“Hope Chest” Root Vegetable Baskets — Celebrating 20 Successful Years!!

The Hope Chest

The Hope Chest, LaGrange, IL, USA

A group of busy women were looking for efficient ways to raise money for our favorite charity:  the Constance Morris House, a Chicago area shelter for victims of domestic violence.  We had tired of exhausting raffles and holiday events.  But what else could we do??   “Perhaps a second-hand clothing shop?,”  someone suggested — “something sustainable rather than multiple whirlwind events?”  We thought it was a fabulous idea! Continue reading

Do-Ahead Party for a Crowd – Easy Appetizer Menu (Part 3 of 3)

Asian Rolls

After much delay, I am finally getting around to posting the third (and final) part of my blog series:  Do-Ahead Party for a Crowd – Easy Appetizer Menu.  I had been waiting for an occasion to make the final recipe, and I could not have found a happier one – our youngest son’s wedding.

A WEDDING AND A WOMBAT  

Do-Ahead Party for a Crowd – Easy Appetizer Menu (Part 2 of 3)

Lime-Cumin Chicken Salad in Square Won Tons

There are certain flavor combinations that I find magical.

Sometimes these are flavors that take each other up a notch when combined in sequence – like Roquefort with a good Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both the cheese and the wine are excellent alone; yet, when you pair them in the right proportions by eating them sequentially, each one enhances the other. Continue reading

Do-Ahead Party for a Crowd – Easy Appetizer Menu (Part 1 of 3)

“Cabbage Bowl” and Vegetables Ready for Dressing and Service

When our son Alex, who lives in New York City, asked for help with his upcoming “house-warming” party, I was delighted.

ME:  Would you like me to fly out and help?  The party sounds like fun!

ALEX:  Well, I hate to trouble you.  If you could just send me some ideas, that would be nice.  I was especially interested in the recipe for those Asian rolls.  

ME:  Oh, I’m shocked.  You don’t want your parents to attend your first big party?? 🙂

Needless to say, the end result was not a trip to New York – Continue reading

Italy in Covent Garden – Rigoletto, Jamie’s Italian and Risotto Croquettes

Billboard Outside the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden)

Jamie Oliver may be English born and raised, but he knows Italian. Jamie’s Italian Covent Garden, one of his three London restaurants and one of his many Italian establishments, is a hop-skip away from London’s Royal Opera House (AKA Covent Garden). Continue reading

An Italian Villa and Tuscan-style Cavatappi with Spring Vegetables

Villa Entrance

Tuscany, as most everyone knows, is a magical and unspoiled place.  Although many areas can be crowded with tourists, with just a bit of effort, one can still find beautiful  slices of traditional Tuscan life.  When asked by friends to join them in a stay at one such unspoiled gem, we agreed without hesitation.   They had found a villa to rent at a family-run winery in the Chianti Classico region of the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero) between Sienna and Florence. The villa’s resident caretaker, Marianne, would provide home-cooked traditional Italian meals for us on selected evenings.  How could we possibly resist? Continue reading

Do-Ahead Dinner for Eight — and a Tart Celebrating the Glorious Parsnip

Dinner for Eight

When I host a sit-down dinner, most of my friends expect:  1) to be recruited to the kitchen to help with last-minute preparations or 2) to watch me tossing things to and fro in the kitchen while they eat and drink.  I think it is part of the joy of cooking — to make it a relaxing group experience. Continue reading

дранікі (Draniki), Belarus and My Family

Humble Potatoes - Waiting to become дранікі (Draniki)

Not long after the turn of the 20th century, my Grandfather left Belarus as a young man to come to the United States.  He didn’t like what the Bolsheviks were doing in Belarus and saw escape across the Atlantic.  Unfortunately for him, it meant an arduous journey, a struggle to survive as a new immigrant and not seeing his Belarus family again until he was in his 70s – more than 50 years later.   Fortunately for me, it meant growing up with my kind-hearted grandfather and living under the influence of my Belarusian ancestry, including the glorious  дранікі  (dra-ni-ki) — the Belarus version of the potato pancake. Continue reading

Easy Mini-Tart Appetizers – Chard, Cheese and Smoked Bacon

These appetizer tarts meet my criteria for an ideal dinner-party appetizer:

  • a bite of complex but strong flavors that will stand up to cocktails
  • easy to make
  • colorful
  • edible without plates and utensils;  just pop in your mouth
  • can be made ahead and reheated before serving (can also be served at room temperature)
  • are easy to transport if making for a friend

So, last night, when invited to a friend’s house for dinner, I chose this tart recipe. Continue reading

Moroccan Kefta in Tomato Sauce

Moroccan Kefta in Tomato Sauce

I was a precocious 13-year old, and looked the part. So, I was able to lie about my age, and get a job. The work wasn’t exciting, but It allowed me to save a lot of money (at least it seemed like a lot at the time). These savings became my ticket to see the world when I turned 18. Continue reading