Appetizers/ Salads and Sides

Beet Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette over Creamy Ricotta

Beet Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette over Creamy Ricotta~ a delicious plate made with a sweet and sour tasting beet salad that is tossed with a simple pomegranate vinaigrette and served over a bed of creamy ricotta and topped with crushed pistachios and broccoli sprouts.  SO delicious!

The combination of different textures in every bite will definitely satisfy everyone’s palate.  Perfect to serve as an appetizer or even as a side dish to any main course, this is one beet salad you will enjoy this summer!

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Breakfast Breads and Lattes

Avocado Toast for Breakfast

Avocado Toast for Breakfast ~ is a delicious breakfast that requires no cooking and provides the essential fat, fiber, vitamins and energy to start your day with.  All you need to do is simply mix one fresh avocado with lime juice, spread onto your favorite slice of toasted bread and top with a few crushed red pepper flakes, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and fresh chopped chives.

So good for you, this tasty Avocado Toast is packed with tons of nutrients creating the perfect morning boost!

And let me tell you, as soon as you take your first bite of this zesty, fresh tasting avocado toast, you’ll be mesmerized by its unique and delicious flavors.  Layered onto a warm crispy piece of toast, it’s crunchy and super creamy textures are invigorating in every bite. It’s literally addicting!

So simple to make, there’s really nothing to this recipe. Just a few fresh ingredients to create a quick and healthy meal that can be enjoyed anytime of the day. It’s basically mashed avocado on top of toast and we added a few more ingredients to make it more savory.  We buy avocados often and always keep them in the fridge so they’re nice and cold.  Who can resist the cool creaminess of an avocado on top a warm crispy toast. You can taste the extra virgin olive oil that makes it savory with every bite.

Avocado Toast is not only great for breakfast, you can enjoy eating this for lunch or even as an afternoon snack too!  Local cafes and restaurants have avocado toast on their menus and my daughter loves to order it from time to time, but it’s very pricey.  I’d rather make it at home for her and save money!

Inspired by my daughter who is the absolute avocado lover!

If you love avocados as much as she does, then here is another scrumptious breakfast idea for you to try, our Avocado Spinach Fruit Smoothie!


Avocado Toast for Breakfast

1.  In a small bowl, using a fork, mash one fresh avocado and stir with fresh lime juice, until well combined and the texture is creamy.

2.  Toast 1 slice of your favorite bread in a toaster or toaster oven, until crispy golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3.  Using a spatula or knife, spread evenly on top of warm toast with mashed avocado.

4.  Lightly drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes, sea salt and fresh chopped chives.  Slice avocado toast down the middle or slightly diagonally.  Serve immediately.

Serves 1


Peach Foster Pudding Parfaits

Peach Foster Pudding Parfaits ~ are made with creamy, silky vanilla pudding and caramelized peaches. Served in parfait glasses to make an elegant and delicious springtime dessert! Perfect to serve at a brunch, luncheon or dinner party.

Sliced peaches are quickly pan seared with butter, cinnamon, and honey, then they are transferred to parfait glasses and layered with vanilla pudding.  A sweet variation on the classic bananas foster we truly love. Only I decided to lighten the recipe a bit.

You don’t have to wait for the summer time to enjoy these parfaits.  Sliced peaches can be found in the freezer section at the supermarket and are ready for you when you need them. They worked just fine for this dessert.

With only a few basic steps and a few simple ingredients you can achieve the “foodie excellence” the whole family will truly enjoy!  First, make the peaches foster on stove-top, sauteing them with some butter, cinnamon and honey, which takes about 2 minutes.  Then set the peaches foster aside to allow the them to cool slightly.  No need to add any liquor with this recipe even though it would be yummy to add in a splash of rum!

Next, make the vanilla pudding, cooking it until it thickens, then allow it to cool slightly.  Drop a few peaches in each parfait glass and remember to reserve a few peaches to garnish on top.  Slowly pour the vanilla pudding into each glass, filling to about 3/4 full or more, add a slice of peach on top and chill for a few hours, or overnight.

I am loving the organics vanilla pudding that comes in a box.  It makes it so much easier to make pudding this way and the dessert comes together quickly.

The creamy texture of vanilla pudding compliments the peaches foster flavor, just as it would if you were to serve it with vanilla ice cream.  So yummy and delicious!  Spring and summer desserts like these are simple to do and make a pretty presentation when you need one.

Of course, when summer finally arrives and the peach season begins, I can hardly wait to make these peach foster pudding parfaits again and enjoy them even more.  Maybe, I’ll even add in some rum!

