Simple Recipes

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing


“Why serve store-bought salad dressing to your family, when it is so easy to make it fresh?”

That is what I kept hearing over the years from different people. I thought, “Who has time for that, when there are such good dressings at my local market?” Besides, my kids use bottled ranch dressing like it is ketchup (and if you have kids, I’m sure you understand!). When I tell you we usually have 4 bottles of bottled ranch dressing in the pantry, I’m not embarrassed – it is a way of life!

Well, after making my own dressing (not just a simple vinaigrette), I realized they are right!! It tastes so much better than bottled!

Ranch Dressing2

So I am sharing a simple and OH SO TASTY Buttermilk Ranch Dressing recipe with you! My kids love it, I love it, and you actually use less because it is so full of flavor!

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
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A creamy Ranch Dressing sure to be a hit! Once you taste the difference between fresh and bottled, you may never go back to store-bought salad dressing again!
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T chopped, fresh chives
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • ⅓ cup Buttermilk (plus a little more, to thin out the dressing if it is too thick for your taste)
  • ⅓ cup sour cream (you can substitute greek yogurt here!)
  • ⅓ cup mayo (you can use light mayo)
  • NOTE: Feel free to play around with the amounts of each ingredient to suit your taste!
  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients together.
  2. Whisk the ingredients.
  3. Store in an air tight container in the fridge.
  4. Lasts up to 5 days.


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Chocolate Covered Almonds With Salted Caramel Sugar

Any of my friends or family can tell you that I am a chocoholic – and DARNED proud of it! I even had a chocolate-themed Christmas tree in my first apartment! So when I tell you I look for chocolate recipes that I can even remotely say MIGHT be healthy for me, I try to latch on them and use them (sparingly, of course!).

SSD Chocolate Almonds 2


This recipe is super simple, requires only a few ingredients, and tastes amazing!! Be sure to have napkins handy — you will have messy hands and face after eating these!

If you want to find the Salted Caramel Sugar from Spice & Tea Exchange of St. Augustine, click HERE!

Chocolate Covered Almonds With Salted Caramel Sugar
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So simple and so tasty - make sure you have plenty of napkins when you eat these delicious chocolate clusters!
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 20-24
  • 2 cups whole, toasted almonds (Toast in 350 degree oven, 5-10 mins)
  • 8 ounces chocolate, melted (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet, but works great with dark chocolate, too!)
  • Salted Caramel Sugar for topping-You can use course turbinado sugar and course sea salt (I used a product from Spice & Tea Exchange Of St. Augustine, FL)
  1. In a double boiler (or microwave), melt the chocolate.
  2. Place toasted almonds into a bowl, then pour chocolate over the almonds. Mix thoroughly.
  3. On a parchment paper covered pan, place rounded spoonfuls of the chocolate/almond mixture.
  4. Lightly sprinkle with sugar/salt topping.
  5. Allow to cool in the refrigerator until set.
  6. When serving, eat immediately! (Of course, they WILL go fast!)


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SSD Chocolate Almonds

Grilled Watermelon, Feta & Basil Salad

Fresh watermelon – so plentiful this time of year! Combine it’s juicy flavor with fresh feta cheese, basil straight from the garden, and balsamic glaze, and you have a delicious summer salad! Kick it up a notch by grilling the watermelon first – it brings out the sweetness of the melon, adding a new depth of flavor!

Grilled Watermelon, Feta & Basil Salad from


How To Grill Watermelon: Brush both sides of sliced watermelon with olive oil and grill on high heat until grill marks show up on the melon slices:


Grilled Watermelon, Feta & Basil Salad
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Juicy Watermelon only gets better when grilled! Combine it with fresh feta, basil and balsamic to make a delicious summer-fresh salad!
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
  • 6-7 watermelon slices, brushed with olive oil, then grilled.
  • Feta Cheese crumbles - approximately 3-5 ounces, depending on how much you like Feta!
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • Fresh Basil, chopped (approx. 2-3 tablespoons
  • 2 pinches of kosher salt
  • On pic ground black pepper, or more, to taste
  • Balsamic Glaze from drizzling!
  1. Slice off the rind of the grilled watermelon and cut into cubes.
  2. Add the lime, salt and pepper and toss.
  3. Add the feta cheese and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
  4. Serve Immediately (The watermelon will continue to release juice, so if you wait too long to serve, it will become soupy!)

