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Tangy Homemade Ranch Dressing

As a self-proclaimed vinaigrette type of girl, I usually avoid creamy dressings. It’s not because of some dietary issue, but I think it goes all the way back to childhood. My Dad was an executive chef who owned a German/Austrian/Hungarian restaurant in Jamaica during the 70’s and I always remember him making creamy type salad dressings at home. I know he made other types as well, but the creamy ones are most prevalent in my memory. They always seemed to have a sweetish kind of taste, which is why I never gravitated to them and I still haven’t changed. Since I was a very young child, I have never had the palate for sweet and sour in my food. I have however always liked savory and salty flavors.

In my older years, I am becoming much more tolerant and have tried a few creamy dressings that have made me change my mind, like the Ranch Dressing that I tried Red Wing Restaurant in Groveland, Florida. it is the best Ranch Dressing that I have ever tasted and they make it from scratch. After having a wonderful meal with friends one Sunday, I promised myself that I would try and re-create the dressing.

This one is a cool creamy dressing. Now I have tried so many varieties of Ranch dressing and each has a different flavor using a variety of herbs.

Flavored with fresh herbs, this is a refreshingly cool and creamy dressing with just the right amount of zing from tangy buttermilk, sour cream and vinegar. This dressing is not only used on salads, but goes well as a dipping sauce for raw and fried vegetables.

You will need:
(Printable Recipe)
⅓ cup of mayonnaise
cup of sour cream
¾ cup of buttermilk
½ teaspoon vinegar
splash of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chopped onions
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons chives
2 pinches salt (or to taste)
2 turns freshly ground pepper

Place all the ingredients in a blender or a food processor, blend until smooth.

This recipe yields 1½ cups of dressing. Voilà. Enjoy the goodness!


Spicy Basil Oil

This is an oil that we like to use pretty often. Make preferably in small batches.
Basil adds an aromatic sweet yet savory taste and then the red pepper flakes adds a nice kick to the oil. 

It can be drizzled on garlic bread, pizzas, soup, grilled meats or used in salad dressings, on sandwiches, mixed in mayonnaise…the options are limitless. 
Photography by Robert Demetrius


Red Wine Vinaigrette

As you all know, we love eating salads in our household. Twice daily preferably. I guess old habits die hard. A tart, yet mustardy vinaigrette is my favorite. It also happens that I get very complacent when doing my dressings and will use the same vinegars over and over. It’s quite amazing that when you change the vinegar, you get a totally different flavor, even when using the regular ingredients.
Photography by Robert Demetrius


Minted Blood Orange Pomegranate Punch

Hubby doesn’t drink any alcohol so I try to make drinks or cocktails when we have invited friends over, that he can enjoy without feeling left out! I start out with a non-alcoholic base, and then add alcohol. So at times it means getting really creative.
Photography by Heaven on Hearth


White Wine Bowle

Light, refreshing…it’s a drink that I love to serve starting in spring and going straight through summer.
Photography by Felieca A. Cordle

 A “Bowle” is a cold beverage made of wine, sparkling wine and fruit, which can also be infused with herbs, rum, cognac or vodka and is served in a Punch Bowl. In Germany and Austria, it’s usually served at a party or for a special get together.
White Wine Bowle with Orange and Lemon Slices
I can remember the very first time I had a Bowle. It was at my friends Ursula’s house in Vienna. She had invited a few friends over. It had been a beautiful and warm afternoon and she made a Strawberry Bowle.

I remembered her using Remy Martin Cognac, sugar, Grüner Veltliner and a bottle of Henkel Trocken Sekt along with the strawberries. I have made many Bowles ever since for many occasions, in different ways, using a variety of fruit and liqueurs.

For this Bowle, I decided not to use any fruits that we would eat, just fruits that would look beautiful and spring like in a bowl or punch glass.

