Tomato and Cheese pies have been something on my bucket list to prepare for quite some time. I had the pleasure of making this vegetarian delight for good friends and fellow fooderati at the Sanibel Community House when I was asked to speak about tomatoes at our monthly potluck dinner lecture series a few months ago.  The Sanibel Community House is in the process of raising funds for a major renovation which will include a large professional kitchen to accommodate food crafting and cooking classes for islanders, vacationers and everyone interested in the Sanibel and Captiva Island community. For more information, check out their efforts on

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This pie is so simple to prepare that I tried making several versions the next day for my bakery on Sanibel Island, Geppetto’s Beach Foodies. It is a vegetarian favorite and a new staple on our menu. Even more exciting is that I shared the recipe with a close friend from  New York. Fedela Kessler tried the recipe and sent me a pic of her craft (see below). Thanks Fedela for trying it out and sending your feedback. I miss our diner chats.







 Difficulty                                                                                                        1 FORK


  • In a hurry and you have no time to make your own pie crust?  Try Pillsbury Pet Ritz brand frozen pie crust shells. The Pet Ritz crust is flaky, buttery and withstands sweet fruit or savory tomato liquids when the pie is cut.
  • 6 medium beefsteak tomatoes. Note: I mixed in colorful heirloom tomatoes for interest.
  • Sea Salt and Pepper
  • Italian Seasonings
  • Fresh Basil finely chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped scallions
  • 2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 cup Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
  • Colorful Yellow and Red Grape Tomatoes for Garnish



  • Preheat Oven to 375.
  • Poke holes with fork tines – 10 to 12 times.
  • Bake frozen pie crust shells for 8 minutes. Remove and Cool.
  • Peel and slice tomatoes to 1/8 inch thickness
  • In a bowl, combine 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella  with 1 cup mayonnaise.
  • Layer the tomatoes in the pie shell.
  • Layer the ½ cup scallions.
  • Season with Salt and Pepper, Italian Seasonings and fresh chopped basil
  • Sprinkle with ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • Spread the cheese/mayo mixture on top.
  • Garnish with grape tomatoes, remaining chopped basil, salt , pepper, Italian seasonings.

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BAKE the pie for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Cool and Serve.

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  1. Substitute Cheddar or Monterey Jack shredded cheese or make a pie with a combination of cheeses.
  2. Substitute ½ of the amount of mayo with plain yogurt.
  3. The sky is the limit with a variety of different garnishes ie: pine nuts, dried fruits, spinach & artichoke
  4. Turn this into a one meal pie. Add a layer of cooked and sliced sausage or a healthier alternative of cooked ground turkey meat or fish.
  5. For a firmer bottom crust, layer some cheese slices on the bottom of the pie. Then add the tomato, onions, meat if desired.

Seasoning food with Chutneys, Aioli, Pesto and More

Seasoning food with Chutneys, Aioli, Pesto and more

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Top Row: Avocado Guacamole, Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Muffolata Tapenade,

Bottom Row: Mango Chutney, Basil Pesto, Lemon Herb Aioli

Preparing memorable food such as delicious tapas, great sandwiches and pairing our favorite meal with unforgettable accompaniments is not accidental. We invite you to think out of the foodie box, look beyond the beloved mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and relish and sample delicious alternatives sure to please both sweet and savory palates with chutneys, aioli, jams, pesto and vegetable tapenades. Here is a brief description on what they are and how to use them in your favorite foods:

