Diet Plant based diet Pretty Food Recipes Vegetarian

Two Ingredient Gluten-free Goldflower (Goldfish) Crackers

September 14, 2017

Yes, you can have your crackers and be healthy too!

I have been on a mission to find a recipe for gluten-free goldfish crackers for a few months. You see, since March 2016, my husband has been sick. My hubby – who has weighed the same since college, played softball for 30-plus years, worked 10 hours days at his own business only to come home and work out every night without fail – my incredibly healthy and fit husband – could not make it through the day due to extreme exhaustion, pain in his body and a myriad of other serious symptoms. After months of tests, MRIs, thinking it was a brain tumor, anticipating the worst and with no definitive answers, he was referred to a rheumatologist and she (thankfully) has narrowed his illness down to possibly being an autoimmune disease due to extreme inflammation in his body. I say possibly because they still have not come up with a definitive diagnosis. He is currently on test medication that we hope will reduce the inflammation which is a trigger for autoimmune diseases.  I could write a few chapters on what I have discovered about inflammation, but today it’s about one thing: Diet. And I am on a mission to change his diet forever.

We already eat a very healthy, plant-based diet (he still eats meat, I do not). But after researching autoimmune diseases I discovered that preservatives, processed foods (including processed meats) and gluten are major factors that contribute to inflammation. It was easy to eliminate processed lunch meat from his diet: I buy a Turkey breast and roast it myself on Sunday, slice it thin and he is good to go for the week.

My next mountain to climb was making him a healthier version of Goldfish crackers (which, by the by, contain no cheese, so where does that cheesy taste come from? hmmmm….). I am not bad-mouthing Goldfish crackers by any means. They have been a huge part of our family for years, because my husband LOVES them and eats them every day. He claims to be a Goldfish connoisseur and will only buy them at Costco because they “taste better.” Sure, honey 😉

After many weeks of trying to find the right ingredients to make goldfish crackers that were both healthy and tasty, I am happy to report that I have succeeded. There are only two ingredients in these crackers and they taste amazing. Why do I call them “Goldflower” crackers? I bought a very small goldfish cookie mold, and the tails fell off when I would transfer the dough to the baking sheet about 90% of the time.  After baking them they resembled Goldfish Blobs, so I resorted to using my flower cookie cutter with excellent results.



{Do not use UNBLANCHED Almond Meal Flour. See below for results}


{Cookies on the left made with BLANCHED. Icky blob on the right made with UNBLANCHED}

These crackers have a learning curve and here are some handy pointers before you take the plunge:

  • The “dough” is not like regular dough. It does not need to be “kneaded” just mashed together with your hands initially to form a ball.

  • Make sure you use a light hand when rolling out with the rolling pin and add almond meal flour to your work surface and the top of the dough to prevent it from being sticky.

  • Do not under any circumstances use any spray oil on your cookie sheets. The cheese is oily enough and the cookies will not stick. I recommend only baking these crackers on a Silpat.

  • Use only Blanched Almond Meal Flour. Most Almond Meal Flour is Blanched, but I managed to find the one bag of Unblanched flour. Unblanched is when the skin is left on the almonds during processing. I show above what happens if you use this. It’s not pretty.

  • There is Almond Flour and Almond MEAL Flour.  I used the latter with better results.

{Use a small spatula to transfer cutouts to the baking sheet}


Here we go!


Two Ingredient Gluten-free Goldflower (Goldfish) Crackers

1/2 cup of Blanched Almond Meal Flour (different from regular Almond Flour)

1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese in block form (pre-shredded cheddar has tons of preservatives)

Add both ingredients to your food processor and pulse until thoroughly broken down. It will look like tiny little beads. Move to a clean counter dusted with Almond Meal Flour and press out with the palms of your hands. Roll out very gently with a rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use your cookie cutter (which I start off with by spraying lightly with Pam) and transfer flower shapes to a sheet pan lined with a Silpat. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Every oven is different, so start watching your crackers at about the 8 minute mark. When the edges are just brown it is time to remove them. They crisp up as they cool off.

One batch will make approximately 20 crackers. So be prepared to make 2 or 3. Let me know how yours turn out.

As a footnote, my husband is doing better since changing his diet and we start testing again this month and we are very hopeful for good results. He is practically a vegetarian, but don’t tell him that though 🙂



Diet Foodie Plant based diet Pretty Food Recipes Vegetarian

Chipotle Coffee Steak with Cucumber Mango Salad

July 12, 2017

What’s better than a delicious steak cooked to perfection? A delicious steak with the perfect rub. I do not eat meat, but my husband does very occasionally, and when he does, it has to be great.  I have used coffee in my rubs for pork tenderloin in the past but never used it with red meat. I can honestly say it turned out to be the best I’ve ever tasted (yes, I have to taste what I cook. It’s a teeny tiny bite, but that’s what all great cooks do! ) The coffee adds a richness and depth of flavor and the chipotle adds just the right amount of heat. It is truly the perfect combination.

My Cucumber Mango Salad is one of my favorites that I make often and is a refreshing change from a green salad. It adds a light, bright, citrus flavor that balances out the steak perfectly and stays fresh in the fridge for days.

I always keep a few jars of this instant coffee in my pantry to use for various recipes and I highly recommend it for this steak rub.

Chipotle Coffee Steak Rub

2 teaspoons finely ground coffee
1 teaspoon chipotle-chile powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 (8-10 ounce) New York Strip Steaks (or your favorite cut)


Mix all ingredients together and coat steaks evenly with the rub. Lest rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours. Prepare a grill (or in my case, a cast iron skillet which cooked my steaks perfectly). Lightly oil your pan and grill steaks, turning when lightly charred (don’t forget to grill the sides). Transfer to cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes before thinly slicing and serve with a side of Cucumber Mango Salad.

Cucumber Mango Salad

1 ripe mango, cut into one-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1 English cucumber, cut into one-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup diced red onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
red pepper flakes to taste
Juice from 1 lime
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate. Serve with Chipotle Coffee Steak.




Cottage Foodie Diet Plant based diet Pretty Food Recipes

Watermelon, Feta and Mint {with a hint of Jalapeno} Salad

June 22, 2017

I am not a “fruit” person. I am a bona fide veggie person. I have never met a vegetable I did not like (yep, that includes Okra). But when it comes to summer salads, I sometimes crave something light, cold and refreshing – and that means fruit. And the fruit I like best is watermelon.

Crunchy, juicy and usually served cold, watermelon is almost always eaten on its own. Lately, foodies are discovering that the light taste makes it the perfect pairing for cocktails and a vast array of foods.  Feta cheese? Yes. Mint? Absolutely. Lime? Of course! Add jalapeno – and you have created a salad that your family and guests will love.

We sure do!

Watermelon, Feta and Mint (with a hint of Jalapeno) Salad

One quarter to one-half watermelon, sliced into small chunks (or you can use a melon baller like I did)

Fresh mint leaves sliced into ribbons

1/2 cup to one cup of Feta cheese (or more, to taste)

The juice from one lime

Minced jalapeno (cut in half and seeded and rubbed gently on a microplane. Start with a VERY small amount, 1/8 tsp., and work from there.)

Add all ingredients to a bowl, and gently stir.



Cottage Design Floral Garden

The Summer Porch

June 14, 2017

We have a fabulous screened-in porch attached to the back of our home. It is accessed by double French doors off the breakfast nook, and all of the materials are eco-friendly (most do not need painting, just a gentle power washing every two-three years to remove the mildewy remnants of winter).  We love our porch, and use it quite often (after the April-May pollen blasts are over!)

{view of our porch from the back yard a few years ago}

I have always had live ferns on my porch. I love “real” plants, but I did not love the dead fronds that were dropped on a daily basis. Real plants shed their leaves and blooms daily, and outside, these dead remnants are composted naturally into the ground or carried off by the wind. But in a closed porch setting, they are blown around from corner to corner which means daily sweeping and/or vacuuming. That is, until I decided to “go faux!”

As a photographer, I am always looking for realistic-looking faux flowers to use in my photo shoots, as purchasing real flowers weekly can be costly. I have used faux florals from for years for my magazine shoots, so naturally I turned to them to search for realistic-looking faux fern plants – and I am glad I did.

I ordered two different colors of ferns, a lighter, almost lime green fern, and a more realistic looking, medium green fern. When paired together, they are perfect!

The fern fronds are very life-like, with subtle nuances of colors and very small baby fronds that peek out from the center of the plant, similar to real ferns. Additionally, the ends of the leaves are almost a faded green color, which is exactly the way a real fern grows.

These ferns will survive the heat and sun of summer, they won’t shed, and what’s more, I do not have to water them. They are as beautiful as they are carefree and I am delighted to have these adorning my porch this summer.

{morning sunshine on the porch}

{the pink roses are also from}

{and of course my sweet Riley wearing a halo of faux spring blossoms from}

Please use this link to start your search for your faux ferns and all your summer florals: Summer Florals

During checkout, use the code CANTERBURY10 to received 10% off your purchase!

Happy Summer!


Cottage Foodie Diet Recipes

Pizza Perfect: Light and Healthy Spring Pizzas

May 2, 2017

Sitting down to a dinner of pizza might not conjure up images of a light lunch with the girls or even a healthy dinner with the family; however, the greasy, heavy pizzas of yesterday have been replaced by some amazing options that are both healthy and light, and taste good too.

Restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon and offering gluten-free and red sauce-free pizzas, along with more vegetarian options with lighter, crispier crusts.  What’s even better, it’s very easy to make these great creations at home.

I am a firm believer in making home cooked meals easy, so I like to purchase fresh dough at the grocery store (I purchase mine at Wegman’s – made fresh at the store).  Yes, you can make your own if you have planned ahead and have a few hours to wait for the dough to rise but… there is no need to!   Dough from Wegman’s stays fresh in the fridge up to four days and is very light and crisp.  There are also many gluten-free options available, and I have found that they DO need to be made at home for the best taste. But that’s another blog post 🙂

Here are a few of my tips for making a great pizza at home along with some  of my favorite combinations.

1.  Make sure you bring your cold pizza dough to room temperature.  This is key for success in rolling and shaping the dough.  Take it out of the fridge at least 2-3 hours before your planned dinner. It may rise slightly in the package, which is fine.

 2.  Pre-cook your crusts.  Roll out the dough as thin as possible on  a floured surface.  I like to cook mine on a griddle sprayed with Pam cooking spray. When one side is bubbly, it’s time to turn it over.

Cook until both sides are golden in color.  Keep pre-cooked crusts warm by wrapping them in aluminum foil  or a kitchen towel until you are ready to use. Your pre-cooked crusts can be stored in the fridge in a zip-lock bag until you are ready to use them.

Now it’s time to get creative. Here are a few of my favorites.

Lemony Mint Feta Pizza

2-pre-cooked pizza crusts

one cup Feta cheese

one cup Parmesan cheese

5-6 fresh mint leaves cut into strips

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Spread each crust with the Parmesan and feta cheeses.  Place on your griddle at medium heat, or a pizza stone or baking sheet in a pre-heated 400 degree F. oven.  Cook until the cheeses melt, approximately 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and add mint, lemon zest and red pepper flakes to taste.  Don’t skimp on the lemon or mint as these flavors make the pizza.

(Baking a crust and a magnificent basil mozzarella pizza}

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza

You will need:

 Two pre-cooked pizza crusts

One cup arugula

5-6 slices fresh Prosciutto

one cup fresh Parmesan cheese

Add all ingredients to the pizza crusts and bake until cheese is


 {before baking}

{fresh from the oven}

The possibilities are endless – creativity is key.

