What I’ve Been Doing Lately…

Oh my goodness…..the last several weeks have been a whirlwind!  I’ve wanted to post so many times; however each time I wanted to write, it was about the surprise party I was planning for Jeff. And, of course, writing about it on the blog sort of ruins the element of surprise!

This year was a big birthday for Jeff – in fact, it was the Big Five-Oh! As in OhmygoodnesshowcanIbeturning50!?!  Although this birthday didn’t seem to hit him as hard as his 30th, he was still a bit mopey…throwing out phrases like, “this is my last shower (cup of coffee, work day, etc.) in my 40’s.”

As hard as this birthday was for him, it was hard on me too!  Just about every single sentence I spoke to him from January 15th through March 4th was a lie!  While that may sound easy [and to some it IS easy], it was pretty difficult for me.  I don’t know which was harder – thinking of the lies or remembering the lies!

And in the midst of the planning were Valentine’s Day (which isn’t that big a deal to us, but has to be acknowledged nonetheless), his actual birthday, class prep, a party for a friend, cooking for a bridal shower my niece Ashley was throwing for a friend [which happened to be the same day of the party], my regular schedule, and – oh yeah, just for fun – another kidney stone!!!  Additionally, I was trying to throw this party with 40 guests without raising suspicion that I was spending money – not easy to pull off when Jeff enters all the financial transactions into the computer!  If nothing else, I thrive on stress….

I’d like to say I took tons of pictures of the food; but that would be a lie.  I took pics of the party set up but by the time the party got underway, I was too involved in trying to surprise Jeff and hostessing.  Incidentally, the surprise part was a bit of a flop; but the party itself was a lot of fun!

Jeff’s good friend, Craig (you might remember him from my Something’s Brewing post) brewed two commemorative beers for the occasion and put together a killer playlist (which he and Jeff refer to as a mix-tape – those of you in my age bracket will giggle at this terminology)!  Having Craig take charge of beer and music was a huge help. That allowed me to focus on food and decorations.  So, I thought about what kind of food (1) goes well with beer; (2) can be prepared ahead and secretly transported to another location; (3) feeds a crowd and (4) is on Jeff’s list of favorite foods (or at least near the favorites list).

Chili bar was the obvious choice.  I decided to make my Chilly Weather Sirloin Chili (with ground beef instead of sirloin cubes as a time saver). After choosing the main food, the rest pretty much fell into place.  Rice, Fritos, Ranch Oyster Crackers (thanks, Ron), toppings (such as cheddar, pepper-jack, scallions, sour cream, and cilantro), a big salad [and not just any salad – MIMI’s SALAD], buttermilk cornbread with Honey-Cinnamon-Cayenne Butter, and for dessert – Jeff’s favorite – his mom’s chocolate cake with peanut butter icing and some s’mores bark for good measure.  Obviously, I needed to add some other beverages – wine for the non-beer drinkers, “middle of the road” beer for the less adventurous beer drinkers, bottled water and soda rounded out the beverage options.

Then came the theme – since it was a chili bar, I found some great printables on Pinterest and took it from there.  I designed the invitation and then created a burlap table banner to “match” the invite.  I also borrowed a previously used table banner reading ‘Aged to Perfection,’ which loosely related to the beer theme.  I wrapped “silverware” in brown bags and tied it with bakery twine, made some 50-related signs that I displayed in beer bottles and copied old photos of Jeff onto velum and wrapped clear candle holders with the velum for fun table decorations.  I used six-pack carriers as Frito “bowls” around the room, I put chalkboard stickers on wine and beer cups so people could personalize them and got paper plates and napkins to match the theme.  Throw in some bandanas and a Chili Bar sign and voila – a party.

Deciding where to have it was another challenge – it’s quite a complex undertaking to throw a surprise party for 40 people where the guest of honor lives!!!  I didn’t even try that.  A few places came to mind, but the clubhouse in my parent’s neighborhood was a great landing-place from a surprise perspective.  The challenge; however, was getting everything there without Jeff knowing.  For several weeks before the party I carted things from our house to my parent’s house – and I mean lots of things.  My parent’s living room was gradually getting smaller due to the pile of ‘party stuff’ I was making.

The day before the party, I prepped the food for the surprise and most of the food for the bridal shower (see above) – with help from a friend, thanks Tammy!  The day of, I had to get up early and head to my mom’s house to finalize the shower food and meet my niece for the food hand-off.  After that, Mimi and I set up the room and prepped the remaining food for Jeff’s party.  In the afternoon I raced home to get ready (there was barely time for a shower and some primping) and then met my sister to start carrying the pile from my parent’s living room to the party venue – thanks Laura!

We met up with Craig (my beer & music hero) and Chris (his lovely wife who was such a big help throughout the party). Then Laura and I raced back to my parent’s house to change our clothes in the living room – laughing and somewhat out of breath.  Then Laura went back to the party venue to greet guests while I waited for Jeff to arrive for our “night out to celebrate his birthday.”  On the way out the door, my mom asked if we could help her by delivering her food to a block party (yes, this was part of the lie to get Jeff to the party).  Jeff [carrying some the of food for his own party] and I walked through the door of the clubhouse and were about 5 feet from the door to the room in which the party was being held when he looked over at me and asked, “do you want me to ACT surprised?”

In that split second I thought about the ramifications of murdering him, but decided that 40 witnesses were too many so I did my best not to strangle him and proceeded to enjoy time with our friends and family.  Although the surprise was not a success, the party was.

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And, as it turns out, so was the bridal shower Ashley hosted.  For that I made Cornmeal Cheddar Scones (my friend Tammy’s recipe), Caramel Macchiato Scones, individual omelets in ham cups and fruit skewers with orange vinaigrette.

As I mentioned, in the midst of all this craziness I was also preparing for some classes. The first class – Perfectly Provencal.  The foods and wines were a yummy tribute to the Provencal region of France.  The menu:

  • Double-Baked Cheese Soufflé w/ Parmesan Cream
  • Grated Baby Beet Salad
  • Seared Halibut w/ Spicy Mussel Aioli
  • Luxe French Potatoes w/ Lavender
  • Tian Provencal
  • Blood Orange Sponge Cake

The second class – Bring a Friend to Spain.  The foods for this were from all different regions of Spain. The menu:

  • Coca (Pizza) w/ Candied Red Peppers
  • Festive Frisee w/ Pears & Honeyed Lardon
  • Comforting Chicken in Almond & Saffron Sauce
  • Smokey Spiced Spanish Potatoes
  • Asparagus w/ Tangerine Vinaigrette & Pistachio Dust
  • Quesada Pasiega (Spanish Catabrian Cheesecake)

Perhaps my favorite event of recent weeks was the Doljanchi for our twin great-niece and great-nephew.  The doljanchi is the elaborate Korean first birthday celebration with a very interesting ritual – the doljabi.  In addition to the doljabi were tables and tables of delicious Korean foods and unmatched hospitality from Justin’s family.  We had a wonderful time and best of all I didn’t have to make anything, carry anything or keep anything a secret!!!!  I was able to be a guest and enjoy a beautiful celebration of two very cool little people who have stolen my heart!

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I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t somewhat tired from the flurry of activity over the last several weeks.  However, reviewing it all has reminded me how truly lucky I am.  I have a great husband (who is older than me), family and friends who are quick to ask “what can I do” when I say I’m throwing a party (AND THEY MEAN IT), three beautiful littles who bring joy and hope for the future to our family, and so many people with whom Jeff and I can enjoy life…one bite at a time!

Nutrition Information – Clean Eating Class

Thanks to all who attended my Clean Eating class last night….I hope you all learned something and enjoyed the clean food you tried.  I learned a great deal in researching for and preparing the class and I enjoyed spending time with you as we talked about this new-to-some-of-us approach to eating!

