Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dixie Down Under

Dear Belles ~

Apologies for the long radio silence!  Law School applications and the good ole LSATs have more than sucked the time and enjoyment out of the past year.   However, life can offer the most delectable surprises, which turn out to be just the medicine you need.  

Over the winter my boyfriend suggested that I move with him to Sydney, Australia.  His logic was that since he is based in Sydney and I have not signed on the dotted line for a particular law school yet, now was the time to explore somewhere new, relatively risk free, before committing three years of my life to academia.  Essentially he was proposing a four-month "walkabout" in one of the worlds most famous cities.  What I "heard" was: quit your stable law firm job with benefits, abandon the piedmont, your family, bourbon, trusty horse and friends, and move to a city that is located roughly six feet from the surface of the sun and inhabited almost exclusively by things designed to kill you.  Utter lunacy. 

Weekend hacks with my father turned into creative catastrophe sessions, where I peppered him with a hundred "what if I go and this happens" scenarios that spanned the gauntlet from shark attacks to world domination by kangaroos -- (thank god for flasks and good horses) At one point he said "there are the things you know you know, the things you know you don't know and the things you don't know you don't know."   Eventually, lightening finally struck my brain and I decided it was better to look back and say, "I wish I hadn't" then "I wish I had." Time to start living life and enjoying it at the same time! Gasp, shock and awe.  

A couple months later I packed my bags (We'll discuss the challenges of  an international move with a two suitcase limit in a later post) and went about as far south as you can go.   Many things have changed since starting my stay in Sydney, one of my favorites being that I now have time for Bourbon & Belles!!  I am about to head out of house for some fieldwork for my next post. I am so excited to have the opportunity to report on life, food, libations and fun in the land of our distant cousins, so stay tuned for the first installment of Dixie Down Under!  

~ C. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tastes: Bacon Crackers

Tastes: Bacon Crackers!

YUM! These bow-tie shaped snacks are a major crowd pleaser!
I owe my introduction to this delectable snack to one of my favorite magazines, Garden & Gun, and to them I extend my everlasting gratitude! One morning while trapped in the daily underground metro back up from Virginia into DC, affectionately known as the "Orange Crush",  I was perusing my latest issue.  Somewhere between a backpack knocking the back my head and someone else's newspaper in my face, I flipped to a feature on Southern culinary genius Martha Hall Foose in advance of the release of her latest cookbook: A Southerly Course: Recipes & Stories from Close to Home.  In the article was the recipe for Bacon Crackers.  At that moment the clouds parted, the angles started singing and I knew that (1.)  I must order this cook book and (2.) I HAD to try these. 

I am not lying when I say they are amazingly delicious, take a bit of time to put together, but are so worth it in the end!  They have become a staple at my point to point tailgate and any bacon loving man in your life will gobble them right up, so make a double batch!

In Martha's own words:  
“This may barely qualify as a recipe. It’s not a time-saver, that’s for sure, because these take forever to assemble. That doesn’t stop my friend Neck-bone Red from dropping me a note to inquire if I am going to be bringing bacon crackers whenever she knows I’ll be at a party. I have found in my hours devoted to crafting these irresistible bowtie-shaped snacks that the way to make a bunch of them at a time is to place them on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. The rack keeps the crackers from getting soggy while they bake and are corseted by the bacon.



  • 3/4 pound (about 16 slices) Thinly sliced bacon.  
Note: For more meaty bacon goodness, I use thick sliced bacon. It does increase the baking time though.  I also like to use Hickory smoked bacon for a little extra flavor. 

  • 42 Rectangular butter crackers (such as Club or Captain’s or Waverly)


1. Heat the oven to 250°F.

2. Slice the bacon slices into thirds crosswise.

Blotting bacon with paper towels will remove excess grease, keeping the crackers firmer. 

4. Place the wrapped crackers 1/2 inch apart on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan.

Lining your pan with tinfoil makes clean up much easier! You can even save the drippings for sautéing spinach or potatoes!! 
I find placing the crackers "ends"side down on the rack works better for baking.

6. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the crackers to cool on the rack.

Serve and Enjoy!! 

Martha Hall Foose: A Southerly Course: Recipes & Stories from Close to Home

It is a wonderful addition to your kitchen library!  You can order it off Amazon or from your local bookstore.

5. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the bacon constricts the center of each cracker and becomes crisp.

3. Wrap each cracker with a piece of bacon, overlapping as little as possible.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Accoutrements: Himalayan Handmade Candles

Accoutrements: Himalayan Handmade Candles!

While awaiting the start of my first yoga class in lord knows how long, I was wandering around the boutique looking for my zen.  As I passed a book shelf adorned with all things designed to entice the senses a retro yet classic mercury style glass jar caught my eye.  In the jar was a Bourbon Vanilla Himalayan handmade candle.  