Peach Foster Pudding Parfaits

1.  In a medium saute pan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in the honey and cinnamon. When mixture begins to bubble, add the sliced peaches and cook until the peaches are hot, about 1 to 2 minutes. Gently spooning the sauce over the peaches as they are cooking.  Remove from heat and set them aside to cool.

2.  Combine pudding mix and milk in a small sauce pan.  Stir well to dissolve mixture.  Cook pudding over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Bring mixture to a boil, cook and stir for additional minute before removing from heat.  Set aside.

3.  Place 3 or 4 slices of the cooked peaches on the bottom of each parfait, and set aside 4 slices of peach for garnish.  Slowly pour the vanilla pudding into each parfaits over the peaches.  Set them aside to cool for a few minutes or refrigerate for about 10 minutes.  Then add the remaining slice of peach on top, sprinkle with some cinnamon as garnish.  Return to refrigerate at least 2 hours or more. Serve chilled.

Makes 4 servings

One Dish Meals/ Pasta Dishes/ Sauces

Tagliatelle with Fresh Tomato Sausage Ragu

Tagliatelle Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sausage Ragu ~ is a delicious dish to serve on any weeknight.  

Sweet Italian sausage links, olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, crushed red pepper, white wine and fresh basil is all you need to make this simple sausage ragu taste delicious and make it in less than 15 minutes! Then the tagliatelle pasta is tossed with this delicious sausage ragu, fresh cherry tomatoes, some chopped onions and topped with grated Parmesan cheese.  Light and tasty, it’s so yummy!

Fresh ingredients make this dish so fresh tasting and amazingly light.  This meal is not only satisfying, but it’s one of those “all-in-one dish” containing carbs, protein and fresh vegetables. It makes preparing dinner and clean up easier.

To make a quick sausage ragu,  you will only need two sausage links or a package of ground sausage. I prefer using Italian sweet sausages because they are mild in flavor.  While browning the sausage, I added in some crushed red pepper to give it some heat.

But if you prefer more heat, you can add in more crushed red pepper to satisfy a more spicy taste to the sausage ragu. Then add fresh basil, wine and tomato paste or some fresh marinara sauce, if you have some already in the fridge.

Most recipes for sausage ragu calls for cooking the meat in a tomato sauce for a long period of time.

Traditionally in our home, any meat ragu is served on Sundays. But this one is different. It’s a lighter ragu sauce and serving it with Tagliatelle Pasta is perfect simply because tagliatelle noodles are made with semolina flour and eggs, creating a very light weight pasta. Similar to egg noodles, when tagliatelle is boiled, it has a lighter texture and tastes like it’s homemade pasta.

All these wonderful and fresh ingredients makes this pasta dish very light and fresh tasting.

Sometimes it’s great to have a light dish for dinner on those weeknights when your’re not in the mood for too much meat or fuss over the stove for along period of time.

This sausage ragu is a lighter version, requiring less time to cook, and tastes amazingly fresh! Literally,  about the same time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta is the amount of time to prepare the sausage ragu.  It’s that quick!

And, let’s not forget to add some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top to complete this delicious meal.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Tagliatelle with Fresh Tomato Sausage Ragu

  • 12 ounce Tagliatelle pasta, any Italian brand 
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil – divided
  • 4 garlic cloves – finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound ground Italian sweet sausage (about 4 links, casings removed)
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste or 1/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes – halved
  • 1/4 cup red onion- thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bunch freshly chopped basil leaves- divided
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • optional: 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

1.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cook until golden color, about 1 minute.  Add the ground sausage and crushed red pepper flakes and cook until browned, about 4 to 6 minutes.

2. Add lots of fresh basil (reserve some basil to garnish) stirring for 1 minute.  Then add in the tomato paste and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring.  Next, pour in the wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat.

3.  Cook tagliatelle pasta until it’s al-dente, or according to the package directions, but it’s best to cook the pasta 1 minute less than it states on the package.  Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid, drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

4. Transfer the sausage ragu to the pot with the tagliatelle pasta and toss in the cherry tomatoes and red onion, and drizzle in 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.  Optional: you can add in 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, this will give is a zing more freshness flavor to this dish.  If the pasta seems a little dry, pour in some of the reserved water.  Toss all together until well combined.  Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and more fresh basil on top.

