It's Grilling Season!

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Finally right?! Time to fire up the Barbie and get the table set out doors for summertime alfresco dining! Longer days and mild spring weather make for perfect al fresco dining and fresh, healthy and delicious meals right off the grill and just in time for Memorial Day Weekend celebrations! Whether you are Green Egg, Infrared Gas or traditional Weber Charcoal Grill Meister, we’ve got you covered with Fun & Simple menu ideas from grilled shrimp cocktail to slow roasted pulled pork shoulder, citrus glazed salmon to grilled corn on the cob.  And who can resist fresh grilled fruits for dessert?  When it comes to table dressing, I prefer a simple but elegant table.  Themed table clothes are fun with simple, clean white flowers and linens and some fun accents.  In our neck of the woods that might include palm fronds or sea grape leaves.  Fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs always make nice table accents.  In the summer I love using lemons, limes and oranges for color with white table linens on top of sea grape leaves or in different shaped white bowls.  I do like using plates and flatware (rather than paper or plastic) but I do often use nice paper napkins, especially if the menu options are going to be deliciously messy! I don’t often let Jeff in the kitchen, but when it comes to grilling, he is my chef du jour! I do the prep, and he cooks everything beautifully!  Not only does the grill bring unique flavor to foods, it sure makes for easy clean up and who doesn’t enjoy eating outdoors whenever possible.  With Memorial Day and summer weekends approaching, having some new dishes to share with friends and family are not only a must, it’s just super fun!

Here is one of my favorite menus, straight from Fun & Simple Gourmet!  This steak is so tender, juicy and flavorful.  I’ve prepared the recipe for Steak Victor with flank steak and ribeye, both are equally as delicious.  Whether a special summer holiday, or just another weekend of summer fun with friends and family, this menu offers a different twist to traditional burgers and dogs but no more difficult to prepare.  Grilled shrimp cocktail, marinated flank (or ribeye) steak, tangy Mediterranean potato salad, grilled corn on the cob, finished with a delicious fruit crumble.  I like to serve a slightly chilled Pinot Noir from California with it’s fruity, earthy aroma and delicate flavor that does not overpower food with this menu.  Ribeye and butcher cuts of meat, like flank steak and hanger steak, pair very well with fruity younger reds.  A younger Cabernet Sauvignon would pair beautifully as well.  Grilling corn is so simple and adds texture and flavor as opposed to simply boiling it. Plus, if you are going to be on the grill anyway, so easy to just throw the corn on there too!  Just pull the husk back from each ear, far enough to remove the silk, but do not remove entirely.  Remove silk from the corn and rinse thoroughly.  Roll the husks back to the top of each ear and soak in a large bowl of cold water, 5-10 minutes.  Heat grill to medium high and lay the corn in its husk directly on the grates of the grill.  Cook 15-20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, until the corn is steamed through.  Remove husks and serve with herbed butter.  If you’d like the grill marks on the corn, simply place back on the grill after removing the husk and sear on all sides 1-2 minutes.

More options for fresh from the Barbie dining! Enjoy these menu suggestions, signature dishes and wine pairing recommendations to complete any al fresco menu in spectacular fashion.

One of my favorite grilled vegetables is this tangy Grilled Bok Choy.  It’s fresh and flavorful with a little kick in the sauce.  It compliments the Grilled Citrus Salmon beautifully with it’s sweet and tangy glaze.  And who doesn’t love pizza?  This Grilled Margherita is so fresh and delicious.  I love doing pizzas on the grill and when tomatoes are in season, this is my absolute favorite!  The crust cooks so well on the grill which also adds beautiful charred flavor and crispiness.  With fresh bufala mozarrella, parmigiano-reggiano and fresh julienned basil leaves, without a doubt one of the best grilled pizzas you will ever taste.  And of course, everyone loves a pulled pork sandwich with sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, crunchy cole slaw and ooey, gooey mac and cheese!  The pulled pork can be oven roasted of course, but a slow roast on the grill adds so much flavor with charcoal or wood chips, the trick is keeping the temperature inside the grill between 225-250 degrees.  When we are invited to a BBQ at someone else’s house, they always ask me to bring the Mac & Cheese and one of my fruit crumbles.  Click here for the Mac recipe, you will want to bring it to your next neighborhood BBQ!

