Coconut Milk Rice Pudding With Tangerine

Breakfast: my forever brawling-partner. You know how much I love flavor and how the most common quick breakfasts lack it. Do you know how many times I've been betrayed by a cozy, fantastic smell only to come downstairs to find it's oatmeal? I have never been able to figure how on earth oatmeal can smell so divine and taste so disappointing. It isn't often I get out for breakfast but when I dropped by my old-faithful Cure Coffeehouse & Brasserie in Norfolk, Virginia, I sampled a coconut-milk rice pudding gently flavored with orange zest. I was charmed by the way rice pudding is exactly what oatmeal is not: a genuinely good option for breakfast. Citrus season will soon be upon us again and I cannot wait for those ridiculously flavor-packed tangerines, grapefruit, and oranges. Oh my word. Inspired by that rice pudding, I made up a batch of rice pudding last weekend. I used brown rice because it was all we had on hand, but for the more authentic, stickier rice-pudding experience, use long grain basmati rice. I actually prefer rice pudding cold - not sure why. In this recipe especially, the sunny flavors of coconut and citrus really shine the longer you let the pudding cool. You can even make it the night before and dish up the following morning for a delightful early-morning breakfast hearty enough to sustain you for the entire morning! And, being refined-sugar, wheat-free, and dairy-free, this recipe is allergen-friendly and naturally without gluten.

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding With Tangerine
Serves 4

1 can (13.6 fl. oz) full-fat coconut milk
1 cup water
3/4 cup tangerine juice (I used a mixture of tangerine and lime juices)
zest from two tangerines
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup long-grain rice grains, uncooked
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger

  1. Mix coconut milk, water, juice, vanilla, salt, and rice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer gently, half-covered, for thirty minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. Stir in honey and spices and continue to cook over low heat until rice is soft and creamy. Serve warm or cold and top with shredded coconut, nuts, and orange zest for extra flavor + protein

Vlog: September Specifics

You always have time for a vlog, right? This week I'm sharing things I've loved during the month of September - from books, to fragrances, to makeup. Thanks for watching! I do also realize that the camera cut me off halfway through the quote I was sharing so if you're interested, the full quote can be found below the video.

"It seems to me that one of the great hazards is quick love, which is actually charm. We get used to smiling, hugging, bantering, practicing good eye contact. And it's easier than true, slow, awkward and painful connection with someone who sees all the worst parts of you. Your act is easy. Being with you, deeply with, is difficult." -Shauna Niequest

Style Inspiration: How To Elevate Jeans

Autumn is here and with it all the jeans + blouse combinations. I have taken to wearing jeans all year long - in summer I suffer through happily because, let's face it, if I wear jeans I don't always have to shave my legs in the morning before work and that's worth a lot to me. This means I'm in practice for all the non-autumn temperatures we have going on after summer officially ceases around here. While I would like to bring out all my sweaters, ankle booties, and vampy lipsticks, the fact is that we're still working to divorce ourselves from the summer heat. Jeans are an easy way to channel your inner scarlet maple leaf while admitting summer's sway. And when you want to elevate your denim, what better way than with a gentle up-do, swingin' heels, and an off-shoulder blouse?

Confession: when we found this wall in a near-empty parking lot, we thought we'd get through the photo shoot unnotied. Unfortunately a saggy, middle-aged man came to dig through the cab of his truck just beyond the camera frame and stared us out of countenance. Posing under such circumstances was a little choppy. How do top bloggers do it? Extra self-confidence? Bouncer-husbands? Oh, I know. It's the chic anonymity of those Dior sunglasses. That's what I need. A brand shout-out to Old Navy is necessary here, because I have worn their Curvy Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans for quite some time now and I absolutely love their curve-hugging but comfortable profile. Clap-clap, Old Navy.

off-shoulder blouse: Macy's (exact)
jeans: Old Navy (exact)
peep-toe heels: old, Nine West (similar)
earrings: consignment store

What is your favorite way to elevate jeans for an evening out?

