Rosemary & Fresh Watermelon Margaritas

I used to be obsessed with a cocktail they served at restaurant near my old office (so many many years ago!). That drink was made with a mix of watermelon, rum, and rosemary syrup, and introduced me to the fact that watermelon and rosemary are great friends together. It's surprising, but it works.

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9 Tips for the Ultimate Cinco de Mayo Fiesta!

Some people are all about Memorial Day, but for me, Cinco de Mayo has always felt like the true unofficial start of the summer party season. Bold flavors, fun cocktails, bright colors, and the perfect excuse to bring friends together to feast and enjoy—what’s not to love?!

This year, I teamed up with Tostitos to share a few of my favorite summer fiesta entertaining tips—including a GENIUS hack for a 1-minute sundae that tastes EXACTLY like fried ice cream. The secret? Tostitos’s new limited time only cinnamon and sugar Sopapilla chips.

Yup! I said SOPAPILLA chips! They are SO GOOD, you guys!

Read on for the tips!

1. Skip the Party Store
Instead, look around your home for items that can be repurposed as decor. Natural fabrics like burlap, linen, patterned blankets or woven mats can be layered to add texture and color to your tablescape.

Small potted cacti and succulents or fresh colorful flowers will also work beautifully (the succulents can double as party favors if you’d like!)

This is also the perfect time to pull out those souvenirs and decorative cutting boards or pottery you bought on past vacations!

Instead of paper plates, I like to use a mix of real dishes and glasses--mixing and matching lends the party a fun and casual feel that your guests will appreciate. 

2. Use Edible Decorations!
Fresh fruit like pineapple, mango, and coconuts are also gorgeous and add height and tropical flavor to your table, without creating any waste.

Use dried black or pinto beans in glasses to hold utensils in place. I also love to use black beans on plates to hold small appetizers steady.

Dried chilies, cactus leaves, fresh herbs, and vegetables also add lots of richness to your table (and can be turned into delicious meals once the party ends!).

3. Remember You Don't Have to Do All the Work Yourself
My number one entertaining tip? Not everything needs to be from scratch! I like to make a few main showstoppers (like my guacamole and these chipotle shrimp tacos), then pair those with some easy store-bought favorites like restaurant-style salsa and tortilla chips.

(FYI these Tostitos Cantina Thin & Crispy tortilla chips are kind of incredible—super light, thin, and perfectly salty. I can’t stop eating them.)

4. Make a 1-Minute Fried Ice Cream Sundae for Dessert
Hot days call for a cool dessert like these easy Fried Ice Cream Sundaes which are perfect for Cinco de Mayo and beyond!

These take less than a minute to make, and taste incredible, not to mention EXACTLY like the one you’d get at a Mexican restaurant. The secret ingredient is a topping made from Tostitos’ new Cantina Sopapilla Cinnamon & Sugar tortilla chips. These delicious sweet and salty dessert chips are great on their own, with sweet dips, or as toppings like in this easy sundae.

To make, simply top scoops of your favorite ice cream (I recommend either a simple vanilla bean or something fun like dulce de leche) with a few spoonfuls of crushed chips. Drizzle generously with honey, and serve immediately with a few extra chips tucked in.

(Heads up that the Sopapilla chips are only available until May 31, 2017, so you’re probably going to want to stock up!)

5. Keep Ice Cream Cold
An easy tip to keep ice cream cold while serving it at a party is to fill a bowl with ice and nestle the carton right in the center. Don’t worry if it gets a little melty—that’s part of what makes it so good on a hot summer day!

This trick also works really well for dairy-based dips or toppings like shredded cheese or sour cream that should be kept cold.

6. Kick Up Guacamole with Fresh Fruit
Add a pop of color and exciting flavor to your favorite guacamole recipe by adding fresh fruit like pomegranate seeds, diced mango, or pineapple! The fruit works so well paired against the traditional spicy creaminess of guacamole--your guests will be asking for the recipe.

Remember that guac is best when served immediately, but you can speed things up by dicing and prepping ingredients like cilantro and onions in advance, then cutting the avocados and mixing everything up right before your guests arrive.

7. Fire Up Your Tortillas
Just say no to cold tortillas! It can be tempting to serve corn or flour tortillas straight out of the package when you’re in a hurry, but taking a few extra minutes to toast them up first will make all the difference in both taste and texture.

If you have a gas stove, fire up the burners and place the tortillas right over the flame (I usually do 3 tortillas at a time per burner). Let them cook for about 15-30 seconds on each side—just enough to give them a good char.

No gas stove? Use a hot dry skillet (cast iron works best, but any kind will do) or spread them out on a baking sheet and toast under the broiler in the oven.

8. Serve it DIY Style
From tacos to drinks, I think DIY is always the best way to go when entertaining a crowd. Put out charred tortillas, fillings, and plenty of toppings, then let people make their own perfect plate.

For cocktails, I like to put out a couple bottles of my favorite spirit, then put out options for personalizing it--like fresh diced fruit and citrus for muddling, herbs to add freshness, and freshly pureed juices.


9. Get Social!
Keep track of all your guests pictures using a fun customized hashtag, or create a DIY photo booth area with props and fun backgrounds.

Want more social media fun? Hop over to https://www.tostitoscantina.com/ to design a digital lookalike piñata of yourself to share with your friends on social. Even better? You can also enter to win the actual piñata—filled with $1000! One winner will be awarded a day through May 5, so hurry over and give it a shot.

Thanks to Tostitos for sponsoring this fun party post. All recipes and tips are my own (as always!). And thank you to you for supporting great brands like Tostitos who make it possible for me to create great content.






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Giveaway: Win this Beach Cocktails Book!

I'm hosting a fun little giveaway over on my Instagram for a copy of this gorgeous book called "Beach Cocktails" from the folks at Coastal Living Magazine and Time Inc. Books.

It's bright, colorful, and features a ton of fun recipes for beach-ready cocktails and fun snacks you can enjoy all year long.

To enter, click over to my Instagram and tag a friend you'd like to share a cocktail with. That's it!

Details here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BTSExoYjsm2
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Baked Feta with Cherry, Bacon & Almonds

The warmer it gets, the less I cook.

At some point in the summer, all of our meals tend to take on a snacky, party-like feel where normal entrees and appetizers are replaced with elaborate cheese and charcuterie boards, platters of room temperature roasted vegetables, and enormous salads.

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Flourless Orange Cauliflower Cake

I know...I know...this sounds totally insane (and maybe even a little bit gross?), but trust me on this! Everyone who has ever tasted this cake can not believe how good it is. And no, you definitely can not taste the cauliflower in it. I promise that all you'll taste is oranges, almonds, and sweet cake goodness.

This flourless orange cauliflower cake was one of the recipes I featured on a TV cooking segment about cauliflower recipes that I did on PIX11 Morning News here in NYC earlier this month. On the show, I covered everything from Cauliflower Fried Rice and Cauliflower Buffalo Wings, to this sweet cake.

Needless to say, the cake was the hit.

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Cake and Cocktails with Maggy London

Photos by Edelle Kenny. Dresses by Maggy London.

I love a beautiful dress! From fitted bodycon sheaths in every color to flirty floral sundresses, my closet is filled with them.

(Actually, it’s bursting. I had to setup a second wardrobe in our bedroom to deal with my dress overflow. Not sorry about this.)

If you ever see me in person (or TV! or Instagram!), the odds are high I’ll be wearing one. Hence my excitement when Maggy London, a NY-based fashion brand that I've been wearing for years, reached out to me about participating in their spring dress campaign!

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Low-Carb Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

I was on the WPIX11 morning news today sharing a few cauliflower recipe ideas like this Low-Carb Cauliflower Fried "Rice." One the most popular recipes on this site is my cauliflower dirty rice recipe, but I've been meaning to share another easy twist that uses cauliflower rice.

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Easy Coconut Blueberry Cake

We were originally going to go out for my dad's birthday last night, but he wasn't feeling well so we made it a casual night in instead. We all went over to my parents' house (Hudson, too!), ordered take-out and hung out in the kitchen eating and laughing until well past midnight.

When my mom told me about the change of plans that afternoon, I realized that I at least had the time to bake up a quick cake to bring along. I had to work with what I had, so took a look in the fridge and pantry and pulled together this easy Coconut Blueberry Cake. It's a variation of a cake I've made a lot of times using buttermilk, but with a few easy switches.

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What to Wear to a Creative Conference

 Photos by Keith Williams. Styling by Sherly Tavarez.

Conferences are a regular thing for those of us who work in creative industries. I attend at least a couple a year, and am currently getting ready to head to one of my favorites--the Hispanicize conference in Miami. This will be my third time attending this huge media conference that brings together Latino creatives and professionals from all around the US and Latin America.

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5 Quick Ways to Get Out of a Funk

 
We all have those days when it feels like nothing is going right. Whether it's tension at work or school, or stress at home, here are five quick ideas to help you shake out the cobwebs and get back to work (or life!) feeling refreshed and inspired.


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How to Make a DIY Doughnut Wall

A few months ago, I shot a super fun DIY Doughnut Wall video for TODAY Food. If you've never seen a doughnut wall before, just know that they're kind of amazing. It's basically a party feature that doubles as both decoration and dessert. It's super easy to make, and you can get most of the supplies at a hardware store like Home Depot.

Watch the video, then scroll down for a few tips!


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Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad

Eugene and I have been making an effort to try out different restaurants in our uptown neighborhood. In NYC, the downtown places always get all the attention (and many with good reason!), but there are also a lot of incredible places located near us in Washington Heights.

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Smoked Paprika & Orange Pork Meatballs with Garlic Tomato Sauce

This was last night's dinner. It was also my lunch yesterday since I had to make and test it, first.

Rough life, I know.

