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.



Salsa Black Beans Recipe

black beans recipe

Salsa Black Beans

There Is a Lot To Be Said For Easy!  My Salsa Black Beans Recipe is Super Easy!

Everyone is so busy….who has time for long, complicated recipes?  Not me!  That’s why I feature easy and creative recipes for BUSY people on Make Life Special!  I know what it’s like to have a full time job, raise kids, go to softball games, basketball games, scout meetings, committee meetings, juggle the household chores, pay the bills, grocery shop, be the fix it person…and generally try to make everything alright for everyone in your family!  With your time at a premium, you need easy recipes that are great tasting.  

Try my Salsa Black Beans Recipe With Your Next Mexican Dinner!

This black beans recipe uses the convenience of canned black beans and canned salsa for a surprisingly easy and tasty side dish.  No one ever guesses how easy this is!

Salsa Black Beans Recipe
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Total time
You can vary the flavor by using mild, medium or hot salsa. You be the judge!
Recipe type: Side dish
Serves: 6
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 to 1½ cups salsa
  1. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and heat.
  2. Enjoy!


black beans recipe

Salsa Black Beans Recipe Ingredients

 You can vary the flavor of this recipe by using either mild, medium or hot salsa.  My family prefers the taste of medium salsa but you be the judge!

Black beans are a great source of protein and fiber.  This means that they will satisfy your hunger and keep you filling full and energized for hours.  Not only that….they taste good!  This Salsa Black Beans recipe is a perfect side dish for your next Mexican meal but it is also good served alongside any meat.  I like to serve this with roasted pork tenderloin, grilled chicken, pork chops or grilled hamburgers.  Once your family tastes this, you will be making it often.  And, this is also a very economical dish to make.  It is easy on your budget and great for you too!  Ole!


Onion Roasted Potatoes

Potato Recipes

Onion Roasted Potatoes

Every BUSY cook needs easy potato recipes!  

My recipe for Onion Roasted Potatoes is simple to make!  You just throw together the three ingredients and bake for only 30 minutes!  We are grilling steaks tonight so I’m making Onion Roasted Potatoes as a side dish.  Onion Roasted Potatoes are a snap to make because you don’t even peel the potatoes.  Just diced them up, toss with a little olive oil and a packet of Dried Onion Soup Mix and these are ready for the oven!

Onion Roasted Potatoes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
  • 4 medium potatoes, diced with the skins left on
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and pour into a greased casserole dish.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes


potato recipes


Just dice, combine and bake!  Easy…Easy!!

Here are the Onion Roasted Potatoes hot out of the oven.

Onion Roasted Potatoes Hot Out Of The Oven

Onion Roasted Potatoes Hot Out Of The Oven

And now for a few nutrition facts about potatoes.  Did you know that one medium potato has only 110 calories?  A medium potato is fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free.  A medium potato has 45% of our daily value for Vitamin C.  In addition to all of that, the skin has lots of good for you fiber. Baking and roasting are healthy ways to cook potatoes.  

You might also want to check out my Perfect Baked Potatoes Recipe with Baked Potato Bar.  It’s a great choice for entertaining because your guests just assemble their own loaded baked potatoes!  And don’t forget Potato Smashers!    They are like potato skins…loaded with lots of crisp bacon and sharp cheddar cheese…YUMMY! 

 What are your favorite potato recipes?




Southern Corn Fritters

Corn Fritters With Southern Flair

Southern Corn Fritters

Get set for these Southern Corn Fritters drizzled with honey!

I just returned from Charlotte, North Carolina where I did a TV appearance and made my Pina Colada Dip and a Pineapple Palm Tree.  I also was able to squeeze in a short visit with some old friends of mine who live in Greenville South Carolina.  You all know I LOVE the South.  My Mom was from the South and I always enjoy sharing my Southern recipes!  I saw this when I was in South Carolina and I had to share it with you:











Hope you enjoy my recipe for Southern Corn Fritters! 

Whether you serve these as an appetizer or along with your meal, these old-time Southern Corn Fritters are sure to bring a smile to your face.  The batter has 7 ingredients including corn muffin mix which makes these quick and easy to whip up.  


