On Throwing a Grazing Party and Staying Sexy

From Monica Eisenman

So, as some of you might have remembered, I had a party this weekend. And yes there were some road blocks in the plan (like the fact that it was supposed to be last week but we had to push it back a week because of a funeral) but since when are good parties supposed to be easy and peaceful? If someone in your family hasn’t yelled at you needlessly while helping you prepare crusts for mini quiches than your party is going to suck. Because stress breeds good food ON TIME.

The menu, inspired by this month’s Gastroporn Menu, was labeled as a “Tea Party” but with most of my parties turned into an extended grazing affair that was really more like three or four smaller parties all strung together throughout the afternoon and evening. I also made something new that I surprisingly enjoyed eating about an hour or two after all the guests had left because eating them in front of people just isn’t sexy and a hostess should always be sexy: Blue velvet Cupcakes.

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

“Blue Velvet Cupcakes” from Sprinkle Bakes

Now… I like making cupcakes. I don’t always like eating cupcakes but I do like making them. Why? Easy dispersal. Try giving away cake at the end of the party and tell me you didn’t wish you’d made cupcakes. And if you aren’t giving away cake at the end of a party then don’t complain to me about your expanding waistline. Take that cake to work and give it away. It will make you more friends and fewer pounds.

Note: Don’t use a tablespoon of blue dye for the cupcakes. That’s too much and cupcakes that turn tongues a funny color…not sexy.

But you know what is sexy? Eating chocolate mousse from a tiny cup with a mini spoon. The recipe I used  can be found in “The Great Disappointment (of 2012)” post. A friend gave me the recipe and I have no idea where it came from but probably the Internet.

Note: I also piped some fresh whipped cream (made with a little sugar and a splash of vanilla) on top and put my brother to work with a piece of 100% chocolate and a vegetable peeler to garnish the tops.

There were also things I really don’t have a recipe for but if you’ve played around in a kitchen long enough you’ll just know what to do. Like stuffed mushrooms and mini-quiches. Watching my caveman-neanderthal dad trying to press rounds of pie crust dough into a mini-muffin tin was absolutely priceless.

And, of course, there were the scones we always make (the recipe is in the “Tea Time, Nap Time, Fun Times” post from many moons ago) served with the remaining fresh cream from above and berries. I love me some berries. I brought the rest to work with me today along with the remaining 3 scones (to give away). Everybody is always asking for that recipe and it’s ridiculously easy so there is no reason NOT to try it. Unless you’ve got allergies, in which case I am so sorry.

Anyone who knows anything about me and my party style also knows that I like complicated. I like the idea of doing everything from scratch and if I had the ability to gather and make all the ingredients by hand on my mini plot of land out back I so would.

But beware of making things complicated to your guests. Try to make things they can just pass by, pick up with a couple fingers, and just put in their mouths (which is where your party food SHOULD be going). Otherwise they will pass by the stuff with a dip or the thing that goes on top of that other thing and go straight for that stuff that just ends up in their mouths.

Here’s a recipe that looks good:

tartelettes chèvre et confiture d'oignons

“Tartelettes Chèvre et Confiture D’oignons (Onion Tartelettes with Goat Cheese)” from Vaniglia

There’s often at least a couple people at a party known as “grazers”. These are the folks that don’t take a heaping plateful and then start denying food while patting their bellies. These are those smart party goers that pace themselves. A min-quiche here, a cupcake there, caprese salad on a stick? Why not! Oh and then maybe another deviled egg. So set things up nicely for these folks. They know what they’re about. And, as always, stay sexy, Foodie Nation!

 

Whipped: An Ode to Chocolate Mousse

Happy National Chocolate Mousse Day!

Mayan Chocolate Mousse

“Mayan Chocolate Mousse” from Katie At The Kitchen Door

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

“Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake” from Kwestia Smaku (Originally in not-English)

Mocha Mousse

“Mocha Mousse” from Frugal Feeding

Chocolate Chantilly

“Chocolate Chantilly” (AKA: “The Best Chocolate Mousse of Your Life”) from Cafe Fernando

Vanilla, Salted Butter Caramel and Chocolate Mousses

“Vanilla, Salted Butter Caramel and Chocolate Mousses” from Tartelette

The Prophet Among Us

So I’m sitting in a coffee shop. One if those commercial ones. They aren’t paying me to advertise for them so I will not be plastering their brand name all over this post until they do. I haven’t say in a coffee shop for a long time. The last time I was sitting in one just to sit in one was last fall when all of my friends were struggling with the beginning of the semester and work and I was starting my stint as a professional beach bum/GRE studyer.

