Monday, June 30, 2008

Eggs Cubed

How do you serve Deviled Eggs at a party? The little stinkers have a round bottom so they have a tendency of rollin over. You can use a tray if you're lucky enough to have one. My Grandma gave me a beautiful one for my birthday a couple years ago. If you're one of the sad masses without, you have two options. You can go out and throw down some money on buying one.

Or you can purchase the fabulous EGG CUBER!

For a small chunk of change you can be the owner of this little doohickey which guarantees a flat bottom and keeps your deviled eggs sittin pretty.

Deviled Eggs: Devilishly Easy

Deviled Eggs are always a hit at any party. They're easy to make and lots of fun to eat. Here is a quick recipe to help you egg it up at your next party.

Deviled Eggs:
makes 48

Place 24 eggs in a bowl of water and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for about 10 minutes and then turn burner off. Leave eggs in water until water has cooled a bit. Drain eggs and sit.

When the eggs are cool to the touch, peel shells of the eggs and discard. Egg shells are great for the compost pile or can also be used to sharpen blades in your garbage disposal. If you have neither of these just discard.

Check out this guy, its a twin!

Cut hard boiled eggs in half. Scoop out the yolks and place in mixing bowl. With a blender mix into the eggs:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup honey mustard
  • 1/4 cup spicy mustard
  • 2 tsp of paprika
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp horseradish

Egg yolk filling in my mixer.

These measurements are approximated. Taste the filling as you go along. If you like it more spicy, add more paprika or hot sauce. Make sure your filling is nice and smooth with no lumps.

Decorative tip on my pastry bag makes the filling so attractive!

I like to use a pastry bag with a decorative tip to add filling to the egg whites, but you can just spoon it in. Once the egg whites are filled, you can garnish with paprika, olives, capers or whatever you wish.

And you're done. Eat up!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Recipes off the box!

I am sure you are still anxious to get more recipes and tips from my crazy Better Homes & Gardens meets Pee-Wee's Playhouse party. I already gave you Pee-wee's refrigerator. Here is the 1968 housewife section: three quick recipes which are full of fun and flavor.

**As a quick disclaimer, I am sort of embarrassed by some of my recipes. I can guarantee they are all tasty, but as some of you out there don't know much about my cooking style yet, I just want to assure you, Velveeta and Jimmy Dean sausages aren't daily ingredients I use in my food. However, if you want to cook like a 60's housewife, they are a must!

Jimmy Dean Sausage Cocktail toasts.

To create these divine munchables just brown together
  • 1lb of Ground Beef (the best organic free range drug free Kobe beef - or just the cheapest you can find)
  • 1lb highest quality JIMMY DEAN pork sausage
drain grease

Mix in 1 lb VELVEETA!!
  • 1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic powder.

Heat until melted
Spoon over cocktail rye bread

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 min!

Click here for other tasty Velveeta recipes!!

Click here for awesome Velveeta party planning tips !!!

(They didn't even pay me for all that gratuitous product placement. Am I a sucker or what?)

Cocktail Wieners!!
  • 1lb "smokies" cocktail wieners
  • 1lb bacon cut in thirds
Wrap smokies in bacon and pierce with tooth pics

(Pic courtesy of

Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes
When top looks cooked, flip over and cook other side for 20 - 30 more minutes

Place in saucepan with:
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. ketchup
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 2 Tablespoons of whiskey
Simmer 15 minutes. Serve. If you have a slow cooker you can put them out in this on low to keep them warm.

**note on above: I increase ketchup to 2/3 cup and obviously I add way more whiskey. Come on!

All right everybody, run to the store, purchase some Velveeta and Jimmy Dean Sausage and let's get partyin!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lets eat animals!

So as I told you, this is a food blog. As of yet, I actually haven't actually talked about food, but that is going to change today. I'm sure after viewing all my party pictures you are all in a tizzy to make your own olive penguins and red velvet lobster cakes. I want to help you live that dream. Read on to make fantasy a reality! You don't have to be a carnivore to eat all of these tasty little critters!

I've had the most requests for details on the olive penguins, which are quite easy to make. Here is an excellent step by step courtesy of Paper Capers!

