Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cookbook: Crock-pot berry cobbler

It's hard to beat a good crock-pot recipe. Throw all the ingredients in and let it work its magic! We got a new crock-pot for Christmas which I highly recommend:  Crock-pot Countdown Slow Cooker. The best thing about this particular model is the digital timer. I know there have been times where we have put something in the crock-pot while we're at work and I always worry about it cooking too long. With the digital timer you never have to worry about that again.

We've used our crock-pot for many recipes; however, I have never tried a dessert before. That is until last Friday evening. I found a recipe of Paula Deen's on the Food Network's website and decided to give it a try. Not only was it easy to make but it was delicious! Considerable work can go into making a cobbler but this one is a piece of cake. If you're having folks over for dinner throw this together mid-afternoon and by the time your guests are ready for dessert it will be complete. The finishing touch is a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top- actually it's a must in my book.

Slow berry cobbler


1 10oz. bag of frozen strawberries
1 10oz. bag of frozen blueberries
1 10oz. bag of frozen raspberries
* Feel free to use any combination of frozen fruit. Since we have a fairly large crock-pot I used 3/12 bags of fruit.
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup of baking mix (I used Bisquick)


2 1/4 cups baking mix
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


Spray the insert to your crock-pot with nonstick cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the frozen fruit, sugar and 1/2 cup of baking mix. Transfer the fruit to the crock-pot. In another bowl, stir together 2 1/4 cups baking mix, 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter and milk with a spoon/spatula (the batter will be very thick and sticky). With your hands, drop bits of dough on top of the fruit in the crock-pot. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and ground cinnamon. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top of the dough and place the lid on the crock-pot.

Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or until the topping has puffed and the fruit is bubbling. It took mine about 3 1/2 hours and I inserted a toothpick into the top to make sure it was finished cooking.

Serve warm with ice cream on top. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'd rather be in Carolina....

It was 78 degrees here in D.C. last Friday. Today it's cloudy and 45 degrees. The last time I checked the first day of spring was this past Sunday. What happened? The extended forecast for our area shows clouds, rain and temperatures in the mid 40's, just lovely.

To get myself through the next week or two, or three I'm just going to daydream about warm, sunny places with tasty, tropical drinks! Chris and I have started a yearly tradition of going to the beach over Easter and I'm counting down the weeks.

It's usually our first trip down for the year and by the time Easter rolls around it's fairly warm during day and picture perfect at night. Some of my favorite times are spent with my father and mother-in-law at their condo in Cherry Grove, SC.

Here are a few of my favorite things about going to the beach:

1. Sleeping in late.
2. Enjoying coffee and powdered doughnuts on the back porch while the golfers make their way through.
3. Sitting on the beach all day long. I don't need a single person to keep me entertained. Give me a chair and a magazine and I'm good all by myself Heaven.
4. Going for long walks on the beach.
5. Ray's cocktails....especially on the beach at sunset.
6. Sitting on the back porch at night listening to Ray sing along to the Beatles as we try to decide where we're going to eat dinner.
7. Eating at Crab Catchers- particularly the steamed shrimp, hushpuppies and deep-fried corn on the cob.
8. Listening to Ray fuss at Chris about driving to fast to and from dinner and how he's going to get a ticket.
9. Hearing Chris and Ray recap their golf game play by play.
10. Playing putt putt and basically beating Chris every single time!
11. Hamburger Joes.
12. HOT NOW Krispy Kreme doughnuts and eating an entire dozen between the four of us before we can even get home!
13. Sitting by the pool when there isn't a single soul there.
14. Shopping at the outlets.
15. The smell of the salty air.
16. Not paying attention to my blackberry for a few days.
17. Being with my family away from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC.

So on this dreary afternoon this is what I will think of and get to look forward to in 4 weeks!!!

On a side note, I've come up with a a tasty cocktail that is perfect for the beach or a sunny afternoon. We were out with some friends a few weekends ago and while the guys were drinking dirty martinis, Lauren and I wanted something a little different. She suggested a Stoli Blueberi and Sprite and boy was it yummy! Here is a way to doctor it up:

Stoli Blueberi

Handful of fresh blackberries
Fresh mint leaves
Stoli Blueberi vodka

Muddle a handful of blackberries and fresh mint in the bottom of your glass. Pour a shot or two (depends on your cocktail glass) of Stoli Bluberi in your glass and fill the rest with Sprite. Add a few ice cubes, a blackberry and a mint spring as a garnish! If you want to get fancy rim your cocktail glass with sugar. Cheers!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cookbook: Antipasto-Style Penne

We gave this recipe a try last night and it was very good and easy to make.

