Monday, April 30, 2012

Feature on pop artist, Kimbra


Now a days in the way of pop/dance music there really isn’t much to choose from. You have your Katy Perry’s, Kesha’s, and Lady GaGa’s … thus the reason I opt out of listening to top 40 radio lol. Their songs may be catchy but, in my opinion, lack so much substance and real talent. I haven’t heard any pop music that has really caught my attention in a long time, that is until I discovered, Kimbra. I’ve become addicted to her fun, danceable songs that are so unique and different than anything you’ll hear on top 40. I honestly can’t remember the last time pop music sounded this good and was sung by someone this talented.

You may recognize 22 year old New Zealand native, Kimbra Johnson, as the guest vocalist on Gotye’s wildly popular break out hit “Somebody That I Used To Know”. I first heard this song back in January and constantly had it on repeat (still do). Kimbra’s part of the song was instantly my favorite and I would always find myself rewinding it. That song led me to checking out her music and becoming a fast fan of her danceable pop with a jazzy twist.

Right away I was intrigued by her first single, “Settle Down”, with its great beat and story telling lyrics. The song is about a girls expectations of love, marriage, and happily ever after, “We can settle at a table.. a table for two. Won’t you wine and dine with me? Settle down”. The song and music video for “Good Intent” is also a highlight. The music video for this jazzy pop song is really creative and feels like a short film. With some great acting and a dance scene at end it’s definitely a stand out.

Other notables include “Two Way Street”, which in a very weird way reminds me of 80s/90s pop. And a cover of the Nina Simone classic, “Plain Gold Ring”, a jazzy song that Kimbra sings the heck out of, girl’s got serious chops. Her voice has a lot of power and range and is reminiscent of Christina Aguilera, but better, in my opinion.

One thing you kinda can’t help but notice about Kimbra is that she tends to be a little um, shall we say, eccentric when she sings. Often doing very quirky dance moves, hand motions, and facial expressions; it makes me laugh but I admire that she’s really feeling and following the music.


Kimbra’s getting ready to make her American debut with the release of her album “Vows” on May 22nd. She’s also been busy out on the road doing a full week of shows at this years SXSW and touring with Gotye and Foster The People. She recently collaborated with Mark of Foster The People and A-Trak on an awesome song called, “Warrior, which you can get a free download of here.

In a world full of mindless pop songs sung with very little talent, it’s refreshing when an artist comes along and does something creative and out of the box. Proving you don’t have to be scantly clad and auto-tuned to make fun and catchy pop songs. At such a young age she has talent beyond her years. And without even having an album out yet, her music has created so much buzz. It looks like America has only seen the beginning of what’s sure to be a long career for this kiwi artist.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Salted Caramel Mocha & Hazelnut Cinnamon Chip Biscotti

Hey lovelies! Today I wanted to stop in and share one of my favorite new coffee recipes with you guys! It has a delish flavor combo that just goes together. Like all great combos; peanut butter and jelly, music and lyrics, Corey and Topanga...(had to add that one in there ;)), they work and you couldn't have one without the other. In a world so uncertain, some things are just simply meant to be, agreed? Such is the case with one of my favorite combos, coffee and biscotti! What could be better than a delish cup of coffee with a crispy Italian cookie perfect for dunking? A match made in heaven. :)

Salted Caramel Mocha -
(Recipe found @


I've really been into making these fancy homemade coffee drinks evidenced by the fact that I just recently posted a recipe for a White Chocolate Mocha. Because of that, I questioned whether or not it was too soon to post another coffee recipe. But the delish factor is pretty high for this one, so I thought, what they heck? :)  



This Salted Caramel Mocha is hands down my favorite coffee recipe I've tried so far! It's the perfect combo of salty and sweet; with caramel sauce and a pinch or two of sea salt. I've never used sea salt in anything before... now I'm wanting to put it in everything (this means more recipes with the word "salted" in it are to come). The sea salt just brings out the rich caramel flavor and complements it perfectly. Again, I used the Starbucks Via packets for this drink, which worked good, but it would probably have a stronger flavor with straight up espresso. The milk and caramel sauce make it really creamy and velvety.

Now, let me talk a minute about the caramel sauce (recipe below). In theory, this recipe should work perfectly... but it just doesn't. At least not for me anyway. I made it twice, followed the directions to the t, and each time it was a fail. By the time the sugar dissolved and I added in the butter it was a burning, lumpy, stuck to the pan mess. It was beyond frustrating and was ruining my happy coffee vibe, so I tossed it, and did it my way. And it worked great! This could just be me, it may work for you, but if you'd rather not chance it; my way is 1/2 cup brown sugar, with half a stick of butter melted on medium heat. After it melts, stir in about 1/4 cup of heavy cream. And viola! A much simpler, in my opinion, caramel sauce.

However you do it, I hope you sit back and relax this week with a mug of this lovely Salted Caramel Mocha (also great iced too) and don't forget the biscotti! :)


1 shot of espresso or 3/4 cup coffee
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons caramel sauce (see recipe below)
1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder (the hot chocolate kind, not the unsweetened baking kind)
Pinch of sea salt (Starbucks uses a blend of smoked sea salt and turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top)
1/2 cup milk
Whipped cream (optional)
Extra caramel sauce and sea salt to drizzle/sprinkle on top

With an espresso maker:

Prepare espresso. Place caramel sauce, cocoa powder and sea salt in a mug and pour espresso over them. Froth milk and slowly pour into mug, stirring to combine everything. Taste and add more caramel, cocoa and/or salt to taste. Top with whipped cream, drizzle caramel sauce, and a tiny pinch of sea salt.

