All Star Tips for your Easter hockey playoff meal


(Editor’s note: This is the first offering from’s new food and wine columnist Jude Caserta. Although we’ll have a full introduction to all our new contributors this week, this story couldn’t wait, since tomorrow’s Game 6 looms.)
If you don’t have tickets to the big Buffalo Sabres playoff game on Easter Sunday and have a house full of fans like I do your Easter dinner plans have taken a turn. I cannot think of a worse time than 3 p.m. to schedule a game, but thanks to NBC wanting to feature our game in prime daytime we have some decisions to make.

Rather than waiting for the game to end to begin your dinner, why not try this game plan:

Adapt your menu

• Think about food that can be eaten without a knife. Either soft, that can be cut with a fork (scalloped potatoes), cut in bite sized pieces or eaten with your fingers (maybe meat on a skewer).

• Think “room temperature” and cold.

• Forget the extra stuff – if you are huddled over the stove making gravy you are not watching the game,

• Appetizers – Try to have one hot and two cold. All Star Tip: the grocery store olive bar has great appetizers. I don’t even hide the containers anymore.

• Salad/Soup/Bread – If you are serving soup, make it early in the day and keep warm until needed. All Star Tip: Salad can be prepared early in the day and stored in separate containers/bags until serving. Toss at the last minute with dressing.

• Main course and sides – Most meat/poultry does not need to be served hot. You can roast/grill before game-time and keep covered tightly with foil. All Star Tip: Do this today, slice and refrigerate. Take it out and set it on counter about an hour before serving – around game time.

• Dessert/champagne – All Star Tip: Arrange for your family/guests to bring a dessert. After all, who says you have to do all of the work?

• Prep early

Write out your menu

• Menu item — left column; all ingredients you do not have, middle column; serving pieces, right column.

• Once your menu is complete, re-write all of your middle column – that’s your shopping list. All Star Tip: don’t forget to buy yourself some flowers

• The grocery store is crazy today but you have to go in.

• Once home from the store, prep what you can and refrigerate.

Set the table

• Put a tablecloth on your table and visualize where the food will go. From your menu, find all of the items in the right column and put on the table to help you visualize balance.

• You can “set” individual places by stacking dishes and utensils per person and creating a fun place card. Maybe use a permanent marker and write their name on a plastic Easter egg filled with candy. Don’t forget napkins. You may want to have a few per place or multi-colored cloth ones for color and variety.

• Or, you can stack the dishes needed for each course and include a long dish with utensils. “Block” out where the serving pieces will go and put the dishes to the left.

• After each “course, have each member of your “eating team” stop by the kitchen to drop off their dish from the last course — organized chaos!


Think a fancy multi-course meal, eaten slowly, with time between the courses (sort of like the Europeans but with a TV screen as one of the guests). Instead of the appetizers being the only food eaten in a living area, have the main course there, too.

• Appetizers – Pre-game through the first period.

• Salad/Soup/Bread – Served during the first intermission.

• Main course and sides – Served during the second intermission.

• Dessert/champagne – The victory celebration!

Lets go Buffalo!


Do you need a cocktail? OK, you’re hired!


Welcome aboard!

I have held a bunch of jobs over the years but only got one in the conventional way (want ads, resume, interview). Even that job (my 22 year job at Canisius College) has had unconventional twists. Here are the jobs I can remember:

Tying grapevines (Age 12-13ish) soon you will see the irony – my girlfriend’s father owned the farm

Receptionist, title clerk, bookkeeper – my father’s car dealership

College Bookstore accounting clerk – first job I ever got while drinking alcohol

Yachting Supply Store accounting clerk – second job I got while drinking alcohol

Music Teacher – third job I got while drinking alcohol and the position I was least qualified to hold (job saved my life, though…blog to follow sometime…)

College Administrator – this job most fully matched my skill set and my education (perhaps it is no coincidence I have held it for over 22 years!). While alcohol was not part of me getting the job it certainly has helped while holding the job! Kidding! Sort of…

Athletic Business Consultant – no alcohol…during a coffee break during a meeting

And now: (and I don’t think of this as a job since I have a 50 hour + one which keeps me pretty busy)

Food & Wine Columnist! And, guess what?

Alcohol WILL be involved! I am going to get to write about the bounty “Below the Falls” and share my experiences, recipes and years of culinary experimentation.

Stay tuned…

Life is good!


Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta

Confessions of a Culinary Con Artist


It’s true.  I’m a con artist.  I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if I could successfully con other people but the actual victim here is me.  It started long ago but took on a life of its own in this millennium.  Let me tell you, I can talk a good game.  I can say all the right things and get my dietary support staff to buy in with excitement and enthusiasm.

Here’s how the con works.  I reach the end of my rope.  I join/ subscribe/ purchase the latest greatest diet craze.  I create a plan.  I write it down and I create a fancy spreadsheet to quantify my progress and predict the date of completion and success.  I pay hundreds of dollars (the best one was hypnosis for $1,800 in four EASY payments!) then eat to my heart’s content until the first appointment/meetings begin/book arrives.

I am a model citizen at the beginning.  I can say all the right things to the Weight Watchers leader so she anticipates my weigh in every week.  Usually by week four she is already talking to me about reaching goal and becoming a leader myself.  I can film a video with the director of the hypnosis center so compelling that he cannot wait to use it in his advertisements.  I can charm a personal trainer by using buzz words like commitment, lifetime and endorphin.

But I hit my con artist brick wall this past fall.  I started working with a nutritionist in July.  I poured my heart out.  I shared my failures with her.  She took my before picture and gave me great stuff to read.  She cared about me, I mean, really cared about me.  I even admitted to her in August that I am capable of saying all the right things and am good at starting but not very good at follow through.  It was the first time I ever said that out loud and I think it is because it is the first time I began to see the con for what it was.

Con: –noun

4. a confidence game or swindle.

5. a lie, exaggeration, or glib self-serving talk

Eventually, as I missed appointments and slid back to my old ways, I began for the first time to understand my tactics and how destructive they were.  I was embarrassed to go back because I saw something in her eyes which was different than I had ever seen in anyone who was “helping” me before.  She was really, sincerely disappointed.  She really believed in me and the disappointment I saw was like a wet glove being slapped on my face.  That one single look, which she may not even know crossed her face, was the jolt I needed.  I stopped the con cold turkey in January.

Things are different now.  When the con stopped I didn’t eat like crazy until I developed a plan.  There is no fancy spreadsheet although I do keep track of what I eat every day making sure my body is fueled with protein.  I have no date of completion because that would assume I am dead.  This is not a diet.  I will never diet again (that, in and of itself, is entirely freeing!) but simply eat like a healthy person every day.

Would you like to read more about my journey?

Have a yummy week!


Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie