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Gifts from the Garden…Yes Please!

I have had the fortune of great friends with the greenest of green thumbs extoll gifts from their garden. I LOVE summer’s bounty am elated when the supply far exceeds the demand. Truthfully, how much zucchini, tomatoes, beats and lettuce can one eat in a week? Hmmmm…..

So, with open hands and a grateful heart, I accept these gifts and in return, I share recipes, dog treats and treasures from my kitchen.

My zucchini growing friends did quite well this year….you know who you are 😘 and I am sharing one of my favorite recipes…Zucchini Napoleons.

ZUCCHINI CAKE NAPOLEONS

Makes 4 servings 

SHRED:

  • 4 zucchini, green, yellow or both (4 cups)
  • 1/2 C. shredded onion
  • 1/2 C. shredded Romano cheese
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

WHISK:

  • 2 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning 
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup Italian panko (or Italian breadcrumbs)

HEAT:

3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

ASSEMBLE:

  • 1 large tomato
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 Cup prepared pesto (I use Trader Joe’s…cheap + fresh)
  • Basil sprigs

Shred zucchini and onion

Place zucchini and onion in a salad spinner, sprinkle with salt and let stand 30 minutes. 

Spin mixture in a salad spinner to dry; transfer to a kitchen towel and squeeze to remove more liquid.

Whisk together egg, garlic, Italian seasoning, and baking powder.
Stir in zucchini mixture and panco. 

Scoop batter with 1/2 cup measure onto a baking sheet and press into 8 cakes.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil with drippings in skillet. SautÊ cakes in two batches over medium heat until golden, about 4 minutes per side, adding more oil as needed.

Add a mozzarella slice to each cake in the last 2 minutes of sautÊing to slightly melt mozzarella. 

Transfer cakes to a paper-towel-lined plate. 

Assemble Napoleons by layering

  • fresh mozzarella slice
  • a tomato slice
  • 2 T. pesto 
  •  Top each with a remaining cake and garnish with a basil sprig; serve immediately 

Dear Friends,

Summer’s bounty isn’t over until it’s over. I hope you enjoy this delicious dish. It has great presentation and doesn’t take forever to make…just a few small steps.

Great friends are truly a blessing. I remember taking a Steven Covey class many years ago where he emphasized the concepts of deposits and withdrawals in friendship. “Over deposit and under withdraw” was his best advice in any relationship and no words could be truer.

Cheers to friends, family and everything else you love. Until next time…

🍸Laura

PS..Check out my latest obsessions…

OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner $29.95 + FREE SHIPPING

SALAD SPINNER

Ninja 4-in-1 Blender and Food Processor System, 1200-Watt Auto-iQ Base with Blending, Processing, Spiralizing, Mixing, and Dough (AMZ012BL), Black $226.99 + FREE SHIPPING

NINJA FOOD PROCESSOR

Chef’s Medal Food Serving Tray Set: 3 Tier Metal Display Stand with 3 White Rectangular Stoneware Platters | Perfect for Party Foods, Desserts, Cakes & Cupcakes $29.97 + FREE SHIPPING

SERVING TRAYS

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My Comfort Food Falling Out

For some reason, we are convinced that with the onset of fall and winter, we should be eating comfort food…delicious, stick to the ribs (and everywhere else)…filling, satisfying, fattening food. Then comes spring and we wonder why our shorts don’t fit and our feet have gone up a half size. 

Try a bowl of shepherds pie laced with buttery mashed potatoes or how about a nice slice of mac and cheese stuffed meatloaf? These are truly amazing. 

So, my question is this: Is it comfort food season, or are we stress eating because it will soon be snowy and cloudy for the next six months??

If I sound like a bah humbug about fall and winter, it’s no accident. That being the case, I have made a diligent attempt to find seasonal recipes that limit the fat but keep the comfort.

And by the way, shortcuts of all kinds in my recipes are more than acceptable. Trader Joe’s is stocked with affordable and organic choices for meal prep goodies. Costco is another great place if you are feeding a large crowd. 

PS…I will absolutely post those amazing comfort food recipes as well. No reason not to…

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD WITH PORT VINAIGRETTE

FOR THE BUTTERNUT SQUASH

  • 1 Butternut Squash, cut in small pieces
  • 8 shallots, peeled, halved
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • Sprinkle of onion salt (I like the Trader Joe’s)

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup port wine
  • 1 T. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 T. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

FOR THE SALADS

BUILD EACH SALAD WITH

  1. 1 cup spring mix salad greens
  2. Roasted butternut squash and shallots
  3. 2 T. Port Vinaigrette
  4. 2 T. crumbled blue cheese
  5. 2 T. toasted walnut pieces

 

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Toss the butternut squash and shallots in olive oil in a large roasting pan. Lightly sprinkle with onion salt (or sea salt).

