But Sugar is Sweeter


And the award goes to…


I know this is another non-traditional post, but what can I say, my life has been a little non-traditional lately! Since our schedules have been laid back, with no major exams looming over our heads, John and I made a goal to see all of the Oscar nominees for best picture before the big event.   (We love movies, and $5 movie night on Tuesdays is hard to pass up!) We got to 89% of our goal – seeing all but Amour before the awards began.  Amour was a hard movie to track down, especially in a small place like Toledo, OH.  I was kind of bummed about not batting a thousand; but after seeing how depressing it looked, I’m kind of glad that’s the one we missed.   To honor our movie loving nature, and to have some extra fun on a Sunday night, we decided to have an Oscar’s Party – which I’m hoping is something we can make an annual event!   I had a ton of fun planning the food, decorations, and  watching the winners announced with my own ballot made it quite a nail biting experience!  I would like to take credit for the decorations, but truthfully, when my mom heard about the party she sent me home with a box of ideas, and then a few days later I got a “red carpet” in the mail ;-).

My personal favorite was this centerpiece that included miniature movie posters for all 9 of the best picture nominees.  I simply went onto ABC’s website and printed the pictures of each nominee on photo paper, as well as the Oscars logo.

Then of course there was the star of the show – The Oscars themselves.  John can take complete credit for turning these mermaids from the dollar store into masterpieces.  I’m quite sure you could buy some imitation Academy awards, but this was much more fun, and I’m sure less expensive.  These also served as first, second and third place prizes for the winners.   The mermaids were $1 each, and then we also bought some mini frisbees to serve as the bases.  John pulled the hair off of them, tied their hands together (creepy, but necessary), and then hot glued the whole thing in place.  He put 3 coats of a Rust-Oleum Metallic Brass Spray paint over the whole thing.  In retrospect, you could see the glue much more than anticipated, but they still looked really awesome, and a lot funnier then store bought awards.

Here’s the process:

It’s amazing what a can of spray paint can do!


Then there was the red carpet, which was actually made of 3 red bath mats (found at Marc’s), taped together with some duct tape.  We made sure to wash these before placing them on top of our carpet, since cheap bright red towels can bleed. Next time I really want to take pictures of people coming in on the carpet, but there is just so much going on at the start of a party.


I wanted to keep the menu classy (this is a red carpet affair after all), but also reasonable in price and manual labor.  Appetizers for a big group can be very time intensive, so I tried to limit the number of things that had to be individually assembled.  If you have questions about any specifics, feel free to ask.

  • Tortellini with a creamy lemon and roasted garlic dipping sauce
  • Crostini with goat cheese and roasted red peppers
  • Spinach and artichoke dip with pumpernickel and crostini
  • Mini phyllo cups filled with seafood salad
  • Bacon wrapped pineapple and water chestnuts
  • Assorted Cheeses
  • Salami with crudites
  • Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

The cheese and dessert table.  Rope lights are a really fun and easy way to make the whole event “sparkle”.

A few of the appetizers sitting out, and some serious ballot decisions in the background :-).
With last minute prep,  welcoming people, and trying to have fun, I didn’t get to take any close up pictures of the appetizers in order to post recipes.  I figured I’d just post about the party in general, because it would gives me something to improve upon for next time, and it’s a good way to remember where to start.    Since I made the cupcakes especially for a friend’s birthday,  I do have some pictures of those, which I will be posting, along with the recipe about shortly! Stay Tuned!

Overall, it was quite a hollywood affair :-)!


Parmesan Encrusted Goat Cheese with Basil Oil

Last weekend, John and I came back to b-ville to spend time with my Mom and brother who just returned from Alaska.  We didn’t have any big plans for the weekend, but we all usually try to get together for dinner with family.  Luckily both my grandparents, my cousin Johnny and his girlfriend Val were able to make it over.  Of course I think of this as a great excuse to make a fancy meal I wouldn’t normally make for just the 2 of us and to have 8 guinea pigs to try it.  It happens to help that my brother returned from Alaska with over 12 pounds of halibut for me to put to use!

While it got kind of late in the evening to try to photograph the whole meal, this appetizer was one of the first things we enjoyed on Saturday (of course this came after my grandparent’s favorite – Manhattans).  I have to admit I overdid it on the garlic in this recipe – you would’ve thought we were trying to keep vampires away.   Sometimes more is not better, so I would recommend sticking to the 1-2 cloves of garlic indicated in the recipe.  I think my favorite thing about this dish was the presentation.  It looks like art but truthfully takes less than 10 minutes to put together.  In order to save time (and because I mis-read the recipe :-)),  I skipped the step in which you blanch the basil.  It still turned out beautifully but if you want a truly stunning green color, blanching would be the way to go.   I also left the basil leaves in the oil but for a smoother texture  you can strain them out with a fine mesh sieve. Pulsing the basil in the food processor should’ve flavored the oil sufficiently that they are not necessary in the final dish.


Parmesean Encrusted Goat Cheese with Basil Oil

– Makes a 4 or 8 oz goat cheese ball depending on your preference

For the goat cheese:
1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese
¼ cup panko
Freshly ground pepper
4 -8 oz. semi-firm plain goat cheese
1 clove garlic
¼ tsp. coarse salt, plus more to taste

For the basil oil:
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Baguette Slices

1. In the bowl of a food processor add the block of parmesan cheese and pulse until finely grated.  Add the panko and pulse to combine. Season with pepper.  Transfer mixture to a separate bowl and wipe out the bowl of the food processor.