Balsamic Glaze: You can quickly make a balsamic glaze by combining 1 cup balsamic vinegar with 1/4 cup brown sugar in a sauce pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until it boils. Reduce the heat and simmer until it reduces by half. Glaze is done when it coats the back of a spoon. Cool and store in air-tight container in the fridge.


Simple & Delicious: Chicken Souvlaki

Summer is the perfect time to make that simple and delicious Greek dish, Chicken Souvlaki! Marinating chicken with the flavors of lemon and garlic – a perfect combination in my book! You can grill the chicken or bake it in the oven – whatever is convenient for you. I had plans to grill this, but with downpours all day, I decided to bake them instead – and they were delicious!

By the way – this goes perfectly served with my cool, Greek Tzatziki Sauce! Serve the sauce on the side for dipping, OR chop up the chicken, place in a Pita or a Stonefire Naan (individual size), add a hefty dollop of Tzatziki, and lettuce, Makes a VERY yummy sandwich!

Chicken Souvlaki served up on a Stonefire Naan with my homemade Tzatziki Sauce!

Chicken Souvlaki
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Lemon, garlic and oregano blend together to marinate fresh chicken breast in this Greek tradition recipe!
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Greek
Serves: 4
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)
  • 2-4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced (I used three!)
  • 4 chicken breasts
  1. In a large baggie, combine all the ingredients.
  2. Seal the baggie and shake to combine.
  3. Allow to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge, or until ready to grill or cook.
  4. Grill on medium high heat, turning once or twice, until instant read meat thermometer inserted into the chicken breast reads 165 degrees. (approximately 15-20 minutes)
  5. Alternative Cooking Method: Place on a greased baking sheet and cook for approximately 20-30 minutes in a 400 degree oven. They are done when instant read meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.

Enjoy this wonderful greek recipe! OPA!

Summer Cool Off – Greek Tzatziki Sauce

“Can’t we just do something that a Greek person in TODAY’S world would do?”

And with that challenge, my 19 year old got me thinking out of the box for a family trip! A little backstory:

We decided to take the kids on a trip to Greece: Touring ALL the historical sites throughout Athens, seeing the beautiful, white buildings and blue waters of Greek Island – with two teenage girls, in the summer, taking them away from their friends for 10 days. A recipe for Family Awesomeness, right?! (Those of you with teenagers are probably laughing right now at my blessed ignorance!)

SIMPLE VACATION TIP: The trip WAS actually awesome because we included activities the girls wanted to do!

So back to the challenge my 19 year old gave me. My daughter wanted to experience something culturally relevant to the modern, Greek citizen. It was a brilliant idea! I suggested a cooking class, which was greeted with much enthusiasm. Working with our travel agent, we settled on a private cooking class with Teta, owner of Mykonian Spiti, on the island of Mykonos.

The whole family in Teta’s beautiful, light-filled kitchen

Held in Teta’s kitchen in her traditional, Mykonian home, we had a FANTASTIC experience! We spent the whole day making Tzatziki Sauce, Spinach Pie, Stuffed Peppers & Tomatoes, and Beef With Orzo. The entire family was involved in the class.

Teta and my oldest making spinach pie.
Teta and my oldest making spinach pie.

Here is Teta’s Recipe for Tzatziki Sauce – a sauce perfect for grilled meats, or as a dip for pita and fresh veggies. I am including a link to her recipes page of her website. (FYI –  I’ve translated the measurements into U.S. measurements. PLUS, she forgot to add dill to her written tzatziki sauce recipe – trust me, it is supposed to be in there!)


Greek Tzatziki Sauce
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This versatile Greek sauce goes great as an accompaniment to grilled meats, or as a dip for veggies and pita bread!
Recipe type: Sauce/Dip/Appetizer
Cuisine: Greek
Serves: 1.5 cups
  • 1 Cup Greek Yogurt - I used Fage Greek Yogurt, recommended by my friend in Greece!
  • 1 large cucumber, grated, with water squeezed out as much as possible!
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  1. Mix all ingredients together and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Serve with grilled meats or as an appetizer served with pita and fresh veggies! Store, covered, in the fridge for up to one week.

Note About Mykonian Spiti: Teta is a one woman dynamo and I couldn’t be more impressed with her. Between her family’s two businesses, Teta and her husband employ about 35-45 Mykonians and house approximately 25 during the summer months. (Amazing, when you consider the economic upheaval Greece is currently experiencing!) Check out her website, Mykonian Spiti – there you can read all about her business, her efforts to give visitors a true cultural experience. PLUS, she has some of her recipes posted – you will love the way she writes in English!!

