5 Appetizers That Impress & Relieve Stress

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Let’s face it, it’s not only during the holidays when we need easy appetizer ideas. Handy dandy, simple offerings are in demand throughout the year. These 5 appetizers can certainly be used anytime, but will surely be useful right about now.

Now when it comes to navigating entertaining, we can be the driver of our own roadmap. It’s up to us to take control. It can be as elaborate as a sit down plated meal with several courses. Or as simple as making a salad, a vegetable and protein. Or even simpler (and better!) a huge bowl of pasta. But it is up to each host/hostess to decide whether to make it complicated or easy. Admittedly, there are times when entertaining calls for a little more pizzazz. And I would venture to say that the holidays definitely require a little more brio. Believe it or not, adding an appetizer to any meal can elevate an evening. I always want my guests to feel special, whether it’s a weeknight meal, an weekend dinner or a big party celebration, and I’ve found that serving appetizers somehow ups the ante and makes any event feel special. But please, let’s not confuse special with hard and stressful.

How I plan out what appetizers I will serve depends on my mood, and it can swing full pendulum, from easy breezy all the way to ones that require a day of prep, cook time and time in plating. For me, it all comes down to how much experimenting I want to do, and how much time I have to play. But that’s just me. I like trying new things and being adventurous. But sometimes, I need speed and simplicity. Luckily, in my experimenting I have come up with a few apps that don’t take a ton of effort, and really please my guests.

Here are Apps that impress AND relieve stress.
(Disclaimer: In no means are these appetizers magical or medicinal in their ability to relieve stress. It’s soley their ease, and delicious impact that creates a stress free zone! Well, I might consider that magic.)

Shaved Parmigiano with Roasted Peppers & Hazelnuts

This is as easy as using a flick of the wrist. That is, one that is holding a vegetable peeler. Simply shave slices of Parmigiano Reggiano. Roll roasted pepper strips up into rosettes or twirls. (A good jarred kind is the way to go. Even I admit, roasting your own peppers is more work than it’s worth. This is definitely one time when homemade doesn’t make sense!) Arrange the platter as you like. I like all the peppers in the middle with the cheese acting like a moat. Then generously sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. It seriously could not be simpler.

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Platter of Crunch - Fennel Bites & Cucumber Carrot Roll Ups

I always like having a platter with a fresh offering. Not only does it help to refresh the palate but it’s a satisfying treat for the vegetarians. Create a platter full of fresh vegetables. You can use whatever you like but I love big chunks of fennel drizzled with olive oil, course sea salt and pepper. Ribbons of English cucumber plain or rolled up with carrot shreds. The carrots were marinated in a basil balsamic vinaigrette. Check out the recipe here.

My method for platter arrangement is color blocking. I think this looks inviting. Do what pleases your eye and your palate.

Fresh fennel, cucumber and carrots are refreshing and crunchy.

Fresh fennel, cucumber and carrots are refreshing and crunchy.

Fresh Ricotta with Herbs & Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Well, if you took my advice in late summer and roasted a bunch of tomatoes and stored them away, then this one is as easy as opening that container. (Now you understand why I suggest this because the tomatoes can be used in so many ways.) But if you don’t have any roasted tomatoes in your freezer, making a fresh batch is not difficult. Click for The Great Tomato Caper post. For the rest of the dish, simply buy fresh ricotta and spoon it into a bowl creating a nice mound. Generously sprinkle course sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, chopped basil and drizzle with good olive oil. Arrange the roasted tomatoes around and serve with crusty bread.

This combo of sweet tomatoes with fresh creamy ricotta is one that will keep your guests coming back for another smattering.

This combo of sweet tomatoes with fresh creamy ricotta is one that will keep your guests coming back for another smattering.

Sauteéd mushrooms & polenta chips

This one takes a bit more time, but you can actually do some of this ahead of time. I’ve served this appetizer several different ways. Click here for the recipe. In this version I made the polenta squares thinner so they act more like a cracker. Your guests can make their own little bite with as much or as little sauteéd mushrooms as they want. Heck, if you also serve the Ricotta dish, guests can top their polenta squares with mushrooms and a bit of ricotta!

