Monday, December 28, 2015

In December drinking Horchata

In December we always find ourselves singing the Vampire Weekend song that first inspired me to become familiar with Horchata. My first Horchata recipe was a variation of an almond rice milk, but this year I found another similar recipe to try and I am always for trying new things, especially when it comes to cooking in the kitchen, so I gave it a go and voila!

Better yet, this recipe just uses rice milk, which makes it 1) super easy, 2) nut-free friendly for those with sensitivities, and 3) less costly as almonds can sometimes come at a premium.

3 cups of water
2 cups of white rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups of milk
1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Land's End Wine Tote

Wine and Tote

Land's End now carries single totes and tartan canvas. Check out the new collection!

Courtesy of Land's End

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Grandma's Rocky Road

Grandma Slone was notorious for her Rocky Road. For as long as I can remember, every year at Christmas time we were always provided with a fresh batch to take home and enjoy. And boy did we! It was always such a delicious, special treat.

Now that Grandma has passed on that legacy, I realize that not only is it a special treat for the recipient, but it's also a special treat for the giver since it is so easy! You start with only 3 ingredients to make a smooth, delicate fudge and then add whatever you please (or whatever may be in your pantry). Grandma always added marshmallows, I know that for sure...

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup of butter
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, peanuts, your choice!)
1 cup chopped pretzels
1 cup mini marshmallows

Place the chocolate chips, milk, and butter in a large microwavable bowl. Cook for 3-5 minutes until melted, stopping to stir every minute.

Fold in the nuts, pretzels, and marshmallows until well blended.

Pour the mixture into a greased glass baking dish and refrigerate until firmly solid. Let come to room temperature before slicing into squares.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Meyer's Iowa Pine Hand Soap

Even though the living room is overtaken by the scent of pine, I still can't get enough. So every sink is now accompanied by this seasonal favorite.

* Image courtesy of Mrs. Meyer's *

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Shortbread Cookie Recipe

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... and that means Christmas cookies all over the house! One of my favorites that I like to kick start the season with is the Shortbread Cookie recipe. It's so simple and fool-proof and the ingredients are almost always already on hand.

3 ingredients and 5 steps!

Hands down the easiest cookie recipe out there and always seems to yield in very satisfying results:

Cookie Batter:
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, blend together the butter, flour and sugar until it forms a dough.

3. On a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to your desired thickness.

4. Using cookie cutters (if you don't have cookie cutters, you can just use the top of a glass and make circle cookies!), form the cookies and place on a parchment paper lined baking tray.

5. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the dough has settled, but before the cookies brown.

Let cool before frosting.

1 cup of powdered sugar
Drop of water

Start with the sugar, add a tiny amount of water (you don't need much) and stir. Continue to add water to the desired consistency. Use food coloring and/or sprinkles as desired.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Season of Red and Green

'Tis the season to be jolly, and what says jolly more than poinsettia plants around the house.

Coming in different colors and sizes, this year the classic mini is my favorite:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Trees along 360

It's begun! 

At this time of year the beautiful pines alongside highway 360, a.k.a. Capital of Texas Highway, are morphed into decorated Christmas bliss. 

While not technically legal, and not for those faint of heart considering you decorate alongside a two-lane highway of cars, it has become a family tradition for many, year after year.

Again, 360 is well-known for its traffic, so sometimes you have to sneak a peek in between cars...

Monday, November 16, 2015

New Dinner Menu at the Driskill Grill

Listed on the National Register of Historic places and dating back to the late 1800s, there are few places in Austin as classic, sophisticated, and embedded with history as the Driskill hotel. So when I was asked to take part in a sneak peek at the new dinner menu at the Driskill Grill, I jumped at the opportunity.

For inspiration of the new offerings, the team dug into the archives, looking at menus all the way back to the 1930s. One thing that stood out was that the dining experience was always aimed at just that - an experience. Menus would try to offer something new, different, and almost exotic. So, the new menu offers just that - outside the box items - but with a "stay local" twist. For example, the foie gras is French inspired, but all ingredients are sourced locally.

We started the night in Chef Troy's office, which doubles as the perfect chef's table, finely decorated in deep, rich wood and warmth. Bubbly was popped open as we nibbled on some of the classic bar bites, including my favorites like the spiced nuts and bacon wrapped dates.

Waiting at the table was a generous slice of Cambozola Black brie blue cheese with sweet onion jam, drizzled Saba, and topped with house made bread crisps. The cheese had the slightest hint of truffle and just melted in your mouth. The sweet onion jam was a welcome compliment to the flavor.

