Soup, Stew and a Snow Storm at Sue’s

This storm was so big, it had a name:  Jonas.  With nearly record-breaking snowfall what’s an apartment bound New Yorker to do?  Cook and eat of course!!!!  We love sitting around and sharing a cheese and meat plate before dinner.  This soup is real comfort food and perfect for the first night of a blizzard.  Get the recipe here.  Comfort Soup

Dinner that night was my grandmother’s Irish stew.  A real stick to your ribs meal. THAT's comfort food... stew with dumplings

…now THAT’s comfort food… stew with dumplings.

If you simply follow the steps in my handwritten recipe, you’ll create a great stew.  The dumplings are right here:  Dumplings!

final_300dpiThe Divas dish on Sue’s dish.     Sue:  I’ll mention a couple of things about the stew and dumplings.  You can use chuck cut into 2 inch pieces for the stew.  Be very patient browning it.  If you crowd too much in the pot at once the meat steams rather than browns.  Use 2 tbsp of butter to brown the meat.  Add more butter if you need to — it’s just stew not some secret formula.  When making the dumplings don’t over mix them.  The batter  will be very lumpy.  When you drop them into the stew it thickens the broth.  Mimi:  It absolutely tickles me to go through Sue’s ancient recipes and discover these handwritten, well-worn pieces of paper.  That’s how you know it’s good food … they’ve stood the test of time.  I’m  not a big root vegetable or leek fan so I’ll pass on the soup.  But, that stew with dumplings …oh boy… get in my belly now!  My first attempt at making dumplings was a real mess so, I definitely should give it another shot.



Sue’s Holiday Festivities


Sue’s house overlooking the golf course shines like a jewel box the night of the celebration.

Sue has an uncanny knack at winning the centerpiece when she attends a function.  She won this spectacular arrangement at the Columbus Club Christmas party this year.  Needless to say, she was the envy of the table.  The other eight ladies were all saying how perfectly it would go with their decor.  Too bad!  Sue had the right number under her dinner plate!

There are six stockings for the six grandchildren.  Sue has made stockings for all of her family members — ever since her first house in the 1970s.  Only the grandchildrens’ stockings receive the place of honor today … and there is a seventh stocking on the way in 2014!  The eldest grandchild reminded Sue that she needs to make the stocking for the new baby and suggested a sleigh for the theme.

John gives his grandchildren the gift of opera:  Amahl and the Night Visitors, a Christmas story.  He urges them to give it a chance and listen a few times before giving up.  This was his first exposure to opera as a young child and has loved it ever since.

Time to eat and drink … let’s party!!!

final_300dpi      You too can make the BEST lasagna ever.  Follow the diva to our website.

Mimi’s Christmas Brunch



Strawberry, banana, blood orange and yogurt parfait


Potato and prosciutto frittata

Poppy-seed roll and Nut Roll

For the mimosas:  fresh squeezed orange juice (used my brand new Breville juicer … new years resolution:  drink juice, get healthy and lose a few pounds) and Nicolas Feuillatte Brut (one of my favorites).  Yogurt parfait was delicious and easy — layer the fruit and yogurt and make sure it’s pretty.  Cornbread was Marc Forgione’s recipe — google it — best I’ve ever had. (I met chef Forgione on by birthday at his restaurant,  such a nice guy.  I acted  a little “groupie-ish” I’m afraid).

 Frittata was 100% Giada — go to for the recipe it’s ridiculously good.  Mine stuck to the pan so it came to the table pan and all.  Prosciutto was one of the many delicious Christmas gifts from my stepson Jeff.  He also sent us a selection of Murray’s cheeses.  See why I’ll need to lose a few pounds in the new year?  The poppy-seed and nut rolls were a gift from my sister and her friend Doug.  All of my Polish aunts and grandmother used to bake the most delicious poppy-seed roll so I gave it a shot this year.  It was a total mess that ended up right in the trash.  Hey, what can I say?  I tried.

…and a Diva dishes.  Hey!  I recognize those red chargers from our Valentine’s Day posting and your table’s centerpiece was hanging from the chandelier for our Holiday Celebration in 2012!  Great way to recycle decorations — Mimi is so thrifty.  With food so colorful who wouldn’t want to dive into this great brunch?  I asked Mimi if the cornbread was from a mix it looked so perfect.  She said hell no, are you kidding?  That mimosa is so picture perfect with that head just about to overflow.   And of course, fresh squeezed juice with the new juicer.

Mimi’s Perfect Holiday Weekend: baking, wrapping, trimming

It all started twenty years ago when life threw my dearest girlfriend and me a few disappointments.  We decided to make our own happiness and create a Christmas tradition.  Every December we spent a weekend baking, listening to Christmas music, drinking champagne and wrapping cookies.  Though we no longer do this together ( and certainly couldn’t drink the amount of champagne we consumed in our younger days) I cherish the wonderful memories.