Southern Corn Fritters Ingedients

Southern Corn Fritters Ingredients

Southern Corn Fritters
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Get set for these Southern Corn Fritters drizzled with honey! You can serve these as an appetizer or along with your meal.
Serves: 6
  • 8.5 oz box Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup corn
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Honey for serving
  1. Whisk together the corn muffin mix and flour in a bowl.
  2. Whisk the ½ cup milk, 1 egg and ½ stick melted butter in another bowl. Stir this mixture into the corn muffin mix and flour.
  3. Stir in 1 cup of corn and ½ cup chopped green onions.
  4. Drop by tablespoonfuls into 2 inches of 365 degree vegetable oil and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  5. Serve drizzled with honey for a real Southern treat!

Southern Corn Fritters are so easy to mix up!  Just combine the corn muffin mix and the flour in one bowl.  Then combine the milk, egg and melted butter in another bowl.  Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir.  Stir in the corn and chopped green onions.

Adding onion to Southern Corn Fritters

Give it an easy stir to combine and you are ready to start frying these tasty morsels up!

Mixing up Southern Corn Fritters

Heat the oil to 365 degrees.  I use a candy/frying thermometer to make sure the oil stays at the right temperature.  

Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.

Drop by Tablespoonfuls into hot oil

Frying the Southern Corn Fritters

Frying the Southern Corn Fritters

Video: Southern Corn Fritters

Get set for these Southern Corn Fritters drizzled with honey! Great served as an appetizer or a side dish.









Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing

Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing

Spinach Salad with Creamy Raspberry Dressing

Give this lovely spinach salad a quick toss and you are ready to enjoy this delicious any-time salad!

This bright and beautiful spinach salad combines baby spinach, mandarin oranges, chopped red onions, Gorgonzola cheese and nuts to make a delicious feast for your eyes and your palate.  Top it off with a creamy raspberry dressing and you have one delicious  salad!  This is not what I consider to be the traditional spinach salad recipe.  I’ll be sharing my traditional recipe in another post.  That recipe features spinach along with hard boiled eggs and crumbled bacon with a homemade dressing on top.  But this variation is certainly delicious.  It’s a beautiful and colorful salad too.  You can enjoy this salad any time of the year because all of the ingredients are available year around.  

The ingredients are simple:

  • Baby Spinach
  • Canned Mandarin Oranges ( drained)
  • Chopped Red Onion
  • 1 Container Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Walnuts
  • Creamy Raspberry Dressing (purchased)
Spinach Salad Ingredients



Now for a word about the Gorgonzola cheese.  I don’t normally like Gorgonzola cheese or Blue cheese.  However, I find that the raspberry dressing and the mandarin oranges really complement the Gorgonzola cheese and it has a very mild flavor in this recipe.  I would recommend trying it with the Gorgonzola cheese and see what you think.  You could also  substitute crumbled feta or goat cheese . 

Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing
Prep time
Total time
This bright and beautiful spinach salad combines baby spinach, mandarin oranges, red onion, Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts to make a delicious feast for your eyes and your palate. Top it off with creamy raspberry dressing and you have one delicious spinach salad!
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 6
  • 1 bag Baby spinach
  • 1 can Mandarin oranges
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 container Gorgonzola cheese
  • Walnuts
  • Creamy Raspberry Dressing ( purchased)
  1. Toss all of the ingredients and serve.

I like to use a large glass bowl for this salad because it really showcases the bright colors in this salad.

Combine Spinach Salad Ingredients

Adding  Ingredients

Gorgonzola Cheese and Spinach Salad

Sprinkle Gorgonzola Cheese on Salad

Top the Spinach Salad with Nuts

Top Spinach Salad with Nuts

Top Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing

Drizzle Raspberry Dressing on Spinach Salad


Toss Spinach Salad Ingredients Together

Toss Spinach Salad Ingredients

Video: Vickie’s Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing

Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing is a bright and colorful salad you can enjoy any time of year






Crock Pot Recipe for Vegetables …Easy!

Looking For an Easy Crock Pot Recipe for Vegetables ???

Crock Pot Roasted Vegetables

I love oven roasted vegetables and now I’m going to show you how to make an easy crockpot recipe for roasted vegetables.  The secret ingredient is one packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix.  

Here is the Crockpot Recipe for Roasted Vegetables

Crock Pot Roasted Veggies
  • 6 cups fresh vegetables ( broccoli, baby carrots, cauliflower, etc)
  • 1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
  • ¼ cup water
  1. Spray the crock pot with cooking spray. (I used my 2 quart insert)
  2. Wash and trim the vegetables and put them into the crock pot.
  3. Sprinkle with the dry ranch salad dressing mix
  4. sprinkle with the water.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 2½ to 3 hours.

