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Party Nut Mix with a Kick of Bourbon: How to Serve a Posh Nosh

Posted on: November 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

This party nut mix could become a snacking staple. It’s an excellent item to keep around, it will last for at least a month in an airtight container. Choose whatever nut mix you gravitate towards. The glaze adds a little sweetness, and the spices give it even more of an edge.

I included this recipe in my party theme Alcohol Infusion, which features a bunch of recipes with some booze as one of the ingredients. The party theme calls for a tasting of rare spirits, and these nuts would make a great item to have on the table for grabbing and munching.



1 1/2 LB almonds, pistachios, cashews

1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1 TB peanut oil

Place the nuts in a large bowl and pour boiling water over the nuts to cover. Blanch for one minute and drain well in a large strainer.

Place the hot nuts in a large mixing bowl and combine with the sugar, bourbon and oil. Mix well and let rest for 10 min. Pour the nuts in a single layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 40 min, turning every 10 min, until the nuts are uniformly brown and crispy. Remove from oven.

spice up the nuts

1/2 tsp each: salt, ground ginger, chili powder
1/4 tsp each: ground black pepper, ground coriander
1 1/4 tsp ground cumin

roasted nuts
2 TB San-J Organic Tamari
1 lime, juiced
1 TB bourbon

While the nuts are still warm, get a bowl and mix the spices together.

Toss nuts into bowl with rest of ingredients. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet to cool. When completely cool, store in an airtight container.

I like the idea of sending guests home with a little treat. So make an extra batch of these nuts, hit your local thrift shop for some interesting dollar finds, and wrap the nuts to go. Let guests choose their favorite thrift-shop vessel.

Bacon Cornbread & Cognac Butter Dip: Decadent Party Snack

Posted on: November 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

I pictured this recipe as part of a serving accompanying an at-home poker game, for some reason. It’s good for picking at randomly. You can choose to use this recipe to serve guests as a small bite with dip, as we’ve done here. Or, traditionally, set out in triangular shaped wedges with butter to start off a dinner party. Whatever you choose, the flavors in this are perfectly matched.

If you love the idea of kicking in the shots of cognac and rum in this recipe, I’ve got a bunch of other recipes that so the same in my party theme Alcohol Infusion.



4 strips bacon

In a microwave, between paper towels, cook bacon strips about 4 min or so, until very crisp. Crumble bacon into bits when cool.


1 CUP yellow cornmeal
1 CUP flour
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
bacon bits

In a large bowl, add all ingredients and combine.


1 1/4 CUPS buttermilk
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 TB rum
1 TB Grand Marnier

1/4 CUP olive oil
2 TB cane sugar
1 large egg

In a small bowl, pour buttermilk, stir in baking soda and spirits. In a medium bowl, whisk oil, sugar and egg. Add the buttermilk mix, and whisk to incorporate.

Add wet ingredients to dry, do not over mix.


2 1/2 TB butter
cornbread batter

Melt butter in 11-inch oven-proof skillet. Pour batter into the hot skillet and place in oven. Bake until top is golden brown, about 25 min. Let cool.


4 TB butter
1/2 CUP cognac
1/4 CUP Grand Marnier

Over a low flame in small pot, melt butter, add spirits. Simmer for 15 min.


When cornbread has cooled, cut into small cubes. Spear with picks and serve with a small ramekin of the Cognac Butter Dipping Sauce.

Lighter Pâté with Mushrooms & Cognac: Spreadable Joy

Posted on: November 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Here are a few tricks to creating a lighter pâté which tastes just as good as a more decadent recipe. Though in no way can it be considered low-cal! I cut out some of the butter and substituted cream cheese instead. It will need a day to set, so plan ahead. If you want to really make it ahead—the pâté can be frozen for a week or so, without losing quality. Super simple to make, just cook the chicken livers and blend with rest of the ingredients.

This recipe is part of the plan for hosting a party with foods that have a touch of alcohol in them, hence the addition of cognac. See my other creative ideas for hosting in my Alcohol Infusion party theme.



