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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5 Things You Need to Know About Incredible Edible Peanuts!

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I had the pleasure and honor of spending a few days with a group of super talented and amazing food professionals, for Peanut Tour 2018 hosted by the Georgia Peanut Commission and Southern Peanut Growers. Planned perfectly for harvest season, we were able to experience a harvest, first hand, from the fields to the buying facility, to shelling, blanching and distribution. I must say, I was astounded by the true science of farming and the agricultural research being tested and developed for the next generation of food products, here, by the University of Georgia Food Science and Engineering Departments, to make our food healthier, safer, more sustainable and better for the environment. In addition, this research helps to safely and efficiently increase yield to feed our growing global population. Because of DNA technology, scientists at UGA are developing peanuts that are healthier and more cost effective, reducing the need for pesticides and increasing yield, also known as Genomics…pretty cool stuff! More on those 5 essential things to know about peanuts after some fun talk about our adventure!

Our journey began in Atlanta, where our fabulous hosts from the Georgia Peanut Commission, Joy Crosby and Whitney Brannen, Leslie Wagner, Southern Peanut Growers and Trista Cady of FLM Harvest, treated us to a fabulous dinner at King & Duke in the heart of Buckhead. This gem, named after characters in Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” features a 24-foot open hearth right in the middle of the restaurant. Chef Hodgkinson and his amazing staff prepared a tasting dinner for this group of foodies fit for kings, or queens as the case may be, since our fabulous, self named, #peanutgang, was all women, incredible women, featuring 2 nutritional PhD’s, award winning chefs, a culinary arts professor, food industry writers & bloggers and food television personalities. Combined with our wonderful hosts, this was a #girlpower journey not to be reckoned with!

The Peanut Gang featuring South Georgia Peanut Farmer David Reed

The Peanut Gang featuring South Georgia Peanut Farmer David Reed

The next morning we were off to the UGA Food Science Lab to learn all about what they are cooking up, literally! Product testing and development is there expertise, we were even “tested” ourselves in the Sensory Lab, with a taste comparison study of a new nutritional drink the scientists are developing for nutritional enhancement in underdeveloped countries.   

Then we were off to The Whistle Stop Café, of Fried Green Tomatoes fame (circa 1991, Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, directed by John Avnet) for a southern hospitality lunch of fried green tomatoes, of course, and other down home southern favs.

After an overly satisfying lunch, we continued to head southeast to the Georgia Peanut Belt to experience the harvest, first hand, with David Reed and his family on their amazing farm. David took us through the very technical process of the harvest. BTW, these aren’t your grandfather’s tractors! Today’s farmer uses GPS guided equipment that tracks the exact location of the peanuts, for precision harvesting. This science of farming, called “Precision Agriculture,” is optimal for the most efficient production. Soil moisture levels can be monitored on a farmer’s cell phone and irrigation can be controlled by the touch of a button from your phone! How crazy is that?

We were hosted that evening at the family farm and cabin of Armond and Brenda Morris for a most special dinner on their beautiful property. Armond is the Chairman of the Georgia Peanut Commission and he and Brenda were the most gracious hosts, telling stories of their family and farm, opening their home to us, truly a very special evening. The next morning we started our day by visiting UGA’s Water, Energy and People Efficient Model Home that was built right on the Tifton Campus. It is surrounded by an edible landscape and is a net-zero energy and water lab home that students helped design and build, and, a few very fortunate grad students actually live in. Net zero energy uses 70% less energy than most new homes combining solar and geo-thermal energy. In fact, it is possible that the home creates more energy than it actually uses during certain times of the year, sending the excess back to the power plant. Wouldn’t it be great to get a credit back from the power company every month rather than paying a bill!

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The edible landscape includes peanuts, bananas, other fruits, vegetables and herbs developed by plant breeding teams, designed to be beautiful and functional. Like frost tolerant citrus fruits, with improved genetics, creating efficiency of water and energy and flavorful nutritious plants that are perfectly adapted with the environment around them. So cool…     

Next we visited the National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratory (NESPAL) at UGA Tifton Campus. The DNA testing lab here was by far the most intriguing part of this journey for me. Here scientists slice and test plant DNA to breed hybrid peanuts to be healthier and self protective, decreasing the need for pesticides, lowering cost, increasing yield and continuing to perfect the plant for optimum nutrition and environmental benefit. DNA of a peanut…are you kidding? When I say these scientists, are so incredibly brilliant, I am not even close to describing the remarkable work they are doing.

