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Posts Tagged ‘brunch’

Mini Muffins: Savory Butternut Squash with Spicy Squash Spread

Posted on: March 31st, 2018 by Ellen Swandiak

I love the idea of creating a more savory slant to things that are usually sweet. These mini muffins incorporate squash, sunflower seeds, carrots and a little bit of farmer cheese in a little, healthy baked treat. 

Tip: An average (3 pound) butternut squash should produce 2.5 cups of puree, so I created a fresh spread with the extra to serve with the muffins, and add some zip and a freshness. Alternatively, butter or cream cheese would also go well. Think of offering all three if you are having a large crowd for brunch.



1 butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed

Place squash halves cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 40-45 min till fork can easily pierce through the squash’s center. Let cool a little, then scoop out the squash and mash with a fork in a bowl.


1 CUP cashew milk
2/3 CUP almond oil
1 egg
2 TB scallions, green tops, cut into thin rings
3 TB carrot, grated
2/3 CUP farmer cheese, room temp

1 CUP roasted butternut squash puree, cooled

In a large bowl incorporate ingredients till thoroughly combined.


1 CUP spelt flour
1/2 CUP coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp salt

In a separate bowl sift flours, then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients. Transfer to the wet ingredients bowl and stir until just combined.

HOBNOBMAG butternut squash muffin recipe steps


spray oil
sunflower seeds

Grease 2 mini muffin tins with spray oil* and divide mixture into each cavity, allowing dough to come above the rim. Create a cone-like, irregular shape at the top, then sprinkle on a few sunflower seeds. Bake for 20-22 min, till edges brown. Let cool 5 min in pan, then transfer muffins to a cooling rack.


1 CUP butternut squash puree
1/4 CUP Greek yogurt
1 TB sriracha
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Transfer to a small bowl and set on the side of muffins with a small spoon for spreading.

*If you don’t already own a spray oil dispenser, get one. That way you can use the quality oil of your choice for each project. This is a HOBNOB cupboard staple.

HOBNOBMAG Pinterest squash recipes

Want more party recipes for winter squash? Head to HOBNOB’s Pinterest page to see what we gathered from the spectrum. Party Recipes: Winter Squash We’ve done all the weeding for you, so you only see the most beautiful, healthful, and inventive recipes—the ones that are sure to impress guests. Here’s what we included:

Caprese Bites with Honey-Balsamic

Maple Glazed Acorn Squash with Apple, Parsnip and Sage

Cranberry, Butternut and Brussels Sprout Brie Skillet Nachos

Mini Bacon Butternut Squash Cups

Chard Stuffed Acorn Squash With Za’atar and Tahini

Feta and Roasted Acorn Squash Salad

Mushroom Risotto and Broccoli Stuffed Acorn Squash

Butternut Squash Chicken Flatbread Pizza

Smoky Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus

Garlic & Lemon Butternut Squash Noodles

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta

Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Rösti Cakes

Butternut Squash Hummus

Roasted Winter Squash with Vanilla Butter

Wild Rice Stuffed Mini Pumpkins

Butternut Squash, Coconut & Turmeric Soup + Crispy Sage

Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Tartines

Weekend Recipe: Roasted Butternut Squash with Tahini and Feta

Butternut Squash Soup with Red Curry Coconut Milk

Posted on: November 13th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

This soup can be made very quickly, once you have an already roasted squash. We upped the ante on this butternut squash soup with the addition of curry paste and coconut milk—the Indian and Thai spices make it rich, and the coconut milk gives it an appealing creaminess.

We created this dish as part of a plan for hosting weekend guests. If you are following the weekend guest plan, then you would have the roasted butternut squash you made the night before.  Make this soup while creating the Veggie Crepes, and serve together.



2 TB olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander

20 oz vegetable stock

Heat oil. Saute onion and spices 5 min. Add broth and cook for 10 min.


1 butternut squash, roasted

10 oz unsweetened coconut milk
3 tsp red curry paste
1 tsp salt

squeeze of lime for garnish (optional)

Cut squashes in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and skin, then cut into cubes. Spoon out the flesh and add to the pot, stir to incorporate. Add coconut milk, curry paste, and cook for 10 min.

Process in blender or food processor in batches (or use an immersion blender). Season with salt.

Offer the lime at the table for those who would like to add a squeeze to their soup.

Creative Crepes for Breakfast & Lunch: Palacinky (Slovak Crepes)

Posted on: November 13th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

I have such fond memories of eating these for breakfast hot off the pan with strawberry preserves and a light sprinkling of salt on the top. But you can put most anything into these crepes. To make creative crepes: add vegetables, creamy sauces, or even ground meat. They are a great leftover reviver!