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Dry Cured Meat & Arugula Platter

This seriously could not be simpler than buying and arranging. Pick up your favorite dry cured meat and serve it up with some spicy baby arugula. Guests can roll up the meat with some zest greens for a crisp, salty bite. I love keeping it simple and rustic by serving it right on a wooden board.
Some dry cured meats that I like to serve: Bresaola, Prosciutto or Serrano ham, Capacollo, Mortadella, Coppa.

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I hope these few ideas help keep your stress levels down this holiday season. I really don’t like that I keep repeating that, but it is true that the holidays, and entertaining can be just that - intense. I’m here to help in any way I can, because for me, gathering together with the people you love, serving them food you all love is a glorious thing. And something for which we can all be grateful.

Stirred with love, these apps are just as easy as the ones we download on our phones!

 

Napkin Folding - 5 Basic Folds - Countless Options

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I asked. You answered. Now the ball is back in my court to deliver.

Some of you have requested simple, yet elegant ways to fold a napkin.   Sure, you can just plop a napkin down next to the plate. Why not, what's all the fuss, right?  Guests are just going to place them on their laps anyway.  But I will ask you this one question, and then see how you feel about just plopping that napkin down.

When you enter the home of a host/hostess and see a table set with place settings and napkins lovingly positioned, how do you feel? 

1. Oh Ah, what a beautiful, welcoming setting. I feel special.

2. Oh yeah, that's where we're going to eat

If  you answered #1, keep reading.  If you answered #2 grab some other reading material and forget about scrolling through the rest of this post. I promise next week will bring something of more interest for you.

Setting a table can be as easy or as complicated as you want. The same goes with the finishing touches such as  folding a napkin.  I choose the simple method, but still try to make an impact.  Some of the styles below are quite basic with a twist. They are geared a bit more towards the festive side for the holidays, yet any of them can be used or modified for any occasion.  

The idea here is not to twist yourself up as you fold napkins.  Sure those fancy, schmancy, origami style versions look impressive.  But let's face it, those take a ton of effort and time only to have sadness kick in when your guests pull apart your time consuming creation and place them on their laps.  I'm all for making the table look pretty.  You guys know that about me by now. But I am also practical.  Employing simple techniques for maximum impact.  Whether it's preparing a dish, plating it or folding a napkin.

I pulled out a few items to play with for this episode of how to fold a napkin... Fast but pretty.

I pulled out a few items to play with for this episode of how to fold a napkin... Fast but pretty.

Let the folding, or rolling begin. The best part about these suggestions is that you don't need the exact napkin or ribbon or decor that I show in these examples.  These are guides and intended to motivate you to look around your house to see what you can use.  Any of the ideas shown can be easily refashioned to incorporate what you already have.  In fact, all the ribbons I use are from packages I received, or remnants lingering around just waiting to be given the chance at another useful life.  I also cut the ribbon handles off of nice shopping bags.  These are usually good quality and the perfect size.  Give a good think about what you have readily available.  Need more hints. How about using twigs or acorns, cinnamon sticks or nutmeg rounds. A feather, a flower, chives. 

Although most of these are for individual place settings, I've shown two napkin options for use on a buffet or cocktail setting.

The Simple roll

This method is a no brainer.  The art comes in how to finish it with a little extra flare.

  • Fold the napkin in half and in half again.

  • From the open edge side of the napkin, begin rolling towards the folded edge of the napkin. This helps to create a cleaner finish.

  • Tie a 3/8" ribbon around the mid section and finish with an adornment.

Once you have rolled the napkin up, tie a ribbon, knot it, place an ornament down and tie a bow. Place in the middle of the plate.

Once you have rolled the napkin up, tie a ribbon, knot it, place an ornament down and tie a bow. Place in the middle of the plate.

3/8" ribbon + ornament

3/8" ribbon + ornament

Note the folded edge on the left side is where you want to roll to.

Note the folded edge on the left side is where you want to roll to.

The Simple roll - Candy Caned

Using the same simple roll technique, wrap the roll with a wider ribbon to create a candy cane or striped effect.

  • Tuck one end of the ribbon under the bottom right side of the napkin

  • At an angle begin to wind it around leaving equal amounts in between.

  • Tuck the edge under.