Without an espresso maker:

Prepare coffee. Place caramel sauce, cocoa powder and sea salt in a mug. Pour coffee into mug, stirring to combine everything. Heat milk in microwave or on the stove and add to mug, stirring everything to combine. Taste and add more caramel, cocoa and/or salt to taste. Top with whipped cream, caramel sauce and a tiny pinch of sea salt.

Salted Caramel Sauce -

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
1/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

In a medium saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a spatula (if it becomes lumpy, reduce heat and refrain from stirring). When it turns a deep amber color, add the butter and stir until it is melted. Add the heavy cream and whisk until the caramel is smooth (be careful, it will bubble up when you add the cream). Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate extra sauce. (Makes enough for around 3-4 salted caramel mocha or hot chocolate beverages.)


Hazelnut Cinnamon Chip Biscotti -

(Recipe found @

Yes, the second half of our lovely couple! This was my first venture into biscotti making and I was pretty happy with the results. This recipe for Hazelnut Cinnamon Chip Biscotti was just calling my name (in an Italian accent of course, okay lame joke, sorry.). It has warm flavors of cinnamon, toasted hazelnuts, and chocolate chips.


The process for the biscotti is really simple, though a bit more time consuming than other types of cookies seeing as how you bake it twice. But it comes out with the perfect crisp to it and tastes lovely with coffee or even without! The only thing I would probably do differently is not use the parchment paper; it stuck to some of the biscotti so bad that I was forced to throw a few pieces away. :( So next time I will just grease the pan and save the biscotti. :)

1 1/3 cups sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large eggs
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted, chopped
1 ¾ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 large egg white

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (Sadly I don’t have one so I just used my hand held mixer), combine the sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the eggs and beat until the color is uniform and the mixture is thick. Add the vanilla and beat until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the flour in two batches and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and mix for a few seconds more. Add the hazelnuts and chocolate chips and beat until just combined.

Turn the dough out onto the prepared baking sheet and shape into a log about 16 inches long, 3 ½ inches wide, and ¾ inch thick. Smooth the surface of the dough. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until firm, but not browned. Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

While the log is cooling, whisk the egg white and 2 tablespoons water together and use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash onto the top of the log. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into ¾-inch slices and set them on the baking sheet cut sides up. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Transfer the individual biscotti to a rack to cool completely. The biscotti will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Yields: 24 large biscotti

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Feature on the music of Sucre

The word Sucre (pronounced: Su-Cray) is the French word for sweet. It’s also the name of the solo project by Eisley’s, Stacy Dupree King. And sweet is definitely a great way to describe these songs.

It was fall of 2005 when I was first introduced to the lovely music of the band, Eisley. These Tyler, Tx natives, made up of 4 siblings and their cousin, were opening for Switchfoot on the “Nothing Is Sound” Tour (the first Switchfoot concert I ever went to). I was immediately drawn in with their whimsical tunes and the angelic voices of the Dupree gals. I remember seeing Stacy at the keyboard singing the lead on “Marvelous Things”, one of my favorite Eisley songs to this day, and just being mesmerized by her voice. I also remember hearing random guys in the audience yell out marriage proposals to her in between songs lol. My sister and I left the concert that night huge fans of this band and have been listening ever since.

Having followed them for so many years now I was so excited to hear that Stacy was branching out and recording a solo album! And from what I’ve heard so far, it’s exactly what I thought it would be: magical and angelic. Sucre is actually a collaborative effort between Stacy, her husband (MuteMath drummer extraordinaire) Darren King, and musician Jeremy Larson. This is definitely a musical pairing that’s meant to be. The trio started working together on this project two years ago and next week, on April 10th, will release their debut album entitled, “A Minor Bird”.


You can’t help but be taken in by their first single, “When We Were Young”; it’s a song you can get lost in. This was the perfect tune to introduce Sucre to the world with its whimsical and ethereal pop sound. The song is flowy, with a beautiful string arrangement, and Stacy’s pristine voice. The lyrics seem to be a bittersweet almost nostalgic ode to growing up; “When we were young I never had to worry. I never even cared cause something always came my way. When we were young I never was repeating the sentiment again and again, oh, something’s gotta come my way.”

The video for this song, which was produced by Darren King, is equally as beautiful. It was filmed on the 3rd floor of the Red Velvet Boutique owned by Jeremy Larson’s wife, Elsie (Side note: it’s also the room the Larson’s were married in last May). Those familiar with the blogging world might recognize Elsie from her blog, A Beautiful Mess. The upstairs of her lovely boutique, located in Springfield, MO, was not only where the video was filmed but also where the album was recorded. Elsie is also responsible for designing the gorgeous dress Stacy is wearing in the video (it’s stunning isn’t it, ladies?). As a long time reader of her blog I was so excited to see her involvement in this project. The video is dreamlike as Stacy dances around in angel wings surrounded by white lights. It’s a perfect complement to the song.


“A Minor Bird” doesn’t release till next week but you can pre-order it on the Sucre website now. You can also purchase the song “When We Were Young” on iTunes and download a free track called, “Hiding Out” on their Facebook. Also, be sure to check out their tour dates so you can see the magic live and in person.

The buzz has been building about Sucre for a while now as fans are ready for these tunes. And with three incredibly talented musicians such as Stacy, Darren, and Jeremy all working on one album, you know it’s sure to be a gem.