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Spotlighted: Pallavi from Veggie Zest

27 Aug

Recently I was lucky enough to stumble upon a lovely blog called “Veggie Zest”. As most of you probably know, I am a vegetarian and have been for almost 2 years, so when I first began flicking through the webpages of this amazing blog I was so overwhelmed by the beautiful photography and unique vegetarian recipes featured I immediately began bookmarking. This Plum and Frangipane Tart had my mouth watering as did these Zucchini Pancakes. This blog is so jam packed with amazing vegetarian recipes and after only an hour of scrolling I could feel my culinary horizons expanding!  A few days later Pallavi, who runs Veggie Zest contacted me with interest in becoming a guest blogger and I jumped at the chance to pick her mind. Here is what she had to say;

Hi I am Pallavi and I blog at My blog Veggie Zest focuses on vegan and vegetarian recipes from around the world. Through my blog I try to promote vegetarianism by creating great tasting and looking food in hopes of inspiring my readers to try new things. Through out life I have been fortunate enough travel and experience a wide variety of cultures. I believe that this exposure and my love for food reflects in my cooking. My recipes are very contemporary with a global flavour appealing to all our senses. 

How did you learn to cook and when did you start?

I have always loved eating a good and well prepared meal but I didn’t start cooking till I was 27. I survived my school years on Ramen noodles (really – no exaggeration there!!). At 27, I was newly married & went through a short period of unemployment. During that time, I guess all my creative energy somehow got focused on cooking and food.  I would end up experimenting with vegetarian versions of whatever we (my husband & I) ate at restaurants. I loved seeing his reaction every time I surprised him with a vegetarian version of his favorite chicken-based dish (which is true till date). I was learning a lot from food shows and the internet and I was mostly doing salads and simple desserts at that time. Gradually, I became more and more experimental and confident with my cooking. It’s a learning process (just like anything else), and I feel you improve with time and several failed attempts.

Cooking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. Where would you suggest a person start off when it comes to learning to cook? Do you have any tips or advice for culinary success?

Cooking is such a great blend of science and art that it’s bound to satisfy you if you try to understand it. The world that we live in now is full of information on any subject. I think one can learn best visually. So watching cooking shows and searching for recipe videos on youtube is a great way of learning. Youtube specially, because you find so many home cooking videos and you don’t get intimidated by the fact that a “chef” is preparing some dish. For starters, I would suggest starting with salads and simple appetizers.

What inspires you to keep coming up with all the amazing recipes you feature on your blog?

I feel inspiration is everywhere and in everything. I get inspired by eating a good meal at a restaurant or at someone’s place or by looking at different cultural cooking methods. I think the variety of food & Ingredients available to us from all parts of the world in general inspire and excite me.

Also, the abundant yet unknown existence of vegetarian recipes in all cuisines is the driving force behind my creations. I also get very inspired by the thought of showing people how vegetarian food can be flavorful and nutritious at the same time.

What are your go to/favourite vegetarian recipe/s? Would you like to share one?

I love making bruschetta for many reasons like it was one of my first non-Indian recipe that was appreciated and enjoyed by many, its vegetarian and vegan at the same time, it’s a simple recipe that requires minimum number of ingredients and what I love the most about it is how fresh it tastes.

Bruschetta Recipe:

Pallavi’s Bruschetta

Things you will need:

1/2 french baguette
4 big size  tomatoes (vine if possible), make sure they are hard and not very juicy
1 1/2 tbs good quality extra virgin olive oil, a little more for drizzling on the baguette
4 cloves of garlic
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
handful of fresh basil leaves
2 tsp sugar

What to do:

Make two slits at the bottom of the tomatoes (in an “x” shape). Blanch the tomatoes in hot water for 5 min (covered). Put in a bowl of cold water– you want to remove the skin from the tomato. After removing the skin, de-seed the tomatoes with the help of a spoon (try not to squish them too much). Chop into small bite size dices. Finely chop 2 cloves of garlic, add to the tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves and add to the tomatoes. Add salt, sugar and balsamic vinegar, olive oil and mix well.Keep aside.

Lightly toast the baguette slices (in the oven or on a pan), drizzle some olive oil on the slices and rub with a garlic clove while they are warm.  Arrange the baguette slices in the serving dish and spoon a generous amount of tomato mixture with some liquid (by now the tomatoes would have released some liquid- stir it to mix with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar). Serve warm. Enjoy!

On your blog you say you have traveled a lot. What parts of the world would you like to see that you already haven’t and why?

I would love to go to Europe, Italy & France in particular.

Italy - because Italians have this fantastic way of celebrating the whole “eating” ritual. They are such happy people; they sing and crack jokes on the dining table and passionately enjoy eating food on huge dining tables with lots of friends and family. I would love to be a part of that experience.

France - because French patisseries are my weakness – I just love the fresh baked bread and croissants and their brilliant collection of pastries, oh it’s to die for.

What advice would you give those wanting to travel the world and broaden their culinary horizons?

I would say be open towards trying new things and don’t be afraid of experimenting. Understanding how a dish is prepared and its cultural significance also sometimes helps in liking it. I love talking to the servers and the restaurant owners when dining out and asking them about their input on the dishes. Street Food is the best way to experience the local customs and traditional ways of cooking and preparing food.

Fallavi’s Amazing Plum & Frangipane Tart. Click on the image for recipe.

How do you keep your diet balanced when not consuming any meat? A common question I am sure you hear all the time (I know I do) is where do you get your protein from when not consuming any meat? 

I feel the nutrition one gets from consuming vegetables, grains, lentils, nuts and seeds are more than sufficient for a human body. Your body obviously gets used to what you feed it from the beginning and you feel weak at first when you try to eliminate any kind of food (for whatever reason). The key is to know the nutritional value of what you consume & eat a balanced diet. In vegetarian diet legumes, nuts & seeds are a fantastic source of protein. Soy is so high in protein as well.

The photographs or your blog look like they could be straight out of a cookbook. They are truly stunning. Do you have any tips or advice for food bloggers wanting to take great photographs? (Lighting, props etc)

That is a HUGE compliment – thank you so much! You know, whenever someone asks me that question I feel kind of nervous because I am a self taught photographer and still have to learn so much. But since I have been doing it for almost 2 years now, I am more than happy to share my knowledge with the readers here. Some rules and ides that I stick to are:

  1.  I always work in natural light; I find it more appealing and easier to work with. I, of course use the basic principles of diffusing and reflecting the light (there is lot of information available on the web on this subject).
  2.  Experiment with light – depending on which part of the world you are living in, you need to figure out the time of the day during which the quality and effect of light appeals you the most. The time of the year also matters. I live in a beach town, so it’s pretty sunny throughout the year, but there are certain hours of the day when the sun gives out this reddish tint in the photos – I try to avoid photo-shooting around those hours.
  3. Some knowledge of Photoshop is great – it comes in really handy for color correction (if there is a need), adding watermarks and cropping the pictures to make them web or print ready.
  4.  As far as having different kind of props goes - know that you don’t have to buy everything. Don’t hesitate to borrow something that you like from your family and friends, they will be more than happy to see their things in your photos – trust me. However, your collection will grow slowly over a period of time.
  5.  Also, if you are new to photography, don’t just go and buy the most expensive camera in the market – cameras are expensive. First play around with the one you already have, once you understand a little bit of the basics and get a hang of it, you can research and get a camera that you like the most.

I would like to thank Pallavi for allowing me to interview her and for her amazing responses and advice. If like Pallavi you would like to become a guest blogger here at Pixi Wishes & Forehead Kisses visit this link for more details. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks, Becky, K.

