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Totally appetizing

Cooking demo focuses on parties for all ages

Cooking demo focuses on parties for all ages

May 01, 2002|BY KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

As a girl in the local 4-H club, Kathy Sayler started cooking, learning recipes and whipping up a passion for food that has continued into adulthood.

And nothing sets her culinary antennae a buzzin' like party planning, preparing decadent desserts and finger foods destined to delight guests at any social occasion.

On the evening of April 9, Sayler found herself at The Women's Club on South Prospect Street, buzzing about its kitchen arranging appetizers and tummy tempting sweets. The third presenter in a series of cooking demonstrations sponsored by the club, Sayler held court on Parties for All Ages.

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Why parties? Because that's what the Hagerstown resident and administrator at the U.S. Census Bureau office on Antietam Street enjoys.

"I like a little bit of everything, but I guess mostly party foods, not meals so much as appetizers," she said. "I don't know, it seems easier than getting a meal together. People who can get a turkey meal together at Christmas, that's really an accomplishment."

She's too modest.

Fluttering between The Women's Club kitchen and presentation room, where about 30 women were assembling for Sayler's talk, she unveiled a feast of simple recipes: Strawberry shortcake on a stick, party breads, asparagus with lemon tarragon dipping sauce.

It was a lip smacking cornucopia of culinary ideas ripe for tasting.

Often, Sayler finds herself in the kitchen doing her best Dr. Frankenstein imitation, using whatever is at hand to perfect a new dish.

"I guess I have beginners luck. It always seems to come out well the first time around and not so good the second," she says, adding that almost as good as the cooking is the instant gratification from taste testers.

"When it turns out and people say it's really good," Sayler says, "when people like it, that's probably the greatest satisfaction."

So, let's celebrate, and have a good time.

But first, a few ground rules, essential for creating the best party possible:

1) Plan ahead. Unsure of how that new recipe for cheesecake bites will turn out? Try to make them a week or two before the party to make sure they are a delicacy, not a disaster.

"I'd say make something you've tried before," Sayler says. "It's probably good if you could have a dress rehearsal with your family before the occasion."

2) Don't let your eyes grow bigger than your stomach, so to speak. Spending big bucks won't ensure a boffo bash. Work within your means and be creative to prepare finger foods fit for your fiesta.

3) Breathe in, breathe out and have fun.

After all, what good is throwing a party if you stress yourself into a corner where anxiety muscles enjoyment out of the way.

"Don't drive yourself crazy," Sayler says. "If something goes wrong, laugh at yourself. If you burn the potatoes, don't get down on yourself. Just go on."

Strawberry Shortcake on a Stick

Fresh strawberries, rinsed with stems removed

Plain donut holes

Wood Skewers

Alternately thread donut holes and strawberries onto skewer and serve.

Bacon Ranch Bread Bites

1 loaf frozen oven-ready dough, thawed

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 package ranch dressing

1 12-ounce package bacon, cooked and cut into 1-inch pieces, not crisp

Roll bread into 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Brush with oil. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Toss dough, bacon, cheese and salad dressing in bowl.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet and shape into an oval loaf. Let rise until doubled in size.

Bake in 350 degree oven 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

- Kathy Sayler

Twilight Tarts

3/4 cup flour

1/2 butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 can biscuits

1 can pie filling

whipped topping or cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For filling:

Combine flour, sugar and cinnamon with pastry blender or fork. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts. Set aside.

For shell:

Flatten biscuit into four-inch round. Press biscuit into ungreased muffin cup or mini tart pan.

Spoon two tablespoons of crumb topping into each shell. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until brown. Cool 10 minutes. Top each tart with cream or whipped topping.

- Kathy Sayler

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