 Let me know what your favorite combinations are.


Cottage Foodie Diet Recipes

Avocado Potato Salad (Vegan, No-Mayo)

January 4, 2017

The new year brings new hopes of getting in shape, changing our diets, exercising, etc. – basically endless things we want to do – but when coupled all together, seem daunting and unobtainable. We need to learn to take baby steps. Think of how many years (months, weeks, etc) it has taken you to get out of shape.  You won’t be in shape by the end of January and you won’t change your eating habits by the end of January. What you will do instead is fail because you have put very unrealistic expectations on yourself.

Start slowly. I know so many people in the over 50 crowd that make it a goal to run a marathon, thinking this will cure all of their problems. That’s nice and indeed a lofty goal, but none of them actually lose weight nor do they change their eating habits because they think they can eat like a marathoner (uh, no).  That’s a lot of work with no rewards. Instead, start walking every day. Start cooking one meatless meal every week, one vegan meal once a month. Once your body becomes adjusted to these changes, you will crave them.  Trust me! I have been walking since I was in my late 20s.  When I used to go to the gym I was one of the only ones walking around the track (everyone was running). I walked through both pregnancies and now I walk 4-5 times a week on my treadmill – I still weigh what I did 25 years ago. My joints actually hurt more when I don’t walk, proving that exercise is good for the body as well as the mind.

Start slowly with your diet changes, or you will end up very cranky and craving sugar. I am not a carb free person, but I do follow a plant-based diet which includes very little to no meat products (I do like to cook with chicken broth over oil) and no sugar. I do not believe in diet fads: the way you eat has to be a way of life.  Your goal at the grocery store should be the spend most of your time in the produce section, and little to no time in the boxed food section. Give yourself three to five weeks, and not only will you see a change,  you will feel the change.

This recipe will get you on your way – and I promise you will love it.

I first came across this salad on a quest to find a potato salad with no mayonnaise.  Yes, I said no mayo. None. Zip.  It’s on my list of foods that I just won’t eat.

This was originally called “No-Mayo Potato Salad (Vegan) which said nothing about what was used to replace the mayonnaise, so naturally I was intrigued.  It is very easy to make and it absolutely one of my favorite side dishes. The avocado and lemon create a creamy base for the potatoes, and you don’t even need to use salt, which makes this even more heart-healthy. Avocado is one of the healthy fats we should be eating more of, as opposed to oils and mayo.

Avocado Potato Salad (Vegan, No-Mayo)


  • 10 organic gold potatoes ( I used a mixture of reds and gold) small in size and rinsed

  • 1 whole avocado

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

  • 2 Tbsps. fresh chives, minced

  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

  • Salt (optional)


  • In a large pot with cold water, add potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes until fork tender. (You can also do this in the microwave!)

  • Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water to cool.

  • Once cooled, cut each potato in half, and then quarters if necessary (bite-sized pieces).

  • In a large bowl, mash avocado and combine with lemon juice, chives, optional salt and pepper.

  • Stir in potatoes and mix until potatoes are fully coated.

  • Adjust seasonings and add more lemon juice and chives if desired.


Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Cottage Design Holiday Home Decor Recipes

Pretty and Easy Ways to Serve Beverages at Your Holiday Parties

December 29, 2016

Satisfying your guests’ many liquid refreshment demands at your holiday gathering can be a daunting proposition. The following options provide ways to please any fussy guest, so you too can revel in the merrymaking.

The first thing my guests say to me upon arriving is, “I’ll start with water.” Have a designated area only for water and keep it closest to the food, preferably in the kitchen. If you are using a large decorative water dispenser as opposed to water bottles, infuse it with fresh cucumber slices. Water will have a stale taste after sitting for even an hour, and the cucumber keeps it tasting fresh and light. Add a sprig of mint to each glass instead of directly to the water; adding it to the water tends to overwhelm the taste. Serve water in your best glasses, not plastic; your guests want to feel special no matter what they are drinking.