Chic, simplicity

Chic, simplicity

Roll the napkin

Roll the napkin

Using 1/2 grosgrain ribbon, tuck on end under the napkin and wind it around leaving equal amounts in between. Tuck the edge under.

Using 1/2 grosgrain ribbon, tuck on end under the napkin and wind it around leaving equal amounts in between. Tuck the edge under.

The simple roll - Crisscross

Can this simple roll be more versatile?  Duh, of course, it can.  If you don't want to spiral the ribbon around, why not create a straightforward crisscross effect.

  • Place the ribbon midway under the napkin, then crisscross in front placing the ends across the plate.

Modern, simple and elegant.

Modern, simple and elegant.

The buffet Roll

Using the roll technique, find a vase or bucket or even a wide bowl that coordinates with your table theme.  Then place all the rolled napkins in an orderly fashion. Place your napkin bucket near the flatware and dishes on your buffet table for easy access for your guests.  

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I didn't have enough black napkins so I used a cream/green one to coordinate. The way to make it look planned is to concentrate the colors. I choose to use the darker color for the circular perimeter with the light colored center. It feels like a flower.

I didn't have enough black napkins so I used a cream/green one to coordinate. The way to make it look planned is to concentrate the colors. I choose to use the darker color for the circular perimeter with the light colored center. It feels like a flower.

 

The Simple fold

I know you are saying, "What the heck? This is a napkin folded over in a rectangle.  Is she serious?"  Yes, I am.  This is a straightforward approach but by turning the napkin horizontally it feels slightly different.  Don't worry, keep scrolling. There are more plays off this easy technique.  

Is there anything easier than folding a napkin and placing it in the middle of the plate. I think not. But we can pump it up. Read on...

Is there anything easier than folding a napkin and placing it in the middle of the plate. I think not. But we can pump it up. Read on...

The Simple Fold Doubled Wrapped

You see.  The rectangle fold slightly jazzed up. (Fun tip: The sage green, crinkle organza ribbon is from our wedding.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I saved the ribbon from our wedding 16 years ago, and just like our marriage, it's still going strong!)  

  • Using a wide ribbon, starting on an angle tuck one end under the bottom left hand side.

  • Wrap the ribbon around twice, slightly overlapping in the middle so there is no gap.

  • Leave enough ribbon for the tail to poke out on the bottom right hand side. You may need to adjust as you go.

The simple rectangle napkin has a more powerful impact with a doubled ribbon wrap tail peeking out.

The simple rectangle napkin has a more powerful impact with a doubled ribbon wrap tail peeking out.

Fold napkin in half, then half again, than half yet again.

Fold napkin in half, then half again, than half yet again.

The wide ribbon is what makes this angled wrap have more presence.

The wide ribbon is what makes this angled wrap have more presence.

The Simple Fold & Half Knot

Same rectangular fold, same ribbon but with a bit more sass.  

  • Place the wide ribbon under the napkin in the center with the top portion of ribbon being slightly longer than the bottom.

  • Bring the the top portion of the ribbon to lay down over the napkin.

  • Take the bottom ribbon and cross over front.

  • Then tuck that piece under and flare the tail out to the right.

Once you pull the short side through to the right, make both tails lie flatly down.

Once you pull the short side through to the right, make both tails lie flatly down.

The top portion of the ribbon rests across the middle of the napkin while the bottom/under portion gets crossed over front.

The top portion of the ribbon rests across the middle of the napkin while the bottom/under portion gets crossed over front.

Tuck the ribbon under the midsection and pull to a loose knot.

Tuck the ribbon under the midsection and pull to a loose knot.

The triangle

Yes, this is another no brainer fold, but one that also has versatility.  

  • Fold the napkin in half and half again

  • If you have a nice finished edge like the one shown below, fold the point down only to the trimmed edge. (You can also use this approach even if you don't have a fancy edge. It will actually make your triangle fold a bit more special.

  • You can also just fold it point to point.

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Simple Triangle & Ornament tuck

Tuck an adornment under one side.  Use a cinnamon stick, or a flower stem or this stem of pearl like buds.

 

The Triangle Tower - Buffet Style   

Using the same triangle technique but folding edge to edge, you can then stack them to create a uniformed row for a buffet table

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The fold & hold

Easy fold in half fashion and tying in the middle.

