Spring Entertaining

Easter weekend swiftly passed and spring is officially arrived in my book!  Time for open toe shoes, bare legs, sandals, white and cute hats to finish up the most casual or dressy of an outfit!

It’s also a great time to entertain guests; both family and friends.  Between Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, graduations, and in our family birthdays galore, there are so many reasons to open up the door!

Looking ahead to a season of hospitality, I thought it would be fun to share a few tips to help you organize your next event with little stress.

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It’s really quite easy to pull together a dinner to welcome spring or celebrate those you love, despite the desire to be just like Martha Stewart!

**First, the menu, which isn’t as difficult as it seems! While you don’t have to go this route, traditional spring meals often include ham, lamb or chicken.  These can be prepared several ways (I love variety) and carved right up for serving.  Spring vegetables include asparagus, fresh leafy greens, artichokes, radishes, avocado, Vidalia onion and broccoli, which should be at their freshest and of course most flavorful time.  Shopping for food that is in season immediately takes a load off of your mind because you aren’t searching for elusive veggies or disappointed in the taste!

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**Speaking from experience, prepare foods your familiar with so that you aren’t upset and fretting over how a new dish has turned out.  Save the experiments for family supper one night.

 **If you are hosting family (and plan to prepare it all), think of and prepare recipes that they know and love … in our house it’s three cheese mac and cheese and roasted green beans on the menu.  Between shopping seasonal and preparing family favorites, your menu should come together fairly fast.

**Knock out most of your prep work and make desserts the day before, leaving just the main course for the day of a gathering.

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**Any dinner you host doesn’t have to be formal; a wonderfully prepared buffet or potluck dinner can be just as elegant.  I always loved the spreads at my aunt and uncle’s house over the years as she ordered everything, from Costco, Sam’s or Honey Baked Ham; laid out a beautiful sfeast and enjoyed the entire day with the family!  Aunt Jean knows how to entertain stress free; let me tell you!

{Sometime’s it is just worth it to let someone else do all the work.}

**Don’t be afraid to delegate; typically guests are more than happy to bring drinks, and appetizer, a side dish, or dessert.  Take a load off of yourself.

**If entertaining families, have games and toys for children to play with, or ask parents to bring their children’s favorites.  This will help entertain little ones and maybe keep them from being bored.

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Grocery store Blue Willow dishes collected in the 1990s are probably my favorite dishes to use!

**Decorating your table is a wonderful and memorable way to make your guests feel welcome. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to set a pretty table.

**Mother’s Day, a birthday dinner, or the Easter holiday is the perfect time to showcase your best dinnerware, glassware, flatware and linens if your desire.  I love to pull out my Noritake china purchase at an auction years ago by my mother-in-law, but I also adore  a basic white plate topped with a fun salad plate. With either choice of plate adding the crystal glassware that belong to Audley’s grandparents is such a special touch.

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Simple white rimmed plates from Pottery Barn match absolutely everything!  Here they are paired with bunny plates from Williams Sonoma.

**For outdoor gatherings and those gathering for the guys, an old fashioned cookout is perfect! With all the variety in paper and plastic products now, setting up a table or theme is as simple as ever.

**Maintain a beautifully simple color scheme.  Spring inspired plates, patterns and a touch of greenery make for an unforgettable table setting.

**Keep the table uncluttered by using a buffet to display and serve drinks, side dishes or desserts.  Decorate it to match the theme of the dining table.

**Bring your home to life with flowers and glowing candles; both of which create a welcoming mood.  Seasonal flowers in April and May include tulips, daffodils, and lilies which bring the beauty of spring inside. Some of these you may be able to cut from your own yard, or you can usually find these popular flowers at your local grocery, very inexpensively!  Candles are plentiful at the Dollar Store or clearance at Target.  I love to buy them when on clearance to put up for later use.

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Table decorated with tea-lights and succulent pots.