The Gallery Life: Analog Community

This past weekend I had the first meeting with The Gallery Life  and their newly officialized creative team. A lot of you will remember The Gallery Life as the event I "bartended" this summer. And it is. But it is so much more. The point of that event was to make connections locally, right in our community, with other makers of things and dreamers of dreams. I'm thrilled to be part of the official team brainstorming this event and others like it and as I sat in the meeting on Saturday afternoon, I couldn't help but let the excitement well up and spill over. As a creative person, being linked with other creative people is essential to my inspiration. Often times, it seems like such a community can only be found online. It is so easy with online communities like HitRecord or even these blogs to feel like you're part of something important. And you are. And you constantly inspire me, all of you "virtual" friends. But there is nothing like taking that desire for community and going analog with it. As I sat on Cait's couch, feet curled under me, eating strawberries and talking big ideas with my fellow team members, I saw the truth of that.

Community. Excellence. Creativity. Worship. These are the reasons I'm part of the Gallery Life and why I can't wait to start hosting "pop-up" events within our local community where artists and non-artists can get together and make things and learn from each other. We believe that every person on this earth has that creative spark and that it is translated differently in each person's life. Maybe you aren't accustomed to thinking of yourself as "artistic," but instead are a brilliant strategist or simply the best at navigating the ins and outs of complicated relationships. That is art. That is creativity. And The Gallery Life exists to applaud and establish that in our community.

I want to encourage you to go analog with your inspiration this week. Maybe for you, that will look like meeting up for coffee with an artist you "met" through Instagram. Maybe that'll mean grabbing a niece or nephew and playing architect with Legos. Sketching in a park and inspiring conversation. Emptying your closet and organizing it in a new way. Whatever your creative outlet, do it this week without involving a computer or your phone. Do it with a fellow human. You'll be surprised what creating alongside an in-the-flesh person will do for your inspiration. Unplug. It's okay. We can always be connected to wifi tomorrow. But make sure you come back and tell me what you chose to do, so we can share in your fun. I'm all about that.

Grilled Cheese Throw-Down

Grilled cheese is one of those things I don't think has collected a single hater over the years. I mean, probably there is someone in this world who doesn't like it, but it doesn't have a cult following of downers like, say, egg salad sandwiches or something. It's eternal appeal for me comes from the fact that for minimal effort, you can have endless varieties of sandwiches. Anyone who knows me knows I love variety. There are hundreds of kinds of cheeses and therefore hundreds of kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches. And that is if you don't add anything else to the cheese itself. For instance, take cheddar: with several varieties of cheddar itself (mild, sharp, extra sharp, flavored, extra-aged, etc.) you have several sandwich options, but add thin green-apple slices, crispy bacon, sauteed mushrooms and onions, or grilled pineapple and you've got four entirely different stories...for each variety of cheddar. I'm sorry. Cheese in general (and grilled cheese sandwiches in particular) gets me excited with its possibility. Thank goodness for The Grilled Cheese Bistro in Norfolk, a restaurant dedicated solely to the exploration of amazing grilled cheese combinations. The Grilled Cheese had been on my "to-do" list for years but I only recently was able to slip in and order the "Don Quixote." This sandwich, a delicious affair of gouda, caramelized onions and oyster mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and olive tapenade built larger than ever in my mind the idea that grilled cheese is an endlessly supple canvas. I mean, sitting right across from my at a picnic table in the rain was my long-suffering friend, Arielle, eating "The Violet": an understated blueberry & brie sandwich. If that doesn't show diversity, I don't know what does (Plus crazy-flavorful chimmichuri fries. I don't know. They needed a shout-out). So in the spirit of The Grilled Cheese Bistro (and all grilled cheese lovers e'erywhere), I've listed some of my favorite combinations below! Just one quick comment: don't believe people who say spreading the bread with mayonnaise instead of butter is better. Just don't.

Best Basic Grilled Cheese: sourdough + gouda

Grilled Cheese Strudel: brioche + mild white cheddar + jam of choice

Lox & Loaded: whole grain bread + gouda + thin-sliced lemons simmered in saltwater + smoked salmon slices

The Countryman: sourdough + gouda + smoked bacon + green apple slices

White Pizza: sourdough + olive oil + mozzerella + spinach + feta + capers + olives

Cinnamon Apple Toast: sourdough + mild white cheddar + thinly sliced green apples + cinnamon + honey

Caprese Grill: foccacia + mozzerella + fresh basil leaves + sliced roma tomatoes

Do you have any favorite grilled cheese options? (PC to the same long-suffering friend, Arielle)

Burnt Honey Lattes

Do you know what I like less than I like riding in car with the windows down and my hair flying into my lip-gloss? My white laundry going silver. Possibly it is something to do with our water. Possibly it's a mysterious, evil creature who adds something to the laundry when I'm not looking. Possibly it is none of these things and everyone's white laundry goes gray at some point in its miserable little life. Moving on to the real subject of this post, I introduce you to burnt honey.

