Find the recipe for “Oven Fries with Caramelized Onion & Bacon Dip” and many more great party recipes

at our other WordPress site:


Mile High Quesadilla Pie

November 16, 2009


Here’s another cool party recipe,

compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets


Now don’t everyone panic when I say, “springform pan.” This recipe is really easy and, thanks to a tip I found in Everyday Food magazine about trimming the tortillas to fit the pan, it’s even easier! This is an impressive for casual entertaining because it looks a lot harder than it is. Once I served it on a cakestand and really wowed my guests! Accompany the pie with soft polenta, a crisp green salad, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and tortilla chips.


1 pound lean ground beef

1 (1-ounce) packet of taco seasoning mix

5 (10-inch) flour tortillas

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish

1 (4-ounce) can chopped roasted mild green chilies, drained

2 ½ cups shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (or a mixture)

fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish (optional)


Combine the beef and taco seasoning mix to make taco filling according to directions on the seasoning mix packet. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan, using the removable bottom of the pan as a guide. Assemble pan with bottom upside down (this makes the pie easier to remove after baking) and lightly oil bottom and sides.

Place one tortilla in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the corn and ½ cup of the cheese. Top with a second tortilla. Using a slotted spoon, top the second tortilla with the meat filling, spreading evenly. (You may have some left over.) Sprinkle with ½ cup of the cheese. Top with a third tortilla. Spoon the beans, scallions, and ½ cup cheese on top of the third tortilla. Top with a 4th tortilla. Spread the chopped green chilies and ½ cup of cheese on top of the 4th tortilla. Top with the last tortilla and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.

Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Run knife around edge of pan; remove sides. Sprinkle with scallions and garnish with cilantro, if using. To serve, slice into wedges.




Another delicious party recipe, compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets.


Don’t know where this recipe originated. I think I first saw it in a Marcella Hazan cookbook. More recently I saw a version in Bon Appetit magazine, which is the source I adapted my version from. Whoever came up with the original certainly had two of my favorite flavors in mind… cheese and fried. How could you go wrong!


2 large eggplants

1 ¼ teaspoons salt, divided

Olive oil (for brushing)

Canola or vegetable oil (for frying)

2 large eggs

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 ¼ cup plain dry breadcrumbs, divided

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour

3 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes (about 15 cubes) or 3 ounces smallest bocconcini


  1. Cut eggplants crosswise into ½ inch slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and arrange in a colander. Place colander in sink and let stand about 30 minutes, until eggplant slices begin to sweat and give up liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush 2 large baking sheets with olive oil. Pat eggplant dry with paper towels and arrange in a single layer on prepared sheets. Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until eggplant is tender and dry, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly; coarsely chop.
  3. Whisk 1 egg, grated Parmesan, ¼ cup breadcrumbs, thyme, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Stir in chopped eggplant (mixture will be soft.) Spread 1 cup breadcrumbs on plate. Whisk 1 egg and the flour in a small bowl. Press and shape eggplant mixture into 1 ¼ inch balls. Press 1 piece of mozzarella into the center of each ball, making sure to reshape the eggplant mixture so it covers the cheese completely. Dip balls, one at a time, into egg batter. Roll in breadcrumbs to coat.
  4. Pour enough canola oil into a large skillet to reach a depth of ½ inch; heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add balls to skillet; sauté until browned, turning often, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.



Ham & Asparagus Quiche

September 11, 2009


Whoop-de-do! The world’s longest short work week is finally over! Celebrate with another party recipe, compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets.

Happy entertaining!


Everyone (except maybe your cardiologist) has a favorite quiche recipe. This is mine. This old fashioned classic is great make-ahead party fare. It’s sinfully rich, but it won’t kill you if you only eat it on special occasions. Substitute ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese for the cup of cheddar, if desired.


(Serves 6)

1 disk prepared piecrust dough

3 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, chopped

8 small stalks fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

Pinch cayenne pepper

3 large eggs

1 cup half-and-half

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

¼ teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

¾ cup smoked ham, cubed


  1. Line a 9-inch glass pie plate with the pastry and prick it all over with a fork. Chill at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet and add the onions, asparagus and cayenne pepper. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes over medium high heat until the mixture is fragrant and the vegetables have begun to soften. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Cut out a 10-inch circle of parchment paper or aluminum foil and place it in the pie shell. Pour 2 cups of dried beans or pie weights into the shell. Bake the piecrust until it has begun to turn a pale gold color, about 15 minutes. Remove the pie plate from the oven, lift the parchment and beans from the shell, and return it to the oven. Cook the shell until it is golden, another 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Keep the oven on and increase the temperature to 375 degrees.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  5. Scatter the asparagus mixture across the bottom of the pie shell. Sprinkle with the ham cubes. Pour the egg mixture into the shell. Bake the quiche until the filling is just set and slightly puffed, about 30 minutes. If crust starts getting too brown, cover it with a piecrust baking shield or crimped foil. Let cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack and serve it warm, or let it cool completely and serve at room temperature.




