blog to follow: taste by williams-sonoma

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I’m a huge fan of Williams-Sonoma ever since becoming a homeowner. I definitely consider the company to be the front-runner in top home products & tools, and even some specialty food items. Until recently, I never knew they had a team of food experts running their blog, Taste. This is now one of my top 5 bookmarked blogs and I rely on it heavily for great recipe ideas! The recipes they post range in complexity, but are always creative and inspiring.

Taste highlights recipes by season, spotlights ingredients, Sunday supper ideas, baking and more. The blog also covers amazing entertaining and holiday tips. The content is engaging and unique; it really serves as a guide for the kitchen. I love it! Here are a couple of my favorite recipes:

italianbraisedshortribs

Italian Braised Short Ribs

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Sweet Potato Fries // Garlic & Herbs

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Grilled Lamb Chops // Fresh Peach Salsa

Check out their blog & share some of your favorites in the comments below!

a tuesday taste: appetizers for dinner

One of my favorite easy suppers to make comprises of a few filling, delicious appetizers in place of one typical meal. Here are some tasty ideas:

cheese tray

A small cheese tray with crackers and olives – I love all types of cheeses and putting together a cheese plate is a great way to try new kinds. It is also filling and puts me in the “small bite” mood. Williams-Sonoma has a great article here with advice on assembling a great cheese tray.

shrimp cocktail

 

Shrimp is delicious and a low calorie food. Shrimp cocktail is a good source of protein and an easy appetizer to make. I typically buy it fresh and cooked, but if you need tips on how to prepare uncooked shrimp, check out this Martha Stewart article here.

TJs meatballs

 

Trader Joe’s has yummy appetizers to choose from! A bag of TJ’s Mini Masala Meatballs is one of my favorite. Buy some sauce to go with them and you’re good to go!

parm pups

Pigs in a blanket are always a great option! You can make them yourself, or pick up another Trader Joe’s winner: Parmesan Pastry Pups. The parmesan flavor is amazing!

Any favorite appetizers you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

 

afternoon pick-me-up: green tea

One of my favorite ways to relax in the late afternoon in the office is to have a cup of green tea. There are many health benefits to drinking green tea because it contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-viral properties.

green tea

Image via http://www.fitday.com

Studies show a direct link of green tea to cancer prevention and a lower risk of heart disease. There are many different types of green tea, such as – infused with jasmine, decaf and Chinese green tea. Green tea is my favorite kind, but remember – most types of tea are all very healthy for you! It is what we tend to add to our tea (sugar and cream) that adds the calories, etc.

In one of my emails today, I came across an awesome free gift from Twinings tea company. If you visit the following link, you can choose 3 tea samples from their inventory and they will mail them to you for free! I definitely recommend at least selecting one of their green teas! Since the sample program is free, why not?

Visit http://pantry.twiningsusa.com/ to choose your samples today!

Are you a fan of drinking tea? What are some of your favorite teas?

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a tuesday taste

I am one of those people who really love to eat fresh salads for lunch. I actually do enjoy healthy food…however I also love the bad stuff! One of the best tips I’ve heard – make your salad vibrant in color. I wanted to share with you the ingredients for my go-to salad for the work week:

I start with the Olivia’s Organics Spring Mix. It is great to buy all organic vegetables however it can be very expensive. I do try to make sure at least the spring mix I buy is organic since it is the bulk of the salad. I choose the spring mix (or sometimes the 50/50 with spinach) since it is the richest in nutrients. Always remember – the darker green, the better!

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I always slice up at least one type of bell pepper – usually a red pepper (organic if possible). I also like the flavor of the orange and yellow peppers and they definitely add some color to the meal.

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Red bell peppers are a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K, and minerals. Some of the other key nutritional benefits:

  • Vitamin A: preserves eyesight, fights infections
  • Beta-carotene: protects against types of cancers, including breast cancer
  • Lycopene: reduces your risk of ovarian cancer
  • Vitamin C: reduces your risk of types of cancers

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I like to toss in some cherry or grape tomatoes. Tomatoes are also nutrient-rich and full of lycopene. If you hate tomatoes, a bell red pepper is a good alternative since it contains powerful lycopene.

