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Triple Ginger Cookies and Holiday Sangria

This past weekend, I hosted my third annual cookie exchange party. Cookie party, for me, is quite simply an excuse to have a bunch of my friends over to my festively adorned house, so we can indulge in afternoon cocktails and eat cookies.

We eat cheese. We drink holiday sangria, pomegranate champagne cocktails, and cocoa. We trade cookies. The kids make holiday crafts. Everyone has grand time.

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This year’s party was apparently so grand and inviting, that perfect strangers decided to join us.

No joke.

My cookie party got crashed by three women wearing Santa hats.

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They walked up our driveway, let themselves in through the front door, sat on our stairs to remove their winter boots, coats, and hats, then proceeded to walk through the house in search of someone they knew.

One of my friends alerted me to the presence of my new guests, who were wandering my house at that very moment. I ran to my husband to find out what to do.

We were just about to greet our new guests as they walked into the living room and realized their mistake.

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One woman, who appeared to be the mother of the other two, mumbled an embarrassed apology, then made a hasty exit. The other two women sat on the stairs while they laced up what seemed like the tallest winter boots in creation. They then chased after their mom, who was already in her car driving down the road in search of their intended party.

Had it been me, standing there, eating a piece of cheese in the living room of a complete stranger, surrounded by that stranger’s family and friends, I would have run out of that house barefoot, into the foot and a half of snow on the ground.

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Had they brought cookies to share, I would have eagerly encouraged them to stay. But, as I always say, every time someone crashes my cookie party… No cookies? No cocktails!

Next year, I’m hiring a cookie bouncer for my party.

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These spicy, triple-ginger cookies were my contribution to the cookie buffet. They’re sweet and chewy and oozing with gingery flavor. The holiday sangria, which follows, is accented with festive flavors of orange, ginger, cinnamon, and pomegranate.

You’d have crashed my cookie party too, if you knew these cookies and sangria were waiting inside.

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Triple Ginger Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  •  1 2-ounce bottle crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar, eggs, and oil. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well blended. Roll into 1″ balls. Arrange the balls about 1 1/2″ apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until crackles form on the top. Remove the cookies from the oven, then give the baking sheet a little whack on the counter to flatten the cookies.

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Holiday Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1.5 liter bottle of sweet red wine (I used Sutter Home’s Sweet Red Wine)
  • 1/2 cup triple sec
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 1 pomegrante
  • 1 orange

Directions

Combine the wine, triple sec, orange juice, and ginger ale. Add the cinnamon stick and the chopped pear. Remove the arils from the pomegranate and add to the mixture. Remove the orange segments from the orange, chop into small pieces and add to the mixture. Remove the white pith from the orange peel, then slice the peel into small slivers. Add to the sangria. Chill and enjoy.

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Indian Chickpeas and Mango Lassis

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We spent last weekend at a rental house in the Catskill mountains with some friends from college and a few of their close friends. 10 adults. 8 little boys ages 6 month to 6 years. An endless supply of good food. Late nights and early mornings. Amazing fun.

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The weather was cold and rainy, but the house was well equipped to keep everyone occupied. We played air hockey and foosball and pool and Settlers of Catan. The kids got lessons in backgammon, dominos, and the card game, war. On the warmest day, we played bubbles and hopscotch. The kids enjoyed the large outdoor play set and playing tee-ball in the yard, which was much more a practice in turn-taking than anything else. There were nature walks, a close call with a tick and a perfectly freaky encounter with a snake. The jacuzzi went largely unused and the karaoke machine went completely neglected. (The beer fridge worked double time.)

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Each of the five families prepared a meal during our weekend stay. We ate tender slow-cooked BBQ pork with grilled sweet corn, beer can chicken, homemade waffles with ripe strawberries and fresh whipped cream (the sweet result of a multi-person hand-whipping effort), an assortment of four types of bacon, cinnamon roll french toast bake, cheddar garlic biscuits, scrambled eggs with applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and gruyere, and a taco spread that would make any mouth water. (The lime marinated skirt steak won my heart.)

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And though the food was amazing, the home more than comfortable, and the entertainment plentiful, the best part of the weekend, by far, was the people. Over the course of three days, eighteen of us lived together, laughing and connecting, enjoying old friendships and beginning new ones.

