Food from the Hart

Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Tip of the Day: Streamline Your Pantry

In Tips on September 29, 2011 at 11:39 am

Three boxes of half empty sugar, two-year old flour closed with a rubber band, brown rice scattered on the cabinet shelf; a variable war zone of common pantry items.  Does this sound familiar? With limited space it’s easy to fall victim to chronic pantry disorganization.

Avoid becoming just another statistic and try streamlining your pantry.  I suggest purchasing hermetic glass jars to store dry ingredients. You’ll be able to see what you have on hand and stay organized. They’re inexpensive and seal to keep moisture and air out, keeping items fresher, longer.  If you want to get really fancy, label and date each jar.

To purchase: The Container Store, $2.99 each



Tip of the Day: Chill Wine in a Flash

In Tips on May 24, 2011 at 11:20 am

It’s 6 o’clock on Friday evening and you have guests coming over in 30 minutes.  Apps plated, the table is set, flowers look great, but you forgot to chill the Sauvignon Blanc.  Fear not.  Wet a dish towel and wring it out.  Wrap it around the bottle of wine and throw it the freezer for 15-20 minutes.  When you take it out, you will have a perfectly chilled bottle of wine for guests to enjoy! It doesn’t get much easier or quicker than that. Happy partying!

Tip of the Day: Emergency Basting Brush

In Tips on May 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Summer is right around the corner! The time has come to break out the grill or grill pan.  Grilling is great, but you always run the risk of ending up with tough, dried out meat.  The easy solution to this pesky problem is basting your protein with a marinade throughout the grilling process.

Find yourself mid-grill and looking for something to brush your marinade on with? Don’t stress and forget about buying extra pastry brushes for grilled foods.  Grab a large lettuce leaf and bast away. Dip the leafy end of the lettuce in the sauce and use the stem as a handle. The lettuce works just as well as a pastry brush and you can simply throw it away when you’re done! Happy Partying!

Tip of the Day: Condiment Jar Vases

In Tips on April 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm
Next time you finish a jar of mustard or bottle of vinegar don’t toss them.  Throw them in the dishwasher for a quick bath and reuse as flower vases.  Simply peel off the labels the best you can and wrap with brown, white or colored tissue paper.  Tie with a piece of twine or string.  Fill up with water and arrange flowers inside.  It’s a great way to save money and the earth!  Not to mention, the different sizes and shapes give a wonderful rustic look on any table. Happy partying!

Tip of the Day: Fruit-Filled Juice Cubes

In Tips on April 11, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Ditch plain water in your ice-cube trays and try filling with juice like orange, cranberry, pomegranate, etc.  Drop a few small pieces of fruit in with the juice and freeze. Serve one or two fruit-filled juice cubes in a glass with cold vodka, champagne, prosecco or whatever liquor you like. As the ice melts it will flavor the drink and add a wonderful touch of color. The result is a beautiful and fun presentation that makes a festive and easy drink for parties.  Happy partying!

Tip of the Day: Ahhh Avocados

In Tips on April 6, 2011 at 2:45 pm

You’re having eight over for a Mexican themed evening and you’re getting ready to make Guacamole when you realize the avocados are still rock hard. Forget running out to the store and hunting for softer ones, there’s a quick fix.

Pierce the avocado several times with a sharp knife.  Put in the microwave on 50% power for 20 seconds then turn the avocado and nuke for another 20 seconds.  Let rest at room temp for 45 minutes to an hour.  At this point you should be able to cut into it without a problem. You’ve not only saved your guacamole but time and money!

Happy Partying!

Chef’s Night Off

In Tips on March 29, 2011 at 8:27 am

Up at 6am, to the office by 8am, home for 7pm, gym by 8pm…. we all know the drag of the daily grind.  With busy schedules like this unless you love standing over the stove it’s tough to find the motivation to cook for a party.  Don’t let that stop you from entertaining!  Hosting a party is ultimately about conversation and company not cooking.  So don’t be afraid to “call in” some help. Here are some suggestions to take the culinary crunch out of hosting an evening at home.  All you’ll need is a glass of wine, fun friends and good tunes.  Happy Partying!

Busy Folk’s Pot Luck

I think we all know what a pot luck dinner entails:  everyone brings a dish of their choice.  For stress-free option ask guests to bring their favorite take-out or prepared food.  You might end up with a little of everything from chinese to pizza, but that’s part of the fun!

Peruse the Grocery Store 

Check out the prepared food counter at your local grocery store or specialty market.  You’ll able to find everything from chicken to fish to pasta plus a colorful array of sides. If you’re feeling iffy about what you see behind the glass, give the freezer section a look.  No, I don’t mean buy guests their own TV dinner.  Look for things like lasagna or pizza – anything you can heat up in the oven. One note, make sure you reheat anything you buy to temperature and serve on plates or trays.  Presentation is everything!

