To Cook or Not to Cook….That is the ???

Well, as they say, “When in Rome…,” but in Naples…….Florida, it’s great fun to do as the Naples’ Floridians do….enjoy dining out on Fifth Avenue South! The epicurean choices are so incredible that dining in doesn’t always cut it. I try to justify it to myself, and Steve, by convincingly insisting that amazing meal ideas can be born from amazing restaurants. 

Actually, it’s devastating…..(slightly dramatic, I know) to eat a mediocre meal in a restaurant and know that you can have a much better dinner at home. Dining out is a treat and I’m committed to duplicating and sharing some of my faves from my recent travels to Naples, Florida.

Sea Salt is one of our favorites and the chef  nailed it on creativity and taste with his Caesar Salad Sushi Bites.


The first time I made these, I over filled them. Less is more, so that they are able to roll up and sit on the plate for a delicious presentation.

Caesar Salad Sushi Bites


  • 8 romaine leaves
  • Caesar Dressing (store bought or home made)
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • Small jar of red lumpfish caviar


  1. Wash, dry and lay each romaine leaf flat.
  2. Spread 1 T on each leaf.
  3. Sprinkle 2 T Parmesan cheese on each leaf.
  4. Carefully and tightly roll each romaine leaf up lengthwise.
  5. Cut off loose ends and and slice evenly down the middle. (Each leaf makes 2 rolls)
  6. Repeat with remaining leaves.
  7. Turn each ‘sushi roll’ flat and top with 1/2 t. dressing and a sprinkle of caviar.
  8. Serve with chopsticks!


Combine + Serve
  • 6 cloves garlic, mashed and minced.
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil.
  • Lemon juice, for seasoning.
  • Minced anchovy fillets, optional.

One of the new kids on the block in downtown Naples is The Bevy; a delightful, open air restaurant featuring a living wall, beautiful bar and a retractable skylight ceiling. The food and drinks here insight the senses with every sip and bite.

Steve was more than delighted with his appetizer of Deviled Oysters which include yellow conrmeal oysters, deviled eggs and candied bacon. fullsizeoutput_4113

Our friend, Bob, loved his craft cocktail, The Cedar Fire Old Fashioned which features bastille 1789 whiskey, orange bitters, maples syrup, smoked glass and candied bacon.





  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallot or onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika


  1. Boil the eggs in water 10-12 min.
  2. Peal the eggs, cut the in half lengthwise and remove the yolks.
  3. Mash yolks with mustard, mayonnaise, onion, Tabasco, salt, pepper. (For finer consistency, place in a food processor.
  4. 4 Pipe or spoon mixture into egg white halves: Pipe through a piping bag (star tip) or simply use a spoon to put the egg yolk mixture into the egg white halves. 
  5. Serve as is, or top with your favorite toppings: candied bacon, smoked salmon, caviar, jalapeño



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Mix brown sugar, rice vinegar, maple syrup, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  • Place bacon slices on cooling rack set over a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, turn slices, and bake another 5 minutes.




  • Heat deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  • Combine cornmeal, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, black pepper and seasoned salt in a large plastic bag.
  • Place oysters in bag and shake until well coated.
  • Cook oysters 3 or 4 at a time in hot oil.


Dear Friends,

Recently I read a great article on happiness……stating simply that: if your happiness depends on just one thing, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. So, for example, if your happiness depends on sunshine and warm weather, and you live in Northeast Ohio, many of your days will be unhappy. In sunny Naples, Florida, even when it’s chilly, the sunshines which is a blessing.

Walking in sunshine and sharing delicious recipes are two of my favorite things, so thank you for swinging by and I hope you enjoy these nuggets of yum! Be sure to check out some of my fun finds in The Sunshine Shop!

Until next time…

🍹Cheers! Laura



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MAKE A MEMORABLE MEMORIAL DAY With these Delicious Dishes

happy memorial day

MEMORIAL DAY IS THE OFFICIAL KICK-OFF TO SUMMER, and if you are fortunate to live where you will have great weather,  all you need is plan A. But if you need to keep PLAN B in place, all it takes is a little planning ahead, so you won’t be caught in the rain without an umbrella!  For large and small crowds, self serve works best and makes for casual fun. Have a long table, (Plan B: clear your sink for serving!) Put paper plates & utensils on one end and leave room for platters & serving utensils. For drinks, I usually put out pitchers of lemonade and water with a bucket of ice on the side. I leave the harder stuff on the sink! My bar is always simple & self-serve! Beer and red & white wine. I love to serve vodka drinks, and if time allows, I may make a pitcher of vodka, cranberry & grapefruit juice.


Memorial dayThrough all of the picnics and parades celebrating the beginning of summer, we need to remember that Memorial day is a holiday dedicated to honoring those who died while serving in the United States armed forces. I do think that particularly in today’s world, its important to give special thought to those  who have given their lives for us.

I vividly recall my last week of teaching before I retired. The high school choir invited the young students to an end of the year program. Teaching second and third grade for so many years enabled me to watch the children grow into young adults, having babies of their own. The very last performance on this day was a slide show of all of the former students who had graduated from our district and were in the armed forces as well as a remembrance those who had lost their lives. During this, the performing students sang the song, “I’m Coming Home” by Skylar Gray. I can tell you that every teacher in that auditorium worked hard to fight back tears quite unsuccessfully. I just remember thinking how unjust it is to find those who our lives had touched, were lost. 

