Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisps and Beautiful Cheeses with Friends!

313cheese and crackers

What is better than cheese and crackers with friends on a sunny afternoon?

307afternoon snacks

Fruits and olives, beautiful cheeses and fresh whole grain bread and crackers take this afternoon snack to a whole new level!

308afternoon snacks

Fresh ripe papaya taste like honey and sunshine!

303cheese and crackers

These crackers are melt in your mouth fantastic. So much flavor in wholesome ingredients makes this guilt-free snacking at it’s best.

296afternoon snack

Lesley Stowe, Raincoast Crisps are my new favorite cracker!

These are unique, delicisious and worth the trouble to find!

302cheese and crackers

These photos with the sun streaming in bring back memories of great conversation and joy with friends.

301cheese and crackers

Fine dining does not have to be complicated.

Some of my finest culinary moments have been born of the simplest ingredients!

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Don’t forget to put the love into it to get the most of your food and friends!

Anna’s Breakfast Potato, Veggie and Egg Scramble with Cheese!

068 anna's potato and veggie scramble

Not only is my BFF Anna is a great cook but she is the hostess with the mostest!

We invade her lovely home for long weekends and she manages to entertain us like royalty!

One of her specialties is this casserole, of sorts, or breakfast scramble.

067 anna's potato and veggie scramble

She par cooks potatoes in the microwave

Chops and sautes any vegetables on hand, usually: red peppers, asparagus, leeks, and mushrooms and sets those aside

Then dice the potatoes and combine in a large skillet the cooked veggies, potatoes, some cheese then crack a few eggs on top

Turn the heat down to low and cover to allow the eggs to cook.

You’re finished!

You can also do this in the oven in a lovely casserole dish for a more elegant presentation.

Or cook the eggs seperatly and serve on top.

Either way it’s delicious!

066 anna's potato and veggie scramble

Fruity Cocktails, Amazing Pizza, 200 Fabulous Gay Men and Me!

040G2H2 Luxe

A dream come true!

Me in a sea of men surrounded by the most glorious pizzas, ever and tropical fruity cocktails served up by a cute bartender with attitude!

Luxe was host to the G2H2 Happy Hour event in Cleveland , Oh.

The food was amazing! I know it’s a social thing but given the “circumstances” I had plenty of time to focus on the food and drinks!

034mushroom spinach goat cheese balsamic  pizza

This portobello mushroom, spinach, goat cheese and balsamic reduction pizza was my favorite.

Chef Marlin Kaplan knows that a light touch of fresh potent ingredients is the way to go!

032mushroom spinach goat cheese balsamic pizza

I couldn’t get enough of this pizza and made myself a fixture at the buffet!

011spinach mushroom balsamic goat cheese pizza

This is definitley something that I want to try at home.

013chris at Luxe

Chris was adorable and he knows the food.

019tomato basil pizza at Luxe

This tomato basil was fantastic; fresh and delish!

018pizza at Luxe

The setting was elegant but casual.

017pizza at Luxe

Sweetheart! Jen kept the fresh hot pies coming my way

021tomato and herb pizza at Luxe

Tomato and herb.

030Goat cheese chicken rosemary pizza at Luxe

Chicken, rosemary and goat cheese was a big hit.

044bartender Luxe

What would the evening be without a spunky bartender serving up the one-liners with the best mojitos in town?!

Lee was a delight!

Roasted Eggplant and Lentil Spread with Roasted Garlic and Roasted Red Pepper!

091eggplant lentil spread

The secret to the delightful flavor of this dish is the roasting!

Roasted garlic, eggplant, rep pepper and sauteed leeks create a richness that makes this similar to a pate in texture and flavor.

002eggplant lentil spread

This recipe is also full of nutrition. Lentils are hardy and full of protein and fiber.

This is also light and when spread on whole wheat or flax crackers leaves you satisfied yet not full.

003eggplant lentil spread

It is also easy to make and can be whippped up on short notice.

Ingredients

1 medium eggplant
1 cup lentils
1 glove garlic
1 medium leek
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch cilantro
1 lime
1 roasted red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

In a 350 degree oven wrap in aluminum foil the eggplant cut in half with a drizzle of olive oil on the flesh.

