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Irish Soda Bread

March 17, 2014


As someone who is part Irish, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is always a must for my family and in my household. Growing up, my mom would always cook up a big pot of corned beef and cabbage but now that it’s just me and my husband, we decided to start our own tradition of making an Irish feast to celebrate the luck of the Irish.

I’ve always wanted to try making Irish Soda Bread and I was surprised out how easy it was to prepare and how amazing it turned out. I found the recipe from Ina Garten and swapped out the currants with dried cranberries because I couldn’t find currents anywhere. Turns out they make for a great substitute and the bread almost tastes like cranberry scones.



By cutting an X in the loaf with a serrated knife before it bakes, you create a nice rustic texture for the bread that adds to the great crust.


It was a huge hit at the party and now a new favorite of my husband’s. It would be a great recipe for breakfast or brunch or simply as an accompaniment with dinner. Happy baking!


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the cranberries with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the crust is light brown. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Brown Butter Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Kale

January 8, 2014

Brown Butter Gnocchi Butternut Squash_2

It’s 2014 and one of my resolutions is to write more blog posts! So you should look forward to seeing more great recipes, gardening tips and home ideas this year.

Now that it’s finally Winter here in New Orleans at a whopping 32 degrees today, I can finally justify making warm, hearty and seasonal winter dishes. This recipe was inspired by a dish I had at a restaurant in Birmingham, AL (forgive me for forgetting the name) and I liked it so much that I wanted to recreate it at home. Not to toot my own horn – but it turned out great! I was even pleasantly surprised!

Brown Butter Gnocchi Butternut Squash_3

I love using seasonal produce in everything I cook because not only is it in season and available, but I get to experiment with new things. I started by sauteing onions, butternut squash and kale and in a separate pan made a brown butter sauce to pour over the mixture. The trick was to coat the gnocchi in the sauce first and then add the vegetables to bring it all together in the sauce. Top with some grated Parmesan cheese and you have a decadent and sophisticated winter dish! This would be perfect to impress your friends and family with at a dinner party.

Brown Butter Gnocchi Butternut Squash_1


  • 1 16 oz. package of Gnocchi pasta
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Butternut squash, chopped into small cubes
  • 2 cups of kale
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet or saucepan and then add onions. Saute onions in olive oil until they are slightly translucent and then add the chopped butternut squash until it was tender. Add salt and pepper to mixture at this point.

While the butternut squash cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the gnocchi in 3 batches and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the gnocchi using a slotted spoon into a  bowl.

Once the butternut squash is done, add the kale and take the pan off the heat. The kale cooks very quickly and only needs to be stirred in the hot mixture to wilt down. If you like it very wilted you can add it earlier but I like mine to still have a little bit of a crunch

In a separate saute pan, heat the butter over medium-low heat stirring occasionally until it starts to turn golden brown. Add nutmeg and another pinch of salt and stir. Continue to heat until the butter turns caramel-colored brown. Remove from heat add the gnocchi back into the pan with the butter to coat and warm the pasta. Pour pasta and vegetables into a large serving bowl and mix well to coat everything.

Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve!

Leftover Turkey Recipe: Mexican Turkey Soup

December 1, 2013

Mexican Turkey Soup_1

I posted this soup a couple of years ago but I wanted to post it as a reminder for a great recipe to use all that leftover turkey from your Thanksgiving feast. It is so delicious and easy to make. After eating all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, the Mexican flavors are a nice change. Don’t be afraid to be liberal with the garnishes! I love lots of avocado and cilantro!


  • 3 Cups Shredded Turkey Meat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
  • 1 6 oz. can whole corn kernels
  • 1 8 oz. can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
For the garnish
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 Avocado, chopped into thick chunks
  • Sour Cream
  • Crushed tortilla chips, about 1/4 cup for each bowl

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded turkey, corn and black beans and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Black and Silver Halloween Table Decorations

October 18, 2013

Halloween table setting 1

I LOVE Halloween: Not only for the opportunity to dress up in any costume without being judged, but also because I love decorating my house with sparkly, spooky, cutesy and yes, cheezy decor.

