Friday, October 17, 2014

POPSUGAR MUST HAVE BOX: Indulge, Pamper, Celebrate

Earlier this week a wonderful package arrived to my sheer delight and excitement.  And as soon as I opened my October 2014 POPSUGAR MUST HAVE BOX, I knew I had every reason to feel the way I did.  

Indulgent, delicious, and filled with goodies made for pampering, I couldn't keep this all to myself.  From candles to candies to beauty and bath and more, there's really something for everyone.  So here's what's inside:

Happy Socks
Warm and cozy leopard-print socks perfect for the cooler temps now (

butter LONDON  
A blendable WINK Eye Pencil in Earl Grey that's great for achieving an effortless look for day or something more dramatic, like a smokey eye, for night. (

Isaac Jacobs International  
An acrylic frame that's durable, chic--and great for displaying your special memories. (

Mine Design 
A supremely fragrant Chalkboard Candle.  Made out of soy, it's reusable and rewritable, so you can send the perfect message every time. (

Dean & Deluca 
Pumpkin Spice Balls made with real pumpkin spices and dipped in dark chocolate; they perfectly capture the flavor of Fall. (

Nailed Kit  
Nail art decals that are fun, festive and easy to apply. (

Bonus!: K. Hall Designs
Shoreline Shea Butter/Olive Oil Bar Soap--the moisturizing and refreshing treatment your skin will love, especially as the colder months approach. (

And not to fret.  You can get your own MUST HAVE BOX subscription at a special discounted rate from now through November 2, 2014. Simply go here and enter the code OCT10Select to save $10 off a 3-month subscription. 

Happy Indulging!

Disclosure: POPSUGAR provided me with a complimentary POPSUGAR Must Have box. The opinions I have shared about the box are my own and POPSUGAR did not tell me what to say or how to say it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

{Star Ingredient} -- Balsamic Done Savory and Sweet

Balsamic vinegar is a wonder.  Its tangy brightness, characteristic of vinegars, generally, and undeniable sweet notes, make it a versatile, star ingredient that should be resident in every gourmand's kitchen.  And while I first became acquainted with the savory, more traditional, ways of bringing balsamic into my cuisine, I have long since welcomed its ability to elevate and transform sweeter offerings into something truly special.

Today's post offers the best of both worlds, serving up easy, yet indulgent, recipes that will leave you forever convinced about why this pantry staple is a star ingredient, indeed. 

Balsamic Chicken

On the savory end, I'm sharing a recipe for Balsamic Chicken that will steer you away from the "we're having chicken again" doldrums. And for my sweet take, a little balsamic goes a long way.  Starting with the best aged balsamic I can find, it stars as the perfect finish and accent to luscious, roasted pears.  While these dishes are a cinch to pull together, they equally score as courses elegant enough for special occasions.  So whether you're in the mood for sweet, savory, or both, balsamic will give you something to relish.

Balsamic Roasted Pears

Happy Eating!

Balsamic Chicken

1.5-2 lbs. skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly parsley, roughly chopped (optional)

Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in a resealable bag.

In a small bowl, add vinegar, honey, soy, garlic and chili flakes, stirring or whisking to combine.   Pour marinade over chicken and reseal bag.  Massage chicken with marinade to coat well and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove chicken from bag and place chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet, skin side down.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Reserve marinade.

Turn on broiler and turn chicken skin side up.  Place chicken under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until the skin becomes crisp, keeping a close eye on it. 

Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir frequently and allow sauce to cook until reduced and thickened.  Brush sauce over cooked chicken and garnish with fresh parsley, if using.  Serve and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Just a Taste

Balsamic Roasted Pears

Bosc pears, halved and cored
Brown sugar
Aged balsamic
Ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place pears in a baking dish, flesh side up.  Place a pat of butter in the hollow of each pear half, where the core once was.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the pears (as much as you please).  Place pears in heated oven and bake for 30 minutes, until pears are tender.

Remove pears from oven and place over ice cream.  Finish with a generous drizzle of balsamic over the ice cream and pears.  Serve and enjoy!



Friday, October 3, 2014

Gourmet Popcorn {4 Ways!}

In the world of snacks, there are few that rank higher on my list than popcorn.  I can barely resist being anywhere near the stuff and not indulging.  And I won't even mention what happens each time I enter the concession area of a movie theater (whether I've eaten just before arrival or not).  Let's just say I never leave empty-handed.  Yes, it's like that.

For me, popped corn is wonderfully scrumptious on its own, with a bit of salt (and maybe hot sauce--don't judge me), and needs little more to be enjoyed.   But on the occasion that you're looking to "doctor it up", elevating it from simple bar snack status to something rather unforgettable, an easy gourmet touch is all you need.

From sweet, to savory, and beyond, there's no end to the flavor combinations to be had.  I'm sharing four of my favorites to get you started with scrumptious snacking and....

Happy Eating!

Gourmet Popcorn
When going for "top-shelf" popcorn snacking, I prefer to start by popping my own corn kernels (vs. microwaving).  It's quick and easy and can be done in a matter of minutes on the stove-top or with an air-popper.  I recommend using a neutrally flavored oil like canola, sunflower, or vegetable, and following the packaging instructions for perfectly popped corn!


1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Stir or whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Sprinkle desired amount over (freshly popped) popcorn and enjoy! Store any extra sugar in an air-tight container.


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons garlic powder
Generous sprinkling of salt

Stir garlic powder and salt into just-melted butter and drizzle over popcorn. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Nut Mix

1/3 cup chocolate chips 
1/3 cup nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, etc.)

Add chocolate and nuts to popcorn and toss to combine.  Enjoy!