Now, let’s talk about wine pairings.

For the Salmon…

I am partial to a chilled Rose’ it just screams summer! One of my favorite’s from California, the Decoy Rose’ a lovely blend of Syrah and Pinot Noir, crisp, dry and refreshing. It is also a welcome option for the tangy pork barbecue, though a smoky Pinot Noir, slightly chilled, is another great choice.

For the Steak Victor & Pork BBQ…

I highly recommend the Decoy Sonoma County Pinot Noir, with soft tannins and a hint of oak, which gives that smoky note, the perfect compliment to barbecue sauce.

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So, now you have everything you need to prepare a Fun & Simple Memorial Day Celebration! Wishing you a fabulous holiday weekend and even better summer! Stay tuned for more super summer meal planning & entertaining ideas, along with fun summer trip recommendations and travel tips. Now, go fire up the Barbie and get this weekend party started!

Happy Memorial Day…

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Spring Holiday Menu Ideas with Healthy Tips for Holiday Overindulgence

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This week we celebrate our favorite Spring Holidays with festive menu ideas and tasty treats to share with family and friends. Check out these recipes, straight from Fun & Simple Gourmet, for a casually festive Easter feast and be sure to read to the end of the blog where Guest Blogger, Cheryl Conklin, MSEd, from Wellness Central, tells us “How to Feel Better After Overindulgence with a Little Self-Care.” Complete with tips and recommendations to help alleviate the symptoms of overindulging before, during and after a festive holiday celebration. Wishing you all a most Happy Easter and Happy Passover Week!

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Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. A time to celebrate Easter and Passover with fresh spring flowers, spring vegetables and eggs! Yes, eggs are used to celebrate both Easter and Passover. Easter eggs are common gifts during Eastertide, whether boiled and dyed or chocolate filled with an array of confections, eggs in general are a symbol of rebirth. Easter eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus. Hard boiled or roasted eggs are also very symbolic on the Passover Seder Plate, symbolizing the temple sacrifice and the continuing cycle of life. They are eaten during the Seder Meal, dipped in salt water. My Jeff wants his eggs, deviled…go figure right! And trust me, he can eat an entire dozen, I literally have to hide them so he won’t totally overindulge and eat them all before the guests arrive!

We will celebrate Easter at home with a brunch of Panettone French Toast and festive Mimosas and then enjoy the day at the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament here on Hilton Head, which happens to take place over the Easter Holiday this year. Then we’ll finish the day with a lovely Easter dinner of Lamb and Spring Vegetables finished with a delicious Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake. You know I have to get my Easter chocolate! I’m not much of a candy person, but this rich and creamy dark chocolate swirl cheesecake, with a hint of orange is the perfect sweet ending to this holiday meal. Now, first things first, delicious and festive not so traditional mimosa cocktails~

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Spice up your Spring Holiday Brunch with these festive drinks. Sparkling Cider makes a great non-alcoholic version. The garnishes of aromatic herbs add a wonderful fresh aroma and flavor.

The Venetian~ Fill a champagne flute half way with Prosecco. Add one jigger Campari and a splash of soda water. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.

Gigi Bellini~ Fill a champagne flute 3/4 full with your favorite champagne. Add a drizzle of Grand Marnier (orange liqueur) to taste and garnish with a fresh rosemary stalk.

Pink Lady~ Fill a champagne flute 1/2 - 3/4 full with your favorite champagne. Add freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice. Top with a pinch of fresh lemon zest and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.

Now, about those eggs! Jeff is crazy for deviled eggs. So simple to prepare, this basic traditional recipe comes from my grandmother. All I have to do is hide them from Jeff until everyone arrives!

