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Pretty In Pink… A Memory of Sandra

Pretty In Pink… A Memory of Sandra

Lately I haven’t really enjoyed doing the whole mall thing. The other day while out with the mini me I ended up at the mall. More importantly I ended up in JC Penney. That’s where I saw the cutest pink outfit. It seemed so fun and flirty.  I already figured out so many ways to wear the two piece ensemble in less than 5 minutes of initially seeing it. I needed it in my closet but first a dressing room, please.

I tried on what used to be my size only to realize I needed a smaller size. YAY ME! Down 14 pounds but that’s not what this post is about. This little number that ended up in my closet ( a certain un-named person gifted it to me) was to be my ode to Breast Cancer awareness. A dear friend/neighbor of mine survived breast cancer only to later lose her life to cancer of the spine. I think about her often…missing her. I laugh about how I hated how perfect her home always looked. At that time she had no children and I had 3 so a clean house was hard to keep. She even had the nerve enough to have a white sofa. I secretly hated on her about that. Then she was blessed with a child of her own. And everything changed. The struggle became real and apparent, yet she only had one child. We became kindred spirits. I love the memories we were able to create. Laughing over tea in her kitchen about my oldest one running away from home to her house. Or the time she called my house because the wasband was playing his music too loud and way too late into the night. She threatened to bring her infant child over if he didn’t shut it down. Hell, I pulled the plug myself. I miss her. I wear this pink in her memory and for all the memories we shared. Sandra Hutchinson you are loved.

Go forward and make memories.

~The Chef In Pearls

 

Banana Bread Remixed

I love bananas…I mean I could eat bananas all everyday if…they didn’t cause me pain. Apparently at some point in my life I met my banana quota. My body’s way of letting me know this is by inflicting excruciating pain on my stomach. I don’t have to eat a whole banana for this phenomena to take place…a bite…hell a half a bite and BAM instant pain.  But that doesn’t stop me from creating wonderful banana inspired dishes (remember I love bananas).

Today I bring you the banana bread remixed.  This dish was inspired by a post a friend shared on Facebook, “20 Recipes that will make you never want to skip brunch Again,” by viral nova. On this list was a recipe for cream cheese filled  banana bread…..how could that not be good. I mean, I have done banana bread with a brown sugar cream cheese spread so I know cream cheese in the middle would definitely take it up a notch or 2. Here’s the thing though I wasn’t feeling the actual banana bread recipe that was posted so I went with my tried and true recipe from out of one of my old dusty notebooks. I now give you Banana Bread with cream cheese filling and candied walnuts….. So here ya go:

Banana Bread

3 or 4 ripe bananas, mashed

1/3 cup melted butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Cream Cheese Filling

1 (8oz) block of cream cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Candied Walnuts

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon of corn syrup

 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter & flour a loaf pan. In a saucepan place walnuts, sugar and corn syrup.  Heat until sugar is melted and nuts are coated. Spread nuts out on a parchment lined baking sheets so as to cool and not form lumps.Mash bananas with a fork in a mixing bowl .With a wooden spoon mix melted butter into mashed bananas.  Mix in sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle salt & baking soda over mixture and then mix in. Add flour and mix until incorporated ( do not over mix as it will toughen the texture of the bread). Put to the side.  Place softened cream cheese into bowl with egg, sugar and vanilla, mix until smooth. Pour 1/2 the banana mixture into prepared loaf pan. Then pour cream cheese mixture on top of banana mixture in pan. Top that with a 1/4 cup of candied walnuts followed by the other 1/2 of banana mixture. Finish it by sprinkling the remaining walnuts on top.Place loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake 45 minutes to an hour. Insert knife or toothpick to test bread , if it comes out clean then done.  Cool pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove bread from pan, allow to cool completely on rack. Cut using a serrated edge knife. Then enjoy 🙂 .

 

 

Well I hope you’ll share how your banana bread turns out. CIPapproved

 