You can watch my Video Tutorial for this easy crockpot recipe here:


Here are the ingredients for this easy crockpot recipe…Only 2 main ingredients…Easy!

Crock Pot Roasted Vegetables Ingredients


You can use any combination of fresh vegetables that you like.I like the combination of broccoli, carrots and cauliflower.  

Fresh Vegetables for Crock Pot Roasted Vegetables

Add all of the vegetables to the crock pot.  Sprinkle with the dry mix.  Sprinkle the water over all.  Stir, cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

There are many advantages of crockpot cooking.

  1. Crockpot cooking is convenient!  Crockpot recipes allow you to throw everything in the crockpot in the morning and come home to a delicious home cooked meal in the evening.
  2. A crockpot does not heat up the kitchen the way the oven does and that is especially important during the hot summer months.
  3. Crockpots are portable so they are great to take to potlucks and parties.  Just plug the crockpot in when you get there and it will keep the food warm for hours!

What would be your favorite vegetables for this easy crockpot recipe?  Share your ideas in the comments section below. 

Be Sure to Try These Other Make Life Special Crockpot Recipes!

Vickie’s Mom’s Sunday Pot Roast Dinner

Cooker Chops – Great for Easy Entertaining!

Vickie’s Italian Beef Recipe

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



Video: Crock Pot Roasted Veggies

Crock Pot Roasted Veggies are quick, easy and healthy!

Vickie’s Creamed Green Peas Recipe

Creamed Peas

Looking for a green peas recipe that your family will like? Try my Creamed Green Peas Recipe for a change of pace!

Here’s my easy side dish for  Creamed Green Peas Recipe…and it’s quick to make.  Sometimes all cooks get stuck in a rut and tend to make the same vegetables over and over again.  Change things up and try new ways with vegetables for some creative side dishes.  By adding chopped onion and whipping cream ( or heavy cream) to frozen peas, you will create a great side dish for any meal.  Fresh green peas – right out of the garden are a terrific and delicious spring and early summer vegetable.  You can certainly substitute fresh green peas in this recipe but the recipe uses frozen green peas so you can make this year around.

I remember my Mom always telling me to eat my peas.  She must have known what a powerhouse of health benefits green peas boast. They have twice the protein of most vegetables and they are chock-full of nutrients and are low in calories.

This recipe is also a Make Life Special easy recipe because it only has THREE main ingredients and they are all readily available in your local grocery store. My family loves Creamed Peas and here is how I make them:

Vickie's Creamed Peas
Serves: 4
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cups frozen peas, partially thawed
  • ¼ cup whipping ( heavy) cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat butter and oil in a skillet over low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes or until tender and golden.
  2. Add peas and cook about 15 minutes or until peas are tender.
  3. Add cream and cook 5 more minutes.
  4. Enjoy!

Creamed Peas Ingredients 

Cook onions until golden.

Cooked Onion for Creamed Peas


Add peas and cook until peas are tender…about 15 minutes.

Cooking Peas for Creamed Peas


Add cream and cook about 5 more minutes until the liquid thickens into a sauce.

Add cream to creamed peas


This is a great side dish to serve with chicken, pork or beef.  Remember…”Let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends.  Enjoy!”

Hickory Farms Features Vickies Baked Potato Bar Ideas

Baked Potato Bar

Looking for some baked potato bar ideas?

I recently posted  baked potato bar ideas and how to bake the perfect baked potato.  You can check out my post here:  Perfect Baked Potatoes and a Baked Potato Bar.  This is an easy way to entertain because your guests help themselves.  The baked potato bar is great any time of year.  It would be perfect at a BBQ on the patio or for a Super Bowl Party as suggested by Hickory Farms.  It is fun to combine different options on the baked potato bar – depending on the season.  Add piping hot chili as a topper in the cold winter months.  Add fresh chopped tomatoes or green onions when the garden is busting with fresh vegetables.  Hickory Farms suggested adding chopped summer sausage as a topper and I like that idea too.   There are really countless options..just use your imagination for creative flavor combinations. 

My recipe for the perfect baked potato is also easy.  You can bake as many potatoes as your oven will hold!  I love to add the sea salt or kosher salt to the outside of the potato skin before baking because it adds a nice salty flavor and some crunch to the potato.   And, potatoes are loaded with nutrition!   


Hickory Farms just featured our Make Life Special Baked Potato Bar ideas in their “Winning Super Bowl Party Foods” post.  In addition to the toppings I suggested, they added their chopped summer sausage — what a great idea!