The tzatziki sauce "resting" for 30 minutes.
The tzatziki sauce “resting” for 30 minutes.
My husband "relaxing" his eyes for 30 minutes.
My husband “resting” his eyes for 30 minutes!


SSD Tzatziki Sauce


Teta's rooftop garden!
Teta’s rooftop garden!
Even the vegetables are presented beautifully at Mykonian Spiti!

Simple Desserts To Celebrate July 4th!

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Independence Day is Monday, and that means we have a long weekend to celebrate with family and friends! i’m featuring a few simple desserts you can bring to that July 4th Party or Picnic that are sure to be a hit! Best of all you can get kids of all ages involved in making these!


Patriotic Oreos – Red, white & blue make this simple dessert a winner.


  • One package of Oreo cookies.
  • One container of Dolce Frusta White Shell, melted (or you can make your own white chocolate dip by following the melting directions on back of package of Nestle’s White Chocolate Chips)
  • Red and Blue Cookie Icing – To make it easy on myself, I used Betty Crocker Cookie Icing.
  • Optional: Edible, Patriotic decorations


Dip the Oreos in melted white shell/white chocolate (cover 1/2 – 3/4 of cookie). Place on wax paper to cool and set.

Using the cookie frosting, drizzle the Oreos with red and blue, then sprinkle with patriotic decorations (If using!) Allow icing to set before serving.

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Fruit Flag Dessert – A healthy way to celebrate the holiday! And you don’t need to worry about it going bad in warm weather!


Your favorite red & blue fruits! I used strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and blueberries.

Yogurt covered pretzels or yogurt covered raisins.

Assemble the fruits into the shape of a flag – pretty easy peasy!!


Icebox Cake – Old Fashioned, not filled with sugar and so tasty! This one requires refrigeration until serving!


  • Nabisco Chocolate Wafers
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Chambourd Liqueur
  • 1/4 cup fresh raspberries, mashed
  • Patriotic Sprinkles


TIP: Before starting, store your beaters and bowl in the refrigerator to chill. This will help with whipping the cream.

In a large bowl, mix the whipping cream at high speed until peaks form. Gently add in vanilla. Move 1/3 of the whipped cream into another chilled bowl and fold in the raspberries and Chambourd.

On a plate or small platter, arrange one layer of the chocolate wafers. Layer with the raspberry whipped cream. Add another layer of chocolate wafers. Layer with raspberry cream again. Add one last layer of chocolate wafers.

Taking the plain whipped cream and cover the entire cake. Sprinkle with patriotic sprinkles and refrigerate overnight. Serve and eat immediately.

Optional: Brush each layer of wafers with additional Chambourd – as much or as little as you like.

The cake at the end of the TV segment - devoured! But at least you can see what the cake looks like in the center!
The cake at the end of the TV segment – devoured! But at least you can see what the cake looks like in the center!

Thank you to WTLV-TV’s First Coast Living for inviting me on to share these recipes!

Recipes For Kids To Make This Summer


kids recipes


With kids out of school during summer break, the two most dreaded phrases parents will hear are, “I’m Bored!” and “I’m Hungry”! Why not kill two birds with one stone and use the lazy days of summer to teach your kids to cook? Here are some recipes, of varying levels of difficulty, you can teach your kids to make. Who knows? Maybe they will make dinner for YOU sometime!

Note: As a parent, you need to determine how much supervision your child needs when using the oven, stovetop, knives, etc. Every child is different!

Ants on a Log – The childhood classic — celery sticks filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins is always a favorite, requires no oven and no sharp knives. Pre wash & cut the celery and keep it in the fridge for quick access for the kids! For a fun variation, use Craisins instead of raisins or use a flavored cream cheese spread in place of the peanut butter.

Corn Dog Muffins – I’ve taken the County Fair Favorite (a corn dog on a stick) and made it super easy! Your child can make a batch of these for snacks! Serve with ketchup or mustard to as a dip! (Requires the oven.)


  • 2 packages cornbread mix
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1.5 Cups milk
  • 1 Cup Cheddar Cheese (optional)
  • 9 All Beef Hot Dogs, sliced in half


Preheat Oven To 400 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tin (makes 18 muffins).

In a large bowl, stir together the cornbread mix and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Gently fold the egg mixture (and the optional cheese) into the cornbread mixture – mix until moistened.

Spoon the mixture into muffin tins until they are about 2/3 full. Add a ½ hot dog to each muffin cup.

Bake for 14-18 minutes, until golden brown.

