Nicci Morris

Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

And… we’re back!

In Entertaining, Food, Lifestyle, Recipes on May 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

First things first: I dropped the blog ball. I know better. While I don’t believe in excuses, there is an explanation… I’ve been busy (with a cross-country move and a great new job, just to name a couple of things), but I still should have made time to tend to The Zaftig Life. But my commitment to building “The Zaftig Life” brand remains. I’ve missed blogging, snapping photos and interacting with all of you. So… let’s get back into it, shall we? This weekend is a great time to do it. Tomorrow I’m hosting a poolside brunch for a bunch of girlfriends. I’m preparing two savory dishes and mango mimosas. My girls are bringing fruit, bagels, crudités, etc… to round out the menu.

Brunch has always been my favorite meal of the day. I love the blend of sweet and savory, and I adore that it lends itself to an easy-going, lazy mood. You don’t have to wake up early for brunch, and there is no end to the options when it comes to dishes you can serve. I’m still deciding on what I’m going to make, but I will post recipes as soon as I test a few more things… I’ll also post pictures of the food and the brunch tomorrow!

Make it a fabulous Saturday…

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2009 Zaftig-Approved Gift Guide (pt. 7)

In Entertaining, Fashion/Style, Food, Holiday, Lifestyle, Zaftig-Approved on December 16, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Custom Energy Bars,$37.57-$41.47

Mother-son founders, Ava Bise and Anthony Flynn, created YouBar in a small commercial kitchen in Los Angeles in 2006. Their goal? To offer their homemade  protein bars to the health-conscious masses. The company creates made-to-order energy bars, catering to customers’ preferences and nutritional needs.

You choose the ingredients and the bar size, viewing the nutrition facts (fat, calories, carbs, sodium, vitamins, etc…). Each bar comes with the nutrition facts based on what you add and you get to choose the name printed on the packaging of each bar.

The company also makes custom protein shakes, trail mix and cookies. How cool is that?

Click here for more information and to order.

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Monogrammed Carafe, $39

I love bedside carafes with matching tumblers. I adore the way they look and the purpose they serve, a delicious blend of pretty and practicality.

Simple, beautiful and thoughtful touches to any nightstand, be it in a master suite or a guest room, a bedside carafe is an ideal gift for someone who has just about everything. This beautiful one from Williams-Sonoma is no exception. The sleek, subtle glass design is hand-blown and features a weighted base. And an extra special touch comes into play when you add an engraved single- or triple-initial monogram.

Click here for more information.

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Vegetable Storage System, $8.95-$11.95

I know lots of people who simply don’t know how or where to put vegetables when they bring them home from the market. Orka by Mastrad, the innovative company behind some of my favorite kitchen gadgets, has created a system that simplifies the storage and preservation of food.

The Orka Vegetables Keep Sack gives you a place to store onions, garlic, and potatoes, protecting them from light and delaying sprouting and rotting. The double-drawstring design lets you add new vegetables from the top and remove older ones from the bottom, making it easier to use your stash before it goes bad.

I love the way the Keep Sacks look in this picture. Hanging them keeps air circulating around your produce to reduce spoilage, and it’s a great way to make the most of the coveted space in your pantry.

Click here for more information and to order.

2009 Zaftig-Approved Gift Guide (pt. 5)

In Entertaining, Fashion/Style, Holiday, Lifestyle, Zaftig-Approved on December 7, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Personalized Cutting Boards, $41-$53

Well-known for beautiful baby goods, Clairebella also has an enchanting home collection. The collection includes items such as serving trays, coasters, mouse pads and plates.

But my favorite items are the personalized tempered-glass cutting boards.

They come in two sizes and a variety of patterns with your choice of lettering and fonts. The eye-catching patterns and colors make for a unique blend of fun and function. And personalization adds pop that lets the recipient know just how much thought you put into this gift. The monogram is such a classic touch…

Click here for more information.

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Blooming Tea and Teapots, $8.99-$59.99

Tea is a wonderful tool when you want to create Zaftig Zen-ful moments. The warmth, the aromatics and the soothing ritual of tea helps set the mood for moments of introspection and reflection.