I used St. Germain Liqueur, made of elderflower blossoms that have a sweet delicately fragrant taste of citrus and tropical fruits. So, citrus slices would be perfect.
1 bottle of white wine, Sauvignon Blanc
1 bottle of sparkling wine
½ cup St. Germain Liqueur (Elderflower Liqueur)
1 orange in thin slices
1 lemon in thin slices
Lemon and Orange Slices
In a punch bowl, slice 1 orange and 1 lemon in thin slices with an OXO hand held mandoline slicer hand mandolin. They really come out nice and thin and will look beautiful floating in the drink, because all the slices will be exactly the same thickness.

Pour in ½ cup of St. Germain Liqueur. Then add a bottle of white wine, I prefer a sauvignon Blanc because it’s quite versatile and ranges from grassy to fruity flavors.
White Wine Bowle in a Universal Wine Glass
And just before serving, add 1 bottle of sparkling wine. The punch glasses turned out to be too small for my guests, so I packed a universal wine glass with ice and spooned 2 ladles of Bowle in each glass.

This really is a refreshing drink. This serves 8. Voilà. Prost!


An Easter Celebration

Easter…a time to celebrate surrounded by family and friends, a time for laughter, nourishment of the soul and the stomach. It’s a wonderful time to prepare for a feast. This was really going to be a special Easter because my Mother and Aunt had come to visit for the weekend.
Photography by Robert Demetrius


Food Blog Forum Orlando 2012

Food Blog Forum is produced by Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, Todd and Diane of White On Rice Couple, July Deily of The Little Kitchen and Dawn Viola.

I had been to the first one that was held last year in Orlando, which was a memorable experience for me, as I have grown in leaps and bounds since then. So, when I read that Food Blog Forum was hosting another event in Orlando, I was so excited to sign up. Unfortunately, I thought I had missed the deadline by a day and it was totally booked out. However, my spirits weren’t dampened for long, as July Deily of The Little Kitchen emailed me back swiftly telling me that I could still register and I did so immediately.

The venue for the event was Walt Disney World Resort. Most of the bloggers stayed at Disney's Polynesian Resort. The welcome reception was held at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa by Walt Disney World.

It started with a welcome reception on Friday afternoon where I had the chance to see fellow food bloggers I had met the year before, Julius of Droolius, Wandy of My Sweet Zepol, Aggie of Aggie's Kitchen and Christine of Cook The Story, while meeting new bloggers, Julia of The Novice Chef, Suzanne of Kokocooks, Lana of Never Enough Thyme, Ann of Healthy Cooking For Me, Robyn of Grill Grrrl and Chris of Eat Local Orlando. We were having such a good that a few of us actually closed it down.
Roasted Shrimp
Salads Hanging in Martini glasses!
Asian Chicken Salad
Mac and Cheese with Pancetta and Mushrooms
Mango Haupa Verrines
Blood Orange Timbale
The following morning, we all headed over to Epcot for the event.
Entrance to Epcot
Before the event started, we enjoyed a breakfast buffet to get sustenance for the morning ahead.
Breakfast Buffet
Banger and Mash

Egg White Frittata
Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple, opened the event. I was intrigued, inspired, touched and moved. They shared their passion, story and work, reminding us that every picture has a story. 

“Your story is unique. Believe in your story!” and “Your eyes are your lenses. Your heart is the shutter!” "What you capture is unique. Don’t wait!” They had some of us in tears during their session.They have made me think twice about the pictures that I will now choose in the future. 
Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple
Jaden Hair, Rachel Barbarotta of KitchenAid, Arianna Bastianini of OXO and Tom Smith of Walt Disney World Resorts gave us pointers on how to form a relationship with brands and what they are looking for. Be passionate about your own brand. Do not be afraid of being persistent. Approach brands more than once. So don’t be disillusioned if it doesn’t work out the first time around.
Right to left, Rachel Barbarotta of KitchenAid, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, Arianna Bastianni of OXO and Thomas Smith of Walt Disney World Resort

