Category Archives: hors d’oeuvres

Brie, Thyme and Fresh Cranberry Stuffed Bread

I wasn’t planning on serving an appetizer Thanksgiving Day.  The family dinner was at our house this year.  Everyone was in town and coming late in the day.  I couldn’t wait to have all my people gathered together again.  The house was ready, the dining room table glittered.   I wasn’t going to have a starter course because there was going to be so much food… for crying out loud, it’s Thanksgiving!  But then I thought it would be more fun to have a little something to nibble on with champagne and drinks before dinner.  Not wanting to break the bank OR break my back I decided a holiday stuffed bread was in order.  And because my motto is “more is better” I made two.  My husband, Jimmy, looked at me as though I had two heads.  “I know, I know.  It’s a lot of food but if no one eats it, well, we just wrap them up and have them tomorrow.”  He knows not to argue when it comes to food, bless his heart.  Let me just cut to the chase.  When the two loaves had been plated and my nieces began to make their way through the house serving, you have never seen so many faces light up.  My family pounced on them as if they hadn’t eaten in weeks.  Grownups were licking their fingers.  My brother followed the girls with their trays around the house tearing off chunks of warm, cheesy bread and making happy boy sounds.  My son, James,

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was not happy when he saw me tucking fresh cranberries into the cheese but after his first bite was in complete agreement  that the berries were the perfect clean foil against the gooey, richness of the cheese, olive oil and garlic.  Both loaves were gone in minutes.  Minutes!  This recipe is extremely adaptable in that you can substitute the brie for Gruyère, cheddar, mozzarella or the gooey cheese of your choice.  You can tuck in gorgonzola crumbles or shredded parmesan.  Red pepper flakes are wonderful for a little heat.  Not a fan of cranberries?  Try blackberries or raspberries.  I used whole grain boules but white bread would be fine.  Good looking on a table or passed by hand, this starter is perfect for the holidays.  It can be assembled hours ahead, only make certain to wrap it tightly so the bread doesn’t get stale.  Make certain you have plenty of napkins and enjoy!

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Brie, Thyme and Fresh Cranberry Stuffed Bread

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 1-pound boule or round loaf of bread, 6″-7″ diameter works well
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste, a healthy pinch of each will do
  • 1/4 pound brie cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup  shredded Italian 5 cheese, I believe I used Kraft but any brand is fine, store brand or whatever’s on sale
  • 1/2 cup or more fresh cranberries or berry of choice
  • thyme sprigs for garnish, optional
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°.
  2. Making certain not to cut all the way through to the bottom, slice the bread in roughly half-inch slices.  Turn the bread 90° and make 1/2″ slices, again not cutting all the way through.  I find if I hold the bread firmly it keeps it from shredding or tearing too much.  Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine olive oil, garlic, thyme leaves, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  4. Gently stuff the brie vertically in the bread slices.
  5. Pour half of the olive oil mixture as evenly as you can into the open bread spaces.  Set aside remaining oil.
  6. Toss the thyme leaves with the Italian cheese blend.
  7. Gently stuff the Italian cheese horizontally down into the bread.
  8. Pour the remaining olive oil mixture evenly on the bread.
  9. Tuck the fresh cranberries onto the top of the nooks and crannies of the stuffed bread.
  10. Spray a piece of tin foil with non-stick cooking spray and wrap the bread tightly with the foil.
  11. Place on a baking sheet and bake covered for 25-30 minutes.
  12. Carefully unwrap the bread and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
  13. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and serve immediately.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Artichoke, Olive and Garlic Tapenade

Every once in a while I say to myself, “You’re not buying anything at the grocery store today.  You just make do with what you have at home.”  And that’s when I come up with some recipes I’m positively crazy about.  Here’s one of them.  You probably have all these ingredients in your pantry and an added bonus is that it comes together in no time flat.  This “dip” is a delight served with cold, crunchy celery sticks.  Served with some whole grain crackers your family won’t be able to stay away.  I found some organic, gluten-free, non-gmo, vegan, black pepper crackers at the grocery store that totally rocked my taste buds.  “Mary’s Gone Crackers”.  Holy moly.  You’d NEVER know they’re so healthful.  And they’re pretty, too.

