Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cooking Tip of The Week: Asparagus. Choosing it, Storing it, Preparing it and Cooking it

You may be wondering why my recipe posts are so sparse lately, almost non existent even. And if you have been, here is the honest truth. For 4 1/2 months I had a really hard time going into my kitchen at all due to food aversions that were making me sick and really just ended up spending lots of my usual cooking time in bed. This is not me complaining, at all! I just feel the need to explain what has been going on. I finally got back into my kitchen just in time for fall and winter when the much needed natural light disappears just as I'm getting home each day. I am therefore in the process of researching purchasing some very expensive studio lights which will help me out greatly. I have been cooking such great dishes that I've so wanted to share, but photography is a very vital part of that process. Only now that Spring has arrived and my natural lighting has returned am I finally able to begin getting my cooking, photographing and developing recipes back on track.

 I can't wait to start sharing more of my recipes again as soon as possible. In the meantime I have some cooking tips for you, that I really think will be useful to at home cooks, chefs and cooking novices alike. This one is all about asparagus. I personally am a huge fan of asparagus, shocking as it may be since I have yet to share a recipe with it! Asparagus in in season during the Spring time so it's the perfect time for me to get on that. When prepared right it tastes amazing and can easily add so much dimension to any dish. Asparagus does take some skills though and can be a huge disaster when botched, so here are my tips for preparing asparagus perfectly every time.

1) Choosing it- it all starts in the store.  Picking the best looking asparagus is what will give you the most flavorful dish ultimately, so this step is not to be taken lightly. Here is what you'll want to look out for. Fresh asparagus should be bright green in color with no signs of shriveling at all. A purple tint towards the spear end can be expected with many types of asparagus, and as long as they are firm and not mushy at all, all is well with them. Towards the other end of the asparagus it should be thicker and  more fibrous then the spear ends. Squeeze the ends to see if it feels substantial and fresh. These are all signs that you have fresh asparagus in your hands to take home. If you can't find asparagus that fits this bill at your local grocery, head over to your local produce store or market where you are sure to find better quality fruits and vegetables since they deal exclusively with that product and tend to choose each item more wisely which is why it'll sometimes cost you a bit more. Ultimately a fresh product is what is most important, so in this situation it is worth every penny.  

2) Storing it- Keeping your asparagus wrapped in the plastic product bag and dumping it into your product drawer in the refrigerator is not a bad idea, but this will most likely yield less amount of freshness time. To keep asparagus fresh for up to 3 days, cut off the ends when you arrive home and toss those along with the rubber band that very often binds them together. Then, stand them up in a glass of water, so that the water covers everything but those spears at the end. Cover the glass tightly with a plastic wrap of some sort and then place them in the refrigerator just like that. I personally really like to buy asparagus fresh the day I want to prepare it so that I don't have to store it at all, but not everyone has that flexibility. Now you don't need to worry that your asparagus won't stay fresh, because if you store them right you will have 3 days to cook them up before they begin to go bad.

3) Preparing it: Before doing anything, you will want to wash your asparagus thoroughly of course. Hold your asparagus under cold sink water and without soaking them, give the spears a good rinse. Shake them a bit as well as your doing this so that any dirt or sand is sure to be removed. If you have not removed the ends yet, this step is essential with thicker asparagus spears. Using a sharp knife, measure up to about 3 inches and chop them off. 

4) Cooking it- Although asparagus can certainly be eaten raw in salads and as appetizers with a dipping sauce, I like to cook it in most situations. You can broil, or even dip it in crumbs or batter and then fry, but my proffered cooking method is usually boiling or steaming. When boiling, bring a pot of water to a boil and make sure the water is low enough that the tips can stand just above the water line while boiling. Add a little bit of salt to the water as it will save you on prep time later and season them a bit now. Then place the asparagus in the pot, delicate spear side up and allow them to cook for 10 minutes at most so that they are still crisp but tender. Then drain the water and you are ready to further prepare them for a meal. 

Low in calorie and high in vitamins, you really should take advantage of the peak of the Spring season with some of these tasty spears. From soups to salad, the options are endless.   

Those are my tips for and tricks for all things asparagus. Hoping they will be useful to you. If you have any tips with regards to asparagus, please do share them in the comments form below- I know they will be helpful to others!

Read my last cooking tip of the week post here where I tell you everything you need to know about beets!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Blackberry Mango Smoothie Recipe

Perhaps it's been the arrival of Spring and some better temperatures out there that have my smoothie a week becoming a smoothie a day! It could have something to do with the delivery of my new Chefman blender, complete with cups sized out for individual needs! I'm not sure really, but regardless they are all I can think about when I first wake up in the morning. I often go for one that has some kale for iron or something with protein in it for energy. The one I'm sharing today is nothing like that at all though. Indeed it's actually the sweet tropical sort because it was one of those desert for breakfast kind of days here.

Considering how I've just pegged this to be a desert, you must think I loaded it up with sugar, but the opposite is true. The natural sweetness from the mango and a little something from the greek yogurt have this tasting just as divine without the added calories. So no need for sweetners here at all in my opinion. If you do like a very sweet smoothie, you can always add a bit of honey to keep it healthy, light and tasty.  

Blackberry Mango Smoothie

Yields: 1 Medium Sized Smoothie 


10-12 Fresh Blackberries
1/2 Cup Frozen or fresh Mango Chunks
Norman Nonfat Greek Mango Flavored Yogurt- 6 Oz Container
1/2 Cup Pineapple Juice
A Handful Fresh Mint Sprigs


Blend all of the ingredients in the blender and serve with a dollop of greek yogurt and a blackberry perched on top for garnish. add a mint leaf too if you'd like.

Keep in mind that switching the frozen mango to fresh mango is perfectly fine but then you'll have less of that frozen smoothie effect. If you'd like to then add back the "freeze", toss in a bout 1/3 cup of ice cubes with the rest of the ingredients. 

Thanks so much for stopping by! 

I really hope you will give my Blackberry Mango Smoothie recipe a try! Don't forget to leave me a comment below letting me know what it was like if you do! And feel free to tag me on Instagram or post your photo on my facebook page as well. 

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Monday, May 11, 2015

It's A Boy!

I'm absolutely thrilled to announce the arrival of our beautiful baby boy! Although my actual due date was April 27th, we did a little bit of waiting for him and on Wednesday May 6th at 11:22 AM I became a mom for the second time to the greatest gift I could have ever imagined! We are doing great and are home from the hospital now. My 5 year old is really enjoying his "big brother" status and my husband, their daddy cannot get enough of him. It's only been a few days and yet I feel like it's always been the four of us, one happy family. I am ecstatic to finally be holding him in my arms after feeling him move around inside of me for months and I will be spending every possible minute of time with him, enjoying every special moment and milestone one day at a time. This little tiny being has already brought me so much joy! I truly cannot express how much my love and affection has only grown (if that's even possible) from the moment I got the positive pregnancy test and now as I hold him in my arms. I look forward to watching as he grows. For now though I will be cherishing every little cry, diaper change etc. I am so fortunate to have many amazing people offering their help and support and for that I am ever so grateful! For now, all I need is lots and lots of rest. But, not to worry my blog posts will still be coming at you, I've got you covered. Keep your eyes peeled for great new recipes, cooking tips, beauty reviews and more of my regular. I look forward to sharing many more details about our little guy in the future! 

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Smashbox Always Sharp Lip Liners Review

Lip liners are a subject just as neglected as blush has been around here. As I explore more makeup products and techniques I've truly learnt what each item is for and why each one is essential. I'd always just stuck to the basic Mac lip liners for the rare occasion I'd apply one and although they do the job, they've never had me overly impressed. I certainly still do not apply a lip liner on a day to day basis since I prefer something quick and easy but have definitely discovered their purpose of late. Upon hearing that Smashbox was releasing lip liners in the Always Sharp style I so adore from their eyeliner line, I didn't rush to give them a try. And now they have become the ones I reach for whenever I am planning on a lip look that will last several hours.  

What Smashbox has to say about them: "Ditch your sharpener but stay sharp! What it is: a long wearing, water resistant liner self-sharpens every time you twist the cap off"  

Continue reading to see exactly what I think of them!

Pigmentation: The color intensity is unbelievable on all three of these shades. This intimating quick and easy application which is just what they are all about.  

Finish: These are certainly of matte finish but not so much so that they absorb all moisture from your lips just after being applied, as those formulations often do. I often top these lip liners with some lip gloss if I am looking for a less matte look, I've worn them both ways though and love each look. 

Formulation and Consistency: Because they are of matte finish, they are certainly on that slightly drier side but they do not pull and tug on the lips as they go on, making application comfortable and hasty.  

Lasting Power: Long wearing is the name of the game with these. I know that there are some people who's lips hold products better and mine are right in between in that aspect. I've only discovered a handful of lip products that actually stay put on my lips through it all for 24 hours or more and these are members of that club for sure! When topped with a gloss they last about half the time as when worn alone or with a matte lipstick and oily food consumed will definitely break them down as it to be expected. Regardless, the long wear aspect is there with these in a big way!

Scent: None that I've noticed, and that's never a bad thing in my opinion since many people are really specific about scents. 

Packaging: I've mentioned how much I adore the twist sharpening design Smashbox created with their Always Sharp EYE liners. The idea is genius, simply twist the cap on and it brings up more of the pencil when necessary and gives the pencil a sharpened tip without having to turn to an additional sharpener. An even, pointed tip is what you get every time! 


Variations: 16 different shades are offered on the Smashbox website ranging from mauves, browns, pinks, plums and even a gorgeous red! 

Price: $20 is a bit steep in comparison to what's offered at the drugstore but with the lasting power and excellent formulation here, I think the price is quite worth it. 


Overall: The shade "fuchsia" is my favorite shade amongst those I've tried. It's the perfect pink, not too bright for my complexion but not overly mauve or muted either. It will certainly be a lip shade I sport often throughout Spring and Summer. I honestly can't think of one thing I don't venerate in regards to these lip liners and I certainly can't wait to try many more of the shades available.  


Have you given any of these lip liners a try? If you have, what did you think of them? If you haven't do you want to?

Let me know in the comments form, along with any other opinions you may have, I love hearing from readers!

Thanks so much for stopping in! 

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