Even as I sit here on my kitchen stool this morning, I'm making plans for our New Year's Eve celebration, which is colorful in its own way (we have a peculiar tradition involving sushi, sparkling rosé, and this year, plenty of catching up on series nine of Doctor Who as we count down to midnight). But I'm also daydreaming of this vibrant cocktail I created for a recent New Year's Eve-themed party in the desert, which echoes all the feelings of that particular evening: the brilliant colors of the Arizona sunset, the sweetness of memory, the effervescence of hope for the new year, the surprise crunch of pomegranate seeds as metaphor for whatever 2016 will bring.

Persian-style sticks of

saffron rock candy

(also known as


) are traditionally swirled around in cups of hot tea as a sweetener, but I'd never seen them reimagined as a cocktail swizzle stick. Turns out, the fizz of sugary sweetness is a perfect match for a dry champagne or other sparkling wine, and the earthy background note struck by the saffron is a beautiful surprise. Tiny, jewel-like pomegranate arils bob around like edible party confetti, or like a fruity version of another favorite New Year's tradition of mine, caviar. The occasional pop between your teeth of these juicy little seeds is honestly my favorite part of this drink, which I'm calling the New Year's Saffron Sparkler. Tying a few strands of shiny gold mylar to the end of each


stick to symbolize the burst of a sparkler is optional, but lovely!

New Year's Saffron Sparkler

Saffron rock candy sticks

Dry sparkling wine (champagne, prosecco, cava, etc)

Pomegranate seeds

Place a rock candy stick in each glass, fill with champagne nearly to the top, then garnish with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds. Toast immediately and enjoy while the bubbles last!

Here's to a beautiful 2016, friends!! May your new year be filled with joy, sparkles, friends, love, bubbles, and COLOR!


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.


Christmas time always makes me think of New York.......and whatever else might be said adoringly or disparagingly about it, the city knows how to put on a hell of a charming holiday season. Festive twinkling lights reflected in damp streets, rosy-cheeked faces smiling in puffy coats, giant garlands and enormous high-rise Christmas trees, carols wafting around in the air from street performers on trumpet and's a giant rock & roll neon-lit Nutcracker in a snowglobe, and it's perhaps the only season I truly miss in NYC. Thinking of the city is what led me to these chocolate-dipped meringue cookies, as well. A riff on that classic deli staple, the Black & White Cookie, they're a lighter-than air version that I like to say is what a Black & White would be like if those cookies were actually tasty (in reality, they're usually pretty spongy and disappointing).

A crisp, sugary vanilla meringue cloud dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with a little extra holiday pixie dust in the form of crushed candy canes, these Black & Whites never disappoint. They couldn't be easier to throw together, but they're no last-minute cookie, so make sure you leave plenty of time for that long, slow bake in a warm oven. There are two things you can't hurry, after all: love...and meringues. But these, I swear to you, are worth the wait, and they'll make any holiday gathering merry & bright!

Black & White Meringue Cookies

Makes about two dozen cookies

3 egg whites

3/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3.5 oz. dark chocolate (I use a bar of my favorite 70% dark)

1 candy cane

Preheat oven to 200 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Begin beating egg whites until foamy, either by hand or in an electric mixer, add sugar and continue beating. Add salt, cream of tartar and vanilla, continue beating for about five minutes or until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks.

Place generous spoonfuls of meringue onto parchment (about two tablespoons per cookie), swirl into roughly cookie-shaped objects, but remember that slight imperfections in meringue can make everything a little more beautiful. Bake for 2 hours at 200 degrees; meringues are done when the outside is dry to the touch and they can be easily lifted from the parchment. Remove and let cool thoroughly.

Unwrap candy cane, place in plastic bag and gently crush into pieces with the bottom of a coffee cup. Break or chop chocolate into small pieces. In a small microwave-proof bowl, place 2/3 of chocolate and microwave 20 seconds at a time until fully melted. Stir in remaining chocolate pieces, keep stirring until mixture is fully melted. Dip each meringue halfway into chocolate, then place on parchment to set. While chocolate is still shiny, sprinkle candy cane pieces over each one. Repeat until done, let set fully, then enjoy!

MY FAVORITE THINGS // aka Gift Guide 2015

Just because you're a last-minute holiday shopper doesn't mean you care any less......ooooooor such is the story I tell myself, anyway. Every year I receive the same shock in mid-December when I realize we're under two weeks from the big day and I haven't done a thing except bake cookies (which is why so many of you get cookies from me every year, MERRY CHRISTMAS, ha ha!). I adore giving presents but always prefer them to be thoughtful gifts (something utterly beautiful, useful, or in the best case scenario, both), rather than mindless gift-giving (i.e. here's some AA batteries and a gift card, go nuts). If I were to get my act together earlier in the year and shop well in advance of the holidays, though, here's a baker's dozen of the things I'd be stockpiling for gift-giving...perhaps that's a New Year's resolution for 2016?