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Spread atop grilled fish or chicken, this tapenade is a natural pleaser as all the flavors marry so darn well.  And guess what else?  It’s pretty low in fat calling for only a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  I hope you’re not put off by the one anchovy filet.  I promise, scout’s honor (even though I was thrown out of Girl Scouts when I sneaked out of a meeting to call a boy I liked from a phone booth), you will never know the anchovy’s there.  The rinsed, dried filet adds a deeper flavor and after being zipped through the food processor you’ll never even know it was there.  Leave it out and your dip will be flat and one-dimensional so give it a try.  Lemony and garlicky, it travels well to parties and keeps for days in the refrigerator…if it even lasts that long!

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Artichoke, Olive and Garlic Tapenade

  • 2 14.5-ounce cans artichoke hearts, well-drained, moisture patted out
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and without pimento
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 anchovy filet, rinsed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Place artichoke hearts and olives in a food processor and pulse until slightly chunky with pieces about the size of confetti.  Transfer to mixing bowl.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients to the food processor bowl and pulse until not quite smooth.  You want a bit of texture.
  3. Transfer to bowl with artichokes and olives and mix well.
  4. Serve with raw vegetables and crackers or cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Figs Roasted with Honey Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

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For me figs are one of the best foods Fall has to offer.  Dark, autumnal and vaguely naughty, they are a seasonal food that is quite literally “here today, gone tomorrow”.  Late summer to fall is their main season and here in south Florida the availability is somewhat unpredictable since they’re trucked in from far away lands.  We try to eat local produce but I’m kind of a fig trollop and I don’t care WHERE they’re from OR who cultivated them.  I love me my figs!  Regardless, this recipe is a wonder blending sweet and salty, spicy heat and creamy coolness.  With a cocktail or two I can easily make this my dinner.  This little savoury is pretty enough for your cocktail party yet sturdy enough for Sunday’s football get-together.  It can be assembled in the morning and baked that afternoon or evening.  In the past I’ve only used chevre, plain goat cheese.  I’ve seen the honeyed goat cheese at my store, Publix, but until now, I’d never tried it.  Gentle Reader, it’s pretty perfect.  Just the right amount of sweetness, between the lush, sexy figs and the salty sharpness of the prosciutto, this hors d’oeuvre will have you rolling your eyes to the back of your head.  Enjoy!

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Figs Roasted with Honey Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

  • Servings: approximately 50 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 4-ounce log of honey goat cheese or plain goat cheese plus 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ripe, fresh figs
  • 1/2 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced…deli thin
  • honey to drizzle
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. In a small bowl break up goat cheese with a fork, add red pepper flakes and mix well.  Set aside.
  3. With a sharp paring knife or small knife, cut the figs in half vertically, from the stem to the bottom of the fig.
  4. With the tip of the knife dig a small well into the cut side of the center of the fig.  This makes it easier to stuff with the goat cheese.
  5. If the prosciutto has plastic paper in between slices, discard the paper and stack the prosciutto evenly.
  6. Slice the prosciutto lengthwise into even thirds.  You’ll end up with three even stacks of prosciutto strips.
  7.  Fill each fig half with a small amount of goat cheese, maybe a teaspoon or so.  A butter knife makes it quick.
  8. Wrap each stuffed fig half with a strip of prosciutto, wrapping the meat completely around the center and  place on a foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  9. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until the prosciutto is crispy.
  10. Place on serving tray and drizzle lightly with honey.
  11. Best served warm.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Shrimp Paste…reason enough to have a cocktail hour

