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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¬į.

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.

ūüć∑¬†Laura

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

 

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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!

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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!

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TRADER JOE'S FACE LOTION WITH SPF 15

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

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

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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

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To Cook or Not to Cook….That is the ???

Well, as they say, “When in Rome…,” but in Naples…….Florida, it’s great fun to do as the Naples’ Floridians do….enjoy¬†dining out on Fifth Avenue South! The epicurean choices are so incredible that dining in doesn’t always cut it. I try to justify it to myself, and Steve, by convincingly insisting that amazing meal ideas can be born from amazing restaurants.¬†

Actually, it’s devastating…..(slightly dramatic, I know) to eat a mediocre meal in a restaurant and know that you can have a much better dinner at home. Dining out is a treat and I’m committed to duplicating and sharing some of my faves from my recent travels to Naples, Florida.

Sea Salt is one of our favorites and the chef  nailed it on creativity and taste with his Caesar Salad Sushi Bites.

CAESAR SALAD SUSHI BITES

The first time I made these, I over filled them. Less is more, so that they are able to roll up and sit on the plate for a delicious presentation.

Caesar Salad Sushi Bites

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 romaine leaves
  • Caesar Dressing (store bought or home made)
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • Small jar of red lumpfish caviar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash, dry and lay each romaine leaf flat.
  2. Spread 1 T on each leaf.
  3. Sprinkle 2 T Parmesan cheese on each leaf.
  4. Carefully and tightly roll each romaine leaf up lengthwise.
  5. Cut off loose ends and and slice evenly down the middle. (Each leaf makes 2 rolls)
  6. Repeat with remaining leaves.
  7. Turn each ‘sushi roll’ flat and top with 1/2 t. dressing and a sprinkle of caviar.
  8. Serve with chopsticks!

CAESAR SALAD DRESSING

Combine + Serve
  • 6 cloves garlic, mashed and minced.
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil.
  • Lemon juice, for seasoning.
  • Minced anchovy fillets, optional.

One of the new kids on the block in downtown Naples is The Bevy; a delightful, open air restaurant featuring a living wall, beautiful bar and a retractable skylight ceiling. The food and drinks here insight the senses with every sip and bite.

Steve was more than delighted with his appetizer of Deviled Oysters which include yellow conrmeal oysters, deviled eggs and candied bacon. fullsizeoutput_4113

Our friend, Bob, loved his craft cocktail, The Cedar Fire Old Fashioned which features bastille 1789 whiskey, orange bitters, maples syrup, smoked glass and candied bacon.

 

DEVILED EGGS

DEVILED EGGS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallot¬†or¬†onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika

DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil the eggs in water 10-12 min.
  2. Peal the eggs, cut the in half lengthwise and remove the yolks.
  3. Mash yolks with mustard, mayonnaise, onion, Tabasco, salt, pepper. (For finer consistency, place in a food processor.
  4. 4 Pipe or spoon mixture into egg white halves: Pipe through a piping bag (star tip) or simply use a spoon to put the egg yolk mixture into the egg white halves. 
  5. Serve as is, or top with your favorite toppings: candied bacon, smoked salmon, caviar, jalape√Īo

CANDIED BACON

CANDIED BACON

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Mix brown sugar, rice vinegar, maple syrup, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  • Place bacon slices on cooling rack set over a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, turn slices, and bake another 5 minutes.

 

 

CORNMEAL FRIED OYSTERS

  • Heat deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  • Combine cornmeal, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, black pepper and seasoned salt in a large plastic bag.
  • Place oysters in bag and shake until well coated.
  • Cook oysters¬†3 or 4 at a time in hot oil.

 

Dear Friends,

Recently I read a great article on happiness……stating simply that: if your happiness depends on just one thing, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. So, for example, if your happiness depends on sunshine and warm weather, and you live in Northeast Ohio, many of your days will be unhappy. In sunny Naples, Florida, even when it’s chilly, the sunshines which is a blessing.

