The total eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21 will offer one of nature’s more awe-inspiring sights. Even though Charlotte is right on the edge of the total eclipse, we’ll still get enough of the experience from the start at 1:12 p.m. to the peak at 2:41 that it will be worth a party while you wait, with themed food, beverages and music. This eclipse is of a galactic magnitude, with 12.2 million people residing in the path of totality. But you should probably trim the guest list just a bit.
Here’s a menu that should cover everything on eclipse day:
Snacks: Solar Galaxy Pop and Nuts, Sunburst Cheese Display (let your inner cheesemonger and imagination be the guide to this creation), Cosmic Chips With Gorgonzola Bechamel
Sustenance: Baked Mac and Cheese Sunbursts, Skewered Stars and Moons
Sweets: S’more Milkyway Bars, Half Moon Pies (Store-bought Moon Pies become a heavenly hit when piped with a quarter moon of yellow icing and topped with a sugar star. Provide guests with the decorating ingredients from the baking aisle of your grocer.)
Spirits: Blue Moon beer (with a sun slice of lemon), Sol beer, Moonshine shots.
Solar Galaxy Pop and Nuts
Makes 11 cups
10 cups white popped popcorn
1 cup toasted nuts of choice
Star shaped sprinkles
Three 12 ounce packages candy melting discs, in black, blue and lavender
Spread popped corn on rimmed baking sheets. Sprinkle nuts and star shapes over popcorn. Melt discs according to package directions and drizzle over popcorn mixture.
Allow to harden for 1 minute. Break into pieces and serve.
Cosmic Chips With Gorgonzola Bechamel
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 small red onion, diced fine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, divided use
1 bunch cilantro, minced
1 pound homemade or store-made potato chips
In a small saucepan over low heat, bring milk to a simmer. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add diced onion to medium saucepan and cook until browned, stirring constantly. Sprinkle flour over onions and continue to stir for 1 minute. Add heated milk and continue whisking until thickened. Season with salt and cayenne. Continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese. Allow to cool for an additional 5 minutes and stir in cilantro. Pour over chips and top with remaining 1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese.
Baked Mac and Cheese Sunbursts
Makes 36 bites
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces cream cheese
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound elbow pasta, cooked al dente, drained and rinsed
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Diced peppers for garnish, as desired
In a large bowl, add heavy cream, cream cheese, eggs, mustard, paprika and garlic. Beat on low speed until combined. Fold in pasta and cheeses. Chill for at least 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare mini muffin pans by spraying with nonstick cooking spray.
With small disher or spoon, mound pasta mixture into prepared muffin pan. Combine breadcrumbs and butter and sprinkle tops of the pasta mounds. Bake until the bites are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, garnish with peppers, if desired, and serve.
Skewered Stars and Moon
Makes 52 bites
1 17.3-ounce box puff pastry sheets
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 packages grape tomatoes
1 26-ounce package frozen Italian style meatballs (1/2 ounce size)
Thaw puff pastry according to directions.
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut puff pastry with small star-shaped cutter and place stars on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until the stars are puffed and golden.
In a large pan over medium heat, add meatballs and stir until heated through. Allow to cool slightly before skewering.
Assemble by skewering a star puff pastry, a grape tomato and a meatball wrapped in a basil leaf.
If you run out of stars, skewer additional tomatoes with meatballs wrapped in basil leaves. (These are moons, of course.)
S’more Milkyway Bars
Makes 16 wedges
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped Milky Way bars
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
Additional Milky Way bars for display
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8-inch round springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar. Add vanilla and eggs and blend on medium speed until combined. With the mixer running on low, carefully add flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt and mix until dough forms.
Pat the dough into the prepared pan, evenly covering the bottom of the pan. Cover the dough with chocolate chips, chopped Milky Way bars and marshmallows.
Bake until the marshmallows are browned, 25 to 28 minutes. Cool and cut into wedges, arranging around a cluster of Milky Way bars.