Its amazing how productive we feel in coffee shops sometimes. All I’m doing is sitting in a comfy chair, drinking coffee I had to pay almost $4 for and reading “Wathcmen”. How productive is that?

Watchmen: Before you judge my reading let me just say that this is actually reading material for WORK. That’s right. Curriculum development requires reading graphic novels and comic books these days. Well… When I’m the director anyways.

So here I am… Drinking coffee that I know is just going to make me need to pee and will inevitably bring on the lone-coffee-shop-patron dilemma (having a comfy seat and not wanting to leave your stuff to go to the bathroom). I look up and around at all the little peoples typing away on their computers or shuffling around a bunch of papers. Obviously there are other educators with their grading and then there are students with their papers and presentations. And in comes a family for afternoon tea and snacks… That one throws me off a little. Although, I suppose it shouldn’t because my mother would occasionally drag my brother and I into a coffee place of two and make us sit and do our work with our hot drinks while she worked.

I think there must be something about the atmosphere of other people that appear to be so busy that rubs off on us and gets us in the mood to be productive. So we read our comics with even more vigor. We’re analyzing the graphics, the play on words. It’s like we’re in school again and it’s almost soothing. To feel like we’re doing something with our lives. Why do we do that to ourselves? Why does it require some sort of setting like this to get our blood pumping, our brains working?

Whatever it is, this is the sort of place that does it and so it is done. The coffee and opening up neural pathways that haven’t experienced traffic this high in such a long time and it feels… magnificent. Suddenly I’m not just high on caffeine it’s like information overload! Oh my gosh! It’s Blake! It’s William Blake! No… not in person. That would mean I was high on something completely different. I mean in the book. “Watchmen” is just a reiteration of Blake’s “America a Prophecy”. Suddenly it all makes sense. We’re doomed.

America a Prophecy, by William Blake
If I haven’t mentioned it before I have a serious literary crush on William Blake. My iPad is even named after him (Billy) and has the following inscription: “I will not Reason and Compare: my Business is to Create”.

Perhaps the fact that there is a hurricane brewing off the eastern coast of America that has everyone in a bit of a frenzy that also lends to the statically charged environment (and the fact that I really have to pee!) but time speeds up (also the effects of the coffee) and I’m reading like crazy until it’s time to leave and go be productive by eating lunch. At this point I really wish I could get back into my office to start typing up all the incredible epiphanies I’ve just had so that I can release them on unsuspecting students next semester but it is never to be. The storm is getting worse and then they are giving it nonsensical names like Frankenstorm (doesn’t anyone actually read the source literature anymore?!). The university at which I work will be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Sigh… The prophet is diverted from the cause once again. But I did get to bake! Since there was no school on Monday and that meant my brother didn’t have classes and my dad didn’t have to teach we all just stayed home, cooked, yelled, ate, yelled about cleaning up, cleaned up, had a party, watched a documentary about Sukiyabashi Jiro….

Click on the image for a link to the film website. Or go to the restaurant website here: http://www.sushi-jiro.jp/eng-index.html

On the menu during the storm? Well my Mexican sister/friend/roommate made some lentils and chilies rellenos (she had to improvise since she hadn’t bought enough chilies to supply the party people at our house). And I made: A chocolate mousse (the one I have tried and like from: “The Great Disappointment (of 2012)”); sticky buns (from: “Rising to the Occasion: Oci on Bread Part I”); Triple Bypass Mac & Cheese (from: “Take THAT!”); and of course, my favorite brand of coffee.

Mayorga’s “Cafe Cubano” (Click the image to go to the website). They used to have a coffee shop near my school that I used to study at and occasionally some of my professors would take us there to have classes. All their cafes have closed but I still got the coffee!

Now if only I could bottle the real productivity of cooking on a day off, getting work done, the coffee shop atmosphere, and my brain…

Let’s Do It

Recently, I was asked if I would be interested in teaching a group of teens some basic cooking skills. Apparently they were doing some service projects and during a “feed the homeless” project one of them was injured because they lacked the basic kitchen skills.

I already had a cooking curriculum made up for younger kids but I’ve changed it from 16 weeks to 6 weeks to fit into the summer. While I can barely remember my early teen years and high school was a very short 2 year blur I know all to well how easily I get bored so I’ve decided to try and use gastroporn to try and rope ’em in and keep ’em round. Imagery is how the cigarette companies do it so why not me?

One website that I love for cooking related slide shows, articles, and videos is Kitchen Daily. I’ve been going through several of the tutorial videos and here are a few I think are pretty awesome:

 

 

How To Make Your Own Butter (and buttermilk)

Knife Skills

Flan

Dark Chocolate Mousse With Candied Orange