Friday, December 28, 2012

Empire State of Mind

3-2-1….2013!  There is nothing better than a good family New Year’s Eve party.  The only downside?  Keeping your kids up till midnight…and the morning after.  Grumpy, tired kids are no fun, and it’s no way to start the New Year.  My solution?  New York New Year’s Eve!  Yep, everyone celebrates at 9pm, our time…….midnight East Coast.  Everyone gets to see the ball drop (online), gets to do a countdown, and gets to live it up….New York style.  This idea isn’t a new one, and it certainly isn’t mine, but it is my favorite way to ring in the New Year with little ones.  Mostly because they go to bed at a reasonable time, and then the real celebrating can begin.

You can take this theme all the way.  You can decorate just like the Big Apple, play New York music and eat New York food!  I’m thinking mini Statues of Liberty, Broadway, pics of the subway, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, etc.  Music?  How about “New York, New York”, “New York State of Mind”, or “Empire State of Mind”?  As for the food….I have a few ideas, and they are all mini versions of their bigger counterparts.  Finger food!

In New York, street food is really popular.  So I hear.  I have never been to New York, so everything I write is second hand.  Take it with a grain of salt.  It’s not like I’m a native New Yorker.  I am west coast, through and through.  Back to street food, some popular carts are hot dog carts and nuts, among others.  The hot dogs are basic hot dogs with all sorts of toppings like ketchup, mustard, relish and sour kraut.  The nuts are candied (right there in the cart!), and they are fabulous.  I have had the nuts by the way….A friend brought some to me a few years ago.

In case you couldn’t tell from that…I am showing you how to make candied nuts and mini hot dogs.

I buy regular mixed nuts from the grocery store.  My nuts are roasted and salted.  I cook them with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt.  These nuts end up sweet, slightly spicy from the cinnamon and salty.  They are delicious, and the perfect little nibble for a party.  And you don’t even have to stand in line on a busy street to buy them!


My hot dogs are cute little miniature versions of a grown-up hot dog.  I use regular hot dogs that have been cut in half, and I use a package of brown and serve dinner rolls for the buns.  I just cut the rolls in half, lengthwise.  Then, I cut the rolls almost all the way through (lengthwise again) to make a cute wee little bun.  I don’t bake the buns at all.  I leave them as is, which is more like a hot dog bun.

I also set out all sorts of toppings like ketchup, diced onions, mustard and pickles.  I don’t set out any kraut.  There are never any takers.

You will never see a happier kid, then a kid eating a mini hot dog.  Kids love miniature versions of things.

My next mini is a mini pastrami sandwich…just like one you would get in New York!  I use a cookie cutter to cut out small circles of rye bread.  The bread gets toasted and topped with yummy pastrami, Swiss cheese, mustard, and of course, a pickle!  Just like a NY delicatessen.

My third mini?  Well, I take help from a restaurant for this one.  I order a Domino’s Brooklyn style pizza, and I ask them not to cut it.  When I get the pizza, I cut it into squares, and then I cut the squares on the diagonal.  I am left with mini triangles.  Your guests can help themselves to a mini piece, and still fold it in half like any good Brooklyn-ite would do.  Placing that phone call is the easiest part of the party!


Every good party needs a fantastic dessert, and I think New York cheesecake fits the bill.  But of course, I have to make it mini!  I solve this by making cheesecake truffles, which is essentially smashed up cheesecake rolled into balls and dipped into melted chocolate.  I always thought cheesecake couldn’t get any better, but I was wrong.  Very wrong.

I started with a whole, store bought cheesecake. If you want to be truly authentic, make sure it is a New York cheesecake!  I let it defrost almost all the way.  Then, I dumped the whole thing into a bowl and mashed it all together, crust and all.  Then, I scooped out cheesecake and formed it into balls.  Helpful tip-wet your hands a bit to help form balls.

The balls get put back in the freezer to firm up, and then dipped in chocolate.  I used the dipping chocolate that melts in its own bowl.  Once dipped, these guys hold up well in the fridge or freezer, so these are great to make in advance. 


These little guys are the perfect ending to a party.  (Even a party that ends at 9pm.)  You get the delicious flavor of cheesecake with a candy coating!  Yum!

I hope you all have a fabulous New Year’s Eve whether you celebrate at 9pm or 12am.  And best wishes for an amazing 2013!

Candied Nuts

4 cups mixed nuts

¼ cup butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt butter in a large skillet.  Add brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and stir.  Cook until sugar is dissolved in butter.  Add nuts and mix well.  Cook until butter is foamy and nuts are completely coated, about 5 minutes.

Spread nuts on a baking pan and let sit for at least 2 hours.  Break apart if needed.

Serves 8-10


Mini Hot Dogs

1 pack of brown and serve dinner rolls (you will only need 8)

1 pack hot dogs (8)

Assorted hot dog toppings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice rolls in half lengthwise.  Slice each half in half again, cutting almost all the way through, forming a “bun”.  Do not pre-bake rolls.

Slice each hot dog in half, crosswise.  Place a hot dog half into each bun.  Place hot dogs on a baking sheet and cover tightly in foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until hot dogs are hot.

Makes 16 mini hot dogs


Mini Hot Pastrami Sandwiches

1 loaf Rye Bread, sliced for sandwiches

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound pastrami, sliced thin

½ pound Swiss cheese, sliced thin


Pickles for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a 1 ½ inch round cookie cutter, cut bread into small circles.  Spread butter, evenly, on each circle and bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes, or until bread is slightly browned.  Divide Swiss cheese and pastrami evenly over ½ of the circles.  Spread mustard on remaining circles and assemble sandwiches.  Garnish with pickles.

Makes about 30 sandwiches.


New York Cheesecake Truffles

1 store bought frozen cheesecake (17 ounces)

2 containers Baker’s Dipping Chocolate (7 ounces each)

Defrost cheesecake almost all the way.  Remove cheesecake from pan and place into a mixing bowl.  With a large spoon, mash cheesecake so that the cheesecake and crust is blended.  Using a 1 inch ice cream scoop, scoop out cheesecake and form balls with your hands.  Place balls on a tray and freeze for at least 2 hours.

Melt chocolate according to package directions.  Dip frozen cheesecake balls in melted chocolate.  Set one a tray to “set” chocolate.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Makes about 24 balls.

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