Saturday, June 23, 2018

They'll be there for you: Foods for a 'Friends' themed party

Foods for a 'Friends' themed party

By Emily Young, Tampa Bay Times Correspondent

It's been more than a decade since the sitcom Friends aired its last episode. But if you're a die-hard fan like me, you can't help wishing for just a little more. The two-hour tribute to famed sitcom director James Burrows that gathered five out of the six Friends cast members last month only fueled our hopes for a real reunion, one that doesn't just discuss the good old days but recreates them. One with a clappy theme song where people danced bizarrely in public fountains and ended with a cliffhanger about whether Rachel and Ross were really on a break.

Until we get our actual reunion episode, here's what to do: Invite fellow fans over for a marathon of your favorite episodes, and cook viewing-friendly dishes inspired by each character. Or better yet, imagine that you are inviting each of the Friends over themselves: Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Ross, Phoebe and Joey. Ask them to bring their own appetizers, provide a comfy couch to make them feel at home, and get ready for the best imaginary party of your life.

Joey's Mini Deep Dish Pizzas

Joey's real gift is eating, not cooking. We considered asking him to provide meatball subs, but realized he would eat them all on the way over. How about asking him to bake these mini deep dish pizzas instead? They only take half an hour to make, and they're so easy that we feel confident Joey could master the recipe. Garnished with shredded mozzarella and whatever toppings you desire — pineapple and ham, or pepperoni — these bite-sized pizzas will make your mouth water instantly. Especially if you're Joey. On second thought, maybe it would be safer if you just made them yourself.

Monica's Lasagna Cupcakes

When she hears about your party, Monica will (obviously) offer to cook the entire meal — which, in her mind, will likely involve some kind of flan or salmon mousse. Try to keep her focused on her assigned dish: lasagna cupcakes. As weird as that sounds (almost like Rachel's beef, jam and custard English trifle?), it's actually just mini lasagnas, made from wonton wrappers and stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta and mango chutney. Ask her to leave the Mockolate at home. And don't be surprised if she brings her own coasters.

Ross' Margaritas

We thought about asking Ross to cook some fajitas — but the last time that happened, he nearly burned the skin off his hand. Instead, have him provide the party drink: chocolate margaritas, made with Mexican cinnamon, chocolate liqueur and tequila. (This way, you can take a drink every time he mentions dinosaurs.) Bonus points if he shows up with a spray tan eight shades too dark, squeaky leather pants or glow-in-the-dark teeth.

Rachel and Chandler's Cheesecake

Absolutely forbid Rachel to bring her English trifle. Instead, ask her and Chandler to provide a version of their infamous cheesecake. This recipe is so good you might be tempted to follow their example and eat it right off the floor. But since these mini cheesecakes are served in individual mason jars (how hipster is that?), Rachel and Chandler won't have to worry about dropping it like they did last time. (Note: The cheesecakes are topped with jam preserves, so you'd better hide yours from Joey. ) Expect Chandler to walk around asking, "Could this dessert be any better?"

Phoebe's Unfairly Good Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

It wouldn't be a real reunion without Phoebe and her guitar. A sing-along of Smelly Cat is crucial to a good party. (Speaking of party games, why not try your hand at some Friends trivia? Just be sure that you don't bet your apartment on it. We saw how that worked out for the girls in Season 4.) Phoebe will bring yet another important addition to your evening: her famous oatmeal raisin cookies. It might take some convincing to get her to make them — they're so good, it's not fair to the other cookies, after all — but remind her this is a once-in-a-lifetime reunion. It's not every day that a cast of sitcom characters shows up at your house, proclaiming that they'll be "there for you, cause you're there for me too (clap clap clap)."

Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas

A muffin pan is not just for cupcakes. Make these mini deep-dish pizzas using homemade or store-bought dough and your favorite toppings.

Olive oil

All-purpose flour, for rolling

½ pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough, divided into 6 pieces

Coarse salt and ground pepper

½ cup shredded mozzarella (4 ounces)

1 large tomato, coarsely chopped

Desired toppings, such as cooked vegetables, pineapple and ham, or pepperoni

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly brush 6 standard muffin cups with olive oil. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each dough piece to a 6-inch round. Fill each cup with 1 round, gently pressing dough into bottom and sides of cup. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle each dough cup with 1 tablespoon each cheese and tomato. Add desired toppings and another tablespoon each cheese and tomato. Bake until dough is golden brown and crisp, 12 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes before removing from cups.

Note: Standard muffin pans come in 6- or 12-cup size; if baking 6 items in a 12-cup pan, leave empty space in between. Nonstick pans are nice but not essential. Beware of very thin pans, which often lead to burning. Place pans on a baking sheet to make them easier to get in and out of the oven.

