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Roasted Tarragon Asparagus

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Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables to enjoy all year round because it goes great with both light dishes and heavier meals like comfort food in the winter time. It also doesn’t require a ton of other things to go with it for it to taste good. For the most part this is my default way of cooking asparagus. Sometimes I will eat this as a side dish, blend it with other veggies to make a soup or simply wrap it in pancetta but one of the best things ever is chopping it up and throwing it in a salad like my Everything Chopped Salad or my Herb Goat Cheese & Beet Salad. Either way it’s super flavorful and of course healthy.

This recipe doesn’t include garlic but a lot of times I will crush one large garlic clove and sprinkle it on top with the rest of the ingredients below. For you garlic lovers, you may want to do this!

4 – 6 servings

cooking spray
1 bunch (about 1 lb.) asparagus, bottoms trimmed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F degrees and spray a baking dish with the cooking spray. Place the asparagus evenly onto the baking dish and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and rub the dried tarragon between the palms of your hands over the asparagus. Finish by drizzling the top with olive oil.

Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes, depending on how thick the asparagus is. It should be ready when it’s sizzling and bright green in color.

The Best Vacuum Sealer

Have you ever wanted/needed something so badly but put it off because you want to make sure you get the very best product and you’re just not in that mindset to put a lot of time into research? So you don’t regret buying the wrong or crappiest one? Yeah. Me too. Especially, of course with kitchen goodies.

We’ve been needing a vacuum sealer for a long time now. It doesn’t matter how new our refrigerator is, all meat, seafood… well pretty much everything including ice cream keeps getting freezer burn. Within days to a week. The most annoying part is even though you can adjust the temperature, it doesn’t make a difference. Well finally! Thanks to my hubby, Vic who happens to be the research king, he found the most incredible vacuum sealer ever.

It’s the Weston Pro-2300. We bought it off of Amazon Prime which means free shipping. When he showed me this thing, I was initially intimidated by it’s industrial look and of course the price of $399. I had the impression that all vacuum sealers were around $100 so when I saw the price tag it left me a bit nervous to take the leap. Thanks to Vic and his adventurous, “oh what the hell, go big or go home right?” attitude, I probably would have never given this machine the time of day. Let me just say so far it’s the best $400 spent.

It’s available in both white or stainless. It can seal bags up to 15″ wide, and it has a transparent lid so you can see where exactly you’re sealing the bag. Which is a HUGE plus!  Oh and one of my favorite features is that you can completely detached the cord from the unit and it has it’s own storage spot in the back to place the cord in. One of my biggest pet peeves with anything that needs to be plugged in, is that there’s never a nice place for the cord and it’s always in the way. To me this was a great idea!

When using the vacuum sealer there’s an auto mode and manual mode. The auto mode is perfect for sealing any dry ingredients. The manual mode is for custom seals or any wet ingredients. It’s very simple to use the manual mode by simply pressing the start button to start the vacuuming process and once you’ve notice the air is out you press the manual button to stop it. This prevents the unit from sucking out too much air and squashing the contents. There’s no chance for error because the air gets sucked slow enough for you to stop it when you need to but does the job in a timely fashion as well. When it’s done it takes a few seconds to cool down the seal. And it actually does cool it down!

Put it this way, when it comes to keeping your food fresh longer and preventing the freezer from getting the best of your foods it’s hard to say that $400 is a lot of money. Especially when you know you’ll be using this thing regularly likely for the rest of your life LOL. It’s about as essential to the kitchen as having utensils. Just think how much buying one of these would save you in wasted food. So in the long run, it will save you money.

I have a feeling after using this a few more times, it will be in my top 5 favorite kitchen gadgets ever. Just think… beef jerky that won’t go bad before you finish eating it!!!