Antipasto-Style Penne
Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light

1 medium red bell pepper
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1/3 cup refrigerated pesto
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
1 (7 oz.) jar oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained and chopped
1 (6 oz.) jar marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the broiler. Cut bell pepper in half; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened. Place in a ziploc bag and seal. Let stand for 5 minutes. Peel and chop the bell pepper; place in large bowl. Stir in olives, pesto, prosciutto, tomatoes, and artichokes.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Add pasta back into the pot and add 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; stir to combine. Add bell pepper mixture, and toss gently to combine. Spoon pasta into bowls and sprinkle with cheese and pine nuts.

Now sit back with with a glass of wine and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Fashion File: A little extra time

Now that you've determined your "season," it's time to create some fun outfits with of all of the clothes, shoes and accessories in your closet. Janie Bryant suggests taking a few extra minutes each morning to finesse your look and the outcome can be remarkable.

You know those mornings when you press snooze one too many times and then you're rushed to get yourself out the door? Or you pull a million things out of your closet and nothing seems to suit you? Those are the days where I'm always off kilter. It's never a good way to start your day. I know a lot of people don't have the time or energy to get home from work and worry about what they're going to wear the next day; however, it pays off in my book. If I pick out my outfit the night before I'm always better off in the morning. There are also times where I decide what I'm going to wear as I'm pedaling away in my 6:00a.m. spin class. Either way, it gives me a little extra time in the mornings and I don't feel rushed.

Your outfit itself is the base. Janie suggests ten ways to create your personal style and to take an ordinary day to extraordinary!

1. Animal print

Whether it's feathers or faux fur it will instantly add a bit of drama to your outfit. No one is suggesting you have to wear all animal print, but a simple belt, scarf, or pair of pumps will do the trick.


This top can easily pull double duty. Wear it under a blazer during the work day and remove the blazer and you're set for happy hour!

2. Hair

Take the time to fix your hair. I know everyone has a day where all they can manage to do is pull their hair back in a ponytail, but don't do it every day. Your hair can make or break an outfit so whether it's a sleek blowout or chic updo take the time to complete your look.

Hair styles

3. Shoes

This could easily be the most important accessory in my book. High heels always polish off any look and there are many options. Don't wear a sleek dress with a pair of flats....unless you're walking to your car, or in my case back and forth to the Capitol! ;)


4. Handbag

I've never splurged on an expensive handbag because I like to switch mine up at least twice a year. I rather carry a different handbag every few months than invest in one that I'm going to have to carry for years. That being said, if you have the money go for it. As Janie mentions, a nice handbag is the ultimate arm trophy, especially in a bold color or design.


5. Make-up

I love make-up and feel it's always worthwhile to take a little time to do yours each morning. If you want the glam factor for a special event or evening, go for a smoky eye or bright, red lips- either or, never together! If you go for a smoky eye keep the rest of your face/lips natural. If you go for bold red lips keep your eyeshadow neutral. You never want your eyes and lips to compete with one another so choose one and run with it!

Suggestions: read this previous blog post.

6. Tights

Colored tights and patterned stockings are always fun. Sometimes it's hard to switch things up in the winter but this is the perfect way to add a little glam to a pencil skirt or sheath dress.


7. Hats/hair accessories

As Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding approaches we're hearing more and more about hats and hair accessories. They seem to be very fashionable at the moment so if you're bold enough, go for it. They'll definitely be a conversation piece.

Kate Middleton

8. Gloves

Gloves don't always have to be associated with the ones you wear in the snow. Opera length gloves add sophistication to any evening gown and what could be more Mad Men than a pair of two-tone driving gloves?

Mad Men

9. Jewelry

I own just a few pieces of really nice jewelry- all thanks to my wonderful husband and parents. But I own A LOT of costume jewelry and wouldn't trade it for anything. I never, ever wear the same pieces of jewelry on a daily basis (except for my wedding ring and David Yurman bracelet). One of my favorite things to do is pick out my jewelry in the mornings to go with my outfit. Whether it's several long chains, a bangle, chandelier earrings, a strand of pearls or a cocktail ring, have fun with it!

Stella & Dot

Monday, March 21, 2011

What season are you?

For my birthday this year Chris gave me the book The Fashion File:  Advice, tips and inspiration from the costume designer of Mad Men. I'm a huge fan of the show Mad Men and love the classic/vintage fashion that Betty, Joan and the ever so handsome Don Draper pull off on each episode. The book takes a sneak peek into the dressing room of Mad Men and the process behind each character's look. It also provides suggestions on how to embrace your own personality through fashion.


