Sunday, January 1, 2012

Viva La RevoluciĆ³n by Alisa

As 2011 rapidly approaches its end, I thought about the blog piece (New Years "Revolution") I wrote at about this same time last year. It turned out to be personal advice meant more for myself than it was a suggestion for others; things I felt necessary for personal happiness. Personal happiness is as difficult to define as ‘normal’.  Both are relative and subjective. I did do my best to approach ‘my best,’ although I’m sure I’m nowhere near it yet. It’s a lifelong journey not intended to have a destination. In this past year, I’ve lost things, found things, and discovered that the unimaginable is not only imaginable, but also quite possible if I am willing to believe in it.

People rarely change, it’s true. To do so is to wage war with our innate characteristics while at the same time attempting to forge new traits into semi-natural habits. Not easy, but we can try.  During the course of this past year, I tried so much that my husband recently declared that I am having a mid-life crisis, to which I snarkily replied, “Why wouldn’t I be having a mid-life crisis??” I would think that if, at my age (I’m 287 in dog years), I weren’t feeling the urge to do more and different things with what remains of my life, then I have surely fallen asleep at the wheel. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest, your fullest, without fear of what others might think.

A few years ago, I began tentatively dipping my toe into Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. Without the discipline required to embrace all of it, I dig here and there to find pearls of wisdom that resonate with me and help to fill the (many) places where my own wisdom is lacking. This past year has been about understanding and accepting (or trying to accept) the experiences that comprise my foundation, and this simple quote has gone a long way to helping me find some peace: No mud, no lotus. You know that sinking feeling you get when you see the Jehovah’s Witnesses headed to your door to proselytize you? Yeah, well, I’m not about to go all Buddha’s Witness on you. I think it’s enough just to say that it helps me.

In keeping with last year’s NYE blog post, there are no plans for any resolutions.  Better to stick with the revolutions and reflect on what works for me and what doesn’t. Revolutions come about when people have had enough of what doesn’t work for them. If you have the time and the inclination, consider reviewing your past year and seeing what worked for you or what did not. Sometimes it actually can be as simple as that.

And if all else fails....... 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lux Magazine & The Kitchen Diaries

December 1, 2011

I have new and exiting things to share with you briefly. I started an online Women's Lifestyle Magazine last summer that has really taken off. We recently had an investor sign on and we are about to upgrade the site to new heights and we'll take on advertisers. 

Very exciting! The current url for  Lux is: www.myluxmagazine. Have a look. The new one will be simply: (Lux Magazine L.L.C) 

So after the new year, we'll launch the newly upgraded site for 2012!  The magazine features artists, designers and professionals from all over. It's a fun, supportive community. Our facebook page is:  MyLuxMagazine   So come stalk us there and say hello. We won't  bite.

Secondly, Alisa & I we have a cookbook being published in the spring of 2012. It's called The Kitchen Diaries. The website: ~ A fun and fabulous compilation of easy-to-make recipes from around the world, plus stories, photos and effortless entertaining tips. The facebook group is: /KitchenDiaries/ We are taking recipe submissions for possible publication in the book if you'd like to share with us! 

Questions regarding Lux or The Kitchen Diaries? Email:

Love, Kim

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spiced Apple Cider

Blog post by: Alisa

No, I don't make everything homemade, but, where possible, I will try at least once just to know that I can. You could skip the peeling, slow-cooking, and house filled with the fragrance of cinnamon apples by simply picking up a jug of apple cider at the grocery store. However, if you have the inclination, you will be richly rewarded with your very own apple cider, applesauce (it makes a lot!) and possibly apple butter, and a home scented with a heavenly Fall perfume.

14 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into eighths
4 cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
Pinch of ground ginger
2 tbsp brown sugar

Add all of the ingredients to a large slow cooker (Crock Pot) and add enough water to just cover apples. Be sure to press them down with a plate or a clean hand to know when to stop adding water. They will float, and could cause you to add too much water. Cover with lid and cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours. When the apples are soft enough to break down easily when pressed with a fork, you know they are done. Don't mash them up yet! Allow apples and liquid to cool a bit before the next step so that you don't burn yourself on the crock or with the steam from the liquid. Place a strainer or colander over the top of a large pot and pour the apples and liquid from the slow cooker into the strainer. Dump the drained apples back into the crock and mash into applesauce consistency. If needed, strain the cider again to remove smaller particles. A fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth lining the colander will take care of the bits. Taste the cider while it's still warm and decide if it's sweet enough to suit your preference. If not, add brown or white sugar til you reach desired sweetness. The cider is delicious served warm or cold.

