How To Make A Hong Kong Style Bubble Cone With Ice Cream

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Pretty sure I should be knee-deep in Thanksgiving recipes and holiday planning but I just got back from a beach vacation with my family and decided ice cream sounded a lot better. What do you think? I’ll save up those recipes for another day this month. Besides check out these bubble cones!?! There is like one place in Austin that serves these up somewhat regularly but I first discovered them on Instagram and have been drooling over the crazy photos ever since. I finally found a bubble cone waffle maker  (affiliate link!) on the internet and ordered one for myself!

I tested out two recipes, one traditional with lots of fluffy eggs and one vegan! I even made it a funfetti recipe because sprinkles make everything better, right?

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Holiday Tablescapes with Gracious Garlands

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Too soon? Not for me! I’ve always wanted to do a gorgeous tablescape photo shoot for the holidays but could never quite get my ducks in a row. But this year, I teamed up with my friend Elle from Gracious Garlands to make the most dreamy holiday tables with her luscious greenery. We did four gorgeous looks and Elle gave me tips for decorating with real greenery! So excited for the holidays this year!

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Sirloin Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet (with Kale and Mushrooms in a White Wine Cream Sauce)

Cooking Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet by Natalie Paramore

So this is one of those posts that I have been sitting on for while. Mainly because of the holidays and this didn’t seem to quite fit into the holiday buzz. I got caught up and distracted with the fun and bustle this season. Although, to be completely honest this year was a bit scattered for me. My typical family gatherings were all different this year and most took place before the actual day, so I wound up spending a good chunk of my Christmas Day alone. I didn’t feel the magic and giddiness of the holidays like I used to. I say used to because last year (2013) I was a down right grinch. I blame that mostly on some questionable dating decisions I made earlier that fall. I really wasn’t feeling it last year.  I didn’t even help put up the tree which is one of my most looked forward to days of the year. Typically, January is my least favorite month of the year. I get the post-holiday blues, it’s usually gray out and blah… I always feel like all the fun just left. This year is different though. I am feeling refreshed, work couldn’t be busier (which I love) and I have some exciting life changes on the horizon. More on those in another post. My whole point of this is that even when I was feeling down, I forced myself to do a little cooking. Which always makes me happy and feel more centered. I decided to try something new when I could have called for take-out or done something I am used to. And what happened when I tried something new was deliciousness. Deliciousness happened. It is funny how life works out, just when you feel like doing something the least is probably when you need to do it the most.

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DIY Holiday Rosemary Wreath

DIY Holiday Rosemary Wreath by Natalie Paramore

 

This year I got asked to participate in a fun holiday wreath challenge over on my friend Martha Lynn Kale’s blog. She is adorable and creative and just the nicest person ever so of course I said yes! I had all these crazy wonderful ideas about what kind of foodie wreath I was going to create. I had visions of sugar plum pearies… sugar covered pears… get it? Too much? In head it was a glorious idea! But as I thought it through I saw sugar and glue and heck of hot mess with fruit going bad. Yeah, you know what I am talking about. So then full panic mode started to set in because I knew everyone else in the challenge was so inspiring and adorable, how could I ever think of an idea that would look ok standing to theirs. I was walking my dog last week racking my brain and then the idea came to me, just use what is one hand. I do this all the time in the kitchen, so it was a natural fit. I grabbed some scissors and a paper bag and headed out to the park where tons of rosemary grows wild. I picked some and then clipped a few berries from a bush in my yard.

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Sprinkle Covered Birthday Cake

Miss Jones Baking Co Round Sprinkle Birthday Cake by Natalie Paramore

 Last week was filled with birthdays! Two very important birthdays, in fact. 1st it was my precious pup Mimi’s 10th Birthday! I mean, I can’t believe my little stinker is 10 years old! This was definitely one of those times where I felt the where has the time gone. Remember when your parents would always say that time flies? My parents used to always say that to me as a kid, and now, well it is really happening. I cannot image how it will feel if I ever have child of the human variety. Little Meems, as she is often called, has been sidekick, best friend, ultimate snuggler, tear wiper and kiss giver. I could not imagine my life without my little fur ball. The 2nd very important birthday and the one who I made this colorful cake for, was my roommate Alex! It is her last year in her twenties, so I thought sprinkles were a must. I couldn’t imagine my life without Alex either. She’s one of the most thoughtful, cheerful and loyal friends I have ever had. And she is a great Auntie to Mimi, so that just melts my heart. So for Alex, I busted out the sprinkles and got to it!