KitchenAid - See that blender on the right! I won one!
OXO Showcase - We certainly got some lovely gifts from them in our goodie bags!
David Leite of Leite's Culinaria also left a serious impression on me. His title was “How to Write Bigger, Better, More Badass Food Posts”.
He reminded us that enough is NEVER enough. Think fiction. Write non-fiction. Be a storyteller. He also suggested that we should get the book Grammar for Dummies and read it from back to front and then all over again. I will certainly take heed and get that book before the end of the week! 
David Leite of Leite's Culinaria

Dawn Viola took us from taking our blog from a hobby to turning it into a business. A piece of advice: Also, use your blog as a professional writing platform. “Pitch what you love” while “building trust and credibility”.
Dawn Viola
We were treated to a leisurely Taste of Disney luncheon, which was interesting as it was delicious. There was something for everyone and more. I had initially thought that 2 hours for lunch was going to be long, but once I got to the venue, I understood and time went by quicker than I had imagined.

Roasted Red Beet Salad with Field Greens, Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans
Epcot Land Pavillion Sweet Greens with Vero Beach Arugula and Red Watercress
Seared Salmon with Couscous, Broccoli and Hummus - Chef Al Hopkins
Slow Roasted Bourbon Induced Black Pig Heritage Pork Tenderloin Slider and Super Grain Fries - Chef Damon Lauder
After lunch we had four 30 minute round table sessions with experts of our choice.

I was most excited to start off my first session with Elise Bauer of Simply RecipesShe was the reason that I first wanted to start blogging, she was such an inspiration, so you can just imagine how thrilled I was to meet her. Elise gave us advice on copyright issues. Reminding us to acknowledge the source, re-writing things in your own words and ask for permission before posting someone else’s recipe.

Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes. Was I happy to meet her at long last!
Then on to Scott Hair, who helped with moving your blog to a .com, by going through all the steps that need to be taken on the back end of things.

David Leite suggested sexy provocative posts, starting with a line that is the killer. Captivating your audience and being authentic is of utmost importance.

My final session was with Diane of White on Rice Couple and Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille who gave us a live styling and photography demonstration.

Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille teaching us tips on food styling
Right to Left, Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple and Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille
Although the event had come to an end, I was quite happy. Not only did I meet some interesting people, but also left with my hands laden. A great goodie bag and also a 5 speed KitchenAid blender, that I had won. Now how lucky was I?

On the way back to the hotel, Christine of Cook the Story and I had the pleasure of talking to David of Leite’s Culinaria.

Looking back, the day had been such a success in more ways than one. Julie of The Little Kitchen had organized such a wonderful event, as usual. Being able to meet some of the heavy weights in the food blogging industry who shared their knowledge with openness and kindness, as well as meeting new bloggers like, Ashley Pardo of The Grizzly Kitchen, LaTonya of Haute Cookture, Rashmi of The Primlani Kitchen, Carroll of Vanilla Lemonade, Kelly of Just a Taste, Sally of Cooking Lessons and Jessica of Chef Jessica Bright.
The day had come to an end, but the evening was still ahead…

As if the day wasn't eventful enough, we were all invited to a private dessert party at Epcot Center where we watched IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. It was a spectacular way to end the day, fireworks! I actually sneaked out a bit early to view the rest of the show with my husband!

On Sunday morning, we headed to Orlando Whole Foods Market who put on a spread for the brunch they sponsored. More goodie bags and gifts were handed out. 
Tomasa Spinach & Cheese Empanadas, Quiche, Tofu Scramblers and Thompson Fram 5 Plus Step Rated Sausages
Brunch at Orlando Whole Foods Market, with Scott Hair
Diane Cu, myself and Todd Porter of White On Rice Couple
It was a memorable weekend where I met new friends and know that I have learnt some invaluable information which will allow me to grow and excel as a blogger. Thank you Food Blog Forum!
Goodies from my Goodie Bag and my KitchenAid Blender! How lucky was I?


Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

Although I am not a sweet tooth, I just had a craving for some thick, gooey and chewy chocolate chip cookies.
The Perfect Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

I searched through my books and the Internet until I came up with a batch of cookies that looked good enough to bite into, but also sounded, based on the ingredients, exactly what I was looking for.

Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies from Brown Eyed Baker fitted my needs. So, I decided to try it out. All I will say is, love at first bite.
Photography by Heaven on Hearth

This is what you will need.
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons melted butter (1½ sticks)
1 cups dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups semi sweet chocolate chips

For this recipe, you will need to use two racks.  Make sure the racks are evenly placed on the middle top and lower middle rack.

Pre-heat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Blend 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt together in a bowl.
Melted Butter and Sugar
Mix 12 tablespoons melted butter, 1 cup dark brown sugar and ½ cup granulated sugar together until well blended. 
Butter, Sugar, Eggs and Vanilla Mixture
Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla until well combined. 
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Slowly add the dried ingredients and stir in the chocolate chips.
Large Scoops of Dough on Parchment Lined Cookie Sheet
Using an ice cream scoop that makes about ¼ cup balls, scoop out the dough then place on the baking sheet and press down gently. Make sure to place them 2–2½ inches apart, as they will spread out during the baking process.
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, Fresh from the Oven 
Bake cookies for about 12 minutes, then change move the bottom sheet to the top and the top to the bottom rack. Bake further for another 7 minutes, until golden. Remove the cookies from the baking sheets and let cool on a rack.
How Good is This?

Voilà. This made 14 large Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Eat while still warm, which I can guarantee will not be a problem. I was able to save a cookie, which I had the next day and it was still nice and chewy! This is a must make, over and over cookie. 


Shrimp in Light Dill Sauce

This was inspired by my Father’s recipe. It brings back so many warm and loving memories. Sunday lunch was always served around 2pm, when we lived in Jamaica, in the 1970’s. One of the lunches that always come to mind is with my Mum, Dad, Grandma and my sister. My Dad would prepare a large bowl of his “Shrimp in Dill Sauce” which was served in my Mother’s large green and white Rosenthal China bowl. His dill sauce was thick and creamy, more along the texture and consistency of a béchamel sauce. Huge succulent pieces of shrimp were added to finish the dish. Hmmm…Sunday lunches were my absolute favorite. This is a lighter version of my childhood favorite.
Photography by Heaven On Hearth

1 pound shrimp
¼ medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 dill stalks, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter

For the simple shrimp stock:
shrimp shells (approximately 3 ounces)
pinch of salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup water

Start by dicing ¼ medium onion and roughly chop 1 clove of garlic.
Shrimp Shells, Onions and Garlic
Using 2 bowls, de-shell and de-vein 1 pound of shrimp. Place the shells in one bowl and the shrimp in another. The shrimp shells will be used to make the stock. Cover the bowl with the shrimp and keep in the fridge until ready.
Shrimp Stock Simmering
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once the skillet is nice and hot, add 1 tablespoon canola oil then toss in the shells, a pinch of salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Sauté the shells for 5 minutes before adding 1 cup of water and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Once the liquid has reduced, strain the stock through a sieve and discard the shells. This will yield ¼ cup of stock.
Shrimp Stock
Using the same skillet, over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons canola oil. Toss in shrimp and sauté for 2½ minutes, or until the shrimp are slightly pink on each side. While the shrimp are getting pink, chop 2 stalks of dill, or enough for 2 tablespoons. Then, add the diced onions, garlic and 2 tablespoons chopped dill and sauté for another 2 minutes.
Shrimp with Onions, Garlic and Dill
Add shrimp stock, cup heavy cream and ¼ teaspoon salt and simmer for 2 minutes. Just before taking off the heat, add 3 tablespoons cold butter to thicken the sauce.
Shrimp in Light Dill Sauce
This serves 4. Voilà. Serve with fluffy white rice, vegetables and a tossed salad. It makes for a perfect dinner. A chilled glass of Grüner Veltliner would certainly compliment this dish.

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