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Archive for Entertaining

TIP OF THE DAY: Frozen Fruit “Ice Cubes”

We love to flavor water with fresh fruit, and to add fruit to ice cubes.

Here’s a twist on conventional ice cubes: Use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes.

We have long made “party ice cubes” with a strawberry or other fruit (plus herbs, or savory ice cubes like cherry tomatoes and basil) embedded in an ice cube, but with frozen fruit only, there’s no surrounding ice to dilute the drink.

The only advisory:

  • Plain frozen fruit alone works better for drinks that are already chilled.
  • Fruits embedded in ice cubes will keep frozen longer, and are better for room temperature drinks.
  • However, watermelon, with its higher water content, can be cut into ice cube shape. The flavor doesn’t work with every beverage, but when it does, it’s terrific!

  • Wash and pat dry fresh strawberries or other fruit. If the leaves on strawberries are perky-looking, you can leave them on.
  • Place the fruit in the freezer in a pan, spaced so they don’t freeze together. When the fruit is frozen, you can remove it to a storage bag.
  • The easy way: Purchase bags of frozen fruit and use two or more varieties in each glass—strawberries and sliced peaches, for example.
  • Match the fruits to the flavors and colors of the drinks: cherry ice cubes, citrus (we love blood orange or grapefruit), cucumbers, grapes (use mixed colors), melon (try melon balls), other berries and sliced stone fruits.
  • Don’t stockpile the frozen fruit or fruit ice cubes: Make only what you’ll use within a week.

  • Coconut Water Ice Cubes
  • Flower Ice Cubes
  • July 4th Ice Cubes
  • Strawberry-Thyme Ice Cubes
  • Tea, Coffee Or Lemonade Ice Cubes
  • Wine Ice Cubes


    Fruit Ice Cubes

    Top: Freeze fruit to substitute for ice cubes (photo courtesy California Pizza Kitchen). Bottom: The more conventional way: Add fruit or herbs to the water before freezing the ice (photo courtesy Zespri| Facebook).




    FOOD FUN: Bacon Clothesline

    The innovative chef David Burke has 11 restaurants, stretching from Manhattan to Aspen.

    His playful yet polished cuisine has long featured memorable dishes, from Angry Lobster to Chocolate Burke’In Bag (a molded chocolate bag filled with mousse) to our latest fancy, Bacon On A Clothesline.

    Unlike many of his dishes, you can make your own Bacon On A Clothesline. It was all the rage at one of our recent parties, hanging on a string stretched between poles next to the bar. Get your drink, unpin a crisp slice of bacon and enjoy!

    If you’re entertaining outside for Father’s Day, rig up your own bacon clothesline for memorable “bar food.”

    Bacon On A Clothesline was created for Chef Burke’s latest restaurant, Fabrick. The menu also features a revolving choice of dishes such as Octopus Tacos, Baked Pork Shoulder with “Angry” Garlic, Skate “Chop,” Avocado Panna Cotta, Chicken Mousse with Crisped Chicken Skin and “Sticks On A Salt Brick”—skewers of duck parts on a slab of pink Himalayan salt.

    David Burke Fabrick is on the ground floor of the newly renovated garment district hotel, the Archer Hotel, a boutique hotel that also houses a Burke Group rooftop lounge, Spyglass, with skyline views.


    Bacon On A Clothesline

    Bacon, three strips of candied bacon with clothespins to a wood framed “clothesline.”

    There’s also and a California-style aerie at the entrance to the hotel, where you can have a cocktail and people watch.

    Fabrick is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, at 47 West 38th Street, Manhattan; 212-302-3838. The website:



    TIP OF THE DAY: DIY Bruschetta Bar


    Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

    DIY Bruschetta Bar

    Top: Grab a slice and pick your toppings. We love this selection from Center: The classic bruschetta topping: tomatoes, olive oil and basil. The tomatoes can be halved cherry or grape tomatoes or diced beefsteak or roma tomatoes (photo courtesy Bottom: As a bonus for guests, grill the bread as you need it, so it will be warm. Photo courtesy (see their other fun DIY bars).


