Thursday, April 27, 2017

Divine Day Trip - Gibbs Gardens & Goin' Coastal Restaurant

Gibbs Gardens is our happy place. 
We took a mid-week trip to visit yesterday and soaked up the beauty, peace, and  springtime joy there.
This world-class garden is located in Ball Ground, Georgia - just under an hour drive from Atlanta.
I fell in love with Gibbs from my very first visit and Jay & I have been season pass holders for several years now. When I need to escape, this is my little sanctuary. I like to go with others and sometimes I like to go alone with just my journal and camera in hand.

With just under 300 acres, Gibbs is one of the nation's largest residential estate gardens. I have some favorite spots within Gibbs, particularly the Japanese Garden {which is spectacular}, the magical and quiet Fern Dell, the English Manor House and gardens, and the seating under the trees by the Arbor Cafe. You can purchase salads or sandwiches at the Arbor Cafe {we like anything on their delicious cranberry walnut bread} and enjoy a relaxing lunch after you walk the gardens. There are so many place to sit and rest and soak up the beauty of this place.

If you marvel at nature, this is a sweet place to take photographs. Everywhere you look there is something lovely to shoot, whether it be obvious and grand or a tiny marvel. When Jay and I arrive, we find ourselves immediately breathing more deeply. It's like a mini-vacation from the world and life's hectic pace. We reconnect with ourselves and each other. We spend a few hours in the present moment, wide-eyed and content.

Leaving Gibbs is always hard. I love being there....nothing like it in Georgia. Jay and I agreed we need to get up there at least once a month. Oh, and they have a couple resident cats lounging around - which makes me love it even more.

Gibbs Gardens
1987 Gibbs Drive, Ball Ground, 30107

On our way home, we decided to stop for a late lunch/early dinner at Goin' Coastal in downtown Canton, GA. We've met friends for dinner here and had a great time. Lunch was very tasty and I went crazy for the smoked trout spread appetizer. Awesome crusty bread topped with smoked trout spread, caramelized red onions, dill, and capers - my mouth is watering just thinking about how good it was!

Being from Florida, I do love eating some great seafood. While the dinner menu seems to have more options for ordering fish, I was pleased with the Shrimp Cobb Salad. It was plump with lightly fried shrimp, fresh greens, avocado, egg, bacon, blue cheese and a tangy herb dressing. Perfect lunch meal.

Jay decided to get the burger special with roasted fingerling potatoes. The angus beef burger had a patty of fried cheese/jalapeno oozing on top and a really nice, substantial bun. Another good choice. 

Our server told us that the desserts were all homemade by the owner's mother - which was very tempting. But, wow, we were way too full to enjoy dessert. If I had, it would have been Key Lime Pie, hands-down.

Look forward to dining again at Goin' Coastal. It's got a cool, laid back vibe and an interesting and varied menu. Can't wait to try some more seafood there!

Goin' Coastal
125 W Main St
Canton, GA 30114

Grateful for the day and spending it with my favorite hubs. Life is good.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Fling Pampering in Alpharetta with L'Occitane and South Main Kitchen

Hello Spring! I am soooooo happy to see you. Enough with the cold weather, brown lawns, and hanging out inside. It's time for a new season that ushers in beautiful, warmer days and investing in some rejuvenation and self-care.
Last weekend, the season really kicked off for me at a delightful "Bloggers and Bubbles" Spring Fling in Alpharetta with the Atlanta Food Bloggers Society. We were invited to indulge in a morning of pampering at L'Occitane at Avalon, followed by brunch at downtown Alpharetta restaurant South Main Kitchen.

I'm a fan of L'Occitane en Provence. It's a lovely place to experience high-quality bath and beauty products. Seems like I am always picking out gifts for others in there...this time it was so nice to be pampered with some mini-beauty treatments. If you aren't familiar with L'Occitane - they originated in Provence in 1976. Known for their skin care, lavender, shea products, and being one of the first companies to feature Braille on their products. They have over 2000 stores worldwide and the L'Occitane Foundation was developed in 2006 with a mission to support the blind and the economic emancipation of women. Brilliant, good stuff. 
Cheers to that!

