it. Next year’s event will have to be even better.

The second event I did was for a good friend in Harrisburg. They asked me to do a traditional Irish dinner for about 12 of their friends. Even though I have cooked Irish food for awhile, and I got a little bit of practice from the luncheon, I was nervous. I mean these people are Irish through and through. They’ve been to Ireland and they know when the food is right and when it’s just not. I was intimidated but I pressed on. Here’s the menu for the dinner party:

traditional potato leek soup with cabbage and bacon

Bangers and Boxties
potato pancakes with Irish sausage and whiskey glazed onions

Chicken and Mushroom Hand Pies
miniature pies filled with chicken and mushrooms, served with a savory dipping sauce

Braised Lamb and Beef with Guinness
Slow roasted lamb and tri tip with root vegetables

Soda Bread with Guinness Butter

Apple Crisp
Apples cooked with cinnamon, brown sugar and oatmeal with Irish Cream Anglaise Sauce

Shamrock Cookies
Decorated sugar cookies with royal icing

This menu is a little more intimate and fun. I could add more details since I didn’t have to do as much volume. Again everything was a big hit. Although my boxties were not quite what they were expecting. There’s a rhyme is in Irish folklore that says: “Boxtie on a griddle, boxtie in a pan, if you can not make a boxtie, you’ll never get a man.” Well, thank God I don’t live in ireland and thank God I’m already married, because my boxties just weren’t right. They tasted good, but they needed to be thinner, more like crepes than pancakes. Lesson learned…

Whenever I do cater jobs I get asked the same thing, can I have the recipe or are these kitchen secrets. Personally I think that a good chef has nothing to hide. I share all of my recipes. Although, I’m mid-book writing and some recipes will have stay mine for a little while longer 🙂

As requested by a few of my clients, here’s the recipe for my apple crisp.

Apple Crisp with Whiskey Creme Anglaise

For the crisp:

2 red delicious apples, large dice
2 granny smith apples, large dice
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the apples with the white sugar, half of the cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of flour and the raisins. Put the apples in a baking dish. Combine the rest of the ingredients and top the apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are bubbly and the top is brown.

for the anglaise:

1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
1 oz Irish Whiskey or Baileys
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In a sauce pan, combine the milk and cream and heat until wisps of steam are visible. While you are waiting for the dairy to heat, wisk together the sugar and egg yolks. Whip until the yolks are thick and pale yellow. Add in the vanilla and whiskey. When the milk is hot, slowly add it into the egg mixture, wisking the whole time. Add everything back into the saucepan and stir gently until the anglaise thickens to the point that it coats the back of a spoon. Chill and serve over apple crisp.

Enjoy my friends

Always thinking of the next meal


A delightful dip

7 Feb

7 layer taco dip is one of those things that almost everyone loves. Whenever you go to party you cross your fingers and hope that you’ll find that delightful combination of taco accessories will be sitting proudly next to a giant bowl of taco chips. It’s really simple. All you need is a large bowl and 7 ingredients. (I realize that 7 doesn’t really sound simple, but it is, trust me.)

This dip is all about assembly. You want to make sure that you layer the ingredients in an order that won’t cause any of the other layers to get squished or wilted. It looks the best in a glass bowl with nice high sides, but any serving dish will work.

Here are the ingredients in assembly order:

1 can refried beans
8 oz sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (preferably mexican cheese)
1 cup chunky salsa
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon hot sauce

So traditionally, the 7th layer is typically slice black olives. Personally, I hate olives of the blackus cannious variety (i.e. canned black olives.) If you want to use them go ahead, and if you want to use good black olives like cerignola olives and slice them yourself that would be perfect.

This is a great dip to bring to a party, especially a football or tailgate party. There are a million variations to this recipe, but the concept stays the same. Here’s another version that I like. It’s a hot one…

1 block cream cheese, softened
1 pound ground beef browned
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz sour cream
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

After layering, heat in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees

Try this out at your next party!

Always thinking of the next meal


Would you like a little cheese with that wine?

10 Jan

cheeseWe love having friends over. But we especially love having friends over that love cheese. It’s really fun to do a wine and cheese party because there is virtually no work involved. Just purchase and plate.

I love simple, clean entertaining. Our friends were due to arrive around 7:30 which put the party in the dinner hour. If you are having a cheese party a little later, say around 8:30 or earlier, for cocktails, you could omit the rest of the menu, but I wanted to make sure there was enough to eat and that there were plenty of accompaniments for the cheeses.

So here’s the official menu:

Cheese Tray: (clockwise from the top) Mahon, piccoline olives, cave aged gruyere, danish blue, feta with honey and cinnamon, and cabrales

Charcuterie Tray: Genoa salami, capicola, and duck prosciutto

Caprese Bruschetta

Rustic Apple Galette with Chantilly Cream

Yes, I realize that it might look a little intimidating, but actually it’s just a lot of fancy words for simple things. Let me explain.

The cheeses are kind of an odd combination. While my intent was to do all Spanish cheeses, I had a few in the fridge that I wanted to use up, and I picked up a few that I love without consideration for the theme. So here I was, with a mismatched combination, but it wound up working out fine. As for what the cheeses are; Mahon is a spanish cow’s milk cheese. It’s a washed-rind cheese that is washed with either olive oil or butter that is combined with a little bit of paprika for color. It tasted like an aged cheddar. It is slightly nutty and fruity with a salty bite and bit of grana (the salt crystals that combine with proteins to form crunchy bits in aged cheese.) Piccoline olive are small green olives from France that are a very fruity and pleasantly briny. Danish blue is a well known medium intensity blue that is mainly used as an ingredient. Cave Aged Gruyere is a Swiss style cheese made is France. It is nutty and fragrant. It has that wonderful tanginess that swiss cheeses bring to a party, but with a more mature finish. The feta is a French feta that is less briny than Greek fetas. Combined with cinnamon and honey, the cheese sings. It’s complimented well by the grapes and a few wheat crackers. Finally, the cabrales. Perhaps the most intense of the Spanish blues, cabrales is a cave-aged blue that can clear your sinuses if you’re not careful. While pungent, it still has a lovely smell that reminds me of Muscat grapes and honey. It can be mellowed with marcona almonds and honey.

