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

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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.

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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!

Fun & Simple Delicious Ideas to Celebrate Your Valentine at Home & Away

Call me a hopeless romantic but my absolute favorite day of the year is Valentines Day. Champagne, chocolate, roses, and hundreds of renditions of my very favorite song playing all day…what could be better than that! Needless to say, we make it a day of culinary traditions. I like to set a fun, whimsical and romantic table to set the mood, then we start the day with strawberries and champagne and our traditional Valentine’s Breakfast, Chocolate Waffles! Super chocolatey, crispy on the outside, surprisingly light and spongy on the inside, with whipped mascarpone cream & pure maple syrup, a decadently delicious way to start the day! My favorite part of Valentine’s Day, besides the food of course…hundreds of renditions of "My Funny Valentine" (Rodgers & Hart circa 1937 from the musical Babes in Arms) playing throughout the day.  From Frank Sinatra to Chaka Khan, Ella Fitzgerald to Big Muff, Paul Brown jazz guitar, every genre of music imaginable!  I know, silly right? I’m sure it makes Jeff crazy hearing the same song all day long, but believe it or not, each rendition sounds so incredibly different that it really doesn’t seem like the same song.  Regardless, Jeff has put up with my Valentine’s Day shenanigans for 25+ years now, so he must not mind so much!

Valentine’s Day is synonymous with Chocolate, so I thought I would share some of my favorite Fun & Simple Chocolate Delights! Decadent Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes, a Flourless Chocolate Torte with Cabernet Glaze, a lusciously light and airy Chocolate Mousse and my rich Chocolate Souffle. (simply click on the photos for the recipes)

Don’t forget to read to the end for recommendations of my favorite romantic places to celebrate with your Valentine. From New York City to Napa Valley, Charleston and the islands of the Bahamas, these destinations are the perfect getaways for two!

About drinking champagne…the glass actually does matter! I love the Coupe, classic, nostalgic, elegant and romantic, but not good for bubbles if you are a big fan of keeping your bubbly, bubbly. The Flute is perfect for young Champagne and great for keeping the bubbles. The Tulip is my second fav…perfect for mature Champagne (aged to the point where it will not gain further complexity by continuing to store) and believe it or not a regular Wine Glass is ideal for high end more complex Champagne varieties. In addition to being festive and delicious, champagne also has some major health benefits, in moderation of course.  Scientists say that drinking 3-4 glasses of champagne per week may actually help us live longer! Not only is it heart healthy, just as good as red wine, it improves circulation and may reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.  Champagne is low in calories compared to other wine varieties and according to a study at the University of Reading (and others) champagne can boost brain health and help prevent dementia and memory loss.  Full of antioxidants, bubbles are great for your skin and skin tone.  As if I needed another reason to love champagne! 

Lily Bollinger said it best, “I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.”

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A perfect compliment to champagne on Valentine’s Day is my Lobster Cocktail, also delicious with fresh shrimp, and a wonderful beginning to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at home. So simple and can be prepared a day ahead of time, just put it together when you are ready to serve. This simple, yet sophisticated and decadent appetizer could just as well be an elegant meal, served in a martini glass alongside a nice chilled glass of bubbly, I can’t think of a more beautiful way to start...or finish!  You can boil the lobsters yourself, or have your fish monger steam them for you, making it even more simple to prepare.

If you are looking for romantic getaway ideas with great culinary, I have a few favs! Click on the links for their websites and more information:

Dune Restaurant Terrace - Four Seasons Ocean Club Bahamas

Dune Restaurant Terrace - Four Seasons Ocean Club Bahamas

Four Seasons Ocean Club Bahamas - One of my favorite places in the world and definitely my favorite beach! With Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s French-Asian cuisine with a hint of the islands, a delicious menu and what could be more romantic than oceanfront dining on the beautiful turquoise waters of the Bahamas?

Meadowood Napa Valley - Nestled among the tall pines of the Napa Valley, this casually elegant gem is the ultimate of wine country romance. From the beautiful spa, croquet, golf, tennis and modern American cuisine at The Restaurant which sources from local artisans, growers and of course wineries, the Meadowood experience is like no other in Napa Valley. Chef Kostow calls his cuisine “evocative and playful,” what could be more romantic than that?

