Happy 12th Anniversary

Happy 12th Anniversary, LilChefs.com Special Events!! It was on March 23, 2005 that Chef Paula launched her very first Pizza Making Party in Manhattan. Today we offer many cooking themed events for children, adults, schools, camps, libraries, scouts, non-profits, special needs, seniors, corporations, artists, & charities. Our parties, classes, workshops and public events are available in the Tri-State.

A big shout-out to my husband and partner, Michael D. Herman for all that you do to make our events memorable--custom designed invitations, photos, videos, personalized recipe books, for being a talented sous chef, greatest supporter, and my best friend helping me to honor my parents' memories.

Thank you to all of the families and organizations who have hired us for the last dozen years! We are looking forward to growing exponentially, offering our after-school classes in additional school districts, creating more adult cooking events, and more launch events for our authors, artists, fashion designers, and musicians! Stay tuned...

Happy Cooking,
Chef Paula

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A Banner Week for Chef Paula

With Gail King at the Hospitality Ball 2015

With Gail King, Long Island Hospitality Ball 2015 #LIHB

Last week was a banner week for me! As press, I interviewed amazing chefs at Long Island Hospitality Ball for "Chef Paula's Cooking With Stars," was featured in a red carpet video by Looking to make a Difference with Gail, profiled in a great article by Betsy Abraham for The Westbury Times, chosen as the first Woman Wednesday by Danielle Reed, covered Ida Siegal's Emma Is On The Air: Big News Long Island Book Signing, helped out at James W. Reed's Celebration of Life, created two "I Love Lucy" Chocolate Parties, and sponsored Richard Brodsky's 5K Aids Cancer Run Walk. And to top it off, I received a lovely note from Maureen O'Connell, Nassau County Clerk! Wow, I feel like I won the Triple Crown!

“A Recipe for Success” Published in Long Island Newspapers

Chef Paula Gottlieb Herman Betsy Abraham of Anton Media interviewed Chef Paula by phone and wrote a beautiful feature on her. You can read the article as published in the Westbury Times here.

A few days later, we were pleasantly surprised when we opened an envelope from Maureen O'Connell, the Nassau County Clerk. Inside was a greeting card with their official logo on the front and inside it said, "Congratulations, I read something nice about you and thought you would like a copy." A small reprint of this article which also ran in the Port Washington Times was enclosed.  Click here to see a printer friendly scan of that card and article.

Seniors ACE’d It

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

Curious, eager, and full of energy are adjectives that ordinarily describe the li’l chefs I teach cooking to. But, on Friday, May 16th, my li’l chefs weren’t so little.

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After LilChefs.com Special Events was featured in a Newsday article about our President’s Day Lend a Helping Hand Baking Workshop benefiting Ronald McDonald House, I received a lovely call from Adrienne, a senior from a group called ACE which stands for Alternative Cultural Experiences. They were interested in having me do a cooking workshop with their Eclectic Committee. She figured that since I am used to working with kids that I would be capable of working with her 16 seniors ranging in age from the 70’s to 80’s. And she was right!

To put this event together many details needed to be fleshed out. We needed a location that had a meeting room and access to a kitchen. We needed to review food allergies and sensitivities. We needed to create a menu that was doable in a 3-hour timetable and on a tight budget.

Location, location, location. When people use that phrase, they are correct; it is a really important component in planning an event. These seniors weren’t all from one community. They hailed from Nassau, Suffolk, and one from NJ. I reached out to various businesses, churches, and county recreation departments with numerous phone calls and pleas to reduce room rental fees to a more manageable amount. But, I was hitting a wall. So, I turned to my friend James Reed, former Nassau County Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Affairs. I explained what I was looking to do and he automatically came up with a former colleague’s name, Kathleen Foster, who is the Assistant Coordinator of The Senior Citizen Service Project of Nassau County. No one would understand the needs of seniors better than she would.

Kathleen was a huge help in pointing me in the right direction. Her best lead was with Parkway Community Church in Hicksville. Her agency had an event coming up at the church in a few weeks, and she would approach them with the idea. After her event, she emailed me, and recommended that I speak with Pastor Harold Lay (Pastor Hank). When we spoke multiple times on the phone, he was not only willing to host the event at his church, but he reduced the rental fee even further. He, his church staff and board members were absolutely lovely to work with.