4 TB butter
4 scallions, cut into thin rings
4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
6 button mushrooms, sliced thinly

1 LB chicken livers, trimmed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt

Over low heat, melt butter in a medium saucepan, add scallions, garlic, mushrooms and saute for 3 min. Add the rest of ingredients. Cook gently, stirring to ensure even cooking, about 10 min. Remove from the heat and cover for 2 min. Remove bay leaf.


cooked livers
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp Coleman’s mustard
Freshly ground pepper

8 TB butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 CUP Cognac

Toasted baguette slices, for serving

Transfer cooked livers to a food processor, add spices. Puree until smooth, about 2 min.

Pulse butter and cream cheese a little at a time, alternating with cognac, till well mixed. Transfer to serving bowl, cover and refrigerate about 24 hrs, until firm. Serve with toasted baguette slices.

Indian Fried Rice: A Vegan Medley Served in Clementine Cups

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

 Indian fried rice looks extra special when served in a clementine shell. Think about juicing them to create a signature cocktail for your dinner party, for the ultimate upcycle! Squash, carrots, jalapeños, and a fried cauliflower add their freshness here, the Indian spices add the richness.

I have developed an entire party plan, based on flavors in Indian cuisine. If you are looking for more ideas for hosting a party with flavors of modern Indian cuisine check it out here.



1 1/2 CUPS basmati rice
2 1/4 CUPS water
1 1/2 TB coconut-canola oil

Put all the ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 15 min. Turn off heat and let rice steam for 10 min more with cover on. Fluff rice with a fork.


1/4 CUP chickpea-fava flour
1 tsp chill powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into tiny florets

coconut oil


Mix dry ingredients, toss cauliflower florets in to coat. Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet, drop the cauliflower in (do not overcrowd). Allow to brown, about 3 min. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt, set aside.



4 TB coconut oil
3 carrots, shredded

1 large yellow squash, shredded
3 jalapeños, diced
1-inch piece of ginger, shredded
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

3 scallions, cut into thin strips

Heat oil in a large skillet, add carrots, cook for 3 min. Add squash, jalapeños, ginger, garlic, s + p, saute for 5 min more. Add scallions, cook another minute or so. Turn off heat, keeping it in the pan.


2 TB coriander
2 TB cumin
1 TB chili powder
1 tsp turmeric

In a separate pan, toast spices for a minute. Add to the vegetable mix.


12 clementines, cut in half

Remove the fruit from the oranges, by cutting around the inside edge of the peel, and scooping out the flesh. (Save for use in cocktails or smoothie.)


cooked basmati
cauliflower florets
vegetable mix

clementine bowls
slivered almonds, for garnish

Combine rice and cauliflower with the vegetables. Fill each clementine bowl with the rice mixture and garnish with slivered almonds.

Cilantro Chutney on Lollipop Lamb Chops—a Meat Treat

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Here’s another dip / sauce that can add much pizzazz to a simple dish. In this case, we purchased a lovely loin of pork chops from the butcher for our dinner party. Tip: purchase lamb chops already Frenched, so that you only need to cut, marinate and grill them. Guests can use the exposed bone in the chop as a handle for eating.

I created this recipe with modern Indian flavors in mind. If you want more ideas for throwing a party with an Indian theme, head to this link.



1/2 CUP EV olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed in garlic press
1 1/2 TB rosemary, minced
1 tsp sage, minced
1 TB salt
2 tsp black pepper

2 LB lamb chops

Mix marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Pour over chops, marinate for at least one hour in the fridge.


2 CUPS cilantro
5 TB walnuts
3 jalapeños, cut into chunks
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
juice of 1/2 lime
1 TB agave
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all the ingredients, blend till smooth.


Place chops on a baking pan under broiler. Cook for 4 min on each side. To serve, place a dollop of the chutney all over the end of each chop. Serve with bones sticking up, so they are easy to grab. Have napkins nearby.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts Canape: Stuffed Mini Pitas with Paneer

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Brussels sprouts from your local farmers’ market are often sold still on the branch, you might want to get a few extra and use them in lieu of floral arrangements, they are so cool-looking. Though, I think it is best to make this flavorful Brussels sprouts canape to showcase their full potential.

