Monday, August 4, 2014

Cucumber, Tomato and Bell Pepper Salad

Cucumber, Tomato and Bell Pepper Salad

           Hi friends!  The summer is finally starting to settle down a little!  We've been having so much fun and I hope you have too!  We had a fantastic time in Cozumel, Mexico, Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah. We've also had cousins come out to visit and had a great time with them in Washington D.C. I'll be sharing some photos from the trips soon! 
 I wanted to share this recipe from my sister- in- law and dear friend, Dawn Ann.  She served this salad at a family reunion years back and it's been a summertime favorite ever since.  It's so colorful and the flavor is so garden fresh, I love it! For a Mediterranean twist add a cup of Kalamata olives and a cup of crumbled Feta cheese.  Helpful hint: seed a cucumber by cutting it in half lengthwise and running  a spoon down the center scraping the seeds out as you go.  This salad lends itself well to grilled fish and meats or good old-fashioned Barbeque.   

2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 green pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

handful of fresh basil, washed


1 cup white vinegar
2/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper


In salad bowl combine all vegetables and set aside.  Blend all dressing ingredients together. Pour dressing over vegetables and refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to serving.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Sorbet Frosting

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Sorbet Frosting
Happy Cookie Friday!   Summertime is finally here!  (Just saying that makes me want to get up and dance to High School Musical 2!)  I hope you all have a fun end of the school year!   Hope you enjoy these yummy summertime cupcakes!  Like I've said before...I LOVE LEMON!!!  We are off to Mexico on Monday so I won't be checking in for a bit...but I promise to bring back all kinds of great ideas, photos and foods from Mexico!  Hasta Luego!

Lemon Cupcakes

1 cup butter, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
3 teaspoons lemon extract
Zest from one lemon

In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.   Mix dry ingredients together.  Beginning with four mixture, add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, ending with flour mixture.  Beat in vanilla, lemon extract and zest.  Fill cups half full ONLY.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Cool on bakers rack.   Frost when completely cool.
Lemon Sorbet Frosting

12 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ cups butter
8-12 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon extract

Beat all ingredients together in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Begin with adding only 8 tablespoons of lemon juice.  If frosting is too stiff add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice at a time until soft but stiff.  Fit a BIG round or star tip in a pastry bag and fill with frosting.  Pipe one dollop of frosting in center of the cupcake.  Now start winding a big thick strip of frosting around the outside of the cupcake.  Swirl frosting towards the center overlapping as you go, until you reach the center top.  Add your favorite sprinkles, top with a blueberry, raspberry or add a little live flower or a candy flower to make them perfect for any occasion.  Let set uncovered in a cool location until ready to serve, even overnight if needed.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cranberry Pecan Romaine Wedge Salad

Cranberry-Pecan Romaine Wedge Salad
After a really fun 12 mile bike ride, along the beautiful C&O Canal to the quaint little Civil War town of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, we were famished!  We dove into a little cafe for lunch where I had a delicious salad similar to this one.  I love this salad combination of the cranberries, pecans and blue cheese!  Plus, it's really fast and easy enough for week night dinners and elegant enough for lunches and dinner parties.  Hope you enjoy!  

3 hearts of Romaine lettuce
3/4 cup chopped pecans 
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Blue Cheese Dressing
extra blue cheese, crumbled

Cut hearts of romaine in half lengthwise, giving you 6 romaine wedges.

Place romaine wedges on individual plates or on a platter.  Dress each romaine wedge with Blue Cheese Dressing, sprinkle chopped pecans and dried cranberries over the top and garnish with a little extra crumbled blue cheese.  

   Blue Cheese Dressing

I L-O-V-E this blue cheese dressing!  Believe me, you'll never go back to store bought dressing after this one!

1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lemon, squeezed
1 cup crumbled blue cheese 
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon coarse salt
 ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper to taste

In bowl of food processor or in blender, whip all ingredients together until smooth.  If needed, thin with a little milk.  Dressing may need thinning after refrigeration.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Sugar Cookie Tarts

Sugar Cookie Tarts

Happy Cookie Friday! These Sugar Cookie Tarts are the best of both worlds...delicious sugar cookies and scrumptious fruit tarts, combined!  These give you the look of beautiful fresh fruit tarts without all the fuss of an actual French pastry.  These tarts look like you've put in a lot of time and effort, but they are really simple and fast.  They are perfect for brunches, open houses and parties and best of all, they are positively mouthwatering!  This recipe will make 27 Sugar Cookie Tarts.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar
¾ cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In bowl of electric mixer combine sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon zest. Save the lemon juice for the Lemon Glaze.  Mix until creamy while scraping the bowl often.   In separate bowl mix flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Add to butter mixture and mix until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.  Roll dough into 1 ¼ inch balls.  Roll dough balls in extra granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet. 

