Get Ready to Make a Bloomin’ Onion!

Backyard BBQ’s are in full swing and what could be better to start the party than a Bloomin’ Onion!  I’ve made this recipe several times and it gets rave reviews every time!

Bloomin’ Onion

Bloomin' Onion

Make a Bloomin’ Onion for Your Next Backyard BBQ!

This is easy to make and is like the Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse.  You don’t need any special tools to cut the onion – just a sharp paring knife will work.  Here is a great tutorial: How to Slice a Bloomin’ Onion.  Now…here is the recipe.  Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients because most of the ingredients are seasonings.

 Bloomin’ Onion Recipe

Bloomin' Onion
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Here is the easy recipe for a Bloomin' Onion. This is a great recipe for your next Backyard BBQ!
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 large, sweet onion, such as Vidalia
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 gallon corn oil (for frying)
  1. To slice the onion, cut off ½ inch from the pointy stem end of the onion (the top) and peel. Place the onion cut side down.
  2. Starting ½ inch from the root end, make a downward cut all the way through to the board. Repeat to make four evenly spaced cuts around the onion.
  3. Continue slicing between each section until you have 16 evenly spaced cuts.
  4. Turn the onion over and use your fingers to gently separate the outer pieces. (The onion will begin to look like a flower at this point)
  5. Whisk the flour, cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme, oregano, cumin and ½ tsp. black pepper in a bowl.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and 1 cup water.
  7. Place the onion in a separate bowl and pour all of the flour mixture on top. Cover the bowl with a plate, then shake back and forth to distribute the flour.
  8. Lift the onion by the core and pat off the excess flour.
  9. Using a slotted spoon, fully submerge the onion in the egg mixture (spoon on top if necessary).
  10. Remove and let the excess egg drip off, then repeat the flouring process.
  11. Refrigerate the onion while you heat the oil.
  12. Heat the oil to 400 degrees.
  13. Using a wire skimmer, carefully lower the onion into the oil, cut side down.
  14. Adjust the heat so the oil temperature stays close to 350 degrees.
  15. Fry about 3 minutes, then turn the onion over and fry until golden, about 3 more minutes.
  16. Drain on paper towels.
  17. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the dip.

 Bloomin’ Onion Dip

This dip can be made the day before your BBQ and it will keep for several days in the fridge.

Bloomin' Onion Dip
Prep time
Total time
You can make this a day or two before your BBQ.
Recipe type: Appetiser
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (don't use a substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1½ teaspoons ketchup
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon drained horseradish
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all of the dip ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.


Throwing a 4th of July BBQ

4th of July

4th of July

Throwing a 4th of July BBQ is easy with these great tips from my friend Sara Stringer with sarasblogging.  

Thank you Sara for this guest post.  You have given us a lot of terrific success secrets for our 4th of July BBQ!

It’s summer and you know what that means: chilling in the backyard on the weekends, having the whole neighborhood over for barbecue, grilling and picnic fare. Understandably you want these get-togethers to be perfect. Here are some tips to help you get as close to perfection as possible.

Stray from the Norm

Obviously you’re probably going to want to do burgers, hot dogs, maybe some chicken.  But what about varying the menu a little bit?

Shish Kabobs are usually a big crowd pleaser—and easy to make vegetarian for the vegetarians and vegans in your midst.

Make your own fruit salad. Anybody can dump a few cans of fruit cocktail into a bowl. Instead, why not try the following recipe:

You’ll need:

A bunch of your favorite fruit: grapes, strawberries, apples, whatever.

Lemon juice – one lemon’s worth

Lemon zest—one lemon’s worth

1/3 cups of very light corn syrup

What You Do:

Cut up the fruit into manageable sized bites. Make sure that the skins, rinds and peels are removed. Toss the fruit chunks into a big bowl. Aim to have at least six cups worth of cut up fruit.

In a smaller bowl combine your lemon zest, lemon juice and corn syrup and mix thoroughly.

Pour the glaze over the fruit and toss until everything is coated equally.

The great thing about this recipe is that it is easy to adjust depending on the size of your party or gathering. Less for fewer people, more for more. You can also adjust it according to taste to make it more “lemony” or less.

Simple is Best

Decorating for an outdoor event presents a unique set of challenges. It’s easy to go overboard, trying to make things festive. The truth is that, with backyard barbecues and neighborhood block parties, less is very often more.

