Archive for the ‘Friend Spotlight’ Category

If being a pastry chef for the world renowned Frank Stitt (chef/owner of Highlands, Chez Fon Fon, Bottega & Bottega Cafe) weren’t enough, my good friend Callie has now taken on a the role as caterer extraordinaire for her very own company, Sweet Cakes Patisserie!  Indulge yourself in holiday treats such as gingerbread cheesecake, cinnamon pear & frangipane tart, or even a Buche de Noel…c’est délicieux!  She is also offering cooking classes on everything from challenging French recipes like genoise to more classic recipes like chocolate chip cookies.  Want to impress your friends, family & coworkers at your holiday party?? Order something delectable from Sweet Cakes Patisserie & while you wait for Callie to deliver fresh homemade goodies to your home, try her recipe for peppermint brownies, mmmm…….

                     Image courtesy of health.com

No flavor says “Christmas” to me like peppermint does.  And when paired with chocolate, you have a match made in heaven.  So, I typically use the holidays as an excuse to exploit this flavor combination in as many ways as possible – in cake, cookies, pies, hot chocolate – you name it.  Not everyone enjoys the coolness of peppermint with the richness of chocolate, but I find it hard not to like these Peppermint Brownies.  The brownie layer is dense and chewy, while the peppermint subtly flavors the layer of smooth white chocolate ganache, and the bars are finished with a bittersweet chocolate glaze. My mouth is watering as I write…

I found a recipe in Gourmet magazine several years ago called Grasshopper Squares, from which this recipe is derived.  The Grasshopper Squares were flavored with Crème de Menthe, which is also delicious, but I find peppermint to be more festive.  As of November, Gourmet is no longer in print, and the magazine will be missed by many, including myself.  Fortunately, all of the old recipes can be found at Epicurious.com, which is my go-to website for recipe searches. 

 These brownies are very versatile – cut them into bite-sized squares and give as a gift, or cut them into triangles and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy to serve at a party.

 Peppermint Brownies

For brownie layer

        1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter

        10 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not extra-bitter or unsweetened and no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped

        1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

        3 large eggs, lightly beaten

        1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

        3/4 cup all-purpose flour

        1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

        3/4 teaspoon salt

For mint ganache

        1/2 cup heavy cream

        10 oz fine-quality white chocolate, chopped

        2 tablespoons peppermint schnapps

        1 teaspoon peppermint extract

For chocolate ganache

        1 cup heavy cream

   10 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped

Make brownie layer:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line with 2 crisscrossed sheets of foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang on all sides. Butter foil.

Melt butter and chocolate with brown sugar in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until combined. Whisk in flour, cocoa, and salt until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake until set and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs adhering, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make mint ganache:
Bring cream to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over white chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Stir in peppermint schnapps and extract and chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1 hour.

Make chocolate ganache:
Bring cream to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Assemble layers:
Spread mint ganache over top of cooled brownie in a thin even layer using offset spatula, then chill until firm but still slightly sticky, about 30 minutes.

Spread chocolate ganache over mint and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Lift dessert out of pan using foil overhang. Run a heavy knife under hot water and wipe dry, then trim edges of dessert (1/4 inch off each side). Cut dessert into squares and peel from foil.


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The holidays are near & that means family gatherings, last minute present shopping, insane traffic, ok I swear I’m not the Grinch I actually ADORE Christmas & everything that surrounds it….decorating the house with festive flair, looking at Christmas lights, holiday parties, delicious food & drinks…AND ROCK THE HALLS EVENT FOR CHARITY!!!!

What better way to unwind from the hustle & bustle of the malls & the office than to listen to some great music with good friends all while supporting a local charity?!

Everyone come out to Workplay tonight, bring an unwrapped toy for First Light, a center for homeless women & children in Birmingham, & ‘Rock the Halls’ to some bad ass musicians!

Who: Jon Vogel & the Southside Community Band 8 pm

           Hugh Mitchells & the Illegals 9 pm

           Hunter Barrow & the Gary Buseys 10 pm

 What: Bring $5 & an unwrapped toy-all proceeds & toys go to First Light Shelter!

Where: Workplay

When: Thursday December 17th 8pm

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Over a delicious lunch at Urban Standard in downtown Birmingham, my friend Kelly & I decided a collaboration is in order!  What kind of collaboration you ask?? Well Kelly is a phenomenal photographer & I adore styling, especially when I get to display my own clothing & accessories….thus we decided a photo shoot should be next on our to do list!  Here are the results, enjoy!

Photography by Kelly Merrill Cummings of Spindle Photography, click above for a closer look!

While I am in no way a model, I am quite obsessed with showing off my new fall finds…the first one being my new leather dress by Gestuz from one of my favorite boutiques, Swank 35223.  I’ve decided this dress is the perfect ULBD (updated little black dress).  For a more casual day look, I’ve worn my leather dress with oxford shoes & a cozy Pashmina.  Above Kelly photographed me in a more dressy look complete with an H&M lace top, Topshop over the knee boots, a statement pearl ring & an oversize pink clutch-all important trends this season.  This leather dress is the perfect addition to your fall wardrobe as it is extremely versatile.

