Charred Tomato Garlic Bread

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I love bread.

And by that, I mean:


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And if you have a fresh loaf of bread, according to me (or you!), of course it’s good all on it’s own.

But let me tell you how it gets even better...

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It's so simple to char the bread in a grill pan with a little olive oilon high heat.

It will get mouth-wateringly crusty on the outside, while still remaining soft and chewy on the inside.

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And when it’s crisp and browned, take it off of the grill pan and rub it with cut garlic and tomato.

This infuses those flavors ever-so-delicately—and just so incredibly perfectly!—into the bread.

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Sprinkle this amazing bread with salt and another drizzle of olive oil, and you have definitely transported that fresh loaf of bread to a whole new level.

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Charred Tomato Garlic Bread

servings: 4 to 6


  • One 8 X 5-inch loaf ciabatta bread (or other crusty bread)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 medium tomato, halved
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Cut the loaf of bread in half length-wise and drizzle all sides of it with the olive oil. Place the bread crust side-down on the pan, and cook until grill marks appear and the bread is crusty—2 to 3 minutes. Flip the bread over, then press it down to ensure good contact with the pan; continue to cook until grill marks appear and the bread is charred in spots—2 to 3 minutes more.
  2. Remove the bread from the heat and and rub the cut side with the cut side of the garlic, going over the bread a few times. Then rub the bread with the cut side of the tomato, squeezing the juice out of the tomato and onto the bread as you do so.
  3. Sprinkle the cut side of the bread with the salt and a little extra olive oil. Serve hot and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

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BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing

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Today on The Wendy Williams Show I showed everyone how to make a dish that will be your go-to this spring and summer, BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing.

Yes, the dressing is actually made with lettuce!

Combined with the classic flavors of a BLT sandwich (minus the bread), it's the perfect dish to ring in Spring in a few days!


BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing

servings: 4 to 6 servings, with about 2 cups Romaine Lettuce Dressing

Romaine Lettuce Dressing:

  • 2 romaine hearts, halved
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

BLT Pasta Salad:

  • 1 pound short-cut pasta
  • 4 strips extra thick-cut bacon
  • 2 cups Romaine Lettuce Dressing
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach or chopped romaine
  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Romaine Lettuce Dressing:

  1. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Then brush the 4 lettuce halves on the cut side with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Grill the lettuce cut-side-down until it is slightly charred and wilted—about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lettuce from the grill pan, coarsely chop it and discard the stems.
  2. Combine the lettuce, remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, yogurt, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender. If all of the lettuce does not fit at one time, puree a portion of it, adding more as you do, until it is all in the food processor. Once it has all been pureed, set it aside for later.

BLT Pasta Salad:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions. Then drain it, rinse it under cold water, and set it aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crispy—about 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels. Once it is cool enough to handle, coarsely chop it; this should give you about 1½ cups of bacon pieces. Set the bacon aside for later.
  3. Toss the pasta with the Romaine Lettuce Dressing, spinach or romaine, grape tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, onion, salt, and pepper. Top it with the bacon and serve!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

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Beet Cranberry Sauce


Cranberries have a zingy tartness that brings all of the other foods on your Thanksgiving Day plate to life.

And although the canned stuff may be an old staple on your table, consider clearing some space for this simple--but spectacular!--homemade version.

I start with a traditional cranberry sauce and add some beets that have been put through the blender.

Then I strain out all of that vibrant juice.

The beets add a deeper, richer flavor to the sauce--while still allowing the cranberries to shine.

And if you are a hardcore beet lover, then consider the "Extra Beety" version (also below), a fun beet-forward take that uses chunks of beets instead of just the beet juice! 

