It’s Summer, Get Out of Your Hot Kitchens!

Summer is for salads!  Baby spring mix, iceburg lettuce, romaine hearts; What’s your favorite?  I recently discovered it’s not only the type of greens you use but the dressing that can make a salad into a gorgeous & fulfilling meal.   I’m tired of the lettuce, tomato & onion plates they try to pass as side or house salads at restaurants.

I WANT A REAL SALAD PLEASE!!

I purchased some already cooked chicken tenders from the deli at my local super market and chopped them into bite size pieces.  Also picked up a bag of baby spring mix (usually consists of baby spinach, arugula, frisee, raddichio, etc), walnuts, golden raisins, croutons, goat cheese and the Pièce de résistance… lemon poppy seed dressing!  Combine the items to your liking (omit what you don’t like) and you’re left with a cool kitchen & a heck of a salad.

Some people still don’t think of salads as a meal only a side.  I am here to say there are many salads out there that are full meals with protein and very little carbs!  Great salad recipes have evolved because a salad is so much more than just lettuce with some dressing covering it. Salads can be cool or cold, warm or hot, and can be served as a side dish or the main meal. Different salads have uniquely different flavors and textures along with a wide array of ingredients.  Here are a few of my online faves:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

16 oz. uncooked bow ties, rotini, ziti or other shaped pasta
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen mixed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots
1 C. Italian, creamy Italian or favorite dressing
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 C. pitted ripe olives, halved

Cook pasta and vegetables according to pkg. directions; drain. Mix together pasta and vegetables with remaining ingredients in lrg. bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.  For variety, add sliced salami, cheese cubes, cooked chicken, turkey or cooked seafood to the salad

Ranch Tuna Macaroni Salad

2 (6 oz.) cans tuna
4 (12 oz.) C. dry macaroni
2 C. ranch dressing (your own or bottled)
1/2 C. diced red onions
1 C. diced celery
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

Cook the macaroni according to directions on pkg.. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill before servings.

potato salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and peeled or not peeled
  • 2 large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion (scallions)
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Cut the potatoes into bite-size chunks and put in a medium saucepan. Cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and boil for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender. Drain and cool completely.

Put the potatoes in a large bowl with the chopped eggs, celery, red and green onion. Chill thoroughly.

Combine the mayonnaise, white vinegar, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Gently stir the mayonnaise mixture into the potato mixture until well blended.

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Happy Thanksgiving 2010:Easy as Applie pie :)

This year, my husband Matt & I were invited to our friends Malinda and BJ’s home for Thanksgiving dinner.  I was so excited to spend a second thanksgiving with them this year; they are usual attendees at our Canadian Thanksgiving celebration in October.   Malinda and I went shopping wednesday after a crazy work day but with her list in hand we found everything she needed in about an hour.  She even bought all the ingredients for me to make two apple pies to bring over.  Mission accepted!

A few years ago my friend Sarah and I made an Apple pie which turned out amazing but without Sarah here, I was in undiscovered territory.  So I went home with 2 boxes of Pillsbury ready made pie crust (A little help from the store on Thanksgiving is a must!), 12 Granny Smith apples, cinnamon and sugar; knowing I’d probably have the rest of the ingredients at home.

Ingredients for TWO Apple Pies:

2 boxes of Pillsbury ready made pie crust
12 Granny Smith apples ( Then I peeled, cored and sliced)
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1/2 stick of butter cut into cubes

Assembly line ...

Mix the cinnamon, flour, sugar and nutmeg in a bowl.  Add apples and Vanilla to mixture and mix it all well making sure all apple slices are covered.

Mix it up!

Lightly butter two pie plates and place one crust in each pan.  Divide ingredients into each pie pan and dot with butter cubes.

Fill'er up

Cover with top pie crust ( I used cute little cookie cutter to decorate the top crust).

Ready to Bake!

Crimp the sides and brush with milk and sprinkle sugar on top.
Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until done.

Pie #1

Pie #2

Nothing makes your house smell better than apple pies.  Hope every had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We had an amazing time at BJ and Malinda’s, with their family and friends…it was truly an honor to be a part of it.  Thanks guys!
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Greeting Cards for Everyone!

Hello Friends.. I know it’s been a while.  Just wanted to share a little information with you all.

