Summer Bloody Mary with Melon & Basil

The Crafty Hostess: MakeSummer tomatoes are at their peak and the heirloom variety is as pretty as a picture. I just love the colors, shapes and textures of these sweet, summer jewels. Whether you’re slicing them to top a killer BLT sandwich, pureeing them for a homemade marinara sauce, or juicing them to make the base for a fresh Bloody Mary, they are ripe for the picking and ready to be added to an array of summer dishes. When the go-to source for gourmet foods and professional cookware, Williams-Sonoma, asked me and a group of other bloggers to put our own spin on the traditional Bloody Mary using ripe, summer tomatoes, I jumped at the opportunity to make something that’s inspired by the many flavors of summer. For me, that includes ripe, earthy tomatoes, sweet, juicy melon and bright, tender basil. Enhanced with a little heat and some saltiness, it’s a perfectly unique, summery twist on the classic Bloody Mary base.

I’ve been researching juicers recently, but haven’t taken the plunge yet. I’m eyeing up the Breville Juice Fountain Elite for its large feed tube. As a busy mom, easier is always better, and the extra large tube eliminates the need to precut ingredients. That’s a huge time-saver and it would allow me to make fresh, healthy juices for my family in a flash! In the meantime, I’m using my handy dandy blender to whip up shakes and purees. For this recipe, I decided to broiled the tomatoes first, which helps intensify and bring out their deep flavor. I removed the skin and pulsed the whole tomatoes in the blender. It’s an extra step, but I know that it’s fresher and healthier than pre-bottled juices.

Take advantage of summer’s sweet bounty this Labor Day weekend and give this cocktail a try. It’s a great way to savor the last days of the season. Crafty Tip: you can also freeze the puree for the base in airtight containers so you can enjoy summer-inspired Bloody Mary’s for weeks to come!

Bloody Mary

 

Ingredients for the base:

(Makes about two servings)

1 lb. of ripe heirloom tomatoes (plum or campari would also work well since they are naturally sweet)

1/4 of a ripe cantaloupe, seeds and rind removed

Few dashes of Tabasco sauce

Few dashes Worcestershire sauce

3-4 basil leaves

Sea salt (to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

 

How to:

Broil the tomatoes whole with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the skin begins to blister and the tomatoes are soft, remove from the oven. Allow to cool just enough so you can handle them. Peel off the skin and discard.

Place the tomatoes, cantaloupe and basil leaves in a blender. Puree until smooth. Add the Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, to taste. Give it one last quick pulse to blend.

In a glass, place a few ice cubes. Pour in about 1 1/2 ounces of vodka. Pour some of the base into the glass. Give it a stir to incorporate. Garnish each glass with a bleu cheese stuffed olive and melon ball on a cocktail pick.

Alternatively, you could also place all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with with ice.

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Chic & Stylish Home Security Ideas

CreateTinkering, tweaking, and constantly changing out the design elements in my home is one of my passions. I love to create an atmosphere that’s not only stylish, but conducive to a busy family like mine. Despite the fact that I’m a lover of beautiful home decor, I’m a mom of three young children, so it’s equally important to foster a practical, safe, secure environment for my family. When it comes to home security, there’s a bit more to it than a “beware of dog” sign in the front yard. Top-of-the-line alarm systems will definitely offer peace of mind, as will a WiFi home security system, such as Dropcam, which allows you to monitor (and record) the activity in your home from your smartphone, computer or tablet — from anywhere. However, there are also seemingly small design elements that you can incorporate into your home décor scheme that are not only chic, but add another layer of security, too. You’d be surprised at some of the possibilities – and none of them are lacking in style or beauty!

 

Mirror, mirror on the wall (or floor!). 

Mirrors are a timeless, classic design element that can be used in a variety of ways. Functional and necessary in a bathroom or dressing area, mirrors are also a stunning addition to many other spaces throughout the home. They are excellent light reflectors and can help to give your home a feeling of openness and brightness. Mirrors can help add a security value to your space, as well. For example, a large mirror mounted over a fireplace in the living/family room, or a horizontal-shaped mirror hung on the wall in the hallway, allows you to see the activity of the day, as well as people coming and going from room-to-room.

mirrors_fireplace-e1286302456502

hallway-mirror-ideas-02

If your children are older and child-proofing your home is not of concern, consider large, floor-standing mirrors that are intended to lean against a wall. This is a stunning statement for a bedroom or living space and can even be used in a large entry hall.

floor-standing-mirror

 

Taming the kitchen beast. 