Roast in the lower oven for 15 minutes.

Prepare the vinaigrette:

Combine vinegar, honey, port, ginger, and rosemary. Pour this syrup over the roasting squash and return the pan to the oven; roast for 10 more minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer squash and shallots to a bowl.

Pour syrup into a measuring cup and whisk in enough oil to make 11/4 cups vinaigrette, season, and set aside.

 

Build each salad starting with greens.

Top with squash and shallots, and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese and toasted walnuts.

*If you aren’t a fan of butternut squash, try using pears for a delicious twist. Roast them or use them sliced raw.

Dear Friends,

Sorry it has been so long. Summer has taken me away from my computer but I am back to share.

Always on a search for delicious EASY winners and I am happy to search for ones you are looking for. Email or send a txt.

Cheers to celebrating simple things every day and cherishing friends and loved ones.

🍷 Laura

PS…Check out my latest Trader Joe’s obsessions! Just one click away!

 

Trader Joe’s Seasoning – 21 Salute Seasoning , Chile Lime and Everything but the bagel Seasoning by Trader Joe’s $13.87 + Free shipping!

TRADER JOE'S SEASONING

Not only are these amazing, but I LOVE the way they stack!!

Trader Joes(16 fl oz) Coconut Certified Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil by Trader Joes by Trader Joe’s $13.49 + Free Shipping!

TRADER JOES COCONUT OIL

Cook with it, mix it with your peanut butter, or use it on your skin! I can’t get enough of this!

Cooking With a Touch of Savory Trader Joes Chile Lime, 21 Salute, Onion Salt and Seasoning Salt (4/pk) by Trader Joe’s $18.80 + FREE SHIPPING!

TRADER JOE'S FOUR SPICES

Trader Joes Hot & Sweet Pepper Jelly by Trader Joe’s $9.50 + FREE SHIPPING

TRADER JOE'S SWEET PEPPER JELLY

This is a staple if you entertain! Mix it with cream cheese + serve with crackers for an easy and delicious appetizer!

Trader Joe’s Enrich Moisturizing Face Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 15 by Trader Joe’s $9.48 + FREE SHIPPING!

TRADER JOE'S FACE LOTION WITH SPF 15

Keep this by your sink and wear it every day to help keep those wrinkles away!

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TRADER JOE'S FACIAL CLEANSER

LOVE LOVE LOVE this gentle facial cleanser. I even use it to soak my bathing suits after swimming!

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ALL CLAD ROASTING PAN

This is literally, the BEST roasting pan! Large enough for everything and super easy to clean!

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THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

MUSICAL NOTES“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad….I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad!” MUSICAL NOTES Oscar Hammerstein’s song resonates holiday for me.   “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” and “In My Own Little Corner” are amongst his other iconic pieces which conjure emotion. Click to listen ….My Favorite Things – Julie Andrews

With the constant stream of men charged with sexual harassment these days, it’s a breath of fresh air to  revisit the lives of beautiful people and read quotes which helped make them famous.  My favorite Oscar Hammerstein quote is: “A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it, A song’s not a song ’til you sing it, Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay, Love isn’t love ’til you give it away!” Reading it closely, I now wonder if, in today’s world, someone would misconstrue that as sexual harassment……

In a recent edition of “O The Oprah Magazine, staff and readers were asked to respond to the question of the month; “WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE HOLIDAY SONG?” The responses were varied and personal as you might imagine. They ran the gamut of predictability to absurd, but all a fun quick read. My personal favorite with the response from the Senior Web Editor, Ruth Baron, whose ultimate holiday song was, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” She stated that she grew up Jewish and that song convinced her that all of her “Santa-believing” friends could have anything they wanted.

One of my favorite things at any time of year is cookies. Around the holidays, however, from early November through late December, I’m partial to the gingerbread cookie. The aroma of these delicious little morsels screams, “Welcome home!”  to all who enter your kitchen, that is if they aren’t burning :). 

Here it is….the Ultimate Gingerbread Cookie. Remember….under-bake, serve warm (reheat in the microwave if you need to before serving) AND they go well with hot spiced apple cider with a splash of rum.

THE ULTIMATE GINGERBREAD COOKIE

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Ingredients
  1. • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  2. • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  3. • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  4. • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  6. • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  8. • 1 cup white sugar
  9. • 1 egg
  10. • 1 tablespoon water
  11. • 1/4 cup molasses
  12. • 4 tablespoons white sugar
Instructions
  1. Mix together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses.
  4. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture.
  5. Shape the dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar.
  6. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. You don’t need to flatten them.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.
  8. Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Makes approximately 30 cookies. Store in an airtight container.

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  • Unbaked cookies can be stored in the freezer and popped in the oven!