In my last post, I asked you to share what you believe is the #1 factor which creates a memorable party, as your entry into a giveaway for a $50 gift card to Shindigz. And though I completely agree that the food, theme, decor and a relaxed host all lend a big hand, after the experience of this past weekend, I wholeheartedly believe it is the people that make the party.

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Likewise, it was the people who made our recent Temple Run birthday party such a grand success – the friends and family who traveled from out of town to celebrate with us, the ones who came early to help set up, my brother who chased 20 or so small children through the Temple Run obstacle course in a hot gorilla suit, the guests who repeatedly helped me to repair the course with packaging tape every time one of our small runners plowed through the perimeter, and our fun and social guests. The food and the decorations and the theme all set the stage, but the people made the party.

Thankfully, I had help from Shindigz when it came to acquiring the right decor and party supplies to make our party theme come to life and I had help from a friend when it came to our Indian-themed menu. I’m no stranger to googling recipes when I’m looking to cook something new, (like a full buffet of Indian food) but this time I also had the benefit of an old teaching buddy of mine, who kindly shared the recipe for one of her mom’s signature dishes with me – a dish she fondly recalls from her childhood, as being served with pooris on special occasions and when entertaining visiting family from India.

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Vibrant green plates from Shindigz!

Like many familiar family recipes, which are passed on through generations, this recipe is often cooked more by taste than by exact measure. And since I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting the original recipe, I had to use a bit of guesswork and personal guidance from my own taste buds when determining the measurements for most of the spices in this dish. My version of this tasty recipe may not be exactly like my friend’s familiar family favorite, but these savory chickpeas certainly made a delicious addition to our party menu!

It’s not too late to enter the giveaway for a $50 gift card to Shindigz! For more details, click back to my last post, Temple Run’ Indian-Spiced Meatballs with Raita, and leave a comment there about what you believe is the #1 factor that makes a memorable party. The winner will be selected at random on Friday, May 31, 2013 at 12:00pm EST. One entry per person, 18 years and older, US mailing addresses only, please.

Indian Chickpeas

Adapted from a recipe by Rekha Antani

Ingredients

  • 3 cans chick peas
  • 1 medium onion, coarse chopped
  • 3 vine-riperned tomatoes, coarse chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 inch segment of ginger, peeled
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4  teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 3 whole cardamoms
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered cashews (optional)*

Directions

Drain chick peas, reserving the liquid for later. Process the onion, tomatoes, ginger and garlic in a blender or food processor, until smooth. Combine the mustard seeds, turmeric, chile powder and cardamoms in a saucepan over medium heat. Immediately add the onion and tomato mixture to the pan. Add the cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and cumin/coriander powder. Stir well and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the chick peas to the mixture, stirring from the bottom. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue simmering, partially covered, for 25-30 minutes, adding some of the reserved liquid, a little at a time, as the liquid reduces. Once it appears that the chick peas have changed color by absorbing the spices, lower the heat. Take about 1/4 cup of the hot liquid in the pan and mix it with the sour cream. Then, add the sour cream mixture to the pan. Simmer for 3-4 minutes more at a medium/low heat, until it begins to bubble and thicken. Add the powdered cashews, if desired. Garnish with fresh chopped coriander.

*I omitted the powdered cashews in my preparation due to children with nut allergies at our party.

**The original recipe also calls for an unspecified quantity of a spice called hing or asafoetida, which was not available in my well-stocked grocery store. It would likely be available in an Indian grocery store.

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Mango Lassi (Mango and Yogurt Smoothie)
Ingredients
  • 2 cups mango nectar
  • 2 cups mango chunks, frozen
  • 3 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Honey (optional, to taste)
Directions
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Adjust sweetness with additional honey, to taste. Sprinkle with a dash of cardamom powder or garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, if desired.
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Disclaimer – Shindigz provided me with  $100 gift card to sample their products and services in order to share  my experience with you. All opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 

Baked Asian Sticky Wings

Teaching children to make good choices is one of the greatest responsibilities and most intense challenges of being a parent. Young children are clever, creative, and sneaky; oh so sneaky. Succeeding at this task requires the snooping skills of Sherlock Holmes, the vigilance of an air traffic controller, and the patience of Mother Teresa. You must watch, wait, anticipate, and react. You must act quickly to intervene before irreversible damage is done and you must sniff out clues like Scooby Doo to unravel mysteries. And most importantly, you must maintain a straight face; calm, but firm and consistent; in the face of discipline.

