I ♥ celebrations!

Friday, June 28, 2013
Who doesn't love to celebrate?! There's a plethora of reasons out there ~ Holidays, friends, family, getting your driver's license, getting your college degree, having kids, your friends having kids, summer solstice, the first snow (at least down here in the south we do)... I mean the list goes on! Some are free... & well, some not so much.
In my home there have been a million reasons to break out the balloons & bubbly! Kids finished their first year of school, my birthday & Mother's Day in the same weekend, anniversary, hub's birthday, Father's day...

Wait. I'm not done.

We leave this week for our annual beach trip that falls over my mom's birthday, 4th of July & my boys' birthday.

Ok. You can breathe again.
This post is to start the celebration of my little monsters' third birthday. Where did the time go? Aren't they supposed to be 6 months old? Yet, sometimes I look at them a they look so much older than 3. Or maybe I'm just feeling that much older?
I decided to go into this year with a "less is more" kind of mentality ~ i.e. No big party on the beach (at least I haven't planned on it, yet). But, we are having one big Mickey Mouse Milk & Cookies themed party at our house after the beach celebrating simmers down.
I have ordered a darling cake and themed cookies. I am making a shit ton of cookies, vintage milk bottles with paper straws, super huge balloons, banners, a bounce house, scavenger hunt.... and hot dogs of course, because you can't have a Mickey party without them. 
I have it all planned out ~ in my mind. I know the week after we get home from the beach I will be a hot mess scrambling to get everything just. right. But at least the invitations are out!

For the invitations I wanted something that I had never seen before. I wanted it to be a wow factor & keep your attention. And of course make them all myself. I like to get my hands dirty & do everything. This is a love/hate relationship I have going! 

I finally broke down & purchased a Cricut die~cutting machine. Thank the universe I did! It has saved me so much time. It cut the circles, the letters for the banner, Mickey silhouettes... it's amazing! 

I found the font for free online & went to town creating my own verbiage. I used a 5 3/4 inch envelope as my guideline & guesstimated on how big to cut the ears. Each ear is set in place using a brad. And on each ear you'll find your necessary information such as when, where, RSVP & other info about the party.
I had a great time creating these invitations & have received some amazing feedback from unexpected fans/guests! Let me know what you think.
I will absolutely post more on my adventures creating the perfect Mickey Mouse party & will give y'all all the details.

Have a wonderful 4th!!!


**All images, ideas & creations belong to me. If you'd like to share these invitations, please do! Just kindly give credit where credit is due**

colors of summer

Friday, May 31, 2013

Did everyone have a wonderful, warm, long weekend? We sure did here in Georgia! We played outside, had lunches & suppers on the patio, visited the Farmer's Market down at Piedmont Park & played with lady bugs all afternoon. Oh, & not to mention that the hubs was home for four straight days... whew! It was a pretty spectacular Memorial Day weekend!
Today I want to share a few photos from our weekend! It was picture perfect. Warm weather, sunny days, lazy days, sipping wine, grilling... that's my kinda way to start the summer! 

I want to end this simple post with a simple, yet delicious, strawberry dessert recipe from Willimas~Sonoma. So go & relax outside with a glass of wine & snuggle up with this beauty! 

Strawberries with Whipped Goat Cheese & Mint~Balsamic Glaze

6 oz. soft goat cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. minced fresh mint, plus finely shredded mint for garnish
About 1 lb. strawberries, halved or quartered

In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the cheese, cream, & 1/4 cup of the sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1/2 cup water & the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil until a syrup forms, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar & continue to boil until a glaze forms that thinly coats the back of a metal spoon, 1-2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat & stir in the minced mint.

To serve, divide the cheese mixture equally among 6 dessert plates or bowls. Spoon the strawberries alongside & drizzle them with the syrup. Garnish the cheese mixture with the shredded mint & serve at once. Serves 6.


soup {and all about it's bff's}

Friday, May 17, 2013
If there's one thing, OK two things, that I love just as much as photography {after my family, of course...}, it's cooking & yoga. Not necessarily in that order. All three can be very therapeutic for me. Depending, of course, on when I am doing them, who I am with & for how long... So many factors!
As of late my blog has been nothing BUT about cooking. It's what I do. I'm a home "chef". More often than not, a short~order cook for two tornadoes who are too opinionated at times. But, I love the thrill of making something new. Testing my limits of how far I will take a recipe into my own hands. I do this every week, but don't always get to share with you. It's work, work, work in the kitchen for me with no time to really slow down & photograph things, if my hubs isn't home. So please, sit tight & know that I haven't forgotten! Just a little busy.
Now that school is out & summer is in full swing, I am sure to have more kid friendly projects posted, photos from our adventures, & of course the ever so wanted DIY projects.
But, for now you get another recipe.