The Surrey New York City - There isn’t a more romantic city than New York, and no more romantic spot than this favorite upper east side gem. Small and quaint, the bar is reminiscent of a lovers rendezvous next to the incomparable Cafe Boulud, cozy, intimate french cuisine by Chef Daniel Boulud, exquisite! Then, walk across the street after dinner for drinks and jazz at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle.

Planters Inn Charleston, South Carolina - Located in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, the #1 tourist destination in America according to Conde’ Nast and Travel & Leisure, this Relais & Chateaux property exudes southern charm and romance. Have drinks in the candlelit Champagne Bar before dining in the velvet lined Peninsula Grill Dining Room and you must finish with the 12-layer Coconut Cake…simply divine to share with your Valentine!

And, while you’re in Charleston, New York and Nassau, check out my Jeff’s historic walking tour app on your smartphone for a fabulous GPS guided self-walking tour of the city, complete with audio histories, local activities directory and directions. It’s beautifully done and so simple to use on your time, just the two of you. Check it out at historicwalkingtour.com.

So, that’s it! My idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day either at home or away! Of course, it’s all about the food, lots of champagne and chocolate, all while enjoying Your Funny Valentine

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Me and My Funny Valentine!

Me and My Funny Valentine!

Simple Tips to Organize Your Kitchen from Soup to Nuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime…

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A Merry Merry Holiday Menu

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

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

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

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

Coconut Creme Cupcakes

Coconut Creme Cupcakes

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

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







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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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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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!

Celebrating Lobster Season with 5 Fabulous Fun & Simple Lobster Dishes

Warm Water Lobster Tails

Warm Water Lobster Tails

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

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

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

Simply click on the photos for the recipes!

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

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

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

5 Great Recipes for a Delicious 4th of July!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 4th of July!

 

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Gone Nuts...for Peanuts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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!

 

  

My Favorite Day of the Year - Valentine's Day!

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My favorite part of Valentine’s Day…hundreds of renditions of "My Funny Valentine" (Rodgers & Hart 1937 from the musical Babes in Arms) playing throughout the day...  From Frank Sinatra to Chaka Khan, Ella Fitzgerald to Big Muff, every genre of music imaginable!   

Call me a hopeless romantic but my absolute favorite day of the year is Valentines Day. Champagne, chocolate, roses, and hundreds of renditions of my very favorite song playing all day…what could be better than that!

About drinking champagne…the glass actually does matter! I love the Coupe, classic, nostalgic, elegant and romantic, but not good for bubbles if you are a big fan of keeping your bubbly, bubbly. The Flute is perfect for young Champagne and great for keeping the bubbles. The Tulip is my second fav…perfect for mature Champagne (aged to the point where it will not gain further complexity by continuing to store) and believe it or not a regular Wine Glass is ideal for high end more complex Champagne varieties.

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Needless to say, we make it a day of culinary traditions, starting with Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Valentine’s Brunch featuring Chocolate Waffles and Champagne. Gentlemen, don't forget the roses and the little blue box!

My Lobster Cocktail starter is the perfect beginning to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at home. So simple and can be prepared a day ahead of time and just put together at the last minute. Add a glass of your favorite champagne, what a way to kick off the evening!

Then, may I recommend a lovely Chateaubriand for Two! Slow roasted tenderloin with a rich and flavorful mushroom sauce and roasted vegetables, so tender, it will melt in your mouth! This dish is so simple to prepare, but don’t tell your Valentine, he (or she) will think you slaved all day!

I usually do Chocolate Soufflé for Valentine’s dessert, but this year, I am changing it up with my Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes with a Pink Champagne Glaze. The cupcakes can be made the day before, so all you have to do for dessert, is enjoy!!!

So, that’s it! My idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day. Of course it’s all about the food, delicious but simple to prepare and lots of champagne and chocolate, all while enjoying Your Funny Valentine

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Me and My Funny Valentine!

Me and My Funny Valentine!

Holiday Entertaining Tips ~ Fun & Simple Style!

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1.  Casual Elegance is always my motif.  It’s easy, comfortable but still lovely and beautiful.  I want my guests to feel relaxed and content but also special.  I like an eclectic combination of casual and formal, all on the same table, makes it fun and festive without being over stuffy.

2.  Select a theme or color.  Choosing a theme and/or color helps make everything else come together with ease.  Of course, the holidays make it super easy because the main theme is already set. Then it’s down to selecting a color combination. Make it simple and use table top accessories you already have, just make them a little festive. Red, green, silver, gold, all fantastic holiday colors, and there is nothing wrong with simple white napkins, rolled and tied with a pretty gold holiday ribbon.  

3.  Welcome Guests with a Special Greeting. Set the tone with a simple glass of champagne with a rosemary stalk or my festive Holiday Bellini, blood orange, Prosecco and Grand Marnier, that will get your guests in a celebration mood!

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4.  Celebrate the Season.  Focus on flowers or greenery for the table that exude the holidays. Fresh herbs like rosemary stalks and fresh cranberries are a great way to decorate the table. I like using all white candles in hurricanes with fresh cranberries and rosemary around the candles. 

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5.  Fun Place Cards.  Wine corks make great place card holders.  Using a serrated knife, simply cut a ¼ inch slit into the top of the cork and slide the place card into the slit. I sometimes even use the wine corks as the place card by writing the names on the cork with a Sharpie!  Champagne corks are fun place card holders, especially for holiday entertaining!  Another fun and festive place card is a simple candy cane.  Punch a hole in your place card, and tie around a candy cane with holiday ribbon. 

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6.  Fun Water Service. How simple is just adding festive fruit or herbs to your water pitcher or water glasses, it doesn’t take a lot of effort, to make it extra special.  For the holidays I like serving water with apple slices and cinnamon sticks or orange slices with cranberries and sage leaves, even lemon slices with rosemary sprigs, all add flavor and festive décor.

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7.  Little Gifts.  I like to send a little gift home with everyone, even if it is just a simple chocolate holiday candy, a little bag of your Christmas cookies, even a candy cane with a pretty ribbon tied around it or a mini-bottle of their favorite cordial or liqueur.  A little something makes a lovely lasting impression. 

8.  Lastly and Most Importantly! Do as much as you can in advance! This simple task makes holiday entertaining so much easier! Entertaining is supposed to be fun for everyone, especially the host! You can do things like setting the table a few days in advance and a little prep every day really adds up to saving time and stress! Also, it is really not necessary to have several side dishes or desserts. One of my favorite lines, that I use a lot is, "more isn't always better, it's just more!"

Pear-Pomegranate Salad, Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Haricot Verts Roasted Shallots & Fennel

Pear-Pomegranate Salad, Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Haricot Verts Roasted Shallots & Fennel

Pick your favorite salad, potato or starch, and one vegetable that compliment your main dish, and stick with those. And don’t be afraid to let your guests help! It’s fun to cook together, and if they offer to bring something, let them! An appetizer, bottle of wine, even a side dish or dessert, it just makes the main event even easier on you! These are my sides this holiday to be served with my Porc Aux Figues for Christmas Dinner! 

Stay tuned for more holiday menu ideas and recipes! Feel free to reach out with any questions or recipe requests and in the meantime...

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Enjoy this holiday season and have fun entertaining your family and friends! Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a most wonderful year ahead!  Cheers!

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Merry Christmas from 21 Club NYC!

Merry Christmas from 21 Club NYC!

A Few of My Favorite Things - A Magical Day in New York at Christmas

These are a few of my favorite things, but my favorite thing during the Holiday Season...to be in New York City, there isn't a more magical place and time on earth!  Here's my idea of the perfect day in New York at Christmas with all of my favorite things... 

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1.  Start the day with coffee at St. Ambrose, the best coffee on the upper east side! Then grab one to go, and head towards the Met, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 2nd most visited art museum in the world. After perusing the exhibit of Modern and Contemporary Art...

