A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to pair up with a friend whose style I admire immensely (Joanna Meyer of Baked by Joanna), and between the two of us we concocted this wildly colorful yet serene, jewel-toned end of the year celebration. We've been waiting patiently (or not-so-patiently, ha ha) to share this with all of you reading this here, AND with all the readers over at the lovely Smitten Magazine, who is doing us the honor of sharing our images and words today over at their always-inspiring site!

This party inspiration shoot is all about sharing a small, intimate New Year’s Eve. The holidays can be such a whirlwind of huge parties, we really loved the idea of a small gathering of a handful of your nearest and dearest instead of a big bash. This could easily be a romantic dinner, a reunion of best friends, or even a family get-together….anyone you want to start the new year with! We chose our dramatic, private desert setting because the vivid colors of the sky as the sun dips below the mountains provided the perfect backdrop for our lush, warm, jewel-toned gathering….and besides, can you imagine a more beautiful spot to watch the last sunset of the year from?

Glitter-bombed, oversized, shiny plastic parties are fun, but they're another conversation for another blog; our styling concept for this shoot was all about natural materials and ingredients. Everything from the florals to the hand-passed snacks and even the dishes they're served on was inspired by the warm, the tactile and the real. Warm wood and gold tones, ceramics and jewel-toned glass struck just the right notes for our desert rendition of 'Auld Lang Syne'. After the sun heads down for the last time in 2015, it's all about great conversation, raised glasses and some really stellar shared small plates for dinner.

This cranberry, rosemary and gin concoction tastes like a perfectly chilled Christmas tree, and was my holiday go-to cocktail pick all season long....get the recipe here, in my Thanksgiving post.

The full menu for our 'Jewels of the Desert New Year's Eve' follows (seen here on hand-calligraphied, individual menus, dip-dyed in a saffron hue for an extra pop of color at each place setting)...


Cranberry + Rosemary Gin Cocktail


Blood Orange + Beet Relish

Beet Hummus

Kale Pesto

Warm Feta with Honey + Dates

Endive Cups with

Persian Jeweled Rice


Wine Poached Pears with Sweet Mascarpone

Midnight Toast:

Champagne + Saffron Sparkler

Elegant, shareable dishes like our long crostini board with kale pesto, blood orange & beet relish, and goat cheese with dates and honey make up not only the main course of the meal, but the centerpiece of the table as well. Ours is loosely inspired by the lush, table-dominating creations of Heirloom L.A., a favorite of Joanna's and mine, whose signature crostini spreads have inspired endless hours of inspired brainstorming between the two of us. Saffron-hued rice studded with ‘jewels’ of pomegranate seeds and pistachios (looking for the recipe? Find my take on Saffron Jeweled Rice here in this recent post) echo the vivid color scheme, and the deeply red wine-poached pears we served up as dessert complete the meal perfectly. Finally, how do you re-invent the champagne toast without venturing into already very well-traveled territory? My answer was simple: CANDY. A sparkling wine cocktail made vibrant with saffron rock candy and pomegranate seed garnish is the perfect toast to a colorful 2016!

Hearty Kale Pesto (see the recipe here) and Saffron Jeweled Rice in pretty little endive cups (find the recipe here) are some of my new favorite party treats, pretty much ever.

Joanna's amazing Beet Hummus is rich, earthy and wonderful....and it's live on her blog today! Get the recipe here.

Warm Feta with Honey and Dates hits all of my pleasure points at once: Salty, YES. Sweet, YES. Cheese, YESSSSS. This elegant little dish couldn't be easier to put together....and it's another one of Joanna's lovely inventions! Get the recipe here at her blog, Baked by Joanna.

Lastly, we really couldn’t have pulled off this shoot without the contributions from our amazing vendors! The long, rustic farm-style table from Tremaine Ranch helped to literally set the stage for our dinner, while brass flatware from Fancy Lou echoed our rich warm tones with just a hint of sparkle. Lush, asymmetrical florals by Hoot & Holler added a touch of drama to the table, while classic wine goblets and champagne flutes in an unusual black finish, sourced from our favorite shop FOUND by domestic bliss , brought elegance and mystique to the scene.



It's America's favorite superfood for the billionth year running...........yes, it's KALE. If you're a kale lover (ME) and not a kale hater, this simple, healthy & ingenious recipe is just for you. Requiring little more than a food processor and a few extra minutes on your hands, it's the perfect thing to make when your cooking mind is blank and you have no idea what's for dinner. Got some plain pasta? Boom. Kale pesto pasta. Got an ordinary soup that needs a little dollop of something extraordinary on top? This is your go-to (it's really great on top of a creamy white bean & rosemary blended soup, if you need more suggestions). How about just some toasted bread and a perfectly cooked soft egg? Boom again. Breakfast--or lunch or dinner, really--is served. 

This recipe is one I've barely managed to write down over the years, since I mostly make it by intuition, and once you've tried it you'll see what I mean. You just


when this bright green, flavorful spread comes together. Still, the proportions in the following recipe are a great way to get started, and can easily be multiplied, so give it a try!

Kale Pesto

Makes about a cup of pesto

1 tightly packed cup curly kale (rinsed well under hot water and de-stemmed)

1 clove garlic

1/3 cup ground almonds

2 tablespoons grated parmesan

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

pinch of sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Place kale leaves and garlic in the bowl of a food processor, pulse a few times until roughly chopped. Add garlic & parmesan, continue to pulse. Add lemon juice and blend steadily, then pour in olive oil in a steady stream until everything is in and pesto is a thick paste. Taste, add salt & pepper as needed, then serve.


I know, guys. I know. 

Kale recipe posts in January are as inevitable as cherry pie in July or hot apple cider in October. Fresh off the last round of New Year's resolutions (but not so far into the new year that we've all fallen off that wagon and begun eating chocolate by the handful....yet), it seems everyone's eating big bowls of dark leafy greens in between juice cleanses and probiotic shakes, right? Well, this is a kale recipe. And I did warn you it was coming. And I'm a well-known kale enthusiast from way back. 

But this is no mere austere bowl of's got style. Soul. Swagger. Cojones. Whatever. It's got tender bits of prosciutto, mingling with the brightness of fresh lemon zest and a hint of red pepper. It's got silky shreds of sauteed kale, woven cozily into a bowl of golden pasta, all snuggled under a sprinkling of grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Seriously, isn't that just about the coziest thing you could imagine right now? Let's make some of this tonight, and let's keep eating it until the weather outside is warm again, shall we? It's one resolution you won't mind keeping.

 Pasta with Kale, Prosciutto, Lemon & Parmesan

Serves 2 generously

6 oz. pasta of choice (in my house, it's Barilla's GF spaghetti)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 oz. prosciutto, sliced into roughly 1/2" squares
1 bunch of organic kale, washed, ribs removed & roughly chopped (size of bunch will vary, but you should have at least 3 loosely packed cups of chopped kale)
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt, to taste
freshly grated parmesan, to taste

 Fill a large pot with water, add salt generously and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until done to your desired degree of firmness. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet over medium high heat, add one tablespoon of olive oil (reserving the rest) and heat until shimmering, then add prosciutto and saute quickly until it just begins to color. Add kale one handful at a time, stirring constantly. The kale will wilt quickly in the heat and make room for the next handful, continue doing this until all the kale is in the skillet. Add minced shallot and garlic and continue to saute, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. The mixture is done after about five minutes, once the kale has turned dark and tender. Remove from heat and add the lemon zest and red pepper.

Return warm pasta to pot and add kale mixture, tossing to combine thoroughly. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and let sit (cover the pot to keep remaining warmth in) for a few minutes to allow flavors to intermingle. Serve in bowls, showered with freshly grated parmesan, and enjoy!