Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Caterer is Born

After almost a year of anticpation I finally had my first real Catering Gig! I have been working with "the Chef" for a few months but this is my first big event on my own.(100-125 guests) I have done smaller stuff like my daughters party and I helped with a Church members reception last year but this was all me start to finish. I was not really sure if I could pull it off but I DID!!!
About 40 hours of work, 4 burns ,1 cut and only a couple of serious moments of panic went into the day.I had been doing it in my head and on paper for about the past month.

Sweet chili chicken bites
Moo Shu Pork cups
Stuffed Mushrooms
Cheese ball /crackers
Stuffed Cucumbers
Veggie Tray
Fruit topiary and Tray
Cheese tray
Meatballs (provided by Kristie)
Chicken Salad/ Crossiants
On Wed morning when I got off work I did my first shopping trip at Sam's Club for the major part of the food. I purchased the meat and most of the Veggies leaving the fruits for the day before the wedding so that they would look their best.

Wed. evening I went to Walmart to pick up the things they did not have at Sam's. All in all I made 5 trips to grocery stores. A couple more than I had wanted to but it could have been worse.

Thu was roasting and pulling the chicken for Chicken Salad, cutting and wrapping chicken in bacon for the Sweet Chilli Chicken bites and cutting the pork for the Moo Shu Pork. I also made the dip and cheese balls.

Fri was the big cooking day! I premade all of the dishes so that on Sat it was just assembly and final cooking/heating. I also made the final shopping trip(s) for the fruit and other last minute items. Fri night I went to the Venue and sat up and decorated the buffet table. Fri was a VERY long day!!! This was good because I was so exhausted that I actually slept pretty good Fri night which I had worried that I would not be able to.

Sat morning I loaded everything up and got to the Venue around 830am. My friend Robin AKA Did you wash your hands came around 915 to help me with final prep and serving. When she showed up I was in kind of an overwhelmed don't know where to start state. But she jumped right in and before I knew it we had a rhythm going and were knocking it all out. There was a brief moment of panic around 12 when I did not think that we would get it all done but we kicked it into high gear and had everything on the buffet by 1:00. It turned out that the guests did not even start coming until almost 2 so we were on easy street!
Robin working her Magic!
We did a lot of hustling during the reception. I don't have all of the equipment (like replacement pans for chafing dishes ... not to mention the chafing dishes were borrowed too) so restock had to be done on the buffet line. I had placed the 4 chafing dishes on the ends of the table which was a good move (though not intentional) so we were able to get to them without too much trouble.

Problems we had were surprisingly few. We did run out of Mushrooms and chicken salad but there was plenty of other food to make up for that. The bride did provide meatballs which is probably a good thing. I think we might have run out of more things had she not. All of those things were lessons learned that I will take to my next event and none were even close to being catastrophic.

There are several people I need to thank for helping to contribute to the success of this event. First Robert and Kristie for trusting me and giving me the opportunity to do it. To Cheryl, Lisa and Keith for loaning me equipment that I could not have afforded to buy (and kept me from having to rent it) I also want to thank Keith for allowing me to work with him and teaching me so much. Without my time with him this would not have been anything close to what it was. (Sorry, Yes I did steal your Moo shu idea ..but not your recipe) To all my friends and family who had to listen to my constant obsession about it. Most of all I want to thank Robin. Her help and skills and talent were priceless to the final product!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Something Different

Today's post has nothing GREEN ...oh wait there is a little Parsley in it. I found this Recipe back in December and have been looking for Ajvar( pronounced eye-var) since then and finally found it at the Mediterranean Mart on Cliffdale Rd (for those of you in Fayetteville). By the way the owners of that store are VERY nice and they will search for and order hard to find items like this for you. They happened to have this product because someone else came in looking for it and they did that for them.

I now know Ajvar is a Bulgarian sort of relish made with eggplant and red pepper. It's a little spicy, comes in mild and hot versions. I was only able to find the Hot but I don't find it too terribly hot(though I like spicy things) Mixed with a couple of TBS of sour cream it is tasty on raw veggies, pretzels, chips, crackers or Pita bread. It has only 15 calories per Tbs (minus the sour cream ...darn it) and no fat.

I found this recipe at Food and Wine.com( http://foodandwine.com/recipes/roasted-cauliflower-with-ajvar-dressing) I did not really mess with it much (for a change) I did use anchovy paste rather than real anchovies. Don't be scared off by the Anchovy, you (or anyone else) will never know it's in there but it give it a wonderful salty flavor, not at all fishy. Have you ever had Ceasar salad at a REALLY nice resturant? If you have, it most likely had anchovy. Trust me ...it's good. I cut up my califlower in pretty small chunks and I think that was a mistake. Leaving them in bigger chunks would make a much prettier presentation and I noticed that some of the very small pieces were over cooked (almost burnt) The large pieces were soft and nutty....very yummy!

This is a unique and very tasty way to cook califlower. I am always looking for new ways to present Veggies and I think this recipe Fills the Bill very nicely!

Cauliflower with Ajvar Dressing
1 head of cauliflower (2 3/4 pounds), core trimmed, head quartered and sliced lengthwise 1/3 inch thick
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 anchovy fillet, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons mild or hot ajvar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 425°. Heat a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven. In a bowl, toss the cauliflower with 3 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the cauliflower on the hot baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, tossing half­way through, until tender and browned.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, add the anchovy; cook over moderate heat until it begins to dissolve. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat; let the oil cool for 5 minutes.
In a mini food processor, blend the oil with the ajvar, lemon juice and vinegar. Add the parsley and pulse to combine. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
Transfer the cauliflower to a platter. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. Serve warm.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Counting my Blessings

Though I had to work on Mother's Day it turned out to be one of the best that I can remember. Both of my children put some real thought into the day and that was what made it so great.
My son gave me some hazelnut oil and a carmel-truffle chocolate bar. What made this special to me was that he never asked me what I wanted and took the time and effort to find something unique. What made it even better was when he told me that he had purchased it some time ago and had a hard time not giving it to me early. Did you catch that? He did not wait till the DAY of or even the day before to think about my Mother's Day gift. HOLY COW! Maybe I HAVE done something right raising him.
My daughter cleaned the house and COOKED!!!! I sometimes wonder if she was switched at birth because she has practically NO interest in cooking. I have tried to draw her in with little success. We had a pleasant time cooking together for Thanksgiving and I thought maybe that would spark her to want to do more but it seemed like it was going to be a one time thing. But yesterday I came home from work to a sparkly clean house with all the candles burning. The table was set (properly) with candles and flowers and Dinner was on the table. We had Chicken fettuccine Alfredo, corn, bread and for Dessert she baked (and decorated) a cake. Sure, she got some help from Betty Crocker but that did not make it any less special to me. Especially when she mentioned that she WALKED to the store to get the stuff ...twice because she forgot the rolls the first time. Do I have some great kids or WHAT?

The best part of all was that we all 3 sat down together and had dinner. That doesn't happen all that often these days. It was pleasant with fun banter and no fighting! I sat there happy as a clam enjoying my family and counting my blessings.