Tip: Grating the Brussels sprouts makes them cook faster, and gives you more of the desirable crispy bits. Also makes it easier to stuff in the mini pitas. This recipe could also work as a topping on rice or as a side dish at a dinner party.

I included this recipe as part of our modern Indian cuisine theme. To make it Indian, we mixed the Brussels sprouts with tasty fried paneer and a yogurt sauce doused with Indian spices.



1 LB Brussels sprouts

3 TB olive oil
s + p

Remove Brussels sprouts stems, cut in half. Grate in a food processor. In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts in oil, season with s + p. Spread out onto baking pan. Roast for 10 min on the oven’s top shelf. Check on it to make sure it does not burn.


coconut-canola oil
12 oz paneer, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Lightly grease a skillet with oil. Heat over medium-high heat. Add cheese, brown each side, about 1.5 to 2 min apiece. Cut each slice into 1/4-inch cubes. Toss with the Brussels sprouts.


3/4 CUP plain yogurt
Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a small bowl, mix ingredients together. If you use Greek yogurt, add a little water to thin out the sauce.


mini pita breads, cut in half
yogurt sauce
paneer Brussels sprouts mixture

Put a little of the sauce into the cavity, fill with the paneer Brussels sproust mixture and top with a little more sauce. Line up on a long platter.

Shrimp Kebabs with Tamarind Glaze: Adding Fantastic Indian Flavors

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Looking for a special glaze on shrimp kebabs? I’ve come up with a fantastic party bite, starting with shrimp marinated in a tangy tamarind glaze, then set on wraps of lettuce leaves.  Makes for a sensational, light Indian-flavored hors d’oeuvre that you can eat with your hands.

The tamarind glaze can become a tool in your party roster. Think about its dramatic qualities as a marinade or sauce on many things. I could see it matching with grilled steak, pork, or chicken; used as a sauce over roasted squash or carrots; or even as a dip for egg rolls or fried wontons. I created this recipe as part of a menu a party plan of Modern Indian small bites meant to show off the vibrant flavors of Indian cuisine.



2 TB coconut-canola oil
1-inch pc ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed in a garlic press
1 tsp ground cumin
1 TB tamarind paste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 TB all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp pistachio oil

1 LB frozen shrimp (26-30 count), defrosted, peeled, tails removed

Mix all ingredients for the glaze in a bowl. Toss shrimp, coating each piece in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.


marinated shrimp
3 TB coconut-canola oil

1 TB date molasses
1 TB tamarind paste

exotic lettuce leaf, for wraps

Remove shrimp from the marinade. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook shrimp for 1.5 min each side. In a small bowl, combine the date molasses and tamarind paste. To serve, put each shrimp on lettuce leaf and drizzle with the molasses/tamarind mix.

Choosing an Outfit: What to Wear at Your Party

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

When it comes to hosting a shindig, there’s lots to think about: the bar, menu, space, guest list, music, and of course, what to wear at your party. Here’s some points to consider as the star of the soiree.

[1] Peacock Time You will be running the show—do wear something that makes you stand out. It’s perfectly okay to be flamboyant—so, go ahead, buy those statement shoes or over-the-top accessory. Your guests will love that you went all out. I often host parties that have a theme, and will buy something just to wear on that occasion, like the Christian Dior white fur boots I got (on sale!) for the White Party.

[2] This is no time to be thrifty. Splurge on something that makes you look and feel wonderful. Make sure you feel comfortable in the style and that it fits well. Guys, here’s your chance to have a shirt tailor made. Gals treat yourself to the designer item, not the knock-off. The investment will forever carry with it fond memories of the night.

[3] Get shopping! Don’t leave it till the last minute—as soon as you send out the invitation, grab that friend who loves to shop to assist in your selection. You will want a trusted second opinion.

[4] Get it on film. Make sure your fab outfit is recorded properly. Have someone you trust on the scene with camera in hand. Check to make sure there is at least one flattering shot of you, for posterity. I am usually the one with the camera, taking photos all night long, then realize there’s not a single one of me! So now I make sure to give my camera to one of those friends that has a great eye.

