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”

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!

S’mores with Homemade Marshmallows!

I couldn’t think of a better way to begin this new chapter in my life, than heading out to Santa Monica to take a S’mores class from my favorite place on the planet: The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories!

OK, so the class was scheduled well before I knew it would officially be my first day off, but still.. here’s to SWEET beginnings!

While we made chocolate ganache and homemade graham crackers in class, the highlight for me was the marshmallows! I’d heard they are easy to make. Heck, I even have the French Laundry recipe for their famous Marshmallows. I’ve just never taken time to make them myself. Well, it’s true, they ARE super easy! You will need a heavy bottom sauce pan, a stand mixer and a candy thermometer, but it’s worth it! Here is the recipe:

Honey Marshmallows
recipe courtesy of The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories

3/4 cup cold water
3 TBLS gelatin (about 3 packets)

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey

2 egg whites
1 TBLS sugar
Pinch of salt

2/3 cup powdered sugar, split, for dusting.
1/2 cup powdered sugar for rolling marshmallows after they are set and cut.

(We used powdered sugar because we were making marshmallows for S’mores. Regular sugar would burn when we toasted the marshmallows but if you giving them as gifts, you can use regular sugar!)

Directions:
1) Line a half sheet or quarter sheet pan with parchment paper and dust with 1/3 cup powdered sugar.
2) Place 3/4 cup cold water in a medium bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and set aside.
3) Place the honey, 1/2 cup water and 2 cups sugar in a medium sauce pot and cop up to 240 degrees (soft ball stage for you candy makers out there)
4) While the sugar is cooking, start beating your egg whites, 1 TBLS sugar and pinch of salt in a stand mixer until you reach soft peaks.
5) Once your sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees, slowly drizzle it, with the whisk attachment running on medium speed, into your egg whites.
6) Keep beating the mixture for about 2 minutes. Add in your gelatin and beat another 10 minutes.
7) Pour into prepared pan, sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup powdered sugar and chill to set. You can also leave them at room temperature for about 24 hours.

These are my marshmallows freshly dusted and ready for the fridge!

8) Once the marshmallows are set, turn them over onto a cutting surface. Use a sharp knife and cut them into squares or use cookie cutters to create whatever shapes you’d like! If you use a cookie cutter, be sure to spray it with non-stick cooking spray so it will go through the marshmallow easier!
9) Gently roll cut marshmallows in a pan with 1/2 cup powdered sugar and you’re ready to eat!

There are about a million things you can do to marshmallows. You can add freeze-dried fruits, add vanilla bean (which we did!), stir in flavored extracts like peppermint, coconut or almond, swirl in anything from chocolate ganache (which we did!), peanut butter, caramel, nutella, lemon curd or whatever strikes your fancy! You can roll them in different things too – like shredded coconut or crushed candy canes. They are super versatile. Use your imagination and have fun!

Next up for me? Salted Caramel Cream Swirled Marshmallows! Probably as Christmas gifts. See, I told you life was sweet! 🙂

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. 🙂

Follow That Chef – Suzanne Landry

The last Saturday in August proved to be another gorgeous day in Santa Monica! We were excited to meet another Chef to follow around the Market! You know how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Santa Monica Farmers Market and when you add a great Chef to the mix, it’s a Win-Win!

Meet Suzanne Landry – Fresh Food Chef and Educator and her equally talented son, Chef Aaron Steinbach! I love this quote from Suzanne’s web page : “Good health is within your reach. The road to good health is a joyous journey of learning. Our bodies gently teach us each step of the way. We need only to listen and learn.”

We listened and learned quite a bit as we followed Chef Suzanne around the market, starting with strawberries!

Did you know the smaller berries are sweeter? They are better for you too! Those big berries we all know and love, are processed with chemicals, we don’t all know and love! I’ll take smaller berries and locally grown from now on, thank you!

Suzanne taught us about honey and how to make sure it’s pure, not cut with corn syrup! I learn something new every time we follow a chef!

We got back to The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories, where Suzanne showed us how to make Cheesy Kale Chips.

OH MY GOODNESS! These are so delicious! She described them as tasting like the crispy corners of your baked macaroni and cheese casserole. You know what? She was right! Here is how they looked before going into the oven:

One of the tricks to making these Cheesy Kale Chips, is to use BIG pieces of Kale. Suzanne told us they will shrink more than 60%, so bigger is better in this case. Seriously, you have to try these! I’d eat them instead of potato chips any day! Here is Suzanne’s recipe:

Cheesy Kale Chips

Yum…yum…yum…yum…that’s all I have to say other than I know you won’t be able to stop at one.

1 head curly leaf kale

1 cup raw cashews (soaked for 1 hour), drained

1 whole red pepper, seeded and diced

1 lemon, juiced

¼ cup nutritional yeast

½ tsp. sea salt

1 clove garlic minced

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Optional: extra virgin olive oil.

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Strip kale leaves from stem. Whatever stem remains on top is tender enough to eat. Reserve stems for juicing or soup stock. Wash, drain and spin dry kale. Place in large bowl.

2. In a blender, add red pepper, salt and lemon juice. Blend until liquid. Add cashews and remaining ingredients. Blend on high until you get a very smooth consistency. There should be no lumps of nuts in this sauce.

3. Gently, massage the kale with both hands to soften the leaves. Now add the cream and massage the kale with the sauce until all kale is coated.

4. Place on cookie sheet on single layer. Use 2-3 cookie sheets if necessary. Place in oven and bake for 2 hours. If you have a dehydrator then place on racks and dehydrate for 12 hours.

Note: It is nutritionally better to soak the nuts but not necessary for this recipe.

Out of the oven, they look like this:

Chef Suzanne and Chef Aaron made us a fantastic Tangerine and Beet Salad! Aren’t these beets pretty? They remind me of my Grandmother.

It was fun to hear both Suzanne and Aaron share their passion for good food, prepared simply! I have to agree. I completely fell in-love with the Tangerine and Beet Salad. There are just a few ingredients and I’ve already made it twice and shared with friends. It’s THAT good!

Suzanne also made us a Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad that takes perfect advantage of those gorgeous end-of-the-season Heirlooms. With the huge, homemade croutons, you’ve got a meal!

I could give you these recipes, but they’re all in Suzanne’s cookbook “The Passionate Vegetable.” You can find a copy on Amazon! It’s filled, not only with great recipes, but Suzanne’s “Bites of Insight” which teach you about food, nutrition, and ways to better your health!

She signed my copy! Squeeee!!!

The Cheesy Kale Chips, Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad and (my favorite) Tangerine and Beet Salad were all delicious! Check out Suzanne’s web page http://www.suzannelandry.com for more information about her and her fabulous cookbook!

Many thanks to Chef Suzanne and Chef Aaron for a delightful morning! There is no better way to spend a Saturday, than by living and learning about ourselves and the ways we all share in this wonderful planet! Food is the great uniter. I am looking forward to exploring more of Suzanne’s cookbook and hopefully connecting with her again in the future!

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