Rice Noodle Rags with Stir Fry Veggies

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Yes, noodles again. It should be abundantly clear by now that I like noodles. It goes deep, my friends. My love for the noodle is profoundly imbedded in my DNA, pulling me toward them. A comfort that wraps me up like a warm blanket. And so, I am forever toying around with combinations of ingredients to conceal… I mean, accompany the noodle.

I resemble that joke about “have some coffee with your sugar.” That is my philosophy with noodles. If left to my own devices, I would eat them straight up plain. Not extra items need be added. However, I will admit that the other ingredients do enrich their flavor and bring more nutrients to the table. And for those reasons, I chop, dice and cook up noodle-enhancing ideas.

Let us start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. It didn’t actually start with the noodle. But instead, with pan on which I would be cooking. This stir fry noodle story actually was spawned by my husband’s complete and utter obsession with the Chef Frances Mallman. He is a world renown chef and an outdoorsman who loves to cook in the wild, and therefore has big grills and planchas. Thus the impetus for us buying a plancha.

What is a plancha, you ask? It is basically a flat metal plate for cooking. We purchased ours online from Little Griddle.

Funny thing is, I have used this plancha more frequently than my grilling, outdoorsman-mimicking husband. And that is how I came up with this stir fry a la plancha style dish. I was keen on using it, so I grabbed all my veggies and started thinking about what I would stir… fry up with love.

Don’t ask me why I had all these veggies in the house. That answer should be completely known to you all by now. I see it. It looks good. I get excited. I buy it. (It is then my job to figure out what to do with them once home.)

Now with the plancha perfectly situated on my stovetop (I’m less the outdoorswoman grilling type so I brought it indoors), I began stir frying up a storm.

I’m not going to give you amounts. This truly is about pulling out what you love and using it in whatever quantities you have or making it for the amount of people you need. (Hint, you can get an idea of amounts by looking at the photos.)

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ingredients

Baby Bok Choy, leaves separated
White or Nappa Cabbage, sliced
Purple Cabbage, sliced
Yellow & Orange Pepper, bite sized pieces
Bean Sprouts
Long Hot Pepper, sliced
scallions, thick slice
Red Onions, large dice
cilantro, chopped
Rice Noodle Rags
Turmeric
Cayenne Pepper, optional
Olive oil, salt, pepper

 
 A bounty of good nutrients to counterbalance my rice noodle addiction.

A bounty of good nutrients to counterbalance my rice noodle addiction.

instructions

Chop and dice vegetables in bite sized pieces. Clearly you might not have a plancha like ours, so you can use an equivalent. A wok, of course, would be perfect or a large grill pan. Use what you have, the idea is to sauté/stir fry the vegetables over medium high heat. Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles in warm water for 15 minutes. Then submerge them in boiling water for another 5 minutes, and set aside.

 Rice noodle rags soaking in warm water.

Rice noodle rags soaking in warm water.

I combined the sweet and hot peppers with the onions and scallions. Then add oil to the plancha and began stirring.

Look at that rainbow of colors. Also know as nutrients.

 Rainbow equals nourishment for your body and soul.

Rainbow equals nourishment for your body and soul.

Then I add some turmeric and dash of cayenne pepper to the cabbage. If you don’t want any more heat, leave the cayenne out. There is spice in the long, hot peppers. Or make it spicier. Your call.

 Cabbages getting turmeric-ed and spiced.

Cabbages getting turmeric-ed and spiced.

Remove the other veggies, then stir fry the cabbage separately, and do the same with the bok choy.

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The bok choy leaves are more tender than their stems which is why I didn’t cook these with the cabbage. I felt that each needed care with their cooking times to keep the veggies crisp but tender enough. Also, there was about 8 cups of bok choy, so the plancha would have been too crowded.

 Bok Choy, bright green and vibrant.

Bok Choy, bright green and vibrant.

