02-05 The Crown Roast of Cheese - Dinner Fit for a Queen

Well, it's almost 2007! What better occasion for a cheese casserole? This week on the show I'm making one of my favorites - the Crown Roast of Cheese. It's just delicious and so simple:
You'll need: 
¼ cup of butter
7 slices of bread (about ½ inch thick each)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp paprika
Pinch of cayenne
½ tsp dry mustard

Preheat the oven to 350. Start by buttering both sides of all slices of bread with half the butter. Cut two into triangles (cut across the slice in an "X" pattern) and cut the rest into cubes. Then line the bottom of a buttered casserole dish with a handful of bread cubes and on top of that toss a layer of grated cheese. Repeat until you've used up all the cubes and cheese. Place the triangles of bread around the outside of the dish to create your "crown" and set aside. Combine all remaining ingredients except for the remaining butter in a mixing bowl and mix well. Pour the mixture over the casserole, then dot with slices of the remaining butter and bake for 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

This dish is just delish with a lovely dry white wine.

02-04 Merry in a Hurry - Last Minute Christmas Ideas

Hello people, and Merry Christmas... It's just around the corner! On the show this week I have a few last minute holiday ideas.
In a quandary about what to give a girlfriend? How about making a pair of matching aprons from an old vintage tablecloth and giving her one? You'll have matching aprons!
 You'll need:
1 vintage tablecloth
Thread to match
Sewing machine 
Cut the tablecloth in half across its shortest dimension and from each half cut a strip along the cut edge that is 3" wide. That strip will be your waistband. Cut a notch at the center of the strip and a notch on each side where you want the apron to end. (You can put the waistband around your waist and mark the side seam of your clothing on one side, then fold it in half and notch where you've marked). Also notch the center of the apron body.  Then run a gathering stitch along the cut edge of the body and shirr it up. Match your notches and stitch the waistband to the apron with a half inch seam allowance. Then press the waistband up. Fold the right sides together along the top edge and stitch the waist band ends together, then turn them inside out and press. Fold under the seam allowance on the waistband and top stitch it down and your apron is finished! You can face the waistband with ribbon or trim the apron with braid or rickrack, attach pockets or a bow and it's ready to give.
Another last minute gift idea is a set of tassel ornaments. We made tassels on a previous episode and they make lovely Christmas ornaments. Make a set of 4 or 6 tassels in red yarn with sprigs of artificial holly, jingle bells or metallic yarn accents.
Using your imagination for holiday giving can net you ooohs and aaahs from your recipient.

02-03 Cranberry Bread for a Tart and Tangy Christmas Morning

Hello people, it's time for some more ideas and tips from Brini!
This week I'm making a delicious holiday recipe that's perfect for Christmas breakfast. It's called Mattie Belle's Cranberry Bread and it's very easy to make.
 You'll need:
 2 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon soda
¼ cup butter
¾ cup orange juice
1 egg
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
½ cup walnuts
1 cup halved cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350. sift flour, baking powder and soda and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together, add the egg, then add the flour mixture in parts, alternating with the orange juice and blend well. Then mix in the orange rind, walnuts and cranberries. Bake for 1 hour, then turn the oven off and crack the door slightly to let the bread slowly cool down.

02-02 Christmas Gifts From Your Own Hands

Hello people, This week on the show it's all about gifts we make ourselves. I'm making two different gifts on this week's episode - tassels and apricot cherry cordial fruit sauce.
Tassels are very simple to make. You'll need:
Yarn in different colors
A card that's about an inch longer than the length of your finished tassel
A latch hook or crochet hook
Start by winding your yarn around the card until you have a good hank of it collected. Cut off the tail and slide the hank off the card keeping the center open. Then reel off a good long piece of matching or contrasting yarn - at least 4 feet - and double it twice and twist it until it starts coiling back on itself. Grasp the center between your teeth and fold it in half and let it twist into a cord. Tie it in a loop and loop it through the center of your yarn hank making sure the knot is lost among the yarn in the hank and pull it tight. Tie matching or contrasting yarn tightly around the top of your hank close to the hanging loop and then begin to wrap it around snugly until you have about a half inch of it evenly girdling the tassel. Cut and then tie the end of the yarn to the tail left when you first tied the yarn on the tassel, then with your hook pull the tails up under the wrapped yarn.

