Saturday, April 30, 2011

Raisin Day

Buzz:  Did you know that it takes 4 pounds of grapes to yield one pound of raisins? 
One of my favorite raisin recipes is for this sauce which is delicious over ham:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
  • 1 cup raisins soaked in 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Cook together until thick and bubbly.

Friday, April 29, 2011

the first of May

May Day tradition calls for fresh flowers in a paper cone left on someone's doorstep anonymously.  (This image was found online and I couldn't resist.)  Actually, I use mini plastic baskets that I purchase after Easter when reduced 50%.  These are filled with chocolates, travel size toiletries, mini lip glosses, whatever novelties I've collected throughout the year.  Once I found lovely compacts that had been substantially marked down.  The contents are dictated by your budget.  A few hand-picked flowers and a handwritten note or poem bring as much joy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pretzel Day

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzels are easy to make (10 min.), and the combination of sweet chocolate and salty, crunchy pretzels is fantastic. You can use any pretzels you want, but I recommend large pretzel rods or twists, since they are faster to make and look great when packaged as a gift. 
  • 1 package (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp shortening
  • 2 dozen pretzel rods or large pretzel twists
  • Assorted sprinkles or small candies (optional)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)
1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Combine the chocolate chips and the shortening in a large microwave-safe bowl, and microwave until the chocolate is melted, stirring after every minute.
3. If dipping pretzel rods, hold a rod by one end and dip it in the chocolate, leaving an inch or two uncovered. If you are dipping pretzel twists, drop the whole pretzel in the chocolate and submerge it slightly. Use a fork to pull the pretzel out of the chocolate. Shake the chocolate-dipped pretzels several times to remove excess chocolate, and place it on the prepared baking sheet. If you are using sprinkles or small candies, sprinkle them on when the chocolate is still wet. Repeat with remaining chocolate and pretzels.
4. Place the pretzels in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set the chocolate.
5. If desired, melt the white chocolate and drizzle it over the pretzels for a decorative look. Briefly return the candy to the refrigerator to set the white chocolate before serving.
Recipe from

Sunday, April 24, 2011

National Pigs in a Blanket Day

an update of a 50's favorite      
                                                     yields about 4 1/2 dozen
  • 2 pounds (about 60) mini hot dogs
  • Cheddar cheese, cut into small pieces, optional
  • Caramelized Onions, optional
  • 1 large egg
  • All-purpose flour, for work surface
  • 1 box (17 1/2 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • Poppy, sesame, or mustard seeds, optional
  • Mustard, for serving
  • Ketchup, for serving

  1. Cut hot dogs lengthwise 3/4 of the way through. Insert a piece of cheese or 1/2 teaspoon caramelized onions into each hot dog, if using; set aside. If not using cheese or onions, poke hot dogs several times with the tip of a knife.
  2. On a lightly floured work surface, working with one sheet of puff pastry at a time, roll into a 14-by-11-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into seven 1 1/2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 rectangles, each about 3 1/2 inches long.
  3. In a small bowl, beat together egg and 1 tablespoon water; set aside. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat; set aside. Place a hot dog on the narrow end of one piece of pastry. Roll to enclose, brushing with some of the beaten egg to adhere; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining hot dogs and pastry. Brush the tops of puff pastry with egg and sprinkle with seeds, if using. Transfer to refrigerator and let chill for 15 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  5. Transfer baking sheets to oven and bake until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool briefly before serving with mustard and ketchup.
Recipe from Martha Stewart

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Langues de chat

    I knew of the French cookie, langue de chat or cat's tongue. . It's a crisp, buttery cookie in the shape of the feline's tongue and goes wonderfully with a cup of tea.  However, last weekend at the Chocolate Festival in Provincetown, the Purple Feather introduced me to a chocolate version. Soooo good.  Dark chocolate with raspberry sprinkled on ends.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day

    Buzz: easy version
    1 pkg. yellow cake mix
    1 can sliced pineapple
    3/4 c. brown sugar
    1 stick butter
    Maraschino cherries
    Drain pineapple and reserve juice.  Mix cake mix according to directions (use pineapple juice for water).  Pat brown sugar in bottom of 9-10 inch round pan  Drizzle on melted butter.  Arrange 7 pineapple rings with a cherry center.  Pour cake mix over top and bake according to package directions. Let cool slightly and invert onto serving platter.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Garlic Day

