I have so much more than just one atom of gratitude for you this Sunday. I mentioned before that a friend visiting from London made me a scrumptious vegetarian dinner earlier in the week. I first clapped eyes on Amanda Kyme (gasping at her beauty) as she boarded the Duran Duran tour bus with John Taylor in December 1982. Needless to say, we have a LOT of history that kept us roaring with laughter over dinner.

Amanda at John's birthday party in Montserrat

Amanda at John Taylor's birthday party in Montserrat

Then I came home to singer extraordinaire Jimmy Demers on my doorstep with flowers for no special reason other than to make me feel adored. Lord knows what my neighbors thought, when clad in a very unglamorous leopard print bathrobe and slippers, I came out to his car to listen to an exquisite orchestral backing tape while he serenaded me (and Jimmy has some lungs on him – it was pitch perfect and loud) with the most hauntingly

beautiful love song that his brother Donnie had written for him. Then just as quickly, Jimmy hugged me and disappeared into the night. But the week gets better still!

Laura Hodges and Julie Anne Rhodes

Laura Hodges and Julie Anne Rhodes

After squeezing in a book launch for Joy the Baker‘s fabulous new cookbook (interview and cookbook give-away coming soon), my work phone flew off the hook – not least of which an eight course tasting menu for a clients’ 50th birthday.

Crispy Shallots for garnish

Crispy Shallots for a garnish

Now there are a ton of components and detail that go into a great tasting menu, so I was thrilled when my friend Laura Hodges agreed to give me a hand with the dinner party. Especially when the client showed up

A setting with a view
A setting with a view

two hours late to his own party (timing is everything in the kitchen). Laura worked with me on my very first catering job, a wedding for 75 people, so she knew how to make me giggle and keep that smile on my face while I resurrected the food until I was extremely proud of every plate that left that kitchen. We work together with the precision of a well made Swiss clock, thank you again Laura!

Making Swedish Meatballs

Resurrecting the Swedish meatballs

Meticulous about healthy eating, the client requested I use dairy-free, heart healthy, cashew cream in place of heavy cream for the Swedish meatballs. I decided to carry the healthy theme further by opting to make homemade croutons for the Caesar salad he had requested table side. They turned out so yummy I used them for the cashew cream wild mushroom soup, too. Here’s how I made them:

Croutons for Caesar salad

Croutons for Caesar salad and/or soup

Homemade croutons are fast, easy, tasty and so much healthier than some store bought ones. You can make them a few days in advance, store in an airtight Ziploc baggie. Give them a quick crunch-up in a 400° preheated oven for 5-10 minutes and cool before serving them.

Yield: 4 cups

(if you don’t snack on them)

Ingredients:

1 good French or Italian loaf of bread (I used a roasted garlic Ciabatta)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic

Directions:

1). Preheat oven to 450° F.

2). Using a serrated bread knife, cut the bread into 1/4 -1/2 inch thick slices. Brush both sides generously with olive oil. Slice the garlic clove in half. Using the cut side, brush, pressing down a little, over both sides of the slices. Cut the slices into chunks and spread evenly on a sheet pan.

3). Bake the croutons 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Keep an eye on them as they can go from golden to burnt very quickly. Remove from oven, cool completely, and store until ready to use.

Serving:

Serve on salads, in soups, or toast the whole slices to use for crostini.

 

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