There’s Always Take-Out

For urbanites there’s no shortage of delivery and take-out.  Take your pick!  Hosting a Mexican or Thai themed party can be as easy as ringing your local restaurant.  This isn’t cheating, but don’t forget the basics of entertaining, plate food and set the scene with a beautiful table, candles and music.  Don’t forget the cocktails!

Elevate the Evening

You can always hire a caterer.  Caterers’ services aren’t limited to just weddings and big events.  If you have the budget and want to put together a more upscale evening, there are several personal chefs and small catering companies that can accommodate small parties.

Hate Awkward Silences? Make the Most of Small Talk

In Tips on March 28, 2011 at 8:31 am

Entertaining guests in a small space can be fun and intimate, but there’s no avoiding the dreaded small talk! In larger venues it’s easier to navigate around the folks you don’t already know.  Not the case when you and your guests area all in one room.  Small talk can be uncomfortable especially if you don’t have much to go on besides the age-old topic of the weather.  Here are a few tips to help you rev up any conversation:

Know your Current Events

Keep up to date on whats happening on a local, state, national and international level.  This can be a simple as reading the front pages of your local paper and a national paper like New York Times.  The evening news will also do the trick.  While events and facts are good, try to avoid sticky topics like politics.  Stick to neutral issues. Nothing ends a conversation quicker than a divisive subject like politics or religion.

Know your Guests

Think about who you’ve invited.  Consider their jobs, hobbies, interests, and accomplishments.  This gives you an endless sea of things to talk about.  Ask questions and search for commonalities.  See if you can connect guests based on these things.  Trust me, your guests will be flattered by all the attention!

Questions, Questions, Questions

Everyone loves to give their opinion. Asking questions is the easiest way to get a conversation started. Bring up pop culture topics like celebrity gossip, sports, movies, etc and instead of giving your thoughts ask theirs. The flood gates will open and you’ll move from awkward small talk to full-fledged conversation.


Focus on the person you are talking to.  There’s nothing worse than chatting with someone who is looking around the room.  Give the occasional head nod, this lets people know you’re engaged and actively listening.  If you notice a situation that needs tending to, excuse yourself, but return and try to remember where you left off.  This will make guests feel you were truly interested in what they were saying (even if you weren’t).


While there are a number of great topics for small talk, these eight subjects should be avoided at all costs. If you find yourself in a situation where one of these comes up, gently steer the conversation in a different direction, or when in dire straights excuse yourself and go to the bathroom!

  1. Finance
  2. Politics
  3. Religion
  4. Death
  5. Age / Appearance
  6. Personal Gossip
  7. Offensive / Off Color Jokes
  8. Past Relationships

Tip of the Day: How Can I Help?

In Tips on March 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm

How many times have you had dinner guests ask, “how can I help?”

At casual events most people want to participate in some way.  Even when in desperate need of an extra set of hands we tend to be reluctant to take guests up on the offer to help.  After all, they’re guests, not hired help.  Plus, it’s hard to give orders when you’re in the middle of prepping for dinner.  But don’t turn down a well-intentioned offer.  Small space cooking and serving is a challenge so welcome the assistance.  Allow guests to take on some easy but important tasks. Here are some chores that will keep extra bodies out of small kitchens and won’t make guests feel like party staff.

  • Lighting candles
  • Dimming lights
  • Making or switching music playlists
  • Filling water glasses
  • Opening and pouring wine
  • Bringing food to the table
  • Clearing between courses
  • Serving dessert / coffee

Tip of the Day: Closing Time, How to End a Party Gracefully

In Tips on March 12, 2011 at 9:49 am

All great things must come to an end.  Even great parties.  It’s always a good idea to have some exit strategies in your back pocket for guests who show no sign of leaving.  If you are ready to party till the sun comes up then this is not an issue.  But when you need to call it a night, follow these suggestions.

  • Close the Bar – Put away any liquor, beer and wine. Make sure you leave out plenty of water for those who might have overindulged.  They will appreciate the extra hydration before they hit the road.
  • Turn off the Music– This is usually a great way to break up a party. Once things quiet down, people will begin to filter out.
  • Start Cleaning Up– As the host, once people see you cleaning they will get the cue it’s time to get a move on.
  • Be Direct- For those guests who still aren’t getting the clue it’s closing time, try saying something like, “Look at the time! I have an early meeting (yoga class, doctors appointment,etc).  Let’s call it a night.”
  • Turn off the Lights- If all else fails, shut it down!
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