Beet Cranberry Sauce

servings: 3 Cups


  • 1 large red beet (about 6 ounces), diced
  • One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest + juice of 1 orange
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Place the beet and 1¼ cups water in a blender and blend until very smooth with only some pulp remaining. Strain the pulp from the beet juice and transfer only the juice to a medium pot.
  2. To the same medium pot, add the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and salt. Cover the pot to avoid splattering and cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency—about 25 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

"Extra Beety" Cranberry Sauce

servings: 3 cups


  • 2 large red beets (about 12 ounces total)
  • One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest + juice of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Wrap the beets (all together) in aluminum foil and bake them until you can easily insert a fork into the center of the flesh—45 to 60 minutes. The time can vary greatly depending on the size of your beets, but the good news is that overbaking won’t hurt them at all. Once they are finished cooking, immediately remove the skin from the beets by rubbing each with paper towels and chop the beets into ¼-inch pieces.
  2. Then, to a medium pot, add the beets, cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and salt. Cover the pot to avoid splattering and cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency, but with some texture still remaining in the cranberries—about 25 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

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Acorn Squash Bread


Banana bread.

Zucchini bread.

Pumpkin bread.

All delicious, easy-to-make, moist and flavorful breads, thanks to the fruits and veggies they incorporate.

So let’s keep the Veggie Bread Train in business!

It's time to talk about Acorn Squash Bread!


Prepared similarly to pumpkin bread, acorn squash bread uses the delicacy and sweetness of squash--along with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg--to make for a savory, but slightly sugary bread.


This bread is perfect for your Thanksgiving Day table or a cozy treat for the next morning when you're sitting around the kitchen with out-of-town relatives over cups of coffee.


Just bake halves of acorns squash, scoop out the sweet flesh, mix with some pantry staples, and you’ve got an extremely addictive quick bread!


And to take it one step further, I drizzle mine with a little cider vanilla glaze--yummm.


Then sprinkle it with some granola for a sticky sweet and delightfully crunchy topping, and you've got a recipe your relatives won't stop asking you for!

Acorn Squash Bread

servings: 1 9 X 5-inch pan of bread (about 8 slices)


  • 1 small acorn squash (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon cider
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ⅓ cup granola


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Use a soupspoon to scoop out the seeds and discard them. Arrange the squash cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet and rub its flesh with the olive oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Bake the squash until the flesh is fork tender—about 45 minutes.
  2. Scoop out the flesh of the squash, add it to the bowl of a food processor, and puree until smooth (this should give you about 1 cup of puree). Then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and grease a 9 X 5-inch bread loaf pan.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves. In a second large bowl, whisk together the squash puree, light brown sugar, canola oil, granulated sugar, ⅓ cup of the cider, eggs, vanilla, and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt.
  4. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture until just combined. Then pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake until the edges of the bread are brown and a toothpick inserted into its center comes out clean—about 60-65 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan and cool completely.
  5. Next, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of cider until a smooth glaze forms. Drizzle over the cooled bread, sprinkle with granola, and serve.


  • To make muffins: Lower the oven temperature to 350 F after the squash is roasted. Make the batter and glaze as directed above. Divide the batter into 9 cups of a lined or greased muffin tin and bake until the edges are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove muffins from the pan to cool completely. Drizzle cooled muffins with glaze, sprinkle with granola, and serve.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

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Mushroom Gravy

My “Meat On The Side” philosophy, at its simplest, is about eating less meat and more veggies.

But if you want to get a little more complex, it's also about infusing vegetables into your meals--not just to make those meals more nutritious, but to elevate those dishes--to make them better.

For this mushroom gravy, I’m creating a super-rich, bold mushroom stock that will heighten your traditional turkey pan gravy to a gravy that tastes like it was made by a master chef!

And if you'd like to make a vegan version--which will still taste better than almost any gravy you've ever tasted--you can thicken it up without adding the turkey drippings.

Oh, and yes, you heard me right…VEGAN!

Your vegan or vegetarian guests will love this seemingly magic gravy they can pour over everything!

And you can still make a separate version with your pan drippings for the rest of the group.

Just sauté up some Portobello mushrooms with browned onions, garlic, thyme and, rosemary.

Add some rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms…


...And thicken with an oil and flour roux (vegan version), or add some flour to your turkey pan to create a traditional turkey dripping roux.

Then the only thing left to do is to prepare yourself (and your guests!) to lick this gravy straight off the plate!

