An Independence Day Food Extravaganza: Fourth of July Recipes

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays in the United States. Growing up in Italy, I would only see it on TV. It was when I moved to the United States that I discovered the fun, energetic and patriotic spirit of the people celebrating Independence Day. What intrigued me even more was the variety of foods available during the celebration. From pies, to pizzas, to pigs in a blanket, everything sounded too delish to be true. As we are about to celebrate the 4th of July for 2013, I thought to share with you some of my favorite recipes that will delight your palate.

On the 4th of July, start your day with a patriotic breakfast.


What better way than using the red, blue and white colors of our flag? Mix your favorite Greek yogurt with blueberries, raspberries and almonds bits. Drizzle with honey and enjoy.

As lunch rolls in, you want to be able to have something easy that requires little work.  A sandwich seems a perfect solution. Call it PANINI and you have a winner! Is it finger food? Entree? No matter what, it will delight your taste buds.


You can use your imagination and make any of your favorite combinations. One of my favorite Panini assemblages is grilled bread, fresh tomatoes and basil with mozzarella. Stack of the ingredients and then place in a Panini press. If you don’t have one, just use your pan and press the Panini down with something heavy (i.e. smaller pan). However, your possibilities are infinite. Brie, pears and honey mustard is a perfect ten for a Panini.  As a side, you can serve veggies, salads, chips, kale chips, baked veggie etc.

As dinner roll in, the 4th of July screams ground meat! Specifically, burgers and meatballs. Burgers have always the spotlight, so today, we will focus on the underdogs:  Meatballs!


If you want to keep it leaner, use ground turkey. Otherwise, you can use ground beef. In a bowl, mix ground meat with your favorite seasoning. I usually use a chipotle based seasoning because of the smoked flavor. Add, one egg, a half a cup of bread crumbs (or panko or oatmeal), fresh herbs (especially sage and rosemary). Mix everything together. With your hands, form small balls and line on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake is oven for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve hot or cold with your favorite sauce.

Of course we cannot forget about dessert.  This is the time to indulge. Buy your favorite desserts. The ones that you wish you could eat every day . The ones that make your eyes roll. And enjoy!

HAPPY 4th of JULY!




The All American Bride

The 4th of July is right around the corner, and with wedding season in full swing, it is no surprise that many brides are wondering how to incorporate the Independence Day festivities into their special day. However, if the idea of throwing Old Glory willy-nilly all over your wedding reception makes you want to run for the hills, don’t you worry—we will show you how to add hints of 4th flair without creating a cheesy red, white, and blue festival.

It can sometimes be difficult to walk the line between cheesy and classy when incorporating a strong theme into your reception. Picking the right location for your big day can be the first step in discovering just how far you can push your theme. For example, an outdoor reception can have more of a vintage Americana feel, while a reception in a hotel ballroom might restrict you in how far you can go with your 4th of July decorations. In other words, allow the “feel” of the venue dictate the “feel” of your theme choices. There is something “American” feeling about an outdoor wedding, whether it’s on a picturesque beach, a beautiful lakeside shore, a rustic barn, or under a tree in your own backyard.

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The décor will be the most impactful way for you to add some 4th flair. The key is choosing a design aesthetic that is cohesive—the last thing you want is some random flags stuck onto your table and cutouts of fireworks taped onto the walls. A classic “Americana” or Southern shabby-chic vibe fits into a Norman Rockwell aesthetic that is perfect for Independence Day. Think plaid, gingham, old lace, burlap, and rustic wooden signs and crates—easy, comfortable, and effortless beauty. If you want to go with red, white, and blue, keep the colors subdued and distressed, never bright or tacky. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns when it comes to your table decorations—mismatched linens, tableware, and flatware can give it an old, antique feel. It should look like everything came out of an old vintage trunk found in your grandmother’s attic, not like you bought it at a party store. Vintage flags can serve as table markers at the reception, while wildflowers in porcelain and glass vases delicately enhance the table. Stringing paper lanterns and tea lights add a romantic and nostalgic flare.