Walking in sunshine and sharing delicious recipes are two of my favorite things, so thank you for swinging by and I hope you enjoy these nuggets of yum! Be sure to check out some of my fun finds in The Sunshine Shop!

Until¬†next time…

ūüćĻCheers!¬†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√ó13-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¬į.
Bake strata, uncovered, until
puffy and cooked through (160¬į), 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! 

img_6521

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

orange-marmelade-sriracha-wings-facebook-labeled

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 ‚Äď 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!

ūüćļLaura

 

 

 

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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.

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 jalape√Īo and parmesan pesto.

 

 

IMG_5393
This little number kept calling to us….and we succumbed. Well worth it!
IMG_5422
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....

 

IMG_5431
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‚Äď10 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‚Äď2 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…ūüėč (Shake Shack…put it on your bucket list!) People say the secret’s in the sauce, but I say its in the mushroom!

IMG_5471
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

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
+ $3.99 shipping

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MY MONDAY WORKOUT

IMG_5193
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 fritt√© (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 ūüć∑ during the weekend by the intensity of the class. Today’s step class was a big one ūüėĀ. 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

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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¬įF.
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

IT’S AMAZON PRIME DAY! CHECK IT OUT!

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Gallery

#Summertime! Grilled Caprese Salad w/ Basil Vinaigrette, Marinated Flank Steak & Frozen Peach Margaritas

Ahhhh Summer. Sun shiny days and warm balmy nights are the memories we cherish. And the songs of summer….keeping those memories alive throughout our lives.

So many songs sung about summertime…to name a few:

  • Summer Nights (1978)
  • Hot Fun in the Summertime (1969)
  • Summer Breeze (1972)
  • Summer in the ¬†City (1966)
  • Summer of 69 (1985)
  • Summertime (1991)
  • Summertime Blues (1958)
  • Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer (1963)
  • Summer Love (2007)
  • A Summer Song (1964)

“In the Good Old Summertime,” is perhaps the song that resonates with me; conjuring up memories of lemonade and the days spent during my summer vacation in middle school ¬†when I would volunteer at a Rockyknoll Nursing Home. We wore an apron of red and white stripes with pockets and were called ‘candy stripers,’ but the residents referred to us as ‘friendly visitors.’ 41ox8lxm0OLIt was my first experience that instilled my looming fear of growing old.

Candy stripers or friendly visitors had jobs: read mail to the patients, wheel them into the group areas for bingo, and just be ‘friendly.’ ¬†I vividly recall my first day;¬†carefully unfolding the crisp uniform and placing our name tag on, we were sent out to roam about the fourth floor. We were only permitted on certain floors. I heard screams coming from one of the rooms. It was an elderly woman screaming, “I WANT TO DIE! D-I-E DIE!” over and over. We were told to ignore her and not enter the room.¬†Curiosity got the best of me, as it often does, and I entered the room where I was met by a flying tissue box. I quickly decided to not be so curious.¬†

The group sing alongs were the best. Lead by a retired music teacher, playing songs on an old oak spinet piano, I saw new light and life coming into the eyes of people who would be slumped and sleeping in their wheel chairs throughout the day. It reminded me of the song, ” When I grow too old to dream, I’ll have you to remember…” I quickly noticed that some of these people who couldn’t remember what they had for breakfast, were singing words to these songs with great enthusiasm. Amazing.51xGqKIyFjL

Life Lessons are just that. The realization that growing old is inevitable. The fear of growing old pales by comparison to the thought of not growing old. Celebrate the little things and make the most of every day.

Let’s add a little flavor to our

SUMMERTIME SUPPERS!

GRILLED CAPRESE SALAD with BASAL VINAIGRETTE  img_5102

This is a delicious dish I adapted from the blog, ‘Steamy Kitchen.’ Fresh and simple to prepare and beautiful presentation. No one will know it took very little time.¬†

caprese-salad-basil-vinaigrette-107

 

  • 2 C. fresh basil leaves ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†
  • 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. white wine vinegar
  • 3 T. Parmesan grated
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 large tomatoes, sliced horizontally into thirds
  • 6 oz. fresh tomatoes cut into 8 slices
  • Process basil, 1/3 C. oil, vinegar, parmesan, salt & pepper in a food processor until smooth.

