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have a heart

February 13, 2018

heart cookie cutter salad

It’s easy to get into the Galentine’s or Valentine’s Day spirit simply by using a heart shaped cookie cutter on something edible!  Transform something ordinary into something extraordinary with a simple cut!

watermelon and mozzarella salad valentine

You have seen me use a cookie cutter on Valentine’s Day before…remember the Valentine stuffed French toast The lavender shortbreads?  Or, even the bird seed for the bird feeder?

Well, today I am taking my Fancy Watermelon Salad (click here for original recipe) and transforming it for Valentine’s Day, simply by cutting the watermelon rounds into hearts!  Easy, right?

watermelon salad trio

I hope I have inspired you to use a heart cookie cutter this Valentine’s Day!  What will you use it on?


tasty watermelon valentine

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, xo Jackie

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going nuts

February 6, 2018

making rosemary spiced nuts

I try to incorporate nuts into my diet as much as I can.  I always add them to my salad and try to snack on them as a substitute for something less nutritious.  Over the years, I have made many variations of seasoned nuts to serve as an appetizer or as part of a cheese tray.

I had no snacks for last Sunday’s epic television viewing night – the Justin Timberlake concert and then the This is Us episode, so I decided to jazz up some walnuts to snack collage from Superbowl nightI came up with this recipe for rosemary walnuts using ingredients I had on hand.  I love rosemary.  Using dried rosemary on my walnuts made it possible to add the rosemary flavor without running to the store for fresh herbs.  (The one little sprig of fresh rosemary I had that you see in the photos was saved to use in the recipe I made next!)  This snack was prepared in 20 minutes and tasted (and smelled) wonderful when eaten warm.  I don’t ever eat much salt, but most people do – that’s the reason I put the range of salt!  I also tried not to use more butter than I needed – starting with less and adding just enough to cover the nuts!

rosemary nut spices

Rosemary Walnutsrosemary nuts as a snack

  • 4-6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups walnut halves

Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat and add seasonings.  Add walnuts and toss gently, coating well.  Place on a large shallow baking tray n a single layer.  (I lined the tray with parchment paper for easy clean up.)  Bake at 325 degrees until richly brown – about 10 to 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

I know; eliminating the butter would make this recipe totally guilt-free!  But, I decided to get a little decadent for the big concert.  I may try substituting something a little more healthful for the butter next time – maybe sunflower oil.

rosemary nuts in a bowl

The point of this recipe is to show you that it is easy to create some seasoned nuts using dried herbs you have on hand.  I may have recipes for herbed nuts that I like more than this one, but this one did the trick when I wanted something quick without going to the store!

I hope you are inspired to try this recipe or to create your own variation.

close up of herbed rosemary nuts

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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‘unbeetable’ hummus

January 16, 2018

Beet Hummus appetizer at Flora in CT

When I was a kid, I hated beets!  They were a staple on my grandmother’s Sunday table, but I would not go anywhere near them!  But, as an adult, I have developed a fondness for these root vegetables.

My most recent beet discovery came when I visited Flora – a restaurant with a plant based menu located in the Blue Back Square section of West Hartford, Connecticut.  It was the first time I had tried beet hummus and it was absolutely yummy!  This snack motivated me to research every beet hummus recipe I could find to try and recreate Flora’s delicious appetizer the best I could.

Flora in West Hartford, CT

Many of the recipes I found used chickpeas, but I chose to eliminate the chickpeas and make the beets the star of the dish!  If beets appeal to you at all, I would definitely urge you to try beet hummus!  Here is what I did to make beet hummus, as inspired by the one I enjoyed at Flora!

Beet Hummus Recipe

  • ½ lb. fresh beets (4-5 medium), prepared
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (2 lemons) plus 1 Tbsp. zest (1 lemon)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil as needed

To prepare the beets (cleaning them prior to cooking), I covered them with water in a saucepan and simmered them until tender and they felt soft when pricked with a fork.  It took about 35 minutes.  After they cooled down, I peeled them and cut them into cubes.

I put all the ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor and processed until smooth.  When serving, I drizzled the hummus with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Beet Hummus at Flora

Pita chips, as well as fresh carrot and cucumber curls, go great with this hummus!

beet soup

Even though I wouldn’t eat them as a kid, I really enjoy beets as an adult! One of my favorite beet dishes – the beet soup at The River Tavern in Chester, Connecticut.

I think the pretty color of beet hummus makes it ‘unbeetable’ to serve as a Valentine’s Day appetizer!  I hope you are inspired to try it!

Thanks for stopping by!  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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homemade chai spice

January 9, 2018

scooping homemade chai spice

I really enjoy the flavor of chai.  At least, what we here in the U.S. call chai.

In India, chai is tea.  Although there are some variations, the basic components are the same – usually a black tea base, whole milk, spices, and a sweetener of white sugar.  Cardamom is the most common ingredient used as a spice, but every family has a blend to suit its tastes.  In the same way, here in the U.S., spices can be adjusted in a homemade chai spice to suit individual tastes.