Lobster Saffron Risotto

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Risotto is often known as a heavier meal suitable for colder days. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With just the right combination of ingredients you can still enjoy risotto during the Summer using lighter flavors and fresh ingredients. A little bit can go a long way without leaving you starved. And you won’t be so stuffed to the point of not able to eat your dessert as well. If you’re looking for a easy and elegant Summer dinner, this is definitely a great option. It can’t get any better than lobster, lemon and saffron. When making this pour yourself and your guests some of the white wine and have a head start.

4 – 6 servings

1 pound (about 2) lobster tails
4 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1 large pinch saffron threads
½ cup white wine
1 lemon, juiced
5 cups chicken stock
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and let them boil for about 7-10minutes or until the tails curl and the meat is opaque white. Pull the lobsters out onto a plate and let them cool. Use kitchen shears to cut through the top of the shell down the center and pull apart the shell to remove the meat. Slice the lobster meat into ½ inch pieces and set aside.

In a medium saucepan bring the chicken stock to a boil and keep warm on low heat.

In a large deep saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat and sauté the onions for about 3 minutes. Add the crushed garlic, saffron and arborio rice, stir to get the rice coated in butter and lightly toasted for a minute. Pour in the white wine, stir and let simmer for 2 minutes. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and give it a quick stir.

Then start adding about a ½ cup of chicken stock at a time, stirring until most is absorbed and repeat until the rice is tender and creamy. This should take about 20 minutes. Remove the risotto from the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese, lemon zest, pepper and salt to taste. Top with the chunks of lobster and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Spicy Giardiniera

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Here’s a fresh and tangy Italian “relish” so to speak with a twisted kick of spicy Thai chili peppers. I recently started growing Thai chilies out here in this intense Summer heat and clearly peppers thrive on extremely hot days because there’s a couple dozen chilies growing all at once. With so many harvested I was a little lost with what to do with them until a friend of mine came up with a brilliant idea to make a burn your mouth version of Giardiniera.

In Italy it’s called “sotto aceti” literally meaning “under vinegar.” It’s usually served with your antipasto just like olives are and in the U.S. you’ll find it either in its whole pieces or chopped fine put into a spicy beef sandwich. However you choose to enjoy it is entirely up to you. Personally, being the grazer that I am, I love picking the veggies out of the jar one by one munching away or thrown in a very elaborate salad.

In this particular version I added a few extra favorite things that I thought would be a great fit; lupini beans, radishes and garlic. You can’t go wrong with most veggies when it comes to making a brine and marinating in a jar of olive oil and vinegar. Let me know how yours turns out!


1 quart mason jar
2 cups blanched cauliflower florets
2 carrots, peeled & sliced
2 large celery stalks, chopped 1 in. pieces
½ red bell pepper, seeded & chopped 1 in. pieces
2 large radishes, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
¼ cup kosher salt
5 Thai chilies, sliced (or your choice of chilies)
¼ cup lupini beans (optional)
3 large pepperoncinis, sliced (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
¼ cup filtered water

Place the cauliflower, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, radishes, garlic and salt in a large glass bowl and fill it with filtered water until all the veggies are covered. Use your hands to gently mix the veggies around until most of the salt dissolves. Place plastic wrap over the bowl and refrigerate overnight for at least 24 hours.

Drain the glass bowl of veggies in a colander and rinse them with cold water then transfer back to the bowl. Add the lupine beans, Thai chilies, pepperoncinis, olive oil, vinegar and water. And gently mix everything together with a large spoon. Lastly, transfer everything into the mason jar as much as you can.

Refrigerate for a couple of days or longer to your desired taste.


Herb Goat Cheese & Beet Salad

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I’ve written about not being a big salad person in a past salad recipe blog; unless it’s packed with tons of things to keep me interested enough to eat it let alone finish it. And that usually involves not just a bunch of flavorful veggies but also meat as well. This particular salad recipe would leave me sounding incredibly hypocritical. But, I’m gonna have to say there are very few exceptions to the rule. LOL! Mainly because it has HERBED GOAT CHEESE IN IT!!!