The Month of May

The Month of May

May. What can I say about the month of May except that it’s been one helluva ride.  May came complete with a roller coaster ride of up and downs.  I wanted to bask in the sun of Springtime but that seemed to get interrupted with life.  I am blessed to still be able to enjoy my mother on Mother’s Day. My Children did the one thing most people fear to do for me, they cooked me a lovely dinner. All the while trying to keep the sun on me I was still preparing for the one year anniversary of my other Dad’s death (Yes Cancer Sucks!). We planned a community outreach to help make people aware of their health and bring a little fun to the neighborhood. As if that was not hard enough, in the midst of all of the planning we got news that would break my mother’s heart once again. A close family friend, correction a son to my mother and a brother to me, was murdered. I tried to find solace in cooking but it hadn’t helped. The clouds were covering up my little sunshine.  It’s kind of hard to have all these beautiful memories of these great & wonderful men, knowing I wouldn’t be able to make new ones with them. I pushed those clouds to the side as I laughed and recalled the good times I had with the 2 of them.  Then life showed up once more as I try to bring closure to my marriage. Remembering the good times with my soon to be ex-husband made it hard but life must continue on. I try to find the silver lining in it all. The memories are what helps to pull you through the rough times. Life continued on.  I got some sunshine pushing hard through those clouds. It’s graduation season here in Atlanta and I knew quite a few graduates. I was more than happy for them and their families. Seeing the potential in all of them from the kindergarten graduate to my daughter-in-law who just presented her dissertation for her doctorates. Proud moments and some sun to bask in again. It’s the closing of the month. It’s a celebration of our fallen soldiers , which always marks the start of grilling season and the wearing of white. If ever there was a time when having wonderful memories to recall was most important the month  of May was it. I beg you to please go forward and make wonderful memories…tomorrow is promised to no one.

~The Chef In Pearls

About last night…

About last night…

It was supposed to be a party of four. Some how it ended up being a party of two but we still had fun. A night of live Brazilian Jazz music at Atlanta’s High Museum.  Chinese food for dinner along with very interesting conversations. It was a good night. We missed having out other friends there but we had fun nonetheless.

C.I.P.  Jumper: Lane Bryant

Necklace: Dillard’s

Earrings: Gems and Baubles

Go find out what’s happening at your local museum after hours and make some new memories.

~The Chef In Pearls

8 Things you need to throw your very own tea party

8 Things you need to throw your very own tea party

So you’ve seen them on television. You may have even attended one at a swanky hotel in town.  And now you want to throw your very own tea party. Most people tend to throw tea parties for special occasions like a bridal shower, or a baby shower or even a birthday. Why not throw one just to have friends over to chat? It isn’t very hard to do.

Here is a list of 8 things you’ll need to pull this off.

  1. The Usual Party Arrangements. Like any other get together you have to have a location, time and invitation. With modern technology you can do invitations through Facebook, a text message or so many other online invite systems like Evite. I still like a good old fashion printed invite sent by snail mail.
  2. Tea Pots & Tea Cups.  Your china does not have to match. Let me repeat: they DO NOT have to match. Check out what you have in your china cabinet. Or visit your local thrift store and see what goodies you may come across. You can make it part of the theme for each guest to bring her favorite tea-cup. Same thing goes for the tea pots. See what pieces your Mom or if you’re lucky your grandmother may have in her china cabinet and have at it. For my last tea party, I was blessed with a plethora to choose from because my Mom collects tea pots.
  3. Tea. Can you actually throw a tea party without tea? I think not.  I grew up with fresh peppermint growing in my backyard so I know what it’s like to enjoy freshly made tea straight from the garden. There is also the debate loose tea vs. tea bags. I say loose but tea bags aren’t bad if you get them from a reputable company. Some days you really can’t be sure what manufacturers are giving you. With that being said you can make your own tea bags with just a couple of items. (See below)
  4. Tea Sandwiches I know we have all seen the infamous cucumber tea sandwich. Please do not think that is your only option for sandwiches at your tea party. It’s all up to your imagination. Think it up and shrink it down in size. They should not be larger than a 2 bite sandwich. I made a caprese styled sandwich with fresh mozzarella, basil, yellow grape tomatoes, spicy sliced turkey from the deli all on a toasted square of bread. If you really aren’t interested in making any small sandwiches find your favorite local restaurant and see what they can do for you.
  5. Scones. Now we all know it’s not really a tea party if there aren’t any scones. What exactly is a scone? I think the best description I have heard is that “a scone ain’t nothing but a glorified biscuit.” If you’ve been to a Starbuck’s you may have seen one or even eaten one. I made cranberry/orange scones and chocolate chip scones for my tea. Once again the choices are limited only by your imagination. Oh and don’t forget the lemon curd…it takes scone eating to a whole other level.
  6. Pastries.  Tea loaves, cookies, savory mini tarts, fruit tartlets: any of your favorite pastries in mini form. Remember they are meant to be eaten in 2 bites. Put them on a plate with a doilie (remember to use what you have as dishes or borrow from Mom) and set it on the table.
  7. Photos.  Pictures are important to immortalize the event. You can hire a photographer to capture all your hard work and the fun you and your guests will be having.  This will give everyone the chance to sit back a really enjoy. Your other option would be to make everyone the paparazzi for the night. With the digital age we live in now everyone has a smart phone, so picture-taking is inevitable. Create a hashtag just for your event so when attendees post pictures you can have access to them all in one place. Consider printing a photo book as a keepsake afterwards.
  8. Gift Bags. I always like for my guest t walk away with some sort of keepsake from whatever event I create. It doesn’t have to be super elaborate but it does have to show you put some thought into it. For my tea party I made tea bags for everyone, some lemon melt away cookies and placed a teaspoon in a goodie bag tied up with ribbon. I wanted them to continue the tea party for themselves when they got home. I am including how to create your own tea bags below.