“New York Rangers”?  We concocted this from another recipe by jazzing up toll house cookies with a cup of Kellogg’s rice crispies and a cup of coconut.  Sometimes we included chopped walnuts, sometimes we didn’t.

Candied Walnuts:  we usually made these at the end of the day because we were “loopy” and  they are so easy.  Take a 12 oz bag of whole walnuts.  Place them in a colander to shake off the “dust”.  In a very large bowl, beat 1 egg white and 1 tbsp of water until frothy.  Dump in the walnuts and toss to coat.  Whisk together 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tbps cinnamon and a pinch of salt.  Dump on top of the walnuts and toss to coat.  Turn the walnuts onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees, turning the walnuts over every 15 minutes.

Follow the diva for “Mom’s mocha drops” recipe.



…and a Diva dishes.   I think there is nothing nicer than making something and giving to someone.  It’s a labor of love really.  The reason I don’t make cookies anymore is if there are leftovers, I can’t resist my own home made cookies (or anyone elses for that matter!)  A store bought cookie will sit in my house for a month, until it’s stale.  By the way candied walnuts go great in salads.

Cookies wrapped and ready to give.  

Ready and waiting for Santa.

We’re ready and waiting for Santa.

Do the Holidays (50-60 Guests)


SUE  (…More of that “joie de vivre” … HO … HO… HO!!!)

It’s that time of year that just energizes you.  Everyone is checking items off of  long “to do” lists, myself included.  My list seems to  grow each year.  I struggle to find the perfect surprise for everyone and I fret over every purchase. Weaving through the ultimate pre-teen shopping destination, with its holiday music blaring, I go back and forth.  Are the jeans in my hand edgy but still conservative enough for one granddaughter.  Will this scarf be sparkly and fabulous enough for the other?

Deep in my heart, I know the perfect gift is the treasured memories we are creating as a family.  My six grandchildren scream with joy, hugging and kissing  each other as they arrive at our house in Buck Hill Falls for the holiday.  I realize how blessed we are, as everyone leaves our celebration yelling from the car windows “we love you… we love you”. That is truly my perfect holiday gift.


MIMI  (…More Confessions)

I am a practical and logical person.  However, during the holidays I become surprisingly unhinged.  I turn into a hopelessly incurable romantic.  It all  starts while I watch every minute of the Thanksgiving Day parade.  I well up with tears at commercials and when Santa arrives at the end of the parade.  From that moment until New Year’s Day,  I can only focus on decorating, baking, relaxing to Christmas music and seeing how beautiful the city looks for the holidays.

My fondest childhood recollection is of my sister and me cutting a tree down at the local tree farm and decorating it on Christmas Eve. The two happiest moments of my life occurred on New Year’s Eve.  The love of my life proposed and then one year later we got married in the home we built together.  No wonder I am literally transformed every December.  I basically turn into Sue — HA!


Mimi and I were planning the holiday celebration.  When you combine my normal, everyday exuberance for celebrating with Mimi’s inexplicable “December transformation” our party grew from “festive and fun-filled” (with about 14 guests) to “splashy and celebratory” and invited more than 50 of our neighbors in Buck Hill Falls.

I suggested Mimi’s house as the ideal place for a holiday celebration.  It’s got a vaulted ceiling so there is a massive Christmas tree and the centerpiece of the room is a gigantic fireplace separating the living and dining room.  We went on a little shopping spree to Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel to buy decorations for the dining room table and the chandelier, aiming for a sparkling winter wonderland.

I say:  “What’s a holiday celebration without a little champagne?”  My husband says:  “If I could, I’d drink nothing but champagne.”  So, that settled it.   We decided a truly festive welcome for the guests would be a champagne toast.   Here’s the menu we finally came up with.

“Old School” Crudite


English Stilton


Aged Gouda

Herbed Goat Cheese

Parmigiano Reggiano



Truffled Mousse Pate


“Drunken” Shrimp

Caviar Decked Cucumber Slices

Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche Canapes


Savory Sherried Mushrooms in Phyllo Cups

Beef “Sushi”

“Diva’s Devilish” Mini Chicken Pot Pie


Pulled Pork Sliders

Fancy Roasted potatoes and Creamy Dip


Miniature Cupcakes

Strawberries with Whipped Cream for Dipping


Nicolas Feuillatte Brut

Toasted Head Chardonnay 2011

Chateau St. Jean 2011

Sola Meritage 2007

Kermit Lynch Cotes du Rhone 2009

Di Majo Norante Sangiovese 2011

Sounds like a lot of food doesn’t it?  Check out that table … that was only part of the menu we served.