Tables: instead of paper, go for vinyl (or easily wipe-offable) table cloths—but don’t buy them pre-made! It’s super easy to make your own. Simply take a trip to your local fabric shop and see what they have in stock (it’s helpful to have some coupons for JoAnn’s in your pocket before you get to the store). You can buy a few yards of fabric and cut them and hem them up to fit the tables you’ve got on hand. Then, after the party simply wipe them off, fold them up and store them until the next get together.

Centerpieces: Find some large (widely mouthed) glass vases. Fill them up a third of the way with sand. Place tall fat candles (white looks the most elegant) in the sand.  The weight of the sand will help the candle stay “anchored” and will keep the vases from toppling over. The vases, in turn will keep tablecloths from blowing away. The flame from the candles will be safe within the vase but the smoke drifting out will help keep bugs away from peoples’ food.

Clean Up

At the end of the summer, go through all of your supplies. The great thing about what we’ve talked about here is that everything is affordable. If you have to toss it out due to wear and tear, you won’t mind very much and you can easily (and cheaply) replace it all next year.

The one exception is the grill. Look at your grill when grilling season is over. If it looks like it’s getting worn down, you can use the following fall and winter season to scour the internet looking for sales or an online Black Friday deal to help you replace it before the next season starts.  Waiting until next summer only guarantees an expensive purchase.

What are some of the things you’ve done to make your backyard barbecues as perfect as possible?

July 4th

Happy 4th of July!

Try This Quick Entertaining Idea!

Here is a Make Life Special Success Secret for a Quick Entertaining Idea!

Think you don’t have time to entertain?  Well here is a quick tip for turning ordinary pasta into company fare.

You can make a simple pasta dish — like my Italian Penne Pasta Bake and then serve it up in individual casserole dishes.  This is an easy and impressive way to serve a simple dish.

Italian Penne Pasta in Individual Casserole with Lid

Individual casserole dishes don’t have to be expensive.  I like to scout our bargains at stores such as T J  Maxx , Family Dollar Stores, etc.  The casserole dishes pictured above were from HomeGoods.

Just bake the Italian Penne Pasta in the 9 X 13 casserole dish as directed. When you are ready to serve your guests, scoop out the pasta into the individual casseroles and place on a serving plate.  Add hot crusty bread and a salad and you have an easy meal for entertaining!  And…with a menu like this, you will be able to enjoy your guests and not be frazzled with dinner preparations.

Learning how to entertain successfully can be very rewarding!  I love to have friends gather in my kitchen for a simple but delicious meal and watch the conversation and laughter evolve during the evening.  These moments with friends and family have been the heart of my life so I always welcome the opportunity to help others gain the knowledge and confidence they need to entertain easily in their home. 

Here are Some Tips I’ve Learned Along The Way:

  1. Select recipes that you have made before and that can be done mostly ahead of time and then “finished” at the last minute.
  2. Have a plan with a schedule of what needs to be done to complete the meal on time.  Be sure to allow time to clean your kitchen along the way so your kitchen isn’t a disaster when your guests arrive.  I like to actually start a dinner party in my kitchen with drinks and appetizers.  This seems to get the party off to a casual start and puts everyone at ease.  
  3. Don’t lose sight of “WHY” you are entertaining!  Plan a menu that will be easy for you to accomplish and will allow you to enjoy the evening as much as your guests!
  4. Set a beautiful table!  Make your guest feel like royalty when they sit down for the meal.  Again, you don’t have to spend tons of money to accomplish this. All of the stores mentioned earlier in this post all offer inexpensive glassware, dinnerware and accessories to help make your table look fabulous!  

Want some other quick and easy pasta recipes?

Be sure to check these out!

One Pot Pasta

Easy Alfredo Sauce and Pasta

Scallops A’Moscato 

Crock Pot Spaghetti 


Remember….”Let’s make life special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”



Easy Entertaining Tips From Joan Lunden


Looking for some easy entertaining tips?  Here are Joan Lunden’s tips for success:

Here is the segment from my interview with Joan Lunden about entertaining in your home with ease .  Joan shared lots of great ideas!

Joan:  I love to entertain in my home.

Vickie:  I do too.

Joan:  And everything is at our house.  Everyone’s birthday, every holiday …you name it… it happens at our house.  And part of that is because I love to do it. Also, all of my aunts and my mother-in-law…everybody…they all come in the door and they say, “ I don’t know how you do this!  You WORK!….You’ve got little kids….and  how do you do this!”   “ How do you put together 5 tables for 36 people …they are all decorated! “   I can do this because I anticipate it.  I go out after a holiday when things are on sale … you know…just some Saturday when I don’t have to go to three soccer games.  Ha Ha! I look for those times and I go out and I buy little things .

