Category Archives: Recipes

Spinach Salad with Citrus & Thyme

Spinach Salad with Thyme & Citrus Vinaigrette Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves, freshly chopped
  • 1-lb. fresh baby spinach leaves, rinsed and cleaned
  • 1 small red onion, diced finely
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3-4 ribs celery from the heart, chopped

Optional: Seared scallops would be a great addition to this salad as a main course


In a large salad bowl, whisk together the marmalade, mustard, and juice and zest of both lemon and orange. Slowly pour in the olive oil and whisk until the dressing is emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add in the spinach and vegetables. Toss to coat in the dressing and serve!

Yields: 4 servings


Herb Cheese Crostini Recipe


  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 French baguette, sliced into 1/3 in. slices
  • 1 stick of non-salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup of grated white sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese


Place the butter, herbs, salt, pepper, and cheese into a food processor. Pulse until blended to the consistency of your choice.

Remove the herb-cheese mixture from the food processor and pack the mixture into a ramekin. Cover the ramekin with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat over to 500 degrees.

Remove the ramekin from the refrigerator and spread the herb-cheese on each slice of bread and place on a sheet pan in a single layer. Bake the bread for 6 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yields: approx. 4 servings


Roasted Cherry Tomato Soup Recipe


  • Salt
  • 4-6 cups of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium sized onions, cut into large pieces
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees

Place the cut onions, cherry tomatoes, oregano, ¼ cup of fresh basil leaves (whole) and salt and pepper to taste on a small roasting pan. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes, onions and herbs, and toss to coat.

Place the pan in the oven and roast about 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and blistered. Remove from oven and pour into a medium to large size sauce pan. Turn the burner on medium-low. Add the minced garlic and chicken stock, and remainder of fresh basil.

Using a counter top blender or an immersion blender, blend the vegetables to the consistency you prefer – chunky, thin, or in between. Once its blended the way you like it, add the parmesan cheese and heavy cream. Stir to blend and heat through. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately.

Yields: approx. 4 servings


Backyard Entertaining for Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day weekend is right around the corner… the perfect end-of-summer, beginning-of-fall weather for campfires!  Perhaps you have been traveling all summer long and are ready for an extended weekend at home without any travel plans!  Here are a few tips and ideas for getting the most use out of your backyard this weekend:

1.  Incorporate a Fire Pit in your Backyard

Relatively inexpensive and easy to move around, a fire pit or fire ring can bring an extra element of excitement to your backyard, bringing friends and family together without all of the technology and toys you may be used to throughout the day.
Shop Fire Pits

2.  Use your Backyard for Family Camping

Family camping can be one of the best ways for families to bond while having fun in the backyard. Pitch a tent, light a fire in a fire pit or campfire ring, and enjoy some treats under the stars before bed.
More Camping Ideas
Expert Camping Tips
Backyard Camping FAQs

3.  Have Dinner (and Dessert!) in your Backyard

Instead of the typical family dinner indoors, take your meal time outside!  Try a new recipe on the grill, and get the kids involved with dessert by making S’mores!
Grilling Out FAQs
Expert Tips on How to Make S’mores

Still need some more inspiration?

Check out these two blog posts from blogger GOODeness Gracious who recently used an Avant Garden Decor Fire Pit for some family fun!

GOODeness Gracious: Ring of Fire
GOODeness Gracious: The Great Marshmallow Debate

What are your plans for this Labor Day weekend?
Will you be spending time outdoors around a campfire, perhaps?


Eggplants: Grow ‘Em, Cook ‘Em, Eat ‘Em!

These plump, often purple, veggies are believed to have originated in India and are known for their meaty texture. They are used throughout the world in various dishes from China, to Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Oddly enough, folks here in the U.S. and Europe once thought they were poisonous plants belonging to the nightshade family (Solanacae). Thank goodness they were wrong!

Eggplant seedlings can be difficult to start, but you do have a larger variety to choose from. If you’d like to buy a transplant, you’ll need a spot with at least 6-8 hours of warm sunshine. Transplant eggplants at a temperature of at least 70 degrees F during the day, and at least 45 degrees at night.