Miss Jones Baking Co Vanilla Frosting and Cake Mix by Natalie Paramore

 

Alex likes white on white for her cakes. No chocolate allowed. My friend Sarah started Miss Jones Baking Co. a few months ago. It is a line of all-natural ready to use cake mixes and frostings. She has a scrumptious vanilla cake mix and frosting, so it was the perfect pair for Alex’s birthday cake. Funny thing, after I posted a picture of Alex with her cake on Instagram, we discovered that Alex and Sarah were friends back when they both lived in Dallas and Sarah made cupcakes for Alex’s birthday before. SMALL WORLD! So thank you Sarah, for making my birthday cake taste as good as your homemade cupcakes 😉

 

Miss Jones Baking co Vanilla Cake by Natalie Paramore

 

I started off by baking two 9′ round cakes. Let them cool, then frosted them up with the super creamy frosting. That was the easy part. Next I tackled sprinkles.

Miss Jones Baking Co Vanilla Sprinkle Cake by Natalie Paramore

 

I couldn’t find any good how-to’s for sprinkle covering online, so I just had a go at it. I started by dropping the little dudes on top. That sorta worked, but only on the middle of the top of the cake.

How to Make a Spinkle Cake by Natalie ParamoreSo then I tried tap, tap, tapping them on. This worked so much better. I poured the sprinkles on top, like a lot of them (yes, they went everywhere) then gently smoothed them all over the sides and top. It was a bit of a messy endeavor, but well worth it in the end.

Miss Jones Baking Co

 

Because then this happened! Ta-da! The cake was definitely eye-catching and a big hit at the birthday party.

Miss Jones Baking Co Birthday Sprinkle Cake by Natalie Paramore

Miss Jones Baking Co Sprinkle Cake with Candles by Natalie Paramore

 

Colorful candles were a must.

Miss Jones Baking Co Sprinkle Cake by Natalie Paramore

 

Miss Jones Baking Co Sprinkle Birthday Cake by Natalie ParamoreTime to dig in! Big thanks to Sarah Jones Garibaldi from Miss Jones Baking Co. for supplying me with best vanilla cake mix and frosting for Alex’s birthday! If you want to see some truly spectacular cakes, check out Miss Jones Baking Co. !

 

Homemade Beet Pasta

Homemade Bowtie Beet Pasta by Natalie Paramore

Oh yes. It’s beet pasta. I’ve been wanting to make this recipe for a while. I’ve been pining away and found a few recipes that looked easy enough to take a go at. I will say I have a theory that beets were never as popular as they are today until the advent of Pinterest. That bright fuscia color is so eye-catching! I mean I know I am a sucker for it. I wasn’t always a big beet fan. They have that very distinct, uh, dirt taste. Like they have an earthy flavor that reminds me of dirt. But I have found that pairing beets with certain flavors makes for some killer combos, like Beet Lemonade, Beet Waffles and pretty much anything with goat cheese and beets. There is something about sweet and beet too. So, I have definitely learned to love this crazy, colorful root vegetable.

How to Make Beet Pasta by Natalie ParamoreAfter looking at several recipes, I have been dreaming of making homemade pasta. I always thought pasta making would be hard, but the posts were so pretty and made it look so simple and easy. Several of those bloggers even said it was. Well, wrong, haha. This recipe was not that easy. Maybe it is because it took me a while to get my beet puree and flour ratios correct. But pasta making is hard, but fun, but really time consuming. So pick your battles and only tackle it if you’ve got a couple of hours to devote to the process. Hopefully this batch of dough will last me a few meals. There was nothing super difficult about it, just takes a little elbow grease and time. And I only wish I would have had step by step photos, so lucky for you, I took these and hopefully it will make it a little easier on you 🙂

Easy Roasted Beet Pasta by Natalie Paramore

You’ll need:

2 large beets

6 cups of flour + more for rolling out dough

3 eggs

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

Makes 6-8 servings

How to Make Roasted Beet Pasta by Natalie Paramore

Start off by peeling the beets. Then wrap them tightly with foil and roast for 40 minutes at 450 degrees.

Roasted Beet Pasta by Natalie Paramore

How to Make Pasta at Home by Natalie Paramore

Let the beet cool a bit, then dice them up.

How to Make Beet Pasta Dough by Natalie Paramore

In a blender or food processor, puree beets, eggs, olive oil and salt until smooth. About 1 minute.

Easy Homemade Beet Pasta Dough by Natalie Paramore

Combine beet puree and flour. Start with three cups of flours and mix on slow with the dough hook until well combined. Add a cup of flour at a time until all remaining flour is combined. Dough should be a little tacky, and forming a ball in the mixer and not sticking to the sides of the bowl. If dough is too wet, add more flour. If dough is dry, add water, one teaspoon at a time.

Beet Pasta Dough by Natalie Paramore

Next knead the dough by hand for 5-7 minutes on a floured surface.