    Oh, how we love bruschetta and crostini. Take slices of good crusty bread and grill (bruschetta) or toast (crostini—see the differences below) and add your favorite toppings. Crunchy and savory, it’s our idea of what to have with beer, wine or a Martini.

    It’s easy to toast bruschetta on the grill, and to take it one step further by setting up a DIY bruschetta bar for guests. If you’re grilling for Father’s Day, it’s a memorable way to start the event, with any beverage from iced tea and soft drinks to alcohol.

    By the way, that’s broo-SKETT-uh, not broo-SHETT-uh). The word is not only mispronounced in the U.S., but also misued. Bruschetta is the grilled bread, not the topping: bruscare means “to roast over coals.”

    We’ve seen jars of marinated tomatoes and basil sold as “bruschetta.” It should be labeled bruschetta topping.

    All you need are bread, olive oil and toppings. For a DIY bar, offer at least three different toppings. Our favorites are below.

  • Baguette loaves
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and peeled, halved (horizontally) garlic cloves
    For The Toppings

  • Avocado, mashed and seasoned (garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc.)
  • Fresh basil, julienned/shredded
  • Greens: baby arugula or watercress
  • Marinated artichoke hearts (chopped)
  • Mushrooms, marinated
  • Onions or green onions (scallions), chopped
  • Peppadews, sliced
  • Pimento, chopped or sliced
  • Tomatoes, diced and marinated in oil and vinegar
    More options: shredded mozzarella or other cheese (ricotta, spreadable goat cheese, thinly-sliced Brie), fish (we have a passion for anchovies and herring salad on bruschetta), other marinated vegetables, prosciutto or sliced salame with mustard or mostarda.

    1. SET out the toppings and teaspoons for serving. We use ramekins; you can use any bowls you have.

    2. SLICE the bread from 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Rub each side with cut garlic clove and brush each side with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill to your desired toastiness.

    3. PLACE the bread on a platter next to the toppings and watch people create their appetizers.

    Bruschetta and crostini are popular hors d’oeuvres/snacks that are easy to make. They’re a perfect pairing to wine and beer, and also can be served as a first course or a light meal, with a salad and/or soup, or with cheese.

    The differences between the two are the size of the slice and the cooking technique.

  • Bruschetta are cut from baguette-style loaves that are three or four inches in diameter, then grilled and topped. Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, where they are commonly served as a snack or appetizer. Rubbed with a garlic clove and brushed with oil before grilling, they may have been the original garlic bread.
  • Crostini cruh-STEE-nee) are cut from a narrower loaf like a ficelle, about two inches in diameter, and toasted, then topped.
  • Crostini (are croutons: not in the American sense of small cubes tossed into soup or salad, but slices of toasted bread (it’s the same with French croutons). They are often topped with spreadable cheese or pâté. Plain crostini are served with soups and salads, like melba toast, or set out with cheese.
  • Both can be served plain as toast to accompany another food. But with toppings, they are transformed.
  • The toppings for both can be as simple as extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper or diced tomatoes and basil, to almost any spread, vegetable, cured meat or cheese—even fruit, such as sliced strawberries with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and tarragon or other sweet herb*.
    *Sweet herbs include chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena licorice, mint, rose geranium and tarragon.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Tapas Party For World Tapas Day

    “Official” food holidays are those officially declared by a government: local, state or national. In these fast and loose days of the Internet, however, many companies and individuals don’t bother to seek official sanction for a “special observance day.” Instead, they simply announce online that a particular date is now World Nutella Day (started by two bloggers) or National [Whatever] Day.

    Here’s how official holidays are established in the U.S.

    No less an entity than the country of Spain has established a welcome new holiday: World Tapas Day. Spain’s tourism agency, Turespaña, has declared El Día Mundial de la Tapa, to recognize the “singular nature of this vital element of Spanish cuisine and culture” (here’s more information).

    World Tapas Day will be held each year on the third Thursday of June. That’s June 16th this year, and you’ve got time to plan a tapas party—or serve tapas for Father’s Day on June 19th. Tapas are easy to make. Check out these recipes from Martha Stewart. You can make it a “group party” and have everyone make a different tapa.

