Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Beautiful Trip - the Long Island Vineyards

Who says you have to hop on a plane to travel somewhere cool? We live in NJ, but my husband is from Long Island. I fell in love with the vineyards out there when we first started dating. The endless rows of grape vines get me every time. The company is always great. This year and last year we had absolutely gorgeous weather. And hey, WINE!!!

Here are a collection of photos from our trip over MDW. Below is also a list of my favorite vineyards in Long Island, and a little about each. Enjoy!

I mean seriously?! It doesn't get much better than this!
We were so lucky to have great weather!

My husband and I on this gorgeous day!
I call this my Betty Draper from Mad Men look haha

My brother and I!
This was at Sparkling Pointe vineyard.

Sparkling Pointe is awesome. Sparkling wines only!
The owners of this place are obsessed with Brazil - as am I.
The whole place is decked out in paintings and decor of Brazil.

 The inside of Sparkling Pointe. Not too shabby.

Our vineyards crew! Same as last year.
Always a great time with them!

Hanging out at Jamesport vineyard.
This was my first time there - I liked the rustic feel of this place.

I thought these were so pretty! 
We stopped for some fresh corn to bring home for our BBQ, and came across these fresh honey sticks.

The wine grape chart. Intense!!


Another one of me and the hubs.
Not a bad backdrop.

 Here's us at Duckwalk vineyard. Another one of my favorites!
We get a bottle of wine from here each time we visit (or 2...)

 Along our wine journey, we also visited Greenport Harbor Brewery!
It didn't hurt switching it up a little bit. 
This place was really cute - and you got to keep the little tasting glass!

 We all thought this giant roll of paper was a cool way to display the beer menu

 They had these neat tables made of kegs and wood blocks!

 Lenz vineyard is wonderful. We get wine shipped from here to our house.
A coworker suggested we visit, and it totally made sense why.
It's almost like Christmas when this package arrives at our doorstep!
Also - whoever does this chalk art is really awesome.

 This was my first time at Mattebella vineyards.
The name came from the owners' 2 children - Matthew and Isabella.
Their faces are even on the wine labels, even though the photo was taken about 10 years ago!

 My brother and his girlfriend, Steph! Drinking wine all day is hard work.

Favorites/Vineyards of Note:

• Sparkling Pointe – all champagne. Really pretty inside and big outdoor area, as seen in the photos above!

• Duckwalk North – great wine. We get bottles from here every time we go. More laid back vs. fancy. The employees are great and very knowledgeable about the wine.

• Lenz – the best wine by far in my opinion. This is where we get the wine shipments from every quarter. Smaller vineyard/more rustic but really cute. People bring picnics and stuff here.

• Martha Clara – great atmosphere. Our friend got married here – it was gorgeous.

• Raphael – really fancy and pretty. They have weddings and parties there.

• Vineyard 48 – this is like a party vineyard. Lots of young people, music, big outdoor space.

 Thanks for reading! Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mini Dessert Inspiration - Mini Strawberry Shortcakes!

I could not take my eyes off of this little treat - how adorable is it?! We went to brunch for Mother's Day to the Chandelier Restaurant in Bayonne, NJ. They had a beautiful spread of food, but I have to say the dessert bar was the most impressive. Aside from these cutesy strawberry shortcakes, they had an ice cream bar, various cakes, cupcakes, Jello, and even a chocolate fountain. Talk about eye candy!

I've always loved mini cupcakes - great for parties or large groups, people don't feel like they are eating "too much," pop one in your mouth and go. This little shortcake made me want to experiment with different mini cakes. To be continued!

Here are some more fun photos from brunch!

 My beautiful little cousin Laura getting her chocolate fountain fix!
Love this kid.

 Chocolate. Fountain. 
What is more awesome than one of this at brunch? Besides alcohol...

 Jello for daysssssssssss

The 4 of us! We are the best.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Snickers Popcorn

Hi friends! I made this pretty cool treat for our company's bake sale - Snickers popcorn! Our annual bake sale is usually overrun with tons of cupcakes, so I wanted to try something different this year. It was a huge hit! All of my bags sold out! I tried to dress up the brown bags a bit - I got the hearts from Michael's craft store, and the popcorn tags I printed out from Pinterest. Now to the most important part - the popcorn!

This is what my kitchen counter looked like ha! Here is how to make your own, it's pretty simple:

Serves 10 people
2 bags of popcorn (I used bagged popcorn that had a small amount of salt and butter)
2 cups of chocolate chips or candy melts
10 fun sized Snickers bars
Parchment paper
Large bowl
Rubber spatula

  • Make popcorn using your favorite method - microwave or stove top. 
  • While popcorn is poppin, cut your snickers bars into small pieces. You want them to be small enough to melt easily. 
  • Empty popcorn into a large mixing bowl. I split mine up in two bowls to make it a little more manageable. 
  • Melt the chocolate chips or candy melts in the microwave until it's nice and smooth. We found that the more melted it is, the easier it is to work with. 
  • Pour melted chocolate and dump snickers pieces into the popcorn bowl and use a spatula to combine. Mix until well coated. 
  • Spread your mixture onto parchment paper to dry. Try to separate the bigger pieces that are clumped together with your spatula or a knife. 
  • Let dry for about 45 minutes to an hour on parchment paper.
  • If you are eating them the same day, shove them in your mouth. If you are making them ahead of time for a party or something, refrigerate them. 
Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Peanut Butter Lo Mein

I took this picture last night and it's still making me drool! This is such a great recipe! The noodles combined with the peanut butter and a little bit of spice gives this dish a real punch of flavor. I think next time we are going to cut the sugar in half (to make it a little healthier) and turn up the spice a bit. Here is the recipe we used from bloomi.com:

½ lb. of dry fettuccine noodles
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup crunchy peanut butter (natural)
2½ tbs. soy sauce
2 tbs. white vinegar
2 tbs. brown sugar (either light or dark is fine)
½ tsp hot chili sauce (more if you want it spicy)
*optional* squeeze a wedge or two of lime juice into sauce
1 tsp oil
¼ cup sweet onions, sliced
1 clove of garlic minced

1. Put on pot of boiling water for pasta. Cook the fettuccine to al dente.

2. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together orange juice, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chili sauce and lime if you are using it.

