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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Shake It Up with Protein Pancakes

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When I was asked to work with Foodiechats and the Georgia Peanut Commission again this year to help introduce a fabulous new Elmhurst 1925 plant-based beverage, I was excited and I knew exactly what I wanted to create. Most of you know, I am a pancake girl, but most pancakes are lacking protein. Not these delicious varieties, made with Elmhurst 1925 Vanilla and Chocolate Protein Shakes, the cleanest shake on the planet!  This plant-based protein shake is an amazing product on its own, in a smoothie, and fabulous in my super healthy pancakes. So Shake It Up!

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So, I got in my kitchen and started experimenting.  I must have had 10 mixing bowls, and ingredients scattered everywhere, experimenting with different combinations of textures and flavors, and these were our favorites.  You don’t have to give up protein to enjoy delicious and healthy breakfast pancakes.  

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Chocolate Banana Protein Pancakes

Who doesn’t love chocolate and banana anything? These delicious chocolate pancakes have everything you need to get through the day and make a super yummy breakfast treat or dessert! If you are a mocha lover, substitute vanilla with strong coffee or espresso.

1 cup all purpose or gluten free flour (You can also use ½ cup all purpose flour and ½ cup peanut flour. The pancakes will be slightly more dense)

1 T baking powder

1 T organic cane sugar (or 1 T 100% pure maple syrup)

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 c natural cocoa powder (not dutched)

1 ripe banana

1 egg

1 cup Elmhurst 1925 Chocolate Protein Shake

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon strong coffee or espresso)

1 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt (for topping)

¼ c shaved 72% cacao bittersweet chocolate (for topping)

Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside. In a food processor or blender, add banana, egg, Elmhurst 1925 Chocolate Protein Shake, and vanilla (and maple syrup if substituting for sugar). Pulse until creamy and well blended. Pour into dry ingredients and stir with a whisk until just combined. Let the batter rest for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, spray skillet or griddle with non-stick spray and heat over medium heat. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup or ice cream scoop, pour batter onto the heated surface and cook until edges are dry and bubbles form in the batter. Turn pancakes  and continue to cook until bottom side is golden brown. Remove to a plate and keep warm in a 250 degree oven until all of the pancakes are done and you are ready to enjoy. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt, banana slices (and/or berries) and chocolate shavings, and 100% maple syrup, or your favorite toppings.

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Oatmeal Protein Pancakes

These fluffy oatmeal pancakes were my favorite. I loved the scalloped edges that were formed by the oatmeal in the batter and the vanilla flavor is super yummy with warm 100% organic maple syrup.

1 cup all purpose flour or Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 T organic cane sugar or 100% pure maple syrup

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg 

¾ - 1 cup Elmhurst 1925 Vanilla Protein Shake (based on your preferred texture, ¾ cup for a thicker batter and pancake, 1 cup for a more thin batter, I used ¾ cup)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 T extra light olive oil

¼ cup whole grain Irish oats

Whisk flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Pour into dry ingredients and stir with a whisk until just combined. Fold in oats with a spatula and let the batter rest for 10-15 minutes. Gently stir to redistribute oats evenly in the batter just before cooking.

Meanwhile, spray skillet or griddle with non-stick spray and heat over medium heat. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup or ice cream scoop, pour batter onto the heated surface and cook until edges are dry and bubbles form in the batter. Turn pancakes  and continue to cook until bottom side is golden brown. Remove to a plate and keep warm in a 250 degree oven until all of the pancakes are done and you are ready to enjoy. Serve with fresh fruit and 100% maple syrup, or your favorite toppings.

Enjoy adding these super protein packed pancakes to your morning routine, or for special weekend breakfasts with your family!

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Sponsored by #Foodiechats via @GeorgiaPeanuts

Spring into Lighter Fare with these Fresh Spring Dishes & Wine Pairings

Ah, the joys of spring, spring showers, spring flowers, spring vegetables, spring pollen, well maybe not that one, and spring cleaning. Spring symbolizes new life, and rejuvenation, our senses become alive again with the scents of spring and longer days allow us to spend more time enjoying evenings outdoors and al fresco dining. March is one of my favorite months of the year. I love the warmer temperatures during the day, but still cool enough for a sweater or jacket in the evening, and the occasional spring shower, that makes everything green, fresh and bright! There’s nothing like the fresh clean scent of a spring shower.

