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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…

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!

Trader Joe’s Nourish All-in-one-facial Cleanser $13.07 + FREE SHIPPING!

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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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

SHEIN Lantern Sleeve Tied Neck Blouse Regular price $95.99 Sale price $49.99 + Free 7 day shipping!

SHEIN Lantern Sleeve Tied Neck Blouse

JLN Freshwater Pearl Rope Bracelet Regular price $39.99 Sale price $14.99

JLN Freshwater Pearl Rope Bracelet

 

24/7 Comfort Apparel Long Cool Woman Off the Shoulder Dress Regular price $96.99 Sale price $64.99 + Free 7 Day Shipping!

24/7 Comfort Apparel Long Cool Woman Off the Shoulder Dress

Women’s Tile Print Tunic Regular price $64.99 + Free 7 Day Shipping!

Women's Tile Print Tunic

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Try These 3 Quick + Easy Healthy Tips!

News Year’s resolutions for me have always centered around diet, exercise and….for those of you who know me….timeliness. This is the first year that not only did I not make a resolution, I didn’t even think to. Maybe my subconscious mind decided that it wasn’t necessary to keep setting myself up for failure, or that my memory was going, or perhaps both, but I’m still committed to these three self inflicted goals.

So here they are….3 simple quick + mindless tips to a healthier and happier you.

TIP 1…..Move.

This is a great tip for the anti-exerciser! Choose 1 commercial on television a day and move your feet side side to sideEXERCISE STEP TOUCHOR

if you have an exercise ball collecting dust in your closet, dust it off, sit it and bounce holding soup cans. (remember to hold the cans close to your body to keep your back in alignment) That’s it!
EXERCISE BOUNCING ON A BALL 2

TIP 2….Make AND take time for YOU.

Take 1 hour a day and do something for yourself. One hour…that’s it! Whether its reading a magazine with your feet up, taking a walk, watching a show on televisions, looking up things on the internet….no matter what it is…take time for you. This time doesn’t need to be regimented every day or even at the same time. That adds to stress. At some point say to yourself…”My time,” and take it.

Personally, my anti stress therapy is an hour walking around Homegoods. I love looking at all of the new dishes, linens and things to decorate my home with. I don’t even need to buy anything (hard to resist) but I just love to look.

This brings us to the all important step…choosing the right foods AND the right way to prepare them.

TIP 3….Making good food choices.

EXERCISE DANCING CARROTS

If you live in an area where I do, we are cooped up in the winter and mindless eating…aka snacking, can be a serious disorder. Essentially snacking isn’t such a bad thing, but just how many carrot and celery sticks can one consume???

I have found that combining tip 2 and tip 3 works for me. Aiming at turning easy + delicious foods into healthy, easy + delicious foods has been a fun and yummy challenge.

Scour the internet and pinterest for healthy foods. Hate broccoli? Find a better way to make it, or skip it and look at something else. I’ve even discovered a healthy version of fettucini alfredo, if that’s possible!

Not a big lover of eggplant, but my Steve certainly is, I recently discovered a clever disguise for one of his favorite dishes on Pinterest…eggplant parmesan. This clever version is super easy and delicious. Slicing the eggplant super thin is the trick….Check it out…

SHEET PAN EGGPLANT PARMESAN

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1 (25 ounce) jar tomato sauce
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • julienned fresh basil, optional


Instructions

  1. Spread the sliced eggplant in a single layer onto paper towels. Generously salt the eggplant and let it sit for 15 minutes. Flip the eggplant, salt the other side, and let sit for another 15 minutes.  Rince the eggplant with water and pat dry with clean paper towels. (This process will draw out the excess moisture and bitterness from the eggplant.  I have seen some skip this step entirely.)
  2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, dried basil, dried oregano, and garlic powder in a shallow dish.  In a separate dish, lightly beat the eggs with the water.
  3. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg and then the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the panko mixture onto the eggplant to evenly coat both sides.
  4. Drizzle a foil-lined sheet pan with the olive oil and spread it around to cover the whole pan.  Place the breaded eggplant in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, flip the slices, then bake for an additional 10 minutes on the other side. Spoon sauce onto each slice and top with shredded cheese.  Return to the oven and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.  Top with fresh basil right before serving.

Dear Friends,

Thanks for swinging by today!

PLEASE feel free to contact me if you are looking for an easy and lighter way to make a favorite dish.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. If there is anything to take away from reading this, I hope that you will remember to be good to yourself.

Cheers and Happy New Year,

Laura

Here are a few of my finds for the New Year! Happy Shopping!

Exercise Stability Ball Chair with Hand Pump Use For CrossFit, Yoga, Balance & Core Strength Training, Non-Slip & Anti-Burst Extra Thick Fitness Ball(Multiple Sizes) $17.99 + Free Shipping

EXERCISE STABILITY BALL

Sivan Health and Fitness Balance Fit Chair with ball and pump $63.49 + FREE SHIPPING

EXERCISE BALL CHAIR

Simply Fit Board – The Abs Legs Core Workout Balance Board with A Twist, As Seen on TV $29.90 + FREE SHIPPING

EXERCISE SIMPLY FIT BOARD

Z By Zella High Waisted Blocked Crop Leggings $24.97

EXERCISE ZELLA CLOTHING

 

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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 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.
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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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3 ULTIMATE COMFORT FOOD RECIPES

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So, what exactly is comfort food? Is it fattening delicious food that sticks to your ribs (and everywhere else) leaving you sitting on the sofa in a wonderful food coma? Is it food that conjures up warm childhood memories of Sunday night dinners in Mom’s kitchen while the snowflakes fall to the ground? Quite possibly both.

I kiddingly crown my husband, Steve, the Comfort Food King. Meatloaf, fried bologna sandwiches, anything covered with melted Velveeta cheese, fried chicken with mashed potatoes, and beef jerky are among his faves. Oh…and pies, and cookies, and don’t forget the layered jello mold! He does, however,  eat pretty healthy for the most part.

It is interesting to hear other’s definition of comfort food. The topic of conversation during various parts of my step class typically ranges from food to shopping. During our cool down the other day, comfort food was the topic.  Lisa, who recently moved here from England, had never heard of meatloaf or fried bologna sandwiches, but she was quick to recommend macaroni and cheese which we all hummed with approval. Gina and Barb showed deference to the bologna sandwiches, and Gina chimed in with her Italian ancestry voted for pasta. Barb offered a grilled muenster cheese sandwich with tomato soup. All the ladies agreed that comfort food is actually  just that; ‘feel good food.’

Recently, Steve and I attended a friend’s comfort food dinner party. Each guest was asked to bring a comfort food dish.  The variety was an interesting range of everything from beef short ribs with polenta to chicken noodle soup. I came to the conclusion, after my quite unscientific study of comfort food, that it is personal.

Today, I have a distinct inner conflict about dinner as I watch the snowflakes fall at the very beginning of spring. Do I look forward to the coming of summer and my commitment to try to fit into last summer’s clothes by exploring dinner salad recipes or say screw it and make a delicious cheese stuffed meatloaf with mashed potatoes worry about the clothes later..? The meatloaf wins as well as some other comfort food faves to add to the list as well as two wonderful pot pies; seafood & chicken. Check these out….

 

MOZZARELLA STUFFED MEATLOAF

Flavorful ground beef stuffed with ooey gooey mozzarella cheese.
Serves 4 to 6

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Ingredients
1 pound ground beef (85%)
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup milk
2 TB worcestershire sauce
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1 TB worcestershire sauce
1 TB red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
⅛ tsp salt
pinch cayenne pepper

LET’S MAKE ITI

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a glass baking pan (9×13) with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine ground beef, bread crumbs, basil, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, milk, and worcestershire sauce.
  • Divide meat in half. Shape one half of the meat into the bottom half of the loaf and place in prepared pan.
  • Place mozzarella slices down the center, leaving ½ inch around the ends and sides.
  • Shape remaining half of meat as the top half of the loaf, sealing the edges. This is a free-form loaf so it doesn’t need to be perfect.
  • In a small mixing bowl whisk together ketchup, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper. Pour half of this mixture over the meatloaf, reserving the remaining half for later.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 minutes, remove from oven and pour the remaining sauce over the loaf.Increase temperature to 400 degrees and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

SEAFOOD POT PIE with PUFF PASTY

FOR THE BROTH

COMBINE:

  • 2  lobster tails (5–6 oz. each)
  • 3  oz. large shrimp
  • 1/2 cup russet potato, peeled, diced 1/4 cup carrot, diced

FOR THE FILLING

SWEAT IN 2 T. UNSALTED BUTTER

  • 1/4 cup leeks, diced
  • 1 t. garlic, minced

WHISK IN:

  • T. all-purpose flour

DEGLAZE WITH; ADD:

  • 2 T. dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup reserved seafood broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas

 

REMOVE FROM HEAT AND STIR IN:

  • Reserved seafood and vegetables
  • 2 oz. lump crab meat
  • 1 t. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t. chopped fresh chives
  • 1 t. chopped fresh tarragon
  • Salt, white pepper, and cayenne to taste

FOR THE PASTRY TOP

BRUSH WITH:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed 1 egg, lightly beaten with
  • 1 T. water

 

  • Preheat oven to 425°; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Prepare lobster tails, cutting both sides of the shell (not the meat) down to the fan. Remove meat, reserving shells for broth. Peel and devein shrimp, then halve lengthwise; reserve meat and shells.
  • Combine seafood shells, potato, and carrot in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer until vegetables are fork tender, 10–15 minutes. Drain, reserving vegetables and 1/2 cup broth; discard shells and remaining broth.
  • Sweat leeks and garlic in butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until leeks are translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Deglaze with sherry. Add reserved broth, whisking until smooth and thickened; stir in cream and peas.
  • Off heat, stir in reserved seafood and vegetables, crab, lemon juice, herbs, and seasonings. Mixture will be very thick.
  • Prepare puff pastry, rolling out on a floured surface to 1/8″ thick. Trim around a 21/2-cup ovenproof dish so the pastry is 3/4″ larger than the diameter of the dish.
  • Cut vents in the pastry with a knife so steam can escape. Transfer filling to the dish and top with the pastry piece. Trim excess pastry, crimp edges, then brush dough with egg wash.
  • Bake pot pie on the prepared baking sheet until top is golden and filling is bubbly, 20–25 minutes.

TURKEY POT PIE with PHYLLO CRUST

Makes 4 servings

CHICKEN POT PIE

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz.cremini or button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flouR
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  cup whole milk
  • 2  tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Salt, black pepper, and dry
  • sherry to taste
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed and patted dry
  • 4 Tbsp. each unsalted butter and olive oil
  • 16 sheets phyllo dough, thawed to room temperatureMAKE IT!
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  • Cook mushrooms and thyme in 6 Tbsp. butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until browned and liquid nearly evaporates, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute.
  • Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup sherry; cook until nearly evaporated. Whisk in broth and milk; cook until thickened to desired consistency, 10–12 minutes.
  • Add lemon juice; season with salt, pepper, and sherry.
  • Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl. Stir in turkey, mixed vegetables, and onions.
  • Divide mixture among four  baking dishes arranged on prepared baking sheet.
  • Heat 4 Tbsp. butter with oil in microwave until butter melts. Place a phyllo sheet on a flat surface; cover remaining sheets with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.
  • Lightly brush phyllo sheet with butter-oil mixture; roll into a loose tube. Repeat brushing and rolling with 3 more phyllo sheets, then starting at outer edge, place 4 phyllo tubes end to end in a spiral pattern on top of filling. Repeat phyllo steps for each pot pie. Drizzle any remaining butter- oil mixture over phyllo or coat with nonstick spray.
  • Bake pies until crust is golden and filling is bubbly, about
    20 minutes. Let pies cool 5–10 minutes before serving.

Depending upon the width of your dishes, the number of phyllo sheets needed may vary by one or two.

Dear Friends,

Thanks for swing by today. I hope you give these recipes a try. As always, I encourage you to take advantage of all the shortcuts; frozen veggies, rotisserie chicken, but never substitute butter. The substitutes are packed with artificial ingredients, have the similar fat content and zero flavor.

On another note, I have finally launched my ladies’ boutique….FOLIO TRENDS!  Great shopping, great finds, free shipping + incredible prices! Until next time….fullsizeoutput_1ddd

🍷Cheers! Laura

 
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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 ¼ inch rounds
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ 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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FELIZ NAVIDAD!

