LEWISTON – Pauline Labbe loves to celebrate, so when friends and family are invited over to her home, they know a treat is in store. “I love to entertain and throw parties,” Labbe says. “Anyone who comes here for a party knows that they won’t have to cook.”

Extensive travel has inspired Labbe’s cooking and her parties. “One time, my husband and I traveled to Spain. While we were there, we had tapas, which are small appetizer-like dishes. While we ate them, I thought, ‘What a great idea for a party!’ So after we returned home, I made sure to have a tapa party.”

Some of her other party ideas include soup tastings, mystery dinners and Cinco de Mayo celebrations. “I get all of my ideas from the shows I watch and the places I travel.”

The enthusiastic cook has 250 cookbooks spread out “here, there and everywhere” throughout the house. “I also love the Food Network, especially their Saturday shows,” Labbe said. “I have books by Emeril (Lagasse), Wolfgang Puck and others on the channel.”

In addition to collecting many cookbooks, Labbe has written down her own recipes. “When I was in New Hampshire once, I saw a book with ‘Mom’s recipes’ on the front. I bought three of them, one for each of my daughters, and just filled the pages with my recipes. Then, I gave them as gifts. The girls use them quite often.”

Her children selected her recipes included here because they’re among the daughters’ favorites.

Labbe enjoys making a variety of dishes. “I’m very versatile. I love Italian and Mexican. But I also love to bake. My spice cabinet is well-stocked, and I cook the family meal every Sunday – the kids and grandkids that live close by come and enjoy. I try out all sorts of dishes with them. Some are good and some aren’t keepers, but if it sounds good and it feels right, then don’t be afraid to give it a try.”

Labbe and her husband, Fernand, who live in Lewiston, have three grown daughters and four grandchildren, Amanda, Chelsea, Camdan and Mackenna. She is retired and enjoys cross-stitching and scrap-booking in her spare time. “I’m making a book for each of the grandchildren and I love it. I’ve given the older two theirs, but we still work on the younger ones’ books. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Cream of cauliflower soup
1 large cauliflower, separated in flowerets

1 onion, sliced

½ cup unsalted butter

3 medium potatoes, pared and diced

2 cups milk

1 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream

3 teaspoons minced chervil

¼ teaspoon white pepper

3 tablespoons sour cream
Bread cubes

Blanch cauliflower in boiling salted water in large saucepan for two minutes. Rinse with cold water. Saute onion in 6 teaspoons of the butter in a Dutch oven. Add cauliflower and cook covered over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in potatoes, milk, water, salt and pepper. Cook covered until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree soup a half at a time, in blender. Transfer to large saucepan: Stir in cream, sour cream and chervil.

Heat over low heat until hot but do not boil. Adjust seasoning, keep warm. Saute bread cubes in remaining 2 teaspoons of butter in small skillet until golden, about 3 minutes. Garnish soup with croutons.

Artichoke spinach salad
Salad ingredients
6 cups fresh spinach, torn

4 green onions, chopped

½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained

1 jar (6½ ounces) marinated artichokes, drained and quartered

8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
Dressing ingredients
½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon grated onion
1 cup vegetable oil

In large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. For dressing, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard and onion in a blender; cover and process until smooth. While processing, gradually add oil in steady stream. Drizzle over the salad. Gently toss to coat. Refrigerate any leftover dressing. Makes six servings.

Seafood lasagna
1 green onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons plus ½ cup butter

½ cup chicken broth

1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice

1 pound bay scallops

1 pound uncooked small shrimp

1 pound lobster or crabmeat

¼ teaspoon white pepper, divided

½ cup all-purpose flour

1½ cups milk

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup whipping cream

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained.

In large skillet, saute onion in oil and 2 tablespoons butter till tender. Stir in broth and clam juice, bring to boil. Add the scallops, shrimp and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, return to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 4 to 5 minutes or until shrimp turns pink and scallops are firm and opaque, stirring gently. Add lobster or crabmeat. Drain, reserving liquid; set seafood mixture aside.

In saucepan, melt remaining butter; stir in flour until smooth. Combine milk and reserved cooking liquid; gradually add to the saucepan. Add salt and remaining pepper, bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in cream and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Stir ¾ cup of the white sauce into seafood mixture.

Spread ½ cup white sauce in a greased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. Top with three noodles; spread with half seafood mixture and 1¼ cups sauce. Repeat layers. Top with sauce and Parmesan. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Serves 12.

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