Of course, for me, the newness of spring is all about the food. Spring is a great time to lighten things up with a more delicate fare after the hearty dishes of winter. I love cooking with fresh spring vegetables this time of year, sweet peas, carrots, brussel sprouts, asparagus, leeks, butter lettuces, fennel and arugula. Fresh herb pestos are also a great way to add depth to lighter dishes with a fresh spring flavor. Spring is also a fun time to explore new lighter wine varietals after the hearty dishes and more robust wines of winter. Spring salads, soups, entrées and wines feel somehow energizing and new. Here are some of my favorite spring wines paired with my fun & simple spring dishes like this month’s featured recipe on my Recipe Page, Spaghetti with Wilted Greens in a light and velvety sauce.

This spring try a light Sauvignon Blanc, which is produced from a green skinned grape originally from the Bordeaux region (France) though now grown just about everywhere wine grapes are cultivated. It produces a crisp, light bodied and fresh flavor, which makes for a perfect pairing with the fresh flavors of spring vegetables. In fact, a well-aged Sauvignon Blanc is said to develop aromas of spring vegetables like asparagus and peas as it ages.  One of my favorites is Decoy Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc from California.

 Another wonderful spring wine is Sancerre from the Loire River Valley.  Sancerre is similar to  Sauvignon Blanc, in fact it is a member of the Sauvignon Blanc family. Sancerre is produced in the Loire Valley, specifically the left bank of the Loire River. It’s medium bodied due to the minerals in the soil, yet delicate, floral and mildly acidic and pairs perfectly with goat cheeses, rich creamy bries, grilled fish, shellfish and chicken. 

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Pan Seared Halibut with Risotto Primavera & Sweet Pea Pesto, a delightfully mild fish, pan seared to crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside with creamy risotto and fresh pea pesto. Perfectly paired with a Sancerre from the Loire River Valley  with its floral mild acidity is a perfect balance with this mild and flaky fish, the complex flavors of the pesto and creaminess of the risotto. I’ve never met a Sancerre I didn’t thoroughly enjoy like the Domaine Fournier Les Belles Vignes.

Shrimp Provencal, shown above served with angel hair pasta, with fresh grilled shrimp in a luscious Provencal sauce and sweet pea & basil pesto, pairs perfectly with the Sancerre, though the versatility of this dish also pairs nicely with a Rose’ from Provence or even a nice chilled Pinot Noir.

The complex flavors of the Provence sauce including, fennel, garlic, lemon, tomato, capers and olives are perfect for the medium bodied Sancerre or the pale colored Grenache based Rose’s of the Provence with their notes of citrus and melon, crisp and light, usually produced with a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault grapes. There are so many great ones! One of my favorites, Aix, a crisp and light wine with a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. A few more of my favorite spring dishes…

Sweet Pea & Proscuitto Salad with Romaine, Butter Lettuce, Shaved Parmigiano & Proscuitto, a well rounded side salad to compliment any spring dish. Asparagus & Leek Soup, fresh, green, soothing and healthy! Paired with a crisp light Sauvignon Blanc.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint/Basil Pesto, succulent lamb chops with a fresh minty pesto, paired perfectly with a nice California Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend.  The rich earthiness of the lamb balanced with the fresh pesto calls for a bold red wine that’s not too heavy. One of my favorite blends is the Duckhorn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich and oaky yet perfectly balanced with the robustness of the Cabernet grape and lighter fruitiness of the Merlot.

Enjoy these Spring Wine Pairings and Fresh Fun & Simple Spring Recipes! Remember to send me your photos of my dishes and tag them #gigistyle #funandsimple to be featured! If you haven’t already, don’t forget to download “Fun & Simple Gourmet” at iTunes (click here) for your Apple devices. You can also order your hard copy edition here or at Amazon.com!

Wishing you all the joys of spring!

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Some of my favorite Wine Tools to help you enjoy exploring Spring Wines!