[5] Why stop at one outfit? For the really big celebrations, have more than one outfit prepared.For my last “big” birthday, I threw a bash with a Glamour theme, and had three outfits lined up to keep things interesting. If the party goes on all night, it’s the perfect excuse to slip into something still fabulous, but a maybe little more comfortable.

Cooking with a Banana Leaf: Baked Cod in Aji Criollo Sauce

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

To make an awe-inspiring impression,  try cooking with a banana leaf at your next fiesta. The leaf not only acts as an attractive wrapping, but also lends a tea-like flavor to the fish. Basically, you will just cut the leaf into 12-inch squares, place fish inside, and tie them up with the rib from the center of the leaf. Tip: When you are creating the ties from the ribs, they will dry out if you cut them too early in the process, so cut the leaves  when you are ready to cook. If they do dry out, spray with water to make them pliable again.

A nice accompaniment to the fish, is a mildly hot Aji Criollo sauce, made with mostly jalapeño peppers and cilantro which keeps the fish moist, and injects a zippy herb flavor. Add the sauce to fish before baking, then set out extra on the table in case guests want to add a little more.

If you are looking to throw a kickin’ Latin party, see my party plan A Latin Fiesta for more recipes and ideas.



1 or 2 banana leaves, defrosted

Unfold banana leaves. With a kitchen scissor, cut out the rib along the edge (to tie each packet), put aside. Carefully cut leaves into eight 12-inch squares.


3 jalapeños, stems and seeds removed, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 bunch of cilantro, both stems and leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of water
3 cloves garlic, squeezed in a garlic press
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
1 scallion, cut into thin rings

Combine in a blender, except scallions. Move to bowl, stir in scallions. Makes about 8 oz.


1 1/4 LB cod fillet, cut into 8 pieces
aji criollo sauce

Take each banana leaf square by the corner and sweep back and forth over a burner, about 5 times each side. Place fish in center of leaf, top with a big spoonful of the aji criollo sauce. Fold top and bottom of banana leaf over fish, then fold in left and right sides to enclose the fish and form a packet. Tie packet, trim ends. Place onto baking sheet.


Place on oven’s middle shelf, bake for 20 min. To serve, keep fish inside packets to keep warm, and allow guests to unwrap and eat. It’s a bit messy with sauce oozing out, so nice to present in small bowls.

Each banana leaf measures about 3 to 4 feet, so could be used decoratively as a runner along the length of the table.

Coconut Shrimp Appetizer with a Sweet-Hot Dipping Sauce

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Shrimp never tasted so good. Coconut shrimp is the perfect pairing of textures and tastes. This dish is very crowd pleasing, especially with the sweet dipping sauce. So, if you are having a big party, you might want to make double the recipe—I guarantee this will disappear immediately.

Cooking tip: Dipping in the egg twice when doing the coating makes it very thick, and the bite that much more substantial. Creating these will get messy. Best to use both hands, one for the egg part, one for the crumb part.

I thought this recipe would be perfect in my plan for hosting a Latin-themed party, whose flavors celebrate South American flavors and flair. See this link for more recipes and ideas.



5 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

1 CUP panko bread crumbs

1/2 CUP panko bread crumbs
1 CUP flaked coconut

Set up 3 shallow bowls: [1] Whisk eggs, salt, and pepper. [2] Panko. [3] Panko and coconut.


36 shrimp, shells and tails removed

Dip shrimp in the egg mixture. Allow excess to drain off, dip in panko. Dip into eggs again. Let excess drain, dip into panko/coconut mix. Place onto baking sheet lined with parchment.


Bake for 10 min, turn shrimp over, and cook for another 4 min until golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool. Stack shrimp around bowl of sweet hot sauce.



This is a medium-kick spicy sauce. If you are looking for something with a more powerful sting, substitute one of the serranos for a habanero, or other spicy pepper. Consider splitting the recipe into medium and hot offerings. Best to stay in red or orange tones for the best color. This sauce goes with just about everything else on the menu, so put some out so people can help themselves. It’s drinkably good!