Adjusted Drink Station

Your food choices can be a fun and creative way to add some irony and humor into your reception. This is your chance to get cheesy! “Dressed-up” comfort food is a fantastic way to keep with your theme. Bacon-wrapped dates, macaroni and cheese, barbecue, gourmet grilled cheese, sliders, popcorn, a mashed potato bar—the list goes on! Cocktail choices range from craft beer to mint juleps, and for non-alcoholic drinks, think retro favorites: Coke served in real Coke bottles, lemonade, sweet tea, root beer. Mason jars are a great way to serve your drinks, but if you are worn-out from the whole Mason jar trend, you can always mix and match old glass bottles and jars. For desserts, caramel apples, cupcakes, and traditional pies are delicious options, while a snow-cone booth is sure to add some fun and quirk to any reception. Having an outdoor reception? Make a s’mores station around a campfire!


Continue your theme before and after your wedding by having your wedding stationery reflect your Independence Day motif—mixing patterns, using vintage-inspired fonts, and keeping the colors within the subdued color palette from your reception. You can also use the same type of stationery for writing your thank you notes. Wedding favors for your guests could be confetti poppers, sparklers, vintage flags, or even canned preserves from a local farm. Finish off your night with a private fireworks show or by driving off in a classic pick up truck or vintage car.


Finally, it is important to remember why we celebrate the 4th of July, and a great way to do that is by giving back. On your wedding registry, present your guests with the option of donating to a charity of your choice. There are several fantastic organizations that benefit veterans, soldiers, and military families. On your special day, nothing speaks more towards the spirit of the American people than giving back to those who helped us secure our freedom and those who are fighting to keep it intact.

Lucca, Italy:Your Honeymoon Destination

When it comes to preparing for your wedding, there is nothing more exciting than choosing the place where you will spend your first moments together as husband and wife.  If you are anything like me, you will probably make a long list of exotic locations which will make your choice even more difficult. Allow me to make it easier for you. Let me do the picking. I choose ITALY! Why you ask? Well, let me tell you why a honeymoon under the beautiful Tuscan sky will make the beginning of your life together even more memorable. Italy is synonym with romance. This is the country of Romeo and Juliette. This is the country of eternal love. Everything in Italy screams “romance.” As you walk through the old towns, you will live and breathe history together and you will partake in some of the most beautiful sightseeing that you have ever seen.  Every day you will feel like you are in a dream, and what better way to live a dream but next to the love of your life. Italy’s food is an aphrodisiac. Your palate will indulge in flavors that you have never experienced before. From the beautifully hand-crafted pastries, to the hand-tossed pizza, you will share the culinary beauties of Italy while looking into each other’s eyes. Guiltless. Free to indulge.  Can you already picture yourself, holding hands, and staring into each other’s eyes? Do you need more convincing? If yes, let me also show you a possible location and accommodation. If you have never been to Italy and would like to have a more romantic-quite vacation I would like to suggest to you to go and stay in Lucca. Awww, Lucca! Only thinking about it gives me googley eyes.

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Lucca is a Roman city surrounded by 10 feet tall walls on which you can walk, stroll, run, bike. It is surrounded by Tuscan hills on one side and by the Tirreno Sea on the other side. It is the city of Puccini (for all you Opera fans!). It is close to Florence, but not as hectic, and it is perfect for a romantic, quiet and intimate honeymoon. You can take day trips to different destinations such as Pisa (only 15 minutes away), Siena, Florence and the Chianti. Depending on the season of your travels, you can explore vineyards, taste different Chianti specialties and indulge in the great flavors of Tuscany. And, if you are more adventurous, you could hike the mountains and trails, and explore the small villages on the hills. I am telling you, it is a perfect destination for your honeymoon. You have my word.   Lucca has everything for everyone. And how about staying at your own apartment-villa? Here is your accommodation.

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{Villa Rosa Dei Venti}

The Villa is immersed in Lucca’s verdant country side ideal for walking or biking. The historic downtown of Lucca and the central train station are only 2 km away, thus reachable even by walking. The owners of the Villa have different luxury packages available, and everything can be customized to your personal liking. From private dinners, to wine tasting, to shopping at luxury brands stores, your vacation will not skip a beat. For more information please contact Bridal Hot List.

