Guest Blog – The Contessa – I hate Summer!

The Contessa is back with another Guest Blog especially for you, dear Diva Readers!!!!

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Guest Blogger – The Contessa writes:
top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Spring has sprung in New York and all the flowers are in bloom. But we’ve already had some 90 degree plus days and that’s not spring, that’s summer. I HATE SUMMER! There – I said it and I’m not going to apologize for it. Let me explain….As a child, I never got sick during the school year. All my childhood diseases…mumps, chicken pox and whopping cough I managed to get right in the middle of Summer. As an adult, my one major surgery and my heart attack both happened…you guessed it…in the summer. I hate bugs, humidity and sweaty people. I HATE SUMMER.

However, there are a few things I love about summer…fresh veggies, my central air conditioning, a crystal clear swimming pool, Saratoga Springs and cold plates.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Cold plates I’m sure are not my invention but I sort of perfected what I consider to be the perfect summer meal without turning on any heat at all. Basically they are a mixture of whatever I have handy that goes together to make an interesting meal…. I usually start with a meat or fish. Meats can be any nice cold sliced meat such as roast beef, ham, turkey or chicken. If I’m in a particularly Mediterranean mood, I add salami, prosciutto or pepperoni. If I’m not in a meat mood, I use fish…cold, iced shrimp or cold salmon (my favorite). You can also use crab, sardines, smoked salmon or trout and if you really want, raw oysters or clams. I also like to use tinned smoked oysters.

to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Now the rest of the plate can be whatever you have available….grapes, strawberries, pate, pickles, cornichons, avocado, artichoke hearts, olives, coleslaw, corn relish, 3 bean salad, macaroni salad, grilled veggies, hard boiled eggs, chow-chow, and of course almost any kind of cheese….cottage, swiss, brie, cheddar, feta, etc. To finish it off, I always add some fresh veggies…tomatoes, radish, green onions, cucumber, mushrooms and carrots.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />A nice cold plate on a hot day is one reason why I LOVE SUMMER!

The Contessa,
Guest Blogger – Diva of the Day

Tip from Diva Reader – The Contessa

Dearest Diva –

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>I just ordered another cook book that I thought your readers might be interested in learning about – The Tavern on the Green Cookbook! It’s just out and has some wonderful recipes and a complete history of the restaurant. I’m sure you are familiar with this wonderful NYC restaurant.

to 10px; WIDTH: 200px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 261px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />I think my cookbook count now is somewhere close to 250. Someday I’ll have to tell you about my favorite recipe in each one! One of my favorite recipes to feed a hungry large group in the dead of winter is the Chili for a crowd from the Silver Palate Cookbook. I have friends call and ask me to “puhleeeeeeeeeeeeeeze make a batch”. It’s a lot of work but so worth it!

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And before I go, I wanted to ask do you know about the website ? If you’re not familiar with it, I’m certain you’ll be happy I introduced you to it.

The Contessa


Silver Palate Chili For a Crowd!

to 10px; WIDTH: 262px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />When choosing chopped meat for chili, you’ll find that beef chuck adds great flavor. And you never can have too many spices. Look for dark-red kidney beans. Lemon juice brightens all the tastes!

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
4 pounds beef chuck, ground
1 can (12 ounces) tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/3 cup ground cumin
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons salt,
or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
3 cans (28 ounces each) Italian plum tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cans (16 ounces each) dark-red kidney beans, drained
2 cans (5 1/2 ounces each) pitted black olives, drained

1. Heat the olive oil in a very large pot. Add the onions and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 15 minutes. Add the sausage meat and ground chuck; cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the meats are well browned. Spoon off any excess fat and discard.
2. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, cumin, chili powder, mustard, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, wine, lemon juice, dill, parsley and kidney beans. Stir well and simmer, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.
3. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add olives; simmer for 5 minutes more to heat through. Serve immediately.

Serves 20. Per serving: 260 calories, 19g carbohydrate, 26g protein,
10g fat, 55mg cholesterol.

Reader’s Kitchen Tip and Soup Recipe – From The Contessa

Dearest Diva,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>I just have to tell you about the most marvelous kitchen tool my husband, Sir Jeffrey, bought me. It’s called a Mezzaluna and he got it from the Nigella Lawson Living Kitchen catalogue. It’s shaped like a crescent moon and is made of stainless steel. The moon edge is very sharp and makes chopping and cutting a breeze. I’ve used it on fresh herbs and most recently on several pounds of mushrooms. I was making one of my signature recipes (a divine cream of mushroom soup) and had to chop lots of mushrooms and also shallots. The Mezzaluna made the whole job so easy; I couldn’t believe I ever chopped with knives. It has handles on both sides so you just rock and chop. I love it!

