Follow That Chef – Cat Braithwaite

I’m so excited to share a fellow home-chef with you today! Meet Cat Braithwaite! Doesn’t she have the greatest smile?
Cat Braithwaite

Cat was our hostess for “Follow That Chef” at The Santa Monica Farmers Market with The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I LOVE doing these events! This is a great concept from Gourmandise! They offer the opportunity to follow Chefs, Cookbook Authors, and other Fun Foodie People around the Farmers Market and then return to the school for a demo and tasting!

Here we are wandering the Market on Wednesday:
At the Market
Market Veggies
Choosing seafood!

Cat’s menu for us consisted of a variety of different things, including mussels, salmon, avocados and a lot of fresh vegetables! She had fun showing us different ways to use spring roll wrappers, plus she deep-fried mushrooms for us. How can you not love that?
Food prep
Veggie Rolls
Demo Time!
Mussels
samples
Cat Cooking
Sliders w/fried mushrooms

Cat has a cookbook called “Farmers Market Frugal” that shows you how to eat fresh food on a budget. She gives you four weeks of recipes and some great tips and tricks on eating healthy.
Cat's Cookbook

We thoroughly enjoyed our morning with Cat. She works right there at The Market at Santa Monica Place, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing her often! Thanks Cat!! You did a great job!

To see all the pictures of our time with Cat, check out my Facebook Page Album titled “FTC-Cat Braithwaite”

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The Top 12 of 2012!

The year is drawing to a close. As we say goodbye to 2012, I want to share with you the Top 12 posts of the year (according to Word Press!) It’s been fabulously delicious journey and I am looking forward to seeing what new things we can eat and experience together in 2013!

Number 12: Follow That Chef – Kirsten Gum!
Chef Kirsten Gum
Kirsten is a crack up! She is one of the most down to earth and vibrant people I met this year. I was blessed not only to follow her around the Santa Monica Farmers Market, but also take several other classes with her at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories. Coming in at Number 12 and the ONLY Follow That Chef to make it into the top 12!

Number 11: Ghirardelli Brownies!
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I have never been shy about being a self-proclaimed “Ghirardelli Girl” (that really should be trademarked!) I made these brownies after the Ghirardelli outlet opened just a few miles from my house. The girl working there suggested this recipe to another customer and I was HOOKED! The variations of these brownies are only limited to your favorite flavor of Ghirardelli chocolate squares!

Number 10: Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Cheesecake Filling!
Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Cheesecake Filling!
These were a Valentines Day treat I made for my store team. As I recall, I had to make two batches because they disappeared so quickly! They are a sweet combination of three of my favorite things!

Number 9: PBK Brownie Bars!
PBK Brownie Bars
Brownies layered with peanuts and chopped peanut butter cups,then covered with chocolate rice crispy treats. I made them originally as bowling snacks and they took off from there! My very first guest post on another blog, I shared these brownies! I took them to the Share Our Strength LA Food Bloggers Bake Sale this year and have made them several times since. If you haven’t tried them yet, you’re missing out!

Number 8: Sweet Heaven Bars
Sweet Heaven Bars
Another bowling snack favorite! Chocolate chips, Toffee Chips and a gooey Caramel Center! It’s a triple threat of awesome-ness!

Number 7: Chocolate dipped Potato Chip Cookies!
Chocolate and Potato Chip Cookies
Thanks to Smitten Kitchen and Chef Emeril Lagasse, these cookies have quickly become a family favorite! A brilliant way to use the crumbs at the bottom of a potato chip bag. They go from brilliant to legendary when you dip them in chocolate. YUM!

Number 6: Bacon wrapped Jalapeño Poppers!
Bacon wrapped Jalapeño Poppers
We’ve made these for Christmas Parties, New Years Eve Parties, Superbowl Parties, Fourth of July celebrations! They are perfect for any celebration really! For a simple vegetarian version, just omit the bacon.

Number 5: Chocolate Caramel Surprise Crackle Cookies!
Chocolate Crackle Cookies with a caramel center
The most recent of my posts to make it into the top 12, these Chocolate Caramel Surprise Crackle Cookies are deceptively simple to make and very hard to resist! The caramel center is a sweet surprise hidden in these indulgent cookies!