Have you ever had a burnt honey latte? The first time I tasted one was at Commune, a brunch/lunch restaurant in Virginia Beach. I took a sip from my sister's mug and raved about the flavor afterward over my fig & honey croissant. Think past the saccharine, over-sugared Starbucks “Carmalized Honey Latte” to something more refined. Something less “in your face with the cotton candy rainbows” and more reserved. Think twice-distilled autumn sunlight. That's what burnt honey is like. Not too sweet with a strong undertow of dark coffee. After my recent Instagram-documented encounter with a “golden milk latte”, the burnt honey craving was stronger than ever. This weekend, in a fit of over-confidence, I tried my hand at a replication. The results were so pleasing, despite the fact that I cooked some of the honey to the hard-ball stage and therefore have a solid block of amber stuck in a mug on my counter-top. Still working on how to get that out. Since I'm not a pumpkin-spice latte kind of girl, I foresee a whole lot of burnt honey in my fall. Enjoy!

Burnt Honey Lattes For Four

1 pot of good coffee, made strong in a French Press
1 cup whole milk, frothed by hand
½ cup “burnt” honey (recipe to follow)

  1. First, burn your honey. Pour ½ cup honey into a small saucepan and over medium heat, stir constantly till it reaches the “soft ball” stage of cooking. The color will have darkened and the honey will have begun to “smoke.” Careful you don't cook it too long, as you'll end up with hard honey candy instead of a syrup! Transfer to jar for safe-keeping and reheat the saucepan with water on the stove-top to avoid crystallization.
  2. After brewing your coffee (I recommend a French press, though strong coffee of any variety, even espresso, would work just as well), it is time to froth the milk. In a saucepan on medium heat, heat the milk, whisking briskly. As the milk heats, intensify your whipping until it is hot and frothy.
  3. Assemble lattes by dissolving a good dollop of burnt honey in a mug ½ full of hot coffee. Spoon foamy milk over the coffee, saving the frothiest for the final topping. Top with froth and drizzle with additional burnt honey.

Playlist For Autumn

photo via pinterest

Post Labor-Day is Autumn. I don't care if the weather hasn't caught up. I've moved on and accordingly built a playlist to listen to on a crisp morning walk, while sketching with a hot latte, or while sweating it out and wishing for temperatures in the mid-fifties. Reality check, dolls. I've listed the songs here, or you may check out the playlist "Falling Gold" on Spotify!

"From This Valley" - The Civil Wars
"Finding North" - The Civil Wars & T Bone Burnett
"Dust To Dust" - The Civil Wars
"Stone" - Alessia Cara
"My Song" - Alessia Cara
"River of Tears" - Alessia Cara
"Wild Things" - Alessia Cara
"Waiting For My Time To Come" - Colony House
"I Like You" - Ben Rector
"When I'm With You" - Ben Rector
"The Men That Drive Me Places" - Ben Rector
"Unpack Your Heart" - Phillip Phillips
"Raging Fire" - Phillip Phillips
"Sit Still, Look Pretty" - Daya
"I Believe in You" - Michael Buble
"Over And Over Again" - Nathan Sykes and Ariana Grande
"Elysium" - Bear's Den

Six Ways to Feel Beautiful Again

image via pinterest

There are days when you won't feel beautiful. Maybe you didn't get much sleep or your hair is frizzy (or greasy) or you've been overcrowded by too many loud people for too long. Maybe you wore clothes much too warm for the weather and spent the day feeling unkempt and disheveled. Whatever the case, you know you'll have a day when you stand in front of a fitting room mirror in TJ Maxx and in abject horror notice every scar, blemish, and hair on your face.
When that day comes, you will be in need of feeling beautiful again. I know this because those moments come fairly frequently to me. Since I work as a nanny, my days are largely spent being hung on/grabbed at by young children, reading-aloud on the floor, and playing dialed-back versions of all the major sports games (which I invariably lose) in the humid 95 degree weather. It is a common thing to leave work feeling the very farthest thing from composed and elegant. Since I usually do my errands before coming home, I'm quite familiar with that loathsome dressing-room scenario. By the time I reach the obnoxiously-exact TJ Maxx dressing room mirror I have worked a full day, run several errands, discussed world politics (loudly), and been given sidelong glances by the composed beauty ahead of me in line at Starbucks.
Quit judging, lady. I just want my iced coffee, no classic, add whip.
So to help all of us win back a sense of beautiful, I've compiled a list of things which help me. I hope you'll be able to see the true you again: that beautiful, talented, strong-hearted woman who just kicked a whole lot of sass.