Once all the veggies are cooked, put them all back on the plancha and add the cooked rice noodles. Stir in the bean sprouts to warm through and stir all together. Top with freshly chopped cilantro, or if by chance you have made my tahini-peanut sauce, this would be a great place to use it. If not, this is great just as is.

 Than is a boat load of goodness.

Than is a boat load of goodness.

 Turned into a bowl full of yum.

Turned into a bowl full of yum.

Plancha or no plancha, find a way to stir fry up some nutrient packed veggies and toss in rice noodles for that warm blanket comfort feel. I promise you will continue to find ways to stir up noodles. If not, then you can add noodles to your veggies!

Monday Night Dinner - Shared with Friends

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In today’s world of hustle and bustle, technology and device driven social contact, there is one aspect (well, probably many) of our new reality that makes me truly long for days of yore.
Connection. Real, soulful, personal connection.
I miss those times when getting together with loved ones was easy, almost expected on a regular basis. When weekends were spent visiting friends and family, and not traveling in a car for hours to watch a little league, or spent in front of a computer trying to catch up on work. Nowadays, it takes calendars, a team of coordinators, pie charts and graphs and law firm to find a date that matches up for everyone. When I was younger, we had our midday meal at my grandmother’s house every Sunday in Brooklyn. It was known and expected and it was a comfort and joy to gather all together. When we moved out to Long Island, everyone then drove out to us for the day. We were a family, and friends were always welcome to join.

I long for those days. I’m not saying every Sunday but I do yearn for time spent enjoying a meal with people I love in a chill atmosphere just so we can catch up. I fully recognize some of the reasons why this has become difficult. People move further away from one another. Jobs and schedules are more demanding. Kids have extracurricular activities that require more time and attention. But I guess this new paradigm of life is what irks me. We put so much more emphasis on things that cause us stress, and less on carving out time to hang with people we care about. I know I might get some backlash about the kids’ activity portion. It brings joy, etc. But when did sports and violin practice consume 75% of a kids free time? When do they have time to socialize and be kids? Now, that is a whole other topic. But, you all get where I’m going.

 

So given that long diatribe, it completely warmed my heart that when my friend Tecla’s dad was back in NYC visiting from Tuscany, JuanCarlos and I were top of his list to visit. High on the list!! We were tickled Parmesano Reggiano. We made a date for a Monday night and as we were deciding where to meet, it was a no brainer to invite them to our home. Unfortunately, our dear friend Scott, Tecla’s hubby, was unable to join us, and he was missed.

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A simple meal is all that’s needed, since the purpose of the visit was spending time together. We did add an appetizer and soup because we wanted the evening to last longer. More time requires more food. Well, at least that’s my thinking.

Here is what we served, and the elegant, simple table setting we served it on.

Appetizer & Soup

Eggplant rounds with roasted tomato & goat cheese

Sliced eggplant dusted with flour, quick sauté, then placed on a baking. Top each one with a spoonful of roasted tomatoes (sauce), a dollop of goat cheese, some thyme leaves and drizzle of olive oil. Bake until cheese melts.

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Seafood Soup

This is the perfect starter on cold night. A light fish broth chock full of shrimp, monkfish, calamari and beans.

Simply sauté garlic, onions and parsley. Stir in cannellini beans to add a bit heartiness. Then add fish stock and bring to low rolling boil and add the fish. Cover and lower to a simmer until the fish is cooked through.

 The same wine we enjoyed with Tecla’s dad in Italy on a visit to the winery. Perfect with the pork and the cake!

The same wine we enjoyed with Tecla’s dad in Italy on a visit to the winery. Perfect with the pork and the cake!

Main Course
Pork Roast
Oven roasted Heirloom Carrots
Oven roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Sage
Quinoa with scallions

 
  Photo credit: Tecla Palli-Sandler

Photo credit: Tecla Palli-Sandler

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 Roasted Pork
 Roasted vegetables & Quinoa
 

Cinque colore salad with oil cured olives

I’ve taken the traditional tri-colore salad and amped it up with a few more colors by way of citrus fruits and oil cured olives. I used both the juices from the grapefruit and oranges then added lemon, lime and zest whisked with olive oil, salt, pepper for the dressing. Fresh, bitter, sweet, sour, peppery. This hit all the right notes.

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Dessert
Gluten Free, Dairy/Egg free chocolate tart. This is not my recipe. Nor did I make it exactly as the recipe stated, but this came out chocolatey, rich and delicious. I made a slightly altered version of Brandi’s Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake. I didn’t have chocolate to shave over top so I created my own decoration with a random almond sliver swirl. I must have been channeling crop circles.

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Table Setting & Decor
It was a Monday night so there was not a ton of time for a formal table setting. It was more of a last minute task. So no time for ironing meant no tablecloth, and a need to display a napkin that no one would notice the wrinkles. Deep green colored velvet placemats kept with a winter warm theme. White dishes and gold charger popped nicely off the deep color mats and made it feel rich and elegant, but not pretentious. Just the right touch to make our guests feel special, yet not a lot work for me.

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The heartiness of my cabbage floral arrangement, plus elements from my Fall themed arrangement lasted long enough for me to arrange them at the end of the table with some candles to warm up the setting.

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 Table setting with green velvet placemats, gold chargers, white plates and a soup bowl with gold trim.

Table setting with green velvet placemats, gold chargers, white plates and a soup bowl with gold trim.

There is nothing more satisfying than making a meal that nourishes the body and the soul, and sharing it!

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 Tecla and her dad, Paolo serving up food stirred with love.

Tecla and her dad, Paolo serving up food stirred with love.

 JuanCarlos talking about the state of… If you want to know, you’ll have to join us for dinner.

JuanCarlos talking about the state of… If you want to know, you’ll have to join us for dinner.

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We had such a great night. We all love food, travel, family, and living life richly. So conversation was a flow as we enjoyed a simple meal together. Cherishing the time we each carved out for one another in our busy schedules, and realizing that anything worth enjoying takes a little effort. I’m glad we all made the effort. And even happier that we were on Paolo’s list during his short visit. Our turn next… in Italy!!

I hope that with all the rush of the holidays you, too, can carve our time in your schedules to share a meal, laughter and love with the people you love. Dig in, fork first!

 Paolo, aka Babbo, digging into chocolate heaven.

Paolo, aka Babbo, digging into chocolate heaven.

 

Thank Fullness

I’m really digging this idea of posting my gratitude on Thanksgiving instead of a recipe. At this point, you are already in the thick of cooking up a storm and a food recipe would be a bit too late. Although, I suppose this could be considered a recipe of sorts. One without food ingredients or instructions, but a recipe for living thoughtfully, gratefully and lovingly.

I usually pause daily with grateful glee, but I do enjoy looking back on a yearlong’s journey of gratitude to feel the magnitude. I count my entire family’s accomplishments as part of my blessings because they create such joy in my life. So, here goes another acknowledgement for all of life’s waves washing upon our shores.

And as always, I am grateful for family and friends, health and abundance but I like starting with my favorite bunch of achievers - my nieces and nephew.

Gabrielle Brooke

My oldest niece, with a sharp eye for design, decor, and beauty is out there paving her way and turning heads with her multitude of talents. She consistently wows and impresses at her job at Traditions, producing successful marketing campaigns and in-store events with proven, quantitative results. The owner was so impressed with the store’s overall success and increased business that she took the entire staff to Paris to celebrate. Gabrielle, amongst great works of art, furniture, culture and food. A perfect mix.

 Gabrielle Brooke in chez Paris!

Gabrielle Brooke in chez Paris!

Gabrielle has garnered such great exposure that it has attracted the attention of other companies in need of marketing and social media presence. Her entrepreneurial spark was lit this year as she took on private clients, in addition to her full time job. She’s always willing to lend hand or good advice, as I can confirm since she has guided me through the social media quagmire. With a blend of kindness, poise and strength, instinct and resourcefulness, she has what it takes. I fully expect her to head up her own firm, using her intelligence, grace and charm.

And a last minute gratitude addition; she will be closing on the purchase of her first home before year’s end. WooHoo!

 Holiday Sales Event at Traditions

Holiday Sales Event at Traditions

 
 Social Media and Marketing Manager, Gabrielle

Social Media and Marketing Manager, Gabrielle

John Joseph
After going above and beyond, doing an awesome job at a start up company last year, John gained invaluable experience that helped him branch out and build his own brand, Sauc. He is also in process of launching a second brand, John & Tom's. From the NextGen Summit to Burning Man, he is an adventurer putting himself in places to seek knowledge. Through research and travel, he sought out experts to help him grow his company.

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But more impressive is how he grows, always thoughtful in the things he puts forth into the world. His entrepreneurial spirit soared this year, as he navigated through the business world in the most gentle, giving way. Helping others and always putting good energy out in the world. Watch out world, we have a serious do-gooder on our hands. Thank goodness.

Michella Rae

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Allow me to introduce you to the next Erin Andrews… Michella is taking every opportunity to put herself in scenarios to be seen and heard in her field of Communications and Sports Reporting. She garnered a kick ass internship with Fox Sports this summer. Normally, interns just assist, watch and learn. However, Fox Sports was smart enough to take notice and be so impressed with her abilities that they had her conducting on-camera interviews, reporting and field producing. Back at school, she is shooting, editing and conducting post game interviews for IMG Media, which covers all of Georgia’s sporting events. Michella has some of the most natural on-camera talent I have ever seen. Her sports knowledge, research ability, confidence and sheer star power continues to soar. I’m always blown away with her poise and professionalism. Check out a clip below and watch out for her on the sidelines of the SuperBowl one day!

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Gianna Marie

Big things happening for Gianna in her 3rd year at Binghamton as she excels academically and socially. She moved into her first apartment, and independent living, which also meant cooking for herself. She loves telling when she’s making one of my recipes or a pasta dish that we made together. And during her breaks home, she always finds a way to carve out a time to spend with me. Warms my heart, to no end. Her gentle soul and caring propelled her to do volunteer work with animals. She is so good at taking care of those in need, whether two or four legged. I know about the former, as she helped me big time this summer with projects big and small. She is majoring in anthropology with a minor in forensic health. Gianna took on the extra credit by working directly with her professor on an independent study of the analysis of bones. Fortunately, no real bones in this photo. CSI, leave a spot open for Gianna Marie.

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Melanie Nicole

Mel graduated from HS and received a Senior Honors Award in Foreign Language. After years of begging, she finally got the dog she always wanted. Charlie makes her smile, for sure. Tons of schools visits lead her to chose the small college of University of Scranton which has proven to be an ideal fit for her. So in August, with Charlie along for the ride, she headed off to Pennsylvania where her focus is criminal justice/pre-law. Mel immediately made a slew of new friends and is rocking her first year of college like a champ.

Nicolette Grace

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She may be the youngest in the family, but she is a big achiever in her own right. While juggling two highly intense and competitive sports, soccer and lacrosse, she also received straight A’s in her sophomore year in HS. She is a dedicated team member, a top defender and captain of her soccer team. She leads by example with her strong work ethic, making it easy to see why she is loved by her coach and peers, and by me! It’s because of her natural leadership qualities that she was chosen to take on the role of coaching the 5 year olds’ soccer team. She is bright, and funny, but more importantly has the strongest sense of morality and doing the right thing even when it’s not popular. Nicolette is driving, yes driving and doing very well, taking it as serious as she does everything she tackles.

 

My siblings and parents…

Alyssa

After decades of hard work, she is thinking about the next stage, and how to work and play at the same time. That idea transformed itself in purchasing a vacation/work-from-home place in Boulder CO. Hard work and determination paid off. So happy for her on this next chapter, where she can explore nature with a healthy work life balance.