Photography by Kelly Merrill Cummings of Spindle Photography, click above for a closer look!

My second favorite fall item is my cranberry one-piece jumper by Black Halo from one of my fashion secrets….Gilt Groupe– an online shopping experience complete with discounted designer pieces!  I paired it with my vintage navy Yves Saint Laurent blazer, Topshop gray & pink suede platform heels & statement chandelier earrings-again all important fall trends.  It is perfect for a night out with the girls, a holiday party or a trendy day look!  I even made a new friend in my cranberry jumper…she was quite stylish herself in her pink Coach collar!

Photography by Kelly Merrill Cummings of Spindle Photography, click above for a closer look!

My last fall obsession is my Mackage leather & fur jacket from Swank 35223.  Owner of Swank, Emily Dees Boulden got me hooked on this outerwear label a few years ago & I’ve been a dedicated fan ever since; 3 jackets down many more to come!  Paired above with fuchsia (shades of purple are the most important color palette this season) leggings by Splendid (highly recommend this brand, they are insanely comfortable!), a gray Vince turtleneck, brown ballet flats & vintage onyx & pearl earrings.

LOVE THE PHOTOGRAPHY?? Contact Kelly at tachee@gmail.com

LOVE THE STYLING?? Contact Megan at megan@southernfemme.com


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Thanksgiving would not be complete without a recipe from my good friend Callie (pastry chef for Frank Stitt’s 4 phenomenal restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama)…or without sweet potato casserole!  Enjoy & Happy Thanksgiving y’all!


                      Image courtesy of Southern Living

Call me crazy, but the one dish I look forward to at the Thanksgiving table is not the turkey or the dressing – it’s sweet potato casserole, or really, sweet potatoes in any form.  My mom’s Marsala cranberry sauce comes in a close second, but for me, it is always hard to beat sweet potatoes, especially when paired with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Growing up, we always had to split our casserole down the middle: one side was topped with a cinnamon-pecan crumble to suit the adults, and the remainder was concealed by puffed, golden marshmallows for the kids (and my nut allergic grandfather).

For authentic Southern fare, I always turn to Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s The Gift of Southern Cooking, and their sweet potato casserole is delicious.  Peacock writes, “To Yankees it may seem more like a dessert, but the sweetness is a good foil to a salty ham or a pork roast, and the dish is traditional at the holiday table.”  And for those very reasons, this casserole has earned its place at our Thanksgiving celebration.

5 lbs. small sweet potatoes (about 10)

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 ¾ tsp. salt

¾ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup light-brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups milk, heated


1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

¼ tsp. salt

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the sweet potatoes and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1-1 ½ hours or until they are very tender. Remove from the oven and cool briefly, then peel.  Put the peeled sweet potatoes in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on low speed to begin mashing them.  Add the butter and beat until it is absorbed.  Add the salt, nutmeg, honey, and both sugars and mix until well blended.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the heated milk and mix until incorporated.  Pour the mixture into a greased 13x9x2 inch baking dish.

Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

For the topping, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a mixing bowl.  Use your fingers to work the chilled butter into the mixture until it resembles oatmeal with some pea-sized pieces of butter remaining.  Stir in the pecans.  Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the sweet potatoes and bake for 30-45 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the sweet potatoes are set but still loose in the center.

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Red Lipsticks

Red Lipsticks from Top to Bottom: 1. Giorgio Armani Rouge Armani #400; 2. Bobbi Brown Red #10; 3. Chanel Rouge Allure Laque #74; 4. Dior Diorrific Dolce Vita Red; 5. La Praire Rouge Clair; 6. MAC Russian Red; 7. Laura Mercier Healthy Lips Lip Sheer; 8. Trish McEvoy Gorgeous Red; 9. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte #18.


What is my secret ‘pick me up’ for a night out… a strong red lip!  Last week I used this exact trick getting ready for an event & as expected I was immediately infused with confidence & energy.  Once at the event I had numerous women compliment me on my bold choice & then painstakingly tell me they wish they could pull off a red lip but there’s just no way.  That Southern Femmes is a lie.  Skin tone, personal style, confidence & uncertainty on how to apply such a bold color are some of the many excuses I heard as to why these women could not wear red lipstick.  Well I am here to address all of the aforementioned excuses one by one:  A. there is a shade of red for every complexion (see below)  B. again no matter what your personal style you can make red lips work for you, if you are more conservative wear red lipstick in a very Mad Men/Grace Kelly way, if you are more trendy wear it as I did to my event with black leggings, black tunic tee, black leather jacket & colorful stilettos  C. red lipstick=confidence boost, need I say more  D. unsure how to apply/wear a strong hued lipstick, well this is where my friend & makeup guru Chris comes into play…

Applying the rep lipstick

Chris first applied base, concealer & powder followed by a pretty yet relatively subtle eye.  It is best to stick to a more subdued eye when wearing a strong red lipstick for obvious reasons.  Chris chose a bronze eye palette to accentuate my hazel eye color & more olive skin tone.  Once finished with my eyes Chris put concealer around my lips to keep the red lipstick from bleeding, it’s a great trick to get the color to stay on longer!  The next step is lip liner-chose a red close to the shade you are going to wear or even a nude lip liner would work-it just provides a great base for the lipstick.  Lastly, depending on the consistency of the lipstick (Chris used on me a more liquid base Chanel red) you can apply the lipstick right to the lips or if it makes you feel more comfortable use a small brush to apply the lipstick.