Tuna Cheese Melts – English muffins, homemade tuna salad and cheese make for a yummy, simple lunch! (Requires toaster oven or regular oven for melting cheese.)


  • 2 cans white albacore tuna fish in water, drained
  • 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise, more or less to taste
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ Cup each chopped celery & onion, chopped
  • 2-3 Tablespoons yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 English muffins, split
  • 6 slices American cheese (or other favorite cheese)
  • 6 slices fresh tomato (optional)


Toast the English muffin halves and set aside on a baking sheet. (Optional: You can butter the English muffins when you toast them.)

Preheat toaster oven (or oven) to 200 degrees.

In a medium bowl, flake the tuna and then combine the remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly.

Spoon mixture onto each muffin half and top with a slice of cheese.

Pop in oven and bake until the cheese melts (approximately 8 minutes). Remove from oven, top with a tomato slice and serve.

Coconut Chicken Nuggets – A Tropical Twist on a kid’s favorite! Serve with pineapple mango salsa, or orange marmalade for dipping!

  • 1 Cup Flaked coconut
  • ½ Cup Flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes (or strips if you prefer chicken strips!)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 Cup Butter, melted


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a plate, mix coconut, flour, salt, pepper, and garlic. In small bowl, beat the egg.

Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, then roll the pieces in the coconut mixture to coat.

Place on a non-stick baking sheet and drizzle with the butter. Bake 25 minutes, or until chicken is browned and cooked through, turning pieces halfway through.

Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!

Note: You can mix a cup of orange marmalade with 2 tablespoons dijon mustard to make a zesty dip! (I added a couple of splashes of sweet chili sauce to it for my dip!)

For more recipes to make with the kids, check out the Diva’s video series Cooking With The Kids!

Thank you to WTLV-TV’s First Coast Living for inviting me on to share these recipes!

Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels


This simple recipe is perfect finger food for a party – you can make it ahead and serve it later! And who doesn’t like Buffalo Chicken? Best of all, there is no grease involved!

Buffalo Chicken 2

Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels
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All the spiciness and flavor of Buffalo Chicken Wings, without the greasiness! An EASY party appetizer!
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Serves: 20-25 pieces
  • 4 Cups shredded, cooked chicken - I used one whole roasted chicken from the grocery store to make this easy!
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Cup colby jack cheese
  • ¼ Cup crumbled blue cheese
  • ¼ Cup sliced green onions
  • ½ Cup hot sauce - I used my favorite, Texas Pete, but feel free to use your favorite!
  • 5 large flour tortillas
  1. In a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, the colby jack, blue cheese, hot sauce, and green onions using a mixer on low.
  2. Add in the shredded chicken, mixing by hand until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Spread approximately ¾ cup of the mixture onto each tortilla, spreading to the edges of the tortilla.
  4. Wrap the rolls in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 2-4 hours. You CAN slice and eat them now, but they slice better if they have been chilled.
  5. Enjoy!


Buffalo Chicken Pin

California Club Flatbread


The yummy goodness of a California Club Sandwich – Fresh Roasted Chicken, Cool Avocado and Salty Bacon. I’ve captured that delicious flavor on a flatbread!

Use this as an appetizer or pair it with a salad to make a light and tasty lunch or dinner!

Club Flatbread1

Let’s get a closer look:

Club Flatbread4

California Club Flatbread
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All the goodness of a California Club Sandwich on a flatbread! Pair this with a salad for a light meal or slice to make appetizers!
Recipe type: Lunch, Dinner or Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
  • 4 Individual Sized Stonefire Naan Breads
  • 1.5 Cups shredded cheese - I used a combo of Colby Jack and Mozzarella.
  • 1 Cup Cooked & Chopped Chicken Breast - I used a roast chicken from the grocery store!
  • ½ Cup chopped red pepper
  • Cooked Bacon, chopped (use as much or as little as you want)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • ½ avocado, chopped
  • ¼ cup ranch dressing
  • ground chipotle chili pepper - to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lay the naan breads on a clean work surface. Divide between the naan breads the cheese, chicken, bacon, and red peppers.
  3. Place in oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted. I place mine right on the oven rack, but you can also lay them on a cookie sheet and place in oven.
  4. While the flatbread are cooking, in a small bowl, mix together the ranch dressing and as much (or as little) of chipotle chili pepper.
  5. Remove from oven.
  6. Layer the remaining ingredients in this order - the cilantro, avocado and drizzle with chipotle ranch dressing.
  7. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Club Flatbread3

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