Saturday, February 24, 2007

Easy Oscar (and other occasion) tidbits

If you have been reading my blog from the beginning, you know that a big part of cooking and food in our family(and my food philosphy) is focused on creating memories. And part of that is making an event out of everyday occurances. Enter the Oscars as my kids have gotten older, I am not sure whether it is more fun to watch the Joan and Melissa preshow or the actual event (yes I do, the preshow is much more fun!) With a houseful of girls, we care less about who wins than who is wearing whom! Normally, we plan a buffet-style meal for that evening so we can nosh all evening without getting overfull. While the men roll their eyes in the other room we ooh and ahh over the stars and are alternately entertained and appalled by Joan's commentary (Joan is the epitomy of the embarrassing parent, evidenced by Melissa's long suffering eye-rolling). I usually print a copy of the nominees and let each family member or guest make their predictions and then we give a small prize to the one who comes closest to picking the winners. In our house we even make our predictions on who will make the best and worst dressed list the next day! Other ideas that can keep younger kids occupied during the long evening are movie-based charades, create your own word searches (this is only one site-there are several that allow you to do this!) with nominees, and a box full of dress-up clothes (sequins are very popular) for young future nominees. We have even created our own red carpet for "star arrivals" out of a red plasic or paper tablecloth (plastic is better if weather is wet, but the nice paper ones look more like carpet!)
Decorating also is a big part of making the evening memorable- you can make a centerpiece out of old movie reels that you can find at thrift stores spray painted gold or silver. Use gold or silver metallic cupcake cups to hold white votives. Gold, silver, white and black are great sophisticated colors to use as a basis and usually the Dollar Tree or Everything's a Dollar will have streamers or curly ribbon in these metallics that you can use to decorate, and plastic champagne glasses for younger "stars" to have their sparkling cider or punch in. Sound cheesy? It is, but I guarantee that your kids and your guests will remember the evening (even if they've never seen any of the nominees! I know from experience). You could even do little gift bags just like they have in Hollywood (sans the real diamonds, tech toys, and high price tag!)

So what to eat? Finger foods are best. Quiche or fondue is really fun (just watch the kids with fondue forks!) For younger kids you might include coconut-crusted chicken nuggets (cooked in the oven) or the ever-popular pigs-in a blanket, or mini - sweet and sour meatballs. For dessert try mini-cupcakes or mini-cheesecakes with decorated with silver and gold dragees. Or if you are really inspired (and have the time) you could make Oscar-shaped frosted cookies for your guests. Just use your favorite sugar or gingerbread cookie recipe and make a template by getting a profile of Oscar from the internet and transfer to cardboard or parchment. Here are some simple ideas that are good for noshing on Oscar night (or any other time). And if you have someideas to share that your family enjoys, please send me your ideas and recipes as well - I am always looking for something good to share with readers(and to try for next year!).

Easy Shrimp "Cheesecake"

1 8-oz block neufchatel cheese (you can use regular cream cheese if you like)

1/2-3/4 cup ketchup

1 4-0z can of cocktail shrimp

1-2 Tbsp of horseradish (more if you like it hot)

Cut the neufchatel cheese into two layers lengthwise just like cutting a layer into to layers for a cake. Put bottom layer of cheese on serving plate. Mix ketchup, drained salad shrimp and horseradish together spread half of this mixture over cheese, top with second layer of cheese, then cover top with rest of shrimp mixture. Serve with crackers (this is good with hearty crackers like rycrisp or triscuit)

Smoked salmon and capers
This is a great dish for people who are watching carbs and fat. The longer this sits(within reason of course), the better the flavors.Mix 1/4 lb smoked salmon coarsely chopped with two-three tablespoons of capers, drained and juice of 1/2 lemon, and 1/4 tsp. dill. Mix well. Serve with water crackers or belgian endive.
Sparkling Punch
This punch is very good and both kids and adults like it- no alcohol- but you could add spirits(rum or vodka) to give it a kick.
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail chilled
1 cup apple cider (you could use sparkling for extra bubbles)
1 package frozen strawberries, partially thawed
1 liter lemon lime or grapefruit soda
Mix cranberry juice and apple cider together, stir in strawberries, and then slowly pour in soda. Mix gently together to avoid breaking all the bubbles, and serve.

Rye-Onion Crisps

1 loaf cocktail rye bread

1/2 cup-3/4 cup light mayonnaise

1 medium sweet or red onion chopped

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Spread bread slices out on a cookie sheet sprayed with PAM. Spead each slice with mayo. Put about 1 tablespoon of chopped onion on the top of each bread slice, and sprinke top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and starts turning brown. Serve warm.


Ted W. Gross said...

Actually that sparkling punch sounds good...really good!

I want that recipe up at Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen

Sheesh Deborah.. You is holding out on me!

(of course I have to pass on the shrimp recipe...:)

Deborah Dowd said...

As long as you provide attribution, I am happy for you to post my recipes. And the punch is really good... much better than the usual Hawaiian Punch type that is too sweet and too watered down. It provdies a great base and you can play with additions to change it, too.


Sarah Caron said...

What a nice idea! Family time is important to me too, but I have a house full of boys (even the dogs are boys) so I don't get much giggling and googling . . . still, these are good tips for creating family memories, which is important unto itself. Thanks.