3. Heat oil in skillet over med-high, once hot add the onion and garlic. Stir fry, until onion is cooked, but still has a little firmness, not mushy, then add the noodles and stir fry for 2 minutes

4. Pour the sauce over noodles, and stir to coat, continue folding and mixing the pasta over heat for about a minute.

5. Serve with a splash of soy or Ponzu sauce, or wedges of lime.

And there you have it! I was thinking of adding chicken to this dish, but it didn't really need it. It was filling enough with the pasta and peanut butter. We have been really into asian style stir fry recipes lately - and this one is a nice, fresh take on that. Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Medium Shelled Pasta with Sausage and Parmesan

Hi lovely baking and cooking friends! Got another great weeknight dinner recipe for you. I found it on this website: justusfourblog.com. We cut the original recipe in half - there’s just two of us - and made a few small tweaks. This dish was so satisfying, and required very little ingredients that we didn’t already have on hand. I mean come on, don't you just want to shove your face right into this bowl?!

What You’ll Need:
2 cups of medium shells pasta (we usually do 1 cup per person)
1/2 lb of ground Italian sausage (we froze the other 1/2 - we bought the parsley and cheese sausage)
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
fresh ground black pepper
fresh parmesan cheese

How to:
1) Heat a large pot of water over high heat and bring to boil. Generously salt the water and cook the pasta according to directions on the box. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

2) In a large skillet, brown the Italian sausage, breaking up with a spoon while it cooks. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Do not drain the sausage drippings.

3) In the same skillet, saute the garlic slices over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove from skillet and set aside with sausage.

4) Add pasta, reserved pasta water, sausage and garlic to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl and top with shaved parmesan and fresh ground black pepper.

Simple and quick to make, and it has GREAT flavor. A good alternative to having pasta and meatballs to switch it up a bit. A tip - don't skip out on saving some of the pasta water. Otherwise, it will be dry.

Hope you guys enjoyed, thanks for reading!!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tiffany Blue Mini Cupcakes

Hi dolls!

I made these adorable mini cupcakes for a family party this weekend. I really wanted to achieve a Tiffany Blue icing color, and was really happy with the results. I did a bit of research online, and found that many people had trouble creating this color. I am a big fan of lighter icing colors vs. super bold colors. I think if the icing color is too dark, it looks fake. Just my opinion! Anyway, I bring this up because I didn’t want to ruin my whole icing batch by trying to mix together different food coloring and getting too dark of a color. Here is what I used:

I made my usual Vanilla Buttercream icing:
• 3 cups of confectioner's sugar
• 3/4 stick of butter
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoons of milk

*This time, I doubled the above recipe just to make sure I had enough icing to play with! As I’ve said before, this simple icing recipe is GREAT for piping. I would highly suggest letting the icing sit in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before using it. You want it to harden up a little bit so the spiral holds its shape.

These are the colors I used to get the Tiffany Blue color:
• 1 part green food coloring
• 4 parts blue food coloring

And lastly, this is the vanilla mini cupcake recipe I always use. Everyone at the party loved them! They are amazing party food – you can just pop one in your mouth and not even use a plate! I sprinkled on some shiny heart sprinkles that I bought from Michael's. Recipe makes about 24 mini cupcakes. Recipe adapted from epicurious.com

You'll Need:
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/3 cup whole milk
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
• 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 large egg
• Mini muffin pan
• Mini cupcake wrappers
How To Make Mini Cupcakes:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin cups with liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Stir together milk and vanilla in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg and beat until just combined. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and milk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour and mixing until just combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups, filling them two-thirds full, and bake until tops are pale golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in centers comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Invert cupcakes onto a rack and cool completely.

Thanks for reading! In addition to the Tiffany Blue, I also made a light pink icing by using 1 drop of red food coloring. Here they are together!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

TAO Restaurant - A Photo Tour of our Lunch

Hi All!

We had a new person join our team at work, so we decided to celebrate at TAO restaurant (Uptown location). We have all been there before, but it always amazes me how beautiful everything is each time.

There was 10 of us, so we sat next to the huge statue with the coy pond at the bottom. Our table was made of glass, with beautiful fresh rose petals and candles underneath:

I've just started to appreciate spicy food (with the help of my husband) so I got the Kung Pao chicken. It was so delicious. The portion size was generous, and I devoured the entire thing! I am not usually a fan of nuts in my chicken dish, but they married so nicely in this dish that I made an exception. It also came with a side of rice which I didn't end up touching - it was all about the chicken!

Our table shared a few desserts - banana pudding, a chocolate mousse, creme brulee and the molten chocolate cake (below). It was very tasty, but can a molten chocolate cake really ever be BAD? I don't think so.

Thanks for reading! Hope everyone is staying safe in yet another snowstorm! xo