Whatever your dream honeymoon may be, there is nothing better than Italy to begin a new journey with the love of your life.

Love + Delicious food = Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is approaching, and if you are anything like me, you are probably dreaming of mountains of chocolate, filled with trees of cotton candy and flowers shaped like cupcakes. If you are anything like me, you probably cannot wait to devour something succulent, delicious and unforgettably chocolaty. And of course….if you are anything like me, you probably considering eating your hearts out side by side with the love of your life! After all, it is Valentine’s day. There are specific treats that are fit for a Valentine’s Day celebration. Here are my top choices.


Dark Chocolate Ganache with cream filling. Coco Sala, Washington, D.C.

Dark Chocolate Ganache with cream filling. Coco Sala, Washington, D.C.

Never take chocolate for granted. The greatest ingredient that nature can offer, it is a VIP of culinary creativity. Versatile, creative and used in a myriad of recipe, it leaves your taste buds always crying for more. So what to do on a Valentine’s day celebration? Visit a chocolate boutique specialized in deserts.

When visiting a chocolate boutique/restaurant, the menu will leave you speechless. Literally. You will want to order everything the menu lists.

Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

Artfully Chocolate in Del Rey, Alexandria, VA

I feel that hot chocolate deserves a category on its own. It is the perfect Valentine’s day drink as it calls for snuggles and warm embraces. Plus, you can make it at home or venture out in finding the best hot chocolate in town. There is nothing better than a sweet adventure.  So what about a Strawberry White Hot Chocolate?

Or a Wasabi Dark Belgium Chocolate?


Georgetown Cupcakes, Georgetown, Washtington, D.C.

Georgetown Cupcakes, Georgetown, Washtington, D.C.

You cannot go through Valentine’s day without cupcakes. Indulge!

One single cupcake can be shares, devoured or savored bite by bite, all, while in each other’s company!

So Bite In!

Ice Cream

If you are like me, you cannot live without ice cream. Being Italian, gelato has always been like water in my life, INDESPENSABLE!

Ice Cream

Ice Cream

From custards, to frozen yogurts, to soft serve or gelato, ice cream is another perfect fit desert for Valentine’s Day. It is during this day that you can allow yourself to try new flavors.

So this Valentine’s Day, don’t hesitate to increase your level of sweetness intake. It will be worth your while, as long as you also generate some output of good old L.O.V.E!!

Happy V-Day!!

Healthy Super Bowl Party Ideas

Super Bowl Sunday is here. The party is about to begin, and all you can think of is how to avoid stuffing yourself with all those delicious salty, sugary and saucy Super Bowl snacks. After all, you have been getting in shape,working out and eating well, all in preparation for your wedding day. But, do not despair. Just because you have opted for a healthier life style, it does not mean that you have to give it up for one day. Follow these easy steps and you will have a great time without the guilt!

Step One: Preparation

Make all your food ahead of time. Focus on what you made for yourself, and don’t go looking for something else.

Step Two: Variety

Avoid the one type food thing. You know it will lead you right in the trap. Before you know it, you will be reaching for the chips and salsa and pigs in a blanket.

Step three: Don’t Eat for the Sake of Eating

Keep your focus on the game. Not the food.  In this case, you have more than one game to look for….the Super Bowl and your Wedding Day.

To help you stay on track, here are some easy and healthy recipes:

Dip without the Guilt

We all love the fatty, delicious and high calorie dips. But guess what? You can still have dip without all that! Yes it is possible.

Mint/Basil Greek Yogurt dip

Mint/Basil Greek Yogurt dip

Mint/Basil Greek Yogurt dip

Here is how to prepare it:

  1. Chopped fresh mint
  2. Chopped fresh basil
  3. Non fat Greek Yogurt

Can it be any easier? Paring with Cucumbers, Carrots and Celery for a crunchy snack!

Crunch without the Guilt

Have you heard of the wonder world of Kale? Kale is a power food, full of fiber and vitamins. Most importantly, when baked right, it becomes the best crunch you will ever crave. The good news? You can have bowls after bowls and not have one ounce of regret!