Celebrate tomato season with this easy salsa recipe,

compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets.


I’m OK with jarred salsa, but this time of year it’s foolish not to make your own. Fresh salsa, with its crisp, clean flavors bears very little resemblance to the storebought kind.

Grape tomatoes are the grape-shaped super-sweet ones, which I really like for salsa. But of course, any tomato will work for this simple, straightforward recipe. For a variation try substituting chopped fresh mangos, pineapple, peaches or nectarines for the corn. To add some heat, sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes or finely chopped fresh Jalapeno.

I’m repeating a chip recipe here from a previous post to accompany the salsa, but storebought chips are just fine.


(makes 48 chips)

For the chips:

¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for brushing pans

1 ½ teaspoons chili powder

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon salt

12 (6-inch) corn tortillas

For the salsa:

1 pint (2 cups) grape tomatoes, quartered

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

½ cup fresh (cooked) corn kernels or frozen corn kernels, thawed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of ½ lime


Make the chips:

1.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees and arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven.

2.    Brush two large baking pans with oil. Whisk ¼ cup of oil with the spices and salt. Brush one side of 4 tortillas with the oil and spice mixture. Stack tortillas and cut the stack in half and then into quarters with a sharp knife. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place the tortilla halves, dry side down, in a single layer on the baking sheets.

3.    Bake, switching the position of the pans halfway through, for 10 to 12 minutes or until the chips are golden and crisp. Season with additional salt, if desired, and let cool completely in the pans. Repeat with remaining tortillas. (The chips can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in a tightly covered tin.)

Make the salsa:

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Season with salt and more lime juice, if desired. Serve with chips.


Polenta Party Bites

December 30, 2008



These little gems are an easy, crowd-pleasing hors d’ oeuvre, perfect for holiday entertaining. They’re very pretty, but simple as pie to make, endlessly versatile and, while the final product looks elegant, the ingredients are very common. Whip up a batch to pair with a flute of New Year’s Eve bubbly. 

I like to make my own polenta, which is why the bites in the photo are square, but the refrigerated polenta logs from the grocery store work just fine, making a simple recipe even simpler. Bites cut from polenta logs will, of course, be rounds or half-moons instead of squares, which is fine. 

If you want to make your own polenta, here’s a good recipe. As soon as it’s done, pour the hot polenta into greased shallow, rimmed baking pans or loaf pans to set. (Ultimately you’ll want to cut it into bite size squares that are ¼ to ½ inch thick.) I like to pour it into loaf pans and refrigerate overnight. The next day I just pop it out of the pans and slice, and then cut the slices into smaller pieces.    


The toppings used here are just suggestions. The combination of cream cheese and hot pepper jelly, for example, is a classic combo favored by Southerners, but may not suit everyone. Use these ideas as a springboard for your own creations. Basically, if it tastes good, looks pretty and fits on the square, it works. Other topping choices include crumbled crisp bacon or prosciutto, goat cheese and fig jam, sharp cheddar and green olives, smoked salmon and chopped chives, even caviar and crème fraiche! 


For the squares:

Firm set polenta

Olive oil

For the toppings:

Soft goat cheese

Roasted red peppers, cut into strips

Pitted black olives

Olive tapenade

Assorted fresh herbs

Parmesan curls

Cream cheese

Hot jalapeno jelly



Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice polenta into bite size pieces, ¼ to ½ inch thick. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and place polenta bites on sheet, about ½ apart. Bake, flipping the squares half way through, until they are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, about 45 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes. Top as desired. Serve warm.


Savory Party Pies

December 1, 2008


In the gift basket business, holidays are our busiest times. Long work hours however, don’t mean we entertain less. We just entertain smarter. Convenience foods like frozen spinach and rounds of prepared, refrigerated pie dough make this casual party fare a snap to prepare. Slice the pies into slim wedges and serve with cocktails at holiday get-togethers.



(Makes two 8-inch pies)



2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

One 16-ounce bag frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed

One 15-ounce tub ricotta

2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

¼ cup black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 cup shredded mozzarella, plus more for sprinkling

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Two 9-inch refrigerated piecrusts




  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the piecrust pouches from the box and bring to room temperature.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil to medium high and add the chopped onion. Cook until just transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the thawed spinach and cook until all moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, feta, chopped olives, mozzarella, salt and pepper. Add the cooled spinach mixture and mix well.
  4. To make a pie, unroll a piecrust onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. Spoon half the spinach mixture onto the crust covering all but about an inch of the outer edges. Gently fold the edges up over the filling, pinching the dough slightly as needed to form a freeform outer edge. Note: Neatness does not count here. The object is just to fold up and crimp the outer edges enough to keep the topping from sliding off while the pie bakes. Repeat process with the other piecrust.
  5. Bake the pies for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned and the topping is bubbly. Remove the pies from the oven, sprinkle lightly with more mozzarella, and return to the oven for a minute more, until the cheese melts. Let pies cool for 5 minutes before slicing.