Jill

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Traveling like George Clooney in the movie “Up In The Air”, she had some awesome opportunities of visiting more than NYC this year. Her travels took her to Los Angeles, Switzerland and Phuket, Thailand. Although more air time keeps her away from her family, she did get a chance to spend quality time with our brother, Robert, in LA, with her co-workers in Thailand, and was blessed to hang out with my favorite animal, the elephants.

 
 
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Robert
Continuing his career as a screenwriter, he finished rewrites on a script about a rags to riches true story about Fernando Montanyo, who emerged from the slums of Buena Ventura to dance in the Royal Ballet of London. Robert’s passion
for capturing stunning imagery is ever present, including location photography he shot as he gears up to make an independent feature about a murder that took place in Amish country.

He also started his own business as an astrology reader. He has deep interest in this subject and pure desire to help others navigate the celestial energizes. His research and knowledge are incredibly on point and valuable. He has guided me through some interesting astrological times, steering me in the right direction. Check out his instagram @thestarscience

 

Adrienne & Gene

This year marks one year since my Mom’s knee replacement AND exactly a year later my Dad got a new knee of his own. Talk about timing. Now, between them they have two good legs to stand on and ton of good health.
We couldn’t be more fortunate. They also traveled to Miami for their annual winter retreat, and to NC to visit Jill, Bobby and the girls. We are looking forward to watching them take many painless walks together.

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 These two enjoying a gift certificate from their grandson, John, to their favorite eatery in Miami,  Harry’s Pizzeria

These two enjoying a gift certificate from their grandson, John, to their favorite eatery in Miami, Harry’s Pizzeria

JuanCarlos

My talented husband landed one of the biggest clients he has ever had - The Waldorf Astoria renovation. Of all the signage design companies in the world, ribbit, inc. was chosen. And wisely chosen.

I couldn’t be prouder. And worth celebrating.

This year several other cool projects came knocking on ribbit’s door. Some smaller like H Club in LA, and others bigger like The New Wild Dunes Hotel and The Waterfront in Charleston, SC.

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Leap frog! LEAP! You have always been my prince.

As for me, being a part of my family and framily is such a joy.

I have been blessed with work that continues to feed my love of food and entertaining, as well as in the production world. I feel honored that so many of you enjoy my blog. And I am continually grateful to those who buy and read my books… and then take the time to thank me like these two young readers!

On that note, my biggest accomplishment this year was taking the leap, Thinking first, then jumping to pitch my children’s book series Think then Jump as a TV series with my friend, Stephanie Kontzamany/Skala Connections. We went to this year’s Kidscreen Conference and met with several interested parties, but it was the BBC who showed interest in developing a pilot for a potential TV series. This was one of those overnight successes that took a decade. Definitely a lot of Thinking before Jumping. It’s still a long road ahead to see what transpires but I can’t begin to tell you the triumph and gratitude I feel in reaching this point and receiving such kind words about my books, the stories, the illustrations. There literally are no words to express what this means to me.

 
 Stephanie and I heading into NYC to meet with the BBC about funding a pilot for The Grumpy Frog!

Stephanie and I heading into NYC to meet with the BBC about funding a pilot for The Grumpy Frog!

Then I had the most unbelievable experience of working in a prep kitchen for a James Beard Award winning restaurant group. Can you say “pinch me, now, I must be dreaming.” What a joy it was to wake up early to make the donuts, as they say. I didn’t actually make the dough or fry them, but did some of the decorating. I had my daily pastry duties and learned so much from Chef MJ, and am forever grateful to the executives who granted me this opportunity. I had no idea how much I would truly love this.

 The kitchen team

The kitchen team

 Donuts, extraordinaire

Donuts, extraordinaire

 Chef MJ and me. I adore her!

Chef MJ and me. I adore her!

