Monthly Archives: June 2010

(Southern Style) Mango Lemonade


I was in Nashville, Tennessee a few weeks ago, home of country music and anything southern (you know– sweet tea, beautiful acre lot yards, billboard signs that have the wait time of the ER?) and I was blown away. It was beautiful with the lush greenery and rolling hills, the rich blooms of hydrangeas paired with the sweet smells of magnolias, it’s hard to imagine that just a few months ago this entire city was under water.

Thankfully, Nashville cleans up quite well — with a strong community connection, the city was able to jump back on its feet in no time, truly impressive. I was actually there to photograph one of my good friend’s wedding and truly regret not coming to this beautiful city sooner. She had a splendid rehearsal dinner thrown at her fiance’s (now husband) parents’ house, the settings were so perfect it looked like the entire party came out of a Martha Stewart magazine (divine!).

They had a bartender mixing delicious drinks and cocktails, I of course had to steer clear of the alcoholic drinks or else the pictures would’ve came out slightly skewed or maybe even a little…blurry? 🙂 So the bartender offered me a glass of Mango Lemonade that not only quenched my thirst but instantaneously boosted my spirits.

The combination was incredible — with the bright tartness of the lemons paired with the fragrant sweetness of the mangoes, it just kind of brought you into this tropical southern heaven. One that frankly I didn’t want to leave from…so what other choice did I have but to recreate it at home? Results? Highly successful 🙂

If you prefer your lemonade to be more tart, feel free to increase the lemon juice to 2 cups. Also if the mango puree makes the lemonade a little thick just add additional water to thin it out. Other than that, stay cool and hydrated this summer — make a batch and take it to the pool to share with friends or maybe even to a bbq for 4th of July! Just remember, sharing is caring and this drink will bring a smile to anyone’s face (unless you’re allergic to mangoes or lemons)…

Ingredients for Mango Lemonade: (makes 10 x 8oz servings)

  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar (you may substitute half the sugar for honey)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • 3 mangoes, peeled and pitted

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled. Puree the mangoes using a blender or hand-held blender and strain through sieve to remove any fibers, set aside.

Remove seeds from lemon juice, but leave pulp. In a pitcher, stir together chilled syrup, lemon juice, mango puree and remaining 7 cups water. Serve immediately chilled or on ice. (You can also freeze them in ice cube trays and make a mango lemonade slushie!)

p.s. In order to make this Mango Lemonade “Southern Style” simply enjoy a tall glass sitting on your rocking chair either in your front and back porch, watching the sunset and enjoying the light summer breeze, repeat until you’ve reach desired level of relaxation. 🙂


Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with Brandy Soaked Strawberries and Chantilly Cream


If there’s one thing in life I can’t live without (besides french fries) it would have to be cupcakes.  Even on my worst days, if there was the perfect cupcake waiting for me at home all my troubles would melt away during that brief moment when I’m stuffing my face.
Let’s get real people, life is too short to go on those crazy “no carb, no meat, no sugar aka nothing fun” diets.  I feel anything in moderation is fine, but don’t get me wrong — this recipe will definitely be hard for any normal person to resist from just eating one.  The secret ingredient for this chocolate cake is coffee, it really makes the chocolate taste richer adding a nice body to it and BOY is it moist!  Not to mention the grownup filling of the brandy soaked strawberries topped off with a sweet chantilly cream, these cupcakes would be perfect for any occassion.
I think one of my favorite parts about desserts is the give-ability factor.  Not only does it save YOU calories but you are spreading the love to others.  Whenever I bake I usually send some to my neighbors, friends and family — it’s kind of a nice unexpected “pick me up” for maybe a stressful, boring, or busy week.  Plus, when you give these bad boys away I can gurantee you will suddenly have many “best friends”, hell, girls you may even win a husband with this recipe.  Anyways, enough talk about how freaking delicious these cupcakes are — here’s the recipe!
(I don’t know why I can’t revert my text out of italics — WP is being strange, but I kinda like it 🙂 ) Have a great weekend folks 🙂

Ingredients for Moist Chocolate Cupcakes: (Makes 12-18 cupcakes)
  • 1 3/4 cup All-Purpose flour
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup coffee

Preheat the oven to 350F.