Dip bottom of a drinking glass in sugar and flatten dough balls into 2 ¼ inch circles.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until tops of cookies begin to break slightly.  Let cool 2 minutes and remove from cookie sheet.  Cool completely.  Frost with Lemon Butter Cream Frosting.

Lemon Butter Cream Frosting

1/2 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
juice from 2 lemons 
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream all ingredients in an electric mixer until fluffy.  Place a spoonful of frosting on a cookie and spread it around with the back of the spoon.

 Top with a big pinch of fresh blueberries, sliced strawberries and fresh raspberries.  Garnish with a sprig of mint.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Savory Sauteed Veggie and Cheese Crepes

Savory Sauteed Veggie and Cheese Crepes 
I adore crepes, seriously.  Any kind, any where.  (Well, let's be honest, preferably in Paris.)   

1 cup favorite grated or crumbled cheese
(Blue cheese, Feta, Swiss, cheddar or mozzarella) 

Sauteed Veggies
(Have this ready before you begin cooking the crepes.)

1-2 red or yellow bell peppers
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
couple handfuls fresh spinach

In large saute pan saute onions, garlic and peppers until soft.  Toss in spinach, saute a minute and turn off the heat.  

Crepe Batter

4 cups milk

4 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons wheat flour 

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons white flour
2 teaspoons salt 

I like to make crepe batter in a big plastic pitcher using a stick blender to blend ingredients.  That way I can easily store unused batter in the refrigerator until breakfast the next morning or for  savory crepes for dinner.  You can also use a blender to blend the batter.  In blender or with a stick blender, mix ingredients thoroughly.  Heat a non-stick skillet or crepe pan, over medium-high heat.  Unwrap a stick of butter half way and rub butter on bottom of hot pan.  Pour a little batter into pan  pick up pan and roll batter around to cover the bottom of the pan.  When batter on top has solidified, turn over with a spatula (preferably with a wooden crepe spatula) and brown other side for just a minute.  Place a spoonful of sauteed veggies on one side of crepe. 

 Sprinkle some cheese over veggies.  

Fold crepe over the top of veggies.  Heat until cheese melts. Fold again if desired and serve hot.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Must Do NYC

Anyone planning a trip to the Big Apple this summer?   We recently met up with family in downtown Manhattan and had a fantastic time!  Here are some fun pictures, ideas and addresses for your stay.  These are some of my favorite places to hit when we're there.  

My Favorite Places to Stay...

The Belvedere Hotel   
319 W. 48th Street
Located in Midtown Manhattan, the beautiful Belvedere Hotel is within walking distance of Broadway theaters and the Ellen's Star Dust Dinner and close to Times Square.

Marriott Marquis
1535 Broadway, New York

Located in Times Square, if you are there for'll see the Thanksgiving Day Parade, parade down the street right in front of the hotel.  This hotel is close to everything!

My Favorite Musicals:
Les Miserables, Lion King and Wicked

Favorite Sights...
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of Modern Art

Rockefeller Center

Radio City Music Hall 
(See the Christmas Spectacular if you are there around Thanksgiving or Christmas)
Central Park and Central Park Zoo

(Here's us in Central Park)
Saint Patrick's Cathedral  
Fifth Ave. between 50th and 51st Streets.  
Across from the street from Rockefeller Center.  This incredible cathedral is a famous landmark of New York City.  It's Neo-Gothic style breathtaking and something you don't want to miss.  My father-in-law was working for Bobby Kennedy at the time of his assassination, and attended his funeral held here in Saint Patrick's Cathedral.    

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street (right across the street from Central Park.)
Remember the movie...Night at the Museum?  Filmed right here!  The museum is definitely fun for everyone!