  •  Aioli – A French sauce originating from Provencal cuisine, aioli is served with meat, fish and vegetables. Aioli is made with lemon, egg, garlic and olive oil and has a similar texture to mayonnaise but with less heaviness. Try lemon herb aioli on a Bavarian Pretzel bread sandwich layered with Roast Beef and Cheddar Cheese.
  • Chutney – Similar in consistency to jelly and relish, chutney consists of fruits and spices. Chutney typically lends a sweet and sour accoutrement to sandwiches, meats, fish, cheese, rice and cous cous but there are some hot and spicy variations available to accompany curry dishes.   Stonewall Kitchen offers a complete line of peach chutney, apple cranberry chutney and their award winning Old Farmhouse chutney with peaches, apples, raisins, cranberries, apricots and ginger.
  • Guacamole – Touted as a healthy alternative to mayonnaise, this avocado condiment is not just for the burrito or tortilla chip lover. Guacamole pairs well on a Turkey and Swiss Ciabatta, in a southwest salad or with grilled chicken and mango salsa.
  • Jam – Similarly sweet and delicious but different than its Jelly relative, Jams are preserved whole fruits while jelly is made from fruit chucks and pieces. Visibly different than jelly whose appearance is even and uniform, Jam is spreadable fruit, often made with less sugar and has a chunky texture in appearance. Thanks to purveyors of specialty foods, jam flavors are not limited to strawberry, peach and grape. Two of my favorite Stonewall jams are their wild Maine blueberry and raspberry peach champagne. Braswell’s European jams are another good find. Try their sweet Vidalia onion or chocolate peppermint jam on hot croissants, seasonal crepes and Panini French Toast.
  • Pesto – Traditionally, Pesto is an Italian sauce made of basil, garlic and olive oil and sometimes pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Alternative pestos are made with roasted bell peppers or sweet sun dried tomato. Pesto is typically used as a pasta sauce and as a brushetta topping appetizer for crusty crostini bread but it works just as well on a chewy Ciabatta caprese sandwich or salad of fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil.
  • Tapenade – A smooth paste made with chopped olives, capers, olive oil, garlic and herbs. Tapenade is as versatile a condiment in Mediterranean kitchens as ketchup is to the US household. It is served on bread as an appetizer or paired with Italian meats and cheeses for a light lunch. Tapenade is also used in soups and sauces.

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Vanilla infused French toast with Stonewall Kitchens Wild Maine Blueberry Jam

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Seasoned Olive Foccacia Bread with Pesto, Relish & Tapenade

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Brushetta Toast with Basil Pesto, diced Tomatoes, fresh Basil and shaved Parmigiano

Picnics in Paradise: Packing a Beach Picnic Basket

Picnics in Paradise: Packing a Beach Picnic Basket

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Have you ever said to yourself that food actually tastes better when eating your meal in the great outdoors? You are not alone and that is why picnics are a popular dining choice to celebrate time together with friends, family and loved ones. Picnics are traditionally welcomed from Memorial Day through Labor Day all around the country. Hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob and new England clambakes are all part of traditional Americana picnic food but there are some great al fresco dining alternatives out there that offer simpler choices with big tastes and little prep time.

For the fortunate who vacation or live in warmer climates as I do in Southwest Florida, the time to enjoy a beach picnic lasts throughout the year. Good food, surrounding nature and beautiful beaches serve as a perfect backdrop of wonderful memories spent picnicking on Sanibel Island if the right food is packed cold, well insulated and includes set ups that make dining easy to chow down, especially where sand pails and seashells are all around you. Here are some tips to help you pack a beach picnic:

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Tips for Packing a Beach Picnic Basket:

  • Finger foods and artisan sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and covered in cello bags where little use of utensils is required will make the dining experience more enjoyable and convenient.

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Enjoy your beach picnic without the hassle of preparing the meal by ordering grab and go cuisine from your favorite market in advance.

  • Choose food that tastes great cold and does not require the use of gas grills such as:
    • Interesting sandwiches prepared on freshly baked Artisan breads seasoned with chutneys, pesto or aioli
    • Tomato or Spinach Wraps rolled into cone shapes and inserted into paper cones like snow cone cups making it easier to eat while holding the cone cup.
    • Spreads and Dips with a fresh Baguette, Foccacia or Crostini
    • Dry cured meats like Salami or Prosciutto with a fresh loaf of Italian bread
    • Seasonal fruit salad platters with spears or toothpicks for easy eating
    • Cold Pasta Salad with grilled Italian vegetables marinated in balsamic dressing
  • Take along a cooler and keep your drinks chilled. Make sure the beverage selection includes bottles of cold water. Hydration is important under the hot sun and refreshing H2O quenchers come in all sizes and flavors to quench your thirst. Try to stick with plastic bottles such as Perrier spring water or recyclable cans of lemon, lime and blood orange flavored San Pellegrino both of which are good for the environment and good for you.
  • There’s always room for sweets. Choose wisely if you are planning a day in the hot sun. espresso cookie brittles or bite sized dolce are a good choice. We created croissant donut holes called Crodoles© when we opened Geppetto’s Beach Foodies in 2012, offering grab and go beach cuisine. Crodoles© come in a variety of flavors from Mango Coconut to Key Lime, Cookie Butter, Canoli and more.
  • Last, always pack 2 trash bags for easy clean-up at the end of the day.

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Pictured Left: Key Lime Coconut Crodoles©,  Right: Variety Bags of Crodoles©