something sweet - HOBNOB Magazine

Posts Tagged ‘something sweet’

Cookies for Dessert

Posted on: October 23rd, 2019 by Ellen Swandiak

When throwing a party there are certain shortcuts that save time, yet still have maximum impact. When I plan a menu, aesthetics is one of the factors and portion size another. These cookies for dessert fit both requirements, and allow guests to have a little sampling of sweetness without over doing it. You can get better cookies even at a local deli if you know what to look for. Here are the cookie choices we made for this gathering: 

Hint-O-Mint Newman-O’s

Paul Newman’s founded company gives all its profits to charity, so that’s reason enough to support the brand, but the taste of these cookies shine, and are curiously addictive. So, Oreos move aside! There’s a new cookie in town. The hint of mint makes these guys way more sophisticated.

Loacker Quadratini

These wafer cookies were a childhood favorite of mine, they literally melt in your mouth. What’s lovely about these is the mini portion, they come in 1-inch cubes. I chose my two go-to flavors for the  Hidden Secret party, whose menu includes secret ingredients in every bite—Hazelnut and Coconut—but the line also includes: Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla, Lemon, Capuccino, Tiramisu, Espresso, Raspberry Yogurt, Blueberry Yogurt, Cocoa and Milk, and Matcha.

Loacker makes its cookies where air and water are pure and fresh, and nature is still intact: in the heart of the Dolomites. Now in its third family generation, the best natural ingredients continue the tradition founder Alfons Loacker started in his little patisserie in Bozen in 1925.

photo at the top of this post, right: For an easy party lighting trick, add a string of LED blue lights to a counter. I got these at my local lighting store (which are dotted around Manhattan) who carry the longer lengths. Lighting and Beyond, 35 W 14th St (betw 5/6)

See more recipes with secret, surprise ingredients in party #22, Hidden Secrets, at this link.

Dinner Party Plan: Set up a Healthy Dessert Buffet to End the Night on a High Note

Posted on: November 14th, 2018 by Ellen Swandiak

Once a good meal has come to an end, dessert beckons. And for certain guests this is the highlight of the party! Don’t let them down. Here are a slew of suggestions that assuage sweet cravings, with only the best, fresh ingredients. Set these out on a dessert buffet and let the gang graze away.

hobnobmag Healthy Dessert Buffet

Grandy Oats Coconola

For those who like to stick to a gluten-free, or paleo category, comes a granola mix that uses coconut as its base, and supplies the crunch and sweet enjoyment of traditional granola. When entertaining, try one of these mixes to accompany items on a cheese board. And if you are hosting a brunch, serve it as a topping for waffles or yogurt—or just put out on its own as a snack.

Coconola is organic, non-GMO verified, Kosher, and made in small batches at a solar-powered bakery in Western Maine. As a matter of fact, GrandyOats purchased and renovated an abandoned elementary school in Hiram, and converted it into a state-of-the art, completely solar-powered facility.

Note the four varieties: The Original mix includes coconut, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, sesame seeds, a little maple syrup and vanilla. For extra energy, choose Coffee Crunch, an exceptional flavor combo with added coconut nectar and ground coffee (my favorite blend!). Chocolate lovers will be attracted to the Chocolate Chunk Coconola which includes dark chocolate bites. Super Hemp Blend Coconola lends a grassy flavor to the mix with protein-packed hemp.

A case of six 9 oz packages is $48. (and totally worth it) Make sure to order the individual packages, or a 10 lb box will arrive at your door (I made this mistake!).

If you are looking to get more creative, check out these two fun recipes that incorporate the crunchy flavors. (seen in the photo at the top of this post).


Popsicle mold for 8

2 CUPS vanilla Greek yogurt
2 TB honey or maple syrup
1/2 CUP fresh berries, with additional for layering

1/4 CUP GrandyOats Coconola

Mix first three ingredients in a bowl. Add a few berries to the popsicle mold, pour in the yogurt mix. Insert the popsicle sticks into the center of each mold. Sprinkle GrandyOats Coconola. Freeze at least 8 hours.


1 Sambazon frozen açaí puree packet
1/2 banana, frozen
1/2 avocado, frozen
1/4 CUP coconut milk

1/4 CUP GrandyOats Cococnola (any flavor)
sliced fruit for toppings

Get out the blender. Add açai, banana, avocado, coconut milk and blend until smooth. Spoon into a bowl, add GrandyOats Coconola. Top with fruit.

hobnobmag Healthy Dessert Buffet

Reveri Plant-Based Frozen Dessert

What happens when an award-winning restaurateur returns to America after 20+ years in Bali? Karen Waddell came back to the US and was shocked to notice the rise in childhood obesity, so she became determined to get kids off added sugar. Reveri is the result, a plant-based dessert that delivers the sweetness and rich mouth feel of ice cream, yet contains no dairy, added sugar, sweeteners, or fats.

