Archive for the 'Entertaining on a Budget' Category


Mezze, Meze, or Mezza… it’s all good!

I love Mediterranean food. I love the way they eat. I love that they are super healthy people. My favorite way to entertain is Mezze. The fundamental principle is taking your time, and building community… hmmm – I think this is a recurring theme for me.

The thing I love about this style of entertaining is its simplicity. The basic philosophy is contrast: hot/cold, crispy/smooth, spicy/mild, savory/sweet! If you want to try it – Trader Joe’s is the perfect place to buy everything you need without  cooking a thing! Following a list of foods that work:

  • Roasted almonds (mix them with dried fruit for added bang)
  • Olives – green, black, different sizes, etc
  • Goat Cheese (mix it half and half with cottage cheese, add some olive oil and black pepper and WOW)
  • Cheeses
  • Cold cuts
  • Small bites of grilled meats – Lamb chops, chicken, sausages, etc
  • Fresh veggies
  • Hummus
  • Baba Ghanouj (eggplant version of hummus)
  • Prawns – sauteed in olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, sherry, cayenne, parsley – served in their pan juices.
  • Nice crusty bread
  • Dried fruits – figs, apricots, dates
  • Fresh fruit – whatever is in season

If you want to try this and need help, email me, send me mailbox question – I’ll feed you lots of ideas!


Game day done easy…

Question: I’m hosting a small NFL playoff game party Saturday afternoon (GO CARDS!), and do not want to serve the tired old Nachos/boring veggie plate/cardboard pretzel fare that so often pop up at Phoenix parties. (I guess they figure it you swill enough Pabst, you won’t notice how horrid the food is..) Do you have a trio of easy, but delectable recipes with which I can wow my friends. And perhaps a sassy wine recommendation for each?
Love, AJ

Fellow Foodie - Rob Lee

Answer: Let me start by saying that a part of my mission with food, wine and living well, is collaboration. So, in the spirit of collaboration, I sought the help of a foodie friend – Rob Lee. Rob is a college professor in St Louis by day, and a fellow food fancier by night! I thought of him, because he’s a serious football lover, and knows what it takes to please a game-day crowd. He’s also starting a monthly dinner club. He has committed to planning, cooking and serving a dinner party once a month for a group of friends. Each party will be themed, and will focus on his passion for beautiful food done simply, with a focus on what’s fresh and in season. Who knows, maybe some day you’ll see us both working together on the food network… he certainly has the charms and good looks – and the ladies love him!!! So after some back and forth IMing between California and Missouri, we’ve come up with the following menu that should be fun, unique, easy, inexpensive and impressive!!! Hope you consider trying all or parts of it, and make sure to take pictures that I can post on the blog afterwords!

Continue reading ‘Game day done easy…’


Mailbag Monday…

Question: What is hummus? Is it difficult to make? Is it healthy? j4kesutter, California

Answer: First, let me say, I’m listening to Depeche Mode, sitting at my desk, looking out the window – blue sky, palm trees swaying, and mid 70s – WOW! And now about the hummus – a Mediterranean staple akin to chips and salsa! It’s the perfect easy-to-make, healthy, tasty dip! Hummus is made using garbanzo beans, tahini (sesame paste), garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. What’s wondrous about this simple dip is its universal “comfort food” appeal. You can make the basic recipe and embellish it to your heart’s content.


Ingredients: (measurements are approximate – follow your taste buds!)

  • Garbanzo beans (15 oz can organic canned are perfect)
  • Tahini – 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice – splash, or two or three – to taste
  • Olive oil – 1/8 cup or to taste
  • Garlic – 2 or 3 cloves
  • Cumin – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chopped parsley – 5 sprigs
  • Salt to taste (probably won’t need much)


Using a food processor, blend together the first six ingredients until smooth and creamy. Adjust with salt to taste. Finish by drizzling a little extra olive oil, and chopped parsley.  Serve with pita bread, tortilla chips, sliced baguettes, sliced bellpeppers, cucumbers, carrot sticks – whatever strikes your fancy.


Make basic recipe and add anything that your taste buds desire, for example:

  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 fresh cilantro
  • Kalalmata Olives
  • Any fun flavor you think will work

Add any of these to your ingredients and blend with the basic recipe.

And yes, hummus is healthy, and a staple for vegetarian diets. It’s a fun party dip, and great to make a batch and keep in the fridge for healthy snacking!

Got another question? I have a mailbag menu tab to make submitting your questions easier! Have I said lately, how much fun this is???


Let it speak for itself!

After 20 something years in a sales and marketing career, my life took a dramatic (some might say mid-life) turn in 2002. Long story short – I ended up in Vancouver BC, finishing my professional culinary and wine training, and believe it or not, talked myself into a job I wasn’t even remotely qualified for.

My plan was to somehow, someway, forge a career around my passion for all things food and wine. So here I was, all fresh and pressed and on my way to the office as General Manager for Major the Gourmet. I learned later how crazy this was. My new boss, (Nicky Major) is considered one of the culinary pioneers in Vancouver, and she’s a noted, award winning caterer and event planner across North America. I struck the mother lode via an overly confident pursuit of my dream job – and had no idea on that fortuitous day what an amazing journey I was set to embark on. Continue reading ‘Let it speak for itself!’


Hump Wednesday for $24!

Pan Seared Talapia with Black Bean and Corn Salad

If you ask me what my most dreaded domestic question is, I’d have to say “what’s for dinner?” It seems that since I’ve been the dominant cook in my home for as long as I can remember, this question can become very daunting. Often it provokes a snippy response – something like “Can’t you at least ask me how I am, or how my day was before WHAT’S FOR DINNER?”

So, if you’ve experienced the same quandary-question, and want nothing more than to default to the quick frozen meal, top ramen, or box of mac and cheese – I’m here to offer a suggestion. I’m gonna call this weekly post – Hump Wednesday. Each week, I’m going to take a stab at coming up with a beautiful, simple meal that you can prepare quickly, and on a budget. Hopefully one that you’ll enjoy making.

Continue reading ‘Hump Wednesday for $24!’


Phoenix, Family and Food

Wow, what an amazing experience! A new relationship, family introductions, crazy dice games, sparkling wine, lots of holiday treats, and food!

For me, (and probably most) food creates the center, and this blog only stays relevant if I can offer you easy, fun ways to follow my mission of food, wine, and the art of living well!

The art of living well doesn’t mean living expensively, or lavishly, or flamboyantly. As a chef, and a wine educator, it’s generally a foregone conclusion that I’m gonna engage in my craft in one way or another, regardless of the circumstances. So, a trip to Phoenix is planned and I’m pimped out! For aunt, uncle and cousins, I’m engaged to cook a four course, Italian-themed, wine paired meal in an unfamiliar kitchen; add to this the caveat that one of the cousins is a vegetarian! Truly, I LOVE this! I LOVE the challenge. People think this is hard; it’s not. That being said, here’s what “Patrick’s” traveling parlor did… Continue reading ‘Phoenix, Family and Food’

Patrick Bartlett

A conversation about food, wine, and the art of living well!


May 2018
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