Dear Friends,

Wishing you the happiest of Holidays and health in the New year.

Cheers!

Laura

P.S. If you feel like shopping, check out these finds….

LAURA’S FAVORITE THINGS SHOP

LETTERS TO MY DAUGHTER...WRITE NOW, READ LATER

ALSO AVAILABLE IN LETTERS TO MYSELF, MY GRAND CHILD, MY MOM, MY DAD, AND MY FUTURE SELF.

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AMAZON YO NANA

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This is the Ultimate Cooking Machine + 2 Delicious Recipes for that Leftover Turkey

I don’t ordinarily get super excited about kitchen gadgets, but this one is AMAZING! This little monster is the ultimate one pot meal making which makes all other Crockpots obsolete!

It steams! It bakes! It Sears! It sautes! It slow cooks! And the best part, is that it does it  all in one pot. 

So, I know what you’re thinking and you’re probably right. You’re thinking that I sound like one of those Vita-mix sales demonstrators you normally find in a tent during county fairs. Endorsing a product, particularly with your friends, is risky business but truly, this new machine is a game changer.

The Ninja 4-in-1 Cooking System best features are:

NINJA

  • 1 pot with 4 cooking functions: Stove Top, Slow Cook, Oven, and Steam.
  • Unique heating elements let you sear, sautĂŠ, and slow cook—all in one pot—for easy cleanup.
  • Bake in oven mode. Dry Bake for chicken and roasts, and Steam Bake for delicious, moist cakes.
  • Steam delicious and healthy vegetables, fish, and other delicate foods.
  • Includes: 6 qt. nonstick cooking pot, glass lid, steaming/roasting rack, multipurpose pan, roast lifters, silicon mitts, cookbook, and travel bag.

Click here to see the Ninja 4 in 1 Cooking System on YouTube.

NINJA 3-IN-1 COOKING SYSTEM $139.95 + FREE SHIPPING 

 What to do with that leftover turnkey? Try these delicious recipes from the Ninja 4 in 1 Cookbook that comes with your purchase.

TURKEY POT PIE

TURKEY POT PIE

Ingredients

CRUST 
Pie dough FILLING 
4 medium carrots, peeled, cut in thirds 
3 stalks celery, cut in thirds 
1 1/2 small onions, peeled, cut in quarters 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 pound leftover turkey cut in 1 inch pieces
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter 
1/2 cup flour 
4 cups chicken broth 
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves 
Salt and pepper, to taste 
2 tablespoons milk 

Instructions

  1. To prepare crust, see Pie Dough recipe.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place carrots, celery, and onion into the 64-ounce Precision Processor.
  3. Select CHOP. Transfer chopped vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped vegetables and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chopped turkey and continue cooking until vegetables are softened, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour to saucepan, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add broth, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens to form a sauce. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Combine the vegetables and chicken with the sauce, then pour mixture into a casserole dish. Remove one pie dough disc from refrigerator and roll out to 2 inches larger than the casserole dish. Place dough on top of filling and crimp edges. Cut vent holes in dough and brush with milk. Cook for 45 to 50 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

TURKEY LASAGNA

TURKEY LASAGNA

Ingredients

1 pound leftover turkey cut in 1 inch pieces
1 jar (24 ounces) marinara sauce, divided 
8 uncooked no-boil lasagna pasta sheets, divided 
1 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4-inch thick rounds
1 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese 
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided 

Instructions

  1. Place turkey and 1/3 cup sauce into the pot. Cover with 4 sheets pasta, breaking up the fourth to cover the sides of the pan.
  2. Scatter the zucchini slices over the pasta. Spread with ricotta and sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover with half the remaining sauce.
  3. Layer the remaining pasta, then top with the remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese. Cover pot.
  4. Select Auto-iQ Quick Meals: Recipe 20 and press the START/STOP button.
  5. For best results, let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Dear Friends,

The Thanksgiving countdown as officially begun and I love all of the new gadgets designed to make our lives a little bit easier. Even if you don’t purchase this great cooker, I hope you’re able to enjoy the recipes with your leftover turkey.

Cheers to a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by people in your life who make you smile and appreciate you.

Until next time….

Laura

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN! No Tricks, Just Treat Yourself to this Delicious Pumpkin Cookie with Cream Cheese Frosting!

Cookies are hands down the ultimate comfort food for fall. It seems that every holiday celebration features a favorite cookie as a part of the seasonal celebration. Serve these little Pumpkin bites warm with a cold glass of milk. Don’t forget….always underbake!