Mushroom Gravy

servings: 2 1/2 cups gravy


  • ½ cup dried wild porcini mushrooms (0.7 ounce package)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 8-ounce package sliced Portobello mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable, turkey or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


  1. Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover them with 2 cups of boiling water. Set them aside and allow them to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and cook until the onion browns (you want some color on them)—about 6 minutes. Then add the Portobello mushrooms and continue cooking the veggies until the mushrooms are very brown—about 6 minutes. Next, add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary and cook for 1 minute more.
  3. Pour in the sherry and then scrape the bottom of the skillet vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula to loosen any brown bits so that they are incorporated into the mixture in the skillet. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated—about 2 minutes.
  4. Next, add the vegetable stock along with the mushrooms and liquid from Step 1, being careful not to pour all the mushroom broth liquid into the skillet as there will be sediment at the very bottom of the bowl that you will not want to use. Cook until slightly reduced—about 4 minutes.
  5. Strain everything and then set the vegetables to the side (save them for another use or simply serve them as a side dish). Be sure to push on the mushrooms as you are straining in order to remove as much liquid from them as possible.
  6. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the flour to a large pan over medium heat and whisk to combine, then allow to cook for 1 minute. Add the mushroom broth, whisking as you go, and cook until thickened—about 5 minutes. OR (for the non-vegan version), add the mushroom broth to your turkey pan once you remove the turkey. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen up any brown bits, allowing them to become part of the broth. Then pour the broth and brown bits into a liquid measuring cup (or glass bowl) and let it sit until the fat separates from the broth (placing the measuring cup in the refrigerator will speed up this process). Once separated, remove 2 tablespoons of the fat from the top of the measuring cup and add it back to your turkey pan over medium heat, along with the flour (you can discard any additional remaining fat in the measuring cup, but be sure to reserve the broth). Whisk the flour and fat mixture to combine and allow it to cook for 1 minute. Then whisk in the mushroom broth from the measuring cup and cook until thickened—about 5 minutes. *Read the “Keep It Simple” note for ideas about how to make this for a large group.


  • Keep It Simple - This is a very rich gravy that you can stretch for a large group—especially if you are combining it with turkey drippings and/or using a turkey or chicken stock instead of veggie stock.
  • Also, for each additional cup of stock you use in this recipe, you will also need to use an additional 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of drippings/oil. For example, if you use 2 cups of stock instead of the 1 the recipe calls for, you will also need to increase the flour to 3 tablespoons and the drippings or oil to 3 tablespoons. Keep extra stock or water on hand to thin if necessary.
  • Find more information on mushrooms at
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

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Pumpkin Butter

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, which means my 10-day "Meat On The Side Countdown to Thanksgiving" is officially coming to an end.

Aw, no need to cry! I know, I know--it’s a sad day--but I promise there will be more Meat on the Side recipes in the very near future!

And as a celebration of our last ten days together, I'm giving you one more recipe--quick and easy enough that you'll still have time to make it before Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow! 

I’m showing you how to whip up a pumpkin-infused butter, perfect for slathering on all those biscuits, dinner rolls, and crescent rolls.

Just start by letting some regular unsalted butter come to room temperature.

Whip it up in your food processor and then combine it with pumpkin puree, vanilla, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice.

Suddenly you have a unique holiday butter that makes everything taste special. 


And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Pumpkin Butter

servings: 1 1/2 Cups


  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Add the pumpkin puree to a small pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until it reduces by almost half—about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whip the butter in a food processor until it is smooth. Add the cooked pumpkin puree along with the maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract to the food processor. Continue to puree until this mixture is smooth and combined.
  3. Transfer the butter from the food processor to an airtight container for storage in your refrigerator. When you are ready to use it, allow it to warm to room temperature, then spread on your favorite bread or toast.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

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Sure, you could have regular old garlic bread.


Yes, it is warm, garlicky, and of course, buttery.





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4th of July Recipe Round Up



The 4th of July is just around the corner and that means fun, frolicking, and most importantly FOOD. Most years I find myself making sweet treats for my niece Lucy, as her birthday falls on the 4th. We all like to gather in Fire Island to celebrate as we sing happy birthday and watch the fire works.


To say Lucy loves dessert is an understatement, so I always try my best to put a smile on her sweet little sugar addicted face and make her some incredible treats. No matter what you are making this July 4th it should be easy, should make people smile and if it happens to also be red white and blue than even better. So here are some of my favorite July 4th recipes that will make your weekend that much more sweet.