Next up was the crispy softshell crawfish. Yes, that's right - crawfish. And boy oh boy was it delicious! It had all the taste and crunch one would look for. Served with a classic Texas caviar. 

Keeping with the exotic yet exquisite theme were the Hill Country Wild Boar Chops. Finished with an apple cider-honey glaze and served with a goat cheese pecan cream, it was all very seasonal and local.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Squash Carbonara with Pancetta and Sage

It's the time for all things pumpkin and squash and I'm hitting it hard this year. So here I go with yet another deliciously homemade dinner that warms my heart, mind, body, and soul this season. It's a Squash Carbonara pasta with Fried Pancetta and Sage courtesy of Bon Appetit.

Now, this is not your traditional Carbonara pasta - there's no egg yolk (so thankfully for me right now, it is pregnancy friendly). And listen, I'm right there with you that you can't beat the addition of an egg, especially with a runny yolk, but don't be sad, be surprised! With this recipe's butternut squash puree, there's a sauce that truly does compare. It's a creamy, smooth, and very satisfying seasonal substitution!


1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
4 ounces of pancetta, chopped
1 Tablespoon of Fresh Sage, chopped
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 Onion, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
2 cups Chicken Stock
12 ounces of Fresh Fettuccine Pasta
1/4 cup shaved Pecorino cheese, plus extra for serving
Salt and Pepper


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pumpkin Bread or Pumpkin Muffins

'Tis the season! For all things pumpkin... 

Whether making pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins, I find this recipe works wonders for parties and hostess gifts. 

So get cooking!


4 eggs
3 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree

3 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon all spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend together the eggs, sugar, and oil. Add the water and pumpkin puree and stir until combined.

Mix together dry ingredients, fold into the wet ingredients.

Pour batter into a greased muffin pan or greased bread pan(s).

Bake for 35 (muffins) - 60 minutes (bread pans). Test with a toothpick.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage, and Pecans

More and more I find myself skimming through the Williams Sonoma catalog these days and in addition to making a wish list of all the cool, new kitchen accessories that I want to get my hands on, I am finding recipe after recipe of great dishes that I want to prepare. And this month was no different.

Starting off, I should warn you in case you didn't know already that I am a sucker for the Fall. I love the change in weather, the cool mornings and warmer afternoons, the break from a sometimes too hot summer, the turning of the leaves, the rustling of them on the streets, the weekend trips to the pumpkin patch or to go apple picking, with donuts and hot cider a must! Obviously I could go on and on...

And the food is certainly no exception. There's mere comfort in just the mention of pumpkin-this, butternut squash-that, sweet potatoes, yams, and all other fall roots. To top it off, these vegetables most commonly pair with some of the most beloved of all kitchen staples - butter, cinnamon spices, and maybe a touch of sugar.

So this weekend after I thumbed through my catalog, we rolled up our sleeves and took a try at this autumnal squash-filled homemade ravioli. It sounded slightly intimidating, and looked too good to be true, but turned out to be fool-proof, delicious, and definitely a keeper for the recipe box.

What You'll Need...

For the filling:
16 ounces butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
   (or substitute 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 oz. goat cheese

For the pasta:
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of all-purpose flour

For the sauce:
1/2 stick of butter
10 sage leaves
1/4 cup chopped pecans
Freshly grated parmesan

What to do...

Preheat oven to 400.

Place butternut squash on a baking tray and toss with Olive Oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Transfer the butternut squash to a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon and site well to combine. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the 3 eggs and 1/2 tsp of salt. Using a mixer, gradually add in the 2 cups of flour, little by little, until the dough comes together to form a ball (moist, but not sticky - if sticky add more flour). Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a floured surface, then let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough in half. Starting with the first half, roll the dough out to form a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.

Moving inch by inch, place 1 tsp of filling onto the dough. Roll out the second half of the dough into the same sized rectangle, and place it on top. Lightly press around each filling to seal. Cut around the fillings to form square raviolis, and then crimp the edges of the ravioli with the back of a fork.

In a medium-sized frying pan, melt the 1/2 stick of butter. Add the sage leaves and cook until crisp, then remove.

Simultaneously, bring salted water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the ravioli in small batches and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat until all of the pasta is cooked.

Gently place the cooked pasta into the melted butter and brown under low heat. Move to a serving platter and garnish the top with the fried sage, 1/4 cup chopped pecans, and grated parmesan.

Deliciously serves 4

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Vera Bradley Hot Iron Case

I know it's made for traveling, but I use my hot iron case each and every day! 

