Party Time!

August 15 is here again!

Julia Child, one of my favorite people, would have turned 101 years old today. She had such a great attitude about life: Julia always seemed to find something to laugh or smile about, even when things didn't go quite as planned. Let's all take a minute and celebrate her spunk and love of cookery.

[Insert respectful moment of silence here.]

Joyeux anniversaire, Julia!
Photo from
I can't believe that it was only a year ago on August 15, that I was making ratatouille on the Chew's special episode to celebrate Julia's 100th birthday!  And, that coincidentally, only three years ago on August 15, I was finishing up my goal to cook my way through the entire FCI textbook! Where does the time go?

Speaking of time, we recently had a last-minute get-together (I made everything the day of the party) at Chez Gourmess for some new friends, and I think Julia would have been proud of my quick thinking and creative cookery.
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and the snackages were delish! I was even asked for a few recipes. (Score!)

Last-Minute Party Menu:
Crudité with Hummus
  • Cucumbers, yellow and orange bell peppers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes
  • I didn't have chickpeas to make my own hummus, but my favorite store bought flavor is Forty Spices.
Marinated Olives with Rosemary and Lemon
  • Assorted pitted olives marinated with herbs, olive oil and some lemon zest

  • Because I think they are adorable!
Assorted Cheeses and Salami
  • Aged Gouda, 3-year cheddar, smoked mozzarella, brie, Havarti with dill, Pepper Jack
Assorted Breads

Tarragon, Cardamom and Blood Orange Infused Foccacia
  • I took the recipe for Grape Foccacia, and instead of simmering rosemary in olive oil, I simmered a few cardamom pods and some tarragon in a mixture of half regular olive oil and half blood orange infused olive oil. Once the dough was ready to bake, I sprinkled it with more tarragon, the orange olive oil and some sea salt. It turned out great!

Cinnamon Raisin Loaf
  • I made a batch of my favorite No-Knead Bread, but used this speedy version of the recipe, and split the dough into two smaller loaves. For the first one, I stirred in raisins, sultanas (golden raisins) and some cinnamon.
Herbed loaf
  • For the second half of the Speedy No-Knead Bread dough, I added a few teaspoons of Herbes de Provence and sea salt. Both breads were delicious with the cheeses.

Assorted Pizzette Bites
I had some leftover pizza dough in the fridge, so I decided to make pizzettes. I rolled out the dough and cut it into 2-3 inch rounds, brushed them with olive oil, then placed on a greased baking sheet and baked at 400 degrees until golden brown. Once they cooled, I sliced them into two thin rounds each, then topped them with one of the spreads below. About 10-15 minutes before serving, I popped them all back into a 350 degree oven until heated through.

Spinach and Artichoke with Sun-Dried Tomato
  • I had a lovely Spinach and Artichoke dip in the fridge, so I stirred in a bit of cream cheese to make it more spreadable and to finish, topped with a bit of chopped, sun-dried tomato.
Balsamic Figs with Ricotta
  • I chopped up about 1 cup of figs and added the figs and about 3 TBS of balsamic vinegar to a small pot and simmered until the figs had disintegrated, then ran the mixture through my food processor. I spread some fresh ricotta on a pizzette and topped with the figs and a wee sprinkle of red pepper flakes. (Ground black pepper would be nice, too.)
Eggplant "Caviar" with Nutmeg and Honey
  • I diced four small eggplants and sautéed them with a bit of salt/pepper, lemon juice, honey, olive oil, garlic, heavy cream, and nutmeg, then processed until I had a kind of rough paste. I spread a bit on a pizzette, then topped with a sprinkle of nutmeg, some smoked sea salt, and a drizzle of honey.

Brie with Raspberry
  • I scooped out the middle of a wedge of melty brie, and spread it on a pizzette, then topped with a bit of raspberry preserves. Right before serving, a sprinkle of fresh mint.

Chocolate Bark with Pecans, Cranberries, and Pink Sea Salt
Peanut Butter-filled Pretzels
  • Because they are addicting and add a nice salty crunch to balance the sweet of the chocolate.

Bon appétit!