As much as I’m not into chain restaurants or chain anything for that matter; this salad was inspired by the French Country Salad from one of my few favorite chain restaurants, The Cheesecake Factory. I’ve been holding myself back from sharing this tasty re-creation because a lot of people don’t like beets. But I have to tell you, there’s something about the candied pecans and the herbaceous, creamy flavors of the goat cheese that merry so well with earthy beets. You just have to try it to understand. I could not get past the dirty taste of beets for so long until I came across this salad. I’m very thankful the waitress forgot to tell the kitchen to omit the beets when I ordered it or I’d be here today still loathing it.

Yet again, another simple, fresh, clean and satisfying dish that isn’t roughage alone. And get this, dairy from goats is naturally lactose free. And a much healthier alternative to cow derived dairy products!

4 servings


1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon worchestershire sauce
1 large garlic clove, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl whisk everything together and set aside.


1 head red leaf lettuce, rough chopped
4 cups baby spinach, rough chopped
1 bunch roasted tarragon asparagus, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can sliced beets
4 oz. herbed goat cheese
½ cup chopped candied pecans

Toss everything into a large salad bowl, crumble the goat cheese on top with your fingers, slowly drizzle the dressing over the top and gently fold everything together.

Blueberry Lemonade

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Some of the best things about Summer is all the drinks you can make with fresh ingredients to help you stay cool and feeling refreshed. Lemonade happens to be one of my favorites because lemon goes with almost everything AND it’s not heavy. It’s so much better for you than drinking soda or anything else that has high fructose corn syrup or any other sugar substitute. If you’re looking to make an adult drink, feel free to add some alcohol of your choice. I prefer a good quality vodka but I know many would love rum as well. Enjoy!


1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup lemon juice (approx. 4 lemons)
2 cups ice
Cold water

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat whisk the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves to make a simple syrup. Add the blueberries and let it come to a boil. Once it’s boiling crush the blueberries using a masher, turn off the heat and let it sit to cool.

Fill a pitcher with about 2 cups of ice and the lemon juice. Once the blueberry simple syrup has cooled, pour that into the pitch and fill the rest with cold water. Add as much or little water to your desired sweetness.

Salmon w/ Mango Mint Salsa

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Salmon is one of my favorite fishes because there isn’t a single way to cook it that I don’t like. It’s by far one of the healthiest fish out there next to tuna. Instead of masking it’s natural glory by drowning it in butter I’ve decided to complement it with a fresh mango mint salsa that you’re gonna love! With fresh ingredients paired with this Omega-3 fatty acid rich dish leaves you with no empty calories and a yummy Super Food meal to divulge in. I gotta say though, when I made this the other day I couldn’t help myself to eat more mango salsa with some tortilla chips.

4 – 6 servings


2 mangoes, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large jalapeno, finely chopped
1 small handful cilantro, finely chopped
4 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients together into a bowl and set aside.


4 – 6 (5 oz.) pieces salmon
Fresh ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Drizzle a large skillet with olive oil over a medium-high heat and sear the salmon on one side for about 4 minutes until you see a lightly golden crust on the bottom. Then, flip them over to cook for about another two minutes. Give it more or less time depending on how thick the salmon is.

Top the salmon with some of the fresh mango salsa.

Peachy Cherry Smoothie

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Summer is only a few weeks away but it’s already reached an easy 100 degrees here. When it’s too hot the last thing I want is something heavy in my gut. A great jump start to a refreshing day is with my Peachy Cherry Smoothie. It’s light, fresh, slightly sweet and packed with fibrous flavor.

I’ve been taking into consideration for a lot of peoples lactose intolerance with SOME healthy dishes. I’m sorry but if there’s one thing I can not live without is cheese. But when it comes to using milk there are better alternatives. So, if you’re lactose intolerant then this is perfect for you. I use kefir which is about 99% lactose free. It’s thick, creamy and very good for you. It has plenty of probiotics and protein for your morning start or as a health dessert.

And of course take this as a helping hand to get creative with your own smoothies as well. Enjoy!