I am generally not fan of vanilla candles but this one is not an overwhelm assault on the senses, so I decided to give it a try.  I purchased the large silver candy soy jar candle. It retails for $34.00 will last about 100 hours.  I am glad I did! I have not been disappointed in the least with this candle!  The scent really is divine and I have tested out every location I can think of -- end tables, night stands, bathtub ledge, kitchen island -- I love the way this candle looks on all of them!

These lovely candles hale from the great state of Georgia and are an excellent eco friendly way to up the glam/romance/zen factor in any room of your home. 

I have found them on line at:


Enjoy ~ C.E.M.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tastes: Oven Fried Pickles

Tastes:  Oven Fried Pickles  

Savory Crunchy Little Dippers!

Hello Ladies!

My apologies for the long radio silence!  I have been completely swept away by lists of things to do at work and home. I know you all can relate!  The additional downside to being inundated is that I've had absolutely zero time to workout; resulting in acrobatics making an appearance when I try to get into jeans. This unsatisfying turn of events led me on a lightened up appatizer foodie quest! As you all know, summer is the time of fried green tomatoes. I LOVE fried green tomatoes and hunting down the best is one of my favorite summer foodie activities.  It was my quest for a lighter version of this summer classic that led me to SkinnyTaste's recipe for oven fried pickles and I just had to give them a try!

They turned out to be a delightfully tasty snack size little appetizer!! The combination of chipotle, paprika and garlic give the little dippers just the right amount of zip. While the Panko, cornmeal and olive oil spray produced an excellent crunch, without all the grease of skillet frying!!  This recipe can carry you right into fall and would be an awesome little addition to football tailgates!


~ C.E.M


  • 2 -16 oz jars (48 slices) sliced oval dill hamburger pickles, I used one 24 oz jar of Vlasic dill sandwich stackers and cut them in half.
  • 1/2 cup of Panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/4 tsp of smoked paprika - I used regular paprika - it's what I had on hand. 
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder - I used Mrs. Dash chipotle seasoning
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley - I prefer fresh, so I chopped up some from the herb pot on the porch. 
  • 1/8th tsp kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • olive oil spray (about 1 tsp) - I am positive I used more than this
  • 1/4 tsp of garlic powder - I had to add this, I love garlic and it made a nice addition to the spicy mix

I find it helpful to measure all ingredients onto a sheet of wax paper - then I never question if I've added everything.

  • Place pickles on paper towels to drain. Use additional paper towels to blot the top side. 

  • In a wide bowl, mix together Panko crumbs, flour, paprika, parsley,  half the chipotle powder and salt.
  • In a second wide bowl beat together egg, egg whet and last 1/4 tsp of chipotle seasoning.

  • Heat oven to 450 F and place two baking sheets the oven, to heat as the oven heats. 

  • Dip pickle pieces in egg mixture and then dredge them in the crumb mixture. Set aside on wax paper. (You can use the same sheet of wax paper you measured the ingredients on) Tap down any loose crumbs gently with your fingers.  Repeat until all pickles are coated. 

  • When the oven reaches 450°, remove baking sheets and spray with olive oil spray; this can be quite smoky so I placed the pans on top of the stove under the vent.
  •  Place the pickles on the baking sheets and spray the tops of the pickles with more olive oil.  Bake 8-10 minutes, turn and spray if needed and cook an additional five minutes. 

They will sizzle when placed on the sheet.

It can be a bit smoky when you remove them from the oven.
  • Remove pickles from cooking sheet and serve hot with dip.  You can make your own dip, and skinny taste has a tasty recipe for light buttermilk ranch dip, however, I had some light french onion on hand and used that instead.  ENJOY!!
Easy party appetizer!! 

If you would like to make the Light Ranch dip, the recipe and directions are below.

Light Ranch Dip:
  • 1/4 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp light mayo
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh chives 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste 
  • 1 tsp white balsamic vinegar 
  • 1/3 cup 1% low fat buttermilk


Make ranch dip by combining all the dip ingredients and refrigerate until pickles are done.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tastes: Blue Cheese Cherry Thumbprints

Tastes: Blue Cheese Cherry Thumbprints

I stumbled across this recipe from Southern Living while hunting around for a recipe for cheese straws and I was instantly intrigued.  As someone who loves both blue cheese and cherries, I simply had to give this a try.  I was not disappointed!  These little thumbprint cookies make a fabulous party appetizer as they deliver a deliciously sophisticated flavor, are easy to make and require relatively few ingredients! 

You’ll want to make the dough early and let it chill in the refrigerator while you work on flowers, tiding up, setting tables etc.  No worries if you get distracted and leave the cookies in the refrigerator over two hours.   I made mine in the morning and took my younger cousin shopping for her first bikini.  Needless to say, my cookie dough was in the chiller for about 6  ½ hours and there were no adverse effects, save for they took a little bit longer to warm up before I could make my “thumbprints.”