Finished Red Lips

Et volia! 

Chris & I

Curious what red lipstick would be best for you?  Contact Chris: christopher.magidson@gmail.com

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That really says it all.  When my good friend David said that one little word to me in the same sentence as himself & internship I literally blacked out.  With Vogue comes Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley (who I’ve met!), Fashion Week, the fashion closet, designers & their gorgeous creations, the list goes on…  But the most spectacular part of interning at Vogue this fall season is Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at the Bryant Park tents in NYC!! And guess who got to go, David!  I eagerly anticipated his daily texts updating me on the celebs sightings, the fabulous clothing & haha of course the juicy fashion insider gossip!! Here are his favorite photos, stories & shows of the week!


Tory Burch & David

                      Erica, Tory Burch & David during the Tory Burch fashion show 


Janice Dickinson

 Former model & reality TV star Janice Dickinson (center) at the Monarchy show…. Also spotted at the Monarchy show- Angela and Vanessa Simmons (see also below)!


Vanessa & Angela Simmons

MTV celebrities & sister design duo of Pastry Angela & Vanessa Simmons at the Charlotte Ronson show… Also spotted at the Charlotte Ronson show- Samantha Ronson, Tinsley Mortimer (see below), Nicky Hilton, Lynn Yeager, Ms. J and Byrdie Bell!


Tinsley Mortimer

The gorgeous & always stylish Tinsley Mortimer at the Charlotte Ronson show


Grace Coddington 

Erica & the Creative Director of Vogue, Grace Coddington at the Michael Kors show… Also spotted at the Michael Kors show- Rachel Zoe,  Anna Wintour, Tonne Goodman, Meredith Melling Burke, Virginia Smith and a surprise guest Lady Gaga and Joan Kors!




1.  Paper bag pants, shorts, skirts

2. Blue hues, every shade, every style!

3. Belting, belting & more belting!  Wrap a luxurious leather belt around your natural waist over a sweater, dress, blouse or even jacket for an immediately updated look!

4. Pop of color!  Add a burst of 80’s neon to a khaki, white and/or blue ensemble.



1. Charlotte Ronson- my 3 favorite looks from the show

Charlotte Ronson looks


2. Karen Walker- my favorite look from the show, how great is that hat?!

Karen Walker


3. Phillip Lim (click on the designer’s name for a video of their RTW Spring 2010 show!)


4. Michael Kors for his color palette full of lavender, mint green & icy blue (click on the designer’s name for a video of their RTW Spring 2010 show!)


5. Tory Burch for her fabulous shoes, like these hot pink strappy heels!

Tory Burch pink strappy heels


6. Marc by Marc Jacobs (click on the designer’s name for a video of their RTW Spring 2010 show!)


7. Anna Sui for the great mixing of patterns (click on the designer’s name for a video of their RTW Spring 2010 show!)



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After receiving rave reviews about the recent post on my friend Callie’s decadent summer peach dessert recipe  I was eager to coax her into dishing out another one of her favorite recipes!  Here is Callie’s take on the Southern classic: pimiento cheese!

pimiento cheese & crostini

Labor Day is here – and for us Southerners, that means a long weekend at the lake, family barbeques, and the long anticipated start of the college football season. And all of these annual activities are centered around family, friends, and of course, food. So, whether you’re headed to the lake or to a tailgate, take along a batch of this pimiento cheese to share. Pimiento cheese is one of those classic, comforting Southern foods that is suitable for numerous occasions, and for a casual get-together, serve it as a dip alongside crostini (a fancy name for toasted bread) or crackers.

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup high-quality mayonnaise

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot)

½ teaspoon sugar

½ cup roasted red peppers, diced

4 ounces extra-sharp yellow cheddar cheese, grated

4 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

Combine the first five ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended. Stir in diced peppers and grated cheese. About the ingredients: of course, the quality of your ingredients will affect the outcome of your pimiento cheese. If you roast your own peppers and make your own mayonnaise, you’ll be able to tell a difference, but let’s be realistic – very few people have the time or energy to do that. So go ahead and buy a jar of roasted red peppers and some Hellman’s. The key to ensuring that your pimiento cheese tastes great, though, is using high quality, flavorful cheese. Steer clear of pre-shredded varieties and go for the block. It only takes a few minutes to grate your own cheese and the difference in taste is well worth it. Enjoy!

pimiento cheese

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