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But kids are devious and unpredicatable. Don’t be fooled by their sweet little button noses and soft, furry backs. They are constantly testing their limits and devising new methods for mischief. Stay sharp, captain.

My husband and I should have known something was up when we noticed that the stack of plastic kid plates was diminishing. We knew it was peculiar. And yet we just shrugged our shoulders in puzzled confusion and moved on. But all misdeeds come to light eventually, as did the mystery of the missing plates.

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It started when I was changing the baby’s diaper. I laid him down on the carpet which sits in the center of our living room. In the center of that carpet is a large trunk-style coffee table, with legs that raise it about three inches off the floor; just high enough for toys and things to slip beneath, but not tall enough to easily vacuum under. In the position I was in, sitting on the carpet with the baby, I saw what had previously been hidden. Peeking out from the edge of the table were the two plates I’d served the boys breakfast on, which they ate at their snack tables in front of the aforementioned coffee table. A small pile of discarded scrambled eggs sat on one of the plates. I scolded the boys for their lazy behavior and asked them if they thought we lived in a barn (’cause that’s what you’re supposed to say, right??). They hung their heads in appropriate shame and brought their plates to the sink.

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In retrospect, I don’t know why I didn’t put the pieces together at that point. I should have peeked under the table, but I didn’t. We moved on with our day. Then dinner time came along and I served the boys some of my new Asian sticky wings. Chicken wings don’t make frequent appearances on our menu, so I’d anticipated some normal apprehension. When serving something unfamiliar, I make a practice of always including something known and loved on the boys’ plates, so everyone has a chance to fill their bellies with something they like, while also having the opportunity to try something new. I don’t make a big deal about finishing everything on their plates or eating big portions of food they don’t enjoy. I only ask that they take a small taste of each new item, with the idea that over time, as their taste buds mature, they will enjoy a wide variety of foods. No pressure.

So, what happened next never should have happened.

Liam stood up with his dinner plate, proud to show me that he’d eaten everything on it and making a point that he was going to put it properly in the sink. The rice, the sugar snap peas, the yogurt, and the chicken wings were all gone. You catch that?? The chicken wings were all gone. “Where are the bones?” I asked. “Huh…the bones?” came his innocent reply. “Yes, the bones. Where are the bones?” And then he proceeded to explain that he’d eaten the bones. Clever lady that I am, I knew this could not be the case. I had a hard time keeping that ever-important straight face by this point. I knelt by the edge of the table to find the discarded chicken wings before the dog did. I found those wings under the table. I also found five of the kids’ plates. Another mystery solved, Scooby.

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But the wings…the wings are delicious, even if Liam wasn’t interested in them. I’ve been watching what I eat in the new year, but whereas in the past I’ve messed up by going all-in from the start, then losing steam, I’m trying to take a more long-term balanced approach this time. I’m making smart choices most of the time, but not denying myself the opportunity to enjoy some good food and drinks when the opportunity is ripe, like during a girls’ night out with my besties. On our most recent girls’ night out, at one of our favorite local joints, we ordered the Asian sticky wings, which became the inspiration for this recipe.

Healthy goals in mind, these wings are baked, rather than fried. I tried two different techniques in search of the crispiest result. While the resulting crispiness of the winning technique doesn’t quite match what you’d get from a fryer, they come pretty darn close. The secret is baking the wings on top of a rack, so that the excess juices drip below the wings, allowing the skin to become firm. A final few minutes under the broiler seals the deal with a golden brown exterior. Once cooked, the wings are tossed in a sweet Asian-style sauce, which has been reduced into a sticky, delicious glaze. They’d make a perfect addition to any super bowl menu!!

