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Oakes Farms Meets Naples Home Cooks: From Seed to Our Table

The next time you find yourself standing in a grocery store, and some guy with a camera loudly asks if there are any home cooks around, and you are the only person there, I say, GO FOR IT!

This happened, and my dream of becoming a Food Network Star was at my fingertips…well, sort of.

What started as a plan to cook a quiet dinner, soon blossomed into an incredible cocktail party with our amazing friends pitching in, all the while our PR guy, Larry from TellYourVision.Net, filmed us from start to finish!

Check out our commercial here!

And, here is the recipe you have all been waiting for!

STEVE’S PAN FRIED FLORIDA GROUPER BITESfullsizeoutput_13cae

INGREDIENTS:

•1 lb fresh Wild Florida Grouper Fillets, washed & patted dry

•2 organic eggs, beaten

•2 C. Cheez-it crackers ground fine

•2 C. Parmesan cheese grated

•1/2 C. Organic Olive Oil

DIRECTIONS:

•In a food processor, blend Cheez-it crackers with the parmesan cheese.

•Cut the grouper into 1” bite size pieces.

•Heat the oil over medium high heat.

•Dip each fillet in egg and toss in the cracker/cheese mixture to coat.

•Place each fillet into the hot oil taking care not to over crowd the fish.

•Cook for 3-4 min. per side until golden brown.

•Remove and serve immediately with your favorite tarter sauce, cocktail sauce or mustard sauce.

Dear Friends,
Thanks for swinging by! Stay tuned in the next few weeks for more great recipes and entertaining ideas from our Naples friends.
Cheers to sharing celebrations with love.
Laura

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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. Sauté 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 sautéing 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…

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SERVING TRAYS

Gallery

This BLT Salad will be a Mother’s Day Favorite!

If you are looking for a great salad to add to your picnic for Mom’s Day, graduation, or just a get-together, try this BLT Salad…..all the flavors of that favorite  bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich in a bowl! Simple and delicious!

BLT PASTA SALAD

with

Creamy Bacon Dressing

 

To keep the dressing from curdling, be sure to cool the bacon drippings to room temperature before adding to the mayonnaise.

Makes 20 servings 

COOK:

1 lb. dry campanelle pasta
1 lb. thick-sliced bacon, diced

WHISK:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. minced shallots
2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp.sugar

Salt and black pepper to taste

STIR IN:

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce 4 cups halved grape tomatoes

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Transfer pasta to a bowl of ice water; drain well.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper- towel-lined plate. Reserve 3 Tbsp. drippings; set aside to cool.Whisk together mayonnaise, reserved drippings, shallots, basil, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Stir in pasta, romaine, tomatoes, and bacon; toss to coat. Season salad with salt and pepper.

Dear Friends! I hope you enjoy this delicious salad! This year, I used medium sized ball jars for individual servings….they looked super cute on the table, and made serving easy (the best!).

This year will be my daughter, Jodi’s, first “Almost A Mom’s Day!” They are deciding what to name the baby, and I’m trying to decide what the baby will call Steve and I. 

Check out some of my fun finds! As always, thanks for swinging by and have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Cheers! Laura

CELEBRATIONS SHOPPING

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Women's Tile Print Tunic

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FLY EAGLES FLY! And a few great Cooking For a Crowd Recipes!

WOW!! What a game!! The game, the halftime show, the commercials….all so great! I think my favorite part was Justin Timberlake’s tribute to Prince and HARMONIZED!!!!

We did end up with some last-minute company (family) and fortunately, they aren’t staying for the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony on Friday 😳? Chile is always a great crowd go to for me, but if chile doesn’t seem to rock your taste buds, and you are serving a crowd, check out this 8 layer lasagna! The Secret is the Borsin Cheese in the bechamel sauce! Holy cheese balls, Batman! Put this recipe in your lineup for a winning event!

8-LAYER LASAGNA

TURKEY LASAGNA

Both the meat and béchamel sauces can be made the day before assembly and chilled. The assembled lasagna may also be frozen—thaw before baking.

MAKES ONE 9X13X3″ 

FOR THE MEAT SAUCE:

  • 11/2 lb. ground chuck
  • 11/2 lb. ground mild Italian sausage ADD:
  • 2 cups yellow onion, diced
  • 2 T. garlic, minced
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 2 t. each dried basil, thyme, and oregano
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf

CALORIE CUTTER….Use ground chicken or turkey and chicken or turkey sausage!

STIR IN; SIMMER:

  • 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth or water  + 2 T. balsamic vinegar

SHORTCUT……..Skip the tomatoes & broth….Add a jar of your favorite ready-made pasta sauce…AHHHHH!!

FOR THE BÉCHAMEL

  •  1/4 Cup unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 10 oz. Boursin cheese,
  • 8 oz. frozen chopped spinach 1 egg, beaten

1 lb. oven-ready lasagna sheets, parboiled. *Careful….these guys stick together, so keep them separated.

1 lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced 6 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated

 

Preheat oven to 400° with rack in the center.
Brown the meats in a large saute pan over medium-high heat; spoon off as much of the fat as possible. Add onions, garlic, tomato paste, and seasonings. Saute until onion softens, about 8 minutes.

Stir in both types of tomatoes, broth, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Simmer over medium heat until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes; set aside.
Saute onion for the béchamel in melted butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, cayenne, and nutmeg; cook until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Stir often to prevent scorching.

Stir in flour to coat; cook 2 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add Boursin in small pieces and whisk until smooth; season with salt. Set aside 1 cup béchamel for the top of the lasagna. Cool remaining sauce for 10 minutes. Whisk in frozen spinach and egg. Prepare lasagna sheets +  have both cheeses ready. Assemble lasagna alternating layers ending with bechamel and parmesan cheeses.

Bake uncovered for 40–45 minutes, or until bubbly and top is golden. Allow lasagna to rest 20–30 minutes before cutting and serving. 

The best part of all of this??? I made AND served the ENTIRE lasagna in my new Ninja Cooking System $149.99 + FREE PRIME SHIPPING!

NINJA BLACK WITH FOOD

LEFTOVERS? Easy….make Lasagna Soup. My Steve used to make ‘Refridgerator Management Soup on Sundays. We were never sure what was in it and I have to admit…a little scary sometimes. Well…..the snowstorm came and you have a TON of leftover lasagna……OH….. So, when life gives you too much lasagna…make lasagna soup!

Here is a delicious recipe for lasagna soup, and if you do have leftover lasagna….Check out the verson of “Leftover Lasagna Soup!”

LASAGNA SOUP

(Leftover lasagna soup to follow!

Makes 6 servings (8 cups) Total time: 45 minutes

BROWN:

  • 1  lb. bulk Italian sausage

  • 2  cups chopped onions

  • 1  cup diced carrots

  • 2  cups sliced button mushrooms

  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic

ADD:

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can chopped Italian-style stewed tomatoes in juice (14.5 oz.)
  • 1  cup dry mafalda pasta
  • 2  cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 cup diced provolone or part-skim mozzarella
  • Shredded Parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basil

Brown sausage in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and garlic and sauté 3 minutes more.

Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and simmer until cooked, about 10 minutes. Add spinach and cook until it wilts, about 1 minute.
To serve, place diced cheese
in each serving bowl, then ladle soup over to melt. Garnish servings with Parmesan and basil.

LEFTOVER LASAGNA SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 C. Low sodium chicken brother
  • 1 can chopped Italian style stewed tomatoes in juice
  • Leftover lasagna (refrigerated or at room temperature)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place broth in a pot. I prefer to use ready made chicken stock which is more flavorful than broth.
  2. Separate the layers of the lasagna keeping the cheese in a separate pile.
  3. Cut the noodle layers  into bite size pieces and add everything to the broth except the cheese.
  4. Cut the cheese up into bite size pieces and place in individual serving bowls.
  5. Ladle warm soup over the cheese & serve!

Love your crock pot or your new NINJA COOKING SYSTEM ? 

Add these two great recipes for a winning game lineup!

BBQ PULLED CHICKEN SANDWICHES (slow cooker style!! yea!)

PULLED CHICKEN SANDWICH

MAKE THE SAUCE:
  • 1 C. Ketchup
  • 1/2 C. light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 C. cider vinegar
  • 3 T. mustard
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • salt + pepper to taste
Make the Rub:
  • 1 T. each brown sugar + chile powder
  • 1 t. each kosher salt, black pepper + garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  1. Trim 3 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, coat with rub and place in a 4-6 qt. slow cooker.
  2. Add 1/2 C. minced onion and sauce to the slow cooker.
  3. Cook on high for 3 hours until chicken is fork tender.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred.
  5. Return shredded chicken to the slow cooker, toss with sauce & serve on kaiser rolls with slaw.