I’ve got this incredibly organized pantry and I can pull out me little baskets .  If you told me I had to do a party tonight,  and you gave me a theme, I could do it!  But the only reason why I can do it and be so undaunted about it and have it be fun and not streeful is because I anticipate it and I make sure to go out and get all of these little things and I have all of them there and they are all labeled.

And also, if there is a holiday coming up, I’ll prepare my tables at least days in advance. …Sometimes a week or so in advance.  By doing it that way, I can do it when I’m not stressed out… I don’t get that last minute stress.  And, if I’m missing something, it gives me time.

If I have a dinner party on Friday night, I’ll start thinking about it on the weekend before.  And, as I come up to the day of the party, I go into my pantry and I pick out what I need.  If I’m making bread pudding for example, I get all of the ingredients out and see what I don’t have.  Do I want to make a Green Bean Casserole or do I want to make a Broccoli Puff?  Do I want to do Butternut Squash Soup ?  let me make sure I have all of the ingredients… and I’ll put them in little piles.  Again, that give me the chance to go out and get what I need ahead of time and not get caught short at the last minute.

So, I think that planning ahead  is the most important advice that I can give to people.  And, try to continue to make this whole thing fun.

Vickie:  I think you have touched on another important thing.  You know, people will come to my home when we have dinner parties or family events and marvel at my serving pieces or table settings.  But, you know, you don’t have to spend a lot of money.  I have special serving pieces, casserole dishes, etc, that I feature at different times of the year…but I did not spend a lot of money.  If you plan ahead, and you shop  after the holiday is over for next year…it’s not that expensive  to be able to entertain in style if you plan ahead.  That’s really the whole point.

Joan:  You walk into any big box store and you’ll see right after the holidays all the sales of all the Halloween stuff…then all of the Thanksgiving stuff…..and, you know, it’s a good idea to buy it then.  When you come home, go the next step – get a couple of organizer boxes and put it all there.  If its just here, there, and everywhere….its still hard to do.  But when you organize it, it realy does make entertaining  a breeze.  And, you’ll spend a lot more money going out to dinner, I think, than if you put together a dinner in your home.  You’ll never have the same atmosphere as when you get everybody together in your home.  And, if you have kids like me….I think it’s really important to get kids involved in the cooking process.


Part Three – Joan talks about her kids and living an organized life with a busy schedule.

Also, be sure to check out Loan Lunden’s website for lots of healthy living tips and recipes!


Make a Tiered Buffet Server for Your Holiday Table

Here is another great idea for a buffet server that you can easily make yourself.   This is a tiered buffet server centerpiece on a Holiday Dessert Table at a party I recently attended.  This was  made this with mirrors and hurricanes filled with ornaments!  The candles added so much sparkle!  I LOVE this idea!   I have seen similar items in catalogs for over $300.00 and this is so simple to make.

Start with a piece of mirror for the base.  You can buy these in all shapes and sizes at craft stores.  I like to have several pieces of mirrored glass on my table or buffet to reflect the light and add interest.  As you can see in this photo, the candles are reflected beautifully in the mirrored base.  Next, add hurricane four globes and fill the hurricanes with holiday ornaments.  Top the hurricanes with another piece of mirrored glass.  Set a cake stand on top of this piece of mirrored glass and add desserts to the cake stand and also on the mirror.  Add a smaller cake stand to the top and finish off with a holiday decoration such as this small tinsel  Christmas tree.  

Individual desserts are displayed perfectly on this buffet server.  It is easy for your guests to select the desserts they want.  Just be sure to replenish the buffet server during the party and have plenty of desserts made ahead of time so everyone gets what they want.  Allow at least two to three individual desserts per person at a party.  Some people will only take one but you will find that others may take five or six!  

What are some good ideas for individual desserts?  Brownies, individual puddings, and  chocolates are  just a few suggestions.  You can also buy small individual glass serving pieces to make your dessert buffet really impressive.  Be sure to include small serving spoons on the buffet as well. 

If any of my readers use this idea over the holidays, please send me the pictures so I can feature them.  Happy Holidays!  

Santa Pants Wine Tote

Suit up your favorite holiday treats with these festive fabric wine bottle holders.  Not just for wine, they are a great gift giving idea for olive oils, balsamic vinegars, candies or other small gifts.