Home Made Chai Spice Recipe

That is what I decided to do.  It took me quick a bit of experimentation on a recent snow day to come up with my own favorite combination of spices.  I used Penzeys brand spices to make my mix because they are so very flavorful, but you can use whatever you have in your cabinet.

Since I try my best not to eat processed foods (especially with the beginning of a new year), my motivation was to come up with a chai spice to use as a change up for my almond milk.  I will use this in warm almond milk, adding a small amount of honey as a sweetener –  if I am in a really decadent mood!  For a mug of heated milk, I use ½ teaspoon of my homemade spice.

spices for chai spice

This spice can be used to flavor tea, quick breads, smoothies, etc.

I hope I have inspired you to come up with your own chai spice mix.  You can try my combination and adjust the ingredients to your own taste!

Thanks for stopping by!  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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ice, ice baby

December 22, 2017

homemade Irish Cream with home made coffee ice

Making homemade Irish Cream for the holidays is a tradition in my family.  My mom and sister always put it in their Christmas morning coffee.  I prefer to drink it cold.  A great addition to the cold version is coffee ice!  Making ice cubes in advance from leftover coffee makes this special holiday beverage perfect!  But then, a hint of coffee flavor makes many things perfect…think chocolate!

Making special ice cubes is a festive way to enjoy your favorite beverage on Christmas.  Depending on your drink of choice, you can choose to add fruit or herbs to your ice as an alternative to making coffee ice.  For the children’s beverages, try adding mini gummy bears or crushed candy canes to the ice!  What child wouldn’t like to see some gummy bears…or worms!…floating in their juice!

making coffee ice cubes for Irish Cream

Adding extra fun little details at the holidays is a great way to make the day special!

Using decorative ice cube trays is another festive idea.  Ikea usually has some cute ones!  Make little ice cube trees, angels, or other unusual shapes.  There are also trays available that make ice shot glasses if shots are more your thing!

frozen coffee shot glass

If you want our family recipe for homemade Irish Cream, click here.

I hope I have inspired you to make some special ice cubes for the holiday…a cute and easy detail to add to your holiday!

Thanks for stopping by and remember to take pleasure in simple things!

Wishing you and your family much joy this holiday season, Jackie xo

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diy basil infused salt gift

November 14, 2017

packaging diy basil infused salt gift

Before the first frost, what do you do with the last of the basil from your garden?  Do you make batches of pesto to freeze?  Have you ever thought about making some basil infused salt?

I recently had the good fortune to stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida.  The Ritz on Amelia Island has a fabulous selection of infused salts for sale.  Trying some of the salts from their collection, and watching the kitchen staff demonstrate how it is made, inspired me to use my ‘last of the season’ basil to make some of my own infused salt!

basil infused salt holiday gift diy

Basil salt makes the perfect seasoning for a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad when the basil from the garden has long gone…and, when packaged, it makes a great holiday gift as well!

It is super simple to create a basil infused salt!

making infused herbal salt

First, I pulsed ½ cup kosher salt and ½ cup packed basil leaves together in the food processor.  I dried this mixture by spreading it on a baking sheet in a 225-degree oven (tossing it every 15 minutes) for about 40 minutes – until dry.

After letting it cool, I pulsed the mixture one last time to make the salt extra fine.  Of course, you can control the coarseness by the number of pulses used.

salt tube trio diy

For packaging, I used some glass tubes I had purchased for another DIY.  I think three tubes tied together are a great way to package the salt as a gift.  If you try making some other herbed salt flavors, you can even package three different flavors of salt to gift as a trio!  If you would rather use a more conventional container, small Weck jars or glass spice jars would also look super cute!

I hope I have inspired you to use some herbs from your garden to create some infused salt!

homemade gift salt

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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2 ingredient ice pops

August 1, 2017

super easy ice pop recipe

Ice pops are synonymous with summer!  And, what could taste better on a hot, summer day?!  I really love icy treats – evident since I own an ice pop mold, an ice shaver, and an old-fashioned ice cream maker!

Every year, I make many variations of homemade pops, but for today I am sharing a super-fast way to create some with a minimal amount of time and ingredients.  Just two easy ingredients are needed – your favorite yogurt and some baby food!

yogurt mango ice pop recipe

Yes, baby food!  Haven’t you ever bought banana baby food to make banana bread?  Using baby food is an easy way to get some good quality prepared fruit for a recipe without any fruit cleaning or waste!  Plus, you can keep some on hand without it going bad!

baby food for easy mango ice pops

To make 6 pops, I use 3 jars (4.25 oz.) organic baby food (I like Beech-Nut in Just Mango) and 3 (5.3 oz.) containers of yogurt.  Ice pop molds are super easy to come by these days – a quick trip to HomeGoods or Marshalls will fill the bill!  If you don’t want to be bothered with another pan to clutter your cabinets, get small, 3 oz. paper cups and some wooden sticks – these will work just as well!