As promised, the following is a chart with the nutrition information for each of the recipes we tried last night.  As I mentioned, the recipes (except for dessert) were from cleaneatingmag.com – I used the nutrition information with each recipe where provided. If the nutrition information was not included, I entered the recipe into SuperTracker to get the nutrition information.  The ingredient list in SuperTracker does not always match the ‘specialty’ ingredients in some of the recipes so the nutrition information may vary slightly.

nutritional-information-recipes-for-clean-eating-class-092916

Thanks again for coming to class and remember clean eating is not about dieting, it is “consuming food the way nature delivered it, or as close to it as possible!”

Fall 2016/Winter 2017 Classes

The Fall 2016/Winter 2017 class schedule is out!!!  I have some great new classes in store for you….check out the Classes I’m Teaching page to see what’s on the menu.  I look forward to seeing you soon.

And while I have your attention, let me take this opportunity to wish my handsome husband a Happy 23rd Anniversary.  It’s been a wild and wonderful ride!

Saturday’s Pizza on the Big Green Egg

I spent the day on Saturday at The Kitchen Shoppe hanging out with folks who were learning about the Big Green Egg.  I’ve written about the BGE in previous posts and believe I have explained that to call the BGE a grill is the understatement of the century.  Yes, you can grill on the BGE, but you can also do sooo much more – you can bake, smoke, and roast too.

On Saturday, I was cooking pizzas on the BGE.  My assignment from Dan, our BGE guru and my boss, was to do an INTERESTING pizza.  Other than those traditionalist who only eat their pizza with red sauce and cheese, the pizza was well received.  So much so that I was asked to post about it on the blog.

On the BGE

So here’s what I did:

  • The Dough – I used Gran Mugnano ’00’ flour in my old-favorite pizza dough recipe – Jimmy & Jeff’s Pizza Dough (see below)
  • The Toppings – Stonewall Kitchen’s Fig & Ginger Jam (replaced the sauce), julienned prosciutto, crumbled blue cheese, arugula (lightly dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper) and a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • The Temperature – between 600 and 700 degrees F
  • The Tools – pizza peel coated with a healthy layer of corn meal, pizza lifter (like a giant, round spatula), pizza cutter
  • The Charcoal – a mix of Wicked Good Jake’s Blend and Big Green Egg
  • The Time – about 6 to 10 minutes – until the desired doneness is achieved

Before Being Fully Devoured

In addition to the pizza, folks who came out for the Big Green Egg lesson with Dan also ate pulled pork, spice rubbed chicken, BBQ salmon, and 1 1/2″ thick steaks cooked at 700 degrees F.

The food was delish, the weather was cooperative and the company was wonderful.  What’s your favorite pizza on the Big Green Egg?????


Jimmy & Jeff’s Pizza Dough

by mmm mmm mmm

Keywords: pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (115 degrees F)
  • 3 cups “00” flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water (115 degrees F)

Instructions

Combine yeast and sugar in a bowl large enough to hold approximately 2 cups of liquid. Add 1/4 cup water, stir and let bloom (about 5 to 10 minutes).

While yeast blooms, place 3 cups of flour and 1 tsp sea salt in to bowl of a food processor. Whirl to blend.

After the yeast mixture blooms, add the honey, olive oil and 3/4 cup warm water. Stir with a whisk.

With the food processor running, add the yeast mixture through the feed tube.

Mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the work bowl and forms a ball.

Remove the dough from the food processor and knead for a few minutes to remove air bubbles. Dough should be soft and elastic.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.

Let rise for several hours. The longer the better. You can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator with great results.

After the first rise, punch the dough down, divide it in half, form each half into a ball and let it rise again for about an hour (or more if necessary).

Shape the dough and top it with your favorite ingredients.

Bake in a hot oven (500 degrees F) or cook on the grill.

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Hope & Blueberry Macarons

As a cooking instructor,  I go into each class with a passion for the food I am presenting, gratitude to be able to do what I love and hope. Hope that I don’t cut off a finger, drop something, burn myself or otherwise get myself into an embarrassing situation from which I cannot recover.  Hope that everything runs smoothly and that I’ve planned and prepared well.  Hope that my helpers (to whom I affectionately refer as my “backup singers”) remain safe and energetic.  Hope that my students enjoy the food I serve, will use one or two of the recipes again and are having a good time.  And hope that I can inspire someone to stretch their skills or try something they didn’t think they could do.

With demonstration style classes, it is easier to “read the room” and to know if your information is hitting the mark with students.  Because most everyone is listening at the same time to the information I am presenting, I usually only share information once – of course, there is the occasional question for clarification or the random “I missed that, could you say it again?”

In contrast, when I am teaching a hands-on style class, it is more difficult to know if everyone is understanding what I’m saying.  Often there are one-on-one conversations happening – between and among students, with me and one or two students, etc. – and folks are working at their own pace.  There are times in hands-on classes when I’m giving an explanation or I am showing a technique and some people miss it.  This is the nature of hands-on classes.  As much as I try to stop and reiterate the important points, I know some things get missed.

And with all classes, regardless of the type, there are some folks who give immediate feedback while I’m teaching a recipe, some folks who comment and/or ask questions at the end of class, and some who leave without comment.  I welcome feedback.  I like to hear what students think about what they’ve eaten, techniques they’ve learned, experiences they’ve had, etc.  I appreciate constructive suggestions and, if I’m being completely honest, I appreciate the occasional “ata girl” too!

So this past week, when I answered the phone at work – the way I usually do, “Good morning…The Kitchen Shoppe….this is Janice….may I help you?” – and heard in reply “oh good, just the person I wanted to speak with” my interest was piqued!  It was a student – K.S. – from my recent hands-on macaron class with a question.

We talked briefly and she told me about her recent adventures in macaron making. Before we hung up I promised to email her some information as soon as I could locate it.  Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on it pretty quickly and had the email off to her in short order.  Just as quickly I received a reply with a brief note and a photo attachment.  The first paragraph ended with “I’ve attached a picture for you ~ I’m so happy about how they turned out!”

Not sure what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to see this:

macaronsblue

Beautiful macaron shells.  Glossy, smooth tops.  Perfect “pieds” – or frilly feet – on the bottom.  A pretty color.  As an instructor my heart soared!  Clearly K.S. had learned what I’d been teaching that rainy Tuesday night in November!  There’s just something satisfying about being a part of someone else’s learning process…

Of course, I replied that I was so proud to see a pic of her labor of love.  And K.S. blessed me with another photo:

macaronsbluefilled

A plate of perfection!  They look so good I can almost feel the crisp shells melting in my mouth.  And it did not escape my notice that the backdrop was a beautiful cloth with an illustration of French lavender.  A little nod to the French macarons!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to K.S. for providing feedback, for sharing her photos, and for giving me permission to share them with you.  Now there’s just one more thing I hope….that they tasted as good as they look!

My Sweet Spot

Many years ago I read a book entitled “Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot” by Max Lucado.  I didn’t know it at the time I read it, but there were big changes coming down the pike in my life!!! Fast forward to today and I’ve found that – somewhat unknowingly – have I put into practice what I learned in the book.

Lucado offers “the big idea” at the beginning of the book when he writes:

“Use your uniqueness (what you do)

to make a big deal out of God (why you do it)

every day of your life (where you do it).

At the convergence of all three, you’ll find the cure for the common life: your sweet spot.”

He illustrates “the big idea” with this diagram:

Sweet Spot Diagram

So why am I writing about this?  Because today I received the gift of one of those rare glimpses of what it means to live in your sweet spot!  I love teaching cooking classes and I enjoy every class I teach, but today was different from many of the other classes in that it really felt like everything came together at just the right time, in just the right way, with just the right people.

