Vashti’s Banquet

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

Just yesterday, on March 8th, women all over the world were celebrating International Women’s Day. But, six days earlier, at the East Meadow Jewish Center, we were celebrating one very special woman, Queen Vashti. During the reading of the Purim story, we recall how she was summoned to the palace to have an audience with the King, and since she was hosting her own banquet, she refused to leave her guests. Sadly, because of this act of bravery she was sentenced to death, which then paved the way for Esther to become the Queen. Some people have said that Queen Vashti was our world’s first feminist.

For those lucky enough to join our Vashti’s Banquet in person, they were treated to an evening of Persian delights. The décor included a harem tent covered in purple voile curtains and pashminas, complete with throne and plush purple seat cover, silver decorative tray with water pitcher, plants, baskets, and Persian background music. Upon arrival, guests were presented with metallic necklaces decorated with crowns or coins on them, or colorful scarves to wear.

The elaborate banquet platters included Pistachio Baklava Bites, Dark Chocolate Fruit Candies with Figs and Dates, Chocolate Dipped Dried Apricots, Dates Stuffed with Walnut Halves, and Persian Mulled Wine. These handmade delicacies were both delicious and beautiful to look at.

In addition to amazing food and drink, Chef Paula, dressed in a harem-chic outfit, led the program with an Ancient Beauty Secrets Demonstration of 3 Harem Body Scrubs or Polishes. Harem girls would spend 12 months getting ready for their audience with the King. They used a variety of beauty rituals to make their skin velvety soft and smooth. So, exfoliating body scrubs and polishes were quite popular.

No Vashti Banquet would be complete without a belly dancer and a belly dancing  lesson. Daniela, Daniela Belly Dance, mesmerized the ladies with her flawless movements, enchanting smile, snake arm gestures, and sword balancing act. Her performance and group lesson were life changing!                                         Photo 2259  (More photos will be posted soon.)

Since we have received countless requests for the recipes we featured at our Banquet, including the ancient beauty demonstration, as well as our gourmet refreshments, we now share them with you. You can make these recipes in your own home kitchen. So, whether you use the ingredients to make your skin smooth, or to make your taste buds do a happy dance, we hope you enjoy them as much as we did!


Harem Beauty Secrets & Rituals

Harem Body Scrub/Polish#1                          Photo 2214

  1. Take 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 teaspoon fine sea salt.
  2. Mix the two ingredients together.
  3. Apply over the areas of skin that you would like to treat.
  4. Begin making brisk back and forth massaging movements to exfoliate your skin, and then polish your skin briskly.
  5. Once the process is completed, hop under a shower to rinse.


Harem Body Scrub/Polish#2

  1. Take 4 tablespoons of shredded coconut, a few spoonfuls of natural yogurt and 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly.


Harem Body Scrub/Polish#3

  1. Take 4 or 5 tablespoons of rice flour, the same amount of ground coffee, and 1 cup of natural yogurt.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients well.

Persian Delight Desserts


Baklava Bites                                                      Photo 2203



  • 1 ½ cups walnuts or pistachios, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 packages (15 count, each) Athens® Mini Fillo Shells
  • Syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. In a food processor, add walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves and pulse to combine. Spoon 1 tablespoon of nut mixture into each shell filling 30 mini shells. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water, sugar honey and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Cool slightly and pour a teaspoon of warm syrup over each shell.
  3. Refrigerate filled shells for 4 to 5 hours, then thaw shells for 15 minutes before serving.
  4. *Desserts can be frozen and then thawed for future use.


Dark Chocolate Fruit Candies with Pomegranates, Figs and Dates

36 candies (12 of each fruit)

Kosher Key: Pareve for dairy-free dark chocolate (or dairy if using milk chocolate)                        Photo 2205

Total Time: 4 Hours


  • 4 bars dark chocolate, or 3 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2/3 cup dates, chopped into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup dried figs, chopped into small pieces
  • Double boiler, 2 mini muffin tins, 36 mini muffin cups
  • Line a mini muffin pan with paper muffin cups. Break the dark chocolate bars into smaller pieces and slowly melt over a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler, you can melt the chocolate in a glass, Pyrex or metal bowl set securely atop a pan of simmering water. Note: to avoid blooming (the filmy layer that sometimes rises to the surface of chocolate after it sets-- it doesn't affect flavor but it's not very pretty), you can temper the chocolate. You'll need a thermometer.
  • Once the chocolate is melted, spoon a little into each cup so that the bottom is completely covered.
  • Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the pomegranate seeds into 12 of the chocolate cups, dividing the fruit evenly between the cups.
  • Repeat with the chopped dates and figs (12 of each) until all of the cups have been filled.
  • Cover the fruit candies with the remaining melted chocolate. Don't be afraid to get a little messy here. Embrace the imperfection. They don't need to look neat and tidy.
  • Leave the chocolates in a cool, dry place for about 4 hours until set. You can speed up the process by placing them in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Over time the chocolate may "bloom" - a process in which the sugar or fat rises to surface of the chocolate and creates a cloudy or spotty appearance. They'll still taste great, they just won't be as pretty. As I mentioned above, you can temper the chocolate to avoid blooming.
  • Keep the pomegranate dark chocolates in the fridge for up to a week. The others can stay at room temperature in a cool, dry place for 2-3 weeks.

Persian Mulled Wine

Ingredients:                                                       Photo 2215

  • 2 cups pomegranate seeds
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 orange
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 bottle of fruity Shiraz wine


To a pot add pomegranate seeds, peel from orange pierced by cloves, lightly crushed cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks.

Add apple cider, cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Add honey and continue to gently simmer for 10 minutes.

Add red wine, give it a gentle stir, cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes longer.  That’s pretty much it! Serve mulled wine in mugs or Persian tea cups. Enjoy! This recipe makes about 6 to 8 cups of mulled wine depending on the size of the cups in which they are served.

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.


After 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 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 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).


2nd Annual Lend A Helping Hand Baking Workshops

  • Date: Sunday, February 16, 2014
  • Pick One of Two Sessions:
    • 10 am – 12:00 pm or
    • 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
  • Ages: Children ages 6-16
  • Price: $10 per child ingredients donation. (Also, please bring non-perishable food items for Ronald McDonald House Pantry).


  • Event Address:
    • The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island
    • 267-07 76th Avenue, New Hyde Park, NY 11040
  • Phone: 516-338-0552


Description: Come crack some eggs, sift some flour, and mix up some patriotic treats for the families staying at The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. Volunteer bakers from ages 6-16 will feel proud to whip up some delicious desserts that will put a smile on the faces of children undergoing medical treatments. Workshops will start off with a tour of this gorgeous house that was recently renovated by a team of interior designers, and then end with a 90-minute baking session led by Chef Paula.

February 17th is President’s Day, so let’s create some goodies fit for a President. How about some chewy cherry bars in honor of George Washington? If you have a patriotic dessert recipe or a great idea for one, please email us, and maybe we’ll feature it. Advance payment and registration required. For more information call or email Chef Paula today. Space for this baking workshop is limited.


2013 Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival

logo27 chefs, 50,000 lbs. of chopped meat, 3,000 guests, 1 year of planning, and Burger Bash NYC 2013 was a huge success. This event is part of the Food Network NYC Wine & Food Festival that in five years has raised well over $6 million for charities that feed the homeless. We worked the beefy event, and relished a job well done (meat pun)!

Congratulations to Chefs Paul DenamielJosh Capon & Guy Fieri for winning Burger Bash at the 2013 Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, hosted by Rachael Ray, on Friday night at Pier 92 in Manhattan!

We are so proud to have volunteered at this event and to witness the true meaning of giving back. $1 million dollars was raised throughout the 4-day festival with the proceeds donated to the Food Bank For New York City & Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign.

We'll be uploading our photos and behind-the-scene stories of our adventures at the festival in future posts. Stay tuned!

Happy Cooking,
Chef Paula

Lotsa Matzo Memories

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

What does The Mama Doni Band, matzo warm from the oven, chocolate layered marble halvah, and a pressed chicken sandwich all have in common? They were some of the amazing treats I experienced on the Lower East Side last Sunday.

The Lower East Side has always held a special place in my heart since my Dad was born there, my Bubbe taught me to make chicken soup there; we could buy pickles from a barrel, delicious knishes of every flavor, bialys with just the right amount of onion, and the most delicate flavored smoked fish.  As a little girl, after my first subway ride from our apartment in Brooklyn to Manhattan, I was hooked!

Chef Paula with Mama Doni

Chef Paula with Mama Doni at the Streit's Mazo Factory

On Sunday, March 10th, I reconnected with these roots by first attending Passover Palooza, the musical performance of Mama Doni and her band at the Streit’s Matzo Factory on Rivington Street, and then leading a walking tour to a few of Dad’s old haunts.

Read more »

2nd Annual Harry Potter Halloween Workshop

Harry Potter Soars Again

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

Wizard wands, potions, spell duels, and cupcake cauldrons magically delighted families at the 2nd Annual Harry Potter Halloween Workshop with on Sunday, October 21st.  Families from Manhattan, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk were greeted by me, Chef Paula, owner of Special Events, dressed in a purple wizard robe and hat, instead of my trademark chef coat and chef hat. I was accompanied by an assortment of wizards representing Dumbledore’s Army Clubs from LIU Post and Five Towns College.  The first 30 minutes of the each workshop included visiting the live Animals Exhibit at the Center for Science Teaching & Learning in Rockville Centre.  Barred owls, snakes, lizards, turtles and more were on display to get the new Hogwarts in the right spell-binding mood along with a Harry Potter trivia contest.

The families then entered the Great Hall by uttering a secret password. Once inside, they could visit multiple stations including the Wand Making station where the li’l wizards could add magical ingredients to give their wand special powers such as Unicorn Hair, Dragon Heartstring, Phoenix Tail Feather, and Thestral Tail Hair.  Or the Transfiguration Booth where they could try on articles of clothing and props such as wands, neckties, scarves, glasses, snitches, marauder’s map and pose for family photos in front of the mural painted by the LIU Post Dumbledore’s Army Club. The mural, created last year for the 1st Annual Harry Potter Halloween Workshop, displayed the castle up on a bluff, an elder’s wand, owl carrying a message, and Harry Potter logo. For extra authenticity, two face painters could also transfigure any wizard into an animal or other character with the stroke of their paint brushes. And for those more daring, a Potions Table was set up to tempt the wizards with canisters of delectable tasting items but with disgusting names such as Blood Worms (red string licorice), Blind Cat Eyes (mini marshmallows), Hollow Stump Soil (chocolate cookie crumbs),  and Gillyweed (green Gatorade with shreds of coconut floating on top).

Harry Potter themed music played in the background as the families gathered for the Sorting Hat Ceremony. A stool with the Hogwarts crest was positioned by the mural and I placed the brown all-knowing sorting hat on each child’s head. The wizards-in-training were given their house assignment by the talking hat in a big, booming voice. Once sorted, the new Hogwarts took their places at the long table representing their house.  Each of the four tables could be located by the handmade centerpiece created just for them by two LIU Post students.  All of the centerpieces had a wooden painted letter attached to a base and a mason jar with color coded glass beads and feathery plumes poking out. I especially loved the Gryffindor’s centerpiece with the red “G” and red glass beads.  Each table also displayed their house’s formal crest. Above each table, candles were magically floating, just like in the original Great Hall from the Harry Potter movies. Hand-painted banners with all the house crests proudly hung in the room, too.

Since food is always such a big part of any event, this one was no exception. I set up a lavish buffet for the guests to enjoy a glass of creamy Butterbeer (skillfully mixed by a Five Towns College wizard with cream soda, butterscotch topping, and whipped cream), Herbology Bites (sliced baguette with vegetable cream cheese and English cucumber topper), Pumpkin Pasties (pumpkin and gingerbread mini cakes), Rock Cakes (chocolate brownie bites), vegetable crudités, cheese platter, cauldron of assorted crackers, and Elixir of Life (bottled water).

Once the wizards and their families were fed, I called up each house, one at a time, to start working with me to craft the Harry Potter snacks. First, Wizard Wands were conjured up with either a pretzel rod or licorice stick dipped in melted chocolate. Then the wands could be decorated with Halloween-colored sprinkles, coconut, or chocolate crumbs. Next, Crunchy Cockroaches were created with a dollop of chocolate encrusted with raisins and broken pretzel bits.  Acid Pop Lollipops are always a crowd pleaser among the kids and the parents who wax nostalgically about their first experience with Pop Rocks. Packets of Blue Razz Pop Rocks were given out along with a 3 oz. cup of water, and a choice of Blow Pop Lollipops. The kids were instructed to unwrap the lollipop, to slightly dampen the pop with water (or they could lick it a few times), then dip the pop in Pop Rocks. The crackles and the smiles were both great to see and hear! The last craft was Cupcake Cauldrons. Devils food or yellow sponge cupcakes were displayed on 3-tier Halloween pedestals alongside chocolate and vanilla puddings, gummy frogs, gummy brains, gummy worms, and black licorice. The goal was to hollow out a small well in the middle of the cupcake, pour in some pudding, then lace the cauldron with some creepy crawly critters and to attach a black licorice handle. Who knew creepy things could taste so yummy?

The last half hour of the event was designed to showcase the college students from the Dumbledore’s Army Clubs. Since all the wizards-in-training had their wands, now they needed to know what those wands were capable of. Two adult wizards demonstrated various spells during a spell duel, and then individual li’l wizards were coached to come up and cast a spell to combat an adult wizard. Some of our littlest wizards packed quite a wallop as the adult wizard opponent had his legs become wobbly by the Jelly-Legs Jinx or rendered unconscious by hearing the Stupefy Stunning Spell.

The finale of the 2nd Annual Harry Potter Halloween Workshop With was the musical performance of “Going Back To Hogwarts” from “A Very Potter Musical.”  Harry, Ron, and Hermione were flanked by a wizardly chorus of singers. The routine was amazing, animated, and showed the true spirit and talent of these college students we had the privilege to work with for the last month. We attended their Wednesday club hours at LIU Post as they created paper wands for all of our wizards, painted banners, constructed centerpieces, rehearsed the musical number, and came up with trivia questions. We were blessed to have so many interested students collaborating with us for way more than the community service credits they received from LIU Post and Five Towns College, and an inspiring club advisor (LIU Post), who breathed even more life into the event we created.

After the entertaining finale, our way to end the event was to give out special awards for the best costumes. We handed out Hershey Bars dressed up in “Most Original Costume,” Best Costume,” and “Scariest Costume” wrappers. All wizards left with a specially designed goody bag that we made up with a “Harry Potter Halloween With” label, broomstick pen engraved with, Harry Potter geek glasses, rubber bracelet, Halloween pencil, recipe book with all of the Harry Potter snacks we made, and a personalized diploma.

It was our pleasure to host four children from Ronald McDonald House of Long Island and two children from Make A Wish Foundation of Long Island. These children, who are being treated for a variety of medical conditions at local hospitals, had a chance to just be kids or wizards, if only for a few hours.  We were also happy to offer complimentary tickets to winners from the Treat of the Day Contest by and our own internal ticket contest.

The energy in the Great Hall was magnetic for these two sessions. Children, adults, wizards, and a chef all witnessed something magical. One of our littlest wizards who attended our morning workshop, age 4.5 came dressed in his Harry Potter outfit, and was completely wowed by the workshop. In an email I received the next day, his mom said, “The Harry Potter Workshop was amazing and such a wonderful experience!  My son had the best time and has been talking about it since the event. It was so much fun and entertaining, and one of the best family events we have ever participated in! Thank you so much for preparing and hosting such an amazing event for children! I would also like to express a special thank you to the Dumbledore’s Army and CSTL group. Oh my gosh, they were so great and made the event even more special. I can’t rave enough about them and LilChef’s!

Thank you to all who made this event such a spooktacular one!! We are hard at work preparing for next year’s seasonal events.  We hope to see you all in 2013!