Number 4: Chocolate Chip Cookie and Oreo Brownie Bars
Chocolate Chip and Oreo Brownie Bars
Another layered bar from our bowling days! My youngest son made these recently for a “Bake Off” at work. That’s right, my boy bakes! He won first prize with them too. 🙂 They are very decadent!

Number 3: Zucchini and Potato Pancakes!
Zucchini and Potato Pancakes
I am so happy these savory pancakes made it into the top 5! This was one of the first recipes I made from my Sunday’s With Joy cooking group. Cooking and baking our way through Joy The Bakers cookbook has been awesome. I’ve learned so much from Joy and from our group! There are so many talented people out there! Plus, I love Zucchini and this post has some of my favorite photos too. Food as art! Who knew?!?!

Number 2: Santa Hat Brownie Bites!
Santa Hat Brownie Bites
Adorable little brownie bites with frosting and a strawberry “hat” on top! These are perfect treats for Christmas parties! P.S. They are kind of like potato chips… no one can eat just one!

We’ve made it all the way to #1! DRUM ROLL PLEASE! Taking the top spot by a landslide…

NUMBER 1: Melted Snowman Cookies!!
Melted Snowman Cookies
I LOVE the expressions on these cookies! They are my greatest accomplishment in cookie making thus far. They are also probably part of the reason most of you are here, so THANK YOU for that!!

Hmmm… in looking over this list, I wonder if I should be concerned that nine of the top twelve are desserts, eight have chocolate in them, five are made with brownies and only two are savory? Nahhhh! It’s just been a SWEET year!

Thank you so much for joining me on my culinary adventures! I hope the coming year brings bright blessings for all of us and perhaps a few more savory items. 😉

Follow That Chef – MY Demo!

One of the best feelings in the world, is doing something you love and being able to share it with others. I love to cook and I love teaching. Yesterday, I was able to put the two together! I was the “Chef” for the Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories “Follow That Chef” series.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you know this series is one of my favorites. You get to meet local chefs, cookbook authors, and other fabulous foodie folks, follow them around the Santa Monica Farmers Market, then go back to the school for a cooking demo. I’ve made some incredible friends and learned quite a bit by going to these. To be on the other side of the counter and be the person cooking was nothing short of amazing! I had a great time!!

I was so excited, we were on the road just after 5 AM to make sure we were there on time! (To be fair, I live about 45 miles away and Los Angeles traffic is not always pretty!)

We had more than enough time to set up and prepare the room. Here is a shot of the school kitchen before we went to meet everyone at the Market! Gourmandise
Here is the Gourmandise famous red wagon! It was following ME! Squeeeeee!
The Gourmandise Wagon!
One of the things I like best about the farmers market is the opportunity to take pictures. There is always beautiful produce and as we walked around the different stalls, we chatted with the farmers, asked questions and took pictures. Here is one of the ladies in our group taking a picture of goose eggs!
Taking pictures!
Goose Eggs!
Cool, huh? 🙂 We are blessed to live in Southern California where this market is available all year-long. Nothing tastes better than fresh from the farm ingredients!

Carrots!

After the tour, it was time to cook! I don’t know how restaurant Chefs feel about doing demos, but I was very excited! Ok, maybe a bit nervous too. I was afraid I’d forget an ingredient, there would be long awkward moments of uncomfortable silence or worse, I’d cut my finger in front of everyone. You’ll be glad to know, I still have all my fingers and I never should have worried about silence because this girl can TALK! The shallots missing from the salad dressing, well…we won’t discuss that. 🙂

A blogger behind the counter!

I made Roasted Butternut Squash Soup!
Chopped squash
Roasted Squash
Blending the Soup

Then, we assembled the salad! A tip from one of the participants was to drop a bit of dressing on your hand so you don’t have to keep washing tasting spoons. Taste as you go! Always important!
Taste as you go!

What? No… I didn’t just accidentally drop the lid of the blender in the dressing. Who does that?
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Spinach salad with red onions, walnuts, feta, tangerines and a fabulous cranberry dressing made from leftover cranberry sauce!
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Oh, YUMMY!

Finally, we made sage brown butter sauce to drizzle over crostini’s topped with homemade Ricotta.
Sage leaves in butter

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Here is a small part of the group tasting fresh ricotta – and posing for a picture!
Group photo

As I said earlier, nothing feels better than sharing what you love! I shared my passion for cooking with some awesome people, in one of my favorite places. I am a lucky girl!! Many thanks and much love to the fabulous Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories for giving me such an awesome opportunity!

