It’s a Great Day for a Fair

Today was one of those perfect days to visit the great State Fair of Texas. It’s something we look forward to every year – we even get season passes!


I’ve been entering the cooking contests for over 5 years now, and I’m proud to say I’ve gotten my share of blue ribbons. It has been so busy around here I haven’t had a chance to enter yet, but I think there are some categories that are calling my name. Last year I won in the Tricks with Mix Category, and I’m thinking I may have to see if I can get Best of Show this year. Be sure to check out some of our award winning (and not award winning) entries on our Fair Foodies site.


Because of our love of the State Fair of Texas, we have collected some really unusual items from the fair. This is what makes the Lifestylist® touch so unique – not only great items, but items with a story and history.

Fresh Mango Coconut Cobbler

It’s mango season! I was just visiting the Volman family near Boca Raton FL and they had a mango tree in their backyard that was full of fruit. I promised I’d share this recipe with them – it’s one of my favorites. If you don’t have fresh mangos try frozen or one of the frozen tropical fruit mixes you can find at the store.

Mango Coconut Cobbler

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
1/2 Cup Butter, softened
4 Cups Fresh or frozen mango, or Tropical Fruit – cubed (mango, papaya, pineapple and strawberries)
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Coconut, flaked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl mic cake mix with softened butter – set aside.  In an oblong pan place tropical fruit, add water and sugar then stir. Crumble butter and cake mix mixture on top of fruit, then sprinkle with coconut.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Summer Sweets

It’s watermelon season! We try and go to our local farmers market at least once a week, and this week the watermelon slices we sampled were too good to pass up.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a Lazy Cook, and what could be easier than watermelon as a dessert? We just added some mint, sliced up our watermelon and that was it! Fantastic food doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. Fresh, local and healthy is always the best choice.

LifeStyling Savor Dallas

It’s hard to believe that Savor Dallas is less than a week away! This will be the 7th year that I’ve attended and styled the shots for photography – each year seems to be better than the last. As a Lifestylist®, I appreciate the fact that Savor Dallas is all about Living your Life with Style, and eating well as you do it!

With over 200 chefs, mixologists and winemakers typically bringing goodies that always not only look good enough to eat, but to shoot as well. I have to get with their team, style the item on a pretty plate that I bring along or a beautiful glass, then hand them off to photographer Lisa Stewart of Lisa Stewart Photography. We only have a few hours on each day to accomplish this so I’m always amazed at what Lisa is able to get photographed.

Today I pulled some of my favorite shots and made a video with them -great memories and inspiration on what I want to accomplish this year. Which is your favorite?

For more information on this fantastic event, contact Jim and Vicki at:

Most of the photography on the site is shots that Lisa and I did as well, so enjoy!

Verrines: Big Tastes in Small Packages

It’s a small world after all: verrines, a French concept that layers ingredients in a small glass or clear container has been seen in restaurants and high end parties, and now it is making it’s way to suburbia.

Verrines are as pretty to see as they are to eat, and it’s a great way to cut calories by making portions smaller but still appealing to the eyes and the palette. These bites can be sweet or savory, and can add a touch of elegance to any event.

Pier 1 Imports has a great assortment of mini cordials, dessert bowls and shot glasses complete with coordinating spoons that are perfect for making your own verrines at home.

If you don’t want to make these yourself, Seasons 52 Fresh Grill calls these their Mini Indulgences, and it’s hard to only sample one. Choices include Key Lime Pie, Old Fashioned Carrot Cake, and Mocha Macchiato – yum! I recently went there with the owners of The New American Home for a celebration dinner and we kept (and ate) the entire Indulgence presentation – now THAT was a celebration!

The verrine trend is here to stay, and we are looking forward to sharing some of our favorite recipes for these here.

Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding

As I have stated many times, I am NOT a chef, but rather someone who truly enjoys cooking. And like many people I’m time challenged and I’ll admit it – lazy in the kitchen.

The State Fair of Texas cooking competitions is one of my favorite times of the year. I grew up competing in 4H events, and the thrill of chasing that blue ribbon is still something I really enjoy. I’ve now been competing at the fair for over 6 years, and my recipes have been included in the State Fair cookbook for at least the last 4 years.

“Tricks With Mix” is one of my favorite categories, and in the past I won a 2nd place ribbon for my pesto rolls. This year I decided to try something different and came up with this recipe for Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding. I found the mix for a Cinnamon Roll Bakery Mix at Costco, and got lucky with the first try on coming up with this recipe. Adding the dried cranberries really helps cut the sweetness of the cinnamon swirl and the topping.

The best part about this recipe is how easy it is, you only need a few ingredients and it’s a big time saver. Typically with a bread pudding you have to prepare and leave overnight for the bread to soak up the egg mixture but with this you can take the roll mixture out of the oven and add the egg mixture almost immediately.  here’s the recipe that I used today:

Ingredients For Bread:

(1) Package Cinnamon Roll Mix
(1) Cup Water
1/3 Cup Melted Butter
(2) Eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9” round baking pan and put aside.
In a large bowl, stir together roll mix, water, butter and eggs. Stir together until blended. Spoon into baking pan and sprinkle cinnamon swirl portion of mix on top, and cut through roll dough. Place in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool. While cooling, mix together the following:

(4) Eggs
(4) Cups Milk
(2) Tablespoons Sugar
(1) Teaspoon Almond Extract
1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries

Cut the cooled bread into 1” cubes, then pour above mixture on top. Gently mix through cubes then top with Streusel Topping from mix. Bake at 325 degrees for  minutes. Remove from oven, let cool then drizzle glaze packet also from mix over the top and serve. Makes 12 servings.

Sohomade Peach Ice Cream

Summer is definitely here, and I decided to celebrate this Memorial Day weekend by trying out my Lifestylist® skills making something I’ve been craving – homemade ice cream. Lucky for me JC Penney had a great sale on so I got a great deal on my new Cuisinart Flavor Duo and it’s exactly what I wanted – easy prep and cleanup and you don’t need a bunch of items that you already wouldn’t have around the house. No rock salt needed – this uses two freezer bowls that easily fit and can stay in your freezer. I LOVE that it has the two separate bowls so you can make two different flavors at the same time without making more than you can eat in a weekend.
For my test run I opted for a fresh peach ice cream using peaches grown at the wonderful Lemley Farms in Tyler. They have a stall at our local Farmers Market and I couldn’t pass them up. I like a custard style ice cream which means you have to do some cooking but it was well worth it. There are some recipes in the instruction manual for ice cream where you just add ingredients – no cooking necessary.
The entire process could not have been easier, and sitting on the porch eating fresh ice cream brought back such great memories of the times our family shared when we all got together of all of the holidays. Now I can’t wait for my grandkids to visit so I can make some ice cream and memories with them as well.