  • Lay the napkin right side down and fold each edge into the middle

  • Flip the napkin over placing a ribbon midway. Add an adornment

  • Tie one knot to secure and place onto the plate

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The Drape

The more elegant dropping of a napkin. 

  • Fold the napkin in half

  • Grab the middle folded edge and let the napkin naturally drape

  • Place the napkin on the plate. It will create pretty folds

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Fold the napkin in half and grab the folded edge.

Fold the napkin in half and grab the folded edge.

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The Tied Drape

Just add a ribbon tied 1/3 the way down from the top

As I mentioned, none of these are ground breaking.  They are simple techniques with a little extra pizzaz, which is what I believed you asked for.  I hope I sparked your creative spirit using the napkins and odds/ends pieces in your home to create a festive, happy landing place for your guests.  

 

Holiday Hosting Tips - Less Stress

Photo Credit: Paul Majewski

Photo Credit: Paul Majewski

Don't let hosting stress you out.  Serving up love during the holidays shouldn't cause grief.  On the contrary, it should bring joy.

In an attempt to ease any pain, I will share some of ways I keep organized when hosting.  I know this type of post has been a long time coming, as many of you have asked for helpful entertaining tips.  With the holidays only a month away, now's the time. Better sooner than later.  What good would a post on hosting tips be if it arrived right before the holiday when you smack in the thick of it.  "Thanks, Dana for the heads up!"  

Hopefully some of these will be of help right now.  Others you can tuck away and retrieve just in time to plan prior to any event or holiday madness.  Speaking of which, when did the holiday season go from being fun to stressful? I have two answers from my perspective.  (In the movie business this is known as foreshadowing. I am giving you a hint about how I organize my thoughts. Be prepared for many more lists and numbering of ideas to come!)

First answer: Perspective
The POV of a child simply enjoying holidays to the POV of an adult hosting them. That is definitely a major difference. When you are a kid, holidays are completely stress free.  You didn't have to do any buying or prepping, cooking or hosting.  Just sit back, wait for someone to pass you another gift and have a blast. 

Photo Credit: Paul Majewski

Photo Credit: Paul Majewski

 
Photo credit: Paul Majewski

Photo credit: Paul Majewski

Second answer: Competition 
Maybe not for everyone, but there seems to be the pressure of one up-manship. Somehow when we host we feel the need to outdo what we did from the previous year.  How can I make it different, better? This goes for gift giving, too. Why can't one present be enough?

UGH, the pressure.  So, let's start with giving the ole heave ho to those two reasons.  How about we revisit the feeling of being a child and just have fun. Bring back that kid again and find the joy and excitement of the holidays.  Be thrilled with a homemade ornament. Gather with family just to rejoice in all that we do have.

Photo Credit: Paul Majewski

Photo Credit: Paul Majewski

Ring in a joyous feeling. Whatever it was for you, whether it's playing Christmas carols, stringing old fashioned decorations like popcorn strung garland, or have a pot of cinnamon and apples simmering on the stove.  For me, it's baking traditional cookies and reminiscing about my grandmothers.  Let that holiday spirit knock on your door, enter into your home and your heart.

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On the competition side, what I have found over the years is that guests come because they enjoy the company and whatever food is prepared.  So let's just take the 'one up-manship' out of the equation and prepare an event that has as little stress as possible.  No one is keeping a scorecard.  So do what you can with the time and budget you have.  Your generosity of spirit will be enough.

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Once you have the emotionality back, then comes the practicality. Preparation is the key.  In the film/tv production world this is called pre-pro.  The pre-production work that is done prior to ensure that the production goes as smoothly as possible.  There are usually lists and budgets and contact sheets with phone numbers and schedules.  Guess what?  All these apply whenever throwing an event.  I guess this is why the transition from production to catering, events and home hosting was an easy one for me.  I love lists.  Even better, I love checking things off my lists.  Call me anal. Call me crazy.  Call me whatever you like but having a plan keeps you on track and avoids unnecessary spending and work. Once you try it, you will call me brilliant.

JC is fond of taking pictures of my lists.  I'm glad he does because now I have photo evidence to share with you. Some are handwritten like this image. Others I type up and print out.

Here's how I usually go about planning any party.

