Monday, September 19, 2011

Special for lovers of books, day trips, picnics or recipes

Those of you who are a regular visitor to my blog know that I love to talk about all the great leisure-time activities there are available in Connecticut. You may even know that I am nearing the 200 mark for book talks to libraries, civic groups, women's and men's clubs, newcomers and garden clubs, PTO's, and other organizations.

On Thursday, September 22nd at 7:00 pm. I will be speaking at the Windsor Library, 323 Broad Street, Windsor, Connecticut.

My talk will focus on stories about my years of scouring the state looking for the best day trips and picnic areas and the menus and recipes that are customized for each trip. They are all in my book Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket, which on this evening only is available at a great discount.

Since this presentation will be filmed by Win TV, a local television station, I hope to have a packed house for the event. Therefore, anyone who hands me a piece of paper with the words "Special Blog price" may purchase a book or books at half price, which is $8.00 including tax. The rest of the audience will get the usual direct purchase discount of $15.00 including tax. (The retail price is $15.95 plus tax.)

Please come if you live in the area. I would love to meet you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Recipe for Labor Day Parties

Labor Day Weekend originated as a way to honor the everyday working people, and I guess it still does so today. After all, we have a three-day weekend, a last hurrah for the end of one season and the start of another. What will you do to celebrate? If you fall into the majority, at some point during the weekend you will have a cookout or a picnic.

Here is one recipe that is fun to make and easy to serve for an at-home picnic but with a little planning can be prepared ahead, carried to your picnic in a cooler and assembled at the picnic site. Either way, it’s sure to wow anyone who gazes upon its colorful bounty. Oh, and it’s tasty too!!

Jan's Antipasto Platter (taken from Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket)

I start with a 24X16 inch platter, although any size will do depending on the number of people you plan to serve. Here is what I place on the platter:

First, the bottom is spread with lettuce leaves (I use Boston lettuce because the leaves are flat.) Then, I take one each of a green, orange, and yellow whole pepper, carefully shaving off the bottom if necessary to keep them standing straight, then hollow out the inside and arrange in opposite corners and middle of tray. They hold carrot sticks, burgundy olives and stuffed green olives. In the opposite corners of the tray I place two short ice cream dishes, one holding cherry tomatoes and the other, marinated mushroom caps. Somewhere in the middle of the tray sits a pile of sweet roasted red peppers and a tiny fork.

Now that the color palate is complete it is time to think about heartier fare. This is where the rolling, stabbing, stacking and threading begins, followed by the creative placement of each item in between the peppers and bowls.

First, one pound of ham and one pound of Swiss cheese are rolled up together, slice by slice, the ham on the outside and the cheese on the inside, held together with toothpicks. Each one in cut in half or thirds. A pound of hard salami is simply folded over, piece by piece, piled in two stacks and fanned out. Next, a stick of pepperoni is sliced into one-quarter to one-half inch slices, and a block of cheddar cheese is cut into cubes. Then they are threaded on colored plastic picks, first a pepperoni slice, then a cube of cheddar cheese, then another pepperoni. When I get tired of threading, I simply scatter the rest around to fill up empty spaces. Cheese twists (mozzarella and soft cheddar) are partially separated at the top pulling each of the three or four pieces down about 2 inches to form a curly top. These are placed in two separate piles on the tray, although I decide they would also look smashing standing up in something.

Finally, I add springs of fresh parsley here and there and a clear container of colorful plastic toothpicks.

This Antipasto Platter can be modified in dozens of exciting ways. Just have fun with it but don’t forget, it’s not only about filling up the platter with favorite foods, it’s also about the presentation. For your platter to be the attention-grabber it longs to be, there needs to be a variety of shapes and lots and lots of color.

Happy Labor Day.