2.  Stroll down Madison Avenue and make a stop at Zitomer's (76th) for a little funky gift and card shopping. You just never know what you might find there! A must stop is the Original Ralph Lauren Flagship Store in the Gertrude Rhineland Waldo Mansion, circa 1898 at 72nd & Madison. Modeled after the Chateaux of the Loire Valley in France, the rich history of this beautiful building along with Ralph Lauren's timeless and incredible design flair, make this truly the most amazing retail establishment in the world. It used to house all of the RL lines from mens wear to home collection. I spent the most magical day here during the blizzard of 2003. The snow was coming sideways down Madison Avenue early that December morning as friends of mine and I sat in the Home Collection Showroom, on a purple velvet sectional sofa, with crystal chandeliers above, fragrant holiday candles flickering everywhere, a fire blazing in the fireplace and, to make it more perfect, "It's a Wonderful Life" playing on the television above the fireplace mantel. You could see the horizontal pattern of the blowing snow through the windows to either side of the television screen. Did I say magical? Not to mention the staff offering us champagne as we began to feel the warmth of the fire.  We felt we had just moved into the most amazing Winter Wonderland, I didn't ever want leave! A moment in time I will never forget.

My Jeff outside the Ralph Lauren Flagship

My Jeff outside the Ralph Lauren Flagship

Inside the beautiful Ralph Lauren Flagship

Inside the beautiful Ralph Lauren Flagship

3.  Ice skating (or watching) in Central Park on the way to lunch. Walking through the park to Central Park South to make our way to Columbus Circle for my favorite lunch in the city, Nougatine at Jean-Georges. I can't tell you how many lunches we have enjoyed at Nougatine, but each one has been fantastic, and each comes with a story of its own. One in particular was taking our god-daughter and a friend for holiday lunch and meeting Steven Tyler, who could not have been more engaging. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and as we left the restaurant, asked us, "who was that guy again?" Obviously, they were too young to truly appreciate our lunch mate or the conversation, but Aunt Gigi loved every second.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges, Columbus Circle

Nougatine at Jean-Georges, Columbus Circle

4.   Just enough time to drop by Harry Cipriani for a Champagne Cocktail on the way to afternoon tea at The Pierre. The scene at Cipriani is always good for a crowded bump on the shoulder, spilling a little of that deliciously sweet drink, but if your lucky enough, it only hits the floor and not you or your partner!  Then just a block to The Pierre for traditional holiday afternoon tea. A little caffeine pick me up, or just more champagne, either way, a delightful way to spend the late afternoon.

Afternoon tea at The Pierre

Afternoon tea at The Pierre

5.  Strolling down Fifth Avenue towards Rockefeller Center taking in the beautiful lights, decorations, and artfully crafted Christmas windows along the famous 5th Avenue shopping mecca. It wouldn't be Christmas in New York if you didn't just poke your head into Tiffany's and watch all the pretty little tiffany blue bags walk out the door for some lucky someone! Then, it's time for cocktails and wine while we view the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center at Morrell's Wine Bar. The best place for a glass of wine with all of your new best friends and spectacular view across the plaza to the tree!

1 Rockefeller Plaza

1 Rockefeller Plaza

6.  Dinner at the Sea Grill Rockefeller Center, where the beautiful dining room's windows are literally overlooking the Rockefeller Center ice rink, and while you are enjoying a perfectly prepared and very fresh fish dish, it almost appears as though if the skaters can't make their turn, they might just wind up at your table! Well, not really, but it is a magnificent and up close and personal view including a glimpse of the tree above.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

7.  An after dinner drink or cappuccino at The Polo Lounge or Nat King Cole Bar (St. Regis), just across the street from one another on 55th and 5th. Since they are so close, why not have one at both! The perfect end to the perfect holiday day in Manhattan.

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Just a few of my favorite things! Can you tell I have mastered the art of eating and drinking my way across the upper east side? Well, it took years of practice, but each place, each story, each moment, and especially everyone that I have shared these moments with, holds a special place always in my heart.  May your holidays be filled with all of your Favorite Things!

PS...Tomorrow, a few more favorite things, Burgers and Bloody's at 21 Club and a theater matinee, can't do all my favorite things in just one day! We highly recommend "Hamilton" it was amazing! And, we got really great seats at a reasonable price on StubHub!

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays!

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Jeff and me in Central Park 

Jeff and me in Central Park