Can you feel it?

Photo by whitneyinchicago

Summer feels just around the corner! I don’t know about you, but the hint of sunny, warm weather makes me think of sitting outside with a cold cocktail in hand. Mark Bittman served us up some great summer cocktail recipes this week in this article. Like he, I encourage you to forgo to the sugary cocktail mixers from the grocery shelves! All it takes is some good liquor (not necessarily expensive), lemons/limes, and simple syrup (easy!) and you too, can make great cocktails at home. And I can’t forget to highlight Mark’s tip to make sure you taste the liquor. My friends and family would agree that I often make a strong cocktail, but what’s the point if you can’t taste the liquor?!

I thought I’d share with you a recipe for one of my favorite summer cocktails, the Pimm’s Cup. Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based fruit cup, with a beautiful reddish color and hints of spices and fruit. It drinks easily and can be tweaked with various mixers, fruits, and herbs. We drink this by the pitcher poolside in the summer, and serve them in mason jars for catered cocktail parties.

Pimm’s Cup

  • 1 Part Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
  • 2.5 Parts lemonade (or ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, or ginger beer!)
  • cucumber, thinly sliced
  • mint leaves
  • optional: orange slice, strawberries, lemon/lime slice, apples…

Half-fill a Collins glass (or pitcher) with ice and a few slices of cucumber, mint leaves, or other garnishes. Add measure of Pimm’s, then top up glass with lemonade or soda. Stir gently and garnish with additional slices of cucumber.

Enjoy (and be prepared to make more)!

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Cinco De Mayo!

Happy (belated) Cinco De Mayo! We were so excited to be asked to cater a Cinco de Mayo party on, well…Quatro de Mayo.  Regardless of specific date, the party was a huge hit and we had a blast making all sorts of mexican hors d’oeuvres.

Photo by Aperture24Flickr

Here was the menu:

  • BBQ Pulled Pork Tostada with Southern Cabbage Slaw
  • Slow Roasted Carnitas Taco with Fresh Salsa Verde
  • Chipotle Mac’n’Cheese Bites
  • Jalapeno Corn Bread with Honey Butter Glaze
  • Slow Smoked Chicken Quesadillas
  • Black Bean Soup Shooter with Queso Fresco & Cilantro Gremolata
  • Chorizo & Black Bean ‘Sombreros’ with Avocado Crema

And what’s a cocktail party without booze? We also served:

  • Jalapeno Margaritas
  • Key Lime Mojitos
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Intimate Weeknight Dinner

I was asked to cater an intimate dinner last week. This client wanted to impress another couple so we put together a simple, yet elegant menu, perfect for a rainy weekday evening.

Here was the menu:

Hors d’Oeuvres:
Scallop Ceviche in a Cucumber Cup
Crostini with Honey Roasted Tomatoes, Ricotta, and Aged Balsamic

Appetizer:
Roasted Baby Beets with Wild Arugula and Honey-Citrus Vinaigrette

Entree:
Pan-Seared Monkfish in a Miso-Shitake Broth with Lobster Tail and Baby Bok Choy

Dessert:
Riesling Poached Pears with Cardamom Whipped Cream*

*I’ve been using this recipe for years and it’s always a hit. I often add various spices to the poaching liquid such as cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean, cardamom, and star anise (Remove before reducing the liquid). And the cardamom cream is such a great contrast to the sweet Riesling syrup.

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Tuesday Tip – Easy Entertaining

This weekend we invited some friends over for brunch on short notice. While they waited for us to whip up a frittata, some maple glazed bacon, and homemade bloody mary’s, I quickly concocted these adorable Yogurt and Granola Cups to hold them over. I always keep Phyllo shells in my freezer for an easy hors d’oeuvre as there are so many sweet and savory filling options. In this case, I had some greek yogurt, granola and berries on hand (any yogurt, granola brand, or type of berry would do just fine). I whipped the plain yogurt with some honey, spooned it into the cups, and topped it off with a strawberry slice and chunk of our homemade granola (to me, the chunkier the better). Our guests were pleased and their appetites were held off before the main brunch course!

Some other suggestions for phyllo cup fillings:

  • Warm Brie and Jam
  • Spinach and Artichoke Dip
  • Crab Salad
  • Chocolate Mousse
  • Lemon Cream and Berries

Look for Phyllo cups in your local grocery store’s freezer section, or make them yourself using a simple recipe such as this.

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Friday Faves 4.20

And it’s Friday yet again. Man do the weeks fly! I’m looking forward to a home-cooked meal tonight, trying out a crossfit class tomorrow (eek!), and a great dinner here in the Hamptons on Saturday. Here’s to a great weekend, and to some of the things I enjoyed most this week!

http://www.shopterrain.com/linens-aprons/picnic-napkin/searchString/napkinLoving my napkins from Terrain (in addition to everything else in their store)! This and this are next on my wish list.

Deliciously sweet strawberries in my latest purchase from Anthropologie.

Another great purchase from Anthro! Makes building a cheese plate that much more fun with these fun Laguiole knives.

My take on the Northern Spy’s infamous kale salad (via Food52). I didn’t have butternut squash on hand (and was also looking for a quicker fix) so I added some hard boiled eggs instead. It held up great for some lunch leftovers the next day, so it’s sure to become a repeat dish!

Enjoy your weekend!

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Eclectic Comfort Food

We often are asked what our specialty is which is a little hard to narrow down when we really cater to our clients’ needs and tastes. Often times it’s healthy dinners at home and stocking our clients’ fridges with wholesome dishes to reheat. Sometimes it’s upscale, creative dining for intimate dinner parties. Most often though, we are cooking, eating, talking about what we’ve coined as ‘eclectic comfort food’…which can mean modern takes on classics, healthier versions of comfort food, or just comfort food with a twist. I think it can best be summed up by a recent cocktail party we catered for a client. This particular client hosts a “Screw Winter” party every year and what better way to get through winter than serving up some comfort food and cocktails!

Here was the menu:

Bar Snacks: Truffled Popcorn

Passed Hors d’Oeuvres

  • BLT Cups
  • Chicken Pot Pie Bites
  • Perri’s Pigs in a Blanket with Lamb Sausage and Champagne Dijon Mustard
  • Roasted Tomato Soup Shooter with Grilled Cheese Wedge
  • Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon

 

Casual Buffet

  • Beef Sliders and Crispy Tater Tots
  • Brooklyn Chocolate Stout Braised Short Ribs
  • Truffled Mac’n’ Cheese
  • Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragu

Desserts

  • Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Banana Pudding & Nilla Wafer bites
  • Espresso Brownie Bites
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Good old Mac ‘n’ Cheese

For about 9 months, I have been cooking for a family with 4 children. If there’s anything I’ve learning by cooking for families and talking to friends who have children is that all children’s eating preferences are different. The specific family I cook for tasked me with stocking their pantry and fridge with healthy items and also producing wholesome dinners 6 nights/week. It was very obvious at first that the children were used to junk food, processed items, and all white carbohydrates. I learned this the hard way by having to throw away an entire bowl of whole wheat pasta the first week. It has taken a long time to figure out their tastes, incorporate new and more vegetables into their diet, and introduce them to whole grains, all while making sure their tastes are met. They are my clients after all and I want to make them happy.

My biggest success has been Mac ‘n’ Cheese Muffins. Any macaroni and cheese recipe will do, but I use my go-to recipe that I make in mini size for passed hors d’oeuvres at cocktail parties, only this time I make them in regular sized muffins. I use whole wheat elbow noodles and organic cheeses, and I top the muffins off with some whole wheat breadcrumbs and Parmesan for an extra browned crust. The kids still go nuts for these when they see they in the oven and I can feel satisfied that they’ve gotten some calcium, fiber, and whole grains in their bellies.

And as I mentioned, they are also a huge hit at our catered events. We often add fresh truffles or truffle oil for a grown-up twist and they are a nostalgic treat, loved by all. I highly recommend these for your next party or dinner at home!

Photo Credits: 1. Food and Wine.

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Friday Faves 4.13

TGIF! I’m wrapping up my work week and shortly heading out to the North Fork of Long Island where I’m guaranteed good food, good wine and of course good friends.  Here’s a look at some of my favorite things from the week:

A Chork = genius. Mom, this has your name written all over it.

I’m 2 chapters into this book and LOVING it. The author has given me such an appreciation for cooking economically and simply and makes me want to cook even more than I already do.

Joanna has done it again with her dining etiquette rules. The animations alone had me cracking up!

Domino is back on newsstands today! I can’t wait to get my hands on this issue.

Have a great weekend!

 

Photo Credits: 1. The Kitchn via The Chork, 2. Good Sense Health, 3. Cup of Jo, 4. Decor Musings.

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Salted Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups…Need I say more?

Last night I found myself with a night off (a rarity in my life) so I poured myself a glass of wine and dug through the never-ending list of recipes I want to try. I quickly decided these peanut butter cups were calling my name as I had all the necessary ingredients and it would require minimal work/cleanup.

I made a few tweaks including using real butter, dark chocolate chips, and a combination of vanilla almond milk and heavy cream for the ganache (i.e. these are not vegan!)

I love that they’re perfectly imperfect. These were easy, quick, so delicious…and unfortunately almost gone!

 

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Asian Pears

 

Photo by WayTru

Spring has arrived! And one of my favorite things to eat right now are Asian Pears. I add them to salads for a nice, refreshing crunch. I put them out for an afternoon snack for kids I cook for. I even updated a traditional charoset recipe for Passover with Asian Pears instead of apples. I highly recommend you try these interesting apple looking pears! Not only are they delicious and so juicy, but they are:

  • Low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium
  • High in Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C and Vitamin K
  • Only about 50 Calories each.
  • Eating just one pear provides 14 percent of your recommended daily value of dietary fiber (Read more here.)
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