Toys R Us (if you have kids along)
This store has a life sized moving dinosaur, and life sized Lego incredible hulk an indoor Ferris wheel...your kids will love this place!

The Park Hotel
Any Eloise fans out there?  Here's where the Eloise children's books take place.  Yep, it's a real hotel!

(Gotta love the police on horseback!)
Statue of Liberty
You'll have to take a boat ride to get there, but it's worth it! 

Ellis Island
Part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, this is the site where millions of immigrants entered this country from 1892-1954.  Today there is a immigration museum there on the island in the restored immigration building that was built in 1900.

Twin Towers Memorial Site
1 Albany, St.

Favorite Fun Places to Grab a Little Bite of Something with Kids and Teens...

Serendipity III 
225 E. 60th Street

If you are visiting New York City...hit Serendipity III for their Frozen Hot Chocolate!

Ellen's Stardust Diner 
 1650 Broadway 51st Street 

The singing wait staff is the reason to hit the Stardust Diner for a lively breakfast, or just for a cup of hot chocolate or shake. I would recommend stopping in for a snack (don't go there looking for amazing food) to enjoy the talents of up and coming Broadway stars, practicing their next hit! You can even sing along!  It's just fun!

Dylan's Candy Bar 

 1011 3rd Ave. 


This candy store is the brainchild of Ralph Lauren's daughter, Dylan.  Love candy?  You gotta go get some here!  Dylan's Candy Bar is a candy wonderland to everyone's delight!  You may feel like you are stepping onto the set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  The candy decorating is over the top...but that's what makes it so fun!  You can't miss this place especially if you are taking kids... of all ages.  If you and the kids need some lunch or just some ice cream they have a light menu and ice cream bar upstairs.  

Ok, now for the great food...
200 5th Ave. NEW YORK, NY 10010
You'll find amazing food here!

Good -Bye NYC...Until we meet again!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pecan Sticky Buns

Pecan Sticky Buns
I am continually mesmerized by the sticky buns I find in the Williams Sonoma catalog.  I have never ordered any from them but I love the idea of having a freezer full of yummy gourmet breads all ready to defrost and enjoy on lazy weekend mornings. (Like I have any of those!)  Nonetheless, my counter top and freezer could still be full of fresh baked breads ready for hungry kids and a husband to come home to. You'll need a large mixer to this recipe, at least a 6 quart electric mixer will suffice.  Course you can make the dough by hand, if you knead it for 10 minutes, instead of mixing it in the mixer for 10 minutes.  If that sounds like too  much work, look at it this least you'll get your exercise!  This recipe will make approximately 72 sticky buns for you to enjoy!

Sticky Bun Dough
3 ½ cups warm water
4 tablespoons yeast
¾ cup oil
¾ cup sugar
1 cup powdered milk
1 ½ cups potato flakes
1 tablespoon salt
3 eggs at room temperature
10 cups flour, plus more if needed

1 cup softened butter
Cinnamon Sugar Mixture
2 brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/4 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
5 tablespoons corn syrup
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Spray 3-6 muffin pans with bakers spray.  This recipe will fill 6 muffin tins full of sticky buns.  If you don't want to bake all of the sticky buns at once, you can cut your rolls and freeze them before letting them rise.  Simply remove from freezer and place in muffin tins with the caramel, rise and bake.  Dissolve yeast in warm water in bowl of electric mixer.  Add oil and eggs.  Add remaining ingredients and mix for 10 minutes. Let rise to double.  Divide dough into three or four equal portions. Divide dough into 4 equal portions.  On a floured counter top roll out one portion of dough, into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.  Spread 1/4 cup softened butter on each rectangle of dough.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar mixture over buttered dough and roll up lengthwise.  Repeat will each portion of dough.  Make caramel, by melting butter and adding remaining ingredients and stir until smooth over medium heat.  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons caramel in each muffin cup.  Sprinkle some chopped pecans on top of caramel in the muffin tins. Cut rolls into 1 inch thick pieces with a pizza cutter and set in muffin tin on top of caramel and pecans.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap with bakers spray and cover rolls.  Allow rolls to double in size.  Bake at 350 for 11-15 minutes or until light golden brown.  Immediately turn hot rolls out of pan onto a serving platter, to prevent them from sticking in the pans.  Extra baked sticky buns can be cooled and frozen. Simply defrost and reheat for special occasions.

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