It's the perfect storage to keep your grooming drawer organized. And best of all, this specific case is truly made for a hot iron (or curling iron if that's your thing) because it has an interior lining that is heat resistant. So even if the iron is still slightly hot when you put it away, you won't leave the house/hotel/office afraid that you might burn the place down.

I'll admit it - I love it so much, I own three of these...

Photo courtesy of Vera Bradley

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Best Mussels in Austin, TX

The best mussels in Austin have to be the Moules Frites at Hopfield's.

Photo taken by Daniel Mora

We've had nothing but great experiences at Hopfield's. From the beautifully cooked eggs at brunch, to a classic French salad or jambon, to the warm and tasty tart, and last but certainly not least, to the entree specials like the house made liver mouse that I haven't tasted something so good since our last trip to Paris.

Hopfield's knows French, but it all comes as no surprise because apparently the owner's mother created all of the recipes for the restaurant and she is from no other than Provence, France. Yep, you can tell. It's French food through and true.

So ATX, if you're looking for a great meal, head over to Hopfield's, order the mussels, and ask for extra bread to soak up all that sauce.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Affogato at Walton's

Starting Wednesday, September 16th, Walton's Fancy and Staple will be offering Affogatos - ice cream served with a side of espresso (and a cookie for dipping!).

My recommendation:

Take the espresso, pour it over the ice cream, spoon a couple of bites into your mouth, allow the rest to melt and then dip with your cookie. Yummm, delicious!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Vera Bradley Sunscreen Organizer

No, Vera Bradley doesn't make something called a "Sunscreen Organizer", but they easily could market it as such. I've been using one of my Vera Bradley Cosmetic Bags to hold all of my sunscreen (lotion, sprays, face sticks, etc.) and it has worked like a charm. Not only is it cute, of course, but it is totally practical with the plastic interior to prevent any accidental spills.

* Image courtesy of Vera Bradley *

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tory Burch Flip Flops

Come summertime, I love my Jack Rogers, but I need something more casual for the pool and the beach. For that, I turn to my trusty Tory Burch flip flops:

* Images courtesy of Tory Burch *

Monday, August 17, 2015

Steak Frites with Peppercorn Sauce

After reading about the sauce feud in the Wall Street journal a few weeks ago, I looked at my husband and said, "We are either going out for steak frites, or making them at home, you're choice." As experimentally fun as it always is, we decided to go with the latter. Challenge accepted.

We've cooked steaks before and homemade fries, but trying to muster a swoon-worthy sauce had my knees quivering. The sauce was going to be the secret to making it a success. But, after much research in French culinary books and Frenchie chef recipes available online, we came up with a sauce that probably wouldn't become a third contender in the sauce battle between l’Entrecôte and Bistro Régent, but it would do the trick for a few Texans looking for their fix. And boy oh boy, was it goooooood.

What you'll need...
4 strip steaks*
2 russert potatoes
3 cups Canola Oil
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tablespoon sherry wine
2 Tablespoons black peppercorns
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 medium-sized shallots
1 garlic clove

Monday, August 3, 2015

History of the Calzone

Since it's summer (a.k.a. grilling season), we've been experimenting a lot lately with the grill, and seeing as how I am the ultimate pizza lover, my husband has obliged in experimenting with pizza on the grill.

But like with many things in life, one must first encounter much trial and error. So, we've had a few successes, but mostly mishaps, some of which have led to searches for new additions in our cookware, like our recently acquired pizza peel. 

As we've learned over the years, creative kitchen tools can be fabulously life changing, but that is if you know how to use them correctly. And well, we're still mastering the removal of the pizza from the peel without a natural disaster that results in the inevitable reach for the phone for delivery of back-up dinner.

Which gets me to one of our most recently conducted experiments, with our pizza not "peeling" exactly as it should have, thus resulting in a new plan for pizza night - a calzone!

Thankfully my well-mannered and well-spirited husband just gave me a smile and said, "I wonder if that's how the calzone was invented." I laughed, a common sensation around this house, and immediately took to my iPad seeking the history of the calzone.

Turns out the calzone was made in days of old for pizza lovers seeking a fork and knife-less dining option, similar to the sandwich. But jump forward many years and more often than not you're likely to find pizza put to mouth by hand (or fist if you're like my 2-year-old toddler). So what happened to the poor old calzone?!

Well, it obviously lost popularity for its originally intended purpose, but skip ye not my friends! Calzones can be just as delicious, and if stuffed right, sometimes even more so than my first true love, pizza.

Nowadays when I look around I see a total role reversal. I don't know about you, but I eat my pizza with my hands and my calzone with a fork and knife (my more sophisticated counterpart uses utensils for both). How do you 'za and 'zone?!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Liberty in London

Liberty is a historic department store located on Regent Street in the West End shopping district of London.

