Can this American Bake and Serve Scones to Two British Ladies?


With my husband away this weekend, I decided to host a “girl’s only” patio party. What better way to end a beautiful Labor Day weekend than to relax by the pool with some friends, enjoying the warm weather and some good food? It’s too nice out to get bogged down with elaborate preparations, so I plan on keeping the menu simple—Marinated grilled chicken and steak, the grilled corn recipe I last posted, roasted potatoes and a tomato salad. For dessert, I will make blueberry scones.

I have a few desserts that I refer to as my easy “go to” recipes when I need something in a pinch or I don’t want to make too anything complicated. Baklava, revani or my cherry chocolate chip cookies are all easy and do not require much work or clean up. But I can bake a batch of scones in a half an hour—prep time included. The beauty of the scone is that you can use your imagination and put whatever you like in it, or whatever you happen to have on hand when you need to whip up a batch. I’ve used walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, chocolate chips, and dried cherries. The cinnamon chip is my daughter’s favorite. As long as you have butter and heavy cream you can create the scone of your dreams. I will warn you, this is not a low-fat recipe, but the best desserts usually aren’t.

Recently, I befriended Yvonne, a lovely lady from the British Isles. She complimented me by telling me my blueberry scones were the best she ever had. Imagine that! So the fact that she and her aunt will be two of my guests makes me a little less nervous to have to audacity to serve scones to these women from across the pond who grew up on scones. Hopefully, her aunt will share her opinion, but if she doesn’t think they are “the best”, I hope she will at least enjoy them.

Blueberry Scones

Preheat oven 425 degrees

2 cups flour

1/3-cup sugar

1-tablespoon baking powder

½ tsp. salt

7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1 ½ cups fresh blueberries

1 large egg

2/3 cup heavy cream

Zest from one small orange

1tsp. vanilla extract

*Hint– The secret to light, flakey scones is to not over mix the dough. The less you play with it, the better the result. Over mix the dough and you will get bricks.

In a large bowl whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Cut butter into small pieces and drop in flour mixture.

Use a pastry blender to coat the butter cutting until butter pieces are no larger than the size of peas. Stir in the blueberries. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, heavy cream, zest and vanilla. Mix the wet ingredients into the flour/butter mixture until just moistened. Gently form two balls with the dough. Place dough onto a floured surface and flatten to form a disc. Cut each disc in quarters or eighths, depending on how large you want your scones to be. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown about 14 minutes. Cool on a baking rack.

*Hint– Substitute the blueberries for any other ingredient. 10 ounces of chocolate chips, 1-½ cups chopped nuts, etc.

IMG_2163 IMG_2162

Summer Cooking is Simple with Delicious Marinades


Cooking in the summer is simple, even for those individuals who claim to be a disaster in the kitchen. Anyone can prepare the most delicious meals by using marinades. Toss your favorite vegetables in olive oil and vinegar—add a few spices and herbs, grill, and DONE! Do the same with meats. I like to marinate meat overnight, but with vegetables I toss and grill right away or the marinade will make the vegetable soggy. Use your imagination. What are your favorite spices and herbs? I love tarragon which pairs nicely with Dijon mustard and champagne vinegar. Oregano is great with olive oil, crushed garlic, lemon and red wine vinegar. Or maybe try an Asian marinade with sesame oil, fresh grated ginger and soy sauce. The possibilities are endless.

Friday I ate lunch at Westhampton’s beachfront restaurant The Saltwater Grill. I ordered their most popular side dish—grilled corn with lime and queso fresco. After eating it, I understood why on just about every table there was an order of corn. So, on this beautiful Sunday I planned to grill and eat on the patio, soaking in every minute of sunshine. Guess what I was craving? You guessed it— that corn. I came up with my own version of the rub they put on the corn before grilling, and hoped it was close to the one on the restaurant menu. To accompany the corn I made a tequila lime marinade for chicken.

Grilled Corn with Lime and Queso Fresco

6 ears of corn

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon tequila

2 tablespoons cilantro

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 lime – juice and zest

½ cup grated queso fresco

Mix together the oil, tequila, cilantro, cayenne pepper, black pepper and the lime and zest. Marinate the corn for 20 minutes. I like to rub it on so that every part of the ear of corn has the marinade. Grill on each sides until the kernels turn brownish. (About 4-5 minutes on each side) Remove from grill and sprinkle generous amounts of the grated queso fresco on the corn.