If you are following our weekend guest hosting plan, make a large batch for breakfast, then parlay the surplus batter into the Veggie Crepes for lunch. The batter gets better with time. For the lunch filling, use the vegetables you roasted the night before, along with a choice of sauces: the Lemon Beurre Blanc from the cod recipe and Black Truffle Dip from the brussels sprouts recipe .



2 CUPS flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs
2 CUPS milk

Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and milk together, then add to flour mix. Beat until smooth. The batter should be thick enough to hold together, yet be able to spread out on the heated skillet quickly, to create thin crepes. Use the first crepe as a test—if it comes out too thick, stir in a little milk to the batter to thin it out.


1 tsp butter for each crepe
1 tsp strawberry preserves (or your favorite flavor) for each crepe

Heat skillet over medium heat, enough to melt the butter quickly, but not brown it. Melt butter and pour one ladel-full of batter and immediately tilt the skillet to cover the entire bottom of pan.

When crepe is brown on one side, flip with spatula. Move to a plate, and with a spoon spread preserves thinly all over one side. Roll, and serve immediately to each guest.


grilled vegetables
Lemon Beurre Blanc sauce
Black Truffle Dip

Reheat the grilled vegetables from dinner the night before in the oven or in a skillet. Let guests choose which sauce they prefer to spread over the crepes before adding the veggies, and rolling. Serve with Red Curry Coconut Butternut Squash Soup (see recipe).

Greek Flavors Through the Eyes of a Preeminent Chef: Smashing Plates by Maria Elia

Posted on: August 3rd, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

In this cookbook review, we show a top international chef who relies on the Greek flavors of her childhood, and turns them into the most artistic and interesting plates.

Raised in a restaurant owned by her Greek Cypriot father and English mother, Maria Elia knew from the early age of four that she wanted to be a chef, to surround herself with the excitement of the kitchen she had grown up in. After years working in world-renowned professional kitchens such as El Bulli and Arzack, Elia found herself returning to those flavors of Greece, saying, “They are the ones that are most emotive to me; the ones that make my heart sing.”


She rediscovered those flavors by spending a summer cooking with her father in the Troodos mountains of Cyprus, embracing the rural life as much as the villagers embraced her in return, sharing recipes old and new. There in Cyprus with her father she rediscovered Greek ingredients through her eyes as a professional chef, and found that they were inspirational on a whole new level. Smashing Plates represents the fruits of that rediscovery, Elia’s contemporary twists on the elevated, yet still rooted in the iconic flavors of Greece.

hobnobmag Greek Flavors Smashing Plates


As is traditional, dishes in Smashing Plates are meant to be shared rather than individually plated, with 120 recipes divided into mezze-like small plates, more filling shared plates, salads, sides, and desserts that are all meant to be mixed and matched to enjoy amongst friends and family.

All the traditional, essential flavors and elements of Greek cooking remain—briny olives, bright lemon, luscious olive oil, vibrant herbs, juicy tomatoes, succulent lamb, and fresh seafood— but have been reimagined in creative, modern ways by Elia’s skilled touch in dishes such as Slow-Roasted Paper-Wrapped Leg of Lamb, Kalamata Olive Gnocchi, Zucchini-Coated Calamari, Carrot Tabbouleh, Sumac Flatbread, Honeyed Fried Feta, Rabbit Baklava, and Wild Greens Macaroni and Cheese.

Elia’s food is simple yet elegant, light yet lush, and absolutely belongs on your table. About $17. Enjoy this recipe from the book for a light and beautiful dessert, a twist on a traditional milk pudding.

hobnobmag COOKBOOK smashing plates Greek flavors



This is the only way I eat mahalepi, flavoured with one of my favourite fruits, the watermelon. Traditionally, mahalepi is made with water and cornflour – not the most enticing dessert, even when it’s served sprinkled with sugar and a glug of rose syrup! I’m in a minority, though, as the Greeks love it.

Variations: You can try various flavours – grape would be interesting, as would orange, scented with fresh basil. Just make a purée of the fruit, pass through a fine sieve and then make up to the required volume with water.

Serves 4


5 oz [150ml] water
1/3 CUP [250g] sugar
2 TB rose water, or a few drops of rose essence
juice of 1/2 lemon
red food coloring

To make the syrup, place the water and sugar in a pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat and boil for 3 minutes, then take off the heat and stir in the rose water and lemon juice and taste for strength. Add a tiny drop of food coloring and pour into a sterilized jar or bottle. Once cooled, seal and refrigerate.