PUMPKIN COOKIES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

pumpkin-cookies

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
  2. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Stir in the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture by hand until just combined.
  3. Drop on prepared baking sheets by heaping tablespoonfuls; Butter the bottom of a drinking glass and then dip the bottom of the glass in a bowl of sugar. Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of the glass until they are about ž inch thick, dipping the glass in sugar as necessary to prevent sticking.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.
  5. Once cookies have cooled completely, frost or drizzle with cream cheese frosting.
  6. While the cookies are cooling make frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and pumpkin pie spice and beat until smooth and creamy.
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This Desert puts the Pretty in the Peach!

Summer should get a speeding ticket! I honestly don’t know where it went! Looking forward to sweater weather has never been my thing, so I still hold on to summer as long as I can….and my white jeans. I was elated when the Today Show fashion consultant said that your white skinny jeans can be a fall staple this year. Not that I needed the affirmation, but it was good to hear.

The end of summer has left us a bounty of juicy peaches to enjoy! Searching for great peach dishes through collections of cookbooks and recipes, I have found that although the “plus-it-ups” are fun, many of the old basics and “Mom Recipes” are still the “Blue Ribbon Winners!”  This peach recipe can be made in an 8×8 casserole or individual ramekins. Hot out of the oven, serve it up with some cool & creamy vanilla ice cream. Life is good…..and here it is…..easy & delicious…..

MOM’S PEACH CRISP

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INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350*
  2. Arrange peaches evenly in an 8×8-inch baking dish or stack the peaches halfway up in a ramekin.
  3. Mix flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl using a pastry cutter until evenly crumbled.
  4. Fold oats into flour mixture; sprinkle and press topping into peaches.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until topping is lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Dear Friends,

Cheers to summer, cheers to peaches and cheers to doing what makes you happy! Until next time…

🍑Laura

P.S. CHECK OUT THESE GREAT FINDS…

PEACH COBBLER DISH

Tumbleweed Pottery Ceramic Peach Cobbler Dish $9.99 & Free Shipping

 

 

 

 

 

Set of 6) 4 oz. Porcelain Ramekins, White, Bakeware, Souffle Dishes, Creme Brulee, Pudding, Custard Cups, Desserts, by KitchenBasix $11.99 & FREE SHIPPINGRAMEKINS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sur La Table Straight-Sided Ramekin 59928/10 , 5 oz. , White $14.99 + FREE SHIPPING

RAMEKINS FROM SUR LE TABLE

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ONE GREAT RECIPE WHEN YOUR FRIDGE BITES THE DUST!

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One of today’s nightmares….YOUR FRIDGE DIES!

As you open your refrigerator and there is a distinct dark quiet that overtakes you, you begin to cringe. No hum, no lights…… and you think, “Shit.” Sticking your nose in to hopefully smell nothing,  you immediately feel the carton of milk to gage the temperature. While quickly reaching for the freezer and opening it, you notice that the seafood, steaks, and everything else has begun to defrost….all at once! Quickly surveying the damage, you resort to throwing out the spoiled and attempting to salvage what is left.

Always stocking up on frozen shrimp, I had quite a bit in the freezer as well as a HUGE bag of scallops, a package of andouille sausage …and OKRA! With the help of a small trip to the grocery store, I came up with this delicious recipe.

SEAFOOD GUMBO (SERVES 8) 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 C. diced onion
  • 1 C. diced green pepper
  • 1 C. diced celery
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen and thawed shrimp
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen and thawed scallops
  • 2 C. each of fresh or frozen sliced okra
  • 1 C. sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh or canned, drained.
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 2 C. fresh or frozen and thawed sliced okra
  • 1/2 C. chipped roma, fresh or canned & drained
  • Chopped scallions & parsley as garnish
  • Cooked rice

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • In a large dutch oven, saute in 3T olive oil:
  • 1 C. each: diced onion, diced green pepper,  & diced celery 

IN A SEPARATE SKILLET SAUTE:

  • 1 lb. andouille sausage and add to the dutch oven.

STIR IN:

  • 2 C. each of fresh or frozen sliced okra
  • 1 C. sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh or canned, drained.

ADD:

  • 1 lb. thawed shrimp & scallops and sauce until pink and tender.

SPRINKLE:

  • 1/2 C. flour over top and blend in the mixture, cooking for 1 min.

POUR:

  • 3 C. prepared Chicken broth over top.

SEASON:

  • 1 t. salt
, 1 t. black pepper
, 1/2 t. white pepper
, 1 t. cayenne pepper, 
1 bay leaf

GARNISH:

  • T. scallions, minced T. parsley

SERVE:

  • With Cooked rice

 

Dear Friends,

It would have been easy to cook up the thawing food and freeze it for another day, but it was fun to get creative. The flavors in the recipe blend beautifully and after purchasing a new fridge, I was able to freeze what we hadn’t eaten for another day.  Serve this dish with an ice cold beer or a crisp sauvignon blanc! If you don’t like seafood, chicken is a great substitute.