One of the highlights of the day was the care and attention from the wonderful staff at L'Occitane. They are friendly, knowledgeable, and proud of their products and services. They greeted all of us with a glass of bubbly and treated our group like VIP's all morning. I'm betting this is how they treat anyone that visits their store.
In a time where retail customer service seems to be lacking, these folks clearly are on point. Thank you all for such a great time!

I didn't have the time for a chair massage, but my fellow bloggers were obviously in heaven here!

Beautiful music always sets the tone!

The facial was's Toby getting her glow on! 
My skin looked and felt amazing after my facial.

Need a quick gift for a your mom, wife, or mother-in-law? 
You could easily put together something really special at L'Occitane for Mother's Day. My mom likes the lemony verbena fragrance. They even have a skin care, fragrance, and shaving line for men {my hubby's fav is the "Cade" after-shave products}.

L'Occitane en Provence
2200 Avalon Blvd.

Alpharetta, GA 30009

Onto lunch y'all! Our group split up and headed over to South Main Kitchen and Butcher & Brew in downtown Alpharetta.
I've eaten at both restaurants, but this was my first trip for brunch. 
I went to South Main Kitchen and was happy to sit at a cozy table right by the front window. You know we were all snap, snap, snapping pics of we were giddy about that natural light!
Chef Christy Stone is at the helm of South Main Kitchen and she puts a creative and beautiful touch into the food and its presentation. We shared a variety of items off the brunch menu and it was hard to pick a favorite {but I will try....keep reading!}

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

So Sweet at Chocolate Pi Bakery!

I'm here to celebrate Pi Day with you! Nope, I don't have mathmatical formulas or fresh baked pie.....{gotta hit up my local Pie Bar for that!}
I do want to share about a special little bakery called Chocolate Pi.
You know I love my sweets and I discovered this gem while visiting my family in Tampa last week. It is located in south Tampa, right next to the Epicurean Hotel and across the street from the infamous Bern's Steakhouse.

Chocolate Pi is the whimsical and lovely pastry shop of Chef Kim Yelvington. She is also the Executive Pastry Chef of the Harry Wough Dessert Room at Bern's {that's a dessert heaven that I haven't made it to yet - but it's on the list for next time!}. The shop is charming with it's feminine, bright decor and there is indoor and outdoor seating. I was glad the bakery was not too busy when we went, so we could pick out our favorite table.

Everything made at Chocolate Pi is handcrafted in the shop....homemade chocolates, desserts, coffee drinks, macarons, sodas, cakes, and ice cream. Kim describes her shop as "a place you can sip on something wonderful and snack on something heavenly." This is exactly what Jay and I found when we stopped by for an afternoon treat.
Above is my Salted Rose Latte {rose water+ bitter vanilla bean caramel,+sea salt}. It is a rare and happy day for me when I see rosewater on a menu. I have long been a fan of rose water {see my favorite cupcakes} and this latte is probably the best one I've ever had. Jay had the Chile Orange Latte {chile pepper+ caramel+ orange zest} and was a very happy camper.

The drink and dessert flavors at Chocolate Pi got me excited....really creative and fun. 
Passion fruit is another favorite of mine, so I was happy to see that on the menu. How about a Passion Berry Float with passion fruit sorbet and strawberry pineapple soda? Or a Graham Cracker Strawberry Sundae Cake with brown sugar cinnamon cake, fresh strawberries, and graham cracker creme?
Or maybe you are all about the chocolate? Jay and I shared the Chocolate Raspberry dessert {Chocolate cake, red raspberry center, milk chocolate mousse, and chocolate raspberry ganache).
It was so creamy and delicious....a perfect balance of flavors.