Coat tomato slices with remaining oil, season with salt and pepper & grill on 1 side for 1 minute then flip (do not flip the tops).

Place cheese on tomato slices and grill until it begins to melt, 1-2 min.

Assemble stacks with 2 cheese topped slices and 1 top. (Add fresh basil leaves to each layer and on top if you wish) Serve with basil sauce.

GRILLED MARINATED FLANK STEAK

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This delicious flank steak recipe I found on Pinterest from Elyse at Simply Recipes takes little time to prepare and is a crowd pleaser!

Combine marinade in a bowl and add your flank steak making sure the flank steak is evenly coated on all sides. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

For the Marinade:

1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Steak:

2 lb. flank steak & 1/2 C. cracked whole peppercorns

Combine marinade in a bowl and add a 2 lb. flank steak making sure the steak is evenly coated on all sides. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Heat grill on high. Spread peppercorns on both sides of the flank steak and place it on the hot side of the grill. Grill for 1-2 min. on each side to get a good sear. Move the steak to the cooler side of the grill until its done to your liking. (125 to 130¬įF for rare, 140¬įF for medium rare, and 150¬įF for medium)

Cut the meat across the grain in thick slices and serve!

FRESH PEACH MARGARITAS

This fresh delicious drink pinned to my Summertime Board on Pinterest came from Bakerbynature.com. 

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6 Ripe Peaches
1/4 Cup Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
1 Tablespoons Confectioners’ Sugar
1 Cup tequila 
1/2 Cup Fresh Lime Juice 
1/2 Cup Triple Sec
1 lime, cut into wedges

Peal, Pit & slice peaches. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with fresh peach slices.

To make frozen peach margaritas, freeze the oj and lime juice in ice-cube trays. Add to the blender and divide evenly among the glasses. 

SUNSET’S SHOP

 

 

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Do you  have an upcoming wedding and want to build the registry of your dreams?

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Thanks so much for popping in. I’d love to hear from you! If you would like my posts to come to your inbox, scroll down and click my follow link! Until next time…

Cheers! Laura

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D I E T is a FOUR LETTER WORD…and other thoughts on health and fitness

WHAT’S FOR DINNER TONIGHT?

THAI STEAK SALAD

thai steak saladThis salad is light with bold flavors! (serves 4)

Combine in a small bowl and set aside:

1/3 C. fresh lime juice
2 T. minced jalapeno
2 t. fish sauce
2 t. minced garlic
2 t. fresh ginger
3 T. canola oil
2 T. Asian sesame oil
Preheat grill to medium high.
Pat dry a 1 lb. flank steak and season with salt and pepper.
Oil the grill
Grill steak, turning once until medium rare, about 6 min.
Transfer to a cutting board, rest for 5 min., then thinly slice across the grain.
In a bowl, combine:

1 ripe mango, cut into small pieces
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
10 oz. romaine lettuce cut in 1 inch pieces
2 T. fresh cilantro.
Toss with enough dressing to coat.
Divide among 4 plates & top with steak.
Drizzle remaining dressing over the steak.
Sprinkle with remaining cilantro & serve.

I’ve decided, that through all of my years of struggling with my weight in hopes of trying not to¬†get fat, that it’s a matter of calories in vs. calories out.¬† Mindless eating and empty calories also top the list. (That includes my not so secret obsession with bbq potato chips:() Taking an active role in maintaining my health through both diet and exercise,¬†and accepting the physical changes that inevitably occur with age, have become a priority for me.¬†exercise-health-quote

The whole concept of diet and exercise comes down to two little words that carry heavy meaning…self image. How we see ourselves and view ourselves, particularly as women, affects our daily lives; literally everything from the way we deal with stress to handling relationships.¬†I vividly recall an episode of the Dr. Oz show where Dr. Oz asked a group of women to look in the mirror and tell him what they saw, not specifically visual. ¬†Each identified something negative about their appearance.¬†Self image is essentially that¬†mirror image reflecting back to us which can be¬†real or distorted, positive or negative. mirror

The accumulation of experiences throughout our lives which affect the way in which we see ourselves, that self-image, can change over time.  Unfortunately, as we get older, our physical appearance changes and our ability to accept those changes and commit to staying young in both heart and mind can make a difference.  Teaching aerobics for over 20 years, has enabled me to see not only the physical effects of exercise, but the emotional impact as well.  I teach a step/sculpt class and in the summertime, I teach an aqua noodle class. The age range in both classes, 20-75, varies as does the attendance, but all will agree: exercise needs to be fun and motivating!