Makes 6.

Source: Martha Stewart, Everyday Food, September 2010

Lasagna Cupcakes

For the meat sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 whole cloves

1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)


1 pound mild Italian chicken sausage, casing removed

¼ cup tomato paste

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

¼ cup chopped fresh basil Freshly ground pepper

For the ricotta filling:

¾ cup shredded mozzarella, plus more for topping

¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for topping

¾ cup part-skim ricotta

cup mango chutney

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 package wonton wrappers (at least 48)

12 whole small fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the meat sauce: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the whole cloves and cinnamon stick, and remove after a few minutes. Add the garlic and onions, sprinkle with a little salt and saute until softened but not browned. Add the sausage, breaking up the clumps with a spoon. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and some salt and pepper. Stir to combine and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. As the meat sauce is cooking, prepare the ricotta filling.

For the ricotta filling: Stir together the mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta and mango chutney. Season with salt and lots of pepper, about a teaspoon, and set aside.

To assemble the cupcakes: Allow the meat sauce to cool about 15 minutes before building lasagna cupcakes. Pull out your favorite cupcake pan. If your pan is not nonstick, spray the cups with cooking spray. Place a wonton wrapper in each cup. Don't worry if you're using square ones.

Drop about 1 teaspoon of meat sauce into the bottom of each cup. Then add 1 teaspoon of ricotta filling. Then cover with another wonton wrapper, rotating it about 90 degrees so that the corners of the first wrapper and the second wrapper aren't right on top of each other. Repeat this until you've built three layers total.

Top each with a small basil leaf, then another wonton wrapper. Finish each cupcake with a spoonful of meat sauce, a little shredded mozzarella and pinch of grated Parmesan. Pop them into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. When time's up, resist the temptation to eat them right away or else you'll burn your mouth! Let them rest on the counter for about 10 minutes, and they should slip out of the muffin tin easily. Top with more shredded basil if you like.

Makes 12.

Source: Food Network

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 cup raisins

½ cup orange juice

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

¾ cup coconut oil, warmed until liquid

1 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons ground flax

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, stir together raisins and orange juice. Microwave for 1 minute on high and then set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, coconut oil, milk, water and flax.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the sugar mixture to oat mixture and stir to combine well.

Drain raisins, discarding the juice, and add to the cookie dough, stirring well to combine.

Scoop 2-tablespoonful portions of dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes or until cookies are light gold.

Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks to continue to cool.

Store completely cooled cookies in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Source: Michele Borboa,

Mini Cheesecake Jars

For the cheesecake:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

4 ounces sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


½ cup plus 1 tablespoon fruit preserves or jam

For the graham topping:

½ cup finely ground graham crackers (from 4 crackers)

1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Make the cheesecakes: Beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes more. Reduce speed to low. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Raise speed to medium. Add sour cream, lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon salt. Beat for 3 minutes.

Divide batter among six 6-ounce jars, filling each two-thirds full. Transfer jars to a deep baking dish; add enough boiling water to dish to reach halfway up the sides of the jars. Cover dish with foil; cut 8 slits into top to vent. Bake until set in the center, about 25 minutes. Let cool. Refrigerate overnight to set.

Meanwhile, make the graham topping: Stir together graham-cracker crumbs and butter. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Top each cheesecake with 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons preserves. Divide graham topping among jars (about 1 heaping tablespoon each).

Makes 6.

Note: Cakes can be refrigerated up to four days. Topping can be stored at room temperature up to one week.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, January 2012

Chocolate Margarita

For the chocolate syrup:

¾ cup sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup water

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the margaritas:

½ cup chocolate syrup

¾ cup tequila

¼ cup heavy cream

cup Cointreau

½ cup chocolate liqueur

1 teaspoon freshly ground canela (Mexican cinnamon)

Shaved chocolate for the rim

2 tablespoons chocolate syrup for rim

Chocolate for garnish

Make the chocolate syrup (can be made up to a week ahead): In a saucepan combine sugar, cocoa, salt and water over medium high heat. Whisk to combine and remove any lumps.

Bring to a boil. Alll. Allow to boil to 4-5 minutes until syrup has thickened.

Add vanilla, whisk and remove from heat. Cool and store in fridge until ready to use.

Syrup can be stored in fridge for up to one month.

Make the margaritas: Dip or brush margarita glass with chocolate syrup and dip into shaved chocolate.

Place in freezer. In a pitcher combine chocolate syrup, tequila, heavy cream, cointreau, chocolate liqueur and canela. Whisk to combine, taste and adjust if needed. Chill and serve cold.

Makes 4.

Source: Sweet Life Bake

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