Jalapeño Slaw

Two great versions of this delicious twist on coleslaw from my favorite Cuisine Magazine…..No need to purchase slaw dressing! One, made with yogurt, super creamy and the other made with a spicy and refreshing vinaigrette. Try them both!

Each recipe serves 4

VERSION 1: Creamy Jalapeño Slaw

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Creamy Jalapeno Slaw

COMBINE:

  • 1 bag coleslaw mix
  • 1/2 C. chipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 C. shredded carrot
  • 1/2 C. finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 C. finely chopped and seeded jalapeno* 

*Add the seeds for a spicier slaw

WHISK + toss with coleslaw mix , cover & chill 1 hr.

  • 3/4 C. plain yogurt
  • 1 T. white vinegar
  • 1 T. minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • salt & pepper to taste

 

Adding sliced 🥑avocados to this delicious slaw? Check out this new gadget! After seeing one of my friends almost slice her hand in two…I decided this was a great tool to have!

AVOCADO SLICER

Dotala 3 in 1 Avocado Slicer Tool Works as a Splitter, Pitter and Cutter as knife peeler scoop with Comfort-Grip Handle,Green (Green-Slicer) $8.99 + Free Prime Shipping 

VERSION 2: Jalapeño Slaw with Citrus Vinaigrette

WHISK together + Add to Slaw Mix

  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp.sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper

TOSS:

  • 1 pkg. coleslaw mix (14 oz.)
  • 1 cup sliced mini sweet peppers
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 1 jalapeño, sliced

Dear Friends,

Wow!! What a game and I have to admit….I’m usually pretty big on the underdogs! (Maybe because I’m a dog lover!). My Steve is an avid football follower and is glued to any game…Me? I’m all about the food and fun. One of the most wonderful things about these huge events is the cities that are featured. Visiting Philadelphia has to be a highlight of last summer. I’m a tourist all the way! Check out this game memorabilia….PHILADELPHIA EAGLES SOUVENIR

Framed LeGarrette Blount Rushing Touchdown Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl 52 Champions 8×10 Football Photo Professionally Matted #1 $74.99 + FREE SHIPPING

I hope you enjoy these recipes. Food is such an enjoyable part of our lives, whether we are dining out or dining in! These are tried and true recipes for a no fool meal!

Until next time,

🍷Cheers! Laura

 

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3 Sensational Recipes to take the Labor out of your Labor Day!

Labor Day….summer’s last hurrah? I’m not sure what happened to the ‘dog days of summer,’ but our August has been more of an Eskimo Dog…..chilly with precipitation! Fortunately, the outlook for Labor Day looks good so let the picnics begin!

Last minute company?? No worries with these eazy breezy dishes! Keep it seasonal AND simple…

First, let’s start with an appetizer that doubles as a salad…..

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SLICED BOSC PEARS WITH GOAT CHEESE AND PECANS

Simply slice pears in 1/4 inch slices, top with 1 T. goat cheese, add a toasted pecan and serve! Want to fancy it up? Drizzle a little store bought…did I say that??? …..balsamic glaze over the top.

WEDGE SALAD DIP

I found this recipe on Pinterest recently, and I thought…”Genius!’ This dip has all of the incredible flavors of a wedge salad, serves a crowd and is always a hit! Duplicating this as a Greek Salad Dip, or any of your favorite salad combos work well! *As a side note, however, not everyone loves blue cheese, so I like to use the blue cheese on 1/2 and label it!

IMG_8473INGREDIENTS
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 package Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1½ c. chopped romaine lettuce
  • ½ c. chopped tomatoes
  • ½ c. chopped cooked bacon
  • 2-4 oz. crumbled blue cheese (according to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine cream cheese, sour cream, and Ranch Dip mix and mix until smooth.
  2. Spread into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate or other similarly sized pan.
  3. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, blue cheese, and chives.
  4. Enjoy with your favorite crackers

NOW FOR THE MAIN COURSE!!

Crowd pleasing  and delicious!