Kris Kringle’s knickers will add that jolly “Ho-Ho-Ho” to whatever you’re giving!  Only $ 9.95 at


To view the Make Life Special Video YouTube Review, Click here:   Santa Pants  

Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  21+ (if giving alcohol); Any age if using to wrap another gift!



This one is not so much a gift in and of itself.  However, it is a great way to package a gift!  This tote is set up to hold 2 bottles of wine (one in each pant leg).  But, I don’t think it should be limited to just wine.  You could easily use this tote to package a gift of oil and vinegar, shampoo and conditioner, gourmet sodas/sparkling juices, candies or other small gifts! 

            This tote would look really cute under the Christmas tree as a special present from Santa!  And, with holiday parties quickly approaching, I think that this tote would be a cute addition to a hostess gift. 


Where to Buy

            For $9.95, plus shipping and handling (free on orders over $99), this wonderful gift tote is available thru !  


Reviewed by: Nicole


Note:  Avalon Communications graciously supplied me with one Santa Pants Wine Tote for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.



****Contest Closed*****”It’s Not You, It’s Brie” Book Giveaway

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kirstin Jackson, author of  ” It’s Not You, It’s Brie:  Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese”.   I had a lot of fun chatting with Kirstin.  It could be because I love cheese.  I love to shop for cheese, I love to smell cheese as its cooking, I love to eat cheese, I love pairing cheese with wine….you get the idea.  Right?  I LOVE cheese.  But, I discovered something else about myself recently.  I also love reading about America’s cheese culture.  And, I think you will too.

I have one (1) copy of “It’s Not You, It’s Brie:  Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese” to give away. Would you like to provide it with a new home?


To enter the giveaway, just answer the following question in the “Speak Your Mind” section at the bottom of this post:

“What is the best cheese you have ever eaten?”

Are you one of those souls who enjoy a simple, aged cheddar?  Or do you – like me – prefer warm brie on a gourmet cracker?  Perhaps you are a squeeze cheese enthusiast ( I won’t judge!) or a cheese gourmand who has a cheese monger on speed dial.  Any way you slice it, I want to know the best cheese you’ve eaten!

Note:  If you are lactose intolerant, or just don’t like cheese, no problem!  Just say something along the lines of “hello” and you’re good to go.


One entry per person, please.

Giveaway begins Monday November 5, 2012 and ends Thursday November 15, 2012 at 8 pm CST.

The winner will be chosen by and announced on Friday November 16, 2012.

Winner must email with their name and mailing address.

Note:  Giveaway sponsored by Penguin Group.  Thank you!




Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine

Here’s a great bubbly wine for Holiday fun!  The Biltmore Estate Blanc De Blancs is absolutely delicious!  

Everyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE sparkling wine!  So, it goes without saying that I was absolutely delighted when I received a bottle of the Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs to review for our Holiday Gift Guide.  This sparkling wine is priced just under $25 and would be perfect to give as a gift, to serve at your holiday parties, or to enjoy with your sweetie.  I decided to serve it at a small dinner party we hosted and it accompanied our appetizer course.  The Blanc de Blancs was crisp and the finish was clean and tart.  It had hints of green apples and pears.  This sparkling was so refreshing and really paired perfectly with the appetizers.  It would also be great paired with seafood or cheeses .  

This wine is a brut – which means it is slightly dry.  It has tons of tiny bubbles that we all have come to love in a sparkling wine.  Serve it well chilled – 40 to 45 degrees.  

I was surprised to learn that the Biltmore Winery is the most visited winery in the United States.  The Biltmore is located in North Carolina and approximately 600,000 visitors  stop by to sample their award winning wines each year.  The Biltmore Winery opened in 1985 as an extension of the Biltmore Estate.

 I toured the Biltmore Winery shortly after it opened.  It was delightful to view their bottling rooms, stroll through the cellars, and of course, taste their award winning wines.

Speaking of awards, the Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs took home a Gold Medal with 91 points at the Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition in May 2012.  This competition showcases the finest in domestic and international wines.

You can visit their website by clicking here,  Biltmore Estate Winery.  There you can learn more about all of their wines, locate a retailer near you, or order their wines online.

I plan on having several bottles of this bubbly on hand to enjoy during the holiday season.  

To view the Video review of the Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs, click here:  Biltmore Blanc de Blancs Video Review.


I received a bottle of the Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other manner.  The opinions expressed above are my true and honest opinions.