Another great way to satisfy your guests is by setting up a wine bar. Always have more white wine than red available, as white is always the most popular choice. Rosè is an excellent option around the holidays as well and looks particularly festive in a pretty wine glass. Set out all the stemware you own and when you run out, it is perfectly suitable to substitute clear plastic cups at your wine station.  Offer individual serving size bottles in wine glasses lined with vintage napkins for a decorative touch.







When guests walk through the door, I like to have a table in the foyer with champagne flutes filled with sparkling cider topped with fresh raspberries. This is an alternate option and, when the bubbly flutes are placed next to a beautiful bouquet surrounded by white sparkly lights, can add an elegant yet inexpensive touch.







Lastly, a coffee station is essential. Be it iced or hot, you will want to make ample amounts and serve it up in your largest urn or decorative thermos. Always use your best china! In addition to milk, cream, and various sweetener options, offer Baileys and Kahlua in small vintage milk bottles.








The key to a successful evening is planning in advance. Having fully stocked beverage stations throughout your home ensures that your guests will never have to approach you to tell you what’s missing, only to compliment you on a great evening. And remember, never let your friends drink and drive, use Uber or let them sleep in the guest bedrooms.



Happy New Year!

Design Family Holiday Home Decor

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…….

December 24, 2016

And all though the house… Well , of course not many people were stirring because we are empty nesters, but we bribed our son who is local to come and stay with us and help put out the Christmas treats for Santa.  He’s 25 so he only said OK so as not to hurt our feelings. And I secretly think he’s afraid of getting coal in his stocking 🙂

And speaking of stockings….






I add  a bow and fresh greens to ours.


Christmas is very low key at our house. You might look at my decorations and think otherwise but I only decorate three rooms – my foyer, family room (where I have one tree) and dining room. We are not extravagant, we buy each other one gift, add a few sweet treats to our stockings, my husband makes an awesome brunch which we usually try to eat at our coffee table in front of the fireplace, and then I make dinner which consists of homemade pizzas.  We are almost always joined by my daughter’s best friend Becky, who is part of our family.

There are a few important reasons for our laid back Christmas day.  On December 12, 2011, I had a heart attack. Due to some major complications, I ended up in critical care for four days.  I came home to a different way of life.  I had not shopped; had not planned anything. I used to have Christmas dinner for 13-14 people every year. Trying to get everything done on time and make everyone happy had just about taken over this holiday. I will not go into the details on this post but needless to say, we made a change in our lives because of this. That year, we did nothing. We had virtually no gifts because as the one who does the shopping I was home bound healing for a few weeks.  The kids were home from college (of course Becky was here too) and we made homemade pizzas, listened to music, and played games.  It was totally awesome. That year we vowed to never make Christmas Day any different.  At first it was very hard for me because I felt tremendous guilt for not having everything perfect.  But the important part of what happened was how it affected my family – in the most positive way possible.  I am so thankful for the tremendous support from my husband and kids.

So on to my very first Christmas House Tour!  My favorite thing to decorate is my foyer.  I put out my vintage Santas and bottle brush trees that I have been collecting for almost two decades.


The painted brick above that acts as a doorstop was made by my son in preschool.  It’s one of my favorite Christmas decorations and I leave it out all year long.


I purchased most of my trees and Santas from eBay. I have a few that are mainly primary colors but I don’t get them out and will be selling them soon in my Etsy store.







I like to add minimal decorations in my dining room – a nice table centerpiece, and preserved boxwood wreaths tied to the back of the dining room chairs with a pink ribbon.









I like to dress up my vintage ironstone pitchers by adding santa hats.



The one thing I like most about my dining room is no matter what decor I have, it looks different every day. The light changes, the view changes. That’s the appeal of good home design and decor.