Because I believe that by supporting independent artisans and unusual businesses you give a gift twice (once to the recipient, and once to the maker in the form of your support), my 2015 gift roundup is fully committed to that cause. Every item on this list is something that comes from a maker or a shop I love--and not coincidentally, everything on this list is something I'd love to give or own myself. Many are from desert dwellers in my own hometown (showing local love for Standard Wax + Ateleia + The Aestate + From the Reliquary, though the latter was once from Phoenix and is now relocated to Portland), while the rest are from other far-flung locations....but all are unique and special.

Hopefully this helps to inspire some thoughtful, intentional gift shopping and giving on your part this year. Remember, there's always time to give a gift certificate to a unique shop or get ahead for next winter, as don't despair, last-minute shoppers! Happy holidays to everyone!

[ Click link below to see sources ]
1. Candles by Standard Wax // @standardwax

2. Petrified Wood Serving Boards, Terrain // @shopterrain 3. Forged Bronze Spoon, Ann Ladson // @annladson

4. Stoneware + Porcelain Bowls, Herriott Grace // @nikoleherriott

5. Glazed 'Marble' Bowls, ONEandMANY // @oneandmany_

6. Staub Mini Cocotte, Food52 // @food52

7. La Brisa handwoven Peruvian throw, The Citizenry // @the_citizenry

8. The Kinfolk Table, Food52 // @food52

9. Leather Journal + Brass Pen by Ateleia // @ateleia

10. Gold Stacking Rings, Favor // @favorjewelry

11. Beverly II by The Aestate // @theaestate

12. Inverte Necklace, From the Reliquary // @aozers

13. Wooden Spoons + Scoop, Old World Kitchen // @poldersowm


The winter season is, at its heart, about hospitality. We open up our homes and invite others to step inside and take the chill off, join us for a full-blown holiday party, an informal gathering of friends, a family dinner. Slightly decadent foods that are bursting with flavor (butter, sugar, nuts, are the siren song of my holiday season) are mandatory, both for that convivial feeling and to stave off the cold.

I made this saffron-infused rice dish for an imagined New Year's Eve gathering (as part of a styled shoot that I'll reveal here on the blog soon!) inspired by jewel tones and rich flavors. Though it's based on a traditional Persian dish called 'jeweled rice', I'll be the first one to admit that my technique is less than traditional in approach, leaning heavily on ad-libbing and 'things I like' vs. 'the way it's done.' I didn't use dried barberries, for example, a common-enough Middle Eastern ingredient that's less common and harder to find here. I like the ruby glow of pomegranate seeds in this dish so much better, and the satisfyingly juicy, caviar-like pop as each one yields between your teeth in the middle of a warm bite of rice. I didn't use the required amount of sugar (most recipes call for the carrots and orange zest to be candied in syrup before mixing in, which frankly, is just way too much sweetness for me). And my largest crime against tradition? I didn't go for the extra step at the end and allow the rice to steam in a heavy-bottomed pot until browned and crispy on the bottom. This delicacy, known as


, is unbelievably delicious to anyone who loves browned crispy things (which at last count was, like, 100% of the population) and.........I have never once been able to make it properly. If anyone wants to help me complete my rice education,

teach me this!

I'm in your hands.

Still, I'm pretty satisfied with the way this streamlined version of an elegant dish turned out in my kitchen. Rich & fragrant, it't the perfect opportunity to be a little extravagant and use slightly spendy ingredients like saffron and pistachios, plus plenty of butter because.......winter. The sweetness of dried fruit and carrots contrasts so nicely with the tartness of orange juice and zest, and the earthy quality of saffron ties it all together. Celebrate the dead of winter with pops of the brightest colors imaginable on your shared table, a winter sun to light the path into the new year!

Saffron Jeweled Rice

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 cup diced yellow or white onion

1 cup grated carrot

2 tablespoons orange zest

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 cup diced dried apricots

1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios

2 cups long grain rice (Basmati is preferable)

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

salt & pepper, to taste

Heat orange juice just until warm to the touch, add saffron and let infuse.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until just softened, then add grated carrot and continue to cook while stirring for about 3 more minutes. Add saffron liquid, orange zest, spices, apricots, pistachios, and remaining butter. Stir until butter has melted and spices are fragrant, then remove from heat and set aside.

Rinse the rice in a few changes of cold water, until the water that runs off is clear. Drain and set aside. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the rinsed rice and boil until grains are tender, then drain well in a colander and return to pot while still hot.

Gently re-warm the saffron butter mixture if it has cooled, then drizzle over cooked rice and stir until fully combined. Place a lid on the pot and let everything steam in the residual heat for five minutes.

Fold in pomegranate seeds, then serve. A wide platter is great for presentation, or a pretty bowl in a contrasting color. For our New Year's Eve styled shoot, we actually served this as an appetizer, spooned into the crunchy 'cups' of pale green endive leaves. More on that coming soon!