Serves 4

Salads and Sides/ Vegetarian Recipes

Crunchy Broccoli, Raisins, and Walnut Salad

Crunchy Broccoli, Raisins and Walnut Salad ~ is one refreshing and colorful salad you’ll want to put on your list of salads this summer.  This is the salad you’ll want to make over and over again because it’s loaded with fresh vegetables as it offers a superb flavor and a nice crunch with every bite.

I decided to revive this salad from our archives again since it’s become our all time favorite. This salad is simply tossed with fresh chopped broccoli, fresh chopped cabbage, raisins, dried cranberries and walnuts with a sweet, Dijon vinaigrette. Then topped with crispy bacon just before it’s served.  It was so amazing, we all couldn’t stop eating it

This fresh crunchy broccoli salad happens to be my take on a salad that I would often buy at our local deli.  The gentleman behind the counter was rude and reluctant to giving up his secret dressing (he reminded me of a bull dog).  Regardless, I tried to duplicate his salad, and with only a few attempts, I was able to come pretty close to the taste of that wonderful tasting dressing.

This salad will make a great choice to bring to any BBQ or any friends gathering this summer because it’s one that will definitely not wilt nor get soggy; in fact, it will remain fresh and crispy up to 3 days.

Crunchy Broccoli, Raisins and Walnut Salad is relatively easy to make. You only need a few minutes to chop the broccoli and cabbage. Once it’s ready and tossed all together, you’ll need to allow the salad to marinate for an hour or two before serving.  A vegetable salad that is refreshing, satisfying and healthy at the same time, is a win-win for everyone! 
We promise, this will be a summer salad that will never disappoint either.  Everyone truly loves it! 
Give it a try and let us know!  Have a great day! 

Crunchy Broccoli, Raisins and Walnut Salad

  • 1 lb. fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 small head white cabbage-thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup organic dried cranberries
  • 5 slices of bacon

1.  Clean and rinse broccoli. Cut broccoli florets from stems, and separate florets into small bite-size pieces. Peel away tough outer layer of stems. Finely chop stems.

2.  Whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, mustard, both vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl.  Add broccoli, cabbage, raisins, cranberries, red onion and walnuts; stir to coat.

3.  Cover and chill for two hours.

4.  In the meantime, cover a paper plate with a paper towel and place bacon on the plate, then place another paper towel on top to cover the bacon.  Cook bacon in the microwave for 4.5 minutes.

5.  Remove and crumble the bacon into small pieces.  Set aside.  When ready to serve, toss in the bacon pieces, reserve a few pieces to garnish on top.  Serve.

Yields: 8 servings 

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Hello Friends!  Hope you all had a lovely Easter this past weekend. The weather is beautiful here in Charleston and we are having a great time with a house full of guests these past few weeks. We will be back with more recipes next week. In the meantime, have a great weekend!  

Appetizers/ Kid-Friendly Recipes/ Vegetarian Recipes

Spinach and Kale Bites

Spinach and Kale Bites ~ Little vegetable balls loaded with spinach, kale and Parmesan cheese then lightly coated with panko breadcrumbs and baked until crispy and tender.  These little bites burst with spinach and Parmesan cheese flavor! The taste of kale is completely hidden in this little appetizer, making them the ideal snack for the picky eaters.

I saw these little spinach and kale bites in the freezer section at Trader Joes and since I got hooked on Kale for the first time this summer, making scrumptious kale drinks like kale smoothies,  I bought a box and tried them for the first time.  They were very tasty, but a little too salty and a bit expensive.

So I decided to make them myself and duplicate the recipe as close as possible, only I decided to roll them panko breadcrumbs for some crunch.  The outcome was really terrific, crunchy on the outside and super moist on the inside.  The Parmesan cheese definitely adds depth of flavor to them.

These are easy enough to make a day in advance for a party, and throw them in the oven when guests arrive. They’re amazingly light and festive, definitely worthy for a fancy dinner or a holiday party.  Terrific to serve at football parties too.  You can also try our mini rice balls as another fun appetizer. 

If you omit the panko breadcrumbs from this recipe, you’ll have gluten-free spinach and kale bites.
These bites can be expensive to buy frozen (about $5 for 10 bites).  And, most frozen foods are packed with high levels of sodium as well as some other unknown ingredients.  When you make them yourself, they’re definitely fresher and more cost effective.

I love them because they’re baked not fried, loaded with antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and K, plus I’m giving my family a healthier snack instead of junk food.  Enjoy!

Spinach and Kale Bites

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a frying pan, heat and melt butter with olive oil.  Add yellow onion and sauté until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add spinach and kale and cook until they wilt, about 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Place cooked contents into a food processor along with one chopped scallion and pulse for several seconds. Transfer mixture to a medium size mixing bowl. 

