Easy Balsamic Fig Salad

Balsamic Fig Salad

Balsamic Fig Salad

Here is a simple, healthy salad that everyone will love!

Fresh, easy and pretty enough for company, this Balsamic Fig Salad  can be tossed together in no time.  I like to assemble the greens on individual glass plates and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time.  This pretty salad takes advantage of fresh strawberries and can be easily varied to include other fresh fruits such as diced apples or fresh blueberries for a color explosion on your plate.

I topped the greens and strawberries with the Chocolate Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette from Dove Chocolate Discoveries.  This dressing can be ordered online and shipped right to your door.  I think the chocolate and fig combination is a delightful flavor combination.   You could also top it with bottled Poppy Seed Dressing or another bottled balsamic dressing.  If you want to expand the recipe, add a cheese such as crumbled feta, Gorgonzola, Blue Cheese or crumbled goat cheese.

Balsamic Fig Salad
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Salad
  • 1 bag spring mix salad greens
  • fresh strawberries, sliced (or blueberries or diced apples)
  • Chocolate Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette from Dove Chocolate Discoveries OR other bottled Balsamic Dressing OR bottled Poppy Seed Dressing
  1. Arrange the salad greens on a salad plate. Top with sliced fresh strawberries. Drizzle with salad dressing.

Rinse the the lettuce greens in a colander and dry on paper towels before assembling.  You can get creative and vary the fruit, add crumbled cheese or even add toasted nuts to the mix. Just remember that you can assemble this recipe ahead of time and avoid any last minute rush at mealtime.

Balsamic Fig Salad

Sometimes the simple things are the best….and this is a super simple recipe that will round out any meal.



Mexican Ceviche

Mexican Ceviche

Mexican Ceviche

Mexican Ceviche is out of this world!  It is usually served as an appetizer with tortilla chips but I think it would also be lovely served as a main dish salad on lettuce leaves.  I just returned from a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and while I was there, I had the opportunity to take a Mexican Cooking Class.  This is a popular method of “cooking” fish and shellfish in Mexico by marinating it in either lemon or lime juice.  Mexican Ceviche is a very popular appetizer served everywhere in Mexico and it is gaining popularity here as well.  I have to admit that I did not think I would like Ceviche because I have tried Sushi many times and I just don’t like it.  However, Ceviche is totally different both in taste and texture.  It is quick to make, only has a few ingredients and makes a perfect addition to your next party!  Here is how we made it:

Mexican Ceviche
Prep time
Total time
Here is a quick and easy appetizer straight from Cabo San Lucas!
Recipe type: appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
  • 4 fresh shrimp, cleaned, shelled and de-veined, and finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh tomato
  • ⅛ cup chopped fresh cucumber (peeled)
  • ⅛ cup chopped red onion
  • ⅛ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh chopped jalapeno pepper
  1. Clean, shell and de-vein 4 large shrimp. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with 4 tablespoons of lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Add ¼ cup chopped tomatoes, ⅛ cup peeled and chopped fresh cucumber, ⅛ cup chopped fresh cilantro, ⅛ cup chopped red onion and 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh chopped jalapeno pepper (to taste).
  3. Marinate no longer than 30 minutes.

Villa del Arco Chef in Cabo

Villa del Arco Chef in Cabo

Here is the chef at Villa del Arco preparing for the Mexican Cooking Class.

Vickie and Jodi Weber…..ready for the cooking class

Vickie and Jodi at Cabo Cooking Class 2

Clean, peel and de-vein 4 fresh shrimp.

Cabo Cooking Class 4


Chop the shrimp and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons of lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Cabo Cooking Class 8



Add chopped tomato, chopped peeled cucumber, chopped red onion and chopped fresh cilantro.

Cabo Cooking Class 12

Add chopped jalapeno to taste…

Cabo Cooking Class 13

Mexican Ceviche!

Mexican Ceviche!

Mexican Ceviche!

I would love to serve this as a first course for a dinner party — in martini glasses!

Here is a sampling of some of the other great appetizers we enjoyed on our trip:

Food at Wine Tasting 1 Food at wine Tasting 2


Remember, let’s share great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy! 





Bed and Breakfasts Review At Home In The Woods

Do you love to stay in Bed and Breakfasts?

I enjoy staying at bed and breakfasts and we have discovered a real “jewel” called At Home In The Woods in Chesterton, Indiana.  (Phone 219-728-1325)  Bed and Breakfasts offer the traveler many unique experiences, all of the comforts of home, great food and new friendships.  This inn is located in Northwest Indiana and is secluded – yet convenient to so much. It’s only 45 miles from Chicago and offers 4 wooded acres for guests to explore nature and beautiful scenery.  You can visit their website by clicking here

At Home In The Woods 

The innkeepers, Scott and Victoria Phillips, share a passion for cooking and that is what influenced our decision to stay at the inn.  Victoria serves fresh-from-the-garden fruits and berries and transforms them into wonderful pastries, cobblers or parfaits; home-baked breads come warm from the oven; eggs become mouthwatering delights; and a variety of freshly brewed coffees and teas are yours for the asking.