My best advice? JUST MOVE! 

¬†¬†In my classes, it doesn’t matter who is keeping up with my routines,¬†what they are wearing, or how often they come to class. I want them to keep moving! Some of my girls just come to keep track of their steps and typically meet their quota in the hour they are with me. Others enjoy the music and the routines as well as the friendships. Coming into a structured fitness class for the first time can be intimidating. I have been asked everything from, “Do I have to wear makeup?” to “What should I wear?” My answer? “It’s not a fashion show and no one cares. Just come.” And they do.

In my Aqua Noodle class, we are in the shallow end of the pool and are moving constantly in the water, while using the noodle and the resistance of the water for muscle conditioning. It’s hard to believe that we can get such a great workout with little impact on our joints. Many of the girls who strive to track their steps have found this¬†great

                            waterproof fitbit $259.99 from Amazon.

 Have access to a swimming pool?

Get in and jog!

  • ¬†jog in place
  • jog or skip across the pool
  • move backwards and forwards
  • hop on one foot and the other¬†
  • do jumping jacks in the pool
  • play music and twist
  • Have fun and move like no one is watching!

Want more? Buy a

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                      CRANK UP THE MUSIC AND DANCE!

NO FREE WEIGHTS OR FITNESS EQUIPMENT?

  • GRAB A COUPLE OF SOUP CANS, TUCK YOUR ELBOWS TO YOUR WAIST AND DO BICEP CURLS.

ON DIETING………

Over the years, there have been so many fad diets:

  • South Beach
  • Mediterranean
  • The Zone Diet
  • Atkins Diet
  • Paleo Diet
  • Volumetrics
  • Raw Food Diet
  • Macrobiotic Diet

AND THE WINNER IS……(DRUM ROLLLLLLLL)

WEIGHT WATCHERS!

My daughter, Jodi, ¬†has been an avid Weight Watcher’s follower, and though she no longer attends their meetings, the balanced diet they promote has become a lifestyle.

  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Eating in moderation
  • Enjoying the foods you love

Suggestion:

  • Instead of dieting, commit to a healthier lifestyle.
  • Shifting the focus from how you look to feeling good and having more energy.
  • Set yourself up for success by laying out workout clothes, snacking on fresh fruit & veggies, and getting rid of unhealthy snacks in your kitchen…(yep, even the chips!)
  • If you ‘slip,’ tomorrow is another day. Don’t beat yourself up!
  • Be a friend to yourself and pep talks are always appreciated!
  • Know what triggers your eating…boredom, stress? Find a positive way to deal with it by taking a walk, or listening to music.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Web MD suggests “Practicing Mindful Eating.” Eat slowly and give your tummy a chance to let your brain know you’ve had enough.

Thanks for popping in today! Looking forward to hearing from you with ideas, suggestions, or recipe requests!

Cheers!

Laura

 

Image

THE SALAD BOWL

Salads are no longer considered ‘rabbit food,’ so I love the creativity in preparing and serving. After the first bite, Steve & I decide if its a ‘keeper!’

Here are a couple of our “KEEPERS!”

shrimp cocktail salad martiniSHRIMP COCKTAIL SALAD

This entre salad is filled with bold flavors and is a switch on the traditional shrimp cocktail appetizer. Combining the tangy vinaigrette with the shrimp, lettuce and tomatoes, makes this a perfect summer meal!shrimp cocktail salad martini

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE, WHISK TOGETHER & SET ASIDE:

1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
1 T. ketchup
1/2 C. prepared horseradish
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. Worcestershire saice
1/4 t. kosher salt and black pepper
FOR THE SHRIMP, HEAT:

3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. kosher salt
2 T. Old Bay seasoning
ADD: 2 lb. peeled & deveined large shrimp & cook until pink, 3 min.
Transfer shrimp to a bowl of ice water, drain & toss in vinaigrette.
Chill for at lest 1 hour.
TO SERVE: TOSS SHRIMP, TOMATOES & LETTUCE TOGETHER BEFORE SERVING & ENJOY!

TACO SALAD WITH CHIPOTLE CHICKEN (serves 4)

This is an easy and flavorful salad served up with a little heat!

TACO SALAD WITH CHICKENTACO SALAD WITH CHICKEN

First, layer the salad in a platter or individual bowls, and put in the fridge:

1 large head chopped romaine lettuce
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 sliced jalapeno
1 C. halved tri-color grape tomatoes
1 C. sliced scallions
1 avocado cut in thin wedges
1 C. corn kernels (frozen & thawed, or fresh and blanched)
1 lime cut into wedges.

FOR THE CHIPOTLE CHICKEN:

COMBINE & SIMMER OVER MEDIUM HEAT ABOUT 25 MIN.

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2/3 C. diced onion
2 T. chopped chipotles in adobo sauce
1 T. tomato paste
2 T. fresh garlic
1 C. fresh or jarred roasted red peppers
1/2 t. salt, cocoa powder, and cumin
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
Transfer the chicken to a plate, shred, and put back in sauce.
When ready to serve, remove platter or salad bowls from the fridge, top with warm chicken mixture, shredded cheddar cheese & garnish with lime wedges.

When I first started planning this blog,

I wanted to touch upon healthy living and healthy eating for many reasons. As we age, our metabolism slows down, and combined with less physical activity, the pounds creep on, and not in places where its attractive. Healthy eating tops my list; low fat, low carbs, and small portions seems to work. My next blog post: “DIET IS A FOUR LETTER WORD!”,¬†¬†we’ll grab some great ways to balance nutrition combined with exercise, for a healthy lifestyle. Today’s post focuses on the new main course: Salad!

The old adage: “Lettuce is rabbit food!” is just that: old. Looking at older cookbooks like “Cookin’ For a Cause,” (1995), ¬†which benefitted United Way, I found the salad section which I read with great amusement. Fruit salads, pasta salads, jello salads, and pretzel salads topped the list with ingredients sure to pack on the pounds. What caught my eye in reviewing these older cookbooks was the commonality of ‘plussing’ up the salads. It became evident to me that throughout the years, cooks, both home and professional, have been searching for ways to liven up this dish.

When Steve and I decided to eat a more healthful diet, he, 68 and me…60, we looked at salads as a main meal. The usual tossed, Caesar, Greek & wedge were great at first, but seemed boring day after day, so I went on a search to find & create salad menus that are fresh, colorful and bursting with flavor.¬†¬†We¬†taste with our eyes first, so it is important to serve salads that are ‘guest worthy.’ Thanks for swinging by today, and I hope you enjoy these delicious salad recipes. Also,¬†if you follow me, you will get regular updates!

Cheers!

Laura

PRODUCTS I LOVE…….

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Extra Large Aluminum Hammered Bowl with Stand $59.00 FROM AMAZON

SALAD SERVERS LARGE WOOD

Hand Made Large Olive Wood Salad Server Set – 2 Piece Wooden Salad Tongs Skillfully Designed & Crafted in South Africa $16.99

Elegance Hammered 6-Inch Stainless Steel Bowl $8.39 each from Amazon

 

 

Image

MORE MEMORIAL DAY MEAL IDEAS: BBQ Ribs, Romaine Salad with Pear, Bleu Cheese & Walnuts, Grilled Potatoes

PICNIC FOODS, HERE WE COME!