Kids & Rigs Sailing Adventure

Event Title: Kids & Rigs Sailing Adventure

  • Date: Friday, August 10 & Sunday, August 12, 2012
  • Hours: 11am-1:00pm
  • Ages: Children ages 3-14 and Adults
  • Price: August 10: $40 for Children 3+, $30 for Adults; August 12: $45 for Children 3+, $35 for Adults.
  • Address: Schooner Soundwaters, Port Jefferson Village Center at Harborfront Park, 101-A East Broadway, Port Jefferson, NY 11777
  • Phone: 516-338-0552
  • Website:  (Starting with this page, for now.)
  • Description: Kids ages 3-14 and adult chaperones will set sail in style aboard an 80' 3-masted schooner powered by the wind. This 2-hour educational sail will teach kids how to lower and raise the sails, touch marine wildlife including sea cucumbers, horseshoe crabs, clams, and oysters, and learn how to steer this majestic 32-ton vessel. Come help the crew haul in some new specimens to examine. The last activity on board will be a crafting workshop led by Chef Paula. Kids will create a message in a bottle necklace and decorate sea life cupcakes. Advanced payment and registration required. Space is limited.


Or Call Chef Paula @ 516-338-0552 for more info and to secure your spot!

Fun on the Farm Day 2012

Blueberries & Baby Goats... A Summer Remembered
By Paula Gottlieb Herman

Our 4th Annual Fun on the Farm Day was our biggest ever with 30 children, 29 adults, and 3 in staff (including me, Chef Paula). The participating children spanned ages 3 through 15. This year in addition to the girls, we had many older boys attending, and that always makes me happy. When I started Special Events 7 years ago, I had a few dads who were not open to the idea of their sons wearing aprons in the kitchen for a cooking party. Boy, have times changed (pardon the pun)! Thank you Emeril, Bobby Flay, and Ratatouille for showing us that cooking is a life skill we all should have!

Every year, I seek out delicious blueberry treats to welcome our guests with, many of whom traveled 2 hours to be with us out in the North Fork. This year I hit the jackpot! My personal favorite was the individual blueberry cakes called YoGo. These delicate little cakes were made with Greek yogurt and are only 100 calories. My next favorite was Jessica’s Brick Oven Blueberry Lemon Bread. The pre-sliced loaf is dense and delicious, and since I add lemon zest to the blueberry jam we create, you know I love the pairing of blueberries with that little hint of citrus in the background. My third homerun was finding Snack Pack pudding appropriately titled, Blueberry Muffin. Wow, what a winner with our guests during the dessert making part of our day. More about that later…

I take great pride in creating such a beautiful event where we feature a fruit farm, a goat farm, and LilChefs. Wickham’s Fruit Farm located in Cutchogue is a bicentennial 300-acre farm owned by the family since 1661. Tom Wickham, the present owner, is the 13th generation to work this land. Catapano Dairy Farm, located in Peconic started out as a 19-goat dairy a decade ago, and can now boast about their 96 happy goats in residence. This year they even added a half dozen sheep to the farm. So, in addition to their award-winning goat cheese, they are now making cheese from sheep’s milk. Read more »

Lend A Helping Hand Baking Workshops

Date: Monday, February 20, 2012

  • Pick One of Two sessions:
  • 10 am - 12:00 pm or
  • 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Ages: Children ages 6-16
Price: $10 per child ingredients donation


Event Address: The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, 267-07 76th Avenue, New Hyde Park, NY 11040 Phone: 516-338-0552


Description: Come crack some eggs, sift some flour, and mix up some patriotic treats for the families staying at The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. Volunteer bakers from ages 6-16 will feel proud to whip up some delicious desserts that will put a smile on the faces of children undergoing medical treatments. Workshops will start off with a tour of the house and then end with a 90-minute baking session.

February 20th is President's Day, so let's create some goodies fit for a President. How about some cherry bars in honor of George Washington? If you have a patriotic dessert recipe or a great idea for one, please email Chef Paula, and maybe we'll feature it. Advance payment and registration required.  For more information call or email Chef Paula today. Space for this baking workshop is limited.