May 13, 2014

Fairytale Energy Bites

It's no secret that I have been on a mission to get healthier. It's a constant struggle for me and has been a lifelong battle that I have to fight everyday. Some years I win. Others, I loose. Why? It's pretty obvious - I love food! It is my downfall but also something that puts a smile on my face since I was a little girl, all emotional eating issues aside. :-)  However, at times this passion may inevitably lead to unwanted pounds that cling to my body for dear life when I am working my butt off trying to lose them. Still, I can't ever give up on my mission to attain better health (and a trimmer physique). I owe it to myself! I may have lost some battles but as long as I am living, I haven't lost the war. So, I am learning how to eat healthier by still enjoying the foods that I love.

These little, magical morsels are the perfect solution to quench my dark chocolate chunky cookie cravings. I found this recipe on Pinterest and it seems to have been published in different forms on other food blogs. (Did I ever mention how much I love Pinterest? So amazing for getting ideas and finding things to keep you motivated!) I tweaked this recipe according to what I had on hand in my pantry and you can do the same thing too. I had chia seeds and ground flax seed - two things that are all the rage for health fanatics - and never knew what to do with them. Combining them with peanut butter and chocolate chips is the answer!

I brought these energy into my fitness class and everyone loved them. Warning: just don't eat them all. They're only good for you IN MODERATION.  (Bah - isn't everything?)

Fairytale Energy Bites
(Makes about 30 bites)
1 cup of oatmeal
1/2 cup of natural peanut butter
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup of coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup of chia seeds
1/3 cup of honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Using your hands, knead into a ball and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Using a teaspoon, spoon out portions and roll into balls. That's it! There's no need to bake these.


March 22, 2014

Fairytale Spring Couscous Salad

Happy Spring! It's been a long, hard winter in more ways than one but we're almost there! I'd like to share a healthy spring recipe that was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest. (Isn't Pinterest just the greatest? If you ever need an instant pick me up, just log on and start pinning!)  This is a great way to use asparagus, an abundant spring vegetable. The amounts of these ingredients are estimates and can be changed according to your preference. You can find Israeli couscous at Wegmans in the organic section.

Fairytale Spring Couscous Salad

1 1/2 cups of whole wheat Israeli Couscous like Bob's Red Mill (can buy at Wegmans)
8 oz. of asparagus (I like Wegman's steam-able bag), cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup of julienned sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup of golden raisins
1/4 cup of slivered almonds
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint leaves
1 lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Steam the asparagus in the microwave. Mix together. Dress with the juice of a lemon and sprinkle with some extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.


February 14, 2014

Fairytale Lemon Basil Shrimp Salad, Inspired by the Brown Barn Cafe

Fairytale Lemon Basil Shrimp Salad
Today for lunch, I made a lemon basil shrimp salad inspired by a sandwich I had at the Brown Barn Cafe on Overbrook Road in Shavertown. The Brown Barn Cafe is such a wonderful little rustic place to go for lunch or dinner.  It really is in a barn, along with Ah! Some Chocolates and feels like a little farmhouse inside. Their menu changes monthly and everything is homemade. I fell in love with it when I had a grilled peach sandwich there during the summertime.  They also have AMAZING desserts! Be warned, this is actually the Brown Barn's last week serving lunch, because they are moving to a NEW location where they will be serving dinner exclusively.
The Brown Barn Cafe and Ah! Some Chocolates in Shavertown. 

Strawberry rhubarb tart.
Grilled peach, arugula and Gruyere sandwich. 
Starting on March 6th, they will be teaming up KB's Coffee House which already provides breakfast and lunch, so the Brown Barn will be serving up their unique homemade dinners. KB's is located 206 North Main Street, Shavertown, PA. (They are open for Valentine's Day though and are offering a special dinner. Check them out on Facebook.)

Sausage, cranberry and cheddar quiche.
When I visited this week, I was able to enjoy a beautiful fireside pre-fixe lunch: Thai coconut curry chicken soup, shrimp basil salad, and the richest most decadent piece of salted caramel chocolate cake I've ever had. I will def be visiting them for dinner at their new location and wish them the best of luck! Until then, I decided to make my own rendition of their famous basil shrimp salad.

Salted caramel chocolate cake <3 td="">
Thai coconut chicken soup.
Here is my rendition of the shrimp salad. I know on snow days you're usually tempted to make something comforting like slow cooker stew or mac and cheese, but I was craving something light that made me feel like I was fireside in the Brown Barn (or maybe even seaside at the shore) and NOT trapped at home in a snowstorm.
The original Brown Barn basil shrimp salad sandwich with chips and marinated cucumbers and dill.
My Lemon Basil Shrimp Salad 
Fairytale Lemon Basil Shrimp Salad Sandwich

1 12 oz bag of small precooked shrimp (71-90 count), peeled and deveined (tail off)
2 large stalks of celery, diced
1./4 cup of fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup of olive oil mayo
1/8 cup of olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Whole grain bread (optional)

If the shrimp is frozen, place it in bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes to thaw. Then drain it and pat dry with paper towels. Place celery in a large bowl and add the shrimp. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small separate bowl, combine the mayo, olive oil and lemon juice and whisk together until smooth. Pour over the shrimp in the large bowl. Add the chopped basil. Gentle toss or stir until it is all combined.

Serve chilled open faced on multigrain bread or in a sandwich.


The Return of Fairytale Feasts

Dear Fairytale Feasts Readers,

I'm back! This winter has been pretty memorable, with named snowstorms pounding us on a weekly basis and frigid temperatures dropping below zero in Northeastern PA on more than one occasion. (If I never hear the words Polar Vortex again, it would be too soon!) Like all of you, I've been going a little stir crazy at home, so I figured what better time than to start up my blog again?

It's been a while since I have posted anything, but I am back now and I am really going to make an effort to post more often. This will likely mean a little less writing, but more photos. I am trying to learn how to post directly from my mobile devices to make blogging more seamless and user friendly. I am also working on building an independent website where I can showcase my other writings and have a place to blog about my other passions, like the Real Housewives, the Kardashians, Game of Thrones and more!

I really want to thank all of those people who read my blog or any of my other articles and offer encouragement whenever I feel down or uninspired throughout all of my online and offline endeavors. I love and appreciate you and am so lucky to have your support. Thanks and stay tuned! Please follow or "like" my posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  :-)


Diana XOXO

Pizza at Tufino, in Astoria, Queens

May 10, 2013

How to Have a Fairytale 1920s-Themed Great Gatsby Party!

My beautiful, art deco themed 30th birthday cake. 
The day I have been waiting for is FINALLY here!!! After two years waiting for one of my favorite books of all time to come to life in a new movie version, THE GREAT GATSBY is in theaters! There's something amazingly romantic and tragic about F.Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby that stole my heart at a young age. Since I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't read the book or seen the movie, I will stop myself from talking too much about the plot.   
All I will say is that I could not think of a better person to play Jay Gatsby in this version than my favorite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. (I think Carey Mulligan will be a great Daisy too!)
Robert Redford as the original Jay Gatsby.
Timeless love - Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

Jay Gatsby is notorious for his lavish parties in Long Island, NY. Basically, no one does a party like Jay Gatsby. So when I hit the big 3-0 last October and my family generously wanted to throw me a birthday party, I decided to have a 1920s themed party to "say goodbye to my roaring 20s." Naturally, I had to incorporate aspects of the Great Gatsby era to coincide with the movie coming out.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan. This photo takes me back to the days where I swooned over Leo and Claire Danes in Romeo and Juliet. <3 nbsp="">
My favorite television show, Boardwalk Empire, was also airing its third season on HBO at the time so I decided to incorporate elements from that show as well. For those who aren't familiar with Boardwalk Empire or the Great Gatsby, both are set during Prohibition. I tried to take these elements and really create a special atmosphere for my birthday party. If you want to have any kind of 1920s party, please see my tips below for some easy and affordable ideas.

That's me standing in front of the massive Boardwalk Empire sign at Caesar's Palace in  Atlantic City for the  Season Two premiere. 
1.  CREATE THE PERFECT SPEAKEASY ATMOSPHERE. What better place to have a party than a bar with a speakeasy kinda feel? I chose Ash by El Humidor for my party because it is a cigar bar and the perfect setting for a 1920s style gangster/flapper party. (In Pennsylvania, unlike in NYC, you can serve food and alcohol in cigar bars.)  Ash is nestled underneath an Italian restaurant, Buca del Vino, and has that perfect old school, classic smoky and romantic feel. The staff at Ash was so kind and accommodating. We were floored by the absolutely brilliant and amazing job that Tom Sobieski did in decorating the place. When we talked in, we were beyond excited and really felt like we were in an ideal 1920s type atmosphere. THANK YOU TOM!!!! Which brings me to my second point ...

2. ADD SOME FESTIVE DECORATIONS TO GO WITH THE THEME. We had a banner made and I ordered some decorations from Shindigz. I love flowers and really wanted to create and elegant feel, yet wanted something affordable for my centerpieces.  My cousin Susan, another Boardwalk Empire fan, suggested I go with red carnations since Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire is famous for wearing them in his suit lapel. I also added some black and white flapper-like feathers to the vase. (Black, white and red were very popular colors.) Carmen's in Exeter did a wonderful job! 

Nucky Thompson and his red carnation - the inspiration behind my red carnation centerpieces. 

To showcase my favorite scenes from the Great Gatsby and Boardwalk Empire, I purchased simple black and white frames from Michael's and printed the photos I wanted right from Google Images. We also typed up and framed several favorite quotes from the Great Gatsby to put around the place (the bar, the restrooms, etc.).

