During the spring and summer months, I like to eat lighter meals and try to incorporate as many fresh fruits and veggies into my recipes as possible. I’m also a big fan of using citrus to brighten up my dishes and really make them pop. This super-moist loaf cake made with Greek yogurt, along with my morning cup of java, is the perfect way to start a sunny spring day. Studded with slices of fresh strawberries and lemon zest, it’s the perfect combination of ingredients to satisfy and delight your taste buds!
Is it just me or does it seem like over the last week, everyone around you has more of a spring in their step? The birds are chirping, the flowers are popping up and for the first time since last fall, I dusted off my patio furniture and set out my pretty cushions (man, I can’t wait to spend more time out here!). Weeknight cooking is getting a bit easier because I can use my gas grill while the kids play on the swings (and that means less clean-up, too!) and… we are about to excavate a section of the yard to finally grow a vegetable garden — stay tuned for the details on that project coming soon! So in the spirit of all things SPRING, here are a few of my favorite things right now!
My early Mother’s Day gift! Coral tote, Vera Bradley.
Flip flop days are coming! Now I just need a pedi! Love these nautical-inspired flips from Brighton.
Brass and glass! Terrarium boxes, Anthropologie.
Pre-treated wood corner plant stand, IKEA
Lemon Basil soy candle, Williams-Sonoma
My patio furniture! All-weather wicker, Raymour & Flanigan
Mini Jade succulent, Lowes; chubby bird planter, TJ Maxx
Light, fluffy and buttery are just a few words to describe these simple, spring-inspired drop biscuits. The sticky dough is a cinch to pull together (I think it literally took me five minutes!) — no mixer, no fancy gadgets, just a bowl and a wooden spoon! And just like that, adding these to your breakfast or brunch line-up — done!
The trio of flavors combine to create the ideal medley; the buttermilk offers a bit of tang, the lemon imparts a bright citrus note and the plump blueberries sweeten it all up perfectly. If you’re planning a brunch for Mother’s Day this year like I am, these simple drop-style biscuits are a must-make. If you have an extra few minutes to make them fresh that day, they are best enjoyed hot from the oven with a smattering of butter or jam. However, you can also make them the day before and warm them in the oven before serving. Another idea is to package them up for each guest to take home. It’s a a delicious gesture that’s sure to be remembered!
Simplified Spring Living: Blueberry-Lemon Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 cup cold buttermilk
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly
Zest of one lemon
Juice of ½ a lemon
About 6-8 ounces of fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder. sugar and salt.
In another bowl or 2-cup liquid measure, add the buttermilk and melted butter; stir until clumps form. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice and blueberries, folding in gently so the blueberries don't break up.
Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and gently incorporate until a sticky dough forms.
Using a tablespoon-size cookie scoop, drop the biscuit dough onto the baking sheets, about one inch apart. Don't worry if they aren't perfectly round, they look more home-style and rustic when they are free-formed.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden on top and bottom. Cool slightly on wire racks. Serve warm with butter or jam.
Bursting with spring-inspired flavors like sweet, toasted coconut and bright, tangy lime, Coconut-Lime Pound Cake is the ideal spring dessert. Not only is it oh-so-pretty on the plate, but it’s easy to pull together, too, making it the perfect addition to my Simplified Spring Living series. If you’re looking for a sweet ending to your Easter meal, try this simply elegant cake!
As I was writing my last blog post about a yummy Chicken Satay that I recently made, I stumbled upon the notion of simplified meals and the beauty of the spring season. I pondered the concept a little more later that day; spring is a time for animals, people and nature to come out of hibernation and savor the simple beauty and splendor that the season has to offer. It’s about simple, fresh meals made with in-season ingredients, admiring the rebirth of nature and just an overall sense of lightening up — from our clothing to the decor in our homes; shedding layers, if you will. The glorious rebirth of spring led me to create this special series, Simplified Spring Living, my homage to saying farewell to winter and hello to warmer, simpler days ahead! Let’s kick off the series with this easy, spring-inspired family meal of Pasta with Shallots and Fresh English Peas!
16 ounces of fresh, shelled English peas (rinsed, drained and picked over)
1 lb. short pasta (I used a dry gnocchi)
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Butter, about 3 Tbsp.
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large saute pan, heat about 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil.
Add the shallots and begin to soften.
Add the peas and 2 Tbsp. of butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a small amount of water (the peas need some liquid to cook in). Cover and cook over medium heat until peas are tender but not mushy. This could take up to 30 minutes or so. At this point, the peas should have absorbed most of the water.
When the peas are nearly done, begin cooking the pasta to al dente.
When the pasta is al dente and the peas are tender, spoon the pasta directly into the saute pan using a handheld colander.
If the pasta-pea mixture seems too dry, add a little of the pasta water.
Mix together in the pan with 1 more Tbsp. of butter.
Pour into a large bowl and add a few handfuls of grated cheese, gently mixing to incorporate,
Serve with more grated cheese and a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese. Garnish with freshly chopped Italian parsley, if desired.
As the weather begins to warm up and the days get longer, we find ourselves turning to lighter, quicker meals that that are easy to prepare and even easier to serve and eat. These lazier days of spring and summer mean less time fussing in the kitchen and more time with family and friends enjoying all that the season has to offer. From picnics to dinner on the patio to grab-and-go meals eaten on the bleachers at the local ball field, savor the beauty of the season and simplify meal time.