As we move into spring I thought it would be a good time to focus on color. Everyone has a color that looks great with their complexion and it's important to find the right color scheme that suits you best.

I love bold colors. I think they make a difference in the way I feel once I'm dressed. It's why I'm so excited that spring has finally arrived too. My closet drastically changes color once spring rolls around. I actually spent Saturday packing up my heavy sweaters and winter clothes and swapping them out for my spring/summer attire. My closet finally looks cheerful again! Everything is yellow, purple, pink, teal, white, green....bright colors.

I feel confident and happier when I'm wearing bright colors versus dull, dark colors. I always seem to have a drab day when I throw on a black sweater and gray pants and stroll to work. As Janie Bryant mentions in her book, she would never put a depressed secretary in a bold colored dress or try to downplay a cheery housewife in a shade of pea-soup green. Color shows emotion! So the next time you wake up and it's pouring rain outside and you feel a dull day ahead of you, pick the brightest color in your closet and see if it makes a difference.

"The best color in the world is the one that looks good on you." Coco Chanel

So now you need to determine your "season." Johannes Itten was a Swiss expressionist painter, designer, teacher, writer and theorist associated with the Bauhaus school.  Itten's work with color is said to be an inspiration for seasonal color analysis. He was one of the first people to associate color palettes with four types of people and had designated those types with the names of seasons. To determine your season you can visit Color Me Beautiful.


If your hair and eyes are dark and you have a fair or olive complexion with cool blue or pink undertones, then you're considered "winter." Colors like navy, black, dark gray, white and jewel tones compliment your complexion.


If you're a redhead or strawberry blonde with golden or yellow undertones with camel, dark blue, or hazel eyes then you're considered "autumn." Dark brunettes with auburn highlights are included. Clothes in camel, orange, peach, taupe, copper and cinnamon favor your complexion.


If you have blonde or light brown hair with fair skin and light colored brown, green or blue eyes then you're considered "summer". Soft blues, pinks, yellows and greens look nice with your complexion.


If you have strawberry blonde or light brown hair with light eyes then you're considered "spring." Your complexion is fair with warm, golden or peach undertones and you may have freckles and rosy or ruddy cheeks. Salmon, aqua, teal and lime green look nice with your complexion.

Your next question may be, how do I determine my skin's undertones? One of the common methods is looking at your veins on the underside of your wrist. If your veins are green then you have warm undertones. If they're blue you have cool undertones. And if they're purple then you have neutral undertones.

You may already have a favorite color or you may notice when you receive compliments while wearing a particular color.  I have noticed that I usually get the most compliments when I'm wearing jewel toned colors- bold greens, purples, blues, etc. I love these colors so I guess I should stick with them!

What season are you?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins

I highly recommend you take a few minutes one Saturday morning and make a batch of these. They are some of the best breakfast treats I've had in a long time, and they're easy to make! I came across them at the Noble Pig and gave them a try this past weekend. It takes just like a jelly filled doughnut.

Noble Pig

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
Jam (pick your favorite flavor!)

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon; whisk to combine.

In another bowl, combine sugar, oil, egg, and milk.

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened. 

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half-full; place one teaspoon jam on top.  Cover jam with enough batter to fill muffin cups three-fourths full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Place melted butter in a small bowl; combine sugar and cinnamon in another bowl.  Immediately after removing muffins from the oven, dip tops in butter, then in cinnamon-sugar.


I had full intentions on baking these, eating one or two, and bringing the leftovers to my co-workers. Funny thing happened; I woke up on Monday and there were only four left! Unfortunately there weren't enough to bring into my office so Chris and I had to finish them. Bummer! ;)

Friday, March 4, 2011

My toast to Sarah

One of my best friends from childhood, Sarah Burrill, got married last Saturday. It was a wonderful weekend full of friends, family & fun! I dedicate this post to the new Mrs. Stewart.

One of the first things that popped into my head when Sarah asked me to be her Matron of Honor was my toast. I do not like speaking in front of a large group of people. It is one of my biggest fears and even though I had to do it several times throughout high school and college, I've never fullen gotten over my fear. So for months now I've given a lot of thought to what I wanted to say and how it was possible to sum it up in just a few minutes.

The first time I wrote my toast it was close to three pages long. As the weeks went by it grew shorter and shorter because I knew I couldn't bore Sarah and Clark's guests to tears with a recap of our friendship over the past fourteen years. As of last Thursday when we boarded the plane to fly home to Charlotte I still hadn't finalized my speech. I worked on it during the flight and told myself that I would make my final changes once I got home and had an opportunity to jot some bullet points down on an index card. Well what do you know, that moment never came. From the time we landed in Charlotte I went full speed ahead and before I knew it I was standing in the ballroom at the Charlotte City Club Saturday night staring at Mr. Burrill as he gave his toast.