    Mmm.  Roasted garlic, surprisingly, is sweet to the taste and delicious on baguette slices as an appetizer.
    Leave the head whole and cut off the tip of the head, exposing the cloves. Allow one-half to one head per person. Place in a baking dish or wrap in aluminum foil, sprinkle with olive oil or pat with butter, and season with a little salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees until very soft and tender (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). The roasted garlic cloves can be easily squeezed from their skins and spread with a knife.  Simple and scrumptious.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Party Prep Attire

    Last month I attended the Boston Gift Show.  In these economic times it is not unusual to be greeted by vendors who ask if they could show you something.  One, however, followed this question by pouring water on herself!  Yes, Mary did demonstrate the stain and water resistant coating on her apron.  Quite a performance!  She then displayed that these aprons adjust for the wearer's height with a tug on a string.  And they are attractive with white lobsters or crabs on a navy background. Visit and  tell Mary Elizabeth and Eileen Elizabeth aka the Shore Sisters that I sent you.

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Bloody Mary

    2 oz. vodka
    4 oz. tomato juice
    1 1/2 Tblsp. fresh lime juice
    1/4 tsp. horseradish
    1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce
    1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    1/8 tsp. celery salt
    celery stalk for garnish

    Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker.  Shake.  Pour over ice in a double old-fashioned glass.

    Buzz:  dip rim of glass in lemon juice and then in steak seasoning for a tasty and decorative edge.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    National Eggs Benedict Day

    Easy Hollandaise Sauce

    3 egg yolks
    1 Tblsp. lemon juice
    1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
    1 cup salted butter, melted

    In a blender,combine egg yolks, lemon juice, and cayenne at medium speed.  On low speed, drizzle in butter.  Add more lemon juice or salt, to taste.
    Serve immediately.

    Buzz: use 'hot' melted butter

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Placecard ideas

      Here are two ideas to mark your
    guests' places at a Spring meal:




    Thursday, April 14, 2011


    Thomas Jefferson at his White House dinners broke with tradition and did not seat people according to rank.  Quite a novel idea at the time. He appreciated the importance of seating to encourage conversation and was also known to employ props to accomplish same.  Placecards eliminate confusion for guests and allow the hostess to arrange people for optimum interaction.  The convention of host and hostess at the head of the table still stands with female guests flanking the host and male guests attending the hostess.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson

    Although disgusted with the excess of Parisian society, Jefferson was at the same time intrigued.  He brought many of the indulgences to his table including specially made cups by Sevres for eating ice cream.  While he did not cook, Jefferson was a connoisseur of ingredients and wrote down many recipes.  Eight in his hand survive today.  You can see the original for his favorite vanilla ice cream at 

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Cheese Fondue Day

    Basic Cheese Fondue Recipe

    2 Garlic Cloves, Cut in Half

    (1 cup)Dry White Wine*

    (1/2 lb)Gruyere Cheese*, Shredded
    (1/2 lb)Emmenthaler Cheese*, Shredded

    (1 tbsp)Lemon Juice

    (1 tbsp)Cornstarch

    (2 tbsp)Kirsch

    (1/2 tsp)Nutmeg

    (1/2 tsp)Paprika
    *You should have a little more wine and cheese on hand to adjust the consistency if needed. Add more cheese if it's too liquid, add more wine if it's too thick.
    1. Rub the garlic inside the fondue pot then discard.
    2. Pour the white wine and lemon juice into the pot and turn on the burner.
    3. Let the wine and lemon juice warm up without boiling.
    4. Reduce heat and add the shredded cheese.
    5. With a wooden spoon, mix well and stir regularly.
    6. Dilute the cornstarch in the Kirsch, and add remaining ingredients to the pot.
    7. Add pepper to taste.
    8. If the mixture is too hard, add wine. If the mixture is too soft, add cheese.
    9. Dip bite size pieces of bread or vegetables.
    10. Let the freshly dipped pieces cool off for a few seconds, then enjoy and repeat but no double-dipping!
    Note: Italian or French bread (baguette) makes excellent dippers when cut into small pieces. You can also try mild green or red peppers, zucchini slices, steamed broccoli or cauliflower or whatever else you're in the mood for.
    Tip: If you ask your guests to make a figure 8 while dipping, this will ensure that the cheese mixture gets constantly stirred.
    Buzz:  Tradition has it that if a woman loses her bread in the pot, she has to kiss the man on her left; a man doing the same, has to kiss the hostess.   At any rate, a most friendly dinner party.


