Thursday, December 1, 2016

Awesome Christmas Gifts that are Affordable - Foodies, Chef, Griller, Wino Influence, Plus Some Other Ideas

Hello All,

We've all seen those lists of great gifts, many of which have items with $100+ price tags. My list features gifts you can actually afford to buy, many with a food or wine influence, and some stocking stuffers. I hope this lists helps take some wondering out of shopping. I'm a HUGE fan of - specifically Prime. Most of these items can be found there. Happy Shopping! There are only a few $100+ items. Scroll towards the bottom for NON-FOOD gifts. I'll continue adding to the list...

Stainless Steel Citrus Fruit Squeezer - This will last. We've broken 2 other brands  prior to this, and wanted real quality that will last. Exceeded our expectations! 

Vinomaster Red Wine Aerating Pourer - YES!

Digital Cooking Thermometer  - This is the BEST thermometer out there. Exact! 

Metallic Wine Glass Pens - Great for wine glasses, casserole dishes, and more. 

Professional Whipped Cream Dispenser - My husband gave me this last year and let me tell you - I was blown away! This thing is SO incredibly cool! If you've ever been in the kitchen with someone making fresh whipped cream, and it doesn't turn out perfect, you know to run. This takes all the stress out. I love that you can flavor the whipped cream & that it stays fresh and fluffy for several days in the fridge. You can also make all kinds of specialty French sauces (like BĂ©chamel, etc.) Be sure to get a set of N02 Chargers!  

CHILL™ Blue Cooling Pour Spout in Acrylic Case by HOST - Great bang for your buck. I've tried other more pricey items, this is much better. Get 2! 

Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet - Silicone Hot Handle Holder - 12.5 inch - by Utopia Kitchen - Great for any home cook, looking to expand their cook wear collection. This makes incredible lightly fried and battered foods. 

Oster Electric Wine Opener - Quality for a good price. I've had this for 8+ years! Yes, it's used ALL the time ; ) 

Smoothie Straws - Fun stocking stuffer! These can be tricky to find. 

Black Garlic - You are wondering...Know someone who loves garlic, this is a perfect gift, trust me! 

Shun Santoku - My single favorite knife in my kitchen. Nothing compares. The whole set is amazing. Great starter knife for anyone who wants an upgrade to their tools. 

Tramontina Dutch Oven - Love, love, love this! Helps make incredible stews and soups, especially French Onion Soup. 

VRP Heat Resistant Silicone BBQ Gloves - Perfect for handling hot meat off the grill. Dishwasher safe! 

Cut Resistant Gloves  - We use these when using our Oxo Mandolin Chef's Set, after some near major hand cuts. Thin enough for dexterity, thick enough for protection. The mandolin is on the pricer side, but a quality item that lasts. We've tried cheaper versions and they end up getting donated. Buy right the first time. 

Premium Vegetable Spiralizer Bundle - Anyone who is health conscious, gluten free, or low carb will enjoy this gift.

Scratch and Sniff Guide to Being a Wine Expert - What a fun gift!

Vin Vacuum Wine Pump - In the rare chance you don't finish a bottle, this will save it! 

Dreaming of a White Christmas... One of my favorite Christmas sayings ; ) This is a small gift- perfect for little gift exchanges. 

Ninja Mega Kitchen - Life Changing. We use this at least once a day, if not more. Incredible smoothies, pulls chicken, incredible guacamole, fresh dressing, grates cheese. I LOVE this thing and could not live without it in my kitchen. If you belong to Costco - you can find a much better deal on this, in store ; ) You will never regret this purchase.

Non Food Items:

Christmas Humor Shirts - You might be on this site for a while, just a warning. I'm currently wearing this shirt....

J.Hilburn Gift Card - The perfect gift for any many who's ever had a hard time finding clothes to fit his body or style preferences. Custom shirts, Made-To-Measure suits, trousers, outerwear, sport coats, formal wear and a full line of Ready-To-Wear. You guessed it, I'm a J.Hilburn Stylist! I love what I do! 

Philips Norelco Bodygroom - My husband loves this thing! 

Trapp Candles: Bob's Flower Shoppe & White Fir - Now, these are pricy for candles, but there are NO other candles I've ever smelled that come close. Worth every, single, dollar. Your gift recipient will thank you. Bob's smells like a real florist shop, nothing artificial. White Fir - this candle sells out every year due to it's popularity. This is a hometown favorite of mine ; ) 

Mist Diffuser - There are many options available. I received this as a gift 2  years ago and was curious. Little did I know how much I would love it! Great alternative to candles and for use with natural use of essential oils. I'm a HUGE fan of essential oils. If you are just starting with essential oils, you need this gift! 

