Category Archives: Cocktail Hour

Make Time to Take Tea (and Stilton Cucumber Sandwiches)

Porcelain Web 720 from Scarlett Killaly on Vimeo.

Don’t ask me how I came across this video. I think it was while on a search for tea party china, or serving dishes. Kind of a random find, but I am glad I took two minutes out to watch it because I enjoyed the artistic reminder that we all need to make time in our busy lives to take tea.




hosted by 5 Star Foodie & Lazaro Cooks!

This month, in honor of the recent conclusion of the Olympic games, our 5 Star Makeover group is making time for tea in a  virtual English tea party. Keeping tradition in mind, our instructions were to  create savory and/or sweet little bites to accompany the  tea. Assorted finger sandwiches, scones, Devonshire cream, jams, and tea breads are familiar treats served during this pre-dinner (typically between 3-5pm) snack.

Cucumber sandwiches are the first things that popped into my mind (and stayed there ) when I got started on this tea post, so that’s what I stayed with.  I have changed them up a bit straying from tradition and swapping the crustless white bread for savory Stilton biscuits. The biscuits are something I really love all on their own. The dough is super easy to make in the food processor. The slice and bake “logs” my be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week before baking, or in the freezer for one month.  If you haven’t already thought about this, they are really perfect with a glass of wine. Cheese and cracker all in one bite!

I have filled the biscuits with my version of a Benedictine spread (popular in the south), which is a cucumber/onion infused cream cheese. A slice of English cucumber adds a little bit of extra crunch. Simple and not too fussy; pretty much what we are looking for in an afternoon tea snack. I hope you will take tea with us all of us on Friday and enjoy the treats.

You will find a roundup of the recipes on Lazaro Cooks! and 5 Star Foodie, and can always check out what our 5 Star Makeover Group is cooking by following our Pinterest page.

Stilton Cucumber Sandwiches

3/4 pound Stilton cheese
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a baking sheet.

Place cheese and melted butter in bowl of food processor and pulse until well blended.  Add the poppy seeds and flour and process until the ball of dough forms.

Shape the dough into two logs, each about 10-inches long. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Slice the dough into rounds about one-quarter inch thick. Place the rounds on the baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, until browned on the bottom.  Cool the biscuits on a rack before serving.
Makes 50  biscuits

Benedictine Spread:
1 large cucumber
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons grated onion
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon creme fraiche

Peel cucumber and grate over a cheese cloth, catching cucumber liquid into a small bowl. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the cucumber liquid; discarding remaining liquid and cucumber pulp.  Combine with remaining ingredients in food processor.

Stilton biscuits
Benedictine spread
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced

Spoon 1/2 teaspoon Benedictine Spread on the bottom side of 1 Stilton Biscuit. Place 1-2 slices of English cucumber on spread and top with a second biscuit (bottom side down). Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Makes 25 Sandwiches


4th of July


I have left the heat and humidity of Virginia behind for the pleasant temperatures of the beautiful Adirondack Mountains.  We are with our family for our annual gathering  up on Mountain Lake. The fish are biting, the kayaks are out, and everyone is getting excited about  fireworks on the lake. 

With a family of foodies under roof, we are also getting excited about what we will eat tomorrow to celebrate the 4th of July. There are a few things that have made a repeat appearance on the menu over the years, and these are a few of them:  

Watermelon Coolers. Spiked with vodka, and garnished with a bite of basil, they are a cool refreshing treat for the  grown ups  (we swap out the vodka for lemonade for the kids).  

Watermelon coolers

5 cups cubed seedless watermelon (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup vodka


Watermelon slices, and basil leaves for garnish

Puree watermelon in blender or food processor until smooth. Strain pureed watermelon through a fine mesh sieve, reserving watermelon juice (should have about 2 cups).

In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together lime juice and honey. Add to watermelon  juice, along with vodka. Adjust sweetness with more honey if desired. To serve, fill four glasses with ice and top each with cocktail. Garnish with watermelon slices and basil leaves.

After you scoop the watermelon to make the drinks, save the hollowed out round and use it as a vase for flowers.


We get the kids to help out by making this patriotic flag cookie for dessert

Start with prepared sugar cookie dough (such as Pillsbury) found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. Have the kids press the cookie dough into a 9×13-inch baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake  12-14 minutes until just golden. Mix 2 (8-ounce packages) of softened  cream cheese with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture over the cooled cookie, and create your flag with blueberries and raspberries. Cut into squares and serve.

Each flag cookie will serve 10-12 people, and may be made 1 day ahead. You still have time to run to the store!

For additional last minute party planning tips for the 4th of July, check out the article that ran in today’s Virginian-Pilot, where I offered a few ideas and additional recipes to help get the festivities under way in short order.


Roasted Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta and Herbs: A Quick Summer Appetizer

My tomato plants have little green fruit on them, but it will be a while before  they are ready for picking.

In the meantime, I have basil, thyme, and other herbs that are exploding out of the garden; begging to be used.  Hard to resist such fresh flavors this time of year, and I am more than happy to add them to whatever I am making in the kitchen.

With garden tomatoes not quite ready, I turn to grape tomatoes from the market; sweet little gems, also referred to as “farmer’s candy”. I like to toss them with some olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme, and roast them off in the oven until they have softened and taken on the subtlties of the infused oil.

From here you can do all sorts of things with the tomatoes: add them to salads, toss in pasta, or place them atop a grilled steak.

Or…you can incorporate them into a quick, easy appetizer, which is what I have done here.


Fresh baguette slices are brushed with some of the reserved herb oil, then toasted on the grill until crisp and golden brown. Top with fresh ricotta cheese (I found some artisan ricotta at Whole Foods that was just like homemade), a spoonful of roasted tomatoes, and a sprinkle of basil.

Simple little bites that let you know summer is here.

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta and Herbs

2 pints grape tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, smashed

2/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon dry  thyme leaves (or 5 sprigs fresh)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


1 baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick slices

8 ounces ricotta cheese

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

1/4 cup minced fresh chives


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place tomatoes and garlic  on sheet pan; add olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper; toss with olive oil, and roast  30 minutes. Cool completely in pan, reserving oil.


Brush one side of bread with the reserved olive oil from tomatoes. Place on grill over medium high heat; grill until crisp and golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Top each toasted baguette slice with ricotta cheese, tomatoes, and chopped basil & chives. Drizzle with reserved oil from roasted tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.


8 servings