 **For an easy springtime table, bring the outside in with greenery such as grass, ivy, fern, or even succulents.  Fresh yellowbell branches from the yard are stunning on a buffet or mantle!

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**Decorating can be done in advance: set the table, arrange the centerpiece and add special touches a day or even two days before.

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The glassware I’ve used here belonged to Audley’s grandparents; the etched flowers fit the season nicely!

It doesn’t take a lot of stress and money to treat your family and friends to a celebrations they will long remember.  Just take on what you know you can handle, use what you have, and make plans to celebrate the spring!

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Fit(…ish)

Food seems to be the theme of my postings lately, which is just fine as I really love food.  At the same time, I do feel guilty posting so many unhealthy recipes and meals out when I try to maintain a fairly healthy lifestyle.

I often refer to it as living Fit…ish.

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The question I’m asked most often is have I kept off the 100 pounds that I lost over the last several years, or like many who undergo such a drastic transformation, have I put it back on?

The truth is, I’ve gained and lost the same 20 pounds multiple times over the last two years, staying fairly consistent with someone in maintenance.  I know very few people that don’t fluctuate with their weight over time.   The key is maintaining, knowing when to make changes and catch yourself when falling back into bad habits.  At this moment I am on the heavier side of that 20 pounds.  While I know how to eat and how to exercise, I am still am emotional eater, so when stress sets in (moving, owing taxes, transmission going out in my car, having a car accident….) I eat.

{And y’all, I do love food.}

The gym is still my best friend, which really helps with maintaining my weight, and I do eat pretty healthy throughout the week.  Recently though, maintenance is not enough and I really want to finish the journey that began over four years ago.  I’ve not posted on a healthy lifestyle in quite a while and with summer right around the corner, there is even more desire to feel great as well as a desire to look good before vacations and weekend adventures.

Even though the calendar announced spring, winter and dreary weather seems to be lingering around.  When the weather is dreary I love a flavorful soup for my lunch!

Using simple, but fresh ingredients, this quick recipe for one makes a delicious and filling meal full of healthy benefits!

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Add to your shopping list, organic chicken bone broth, baby kale, yellow bell pepper, purple potatoes(just because they are so pretty!), garlic, lemon, baby bellas, and avocado oil.

 

Purple-Potatoes | Fiddle Dee Dee

First, you’ll make a lemon based chicken broth for your soup, then add the veggies (starting with the potatoes so they can soften), simmering for the flavors to blend and the kale to wilt.  Baby kale is not as bitter as traditionally served kale, so I really like using it.

Kale-and-Potato-Soup-Ingredients | Fiddle Dee Dee

I top my soup off with a little avocado oil for the addition of a healthy fat.

Avocado-Oil | Fiddle Dee Dee

Season with black pepper and you have a savory soup that leaves you filled with energy instead of feeling lethargic and bloated.

Kale-and-Potato-Soup | Fiddle Dee Dee

You can print off the full recipe for Simple Kale & Potato Soup here.  Just double it if you want to share.

Here’s to kicking off a healthy spring and reaching all of our goals!

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Uncle Jack’s Meat House

There are restaurants you visit where you walk in, eat your food and leave, barely remembering what you ate.

Then, there are restaurants you visit where you walk in with friends, savor your meal as if you are in Cuba (where table time is much valued), linger just a bit longer over coffee and dessert, and then tell everyone you know about the evening out because the entire experience was just THAT spectacular!

It’s rare to find, but it does exist.

Over the weekend I was so fortunate to experience an unforgettable meal out with fabulous company and amazing food. My girl friend, Tammie asked me to accompany her to Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Duluth for an unforgettable tasting experience that will long remain a topic of discussion.

{Seriously, it’s Monday morning and we are still talking about it!}

Uncle Jack's Meat House Duluth

Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Duluth is an unassuming restaurant located on Sugarloaf Parkway  near the Infinite Energy Arena.  Despite being located in such a busy area for  over a year (they opened in late 2016), so many people still have not discovered this hidden gem!