Nowadays more than ever, the kitchen has truly become the central command tower of the home. It’s where everything happens and where everyone gathers. It’s more than just a place to cook and share a meal, but it’s a place to do homework, browse the web, pay bills, read a magazine on your tablet and countless other daily goings-on. It is the hub of the home and as a result, it can quickly become a place to leave all of your personal belongings, including expensive, portable electronic devices.

kitchen clutter

Many homes have a deck or patio space off the kitchen, which means French doors or sliders that provide gorgeous natural light and access to the outdoors. In fact, according to HGTV FrontDoor.com, adding a porch, patio or deck will increase the value of your home and provide the maximum return on investment. If you prefer not to cover up the beauty of French doors with draperies or blinds, consider concealing costly items instead of leaving them out in plain view for potential burglars to find attractive.

A decorative and functional way to do this is by incorporating a wall-mounted file folder/magazine holder into your kitchen scheme. Available in a variety of sizes and finishes like wood or metal, they can be purchased inexpensively at retailers like HomeGoods. Use the pockets to hold magazines and newspapers, the kids’ homework, take-out menus or anything else that needs to be corralled. By slipping a costly device, like a tablet, into one of the pockets, you’re designing with security and safety in mind — and keeping the kitchen clutter under control!

magazine rack

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Iced Cafe Amaretto Dessert Cocktail

The Crafty Hostess: MakeSweet, nutty and oh-so-smooth, I love the flavor of amaretto, a luscious almond-flavored Italian liqueur. When my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Italy, I ended each of our romantic dinners with a cordial of Disaronno Amaretto, followed by a shot of espresso (and there was usually a big scoop of hazelnut gelato or a slab of tiramisu on the table, too!) . In keeping with the Italian entertaining culture, I like to serve my guests with an assortment of after-dinner liqueurs, like amaretto, followed by coffee and dessert. I got to thinking… why not combine coffee and amaretto into an elegant, dessert-like cocktail? On a hot summer night, it’s the perfect way to cool down and unwind!

The Amaretto Cafe flavor of coffee creamer from International Delight adds just the right amount of sweetness and almond flavor to this Italian coffeehouse-inspired, boozy beverage. For more recipe ideas and coffeehouse inspiration, visit International Delight on Pinterest! And don’t forget to join their online community to receive access to exclusive member giveaways and coupons!

cafe amaretto

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ounces of amaretto

6 ounces of coffee, preferably dark roast

1/2 ounce of brandy

1 ounce of International Delight Amaretto Cafe coffee creamer

 

How to:

Combine all ingredients in a stainless steel cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake well. To serve straight-up, pour into a cocktail glass, straining out the ice (I used a stemless martini glass). To serve as a dessert, top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of sliced almonds — and be sure to give each guest a spoon!

(Makes about 2 servings)

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

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DIY Velvet Play-Dough

CreateTubs of colorful molding clays and doughs are definitely one of those things for a busy mom to keep in her arsenal of craft supplies. They keep children entertained, plus they are a terrific multi-sensory way for a child to play, learn and refine their motor skills. These hot summer days, while fun and action-packed, can certainly seem to linger on. If the kids are getting bored or you’re looking for something to do with them on a rainy day, this homemade play-dough is a great craft activity to do together.

Joey-dough

play dough

DIY Velvet Play-Dough
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 4 Tsp. cream of tartar
  • Food coloring
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except the food coloring in a non-stick pot.
  2. Over low heat, cook the mixture, stirring well to incorporate.
  3. As the mixture cooks, it will begin to solidify and get lumpy.
  4. Continue to move the mixture around the pot, preferably with a silicone spoon.
  5. The mixture will begin to pull away from the sides of the pot. Gently smooth out any lumps.
  6. When it appears to be solidified, turn off the heat and begin to add the food coloring. If you prefer to make more than one color, take some of the dough out of the pot, place in a bowl and add the coloring. You want to add the coloring while the dough is still hot.
  7. Work with coloring into the dough using the spoon. Then knead with your hands.
  8. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and allow to cool completely.
  9. Store in an airtight container so it stays moist. Have fun!