All of those delicious summertime treats remind us of warm sunny days spent outside grilling, gardening, swimming, baseball games and having cocktails on the porch with friends. I love seasonal cooking and summer foods are my favorite! BBQ chicken & ribs, especially baby back,  fresh salads and refreshing drinks make for the perfect meal.

LET’S START WITH THE RIBS!

Oozing with flavor, saucy, saucy meat, falling off the bone…yum. The messier the better. Everyone has their own special rub and sauce recipe. There are people who precook their ribs in beer, root beer, coke, and even Dr. Pepper, before putting them on the grill. Some like their ribs dry with well seasoned rub, while others like their ribs dripping with sauce.¬†Some like the¬†to cook them in the oven, some like to cook them¬†on the grill, but¬†I like a combo.. (this sounds like a Dr. Seuss book).

RUBBED & GLAZED RIBS!

Makes 2 racks

Reading the ingredients on most ready made bbq rubs and sauces from the store, not recognizing or being able to pronounce some, have inspired me to make my own sauces which are more amazing, flavorful and healthy.

FOR THE RIBS

BBQ BABYBACK RIBS

  • 2 racks baby back spareribs, about 7 lb.
  • 3¬†T. each brown sugar, chili powder, kosher salt & pepper
  • 1¬†T. each paprika, dried thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Trim the excess fat, and pierce the meat between the bones using a fork.
  3. Place ribs on a baking sheet .
  4. Combine seasonings and rub on both sides of racks.
  5. Cover baking sheet tightly with foil & roast for 2 hours.
  6. While cooking, make the sauce.

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 2 T. minced garlic
  • 1 C.¬†chopped onion
  • 1 C. ketchup
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1/4 C.¬† apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T. prepared mustard
  • 2 T. water
  • 1/2 t. siracha or Tabasco sauce (optional)
  1. Sauté onion  in oil in a saucepan over med. heat, 3 min. Add garlic and cook 1 min.
  2. Add vinegar and simmer 4 min. Stir in remaining ingredients & simmer 10 min.
  3. Season with salt.
  • Preheat the grill to med-high.
  • Remove ribs from oven & coat with sauce.
  • Grill about 15 min. total, flipping and basting with sauce.
  • Remove from grill, rest for 2 min. & slice between the bones.

SHORTCUTS THAT I   L-O-V-E !

tony romas ribs

Recently I was having last minute company with little time to prepare, so I ran across these ‘ready-made’ Tony Roma’s baby back ribs in the refrigerated meat section of the grocery store. They are also available at Wal-Mart. I¬†Recognized the¬†brand name and remembered¬† that I devoured these ribs at Tony Roma’s restaurant years ago, so I decided to try them. WHAT A HIT!¬†

These saucy, flavorful ribs come fully cooked & grilled,¬†and vacuum sealed in their own pan. Each pack contains 1 slab of ribs. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, peal the plastic & bake for 15 min. That’s it! Slice & serve! (& don’t forget extra napkins!).

Now for the sides:

GRILLED REDSKIN POTATO WEDGES

Makes 4-5 Cupsgrilled redskin potatoes

Super easy, tasty and makes great use of the other side of the grill. While the ribs are cooking, toss 1/14 lb. red potatoes cut into wedges with 2 T. olive oil & salt & pepper to taste.

Grill until cooked through, turning often, about 20 min.

ROMAINE SALAD WITH PEARS, BLUE CHEESE & WALNUTS

Serves 4

Salad with pears blue cheese & walnuts

  1. Wash and pat dry 1 large head of romaine lettuce.
  2. Tear into bite size pieces.
  3. Combine & put in a bowl:
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 C. crumbled blue cheese (about¬†1 oz.)

4. Mash the cheese with a fork & blend with the oil & vinegar.

5. Add & toss throughly

  • lettuce
  • 1/4 C. blue cheese
  • 1/2 C. coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved

Place in individual bowls, or a platter and garnish with:

  • 1 pear thinly¬†sliced into 8 wedges

This is a refreshing salad that you can make ahead, and serve chilled.

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 Set Includes: 4 salad forks, 4 dinner forks, 4 teaspoons, 4 tablespoons, 4 butter knives
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