Spotlighted: Stewart & Carolyn from Putney Farm

21 Aug

Recently I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Stewart and Carolyn from Putney Farm. If you are not familiar with Stewart and Carolyn’s work or their blog you ought to be. offers their readers a great insight into all things gardening, cooking and entertaining and is jam packed full of recipes and tips. Perhaps my favourite feature of all is the fabulous cocktail recipes they post regularly! I could write paragraph after paragraph about why I love the Putney Farm Blog so much, but instead I’ll let you decide for yourself and get straight to the interview.

Here’s what Stewart and Carolyn had to say;

What is Blog all about and what does it consist of?

Putney Farm is our family website. We write about cooking, baking, cocktails, gardening and entertaining. We also try to include as much indoor and outdoor photography as possible. The goal of the blog was to encourage ourselves to do more in the garden and kitchen and hopefully share with others.

One of the many bees living on Putney Farm

What is Putney Farm? How was it established?

The “Farm” is our place in northern California.  We say “farm” but it is probably closer to a large garden. We got the farm about five years ago with some of the current garden and orchard in place, but a bit neglected. We decided that it was a golden opportunity to expand on a good foundation. We built out the garden and orchard and now grow over 50 fruits and vegetables throughout the year. We can mostly feed ourselves and give away produce to friends and family. We could sell some of our produce, but don’t at this time. (That may change).

At Putney Farm you successfully grow your own fruit and vegetables, do you have any advice for readers wishing to start growing their own fruit and vegetables? (Any tips, tricks etc.) Where would you suggest starting?

In our opinion, the best place to start is always an herb garden (we did). You can start one buying live plants in pots and use the herbs almost immediately. Many herbs will thrive all year outdoors or indoors. Fresh herbs have almost instant positive impact on cooking, baking and even cocktails. In gardening, it is best to start out with some success, and fresh herbs are a good bet. Depending on the climate, thyme, mint (keep it in a separate pot), sage, chives, rosemary and marjoram/oregano are all great, sturdy herbs.

After that, just research on the web for your local climate and soil will pretty much tell you what to plant. And we suggest you take your time. Most things don’t happen quickly in the garden and you can’t force it (lord knows, we’ve tried). Part of the experience is working with the pace of nature.

A lot of people have limited space to start a garden. Do you have any advice for people wanting to start gardening but lack the space? What plants would you recommend growing in a small area or in pots?

As noted above, this is where herbs are the best. A few pots of fresh herbs on the windowsill provide inspiration and great flavors. Check your local climate and a few searches on the web will recommend the right herbs. If your climate allows it, pots of cherry tomatoes (sungolds are great) yield a lot of flavor early in the summer, and while they do sprawl, you can manage them in cages or frames (or crawling up your outdoor furniture). If you have warm weather, peppers (hot or sweet) have high yield in a small footprint and are fun to cook with. Radishes grow quickly in most climates and taste great on their own or in salads.

From your posts you seem to be excellent entertainers. Do you have any advice for organizing a stress free social event (BBQ, Dinner Party etc.)?

We try to be good entertainers (only our guests know for sure). We actually have a framework we use for any party from a small dinner party up to large events:

We think in terms of greed and fear (it’s not that bleak, trust us). Greed- guests really want to have a good time with fun people and good food/drink. Fear- no one wants to be embarrassed, have a bad time or have bad food/drink. We have three guidelines we always check.

1)    Make it easy on your guests: They should know when to arrive, how to dress and the theme or celebration, if any. Good directions to the location. Easy navigation and bathroom access. Walk through the house before any party starts as if you don’t live there. Is it clear what to do and where to go? A quick theme (hats, colors, type of cuisine, sporting event) makes it easy for guests to start conversations. Remember, everyone hates to be embarrassed, if it is clear what to do and easy to talk with others, there are fewer opportunities for embarrassment. More opportunities to have a good time.