For the chocolate cake, mix all of the dry ingredients together so they are evenly distributed.  Add the wet ingredients one at a time as listed, until fully incorporated.  This ensures the batter comes out nice and smooth. Line the muffin pans with cupcake liners and pour the batter about 3/4 of the way, leaving room for the cake to rise when baking.  Place in the oven for 20 minutes, you can check the doneness by inserting a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean it is ready (Because oven temperatures differ, if the batter is still wet leave for 5 minutes longer, repeat until done.)  Set aside and cool.

Ingredients for Brandy Soaked Strawberries:

  • 1 lb container fresh strawberries, cleaned thoroughly and hulled
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup honey

In a large container or bowl, whisk the brandy and honey together.  Small dice the strawberries and immerse completely in the brandy honey mixture.  Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour.

(You can use any remaining strawberries you don’t use in the cupcakes as an ice cream topping!)

Ingredients for Chantilly Cream:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Using an hand held beater or electric stand mixer, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add in the sugar and vanilla and beat until just stiff.  Be sure not to over whip your cream, if your cream curdles gradually beat in more cream until it becomes smooth again.

To assemble cupcakes first cut a cone like shape off the top of each cupcake in order to create a space for the strawberry filling. (Baking Bites offers a nice step-by-step photos here.) Carefully spoon the brandied strawberries into each cupcake and place the lids on top.  Using a pastry bag with a star tip, apply the chantilly cream on the top of each cupcake — you can be creative as to how you would like to apply the topping, I chose to do a simple swirl.  Decorate with chocolate sprinkles and sliced strawberries if desired.

Pan Seared Mahi-Mahi with Cucumber Slaw


Life has been hectic over in the Well’s household, our house is getting close to completion — we are aiming to move in at the end of July.  The boys (Collin, Carter and Poppa Wells) have been doing most of the grunt work, putting up sheet rock, dry wall, replacing broken studs while the girls (Me, Momma Wells and Aunt Lori) have been the painters and patchers.  I’ve earned a nickname of “Little Picasso” however I am convinced after this house, I won’t be painting for a very very LONG time.

The changes throughout the home have been amazing.  I will share with you a few “before” photos and once the house is completed I will share the “after”.  This entire experience has been extremely tiring, but very rewarding.  Every day I walk into the house I am constantly seeing the improvements being made, and to know that this house was literally built with our very own hands makes it all the more gratfying.

We’ve torn down walls, scrubbed asbestos off the floors, replaced windows and doors.  We’ve put up dry wall, painted the rooms and closet doors, took down panneling.  We’ve taken nails out of studs, scraped off all the termite damage and patched holes in the wall.  And to be honest, none of this would’ve been possible without the help of  my second family 🙂 they truly are great.

The end is near.  I can almost taste the sweet sweet victory.  I am looking forward to moving in, cooking in my new kitchen and photographing in my very own photography studio/office.  Til then, excuse the lack of posts and replies to all the wonderful comments you all have left me.  I thoroughly appreciate all of y’alls kind words and support!

Since hosting a Raw Food Event for FoodBuzz, I have been incorporating more raw ingredients into my daily diet.  I pan seared some mahi-mahi and made a nice crunchy and bright cucumber slaw (which was raw) to go with it.  I served it alongside a bed of fresh herb salad (raw) and finished it off with a nice generous squeeze of fresh lemon. It was easy to make with minimal cooking time — which I also found as a plus side to eating raw, because minimal cooking=minimal cleaning :)!

Ingredients for Pan Seared Mahi Mahi: (serves 2)

  • 2 6-ounce mahi-mahi fillets (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 400F.

Take mahi fillets and pat dry with a paper towel.  Mix all of the seasonings in a bowl and rub on both sides of fish fillets.  Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat, when the butter is bubbling place the fillets in the pan.  Cook three minutes on each side or until the sides of the fillets are browned and seared.  Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 5 minutes or until fish is flaky and tender (you can test this by inserting a fork into the thickest part of the fillet).

Ingredients for Cucumber Slaw:

  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup cucumbers, peeled and small diced
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, small diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro, minced
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeno, minced
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon cold pressed olive oil

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Adjust the flavors according to your liking (i.e. add more honey if you’d like it sweeter or vinegar for more tartness)  Allow to marinate for about 10-20 minutes.  Serve on top of mahi-mahi fillets.

Ingredients for Herb Salad:
  • 2 cups herb salad mix
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon cold pressed olive oil
  • salt pepper to taste

Plate salad and tomatoes alongside of mahi filets and drizzle with olive oil.  Taste with salt and pepper. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over greens and fish if preferred.

No Words, Just Pictures


I went through a photography tour of Dallas with Natalie from Natalie’s Killer Cuisine and Kelly from The Picky Plate.  Throughout my adventure, I focused on colors and textures to create images of wonder, energy and mystery.  Enjoy and happy Friday 🙂

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping


I’ve fallen in love with Nashville, Tennessee.  I never imagined the south to be so beautiful but Nashville has everything I have ever dreamed of — huge front and back yards adorned with beautiful hydrangeas,  soft rolling hills filled with Dogwoods, Maple and Magnolia trees, and SWEET TEA oh man do I love a tall glass of sweet tea on a warm Summer evening… I was there for one of my dear friend’s wedding, Tammy Cheng Anderson, as her wedding photographer and I had a blast.  I want to move there, seriously.

I love the South, and as a tribute I wanted to make some muffins.  I’ve realized I don’t post much breakfast food on here — probably because I usually skip breakfast.  I KNOW I KNOW, it’s the most important meal of the day which is why I’ve made a conscious effort this year to eat every morning.  I admit I have certain bad eating habits, I always go for the late night snack and it’s usually ice cream or cookies (I am so glad my mother doesn’t read this or she would flip out).  I realize as a result, I don’t wake up very hungry in the mornings and skip breakfast.  Now I’ve cut out my late night snacks (mostly) and lone behold, I wake up hungry.

Since Summer is the best season for berries, I opted to make these moist blueberry muffins from the Le Cordon Bleu textbook.  These are perfect for a weekend breakfast or brunch and they are not only easy to make but the results are phenomenal.  I also like to cut any leftover muffins up and put them in the freezer, they are awesome on top of some vanilla ice cream!

Muffins are known as “quick breads” where only slight gluten development is desirable.  Tenderness is a desirable quality opposed to the chewy quality of many yeast breads.  Over mixing muffin batter produces not only chewiness but irregular shapes and large, elongated holes inside the muffins known as tunneling.

The muffin method is used largely for muffins, pancakes and waffles.  Muffin batter should be mixed only until the dry ingredients are just moistened.  Do not attempt to achieve a smooth batter, remember low gluten development is necessary to develop a delicate and moist texture for your muffins.

Ingredients for Blueberry Muffins:

  • 2 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup eggs, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup butter or shortening, softened
  • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine the butter, vanilla, milk  and sugar and cream the ingredients together in a large bowl until light.  Add the eggs in two or three stages.  Cream well after each addition before adding more eggs.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and other dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Stir together the liquid ingredients until well combined.  Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the liquids, adding 1/4 of the dry ingredients with 1/3 of the liquid, mix until just blended in.  Carefully fold in blueberries and remember to not over mix the batter!

Ingredients for Streusel Topping:
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. soft butter
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp flour

Mix all together, using a fork or spoon to combine ingredients. Sprinkle over the top of the muffins before baking.

Grease and flour muffin tins.  Fill tins 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full.  Place in the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the muffins.  Place muffins on cooling rack and serve with milk, tea, or coffee.  Muffins can keep in airtight box in the fridge for up to a week and for up to a month in the freezer.