I try to shop at local small businesses whenever I can. I enjoy the fact that I can support local while stimulating my hometown economy. As a former small business owner, and a current employee of a local small business, I know how hard it is to survive and make a profit without loyal consumers.
I have found that most small businesses provide unique products and goods that cannot be found in the big box stores. On a recent Sunday venture, I discovered a quaint bakery that provides unique handcrafted breads and pastries. Being a pastry chef I was thrilled to see beautiful bouclé, many varieties of foccacia, scratch-made chocolate croissants and beautiful black and white cookies. I felt like a kid in a candy store with so many choices. The baker asked what I needed..."Hmmmm, I can’t decide." She picked up a golden brown loaf of brioche bread. "I think you will like this," she declared. She handed me a lovely pancetta, jalapeño, Gouda brioche. Perfect for sweet-savory recipes or simply eaten toasted with butter.
I like unique flavor combinations. Any combination of flavors that remind me of being at the beach are even better. I have always dreamed of living near the ocean and was blessed to have had that opportunity recently. I am now near water again, Lake Michigan to be exact. The lake is beautiful, the sand is a pure white color and it is very calm and peaceful out there. But, there is nothing quite like the sounds, smells and tastes of the ocean! The fish tacos, the tropical drinks, the smell of the ocean air and of course coconut suntan lotion.
You know that I am a huge fan of Beanilla's baking extracts and flavors, I love the fresh unprocessed smell and flavor. But I must admit I was a little skeptical of the coconut extract. Most grocery store brands smell like, well.... coconut suntan lotion. I love the smell, but hesitate to put it into my desserts. Beanilla coconut extract does not smell like coconut suntan lotion, quite the opposite actually. I opened the bottle and was greeted by a pleasant waft of pure coconut, the kind you experience when you crack open a fresh coconut.
Sunday is family day in our family -- a time to relax and enjoy one another's company. While living in San Diego, Sundays meant we ventured out to explore places or attractions we had not enjoyed before; a new farmers market, Legoland, Disneyland, various dog parks and beaches. Living in So. California was one big adventure, however I love being back in the Midwest! The pace is slower, the people friendlier, I actually know my neighbor (and have spoken to them) and the cider is real!! I know you are probably thinking, "Has she lost it? The cider is real?!"
It’s Saturday morning, and you are awaken to the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls wafting down the hallway. You happily jump up out of your warm bed, and head to the kitchen in search of the comforting aroma. As you approach the kitchen, your significant other greets you with a kiss and a cup of piping hot coffee.
What a pretty picture I have painted; a picture that can be yours tomorrow morning. My orange ginger rolls are a twist on the traditional, and the flavors are familiar but unique. They are gooey, soft, fragrant and delicious on a lazy weekend morning!
Sweet, creamy, vanilla-based soda is often used to describe cream soda (even though true cream soda contains cream or half and half). Cream soda is said to be created in the early 1900’s to recreate the ice cream floats in soda shops at the time.
Approximately 6 days ago I posted a recipe for Vanilla Lime Infused Vodka. My vodka infusion has rested and the vanilla has infused into the vodka for about 10 days now. The result is smooth, vanilla flavored vodka with undertones of fresh lime. It is, by far, one of my favorite infusions I have created.
Candied nuts are a wonderful sweet treat any time of the year! I enjoy eating them straight off the baking sheet but they are equally delicious on baked goods or even fresh mixed green salads. A simple salad of mixed greens, blue cheese and French vinaigrette begs for the sweet crunchy candied pecan. In baking candied pecans can be added to fudge, used as a topping for scones or folded into homemade ice cream. The uses for the candied pecan is unlimited!
Infusing flavors into vodka has gained in popularity over the past few years; I have seen flavors that range from simple to exotic. I tend to lean towards the fruity and sweet so I chose to infuse my vodka with lime peels and Beanilla Tahitian Vanilla beans. I started my infusion by splitting the Tahitian vanilla bean down the center with a sharp chef’s knife, leaving the ends intact, then added fresh lime peels to the bottle. To ensure maximum flavor from the bean and lime peels, the vodka needs to sit for 1-2 weeks.
Tahitian vanilla beans are gorgeous! They are exceptionally large compared to other varieties and are brimming full of vanilla "caviar". They smell sweet and fruity with a touch of chocolate and caramel. True Tahitian vanilla beans from Tahiti are prized for their aroma, size and abundance of vanilla seeds in each pod. Lucky for you, Beanilla is one of the few retail sites that sell true Tahitian vanilla beans from Tahiti!