Tequila Lime Marinade for Chicken

1 ½ pounds boneless chicken, sliced thin

¼ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup tequila

1 tablespoon cilantro

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

2 limes – juice and zest

1 clove garlic, crushed

Whisk together in a bowl, oil, tequila, cilantro, black pepper, sweet chili sauce, garlic, limes and zest. Add chicken and marinate overnight. Grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side if sliced thin.

*Try this marinade with shrimp or pork also.

Throwback Thursday – Garlic and Herb Stuffed Chicken


Over the years it’s been a challenge to cook for four busy people with conflicting schedules. For this reason, I made an effort to plan meals that could be made ahead and heated as needed. I also prepped lettuce and other ingredients needed to make salads. This “on the go” dining is fine during the week when there is no other option. However, on the weekend, the best way to decompress and catch up is to sit down as a family for a “real” meal.

Dining should be an experience, not the simple act of shoveling food down your throat. How many times have you heard someone say, “Wow, that’s so good, I’m going for seconds,” yet they still have a full plate. They aren’t tasting or savoring their food, and we wonder why so many Americans are overweight. In the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, the author suggests ways to fully enjoy your meal so you can eat what you want and not worry about the calories. The Europeans eat smaller portions of food and much slower than we do. They also do not understand the American need to supersize everything.

In the European tradition—set a nice table, cook a delicious meal and savor each bite of food while you catch up on the events of the week with your loved ones. With everyone going in different directions, for me, it’s a way to make sure my family gets a well-balanced meal and at the same time we are restoring the art of conversation, a lost concept in this texting generation.

The next challenge is what to make for a picky family. I have Eleni, the lactose intolerant cheese hater (with a few exceptions), who also hates mushrooms and tomatoes. Then there is Alexa, who in the last few years has decided she can’t digest red meat and tries to avoid all meat, but will eat chicken sometimes. Other than that, she likes everything, especially vegetables. Then there’s Ray. After thirty years I’m still trying to figure him out. He will eat most things, sometimes…if he’s in the mood…but I don’t know when that is. Then he might eat something for months, and then decide he doesn’t like it anymore, but doesn’t mention it until I make it again. He usually loves what I make, but every once in a while he says, “I’m not in the mood for that. Mind if I have a sandwich and a pickle instead?” So, I try to come up with things that will please everyone.

I like chicken Cordon Bleu. It’s an old classic, but it’s fun to update it and stuff the chicken with something else. I would need to anyway. Eleni hates Swiss cheese and Ray hates Proscuitto. Instead I used a soft garlic and herb cheese, sundried tomatoes and broccoli. I made a white wine reduction sauce and served roasted baby potatoes and steamed veggies. This was a hit with everyone! It is an impressive enough dish for company and quite simple to prepare.

Garlic and Herb Stuffed Chicken

Pre heat oven 325 degre

4 thin sliced chicken cutlets

2 eggs

1-tablespoon milk

½ cup flour

2 cups panko bread crumbs*

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons garlic and herb spreadable cheese, such as Allouette

8 rehydrated sundried tomatoes

4 blanched florets of broccoli

* You may purchase pre-seasoned panko breadcrumbs or you can season them yourself. Mix some parsley, garlic powder, pepper and a dash of salt to season the panko.

Whisk the eggs and milk together and set aside. Place the flour in one dipping dish and the panko in another.

With each of the cutlets you will spread 1 tablespoon of the herb cheese in the center of the cutlet. Lay two sundried tomatoes and one broccoli floret on top of the cheese and roll the cutlet as tight as you can. Dip the rolled chicken into the egg, making sure to moisten the open ends well. Dip into the flour, and then dip into the egg once again. Lastly, roll into the panko, making sure that the chicken if fully covered. Place into a hot skillet with the vegetable oil and butter. Make sure you place the chicken roll seam side down. This will seal it and ensure that the roll does not open. Brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a baking dish and place in oven for 20 minutes to cook through. This can be served with any number of sauces, but I like a white wine reduction sauce. This takes a while so you will have to plan ahead. You need one and one half hours to make the reduction. I have made red wine reductions that have taken a lot longer so this is not bad. You want to start the sauce first. Then you can put your potatoes in the oven. Roasted potatoes at 450 degrees will take forty-five minutes. Toss the potatoes with a little olive oil, fresh garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Sometimes I mix some grated cheese in for extra flavor. If you are using the tiny baby potatoes it will only take thirty-five minutes. The steamed veggies will take less that ten minutes if you have a pot of boiling water ready. Just place the vegetable on the steamer right before you are ready to plate everything else. You don’t want mushy veggies, so don’t over steam them. You can sprinkle whatever spices and herbs you prefer or steam some garlic in with them and squeeze some lemon on them. The key to getting everything on the table at once is to know how long each component of the meal takes.

