1. DIY- Build Your Own Mason Jar Herb Garden

    With BBQ season in full swing and Easter cooking around the corner, we thought it might be fun to start growing your own personal herb garden! There’s nothing quite like having fresh ingredients to add to a tasty salad or main dish! Not only will it add a pop of color to your garden, it also tastes great, too! This DIY project is quick and easy and is one that the whole family to get involved with. For a list of materials and simple instructions click here! Visit our Pinterest page for more fun DIY ideas!

    (Photo: http://camillestyles.com/uncategorized/transformed-mason-jar-herb-garden/)

     


  2. FALL in love.

    It’s time to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall. Time to welcome cooler weather, sweaters and pumpkin flavored everything. Living in Florida, we often don’t get the atmospheric changes of fall such as the leaves changing colors or cool autumn breezes. Despite our constant greenery, Floridians can get in the fall spirit too!

    Decorating the home to match the season is a quick and easy way to celebrate.

    1. Add a touch of autumn to your home décor with Autumnal colors, wicker pieces and accent pieces from nature such as gourds, pumpkins, branches or dried leaves.

    2. Instead of carving pumpkins this fall, try a unique approach of painting your pumpkin. You can create endless designs using acrylic paint and painter’s tape. Try designs such as a two-tone, dipped look or popular chevron stripes. Take a look at these,“12 Painted Pumpkin Ideas” to gather inspiration.  Set a bewitching scene inside or out with jack-o’-lanterns in whimsical, easy-to-paint designs this fall.

    3. Spice up any door with an autumn themed wreath. This splash of fall color brings warmth and life to any front door.

    4. Fill your home the delicious smells of fall with pumpkin, spiced apple or cinnamon. These signature autumn scents are sure to bring the feeling of fall in your home.

    5. Another great way to bring the scents of fall into your home is to do a little fall baking. Not only will your house smell amazing but indulging yourself with a warm pumpkin treat will surely put you in the mood for the season.

    Check out this easy recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    PUMPKIN CINNAMON ROLLS

    Author: Erin Alderson

    Recipe type: Breakfast

    Prep time:  2 hours 30 mins Cook time: 30 mins Total time:  3 hours

     

    Serves: 12

    • ¾ cup milk
    • 2½ teaspoon yeast
    • ⅓ cup natural sugar
    • 1 cup pumpkin
    • ⅓ cup melted butter
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 3 whole eggs
    • 4- 4½ cup Unbleached all purpose flour
    • divider filling
    • ¼ cup butter
    • ⅔ cup sucanat
    • ¼ cup natural sugar
    • 2 tablespoon cinnamon
    • 2 teaspoon nutmeg
    • divider Pumpkin Glaze
    • 1 cup pumpkin
    • ¼ cup natural sugar
    • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
    • ¼-1/2 cup milk
    • Heat milk (either in a sauce pan or microwave) until milk begins to simmer- add butter. Let cool until a warm temperature (about 120˚)
    • In a stand mixer bowl, at milk mixture, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for five minutes. Add 3 cups of flour, salt, pumpkin, eggs and start mixer with dough hook. Add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time continuing until the dough pulls together. Continue kneading the dough until smooth and elastic- at least eight minutes.
    • Either in the mixer bowl or a separate bowl, lightly spray the dough with cooking oil and place in a warm, draft free spot until dough has doubled in size (around an hour and a half.)
    • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out into a 10 by 14 rectangle. Rub butter over entire surface and cover with sucanat mixture. Roll the dough into a log, squeeze slightly and adjust to form. Cut into 12 pieces (cut in half, the cut each half into half then each piece is cut into three pieces.) Place in a sprayed 9 X 13 pan.
    • Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight. (Or if you want to continue on, cover and let rise for another hour and follow with remaining instructions.)
    • The next morning, preheat the oven to 350˚ and remove cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for a half hour.
    • Bake for 25-30 minutes until cinnamon rolls are a nice golden brown color. Let cool slightly.
    • While cinnamon rolls cool slightly, combine icing ingredients and while cinnamon rolls are still warm spoon icing over the rolls.