Do not let the word cookie fool you, these are a savory appetizer. The cookie comes out soft and buttery. The paprika and poppy seeds smoothly meld with the bold blue cheese.  The cherry preserves are a wonderful tart-tangy-sweet topper, balancing out the rich cheese flavor.  Southern Living recommends serving these with a sweet sparking white wine, for a "perfect sweet & savory duo", but I am here to tell you, they were thoroughly enjoyed by those of us drinking bourbon!

~ C.E.M.

According to Southern Living, the recipe will makes about 5 dozen thumbprints.  However, I halved the recipe because I was testing it and increased the size of the ball to about 1 inch because I wanted a larger well for the cherry preserves. I also substituted ground red pepper for paprika since that’s what I had on hand. 

These alterations yielded 14 cookies.

 Ingredients - For Full Recipe:

·         2 (4-ounce) packages crumbled blue cheese
·         1/2 cup butter, softened
·         1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
·         3 tablespoons poppy seeds
·         1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
·         1/3 cup cherry preserves


1.       Beat blue cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour, poppy seeds, and red pepper, beating just until combined.

Blue Cheese & Butter
Remaining Dry Ingredients
All combined - mixture is dense & crumby

2.      Roll dough into 3/4-inch round balls; cover and chill 2 hours.

It is easier to roll the cookies in your palm, as you would a meatball. 

    3.    Arrange balls on ungreased baking sheets, and press thumb into each ball of dough, leaving an indentation.

The cookies will crack a bit as you make the "thumbprint." Simply, lightly press them back together.

4.       Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Place about 1/4 teaspoon preserves in each indentation.

I'm all for more than 1/4 tsp of cherry preserves


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Good Form: Thank You Notes

Good Form:  Thank You Notes 

Ladies, let’s be honest, we are slowly taking over the world.  With our impressive multi-tasking abilities we dash between the office & home,  day care & the dog sitter, grocery stores & happy hours (a girl’s gotta network)  with personal cell phones glued to one hand and our work blackberry to the other often putting out and occasionally stoking up daily fires. As someone who becomes impatient waiting 60 seconds for my coffee to reheat and bills their day in 6 minute increments, it’s easy to get caught up and  neglect what was once the most basic example of good form, the thank you note.
I know all of us express our gratitude via text messages, e-mails, and e-cards, but there is nothing like a classic handwritten note that makes people feel special.  So tell me ladies, what better time than the start of the Spring race & party season to dust off our desks, acquire some fabulous stationary & spruce up our grace via ink?!

~ C.E.M.
Basic Etiquette : 
Notes do not need to be novels, express your gratitude in a few thoughtful sincere lines.  You can always elaborate. Generally speaking, less is more.
 Thank-you notes required: 
·  All types of showers & weddings
·  Holiday, birthday, Bar/Bat mitzvah, graduation, and housewarming gifts
·  Sympathy letters, flowers, mass cards, or donations made in the deceased’s name

Thank-you notes not necessarily required but are a nice gesture:
·  When a host has treated you to a cocktail party, dinner, or concert
·  After a job interview
·  Anytime you feel particularly indebted to someone

 Key Components:
Stationary: It can say a lot about you and it does not have to be expensive.  I keep several different types on hand, often choosing the style that fits the recipient best.  If purchasing one type, stick to a more classic design that you can send to everyone from your boss to your best friend.
Classic does not have to be boring!

Note Cards or Stationary: 

Either are correct! Base your choice on the length/purpose of your note and your individual style!

Fun B&W floral Note card with Matching Envelope from Hallmark!

Stationary with flower petals woven into the paper for a little something extra!

Final Flourishes: Stamps and Sealing Wax

Seals should reflect your personality!

This step is not necessary by any means, but I love the way it looks and always receive lots of compliments! I always use flexible letter sealing wax. It has a wick and works like any candle. I find it much easier to handle and store and comes in lots of colors!  

Stamps are a fun & inexpensive creative alternative to seals

If sealing wax is too old fashioned or just not your cup of tea, stamps are a fabulous alternative.   You can use them on the envelope or even create your own thank you cards with using a plain color card stock and stamp of your choice!

Stationary & Note Cards:

Hallmark: The most affordable & source of most of my notes. They have many  lovely designs and now you can personalize them with your monogram!

Crane & Co: A bit more expensive then Hallmark, but the designs are super cute! I particularly like the Willows Thank You Note.  It's Light Celery colored ink make me think of new Spring leaves.

Sealing Wax:
Nostalgic Impressions:  If it strikes your fancy to try this final flourish, I would recommend Nostalgic Impressions. With video tutorials and an affordable array of colored waxes and seals, they are my go to store!

Two sticks of flexible sealing wax sticks will last you through a few dozen notes and cost you only $4.50.  I always keep metallic copper on hand - it seems to match everything!!

Additional Images: