Play With Your Food!

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

When we were young, how many times have we heard our moms say, "Don't play with your food!?" These days, that's a bulk of how I spend my time. I investigate food shapes, colors, textures, and try to recreate whimsical representations of the foods we all love. So, when Celebrity Chef Gail Chandler, Cake Lady-On the Scene Cuisine, asked me to create some cupcake toppers that she would use to decorate a cake she was serving to over 200 people at a recent magazine launch party for L.I.M.E. Social at Jewel in Melville, I jumped right on it. Cake_toppers_660_wm

Her two-tier creation included a pumpkin cake with layers of mango coulis and pumpkin mousse frosting and a vanilla cake with layers of sautéed black cherry and Bavarian crème topped with coconut milk frosting.

Since Chef Gail serves up gourmet meals right out of her mobile food truck, I crafted the kind of items that she sells.

Chef Paula's Cookie Sliders were front and center since they’re my most favorite whimsical treat to make. They start off with a sesame seed sprinkled Nilla Wafer bun, a Peppermint Patty burger, cheese & lettuce are shaped from Toostie Fruit Rolls, and a tomato crafted from either a red gum drop, or my newest find, Darrell Lea Strawberry Soft Eating Licorice. To see my tutorial on making these Grillin' Goodies, check out my August 30th posting.

Hot Diggity Dogs are made from a marshmallow circus peanut for the bun, Kraft Caramel Square for the dog rolled into a tube shape, red & yellow icing for ketchup & mustard, topped with green pickle relish which were little flecks of green gumdrops.

On Top of Spaghetti uses Keebler Simply Made Butter Cookies as a base topped with piped white chocolate spaghetti strands & a Ferrero Rocher candy dipped in strawberry preserves for the meatball and sauce, and white shaved chocolate makes great parmesan cheese.

Longing for Lo Mein has the same butter cookie base covered with melted coco-colored chocolate strands for the noodles, a broccoli floret which was actually a green Tootsie Roll cut in half and splayed apart, dotted with chocolate on the tips and then dipped in dark green sprinkles. Then for added effect, some roast pork bits were added, which were cut up pink Tootsie Rolls.

Short Stacks & Eggs are 3 Nilla Wafers stacked up as pancakes with a caramel square placed on top to make syrup. The syrup melts down the stack while briefly in the microwave. The final touch is to add a little pat of butter made from a yellow Tootsie Roll square. To go with the pancakes, I created Sunny-Side Up Eggs which were actually small white melted chocolate blobs and a yellow M&M yolk center.

3-Layer Choco Cakes are created by stacking 3 Nilla Wafers with melted chocolate piped between layers, and then melted chocolate was used for frosting the sides and top. Sprinkles, decorating icing, and mini marshmallow slivers finished the cakes.

There were definitely some challenges in figuring out ways to make the designs portable. Ordinarily, these cupcake toppers are placed on top of frosted cupcakes. So, I had to figure out another way to execute some of the food groups and make them more durable. Instead of frosting, I substituted melted chocolate on top of a butter cookie, and the spaghetti and lo mein came to life. This approach would give Chef Gail the flexibility of putting the toppers anywhere on her cake. Even if they were placed on their side or upside down, they would be sturdy and not roll off. All of the ingredients I used for this job were purchased at various supermarkets. So, you can still get a great end result without having to go to a specialty cake supply or craft store.

Truth be told, it took me 9 hours to create 24 of these li'l beauties for the event plus a few more for my portfolio. I guess I used up this month's quota of playing with my food. But, boy, did I have fun!! And, you will, too!!

We’d love to hear from you with comments, your own photos of these crafts, or with any questions.

Happy Cooking,

Chef Paula

Fashionista Cupcake Toppers

DSCF3699c_660Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who Is the Fairest of Them All?

