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When someone invites us to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, I like to bring something special. This year I’ve made tasty packages of  Candied Walnuts with Lavender and Figs. I’m excited to share my special treats.

The recipe is a variation on one from 101 Cookbooks. I love this recipe because it is easy, flavorful and nutritious. Yes, it does have a whole cup of brown sugar, however the nutrients provided by the walnuts more than make up for the sugar.

Walnuts

Walnuts : They're all they're cracked up to be and more!

Whenever I read a recipe calling for rosemary or mint, I  think about using lavender instead. Most times, it works beautifully and adds an exotic taste.  So when I read Heidi’s “Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts Recipe,” I wanted to try it with lavender. I also thought about substituting dried plums or apricots for dried figs, however I love figs so that is what I used.

 

For packaging, I dropped by Seattle’s PS-Store to pick up plastic containers, ribbon, labels and stickers. I love the square labels with the colored borders. In the past, when I’ve made gift packets, I’ve struggled with labels. Frequently, labels can be difficult to line up on my printer, and I get frustrated. These worked like a dream. I went to this link to get a template compatible with MS Word. I typed in the text and hit the print button. It all worked the first time. I used a 2” x 2” label. The container was 3” x 3” x 3”. I used a clear round sticker to seal the container, I tied a ribbon around it, tying a bow on top. PS-Stores sell an artificial lavender sprig that looks nice. The lavender sprig looks great on the package.

See the Lavender Sprigs: Perfect for Gifts!

Walnuts - All Sugared and Spiced

Sugared and Spiced: Walnuts are Ready for Someone NIce!

I cooked up one batch of this recipe yesterday afternoon in about 5 minutes. They baked in the oven for another 25 minutes, and I turned the oven off and just let the nuts dry out a bit more. When they were cool, I created my gifts. I created 5 gift packages.

 

Candied Walnuts with Lavender and Figs

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon ground culinary lavender buds*
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 large egg whites
1 lb cups shelled walnut halves
1/3 cup chopped dried figs, stems trimmed

Sugar and Spice - All Things Nice

*What variety works best? I like Royal Velvet; however any English Lavender will be fine.

*How to grind? Use spice grinder, mortar and pestle or a clean coffee bean grinder will work too!

Preheat oven with racks in the center to 300F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine brown sugar, salt, lavender and sesame seeds in a small bowl.

In a large bowl whisk the egg whites a bit, just to loosen them up. Add walnuts and figs to whites and toss until they are evenly coated – it’ll take a minute or so. Sprinkle the sugar-spice mixture over the nuts and toss (really well) again.

Split the nuts between the two prepared baking sheets in a single layer, separating the wa;nuts from one another.

Bake for ~25 minutes or until the walnuts turn golden brown  and the coating is no longer wet. Turn off your oven and let them dry for 10 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes, and then slide the parchment/nuts off the hot baking sheets onto a cool surface to cool completely. These will keep for a week or so in an airtight container.

Makes 1 pound of nuts

Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 25 min

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Dwarfed by a Giant

Since I wrote my book, “Discover Cooking with Lavender,” I’ve learned behind every book, there’s a story with twists and turns, challenges and breakthroughs and plenty of hard work. That’s exactly what fascinated me about “As Always, Julia – The Letters of Julia Child & Avis DeVoto.”

Everyone has heard of Julia Child, her masterpiece, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and her popular television program; but what I learned and loved about this book is how Julia stepped onto the culinary stage and became a legend in the culinary world.

“As Always, Julia – The Letters of Julia Child & Avis DeVoto” gives us a glimpse of their friendship through their own words. These letters reveal how over a ten-year period, Julia persistently worked at “cookery and bookery,” dealt with setbacks, received encouragement from her mentor Avis DeVoto

, and finally in May 1960 got word that her book proposal had been approved by Knopf.

 As I read the letters of Julia and Avis, I felt inspired by their friendship. Their correspondence tells of recipe-testing, technique trials and the search for clear and understandable descriptions. I could relate to the tough choices about which recipes to include, or how to explain rare ingredients, or how to specify details such as best pan size. How often do you read a book that changes your life? I’m adding these five life lessons into my recipe for success.

"As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

   1. Be generous. When you can help someone, don’t hold back.

In 1952, more than half a century before Facebook, Julia Child responded to a journalist, Bernard DeVoto, who ranted against the American kitchen knife. Julia, living in Paris then, sent him a carbon steel paring knife. That act of kindness was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between Julia Child and his wife, Avis DeVoto.