    Tapas are a long tradition in Spain. A snack for agricultural workers evolved into bar food, and has become so popular in modern times that it is now the focus of brunches and cocktail parties.

    While there are legends surrounding the birth of tapas, the accepted theory is that they originated as a snack for field workers. (Paella also originated among field workers, as the lunch meal.)

    As a refreshment during the long hours between breakfast and lunch, workers were served wine from a ceramic jug. The top of the jug was covered with a piece of bread with ham or cheese, which served to keep insects out of the wine. Tapa is a cover or lid.

    As the idea came to cities, tapas with a snack became popular at midday or for an after-work drink. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, tapas (TOP-us) are “a small portion of any food served to accompany a drink.”

    The original tapas were simple: slices of bread with ham or chorizo served free with a drink. The bread was set on top of the glass rim and covered the drink, just as with the jug of wine. Today the choices can be vast, and are served on small plates.

    It has evolved into a verb, tapear: to eat tapas. A tapeo is a social gathering where the food is tapas.As with the free caviar supplied at American taverns in the 19th century (American sturgeon were plentiful then, and caviar was cheap [sigh]), the salty food made patrons thirstier and they bought more alcohol.


    Tapas Plate

    Modern Tuna Tapas

    TOP: A platter of tapas: tortilla (potato omelet), boquerones (marinated anchovies) and chiles fritos (fried shishito peppers (photo courtesy Foods From Spain). Bottom: Headed to Vegas? Check out the best tapas restaurants in this feature from Vegas Magazine. This is Julian Serrano’s modern take on tuna tapas.


    Today, tapas comprise a wide variety of cold or hot foods can be ordered with a drink or combined into an entire meal.

    Each region of Spain serves tapas that reflect the local cuisine. Meats, cheeses, olives and nuts and tortillas (egg and potato omelet) are common to all areas, with more seafood tapas along the coastline.

    Spaniards seek out the best tapas bars (a bar that serves tapas—not all bars do) as Americans seek out the best pizza. While tapas are ubiquitous all over Spain, cities such as Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, Málaga, San Sebastian and Seville are known for the quality, variety and innovation of their tapas.


    Croquetas de Bacalao

    Empanada Gallega Galicia

    Top: Croquetas De Bacalo, cod croquettes. Bottom: Empanada Gallega Galicia, Galician Pork and Pepper Pie—the original empanada (photos courtesy



    Amuses-bouche, antipasto, hors d’oeuvre, mezzo and tapas are similar, though different.

  • Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated on a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed but before the food arrives. It is brought after the wine is poured. It is just one bite: A larger portion would constitute an appetizer. Amuses-bouches tend to be complex in both flavors and garniture, and enable the chef to show creativity.
  • Antipasto, the traditional first course of a formal Italian dinner, is an assortment of anchovies, cheeses (mozzarella, provolone), cured meats, marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms and other vegetables, olives, peperoncini and pickled foods. The choices vary greatly, reflecting regional cuisines. Some restaurants have antipasto buffets.
  • Appetizer, a first course lately referred to as a starter in fashionable venues, is small serving of food served as a first course. It can be the same type of food that could be served as an entrée or a side dish, but in a smaller portion (e.g., a half-size portion of gnocchi). Or it could be something not served as a main dish, such as smoked salmon with capers.
  • Hors d’oeuvre (pronounced or-DERV) are one- or two-bite tidbits served with cocktails. They can be placed on a table for self-service, or passed on trays by the host or a server. Canapés—small pieces of bread or pastry with a savory topping, served at room temperature—were the original hors d’oeuvre. They’ve been joined in modern times by hot options such as cheese puffs, mini quiches, skewers, baby lamb chops and other foods. Also in modern times, several pieces of hors d’oeuvre can be plated to serve as an “hors d’oeuvre plate” appetizer/first course.
  • The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook. Thus, a cheese plate is not an hors d’oeuvre, nor is a crudité tray with dip, even though someone has cut the vegetables and made the dip. Martinets note: In French, the term “hors d’oeuvre” is used to indicate both the singular and plural forms; Americans incorrectly write and speak it as “hors d’oeuvres.”
  • Mezze or meze (pronounced MEH-zay) refers an assortment of small dishes, served to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer plate before the main dish. In Greece, expect mezedes of feta cheese, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, assorted raw vegetables and dips like taramasalata and tzatziki. Among the many other options, anchovies and sardines, saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and roasted red peppers are commonly served. In the Middle East, you’ll typically find dips (babaganoush, hummus), olives, pickles, tabouleh and other items, from raw vegetables to falafel and sambousek (small meat turnovers). Don’t forget the pita wedges!
  • Tapas (pronounced TOP-us) are appetizers or snacks that comprise a wide variety of popular foods in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold or hot, from cheese and olives to chorizo to a tortilla, meatballs, or fried squid. While originally traditional foods, some tapas bars now serve very sophisticated plates. You can order one or more tapas with a glass of wine, or order a series of plates to create a full meal.