Oh & is it a goodie! And yes, it's another soup. I love soups. I'm not sure why. Maybe because they can be so versatile while using the same main ingredients. Hot or cold? Spicy or sweet? Thick or thin? Chunky or pureed? It's all up to the maker.
After our trip to Boulder I was on the hunt for a fennel soup recipe to mimic the one we had as a precursor to our magnificent dinner at Fracasa Food and Wine. I knew there was a touch of corriander & something in the onion family, like a leek. After searching & searching, I finally found this! I love Aran's blog Cannelle et Vanille. It is full of beautiful photography with equally incredible recipes. Her cookbook, Small Plates/Sweet Treats is Ah~mazing as well!
So, needless to say when I found her recipe I knew I was destined for success. The soup from Boulder did not have any hint of greens in there, but I was OK with adding it here. I have adapted this recipe a bit. Either because watercress is not in season just yet, I wanted a silkier soup, or because I needed a bigger punch of corriander. You can't go wrong with either recipe, I promise!

As for soup ~ I believe it's a pretty basic thing to make. And I was pleasantly surprised to find an article on Food 52 about the creation of soup {insert dramatic, deep voice}. Check it out. You can find the article here.
You start with your soup's bff. The spud &/or the onion. Any sort of onion you prefer will do. White, sweet, leek, shallot...

Then you choose your main character. My last soup recipe was a broccoli soup. Cruciferous, roots & greens is the way to go. Protein? Sure! Don't forget your stock/water & spices. The article gives a short & sweet "guideline" for what veggies with what spice. 
Have fun in the kitchen! 

Fennel, Potato & Arugula Soup {with a side of shrimp}
{pleasant day dreams} ~ slightly adapted form Cannelle et Vanille

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium leek, sliced
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium to large fennel bulb, diced
1 large russet potato, peeled & diced
1 1/4 teaspoon whole coriander, slightly crushed
3/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, freshly ground {makes 1/2 teaspoon ground}
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 extra large handful of arugula, pluse more for garnish
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, add an extra splash for a silkier soup
8 ounces pink shrimp, peeled & deveined (optional)

Heat a medium pot over medium~high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, leek, shallot, garlic, & fennel. Cook for 5 minutes until soft, but not browned. Add the potato, coriander, & fennel seeds. Stir & cook for another 5 minutes. Next, pour in your vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, cover & reduce heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes. Then toss in the arugula & cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the coconut milk. Puree the soup & adjust liquid if desired. Season with salt & pepper.
Heat a saute pan over medium~high heat. Toss the shrimp in the remaining olive oil & season with salt & pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.
Ladle your soup into bowls. Top with shrimp, arugula & a drizzle of your best extra~virgin olive oil.



Boulder, Colorado & fluer de sel cocoa brownies

Friday, April 26, 2013
This past weekend the hubs & I took a quiet, blissful, relaxing, much needed weekend getaway to Boulder, Colorado. I was in granola heaven! The people, the vibe, the open market, the food... oh my the food! A girl could get used to this. 
We had a quaint little picnic of sushi & Chia seed drinks where we sat in awe overlooking Boulder. Took a ride through Estes park. Stopped to watch a coyote being chased out by a herd of Mule Deer. Listened to the sounds of Boulder through it's wanna be singer/songwriters. The hubs even had a street artist/poet/college student create a sweet birthday/anniversary poem for just the two of us! There was also a lot of talk about our future "out west" & if it was possible.

We booked this trip several months ago planning to possibly move to Boulder, much to the dismay of my parents. But now, Charlotte, North Carolina is our future home. We both agreed, though, that we could see our little family living in Boulder in the next 5 years... Time will fly by, I'm sure of it.

Now for the ooey, gooey goodness that are these Fleur de Sel brownies. Once we arrived back home I dug deep into my fridge & ate beet salad after beet salad, salmon & drank tons of lemon water. I mean, traveling is hard enough on my body, not to mention all of the delicious food you stuff yourself with! Memorable meals of shrimp & grits {in Colorado of all places!}, poached calamari, proscuitto tagliatelle, cheese, wine.....  more wine.
I digress.
After cleansing my body of all that needed to be, I decided to bake. Not sure why really. I don't do this often. Probably not often enough. My kids love it when I do & as well as the hubs. So I'm thinking this will be an every other week "event". Gotta watch the waist line, right?
I wanted something chocolaty & squidgy after all of that "cleansing". Obviously this is not one of those "good for you" kinda ideas. Anything that calls for 10 tablespoons of butter & more than a cup of sugar is not your friend. But in moderation, she can be! Sort of like that friend you can only take small doses of... but you know you'll have a good time when you do!

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen's website & adapted it a bit to my liking. I used light brown sugar instead of white because the brown sugar holds moisture better than the latter. I also used Fleur de Sel instead of regular salt because this salt is powerful & I wanted an added punch. A little sprinkled ever so lightly on top just before baking and you're good to go... 

Also, make sure you have a glass of milk handy! This brownie will stick to the roof of your mouth it's just that squidgy.
And go ahead, lick the spoon! No one's looking.

Fleur de Sel Brownies
{adapted from smitten kitchen's best cocoa brownies }

9 to 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon heaping of Fleur de Sel, plus more for a bit of a sprinkle
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, & salt in a large heatproof bowl {such as Pyrex}&  set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir once in a while until the butter is melted & the mixture is smooth & hot. Remove the bowl from the pot & set aside until the mixture is just warm, not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one, mixing well. When the batter is thick & shiny, add the flour & stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes.
Spread evenly in the lined pan. Sprinkle a bit of the extra salt over the top. A little goes a long way.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist with batter. Let cool completely on a rack.
Lift up the ends of the parchment liner & transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
Store left overs in an airtight container.



rustic eggplant

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
I call this dish "rustic" for a few reasons.

1} It's homey & comforting right down to the soul.
2} Everything is roasted until it cannot stand anymore & then plopped on top of crunchy, toasty bread. Can't get anymore rustic than that.
3} And it's a "supper club" kinda meal. Everyone gathered around the table on a chilly night, good wine being passed around & a fire going. {I've got a creative imagination, huh?!}

That being said, I have offered this meal to anyone who has stepped foot in my house. We love this dish & it has become a staple here! And it's so versatile. It depends on my mood how much garlic I add or how many poblanos go in or who I'm serving it to. But, there is one this about this dish that will never change...

It is always better the next day.

If you can let that happen.

Rustic Eggplant
{pleasant day dreams}

Slightly adapted from Nigel Slater's Tender

2 eggplants, medium size
cherry tomatoes ~ scant 1 pint/two large handfuls
garlic ~ anywhere from 3 cloves to a whole bulb {I tend to go with at least 6}
2 red or orange bell peppers
2 or more large, mild chilies, such as poblanos {again, I use more! Sometimes 4}
8-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil {you may need a splash more if you add more veggies}
salt & pepper
toasted ciabatta for serving

Preheat oven to 400º.
Clean off all vegetables & dry.
Cut eggplants into thick slices, about 1/2 inch thick. Place them in a large, deep baking dish along with tomatoes. If tomatoes are on the larger side, cut in half.
Peel & crush garlic cloves with a chef's knife. Cut the peppers in half & remove all seeds. Then cut into thick strips. Usually into quarters for each half. Cut chilies into quarters & discard seeds. {If chilies are cut too thin, they will burn}. Add all of this to the dish along with thyme, oil & a generous seasoning of salt & pepper.
Toss all until glistening & mixed well.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, mixing again half way through, until everything is tender. I like to have a little char on the ends of some peppers & chilies. It caramelizes them & brings out a little more of their sweet flavors.
Serve hot with toasted ciabatta & enjoy!


Black rice & a quinoa cake

Friday, April 5, 2013

Black rice rocks! It's an incredible way to pack in antioxidants, fiber & vitamin E into your daily life. A little info for your lovely afternoon...

:: One spoonful of black-rice bran -- or 10 spoonfuls of cooked black rice -- contains the same amount of anthocyanin as a spoonful of fresh blueberries, according to a new study presented today at the American Chemical Society, in Boston.
Some antioxidants in black (and brown) rice are fat-soluble, while anthocyanins are water-soluble and can therefore reach different areas of the body, says Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania. ~ CNN ::

:: According to LSU, a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting antioxidants than a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar & more fiber & vitamin E antioxidants.
Found in dark blue, red and purple foods, certain antioxidants show promise for fighting heart disease, cancer, & other diseases. ~ Green Med Info ::

Isn't that incredible?! I love the flavor & texture alone, but the power punch this little grain has...?! Mind. Blown.
Needless to say I have been on a black rice kick as of late & love it! The texture is chewy with a bite. The flavor is subtle, but unlike any other rice. It also has fewer calories & carbs, but more protein, than white/brown rice.
The other recipe below is another staple in my home.  Grated sweet potato mixed with quinoa, made into a little fried patty, slathered with avocado... Home run! Next time I may try baking them for an even healthier meal.

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Cakes
{cannelle et vanille}

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup grated sweet potato
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs
1/3 cup, heaping, panko
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
thinly sliced radishes & green onions
freshly ground S&P

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add quinoa & 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir, reduce heat to medium low, cover with a lid, & cook for 20 minutes until quinoa has absorbed all the water & is tender. Set aside to cool.
Heat a medium saute pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil & cook the onions & garlic for 3 minutes. Add the grated sweet potato, 1/4 teaspoon salt, coriander, & black pepper. Cook for another 3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, panko, cheese, parsley, & chives. Add the cooled quinoa & sweet potato mixture. Stir to combine.
Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon 1/4 cup of the mixture & shape it into tightly packed round ball. Add a few cakes to the pan without overcrowding it. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, press down on the ball to make a round, flat sided cake. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden. Finish frying all the cakes. Drain them on paper towels if needed.
Serve the cakes while warm with a slather of avocado on top & the greens, radishes & onions. Sprinkle a little salt & pepper over salad if desired.

Black Rice & Blood Orange Salad
{pleasant day dreams}

1 cup black rice {I recommend Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice}
1 blood orange, segmented & juice reserved from membrane {love those blood oranges!}
handful of radishes
small fennel
1-2 tablespoon plain yogurt {does not need to be Greek}
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground S&P
thinly sliced green onions

Cook rice according to package. Set aside to cool.{Store leftovers in fridge. Trust me, you'll want it later!}
Wash fennel & radishes to remove any dirt. Using a sharp pairing knife, or mandolin, thinly slice the fennel & radishes.
Mix the yogurt, reserved orange juice, & a small glug of oil in a small bowl. Adjust taste with salt & pepper. If using Greek yogurt, you may want to add more oil to make the dressing a little thinner.
Place rice & a handful of arugula on plate & garnish with orange segments, fennel, radishes, green onions & avocado, if desired.

The best thing about these two dishes paired together? Ingredients overlap! That's a win~win for me...

Have a wonderful, sunny, & warm weekend!! If you have any ideas for more black rice recipes, let me know! I'm thinking instead of black bean taco making a black rice taco, heavy on the pico ~ hmmmmm.......


a little easter love

Friday, March 29, 2013
My boys have found two new friends. They've told me so, "That's my fwreynd, MAH~mie!" They love playing with their new friends every time we get together as a family. They shall remain nameless for now because their mommy has not received the Easter packages we sent off the other day. But, I can share them with you!

I knew I wanted to send their new friends something for Easter from the boys. Just a little something to say "hey, we're so happy to have you in our lives" kinda thing. Plus, I love them, & their mom, to pieces! I bought two super large eggs from Target. I could have bought the empty eggs from Micheal's, but figured the candy could serve it's purpose for this Easter treat.

I wasn't sure what the oldest child was really into these days, so I went with a fail proof system ~ just add chocolate. The youngest loves... No, I mean really L.O.V.E.S. Dora the Explorer. She gets extremely excited & just can't stop moving & shaking! It's so adorable! And she is allll girl. Sassy pants & all ;) I also added a bag of pastel colored Goldfish crackers to her egg.

Easy~peasy! I hope this gives you a little inspiration for future holidays/celebrations to come. Fun packaging is always the best, don't you think?! 
I did not send these as they are, wrapped individually. With the eggs being made of plastic, I didn't want something to happen to them so they were sent nice & snug wrapped in a box. I am sure the kids won't mind!

What are you serving up for this wonderful Easter weekend? We're having a very untraditional meal, since we're the untraditional kind of folk... Poached salmon with a radish salad & parsley coulis, beet carpaccio, truffle deviled eggs, & a roasted pineapple upside down cake! Oh, I can't wait!
I also can't wait to share my latest obsession with y'all... it's black, chewy & totally good for the soul.

Have a wonderful Easter weekend!