Does that mean that today was perfect?  Nope!  There is no such thing as a perfect day.  But it came pretty close and even those minor glitches in the day caused me no alarm or unease.

So how do you find your sweet spot?  Well, Lucado suggests studying your S.T.O.R.Y.  And, based on my experiences over the last many years, I happen to agree.  So what does S.T.O.R.Y. stand for?

  1. What are your STRENGTHS?  In my case, I believe my strength is in teaching – being able to take a concept and explain (either verbally or in writing (which also made me a pretty good technical writer)) it in a way that is understandable to people. Although there will be a few of you out there who share teaching as a strength, I suspect for most of you your strength will be something else.
  2. What is your TOPIC?  My topic is food.  I enjoy working with it, eating it, experimenting with it, etc.  Again, your topic will likely be different.
  3. What are your OPTIMAL CONDITIONS? For each of us, this will be different – some will like a more structured, predictable situation and others a more loose, variable situation.  I like the variety of coming up with different food combinations and playing with my food!
  4. What about RELATIONSHIPS? Do you function best alone or surrounded by other people?  Do you work best as part of a team or as an individual contributor.  I love the interplay between me and my students and I greatly appreciate the support of the team of people it takes to deliver a great class.  It is never simply about the instructor!
  5. What makes you say, “YES!”  It is when your strengths, topic, optimal conditions and relationships intersect that you find your YES!

Today, I was given the gift of my YES!  So here’s a shout out to all the people who came to the class and worked the class.  Without you I doubt my Yes! would have been possible!!!!!

P.S.  The menu for today included:

  • Creamy Bacon Pasta with Coffee Rubbed Scallops
  • Caramelized Onion & Butternut Squash Soup w/ Chipotle Coffee Cream
  • Fennel & Prosciutto Salad with Honey -Coffee Vinaigrette
  • Coffee Crusted Filet of Beef
  • Braised Cabbage with Coffee, Molasses & Bacon
  • Cappuccino Cheesecake

The following is a snap of the soup – it looked too pretty not to photograph!!!!

Processed with Rookie Cam

The Accidental Cheese Maker

Another installment in the exciting, crazy life of me!

On Saturday I was working in the retail section of The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School while two classes were being taught.  The first was a burger class and the second, Cheese Making for Beginners.

In between waiting on customers, answering the phone and keeping up with the general duties of the shop I was able to listen in on the classes as they progressed.  Of course, that means I was able to get 25% (or less) of the information being shared with the students.

At the end of the day, after all the students were gone and the staff in the cooking school was cleaning up the classroom and kitchen, I was presented with the following question, “Do you want to take the Halloumi with you?”

Remember when you’re mom told you, “if it seems too good to be true it probably is”?  Well, I should have thought about that before I answered the question.  Or at the very least I should have asked one or two questions in return before replying with a resounding, “Yes.”  (I mean, who doesn’t want fresh (I mean REALLY fresh) homemade halloumi?)

But, I didn’t ask any questions and I didn’t consider that old adage; so what did I get?  I got the demonstration batch of halloumi done only through step 5 of the 10 step process….in a large pot……..with a lid and a LOT of liquid…..that I had to transport home in my car. Oh, and I got the recipe so I could finish steps 6 through 10 too – and because I did, I knew I needed to buy some cheese forms before I left the store.

I drove home very carefully trying not to spill any whey in my car.  I did put a Pot Bra on the large pot of curds and whey (yes, I was feeling a little bit like Little Miss Muffet) before I put it into my car and then I hoped for the best.

Now mind you, I had worked Monday thru Saturday AND had a class to teach the next day, for which I had to get up early so that I could make a few things before class began. I tell you this not to complain, but to say in a round-about way that I was tired when I got home.  I was probably not in the best frame of mind to take on this cheese project, but alas I did.

So when I got the pot of curds and whey home, I washed my hands, rolled up my sleeves and looked to step 6 of the recipe for direction.  I drained the cheese, reserved the whey and put the curds into the cheese forms that I had purchased.  Then I had to find something to use to press the cheese for two hours.  After fumbling around the kitchen cupboards, I decided to use two small bowls and two cans of veggies – one of each for each cheese form.  I put the forms on a baking rack over a half-sheet tray and let the cheese press for 2 hours.

During the two hours, I ironed my clothes for the next day, did some laundry and made myself something for dinner.  I also began yawning from time to time.  When the timer rang, I turned to step 7 of the recipe.  I heated the whey up to the boiling point, put the cheese into the whey*, turned off the heat, and let it sit for 90 minutes.

*I wasn’t sure whether to take the cheese out of the forms or to leave them in the forms so I rolled the dice and put the forms containing the cheese into the whey.  This is where it would have been extremely helpful to have heard ALL the information presented in class!

During the 90 minutes, I cleaned up from dinner, read a little, surfed the web and began yawning in earnest.  But I pressed on (no pun intended).  And when the 90 minutes were up I moved on to step 8 of the recipe.  When I read step 8 – remove the cheese [from the whey] and allow it to drain on a cheese mat for 2 to 4 hours –  two questions immediately came to mind: (1) “What in the world is a cheese mat?” and (2) “How am I ever going to stay awake for 2 more hours?”

Again, I wished I had been paying closer attention to what was going on in class when they covered cheese mats….and what to do if you don’t have one.  But still I continued.

During the 2 hours, I read some more, took off my makeup, folded some laundry, surfed the web again and finally at 1 hour and 50 minutes, I gave up and made the brine solution according to the instructions on the recipe.  I put the halloumi in the brine and put it in the fridge where it had to sit for 24 hours and I promptly dropped into bed.

Now you would think this is the end of the story…..or at least the part where I tell you the halloumi was delicious and certainly worth staying up late.  But……it’s not the end and, in truth, I haven’t tasted the halloumi yet.

Yesterday after the class I taught – Girlz with Grillz, which was sooooooo much fun – I overheard my husband, who was kind enough to come and help with the cooking for class, saying to one of my co-workers, Sure, we’ll take some Feta.” Noooooooooooooo!

Little did he know that being offered feta didn’t mean FINISHED feta.  It meant feta that was at step 9 of 13 steps!  Now I am in the process of finishing a batch of feta too!

So, it’s really not fair to call myself a cheese maker – even an accidental one.  I’m more of a begrudging cheese finisher!  But perhaps when the cheeses are finished I’ll have the incentive I need to learn the whole process of making halloumi and the whole process of making feta.

But for now, I’ve got to run…I have cheese to drain, salt and refrigerate.  Do yourself a favor, remember the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” the next time someone asks you if you want to take the halloumi [or the feta] with you!

A Little Tease

It’s that time of year – class planning time.  We’re getting the Fall 2015/Winter 2016 Course Catalog together at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School and I thought I’d give you a little peek at the classes I’ll be teaching from September 2015 through February 2016.

To prolong the excitement and leave you wanting more, I’m only sharing the class titles.  You’ll have to stay tuned for the descriptions, menus, dates and times!

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Where in the World is Janice Groff?  Spain w/3-Wine Flight
  • Pizzelle Hands-On
  • Ladies Who Lunch
  • 50 Shades of Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pizza Hands-On
  • Coffee: It’s Not Just for Breakfast
  • French Macarons Hands-On (back by popular demand)
  • Weeknight Dinners with Jeff & Jan
  • Salt Tasting
  • Polenta Morning, Noon & Night

Check back for more details.  I hope to see you at The Kitchen Shoppe!!!!