Last night, an old friend who we’ve know for many years stopped by for a little holiday cheer. We have known Jimmy wearing many hats over the years, as a lawyer, a great chef, and in his retirement years, Santa. Last night we realized that was all we did know about him, other than the love of his life passing from cancer a few years ago. 

Sipping his cocktail,  Jimmy, who we fondly refer to as “Gumbo Jim,” was lamenting over a ‘Dear John’ letter he recently received in his mailbox, listing the reasons his long time girlfriend no longer wanted to see him. The first two were petty, but the third was surprising; surprising to know this about someone, and surprising that would be a deal breaker. 

Every year on Jimmy’s birthday, he purchases his own birthday cake inscribed with “Happy Birthday Lewis.”

“When I was 16,” he went on, “my parents forgot my birthday. They went out of town visiting friends, and I thought they were setting me up for a big surprise. After several hours passed, I realized they had forgotten! So I went through all of the pockets in the laundry and around the house scraping up as much change as I could find and ran down the street to the corner bakeshop just about to close. Anxiously entering, I asked if they had any birthday cakes. The lady at the counter looked at me and replied, “Just one, but it already has a birthday message on it. It says, “Happy Birthday Lewis.”

Reliving that moment, Jimmy stated, “I bought it, and sitting on the corner eating my birthday cake through my tears, I wondered who poor Lewis was who never got his cake. So, every year, I buy my own birthday cake always inscribed with, Happy Birthday Lewis. I never realized that this was such an annoyance.”

So, you think you know someone until they share personal stories giving a window to their heart. This time of year,  we get so caught up in shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, celebrating and trying to create the perfect holiday, that so often we forget to take time with our friends and family to know them and to listen. That is truly a gift both to give and receive.🎅f620dd10609be2423fece09632cd75c3

Here’s an idea to plus up your holiday! Make it a fiesta! Grab a bottle of tequila, mix up a delicious poinsettia smash, cocktail  and try any of these simple kid friendly, crowd pleasing recipes! 

TACO CRESCENT RING

 taco-crescent-ringThis taco-filled crescent ring is the perfect meal for Taco Night! Dress it up with fresh shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and taco sauce for a fun twist on tacos! (Serves 8)

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef
1 package (1 oz) Old El Paso™ taco seasoning mix
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz)
2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced ripe olives, taco sauce or salsa, as desired

 Heat oven to 375°F. In 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook beef until no longer pink. Add taco seasoning mix and 1/2 cup water. Simmer 3 to 4 minutes or until slightly thickened. In medium bowl, mix beef mixture and cheese.

  1. Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles. On ungreased large cookie sheet, arrange triangles in ring so short sides of triangles form a 5-inch circle in center. Dough will overlap. Dough ring should look like the sun.
  2. Spoon beef mixture on the half of each triangle closest to center of ring.
  3. Bring each dough triangle up over filling, tucking dough under bottom layer of dough to secure it. Repeat around ring until entire filling is enclosed (some filling might show a little).
  4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is golden brown and thoroughly baked. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into serving slices.

QUICK and EASY TACO PIE

quick-taco-pie

Ingredients

1 to 1 1/4 lb. lean ground beef
1 (1-oz.) pkg. Old El Paso™ Taco Seasoning Mix
1/2 cup water
1/cup sliced black olives
1 (8-oz.) can Pillsbury™ Refrigerated Crescent Dinner Rolls
1 1/2 to 2 cups crushed corn chips
1 (8-oz.) container (1 cup) sour cream
6 slices American cheese or 4 oz. (1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce, if desired
Avocado slices, if desired

1 Heat oven to 375°F. Cook ground beef in 10-inch skillet until thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix, water and olives. Simmer 5 minutes.
2 Meanwhile, separate crescent dough into 8 triangles. Place triangles in ungreased 9 or 10-inch pie pan, pressing to form crust. Sprinkle 1 cup of the corn chips over bottom of crust.
3 Spoon beef mixture into corn chips in crust. Spread sour cream over beef mixture. Cover with cheese. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 to 1 cup corn chips.
4 Bake at 375°F. for 20 to 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cut in wedges. Serve immediately with lettuce and avocado. Store in refrigerator.

CHEESE TOPPED TACO PIE (MY FAVORITE!)

0bd73139-1873-4aed-84d5-9c54bdccab6eI just LOVE the way the egg, cheese cream cheese mixture sets on this pie! (Serves 6)

Ingredients

Crust
1 box Pillsbury™ refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
Filling
1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 package (1 oz) Old El Paso™ taco seasoning mix
1 jar (16 oz) Old El Paso™ Thick ‘n Chunky salsa

1 can (2.8 oz) french fried onions
1 (8 oz pkg) cream cheese
2 cups shredded taco-flavored cheese blend (8 oz)
2 eggs
1 small tomato, seeded, diced
Steps
1 Heat oven to 450°F. Make pie crust as directed on box for One-Crust Baked Shell using 9-inch glass pie pan or 10-inch deep-dish pie pan. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until light golden brown.
2 Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. In 10-inch skillet, cook ground beef over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix and salsa; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in half of the french fried onions. Spoon mixture into baked shell.
3 In small bowl, mix cream cheese, 1 cup of the taco-flavored cheese blend and the eggs. Spoon over beef mixture. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until slightly puffed and set in center.
4 Remove pie from oven. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese evenly over filling; sprinkle remaining french fried onions in center of filling.
5 Return to oven; bake 2 to 3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle tomato around edge and in center of filling. Garnish with sliced jalapeños  Let pie stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving

POINSETTIA SMASH

poinsettia-smash

INGREDIENTS

2 oz Patrón Silver
.5 oz Fino Sherry
5 Fresh cranberries (or .5 oz of cranberry jelly)
.5 oz Simple syrup (omit if using jelly)
.5 Lemon
+ Cinnamon stick & lemon wheel for garnish
METHOD
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a rocks glass with crushed ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and lemon wheel.

Dear Friends,

Whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope it’s wonderful and filled with memories to cherish forever. Watch for the opening of my new E store: FOLIO TRENDS where I feature beautiful and trendy designs for ladies at great prices: FOLIO TRENDS

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Aclamaciones! (that’s Spanish for Cheers!)

Señorita Laura

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3 ROCKIN RECIPES TO RALLY FOR A WIN! GAME 7!!

Cleveland fans are amazing. No matter what the weather, they are out there showing support….even for the….Browns. But tonight is an amazing night for baseball fans! First pitch at 8 tonight…73* and even if you aren’t from Cleveland, the enthusiasm is contagious and well worth the visit! 

Here are some delicious dishes for your rally party! These are great do aheads, so your guests can help themselves and you can enjoy the game! Enjoy and GO TRIBE!!

REUBEN STRATA WITH THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING

If you don’t have any leftover corned beef, buy about 1 pound unsliced corned beef from the deli counter at your local grocery store.

Makes 12 servings
COAT:

  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

COVER:

  • 11/4 lb. sliced pumpernickel bread, staled
  • 3 cups diced corned beef
  • 3 cups sauerkraut, well drained
  • 4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  • 11/2 cups Thousand Island dressing
  • Salt and black pepper

BLEND:

  • 10 eggs
    21/2 cups whole milk
    2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Coat bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter. Cover bottom of dish with a layer of bread slices. Top with 1 cup each corned beef, sauerkraut, and cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup dressing over top, then season with salt
and pepper. Repeat layering two more times.
Blend eggs, milk, and Dijon until combined; pour over layers in baking dish. Sprinkle remaining
1 cup cheese over top. Cover strata with plastic wrap and press down. Refrigerate strata at least 1 hour
or up to 24 hours. Remove plastic and preheat oven to 350°.
Bake strata, uncovered, until
puffy and cooked through (160°), about 1 hour. Let strata stand
10 minutes before serving.

SIMPLE ROMAINE SALAD WITH RED WINE VINAIGRETTE

This is quite possibly the most delicious dressing I have ever made! Serving small individual salads makes entertaining easy so you can enjoy your guests and the game! 

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For the Salad

Layer cut up romaine lettuce and top with shaved parmesan

 For the Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp minced shallot
2 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

This recipe I found on pinterest (and borrowed the beautiful pic) and is soooo easy and delicious. Perfect for a game! (You definitely want to double this recipe!

