Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas is the smell of Gingerbread baking

There is truly nothing like the smell of gingerbread dough baking in the oven on a cold December day. I love making these traditional Christmas cookies.
The recipe I have used for years is from my favorite baker Rose Levy Beranbaum.

naked gingerbread


3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
3/4 cup dark or light brown sugar*
12 Tbsps butter, softened
1/2 cup grandma's molasses
1 lg egg

Add dry ingredients together and toss. Place butter in mixer and beat add brown sugar and cream. Then add molasses and egg. Next add dry ingredients and mix until well beaten.

Refrigerate dough until very chilled at least an hour. Then roll out on floured surface about 1/8 inch thick and cut out with your favorite gingerbread shape. 

Bake at 350 degrees F. When cool decorate with royal icing and your favorite decors.

For Royal icing I use the recipe on the can of Wilton meringue powder. It is the best!

*I have used both dark and light. If I have dark I use it, it produces a richer flavor and darker color. If I am out light works just fine.

Wishing you all the Merriest Christmas. Hugs to you and yours! See you in the New Year for more good eating. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Tart

Good Food photography and styling plays a big factor in which recipes we choose to prepare. 
When I see a great food photograph with perfect lighting I am inspired. I usually want to make it. 

So when perusing through a new Donna Hay book with beautiful photos by renowned food photographer Con Poulos I fell in love on page 167 when I saw a vegetable tart in all it's free form glory. I went out later that day and grabbed what I needed that was lacking in my pantry and make it I did. 

I was having a friend over that night for tea so I thought the tart would be something different than the usual sweet that accompanies a cuppa.
We all know that making a dish for the first time when company is coming is never a good idea. But sometimes you just have to break the rules!

 As I was making the crust I knew I was in trouble. It was a crumbled mess. It was too late to do anything so I went with it and added a bit more moisture and got it to come together. The crust was filled with roasted vegetables, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and garlic. 

The tart overall did not live up to the beautiful photo. I knew the crust would be dry and it was. The vegetables needed some zip. So I made a balsamic vinegar reduction and drizzled it over and that helped so much.

The only crust I make is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible. Her crusts are buttery and foolproof to me. So when I redid the recipe I made sure I used her crust. 


8 Tbsps unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 -3 1/2 Tbsps ice water
1 1/2 tsps cider vinegar

Take 5 Tbsps of the cubed butter and refrigerate. Take the other 3 Tbsps cubed butter and place in custard cup in freezer.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder in metal bowl or ziploc bag and freeze.

Chill ice water and vinegar in refrigerator. 

After chilling ingredients for 30 minutes place flour mixture in food processor and pulse. Then add the chilled butter starting with the refrigerated butter and ending with the frozen cubes. Pulse until resembling coarse meal.

Then add the lowest amount of water and the cold vinegar and pulse. Check the mixture it should hold together when pinched. If not, add a little more water and pulse again.

When completed place in large ziploc bag and gently knead to get the dough together. I do this because the heat from our hands makes the butter melt.
Work fairly quickly  until dough is in a disk and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

1 head garlic, unpeeled, cloves separated
2 yellow onions, peeled and quartered or chunked
2 red peppers, chunked
2 small eggplants, I used baby, chunked
4 roma tomatoes, or large cherry tomatoes
3 small zucchini, chunked
2 Tbsps olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
3 ozs goat cheese
fresh oregano leaves
white balsamic vinegar, reduce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the crust and chill.

On large cookie sheet with sides roast the vegetables by drizzling with olive oil. This should take about 45-60 minutes. Turn a few times during cooking to assure even roasting. Should be nice and caramelized but be careful not to burn.
Remove from oven and salt and pepper them.

When Crust is ready roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness on a parchment lined tray. Take garlic cloves and pinch out cloves onto dough and spread. 
Fill with remaining vegetables and gently fold sides up to form a free form tart. 
Be sure the vegetables are not hot or it will melt the butter in the dough.

Place tart in refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set the crust.

When ready to bake. Sprinkle tart veges with goat cheese and oregano leaves. Possibly a little more olive oil if needed and adjust for seasonings.