Just a little tip for those foodies that read your blog.

Bon Appetite!

The Contessa


The Contessa’s Divine Cream of Mushroom Soup!

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2 lbs of fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup butter ( I used salted)
4-5 shallots, chopped fine
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup of sherry or other white wine
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
optional garnish…chopped fresh parsley

First of all regarding the mushrooms…You can use any kind that your local market has fresh. Sometimes I use your basic plain mushroom but sometimes I like to mix it up with shitake, baby bells, chanterelles, etc.

Finely chop the mushrooms and shallots.

In a large pan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots; turn the heat up a bit and sauté, stirring frequently about 20 or so minutes. When the mushrooms look like a dark brown paste and most of the liquid has evaporated, add the flour
and stir.

Add the cream and deglaze the pan, then simmer about another 15 minutes until it thickens. Be careful it doesn’t stick. Keep scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Now at this point, if you want your soup to have the consistency of bisque, you can puree the soup in batches in a food processor or blender. Personally, I prefer to keep it chunky.

Before you serve, add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and finally the wine. I have tried it with sherry and white wine which I prefer. A nice dry white wine is great.

Serve with a nice crusty bread and salad and you have a wonderful dinner!

Guest Blog: Flower Basics from The Contessa

Guest Blogger The Contessa writes:

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Knowing that I was the daughter of 2 florists (or as they are now called “floral artists”), The Antiques Diva asked me for some tips on flowers. I grew up surrounded by beautiful blossoms all the time. My father also had a love for growing and had 3 large greenhouses. He was, at one time, the largest geranium grower in New York State. His designs won many awards and today, on the anniversary of his passing, I am proud to pass along some things I learned from him.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />First of all, if at all possible, grow a cutting garden. There is nothing more wonderful than being able to go out to your yard and come back with an armful of beautiful fleurs to beautify your home. I myself have a garden that has poppies, tulips, irises, lilies of the valley, rhodeodendrums, hydrangeas plus a few others. I am also blessed with a patch of wild violets – both purple and white. Whatever is in season is what you will find in my house at the time. There is nothing more wonderful smelling than a house in the spring filled with lilacs, lilies of the valley, tulips and violets. I keep a variety of vases in all sizes to fill each room with flowers. Although a lot of my garden is spring flower oriented, try to grow flowers that will bloom at different times from spring to fall so that you will always have something available.

If you don’t have room for a garden, I encourage you to support your local florist or farmers market.
to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />OK…Now that you have flowers, what do you do with them? Always, always, always if you haven’t cut them fresh yourself, recut the bottom of the stem before you put them in water. Prepare the water by putting a low dose aspirin (81 mgs) into the water along with a good-sized pinch of sugar. The sugar serves as food for the flower and the aspirin allows the plant to absorb water more easily.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Arranging the flowers is a bit of a personal thing. No one likes the same thing all the time. One important tip….as you are arranging your flowers, make sure all leaves are above the water line. If you don’t do this, the leaves will rot quickly and make for a really foul smelling water. There is nothing I like better than a tall clear vase with about a half dozen white gladiolas. I think it is sheer elegance. I also prefer a smaller vase with white tulips. If you prefer a mix, it’s up to you. Color co-ordinate as you would your wardrobe. In other words, don’t put orange and purple flowers in the same vase. ICK! Now that doesn’t apply if you are doing a big arrangement of wild flower. Mother Nature has provided us with a beautiful palate of wild flowers that somehow always seem to go together. Here in upstate NY, you can drive along a country road and pick a variety of wild flowers from Black Eyed Susan’s to Queen Ann’s Lace.

No matter how you arrange your flowers, the trick is just to do it. No home is complete without some of nature’s beauty. Enjoy!

The Contessa – The Diva of The Day

A Note From The Antiques Diva

Have you enjoyed the photos in today’s blog? All of these beautiful pictures were taken at Holland’s famous garden Keukenhof – the world’s largest flower garden with over 7 Million flower bulbs planted annually! In 2009 Keukenhof will be open from March 19 to May 21 – and this Diva typically visits a number of times to see the blossoms in their various stages. Rumor has it that this year mid April is the best time to go to Keukenhof.

Do you feel like doing a Divalicious Craft Project? This Spring take pictures of your garden and turn those photos into cards with the help of to_Cards.jsp” target=”_blank”>Kodak Gallery’s photo tools? to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />

Guest Blog: The Contessa’s Bibles

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Everyone has at least one bible. It doesn’t matter if you
are Jewish, Christian, Hindu or even atheist – everyone has at
least one bible.

Me? I have at least 5. Let me explain. A bible
can be any book that you cannot live without, that you depend
on for a lot of information and without it would be totally lost.

to 10px; WIDTH: 207px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />First and foremost, is my real Bible….the King James version. The
words and actions of my Lord and God are the most important thing in my life and I could not live without.