But Halloween can also be very glamorous. This year I set up a clean and sophisticated table setting of black and silver for Halloween. I love shimmer, sparkles, skulls and candelabras, and these table decorations incorporate them all. Throw in some spider web place mats and mercury poison bottles and you’ve got yourself a gorgeous tablescape

Halloween table decorations 2

Halloween table setting 3
Halloween table setting 4

Table decorations shopping guide:

  • Spider Web Placemats – TJMaxx
  • Skulls – Marshalls
  • Poison Bottle  – TJMaxx
  • Black Candelabras – Michael’s
  • Silver Candle Sticks – Macy’s and Pottery Barn
  • Spider Globe – Marshalls

Shrimp, Squash and Zucchini Pasta

August 2, 2013

Squash and Zucchini_1

I promised in my last post that I would feature my Mom’s delicious squash and zucchini pasta and here it is! Sometimes she adds shrimp or chicken so this time I chose to do it with shrimp. I am in Louisiana, after all. I made this dish with vegetables that I grew in my garden so it tasted even better than normal. Really! There is nothing better than organically-grown fruits and veggies that you grew yourself! I get a sense of satisfaction out of it but maybe that’s just me.

Squash and Zucchini_2

This dish is really simple. It’s only a few ingredients – garlic, onion, squash, zucchini, shrimp, olive oil, and pasta – and it only requires a few steps. So it’s very easy and anyone can make it!

Squash and Zucchini_3

Sautee the vegetables first and then do the shrimp separately. The vegetables take much longer to cook and you don’t want to overcook shrimp or it will get touch and chewy. Throw all if it over the pasta, add parmesan and parsley and you’ve got a healthy summer dinner.

Squash and Zucchini_4


  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1/2 a Medium Onion, diced
  • 1 Zucchini, chopped horizontally
  • 1 Yellow Squash, chopped horizontally
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 10-15 Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 Lb Angel Hair Pasta
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 tbsp Parsley

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta.

While pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a pan on medium heat and add onion, squash and zucchini. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sautee for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften, stirring occasionally. Set the vegetables aside in a bowl.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. In the same pan you used for the vegetables, add butter on medium heat and let it melt. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute then add the shrimp. Make sure the shrimp are not crowded in the pan. You will probably have to cook 2 batches depending on how much shrimp you have. Cook the shrimp until they turn pink on each side and add to the vegetable bowl.

Once pasta is ready, drain but do not rinse. Throw the pasta in a bowl and pour the vegetables and shrimp on top and toss all of it together. Add parmesan cheese and parsley.


Summer Garden Harvest!

June 11, 2013


In addition to my love for cooking, I also really love to garden, even if it can be a real pain sometimes. Despite fighting off the worms and hand-picking snails and slugs tenaciously every evening (I know –  gross), there is something very therapeutic about gardening to me. There is also a great sense of satisfaction when you finally get to eat what you’ve been nurturing for all these months.

Even though I’m fairly good at gardening (it’s taken years of practice and dozens of phone calls to my green thumb parents), I have to say I got very lucky this time around as I left my garden for 2 weeks unwatered and unattended. Thank God for Louisiana rains! When I returned home from my honeymoon, I was pleasantly surprised by clusters of ripening tomatoes, a few developing yellow squash and basil plants that had doubled in size. Louisiana is great for all of these vegetables and herbs but the trick is keeping away the pests.

Here is a preview of what I have in the works and I promise I will follow with some corresponding recipes including a classic Caprese salad, pesto, and my Mom’s famous angel hair pasta with squash and shrimp. But for now, here are a few of my plants and tips for planting and maintaining a healthy, bountiful garden.

Beefsteak Tomatoes_1

These are Beefsteak Tomatoes and they do really well in warm climates but they also require a lot of water/rain. I planted these very late in the season last September and I thought they were gonners but since we had a mild winter and it did not get extremely hot here this spring, they survived and blossomed this May.

However, I’ve had issues with Japanese Horn worms, other worms, snails and slugs, I’ve sprayed a mild insect killer that you can get at Lowe’s or Home Depot called Natria. It’s not organic, but it’s the closest to organic you can get when using a spray. It worked for the worms but not for the snails and slugs. I have cats and I always see neighborhood cats in my yard so I didn’t want to use snail bait or Sluggo. It works, but if you have animals in your area I highly advise against it! Animals will eat it and it can kill them very quickly.

