Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spring Dinner Grazing Menu

I recently helped organize the Stanford Parents’ Club Spring Dinner, an annual social event this year held at a home in Palo Alto. We hired the wonderful Cosmopolitan Catering to provide the meal.

Instead of a formal sit-down dinner, we designed a more casual small plate grazing menu with multiple food stations. We wanted to create a more interactive party flow (by the way, Wolfgang Puck made the same change for this year’s after-Oscar party). The caterer cooked up the following flavorful eats:

- Antipasti platter with a great assortment of Italian cheeses, cured and dried meats, grilled, pickled, and marinated vegetables, with Italian breadsticks and crostini
- Beef brisket sliders with bleu cheese sauce and caramelized onions
- Pulled pork sliders with honey mustard BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese
- Grilled vegetable sliders with provolone and roasted garlic
- Jojo potato wedges
- Chinese chicken salad in take-out boxes with chopsticks
- Thai noodle salad, also in take-out boxes
- Garden fresh crudite in shot glasses with pesto ranch and red bell pepper sauce

Many attendees contributed a variety of desserts to end the meal on a sweet note. We had plenty of red and white wine, water, iced tea, hot tea and coffee to drink.

The grazing menu offered a delicious assortment with something for everyone, and worked well in creating a casual, easy-going mood for the party. Having guests bring homemade desserts also added to the festivities with both the wonderful sweets and by allowing guests to participate with a personal touch.

To top it off, we enjoyed delightful spring weather, jazz keyboard music performed by a Stanford student, and lots of lively conversation and laughter. We even witnessed the solar eclipse which peaked during our dinner party. Several guests brought viewing glasses and pinhole papers to see this special event, and hundreds of crescents glimmered on the house as the sunlight shined through the leaves on the trees.  Magical.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nutella Cheesecake Bars

Okay, I admit it. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with blog articles that tie in to Silicon Valley. This is one of them. I saw a gorgeous photo for these Nutella cheesecake bars on Pinterest. I clicked through to get the recipe on a blog called The Moonlight Baker.

My husband is a huge Nutella fan, so I thought it would be great to make these for his birthday. They’re not at all healthy, organic, or nutritious, but boy did we enjoy these sweet celebratory squares for his birthday dessert.

My 15-year-old daughter Valerie whipped them up using the Cuisinart. The tri-colored layers make for a visually enticing presentation, they cut up easily for serving, and the tantalizing tastes are mouthwateringly full of creamy, chocolatey flavor. The cookie-like crust on the bottom makes a nice firm foundation to support the cheesecake layers above. The bars are satisfyingly complete, surprisingly not too sweet, and need no additional garnishes or accompaniments.

If you like cheesecake and you like Nutella, try these Nutella Cheesecake Bars for something simple, satisfying, and flavorful.