Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barking up the wrong tree.

This week I've had the pleasure of making twelve pounds of S'more bark, and twelve pounds of Toffee bark.

A few months ago, the words Pleasure and Bark would not have gone in the same sentence. My first large order started out very sloppy and unforgiving and annoying and just overall not worth my effort. I had no reference point as to how much chocolate I needed, or how many ingredients, or actually how much I needed to make to end up with the correct weight amount in the end.

I ended up running to Country Kitchen multiple times for several items that I needed at the last minute. Not a pretty sight, but I got it done.

So, when I went into the kitchen to start the process of my bark order this time, I went at it with a different attitude. I had ordered lots of product from my wholesaler ahead of time, probably too much. I had plenty of pretzels, toffee, graham crackers and marshmallows too.

Once I started melting the chocolate I began to feel the relaxation that kicks in when I make the pretzels. It's like a zen zone where I just tune everything out and create. Since I had made a large batch one other time, I had a better plan this time. Believe it or not, it does take some actual thinking to get the bark the way I want it.

I prefer the S'more Bark to have the bottom layer white, with graham crackers and pretzels, and then the top layer to be milk chocolate with the mini dehydrated marshmallows in it, then I drizzle the top with white, and then milk. I think it looks best that way, and the same goes for the Toffee Bark. I start with the dark chocolate layer first that has the pretzels, and then the milk chocolate layer that has the toffee. Drizzle with milk, and then dark, and it's done.

Knowing that I prefer it this way means planning my chocolate melting process accordingly. Since most of my pretzels are made with milk chocolate, I have a tendency to melt the milk chocolate first, but obviously with the bark, I do the opposite. I have to melt the bottom layer of chocolate first, let it set up, and then melt the top layer and pour it onto the chilled bottom.

I was also able to measure the chocolate better this time. I placed 3 pounds of chocolate in each bowl, and therefore knew that each tray would be holding approximately 6 pounds of chocolate. One bowl of each kind of chocolate per tray=6 pounds. So, I made two trays of each flavor.

Probably the only slightly frustrating part is that there's a lot of hurry up and wait. With my pretzels, I can be melting chocolate while I'm dipping the pretzels in caramel, and then while I'm covering them in chocolate, I'm melting more caramel. Never any down time.

But with the bark, there's no in between step. You melt chocolate, that's about it. So, unless I get two microwaves, there's not much more I can do. If I plan ahead though, I can have other things to work on while I wait, like this blog for instance. Or, billing, letters, reading, organizing, ordering, phone calls, emails....the list is seriously endless.

So, bring on the bark orders...I'm ready for ya!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dear Dairy

This week has been a challenge. I cheated way more in a few days than I have in two months total. It started on Friday with a delicious lunch at my favorite restaurant, Pickles Cafe. It's located inside my client Plumtickled's building, and if I'm out that way, I always plan to meet someone for lunch, or just get it to go.

A panini with three cheeses, basil and tomato was perfect as usual. The tomato basil soup, a greek salad, and the mandatory chocolate peanut butter pie all satisfied. I didn't feel too bad, knowing it was all lovingly made from scratch, but it didn't stop there.

Friday night I met a friend for coffee, and had a huge Extreme Toffee Coffee Frappe from my other client, The Espresso Gallery. And of course I had to have a white chocolate macadamia scone. A nice cap to the evening.

Onto saturday, where I did fairly well until evening, when my husband and I celebrated our 11th year anniversary at the movies (The Dark Knight was freaking awesome!!) with just a tiny bit of popcorn, and then dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant. I skipped my usual shrimp tempura and settled for california roll and hawaii roll. Neither were calorie free of course, and both had something in them that wasn't candida friendly. But, it was a celebration.

Then, on Sunday, I had to make Jacob's cake. Lots of frosting to be tested, and then of course I had to eat the final product. One piece of the white cake and one piece of the chocolate mousse cake. OH, and some ice cream.

Then, this all culminated with my pie eating marathon last night. Surprisingly, I've only gained a pound or two, but my cravings were a bit stronger yesterday. Luckily I have no other celebrations coming up, so I should be able to get back on track.

The sacrifices we must make for our loved ones....

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oh, Pie!

"When you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick, but if not, mmmmmmmmmm boy!" -Jack Handy

At my third Williams Sonoma cooking class last night, we delved into the adventurous and tasty world of pies. I have always been intrigued by the intricacy of a good pie crust. I've never attempted the highly technical lattice crust top, but I have made several turkey cut outs from dough to place on top of my pumpkin pies. Sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon sugar, these adorable gobblers got rave reviews.

My very favorite pie of all time, however, is lemon meringue pie. But, oddly, not just any Lemon has to be my own.

Growing up, I had a neighbor who was a fantastic baker. Her name was Viola, and my dad always, always, after eating someone else's lemon meringue pie, would say "It's not as good as Viola's." I took that challenge and ran with it.

I got Viola's recipe and have been making it ever since. I still have a few things to perfect, one of which I learned last night. My custard always stuck to the bottom of my pan, no matter how I stirred, or what level the heat was on, so I asked about that last night. Turns out, I just need to be using a double boiler. No one else ever knew that I had custard issues, but I knew, and it always bothered me that is wasn't perfect. (OCD much?)

My crust on the Lemon Meringue Pie is a bit unorthodox, and not a typical roll out and trim kind of crust. It's from the old Azar's Strawberry Pie recipe and is a little on the sweeter side, and very flaky. Also, only requires 5 ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, milk and oil) that I mix right in my pie plate. I prefer it for my lemon pie, because it balances out the tartness from the lemons.

But, last night we made pie crust from scratch, and she demonstrated several crust techniques. I finally learned the lattice top, which isn't nearly as hard as I imagined. And, we did some leafs to place gently around the edge, which looked fantastic.

We made a total of 4 kinds of pies, and guess what? I sampled each and every one. That's right, 4 slices of pie. God, they had to roll me out the door. But, yum. It was worth it. Well, at least two of them were worth it.

Deep Dish Plum was the most ridiculous pie I have ever had. It is seriously edging out Lemon Meringue as favorite, but I'm going to have to make it myself to be certain. Not only did this pie have a glorious slightly tart, just perfect taste, but it also had the most beautiful red filling. The chef said the plums were standard purple variety, but somehow the cooking of them just brought out a deep crimson. Most people thought it was cherry. A plum pie is unusual, so I look forward to bringing this one to a backyard party soon, and hopefully impressing people with my handy lattice work too...

Wild Blueberry Peach was my second favorite of the night. We began the night mixing fresh blueberries and chopping the juiciest peaches and tossing them with a bit of sugar and cinnamon. The combination of the two fruits was brilliant and the juiciness was just right. I will make this one someday too.

Lemon Meringue Pie. Okay. This was a bit of a let down. When I walked in and saw that we would be doing Lemon Meringue, I was obviously overjoyed. My favorite pie, and we'd get to learn how to make it and get to eat it! I wouldn't even have to stand and stir all day to reap the rewards. Hello Heaven. But, once I took a bite, I was a bit disappointed. The use of the fresh lemons was very nice, I tend to use the bottled variety (gasp!) which I won't be doing anymore. However, the custard was, in my opinion, a bit freaky. It was much more whitish colored, maybe the word is opaque? Mine is so much more bright yellow with almost a see through look to it. More gelatinous, I guess. But this one had almost a texture to it, but yet I couldn't detect any actual texture with my tongue. It just had a thicker, more grainy without actually being grainy feel to it, and I didn't like it. My mom, who actually came with me for once, said she liked mine better, but everyone else in the room raved about it. Hmmm..I think I smell a cook off!

The one ego boosting part of this pie is that the chef said that Lemon Meringue Pie is considered the hardest pie to make. People are afraid of the meringue top I guess. But, I love making meringue, and I love making Lemon Meringue Pie. Does this make me a genius baker? But, it does make me a serious Lemon Meringue Pie lover.

Cherry Almond. This one was probably my least favorite, and only because I can't do that to my beloved Lemon Meringue. Perhaps they should tie for last. This pie utilized the dark "Bing" cherries, and some finely chopped toasted almonds. I adored the almonds in this, but I would've preferred my cherries on the tart side. The ones used just had too much of a deep sweetness to them, and it kind of made for a sickeningly rich pie. Don't get me wrong, I like rich foods, especially in the dessert variety, but this just didn't add up. My mommy agreed, so there.

Overall it was a fabulous evening, and worth all the calories and miscellaneous non candida diet ingredients. My next class is on Monday, and we'll be discovering techniques to homemade pasta....that's going to be fun to look forward to.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I was nearly done in by a kickity kick ball

My son Jacob turned 3 on Friday. I had a heck of a time thinking of what kind of cake to make him.

He loves Spongebob, trains and balls, but I've already done those cakes. I didn't want to do a similar one for him that I had already done for Joshua.

So, one day I asked Joshua what kind of cake he thought I should do for Jacob, and he gave it some thought. After a few minutes he said, "How about Wow Wow Wubbzy!" My brain did a very quick scan of Wubbzy's shape to determine if I could even make that, and since he is primarily a rectangle, I said "Yes! What a brilliant idea."

When the time finally came to plan the cake, I had opted for just a 9 x 13 white sheet cake that I planned on frosting yellow, and cutting out Wubbzy's little bumps/ears or whatever they are on top of his head. Easy. Peasy.

But, unfortunately at the last minute I also decided to add hands, feet, tail and a kickity kick ball. I cut the hands, feet and trademark tail out of cardboard with the intent of frosting them later. But, the kickity kick ball was going to be a chocolate cake made from scratch, with mousse layers and a ganache frosting. Blue with light blue polka dots...just like on the cartoon.

The sheet cake and appendages came off without a hitch. I frosted them all yellow, and piped dots on and around the cake to embellish. I finally traced all the parts with a black frosting, and made eyes, nose and mouth as well. Wubbzy was complete, and ridiculously cute if I do say so myself.

The chocolate cake on the other hand....

I have no idea what went wrong. I've made cakes for years, and never have I seen such a thing. The cake would not come out of the pans at all. They crumbled and cracked and fell apart, but I was determined to salvage it. I managed to get one cake round on the cake plate, then topped it with some chocolate mousse. So far so good. Then, I carefully placed the next cake on top. Very shaky looking, but I persisted. I topped it off with more mousse and walked away to rinse the dishes. When I returned, half the ball had fallen off. The cake cracked right along the side and fell. I glued the crap out of that thing with frosting and mousse and mangled it back to a semi-circular looking object. I was not about to be outsmarted by some flour and eggs, by god!

Then, my brilliant ganache idea was up next to bat. I poured it on top of the ballish shaped object, and watched as it ran all over my freaking table, and over the already perfectly frosted yellow hands of the Wubster.

I was not daunted by this however. Apparently I was in a good mood that day, because otherwise I normally would've tossed the whole entire chocolate mess into the garbage...or more than likely eaten the crap out of it from stress, but apparently this candida diet has also helped me cope with these type of situations. Who knew.

After cleaning up most of the spillage of the ganache, I carefully piped cute little light blue circles of buttercream all over the ball...only to watch them SLIDE RIGHT OFF!

I grabbed those frickin' frosting balls and walloped them back in the ganache bowl. I scraped off all the ganache I could without compromising even more of the cake/mousse fiasco, and mixed up a bit of dark blue buttercream. I swirled the buttercream in with the other remnants of blue ganache and chocolate mousse, creating, in my own mind, a nice tie dyed look to this lovely kickity kick ball. Not exactly the same as the show, but those are the breaks.

I carefully piped MORE light blue buttercream circles. Some of the ones on the edge started to slide off again, but I didn't care. I was SO done with that ball.

I cleaned up the ganache spillage off of everything I could and managed to mess up more of the yellow Wubbzyness, re-piped some of that, and called it done. Took my photos and wondered if I should Photoshop them before putting them on here.

In an effort of honesty and imperfection, I will post the actual photos. I'm so not an expert, but I pretend like I am in my own head, so this just kills me that the ball didn't turn out. I will do some research to see what happened. I don't think I left out an ingredient, but that's not an impossibility.

Most importantly, Jacob had a great time and loved his cake, and of course had no clue as to what mommy went through to get it just right for him. Everyone ate both cakes, and they tasted great, despite the crumbliness of the chocolate one. The favorite, oddly enough, was the chocolate mousse cake.

But from now on when I watch Wow Wow Wubbzy with my son, I will always, always hold a grudge for that Kickity Kick ball...

Before shot of the Wow Wow Wubbzy cake.

Wubbzy and Kickity, barely hanging on.

Closeup of kickity, giving into the pressure.

Jacob had a great day anyway! He loved his new light-up dino shirt, too.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thank you lake for fixing my son.

Awhile back I posted about my son Jacob not taking baths anymore. I received several great suggestions, but unfortunately none of them worked. Showers...outdoor toys. But, he was still terrified of the bath.

Then, we went to the lake for vacation. He didn't even get in the lake, but for some reason, now that we're back home, he wants to take baths all the time. He took two yesterday.

I have no idea what the heck happened, but thank the lord. Kids are weird.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When it rains, it pours...

As you may know, I was gone last week on vacation. While away, I only had one business call for an order that I had to drive back to town to take care of. Actually I didn't HAVE to do it, I just wanted to. It was for our new client, The Emporium, and I was so excited that they had to reorder already, that I really didn't want them to wait. Plus, they had a farmer's market they wanted to take them to, so I obliged willingly.

I was a bit surprised at the lack of business related activity last week, but relieved at the same time for obvious reasons.

However, this week has already proven to be a busy one. I had an order for 15 apples from my client, Plumtickled Junction, which is celebrating Cowboy Day on Saturday. I also had a small order for four of our 6 oz. pretzels from a website we're on called

While busy making some extra pretzels to have on hand, I received an order for three of the Hallmark stores, which is actually fantastic! Not only did they just order a month ago for 4 of the stores, they normally only order this frequently for 2 of their stores, the Dupont and Apple Glen locations. So, I'm excited that business is picking up at their Northcrest location.

I was also delighted to see that they had doubled their order of our pretzel bark, which indicates that it must be selling well. The marshmallows were only reordered for one store, which was actually surprising, but that's okay. I'll take what I can get.

Then, I received a call from our oldest client, The Anchor Room, and they also ordered more than usual. I like where this is heading.

In addition to all of that, I had a great phone call with an Executive Chef in Columbus Ohio, who is interested in possibly using the pretzels as amenities in the rooms of the hotel in which he works. As always, I love me a fellow foodie, and we somehow got lost in a conversation about cooking classes and my crazy chocolate cauliflower. I'll be sending a sample package to him on Monday, I hope all goes well.

And finally, I received a wholesale inquiry for a nice shop in North Dakota. Perhaps we'll be adding another state to our contact page soon...we shall see.

So, my rest and relaxation is over, and business must go on...thankfully it has good timing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dear Dairy

For the first time in my life I went on vacation....and lost weight.

I have lost a total of 12 pounds so far, and felt awesome while on vacation. I brought lots of food to tide me over, and I exercised at least once, but mostly twice, a day.

Since my husband is now seeing my dedication to this way of eating, he asked me a question that I found easier to answer than it should have been.

He knows the struggle I've gone through to get in control of my eating. He's seen me start diet after diet, only to fail miserably. He's seen me jonesing for anything sugar filled, or deep fried to a point that he was scared for his life.

So, after going for a long bike ride, and following it up with some push ups and leg exercises, he asked me "What would you tell someone who didn't think they could do what you're doing?" My very immediate thought was "Do the part you love the most, first."

If you like exercising, start there. Don't start by trying to run a marathon. Walk the neighborhood, or play tennis. Go to the mall and power walk. Sweat to the oldies, or do Yoga...just move.

If you like reading, start with researching. The more you know about your body and food, the better chance you have of succeeding.