Tammie and I were greeted warmly when we walked in.  We were given the option of indoor or outdoor dining; both of which are fabulous options.

Indoor Dining Uncle Jack's Meat House

Indoor Dining

Uncle Jack's Meat House Outdoor Dining

A glimpse of outdoor seating

 

The manager introduced us to our waiter, Luis, who treated us wonderfully! The decor is laid back and casual with a bit of an industrial vibe.  Guests were dressed as casual as shorts and tee-shirts to suits and dresses!  We dined with parents and their children, couples, groups of friends and even a group of teenagers.  Restaurant patrons were so diverse and everyone was welcomed the same!

Uncle Jack's Meat House Bar

Uncle Jack's Meat House decor

The executive chef, Mitch came out and introduced himself to us and shared a little background of the restaurant.  Uncle Jack’s Meat House is owned by  Restauranteur and Food Network personality Willie Degel, who also owns two other restaurants in NYC.  Together Degel and Chef Mitch came up with a menu and concept for the restaurant.  After a little trial and error the menu and restaurant concept evolved into the fabulous restaurant it is now!

Uncle Jack's Meat House Menu

Chef Mitch is an Atlanta native who has put a decidedly Southern and delightfully Atlantan spin on the restaurant menu.  Everything is prepared fresh and to order here.  There are no prepackaged meals heated up in an oven, only fresh ingredients; as many as possible from local farms and dairies.  All sauces are even prepared on site; you will not find a bottle of A1 here, nor do you need it.  The only freezer is a small chest freezer that holds the ice cream for one of their desserts, which is also made onsite. Chef Mitch said they work hard to accommodate the dietary needs of guests, including those with allergies or gluten intolerance.

With your food cooked made from scratch and made to order, don’t expect your meals in five minutes.  This isn’t a heat your dish in the microwave and bring to the table restaurant.  This is a place for you to socialize over the table as each course is brought out, and to savor each bite you put into your mouth.  If you want to eat in a hurry this is not the place to eat, but if you truly want a memorable experience, make your reservation and plan to stay awhile!

Chef Mitch had several menu items already planned ahead to serve us, then had us also choose an entree.  Everything brought to our table was absolutely fantastic and every bite lovely to experience.

Tammie and Jen at Uncle Jack's Meat House

So what deliciousness did Tammie and I indulge?

Munchies:

Applewood Smoked Bacon with house-made peanut butter (slather it on y’all!) and maple syrup

Uncle Jack's Meat House Chef Mitch

Chef Mitch bringing out the applewood smoked bacon

Uncle Jack's Meat House Applewood Smoked Bacon

Smoked Local Pork Spare Ribs with a sweet and sour BBQ glaze and Apple Cider Coleslaw

Uncle Jack's Meat House Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

Maine Lobster and Avocado Mini Tacos with a shell made of taro root and served with herb mayo and wasabi

Uncle Jack's Meat House Maine Lobster and Avocado Mini Tacos

Maine Lobster Mini Taco Uncle Jack's Meat House

We also enjoyed selections of fresh local cheeses, cured southern meats, pickled onions, cherry jam and whole grain mustard on a Charcuterie board.

Charcuterie Station Uncle Jack's Meat House

Selections from Charcuterie Station

Uncle Jack's Meat House Charcuterie Station Selections

Charred Spanish Octopus with chickpea puree, olives, capers, pickled onion, and drizzled with Spanish olive oil.

Charred Spanish Octopus from Uncle Jack's Meat House

Spanish Octopus

USDA Choice Steak:

For our entrees Tammie and I enjoy selections from the steak menu.  I tried the 35 day dried aged rib chop (this is enough for THREE meals!) cooked medium rare.

Uncle Jack's Meat House Cowboy Ribchop

Served with roasted garlic and shallot

Cowboy Ribchop cooked to perfection

The perfect steak!