For the applesauce, all you need to do is mash the soft apples to desired consistency. If you decide to sweeten the sauce a bit (can use brown or white sugar, agave syrup, stevia, etc), it's always best to add the sweetener while the apples are still warm. Depending on the apples, you may not need any sweetener at all.

For apple butter, add as much of the sauce as you want to a food processor and pulse until it reaches a very fine consistency. Put the apple butter back into the slow cooker and cook for another hour to hour and a half (WITHOUT the lid), until some of the moisture has evaporated and you have a thick, fruity spread. Again, taste test for desired sweetness. Store apple butter in sterile containers with tight-fitting lids or freeze in small batches.

For a real fall treat (Caramel Apple Cider), heat up 8 ounces of cider, add 2 tablespoons caramel sauce, and stir until blended. 
Enjoy the bountiful apple harvest!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Blog by Alisa
I like a good Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte as much as the next coffee addict with an appreciation for pumpkin pie. What I'm not so crazy about is the five bucks I have to let go of with each grande-size cup of Fall-spiked elixir. Since I'm no stranger to the kitchen or how to brew a great cup of coffee, I decided I can overcome the fact that the Starbucks recipe for pumpkin spice latte is not readily known. So what if Google yields 152, 000 entries for 'pumpkin spice latte recipe'? Piece of cake. Or maybe, 'easy as pie!' Did I mention one hundred and fifty two thousand recipe entries? After culling through several pages of vastly different and curiously similar recipes, I narrowed it down to three possibilities.

The first two recipes were such losers that I didn't even bother with photographic evidence of them. They went down the drain faster than my camera could make an appearance. Next!! However, I will tell you the general methods so that you can walk a wide berth around them if you happen to see similar recipes and get curious. Remember, "Next!!" I'm not kidding. You've been warned. The first of the two disaster lattes was true enough to its  description. It was espresso and hot milk seasoned only with the classic flavors of pumpkin pie spice: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Okay, I'll cut it a little slack here and say that it wasn't truly a disaster, as far as a latte goes, but it was not a contender for the flavor I was chasing. Why? Because there was not even the slightest hint of actual pumpkin flavor. That occurred to me when I was reading over the recipe, but I can't knock it if I don't try it, right? Well, I tried it, and that entitles me to knock it. Next! The second attempt qualified not only as a disaster, but as a catastrophe. Catastrophic disaster. Disastrous catastrophe. Take your pick. It was terrible. It was essentially the same ingredients as the recipe before it, with the horrific inclusion of canned pumpkin puree. My trusty gag reflex let me down and did not go off until it was too late. I don't care how much one whisks the puree into the hot espresso, it is still pumpkin puree in espresso. I'll spare you the description of how a smooth latte is brought to certain ruin with the seemingly innocent addition of a puree. Gag. NEXT!!

Finally, I arrived at the recipe that I suspected from the beginning as being the winner. It just made the most the sense. It was also the most labor-intensive, so I saved it for last. Every description I'd seen for the actual Starbucks latte mentioned the use of a pumpkin flavored syrup. At first, I was denigrating my rural town's inaccessibility to almost anything that could be remotely considered as a gourmet culinary item. Nearly seven years here and I haven't seen a package of spring roll wrappers for hundreds of miles.  But I digress..... In the end, it was the rural inaccessibility that forced me into not taking the path of least resistance. I could not find pumpkin flavored syrup anywhere. Not a surprise. So I made my own.  This is it, people! This is all you need to have your latte and afford it, too.

Here's all you need to create this most awesome of Fall treats in your own kitchen:
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional, but you'll thank me later if you add this)
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

Clean cheesecloth or strainer with fine mesh
Whisk together the sugar and water in a medium saucepan, and heat on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the ginger, nutmeg, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, and add the cinnamon sticks. Bring the mixture up to just under a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until your syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove saucepan from heat and allow syrup to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. If using cheescloth, use a piece that has been folded three times. Place the cheesecloth over the opening of the storage container of your choice. If using the fine mesh strainer, be sure to have a spoon handy to stir the mixture around and aid the syrup's drainage into the container (the puree is thick!). Remove the cinnamon sticks and strain your syrup into the storage container. I used a 16 ounce plastic Ball freezer container because it has a twist-on lid to help prevent spills. Refrigerate your syrup and it will keep for weeks.