In a clay roaster or aluminum foil wrap the garlic and place in oven to roast.

Both should take no more than 30-45 minutes.

In a pan add a drizzle of olive oil to sliced leeks and sautee until translucent.

Cook 1 cup of lentils in 2 cups of water until tender.

When everything is done and cooled for handling, place in the food processor.

Add the cilantro and puree.

Add enough olive oil to create the texture you desire.

For a creamier dip; just add more oil.

010eggplant lentil spread roasted red peppers

I then chopped the roasted red pepper, very fine, and folded it into the finished mixture.

I wanted little “pops” of sweet juicy flavor and the texture contrast.

I, also squeezed some lime into the finished dish and then gave it a good mixing.

Serve with your favorite crackers or breads or even crudites.

014eggplant lentil roasted red pepper

White Wine, White Bean Dip, an Artist, a Ballerina and Freddy!

010freddy

The original Freddy was happy to join the ladies for cocktails and conversation in Shelly’s beach cottage.

023freddy

Freddy as seen by artist Shelly Valisiades; respledent in a rainbow of color.

020art shelly's

Bright and cheerful best describes Shelly’s nest.

021art at shelly's

006ari, belle, linda and shelly

Me, the writer, my two daughters and the Ballerina!

012colors at shelly's

Every corner is filled with color and energy.

003cocktails at shelly's

Knowing that Shelly’s forte is painting I brought the roasted garlic and white bean dip with French bread toasts.

2 cans of white beans
1 bulb roasted garlic
1/2 onion sauteed in olive oil
olive oil; about 1/4-1/2 cup

Place everything in the food processor until velvety and creamy.

Easy-peasy instant friends!

009art at shelly's

Shelly puts her heart and soul in everything she does.

019shelly's art

Every nook is filled with love.

014shelly's

028art at shelly's

Jell-O Shots!

011Jello shots PD

We took Jell-O Shots to a whole new level!

010Jello shots PD

We’re talking Coconut rum with pineapple, Midori with melon, mango vodka with tropical fruit….,

007jello shots PD

You just can’t say no to a Jell-O shot. Even when you do say, “no” you really mean yes!

006Jello shots PD

There is almost no better way to get a party started!

Gaea Organic Olive Oils and Olives; Nectar of the Gods!

024 gaea olives

This healthy snack is not just nutritious but makes for sexy, tasty cocktails as well!

Gaea award winning Olive oil is “Purely Greece and Purely Gaea”. Try all the varieties of high quality certified Carbon Neurtral Extra Virgin Olive Oils.

The truth is in the taste!

Gaea Organic Olive Oil and Olives are a treat for the palate and way fun at parties! The garlic stuffed green olives make the best dirty martini’s.

2 oz. Vodka or Gin
3/4 oz. Dirty Martini Olive Juice
1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth

We were sopping up the oil with focaccia bread and making fast work of the Kalamata olives. (my personal favorite).

Olives are my go to snack for a salty low-cal treat.

The Gaea Organic Olive Oil tastes great on its own with bread and makes a great salad dressing with your favorite balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and herbs.

Not all olive oils are created equal. Make sure that yours is 100% olive oil and organic.

Clambakes make for Fast Friends!

clambake pantry diaries

I had an unexpectedly great time last night. Not the least of which is due to the fact that I was with my bff M. He brought me along to a clambake given for employees of the hospital where he works.

I had forgotten how much I love Clambakes. Not just the food but the idea of a clambake.

The very nature of the meal creates a convivial experience due to the complete informality of the meal; cracking lobsters with your hands, crunching on corn-on-the-cob, butter soaked fingers prying open clams; those lobster bibs! I even managed to fling a lobster claw across the table, Julia Roberts’s style in Pretty Woman.

Although I was a little embarrassed the “flinging” only served to create laughter and friendly open conversation among virtual strangers. I was seated next to the most charming couple. I spent the evening chatting with a physician from Peru who enjoyed sharing with me his favorite books. He and his lovely wife were looking forward to a trip to Hungary next month.