  • Entertaining With Tapas
  • Vermouth & Tapas Brunch Or Cocktails
  • Potato Tapas


    TIP OF THE DAY: A DIY Grilled Stuffed Avocado Bar

    We’ve written a lot about “party bars” for entertaining, where guests add their favorite fillings or toppings to customize a food. Check out:

  • Breakfast & Brunch Party Bar
  • Lunch & Dinner Party Bar
  • Sushi Hand Roll (Temaki) Party Bar

  • Brownie Sandwich Bar
  • Ice Cream Bar
  • Pudding Party Bar
  • Assorted Desserts Party Bar

  • Guacamole Party Bar
  • Popcorn Party Bar

  • Apple Cider Party Bar
  • Flavored Shots Party Bar
    And now, a…


    The California Avocado Commission sent us the idea, from recipe developer Rachel Matthews of She takes grilled avocados to a higher level by letting each person select his or her favorite fillings.

    “A Grilled Stuffed Avocado Bar is so incredibly easy to put together,” says Rachel, “and it’s a great way for people to get creative with their food.”

    The concept can be used for sides or appetizers and snacks with beer and wine. Prep time is 1 minute, cook time is 10 minutes, plus prep time for the fillings.

    Of course, you can also have a plain DIY Avocado Bar, with uncooked avocados.
    Ingredients Per Serving

    For The Avocados

  • Ripe avocados, seeded, unpeeled
  • Olive oil
    For The Fillings

    Consider savory, spicy and sweet options. Some suggestions:

  • Black bean and corn salsa
  • Cherry tomato/grape tomato salad
  • Chili
  • Chopped olive salad
  • Corn salad
  • Crumbled or shredded cheese: blue, cheddar, cotija, feta, goat, jack, etc.
  • Cucumber salad
  • Diced fruit: mango, peach, pineapple, strawberry, or fruit salsa
  • Grilled and diced or shredded protein (chicken, steak, etc.)
  • Grilled shrimp
  • Rice/grain, bean, or lentil salad
  • Seafood salad
  • Sour cream
  • Tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa

  • Lime wedges
  • Optional: tortilla chips for garnish and dipping
  • Optional: hot sauce, salt and pepper

    1. PREHEAT the grill to medium-high and set out the fillings, plates and utensils.

    2. BRUSH the flesh side of each avocado half with olive oil, to keep them from sticking to the grill. Place them flesh side down on a medium-high heated grill. Cook for about 5 minutes. If you want cross-hatch grill marks, change the direction the avocados lie on the grill. Either way, grill them another 4–5 minutes or until you see the skin of the avocado change colors (it’s really noticeable).

    3. PLACE the avocados on a platter next to the fillings, and watch your guests enjoy creating their food.


    Avocado Halves

    Avocados On The Grill

    Grilled Avocados

    Fajita-Stuffed Grilled Avocado

    Grilled Avocado With Strawberries

    Top: Halved avocados, ready to grill. Second: Face down on the grill. Third: Turn the avocados to get attractive hatch marks. Fourth & Fifth: Rachel Matthews’s favorites: Grilled Fajita Avocado and Strawberry Balsamic Avocado. Top photo courtesy Tio Gazpacho, other photos courtesy Rachel Matthews | California Avocado Commission.

    Rachel’s favorite creations:

  • The Fajita Stuffed Grilled Avocado: grilled steak fajita meat, black bean and corn pico, tortilla chip.
  • Strawberry Balsamic Stuffed Grilled Avocado: chopped strawberries, balsamic vinegar, feta cheese.
    Let us know your favorites!


    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Rosé Wine Tasting

    Sancerre Rose Wine

    Rose Wine For Summer

    Top: Rosé is a style of wine, not a particular grape varietal or wine region. This photo shows a Sancerre, a wine made in the eastern Loire Valley of France in the area around Sancerre, an ancient hilltop town. While white Sancerre is made from the [white] Sauvignon Blanc grape, red Sancerre and rosé Sancerre are both made from the [red] pinot noir grape (photo Thor | Wikimedia). Bottom: Some of the different hues of rosé wines (photo


    In France, more rosé wine is sold than white wine [source]. Rosé is also a popular warm-weather wine, and a great pairing with grilled foods and picnic foods.

    So with Memorial Day at hand, how about a rosé tasting party? There are as many different styles of rosé wines as with other varietals. A tasting is an opportunity to get to know the different producers and identify some favorites.

    Here’s how to have a wine tasting party, although you can simply set out the bottles and let people do their own thing.

    Unlike Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other grape varietals, there is no “rosé grape.” Rather, a rosé wine can be made from any red wine grape*. White Zinfandel, for example, is a sweet rosé wine, also called a blush wine. Most rosé wines, however, are dry wines. First:

  • The term rosé does not refer to the type of grape or the vinification process, but to the pink color. A rosé wine can be actually be made by blending red and white wine together; however this is not a common process.
  • Most rosés are dry wines made from red wine grapes. The pink color comes from limited skin contact with the red grape skins during vinification. Rosé’s color is actually a hue of what would become red wine with longer skin contact.
  • The juice pressed from red wine grapes is the same color as the juice from white wine grapes: clear. Red wine color comes from extended skin contact during the early stages of winemaking, a process known as maceration†.
  • Pink wines, a term that encompasses rosé, blush, and anything else with a pink hue, can be any shade from pale pink to deep rose. It depends on the grape used and the length of skin contact (from one to three days).
  • Blush wine is an American term that refers specifically to pink wines made from red wine grapes, with only enough skin contact to produce a “blush” of red color. The term first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1980s, as a marketing device to sell pink wines. At the time, Americans were not buying rosé wines, while White Zinfandel, with its pink hue, was flying off the shelves (at one point it was the largest-selling wine in America). There weren’t enough Zinfandel grapes to meet demand, so winemakers had to use other red grape varietals.
  • Pink wines made from other grapes could not legally be called “White Zinfandel,” so a new category name—blush—was created.
  • American pink wines, whether from Zinfandel or another grape, are typically sweeter and paler than French-style rosés. The term “blush” began to refer to not just to pink wines, but to those that were made on the slightly sweet side, like White Zinfandel. These days, all three terms are used more or less interchangeably by people outside the wine-producing industry.

  • Rosé Sangria
  • Rosé Champagne & OtherSparkling Rosés
    *“Red grape” skins can be black, purple or red, depending on the varietal. A rosé can also be made by blending red and white wines, although this is less common.

    †The skin contact phase of winemaking is known as maceration. In this phase, the phenolic materials of the grape—tannins, coloring agents (anthocyanins) and flavor compounds—leach into the must (the newly-pressed juice) from the grape skins, seeds and stems. Maceration is a food and wine term that means to soften by soaking. Here’a more about maceration.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Bouquet Of Crudités

    At every party and dinner, we have a basket of crudités as a better-for- you option and for those with dietary constraints. For Mother’s Day, we’re adding some flower power with this Bouquet Of Crudités from Hidden Valley,

    Hidden Valley serves them with their Original Ranch Dressing; we’re making a nonfat yogurt dip.


    Prep time is 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 2 orange bell peppers
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 2 mini orange, red or yellow bell peppers (or substitute 2 more conventional size)
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes (substitute radishes)
  • 6 snap peas
  • 6 six-inch bamboo skewers
  • Yogurt dip (recipe below)

    Crudites Bouquet

    Take an artistic approach to crudités with this vegetable bouquet (photo courtesy Hidden Valley).