2. With a fork, smash the garlic and salt together.  Add garlic/salt to the goat cheese and sir to combine.  Form the goat cheese into a ball and roll in the parmesean-panko mixture.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. If blanching the basil:  Bring a few cups of water to a boil.  Add the basil leaves to the saucepan and boil for 30 seconds.  Drain and rinse immediately with cold water.  Blot the basil leaves with a towel to remove all of the excess water.

4.  Add basil and garlic to the food processor and pulse.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  With the food processor running add oil until texture is liquidly (you may need slightly more than 1/4 cup).

5.  To serve, pour the bail oil onto a plate and top with goat cheese ball.  Serve with baguette slices.

Source: Annie’s Eats

Pizza Bites AKA The Perfect Party Food

Hopefully you know that this past weekend was the superbowl.  I try to keep track of when the superbowl is just because it is an awesome excuse to make a bunch of food you might not make otherwise :-)!  I feel so lucky to have such great friends that also enjoy trying new things in the kitchen.  We had so much food that I’m still eating the leftovers.

Usually for a superbowl party, we would’ve made”Rotel Dip” – a slightly disturbing, but admittedly delicious concoction made entirely of Velveeta cheese and a can of Rotel tomatoes. Gourmet it is not, but at any party we’ve ever had the bowl is licked clean.  But as much of a hit as rotel dip is, I think these are going to be my new go to party food! First of all, they don’t involve any over-processed cheese; and secondly,  they are like pizza (the ultimate after party food), but in a cute little bite!  They were way easier to make than I thought they were going to be (especially if you already have a batch of my favorite pizza dough in the freezer), and they can be made earlier in the day and baked later.  I actually made one tray with real pepperoni, and John made the other tray with turkey pepperoni.  Yes, John made them.  That’s how easy they are :-). But seriously,  shout out to John because he is really becoming a big help in the kitchen, and he is an excellent dishwasher!  He even ended up making these again, but the second time he filled them only with cheese so that his vegetarian friends could also enjoy them.  He’s taking them into work tomorrow, so I will have to hear how they turned out!

Pizza Bites

– Makes one 9 inch pie pan

  • 1/2 batch Pizza Dough
  • 20-25 cubes Mozzarella Cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 20-25 Slices Pepperoni

For the Topping

  • Olive Oil
  • Grated Parmesean Cheese
  • Italian Herbs (I bought a small disposable grinder of “Italian Herbs”)

Divide the dough into 20-25 equal pieces.  (I used a food scale, in order to make sure they were even, but eyeballing works as well.) Press a slice  of pepperoni and a cube of cheese into a piece of dough, and pull the edges of the dough up around the fillings and pinch shut.  Place the balls seam side down in a greased pie plate.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the tops of the rolls with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and italian herbs.  Bake for 20 minutes.  If you want the top crusts to be golden, try broiling for an additional 2 minutes.

For dipping sauce, you could try the New York Style Pizza Sauce, but I would blend it with a food processor or immersion blender to make it less chunky for dipping.  Ranch dressing is also a good choice, but for the most part I ended up eating these plain because they are just that good!

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Treats

I wasn’t going to put this on the blog, because it is so simple it doesn’t seem “blog worthy”, but after serving it before Med Ball, everyone really seemed to enjoy it!  I happened to have all 3 of the main ingredients around the house, so this was a last minute throw together appetizer.

Thanks to my awesome Grandma Josie, who bought a bunch of the these mini filo dough cups for me. If you know my Grandma at all, you know that buying just one of anything would be like one of the seven deadly sins!  So needless to say I have quite a few of these little filo cups in my cupboard and they sure do come in handy.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Appetizers

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 8 oz package herbed goat cheese

2 packages Filo Dough Mini Shells (about 30)

Sprinkling of Sugar

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add a small amount of olive oil to a medium frying pan and heat over medium heat.  Add the thinly sliced onion to the pan and top with a sprinkling of sugar (to help the onion caramelize).  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onion caramelizes (about 1o minutes).  In the meantime place the filo dough cups on a baking sheet and fill each with an equal amount of herbed goat cheese (about a teaspoon).  Bake the cheese filled filo cups for 15 minutes in the oven in order to warm the cheese.  Remove from oven, and top each with a few slices of caramelized onion and serve hot.

Cannellini Bean Dip with Pita Chips

Growing up in with a Dad who was 100% Lebanese, our family had plenty of hummus. I’m pretty sure we started eating hummus before it was sold in a regular grocery store anywhere .  It was so plentiful, that I kind of got sick of it, and found there were many other Lebanese dips that I enjoyed much more. I think that is what inspired me to make this dip.

I had stopped by The Middle East Market on the way home from school, and forgot that they had a minimum $5 credit card purchase.  So I decided, why not buy an extra bag of pita bread and see what I can do with it.  I’m planning on making my own pita bread one of these days, but until then I will continue to buy mine from a specialty store.  It is about 7500 times better than the kind they sell at any regular grocery store.

So here’s the recipe.  Inspired by Giada‘s White Bean Dip.

Cannellini Bean Dip with Pita Chips

1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 large cloves garlic

Juice of 1  fresh lemon

1/4 cup curly parsley leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt & Pepper to Taste

– Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

Pita Chips

4 large pitas

1/4 cup olive oil

Sea Salt

– Brush the olive oil on the top and bottom of the pitas.  Sprinkle with salt.  Cute pitas into 8-10 small triangles and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 7-8 minutes.