Next on to the Family room where I have my Christmas Tree with a zillion lights.  Yes, a zillion.  You can feel the heat from the tree. It takes about three days to put up and decorate.




These photos are from our family brunch last year.









View from the kitchen.

I try to add a bit of cheer to the small things in our home.






This year, I wanted to find a way to celebrate our daughter Julia who is deployed on the USS Makin Island and will not be home for Christmas. So first I hung her ice skates from when she was 7 years old on my favorite cabinet adorned with a bow and fresh greens.

Then I decided to make Gingerbread ornaments in the shape of an anchor, to celebrate ALL of our sailors who are at sea during this holiday season.



They smell amazing!  I will be posting a tutorial later on how to make these amazing ornaments (in any shape you want).


And of course the best part of the season, spending each day with this cutie pie.


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy Hanukkah. And never forget this wise saying (which is my favorite):



Cottage Design Floral Holiday Home Decor

A Beautiful and Affordable Tablescape for Thanksgiving Week

November 21, 2016

I am not one to change the look of my home on the inside for the seasons or holidays (Christmas is the exception), and I am not against it at all.  I do love to keep the fall decor outside and will add a few pumpkins, mums and pansies to the front porch and, very occasionally, I will break out the velvet pumpkins and add them to the front hall table. Fall to me is nature at its best. I love being outside in the wind with the leaves falling and the brilliant hues of the season. When the sun is out the changing colors of the leaves beam through my windows and reflect off the white interiors, reminding me of the beauty that is fall.  Once the leaves are gone the sun can fully come in – and I love the brightness it brings to my home. The bare trees showcase the many variety of  birds that come to visit our yard and were once hidden by the greenery. We have woodpeckers who visit and a huge family of chipmunks that I feed daily.


{I have the best assistant}


I love tablescapes, and try to keep fresh flowers on my table daily. This can get expensive, unless you know what to look for. Most grocery stores sell flowers and greenery, and you will find that they sell “leftovers” for almost half the price of a full bouquet.  If they don’t have enough roses to make a dozen – they separate the flowers into smaller bouquets and sell them for a fraction of the cost. These are the bouquets I purchase.


Start with a plain runner down the center of the table. This is an important step because if you need to  move the arrangement, you can just slide it forward or back and I have even moved it to a different location by sliding a piece of cardboard under the runner. Next add greenery that does not need a huge amount of water to thrive – specifically Eucalyptus. I recommend silver dollar eucalyptus for a light and airy look, then add seeded eucalyptus. I usually remove the leaves from the seeded stems because they are not very pretty and tend to die off before the seed pods.



Next I like to add dry flowers and my favorite is pink or purple Limonium.  Separate the flowers and you will have literally dozens of small blooms to work with.  Add them to the mix, here and there, mainly around the perimeter for color and fullness. Cut stems back whenever possible so all you see are the blooms.

After adding in dried flowers it’s time to add your embellishments.  I found these adorable velvet acorns at my local Safeway food store, and I went back the next week and they were 50% off so I purchased a few more.  Place them randomly down the center of your table.  You can also use the real mini pumpkins, which I love.  I recommend white, but any color will work with this arrangement. I also like the larger velvet pumpkins but find they can be a bit clunky on the table and save them for the foyer or sideboard.








I found these sweet gold acorns for half price last week – there are almost 30 in the container! They really add a great touch of color.








After the pumpkins are in place it’s time to reevaluate and tweak and add flowers here and there. I had a few leftover roses from the foyer so I added five small glass vases to the mix. No need for dozens and dozens – this arrangement is very simple, yet makes a huge statement.




I have not posted in a long while – getting used to thinking about my daughter being on a ship in the middle of nowhere was weighing heavily on me.  But I know in my heart she is safe and has a job to do. She is also a part of something bigger and I am so proud of all that she does. Here’s a photo of her on her first port call – Singapore, enjoying a well-deserved beer.



Happy Thanksgiving Friends!