So I researched natural ways and the best solution I’ve found is filling a cup with beer and placing it in the soil near the plants so the rim is ground level (see the photo below on the right side). The snails and slugs are drawn to the yeast in the beer and they fall in and drown. In one hour I found 5 snails! Another great deterrent are crushed eggshells. Sprinkle them around your plants and it will keep them away.

Yellow Squash_1

The Natria worked really well on the squash but they key is planting them on mounds and keeping the mounds from dissolving during watering and growth.


Lastly, my specialty – Basil! I am taking too much credit because basil just thrives here in Lousiana. It loves sun and lots of water. The Natria works well for keeping worms off the basil but you can see there are still some holes where they got to it in between sprays and heavy rains. You can also see the purple basil to the right and a budding cucumber in the front! 🙂

I hope you find this helpful. You can apply these tips no matter where you are planting but it’s always better if these three plants get plenty of sun and water.

Shortbread Caramel Brownie Bars

April 15, 2013


Shortbread Caramel Brownies_1

I apologize yet again for not posting for a while but I’ve been very busy in the midst of wedding planning! So this will probably be my last post until I return from my honeymoon at the end of May and then I promise I will be more consistent with posting new recipes, gardening tips and design ideas.

These bars are probably one of the most decadent and amazing things I have ever made. I got the recipe from Sunset Magazine/ where I used to work as an online editor. I made the mistake of bringing them to work a few months back and now I get requests for them all the time. They are not difficult to execute but require three steps so they take some time to make.

You start by making a rich and buttery shortbread layer that you bake then allow to cool. Then you melt caramels and milk and pour that layer over the shortbread and let it set in the fridge. Lastly, you make a homemade brownie mixture and pour over the caramel layer then bake again in the oven. They are gooey and chocolately and buttery with a nice flakey bottom from the shortbread. I highly recommend these. They are divine and dangerous!

Shortbread Caramel Brownies_2


  • 1 1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) butter $
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 12 ounces individually wrapped soft caramels, such as Kraft
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 10 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs $
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut 1 cup butter into chunks. In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, and the butter chunks. Whirl until dough comes together. Press evenly over the bottom of a buttered 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Bake in a 325° regular or convection oven until top feels dry and is just beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely

Meanwhile, unwrap caramels and place in a microwave-safe bowl with milk. Cook in a microwave oven on full power (100%) for 1 minute. Stir mixture, then cook and stir at 30-second intervals until melted and smooth, about 3 minutes longer. Spread caramel mixture evenly over cooled crust and chill until firm, about 20 minutes.

In a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bottom of bowl should not touch water), stir chocolate and remaining 1/2 cup butter often until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and, with a whisk or a mixer on medium speed, beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, and salt until well blended.

Pour chocolate mixture over caramel layer and use a knife or spatula to spread level, completely covering caramel.

Bake in a 350° regular or convection oven until a wooden skewer inserted into the chocolate layer comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely, then cut into 24 bars.

Country Girl’s Creamery

February 12, 2013

Country Girl's Creamery_1

In January I had the privilege and pleasure to get a private tour of our friend’s dairy in Wiggins, MS. I can honestly say that it was the best milk and some of the best cheese that I have ever had. They showed us how the cows are brought in, milked and then entire pasteurization and bottling process. Then we got to see how they make all the cheeses and sample everything! The milk is not homogenized so it’s richer and more creamy than typical milk you buy in the grocery store but it is so smooth and fresh that if you love milk, you will love this!

Country Girls Creamery_3

In both photos working from 12 o’clock and moving clockwise there is there standard cow’s milks cheddar, jalapeno  cheddar, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato cheddar. The regular cheddar is flavorful and you can almost smell the cow. It is great on a burger. The others are great on their own, or with crackers. My personal favorite was the mozzarella.

They also make butter and cheese spreads (pictured above left).

Unfortunately I do not think you can order the products online but if you are ever in the area, I highly recommend a tour. You can find them on Facebook here.

French Onion Soup

December 12, 2012

French Onion Soup_1Ok – I know there are no excuses for how long it’s been since I’ve posted. But just so you don’t think I’m a total slacker, I have still been cooking new recipes regularly and photographing them in the midst of planning my wedding, working, furnishing my new house and of course, maintaining an active social life.  But I know there are plenty of bloggers out there who are just as busy as me (but let’s face it, some have no lives), so I have no excuse for my absence.