In 1874, with a £2,000 loan from his future father-in-law, Arthur Lasenby Liberty set up a shop on Regents Street selling ornaments, fabric and artistic household objects from various other countries. Eighteen months later, Mr. Liberty had fully repaid the loan, expanding into more and more space along Regents Street, adding carpets and furniture into his shop.

Becoming one of the most fashionable places to shop in London, Liberty launched an in-house apparel line to challenge the fashions of Paris. With these contemporary in-house designers, the store became associated with the new style of Art Nouveau, referred to in Italy as Stile Liberty, after the store of its origins.

Today’s Liberty is housed in a Tudor revival building. It was in 1924 that this new store was constructed from the timbers of two ships. The department store was planned around three wells that formed the main focus of the building. Each of these wells was surrounded by smaller rooms to create a homey feel. Many of the rooms had fireplaces, which still exist today. The wells created a platform to drape exotic rugs and quilts, with side rooms for the display of smaller items.

Arthur Lasenby Liberty died in 1917, seven years before the completion of today’s majestic Liberty home, but his name will live on forever as one of the most prestigious stores in London. Stop by, if only just to browse the multiple floors of clothing and home goods, and the design of the building itself.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Harper Lee's 2nd Novel debuts Today!

To Kill a Mockingbird was first published by Harper Lee in 1960, on the cusp of a changing America. 

There was tension everywhere to be found - racial, sexual, political, and social. Some describe the era as a bubble that was ready to burst after years of hostility on so-called freedoms. So it was only fitting for the time to introduce a book that would challenge the notions of race in America.

To Kill a Mockingbird addresses many socially challenging situations, both directly and indirectly, all through the innocent eyes of a six-year-old girl. Very thought provoking. 

Controversial or not, the book and the movie, which was produced 2 years after the novel's debut, are both still taught in many classrooms to this day. The author, native Alabamian (Nelle) Harper Lee, has received many honors for her only published novel, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Harper Lee would be releasing her second novel, some fifty-five years after her first, one, and only, publication to date. Obviously, due to the popularity of To Kill a Mockingbird, and the fact that Harper Lee was once closely tied to the famous author Truman Capote, which sparked its own controversy of the book itself, this book release is and has been highly anticipated.

So, without further ado, Go Set a Watchman will be released to the public on Tuesday, July 14th. Buy the audible edition and Reese Witherspoon will be reading the story to you, what a treat!

But for those of you that just can't wait any longer, after all fifty-five years has already been a long time, The Wall Street Journal is releasing a sneak peek at the first chapter today! Oh, and if you haven't seen To Kill a Mockingbird yet, go out and get! Book or movie, I won't judge...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Vera Bradley Bags

While useful all year round, Vera Bradley bags just remind me of the summer. Maybe it's the fantastic color combinations or the light cotton fabric, but it's definitely a seasonal transition bag for me.

The signature collections change year after year, and it's hard to beat the vintage originals, but new or old, a classic Vera pattern usually entails a paisley print or some kind of flower motif. The totes are great for every day use, but come the weekends, you can't beat a the duffle for a quick and easy getaway.

Images courtesy of

Monday, June 29, 2015

Eats in Seaside, Florida

School's out for Summer! And with summer, comes many summer vacations. One of my favorite being a trip to Seaside, Florida

As the saying goes, "The new town, the old ways." And it couldn't be more true. Seaside gives the feeling of a trip back in time, an escape from time, and a grand time.

And part of that grand time comes of course with food, starting with Great Southern. One must order the Grits a Ya Ya - blackened shrimp with bacon, spinach, mushrooms, and cream served atop Gouda grits. With so many of the right combinations, the flavor of this classic dish with a modern twist is just divine. The fish of the day is always fresh and local. There's pimento cheese and Po' Boys for lunch. And for breakfast one mustn't overlook the beignets.

With all the wonderful fare, it's no surprise the place is always hopping, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

For a more casual affair, on those occasions where your shoes are filled with sand and your clothing attire is just a swim suit, stroll on over to Pickle's located steps away from the shore. It's classic boardwalk bites like hot dogs, hamburgers, corndogs, and funnel cakes. Of course there are french fries, but don't forget the fried namesake!

Visit the rooftop at Bud & Alley's for a great view of the beach and water. It's quite refreshing, both the breeze and the drinks.

For a more casual dining affair, visit Bud & Alley's Pizza Bar right next door. The pizza is brick oven fresh and there's also nice outdoor seating on the back patio.

Or want to cook in the comfort of your own home? There's no better place than Modica Market.