Fertilize your soil well and plant them 2 feet apart. Water them weekly. Remember to mulch the surrounding area properly to prevent weeds, and to maintain soil temperature.

Once eggplants begin to grow and mature you will need to stake the plants or cage them for added support and proper growth.

Beware of beetles, common pests of eggplants – fabric row covers can help with this issue. Spraying the plants with water in the morning can help with mites and aphids, or you can try an organic insecticidal soap.

What eggplant variety should I grow in a container or in a smaller urban area? Try ‘Hansel’ and ‘Gretel’ – these varieties are perfect for smaller spaces. For common, western varieties, try ‘Black Beauty’ or ‘Florida High Bush.’

Have fun and happy gardening!

Expert Tips on How to Make S’mores

how to make smoresThe original recipe on how to make s’mores appeared in the American Girl Scout Handbook in 1927. This recipe utilized Graham crackers – first invented by Sylvester Graham way back in 1829, before anyone knew how to make s’mores – plus chocolate and marshmallows.

If you ask anyone today how to make s’mores you might get the original recipe that tells you how to make s’mores, or you might be told how to make s’mores a completely different way.

Here are some tips on how to make s’mores the traditional way:

•    Use Graham crackers which are more like cookies than crackers.

•    Get the crackers and chocolate ready before you toast the marshmallows.
You can ‘roast’ them over a stove burner or use long metal forks for roasting
over an outdoor fire pit or grill.

•    Marshmallows are ready when slightly brown outside and runny to make smores

•    Sandwich chocolate with a toasted marshmallow between a halved cracker and squeeze together gently.

Other fabulous s’mores recipes:

The Mexican S’more: use flour tortillas with crunchy peanut butter, chocolate chips and marshmallow.

The Chilled S’more: spread peanut butter and instant chocolate pudding on Graham crackers and add whipped topping instead of marshmallows.

The Elvis S’more: spread peanut butter on the Graham cracker, add chocolate and banana… marshmallow is optional!

Tell us… what is your favorite recipe for making a s’more?!

WINPLNTR13 (plants)

Easy-to-Grow Indoor Herbs

Growing herbs indoors should not only be fun, but easy! Herbs are perfect to grow indoors in the colder months because you don’t have to go outdoors to reap the benefits. If you plan on growing your herbs in your kitchen, that’s even better. You can make so many delicious dishes with fresh herbs – you will be amazed.

Below is a list of the five best and easiest herbs to grow indoors.

1)    Chives – this is a must have herb. It is very versatile because of its mild onion flavor, and can be used in many savory dishes. The flavor of white or yellow onions can often be a bit on the strong side, but chives are perfect for those who just want a hint of onion flavor. Snip them back often so that they don’t get too out of control.

2)    Thyme – is a great, all around herb that can be used in just about anything – even desserts! Most all varieties of thyme are easy to grow. Remember to trim this herb regularly. The more you trim the better the flavor. Thyme is known for its slight lemon flavor. It is perfect for fish, chicken, or vegetable dishes. You can also use thyme in hot tea.

3)    French tarragon – French tarragon has a terrific flavor, similar to basil. Its hints of licorice are a bit stronger, but goes great with many things. From frittatas to chicken dishes to bruschetta – tarragon makes a tasty addition. No tricks to growing this herb just plant it and watch it grow.

4)    Sweet marjoram – this herb is closely matched with the flavor of oregano, yet not as robust or bitter. Sweet marjoram is great on pizza dishes and in home made breads. It also holds up nicely when used to season the hearty flavor of steak. Anyone who loves herbs will appreciate marjoram.

5)    Sage – Sage is one of those must have herbs. It is very easy to grow, versatile and packs quite the flavor punch! Sage is great around Thanksgiving, because it goes nicely with turkey and other poultry dishes. It is also great to use in vegetarian meals when you want to add some flair to your dinner. Use this herb in tea for sore throats and colds. Sage comes in many varieties, so feel free to choose more than one!