How to Roll Out Pasta by Natalie Paramore

Then roll out dough. Be sure to get it nice and thin. As thin as you can get it without ripping.

How to Make Beet Farfalle by Natalie Paramore

Beet Pasta Made Easy by Natalie Paramore

You can use a pasta cutter like the ones I have, or use a knife or pizza roller to cut the pasta into the shapes like you want.

How to Make Beet Bowtie Pasta by Natalie Paramore

To make bowtie pasta, use the pasta cutter then pinch the center of the shape.

How to Make farfalle pasta by Natalie Paramore

How to make bowtie pasta by Natalie Paramore

Homemade Farfalle Beet Pasta by Natalie Paramore

Beet Bowtie Pasta by Natalie Paramore

Once you finish rolling out and making your little bowties, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, it is ok if they are still a little moist, they will just cook faster. Add a little olive oil to the water and stir to make sure that the pasta doesn’t stick to one another.

Easy Homemade Beet Pasta by Natalie Paramore

Drain pasta and serve with your favorite dressing, sauce or topping. I dressed my pasta with this lemon shallot vinaigrette dressing. Which is delicious on everything, so make a lot and thank me later.

Easy Beet Pasta by Natalie ParamoreHomemade Beet Pasta by Natalie Paramore

This would be great topped with fresh parmesan, sauteed mushrooms or tossed with spinach.

Beet Pasta by Natalie Paramore

A little sprinkle of salt and there you have it!

Homemade Beet Pasta with Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette by Natalie ParamoreEnjoy!

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Frito Pie in a Bag

Ready for some football? I’ve been pinning away thinking of recipe and party ideas for the big game. You can see all the drool worthy recipes on my Pinterest page here.


Frito Pie in a Bag for Super Bowl

If you’ve been following along with my recipes, then you’ll know that most of party ideas revolve around things with less clean up. Enter Frito Pie in a Bag. No dishes (holla!) plus you can set it up as a Frito Pie Bar and let your guest make their own. Win Win. You can have vegetarian versions, your very own special chili and tons of toppings, so easy!


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You’ll need:

Individual Frito Bags

Chili

Fresh toppings:

Cheddar Cheese

Jalapenos

Cilantro

Red Onion

Get creative! Use your own favorites!

Frito Pie in a Bag

Dice up the fresh ingredients.

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Slice the tops off the Frito bags.

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Set up your Frito Pie assembly line.

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Stuff each bag!

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Layer on the toppings.

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It’s that easy! Cute and easy way to munch during the Super Bowl. What are some your favorite chili recipes to use for Super Bowl Sunday? Tell me in the comments! I need ideas!

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For even more ideas and party planning tips, plus a live demo of how to make Frito Pie in a Bag, check out my segment on Fox 7’s Make It Monday!

How to Make Your Own Bitters

Ever wondered how to make your own cocktail bitters? Well, it’s pretty easy! I did a little holiday twist on these flavors, but the general way to make them is pretty much the same. You can use everything from fruit peels to vanilla beans to dried herbs, there’s no end to the possibilities!

 

Filling All you need is some grain alcohol, glass bottles and flavorings! You can get the full how-to here on Brit+Co.

 

Finished Whiskey-pour

Oh and I did I mention I made a homemade Fireball shot? Oh yeah! Get on that! Like right now.

 

Thanksgiving Tablescape Ideas

Hello on this brrry cold start to Thanksgiving week. How are you planning on staying warm this week? I am thinking of adding soup to my Thanksgiving menu! Speaking of menus, I am sharing some of my tips for some last minute, easy and affordable ways to deck out your table for the feast this Thursday. From sparkles, to metallics to flickering tea lights, these simple ideas will be wowing your guests!

Thanksgiving Tablescapes_Natalie Paramore 1Last night my roommates and I hosted our annual Friendsgiving. We usually spill out on to our porches, but since the weather didn’t cooperate, we borrowed some tables, rented chairs and table cloths and set up in our living room. My roommate Lara got all Pinteresty and spray painted little pumpkins and squashes with metallic spray paint. This is definitely a Pinterest project that is easy to execute and really elevates your table decor! Tip: Be sure to spray a day or two ahead of time, aka, do this today or tomorrow.

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One trick we used at my birthday dinner laying out burlap as a table runner. So easy, very affordable, you can find this at any craft store for a few dollars. Lay out the burlap down the middle of the table, then place the decor on to burlap and voila! Gorgeous and simple table decor. Thanksgiving Tablescapes_Natalie Paramore 3Old wine bottles make great holders for sparkly branches. Insider tip: Most fall decor is on sale at stores, so grab some while they last! Use that left over spray paint to give old wine bottles some sheen.

