With the New Year comes new thoughts, needs and demands. I was pretty quiet for the month of January because I was busy getting things in order for my return to the kitchen. That’s right The Chef In Pearls will be available for private cooking events. You can now have me in your personal kitchen whipping up your every heart’s desires. I’ve got another announcement that is sure to make your Valentine’s Day even better.
To help spread the word of my return to the kitchen I have joined forces with a few good people I have come to know to do a Valentine’s Day Giveaway. Miss Loren Browne, of Dating with Passports , has the Valentine’s Day low down on dating in the states and abroad. Then there is Miss Kym Edwards, of Naughty Goddess, that brings out that alter ego in all of us with her lingerie and adult novelties. Finally we have Miss KaSundra Anderson, of Nail Spa Haven, providing all your nail pampering needs. The prizes for the giveaway includes an E-Gift card from Naughty Goddess, a manicure from Nail Spa Haven and Chef services in your kitchen for you and your special some one from The Chef In Pearls. My services to the winner will include a phone consultation to create a menu, a grocery list of items to create menu and then come over to cook for you and your special someone. Can it get any better than this? I don’t think so. All you have to do is enter thru the below Rafflecopter. A winner will be chosen randomly and notified at the end of the contest. So hurry up and enter and don’t forget to tell a friend.
Now you can have me be a part of your memory making. Until next time.
~The Chef In Pearls
Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. It was a day to sit and make memories with our family and friends. We ate turkey with all the expected, loved and tasty trimmings. For some families that includes a decadent pumpkin pie.Thanksgiving’s arrival and departure means more to me than just the closure of a wonderful gathering. It means we can say goodbye to the almighty pumpkin. Yes you read that right. We no longer with pumpkin flavored anything. No more PSL.. you know…Pumpkin Spice Latte. No more pumpkin bread or pumpkin flavored ice cream It comes to a screeching halt. And I do a dance of glee.
While the rest of America was going crazy over the pumpkin , I was paying homage to the apple. Yes, apple. I’m sure the first thing that pops into your mind is the great American Apple Pie. A favorite for sure but the apple helps to create tons of memories. I have made apples cooked in a caramel sauce eaten with pancakes, apple butter used to make a glasze for pork belly sliders, apple stuffed baked french toast, apple dumplings served a la mode, a grown up version of an ice cream float made with hard cider (you can watch the video here). There is NO end to what can be done with the great apple. Sweet or savory the apple stands up to a variety of uses.
Since the weather is getting colder I wanted to share a recipe that would be great for family gatherings or spiked for an adult get together, Hot Apple Cider. Now this is more than just warmed up apple juice. When done right it is a mug of warmth filled with just the right amount of spice to make your whole body yield to relaxation. The power of the mug is amazing. And with the adult additions….well you can only imagine how mellow it can become.
Hot Apple Cider
- 4 cups apple cider
- 1 apple, cut into slices
- 1 orange, cut into slices
- 4 cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 slices fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
Add cider along with apple and orange slices to a large pot. Add the rest of ingredients into a large tea ball (making sure to break cinnamon sticks in half to fit in ball). Add to tea ball to pot and bring to a simmer for at least 30 minutes on the stove top. Then serve with fresh apple slices or maybe a few pieces of clove in a mug. If you want to make it an adult version add a shot of your favorite spiced rum or maybe a shot of caramel vodka for caramel apple hot cider to each mug.
Now that you have this recipe I want you to go forward and make plenty of memories with it.
Until next time,
~The Chef In Pearls
I love bananas…I mean I could eat bananas all everyday if…they didn’t cause me pain. Apparently at some point in my life I met my banana quota. My body’s way of letting me know this is by inflicting excruciating pain on my stomach. I don’t have to eat a whole banana for this phenomena to take place…a bite…hell a half a bite and BAM instant pain. But that doesn’t stop me from creating wonderful banana inspired dishes (remember I love bananas).