I was also super fortunate to be able to celebrate a special birthday with my dear, best friend Emilce in the South of France. Taking time to celebrate with the ones we love… a gratitude ricochet.

And as if all that weren’t enough, this year I also hit year 13 of good health. Each year another reminder of how blessed I am for surviving and thriving.

As much as the big accomplishments are a wonderful to rejoice, and easy to recognize, it’s the small ones I like to focus on. One, because they force you to dig deep to see the blessings in the small gifts. Two, because they actually come more often, daily even. Like the beauty of a body of water as it reveals itself upon reaching the peak of a bridge, or the burst of color in floral arrangement that came together just as it was envisioned, or the love that is felt when a text arrives from a friend reaching out with gentle support.

I am fully aware at how the world we live in can seem bleak. So much destruction, so much bickering, and so much grief. But if we neglect to appreciate, and cling to good, then it will be difficult to get through the harder times.

So I focus on those. So many grateful moments. So many positive blimps in day. So much to make me smile every moment. I, too, need reminding of all that. With my super support system showing me so much joy, they help me flip the switch off on negativity and see the light.

May light shine on you. May it be bright and joyous. May it be filled with gifts you need to be your truest self. May you be the light to others, and shine brightly today and each day. Light of love.

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5 Appetizers That Impress & Relieve Stress

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Let’s face it, it’s not only during the holidays when we need easy appetizer ideas. Handy dandy, simple offerings are in demand throughout the year. These 5 appetizers can certainly be used anytime, but will surely be useful right about now.

Now when it comes to navigating entertaining, we can be the driver of our own roadmap. It’s up to us to take control. It can be as elaborate as a sit down plated meal with several courses. Or as simple as making a salad, a vegetable and protein. Or even simpler (and better!) a huge bowl of pasta. But it is up to each host/hostess to decide whether to make it complicated or easy. Admittedly, there are times when entertaining calls for a little more pizzazz. And I would venture to say that the holidays definitely require a little more brio. Believe it or not, adding an appetizer to any meal can elevate an evening. I always want my guests to feel special, whether it’s a weeknight meal, an weekend dinner or a big party celebration, and I’ve found that serving appetizers somehow ups the ante and makes any event feel special. But please, let’s not confuse special with hard and stressful.

How I plan out what appetizers I will serve depends on my mood, and it can swing full pendulum, from easy breezy all the way to ones that require a day of prep, cook time and time in plating. For me, it all comes down to how much experimenting I want to do, and how much time I have to play. But that’s just me. I like trying new things and being adventurous. But sometimes, I need speed and simplicity. Luckily, in my experimenting I have come up with a few apps that don’t take a ton of effort, and really please my guests.

Here are Apps that impress AND relieve stress.
(Disclaimer: In no means are these appetizers magical or medicinal in their ability to relieve stress. It’s soley their ease, and delicious impact that creates a stress free zone! Well, I might consider that magic.)

Shaved Parmigiano with Roasted Peppers & Hazelnuts

This is as easy as using a flick of the wrist. That is, one that is holding a vegetable peeler. Simply shave slices of Parmigiano Reggiano. Roll roasted pepper strips up into rosettes or twirls. (A good jarred kind is the way to go. Even I admit, roasting your own peppers is more work than it’s worth. This is definitely one time when homemade doesn’t make sense!) Arrange the platter as you like. I like all the peppers in the middle with the cheese acting like a moat. Then generously sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. It seriously could not be simpler.

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Platter of Crunch - Fennel Bites & Cucumber Carrot Roll Ups

I always like having a platter with a fresh offering. Not only does it help to refresh the palate but it’s a satisfying treat for the vegetarians. Create a platter full of fresh vegetables. You can use whatever you like but I love big chunks of fennel drizzled with olive oil, course sea salt and pepper. Ribbons of English cucumber plain or rolled up with carrot shreds. The carrots were marinated in a basil balsamic vinaigrette. Check out the recipe here.