If you like food, or cooking, start there. That's where I started. I absolutely love to cook, and fortunately for me, I love most foods, so trying out new recipes was easiest for me. Once I had a few recipes under my belt that tasted great and were candida diet friendly, I had an arsenal to battle my addictions with. Instead of missing cookies, I ate cranberry macadamia cookies made with ghee and brown rice flour. Instead of missing pizza, I made my own with millet flax crust, rice cheese and a good sauce.

Once the eating started to show results, I began to have more energy, which resulted in my just walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes. Now, I'm up to 40 minutes on the treadmill, with lots of running spurts. I even bike for 30 minutes now, and on a good day I get to do both.

I will next add weight lifting in, and start toning and fine tuning.

There are lots of ways to get motivated to try a new diet or way of eating, but only you know what makes you tick. Don't follow a book or a fad diet, just read, get to know your body, and start somewhere. Starting is winning.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Technological Solitude

While preparing to head to the lake last week for vacation, I looked forward to some down time. I expected the sun. I expected some long, country walks. I expected some quality family moments.

What I hadn't expected was my withdrawal from technology.

As a business owner, I am ALWAYS "plugged in." Email. Phone. Internet. Searching. Replying. Inquiring....working.

As a mom, I use technology frequently as a way of finding pertinent information for the crisis of the day (fevers, rashes, how rainbows get their colors) as well as just a way of coping with the day to day stresses of being a stay at home mom, by reading mommy blogs or just chatting with compassionate friends who are in the same boat.

After a few brief moments of solitude at the lake, I checked my beloved iPhone, out of habit.

What??? No service!? But it's my iPhone...a gift from the techno gods, how could it let me down?

I walked around, arm outstretched for hours, just hoping for a half of a bar...let alone all 5. I went to each side of the cottage and all the way out to the end of the longest pier (which fortunately happened to be ours) and still, only a fraction of a bar, and no Internet access. Where we were, was apparently far from an ATT tower, hence my lack of connection.

I finally discovered a spot by a window, that if I held my tongue out just so, and didn't breathe, I could get just enough bars, and my Edge connection for Internet access and email connection. Ahh, sweet relief.

Most people might think I'm a bit crazy for actually wanting to have contact to the outside world while on vacation, but I really love technology. I also love working on the business, so for me, working on vacation isn't really work.

Now, running after an insane 3 year old all day who can't sit still for two seconds, and absolutely without a doubt must always go in the opposite direction as you want him to and do what you told him NOT to do at least 5 more times...or trying to coax the 5 year old to come out of the cottage long enough to give his alabaster skin a rosy that is work.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Foot Steps

I've been exercising more lately, and I've noticed that my running shoes aren't fitting so well. For some reason my right foot was feeling very cramped in a shoe that has fit me for a long time. Is this a side effect of the excess weight I'm carrying around, or just a delayed growth spurt from the two pregnancies? I don't know.

However, what I do know, is that The Three Rivers Running Company is the best place in Fort Wayne if you're looking for new athletic shoes. I stopped in over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised. They measured each foot, and, oddly enough, my right foot was a half size larger than my left. That confirms my problem, but still, what the heck is that about?

Then, they had me run on a treadmill while videotaping my gait. I felt a bit awkward at first, seeing my large ham hock calves and all, but once they told me the outcome, I felt very relieved.

Apparently my running style lacks a bit of stability, and can lead to shin splints, which I have suffered from in the past. The shoe they recommended was a balancing shoe, to provide support for my ankles. Brooks Universal Platform to be exact.

I also picked up some info on Fort4Fitness. It's a half marathon, 4 mile run/walk, Health Fair and Health Food Expo. Sounds like a goal I could achieve...especially since it's not until September 27th. I may have to walk it, but what the heck. You have to start somewhere, right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Music is my boyfriend

I am not a music reviewer by any means, and I really don't think a food/business/mommy blog is necessarily an ideal fit for a music review, however, I am going to do one anyway.

Perez Hilton frequently mentions music on his blog, and I always happily play the tune to see what it sounds like. I am a huge music loving freak, and will seriously fall in love equally with country, punk, rock, or soul. I have no prejudices, I even listen to ear shattering death metal from time to time thanks to my dear friend Eric, and I've been known to pop in some opera when the mood hits.

So, when Perez mentioned a pianist by the name of Brendan James, I played the tune, promptly downloaded it from iTunes, then after listening to it 500,252 times, I decided to buy the entire album.

While at the lake on vacation this week, I've been going on super long walks in between two wheat fields. With my tunes blaring in my ears and the wind blowing through the wheat, I think I quite possibly found what heaven is like.

Brendan James' voice has a soul so deep it gives me chills, and his piano playing skills are inspired. Maybe it's because I was classically trained on the piano that I identify with him. And by classically trained I mean three years learning from the preacher's wife next door to my childhood home, and then three years from an old geezer (albeit a very talented old geezer) in the thriving metropolis of New Haven. I can play the piano, that's all that counts. And I can appreciate the deep, penetrating therapeutic qualities of this music.

While running down the hilly country road, this music travels deep inside me, pulls out all the crap that I have going on, and just brings it out and disperses it into thin air for the wind to carry away.

What could be better than that?

I suggest downloading these to hear for yourself. You'll soon be hooked and want the whole thing. One suggestion have to hear these in your earphones. To capture the full effect of the acoustic instrumentals and his voice, it needs to be as close to the ear drums as physically possible without doing permanent damage. Do this preferably while screaming in the background tend to affect the desired outcome.


All I can See

Early April Morning

Dirty Living

I hope someone out there is as inspired as I am by this music...let me know if you download it and what you think!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Holy Cheat!

We went to the lake last weekend, and were expecting some friends and their children up for the day. I decided it was a perfect time to make some of those Chocolate Graham Cracker cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting, since they were similar to S'mores.

One bite and wow! I really didn't want to finish the rest of it, because it was very sweet, especially since I hadn't had that kind of thing in a long time.

But, it was quite tasty and I will share the picture of it. You can print the recipe from here if you want to try your own.
The bottom of the cupcake is actually a graham cracker crust, with a bit of chopped chocolate that gets melted on top before you add the batter. The top of the batter is sprinkled with graham cracker topping too. The marshmallow top is like a meringue and gets toasted with a creme brulee torch.
It's almost like a mini chocolate cake/pie all in one tiny package. I'll have some S'more!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dear Dairy

I have no idea how long I've been doing this. Do you? I think it's been a month or so.

I can successfully report that I have been doing very well on the candida diet this time. And, I am nearly 100% sure that I am on this way of eating for life. I have found so many great recipes and fun foods that I don't even miss the other stuff.

My weight loss has been fairly steady, especially since I added exercise in on a regular basis. I've lost about ten pounds and am feeling much healthier and more energetic.

Cheat days don't come as often as they use to, and I have found candida safe foods to replace some of the things I craved anyway. A nice millet and flax pizza crust with organic spaghetti sauce and ground turkey, with rice cheese is surprising the point that my husband has even said it's the best pizza he's had. I'm not sure if he was serious, or just making sure I don't throw tomatoes at him, but either way...I'll take it.

A new favorite meal I've been eating is a spinach millet and flax lavash wrap with my mayo, fresh local tomato, avocado and lettuce, with a generous dash of freshly grated sea salt. That's better than a BLT if you ask me. And very filling considering how light it is.

I made a chai tea from scratch too, using hemp seed milk and stevia as sweetener, and it is better than what you can get at a coffee shop. Blend it with ice, and it makes the perfect summer beverage.

If anyone wants any info or additional recipes, I love answering questions, or motivating...good luck and happy eating!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gluten Free Girl

I've been reading a book called "Gluten Free Girl" by Shauna James Ahern, and it is like food porn. I am not joking.

If you like food as much as I do, then reading this book is highly recommended. Even if you aren't trying to go gluten free...and maybe especially if you're not trying to be gluten free. She goes into such wonderful descriptions of everything from her surroundings to the food to the people she's enjoying it with, that you actually feel like you're with her.

At one point I was dipping my toes in a lake in Seattle and peach juice was dripping from my chin. It's all I could do not to run right out and get me a bag of peaches...but I knew for certain, that they would not taste like the one she was eating. Hers came straight from a local tree in the peak of season. Mine would have been straight from some storage bin that traveled long distances to get here. Ahhh...glad that I have my imagination.

