Ja-Ja’s first birthday

Crunchy, munchy, easy FUN!

Crunchy, munchy, easy FUN!

I, Auntie Jackie, fondly known as “Chopped Liver”—long story—cooked up a multi-cultural storm for my niece Janea Lani Gordon’s first birthday at Divalicious Chocolate! Cafe. I whipped up an antipasto of her many heritages to the theme of duckies. You’d think that with the popularity of freakin’ rubber duckies one might be able to find a Mylar rubber ducky balloon in our fair city. I searched party stores in NYC and parts of NJ—nada! Like hens’ teeth. And a special thank-you to the genius at Party City in Brooklyn who doesn’t know the difference between a ducky and chick.

Rant aside, Janea was unfazed by lack o’ ducky balloon since she loves to eat and as a gourmet-in-training knows what is truly important at a partaaaaaaaay!!!!

Here is the menu followed by the recipe for the pepita cranberry popcorn balls I made as a culinary homage to her First American roots.

Ja-Ja’s first birthday menu

  • Arancini / Risotto Balls
    with roasted butternut squash, corn, peas, mozzarella, asiago
  • Frittata
    with parmesan, parsley, basil, potatoes, scallions, red pepper, zucchini, carrots
  • Shrimp Remoulade
  • Homemade Knishes
    with mustard
  • Beef Salami
    (purchased at Katz’s Deli on Ludlow & Delancey, LES, NYC)
  • Codfish Fritters
    with spicy mango chutney
  • A Trio of Bruschetta
    • Slow Roasted Tomatoes & Garlic
    • Marinated Asian Mushrooms
    • White Beans, Tuna, Capers, Olives
  • Roasted Cauliflower
    with pine nuts, almonds
  • Steamed Asparagus
    with shaved asiago, virgin olive oil, lemon
  • Chicken Jerky
    (purchased at Jung’s Beef Jerky, 95A Elizabeth St., Chinatown, NYC)
  • Edamame
  • Chocolate Cupcakes
    with duckies
  • Pepita Cranberry Popcorn Balls

RECIPE: Pepita Cranberry Popcorn Balls

What I love about this recipe is it’s fast, cheap and flexible. Substitute or add your favorite add-ins: peanuts, raisins, walnuts, almonds, apricots, chocolate chips, etc. Add some sweet spices like cinnamon or cardamon. Go for your life and crunch away!!!

Have ready a tray or platter lined with waxed or parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray or butter.

Pop 1/2 cup of popcorn and lightly salt it. In microwavable bowl, mix 1/4 stick of butter (2 oz.) and 1/2 lb of marshmallows (33 pieces). Microwave at 50% power for one minute then stir, repeating until mixture is melted. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray, then add popcorn, 1cup of dried cranberries and 1/2 cup of roasted, salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Spray a rubber spatula with cooking spray and stir the marshmallow mixture into popcorn mixture until the marshmallow mixture is thoroughly incorporated. Immediately, spray your hands with cooking spray and form the popcorn mixture into balls about handful in size. Depending on the size of your hands yield will vary slightly. I got about 36 balls from this recipe.

They are delish by themselves, but stick them on a lollipop stick and drizzle them with melted, tempered dark chocolate to make them even more fantastic. These are best on the same day. They do hold up if you put them in an air-tight container.

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