Apricot Cherry Cordial Fruit Sauce is quite simple as well. You'll need:
1 cup dried apricots cut in quarters
½ cup sugar
10 oz jar maraschino cherries
1 cup vodka
Combine the apricots, sugar and cherries with their juice in your blender until well blended, then add the vodka and blend again. Remove the mixture to a jar and let marinate, inverting the jar regularly, for two weeks or until all the sugar is dissolved. Present in a tall pointy bottle with a white pompon on the cork to create a Santa hat.

Here are a few other projects that are perfect for holiday gift giving:

02-01 It's Christmas Time & Time for a Cookie!

Hello people, This week on my vidcast I have a delightful guest. Joe Ligamarri came on to show us his recipes for St. Louis Bars and Pizzels. We had a very nice time making these cookies and I'm happy to say that since this episode was taped Joe has started a company dedicated to bringing his confections to the world. It's called Cookie Jough and you can find out all about it here

Here are the recipes:

For St. Louis Bars you'll need:

1 yellow cake mix
½ cup (1 stick) melted butter
3 eggs
1 8oz package cream cheese
4 ½ cups confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, lightly beat one egg, then add the cake mix and melted butter and mix until the dough is the consistency of play-dough. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9 X 13" baking pan. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the confectioner's sugar. Combine all the remaining ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth. Pour over the dough and smooth with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the filling doesn't move when the pan is shaken. Remove from the oven and dust with the remaining powdered sugar. Let cool completely and cut into bars.

For the pizzelles you'll need:

1 ¾ cup flour
¾ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon anise flavor
3 eggs
1 stick butter

Preheat your pizzelle iron and sift the flour and sugar together. Add the anise flavoring and the eggs and butter. Stir until the batter is the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Drop a large tablespoon full of batter in the center of the pizzelle iron and close the top. The cookie should be done in about 45 seconds. These can be shaped over bowls to create edible vessels for elegant desserts. They can also be broken up into quadrants and dipped in chocolate or tucked into a bowl of ice cream.

01-13 The Maxwell Fireside - Heavenly Hearth

Now that we’re so firmly entrenched in fall it’s lovely to cuddle up next to a nice warm fire. This week’s episode was taped at a lovely home on Fire Island with a real fireplace. If you don’t have the luxury of a genuine hearth you can create a facsimile with a product called sunjel. The little cans of jel will give off a flame that looks like wood flame but doesn’t give off smoke so there’s no need for a flue. You can also get log and grate sets that have boxes to hold the cans of jel that create the effect of a traditional fireplace.

What's better in front of a fire than hot cocoa? Here's my recipe for it:

You’ll need

1/4 cup Cocoa powder
1/2 cup Sugar
Dash Salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
1/8 cup Coconut, vanilla or orange rum

Combine the cocoa, sugar, salt and water in a sauce pan and heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes. Add the milk and stir until heated, but do not boil. Remove from the heat and beat with a mixer until foamy. Add the rum and serve.

This should make about 6 servings. If you’re a tee totaler you can eliminate the rum and flavor the cocoa with extract instead.

01-12 The Thanksgiving Caper

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday - a time to reflect on our blessings and to reconnect with family and friends over a delicious meal. For most of us that meal includes the traditional turkey. It doesn't have to though. After spending time with one on my show I find them just a little harder to eat. My wild rice casserole is a delicious alternative to the tradition. Here's how:
You'll need:
1 cup wild rice
1 cup ripe olives cut up
2 roasted red peppers cut up
¼ lb grated cheddar cheese
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
½ cup salad oil
¾ cup white wine
Soak the wild rice in hot water and leave over night. Preheat the oven 350. Combine all ingredients except wine in a casserole dish and mix well. Heat the wine until simmering then pour over casserole. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as an entree.

01-11 Quips and Tips from Brini & Verena

What topsy turvy tips Verena has! I like my tips a little more on the practical side. Here are a few of my favorites:

Put a dab of lighter fluid on a paper towel and you can pick up all those ugly skid marks left by your wedgies off of your linoleum.

Lighter fluid will also remove stamps that have been stuck down – just saturate the back of the envelope under the stamp and it will lift right off. Just don’t try and lick it after that…

Having problems moving that heavy dresser across your hard wood floor without scratching it? Try putting some old socks on the legs and it will slide like a charm!

