Food from the Hart

Posts Tagged ‘Home’

Great Finds: Retro Ice Crusher

In Great Finds on October 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Drinks always taste better over crushed ice. Whether it’s a coke or a cocktail, finely crushed ice adds that extra “yum” factor to beverages. Even if you don’t have an ice machine in your freezer door you can make your own crushed ice at home.  It’s easy, and the retro design of this guy makes for a cool statement piece, even in small kitchens.

With a design inspired by the 1950’s, this manual ice crusher makes both coarse and fine crushed ice. It’s not only great for drinks and cocktails, but for creating ice beds for vegetables or seafood. The slick chrome finish makes it totally appropriate on a bar or cocktail table at a party. Even cooler, it comes with a funky ice scooper for easy use!

Retro Ice Crusher by Frieling USA,, $65.00


Halloween Fun: Turning the Dial Up on Your Classic Spook Fest

In Celebrations on October 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Halloween is often brushed aside as a children’s holiday. Though as we get older it gives seems to give us license to be someone or something else for one evening.  As children, black and orange, witches and goblins, chocolate and lollipops are enough. For most adults, free candy is simply not reason to embrace the holiday.

This year take your typical garish and goolish fright-fest and turn it into an elegant and evil soiree.  A couple easy cocktails, festive hors d’oeuvres, and a lot of black fabric is all your need to turn your small space into a something far from friendly.

It Begins with an Invite

The devil is really in the details when throwing a successful party.  The tone and feeling of the event begins the moment guests receive an invitation.  You can always go the route of sending paper invitations, but and are easy, cost-effective and earth-friendly.  Each site has a number of Halloween-themed designs to choose from. Remember, this isn’t a child’s party.  Pick a theme that matches the scene you are trying to set.

Set the Scene

Halloween is all about over-the-top theatrics. Don’t be afraid to really play up the ambience. Here are some easy tips for creating the perfect Hallows Eve look:

  • Use black as your base color and work from there, adding tiny pops of dark orange, white and gold.
  • Purchase inexpensive black fabric from a craft store and use to cover table tops and wrap lamp shades for a dark and dramatic look.
  • Place groupings of black taper candles along with smaller tea candles around the space. Use as a main source of light once the party begins.
  • Create creepy tableaux out of old books, skulls, crystal balls and apothecary bottles filled with water and orange food coloring.
  • Raid the party supply store for black leaf garland and cobwebs to drape over lamps, bookshelves and tables.
  • Check out the local flower market for black tulips, burgundy calla lilies, and black roses. Use together in flower arrangements to place around.
  • Turn on televisions and have old black and white films playing on mute.  Anything Hitchcock would work brilliantly.
  • Create a spooky music mix with the help of one of I-Tunes pre-set playlists or pick your favorite Halloween jam and plug into Pandora.

What to serve

Let your menu take a cue from your setting.  Small bites, cocktails and devilish desserts are all your need to round out the evening. Here are a few menu suggestions:


Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Chicken Leg Lollipops

Skeleton Fingers

Roasted Potato Moons


Monster Eyeballs

Brain Cookies

Bowls of Assorted Candy


Dark and Stormy

Blood Orange Martini

Chicken Leg Lollipops

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Yield: 24 hors d’oeuvres

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

24 chicken drumettes, skin on

2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 cups panko bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stand a drumette on its wide end and, holding the narrow bone at the top, use a paring knife to push and scrape the skin and meat downward to expose the bone and make a plump “lollipop” of chicken at the bottom. Repeat with the remaining drumettes. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a wide bowl or on a plate, season the flour with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge each chicken piece through the flour so it’s fully coated, tap against the bowl to shake off excess flour and set aside. Discard the flour.

In a large bowl (big enough to dredge the chicken pieces), mix the buttermilk, mustard, cayenne pepper and paprika. Give each floured chicken piece a good buttermilk bath and then roll in the panko crumbs.