Makes about two 12 oz squirt bottles of sauce

3 red serranos, seeded, cut into 4 pieces
1 mango, peeled, cut into chunks
1 CUP white vinegar
1/4 CUP Filling Station coconut balsamic vinegar
1/2 CUP water
1/2 CUP Santa Cruz organic mango fruit spread
2 TB turbinado sugar

Add all ingredients to a blender and process until smooth. Run blender for a while to really liquefy. Strain through sieve and funnel into a squirt bottle, pushing mixture through with a spoon. Rinse sieve to get rid of gunk sporadically.

Cool plating idea: use a colorful plate and add an orchid to create a tropical feel.

Modern Latin Party Food: Chili-Infused Pork & Rum Pineapple

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

In this modern Latin party food recipe, the chili spice mix is the secret ingredient that makes this dish sing. It adds a lovely color and intense flavor to the pork bites. I also suggest putting extra on the table, so your guests can sprinkle extra on at will.

Pair pork with pineapple, whose flavors have been enhanced by a complex rum and grilling. The decadence of the pineapple adds a sweet, juicy element to the lean pork. Your guests will be popping these in their mouths with joy!

See more recipes and ideas for hosting a fun and hot Latin party at this link.



6 oz Kracken rum
2 TB maple syrup
1 pineapple, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes

Gently heat rum and sugar to incorporate, about 2 min. Let cool. Marinate pineapple chunks in mix in the fridge.


Combines bitter annato seeds, some fiery aspects, and a touch of cinnamon. The flavors blend well with meats and could also work in some sweet dishes as well. To grind the spices, use a coffee grinder devoted to spice grinding, and be done in a jiffy.

Makes about 1/3 cup

1 TB annato seeds, crushed in spice grinder
1 TB pink peppercorns, crushed in spice grinder
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 CUP chili powder
1 TB onion salt
1 TB cinnamon

Use a mortar and pestle if you don’t have a spice grinder. Transfer crushed annato seeds and pink peppercorns to a bowl and mix everything together.


1 LB pork loin
Chili Spice Mix

Cut loin into 3/4 inch-thick fillets. Rub spice mix all over.


Heat up a skillet. Sear meat, about 3 min on each side. Move to a baking dish. Cook about 8 min. Let meat rest 5 min.


1 TB honey

Baste pineapple chunks with honey. Sear on grill pan turning frequently.


cooked pork
cilantro, torn into individual leaves
grilled pineapple pieces
Sweet Hot Sauce (optional)

Cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Place sprig of cilantro on top of pineapple bit, spear with toothpick, then stick into a piece of pork. Drizzle Sweet Hot Sauce over it.

Put this trio of sauces and spices on your table, so guests can add extra flavor to suit their palate. From the top: Aji Criollo, Chili Spice Mix (recipe above), Sweet Hot Sauce.

Mini Arepas with Black Beans & Creamy Corn, A Vegan Delight

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

An ancient recipe, arepas have been around South American since pre-Columbian times. They make a hearty base for whatever you want to top them with. In this recipe, we mixed beans and corn and nutritional yeast to add up to a wonderfully-filling vegan canape. If you have never tried nutritional yeast, you should give it a shot. It has a complex flavor reminiscent of a wheaty-cheese, and a powdery texture. You will get raves from this dish from all your friends, but your vegan friends will really thank you.

Arepas use a special flour called masarepa, found in most Latin markets. Do not confuse it with masa harina, which is for making tortillas. Make sure to buy the right one.

Dotting your serving platter with orchids gives it an exotic bent. Get stems of orchids, and break off the individual flowers right before plating. They will last the night just sitting on the platter.

I created a bunch of recipes for hosting a Latin canape party. See the other recipes at this link to create an entire menu.



1 CUP black beans (dry)

1 tsp salt

1 TB olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Cover beans with at least 3 inches of cool water, soak overnight. Choose a bowl that will accommodate expansion. When ready to cook, drain and rinse. Place in a big pot with lots of water and gently boil for 1.5 to 2 hrs. Add salt after 1 hr. (Make sure there is enough water in the pot, if you need to add water use boiling or very hot.) When beans are soft, drain. Mash beans with olive oil and garlic. Refrigerate.


