summer-dinner-party.jpg There are as many ‘personal chefs’ in Palm Beach as there are swimming pools.  I see them in their white chef coats and Mario Batali crocs at Publix Super Market chatting each other up as they fondle the passion fruit.  I have had to resist the urge to run up to them and say, “I personally know Wolfgang Puck … personally!”

Palm Beach residents love to dine together.  Restaurants flourish, but elegant dinner parties reign! They always have.

So, what does one do in a town where an intimate sit down dinner is for forty people? If one is a Texas DNA challenged, Left Coast Malibubi, “Y’all come on over and I’ll cook up something” works. During the season of Madoff, a small home cooked dinner - while not the rage – does earn a few sophisticated nods of approval. Besides, it gives me a certain pleasure to psychically push aside the personal chefs at Publix so that I too can fondle the passion fruit with the same sense of authority!

Trying to find something different that is relatively easy to do at the last minute and actually tastes good is the goal.  I have gone through the various BBQ and Mexican dinner menus, all of which were adored by my if-I-see-one-more-beef-tornado-on-my-plate-I-will-scream friends. And, I do relish their fawning looks of gratitude over the unexpected but delicious déclassé fare!

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falafel-quinoa.jpgIn college, I discovered falafels.  I happen to be a lover of most things fried (unfortunately for me) and eating a falafel with tons of veggies and avocado makes devouring them a bit more acceptable. I was reading one of my favorite books; Dave Lieberman’s  the 10 things you need to eat, and I found his falafel recipe made with quinoa.

Dave taught me a thing or two about quinoa. Most recipes that I have read or even made suggests a 2 to 1 ratio when making most grains. However, up until acquiring Dave’s book, I was no good at making quinoa and basically, gave up. He has changed all of that. His tip: use 1 1/4 cups water to 1 cup quinoa. Genius!

I like to make a big batch of quinoa and keep it in the fridge. It lasts for about a week and it is a good, healthy option to have on hand. Not only do I make these amazing falafel balls, but I also love to make quinoa cakes (similar to a veggie patty) and quinoa breakfast cereal.

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porto-rico-coffee-300x199New York, sometimes you just step in it.

My shopping and Jill’s are very different animals – she buys cute little things for other people, whereas I buy food for myself. Well, other people will get some of it, too. I don’t eat alone. And grocery shopping in the Village – if you know where to go – is one of the great joys of living in New York City. All the stores I have in mind exist in time warps – as if they haven’t changed a bit since the early 1900’s – which is exactly the truth.

They are — each store – of Italian origin, family-owned-and-operated and scrupulously dedicated to a kind of hands-on, personal involvement in each transaction. They have pride in what they sell. We quickly dispensed with Jill’s shopping list – a gift certificate for a special restaurant, a scarf for me(!), some tchochkes (that’s Jewish for cheap, little crappy things) for drop-in gifts, the best of which is something called, “Uh Oh” — it’s a little box with a pair of emergency underpants inside — and then we set off for my shopping spree – first to Bleecker Street for a double espresso at the fabled Porto Rico Coffee Company store. Just step through the door and you shed a hundred years. A double espresso is crucial when one sets out on a shopping trip. It gives one focus, energy and a skittery sense of optimism. I also picked up a pound of their Cent’anni espresso beans for home consumption.

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grilled_cheese_2.jpgI don't know if it’s the famous economy, or I'm just going through an I can't stand take-out anymore, but I've started to cook again. Not just grill a burger, which turns out pretty good when done on a stove top grill pan. I've actually been making vats of chile, or chicken and vegetables in marinara sauce, and freezing perfect portions in those great plastic containers everyone else in the world discovered before I did It's been a bone-chilling winter in New York this year, and coming home to something yummy that I can pop into the microwave, then actually eat straight from the container, has been life-changing. So that's what the room with all the white stuff that I used to go into all the time, is for.

I'm telling all of this to you for a reason. Sometimes, I want that comforting supper, and the freezer is bare. This requires imagination. And boy was I lucky last night. I had a sizeable hunk of Velveeta in the fridge. I had bread and butter. And I had fresh pineapple. Am I the last person on earth to discover how completely wonderful a grilled cheese sandwich, made with Velveeta, and slices of fresh pineapple, can be.

I'll probably try it with Kraft slices, or even some fancier cheese, but only when I'm out of Velveeta. You can be sure I'll always have the pineapple at hand.

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kleenexshoes.jpgAs the world becomes shortage and space obsessed, I realize how ahead of the curve I've been in making myriad reuses of everything and everyone. Call me frugal/economical and/or exploitive/anal.

I reuse big tissue boxes as snowshoes for a friend's kids (kids become two-pronged sources of love and laughs, lumbering around like "transformer bots"); I use their abandoned toy cars as conveyances for salt and pepper shakers glued on top, as "pass the salt" makes the dining room table a speedway.

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