Monday, August 31, 2009


I simply see no reason to limit myself to celebrating on just the actual date of my birth, so I celebrate from August 1 through Labor Day. Needless to say, the celebrating has completely interfered with my blogging ability. Having fallen off the blogging wagon, I'm attempting to redeem myself after being MIA for weeks. I've been caught up in the excitement of summer/my birthday. So here I am, on the last day of a five day hiatus from work and thought I'd clear a few photos from my camera.

At some point during August, I did manage to cook a meal or two and I actually have proof and thought I'd share a few photos with you.

I had a container of Phillips Seafood Lump Crab meat and decided to make crab cakes. I used this recipe from their website and I must say, they were just what I wanted. Crab cakes with minimal filler--what more could I ask for??

Here they are ready for an hour of refrigeration. I didn't want to take any chances with them falling apart.
In their olive oil and butter bath:
They didn't fall apart during the "flip" episode:
Out of the tub, drained and ready to eat:
On a comfy bed of black bean and mango salsa (with red onion, jalapeno, avocado and lime juice):
This was truly one of many high moments of August.

Sheila Denise

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Georgia Peaches...One Of My Many Loves

OMG y'all!!! I just realized it's been a month since I posted. I do apologize, but I haven't had very much "home" time lately. I've got alot of making up to do.

As a peach lover, I think I need to dedicate a post to this deliciously versatile fruit. I'll continue to add peach-related photos, so check back periodically. I always anxiously await Georgia Peach Season and take a few trips to Lane's in Fort Valley, GA every year to take in the whole peach experience. My daddy, was a peach entrepreneur, so I've been exposed to "good" peaches all my life. Today, instead of traveling to Lane's, I "traveled" to my neighborhood Publix. I was pleased to see they had Lane's peaches AND they were on sale. I grabbed about 10--hopefully I won't eat them all today. I don't like super soft peaches, so I only purchase a few fairly firm ones at a time.

I was feeling rather lazy today, and decided to have a very light lunch while deciding what to have for dinner. I immediately knew it would include peaches but still wasn't sure what to eat. My go to option is often a salad and today turned out no differently. I decided to have a small, simple summer salad with arugula, peaches and goat cheese with a balsamic reduction drizzle. The bite of the arugula was a great backdrop to the sweetness of the peach and the creamy tartness of the goat cheese. The bitter-sweet notes of the balsamic reduction brought it all together beautifully. My taste buds were singing. It was absolutely delicious.

Balsamic Reduction:

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
A few tablespoons to 1/4 cup brown sugar

Whisk vinegar and sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and allow mixture to reduce and thicken.

Can be used warm, room temperature or cold. I store mine in a squeeze bottle in the fridge.

Sheila Denise

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson


March 6, 1923 - June 23, 2009

February 2, 1947 - June 25, 2009

August 29, 1959 - June 25, 2009

Sheila Denise

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stacked Crab Salad

I was feeding my electronics habit at COSTCO a couple of days ago and left with a new mini laptop and a container of Phillips Lump Crab Meat. I don't know which excited me more, but I do know that I was on a natural high.

I tossed around the idea of making crab cakes, but decided I wasn't much into sauteeing anything for dinner, so I decided to make crab salad. Then I discovered that I had no crackers or crispy bread sticks in the pantry. So what was a girl to do?? Well, there was bacon and a small piece of iceberg in the fridge and I had tomatoes and an avocado. My meal was coming together!!

I do apologize for not having an actual recipe, but I rarely measure when I'm in my "what-will-I-eat-tonight" mode, but this is what I combined to make the crab salad:

Some crabmeat
A piece of celery, chopped
A piece of red pepper, chopped
A smidge of sour cream (didn't have mayo)
A squeeze of lime
Fresh cracked pepper

Then I began the stack in a large can on a plate. Covered with plastic and placed it in the fridge and allowed it to set for about 30 minutes. I zapped the bacon while the salad chilled and crumbled it and topped the salad. Dinner was served with a couple of drizzles of olive oil.

Sheila Denise

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Caprese...Oh How I Love Thee!!!

This entry is dedicated to the onset of summer and the simple, yet oh-so-delicious Caprese. It's is a great way to welcome the season. Words aren't necessary for this, so I'll simply post various versions as I enjoy this wonderful salad over the next few months.