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

With Fashion Week quickly winding down here in NY, running from September 5-12, I thought it would be a great idea to post my Fashionista Cupcake Toppers. Every makeup tool is edible! Soft Eating Licorice is the star of this project runway, since it became the handle for the mascara wand (add a mini pretzel stick, dip in melted chocolate, and sprinkle on chocolate jimmies), the top of the nail polish bottle (use pretty girly color Laffy Taffy for the polish), the tube for the lipstick (with your fingertips, mold your favorite pucker up color from a Tootsie Roll or Laffy Taffy), and the blush brush handle (soft caramel chew sculpted to look like the bristle head). Soft Eating Licorice is an Australian candy, much more pliable to work with, absolutely delicious, and available in the candy aisle at supermarkets, specialty markets, and even drug stores.

I came up with the idea to make the eye shadow trio palate out of a 1/4 Hershey bar and Laffy Taffy for the powders. The eye shadow brush is made from another little pretzel stick coated in melted chocolate and the sponge tip is a white Tootsie Roll (or you can use a slightly flattened mini marshmallow). I also created the blush compact out of 2 Nilla Wafers, a white Toostsie roll (mirror), and pink Tootsie roll (blush). For extra "bling" you can paint on silver luster/pearl dust or add silver sprinkles to the mirror.

These Fashionista Cupcake Toppers are ideal for Mom's Night Out, Bridal Showers, Sweet 16's, or any time you want to add a little splash of color to your life!

If you like this post, please like/share/comment on it!

Tradition: Something Old, Something New

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

When we hear the phrase, “Something old, something new,” we automatically think of a wedding. But, I think of it as the possibility of blending holiday rituals with a new spin.

Challah and HoneyI grew up in Brooklyn as an only child to two of the most giving and amazing parents. Food, as in many Jewish homes, was the centerpiece of our existence.  Mom was a fabulous cook who never measured anything, but her meals came out consistently delicious every time. Dad taught me to read with Bon Appetit Magazine and Gourmet, and to be passionate about food.

At our holiday table, I especially loved Mom’s Chicken Fricassee with chicken wings, little meatballs, and tender onions and garlic in brownish gravy. So, when I got married, that was the one recipe I begged her for. She would make it for Rosh Hashanah and other holidays as a hearty appetizer. The only problem was that she had no recipe card, no newspaper or magazine cutout, or any real measurements to work with. So as a new bride, I invited her over to my kitchen table, and had assembled a food scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons, before she arrived.

Now, when I asked her how much salt she used in the recipe, she would take a handful of salt, and I would transfer it to a measuring spoon. The same for paprika, black pepper, garlic, etc. Her fistful of matzo meal was poured into measuring cups, too. By the end of this cooking lesson, I had all the amounts necessary to recreate Mom’s signature dish that would bring smiles to all of my future guests sitting around my holiday table.

Sadly, Mom never got to taste my version of her Chicken Fricassee. She died Erev Rosh Hashanah 2005. But, a part of her is at every holiday meal I create. That’s when I got to thinking that holidays should be a blend of something old and something new. We should honor basic traditions but create some new family ones also.

So, this Rosh Hashanah, here are some tips to enhance your family’s holiday:

1.   Pick Your Own Apples. Rather than buying your apples at the supermarket, go and pick them at one of our local fruit farms. When you dip those crisp slices of apple into honey, it will be even more meaningful, since your family plucked them off the trees themselves.

2.   Honey Tasting. Purchase a few assorted brands and flavors of honey in advance of the holiday, and have a honey tasting. Set out an array of sliced fruits, crackers, cheeses, see which honey your family likes the best, and serve that one on the holiday.

3.   Apple Crafts. With some of your extra apples from your apple picking adventure, have the kids decorate apple placemats, holiday cards, place cards, napkins, and welcome signs with apple print stamps (made from halved or quartered apples dipped in paint).

4.   Preserve Your Recipes. Even if your children haven’t cornered you yet for your recipes, your holiday table will contain many recipes from different sources. Take the time to gather them together into your own holiday cookbook. Whether you share it with them now or later, it will be a valuable family heirloom.

5.   Make a New Dish or Dessert. To keep things fresh and interesting each holiday, add in at least one new dish or dessert to your menu. It’s great to have your tried and true recipes on hand, but it’s also wonderful to create something different to excite those taste buds!

We wish you a bountiful and memorable Jewish New Year!

Happy Cooking,
Chef Paula
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P.S. Please feel free to contact me if you would like Mom’s recipe for Chicken Fricassee.