While baking take some white balsamic vinegar and reduce on top of the stove. This can be tricky because it does burn quickly. You just want to get rid of the water and concentrate the flavor by making it a thick syrupy consistency. If it gets hard you can gently warm it up to drizzle. 

When tart is finished baking and golden brown usually about 45 minutes drizzle with balsamic reduction. 

The End

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

It is that time of year again to make cranberries. Like turkey, I really only make cranberry sauce once a year. As a kid we all grew up with the gel cranberry in the can that so beautifully and predictably took on the shape, with ridges and all, from the enamel can interior. My brothers used to love to make it jiggle.

Well now that I am all grown up and have learned to appreciate good cooking, of course I no longer eat the gelled variety.  While preparing  Thanksgiving dinners over the years the cranberry has  played a more major role in the meal. 

I have tried different combinations of ingredients to enhance the cranberries. 
Most of the recipes I have made involve orange peel, sugar or sweetener, and some vinegar for a kick.

Whole cranberries are so beautiful to me. I have not been to a bog to see them in their element but it is definitely on my bucket list. My mother says there are bogs in Wisconsin. This surprised me. I only thought of Massachusetts when thinking cranberries. 
However, according to the website they are grown in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Canada. 

They are grown on a trailing vine such as strawberries. The vines thrive on special combinations of soils and water properties found in wetlands.  
In Massachusetts they are grown in bogs. Nature made bogs from deposits left by glaciers more than 10,000 years ago.
In the 1800's a name named Henry Hall of Dennis Massachusetts , noticed that sand blown in from nearby dunes helped the vines grow faster. Today growers still use his idea and spread an inch or two of sand on their bogs every three years. The sand in addition to speeding growth also prevents growth of weeds and insects.

A good cranberry sauce will compliment any Thanksgiving table. The tang of the berry is a great compliment for turkey whose flavor is not so robust. This year I am making the recipe with fresh thyme, dijon mustard, brown sugar and of course fresh orange peel. 
I always make the cranberry sauce the day before. The flavors develop overnight and right before serving I do warm it over so slightly to serve warm.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my followers and their families. May you make good food together and share it with those you love.


12 oz bag cranberries, remove any bad ones
1 tsp dijon mustard
peel from one orange
1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
fresh thyme sprigs

Place all ingredients together in saucepan and bring to boil. Cranberries will start to pop. Turn heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


props by Cindy Neberz
This shot was taken when the tomatoes were at their peek and abundant at the market. To me one of my all time favorite sandwiches is the BLT. Four ingredients is all it takes to make perfection in the sandwich arena.

Good bakery fresh bread. Toasted or not. High quality apple wood smoked bacon, fresh tomatoes from the farm, crisp lettuce, green leaf or romaine!
I always make sure the tomatoes are salted and peppered.
Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise if you so desire and enjoy.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pomme Frites

prop styling by Cindy Neberz

Ahhh french fries (pomme frites)! We all have an opinion I feel when it comes to what makes the perfect one. If you have ever successfully made them at home you will agree that homemade is the best. The oil is fresh, the potatoes are fresh and the taste is unbeatable.

Now I have to say that the day we shot this it was 90 degrees. Not the perfect day to run the deep fryer. However my friend and prop stylist Cindy and I had a plan to shoot and pomme frites was something on the list. 

The first time I went to France I had to try their fries or frites. They serve them a lot with mussels of which I am not a fan. But the frite is something I have a very strong love for. I like them crisp, to taste like a potato, not greasy, and salted just right. I love them with herbs, seasonings, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, oh and even that gooey bad for you yellow cheese. 

Back home in Chicago after our trip to France the next best frites I had were at Cyranos on Wells. Chef Didier actually taught me how to make them and gave me his secrets many years ago. 
 This past year my Aunt gave me her old deep fryer and the first thing I thought of was making the frites. I have tried it on the stove in a pan of grease and it does not work very well. The temp was too irregular. 

The grease you use and the temperature are key factors. I prefer to use peanut oil but vegetable or canola work very well also. The peanut oil can withstand a higher temperature without breaking down. That is why it is used a lot for wok cooking.