Now that we had a location, I arranged for Adrienne and Evelyn, co-chairs of this event, to visit the site so we could see the room set-up, kitchen facilities, etc. We would have access to two refrigerators/freezers, a stovetop/oven, coffee maker, microwave, china, glassware, and utensils. This was going to be amazing! The space would enable me to create a menu with endless possibilities. And Adrienne would have a chance to design beautiful tables for her group to dine.

After our initial meeting at the church, Adrienne gave me a handwritten slip of paper that indicated the food allergies I needed to work around. Some of her group needed to avoid soy, dairy, chocolate, nuts, shellfish, curry, and cilantro. We sat on a park bench outside the church and I created the menu on the spot.

Our appetizers would include Cinco de Mayo Bites (black bean/corn/avocado/red pepper salsa in mini corn tortilla scoops) and Red Pepper Hummus with Mini Pitas. Our main course would be Marinated Salmon with a side of Cranberry Apple Quinoa Salad (dried cranberries/apples/celery/ basil/toasted pecans and vinaigrette). Dessert would be Mini Warm Apple Pies & Mini Pumpkin Tarts in phyllo shells. While the group hoped to have wine with dinner, they would have lemonade, iced tea, and water instead. Parkway Community Church does not permit alcohol on their premises because sobriety is one of the church’s main missions.

With location and menu plotted out, my to-do list included shopping for all the food, designing five workstations with ingredients and tools, and creating cookbooks so that everyone would have a chance to prepare these dishes in their home kitchens after the event. I ended up adding a new appetizer to the menu which is always a crowd pleaser: Pigs in the Blanket wrapped in puff pastry with a little bit of Dijon inside the pastry jacket. I also threw in a new side dish which was Asparagus-Olive Oil, Parmesan & Lemon.

Our cooking workshop was just a few days away. As any good event planner would do, I kept an eye on the weather. Earlier that week, the weather forecast called for rain for Friday. But by Thursday, it predicted heavy rain, flash foods, and dangerous winds. After teaching two of my after-school classes and then a dinner event, I headed to our local supermarket to buy some of the perishables. Now I had a dilemma. What if the weather predictions were correct? Would it be safe for the seniors to drive to and from the event? I left a message for Adrienne on her husband’s cell to call me back. I aborted my nighttime shopping run and headed for home.

On Friday morning Adrienne and I discussed my concerns, she called some of her committee members, and they were still on board with our evening’s plans. Nothing was going to dampen their spirits! So, with four trunks packed with cooking tools, pots, electric skillet, food processor and nonperishable food, we headed to the church before the rain began. I set up the tables for the cooking workshop and allocated tables for the dining part. Adrienne soon arrived, and while I went back out to buy the perishables, she would be able to set the three dinner tables. In just a few hours, ACE members would be chopping, dicing, and blending their way to a delicious meal!

When my husband Michael and I came back with the groceries, we were blown away, not just by the wind and rain we battled, but by the tablescape Adrienne created. She used disposable black tablecloths, layered doilies, china chargers, black plastic plates, and set a plastic mini solar flower pot at each table setting as a favor. As the flowers would catch some light, they would do a little dance in their spring green pots. Adorable touch!

Not to be outdone, I dressed each of my five workstations with cheery spring green and yellow polka dot tablecloths. Station 1 was where Red Pepper Hummus would be blended in the food processor. Station 2 was for rolling out Pigs in the Blanket. Station 3 was for dicing and chopping Cinco de Mayo Bites. Station 4 was for creating Cranberry-Apple Quinoa Salad. Station 5 was for Asparagus-Olive Oil, Parmesan & Lemon. A recipe on cardstock was at every table along with the ingredients and tools for each item featured on our menu.

At 6:00 PM ACE members arrived, and our cooking dinner party was soon underway. Adult-size chef hats and aprons were at the entrance of our room, ready for each senior to personalize and put on. They all looked smashing in their chef ware!

Adrienne’s husband, Larry, artfully introduced me to the group by reading some of my bio, and I had an opportunity to speak as well. I loved telling them how excited I was to share my food and techniques with them. How thrilled I was that they chose me for this event. I explained that I started my cooking classes and workshops as a way to honor my Dad who passed away. He and my Mom would have been so proud of what we all would experience that evening!

After my orientation about the night’s activities, the seniors divided themselves into teams. Michael and I worked with each group giving out helpful tips, showing them how to use some of our gadgets like the Vidalia Wizard to chop avocados and peppers, a garlic roller to peel garlic, and a Microplane to zest a lemon.

