Delicious Summer Getaways!

Whether your summer travel takes you to the ocean, the mountains or anywhere in between, making it delicious means taking full advantage of local fare and wine pairs!

Whether your summer travel takes you to the ocean, the mountains or anywhere in between, making it delicious means taking full advantage of local fare and wine pairs!

There is a currently airing television commercial that says “sometimes you find that you need a little down time to bring you back up.” Summer Get Aways aren’t just fun and relaxing, they are good for the soul. Of course, for me, it’s always about the local fare. I usually have our meals planned for any vacation even before the travel arrangements! Jeff had a pretty big birthday this spring, and my gift to him was a trip to Northern California for the US Open Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula. We love Pebble, Carmel by the Sea, the beautiful Carmel Valley and Big Sur. Years ago we spent a lot of time in this area, and I was craving a trip back and with Jeff’s birthday, the 100th Anniversary of Pebble Beach, the US Open, it just seemed serendipitous that this would be the perfect time to re-visit. And while in the neighborhood, why not spend of few days at Half Moon Bay on the way to Pebble and a few days in the wine country after the tournament? It was an amazing couple of weeks filled with fabulous food, incredible wines, celebrating with wonderful old friends, and toasting with new friends. I wanted to share our itinerary of our culinary and wine explorations along with recommendations to inspire your next trip to Northern California. Read all the way to the end for a few tips from my friend and wellness blogger, Cheryl Conklin at Wellness Central. Cheryl shares some great ways of Fitting in Self-Care and How to Feel Better with Any Schedule or Budget, including her number one tip, Get Away!

Let’s begin our adventure as we did, at Half Moon Bay!

Let’s begin our adventure as we did, at Half Moon Bay!

This beautiful stretch of Pacific Ocean located just south of San Francisco and northeast of the silicon valley is a little slice of “half moon” coastline heaven. A popular weekend getaway for Northern California city dwellers, this beautiful resort and Ritz-Carlton property offers golf, tennis, walking trails, fantastic dining all with stunning views. Fly into San Jose (SJC), an easy airport to maneuver and quickly be in your rental car and on the way to Half Moon Bay! By the way, “Do you know the way to San Jose? I’m going back to find some peace of mind…” (Vintage Burt Bacharach for the incomparable Dionne Warwick, circa 1968)

This quaint Bay Town offers a variety of culinary experiences, some with fabulous views. You simply can’t go wrong with any of the dining options at the Ritz Carlton. Navio (pictured above) and The Conservatory both offer gorgeous seaside views and fresh seafood and farmers market to table cuisine. The raw bar at the Ocean Terrace is also not to be missed. Just up the bay is Sam’s Chowder House. A waterfront seafood house with fabulous fresh seafood, salads, pastas and more, well known for their famous Lobster Rolls. And for a delicious Italian farm to table experience, visit Pasta Moon Ristorante where their passion for fresh, authentic cuisine shines through.

On to the Monterey Peninsula, as the fog rolls into Pebble Beach, making it a bit chilly for summer!

On to the Monterey Peninsula, as the fog rolls into Pebble Beach, making it a bit chilly for summer!

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After a delicious weekend of fresh bay area seafood, head south to the Monterey Bay Peninsula, one of our very favorite places in the world. Stunningly beautiful, home of the infamous 17 mile drive through Pebble Beach, the quaint and super chic Carmel By The Sea seaside village filled with art galleries, shopping, dining and so much more. The US Open was a spectacular event to attend especially since it was the 100th Anniversary of Pebble Beach. The fog rolled in however, and the air became quite misty and chilly! Our culinary itinerary included Village Corner in Carmel for a cozy al fresco breakfast by the fire pit, serving locals and tourists since 1948, an amazing Pizza Margherita at il Fornaio at the Pine Inn and who can resist the Treviso style Tiramisu for dessert? On to drinks and appetizers at Mission Ranch watching sheep graze in the meadow with Point Lobos and the Pacific as the backdrop, then dinner at another long time favorite, Casanova, in the heart of downtown Carmel, a European garden setting with contemporary & rustic cuisine and terrific wine list. Day two, you must take a drive down Pacific Coast Highway to experience Big Sur’s seaside cliffs and winding turns. For a super special culinary experience, Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn, situated high in the cliffs above the Pacific, is one you will never forget. The 4 course tasting menu paired with delicious wines and amazing views looking straight down some 1200 feet to the surf with floor to ceiling windows from your table is certainly not your everyday dining experience. Perhaps one of the best dishes I have ever eaten, the Abalone Appetizer (pictured below).

It’s time for the grande finale of this Northern California adventure…the wine country of Sonoma and Napa Valleys. We were treated like royalty while we tasted, paired foods and tasted again, all while enjoying the beautiful summer weather and glorious views of vineyards, mountains, gardens and we even got a little golf in! We had so many terrific experiences, I wanted to share a few of our very favorites. We began our journey at Alpha Omega Winery learning about processing and varietals with an amazing and professional (not to mention super fun!) staff of Oenologic and Viticultural professionals. Oenology, the science and study of winemaking slightly different from Viticulture, the agricultural element of vine growing and grape harvesting. Alpha Omega’s stunning Cabernet Sauvignons have received the highest acclaim including 99 points for 3 of their 2016 vintages which we were honored to have the opportunity of tasting.

Many thanks again to Kelly Carter, Director of Communications at Alpha Omega, and New York Times bestselling author! Super fun and beautiful day, not to mention magnificent wines and very special company!

The Jordan Winery Picnic Lunch at this incomparable Alexander Valley winery was simply fabulous! The food selection paired with the amazingly elegant, crisp and delicious, low alcohol Jordan Chardonnay amidst this beautiful property was incredible, then the desserts…oh my, paired with a rich and lovely low alcohol Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, silky, velvety and perfectly balanced, completed a glorious day of picnicing in Sonoma and the Alexander Valley Wine Country. We ended the day on the terrace at Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley with a casual dinner watching the sun setting over the beautiful mountain ranges.

An afternoon at the Napa Valley Classic, Duckhorn Winery, is not to be missed. With wines for every season an every event, from date night at home to special celebrations with family and friends, the Duckhorn Family of Wines can meet every need. We had the honor of tasting several wonderful Duckhorn wines starting with their light, crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Then came the parade of reds! Merlot’s from Napa Valley and Three Palms Vineyard, and lush, beautiful Cabs also from Napa Valley and Three Palms, then came The DIscussion, an amazing blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot, French oak aged to perfection, this rich, complex and beautifully balanced wine is elegant, creamy and oh so delicious!

Thanks Geordy for being such a fantastic host! Dining options in both Sonoma and Napa Valley are limitless and amazing. This is truly a wine AND culinary destination, feel free to reach out for my entire list of favorites!

Photo courtesy Bistro Jeanty, Yountville, California

Photo courtesy Bistro Jeanty, Yountville, California

You can’t go wrong almost anywhere in the wine country with fresh and wonderful dining options. Everything is fresh and delicious and paired so beautifully with the areas fantastic wines. I could write an entire blog, book really, just with recommendations and information for restaurant, market and culinary experiences. A couple of our favorites to check out are Bistro Jeanty in Yountville and Mustards Grill in Napa. There is so much more to share, in another blog, another day! If you are heading to the area, please reach out. I am happy to help plan your itinerary and provide referrals and recommendations for your trip. Stay tuned for my next blog where we will pair several of my summer dishes with these and other, fantastic wines. Now it’s time to learn how important a delicious getaway really is for our soul from Cheryl Conkin who is so lovely to contribute to this week’s blog.

