Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Berry Tart Recipe

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Last night I made this delicious berry tart and here is the berry tart recipe.  What is so great about this dessert is that it is quick and easy to make and the fact that it is a vegan dessert shouldn’t scare you a bit.  No one new it was vegan until I spilled the beans after everyone finished their second serving! Can it get any better, healthier or more delicious?

Here is the berry tart recipe.  To keep it a vegan dessert, use non-hydrogenated margarine instead of butter.

Ingredients for the berry tart crust:

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla for the crust

3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Beat the sugar and margarine until creamy and well mixed.  Add the vanilla and mix again.  Then add the pecans and continue mixing the batter until smooth and creamy.  Add the flour 1/2 a cup at a time.  Note, crust batter will become very crumbly.

Coat the tart pan with some margarine and then press the crust dough into the pan using your fingers.  Make sure to get the sides of the tart pan as well as the bottom and that your crust is even throughout.  You may find you have some left-over dough, no worries, just make a mini-tart for yourself!

Bake the tart crust until golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Take the crust out of the oven and make sure to cool the pan completely. (I let my crust sit for about 5 hours to ensure it was ready for the berry filling.)

Berry tart filling:

1 pound of mixed berries (I used blackberries, blueberries strawberries and raspberries)

1/4 cup sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons of flour

1/8 to 1/4 cup crushed raspberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar

In a large bowl, mix the berries and the 1/4 cup sugar until well blended.  Then add the flour and mix until well-coated.  Transfer the fruit mixture and bake the berry tart in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until warm about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, take your extra 1/8 to 1/4 cup crushed raspberries with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and heat the mixture on the stove top until warm and bubbly.  About 2-3 minutes.  Then, once the tart has been baking for 15 minutes, open the oven door, pull the oven rack with the tart out of the oven and carefully pour the raspberry sauce evenly on top of the tart.

Put the tart back in the oven and bake for another 5 minutes or so.  Carefully, remove this wonderful vegan dessert out of the oven and allow to cool before serving.  Remove tart pan before serving.

Enjoy making this berry tart recipe.  For more tips about party planning and easy to make dinner recipes, click here.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Chocolate Wedding Favors

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Who can resist chocolate wedding favors? At my wedding, my friend Sara, who just so happens to be a chocolate artisan, made these wonderful chocolate truffles.

Click here for Sara’s chocolate truffle recipe.

For these chocolate wedding favors, Sara drew my wedding logo onto the truffles and then packed the chocolate truffles inside the gift box.  She covered the truffles with gold tissue and then wrapped a gold and ivory colored ribbon around the box.  Finally, I had my wedding logo printed onto stickers which Sara used to seal the boxes.

Sara has been making these chocolate truffles for years and on the last page of the chocolate truffle recipe, she offers some tips to ensure your truffles come out as delicious as hers.

A helpful hint with chocolate wedding favors is to make sure to store them in a cool place.  Notify your wedding coordinator or banquet manager as to their location to ensure the chocolate truffles get placed at the guests’ seats. For other party favor ideas and helpful hints, click here to pick up a copy of Budget Bash and check out pages 43 to 45.

Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Easy Chocolate Dessert

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

This chocolate tart is such an easy chocolate dessert to make that I thought I would share it with you.  And the fact that it is a vegan dessert shouldn’t scare you a bit.  I took this tart to a party on Saturday night and no one new it was vegan. Can it get any better, healthier or more delicious?


1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoon vanilla (1 for crust and 1 for filling)

3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (You can also use pecans)

1 1/2 cups flour

6 oz bittersweet chocolate

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate

1 cup coffee – I used decaf

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 lightly greased large tart pan (I used margarine to grease the pan)

To start making this easy chocolate dessert, heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the margarine (to make it a vegan dessert) and sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and the walnuts and mix all ingredients well.  Add a half cup of flour at a time and mix after each addition.

Press the dough into the tart pan with your fingers and then bake the tart crust until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Take the crust out of the oven and make sure to cool the pan completely.