Check out the Hickory Farms post on Super Bowl Party Foods for some great entertaining ideas:

Hickory Farms Winning Super Bowl Party Foods

Thank you Hickory Farms for the great shout out!

Remember, “Let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”



Robust Risotto

Risotto originated in Italy and is a rice dish that is cooked in broth to a creamy (dreamy!!)  consistency.  Risotto can be served as a first course – with some crusty bread – as we are doing  here.  As a first course, it is great paired with a Brut Champagne.  Check out this great pairing at Velvet Palate.

Risotto is typically cooked in a meat, fish or vegetable based broth.  This recipe uses chicken broth ( low sodium) .  Many types of Risotto contain Parmesan cheese, butter and onion.  This recipe uses Parmesan cheese, butter and shallots.  Then we ramp it up to robust by adding 1/4 pound diced asparagus, 1/4 pound sliced shiitake mushrooms and Prosciutto (which is a type of Italian bacon).

You have to use a high starch rice to make risotto and this recipe uses Arborio Rice.  This type of rice has the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch and so it is stickier than the long grain rice varieties.  

While there are many variations on Risotto, the basic preparation remains the same.  

  • The rice is first cooked in onion ( or shallots ) and butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat.  
  • Then, red or white wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains.  This recipe uses white wine.
  • When the wine is absorbed, the heat is raised to medium and very hot stock ( I used chicken stock in this recipe) is added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly ( this process is what creates the smooth creamy-textured liquid).  
  • At this point, it is removed from the heat and the finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible.  
  • This recipe adds the cooked asparagus and mushrooms at this point and is then topped with the scrumptious cooked prosciutto for a robust and over the top risotto!             

Robust Risotto
Serves: 4
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth, heated
  • 4 ounces diced prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¼ pound asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • ¼ pound sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1½ cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine, heated
  • 1 cup to 1½ cups shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Simmer the broht in a saucepan. Keep warm.
  2. Heat the wine in a separate saucepan and keep warm.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to large pan and heat. Saute the prosciutto for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. Add the asparagus and saute 2 minutes. As they begin to get tender, add the sliced mushroom and cook an additional 3 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is removed. ( do not include any of this liquid or the risotto will not be creamy!). Remove from skillet and set aside.
  5. Add the additional 1 tablesppon of olive oil to the skillet and sweat the shallots and garlic until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the DRY rice and saute until each grain is coated in oil.
  6. Deglaze the pan with the warm white wine and stir until completely absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Now, start adding the hot broth to the pan in ½ cup increments; simmer and stir frequently until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next, about 45 minutes total.
  8. Lastly, stir in the cooked asparagus, mushrooms and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt and pepper, top with cooked prosciutto.
  9. Enjoy!!

Be sure to check out Nicole’s Mushroom Risotto which is a more delicate risotto recipe with a creamy cheesy texture.

This Robust Risotto is a little more time consuming than my other Make Life Special recipes but I was requested to feature this recipe.  I think it is really worth the effort because the layers of flavors in this dish are outstanding.  This really is very easy to make.  Here are the how-to photos:



Crisply cooked Prosciutto ….


Heating the liquids….


Saute the asparagus and then add the mushrooms….


Ladle the broth into the rice…


Grate the cheese…


Ingredients ready to add to the Risotto mixture….


Risotto after it has absorbed all of the liquid…


Stir in the cheese, asparagus and mushrooms….

Risotto is great to serve as a first course with crusty bread or as a side dish with pork.

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


Home Style Hash Brown Casserole

Cheesy and delicious describes this home style hash brown casserole !  I think this is good as a side dish for dinner or breakfast.   This makes a large casserole so sometimes I just divide it in half and freeze half  to bake later.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Home Style Hash Brown Casserole
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Recipe type: Side Dish
  • 2 pounds chunk style (or Southern Style) frozen hash brown potatoes, partially thawed
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 can cheddar cheese soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 small onion, chopped ( or a handful of dried onion flakes)
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together.
  2. Pour into a greased 9 by 13 casserole baking dish.
  3. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.


2 pounds chunk style ( or Southern Style) frozen hash brown potatoes, partially thawed

16 ounces sour cream

1 stick butter, melted

1 can cheddar cheese soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 small onion, chopped  ( or a handful of dried onion flakes )

Mix all of the ingredients together.

Pour into a greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.  Enjoy!


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