Step 1:  Guest List 

  • Family or friends or a mix

  • How many people do you want to host

Step 2: Event/party type

  • Decide the day and time

  • Is it down dinner, cocktail party, brunch?

Step 3: Menu Selection

Begin planning 2-3 weeks prior.  For me, quite time is when ideas come to me. So I sit in a corner of our living room known as the Moroccan bed and gather pen, pad, magazines, cookbooks and iPad. With a cup of coffee or glass of wine depending on the hour of the day I start my research, thumbing through recipes I have made or page through other materials for additional ideas. Then I begin making a list of menu items that I think would work with the theme or holiday.  At this stage it's the pie in the sky list.  I throw in all the possibilities.

Step 4: Menu Review and Refinement

This portion will be dictated by the guest list, the budget and how much time you have. When preparing a menu, it's fine to start with jotting down all the things you would love to make. But upon the all crucial review time, that's when you need to get down to brass tacks and make sure that you can pull off what you are dreaming about. Because I only have a 4 burner stove and 1 oven.  Yes, you read that right.  How this is possible I just don't know?  Believe me, I did my best song and dance to try to convince JuanCarlos that we should cut into our counter and cabinet to make room for a 6 burner/2 oven Wolf and take a wall down. Alas, I suck at singing, and clearly I didn't have the dance skills for that miracle to occur.  So planning out what gets cooked and warmed up in what order is essential. The dream list turned reality part starts here:

1- Budget:  This really helps narrow down your fantasy menu. It can be the deciding factor between serving monkfish vs. lobster. Sometimes JC and I have a budget in mind.  However, I must be completely honest with you, when we throw parties, we rarely feel constrained to stay within a certain $$.  We buy and make whatever moves us. But if you do need to stay within a budget, then this is the first item you should determine, as it will dictate what you can make. Having and sticking to a budget is also a good way to prevent you from overdoing and overspending,

2- Time: Next important reality check.  How much time and effort will each of these menu items take and is it realistic? A good way to cut down on time is incorporating a mix of homemade items with store bought/prepared items (like roasted nuts or marinated vegetables: mushrooms, artichoke hearts, etc) The only time required:  placing them on a platter or bowl.

3- Guests:  Who is coming, what would they like and are there any special needs (gluten free, vegetarians, Meat lovers, fish lovers, etc)

I review my menu with these crucial guidelines in mind and start revising ensuring that I have a variety of foods for everyone that I can make in the allotted time, and budget.

I also review the menu to include that there are cold, room temp and warm items.  This is for three main reasons. 

One, having cold or room temp items means one less thing to cook and need stove space.  

Two, these items can already be placed on the buffet table so that when guest arrive they can begin the nibbling.

Three, these items usually can be prepared ahead of time, stored in the fridge, and frees up time for you.

Step 5: List making 101: have a page for each list. That's right, there is more than one list.
(Clearly, I like putting things in order.  Plus, I promised you there would be plenty of lists and numbering and I like to keep my promises. I do believe lists help, especially when you reading so much information.  You are easily able to identify the things that are of value.)   Let's move on to the making of the lists, shall we.

  • Guest List

  • Shopping List

  • Daily To Do List

  • Day of Event List

  • Menu (with categories for appetizer/main/dessert)

1- Guest List: 
Send out invite or make phone calls and keep a list of who is coming, total number of guests and make any specific food restriction notes

 

2- Shopping List:
This will ensure you get everything you need and don't have to make any emergency runs during cooking preparations. It will also keep you from buying items that you do not need and thereby overspending. (Another confession, I sometimes don't stick to this list. I see things in the store that look great and toss them in my wagon thus adding to the menu. It's the nature of my something from nothing style that is engrained in me. But I am getting better at sticking to the list!)

This was one of 2 pages of my master list.

This was one of 2 pages of my master list.

3- Daily To Do List:
This list will be the life savior in keeping all the moving parts organized so you are not cramming everything into the day of the event. Remember pre-pro.  This is at the heart of it.  I review my menu, my theme and think of all the prep that needs to happen. Then I start to list everything that can be done ahead of time.  You can usually begin several days out, completing small tasks and spreading out the work so it truly is much less stressful.  Prep what you can a little at a time in manageable chunks, thus setting yourself up for an 'easy to assemble' approach on the day of.   One trick that has worked incredibly well for me is mise en place.  You remember what that is: French for, everything in it's place.  I cut, chop, prep ingredients, then place them in bags, containers and group each dish's ingredients together.  On the day of the party, all I have to do is combine them.