4.4 LB [2kg] watermelon, cut into small pieces (discard the rind)
1/4 CUP [60g] cornflour
1/3 CUP [75g] caster sugar

Place the watermelon pieces in a blender and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve into a large jug or bowl. Do this a little at a time as you’ll need to push the purée through the sieve with a spoon. You should end up with around 600ml watermelon juice in total – make up with a little water if necessary.
Whisk the cornflour with a little of the juice to make a smooth slurry, then whisk with the remaining juice and pour into a saucepan. Whisk over a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil and thickens. Cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and whisk in the sugar until it dissolves.

Pour the mixture into four shallow bowls that have been sprinkled with a few drops of cold water – this will make turning out the mahalepi a lot easier, as it stops them from sticking. Allow to cool before refrigerating overnight or for at least 3 hours.


8 strawberries
around 16 chopped pistachios
rose petals or violas (optional)

Turn the mahalepi out of their molds (they should easily slide out – add a splash of water if they don’t). Serve in deep dishes, topped with a glug of rose syrup, and garnished with strawberries, pistachios and rose petals or violas if you have them.

Buy the book: Smashing Plates: Greek Flavors Redefined>

Photo/Publisher: Credit: Taken by Smashing Plates by Maria Elia. Published by Kyle Cathie, priced £19.99. Photography by Jenny Zarins

Gregory Gourdet: Life After Top Chef and Keeping It Healthy

Posted on: June 9th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Top Chef contestant Gregory Gourdet shares a recipe for a super-healthy and beautiful salad with shaved collard greens in a spicy Asian dressing.

Fans of Top Chef know Gregory Gourdet as an animated and passionate, high-energy chef who wowed the judges with his tasty combinations. I know him from his days at Jean Georges in NYC, before he took off to find calmer pastures and a more healthful lifestyle in Portland, OR. I asked Greg to contribute a recipe to my party plan for hosting a rainbow-colored gay pride party. His suggestion for this salad could easily qualify in the Green section on your buffet.

hobnobmag Gregory Gourdet recipe

His career has really taken off at Departure, a slick, ultra-designed restaurant amidst the rugged climes of Portland, perched atop the luxurious Nines Hotel.

hobnobmag Gregory Gourdet recipe

Gourdet can really take advantage of the best the Pacific Northwest has to offer and transform these goodies into gorgeous, healthy Asian cuisine. Perhaps his study of medicine and wildlife influenced his leanings towards fresh ingredients and long-distance running. Gourdet shares his recipe for Shaved Collard Greens, Carrots, Red Cabbage, & Spicy Peanut Dressing, which has its own array of rainbow ingredients. This chef remains Number One in my book! Follow his adventures on Twitter and Facebook.

hobnobmag Gregory Gourdet recipe


Shaved Collard Greens, Carrots, Red Cabbage, & Spicy Peanut Dressing


2 Thai chilis, de-stemmed
1/2 CUP cashews
1 1/2 CUPS peanuts, toasted
2-inch piece ginger, peeled, sliced crosswise
1 CUP coconut milk
1 small clove garlic
1 TB salt
2 TB maple syrup
1 1/2 CUPS rice wine vinegar
zest of 2 limes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until very smooth. This dressing is thick and creamy.


1 bunch collard greens, washed, stemmed, rolled into a cigar and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 CUPS red cabbage, sliced
1/8 CUP red onion, thinly sliced
1 CUP red cabbage, julienne
2 kaffir lime leaves, destemmed, julienned
sea salt
olive oil

Combine all vegetables and herbs in a bowl. Season with sea salt and gently toss in some dressing and a few drops of olive oil.

For the garnish

crushed, toasted peanuts
mint leaves
cilantro leaves
sunflower sprouts
sliced scallions
toasted coconut

Garnish with your choice of these toppings, or all of them.

Mini Desserts: Order A Table Full of Colorful Sweets for Your Party

Posted on: June 1st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

It seems that everyone loves macarons nowadays, and if you are not up to baking those on your own, we’ve got a great suggestion on how to supply these mini desserts. This bakery features the colors of the rainbow, plus flavors from champagne and strawberries to peanut butter and jelly.

We added these two dessert option to include with our menu that features the colors of the rainbow in each food. The rainbow party has recipes in the six color tones, that will make your buffet pop! Click on the link to see the full menu.