So, my thoughts on the table were that we should put out as much as possible so that we would not be spending the entire celebration in the kitchen.  I just think that the point of a celebration is to spend time with your guests.  Mimi and I parted ways on how to serve the food.  In the end, I think she knew that I was right.  The sliders, roasted potatoes and half of the mini chicken pot pies were self-serve from the table, replacing the sea food canapes throughout the evening.

As for decorating,  I told Mimi (who I think should just let loose a little) to toss around some large and small crystals for sparkle.  I think it provided some more “glitz” to the splashy and celebratory mood.

Alright, I admit it!  Sue was right and I was wrong.   Absolutely, with a party of this  size, it’s better to pass fewer items and to serve  as much as possible from the table.  I am very happy that I overcame my customary stubborn nature and listened to  Sue.  She  was also right about decorating the table.  The extra bling really made it sparkle.

But, did we pull this whole thing  off?  Were there one or two surprises in store?  Follow the Diva to our website for the whole minute by minute story.


Sue Celebrates the Holidays (21 Guests)


Our Celebration Started…

the weekend before Christmas in beautiful Buck Hill Falls as we prepared for 21 family members to arrive for the holidays.  Saturday, we unpacked the holiday glassware and the giant shiny red ice bucket ringed with jingle bells.  On Sunday we put the finishing touches on decorating the house — lots of Christmas lights for the grandchildren!  Monday morning, I started cooking.  You know by now that my preference is to avoid slaving over a hot stove during a celebration and to spend as much time with our guests as possible.  I believe in balancing “store-bought” with “do it yourself”.  My menu is a combination of years of tradition and family members’ special requests.


Shrimp Cocktail

Lobster Salad

Halibut Salad

Calamari Salad


English Farmhouse Cheddar

Goat Cheese

Truffled Mousse Pate

Italian Olives


Toasted Sesame Seed Crackers

Table Water Crackers

Toasted Raisin Pecan Crisps


Beef Stew in Red Wine

Mashed Potatoes

Buttermilk Scones

Roasted String Beans


Irresistible Tiramisu

Chocolate Chip Cookies


I have shopped at the same fish market for 30 years in our old neighborhood, Forest Hills, NY.  In some ways it’s a “typical” fish market:  all white tile, drain in the middle of the floor and clean and fresh as a whistle.  In other ways there is nothing typical about it. Their shrimp (I buy large, not jumbo) have that perfect balance of the sea and sweetness.  Our entire family is crazy about the salads.  Had I left out any of the three salads, people would have commented that something was missing.

Everyone has their favorites.  The grandchildren gobble up the goat cheese and grapes.  And according to my son Tommy, a cheese board without English farmhouse cheddar simply isn’t complete.  My favorite are the toasted raisin pecan crisps.  I buy them at Eli Zabars.  For years I made chocolate chip cookies from scratch.  One day the grandchildren told me:  “Grandma, we like Tate’s chocolate chip cookies”.  So now, I save myself the work and buy them Tate’s.

I buy the buttermilk scones at Alice’s Tea Cup.   The recipe is on-line if you are a “DIY” –  type.  The tiramisu recipe came from the owner of our favorite local Italian restaurant / pizzeria in our old neighborhood.  I told him that his tiramisu was the finest I ever had and he generously shared his secret recipe. Thanks Joey!


For all of the details on celebrating the holidays with my family, just follow the diva to our website.


Mimi Celebrates the Holidays (3-5 Guests)


Christmas Started in Brooklyn…

Brooklynites who don’t have a “wfp” (working fireplace) plug the Christmas tree in right next to the yule log on the TV.   Classy!  Our morning started with my 28-year-old stepson Jeff, who gives the greatest gifts.  He challenged my cooking skills with an assortment of duck products.  (I had to google duck rillettes to figure out what to do with them.)  My husband treated us to authentic “Christmas Vacation” moose mugs for our morning orange juice.  Again, classy just like his  treasured collection of Christmas toys under our tree.  (This is a family – friendly website so I won’t tell you what they actually do.)  Today is a marathon of eating and drinking so we had juice, coffee and fresh-baked Pillsbury cinnamon rolls while we exchanged gifts.


Our cat , Bogey, gets in on the Christmas action.


Our Christmas Continues …

in our beautiful mountain top  community of Buck Hill Falls.  My sister and her friend were joining us for Christmas Brunch.

Christmas Brunch


Banana Bread with Whipped Cream Cheese

Scrambled Eggs on Potato Pancakes 

topped with 

Crisped Duck Rillettes

Mom’s Mocha Drops



Follow the diva to our website for the “how to” on putting together a diva-worthy  holiday brunch.