Prime Rib with Herb Blend Crust and Horseradish Sauce

Prime Rib with Herb Crust and Horseradish Sauce is delicious and impressive.  I love to serve this for dinner parties or special family occasions.  Have your butcher cut the prime rib roast for you.  I always bake at least a 5 pound roast.  You can allow 1/2 pound per person when ordering the roast.  If you would like to serve wine with this dinner, The Velvet Palate recommends  Cicchitti – a Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina.  (Tasting Notes)

To view the YouTube step by step tutorial video for this recipe, click here:  Prime Rib with Herb Blend Crust and Horseradish Sauce

Prime Rib with Herb Blend Crust and Horseradish Sauce
Serves: 8 to 10
  • 5 to 6 pound boneless prime rib roast ( or larger)
  • ½ cup Kosher or Sea salt
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoon parsley
  • ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup dried rosemary
  • ¼ cup dried red chilis
  • 2 tablespoons coarse black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • olive oil to rub on roast
  • Horseradish sauce: Sour cream and horseradish
  1. Blend the salt, lemon zest, parsley,sun dried tomatoes, rosemary,dried red chilis, black pepper, dry mustard, dried basil and vegetable oil together and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool. (Note: you can do this step a day or two ahead of time and store the herb blend in a zip lock bag)
  2. Let the prime rib roast come to room temperature and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Coat the roast with the Herb Blend.
  4. Place in a 450 degree oven and bake prime rib for ½ hour then turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Roast for 15 minutes per pound.
  5. It will be perfectly medium rare at the end of the cooking time.
  6. To make the horseradish sauce, combine 1 cup of sour cream with 3 to 5 tablespoons of horseradish. Serve with the prime rib.

Combine the salt, lemon zest, parsley, sun dried tomatoes, rosemary, red chilis, pepper, dry mustard, dreid basil and vegetable oil in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Let cool.

Baked herb blend…..

Let the prime rib come to room temperature and place in roasting pan.

Drizzle with olive oil and pat the herb blend on the roast.

Ready for the oven…..

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Bake prime rib for 1/2 hour and then turn the oven down to 325 degrees.  Roast for 15 minutes per pound.  The roast will be perfectly cooked to medium rare.

To make the horseradish sauce, combine 1 cup of sour cream and 3 to 5 tablespoons of horseradish.  Serve with the prime rib.


Enjoy this prime rib with a wonderful dry red wine.

Welcome Fall

It’s that time of year again and what better way to say “Welcome !” than with mums and pumpkins decorating your front door entrance for fall!  Let’s welcome friends and family into our homes with some of these great and super easy  fall entertaining ideas:  

Try a baked potato bar.    Just follow my step by step directions for Perfect Baked Potatoes Click here.   Your company can custom make their spuds adding their favorite toppings.  Some of my suggestions are cheese sauce, taco meat, chili, shredded cheeses, bacon bits, jalapeno peppers, butter, sour cream, salt and pepper.

Have a salad buffet.  Guests can bring various fruit, pasta or veggie salads and you can provide the Iced tea.  Why not try Southern Peach Tea or Southern Sweet Tea.

Host a Chili Cook Off:  Ask your guests to bring their favorite chili.  You provide the crackers and condiments and drinks.  Everyone can sample all of the chili and vote for favorites!  Or, you can cook my super easy chili recipe, (Click here for the recipe) and your guests can bring various desserts.

Invite friends to join in the fun of a dessert buffet. Everyone can bring a dessert – an assortment of cookies, pies and cakes – and you can provide the coffee, hot cocoa or flavored teas.  I can guarantee lots of happy guests with this party!

Doughnuts and Cider Bash:  Serve hot spiced cider and doughnuts.  You can buy and assortment of doughnuts at the bakery or make my quick Cinnamon Doughnut Puffs.  Click here for that easy recipe:  Cinnamon Doughnut Puffs.

Wine and Cheese Party:  Make a quick cheese tray or an easy cheese ball and serve lots of crackers for tasting.  Try my easy Cheese Ball  – Click here for the recipe. Offer a red wine and a white wine.  Here’s a fun idea on serving the white wine:  Hollow out a pumpkin, line it with plastic wrap, and fill it with ice.  This will hold one or two bottles of white wine and is easy, easy easy!  Just prop the lid of the pumpkin up next to it.

These are just a few ideas to get you started.  Entertaining friends in your home doesn’t have to be difficult.  It’s really all about the special times you can create by bringing people together in your home.

Let’s make life special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!  






Make Life Special
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Phone: 217-556-8297 Website: