Bonnie’s Blog on Food and Grog

Cooking and life advice from a Nana.

Cream Cheese Yogurt Fruit Dip and Giant Baby Shower, Part II February 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 9:19 pm

There are few things I enjoy more than planning a party like this!  Basking in the sun on the white beaches of Cancun — sure.  I’m afraid that my “basking in public” days may have passed however, due in no small part to the fact that “cooking ” is ranked neck and neck with “basking.” 

So it is with enthusiasm that I start the planning of this Giant Baby Shower.  Never one to do things halfway, this should be the PERFECT size group for me.  FINALLY a crowd capable of eating my vat of potato salad!!  We get together with Maria, her oldest daughter Betty, and Jose.  It is decided that they will provide all the food (YUM) and I will provide the decorations, the cake, and a large fruit platter with a fruit dip (recipe coming up!)..  They also love potato salad and I quickly offer to make my typical recipe which just happens to serve about 100.  They will get the table and chairs and linens, and I will get flowers and all the decorations.  We know it is a boy by now, so we decide on pale blue and a  pale  sage green for our color theme. 

Now I have a fairly extensive supply of party goodies…. and I am no stranger to baby showers.  I have four miniature baby buggies that I have decorated with ribbons and flowers for other showers.  I have vast supplies of ribbons and silk flowers and vases and all manner of party goodies in what my husband fondly calls the “Crap Room”.  I do not throw things away except at gunpoint.  NOT only that, I am now the proud owner of my new “CRICUT” scrapping tool, which the kids pitched in and got me for Christmas.

Now, you scrappers out there KNOW what a cool machine this is.  You either have one or you WANT one.  Let  me tell you, THEY are great additions to your scrapbooking repertoire!  The things you can make with this litttle machine are endless!!  And it is very easy to learn to use.  For an entire week I sat in my den with my little Cricut on the coffee table and pumped out banners of all sorts to hang around the house…  Big blue letters on backgrounds of various patterns that I strung together with small satin ribbons…..  Cut outs of storks and babies and little ducks and teddy bears were strewn from one end of the house to the other.   I was unstoppable.  And the more I played with this machine, the more crafty I got.  So I kept going until I had miles of banners and piles of baby-shower-ish decorations.  I was the Mad Scrapper.   “What’s for dinner, honey”, asks the work-weary husband.  “Can’t you see I am busy here?”, the wild-eyed woman replies. ” I am crafting a 40 foot banner of adorable little baby silhouettes on all different kinds of backgrounds made from very expensive card stock paper that I bought with your hard earned money.  Food?  I’m sure you can find something to eat.” 

In addition to the miles and piles of  clever little cut outs, I also have to decorate the additional  miniature baby buggies, as we have 8 tables and only four buggies.  You have to love Google, when you can type in “miniature wire or metal baby carriages” and UP comes exactly what you are looking for — PLUS I can have them  in three days.  How did we SURVIVE without this?   If memory serves, we drove miles in search of such unusual things and now they are but a click away.  Either that or we actually lived WITHOUT miniature wire baby buggies.  Could that possibly be it? 

So then I start thinking about the centerpieces for the tables.  Flowers are great but they are also very expensive and famous for dying immediately.   So I consult with a very nice woman that I recently met who does events — BIG TIME events — as a business.  I email her for a suggestion for centerpieces.  She suggests that I do trays with little baby necessities and perhaps a small vase of flowers or flowers sprinkled around the tray.  A great idea!! 

Off I go to Michael’s  Crafts (one of our best crafts stores) and JoAnn’s  Fabrics, another great source for scrapping supplies.   Lucky for me, Easter approaches and so they have little felt easter pails that are blue with yellow duckies on them.  Also they have stuffed animals on sale.  Walmart is perfect for all the baby paraphenalia, so I buy baby bottles, tons of bibs, pacifiers, sippy cups, rattles, baby socks, and rubber duckies. 

Off to Smart and Final,  as they have really nice quality plastic serving pieces.  “Smart and Final”, if you are not familiar with this store, is a warehouse-type store with discount prices on food and a variety of restaurant supplies.  They are smaller stores than Costco, and you don’t have to buy everything by the gross.  Not that I have anything against buying by the gross– but sometimes I don’t want a 5 gallon jar of capers, and there are times when a 10 gallon drum of olive oil just seems excessive.   So I find the perfect  platters – white plastic, about 18 inches square.