Simple Tips to Organize Your Kitchen from Soup to Nuts

January is always a great month to reset and get a little organized with a fresh new start to a fresh new year.  One of the best things you can do to enjoy cooking and being in your kitchen more is being organized. I am an organizational freak by nature, which comes in pretty handy, especially in the kitchen. People ask me all the time how I make entertaining look so easy and the answer is simply, by being organized. It doesn’t take that much extra time to plan in advance, in fact, in the end, planning and organizing saves time. January is also National Soup Month!  What’s better than soothing, healthy soups to warm your soul.  After the holidays, I’m always ready to hunker down at home, especially when the weather isn’t quite stellar. My Healthy Kale Minestrone is a hearty meal on its own. Packed full of fresh healthy veges, and finished with avocado and extra virgin olive oil, you will live on this one all winter long. I like to make a big pot on a Sunday, and then we have it to enjoy whenever we want, all week long. Just click on the photo for the recipe! Keep scrolling for more healthy and delicious soups to keep you warm this month! Now back to organizing!

Recently I did a little kitchen re-organization. My kitchen was in pretty good shape, but there’s always room for improvement. A few little changes can save a ton of time.One thing in particular was adding drawers to the inside of my base cabinets. Now rather than sitting on the floor to try to dig in the back of a cabinet to find something, I simply pull out the drawer and I can see everything that’s there and easily retrieve what I am looking for. This is especially helpful with heavy items, like my kitchen aide stand mixer.  I also added drawers to my pantry shelves, making it super easy to find things, especially on the lower shelves.

Which brings me to my next kitchen organizational peeve…expired foods.  How many canned items are in your pantry that expired 2 years ago, 5…even more? It’s crazy to think about, but the time goes faster than you think. Take a few minutes even once a month before doing your grocery shopping to go through your pantry and refrigerator to remove expired items. It’s also a great way to make a good grocery list.  If you stay on top of it, it only takes a minute or two. 

A few other helpful hints to keeping your kitchen organized and functional: 

1.    Buy dried spices and herbs in small quantities and discard after 3 months.

2.    Store garlic, shallots and onions in a bamboo steamer basket. It’s the perfect environment to optimum freshness and it helps keep the veggie bin in the refrigerator a little less cluttered.

3.    Use drawer inserts for flatware, cooking tools and knife drawers to keep everything organized, easy to find and uncluttered.

4.    Hanging pots and pans on a ceiling rack not only saves room in your cabinets, it makes them super easy to retrieve and put away.

5.    Using an over the sink cutting board saves counter space and makes clean up so easy, just push the waste right into the sink.

6.    I recently purchased an over the sink, roll up drying rack. So cool! Dishes, glasses and pots and pans drip dry right in the sink and when you are finished, it just rolls up and stores easily and without taking up much room under the sink.

7.     Finally, labeling is a fun and simple way to keep everything organized.

Some of my favorite organizational tools to help you get started!

A few more of my fun and simple soup recipes! They are warm, soothing, healthy and delicious! Simply click on the photos for the recipes!

Now, get in the kitchen, get organized, and make these wonderful healthy soups!  I hope you enjoy these healthy recipes as much as I enjoy sharing with you! You’ll find these and many more of my favorites in my latest lifestyle cookbook, “Fun & Simple Gourmet” at Amazon or iTunes for your devices!

In the meantime…

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A Merry Merry Holiday Menu

Everyone has been asking me what I’m preparing for our holiday celebrations this year, so I decided to share my menus. The one thing that I always talk about is planning. Being organized isn’t just a good idea, it makes serving a holiday feast, or entertaining a crowd so easy! It doesn’t have to be difficult or daunting, it is meant to be fun, especially for the cook! And, don’t be afraid to let guests bring a dish if they offer, whether it’s an appetizer, side dish or dessert, it never hurts to have a little help and it saves room in your kitchen while you focus on preparing the main dishes. My favorite thing about the holidays is the cooking, so, I will do a big holiday dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Call me crazy I know, but I really do love doing it. Here’s a preview of this year’s Christmas Eve dinner which always includes a pasta dish, this year Fettuccine with Brown Butter & Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts finished with Hazelnut Pesto.

I usually start 2-3 days in advance of the holiday just getting little things together to save time the day of. Desserts usually come first. My fig cake is moist and can be baked at least 2 days in advance. The glaze can also be prepared 2 days in advance and kept in the refrigerator, then just spooned over the cake the morning of. And this rich and delicious Pecan Tart can also be prepared a day or 2 in advance. Just store in the refrigerator until the morning of, and bring it out to room temperature before serving.  There’s nothing wrong with re-heating slightly it in the microwave just before serving to bring back the fresh from the oven ooey gooeyness!