Photo by  Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

Fitting in Self-Care: How to Feel Better with Any Schedule or Budget (by Cheryl Conklin)
Fitting self-care into your budget can be stressful, especially if you’re also pressed for time. Working a few new methods into your daily routine may seem overwhelming or impossible at first, but there are actually several simple things you can do to feel better. If you’re living with stress or anxiety, for example, it might be helpful to address those feelings and identify the source. Think about the types of changes you can make within your lifestyle that will help you relax, step back, and take a deep breath. Since stress can have a major effect on your body as well as your mind, it’s important to take steps to improve your overall wellness.
When you’re on a budget, it’s still possible to have fun and unwind; it just takes careful planning. You may not have the money to take a trip to Hawaii, but you could look for a destination a little closer to home and ask a friend or family member to go in on it with you. Here are a few tips on how to fit in self-care no matter what else is going on in your life.
Get Away
We all need to get away sometimes and de-stress, but being on a strict budget can often make your options feel limited. However, instead of packing up and heading to another city, state, or country, take a look around your own hometown for activities you may have missed. For example, if you live in Hilton Head, you could get away from home for a little while by renting a vacation property near one of the area’s many gorgeous beaches. If you’d like to skip the beaches and hang out in nature, Turnkey points out that Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge has 14 miles of trails just waiting to be explored, and you can easily find a nearby rental around Harbour Town. As you can probably tell, you don’t have to go very far to have a little fun!
Eat Right
Good nutrition is the cornerstone of self-care since it helps to balance both your mind and body. Eating right is all about finding healthy foods that you can work into your existing diet; this way, you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. Limiting those bad choices — such as refined sugars and caffeine — is also crucial. It’s important not to make big changes without consulting your doctor, especially if you are living with diabetes or another health issue. You don’t have to spend lots of money to eat healthily; there are simple ways to start that won’t blow your budget.
Unplug
It’s not always easy to unplug and get away from technology for a significant amount of time, especially if your work is done online. It’s crucial to put the gadgets and technology aside every now and then, as looking at a screen and/or sitting for several hours a day is bad for your mental and physical health. If you find it hard to get away during the day, start in small increments. Rather than taking a long break, begin with shorter moments at night by putting your phone away a half hour before bed. Not only will this help you relax, destress, and turn off the constant flow of information, but it might also help you sleep.
Take Up a Hobby
Finding a hobby is a great way to boost your mental health, and it can have a positive effect on your physical health as well, depending on what it is. Whether you want to learn how to paint or how to speak a new language, there are many things you can do to boost your enjoyment of life and your overall well-being at the same time. Try a free smartphone app or a YouTube tutorial when you want to learn something new.
Fitting self-care into your budget can often feel extremely tricky, but it’s not impossible. With a few small changes to your lifestyle and some creative thinking, you can turn things around immediately and start enjoying all those healthy benefits.
-Cheryl Conklin (wellnesscentral.info)

Many thanks Cheryl for these awesome recommendations! Stay tuned for more of the wine country with menus, recipes and wine pairings coming next week. Until next time…

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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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Festive Fun & Simple Ideas for Holiday Entertaining

Festive Holiday Pumpkin-Cranberry Cake

Festive Holiday Pumpkin-Cranberry Cake

Tis’ the season for holiday entertaining, and there’s nothing like being prepared! Holiday entertaining can be stressful, but don’t let the idea of it interfere with your holiday joy! This week I’ve included a few fun & simple holiday dishes that can be prepared in advance, taking all the stress out of last minute entertaining and holiday gatherings. They are all super great appetizers and desserts to take to the party as well!

It’s all about the prep, and by doing things in advance and keeping a few simple things on hand for the holidays, entertaining can be fun…and simple!

