Picture-Perfect Meals

The Winter House

Reflections

The Winter House

“Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey and enjoy every idle hour.” – John Boswell I am sitting at my desk, madly working against a quickly approaching deadline for a magazine article I’m writing on summer entertaining, when I suddenly stop and look out my frosty […]

Reflections

Reflections: Christmas Time is Here

The Christmas Spirit: “He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” -Roy L. Smith I am one lucky girl. There are the very obvious heavy hitters – health, two wonderful families, being married to the best husband/friend/partner a girl could ask for. I am blessed with a job […]

Reflections

Reflections: Ice, Ice Baby

The always-reliable Farmer’s Almanac predicted that our winter this year would be relatively mild. Mild December? Check. Mild January? Pretty much. With just a few really cold days and a handful of snowy ones, considering the norm, we’ve been pretty lucky so far (knock on wood) in the ice department. Although we awoke to the […]

Reflections

Reflections: Resolutions

Reflections: “It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” –Dale Carnegie I wasn’t sure I heard her right. “Her” being the middle-aged Botox Barbie standing in front of me in line at the […]

Reflections

Reflections: (Not So) Picture-Perfect

I don’t know what’s worse. Having too much time on your hands and being bored out of your gourd or not having enough hours in the day to catch up on all the stuff you’ve got going on. Considering our current insane multi-project (over) workload, I’m definitely going with the latter. Which kind of explains […]

Reflections

Reflections: The Right To Bear Arms

This is not a politically-motivated debate. It’s not even about whether it’s my personal prerogative to wear a sleeveless top (different spelling, I know). This is about me and my journey of self-empowerment over the shoulderless ones. And it involves a gun. Well, sort of. For those of you who have been following PPM a […]

Reflections

Reflections: What Not To Say To Your Wife When She’s…

…sitting in the chair at the day spa in mid-process of having her hair restored to its natural, vibrant color: Adam: Hey! You kinda look like Grandpa Munster. Me: [glare] Adam: Seriously, you have the whole vampire thing going on – you’ve got a widow’s peak from all that stuff plastered on. Me: [glare] Adam: […]

Reflections

Reflections: Changes

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change. Change of season. Change of address. Lifestyle changes. Age-related changes. Life-altering changes. So many times, change is seen as a bad thing, a really super scary event that most people fear. Well, because we’re basically creatures of habit and we don’t especially like it when our boats […]

Reflections

Reflections: Venice

There’s a framed photo I have of my husband that I keep on the ledge that serves as a gallery of family portraits in the stairwell of our home. He’s wearing a crisp white shirt (that was before I ordered a moratorium on that color – a.k.a. unforgiving stain magnet) and has the most exquisite […]

Reflections

Reflections: Bailey

I might have a problem. I think I love this dog a little too much. Of course, I love all my girls equally but Bailey’s…well, Bailey’s just special. And fluffy. Really fluffy. “Can I please have another treat?” “I’m sorry. Did you say treat?” Somebody needs a haircut! The Napkin Thief. She spies one on […]

Prep School

Prep School: How to Make Chocolate Bowls for Fabulous-Looking Desserts

You don’t have to be a pastry chef to turn out show-stopping desserts served in chocolate bowls. And, making them is easier than you might think. You just need a handful of small balloons, some chopped chocolate (white, dark or semi-sweet) that has been tempered (it’s a snap in the microwave – see instructions below), […]

Prep School

Prep School: How to Caramelize Onions

Something magical happens when you slice a couple of onions and slowly sauté them in butter and olive oil over low heat: they begin to caramelize and turn a beautiful golden brown, filling your house with the heady promise of a seriously delicious dinner. It’s one of my favorite smells in the entire universe. The […]

Cooking

White Chocolate Mousse

Black and White: When it comes to my husband’s opinions (and particularly when it comes to his annual birthday cake), there is no grey area. I’ll take you back to early February of this year. “You see that?” Adam says in an accusatory tone, pointing to a food magazine while we are waiting in line […]