Red, White + Blue Sangria  by Crista at Peace.Love.Quinoa

Let’s start this 4th of July with fizzy and refreshing white wine sangria's! In this recipe she finishes her sangria off with sparkling water; I think I'm going to skip that part and finish it with some bubbly champagne! The best part about sangria is you can use whatever wine, fruit and juice you like.


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If you start using walnuts or almonds or anything besides pinenuts, I start getting angry. Throw in some parsley with the basil and I might just lose it.



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Tzatziki Sauce



I like any sauce with a name that I can’t easily pronounce. Because I'm guaranteed that I will eventually say it to someone else and they will have no idea what I'm talking about and suddenly I will look super smart.


And really my goal in life is to pretend to be smart.


Oh, and make delicious food of course!!





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Eggplant Sauce





When your child is young you feed them pureed vegetables. This food is nutritious and easy to eat.


And then, without warning, it goes down!! You start trying to give them whole broccoli instead of the pureed stuff.

This seems logical enough until the tree like foreign object is promptly rejected and dumped on the floor...


And there it sits, under their chair, next to the scary carrot and every horrifying brussel sprout. 






But why give up the simple idea of eating pureed vegetables??

Hate the texture of a vegetable? Puree it!

Think veggies are too bitter or bland?? Add other more tasty pureed stuff to them!


Before you know it you’re eating a whole head of broccoli in a single serving... 



Or maybe a whole eggplant... 




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Red Pepper + Lemon Dip

The food processor is my best friend.

As much as I love to be in the kitchen, there is always a point that if I have to chop one more clove of garlic I just might snap. Let's face it, prep is no fun! That’s why all the big name chefs have prep cooks in their restaurants. The prep cooks do all the dirty work and the real chefs get to just throw things in a pan and light them on fire.

So the closest thing to a prep cook that I can manage in my meager kitchen is...THE FOOD PROCESSOR.

I call him Francesco.

There is nothing better than throwing a bunch of ingredients into Francesco’s able hands and suddenly having something, well...quite tasty! So I bring you yet another quick dip featuring my partner in crime, the food processor...


2 Roasted Red Peppers

1lemon Juice and Zest

2Tbs Olive Oil

1.5tsp salt

1Tbs parsley

1Tbs basil

6oz cream cheese

      Put all ingredients in a food processor and chop until pureed and smooth. Serve on it’s own as a dip or over pasta, shrimp or chicken! ENJOY!


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Tomato Sauce



People change... Times change... Feelings change... And though your Italian grandmother would scold me, I have to confess...My tomato sauce recipe...has changed....





Lucky for me I am still young. (Although the impending “3-0” this month makes me feel like I'm 10 steps away from the nursing home.)


But at 30 I’m pretty sure I am still young enough that I can change my “signature” sauce recipe. And hopefully by the time I'm 70 no one will remember how fickle I used to be with my famous “Sunday gravy."





Tomato sauce was one of the first things I ever made and it was the very first thing my husband and I ever made together.

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Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting

servings: 3½ cups, enough for a 2-layer cake


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (1 cup)
  • 2 bars cream cheese, softened (16 ounces)
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt


  1. Add the room temperature butter and cream cheese to a mixer and mix until they are well combined. Then add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and mix until smooth.
  2. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Enjoy spread on your favorite cookies or cake!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking


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Homemade Ricotta


Makes 2 cups ricotta

4 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1-1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Combine milk, cream and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling shut off heat and add vinegar. Wait 3 minutes and strain in a cheese cloth for 10-20 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.


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Butter Free Garlic Bread


3Tbs Low-Fat Mayo

1 container Oikos Plain Greek Yogurt

1/4tsp salt

8 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped

1/8-1/4tsp Cayenne Pepper

1tsp Fresh Thyme, finely chopped

¼ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

1 loaf bread

Combine mayo, greek yogurt, salt, garlic, cayenne pepper and thyme together. Cut loaf of bread in half and spread yogurt mixture over the cut side of the bread. Top with the parmesan cheese and cook under your broiler until top is brown and bread is crisp. Serve warm and ENJOY!


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