Follow That Blogger!

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I LOVE going to Santa Monica on Wednesday mornings when The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories does their “Follow That Chef” series!

You get to follow a Chef/Cookbook Author/Totally Cool person around the Santa Monica Farmers Market, then go back to the school for a free demo using the items the Chef picked up at Market. It’s probably one of my favorite things to do and I have met some incredible people through this series. It’s ok. You know who you are. Don’t be shy!

Our first Chef, back in December of 2011, was Chef Jeremy of Sonoma Wine Garden.

He taught us to make our own Ricotta cheese. He probably taught us other things too, but I remember the cheese! I was so excited to go home and make my own! I haven’t bought ricotta since that day. It’s so simple and easy to do. Once you learn, you’ll never go back. That’s the BEST thing about Follow That Chef. Not only do you meet interesting people, you learn so many things. I’ve learned great recipes, awesome tips and tricks for cooking at home, I’ve learned about vegetables and fruits I never knew existed! It’s amazing!

If someone said to me last year, as we were following Chef Jeremy, that exactly a year later, the “Chef” leading the tour the first week of December would be me, I’d have laughed. Probably laughed so hard, I’d be in tears over what a ridiculous idea it would be to follow me, a simple food blogger, around the market.

Guess what? I’m not laughing now. I’m actually doing it! I don’t know what we’re making yet, but it will be awesome! It’s going to be my first live demo – you know, beyond pretending in my own kitchen with my friends and family – so I’m a little nervous, but most of all, I am beyond excited for this opportunity to share what I love!

Someone on my Facebook page asked who was going to take pictures and do the review, if I was the Chef? Well don’t worry! I have a friend who is a photographer who is coming along and I will be posting my review, so you can see what it’s like on the other side of the stove! Won’t that be exciting?

If you live in or near Santa Monica or Los Angeles, I’d love to see you December 5th! Here is the link with all the info: Follow That Blogger!

See you there! There might even be cookies. 🙂

My year (and then some) in review!

A month or so ago, while a bear was stealing our delicious double-smoked bacon, my blog passed it’s one year blog-iversary! I’m very late in doing a recap. Please forgive me!

I guess if there is one thing you should know about me, I’m “chronologically challenged.” To any potential or current employers, of course, I’m only kidding. To the rest of you, I will be late for my own funeral. I think it’s genetic.

Moving on!

This year has been an amazing, wonderful, roller-coaster adventure ride! As I look through the pictures on my computer and the ones etched on my heart, I’m humbled at how richly I’ve been blessed. I have met many incredible people, taken a crazy number of cooking classes, and been fortunate enough to meet some amazing Chefs!

One of the biggest blessings from the last year is a great friendship with someone who goes along on foodie adventures, encourages every foodie whim, finds awesome opportunities and when we’re out, she never eats until I’ve taken pictures of her food. 🙂 Thanks Marie!
This is her, hiding behind a basket she won at the O.C. Chocolate Festival VIP party!
She is totally made of awesome sauce!

With over 30 cooking classes in the past 13 months, I have learned to make things like classic French Macarons (I never knew cookies could have “feet!”), risotto, rolled meatloaf, cake pops, doughnuts, pickles, frittatas, strawberry jam, potato wrapped fish, crepes, foccacia bread, Provençal chicken, grilled pizza dough, hand-made pasta and how to use chocolate in a variety of things! Like I need an excuse for that last one, right? HA! There were a couple of classes that were terrible, but in the end, they ALL taught me something. Even if that something was what NOT to do when I have my own cooking classes. 😉

Some of the best things I learned to make on my own this year, either through the internet, cookbook or a recipe from a Chef, have been vanilla extract, gallettes – both sweet and savory, bangers and mash, homemade chicken pot pie, pumpkin pie from real pumpkins, melted snowman cookies, root beer float cookies for ice cream sandwiches, chocolate dipped potato chip cookies, hot wings, cheesecake stuffed strawberries, spicy baked rigatoni, egg rolls, fish tacos, lemon curd, avocado fries, potato pancakes, seared scallops, jicima slaw, Julia’s beef bourgeon, quinoa salad and a copy cat version of Northwoods Inn Cabbage Salad. Yep, it’s been a delicious year!

