How to shop and take care of flowers

It’s been over a year since we last moved into our home and I am learning new things about myself since becoming a home owner. One of them is that I really love gardening and second is that I have a slight obsession with flowers. I remember watching the Desperate Housewives TV show a while back and admiring the housewives homes. They always had beautiful gardens and pretty flower arrangements in their homes which I loved. Now I always make it a point I have a vase of fresh flowers in the home and today I will be sharing some tricks that I have learned. 

How to shop and take care of flowers

Flowers are nature’s gift to earth and they are one of the best ways to bring beauty and elegance to a room. There is a notion that flowers are expensive which is partly true but if you shop around you will find some really good prices. Trader Joe’s is my go to for fresh flowers as they always have reasonably priced bouquets as low as $3.99. Whole Foods often has good sales on flowers as well so I would start at these 2 shops. 

Tips for Shopping & Caring for Flowers: 

Always make sure the flowers are still vibrant and none of the petals and leaves are wilted: Do not the make the mistake of picking the first bouquet you find. Sometimes there may be some hidden blooms that are past their prime. It is actually best to pick flowers whose blooms are still opening so they last longer however some shops only sell them when they have fully bloomed. In that case just pick the freshest looking. The Leaves should be green and firm too. Regardless always inspect them before you buy.

How to shop and take care of flowers

  • Check the Stem: Firm stems are a good sign that a flower can still absorb water well. If the stem is too soft, chances are high your flowers will not last long. 
  • Try to buy varieties that last long: I am no flower expert but I have discovered some types that last longer than others. Calla Lillies and Carnations for example seem to last longer than a week in water, they can even reach 3 weeks sometimes. Hydrangeas are one my favorites but they always seem to die on me after a week. If you have a trick to keep these longer, I would love to hear from you. 
  • Trim the stem. This is important to do before you place the flowers in a vase. I recommend using sharp pruners or pair of scissors to trim. I would say about an inch or two of stem trimmed at a 45 degree angle works. Also remember to trim every 3 days or so to allow water to keep going through the stem. I read that cutting them at an angle keeps the stems off the bottom of the vase thus allowing them to absorb water more easily. 

  • Remove leaves and buds in the water line: By removing any leaves or buds in contact with water you will prevent them from rotting and causing bacterial growth. It also looks better if you are using a transparent vase. 
  • Clean your vase: I am very guilty of reusing the same vase without cleaning it before adding new flowers. I have noticed that whenever I wash the vase first the flowers last longer. Something to do with bacteria which affects the length of their freshness. 
  • Use the plant food packet: Most flowers come with a small packet of plant food and they are very  essential. I used to use the whole packet at once until I learned that I need to use little by little whenever I change the water. If you run out you can do your own mix of two drops of bleach and a teaspoon of sugar with a gallon of water.

  • Always check on your flowers every few days. Check if they have enough water, trim the stems and replenish the plant food at least every 3 days. This will result in long lasting flowers. 

How to shop and take care of flowers

Now that you have arranged your flowers neatly in the vase enjoy the beauty and brightness they bring to your home. I love placing them anywhere from the dining table, coffee table, bathroom counter or bedrooms. A home with fresh flowers always looks beautiful and inviting. 

Do you love flowers? What tricks do you have for keeping long lasting flowers? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below. 

Easy Meatless ‘Beef’ Empanadas

It’s football season! We just watched our first game recently and as soon as the game started all my sadness about summer ending disappeared. One of the things I love about football season is the game-day gatherings we have with our friends and family at home. I always make it a mission to serve something different and special for our guests to crate an awesome homegating experience. Since we follow a mostly plant based diet, I always serve some meatless options like these Easy Meatless Beef Empanadas made with Gardein Beefless Ground. 

Easy Meatless 'Beef' Empanadas

Meatless options do not have to be boring celery sticks or pretzels. More and more people are eating plant based meals and want options that look and taste like meat; thanks to meatless brands like Gardein it has become very easy to find these options. Gardein has various plant-based entrée and appetizer options including beefless ground, meatless meatballs, crabless cakes and even plant based chicken nuggets which all taste like meat and are perfect for homegating and tailgating 

I use the beefless ground a lot in my cooking and it is great for this awesome meatless empanada recipe. You can use it for so many other recipes including meatless shepherds pie, tacos, spaghetti Bolognese

How to Make Easy Meatless Beef Empanadas: A pictorial guide

Easy Meatless 'Beef' Empanadas

Easy Meatless 'Beef' Empanadas

This recipe is very easy especially if you use the premade pastry. I love puff pastry for this dish as it is light, flaky with a nutty flavor. The recipe yields 20 empanadas which is plenty for a small game-day get together.

If you want to eat less meat for a meal, a month, or everyday you will be glad to know every chef-created Gardein recipe is made to give you the most “meaty” tasty, quality, and texture. I for one love their products and recommend them for meatless meals. 

Easy Meatless 'Beef' Empanadas

Easy Meatless 'Beef' Empanadas Recipe
Yields 20
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 package Gardein beefless ground
  2. 1 cup shredded Mexican Cheese
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  5. 1 large onion
  6. 3 carrot sticks diced
  7. 3 celery sticks diced
  8. 2 cloves fresh garlic minced
  9. 1 large potato diced into small pieces
  10. ½ teaspoon chili powder
  11. 1 teaspoon oregano
  12. 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
  13. Empanada Dough or frozen pastry dough, defrosted
Instructions
  1. In frying pan, heat oil and sauté onions, potatoes, carrots, celery and garlic until soft. Add paprika, chili powder and oregano. Add beefless ground and cook for 2 minutes then add the crushed tomatoes and cook until hot.
  2. Set aside to cool a little.
  3. While beefless ground mixture cools prepare the pastry dough and cut into circles.
  4. Place a spoonful of stuffing, topped with cheese on half of each dough circle. Wet the edges with milk, Fold dough over filling and seal with a fork and brush a beaten egg over each empanada.
  5. Bake in a 200°C/400°F oven until cooked and lightly browned.
Spoons and Stilettos http://www.spoonsandstilettos.com/

Experience Montreal: A visual guide

My husband and I recently celebrated our one year wedding anniversary and we decided to start a tradition where we travel somewhere new every anniversary. Our first anniversary trip was in the beautiful city of Montreal, Canada. I immediately fell in love with the city the moment we arrived. There was something very romantic and vibrant about it. 

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal Montreal

Saint Josephs Oratory of Mount Royal: This was one of the places I knew I had to visit in Montreal. It is the Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine on Mount Royals Westmount Summit. It is Canadas biggest church and is pretty impressive. We were unlucky to get there during a time when they were having some construction on site but it still was amazing. Once you get to the top of the building you will see amazing views of the city. Totally worth the visit!

Old Montreal

Old Montreal street

Old Montreal: Beautiful French influenced architecture, cobblestone streets, charming boutique shops and many awesome restaurants is what old Montreal is about. You simply cannot visit Montreal without experiencing old Montreal. It certainly felt like I was in Europe and was one of my favorite places in Montreal. 

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal: This Catholic church was built in 1656 and is Montreal’s oldest. The interior is absolutely stunning with stained glass and well crafted surroundings. We were a little surprised they allowed photographs in the church. With all the tourists and photography going on, it just felt like going to a museum. At the same time I understand that tourism is how they are able to maintain the building so I embraced the opportunity to be in this amazing church. The fee to enter was only $8 and is well worth a visit. 

Downtown Montreal; Where to eat and More : Our hotel was in the heart of downtown Montreal which gave us access to many cool restaurants and sites. The city is clean, well mantained with lots of pretty floral accents around. One of the must visit streets is St Catherine’s street if you are looking for something to eat or shop. If you are a foodie you will love Montreal’s restaurant scene too. One of my favorites was Terrasse William Gray which is a fabulous rooftop restaurant located on the 8th floor of the chic William Gray Hotel. If you want to enjoy a bite or a trendy cocktail with beautiful views, I highly recommend this spot.

If you are looking for a hearty meal and are not concerned about calories, I recommend the highly rated Au Pied de Cochon restaurant. They have one of the most innovative menus I have ever seen, the food is also rich and decadent. If you love Foie Gras and pork, this is definitely the spot to visit. Oh and definitely try the duck in a can, its what they are known for. The can is opened right at your table and out comes a tasty duck stuffed with foie gras. Yes, that’s right!

For the sweets and pastry lovers a cool spot to try is Maison Christian Faure. They have amazing desserts, macaroons and different types of pastries. The interior is very pretty and they bring all sorts of pastries to choose from right at your table. Definitely stop by one of the fresh juice and smoothie spots in Old Montreal as well. 

PLATEAU DE CHARCUTERIES Terrasse William Gray

We had the most amazing time in Montreal and recommend anyone to visit. It is a cosmopolitan city with lots of charm and beauty. I have been telling the hubs that I want to go back already. 

Have you been to Montreal? Would you like to experience Montreal? What were your favorite spots if you have been there? Where do you think we should go for our next trip?  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Good Eats Boston: Balani

Good Eats Boston features a number of restaurants in and around Boston. Waltham, specifically the Moody Street area, also has a varied collection of restaurants serving delicious foods. With so many restaurants on one street there is literally all the cuisines you could think of including Tapas, Sushi, Mexican, Thai and good old American fare. If you crave it, its probably on Moody street. Recently I decided to venture to the popular street to sample the delicious dishes served up by Balani restaurant. 

The Balani Burger

The moment you enter Balani, you are welcomed by a very friendly host and the eclectic decor immediately catches the eye. With unique artwork, warm tones and a comfy lounge area Balani certainly has character and is very inviting. 

I ordered the stir fried Chinese broccoli succotash which includes baby corn, edamame, shiitake with a creamy curry sauce. My husband, who loves seafood, ordered the grilled octopus with chopped salad, ginger soy dressing and crispy fava beans. We both enjoyed our appetizers, however, If we knew the portions were so large, we probably would have shared an appetizer. 