Stay tuned for the delicious dishes I made with the thawing steak, chicken and other goodies from my freezer.

Cheers to knowing that if this is the worst thing that happens in a day, life is good. Keeping our thoughts and prayers for victims of the hurricane and our soldiers defending our country is so important.

PLEASE remember to thank our police officers, fire fighters, soldiers and anyone else who provides a service to our country and our safety. In an uncertain world, I do try not to take anything for granted.

Every day is a gift.

Thanks for swinging by & Cheers to you!

🍻 Laura

PS: Check out these great finds for your kitchen:

Le Creuset

Le Creuset White Signature Enameled Cast Iron 4.5 Quart Round Dutch Oven $299.95 with free shipping (Comes in a variety of colors)

 

 

 

 

CLAMBAKE POTGranite Ware 6194-1 Enamel-on-Steel 2-Tier Decorated Clam-and-Lobster Steamer with Faucet, 19-Quart $47.70 with Free Shipping

 

 

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LOBSTER PLATTER AND BIBS

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a great time of year to cash in on those summer favorite sales! Check out these adorable flip flops!

 

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HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOU ARE TOO OLD TO BUY GREEN BANANAS

You can’t turn it back, I keep reminding myself….But now I realize that there are definitely 5 signs that let you know you are getting older.

What led me to this realization was a recent trip to the west coast of Florida. As we strolled from the airport security to our gate, we were approached by a man on an electric cart asking us if we’d like a ride. Normally the dudes on those carts transport fat people, old people, celebrities, people with physical challenges or lazy people and they just whiz on by, but this time stopped to see if Steve and I would like a ride. A RIDE? US? You’ve got to be kidding! I didn’t think we were any of those! That was the first sign.

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While hiking in the woods several weeks ago with my son, his wife and my granddogter, Harper, they asked if I wanted to sit down and rest for a while. I teach step aerobics, I reminded them, and myself. That was sign #2.

 

 

 

I no longer get carded, even if it’s required by law and on Tuesdays at our local outlets, I never have to show my driver’s license in order to get the senior discount…sign #3.

Perfect strangers ask me to watch their stroller and packages in a shopping mall and sometimes even their sleeping baby in the stroller….sign #4.

And last, but not least, the catalogs and email inbox have gone from Victoria’s Secret to AARP and Frontgate.

Trying to maintain my sense of humor about the aging process, I have lumped women and men into categories; everything from those who literally let themselves go to those who habitually try to reverse the process. What used to be called a moo moo is now called a tunic, and lifting faces or face lifting has been replaced by pumping some kind of shit into wrinkles to puff them out making someone appear to have stayed in the boxing ring too long.

I used to wonder why anyone would want to live in a 55+ community but now I get it. Reminders of inevitable aging are everywhere, not just in the mirror, and perhaps living in a community that isn’t youth focused isn’t such a bad thing. I, for one, love being around young people and find delight in sharing their youthful optimism and humor, so I’m not sure how happy I would be in that kind of community.

At 61, there is a realization that there is an end, and I find myself counting the hopeful years that we have left living in good health. I have some rules to follow like never taking a selfie or face timing from below my chin…and always holding the camera over my head, forcing us to look up.

Over the past few weeks, I have felt with the pain of my daughter in law’s sudden death of her mother and the pain of Steve’s daughters coming to terms with the few months their mother had left after finding out she was stricken with pancreatic cancer. There are no words, but one thing I do know is that time is precious, too precious not to waste on negativity of any kind. So, as my Steve always says, “I have no yesterdays. Time took them away. I only have today and hope for tomorrows.”

Upon returning from our trip to Florida, I distinctly noticed by the smell,  that I had left some bananas in the fruit bowl that were way overripe…so I tried this amazing banana bread that I recently found on Pinterest. I’m still not sure at what age I should no longer buy green bananas, so instead I did some research about how to quickly ripen bananas. As for this delicious recipe, I did modify it and make it without the glaze which reduced the sugar and the calories. The banana bread is so flavorful, the glaze isn’t necessary.  I’ve added it in the event you may want to give it a try. 

CARAMEL BANANA UPSIDE DOWN BREAD


Ingredients
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
About 2 bananas, sliced in Âź inch rounds
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1½ cup whole wheat flour
ž cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Âź teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup mashed overripe bananas
2 large eggs
⅓ cup coconut oil or oil of choice
⅓ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Caramel Glaze: (Optional)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9X5 inch loaf pan.
Spread the brown sugar on the bottom of the loaf pan. If using nuts, sprinkle them evenly over the sugar. Dot with the butter. Put it in the oven for about 8 minutes. Stir the mixture until dissolved and spread evenly on the bottom of the pan. Place a single layer of the banana slices on top of the sugar mixture along the entire bottom of the pan.
Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add all the remaining wet ingredients and beat just until combined. Do not over-beat.
Pour the batter over the sliced bananas in the pan.
In an oven preheated to 325 degrees F, bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean but moist.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting it on a cake platter.