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Today’s Focus on Technique – Reductions

Cooking a flavored liquid by reduction is a method used in order to thicken the liquid and intensify flavors. It is typically used to prepare glazes and full-flavored sauces. To reduce a liquid, simply bring it to a boil in an uncovered pan. As the liquid evaporates, the remaining sauce will become thicker and more flavorful. It’s a wonderful technique for elevating the flavor-profile of a sauce. Using a pan with a wider base will spread the liquid over a greater surface area and increase the rate at which a liquid reduces.

Baked Asian Sticky Wings

Ingredients

  • Approximately 2 dozen chicken wings and legs
  • Juice from 1 orange (approximately 1/3 cup)
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sambal oelek (or crushed red pepper, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1″ ginger root, grated (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • Sliced green onions and sesame seeds, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set a rack on top of a baking sheet.  Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer on top of the rack. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 40 minutes, then turn on the broiler. With the chicken several inches below the broiler, cook for 5-10 more minutes, until the exterior is golden brown and crisp.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the glaze. Combine the orange juice, zest, honey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sambal oelek in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a bubbling boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Allow the mixture to bubble away, uncovered, for approximately 10 minutes until the mixture has thickened to a glazy consistency. Taste and adjust flavor with additional honey, if a sweeter result is desired.

Toss the cooked wings in the warm glaze, then garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions. Serve with rice and/or steamed sugar snap peas.

Rice Krispie Treat ‘Sushi’

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I’m just about ready to put this chat about ninja parties to bed. (I’ve got a recipe for some really delicious and very un-ninjalike Moroccan lamb meatballs in a minted apricot glaze coming up soon.) But before we bid farewell to ninjas, I wanted to share a quick photo guide for making the rice krispie treat ‘sushi’ which we served as part of our dessert spread. It’s super easy and insanely cute. The hardest part was peeling those darn fruit roll-ups off the wrapper.

You can find lots of variations of this sort of thing all over the web. Here’s how I did it…

You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 6 cups rice krispies cereal
  • A baking sheet
  • Wax paper
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • A few long, soft candies (like twizzlers, gummi worms, or sour straws)
  • Fruit roll-ups (green would be most realistic looking, but might be difficult to find)
  • Swedish fish candies

Step 1: Melt the butter in a large pan over low heat. Add the marshmallows. Stir until melted. Remove from heat, then stir in the rice krispies.

Step 2: Arrange a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet. Spray the wax paper with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the rice krispie treat mixture to the baking sheet. Spray your hands with the cooking spray, then press the rice krispies into a thin (less than 1/2″) even layer.

Step 3: Arrange a few fruit roll-ups (the ‘nori’) on top of the rice krispie treats.

Step 4: Place a couple of the long candies on top of the fruit roll-ups. I used sour straws. Multi-colored Twizzlers or gummi worms would also work well.

Step 5: Lift up the edge of the wax paper and begin to roll the rice krispie treats around the fruit roll-ups and candy. Use the wax paper to help squeeze and tighten the roll.

Step 6: Once you’ve achieved a small ‘California Roll’ size, use a knife to cut the roll from the remaining rice krispie treats. Slice into pieces. Roll in colored sugar ‘roe’, if desired.

Repeat to make additional ‘California rolls’. Alternately, you can roll the candy within the rice krispie treats, but reserve the fruit roll-ups to wrap around the outside of the roll prior to slicing in pieces.

To make ‘nigiri sushi’: Using your hands, mold portions of the rice krispie treats into small oblong clumps. Place a swedish fish on top. Use thin strips of fruit roll-ups to wrap around the rice and fish.

Serve with a bowl of chocolate syrup ‘soy sauce’.

New Year’s Eve Hors d’oeuvres Round Up

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. I love hors d’oeuvres. In my opinion, there’s no better way to entertain, be it for a casual girls’ night in, an elegant cocktail event, or a poker game, than with a selection of tasty hors d’oeuvres. One of my favorite events to host with an all hors d’oeuvres menu is New Year’s Eve. We keep things casual around here; pajamas, champagne, and an all munchies menu. With that in mind, I thought it wise to take a look back at some previously posted hors d’oeuvres and appetizer ideas which work perfectly for a New Year’s bash!

Click on the titles for links to recipes and more info on each idea.

