I live and work in Los Angeles. That means that a lot of my cooking is done for the primary L.A industry: Film. I cook on set most of the time and feed hungry casts and crews.
Recently, I was asked to provide refreshments and snacks for the premiere of an independent movie (aptly screened at Downtown Independent, which was a lovely venue. If you have a chance, I highly recommend catching a movie there sometime) called Office Ninja written and directed by Bin Lee.
Bin contacted me to me to make some Ninja themed snacks on the cheap so people attending the premiere wouldn’t go hungry until the after party.
My mission, if I chose to accept it, was to keep 200 Hollywood types, on a budget of only 200 dollars, satisfied from 7 until 9 until they could head down the street for the open bar and pizza party . That’s not a Five Dollar Feast, that’s a 1 dollar feast!
While I did this for a Premiere party, I wanted to write a blog about it, because Ninjas will always be popular with kids and adults, and if you ever wanted to throw a Ninja themed party, these snacks would be a lot of fun to serve. Of course, you can just follow the recipes for delicious sandwiches and cupcakes. You need not Ninja-fy them.
I’m not going to lie, it was a challenge, but it went off very well, and the whole event was quite a success (although, the credit for that goes to Bin’s wonderful film…alright, I’m sure the open bar at the after party didn’t hurt, either.) Most of the photos on this page were taken at the event and are courtesy of Brenda White.
While coming up with ideas, I did find a restaurant in New York that has a Ninja Theme, and while I enjoyed learning about a restaurant where the waiters might serve you or assassinate you, the food on their menu seemed a little out of my price range. (I couldn’t afford to buy one grapefruit per person, let alone fill them with dry ice and their own mini swords.)
So, I went a different route. I found these wonderful Ninjamen Cookie cutters on Amazon for $7.99 and ordered them. (Well, they were $7.99, when I bought them.) I had used the trick of cutting sandwiches with cookie cutters for children’s birthday parties before (a little sliced banana and Nutella cut into animal shapes makes a great healthy birthday treat the kids love.) So I used the trick again and made my favorite high tea sandwiches, Cucumber and Dill Cream Cheese, ninja style.
I also wanted a dessert for those with more of a sweet tooth. I like the idea of cupcakes, but transporting 200 cupcakes in my car (I really need a truck) did not seem like a good plan. But then I remembered my mini cupcake pan (I bought it more for making small cornbread cakes.) I’m not really a pastry chef, but I figured even I could create little Ninja faces on them. (Trust me, if I could do this, so can you.)
An important note for delicious, easy and cheap cupcakes: you don’t need to make them from scratch. Just doctor a boxed cake mix. By “doctor” I mean replace the water with buttermilk and add some vanilla. You get a cupcake that tastes home made without the time and expense of starting from nothing.
I also cut some of a Trader Joe’s Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks into Ninja Stars and served them with wasabi crisp peas. Of course, I made plenty of coffee and water as well.
I almost bit off more than I could chew, cooking for 200 people without an assistant (even just snacks and drinks) and I never would have succeeded without enlisting my brother’s help. (Yeah, that’s right. My parents had three boys and we all cook. That’s how real men roll.)
Still, it was worth it to see our logo printed on the red carpet’s Step & Repeat. (That’s the background with all the logos on it you always see celebrities standing on front of.) That’s Bin Lee in the photo doing his best imitation of my sandwich poses.
Cucumber and Dill Cream Cheese Sandwiches
1 stick of cream cheese, softened (alternatively, you can use a package of whipped cream cheese)
approximately ½ cup of plain yogurt or sour cream
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped (or on Tablespoon dried)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 slices of bread
salt and pepper to taste
- Mix the dill, cream cheese, yogurt (or sour cream,) lemon juice, salt and pepper together until well blended. Taste and adjust flavors appropriately. (The yogurt or sour cream should only help to thin out the cream cheese, the mixture should still have a cream cheese flavor.)
- Peel the cucumber and then slice very thinly.
- Layer one side of sandwich with cucumbers and spread the other with the cream cheese mixture.
Ninja Style: Simply cut the sandwich with a Ninja Cookie cutter. Press down firmly and remove the edges.
Doctored Yellow Mini Cupcakes
1 box yellow cake mix (I found Pillsbury mix for $1.07 at Target)
Buttermilk in the amount of water called for on the package
Eggs as directed by the package (you can also add an extra egg for even moister cupcakes)
Oil as directed by the package
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Follow the directions on the back of the cake mix box for cupcakes. Replace the water with buttermilk and add the vanilla extract. For mini cupcakes, subtract five to seven minutes from the normal cupcake baking time listed.
Ninja Style: Decorate with Chocolate Frosting below. Add all the colors of food coloring to get the frosting as black as possible to simulate the ninja mask and eyes.
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered (or confectioner’s) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon Evaporated or Condensed milk (or whole milk)
a pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
- With an electric mixer or hand blender, beat the butter on high until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt (if using) and blend it in.
- Slowly add the sugar a little bit at a time on low speed until all of the sugar has blended in. Increase the speed to high until you have a frosting like texture. Add the milk as you go to help blend the sugar.
- Add the cocoa powder on low speed again. Taste as you go. Stop adding cocoa powder when the frosting is chocalatey enough for you.