To prepare the Caramel Glaze, place the butter, brown sugar and heavy cream in a small saucepan (you can also microwave the ingredients for a minute). Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for a minute. Pour the glaze evenly over the cake (on the upside down side with the bananas on top).

FIVE WAYS TO QUICKLY RIPEN BANANAS

1) Bananas in a bunch take about 24-48 hours to ripen. Bananas that grow together also ripen together, so only separate the ones you want to ripen more quickly.

2) Placing bananas in warm places takes about 24-48 hours to ripen.

3) Place the bananas in a paper bag. It takes about  12-24 hours to ripen.

4) In the oven, ripening bananas takes about 30-50 minutes. The peels turn shiny lack when they are ripe. 

5) Microwave your bananas 30 seconds-2 minutes. 

Dear Friends,

Thanks for swinging by today. I know my article was somewhat tongue in check with a bit of morbid reality thrown in, but laughter is always a great cure for worry, and it makes sense not to worry about things you can’t control. So, after all of this, I will continue to buy green bananas now that I know how to hurry the ripening of them.

Until next time…

Cheers to lots more years!   Laura

 

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HOW TO PLAN THE ULTIMATE TAILGATE PARTY

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If you want to know what a ‘thing’ tailgating is, just take a walk through the UK Stadium, or the muni lot outside of Cleveland Stadium before a football game. Being raised by parents from Brooklyn, New York, the concept of eating food served from the back of a pick up truck was bizarre yet fascinating. Actually, tailgating is a serious thing.

Googling the ultimate tailgate supplies was amazing and for many people its much more than a thing….its a huge investment in time and dollars. Check out these rare and unusual finds……

Tailgater Dual Tank Backpack Drink Dispenser 210oz $39.95

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Backpacks aren’t just for books!
Backpack beverage dispenser serves up shots, your favorite brew, or most delicious tailgate kool-aid in style
Lightweight nylon, padded shoulder straps, mesh bag for extra cups
Two 24″ in canister hold a whopping 210 ounce capacity; measures 25½”x12”x4”

Deluxe Six-Pack Beer Belt Holster

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Really………

Hiding that six pack around your waist has never been so easy
It even has a hidden zippered pocket on the back keep your money, license, and credit cards safe
Featuring a classic camo appearance
Measures 43”x4½” and adjusts to accommodate waistlines between 28” and 43″

 

The Grill Sergeant BBQ Apron $19.99 and free shipping for Amazon Prime Members

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Get your grill on
Our unique camouflage grilling apron holds everything a real man could want or need for an afternoon of fun.
One size fits all with adjustable strap
Makes a Great Fun Gag Gift
Great for parties

 

Instagate Tailgate In A Box: $19.99 + $6.49 shipping

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#1 game day solution for tailgaters
More than 50 tailgate items in 1 over $50 in value
Includes foldable tailgate grill, 3 bbq tools, minit-liteÂŽ charcoal and party supplies
2016 Tailgater magazine game ball award winner
New and improved value and performance

 

And last, but not least….this is actually a good one….

NFL Wooden Tailgate Toss Cornhole Football Field $74.86 and free shipping for Amazon Prime Members

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Choose your NFL team

Size: 24 x 48″
Two 24″ x 48″ all-wood target boards
Vinyl shield with a Football field design and your teams favorite colors proudly displayed
Foldable legs for easy storage
Eight 16oz bean bags included

Here’s the million dollar question: Tonight is a gigantic nite for Cleveland sports,  having both the Cavs game after the official Ring Ceremony AND hopefully the last World Series game for the Indians, so do we call it a tailgate party, or is that just a football thing? If we had to rename the snack attack for these sports, we could call it “BASE ‘N BASKET BALL SNACK PACK!” Hmmmm.

Here’s an easy and crowd pleasing appetizer:

PIZZA CUPS

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Ingredients

1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 jar (14 oz) pizza sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
36 wonton skins

Directions

1 Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 18 muffin cups with cooking spray.
2 In 10-inch skillet, brown beef with pizza seasoning and salt over medium-high heat until beef is browned; drain. Return beef to skillet; stir in pizza sauce.
3 Place 1 wonton skin in each muffin cup. Divide half of ground beef evenly among muffin cups. Top each with about 1 tablespoon cheese. Repeat layers starting with second wonton skin.
4 Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

PEPPERONI PIZZA FOOTBALL CHEESE BALL

This Pepperoni Pizza Football Cheese Ball is easy to make, delicious, and perfect for a tailgate party!