For the chocolate tart filling, in a double boiler, melt the chocolate until smooth and remove from stove.  Brew the coffee and then bring it to a boil either over the stove top or in the microwave.  Pour the coffee into the chocolate mixture and mix until smooth.

Add the cornstarch and vanilla and stir until really smooth and then pour the mixture into the cooled crust.  Refrigerate chocolate tart overnight and then garnish as desired.  I used a mint leaf, you can also use strawberries, blueberries or almonds to name a few.

Here are some other modifications to this easy chocolate dessert recipe that you can try.

When the crust is cool and before adding the chocolate tart filling, thinly slice bananas and place them on the bottom of the pan to make a banana chocolate dessert.  I haven’t tried this, but check out on line for a gluten free tart crust and substitute that for the regular crust.

I got such rave reviews over this vegan dessert that I definitely will be making it again.  For more easy-to-make recipes including vegan and gluten free recipes, check out my book Budget Bash.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Energy Bar Recipe

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Here is a quick and easy energy bar recipe that is delicious.  The only ingredients required are raw cashews and dates.  You can also modify these vegan bars with coco, lemon or lime to name a few other flavors.  This recipe comes from the summer issue of Veg News.

The energy bar recipe requires 2 cups raw cashews and 2 cups pitted dates.

1. Blend the cashews in a food processor until the nuts become a fine powder and then add the dates.

2. Blend both ingredients until well mixed and the dough is sticking together.

3. Then, if desired, add another flavor.  I added 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and blended some more.

Once the dough is well formed, place it in a foil-lined baking dish roughly 8″ by 12″ or if you just make half the recipe, then an 8″ x 8″ pan.  Press the dough down with a spoon or your fingers until it is evenly distributed in the pan and refrigerate the dough to form the vegan bars (30 minutes to an hour minimum).

Cut your vegan bars and start eating! For later snacking, wrap the cut bars in plastic wrap and stick them back into the refrigerator or freeze them for a later date. Another bonus about this energy bar recipe is that the bars are gluten free.

For other quick and easy recipes including party planning tips, click here. Enjoy, and until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Easy Salmon Recipes

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

I was never much of a fish lover and to be honest, if it wasn’t for my fiancée I would never be eating salmon.  But what I learned from him are some easy salmon recipes that are delicious and take no time to make.  In addition, one of them is a gluten free dinner recipe.

The first of the two easy salmon recipes uses honey or maple syrup and cinnamon.  You can either bake this salmon in the oven (or toaster oven if you are single) or grill it on the BBQ.

First, select your salmon.  I prefer to use the North Atlantic salmon because it has no bones and the tail is a nice fillet.  For per person portion size, estimate 8 ounces for the salmon.  Then quite simply, spread some honey or maple syrup on top and then sprinkle ground cinnamon.

Bake the salmon in the oven on high heat for about 10 to 12 minutes or until finished, just check to see if the middle is cooked through. You can also soak a piece of cedar wood and bake or grill the salmon on top of the cedar plank as well to give the salmon an added flavor.  The preparation for this salmon recipe is a simple and fast gluten free dinner recipe.

The second salmon recipe is even easier!  Just take your salmon portion and spread Jade Sichuan peanut sauce.  To find a local market to purchase this sauce, just go on the internet and look up jade sauce.  Again, bake the salmon in the oven on high heat for about 10 to 12 minutes or until finished, just check to see if the middle is cooked through.  Note, because this sauce contains soy, I am not positive that it would qualify as a gluten free dinner recipe.  You should check with your doctor or nutritionist or call the manufacturer if you can’t tell by the ingredients on the bottle.

Now for the presentation and finished plate for these easy salmon recipes.  There are a couple of different routes you can go.  Want to make it an orange Halloween plate?  Then serve your salmon recipe dinner with mashed yams and honeyed carrots.  Just bake the yams in the oven for about an hour, then scoop out the centers and place them in a bowl.  Mash the yams into a purée and add some butter or margarine if desired.  The yams are already sweet and personally speaking, don’t need anything else.