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The more bumps and lumps you can find on gourds, the more fun the are to use as centerpieces.

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Serve water in glass bottles. You can find vintage ones like these at places like Homegoods for $2-$3 each. Talk about a bargain!

Thanksgiving Tablescapes_Natalie Paramore 8Canning jars make adorable holders for tea lights! From flickering and friendly to intimate and inviting, the little lights will draw everyone around the table!

 

For more tips for your Thanksgiving feast, check out my chat with Keri Bellacosa this morning on My Fox Austin this morning!

 

Coconut Mango Fruit Leather

Who is ready for some fruity fun? Oh good, me too. I made these fruit leathers after receiving some mangoes from the Mango Council. They have great tips on their website for purchasing fresh mangoes and even this great tutorial about how to cut a mango. I enjoy using mangoes, just a tid bit of info, did you know mangoes are in fact the most popular fruit in the world!?! It’s true! They are super juicy, really nutrient dense and pack a ton of flavor. I love using them to mellow out red onions, they are great with avocados and pair wonderfully with fish.

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For this post I channeled my inner kiddo and made a homemade, clean version of fruit roll ups. I love these for snacking at work. You can substitute any fruit really, do whatever you like! I used coconut oil because I think it adds a wonderful flavor and makes these mangoes all the more tropical. You can substitute honey, agave, granulated sugar, really whatever sweetener suits your fancy. But trust, the coconut oil smells divine when cooking and transports you right to the beach. So I root for the coconut oil if you have it!

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For this recipe you’ll need:

4 cups chopped mangoes (or whatever fruit you choose!)

1 cup water

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or other sweetner)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

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Begin by peeling and chopping the mango. You can use the tutorial above or this one I did here.

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In a food processor, combine mangoes with water and lemon juice until completely smooth.

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Pour puree into a pot.

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Add coconut oil and heat over medium flame until it reduces down by half. Stir frequently and be sure not to burn it. If you need to, lower the heat. This should take about 10 minutes or so depending on your stove, etc.

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Cover a large baking pan with parchment paper or use a silpat. Smooth the puree about an 1/8 of inch thick. You should be able to almost see through the puree. Bake at 200 degrees for four to five hours.

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You’ll know when it is done because the fruit leather will be smooth and not sticky. Let cool completely before cutting.

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Use a pizza cutter to slice into strips. You can roll them up with strips of parchment paper for easy storing. I ate mine so fast that part didn’t really matter.

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What are some of your favorite fruit roll up flavors?

Coconut Mango Fruit Leather_Natalie Paramore

Besides this mango fruit leather, some of my favorite mango recipes are Coconut Mango Jerk ChickenCoconut Mango Lassi and Grilled Portabella Mushrooms with Strawberry Mango Salad! It’s mango mania!

Strawberry Lemon Mint Fat Flush Water

I have been seeing all these pretty fresh fruit waters and thought hey I want some! Then I realized it’s all part of this fat flush water trend. Thanks Dr.Oz.

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I still really wanted to try the waters, so I grabbed the fresh stuff I had in the fridge and decide to try my own! Plus, I had just gotten these blue ball jars and really needed something to show them off with. I mean, hello, blue glass, so pretty. Ok maybe I’m just a total sucker for unnecessary kitchen items. Especially if they are of the copper or blue variety 😉

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strawberry, lemon and mint in mine! After doing a little more research, it looks like cucumber, grapefruit and celery are also very popular for fat flush waters. The combos are really just up to you and your taste buds! And I happen to be having a romantic love affair with lemons right now. I buy them by the bag full and even keep some at my desk. So lemons were an obvious choice for my water.

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Another thing I love about these ball jars, other than their utter cuteness, is how useful they are for storing the fat flush water.

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Just add water, all the freshies, screw the top back on and boom! Water for the week. Perfect for taking to the office or wherever else you might be off too!

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Enjoy!

What are your fav fruit water combos?

Breaking the Detox- Retox Cycle

I want to introduce you all to my gorgeous friend Amanda McArthur. By day, she’s wheeling and dealing social media technology in her high-powered career like it’s nobody’s business. Off the clock, she’s into living a healthy, balanced lifestyle with a focus on nutrition and how that affects our metaphysical well-being. Lucky for me, she’s an adoring friend and always up for long chats. She is constantly pumping me full of great, healthy tips, not just for the body, but the mind too! I couldn’t think of a better way to share all her knowledge than for her to say it herself! Without further adieu, here she is folks!

“Now that SXSW is well behind us, you might still be feeling tired and sluggish from an amazing 2 weeks party-hopping, discovering new apps and technologies, and uncovering new bands. You’ve accomplished all of this on a diet consisting of coffee, food trailers, and vodka sodas (all while feeling lucky if you managed to get even 4 hours of shut-eye).