The potato of choice is russet or Idaho. You peel the potatoes and I cut them into very thin matchsticks. Always make sure they are uniform or close as you can so they cook similarly.
Next, as you cut the potatoes place them in a large bowl of water. They will oxidize and turn brown if you leave them out. After all your potatoes are cut you rinse them in the cold water which will remove excess starch. 
You drain them very well on paper towels. Then lay them on a cooling rack to dry out.

Get your grease ready according to your fryers directions. Start with a lower heat about 250 degrees F. 
When the grease is the right temperature you throw a layer of fries in the oil. Be careful not to splatter and of course do not have the kids near the fryer.
The key to the best frites is to double fry. So this first fry is a sort of blanching in oil. You are not looking for a golden color they will still be white. About 3 minutes. Be sure to have paper towel underneath. Keep doing this until all the frites are cooked once. Now freeze in a single layer on a tray. Freeze for at least 2 hrs. 

When ready to eat. Get the grease back up to temperature, 350-375 degrees F this time,  and  fry them until golden in color. Immediately take from oil and drain. Season with salt, herbs or whatever your pleasure is. 

Here we used fresh thyme to season!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Chicago Has A New Cookbook

It has been a little while since the blog was updated. But life has been a little hectic.  Well lets see, what have I been up to? I had a very cool job working on a Crate and Barrel Thanksgiving cover shoot with my friend and lead stylist Amy, my son left for camp for two weeks, my oldest dog had knee surgery, I got cast in a cartoon, my husband and I are teaching  teenage daughter to drive a stick, and other miscellaneous life stuff. So the blog has had to take a back seat.

I am out shopping daily and the other day while shopping at our local grocery Sunset foods  I ran into my friend Karen Levin who is an amazing recipe developer. We have known each other for eons and even though we live very close and are in the same business we do not see each other often enough. So we were both shopping for jobs and stopped for a quick chat after our carts nearly collided near the organic egg section. She proceeded to tell me that her daughter Amelia, had just written her first cookbook. I was so excited to hear this. As any proud mom would, Karen filled me in on the details.
She also agreed to give me a copy of the book later that day to look at and I was very thrilled to get a peek. 

The book is simply a must have especially for those who have ever visited or lived in Chicago. It makes you realize what a great food city Chicago has become.  I love the way it is written, Amelia did a fabulous job sharing stories about growing up in and around food and the famous chefs she has met along the way. The book has segments on the food truck scene, local farmers markets, culinary schools and cocktail culture. This book focuses on the Chicago restaurant scene and features recipes from the best of the best. Organized by food categories then by restaurant where the recipe is from.  The book is easy to follow and visually pleasing to the eye with great shots of Chicago as well as food shots all done by Chicago photographer Beth Rooney. 

While leafing through the book I noticed one recipe that stuck out from Mana Food Bar in Wicker Park. It was Sesame Noodles with Peanut Dressing. With the weather in the 100's for many days in a row this sounded like the perfect dish to make. A crisp glass of chardonnay and I could not be happier. Plus my eating style tends to focus less on meat anyway so perfect. After reading about this restaurant I kept thinking "why have I not eaten here yet"? Chef-owner Jill Barron is a Chicago native who spent time in California with Chef Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill. Mana Food Bar is a vegetarian restaurant that offers a global menu with a focus on different ethnic cuisines. No "fake" meat here just great tasting food with elevated flavors. 

While making this dish there are a few things to note. As with some recipes from chefs, the ingredients may be worded differently so I will help you out here. The noodles called for  are Chinese Yellow Noodles. I could not find anything specifically labeled such. I used an udon noodle that you see pictured below. This was found at Whole Foods and came in a fine version as well. It worked just great.

The other thing that I noted is the recipe calls for sesame seed paste. Of course she means tahini but the first time I made it this did not dawn on me so I took sesame seeds and ground some into a paste. It worked very well but did not get the smooth texture like tahini. As with all recipes, if you can't find the exact ingredient  look for the next closest thing. For instance, the recipe called for daikon sprouts. Now many stores sell daikon radishes but not the sprouts. So I used some micro greens and they worked nicely. Giving the salad that little light crunch. This recipe was a winner all around. My husband loved it as well. It was a little too spicy for my daughter but if I cut the heat back she would love it too.

