Sunday, June 29, 2014

Watermelon Jell-O® Shots

My husband and I love to entertain friends at our home. Tonight, we're having our friends, Kevin and Melissa, and their children over for dinner. Kevin and Enzo used to work together at Red Top Mountain State Park. We've been friends for many years - we even share the same wedding anniverary! Last year (on our anniversary) I saw that Melissa had posted on facebook that it was THEIR anniversary, so I quickly chatted her on facebook and we ended up celebrating our anniversaries together with dinner at Olive Garden. Just imagine - we just figured that out after all these years!

Anyway, tonight we're serving World's Best Lasagna, Grecian Pork Tenderloin, Oven Roasted Potatoes, a Tossed Salad with copycat Olive Garden Dressing and Banana Cake IV with Nutella Buttercream! It's my first time making John Chandler's World's Best Lasagna recipe (one of the most popular recipes on Allrecipes, with 8,307 reviews). It must be good, right? Let's hope so.

While I was making the marinade for the Grecian Pork Tenderloin, I finished juicing the limes (it takes 1-1/2 cups of fresh lime juice) and I was JUST about to throw all of the lime rinds into the garbage, when I remembered a video that Allrecipes had posted earlier this week on Instagram for Sliced Watermelon Jell-o® Shots! They looked so darn cute, and I DID have all of these lime rind halves that I could put to use, so I gave it a try.

A couple of the reviewers mentioned that they are hard to make. I found the video very helpful, and I didn't think they were difficult at all, but here are a few tips:

Tips & Tricks:

1. Once you have the lime turned inside-out, the best way to remove the membranes and flesh is to take a sharp knife and scrape from the top down, as if you were cleaning the white pith from a peeled orange.

2. Rather than place the lime halves in a dish towel lined dish - I used a mini muffin tin, which was the perfect size, and worked great.

3. I had a hard time finding black sesame seeds. I checked Walmart & Publix, and I even asked at a Chinese restaurant if they used them in any of their dishes (thinking they would sell me a little bit of them), but no luck. I knew that I had regular sesame seeds at home, so I decided to toast them to turn them brownish-black (that's really the color of watermelon seeds anyway, right?)  It worked like a charm.

4. To slice them, I found it much easier to place them jello side down on a cutting board, and then cut through the lime rind with a sharp knife, using firm pressure and a light back and forth motion.

5. After you slice them, you may notice that some of the jello pushes inward a bit from the pressure from slicing them, and leaves a slight edge of the rind showing. I just trimmed the excess rind with a scissors. I didn't get a picture of this with the jello inside, but you get the picture!

6. Made according to the recipe, they turned out WAY too boozy for us (I don't know, maybe we're getting too old?)  I would suggest adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vodka, rum or watermelon schnapps, depending on your tastes, or no booze at all!

Aren't they just the cutest things ever?

Recipe source: Allrecipes

These would be perfect for a 4th of July party! I might just have to make some more!

Buon Appetito!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tuna, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Working from home, I sometimes don't eat the best lunches. It easier to just walk through the kitchen and grab a piece of fruit and maybe some crackers and cheese, and call it "lunch". Today I really wanted something tasty and satisfying, and healthy. There was a tomato and a perfectly ripe avocado in one of my wrought iron baskets on my kitchen counter, just calling to be used! This is what I came up with:

Tuna, Tomato and Avocado Salad

1 Hass Avocado
1 medium vine ripe tomato, diced
1 (5 ounce) can of Genova Yellowfin Tuna (in pure olive oil), drained
1 small shallot, chopped
2 teaspoons of chopped cilantro
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, remove the pit and skin. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, lightly toss the tomato, tuna and shallot together.
  3. Place an avocado half on each of two plates. Top each avocado with half of the tuna mixture.
  4. Top each avocado with 1 teaspoon of chopped cilantro.
  5. Sprinkle each avocado with sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Serves 2

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed my lunch today! I served it with a few garlic bagel chips on the side . . . delicious!

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Strawberry Vanilla-Almond Scones

Today is a bitter-sweet day for us. Our daughter is leaving tonight for Santiago, Chile for ONE MONTH! The longest she has ever been away from us since she was born was when she went on a Disney trip with her middle school band class for three nights. I'm sure we will be filled with emotions as we drive home from the airport, after leaving her on her way.

She is going to stay with her Aunt ("Zia Nadia"), my husband's sister, and her cousins, Martin (7) and Valentina (5). Her Nonna is also there visiting Nadia right now too, so she will get to spend some quality time with her Nonna as well. We are excited for her to be able to have this experience, and are hoping that she can work on her Spanish (and Italian), while she's there.

When I got up this morning, I wanted to make a special treat for what would be her last breakfast at home for awhile. She loves scones, so I made two kinds this morning - chocolate chip (her favorite) and these!

Strawberry Vanilla-Almond Scones

For the Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons, cold, unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, halved and then sliced

For the Glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons of milk
1/4 cup of sliced almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a food processor, add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse a few times to combined. Add cubed butter and process until butter is incorporates and mixture is crumbly.
  3. Pour mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the strawberries and slivered almonds and mix gently until berries and almonds are incorporated.
  4. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to the cream, and then drizzle evenly over the flour/butter/strawberry/almond mixture.
  5. Using a rubber scraper, mix gently until the mixture starts to come together and form a dough. Don't worry if all of the dry ingredients aren't totally incorporated yet.
  6. Dump the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface, such as your countertop or a large cutting board.
  7. Flour your hands slightly, and using your hands, gather the dough together into a ball, kneading a few times to incorporate those last bits of flour that weren't incorporated before.  Flatten the ball into a disk about 10" in diameter and about 3/4" thick.
  8. Cut the dough in half, then into quarters, and then into eighths, forming eight equal size scones. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet, placing them 1" apart.
  9. Using a pastry brush, brush the scones with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream. Place baking sheet into oven and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until just starting to brown slightly. Remove from oven and cool the scones on the baking sheet.
  10. While the scones are cooling, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk (adding the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency). Place the sliced almonds on top of scones, and then drizzle with the glaze. The glaze acts as the "glue" to seal the almonds in place.
Adapted from

We will miss you Chiara, but are hoping that you have a great time in Chile!

Buon Viaggio!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tarragon Mashed Potatoes, Ham and Eggs Benedict

What a week it's been! I have been so busy with work lately, that my poor little blog has been neglected. After such a long work week, I needed something easy and comforting for dinner tonight. 

There wasn't much in the fridge, as I haven't had time to get to the grocery store. There was a bowl of leftover mashed potatoes that hubby made the other night, 4 eggs, some deli ham, and a few fresh herbs. Hmmm . . . I can work with this!

I went to the ingredients search on Allrecipes and typed in "mashed potatoes" and "ham".  I noticed a beautiful photo for the Ham Cups and Eggs recipe, and I knew right away that it was taken by one of my fellow Allrecipes Ambassadors (lutzflcat). She takes the most beautiful photos of the food that she makes. I quickly read her review (she gave it 5 stars), and knew that this was going to become dinner tonight!

Tarragon Mashed Potatoes, Ham and Eggs Benedict

4 cups mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, chopped
4 slices of deli ham
4 eggs
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of fresh parsley, chopped
1 package of Knorr® Hollandaise sauce (prepared as directed on the package)
Salt & Pepper (to taste) 

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease the bottom and sides of a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish with butter.
  2. If using leftover mashed potatoes, heat them in a glass bowl in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, until hot.  Re-whip them with a potato masher or electric mixer.
  3. Add chopped tarragon to the mashed potatoes, mix well, and spread in the bottom of the prepared casserole dish.
  4. Make 4 wells into the mashed potatoes. Line each of the wells with 1 slice of deli ham, using the ham to form a cup.
  5. Crack an egg into each of the ham cups.
  6. Sprinkle the entire casserole with the fresh parsley, salt and pepper.
  7. Cut the butter into small pieces and place them on top of the potatoes.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. If the tops of the eggs are not set to your liking, turn the oven on broil for a few minutes, until the top of the eggs reached the desired consistency.
  9. While the casserole is baking, prepare the hollandaise sauce.  Keep warm until ready to serve.
  10. To serve, divide among 4 plates and drizzle with hollandaise sauce.

Slightly adapted from Allrecipes

This was a fabulous and comforting Friday night dinner! Served with a couple of slices of fresh tomato and hubby's homemade bread ... what more could I ask for?

Buon Appetito!