Moving on to the good stuff: In the past year or so, my good friend Tara’s obsession with French Onion Soup has rubbed off on me and now I find myself craving it more often than not. There is a place here in New Orleans that makes a great version with a couple locations which both conveniently happen to be near my office and my home making it easy for me to run out and get it at a moment’s notice. However, I decided since I love the stuff so much, I might as well try to make it myself. HUGE SUCCESS!

I adapted this recipe from a couple recipes from the Food Network and used ingredients that I prefer. For example, some recipes call for Parmesan cheese, but I chose Gruyere cheese because I like the nutty richness of the cheese and it pulls and breaks up great in the broth. I also used red wine to deglaze the pan where some recipes use cognac or sherry. The fun part is putting the soup in individual crocks or ramekins, covering it with cheese and putting it under the broiler.

French Onion Soup_2

In true Parisian style, I served it with a frisee and mixed green salad with thinkly sliced radishes and a lemon vinaigrette. Bon Appetit! * I promise my next post will come sooner that 3 months away this time! 😉

French Onion Soup_3


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 Large yellow onions (about 2 lbs ), thinly sliced with the grain to hold their shape
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Cup grated Gruyere Cheese
  •  Baguette slices, cut on the bias (about 1 Inch thick)

In a heavy bottomed Dutch oven or large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt, cover, and cook until deeply caramelized, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionaly and scrape brown bits from bottom of pot. Turn the heat up to medium and sprinkle the onions with the flour. Stir and allow to cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add the thyme, bay leaf and stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed. Ladle the soup into 4 ovenproof crocks.

Heat the broiler to high.  Top each crock with 2-3 baguette slices and evenly distribute the cheese on top of each. Place the crocks under the broiler just until the cheese is bubbly and browning, about 1 minute but keep you eye on them. Serve hot.


Strawberry Pie

August 6, 2012

I know strawberry season is over but they are still plentiful in grocery stores so you can still use this recipe through the end of August. And of course, as a devoted reader, you will pin this and save it for later. 😉

I made this pie back in May for a friend’s wedding and I was surprised at how good it turned out. I’m not going to lie, I used a Pilsbury store-bought crust after 2 attempts at homemade crusts that resulted in epic fails. I used a recipe that included vodka and the crust fell in on itself – I don’t recommend vodka.

This recipe for the filling is fairly simple and I got it from the Joy of Baking. It includes fresh strawberries and frozen raspberries. The hardest part is putting the thawed raspberries through a strainer to get out all the seeds and pulp. It just takes, time but it isn’t difficult. Then you boil the jam, raspberry juice and sugar, add the gelatin and create a filling to mix with the strawberries and hold them together. It’s a great flavor – not too sweet and adds a nice tartness from the berries and lemon juice.



Be a cheater like me and use the refrigerated store-bought kind. If you have a good fool-proof recipe, you can use it…show off.


  • 12 ounce bag frozen unsweetened raspberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons seedless blackberry or raspberry jam
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshlemonjuice
  • 4 cups (about 2 pounds) fresh strawberries

Thaw the frozen unsweetened raspberries and then transfer to a fine mesh strainer placedover a large bowl. Gently press the berries with the back of a large spoon to release their juices. (All that should remain in the strainer is the raspberry seeds.) Put the raspberry juice, along with the sugar and jam, in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the jam dissolves and the sauce just comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small measuring cup sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water. Let this mixture sit for about 5 -10 minutes, or until it becomes softened and spongy, and then microwave about 20 seconds or until the gelatin has completely dissolved.Remove the raspberry juice from the heat and stir in the dissolved gelatin and lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until the mixture starts to gel, stirring periodically (this takes about an hour).

Meanwhile, cut the strawberries into bite-sized chunks. Place the strawberries in a large bowl and fold in the thickened raspberry juice, making sure all the strawberries are coated with the sauce. Pour the strawberries into the baked and cooled pie shell and place in the refrigerator until firm (about three hours). Serve with softly whipped cream, if desired. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. This pie can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.