4 ears of corn

1 small white onion, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 TB vegenaise
1 tsp salt

Boil ears of corn for 15 to 20 min. Drain water, let cool. Remove kernels from cob with a sharp knife. Place in bowl and toss with other ingredients. Refrigerate till ready to create the arepas.


2 CUPS masarepa flour
3 CUPS warm water (plus more if necessary)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne, optional

vegetable oil

In large bowl, combine flour, water, and salt—and cayenne, if you want them to be spicy. (If the mixture seems dry add a little water.) Let mixture sit for 10 min to allow the dough to absorb all the water.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, add oil. Using a large wooden spoon, add a half spoonful of dough to the pan, spread out, flatten. Each arepa should be about 2 – 3 inches. Cook 2 to 3 min on each side, until crispy and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, or sheet of aluminum foil.


mini arepas
black bean mash
creamy corn
nutritional yeast
cilantro, cut into thin ribbons

Spread a thin coating of black bean paste over the tops of arepas. Top with corn mixture. Sprinkle yeast. Garnish with ribbons of cilantro.

Creative Quinoa Veggie Stuffed Poblanos

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Quinoa is that healthy side dish people are always talking about. Make this one party-like to use as a stuffing in poblano peppers, or just as is in this creative quinoa dish. There will be quite a bit of extra quinoa stuffing after you have filled the peppers, which you can set out in a bowl on the buffet with a stack of little cups and spoons on the side—it’s great eating just as is. The quinoa itself is not spicy, just a blend of black quinoa, cotija cheese, corn, pine nuts, and cilantro.

Serve peppers whole for a small crowd, or cut into bite-size pieces to maximize amounts. If the spiciness of the poblanos seems too adventuresome, use the mix to stuff colorful bell peppers instead.

Interested in more Latin recipes for throwing a party? Check our my Latin Fiesta party theme for more ideas.



1 CUP black quinoa
2 CUPS water
1 tsp salt

Rinse quinoa, put in pot with water. Bring to boil, then simmer for 20 min. Move to a medium-size bowl.


3 ears of corn, cooked and kernels removed
1/2 TB olive oil
1 small white onion, minced
1/4 CUP pine nuts, toasted
2 TB fresh cilantro, minced
1 TB salt
1 1/2 CUPS queso cotija
freshly ground black pepper

Toss all ingredients with quinoa.


6 poblanos

On a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil, place whole peppers under the broiler. Broil 5 min each side, till skins are completely black. Remove from oven, create tent out of the foil with peppers inside. Let steam for 10 to 15 min, then remove the blackened skins.


Let peppers cool. Carefully cut a vertical slit into the top of each chile. Cut out the seed pod with kitchen scissors, rinse under water to get rid of any seeds. Stuff the pepper with quinoa mix. Close pepper. Place in a baking dish, slit side up. Cover dish with aluminum foil, bake 20 min.

Easy Step-by-Step to the Perfect Banana Flan

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Here’s a flan with a little twist: the addition of fruit. Banana flan presents beautifully , and is a nice, light bite to end the night.

I made this banana flan with my best friend Jude, who is quite the baker. She made the process easy, being the detail-oriented person she is, and we got the flan in the oven in no time flat. (See photos below, I always find a visual helps when you are trying a recipe for the first time—as I was).

See more recipes and ideas for throwing a party with Latin-inspired cuisine at this link.



Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil… Preheat oven 350ºF.


3/4 CUP sugar

Place sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow sugar to melt (do not stir). It will turn a light brown and start to bubble. Once it’s all melted, immediately pour into the glass baking dish and rotate quickly so caramel completely covers the bottom. It’s important to be fast, as the caramel will turn as hard as candy almost instantly. Place dish inside a rectangular pan.

HOBNOBMAG steps to make banana flan


3 CUPS milk
3/4 CUP sugar
1 can sweet condensed milk
3 ripe bananas, sliced
1/4 tsp salt

5 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a food processor add milk, sugar, condensed milk, bananas, salt, and pulse together. In a large bowl, break eggs and whisk lightly. Combine processed mixture slowly into the eggs. Add vanilla, mix. Pour into the glass baking dish. (Pour through a fine mesh sieve if you have patience.)