Edible Lace Doilies for Mother’s Day

I am so blessed to be able to do what I love! And that’s not something I just say [write], I TRULY mean it.   I had fun today teaching a Mother’s Day cooking class with my mom.  Our menu included:

  • Brandied Shrimp Bisque with Herb Garnish
  • Spring Pea Salad with Edible Flowers
  • Tourte Milanaise with Beurre Blanc
  • Orange Lamingtons
  • Chocolate Espresso Pots de Crème
  • Tibetan Eye of the Tiger Tea with an Edible Lace Doilie

My mom and I had a fun making the recipes for some truly great people!  There were new friends and old [No, I’m not talking about age].  People I’ve seen recently and people I haven’t seen for a while.  And it was so nice to see them all.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give an honorable mention to Ryan, the brave male in a room full of females who treated his mom to class as a way to celebrate Mother’s Day together!

We served a delicious tea – Tibetan Eye of the Tiger – with dessert and in it we floated edible doilies that were lovingly made by my friend and co-worker, Vivian.  They looked beautiful in the tea cups and were a “nice little extra” for the moms!

Here’s a look at the Orange Lamingtons before they were served.

Lamingtons

As promised, the recipe for Homemade Sugar Veil is below.  This is not my recipe, but one worth sharing. I cannot tell you exactly where the recipe originated.

1/4 cup boiled purified water
1 Tbsp. tylose powder
1 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. meringue powder/egg white powder
1/2 tsp. corn syrup (Karo is preferred)
Pinch of white icing color (and/or color of your choice)

  1. Add tylose powder to boiling water and mix until clear.  It might take a bit of effort, don’t worry.
  2. Once clear, mix in the confectioners’ sugar well.
  3. Next, add cornstarch and combine.
  4. Mix in the meringue powder/egg white powder.
  5. Add the corn syrup.
  6. Add the white icing color and/or color of your choice.

*Notes:

  • You can keep the mixture in the refrigerator for a week.  When you want to use it, let it come to room temperature and give it a mix.
  • Be aware the mixture will get moldy if you don’t use it.  So don’t make a huge batch if you don’t plan to use it all within a week.
  • You are able to store the lace in a plastic zip lock bag and to restore the elasticity, place a slightly damp cover or paper towel on top.  You don’t want to leave it on for too long or it will dissolve.
  • The water you use can effect the outcome.  You best chance is using purified water – avoid mineral, fluoride or tap water.

You will need silicone molds to make the doilies.  Per Vivian, you can purchase them on Amazon.com (and I’m sure there are other places to buy them too).

A quick note of thanks to all the lovely ladies with whom I work.  Especially the ones who helped with class today.  It did not go unnoticed that you spent your Mother’s Day making my class a success.  I appreciate all the help and support and guidance and suggestions and old-fashioned hard work you do for me and with me!  You are the best group of co-workers and friends a girl could ask for!

Thank you also to everyone who came to class today! You bless me – truly and richly bless me – with the opportunity to do what I love!!!!!

Updated Spring 2015 Classes

Back in November I posted a preview of the classes I’ll be teaching at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School in spring 2015.  There have been a few changes to dates, times and/or classes being offered.  The new list of my Kitchen Shoppe Spring 2015 classes is below.

As soon as The Kitchen Shoppe opens registration for the classes, I’ll put registration links on each class on the ‘Classes I’m Teaching’ page of the blog.  I hope to see you at one or more of my classes!

Macarons Hands On – Wednesday, March 25, 2015 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Learning to make this delicate French cookie seems difficult and mysterious, but it doesn’t have to be. Janice will teach you how to make the delicate almond meringues, show you easy steps to making perfect macarons, teach you about the essential ingredients, and give you plenty of ideas for flavors and fillings.

  • Basic Chocolate Macaron Meringues
  • Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Filling
  • Tipsy Raspberry Filling

These Are a Few of OUR Favorite ThingsSaturday, April 18, 2015 5:00 – 8:00 pm 

Janice enjoys cooking solo; but she also enjoys spending time in the kitchen with her husband, Jeff. For this class, Jeff will join her in teaching and together they’ll make you some of the dishes they serve when they entertain their friends and family.

 

  • Sun-Dried Tomato & Smoked Cheddar in Phyllo
  • Mixed Greens w/ Baked Goat Cheese
  • Balsamic Brown Sugar Short Ribs
  • Herbed Polenta
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Asparagus
  • Loaded Mudslide Ice Cream

Going Barefoot in April – Sunday, April 26, 2015 1:00 – 4:00 pm

Back by popular demand, Janice will take some of her favorite recipes from television personality and cookbook author, Ina Garten – The Barefoot Contessa – and put her own unique spin on them. She’ll share some of Ina’s favorite cooking and entertaining wisdom and you’ll have a chance to share your love of going barefoot with Janice and the rest of the class!

  • Smokey Lemon Hummus
  • Warm Fig and Arugula Salad w/ Aromatic Vinaigrette
  • Mustard Roasted Halibut w/ Dill and Crispy Prosciutto
  • Pesto Orecchiette w/ Peas
  • Honey Thyme Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
  • Dark Chocolate Terrine w/ Orange Rosemary Sauce

Where in the World is Janice Groff?  Mexico! – Friday, May 1, 2015 6:00 – 9:00 pm 

Italian classes are wildly popular – and with good reason; however, there are many other places with exceptional foods. Join Janice as she introduces you to food from another part of the globe. With your taste buds, you’ll visit the Baha Peninsula, Oaxaca, northern Mexico, Acapulco and other Mexican destinations! The recipes from this class will allow you to bring the flavors of Mexico to your table.

  • Oaxan Gold (pineapple & vanilla) Margarita & Jalapeno Margarita
  • Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
  • Mango and Avocado Salad w/ Blue Cheese
  • Poc-Chuc (Orange Marinated Slow-Cooked Pork) w/ Pickled Onions & Oranges and Grilled Corn Tortillas
  • Garlicky Cilantro Lime Rice
  • Charcoal Grilled Corn w/ Crema, Cheese & Chili
  • Blackberry Tart w/ Goat Cheese & Thyme

Mother’s Day with Mom – Sunday, May 10, 2015 1:00 – 4:00 pm 

What better way to celebrate Mothers’ Day with Mom than to let someone else do the cooking and, better yet, the clean up? Bring your mom or “borrow” Janice’s mom, who will be joining her in teaching this class! They’ll share their love of cooking and some delicious recipes with you.

  • Brandied Shrimp Bisque w/ Shrimp and Herb Garnish
  • Spring Pea Salad w/ Edible Flowers
  • Torte Milanese on a Cloud of Butter and White Wine Sauce
  • Chocolate Espresso Pot de Crème
  • Orange Lamingtons
  • Tea du Jour (to be determined)

Girlz with Grillz – Sunday, June 14, 2015 1:00 – 4:00 pm

Grilling is NOT just for guys . . . grab a girlfriend and join Janice! She’ll teach you about one of her new passions – cooking with fire! You’re sure to enjoy your time around the grill with good friends and great food.

  • Maple Planked Brie w/ Roasted Grapes and Fire Grilled Crostini
  • Grilled Romaine Salad w/ Strawberries and Blue Cheese
  • OBX Pasta w/ Grilled Clams
  • Lemon and Prosciutto-Stuffed Pork Loin
  • Grilled Broccoli w/ Spicy Lime Butter
  • Warm Chocolate Rosemary Pudding

A Little Preview

I thought I’d give you a quick preview of my upcoming Spring /Summer 2015 Classes…..it’s a great way to whet your appetite!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2015 1:00 – 4:00 pm Going Barefoot in March
Back by popular demand, Janice will take some of her favorite recipes from television personality and cookbook author Ina Garten – The Barefoot Contessa – and put her own unique spin on them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 6:00 – 8:00 pm Macarons Hands On
Learning to make this delicate French cookie seems difficult and mysterious, but it doesn’t have to be.  Janice will teach you how to make French macarons and give you ideas for flavors and fillings.

