Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day to all the beautiful mamas, grandmothers, and other loving ladies in our lives! I am so blessed to have the best mom in the world, who taught me about love, laughter, devotion, patience and how to be the best mommy in the world to my daughters! I am truly the luckiest woman in the world and so thankful for all of the love surrounding me and our family. xoxo

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!!

Wishing everyone a safe, happy & prosperous New Year! Goodbye 2012...Hello 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Today's Recipe: Bacon-Wrapped Dates stuffed with Pecans

If you are looking for a decadently delicious app to bring to your New Year's Eve party...this is it!  Thank you to my friend Giselle, who always brings these delectable snacks to Hania & Chris' annual Yankee Swap Holiday Party! Everyone raved about these heavenly, carmelized bacon-wrapped dates. Bon appetit!

Start with 30 dates...but you may need to double or triple the recipe! Adjust for the amount of people you have, usually plan on 2-3 dates per person.
30 Whole Pitted Medjool Dates
30 Roasted Pecan Halves (or Almonds)
Uncured Bacon (raw) sliced in 1/2 or 1/3 to fit around date

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Pit the dates with your fingers or with a paring knife.
  3. Place a pecan piece inside each date.
  4. Wrap date in a piece of bacon and secure with a tooth pick
  5. Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet or glass Pyrex dish and bake for 12 minutes (start checking them when it gets close).
  6. The bacon should be cooked and crispy. Served hot on a serving platter.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Cocktail Recipes!

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." The stockings are hung by the chimney with care...the tree is up and decorated...we have ALL the kids' presents to wrap...and it's time to get ready for all of those fabulous holiday parties with family & friends!  I just had to share my favorite new holiday cocktails...and trust me, as a mommy with a new baby and a very active and mischievous 2-year-old, I am gonna need a few of these! LOL

The Caramel Apple Martini

My husband and I had a version of these in "shot form" while on our honeymoon in Key West a few years, I turned them into my own holiday cocktail just for you! They are made very similar to a Cosmo...but need to add in these 2 key ingredients...a bottle of Butterscotch Schnapps (heaven in a bottle!) and Sour Apple Schapps (about $12 each). 

Mix per drink in shaker:
-1 part vodka
-1/2 part Butterscotch Schnapps
-1/2 part Sour Apple Schapps
-2 parts Cranberry Juice
-Shake it up with lots of ice
-Pour into a martini glass
-Add in a Splash of Seltzer
-Garnish with thin slice of green apple
TIP: If having a large group of friends over, I like to make a big batch of drinks in a pitcher then pour into Martini glasses. It saves time and let's you enjoy the party!

The Buttery Bailey Cocktail (or Shot!)

Next, a decadently sweet cocktail for your favorite holiday gathering. This concoction can also be made in "shot form," as these are rather heavy, not a drink you would have 2 or 3 of (but hey, who's to judge?!). Rather, the Buttery Bailey a great after dinner place of dessert...or something to sip by the fire with your loved one. :)
Mix per drink in shaker (or for 4 shots):
-2 parts Bailey Irish Cream (or generic version works too!)
-1 part Butterscotch Schnapps
-Shake it up with lots of ice
-Pour into a martini glass (or shot glasses)
-Sip it (martini)..or Shoot it (shot)...YUM!
Mel :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Halloween Costume ideas for Babies & Kids!

Autumn is such a magical time of year...the leaves begin to change color, the pumpkin patch is full of pumpkins, apple orchards are bursting with apples, and of course, Halloween! Now that I am Mommy to two little girls, Halloween is even more fun and special for the whole family!

Growing up, I was fortunate that my Mom loved to sew and make our costumes by hand. As we got older we loved join in! It was a wonderful way to bond and get involved in making our very own costume.  I recall being a circus clown, kitty cat, and even a trash can made out of a cardboard box ala Oscar the Grouch... LOL! 

Even if you aren't a whiz at sewing, you can still be crafty, thrifty and creative in creating your child's costume.  Sometimes all you need is just a funny wig or hat, sunglasses, fun jewelry, pair of tights, one of Daddy's old shirts to cut up, a party dress, turtleneck, a headband for ears or crown and a few pieces of felt or fake fur can do the trick to make an adorable kitty, princess, rock star, baseball dog or mouse! Check out SlapDashMom's blog for 50+ DIY ideas!