Her descriptions of vegetables and the recipes that she created out of her sheer need for something good that didn't contain gluten, sounded slightly strange, but even more compelling.

The first two I wanted to try were Shaved Fennel with Lemon Juice, and a Cauilflower dish containing some very interesting seasonings. I bought the fennel and the cauliflower, but decided on the cauliflower dish for last night's fish meal.

At first this sounded very exotic with huge potential for failure, and even more potential to taste bad, but what the heck, I'm a bit crazy.

If you enjoy rich, tasty food without all the fat and calories, then please, please try this despite your initial reaction. You will amaze yourself...and quite possibly your family too.

Photo from Gluten Free Girl Blog
Roasted Cauliflower with Smoked Paprika and Cocoa Powder

2 T Kosher salt

juice of 1 lemon

1 head cauliflower

3 T high quality olive oil

1/2 white or yellow onion, thinly sliced

4 t. smoked paprika (do NOT use regular me on this. All stores carry the smoked version, and it has a smell similar to barbecue chips, delish!)

1 t. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t. sea salt

1 t. cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Blanching the cauliflower. Bring a pot of 2 quarts of water plus the kosher salt and the juice of half the lemon to boil. Cut the florets off the stalk of the cauliflower. Put the cauliflower in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and pour the cauliflower into a bowl full of ice water. Let it rest there for 3 minutes or until it is chilled. Remove the cauliflower and pat dry.

Cooking the cauliflower. Bring a skillet to heat on high, then add the olive oil. When the oil runs easily around the pan, add the thinly sliced onion. Cook and stir until translucent and soft, 2 - 3 minutes. Add the smoked paprika. Add the cauliflower to this mixture and coat them well. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is coated and the fragrance of the paprika is strong. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Roasting the cauliflower. Add the cocoa powder to the cauliflower. Add the salt and pepper. Toss the cauliflower to coat. Transfer this mixture to a roasting pan. Put in the oven and cook the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Drizzle the remaining lemon juice over the cooked cauliflower.

Feeds 4 Enjoy!
Note: Chocolate and Chili are traditional Mole flavors, similar to mexican hot chocolate which contains chocolate and cinnamon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Provence est savoureux!

Ahhh....Provence. If only I could meet you. We would have so much fun, strolling in the park, hand in hand, enjoying the night music and the exquisite food. Breathing the intoxicating air, while sipping on a glass of locally crafted wine.

Yeah, I'm dreaming, I know. But, hey I did get to try a minuscule sampling of Provencal food last night at my second Williams Sonoma class, so I'm allowed.

I have to say a few things first. I was in a super bad mood when I left for the class. My children have set out to destroy me, piece by piece, and yesterday proved they are masters at that skill. Other issues with different things throughout the day added to my mood, plus it was darn hot.

So, I left in a huff, and walked into the WS store, signed in, and sat down. Within minutes my mood was lifted. The first sampling of Provence was a tasty little bread stick, dipped in pesto. These were not the doughy, gigantic kind you find at a pizza joint, but thin, crispy sticks that had been coated in pepper, salt, or herbs. The pesto was made with basil and pine nuts, as usual, but also with an added dimension provided by unexpected cashews. I could have just scooped the pesto out and ate it with a spoon.

Next up was a traditional French Tart, made with Maytag Blue cheese, tomatoes, and fresh thyme. The crust was light and flaky, and the blue cheese was by far the best I have ever had. I can't wait to make this for our next dinner party. Very impressive looking, but easy to prepare.

A Chicken Salad Provencal was our third selection. And this was no ordinary salad. Seriously. This was a taste bud tantalizer from beginning to end. Lots of roasted chicken was partnered with cooked red potatoes and blanched skinny green beans, raw red onions, tomatoes, fresh basil and Nicoise olives, all on a bed of butter lettuce, and tossed in a lovely light and tangy mustard vinaigrette. The heat from the cooked vegetables combined with the crunch of the fresh ones, was surprising and the saltiness from the olives, with the tang of the vinegar and mustard just sent your taste buds on overload. And I wasn't complainin'.