One dozen fresh organic eggs 1 teaspoon sweet pickle juice

½ cup mayonnaise Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard                 Sprinkle of Paprika for finishing                               

2 tablespoons yellow mustard Fresh chives, finely chopped (if desired)

Place eggs a large saucepan with enough water to cover the eggs and a generous pinch of kosher salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover, allowing the eggs to rest for 20-25 minutes.  Rinse with cold water and carefully crack and peel eggs.  Slice in half lengthwise with a smooth bladed knife and place the yolks in a medium bowl, whites on a serving plate.  Smash the yolks with the beaters on an electric mixer and add mayo, mustards and pickle juice.  Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until well combined and creamy.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and thoroughly combine.  Spoon creamy yolk mixture into a pastry bag or a Ziploc baggie, pressing the mixture into one corner.  Snip the corner of the Ziploc baggie with a pair of kitchen shears and fill each egg white half with the yolk mixture, 1-2 teaspoons of filling in each one.  Sprinkle with paprika and finely chopped chives if desired.

Panettone French Toast is my favorite holiday brunch dish. Its’ sweet and savory, served with 100% pure organic maple syrup with a little orange liqueur to bring out the orange flavor in the french toast, always an Easter Brunch crowd pleaser. For the rest of our casual Easter feast recipes, simply click on the photos!

Lamb is a traditional Easter dish and this Colorado Rack with lemon, garlic and fresh herbs is tender and succulent, finished with a lovely red wine sauce. So elegant yet super simple to prepare. The Penne with Spring Vegetables, sugar snap peas, asparagus, scallions, carrots and Brussels sprouts, is fresh and light with a lemony and aromatic cilantro and basil pesto sauce, a perfect compliment to the flavors of the lamb. I included my Mediterranean Potato Salad, also a great side dish with lamb. I always like a fish option on a holiday table and this year it’s my Grilled Citrus Salmon, with a sweet orange and rosemary glaze. For dessert, the Dark Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake, and a Pear & Ginger Crumble topped with vanilla bean ice cream and toasted slivered almonds.

Now, after this wonderful holiday feast you will want to read on with Cheryl Conklin from Wellness Central on how to feel your best! I know you will learn so much from her article, all super great advice! Thanks Cheryl!

How to Feel Better After Overindulgence with a Little Self-Care

-Cheryl Conklin, MSEd, Wellness Central

On special occasions and during big events, many people will unconsciously overdo it when it comes to eating and drinking, which can leave you feeling bloated and unmotivated. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to ease the discomfort that can come with taking on too much, both before and after you indulge. Preventative care is half the battle, especially if you know that certain foods are likely to give you heartburn or indigestion. You can also look for help from a daily probiotic, which will help with tummy troubles and keep you feeling great. Keep reading for tips on how to alleviate the symptoms of overindulgence.

Reduce Bloating

Everyone has gas, but when it builds up too quickly without a release, it can cause a great deal of pain and can even mimic the feeling of a heart attack. It can also lead to lots of uncomfortable bloating, leaving you feeling overly full no matter what you eat. Take care to eat slowly (eating quickly can cause gas build-up) by chewing your food slowly and waiting 20 minutes or more before going back for seconds.  Not only will this keep you from feeling bloated, but it will also allow you to savor your food and may help prevent weight gain, since taking your time will let you process the feeling that you’re full and satiated.  Probiotics can also help a great deal by introducing healthy bacteria into your intestines, boosting your metabolism, and breaking down bits of food left in your digestive tract that can cause problems later.

Fall Back on Hobbies

Believe it or not, taking up a hobby can relieve stress and anxiety, as well as provide us with a little comfort when we’re feeling under the weather — and that includes making us feel better after overindulging. Focus on something you enjoy that also brings you comfort, whether that’s settling in for a good movie, reading that book you’ve been meaning to finish, or tackling an art project that’s been lingering in the back of your mind. At the end of the day, doing something enjoyable and healthy makes you feel good, so use that to your advantage.

Get a Little Exercise

While it’s probably true that the last thing you’ll feel like doing once you’ve overindulged, light activity can actually help you feel better when you’ve overeaten or when you feel bloated. You don’t have to do a full workout; a short walk at a steady pace will help quite a bit, especially if you have trapped gas that’s making you feel miserable.

Embark on a Staycation

Need to reset completely? If time allows, consider packing your bags for a healthy, detoxifying staycation. Considered by many to be the ultimate self-care splurge, a staycation may be just what you need to reduce stress, re-commit to healthy habits, and get back on track. Fortunately, Hilton Head is the perfect spot for a quick “getaway.”