And speaking of socks, try pinning them together at the toes with safety pins before washing them – you won’t end up with mismatched pairs and lost mates.

As odd as Verena’s tips were her chocolate cake recipe was just delightful! As promised, here it is:

Grandma Bea’s Chocolate Cake

You'll need:

1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar. (Baking recipes always seem to begin with this step, don’t they?) Sift all the dry ingredients together in another bowl and set them aside. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, and then add the vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients and sour cream in three parts, mixing well after each, then add the hot water and mix well. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch round pans. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Julie says the cake needs no icing, but we like to gild the lily, don’t we? I suggest cream cheese or butter cream icing. Remember if you’re icing the cake with white icing, coat it with a thin layer and then chill it in the fridge until the layer has set, then ice the cake again and you won’t have little chocolate flecks in the top layer!

01-10 Toasty Tasty Chedder Cheese Wafers

Cheese. It’s one of nature’s wonders, and one of my favorite foods. This week on the show we’re making toasted sesame cheese wafers. It’s a very tasty recipe that was originally featured in an episode devoted to the wonders of this delightful food.

For the wafers you’ll need:

5 oz processed cheese spread
3 Tbs. butter
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp paprika
2 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 400. Sift the flour and paprika together, and then blend in the sesame seeds. Combine the cheese and butter in a bowl and cream together. Add the flour mixture and stir until well blended. The dough will be stiff. On a sheet of wax paper work the dough into a log about 6 and one half inches long and an inch and a half in diameter and wrap in the wax paper. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour and up to one week. When chilled, unwrap the dough, slice thinly and bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly brown around the edges.

Cheese, milk’s leap to immortality, is one of the most versatile foods in any cook’s arsenal. It can be used in savory or sweet dishes and has such varied flavors, as to confuse even the most devoted epicurean. Some of my favorites are:

Cotswald: This is a cheddar variation from England. It’s rich and robust with a delightful tang. I love it on hearty sourdough bread.

Saga Bleu and Cambazola: These are brie/bleu combinations – both delicious with French bread or fruit.

Gruyere: This is the prince of Swiss cheese. Its rich and nutty flavor are delightful in fondue or on crackers.

I love having people over for cheese tastings. Putting out several cheeses on a board and letting my friends become intimate with them is my idea of a delightful Sunday afternoon. Try it yourself and see how much fun it can be!

01-09 Halloween Entertaining - Harum Scarum with a Touch of Glamor

Halloween is almost upon us and this week on the show we're carving jack-o-lanterns. Mary Ellen and I had such fun together carving that charming face. What do you do with the pumpkin seeds though? I toasted them and here's how:
 You'll need:
 Pumpkin seeds
Olive oil or melted butter
Start by rinsing those seeds and removing any pulp, and then spread them out on paper towels to dry over night. The next day line a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with raised sides with foil and preheat the oven to 250. Toss the dry seeds with the olive oil or butter, then salt and toss again. Spread the seeds out on the foil covered cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour, rearranging the seeds every 15 minutes.

01-08 Streamline Storage, Clear Clutter - The Basics of Organization

Organizing is the subject of this week’s vidcast, and cleaning and organizing are kissin’ cousins. Straightening up a room doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Organize the chore with these tips:

Start by picking a place in the room to deposit all the things that need to be put away. It’s best to pick a spot that will inconvenience you if you stop before finishing – like the sofa. Take everything that doesn’t belong out and put it in that spot. Getting your belongings out of their comfort zones on the tables and counters will force you to actually look at them so they can be more easily put away.

Once everything has been returned to its little home, you can simplify the task of cleaning by thinking of your room as a big clock. Focus on one “hour” at a time – work your way around from 12 back to 12 again and the task will fly by.

Here are some related tips from the archive section of my site:

Episode 102

Episode 103

Episode 104

01-07 Mary Ellen's Birthday Date is a Nut (Cake)

Hi people, this week I have a lovely family recipe for you: date nut cake. It was my grandmother’s recipe and I made it for Mary Ellen’s birthday. It’s just delicious.