On a happier note:

GETTING READY FOR THE KICK-OFF TO SUMMER CELEBRATION just takes a little planning. memorial day pic

Here is my list:


The menu should be simple summer food! Ribs, BBQ chicken, burgers, hot dogs, steak, fruit, and all kinds of salads, are popular this time of year. A great secret to entertaining is to make everything ahead, leaving only the grilling to do. That way, you can enjoy your guests and the fruits of your delicious cooking! Also, if someone offers to bring something, LET THEM! Many people wonder if its polite to assign a special dish, such as salad, desert, an appetizer. I do believe that if an offer is made to make your life simpler, they won’t mind. I’m also great with shortcuts! To save time, purchase the dip for the veggie tray, or frozen corn for the salad. My menus are all make ahead so you can enjoy your party and your guests!

Cucumber Cup Veggie tray

This is a simple appetizer that you can make ahead and looks beautiful on your table. Below are recipes for the hummus and ranch dip, but feel free to use store-bought to save time!



  1. Unwrap the plastic covering on the english cucumber, rinse & cut into 1 1/2 in. slices.
  2. Using a melon scooper, carefully scoop out the center of each cucumber slice, being careful not to pierce the bottom. Cucumber cups
  3. Fill a pastry bag or a baggie with humus. If using a baggie, cut a small corner from the bottom of the bag to substitute for a pastry bag. (I love this shortcut because you can toss the bag for EASY cleanup:)
  4. Pipe the humus into each cucumber cup. Garnish with sliced red pepper.
  5. Slice a yellow pepper lengthwise, remove seeds & fill one side with ranch dip & the other with sliced red peppers.
  6. Cover & refrigerate.

FOR THE HUMUS (You can use store-bought if you prefer)

  • 1 C. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained, or canned
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • 6 C. water
  • 1/3 C. tahini
  • 1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
  • 8 ice cubes
  • 1 chopped clove garlic
  • salt to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  1. Stir chickpeas & baking soda in a pot over high heat for 2 min. Add water & bring to a boil, skimming any foam or skins that float to the surface. Boil till tender, 20 min. Drain & cool.
  2. Pulse chickpeas in a food processor, adding tahini, lemon juice, ice & garlic.
  3. Process until smooth. Season with salt & drizzle with oil.


Mix together & refrigerate:

  • 3/4 C. sour cream
  • 1/2 C. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 C. chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 C. chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 t. minced garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste



Roasting the peppers & onions saves huge time and mess in your kitchen. Grill the sausages ahead and combine to keep warm in the oven, or ‘man the grill’ before serving!
Italian Sausage and peppers

  • 3 large vidalia or sweet onions cut into large chunks
  • 6 red, yellow & orange peppers, sliced
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 3-19 oz. packages of sweet, hot or a combination italian sausages.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine onions, peppers, olive oil & salt in a mixing bowl.
  3. Pour into a roasting pan making sure they are spread evenly into the pan.
  4. Place in the oven for 30-40 min. tossing constantly for even cooking.
  5. Grill the sausages, browning evenly on all sides.
  6. When ready to serve, place onion mixture in a long platter. Place the sausages on top & serve with a side basket of buns. 


Corn salad

This is a switch on serving corn on the cobb at your picnic. This time of year, seasonal corn may not be available, so this is a great do-ahead delicious side! You can make this with fresh corn kernels or frozen, thawed sweet corn.

  • 6 C. fresh corn kernels, or frozen, thawed
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2T. fresh lime juice
  • 2 t. honey
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 C. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 T.each diced onion & red pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Blanch fresh corns in boiling water 2 min. & drain. Rinse in cold water & dry in a salad spinner & place in a bowl. If using frozen corn, thaw, drain & dry in a salad spinner.
  2. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, honey & cayenne for the vinaigrette.
  3. Toss together corn, vinaigrette, cilantro, onion & red pepper, season with salt & black pepper. 



This is a nice twist on the traditional side of potato salad & caesar salad, combined with all of the great flavors of both!

  • 1 1/2 lb. red potatoes unpeeled & cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 T.  extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 1/2 t. anchovy paste, optional
  • ground pepper
  • 1 C. romaine leaves cut into strips
  • 1 C. salad croutons, store-bought or homemade
  1. Boil potatoes & egg in salted water  12-15 min. Drain & set aside
  2. Combine lemon juice, oil, Parmesan, mustard, sugar, garlic, anchovy paste, & pepper in a bowl.
  3. Toss hot potatoes in dressing and let stand for 10 min. 
  4. Add romaine & croutons.
  5. Serve salad warm or at room temperature.


Delicious and festive! These cookies have all the taste and look of the real thing without the mess!

smores cookies


  • 1 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C. fine graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 t. each baking soda & kosher salt
  • 1 stick softened unsalted butter (8 T)
  • 1/2 C. peanut utter
  • 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 24 large marshmallows, cut in half horizontally
  • 28 Hershey’s chocolate ba pieces (4bars)
  1. Preheat oven to 375*
  2. Whisk flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda & salt together in a bowl
  3. Cream together  butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar & brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed 5 min. until light & fluffy:
  4. Beat in egg & vanilla.:
  5. Blend in flour mixture on low-speed just until incorporated.
  6. Scoop dough with #60 scoop (about 1 T.) onto ungreased baking sheets.
  7. Bake cookies 4 min, top each with a marshmallow half & bake until golden 4-5 min. more.
  8. Transfer cookies to cooling racks & press chocolate pieces on top.
  9. Let stand until set, 5-10 min.

I hope you have a wonderful and memorable Memorial Day with these favorite and flavorful dishes of mine. I’d love to hear about your celebration and feel free to share your favorites as well! I can put them in my next post!

Cheers! Laura

happy memorial day


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