My only addition, is to buy the nice tooth pics. Of course I am a cheapskate and bought the crappy flat kind which are not strong or long enough. The circular ones work better. As you can see (the penguin with the blue pom pom sticking out of his head), I resorted to cutting the tops off the decorative ones i bought for the cheese bowl.

I made my arctic army three days ahead,

and they kept well in an air tight bowl. I didn't find it necessary to include olive brine as Paper Capers recommends. (I know I already displayed this pic in a previous post, but come on, so cute!)

For the Red Velvet Lobster cake, I worked off the Food Network's Southern Red Velvet cake recipe, which I found to be very straight forward. I didn't manipulate this recipe since with baking you have a little less flexibility. As the recipe is enough for three cake pans, I was able to make two lobster cakes. This was perfect because, as we all know, lobsters mate for life! I only had one tin, so I devided the batter in two halves and mixed right before cooking. I did this so the vinegar-baking soda mixture (which adds the fluffiness to the cake by bubbling up) reacted upon contact right before being put into the oven.

I had to snicker because the undecorated cake reminded me of a link my sister had sent me. Te he!

I used the cream cheese frosting recipe included with the cake and colored it with a little red frosting for the decoration.

Moving on; Octopus Wieners and the Squidogs are both really easy to make. You just cut a hot dog in half leaving space at the top for a head. You continue to cut each "tentacle" in half until you have 8. Super easy! Although there are products you can purchase to do this for you if you want. To make a squid, I just cut triangles out of each side of the head. Whole cloves for the eyes add some spice! has a step by step with pics.

Although this may not be an edible animal, it sure is fantastical! Even you can have an easy-to-make strawberry topiary for your next party. OK, so its not a topiary, but I was planning it to be.

strawberry topiary

I was tyring to recreate a strawberry topiary pictured in the "French Connection" section of Thelma Neil's 1970 Foods with a Foreign Flair. I cut down bamboo skewers so they weren't too long. I then stuck them through the strawberries and then anchored them into cabbage. I didn't have time to figure out how to anchor it to stick out of a pot so I cut the cabbage in half plopped the monster on a plate. Also, I planned this object as a way to present skewered strawberries for a chocolate fondue, but again at the last minute I cancelled this because I had a lot of food already, and didn't have time to put the fondue together (even though it is super easy to do, just melt some chocolate with some cream!) I decided to put the strawberries out on their own, because strawberries are yummy no matter what.

Why am I giving you all this information about what I was planning with the topiary and what I edited out? Because when you run out of time to get things together, sometimes it is best to cut out unnecessary steps. No one knew the wiser about my no-show chocolate fondue or missed the pot and stem necessary for recreating a real topiary. They just thought, "yum, strawberries, munch munch."

It's good to have a theme and a plan to work around, but it is also good to be flexible and edit things out. This way you don't go crazy and can attempt to appear somewhat calm and collected in front of all your early arriving guests!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fourth Of July ForkFest

We (as in I) are proud, excited and nervous to announce our first food event. On Sunday, July 6, 2008 we will be hosting the Fourth of July ForkFest. Here you can feast in real life on our Fabulous Forkable foods. (Ira said after this I am not allowed to use any more fork puns so I am really gonna do it up)

Please come by for our SOUTHERN FOOD EXTRAVAGANZA! Fork on delicious pulled pork and fixins. Vegetarian and vegan options will include homemade BBQ Seitan and sides. Dessert will be included. Oh my God, what a deal!!! BYOB!

$15 suggested cover for online reservation. $20 cover at door for any available spaces.

Two time slot options will be available at 4-5 pm. and 6-7 pm. Spaces are limited. Reservations are on a first come, first served basis. If you are interested in reserving a spot for our Forkfest, please email me at with your time preference. I will respond to your email with more information. Hope to see you there!!!

The real gift!

The real gift of hosting a party for someone comes in not asking them to come over and help you clean up the next day!

And this is what it looked like after my friend Malissa went around after everyone went to bed and collected all these bottles and cans!

For this kind of work, protective head gear is a must!!

Better Homes & Gardens Meets Pee-Wee's Refridgerator

On Saturday night, we hosted Bernhardt and Stacy's "Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish Get the Hell Out of Chicago" going away party. As I said in my previous post, I wanted to do something very kitschy. I made as many animal shaped food items as I could with good ingredients like olives, cream cheese, Velveeta and jimmy dean sausage!! I wanted to make the housewives of 1968 proud!