In a nonstop city like Austin, it’s easy to live to the extreme. Your first instinct might be to jump to the opposite extreme: DETOX! FAST! JUICE CLEANSE!

While I’m offering some suggestions to definitely rid the body of all the toxins, let’s shift the way we think about a detox and instead of taking away, let’s focus on adding for the purpose of rejuvenation.

1) ADD a green juice in the morning: an amazing source of nutrients and protein-packed food from raw sources. We’re lucky to live in a city that LOVES our juices! My favorites are the Pineapple Popeye from Daily Juice and the Tri Pinnacle from Juiceland .

2) Coffee: Let’s get real. Your body will probably go into shock if you were to choose right now to cut out all caffeine. Instead, focus on subbing the dairy out for coconut or almond milk-based creamer and switch your yucky chlorinated Splenda’s with a Stevia or Agave sweetener. Limit to one cup a day and maybe pour a smaller cup. (Maybe.)

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3) Vitamin B supplements: You can get these in natural drop form from Whole Foods or any vitamin shops. Your body has probably been stripped of this natural form of energy after a week(s) of putting not so healthy things in your body. On top of natural energy, Vitamin Bs are essential for good rest, minimizing anxiety levels, and helping your body get back on a natural sleep rhythm. Look for a well-rounded formula as each B works together to provide maximum benefits!

4) Milk Thistle: Liver detox. Enough said.

5) Eat clean! Switch out your traditional meats for grass-fed, organic, hormone-free ones. Switch processed energy drinks and bars for all natural options like local faves Thunderbird Energetica and Bearded Brothers or Kombucha teas.

6) Add your fruits and veggies. (Organic, when possible) Snack on low glycemic options like berries, apples, carrots, and cucumbers all day long – no limit!

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7) Try a new workout class! So many amazing fitness studios in this city! My favorites: YoStrong at Wanderlust, Cardio Barre at MOD Fitness , or spin at RIDE.

8) Power down: Artificial light tricks our bodies in thinking it’s still daylight and we never get the signal that it’s time to start falling asleep. Turn off the TV and your iPhone about 30-45 minutes before bed and keep the lights dim. Take an Epsom-salt bath or read a book with low lighting. Prepare to wake up feeling rested and rejuvenated! ”
For gorgeous snapshots of food and travel, follow Amanda on Instagram .

I’m feeling refreshed just reading that post! What are your favorite ways to ADD health into your lifestyle?

Why You Should Use Pasta Water

Why should you use pasta water to make sauces? Besides all the starchy, salty water makes for the perfect base. I always reserve a little pasta water when I boil noodles, even if I’m not making a sauce. It is perfect in case the pasta starts to dry out.

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When bringing the water to boil, be sure to add salt. I prefer kosher salt. The salt will help bring the water to a higher boiling temperature, thus cooking the pasta faster and more thoroughly. Not to mention, the salt adds a ton of flavor.

If you want the water to actually boil faster then use a lid over your pot. This increases the surface temperature of water, allowing the water to heat up faster.

How much salt should you add? It depends on how much water, but I’d say roughly 1/2 a tablespoon to a full tablespoon for a large pot. The most important thing is to just throw it in there.

It’s also great for leftovers. If you’ll be saving some of the pasta in fridge, pour a tablespoon of pasta water over it. Then when you reheat the pasta will still be tender! This works best if you cover the pasta while reheating (whether in the microwave or on the stove top).

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I used this pasta water to make Parmesan Pesto Pasta! Eat up and enjoy!

How to Make Juice Without a Juicer: Carrot Ginger

I’m not a huge juice drinker, hence why I don’t have a super expensive juicer. But juicing is all the rage. So I’ve tried different juices with friends… I’m not really into crazy juice fasts or fad diets. I really prefer to actually chew and eat my meals. Go ahead, call me a foodie, but there is something about sitting down to a meal that brings me the utmost pleasure.

I have yet to find a green juice that tickles my fancy, but I did fall totally in love with Snap Kitchen’s Carrot Ginger Elixir. After trying a few other carrot ginger juices here and there, I decided it was time to make my own!

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I love a good ginger drink, I think that’s why I love this particular juice so much. I made my juice extra ginger-y but you can adjust that according to your tastes.

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You’ll need:

2 cups chopped and peeled carrots (about four large carrots)
2 cups cold water
4 tablespoons chopped and peeled fresh ginger root (about one three inch piece)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (the juice of half of one small lemon)

Yields approximately 16 ounces of juice.