Smoked paprika will forever be one of my favorite flavors, and a few years ago I took a class with a sausage maker who told me that his favorite flavor combo was smoked paprika and orange. I tried it. I loved it, and I'm now forever looking for ways to use it (this roast pork loin is another fave).

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Salted Honey Caramel Popcorn

A quick warning. If you've never made caramel corn before, you're about to realize just how ridiculously easy it is to make at home. I mean you literally just stir a few things in a pot, add popcorn, let cool and eat.

That's it!

Which can be a problem if you fall in love with this salty-sweet Salted Honey Caramel Popcorn recipe. Made with butter, brown sugar, real honey and sea salt, this is such an incredible treat for those of you who like salty with your sweet.

I kept it really basic and simple here (and easy--so so easy!), but you can really have fun with this. Add a bit of sriracha or hot sauce instead of vanilla or swap in a different extract, add some cinnamon for a cinnamon caramel, or use a floral honey for a sophisticated swap. Adding roasted salted peanuts or almonds would be so good too, or maybe even some toasted coconut?

So many fun things you can do with this.

Enjoy!


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Garlic Knot Popcorn (Garlic Parmesan & Herb Popcorn)

Kicked-up popcorn is one of my favorite easy snacks for parties, movie-watching, and even gifts! It's so simple to turn a batch of plain, freshly popped popcorn into a super fun and impressive snack with just a few easy additions.

This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite childhood snacks--garlic knots! I grew up eating the pizza parlor fave of twisted dough rolled around in chopped garlic, butter, olive oil, parmesan and fresh herbs. This popcorn mixture features all the same flavor and ingredients (except the dough) in a fun and totally addictive treat.

Like always, feel free to personalize this one! Add chili flakes for more heat, chop in fresh parsley or rosemary, or skip the cheese if you're not a fan. Seriously no wrong way with this quick snack.

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Sexy Conversation Heart Cookies (NSFW)

Fair warning: if you're squeamish about sex or not into a few "dirty" words or one of my parents (haha), you might want to skip this post. 

It's probably not the most appropriate thing to have open at work either unless you work at some super cool kind of place. 

OK. Disclaimer over--now we can play!

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Chocolate Ice Cream with Italian Cherries

I know that ice cream doesn't seem like the most obvious dessert during winter (because...brrrr), but I love it. There's just something super lovely and satisfying about digging into a dish of ice cream regardless of what the weather is doing outside.

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Easy Red Wine-Braised Brisket

This easy braised brisket recipe is a favorite in my house. I make it regularly, especially during the winter months when having the oven on for a few hours is particularly comforting.

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Smokey Football Cheese Ball with Pecan Bacon Crust

Real talk--my interest in football is pretty much limited to the kind of food that one would eat at a football game (or game day party)...and the occasional super hot football player (um...like this guy).

And you know what? I'm totally cool with that.

But something that I DO love is any excuse to entertain, and the Super Bowl is one such occasion.

Hence this football cheese ball!

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Mini Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Cumin Sour Cream

These adorable mini two-bite tacos are the perfect appetizer to serve at a party (gameday or otherwise!).

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Totchos (Tater Tot Nachos)

I honestly just wanted to make these because they're so fun to say. Totchos!!!

Tater tot nachos are all over the place right now, so I had to whip up my own version. Basically just nachos made with tater tots instead of chips, they are the ultimate party dish to enjoy with friends.

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5 Things I Learned From Making My Bed (Almost!) Every Morning Last Year

This past year, I set (and kept!) a resolution for the very first time in my life.

At some point near the end of 2015, I decided that I wanted to start making my bed. Doesn't really seem like a big deal, but as someone who works from home, my bed was pretty much always visible, and having a big giant messy thing in my face constantly wasn't doing me any favors.

So when I woke up on January 1, 2016, the first thing I did was make the bed. Then I did it again the next day and the day after that, and just kept going until it somehow became a natural part of what I did every day. 

I wasn't perfect. Some days I took my time and made my bed look like it was straight out of a catalog. Other times, I was a bit rushed and just kind of pulled everything quickly into place. I skipped it on cleaning lady days and when traveling (one of the luxuries of hotel life, right?)

There were even some days when I left it so late in the day that I essentially made my bed about an hour before getting right back into it. (Still counts!) But, for the most part, it's how I started each and every day last year.

And after a while? It started to feel really good. Here are 5 things I learned over the past year of making my bed nearly every morning--perhaps they'll inspire you to give it a try, too!
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Baked Spicy Chili Cinnamon Veggie Chips

Healthy snacking. It's what everyone is all about these first few enthusiastic weeks of the year, and I'm happy to jump on board.

Today I have a super fun recipe for Baked Spicy Chili Cinnamon Veggie Chips that works as both an easy snack and a cool party recipe (you know...because once this "New Year New You" stuff fades out, it's gameday food time!)
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Strawberry Shortcake Brie (Straw-Brie Shortcake!)

This babe of a party appetizer recipe has been sitting in my queue for months. Um...a lot of months.

(At least six, I think.)
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