Another healthy alternative is to serve these easy salmon recipes with rice and steam veggies.  To add some flair to your presentation, take your cooked rice and place it in a Mary Jane measuring cup.  About a half cup or quarter cup will work.  Place the rice tightly in the cup, then flip the cup over onto the plate to add a bit of flair to your dinner plate.

I hope you have a chance to make if not one then both of  these easy salmon recipes and enjoy them for a quick yet nutritious dinner.  The salmon recipe that is also a gluten free dinner recipe is one that will convert even the “I swear I will never eat salmon eater.”  Trust me, it converted me!  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, stylish, fun and economical to all!

One of the SAG Awards® Dinner Party Recipes

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Each year at the SAG Awards®, we serve our A-List Hollywood guests an anti-pasta plate of food that has four mini-courses on it.  Here is one of the delicious dinner party recipes we served at this year’s SAG Awards®. This arugula salad recipe also appeared in the January 20th edition of People Magazine®.

Arugula Salad Recipe (serves 6)

4 large blood oranges
½ (5oz) package fresh arugula
15 large dried dates, pitted and halved
¼ lb. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

  1. Peel the oranges and remove the white pith and then slice the oranges into ¼” pinwheels.
  2. Scatter half of the arugula on a large platter.  Arrange half of the oranges, dates and cheese over greens.  Repeat using remaining ingredients.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

At the SAG Awards®, we served this arugula salad recipe with an herbed crostini.  A crostini is a nice accompaniment to any plate and is easy to make and serve along with other dinner party recipes you may offer your guests.

Herbed Crostini (serves 6)

6 baguette slices, cut into pieces 8” long and ¼” thick
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then, brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. (You may want to place parchment paper on top of the baking sheet to help the bread bake evenly.)
  2. Combine the cheese and herbs and sprinkle mixture evenly over the bread.  Bake for 7 to 8 minutes until crisp and golden.  Serve as a whole crostini on the top of or to the side of the salad.

Other items created by Suzanne Goin for this year’s SAG Awards® that were served to our guests were a king salmon with cucumbers, yogurt and ginger mint chutney, beluga lentils with carrots, pine nuts and feta and a slow-roasted lamb with chickpeas, black olives and feta salsa verde.  We served Dry Creek Vineyard wines (our red wine was created especially for the SAG Awards®), Voss water and Taittinger Champagne.

I hope you can use this arugula salad recipe created for the SAG Awards® as one of your dinner party recipes for your next special event or party.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Fruit Salad Recipes for a Winter Fruit Salad

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Over the holidays, Victor and I had a wonderful opportunity to experience first hand the majestic beauty of Yosemite National Park.  From the snow covered roads (yes, there was someone to help us with our chains!) to the glory of Half Dome’s snow cap, nature’s display of scenery  was breathtaking. Inspired by this beauty, here are a couple of fruit salad recipes for a natural winter fruit salad.

Even in winter, fruits can be fun and delicious.  Here are two options for easy-to-make winter fruit salad. One recipe is from Martha Stewart and the other recipe is from  Both fruit salad recipes call for ingredients that are easy to find and both salads take little time to make.

Winter Fruit Salad

1 Pink Papaya
1 Yellow Papaya
1 Pint of Fresh Strawberries
1 Lime Halved
Fresh Mint for Garnish

Remove the skin and seeds of the papayas and cut them in quarters or vary the look of the salad by cutting one papaya in 1-inch chunks and the other in 1-inch strips.

Wash the strawberries, remove the stems and cut in half.

Toss the fruit in your favorite serving bowl, squeeze the lime on top and garnish with mint.

Here is a second option for a winter fruit salad.

4 Seedless Oranges peeled
3 Pink Grapefruits peeled
1 Pineapple cored, skin removed and cut into quarter inch cubes
2 Star fruits cut to accent the shape of the fruit
Pomegranate Seeds

Remove the white pith from the oranges and grapefruits; quarter the fruit lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices.  Toss with the pineapple, star fruit and pomegranate seeds in a bowl and serve.