Sheila Denise

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Spin on Banana Pudding That I May Actually Like...FINALLY!!!

I have never been a fan of Banana Pudding, probably because I never ate a banana until I was in my mid-20s. I know, I'm a weirdo--big deal. I was hungry and the banana was available. I decided that bananas were "okay" and simply kept it moving. I did realize that the cute yellow package contained lots of good stuff, so I'd eat them every now and again when I wanted to feel "healthy" or needed a quick snack.

Growing up in South Georgia, everyone around me was always in a tizzy over who made the best Banana Pudding and of course, everyone felt that their concoction should win the prize. After getting over my banana initiation, I decided I'd give Banana Pudding a try. During my taste tests, I discovered that most simply missed the mark in overall flavor. In addition, I am sooooooooo NOT a fan of soft, mushy Nilla Wafers (they seem to go soggy so quickly), so I eventually decided that this dessert in this form just didn't quite do it for me.

Over the years, I've made Banana Pudding for others, but wasn't quite convinced that I'd ever accomplish what I wanted for myself. One good attempt is the Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding, popularized by Paula Deen, which uses Pepperidge Farm Chessmen Cookies. Since the Nilla Wafers were one of the issues, this one did manage to provide a good alternate, but it still fell a bit short for me. As I continued to search, I felt that my options were running out. Luckily for me, I was flipping through the February 2009 issue of Southern Living and spotted a Nutter Butter Banana Pudding Trifle. The Nutter Butter's instantly caught my eye. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Nutter Butters, so I think my wait may be over--I've hit a bigger jackpot regarding my soggy Nilla Wafer aversion. I'll simply take the good parts of the various versions I've stumbled upon over the years and incorporate the Nutter Butters (the mini ones) to create my very own Banana Pudding. Y'all wish me luck, because I really want to create one that I actually like. In the meantime, I'll share the Southern Living Recipe with you.

Nutter Butter Banana Pudding Trifle

Prep: 35 min., Cook: 20 min., Stand: 30 min., Chill: 2 hr. This homemade pudding is divine, economical, and uses on-hand ingredients. The pudding has thickened enough when a distinct trail is left in the mixture when you stir with a spoon. The cookies will soften the longer the dessert chills.


Makes 8 to 10 servings


  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 medium-size ripe bananas
  • 1 (1-lb.) package peanut butter sandwich cookies
  • 2 cups sweetened whipped cream
  • Garnishes: peanut butter sandwich cookies, dried banana chips, fresh mint sprigs


1. Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, 15 to 20 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla until butter is melted.

2. Fill a large bowl with ice. Place saucepan in ice, and let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly chilled.

3. Meanwhile, cut bananas into 1/4-inch slices. Break cookies into thirds.

4. Spoon half of pudding mixture into a 3-qt. bowl or pitcher. Top with bananas and cookies. Spoon remaining pudding mixture over bananas and cookies. Top with sweetened whipped cream. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours. Garnish, if desired.

Note: For testing purposes only, we used Nabisco Nutter Butter® Sandwich Cookies. For photography, we divided mixture between 2 (1 1/2- to 2-qt.) wide-mouthed pitchers.

Shortcut Nutter Butter®-Banana Pudding Trifle: Omit eggs, sugar, flour, and butter. Substitute thawed extra creamy whipped topping for sweetened whipped cream. Reduce vanilla to 1 tsp. Place 3 cups milk and vanilla in large bowl; add 2 (3.4-oz.) packages vanilla instant pudding mix. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until thickened; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 1 (8-oz.) container sour cream. Proceed with recipe as directed in Steps 2 through 4.

Note: For testing purposes only, we used Jell-O Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling and Cool Whip Extra Creamy.

Southern Living, FEBRUARY 2009

Sheila Denise

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spring & Summer Equals Salsa!!!

Salsa is one of my favorite sides during the warmer months. It's extremely easy to make and you can use practically anything to make it. From the typical tomato-based, to fruit-based, to corn-based, salsa can be the perfect addition to most of your meals. I officially moved into salsa mode a couple of weeks back when I discovered and made a strawberry salsa. I've been craving salsa since that very day.