The day before is perfect for making salad dressing, cooking side vegetables and potatoes, like mashed potatoes that can easily be reheated in the microwave while the meat is resting, just be sure to bring back to room temperature before re-heating.  Haricots Vert can be blanched the day before, and then heated through in a sauté pan with unsalted butter.  The shallots and fennel can be roasted early the morning of and just left at room temperature until added to the sauté with the beans. These are both staple sides on my Christmas Day Holiday Table.

And, it woudn’t be Christmas without Jeff’s favorite Coconut Creme Cupcakes! His favorite special occasion dessert, so he gets them twice a year, Christmas Day and his birthday.

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Coconut Creme Cupcakes

That’s it! Fun & Simple yet elegant and delicious. That’s my kind of holiday! Wishing you and you’re a  most wonderful and delicious holiday season and safe, happy and healthy new year!

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Here are some of my favorite tools of the trade for preparing these dishes perfectly every time!







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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Just Peachy Recipes for National Eat A Peach Week!

Peach Amaretto Crisp

Peach Amaretto Crisp

In honor of National Eat A Peach Day this week, I thought I would share some of my favorite sweet and savory peach dishes this week. I have had a wonderful summer in the kitchen creating new fun and simple recipes with all of the wonderful fresh summer fruits and vegetables, especially peaches.  They have been so incredibly delicious this year, and I have had so much fun with my favorite stone fruit. From peach waffles to a rich and hearty Bolognese, fresh salads, appetizers and desserts, so many delicious options for enjoying fresh summer peaches while they last.  I am thrilled to share a few of my favorites with you to enjoy with your family. Don’t forget to share and send me your photos!

I hope you are having a super fun National Eat a Peach Week! Time to pack in lots of summer fun during these last few weeks left before fall is upon us. What are your late summer plans? We have been enjoying the cool Colorado Rockies this month, especially the fabulous local farmers markets and fresh and delicious Palisades peaches while escaping the August heat and humidity on the southeast coast. Summer sure is going by quickly! Hope you enjoy these fun and simple peach recipes while savoring these last days of summer...In the meantime,

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Super fun birthday lunch at Sweet Basil, Vail

Super fun birthday lunch at Sweet Basil, Vail

You will find lots of my favorite recipes in my new lifestyle cookbook. Pre-order yours today!

Celebrating Lobster Season with 5 Fabulous Fun & Simple Lobster Dishes

Warm Water Lobster Tails

Warm Water Lobster Tails

August marks the beginning of warm water lobster season in the waters of south Florida and the Caribbean. I am a bit partial to warm water lobster, which are known for their lighter flavor and tender meat, as compared to cold water lobster.  Also found in the waters of the Mediterranean and Asia, warm water, or “spiny lobster” have a long tail and head similar to that of their cold water distant cousins, but they do not have claws, rather long spiny antennae.  I say distant because although both varieties are crustaceans, they are actually from different species and families.

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The only edible meat of the spiny lobster is in its tail, tender, juicy and very sweet. That being said, there is something very special about the claw meat of a cold water lobster, but my heart belongs to the mild and tender meat of the warm water lobster tail.  Though cold water lobsters are harvested year round off the northern coastline of the United States and Nova Scotia, summer is considered lobster season. Warm water lobster season is August 1 – March 31, giving time in the spring for mating season and reproduction.

We have wintered in Nassau, Bahamas for over 20 years and consume a lot of lobster while we are there! It is fresh, abundant and is so simple to be prepared and in so many ways! I serve lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in appetizers and salads, and our continuous flow of house guests are always excited about which dishes they will experience during their visit.  Here are some of my favorites!

Simply click on the photos for the recipes!

There is just something decadent about Lobster, but it is truly so simple to prepare. I hope you will try some of my favorites and don't forget to share! Please send me photos of your favorites! I can't believe we are already in August. Enjoy these last weeks of your summer and...

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My new lifestyle cookbook,    Fun & Simple Gourmet ,   is launching September 1st! Filled with my favorite fun and simple recipes for your healthy gourmet lifestyle! Don't forget to   Pre-Order   your copy today!