Sesame Noodles with Peanut Dressing


Serves 4

For the Peanut Dressing:
2 Tbsps sesame seed paste (tahini)
1 tsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp chopped ginger
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 Tbsp Sriracha
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
salt, to taste

For the sesame noodles and garnish:
1 8 oz bag Chinese Yellow Noodles (I used round Udon), cooked and chilled
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
12 pea pods, shredded
1 cup daikon sprouts, (I used micro greens)
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts

In a food processor or blender, place the tahini, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and Sriracha, and pulse until coarsely blended. Slowly pour in the sesame oil and continue to pulse until smooth and creamy.

For the noodles I cooked al dente like pasta then ran them under cold water in a colander  laying them flat on a baking tray so they did not clump up and they could cool evenly. 

In a large bowl, place the noodles, carrot and pea pods. Pour the dressing and toss until well combined. Garnish with sprouts and peanuts. 

In the day of  google we do get a ton of our cooking information on line and I have to say when I am looking for a recipe I go to the internet too but there is really nothing like having a cookbook to touch. I still love my cookbooks most.  Recently I culled my collection,  got rid of ones I no longer use and purchased a few I had been wanting.  I am happy to add Amelia's book Chicago Chef's Table to my collection. I am proud of her for doing the work that it took to get where she is. She trained and studied and it shows in this book. So many people are writing cookbooks who are celebrities but they do not have the food training or knowledge. So hats off to those like Amelia who can not only talk the talk but walk the walk!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

One Year Old

Well, I had a plan to post on May 11th which is my blogs one year anniversary. But like all well layed plans it did not happen. I got called to help another food stylist on a job and could not turn down the real pay. So my blog post had to wait.

So here we are and it is May 17th and I am happy to be writing that the blog is one year old. Like all birthdays we look back and lament about the past year and all that has happened. For me the blog has been a place to play, learn, and grow in many ways. As a writer, not my strength, a photographer and a stylist.

It is very fun to look back at all the posts and remember those days and what was going on when the photo was taken. Some of the pictures I love and some not so much. Still it is a moment in time that something was created.

To me jumping into something is the most important. It may not be perfect right out of the gate but it will get there if you have or form a vision of where you are going and what you want your art to be. It really is about the journey and what you learn along the way. 

I was planning on doing a photo of a cake with a candle for my birthday post however I changed my mind after working on a shoot and really liking the salad we made. Plus it is spring and all the greens are so beautiful and inspiring. This is the time of year when lighter fare feels best. So I thought of this salad. To me a perfect meal is what I shot above. A nice light salad with a dab of protein,  a hearty roll and the perfect beverage a splash of wine to put it all together.

Macro Salad

The greens I used here are baby romaine. I added some micro greens for an extra light touch, baby cucumbers and some red onion. I also like to add sweet to my salads that is where raspberries come in. For the goat cheese medallion I used plain goat cheese and doctored it up a bit by adding tri-colored peppercorns. You can do this with other seasonings or fresh herbs, etc. Not hard to do and cheaper and fresher tasting than having the factory do it.

Start with plain goat cheese

Next crush peppercorns

Roll goat cheese on waxed paper with peppercorns

When you roll the goat cheese make sure it is cold. You should be able to slice it right away. If it squishes when slicing place in freezer for about 5 minutes. This would be great on sandwiches too or used as an appetizer with crackers or a great loaf of bread. 

Looking forward to the next year with all it has to offer. Thanks for your comments and encouragement it helps so much. Thanks to Susan wherever you are for your last comment. "This blog rocks"! Keep updating. It really helps a blogger to know they are not blogging to themselves. So keep the comments coming I love hearing from you all!
Good luck in whatever you are creating and remember to create something everyday. We will make the world a better place!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My interview with Australian Food Stylist and Author of Wild Sugar Desserts Lyndel Miller

Well today the kitchen is in a bit of a buzz as I am happy to announce that I have my first interview/guest blog post.  Today I have the pleasure to post an interview I gave to fellow food stylist Lyndel Miller. She is chatting today about her life as a food stylist, her new cookbook and other good stuff.