To cap things off, we had a nice, dark chocolate mousse with white chocolate shavings. The mousse was light, yet had some texture to it and a hint of cinnamon, and the Guittard bittersweet chocolate used as the base was just the perfect, not too sweet end to the meal.

I will be signing up for a Summer Pie class, and hopefully others, because after all was said and done, I left that class on cloud 9 and it cured all the bluey blues I left the house with. I should take a class every night...might save some lives around here.

If you get a chance, I highly recommend these classes. You learn a lot about tools that help in the kitchen, but you also get to hear what the chefs prefer and other tips that come in handy. And listening to people who enjoy food as much as I that is the cherry on top. There's nothing like a foodie conversation. The oohs and aahs that came from a small jar of pink sea salt and the moans at just the mention of a ricer used for smooth and fluffy mashed potatoes indicate you're in good company.

I didn't get the gastric side effects like last time either, which makes me think it was the liquid smoke that was in several dishes in the last class. Or, maybe it's just my body's way of saying, "Alimentaire fran├žais est bon pour moi." (French food is good for me.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Random ramblings

So, the weeks have been nice lately. I've been busy, but not so busy that I can't enjoy this beautiful weather.

With 5 new clients ready to place an order, I'm sure I will be singing a different tune before long.

We finally decided on a nice display unit for the 4 Espresso Gallery Coffee Shops. It's a black spinning counter display that the pretzels will hang from. I think it will look great in their shops, and really display the pretzels prominently.

One of our best clients just placed an order for 400 pretzels, so we'll be busy in the kitchen next week for that as well. Always nice to be this busy in the summer, even though it does pose some inconveniences with the weather, and humidity.

No free publicity yet with any of the blogs that I've sent to, but we're working to get some new marketing out there in a few months. And, with the United Way charity pretzel, I expect things will start to really pick up in the fall.

Sometimes it's hard to believe the economy is bad, considering all these pretzels I'm selling, but if people are like me, they're are eating chocolate as a small way of fending off the depression that is sure to set in if you think too long about the economic situation. I'm happy to be doing my part to lift morale.

I'm glad I'm not selling lettuce, that's for sure!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I heart Quinoa.

I purchased a cookbook the other day, called Gluten Free, Sugar Free cooking. I rented it from the library first, and made a few dishes to make sure I liked it before buying it.

Two of the first recipes I made involved Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WA), which is a type of grain (actually it's a seed, but that discussion is for a different kind of blog.) It is a gluten free grain, and I was anxious to try something new, in addition to the organic basmati brown rice, millet and teff I've been eating.

Quinoa is as high in protein as dairy (almost 11 grams per cup), and is high in calcium, iron, B vitamins, zinc and potassium. It cooks quite a lot like rice, by boiling in water, or my preferred method, a veggie or chicken broth. It's apparently very versatile as you can see by the following recipes I tried.

The first recipe, Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa

We had already eaten most of our meal when I decided to take a picture of these, so the remaining dish looks a bit mangled. These are red bell peppers with a quinoa, ground chicken and pine nut "stuffing". Very easy to make, and so delicious. I wish I grew peppers in my own yard, so that I could make this more often without the expense or pesticide worry.

The second recipe, Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

This salad had a bit of a mexican feel, due to the added cumin and cilantro. But I think you could leave those out and add basil, or other seasonings to change it up. We served it with some ground chicken burgers that I added some cumin, garlic, red onion and cilantro to as well. Topped off with a big slice of avocado, and some homemade garlic pepper mayo, this was a nice dish for a hot night.

These little grains are interesting in that they start out as tiny little balls, but as they cook, the outer ring breaks away a bit, and leaves this cute little pearl looking grain. The center is translucent and soft, while the tiny rim is a bit crunchy and white.

If you're interested in the recipes, please email me or post a comment and I'll send them to you. Quinoa is a fun and wholesome grain to enliven any summer dish...and hey, you can even impress your friends and family by being able to pronounce it!