4. Add one egg, 2/3 cup of panko bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese.  Mix with a spoon until well combined.  Add salt and black pepper to taste and a dash of cayenne pepper.

5. In a second smaller bowl or dish, pour some panko bread crumbs. Take a teaspoon full the spinach and kale mixture into your hand.  Make a small ball with your hands (larger than a quarter, smaller than a golf ball).


6. Gently roll ball into panko bread crumbs to coat evenly.

7.  Lightly spray baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place the spinach and kale bites onto baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Yields: 20 bites
Meat Dishes

The Perfect Filet Mignon Roast

The Perfect Filet Mignon Roast ~ is crusty on the outside, but also moist, juicy and tender on the inside and seasoned to perfection! The meat is so unbelievably moist, it’s like butter!

We gave this roast its full flavor by adding prosciutto, onions and seasonings. But the secret to making a perfect roast is keeping water at the bottom of the pan while roasting in the oven. We highly recommend using a roasting rack with this recipe.  This helps keep the roast super moist while cooking.  It’s also the reason why it’s so tender. 

Not everyone prefers poultry, turkey or even a glazed ham for the holidays. Our family LOVES this Filet Mignon Roast on special occasions and it’s a nice alternative. Serve this roast as your main course with your favorite side dishes.

And, don’t forget the wine!  Definitely a red! …we prefer to pair it with a Chianti.

Enjoy this fantastic feast! 

The Perfect Filet Mignon Roast

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2.  In a large roasting pan with a roasting rack that fits most roasting pans, lay the slices of the prosciutto on the bottom of rack horizontally, overlapping slices.  Place the Filet Mignon roast on top of  prosciutto.  Season the meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder generously.

3.  Scatter sliced onions on top. 

4.  Pour about 4 cups of water in the bottom of roasting pan, (under the roasting rack) just below the meat but not touching.  Drizzle olive oil over meat.

5.  Cook for 20 minutes per pound, about 2 hours.  Rotate the roast every half hour.
Remove from rack, and place onto cutting board, allow the roast to sit for 5 to 7 minutes before carving.

6.  Carve into 1-inch slices.  Remove the string, and transfer slices onto a serving platter.
Serve immediately.

Serve with our vegetable sides like garlic mashed potatoes and sweet baby peas with onions and capers.  Enjoy!

Serves 6 to 8

Casseroles/ One Dish Meals/ Vegetable Sides

Best Eggplant “Manicotti” Casserole

Eggplant “Manicotti” Casserole ~ is a smart way to eating your favorite manicotti without all the calories and carbs! Cleverly swap out crepes or pasta noodles for eggplant slices that have been roasted then filled with ricotta, rolled, and topped with tomato sauce and cheese. Baked in one casserole to resemble manicotti.  Not only is this dish so delicious, it also cuts the carbs, fat and calories to more then half! How great is that?

Traditionally, mom would always serve manicotti as the first course on Easter Sunday, followed by 10 other dishes as the main course.  But, ever since a Costco opened up in our parents neighborhood, (and I’m taking about years ago) my mom would buy them already made. Throw them into a baking dish, add sauce and cheese on top and bake.  Back then, my parents were so obsessed over Costco, they would shop there weekly.  They would constantly tell us how they much money they saved!
And we’d rolled our eyes, and say, Ok, we get it,  yeah – we know – you go broke to save money!  Haha…

So true.

Anyway, I made this eggplant “manicotti” for my family and realized it was so good, I had to share it with you.  My daughter Lizzy loved the idea of serving these eggplant “manicotti” as the first course instead of pasta.  Good idea – for everyone.  And, since I’ve have been testing a few recipes this past week in order to decide on the menu for our Easter dinner, the decision was unanimous!  Eggplant manicotti will be served as the first course.  Hands down!

With a little planning in advance, you can make this casserole of eggplant manicotti very easily.

First, you will need 2 cups of tomato sauce (marinara sauce is best to use), ricotta cheese, fresh basil, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and shredded mozzarella. Good quality ingredients is what makes this dish so amazing!  You will taste the freshness of each ingredient as the flavors will burst in your mouth with every bite.  The dreamy creamy ricotta cheese melted, nestled inside of tender eggplant make this dish so irresistible, you won’t miss the crepes (or pasta), for sure!

Best of all, eggplant “manicotti” are so light, you’ll have plenty of room to enjoy the rest of your Easter dinner.