My new lifestyle cookbook, Fun & Simple Gourmet, is launching September 1st! Filled with my favorite fun and simple recipes for your healthy gourmet lifestyle! Don't forget to Pre-Order your copy today!

5 Great Recipes for a Delicious 4th of July!

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"The second day of July, 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival." -John Adams, July 1, 1776

Independence Day has always been my favorite summer holiday, maybe because it always includes two of my favorite things, fireworks and red velvet cupcakes! On Independence Day we celebrate the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from the British Empire with parades, fireworks and yes, food! You will love all of my fun and simple recipes to help plan your 4th of July holiday menu, but first, a little history. The Declaration of Independence was finally approved and signed July 4, 1776, officially declaring the United States of America independent from Great Britain. Ironically, John Adams died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, as well as Thomas Jefferson who also passed on this very same day. The two were also coincidentally the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to become United States Presidents.

How do you celebrate Independence Day? At our house, it's all about the food...of course! I like to change up the menu each year, but one tradition that is always on the menu, my red velvet cupcakes, and John Philip Sousa marches! (click on photo for recipe)

These rich and super moist cupcakes are the perfect 4th of July Grand Finale!

These rich and super moist cupcakes are the perfect 4th of July Grand Finale!

Here are a few more fun and simple dishes on our holiday menu this year! Simply click on the photos for the recipes...enjoy! Don't forget to send me your food pics from your holiday table!

I know I said 5 great recipes for your delicious 4th...I couldn't help but share a couple more! We are celebrating right here at home this year...Hilton Head is such a great place for the 4th! Where are you spending your holiday? Send me your 4th of July photos, including your holiday table!       I would love to share...and feel free to share these recipes and menu ideas!

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The best part about celebrating holidays is that the festivities always revolve around family, friends and food! My favorite part of the 4th of July is the cupcakes, though the fireworks are a close second! From our little island to wherever you are...

Happy 4th of July!

 

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Gone Nuts...for Peanuts!

One of the biggest food trends this year has been non-dairy milk alternatives, mostly plant based nut milks. Replacing dairy is a great way to enhance your healthy lifestyle! This week's blog includes several fantastic and delicious recipes using peanut milk, both plain and chocolate, from protein packed breakfast muffins, to light and healthy pasta, warm soothing fish curry and decadent desserts, like these gorgeous Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Cupcakes!

One of the biggest food trends this year has been non-dairy milk alternatives, mostly plant based nut milks. Replacing dairy is a great way to enhance your healthy lifestyle! This week's blog includes several fantastic and delicious recipes using peanut milk, both plain and chocolate, from protein packed breakfast muffins, to light and healthy pasta, warm soothing fish curry and decadent desserts, like these gorgeous Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Cupcakes!

In addition to being high in protein, other incredible health benefits associated with peanuts include biotin, an enzyme healthy B vitamin, heart healthy monounsaturated fats which lower stroke and heart attack risk, antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and reduce cancer risk and consuming peanuts may even protect you from gallstones!

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You've seen them all, almond milk, cashew, walnut, even hazelnut milk, but this is the first Peanut Milk, introduced by Elmhurst 1925. (@elmhurst1925) Peanut milk is dairy-free, non-GMO, vegan, lactose free and Kosher. With today's trends in food, turning to a more plant based protein diet, as a replacement for dairy products, nut milks have become a viable and popular alternative. In addition to their already produced almond, hazelnut, cashew, walnut and grain milks (oatmeal & brown rice), Elmhurst (@elmhurst1925) has developed the first peanut milk (regular and chocolate!) and it is delicious! 

They use a patented process called cold milking, producing a nut milk that is super creamy, flavorful and maintains the nutritional integrity of whole, raw Georgia peanuts (@gapeanuts) free of stabilizers, emulsifiers, gums or other chemicals typically used in nut milking and 6 grams of protein in every 8 ounces! (8 grams in the Chocolate variety)

I was honored to be asked, in conjunction with @Foodiechats and the Georgia Peanut Commission (@gapeanuts) to test the product in my kitchen where I had so much fun creating new dishes and improvising with some of my old ones. Check out these amazing recipes using peanut milk! From smoothies and protein packed muffins to start your day, to light and delicious pasta, warm and soothing fish curry and decadent peanut milk desserts! Simple to prepare and oh so tasty! (Simply click on the photos for the recipes!)