Arrange the drumettes (standing up if you can) on a rack set over a baking sheet. Roast until chicken is cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

Roasted Potato Moons

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Yield: 8 appetizer servings

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

1 pound purple fingerling potatoes, cleaned, sliced 1/2 inch pieces (if not available, white fingerlings are fine)

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Toss sliced potatoes in a mixing bowl with canola oil, salt and pepper.

Place in a single layer on sheet pan and roast in oven for 20-25 minutes until crisp and fork tender.

Remove from oven. Fill a piping bag with sour cream.  Top each potato moon with a dollop of cream and sprinkle with cheese.  Serve warm.

Blood Orange Martini

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Yield: 1 cocktail

3 ounces vodka

1/2 ounce triple sec or flavored orange liqueur

2 ounces blood orange juice

2 blood orange slices


Pour vodka, triple sec, and blood orange juice over ice in a shaker.  Shake well.  Serve in a chilled martini glass and garnish with blood orange slices.

Dark and Stormy

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Yield: 1 drink

2 ounces Gosling’s or Myers’s dark rum

5 ounces ginger beer

Lime wedge


Pour rum over ice in a highball glass.  Fill to the top with ginger beer.  Garnish with a lime.

Brain Cookies

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Yield: 24 cookies

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, 2002 as seen on Emeril Live. 

Brain Cookies:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts, or pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

About 5 drops red food coloring

About 9 drops blue food coloring

Blood Glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

35 to 40 drops red food coloring

2 to 4 tablespoons milk, as needed for thinning glaze


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Into a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Alternating with the eggs, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating well after the addition of each. Fold in the nuts, vanilla, and red and blue food coloring, being careful not to overmix the dough. (The food coloring will make the dough a grayish color, resembling the color of brains.)

Place the dough in batches in a potato ricer and push the dough out onto the prepared baking sheets in long tubes of dough. With your fingers, loosely pat and arrange the dough strands into clumps resembling brains, pushing to form 2 hemispheres and shaping into a walnut-like shape. Bake until golden brown on the bottom, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the “blood glaze,” in a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar with the food coloring to make a thick glaze, whisking together. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze is a good consistency for drizzling. Drizzle the “blood” onto the cookies and serve either warm or at room temperature.

*Photo Courtesy of 

Monster Eyeballs

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm
Yield: 48 cookies
Cooking Time: 1 hour

This is a great recipe.  It’s easy and tastes delicious. I wish I thought of this one myself.  Unfortunately, I did not.  The recipe below is courtesy of Sharon Bowers and can be found in her cookbook, Ghoulish Goodies

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 (1-pound) package confectioners’ sugar (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
1 (3-ounce) package miniature M&Ms

Blend the peanut butter with the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. It may be easiest to use your hands.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper. Roll the peanut butter mixture by teaspoons into small balls and place on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm up the eyeballs.

Put the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and melt the chocolate in the microwave: Heat on high for 60 seconds, and then stir well. If it’s not quite smooth, heat in two or three 10-second bursts, stirring well after each burst. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, in a double boiler, over just-simmering water. Avoid overheating, which can cause chocolate to seize up into a stiff mass.)

Take the sheet of balls from the refrigerator; use a fork or a toothpick to dip each one most of the way into the chocolate, leaving a round or oval opening of undipped peanut butter on top. (This opening in the chocolate will be the cornea.) Hold each ball over the chocolate to catch the drips, and then return to the wax paper, cornea side up.

Place an M&M in the center of the peanut butter cornea to make an iris. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store the eyeballs in the refrigerator or freezer and serve chilled.

*Photo courtsey of Kevin Kennefick as seen on

The 15 Minutes Blitz: Turn Your Home from Disaster Zone to Party Ready

In Features on October 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Entertaining is difficult enough when you have time to organize, but what do you do when you only have minutes to prepare? Don’t panic, it’s entirely possible to pull it together.