Waddell grew up eating rich cuisine made by her mother, a chef who had trained under James Beard, and followed in her mother’s footsteps. Since her family also had a history of diabetes, as an adult Waddell was challenged to create recipes that were rich in taste, but used healthier ingredients. At her first restaurant in Bali, she was known for sourcing goodies from her own organic farm.

hobnobmag Healthy Dessert Buffet

“You’re not going to stop people craving ice cream,” Waddell said. “I feel good about the fact that anyone can eat Reveri and feel great afterwards. Your body is the processor. You don’t need processed food.”

Only 70-90 calories per 4-ounce serving, it comes in four flavors: Vanilla Almond Blossom, Purple Mint Chip (which gets its color from blueberries), Chocolate Forest, and Strawberry Patch. Here are a couple of recipes that use Reveri as a base, and add fresh ingredients to mimic traditional desserts: A Carrot Cake and Apple Pie.

hobnobmag Healthy Dessert Buffet

Reveri Carrot Cake


3 CUPS Almond Breeze unsweetened Almond Milk
24 oz Vanilla Almond Blossom Reveri
1/4 CUP Vanilla whey (or vegan) protein powder
pinch salt

1 1/2 CUP oz rolled oats

Combine ingredients, except oats, in a blender until well mixed. Pour into container, add oats, stir well. Seal container. Refrigerate overnight.

62 oz Vanilla Base
3/4 CUP carrot, shredded
1/2 CUP oz raisins
1/3 CUP walnuts- chopped small pieces
1/4 CUP orange juice
1 TB cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

fresh pineapple, chopped, for garnish

In a bowl combine all ingredients, except pineapple. Stir well until thoroughly mixed. Place into sealed container. Refrigerate a few hours. Portion into 12 cups, garnish with pineapple.

Reveri Apple Pie

Use the same vanilla base from the Carrot Cake recipe, then add these fresh ingredients.


62 oz Vanilla Base
3/4 CUP tart apple, unpeeled, julienned
1/4 CUP oz raw pumpkin seeds, plus additional for garnish
1/4 CUP Craisins, plus additional for garnish

1/4 CUP pineapple or orange juice
1 TB cinnamon

In a bowl combine first four ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Place into sealed container. Refrigerate a few hours. Portion into 12 cups, garnish with a few pumpkin seeds and Craisins, sprinkle cinnamon.

Reveri is sold through the website in 6-packs, 8 packs, and 12 packs. $7.99 to $9.99 each.

hobnobmag Healthy Dessert Buffet

Small Batch Organics

This company’s passion for making granola started with a small farm stand in Vermont, blossomed into a general store, and with high demand, turned into the brand building its own organic-certified and gluten-free kitchen. They have teamed up with small local farms and artisan food producers to create fresh granola.

hobnobmag Healthy Dessert Buffet

Their granola barks would make a big statement on your dessert bar, and come is a variety of flavors: Coffee Bean Bark, Cherry Bark, Coconut Toffee Bark. $2.25 for 2 oz bag. You can buy a Mixed Box with Six 2 oz Granola Bark (2 of each variety), $13.50.

hobnobmag Healthy Dessert Buffet

Tropical Fields Crispy Coconut Rolls

Now here’s something light and just-a-little-bite of sweetness. Made with 50% coconut milk, tapioca flour, sugar, egg, water, salt, and black sesame seeds, it offers a lovely coconut-flavored, flaky treat. Serve alongside coffee or tea, or on top of yogurt or ice-cream. No artificial colors or flavors. About $10 for 9.3 oz bag. Available online at

hobnobmag Healthy Dessert Buffet

Fatty Sundays pretzels

Here’s a family tale. Inspired by their Mom’s beloved rainbow-sprinkle-chocolate-covered pretzels, sisters Ali and Lauren set out to reinvent and modernize their favorite treat. They tested and perfected dipping techniques, and came up with new recipes. Now, this Brooklyn-based operation boasts a 15+ flavor list.

hobnobmag Healthy Dessert Buffet

They offer gift sets on the website, 4 boxes for $14.95. Individual boxes are $3.49, with 3 pretzels per box. Flavors include: Birthday Cake, Coconut, Peanut Butter, Sprinkles, and more. For those very special occasions Fatty Sundays can create special orders, in the color of your choice, packaged in personalized boxes.