After a day of kinda sorta Spring cleaning, it occurred to me around 6PM that I had skipped lunch after having an apple for breakfast and I was a little hungry. I had to make something light and quick, so I decided on shrimp and scallops with mango and black bean salsa. One skillet and one bowl, what could be better?? My impromptu meal was delish.

Mango & Black Bean Salsa
1 mango, diced
1 can black beans, rinsed
1/4 small red onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
handful of cilantro, chopped
juice of 1/2 a lime
sea salt, optional

Toss all ingredients together. Let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

This is delicious room temperature or cold and pairs well with seafood, chicken and pork.

Sheila Denise

Friday, May 22, 2009

White Dishes: Episode 4

I've had a great last few weeks regarding white dishes. Ross Stores are quickly becoming one of my "fabulous finds" spots. I've managed to find several unique white dishes there, so I've placed them on permanent rotation.

I also had the pleasure of stumbling across some rectangular custard dishes at Dollar Tree. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised (actually, SHOCKED) to find these little jewels at Dollar Tree. I plan to pay closer attention to that store.

Below are my recently purchased items:

Egg Tray:
Bowls (for nuts, small desserts, etc.):

Rectangular Custard Dishes (for Creme Brulee, Individual Baked Ziti, Mac & Cheese, nuts, etc):
Thanks for allowing me to share my addiction.

Sheila Denise

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Love Cake Pans!!!

I have a cake pan fetish. Yes, in addition to my out of control white dish fetish, I've managed to add yet another "addiction" to my ever-growing list of weaknesses.

As I dug through my collection for spring and summer pans, I narrowed my options down to two. My Rose Bundtlette Pan (Nordicware) and my Mini Cheesecake Pan(Norpro). This cheesecake pan is one of the best creations ever made. The bottoms lift out for easy peasy removal. You get perfect cheesecake, key lime tarts, and the like with very little effort and the ooohhs and aaaahhs they create aren't bad either. Okay I'll confess, I have four of these cheesecake pans, but they make the dainty-est, girly-est, prissy-est desserts!!!

Rose Buntlette Pan:
Mini Cheesecake Pan:
A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I NEEDED a square angel food bundt pan, so I started scouring thrift stores. My mother and grandmother have/had the traditional round version, but I was determined to own a square one. I didn't have any luck at the thrift stores, so I checked Ebay and BINGO!!! I am the proud owner of a square angel food bundt pan. I was thrilled when the package arrived. Luckily for my postal delivery lady, I wasn't at home or I would have given her a bear hug. I wonder about the history of this pan and how many smiles it produced when the previous owner used it. I have plans to use it to generate smiles as well. Here it is in all it's gently-used glory:

During one of my many strolls through TJMaxx, I found this gorgeous pan. It's a Nordiware Mini Bundt Quartet Pan. I am fond of all things Nordicware as they've never failed to perform as promised. I own three of the four shapes and thought it would be too adorable to make a large version for the grown-ups and a mini version for my great-niece. She's the only little person in the family and the first girl since me, so bear with me as I go overboard. Not that I needed an excuse to purchase this pan, it was simply too adorable to pass up, plus, it was half the regular retail price.

Mini Traditional Bundt:
Mini Star Bundt:
Mini Bavaria:
Mini Heart (I don't have the large version of this one):
Rest assured, I'll post when I make delicious treats created in these pans.

I'm sooooo excited to add two more cake pans to my collection. Can you tell??

If you are a lover of cake pans, I'd love to hear about/see your collection.

Sheila Denise

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Atlanta Cupcake Factory

Allow me to introduce you to my favorite cupcake bakery, The Atlanta Cupcake Factory. I discovered this little jewel a while back when I was in need of 15 dozen cupcakes for a work-related celebration. I must say that from the moment I placed my order to the morning I picked up those 15 boxes of cupcakes, my life hasn't been the same. My order consisted of six different flavors, Vanilla w/Vanilla, Chocolate w/Chocolate, Vanilla w/Chocolate, Vanilla w/Dulce de Leche, Red Velvet and Carrot Cake. I can honestly say that ALL six flavors were OUTSTANDING!! My personal favorite is the Vanilla w/Dulce de Leche. The rich, creamy caramel goodnes of the frosting on a vanilla flavored cupcake is my idea of a few bites of heaven.