Cover of Wild Sugar Desserts published by New Holland Publishers

Here is lovely Lyndel Miller food, prop and interior stylist, recipe developer and writer who hales from Brisbane Australia.



In your “about” section on your web page in paragraph 7 you can be found fossicking. Can you tell us non Australian's what that means?

It means to rummage or search for :)
I am constantly searching for props, for my hire catalogue or a particular job. Right now I am on the search for “Kitsch” items which is great fun!

Can you tell me a little bit about the food shots on your portfolio? Were they shots you did for fun or jobs or both?

Most of the photos in my online portfolio ( are published works. I can’t wait to have the time to do just some portfolio shots that are just for fun.
You’ll find a lot of dessert images are from my latest book Wild Sugar Desserts which I not only food and prop styled but co-authored.
I contributed over 40 recipes of my own and some from our successful family business.
I am also a recipe developer. I love this aspect of my job also.

In Chicago it is very hard to break into the food styling field. Can you tell me about your experience getting into food styling? Did you assist a stylist first to learn the trade?

I have been very fortunate, in the right place at the right time you could say. During my studies, a mutual friend introduced me to a talented photographer named Mindi Cooke who wanted to break into food. We got together and started doing portfolio work and soon that stemmed into commercial work which Mindi sent my way.

We built a strong relationship and absolutely love working together. Mindi also worked on the book.

I feel right at home with the work. I felt like I had been doing it all my life really and in some respects I had been. I have spent well over 10 yrs in commercial kitchens in the past. I had already been “plating” dishes in a rustic fashion for years.

I would imagine it is the same with other food stylists, you either have it in you or not?

I have jumped at opportunities for TFP (trade for portfolio), this is when photographers and stylists collaborate on a piece of work for free to get a sample for their portfolios, if I have felt the work would benefit my portfolio and I think it is a good idea.
I have been very fortunate as it is difficult here too in Brisbane, Australia. Most work for stylists is generated in Sydney, so you really need to be pro-active. Luckily, I am getting enough work to fuel my passion and I am writing another cookbook which I hope to have published. 

Before I ask you about book number two lets talk about book number one out this month. How did the idea for Wild Sugar Desserts come about?

Wild Sugar Desserts was a gift from Skye Craig (Masterchef Series 2). I had done some styling jobs for Skye, which was a great success, and one thing led to another and Skye offered me to co-author her dessert cookbook with her. We were untied by our love of desserts. We love, cried and danced our way through the book and it evolved into such a thing of beauty. Our publisher loved it so much that they headlined it for the international market. So it should be available in your stores too. It is very exciting. 

We want to give the photographers credit, can you tell me who worked with you on Wild Sugar Desserts?

I worked with Celeste Vlok from Sydney and Mindi Cooke from Brisbane. Both amazing photographers and great fun to work with. 

Has there been a food item or job that was most pleasurable to style? How about one that was bloody awful?
All of it is pleasurable, I just love my craft. I love the challenge.

Not so pleasurable, mmm-real ice cream, you can have some trying moments with it, you have a giggle with the challenge, you have to embrace it.

Do you have a food blog? What do you think of all the food blogs at the moment?

I haven’t had time to make one, but have had a lot of interest. I have a page though at

I really haven’t an opinion on blogs at the moment as I haven’t had the time to explore. I don’t follow any at this time. I love "What Katie Ate", here in Australia, Kate’s work and blog is really fantastic. ME TOO I LOVE HER WORK.

Have you done both commercial and editorial food styling? Which do you prefer?

I love both!! Commercial work is your bread and butter though. 

In Australia do the stylists work on a day rate?

Yes we do. Rates can range from between $650-$1,350 per day AUD 

Is there a food styling tool you could not live without? 

Tweezers, bamboo skewers, baby wipes, lens cleaner and herbamare are my must haves in my styling kit. If I had to pick one thing, that's tough-tweezers.

What do you think are the most important elements of a good food photograph?

