In my 36 years of living in Maine, I’ve learned a thing or three. One of them is how to manage summer company. I have learned that I can be a good hostess and not become resentful. I trust my company has also learned by now that my house is not a bed and breakfast and that I’m not going to be waiting on them. This is my summer. 

Everyone who arrives on my doorstep is expected to make their own beds, hang up their wet towels, sweep up the sand they track in and take their turn in the kitchen.

Upon arrival, I show everyone where the supplies are, and then at my first opportunity, I return to my hammock and my book knowing that if anyone has hunger pangs, there are chips and salsa, iced tea, raw veggies and fruit and other snacks, like the following tried and true recipes.

Peppy clam shells comes from my mom’s recipe box and is a winner for a light lunch when served alongside a crispy salad made from the ingredients in my kitchen garden. These little bites of deliciousness are also a lovely first course for dinner when you feel fancy and didn’t stay too long at the beach. It’s easy enough to keep these simple ingredients on hand, but if you don’t have a red pepper, don’t worry about it. No Parmesan? Use another kind of cheese.

As always, these recipes are springboards for your imagination, and I won’t tell if you don’t follow them to the letter. When you put together chicken salad with avocado, I hope you’ll play a little. Be free. If you don’t have red onion, use a couple scallions or a handful of chives. Did your cilantro wilt on the windowsill? Use dill or parsley. Add some bacon, cheese or slices of hard-boiled egg if you like. If the limes all went into the gin and tonics, just use a lemon. 

My favorite part of this salad is the crunchiness of the fresh raw corn, but leftover cooked corn is okay too. This salad can be served on its own, on greens, piled onto a crusty roll or rolled into a wrap or a romaine leaf. I could eat it every day.

Another thing I could eat daily is this chocolate cake, first made for me by my friend, Tina. It’s one of the quickest ways I know to get the ultimate chocolate fix. Well, you could just pour the can of chocolate syrup down your gullet, but eating a slice of this cake, even if you don’t bother with a fork, is more dignified.

Put these snacks out for your summer guests, pour yourself a drink and get back to your book. You’ve got it made in the shade, babe.

Peppy Clam Shells
1/2 cup onion, finely diced

1/2 cup celery, finely diced

1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely diced

4 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. flour

2 small (6-7 ounces) cans minced clams 

1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers 

1/4 tbsp. each salt & pepper

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Dash hot pepper sauce

4 tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Sauté onion, celery, and bell pepper in butter until tender in a medium-size skillet. Turn off heat and stir in all remaining ingredients except cheese. Place mixture in oven-proof sea shells or small ramekins. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Yield: 4 servings.

Chicken Salad with Avocado
4 cups cooked chicken, chopped 

2 large avocados, chopped

1 cup fresh corn, cut from the cob

1 /2 cup cucumber, diced

1/4 cup red onion, diced 

1/4 cup celery, diced

2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half 

Salt and pepper to taste 

Place chopped chicken into a large bowl. Add corn, cucumbers, onion and cilantro. Stir to combine. Add avocado right before serving. Yield: 4-6 servings

Lime Dressing:
3 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed 

3 tbsp. olive oil 

Add dressing ingredients to a small bowl and stir to combine. Pour over salad and toss.

Chocolate Cake with Ganache
1/2 cup butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

4 eggs at room temperature

1 16-ounce can Hershey’s chocolate syrup

1 tbsp. vanilla 

1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add flour and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until just set in the middle. Cool in the pan.

Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Melt cream, chocolate chips and coffee granules in the top of a double boiler over simmering water or in a glass container in the microwave until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan and place it upside down on a wire rack to release cake. Pour glaze evenly over top, allowing the glaze to drizzle down the sides. Yield: 8-10 servings 

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