How to make tea bags

You will need loose tea, old school white coffee filters, a stapler, and baker’s twine. Take one filter and flatten it out. Depending on if you plan to make bags for an individual cup or for a pot place 1 teaspoon to a tablespoon of loose tea along the center of filter. Do not come past 2 inches from either ends of the filter and forming a straight line done the middle. Fold either sides of the filter of the line of tea, making a rectangle with rounded ends. Starting with the end closest to you make 2 folds, one over the other. Then do the same with the other end. Now fold the filter in half, bring both folded ends together. Take a 5-6 inch piece of baker’s twine and attach it to the filter using the stapler. I like to leave a ½ of an inch of twine on the other end so that I can tie a knot and secure the twine on the staple. Viola you just made your very first tea bag and probably not your last.

I hope this has helped you in feeling like this is something yo can pull off because you know what? You can. Is there something you think should be added to this list. Drop me a comment below and let me know. Then take some time out and visit my It’s Tea Time board on Pinterest.

Now go forward and make some memories.

~Cassandra, The Chef In Pearls

 

 

Photo credit: Tonesha Smith Photography

 

 

 

Sweet ’16

Sweet ’16

Okay it is almost the end of the first month in the New Year. I haven’t even taken the timeout to wish everyone a happy new year. Well, Happy New Year Everyone! I hope your start was better than you could ever anticipated it being. Great. I am glad that I have gotten that out-of-the-way. I didn’t want you guys to think I am rude. Now to let you in on what’s been going on with The Chef In Pearls. On January 9, 2016 (I like how the new year looks) Anyway on the second Saturday of the new year I threw a Ladies Brunch. Yep that’s right I cooked, they ate and it was grand. Actually there was a little bit more to it than that.  Well let me show you some of what went on. I mean a picture is worth a thousand words.  So here you go…

There was something for everyone. Motivational speaking by Kym Edwards helped the ladies through the new rules for 2016 and how to enjoy them. I taught the ladies how to make a mushroom tart (which happened to be on the menu for the day and a few other things). We even celebrated the birthday of one of the attendees, Miss Katrina Parker. How could I not take this chance to give her hearts desire, strawberry cake…from scratch I must add. It was a wonderful day had by all…especially me.  I created so many memories that I cannot wait until the next one.

I want you to now go forward and make your own memories. Call up a few of your girlfriends and plan a brunch. I want you guys to sit down and connect on levels you may not have had a chance to do before. And by all means write down your goals and aspirations for the year. Nothing makes it more real than seeing it on paper. And to help you on your way I am going to include the new rules for 2016 so you can share with your girlfriends at your brunch.

Rules for enjoying your Sweet ‘16

  1. DO choose happiness.
  2. DO NOT argue with fools.
  3. DO NOT undervalue yourself.
  4. DO NOT be afraid to be amazing.
  5. DO choose your circle wisely.
  6. DO NOT compete. You are the competition.
  7. DO love yourself first.
  8. DO NOT hold on when you realize it’s time to let go.
  9. DO Heal.
  10. DO write your own story.

       by Tony Gaskin

Now go forward and make some new memories of your own….Welcome to your Sweet ’16!

P.S. If you are in the Atlanta area and would like to attend the second meal of the year with The Chef In Pearls you can purchase tickets here.

Finally…Mexican I can truly Enjoy

Finally…Mexican I can truly Enjoy

Yup I said it. I finally found a Mexican restaurant that I truly enjoy.  Now don’t get me wrong I eat Mexican food at other places but they never truly satisfy me the way I have longed for. Tacos and Tequila is the first Mexican restaurant I have gone to that makes me want to stop writing and head over there for dinner, right now.  I won’t do it even though I really want to (no really I want to).