    1. MAKE the dip (recipe below) and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

    2. WASH and seed the peppers. Cut jagged edges into the tops.

    3. STICK the snap peas on the skewers to create the leaves. Insert the skewers through the bottoms of each pepper and put the tomato in the center as shown. Arrange in a flower pot, vase or on a plate.


    This recipe can be served as a dip with crudités, pretzels and other snacks, or as a topping/sauce for grilled fish, meat, poultry, even burgers. You can also mix it with boiled potatoes, macaroni or shredded cabbage for a fat-free potato salad, macaroni salad or cole slaw.

    Or sweeten it and use it as a fruit dip.

    The recipe makes a small bowl of dip, or 4 sauce servings for a main course. You can use your creativity to mix and match the seasonings to your main.


  • 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt (you can substitute other plain yogurt, but Greek style is the thickest and creamiest)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, basil, chives or other favorite herb, minced

    1. BLEND the yogurt, garlic, lime juice and ginger in small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.


    1. REPLACE the garlic with one teaspoon agave, honey or sweetener of choice. (Only lightly sweeten the dip: You want to appreciate the sweetness of the fruit, not overwhelm it.)

    2. REPLACE the herb with grated lime zest or other citrus zest (lemon, grapefruit).
    *The Hidden Valley recipe combines 1/2 cup Original Ranch Light Dressing and 8 ounces softened fat-free cream cheese, chilled until ready to serve.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Eggs In Mini Flower Pots

    Last spring we published a tip on serving foods in mini flower pots—the size that can be used to pot small succulents.

    You can use them anytime: to serve breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks.

    You can find mini flower pots in terra cotta or terra cotta-colored plastic. Either can go into the dishwasher.

    For Mother’s Day or other special occasion, why not start the day by using them to serve scrambled or boiled eggs?

    Use wax paper, parchment or butterhead lettuce leaves (bibb, Boston, green leaf, red leaf) to plug the drainage hole on the bottom of the flower pot; then add the food.

    Garnish scrambled eggs or peeled boiled eggs with:

  • Minced chives or parsley
  • Salmon caviar (or other caviar or roe)
  • Truffles
    Include a salt shaker (or flavored salt) and a peppermill.

    You can serve scrambled eggs in a Martini glass.

    Don’t like eggs? Serve berries in the flower pots.


    This variation tops scrambled eggs with bay scallops, and a chive stem for garnish. If the chives are flowering, great! Photo courtesy David Burke Fromagerie.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Use Snifters For Food

    Brandy Snifter

    Tuna Tartare In Snifter

    Top: Brandy snifter from Crate and Barrel. Bottom: Tuna tartare served in a snifter at Vinkeles Restaurant in Amsterdam.


    When we saw this tuna tartare served in a brandy snifter (second photo), we were one-upped. For years, we’ve been using wine goblets, Martini glasses, espresso cups, tea cups and juice glasses to serve food. But it hadn’t occurred to us to drag out the least-used glassware we own: brandy snifters.

    We dragged them from the back of closet, ran them through the dishwasher, and have been using them to serve amuses-bouche, sides, soups, desserts. Family and friends are delighted by the presentation.

    If you own Belgian-style beer glasses, enlist them as well.

  • Anything runny
  • Bread pudding, custard, mousse, other puddings
  • DIY dessert garnishes—berries, chocolate chips or lentils, coconut, dried fruit, mini marshmallows
  • DIY savory garnishes—diced green onions, grated cheese, herbs, sliced jalapeños
  • DIY sliced onions (to spare the onion-averse)
  • Fruit salad or compote
  • Gazpacho or other chilled soup
  • Ice cream or sorbet
  • Individual servings of dips and condiments
  • Lemon or lime wedges
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Olives
  • Purées
  • Seafood salad, tartare
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Yogurt parfaits
    Place a snifter on the kitchen counter to remind you of what you could serve in it. And let us know what works for you.