ORANGE MARMELDE-SIRACHA WINGS

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Ingredients

2 lbs chicken wings & drummettes (separated)
1/4 cup salted butter
2 Tbsp siracha sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp orange marmalade
optional: sesame seeds for garnish
Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water. Boil wings for 8 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain wings and use a paper towel to dry them completely. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place wings on foil and bake for 20 minutes. Turn wings over and bake for 15 minutes longer. Meanwhile melt butter in a sauce pan. Add marmalade & siracha sauce. Mix and cook over medium/low for 5 minutes. After wings are finished baking, toss them in the sauce and place back on cookie sheet to broil for 2 – 3 minutes until the sauce on the wings start to crisp up. Garnish with sesame seeds 

Dear Friends,

As always, thanks for swinging by! Even if you aren’t going to rally tonight, I hope you enjoy these simple and delicious recipes. The magic to great entertaining is making it simple but making it look like you put a lot of effort into everything.

Food, family and friendship all go hand in hand so cheers to making time together special.

GO TRIBE!

🍺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

¾ 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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THE PERFECT COOKIE

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I have always marveled at those perfectly shaped cookies in the bakery department at the grocery store.  I’m never sure what’s in them or how they got to be so perfect, but I’ve finally found the magic recipe!

Cookies are a personal thing; some like chewy, some like crunchy, but personally, I like them just a little underdone and buttery…Eating a cookie made with fake butter is definitely a waste of calories. Browning the butter is a plus up in the flavor of this cookie.

So, here it is….(drumroll)…

SALTED BROWN BUTTER CINNAMON CRINKLE COOKIES

Makes 36 cookies

INGREDIENTS
10 tablespoons butter, sliced
2½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Place the butter in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts and begins to foam.
  • Continue to cook,  until the butter becomes an amber color, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  • Add the granulated and brown sugar.
  • Pour the cooled butter into the sugars and mix on medium speed to combine.
  • Add in the eggs and vanilla, mixing just until smooth.
  • Slowly add in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
  • Cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Place the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Divide the chilled dough into 1- tablespoon sized balls.
  • Roll each ball into the powdered sugar and place onto the prepared pan, about 2- inches apart.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are set.
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

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Dear Friends,

Thanks for stopping in. Share a cookie and share a smile to brighten someone’s day. Until next time…..

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
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

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7 Quick Back to School Breakfast Bites

With school starting, the search for quick, delicious and healthy morning treats goes on! I honestly don’t know how we survived without Pinterest and Google Search to serve all of our daily info needs! Starting the day off right sets the stage for kids of all ages to have a successful day!

They say, whoever they is, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. My Steve used to say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day because you have a big problem if you aren’t home by then. Not funny but he’s definitely right.

Check out these delicious breakfast bites. With a little planning, your family will look forward to stopping at the breakfast table in the morning!

PIZZA FOR BREAKFAST!

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INGREDIENTS
1 EGG
1 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. fully-cooked breakfast sausage crumbles OR 1 fully-cooked breakfast sausage link or patty, chopped
1 round flatbread (6-inch)
2 tbsp. finely shredded Cheddar cheese
Yields: 1 serving

DIRECTIONS

COAT in 2-cup microwave-safe cereal bowl with cooking spray. ADD egg and milk; BEAT until blended. ADD sausage.

MICROWAVE on HIGH 30 seconds; push cooked edges toward center. MICROWAVE until egg is almost set, about 15 to 45 seconds longer.

CUT egg into 4 or 5 pieces; arrange on flatbread. TOP with cheese. MICROWAVE an additional 10 to 15 seconds to melt cheese. SERVE immediately.

EGG AND SAUSAGE TACO

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INGREDIENTS
1 EGG
1 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. fully-cooked breakfast sausage crumbles OR 1 fully-cooked breakfast sausage link or patty, chopped
1 thin flatbread OR tortilla, warmed
2 tbsp. finely shredded Cheddar cheese OR Mexican cheese blend
Salsa, OPTIONAL
Yields: 1 serving
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
DIRECTIONS

COAT 2-cup microwave-safe cereal bowl with cooking spray. ADD egg and milk; BEAT until blended. ADD sausage.

