Thursday, October 15, 2015

10 Halloween Party Food Ideas!

How exciting... it's time for Halloween! It's so much fun making spooky decorations, dressing in clever costumes and really...are you ever too old to trick or treat? NEVER! (tricksters are ageless). For a creative food enthusiasts like me, the opportunity to theme food for parties is limitless!
Here are a few ideas that you can try to make your table "spooktacular."

 #ONE: Jalapeno Cheese Spread Skull
Mold a soft spread in a plastic mask or other party theme shape. Lined with plastic wrap, your spread will turn out easy after it's chilled. I used the Jalapeno Cheese Spread from my book... click here for the step by step "Jalapeno Cheese Skull," blog post... then garnish with olives to make it scary!

#TWO: Watermelon Brain
Carve rind from a small seedless melon and chisel grooves to mimic a brain shape. Perfect for the center of a fruit tray.

#THREE: Bat Wings
Straighten whole chicken wings and thread a bamboo skewer to hold shape and roast or grill. I used the Chili Lime Chicken wing recipe in "Cook like a Caterer" but you can choose any recipe or sauce.

#FOUR: Medusa Head
Cheese filled tortellini that is marinated and skewered for a tasty cool appetizer. Skewers are pushed into the cabbage head to serve.
(Yep, recipe in "Cook like a Caterer, under tortellini skewers.)

#FIVE: Meat-Eyeballs
Roll a tablespoon of seasoned ground turkey in to a sphere. Press in a stuffed green olive and bake until cooked through. Serve your "eyes" on top of a zesty tomato sauce for a tricky treat that's "easy on the eyes."

#SIX: Skeleton Salad
The Cauliflower Olive Salad in Cook like a Caterer, makes a delicious dish that will inspire guests to think your serving something scary! Leave some pieces of cauliflower larger and place on the side to look like bones.

#SEVEN: Finger Cheese
Mozzarella Cheese with an almond "nail" makes everyone laugh. Attach the almond with cheese spread and display it in a mini cup of V8 juice for tray passing. Pumpkin colored and shaped bell peppers make great dip holders for smaller platters.

#EIGHT: Spooky Ice Bowl
Place a smaller bowl inside a larger one and fill with water in between. Weigh down the smaller bowl with some ice cubes to keep it from floating. Add some small skeleton, bats or spider toys also in between for a creepy look. Freeze until solid then remove the 2 bowls and you have a "cool" serving vessel! Note: Place a platter under to catch drips.

#NINE: Ghost Squash
Turn a ghostly shaped vegetable into a cute centerpiece in just a couple of minutes.

#TEN: Handy Ice Pack
Freeze water in a clean food service glove (remove glove before serving) for a spooky frozen hand ice sculpture. Float a few in a punch bowl for a fright!

Chef Renee Weir -Fontes at the Yorba Linda Public Library Cooking Class October 2015

Hope you are inspired to create your own tricks and treats... Have a happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Playful Office Baby Shower

I found these amusing baby shower pictures from an office party Richard and I catered last October. The hostess, Sheri, has a delightful sense of humor which made it fun to create a "tongue in cheek" menu for the party.

To create a menu that is fun and entertaining, start with a list of dishes that will appeal to a variety of appetites. 

Here are some suggestions for success;
Be sure you consider "good taste," especially in an office setting. Re-naming dishes and select clever serving pieces to reinforce the theme, both are an easy way to have fun with the menu and guests love it.

 is the menu for Sheri's event if you can use to add some whimsy to your own baby shower!

Playful Office Baby Shower
Menu for 25 guests

creamy spinach lasagna with a plump belly

Brats in a Blanket
sausages wrapped in pastry served with grainy mustard

Baby Greens Salad with Baby Bottle Dressing
candied pecans, raspberries and Mandarin oranges

Conception Eggs with "Swimmer" Garnish
black olives top stuffed eggs 

Savory "Lollipops"
deli meats and cheeses in a wrap, sliced and skewered

Watermelon Baby Carriage
Fruit Salad

Fruit salad in a watermelon baby carriage

"Swimmers" decorated stuffed eggs

Lollipop Pinwheel Deli Skewers

 "Brats in a Blanket", brat sausages wrapped in pastry

 Raspberry Vinaigrette served in a baby bottle
I didn't find the picture of the "Lamazegna" I used the Spinach Lasagne from my recipe in Cook like a Caterer. I added some extra filling in the middle to make it look like it had a "baby bump" giving it a theme name (a play on Lamaze) is fun too. The stuffed eggs recipe, the quantity of fruits needed for the fruit salad and the raspberry vinaigrette are also in the cook book at

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fall Soups and Stews- Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Beautiful fall colors from our apple picking adventure last year
It's hard to decide what season is my favorite to cook in. Winter begs for baking, spring calls for salads and summer barbecue is a must. In Fall making comforting soups and thick hearty stews is what I most look forward to. The desire to whip up a soup must be instinctual because the weather has not actually suggested soup as yet. However with autumns calendar arriving it's good to be prepared.

At the recent cooking class for the nice folks at the Santa Fe Springs Public Library, time allowed for me to teach only three recipes. Narrowing it down was difficult, there are more great choices then cool days to enjoy them in the weeks ahead!

In the end I chose a Mexican Albondigas Soup, small seasoned meatballs in a light broth that can host additional vegetables and even a bit of rice to be a little more filling. Tuscan Chicken White Bean Stew, a delicious thick and healthy crock pot meal that can be made with simple pantry items. Finally Curry Butternut Squash Soup that is creamy rich, velvet smooth and is everything from color to flavor intensely fall.

Creamy, smooth Curry Butternut Squash Soup served in hollowed mini pumpkin.
Today lets explore my favorite Curry Butternut Squash Soup. Why, yes! The recipe serves 32, a "party sized recipe" from my book Cook like a Caterer. It makes a huge pot perfect for entertaining and to fill up the freezer for the cool months ahead. Cutting the recipe in half makes a generous amount, but don't shy away from making it... soup is for sharing!

Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Many first time tasters are surprised that the curry in this recipe is not overwhelming and the color is as delicious as the soup. Curry butternut squash soup is especially nice for a Fall party and is charming served from a mini hallowed pumpkin.
Serves 32

8 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups onions chopped
6 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 quarts butternut squash cubed
3½ quarts chicken broth
3 cups heavy cream

  1. Heat oil in large pot, add onions. Cover and cook over medium heat until soft, stirring often (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add curry powder, ground ginger and ½ teaspoon of cayenne, stir 30 seconds. Add squash and broth, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until squash is very tender (about 30 minutes).
  3. Puree soup in batches, in blender, until smooth.
  4. Return to same pot. Stir in cream and add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.


  • Vent blender when pureeing soup to keep steam from building up.
  • The soup can be made in advance up to where the cream is added and will freeze well. 
  • You can decrease the curry for a milder flavor or substitute pumpkin pie spice if you like.
  • Serving in hallowed out mini pumpkins is great for a plated single serving... a larger pumpkin is great on a buffet.

Darling mini pumpkins and gourds make great vessels for soup and to add to your fall decor!