My family now believes it’s the BEST “manicotti” casserole they have ever had!  Who are they kidding, … it’s the only one they ever had!  …Enjoy!

Try this recipe!  Let us know how it turns out.  Have a great Tuesday!

Best Eggplant “Manicotti” Casserole

  • 2 large eggplants, (about 8 or 9-inches long and 5-inches in diameter)
  • 1 + 1/4 cups of ricotta cheese, (such as Polly O, or Galbani)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese -divided
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 2 cups Mom’s Quick Marinara Sauce – divided
  • 3/4 cup shredded whole milk (or reduced fat) mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil – divided

1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.  Using a large, sharp knife, slightly square off the tops and slightly the bottom of each eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 8 to 10 slices that are about 1/4-inch thick.  Don’t worry if they are not the exact size or thickness. When they bake, no one will notice any difference.

Then lay the eggplant slices on the prepared baking sheets. You can overlap them slightly.
Season with some salt and black pepper to taste.

3.  BAKE eggplants in oven for about 10 minutes, remove and lightly drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each baking sheet.  Return them back to the oven to continue roasting for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the eggplant is golden and tender.  Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

4.  REDUCE oven to 350 degrees.  While the eggplant is cooling down, prepare the ricotta filling.
Combine and blend the ricotta with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and dried parsley.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of an 9 x 6-inch baking dish.  Set aside.

6.  Lay the roasted eggplant slices on a work surface, two at a time.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon (a good dollop) of the ricotta mixture onto an end of the eggplant slice and roll it up.

Place each eggplant “manicotti,” seam side down, in the baking dish, side by side and in two rows ( if you can).  Place as many as you can into the baking dish.  Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the eggplant evenly.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese on top, then with shredded mozzarella.

7.  BAKE (at 350 degrees) for 15 to 18 minutes, until the cheese is heated through, bubbly and golden on top.  Remove and set it aside for 2 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Serves: 2 Eggplant “Manicotti” per person (yields: 5 to 6 servings)
Recipe adapted from Rocco Dispirito

Cooks Notes: When slicing the eggplant, don’t worry if they’re not exactly 1/4-inch thick, you may have extra eggplant slices, and that’s Ok, since some slices may get charred if too thin and cannot be rolled into manicotti, which is the reason why I use 2 eggplants.  Make two rows of the “manicotti” in the baking dish, this will make it easier for serving.  Also, you can prepare this casserole the night before (do not bake it), cover with foil wrap and chill over night. Then take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes,or more (to warm up to room temperature) before baking, then bake it uncovered.

Holiday Treats/ Kid-Friendly Recipes

Easter Bark

Easter is coming and just in time for fun and simple homemade candy recipes! Have you ever heard of Easter Bark? Kids love making colorful creations for Easter especially ones that are delicious to eat! Imagine all the different combinations of barks we can make right now. They’re not only delicious to eat, they make a festive presentation and put a smile on every one’s face.

Easter Bark is made like all other barks. Just melt white chocolate and pour it out onto a surface, add your favorite toppings and then cut it into pieces! It’s very easy and a fun activity in the kitchen for the whole family to enjoy. To make it look more like an Easter bark, I dropped pastel colored M&M candies on the base layer and then scattered shredded coconut and some green sparkling sugar on top.

My girls love the taste of this white chocolate bark. It offers a pleasing flavor, the coconut adds a soft-chewy texture and the M&M candies offer a soft crunch in every bite.

My girls think it’s cool to make chocolate bark for the holidays. They love to package them into gifts and give them away to family and friends. They even make the perfect gift for teachers!

Spring colored barks like this Easter bark also make a wonderful festive gift for special occasions, showers, and Mother’s Day!

Personally, I enjoy making chocolate bark all year long especially during all holidays.

Happy Lent and have a great day! 🙂

Easter Bark

Using a double boiler and over low heat, melt white chocolate chips, gently stirring until it melts.
Be careful not to over heat white chocolate, or it will seize up.

Pour the melted white chocolate out onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and spread it out to any shape you like. ( I shaped it into a giant egg).  Drop pastel M&M candies on top and lightly press each one into the white chocolate layer.  Then sprinkle on top with some shredded coconut.  I even pressed some shredded coconut around the edges of the bark.  Then top with a sprinkle of green colored sparkling sugar.

Place the baking sheet into the fridge to cool and firm up, about 1 hour.
When the chocolate is completely hardened, cut into pieces with a heavy knife.  Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Yields: about 20 pieces