GRILLED HOT ITALIAN SAUSAGE SANDWICHES WITH ROASTED ONIONS AND PEPPERS

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  • Pre-heat oven to 400*F.
  • Slice assorted peppers, red, yellow, green & orange in 1/2″ slices.
  • Slice sweet onions, preferably Vidalia in 1/2″ slices.
  • Place onions & peppers in a roasting pan. Drizzle 3 T. over top & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are transparent. 
  • *Careful not to over-roast or they become mushy…..
  • Grill assorted Italian sausages. Cut into 2 inch slices & place on top of the onions & peppers. Serve with fresh Italian rolls & enjoy!

 

For dessert?? Vanilla Ice cream with fresh sliced peaches on top!

VANILLA ICE CREAM WITH PEACHES

Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for swinging by! As I have gotten older, even though I love to cook….and eat….dining out is soooo much easier. I’m constantly on the hunt for dishes that have amazing flavor and have the look of something complicated that took a lot of time to prepare.

Cheers to enjoying your Labor day filled with time spent just the way you like it.

Until next time…

🍹Laura

Gallery

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
¾ cup chopped onion
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup light sour cream
3 ounces less fat cream cheese
¾ cup grated parmesan, divided
3 cups packed baby spinach
1¼ cups canned artichoke hearts, chopped
¾ 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 ¾ 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….

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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!

Gallery

SUNSETS CHICAGO STYLE

I spent this past weekend visiting my daughter, Jodi and her boyfriend Neil. While Steve had a seminar, we galavanted around the city, making most of the little time we have together.

IMG_5399
Vitamin D Room at the Summerhouse

Visiting Chicago, or any city for that matter, with Jodi is always an experience! Some people take the time to smell the flowers, but with Jodi we take the time to….(just a little photo journey of our time together)…..

 

IMG_5390
CAPRI AT THE RITZ

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IMG_5391
This beautiful display beacons you as you enter the restaurant and wait for your table….

Lunch was an assortment of creative and healthy salads. The most amazing was the cauliflower with jalapeño and parmesan pesto.

 

 

IMG_5393
This little number kept calling to us….and we succumbed. Well worth it!

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We then embarked on a Chicago sunset cruise. It was a little cloudy, but with the little cocktail lounge on the ship, it made for a lovely evening…followed by....

 

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this….amazing lobster roll dripping with huge chunks of lobster on a buttery grilled bun….oh my! 

MINI LOBSTER ROLLS WITH HERBED MAYO

Makes 15 rolls

FOR THE ROLLS

  • 2  lobster tails, thawed if frozen (8 oz. each)
  • 3  cups water
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced (zest reserved)
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • 5 hot dog buns, sliced length- wise and cut into thirds
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

FOR THE MAYO

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. each minced celery, fresh chives, tarragon, and parsely 
  • 1  Tbsp. minced shallots 
  • 2  tsp. fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  1. Combine water, juice of 1 lemon, and 1 tsp. Old Bay in a large sauce- pan. Insert steamer basket in pan, bring water to a boil, place the tails in steamer, and cover.
  2. Steam tails 8–10 minutes until shells are red and meat is cooked. Remove tails from pan and cool slightly.
  3. Cut shells lengthwise with kitchen shears. Chop meat into chunks. Preheat broiler with rack 5 inches from the element.
  4. Mix mayonnaise, celery, chives, tarragon, parsley, shallots, 2 tsp. lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. Old Bay, salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a bowl. Fold in lobster meat.
  5. Brush rolls with melted butter and broil until toasted, 1–2 minutes. Spoon filling onto toasted rolls and garnish with reserved lemon zest.

Then, of course, on our way to the airport, we HAD to stop for the one and only Shake Shack burger! A delicious patty of perfectly cooked beef topped with cheese and a FRIED CHEESE PORTOBELLO STUFFED MUSHROOM!!! One bite into this massive deliciousness is what I think heaven would be like as the lava fountain of cheese oozes out with each bite….ok. I’m done…😋 (Shake Shack…put it on your bucket list!) People say the secret’s in the sauce, but I say its in the mushroom!

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It’s hard to believe that a little food stand in NYC made its way to major cities with lines blocks long

Here is a

FAKE SHAKE SHACK HACK RECIPE FROM SERIOUS EATS! (It has everything but the portobello.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

INGREDIENTS
8 ounces beef sirloin, trimmed of gristle, and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 ounces well-marbled beef chuck, trimmed of gristle, and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 ounces well-marbled beef brisket, fat cap intact, trimmed of gristle, and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 Martin’s Sandwich Rolls
4 tablespoons Shack Sauce (recipe follows)
4 leaves of green-leaf lettuce, clipped
8 center-cut slices ripe plum tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper
4 slices yellow American cheese
Sauce Ingredients
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
4 slices kosher dill pickle
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper
DIRECTIONS
1.
Place feed shaft, blade, and 1/4-inch die of meat grinder in freezer until well-chilled. Meanwhile, place meat chunks on rimmed baking sheet, leaving space between each piece and place in freezer for 10 minutes until meat is firm, but not frozen.