An excerpt from Julia’s March 8, 1952 letter to Bernard Devoto:

“Your able diatribe against the beautiful-beautiful-rust-proof-edge-proof American kitchen knife so went to my heart that I cannot refrain from sending you this nice little French model as a token of my appreciation.”

The journalist’s wife, Avis DeVoto, responded with a letter of thanks. Like many of today’s Facebook “friends,” Julia and Avis corresponded for nearly three years before they finally met one another in July 1954.

   2. Collaborate with people who share your passion.

Excerpt from Avis DeVoto’s letter of March 20, 1953:

“I made a beautiful omelet for my lunch with chives and parsley, but I still have to use a spatula to make it roll. We are going to have poached salmon with beurre blanc for dinner. Honest to God, Julia, you have brought a revolution into this household. I wholly expect the completed book to cause a real revolution.”

   3. Focus on quality, and keep your standards high.

Julia Child - She Never Gave Up!

Julia focused on doing her very best while she worked on her book. This excerpt is taken from her February 12, 1953 letter to Avis.  

“I am determined that this book is to be as perfect as we can possibly make it; and that every point in the basic explanations is to be absolutely mastered and masterfully explained. I think the Sauce chapter is on the whole, a damn good job, and sets us a pretty high standard for the rest . . . which must be even better.”

This excerpt is taken from her February 6, 1955 letter to Avis.

“There will be so many things to come out ahead of us, I refuse to worry, but I want very much to study everything that does appear, so we can try to better it … Which I think we can in many instances. But . . . we weren’t born into the trade, more’s the pity. Had we started in at 12, apprenticed to a good master, we would be far ahead of where we are now. But we also have the advantage of being housewives, which gives a different approach.”

4.   Never give up.

Julia Child worked on her book for ten years. In Paris, she began her formal culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu in 1949. She found friends who shared her interest and perspective on food. In 1952, Julia, along with two friends, taught cooking classes. The three women teamed up to create a cookbook. The book was published in October 1961 by Knopf. By August of 1962, 100,000 copies were sold and by 1974, sales rocketed to 1.4 million books.  Julia’s television series, “The French Chef,” was broadcast between 1963 and 1966. In 2009, the film “Julie and Julia” attracted more attention to Julia Child and her book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Book sales soared. Today this book is considered one of the most influential works in American cookbook history.

5.  Lighten up and be playful.

These women had fun and adopted a playful approach. When I read their letters, and noticed how they lightened up the moment with a chuckle here and there, I realized their light-hearted style added fun by spicing up everyday lives. I will give you several of my favorite examples.

From Julia’s letter to Avis on January 5, 1953:

“I can’t tell you my emotions of love and gratitude for all your interest and hard work on behalf of our book; you display the true marks of a Great Gourmande . . . which always includes the warmest and most generous of natures . . . and is why people who love to eat are always the best people.”

From Julia’s letter of November 2, 1955:

“Certainly don’t want any photos of us on our book, we’ll be too old by that time anyway, and besides I don’t think it helps the appetite and might hurt the sales.”

Avis DeVoto "Foster Mother, Wet Nurse, Guide and Mentor"

From Avis’s letter of February 8, 1953:

“Now that I know Paul {Julia’s husband} is a photographer, I have a definite request to make. (Don’t for the love of God send me any more French cookbooks. …) I want Paul to take a photograph of you at the kitchen stove. With or without decorated fish.”

From Avis’s letter of February 27, 1954:

“You know, it’s funny. By the time we develop real taste in food, and begin to learn how to prepare it, digestive disorders set in and weight piles up. When I think what I could have done in my youth, when I ate like a horse with no bad results at all, with the knowledge I am getting now, I could cry.”

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Pacific Wine and Kitchen

Pacific Wine and Kitchen

At the age of eleven, Lindalee woke one morning determined to make pancakes for breakfast.  Her light and fluffy flapjacks hinted at her life-long passion for food. Throughout her childhood, she’d watched her father in the kitchen while he cooked his special pot roast, made birthday cakes and prepared school lunches for her and her three siblings. Lindalee, who’d grown up in a somewhat turbulent household, could always count on the dinner hour to bring the family together. Eating and enjoying home-made meals at the dining room table meant love, caring and closeness. Many years later, these early connections with food became the inspiration for Lindalee McCandlis’s decision to create her cooking school, Pacific Culinary Studio, and her retail shop, Pacific Wine and Kitchen.