IMG_3885
Ingredients
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp Italian seasoning
8 oz finely shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 5 oz bags mini pepperoni slices
3 green onions, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped bacon
1 4 oz jar diced pimientos, drained and patted dry

Instructions
Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in the Italian seasoning, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese.
Mix in half of the pepperoni slices, green onions, bacon, and pimientos.
Line a small bowl with plastic wrap. Spoon cheese mixture into bowl. Press mixture into bowl so that it takes on the shape of the bowl. Use the ends of the plastic wrap to wrap up the cheeseball firmly. Transfer the wrapped cheese ball to a cutting board and use your hands to shape it into a football.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Remove the cheese ball from the fridge and cover with remaining pepperoni, pressing gently to adhere.
Serve with pretzels, bread sticks, crackers, and veggies.

Dear Friends,

Thanks for popping in! If sports is your thing and you love tailgating, I hope you enjoy these recipes and reading about these unusual supplies to complete your tailgate! 

Cheers to celebrating enjoying all that each season has to offer with friends and family!

Until next time…

🍸Laura

 

 

 

 

 

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SURPRISING DOLLAR STORE TRICKS (AND TREATS) FOR ENTERTAINING

So, you are invited to holiday parties for every holiday, and the worst thing is when you forget to label your dish with your name, or it gets washed off, and you either never get your dish back, or its months, and yes, maybe a year or two. And when the next occasion arises to use that perfect dish,  you  insanely look everywhere. After every cupboard, drawer, and storage bin has been ransacked (that’s an extreme word, but true) you realize that you took an appetizer to Sally’s house, and never got your dish back. SOLUTION: THE DOLLAR STORE.

I know, I know, your mother always told you to watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. However, can you put a price on your favorite pumpkin platter or your divine deviled egg dish? NO. The seasonal serving opportunities await your dollars at the dollar store. By the way, I am not making any money endorsing this retail establishment, although, not a bad idea!

Today, we are going to a fall clambake and my $2.00 purchase created this fun seasonal serving idea for a delicious desert that I call PUMPKIN PIE CHEESECAKE BITES. I have two favorite versions for this dip.

Normally now, I just leave the serving dish with the leftovers at the party, but this one came out so cute, I’m conflicted, so I may bring it home 🎃

PUMPKIN PIE CHEESECAKE BITES

RECIPE 1 (a little sweeter than recipe 2)

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Ingredients

ž cup International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer
1 3.4 oz package pumpkin spice instant pudding
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
Graham cracker crumbs for garnish

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, whisk together the International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer with pumpkin spice instant pudding. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese and sugar.
Add in pudding to cream cheese mixture and beat.
Once well combined, fold in the 2 cups of thawed whipped topping and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, fill bowl with Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Dip topped with graham cracker crumbs.

If you can’t find pumpkin spice instant pudding (it’s pretty  seasonal), you can use either vanilla or cheesecake instant pudding with a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.

PUMPKIN PIE CHEESECAKE BITES

RECIPE 2

INGREDIENTS

1 -15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 -8 oz. container Cool Whip, thawed
1 package 1.5 oz. Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 

Directions

Cream together all ingredients with an electric mixer until well combined and fluffy. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve with Vanilla Wafers, Cookies, or Graham Crackers.

img_6499Dear Friends,

Celebrating something every day helps to create the happiness we all deserve to have. For me, its difficult to overlook the inevitable snow, but I love enjoying the beauty of this season and everything that comes with it.

Cheers to you! Laura

 

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4 MUST HAVE FALL RECIPES

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As the evenings grow cooler and the day’s shorter, I enjoy autumn’s beauty of gold and red but knowing that winter looms in the not so distant future, I try to find ways to celebrate the season and create personal happiness.

Embracing the changes as we grow older is very much the same and parallels the seasons of our lives. An article I read recently addressed happiness. The essence was simply about the rules we establish for personal happiness and the more rules we do have for that happiness can set us up for unhappiness.  If your joy depends on the weather being sunny and warm each day, and you live in a place where the climate is very seasonal, for example, then you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. I have truly found, that acceptance of my own changes, and yes, that of the changing weather, has made a huge difference. As trite as it may sound, having a half full cup is a healthy cup.

Fall reminds me of pumpkins, apples, squash and wonderful memories of with my children, gathering candy from enthusiastic neighbors, and spending time with friends on those crispy evenings.

Enjoy these delicious seasonal recipes and keep making cherished memories!

ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup of Four-Cheese Italian White Cheese Blend (Mozzarella, White Cheddar, Provolone, Asiago)
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh ground pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Hold your spaghetti squash firmly, cut in half length-wise and scoop out the innards and seeds. Place both halves on a baking sheet, held in place by a small foil ring to ensure stability. Sprinkle fresh cracked pepper over each half.

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat and sauce the shallots until tender, about 4 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, combine heavy cream, chicken broth, shallots and fresh thyme.