The menu included a pair of Red Velvet Lobster cakes.

Here are the guests of honor. What a pair of Lobsters!!

Whenever Bern knows you are taking a picture of him, he always looks like he's going to prison.

Anywho, the menu. Yes, we move on to our next course of olive and cream cheese penguins with a cream cheese, ham and green onion cheese ball igloo.

With a strawberry topiary in the background.

Next we have deviled eggs with Octowieners!!

OK, sure, you've seen those before. But have you ever seen squidogs??

Pictured with canned squid in ink from the Richwell Chinese market and squid jerky from Mitsua Japanese market. The jerky has a weird consistency, like chicken and beef together. I sort of felt like it might be similar to human jerky but that's kind of gross, so forget i mentioned that.

OK, on with the show! I also served a shrimp cocktail dip with cream cheese (AGAIN!!!), shrimp and yes, cocktail dip sauce. How complicated! I served cocktail wieners wrapped in bacon in a brown sugar, whiskey and ketchup sauce. Yum! Jimmy Dean sausage toasts, with Jimmy Dean sausage smothered in Velveeta on rye cocktail toasts, which are always a hit. We had a bowl of cheese cubes and tooth pics. Classy! There was a Gruyere cheese fondue with french bread and assorted vegetables to dip, as well as a basket of assorted crackers.

The food after it's been attacked by the starving masses, with my Aunt Dottie and my friend John in the background.

Aren't we looking good!!

It was a beautiful night, so everyone wanted to hang out outside!

All in all, we had a great time, and drank a ridiculous amount of beer, wine, and of course whiskey! Here in one of our mass group shots, we toast to a quick and easy exodus out of Chicago to the promise land of Charleston South Carolina!

Much drunken offerings of "I'm gonna miss you sooo much" were slurred!

You guys aren't going anywhere without some goodbye kisses!

The evening went way into the wee hours, with no complaints from the neighbors even though we were dancing away at 3:30! I'm glad I gave them warning! Click here for a our slide show and click here for Stacy's slide show of all the party drunkenness.

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful evening! Bern and Stacy: WE'RE GONNA MISS YOU!!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

And Don't Forget About Your Neighbors!

I like to put a sign up in our foyer about the party on Wednesday or Thursday to give my neighbors advance warning!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Party Planning when you're Pooped!

It seems as though things always happen at the same time. I started this blog, which even though I have only been posting once every four days, is taking a little more time then I budgeted myself. My friends are about to move to South Carolina, so I have been preparing all week for their going away party this Saturday and to top it all off, Ira and I have stated fostering a dog. And not just any dog, a 100 lb Mastiff stray rescue. She is a super cute sweetie and really hasn't disrupted our household at all, but of course, all I want to do is sit around and pet her!

The dog temporarily known as Sasha.

So amongst all these distractions, I am trying to put together a party for Bernhardt and Stacy. They are both very much into kitsch, so I have been planning the menu accordingly.

Last week, I did some research into my Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks to get a menu planned. The more disgusting the picture, the more I want to go for it!

I put together a final menu last weekend, and compiled my shoping list and my schedule for prepping food. SO MANY LISTS!!

I also have a budget to keep in mind. I'm trying to stay around $100. The smaller bodegas and ethnic markets have better prices for items they sell a lot of but may be a specialty product for the larger chains. For example, it is much cheaper to get Tahini from a Lebanese market then to buy it from Safeway. (I love visiting the ethnic markets and I plan to go into this subject more in depth in my blog). So far, I have made three of my four stops stores. Jewel: $33.25, for all my corporate grocery needs, Riches Deli: $36.00 for all of our Eastern European Grocery needs and Cermak Produce: $26.01 for all my Hispanic grocery needs. I have about $5.00 left of my budget to shop tomorrow at the local produce market. I'll probably go a little over, but not much.

So every day after work, I've done a bit of shopping at a different store to chip away at the work a little at a time. Since the party is tomorrow, I've been able to start preping some of the food over the past day or so. Some things can't be done until right before the food is served, but a lot of things can be prepped before so it is ready and waiting. Last night I prepared some little soldiers to kill everyone with their cuteness!