2)    Good food and drink: Note we didn’t say “great” or “best”. Usually the “best” version of something is subjective (like extra hot peppers) and not everyone agrees. The “good” version may be a bit less exciting but everyone will enjoy it. You may like your steak with a spicy rub or martini with blue cheese olives, some of your guests will really like it- but some will just hate it. Just serve a good steak and a classic martini, now everyone is happy. And “good” usually costs less in time and money- so then you can serve…

3)    Lots of it: The last key to a good party is lots of food and drink and an easy way to get to it. Abundance makes everyone happy. Guests don’t worry about “taking the last X…” they just have a good time. It is better to have a bunch of good/cheap wine or a basic punch than just a few “great” drinks. Same with food- lots of good, uncomplicated food makes people happy. And make sure to put out a lot of food where people can easily find it…show them that there is plenty  to go around.

If this sounds fussy or like a lot of work, it isn’t. Write (or email) a good invitation, set up the space for good flow and then serve a bunch of food and drink you and your friends like. If guests don’t know each other, give them an easy way to start a conversation. Then have a good time.

What are your “Go-to/Never-Fail” recipes when it comes to entertaining? Would you like to share a few of them?

We  are always happy to share any recipes, links or photos.


Everyone likes a margarita. We like to serve a “Tommy’s Margarita” at our parties and events.

 Tommy’s Margarita Recipe:

Tommy’s Margarita- Putney Farm

2 oz. blanco tequila, 1 oz. fresh lime juice, 1 oz. Agave nectar (or simple syrup, in a pinch), splash of Cointreau, if you like.

You can serve “up” or on the rocks and make it in big batches ahead of time. 

If going upscale, the Nouvelle Fleur, as a cocktail or punch is a lower-alcohol, but tasty drink. We use it all the time here is the recipe.

Main Course:

Pulled pork works for anything but the most formal parties. Here is the recipe.

Pulled Pork Recipe from Putney Farm


In summertime, the Red Cat Zucchini is hard to beat- most people/stores have zucchini and this recipe makes it taste great.


A big chocolate cake is something you cannot go past when entertaining. This cake is our favourite to please a crowd.

Chocolate Cake For A Crowd- Putney Farm

What would you recommend someone who has little experience with cooking/entertaining to start off with making for a bunch of guests?

Margaritas with fresh lime juice please almost any crowd at any time of year. Regardless of what wine snobs say,  a good rich chardonnay makes guests happy, as does cold beer. Kids like juice of almost any kind (parents may not). Have pitchers of ice water scattered around. A big pre-baked, spiral-cut ham (like Honey baked) is a crowd pleaser- just serve with lots of buns, cheese, mustard, etc. “Mixed grills” of basic burgers, dogs, sausages, fish and veggies can all be made on one grill and served as a buffet. Make-your-own tacos bars are fun, make it easy to have a vegetarian option and can be as upscale or downscale as you like.Desserts do not have to be complicated. A big, tasty cake or pie is always welcome- and you don’t need to make them yourself. Finally, there is NO shame catering / using take-out for any, or all, of the food/drink at a party. You are putting on a party and opening your home. You are being generous. Do what makes you happy. If you are happy and less hassled, your guests will be happier, too.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Our thanks to everyone for reading! And our encouragement to everyone to start gardening, cooking, baking or mixing drinks and sharing with friends!

I would like to thank Stewart and Carolyn for the opportunity to interview them and these fantastic tips and recipes. I cannot express enough how great your advice is and how inspired I am to pick up the cocktail shaker and shovel! Thanks again, Becky.

Please note: These posts are non-commerical and “Spotlighted” blogs/websites are chosen because they contain content I and hopefully my readers are interested in. If you think your blog/website would make a great feature feel free to comment on this post with a link to your blog or website or contact me via Twitter with expression of your interest. I would love to hear from you!