Here are a couple of ideas for fulfilling the rainbow effect, or offer anytime: eye-candy mini desserts you can order to please guests’ taste buds and aesthetic sense.

Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Kisses For a super easy dessert in the color VIOLET, set out bowls of chocolate candy kisses, which come wrapped in bright purple foil. They have a mildly sweet, rich dark chocolate flavor at only 22 calories a pop. Order them in bulk from Candy Warehouse, each bag has 100 pieces.

Dana’s Bakery Macarons Just 30 minutes from NYC, in Hawthorne, NJ is a macaron bakery supreme. Order your own rainbow selection for this party in an array of tantalizing flavors. Just make sure if you are ordering more than 200 macarons, to place your order at least 7 days prior to the party. They even offer classes for macaron-making, so perhaps you can sign up for one and come up with a flavor of your very own.

Gourmet Sliders with Balsamic Onions & Avocado Cream

Posted on: March 1st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Sliders are a welcome treat at any gathering, they provide a nice-sized portion: something you can sink your teeth into, but not be overwhelmed. Our gourmet sliders are extra special due to the great mix of ground meat, and a duo of toppings that will set them apart. The balsamic onions adds a tangy sweetness, and the avocado cream offers a creamy base that holds the whole thing together.

To conserve some money, we  bought hot dog buns and cut then up  to act as the slider holders. No need to worry about custom buns in mini portions. FYI: this recipe is part of a really cool party scenario: all items on the menu  are mini versions of things, so check out the rest of the menu for a bevy of mini delights.



2 LB ground angus beef
1/2 LB ground veal
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 CUP panko breadcrumbs
1 TB thyme, minced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

In a bowl, mix all ingredients gently. Roll into 2-inch balls. Transfer to two parchment-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate.


3 TB grape seed oil
2 large sweet onions, cut into 1/4-inch rings

1 CUP balsamic vinegar
3 TB ponzu
2 chipotles, chopped
1 tsp salt

2 TB butter

Heat a large saucepan, add oil. Heat oil over med high heat, add onions and saute for 10 min, till onions have browned slightly. Add balsamic, ponzu, chipotles, and salt. Cook over medium heat until reduced by half, about 25 min. The liquid should by syrupy. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Allow to cool, and refrigerate until ready to use.



1/2 container Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, room temp
1/2 avocado, cut into chunks

Mash ingredients together.

Preheat oven 375ºF… MAKE THE SLIDERS

trays of sliders
2 pkg organic hot dog buns
Avocado Cream
Balsamic Onions

Bake sliders for 15 min. Meanwhile, prepare the rolls. Cut off the ends of each hot dog bun, then cut into 4 sections.
Smear the creamy avocado spread on the bottom bun. Place one slider on each, top with onions. Top with other bun half, push down and skewer together.

One-Bite Mini Pies with Blueberries, Lavender & Hibiscus

Posted on: March 1st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

When entertaining, I love the idea of one-bite morsels. No need for plate or utensils, just pick up and munch. This adds to the mobile energy of the scene. Hence, these adorable mini pies.

I used a mini-muffin tin to form these mini pies. You can leave off the decorative top, but I think that’s what makes them that much more fetching. To create the decorative pastry tops, I pulled out my a diamond-shaped cookie cutter, but whatever design you have that’s about 2 inches would work. See more one-bite recipes in our party theme: Mini.

MAKES 24 mini bites


Immaculate Ready-to-Bake pie crusts

Remove both crusts from the box and let thaw for 25 min.


1/2 CUP natural sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1/2 tsp dried lavender

3 CUPS frozen blueberries, defrosted
2 TB unsalted butter, melted
1 TB Fruitlab Hibiscus Organic Liqueur

Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and lavender in a large bowl. Mix in the blueberries, butter and liqueur.

HOBNOBMAG Recipe Mini Pies Blueberries Lavender Hibiscus2


When crust has thawed, carefully unroll on a lightly floured surface. Using a round 2-inch cookie cutter (or glass) cut 24 rounds. Grease a mini-muffin pan, and insert the rounds into each cavity. To create the tops, use a decorative cutter, cut one shape for each.


powdered sugar

Fill each crust with the blueberry filling. Top with decorative shape. Bake for 25-30 min, till golden. Let cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Cure Your Hangover with The Hungover Cookbook by Milton Crawford

Posted on: November 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

A hangover, seen through the eyes of author Milton Crawford, is an opportunity. His positive attitude and helpful suggestions can take you from feeling bleh to glorious in his entertaining book The Hungover Cookbook.