2.
Combine meat in large bowl and toss to combine. Pass meat through grinder twice. Form into four disks, about 2-inches tall, and 2.5-inches wide. Refrigerate until ready for use.

3.
Open buns but do not split hinge. Brush lightly with butter, then place under broiler or in toaster oven until golden brown, about 1 minute. Spread 1 tablespoon Shack Sauce on top half of each bun (for true authenticity, squirt out of squeeze bottle into three lines, three passes on each line). Place 1 leaf lettuce and 2 slices tomato on top half of each bun.

4.
Using wadded-up paper towel, rub inside of heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet with vegetable oil, then place over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Season beef pucks on top side with salt and pepper, then place, seasoned side down, in skillet. Using back of heavy, flat spatula, press down on beef pucks firmly to form 4-inch round patties, being careful not to let it stick to bottom of spatula. Season top side with salt and pepper. Cook until crisp brown crust has formed, about 2-minutes.

5.
Carefully scrape patties from skillet, and flip. Top each patty with 1 slice American cheese. Cook until cheese is melted, about 1 minute longer. Transfer patties to burger bun bottoms, close sandwiches, and serve.

6.
Shack Sauce: Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth, scraping down sides of blender with rubber spatula as necessary. Makes about 3/4 cup sauce.

Cheers to sunsets, birthdays, and just about anything you want to toast to….burgers, lobster…anything. Thanks for stopping in and I hope you enjoyed todays read.

xo Laura

PS….I FOUND SOME GREAT THINGS TO SHOP FOR…..

The Summer House Cookbook: Easy Recipes for When You Have Better Things to Do with Your Time $14.94
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Gallery

MY MONDAY WORKOUT

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LOVE MY STEP CLASS GIRLS!

I setpped on the scale this morning, reluctantly, knowing how bad I was this weekend…wait….awful this weekend, but it was soo worth it. It began with dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant with those ooey, gooey, amazing garlic rolls dripping with sinful Parmesan dipping oil to start, zucchini fritté (my veggie…and friend), veal Parmesan (fried of course), pasta with spicy diablo sauce, and lots of wine…LOTS OF AMAZING WINE…..that was one out of three nights. Enough said.

So, needless to say, the girls in my step class on Monday can always tell if I overate and was over served 🍷 during the weekend by the intensity of the class. Today’s step class was a big one 😁. We did a class called ‘double step’ and it’s intense but crazy fun.

After class I was starving, but decided to start the week off right with a light lunch. LOVING salads, which can be totally fattening, today’s lunch was a simple spinach salad with blue cheese crumbles, red onion, sliced fresh strawberries and a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I chose cheese over dressing and it was delicious! A little watermelon for desert and I feel satisfied. I’m practicing ‘eating with my eyes,’ which is making the salad pretty enough that my mouth and stomach will like it as much as my eyes do. I’ll let you know if it works! IMG_5368

We have lots of choices which gives us control. Finding variety of fresh goodies in the produce section makes it enjoyable. There are even so many pre-cut choices to save time, just watch the expiration date on the bag.

 

CHECK OUT THIS NEW GADGET!! YOU WILL NEVER BUY PRE-CUT WATERMELON AGAIN!

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Thanks for popping in! I hope you have a wonderful week!

Cheers!

Laura

SASSY SUMMER SALSA!

Hola señoritas y señores! Tis the season for my SUMMER SALSA OBSESSION! Salsa is an easy ‘dump from the jar with a bag of nacho chips and call it a dip,’ but, summer’s delicious bounty of fresh fruits and veggies makes for the  best chipping and dipping! Finish it all of with a refreshing Ruby Red Margarita, and call it a FIESTA!

Here are some of my newest and chunkiest fruitful & sassy salsas! Spice em up or keep em cool!

