Cocktail Time: The Aperol Spritz

8 Oct

Here is another post inspired by our recent trip to Italy, the delicious cocktail that is quintessentially Italian, the Aperol spritz. As you look around while sitting at any of the beautiful outdoor cafes the Aperol spritz is everywhere.

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The cocktail is made with the aperitif Aperol that is produced in Italy by Compari. It is refreshing and slightly bitter with the perfect dose of sweetness. The most common garnish is an orange slice but while I was doing research I came across recipes that used everything; cucumbers, raspberries, thyme, rosemary and olives among others. I chose to use fresh rosemary from our garden. (Also because I forgot to get an orange and didn’t feel like going back to the grocery store…again!)

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You’ll need:

3 parts Prosecco

2 parts Aperol

1 part sparkling water

Ice cubes

Garnish of your choice

Add a good amount of ice cubes to a pretty glass, I like a wine glass. Pour the ingredients into the glass, add garnish and begin sipping! Saluti!

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This cocktail is also referred to as the 3-2-1 because of the ratio of ingredients.

And if you look closely at the top right of this photo you can see our goat Pepsi…

*Cocktail napkins: Patio Fashions

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Tuscan Inspired Vegetable Soup

1 Oct

We recently took a vacation to Italy; we went to Rome, Tuscany and Florence. All of which were beautiful but I have to say that Tuscany is absolutely breath taking! The scenery, the food, the wine and the people were all wonderful.


When we left it was still summer, now it is definitely fall. And soup season has only just begun, so with that in mind after scouring several recipes I came up with my own Tuscan inspired vegetable soup. While in Tuscany we took a cooking class, it was so much fun! There were 2 other couples in the class from New Jersey, what are the odds?! The one thing that I learned in the class that was eye opening is that the chef didn’t use white onions or Spanish onions in anything, only red. He said that they only use red onions because they are sweeter and don’t have the bitterness that the others can have. Huh, who would have guessed. So in this recipe I used red onion, normally I would have used a Spanish onion for sure.

One other thing about this recipe is that I used pink beans, most Italian soups with beans call for cannellini beans but I did’t have any and certainly didn’t feel like going to the grocery store…again.

Ingredients:

3 Tbs olive oil

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

4 celery stalks, sliced

1 red onion, diced

1 zucchini, sliced then cut the slices into halves

3 cloves, garlic, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried basil

3 Tbs tomato paste

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

6 cups vegetable stock

2 cups spinach

salt and pepper to taste

8 oz. elbow macaroni cooked and drained

Directions:

Heat a large heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium low heat, add olive oil. When oil is heated add onions, celery and carrots. Slowly cook vegetables, stirring every few minutes until they begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, basil, oregano and zucchini; cook for 5 minutes more.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, bay leaf and stock to pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes more. In the meantime cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside.

After the soup has been simmering for 20 minutes add spinach and cook for 3 or 4 minutes more. Remove from heat.

I like to add the pasta as I eat the soup otherwise in my opinion the pasta sops up the liquid and the soup gets gloppy.

Add some pasta to a bowl, pour desired amount soup over pasta and serve with parmesan cheese and crusty Italian bread. And of course a nice glass of red wine doesn’t hurt!

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* Photographed on Patio Fashions Chambray tablecloth with Patio Fashions Chambray napkins*

 

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Cacciatore, Hold the Chicken!

16 Aug

Since becoming a vegetarian I learned how to make all kinds of recipes without meat, and this has become a favorite. Summer time in New Jersey means lots of fresh local vegetables including eggplant, peppers and the famous Jersey tomatoes all of which I used in this recipe. Now I know most of you think of New Jersey as crowded and dirty, with bad drivers but in fact, there is a lot of farmland and beautiful rolling hills. We have lots of local farmers markets where we can get everything from local produce to homemade pies. (We are called the Garden State for a reason.)

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This is the perfect summer time pasta dish that is light, has lots of taste and loaded with healthy veggies!

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Just a few notes-I peeled the eggplant, I don’t like the skin but it’s up to you. You can use your favorite mushrooms, I used baby Portobello, just about any kind will do. Finally, instead of the 14 oz can of diced tomatoes I used fresh Jersey tomatoes.

 

Ingredients:

1 lb eggplant, sliced into 1/4 thick slabs

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

6 oz dried penne pasta

1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced

1 small onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, any color, sliced into strips

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp capers

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dry

1/2 tsp dry oregano

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub eggplant slabs with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake until eggplant are slightly browned and tender, but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

 

While eggplant is baking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to instructions. Drain when done and return pot, toss with a bit of olive oil. Set aside.

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While eggplant bakes and pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and  place over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes more. Add garlic and sauté’ for another minute. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook until liquid is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, capers, rosemary, oregano and red pepper flakes to skillet and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and add eggplant, simmer 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Serve over pasta with a salad, crusty bread and a glass of delicious wine!

Thank you to Connoisseurusveg.com for this recipe and the photo of the final dish, mine didn’t look quite as good.

 

Summer Salad Series III: Hearty Roasted Veggie Salad

28 Jun

This is the perfect salad for a healthy summer meal, the potatoes and chick peas make it a bit heartier than a typical salad. For those of you who need protein you can always add chicken or salmon. And the balsamic dressing for this salad is super simple and really delicious, you should definitely keep it handy and use it for other salads!

