Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Balsamic Strawberry and Mozzarella Bites

Mozarella and Strawberries 020

Some days you get lucky and actually have fun at your job.  Last Thursday was one of those days for me.   One of the stores that I merchandise cheese for was kicking off it’s first day of making Fresh Mozzarella in house.  And I along with about 15 others got to each take our turn learning how to make mozzarella from the kindest and most patient man I’ve met in a long time named Giovanni.

Giovanni 2          Giovanni Fresh Mozarella

And thanks to Giovanni and his great Italian accent I became officially “Mozzarella Certified”.

Giovanni 3

One of the companies my company merchandises product for is Il Villaggio and they have an incredible Balsamic Vinegar that just happens to be on sale this week.  It is normally $19.99 a bottle!  Yes you read that correctly.  But this week it happens to be 50% off and so at $9.99 a bottle while rather pricey…it’s worth every penny.  This is not your average Balsamic Vinegar.  It is aged in 30 year old oak casks.  It has a “full-bodied flavor, a sweet and slightly acidic taste and a deeply fragrant aroma”.  It is thick and syrupy and so incredibly flavorful that just a few drops is all you need to enhance the flavor of well….anything!

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At first to get customers excited about the new freshly made mozarella we made mini caprese samples.  We took a cube of the fresh mozarella, half a cherry tomato, and a leaf of fresh basil all assembled on a toothpick and then drizzled them with the Il Villaggio Aged Balsamic Vinegar.  Amazing!  Great idea for a party especially now with fresh basil so available.

But then I started thinking that for the demonstration that I was helping out with on the following Saturday morning needed something more exciting and  that people would want to try at an earlier part of the day.  We came up with pairing the fresh mozarella with some fruit.  Namely strawberries.    And these little tid bits of deliciousness were a big hit!  Big success and we sold lots of fresh mozarella and Balsamic Vinegar that day.    I even bought some myself to home with me. 

Balsamic Strawberry and Mozzarella Bites

1 ball of Mozzarella cheese.  (Fresh is best if it’s available.)

Fresh strawberries, washed and sliced in half

Balsamic Vinegar (Get the best you can afford.  It really does make a big difference.)


Strawberry Balsamic Mozzarella Bites

These could not be easier to make.   Simply assemble with a piece of Mozzarella cheese on the bottom.  Insert a toothpick into the cheese and top with two halves of the sliced strawberries.  Stand them on a serving plate.  Pour some of the Balsamic Vinegar into a teaspoon and then drizzle over the strawberries.  You can pour directly from the Balsamic vinegar bottle but I don’t recommend that.

This stuff is like gold!  You don’t want to waste a drop!  Drizzle. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Creating A Fairy Garden

Fairy Garden 001

The beginnings of a Fairy Garden!  This is something I’ve wanted to make for a long time.  Ever since I saw a Fairy Garden put together in a little red wagon a few years ago on a blog lost somewhere in time because for the life of me I can’t remember where I saw it but the image lives on in my mind…I have wanted to create one!  So I started out small with an old basket that I used to gather vegetables in back in the days when I had a big garden.  The Bermuda grass here has made that all but impossible for me to garden now and I actually threw in the towel and let the grass take over and now I garden in small pots on my deck and visit the Farmer’s Market on a regular basis.  (And to my high school English teacher Mrs. Lonteen…I apologize in advance for the lengthy run-on sentences that I will continue to use.)  : )

Fairy Garden 008     Fairy Garden 006

I actually found the starter plants for my Fairy Garden at said Farmer’s Market last weekend.  That lovely pale green mound of moss with the tiniest of white flowers is called Scottish moss and it perfect for a project like this.  I also picked up a small pot of “Coccineus”  which is a Red Wild Thyme and promises to get tiny red…but possibly hot pink flowers.  I’ll let you know when it blooms.  And I also picked up a pot of a creeping Wooly Thyme. 

Fairy Garden 003

I lined the basket with a black plastic trash bag that I cut out and trimmed to fit my basket.

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  Then filled it with black Miracle Grow Potting Mix and potted my plants. 


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Now for the fun part.  Let’s add some charm shall we?  It’s only a start but I painted a rock with outdoor craft paint and made welcome stone.  I scrounged around under the big oak tree in the backyard for some acorn caps and made a path.  I still need more charming elements to add to this.  My next addition will be some red and white spotted mushrooms that I plan to make.  Perhaps a bridge over some water, an adorable fairy sized banner and maybe a place to sit?  How about a house for my fairy to live in?

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I have only just started but love it already!

Have you ever made a Fairy Garden?

Help me finish mine!  Please!

I would love to hear your ideas and what are some of the things you used and put in yours!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

meatballs 2

What can I say but these were awesome!  They came from a cookbook that I have had for a while now called Our Best Bites and they were quick easy and delicious.   I love it when I try something new and it’s a success!  Not much else to say except they were yummy and I served them with Jasmine Rice and my favorite vegetable broccoli.  Another nice thing about them is that you can double up the recipe and freeze half of it for later.  Stove top or crock options too.  This one is a keeper!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

1 pound extra-lean ground beef

2 tablespoons dehydrated onions

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup bread crumbs

In a medium bowl, combine meatball ingredients. 

Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil spray with non-stick spray.  

You can use a cookie scoop for even sized meat balls.  AND don’t forget the non-stick spray like I did!  Very important!

Place under the broiler in your oven for 5-7 minutes or until the meat balls begin to brown.  (I baked mine for 25 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.) 


3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1  1/2 cups water or pineapple juice  (Go with the pineapple juice….amazing flavor!)

1/4 cup white vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

In a large saucepan, whisk together the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil.  Add the meatballs and reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.  ( Or you can do like I did and put everything in the slow cooker and cook on high or low depending on how much time you have till they are done.  I cooked mine for about 1 hourson high and another hour on low but only because I cooked them all the way through in the oven first.)

To make ahead and freeze simply make the meatballs as directed above and broil or bake them.  When they come out of the oven, place them in a freezer-safe container and pour the sauce over them.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to cook, invert the container into the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours. 

Cookbook     Meatballs - Copy

This was honestly a tasty dinner and these would also be delicious served as an appetizer meatball too.  And lot’s of other great easy family style recipes in this book too.