Kitchen supplies:
Blender
Pitcher
Cheese cloth
Runner band

You can find cheese cloth in the baking or kitchen supple aisle at the grocery store for $2-$3. I have used this method to make iced coffee before with great success! I have not tried it yet, but I think you green juice lovers will be able to use this set up too.

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Start by peeling the carrots and ginger.

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Give everything a good chop!

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Put everything into the blender and add the water.

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Now squeeze in the FRESH lemon juice. It must be fresh, muy importante.

Blend for three to four minutes. You want everything to be as smooth as possible.

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Cover the top of the pitcher with the cheese cloth. Attach it tightly with the rubber band. Make sure it’s secure or the weight of the pulp will cause it to fall and you’ll have to start all over.

Pour the content of the blender over top the cheese cloth.

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Squeeze the pulp in the cheese cloth. You’ll be surprised how much extra juice you can get out of there!

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Now you’re ready to drink up! I think carrot ginger juice is best served extra cold.

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I think this is a great way to make juice at home without a juicer. What’s your favorite juice?

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Have you tried out the new Vine app yet? Click to see this fun video I made of carrot ginger juice!

Follow me on Vine at Natalie Paramore!

Taking the Bite Out of Red Onions

I’ve had a few requests from friends to share some of the tips and tricks I use around the kitchen, so here goes!

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I use onion, especially red onions, frequently in my dishes. I really enjoy strong flavors. However, sometimes these potent little things can be too strong and over power other more subtle, yet important, flavors in a dish.

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Chop the red onion as the recipe calls for, then place the onions in a bowl of cold water. Let sit for a few minutes, about 10 minutes. Then drain and pat dry.

Voila! Your red onions will now have a toned down flavor! Perfect, if say, you’re making a gyro!

How to Roast Chestnuts: A Quick Tutorial

 Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… Sing with me!

Ahhh perfect crisp morning here at my mom’s house, and perfect for roasting chestnuts! I’ve never tried roasted chestnuts before. So this was definitely a little treat. I mean, it couldn’t be that hard, right? Nope. Pretty easy actually. They smell delightful and have a light, sweet, nutty taste. We roasted these and ate them warm, yum!

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First things first, pick up some chestnuts at the grocery store or farmer’s market. I used about a half a pound because there were only a few of us. According to Martha Stewart, chestnut season runs October through late December. For ripe chestnuts, you will want to find ones that are firm and shiny. The chestnuts should feel heavy in your hand and have no space between the skin and meat inside.

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I gave mine a quick rinse and patted them dry. I am not sure if this completely necessary but I did it anyway. Preheat oven to about 425 degrees or turn on the broiler to high.

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Using a sharp knife, slice x’s on the round tops of the chestnuts. Leave the flat side on the bottom. When slicing, be sure to slice way down into the nut until you’ve sliced into the yellow flesh.

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Lay the sliced chestnuts onto a roasting pan and put into the oven for 25 minutes. This is what worked for me. I did a little research and times ranged from 15- 45 minutes… this probably has to do with each oven and how many chestnuts you are roasting at a time. Start by setting the timer for 15 minutes and keep an eye on the chestnuts until they are ready.

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The chestnuts will be dark brown and the sliced edges will be curled up.

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Begin to peel the chestnuts as soon as they are cool enough to handle. The skins and fuzz will peel away easier while the chestnuts are still warm. If they begin to cool too fast and become difficult to peel, pop them back in the oven for a minute or two to warm back up. Then finish peeling.

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They were surprisingly easy to peel. Only a few of the nuts has some difficult parts, I used a knife to help me get those parts off.

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After you remove all the shells, place the chestnuts in a bowl and serve. Or if you’re like my mom and me, we nibbled a few bites as we peeled. The nuts are sweet and best served warm in my opinion!

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Roasting chestnuts was a fun and easy little activity to do with my mom.

This is my favorite version of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire… enjoy!

Cooking Planit App

The Cooking Planit App Winner, Meredith Cranch, used the app to cook me and a friend dinner! Meredith will openly admit, she’s not one for cooking much and thinks the process can be a little overwhelming.

Despite that, she did an awesome job, with the help of Cooking Planit of course!

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Meredith used the Cooking Planit App to choose a meal based on her preferences. She chose Ribeye, Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes and she used the customization feature to replace an arugula salad with a chopped salad. Looks delicious, huh? Well, here is how she did it!

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This is a screen shot of the meal she chose.

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She used the customization feature to replace with arugula salad with a chopped salad. Then the Cooking Planit app created a grocery list for her. She was able to remove ingredients that she already had, like olive oil and salt.

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Off to the grocery store she went! Cooking Planit app in hand.

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Having a little fun in the produce section.

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Hmmm what does a shallot look like? Good thing the app has pictures of what everything looks like!

