November 5, 2015

Chocolate Bourbon Hot Chocolate

I tried. I really did. I do not buy any junk food to keep in my house, because I will EAT IT ALL, most likely in one sitting. I know I’m a freak of nature. A few nights ago I had a very strong craving for something sweet. Me being who I am, I destroyed my cabinets searching for something to munch on. I had a half bag of semi sweet chocolate chips. Das it! I decided against eating them out the bag and this recipe was born!

Here’s what you'll need:
  • 12 ounces goats milk 
  • 4 ounces half and half or heavy cream 
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips 
  • 1 shot of chocolate bourbon 
  • Marshmallows 
Heat the milk and cream, don't boil it! Add the cocoa powder and mix until combined. Add half the chocolate chips and stir until fully melted and incorporated. Taste for sweetness/chocolatetiness and add the rest of the chocolate chips. Stir until everything is combined. At this point add sugar if you want it to be sweeter. Pour it up, pour it up and you're done!

OR you can add a shot of bourbon or marshmallow rum. And of course you have to add marshmallows on top! So good.

Rosemary Tea Latte

When I saw this drink on a coffee shop menu when I was in Atlanta I was immediately excited. I’m actually pretty mad at myself for taking a year to recreate this tea. Fresh herbs make everything better.

I bought the milk frother from IKEA for really cheap. If you enjoy a latte it is worth it to get one, and it does not take too much time at all to froth milk. An even simpler way to heat and froth would be to use the microwave to heat the milk in a mug, if you don't want to go the stove top route.

Here is what you’ll need:
  • 1 Earl Grey Tea Bag
  • 2 Two Sprigs of Rosemary
  • Milk 
  • Honey
Slowly heat the milk, being careful not to let it boil. You do not want to change the consistency of the milk. Add boiled water and the tea bag to your favorite large mug. Massage two sprigs of rosemary and add to the cup. Sweeten tea with honey. Cover with a plate to steep for 3-5 minutes. Froth the milk until it doubles in volume. Add as much milk and froth as you like.

If you're fancy add a sprig of rosemary for garnish.

October 12, 2015

Creamy Sweet Potato & Roasted Vegetable Brown Rice

I’ve made this dish twice now. This time was more delicious than the last. (toot, toot) Ha! Anyway, this flavor profile is my jam if you haven’t noticed yet! Earthy, fresh herbs, and I add vegetables whenever I can.

Doing the most in the kitchen is not my thing, but the food should still taste amazing. This is my philosophy for brownbelle: well done and simple to execute.

You do not need to follow this recipe exactly. Add more or different veggies if you like something else. This recipe was inspired by what was left in my fridge, I hate wasting food, so use what you have.

What You'll Need
  • 1 Medium-Large sweet potato
  • 1 Corn on the Cobb 
  • ½ red, yellow, orange bell peppers
  • 1 yellow and green zucchini
  • 1 small onion cut into wedges
  • 3 carrots
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 4 large garlic cloves 
  • 2 sprigs each fresh herbs: sage, time, rosemary, 
  • Cilantro
  • 1 Cup brown rice
  • 2 Cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive Oil

Before you prep the veggies put the sweet potato in the over, it will take the longest to cook. If you are short on time you could cut it into small pieces and boil, but I prefer the flavor of roasting. Rinse really well, wrap in foil and bake at 400 degrees until fork tender.

Finely mince the herbs and garlic.

Brown rice on its own doesn’t taste good. Yeah I said it! The key to making it taste good is to season it like meat. Start by rinsing the rice thoroughly. Add butter and 1/3 of the herb and garlic mixture to the pot, stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Instead of water add chicken stock for more flavor. Follow the water ratio and cooking instructions on your packaging. I used about 1 ½ cups of broth for the one cup of rice.

The key to making this dish easy is cutting everything into relatively equal pieces so that they cook evenly and are done at the same time. Here I’ve cut them slightly larger than bite size. Mix the remaining two-thirds of the herb and garlic mixture in a bowl with the veggies. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour a healthy amount of olive oil in the bowl. You want them to be pretty lubricated so that they roast nicely. They will be nice and shiny and there shouldn’t be too much oil left at the bottom of the bowl.

Combine everything really well so that the seasoning and garlic are evenly distributed. Pour onto a baking sheet and roast until tender but not soggy, you want them to have color and crunch to them. No mush.

Add the corn with the husk into the oven.

Roast in a large baking sheet at 400 degrees for 10-15 mins. Check after 10 mins, if they are still too hard give them a bit more time. It’s important to note that you want to give the veggies space, so that they roast not steam. Use more than one pan if you need to.

Add the sweet potato (no skin) to a blender with the corn kernels. Add enough chicken stock so that you can blend. You want to the consistency to thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the rice to a large bowl. Spoon in as many veggies as you like and pour on sweet potato sauce in increments. Stir until everything is coated. Serve with fresh cilantro.

This recipe would also work well with pasta or seafood ravioli would be amazing instead of rice!

October 4, 2015

City Seen: Introducing Nicole Crowder

During the day I work as a Photo Editor, writing essays and featuring photo stories that center on reportage and news from around the world. But my close love has always been rooted in photographing and admiring stunning photos of food, interiors, textile, flashes of colorful style, and, of course, travel. For the past few weeks I’ve been traversing from D.C. to Baltimore to New York and Charlottesville,Virginia. The photos here on City Seen reflect a few of those places and my affinity for wandering and happen upon vignettes that seem as if they’ve been waiting for me to stumble on them.

A lot of people enjoy the title “visual storyteller,” but I fancy myself just a nerd with a camera and a fondness for moments. Someone who gets excitable over seeing light fall through sheer curtains and streak across a colorful wall illuminating what is typically just an ordinary living room. A woman standing in front of light that creates a beautiful silhouette of her hair and body. Color also peppers so much of what I photograph and what I’m attracted to, but in a subtle way: A cherry red fire escape against a brick wall. Baby blue awnings popping against a Baltimore sky. I actually snapped that photo from my driver side window while driving through West Baltimore at a stoplight. The impulse to miss that photo for fear of the light changing before I could was too great, and so I hurriedly grabbed my phone from my bag and snapped two quick frames. Baltimore’s architecture is so much apart of its charm. It’s familiar yet distinct.

It’s fair to say that I’m most inspired by the technique of filmmaker Wes Anderson, whose ubiquitous use of symmetry in each of his frames has become his signature. Similarly, 
I’m most drawn to clean lines and those brief moments where symmetry and color and minimalism all combine. 
 Like when I happened to walk past a building in Brooklyn this past summer, whose fa├žade was painted in salmon pink with a beautiful vintage bike in the same color perfectly placed in front of it. Almost waiting for me to arrive for a photo. Or the time I visited on of my favorite Korean restaurant in New York’s Koreatown called Kunjip. I waited patiently for three minutes while two men were seated back to back against a wall of black lines dotted with colored glass like a mosaic.

My long-time love has been stationary and notebooks. I have over a dozen notebooks, all marked for various reasons: one for recipes, one for journaling my travels, one for my dreams, one for things I need to do each day, etc. In New York recently I visited two of my favorite places for indulging in each of these passions: Kunikoniya in Midtown (for stationary and rare Japanese magazines) and C.W. Enterprises in Chinatown for pencils. C.W. Enterprises is a tiny little shop that sells only pencils from all over the world. It’s one of those stores that defies convention as both a brick and mortar, but also because it sells a tool you would think was obsolete long ago in the digital age. And yet its novelty is exactly part of its charm that attracts so many and allows it to thrive.


Back home in D.C. I find my footing in one of my favorite vintage furniture stores, Miss Pixies. Miss Pixies sells beautiful, hand sourced vintage furniture from all over the DMV, and it’s been one of the places I source for my own furniture that I reupholster. On this particular day I visited with my friend and fellow vintage lover Erin, who was back in town for a quick visit. When she walked down an aisle of benches, looking ever so slightly to her right I asked her to stop suddenly because the light surrounding her and the pop of color were too beautiful. It was one of those moments, and I couldn’t let it pass. And for vintage clothing I love the beautifully curated store Nomad Yard on New York Avenue. Some of the most incredible clothing and vintage goods you’ll find in the city, sourced from around the world.


A little further south is Charlottesville, Virginia, my favorite quaint town to visit for weekend getaways. It’s art and design scene is so rich and deep, and murals and studios are found around every corner. I took one of these photos on my way to visit the campus of the University of Virginia and saw a great blue and green graphic mural on the wall, advertising for a yoga studio. The other photo shows paint from an artist studio, which we were able to tour.

September 29, 2015

DIY Black Soap & Tea Tree Face Cleanser

I used to have terrible acne. It wasn’t until well into my 20s that my skin issues were under control. Fortunately my skin and hair have been doing really well for a while now and I attribute that to using mostly natural products.

Black soap has been an amazing product for cleansing my whole body really, however it’s a pain to use on my body in a white shower so I mostly use it for my face and sometimes my hair. I use a lot of hearty oils all over my body and I wear makeup most days. I love black soap because it leaves you squeaky clean, but not so stripped that your skin feels dry.

Tea tree oil is known for its healing antiseptic properties and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce itching and clears rashes over time. I always add some to my shampoo, which has helped my scalp enormously.

Aloe Vera is extremely beneficial for your body inside and out. Externally it can be used to help ease the discomfort of sunburns, minor wounds, cuts, scrapes and rashes, and is very moisturizing.

I have used just plain black soap and that works really well, but I happened to have these ingredients in my house. I use this wash after removing my makeup with banila co. clean it zero (the best makeup remover I’ve ever used) and my skin looks and feels refreshed and clean.

What you’ll need
  • Raw Organic Black Soap (solid)
  • Tea Tree Oil (Optional)
  • Aloe Vera Juice (Optional)
  • Castile soap (Optional)
  • Water
  • Bottle
I filled the bottle with chunks of the black soap (about 1/2 cup). Added about a teaspoon of tea tree oil. Added a few table spoons of Aloe Vera juice, a thin layer of Castile soap, and filled the rest with water. It takes about a day for the black soap to melt and become completely liquid. I recommend using a pump or a container with a thin nozzle for easy use and if you have sensitive skin, leave out the Castile soap and go easy on the tea tree.

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