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Ever had shrimp paste?  It’s a Southern indulgence.  Whether spread on finger sandwiches, swirled into grits or served with raw vegetables and toast points, shrimp paste is a treat you really ought to experience.  It’s set out at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You don’t see it often now at parties but when I was growing up shrimp paste was the stand-by spinach artichoke hors d’oeuvre of the day.  Fort Lauderdale was still a sleepy, Southern resort town.  Locals pronounced Miami “Miamuh”.  “Up on the highway” referred to US1, Federal Highway, the biggest main road that I can remember.  Going to dinner at bar/restaurant, MaiKai,  and seeing the Polynesian floorshow was cause for envy amongst my friends and  considered major exotica.  I mean, where else could you see beautiful women dressed in only grass skirts and coconut halves covering their breasts, dancing the hula while behind them handsome island men juggled fire-lit torches to the beat of thundering drums?  Pretty hokey now but in those days that was almost fast living!  Simple as life was then, there were some hard and fast social rules.  For instance, napkins when entertaining.  Linen napkins were used at every party…cocktail, dinner and luncheon.  Luncheons were quite common back then as that was the time women could get away from the house for a few hours with the explanation of “I’ve got a club meeting.  Be back this afternoon!”  There seemed to be more women’s clubs then than today.  Mama belonged to a good handful.  These were invitation only clubs although they benefitted the community.  Beaux Arts was the women’s club affiliated with the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art and, boy, could those ladies throw a luncheon meeting.  All meetings were held in different member’s homes during the day, never at night, I imagine because all these ladies of the ’50’s, ’60’s and ’70’s had to be home to prepare dinner for their husbands and families.  And let me tell you, these ladies turned out for their meetings.  Heels and dresses, baby, then wild pantsuits in the mid-’60’s.  Lots of gleaming pearls dangling off of graceful necks, later years replaced with chunky, mod necklaces.  Late morning the street where the designated meeting was to be held would fill with big, ol’ parked cars the size of boats in all different pastel colors.  I don’t know why, but you didn’t often see black cars back then.  Cream, baby blue, mint green, even soft pink land yachts sat bumper to bumper on both sides of the street as the women made their way into the house, heels crunching on gravel lined driveways, heavy charm bracelets softly tinkling while the women waved and greeted each other.  I remember when Mama had meetings at our house the days prior would be a flurry of activity.  Frankie, our housekeeper, was in charge of making certain the entire house was spotless and, on the day of the meeting, replenishing the punch bowl and platters of food on the dining room table.  She also oversaw the polishing of the silver by older sister, Cynthia, and me.  Mama would pay us each 50¢, sometimes a DOLLAR, big money back then to clean the silverware.  My  sister and I always seemed to be the designated invisible help relegated to collecting empty cups and crumpled napkins or emptying ashtrays.  It was understood we didn’t engage anyone in conversation; that we were to speak only if we were spoken to.  Wait.  We were also expected to greet all the members…it was “hello, Mrs. So and So”, “very well, thank you”, “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am”.  The meetings were only for a few hours although to us they felt like an eternity but, on the upside, we were allowed to eat as much as we wanted, however, only in the kitchen.  When the meeting was called to order and the ladies got down to business, for instance discussing the finer points of their fundraising cookbook or the next preview party prior to the upcoming Calder exhibit, Frankie, Cynthia and I would load up with shrimp paste on toast points, dainty finger sandwiches filled with chicken salad or cream cheese and olive, salmon mousse  and bite size quiches.  It was a stolen hour of enjoyment without Mama telling me to stand up straight or put down that 17th sandwich as I was well on my way to a stomach ache followed with an emphatic “One day you’ll thank me for this!” or simply “Because I said so!”.  The silky, creamy shrimp paste had been spread on small triangles of toasted, white bread which melted in my mouth and, when given the opportunity, I gorged myself on them.  All the finger sandwiches were made by Frankie or Mama the previous day; the mousse, quiches and anything else would have been dropped off by the caterer that morning on account of the fact that Mama couldn’t cook.  Obviously, it was a different time and different school of thought for women in general.  Sometimes life was good for these women…sometimes not so good. These meetings were all about being with close friends and, hopefully, making a little money to help establish a truly strong museum of art.  Perhaps these women were at times a bit frivolous but, over the years, their meetings taught these two little girls the finer points of leadership, organization and service.  Today we have a vibrant, robust museum partly due to the unflagging, tireless fundraising commitment of these ladies.  And we still have shrimp paste.

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Shrimp Paste

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
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Slathered on toasted French bread or flavoring a breakfast bowl of grits, shrimp paste is best served at room temperature.  Easily it can be prepared and kept chilled a day or two before serving, just bring it out about an hour prior to your guests arriving.  It’s glorious atop warm slices of new potatoes, with cold, rare beef or grilled fish.  I prefer my shrimp paste to be splashed with dark rum and seasoned with mace but you can easily swap the rum for sherry or brandy and one or two teaspoons of onion juice can take the place of the mace.  Also, if you happen to stumble upon wild caught shrimps, by all means, snap those babies up.  The spread tastes leagues better with shrimp that hasn’t been farmed but it’s not easy to find.

  • 1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined and rinsed
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • juice of one small lemon
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet heat the butter over high heat until foaming but not brown.
  2. Add the cleaned shrimp and cook until they are just pink, about 4-5 minutes.  Stir often.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, put the shrimp in food processor fitted with steel blade, leaving the pan juices in the skillet.
  4. Drop the heat to medium-high and return the pan to stove top.
  5. Add the mace, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and rum, stirring constantly until the mixture has reduced to 3-4 tablespoons.
  6. Pour the butter mixture into the food processor and pulse 8-10 times.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process until completely smooth.
  7. Transfer paste to serving bowl or crock, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3-4 hours.
  8. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour prior to serving.  Serve cool, at room temperature.

Hot Onion Dip, you want it at your Superbowl party

This past weekend I tried my hand at a hot dip I had been jonesing for over a year.  A longtime friend and co-worker, that would be YOU, Sharon!, had stopped by my little sister’s and dropped off a super terrific hot onion dip for the family and it’s been on my mind more than constantly.  The onions were a complete taste tease and, although the dip wasn’t heavy, it was substantial enough to satisfy on a cool winter’s day.  I guess I could have asked her for the recipe but that would have been too easy, wouldn’t it?  It was savory with a hint of sweetness owing to the onions.  And I was aching to taste it again.  With my boys’ team, the Patriots, playing on Sunday; I thought I’d see if I could rustle up a facsimile.  Some hot onion dips call for frozen chopped onions but Sharon’s dip pleased both eye and palate featuring pearl onions and plenty of them.   My initial attempt was a triumph in mediocrity.  I had inadvertently grabbed pearl onions in some sorry excuse for a cream sauce which steeped the end result with a sour tang.  I shudder to think.  Despite the copious amount of cheese I was tempted to pull a Tom Hanks from the movie “Big” and scrape the vile, white jumble from my tongue.   More work was needed.  Not only did I need to lose that unpleasant, vinegary aftertaste but I also wanted a smoother and more gooey texture.  Back at the grocery store I picked up the correct onions and a small bag of shredded mozzarella and returned home to refine and perfect.  I had also decided to significantly amp the spices I had used.  My thighs and I are thrilled to report that the state of nirvana was achieved.  Oh, and I also swapped water crackers for good ol’ Frito corn chips…the scoop shaped ones.  This was the final touch needed.  The salty, crunchy corn  rounded out the appetizer making it a whole, complete flavor adventure.

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Hot Onion Dip

This dish has become a favorite of mine for several reasons.  It travels extremely well and is loved by all therefore I come home with an empty dish and no leftovers to tempt me.  Also, I don’t have to really measure the ingredients; you can eyeball it with confidence and finish with a great hor’s d’oeuvre.

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 -14 ounce bags frozen pearl onions, thawed and drained
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature, I used reduced fat
  • 2 cups parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided and shredded, both bagged and reduced fat are fine
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, I use Duke’s Light
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  1. Cover a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Combine all ingredients EXCEPT 1 cup of mozzarella in a large bowl, mixing well until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Transfer mixture to baking dish,  smooth top and scatter remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese evenly.
  4. Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden and bubbly on top.
  5. Allow to cool at least 10-15 minutes prior to serving.  This stuff is like molten lava straight out of the oven.  You don’t want anyone to burn their mouths.
  6. Serve with corn chips.

Feta, Honey and Black Pepper Appetizer

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Greece 2016…and I can’t wait!  With a bangin’ new pair of sunnies I had been lusting after, also came the Christmas gift of vaca back in Greece this coming summer.  Although it’s hot and the sun shines year round in south Florida, it’s a different kind of heat.  There’s no humidity; it’s dry as a bone.  In all the years we’ve been traveling to Greece we’ve experienced rain TWICE.  That’s it.  Two times.  I’ve never been in the winter but the photos I’ve seen are gorgeous.  We typically travel to the Northern Aegean where they have seasons including autumn and winter.  It snows often, not huge amounts, just enough to be pretty.  And fall brings blustery winds that sometimes are downright cold!  Greeks are incredibly social people but the colder weather does at times keep them inside.  But we’ll be back for summer on Lesvos, where the white-hot rays of sunlight can be blinding and the ink-black night skies are covered with thousands of stars that look like tiny, twinkling pin-pricks.  That’s the Greece I love.  From the balcony of the bar at the resort where we stay, which juts out over the twisted, silver trunks of ancient olive trees; or our breezy balcony nestled into the side of a hill, to the waterfront dinners at the harbor of Molyvos, the night skies are a galactic showcase.  Anywhere on this magnificent island is the best place to star gaze.  So, more often than not, it’s Molyvos where we watch the sun set and the stars come out.  Along with all the locals and tourists, albeit not many tourists but there are some, we scan the harbor restaurants for the best seats of the night at the best eating places.  Sturdy, ladder-back chairs with woven rush seating do not beckon as they are not known for comfort.  But that is all you’ll find at the harbor; each leaning against the table on two legs until their patron for the night whips them out, legs clattering against the smooth but uneven cobblestones, and plops down.  All tables are square but can be quickly joined together for larger groups.  Each table is covered with a paper tablecloth, usually white with a large, blue map of the island printed in the middle.  And since the nights are typically windy, the table coverings are held down in one of two ways.  Either a huge, knotted, cloth-covered elastic, (think your hair!), slipped over and under the lip of the table or four steel pins which slide over the table rim, one on each side.  Really, really standard.  Any person reading this who has been to Greece is probably shaking their head, chuckling and thinking, “yup”.  I haven’t been the biggest fan of Greek wine here in the States but in Greece it’s a whole other kettle of grapes.  Wine is produced everywhere and produced well.  Think Plato and Socrates.  And don’t forget Dionysus, god of wine.  I’ve only had excellent cold, crisp whites and big, full-bodied reds and typically these are house wines.  Glasses in hand, we peruse the menus we know by heart.  We pretty much order the same dishes from our own predictable menu.  We begin with maybe a small bowl of local olives in olive oil with fresh oregano strewn on top.  While savoring those we might discuss what time we want to pick up the ferry to the other side of the island for tomorrows adventure.  I always go with early so we have the day ahead of us but that’s just me.  Plus the air is cold and fresh, the morning sunlight is blinding on the water, the salt spray is positively intoxicating.  The captain and I usually kick our shoes off and sometimes he lets me take over.  Scary but true!

And you thought I was telling stories.
And you thought I was telling stories.

Post olives we may order some grilled bread and a little feta.  Dinner we’ll share.  The ever-present and proper Greek salad comes out crisp and oh, so satisfying.  Grilled octopus?  Sounds good.  With lemon and olive oil.  And it comes with french fries which I never order but can’t keep my hands off.  Greek french fries can be exquisitely delectable.  Fried in olive oil from the island to a golden crisp, dusted with fresh rosemary and local sea salt they are a treat.  Jimmy and I don’t really order meat in Greece because the Greek cuisine treats vegetables and fish so well.  The seafood and produce are like nothing we can get in the states.  Typically the owner of the restaurant or taverna will bring out a platter of fresh fruit with the check.  The fruit is their gift for patronizing their establishment.  Gorgeous, hot pink slabs of watermelon are common.  Or you may be surprised with fresh figs.  It’s heaven and I can’t wait!

Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who'd like more.
Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who’d like more.

This is a wonderful hors d’oeuvre which can be served alone or on a platter with other indulgences.  And you don’t really need amounts.  Let me walk you through this.  Place your Greek feta, and PLEASE purchase a high quality feta.  None of this store brand in cryovac, okay?  Anyway, put your feta on your tray or platter.  Drizzle it well with your favorite honey.  Throw a pinch of red pepper flakes on the cheese and follow with a heavy dusting, or to your taste, of freshly cracked black pepper.  Present and enjoy with pride!

Sweet Heat Sriracha Pecans for my Las Olas Girls

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My heart has been broken and has been empty since Mama died this past November.  At first we rejoiced that she was in Heaven and no longer suffering.  Mama’s last few years were absolute torture for her and there was nothing we could do to help her.  She is now at peace.  My best friends, Dana and Andrea, came to her services and that meant the world to me.

My ninth birthday. Mama gave me an iceskating party. Very cool for South Florida! L-R Dana, me, Andrea
My ninth birthday. Mama gave me an iceskating party. Very cool for South Florida! L-R Dana, me, Andrea

Both girls have lost a parent.  They get it.  After the funeral and in between my sobs we agreed on a Girl’s Weekend in January.  At Andrea’s house.  Less than a mile from my house.  This was a first.  We’ve always gone to the Keys and Girl’s Weekend has always been in September. As the weeks following her death flew by; the holidays came and went; her absence, her permanent absence, hit me hard.  I did my crying in the bathroom and in my car.  Think I’m sitting in the car listening to music?  Clearly, you didn’t look behind my RayBans.  So when our weekend was just days away I really withdrew.  I didn’t want to go.  I didn’t want to try to laugh or have to be entertaining.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone.  I didn’t want to see anyone.  With a lump in my throat I explained to my little sister, Pamela, I couldn’t do it.  I just couldn’t.  She soothed me with words I didn’t want to hear.  “I know you don’t want to go but once you get in the car you’ll feel better.  Really.  What’s the weather down there supposed to do this weekend?”  I choked out the words, “We’re not doing it in the Keys.  We’re having it at Andrea’s.”  “Wait, what?”, she exclaimed, “You’re fine!  If you want to go home you’re 5 minutes away.  But trust me, you’re NOT going to want to go home.”  Sure enough.  Dana arrived at my house and wrapped me in her long, graceful arms.  More tears.  She understood and reassured me that she would return me home at any time, any hour if that was my wish.  And it was more of the same when we arrived at Andrea’s.  A few more tears on my part, sweet hugs and then, with her arm around my waist, she showed me to my room… the Bunny Room… the room she had picked out for me well-stocked with fresh flowers in silver and crystal vases, inviting Provencal pillows that had belonged to her mother and a breakfast tray filled with bottles of designer water, writing paper and sharp pencils tucked into a pocket.  In a corner and behind the door were tall, white, ceramic bunnies.  It was lovely!  Girly, lovely and incredibly thoughtful.  After unpacking we got down to “bizness”.  Large drinks were poured and I put out some spiced pecans I had made specifically for us.  As the alcohol worked its magic my tense and anxious shoulders dropped, our hair was loosened and tossed and our laughter echoed across the pool and off into the the sunshine of the afternoon.  That’s when Andrea’s little sister, Alyson, dropped by.  With hors d’oeuvre and bottles of wine.  She just wanted us to be happy. We begged her to stay and stay she did.  Dana’s little sister, Dawn, is Alyson’s best friend and she was expected down to spend the weekend with Alyson.  It was heading in the direction of a stellar Girl’s Weekend…booze and laughter…laughter that makes you laugh so hard you tinkle in your pants.  Which I did.  Dawn arrived that evening and launched a magical weekend that I think maybe only girls would understand, embrace and truly appreciate.  