Tonight and all day tomorrow, I'll be cooking like crazy and hanging out with my new dog friend. I have forced Ira to agree to helping me with a couple of things so hopefully I won't be too stressed. I'll give a more detailed post after the party with pics of the food and descriptions of menu stuff.

For now I've got the army on ice!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Down With The Dictatorship Of The Recipe

I used to be a horrible cook. Much to the chagrin of my parents' attempt to teach me to cook real food, I was notorious for burning even boxed brownies and having crunchy Kraft mac and cheese for my lunch. Because of my very rebellious and inpatient personality, I always found the structure of recipes to be oppressive with very narrow parameters, always telling me what to do and ordering me around! So when I moved out of the house at 17 and tried making food for myself, I thought, screw this! Frozen pizza, canned soup, and cereal were my three food groups.

When I started dating Ira, he was vegan, so he had become skilled at cooking for himself due to the rarity of good vegan fast food. Every night he would make himself a delicious stir fry or rice and beans. As I began to help him out, he would explain to me what he was doing and why. He never used a recipe for any of the simple meals he prepared because he understood the underlying principles of how the dish worked. Where a recipe tells you what to do, most never explain why. So as Ira explained very basic rules like cooking harder vegetables first and what basic ingredients are necessary for a sauce, I began to see that one doesn't need to follow a recipe down to the dot to have the food turn out yummy!

As I got more confident in my cooking abilities, I moved on to cooking on my own. Trying more and more techniques and attempting more difficult food items, I was able to understand how different dishes are constructed. By using a recipe merely as a guideline and not as strict rules, I no longer felt trapped, and I allowed myself the freedom to explore and be creative. Now when preparing a dish I have never cooked before, I peruse a recipe to see what the general technique is, and then I use my own creativity decide in what ways I plan to follow or deviate from it.

A lot of people are afraid of deviating from a recipe, but I always encourage it. I don't believe you can screw anything up too much. You can generally fix anything which you feel hasn't turned out. If a soup tastes bland, you can jazz it up with some seasoning, or add some coconut milk to make it creamy. I constantly test whatever I am making to see if it needs something more. Sometimes I add crazy things to recipes to spice them up and I take the flavors in a completely different direction. I like to stay spontaneous. Because of this, I generally never make anything exactly the same way twice. Maybe it doesn't always turn out great, but trial and error is the best way to learn!

Sometimes a thing you are working on doesn't turn out so well, and you have to scramble at the last minute to make it work. Perhaps you can't change the dish, but you can change your intentions with it. Maybe you planned on making a roulade wrap with greens but the greens aren't holding your delicious ricotta filling. Your guests are waiting! Its time to quickly cook some pasta and say, "This is no longer a Roulade! It is now a delicious ricotta pasta with greens!"

The rule stating you should make something once before serving to guests I DO NOT abide by. Guests should have a part in the spontaneity of cooking by mood because it is more fun and helps to make them feel included! I don't feel this way because everything I cook always turns out exactly the way I want it. I have to scramble all the time. If things don't turn out at all, it at least usually makes a good story.

I love telling about the vegan dinner party I was asked to host many years ago. I enjoy the challenge of vegan cooking because you have to work around so many obstacles. The party was planned for a summer weeknight, and I had just been given a bunch of organic almonds (in the shell) from my Aunt Dottie, who works at whole foods. I thought I might try a chilled almond soup recipe I had seen.

I spent hours shelling and blanching the skin off those bastard nuts. I read over the recipe and began to prepare the soup by pureeing the nuts with some almond milk and water. At this point, I was supposed to add only one clove of raw garlic, but I thought to myself "everyone likes garlic, and it is so good for you, might as well add three or four". So I did. MISTAKE!!!!!!!! Raw garlic has such a STRONG flavor. The "soup" tasted like garlic water with some nut chunks. GROSS! Ok, I thought, how can I fix this. I figured I could add something sweet to counterpoint the intense garlic. So I added some apple juice. No Dice! Tasted like garlic water with apple juice and nut chunks. Ok, what could I do from here...