Upon receiving the Tahitian vanilla bean, I held onto it for about a week before I decided what I wanted create with it. The bean is so special and has such a beautiful aroma and flavor profile that I really did not want to overpower it. Vodka is the perfect vehicle for the flavor of this bean. A good quality vodka has very little flavor and should be smooth and not astringent. This will allow the Tahitian vanilla bean to shine.
Once the vodka has infused, I will photograph the finished product and create a drink especially for you! Stay tuned!!!
The original scone was round and flat, usually the size of a medium size plate. It was made with unleavened oats and baked on a griddle, then cut into triangle-like quadrants for serving.
Scones sold commercially are usually round in shape, although some brands are hexagonal as this shape may be tessellated for space-efficiency. When prepared at home, they take various shapes including triangles, rounds and squares. The baking of scones at home is often closely tied to heritage baking. They tend to be made from family recipes rather than recipe books, since it is often a family member who holds the "best" and most-treasured recipe.
As a chef, I am often reminded that what I think is easy and uncomplicated, is not necessarily. Chocolate ganache is often thought of as fussy and complicated, and I want to tell you it as simple as 1...2...3. Chocolate ganache originated in France. Ganache is a French term referring to a smooth and velvety mixture of chocolate and cream. Its origin is a little unclear, but it is believed to have been invented around 1850. Some say it originated in Switzerland where it was used as a base for truffles. Others say it was invented in Paris at the Patisserie Siravdin.
Ganache is a simple mixture of hot cream and good quality chocolate. As much as we all love Hershey's, this is not the place for it. I recommend Callebaut, Valhrona or any other high quality dark chocolate. Look for chocolate that contains cocoa butter as the primary ingredient. The higher the quality of chocolate used, the better the flavor and texture your ganache will have in the end.
They say that food is the way to a man’s heart. Even though I agree with this, I say crème brulee is the way to a man’s heart!
This is a simple custard enhanced with Beanilla Madagascar vanilla beans, then cooked and chilled, then topped with vanilla sugar and, finally, torched until melted and crisp. A properly cooked crème brulee should be smooth and silky, and the bruleed topping should have a crisp cracking sound when your spoon hits it.
In my opinion, breakfast is the best meal of the day. You get to eat a combination of sweet and savory together at one meal and it is completely accepted by the general public! Bacon, sausage, eggs and pancakes compete for your attention -- each equally delicious in different ways. I always save my pancakes for last. Melted butter and sweet syrup -- my mouth salivates just thinking about it!
In our family, pancakes tend to be a Saturday morning treat, but this recipe is easily made the night before or made quickly on even the busiest of mornings. The addition of Beanilla Madagascar vanilla extract adds a sweet, vanilla note to a fluffy and light pancake that you will crave on any day of the week.
Italian soda is light, crisp and fruity. A refreshing change from sugary sodas, they can be made with all natural products in any flavor you desire. The most popular flavors are fruit-based, but these drinks can be made with botanicals and even savory herbs. I prefer the fruity version, so when I pulled out my Beanilla Raspberry extract I knew that it belonged in a crisp Italian soda.
Homemade Graham Crackers (S'mores Part 2)
As promised, here is part two of the homemade marshmallows recipe that was posted on Tuesday. Homemade marshmallows are delicious and definitely a treat to have around the house. But, what would a s'more be without the graham cracker?
When I was much, much younger, I had a best friend whose mom would give us graham crackers sandwiched with leftover homemade frosting. I still love it to this day!
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows (S'mores Part 1)
Part one? This week I would like to do a recipe for homemade s'mores in two parts, so be sure to check back on Thursday for the graham cracker recipe.
Living in beautiful West Michigan has its perks. Great lakes surround us, beautiful scenery abounds, wonderful communities of friendly neighbors and four seasons. Spring, summer, fall and winter -- that time of year when no one can go to the lake, the cabin, or the beach. Summer is a time for Michiganders to soak up the sun in preparation for winter hibernation. Labor Day weekend is usually the last weekend when we are able to go to the lake, the cabin or the beach house. In celebration of these last days of summer I am presenting you with a quintessential summer camping recipe, s'mores!
Fall is just around the corner! I've missed fall, the changing leaves, crisp air, cider and donuts and, of course, fresh picked apples. I remember as a child picking apples right off the trees at a local orchard. They were crisp with just the right combination of tart and sweet.
I contemplated waiting to post this recipe until after labor day, when fall officially starts, but those beautiful apples in the fridge kept calling to me; begging to be made into a crisp, strudel or pie. I begrudgingly, but happily, gave in and pulled them from the fridge. What can I make that is easy, tastes delicious, and strays slightly from the traditional? Almond-Vanilla Apple Tarts! Simple, elegant and oh-so-delicious!!