Drinking Chardonnay from a box never tasted so good. We had Little Neck Clams, lobster, corn on the cob, red skin potatoes, sweet potatoes, filet mignon, and fried chicken. By the end of the evening we were laughing like old friends sharing dieting stories and our favorite brownie recipes.

Not just a dinner party a clambake is a way to enjoy the company of old friends and an easy way to make new ones!

Below I’ve included an easy clambake menu but you can always vary it to include your favorites or what is readily available. The internet has a wealth of information to help you plan the clambake that is perfect for you. The most important ingredient is the spirit of fun and friendship and to relax. It’s about casual fun, friends, beers and wine from a box!

INGREDIENTS
SERVES ABOUT 12

1. 3 pounds new potatoes
2. Twelve 1-pound lobsters
3. 12 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
4. 2 pounds dried chorizo sausage
5. 1 dozen ears of unhusked corn
6. 6 sticks (1 1/2 pounds) unsalted butter, melted

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large, deep pot, cover the potatoes with cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drain well.

2. On a flat beach, dig a 6-by-4-foot pit 2 feet deep. Line the pit with 90 rocks. Dig a 2-foot-wide pit nearby, also 2 feet deep.

3. Using 8 logs, build a bonfire in the large pit. Over the next hour and 45 minutes, add 6 logs to the fire every 15 minutes, building the fire outwards so that it covers the base of the pit. After the first 45 minutes, as the logs turn to coals, add 20 rocks to the fire. When the logs have completely turned to coals, after about 2 hours, shovel the 20 rocks to the sides. Leaving a 1-inch-thick layer of coals atop and between the rocks, shovel the rest of the coals into the smaller pit and extinguish with water.

4. Meanwhile, using a screwdriver, perforate the baking pans, punching holes in the bottoms about every inch.

5. Arrange the lobsters and potatoes together in 6 of the pans. Arrange the clams, chorizo and corn in the 6 remaining pans.

6. Wearing mitts, line the pit with a 1/2-inch-thick layer of rockweed. Arrange the pans on the rockweed in a single layer. Top the pans with a 1-inch-thick layer of rockweed. Fold the tarps in half lengthwise to measure 5 by 8 feet. Stack them on top of the rockweed. Weight down the edges of the top-most tarp with the remaining 10 rocks to trap the steam. Bake for about 1 hour, checking after 45 minutes. The lobsters and potatoes should be done; the clams, corn and chorizo will need another 15 minutes. When cooked, the lobsters will be bright red, the clams open, and the corn and potatoes fork-tender. Serve with melted butter.

Truly Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookies tastespotting

There is almost no skill more valuable than the ability to make an amazing chocolate chip cookie. I almost wouldn’t believe it myself but these cookies might have magic powers; my daughters will stop fighting and my ex-husband becomes more pleasant just by the very smell of them baking in the oven.

Everyone has asked me for this recipe and I have been reluctant to divulge it, however, it is time to move on. Cooler weather is the ideal time to perfect this recipe; by the time the holidays roll around you will have a great hostess gift for friends and family.

Some variations I like include adding white chocolate chips and Macadamia nuts. But be careful. Some may consider this sacrilege!

Ingredients
1 cup butter or ( two sticks)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
4 cups flour ( 3 cups unbleached white flour plus 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 24 oz. bag chocolate chips

Method
*makes a ton, about 6 dozen- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Mix butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs in large bowl.
- Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Drop dough by rounded measuring tablespoons, about 2-inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. I always use parchment paper.
- Bake 9-12 minutes or until light brown.
- Cool slightly.
- Remove from cookie sheet, cool on wire rack.