Now it is time to bring out the trusty hot glue gun.  You are not REALLY a crafter unless you own one of these and an ample supply of hot glue cartridges.  You can literally attach almost anything to anything else with this little invention.  I have attached my own fingers to any variety of things, as a case in point.  “Elmer’s” stock must have plummetted when these little babies hit the craft stores!  Horses are no longer coveted for their  glue-making parts now that we have advanced to the far more dangerous, but effective,  HOT glue process.   I think I have made my point.

So now I am planted again on the couch, hot glue gun in hand, surrounded by silk flowers, boxes of ribbon of all widths and colors, and my new wire baby buggies.  These buggies are about 8 inches tall, and now must be decorated with pale blues and greens with some yellow.  I cover the hood part with parts of hydrangeas, put daisy heads on each wheel, and weave small satin ribbon around the top edge of the buggy.  A large bow made of wired one-inch ribbon goes on the back of each one.  I have to say, they are ADORABLE.  As a finishing touch I put a little fluff of pale blue tulle in each buggy, where the baby (were it not so giant) would go.  These buggies are now proudly displayed in the kitchen on the island, making cooking dinner for “he who paid for all this”  out of the question.   He is looking gaunt and weak, but swears that he is thrilled at my little creations and marvels at their beauty. 

All that is left is to assemble the trays.  I line each tray with four baby bibs, overlapping.  Then I place one blue & yellow ducky pail on the tray.  I put little baby onesies in the bottom of each pail, and top with little stuffed animal.  Next I add my baby buggie.  I put  blue marlbes in the bottoms of eight plastic baby bottles (for weight) and put a small bunch of blue and white daisies in each bottle.  The finishing touches are little baby socks,  pacifiers, sippy cups, rattles, and one rubber ducky per tray, scattered around on the bibs.  Besides being really cute, and each one is a little different, ALL the items on the trays are for the Mom-to-be to take home.  Socks, bibs, baby bottles, onesies, pacifiers, sippy cups, and even a bottle brush on one tray. 

So the decorations are all made, and the party is four days away!  If only I managed the remainder of my life with the gritty discipline that I apply to party planning!!   All that remains is to buy my groceries for the fruit dip, potato salad, and fruit platter. 

SO as promised, here is a recipe as a reward for wading through a Tolstoy-esque version of shower planning.  

MARSHMALLOW YOGURT FRUIT DIP

This recipe is so easy it is embarassing.  It came from my dear friend Patti Christy, of stuffing sage fame (see Thanksgiving posts).  Patti made this for her daughter’s graduation party.  I attended that event and stood greedily by this dip, snarling at other guests who dared approach.  I ate nearly all of it myself.   I have been making it ever since and I still could sit down and eat it with a spoon.  The fruit is but a vehicle for the dip. 

1 – 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3 – Yoplait yogurts… I use  low fat red raspberry, but any berry flavor would work

1 jar of Kraft Marshmallow Creme

With an electric mixer, blend a small amount of yogurt with the 8 ounce block of cream cheese.  Gradually add the remainder of the yogurt to the cream cheese, mixing until no lumps remain.  Add entire jar of marshmallow cream to mixture and combine until smooth.  Serve with fresh strawberries, apples, pineapple, grapes, melon, — any fruit that is in season. 

Stay tuned for the  final installment of the Shower Saga , with the delicious “Birria” recipe that Maria made for the main dish and actual pictures of the party!

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A Giant Baby Shower (the shower, not the baby) February 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 2:32 am

Have I mentioned before that I like to do things in a big way and tend to make enough food for a small country?  Well, we recently had an event that was big enough to challenge even MY excessive ways!  A little background….

Several years ago my husband  and I faced some ugly facts about my weak points:  I am NOT a fantastic  housekeeper.  This is a gross understatment and my way of fessing up to being pretty lousy at dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing floors.  It isn’t that I am incapable of doing these activities,  but it just became apparent that unless threatened with bodily harm I just wouldn’t get around to cleaning my house.  It isn’t that I have a sink full of dishes and stacks of laundry piled to the ceiling….  I do those everyday things to enable us to move freely about the house….  BUT unlike my daughter, who believes a vacuum cleaner is a GREAT birthday gift, I barely recognize one when I see it!   

I tried over and over to change my evil ways,  but at some point the “Old Dogs, New Tricks” theory proved itself to be true.   Greg, the saintly husband, kept telling me to hire a housekeeper — I, unwilling to admit defeat, kept insisting that I was going to do better.  Finally I passed from the denial stage to the acceptance phase, and I found Maria!!  Recommended to me by my squeeky clean daughter, Kris, I knew she would be more than adequate for my exacting standards!!   

So about six years ago, Maria started cleaning my house.  Not only is she great at her job, dependable, and thorough…. she is just a delightful woman who has raised four children on her own by cleaning houses.   Maria is truly an amazing person… she has a great attitude, and sense of humor, and she takes life as it comes and deals with it.  Greg and I have come to think of Maria and  her husband, Jose, as friends and we have gotten to know her family and vice versa.  They are invited to our grandkids’  birthday parties and last year we had a KILLER Cinco de Mayo party together.  ( If you stick with me, I will give you all those great Mexican dish recipes as well!)

SO, when Maria told me that her daughter, Maritza, was going to have a baby, naturally the first thought I had was “BABY SHOWER!!”  She was thrilled at the offer and so we agreed we would do it.  She would do most of the cooking, but I would decorate  the house, provide flowers and the cake.

So one day Maria is here cleaning and I brought up the subject again.  Well, she says, she had her daughter make a list of attendees, and it is more people than she thought.  Maybe I want to rethink this plan, she says….  OH, but NO, I say…  the more the merrier, HOW many people do you expect?   Between 90 and 100, she says!!!   Now I am aware that Mexican families are often large and that it would probably be a pretty good crowd.  Picturing 100 people with 100 gifts, however, resulted in a “deer in the headlights” moment that Maria quickly recognized as possible hesitation on my part.  She graciously offered to let me totally off the hook.    NO NO NO, I said, we have plenty of room in the backyard, it will be great fun, don’t be silly, blah blah blah.    Our backyard is really great for big parties, as the pool is at one end and then there is a huge expanse of grass, perfect for setting up table and chairs for a crowd.  All we need is perfect weather, and after all, this IS Southern California!   

The decision is made, Greg is totally on board with the idea,  and offers to make one of his spectacular fruit arrangements.   To go with this thing of beauty I will make my VERY EASY, yet VERY DELICIOUS,  Cream Cheese and Yogurt fruit dip.   You will love this dip and ALL you have to do to get the recipe is tune in for Installment Two of “The Giant Baby Shower”! !

 

Cream Cheese Chutney Spread with Crispy Won Tons

Filed under: Cooking and Entertaining,Food and Entertaining — bonhuse @ 2:06 am

Our favorite way to entertain is to serve a variety of appetizers, mainly finger foods, buffet style, that people can eat at their leisure.  Not only does this create a casual atmosphere, but it allows the host and hostess to actually mingle and chat with guests rather than racing around trying to time everything perfectly for a sit down affair. 

This recipe has become a staple in our cocktail party repertoire!  My mom discovered this one in one of the thousands of recipes that she collected and as usual, she found a winner!  It has a great combination of tastes and is easy to make.  I try to keep the ingredients for this one on hand so I can whip it up and dazzle last minute guests!  So next time you want to “dazzle” but don’t want to work TOO hard at it….  here you go.

Layered Chutney Spread

 1 – 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 tsp. curry powder

 *1/2 cup bottled chutney

2 tbsp. finely chopped green onion

1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts

2 tbsp. flaked coconut

Spread cream cheese evenly onto 9 or 10 inch round serving plate to within 3/4 inch of plate edge.  (I have a couple of plates that are perfect for this.  Pier One or World Imports has a section with dishes for serving Japanese foods.  The plates are plain white with a curved lip around the edge.  They are approximately the size of a salad plate, so you can spread the cream cheese to the edge and it looks great!) 