Saturday, April 18, 2015 5:00 – 8:00 pm These are a Few of OUR Favorite Things
Janice’s husband, Jeff, will join her in teaching this class.  Together they’ll make some of their favorite dishes for you.

Friday, May 1, 2015 6:00 – 9:00 pm Where in the World is Janice Groff? Spain! (with wine pairing)
Italian classes are wildly popular; however there are many other places with exceptional foods.  Join Janice as she introduces you to food from another part of the globe.  And not only will you enjoy Spanish food, but you’ll get to taste some delicious wines as well.  The recipes from this class will allow you to bring the flavors of Spain to your table.

Sunday, May 10, 2015 1:00 – 4:00 pm Mother’s Day with Mom
What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than with mom?  Bring your mom or “borrow” Janice’s mom, who will be joining her in teaching this class!  They’ll share their love of cooking and some delicious recipes with you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 6:00 – 8:00 pm Mmm…Mushrooms
Most of us have tried button mushrooms and maybe even portobellos or creminis; but there are many kinds of mushrooms out there and countless ways to cook them.  This class will explore the many textures and flavors of mushrooms.

Sunday, June 14, 2015 1:00 – 4:00 pm Girlz with Grillz
Grilling is NOT just for guys….grab a girlfriend and join Janice for a fun night out!  She’ll teach you about one of her new passions – cooking on the Big Green Egg.  You’re sure to enjoy your time around the fire with friends and great food.

Hope to see you at one of these classes!!!!

A Day Away Travel

Recently, I had the pleasure of teaching a class for some travel writers from MATPRA, the Mid-Atlantic Public Relations Alliance.  They were visiting central, PA to learn about all it has to offer travelers and they made several stops throughout the area, including the Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.

We had a fun morning, of course – I mean what’s more fun to me than cooking, eating, and entertaining? Not much!

For MATPRA’s visit, I made:

Bittersweet Chocolate Cinnamon Buns

Bittersweet Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls with Coffee Cream Glaze

Frittata

Roasted Tomato, Pesto & Goat Cheese Frittata

Napoleon

Pear Napoleon with Ginger Thyme Pastry Cream

Check out what Mary K. Tilghman from A Day Away Travel wrote about her experience:

Cooking Lessons in Carlisle

Thanks, Mary!  I hope you’ll visit us again at the Kitchen  & Cooking School when you’re in the area!!!!

Shaping Tortellini

The First One

I’ve been making a lot of pasta of late in preparation for an upcoming class and I thought I’d give you a glimpse at what I worked on yesterday afternoon.

I was shaping tortellini, which is an interesting process.  I made the pasta dough on Sunday and put it in the refrigerator.  Just before I left for work late yesterday morning I took the dough out of the fridge so it would come to room temperature by the time I arrived home in the afternoon.  My timing was just right – by the time I got home the pasta was perfectly pliable.

I started by dividing the ball of dough into 6 pieces and, working with one piece at a time, I began rolling the sheets of pasta that would be cut into pieces for tortellini.  I rolled each piece of dough two times on each of the settings 1 through 6 on the pasta machine, for a total of 12 passes through the pasta machine.  This resulted in a very thin, very pliable dough.

Pasta Maker

Ready for Action

 

The First Pass

The Second Time on Number 6

Next, using a pizza cutter, I cut each of the sheets into 2.5″ strips (one was wide enough to cut into two 2.5″ strips, but the others allowed for only one strip).

Cut to 2.5 Inches Wide

Then I cut the strips into squares.

Cut into Squares

Cutting into Squares

For the next step, using clean fingers instead of a small brush (one less thing to wash), I “painted” two of the edges with water, which acts like glue to hold the filling inside the tortellini.  Then I placed a small dollop of filling in the center of each pasta square.

Water to Glue Edges

With a Dollop of Filling

Tortellini FillingFolding was next.  First, I folded the “dry edges” over the “wet edges” and I used my pastry scraper to gently press the edges together to seal them. The next fold was to take the point of the triangle and fold it so that it slightly overlapped the longest edge of the triangle.

Folded Into a Triangle

Pressing the Edges to Seal

Point Folded into Center of Triangle

The final fold required the pointer finger to act as a spacer.  The way I did it was to hold the pasta between my thumb and pointer finger of my left hand with the point closest to my pointer finger.  Then I used my right hand to shape the pasta around my finger. I took one end around to the nail side of my pointer finger and then did the same with other side so the points overlapped.  Then I pressed the ends together and tucked them under, doing a final press to make sure they were sealed.

Pinching the Ends

Tucking & Pinching the Edge

After each tortellini was formed, I put it onto a sheet tray that ultimately went into the freezer until the tortellini were firm, after which I put them into a zip top bag and stored them in the freezer.

Note: I ended up with a lot of “scrap” dough (not unusual), which I never scrap.  I cut it into pieces and will cook it when I’m looking for a fast dinner.  Yesterday, I played a little with the scraps and made some farfalle or bow-tie pasta.

Farfalle

 

The Finished Product

Mmm mmm mmm!  Happy tortellini’ing!

Have you ever made homemade tortellini?  How’d they turn out?  What did you fill them with?

I <3 Going Barefoot in February

Barefoot in February

I love winter!  There, I said it.

I know there are many of you who want to throw a huge snowball right in my face – especially on a snowy day like today – and I understand that winter isn’t for everyone.  But for me, I’ll take this weather over 90 degrees and humid ANY DAY!

But I haven’t lost my mind enough to actually go barefoot in the snow.  When I say [or rather, write], “I <3 Going Barefoot in February,” I am referring to the class I taught on Saturday night at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.

We had a wonderful time.  I couldn’t have asked for a better group of attendees (both newbies and experienced), nor could I have asked for better “backup singers.”  I know I write about the “backup singers” a lot, but I am always so grateful for all the help and support they give me.  They make my job a breeze!

The concept of the class was to put my spin on several recipes written by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.  Little did I know, I’d have so many Barefoot aficionados (and a few Barefoot stalkers) in class!  The group was very knowledgeable about Ina and very familiar with her recipes, which made for a fun evening.  We shared our experiences with her recipes, our love of all-things-Ina, our admiration for her house in the Hamptons and even a bit of jealousy for her Hamptons-Manhattan-Paris lifestyle!!!!

The food turned out wonderfully and all the dishes complemented one another well.  Here’s what we had:

  • Herbal Iced Tea – this is a wonderful concoction I learned to make from Ina’s book, Barefoot Contessa Family Style.  I’ve made this when I’ve catered events and I’ve served it at home.  People always enjoy it and at least one person asks for the recipe each time I make it.  My twist Saturday night was to add some Amaretto liqueur to make it “non-virgin.”  I’ve also made it with Gran Marnier, Calvados and Tuaca – all with yummy results.
  • Rosemary Roasted Cashews – I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this recipe.  I’ve served them at home and made them to give as gifts.  They are addictive.  To complement the hint of orange in the herbal iced tea, I added some orange zest to the spice mixture.  It was a great addition!
  • French Mussel Bisque – the recipe is fantastic “as is,” but it’s even better when you add some bacon and Aleppo pepper.  Mmm mmm mmm!  I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ve also considered smoking the mussels for this soup.
  • Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken – all Barefoot Contessa lovers know that Ina often makes roasted chicken for her husband, Jeffrey.  And a whole roasted chicken is one of my favorite meals – in fact, I usually get three meals out of a roasted chicken – the first night usually I serve the chicken as is, the next day I make chicken salad and then, so as not to waste anything, I make chicken soup from the bones and remaining meat.  But, it was impractical to make whole roasters for class.  So I adapted the recipe for bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and made them in Le Creuset French ovens. They were so moist and flavorful!
  • Potato & Fennel Gratin – This is the recipe I altered the most, but I think the essence of the dish remained.  I added more fennel and more onions.  I also took away some of the heavy cream – I like cream as much as the next French guy, but I found it to be too rich and little too soggy with all the recipe called for.  Finally, I added some breadcrumbs to the top along with the Gruyere cheese.  I loved the result – the potatoes and veggies were soft and creamy and the topping had a bit of a crunch.
  • Oven Roasted Carrots – I combined a few different Barefoot recipes and one of my own to get the end result I enjoyed.  The final product had carrots, shallots, currants, olive oil and spices.  I followed the advice of the “backup singers” and served them a little on the al dente side; although when I make them at home I typically serve them a little softer.  They were yummy.
  • Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes – OK, these are delicious in their own right, but I can’t leave well enough alone so I made them Almond Joy Style. I made the cupcakes mini-sized and I added coconut oil and flaked coconut to the cupcakes, iced them with coconut icing, topped them with a whole almond, and then dipped the icing in the chocolate ganache.  Holy Moly…..rich, but fantastic!

I hope those who attended had half as much fun as I did.  They were a great group of people.  They asked wonderful questions, shared their own Ina experiences and heartily ate what was served – a cook’s ideal company and a cooking instructor’s dream!

To tease you, I’m working on recipes for my next class, which is entitled Pasta Perfection.  This pic is of Lemon Goat Cheese Tortellini Salad with Roasted Vegetables. I made the tortellini last night and boiled them as soon as I finished forming them. It just doesn’t get any fresher than that!!!!

Tortellini Salad

What’s your favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe?

 

Whopping Weekend

This past weekend was action packed.  There was a lot on the calendar – some work, some play – and all of it was BIG fun!

My day Saturday began at work making 15 batches of pizza dough – enough to make pizzas for more than 30 people! With the exception of a break for lunch, I worked most of the day Saturday prepping for Hailey’s birthday party and for the Pizza Pizzazz class on Sunday.

From 4:00 to 6:00 I had the pleasure of helping Hailey – an adorable birthday girl about to turn 7 – and 13 of her friends celebrate.  I taught them how to make pizza and watched them decorate cupcakes and excitedly encourage Hailey during the gift opening.

Hailey’s mom – Shelly – should be given the creative-mother-of-the-year award! When she arrived, she put a cute little apron and a custom-made chefs hat at each girl’s seat.  She was a savvy shopper and found the aprons in Target’s dollar section.  The chefs hats were paper to which she added stickers to spell each girl’s name and the most amazing flowers made from coffee filters and muffin liners (a Pinterest find (I think this is the right link) according to Shelly).  With permission, I snapped a few pics to share with you.

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On Sunday I woke up early and got myself ready for Pizza Pizzazz at a leisurely pace.  At approximately 10:15 am, Jeff and I headed for The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.  Yes, you read that right….Jeff came with me….not to sit in class, but to help assemble and cook pizzas while I was demonstrating pizza-making to my students.  Poor Jeff, I frequently draft him for jobs that he never intended to do and 99% of the time he performs his tasks with grace and good humor.  Sunday was one of the 99%!  He worked his tail off at the oven and the Big Green Egg making sure my students had well-cooked pizza to enjoy.

Not only did Jeff help me, but I also had my “backup singers.”  A group of folks who ensure that classes go off without a hitch.  Without them, my classes would be a wreck.  They read my mind, cover my mis-steps, and provide tons of support and encouragement!!!  And as if that’s not enough, I also had Brandalynn & Theo from Alter Ego Brewing Company with me at the class.  As you may have read in a previous post, they paired their beers with my food, served beer and described their company and each brew to my class.  I hope they had half the fun I did!

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The pizza combinations – although unusual – were well-received and the beers perfectly complemented each course, including salad and dessert.  Since I didn’t share the combinations with you in my post entitled Great Partnerships, I will do so now in the hopes of stimulating your taste buds and encouraging you to try Alter Ego and/or one of my future classes!

Here is the lineup:

  • Light & Lemony Fennel Salad paired with Wits End – a Belgian style white ale.
  • Roasted Potato & Goat Cheese Pizza with Rosemary paired with Critical Condition – an amber ale with a hint of caramel flavor.
  • Ballpark Pizza (chili, hotdogs, cheddar, raw onions, and mustard) paired with Cheap Date – an American blond ale.
  • White Pizza with Asparagus & Egg paired with Mahatma – one of a series of IPA’s.
  • Asian Chicken Pizza paired with Mango Habanero – a wonderful beer with a kick made from mango puree and whole Habanero peppers.
  • Espresso Panna Cotta paired with Dolce Vita – a sweet stout with chocolate and hazelnut.

The class favorite pairings were the Ballpark/Cheap Date and the Asian Chicken/Mango Habanero.  But all the pairings were terrific.  If you ask me, the partnership of Alter Ego’s brews and my food was meant to be!!!!

Then on Monday there was time for a little play (not that work is too much like work these days)!  Jeff and I drove down to the Rockville/Bethesda, MD area to do a bit of shopping and meet up with our friends Jenny & Tom for lunch.

We had a wonderful day!  We were in the car by 8:30 am and we reached our destination just after 10:00 am.  We got our shopping errands out of the way just as Tom & Jen drove up.  We hopped (ok, more like hoisted ourselves) into Tom’s new Jeep and set out for lunch at Founding Farmers’ Potomac location.

We decided to have a leisurely meal, so we started by ordering the popcorn of the day (chocolate chipotle on Monday) and a round of cocktails from their pre-Prohibition style bar.  Our drinks weren’t just mixed, they were lovingly hand-crafted and quite delicious.

Since Jenny & Tom are like family, we passed our drinks around the table and shared sips here and there.  Here was our drink lineup – one VERY spicy Bloody Mary; one Clementine made with chili-infused Tequila, lime and pineapple juices, and agave nectar; one Pimm’s Cup 10 (this one was for you, Mic) made with Pimm’s No. 1, Curacao, lime juice and ginger beer; and one Farmer’s Fizz made with Gin, elderflower liqueur and Prosecco. Mmm mmm mmm!

For nibbling while we decided on lunch, we ordered house-made Ciabatta bread with candied corn, mascarpone cheese and charred apple chutney.  OH MY GOODNESS – it was wonderful.

Finally, to our waitress’ relief, we ordered lunch (which turned out to be lunch and dinner since we ended up being sooooooo full).  Again, we ordered and passed – sharing so we could all taste.  Perhaps ordering 5 entrees for 4 people was overkill, but we all loved leaving with leftovers!

Here’s what we ordered:

  • Crispy Spatchcock Chicken with Maple Mustard Glaze
  • Yankee Pot Roast
  • Skirt Steak & Enchilada
  • Southern Fried Chicken
  • Poto Mac & Cheese with handmade pasta and seven cheeses

We enjoyed our meals at a laid-back pace, talking and laughing and catching up.  The food was REALLY good – especially the mac & cheese, which was heavenly – creamy and warm and comforting!!! The drinks were wonderful – particularly, in my opinion, the Pimm’s Cup 10. And it goes without saying [but I’ll “say” it anyway], the company was first-rate!  Any time we have a chance to catch up with friends and build stronger relationships is time well spent!!!!

Needless to say, after all that food we had NO ROOM FOR DESSERT!  So we asked for the check, which was delivered in a miniature mailbox.  We were instructed to put the outgoing mail flag up on the mailbox when our payment was inside.  Too cute!!!!

