I get so excited this time of year! The trees are blooming, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and the fruit is starting smell like fruit. If you don’t live on the west coast, you know what I’m talking about… There is a time in the dead of winter when you walk into the grocery store and the fruit and produce aisles smell like the floor cleaner they used earlier that morning. The strawberries are still red and ripe, but that intoxicating smell of fresh strawberries doesn’t overwhelm you. The raspberries don’t smell like raspberries, and if you’re lucky enough to find a peach, they smell like the packing material they arrived in. But… this time of year the produce aisles magically transform. The aroma of freshly picked fruit greets you the moment you step in. Finally! Fruit that tastes like fruit, and soon tomatoes that don’t taste like cardboard! If you live in the Midwest, celebrate this time (it is fleeting) with a fresh peach crumble. Simply slice the deliciously aromatic peach you can now find in the produce aisle and top it with a simple crumble. Bake to enhance the sweetness of the fruit, and store this memory away for next winter.
I visit the Beanilla distribution warehouse from time to time to discuss posts, pick up product and just to say hello to fellow employees. The moment you step into the building the intoxicating aroma of vanilla hits you. It is absolutely delicious! During a recent visit I asked my fellow teammates if they had any requests for posts. Natalie, our warehouse manager, was more than eager to provide me with suggestions. One of the most delicious and trendy requests was for a caramel bar. Smooth and creamy homemade caramel sits on top a layer of salty and crunchy coconut base, and the entire bar is then slathered with delicious high quality dark chocolate. These bars are rich, decadent and highly addictive. I hope you enjoy them, Natalie!
I have been struggling to eat healthier, exercise more and limit the amount of sweets I consume throughout the day. Most days I am really good at it, but some days not so much.... I have expressed to you in previous posts that I have no problem eating chocolate cake, cold out of the fridge for breakfast, but I haven't told you my ultimate weakness! I love anything salty and sweet, especially sea salt soft caramels. I can't get enough of them, and all my healthy eating willpower flies out the window whenever I am near them. I made a batch to photograph, posted it to Beanilla and then sent them over to my neighbors. My neighbors were very happy to be the recipients of the caramels, and I was utterly proud of myself and my willpower. Yah for me!!!
Fleur de Sel caramels are soft and creamy, sweet and salty and relatively simple to make, as long as you bring the mixture to an exact 241 degrees using a candy thermometer. A few degrees either way can result in caramel hard candies or a delicious bowl of caramel soup. Delicious, but not what we are striving for!
My child's school counselor called me a few weeks back, and my first instinct was, "Oh, no! What did she do?" The counselor laughed and reassured me that my daughter is a model student and they were actually calling for me. "Oh, no. What did I do?" Luckily, it was a friendly call to request my presence at the middle school career day. After a brief conversation of what would be required of me, I politely accepted the offer and went about my day.
It’s been a long but productive week, and it’s only Wednesday! By mid-week I am very ready for the weekend, and tired of cooking. Takeout would be a simple solution, but not always the healthiest choice. So, when I am tired, my simple recipe of choice is mango salsa. Bright, sweet and fruity mango is diced and combined with spicy jalapeño, juicy red tomatoes, red onions and chopped garlic. The addition of a Tahitian vanilla bean to my salsa adds a sweet and floral flavor and enhances the natural sweetness of the mango. Mango salsa with Tahitian vanilla bean is the perfect complement to grilled fish, sautéed chicken or savory flank steak fajitas.
The combination of fresh fruit, crisp vegetables and vanilla may seem like a strange concoction. I assure you that it is incredibly delicious!
There is no aroma quite as comforting or as intoxicating as freshly baked bread. The art of bread-making dates back to the ancient Egyptians; grains were cultivated, and a simple mortar and pestle were used to grind the grain into a very course flour. The first bread was unleavened, similar to a tortilla or a naan bread. The addition of yeast to these breads began when wild yeast was attracted to the ground grains and "contaminated" them, and then the warm climate and the addition of water activated the yeast and caused the dough to rise. Although the ancient Egyptians had no working knowledge of how the yeast microorganisms caused the dough to rise, each time the dough would rise they would remove a small piece to add to the next batch of dough. In modern times this would be considered the mother. Many bakers have one or two mothers that they start their artisanal breads from, assuring consistency in flavor from one batch to another. I have worked with many artisanal bread bakers that keep a storage container that holds the original mother from when they began their career as bakers. They feed and care for it as if it was more precious than gold.
Spring is almost here. I could not be more excited!
As a child, spring brought mud puddles, thunderstorms and tulips. Tulips are a garden staple here in Michigan. You know that spring is here to stay when tulips begin to pop through the cold winter soil. The tulips haven't shown up yet, and there is still a thin layer of snow in our front yard, but that doesn't mean I can't celebrate spring's impending arrival with a classic spring dessert.
As a child, I spent a good amount of time at my grandparents’ home. One of my most vivid memories of my days spent with them was the crisp fall mornings and afternoons my grandmother spent canning. She would can dozens of quarts of home grown tomatoes, corn and grape jelly. The grape jelly was always my favorite, made from huge silver skin grapes that grew on vines along the back row of the garden. Not all of the grapes made it into the jars that lined her kitchen counter. A few were eaten by my brothers and I, and more than a few were used as projectiles.
It’s cold here!! Not quite Iowa cold (those of you who live or have lived in Iowa know what I am talking about), but it is still cold here! This is our first winter back in the Midwest after three very sunny and warm years in Southern California, and I just simply can’t get warm!
So, I have been making a ton of hot chocolate; warm, creamy, delicious hot chocolate. I think I’m finally thawing out!
What is your new year’s resolution this year? Maybe you want to find love, a new job, make more money, build your business or perhaps you are one of the many who resolve to find and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Maybe you would like to lose weight or perhaps you just want more energy. While I can’t find you love or make you more money, I can certainly help you on the path to a healthy lifestyle with a simple, but delicious, recipe.