Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Double Birthday Celebration...Oh My!!

Today, I had the pleasure of having lunch with my BBFF (boy best friend forever), Chuck at one of our favorite restaurants, Steel Atlanta. We pretty much eat here every week, so today was no different, EXCEPT, we were celebrating OUR birthdays!! Yep you heard me...OUR BIRTHDAYS!!! Lucky us, huh?? I think so too. Chuck has managed to worm his way into "Little Brother" status for life. He is the poster child for a true, true friend and I am grateful know him and honored to call him my friend.

Well, I arrived earlier than Chuck, which NEVER happens, so I tried to wait patiently , but didn't do a great job, because I was EXCITED to share some great news with him. Anyway, just as I was about to EXPLODE, in struts Chuck and I unload my happy, happy news the moment we are seated. We ordered our adult beverages, since we're both officially legal (Ha!!) and ordered our usual Bento Boxes, salmon for both of us this time, and caught up on things since our last conversation--yesterday.

And here's where the fun began. We were overheard discussing our birthdays and Steel's very own Chuck wished us a happy birthday, then Ms. Katie, who took wonderful care of us, wished us a happy birthday and said she had a surprise for us. Yippee!!!!! We enjoyed a fabulous meal and drinks and out comes Katie with our birthday dessert on a 2 foot platter, candle a-burning!! Someone should have captured our faces, because I'm sure were both looked a little "crazy" to say the least. We managed to pull ourselves together, made our wishes and blew out the candle and dove right into our Strawberry Cake. Katie said she had another surprise for us as we gobbled down our delicious dessert--the cake was VEGAN!! Did y'all hear me??? V-E-G-A-N!!! No-dairy-no-egg-involved-in-any-way-vegan. We almost choked!! Two sho 'nuff meat eaters enjoying a vegan dessert?!?!? Surely not!! We simply looked at each other and kept on eating, til there was nothing left. As we were getting back to reality, Steel's very sweet Ms. Kitty stopped by to wish us a happy birthday as well. There is nothing as wonderful as being surrounded by genuine people and Chuck and I experienced this at Steel (again). I love this place!!

Who knew, when I stumbled upon Steel Dallas years ago, that we'd have the pleasure of enjoying our very own Steel Atlanta? I'm so happy that Steel is a part of my weekly life. If you've dined at Steel, you know how wonderful the food is and if you haven't you need to make plans to do so. This weekend kicks off Midtown Restaurant Week and Steel is participating (hint, hint).

Happy Birthday to Chuck & me!!

Sheila Denise

Saturday, August 28, 2010

We Went, We Ordered, We Ate...Red Velvet Pancakes!!

Today, I had the pleasure of eating Red Velvet Pancakes and I am in LOVE!!! Let me preface this with, I don't like Red Velvet anything (well I do now), but was compelled to give these pancakes a try, simply because West Egg Cafe was serving them and I thought it was an interesting twist on a pancake. I had made plans to brunch at The Egg this morning with my friend and fellow foodie, Tamara (Jem of the South), who happens to be a Red Velvet bakerette-diva, so the moment I saw the Facebook post (photo above) that The Egg was featuring Red Velvet Pancakes this weekend, I knew we'd made the right decision.

So, we wait about 30 minutes to be seated (always well worth the wait) and eagerly ordered the feature of the day and out they came with a HUGEMONGOUS dollop of ready-to-smear cream cheese frosting goodness!!! We weren't about to mess this up, so we knew we had to enjoy them straight, no chaser, errr I mean syrup. I can't imagine that syrup could do anything to enhance this deliciousness!! We looked at each other and as I pulled out my Blackberry to take pics, and Miss Red Velvet took a bite and her eyes literally rolled back in her head. I thought, if SHE thinks they're to die for, I just might like them. Well, have mercy on my greedy little soul--I LOVED THEM!! They were absolutely delicious. The more I ate, the better they got. They had just the right balance of all the things that make many Red Velvet Cakes go wrong--not too cocoa-ey and not too red food color-ey, not too dry, not too sweet...they were spot on!! With this perfectly balanced flavor combination, I could become a Red Velvet Cake lover, but until then, I'll simply be happy to eat this pancake version until the end of time. The only thing Tamara and I decided we wanted to add was a few chopped pecans to sprinkle on top, but I'm prepared to bring my own pecans next time, well very likely tomorrow. Did I mention how much I enjoyed the pancakes??
Naturally, we posted on Facebook & Twitter about our new-found love and we've both received great responses from folks wanting to know more. All I can tell you is this--STOP what you're doing, take yourself to West Egg Cafe and order the Red Velvet Pancakes NOW!! You'll love me for this one.

Sheila Denise

Friday, August 27, 2010

Not Just For Guacamole

An article in the September 2010 issue of Southern Living featured avocados. As I read the article, I was surprised by a couple of tidbits regarding the health benefits, particularly the statistics relating to lowering cholesterol. The lovely avocado has been given a reputation for being "bad" and I'm thrilled that the "good" has been highlighted.

5 Avocado Health Benefits

1. They protect your eyes from disease.
Avocados have a high content (more than any other fruit) of the carotenoid lutein, which protects against cataracts and macular degeneration—a leading cause of blindness.

2. They will lower your cholesterol.
Avocados are high in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance that has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. In one study, 45 people saw an average drop in cholesterol of 17% after eating avocados for just one week.

3. They help regulate and reduce blood pressure.
Avocados are a great source of potassium, containing even more than bananas. Studies confirm that eating foods high in potassium (and low in sodium) can lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke.

4. They are a great source of vitamin E.
Avocados are the greatest fruit source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects against many diseases and helps maintain overall health.

5. They will moisturize your skin.
Avocado butter and oil, two deep-conditioning emollients, will soften skin, eliminate dry patches, and restore your skin’s elasticity. Try some of our favorite beauty products, enriched with avocado butter and oil, at right.

Jessica S. Thuston|From the September 2010 Magazine Issue

I currently use avocado oil in beauty products (homemade) and can eat a gallon of guacamole, love plain old avocado all by it's lonesome, in salsas, and in BLTs, but here are a few additional ways I plan to sneak a little more of the green stuff into my diet over the next few weeks. Click each description for a link to the recipe.

How will you add more of this powerhouse into your health and beauty routine?

Sheila Denise

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Angel Food Cake - Let Me Count The Ways

Y'all may find this hard to believe, but I'm a late bloomer when it comes to desserts. Throughout my childhood, I was surrounded by pies, cakes and cobbler--you name it and Mother or someone in the family made it. Even with all the hoopla, I was simply not interested in these sweet treats. I was in my early 20's by the time I actually TASTED Pound Cake--I was happy with candy, or so I thought. Well, one fateful day, Big Brother Curt had baked a pound cake and I was asked to cut a slice for a guest. The very moment that I removed the cover and got a good whiff of that cake, the gig was up. I have no idea why that day and that whiff did the trick, but I ate almost half a cake that weekend. I've never looked back. From that very moment, I've been a fan of "plain-ish" cakes, which brings me to today's post.

A couple of months ago, I was in Aldi and picked up a loaf of Angel Food Cake. I was drawn to it because it was in loaf form and I envisioned a couple of slices toasted or grilled, covered with strawberries and powdered sugar and/or real whipped cream. I actually skipped dinner so I could get down to business with my dessert. Well let me tell y'all, I've been eating this cake all summer. Topped with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and/or peaches, this cake has become a major part of my life. As I looked back over photos, I thought I'd share a few versions with you.

Grilled & Stuffed with Mascarpone

Griddled & Sauced

Griddled & Lightly Drizzled

Toasted, Powdered & Zested

Angel Food Cake is so versatile. Tonight's version will feature peaches. What's your favorite stuffing/topping combo?

Sheila Denise

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Traveling Guest Blogger Chuck - Bar Boulud London

Hopefully, y'all remember my little teaser a few weeks back when I mentioned that my boy-bestie, Chuck was traveling to London and Prague (and probably a few spots he didn't want my nosey self to tell everybody). Well, Chuckster is back and I must say, he did a great job "working " for me while enjoying his vacation.

I've decided to spread out Chuck's dining escapades over a few days to allow each restaurant to have their very own shining moment on my humble little blog. I can't thank him enough for taking on my interests and agreeing to blog for me. Now is that a TRUE FRIEND, or what?!? Might I also add that he ALWAYS returns bearing gifts?!?! I'm a lucky girl!!!