To me, a cupcake should be a light, airy, sweet treat, not some heavy block of cake with frosting. ACF's cupcakes fit my idea of what a cupcake should be to the letter. I stop in occasionally to treat myself as well as my great-niece. I'll admit that I'm guilty of starting her little addiction to cupcakes, but I won't take the credit for her sweet tooth in general.

The last time I ordered in mass, was for my sister's birthday celebration at Rathbun's. Now this place deserves a separate post--more to come on Rathbun's. We had two dozen of the Vanilla w/Dulce de Leche and everyone was thrilled with them. I learned that it takes several hours to make the caramel frosting, so you may not see Dulce de Leche on a regular basis, but if you're having a celebration, I'm sure they'll be more than happy to accommodate your request.

I dropped by with two friends this afternoon and they were in cupcake heaven and so was I. As we walked in the tiny shop, the aroma just pulled us in. We could hardly decide which flavors to select. I settled on:

Key Lime

Vanilla w/Raspberry

Lemon Lemon
On top of the cupcakes being fabulous, the owner and staff couldn't be more pleasant and friendly. You can instantly detect their love of producing these wonderful treats for us. That is my number one reason for returning time and time again as well as referring everyone I know to them. Good food without great service simply isn't enough to keep me coming back, but the folks at "The Factory" have mastered both.

If you're in the mood for cupcakes, head on over to The Cupcake Factory. You'll be glad you did, but remember to go early, because when they sell out, they're out for the day.

P.S. I somehow managed to only eat one per day until they were gone.

Sheila Denise

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Avocado Cups with Strawberry Salsa

I was surfing the web the other night and discovered this interesting strawberry salsa recipe served in an avocado cup. Although I've never eaten strawberry salsa, I've been on an avocado kick for a few weeks now and thought I'd give this little recipe a try. It was exactly as the blogger described:

"The sweet berries are complemented by the acidic lime juice, spicy jalapeno, and creamy avocado. The salsa-stuffed avocado makes a perfect alternative to a side salad, and the strawberry salsa alone would be tasty on pork, mild fish, or tortilla chips."

I know you're probably hesitant about this, but trust me on this one. You can find the recipe at YumSugar.

Sheila Denise

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Guacamole Stacks

Sometimes you just need something a little different to keep the palate engaged and I was trying really hard to think of something light to serve with grilled chicken and grilled corn on the cob. Fate came to the rescue this week and voila, I had what I was looking for.

I was watching 30 Minute Meals this week and Rachael Ray made an interesting spin on guacamole--Guacamole Stacks. It couldn't be simpler to make and it was the perfect companion for the chicken and corn. The recipe for the entire meal she prepared is on Rachael Ray's website.

Guacamole Stacks
  • 2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
  • salt
  • 2 Hass avocados, halved, scooped from skin and sliced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso Asadero
Season sliced tomatoes with salt and dress the avocado with lemon juice. Make 4 stacks alternating the tomatoes with avocado and onions. Garnish the guacamole stacks with cheese crumbles.

To give it a little more guacamole flair, I mixed EVOO, cumin, fresh cracked pepper, minced cilantro and a splash of balsamic to drizzle if desired. Now that I think about it, Greek yogurt would be a great topper as well.

If you're looking for something a little different to serve as a salad or side, give these Guacamole Stacks a try.

Sheila Denise

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lemon-Glazed Butter Cake

I was introduced to this recipe by a member of an online community. When I read the ingredients, I immediately knew I'd love this cake. Being a lover of lemons and knowing that lemon zest was in the batter and that it was drenched with a lemony glaze, how could I go wrong. So instead of happy hour or dinner on a Friday night, my focus was on getting home to make this cake.

The original recipe is in the April 2009 Gourmet Magazine and this is how they described the cake: The clean, bright flavor of this simple cake makes dinner guests perk up and exclaim, “I haven’t had this for years!” And then they devour what’s on their plates and ask for seconds.

I agree, this cake is delicious. It's lemony, light, not too sweet, perfect with super-sweet strawberries to compliment the tangyness--an oh so appropriate welcome to Spring. Best of all it's one of the simplest cakes I've ever made. I went a little crazy with the powdered sugar...sue me.