Well-aware of this, the people at Teaposy take the art of fine teas to the next level with their blooming teas and delicate glass pots. So charming…

Click here for more information. (Teaposy is also available on http://www.Target.com)

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Custom Bags and Shoes, $39.99-$175

If you have someone on your list who loves unique gifts, a bag or a pair of shoes by Dani Becca might be just the thing.

The hand-painted fashion line features bright colors, unique designs and incredible detail. The result? Shoes and bags that are sure to make you stand out in a crowd. They are perfect for the fashion-forward Zaftig girls who want to break free from the pack.

Order between now and February 15, 2010 and each item is 49.99 and under. Take advantage of the deal…

Click here for more information.

2009 Zaftig-Approved Gift Guide (pt. 2)

In Entertaining, Holiday, Lifestyle, Zaftig-Approved on December 2, 2009 at 11:25 pm

“Nigella Christmas: Food Family Friends Festivities” by Nigella Lawson, $35

Nigella Lawson, a perfect example of just how beautiful Zaftig truly is, is one of my favorite food celebrities.

In my imagination, she and I stroll through the grocery store together, graceful and beautiful, reveling in our full-bosomed and juicy-bottomed glory. We find little gems on the shelves and come up with recipes, she for her cookbooks and me for mine…

Nigella isn’t meeting me at the market anytime soon, but she does share some great recipes and tips in her cookbooks. Her straightforward fuss-free approach is especially welcome during the holidays. “Nigella Christmas” (or any of her other cookbooks) would be a great gift for the Zaftig woman in your life. Click here for information on where to purchase Lawson’s books and kitchenware. (You can find the book for much less than the MSRP.)

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Dinner of the Month Club Membership, $269

For a luxurious treat, give the gift of three 3-course dinners from Gourmet Station. The dinners include “handmade appetizers, entrees with sauce and vegetable accompaniment and delicious dessert for two.”

The recipient can choose from a variety of cuisine packages, including “Parisian” and “Fusion.” If you want to spend more, you can spring for a longer membership. The cost of shipping is included. And I love the fact that the gift certificate doesn’t expire if the recipient needs to skip a month.

Click here for more information.

Photo by Ian Britton/www.freefoto.com

2009 Holiday Guide to Zaftig-Approved Gifts

In Entertaining, Fashion/Style, Holiday, Lifestyle, Zaftig-Approved on December 1, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Whether it’s the aunt who is on a mission to make the world’s best apple pie, the new mommy who needs quick and easy recipes, the dad who is a self-proclaimed grillmaster, or the sister who likes to cook but needs a bit of help figuring out how to scramble eggs, you know and love at least one foodie and/or health nut and have one on your shopping list. Well, I know what gifts they will love.

Today marks the start of the Zaftig-Approved Gift Guide. Each day in December you will find fabulous gift ideas for the foodies and health-conscious loved ones in your life. The selections will be a range of price points and for foodies of all kinds, be they fervent or freshman. From utensils to food, to cookbooks to home decor, epicurean adventures to footwear, I’ll have lots of cool ideas for you.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions about any of the gifts, or if you have gift ideas or suggestions. Here is the first batch of Zaftig-Approved Gifts for 2009.

Stainless Steel Snack Bowls, $10.95-$19.95

These bowls are perfect for the savvy entertainer on your list. They would look great on the kitchen counter any day of the week or on a credenza during a party. Rounded, tilted and a combination of polished and brushed steel, these bowls are perfect for everything from peppermint bark to spinach dip. For more information or to purchase, go to http://www.cb2.com.

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Vegan Gift Basket, $69.99-$99.99

This gift basket is ideal for the veg head on your list. It’s packed with 100 percent Kosher and vegan snacks, many of which are organic as well. From meatless jerky to ricemilk chocolate, this basket is sure to please.  The goodies will arrive in a bronze keepsake giftbox.

It’s perfect for anyone who is vegan or who keeps Kosher.

For more information, go to http://www.vegandivine.us.

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FitFlop Clogs and Boots, $69-$200

I fell in love with FitFlops when I purchased the original flip-flop style almost two years ago. I bought a pair for myself and one for my sister. After wearing them for walks 4-5 times per week, we both noticed a change in the appearance of our legs. When I compared how my legs felt after wearing the FitFlops on my walks and how they felt when I wore my sneakers, I felt more warmth and soreness in my legs. The result? More definition in my calves and my thighs were more toned. An added bonus of my stronger legs was a decrease in lower back pain. The only problem? I live in a part of the country where it’s only practical to wear flip-flops for about three months out of the year. So kudos to the people at FitFlop for creating some cold-weather options.  The clogs and the boots have the same tone-while-you-walk Microwobbleboard™ technology, but your feet won’t freeze up while you trim down.

The boots and clogs come in a variety of styles, materials and colors, so it will be easy to find one that will be perfect for the fashion-forward and health-conscious woman on your list.

For more information and to find out where to buy FitFlop products, go to http://www.fitflop.com.

A once-a-year kind of treat…

In Entertaining, Food, Recipes on November 27, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Happy Holidays, all! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

I’ve talked with many of you who feel that gaining weight is inevitable this time of year. But I am here to encourage you to not buy into that lie. I have managed to not only keep holiday heft at bay but to even lose a pound or two the last two years. It is feasible and you can do it too. If you implement The Zaftig Life mantra of “Moderation. Balance. Health.,” I know that you, too, can maintain or even lose a few pounds this season.

The Zaftig Life is not about restriction. It is, however, about moderation. Instead of throwing in the towel from November to December and vowing to eat better in 2010, start today. Enjoy some holiday treats, but only in small amounts. You simply cannot indulge in cake, cookies, alcohol or turkey sandwiches every day (or even every other day) for a month and a half and not expect your pants to get tight. (Don’t even try to blame it on the dryer!) But you can make smart choices when it comes to food, beverages and exercise and still have delicious goodies while maintaining a healthy weight or even shedding extra pounds. And the good thing about the occasional treat is that you are less likely to go off on a fat and sugar bender when your cravings are out of control.

Yesterday I made a pecan pie with chocolate and bourbon. I know what you might be thinking… “That does NOT sound figure-friendly.” That’s because it’s not. It is well over 600 calories per serving. That is insane. But it’s also insanely delicious… I can (and I did) indulge yesterday. It’s full of butter, sugar, 90 proof bourbon, and has a ridiculous calorie count, but it’s a once a year treat. If you decide to indulge in this pie, I recommend you make it a once a year treat, too.

Photo by Nicci Morris

By Nicci Morris

Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Pie

1 store-bought pie shell (I use and highly recommend Marie Callender’s deep-dish pastry shells)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup salted butter

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup bourbon (I used Ezra Brooks 90 proof)

1 teaspoon good vanilla extract (never use imitation)

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cup pecan halves

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter or margarine melts and sugar is completely dissolved. Cool slightly (you don’t want to scramble the eggs in the filling).

In a large bowl combine eggs, bourbon, and vanilla and mix well. Pour cooled sugar mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in chocolate and pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until set and crust is golden. If the crust starts to brown too much before the filling sets, fold pieces of foil over the crust while it finishes.

Enjoy…

Love,

Recipe inspired by this version of the recipe on AllRecipes.

A pom addiction…

In Entertaining, Nic's Picks, Recipes on November 11, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Pomegranate arils

It happens every year. Brisk mornings come, the leaves change, and I wait… And then the day comes: Pomegranates arrive at the market. When the poms came in this year, I loaded the conveyor belt with them, salivating at the joy to come. The cashier picked one of them up as if it was coated in slime and asked, “What in the world can you do with these?!” Plenty.