1 serving

1 peach, sliced (or 8 frozen slices)
1 cup frozen pitted cherries
1 cup plain kefir
1/8 cup Naked Green Machine

Blend all the fruit and kefir together in a food processor. Once everything seems to be broken up for the most part, pour in the Naked Green Machine as its processing. Add more if needed. A good way to tell you have enough is when everything is moving freely and not stuck to the sides.

Caprese Cups

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This snack/appetizer speaks for itself. There are so many reasons why you could make these! They’re healthy, clean, fresh, quick and extremely simple to make while your starving guests are waiting for main course. It’s a fun quick snack as well. You can serve them straight out of the oven or at room temperature and take them to a party. The simplicity in this concept is great for any casual setting and special occasion. If you don’t want to bake them just simply bake the wonton cups alone and add all the ingredients afterwards. I hope you love them!

12 servings

Cooking spray
Olive oil
12 wonton wrappers
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
12 fresh boccaccini (mozzarella), halved
2 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper

Spray the inside placement of a cupcake pan.

Brush olive oil on top of each wonton wrapper and carefully place each one into the cupcake pan with the olive oiled side up.

Gently squeeze the mozzarella balls with a paper towel to remove the excess water. Place two halves of mozzarella into each wonton cup and two cherry tomato halves on top of the mozzarella.

Bake at 375 F degrees for 7 minutes or until the edges appear golden brown.

Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on top then garnish with some fresh basil.

Braciole & Italian Sausage

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If there’s ever a meal that really brings back good memories of my childhood, it would be this one! There were so many years of family gathering around a long stretch of tables that flowed from the dining room and well into the living room hoarding some of the best Italian food there is. And among everything it was this particular dish that never failed to bring an already satisfied tummy just from the aromas to a starving existence. I’m telling you! Give yourself a weekend to enjoy your time in the kitchen with some family or friends to round these little bracioles together!

Slow cooking the Italian sausage for 8 hours draws all the natural fat from the pork and creates a hearty depth of flavor to the marinara sauce. And the sausage really melts in your mouth. The braciole becomes infused with all the flavors from the sauage, marinara sauce and it’s own stuffing; your taste buds may be a little overwhelmed with pleasure. I must admit… this is one of the many reasons why I would never turn back time and go back to my childhood. Because I would have to wait so long until the next time I can have this dish. Nowadays, if I want it… I can make it whenever I want to!

While I love sharing… this is a tough one to share because sometimes it’s fun to have little secrets and excite people. But honestly, I’m trying to share more and be a little less selfish in that regard. So please, try this some time. And hopefully it will spark some ideas for you to create your own in the future. Enjoy!

6 – 8 servings

2 pounds chuck beef round eye, thin cut
8 large fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
6 large garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup Italian bread crumbs
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
Cooking twine
Extra virgin olive oil
5 Italian sausages
8 cups (64 oz.) basic marinara sauce

If the meat isn’t already cut into individual pieces then go ahead and cut pieces that are about four inches long and 3 inches wide. Then pound each one thin with a meat tenderizer to about 1/4“ thick.

In a bowl combine the fresh basil, garlic, Italian bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, romano cheese, pepper and salt together. Then using a spoonful of the mixture lay it down the center of each piece of meat. To roll the braciole together start at one end of the meat and roll it up tight using your fingers to catch any of the mix that may fall off pushing it back towards the center. Cut some cooking twine to tie around both ends firmly.

With a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, drizzle the bottom with extra virgin olive oil and sear the Italian sausage for a couple minutes on each side until the skin creates a thick crust. Transfer them onto a plate and set aside. Then sear the braciole for two minutes on each side as well and put them on the plate. Cut the Italian sausage in half down the center diagonal and place them into a slow cooker set for 8 hours, along with the braciole and marinara sauce. Keep it covered the whole time.

Let it slow cook for about 8 hours. Gently move the meat around a few times throughout the slow cooking process.

Serve over your favorite pasta.