    Enjoy while warm (as if there is such a thing as cold cinnamon rolls-usually they are gone before they even have the chance to cool down!)

    For more tips, tricks and recipes for the fall season visit our Pinterest Page and follow our boards.

     

    http://www.pinterest.com/nealcommunities/holidays/


  3. Spark Appetites With This 4th of July Dessert!

    Are you looking for the perfect summer dessert? Look no farther! This delicious fruit pizza is delicious and offers the nutrients (and sweetness) you are looking for. Not to mention, it’s super easy to make!

    Ingredients

    -One tube sugar cookie dough

    -One jar of marshmallow fluff

    -One 8 oz. box of cream cheese – softened. (fat free if you want to cut some calories!)

    -Your choice of fruits

    Directions

    -Roll out the sugar cookie dough onto a cookie tray in one sheet. This will be used as the “crust” of the “pizza.” Bake in oven according to package. Set aside and let cool.

    -Meanwhile, mix marshmallow fluff and cream cheese until smooth.

    -Slice fruits into

    bite size pieces for the toppings.

    -When the crust has cooled, spread the marshmallow fluff/cream cheese mixture over it.

    -Place the fruits on top.

    Fruit can get pricey at the grocery, so consider visiting a local farmers market to buy it instead!

    The Sarasota Farmers Market takes place every Saturday from 7am to 1pm.  You’ve been warned, with so many amazing vendors you will probably walk away with more than just fruit!

    In Venice, check out their local Farmers Market from 8am to noon on Tampa Avenue.

    Live further south? Don’t Miss the Fort Myers Market Thursdays between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. or the one in Naples called Third Street South on Saturday mornings from 7:30 until 11:30.

    To scope out the best prices, check out this list of fruit that is in season.

    Bon appetit!


  4. Looking for an Excuse to East Pecan Pie?

    “Good Moms Have Sticky Floors, Messy Kitchens, Laundry Piles, Dirty Ovens, and Happy Kids!

     

    Did you know that this month hosts National Pecan Pie Day? We couldn’t think of a better excuse to be in the kitchen, cooking, (and then of course, eating) pecan pie!

    Here is a recipe from FoodNetwork to make a Pecan pie.

     

     

    Ingredients

    • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • ½ cold butter (1 stick) diced
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • Flour, for rolling the dough

    Filling

    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
    • ¾ cu light corn syrup
    • ½ teaspoon fine salt
    • 2 cups chopped toasted pecans
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

    Directions

    Make the dough by hand: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter. (If the flour/butter mixture gets warm, refrigerate it for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Add the egg and stir the dough together with a fork or by hand in the bowl. If the dough is dry, sprinkle up to a tablespoon more of cold water over the mixture.

    Alternatively, make the dough in a food processor. With the machine fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter, about 10 times. Add the egg and pulse 1 to 2 times; don’t let the dough form into a ball in the machine. (If the dough is very dry add up to a tablespoon more of cold water.) Remove the bowl from the machine, remove the blade, and bring the dough together by hand.

    Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about an extra inch hanging over the edge. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Flute the edge as desired. Freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes.

    Set separate racks in the center and lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet on the center rack until the dough is set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift sides of the parchment paper to remove the beans. Continue baking until the pie shell is lightly golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

    While the crust is baking make the filling: In medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stirring constantly, continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, bourbon, and the vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. (If the crust has cooled, return it to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through.) Whisk the beaten eggs into the filling until smooth. Put the pie shell on a sheet pan and pour the filling into the hot crust.

    Bake on the lower oven rack until the edges are set but the center is still slightly loose, about 40 to 45 minutes. (If the edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil half way during baking.) Cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or room temperature

    Do you have a delicious recipe for Pecan Pie you want to share?


  5. What’s Cooking: Chili

    Do you have any childhood memories of being in the kitchen with your mom or dad? Whether you’re sneaking bites, rolling dough, or trying to make the

    smoke detector stop beeping, the kitchen is the heart of the home.

    This month is the home of National Chili Day. There is no better time to get in your kitchen and make some delicious chili and new memories with your family!

    We pulled this chili recipe from Taste of Home to help get you started.  Many of the ingredients are things you probably have in your pantry already!