With all of these beautiful and delicious options, you can see why I went Nuts for Peanuts and had so much fun cooking with Elmhurst 1925 Milked Peanuts! Not to mention the many health benefits of peanuts!  Can't wait for you to try the recipes and please, send me your photos after you've prepared one of mine, or created one of your own! Hope you are enjoying the start of your summer...

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The Greatest 2 minutes in Sports!

April Showers Bring May Flowers to Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky

April Showers Bring May Flowers to Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky

It's spring in Kentucky and the first Saturday in May is all about the Run for the Roses!  Who will wear the coveted Garland of Roses this year?  A tradition that started in 1896 when the Derby winner was awarded a floral arrangement of white and pink roses.  The red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby in 1904.

Garland of Red Roses, more than 400 red roses and a crown, one single rose in the center to recognize the heart required to win this incredible race.

Garland of Red Roses, more than 400 red roses and a crown, one single rose in the center to recognize the heart required to win this incredible race.

Derby Pie, my favorite Kentucky Derby Tradition...well, except for a cool Mint Julep of course!

Check out my recipe for  Kentucky Derby Pie !  It is rich, chocolaty and delicious, a perfect compliment to a sweet and minty julep!  Give it a try and send me your thoughts!   

Check out my recipe for Kentucky Derby Pie!  It is rich, chocolaty and delicious, a perfect compliment to a sweet and minty julep!  Give it a try and send me your thoughts!

 

The Greatest 2 minutes in Sports!

April Showers Bring May Flowers to Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky

April Showers Bring May Flowers to Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky

It's spring in Kentucky and the first Saturday in May is all about the Run for the Roses!  Who will wear the coveted Garland of Roses this year?  A tradition that started in 1896 when the Derby winner was awarded a floral arrangement of white and pink roses.  The red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby in 1904.

Garland of Red Roses, more than 400 red roses and a crown, one single rose in the center to recognize the heart required to win this incredible race.

Garland of Red Roses, more than 400 red roses and a crown, one single rose in the center to recognize the heart required to win this incredible race.

Derby Pie, my favorite Kentucky Derby Tradition...well, except for a cool Mint Julep of course!

Check out my recipe for  Kentucky Derby Pie !  It is rich, chocolaty and delicious, a perfect compliment to a sweet and minty julep!  Give it a try and send me your thoughts!   

Check out my recipe for Kentucky Derby Pie!  It is rich, chocolaty and delicious, a perfect compliment to a sweet and minty julep!  Give it a try and send me your thoughts!

 

Fab Flavors of France

Chocolate Creme Anglaise with Berries

Chocolate Creme Anglaise with Berries

What to do with a little leftover chocolate creme anglaise from last night's dessert soufflé, serve it with berries for breakfast of course!  A chocolate lovers dream petit dejeuner!  As we continue celebrating "April in Paris" and the Fabulous Flavors of France, we wrap the month with my favorite Francais inspired desserts, of course, it has to be chocolate, like my chocolate soufflé (pictured below).  Rich in flavor, but light and airy in texture.  French cuisine has influenced the culinary world for centuries.  The French have mastered the art of savoring food and wine, never in a rush, always taking time to enjoy every bite, every sip, every moment of a meal.  Ending with something sweet is thought to be a great way to create balance for the palate.  Just like me, the French have an affinity for chocolate and custards.

Hope you enjoy making my Chocolate Souffle.  It is so simple to prepare and oh so yummy!  Send me your photos!  Remember April in Paris isn't just a time of year, it is a feeling and always a good idea!

Happy Valentine's Week!

Happy Valentines Day from Beautiful Bahamas!  My favorite day of the year!!!

Happy Valentines Day from Beautiful Bahamas!  My favorite day of the year!!!

Our Valentine's Day starts with romantic Chocolate Waffles and Champagne!  Of course, it would not be Valentine's Day without my 100+ renditions of "My Funny Valentine" (Rodgers & Hart) playing throughout the day...  From Frank Sinatra to Chaka Khan, Ella Fitzgerald to Big Muff, every genre of music is represented!   

Holiday Series Continued - Chateaubriand

If you are still in need of a fabulous idea for Dinner Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, try my Chateaubriand.  It is elegant, yet easy to prepare and simply melts in your mouth.  You will find this and more simply elegant recipe ideas at gigiwilson.com/recipes.