    Sunday, April 10, 2011


    A distinctive way to serve butter is to cut or mold it into shapes.  Unusual ice cube trays work well and produce shells (as  shown) and other shapes. ....  Or you can slice the butter and then use a mini cookie cutter to create flowers, hearts, stars, and moons.

    This spread (shown on left)  is delicious on breads.  Cream 2 oz. butter and 4oz. cream cheese, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, and 1 Tblsp. powdered sugar together. 

    A dish of orange butter (on right) is always a welcomed spread.  Just mix 1 stick of butter and 1/4 c. of orange marmalade together.  Any flavor preserves (strawberry,fig, or blackberry) can be substituted for the marmalade.

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    April showers tea party

    Arriving home from school at 2:30 doesn't leave much time to prepare for tea at 3:00.  Since this will be a light  tea there isn't much to do but pay attention to details.  A full afternoon tea with sandwiches and scones would need much more lead time.  The menu will include a black and a fruit tea.  I like to offer a bread, a cake and a cookie; in this case, date nut bread, petit fours, and macaroons.

    On Thursday, buy flowers and lemon.  Also, the pastries, if not baking.  If baking, prepare the bread, cake, and macaroons.  Make butter spread.   Set table.

    On Friday, slice lemon, pour milk.  Plate sweets. Cue music. If truly a rainy day, light candles. Enjoy!

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    April tea invitation

    The front of my homemade invitation 
    cut in an umbrella shape

    The inside with the details
    This is an easy cut and paste creation meant for a casual afternoon with friends The invitation should suit the occasion.
    Decorative paper from A. C. Moore.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    April party

    Recent rainy days go along with the saying
    "April showers bring May flowers".
    While I'd prefer a change in the weather, I'll go 
    with that as the theme for my upcoming tea party.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Cordon Bleu Day

    Tyler Florence has an easy and delicious  Chicken Cordon Bleu 
    • 4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
    • 4 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
    • 1/2 pound Gruyere, grated
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
    • 4 sprigs fresh thyme,  leaves only
    • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 eggs
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Lay the chicken breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic and lay 2 slices of proscuitto neatly over the top to cover the breast and sprinkle a quarter of the cheese over the prosciutto. Tuck in the sides of the breast and roll up tight like a jellyroll inside the plastic wrap. Squeeze the log gently to seal and twist both ends tight to form a nice log. Repeat with remaining chicken.
    Season the flour with salt and pepper; spread out on waxed paper or in a flat dish. Mix the breadcrumbs with thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, and butter. The butter will help the crust brown. Beat together the eggs and water.  Remove the plastic wrap. Lightly dust the chicken with flour, then dip in the egg mixture. Gently coat in the bread crumbs.  Lightly coat a baking pan with olive oil and carefully transfer the roulades to the
    baking pan.  Bake for 20 minutes until browned and cooked through. Cut into pinwheels to make a beautiful presentation.  Add this recipe to your party file.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011


    As one month begins, I begin preparations for the following month's event.  So during April I will collect props for my (May) Friday the 13th party.  On the lookout for the following (un)lucky items: a four leaf clover, a black cat, horseshoes, etc.

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    April celebrations

    April is National Frog month, as well as Poetry, Garden, and Humor month.  Then there are the following birthdays:  Hans Christian Anderson,Thomas Jefferson, Leonardo DaVinci, Daffy Duck, William Shakespeare.  Not to be overlooked are: National Eggs Benedict Day, Find a Rainbow Day, Cuckoo Day, Hug a Friend Day, National Pretzel Day and Zipper Day.  Lots of parties!