Another great idea is getting friends and family together do a "Halloween Costume Swap" each year, that way no one has to spend a dime (hurray!), and your kids have a 'new' costume every year! I always loved classic costumes such as a witch, cowboy or clown for kids, but understand that kids seem to really love being a famous character like Spiderman, Batman, Elmo, a Disney Princess & Thomas the Train! Here are more costume ideas from Spirit Halloween, Carter's and iParty.

Best of luck! Happy Halloween!
:) mel

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Welcome Our Beautiful Baby Girl!

As you may have noticed, I was on a bit of a hiatus this I was working on a very "Special Delivery" at the end of May!" Welcome to the world, our beautiful baby girl! Our little sunshine joins her big sister who is already in love with her too! (although a little jealous?!) We are so blessed to have our new little darling in our lives...our dreams have come true once again! xo Mommy & Daddy

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Going on "Summer Vacation"

FYI, I will be going on "Summer Vacation" a bit early this year, as I am working on a very "Special Delivery!" I'm doing great, and can't wait to share our big news! :) Best wishes, mel

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tips for Traveling with Young Children!

Summer is here...and it's time to start thinking about your next Summer Vacation! If you have children, then you are no doubt looking for some family-friendly places that will not only be fun for you, but ideal for entertaining the kiddies! Before you go away, I wanted to offer some helpful and useful tips that have helped me so much. Planning and preparation is key, so that you can enjoy as close to a "hassle-free" vacation as you can for you and your little ones. Here are my Top Tips for Traveling with Young Children!

  • Drive to your favorite destination. So many great vacation destinations are within 1-2 hours away from you home, while others are 3-5 hours, such as Vermont, New York and Montreal, Canada. I have friends who make the 8 hour drive to Washington, DC each year, or some crazier (haha!) friends who plan cross-country family vacations to Yosemite National Park or the Grand Canyon in a big RV or Winnebago.  
  • Driving is not only budget-concious, but convenient. You have the freedom to come and go as you please and you can pack your car to the rim with all of your luggage, baby gear, food and supplies. It's a great feeling to have all of your belongings at your finger tips. (Just be sure to lock all of your luggage and valuables in the trunk when parking, as to not attract thieves.)
  • Day Trips are great fun! And, they are a quick and inexpensive way to get out of town for the day.
  • Fly Non-Stop to your destination. Fly direct whenever will save your sanity! 
  • Try to book seats close to the bathroom to avoid long trips to the bathroom. 
  • Pack your carry-on bags with some of your child's favorite toys, a mini DVD player, snacks, bottles of milk or formula, extra diapers, baby pain reliever, and anything else you can think of to keep your little guy/gal entertained!
  • Get through security faster. Most TSA agents will let families with young children move to the front of the security about VIP Service! 
  • Once you are at the gate, families often can board ahead of the other passengers as well. So, be sure to take advantage of these great perks while you can! 
  • Also, they typically don't charge you to check your car seat and/or strollers at the gate, which is a good plus.
  • Book a Rental Car when traveling to another city. That way you will be in control of where and when you go, and you can secure your child safely in the car. With young children, it would be very tricky or even unsafe to travel in a taxi cab, as you can't properly secure your car seat.
  • Reserve car seats and/or booster seats for your rental car. That way, you don't have to lug your heavy car or booster seats with you. (If you have an infant, then you will most likely carry her in the remember to pack the base as well.)
  • Check AAAOrbitzHertzExpedia or your favorite travel site for the best rental car deals.