At Home In The Woods, Chesterton, Indiana

At Home In The Woods, Chesterton, Indiana

We stayed at this inn last November when we traveled to Valparaiso, Indiana to meet our new West Highland Terrier puppy, Beau.  The inn’s  slogan is, “Where Every Season Is A Masterpiece” and we believe that is true.  The fall colors were spectacular when we visited there last November. I just returned from a short stay at the inn this week and the summer gardens on the property were spectacular!

For “foodies” like me, Victoria offers cooking classes.  Last fall I took a cooking class on making jams and jellies with wine. This visit included a class on appetizers.  I’ll be sharing those delicious recipes with you over the next few days.  You can check out her cooking classes and other packages they offer here

At Home In The Woods Cooking Classes  

At Home In The Woods offers three well appointed guest rooms with private baths and fireplaces. The rooms are inspired by three National Parks and are comfortable retreats for the traveler.  We stayed in The Smokey Mountain Suite last fall and it was like a cozy cabin in the mountains.  The hot tub was just steps away on the deck outside our room.  I stayed in The Rocky Mountain Room this week and enjoyed the corner whirlpool tub, complete with a wall of river rock, and the spectacular woodland views.

All Bed and Breakfasts serve breakfast but this inn pays particular attention to presentation and detail.  Breakfast is served on a table graced with linens, stemware, china and seasonal decor.  You may be surprised by little antique bunny salt and pepper shakers on the table or fresh flower garnishes tucked here and there on your plate.  You’ll be treated to delicious hot breakfast casseroles, pastries, yogurt parfaits, fresh fruits, gourmet cheeses and other culinary delights from Victoria’s kitchen.

Breakfast Table "At Home In The Woods"

Breakfast Table “At Home In The Woods”

Breakfast may also be served on the deck which offers a view of the wooded acreage and the pool.

Breakfast On The Deck

Breakfast On The Deck

Victoria and Scott also have a gift nook at the inn which features many of Victoria’s culinary creations such as

  • Sweet Cherry Jam
  • Triple Berry Jam
  • Merlot Wine Jelly
  • Pinot Noir Wine Jelly
  • Peach Melba Jam
  • Blueberry Jam
  • Homemade Salsa

The gift nook also has handmade soaps in luscious scents such as Apple Cinnamon, Green Apple, Lavender Chamomile and Cinnamon and Cinnamon Oatmeal.  You can also find marble cheese boards, Victoria’s handmade gourd birdhouses and the “At Home In The Woods Cookbook” which features tons of yummy recipes!

When you visit this unique inn, prepare to be pampered and enjoy the host’s meticulous attention to every detail.  Tell them a mutual friend sent you!   Enjoy!

Walk To Front Door

Walk To Front Door

Garden Path

Garden Path

 Bed and Breakfasts Worth Visiting

 At Home In The Woods

898 N 350 E

Chesterton, IN  46304-9405

Phone:  219-728-1325

INFO@AtHomeInThe WoodsBB.com





Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal

Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal

Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal

Looking for some easy Crock Pot recipes for breakfast?

Check out my Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal!

We entertain a lot in our home and we often have overnight guests.  I’m always looking for easy breakfast recipes that I can make the night before and this one is terrific!  I set up a breakfast bar where guests can serve themselves.  I usually set out maple syrup, brown sugar, blueberries, strawberries or other toppers and let everyone make their own “special” oatmeal.

Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal
This easy recipe for Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal is great for a breakfast bar. Just set out maple syrup, brown sugar, blueberries, strawberries or other toppers and let everyone make their own "special" oatmeal.
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 6
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 6 cups water
  • cinnamon
  • chopped apples or other fruit
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Butter the crock pot. (I sue the 2 quart insert of my crock pot for this recipe)
  2. Add the oats and water.
  3. Stir in the chopped apples.
  4. Sprinkled with cinnamon.
  5. Dot with 2 tablespoons of butter.
  6. Cover and cook on low overnight.....this will be ready in the morning!

Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal Ingredients

Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal Ingredients

I like to add diced apples or dried cranberries when I add the water and oats.  If you want to add blueberries or raisins, add them in the morning…..or set them out as options on your Oatmeal Breakfast Bar Buffet!

Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal with Chopped Apples

Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal with Chopped Apples

Here is what the Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal looks like in the morning……..

Crock Pot Oatmeal Cooked

This is also a terrific recipe to use once the kids go back to school.  Mornings are always so rushed and this recipe is ready when you are!  Try spooning this into paper cups and the kids can eat this on the run!  It’s a great way to make sure everyone starts their day with a healthy breakfast!