HOBNOBMAG steps to make banana flan


Pull out middle shelf of oven and position the glass baking dish inside the rectangular pan. Pour boiling water into the rectangular pan, until it is halfway up the sides of the flan’s glass baking pan. Bake for 1 hr until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool. Cover and place in the fridge to set, at least 8 hours. When ready to serve, run a dull knife around the edge of the flan, and carefully invert onto serving dish.

HOBNOBMAG steps to make banana flan

Healthy, Yet Decadent, Salmon Cheesecake with Poppy Seed Top

Posted on: July 8th, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

Guests will go crazy over this salmon cheesecake, especially those pesky pescatarian friends of yours. It’s a creamy dish that leans to the decadent end of the healthy spectrum, but has lots of nutrition in the form of salmon, pumpernickel bread, poppy and chia seeds. Almost better than a dessert cheesecake.

To create the dish, I started with a foundation of pumpernickel crumbs and chia seed to create the crust, then added hot-smoked salmon, and topped it with a trio of creamy cheeses and poppy seeds. I suggest making this the day before a gathering, so that the cheese will set and the flavors will meld.

Salmon source: I used Sunbear Smoked Wild King Salmon a hostess gift that came from my friend Mary straight from Oregon. I had never seen salmon in a box before, so was quite skeptical—until I tasted it. This brand smokes only wild-caught salmon in alder wood, which tends to make it more liked cooked salmon than lox. This is a pantry item must! If you are into healthy recipes, check out our Super Food party theme for more ideas.

makes 12 mini portions [2.5 x 3 inches] or 9 as main course [4 x 4 inches]


3 slices Mestemacher Pumpernickel bread, cut into cubes
1 1/2 TB chia seeds
2 1/2 TB grape seed oil

Pulse bread in food processor to create crumbs. Add to a warmed skillet with chia seeds and oil. Toast over high heat for three min. Set aside to cool. Lightly grease baking dish with grape seed oil. Press crumb mixture into the bottom.


2 scallions, cut into very thin rings
16 oz cream cheese, softened, cut into cubes
8 oz ricotta
1 CUP sour cream
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 TB fresh dill, chopped
2 jumbo eggs

In a food processor, process all ingredients, except the eggs. Add eggs, and pulse until combined.


cream cheese mixture
6 oz Sunbear Smoked Wild King Salmon, shredded by hand
poppy seeds, for sprinkling on top

Continue layers: Over the breadcrumbs, ladle a third of the cream cheese mixture. Put a layer of salmon over that. Top with the rest of the cream cheese mix. Sprinkle poppy seeds.

Bake for 45 min, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. Cover and place in the fridge overnight, or for at least 4 hrs. When ready to serve, cut into portions while the cheesecake is still cool.

Unusual Hummus: Avocado & Peas & Black Tahini

Posted on: July 2nd, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

This party dip is a green-powered, most unusual hummus. The color is dazzling, especially paired with the crispbreads. Why add avocado? The bonus is that avocados contribute the “good fat” along with 20 vitamins and minerals. Add to that green peas’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and raw tahini’s calcium, zinc, fiber, and B vitamins and you may just be floating on cloud nine.

I wanted to create a party menu focused on super foods for those who want to party, but not feel the guilt. This recipe turned out to be a beauty. Using raw tahini, made with black sesame seeds, adds to the color density; if you use regular tahini, the green will be brighter. Make this just before the gathering, so it will keep its color. Serve with Crispbread with Mixed Seeds for a super-duper healthy and tasty combo.



frozen peas, thawed
2 ripe avocados, cut into chunks
1/4 CUP grape seed oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice from 1 lemon
3 TB tahini
1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
s + p
broccoli sprouts, for garnish

Process all ingredients in food processor. Transfer to shallow serving bowl, sprinkle with broccoli sprouts. Serve with pita chips or Crispbread with Mixed Seeds.

Vegan Party Treat: Spinach Rolls with Freekeh, PB & Raspberries

Posted on: July 2nd, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

This vegan party treat blends flavors and textures that might make anyone think about eating more vegetables. The combination of ingredients in this bite are so surprising, yet so satisfying. Along with the freekeh, the peanut butter and raspberries juxtapose each other, and the spinach leaf grounds everything with an earthy taste.