 

 

 

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Spaghetti with Garlic & Oil

The Crafty Hostess: MakeSpaghetti with Garlic & Oil, called Spaghetti Aglio Et Olio in Italian, is a light, simple pasta dish with big flavor. With just a few ingredients, it’s perfect for an easy, yet comforting, dinner (and it tastes great reheated the next day for lunch!). In Italy, it’s traditional to eat spaghetti with garlic and oil after midnight, usually after a night out on the town. My great grandmother always made this dish on New Year’s Eve; as soon as the clock struck midnight and the Times Square ball dropped, she started boiling the water for the pasta. It’s the perfect family-style pasta dish — mangia!

spaghetti garlic_oil

 

Spaghetti with Garlic & Oil
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. of egg spaghetti (or any type of spaghetti that you prefer)
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, sliced and roughly chopped
  • Italian parsley, chopped
  • ¼ Tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Good quality olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of a saute pan, plus extra for finishing the pasta
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Boil the water for the spaghetti; cook until al dente.
  2. While the spaghetti is cooking, pour the olive oil in the saute pan. I used a 3.5 quart saute pan for this dish.
  3. Heat the oil over low heat and add the garlic. Saute until fragrant.
  4. Add the red pepper flakes to the oil and garlic. Continue to saute.
  5. Season the oil mixture with a good pinch of kosher salt; add in the parsley, stir and shut the flame.
  6. Instead of draining the pasta and discarding the water, use tongs to lift the pasta from the pot and add it to the hot oil in the saute pan. You want the pasta to be wet, but not soaked with the hot cooking water. This will help the pasta to stay loose.
  7. Toss in the saute pan so that the pasta is coated with the garlic and oil mixture. If it seems too dry, add small amounts of the cooking water.
  8. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and add in a few good size handfuls of grated cheese. Toss well.
  9. Serve immediately!

 

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Heirloom Tomato & Watermelon Salad

The Crafty Hostess: MakeThe heat and humidity of the summer season begs for a cool, refreshing salad to get you through the day. I love this one because it combines salty, sweet and bright flavors into one dish, making it perfect for lunch, dinner, even brunch. It’s a summer feast for the eyes that’s bursting with vibrant colors and textures. And like most of the recipes that I share with you, it feeds a crowd and is simple to put together. Beat the heat with this ‘cool’ summer sizzler!

watermelon_feta salad

Heirloom Tomato & Watermelon Salad
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • Seedless watermelon, about 4 lbs.
  • About 2 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 2 English cucumbers, sliced with the skin left on
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, torn
Instructions
  1. Remove the rind from the watermelon and cut into 3-inch wedges.
  2. In a large, shallow serving bowl, gently toss the watermelon, tomato and cucumber slices.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar over the mixture.
  4. Sprinkle with the feta cheese and mint leaves.
  5. Serve immediately.

 

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Heirloom Tomato, Mozzarella & Burrata Salad

There’s nothing quite like a salad of fresh mozzarella and ripe, summer tomatoes. Add in creamy dollops of burrata cheese and some Italian basil, and well… it’s absolutely divine! Quick, easy and oh-so-fresh; this is definitely one to make before we call a wrap on summer!

mozzarella_burrata_tomato

Heirloom Tomato, Mozzarella & Burrata Salad
 
Ingredients
  • Heirloom tomatoes of varying colors and sizes, about 5 or 6
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced (not too thick, not too thin)
  • Fresh burrata cheese (you can usually find this in specialty grocery stores or Italian foods stores)
  • Whole basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • White balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crusty bread for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. On a medium platter, arrange the slices of heirloom tomatoes. I like to alternate the colors and sizes on the plate.
  2. Drizzle the tomato slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. On top of the tomatoes, add the slices of fresh mozzarella.
  4. Next, using a teaspoon, add dollops of the burrata in between the slices of mozzarella.
  5. Drizzle the entire dish with more olive oil and a healthy drizzle of white balsamic vinegar.
  6. Finally, scatter the basil leaves on top.
  7. Serve immediately.

