thursday night FAC

It’s almost Friday, so make this week’s FAC on Thursday. Come on, you deserve it. Today, our ingredient from the garden is fresh strawberries, so it seems fitting that you celebrate your Thursday FAC with a Strawberry Margarita. I planted strawberries years ago, and they come back every year bigger and better. I don’t do a darn thing, and they keep growing. As long as I pick them before the rabbits and birds get them, life has been sweet with strawberries this summer.

The BEST….seriously, the BEST…margarita is a strawberry light from The Rio in downtown Denver {or Fort Collins, or Steamboat}. I can’t drink any other margs – they just don’t even come close. However, I think I’ve created one that does…I savored every last drop. Hope you do too.

Strawberry Margarita
recipe adapted from friend, Reid Griebling
yields 4 glasses

Ingredients
6 counts {yes, count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…sorry I didn’t measure and followed bartender orders} white 100% Agave Tequila
1-2 tsp Agave Nectar
1.5 count Cointreau {or Triple Sec}
20 fresh strawberries
3 limes + 1 lime for garnish
2 cups of ice

How To
Add strawberries, agave nectar, Tequila, Cointreau, fresh squeezed lime juice and ice in a blender.
Adjust to taste.
Cheers!

{images via Tutto Bella}

spread the love…and the pesto

This summer, I’ve been obsessed with fresh basil. I’ve always loved it, especially fresh pesto. Basil has been one of my successful herbs in the garden this summer, so I’ve experimented with pesto recipes, and since this week is all about the garden, today I’m sharing a pesto recipe and how to make it a lovely hostess gift, or party favor. Because who wouldn’t love fresh pesto and an easy, already-prepared dinner for a gift?

{Sandy’s basil plant}

Basil, Spinach and Walnut Pesto
yields 1-2 cups
{I usually make Pesto with basil and pine nuts, but since I was out of pine nuts and I wanted to add Spinach for the kids, I modified it}

Ingredients
2 1/2 cup fresh Spinach
1 1/2 cup fresh Basil
1/3-1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup walnut
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

How To
Add basil, spinach, garlic, walnuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil in a food processor, then add salt and pepper.
Puree until smooth.
Find a cute mason jar or small container for your homemade pesto, and if you want to dress it up a bit, add a bow and a label or Kraft paper like I did with ‘grazie’ stamped on it.

 

Other DIY Garden-Inspired Hostess Gifts
Give an upcycled mini herb garden.
This Lemonade Summer Cooler idea is absolutely adorable.
Personalized Coasters is a lovely gift and a fun DIY project for fresh drinks from the garden.
We love this hand-tied bouquet, wrapped in a nice tea towel.
Hot pads with fresh baked bread is yummy and useful.
DIY homemade Lavender Linen Spray sounds blissful…and necessary for my bedtime routine.

{images via Tutto Bella}

we dig it

Gardens are a happy place. I really believe that. Maybe it’s because I have happy memories watching my grandpa and grandma tend to the garden with their sun hats, cherishing the sounds of birds chirping in the nearby bird bath, and taking in the smells and sounds around them…and then sharing their zucchini and garlic with us. I also know that gardening is therapeutic for people, and can be a place of solace where people connect with nature and themselves. With water and a little TLC, just a tiny seed can grow into a plant that can nourish a family. Amazing!

Having attempted a garden for two years, I’ve had successes and failures. I can grow carrots, strawberries, kale, spinach and basil. As for zucchini, well, the verdict is still out. The veggies that don’t like my garden, or my beginner gardening skills, are cucumber, beans and peas.

Now is the time of year many people are harvesting their summer garden and enjoying the fruits {and veggies} of their labor on the dinner table. So, this week is all about the garden. We’ll have recipes, inspiration and tips.

Today’s garden-inspired recipe is from a favorite family friend, Sandy Lessig. She made so many meals for our family when I gave birth to all 3 kids {and those of you with kids know how fantastic a cooked meal by someone else is post labor}, and recently had us over for dinner. I inhaled her delicious food, and she was kind enough to share her healthy appetizer recipe with me to share with you.

This makes for a wonderful party appetizer…and for all you wonderful gluten-free folk, this one works for you too!

Eggplant, Pepper and Onion Dip
recipe adapted from Sandy Lessig

Ingredients
1 red pepper
1 eggplant
1/2-1 Vidalia onion {if you like a stronger onion flavor, use 1 whole onion. And when Vidalia onions are out of season, use yellow onions}
4-8 tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Food Should Taste Good, Olive Chips

How To
Cut red pepper, eggplant and 1/2 onion into large pieces. Keep the skin on the eggplant.
Toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper. I covered the veggies in about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.

Roast veggies at 350 degrees until tender, about 30 min.
Use a food processor {or blender} to blend the veggies together. I added another 2 tablespoons Olive Oil to the food processor as I was blending it to make it smoother, but the amount of Olive Oil you add if your preference. You can add salt, pepper and even garlic salt to taste too.
Serve in a bowl or fancy individual cup with Gluten Free, Food Should Taste Good Olive Crackers. You can serve this warm or cold {it’s similar to hummus}, so you can make the day before a party and not worry about re-heating.
Enjoy!

{images via Tutto Bella}

italian terra cotta love

I have always loved terra-cotta {or baked earth translated in Italian} pots because they remind me of being in Italy, and they remind me of summer and beautiful flowers.

I’m heading to Home Depot this week to make this for my son’s teachers, and might have to buy a couple more terra-cotta pots to make the projects below. It’s the time of year for planting, so it’s the perfect time to start these easy, affordable DIY’s.