White Wine Reduction Sauce

1 bottle of white wine

1 apple, peeled and cut

1 shallot, quartered

1 clove garlic

1 carrot, quartered

2 cups chicken broth

1-tablespoon cornstarch

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring to a boil the wine, apple, shallot, garlic, and carrot. Lower to a simmer for one hour. Strain, add the chicken broth and simmer for thirty minutes. Make a slurry of cornstarch and water and add to sauce, whisking until it thickens slightly. Season to taste.

Originally posted on 2/27/12 on



The Benefits of Farmer’s Markets & My Recipe For Portabella Mushroom Ravioli in a Marsala Sauce


I have childhood memories of going to the Farmer’s Market in Bethpage near Grumman with my parents. It was a huge building with a carousel in the middle. We would stop by the many individual sections where you could purchase specialty foods. There was the pickle man and the cheese monger. In the largest area, you could see farmers delivering locally grown fresh vegetables. There was a fresh bread section, a bakery, an Italian food market and a florist. I could go on and on. Somehow, the Farmer’s Market died, and the only place to find fresh produce was at roadside farmstands. Now, as if it’s a new concept, Farmer’s markets have been popping up for the last several years—and thriving! Americans have finally realized that the way their great grandparents ate and the way many Europeans still eat is much healthier than the food we have been consuming for the last few decades. Box foods riddled with chemicals and preservatives can only lead to health issues down the road. So, what was once old and forgotten is new again. If you haven’t visited your local Farmer’s Market, I urge you to do so. What a great place for the cook and non-cook alike. For the culinary creator, you will find organic fruits and vegetables of every variety. Spices, cheese, honey, fresh pastas and even real Greek yogurt in clay pots made from an old family recipe. For the non-cook or for the busy person looking to supplement their meal, there are dozens of ready-made fresh products to take home. Breads, cakes and pies. Pasta sauces, salad dressings, salsas and empanadas. They even had fresh treats for my little dog Chestnut!

One of my favorite restaurants in Port Jefferson is The Fifth Season. Their menu changes four times a year with each season, and they use locally grown fresh in-season ingredients. I give a full review of the Fifth Season in Boating Times Magazine. A few months ago, I ordered the portabella mushroom ravioli with a Marsala wine pan sauce. Knowing I would have to wait until spring to once again order this dish at the restaurant, I decided to make my own version at home. The pasta vendor at the Farmer’s Market promised I would love his fresh portabella ravioli, so I gave it a try. It did not disappoint. The pasta to mushroom ratio was perfect. The flavor was rich but not overpowering. Below is the recipe for the sauce. It is not exactly like the one I had at the restaurant, but it was also very tasty and a perfect compliment to the delicious pillows of portabella.

Portabella Mushroom Ravioli In Marsala Pan Sauce

2 portabella caps, cut in half and sliced                  1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

1 large shallot                                                                      2 Tablespoons water

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter                                2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups Marsala wine                                             3-4 slices pancetta, microwaved crisp

2 cups chicken broth                                                 Fresh chives, snipped

1 pound fresh portabella                                            Shaved grated Parmesan

mushroom ravioli

Sauté the sliced portabella caps and shallots in 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat about seven minutes. Start a pot of water to boil for the ravioli. Don’t forget to salt the water. Add the Marsala wine to the mushroom and shallot mixture. Bring to a boil and then add the chicken broth. Simmer approx. ten minutes. Drop the pasta in the boiling water. It will not need more than 6 minutes to cook. In a small bowl make a slurry of cornstarch and water. Add it to the sauce while whisking. Simmer one to two minutes. Take off the fire and add 2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk to blend. Plate the ravioli first. Spoon sauce over ravioli and garnish with pancetta, chives and Parmesan.

*Hint – Pancetta should be as crisp as bacon. Microwaving it on a ridged bacon pan will keep the grease away.

