The Big Round Birthday Simple Centerpiece

The Big Round Birthdays are the ones that end in zero. Or, as the German’s call it, “Runde Geburstage.”

Watch my e-How video and see how you can make a simple edible centerpiece with cupcakes for those Big Round Birthdays.

Start with your favorite cupcake recipe, some colorful items like frosting, table cloths, candles, ribbons, balloons, and before you know it, you have created something to remember, and, good enough to eat!

The Wedding Breakfast


It was 7 a.m. on September 13, 1945, at the end of World War II, exactly 11 days after the surrender of Japan. The pre-dawn marriage took place at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Clarion, Pennsylvania, between Johnny Garneau, a sergeant and chaplain’s assistant in the Army Air Corps. and Lois Space, a local girl who was a shoe buyer for Wein’s department store on Main Street. Johnny came from Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he learned to fly at Sikorsky Field. He met Lois while he was stationed in the small western Pennsylvania college town where he trained cadets.

Why a Wedding at 7 a.m.?

We can only guess why. Maybe there was a long line of soldiers wanting to marry their war-time sweethearts and you had to do it when the priest was available. Or maybe it was because back then you had to fast from midnight until you broke your fast with Holy Communion. A later wedding time would have meant a long time to wait to eat.

Dad and Mom started their marriage early that day in 1945 and it lasted for 55 years until Mom died. What they talked about most from that morning was the wedding breakfast prepared by my dad’s new mother-in-law. Gran prepared his favorite dish – Pepper Sandwiches. It’s always memories of food that mark the times of our lives.

We grew up eating Pepper Sandwiches and dad always reminded us that this was their wedding breakfast. The ratatouille-like concoction is a summer dish served on Italian bread open-face style. My version has deviated only a little from the original recipe. But, whenever I make Pepper Sandwiches, they taste the same and the 1945 wedding breakfast topic comes up.

Pepper Sandwiches Recipe

The fresh ingredients above are used for Pepper Sandwiches which are served on crusty, soft Italian bread. Eat as a summer, meatless entrée or serve with something from the grill.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil or other preferred oil
  • 8-10 peppers, any sweet variety, bell, Cubanelle, red, cleaned, cored and cut into large chunks
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin rings
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces) Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (or any kind, even fresh)
  • 1 12-ounce jar Heinz Chili Sauce (the secret ingredient)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

An electric skillet works well but a large sauté pan will also do. Put the oil in the pan, then add the cleaned peppers, onions, tomatoes, including juice. Cook until tender. Stir in the jar of Chili Sauce. Simmer until ready to eat.

The secret ingredient from a Pittsburgh company.

The secret ingredient from a Pittsburgh company.


Local Color

The girls from Penn Farm in Westmoreland County, Virginia, always deliver. Not only do they have the freshest produce, they have smiles and recipes to share with some tidbits of information about what they are selling. They are my go-to stand at two of my favorite farmer’s markets, one in Great Falls and one in Reston, Virginia. Be sure to Like them on Facebook.

Buying local means fresh and friendly. What do my hospitable friends at Penn Farm have to offer?

Scroll down to enjoy the colors from today’s market!

Purple peppers are to be eaten fresh in salads.

Purple peppers are to be eaten fresh in salads.

Jessie and Sam from Penn Farm

Jessie and Sam from Penn Farm

Kelley Hospitality herself checks out the plums for plum tarts.

Kelley Hospitality herself checks out the plums for plum tarts.

Sisters, Sam and Tessa, from Penn Farms, know it all!

Sisters, Sam and Tessa, from Penn Farm, know it all!

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)


Trending Now — Decker

Decker is a new summer, citrus cooler to enjoy on the deck (or porch, or backyard, or by the pool, or …)

The Name

It’s not “the Decker,” it’s just Decker. The drink was named by our neighbor Bob who happened to wander over to the deck while I was experimenting with ingredients and photographing the drink on, where else, the deck?

Bob’s commentary went like this as we sipped: “It’s like Facebook. Its inventor, Mark Zuckerberg, said it’s not cool to name it the Facebook…now that I think of it, Margarita is not the Margarita, right?”

So Bob named the drink, but he added, “Well, don’t go by me or give me credit for it, I just thought Decker might be a good name.”

I replied, “And for those who want two, we’ll call it a Double Decker”

“Hey, yeah….”Bob and my husband Bill replied. “Or a double shot of Vodka to make it a Double Decker.”

Serendipitous Hospitality

You never know when it will happen. You’re fiddling around with some ingredients and before you know it, you have a new drink with a cool name thanks to someone who found his way to your backyard. Do you have a serendipitous story of hospitality?

For the record, Decker is only trending on a small corner of my deck. But, you heard it here first.

Decker Recipe

You can adjust the ingredients to taste. Here is the recipe I used, inspired by the “Barbie of Sunny Acres Cosmopolitan.” (She freezes her concoction with the ingredients ever-changing.) And, Decker isn’t as sweet as a Margarita or a Cosmopolitan (one main ingredient is Triple Sec which Barbie also omits to cut down on sweetness). They key is the fresh lime juice for a pulpy tartness.

Yield: 2-3 drinks

  • 1 lime for freshly squeezed juice, about 3 tablespoons
  • 4 ounces of citrus-flavored Vodka
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, or 1 tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 3/4 cup cranberry juice

Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Pour into glasses. Garnish with orange slice and place an orange rind in the drink for extra flavor.



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.