Each of the stations was abuzz with hard work, the sound of laughter, and smiles all around. The Red Pepper Hummus was the first to be plated with its signature coral color and a well of diced up roasted red peppers. It was served in an oblong bowl nestled inside a pretty wicker basket surrounded by mini pitas and whole wheat mini pitas. The Pigs in the Blanket pastry dough was masterfully rolled out onto baking sheets, given a quick paint of Dijon, topped with a cocktail size hot dog, wrapped up, and a quick egg wash before baking. The Cinco de Mayo Bites were colorful and delicious and beautifully presented on my 3-tier servers. Each portion was a perfect little corn tortilla scoop with pieces of avocado, corn, black bean, red pepper, and scallion poking through.

While the Quinoa Salad was being made, the Pigs in the Blankets emerged from the oven and were golden, flaky, and a burst of joy in your mouth. Not surprising, those were the first appetizers to be devoured. The salad combined the pre-cooked quinoa Michael made earlier that evening with chopped apple, dried cranberries, celery, basil, toasted pecans and delicious vinaigrette. For those who couldn’t eat the pecans, their portions were put to the side sans nuts.

While the seniors were eating and enjoying the apps, I headed into the kitchen to bake the 18 marinated salmon steaks. Initially I was going to make fresh salmon with a variety of marinades, but knew that the frozen Seasoned Grill Wild Alaskan Salmon I buy from Morey’s is always flavorful, uniform in weight, and amazing. I laid them out on my baking sheets, set my oven timer, and baked them for 30 minutes. One of my ACE chefs, Dan, asked me how I would know when the salmon was cooked through. I pulled out my handy dandy meat thermometer, showed him that when inserted into the thickest part of the fish and reaching an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit; it would be ready to serve. A shout out to Chef Chuck for making sure I had a few Cinco de Mayo Bites while slaving over the hot oven!

ACE members gathered at the dinner tables and conducted their monthly meeting while the salmon baked and I blanched the asparagus tips. They are such an impressive group of professionals, professors, teachers, engineers, artists, etc. They have been together for 30 years. Originally started as a film forum by 10 couples, these ACE seniors meet monthly and serve on different committees such as the Eclectic Committee, Current Issues, Printed Word, Film & Theater, and Art Forms.

The timing was perfect for when their meeting ended and my asparagus needed to be finished off. Some of the seniors jumped up to zest the lemon, shred the Parmesan, and make the oil dressing. I was so thrilled with their helpfulness. Chef Allen, your bright smile and work ethic were duly noted!

Pastor Hank joined us for dinner and we all savored the meal we made. The flavorful salmon, crunchy quinoa salad and verdant asparagus melded on the plate. I so enjoyed being invited to dine with our guests as opposed to feeling like the hired help. This was our dinner event that we all put a lot of sweat equity into creating for each other!

Our final course was the dessert course. We would end our special evening on a sweet note. Since I wasn’t sure if the group would still want to be involved in doing dessert after preparing five dishes, I had a back-up plan. I purchased a cinnamon crumb coffee cake to go with the fruit platter they brought. But, they were still raring to go. I redressed the Hummus station, and now set with an electric skillet, diced apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins, we got to work on the Mini Apple Pies. Simultaneously Michael worked with a few chefs to make the Pumpkin Mousse which combined pumpkin puree, whipped topping, cinnamon, and instant vanilla pudding powder. Piping the apple and pumpkin fillings into the mini shells with a dollop of whipped cream made them look very polished.

Desserts, coffee, tea, and amazing conversation ended our cooking party experience. Three months of planning, 16 animated seniors, a wonderful church host, and we came up with the perfect recipe for success. While Adrienne found me through an article in Newsday, it seemed that another chef named Barbara met me two years earlier at her school when I was hired to do a jam workshop with her summer campers. In passing she asked if I would be open to the idea of working with seniors. Well, if I knew then what I know now, I would have said yes right on the spot. As far as I am concerned, these seniors are Aces in my recipe book!

Li’l Chefs Are Shining Stars on Presidents’ Day Weekend 2014

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

Thank you to all the li'l chefs and their supportive families who participated in our 2nd Annual Lend a Helping Hand Baking Workshop with LilChefs.com Special Events on Sunday, February 16th! We are also so grateful to The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island for giving us this amazing opportunity to provide delicious treats to their families, as well as the informative house tours they led. A special shout out to Tara Conry, Newsday reporter, for seeking us out and spending 2 1/2 hours capturing the event for Monday's printed edition and Long Island Now blog. Click here to see the full article and community comments from around Long Island.

In honor of Presidents' Day Weekend, our menu consisted of baked goods that were red, white & blue.  But, that didn't include the use of food dyes and additives. Instead we used farm fresh blueberries, strawberries, milk, eggs, vanilla, and white chocolate chips. Each of the two groups had 90 minutes to mix, measure, and fill up baking trays with batter to create such items as Strawberry-White Chocolate Mini Muffins, Blueberry-Orange Mini Muffins, and Chewy Cherry Bars (in honor of George Washington).

Baking delicious muffins and bars for the families staying at The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island was only one piece of this puzzle. It was also so special to see our families from Oceanside, Manhasset, Plainview, and Commack arriving with non-perishable food to donate to the house pantry. Another highlight was having the kids decorate a get well poster with their own original artwork as well as stickers I provided with inspirational words like "Love," "Believe," "Missing You," and "Inspire." Continuing the spirit of paying it forward, we also donated silver tone decorative platters, baking trays, and cooling racks to the house for future li'l bakers to use and to display their masterpieces on.

Teaching these kids about volunteerism at such young ages was so important to me. These are the life lessons of giving back my parents instilled in me. I remember some of our Thanksgivings spent at the Bowery Mission in Manhattan making holiday dinners for hundreds of people down on their luck. I also remember my Dad and I dedicating our time on various weekend mornings to clean up our community in Brooklyn with H.E.L.P. (Highway Environmental Litter Project). Working as a team to provide meals or to beautify a park was very rewarding and meaningful to us!

Now, here I am encouraging these young chefs from ages 6-13 to be passionate and excited about baking for other families. When finally allowed to sample a muffin or bar of their choice, Chef Isabella, 9, said the muffin “was the best thing she ever ate.” I heard moms and dads say how proud they were of their kids and that after this positive experience, they will do more baking with them.

But, my best moment during the four-hour event came between the first and second session when I was alone resetting the kitchen while the next group toured the house.  I noticed a little toddler in her dad's arms eating one of our Strawberry-White Chocolate Mini Muffins. When I walked over to them, she was smiling, giggling, and loving every bite. Dad said that she just ate three of them, and he was thrilled, since she hardly eats anything these days. They are from Belize, and his daughter is set to have open heart surgery later this month. It made me so happy to know that the recipe I showed the kids how to make brought this little warrior some comfort even if for just a few fleeting moments.

Our muffins transcended language, culture, and geography. Their flavor or texture or perhaps their compact size made a beautiful little girl and her dad, who are far from home, forget their issues and connect in a very special way. I made sure to give them a copy of our LilChefs.com Special Events’ cookbook that we created for our volunteer bakers. Now, they will also have access to all the recipes we baked at the house that day.

I hope that when they are back in Belize, the family will recreate our recipes in their home kitchen, remembering the sweet time we shared together. I know when I bake my next batch of Strawberry-White Chocolate Muffins I’ll think of them.  I’ll also lovingly remember the li’l bakers who mixed, measured, and created trays of yummy treats not for themselves but for others who “deserve a break today!” (McDonald’s slogan from 1971).

 

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
LilChefs.com Special Events

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

Goin’ Back With Al Roker

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

Would he remember me? Would I get the chance to tell him that I, too, made a pledge to honor my Dad’s memory? Would he get to hear about my cooking parties? Would he recognize the silver pin I wore on my suit, a staff Christmas gift he bought me many moons ago? Those were the questions dancing around in my head on Tuesday, January 8th at 7:00 PM. That evening, Al Roker was scheduled to do a book signing at Book Revue in Huntington. His newest book, Never Goin’ Back chronicles his battle with weight, and his promise to his dying father, that he would get serious about losing it.

Al and I worked together at NBC News on a variety of shows, Sunday Today, Weekend Today, and Today. I began my career at the Peacock Network in August 1986, and left my beloved NBC in October 1993, when my position as a Production Coordinator was eliminated, during a division-wide lay-off, and coincidentally, the same time my Dad was diagnosed with kidney disease. Rather than working 80 hours a week at 30 Rock finding the right “talking head” or making travel arrangements for guests, I was able to research treatments and specialists to help Dad preserve his remaining renal function.