Buttered Toffee 

Toffee Sauce

Drizzle toffee over popcorn and toss to coat.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

{Atlanta's Westside Market}: Dive into Fall Design

Some of the many Fall inspired wares

The Fall season has finally graced us with its arrival again, bringing along its own special inspiration for design and decor to enliven and infuse living spaces.  Tuesday night I was invited to attend a gathering at the Westside Market, one of the Southeast's premier design and furniture merchants, highlighting their many offerings and abundant inspiration around Fall design.  

From embellished table scapes, to art, to collectibles, to furniture pieces and beyond, the Westside Market proved to offer something for every taste and budget across the design spectrum.  Also serving as a consignment boutique, there are clothing selections sprinkled throughout the expansive venue, as well as the option to consign your valuables.  

I couldn't resist grabbing a few items for my own takeaway and already have plans for return visits in the days ahead.  If you're familiar with the Market, you'll want to drop in to see what's new from last night's seasonal reveal.  And if you're not familiar, then you'll definitely want to get acquainted with all it has to offer.  

So here's to welcoming Fall flair, design, inspiration and... Happy Living!

Westside Market
1530 Ellsworth Industrial Blvd.
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 941-3466

Friday, September 12, 2014

Toast With This!: Watermelon Agua Fresca

Holding onto Summer until the very end (and possibly beyond) means I'm making the most of the late-season ingredients I have on hand, like luscious, sweet watermelon.  I never need a recipe to indulge (straight from the rind will do just fine), but on a recent occasion I decided to turn it into something extra special--and supremely delicious.  A refreshing, summer-y, mocktail of sorts: Watermelon Agua Fresca.  Because that's what you do with leftover melon, right?

Anyway, it couldn't be simpler--or more perfect--to toast the final week or so of the official season.  So here's to late summer indulgence in all its glory and to...

Happy Sipping!

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Halved watermelon, cubed and seeds removed
Mint simple syrup (recipe follows)
Juice of 1 1/2 to 2 limes

Add watermelon to a blender and puree until smooth.  Add in 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup simple syrup and lime juice and blend to combine.  Check mixture for flavor and add more syrup or lime juice, to taste.

Strain mixture through a sieve and chill.  Serve over ice and enjoy!

Mint Simple Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Fresh mint leaves

Add sugar and water to a small saucepan over medium heat.  Allow sugar to fully dissolve and remove from the heat.  Add mint leaves to the syrup and steep for at least 15 minutes.  Strain syrup into a container and discard mint.   

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

{Savor the Season}: Summer Fruit Crostata

Summer Fruit Crostata
Now that Labor Day has passed, the official wind-down of Summer has begun.  But before bidding it a formal farewell, I plan to savor it a bit longer.  After all, the tastes of Summer are some of the brightest and most refreshing--and deserve to linger for as long as absolutely possible.

Stone fruits and berries happen to be some of my favorite summer indulgences.  Known to frequently devour them on their very own, I had no qualms recently in taking things up a notch by bringing them together with homemade, buttery pastry to yield one scrumptious dessert (and next day breakfast).  Summer Fruit Crostata, to be exact.

Perfectly ripened and sweet peaches and plums, along with sweet-tart blackberries, were my fruits of choice for this scrumptious, yet amazingly simple and rustic, treat.  I love crostatas and this time around decided to substitute my go-to apple version with what's freshest and in season now.  Summer. Fruit. Pastry.  Three little words that yielded delight with each bite--and made this Summer one that I'll always savor.

Happy Eating!

Summer Fruit Crostata

For the pastry (makes 2 crostatas):
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ice water
For the filling (makes 1 crostata):
1 pound firm ripe peaches, peeled
1/2 pound firm ripe black plums, unpeeled
1/2 pint fresh blackberries
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

For the pastry:

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly (and carefully!) with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, roll it into a ball, cut in half, and form into 2 flat disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you only need 1 disk of dough, the other disk of dough can be frozen.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to the baking sheet.
For the filling:

Cut the peaches and plums in wedges and place them in a bowl with the blackberries. Toss them with the tablespoon of flour, tablespoon of sugar, the orange zest, and the orange juice. Place the mixed fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.  Gently fold the border of the pastry over the fruit, pleating it to make an edge.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender. Let the crostata cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. 
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Oven-Roasted Mussels savory tarts--just a few of the ways I enjoy preparing (and feasting on) mussels.  For a slight twist, I added oven-roasting to the list this past weekend. Filling my favorite cast-iron skillet with the mussels and their accompanying marinade (aka bread-sopping goodness) of tomatoes, garlic, white wine, olive oil, chili flakes, parsley, salt and pepper, and returning minutes later to perfectly scrumptious fare, cemented this as a definite keeper in my repertoire. 

Easy to prepare, elegant, and worth the savor, mussels remain one of my favorite seafood gems.

Happy Eating!

Oven-Roasted Mussels
Recipe courtesy of the New York Times

3 1/2 pounds black mussels
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean the mussels. Inspect each one carefully and discard any that have opened (if some are partly open, tap them with your finger, and if they close back up they are O.K.) or have cracked shells. Place in a large bowl, fill the bowl with cold water and rinse several times, swishing the mussels around in the water, pouring out the water and refilling. Clean the shells, if necessary, with a brush or the end of one of the mussels, and pull out the beards – the hairy attachments emerging from the shells. Do not do this until just before cooking, or the mussels will die and spoil. 

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the mussels. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Arrange the mussels, pointed ends up, in a single layer in a cast iron skillet and/or a heavy baking dish. Spoon the marinade left in the bowl over the mussels and place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until most of the mussels have opened.  Remove from the heat and discard any mussels that have not opened.  Serve and enjoy!