Kale Chips

Kale Chips

How to prepare Kale Chips:

  1. Chop some fresh Kale
  2. Toss with salt and olive oil
  3. Spread on a baking sheet
  4. Cook at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then broil for another 5 minutes
  5. Enjoy!

For the Sweet Tooth

You will never believe it, but this is not your average pudding. Not at all. The main ingredient? Avocado! Believe me, you won’t even taste it. This will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Choc-ado Pudding

Choc-ado Pudding

Choc-ado Pudding

Here is how to prepare this yummy treat:

  1. In a food processor or blender, add one avocado, chocolate powder (the one without sugar), and honey
  2. Blend
  3. Chill for one hour
  4. Devour




I am not going to lie. You have to stay away from the soda, the alcohol and the mixed drinks. Don’t worry, there are other options.  With the following substitutes, you will not feel the craving and you will still enjoy the party spirit.

  1. Lemon Spritzer: Sparkling Water with lemon
  2. Steamers: Warm drinks which will delight you. Here is how:
    • Microwave some milk
    • Add sugar free vanilla syrup (or any other syrup)
    • Dress up with a cinnamon stick
    • Sip to your life
  3. Cappuccino
    • Hot milk, Foam and Espresso. This sophisticated drink is the party VIP.



TLC’s Four Weddings Sneak Peek: January 3rd

Are you ready for tonight’s sneak peak of  “Four Weddings” which airs on TLC? This show features four completely different brides who attend each other’s weddings with one wedding being deemed “the winner” at the end. The brides rate the food, dress, venue, originality, and overall experience of each wedding, except for their own. At the end, all the scores of each bride are tallied, and the one with the highest score wins an all expenses paid honeymoon.

On tonight’s episode the four brides are all from Boston, however they have very different styles. The four brides are:  A organic food loving bride, a bride who loves the sea, a backyard glamour bride,  and a colonial bride. Each of these brides share their unique style and taste on their wedding day. Which bride will be your favorite? Which bride’s detail’s will you like the best? Which dress will stand out the most? What ceremony will be the most touching? Which bride do you think will win? What do I think? You will have to wait until Friday where I will provide a re-cap on this episode. All I can tell you know is that you do not want to miss this episode, there are some very unique details!

TLC’s Four Weddings airs tonight at 9/8c. So set your DVR’s, or watch it live tonight!

For more information on Four Weddings, check out the website:


The Clubhouse at Anaheim Hills Golf Course

Tucked away in Anaheim Hills, California is a gorgeous golf course which plays host to not only local golfers, but to couples who say “I Do”. The Clubhouse of Anaheim Hills Golf Course offers a elegant 4,800 square foot Grand Ballroom  accommodating 350 guests, with beautiful windows showing off sweeping views of the golf course. Right outside the ballroom is a large wrap-around terrace which can be used as a cocktail hour and or ceremony space. Whether you want a golf course view during your ceremony, or a intimate setting with a lovely fountain, a beautiful setting is ready for you and your guests.

For appetizers, main courses, desserts, and drinks, the Clubhouse of Anaheim Hills Golf Course offers a wide variety of American cuisines offered for you and your guests.  If your palate desires something else, no problem! Outside catering is allowed and you can bring in any cuisine which satisfies your taste. Isn’t that great?

Professional and experienced staff are awaiting to turn your dreams into a reality.

If you want a unforgettable wedding for you and your guests, then you should consider the The Clubhouse of Anaheim Hills Golf Course for your wedding event.

For more information on weddings at the The Clubhouse at Anaheim Hills Golf Course visit their official website.

photo by Bridal Hot List

Photo by Bridal Hot List

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Photo by Bridal Hot List

Photo by Bridal Hot List

Photo by Bridal Hot List

Photo by Bridal Hot List

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TLC’s Four Weddings Episode Recap: December 27th

Did you watch last night’s episode of “Four Weddings” on TLCHere is a recap of the episode:

Who are the Brides?: 

TLC's "Four Weddings" Bride.

TLC’s “Four Weddings” Bride.