Located in Everett, Washington, the studio and shop celebrates local artisans, the art of cooking and the pleasure of eating home-made and home-grown food.  Owned by Lindalee and her husband, Dewey McCandlis, Pacific Culinary Studio is more than a demonstration kitchen and cooking school; it is part of Pacific Wine and Kitchen, a retail store offering wine and kitchen equipment. “In 2003, Dewey and I opened this business as an extension of our combined love of the food and wine culture,” said Lindalee. Sharing new ways to nurture family and friends, and inspiring people to gather together around the family table are at the core of their mission.

I met Lindalee when I attended a cooking class at her studio last year. She introduced Leesa Sulivan, the guest chef for the evening. As if hosting a large dinner party, Lindalee made her guests feel comfortable as she turned the kitchen “stage” over to Leesa, and supported her by assisting when necessary, then plating and serving food to about 20 people.  The classroom was set up with long tables set with water, napkins, silverware and recipe packets. The 12’ by 3’ granite kitchen counter provides a spacious work area. Two ovens, a gas range, large refrigerator plus every kitchen gadget you’d ever want made this a dream kitchen. The chef’s every move is reflected in a mirror hanging above the counter. When the studio kitchen is not used for classes, Lindalee frequently invites friends to make dinner together. The studio is also used for special events such as corporate team building, DVD production (culinary videos) , bridal showers or book clubs.

At an early age, Lindalee discovered her interest in food and cooking, but I wanted to know how she had acquired her expertise as a chef and cooking instructor.

Lindalee McCandlis

Lindalee Teaching in her Studio Kitchen

With curly blond hair and blue eyes, Lindalee’s classic looks reminded me of a younger Meryl Streep. “When I grew up, I subscribed to Gourmet (magazine). I cooked most of their recipes. I also used the Gourmet cookbooks,” said Lindalee. She learned cooking techniques, hosted dinner parties about twice a month and tried new recipes. Instead of going to culinary school, she got additional training as an apprentice at Nick’s Italian Café. She discovered she had already learned many techniques on her own. “How did I know how to make a Beurre Blanc (white butter sauce)?” she laughed, “By reading Gourmet magazine.”

Lindalee’s passion for cooking is evident when you see her shop, Pacific Wine and Kitchen. The shop is not only well-stocked with kitchen gadgets, beautiful pottery, pots, pans, knives, linens and gourmet food items, it is well organized too. Lindalee’s knowledge adds to the shopping experience. Lindalee has an intuitive understanding for a cook’s needs and can share experience about cooking and entertaining.

Recently, I taught a class at Pacific Culinary Studio. The dessert I had made for class was topped with whipped cream made with a Whipped Cream Charger. It was fun to swirl cream on each plate, I knew I’d have to have one at home. After class, I made a bee-line to the shop to get one for my kitchen.

If you love food, wine, cooking or know someone who does, I encourage you to visit Pacific Wine and Kitchen. This is one of the best shops in the Everett area for food and wine aficionados. You can also sign up for a cooking class in June. Lindalee is teaching “Fresh, No Stress Entertaining,” and Rachel Duboff presents “The Italian Grill – Hands On”. Check out the full schedule here.

I think you will agree that Lindalee and Dewey, are accomplishing their goal  – sharing exciting new ideas and inspiring us to discover the joy food can bring to our friends and family. See where pancakes can lead.

 

Lindalee at Pacific Culinary Studio

Learning to Cook with Lindalee

 

 

 

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Scene from Savour

Specialty Culinary Shop, Savour

Early in October, I stopped by Savour, a specialty food shop in Ballard, a Seattle neighborhood. My friend, Debra Daniels Zeller, had suggested I explore the idea of getting my book “Discover Cooking with Lavender” here. So I dropped by and met Holly the owner and showed her my book. I was thrilled when she decided to add my books to her amazing array of specialty food items and kitchen equipment. Holly also told me about her shop’s Saturday wine-tasting event.  When Holly invited me to do an event at her shop on Saturday, November 20th, I immediately agreed. What a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about lavender.

