Sue and Johnny Cook up a Storm


We were hanging around on a beautiful weekend in Buck Hill Falls and Johnny asked: “what should we make for dinner that feels like Fall?”   We were tossing ideas around.  Naturally, I wasn’t into a big complicated meal and didn’t want too much fussing.  This became a joke after a while with everyone ignoring me.  Johnny claims that cooking relaxes him.  So,  we settled on roasted butternut squash soup, a roasted chicken over root vegetables and a variation on Jacque Pepin’s classic tarte tatin.

It’s a small town and grocery shopping at Shop Rite  we ran into MImi.  (We all agree that Shop Rite’s produce is the best around.)  Mimi was off to make her first batch of handmade pasta (which you’ve already seen).  We went in search of pre-chopped butternut squash (which meant less work for me!)

Here are the results of the whole family pitching in.  Even the grandchildren, Leslie and Kelly, got involved.  One peeled all the carrots, the other peeled all the potatoes.

I had to laugh.  I though the tarte tatin Johnny made was perfect yet, he was disappointed.  He felt it was lacking because the apples were not golden delicious and he can tell the difference.  (Sounds a little like Mimi, doesn’t he?)

… and a Diva “Dishes”.

That’s one beautiful roasted chicken and “Diva-worthy” tarte tatin.  When I saw Sue and her sons in Shop Rite, I complimented Johnny on his culinary skills — very impressive!  What would you expect?  He learned from the best!

Mimi’s Apple Fennel Pork Chops


Follow the Diva to our website to see how I made these diva-licious pork chops and Sue’s take on my menu!



Pork Chops with Apple Fennel Compote

Long Grain and Wild Rice

Baby greens with white balsamic vinaigrette


Apples are irresistible in the Fall.  I created this dish from the “apples up”.   I’m also a fennel fanatic so I threw fennel and raisins in the pan with a splash of Pernod.  This was a totally haphazard dinner that turned out to be delicious!  Who’d have thought I could wing it as well as Sue does?


White:  If you are going to drink white with this  (I actually wouldn’t) go with a nice chardonnay.  I think a crisp white might “fight with” the bite of the apples.  Sue recently had a Wolffer Estate Chardonnay 2010 that she loved.  The floral notes, lush palate and hint of pear would pair perfectly with this meal.

Red: Chapoutier Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon-Villages 2011.  I absolutely LOVE this wine.  Not only is it a great value that complements food beautifully it has hints of … chocolate!  What could be better?



1 large fennel bulb

1 crisp macintosh or macoun apple

1 small box of raisins

1 bunch rosemary

1  5 oz container baby greens


 unsalted butter


2  bone in center cut pork chops


1  long grain and wild rice

1  32 oz box of chicken stock

garlic powder (or granulated garlic)

extra virgin olive oil

white balsamic vinegar

  • Check your pantry.  Do you already have: extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder, butter?  (I always remind people to do this because who needs multiple jars of garlic powder in the pantry?)
  • The dish also works with thyme if you don’t like rosemary.
  • You could use boneless center cut pork chops as well.   I prefer these with the recipe and Sue says that bone in pork chops are  more tender and tastier.
  • Many people buy unsalted chicken stock to control the salt level in their dishes. We use Kitchen Basics regular salted for this meal.  It’s really your choice if you want to buy unsalted and just add the amount you like.
  • We use Colavita extra virgin olive oil.

Obviously, the meal is intended for two people.  If you are cooking for more, just do the multiplication!

Warm up this Fall with Mimi’s Chicken Cacciatore!


10:00PM Friday night.  When we get to Buck Hill Falls, PA, the house is 50 degrees.  Would you rather:  pick up a pizza or  pop this into the microwave.  Seems like a no brainer to me.  Nice garlic bread, bottle of Zaccagnini Il Vino Dal Tralcetto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (my favorite) — it’s a party for me and my husband!

…and a Diva “dishes”.

Well first of all it looks beautiful.  Chicken cacciatore is just about my favorite chicken outside of lemon chicken.  I love the flavor of the onions and the red and yellow peppers and the chicken is always so moist and tender.  Hey, wait a minute!  Mimi left out my favorite part — the peppers! Who makes chicken cacciatore without peppers?  This is so typical of Italian cooking.   A dish can be made so differently and still taste good — no matter whose kitchen it comes from.

Mimi Tackles Pasta Making!

IMG_0580There it is — my hand-made pasta!  It’s not as easy as they make it look on TV ( Yes, Anne Burrell, I mean you — HA!!!).  No kidding — mixing eggs and flour by hand on your countertop while keeping the eggs in that nice little well of flour and not running all over the place is tricky.  So, my first batch was a disgusting, sticky, gloppy mess and went right in the trash can.  The second attempt worked out fine.  Here’s the dish I made with it.

Sage Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Ricotta and Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Sage Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Ricotta and Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

…and a Diva “Dishes”.

Well I think you can’t go wrong with the ingredients Mimi put in this dish and butternut squash is a favorite in our house.  On the other hand, making your own pasta?  You’ve got to be kidding me!  I’m just as happy to let someone else do the pasta making.  Fresh or dry, it all tastes great.

Tuscany and Tastings on the North Fork

Sannino Vineyard Bed and Breakfast.  Our stay in the Tuscan Suite was perfect.

A memorable Autumn celebration captured in these photos.

...which even included Long Island fresh shucked oysters!!

…which even included Long Island freshly shucked oysters!!

I often recommend Paumanok Sauvignon Blanc and was excited to visit the vineyard.  The tasting did not disappoint!  The woman pouring for us was very friendly. On her advice we went to McCall Vineyards and loved the whole experience there.  But first, we checked out the Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck.  It is a  “must” if you are out and about.  Their selection is huge and includes locally produced cheese.  Finally, we headed to the destination I had been waiting for, Shinn Estate Vineyards.  I love drinking their rosé during the hot summer months.  Shinn has an understated sophisticated vibe (maybe a little more Napa than North Fork).  It was a great day of exploring.  Here’s everything we bought:

2011 Paumanok Chardonnay (a perfect complement to sole meunière  that I made this week)

2010 Paumanok Merlot

2010 McCall Cabarnet Franc (loved it so much had it for dinner with the cheese Sunday night)

2012 Shinn Estate Vineyards Coalescence ( a fascinating blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling)

2010 Shinn Estate Vineyards  Malbec (a limited production wine that we couldn’t resist)

Goat Cheese ( as creamy and rich as can be )

Sigit Cheese from Mecox Bay Dairy (a hard cheese with a nice bite and slight crunchiness — DELICIOUS!!) waiting for sunset in the vineyard.

Relaxing in the vineyard … waiting for sunset … indulging in an impromptu dinner that Anthony Sannino shared with us from the harvest festival … savoring a bottle of 2010 Sannino Prima Rossa.  Perfect end to a perfect day.

No photos of a beautiful sunrise from the Tuscan Suite today!!! It was cold and overcast.  We drove to Orient Point.  It takes your breath away even on a cloudy windy day.   We’ll return to enjoy its beauty when the weather is warmer.  Next stop:  Greenport, a nice little town to wander in for an hour or two checking out shops and having lunch (unless you eat the massive delicious breakfast at Sannino Bed and Breakfast then NO LUNCH for you!)  On to Sparkling Pointe where we had a lovely elegant experience with a friendly and knowledgable young lady pouring the wine.   Of course we couldn’t miss a tasting at the Sannino Winery!  Just as we anticipated it was warm, inviting, friendly … every single positive thing you can say about a tasting.  And, of course, from the previous day we were already fans of the Prima Rossa.

Here’s a list of the wine we brought home from this day of tasting.

2009 Sparkling Pointe Brut

2009 Sparkling Pointe Blanc de Blanc

2010 Sannino Prima Rossa

2010 Sannino Cabarnet Franc

A day full of exploring and wine tasting ends with a wine and cheese dinner on the terrace overlooking the vineyard.

A  full day exploring and tasting that ended with wine and cheese on the terrace overlooking the vineyard — heavenly!

The day we were leaving  — sunshine and brilliant blue skies.  We reluctantly left Sannino Bed and Breakfast but it was the perfect day to check out the abundant produce at the farmstands of the North Fork.

Mimi’s Roasted Chilean Sea Bass


Follow the Diva to our website to make your own healthy diva-licious mid-week celebration.


I got the crazy idea of taking a chimichurri type paste, patting it on my chilean sea bass and roasting it.  What a great dish.  In a nod to healthy eating I made a two bean salad (knowing my husband would be diving into the Oreo cookies after dinner — he loves his chocolate.)  This is an easy, delicious, healthy, mid-week celebration.

Herb encrusted Chilean sea bass

Two bean salad

Brocard 2011 Chablis Sainte Claire

Mini ice cream sandwiches


Sue’s Amazing Chicken Parm


Look if you can sauté a chicken breast, you can make chicken parmigiano.  Use the best ingredients. If you have sauce made fine, if not use your favorite sauce from a jar (whose going to know)?   I love my cheese so, I splurged on homemade mozzarella from Agata & Valentina which is near my apartment.  If you don’t want to splurge you can use provolone.  I served this with some nice pasta and it was a great meal.


…and a Diva “Dishes”.

Who doesn’t love chicken parm?  So, the one thing I’ll tell you is when I make this dish it’s more of a big gooey, sloppy mess.   The chicken is swimming in sauce and smothered in melted mozzarella.  Surprising, I’m usually the one who is very structured and controlled!  Either way, tastes great.