  • Jenna is a laid back bride who gets married at her childhood church. The church featured tall ceilings, and a modern design. Bridesmaids wore blue dresses and the groomsmen wore blue shirts and black suspenders. Sunflowers tied to the pews brightened the room. This wedding continues at the whaling museum, where the cocktail hour and reception takes place.   A large boat in the middle of the cocktail hour “wows” guests as they walk in. Guests then enter the gallery rooms where large whales are displayed above the reception tables. Sunflowers decorated cupcakes instead of wedding cake were served to all the guests.  Guests dance the night away with Jenna at the center, as she really gets down and shows off her dance moves.
  • Celeste  is a backyard bride who shares her Mexican traditions with all her guests. Her love for family brings her wedding to her mother’s backyard.  Traditional Mexican papel picados (paper banners), handmade by the mother of the bride hung above. Guests enjoyed drinks in their personal mason jars prior to the ceremony. The ceremony space was very casual and simple, with a gazebo, and stacks of hay for guests to sit on. Keeping with the backyard theme, the guest tables all featured two potted plants for centerpieces, and plant wedding favors for each guest. At nightfall, each guest sent a wish lantern into the sky.
  • Cammi is a Harvard Ph.D student for biological sciences, and spends her days in the lab.  She adores her school and so has her wedding set at Harvard University. Harvard’s grand church with high vaulted ceilings, and stunning archways, sets the scene for the ceremony. An ensemble of musicians play music as guests arrive, and then for the grand entrance of the bride.  A very formal affair. The rest of the day is set at a historical inn.  A cocktail hour that features a bacon bar was definitely unique. To find their tables, guests picked up a lantern with a lighted candle inside, which also had their name and table number.  The reception space was formal with red, black, and white colors. There was not only one cake, but three cakes total. One was a four tiered cake with red ribbons wrapped around each tier and red roses. The other two were for the groom and bride. A violin shaped cake for the groom, and the letter “H” for Harvard for the bride.
  • Anjali, a princess bride and her Prince Charming share their wedding at a grand castle. She is a princess with a prince planner. Her prince planned all the details of their storybook wedding.  Guests walk through a red carpet draw bridge and enter the castle. The ceremony is inside a large dark hallway with lit candles, and medieval elements throughout. Very elegant. After the fairytale kiss, guests enjoy cocktail outside with sweeping views of the water. Caricature artists create personal portraits to enjoy and take home. The long hallway which was once the ceremony space was now the grand reception hall. Two long tables were set for guests to sit at. Wish lanterns were lit and sent off into the night sky.

Cool factor:  There was one detail from each wedding that stood out for me. What I loved at Cammi’s wedding was that the centerpieces at each guest table was a bride cage and inside the lyrics and sheet music for their first dance. How cute is that? This was so unique and personal for the couple since the groom is a musician and they share love for music. I have never seen this at any weddings I have attended or planned. I really loved this idea! Celeste’s  dress and veil was beautiful! I thought that the style fit her perfectly. I really loved the long veil. Even though I normally have seen long veils at church weddings, the veil worked for Celeste. It seems effortless, like the veil was meant for that dress and Celeste. Anjali’s cake was phenomenal! It was four cakes all connected by grand staircases, and the middle cake had a water fountain under it! Truly amazing! I thought it was perfect for a princess bride and her fairytale wedding. What I thought was so cute and fun was Jenna’s  first dance with her husband. It started as a sweet slow dance and then the music picked up, and they danced to a choreographed fun dance. The dance was choreographed by Jenna herself, which I thought was super cute. How fun!

Who won? Congrats to Cammi for winning!  She and her husband won an all expenses paid honeymoon to San Miguel, Mexico. I was not surprised about Cammi winning at all, she totally deserved it! Actually, as soon as I watched this wedding, without even seeing the rest, I knew Cammi would win! I loved everything about this wedding. While I can not account for the food since I wasn’t actually there, all the other details – venue, dress, and originality – were owned by Cammi’s wedding, easily exceeding the rest. I thought that every detail of her formal wedding was elegant and chic.  A wedding which I think you would agree would be one to attend and really enjoy. Wonderful job Cammi!  So how did the other three brides score? Amanda came super close (one point) at second, Celeste in third, and Anjali in fourth place. Were you surprised by the results?

