Cooking by Color

The farmer’s market yesterday was like a feast for the eyes! The harvest is in and the take is bountiful.

I spotted the baby purple Tiger eggplants and was captured by their color. I decided to buy them first, then I asked the woman in line why she was also buying them. She said they were tender and the skin is edible, not tough, like other eggplants. Sold!

Not only are these babies rich in color, they are rich in nutrients. Eggplant is a seasonal super food!

I created this eggplant dish based on a tasty dish of squash concocted by my childhood friend who I have endearingly nicknamed “Barbie of Sunny Acres.” Barbie, Donna, and I enjoyed her squash dish on her sun porch flanked by a vase full of sunflowers. With this in mind, I created a recipe full of summer’s best.

Use my recipe as a starting point then make it your own by substituting different cheeses, herbs, and vegetables. Next time I am going to use the baby eggplant in a frittata (baked with eggs and cheese). You can’t go wrong when it’s all from the garden!

Thank you to Barbie of Sunny Acres for the genesis of this recipe and for the memory of hospitality.

eggplant-cooked-goodBaby Eggplant Bake

The tender baby eggplants don’t require sautéing or over salting to make them tender. Slicing them fresh and putting them directly into the casserole dish makes this recipe easy and quick. You can substitute herbed goat cheese or feta for the cream cheese, and cheddar or Monterey Jack for the mozzarella. You can also substitute fresh red pepper for the tomatoes.


  • Baby, purple eggplant, about 8, sliced just a little less than 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, chilled and torn into small pieces
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Spray a one-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Place half of the sliced eggplants in a single layer in dish, overlapping a bit. Sprinkle with one half each of the chopped onion, tomatoes, and basil. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Dot this eggplant layer with one-half of the cream cheese and sprinkle one-half of the shredded mozzarella.

Repeat the layering process ending with the shredded mozzarella on top.

Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Trending Now — Sprodkas!

“Incredibly refreshing.” – Donna G.

“Sprodka time!” – Hollace G.

“I’d love to come by and try your Sprodka.” – Mike D.
(From a big, famous, national restaurant chain!)

Actually, Sprodkas have been trending for about 10 years now in the Kelley household and in select zip codes across the country. It started one day when my husband Bill mixed me a summertime cooler and dubbed it the “Sprodka.”

I’ve never blogged about the Sprodka before, so I’m putting it out — right here, right now. When it becomes a worldwide sensation recorded in mixology manuals, I want you to know it started in the Kelley house.

Wherever we go, coast to coast, people see us and say, “Sprodka time!”

Recipe for Sprodka

  • Vodka to taste
  • Sprite Zero*
  • Lime, squeezed with fruit left in the glass (plus any other fruit to make it pretty)
  • Ice

Serve it in a highball glass or anything that strikes your fancy.

*Bill’s variation, depending on the audience, is equal part Sprite Zero and diet tonic.

Flex Your Mussels

Summer is time to get together but we don’t have to fuss — it’s hot and we just want to be with family and friends and relax. Easy summer fare is steamed mussels. Add some French bread to sop up the buttery sauce, maybe a salad, and some cool beverages and you have a meal.

Bring out the lawn chairs, sweep off the porch, and roll out the welcome mat!

Steamed Mussels

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 3-6 cloves of chopped garlic (Some people use up to a dozen cloves; it all depends on your preference.)
  • 2 bags of mussels (Wash and throw away any open shells or ones that won’t close if you tap on them. Remove any stringy stuff that looks like corn silk with needle-nose pliers. Really, you won’t find much—this sounds more complicated than it is.)
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped (or more)
  • 1 cup white wine

Wash mussels and set aside. Sauté chopped garlic in olive oil in a large sauce pan until soft. Add butter, chopped tomatoes and fresh basil. Stir until butter is melted. Add white wine and mussels and steam for 10-12 minutes. All shells should open; if they don’t, discard them. Serve immediately.

In Memory Of

This recipe was adapted from Delicious Memories of Karen’s Kitchen (Morris Press Cookbooks, 2007) — A collection of recipes by family and friends of Karen Circharo to support the Karen Circharo Memorial Fund. Proceeds from the cookbook benefit the Sister to Sister: The Women’s Heart Health Foundation. I didn’t know Karen, who passed away at 47 from heart disease; the book was a gift to me. Like so many of these homegrown cookbooks, the recipes are fabulous because people submit their finest.

The dedication in the book, written by Robin Silvis, reports that Karen Marie Circharo was a creative cook, wonderful hostess, loving wife, devoted mother and so much more. I would have loved to meet her.

Picnic Pizzaz!

With the Fourth of July fast approaching and other summer picnics in the making, think of new ways to add simple style — guaranteed to deliver interest to the ordinary picnic.

Watch my e-How video for inspiration and take it from here!

The Makings of a Fun, Casual, Picnic

  • Ball jars
  • Colorful bandanas (can use red, white and blue for patriotic holidays)
  • Quilt or colorful tablecloth
  • Lights for stringing when the sun goes down
  • Games  — croquet, kickball, bean bag toss, you name it!
  • Good food of your choice!
  • A warm welcome to make your guests glad they came.

Real Men Can Cook

I knew by the way they barreled in the kitchen that they were hungry. Our 14-year-old son and his two buddies came in from outside with that “look.” I was elbow deep in cookie dough involved in my own project so I really couldn’t stop to make them food. Besides, at 14, they can forage in our kitchen and find something themselves.

Before I could even finish my instructions to fire up the grill and grab some frozen burgers, one of the boys asked, “Mrs. Kelley, do you have an onion?”

Step One: slice the onions

Step One: slice the onions

Before I could answer, Connor continued, “Well, only if it’s not your last one, but we didn’t have any at home [I guess that's why they came here] and I can show you how to make grilled onions in a pouch for burgers.”

Now this was worth clearing a space for him on the counter. What happened next was nothing short of entertaining. Connor instructed me on the onion pouches (recipe below), and the other two boys, Patrick 1 and Patrick 2, prepped the grill, found the chips and implements, and caused general kitchen bedlam.

Did you know a big grill spatula can also be a bat?

As an onlooker I was more than entertained and proud of the boys. These boys are growing into fine, young men…and, they can cook!

Connor’s Onion Pouches (Recipe via His Older Brother Ryan)


  • 1 white onion, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 3 Tablespoons (approximately) of Worcestershire Sauce
  • Garlic salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Aluminum foil


  • Cut as many pieces of foil as you have burgers, big enough so you can make a pouch and twist the top.
  • Place several slices of onions on the foil.
  • Sprinkle with the rest of the ingredients and top with butter.
  • Wrap up and twist top so juices don’t leak out. Put on the grill and cook until soft and brown.

    Burger casualty.

    Burger casualty.

Pots o’ Hospitality

These little flower pots filled with springtime goodies are fun to make and give away. Create them for any occasion — party favors, hostess gifts, or welcome gifts left in your guest room. Use your imagination loading the contents of little flower pots.

Recipe for Pots o’ Hospitality

  • Ceramic green flower pots, available from Home Depot, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and garden stores in various colors and sizes (I used 5-inch pots here. If you’re inspired, buy terra cotta pots and personalize them for the occasion with paint.)
  • Colorful gardening gloves
  • Seed packet of herbs
  • Espresso Pillows from Trader Joe’s (chocolate-covered espresso beans… but a bit of any kind of chocolate will go)
  • Spanish moss (available from any craft store)

gArrange everything in the little pot and put in a cellophane bag (available at craft stores) and tie with ribbon (I used rafia). I also included a little soil in a separate baggie placed behind the flower pot in the cellophane bag. That way the seeds are ready to plant.