Of course, I took many pics so that I could share the experience with you:

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Before leaving Tom & Jen’s company, we made two additional stops. One at Fleming’s Ultimate Garage and the other at Penzey’s Spices.  Two very different places, but both fun.  At Fleming’s we looked at vintage cars and each dreamed of our ideal ride – mine is a big boat of a car – you know, a pimp mobile – like a vintage Lincoln Continental!  At Penzey’s we sniffed and smelled our way through the store.  We knew we were done when our noses were itchy and our sneezers were working overtime!

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Although the weekend was action packed, I feel both relaxed and energized as a result.  Thanks to Hailey’s parents for including me in the fun of her birthday party, to all the students who came to Pizza Pizzazz, to my “backup singers” for all they do, to Jeff for helping with pizzas and for helping me follow my passion, to Theo & Brandalynn from Alter Ego Brewing Company for their brewing & consumptionista expertise, and to Jenny & Tom for a wonderful day together.

There is no doubt – I am truly blessed!

Great Partnerships: Pizza & Beer and MmmMmmMmm & Alter Ego Brewing Company

I am soooooooo excited about my class this coming Sunday (1/19) that I almost can’t contain myself!  Have you ever been involved in something that just feels RIGHT?  That’s how I feel about this class!

I get excited about each of my classes. I really do, I’m not just saying (writing) that! I love having the opportunity to share my passion about cooking and food I have prepared with people.  But I do believe the Pizza Pizzazz! class on Sunday at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School will be truly memorable.  You see, I am partnering with the wonderful folks from Alter Ego Brewing Company for the class.  Together, we will be presenting an interesting, flavor-packed menu paired with some truly remarkable beers!

Now I may sound a bit cocky about Sunday, but please do not mistake my confidence for ego (no pun intended).  And I AM confident because this past Sunday Jeff and I had dinner at our house with Brandalynn & Theo from Alter Ego Brewing Company and together we worked out the beer pairings for class. We had a wonderful time getting to know one another, tasting food and beer combinations, tweaking our pairings and making sure we were in agreement on serving order.

Alter Ego Brewing Company (AEBC) is a small-batch artisanal brewery that will be opening this summer in Harrisburg, PA.  AEBC’s version of their story is a much better narrative than I ever could have written about them!  The only thing I will add is that when you meet Theo & Brandalynn you will have no doubt about their passion for what they do or their fun-loving personalities!

The menu for the class:

  • Light & Lemony Fennel Salad
  • Roasted Potato & Goat Cheese Pizza
  • Ballpark Pizza
  • White Pizza with Asparagus & Egg
  • Asian Chicken Pizza
  • Espresso Panna Cotta

I toyed with whether or not to include the names of the beers that will be paired with the menu items above, but I decided against it.  That would ruin the unveiling in class and the part of me that loves a little drama simply won’t allow it!  So I would encourage you not to miss Pizza Pizzazz!

Here are a few teaser pics of the food and beer from our dinner with Theo & Brandalynn:

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Not only will you leave with 6 great recipes, but you will taste 6 delicious beers that were hand-selected (or is that tastebud-selected) to pair with the food.  Can you think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than having someone else cook for you, being waited on, drinking delicious beer, and spending time with people who have a passion for what they do?  I sure can’t.

There are still a few seats left for Pizza Pizzazz!  To register, simply click here or call The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School at (717) 243-0906 or toll-free at (800) 391-2665.  I truly hope to see you there!!!!!

What’s the Difference: Cocoa Powder?

A student in one of my classes recently asked me what the difference is between “regular” cocoa powder and Dutch process cocoa powder. Although I try to prepare for all possible questions, I didn’t anticipate this one – fortunately I have a great support system.  One of my “backup singers” (as I affectionately refer to the key people assisting me during a class), Barb, quickly jumped to action and grabbed the shop copy of a wonderful resource – The New Food Lover’s Companion: Comprehensive Definitions of Nearly 6000 Food, Drink, and Culinary Terms.

Food Lover's Companion

The Food Lover’s Companion includes the following about Dutch cocoa:

The richer, darker Dutch cocoa has been treated with an ALKALI, which helps neutralize cocoa’s natural acidity.”

Although this definition was enough to help me answer the question that followed – whether you can substitute Dutch process cocoa for natural cocoa powder and vice versa, it wasn’t quite enough to satisfy my curiosity.  So I did more research after class.  The following is what I have learned.

Cocoa Powder in General (regardless of whether it is natural or Dutch process):

  • Pure cocoa powder has no sugar or additional fats added.
  • Should be stored in a cool, dark place – but not refrigerated.
  • Will keep up to two to three years if it is stored in a dry location.
  • Ranges in color from light brown to deep reddish brown – the color depends upon the pH value of the cocoa.
  • Contains several minerals including calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.
  • Is rich in flavonols (antioxidants).

Natural vs Dutch Process Cocoa

Natural (pictured left above)  vs. Dutch Process Cocoa Powder (pictured right above):

Natural

vs

Dutch   process

 

  • Made from cocoa beans that are roasted, and pulverized   into a fine powder.
  • Made from cocoa beans that have been washed   with a potassium solution to neutralize their acidity.
  •  Will give the end result a lighter color and a fruitier taste.
  • Will give the end result a darker color and more complex flavor.
  •  pH between 5.4 and 5.8.
  • pH between 6.8 an d 8.1.
  • You CAN substitute natural cocoa powder for Dutch process in many recipes.
  • You SHOULD NOT substitute Dutch process for natural cocoa powder in many recipes.
  •  Do not substitute in cake or cookie recipes.
  • Do not substitute in cake or cookie recipes.
  • OK to swap one for the other in sauces, ice creams and other non-baked recipes.
  • OK to swap one for the other in sauces, ice creams and other non-baked recipes.
  • Lighter in color.
  •  Darker in color.
  • Generally paired with baking soda (which is an alkali) because it has not had its acidity tempered.
  •  Typically used with baking powder.
  • Contains a larger amount of flavonols than Dutch process cocoa.
  • Contains a smaller amount of flavonols than   natural cocoa.
  • Preferred for baked goods.
  • Preferred for beverages and frozen desserts.
  • Black cocoa powders have been heavily Dutched – an example is one of my favorite cocoa powders, Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder.

All the information I learned confirms the answer I gave in class, which was something along the lines of, “in recipes that do not require baking, you could substitute one for another; however, I would not substitute one for the other in baking because it [baking] is more scientific and recipes are precisely written to ensure certain chemical reactions.”

I love learning new things – whether they relate to cooking/baking or not.  And I appreciate that over the years have stored enough knowledge (although recall is getting tougher as I age) that I can think critically to draw conclusions that are correct much of the time.  I would never be so bold as to call myself an expert, but I am happy to be on this journey through life with a passion for cooking, eating and entertaining!

Thanks to my “backup singers” for always making me look good, for doing research on the fly, and for your constant support and encouragement!!!!

TBTIAAW: The Best Thing I Ate All Week – Tammy’s Cornmeal Cheddar Scones

I’ve decided that periodically I will write about the best thing I ate during a given week.  This week it was hands down my friend Tammy’s Cornmeal Cheddar Scones.

Before I tell you about the scones, I should let you know I ate some pretty great things this week – at least I tasted some really great things.  Lest you think I eat like a queen – which some weeks I admittedly do compared to what other people eat – I should be honest and tell you that like everyone else, sometimes I drive-thru, sometimes Jeff and I order pizza, sometimes we eat leftovers, and sometimes we have cereal for dinner!