First up is Chuck's dining experience at Bar Boulud.

~Situated at the foot of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park on Knightsbridge, Bar Boulud is truly a gem. With it's three course Prix Fixe Lunch Menu at a modest 20 pounds, Bar Boulud is the place for the power leisure lunch. Bar Boulud, at The Mandarin Oriental is just down the block from the world famous Harrod's. After shopping at Harrod's, take a three minute walk on Knightsbridge (towards Piccadilly Circus) and experience Bar Boulud.

If you are dining alone, don't worry, Bar Boulud will supply you with the magazine or global newspaper of your choice. Now how's that for service! Chef/Owner Daniel Boulud has Bar Boulud restaurants in London, New York, Miami, Palm Beach, Vancouver, and Beijing.~

Salade du Marche
Volaille Lail PrintanierKetel One Dirty Martini - extra olives
Chuck didn't name the dessert and I have a sneaky suspicion that he might have been DEEP into Dirty Martini number two when dessert rolled around, so I'll simply call this a decadent looking chocolate torte with ice cream dessert (hey, I'm southern, gimme a break). ;-)
Website: http://www.danielnyc.com/barbouludLondon.html
If London isn't in your travel plans (or backyard), you may want to check out the other Bar Boulud locations Chuck mentioned.

Sheila Denise

Update (8/16): The dessert's "proper" name is: Tarte au Chocolat with Mocha Ganache & Caramel Ice Cream. Isn't that EXACTLY what I said?? LOL

Monday, August 2, 2010

Spark & Hustle - Tory Johnson's Three-Day National Conference

I've been working on this for a couple of days now and each time I think I'm done, I feel that my words aren't adequately capturing the momentum generated among the 200+ attendees of Tory Johnson's Spark & Hustle Conference, held in Atlanta (Marietta) this past weekend. I can't even describe what it meant for me to be among the most positive, savvy, go-getting, motivating, successful women (and a few good men) for 2 1/2 days. So to spare you from by endless babbling and going waaaay off topic I'm just going to spew it out and hope it makes sense.

Let me start by saying this...after 20 years of "attending" conferences, this is the FIRST that TRULY rocked me to the core. The vibe and atmosphere of the entire event had me excited and overwhelmed at the same time. You know, a combination of butterflies and light-headedness that makes you feel like you're going to throw up, pass out or both--that's how I felt the entire conference. Apparently, I really liked having that feeling, because after the first half day, I knew that I wasn't about to commute to this event each day and leave that wonderful atmosphere every evening. I rushed home, packed, and booked a hotel to ensure that I didn't miss a moment of anything. Trust me, I wanted to be in the midst of this group round the clock!!

If y'all don't know about the dynamo known as Tory Johnson, shame on you!!! This woman simply ROCKS big time. Having "sparked and hustled" to create a hugely successful POWERHOUSE of a business, she has never allowed her "celebrity" to get in the way of simply getting down to business and her business is EMPOWERING women to GREATNESS!! Tory has absolutely, without a doubt mastered that skill. She has also managed to surround herself with people just like her. Can you imagine being in the company of a couple hundred people and each one of them want to ELEVATE you to a successful life without asking for anything in return?? In my 20 year professional career, that has NEVER been the case--it has always been about THEM and not me. Well no more of that--I have a phenomenal network of women in my corner cheering me along the way (can you hear me NOW??) and I'm cheering them on with all my heart and soul!! I'd also like to take a moment to introduce y'all to my brand-new, number one supporter, Emma Johnson, Tory's daughter and Junior-Dynamo-In-Training!! She doesn't know it (well maybe she does), but she has placed me on the fast track to keep the Spark & Hustle alive. Thanks Little Sister. ;-)
You know, I could go on forever about what transpired Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but I'll simply provide this link to allow you to get to know these amazing speakers. Join these wonderful people and start your own journey to success!!

I am taking it upon myself to speak for all attendees by saying that this was the most cohesive, enlightening and productive event EVER! If I had to sum it up in two words, here they are--LIFE-CHANGING!!!

Sheila Denise