Focaccia Bread Magic!

pantry diaries focaccia bread edit
I tore this page out of a House Beautiful magazine about a year and a half ago and it has been like a sacred document in my house ever since.
I now know the recipe by heart but always pull it out to keep my eye on this familiar page and to refer to Devon S. Frederick’s notes which are helpful.
I did not make mine with the onion tomato topping suggested but I made two variations with tomato, basil and parmesan, and tomato and parmesan. Both with coarse sea salt and lots of really good olive oil.
You can vary the toppings just get the bread recipe down to a science. Once you do, well , you will always be able to pull fresh bread out of the oven for snacks, entertaining, or just plain eating! This is so good that you could just top it with olive oil and dried herbs from your pantry. I think rosemary, garlic and coarse sea salt is perfect. (done it, love it!)
HINT I line my baking pan with parchment paper as I have had “sticking” issues. On the stone it is not as big a problem but it has happened here as well.
There is nothing as wonderful as bread fresh from the oven.

Recipe courtesy of Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
ONION-TOMATO FOCACCIAFocaccia d’Altamura
MAKES A LARGE ROUND FOCACCIA, SERVING 10 OR MORE
2 packets active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
5 1/2cups all-purpose flour, plus more for handling the dough
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water, or as needed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil for the bread bowl
FOR THE TOPPING
1 large onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced (about 2 cups slices)
2 cups ripe cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
1/2cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1. To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in G cup warm water and let it sit for several minutes, until it begins to bubble. Put the flour and salt in the food-processor bowl.
2. Stir together the active yeast and 2 cups lukewarm water in a spouted measuring cup. With the processor running continuously, blend the flour and salt briefly, then pour in all the liquid through the feed tube and process for about 30 seconds. A soft, moist dough should gather on the blade, with some sticking to the sides of the bowl. If it’s very sticky and hasn’t come off the sides at all, incorporate more flour, a tablespoon or two at a time, to stiffen the dough and bring it together. If the dough is dry, process in more water in small amounts.
3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, scraping the bowl and blade clean. Knead by hand for a minute, using as little flour as possible, until the dough forms a smooth round, still soft and a bit sticky. Coat a big bowl with the tablespoon of olive oil, drop in the dough, and turn it to oil it all over. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
4. While the dough is rising, toss together the sliced onion, cherry tomato halves, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, and H teaspoon salt in a small bowl, and let them marinate.
5. Coat the baking dish or pan, bottom and sides, with 2 tablespoons or more olive oil. Deflate the risen dough and lay it in the pan. Gently press and stretch it into an evenly flat round that fills the pan. If the dough is resistant, let it relax for a few minutes before stretching it again.
6. Lift the marinated onion and tomatoes out of the bowl with a slotted spoon, draining off the juices. Scatter the vegetables all over the focaccia, and lightly press in with your fingertips, creating dimples in the soft dough. Finally, drizzle the marinating oil over the top.
7. Let the focaccia rise, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Set a baking stone, if you have one, on a center oven rack and heat to 425°. Just before baking, gently dimple the dough again with your fingertips, and sprinkle another H teaspoon coarse salt all over.
8. Bake the focaccia for about 20 minutes, rotate the pan back to front for even cooking, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or even longer, until the bread is golden brown and the onions and tomatoes are nicely caramelized.
9. Remove the pan, drizzle another tablespoon or two of olive oil over the focaccia, and crumble the dried oregano, scattering it on top. Let the focaccia cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

I am including Devon’s notes as they very helpful to me and may well be to you, too.

DEVON MAKES THE FOCACCIA
A home run here. This is a great, easy to make, not messy- to-clean-up-after recipe for bread dough. You’ll love being able to use it when good bread isn’t available—a Wonder bread–infused vacation on the coast of Maine comes to mind. Simply whip up this dough, top it with whatever you’re in the mood for, and serve it warm from the oven.
You make the dough in a food processor. The flour filled mine to the very top, and I was dubious about whether there was enough room for the two cups of water. But within seconds the whole thing had formed a very malleable dough and was ready for quick kneading.
The tomato and onion topping was very tasty, but so was a topping I made with sautéed onions and dried thyme. For that matter, when you have focaccia this good, a topping of nothing more than coarse salt and a drizzle of olive oil is wonderful.
I had a little trouble timing this to come out of the oven for dinner. The first time I made it, we all had a snack at 10 P.M. I would advise leaving 2H hours from start to finish.

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