I look forward to making Chocolate Pi a regular stop on my trips home to Tampa. This place is serving up French-inspired artisan treats at their best! Thank you to Kim for sharing her talents and pastry inspirations! 
If you get down to Tampa, be sure to stop by and check it out.
Your sweet tooth will be supremely happy!

Chocolate Pi

1205 S. Howard Ave Tampa, Fl 33606

Monday-Thursday 11am-8pm

Friday & Saturday 12pm-10pm

Sunday Closed

They have reserved self parking spaces! Pull into the hotel's main entrance, let the valet know you're headed to Chocolate Pi, and they'll direct you to Chocolate Pi parking!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

World Food Stories - Persian with Pegah!

I love ethnic cuisines. Nothing is more thrilling for me than to try dishes from different cultures and countries. Dining out to experience different cuisines is great, but there's nothing quite like learning from a cook in their home. There is no need for ego.
Along with watching their process and learning about new and unfamiliar ingredients, I get a chance to listen for their food stories. We laugh together. I see how their love and food memories are interwoven into the meal.

Welcome to “World Food Stories”, a Happily Edible After special feature, where I join up with old and new friends to explore the flavors from their culture. This idea has been brewing inside me for a little while now and I'm ready to dive in.

I’m in the kitchen today with my Atlanta friend Pegah Moghaddam, diving into the world of Persian/Iranian food. Pegah grew up with traditional Iranian food in her home. Her parents, Nahid and Manoochehr, hailed from Shushtar, an old, rural town in Iran.

Growing up she remembers eating “yogurt on everything” and reminisces about enjoying a family favorite – a picnic sandwich consisting of mortadella with mayo, tomato, and parsley on a hoagie roll. Another common family dish was a cutlet with potato and ground beef.

Pegah and I talked about what makes Iranian food unique. Here are some of its special characteristics:

· Simple foods, like kabob and rice are very common
· Lots of vegetables used, like okra, squash, eggplant, tomato
· Mixing a lot of flavors together
· Not as “potent” flavor-wise as Indian food
· Moderate, nothing is too spicy
· Presentation is important and a source of pride
· Lots of sides are served

For our get-together, Pegah decided to prepare and share a khoresht. Simply, a stew. Stews are very popular in Iranian cooking and typically go the route of a green or a red stew. They can be vegetarian or include meat. Her khoresht was a “lubia” stew with green beans, tomatoes, beef, and a very interesting special ingredient {we’ll come back to that!}.

She made traditional rice with the lovely “tahdig” or crust that is formed on the bottom of the pan during cooking.
We also sampled bites from an easy-to-throw-together platter of Sabzi Khordan, featuring fresh herbs, feta cheese, pita bread, tomatoes, cucumber, nuts, and olives.
Of course, yogurt had to show up on the table, and Pegah prepared a traditional yogurt dip called Mast Va Khiar. It is made from greek yogurt, chopped cucumber, onion, fresh mint and dried mint. Pegah typically makes it with only dried mint, but wanted to try it with fresh mint as well this time. It was a delicious, fresh accompaniment to all the food, particularly the stew. And hard to stop eating, it was so good.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Matcha Shortbread Cookies

Matcha is a special form of  powdered Japanese green tea, used for centuries in Japan during ceremony. It is earthy, bitter, and a bit of a superfood darling in the culinary world these days. 
I was first introduced to it in a yummy matcha latte and was intrigued by the flavor and gorgeous bright green color. I ended up purchasing a cannister from Do Matcha. Oh, and the traditional bamboo whisk...makes it much easier to blend in water.

 It is high in antioxidants and amino cup of matcha has 10x the antioxidants of a regular cup of green tea. With matcha, you are actually getting the whole tea leaf ground up, not just an infusion of tea leaves in water. Not only does it make a nutrient dense cup of is fun to use in cooking and baking. Good quality matcha is not inexpensive, but a little bit goes a long way. It may feel like you are really dropping some serious $$ for a cannister, but it will last you quite a while {unless you are drinking matcha lattes on the daily!}
Some folks like the buzz you get from matcha {yep, it's caffeinated!} better than coffee, saying that it feels cleaner. 