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Avocado is one of my favorite fruits! I slice up half (sometimes more!) and mix it in with my greens. There are about 230 calories in one whole avocado so you need to be careful when eating it with other foods that may be high calorie as well. However, avocado is a heart-healthy unsaturated fat and helps make the salad more filling. Adding an avocado to your salad has additional perks – research shows antioxidants such as lycopene and beta-carotene (think your tomatoes and/or red peppers) are better absorbed with the consumption of healthy fat (avocado).

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In order to stay full, I need protein in my salad. I like to add plain grilled or baked chicken (or lightly seasoned with basil and lemon juice). I recommend buying some boneless chicken breasts and baking or grilling Sunday night. You can then easily slice it up and use it in your salad for the next couple of days. Hate chicken? Try some nitrate-free and low sodium turkey or cooked egg.

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Sometimes I like to add 4 or 5 olives. I think the combined flavors of the chicken, avocado and olives is amazing! Olives are a great source of antioxidants and they have other health benefits. They are typically high in sodium though – so make sure you eat them in moderation!

In terms of ‘dressing’, I usually squeeze some lemon juice and I’m good to go! The avocado adds a lot of flavor and in my opinion, it kind of becomes the ‘dressing’!

What are your favorite salads? Any other healthy salad toppings you love?

weekend idea: play hostess!

Happy Friday!! Hope everyone had a great week!

Need a fun idea for this weekend? Why not invite some friends over and host a gathering at your place? Since the season is changing, there’s plenty to catch up on with friends and a small dinner party is the perfect platform. Here are some tips to make your get-together a success:

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Hosting a full meal? A great tip for centerpieces: put some candlesticks in your empty wine bottles for a nice touch!

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Fresh flowers are perfect for all occasions. Don’t have any vases lying around? A mason jar or funky glassware can always be used as a substitute. Always be creative! Just make sure your flower arrangement is low enough so guests can still see each other across the table.

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Our lives revolve around technology these days – so how exciting would it be to receive a beautiful invitation via snail mail? Handmade invitations (if time permits…) are a wonderful personal touch when hosting. They can also be fun to create!

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Don’t wait for people to arrive to turn on the music! Keep the music on to set the atmosphere. I also recommend putting together a playlist beforehand so you don’t have to be concerned with switching songs or Pandora ads.

A few more suggestions:

  • Survey your guests beforehand about food and drink preferences, allergies, etc.
  • Prepare ahead of time – set the table and bar area, make any cold food items or think of any other tasks you can complete at least the night before
  • Make sure your bathroom is well-stocked for guests

Do you have any hostess tips? Let me know in the comments section below!

DIY avocado & honey face mask

Battling dry skin? I made a super easy homemade face mask and tried it out today! Check out the simple instructions below.

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Ingredients:

1 full ripe avocado

2 tablespoons of honey

Directions:

Mash the avocado in a bowl so there are no chunks. Add about 2 tablespoons of honey to the avocado and stir thoroughly. Apply this sweet-smelling paste to your face  and let it stay on for 15 to 20 minutes.

Rinse your face with warm water and enjoy soft skin and the lingering smell of fruit and honey!

tired of the usual ponytail?

Here are a couple of adorable hairstyles to try out this weekend! I’m completely into experimenting with fun braids and buns to change up my look.

Braided Crown

Braided Crown

My hair has finally grown long enough to get a little crazy with braids. Love this braided crown look!

Hair Flair

Hair Flair

Want to keep the style simple but need some flair? Add a ribbon for a pop of color or pattern! You can pick up different ribbons and fabrics at your local craft store or dollar store.

Bouffant Bun

Bouffant Bun

Don’t settle for a plain bun – add a little height! I love this style – I think it looks great with a plain outfit. The bouffant bun IS your accessory.