With the help of funny multiple choice quizzes and visual tests, The Hungover Cookbook helps to determine which of six types of hangovers you have: The Broken Compass, The Sewing Machine, The Comet, The Atomic, The Cement Mixer or The Gremlin Boogie—and gives you the recipes to put you on the right track.

The recipes are a mixed bag of brunch dishes and hail from all parts of the globe, along with stories of a life well-lived. Lose the guilt! This is the book to pull out when having overnight guests—the morning after—for a dose of hilarity and cure. Enjoy this recipe with a focus on sweet-tooth pleasures.

featured recipe

Croissants, Nutella and Hot Chocolate

4 good-quality croissants
1 jar Nutella hazelnut chocolate spread

For the hot chocolate

5 CUPS whole milk
8 oz good-quality dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa), broken into small pieces
1 TB superfine sugar (optional)
whipped cream from a can
cocoa powder, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375°F, for warming the croissants later.

Warm 1 1/4 cups of milk in a saucepan over a low heat and add the broken-up chocolate. Stir continuously until the chocolate has melted, then add the rest of the milk. Keep the pan on the heat, stirring regularly, for about five minutes, but don’t let it boil. Add the sugar if you like your hot chocolate slightly sweeter.

Meanwhile, heat the croissants in the hot oven for about five minutes, then slather on the Nutella.

Serve the hot chocolate in bowls that can be lifted to your lips with both hands. Finish with a squirt of whipped cream on top and a dusting of cocoa powder.

Dip and sup your way through your croissants and hot chocolate and by the end I guarantee that you will not only feel warm inside, you’ll be glowing with pleasure.

—Reprinted from The Hungover Cookbook. Copyright © 2010 by Milton Crawford. Illustrations copyright © 2010 by 300million. Published by Clarskon Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House LLC.

Peter Gevrekis of Desnuda Wine Bar & Cevicheria Shares His Restaurant’s Most Popular Recipe for Shrimp Ceviche

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Desnuda Wine Bar & Cevicheria, the destination in the East Village, NYC for ceviches exotic and adored, has added a location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Peter Gevrekis is giving this spot his personal attention, in creating the atmosphere (impressive tarnished copper), and the ceviches themselves. A revamped bar menu features an assortment of rums, cachaças and tequilas to accompany his selection of wines from the great terroirs of South America. Gevrekis shared his popular recipe for Ceviche de Camarones.

hobnobmag Desnuda Wine Bar


ceviche de camarones

One of the most popular ceviches at Desnuda is a cinch to make. Make sure your ingredients are stellar.

10 shrimp, 16-20 count, poached for 20 seconds
1/2 English cucumber, cut into chunks
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small jalapeño, diced with some seeds remaining
1/2 small red onion, cut into thin strips
1/2 avocado, cubed
2 TB cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin, toasted
1 CUP orange juice
1/2 CUP lime juice
1 TB olive oil

Cut the shrimp into four pieces. Add all ingredients to a bowl, toss together. Allow to sit for five min. Serve with popcorn.

hobnobmag Desnuda Wine Bar

Grilled Vegetable Napoleon—the Ultimate Pairing with Charcuterie

Posted on: August 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

A fancy sidekick to charcuterie, this refreshing grilled vegetable napoleon blends veggies and goat cheese to spectacular results.  It’s part of a plan for hosting guests over a weekend: this is part of the welcome snack. You can make this up to 2 days ahead. If you are following our weekend hosting plan, you will be making extra. Use the best grilled vegetables for the stack, and save the rest for sandwiches for Saturday’s lunch.

To help create perfect Vegetable Napoleon stacks, we used a very cool tool. The ARCHITEC Stackable Appetizer Maker is a unique gadget that lets you turn ordinary ingredients into beautifully layered creations in just minutes. Simply place a layer of each ingredient, and press down with included flat bar, then cut into individual servings. If you don’t have this gadget, you could probably do the same thing in a narrow baking pan. Or just arrange the ingredients nicely with your charcuterie offering.

We devised a super-easy method for roasting peppers, which adds eye-popping color to the Vegetable Napoleons, see the details below.


HOBNOBMAG Herbs Marinade


1/4 CUP olive oil
fresh herbs, minced
s + p

Mix ingredients together.


3 red bell peppers
3 yellow bell peppers

6 zucchinis, cut into 3/8-inch slices on the diagonal

Cut peppers into their natural segments, then trim curvy parts top and bottom (save for use in salad). Remove seeds. Flatten each piece on a baking sheet lined with foil. (the foil comes into play, wait!)

Place under broiler on top shelf in oven, skin side up, until black, about 10 min. Remove from oven. Enclose peppers inside the foil to sweat the skins off. After 10 min or so, remove skins. I like to do this under running water.

For the zucchini, brush tops with marinade. Gang up slices on foil-lined baking trays. Put under the broiler for 6 min, flip, broil another 5 min. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the trays.


2 TB olive oil
2 pkgs baby spinach
1 TB raw agave
3 TB red wine vinegar

Heat a large pan over medium heat, add oil. Wilt spinach, add agave and vinegar, cook for about 1 min. (Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches.) Transfer spinach to strainer, press down to remove excess liquid.


roasted yellow peppers
goat cheese, softened
roasted zucchini
cooked spinach
tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch horizontal slices

Layer ingredients in this order, pushing down between each layer:

1. yellow peppers
2. goat cheese
3. zucchini
4. spinach
5. tomatoes
6. goat cheese
7. zucchini
8. spinach
9. goat cheese
10. red peppers.
Cover and refrigerate. Cut into stacks when ready to serve.

Taco Toppings: Nine Colorful Options

Posted on: August 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

In our plan for entertaining, this taco bar offers spectacular, and offbeat, taco toppings to round out the flavors and allow each guest to customize their taco to their liking. In addition, see our recipe for a unique and healthy colorful slaw. And a unique, tangy peach salsa.

It’s important to offer a lively spread of fresh toppings and sauces along with tacos. Variety is key since everyone has different dietary preferences. Non-cook items: cilantro, jalapeños, corn, black beans, and arugula.

[1] cilantro
[2] dijon mayo (see recipe below)
[3] fresh jalapeño slices
[4] corn
[5] black beans
[6] Aveyo avocado mayo (this product is no longer available, but you can mix a ripe avocado with a little mayo or put out thin slices of avocado)
[7] Pickled Pink Sweet Heat Jalapeños
[8] Rogue Hot Sauce
[9] baby arugula



Dijon mayo may not a traditional taco bar topping, but a squirt of this on any of the tacos heightens flavor.


2 TB mayonnaise
6 TB olive oil
1 TB red raspberry vinegar
1 tsp Maille Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, pressed in a garlic press
s + p
pinch of cayenne

Whisk ingredients together. Put in serving bowl with a small spoon or squirt bottle.

Don’t miss our recipes for a couple more toppings: a salsa and colorful slaw.

Fish Taco: Smoky Paprika Blackened Grouper with Peach Salsa

Posted on: August 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

There’s something so refreshing about a fish taco. And they make the perfect dish for entertaining.

Choosing the type of fish: Grouper and mahi mahi are available in nice thick fillets, making them perfect for grilling. They won’t fall apart, especially if you use a fish basket to grill them. In this recipe, we’ve added a smoky, slightly hot spice mix to both sides. Suggested taco combo: Grilled Blackened Grouper with White Peach Salsa, arugula, and fresh jalapeño. This recipe is just one of the recipes for our Taco Bar Buffet in which we feature all types of gourmet fillings. 



1 tsp Safinter Smoked Spanish paprika
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cornstarch

In a small bowl, mix ingredients together. Store extra in a glass jar in cool spot.


Smoky Spice Mix
3 LB grouper or mahi mahi fillets, skin removed

Sprinkle spice mix over both sides of filets. Grill on hot bbq inside a fish basket about 1–2 min on each side, depending on thickness of the fillet. Remove from basket onto serving platter.

HOBNOBMAG Recipe Taco Bar Blackened Grouper

If you make the fish ahead of time, when you are ready to serve the tacos: Reheat fish in the microwave, or in the fish basket on the top shelf of the grill. Break into large chunks and place in a bowl on the taco bar buffet. We’ve got more recipes for pork, chicken, beef, and vegetarian tacos at this link.

Other Fish Taco recipes on Hobnob:

Fish Tacos with Style: Macadamia Crusted Halibut with Sweet Sour Mayo Sauce 

Learn to Make Alex Stupak of Empellon Taqueria’s Delectable Crispy Fish Tacos with Cabbage and Lime Mayo

Unusual Taco Bar Salsas: White Peach Salsa and Colorful Slaw

Posted on: August 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Add these two dishes to your taco bar to create exciting combinations with any of the other recipes from our Taco Bar menu.  Our unusual taco bar salsas  add the crowning touch. This party’s getting hotter by the minute.



This salsa works well with all the bases and looks pretty on the table. Choose peaches that are not too soft, so that you get a nice dice.