Decorative Cookie Favors


I never thought of myself as an artistic baker. My baking experience came from my mother, watching her make Greek pastries my entire life. It took practice to shape the cookies as well as she did and to handle phyllo dough without tearing the paper-thin sheets. But the main objective was to make delicious pastries—ones that people would crave and look forward to. But several years ago when my daughter was student teaching, she wanted to give the children something for Valentine’s Day. I offered to make personalized heart cookies for her to give each child. I’d never done this before, but I wasn’t planning to do anything complicated. I baked and iced large cookies, rimmed them with flowers made of frosting and wrote their names on them. I wrapped each one in clear cellophane and tied them with curly ribbon. And…so it began. A parent contacted me to make cookie favors for her child’s first communion. Nervous about getting paid for something I wasn’t an expert at, I took a cake decorating class and learned some frosting techniques. With time and experience, I created my own style. For a few years I took orders upon request. I never solicited the business; it was always word of mouth. Now I only make the cookies for friends and family. I am not an artist and yet, I managed to make pretty cookies…so can you. If you have the time and the patience, you also can make cookie favors for any occasion. But be warned! These cannot be made in one day—you will have cookies all over your kitchen table for several days.

Step one

The obvious—The cookies have to be baked. You can use any recipe you like, but make sure it is a recipe without baking powder or baking soda. The dough needs to retain the shape from the cutter. You don’t want the dough to spread or rise. Below is the recipe I use. They yield around 30 cookies depending on the size of the cutter.

6 ounces cream cheese                                 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 pound butter, softened                               2 cups sugar

5 cups flour                                                        2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt                                                 2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix flour, salt and cinnamon in a bowl – set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese. Add the sugar gradually. On medium speed, beat in eggs and add vanilla. Slowly add the dry mixture until fully blended. Form dough into four balls, wrap in saran wrap and flatten into discs. Refrigerate for one hour. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough to approximately ¼ to 1/3 inch thickness and cut out to desired shape. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Cookies should still be white – just beginning to turn color. The edges should not be brown. Cool on a baking rack.

Step two

You will need:

2 – 3 pounds fondant

Piping gel

Powdered sugar

2 pastry brushes

The icing or fondant. Most bakers pour icing onto the surface of the cookies, let them dry and then decorate them. This is certainly a choice, but I prefer to use fondant. By rolling out fondant and using the cookie cutter, I get a clean, neat edge. Fondant can be purchased in many colors or you can color white fondant using icing color gels. Fondant has a taffy-like consistency. However, if left exposed, it will dry up quickly. I cut a chunk and place the rest in a zip-lock bag. I microwave the fondant for 7 seconds when I am ready to roll it out. By doing this, it softens it up, making it easier to roll it thin. Make sure you sprinkle powdered sugar on the rolling surface and the rolling pin to avoid sticking. Use the cookie cutter to cut out the shapes. Place the excess in the zip-lock while you apply the fondant to the cookie. With a pastry brush, apply the piping gel on the top surface of the cookie and place the cutout fondant over it. With the unused pastry brush, remove excess powdered sugar. Line up all the cookies on a work surface lined with either tinfoil or wax paper.

*Hint – This step goes a lot faster if you can get a helper. One person can roll out and cut out the fondant. The other person can apply the piping gel and lay the cut out fondant onto the cookie.

**Save some fondant for decorating. You can roll out dough and use tiny cutters to decorate your cookies. Stars, flowers, leafs, shapes, etc. can be cut out and adhered with royal icing. You can use royal icing and make flowers with various tips, but if you are not talented with a pastry bag the fondant cutouts are a great alternative.




Step three

Whether you choose to decorate with royal icing or with fondant cutouts, you will need to make a batch of royal icing. This icing hardens like glue and will hold whatever you use to decorate your cookie. You may want to pipe the border of each cookie using a #1 or #2 tip, or you may use a flower, leaf or star tip. If you are simply using the icing to adhere fondant shapes to the cookie, a #2 or 3 is fine. On the cookies demonstrated here, I used a tool with a tiny ball at the end to indent the middle of the fondant flowers. In the center of each flower you can put a dot of colored royal icing or a 3mm pearl candy, as I did. This is the fun part—where you get to be as creative as you wish. I challenge myself to make each cookie unique. When guests realize they are not all the same, they examine them to see which one they want to bring home.

Royal icing – 1 pound powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons meringue powder, 6 tablespoons warm water. Mix for 8 minutes. Keep in an airtight container when not in use.

When your decorating fun is complete, let the cookies dry for a day. The next day, I like to brush each cookie with an edible pearl glitter. It really looks beautiful, especially on bridal dresses and wedding cakes.

*I used an imprinted mat to get the flowered impressions on the fondant. You roll the fondant out onto the mat before cutting out the desired shape. These mats are available in any cake decorating aisle of your craft store or specialty bake shop.