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But the 2nd bible on my list – and my first secular bible – is my address book. It’s not just for names and addresses but also for phone numbers at home and work, e-mail addresses, fax numbers and cell phone numbers. Mine also includes birthdays, anniversaries, names of children and school name (if they are away at school) and any food allergies. This comes in very handy when having someone over for dinner to make sure they can eat your sumptuous meal.

The Contessa’s definition of a Bible “Any-thing you can’t live without!”

I have a friend who takes it up a notch further and has her address book on index cards. She even lists what she served the last time these people were over and what she was wearing to make sure, heaven forbid, she doesn’t duplicate menu or couture.

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My third bible is”The Illustrated Dictionary of Antiques and Collectibles” by Judith Miller. Miller is one of the world’s foremost experts on antiques and she covers them from A to Z. The book contains over 3.000 entries, listed alphabetically. You can find everything from Aaron’s rod to Zurich pottery and porcelain. There is also a list of dealers and auction houses around the world and Miller also adds informative profiles of key craftsmen and manufacturers. The book is beautifully illustrated with over 1,500 full color photos. If you’re into antiques, this book belongs with you.

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My fourth bible is also antiques and collectible oriented. It’s updated yearly and is “Kovels Antiques and Collectible Price Guide” by Ralph and Terry Kovel. Sadly, Ralph passed away this past year but I’m pretty sure his wife Terry will continue the tradition. This is a very comprehensive price guide of over 43,000 items and current prices. It also has 2,500 color photos in over 650 categories and shows you 500 tell tale marks and logos. There are even a few stories of record prices at auction for particular items. If you are in the business, this book is a great help. It’s how I found out that an old Coca Cola tray that was laying around my aunt’s house forever was worth over $700. It’s also the price guide I use when pricing antiques that I sell and it’s also a great tool if you want to insure your items but aren’t sure how much they are really worth.

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Last but not least is a book that I use for entertaining all the time. It’s “Martha Stewarts Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook“. This is not your average cookbook. It is the most comprehensive hors d’oeuvres collection I have ever seen. The book contains 300 recipes, all photographed in beautiful color . I consider this book to be the most instructive, inspirational and indispensible guide for entertaining. This is not your chip and dip or pepperoni and cheese book. Some of my favorites include lobster and mushroom quesadilla, welsh rarebit in toasted breadboxes, grilled shitake mushrooms on rosemary skewers and fontina fondue with black truffles.

Now, if this hasn’t sent you packing for food, I don’t know what would. Throughout the book, Martha gives you tips on how to make everything look as wonderful as it tastes. I love the tip on how to make tiny cocktail bread with cutouts.

So these 5 books comprise The Contessa’s 5 bibles – for today anyway – the list is always subject to change or growth.

Now you tell me, how many bibles do you have and what are they?

Until Next Time… Ciao Bella!

The Contessa


Note To Reader:
Do you like the home-made scrapbook style address book show above right? If so, you too can make your own!! Find directions for this project and others like it at Fresh & Fun!

Guest Blog – Impressionist Giverny Comes to New York

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Today’s blog comes to you “Live From New York”! The Contessa,a New York state-based antiques dealer and Diva reader, has written to The Antiques Diva™ to share details on a stateside exhibition of “American Painters in France from 1885- 1915”.

The Contessa’s conversational writing style is a joy, harking back to her days as a radio personality. I am delighted to say that The Contessa is joining the team of regular diva reporters as she’ll be writing a series of upcoming guest blogs which are sure to daze & amaze! Thanks Contessa!

The Antiques Diva™


The Contessa – Impressionist Giverny Comes to New York

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>If you can’t afford a trip to Europe this year but happen to be in the New York state capital, there is a fix Francais for you. Impressionist Giverny – American Painters in France, 1885-1915 is currently on display through January 4th at the Albany Institute of History and Art in Albany, NY.

Giverny, the French village where Claude Monet did some of his most beautiful works, attracted hundreds of artists – many American – through the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The beauty represented in Monet’s art attracted so many artists from around the world that it transformed the village from a sleepy hamlet to a colorful and thriving community.

More than 50 of those stunning oil paintings from American artists who lived in Giverny are on display, including “The Terrace Walls” by Will Hicok Low, “The Card Players” by Theodore Earl Butler and “Mabel Conkling” by Frederick William Macmonnies. The exhibit was originally presented by the Musee d’Art Americain in Giverny, France.

Admission to the display also includes admission to the Institute Museum as well. There are gallery talks on this exhibit by a museum docent every Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.

Head to Albany over the next 2 1/2 months and soak up this wonderful gem of an exhibition!

The Contessa