3 almost ripe peaches, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large red onion, diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
juice from 3 limes

In a medium bowl, place all the ingredients, squeeze lime juice over. Allow to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hrs to allow flavors to meld.



A healthy slaw with only a bit of sweetness.



6 TB grape seed oil
4 TB pinot grigio vinegar
2 TB agave
s + p

Whisk ingredients together in small bowl.


1/2 red cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
1 CUP pea pods, sliced thinly
1/2 CUP radish micro greens

In a medium bowl, put all the ingredients. Pour dressing and toss together. Allow to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hrs to allow flavors to meld.

Healthy Muffin Recipe: Carrot Kamut Muffins

Posted on: August 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Healthy muffins never tasted so delicious. The fluffiness of the flour, and the added texture make these an enjoyable treat. In this healthy muffin recipe, I shredded the carrots instead of grating them and threw in some ground flax seeds and hemp seeds for a bit of extra nutrition.

Having weekend guests over? We came up with a 3-day plan for entertaining guests. What could be more coddling than waking them up to the smell of freshly-baked muffins. These are made with sprouted kamut flour, which adds a wonderful flavor. This dough can be made a day or so ahead, so at breakfast you can just pour the mix into pretty baking cups and pop in the oven. Easy peasy.



2 CUPS kamut flour
1 TB ground flax seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl, sift dry ingredients together.


3/4 CUP coconut-canola oil
1 CUP maple syrup
1/2 CUP yogurt
1/2 CUP applesauce
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

On medium speed, combine the oil and maple syrup for about 2 min. Add yogurt, applesauce, mix 1 min. Add eggs one at a time with mixer running, add vanilla, mix till incorporated.

Transfer the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients—do not over-mix.


2 CUPS carrots, shredded
1/2 CUP hemp seeds
3/4 CUP walnuts, chopped, toasted

Fold ingredients into the mix. Add the Paper Chef cupcake liners to a muffin pan, and divide the mixture into the 12 cavities. Bake for about 35 min, till an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Another  muffin recipe:

Savory Butternut Squash Mini Muffins and Spicy Squash Spread

Crispy Fish Taco by Alex Stupak of Empellon Taqueria

Posted on: August 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Chef Alex Stupak has re-written the rules of taco making which is why Empellon Taqueria is always packed and abuzz with aficianados. Wow your guests with his recipe for a delish, crispy fish taco.

Alex Stupak is pushing the limits of Mexican cuisine. His mission: treat tacos with respect and serve them in a fun environment. A former pastry chef who worked in top restaurants [WD-50, Alinea (chicago), and Clio (boston)], Stupak’s true love was Mexican cuisine. Starting with authentic Mexican flavors, ingredients, and techniques, he is known for introducing unexpected elements. The guacamole, for example, has a touch of sea urchin added for that “WOW, what was that?” factor. Imagine tacos with ingredients like beer-braised pork tongue and chorizo, or brussels sprouts, malted hummus and hazelnuts.

Of course, none of these creations would be what they are without some salsa. Empellon offers seven different salsas, so whatever mood you are in you will not be disappointed. Their smoked cashew and chipotle sauce is dubbed “crack sauce” and you might be tempted to eat it by the spoonful. So YES, if you are a lover of Mexican food: go to Empellon. But, if you just like to eat amazing food: go to Empellon!

To sample some of their best, don’t miss their monthly taco tastings, $55 for six tacos and complimentary Margarita. And on another night while also feeling gastronomically adventurous, head over to the East Village for some creative cocktails and amazing desserts at Empellon Cocina. In the meantime, enjoy this taco recipe from Alex Stupak.

featured recipe

Crispy Smelt Tacos with Cabbage and Lime Mayonnaise

This is, hands down, my favorite taco on earth. As a New Englander, fried seafood is very close to my heart and anytime you take something crispy and wrap it in something soft and supple it becomes all the more appealing. There are all sorts of legends and lore surrounding the idea of the fish tempura taco but I find most of them hard to believe. Whether this is authentic or not becomes quickly irrelevant once you sink your teeth into one.


For the Lime Mayonnaise

1 CUP mayonnaise
1/4 CUP freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cloves roasted garlic, minced
1 tsp grated lime zest

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk together. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator until needed. (Can be made up to a week in advance.)

For the Tempura Batter

3 CUPS all-purpose flour
1 1/2 CUPS rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 CUP beer, very cold
1 1/4 CUP vodka, very cold

In a bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Gently fold in the liquids and dispense into iSi Siphons, each charged with 2 CO2 cartridges.