Since I was on my cheat day I knew I had to go all out for the main course. I ordered the highly rated Balani Burger made with smashed prime chuck, crispy pork belly, cheddar, house dill pickles, awesome sauce, potato roll and fries. To say the burger is good is an understatement; it’s awesome! My husband ordered the roasted Chinese eggplant with short rib and he loved it. His dish was made with a sweet and spicy soy glaze, jasmine rice, chopped salad, ginger vinaigrette and very tender short rib. The plate was cleared when he was done with it. 

Balani Waltham Grilled Octopus

Balani Waltham ROASTED CHINESE EGGPLANT with Short RibYou would think after all that food we couldn’t possible eat anything else but there’s always room for dessert. We ordered the date cake, which was easily the best dessert I have had in a long time. I told my husband I would drive back to Waltham just to have the date cake. I am not sure what the cake is made from exactly but you can definitely taste the dates, vanilla and toffee. 

Balani Waltham Date Cake

If you are in the Waltham area or looking to try a new restaurant for your next date night, I highly recommend Balani. This restaurant impressed me in so many ways from the amazing service to delicious food and a fab environment. Definitely worth putting on your to go list. 

Balani 

469 Moody Street

Waltham, MA 02453

Phone: 781.472.2805

The Crispiest Sriracha Fried Chicken Recipe

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CrispyCreations #CrispiestChicken #CollectiveBias

Forget all the complicated tricks you have been told will give you the crispiest fried chicken. I have the secret, and I am sharing it with you today! It is pretty easy and is probably something you have in your pantry already…Argo® Corn Starch! Instead of using flour only, using a half and half split of flour and Argo® Corn Starch will help give you the crispiest fried chicken that is juicy on the inside and crispy and airy on the outside. The Argo® Corn Starch is what will make your fried chicken recipe outstanding.

For our secret ingredient, the only brand I use is Argo® Corn Starch because it is the best and leading corn starch brand with over 100 years of quality and trust over multiple generations. The Argo® yellow container with the blue lid is so familiar and can be found in most households. Argo® Corn Starch is naturally gluten free, which is great for those following a gluten free diet. Most people know corn starch mainly as a thickening ingredient for sauces, but it has other uses in addition to making the crispiest chicken. Here are other ways to use corn starch:

  1. Corn starch is a good binding agent for baked goods. It is the glue that holds desserts together including puddings, cookies, and pies.
  2. Coating marinated meat or veggies with corn starch is a popular technique in Asian cooking, as it helps give the meat a nice crisp, velvet texture very quickly.
  3. Adding Argo® Corn Starch to your sheet pan tofu before cooking will make it nice and crunchy on the outside. This is great when making a tofu salad or rice bowl.
  4. Use it when making ice cream. Yes, Argo® Corn Starch can be added to homemade ice cream recipes too. Adding Argo® Corn Starch to an ice cream mix helps bind the ingredients, prevents ice crystals forming and creates a smoother ice cream texture.

The Crispiest Sriracha Fried Chicken Recipe

Fried chicken is such a great treat, and when it is homemade, you can control what goes in it and how it is made. This crispiest chicken recipe can be baked, deep fried, or air fried. For this recipe, we use an air fryer instead of deep frying in oil for lower fat content. The chicken is marinated in buttermilk and Sriracha sauce, dipped in an egg wash, then coated with the 50% Argo® Corn Starch and 50% flour combination, mixed with garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs and paprika. It is very simple. You can get your crispiest chicken with Argo® Corn Starch.

  1. The Crispiest Sriracha Fried Chicken Recipe
    Write a review
    Print
    Total Time
    50 min
    Total Time
    50 min
    Ingredients
    1. 2 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
    2. 1 cup buttermilk
    3. 1/4 cup Sriracha sauce
    4. 1/2 cup Argo® Corn Starch​
    5. 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    6. 2 tsp smoked paprika
    7. 2 tsp garlic powder
    8. 2 tsp onion powder
    9. 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
    10. 1 large egg
    11. 1 tablespoon water
    Instructions
    1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then add it to a large plastic bag. Whisk the buttermilk, half the spices and Sriracha sauce together, pour into plastic bag, close it tight and shake it, making sure all chicken pieces are covered with the buttermilk. Let it sit for at least an hour or overnight.
    2. When ready to cook, whisk together the flour, salt, Argo® Corn Starch​, and remaining spices in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and water until combined.
    3. Remove chicken from the buttermilk mix and slowly dip each piece into the egg wash first and then the flour mix. Shake each piece gently to remove excess flour and Argo® Corn Starch​ and then place on a cooling rack for five minutes.
    4. Place in air fryer and cook for at least 30 minutes at about 375 degrees F until chicken is fully cooked with a nice crispy golden brown color.
    Spoons and Stilettos http://www.spoonsandstilettos.com/

 Be sure to visit Argo® Corn Starch for more inspiration. ​

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