As a side for your fruit salad recipes, serve them with plain or vanilla yogurt (Greek  yogurt is a great option as well) or add some additional eatable natural beauty to your buffet by making “fruit cups” with a piece of bib lettuce or sometimes called Boston lettuce.

You can always hallow out a watermelon and create a basket to place the fruit in or take the fruit and create different shapes and sizes using a melon baller.  And don’t forget about a  Madeline, it also works great for creating textured sliced fruit!

Another fun way to display your winter fruit salad is in a bowl made of  ice.  You can also decorate your ice bowl by freezing flowers, or herbs such as rosemary, mint and basil or sliced citrus such as lemons and oranges in the ice as well.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the winter and try one of these fruit salad recipes for a winter fruit salad.   Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Easy Vegan Dessert Recipe Featuring Vegan Chocolate

Friday, October 1st, 2010

I’ve been cooking vegan again and found an easy-to-make, delicious, nutritious vegan dessert recipe featuring vegan chocolate and I thought I would share it with you.  This dessert is one of three simple vegan recipes that I will be writing about in the next few weeks.

What I loved about this vegan chocolate dessert is that it had a similar consistency and taste as regular chocolate mousse but not the same high-caloric, high-fat count as the real deal and therefore, I felt less guilty making and eating this easy vegan dessert recipe.  Ingredients are as follows:

  • 1 cup of vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk, such as soy milk or rice milk
  • 2 12.3-oz packages of low fat silken tofu
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Vegan graham cracker pie crust
  • Strawberries
  • Mint garnish

Place the vegan chocolate chips and the non-dairy milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute so that chips melt.  Take the mixture out of the microwave and let it sit and cool down.

Then, using a hand mixer or food processor, blend the tofu, vanilla and chocolate chip/non-dairy milk mixture until smooth.  Transfer into small individual serving dishes or the graham cracker pie crust and chill for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, you can top your mousse  with strawberries or garnish the mousse with mint leaves.  Another variation to making simple vegan recipes using vegan chocolate is to add a cup of fresh bananas while you are mixing the tofu and chocolate mixture to change up the taste a bit.

Want to add some decor to your dessert presentation?  Then place the mousse in a decorative glass or ceramic container.  I used some margarita glasses that I had to add a quick and easy decorative flair to my table.  For other inexpensive decor ideas check out Budget Bash.

Under the same heading of simple vegan recipes is the strawberry mousse I made as well last week.  Again, I used readily available ingredients.  2 packages of frozen strawberries, 1 package of extra-firm silken tofu and 3 tablespoons of sugar or 2 tablespoons of Agave nectar (to substitute for the sugar).

Thaw the frozen strawberries and then blend them in a food processor or blender with the sugar and the tofu until smooth.  Spoon the mixture into four serving dishes and refrigerate until chilled.  You can also serve this dessert with fresh strawberries or another seasonal berry as a garnish.  For a complete vegan dinner menu with recipes, check out pages 98 and 101 in Budget Bash.

I hope you like the easy vegan dessert recipe for the vegan chocolate mousse as well as other simple vegan recipes such as the strawberry mousse.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Making Challah for the Jewish New Year

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I decided to make challah for the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and thought I would share the process.  What I couldn’t believe was how easy it is to make this egg bread and that you shouldn’t be intimidated when considering making bread from scratch.

I divided up the process by going to the market yesterday for the ingredients.  To make challah for the Jewish New Year, you need the following ingredients:

  1. Flour
  2. Yeast
  3. Water
  4. Sugar
  5. Salt
  6. Eggs
  7. Vegetable Oil

Here is the recipe for egg bread.  I got this from Marlene Sorosky’s Fast & Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays.

  • 1 package of active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 4/ cup vegetable oil
  • Poppy or sesame seeds, for topping

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and warm water and set aside for 5 minutes or until foamy.