Baby Shower Ideas

Baby Shower Ideas

Baby Shower Ideas

Looking for some fun baby shower ideas?

What could be cuter than this baby in a fruit bassinet! This is a creative way to serve a fruit salad and it makes a great centerpiece too!  This will also go with any baby shower theme you choose.

Here are some tips for carving this spectacular centerpiece for a baby shower:

  •  Start with a watermelon that is at room temperature.  It will be much easier for you to carve a melon that is not “sweating”.
  • Cut a thin slice from the bottom of the watermelon to provide a stable base.
  • Draw the outline for the bassinet on the water melon, using the picture above as a guide.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut out the design on the watermelon.  Cut all the way through the rind.
  • Remove the sections of the rind and hollow out the bassinet.
  • Use a melon-baller  tool to cut watermelon balls for the fruit salad.
  • Peel a cantaloupe to make the baby’s head.
  • Fill the baby bassinet with fruit salad and enjoy!


Summer Recipes …And The Livin’ Is Easy!


 Summer recipes that are quick and easy help us enjoy sharing great food with our family and friends!

Summer is in full swing and everyone is looking for easy summer recipes!  I can’t wait to share the new recipes I’ve been cooking for the blog and YouTube channel!  The bouquet above is from my flower garden and if you remember last summer, I shared the success secret for garnishing your food creations with fresh flowers…. “Edible Flowers for Garnishing”  Be sure to check out those tips!

Here is a preview of upcoming summer recipes that I’ll be sharing over the next few weeks:

  • Easy 7-Up Biscuits
  • Bananas Foster….It’s a real WOW!
  • Vickie’s Almost Famous Bloomin’ Onion
  • Baby Shower Ideas
  • Crock Pot Overnight Oatmeal
  • Easy Skillet Green Beans
  • Flower Petal Ice Cubes
  • Summertime Lemonade……Plus more!!!!

Many of you have probably been wondering why I have not been posting recipes lately.  Well, when my youngest daughter, Kacy, left home to do an internship in Cancun , I decided that I needed to:

1) Get a job and

2) Be around teenagers

I checked the job board and there was a teaching position open in my immediate area.  I applied for the position…and they hired me. I thought I would be able to blog and teach….but my first year back in the teaching arena proved to be a FULL TIME job!  I loved every minute of it and I can’t wait for school to start again in the fall and now I think it will be possible for me to keep up with my classroom work, blogging and my YouTube channel.  I must say, I have missed my Make Life Special work.

So…on with Make Life Special!  Let’s continue our journey …let’s enjoy some easy summer recipes and  share great food with our family and friends!

Summer Bouquet 2





Deviled Easter Egg Chicks Deviled Egg Recipe

Cute Little Easter Egg Chicks are a Creative Deviled Egg Recipe!

Here is a deviled egg recipe that’s sure to bring ooohs and ahhhs from everyone at your Easter dinner!   Two  of my readers sent me this cute idea – Deviled Easter Egg Chicks! 

Deviled Easter Chicks

Here are the success secrets for making this great deviled egg recipe for the Easter holiday …or for any springtime brunch, lunch or family gathering.

  • Hard boil eggs and peel
  • Here’s a “Make Life Special” Extra:  If you would like to have the chicks different colors, dip the peeled eggs into a mixture of 1/2 cup water and some  food coloring.  Immerse the eggs, one at a time, into the dye mixture for a few seconds or until the desired color is reached. Dry each colored egg on a paper towel.
  • If you want the chicks to stand alone on a plate, cut a thin straight slice from the wider bottom end of each egg so the egg will stand straight.  You don’t have to do this step if you want to nestle the chicks on a plate with “grass” made from shredded lettuce or spinach as shown in the photo.
  • With a sharp knife, cut the top third off each egg and remove the yolk.  Mash the yolks in a bowl and make your favorite deviled egg recipe.
  • Refill the larger bottom portion of each egg ( using a small spoon or a small zip lock bag with a corner snipped off).  Mound the the  top of  the filling and cap with the top egg portions.
  • Add a tiny triangle of carrot to each egg for the beak.  Use bits of black olives or capers for the eyes.
  • You can also insert a sprig of fresh dill into the top cap for a tuft of feathers, if desired.
  • Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.  

These are absolutely adorable deviled eggs….Remember, “Let’s make life special by sharing great food with our family and friends….Enjoy!”


Honey Bunnies Are an Easy Bread Recipe!

Here’s an easy bread recipe!

My friend, Jennifer, shared these Honey Bunnies with me and I had to include them in the blog. They are so cute and easy!

Honey Bunnies

These cute little Honey Bunny Rolls start with a package of Rhodes Warm-N-Serve Soft Dinner Rolls.  Note:    You will have to partially thaw the rolls in order to cut the bunny ears.  

