Friday, February 12, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Sandy Lepley

One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”  

~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

In all the world if you could ever hope for the perfect Mother-in-law, you would only be lucky enough to get mine.  Not only is Sandy kind, modest and completely compassionate of others feelings, but she is also really fun!   I often think about how wonderful it is to have her be my other "Mom".  I have never gotten the feeling that I am just "married in" to her family.  She embraced me right away and through the years she has really turned into a friend, as well as my Mother-in-law.  I love the time we have chatting about girl stuff, family memories and of course food!  She is fearless in the kitchen and is always excited about trying out new recipes.  She has a famous motto that always makes me smile (for we have yet actually needed to do this) "If it stinks we can always order Pizza!"  What a great attitude to have in the kitchen!  I love it!  So for todays segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am honored to introduce you to Sandy Lepley.

Sandy Lepley
This photo was from a super fun "Big Night Out" at Loretta Paganini's School of Cooking

What is your favorite thing to cook?  
I like planning and cooking brunch.  It’s easy to do; so many recipes can be made the night before and then pulled from the fridge when it’s time to bake.  

How about your least favorite thing to cook? 
I’m intimidated by anything that requires yeast and/or a rolling pin.  I’m very thankful for ready-made pie crust.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out? 
This is a tough 2-part question.  I can’t say I have a favorite restaurant but when I’m in the mood for a particular meal that will dictate the restaurant choice.  For example, for Mexican food I like Cozumel, for Italian food it’s Osteria, for a quick burger and beer I like The Courtyard.  Once upon a time my girlfriends and I tried to eat at all the hottest new restaurants.  Currently there isn’t one on my radar screen.

You are hosting a dinner party, what are your top 5 Dinner Party Songs? 
My dinner party music varies by the guests who are coming to dinner so the music can be anything from jazz, oldies, country or classic rock.  Personally, I like jazz and Latin music best.  

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?  
My last meal might either be pizza or spaghetti and meatballs.  Since it would be my last meal, I certainly wouldn’t feel guilty about eating the whole pie or finishing a big bowl of pasta.  While we’re at it, let’s throw in some wonderful crusty Italian bread and Tiramisu, too!  

What are you currently reading? 
Because my job requires me to be on my computer all day, I don’t look forward to reading in the evenings.  Usually, I read a book or two while on vacation.  

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget? 
My new favorite kitchen gadget is a little citrus juicer that I found in a kitchen store in Canada.  This little thing collects the seeds while the juice runs into a little pouring cup. The whole thing isn’t much bigger than a lemon.  I have a little silicone mixing spoon that I use often for getting stuff out of jars, cans or scraping small dishes.

Do you have a signature go-to dish? 
Because I’m always trying new recipes I don’t really have a signature dish, but the recipes I don’t vary much are chili, flank steak, clam chowder and holiday mashed potatoes.  

What is your favorite thing about Cleveland? 
My favorite things about Cleveland, without a doubt, are the theaters and the metro parks.  In addition to Playhouse Square and the Cleveland Playhouse, there are fantastic community theaters all around the suburbs, especially The Beck Center in Lakewood.  The Emerald Necklace around the Greater Cleveland area is absolutely beautiful and I enjoy several hiking trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you still cook it now as an adult?  
I have lots of favorite meals from my childhood and my meatloaf and chili are much like my mom’s. If I could have two recipes from my childhood it would be Grandma Turnbull’s mayonnaise and Grandma Ungar’s fresh green bean soup.

Top 3 Movies of all time?  
Everyone knows I love a “happy Hollywood ending.”  So it’s no wonder that I enjoy romantic comedies.  After much thought, my top three movies are Sabrina, Roman Holiday and Love Actually.

Where do you do your grocery shopping? 
Hands down Heinen’s is my #1 favorite grocery store.  Since there’s a Marc’s within walking distance to my house, it’s a great place for the “I forgot to get…” items. 

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?  
A sack of potato chips and Rosati’s frozen custard.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?   
Yes, I would like to grill a duck, a beef brisket and make a lobster roll.

You host some of the best parties, always coming up with fun themes and a full menu to go along with- you are fearless in the kitchen, always trying new things.  I love that about you!  Can you tell me about one of your most favorite parties you hosted, menu included of course- if you can remember!   
My top favorite theme party was the Italian Cooking party.  Invites were sent to friends requesting them to bring a particular food item and to dress Italian (whatever that meant to them).  Once gathered, the party guests were divided into two groups, each group chose a Head Chef and each group was given time to come up with a menu from a list of available food items.  Each group had 90 minutes to make an appetizer, main course and dessert.  Also, each team had to set the table for the other team; even that became a competition.  The fun ensued as everyone scrambled to use the grills, oven, and microwave.  While Louis Prima, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra music played, we all enjoyed a very creative and not so bad dinner.  That evening was full of laughs.  

Another favorite cooking party was a Valentine’s Day cooking party. Couples were separated and put into teams and each team blindly chose a recipe for the meal.  The menu was Mixed Field Greens with Red Wine Vinaigrette, Salmon Chanted Evening Over a Bed of Lusty Mashed Potatoes and Strawberry-Rhubarb “Courting” Cake.  

Salmon Chanted Evening On a Bed of Lusty Mashed Potatoes 
(created by Robin Benzlé)

3 large potatoes, peeled and chunked
3 T unsalted butter
3 T light cream or half-and-half
1/4 tsp each ground black pepper, cayenne pepper and white pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp olive oil
1 salmon fillet, about 1-1/2 #
1/2 c white dry vermouth
Juice of 1 lemon 
1 T butter
1/2 c cashews, coarsely chopped
2 T brown sugar
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges

In large saucepan, cover potatoes with water, bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes, or   until fork-tender.  Remove from heat, drain off water and immediately add butter and cream.  Beat with electric mixer until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

Heat oven to broil.  Brush roasting pan with half the oil, place salmon in pan, and brush top of fish with remaining oil.  Pour wine over, then lemon juice.  Broil in center of oven 12 to 15 minutes, or until inside of salmon is flaky but not dry (do not turn).  Meanwhile melt butter in small skillet.  Add cashews and saute 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Stir in brown sugar, cook 1 minute and remove from heat.

Arrange warmed mashed potatoes on 2 dinner plates.  Cut salmon in half and place each half on top of potatoes.  Garnish with cashews and border with tomato wedges.

Makes 2 very generous servings.

(Note:  Adjust accordingly for number of servings required.)

*Please check out this link to find the recipe for the Strawberry-Rhubarb "Courting" Cake

Amie, this was great fun.  Thank you for asking me to be one of your featured guests.  I enjoy reading your website.

Sandy thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions and for your fun recipes!  I am super inspired to have a cooking theme night party at my house once the weather warms up.  Your party sounds like it was a blast!  Now I just have to figure out how to get on the guest list next time... *ahem... nudge, nudge*  :)


  1. I Love IT!!!!! Can't wait to try some of your recipe's ! Love ya!


  2. Sandy, I am impressed! Very impressed! Your dinner parties sound like so much fun. Judy

  3. Thanks Lori! It was great seeing you guys today!



Related Posts with Thumbnails