     

    Classic Chili Recipe

    Ingredients:

    • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
    • 2 medium onion, chopped
    • ½ cup chopped celery
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 2 pounds ground beef
    • 2 cans (28 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained
    • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
    • I cup water
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper
    • 2 cans (16 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

    Directions

    In a Dutch oven or large soup kettle, sauté green pepper, onions and celery in oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef and cook until browned; drain. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add kidney beans. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes longer. Yield: 10-12 servings (3 quarts).

    Let us know what you think or share your best chili recipe with us.

     


  6. Planting your January Garden!

    The weather is finally cooler in the Sunshine state! It’s time to get outside and enjoy these ‘Chamber of Commerce’ Florida days! Now is an excellent time to plant herbs and vegetables in the garden! Many herbs will thrive now that temperatures are cooler, including tarragon, thyme, dill, fennel, and any of the mints. If vegetables are more your thing, why not experiment by planting cool season crops including beets, cabbage, turnips, lettuce, and broccoli.

     

    There is nothing more satisfying than enjoying the fruits of your labor and using your fresh herbs and vegetables in preparing sumptuous stews, soups and other culinary delights! Here is an example of one of our favorite soup recipes!

     

    Winter Vegetable Soup recipe - This quick one-pot soup is perfect after a busy day.

    Everyday Food, November 2009

    For more recipe ideas visit http://www.marthastewart.com/food

     

    Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
    • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 1 pound acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
    • 1 bunch kale ( 3/4 pound), ribs cut away and discarded, leaves torn
    • 5 1/2 cups (43.5 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 can (14 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed
    • 3 sprigs thyme
    • Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)

    Directions

    1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium. Cook onion and garlic until fragrant, 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add squash and kale and cook until kale is wilted, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add broth, beans, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash and kale are tender, about 12 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan, if desired.

  7. What are YOUR New Year Resolutions?

    ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’ – Larry Elder

    This time of year many people start putting pen to paper and coming up with their potential New Year’s resolutions. All the usual suspects are typically included in the list:

    • Lose weight
    • Eat healthy
    • Quit smoking
    • Exercise

    January 1st rolls around and we eagerly tackle our resolutions. All goes well for the first couple of weeks and then BOOM! We fall off the proverbial wagon and once again slip back into our normal habits. We feel defeated and ashamed and vow to NOT break our New Year’s resolutions…..next year!

    So, why do so many people fail when it comes to keeping their New Year’s resolutions? Like the old saying goes: People don’t plan to fail, they fail to PLAN.

    When tackling your New Year’s resolutions this year, why not try incorporating an action plan for each item? This will serve as your ‘blueprint’ to obtaining your goal.

    There are many ways to set and achieve your goals. You must first start by setting SMART goals. This will make it easier for you to create your action plan. Here’s an example of how it works.

    GOAL: Lose weight

    Specific: Do you know exactly WHAT you want to accomplish?

    Measurable: Quantify your progress so you stay on track.

    Attainable: Can you reach the goal? Your goals should be challenging but also attainable.

    Relevant: How important is this goal to you?

    Timely: Have a deadline for your goals.

    Revised Goal:  “I want to lose 10 lbs by April 15th 2013. I will achieve this goal by walking for 30 minutes three days a week and I will go to the gym 3 days per week. I will limit the number of sweets and starchy carbohydrates that I eat to just 2 times a week. I will weigh myself every Monday to keep track of my success.”


  8. Planning the Perfect Holiday Menu!

    The Christmas tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped, and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care……so you can relax, right? Wait a minute! What about the 12 people that you invited over for that holiday celebration party tomorrow night?? Have you prepared your menu yet? No need to panic if you haven’t. We’ve got some ideas to make your holiday party shine brighter than the bulbs on your tree!

    Holiday parties can be stressful, but they don’t have to be. With a little bit of planning and preparation you can create the perfect holiday party menu without spending a lot of time (and money).

    First thing you need to do is create a theme for your party. Do you want a ‘traditional’ holiday theme? Or are you looking to do something a little more casual? Once you determine your theme, it is easy to plan around it.