Hobnob has even more recipes for creating desserts on the healthy end of the spectrum. Check out these recipes:

Stuffed Apricots with Pistachios and Cream: A Slippery, Creamy Dessert

Not So Sweet Dessert: Smoked Almond Dip with Apples

Healthier Cookies for Your Summer Party: Chewy Coconut Raspberry Macadamia

Nutty Coconut Cream & Berries: The Cutest Vegan Mini Dessert

Food Science Cookbook: Revealing the Chemical Secrets Behind Perfect Food Pairings

Posted on: October 1st, 2018 by Ellen Swandiak

This book ventures beyond convention. Instead of relying on already established complementary food pairs, this process uses the chemistry of shared molecular structures as its basis. That is, the aromatic fingerprints of each item are compared scientifically—and where they overlap, is where they complement each other. By proceeding with this method, unexpected and unusal results come to life.

The science behind food pairing started as an inspiration from James Briscioine, an instructor at ICE who interacted with Watson, IBM’s famous computer. Since then, food scientists have taught chefs that ingredients contain a complex network of chemical structures called volatile compounds. These compounds give each food its own unique flavor.

Starting with the six basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami, and fat, we perceive each of these tastes via chemical reactions that take place on the tongue, mouth, and throat when we consume food. According to the book, these tastes comprise only 20 percent of what we perceive as flavor—the other 80 percent is experienced through the nose via aromatic compounds.

The book takes 58 basic foods and zeroes in on each one’s tasting profile. Each food then lists the best pairings, some surprise pairings, and how to substitute each food. A recipe most unusual demonstrates one of the pairing ideas to get you started. The book contains charts galore that beautifully spell out the options, and provide ideas for future experimentation.

HOBNOBMAG Food Science Cookbook

PEA: Sweet Pea, Pork, and Coconut Tacos recipe with accompanying pairing chart.

HOBNOBMAG Food Science Cookbook

VANILLA: The recipe for Vanilla Butter, shown on corn, with vanilla’s tasting profile.

HOBNOBMAG Food Science Cookbook

More unusual recipes: FISH: A Coffee-Cured Salmon sits on a bagel, left. GRAPE: Spice-Roasted Grapes turn something sweet into something more savory.

The book ends with more analysis of flavors, textures, tastes, and aromas that encompass the eating experience. I particularly liked the section on Aromas, which describe and list everything from Fruity to Maillard (found in baked bread, roasted meat, and chocolate).

Check out this recipe from the book for an attractive and unusual pairing of chocolate and beets. (photo at the top of this post.)



This recipe delivers unexpected flavors atop a familiar foundation. There is nothing more comforting than a creamy bowl of chocolate mousse. Beets, camomile, and orange zest punch up the flavor of that classic dish, while the beet meringue adds crunch and makes for a dramatic presentation.



3 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup roasted beet purée (or 1 cup peeled and chopped beets, boiled until very soft, peeled, and puréed in a food processor or blender until smooth)


3/4 cup heavy cream
Grated zest of 1 orange (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon dried camomile flowers (optional)
8 ounce semisweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
6 large egg whites
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Make the beet meringue: Preheat the oven to 150 to 200°F. Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar (if using) with an electric mixer until frothy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form and the whites are smooth and glossy. Sift the powdered sugar over the meringue, then gently fold it in.

Place dollops of meringue all over the baking pan. Measure out 1/2 cup of the beet purée; set aside the remaining 1/4 cup for the mousse. Drop spoonfuls of the beet purée in between dollops of meringue, then gently swirl with a spatula and smooth into a thin layer. Bake for about 6 hours at 150°F or 3 hours at 200°F, until crisp but not browned. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Make the mousse: Combine the cream, orange zest, and camomile (if using) in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let steep for 10 minutes.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Strain the cream through a fine- mesh sieve into the chocolate and let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the reserved beet purée.

Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture one- third at a time until fully incorporated. Refrigerate until well chilled.

When you’re ready to serve, divide the mousse among six bowls and top each with pieces of beet meringue.    

Excerpted from THE FLAVOR MATRIX © 2018 by James Briscione with Brooke Parkhurst. Photography © 2018 by Andrew Purcell. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes by James Briscione

North Wild Kitchen Features Traditional and Newfangled Dishes in this Norwegian Cookbook

Posted on: October 1st, 2018 by Ellen Swandiak

After years globetrotting, author Nevada Berg settled in Norway with her Norwegian husband and son. With a farm, and with the eyes of a newcomer, Berg learns the local traditions as she assimilates into the mountain-top lifestyle and creates her award-winning blog, North Wild Kitchen.

The cookbook breaks down those activities that are common to Norwegians: foraging, fishing, farming, hunting, harvesting, camping, baking, grilling, and frying. Each chapter begins with an explanation of Nordic culture, so you get a little lesson in the way things are done. For example, in the Foraging chapter Berg mentions “allemannsretten” a concept that everyone has the right to take from nature, whether or not they own the land. (how unlike American culture!) The idea is that you can take what you need, but make sure to leave something for others to enjoy.