That the food is the hero! Composition, and that the food (hero) generates an emotive response. I aim to create "food porn" (can I say that)?

You also rely on the photographer to create beautiful lighting. Some times you may have to direct here to get the result you envisage.

Is there a dream job or client you would love to have? 
I would love to work with my idols in the styling industry. Sibella Court, Glen Proebstel are my favourites!
I love Sharyn Cairns and Chefs Karen Martini, Nigella, Jamie, Yotam, Tessa Kiros, Charmaine Soloman and Ravinger Bhogal...there is a few!:)
I admire them for different reasons, all are fabulous!!! And am sure I am yet to discover others :) 

My dream will be to publish my next book currently in the making with many family secrets. All "Healthy Bee" recipes that peeps used to queue up to 10 metres down the street for. There are treasures to come.

Oh that brings me to my next question. Can you give us a sneaky peak on your next book? 
Well,  the Healthy Bee was our family owned restaurant. It closed 5 years ago after my dad passed away suddenly. People came for miles to eat here. Celebrities would get off at the airport and have their limo drivers pick up supplies from the restaurant for their trips. So this book will be very personal.

I will have recipes that are healthy, easy, inspired deliciousness all done in a kitchy style. Very exciting.

Has social media been a boost to your business and if so how?

It has, I think, and I say that because others think I do it well. Though I don't think I am that savvy, so it could possibly work better for me if I spent some time learning more about it. Any suggestions?

I enjoy networking and connecting with creatives and supporting others. It is a great place to share inspiration. I am loving Pinterest at the moment and have a Food Glorious Food board at pinterest is great fun but I wish artists were credited more for their beautiful work. That is it's downfall I think.

Looking forward to getting a copy of your book and trying some of those gorgeous looking recipes like this one for Strawberry Yoghurt Cheesecake. 

Photography by Celeste Vlok

Strawberry Yoghurt Cheesecake 
This is one of my all time favourite desserts. All credit here, goes to my culinary hero, my Mum, Carole Seymour..It took years to get this recipe mind you, and while I have made this now numerous times, I never tire of it. I modify it often, as does my daughter ( that’s the beauty of it! ) ..My kids jump up and down at the whisper that one may be on it’s way, planned for a Sunday treat…we all love it, I hope you love it too , and make for all you love. Strawberry is my choice of yoghurt, cherry a close second. Thanks MUM !!!! Love you 
Serves 8 -12,( big slices in this house!!)


1 packet ( 400g / 14 0z ) digestive biscuits or your choice
6-8 tbsp ( 80 - 100g) melted butter ( some biscuits are more absorbent than others)
Butter, for greasing 20 cm spring form pan


2 ½ cups ( 630g ) of your yoghurt of choice or 4 x ( 170 g = 680g ) sized flavoured yoghurt tub ( of course you can use greek yoghurt and add a coulis here, just make to 2 ½ cups..have a play )
250 g ( 9 oz ) cream cheese
1 cup ( 200g / 7 oz ) raw sugar
2 tbsp ( 40g ) powdered gelatin ( or agar agar *)
1/3 cup ( 2 fl oz ) hot water


Prepare a spring form pan, cover the base with greaseproof paper or foil and grease over the top and sides of pan with a little butter.

Crush the biscuits, use a food processor or place biscuits in a zip lock bag to suit and roll a rolling pin over the contents until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs.

In a small saucepan, over a low heat, melt the butter. Combine the two ingredients and press into the base and sides of the prepared spring form pan.

Place the prepared base in the freezer for 10 minutes, until you add the filling.


Blend the yoghurt, sugar and cream cheese in a blender.

Take the gelatin powder and hot water and mix well, to avoid lumps.

When fully dissolved add to blended yoghurt mix and blend again. At this point don’t walk off to a soapie or answer the phone. Gelatin sets REALLY quickly! )

Remove the pan from freezer, and add the filling, return to fridge to set.

When set remove and run a knife around the edge of pan, release the spring and carefully remove the ring over the top of cake.

Cut to desired serving sizes and serve on it’s own or with Berry Coulis page 00
For the vegetarian or additive sensitive, use Agar Agar as an alternative to animal derived gelatin. 

