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A Quickie…You win some, you lose some

A Quickie…You win some, you lose some

 

When it comes to eating out it can really be a gamble. Sometimes you roll 7 and other times it a crap shoot. That’s the way it seems to me. It’s not all about the classiness of an establishment because some places can seem on the up and up. Then the food isn’t up to par or even worse their kitchen doesn’t meet your standards let alone the industry’s standards.

I recently had brunch, well attempted to have brunch with my girlfriends at Cafe Circa. What a disappointment. I should have known that it wasn’t going to be good because when we stepped in the restaurant I got a whiff of dirty mop water..eww. I still decided to give it a chance. Since this is supposed to be a quickie I’ll keep the run down short and sweet. I didn’t care for the apples in the parfait, the chicken and waffles I ordered managed to come with a side of feathers, the french toast was mushy, slightly burnt with a bitter flavor having been soaked in rum…oh and the biscuits were hard due to them re-heating them in the microwave. Need I really say more? I would have to give Cafe Circa 2 thumbs down in a zero formation…a definite loss.

Later in the week I was invited to a celebratory dinner for my friend’s birthday. It was at a little place called, Papi’s. Apparently it was so little I kept driving past it, even though my GPS kept telling me I had arrived. From the outside it was not screaming extravagance, not even when you step inside did it change. Where the change became apparent was in the food and the service. So the drinks are strong, the tostones are like most but the accompanying sauce amazing, the ropa vieja was seasoned well and tender and the black beans were on point. Papi’s would get my money time and time again. I give them 2 thumbs up in a rub my belly formation.

 

Until my next meal out. I hope you find your way to somewhere new to try. And while your there make tons of memories. Now get off the blog and go make memories already.

~The Chef In Pearls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February may have been short but…..

February may have been short but…..

February actually got an extra day because we’re in a leap year. How cool is that? It’s still the shortest month of the year but it was a good month to me. Let’s start with my feature on the blog site She Just Writes. They wanted to know all about me and my writing ways. Did I mention to you guys that I am working on a ecookbook? Well I am. Check out the interview right here.

she just writes promo

 

Then The Chef In Pearls turned 2 years old. I know to most that may not be a big deal. For me it is. So many things can crash and burn and never see 2 years. I feel pretty awesome to have been at this for 2 years with intentions of going further. I celebrated this milestone with a private tea party.  I invited just a handful of friends and family to attend. We had a good time, which you can see by the pictures. If you missed the post on that you can check it out here.

Pouring the first cup of tea

I was so very proud to be able to bring to life the #Hungry Entrepreneur t-shirt. It’s available in our shop section. So please go check it out. Order one for the entrepreneur in your life so they can show the world that they are hard at work. Check it out here.

H.E. products

And to round this lovely short month out. I was invited to be a part of the 4evaeva.com podcast. It was fun to sit in and participate in their conversation. It was even more fun when I got a chance to talk about my passion…cooking. Listen to me on the podcast here.

C.I.P. meets 4ev

 

February may have been a short month but it was packed to the brim. Looking forward to what March has in store for me and The Chef In Pearls. I can’t wait to make more memories to share with you all.  If you’ve enjoyed what I have been up to please let me know by leaving a comment.

~ The Chef In Pearls

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8 Things you need to throw your very own tea party

8 Things you need to throw your very own tea party

So you’ve seen them on television. You may have even attended one at a swanky hotel in town.  And now you want to throw your very own tea party. Most people tend to throw tea parties for special occasions like a bridal shower, or a baby shower or even a birthday. Why not throw one just to have friends over to chat? It isn’t very hard to do.

Here is a list of 8 things you’ll need to pull this off.

  1. The Usual Party Arrangements. Like any other get together you have to have a location, time and invitation. With modern technology you can do invitations through Facebook, a text message or so many other online invite systems like Evite. I still like a good old fashion printed invite sent by snail mail.
  2. Tea Pots & Tea Cups.  Your china does not have to match. Let me repeat: they DO NOT have to match. Check out what you have in your china cabinet. Or visit your local thrift store and see what goodies you may come across. You can make it part of the theme for each guest to bring her favorite tea-cup. Same thing goes for the tea pots. See what pieces your Mom or if you’re lucky your grandmother may have in her china cabinet and have at it. For my last tea party, I was blessed with a plethora to choose from because my Mom collects tea pots.
  3. Tea. Can you actually throw a tea party without tea? I think not.  I grew up with fresh peppermint growing in my backyard so I know what it’s like to enjoy freshly made tea straight from the garden. There is also the debate loose tea vs. tea bags. I say loose but tea bags aren’t bad if you get them from a reputable company. Some days you really can’t be sure what manufacturers are giving you. With that being said you can make your own tea bags with just a couple of items. (See below)
  4. Tea Sandwiches I know we have all seen the infamous cucumber tea sandwich. Please do not think that is your only option for sandwiches at your tea party. It’s all up to your imagination. Think it up and shrink it down in size. They should not be larger than a 2 bite sandwich. I made a caprese styled sandwich with fresh mozzarella, basil, yellow grape tomatoes, spicy sliced turkey from the deli all on a toasted square of bread. If you really aren’t interested in making any small sandwiches find your favorite local restaurant and see what they can do for you.
  5. Scones. Now we all know it’s not really a tea party if there aren’t any scones. What exactly is a scone? I think the best description I have heard is that “a scone ain’t nothing but a glorified biscuit.” If you’ve been to a Starbuck’s you may have seen one or even eaten one. I made cranberry/orange scones and chocolate chip scones for my tea. Once again the choices are limited only by your imagination. Oh and don’t forget the lemon curd…it takes scone eating to a whole other level.
  6. Pastries.  Tea loaves, cookies, savory mini tarts, fruit tartlets: any of your favorite pastries in mini form. Remember they are meant to be eaten in 2 bites. Put them on a plate with a doilie (remember to use what you have as dishes or borrow from Mom) and set it on the table.
  7. Photos.  Pictures are important to immortalize the event. You can hire a photographer to capture all your hard work and the fun you and your guests will be having.  This will give everyone the chance to sit back a really enjoy. Your other option would be to make everyone the paparazzi for the night. With the digital age we live in now everyone has a smart phone, so picture-taking is inevitable. Create a hashtag just for your event so when attendees post pictures you can have access to them all in one place. Consider printing a photo book as a keepsake afterwards.
  8. Gift Bags. I always like for my guest t walk away with some sort of keepsake from whatever event I create. It doesn’t have to be super elaborate but it does have to show you put some thought into it. For my tea party I made tea bags for everyone, some lemon melt away cookies and placed a teaspoon in a goodie bag tied up with ribbon. I wanted them to continue the tea party for themselves when they got home. I am including how to create your own tea bags below.

How to make tea bags

You will need loose tea, old school white coffee filters, a stapler, and baker’s twine. Take one filter and flatten it out. Depending on if you plan to make bags for an individual cup or for a pot place 1 teaspoon to a tablespoon of loose tea along the center of filter. Do not come past 2 inches from either ends of the filter and forming a straight line done the middle. Fold either sides of the filter of the line of tea, making a rectangle with rounded ends. Starting with the end closest to you make 2 folds, one over the other. Then do the same with the other end. Now fold the filter in half, bring both folded ends together. Take a 5-6 inch piece of baker’s twine and attach it to the filter using the stapler. I like to leave a ½ of an inch of twine on the other end so that I can tie a knot and secure the twine on the staple. Viola you just made your very first tea bag and probably not your last.

I hope this has helped you in feeling like this is something yo can pull off because you know what? You can. Is there something you think should be added to this list. Drop me a comment below and let me know. Then take some time out and visit my It’s Tea Time board on Pinterest.

Now go forward and make some memories.

~Cassandra, The Chef In Pearls

 

 

Photo credit: Tonesha Smith Photography

 

 

 

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It was a tea party…The Chef In Pearls turned 2

It was a tea party…The Chef In Pearls turned 2

 

Photo credit: Tonesha Smith Photography and Jada Temple

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Creamy Wild Mushroom Tart

Creamy Wild Mushroom Tart

This is the dish that I demoed earlier in the month at The New Year’s Brunch. It’s a pretty easy dish to create and so yummy to eat. It can either be an appetizer when cut into wedges or as an entree with a salad when cut into larger pieces.

Before proceeding to I want to give you a brief lesson on some of the ingredients you’ll be using. First and for most DO NOT I repeat DO NOT try to make puff pastry. I mean, why? It is a time consuming process. Besides there are companies that do it for you. All you have to do is go to the freezer section of your local supermarket and pick up a box. Done. Okay so you don’t have to make it but you do need to know how to care for it once it is purchased. Keep it frozen until you are about ready to use. Follow the directions on the package on how to go about thawing it correctly. Puff pastry needs to stay as cold as possible because it is made with tons and tones of butter, which is what makes the pastry puff. The heat heats the cold butter causing the layers of pastry to create air pockets which makes it rise.  So remember puff pastry must stay cold. If you thaw a sheet and do not use it the same day, as long as it had been kept cold you should be able to use it within 24 hours.

Now onto the mushrooms in this recipe. I know you all were taught not to wash mushrooms. Hell, I spent many a day in culinary school wiping off mushroom caps to rid it of dirt. The thought process being that mushrooms are porous and would soak up the water it would be cleaned in. It’s FALSE! The mushrooms would have to soak in the water in order to even start absorbing any water. Mushrooms naturally contain a good amount of moisture. So wash your mushrooms off in a colander. Drain them then cut up as needed.

Now that we are all on the same page regarding these ingredients let’s move on to the actual recipe.

 

Creamy Wild Mushroom Tart

Makes 16 App-Sized Wedges or 4 entree sized pieces

 

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 half of a medium onion sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

8 oz wild mushroom mix (or any combination of your favorite mushrooms) cleaned and rough chopped, leave 2-3 mushrooms for garnish, thinly sliced.

1 tsp dried herbes de Provence

2 tbsp Brandy

4 oz goat cheese

1/2 tsp each of salt and black pepper

1/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 tsp chopped thyme leaves

1 tsp chopped Italian parsley

 

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Allow puff pastry to thaw according to package directions.  Roll puff pastry into a rectangle using a light dusting of flour. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a border about half of the way through the dough about 1/2 of an inch from the edge.  (This outside edge will puff more and give you an outer crust)  Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling heat olive oil and add onions, garlic, chopped mushrooms and herbes de Provence over medium heat until the mushrooms have released most of their liquids.  Add the brandy and continue to cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated.  Remove from heat and stir in the goat cheese until smooth. Season with the salt and pepper.   Remove the pastry out of the fridge and spoon the filling into it. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of filling. Using the reserved sliced mushrooms, decorate as desired.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden brown and the tart filling is also browning. Sprinkle chopped herbs on top. Allow to cool then cut as small wedges for party apps or cut into four and serve with a salad for a brunch.

 

Now that you have got this wonderful new recipe I want you to go forward and make some memories.

~The Chef In Pearls

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Sweet ’16

Sweet ’16

Okay it is almost the end of the first month in the New Year. I haven’t even taken the timeout to wish everyone a happy new year. Well, Happy New Year Everyone! I hope your start was better than you could ever anticipated it being. Great. I am glad that I have gotten that out-of-the-way. I didn’t want you guys to think I am rude. Now to let you in on what’s been going on with The Chef In Pearls. On January 9, 2016 (I like how the new year looks) Anyway on the second Saturday of the new year I threw a Ladies Brunch. Yep that’s right I cooked, they ate and it was grand. Actually there was a little bit more to it than that.  Well let me show you some of what went on. I mean a picture is worth a thousand words.  So here you go…

There was something for everyone. Motivational speaking by Kym Edwards helped the ladies through the new rules for 2016 and how to enjoy them. I taught the ladies how to make a mushroom tart (which happened to be on the menu for the day and a few other things). We even celebrated the birthday of one of the attendees, Miss Katrina Parker. How could I not take this chance to give her hearts desire, strawberry cake…from scratch I must add. It was a wonderful day had by all…especially me.  I created so many memories that I cannot wait until the next one.

I want you to now go forward and make your own memories. Call up a few of your girlfriends and plan a brunch. I want you guys to sit down and connect on levels you may not have had a chance to do before. And by all means write down your goals and aspirations for the year. Nothing makes it more real than seeing it on paper. And to help you on your way I am going to include the new rules for 2016 so you can share with your girlfriends at your brunch.

Rules for enjoying your Sweet ‘16

  1. DO choose happiness.
  2. DO NOT argue with fools.
  3. DO NOT undervalue yourself.
  4. DO NOT be afraid to be amazing.
  5. DO choose your circle wisely.
  6. DO NOT compete. You are the competition.
  7. DO love yourself first.
  8. DO NOT hold on when you realize it’s time to let go.
  9. DO Heal.
  10. DO write your own story.

       by Tony Gaskin

Now go forward and make some new memories of your own….Welcome to your Sweet ’16!

P.S. If you are in the Atlanta area and would like to attend the second meal of the year with The Chef In Pearls you can purchase tickets here.

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December…..What a month!

December…..What a month!

December has been one helluva month. It went so fast. I got to play set designer for Santa Dee.  I was able to decorate his set where families would come to take their Christmas pictures. Me, the lady who has a board specifically labelled “If I could D.I.Y.” on Pinterest. I did everything from create a fireplace, a snowman and tons of gifts all from empty cardboard boxes. I guess I can D.I.Y.

I eventually ended up being his hostess/cookie maker for his event Cookies and Cocoa with Santa where I made what has come to be known as my Signature Gingerbread Cookies. These cookies landed me selling them to the public and they were well received. You could have ordered them dipped in chocolate, plain or dipped with chopped crystallized ginger. They won’t be back until next holiday season.

 

In keeping with the whole cookie theme I participated in a cookie swap, The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap. It was a fundraiser designed to bring awareness to childhood cancer and raise money for research. I was more than happy to do my part. It gave me a chance to meet other bloggers and work on cookies. I made chocolate chip rugelachs because they reminded me of home, NYC. You can read all about it here.

I still had to do Christmas in my own home. My oldest came to visit with his wife and we had a lot of family fun. I made Pulled BBQ, two ways turkey and King Oyster Mushrooms) served on top of a cornbread waffle with a dollop of sour cream and sliced green onions. Everyone agreed it was yummy. I was able to get my Christmas tree up.  I did a Cranberry Wild Rice stuffed Turkey Reloude with a  Brown Sugar Orange Glaze another thumbs up. I finally got to meet my grand-niece in person. I was super excited because she’s even cuter in person. I made a wonderful Christmas dinner but forgot to take pictures. I did however get pics of the cinnamon-sugar buns I made during the day. I say better than nothing.

Anyway I am currently preparing for the rolling in of the New Year. As usual I will spend it with my kids. We will be dining on  shrimp and grits with some bubbly( theirs non-alcoholic mine very alcoholic). Anyway, I hope you ring in the New Year safe and in the best frame of mind. Until next year go forward and make new memories.

~The Chef In Pearls

 

 

 

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The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap

I am a born and breed New Yorker. I was born in Brooklyn and raised in South Ozone Park , Queens. Growing up I never thought I would ever move out of The Big Apple but I did. I have been a resident of Georgia for over 20 years now. I ran away from all the cold and terrible snow storms but no matter how long I live in Georgia I will always be a New Yorker at heart. You can take the girl out of the city but never the city out of the girl.

I share all of that with you because I wanted you to understand why I chose to make rugelach cookies as a participant of the The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap.  I thought it was a good way to share a bit of me with my fellow swappers. No I’m not Jewish (Don’t know too many African-American Jews,,,except Sammy Davis, Jr & Drake. And technically I don’t know either of them). It’s a cookie I made synonymous with my hometown. Rugelahs meant home to me. I remember the first time I had a chocolate rugelach. I was at a small Jewish bakery on Avenue M in Brooklyn ( I used to travel the city as an employee of the board of Ed.) I got what I always get in the morning on my way to work, a toasted bagel with cream cheese & jelly and small cup of “hot” tea (something I had to learn to distinguish living in the South).  And then I asked to taste these pastries which I was informed were cookies. I fell in love from the first bite. I hope the same happens for you when you re-create these cookies.

I adopted the recipe from Serious Eats. I only  changed a couple of things about the recipe so I can’t really claim it as my own. Instead of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in the filling I used mini chocolate chips. I also used an egg wash  before dusting the tops of the cookies with turbinado sugar instead the sugar cinnamon mixture originally called for.

  • For the Dough:
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces)all-purpose flour
  • For the Filling:
  • 6 ounces mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • For the Topping:
  • 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix butter, cream cheese, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt on medium speed until completely combined, about 1 minute. Mix in vanilla until combined. Mix in flour until combined.

    Pat dough into an 8-inch square, wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill until fairly firm, about 1 hour. In the meantime, mix together ingredients for filling in medium bowl.

    Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Cut dough into 4 equal pieces. On a floured surface, and working one piece of dough at a time, roll out into a 12-inch by 4-inch strip. Sprinkle 1/4 of the chocolate mixture onto dough and gently press into dough to adhere

    Working from the long end, gently roll dough strip into a 12-inch long log, making sure seam is at the bottom. Cut log into 1-inch pieces and place on one half of the baking sheet, evenly spacing apart. Repeat with second piece of dough to fill the first pan. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough to fill second pan. (You should have 24 rugelach per pan).