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How much ribeye does she need?!? The app customizes your grocery list based on how many servings you choose.

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Grocery shopping can be fun!

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Chopping and mincing weren’t Meredith’s favorite tasks. The app adjusts the time your meal will be ready based on how long you take to move through each step.

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Meat and fire! This was Meredith’s favorite part!

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We called in reinforcements… Thanks Lomax!

A messy kitchen is a happy kitchen.

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I’d just like to say props to the Cooking Planit Chef and recipe developer. Goat cheese and panko stuffed tomatoes?!? Delicious! Even for a gal who isn’t keen on tomatoes.

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Admiring her work. Now it’s time to eat!

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An amazing meal by Meredith Cranch made possible with the Cooking Planit app! To set up your own free account, go to http://cookingplanit.com/

To watch Meredith’s responses about how the app works, watch this YouTube video we made!
http://youtu.be/Z1yiDYSl8dk

And please, let’s all not make too much fun of my voice!

Herbs! Herbs! Herbs!

Fresh herbs are so fun to use in cooking and baking. In fact, on a recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, we had fresh basil in everything from vodka drinks to fish dishes. I can’t wait to share some of those recipes and ideas with you all!

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I bought several potted herbs last week. I know it’s a little late in the season but whatever. Gotta start somewhere, right? In the past Ive attempted to grow everything from tomatoes to chives to wildflowers from seeds with no luck. So this time around I decided to give my black thumb a head start and buy plants.

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On a recent trip to my Granny’s house , I went digging through her garage for some pots. Well, I didn’t find any pots, but we did come up with the idea to repurpose these large coffee canisters as herb pots.

I still have not bought any potting soil, and after a little research I think the basil might need a larger pot. I’m a novice, so I will take any advice I can get about growing herbs in central Texas!

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Here is the cute little pepper plant I got! I don’t even know what kind of peppers these are, the tag didn’t give much information. There are several more blooms and I’m very excited to watch these grow!

Above you can see the sweet basil and Provence lavender herbs. The rosemary has a succulent growing in it and the garlic chives have some Curley parsley sprouting up. I figure these were great because it’s like getting 2 for 1 on herbs!

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This is spicy Italian oregano… Which I didn’t even know that was an actual thing! I’m pretty excited about this one!

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This mint plant was the last one left and in pretty bad shape. My neighbors have a large mint plant that is thriving, so I’m hoping that with a little tlc, I can nurse this plant back to health. I already see some new growth up top!

Please send me your advice on herbs! I really don’t know much other than I spend a ton of money each week on fresh herbs, so why not grow them myself?!?

What soil should I use? How often should I water? How much sunlight? How often do I prune herbs? What shears should I use? Send me your tips and suggestions! I can’t wait to hear from you all!

How-To Cut a Pineapple

Happy Sunday Y’all! It’s a beautiful day and I’m making the most of it. My friend Jessica and I continued our tradition of Sunday Brunch at Elizabeth Street Cafe, its only one of my favorite places. We branched out and tried some new dishes.

This is the sticky rice with ginger sausage and poached eggs. A nice switch up from my normal order of Singapore noodles. The sausage had a great flavor and I really liked the sticky rice. I think the Singapore noodles are still my #1 though.

JJ got the mushroom omelette. How pretty is that plate? She also said the side of mango was really great too.

Now that summer is in full swing fruit is being incorporated into a lot of my cooking. When I started cooking I had no idea how to do a lot of things and one them was how to cut up a whole pineapple. Fresh pineapple is SO much better than the canned stuff and it’s really not that hard to cut up once you know what you’re doing. Here’s my little instructional on how.


 Start off with a big knife and pineapple. You can tell if a pineapple is ripe by pulling one of the leaves out of the center. If it pulls out easily, then the pineapple is ready. If you have to pull really hard, then the pineapple needs a few more days to ripen.


Start by slicing off the top.


Top sliced off.


Slice the bottom off of the pineapple. Stand the pineapple up and take the knife and slice the skin off.


 Then turn the pineapple on it’s side and slice the pineapple into thin pieces.


Dice the slices around the core (the hard circular part in the center). Discard the core.


Then dice up into small pieces! It’s that easy!

Enjoy!

How-To Light a Gas Grill

In honor of summer grill season, I wanted to show those of you who don’t know already know how to light a grill what it’s all about. When I first wanted to start grilling I was scared of lighting the thing but I finally got over my fear. It may seem pretty simple for you grill master but I’m pretty sure I have some lady friends out there who will find this post helpful!


Drumroll please… start with the grill!


Get a scraper and scrape off any debris.


Now, underneath the grill you find the propane tank.