To make a pumpkin spice latte, you'll need:

3/4 cup freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee (bold French or Italian roasts work fine)
1/2 hot milk
2 tbsp pumpkin syrup (more or less to suit your taste)
Whipped cream
Ground pumpkin pie spice

In a mug, add the first three ingredients, top with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and a light dusting of pumpkin pie spice blend. ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Peaches in Mascarpone Custard

Post by Alisa

I have the attention span of a gnat, and get bored easily. A quick fix for that is reading. There was a poster in the library of one of my schools which read: Reading Takes You Everywhere! I have visited the likes of the Middle East, the dark jungles of Africa, nineteenth century London, and Heaven a few times because I had to start those books over again. Not that I mind, really. It's not like I've ever actually set foot on those far away soils. Or clouds. I'm just as fascinated the second and third time I visit them via literature. I usually have two or three books going at one time, which is a little like spinning plates. If I let one book go too long, I'll forget what I've read and have to start over the next time I pick it up.

I'd been idly visiting a hidden city in an imaginary land called 'Idris', but that book went crashing to the floor like an unattended plate the moment that I began house-hunting  in Cortona, Italy. My real estate guide is Frances Mayes, and she ushers me through the back roads of Tuscany in her memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun. I've seen the movie with Diane Lane a handful of times, and it never gets old, so when I came across the memoir in a thrift store for fifty cents, I snapped it up immediately. I'm far enough into it to know that the motion picture took the liberty of cutting Ms.Mayes' boyfriend completely out of the picture. (Shouldn't there be a better term for one's 'significant other' when they are long past the age of being referred to as a 'boy' or 'girl'? Seems a bit ridiculous to say that a middle-aged, divorced woman 'has a boyfriend'. Makes it sound like someone has been robbing the cradle. But I digress...) Images of long-abandoned Cortona homes, replete with grapevines running rampant, neglected groves of olives, plums, almonds, and pears, and stray hazelnut and fig trees are positioned in my head like photos in a mental scrapbook. However, it is the prepared food which so completely captures my full attention. Tomato-topped bruschette prepared  while sitting by the fireplace? Yes, please! Pears steeped in red wine, and served with Gorgonzola and walnuts? Did I just die and get a glimpse of the menu in Heaven? Spaghetti with a simple sauce of browned pancetta, cream, and wild arugula? Now they're just showing off. And I like it because most of these dishes are included as either recipes with ingredient measurements, or else it's a simplistic kind of recipe that you can figure out for yourself based on how much of this or that you wish to add.

Among the recipes, there is one for pears baked in a mascarpone custard. I had peaches sitting on the kitchen counter, and blueberries and blackberries in the fridge.
Sounded good enough to me.

Butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish. Peel and slice 6 peaches (or pears or apples, if you'd prefer) and arrange them evenly around the buttered dish. I tossed a handful of berries in because I had them, and because I love the way blueberries and blackberries look when they've been baked. Sprinkle the fruit with a teaspoon of sugar. This is probably a good idea is you've chosen to bake pears or tart apples, but these peaches were plenty sweet, and I could have easily omitted the raw sugar.

Cream 4 tablespoons of softened butter with a 1/2 cup of white sugar. Beat in one egg, a teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional - I added this myself because I love the flavor of vanilla in a custard), and then add 2/3 cup of mascarpone (sweet Italian cream cheese). Beat until blended. Add 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour and mix until fully incorporated. Spread mascarpone mixture evenly over the top of the arranged fruit.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until just set. The original recipe called for 20 minutes to bake pears, so I thought it would be more than enough for peaches that weren't under-ripe. Still, I added about 6 more minutes to get the center set, and 2 or 3 more minutes to achieve a nice, golden top. Baking at Colorado's higher elevations, like I do, means different cooking times than most everyone else, so keep an eye on your custard after the 20 minute mark.

The entire dessert is just lovely, but the edges... the edges!! They were out-of-this-world delicious. The custard formed a kind of caramelized crust around the outer edges, and I am not ashamed to say that I took a spoon and chipped all the way around. My son tells me that cheese and fruit should not go together,  my daughter is a chocoholic, and my husband is out of town all week. That means I was free to chip away at the caramelized goodness until it was devoured. And I did. Mmmm.....

