Monster Muffins: Revamped for October!

I thought that this was just absolutely great. These are my family’s absolute favorite muffins (refer to the previous post, titled Monster Monday), but we put an excellent spin on them by adding these sweet little eyes! All that you need is some gel icing and eye-candy decorations, (I found both at Target for under $5 total), and add to these spooky little muffins.

***WARNING: Word to the wise- don’t add the eyes unto right before serving. I left my first batch in the refrigerator overnight and the eye decorations absorbed the moisture of the gel and “dilated”. At that point, I learned my lesson. They were much less cute.

London’s Sweet Monster Three: A Party Fit For a (Monster) Prince.

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Have you ever seen that television show “My Sweet Sixteen” on MTV where those seemingly vapid, unrealistic American teenagers selfishly torture their family’s into hosting extravagant parties and then they cry when the get a Lexus instead of a Lambo?  Okay- now imagine an elegant and age-appropriate birthday celebration for a gracious child with incredible friends and parents that shares that certain element of extravagance that you would see on a show such as that.  Clearly, I’d choose the latter.

My son is my best friend.  We experience everything together.  I am constantly striving to “one-up” the last smile on his face and bring him more of that beautiful joy into his sunshine-y soul, so this year, after careful consideration, I decided that three was the perfect age for him to pick a theme and create a beautiful party together.  The theme?  Monsters Inc., of course. 

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We chose to use one of the oldest and most prominent estates in Florida, a venue called The Heitman House,  as our venue for the party.  The Heitman House specializes in weddings and special events of all kinds.  It is 105 years old, and was an engagement gift from it’s founder, businessman Gilmore Heitman, to his bride.  I strongly encourage anyone who is not familiar with the property to take a moment to check out their Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/TheHeitmanHouse.  I have never been more impressed with any other location in this area for all events.  

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I went on an outrageous, weeklong cooking and baking spree! The menu for the party included nearly all homemade vegan and vegetarian dishes, with only two small exceptions, and was of course, immensely Earth-friendly!  Menu items included a modified version of the previously posted Monster Muffins, decadent (and scary) triple-chocolate cupcakes, PB&J mini wraps, refreshing cucumber salad, handmade caramel apples, kale chips, and of course, a Monsters-version of an infamous Baking Bad rock candy cake that was four thick layers tall and built tall to conquer!

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We decided to skip the modern classic, a bounce house, and went a more artistic route with some of the activities.  Children were able to get in touch with their spooky side while painting pumpkins, get spoiled with glitter tattoos and professional face-painting by Character Birthday Parties, LLC, (www.facebook.com/CharacterBirthdayParty), and even enjoy games for all ages such as corn hole, croquet, and bocce ball provided by the Global Marketplace.  (www.gmrentals.com)

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Overall, the party was overflowing with creativity,  light and positivity.  It entailed a great deal of team work from friends and family, and the presence of the most effervescent party guests and courteous, enthusiastic staff is what truly made the day.  I cannot wait to see what London picks for next year’s theme, and in the meantime, we’ll be enjoying year number three and all that it has to offer our sweet family.  Happy October, Monsters! 🙂

 

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Happy October, Vampires!

As some of you may know, I have been working a great deal with fashion photographer, Red Scott, as of late. I just wanted to share one of our latest photographs with everyone. It’s cold, it’s pale, and it’s hot for fall. We have another project coming out this fall, so watch out for it!

I also encourage you all to check out his Facebook photography page:
http://www.facebook.com/RedScottPhoto

Autumn Stuffed Squash

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Finally! It is my absolute favorite month of the year. In lieu of my lifelong love for fall weather, Halloween-themed makeup & fashion, (and my health food obsession, of course), I will be posting copious amounts of autumn-related recipes and craft ideas this month. The first of which is an incredible stuffed squash recipe that will keep everyone happy and impress guests. I have tried several stuffed squash and pepper recipes over the years, and this one seems to be my favorite. Another reason why this recipe is great is because although it IS time consuming, it is simple, the presentation is pleasing, and the ingredients are rather inexpensive to buy.  

 

What you will need:

  • One half of a large, butternut squash
  • 3 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 3-4 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Basil (preferably fresh, although ground is fine)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1 small yellow squash
  • A few small sweet peppers (I used multi-colored ones)
  • Crumbled Goat Cheese
  • Gruyere cheese

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the large squash in half and scoop out seeds.  Carve the inside out just enough to create a “bowl” out of one half of the squash.  Save the other half of the squash for later, or double second part of recipe if you decide to bake both halves. Add useable parts of the scooped out squash to the vegetable mixture in Step 5.
  3. Mix together olive oil, garlic, and and any other desired spices and brush over the squash bowl. Sprinkle with ground black pepper and other desired spices.
  4. Bake on baking sheet for approximately 35-40 minutes.
  5. Next, chop the remaining vegetables into bite-size, with the exception of the cherry tomatoes, which should be left whole.  Place on a separate baking sheet, season, and bake for 28-30 minutes. 
  6. Once both squash “bowl” and the vegetables are prepared, artfully scoop the veggies into the squash, adding desired amount of goat cheese while filling.  
  7. Chop Gruyere, basil and parsley into small pieces and then sprinkle on top of dish and allow to melt.
  8. Serve dish in slices, (yes, literally slice of pieces of the squash!) or serve filling scooped out of the squash with Pita bread.

 

*Also keep in mind that stuffed vegetables are an excellent opportunity to improvise.  Make dishes like this different every time by changing around ingredients.  Other ingredients that go well in a stuffed squash include,  but are not limited to: mushrooms, shallots, black beans, and sweet potatoes.

 

Sweet Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

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I have always loved sweet potatoes, but growing up, they rarely graced our kitchen table with the exception of an occasional holiday side dish.  Now, sweet potatoes, which are incredibly delicious, are a part of our weekly meal routine!  I probably make them at the very least, three times per week in very different ways. Need some motivation?  Here you go:

  1. Sweet potatoes are an absolute Beauty Food, meaning that they nurture your hair, skin, and mood from the inside out with bragging rights such as being rich in Vitamins C, E, and containing high amounts of beta-carotene and other important carotenoids.
  2. The carotenoids and beta carotene that sweet potatoes are absolutely loaded with are immensely important in strengthening our eyesight and boosting our immunity to diseases.  The antioxidant content of the carotenoids also wards off cancer.
  3. If you’re life lacks cheer and is brimming over with stress, sweet potatoes can help.  They are rich in Vitamin D (the vitamin that we typically obtain mostly through sunlight, unless you are like me and spend much of your time “vampiring” it up inside your home or office) which promotes a healthy mood.  They also contain magnesium and iron, which also aid in healthy moods and stress reduction, amongst other things.
  4. Sweet potatoes are heart healthy!  High levels of Vitamin B-6 content aid sweet potatoes in keeping your heart running smoothly.  Potassium in sweet potatoes is also helpful in this task.
  5. According to the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com), women under age 50 should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, and men under age 50 should consume 38 grams per day.  Sweet potatoes are said to contain about 7 grams of fiber per serving, therefore, making them an excellent source.

These are just the “Cliff notes” of sweet potatoes; A little motivator.  Now the greatest part is that they can be prepared in so many different ways, that you will never run out of ways to eat them.  Be sure to check out the World’s Healthiest Foods article on sweet potatoes for more detailed information: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64

These ones are mine: 🙂

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Eating a Rainbow for Fall: Baked Autumn Rosemary Vegetables.

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I cannot impress enough how strongly I feel about incorporating copious amounts of vegetables into my daily life.  They’re fresh, they’re beautiful, and of course, energizing, as well!  So, what’s the problem?  Sometimes, I end up with an overload of incredible vegetables and so I have begun baking these types of side dishes that are not only satisfying, but loaded to the gills with fiber and important nutrients that every person needs and deserves.  These even heat up nicely as leftovers, and help me to use all of my favorite veggies that I often buy too much of.  Not to mention, that having a variety of seasonal vegetables makes any guest feel like you really put extra care into your meal and creates a feeling of welcomeness.  (Also, keep in mind that it is totally fine to improvise by adding or subtracting ingredients based on personal preference and availability of ingredients.)

 

What you will need (I suggest):

  • Two large sweet potatoes
  • One medium butternut squash or 1/2 large butternut squash
  • 3 small zucchini
  • 3 small yellow squash 
  • 1 container of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 medium onions of choice
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic
  • 5-6 long rosemary sprigs
  • Small handful of basil leaves
  • Small handful of parsley

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Chop sweet potatoes, both kinds of squash, onions,  and zucchini and mix into a large bowl.
  3. Spread veggies from mix in Step 2 onto two baking sheets, drizzle with olive oil and season.   Bake mixture for 30-35 minutes or until vegetables are beginning to appear golden.
  4. While first mixture is baking, chop rosemary, basil, and parsley into a mixture in a small bowl.  Add more of these herbs if desired to strengthen flavor of final product.
  5. Add cherry tomatoes to mixture, and toss with a light amount of olive oil.
  6. After first mixture has baked, spread second mixture and mix into the first on the baking sheets.  Return to oven and and bake for an additional 13-15 minutes.  (The reason for adding the herbs and tomatoes last is to bake in the flavor of the herbs without scorching them.)
  7. Finally, remove from oven and enjoy has a perfect Autumn side dish. 🙂