I thought making a shortbread with matcha would be interesting and a nice way to showcase the flavor. It came out good, definitely full of matcha flavor and not too sweet. Not as buttery as I am used to with shortbread though. Bonus....these guys stayed fresh for several days after baking.

How else can you use matcha? What about in your morning smoothie, chia pudding, oatmeal, or guacamole! Check out some other ideas and recipes for using matcha: 

Matcha Tea Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 15
Adapted from Lovescool

3⁄4 cup confectioners' sugar
5 ounces unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 large egg yolks
1 1⁄2 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar (for coating)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
Whisk the confectioner’s sugar and green tea together in a bowl.
Add the butter and green tea/sugar mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth and light in color. Add the flour and salt and mix until well combined.
Add the egg yolks and mix just until the eggs are fully incorporated and a mass forms.
Form the dough into a disk and chill in the refrigerator until firm (about 30 minutes).
Roll the dough out to 1/2” thickness. Cut the dough with a round cookie cutter. Roll each cookie in a bowl of granulated sugar to coat the edges.
Place the cookies on a parchment lined pan. Bake at for 12-13 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Best Lemon Blueberry Streusel Bread Ever!

You gotta trust me on this one. 
This is the absolute, without-a-doubt, most delectable quick bread 
I have ever made.
Not sure if it's the moist, lemony, fine crumb with the burst of juicy blueberries OR the crunchy, nutty, buttery streusel topping that rocks my world more. They go hand-in-hand and are a perfect complement. Kind of like Barack and Michelle. 
Or french fries and ketchup. Or summertime and sandals. 
Or beaches and pina coladas {I may be ready for warmer weather}.

Confession time. I really made this because I love streusel and I wanted an excuse to eat some.
This came out so good, I have to admit I was a little surprised. 
Not because I didn't think it would be tasty. I've just never thought of quick bread as magical. 

I really enjoyed making it and sharing it with Jay and a few other folks. 
I hope you enjoy making it too....because when you do, you are gonna make someone very happy. Maybe just yourself. 
Just remember...sharing is caring.
Maybe I should call this the "Big Smile" bread. I ate it and couldn't stop smiling. It is perfection.
Oh. Please don't skip the zest or the streusel. 

The Best Lemon Blueberry Streusel Bread
Makes one loaf

Bread recipe adapted from Serious Eats 
Streusel recipe adapted from Alton Brown 

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons buttermilk
Not quite a half pint of blueberries, tossed in a bit of flour

Struesel: {this make about 1 1/2 cups - a bit more than you need}

*Yes, I know.....some of the measurements here are in ounces. Don't panic. If you don't have a scale, just know this: 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons. Go!

2 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour
3 ounces light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 ounces walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Make the streusel:
Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and walnuts  in a medium mixing bowl.
Add the butter and use your fingers to lightly knead into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is well incorporated.
Make the bread:
Grease a regular size loaf pan. {I used olive oil spray, but you can use butter or oil or spray}.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in lemon zest and mix. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Add buttermilk, followed by dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Fold in blueberries.

Place batter into prepared pan and smooth evenly with an off-set spatula. Sprinkle the streusel generously all over the top. 

Bake until golden on top and a cake tester inserted into the middle of a loaf comes out clean, about 45 minutes or longer. Let cool five minutes then gently release from pan and cool on a wire rack.

*Best sliced with a serrated knife.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Recipe Share - Thai Cauliflower Pizza

Doesn't this make you hungry? Looks amazing to me.
Sharing this recipe from Lesli Schwartz, Atlanta food blogger at Asian Caucasian 
After a few months of holiday indulging....I'm ready to eat a bit cleaner and this gorgeous pizza from Lesli really speaks to me. 
I love the Asian flavors in the sauce {fresh ginger....sambal oelek...yum!}, toppings, and that a cauliflower crust. Sure, I love pizza with chewy, bready crust and gooey cheese, but....I feel like I need a long nap afterwards.
Here's wishing you all a healthy New Year, fun times in your kitchen, and nourishing meals.

Thai Cauliflower Pizza
From Asian Caucasian
Makes 2 pizzas

Cauliflower Pizza:
2 ½ bags frozen riced cauliflower (Trader Joe’s)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Pizza Sauce:
½ cup all-natural peanut butter
¼ cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

Pizza Toppings:
1 cup shredded chicken
1 cup fresh snow peas, halved
¼ cup shelled edamame
½ cup red and yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 Thai chili peppers, sliced
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ cup green onions, sliced

Directions for the crust:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook cauliflower according to package directions in a microwave oven. Make sure most moisture is gone. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Let cool.

Stir in cheeses, eggs, cilantro, red pepper flakes, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Combine well with cauliflower. On two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper, press and shape the mixture into two pizza crusts.  Bake in the oven until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool. (You can make these ahead and put in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap.)
Directions for the sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. (Add one tablespoon of water if sauce is too thick.)

Directions for the pizza:
In a sauté pan, lightly sauté the snow peas, edamame, peppers, and mushrooms.  Remove from heat and cool.

Top both pizzas with first the peanut sauce and even amounts of chicken, the cooked veggie mix, bean sprouts, cilantro, and green onions. Bake in the oven for about 7-8 minutes until toppings are cooked through. When ready to serve, drizzle the top of the pizzas with remaining sauce and fresh cilantro.

Can add cheese on top of pizza when baking, if desired.
Can also garnish with chopped peanuts.
Sambal oelek can be found at specialty Asian markets and some local grocery stores.

Inspired by:
California Pizza Kitchen


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Baked Avocado Fries with Spicy Yogurt Sauce

I don't know why but I've been dreaming about avocado fries a lot lately. Never had them before today, but been seriously wanting to make them. And yes, they are good, especially with a spicy yogurt dip. Could be an easy appetizer....or in my case they were dinner. 
I couldn't eat more than three though....quite rich. 
Good heart-healthy fats though and loaded with fiber and nutrients! More potassium than banana too.

I love avocado pretty much any way I can get it. In salads, guacamole and chips, on sammies, mixed in breakfast egg wraps, sushi rolls, spread for an avocado toast with toasted sesame seeds, pureed for healthier chocolate mousse, with tuna tartare, and just straight up plain.
These fries would even be good smashed into a sandwich with a hearty whole grain bread, lettuce, tomato, spicy sauce, and maybe some pickled onion.

These are easy to make and if you want to go vegan with them, you can substitute aqua faba (chickpea liquid) in place of the egg during the breading process. 
I think they would be tasty with a honey mustard or lime cilantro type of sauce as well. 
Tip: use avocados that are ripe but still a bit firm. If they are mushy, you'll have a tough time slicing them into wedges without them falling apart.

Baked Avocado Fries with Spicy Yogurt Sauce
Serves 2-4

Two Hass avocados, ripe but slightly firm {I used 1 1/2 avocados}
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Few pinches of cayenne pepper
Two eggs

Small container of plain Greek yogurt
Sriracha, to taste
Salt and pepper
Dijon mustard or Dijonnaise, to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.
Place a cooling rack on top of a half sheet pan and set aside.
Mix together the panko, some salt and pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne in small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the eggs together. 
Cut your avocados in half lengthwise and twist to open. Remove the pit with your knife. Holding a half in your palm, gently make three cuts to make three wedges {don't cut through the skin}. Using a spoon, gently scoop out each wedge and place on a plate. Repeat with other avocado halves.
Dip each wedge into the eggs and then gently coat with panko crumbs all over. {It helps to use one hand for the egg and the other hand for the crumbs.} Place wedge onto cooling rack. Repeat with the rest of the wedges.
Place baking pan into the oven and cook for about 20 minutes or until golden, rotating the pan halfway through.
While fries cook, make your sauce by mixing the yogurt with some sriracha and mustard to taste. Season with salt and pepper.