    TIP OF THE DAY: A Popcorn Bar For Healthy Snacking

    We’ve been getting daily pitches for Super Bowl snacks, none of which would pass muster with New Year’s healthy eating resolutions (crudités with yogurt dip instead of pizza and wings, for example).

    So we’ve decided to publish one of our favorite good-for-you snack (see below) that’s also lots of fun: the Popcorn Bar.

    Popcorn is a whole grain snack, and low in calories unless caloric toppings/mix-ins are added. But provide an assortment of healthy toppings along with the candy, and there will be something for everyone.


    Better-For-You Toppings/Mix-Ins

  • Apple chips (our favorite is Bare Fruit)
  • Cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg (blend it yourself)
  • Chopped cilantro or other herb
  • Corn Nuts/Inka Corn
  • Diced jalapeño
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Mini pretzels or pretzel sticks
  • Nuts (pine nuts, peanuts, pistachios, slivered almonds)
  • Pepper or chile flakes
  • Seasoned salt
  • Seeds: chia, flax, pumpkin, sesame, etc.
  • Other spices
  • Trail mix
    Fun & Sweet Toppings/Mix-Ins

  • Candy: gummy bears, jelly beans, Junior Mints, mini
    marshmallows, mini peanut butter cups, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces
  • Chocolate-covered or candied nuts; candy-coated seeds
  • Coconut flakes
  • Chocolate chips and other baking chips (butterscotch, mint,
    peanut butter, vanilla)
  • Cinnamon sugar (blend it yourself: cinnamon, sugar and a bit
    of nutmeg)
  • Dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc.)

    Popcorn Toppings

    Popcorn Toppings

    Popcorn Bar

    Top: Popcorn bar; photo courtesy Middle: Candy-focused toppings for kids, courtesy Family Fresh Meals. Bottom: Popcorn bar from

  • Goldfish or other cheese crackers

  • 3 cups of popped corn per person (it’s much better to pop the corn yourself and serve it fresh, than to buy it)
  • Bowls for ingredients and bowls for serving
  • Spoons for ingredients and for mixing them in individual bowls
  • Napkins

    Plan on three cups per person. Instead of trying to make a mega-batch in the microwave, try no more than 1 cup of kernels at a time. Microwaves differ in power, so if you want to pop more than one cup at a time, do a test batch.

    Ingredients For 3 Cups

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable* oil
  • Brown paper lunch bag
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

    1. COMBINE the popcorn and oil in a bowl and mix to coat. Add to bag and sprinkle in the salt. Fold the top of the bag over twice to seal in the ingredients.

    2. MICROWAVE on full power for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes, listening until you hear pauses of 2-3 seconds between pops. Remove the bag from the microwave. Even though there may be some unpopped kernels, to continue cooking risks burning the popped kernels.

    3. OPEN the bag carefully, releasing the hot steam; then pour into a serving bowl.
    *For an interesting twist, experiment with other oils you may have on hand: nut oils, sesame oil, etc.


    Popcorn Kernels

    It’s easy to make all-natural popcorn in the
    microwave with a brown paper bag. The
    result: additive-free corn. Photo courtesy



    1. COVER the bottom of a 3- to 4-quart pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil (don’t use butter, it will burn). Place 3 kernels of popcorn in the pan, cover with a loose lid that allows steam to escape, and heat. When the kernels pop…

    2. POUR in enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan, one kernel deep. Cover the pan and shake to evenly spread the oil. When the popping begins to slow to a few seconds apart, remove the pan from the stove top. The heated oil will still pop the remaining kernels.

    3. COOL for at least 5 minutes before serving.

    It’s a pleasant surprise: home-popped popcorn is one of the healthiest snacks you can enjoy.

    It’s full of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help to neutralize the free radicals that contribute to aging. In fact, popcorn has one of the highest levels of polyphenols of any plant food.

    It’s also a whole grain, packed with fiber. If you use just a little butter or cheese, you’re adding a bit of cholesterol; but it’s just as easy to skip the cheese, use olive oil, and pile on lots of herbs and spices.

    Note that prepackaged, store-bought microwave popcorn is less good for you, made with chemicals and synthetics for flavoring and coloring.

    So pop it yourself—it’s easy enough!



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