The charcuterie plate is a fancy way of saying meats. With the exception of the duck prosciutto, the meats came from the deli counter. The duck is a specialty item that was well worth the trip to the Philadelphia Italian market. Fatty, and rich without the overly chewy quality that pork prosciutto can sometimes have.

The Caprese bruschetta was simple toasted crostini with mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil, and a balsamic reduction. Oh, and salt and pepper of course. I have to say they were a big hit because I only got one.

The Apple Crostata is a free form apple tart. I made my own crust, but you could absolutely use a frozen pie dough. Just peel and slice 2 apples, and toss with sugar and cinnamon. Lay the pie dough on a cookie sheet and pile the apples in the center leaving 2-3 inches around the side. Fold the edges in, pleating as needed. Brush the top of the dough with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve at room temperature. To make the chantilly cream, whip heavy cream until soft peaks form, add in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and whip until stiff peaks form. Serve on the side of the cooled crostata.

Next time you entertain, keep this simple menu in mind. Everything can be prepared within an hour and the best part, it can also be cleaned up in about 15 minutes!

Always thinking of the next meal,


Dinner Party

16 Nov

Last night I played chef for 2 of my favorite clients. They asked me to go with them to a friend’s house to make dinner. I didn’t have much time to plan, so I kept the menu simple. A classic combination of French and my own personal flare. I love making things that are fresh and flavorful, but not overcomplicated. Here’s the menu:

Cheese Course
Le Coutances and Foi Epi with apples and French bread

French Onion Soup

Honey Mustard Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Ratatouille and Creamy Polenta

Classic lemon crepes with ginger cream

I wanted to start with French Onion simply because it’s classic, and easily turned vegetarian. With one client being vegetarian, I wanted to make something that wouldn’t make her feel like she was having a different meal than everyone else. French Onion Soup is typically made with beef stock and is not veggie friendly, but my version is. I substitute mushroom and vegetable stock to maintain the intensity of flavor that French onion usually has. By adding dijon mustard instead of worchestershire sauce you get a delightful bright flavor without the extra saltiness that worchestershire sauce can sometimes bring to the party. Top the whole thing with buttery nutty guyere cheese and this is one flavorful vegetarian version of French Onion soup.

Dinner needed to have the same intensity of flavor that also had a fulfilling flavor in a vegetarian version. The polenta and ratatouille made a satisfying main course for my vegetarian client, and adding pork tenderloin medallions to the other dishes, made for a well rounded meal. I served the pork with a honey mustard sauce that was equal parts whole grain dijon mustard and clover honey. I cooked the pork to a perfect medium and then added the sauce sparingly. The pork was so perfectly cooked, I didn’t want to mask the flavor or the color of the meat.

The flavor that tied all the dishes together was thyme. Thyme in the soup and thyme in the ratatouille pulled both courses together. Someone once told me that repeated an ingredient in 2 courses was repetitive, and repeating them in 3 was a theme. But, I think that the thyme was so subtle that it didn’t come off as the same thing.

Dessert was very simple. Hand whipped cream with a 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, 1 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon, and 2/3 cup of powdered sugar. The cream was rich, but still light and refreshing. It was served on top of the lemon crepes. The crepes were made with a basic sweet crepe recipe and filled with a combination of lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. The combination of lemon and ginger was a refreshing way to finish a meal of hearty flavors.

It was a great night. I had a lot of fun cooking and chatting with my clients. I hope to do it again soon.

Always thinking of the next meal.


Halloween Party

1 Nov

IMG_0928Last night was Halloween and we decided to have a few friends over. I wanted to keep the menu simple since I knew that I didn’t want to have a million leftovers. From my experience, it seems that the more complicated the menu, the less people are inclined to eat. I’m not sure if the food seems inaccessible, or if they just don’t want to insult the hostess if they don’t like it. Seeing as it was Halloween, I wanted a menu that reflected the childish spirit of the holiday, but I wanted it to agree with our adult palettes. Here’s what we served:

Point Reyes Bleu Cheese with Black GrapesIMG_0922

Hot Capicola and Salami with Castelvetrano Olives and crostini

Asian Quesadillas with plum sauce and cilantro

Pigs in a blanket

Crudités with White bean pesto dip

Bacon, Roasted tomato and leek mac and cheese

Giant Chocolate Chips cookies (the recipe for these are posted in an earlier blog)

Oreo Cookies

Assorted Candies

Here are some of the recipes that I used:

IMG_0926White Bean Pesto Dip

1 can great white northern beans, rinsed
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

purée all ingredients in a food processor. Serve cold.

Asian Quesadillas

1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice
2 large tortillas
2 tablespoons plum sauce
1 tablespoon cilantro

Combine the cheese, chicken and 5 Spice. layer in between the tortillas. Bake in the oven at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until the tortillas are light brownIMG_0930 and crispy. Cut into wedges and drizzle with the plum sauce. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve hot.

Anytime is a great time to catch up with friends and when there’s good food to help you celebrate, it’s makes it that much sweeter. All of these dishes took about 2 hours total to make, so easily put together last minute. We had very few leftovers, which was definitely a good thing. We did have some extra cookies and candy, but well, those are the good kind of leftovers 🙂

I hope you give some of these recipes a try

Always thinking of the next meal, and party