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

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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

DIRECTIONS:

  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

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

Directions:

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.

Rosh Hashanah Feast for the Soul

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

     As you may remember from my first article on Rosh Hashanah last year, I mentioned that my mom died on the eve of Rosh Hashanah 2005, and that it is a scramble to figure out how to make holiday meals like she did, without her or her recipes to refer to. I only have two of her recipes written down, since mom was old school, and didn’t measure anything in the conventional way.

apple bowl with honey

     These days, I am working on projects about family legacy. So, believe me when I say, that this topic is always on my mind. To ensure that your family will still be able to make your signature dishes, please write them down. Go to Staples; buy a 3-ring binder, sheet protectors, page dividers, and start filling it up with your appetizers, main dishes, desserts, and special holiday recipes. Snap a few photos if you are so inclined, make some notations in your handwriting, and create another “Family Bible.”

    A few years ago I did a birthday party for a little girl from the Philippines. While meeting with the family to go over party details, I smelled some delicious aromas in the kitchen, and saw a binder such as this. My client pointed to grandma and told me the food in the oven was hers and that the recipes I was leafing through were also hers. My client made these binders for all of her siblings so that everyone could share grandma’s food now and again in the future. Whether for a birthday, anniversary, or holiday, these family members have the blueprint to recreate some amazing meals to honor their traditions.

       Rosh Hashanah starts our New Year off in the right direction. Just as we tell our kids that they need to eat breakfast to start their day, we can do more to ensure a better year ahead for our families.

    So, I did some research on some of the foods that can be added to a holiday table that might be omens for a good year. While the foods themselves aren’t enough to guarantee that good year, they’re worth considering. These foods are an indirect way to ask for health, happiness, and good fortune.

     I will be adding beets, carrots, couscous with seven vegetables, black-eyed peas, leeks, dates, and pomegranates to my menus. And, to put a new twist on a classic, I’m going to make a honey bowl out of a McIntosh apple. I’ll cut off the top, make sure the apple can stand up by taking a little off the bottom, hollow out the insides with a melon baller or spoon, and paint on a little lemon juice to prevent browning. Then, I’ll pour in some delicious golden honey, replace the apple top until ready to serve, and then dip in some crispy apple slices or soft challah.  From our family to yours, may a healthy and happy New Year be yours for the asking!

Hot Diggity Dog!

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

Happy 2014!

My idea of the perfect New Year's Eve dinner starter may not include French champagne and Russian caviar, but to me, it is equally rich in flavor and texture. I'm talking about gourmet Pigs in the Blanket.

As part of my contribution to a New Year's Eve party menu, I decided to make those delectable li'l smokies, wrap them in a layer of puff pastry and Dijon mustard, and a sprinkling of sesame or poppy seeds. I purchased three different brands of weenies to work with. My goal was to see which kind made the biggest impact on the guests. Would it be the ones claiming to be all natural without nitrites or nitrates (Trader Joe’s Cocktail Pups), the kosher kind that was lower in fat (Hebrew National 97% Fat Free) or the standard cocktail franks (Nathan's Famous Beef Cocktail Franks)?

We set up a workstation that included parchment lined baking trays, flour dusted rolling pin, mats, silicone brushes, a pizza cutter to cut the dough into strips, some egg wash, Dijon mustard for the pastry, and bowls of Whole Grain Dijon and ketchup for dipping. Initially, it was just my husband Michael and I putting the piggies in their blankets, and then three pre-teen and teen-aged party guests asked to join in the fun. So, I handed out disposable chef hats and aprons since we wanted to avoid hair falling in food and fancy party clothing getting dirty.

Each of us had a job to do on our assembly line. Michael brushed the thawed Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry with a thin layer of Dijon, then cut them into strips measuring 1.5" wide x 3.5" long, dried the franks with a paper towel to prevent sogginess, pricked them with a fork so they didn't explode, and handed them off to the girls. Our team then carefully wrapped the dogs in their pastry jackets. At first, a few looked more like mini egg rolls, since the dough was stretched out a little too much. But then, we all got the hang of it, and the rest were outfitted beautifully in their pastry coverings. I was in charge of quality control and the final steps of production. I had to check that each one was properly sealed, line them up on a tray seam side down, and painted on egg wash before a sprinkling of sesame or poppy seeds. We baked the individual trays for about 20-25 minutes at 450 degrees until the crusts became golden brown.