Get everything prepped, in the amounts you need. Then all you need to do is toss in a bowl. This method is ideal for handing off to a helper because all the hard work is done already.

Get everything prepped, in the amounts you need. Then all you need to do is toss in a bowl. This method is ideal for handing off to a helper because all the hard work is done already.

A sample Daily To Do List, can look like this:

Tuesday/Wednesday:

  • Shop for non perishable items

  • Iron linens for table

  • Straighten up house

Thursday

  • Shop for remaining food items

  • Pull out all platters and serving utensils

  • Buy and arrange florals

Friday

  • Food prep with exact list to check off

    • cut carrots

    • make dressings

    • marinate meat, etc

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Dishes
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4- Day of List:
Write down all the pending tasks you need to accomplish the day of the event.  

  • Assembly charcuterie/cheese platter

  • Shave zucchini, etc

  • Add toilet paper to bathrooms

  • Change hand towels

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5- Menu List:
I know you may feel this one is silly but I have found that having an actual menu sheet is incredibly helpful. I started incorporating it ever since I forgot to serve an item that was tucked in the back of the refrigerator. Having a complete menu in full sight reminds you of every item that you prepared so you won't forget a single thing.

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Food & Beverage Amounts
There are standard calculations to follow. Check here for a comprehensive summary.  I have my own take on this, as my experience has shown me that our guests enjoy grazing a bit more and longer than the usual estimates.

Appetizers/Hors d'oveurs
When figuring on amounts for each appetizers, plan on making 1.5-2 times the amount of each appetizers for each guest. For example, if you are serving mini meatballs to 20 guests you should have between 30-40 meatballs.  Below are approximate amounts for the different types of events.  My estimates are slightly higher than what is usually recommended.  That's what I learned from years of party throwing.  Plus I come from a long line of women who like to feed people, so being short on food is NOT an option.

Hors d'oveurs Before a Meal: Plan on 6-8 pieces per person.  
Hors d'oveurs as Main for Cocktail Party: Plan on 12-14 pieces per person.  

Serrano ham alongside slices of cool cucumber

Serrano ham alongside slices of cool cucumber

Marinated mushrooms, store bought and then enhanced with fresh parsley and roasted peppers

Marinated mushrooms, store bought and then enhanced with fresh parsley and roasted peppers

Goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers

Goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers

Beverages

  • 1.5 drinks/per hour per person

  • Wine bottles 750ml provides 5 glasses of wine

  • Champagne/Cava/Prosecco 750ml bottle provides 6 glasses per bottle

  • Water: 1 liter/4 guests. Offer both flat and sparking

  • Soft Drinks/Juices: Plan on 8 oz/person if you have wine/beer and have a variety of juices, soft drinks. Triple that if you are only serving non alcoholic beverages.

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Help:
When throwing a big party it's so important that you have help.  Don't be afraid to ask a family member or friend to come early to help you with the last minute items.  Or if your budget allows, hire someone who can assist in a variety of ways, from setting up, to arranging food on platters to serving and clean up.  Having been hired to do this for clients, I know what a huge difference this can make.  Recently I was able to hire one person to help me out during a family party.  It was a gamer changer since it meant that my party goers didn't need to lift a finger, and it freed me up to be able enjoy without any worries.  If you can't afford this option, then hopefully you are as lucky as I am to have guests that do help out.

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Well, that was a ton of info to read through. Sorry for the lengthy post but I have found that these are the keys to keeping me sane, on track and able to enjoy a party.  I wish for you a smooth holiday party throwing season, and that this post provided some helpful hints on how to host a bit more stress free.

 

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Happy Holidays

Cream Cheese Cake... I Mean Pie

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Have you ever had a dessert that was so yummy it formed a mental flavor print in your mind? So much so that when someone even mentions it your taste buds start screaming?  I have witnessed this effect whenever my mom has suggested that she make her cream cheese cake.  Which really isn't a cake at all, but a pie. Yet calling it a cheese pie just sounds weird.  Whatever the name, this dessert is like Kryptonite for some people.  Just push it near them and they begin to quiver.  Place a slice in front of them and they turn to mush.  