I created this recipe to include in our party plan of recipes featuring super food. So you can party hardy. The dark, leafy greens of spinach contain folate and B vitamins essential for mood and proper nerve function. Freekeh has quadruple the amount of fiber compared to other grains. Do try this recipe, you will love it.

If you are making this for entertaining, prep the day before: cook the freekeh and add the dressing to allow flavors to really meld. Then there won’t be much left to do, only rolling it up. See more healthy recipes made with Super Foods in my party plan for entertaining.



1 CUP freekeh
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil

Add freekeh to 2 cups of boiling water with salt and olive oil. Cover. Simmer 30 min, until all the water is absorbed. Let stand for 5 min. Fluff. Transfer to large bowl.


1 TB San-J organic tamari
1 TB grape seed oil
4 TB sesame oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
s + p

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Pour over the freekeh while it’s still warm, toss to combine.


natural peanut butter
large spinach leaves
cooked freekeh

Spread a thin layer of peanut butter over a spinach leaf. Add a spoonful of the freekeh in a thin line across the leaf, top with 1 or 2 raspberries. Roll up and weave toothpick through the two ends to hold together.

steps for creating spinach rolls stuffed with freekeh peanut butter and raspberries

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.

Vegan Mini Dessert: Nutty Coconut Cream & Berries

Posted on: July 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

No need for baking here. These cups are assembled using only the best, healthy ingredients. Heads up: the coconut milk must go into the fridge for at least 6 hours, so plan ahead. For the cocoa lovers in your life, mix 2 TB cocoa powder or 1 CUP vegan chocolate chips to the coconut cream before inserting into the cups. Anyone who’s into super foods might like to check out the other recipes from our healing foods party menu.



2 cans full-fat coconut milk
metal bowl

Leave cans in refrigerator overnight. Place metal bowl in fridge for whipping.


1 CUP almonds
1 CUP rolled oats
10 dates
1 tsp vanilla
2 TB maple syrup
1/2 CUP coconut flakes
1 TB nutritional yeast (optional)

Pulse in food processor until combined. Mold mixture into a mini muffin tin to create the cups. Place in freezer for at least 10 minutes.


chilled coconut milk

1 TB vanilla extract
1/4 CUP superfine sugar
1 tsp cornstarch

Remove cans from the fridge carefully, do not shake. Open the cans. Remove the solids from the top, leaving the liquid behind (save for use in a smoothie). Transfer to the chilled metal bowl. With a hand mixer, beat the coconut cream until thick and fluffy. Add the rest of the ingredients, combine. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.


nutty cups
coconut cream
blueberries, for garnish
mint leaf, for garnish

Spoon in the coconut cream into the cups. Top with blueberry and small mint leaf.

vegan mini dessert with blueberries

Crispbreads with Flax, Sesame, and Pumpkin Seeds

Posted on: July 1st, 2014 by Ellen Swandiak

These are SO SIMPLE to make. And this is coming from someone who does not bake things, because I don’t like to get too fussy. Try this recipe and you many never buy crackers again.

The best part is, with every seed you get a concentrated powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fatty acids. These crispbreads are loaded with them. That’s why I decided to include this recipe as part of a healthy party menu plan. If you’ve never used spelt flour this is a good place to try it. It has an almost pretzel-like taste that pairs wonderfully with the mix of seeds. Warning: they are addictive, make a lot!



3/4 CUP flax seeds
3/4 CUP sesame seeds
1 CUP pumpkin seeds
2 1/2 CUPS spelt flour
3/4 CUP grape seed oil
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 CUPS boiling water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, pour the boiling water over, mix well.

steps for making crispbreads, an alternate to crackers


Bake in two batches, or on 2 separate trays…
Spoon half of the mixture onto each parchment-lined tray, and press it into a thin layer. With a knife, score the pastry into desired size. Bake for 25 to 30 min, until crispy and golden. (Start checking after 20 min, to make sure it does not burn.) Move parchment and crisps onto cooling rack. When cool, break apart on scored lines.