I visited their Ponce de Leon Location and was greeted very warmly. As we were escorted to our table I was taking in the over all look of the restaurant which was inviting and very clean (they even received a score of 100 on their inspection score).  Our waiter Mateo took the time out to talk to us about the choices of margaritas we could have. We even learned about the restaurant’s specially created tequilla. I’ll have to try it the next time I go which I hope is soon. We ended up having the 20 oz. Skinny Girl Margarita (don’t judge me). We were offered the gratuitous chips and salsa that was actually good. The salsa was not chunky but instead a smooth blend of what tasted like roasted peppers. It wasn’t too hot but carried the right amount of heat for me. Mateo took our orders I had the Beef Brisket Chimi Rica and Jada (my partner in crime for the day) had Chicken Enchiladas.  I cannot describe Jada’s meal but my meal was the bomb.com. A Chimi Rica is a flour tortilla filled with meat, in my case beef brisket, deep fried and covered in queso. My dish was served with refried beans, seasoned rice and guacamole. I have never had Mexican food that was this well seasoned and flavorful. The service was fast and the food delicious. I would definitely visit them again. We left feeling completely satisfied and full. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who happens to be in the metro Atlanta area. Check out their website here

If you get a chance, check them out and go forward make memories.

 

A Quickie….National Martini Day

A Quickie….National Martini Day

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I fell in love with Martinis….Apple Martinis to be exact over 10 years ago. I had long been a fan of vodka but now I had another cocktail made with vodka to add to my list. I learned that today, June 19th, was National Martini Day.  A day dedicated to the celebration of Martinis. How could I not write about my love of Apple Martinis?

Okay it’ story time. I wanted to bring my love of Apple Martinis to one of my best friends. I traveled to Kissimmee, Florida to visit with my friend Alison, whom I’ve known for over 20+ years. We decided to have dinner at a local Cheesecake Factory. We had been assigned the world’s best waitress that night. She asked for our drink orders and so I had to have an Apple Martini. Our waitress looked at me and asked if I liked jolly ranchers. Who doesn’t like a good jolly rancher candy? She informed me then I must have my Apple Martini with the addition of Midori, a melon liqueur. You tell me that by adding another liqueur I can be drinking a cocktail that tastes like candy? I’ll take it. That was the beginning of all of my Apple Martinis having Midori added to them and my continued love of Apple Martinis.

Here’s a recipe for an Apple Martini with Midori.

2 oz Vodka ( I’m partial to Tito’s Handmade Vodka)

1 oz Apple Schnapps

1 oz Midori melon liqueur

1 squeeze of lime juice

 

Prep martini glass by chilling it either in the fridge or allowing to sit with cubes of ice. Once chilled rim glass with sugar(dip rim of glass in lime juice and then into sugar). Add Vodka, Schnapps and Midori to a shaker over and shake well. Strain into prepared glass and finish with a squeeze of lime juice and a thin slice of green apple.

Please enjoy this drink responsibly. Now go forward and make memories.

(recipe courtesy of drinkmixer.com)

Summer Edition….Ladies Lunch

Summer Edition….Ladies Lunch

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So its that time of year again. Mark your calendars. The Chef In Pearls will be hosting her Summer Edition of the Ladies Lunch. Sunday June 7, 2015 from 3-6 pm.  We will be taking a trip to the Greek Isles for this luncheon. You don’t need a passport just a fork. Visit www.TheChefInPearls.eventbrite.com to purchase your tickets.  In addition to a wonderful lunch you’ll also receive a gift bag. As an extra bonus Atlanta Touch Therapy will be in attendance offering a special rate for 1/2 hour massage for attendees. So come along for an afternoon of good eats, good company and a good time. Let’s make new memories together.

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Lunch Menu

A Quickie….elmyriachi

A Quickie….elmyriachi

With family in town for my parent’s vow renewal I was put on tour guide duty. Today was actually a lovely day to take in the King Center. Well after a walking tour of the center it was time to eat. We ended up lunching in the Kirkwood neighborhood at a Mexican restaurant, elmyriachi. We were excited to try a new place but lets just say the excitement didn’t last long. The customer service was undesirable. Our waiter was far off his game. My street corn was cold,the chips and salsa was pretty basic in taste & appearance, the chimichanga was pretty average( I must say I make a better one even if I’m not Mexican) and I have yet been offered an opportunity to try a drink from their menu. So all in all I would not recommend this placc to anyone I know as restaurant to try. The pricing was too high, the food just okay and the service brings tears to my eyes

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The Chef In Pearls

Cassandra Mason is a Lifestyle Chef and Gourmet Cooking Instructor who enjoys demystifying the art of cooking for One. You can catch her live demonstrations across major social media as @TheChefInPearls.

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