But working at a cooking school dramatically increases the probability of me tasting really amazing foods!  This week, for example, I sampled beef tenderloin with a red wine reduction, stuffed mushrooms, pork tenderloin stuffed with butternut squash and blue cheese, and Bananas Foster, among other things.  So to say the BEST thing I ate all week was Tammy’s Cornmeal Cheddar Scones is to say that they were, in my opinion, marvelous!

Before baking they were brushed with butter (and to quote my friend, Barb, “Everything’s better with buttah!”) and sprinkled with sea salt; so they had a crispy, lightly browned exterior and a nice salty snap. Mmm mmm mmm!

Tammy is another one of the instructors at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School and a wonderful cook/baker.  Like me, she enjoys entertaining in her home.  So it is no wonder we have quickly formed a bond.  She and I spend a great deal of time together prepping ingredients for our classes and for classes given by guest chefs as well.  Some of Tammy’s upcoming classes include:

But back to the scones.  With Tammy’s permission, the recipe is below.  I made the scones at home today so that I could take some photos of the process for this post.  These scones would make a wonderful accompaniment to chili, a hearty soup, a main course salad or, let’s be honest, almost anything you make.  Being someone who prefers savory things to sweet things in the morning, I would have some scrambled eggs and fruit with one of these scones and be happy until dinner time!

Here’s how easy they are to make…

1. I started by preheating the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Next I measured the dry ingredients.

Dry Ingredients with Measurements

3. Then I measured the wet ingredients.

Wet Ingredients with Measurements

4. I placed the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ancho chili powder and salt in the bowl of the food processor and gave it a whir to combine the ingredients.

5. I added the butter in chunks and pulsed the food processor until the mixture resembled coarse meal.

Butter in Dry Ingredients

6. Then I placed the mixture into a large bowl and stirred in the cheese.

7. I whisked together the egg and buttermilk until they were blended.

8. I made a well in the center of the dry ingredients, added the egg mixture and stirred just until the dry ingredients were moistened.

9. I turned the dough onto a well-floured surface and kneaded lightly a few times to make sure all the ingredients were well incorporated.

10. I patted the dough into a 10 x 7 inch rectangle.

The Dough

Cutting the Dough

11. With a floured pizza cutter, I cut the dough into triangles and diamond shapes (but you can cut them into any shape you desire with the pizza cutter or you can use cookie/biscuit cutters to cut shapes as well).

Cut Dough

12. I melted about 2 Tbsp of unsalted butter, which I used to brush on the tops of the scones after I moved them to a cookie sheet lined with a baking mat (you could use parchment paper).

Melting Butter for Brushing Scones

13. Finally I sprinkled the scones lightly with sea salt and popped them into the preheated oven where they baked for approximately 18 minutes (watch your scones carefully as the baking time will depend upon your oven).

The result?  Some of the best scones you’ve ever tasted!

The Finished Scones

Flaky Interior

A special thanks to Tammy for her permission to share this recipe, but more importantly for the friendship we have built over the last year.  I love working with you. I appreciate your guidance, support and wisdom.  And I look forward to many more years of talks, laughs and shared recipes!!!!

What is the best thing you ate all week?

Monday MmmMmmMmm and Class Recap

I LOVE breakfast for dinner! And tonight Jeff made it so it was even better!  And the pancakes were savory, so now we’re 3 for 3!

When I left work tonight I got stuck in traffic – there was a disabled tractor-trailer blocking one lane of the road and things were rrrrreeeeeaaaaallllllllllyyyyy backed up.  So I called Jeff to let him know that I would probably get home later than he would.  Since he had a meeting at church tonight, I suggested that he have some leftover pasta and I told him I would make a sandwich for myself later.

Little did I know he already had a plan cooking in his head!  When I got home he was working on batter for cornmeal pancakes to which he added some sautéed veggies (onions, peppers, spinach, kale) and cheese.  While he was making the batter he was also heating a pan – when the batter was done he spooned some into the hot pan and went to change.  I kept an eye on the pancakes, turning them before he returned.

Pancake Batter

Pancakes on the Griddle

In a matter of minutes we were sitting down to a delicious and nutritious dinner AND Jeff was able to get out the door on time.  I’ll be honest, sometimes the best thing I can do to get dinner on the table is stay out of the way!!!!  I really appreciate it when someone else cooks for me – it makes a Monday MmmMmmMmm even mmm mmm mmm-ier!

While we were eating I was reviewing yesterday in my head.  I taught a class entitled ‘Holiday Brunch for Overnight Guests’ at the Kitchen Shoppe yesterday and I had a great time.

Although I’ve enjoyed all the classes I’ve taught so far, I had a really great group of people yesterday and they made it a lot of fun for me!  I hope they had as much fun as I did!!!  They asked a lot of good questions, interacted with one another, shared tips and ideas, and really seemed to enjoy the food (which, of course, makes me happy).

The menu for class was:

  • Bloody Mary with Roasted Tomatoes
  • Mozzarella, Prosciutto and Arugula Pesto Bruschetta
  • Holiday Baked Egg Casserole
  • Bacon & Green Onion Studded Potato Pancakes
  • French Breakfast Puffs
  • Fruit Skewers with Orange Vinaigrette

The hands-down favorite seemed to be the French Breakfast Puffs, which are yummy light muffins that are rolled in melted butter and cinnamon sugar and served warm.  I first had these on  a trip to Cape Cod.  They were made by The Cottage Street Bakery and have been a family favorite ever since.  I’m glad I got to share them with my class.

The following is a picture of the buffet I set for class yesterday:

Brunch for Overnight Guests BUffet

I hope the folks who came to class will use some of the recipes for the holidays and that they will think of me when they do.  I will surely remember what a good time I had with them the next time I make one of the recipes I served in class.

What are some of your favorite things to serve to overnight guests?

How was Work?

What did you do at work today?  I’ll bet you didn’t have nearly as much fun as I did!

Having come from an office environment – and not a great one at that – moving on to a creative job is a huge improvement!  Tracee and I worked hard today prepping for two classes she is teaching on Saturday; but we also had time for good conversation, a few laughs, and right-brain stimulation.  The right side of the brain is the artistic side – from about.com Psychology,

“According to the left-brain, right-brain dominance theory, the right side of the brain is best at expressive and creative tasks. Some of the abilities that are popularly associated with the right side of the brain include:

  • Recognizing faces
  • Expressing emotions
  • Music
  • Reading emotions
  • Color
  • Images
  • Intuition
  • Creativity”

So, what was so fun?  We were preparing ingredients for two kids’ classes – 1) Big Hands Little Hands (where a 4 – 7-year-old child is accompanied by an adult to give them assistance making their recipes) and 2) After School Snacks & Treats (for kids aged 8 to 14).  And boy are the kids going to have fun on Saturday.  They are making all kinds of fun and yummy foods, but two things in particular captured the attention of the kid in me!

The first is a bread dough spider.  A strange sentence to be sure.  I’m fairly certain I never expected to be putting those words together – but there’s a first time for everything!  The spider has hairy legs (shredded parmesan cheese) and eyes made from olives.  He can also be used as a dip container – on Saturday he will hold “spider blood.”

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The second are spider web cookie pops. The spiders are made from chocolate covered raisins and black licorice.

These classes are a great way for your kids to spend a Saturday – and for younger kids they are a great way for you to spend time in the kitchen with your kids and have someone else clean up the mess!  Click the links above for information about the classes – and check out the Kitchen Shoppe catalog of classes for future classes for kids and adults.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be doing something I love.  I am happy to go to work every day.  I am in a creative, fun environment with people who genuinely enjoy the work they do.  Is it perfect?  No.  But it’s perfect for me!!!

I don’t know what you did at work today.  But I sure hope you enjoyed your day as much as I enjoyed mine.

Do you enjoy your job?  If not, what keeps you there?