HOBNOBMAG Norwegian Cookbook

Photography throughout the book showcases the simple, rustic recipes and scenes from the surrounding areas. You almost feel as if you were on a journey far away. Recipes follow the four seasons using local ingredients. Traditional foods like Meatballs with Creamed Cabbage alludes to a super-popular dish in Norway, as well as Milk Cakes, which get served up with jams, spreadable cheeses, sour cream, and butter. Hearty soups and stews using meats like venison, moose, reindeer, and hare are sure to entice.

HOBNOBMAG Norwegian Cookbook

There are plenty of recipes for bakers too. Breads, pancakes, and lots of buns and cakes will have you wanting to curl up by a fireplace, and settle in. Sour Cream Wafers and Soft Potato Flatbread Veiled work in on the sides of many meals. For sweeter pursuits, Peasant Girls is an old-fashioned dessert that combines stewed apples, with sweetened breadcrumbs and whipped cream. Plums, a Norwegian staple for 300 years, are abundant, and the excess gets made into jam for use on Custard Buns or Aniseed Wafers.

I tend to like my desserts mixed with a little savory, and thought this recipe from the book would make a nice accompaniment on a cheese board, or as a atypical dessert.


Pan-Fried Pears Wrapped in Cured Pork with Honey and Pink Peppercorns


Salty, rich cured meat and fresh sweet fruit are a natural and balanced pairing. When pan-fried together, the crispy texture of the meat against the warm, softened flesh of the fruit brings this pairing to a whole new level. I enjoy serving these special bundles, because they’re flavorful, fresh, and quick to pull together. If you prefer, you can substitute another cured meat, such as lamb (fenalår).

serves 4 to 6

4 large pears
8 to 16 pieces thinly sliced cured pork
2 tablespoons lightly salted butter, for frying
Flaky salt
Crushed pink peppercorns
Runny honey

Cut the pears lengthwise in half. Carefully remove the cores and seeds, but leave the stems. Wrap each pear half with 1 to 2 slices of the cured pork and press the fat of the meat together to keep from it from falling off the pear.

In a large, heavy frying pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add the pears, flesh-side down, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the pork is golden brown and crisp. Flip the pears and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes or until the other side is golden brown and crisp and the fruit is slightly soft.

Arrange the pears on a platter, sprinkle with flaky salt and crushed peppercorns, drizzle with honey, and serve immediately while still warm.

Reprinted with permission from Prestel Publishing.

North Wild Kitchen: Home Cooking from the Heart of Norway by Nevada Berg

Quick Dessert: 10-Minute Cherry Chocolate Mousse

Posted on: February 1st, 2017 by Ellen Swandiak

Sometimes you are just looking for a simple, quick dessert, that still wows in delivering a sweet jolt. This mousse can be served on its own, or as an accompaniment with cookies or fresh fruit, as we have done here. Cherries and currants top this 10 minute work of art.

We included this recipe as part of the menu of aphrodisiacs. Chocolate has THE reputation for promoting amorous feelings. Casanova is known to have indulged in cups of chocolate to help sustain his lustful wanderings. The passion-inducing results come from phenethylamine, a chemical released in the brain when people fall in love, and tryptophan which produces serotonin, leading to elevated moods and sexual arousal.

In searching for a sensational, and easy, mousse recipe I came across this recipe for Bill’s Food Processor Chocolate Mousse. It turned out to be a cinch to make. Below, you will see that I doctored his recipe with a spoon of Kirschwasser, a cherry liqueur, for extra lusciousness, and garnished with red berries: fresh currants, and sugar-coated cherries.



7 oz semisweet chocolate (62% cacao or less), broken into pieces

Process the chocolate until finely ground.


ground chocolate

2 TB grape seed oil
1 TB Kirschwasser liqueur
1 TB pure vanilla extract

1/3 CUP milk
2 TB sugar

You will be adding these ingredients into the food processor to start the mousse. Combine oil, liqueur, and vanilla in a measuring cup. Separately, in a small saucepan, simmer milk and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Turn on the processor, and with it running, pour the warmed-up milk in, and process for 15 to 20 sec, until the chocolate is melted. Add the oil mixture and process additional 5 to 10 sec, till thoroughly blended. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, let cool in the fridge for 5 min (so chocolate is not warm for the next step).


1 CUP heavy cream
Pinch salt
cooled chocolate mix

currants on the stem
fresh cherries, brushed with egg white and rolled in sugar, cooled in the fridge (optional)

With a hand mixer, beat the cream and salt until it holds a soft shape, but not stiff. Remove cooled chocolate from the fridge and fold 1/3 of the cream into it, then the rest. Stop folding the moment the cream is incorporated, and scoop into glasses. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving. Garnish with currants and sugared cherries.