IMG_5339PINEAPPLE–PEPPER SALSA

(MAKES 4 CUPS)

PEEL AND TRIM:

1 cup fresh pineapple, diced

PEEL AND JULIENNE:

1/2 cup jicama, julienne

TOSS WITH:

1/4 cup purple onion, slivered
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
1 T. fresh lime juice
1/2 t. habañero, seeded and minced 1/2 t. salt

1/8 t. cayenne pepper
2–3 drops Tabasco or Siracha

JUST BEFORE SERVING, MIX IN:  diced 1 T. fresh cilantro, chopped 1 T. fresh mint, chopped

TWO TOMATO SALSA

(MAKES 3 CUPS)

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MIX TOGETHER:

1 cup red tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 cup yellow tomatoes, seeded and diced

3/4 cup white onion, diced and rinsed

3 T. fresh cilantro, chopped
2 T. fresh lime juice
1 T. light olive oil
2 t. jalapeno, seeded and minced 2 t. fresh garlic, minced

1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper

 

ROASTED TOMATO SALSA WITH JALAPENO AND CILANTRO

YIELDMakes 2 1/2 cups

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INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 10 medium), preferably plum
2 to 3 fresh jalapeño chiles (1 to 1 1/2 ounces), stemmed
Half of a small white onion (2 ounces), sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 generous teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar

PREPARATION

  • Heat the broiler. Lay the whole tomatoes and jalapeños out on a broiler pan or baking sheet.
  • Set the pan 4 inches below the broiler and broil for about 6 minutes, until darkly roasted — even blackened in spots — on one side (the tomato skins will split and curl
  • flip over the tomatoes and chiles and roast the other side for another 6 minutes or so.
  •  Set aside to cool.
  • Reduce heat to 425 degrees.
  • Separate the onions into rings combine with the garlic.
  • Roast in the oven, stirring carefully every couple of minutes, until the onions are beautifully browned about 15 minutes total. Cool 
  • Rough chop the tomatoes, onions, garlic & peppers & pour into a bowl adding the juices. If necessary,  stir in enough water to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Stir in the cilantro.
  • Taste and season with salt and vinegar

HABAÑERO SALSA WITH YELLOW TOMATOES & PAPAYA

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  • 1 medium yellow tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 2 habañero peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T. fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small papaya, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T. each fresh lime & orange juice
  • 1 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T. water
  • pinch of sugar (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Serve!

 

 

Ruby Red Margaritas

Makes four 12-oz. drinks

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  • Kosher or margarita salt
  • 1  can frozen limeade concentrate (12 oz.)
  • 2  cups ice cubes
  • 1⁄2 cup tequila, optional
  • 1 cup club soda
  • 11⁄3 cups ruby red grapefruit juice

Lime slices

Dip rims of 4 glasses into grapefruit juice, then in salt, if desired; set aside.
Blend limeade, ice cubes, and tequila in a blender until smooth. Divide the mixture evenly among the glasses. Top each with 1⁄4 cup club soda and 1⁄3 cup grapefruit juice; garnish with limes.

SUNSETS SHOP…..

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Gracias! Thank you for coming to visit. I hope that your summer fiesta is a celebration to remember!

Salud y Hasta Mañana!

Señorita Laura

Gallery

SUMMER SALAD OBSESSION!

IMG_5326Balmy summer nights and all of the wonderful fresh produce have made me hungry for a variety of savory dinner salads. This whole obsession began with Steve, my husband of ten years this month! Steve decided that WE are getting a little chubby……(we???), so he would like to have salads for dinner. Most salads aren’t exactly low cal and diet friendly, however, loving fresh salads and vegetables (we could easily be vegetarians except for and occasional big ass burger:) I accepted the challenge! 

Last night, Steve and I were having a refreshing cocktail on the deck while I grilled the chicken to top our Greek Cobb Salad. So light and flavorful, it was a hit! I plated it on an oval serving dish and we each had our own side. I am not a big egg fan, and Steve isn’t a big cucumber fan, so we each had our own side of the dish! It was perfect! So perfect, in fact, that we ate to the middle and he took the middle for lunch today:)

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On Pinterest this morning, I went a little wild in the salad department. I counted 21 pins on my SALAD BOARD! I decided to hold off until I had time to try a few of the recipes. 

Here’s the favorites!