Life unfolds in intriguing ways. Later in the month, I was talking with my friend, Tamara. She asked about my book, and I mentioned I would be at Savour in November to talk about using lavender in home-made gifts. That’s when she told me about the cocoa she got at Savour. “The cocoa is made with white chocolate, lavender and it is the best,” Tamara said.

I knew then, I would be making another visit to Savour. When I saw Holly, I asked her about the cocoa. Did they still have it? She led me to a shelf with a basket where there were only two packages of the cocoa. “Ah, yes. This is delicious. It is made by Vosges,” Holly said.

Naga Bar

The Beginning of the End

I’d never heard of Vosges. Holly went on to tell me it was made by a company started by a French woman in Chicago. “You know she is the one who created the Naga Bar, Mo’s Bacon Bar and other exotic chocolate creations with goji berries, salt, curry, chilies and wasabi to name a few.”

Who could resist? I left the shop with the cocoa, a Naga bar and Mo’s Bacon Bar.

 This afternoon when I began to write about this chocolate, I read the back of the package around the Naga Bar on “How to enjoy an exotic candy bar” as if I needed lessons. However as I read the steps: breathe deeply, engage my senses, smell, snap, taste and sense, I suddenly found myself eating chocolate instead of writing. The Naga bar seduced me with its coconut flakes, sweet Indian curry and silky milk chocolate. Soon, in the line of duty, I opened Mo’s Bacon Bar. Breathing in the bacon aroma, I was not sure if I would like this. However, the combination of the Applewood smoked bacon, the smoky salt and the deep milk chocolate overthrew me. Soon I was singing Halleluiah! 

Couture Cocoa

What about the Couture Cocoa with the pure white chocolate shavings, Australian lemon myrtle, fragrant lavender and Madagascar vanilla bean? I’m looking for words to describe this drink. These don’t give it justice, however here we go – rich, sweet, creamy, velvety, sinful, fragrant….and more.

See what I mean about how one thing leads to another? How did I end up spending my afternoon sipping Couture Cocoa and inhaling the unique fragrance of bacon chocolate bars?

I’d love to hear from you about the times in your life when one thing led to something unexpected or surprising. Please leave a comment. I’ll be selecting one of you who comments by 11/3 end of day to receive a lavender surprise. Hmm, maybe a special chocolate bar? or ?

 

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Bite-sized Cupcakes

  
chocolate mini cupcakes
Cupcakes: Ready to Party
Chocolate Mini Cupcakes

1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon culinary lavender buds, finely ground
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F
  2. Line a mini cupcake pan with cupcake liners
  3. Sift dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add butter, buttermilk and vinegar and mix well using an electric mixer. Batter should be smooth and creamy, but quite thick.
  5. Using a tablespoon, scoop batter and fill each cupcake with a scant tablespoon.
  6. Baking time depends on what size cupcakes you are making. I made mini cupcakes and they were done after 15 minutes. Larger cupcakes will take as long as 25 minutes. Do not overbake or your cupcakes with be too dry. Test for doneness with a tooth pick. When you insert a tooth pick into the cupcake, it should come out clean if the cupcake is done.

White Chocolate & Lavender Cream Cheese Frosting

3 cups powdered sugar
3 ounces softened cream cheese
3 tablespoon half and half
2  teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon culinary lavender, ground
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces sweet white chocolate
2 tablespoons butter

1. In mixer, blend powdered sugar, cream cheese, half and half, vanilla and salt.

2. In double boiler melt white chocolate with butter over 1″ simmering water. Add to creamed mixture, beat until smooth.

 

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Grapefruit for Breakfast

Ruby Red is my  favorite variety of grapefruit. As a child, I learned to love this fruit, whether white, pink or red. I would sprinkle sugar over the top of the glistening flesh. With a spoon, I’d scoop the juicy fruit out of its pocket-like sections. Occasionally, the juice would squirt up stinging my eyes. The exotic fragrance would make my mouth water in anticipation. Part of the fun of eating a grapefruit was scraping out each pocket. After I had salvaged every morsel of fruit, I’d fold the rind in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Then I’d pick up my bowl and drink the juice. This ritual was a delicious and nutritious way to begin my day.

When I saw grapefruits at Metropolitan Market today, I could not resist them. I brought home 3 Ruby Reds grown organically in California. Grapefruits grow in clusters like gigantic grapes on evergreen trees. If you were wondering where the name came from, you now have the answer. The fruit looked like grapes so it was dubbed grapefruit.