You’ve already stopped by the market and picked up a few cocktail essentials and now with fifteen minutes left you have to make your home guest ready.  There’s no time for a full-scale clean, but a tidy home always looks more inviting.  Crank up some energy pumping tunes, grab the disposable wipes and get moving.  Here’s an easy fifteen minute plan:

Entryway or Foyer (1 minute)

Hang up coats and hats; organize umbrellas and any shoes.

Living Room (4 minutes)

Straighten up coffee and side tables. Neatly stack magazine and books. Throw out old newspapers. Hide computer cords and laptops behind sofa cushions or in the bedroom. Fluff sofa cushions and pillows, fold throw blankets.  Wipe down tabletops.  Give the room a quick spray of Febreez or other air freshener.  Light any scented candles.

Kitchen (5 minutes)

Empty dishwasher if full, then load dirty dishes.  Wipe down surfaces and counters.  Put away any pantry items left of the counter.  If you don’t have a pantry for storage, neatly organize dry goods.  Fold and hang dish towels.  Give the floor a quick sweep, take out any left over trash and turn off the lights.

Bathroom (4 minutes)

Put dirty clothes in the hamper and toiletries in a drawer or cabinet.  Fold and hang towels neatly.  Give the sink and toilet a quick wipe.  Take out any over flowing trash and put a new bag in the basket. Light a scented candle.

Close Door to Bedroom (30 seconds)

A quick note, if you have a studio apartment, quickly make the bed as best you can.  If you have a screen dividing the space, now is the time to use it.

Turn Off the Music (30 seconds)

Turn off the high energy music and put on a more soothing playlist for background when guests arrive.

Follow this plan and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can turn a disaster zone into a tidy space for entertaining.  You might even have enough time to pour yourself a glass of wine and take a deep breath before the doorbell rings.

For no-cook hors d’oeuvre ideas, click here.

Fall Produce: Belgian Endive

In Product Spotlight on October 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm

The crisp, juicy texture and bittersweet flavor of Belgian Endive provides a nice contrast to other fall and winter vegetables. Belgian Endive has a graceful shape and lovely muted color, adding elegance to salads, appetizers and side dishes. It also plays well when cooked, the leaves become tender and rich with a subtle nutty flavor, it’s almost like a different vegetable.

Picking the Best

Look for endive that is snow-white with slightly yellow tips.  The leaves should be firm and show no signs of browning or wilting. Choose a head that feels more dense for its size than others.  To increase the self life of endive, store in a dark, cool place.  Wrapping the heads with paper towel and popping them in the vegetable crisper works well.  If the endive is exposed to too much light the leaves will begin to turn green and taste bitter. They are best when used within 3 days.

Preparing Belgian Endive

Belgian Endive can be eaten raw or cooked.  Before you deiced how you plan to prepare it you will want to pull off any outer leaves that look brown and wilted.  Use a damp cloth to then wipe down the rest of the head and leaves.  If you are cutting raw endive for a salad, wait until just before serving to do so, as its cut edges brown quickly.

Endive that will be grilled, broiled, or braised benefits from a quick steam first.  Simply put a few slices of lemon in the water and steam the whole head.  This should only take 5-8 minutes at most.

How to Use it

Endive is a very versatile vegetable. When raw, it’s good in salad or as an all-natural vehicle to serve with dips, spreads or even filled with items as a hors d’oeuvre.  Endive is also wonderful when cooked.  Try putting the whole head on the grill with olive oil, salt and pepper or braising in the oven.  It even tastes great when simply cut in a chiffonade and sautéed.

Incorporate Belgium Endive into You Next Meal

  • Create a healthy hors d’oeuvre by serving smoked salmon on raw Belgian endive leaves with crème fraîche and chives.
  • Toss sliced endive, orange segments, watercress and walnuts with a little balsamic vinaigrette for a wonderful fall salad.
  • Braise by cutting the endive heads in half and browning them cut side down.  Add chopped carrots, onions and celery and cook until golden brown.  Add chicken stock and simmer, covered, until tender.
  • Saute sliced endive over high-heat with a little olive oil and butter.  Add fresh baby spinach, minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.  Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
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