Wait a minute. How did this moment get here so quickly? I'm not ready! I didn't realize that once Sarah and Clark were introduced at the beginning of the reception that they would cut the cake, have their toasts, dance their first dance and then have the best man and matron of honor's toasts. As I mentioned at the beginning of my toast, I thought I'd have a little more time to have a few glasses of wine and get a little "liquid courage." I stood by Kim absolutely freaking out. I must have said I wasn't ready a million times. I think Kim was close to kicking me to the front of the room by the time Mr. Burrill finished his toast. I honestly can't even remember half of Mr. Burrill's toast (except the words "then I heard she slept with a lobbyist!") because I was so nervous. So as Mr. Burrill closed, I took a deep breath and headed to the front of the room. My saving grace was the fact that the lights were so bright I could hardly see anyone in the crowd, except for Sarah. I locked eyes on her and she eased my way through the entire thing. She laughed when I wanted people to laugh and she made comments all along the way that eased my nerves.

As I got towards the end of my toast I started to choke up. My heart started racing and I knew there was no way I could finish without bursting into tears. At that moment I couldn't remember what I wanted to say and I can't really remember what came out of my mouth. All I know is I wrapped things up as quickly as possible and walked to the middle of the room where Sarah was standing.

Since I wasn't able to give my entire toast I would like to take this time to do so.

Here we go......

I'd like to take a minute to think back to 1996. The cost of a gallon of gas was $1.22. Bill Clinton was elected to his second term as President of the United States. The 26th Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, GA. The Yankees won the World Series. The Cowboys won the Superbowl. Some of the movie hits that year were Twister, Mission Impossible, Romeo & Juliet and Jerry Maguire. The Spice Girls took over the music scene,  but most importantly it was the year Sarah and I first met.

That was a little over 14 years ago. I didn't realize it had been that long until I started thinking about what I wanted to say tonight and began counting back the years.

Sarah and I first became friends running the hallways of McClintock Middle School as ninth graders. Eventually those hallways led us to East Meck where we graduated together with the class of 2000. We made great memories over those years but nothing brought us closer than college.

Some of you may be surprised to know that neither one of us wanted to go to NC State. For various reasons we had our hearts set on attending different colleges but thanks to our parents we both ended up packing our bags and heading to Raleigh in the summer of 2000. I believe it only took us a matter of hours before we first met up on campus. We rushed the same sorority that fall and were so close that we had the same big sister. We lived on opposite ends of the campus but Sarah's roommate's boyfriend went to a different school so she left every weekend. I would pack my bags every Thursday and hike across campus to stay with Sarah in UT. We learned to incorporate Chick-fil-a into at least one meal a day every day of the week, except for Sunday. We were so desperate to go shopping one afternoon that we decided to take the city bus to the mall. Lets just say that this wasn't the brightest idea because we didn't return from the mall until 9:00p.m.

Our sophomore year Sarah and I moved into the sorority house and lived in a room the size of a shoe box. If you know either one of us well you know that we love clothes and shoes, so how the two of us managed to live in that room together with all of our belongings and make it out with everything is a miracle. The two of us always looked forward to Mr. Burrill's big, white truck pulling up because we knew were finally getting to go to a nice meal out! We also mastered the art of tailgating and learned it was a necessity to invest in a good pair of cowboy boots.

Our junior year we thought it would be a good idea to live on Brent Rd. We also managed to sweet talk both of our Dad's into paying for our spring break trip to Acapulco and if you were to ask us to this day if we would return we would both simply tell you, no.

And our senior year, lets just say that we managed to go out every single night of the week for most of the year. With that said, we did graduate in exactly four years! As you can see, Sarah and I did everything together for four years. We graduated and moved back to Charlotte and tried putting off getting a real job for as long as possible. Sarah was the first one to take the leap and I eventually followed but in a completely different direction. I accepted a job opportunity in Washington, DC and moved away in January 2005.

I think most people would agree that distance is a true test to any relationship. If you can be seperated by hundreds of miles and still remain best friends then you know what you have is special. Even though Sarah and I may go days, weeks or months without a phone call we can always pick up right where we left off.

Sarah and Clark, I am so happy for the two of you. I wish you love and happiness over the months and years to come. Sarah, thank you for being such a wonderful friend to me over the years. I love you dearly and I promise that one day we won't have so many miles seperating us.

I love you both. Cheers to Sarah and Clark!