  • Always Do Your Research to find a family-friendly hotel or resort. You don't want to travel all the way to your vacation, only to find out it's an "adults only" hotel (which many boutique hotels are these days), or there are no amenities for children. 
  • Reserve a crib or pack 'n' play for your baby, cots or rollaway beds for your young children, at the time of your booking. And, always follow up with a phone call a few days before you arrive, to be sure it will be in your room when you arrive. 
  • Find out if there are any Kids Eat Free or other specials for the children's meals.
  • See if there are Kids Clubs or babysitting services at your hotel or resort, if you are interested.
  • Check ExpediaOrbitzTripAdvisor or your favorite travel sites for the best recommendations for family-friendly hotels.
  • I have always enjoyed renting a cottage or condo when on vacation. That way, you have privacy, more space and freedom on your vacation. And, it is usually quite a bit cheaper than staying at a resort or hotel. We've rented cottages in Cape Cod, Florida, Maine and even an apartment in Amsterdam...just do your homework, rent from an owner that you trust, read reviews and read the contracts very carefully before signing and paying your deposit.
  • Cottages are wonderful, as you have all the amenities of home, you can cook your own meals, have a porch or yard, walk to the beach, or even your own hot tub or swimming pool. 
  • You will have multiple bedrooms, so you, the kids, grandparents or friends can all vacation together.
  • Save money by cooking at home, BBQing or having a lobster boil in your own backyard. Buying your own groceries, alcohol and other snacks to eat at your leisure is so convenient.
  • Visit VRBOHomeAway or any other popular vacation rental sites to book your vacation. Be sure the condo or cottage allows children and/or pets, if bringing along the family dog. 

Most of all, no matter where you go...near or far...just remember to enjoy this special time with your family on your vacation! Just spending time together is is the most important thing...time is precious, enjoy every moment...and have a wonderful time! Here are some of our most recent, and most successful vacations!

Bon Voyage!
Mel :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all of the beautiful mamas and mamas-to-be! Wishing you lots of love, joy and happiness to you and your families on this special day! Today I am hosting brunch at our house, as I'm 2 weeks away from delivering Baby #2! We are so excited that our family is growing! Enjoy our Mother's Day Brunch Menu...and recipe for my Baked Creme Brûlée French Toast with Bananas and Pecans! 

Baked Creme Brûlée French Toast with Bananas and Pecans
Serves 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 55 minutes
10-12 slices of challah bread, one loaf (or any other bread of your choice)
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup corn syrup (or golden syrup)
4-5 medium, ripe bananas, sliced thin
1/2+ cup pecans, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Powered sugar
Maple syrup (We love our GrandDad Ken’s REAL Vermont Maple Syrup!)
**NOTE: Prepare this dish the night before and refrigerate uncooked overnight for best results. Cook in the morning and serve immediately.**
Butter bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. In mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup and mix until smooth. 
In another large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half and vanilla to pour over each layer.
Next, you will create a layering effect of the ingredients much like a lasagna. So, spread some of the brown sugar mixture into an even layer in bottom of buttered baking dish. Add thinly sliced bananas and place over brown sugar mixture. Scatter chopped pecans over bananas. Add a layer of bread slices and sprinkle with cinnamon. Then, pour some of the egg mixture over that layer. Repeat until all bread and bananas are layered in your baking dish.
**Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.**
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly, run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen sides and carefully invert pan onto a large platter, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately with warm maple syrup. Enjoy!
Optional: Top with sliced bananas, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.

Mother's Day Brunch Menu

Baked Creme Brûlée French Toast with Bananas and Pecans
Fresh Fruit platter of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and pineapple
Smoked salmon platter with capers, onions, hard boiled eggs, cream cheese & bagels 
Ham and cheese quiche, Spinach and cheese quiche
Spinach salad with goat cheese, strawberries and walnuts with balsamic vinaigrette
Lemon meringue pie
Orange juice, Mimosas and Coffee

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Recipes: Grilled Tilapia Fish Tacos with Pineapple Cilantro Salsa

Spring is finally here, so it's time to "get your grill on!" Instead of the usual hotdogs & hamburgers or BBQ'd chicken, I decided to make a delicious & light Mexican-themed seafood dinner for my in-laws who were in town visiting for the weekend! We had a gorgeous 80 degree night under the stars, eating chips, salsa & guacamole, and sipping my yummy White Citrus Sangria, and eating Grilled Tilapia Fish Tacos with Pineapple Cilantro Salsa and Black & White Bean Salad.  I also added in some marinated grilled feel free to make shrimp or fish tacos for this recipe. Here are all of my recipes from our wonderful night! ¡Buen apetito!

