Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Cookies

Happy Valentine's Day!  I don't put too much stock into today.  I try to love the ones I love everyday, not just on days where it's expected.  I don't do anything too special today but I do make cookies.  I use this basic recipe for the dough and sometimes I frost them and sometimes I leave them plain.  They are pretty delicious either way.  What do you love most about today?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Guest Blogger Susan Brown on Choosing a Great Bottle of Wine

If you are anything like me, you turn down the wine aisle at your local grocery store and suddenly get overwhelmed, sidetracked and end up choosing a bottle of wine by the label.  I know there are amazing wines down these aisles but I've always just been too embarrassed to ask for help selecting a bottle out of fear that the person that I'll ask might have the most expensive bottle of wine as their personal favorite or that I'll have to drive all around town finding just the right bottle, and really who has time for that!?.  This year as the holiday season swung into gear I turned to my friend and Certified Specialist of Wine, Susan Brown for help. Susan put together an amazing list of wines to use as a guide to find the perfect bottle at any price range and at any location, including my favorite one stop shop, Costco.  Here are her tips and selections... 

On the 1st Day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Chardonnay under the tree!  I don’t know about you guys, but I blinked sometime in early November and the next thing I knew it was the holiday season.  All of this shopping, wrapping, cooking, feasting and plenty of merrymaking are cause for some tasty wine in my book!

Wine is always the perfect beverage, especially at this time of year.  Whether it is sparkling, red or white, this elixir of the vine is the perfect accompaniment to most of our typical holiday meals.   I’ve got so many things to think about right now, the last thing I am worrying about is which specific wine goes with which food; this month I’m shooting for tasty and reasonably priced!   What I like about wine over other holiday drinks is that it’s easier on my fragile constitution than copious amounts of stuff like bourbon and eggnog.  Seriously, a simple glass of champagne is completely festive and leaves you feeling fine in the morning.  Even a glass of luscious red sipped fireside can put you in the spirit. 

Another great plus when it comes to wine is that there is a bottle at everyone’s price point.  Better yet, plenty of decent bottles are readily available at your neighborhood grocery.  During the hustle and bustle of these last few weeks before the New Year, it is certainly helpful to multi-task;  doing your wine shopping when you’re on one of those 80-million trips you’ll take to Safeway, SaveMart, Nugget or Costco, can be a godsend.

Rather than knowing exactly which store is selling which wine at any given time, I go armed with a list in my head of the wines I know I am likely to find at most grocery stores.  I don’t pay attention to which vintage from which maker is best.  When it comes to big label, mass distributed, grocery store wine, most of the time you’ll have good luck with reliable labels, year after year.  I save my over analysis for specialty and boutique wines.

Below I have listed some of my “go-to” wines when it comes to a stop at the supermarket.  It takes quite a bit of work to navigate 5-high shelves on your own, so use these names as a guideline.   If you don’t see the exact wine, try one by the same maker or one from the same region.  If you do, you are likely to have success!  Give something new a try this season; it may end up being one of your favorites.

Cheers and Best Wishes!  xoSB

Under $10
Segura Viudas Brut Riserva Cava (Spanish sparkling)
Juame Serra Cristalino Cava (Spanish sparkling)
Hangtown Lot 46 Red Blend (made by Boeger)
Folie a Deux, Menage a Trois Red Blend
Smoking Loon Cabernet
Kendall Jackson Reserve Chardonnay
Kirkland, Sonoma County, Chardonnay

La Marca Prosecco
Chandon, Brut or Brut Rose
Mumm Napa Valley, Cuvee M (*when on sale—now!)
Frei Brothers,  Russian River,  Pinot Noir
La Crema Pinot Noir
J Lohr, 7 Oaks, Paso Robles, Cabernet
Louis M. Martini, Sonoma County, Cabernet
Bogle Petit Sirah
Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc
Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc
Fess Parker, Santa Barbara County, Chardonnay

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma County Brut
Catena  Malbec, Argentina
Chateau Souverain, Cabernet
Napa Cellars Cabernet
Napa Cellars Merlot
Talbott, Monterey County, Chardonnay
La Crema Chardonnay

Over $25
Rombauer Chardonnay
Talbott, Santa Lucia Highlands Estate, Chardonnay
Provenance, Rutherford, Cabernet
Frank Family, Napa Valley Cabernet
BV Tapestry Cabernet Blend

Guest blogger Susan Brown is a Certified Specialist of Wine living in Sacramento.  She is a frequent contributor to Edible Sacramento Magazine and teaches Wine Appreciation classes at the Sacramento Natural Food Co-op.  You can read reviews, anecdotes and recommendations on her blog at  You can also follow her on Twitter @susanbrownsac.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Simple Handmade Holiday - Peppermint Candy Plate

This holiday season, I've made a pack with myself and my family.  I want the holidays this year to be less stressful, spend less time at the mall and spend more time creating handmade treats, gift and holiday decorations.  This morning I shared a few handmade holiday ideas on my Monday morning segment on KCRA/My 58 (local Sacramento) and you can view the clip here.  By far the most popular item was the handmade peppermint candy platter, which is edible by the way and very fun and simple to make.  Here is a step by step tutorial to make one yourself for the holidays.  

Items you will need:

one bag of peppermint candies
wax paper or parchment paper
a cookie sheet or pizza pan

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, mine runs very warm so I heated to mine to 325 degrees.  