Lemon-Glazed Butter Cake
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Garnish:

    confectioners sugar for dusting
  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour an 8- by 2-inch round cake pan.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir together milk, zest, and vanilla.
  • Beat together butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
  • Pour batter into cake pan and smooth top, then rap gently on counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes.
  • Whisk together confectioners sugar and lemon juice until smooth.
  • Turn out cake onto a rack set over a baking sheet, then re-invert. Brush top and side of cake with all of glaze. Cool completely.
Cooks’ note: Cake can be glazed 1 day ahead and kept at room temperature.

Sheila Denise

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Mansion on Peachtree & Lunch at NEO

My colleague, Chuck and I had the pleasure of touring The Mansion on Peachtree and dining at NEO today. But even more rewarding was meeting one of the kindest, most genuine people I can recall encountering in recent memory, Kimberly. Having met this wonderful woman, Chuck and I both stated that we left feeling that we'd gained a dear friend.

As restaurant and hotel snobs, we were eagerly anticipating our visit to The Mansion. We had been drooling over this property for several months and today was our turn to take a tour of the property and enjoy lunch. All I can say is WOW!! From the initial greeting by the doorman to our goodbye hug, top-notch-southern-hospitality-filled-make-you-wanna-stay-forever SERVICE. I'm not easily impressed, but, I must say, this one got me. The Mansion ranks among my top three hotels of all time and that says alot. I could live there.

Now on to lunch. NEO, quietly tucked in the rear of The Mansion, is a beautifully appointed dining room overlooking the garden. Since black is my signature wardrobe color, I have a love/hate relationship with white napkins. I detest having to request a black napkin as I feel the waitstaff should be observant enough to anticipate my need. Brownie points for NEO as my black attire was noted and the black napkin magically appeared. As I step off my soapbox, I'll tell you about lunch.

We started with the calamari and artichokes--lightly battered and fried and oh so delicious. The batter was so flavorful, we ignored the dipping sauce. We also noshed on breadsticks, crispy flatbread and warm bread with olive tapenade. Our next course was the arugula salad with pears and shaved parmesan, tossed in an extremely delicate dressing---delicious!! Our entrees: I had the trout with capers and pasta, Kimberly had the penne tossed with roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and pine nuts, and Chuck had the lobster ravioli. We looked like hungry college kids as we eagerly shared our entrees and as different as they were, each dish was divine. I did make a mental note to try the Angus burger--a guest nearby ordered one and it looked awesome! I'll manage somehow to eat it with a fork and knife, but I'd much rather be able to pick the sucker up.

Now the highlight of the meal.....DESSERT--The Dessert Flight:

Apple Crumb Tart with Caramel Sauce, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Lemon Cheesecake and last, the most delicious of the four...Tiramisu!!! Mind you, I am not a fan of Tiramisu, so if I say it's FABULOUSLY DELISH, take my word for it. Next time I'm requesting a flight of Tiramisu only. I could simply order the regular sized Tiramisu, but it can't be as adorable as the baby version.

Oh and don't think I wasn't swooning over the white dishes from the beginning to the end of the meal. I NEED those little Tiramisu cups in my life PRONTO!!

I also learned about NEO Unplugged. This event is held the last Wednesday of each month and allows you to enjoy a quiet, candlelit dinner without the intrusion of technology--no phones allowed. I'm looking forward to NEO Unplugged.

I plan to return many times to The Mansion to enjoy NEO, The Mansion Bar, 29 Spa, Craft Restaurant and to experience being a guest. If pampering is what you're craving, your wish will be granted at The Mansion.

Sheila Denise

Saturday, April 4, 2009

White Dishes: Episode 3

This entry highlights a beautiful cake stand purchased from Goodwill. I am a frequent prowler of Goodwill, Salvation Army, other thrift shops and garage/yard sales. I absolutely LOVE unique items and finding them at bargain prices makes the purchase even more rewarding. I'm always on the prowl for a great deal.

The moral of this story--don't sleep on non-traditional shopping opportunities to feed your fetish(s).

P.S. This is Mother's dining table. We're guessing that it's at least 60 years old. We restored it in the early 90's. It was covered in dark dark dark stain, but after stripping it, here's the natural color of the wood. Isn't it beautiful??

Sheila Denise