Now, let’s get to that cake! This beautifully delicious Festive Pumpkin Cranberry Cake can easily be made in advance and kept in the freezer up to one month. Then, when it’s time to serve just dust with a little powdered sugar and a dollop of mascarpone whipped cream! Fun & Simple holiday entertaining at its best! Pumpkin is my favorite holiday ingredient and combined with fresh cranberries, a dynamic duo.  Add the soothing aroma of warm spices, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, and you have a holiday cake that soothes the soul, not to mention makes the kitchen smell amazing while its baking! Here’s the recipe:

Start with these ingredients:

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease pan with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.  Mix dry ingredients well, with paddle attachment of electric stand mixer or whisk together in a large bowl, then add:

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Stir until combined on low speed of electric or stand mixer, then mix no longer than one minute on medium speed.  Remove from mixer and gently fold in cranberries. Pour batter into pumpkin baking pan until ¾ full. Smooth with spatula and allow to rest for 10 minutes before placing in the oven. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly on wire rack, 3-5 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan.  Using a smooth bladed knife, carefully loosen the edges and place the wire rack on top of the baking pan.  Invert and carefully lift the baking pan up and away from the cake.  Serve warm or room temperature.

The cake freezes beautifully for up to a month.  Cool completely and store in sealed freezer bags.  When ready to serve, the cake can be heated directly from the freezer to the microwave.  It will taste as if it came fresh from the oven! Then just dust with a little powdered sugar, giving it a fresh fallen snow affect!

I like to serve each slice with a dollop of mascarpone whipped cream! Super simple…In a cold bowl, add

Whip with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer (or regular mixer) until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whip with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer (or regular mixer) until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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If you like nuts, ½ cup of toasted chopped walnuts is an excellent addition to the cake and can be added with the cranberries. You will want to toss them in a little flour also before adding to the batter.

That’s it! Fun & Simple, Gigi Style. I hope you enjoy these hassle free dishes during your holiday seasoning! If you still need a little something for the Foodie on your holiday gift list, there’s still time to have a signed copy of Fun & Simple Gourmet shipped in time for Christmas! You can also download on your devices (iPhone & iPad) at iTunes! In the meantime, enjoy this most wonderful time of year! Wishing you and your family a most fabulous holiday, and remember…

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RELATED PRODUCTS

Leave it to Amazon to have everything you need for holiday entertaining preparation! My favorite organic pumpkin and this great little pumpkin loaf pan, perfect for this Festive Cake. This Kitchen Aide Stand Mixer is a great starter and on sale now at over 40% off. Tell Santa to add it to your Christmas List! I’ve had mine over 20 years and can’t live without it

5 Perfect Pumpkin Dishes for Thanksgiving!

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Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving…right? Of course it’s one of my favorite holidays because it’s all about two of the my most important things in life…Gratitude and Food! I like celebrating and preparing for Thanksgiving all month long, creating fun new recipes and enjoying preparing and updating some of my old ones.

Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, not to mention the many health benefits of pumpkin!

Vitamin A rich and only 49 calories per cup, pumpkin has little or no fat content, and is high in antioxidants, like beta carotene which protects your cells against free radicals. Pumpkin also has fiber, Vitamins C, B2 and E, Iron, Copper and Potassium. I love pumpkin in lots of dishes over the holidays, but I eat pumpkin all year long.

I've selected five of my favorite pumpkin delights for you to share with your friends and family this holiday season and all year long...enjoy!

Simply click for the recipes.

Pumpkin Risotto   with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Creamy   Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita   with a hint of Amaretti

Creamy Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita with a hint of Amaretti

Pumpkin Ravioli   with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake  , my go to Thanksgiving dessert

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, my go to Thanksgiving dessert

What’s better than preparing a holiday feast with those closest to you and sharing a day of food, love and gratitude! I can’t think of a single thing! I hope you enjoy preparing these fun & simple pumpkin recipes as much as I enjoyed preparing for you! Please feel free to share and don't hesitate to reach out with your comments and send me your photos! I would love to hear from you! You will find many of my favorite holiday dishes in my new cookbook, Fun & Simple Gourmet! And…it makes a super great holiday gift!

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving! In the meantime,

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