MICROWAVE on HIGH 30 seconds; push cooked edges toward center. MICROWAVE until egg is almost set, about 15 to 45 seconds longer.

PLACE on flatbread. TOP with cheese. FOLD and serve with salsa, if desired.

MUFFIN FRITATAS

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INGREDIENTS
6 EGGS
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz.)
3/4 cup chopped zucchini or spinach
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tbsp. chopped red onion
Yields: 6 servings/12 muffin frittatas

 

 

 

DIRECTIONS

HEAT oven to 350°F. BEAT eggs, milk, salt and pepper in medium bowl until well-blended. ADD cheese, zucchini, bell pepper and onion; mix well. SPOON evenly into 12 greased muffin cups, about 1/4 cup each.

BAKE in 350°F oven until just set, 20 to 22 minutes. COOL on wire rack 5 minutes. REMOVE from cups; serve warm.

BACON AND EGG BREAKFAST GRILLED CHEESE

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2 EGGS
2 tbsp. milk OR water
salt and pepper, as desired
3 tsp. butter, room temperature, divided
4 slices whole wheat OR white bread
2 slices Colby-Jack cheese
4 slices fully-cooked bacon
Yields: 2 sandwiches

DIRECTIONS

BEAT eggs, milk, salt and pepper in small bowl until blended.

HEAT 1 tsp. butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. POUR IN egg mixture. As eggs begin to set, GENTLY PULL the eggs across the pan with an inverted turner, forming large soft curds. CONTINUE cooking – pulling, lifting and folding eggs – until thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Do not stir constantly. REMOVE from pan. CLEAN skillet.

SPREAD remaining 2 tsp. butter evenly on one side of each bread slice. PLACE 2 slices in skillet, buttered side down. TOP evenly with scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon. COVER with remaining bread, buttered side up.

COOK sandwiches over medium heat, turning once, until bread is toasted and cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes.

BAKED FRENCH TOAST

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INGREDIENTS

1½ c Chobani Vanilla Greek Yogurt
10, ¾-inch-thick slices challah or brioche
¾ c milk
4 large eggs
2 T light brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
Fresh berries
Maple syrup and powdered sugar (optional)

PREPARATION

STEP 1
Arrange bread slices in a 9×13-inch greased baking dish.

STEP 2
Whisk together Chobani, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Pour over bread, cover pan with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

STEP 3
Bake at 375°F until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Slice and serve warm with fresh berries and syrup.

CHOBANI YOGERT PARFAIT

INGREDIENTS

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1/2 c Chobani Strawberry Greek Yogurt
½ c granola
½ c mixed berries

PREPARATION

STEP 1
In a parfait glass, layer ½ the Chobani, ½ the granola and ½ the berries. Repeat.

BACON EGG and CHEESE MONKEY BREAD

BACON EGG & CHEESSE MONEKY BREAD

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter
6 eggs, beaten
1 can (16.3 oz) Pillsbury™ Grands!™ Flaky Layers refrigerated original biscuits (8 biscuits)
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (6 oz)
1 package (2.52 oz) precooked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup finely sliced green onions (4 medium)

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 12-cup fluted tube cake pan generously with cooking spray; set aside. In 8-inch nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat; tilt pan to coat. Add eggs. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until firm but still moist, stirring frequently.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave remaining 3 tablespoons butter uncovered on Medium-High (70%) 30 to 45 seconds or until melted. Add 1 tablespoon of the melted butter to bottom of pan, brushing with pastry brush or tilting pan to coat halfway up sides. Separate dough into 8 biscuits; cut each into sixths. Coat biscuit pieces with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter; place half of them in bottom of pan. Layer with 1/2 cup of the cheese, half of the bacon, the scrambled eggs, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the green onions; add remaining bacon, remaining 1/2 cup cheese and remaining biscuit pieces.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; run metal spatula around outer and inside edges of pan to loosen. Turn over onto serving platter to serve.

Thanks for stopping in today! Find something to celebrate and enjoy each and every day! Each day is a gift.

Cheers to you! Laura

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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.

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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)…..

 

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CAPRI AT THE RITZ

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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.

 

 

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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.)

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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

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