My method for platter arrangement is color blocking. I think this looks inviting. Do what pleases your eye and your palate.

 Fresh fennel, cucumber and carrots are refreshing and crunchy.

Fresh fennel, cucumber and carrots are refreshing and crunchy.

Fresh Ricotta with Herbs & Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Well, if you took my advice in late summer and roasted a bunch of tomatoes and stored them away, then this one is as easy as opening that container. (Now you understand why I suggest this because the tomatoes can be used in so many ways.) But if you don’t have any roasted tomatoes in your freezer, making a fresh batch is not difficult. Click for The Great Tomato Caper post. For the rest of the dish, simply buy fresh ricotta and spoon it into a bowl creating a nice mound. Generously sprinkle course sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, chopped basil and drizzle with good olive oil. Arrange the roasted tomatoes around and serve with crusty bread.

 This combo of sweet tomatoes with fresh creamy ricotta is one that will keep your guests coming back for another smattering.

This combo of sweet tomatoes with fresh creamy ricotta is one that will keep your guests coming back for another smattering.

Sauteéd mushrooms & polenta chips

This one takes a bit more time, but you can actually do some of this ahead of time. I’ve served this appetizer several different ways. Click here for the recipe. In this version I made the polenta squares thinner so they act more like a cracker. Your guests can make their own little bite with as much or as little sauteéd mushrooms as they want. Heck, if you also serve the Ricotta dish, guests can top their polenta squares with mushrooms and a bit of ricotta!

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Dry Cured Meat & Arugula Platter

This seriously could not be simpler than buying and arranging. Pick up your favorite dry cured meat and serve it up with some spicy baby arugula. Guests can roll up the meat with some zest greens for a crisp, salty bite. I love keeping it simple and rustic by serving it right on a wooden board.
Some dry cured meats that I like to serve: Bresaola, Prosciutto or Serrano ham, Capacollo, Mortadella, Coppa.

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I hope these few ideas help keep your stress levels down this holiday season. I really don’t like that I keep repeating that, but it is true that the holidays, and entertaining can be just that - intense. I’m here to help in any way I can, because for me, gathering together with the people you love, serving them food you all love is a glorious thing. And something for which we can all be grateful.

Stirred with love, these apps are just as easy as the ones we download on our phones!

 

Fall Themed Centerpiece

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Yup, it’s that time of year. Nature is doing her thing. Leaves are turning those awesome vibrant hues. Acorns and pinecones are dropping like bombs. Squirrels are busy squirreling away treats. And us mere mortals are coming to terms with the summer really being over. But there’s always a silver lining.

Autumn brings a crisp freshness to our world. A cleansing of nature as leaves fall and regenerate new buds. And the opportunity to wear those chunky sweaters breathes new life into our fashion repertoire. The change of season also ushers in the occasion to freshen up your decor. In my house, beauty is brought inside.
Cue the Fall Themed Centerpiece.

Sure, you can create a floral arrangement, upright and traditional. Or, you can climb outside the box (or that large vase) and go horizontal. I don’t mean wrestling around with your significant other in the fallen leaves. Although, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all. I mean, take your florals and fashion them into a landscape that meanders through a forest-like scene. One that creates several visual points of interest.

The best part of this type of centerpiece is that you can design it with whatever you have, and do it inexpensively. I grabbed yellow and crimson mums (from my favorite floral spot Dahlia NYC) to mimic the colors of the leaves, plus some eucalyptus leaves. All the other items I grabbed from our garden (rosed hued hydrangea, pine cones) or around the house. The entire arrangement cost me $20.

 Burst of yellow pom pom mums, crimson mums, eucalyptus leaves and hydrangea are the stars.

Burst of yellow pom pom mums, crimson mums, eucalyptus leaves and hydrangea are the stars.

 Long wooden trays or boards are perfect. But you can use a ceramic platter or whatever else suits your fancy.

Long wooden trays or boards are perfect. But you can use a ceramic platter or whatever else suits your fancy.