Line cookie sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper or wax paper.  Arrange candies in a circle, or as close as you can to a circle. 

Place sheet in oven for 7-9 minutes, or until all candies are smooth and have fused together making one piece.  Pull sheet from oven when candies have melted and let candies cool to set. 

Once cool, you can transfer to cake plate and top with cookies for a festive feel.  You can also break into pieces like a brittle and use on top of hot fudge sundaes.  Yum!

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Thanksgiving Timeline

I've been cooking Thanksgiving dinner since I was 12 years old.  Some years have been spectacular and others, well those were years that I learned some valuable lessons.  I asked on social media what questions readers had about Thanksgiving and the popular question was about timing and what to cook when.  I thought I would share with you my own personal timeline and also some fun links from years past.

Monday prior to Thanksgiving: I pull out my recipes and write down the menu that I am going to cook for this years' feast.  I make notes and lists and then check my pantry and refrigerator to see which items I already have and which I need.  I also use this time to make room in my fridge by tossing older items and wiping down shelves.

Tuesday evening (8-10pm): I grocery shop in the evening after dinner time when there are less people and I can shop in peace.  I also may or may not pick up a latte and bliss bar from my local Starbucks before hitting my grocery store aisles. If you are a morning person, I would suggest going the first two hours of when your store opens.  

Wednesday:  I spend the day before Thanksgiving baking pies and prepping food for the following day.  I always make two pumpkin pies and an apple and let them cool on racks for the following day.  I also spend an hour of two prepping string beans, brussel sprouts, dicing onions, making fresh cranberry sauce, and even this gravy.  I also spend time on Wednesday organizing my to do list for the big day.  I also spend some time getting breakfast organized as well.  I usually prep a danish or coffee cake, turkey sausages, eggs and coffee.  I also make sure to give my kitchen a good scrub down including sweeping the floor.  I think it's nicer to cook in a clean and organized kitchen the next day. 

Thanksgiving Day:  I wake up and have breakfast and try to relax before the busy day ahead.  Then I get to work and this is the order in which I cook and also how I navigate cooking in one oven.  

1.  I prep my turkey, seasoning with poultry seasoning and stuffing the bird with lemons, herbs and onions and then placing the entire bird in my Williams Sonoma turkey roaster and cook my turkey per the timing and temperature on the turkey packaging.  

2.  While the turkey is cooking, I make the cornbread stuffing, putting in a covered dish after assembling.  I also boil and mash potatoes (using a little extra potato water before mashing to keep the potatoes from becoming elastic and gummy), prep my sweet potatoes, green beans with bacon, prep other veggies and roll out biscuits to be baked after the turkey is done.  After I prep each dish, I cover with a lid or foil and put aside or in fridge to them warm up or cook after the turkey is done cooking.  

3.  After prepping and before the turkey is done cooking, I set the table.  

4.  When the turkey is done, pull out and allow to rest. While the turkey is resting, put all other dishes that need to be cooked into the oven, like stuffing and sweet potatoes.  After those are done, bake off biscuits and place cooked biscuits in a basket with towels to keep warm after baking.  When the biscuits are done baking,  lower the temperature and add the dishes that need to be warmed up to the oven (possibly adding a little extra water to the dishes if needed to keep moist).  Carve and plate the turkey, take warm side dishes to the table and pull out dishes warming in the oven and place everything including cranberry sauce and gravy prepped from the day before and freshly baked biscuits onto the table and call everyone to the table.  After dinner, I slice up the pies from the day before and make this fresh whipped cream.

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope my timeline helps you.  If you have a time saving or organizing tip, please feel free to share in the comments below.  

p.s.     Did you run out of brown sugar?  You can make your own.  Here is a tutorial I shared last year
p.p.s   You can make your own pumpkin pie spice.  I showed how here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Best Friends For Frosting Entertaining Feature

I am thrilled to be featured on Best Friends For Frosting.  You might remember when I helped Melissa from BFFF with her relaunch party at West Elm Roseville.  BFFF is a fun lifestyle blog that has great contributors, recipes, and DIY projects and I was a fun interview where I was able to share some of my party tips and tricks, favorite places to shop and easy party decor ideas.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Modern Luxury Interiors Magazine Feature

I'm thrilled to be featured in the fall issue of Modern Luxury Interiors magazine.  Not only did they feature me but they featured the city I love and call home, Sacramento.  Sacramento can sometimes get a bad rap for being a sleepy little town but it really is town that is rich in community and local and independently owned businesses from clothing designers to creatively designed restaurants with an amazing farm to fork appreciation.  I'm thrilled to be featured in a regional magazine showcasing my favorite local Sacramento locations to gather design inspiration.  My favorites included, Ella Dining Room & Bar, The Citizen Hotel, Caren Templet, and Lumen's Light + Living.   

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Land Park Backyard Makeover

This was a fun, quick and inexpensive backyard makeover for a great client of mine.  From start to finish this project took less than a week and was very affordable, in thanks to end of season sales at my favorite stores; Homegoods and Ballard Designs.  I used the existing furniture and spruced it up with fun and colorful pillows, an outdoor rug, lanterns and fresh lavender plants.   It's now the perfect relaxing outdoor space to enjoy a glass of wine after work.

Before ~ 

After ~