Stuffed Apricots with Pistachios and Cream: A Slippery, Creamy Dessert

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

When looking for a fruity dessert, that’s not too filling, apricots can fit the bill. To make these stuffed apricots with pistachios we started out with dried apricots, so this is something you can make even when apricots are not in season. Amazingly, they come back to life, and make the most amazing syrup. You can eat then with just the syrup, if you like, but adding the marscapone gives it a little richness, and the nuts add a little crunch and complement the fruit nicely.

This recipe creates an oozy, sweet light dessert, nice to include on your Halloween party menu featuring a graphic orange and black combination of things.



20 dried apricots
2 cups water

Soak the apricots in cold water overnight.


1/2 CUP turbinado sugar
squeeze of lemon juice

Remove apricots from liquid. Add the liquid to a pan with sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 5 min. Add apricots and simmer for 20 min till apricots are tender. Remove apricots, continue simmering liquid another 20 min till the liquid thickens to a syrup. Remove from heat, squeeze in lemon juice. Allow to cool. Transfer to a squeeze bottle and refrigerate.


1/2 CUP mascarpone cheese
1/4 CUP pistachio nuts, chopped finely
1/2 TB lemon thyme, minced

Mix ingredients together in a bowl.


cooked apricots
cream filling
1/8 CUP pistachio nuts, chopped
powdered sugar, for garnish (optional)

Cut apricots in half leaving one side attached. Spoon in cream filling, and close. Roll edge in pistachios. Drizzle syrup on top. Spear with small fork. Dust with powdered sugar.

Not So Sweet Dessert: Smoked Almond Dip with Apples

Posted on: September 6th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

I’m one of those people that is interested in finding recipes for desserts in the not so sweet category. In coming up with a menu for watching a sporting event,  I thought a savory nut dip would fit the bill. You can pair this dip with either crisp, citrus-y apples, carrots or pretzels. See more upscale recipes in our Classy Sports party theme menu.



2 CUPS smoked roasted almonds

5 TB peanut oil

Pulse nuts till very crumbly. Drizzle oil into running processor. Process with light touch.


2 TB tamari
1/4 CUP of water
juice of 1 lime
2 TB maple syrup
1 TB smoked salt

Add all ingredients to almond mixture. Process till combined.


3 apples
juice of 1/2 lime

Slice apples in half, quarter. Remove core, cut each quarter into 6 slices. In bowl, toss apple slices with freshly squeezed lime juice. When displaying, stick one or more apple slices in dip to encourage dipping.

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

Mini Portions of Dessert: Walnut-Pecan-Raisin & Cream Cigars

Posted on: August 2nd, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Phyllo dough comes in handy for creating these mini portions of dessert. Some tips for working with phyllo: It’s very important to keep them under a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out while you are working with the sheets. Also, covering the finished rolls as you go will ensure a proper result. These can be made a day ahead, and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. If you want to maximize numbers, cut each phyllo sheet into 9 rectangles instead of 6, and you will have 90 rolls.

I developed this recipe as part of a Greek food party menu. If you love Greek food, see more of the plan for hosting a Greek-themed party.



3/4 CUP walnuts
3/4 CUP pecans

Toast nuts in a heated skillet for about 2 min, set aside to cool. Roughly chop.


6 TB brown sugar
1 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch s + p

1 CUP golden raisins
toasted nuts
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature, cut into chunks

Pulse dry ingredients together. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth. Put into a piping bag and set aside.

HOBNOBMAG Recipe Walnut Pecan Raisin Cream Cigars


20 sheets phyllo pastry
2 sticks salted butter, melted
brown sugar

Lay a sheet of phyllo out and brush lightly with butter. Dust with sugar. Lay another sheet of phyllo on top and brush with butter again. Using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo into 6 rectangles.

Pipe a line of filling near the bottom of each rectangle. Roll the pastry over the filling tightly, squeezing gently. Brush the seam with melted butter to seal, then all over. Place cigars on a baking sheet lined with parchment, seam side down, under a damp paper towel till ready to bake.

Bake the cigars on the oven’s middle shelf for 17 min, till they are flaky and a light golden brown. Serve stacked geometrically or vertically in a tall glass.

Healthier Cookies: Chewy Coconut Raspberry Macadamia

Posted on: July 6th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Of course everyone loves a good, chewy cookie. But some are healthier than others. In this healthier cookie recipe, we cut back on the sugar by substituting pomegranate powder, made from freeze-dried pomegranates, which also adds a nice, tangy sweetness. We also got our hands on some coconut flour to see how it would bake up, and, by golly, it came out soft and chewy, just as you’d like a cookie to be. The chewiness of these cookies might become addictive to your crowd. Two batches may be in order!



1 CUP coconut flour
1/4 CUP pomegranate powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Sift ingredients together in a bowl.


