Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Story Behind Sandra Lee's Semihomemade Kwanzaa Cake

Many of you may be familiar with Sandra Lee - the Food Network personality. On one of her first shows she introduced us to her infamous Kwanzaa cake, and I've been confused ever since. She assembles an angel food cake adding chocolate frosting, apple pie filling and "acorns" - which most of us call corn nuts.  To this day the recipe calls for acorns which is frightening since actual acorns aren't edible to my knowledge.
We got a very special holiday gift this year - the incredibly talented food stylist Denise Vivaldo has come forward in an article in the Huffington Post to let us know it was actually Denise who came up with the Kwanzaa cake, and the Chanukah cake as well. Her recipe did call for corn nuts - not acorns though, and she does give Ms. Lee total credit for the massive tapers that were inserted in the top.
For the record, Ms. Vivaldo is actually an incredibly talented food stylist -I'd dare to say one of the best. I would give anything to spend a few days and learn from her. Since that probably won't happen, I'll settle for the next best thing - a copy of her new book The Food Stylist's Handbook. It shows you the right way to pay homage to food, and I'd even dare to call it "food porn" - you'll be lusting after everything you see in the book. Denise can also be found on Twitter. She is very generous with her knowledge and also has a great sense of humor!
So if anyone wants to know what would be the perfect gift to give this Lifestylist®, now you know!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Gift That Keeps on Giving - Noah's Magic Shoes

I feel so blessed that I have had the life I have, and because of that I feel compelled to give back every opportunity that I have. Giving people hope and helping others isn't that hard - sometimes it's as easy as just thinking about where you are shopping or making a purchase.
Nothing touches me more than violence to another living being, and the I have been very fortunate to have been introduced to the Genesis Women's Shelter in Dallas.The work they do is amazing, and what hurts me the most is how much of a need there is for safe havens like Genesis.
But back to giving back. Over a year ago Director Jan Langbein shared a story with some of her group about a boy who had come to live at one of the Genesis shelters. This six year old boy had never owned a new pair of shoes, and when he received the new pair of red sneakers he proclaimed that they were magic because the treads on them allowed him to walk up a slide backwards. From that story "Noah's Magic Shoes" came to be.
This beautifully illustrated book is truly a labor of love, and 100% of the proceeds benefit the Genesis Women's Shelter. You can purchase a copy for yourself or to share on the Genesis website. I shared my autographed copy that I purchased at the NorthPark Center event to my daughter who is a teacher. There are classroom lessons on the website prepared by Dr. Larkin Page, Professor of Children's Literature.
Make a difference this year by sharing the story of "Noah's Magic Shoes" - it is a gift that will truly keep on giving.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pixie Dust

I just returned from a magical week in Orlando. Someone said they scatter pixie dust at the airport when you arrive, and I'm starting to believe them. Not only was I able to take part in a home that will probably be one of the the high points of my Lifestylist® career, but I was also blessed to spend some very special time with my kids and grandkids and share my Lifestylist® approach with them. Being a Lifestylist incorporates life and style, and getting creative in the kitchen is definitely part of that.
As part of the staging for The New American Home, I purchased a large amount of beautiful granny smith apples to add color and lifestyle to the kitchen. After we were finished with the shoot, I thought why not recycle them and make a pie with the grandkids? Neither of them had tried making a pie before, and with Thanksgiving being only a week away I thought this could be a great time to make their first.
Jenna may only be 8 yrs old, but she loves to cook and is really good at it. She has taken part in the Jr Chef Camp at the Gaylord Texan that Chef Joanne teaches, and was excited about trying out her culinary skills making a pie. Many adults would be daunted by this task, but Jenna dug right in. After teaching her some basic knife skills and precautions, she peeled and cored all of the apples herself. Brother Christian decided to help us make the crust, and we made a huge mess (sorry Trish!) but I'm sure it was a day that they will always remember.
I am so grateful to have the loving, supportive family I have, and the amazing clients that believe in me and what I do. Here's to the start of a holiday season filled with hope, happiness and lots of pixie dust!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sharing is Caring

One of my favorite things to do every year is entering the State Fair of Texas cooking contests. Being a Lifestylist to me is about all of the ways you can live your life with style - not just design.Not because I want to win, but because I really enjoy sharing all of my entries with different workers at the fair afterward. These are the people who really enjoy my cooking and know it's made with love. Officer Stevens is usually by the entrance we use every day, and after she tried my peanut parries she was hooked. I've never won a ribbon with these, but I keep entering because they are the favorites of Chuck and Linda at the Chili Parlor and we've become good friends because of them.
When I brought Officer Stevens her cookies on the last day she said that we had no idea how much our sharing meant to her - and how nice it was just to have people appreciate her. There is no ribbon that can ever top that great feeling when you know you are doing something for the joy of it, but others get to share that joy as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's Fair Time!

Finally - The Great State Fair of Texas is less than a week away! Honestly, I'm way behind on testing recipes, but I'm ready to get started. One of the great things about entering a lot of the cooking competitions is that if you do that for 3 consecutive years you get a season pass! We live only a few miles away from the fairgrounds so many evenings we'll head over to the fair to have dinner.Talk about being a Lifestylist® - I can't think of a better lifestyle than people who are involved with the state and local fairs, and how interesting and diverse the people are who attend them.
After spending so much time on my fair entries, I've come up with a new concept that I've started working on - The Lazy Cook. Note I say cook, not chef -it drives me crazy when people call themselves chefs yet they have no professional training or work experience. To me that totally takes away from how hard these people have worked to earn the title of chef. I love to cook, and as the years go by I'm even more concerned about eating well.
Keep your fingers crossed that this will be a good year - I plan on sharing not only my entries but also the unique (and sometimes weird!) food you can find at a fair.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lifestylist® Designed Teresa's Mosaic Cafe Gets a Throwdown

I am so excited! I just learned that Bobby Flay traveled to Tucson and had a "throwdown" with the Matias family at Teresa's Mosaic Cafe. This is a restaurant that we did the interior of, and as with all Lifestylist® Designed challenges we spent a lot of time getting to know the family and their needs before we came up with a plan.
Teresa's is all about family and the wonderful handmade food so the interior had to have as much personality as the family does. To do this we designed tables made of handmade tiles - thousands of them all that we made by hand. It was an extensive amount of work but the results were definitely worth it.
The episode airs on the Food Network - check out dates and times for your area.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Class Acts

Having the right ingredients is the key to making any dish successfully, and knowing the right sources and people when you are planning an event is just as important.
I've hosted or helped with many parties over the years including my daughter's wedding, and hiring an event planner isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. I know working with a planner when I lived in Dallas and the event was in Orlando saved me money and made it possible to have a Lifestylist Designed wedding in a location I never would have known about without the planner's help.
Julie Eastman is someone I have worked with in the past and is now concentrating on doing event planning. Her company, Extraordinary Events and Design does amazing work and her blog, Design by Jules is always full of great ideas. This week she wrote about Food Glorious Food, another great source that I love because not only is their food beautiful and tasty, their staff couldn't be more fun to be around and they give back quite a bit to the community. Now I can't stop thinking about their Crab Benedict - I guess it's time to get Julie to do a party for me so I can sample them!
You can always tell when people love what they do, and these two amazing teams prove that when when you put great talent together anything is possible (even on a budget).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sweet Treats for Valentines Day

One of my favorite, easy to make sweet treats is toffee. I've been entering variations in the State Fair of Texas for years and this is the version that everyone asks for.
The key to candy making is having a good thermometer, and when I invested in a digital one it made all of the difference in the world. As soon as the temperature gets up to around 250 degrees start watching very closely - it will get to the optimum temperature quickly and if it heats to even 5 degrees more than it should it will burn. Enjoy!
For a great way to package for gift giving, I found these great baskets in the Target Dollar Aisle. It delivers a lot of look for pennies, and the mat under it was from the same area. It was meant to be a bath mat but works really well in a tabletop display as well, and the best part is they were only $2.50!
Texas Butter Pecan Toffee
Ingredients:
1 lb Texas pecans
1 lb butter + 2 tablespoons butter for pecans
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb chocolate chips
Directions:
In a skillet, stir butter and pecans together - cook over a low heat until lightly toasted. Remove from heat.
In a medium saucepan combine the rest of the butter, sugar, water and Karo syrup. Stir until mixture comes to a boil, then continue to cook without stirring until mixture reaches a temperature of 290 degrees. Stir in half of the pecans to mixture and turn out onto a 12” x 18” baking sheet. Sprinkle top with chocolate chips and spread after they melt - then sprinkle rest of pecans on top and allow to cool. Break into bite sized pieces.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jr Lifestylists Cook up a Party!

Few things are as satisfying to me as helping kids explore the culinary world. You can see how excited they get when they learn they can make and bake things themselves and the more they learn, the more they want to try. I've seen it time and time again where a child will eat things that they made themselves but you couldn't force them to try it if someone else was the chef.
I just got back from spending a wonderful weekend with my grandchildren and I was able to help Jenna plan her 8th birthday. She had very specific ideas about what she wanted to do, and my job was to execute all of the things that she imagined. Her brother decided he wanted chocolate instead of a white cake, so we compromised  and had chocolate cupcakes and a white birthday cake. When I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients I realized it would be much less expensive and just as easy to make the cakes from scratch. If you are looking for a recipe for a specific ingredient, check out the package or their website -the company is only going to share recipes that put their products in the best light so this is a great place to start. I didn't have recipes with me so I checked out the back of the Hershey's Cocoa box and there were recipes for chocolate frosting and cakes. Their grandpa has always made a wonderful butter cream icing that is a family favorite so we went with that for the birthday cake. Jenna will also never let me live down the fact that I misspelled "birthday" - that's a story she'll be telling for a long time!
The kids were so proud of what they were able to accomplish, and the chocolate recipes were fantastic - I think some of the best I've ever had. Jenna wanted a pet themed party, and that's what she got.
Don't underestimate the skills and interest of your culinary kids. Even when things don't turn out exactly as planned you can still create memories and recipes that can last a lifetime.