Our test kitchen was abuzz with guest predictions on which doggies would come out the best. Some liked the idea of having an uncured dog, some preferred less fat, some wanted sesame seeds, and some desired no seeds. When I purchased the Trader Joe's Cocktail Pups, I did so knowing that they wouldn’t contain nitrates, and would be the right cocktail size. I had no idea how greasy (but delicious) they would be, oozing out golden oil from the tender pastry, as well as the only variety needing to be blotted before plating. The Hebrew National ones were full size franks that required slicing into thirds. Initially, I was concerned that by cutting them, they would be dried out on the ends, but they baked wonderfully. None of us missed the extra fat, but I did miss the look of the rounded tips poking out of their jackets. Instead, since they were sliced, they had a slightly squarish appearance. The Nathan's Famous Beef Cocktail Franks did not taste or look greasy (though they really were loaded with fat), but were the right size to begin with. With so many choices to pick from, it is entirely up to you which kind you use for your next party. In this contest for best Pigs in the Blanket, there really was no clear “wiener” (hot dog pun)! If I could design my own perfect frank, it would be all beef, low fat, all natural and cocktail size.

While many of us have tried Pigs in the Blankets wrapped in crescent rolls, baked off some frozen ones from big box stores for convenience, this time, there was a bonus using the Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets. The flaky pastry with a hint of Dijon was a perfect accompaniment to the hot dogs that met everyone's criteria--full of fat, lower fat, no nitrates, with seeds, without seeds, with grainy mustard, or with ketchup.

We made just about 100 of these li'l beauties, and there were only a few stragglers left on the trays before the main entrees were served. So, overall, these dogs any way you slice it, were finger food stars this New Year’s. I really hope my parents, who are up in heaven, got a kick out of seeing us making one of their favorite party apps. I know I sure did!

Lotsa Latkes 2013

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

2013-1130_latkas_sq
One of my most favorite ways to celebrate Chanukah is with a latke making party. Many years ago my aunt in Florida sent us a recipe card for Rainbow Latkes that incorporates zucchini and carrots in the batter. While that original recipe card which used to hang from a corkboard in our Brooklyn kitchen is long gone, here is my go-to recipe for similar latkes from Jewish Cookbook Author, Joan Nathan. Mixing in the additional vegetables boosts nutrition as well as visual appeal.

From our family to yours, may you have a healthy, happy, and low-stress holiday season!

Potato-Vegetable Latkes (yield: 24-36)

INGREDIENTS
2 Large Potatoes
2 Large Carrots
2 Medium Zucchini
1 Large Onion
3 Eggs, beaten
½ tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Pepper
¾ cup Matzah Meal
Vegetable Oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

  1. Peel the potatoes and carrots. Put the potatoes in cold water.
  2. Adult with Child: Under supervision, use the steel blade or the shredding blade to grate the zucchini, potatoes, carrots. and onion. Use the “pulse” button or turn the machine on and off frequently so the vegetables don’t turn into the soupy mess called a puree. Vegetables can also be grated by hand with an aluminum grater.
  3. Child: In a bowl, mix together the grated vegetables, beaten eggs, salt and pepper. Stir in the matzah meal. Shape the batter into pancakes using 1-2 tablespoons of mixture for each.
  4. Adult with Child: Fry the latkes, a few at a time, in 1-2 tablespoons hot oil for 1 ½ minutes per side. Add additional oil as necessary.
  5. Drain

Gobble Up These Bite-Size Mini Pumpkin Tarts

DSCF6772c_650

Happy Thanksgiving!

I cannot wait to share this delicious super-easy, yet elegant dessert, perfect for Turkey Day! We made it today with our after-school cooking students, and the kids and parents were begging for the recipe right after the classes ended, so they can make it for their holiday dessert tables.

The flavors of pure pumpkin, whipped topping, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla or cheesecake instant pudding powder blended together, make an amazing filling to pipe or spoon into mini phyllo tart shells (available in the frozen food section of most supermarkets).

So, here's the recipe for you to enjoy!!

Happy Cooking,
Chef Paula

Mini Pumpkin Tarts

What you'll need

  • 3 packages (15 tarts each) prebaked frozen mini pastry shells (we used Athens Mini Fillo Shells)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 2 cups (plus extra for garnish) frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon (plus extra for garnish) pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) package of vanilla or cheesecake-flavor instant pudding and pie filling
  • Mint leaves (for garnish)

How to make it

  1. Remove the shells from the freezer and let them thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and pudding mix in a medium bowl. Stir or whisk until smooth and thick. Fold in the whipped topping until uniform, but don't over mix.
  3. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling into each of the shells (you can also pipe the filling with a pastry bag or a plastic food storage bag with one corner snipped off), then top the tarts with whipped topping, a sprinkling of the pumpkin pie spice, and a mint leaf, if you like. Makes 45 tarts.

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
LilChefs.com Special Events

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

Grillin’ Goodies

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

DSCF3715b
Happy Labor Day!! It’s so hard to believe that the summer is almost over, but you have one more chance to fire up the grill, invite family and friends over, and enjoy the last tastes of the season.

Or, if you’re like me, you never want the fun to end. So, this summer, I’ve been hard at work creating whimsical treats that you can do, too. They’re perfect for this holiday weekend, any summer barbecue, April Fool's Day, Father's Day, Junk Food Day (July 21), or whenever you want to celebrate the burger throughout the year!

Learn exactly how to make Chef Paula’s Cookie Sliders, Itsy Bitsy Burger Tables, and Grillin’ Cupcake Toppers by sharing with the buttons below. There are also more cute photos!

[sociallocker id="1162"] ChefPaula'sCookieSlidersFirst, I made my Chef Paula’s Cookie Sliders for The Old Homestead Steak House in NYC. While they look like the delicious meat sliders they sell, they are actually made from Nilla Wafers (buns), Peppermint Patties (burgers), yellow Tootsie Rolls (cheese) “melting” down the sides, and green & red gum drops (lettuce & tomato). I especially loved creating the French fries in a paper pouch (Nilla Wafers microwaved 3 seconds at a time for a total of 9 seconds since they can burn easily). The goal is to get them just soft enough so you can cut them with scissors. The pouches were made from scrapbooking paper.

To add to the slider’s authenticity, I added sesame seeds to the top of each bun. You can paint on a little corn syrup, honey, warmed apricot jam, or water, and sprinkle on the seeds. I like using corn syrup since it dries the quickest. The lettuce and tomato were created by cutting the gum drops in half and rolling them out with a fondant roller. Once flattened, you then use your fingertips to create the desired shape. You can sprinkle a little sugar on your mat to make it easier to roll out. I just used the roller and the mat. A simpler way to achieve the lettuce is to put some shredded coconut into a Ziploc bag, add a little green food coloring, and shake. Then, you will have shredded lettuce. Instead of a tomato slice, you can use some red decorator icing sold in tubes for the ketchup.

DSCF3724cNext, I created my Itsy Bitsy Burger Tables featuring miniature burgers that are made with Golden Mini Oreo Bite Size Cookies (buns), Mini Oreo Bite Size Cookies (burgers), yellow Tootsie Rolls (cheese), green Tootsie Rolls (lettuce leaves), and the red gum drop tomato slices. I really enjoyed making the lettuce a third way. I rolled out a small piece of green Tootsie Roll, marked the veins of the lettuce lightly with a butter knife, and then curled the edges up or down to create the leaf. And of course, sesame seeds topped those buns!

The table was actually a whole Nabisco Graham Cracker supported by Vanilla Sugar Wafer legs. I used melted chocolate to glue the legs in place. After a while, these tables will begin to buckle in the middle, so I would recommend attaching the legs right before serving. I used Gefen Vanilla Wafers for the legs. They are longer and sturdier than some of the other brands. So, one cookie cut in half provided me with two legs. I used another half wafer for the middle leg to give the table a little more structural integrity. Along with the adorable sliders, I added some of my fries (Nilla Wafers) and bottles of soda (Haribo Happy Cola Gummi Candy). For an extra little flair, you can place a “dinner plate” under each slider with a Necco wafer candy. Yum!

DSCF3722aLastly, I created Grillin’ Cupcake Toppers made from melted chocolate piped onto parchment in the shape of grill tops. Then, I added cheeseburgers without the buns, using the same Mini Oreo Bite Size cookies for the burgers and yellow Tootsie Rolls for the cheese. To make the grills the right size, I traced the top of my largest sprinkles container on card stock 6 times, and laid the parchment paper over it. That way, I could pipe/trace the melted chocolate onto the parchment. I transferred the parchment onto a cookie sheet and popped it into the freezer for a few minutes so the chocolate grills would harden. Once firmed up, I carefully lifted off the grill tops with a spatula, and placed each onto a frosted cupcake.

And, what’s a barbecue without kebabs? I made kebabs with Gummi Bears cut into thirds and skewered onto a toothpick. Thread the ingredients onto the toothpick varying the colors. With enough cupcake toppers on your display, you can get really inventive with the food you’re grillin’. Burgers, kebabs, steaks, chicken, fish, and veggies can all be made by shaping candy, cookies, fondant, candy clay, modeling chocolate (melted chocolate morsels and light corn syrup), or any ingredients you come up with. Let those creative juices flow![/sociallocker]

All of these Grillin’ Goodies were so much fun to make! So, whether you do them by yourself or with the kids, they will be loved by your guests, and receive high marks for originality, cuteness, and taste!

If you have any questions about these projects, please email me. I would be happy to share more information on techniques, helpful tips, and ingredient substitutions. Also, if you do make any of these treats, please share your experiences with me, and send along some photos of your finished pieces.

Happy Grillin’!

Chef Paula