This easy Chicken Satay is best prepared the night before, which is a big time-saver. It’s perfect as a quick appetizer before a family meal, or as the main course served alongside a salad, grilled pineapple slices or simply dressed Asian noodles. Make the peanut dipping sauce up to a few hours ahead of time and keep in an airtight container until ready to serve. Grill the chicken indoors or out — it couldn’t be fresher or easier!
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (add more if your family prefers it spicy)
Salt and pepper to taste
For the dipping sauce:
About ½ cup of creamy peanut butter
4 Tbsp. rice vinegar
Water, about 6-7 Tbsp. (to thin out the sauce)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Chopped peanuts (optional)
Chopped green onions (optional)
In a bowl, toss the chicken strips with the sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper, salt and pepper. If making it ahead, store in the refrigerator until ready to grill. To save space in the fridge, store chicken in a sealed plastic bag.
Before grilling, carefully thread each strip of chicken onto a bamboo skewer. Brush hot grill pan with canola or vegetable oil. Grill on both sides until chicken is cooked through, You can also grill outdoors on a BBQ.
For the dipping sauce, combine peanut butter, rice vinegar and red pepper in a small bowl. Mix to begin incorporating. Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time to thin out the sauce, whisking briskly. Taste and adjust the pepper, if desired. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add more water. Whisk until smooth.
Garnish dipping sauce with chopped peanuts and green onions, if desired.
I’ve been trying to incorporate more fresh ginger into my diet considering its many health benefits. It’s used liberally in India for aiding in digestion and battling cold and flu. It helps to keep the sinus passageways clear, soothes an upset stomach and boasts anti-inflammatory properties, too. I’ve added it to chicken dishes, stir fry, grated it into homemade fruit jams and also dropped a big chunk into chicken soup when my daughter had an upset tummy. This time, I infused green tea, another healing food, with ginger syrup and created a delicious, cool, refreshing beverage. Keep a pitcher of this in the fridge to sip on all spring and summer long!
Fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (I used a piece that was about 4-5 inches in length)
For the green tea:
8 green tea bags
To make the ginger simple syrup, combine sugar and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat and add the fresh ginger slices. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Keep covered and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Cool completely. Strain out the ginger and discard. Store in a jar or bottle in the fridge until ready to use.
To make the tea, add 8 tea bags to water, bring to a boil. Cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and discard. Allow to cool.
Pour the green tea into a large pitcher or bottle. Add as much or as little of the simple syrup as you like. Serve cold. Keep in fridge.
In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to put my own spin on the classic Irish dish of corned beef and cabbage. Instead of using a corned beef brisket that’s been soaked in brine (which is extremely high in sodium), I opted for a lean, thin-sliced beef brisket that my butcher cut for me — no brine! Slow roasting the beef in a low oven for several hours ensures buttery, tender slices. For the vegetables, I roasted chunks of red potatoes, savoy cabbage and red cabbage, for a vibrant, tasty side dish. And to wash it all down, a cold bottle of imported Guinness stout! Cheers to the luck of the Irish!
If you love a good, old fashioned peanut butter cookie and a cold glass of milk, you’ll love this healthier version. Sweet, salty and oh-so-chewy, they’re also gluten free, which is a popular diet and nutrition trend these days. For this recipe, I used half granulated white sugar and half organic coconut sugar (coconut palm sugar has a lower glycemic level than white sugar), but you could certainly use the full amount of granulated sugar if you don’t have coconut sugar on hand. All-natural or organic peanut butter also contributes to making this cookie light and chewy. I just love this recipe because it’s so darn easy to make; the batter takes less than five minutes to throw together, so you can make warm, peanut butter cookies in no time at all. Be sure to double the batch because the kids are sure to want this as an after-school snack!
If the thought of prix fixe menus and over-crowded, noisy restaurants have you feeling unenthusiastic about Valentine’s Day dinner this year, you’ve come to the right place! Why not stay in this year and make a super easy, elegant dish that will impress your sweetie (or in my case, my sweetie and three kids!)? With just a few simple ingredients, you can pull together a main-course pasta dish that will have your taste-buds doing the happy dance — all in the privacy and comfort of your own kitchen!
1 pound of cleaned, de-veined large shrimp (I prefer to remove the tails also when I'm serving mixed with pasta); I cut the shrimp in half, but you can certainly leave them whole
1 pound of Barilla farfalle pasta
1 bag of pre-washed baby spinach
1 8-ounce bottle of Cento clam juice
1 medium shallot, finely shopped
About 2 Tbsp. butter
Juice of half a lemon
Crushed red pepper
In a large skillet, saute the shallot in about one Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter. Saute until tender, but not brown.
Add the shrimp. Begin to saute with the chopped shallot. Add the whole bottle of clam juice. Cover and allow to cook over medium-high heat until the shrimp begin to turn slightly pink and the broth is gently simmering.
At this point, add 1 Tbsp. butter and the lemon juice.
Season with salt, red pepper and black pepper, to taste. The clam juice is salty, so don't go too heavy with adding more salt.
In the meantime, cook the pasta. You can begin cooking the pasta right away since the shrimp really only takes a few minutes to cook.
Add the baby spinach to the shrimp, allowing it to just become wilted. Remove from the heat.
Using a handheld colander, begin scooping the pasta, draining slightly and adding directly to the pan with the shrimp and spinach. Reserve some pasta cooking water in case the pasta seems too dry.