3. CREATE A NOSTALGIC MOOD WITH MUSIC. Jazz, ragtime and broadway musicals were popular in the1920s. This was an area of dance halls and the popular phonograph (the horn shaped record player!) Boardwalk Empire fans may remember when Lucy danced to her phonograph in Season 2.  Though we were over prepared with our own music for the party, Ash had a wonderful sound system with the perfect 1920s themed music. If you're having a party and looking for a good 1920s soundtrack, try the 1920s Radio Network (it streams for free) to set your mood or create a 1920s playlist on Pandora.

Deviled Eggs, fruit and vegetable platter on the buffet table. 
3. PLAN THE PERFECT MENU. This is the best part. Chef Joe Ginthner Jr. from Ash/Buca del Vino took the time to sit with us and listen to my crazy ideas about how I really wanted to have food from the 1920s. Together, we created a menu to thrill all of my 1920s desires within a budget. After doing some research, I was thrilled to learn that Italian food was uber-popular in the 1920s. I printed out this tidbit of information and placed it in a frame close to the food. I'm not sure if anyone noticed it or read it, but the information was there for food historians like myself.


With the passing of the World War I, America settled down to begin an era of onrushing prosperity. Prohibition, with its tremendous impact on the eating habits of the country, had a great deal to do with the introduction of Italian food to the masses. The Italians opened up speakeasies by the thousand, with Mama doing the cooking and Papa making the wine in the basement. The food was not quite the same as the food the Italians had eaten in the Old Country because Sicilian cooking was traditionally based on austerity. By contrast, America was rich, and a protein rich country – allowing for more than just pasta. Italian immigrants were happy to add these symbols of wealth to their cooking. Meatballs, rich meat sauces, veal cutlets cooked with Parmesan or with lemon, clams stuffed with buttered herbed crumbs, shrimp with wine and garlic, and mozzarella in huge chunks to be eaten as appetizers were all foods of abundance, developed by Italian-Americans.

In addition to speakeasy dining, many people entertained elegantly at home, holding extravagant cocktail parties where they could enjoy their homemade wine and bootleg liquor.  They served savory snacks such as salted nuts, deviled eggs, passed canapés, shrimp or mushroom toasts, lobster and crabmeat, tea sandwiches, fancy salads, and chafing-dish recipes. The introduction of refrigerators (for those who could afford electricity) enabled longer storage of perishable foods, so fruits and vegetables also became widely popular.
Deviled eggs were big in the 1920s.

Chicken Pommery Bites - a Buca Del Vino specialty.
Italian antipasto. 

Seared Lamb Chops with mint jelly.
Mini foccacia breads. 
Mushrooms with crab imperial. 
Filet mignon risotto over tostada. 
4. THE CAKE: It's not a real party or birthday celebration without cake. I loved, loved, loved my cake!!! I obsessively pin cakes on Pinterest and knew I wanted something eye catching.  I pinned some ideas and designed my own cake with cake-queen Francesca Campisano Burke, who executed my ideas to perfection. My cake was not only beautiful, but delicious - even with the fondant that I insisted on having!  I had two different flavors - chocolate with chocolate mousse and vanilla with raspberry. I really loved this cake and will remember it for the rest of my life. :-) 

5. DRESS THE PART.Costume attire was optional and encouraged - so I instructed my guests to come as a flapper, gangster, big band player, silent movie character. Many of them did, even one of my spirited and wonderful BFFs who was pregnant at the time - and we had the BEST time!  I ordered my costume from Unique Vintage and was very happy with it, though there were others that I REALLY loved - but they were on back-order  (Order WAY ahead of time, especially now because these costumes are in demand!)

My sister and I in our 1920s attire.

6. LASTLY, TREAT YOUR GUESTS TO A FAVOR.  I always like to give some kind of a token of the party away as a remembrance. For 1920s themed favors, I decided to make little candy bags. I put this little sign next to the candy bags to explain why they were getting candy bars. I packaged the bars in clear bags with a beautiful black and white ribbon I found at Michael's.  I also had strings of party beads that looked like pearls to adorn my guests when they arrived at the party. I purchased these online at Shindigz

Champagne punch, strings of pearls for my guests, and 1920s themed candy bar treat bags.
1920’s candy BAR CRAZE
When Prohibition went into effect on January 16, 1920, it increased the production of soft drinks, put hundreds of restaurants and hotels out of business and spurred the growth of tea rooms and cafeterias. It also destroyed the last vestiges of fine dining in the United States.

Hotels tried to reclaim some of their lost wine and spirit profits by selling candy and soda pop. Thus, began the candy bar craze.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (1922 ) • Twizzlers (1929) Mounds (1922)  Milk Duds (1926) • Milky Way (1923)  
Heath Bar (1928) • Butterfinger (1923) • Babe Ruth (1923)

There was no better way to celebrate the end of my 20s with a 1920s themed party!