These days it’s not common to get a real card or letter in the mail.  Most times we receive email cards, text messages or facebook messages as replacement forms of communication.   Remember the feeling of going to a store and picking out a card to mail to someone?  And knowing how great that person will feel when they get it, knowing you took the time to choose it & mail it.  For those who haven’t used Shutterfly, it’s a great website that allows you to make personal photo greeting cards, wall calendars,  order from their awesome holiday collections, etc.  There are so many options:

Shutterfly has Christmas cards:

Holiday Cards

They also have photo greeting cards:

Greeting Cards

They even have canvas wall art:

Art

I plan to use Shutterfly for our birth announcements.  Some of you may know that Matt and I are expecting our first child (due Jan. 14, 2011) and we couldn’t be more excited.  Sharing the news with our family and friends with a beautifully made card will be a special way to document his arrival. Hope this little blurb helps some of you in choosing Holiday cards or even other wonderful items available.  Enjoy!

SPECIAL: Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly, follow the arrow à  http://bit.ly/sfly2010

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Sprinkles Cupcakes In Florida!!

I’m addicted to Cupcake Wars on the Food Network! If any of you haven’t seen it before Candace Nelson, the Sprinkles Cupcakes Founder, is a judge on the show. I recently saw an episode and one of the guest judges was Natalie Slater from Bake and Destroy (one of my new favorite blogs).  Bake and Destroy

As I was reading her blog, I noticed she was having a contest in which the winner would get 3 Sprinkles Cupcakes Mixes!! I have heard so much about these awesome cupcakes and was so happy to hear you can now buy mixes to make at home complete with their famous dot decoration!  Check out their site! Sprinkles Cupcakes

Not only was the contest awesome but on the blog Natalie also posted the recipe for Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes and Strawberry Frosting.

Sprinkles' Strawberry Cupcakes

Natalie Slater (Bake & Destroy) posted this recipe:

Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes (1 doz)

You will need:

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup pureed strawberries, measured in liquid measuring cup (use all-natural frozen strawberries that have been thawed and pureed until totally smooth)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Then you:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a 12 cup cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside
Add vanilla and strawberry puree to milk and set aside. In standing mixer, cream butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until full incorporated and fluffy. Slowly add egg and egg whites and mix on medium speed until blended. With mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture until just blended. Add milk mixture and mix just until blended. Add remaining flour mixture and mix just until blended.  Scrape down bowl to make sure entire mixture is smooth.Divide batter between 12 cupcake cups and bake for approx 22 – 25 minutes or until tops are just dry to the touch . Cool cupcake pan on wire rack.  As they cool, cupcake domes will fall. Once cool, cupcakes can be turned out of pan and frosted.

Sprinkles Strawberry Frosting

You will need:

  • 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly cold and firm
  • 1/16 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 ½ cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp pureed strawberries (use all-natural frozen strawberries that have been thawed and pureed until totally smooth)

Then you:

Beat butter and salt on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed and gradually add confectioner’s sugar.  Beat until incorporated. Add vanilla and strawberry puree and mix on medium low until blended and smooth.  Do not overmix, or the frosting will incorporate too much air.  The consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice-cream.

I hope you make these and maybe even buy some of the mixes from their website…don’t forget to share!!

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7 Layer Salad

Ever gone to a BBQ, dinner party or office luncheon and seen a seven Layer Salad? At first, I was confused; using a trifle dish for anything other than dessert had never even occurred to me. I’d seen and made seven layer dips but this was new and definitely intriguing.   

Then, recently I got an email from Kraft Foods with a seven layer salad recipe, so I decided to do a little more investigating.  I researched (that’s right, I researched!)  a few recipes and these are a few that I found. 

Kraft’s Seven Layer Salad 

Epicurious’ Seven Layer Salad 

Food Network’s Sandra Lee 

Cooks.com Mexican Twist 

So pretty it could almost be a centerpiece!

The one pictured above is tomato, peas, shredded cheese, black olives, romaine lettuce, bacon and hard-boiled eggs.  This leaves the dressing portion up to the person eating it.  I hope this opens up your eyes to a new salad possibility, it did for me.  Let us know which one you liked, tried, or if you made up a recipe of your own!! Enjoy!