Petite Toasts with Smoked Salmon and Crème FraicheCold smoked salmon with a dollop of crème fraiche. Check near your grocery store’s cheese section for crème fraiche, which is similar to sour cream, only thicker and less sour. If your store doesn’t carry crème fraiche, you can substitute with a bit of sour cream or cream cheese blended with fresh dill.

Feta Cheese Mousse with Summer FruitsWatermelon and fresh figs will be more difficult to find at this time of year. Substitute with any fresh or dried fruits. Goat cheese would also work well in this recipe and pair deliciously with fruit.

Buffalo Chicken Wing DipThis one’s a crowd pleaser! Not too pretty to look at, but super tasty. Pair with tortilla chips, fresh celery, or chunks of doughy bread. It can be made ahead, refrigerated, and baked before serving.

Olive Tapenade Three WaysThree variations on a simple and delicious olive tapenade. My favorite is the sun-dried tomato tapenade. Serve with crackers or slices of baguette.

Asian Style Turkey Meatballs with Hoisin Peanut Sauce – An interesting twist on cocktail meatballs. Prepare ahead of time and reheat before serving. About 15-18 minutes in a 350 degrees oven should do the trick!

Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil PestoA classic favorite! Serve with slices of baguette and let your guests construct their own little hors d’oeuvres.

Baked BrieFill with apricot preserves or your favorite type of jam. Fresh whole-berry cranberry sauce works well too!

Bacon Stuffed MushroomsOmit the bacon for a vegetarian alternative.

Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail SauceNew Year’s Eve feels like the perfect night for shrimp cocktail! Make your own cocktail sauce and serve with a few wedges of lemon.

Crab-Stuffed Jalapeño PoppersA fresh and elegant alternative to frozen jalapeño poppers! Certain to clear those sinuses.

Mini Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Chipotle RemouladeMy personal favorite of the bunch! Prepare the mini crab cakes exactly as directed for full-sized crab cakes, only smaller. Broil for about a minute less. Serve each bite-sized crab cake with a dollop or drizzle of the remoulade.

Blue Cows in a BlanketWhile all your neighbors are serving Pigs in a Blanket, you can stand out with these Blue Cows in a Blanket!! Think mini Bacon Bleu Cheese Burgers wrapped in puff pastry! Ummm….YUM!

Apple Cinnamon RangoonsI want to marry these little goodies and run away with them to spend our lives together in apple cinnamon bliss. (Don’t tell my husband!)

Spinach Dip with Fried Wonton ChipsA simple prepare-ahead dip. Serve in a bread bowl with chunks of bread for an even easier, and equally delicious, alternative.

Spanakopita - Recipe Coming Tomorrow!!

A Few Other Simple Ideas…

Pigs in a Blanket – People love ‘em. Make your own honey mustard sauce by combining dijon mustard with honey, as desired. Or serve with a simple Sweet and Sour sauce made from ketchup, grape jelly, and a splash of Worchestershire sauce.

Dates wrapped in Bacon – I might be making these myself this year. Stuff the dates with goat cheese or bleu cheese, if desired. Wrap each date with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 400 degrees oven, until bacon is crispy.

Dried Figs with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto – Easy as it sounds! Cut dried figs in half. Place a small piece of goat cheese on the cut side. Wrap with a piece of prosciutto

Assorted Cheese Tartlettes – A fun alternative to a traditional cheese platter. Purchase pre-made phyllo shells and fill with a variety of cheeses and other toppings. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for about 10 minutes before serving. Try Feta with Olive Tapenade and Pine Nuts, Gorgonzola with Poached Pears and Bacon, Brie with Dried Apricots and Almonds, or Cheddar with Ham and Apples.

Asian-Style Turkey Meatball Sandwiches

I’m pretty sure I’m done with my holiday cookie baking for the year. Well, sort of. Ok, not really. I want to be done baking. I really do. I’ve softened more sticks of butter than I can count and my baking sheets are screaming for a break. The kids’ red wagon in the garage is overflowing with containers of cookies and chocolate confections, waiting to be sorted onto platters and into tins. By all accounts, I should be done. But then I keep thinking of just one more cookie I need to make this year. The current cookie nagging at me are those little buttery thumbprint cookies with marashino cherries. It may be my somewhat irrational pregnancy brain at work here, but I’m just not sure I can get through the season without those thumbprint cookies.