10 TB salted butter, softened
1 CUP natural sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg

dry ingredient mix

At medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar, about 2 min. Add vanilla, combine. Add egg, combine. Switch mixer to low speed. Add dry ingredients in batches. Do not over mix.


1/2 CUP macadamia nuts, chopped
1/2 CUP sweetened coconut flakes

Incorporate into mixture.


2 TB turbinado sugar
the dough

Put sugar into a small bowl. Using a small ice cream scoop portion dough, and roll into a ball. (To make more cookies, only fill the scoop about 3/4 of the way.) Roll the ball lightly in the turbinado sugar. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Gently push dough ball into a disk shape. Make an indentation in the center, place raspberry there.


Place on middle rack in the oven. Bake for 7 min, flip baking tray around, and bake an additional 7 min. (for the smaller cookies do 6 and 6). Remove from oven, let cool on pan 2 min. Transfer to wire rack until totally cool.

Store Bought Dessert: Maple Cream Cookies and Ice Cream

Posted on: June 1st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

In compiling a menu for our party theme, The Wild Party, I was at first flummoxed for the end of the night dessert offerings. But after doing a little shopping, I found a bunch of store bought desserts that were special enough to make an impression.

Dessert here has matched organic maple cream cookies (since maple syrup is our featured Wild ingredient here) with two types of ice cream. First offering: Wild man Stephen Colbert’s ice cream with chocolate covered crushed waffle cones and a caramel is surprisingly not too sweet. The second offering  is everyone’s favorite—vanilla—but this one is topped with Wild Maine Blueberry Syrup.

If you like the idea of using wild ingredients, see our WILD PARTY PLAN containing recipes with foraged ingredients, and items from the exotic end of the spectrum.


HOBNOBMAG store bought desserts


DeLish Organic Maple Cream cookies
Ben and Jerry “Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream” Ice Cream
Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream
Stonewall Kitchen Wild Maine Blueberry Syrup

Put 3 small scoops of ice cream in mini ramekins/bowls. Pour syrup over the vanilla ice cream, and leave out on the table for guests to help themselves. Line the cookies on a nice dish and place with ice cream.

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.

Shannon Stiggins of Cosme Treats Us to a Potent Dessert Cocktail

Posted on: March 1st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Our guest mixologist this month is a breath of fresh air behind the bar at NYC hotspot Cosme. This Mexican City -influenced restaurant is featuring a large selection of unique, artisanal tequilas, rums, and mezcals—which find their way into her refreshing cocktails, including this fab dessert cocktail.

Stiggins started bartending in college and worked the country club scene around Long Island before landing in Manhattan at Vero Uptown and Downtown, STK, and American Whiskey. I asked her to come up with a cocktail for our party with a Mini theme, which features ingredients that are all miniaturized.

HOBNOBMAG Shannon Stiggins of Cosme Treats Us to a Potent Dessert Cocktail

Her cocktail, Montegato Coke Float is born out of a dilemma of a couple of guests with conflicting interests: one wanting coffee and dessert, the other a cocktail. She pleased them both with this intense ensemble. Be forewarned, though, the espresso and ice cream will keep you awake for hours—or maybe that’s what you already planned.

HOBNOBMAG Shannon Stiggins of Cosme Treats Us to a Potent Dessert Cocktail

Stay tuned for Stiggins’ take on the new cocktail menu at Dylan’s Candy.

HOBNOBMAG Shannon Stiggins of Cosme Treats Us to a Potent Dessert Cocktail

Behind the bar, a breathtaking selection of unique, artisanal tequilas, rums, and mezcals beckon.

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.

Aphrodisiac Recipe from Fork Me, Spoon Me: The Sensual Cookbook By Amy Reiley

Posted on: February 1st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Learn the basics of seduction in this informative cookbook. Amy shares an aphrodisiac recipe for Chocolate Smothered Brie to get things started.

Use the power of aphrodisiacs to seduce your loved one with this cookbook by leading aphrodisiac authority Amy Reiley. She’ll show you how to incorporate twelve ingredients for amorousness—almonds, vanilla, rosemary, mint, chocolate, chile, ginger, mango, peaches, saffron, and figs—to turn the night into a magical one.

Enjoy this recipe from the book for Chocolate Smothered Brie, and plan to serve for your next date.

featured recipe



2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp butter

6 oz wedge of ripe brie
1 pint strawberries, washed with stems on

1 1/2 CUP dark chocolate chips
1/2 CUP heavy cream

1/2 French baguette

Put garlic on a baking tray and sprinkle chunks of butter on top. Toast under the broiler until just brown. (Adult supervision recommended.) Remove from broiler and toss the hard, golden chips in the melted butter and set aside to rest.

Arrange the brie and strawberries on a serving platter.

In a double boiler or a metal mixing bowl fitted onto a small pot of simmering water, gently melt the chocolate chips with the cream over low heat, stirring steadily with a gentle motion. When chocolate reaches a smooth, creamy texture, remove from heat and fold in the hard garlic chips.

Smother the cheese with the hot chocolate and allow the sweet topping to drench a few berries. Serve immediately with a hunk of French bread and a total lack of inhibition.

—from Fork Me, Spoon Me: The Sensual Cookbook by Amy Reiley

Just a Little Bite: Exquisite Handmade Chocolates in Fun Shapes

Posted on: February 1st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

With Valentine’s Day on the agenda, choose a gift that’s as adorable as you are. These chocolates in fun shapes show your playful side.

L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates Sometimes you just need a mini-chocolate fix, and L.A. Burdick offers a teeny box that houses tiny bites of exquisite chocolate in a size that can be enjoyed by two. This assortment comes with LA Burdick’s signature mouse in white chocolate, plus 8 other assorted bon bons. Other signature figures include penguins and bunnies. Stop into their adorable store with someone close and share a hot chocolate, cake or mini chocolates—and pick up a box of chocolates to enjoy when you get home. Available online at

Get in the mood with more recipes and ideas from the APHRODISIAC issue.

Old Fashioned Dessert at Your Door: Homestyle Brownies Delivered

Posted on: January 1st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Does anything give more comfort than a stack of brownies? Imagine you can have these homestyle brownies delivered—just in time for your party.

These brownies come from BAKED, where owners Matt and Renato are obsessed with the regional desserts of America. They’ve spent much of their time scouting bakeries, chocolate shops, coffee houses and used book stores around the USA. Both left the world of advertising to pursue their passion. I thought these would make a great addition to the Comfort Party plan, which features a myriad of pastas you can set up as a pasta bar.

Order a 6-pack for your party, and it will come in a gift box with: 2 Deep Dark (the classic), 2 Sweet & Salty (infused with caramel and fleur de sel), and 2 Brown Sugar Blondie (classic blondie with the deep flavors of dark brown sugar). $23. Order online or visit their shops in Red Hook, 359 Van Brunt Street, Bklyn, or in Manhattan at 279 Church Street.

See more ideas for throwing a laid-back affair in the COMFORT BINGE issue.

Donut Balls with Pumpkin: Autumn Flavors in a Tiny Package

Posted on: December 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Mmmmm. It’s great to serve just a little something sweet. Donut balls fit the bill, which allows them to be part of a dessert buffet, or served all on their own, allowing guests to determine the portion by how many they choose. Normally, I resist frying food, preferring to bake instead. But these donut balls take on a new life when fried in oil, making them dense and chewy and slightly sweet—something you can really sink your teeth into. I tried a baking version of this recipe, but it did not result in anything that resembled a donut, unfortunately.

I’ve created an entire party menu, based on the idea of balls! That is, meatballs, fish balls, and some for vegetarians. I suggest you push the idea even further, and host a traditional ball, like they did in the old days. See the details.



1 CUP almond milk
1 large egg
3/4 CUP pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk ingredients together.


1 1/2 CUPS white flour, sifted
1 CUP kamut flour, sifted
1 CUP pecans, ground in a food processor
4 TB turbinado sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 CUP salted butter, melted

In a large bowl, whisk together everything but the butter. Stir in wet ingredients, then the melted butter, till a soft dough forms.


5 CUPS canola oil

Add the oil to an 8-inch heavy-bottomed pot. There should be 2 inches of oil in the pot and 2 inches to the top of the pot. Attach a deep-fry thermometer, heat oil over medium heat to 350ºF.



Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Take a small ice cream scoop and fill about halfway. Move the lever back and forth to get more of a round shape, then drop carefully into the oil. Do not overcrowd. Spin the balls in the oil to obtain an even golden brown, about 2 min.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the donut balls to the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Allow to cool slightly. [note: If the dough gets sticky, dip scoop into a small bowl with oil to lubricate the process. The balls expand while frying in the oil, so do a few tests before determining the final size.]


1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 – 4 TB almond milk

Sift confectioners sugar into a medium bowl. Slowly stir in vanilla extract and milk till smooth and drippy.


Place a cooling rack over paper towel lined baking sheet. Dip the balls into the glaze one at time and coat thoroughly. Transfer to the rack, to allow excess glaze to drip off.

Booze Infused Gourmet Food: Cheese, Paté, Cake & Chocolate

Posted on: November 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Last Call for Alcohol: I found a nice assortment of booze infused gourmet food that you can serve at your next gathering to great acclaim. From starters to dessert, only the finest examples are included in this list.