In 1750, when the fruit was first described by Griffith Hughes, he called it “the Forbidden Fruit” of Barbados. What a mysterious name!

The grapefruit’s first botanical name was Citrus paradisi. In the 1940’s, the official name changed once again to Citrus x paradisi when genetic analyses showed that the grapefruit tree resulted from an unintentional cross between the sweet orange and the pummelo.

Ruby Red Grapefruit

How did grapefruit come to the United States? In 1823,”Count Odette Phillipe took grapefruit seeds to Safety Harbor near Tampa, Florida. When the seedlings fruited, their seeds were distributed around the neighborhood.”  Today the United States is the largest grapefruit producer in the world with commercial growers in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.

Grapefruit is in season October through June. Ruby Red, the variety I like best, has been around since 1929. It was discovered in Texas, a random mutation was spotted in a citrus grove. The grower, Mr. A. E. Henninger, patented it in 1934. Ruby Red is the first citrus ever to be patented.

Now I’m going to share one of my favorite fall and winter treats – Broiled Red Ruby Grapefruit with Lavender Sugar. Enjoy!

Broiled Grapefruit with Lavender Sugar

  

 

 

Broiled Red Ruby Grapefruit with Lavender Sugar

1 grapefruit (cut in half crosswise)
1 teaspoon lavender sugar

1. Trim the bottom of each half so it sits straight up.
2. Place grapefruit halves in ovenproof ramekins.
3. Sprinkle lavender sugar on each half.
4. Place in oven under hot broiler for 2-3 minutes.

Makes 2 servings

 

 

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Alison’s Artistry

Lavender Browning with Lavender White Chocolate Frosting

Lavender Brownies with Lavender White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

 

What I love best about going out to promote my book “Discover Cooking with Lavender” is meeting people and hearing about how they use lavender. This past weekend, Bella Home and Garden invited me to their shop to share my secrets about cooking with lavender. Once again, I met some awe-inspiring people.  

When I met Alison, her energy and enthusiasm was obvious. Alison teaches in physical education in an elementary school. On a part-time basis, Alison does bookkeeping and payroll. And if that is not enough to keep her out of trouble, she moonlights creating unique and delicious cookies and brownies. Oh, and she also has two teenage children. I couldn’t help wondering where Alison gets her energy!  

Her cookie business is called Alison’s Sweet Themes. Alison and her husband participated in a teacher exchange program in the mid 1990’s in Australia. “Australia has wonderful pastry shops,” she said. “The Australians call their cookies biscuits and bullets.” She went on to tell me about one of her favorites – a small bullet shaped licorice pieces covered in dark chocolate. It was her time in Australia that inspired Alison to begin making specialty cookies and pasties.  

Lavender Vanilla Sugar Cookies  

For Bella Home and Garden’s Open House, Alison created two lavender-flavored treats: Lavender Brownies with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and Lavender Vanilla Sugar Cookies with Lavender Cream Cheese Frosting. Alison used organic culinary lavender from Purple Haze Lavender Farm to add flavor to her cookies.  These treats were some of the best lavender pastries I’ve ever tasted, not to mention how perfect they looked.  

Each cookie was packaged in a clear cellophane envelope. The Lavender Brownies were packaged in  a small plastic container. I loved the small size of the brownie.  

Alison’s dream is to one day open a shop where she can make and sell customized cookies and brownie for weddings, birthdays or other special occasions.  

By the way, if you are wondering how you can get a taste of these sumptuous treats, I suggest you go to Tacoma and visit the Hawthorn Tea Room. Alison supplies the tea room with cookies.  

If you want to make your own lavender sugar cookies, you can buy organic culinary lavender from Purple Haze Lavender Farm at Bella Home and Garden at Kent Station, just south of Seattle.  

If you are not in this area, you can buy organic culinary lavender online directly from several lavender growers such as Purple Haze Lavender Farm, Olympic Lavender Farm or Central Coast Lavender Farm or many others, too.  

Meeting Alison was indeed a pleasure. But wait there’s more. I want to tell you about the died hydrangea and lavender wreath I selected at Bella Home and Garden, and the woman who makes perfect lavender lemon cookies with cake mixes, and the lavender peach upside down cake. Alas, these must wait for another day.

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