Over the past several decades my mom has gained legions of fans as she baked this simple, delightful dessert for a variety of different occasions.  Always being a staple on her Thanksgiving dessert menu.  So with that calorie laden holiday steaming down the highway, I wanted to share this super... and I mean super easy recipe with you.  Mind you, I have no idea where from where this recipe emerged.  I only know that she and my family have been making it for quite some time.  It's now one of those desserts that my friends ask if my mom or I will be making.  A while back, a friend who has a catering company enjoyed a slice at one of my parties.  Upon tasting it, she hired me to make this dessert among some of my other baked goods for her one of her clients. 

This 'pie' isn't that light fluffy cheese interior of a cake, but instead offers up a rich dense filling topped with a sour cream glaze.  It's creamy and velvety, and you are gonna want a second pie.  So maybe double the recipe below.  One for your guests, and keep one for yourself! 

 

So simple. It has but a few ingredients

So simple. It has but a few ingredients

Ingredients

For the pie filling:
12 oz. cream cheese
2 eggs, large
3/4 c sugar
1/2 t vanilla
9" Graham cracker crust
(Make your own or buy a pre-made version)

For the topping:
1 pint sour cream **
1 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla

**The original recipe calls for 8 oz sour cream. If you want a thin layer, then use this amount.  If you like the tangy flavor, the use 1 pint version.  It will give you a layer as thick as the layer of cheese.

 

Instructions

In a food processor, or with a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, eggs, sugar, vanilla until smooth and all combined. (Note: It helps if the cream cheese is room temperature.)

Fill the graham cracker crust with the cream cheese filling and smooth out to create an even surface. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the center is fully cooked. Check by piercing the center with a toothpick.  If it comes out clean, the pie is done.

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While the pie is baking, combine the topping ingredients together and stir until well incorporated.

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Check your pie doneness by piercing the middle with a toothpick.  When it comes out clean, it's ready for the topping.  Photo credit: Rob Perri

Check your pie doneness by piercing the middle with a toothpick.  When it comes out clean, it's ready for the topping. Photo credit: Rob Perri

Once the pie is done, pour the topping onto the pie. Using an offset spatula or even flat butter knife, spread and smooth the sour cream topping over the entire top, completely covering the cream cheese filling.

That's a whole lotta LOVE right there by way of falling fluffy goodness.    Photo credit: Rob Perri

That's a whole lotta LOVE right there by way of falling fluffy goodness.   Photo credit: Rob Perri

Photo credit: Rob Perri

Photo credit: Rob Perri

Photo credit: Rob Perri

Photo credit: Rob Perri

Then place the pie back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes, just until the topping sets.  Remove and let cool.

This pie has crunch, tart, sweet and tang.  How many dessert can deliver on all that? Even though I've shown a lot of photos, this pie is but a few easy steps. Mix, fill, bake. Top, bake, eat! 
So, if you are hosting, adding this dessert to your menu will not add stress in the least.  (And it can be made well in advance.)  And If you are a guest, volunteer to bring dessert.  You will definitely be invited back and requested to bring this decadent cheese cake again.  I mean pie!

Happy Sweet Tooth.

Since I used a store bought pie shell in a tin I felt the final presentation needed a little fancy schmancy.  Using some parsley greens and tangerines tucked around a cake stand upped the 'pretty factor', giving it that holiday theme color pop. Please don't stress out thinking you need to fancy up this dessert. If it's not your thing, just slice it up.  That said, go ahead and try copying my idea and build your confidence with styling. There's nothing wrong with imitation.  Or find your own way to stylize your final presentation.

Since I used a store bought pie shell in a tin I felt the final presentation needed a little fancy schmancy.  Using some parsley greens and tangerines tucked around a cake stand upped the 'pretty factor', giving it that holiday theme color pop. Please don't stress out thinking you need to fancy up this dessert. If it's not your thing, just slice it up.  That said, go ahead and try copying my idea and build your confidence with styling. There's nothing wrong with imitation.  Or find your own way to stylize your final presentation.