Brilliant Beauty Eyelash Curler - Award Winning! - I've tried so many in the past, nothing like this. No pinching, messing up eyeliner. Great for any women who likes beauty tools that work. 

100 Iconic Fashion Moments

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rhinestone Monogram LOVE!

So, I've literally wanted to make something like this nearly my entire life! I was inspired by a 60's vintage jewelry Christmas tree artwork that my great aunt had hanging in her house. I remember seeing it there for the first time when I was 3, and later on at other relatives homes over the years. I always LOVED it and knew one day, I would have something like it, and maybe even better.  The day finally came, all my waiting, saving, brainstorming and ideas came together like "the perfect storm"! Here it is!!!

This "F" seriously makes me happy, just looking at it, and seeing in one instant so much. So many people, memories, and moments are all captured on this piece. I've saved so much jewelry over the years and finally rationalized with myself, and said, "this IS what I've been saving it for."

Now, let me tell you a little bit about why the details are so great.... About half of the jewelry on here has a special memory behind it. I've listed so many of those special pieces below.

One of my best friends, saved a good portion of these jewels for me from recycled shoes (more or less--- from a company she worked for at the time.) Clearly, she knows me so well, and I can't thank her enough for 1) the gift and 2) for being patient when I told her I was saving them for the perfect project. Another huge thank you goes to my husband for drawing and cutting out my "F". All in all, it's 26'' tall. A Jig Saw is way more amazing than I could imagine.

Lower Right, Wire/Crystal Flower - from my cousin Tracy's wedding necklaces. Bow in center is from a vintage dress I found in Kansas City.

Center - flower brooch from my friend Megan's bridesmaid dresses. Bottom - Gold button from an old dress of my grandmas.

Left to Right: Extra design element from senior collection in college, earring from my cousin Jennifer's wedding, top right edge, earring of my sisters. 

Center/Left: Brooch from one of my favorite pairs of shoes that I wore to my first job all the time. Top - Earring from Jennifer's wedding, and one of the earrings from my cousin Stephanie's wedding. 

Center Left: Rhinestone banding left from my senior collection in college, bottom right, another component from my collection, bottom left - heart from a co-worker friend.

Top Center - Necklace my mom wore in my cousin Melissa's wedding, Right - the other shoe brooch, Left - earrings from Dallas Market trip Jan 2015. Top - one of many components from my friend, Natalie R. 

Top "S" pendant from my mom. 

Left - Triangle earring that was my grandmas from the 60's. I've always loved this, and unfortunately, only 1 was to be found. Above that, a flower brooch that was my grandmas, as well.

Center - Earrings from Stephanie's wedding, earring piece from my sister, and an old pair of chandelier earrings of mine. 

Flower from my cousin Tracy's wedding. 

Center - Earring from my boss and great friend, Natalie H. 

Outside banding - all were at one time straps on a prom dress I made for my sister...long story there.

Full View! 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Shrimp, Mushroom Pomodoro Panna Pasta

A ligher version of tomato cream sauce is definitely my quick go to, always amazing sauce of choice.

Basic Recipe:
- Sautee 6 to 8 chopped cloves garlic in Olive Oil
- Mushrooms, sliced or whole
- Add 3 cans stewed tomatoes (or other variety - Italian, etc.)
- (Sautee shrimp in a separate skillet)
- Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and a dash of sugar
- Add shrimp to mixture
- About 1/4 cup cream to taste, heat 1-2 min.
- Top with fresh basil

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bacon Blue Cheese Dressing

Bacon Blue cheese Dressing

1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil mayo
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 T "Better Than Good Bacon Jam" (found at HEB)
3-4 T crumbled blue cheese
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Blend all ingredients in small blender until combined. Store extra in a glass air-tight container. Lasts about 5-7 days for best flavor, a little longer if all the ingredients are very fresh. I hope you like it! I love this on a home made chop salad.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Egg Frittata

Delicious Vegetable Frittata

(Much healthier alternative to quiche.)

7-8 organic free range eggs
3-4T whole milk
Handful spinach
1organic potato, sliced at 3/8" thick
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, chopped (Costco)
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (Costco)
1/2 Swiss or other mild cheese
3T dried onion
1 t garlic powder
2 T olive oil
Salt & pepper

Use a metal pan with no plastic! This will cook in the oven, so this is key! Heat pan on low to medium heat, add olive oil. Slice potatoes with a mandolin or by hand. Once oil is hot add potatoes in a thin layer to the skillet and add salt and pepper. Let cook for about five minutes, sliding slightly & flipping if needed. While the potatoes cook begin prepping the other ingredients. In a bowl whisk together eggs, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, a little additional salt & pepper, dried onions and garlic powder.
After about 10 minutes the potatoes should be tender enough to add the remaining ingredients. Be sure that each potato can slide so that they do not stick to the pan while cooking. Add half the egg mixture, then add the sliced or chopped cheese and all of the spinach. Top with remaining egg mixture. Bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes depending on your oven.  Check center for doneness. Slice & serve. Enjoy, knowing you are having a thousand less calories than quiche!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna soup

I found a recipe titled "lasagna soup", read it, and knew I could make it WAY, WAY, better. This is authentic Italian lasagna soup, not some bastardized American version that has no flavor. If you want the real thing, this is the recipe for you. It will drop jaws, raise noses and get you kisses, I promise!

- 7 cups of water
- 1 T beef consume (condensed form of beef broth)*
- 3 cans organic diced tomatoes(14 oz)
- 1 6oz can tomato paste
- Half of a large yellow onion
- Half a cup of carrots
- 10 cloves garlic
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 T dried basil
- 3 T dried oregano
- 1/4 t dried red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 pound lean, organic, ground beef
- 1 1/2 cups Portabella mushroom pasta sauce (muir glen) or pasta sauce of choice
- 1/2 an eggplant, cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 cups dried pasta noodles of choice (spiral shapes look the best)
- 1 cup Ricotta cheese **
- grated Pecorino Romano or Mozzarella (optional)

Heat oil in a large stock pot. Chop garlic, onion, and carrots in food processor or by hand, then sauté a few minutes. Add basil, oregano & red pepper flakes. Add beef, cook until about half way, then add water, consume, pasta sauce, tomatoes and bring to a boil. [Optional to puree the sauce a little with a hand blender, but it is not necessary, especially if you like it a little more chunky.] Once boiling add tomato paste, and pasta. Cook 8 min; check pasta tenderness. If just about done, add eggplant. Reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes. Stir often and check tenderness of pasta & eggplant until cooked through.

Serve in bowls. Top with crumbled ricotta and/ or fresh grated cheese.

I don't use broken pieces of lasagna noodles, because noodles look so much more uniform and inviting!

* I always use beef, vegetable & chicken consume. The brand I prefer is "Better than Bouillon" - see this Link . It is much more cost efficient, and it is available organic! Win, win!

** I make my own Ricotta, because it tastes about 100 times better than the store bought stuff. If you are fortunate enough to live in a city with a lot of Italians, you can find good Ricotta. Otherwise, you will only be able to find the mediocre kind, with lots of whey in it. Despite what you'd think, Ricotta is super easy to make. There are many recipes on Pinterest. This is the one I usually use:  Homemade Ricotta

Mangia! Mangia!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hearty Italian Chicken Soup with Orzo

Hearty Italian Chicken Soup with Orzo

- 30 oz leftover chicken drippings/chicken stock (see below)
- 6 cups water
- 2 pounds organic, ground chicken
- 1 cup of dried or sun-dried tomatoes (with or without olive oil)
- 1 cup dried Orzo
- 1, 1 ounce package dried shiitake mushrooms, broken into bite-size pieces (fresh mushrooms perfectly suitable as well, but the texture remains when using these)*
- 1 1/2 cups artichoke hearts
- 1, 14oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 giant elephant clove garlic, or 10 regular cloves
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 4 tablespoons capers
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- two small pinches dried red pepper flakes
- Half a package frozen peas (about 8 ounces)
- one zucchini sliced and quartered
- 1T Salt and 1 T pepper, more to taste, if needed

Makes a large batch, but great for leftovers or even freezing.

* I really wanted mushrooms in the soup and this was the only thing I had in the house. After a quick Google search I learned that shiitake mushrooms are extremely good for you. In they went! I'm glad I experimented with them, the flavor and texture was really good, and they did not become mushy or soggy.

For the chicken stock/ drippings I simply reserved all the juice from chicken I cooked in the crock pot the night before.  A glass jar works perfect for storage. The flavor of the stock is SOOO incredibly delicious and you waste nothing this way.

Spray crock put with olive oil. Chop the carrots, garlic, and onion in a food processor, or by hand. Mix all ingredients together in the crock pot. Cook on low 6 hours on low.