You’ll need:

1 stick of butter
½ lb dates
1 tsp soda
1 cup boiling water
1 ¼ cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup pecans

Begin by putting the butter, dates and soda in a bowl and covering them with the boiling water then let them cool. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9 x 12? baking pan. Then add the egg, flour, sugar and pecans to the cooled ingredients in the bowl and mix well. Pour into your greased pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

01-06 Me, Mary Ellen & Margaret - Chocolate with a Cho

Chocolate fondue is delicious - a real glamour dessert. What's especially nice about it is that it's frightfully easy to make as well! The fondue we made on the episode is simply:

12 oz of bar chocolate, broken up                                                                              
1 cup of heavy cream
 Melt the chocolate with the cream over low heat until smooth, stirring constantly.
 For dippers we chose pineapple, pound cake and strawberries, but you can add marshmallows, kiwi, bananas, cookies, lady fingers, and pretzels.
 On the show on the Style network we made fondue with milk caramels. The process is similar:
12 oz milk caramels                                                                                                    
1 cup milk
 Over low heat until melted. Serve with apple wedges.


Coming up this Friday - Chocolate Fondue and Margaret Cho!

Hello people!
 Margaret Cho will be with us this week, so I thought I'd upload a promo for the coming episode. It's going to be lots of fun. Be sure and watch!
 See you Friday


Matzo Ball Soup - It's Not Just for Shiva Anymore

Matzo ball soup is such a "hamishe" dish. The repudiated cure-all is a Jewish staple and it's very easy to make. This recipe originates with Ilse Sander - my grandmother. It took a little effort for Mary Ellen to wrap her mind around the ethnic dish, given her Roman Catholic roots, but once she did she certainly found it to her liking - despite a slight mishap.
Matzo balls should be nice and firm - you want them to resist your teeth and your spoon. This is achieved with ganzeschmaltz, more commonly known as goose fat. Here's the recipe:
1/4 cup matzo meal
1 egg
1 Tbs. ganzeschmaltz
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper
Pinch nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mix until combined. Pinch off a small amount and roll into a ball between your palms. Repeat until all the "dough" is rolled. Cook in chicken broth until the balls float and serve.
Makes about 10 balls

Girl's Day Out - Adventures in Shopping, Cooking and Inhaling

On this week's episode Mary Ellen, Delta and I went on a little shopping trip.  The east village here in New York City is full of delightfully off beat stores with eccentric merchandise. The store we visited was the Wandering Dragon on East 10th Sreet. It had such a curious collection of items, including out dated military paraphernalia, stuffed oddities like two headed calves and a plethora of artificial limbs. I"m afraid it doesn't exist anymore, but if you find yourself in the neighborhood be sure and wander a bit yourself - you never know what wonderful little holes in the wall you'll find.
 After our foray into the odd we found our way back to my place where Mary Ellen produced what I believe is called a "joint", or marijuana cigarette. It was my first experience with "pot" and I have to say it made me feel just as odd as that two headed calf.
That accounts for my less than with-it performance in the kitchen while making our dish for the day - veal with olives. The meal was just delicious, however. I found myself enjoying it with much more relish than I usually exhibit at dinner for some reason. Here's the recipe:
 You'll need:

4 veal cutlets
Salt and pepper
3 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup cocktail olives, sliced
 Start by pounding the cutlets to ensure their tenderness, then salt and pepper them on both sides. Melt the butter in a large skillet and brown the cutlets on both sides. Add the wine and olives and let simmer, covered for about 5 minutes. Serves 4.

Creative Entertaining with Edible Flowers

Hello people, thanks for joining me! This week is all about flowers - edible flowers that is. Eating flowers sounds incredibly decadent - sort of like something that would get the Romans in trouble with the gods like plumbing with lead or Nero fiddling. It's quite respectable, however, and won't bring any lightning bolts down on your head. It's a wonderful idea for creative entertaining.  I especially like serving flowers in salads. The bright oranges, yellows and reds of nasturtiums are so beautiful tucked among the variegated greens of the different lettuces. They also make a delightful conversational opener for a dinner party!

Now, there are certain flowers that are just delicious and perfect for a nosh, including nasturtiums, violets, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, roses, orchids, chrysanthemums, and clover. You can find a complete list of edible flowers here.
 It's so important to know what you're eating, however. Certain flowers are poisonous and should be avoided - these include: daffodils, foxglove, crocus, azalea, rhododendron, lilly of the valley and wisteria. A more complete list of dangerous flowers can be found here.   
 In addition to being used on pastries and in salads as demonstrated in the show, edible flowers can also be used as garnish or frozen into ice blocks and floated in your favorite punch or in small ice cubes for summer cocktails or candied with sugar. It's such a delightful way to liven up your meal. Try it the next time you entertain. Your dinner parties will never be "business as usual" again!
 Thanks for coming by. Come back next week for some more fun!