Congrats to Cammi for winning!

Congrats to Cammi for winning!

Stay tuned to Bridal Hot List  for more TLC updates on wedding themed shows!

What a Bride Needs to Bring to the Wedding

It is the day before the wedding, and even if you have a wedding planner, there are some ” to do’s” that you want to make sure are in order. There are some items that you will want to bring with you on the wedding day.

  • Bridal Gown: You want to take your bridal gown, shoes, veil, and any other accessories which makes your final bridal look. If you are getting ready at the venue or ceremony site, then make sure you you know ahead of time which car can hold your gown and take it to the site. You want to make sure the car has plenty of room for the large garment bag.  So do not plan to take a two seater sports car with your garment bag! Save that ride for another day.
  • Drop off luggage: If you are heading out to your honeymoon that evening or next day, make sure you are packed. It is a good idea to pack a few days before the wedding day, so the night before, you can relax and get a good night’s sleep.  If possible, try to drop off your luggage at the hotel you are staying at earlier that day, or have someone drop it off for you. That way when you are departing your wedding, you do not have to worry about it.
  • Pack a Emergency Kit:   Some examples are lipstick, face powder, and any other touch up make up needs, hairspray, bobby pins, stain remover, tissues, deodorant, toothbrush,  toothpaste, and lotion. You can add anything else which you think you will absolutely need that day.
  • Eat and Drink: It is a big day and the excitement and nerves will be there, and you may not want to eat. However, you want to make sure that you eat and drink plenty of water. Eating well and keeping hydrated will give you plenty of energy for the day. So make sure to order breakfast for the morning, and then have lunch also ordered for later. If you are in a hotel, you can easily order room service. If you are at a venue or ceremony site where they do not have food service, you can ask your bridesmaids, family member, or friend to order breakfast and lunch.  You can also bring your favorite snacks, goodies, and treats for you to enjoy throughout the day while you are getting ready.

Make a checklist so you do not forget anything!

Tommy Bahama Wedding Venue

A wedding event at Tommy Bahama? Who would have thought? You may be familiar with Tommy Bahama clothing, however did you know they also offer fabulous dining? I recently had the opportunity to visit Tommy Bahama’s Island Grille located in beautiful Newport Beach, CA. When I walked in, I instantly felt like I was back in Hawaii, a feeling of the island.

If you love Tommy Bahama’s clothing, then you will absolutely  love the food! I could not wait to try it! I sat in the outside patio enjoying the beautiful Southern California weather. My first taste of the food was the delicious bread and butter. The breads are made fresh everyday and it was brought out fresh and warm. It was really good!

I was trying to decide what to order and I could not decide! Everything on the menu looked so good, I wish I could have tried everything! After drooling over the menu, I finally decided to order. Do you want to know what I ordered? Check it out!

Is your mouth watering?  This was one of the best burgers I have ever had! This is the Bungalow Cheeseburger which is a burger with proprietary grind, white cheddar, panchetta, Avocado, topped with pineapple relish and thousand island and side of french fries. All the flavors blended perfectly to create a delicious burger. I loved it! It was delicious. This burger is one of many choices that you can choose from for your guests to enjoy at your wedding. There are a variety of menu options for you and your guests to enjoy.

What was next? Dessert of course! Again, I could not decide! Which one would you choose?

Being a chocolate lover, I went with the  Chocolate Malted Pie. What do you think?

One bite and my eyes rolled in the back of head, and I was in chocolate heaven!  This chocolate dessert is a chocolate cookie crust, malted whipped cream with English toffee crumbles. So good! You can really “wow” your guests if you serve this or any of the other fabulous dessert choices.

After all that amazing eating, I took a walk around to see what this island style restaurant has to offer.  They have an intimate patio, a private dining room, and a stunning garden patio.  The largest space can hold up to 110 guests.

Here is a look at the private dining room. Beautiful!

The garden patio is the perfect setting for a wedding reception. Gorgeous right?

I enjoyed the excellent service, island ambience, and fresh cuisine. Thank you Tommy Bahama’s Island Grille!