Apr 22, 2014

One Wedding Dress. Two Great Looks.

Wedding season is coming. You're the bride, or you know a bride. The dress is important. The dress is expensive. The bride wants to feel special and most importantly, she wants to feel like herself. We suggest you take a basic, inexpensive dress with good bones and make it your own, because what makes a wedding beautiful is the love, not the money.

Start with a very basic dress. Here's one I bought for $99 from a large bridal dress store during their annual sale.
The more simple the dress, the easier it is to accessorize to fit your wedding, whatever the season.

This is a strapless satin A-line dress with simple beaded embellishments around the top, waist and hemline.

For a spring wedding, when the weather can be unpredictable, it's good to have a light lace sweater or shawl to warm your shoulders. This one was under $20.

I've wrapped a 3-yard piece of very pale pink Swiss Dot organza around the dress like an overskirt.

The top edge is folded under so it makes a pretty-looking high waist.

For the waistband, I'm using a black sheer ribbon because black and pink contrast wonderfully. It's best to use a ribbon that's 2-3 inches wide.

How we did it:
Wrap the ribbon around the waist snugly but not tight. Secure belt in place with a safety pin, and any trim excess.

Pull up the top part of the organza so that it's even, then pull up the ends in the back so that you have enough to tie together and wrap under the belt. It looks like a fluffy bow bustle.

This is the part that just pulls the entire look together: A big silk or real flower. You could use white, ivory pale pink or even black. I've taken some extra black ribbon and made a flat flower shape out of it then attached it to the back of the flower...pinning them both to the side of the belt.

I finish with a big pink pearl necklace that features an antique silver flower.

This whole look says fun, light-hearted elegance!


For a summer wedding, let's keep our shoulders bare. Having an outdoor wedding? I'll show you how to accessorize a simple straw hat to complete your look.

How we did it:
Simply take 5 yards of beautiful fabric ribbon...whatever you love and will match your décor. Choose a ribbon between 2-3 inches wide.

To prevent slipping, use a little fabric glue (or a needle and thread) to tack ribbon in place around the top.

Tie in a big bow in the back and trim the ends.

Order a wreath from your florist to fit around the brim of your hat. Go heavier on the greenery and lighter on the flowers. Choose flowers that go with your bouquet and the color of your ribbon for a very simple yet pulled-together look.
Finish with a simple pearl necklace.  

Check out Do It For Less! Weddings for all your nuptial needs.

Apr 11, 2014

Spring is for Slowcookers

We recently received the Healthy Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson. I love my slow cooker but often find myself in a rut with it. I make pot roast and beef stew and that's pretty much it.

After perusing the myriad of scrumptious and wholesome offerings, I was blown away by the newness of the recipes. Judith has gone beyond the chili and stewed chicken slow cooker staples and breaks new ground with dishes including Black Sticky Rice Congee with Coconut and Mushroom and Chickpea Stew with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis (both of which I will be making asap).

Because I had just received a farmers market box full to bursting with rainbow chard, I settled on the Leafy Greens Soup below. I can't stop eating it. I do highly recommend using homemade stock or broth to make it extra special. I added a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and enjoyed it with a hunk of homemade white bread and butter. Swoon.

Leafy Greens Soup

This delicious country-style soup is French in origin and based on the classic combination of leeks and potatoes, with the addition of healthful leafy greens. Sorrel, which has an intriguing but bitter taste, adds delightful depth to the flavor (see page 105). Sorrel is available from specialty greengrocers or at farmers’ markets during the summer, but if you’re unsuccessful in locating it, arugula or parsley also work well in this recipe.

    Large (approx. 5 quart) slow cooker

    Food processor or blender

1 tbsp    butter or olive oil    15 mL

1 tbsp    olive oil    15 mL

6    small leeks, white and light green     6
    parts only, cleaned and thinly sliced

4    cloves garlic, minced    4

1 tsp    sea salt    5 mL

1 tsp    dried tarragon    5 mL

12 tsp    cracked black peppercorns    2 mL

6 cups    vegetable or chicken stock     1.5 L

3    medium potatoes, peeled and     3
    cut into 12-inch (1 cm) cubes

4 cups    packed torn Swiss chard leaves (about 1 bunch)     1 L

1 cup    packed torn sorrel, arugula or parsley leaves    250 mL

    Heavy or whipping (35%) cream or
    non-dairy alternative, optional

1.    In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and olive oil. Add leeks and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, tarragon and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a boil.

2.    Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Stir in potatoes. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours, until potatoes are tender. Add Swiss chard and sorrel, in batches, stirring after each to submerge the leaves in the liquid. Cover and cook on High for 20 minutes, until greens are tender.

3.    Working in batches, purée soup in a food processor or blender. (You can also do this in the stoneware using an immersion blender.) Spoon into individual serving bowls and drizzle with cream, if using.


If you are halving this recipe, be sure to use a small (2 to 312 quart) slow cooker.

Makes 8 servings

Can Be Halved

Courtesy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Apr 8, 2014

Food is a business. If you don’t make money, it’s a hobby.

Reinvention: The Art Of Graceful Adaptation.

Denise had a lovely interview with fellow IACP member, Deborah Schapiro. Click here to check out Deborah's conversations with Dorie Greenspan, Andy Schloss and Aida Mollenkamp.

Denise Vivaldo has been in the business of food for almost thirty years. As a caterer to the stars, a sought-after food stylist, cookbook author, culinary instructor, chef, and entrepreneur, Denise never wanted to be famous but always wanted to work with food. “It’s all hard work. If fame is your motivation, you’ll be disappointed. You have to love the food!”

Denise always wanted to be her own boss. “Some people need security more than I do,” she explains. She credits her success to having the discipline to “throw the deadweight out of the lifeboat, resolve the issue, and move on,” which has allowed her take on challenges that others may find overwhelming.

To succeed in this business for the long term regardless of your job, Denise stresses, “You have to know how to sell and know how to close to keep your business alive.” She also emphasizes the importance of persistence, explaining that calling once doesn’t register interest. “You need to call me a dozen times!” That determination applies equally to Denise herself, who has failed “a million times.”

To keep things on track, she works from a five- and ten-year plan, acknowledging that what she enjoys today may not serve her in five years. She’s learned to embrace opportunity in transition—at one point, selling her catering business to her employees when she wanted to focus on food styling. Now, as the head of the Denise Vivaldo Group, she is delegating some of the business’s daily management in preparation for her next adventure.

Always eager to add to her list of accomplishments, Denise is exploring a new genre, creating a script for a TV sitcom. In addition, she has a new book deal (her ninth) and continues to consult, teach, and style for her expanding client list. After thirty years of loving the food, Denise continues to stay relevant by never staying still.

So what have I learned? Regardless of where you are in your career—the naïve beginning, on the optimistic ascension, or at the hard-earned place at the top—your willingness to say yes, be in business, and fail a million times will provide you with a career that’s a simmer, not a burn.