  1. Take a walk - when I'm feeling out of sorts with myself, a walk always lends new perspective. Even if you don't feel massively better when you're finished, you'll have done something beneficial to your body, taken some fresh air, and waved at a stranger or two.
  2. Shave your legs – come on, it's impossible not to feel beautiful after a fresh shave. Makes even pajama pants borderline alluring.
  3. Shape your eyebrows – somehow the world gets a sharper edge after the stray eyebrow hairs have been tamed. You can go from “beetle-brow'd potato-fed great-aunt” to silver screen star in about three minutes. It's remarkable.
  4. Turn on your favorite music – I can never stay disgruntled for long when Meghan Trainor is blaring. Especially if I put on my booty-shirt and pretend I can dance.
  5. Do something you love – a lot of times the reason you've forgotten your beauty is simply because you've been away too long from who you really are. It could be reading a book, painting a picture, sketching a view, or photographing a friend. Whatever it is, do it again and I promise you'll feel a bit more like yourself. Feed your mind. Feed your heart. Beauty is bound to follow.
  6. Use that expensive lotion – I can't possibly be the only person who has a bottle of nice lotion squirreled away as if I'm waiting for some grand occasion. Get ready for it: the grand occasion is now, the guest of honor: yourself. Just use it already. Seriously.

Are there any tips you cherish when it comes to feeling human again? I would love to hear them if you'd like to leave a comment.

Savory Butternut & Fig Galette

 I never seem to want certain things until it's absolutely impossible to find anyone who has them. Take figs. Ever since Carmel bought them at her market way over in Franklin, TN, I've found it impossible to stop thinking about figs. I am craving fig bars. Figs have become the subject of water-color sketches and the item I end up ordering when out for brunch (looking at you, fig & honey sourdough croissant from Virginia Beach's Commune.). Even Mindy Kaling tweeted an article from the New Yorker which, while deeply disturbing, did not serve to dissuade me from my hunger. Yet a trip to the grocery store and an early Saturday trip to the local farmers market brought no luck in my fig-craving department. When I did manage to find a locally-harvest, locally-prepared fig jam, however, my rage slightly abated. On the way home from the market (between trying to memorize the entirety of Lafeyette's rap in “Guns & Ships”) my vision for fig-jam thumbprint cookies morphed into an adventurous and flavor-charged idea for an autumnal galette. I rolled up to the house, cleaned my kitchen, and brought the idea to life.

The best part about a galette is that it's supposed to look absolutely primitive. Mr. Bingley with his opinion about country manners would likely find the lack of finesse in a proper galette charming as well. It's a working man's pie. It's a beautiful, rough-shod thing. But it can taste like a Rembrandt and that's the whole beauty of such a rustic presentation.

Savory Butternut & Fig Galette
1 recipe galette dough (recipe follows)
1 small butternut squash
1 tablespoon butter
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt & pepper
1 bunch green onions
Red onion slices
¼ cup fig preserves
3 slices good-quality bacon, cooked hard and broken into bits, reserve drippings.

  1. Prepare butternut squash by roasting: half and scoop out pulp. Drop butter into hollows, drizzle squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly, then remove skin and cube. While baking, prep bacon and other toppings.
  2. Roll out galette dough on floured cutting board. Remove to parchment paper-covered baking sheet or stoneware pan.
  3. Spread fig preserves into center of dough, leaving 2” perimeter around edges. Top with cubed butternut squash, both varieties of onions, and bacon pieces. Fold the edges of the galette dough into the center, letting it pleat itself casually.
  4. Brush the edges of the galette with reserved bacon drippings, then bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until edges are golden brown. Serve warm.

Galette Dough:

3 Tablespoons plain yogurt
1/3 cup ice water
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cornmeal
1 teaspoon cane sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
7 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into small bits

  1. Combine ice water and yogurt in a small bowl. Set aside
  2. Combine dry ingredients. Work butter chunks into flour with light fingertips, careful not to overwork.
  3. Drizzle yogurt mixture by the tablespoon into dough and draw crumbs together with fingertips until a soft dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill two hours or freeze up to one month.