At the very least, I’m done baking for the next few days. I’ve still got a few more cookie recipes to share with you; Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, Sand Tarts, and two chocolatey treats. But I’m giving the baking sheets a brief rest as I move on to thinking about holiday parties!

This Saturday, I’ll be preparing the food for a friend’s holiday party. Though I’ve cooked for plenty of my own parties and brought dishes for potlucks, I’ve never actually cooked for someone else’s party. I am very excited for the opportunity. And she’s having my favorite kind of party to cook for; one with an all-hors d’oeuvres menu. I love hors d’oeuvres so much that my hubby and I skipped the full sit-down dinner route for our wedding and went with an all hors d’oeuvres extravaganza. It was an hors d’oeuvres dream come true. To me, there’s just nothing better than a perfect bite-sized package of flavor.

As excited as I am to be cooking for this party, I’m also nervous in a way I don’t usually feel about my own parties. There’s a different level of pressure in making the food for someone else’s soiree; an added self-imposed expectation that everything is perfect. As such, I’ve been doing test runs of each item on the menu; working out the final touches and fine-tuning the reheating procedures.

Earlier this week, I decided to test the Asian-Style Turkey Meatballs with Hoisin Peanut Sauce. They’ll be served as an hors d’oeuvres during the party, with party picks and a bowl of the dipping sauce. But, for the purpose of my test-run, I turned them into a dinner sandwich, complete with a soft, doughy bun and crisp broccoli slaw.

Not only does this recipe make a perfect bite-sized appetizer for your next gathering, it makes a very satisfying meal any night of the week. All components can be made ahead of time, then reheated and assembled later, making it a perfect option for your upcoming holiday celebrations or a tasty weeknight dinner!

Asian-Style Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Ground Turkey
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 3 Green Onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • Olive Oil, for baking pan

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wipe the bottom of a baking pan with a bit of olive oil. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix together until well combined. If the mixture is too moist to roll, add additional bread crumbs, a little at a time. Roll small balls, about 1″ diameter, and place in an even layer in the baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked.

If preparing ahead of time, refrigerate until serving. To reheat, bake for 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Makes 25-30 cocktail-sized meatballs


Hoisin Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Hoisin Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon Red Curry Paste (or Cayenne Pepper)
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

Directions

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. If preparing ahead of time, refrigerate until serving. The sauce will become thick when cooled. Warm for a few seconds in the microwave to loosen up the sauce before serving.


Broccoli Slaw

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 3 cups Broccoli Slaw Mix (Julienned Broccoli, Carrots, and Red Cabbage)

Directions

Combine mayonnaise, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, and cayenne until well blended. Add the broccoli slaw mix. Stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, stirring occasionally to distribute the dressing.

 

Mission Fiesta

Tomorrow afternoon we will celebrate my little one’s second birthday. Where in the world did two years go?? It seems like only yesterday that I was waddling around, anxiously awaiting his birth. And now he’s this tiny little man. So utterly perfect.

I really love throwing birthday parties. There’s a good possibility that I actually enjoy throwing the party more than the kids enjoy celebrating the party. And with a little bit of thoughtful planning, I find it to be a relatively stress-free and enjoyable experience. In my opinion, a stress-free party is all about planning a menu which can be mostly prepared the day before and requires minimal fuss on the day off. I like dishes served cold or at room temperature or trays of food which can be reheated in the oven, while still maintaining their fresh taste and appearance. I avoid things like burgers, which need to be cooked in batches during the party and usually result in people standing around waiting for the platter to be refilled. I think burgers are great for barbecues, but for birthday parties, I like all the food to find its way to the table at the same time. Just my personal preference.

I also like to vary our party menus so that there’s always something new for our guests to enjoy. I’ve also got a few party standards, which I make again and again, like the Dinosaur Bar B Que Macaroni Salad. For this little fiesta, I’ll be serving an assortment of sandwiches and salads. Hopefully there will be a little something to delight everyone’s tastebuds.

Sandwich and Salad Party Menu

Sandwiches

Waldorf Chicken Salad on Pain de Campagne

Egg Salad on Marble Rye

Honey-Roasted Turkey Breast with Lorraine Swiss, Thinly Sliced Pears and Honey-Mustard on Mutligrain Baguette

PB&J on White

Roast Beef, Cheddar, and Apple with Horseradish Sauce on Onion Rolls

Prosciutto and Figs with Gorgonzola Cream on French Baguette

Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted Red Tomatoes with Basil Pesto on Ciabatta

Salads

Dinosaur Bar B Que Macaroni Salad

Greek Couscous Salad

Ambrosia Salad

Napa Cabbage  Salad

Today’s mission was simple. Prepare as much of the food as possible.

I started with the Ambrosia Salad. Ambrosia is a childhood favorite of mine. Seriously, it’s hard to disappoint kids with a salad whose main ingredient is marshmallows. My Aunt Theresa is the queen of ambrosia, so I use her recipe, which couldn’t be simpler. There are no set measurements and it’s almost impossible to mess up. Simply mix a bag of mini marshmallows with a can or two of strained mandarin oranges and a can or two of strained pineapple tidbits. Then mix in about 1/2 cup of sour cream. If desired, throw in a cup of shredded coconut. Stir and refrigerate. Make a few hours or a day ahead of time. If desired, garnish with marashino cherries.

Next, I got to work on the Greek Couscous Salad, another simple and delicious side salad. Simply cook some couscous according to package directions. Allow it to cool for a few minutes. Then, I made a greek vinaigrette using lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, a bit of greek seasoning, salt and pepper. Toss the couscous in the dressing. Throw in some crumbled feta cheese, chopped kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes.

The macaroni salad is one of my recurring regulars. I use the Dinosaur Bar B Que recipe, found in their cookbook. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a bit of an aversion to mayonnaise. So, I tend to avoid salads dripping in mayo. The Dinosaur recipe is hands-down my favorite macaroni salad, since it incorporates a good amount of creole mustard into the dressing, which cuts the mayo consistency. The flavor is fantastic! The salad starts with a pound of small pasta shells. Throw in some chopped celery, tomatoes, and green peppers. For the dressing, combine a cup of mayo (Hellmans, of course) with 1/4 cup of Creole Mustard. (I tend to add a bit more mustard). Add a teaspoon of brown sugar, 4 cloves of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss the dressing with the pasta and veggies, then refrigerate to cool.

My egg salad recipe couldn’t be simpler. Hard boil some eggs. Cool the eggs under cold running water. Remove the shells and cut the eggs in half. Remove the yolks and place in a bowl. Use a fork to crush the yolks. Combine with enough mayonnaise and mustard until creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Chop the egg whites and add to the bowl. Slice a few green onions and add. Stir until well mixed.

I prepared my recipe for Waldorf Chicken Salad, which you can find here and my Basil Pesto recipe, which you can find here. To keep things simple tomorrow, I also sliced the mozzarella and the figs and prepared the honey-mustard sauce, horseradish sauce, and gorgonzola cream for the sandwiches.

For dessert, I baked my little guy a giant cupcake, using my favorite chocolate cake recipe, found here. I decorated the top with a dumptruck and candy rocks, per his request.


I made a double batch of the cake batter, so that I could bake some cupcakes. But, I way overfilled the cupcake pan, which caused the cakes to overflow. They began to fall apart when I tried to remove them from the pan. They were not in any condition for frosting. So, rather than waste the perfectly tasty cakes, I made Muddy Cups; a perfect addition to the Construction theme we’ve got going on. I stuffed the slightly mangled cupcakes into the bottom of small plastic cups. Then I covered them with a scoop of chocolate pudding and sprinkled them with crushed Oreos and candy rocks.

I’ll also be serving a Caramel Apple Cake and Peanut Butter and Jelly Baklava. Those recipes will follow at a later date.


It was a productive day and we’re in good shape for tomorrow’s party. All that remains for tomorrow is composing the actual sandwiches, baking the Caramel Apple Cake, and decorating, of course! Should be a fun, stress-free, and tasty party!

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