For the Jalapeño Relish

1 CUP Sweet Pickled Jalapeños, seeded and de-veined
1/2 CUP Tomatillo Base
1/4 CUP reserved Sweet Pickling Liquid from the jalapeños
1 TB sugar
salt, to taste

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. In batches, transfer to a blender and purée to a coarse texture. Transfer to another bowl and stir with a spatula. Set aside.
Advance Preparation: This relish can be made up to a week in advance.

To make the tacos

2 CUPS vegetable oil, for frying
8 Maine smelts
all-purpose flour, for dredging
Tempura Batter
8 tortillas, warmed
1 CUP Lime Mayonnaise
1 CUP Jalapeño Relish (a mix of sweet pickled jalapeños and tomatillos)
2 CUPS shredded cabbage
1 CUP red radish slices
1/2 CUP minced onion
1/2 CUP cilantro leaves

In a 3-qt Dutch oven fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the vegetable oil to 350°F.

Clean the smelts: Start by cutting off the heads. With a paring knife, cut a slit up the belly and remove the innards. Rinse under cold water and pull the spine away from the flesh (this is optional, as the bones are very small and edible).

Dredge the smelts in the flour and coat in the tempura batter using the iSi Siphons. Carefully place into the hot oil and cook for 4-6 minutes, or until the smelts are cooked through and crispy. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and drain.

To assemble the tacos, lay the tortillas on a plate or, if serving family style, on a platter. On each tortilla, spread 2 tablespoons of Lime Mayonnaise followed by 2 tablespoons of Jalapeño Relish. Add 1/2 cup of shredded cabbage and top with the fried fish. Garnish the tacos with equal amounts red radish slices, minced onion and cilantro leaves.

Unusual Gazpacho with Grilled Mango

Posted on: July 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

This is an easy recipe for party hosting. You only need a food processor and lots of fresh ingredients. When originally coming up with this party plan for 4th of July, I wanted to include peaches in the gazpacho recipe but they were not yet in season. These mangoes from Mexico made for a perfect substitution. This often happens during party planning. The menu is all set … yet ingredients are elusive … or something gorgeous at the market beckons. My advice: stay flexible, and roll with the punches. Sometimes you can even get a better result.



4 mangoes, peeled and sliced thickly around the pit
peanut oil

Lightly grease grill pan with peanut oil. Heat pan, grill both sides of each slice. Remove, let cool. Chop into small bits.


1 1/2 LB tomatoes, seeded, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks
1/2 red onion, cut into chunks
2 mild red peppers, seeded, cut into chunks
juice from 1/2 lemon
3 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Reserve 1/4 of the chopped pieces of each ingredient for garnish, and dice.

Pulse each ingredient in food processor, leaving some solid bits (depending on the size of your food processor, you might have to work in batches and mix together in a large bowl). Serve in small glasses with chopped bits on the top.

Summer Light Eating: Red Snapper with Apple Fennel Slaw

Posted on: June 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

When you are looking to eat light in the summer, fish and salad are king. The slaw in this dish is dressed in a creamy mayo and sour cream with the addition of buttermilk, and lively touches of vinegar and lemon. Apples and fennel are a perfect match, just make sure to slice each ingredient very thinly.

Looking for more summer recipes? Check out our party plan for a cool July 4th barbecue at this link.



1/2 CUP spelt flour
2 LB red snapper filets, cut into 1-inch strips (should be about 8 pieces)

In a bowl, mix the flour and salt, then coat the snapper.


3 TB olive oil
coated filets

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Oil should cover the entire bottom of the pan. Add snapper skin side down. Cook about 1 min each side. Move to paper towel to soak up any extra oil. Serve atop a mound of the apple fennel slaw or a red potato salad.



Anise flavor was never at the top of my list, but my firm belief is to sample any off-putting flavor until it becomes something palatable. When dining out, I’ll try new things, trusting in the art of the chef to deliver. With the flavor of anise, I have been converted. Here, in the Apple Fennel Salad, it lends a freshness and crunch that’s unbeatable. Finding organic or farmer’s market source for the fennel is essential for a mild anise flavor.

Recipe Apple Fennel Slaw


3 TB sour cream
1/4 CUP mayonnaise
3 TB buttermilk
2 tsp lemon zest
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 TB Normandy apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp natural sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients together in large bowl.


2 fennel bulbs, sliced thinly into rings
1 McIntosh apple, sliced thinly
buttermilk dressing

Toss fennel and apple together with dressing. Serve snapper atop a mound of slaw on small plates.

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