Chalkboard Pots, Martha Stewart
{These would make for great gifts, escort cards, favors, place cards and home garden}
Image
Terra Cotta Gift
, Martha Stewart
{fill the terra-cotta pot with seed packets, top the pot with the saucer and tie a bow on top with twine for a lovely, affordable gift}
terra cotta diy gift

ImageDIY Potted Banana Bread, Style Me Pretty
Image
Thank You for Helping Me Grow Teacher Gift
, Giggles Galore
Image

DIY Cupcake Stand, Once Wed
{This idea can be used for a wedding, a birthday party or a shower. It’s an affordable way to make a cupcake stand the color and design of your choice.}

Image

Graphic Pots for any Celebration, Chicago Home and Garden

Image

Favors and Wedding Decor, Snippet and Ink
Image
DIY Terra Cotta Pot Coasters, Joy is at Home

Image

Pretty Pots, Christine Chitnis
{click here for her tutorial}
Image

{images via Once Wed, Martha Stewart, Giggles Galore, Style Me Pretty, Chicago Home and Garden, Joy is at Home, Snippet and Ink and Christine Chitnis}

eat {and celebrate} what you sow

OK, I know…fall is almost here. But, before summer is officially over, why not throw a garden party. I’m inspired to do so this year because it was my first year growing a garden {along with my lovely neighbor, Regina}. I came to the conclusion that I am great at growing Kale and Carrots. But first to admit that my areas for much-needed improvement include Spinach and something that I just can’t do in the mountains {unless I start as a plant inside} – Zucchini. There’s always next year!

Invite your mom, girlfriends or neighbors…and with the ideas below, your party will be fabulous…and healthy!

What’s on the Menu?
Caprese Skewers

{recipe via With Style and Grace}
Ingredients
Cherry [or grape] tomatoes – any color, halved
Mozzarella balls, cut into slices
Fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea salt, to taste
Toothpicks
Ceramic ramekins

Directions
Skewer one tomato half, cut side up. Stack the thin slice of mozzarella, followed by a sprig of fresh basil and then topped with the other tomato half, cut side down – forming a tomatoes mozzarella & basil “sandwich”.
If you have individual dishes, add about 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil – more or less depending on the size of dish. Rest the tomato skewers on top.
NOTE: You can also serve these on a plate and drizzle the olive oil and balsamic directly over the tomato skewers.

Veggie Pizza
{adapted from Colorado Cache}
Ingredients
8 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dry dill weed
1 teaspoon minced onion {dried onion}
2 cup finely cut veggies {cut in small pieces…I like to use broccoli, red pepper, carrots and sometimes cauliflower}
1/2 cup green onions, thinly diced
1 package Pillsbury crescent rolls

Directions
Blend cream cheese, mayonnaise, dill, dried onion in a medium bowl.
Roll out crescent roll onto baking tray and connect ‘seams’ to make one large square with dough.
Bake for 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool. Sometimes its less time, so just keep and eye on the dough to make sure it doesn’t get too brown.
Once cooled, add cream cheese mixture and top with veggies, then with green onions.
Store in refrigerator before serving.
Cut in squares and place on pretty serving tray.
Yes, it’s that easy and it’s so yummy!

Corn and Avocado Salad

{adapted from Martha Stewart}
Ingredients
4 shucked ears of corn
1 sliced Hass avocado
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions
Heat grill to medium-high. Grill corn, rotating often, until lightly charred, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly. Carefully cut kernels from cob. Gently toss with avocado, lime juice, olive oil, and salt.

Veggies in a Cup, Individual Servings
This is so simple, but it’s a garden party, so there has to be plenty of veggies, right?
Place sticks of veggies in a cup, arranged to look pretty, and serve with a side of ranch or hummus.

Drinks
Serve lavender lemonade in mason jars, like Oprah did for her garden party. Coffee and tea {and champagne or white wine} would hit the spot too.

Dessert
Pie in a Jar


Read the Pie in a Jar tutorial here. Apple Pie or Cherry Pie - you decide.

Zucchini Bread
{adapted from , found at WebMD}
Ingredients
1 rounded cup of fresh, grated zucchini
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch (sometimes called tapioca flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup light olive oil or coconut oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice
2 free-range organic egg whites, beaten or egg replacer (1/4 cup liquid)
1/4 cup coconut milk {we used So Delicious}
Optional: 1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Instructions
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment paper.
Press the grated zucchini with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as you can. After pressing, fluff with a fork. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, sea salt, and cinnamon. Add in the brown sugar. Add the oil, lemon juice, egg whites or egg replacer, and the coconut milk. Beat to combine and continue to beat on medium high until the batter is smooth – about two minutes. Add in almost all of the shredded zucchini and stir by hand to combine. If you are adding nuts, stir them in to distribute. Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan and using a silicone spatula, even out the top.
Bake in the center of a preheated oven until the top is golden and firm, yet gives a bit when lightly touched. It should feel slightly springy. This may take anywhere from 50 to 60 minutes. Test with a wooden tooth pick -  it should emerge with no crumbs or batter.

Decor
Stick with white/ivory colors with an accent of green.

Create a herb wreath to greet your guests with fresh sage, oregano, rosemary, and bay leaves from Swith and Hawkin or make one yourself.

Place a large vase, or three small vases with a hydrangea arrangement from your yard in the center of the table.

Use mini terra-cotta pots filled with herbs such as rosemary, basil, cilantro, etc as place cards. Use popsicle sticks to write your guests names and stick in dirt. You can give as favors, or save for your own herb garden.


Use artichokes as candle holders. Cheap and adorable.

Favors
Give guests seeds packets for next year’s garden, or bulbs to plant this fall.

{images via You are my Fave, Martha Stewart, With Style and Grace, Country Living, Intimate Weddings, Elizabeth Anne Designs, Lowes and Thrift Shop Romantic}