 Turn it on. Righty tighty, lefty loosey. The farther you turn it to the left the more gas it will allow to flow. I usually turn it all the way left.


On the front of the grill, turn on the gas valves. Here you will be able to control the temperature from Hi to Low. I usually turn it on medium to start then adjust from there. Every grill is different.


 Now time to make fire! I use a long lighter because I don’t like to get too close.


Stick the flame near the open gas valve. It should catch quickly! If not maybe move the flame to another opening.


FIRE!


There you have it folks, not nearly as scary as I used to think.

Now get to grilling!

How To Throw a Really Big Make Your Own Pizza Party

Ever wanted to throw a really, really big make your pizza party for your friends?

Well, I did… ok ok maybe it was Jonny Lee Rodgers idea but I pulled it together and here’s how.

I started off by pre-making this 1/2 wheat 1/2 white pizza dough . You can make this a day or two ahead of time, giving the dough plenty of time to rise and you can store it in the fridge until you are ready.

Make a pizza dough ball a little larger than a tennis ball for each guest.

I also premade this awesome Arugula Pesto… because we all know how much I love pesto… on everything.

You’ll need:

5-6 tablespoons of Olive Oil

7 cloves of garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

5 cups of fresh arugula

A dash of crushed red pepper

2-3 tablespoons of kosher salt

1 large jalapeno

 

 

Rougly chop the jalapeno, leave the seeds, and the garlic. Then combine everything into a food processesor. You will probably need to do this in batches. Combine 2 cups of arugula with a hand full of jalapenos and garlic and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once that is fully blended, add the rest of the fresh ingredients. Once completely smooth, add salt, lemon and crushed red pepper to taste and giving everything a final blend.

 

And there you have it! The beginnings of your topping bar!

As my guests started to arrive, I threw down a little flour on the (clean!) counter and let my friends get busy rolling out their pizza crust! Its fun and when you don’t have enough rolling pens… wine bottles work just fine!

Then we moved the pizza crusts to grill, as shown in this post to give them that fire cooked taste then everyone got to top their pizza before moving the pizzas into the oven for final melting. Ask your friends to bring their favorite toppings! This is was my very unorganized but oh-so-delicious topping bar.

 Lots of vino, dough rolling and good conversations flowing!

Once the pizza crusts are off the grill, send your friends to the topping bar to make theirs! We had so many delcious choices: awesome pepperoni, tons of cheese, truffle oil, 2 kinds of sausage, ricotta, spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, roasted peppers and garlic, basil infused olive oil, pesto, marinara, alfredo and much that I can not even remember! So many great choices!

Pizzas ready to go in the oven!


Put the pizzas in the oven and broil on high for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

 

Bell pepper and pepperoni pizza!

 


Big Mushroom Pizza!

 


Time to dig in!

 

mmmm pizza!

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A few faithful soldiers hung around until everything was cleaned up…


haha this is what happens when guys help with the dishes! Hey, I’m not complaining… that was quite the dish tower!

The really, really big pizza party was a huge success! Thanks everyone for coming and bringing such awesome toppings and even sticking around to clean the dishes!

How To Poach An Egg

Happy Tuesday everyone! I created a new section How-To’s! This section gives basic instructions on kitchen tasks and other good foodie tips. If you have a burning question or requests for this section please send them my way!

I’m a lover of poached eggs and although I’ve given some instructions on this before, I thought I would give some step by step pictures. Here goes!

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First, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. A few bubbles and steam but not boiling over.

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Stir the water with a large spoon creating a whirlpool.

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Now for the hard part, getting the egg in there without breaking the yolk. I started out learning this technique by placing the cracked egg into a Tupperware with gentle edges. Gladware Tupperware is great for this. Then gently pour the egg into the whirlpool. Now that I’ve got the hang of things I just crack the egg into the pot but the trick I just mentioned helped me learn.

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Ok some of the egg whites will start to boil off. This is inevitable, don’t stress.

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I scoop the cooked off egg whites out so I can keep an eye on the egg.

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After a few minutes scoop the egg out and place on a paper towel. I left the egg in there a little too long and some of the yolk cooked out, oops. Guess I was distracted taking pictures. The longer you boil the egg, the harder the yolk will be. So if you like your yolks runny, only cook for 2-3 minutes. If you like them a little harder cook for 5 minutes or so. Everything really just depends on your water temperature etc, use your best judgement.

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I decided to eat my poached egg for dinner with this spicy pesto pasta!

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This is my yummy Cilantro Pesto .

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My yolk was cooked just a tad too long, oh well! Still delicious. Plus, pesto makes everything awesome 🙂

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Fresh cracked pepper and you’re done! I think this dish will be making it into regular rotation for quick dinners.

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Bon appetit mmm’dears!