    Appetizers

    -       Fresh vegetables and a homemade dip is always a favorite holiday party staple!

    -       Consider having a combination of hot and cold appetizers. Many hot appetizers can be made ahead of time and then re-heated before guests arrive.

    Main Meal

    -       If you are going with a ‘traditional’ theme, a turkey or a ham is always a nice choice. If your party is  formal, serve as a sit down meal or, if informal, have guests make their own sandwiches using an assortment of breads and rolls.

    -       If you want something a little different consider a Mexican or Italian theme and serve fajitas or homemade lasagna!

     Dessert/Beverages

    -       The holidays are synonymous with cookies, pies and other baked goodies. Offer your guests an assortment of these holiday favorites!

    -       A festive holiday punch is a great beverage idea! Here’s the recipe for one we think you will enjoy!

    Pomegranate-Champagne Punch

    Ingredients

    Preparation

    • Bring 1/2 cup water and sugar to boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Cool syrup completely.
    • Combine Champagne, rum, and pomegranate juice in punch bowl. Add enough syrup to sweeten to taste. Mix in lemon slices, pomegranate seeds, and mint leaves. Add ice block to bowl.

  9. Gobble Gobble! Happy Thanksgiving! Don’t forget the stuffing!

    Everyone has a favorite Thanksgiving recipe. Perhaps it is your grandmother’s famous oyster stuffing, or your mother’s incredible pumpkin pie, whatever it may be it is sure to conjure up fond memories of past Thanksgiving celebrations.
    Those tempting aromas drifting from the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning are enough to tempt any one’s taste buds!
    One of our family favorites at Neal Communities is a recipe that we’ve been serving for many years. Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving without cornbread and sausage stuffing!
    Cornbread stuffing, a Southern favorite, is a nice change from more traditional white-bread stuffing. Also, the stuffing is so easy to make that it’s sure to become a favorite side year-round.
    Ingredients

    •  1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, (about 4 links), casings removed
    •  2 cups finely chopped onion
    •  1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
    •  1/4 teaspoon salt
    •  Freshly ground pepper, to taste
    •  2 pounds prepared cornbread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
    •  1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
    •  1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
    •  1 1/2-3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

    Preparation

    1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
    2. Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add onion and celery; cover, reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add cornbread, parsley and sage.
    3. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour 1 cup over the stuffing mixture and toss gently (the cornbread will break into smaller pieces). Add as much of the remaining broth as needed, 1/2 cup at a time, until the stuffing feels moist but not wet. Spoon the stuffing into the prepared pan and cover with foil.
    4. Bake the stuffing until thoroughly heated, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

  10. Cool Weather = Hot Recipes!

    If you are like most of us, somewhere in your kitchen (buried beneath the pots and pans) you have a lonely crockpot stashed away that is patiently WAITING for the weather to get cooler so that it can be used again! Crockpots and slow cookers have been around a long time, but often are forgotten about in our never ending quest to prepare a ‘quick’ dinner for the family. However, the time you will save using a crockpot to make a satisfying meal is well worth the advanced preparation.

    So, dust off your crockpots and let the cooking commence! Your family will love the healthy, hearty and delicious recipes that you can conjure up in your crockpot! You will love the fact that you just need to mix a few ingredients, turn on the nob and let your slow cooker do ALL the work for you!

    Now that the weather is cooling down, it is time to heat up the crockpot. From fish and barbeque to burritos and beans, your crock pot will quickly become your favorite cooking accessory! Here’s a great recipe for a delicious shrimp Creole recipe!

    Ingredients:

    • 1 1/2 c diced celery
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 3/4 cup chopped bell pepper
    • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
    • 1 large can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    • 4 to 6 drops Tabasco sauce, or a dash or two of ground cayenne, to taste
    • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, deveined and shelled

    Preparation:
    Combine all ingredients in slow cooker except shrimp. Cook 3 to 4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low. Add shrimp last hour of cooking. Serve over hot boiled rice.

    For more great crockpot/slow cooker recipes be sure to visit the following link!

    http://southernfood.about.com/library/crock/blcpidx.htm