Cooking

Frogmore Stew

Coastal Living: “Strummin’ my six string… On my front porch swing…. Smell those shrimp they’re beginning to boil…” _ Jimmy Buffet I am happy to say that the first time I shared a pot of Frogmore Stew, it was on the back deck of our good friends’ home a few years ago. An enviable outdoor […]

Cooking

French Bistro Burgers with Caramelized Onions, Bacon and Brie

Cheeseburger in Paradise: “Heaven on earth with an onion slice.” – Jimmy Buffet The best burger I have ever had in my life was in the summer of 1995 at a place in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Adam and I were enjoying a leisurely day in this quaint little town and stumbled upon a bar […]

The Stock Pot

The Stock Pot: Old-Fashioned Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw

I’ll be the first to admit it took me a long, long time to warm up to coleslaw. Well, because, like many of us, I never knew from good coleslaw.  It never appealed to me. And, honestly why would it when you’re staring through the deli case looking at a mound of white flecked with […]

Entertaining

Entertaining: Signature Cocktails – My Perfect Manhattan

I’m a big believer in signature cocktails for parties. I think it makes the occasion more special and adds old-school glam to get-togethers (not to mention that it saves you the time and money of having to fully stock a bar). So, for your next soirée, say, “I’ll take Manhattan!” and mix up this classic […]

The Stock Pot

The Stock Pot: Fundamental Recipes – Marinara Sauce

There are a few recipes that I refer to as “fundamentals.” Those basic, multipurpose work horses that every cook should have in their back pocket (and on hand) for a quick meal. Ones that are springboards – not just one-trick ponies – to all kinds of culinary greatness…and this tomato-basil sauce is one of them. Toss […]

Entertaining

Entertaining: Tableware Essentials – Glass Votives

With years of experience entertaining and styling photographs for books and magazines, I have developed a list of what I refer to as core items for entertaining basics that are perfect for just about any occasion and setting. Besides my go-to collection of all-white plates, bowls and platters, clear glass items are a must, too, […]

Cooking

Beef Kabobs

The Name Game: “Nicknames stick to people, and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive.” -Thomas C. Haliburton Nicknames are funny things – sometimes they’re obvious abbreviations or less formal adaptations – like, say, Chuck for Charles, Sam for Samantha, Di for Diana. Frequently, they’re just terms of endearment – Babe, Sweetheart, Love. Many times, […]

Prep School

Prep School: Techniques – How to Make a Béchamel Sauce

While its fancy Frenchy name may sound a little intimidating and induce a culinary knee-knocker, learning how to make this basic white sauce isn’t so scary once you master the technique. Named after its inventor, Louis XIV’s steward, Louis de Béchamel (at least that’s the word on the street), it is known as one of […]

Prep School

Prep School: D.I.Y. – Vanilla Extract

First of all, you know how much I have professed my undying love for Nielsen-Massey extracts, no? Believe me, my crush is still in tact. But, you know what? Lately, I have been using an inordinate amount of vanilla beans (those little black flecks in ice cream and pudding are so pretty!) and I just […]

Entertaining

Entertaining: 10 Brilliant No-Fuss Things to Serve for Dessert

A delicious dessert is the perfect ending to nearly every meal, but many people don’t think they have the time to prepare one from scratch. Relax! You can still have your cake and eat it, too, with one of these no-fuss suggestions that don’t require a whole lot of hands-on time. Dessert made easy? Sweet! […]

Cooking

Pulled Pork Cuban Sandwiches with Bacon

Pressing the Issue: “Too few people understand a really good sandwich.” –James Beard I hate disappointment. I suppose we all do, but I don’t handle it very well, I’m afraid. So when this new restaurant opened not too far from where we live, I got excited. Yay! I thought. Finally, a decent place for date […]

Entertaining

Entertaining: Signature Cocktails – Cuba Libre

Remember that scene in the 1988 movie, Cocktail, where Tom Cruise’s character gets absolutely slaughtered on his first night at his bartending gig and everyone’s screaming drink orders at him, including the impatient waitresses, one of whom yells out, “A Cuba Libre!” and Tom, clueless as to how to make it, frantically looks up the recipe […]

Prep School

Prep School: How to Roast Garlic

There’s a magical transformation that happens to garlic when it sits in a hot oven for a spell. It mellows its sharp flavor and gives the garlic a caramelized sweetness that is crazy good. Tuck it into soups and stews, add it to pasta sauces or upgrade your lunch fare by spreading it on your […]

Cooking

Mushroom Lasagna

Circle of Friends: “Once again, I’m saved by the miracle of lasagne!”-Garfield I have a story about lasagna that I’m not exactly proud of. Well, the story, not the pasta. Flashback to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, circa 1984. The common kitchen. I’m making lasagna. Yes, when everyone else was ordering pizza, […]

The Stock Pot

The Stock Pot: Sensational Sides – Steakhouse Fries

When we lived in East Nashville what now seems like ages ago, every now and then, we’d stop by this Meat and Three right down the road from our house for some serious soul food. I always went in with an open mind to try something new on her menu, but when it came time […]

The Stock Pot

The Stock Pot: Fundamental Recipes – Butter Cookies

Well, I didn’t think it could happen. Not in a million. In fact, neither did my husband. But it did. After almost 17 years as Adam’s Reigning Cookie Champion, his all-time favorite, Walnut Cream Cheese Cookies (from our first cookbook!), has been dethroned. And these are what did it. This is another one of my Fundamental […]

Prep School

Prep School: How to Make Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Although most people know how to scramble eggs – they’re easy enough to prepare, after all – many don’t know that there are actually a few tricks to help you turn out really good scrambled eggs that are creamy and delicious every, single time. Rule #1: Scramble the eggs over low heat. This takes a little patience […]

Prep School

Prep School: How to Make Perfect Pie Crust

Okay, raise your hand if you’re a dough phobe. Come on, admit it! There’s nothing for you to be ashamed of. Pastry can be daunting (especially with its scary reputation for being particularly tricky). I’m here to hopefully allay your fears and help thee to get into the kitchen and make ye some seriously good homemade pie […]

The Stock Pot

The Stock Pot: Fundamental Recipes – Indispensable Pie Dough

Here’s another Fundamental Recipe you’ll use over and over again for both sweet and savory dishes. This is my go-to, never fail me pie crust that I use for all sorts of applications – pies, galettes, quiche, chicken pot pie. You name it. Using a food processor makes it so quick and easy to pull […]

The Stock Pot

The Stock Pot: Fundamental Recipes – Classic Roast Chicken

Almost every grocery store in America now offers those small, hot-off-the-rotisserie chickens that even I admit to purchasing occasionally for a quick-fix dinner. But for some reason, it seems that many people shy away from roasting their own birds at home, save Thanksgiving and Christmas. This made me curious so I began asking around. Some […]

Cooking

Homestyle Chicken Pot Pie

Taking Comfort: “Food is the most primitive form of comfort.” -Shelia Graham A tall stack of fluffy pancakes dripping with buttered maple syrup. A dose of silky mashed potatoes with creamy butter. A bowl of pasta shells cloaked in bubbling cheese. Old-fashioned meatloaf. Or a warm blueberry cobbler, fresh from the oven and topped with […]

The Stock Pot

The Stock Pot: Homemade Graham Crackers

Years ago when I was still in the very beginning stages of my Product Purity campaign, I distinctly remember holding up a box of store-bought graham crackers to look at the ingredient list to see if they would pass the test and immediately slumped my shoulders. Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil. I have always loved graham crackers […]

Cooking

Caramel Popcorn

Scary Good: On Hallowe’en the thing you must do, is pretend that nothing can frighten you. And if somethin’ scares you and you want to run, just let on like it’s Hallowe’en fun. -19th Century Halloween postcard Unlike my sister, who is a Halloween fanatic, I don’t usually pull out the stops for All Hallows […]

Cooking

Pumpkin Waffles with Maple Whipped Cream

“Taylor-Made” Conversation: Friday morning. Waking up. Coffee. Second or third cup but who’s counting? Me: Well, I am officially in hell. Adam: Why? (looking at the television and not at me) What’s wrong? Me: (hands on face, shaking my head) I have a Taylor Swift song stuck in my head. Adam: Which one? I snap […]