My Aunt Dottie had just taken me to Tru, a fancy five star restaurant in Chicago, to celebrate my graduation from College and my 22nd birthday. We had been given, between courses, a garlic sorbet served to cleanse the palette. It was delicious! OK, Garlic Apple Almond sorbet it is. So I stuck food processor bowl and all in the freezer. With sorbets, you need to keep mixing them as they freeze so the crystals don't become to big. I woke up in the middle of the night and mixed that sorbet as well as mixing it before work the next morning. When I got home from work, with about an hour until my guests arrived, I tasted the sorbet and ugh! It tasted like frozen garlic water with apple juice and nut chunks. Was I gonna quit after all that god damn work?? NO! So I decided to add some vanilla and a little more sugar, mixed that baby up and put it back in the freezer.

Needless to say, we went without a soup course that night. I don't even remember what I served for the entre. But guess what I pulled out and served for desert? I served each person a very small dollop of garlic apple vanilla sorbet with almond chunks! The only one who ate it was my friend Andy, and the only reason he did was to show everyone he will eat anything. Thanks, Andy! I served this only as a joke of course, and immediately pulled out the real desert of vegan apple pie with tofutti. As I said, I can't remember the entre, but do I remember the sorbet! My friends and I still joke about it.

So not everything I have made has been a success, but its been fun! I'm no professional. I have no formal training, I just like to be creative in the kitchen. Despite this horrible sorbet I served my friends, they all consider me to be an excellent cook, or at least they tell me they do. So lets not get too mucked down with rules and regulations. Lets throw caution to the wind and reinvent cooking for ourselves!

Friday, June 13, 2008

WHO ARE YOU??? who? who?

Hello, my name is: Andrea and I LOVE food!

I am a 27 year old female. My boyfriend and I reside in a two bedroom apartment in Chicago's West side neighborhood the Ukrainian Village. I moved here from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to go to Columbia College for Fine Art and Bookbinding, and just stuck around after graduation.

I work for a paper conservation company here in Chicago. Paper conservation is art restoration, not recycling.

I've had a lot of people, upon hearing my job title start going off about how they always recycle the newspaper and turn off the water when they brush their teeth. As I totally support recycling and water conservation, I am always happy to hear this, however, I am more in the line of repairing torn documents and reducing stains on fine art prints to bring them back to their original glory.

I grew up in a family who put a lot of importance on food and drink.

My parents always had a huge garden and around harvest time, we would be busy canning and freezing to last through the winter.

Here is my brother next to bountiful wheel barrow of organic produce including zucchini's as big as a 5 year old's torso!

Every year we would enter our produce and homemade crafts in the county fair. Yes, that's right, and along with my many talents is that of shell organization! Blue ribbon thank you!

We were always very proud of our booty! My dad went for as many blues as possible even if he was the only applicant like his annual kohlrabi entry!

Here is my mom and my brother again in front of some beautiful carrots. Now to you, they may look like regular carrots, but its not easy to grow such beautiful long root vegetables in the U.P. where the growing season is over a month shorter then in the lower latitudes!

My family is very DIY (although we never used that term). My parents are very adventurous and are never afraid to try making and producing new things. Some have been successful and others haven't, but they always view it as a learning experience. My parents taught us to make our own sauerkraut, sausages, pickles and preserves, among other things. In our house we are loved unconditionally but if we make things from scratch we definitely get more parental cred.

Although my parents put so much work into stocking our pantry and freezer with food stuffs, it was not because they had a lot of time to spare. My parents would both squeeze the time to do all these around their full time jobs. My mother pulled from her farming background, where one always has a million chores to do, to manage her time in the most efficient way possible. I was brought up to value making things for myself, and to accomplish them within the tight constraints of a busy schedule.

Now living in the city, my life is a little different. My building goes from sidewalk to alley so I don't do much gardening.

(Ok, so this isn't the building i live in. This one is down the street. Our building is similar but is more straight. We have ivy on our building and a tree in front. I meant to take a picture today but when I got home from work I forgot so here is a substitute building.)

I don't have car, so I do all my grocery shopping on a bicycle which complicates things. I don't let these things get me down. Everyone has different challenges they have to work around. Instead of looking at these as road blocks, I want to encourage people to view the challenges of scheduling or logistics as an adventure in creative problem solving. Whatever your drawbacks, be it lack of time, money or an automobile, we can work around it. My parents taught us to increase the quality of our lives by trying new things while working around obstacles. I hope to encourage the same in my readers. Lets do it!