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
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?
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)
It’s that time of the year again. You know where family gather and people eat like there’s no tomorrow. It’s also the time of year when everyone wants to show off their culinary skills (or the lack there of) with tables full of traditional and not so traditional meals. Well with the weeks leading up to the big turkey day and Christmas fast approaching after that The Chef In pearls will be sharing video tips to get you through the holidays with ease. You’ll be able to participate in the videos by catching them live on Periscope. You can download the app for free in your app store, Apple and Android users alike. Once downloaded look for me as, you guessed it, The Chef In Pearls. Then listen out for that sexy whistle because I will be coming to you live . You can always let me know some of the things that are your biggest challenges and I will try to address them in the scopes. Looking forward to helping you make new memories this holiday season