    Brush tops of cookies with egg wash and then sprinkle turbinado sugar on rugelach. Bake until rugelach is light golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Cool for 5 minutes on pan, then transfer rugelach to wire rack to cool completely.

    P.S. Okay so this post was written early but I lost my pics and had to rush and bake new cookies to have pics for my post…Life.

    Hope this recipe inspires you to go forward and make new memmories.

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A Quickie…Fried Mac N Cheese

A Quickie…Fried Mac N Cheese

I had left over macaroni and cheese. Can you believe that? Actually my son left for school before I could finish making it. It was made with the intentions of him taking some back to school with him. So what do you do when you have leftover mac and cheese. You make fried mac and cheese..duh.

I saw it on a couple of menus in town. So I figured I could track it down on Pinterest to be able to re-create. Then BAM! a slew of links to just how it was done. They were all pretty much the same with a few differences between the recipes. All the recipes required you to scoop and shape into balls that you would then freeze (preferably overnight). The differences were in their breading methods used to get the crispy outside that would protect the yummy cheesy insides. Most said you should use an egg wash and then roll the balls in breads crumbs which you would then place in the fridge to set before frying. I think I had only come across one that had what I was trained to be the standard in breading. Flour, followed by an egg wash then bread crumbs. No need to put in the fridge this way. The crumbs will adhere and not fall off before frying.

As with anything I cook I have to find a way to make it my own. First I thought it was easier for me to cut them into squares as opposed to shaping the mac and cheese into balls. I also decided to put a small cube of cheese in the middle of my mac square. Finally I did the traditional breading I learned in school. I originally used Italian breadcrumbs but I think the next time I do this I will use Panko breadcrumbs. I also realize after making them that the temperature of the oil cannot be too hot otherwise the mac and cheese never re-heats from having been frozen. This prevented the cube of cheese I placed in the middle from melting. Trial and error that’s what it’s all about. Well here’s some pics to move along on your fried mac n cheese. Would you try this? If so would you change anythingt?

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When You Got Friends in Snow Places

When You Got Friends in Snow Places

There is nothing cooler than being able to say you know Santa and actually knowing him. Yep. Your girl the Chef In Pearls not only knows Santa but recently did a photo shoot with him and Mrs. Claus. I mean I can’t get any cooler than that or can I? I probably could be cooler but that’s a whole other post.

Actually let’s not save it for another post. Let’s deal with it in this post. You know what makes me cooler even than just knowing Santa? The fact of being able to call him my brother. Yep Santa Dee of The Real Black Santa is my brother and the young lady who plays Mrs. Claus with him is actually my mother. So yeah I think I am way cooler that I previously thought I was. The only other person I think is cooler than me would be his 10 year old daughter who gets to tell everyone, ” Santa is my Dad”.

My brother gained a lot of popularity in a world where his skin color makes him different or not the norm. But he is the real deal. His beard is not fake but actually grows from his face. It is naturally white not bleached or died to get the color but actually white because it grew that way. It’s a family trait, the gray hair thing we got going on. He earnestly looks forward to the season because he likes the smile he puts on the children’s faces. I still remember how in awe I felt when I first saw him in a Santa suit. Instantly I just wanted to tell him what I wanted for Christmas in hopes that it would be waiting for me under the tree.

I know a lot of people don’t believe or even like the concept of Santa Claus. If for nothing else, when presented correctly, it’s the ideal of showing love to others. That’s what this season is all about. All anyone is really looking for is to be loved. Even the smallest token is appreciated when truly given out of love. That’s all Santa Dee wants to show the world. It may be a concept for children but believe me when I say it touches even the adults. They look forward to the chance to be able to bring their children in to take pictures. To be able to share a few words with him. At times they are more excited than the kids. They want to be the cool parents. I guess them, like me, want to be able to say they know Santa.  That gives them some kind of kid cred amongst their children and other children they may know.

Keep up with me and Santa Dee because we’ve somethings in the making. Hopefully we can help you with your memory making this season through cooking, some pictures or even some kind words. Now get off the computer and go makes some memories.

(All Photos by Nicole Denise)

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The Chef In Pearls

Cassandra Mason is a Lifestyle Chef and Gourmet Cooking Instructor who enjoys demystifying the art of cooking for One. You can catch her live demonstrations across major social media as @TheChefInPearls.

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