I am an unabashed pomegranate addict. From the shape of the fruit to the glistening rubies nestled within, I adore everything about poms. The sweet-tart flavor and the brightly-colored juice lure me in each fall and winter. The taste and texture is unlike any other fruit I’ve had the pleasure of devouring. At about 230 calories for an entire pomegranate, it’s a wonderfully nutrient-dense vitamin C-packed superfood.  Pomegranates contain polyphenols, tannins and anthocyanins, all beneficial antioxidants. Studies show it contains more antioxidants than most other fruit juices, red wine or tea. There is also some evidence that drinking pomegranate juice can reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

While I am perfectly happy to eat a big bowl of arils (the proper name of the fleshy covering of the pomegranate seeds), my foodie brain won’t always let me keep it that simple. So yesterday I decided to make a “bruschetta” using a sourdough baguette, pomegranate arils, fresh mint, gorgonzola cheese and honey. The result is something beautiful, fragrant and delicious. Interesting to look at and a perfectly-portioned mouthful of flavor, these would be great for a cocktail party, a wine tasting or as a starter.

Pomegranate Bruschetta 1 - By Nicci Morris

Photo By Nicci Morris

Pomegranate “Bruschetta”

Sourdough baguette

4 ounce container of Gorgonzola cheese

1 1/2 cups pomegranate arils

Fresh mint

Honey

Preheat broiler and line baking sheet with foil. Cut bread on the bias into ½ thick slices. (The bias cut will give you a bit more surface area for the goodies.) Layer slices on baking sheet and place under broiler until lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sheet and flip slices before returning them to the broiler until lightly toasted. Remove and add gorgonzola to each piece of toasted bread (about ½ teaspoon of cheese to each, more or less if desired). Top with pomegranate arils. Return to oven and broil until cheese has just melted, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from oven. Tear mint leaves and top each baguette slice. Drizzle lightly with honey.

Enjoy…

Love,

Time to slow it down…

In Entertaining, Food, Recipes on September 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm
Photo by Susan Boyer

Photo by Susan Boyer

As I look out of the kitchen window, I’m amazed at the beauty of the changing leaves. What was once supple and green is now crisp, red and orange. The tree tops contrast sharply with the gray, cloudy sky, as if they have been set ablaze by Mother Nature.

It’s time to fire up my slow cooker.

I feel the need for serious comfort food as the temperature outside drops. One of my favorite slow-cooker meals is country ribs and beans. I start by seasoning and searing the meat in a super-hot cast iron skillet to get nice color and flavor and then put it in the slow cooker with the beans, a little hot sauce (for the salt and the heat), more spices, water and some chicken stock. By dinner, it is falling-off the bone perfection. I also serve a big salad and cornbread to round out the meal.

Are you ready to turn on your slow cooker? Do you have an old-school version, or is yours a newfangled, stainless steel one, replete with the digital settings? More importantly, what are you putting in yours? Try my recipe for white chicken chili. It’s sure to warm your belly and satisfy your comfort-food craving. I often serve this on big game days. I love to put a line of bowls filled with garnish near the slow cooker so people can top their chili with their favorite add-ins.

White Chik’n Chili

1 package Morningstar Meal Starters Chik’n Strips

2 large onions, medium chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

Three 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (one can reserved)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Three 15 oz cans low-sodium chicken broth

Hot sauce to taste (I use lots! About 1/4 cup)

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Two 4 oz cans green chilies, chopped

Garnish (optional):

Grated cheese

Sour cream

Green onions, sliced

pickled jalapeno pepper slices

Tortilla chips

A spicy, cheesy jalapeño cornbread (I’ll share my low-fat recipe for this soon…)

Using a stick blender, blend one can of the beans and add mashed beans to thicken the chili. Place all ingredients into the crock of your slow cooker, about 2-5 hours depending on your slow cooker. Ladle into bowls and add desired garnish and serve hot.

Enjoy…

Stir fabulous into your frittata…

In Entertaining, Food, Recipes on September 8, 2009 at 3:24 am

I’ve always said baking is a science but cooking is an art. By that I simply mean you don’t have to pull out the measuring cups and spoons to cook something amazing. You can get in the kitchen, be adventurous and design deliciousness. And the morning is the perfect time to get cooking and creative than in the morning? Whether I’m making breakfast for two or a group of people, I love to wake up my family and friends with a frittata.

A frittata is an Italian omelette and they can be simple or quite decadent. It’s essentially a crustless quiche. It’s all up to you and the ingredients you decide to add into the mix. Like a French omelette, a frittata is prepared in a frying pan. Be sure to use one that is oven-safe as a frittata is only partially-cooked on the stovetop. It goes under the broiler to finish. That is where the magic happens, where the eggs are transformed into something golden-brown and heavenly…

Frittatas are pleasing to the palate and the eye, making for a wonderful way to start the day. They are also perfect for a lazy Sunday brunch. Another beautiful thing about this egg dish is how economical it can be. Eggs are one of the least expensive protein sources you can buy. And you can use just about whatever ingredients you have in your refrigerator, taking that leftover chicken, potatoes and broccoli, for instance, from ho-hum to mmm-mmm.

I made a frittata over the weekend and it was delicious. My secret to fluffier results is a splash of cold water into the eggs right before I whisk them. You can, of course, use heavy cream in the eggs for an even more velvety texture. But, as I’ve said, moderation is the key. I’ve found that with the right amount of whipping, the eggs will still be creamy and delicious without the added fat, which means you have room for more calories later. That’s always a good thing…

Photos By Nicci Morris

Photos By Nicci Morris

Mushroom frittata 2

Mushroom Frittata

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

12 small cremini mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 eggs

2 Tablespoons cold water

1 ½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and ½ cup reserved

¼ teaspoon dried basil

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Hot sauce, to taste

Optional garnish:

Sour cream

Green onions

Tomato slices

Preheat broiler.

Place oven-safe pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil and onion. Sauté until onions are caramelized, turning down the heat if necessary to prevent the natural sugar in the onion from burning. Add in mushrooms and garlic, sautéing until the mushrooms have softened and the garlic is fragrant.

While vegetables are sautéing, break eggs into a bowl. Pierce yolk to ease whisking and add water. Whisk eggs well to ensure a fluffy result. Add cheese, basil, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Whisk again. Stir in cheese. Pour egg mixture into the pan, over the onion, mushroom and garlic mixture. Tilt pan as necessary to ensure the mixture is even. Top with reserved cheese. Cook over medium heat until the sides are firm. Center will still be wet. Put pan into the oven, under the broiler and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown. Remove from oven and slice into wedges. Top with sour cream, green onion and tomato if desired. Serves 4-6.

Enjoy…

Wonton imagination…

In Entertaining, Food on August 30, 2009 at 3:34 am

The best kind of party is of the impromptu variety. Friends show up and you rummage through the pantry and the refrigerator and create a veritable smorgasbord of otherwise mismatched offerings. The wine is flowing and all is well in your little corner of the world. But I also enjoy planning a party and that’s just what I’m going to do.


I think I’ll make it a game party. I’ll put Monopoly, Scattergories, Taboo and the Wii out (I dare anyone to challenge me to a round of anything…). A little music for background noise… But the most important and memorable thing will always be the menu. To encourage frivolity and mingling, I’ll stick with finger foods. I think small bites should be beautiful and have big flavors, leaving a lasting impression. “Remember the >insert amazing dish here< we had at Nicci’s? Man, was that incredible. Good times. Goooood times….,” they’ll say.

Planning a menu is also a good opportunity to create recipes. I’m going to make it an Iron Chef-esque challenge for myself… The main ingredient? Wonton wrappers. I already know what we’re having for dessert: Chocolate-Hazelnut Ravioli. I saw Giada make them a while back and I’ve been looking for an excuse to fry up such decadence. And I think a tart lemon-berry reduction as a dipping sauce would be a nice touch.

So I’ll need to have a bunch of savory wonton-wrapped bites as well. Steamed, fried, baked or boiled… I’ve been thinking miniature vegetable lasagnas, featuring layers of sauce and ricotta, would be fun. Or kimchi with a spicy sesame sauce. I’ve filled wonton wrappers with roasted butternut squash, cardamom and cinnamon and they were fabulous (the sage-butter sauce I put over them didn’t hurt). There are a million variations.

Do you have any filling ideas?