Spotlighted: Lorraine from Sweet Little Thang

16 Aug

Welcome to my first “Spotlighted Post”. Todays featured blogger is Lorraine from Sweet Little Thang. Lorraine’s blog has to be one of my favourites, and what’s not to love! Sweet Little Thang is jam packed with super creative and delicious recipes and as well as loads of DIY projects. Lorraine was kind enough to let me interview her for my blog. Here’s what she had to say…

My name is Lorraine, from Phoenix, Arizona. Being born and raised in the desert, there isn’t much to do outdoors in the Summer time due to the heat! Though being cooped up inside ended up paying off for me in the long run. My blog, Sweet Little Thang, definitely captures a lot of my passions. I love being creative and bringing smiles to people’s faces. From baking sweet desserts to designing everyday crafts and projects for any age! My blog is a playground for the imagination.

Your recipes are truly amazing, what/who inspired you to start cooking? Have you had training formal or otherwise?

I come from a long line of bakers! My mom though, is probably my number one inspiration when it comes to my love for baking. I have so many memories of watching my mom “work her magic” in the kitchen around the holidays and making wedding cakes for close family and friends. I haven’t had any “formal” training/schooling in cooking or baking. Just a lot of persistence and trial and error…for FREE! haha

What advice do you have for those wanting to learn to cook? Where would you consider the best place to start?

Probably the best advice I can give is don’t be afraid to try new things and that the 3rd or 4th batches will ALWAYS be better than your 1st! Baking is not a difficult thing to do if you really have the heart for it. The best place to start, I would say, is with a classic chocolate chip cookie. The recipe is simple and the base construction for most cookies.

You have a wide variety of craft ideas and DIY’s featured on your blog, what would you consider to be the must have items for anyone wanting to get into craft and DIY?

The basic materials every project enthusiast needs are:

-Glue Gun


-Paint brush/acrylic paints


-Needle nose pliers

What inspires you to keep coming up with the creative recipes and crafts that feature on your blog?

Well my first inspiration has to be the fact that I’m a newlywed and I want to perfect my “wife” skills haha Secondly, I love sharing my ideas with others and enjoy hearing how the projects or recipes I have supplied turn out for them.

What are you favourite recipes?  Would you like to share one?

Some of my favorite recipes are red velvet cake, Reese’s peanut butter cup ice cream pie, classic cheesecake, and ANYTHING with coconut! Another great recipe that collide cheesecake and chocolate is Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes.

Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes Recipe

Heat oven to 350 Degrees

Grease or paper-line 16 muffin cups


2 cups chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup water

2 packages (3 oz. each) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/8 teaspoon salt

Step 1- Microwave 1/2 cup chocolate chips in small, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH  for 45 seconds; STIR. The chips may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10 to 15-second intervals, stirring just until chocolate chips are melted. Cool to room temperature.

Step 2- Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat sugar, oil, egg and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until blended. Beat in melted chocolate; gradually beat in flour mixture alternately with water (batter will be thin).

Step 3- Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and salt in small mixer bowl until creamy. Stir in 1 cup morsels.

Step 4-  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, fill 1/2 full. Spoon filling by rounded tablespoon over batter. Spoon remaining batter over filling.

Step 5- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. While still hot, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup morsels. Let cool for 5 minutes or until morsels are shiny; spread to frost. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

The photographs on your blog are beautiful. Do you any tips for food bloggers in regards to taking good photographs? (Lighting, camera tips etc.)

In regards to the photos in my blog, I am pretty blessed that my husband, Alonso Murillo, is a highly acclaimed photographer who has photographed a slew of celebrities and is published worldwide. Though I know, typically, most people don’t have that advantage, so I do have a couple tips for capturing the best angle for your creations.

-Make sure to always display them on solid colored plates. This way, all the attention is on the dessert and there’s no distraction with bright colors or patterns.

-Only use the BEST ones out of the batch! Place one dessert closer to the camera so it only has complete clarity on one, the rest will be slightly out of focus. That will add great dimension to the photo

I would like to thank Lorraine for for allowing me to interview her. If you too would like to become one of my “Spotlighted” Bloggers feel free to contact me or comment.


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