Mix in a bowl the flour, salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until frothy and add to the flour mixture plus the yeast mixture, boiling and cold water and oil and mix for about 5 minutes either by hand or with a mixer and dough hook.  I mixed the dough until there were no lumps.

I then kneaded the dough by hand on a marble pastry board for about 15 minutes using plenty of flour to prevent sticking and to make the dough very elastic.

Then oil a large glass bowl and place the dough in the bowl and be sure to coat the dough with the oil.  Place a damp cloth over the dough and allow to rise at room temperature or in a warm heated place (90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 90 minutes.  (I warmed my oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then turned it off and placed the dough inside the oven.)

Allow the dough to double and then take out and divide into three equal portions and braid.  Or just make a loaf and create a circle to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Let the finished dough loaf sit out at room temperature for another 45 minutes and brush on an egg wash and sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds if desired.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

One of the points I like to emphasize in Budget Bash is to make it simple and not stress out about preparing for a party.  I made the challah the day before the Jewish New Year and will serve it at dinner on Rosh Hashanah day.  (To compliment your table setting, look at pages 65 to 67 in Budget Bash for easy yet impressive napkin folds).

I hope you found this recipe for egg bread (challah) easy and fun to make for the Jewish New Year.  I know I did.  Happy Rosh Hashanah and until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Summer Appetizers Featuring the Best Crab Cakes with Lump Crabmeat

Friday, August 20th, 2010

It’s so easy to pick up recipes with the countless resources available such as the various food shows on television, lifestyle magazines and the internet.  Recently, I was working out at the gym and playing on TV was a food show featuring summer appetizers.  One of the easy-to-make recipes they featured were the best crab cakes with lump crabmeat I have ever tasted.  I was so impressed with how easy the crab cakes were to make and how great they tasted that I thought I would pass along the recipe.

Best Crab Cakes with Lump Crabmeat

1 pound lump crabmeat

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1/4 of green onions

2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

1 tablespoon of lime juice

Couple of splashes of Tabasco sauce

1 egg

Salt and Pepper to taste

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Place the lump crabmeat into a bowl and go through it to ensure there are no shells.  Add to the crabmeat the mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, chopped cilantro, green onions, egg, lime juice and Tabasco sauce and mix together.  Add salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate the mixture for 20 minutes.

Remove the crab cake mixture from the refrigerator and form the crab cakes.   The recipe will make 8 nice size crab cakes.

Fill a bowl with about a cup of Panko breadcrumbs and then take your formed crab cakes and gently place them in the bowl and cover them with the breadcrumbs.

Now, cook the best crab cakes by heating them in a non-stick frying skillet and coating the bottom of the skillet with olive oil.  Place the crab cakes in the heated skillet and cook them for about 6 minutes, roughly 3 minutes on each side.

Once the crab cakes are cooked, remove them, place them on your serving dish and serve the best crab cakes with your choice of toppings, whether it be guacamole, tarter sauce or a Thai chili sauce to name a few.

Other summer appetizers that are impressive and easy to make are the following:

  1. Skewered Cooked Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce (recipe on page 77 in Budget Bash)
  2. Dates with Goat Cheese Wrapped in Prosciutto with a Balsamic Glaze
  3. Mini-Hot Dogs (old-fashioned but everyone loves them!)
  4. Shot Glasses with either Gazpacho or Cucumber Soup

And for dessert to compliment those great summer appetizers be sure to include:

  1. Skewered Summer Fruit
  2. Brownie Bites
  3. Lollipop Cookies

The above mentioned appetizer selections can all be served via tray-pass and therefore you don’t have to worry about setting up a buffet.  Just make sure that if you tray pass the crab cakes to make them in bite-sized portions.  For easy decor, use loose flowers such as Cymbidium orchids, small rosemary branches or tea roses on your appetizer trays.

I hope you enjoy making these crab cakes with lump crabmeat.  As I mentioned earlier, I thought they were the best crab cakes I have ever tasted.  They are an easy item to prepare and will impress your friends if you serve them along with other summer appetizers at your next party.

Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical for all!