I’ve followed a dozen Chefs around the Santa Monica Farmers Market through The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories – Follow That Chef series! They each imparted wisdom, great experiences and taught me how to make my own Ricotta cheese (Thank you Chef Jeremy!) how to make raw spring rolls (Thanks Kirsten Gum!) all about Lardoons (Thank you Linda Civitello!) how to make my own chorizo (Thank you Chef Paul Osher!) about fantastic Thai vegetarian dishes (Thank you Michael Natkin!) how to poach salmon in oil and make a plate look stunning (Thank you MasterChef Tracy Kontos!) different ways to enjoy heirloom tomatoes (Thank you Gwen Kenneally) not to be afraid of Kale Chips and beet salad (Thank you Suzanne Landry!) and so much more!!!

I’ve gotten autographed cookbooks from: Gwen Kenneally, Michael Natkin, Joy Wilson, Suzanne Landry, Warren Catterson, Laura Werlin, Tyler Florence, Mario Batali, and Guy Fieri! Even more exciting, I’ve met each of them, with the exception of Mario Batali, Tyler Florence and Warren Catterson. Warren and I are in the same food bloggers group on FB and we’ve chatted before, but, Mario and Tyler, if you want to meet for coffee somewhere, I’m Ok with that too! 😀

I’ve had fantastic “food experiences” this year! The IE food truck festival, the O.C. Chocolate Festival, LA Food and Wine (the first year), Brew ‘B’ Que on the Pier, The Share Our Strength Bake Sale, Taste of the Nation – Los Angeles, an audition for a TV show, LA Food and Wine (the sequel), just to name a few.

Most importantly this year, I’ve learned to be fearless in my own kitchen! I’ve developed a passion for trying different foods, cooking with fresh, natural ingredients and experiencing LIFE in each delicious moment.

These are opportunities and things I NEVER would have imagined if I hadn’t started this blogging journey last year. Next year, I’ll be taking you along to more places, more classes and more events! I’m so excited about what the next few months have in store! I’m especially looking forward to many, many new foodie adventures and I hope you’ll be joining me for each of them!

P.S. Did I mention I met Guy Fieri…. TWICE! SQUEEEEE!!

Follow That Chef – Gwen Kenneally

Meet Chef, Cookbook Author and Food Writer Gwen Kenneally!

Gwen was the featured Chef for The Gourmandise School’s “Follow That Chef” this week! We met in our usual spot at The Santa Monica Farmers Market. Our group was very small and we had a wonderful time chatting as we strolled around. Gwen is so personable! We felt comfortable with her right away!

Gwen found some fantastic heirloom tomatoes for her peach salsa! They were just as delicious as they are pretty. 🙂

Gwen cut up some fresh peaches, heirloom tomatoes, ginger, torpedo onions, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and combined them to make a fresh summer salsa!

Also on the menu were asian inspired turkey burgers! Gwen filled them with ground turkey, dried cherries and ginger!

Gwen said she would normally grill these beautiful burgers (and I imagine they would be fabulous that way too!) but she fried them on the stove top instead. She suggested a slather of mustard to enhance the flavor of the burger.

Along with the salsa and turkey burgers, Gwen steamed baby purple artichokes. After they were steamed, she sautéed them in butter, onion and garlic!

These were fantastic!

We also munched on three different types of fresh goat cheese paired with french bread baguettes!

The entire time Gwen was cooking, she was chatting about her life, laughing with us and sharing great tips! She’s got a fun new cookbook called “Sweet and Savory!” I think it’s a perfect title! I can’t wait to try her Lemon Rosemary Risotto!

When everything was ready, it was time to eat!

Homemade Tortilla Chips with fresh Summer Salsa

Bread and cheese

Steamed and sautéed Purple Artichokes

Asian Turkey Burgers

It was a FEAST!

I have to tell you though, the best part, was meeting Chef Gwen! She is so down-to-earth and friendly. Food is obviously something she loves to share with others and it shows! Thank you Gwen for a fun morning and a great food demo! Thank you too, for being so patient and understanding while I took pictures. And more pictures. And more pictures. And maybe just one more picture. 🙂 You can find Gwen writing for “The Daily Find“, on her blog “Back to the Kitchen” or at her Catering Business, also named “Back to the Kitchen

A big thank you also to The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories for hosting these wonderful events!

Till next time, foodie friends! xoxox ~ Sara

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