Tammie enjoyed the tender center cut filet mignon.

Sharing Sides:

The menu at Uncle Jack’s Meat House is ala cart, but the sides are completely sharable and options are just fabulous! We tried four delicious side dishes with our steaks.  By far the CornGasm Brûlée and collard greens were my favorite!

Organic Cauliflower Gratin with Gruyere cheese

Uncle Jack's Meat House Cauliflower Gratin

5 Cheese Mac and Cheese made with gouda, Parmesan, Cheddar, Jack and Gruyere cheeses

Uncle Jack's Meat House five Cheese Mac and Cheese

Slow Cooked Collard Greens with smoked ham hock and aged sherry vinegarUncle Jack's Meat House Collard Greens

CornGasm Brûlée complete with a crystalized sugar top

Uncle Jack's Meat House CornGasm Brûlée

Sweet Tooth:

And if all of the above wasn’t enough, we had dessert.

The banana Dutch Baby was delicious….

Uncle Jack's Meat House Dutch Baby

But the Fudge Brownie Soufflé served with Salted Caramel Ice Cream was probably the best dessert I have EVER enjoyed!  This dish is prepared when you order it, so it takes around 20 minutes to be out at your table.  Don’t be impatient.  The wait is totally worth it!

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Uncle Jack’s Meat House is open for lunch and supper Monday through Friday and for supper on Saturday and Sunday.  They went from empty to packed within 30 minutes of our 6:30 arrival on a Friday night, so make a reservation!

Uncle Jack’s Meat House

6590 Sugarloaf Pkwy suite 201

Duluth, GA 30097

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Pollo Tropical Reveals New Menu Items

Last night I was invited to Pollo Tropical in Snellville for a tasting of new menu items that are hitting stores now!

If you’re unfamiliar with Pollo Tropical, it is what I call “upscale fast food” with a Caribbean flare.

Bradley described it even better when he said “that’s the place all the guys take their dates because it’s nicer than a burger place and still affordable on our budget.”

Pollo-Tropical-Pollo-Bites | Fiddle Dee Dee

Pollo Tropical is known for it’s marinated, grilled chicken (it’s really grilled) and their crispy pollo bites, but they are expanding their menu this spring with four new citrus marinated shrimp dishes.

Introducing:

The Shrimp Quesadilla Salad features crispy romaine lettuce, black bean & corn salad, multi-colored tortilla chips and shredded cheddar jack cheese, topped off with a 6-inch, hot-pressed cheese quesadilla and served with Chipotle Ranch dressing on the side.

The Shrimp Quesadilla Wrap consists of melted cheddar jack cheese, freshly chopped tomatoes and a tangy Chipotle Ranch dressing.

The Shrimp Caesar Salad with chopped crisp romaine lettuce, croutons and shredded Parmesan cheese tossed in Pollo Tropical’s Caesar dressing.

And the Shrimp Tropichop Bowl featuring the citrus marinated shrimp over yellow rice and vegetables served also topped with onions, peppers and diced tomatoes.

These were so flavorful and filling and quite the change from fried everything.

Pollo Tropical is known for using fresh ingredients and makes all their sauces and marinades in-house.

One of the most tasty dishes side dishes is balsamic marinated tomatoes. The marinade is made and allowed to sit for flavors to mesh, then tomatoes and onions are added and marinated for several hours for a truly flavorful treat!

Other delicious side dishes include green beans, sweet potato casserole, fries, corn casserole (y’all, fresh out of the oven this is sooo good!), Mac & cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy; that’s just a few of their many options.

Fried plantains are the perfect finish to any meal!

Pollo Tropical can be found throughout the Atlanta area and Florida which makes it an ideal stop as you hit the road to the beach for spring break and summer vacations! Check out these delicious options and others on the menu as well!

If you want to check out the menu in advance you can at pollotropical.com.