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Tasty & quick party fare

Fried ravioli was just one of the items on the spread for the holiday party. Others included grilled turkey sausage, mini-pastrami sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, chocolate fudge-raspberry cake and cookies.

“This is addictive.”

– Stephanie Endo, a guest at the 2011 holiday party, declared as she munched on some fried ravioli

It was time for our annual holiday party and we wanted a simple, fun spread to soak up all the liquor that our guests might be indulging in that night so we decided to do some sweets: a triple layer Chocolate Fudge-Raspberry Cake and some store-bought cookies and pair those with some savory dishes: Mini Pastrami Bites, Fried Ravioli, grilled sausage with spicy mustard and a couple varieties of flatbread pizza. Our only requirement of all the dishes were that they be tasty, quick to make and be easy finger-food type options for our guests who would be mingling and talking as they ate.

The cake I finished assembling the night before the party but the rest of the food we made in a few hours just before the open house holiday party started at noon.

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Pizza in a pinch

This slice of BBQ chicken pizza is delicious and so easy that my 9-year-old niece makes it when she visits. She says this is her favorite. And the way she and her twin brother eat it up when she makes it is the proof! Psst … don\’t tell her that it\’s a healthy and balanced meal.

‘This pizza is really good!’

Shailesh Swaroop, my brother said in surprise during a lunchtime visit

My brother, Shailesh, of Carlsbad, Calif., and his two daughters, Sangeeta, 15, and Maya, 13, decided to pop in for a last-minute visit right during lunchtime. They called from South Coast Plaza and said they’d be over in an hour. I don’t know about the teenagers you know but this pair can be finicky about what they’ll eat. My brother’ll eat anything … so I decided to bake this BBQ chicken pizza for lunch.

My brother, Shailesh, gets ready to chow down on the first BBQ chicken pizza out of the oven. He came down from the San Diego area for a brief visit to Orange County with his daughters, Sangeeta and Maya. It’s always fun to see them!

It’s an easy recipe. It includes a crust from the store (something like Boboli), bbq sauce, chicken breast, cilantro, cheese, tomatoes and onions. I cubed up the raw chicken breast, cooked it in bbq sauce and layered the rest of the ingredients on to the crust and baked until the cheese is bubbly. Delicious and easy! My favorite kind of recipe.

It came out of the oven just as they walked in the door. We had it along with some fruit: watermelon, honeydew or strawberries. We all tore through it and could focus on enjoying each other for their brief three-hour visit.

Would you like to make it yourself? Click here for the recipe.

Tasting tour in NYC’s Greenwich Village

This was part of the selection at Rocco's Bakery in the West Village. We sampled their cannolis which were yummy.

This was part of the selection at Rocco’s Bakery in the West Village. We sampled their cannolis which were yummy

Suki and I extended our trip while we were in Jersey to include a few days in Manhattan, NY. While we were there we thought it’d be cool to go on a tasting/cultural tour by Zerve Tours through the West Village. It included pizza, cookies, chocolate, pasta, wine and Italian pastry. We even took it a bit further and stopped in on the Chelsea Market to conduct our very own cupcake smackdown. A delicious, filling time was had by all.

Delicious deep dish

As I made my across the country en route to California, I stopped in one of my favorite cities: Chicago. I was lucky enough to meet up with an old friend and have some really great Chicago-style pizza, above. It was great to catch up with Kathy Burke and her son, Stone.

As I made my across the country en route to California, I stopped in one of my favorite cities: Chicago. I was lucky enough to meet up with an old friend and have some really great Chicago-style pizza, above. It was great to catch up with Kathy Burke and her son, Stone.

My friend, Cathy Burke, with her son, Stoney, look adorable after a fantastic dinner of Chicago deep dish pizza. It was great to see them again.

My friend, Cathy Burke, with her son, Stoney, look adorable after a fantastic dinner of Chicago deep dish pizza. It was great to see them again.