Mary Ellen's Brazen Birthday Surprise

Hello people, welcome back! This week Mary Ellen has asked me to help her throw a birthday party. It's a bit cheeky of her and you'll find out why in the vidcast.

One of the subjects we cover is cake decorating. Making a pretty cake isn't difficult. To begin with if you're using a contrasting frosting you'll want to frost the cake twice. Begin by applying a very thin layer over the entire cake and then putting it in the fridge. The icing will harden and seal the cake crumbs in so you can frost it again without pulling up the crumbs and marring the appearance of the finished cake.
I like to use a combination of elements when decorating a cake, as we did in the demo. Begin by amassing your supplies. We used
-         sprinkles
-         sugar flowers
-         colored icing in a pastry bag.
The sprinkles were applied in a swath across the cake and accented with the flowers across the top. The pastry bag was used to create smaller star flowers and leaves. It's easier to create an abstract design than it is to write a name on the cake. The letters all have to be even and regular, where as an abstract design can be...well, abstract.
We also had strawberry punch for that party. It was just delicious. Here's how it's made:
You'll need:

4 cups of water
4 cups of sugar
2 quarts hulled strawberries
1 cup sliced pineapple
1 cup mixed fruit juice (we used kiwi/strawberry)
Juice of 5 large oranges
Juice of 5 large lemons
2 cups carbonated water
3 cups crushed ice
Boil the sugar with the water to create simple syrup. Chill the mixture in the fridge. Combine the strawberries, pineapple and juices and add syrup to taste. Chill the mixture until ready to serve. Just before serving add the carbonated water and crushed ice. The flavor of this punch is intense. It's designed to mellow out as the ice melts. It can be thinned with more carbonated water if desired. You can also make this punch more powerful with the addition of rum.
Now in this episode you meet Delta for the first time. She did a fashion segment on the original show and was just wonderful! She also made a lot of the original costumes for the first season of my Style network show. The party scene of the episode was shot in less than ideal conditions. I'm almost completely in the dark. It's one of those production value issues I mentioned last week. I feel like a Virginia Slims ad "You've Come a Long Way, Baby".

Swedish Meatballs: The Darlings of the Cocktail Set

Hello people! Welcome to my first blog entry and my first vidcast! This week we're making Swedish meatballs. You'll find the recipe below. The segments you'll be seeing in my weekly presentations are from my original cable access show that aired here in New York in the late 90's. The process of putting those shows together was such a valuable education for me. You'll be able to see my progression through the production values of the original material. It's not up to broadcast standards, but the content is such fun I hope you'll be able to overlook the flaws.
Swedish meatballs are a wonderful dish for home entertaining, piled atop pasta, and as a cocktail nibble served out of a chafing dish. I had a little help putting the recipe together from my friend and neighbor Mary Ellen. She served as my sidekick - my Rhoda, if you will - for many of the episodes of the original cable access show. She was played to perfection by a wonderful actor - Thom Hansen. You'll be seeing a lot more of Mary Ellen in this series.

As promised, here's my recipe for Swedish Meatballs or Kottbuller: 
You'll need:

1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons minced onion
1 one-inch-thick slice of bread
1/2 cup milk
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1/4 pound ground veal
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup beef stock, warm
1 cup cream (or milk), warm

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat and cook the onion until lightly browned. Soak the bread in the milk until soft. Combine all remaining ingredients except flour, stock, and cream and mix well with your hands. It's important to use your hands; nothing else will combine the ingredients as well. Then roll the meat mixture into small balls and brown them in the rest of the butter. 

Remove the meatballs and set them aside. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Add the flour and stir until it's mixed well with the fat. Remove the pan from the heat, add the stock and cream, and stir constantly until the gravy is smooth and has
thickened nicely. Put the meatballs back in the pan with the gravy and cover. 

Simmer over very low heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then transfer to a chafing dish and serve.

Makes about 25 balls

This recipe can also be found in my book, Brini Maxwell's Guide to Gracious Living, which can be purchased here.
Thanks for coming by. Be sure and come back next week!