Did I mention that the peanut is the ONLY plant that flowers above the soil, but fruits below. Here you see Scientist Juliet Chu pointing out the fruit (peanut) below the soil of the yellow flower above. The Georgia Peanut Commission helps to fund these research programs under the Commodities Promotion Act, through a small assessment on the producers and the information that they receive is priceless. Now, on to the actual processing. So we experienced the harvest, now those peanuts are taken to a registered buying point where they are cleaned, inspected by the USDA and purchased by a Shelling Plant. There the peanuts are further cleaned, shelled, blanched, sorted, sold and packaged for shipment to a production facility or storage. The peanuts are processed by very high tech machinery, gone are the days of human hands cleaning and sorting peanuts! I was most impressed by the number of times the peanuts are cleaned and inspected throughout this process. They have this gig down to a “science!”  Also impressive is that every part of the peanut is utilized, after the shells and husks are removed they are packaged separately along with small broken pieces to be used for feed and fertilizer making them 100% sustainable!

On our final day, we were hosted for another fantastic lunch at the Georgia Peanut Commission with sensational speaker, Casey Cox, a young sixth generation farmer who came back home to manage her family farm after graduating from college. Casey is an amazing young woman, committed to preserving the integrity, efficiency and water conservation of her family farm, through science and technology. Check out this video short featuring Casey and her work.

Our final evening was spent reflecting on our experience and enjoying a fabulous farm to table dinner at The Local Kitchen & Bar, in Tifton where all of the food is sourced from local producers. The food was fresh and beautifully presented, not to mention superbly delicious, especially the peanut soup appetizer!  The perfect farewell dinner for this group of enthusiastic foodies! Jeff came to join in the fun for our farewell, and to save me from the impending hurricane. He fit right in with the #peanutgang, read everyone’s palms, including a texted photograph of one of our peanut gal’s fiancé’s hand, Jeff approved!

Back to that list of 5 Essential Things to Know About Peanuts!

 1.     Peanuts are not NUTS at all! They are legumes and even more surprising, the ONLY plant that flowers above the soil but fruits below!

 2.     Runner peanuts make my favorite thing…peanut butter! Runners are grown primarily in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. They are used in peanut butter because of their strong peanut taste and uniformity in size, for even roasting. One acre of these little legumes will make 30,000 PBJ sandwiches!

 3.     Peanuts don’t need to be fertilized because of their natural ability to take nitrogen from the air and ground.  This is also important in crop rotation, peanuts will leave some nitrogen and replenish the nutrients in the ground for other crops.

 4.     Health benefits of these incredible edible legumes are seemingly endless.  Peanuts are used in nutritional sustenance products for developing countries to help prevent starvation and nutritional deficiencies, in products that actually taste good. A great source of Biotin, full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats associated with reduced cardiovascular risk, antioxidants similar to those found in red wine (resveratrol) that neutralize free radicals and lower risk of cancer, while increasing blood flow in the brain reducing risk of stroke, and packed with essential minerals like copper, which can lower harmful LDL cholesterol and Omega-6, not to mention high in protein and fiber, making peanuts the perfect go to snack every day!

 5.    Peanuts are now being used to produce other food products like plant-based milk, ice cream mixes, pancake mix and even pasta! They are not just for snacking, candy and peanut butter anymore!

I have always made peanuts, mostly peanut butter, part of my daily diet routine. I am even more committed to peanuts after learning so much more about their super healthy properties and environmental benefits. Who would have thought that my daily PBJ was so healthy! I have truly Gone Nuts for Peanuts!

But, what I was most taken by on this journey, was the hearts of the people in South Georgia, a wonderful community of giving and caring farmers and their families, who all look out for one another and their environment. Who would have dreamed, that on our final day of Peanut Tour 2018, we would be racing out of South Georgia to get ahead of the storm that was about to slam the coast of Northwest Florida and make its path directly over the farms and homes of those here in South Georgia whom we had just become so fond of. Hurricane Michael was devastating to the coast of NW Florida, and to the farmers of South Georgia, who lost most of their cotton crop, and remaining peanuts that had not as yet been harvested. Thank goodness for their safety, though our hearts are heavy with the loss of their crop during what was to be a bountiful harvest. This community, no doubt, approached the storm, the way we experienced they approach life, by helping each other, giving to their community and their environment and being the gracious and welcoming hosts they were to us during this amazing adventure.

May I add that experiencing this journey with the #peanutgang, Amy Casey, Personal Chef & Food Writer, Elieke Demmer, PhD, Scientific Affairs Manager, RXBAR, Lisa Dorfman, PhD, Nutritionist & Culinary Consultant, Patricia Howard, Acclaimed NYC Private Chef and Caterer, Melinda McIsaac, Chef Instructor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania Academy of Culinary Arts, Roberta Pipito, Award Winning Chef & TV Personality, and Rachel Quenzer, Owner & Founder, The Everyday Mom Life and long time food industry professional, was one of the most memorable and best times of my life, including a super great impromptu bridal shower for Elieke, who is preparing for her nuptials in just a couple of weeks. We will be forever bonded as the #peanutgang, #peanuttour2018!

Thank you ladies for the camaraderie and the laughs, it was truly phenomenal! 

The Peanut Gang with Brenda and Armond Morris at their lovely Farm and Cabin

The Peanut Gang with Brenda and Armond Morris at their lovely Farm and Cabin

And to our outstanding hosts, Joy, Whitney, Leslie and Trista, this experience couldn’t have been more perfect, except for the arrival of Hurricane Michael after our departure. You truly outdid yourselves with hospitality and kindness, and I know I can speak for the entire #peanutgang when I say that we are truly grateful for being included in this spectacular event.

Farming is what food is all about, at least that’s where it all begins. Here are some of my favorite peanut recipes, all super delicious and healthy! Give them a try, I know you will enjoy! Don’t forget to send me your photos and share your new knowledge of everything peanuts!

In the meantime…

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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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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!

Spring Entertaining - Heritage Style!

It's beginning to look a lot like Heritage! Heritage Week 2018 Harbour Town Golf Links, Sea Pines Resort.

It's beginning to look a lot like Heritage! Heritage Week 2018 Harbour Town Golf Links, Sea Pines Resort.

It's time for the RBC Heritage Classic Golf Tournament on Hilton Head Island, the perfect occasion for spring entertaining! Whether you are fortunate enough to be on the island for the festivities or  just watching and toasting from home, you won't want to miss the tournament in this most beautiful setting, one of the favorite stops on the PGA Tour. And while you are watching, why not try my modern Bloody Caesar, with Clamato, lemon and nutmeg. A perfect spring entertaining cocktail with a Heritage Plaid theme! Get your Plaid On...and drink it too!

My 50th Anniversary Cocktail Entry. Unfortunately, not selected as the Official 50th Anniversary Drink, but I wanted to share with   my   #plaidnation since it is Heritage Week! A perfect Heritage Brunch libation, in celebration of #plaidweek!  Happy Heritage!

My 50th Anniversary Cocktail Entry. Unfortunately, not selected as the Official 50th Anniversary Drink, but I wanted to share with my #plaidnation since it is Heritage Week! A perfect Heritage Brunch libation, in celebration of #plaidweek!  Happy Heritage!

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Since its inception in 1969, the Heritage Classic Golf Tournament has been the highlight of the year in the beautiful Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where I have called home for 35 years. The first tournament was played Thanksgiving weekend 1969 and its champion, a 40-year old Arnold Palmer claimed his first win in over a year. Jack Nicklaus, who designed the course alongside Pete Dye, also won the tournament in 1975. RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) has been the title sponsor of The Heritage since 2012 and this year offers a terrific field of exciting players competing for the Heritage Plaid Jacket and $6.7 million purse. Who will take this year's prize?

Traditional Opening Ceremony at The Heritage.  A bagpipe parade and canon blast with the first shot into the Calibogue Sound

Traditional Opening Ceremony at The Heritage.  A bagpipe parade and canon blast with the first shot into the Calibogue Sound

Of course, spring entertaining on Hilton Head must include fresh South Carolina Shrimp, which are bountiful in the local waters, like this simple, elegant and flavorful shrimp cocktail.

Rosemary Shrimp Cocktail.  With fresh local South Carolina Shrimp and a citrusy spicy sauce.

Rosemary Shrimp Cocktail. With fresh local South Carolina Shrimp and a citrusy spicy sauce.

Whether you are entertaining guests for an event, or just a fun gathering of friends and family, my Rosemary Shrimp Cocktail is the perfect dish. Spicy shrimp grilled on rosemary skewers with a tangy citrusy cocktail sauce, perfect with an RBC Bloody Caesar Cocktail! 

Wherever you are this weekend, I hope you will tune into The RBC Heritage Classic. Whether or not you are a golf fan, I am sure you will enjoy Hilton Head's majestic scenery. Stay tuned for more spring entertaining ideas.  In the meantime...

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To see more of the exquisite Sea Pines Resort, click on the play button! Enjoy!

To see more of the exquisite Sea Pines Resort, click on the play button! Enjoy!