Thanks so much Lyndel for such a great interview and for sharing a recipe! Through our emails back and forth across the ocean I have come to know you and am happy to call you friend or do you say "mate"?!
If anyone has any questions for Lyndel or myself please leave them in the comments section or email us directly. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Frost Gelato

Raspberry Gelato From Frost

In cities and suburbs alike new shops come and they go. So when a new shop comes to town we hope it will be a good one and stay longer than the last. In the fall of 2011 the kids were talking about a new shop called Frost opening on the main drag of our suburb, Highland Park, IL. They had heard it was a gelato shop.

When Frost came to town I was optimistic, who doesn’t love good gelato, but was not rushing right out to check it out. My son and daughter who are pre-teen and teens respectively, go up-town with their friends and hang out. It is a social thing for their age group. They had both tried the new shop before I and couldn’t wait to tell me it was soooo good. I heard about the flavors they tried and the buzz was starting about Frost.

Now I have to say that the first time I had real gelato was in Florence, a little gelato place on the quay about two blocks north of the Ponte Vecchio.
Those were the days

Walking the streets of Florence and Rome all day believe me you need the calories to keep you going on the cobblestone streets and through the ruins. So we stopped in. I was in heaven. The colors and flavors were spectacular. I believe I had pistachio. Smooth, creamy, perfectly balanced goodness. Pure joy.

So the rest of the Italy trip it was gelato not every day, but most. One day we were near the famous Trevi fountain and there was a gelato shop on the corner. We stopped in for a scoop and ended up having a nice talk with the person in the store about gelato and how it was made. I was intrigued. The shop was so small but he said he made it on the premises. We talked, he in his broken English me with my broken Italian, and he asked if I wanted to see where it was made. He took me to the basement. It was a very small room with a machine and a work table.  He told me how they put the ingredients in and gelato was made. But of course he would not tell me the details because then he would have to kill me. That is what I love about Italians, they have a passion for whatever they love. Gelato is no exception. It was made with love, quality ingredients and artistry.

After Italy the next best gelato I had was in Philadelphia when on a trip with my husband and kids. One night we stumbled by this gelateria, Capogirogelato.
Oh this was good. Just like Italy.  That is what my standard is when comparing gelato. It was a perfect nightcap to a fabulous dinner. We walked the streets of Philly with our gelato, back to our hotel in perfect bliss.

So when I had the opportunity to try our new gelato place in suburbia I was hoping for Italy but not counting on it.

It was the month of November and still a little too cold for gelato, actually is it ever too cold for gelato? but my son and his friend were hungry so I thought we would stop in for a treat. It was my first time. When you walk into the store you notice it is clean. The next thing you notice is the greeting you get from behind the counter. A smile and a welcome are most appreciated in today’s I’m too busy society.

Ok already feeling good and then things get really good when you get in line by the gelato case. It is a visual overload. First of all the case is huge and a work of art. Each gelato and sorbet is garnished with an ingredient for that particular flavor.
So if you can’t understand the Italian name you can figure it out by what’s on top. You take one look at it and know that it is fresh.

The store carries 38 flavors total. Twenty three regular gelato, two dietetic with no added sugar, twelve sorbets and 1 yogurt. Each month 4-5 flavors in the case may change to allow for seasonal fruits. The colors are vibrant and grouped together by type.
Janice A Gelato Whiz Holding Tangelo

While you are in line the person behind the counter will help you with your decision by offering a sample of any flavor. What is so refreshing is that no matter how many samples you want they are patient and kind. It is as though you are in their home and they are proud of what they have made for you and happy to share. You don’t feel rushed.

On this particular day I tried the sea salt caramel (this happens to be the stores most popular flavor at the moment), my son and his friend had mint chip. We went to find a seat at one of the tables and after the first bite I knew this was as close to Italy as I had been in a long time.

As you are sitting enjoying your gelato the staff comes around with free ice water to cleanse your palette. It is this customer service combined with a killer product that sets Frost apart.