I’ve known these women since I was 4 or 5 years old and I was astonished and so grateful for the love and compassion they showed me.  We never took that tired, old walk down memory lane.  No.  We laughed and howled, there was a bit of crying, then back to laughing and screaming but all in the NOW.  None of that “remember when…?” nonsense.  The empathy mixed with a large amount of humor was so welcome and fully appreciated.  Andrea kept us entertained all weekend with proclamations such as “When the rave comes I’m going with my jewelry!” and “Sistah, yo glass is lookin’ mighty low theah, lemme get cha anothuh one”.  Dana knows how important it is to me to take Dad out every Saturday morning.  She offered to drive across town to pick up Dad, ferry us to a farmer’s market another town away and then stop at our Greek market to make Dad’s “outing” truly enjoyable for him.  And let me tell you, when you’ve been driving all week and drinking all night the last thing you want to do is get up early and get behind the wheel!  But she did…happily and with grace.  Back at Andrea’s house, Dawn stayed 2 steps ahead of the bar and before we ran out of champagne she was walking back through the door with another case of bubbly plus “4 bottles of red and 3 bottles of white, just in case, and some snacks”.  Her snacks consisted of crispy, warm French bread, pate, three or four cheeses, strawberries and red grapes.  Oh, wait!  And an olive tapenade.  Her generosity is boundless.  And then, what truly pushed me over the edge, I somewhat self-consciously asked Alyson if she would show me how to do my makeup.  Alyson is gorgeous, a real stunner, and knows like no other how to apply makeup.  Mama never was into makeup so none of us really were shown what to do or how to make the most of what we had.  Al sprang into action.  She said, “Sure!  Go wash your face, brush your teeth and grab your makeup bag.  I’LL go refill our glasses and meet you by the pool.”  That girl spent the next hour, hour and a half, transforming me from a 58 soon-to-be 59 year old Sea Hag from Popeye to a drop-dead, gorgeous, stop-traffic woman who could not keep her eyes off her reflection in ANY mirror in the house!  AND, let me add, she casually asked, “You wanna blow-out?”  Do I want a blow-out??  Oh, hell yes!  I came out of my makeover jaw-dropping.  Not only did she teach me how to use the products I had but she also told me exactly which products I needed to buy in order to uphold and maintain this level of beauty.  I felt loved.  And valued.  And appreciated.  So I thank my Las Olas girls for wiping my tears, giving me a hug and gently making me pull up my “big girl pants”.  To Girl’s Weekend!

My Las Olas girls doing what we do best...shopping! L-R Alyson, Dana, Andrea and Dawn
My Las Olas girls doing what we do best…shop! L-R Alyson, Dana, Andrea and Dawn

I made Sweet Cinnamon Pecans for Girl’s Weekend but today I bring you Sweet Heat Sriracha Pecans straight from a wonderful little cookbook entitled “Pecans” by Kathleen Purvis.  It’s a Savor the South cookbook put out by The University of North Carolina Press and is a jewel of a book.  These are fabulous with cocktails, travel well and everyone seems to love them.  Enjoy!

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Sweet Heat Sriracha Pecans

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce (more if you want a bigger kick)
  • 2 cups pecans halves
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°.  Spread out a sheet of tin foil.
  2. Combine the honey and Sriracha in a small saucepan and warm over medium-low heat until liquified and well mixed.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the pecans.  Stir well with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the pecans are lightly coated and the honey mixture is used up.
  4. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 15 minutes.
  5. While the pecans are baking, combine the sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl.  When the pecans are done scrape them into the bowl with the  sugar/salt mixture.  Stir until the pecans are completely coated and the sugar mixture is used up.
  6. Spread on the tin foil and let cool.
  7. Stir in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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