Going horizontal meant finding a main ‘vessel’ that would serve as the base since I was ditching the usual tall, large vase. I searched for something a tad out of the ordinary. A few choices popped up, including a long ceramic platter, but I settled on a wooden tray for a few reasons. One, it was the largest and I felt I needed the space. Two, it’s easy to carry since it is a tray. Three, I like the feeling of the earthiness of the wood. But use whatever you have. Oval, or round, rectangle or square. It doesn’t make a difference. The only important aspect of this kind of arrangement is to go low and long. Landscape, not portrait. I then gathered up some small vases, cups, shallow bowls, pumpkins and water phials (tubes with rubber caps to hold water for single stems).

 The helpers to this arrangement. It’s key to gather up your tools.

The helpers to this arrangement. It’s key to gather up your tools.

Next, I lined the tray with parchment paper to protect the wood. And moved onto laying the groundwork… literally. Instead of using the eucalyptus leaves in a large spray like I usually love doing (Eucalyptus Burst), I spread them down to create a bed, as if it were a forest and the leaves fell to the ground.

 I love this wooden tray, so it was important to me that I make sure it was protected.

I love this wooden tray, so it was important to me that I make sure it was protected.

 Since these stems will be lying down, do not fill the water phials to the top, as then the water will slip out.

Since these stems will be lying down, do not fill the water phials to the top, as then the water will slip out.

 Fill the tray, leaving spaces, or making spaces for the vases.

Fill the tray, leaving spaces, or making spaces for the vases.

From there, I nestled vessels of differing heights to hold the flowers. All the while, visualizing how to spread out the color.

 I loved how the color of this sake cup blended right in.

I loved how the color of this sake cup blended right in.

 Slightly taller, heart-shaped glass vase seemed appropriate and perfect to give some height to this horizontal piece.

Slightly taller, heart-shaped glass vase seemed appropriate and perfect to give some height to this horizontal piece.

Then I added the pumpkins and squash to the scene.

 Yellowy, green pumpkin added a nice pop of color amongst the green leaves.

Yellowy, green pumpkin added a nice pop of color amongst the green leaves.

 Filling the space with a butternut squash adds to the bounty.

Filling the space with a butternut squash adds to the bounty.

It was then time to fill the vases with flowers. I started by cutting the stems of the crimson mums short so they could fill up the shallow bowl.

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I continued to fill in and see what looked good and worked in each vase, thinking about spreading the color around the arrangement, as well as adding contrasting colors next to each other.

 See how both the yellow pumpkin and the crimson mums are accentuated by being placed next to one another?

See how both the yellow pumpkin and the crimson mums are accentuated by being placed next to one another?

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I noticed that there was a corner that seemed empty, so I added another shallow bowl for an additional burst of color. You see, you don’t have to have it all planned out exactly. You can add, subtract, modify as you go.

The idea is to create something that feels right to you. Move things around until it pleases your eye and your heart.

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I stepped back to inspect landscape and its little scenes within itself. I decided to tuck in the last two hydrangea flowers and have them cozy themselves into the eucalyptus base, as if they might had fallen down. Plus, it created more depth and visual interest.

 Use the water phial to hydrate the hydrangea. Then tuck it in wherever feels right.

Use the water phial to hydrate the hydrangea. Then tuck it in wherever feels right.

The final touch was to slip a few pinecones right up front.

I think it turned out pretty cool. Loads of color. Little pockets of visual charm in every corner. Highs and lows, Pops of bright yellow contrasted by deep crimson hues. Abundance and bounty.

What I really enjoyed about this arrangement was that it had tiny vignettes within the main piece. Different points of interest within one big floral display.

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 Lots of love everywhere.

Lots of love everywhere.

 A bounty of autumn.

A bounty of autumn.

Use what you have. But most importantly, use your imagination and heart.

Let the leaves fall where they may. And may they fall beautifully, spreading the love across your autumn table.

 
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