3. Sprinkle a first layer of grated cheese in the cavities of each squash halves. Divide the cream mixture on top of cheese in each halves, then top with additional cheese.

4. Roast in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the flesh of the spaghetti squash is very tender when poked with a fork. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

In a hurry? Place the raw spaghetti squash halves face down in a shallow dish with a bit of water, and microwave for 8 minutes (less or more, depending on the size of the squash). The flesh will be almost cooked through. Then  proceed with the remaining steps and bake for only 20-25 minutes in the oven.

SPINACH and ARTICHOKE STUFFED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

I found this delicious recipe and picture on Pinterest. It’s a keeper! 

spinach-artichoke-spaghetti-squash-recipe-taste-and-tell-3-optIngredients
1 spaghetti squash, seeded
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
ž cup chopped onion
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup light sour cream
3 ounces less fat cream cheese
ž cup grated parmesan, divided
3 cups packed baby spinach
1Âź cups canned artichoke hearts, chopped
ž cup shredded mozzarella cheese
chopped fresh parsley

Place the spaghetti squash in a microwave safe dish, cut side up. Pour about half an inch of water in the dish, then cover with plastic wrap and microwave until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly, then with a fork, scrape up the strings from the squash.

In a pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, 5-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 60 seconds. Add in the sour cream, cream cheese and half of the parmesan cheese. Stir until the cream cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the spinach and artichoke hearts and cook until the spinach has wilted. Pour half of the mixture into each spaghetti squash half and gently pull up on the spaghetti squash strings to combine with the sauce as much as possible. Top with the shredded mozzarella and the remaining parmesan. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if desired, and serve hot.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH ESCAROLE SALAD WITH CHIPOTLE RANCH DRESSING 

Found from Cuisine at Home and Serves 8

salad

 

FOR THE SQUASH—
11/2 lb. butternut squash
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and black pepper

FOR THE DRESSING—
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise or greek yogurt
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice 2 tsp.honey

1/2–1 tsp. minced chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce

FOR THE SALAD—

1 head escarole, chopped (about 8 cups)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400°. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Peel skin from squash. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Cut flesh into 11/2-inch chunks; toss with oil, salt, and pepper. Roast squash on the baking sheet until browned, 25–30 minutes. Cool squash to room temperature. Mince garlic with the 1/2 tsp. salt, then place in a medium bowl. Whisk in mayonnaise or greek yogurt, buttermilk, lime juice, honey, and chipotle until dressing is well blended. Refrigerate dressing until ready to serve, or up to 2 days.

Toss escarole with desired amount of dressing. Top salad with roasted squash and cranberries; garnish with pine nuts.

PUMPKIN COOKIES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

pumpkin-cookies

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
  2. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Stir in the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture by hand until just combined.
  3. Drop on prepared baking sheets by heaping tablespoonfuls; Butter the bottom of a drinking glass and then dip the bottom of the glass in a bowl of sugar. Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of the glass until they are about ž inch thick, dipping the glass in sugar as necessary to prevent sticking.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.
  5. Once cookies have cooled completely, frost or drizzle with cream cheese frosting.
  6. While the cookies are cooling make frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and pumpkin pie spice and beat until smooth and creamy.

Dear Friends,

I hope we all are able to accept the changes in the seasons of our lives because each and every day is a blessing. Cheers to that.

Laura

SO….NOW FOR A LITTLE SHOPPING THERAPY inspired by CELEBRATIONS and SUNSETS….

Dog Costume Lion Mane Wig $16.99 Free Shipping for Prime Members

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Halloween Candy Corn Hat with Tutu Dog Costume, Small/Medium Price: $14.99 + $4.99 shipping

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October Hill Hand Painted Cheese Plate and Pull Set, Pumpkins Price: $27.73 Free Shipping for Prime Members

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Dowan Porcelain 7oz Souffle Dish/Mini Casserole Set, 4 inch, Set of 4, Red & Orange Sale: $19.99 Free Shipping for Prime Members

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Le Creuset Set of 4 Mini Cocottes with Cookbook, Flame (Additional colors available) Price: $99.95 Free Shipping for Prime Members

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MIXMAX Women Lapel Neck Long Sleeve Loose Dress Sides Slit Shirt Dress Price: $18.55 – $18.99 Free Shipping for Prime Members & FREE Returns on some sizes and colors

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Allegra K Women Scoop Neck Color Block Batwing Loose Tunic Top Price: $15.34 – $18.78 Free Shipping for Prime Members & FREE Returns on some sizes and colors.

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LL Womens Long Sleeve Handkerchief Hem Tie Dye / Ombre TunicsSale: $19.95 – $23.95 Free Shipping for Prime Members & FREE Returns on some sizes and colors

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MANY COLORS AVAILABLE!