It had been at least two decades since I produced segments with Al. My favorites included “Fugu & Wagyu,” (Japanese Blowflish and Hand-Massaged Kobe Beef), “Cirque du Soleil Nouvelle Experience,” “Stuttering,” and a bunch of live segments featuring cooking gadgets and outdoor cooking.  Al was smart, funny, and wrote a great script.  He was a pleasure to work with, except when there was a weather emergency, hurricane, or earthquake. Those years, he was doing the local WNBC-TV weather at 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00, as well as our network weekend or weekday Todayshows. So, I had to pray for sunny skies, in order for him to be available to do the interviews I set up.
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Chef Paula Dances with the Stars

Ordinarily on a Tuesday evening you’ll find me glued to “Dancing with the Stars.” But this past Tuesday night, I was dancing with the stars at the Food Network’s red carpet premier party for “Have Cake, Will Travel” which will air on Tuesdays at 9PM. 

This new comedy docu-reality show stars Ashley Vicos, the Southern blonde bombshell dubbed “the reigning queen of the cake decorating world” and her motley team, as they create amazing 3-D cakes around the country in rented kitchens, not from the familiar confines of their own culinary space in Georgia. Dennis, the Too-Personal Assistant, Erin, the All-Purpose Intern, and Mary, the Salty Sugar Artist round out the cast.

The launch party hosted by Eric Vega of Prosinthecity.com was promoted as a 5-hour event held at Arena Ballroom on W. 41st in NYC. Guests of note included the cast and production crew, assorted 20-something girls, male and female Marines, and a John Travolta “Saturday Night Fever” lookalike. The invitation indicated that network execs, agents, and folks from fashion and film would also be attending.

When Michael and I arrived, the party was in full swing, and Ashley graciously posed for photos, gave out milk chocolate lip-shaped candies (lips are a prominent part of her logo design for Sweet Ashley’s, her cake studio), introduced 2 of her episodes  projected onto 2 jumbo screens, and danced the night away until her stiletto heels came off. The pilot episode showed Ashley and her team whipping up an amazing cake for the Harlem Globetrotter’s 85th Anniversary. The second episode highlighted a Mardi Gras design that brought Ashley back to her stomping grounds in New Orleans. Her three daughters and family members were there to greet this single mom for her homecoming.

Our early photos of the event show me “near” Ashley thanks to Michael’s photographic talents. Later photos actually show Ashley and I huddling together for pics taken by a myriad of photographers as well as dancing together. Check out photos (83 & 84) of me posing and dancing with Ashley.

I wished her good luck with the show, told her about my passion for teaching kids to cook, and gave her my business card that had 3 whimsical cupcakes on it. I mentioned that I really admire her decision to do her cake designs remotely. Since I travel every weekend to different towns, different kitchens or partner locations, I know first-hand how much organization and pre-planning is necessary to pull off events. Ashley was taken by what I had to say, and told me that she began cooking at the age of 5, and got her start in making cakes by using her Easy-Bake Oven.

After our few special moments together, Ashley announced that it wouldn’t be a party without cake. While it wasn’t one of her masterpieces, our bounty consisted of assorted pastries from a local bakery placed on the bar. Some of the standout items for me included a giant cannoli with delicious cannoli filling and individual mini cannoli shells for scooping out the cream. That cannoli and the tender pignoli cookies that melted in your mouth took the cake for me. Michael was partial to the rainbow cookies and chocolate mousse pastry.

After sampling the yummy desserts, we hung out on the dance floor, and checked out the rest of the club. The décor included clusters of red balloons with a mini mirror ball attached as a weight a la the mirror ball trophy from “Dancing with the Stars.” So, now my evening’s entertainment came full circle. Me, a dance floor, a mirror ball, and some stars to mingle with. Next Tuesday, it’s back to sweats and watching a Viennese waltz. After this experience, I’d love to be savoring some Viennese pastries, too. Oh well, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Party Poopers, No More!

Chef Paula writes for the Ask-the-Expert article, "Party Poopers, No More!"

Even when you've planned and prepared till the cows come home, hosting a birthday party for kids can have its moments of stress. Remember that the occasion is marking another of your child's milestones (one year older, one year wiser, and one more candle on the cake!) - so don't let something as inconsequential as a whiny or unruly child ruin your day, and especially [don't let it ruin] your child's.

So, Long Island party experts were asked...

How can parents deal with a young guest who is being disruptive at their child's party?

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