Overindulgence can be okay if you don’t overdo it. The key is to eat small meals when you can, stay away from foods and drinks you know will cause problems later, and keep in mind that it’s not just one type of food that can lead to heartburn or indigestion. Also, if you do overindulge, look for ways to make yourself feel better without the guilt. Keep your comfort in mind, and do what you can to prevent any problems before they begin. (wellnesscentral.info)

Thanks again Cheryl for your collaboration this week! Wishing everyone a super fantastic & delicious Spring Holiday Week! You can find all of these recipes and many more of my favorites in Fun & Simple Gourmet, at iTunes for your iPad and other Apple devices. If you prefer hardback, it’s available at Amazon & here on my website.

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A Delicious Late Summer Surprise

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Where did summer go? I don’t know about you, but didn’t this one seem especially fast? The highlight for me was my birthday weekend when Jeff surprised me with a wonderful birthday dinner celebration in a spectacular wine cellar. I knew he was up to something, but would never let on and spoil his surprise, of course.  We spent the night before at the wonderfully chic Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah, Georgia enjoying the day in the city and the rooftop terrace at the hotel.

Then, when I arrived at the venue for dinner, I was be greeted by 20 of our closest friends…surprise right! But that wasn’t even close to being the real surprise. As I was seated at the table and read the beautifully crafted menu for the evening, I noticed something super special, the menu was comprised entirely of dishes from my new book! In honor of the launch this month, Jeff had arranged with the chef to prepare the evening’s event with an appetizer, a choice of 3 entrée’s and dessert all from Fun & Simple Gourmet. Needless to say, I was more than surprised, speechless in fact (which is not easy for me…ha!) and so touched that Jeff arranged such a special evening with our dearest friends.  Chef Nick at the South Carolina Yacht Club was so gracious and prepared the dishes perfectly, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the delicious food, incredible wines and beautiful evening in this magical setting.

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I thought it would be fun to share the menu Jeff and Chef Nick selected as well as the recipes, all from Fun & Simple Gourmet. Now available here on the website, Amazon and select independent book stores and kitchen shops. (Click on the photos for these recipes!)    

It’s hard to believe we are already into our normal back to school routines, shorter days and fall flavors. I love cooking in the fall and now ready for the temperatures to become a little cooler, it sure still feels like summer! Enjoy your last days of summer weather and in the meantime…

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With Chef Nick in the Wine Cellar at the beautiful South Carolina Yacht Club. Chef and his staff were amazing with every detail for our very special evening. I was so honored to have Chef Nick prepare my dishes from Fun & Simple Gourmet. Everything was superb! Many thanks Chef!

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April in Paris...Oui Oui!!!

"I never knew the charm of spring, I never met it face to face.  Till April in Paris, this is a feeling ...what have you done to my heart."  Vernon Duke 1932 (paraphrased)  Audrey Hepburn once said, "Paris is always a good idea." (Sabrina 1954) I tend to agree!  Especially in spring.  This month, we explore my favorite great places to stay, play and eat in France along with a couple of my favorite Francais inspired recipes!  Savourez et trouvez des plasirs!

L'Avenue Paris (Avenue Montaigne Of Course!)

L'Avenue Paris (Avenue Montaigne Of Course!)

This corner restaurant at the lower tip of the Golden Triangle of Paris, with it's outdoor patio has to be my favorite spot in the City of Love.  Jeff and I went once for an early lunch at 11:45 am and ended up leaving sometime around midnight!  Well, there was a walk down the Avenue late that afternoon before returning for cocktail hour which led directly into dinner, meeting new friends, etc.  One of the most memorable days of my life!  I think Jeff was just trying to keep me away from the fabulous shopping along Avenue Montaigne where you will find everything from Haute couture to ready to wear, albeit for me, just maybe the best window shopping in the world!   

This week, let's start with one of my favorite french cheeses and appetizers.  A wonderful creamy french brie or camembert with sautéed mushrooms, herbs and toasted baguette slices.  I could just have this for a most satisfying dinner paired with a lovely red Bordeaux.  Delicieux et satisfaisant.  Send me your favorite french inspired dishes!  Bon Appetit!

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