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Ladies’ Weekend in St. Augustine, Fl

We started our 3 hour drive from Tallahassee to St. Augustine talking about all the fun activities that we were about to do, listening to a mixed CD Lizzie made of summer road trip songs. I had never been to St. Augustine, Fl and was really just looking forward to getting out-of-town for an early birthday celebration.   My friends Sarah, Erika, Lizzie and I made plans for a this small yet fun-filled getaway to do just that.

After checking in at the hotel we headed to the historical district, parked and walked to Athens Restaurant for lunch. This little authentic greek cafe was more than I expected.  The atmosphere alone could almost transport you to Greece.  Between Sarah, Lizzie and I we tried a cheese platter that came with olives, the greek salad, a potato salad with pita slices and of course a gyro.  All of us thought our dishes where delicious  and genuine; it’s definitely a place we recommend.

Walking around the shops and all around Flagler College, I realized the beautiful city I had just discovered.  The architechture and local cuisine options can’t possibly leave anyone wanting for more, I truly think there is something for everyone.    On our way back to our hotel we also gave a local pizza and chinese place a chance for take out.  We brought it back to our hotel room and stayed in for the night as we waited for Erika to arrive from Coconut Creek.  Little did I know the following day would hold more delectable discoveries.

We started the day at the Castillo de San Marcos.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Touring the old fort was incredible, like nothing I’d ever seen.  Walls made of shells and cement (Coquina) were very unique. They had people in costume and old weaponry, we  even watch them set off a cannon.   The view from the top of the fort was amazing, seeing Anastasia Island across the water and the city escape were really remarkable.

We continued to walk to the Spanish district and went into more little shops and looked around before stopping for lunch and The Spanish Bakery.  An empanada lunch with a drink was only $5.50, what a bargain.  This quick and easy little establishment even bakes cookies; the entire lunch was yummy. (Try it: The Spanish Bakery)

One of the best $5.50 ever spent!

OUTLET MALLS GALLORE:  There are two malls right off the exit.  With over a 100 stores to choose from, this could be trouble for some but really fun with a team!

Prime Outlets

Premier Outlets

Also, no ladies’ weekend is ever complete without a pedicure.  Erika and I went to a local Salon & Spa and got that checked off our list.  Before heading to dinner at Columbia Restaurant (their website).  All of us were able to try this local treasure after Lizzie made reservations.  Starting the meal with Calamari, myself having Ropa Vieja as the main course, then being surprised with a birthday song and Flan; What more can a girl ask for?  Churros, you say…oh wait, we had those too!  Accompanied with Caramel, Chocolate and Guava Dipping sauces to boot, almost criminal.

Birthday Dinner!

Sharing Dessert!

Feeling so thankful for the wonderful memories I made, being able to experience a new city and enjoy amazing food; definitely a successful getaway I won’t soon forget.  Thanks Ladies!

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Gourmet Herb Garden

I decided to grow a Gourmet Herb Garden this summer.  At first I thought it would be fun, and now I think it’s not only going to be fun but it will save me some money. Of course there is a small initial financial investment  but fresh herbs also taste WAY better than dried ones,  so I think of it as a good investment.  I thought about which flavors I love and know I’ll use, and thought about starting with rosemary, basil, cilantro and green onions.

We’ve all seen The Barefoot Contessa’s beautiful garden…

…mine won’t be quite as big but hopefully it will be just as beautiful.  I started by going to the local Farmer’s Market to get some ideas.  There are usually a few vendors that sell herbs.   As well as seeing what people grow and getting inspired.  Then I went to Ace hardware to get to seeds, pots, soil and gardening tools.  I asked to see what herb plants they had and the clerk showed me some pitiful looking plants.  I asked how much they were and she said “Free!”, which was music to my ears.  I loaded up a cart with 4 different tomato plants, sweet basil, italian parsley and yellow squash all for free.  I also purchased chives & cilantro  seeds to grow my own little plants.

They sell all sorts of herb planters these days that come in cute little pots with seeds and all.  If you don’t want to make your own just buy one and start your real life Farmville (an addictive Facebook game).  I will post an update in a few weeks with pictures of the progress of my little garden and to show you if these pitiful plants have survived.  For now, I pray that God has given me a green thumb.

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