 Serves 6 generously.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Leavin' On a Jet Plane

Today's blog brought to you by: 

I find it hard to unplug. I know many people do. We made a conscious effort to take a few days away and have a "staycation" in Sand Key last weekend, close to where we live- 
Trip #1. 

No plane flights required for this trip. Some people pay to come here, we may as well take advantage and slow down for a long weekend. Enjoying the sandy white beaches of Clearwater, Florida whilst sipping a frozen drink and eating fresh seafood. Trying to find balance and be "zen" if only for a few days. This where we stayed. Not too shabby.

Took this photo off our balcony - "A Room with a View"

Sand Key

My good friends Alisa and Liz are in France for the week, visiting Brigitte and Eric and recording some tracks for the Wild World CD. Now that is a trip my friends! Can't wait to see their photos and hear the stories. Here they are in France. Oui!

My daughter Emily is up in Michigan visiting family. These are the weeks I plan my short trips. Next is my flight to VA to see my good girlfriend Kristin- Trip #2. Wineries and good company are in the cards for the VA trip. 

I'm looking forward to it, despite my deathly fear of flying. The thought scares me, but we aren't here to analyze me- so let's move on...

.....for now, I have a frozen pina colada to sip.

Do I look relaxed? Not a laptop or Ipad in sight. Good girl.

The sand dunes

My husband- a cute beach accessory.

I could have stayed there forever. Beautiful sunsets.

And on a final note (an unrelated to my above blatherings) . We are publishing a fantastic new online magazine called Lux (short for Luxury) look for it fall 2011!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No-Guilt Ricotta Arugula Pizza with Crumbled Blue Cheese

blog by: kim

We love pizza, but it’s obviously not the healthiest choice. Whatever bad foods we love, there is usually a healthier alternative. So make pizza your own way. Whoever thought of putting lettuce on pizza deserves a gold star. Not just any lettuce; I'm talking arugula. It's that spicy leafy lettuce that is often found in spring mixes but makes any pizza much better. Add some sweet apple slices or dried fruits with crumbled blue cheese and this tastes sensational. Does this look like food deprivation? I think not...

This easy recipe has wheat crust and lower fat cheese to cut calories, and the more veggies you pile on, the more disease-fighting anti-oxidants you get!

No-Guilt Ricotta Arugula Pizza with Crumbled Blue Cheese
(makes 2 thin-crust pizzas)

2 whole wheat tortillas- Try the Food for Life Organic Ezekiel sprouted grain 9” tortilla (you can also buy a raw/uncooked whole wheat pizza dough and grill it outside if you are feeling daring!) By now you know the all-white bleached flour dough has zero nutritional value and adds unwanted fat.

Choose the veggies or fruits you like. Hey, it’s your pizza. Be creative.

Below are some suggestions:

1/4 red onion, sliced thin
zucchini, sliced thin
red pepper, sliced thin
shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
¼ cup sliced apples
a handful of raisons or dried cranberries
1 oz grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
1 cup spring mix greens with arugula- you can buy them in bags at the store
salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil to taste
Optional: a wee handful of blue cheese to sprinkle on top

Drizzle a little olive oil on the top and bottom of each tortilla. 

Place on a cookie sheet or baking stone. Drop 1 tsp. size amounts of ricotta cheese around the pizza. Layer on arugula mix, onions, zucchini, red pepper, mushrooms and  fruits. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese, sprinkle more arugula over the top if you want, add salt and pepper to taste, blue cheese crumbles and drizzle about 1 tsp of olive oil on top as needed. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until edges of tortilla begin to brown. (For those of you not using the grill for these)

How your No-Guilt Pizza creation looks will depend on the ingredients you choose to top it off with. Pour a glass of red vino and enjoy. Under 200 calories a slice.

Some recipes call for the greens to be added before baking, others suggest after. It is up to you, how you prefer it. Less baking= more nutrients & enzymes in your greens.

Check out Tracy's blog. She's the California girl on a quest to fall in love with Florida.

Love, kim

~ 0 ~

"I’ll have a double cappuccino, half-caf, non-fat milk, with enough foam to be aesthetically pleasing, but not so much that it would leave a moustache"
~ Niles Crane, Frasier