Mel’s Grilled Tilapia Fish Tacos
Serves 4
4 Tilapia filets (Tilapia is mild white fish found at most fish counters and reasonably priced)
Olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (remove stems and chop in mini-prep food processor)
1/2 medium white onion, sliced thin 
2-4 cloves garlic, diced (to taste)
Pineapple juice (strained from can of pineapple, needed for Pineapple Salsa recipe below)
Salt & pepper to taste
Corn tortillas (or flour)
Optional toppings: Shredded lettuce or cabbage, avocado slices or guacamole, jalapenos, and hot sauce.
Variation: In addition to/or instead of the Tilapia, feel free to add in a pound of uncooked Shrimp! Marinate the shrimp the same way as above, but place the shrimp on skewers for easy grilling. 
Place tilapia filets in a large glass baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper, diced garlic, sliced onions, chopped cilantro and top with pineapple juice. Stir together to be sure each filet is well-coated. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour before grilling. 
Grill the marinated tilapia along with the onions, on a grill pan (a grill pan has round holes best for cooking fish, shrimp & sliced vegetables). Once the fish turns white, and has a few grill marks on it, it should be ready! Put the tortillas on the grill for a few minutes until heated and lightly browned. 
Serve the Grilled Tilapia with the Pineapple Cilantro Salsa on a platter along with the corn tortillas. Feel free to serve with in your favorite toppings, such as sliced avocados, shredded lettuce or cabbage, and hot sauce. ¡Buen apetito!

Pineapple Cilantro Salsa
1 8 oz can of pineapple slices or chunks in juice, finely chopped & strained (strain juice & save for Grilled Tilapia marinade - recipe above)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (remove stems)
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp of Cumin
Salt & pepper, to taste
A few sprinkles of red pepper flakes, to taste
Optional: 1 small jalapeño, seeds and membrane removed and finely chopped 
Combine all ingredients, pineapple, cilantro, onion, lime juice, cumin, salt & pepper, red pepper flakes and chopped jalapeño, and mix. Chill in fridge until ready to serve with Grilled Tilapia Fish Tacos (recipe above). This pineapple salsa is a cool and refreshing accompaniment for any of your favorite grilled fish or chicken dishes.
Mel’s Black & White Bean Salad
Serves 4-6
1 can Black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can White beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup corn kernels, cooked
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (remove stems and chop in mini-prep processor)
2-4 cloves garlic, diced (to taste)
1/2 tsp of Cumin
1/2 tsp of Chili Powder
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper
Combine all ingredients (beans, corn, onion, cilantro and garlic) together in a glass bowl, add salt & pepper to taste, cumin, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Then, drizzle in some olive oil and a few splashes of Balsamic vinegar. Mix well. Chill for at least an hour before enjoying. This is a fabulous side dish for any Mexican/Southwest-inspired meal, such as my Grilled Tilapia Fish Tacos...and tastes terrific the next day on a salad or to put in a quesadilla!

Mel's White Citrus Sangria

Make by the glass or a pitcher

Bottle of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, chilled
Triple Sec (or orange liqueur)
Orange Juice
Pineapple or Mango Juice (or any tropical juice you like!)
Seltzer (plain or lemon/lime)
Dash of cinnamon
Lemons, Limes, Oranges, sliced
Variations: Mint, sliced peaches, mangoes, grapefruit, pineapple, strawberries...the sky is the limit!

By the glass:  Fill wine glass with ice, fill 1/2 wine glass with white wine, 1/2 shot of Triple Sec, and squeeze in 1 lime wedge, 1 lemon wedge and orange slice. Fill remaining 1/4 of the glass with OJ and/or tropical juice, and top with seltzer. Add a dash of cinnamon, stir.  Garnish with a fruit slice. Cheers!

By the pitcher: Fill 1/2 glass pitcher with white wine, squeeze in lime wedges, lemon wedges & orange slices. Fill the other 1/3 of the pitcher with OJ and/or tropical juice, 2 shots of Triple Sec, and top off with Seltzer. Add a dash of cinnamon, stir. Enjoy!