Today I bring you the banana bread remixed. This dish was inspired by a post a friend shared on Facebook, “20 Recipes that will make you never want to skip brunch Again,” by viral nova. On this list was a recipe for cream cheese filled banana bread…..how could that not be good. I mean, I have done banana bread with a brown sugar cream cheese spread so I know cream cheese in the middle would definitely take it up a notch or 2. Here’s the thing though I wasn’t feeling the actual banana bread recipe that was posted so I went with my tried and true recipe from out of one of my old dusty notebooks. I now give you Banana Bread with cream cheese filling and candied walnuts….. So here ya go:
3 or 4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Cream Cheese Filling
1 (8oz) block of cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of corn syrup
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter & flour a loaf pan. In a saucepan place walnuts, sugar and corn syrup. Heat until sugar is melted and nuts are coated. Spread nuts out on a parchment lined baking sheets so as to cool and not form lumps.Mash bananas with a fork in a mixing bowl .With a wooden spoon mix melted butter into mashed bananas. Mix in sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle salt & baking soda over mixture and then mix in. Add flour and mix until incorporated ( do not over mix as it will toughen the texture of the bread). Put to the side. Place softened cream cheese into bowl with egg, sugar and vanilla, mix until smooth. Pour 1/2 the banana mixture into prepared loaf pan. Then pour cream cheese mixture on top of banana mixture in pan. Top that with a 1/4 cup of candied walnuts followed by the other 1/2 of banana mixture. Finish it by sprinkling the remaining walnuts on top.Place loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake 45 minutes to an hour. Insert knife or toothpick to test bread , if it comes out clean then done. Cool pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan, allow to cool completely on rack. Cut using a serrated edge knife. Then enjoy .
Well I hope you’ll share how your banana bread turns out. CIPapproved
Okay if you didn’t know now you do. I am a born and breed New Yorker. Known here in Georgia as a transplant. Yea so there are somethings that just cannot be replicated here in Atlanta no matter what they do. Pizza is one of those things. Now I am not talking Papa John’s, Domino’s or even Pizza Hut they can’t come close to a New York slice. If you have never had a New York slice then you just won’t understand. Now don’t get New York style confused with Chicago deep dish style two different beasts and I have a place in my heart for both. New York style being my first love of course until last Saturday afternoon.
On one of our many mother/daughter dates, me & the mini me had the pleasure of enjoying my new favorite pizza spots in Atlanta, Antico. On arrival you really wouldn’t give the place much thought. Pretty typical of ordering, a couple of cashiers, a menu board (which happened to have the pricing in euros and dollars) , some drink options which included a wine selection. Not too bad for a pizza spot. Then they directed us to the dining area. That’s where the magic began for me. It was family style eating. You sit and eat where there is space for you and your crew. Beyond the tables lay the wood burning ovens with piles of wood waiting their turn to be used. You could see how the pizza makers worked in a rhythmic pattern that had them churning out pies of perfection without any real effort being exerted. It made the kid chef in me clap with glee. We ordered their most popular pizza, San Gennaro. To most its Italian sausage, peppers and onions actually to be more exact it’s buffalo mozzarella, salsiccia sausage, cipolline onions, dolce piccante peppers. The toppings were good but the real star of this pizza is the dough. The texture and taste are so hard for me to really describe to you. All I can say is I ate 3 slices and I never eat more than 2 slices of pizza, doesn’t matter who makes the pizza. I was beyond stuffed. When you get a chance go check out Antico Napoletana Pizza, it will be more than worth the trip.
Go order a pie and make some memories.
~ The Chef In Pearls
Just in case you didn’t know I want to be the one to tell you. The Chef In Pearls is at it again. We will be hosting our second meal of the year on Sunday April 17, from 1-4 pm. The Chef In Pearls has long hosted a quarterly luncheon dedicated to women looking to connect, relax and enjoy a good meal. This year I officially opened it up to the public this year. With proper ID and a ticket purchase you can join in the festivities. To help keep things moving in the right direction I have joined forces with Kym Edwards, owner & founder of the Naughty Goddess, to be my co-host. While I throw it down in the kitchen she comes and facilitates the discussions with the ladies. Our goal is to talk about health and wellness not just from the physical but mental and business aspects, too.We have discussions to help you make moves to the next step in your life, help you to see things from a different point of view. Everyone is encouraged to kick back and relax because it’s a judge free zone.
There’s still time to get your ticket for this event. Just click here and you’ll be a part of the fun. Everyone who attends gets a full more, networking opportunities and a gift bag from our sponsors. You can view pics from our first meal of the year here.
Come on out so we can make new memories together.
~The Chef In Pearls
Gift Bag Sponsors
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
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.