 

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Summer Cherry Bread with Amaretto & Almonds

BakeIn my house, we like our cherries sweet and crisp. We like to hear that slight crunch from biting into a ripe, but firm, summer cherry. So when the bowl of cherries begins to get a tad bit too soft for us, I pit and soak them in one of my favorite Italian liquors, Disaronno Amaretto. It’s absolutely divine served over ice cream or a piece of pound cake. Although sometimes, I’ll bake them into a tasty bread brimming with slivered almonds. A warm slice of this sweet bread is the perfect breakfast treat or afternoon snack with a cup of coffee.

cherry bread

 

Summer Cherry Bread with Amaretto & Almonds
 
Ingredients
  • 1- 1½ cups cherries, pitted and sliced into quarters
  • ¼ cup Disaronno Amaretto
  • 1⅔ cup flour
  • ½ cup slivered almonds (plus extra for the top of the bread)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon extra fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Handful of shredded coconut
Instructions
  1. Combine cherries and Amaretto in a bowl; cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, almonds, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat together the sugar, coconut oil and eggs until light and fluffy.
  5. Mixing by hand, blend in the flour mixture a little at a time.
  6. Gently stir in the cherries and Amaretto.
  7. Spray a glass loaf pan with vegetable oil.
  8. Pour batter into loaf pan; sprinkle extra almonds on top.
  9. Bake at 350º for about one hour or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan about 20 minutes, then invert onto a rack or board. Slice and serve warm.

 

 

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White Pizza with Zucchini & Thyme

The Crafty Hostess: MakeDuring the summer months when veggies are at their peak, I try to add them to just about every dish that I make. Browsing the local farmers markets delivers culinary inspiration that’s a dream come true for a foodie like me. Last week, I found “8-Ball Zucchini,” which is basically a round, softball-size squash with a short stem, fewer seeds and a slightly sweeter flavor than regular zucchini. I bought a few of them, some of which I sliced into thick rounds and grilled on the BBQ with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I used the third one to add color, texture and a summer flair to traditional white pizza. The results? Summer on a pizza!

white pizza with zucchini

White Pizza with Zucchini & Thyme
 
Ingredients
  • 1 8-ball squash, sliced into thin rounds (rinse well and leave skin on)
  • 1 ball of pizza dough at room temperature
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Part-skim ricotta cheese
  • Fresh thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry the zucchini; slice into thin rounds. If you can't find 8-ball zucchini, regular zucchini sliced into rounds will work just fine.
  3. Drizzle olive oil onto bottom of round pizza pan; press the room temperature pizza dough into the pan. Drizzle the top with olive oil.
  4. Arrange the slices of zucchini, alternating with the sliced mozzarella.
  5. Place teaspoon-sized dollops of the ricotta in and around the mozzarella/zucchini.
  6. Sprinkle the top of the pizza with fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper; drizzle with a little bit more olive oil.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the bottom and top of the pizza id golden brown and no longer doughy.
  8. Slide the pizza onto a cutting board; allow to sit for about 5 minutes before slicing.

 

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Apple-Dill Chicken Salad

The Crafty Hostess: MakeDuring my college days, I worked part-time in a little, local place called Yogi’s Café. It was a cute place to sit and have cappuccino and dessert, an ice cream sundae, or even a gourmet sandwich or pasta dish. The food was fresh, the money was great and the people were fun to work with. This chicken salad was one of their most popular items on the sandwich menu; I’ve been thinking about it for years (the café has since closed its doors) and decided to recreate its flavors. It’s perfect for lunch or brunch; sandwich it in between fresh bread or a pita pocket, scoop it on top of a green salad or serve it as an appetizer piled on a cracker. This recipe is a great way to use leftover chicken and also works perfectly with a store-bought rotisserie chicken, too. However you choose to eat it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

apple dill chicken salad

Apple-Dill Chicken Salad
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ chicken breasts plus 1 chicken leg or thigh (I like the combination of white and dark meat, but feel free to use what you like; remove the skin from the chicken and dice into small pieces.)
  • ½ Gala apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 2-3 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped finely
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Hellmann's mayonnaise
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the diced chicken, chopped apple and chopped dill.
  2. Add the vinegar, mayo, salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Stir well to combine.
  4. Taste a small amount for seasoning. If necessary, add more salt or pepper.
  5. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

 

 

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