Greek Cobb Salad

Serves 6 servings 

 

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE, WHISK:

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. each fresh lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • FOR THE SALAD, TOSS:
  • 12 chicken tenders, seasoned with salt and black pepper (11/4 lb.)
  • 4 pitas (6-inch), brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and black pepper

Chop:

  • 5 cups chopped hearts of romaine (about 1 head)

ARRANGE:

  • Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush grill grate with oil.
    For the vinaigrette, whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, 3 Tbsp. oil, garlic, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. For the salad, toss tenders with 2 Tbsp. vinaigrette, then grill, covered, until cooked through, 3 minutes per side. Transfer tenders to a plate, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Chop tenders, then toss with any residual juices. 
  • grill heat to medium.
    Grill pitas until marks appear,
    1 minute per side. Cut pitas
    into 6 wedges.
    Arrange romaine in a large serving dish. Arrange eggs, tomatoes, feta, olives, red onion,  cucumber, chicken, and pitas on same dish; drizzle vinaigrette over the top.

I am ALL OVER this one for tomorrow night from  Pinterest!

BUFFALO CHICKEN SALAD WITH BLUE CHEESE CILANTRO RANCH DRESSING (Adapted from Carlsbad Cravings)IMG_5334

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Does this look amazing?????

INGREDIENTS

Buffalo Chicken Salad
1 recipe Buffalo Chicken (see below), sliced or chopped
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped (about 8 cups)
Fresh corn kernels from 1 ear of corn
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup matchstick carrots
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large avocado, chopped or sliced

Blue Cheese Cilantro Ranch
1/2 cup real mayonnaise (I use lowfat)
1/2 cup sour cream (may sub Greek yogurt with a pinch of sugar)
3 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup cilantro, packed
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dry parsley
1 teaspoons dry chives
1/2 teaspoons dry dill
milk (as needed)

An easy shortcut would be to use purchased ranch dressing, seasonings & blue cheese crumbles.

Garnish
Blue cheese crumbles
freshly squeezed lime juice
bacon crumbles (optional)

Easy Croutons
1/2 loaf garlic/herb French bread
olive oil

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Buffalo Chicken: Prepare Buffalo Chicken according to directions (see below)
Blue Cheese Cilantro Ranch: While your chicken is marinating, add all of the dressing ingredients to your blender and chop then liquefy until smooth, adding milk as needed to reach desired consistency. Chill until ready to use.
Croutons: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cube bread into bite size pieces and add to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Spread bread in an even layer onto baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden.
Assemble: If not expecting leftovers, add all of the Salad ingredients to a large bowl and drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with blue cheese crumbles and croutons. If you are expecting leftovers, toss all of the salad ingredient together in a large bowl except avocados. Garnish individual servings with avocados, croutons and dressing.

 

BUFFALO CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS
2-3 chicken breasts (approx. 1 pound), pounded thin
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Buffalo Marinade
1/4 cup Frank’s Hot WINGS Sauce for more heat OR Frank’s ORIGINAL Hot Sauce for less heat
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Buffalo Glaze
Reserved marinade (in directions)
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
INSTRUCTIONS

Whisk together all of the Buffalo Marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Measure out 1/4 cup and add to a shallow dish or freezer bag, along with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add chicken and toss evenly to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator 2 hours up to overnight.
To the remaining marinade, make your Buffalo Glaze by whisking in 1 tablespoon honey and 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
STOVETOP DIRECTIONS
Let chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting).
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Once very hot, add chicken and cook, undisturbed for 3-5 minutes, or until nicely browned (or blackened if you prefer) on one side. Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 5-7 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through. Remove to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Brush chicken with desired amount of glaze – for more heat, more glaze; for less heat, less glaze.
GRILLING DIRECTIONS
Let chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting).
Meanwhile, grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F.
Grill chicken undisturbed for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. (An inserted thermometer should read 155 degrees F.)
Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Brush chicken with desired amount of glaze – for more heat, more glaze; for less heat, less glaze.
NOTES
*The chicken is flavorful but not very spicy without the glaze. You can completely customize the heat of the chicken by adding more or less glaze. The more glaze the spicier the chicken
*Try tossing the chicken with your favorite BBQ sauce – amazing!
*Chicken is incredible on sandwiches, in wraps, salads, tacos, etc.
*Total time does not include marinating chicken as this time will vary per individual.

I hope you enjoyed today’s read and have a chance to try these amazing main course salads. I always aim for little fuss, and great flavor, so these two have definitely nailed it!

Don’t forget to check out todays shopping!

Cheers! Laura

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