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Ingredients-Salad:

12 asparagus spears, ends cut off and cut in half

1 cup red potatoes, quartered

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs balsamic nectar or vinegar

Salt and pepper

2 cups arugula or baby spring greens (I’m not a fan of arugula)

1 avocado, sliced

1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, halved

1/3 cup canned chick peas, drained and rinsed

Ingredients-Dressing:

4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs balsamic nectar or vinegar

1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of dried oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the potatoes and asparagus in the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, tossing once or twice during that time. Add the asparagus to the potatoes and roast for another 10 minutes. Once the vegetables are done remove from oven, let cool for a bit.

While the vegetables are roasting, whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.

To assemble, grab a nice big bowl; add lettuces, then add the rest of vegetables and sprinkle with the chick peas. Whisk the dressing before drizzling it over the salad and there you have it! Super easy, super healthy and super yummy!

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*Napkin by Patio Fashions

Recipe from Pumpkin and Peanut Butter

Summer Salad Series II: A New Take an Old Stand By…Potato Salad with Green Beans

21 Jun

As much as I love traditional potato salad, it’s always nice to try something new. My husband loves green beans so when I was looking through potato salad recipes and saw this one with green beans I knew it would be a winner. It is so easy and so delicious! Thank you Sweet Little Bluebird for this great recipe!

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Ingredients:

4 cups cooked potatoes, cubed-I used red skinned but you can use whatever you prefer

1 pound green beans, cooked al dente and cut in half

3 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp oregano

2 cloves pressed garlic

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 to 1/2 cup dressing-recipe calls for Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar Dressing, I personally like Ken’s Italian Dressing & Marinade

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss with desired amount of dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, toss well and refrigerate. Enjoy!

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I added about a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and you could also try adding some mustard, I think I may try that next time! I also added some tomato to my husbands and he loved it!

Summer Salad Series I: Beets with Herb Dressing

29 May

Kicking off the summer with a summer salad series. I love salad and eat it almost everyday, sometimes twice a day. When I go to someone’s house and ask what I can bring, I am always asked to bring the salad because not only do I love to eat salad, I love to make salad. And apparently I’m very good at it!

It’s easy to get in rut and get salad boredem. So each week I will post a new recipe that will broaden your salad horizon and hopefully inspire you to be more creative in the kitchen.

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Ingredients:

3 lbs roasted medium beets, preferably a mix of colors

1 large shallot, minced

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Salt

Fine grated zest of 1 orange

1/4 cup chopped, fresh flat leaf parsley

1 Tbs chopped, fresh tarragon

1/4 cup chopped, fresh chives

1/4 cup olive oil + 2 Tsb

1/4 cup finely chopped unsalted, roasted pistachios

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut tops off beets and rinse well. Place beets in a bowl, drizzle with  2 Tbs olive oil and toss till well coated. Place beets on a baking sheet lined with tin foil, cover tightly with tin foil. Bake for 1 hour until beets are tender.

Let beets cool.

In the meantime, in a bowl mix the shallots, vinegar and a large pinch of salt. Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in orange zest, tarragon, parsley, chives and oil. Season with salt to taste, stir well.

Arrange the beets in overlapping rows on platter. Stir dressing and spoon it over the beets. Sprinkle with pistachios and serve!

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*Keep in mind that you can always roast the beets and make the dressing ahead of time and then you can assemble right before you’re ready to serve.

**If you’re like me and you like your salad closer to room temperature, take the beets and dressing out of fridge about an hour before serving so that it’s not too cold.

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine and Top Chef Masters star Naomi Pomeroy

Pinspiration, Inspiration!

7 May

Inspiration can come from anywhere, anything or anyone. I’m am constantly inspired but I must admit that Pinterest can provide lots of inspiration for all kinds of things. I use Pinterest to find recipes, ideas for parties, clothing and so on and on….and now you can even buy that dress you found and have to have! It helps me to see where I need to be with my business, what people like; trends. I love that you can arrange things, add boards and I can add the items I sell from the website. Pinterest is a fabulous business tool. (No, I am not in cahoots with them, this is all me.)

Here are some simple but effective ideas to make your patio gatherings really great that I found on Pinterest.

1. Lighting: those pretty little white lights that everyone loves. String them around your patio or even the patio umbrella for that soft, pretty lighting that feels like you’re in Paris! *The Window Shop

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2. Place settings: Adding a touch of nature to your table setting, like this radish, so sweet and unexpected! *Better Homes and Gardens

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3. Unusual ice bucket: Use a wheel barrow, a wagon, a large tin tub for a bit of whimsy and fun. It does the job and looks really cool! * Style Me Pretty

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4. Fruity/Floral Ice Cubes: So easy and so pretty! What an impact something so small can make. Add fruit, herbs or even edible flower petals to ice cubes. They look so pretty in a glass of sangria or seltzer! *Kidsdigne

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5. Chambray: A chambray tablecloth or runner with chambray napkins. who doesn’t love chambray? I know I do, so I decided to use chambray this season. Coming soon to you, by me and Patio Fashions…stay tuned!

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*Chambray Photo thisisnotsonew

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