easy mango yogurt ice pop recipe

I use a plain yogurt because I like the tartness and it mixes well with the mango, but you may want to use vanilla or a favorite flavor that will mix well with mango (or whatever fruit you choose).   For those of you that like extra sweetness – you can add maple syrup or honey to the yogurt before using it in the pop.

super easy 2 ingredient mango ice pops

Just put the yogurt in the molds, alternating it with the fruit, and freeze – that’s it!  The fruit gets so nice and icy!  If you use the cup method, the yogurt is thick enough to keep the sticks standing up straight while the pops freeze.

yogurt and baby food ice pops

I hope you enjoy this super easy ice pop recipe!  Vary the yogurt and baby food flavors to come up with your own favorite combination!  Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things…like enjoying a cold ice pop on a summer day!  xo Jackie


maple vinaigrette

February 21, 2017

maple vinaigrette with wheatberry salad pleasure in simple things blog

I normally don’t add salad dressing to my salads.  I figure, why add extra calories and chemicals (from commercial salad dressings) when it isn’t needed?  I like the taste of most salads on their own.  If I really think my salad needs a little something, I would probably squirt a little fresh lemon or orange juice onto the greens.

With that said, I did recently make and add this easy maple vinaigrette to a salad after seeing the recipe in a piece about maple syrup in Real Simple magazine!  I love maple syrup and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand when I saw the recipe in the magazine.

maple vinaigrette ingredients pleasure in simple things blog

I think it is worth sharing…easy, tasty, and healthful!  Thank you Real Simple (recipe credited to Julia Levy)!

Maple Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid.  Shake until well combined.  Toss with salad greens.

maple vinaigrette recipe pleasure in simple things blog

I have decided using a homemade salad dressing on my daily salad once in a while is a nice change!

a salad with maple vinaigrette pleasure in simple things blog

Thanks for stopping by!  Remember to take pleasure in simple things…like a homemade salad dressing!  Jackie xo

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soup for a cold day

February 14, 2017

Onion Soup at Whole Foods

I know today is Valentine’s Day, but I don’t have any cute or romantic photos or projects…my valentine to you is a recipe for lentil soup!

On a recent cold and wet evening, I attended a soup class at my local Whole Foods.  Of course, the best part of the class was trying the soups we learned to make!  We made three soups that evening – my favorite was the red lentil soup with lemon.  It is a super simple recipe shared with us by “Mrs. Wilson.”

Mrs Wilsons Soup class at Whole Foods

Since the class was held at Whole Foods, there is no styling for today’s post, just a few photos I snapped during class to include with the recipe.  Enjoy!

Making Soup at Whole Foods

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Yield:  4 servings

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne, more to taste
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • Juice of ½ lemon, more to taste
  1. In a 6-quart sauce pot, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until hot.  Add garlic and onions, saute until golden.
  2. Stir in cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne, saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Soup should be chunky for creamier consistency, puree half soup in blender, then add it back to pot.
  5. Stir in lemon juice just before serving. Garnish with cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil.

Soup Class at Whole Foods

Remember to take pleasure in simple things…like a good hot cup of soup on a cold day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jackie xo

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trendy turmeric

January 24, 2017

turmeric tea pleasure in simple things blog

Turmeric milk (also referred to as turmeric tea or golden milk) seems to be ‘a thing’ right now.  It is a hot drink patterned after something called haldi doodh in India.  Used as an immunity booster – along the lines of how chicken soup is used here in the states – Indian mothers used warm milk and turmeric as a cure-all for what ailed their young ones.

turmeric spice pleasure in simple things blog

Drinks reminiscent of haldi doodh are making a big appearance of late – so much so, I am surprised a turmeric latte has not shown up on the current Starbucks menu!  Maybe it has!  Though many combinations of ingredients have shown up and claimed themselves golden milk, I am assured by Indian friends that the inspiration drink contained only 2 ingredients – milk and turmeric.    So, like others before me, I am modifying the two basic ingredients to best fit my taste!

I am not sure everyone will enjoy the taste of turmeric.  Mixed with the ingredients here, it reminds me of something along the lines of a Chai tea.  Give it a try and see what you think!  Here is my version of warm turmeric or ‘golden’ milk:

turmeric tea recipe pleasure in simple things blog

Garnish with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg or a cinnamon stick.

Since the original intent of haldi doodh was to create a drink with health benefits, I tried to make my version as health conscious as possible.  For this reason, I used organic turmeric and ginger, raw honey, and unsweetened almond milk.

I find this drink is a nice alternative to coffee, tea, or hot cocoa, and since I normally drink a few glasses of almond milk during the day anyway, I am not adding to my daily calorie count by turning one of those glasses into a warm  ‘golden milk.’  And, the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric can’t hurt!

turmeric tea and snack pleasure in simple things blog

I hope I have inspired you to try turmeric in your milk – possibly to create your own version!  Enjoy!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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