Sprinkle with curry powder.  Spread chutney evenly over the top.  When the chutney is really chunky I cut up the large pieces of fruit. 

Sprinkle onions on top, then  the peanuts, and top with coconut. 

Serve with Won Ton Crackers.  PEOPLE LOVE THIS STUFF!!  I suppose you could serve with a different cracker if you don’t have time to make the won ton crackers.  Do try making the won ton crackers, however, as they are delicious all by themselves and great with this spread. 

Crispy Won Ton Crackers

1 stick of butter, melted

1 package of Won Ton skins, DYNASTY is the best brand!

Heat oven to 375F.  Brush 2 large cookie sheets with melted butter.  (I never said this was low fat, low cal, did I?)  Cut Won Ton skins in half, diagonally.  Place skins on prepared pans.  Brush tops with melted butter.  (I told you!)  I use a small paintbrush or pastry brush to make it easy.  Bake for 5 to 6 minutes until golden brown.   You will have just about enough time while each pan is baking to get the next pan ready.   Keep a close eye on them as ovens vary and these little buggers can burn in a flash! 

I usually make a minimum of one whole package of skins, which makes 100 crackers.  Then, should an unexpected “opportunity to dazzle” present itself, the crackers are ready.  I haven’t tried this spread with any other crackers, but I’m sure that somewhere in that huge cracker section at the market, a suitable substitute may exist.  We love these  and our granddaughters love to eat them plain .  You can keep them for a few weeks in an airtight container.  You need to provide little server knives for spreading, as the won ton crackers are too delicate to “dip”. 

* Chutney is available in most markets and is usually found in the “exotic” foods section.  It is typically Indian in origin, and made from a variety of fruits, often mango.   Common ingredients are ginger, brown sugar, and raisins, and it is served as an accompaniment for meat or poultry, especially curried dishes. If you are familiar with chutney, or own your very own chutney store, please excuse the explanation.  I have often inquired as to the whereabouts of the chutney in a market and received a totally blank and bewildered stare in response.  I assume, therefore, that not everyone considers it a necessary pantry item!

 

HOLY COW, IT’S 2009!! February 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 8:50 pm

I know I’m not alone when I say, “How the Heck did THAT happen?”  I distinctly remember being astounded that we were suddenly planning for a new MILLENNIUM, and all the panic surrounding “Y2K”.  I am proud to say that my “New Millennium Resolutions” are coming along nicely.  If you set new goals for the MILLENNIUM, aren’t you far more likely to acheive them?  It removes that time crunch of one measley year, which zips by with supersonic speed! 

It is good, however, to break one’s goals down into slightly shorter milestones, so I have set some goals for 2009.  Other than the standard goals of getting in shape, losing weight, saving more money, improving one’s golf/tennis/bowling/whatever game, I have vowed to BLOG far more frequently and with regularity.   Obviously, this didn’t get going immediately on January 1, so I have some catching up to do.  My current plan is to write every day, publish a new post at least twice a week, and get my BLOG format spruced up a bit.    If I could BLOG on an elliptical workout machine, I could kill two birds with one stone, but I find it challenging enough to not throw up.  So until I have a bit more workout time under my hopefully shrinking belt, I will have to pass on this multi-tasking opportunity. 

Yes, I am going to the gym at least three times a week.  I can’t take credit for this wholesome change of lifestyle, as my son, Kelly, got me going by dragging me, kicking and screaming, the first time.  He seems determined to keep me alive, probably hoping that I won’t spend my “golden” years drooling in his spare bedroom.    I notice my daughter is very enthusiastic about this new activity as well.  Seriously, I’m sure their motives for prodding me on are noble, but let’s be honest, they won’t be fighting over WHO gets to listen to Mom telling the same stories endlessly and running into their furniture with my shiny new Rascal! 

So now that we are back to a relatively normal life after all the Holidays, we can start to think about some everyday cooking, as well as planning for birthday parties, dinner parties, baby showers, wedding showers, cocktail parties, and any other excuse to cook!  I’m going to start off the year with some of my favorite party recipes — appetizers, finger foods, and dips….  some very easy, some fairly elegant, and all very delicious.  So stay tuned and make room in your recipe files for some real keepers!!