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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Newsflash…Today is Valentine’s Day. You know heart shaped everything, stuffed animals, perfectly wrapped gifts and bouquets of flowers…Le Sigh. Technically this is my second Valentine’s Day without a valentine of my own. Yes, I am still legally married but we no longer do those kind of things. To be totally honest this will be the first one that we aren’t living together and it’s got me wondering if I even know what love is. I know it’s an immense feeling of want and desire but…. there has got to be more to it than that. So I have decided to make a list of things that I love and find out what the common denominator is between them.
I love a steak cooked medium-well with a beurre noir sauce
I love a good sale that becomes even better when I can still use my coupon
I love a pair of shoes or a purse that are so unique some may think them ugly
I love a chef knife with a nice weight to it and a really sharp edge
When I stop and look at the makings of this list I notice something immediately. So far all of these things are just that…things. If it came right down to it I could live without them. They are great to have but I wouldn’t lose any sleep if they weren’t in my life. So now I have to dig a little deeper. I was with a man I love, yes I still have love for him, for over 20 years of my life. It has not been easy walking away from our marriage so I know love is more than things that I can easily dispose of. Love has got to be more than objects we collect. The roses that you hope pray you get today with the card from that special someone. Is it really about the roses? Or is it something more? My list continues…
I love brunch with my friends.
I love when my oldest child calls me so we can catch up as he drives home from work.
I love Mother/daughter time with my Mom
I love Mother/daughter time with my daughter.
I love when my middle child texts me about the crazy things his college roommate has done for the week
I love being able to express myself to others through my food and writing.
These are more than things. This list consists of people and connections. These occasions I reference are what memories are made of. And yes there may come a time when I may not be able to partake in some of these activities with the aforementioned people. But until that time I will still have the memories and the connections we made. People and situations change daily but the memories never change. The connections you make with people for that time is what I feel LOVE is all about. Without them it would just be things we do with no real meaning. I believe that as humans we all want to be able to connect with others on some level…ultimately leading to love. We all just want to be loved. So yes I can truly say that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Having had a connection you can reminisce over and maybe even shed a tear about is way better than never having had one to recall.
So today go do something you LOVE with someone you LOVE and make wonderful memories. It’s Valentine’s Day and LOVE is in the air afterall. I know some of you may have been looking for a post about what to cook today or what you could wear but this was what was on my heart. Please leave me a comment if this rings a bell with you.
~The Chef In Pearls
Photo by picjumbo.com
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
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
- DO choose happiness.
- DO NOT argue with fools.
- DO NOT undervalue yourself.
- DO NOT be afraid to be amazing.
- DO choose your circle wisely.
- DO NOT compete. You are the competition.
- DO love yourself first.
- DO NOT hold on when you realize it’s time to let go.
- DO Heal.
- 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.
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
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.
It can’t get any simpler than this. Diced apples, sugar, butter and cream with a layer of sweetened cream cheese and one of graham cracker crumbs. Dessert that you don’t have to turn on the oven for and ready in under 30 minutes. I think that’s a win-win situation.
No Bake Caramel Apple Cheesecake
2 large squares of graham crackers
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Cheesecake Apple Filling
4 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 small granny smith apple peeled and diced
¼ cup sugar 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla 1 Tablespoon butter, unsalted
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1-2 Tablespoons heavy cream or half & half
Place graham crackers in a ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin. Mix crumbs with cinnamon, sugar and butter. Spoon into bottom of serving dish. Mix softened cream cheese with sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spoon on top of graham cracker mixture. heat butter in a pan add apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook for about 5 minutes or until apples are softened. Add cream and cook additional 3 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool. Once cool put on top of cream cheese mixture and refrigerate. Serve with fresh whipped cream