I’m also including a variation for Cinna Bunnies … They would be a great addition to an Easter breakfast or brunch!

Rhodes Heat and Serve Dinner Rolls 

Honey Bunnies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • Rhodes Warm-N-Serve Soft Dinner Rolls
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup butter
  1. Partially thaw dinner rolls.
  2. Using kitchen scissors, cut the bunny ears into the rolls as shown.
  3. Using a wooden skewer, make two eyes in the rolls.
  4. Bake as directed on package at 325 degrees for 12 minutes.
  5. While the rolls are baking, heat the butter and honey in a pan.
  6. When the rolls come out of the oven, brush the Honey Bunnies with the honey and butter mixture.
  7. Enjoy!

Cinna Bunnies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • Rhodes Warm-N-Serve Soft Dinner Rolls
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk, chilled
  • ½ teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Partially thaw the dinner rolls.
  2. Using kitchen scissors, cut the bunny ears into each dinner roll.
  3. Using a wooden skewer, make the eyes in each roll.
  4. Bake as directed on package, 12 minutes at 325 degrees.
  5. While the bunny rolls are baking, combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  6. Brush the cinnamon butter liberally on the hot rolls when they come out of the oven.
  7. Serve additional Cinnamon Butter with the warm rolls.

You may want to also try this easy bread recipe:

Vickie’s French Onion Drop Biscuits


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


Easter Egg Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie Treats have been enjoyed by kids and adults alike for as long as I can remember.  

With Easter just around the corner, here is a great idea for Easter Egg Rice Krispie Treats.  This was submitted to Make Life Special by one of our readers.  Thanks for the great idea!

Easter Egg Rice Krispie Treats


The recipe for Rice Krispy Treats is quick to make and only has three main ingredients:  butter,marshmallows and Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal.  You can print out the basic recipe here:  Rice Krispie Treats Recipe

Here are some Success Secrets for making these adorable Easter Egg Treats:

  • Use plastic snap-apart Easter eggs
  • Coat the inside of the plastic eggs with cooking spray.
  • Make the Rice Krispie Treats recipe.  I like to make this in the microwave.  The microwave makes this so quick and easy!  Just heat the butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Add the cereal to the hot mixture and stir until well coated.  EASY EASY!
  • Be sure to grease your hands before you start filling the eggs with the mixture.  This is very important!
  • Firmly press the mixture into each plastic egg half.  Use your fingers to make a hollow center in each half.  Then remove from the molds and place on wax paper to cool slightly.
  • Place candy surprises into one half and gently press the two halves of the eggs together until they stick.
  • You can decorate the outside of the eggs with frosting, if desired.  Get creative and use bright colored icing!  You can make ziz-zags around the eggs….lines in several colors…..polka dots….whatever you like!
  • Place these in a bright Easter basket and prepare to get lots of compliments


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



Make This Jamaican Me Crazy BBQ Rib Recipe!

With a sweet and spicy sauce, this BBQ rib recipe is a hit!  

You’ll need just 10 minutes to get this BBQ rib recipe into the crock pot for slow all-day cooking.  The end result is sweet and spicy “Jamaican-Style” ribs that fall off of the bone.  Tender….Juicy…What could be better?  This is a great recipe for any time of year.  Serve it in the summer with potato salad on the patio or in the fall and winter with hearty baked beans and a baked potato bar.  

Jamaican Me Crazy Ribs


Jamaican Me Crazy BBQ Rib Recipe
Serves: 5
  • 2 racks of pork ribs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup Caribbean Jerk Seasoning
  • 2 bottles Kraft Honey BBQ Sauce ( 18 oz. each)
  • 4 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  1. Cut the ribs into serving size pieces. ( I use kitchen scissors)
  2. Drizzle with oil and rub with the jerk seasoning.
  3. Place ribs in 5 or 6 quart slow cooker.
  4. Combine the remaining ingredients; pour over the ribs.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until the meat is tender.

Jamaican Me Crazy Rib Ingredients

Use kitchen scissors to cut the ribs into serving size pieces.

Cut Ribs With Scissors


Drizzle with olive oil and rub with the jerk seasoning.

Coat Ribs With Olive Oil and Jerk Seasoning

Place in a 5 or 6 quart crock pot.  Combine the remaining ingredients for the sauce.  I like to use Kraft Honey BBQ Sauce for this recipe.  It gives just the right amount of sweetness combined with the spicy Jerk Seasoning.  McCormick makes a great Caribbean Jerk Seasoning.

Pour the sauce over the ribs.

Pour Sauce Over Ribs

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until the meat is tender.


Serve Ribs with Wine

If you like Pulled Pork, be sure to try my Prize-Winning Pulled Pork Recipe!

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

Make Life Special
2 Cypress Rd Litchfield, IL 62056 US
Phone: 217-556-8297 Website: http://www.makelifespecial.com