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!

It's Pumpkin Month!

Gingered Pumpkin Muffins with Dark Chocolate Glaze

Gingered Pumpkin Muffins with Dark Chocolate Glaze

It's time to transition into fall! I love the flavors of fall, especially pumpkin! This time of year, I use pumpkin in everything, from breakfast muffins to salads, soups, pastas and desserts. Sweet, savory and everything in between, there is nothing better than the taste of pumpkin to get you in the mood for fall weather and flavors. Whether you are serving these delicious muffins for breakfast or dessert, the warm aromatics will have you at first bite! Filled with pumpkin spices and ginger then drizzled with soothing dark chocolate, just one of these little delights will never be enough! Stay tuned for lots of wonderful pumpkin recipes coming up in the next few weeks. Not to worry, when it comes to fun & simple menu planning, you are at the right place. My simple and elegant recipes will save you time in the kitchen so you can enjoy healthy eating with your family and friends. #HealthyLifestyle #FunandSimple This week's feature, Gingered Pumpkin Muffins with dark chocolate glaze. (simply click on the photo for the recipe) Early fall comfort food at its best! You will find many of my favorite recipes in my new lifestyle cookbook!

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Stay tuned for lots more about pumpkin and many more fun and simple pumpkin recipes. I hope you are enjoying your fall flavors and activities. Send me your photos and stories and don’t forget to share my recipes with your friends and family! Until next time…

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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!

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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Vivid Veges! It's National Vegetarian Week

A rainbow of fresh...look at all of this beautiful healthy color! 

A rainbow of fresh...look at all of this beautiful healthy color! 

It is national vegetarian week and what a great time to jump start a healthy lifestyle going into summer! This time of year is perfect for eating a little lighter as the temperatures begin to heat up and of course we want to look and feel good in our summer attire and swim wear. (check out the photos and recipes of some of my favorite vegetarian dishes below!)

There are a multitude of benefits related to a mostly plant based diet rich in fiber, folic acid, vitamins C, E and magnesium. In addition to feeling better, lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of heart disease, many studies suggest that eating a vegetarian diet can improve your mood, reduce the risk of diabetes, certain types of cancer, cataracts, and even kidney stones!

Eating “Vegetarian” doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor, in fact, most dishes that do not include meat have more flavor and are very satisfying. Here are a few of my favorites! I did throw a couple of vegetarian pasta dishes in the mix, but they can be prepared with gluten-free pasta or zucchini ribbons or spirals to keep them super healthy! (click on images for recipes)

“Vegetarians” come in several varieties. The common denominator of course is that none of these vegetarian diets described below include meat.

Vegan: (total vegetarians) whose diet includes only plant based foods.

Lacto-Ovo: whose diet includes only plant based foods, but do consume eggs and dairy.

Lacto: whose diet includes only plant based foods and dairy products.

Ovo: whose diet includes only plant based foods and eggs (no dairy)

Pescatarian: whose diet includes plant based foods and fish

Pollo-Vegetarian: whose diet includes plant based foods and chicken

Partial-Vegetarian: whose diet includes plant based foods, chicken and fish

I have been a Pescatarian most of my life.  Due to my A blood type (natural vegetarian) and a very sensitive digestive system, I consume mostly plant-based foods along with fish (no more than 2-3 times per week).  My weakness is definitely carbohydrates, I love my pasta, my favorite comfort food, but should be consumed in moderation due to the glycemic index (sugar content). I will touch on this in another blog coming soon.

Join me in celebrating National Vegetarian Week by sticking with a diet rich in plant-based foods (at least 80%) and maybe a serving or 2 of your favorite fish or chicken this week, and let me know how you are feeling by week’s end! I guarantee you will have more energy, sleep better and maybe even shed a few unwanted pounds! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts and experiences, and don’t forget to share photos of the “vegetarian” dishes you enjoyed this week! Cheers...

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Pretty in Pink on National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

We are coming out in Pink...and Dark Chocolate to recognize and support Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I don't know of any better combination than Chocolate and Pink Champagne!

We are coming out in Pink...and Dark Chocolate to recognize and support Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I don't know of any better combination than Chocolate and Pink Champagne!

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These Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes are the bomb! So rich and velvety, and for an extra special touch for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I added a little Rose' Glaze for a touch of pink!  Having a little dark chocolate craving? I've included a gluten free version!

Click Here for the recipe!

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And you thought Rose' was only a summer beverage...Check out the Rose' All Day Wine and Music Festival in Dallas, October 29th! In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the event will donate $1 from every ticket to the AIRS Alliance for reconstructive surgery. 

I say Rose' All Year!!!

My Angel, Jeff, pretty in pink to honor Breast Cancer Awareness, enjoying @whisperingangel Rose' ... All he needs is one of my chocolate ganache cupcakes! 

My Angel, Jeff, pretty in pink to honor Breast Cancer Awareness, enjoying @whisperingangel Rose' ... All he needs is one of my chocolate ganache cupcakes! 

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It's Ski Season! Great Snow...Let's Go!

Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch, Avon, Colorado

Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch, Avon, Colorado

Welcome to my favorite log cabin in the world!  Jeff and I have spent our summers in this amazing log cabin for the past 10 years, but when it comes to skiing, there is not a better full service, ski-in, ski-out destination anywhere in the Rockies.  

Apres Ski in the Grotto!

Apres Ski in the Grotto!

Then, after a great day on the slopes, soak your muscles in the soothing hot water in the Grotto!  Does it get better than this?  I don't think so!  

Maybe a swim in the heated pool looking up the slopes?  

Maybe a swim in the heated pool looking up the slopes?  

Buffalo's Bar & Grill

Buffalo's Bar & Grill

After a swim or a soak, a nice dinner and bottle of wine, maybe a cognac and cigar in Bachelor's Lounge, it is nighty night until first tracks tomorrow!  

Holiday Series Continued - Christmas Breakfast!

Is there a better Christmas Morning Breakfast Tradition than Panettone French Toast?  I think not!  With a hot cup of coffee and a tall cool mimosa...breakfast heaven!

For more holiday menu ideas, visit gigiwilson.com/thedish

  

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.

  

Holiday Series Continued - Gigi Bellini

How about a Holiday Bellini ~ Gigi Style!

There is nothing like a fun and festive cocktail to begin a holiday celebration.  This tall, cool and cheerful glass of bubbly magic is all you need to make merry!!!

3 ounces Prosecco                                                

2 ounces Pomegranate Juice                              

1 splash Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)

Finish with a ring of fresh orange zest and let the bubbles tickle your nose and the soiree begin!

That's what I call a celebration in a glass! Wishing you the Happiest of Holidays...

More holiday cheer and menu planning ideas coming soon!  Keep checking gigiwilson.com for the latest recipes for a joyous holiday!

A perfect holiday side dish - Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad

Porc l'orange Gigi Style!  

Porc l'orange Gigi Style!  

Beautiful and delicious roasted fall harvest vegetables make a stunning side for any meal right through the holidays.  A perfect accompaniment to your Christmas Turkey, Roasted Rib Roast, Beef Tenderloin or Crown Roast of Pork.  These gorgeous roasted brussel sprouts, red, yellow and orange beets, shallot and roasted South Georgia pecans, combined with orange segments and an orange-apple cider vinaigrette, will be the highlight of your holiday table...and oh so healthy!  

 

With my Porc l'orange for Christmas Eve Dinner...Absolutely!  More holiday menu ideas coming soon!  

Link to recipe:  gigiwilson.com/porc-lorange

Fall Harvest Series Continued - Wine

Duckhorn Vineyards Chardonnay - Napa Toyon Vineyard

Duckhorn Vineyards Chardonnay - Napa Toyon Vineyard

Decoy Sonoma, a formidable member of the Duckhorn Family of Fine Wines.  One of the  best values in quality wines available today.

Decoy Sonoma, a formidable member of the Duckhorn Family of Fine Wines.  One of the  best values in quality wines available today.

Thank you @Duckhornwines for introducing us to your latest releases.  Among them a few of my new favorites!  2014 Duckhorn Chardonnay Napa Toyon Vineyards, 2014 Decoy Merlot Sonoma and 2015 Decoy Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma.  Utilizing a mix of Estate vineyards and growers throughout the Sonoma and Napa Valley, these fine wines from the Duckhorn family have set a high standard for American Fine Wine.  I now know what we will be serving with Thanksgiving Dinner!

From a mid to late October harvest, to the first part of November when fermentation is complete, it is time to press the grapes and transfer the wine to barrels where it will age and mature until the perfect time for bottling.

When it is time for sipping, first look at the wine for clarity and appealing color.  Then aerate the wine, swirling your glass by the base and enjoy the aroma (aka "nose") absorbing the wine's flavors and aromatics.  Lastly, holding the glass by the stem (never the bowl), sip and enjoy!

Beautiful grapes ready for fall harvesting!

Beautiful grapes ready for fall harvesting!

Holiday Travel Tips for Everyday Travel!

Have Suitcase...Will Travel!

Have Suitcase...Will Travel!

A light dusting of snow on the Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee

A light dusting of snow on the Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee

Holiday travel season is here, as if we need more stress this time of year.  Since I seem to be preparing to be "on the road" most of the time, friends always ask how I eliminate the stress of travel prep.  #traveltips #gigistyle  

Practice makes perfect as they say, and after many years of doing it, I pretty much have it down to an art.  Holiday season travel is exciting, but seems to bring with it an added level of stress by nature.  Holiday travel is meant to be fun…so let’s see what we can do to help keep it that way!

First make a packing list of the types of items you will need, depending on your destination and planned activities.  Packing smart is the key to stress free travel.   

Pack light!  Choose knits and cottons, fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily. I can actually go for two weeks in a carry-on bag, I know what you are thinking, impossible right?  Stick with me here.  Pick a color and plan around it using the Rule of Three.  No more than three bottoms and/or 3 tops that are interchangeable among each other, this is where your color selection comes in, plus it really makes choosing what to take so much easier!  Pack layers and ladies don’t forget a little black dress, the most versatile item in your closet.  Dark fabrics don’t show stains and can be worn more often.  If you roll clothes, place those items on the bottom of your bag and folded items on top.  Pack small light colored clothes and undergarments in Ziploc bags, squeezing all the excess air out.

Think what you can do without, and don’t pack it!  Only take jewelry that you are actually wearing to travel, which not only keeps is simple, but also helps to prevent leaving a “little” something behind. 

Shoes:  Rule of Three.  Pack one pair of dress shoes and one pair of casual shoes, and of course, if you plan to visit the gym or hit the tennis courts, one pair of tennis/workout shoes.  Stuff shoes with sunglasses, charge cords, other smaller items that will fit inside.  If you are taking your golf clubs, don’t forget to utilize extra space in your golf travel bag for items that would take up unnecessary space in your suitcase, shoes in particular, tennis rackets, etc. 

Pack liquids and cosmetics in small travel containers and place in sealed Ziploc bags, which helps with organization and prevents leakage.  Place vitamins and supplements in Ziploc bags avoiding bottle bulk.  

If you are traveling by air, ladies, always carry a wrap or sweater on the plane.  And children should pack (with supervision of course) and carry their own bag!  I see some of the cutest roller bags being pulled by the most proud children when I’m traveling.

Preparing your home:  Turn off toilets, or water altogether.  Pour a little bleach in the toilets.  Turn off the icemaker and remove the all but a couple of ice cubes.  This way you will know if you had a loss of power while you are away.  Chances are if the cubes have melted, the food in your freezer has also thawed at some point.  Remove foods and condiments from the refrigerator that will be spoiled by the time you return.  Leave closet doors ajar for air circulation and in summer or warmer climates, leave AC turned on to 78-80 (F) degrees, winter heat on 60-65 (F).

There you have it.  Stress free travel…just in time for the holidays!
If you haven’t made holiday travel plans as yet and you are still looking for a fabulous destination for you and your family to spend time together in an amazing setting with incredible culinary…my holiday dish list recommendationBlackberry Farm,  Walland, Tennessee.  Happy Traveling!

It's all about the Pumpkin!

Pumpkin Ravioli Gigi Style:  www.gigiwilson.com/pumpkin-ravioli

Pumpkin Ravioli Gigi Style:  www.gigiwilson.com/pumpkin-ravioli

It's all about fall and the flavors of the season...Pumpkin Season!  This week it's Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and walnuts.  My fav fall comfort food, and of course, it involves pasta!

Stay tuned for more perfect pumpkin recipes as part of our Fabulous Fall Flavors campaign

Stay tuned for more perfect pumpkin recipes as part of our Fabulous Fall Flavors campaign

Fall Figs!

Black Mission and Turkey Figs in Season with Walnuts, Chèvre and Prosciutto

Black Mission and Turkey Figs in Season with Walnuts, Chèvre and Prosciutto

Beautifully sweet and so delicious, it is time to take advantage of fall figs while they are in season.  One of my favorite salads with mixed autumn greens, toasted walnuts, honeyed chèvre and Prosciutto, drizzled with aged balsamic and rich extra virgin olive oil.  Simply divine!