Step four

Take my advice on this one—if you can get someone to help you, do it! This is the most tedious part of the process. But, with a friend and some good conversation, the job is done before you know it! Get some cello bags, the ribbons of your choice and make some occasion tags on your computer.

*Buy the bags and bows on the Internet. I use Nashville wraps. Their prices are most reasonable and they have a huge selection.

**If you need to ship your cookies, as I had to do, I suggest bubble wrapping each one individually to avoid breakage.

Throwback Thursday- Greek Panzanella Salad


Photo by Alexa Speyer

(Originally posted on livejournal blog June 2011)

I have a fairly large collection of cookbooks, yet I rarely find myself referencing one to cook a meal. I use them more for inspiration. The photographs are usually so visually appealing that I strive to plate my food in the same appetizing fashion. I occasionally need to refer on the execution of a cooking technique or a term I am not familiar with. But for me, recipes slow me down and hold me back. Growing up, watching my mother cook, I don’t recall a cookbook coming out for reference. She cooked what she knew and experimented on her own. She always told me you had to love your food—hug and kiss it while preparing it, and never rush it. I guess it is like anything else in life—the result will equal the effort. That being said, not everyone is a great cook or had a culinary role model at their fingertips. I am certainly not a trained chef and I’m sure the experts would cringe at how I cut an onion or crack an egg. I just know that I enjoy it, it relaxes me and my friends and family seem to enjoy my food. I really can’t ask for more than that.

Because I don’t tend to cook with recipes, I am finding it challenging to write them. How can I just say drizzle this and sprinkle that with no amounts to guide you? A friend called me to ask how to make a salad she had at my house last summer. I had to be reminded which salad she was asking about, because I made it without thinking. Fortunately, my daughter took pictures of that salad; it was one of her favorite dishes I made last summer. I actually grew the tomatoes and basil and bought the rest of the vegetables at a local farm stand. There is nothing more refreshing in the summer than a lightly dressed salad with vegetables freshly picked. I find the best way to dress a salad is to drizzle the oil and vinegar right on the salad and then slowly add the herbs and seasoning. Keep mixing and tasting until the salad is lightly coated but not dripping in dressing. If you do it correctly, there should be no excess at the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes I do need to make the dressing ahead, so not to be overwhelmed when my guests arrive. The requested salad is a combination of a true Greek salad and an Italian Panzanella salad. Greek salad has no lettuce, just tomatoes, onions cucumbers and chunks of feta cheese. The Panzanella salad is a bread salad. The combination works well together. Look for a light and airy Tuscan bread. I buy a large round one and cut off the crust. I cut them into 1-½ inch cubes and pan toast them with a little olive oil. You can make the toasted bread cubes the day before. If you are lucky enough to have fresh herbs on hand, dress the salad with the oil and vinegar then add the herbs and toss. I’ve added fresh basil, oregano, parsley, chives and dill. Sometimes I use only a few and other times I add a little of each. Do what pleases your taste buds. Just don’t forget the hugs and kisses!

                                                Greek Panzanella salad       

Party size

4 to 5 large tomatoes cut in thick slices

2 cucumbers cut in chunks or thick slices

1 small red onion thinly sliced

2 red, yellow or orange peppers cut in chunks

1 round Tuscan bread with crusts removed and cut into 1-1/2 cubes

1 pound slab of feta cheese

1-cup basil leaves

Heat a large skillet and coat with olive oil. Add the bread cubes, constantly turning as each side browns. This can be done a day ahead.

Cut up all the vegetables and put in a very large mixing bowl. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, tossing until coated. Add salt and pepper to taste, a teaspoon of sugar and 2 cloves of crushed garlic. Mix well. Add the basil and any other fresh herbs you like. I always add oregano, but sometimes add dill, chives or parsley as well. Break the feta into chunks and add to salad. Add the toasted bread cubes. Toss to coat. Transfer into a large salad bowl. There should be little or no excess dressing left in mixing bowl. If you would like to make the dressing ahead, I recommend to mix the fresh herbs in with the vegetables, not the dressing. If you only have dried herbs on hand you can add the herbs to the dressing. Below is a Greek salad dressing using dried herbs.

                                    Greek Salad Dressing

1-cup olive oil

¼-cup red wine vinegar

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tsp. sugar

2 cloves crushed garlic

Combine all ingredients and whisk well, shake in a cruet or emulsify in a blender. Drizzle over salad, mixing and tossing to coat. Do not overdress. You will not use all the dressing. Keep in the fridge for later use.