Gelato (jeh- lot- o) the Italian translation means, “frozen”.  What makes gelato different from ice cream is the fat content. Gelato has 3-8% butterfat and ice creams tend to have 12-25% butterfat. To be called ice cream you have to have 10% or more. Gelato’s lower fat content is attributed to milk vs. cream, and no eggs or butter. So gelato while tasting rich and decadent is healthier than ice cream.

I took some blackberry home to serve for dessert added fresh berries and mint

Another factor which makes gelato less like ice cream is the air that is incorporated into the products. Most ice creams have 75% air whipped into them. Gelato 20%. So you are getting a denser more creamier mouth feel. Also less air means more bang for your buck. Who wants to pay for air?

I went into the shop today to take some photos for this article/post. After the shooting was done I sat down with Steve Rams, one of the owners, and he told me the story of how Frost came to be in Highland Park and soon to be the rest of the Chicago land area. It was fascinating.

Steve is one of the three owners of the Chicago franchise for Frost. He is joined by Ed and Kurt Bruksch. This team is literally family and they have all know each other since childhood. Ed is the patriarch of the group and the one who started the ball rolling with gelato. He was a retired snowbird dividing his time between Illinois and Arizona. While in Arizona he and his wife visited one of the Frost stores in Tucson. Ed fell in love with the store and of course the gelato. He got the idea to make this happen in Chicago. Out of retirement he came, and 2-3 years ago he was offered a franchise. He got his son in law Steve and son Kurt on board and they left their careers in private banking and stock brokerage respectively and now are master gelato makers.

 Steve said, “people thought we were crazy to be selling gelato in the Midwest”. However, they were smart guys, did the research and the research said otherwise. They went with the facts and their gut instinct and on November 4, 2011 the first Chicago land store was opened in Highland Park. I asked why Highland Park?

Store front

Again according to Steve, they did the research on communities in the Chicago land area.  This covers the Wisconsin border south to Joliet and the lake to Rockford. Quite a large area to research but they did and according to statistics such as foot traffic, etc. Highland Park came out as the place to be. Very good for us indeed.

The acquisition of the space and timing of the opening worked out for the best. Starting the shop in November while it was not super busy would help the new company get all its duck in a row before the big summer season got underway. So everything worked out beautifully and the owners and staff are looking forward to a great summer in Highland Park.

This family owned franchise has two other key members, Steve’s wife Ellen and Kurt’s wife Janice, they are in charge of managing events and party planning for the stores.

The Highland Park location has a party room in the back that fits 16-20 comfortably. They also rent out an authentic Italian gelato cart for special events.

The enthusiasm and excitement from this group is contagious. They love what they do, they love gelato and it shows.

The franchise has major growth potential and is always looking for quality team members to work with them and grow their company. From counter help, called scoopers or gelato whiz’s to management and beyond. Very exciting news in our economic times.

So keep an eye out for Frost coming soon to an area near you. Until then come on over to Highland Park for some of the best gelato you will ever have.  

Almost Gone

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Roast Chicken Tuesday

About twice a month on a Tuesday I head to Whole Foods market for what I call Chicken Tuesday. It used to be on Thursday now moved to Tuesday. Chicken Tuesday is when Whole Foods offers whole organic roast chickens for $6.99 regularly priced $8.99. You can choose from different flavors such as plain, herbes de Provence, cajun or lemon. I usually wait for them to come fresh off the rotisserie waiting  like a stalker until new chickens are packaged. I don't like chicken that has sat too long in plastic on a heated surface. Whole Foods does write the time that the chicken came out of the rotisserie on each container. This is a nice touch. 

To me this chicken can't be beat for a quick meal. Last night I roasted some potatoes with some meyer lemons, summer savory, and garlic cloves. When these were just about finished roasting I added the chicken and turned the temperature of the oven from 400 to 350 degrees F to rewarm the chicken. I also poured the juices from the chicken on the potatoes for extra flavor. Some green beans were steamed to complete the meal. 

So check your local Whole Foods market to see what night they offer this chicken deal. I actually can get two meals out of this chicken. On Wednesday I  take the rest of the meat from the carcass and make a homemade chicken noodle soup. You could also do a chicken tetrazzini, chicken salad, or any other dish which calls for cooked chicken.  Enjoy!