We’ve gathered some of the finest ingredients that have fine spirits incorporated into their flavors. Be sure to add these to your party repertoire for our IN THE SPIRIT party plan. Choose from a duo of pâtés—one spreadable, the other coarse, both should have a spot on the cheese board. Speaking of cheese, try one of these four, infused with whiskey, kirsch, calvados, or cognac. Dessert is extra special with buttery booze cakes and handmade chocolates from Oregon.

[1] Party With Pâté:

Duck Mousse With Port Wine This silky mousse is made of fresh duck livers and marinated in Port Wine. 7oz, $9.30. French-Style Rabbit Pâté With Prunes & Cognac This Terroirs d’Antan Pâté is a rich and flavorful experience. It is a coarse textured game pâté prepared from tender rabbit meat, then flavored with prunes and brandy. $24 lb.

[2] Spirited Cheeses:

Kerrygold Aged Irish Cheddar With Irish Whiskey Think cheddar plus woody, nutty notes of pure Irish whiskey. Available in 8 oz, 1 lb, or a 5 lb wheel encased in black wax. About $20 lb. Gourmandise With Kirsch A soft, spreadable cheese from France, with the sweet addition of cherries. Available in 8 oz, or 1 lb wedges. About $15 lb. Le Grain D’orge Affiné Au Calvados A Normandy tradition: The rind is removed from a semi-cured Camembert and then soaked in Calvados, giving it a fruity, milky flavor with a hint of mushrooms. About $18 for 8 oz. Sartori Ltd. Edition Cognac Bellavitano Aged at least 18 months, then steeped in Rémy Martin Cognac for 7 to 10 days. Award-winning tastes of smoky, nutty, oaky flavors with toasted notes of vanilla and caramel. About $60 lb.

Booze Infused Gourmet Food

[3] Full Spirited Flavours Prosperity Cakes

Looking to serve an amazing dessert, no muss, no fuss? Three sisters from Pennsylvania can supply you with the sweet that will have everyone raving. After their own families ooh-ed and ahhhh-ed over their cakes for years, the sisters combined their talents to showcase their fabulous liqueur-infused buttery cakes. Whether you choose the amaretto, limoncello, raspberry liqueur, or coconut rum cake, they will arrive beautifully presented. Available in two sizes: the FULL serves 10 to12 ($30), the JUNIOR ($13) serves 2 to 4. Cakes can be served right away or frozen for up to 3 months. Order one for the party, and a couple more to have tucked away, just in case. Available online at

[4] Lillie Belle Farms Spirit-Infused Chocolates

My friend Mary brought me to this wonderful shop in Oregon, known for its handmade chocolates. Lillie Belle Farms makes artistic, decadent creations filled with butter cream, caramels, toasted nuts, and truffles. For this party, check out their collection of alcohol-infused bon-bons. Try the Martini Cup with Bombay Sapphire Gin in a white chocolate ganache which is also infused with wild Oregon juniper berries. The Margarita Cup uses Don Julio tequila and fresh key limes in a white chocolate ganache, filling dark chocolate cups with a rim of salt. Create a Custom Assortment (Box of 12) for $25

Beautiful Cakes NYC: Amy Noelle of Sugar Flower Cake Shop

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

You might say that cake designer Amy Noelle has one of the best jobs in the world. She designs and creates gorgeous custom cakes for anyone who asks. Her studio is known for creating lifelike floral creations on some of the most beautiful cakes in NYC.

What’s a big celebration without a cake? It’s one of those party planning elements that can be a joy to consider. Especially if you have a sweet tooth. Something you should know about Amy is this: what separates her cakes from other elaborately decorated cakes is that she prefers to ice them with buttercream instead of fondant—making each element edible.

I paid a visit to her studio and was educated and extremely  impressed by what I saw. Not only did she have spectacular elements for making beautiful cakes, each assignment was carefully considered to be a work of art. Naturally, she is dedicated to using local and sustainable ingredients—honey, berries, eggs and cream are sourced from New York farmers at the Union Square Greenmarket.

hobnobmag Beautiful Cakes NYC

Her studio, Sugar Flower Cake Shop has a Popup Cake Boutique. On Tuesday through Friday from 11 to 6 pm and Sundays from 9 to 3pm, you can sample the goods: from fancy cupcakes to scrap cake slices. Located in The Arts Building, 336 West 37th Street, Suite 950.

hobnobmag Beautiful Cakes NYC

Noelle made me a custom cake inspired by my paisley party theme that had expressive pink and green icing accented by white dotted paisley icons (as seen in the photo at the top of this post). I got to watch her decorate the cake,  and it was cool to see her enter a zen mode while applying the intricate paisley designs. I’m here to say, you can feel and taste the love in every bite. The cake she made me serves 50, and features raspberry, mango, and coconut buttercream. $600.

Since the posting of this story, the space has been taken over by Madison Lee, who make cakes just as beautifully.

HOBNOB Magazine