Party Foods! Chicken Satay & Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad











I have friends that say they cook because they have to and try to get out of it as often as they can. I use cooking to get out of everything else I’m not in the mood to do. If I need to dust, vacuum, or clean out a closet I’ll start cooking instead. After all, my family needs to eat. It’s the perfect justification for putting off the more boring chores. I’ll cook pasta salads and make salad dressings to have on hand for lunches for the week. I’ll bake something or play around with new marinades for the grill. Anything so I don’t have to push the mop plus everyone benefits from a good meal. I do get around to cleaning the house, I would never let it go, I just procrastinate like a child doing homework. So with all this playing around, I have a couple of new recipes I would like to share with you. Some were inspired by dishes I tasted in restaurants and others by what I found in my pantry. I am having success with my herb garden and have been using my fresh herbs in my dressings, sauces and marinades.

I  have my standard favorite marinades for chicken, but  wanted to try something different. When we go to Thai restaurants my husband always orders the chicken satay. I came up with my own marinade for the satay and my family loved it. Usually peanut sauce or peanut butter is used in Thai cooking. I don’t love peanut butter, so I subbed cashew butter. It has a softer taste. Use the peanut if you prefer. This is great for dinner or as a party appetizer.

Chicken Satay

2 pounds chicken cut in strips                                                               1 teaspoon ginger

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar                                                                        1 teaspoon chiplote sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar                                                                                1 teaspoon cumin

1/3 cup cashew butter                                                                              1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup ketchup                                                                                         2 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded

1/3 cup vegetable oil                                                                                2 cloves crushed garlic

Setting aside the chicken, whisk all the other ingredients together. Pour over chicken and marinate for at least four hours. For best results, marinate overnight. Before you are ready to grill, soak bamboo skewers in water for 20 minutes so they do not burn. Ribbon the marinated chicken onto the skewers and grill. Grill time will depend on your grill. Keep in mind that the chicken ribbons are thin and will cook quickly.
*If you wish, set aside some unused marinade to use as a dipping sauce. Do not use any sauce that has touched the raw chicken.

We were at a BBQ and the salads were all catered from a deli. My daughter liked one that had sundried tomatoes in it and asked me to try it. I thought it was pretty good but could have had more flavor. Since she liked it so much I decided to go home and play with a recipe for this pasta salad. My family loved it and I use it often for our backyard parties.

Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad

1-pound rigatoni
3 ounces dehydrated sundried tomatoes
1/3-cup olive oil
2 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves minced garlic
4-6 fresh basil leaves, shredded
¼ tsp sugar
1 tbl. tomato paste
1/4 cup water or white wine

I often make sundried tomatoes as an appetizer. When I do, I rehydrate them by bringing a small saucepan of water to a boil. Remove from heat and soak the dried tomatoes for 5 minutes. Drain and gently squeeze out the excess water. Dress with the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, basil, sugar, tomato paste and liquid. The measurements are estimates. I never measure. I test and add. You can measure and make something exactly the same way and it will come out different. You must taste. After you dress the tomatoes, separate half and put in a small food processor. The mixture will look like a paste. It should be a medium to loose paste. You may need to add some additional olive oil to the food processor to get the proper consistency. In the meantime, boil the pasta. It should be al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Mix in the paste, coating the pasta. The whole sundried tomatoes should be sliced into halves or thirds and mixed into the pasta as well. The oil and herbs that dressed the tomatoes go in for flavor and moisture.

Lemon Blueberry Tart


Once a year my friend has a book swap. She has everyone bring books they’ve read to trade. It really is a great idea because you can discuss the books over lunch and decide which books you want to take home.  In between a very busy week having my daughter Alexa  home, cooking a birthday dinner for my husband and sister, whose birthdays are a day apart and getting Alexa off to the airport right before the book swap, I managed to bake something special to bring to the gathering. I had baked some cookies a few days before, but wanted something that would be visually appealing as well as delicious.  I made a lemon blueberry tart. Years ago I found a recipe for lemon blueberry squares. I didn’t like the method or the way the final result looked.  I tweaked the pastry and the filling just enough to form a tart and it became an instant family favorite. I often bring one when visiting friends. It is very easy to make and not time consuming, which is always a plus!

Lemon Blueberry Tart

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Prep time- 20 minutes

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
2 ¼ cups flour

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add salt, vanilla, and flour. Mix until blended. Form a ball and flatten to a disc. Grease a two-piece tart pan. Press the dough into the pan. This is so much easier than rolling out the dough and laying it in the pan. This dough is so buttery that it falls apart when you lift it. Pressing it into the pan is easier and gives just as good a result. I have a very small rolling pin I use to smooth the dough to make it even once it’s in the pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are golden.

2 cups sugar
1/3-cup flour
6 large eggs
Juice from 2 large lemons
Zest from 2 large lemons
1-cup fresh blueberries
1tsp vanilla
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl mix sugar and flour. Whisk in eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and zest. Fold in berries. Pour filling over crust and return to oven for about 30 minutes or until filling sets. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. When the tart is completely cool, remove rim from tart. The bottom will easily separate by sliding a knife under it. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Total baking time 50 minutes

8- 10 servings

Red Velvet Cupcakes


I’m all about doing special things for my family. For Valentines Day I always make a special dinner. I always cook something nice, but the focus is the dessert. Of course it’s usually chocolate. This year I found a recipe for a lemon dessert which was in between a lemon souffle and a custard with a raspberry sauce. Much of what I cook is either my own recipes or handed down to me by my mom, but I am not ashamed to say I occasionally use cookbooks and have my favorite chefs that I will refer to when I use their recipes. So, I went shopping, and bought Godiva chocolate and itunes gift cards for my daughters and husband( they just got iphones). I set a beautiful table, made a simple but delicious dinner and made this lemon dessert. We had a great meal and a nice afternoon.  During the week I had made Linzer cookies filled with dark cherry preserves and dark chocolate. I packaged them in cellophane bags and pink ribbon and gave them out to friends and coworkers. I also made the red velvet cupcakes that I get many requests for and gave those out as well. My daughter, Alexa, posted a picture on facebook of the cupcake and got dozens of comments saying, “I need one now!” So this will be the first recipe I share with you. Your friends and family will love you.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups flour                                                           1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda                                                       2 eggs
2 tsp. cocoa                                                                1 1/2 cups veg. or canola oil
1 tsp. vinegar                                                              1 ounce red food coloring
2 tsp. vanilla                                                                1-1/4 cups greek yogurt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda together. In a large bowl, beat sugar and eggs. In a separate bowl, mix oil, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Add to egg mixture until combined.  Add the flour and greek yogurt, alternating dry and wet ingredients, starting with the flour. Pour batter into paper cupcake liners. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on baking rack.
Cream cheese frosting
1 cup unsalted butter                                                     2- 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar                                        1 tsp. vanilla
1 vanilla bean (optional)
Cream softened butter and cream cheese. add sugar and vanilla. If using vanilla bean, slice the bean longwise and scrape out beans. Mix well into frosting. Fill a pastry bag to frost cupcakes then have fun decorating. Simple sprinkles or chocolate shavings are perfect.