Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Grand New Adventures: National TV, Food Judging, and Food Expos

 I realize that it has been a whirlwind 6 months. Rapid changes, I dare say..."explosive" changes have been happening in my life and I'm a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of the blessings! For those who have been with me through some of the tearful challenges of the last few years and sent so much love, prayers and support, I cannot even express how much that has meant to me and my little family.

 In March, Panhandle Milling had a booth at the Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.  I was able to do a few segments with  Culinary TV 's Host Bill Rogers. Culinary TV is on cable with 48 Million viewers nationwide (see channel guide here  ). The pizza expo was bustling with thousands of exited pizza enthusiast, business owners, and Bill is dear friends with my boss Tim Devey. It was an honor to be part of the show.

Shortly following that event, Bill connected me with the owner of Fire Within Woodfire Ovens who runs the only Wood Fire University in the country in Denver, Colorado. They invited me to attend their Wood Fired University in July as an instructor.

Shortly following the Pizza Expo, I spent a much needed week with my Dad fishing in Utah. It is probably one of my favorite ways to renew my soul and get back to nature. Mostly because I get to be with my dad.

Then, I was off to Lockhart, Texas to judge their regional baking contest.

People think it's really fun to be a baking contest judge. Most of the time, I would agree, but after about 5 different kinds of cookies you start to do a  little of this...

A few days later I was able to go to Atlanta, Georgia for the first time and be a judge for the National Culinary Competition for the FCCLA teams. This was especially epic for me because I was going to be there with the President of American Culinary Federation and Industry Leaders from all over the country. The Leadership Conference for FCCLA was 3 days long and I got to spend time with the Home Baking Association teaching about baking as well.

For those who are not familiar with the FCCLA "family, Career and Community Leaders of America is a nonprofit national career and technical student organization for young men and women in Family and Consumer Sciences education in public and private school through grade 12. Everyone is part of a family, and FCCLA is the only national Career and Technical Student Organization with the family as its central focus. Since 1945, FCCLA members have been making a difference in their families, careers, and communities by addressing important personal, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education.
Today over 160,000 members in more than 5,300 chapters are active in a network of associations in 49 states, in addition to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico."

Seriously. Judging people is cool.

A quick trip back from Atlanta to Denver to bake a few hundred organic cookies for the Slow Foods Nations Expo turned out to be a  lot more work than it sounds.  I love Denver. The people are super friendly...and let's face it, my brother lives there, so when he brought his family to the festival, it was sweeeeeeet!

Straight from Denver, I flew to The Institute of Food Technology Expo in Chicago. This was another dream come true. I've thought about this event since I was a Senior in High School!  Being in a booth and talking with some of the most innovative minds in the food industry today was one of the most incredible experiences of my life!

Oh yeah...and I ate some of the best Oysters I've ever had. Don't judge. I actually really like a good oyster. I haven't had them since...well...over 20 years. The CEO of the company insisted that I try these at dinner with our team.  Yup. They were awesome.
After IFT, I flew back to Denver for that amazing Wood Fired University that I got invited to attend in March. Yes. I can't believe how fast July arrived!

Bill Rogers was there again with Culinary TV filming some of the events.

He asked me to do a show with him.  Here's the video...

We baked over 400 pizzas in 2 days! It was insanity. Pure delicious insanity.

The last week of July was spent baking and preparing a couple tons of vegan cookies for the Vegfest in Denver.  It was a busy prep! Vegans are cool.

VegFest Colorado was 3 days of Vegan conversation and education. I really love the energy and the people that I met at this event! There were so many kind-hearted souls just trying to do what they believed to be best for their health. 

I am excited to say that I did a good enough job at the Wood Fired University to be invited back for October!

 Wood Fired University October 2018 will feature the brilliant instruction of Michael Kalanty! WHAT????!!!! He is an absolute superstar in the baking industry.  I am in complete humility and awe at the opportunity to even be in the same room with him, let alone given a chance to teach at the same event!

Now the biggest Grand New Adventure for our little family.
We're uprooting.

  My family is moving to a really small town. We're still staying out West.   I will post the details as they are set in stone, but we put an offer in on a house and it has been accepted. Yes, this means I am leaving the heat and the desert. Hint. I will be much closer to my parents and family in all directions. It's a good thing. I will miss Phoenix deeply. It has been my home for a quarter of a century. Most of all, I will miss my best friend Gena and her family, who have been such a strength to me over the last few years. I will be ugly crying driving away from this house...and cheering as I arrive at the new one. Isn't life just funny that way?

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Orange Cinnamon Roll Pretzel Bites

 While walking through a crowded Houston airport anticipating a 3-hour layover between flights, I felt a hunger pain. I realized it had been over eleven hours since my last meal and I had a long way to go before I could make it home. Right about the time of the growl, I walked past a very popular soft pretzel restaurant chain that had married its pretzels with a very popular cinnamon roll franchise.  I found this to be a brilliant move on the part of the pretzel company, as they had many savoury bread offerings and the cinnamon bun company had a national following of avid bun grabbers...err...roll eaters. "Bun grabbers" sounds inappropriate. Looking at the menu I found some cinnamon pretzel bites that sounded promising.  Though they were pretty delicious served warm, as soon as they cooled down a bit, they became really chewy. I thought to myself, as I often do...,"I bet I can make these better and cheaper at home....and give them a heck-of-a-lot more awesomeness in the flavour universe!"

A few months ago, I ordered this Wild Groves Blood Orange Olive Oil and instantly fell in love with the rich buttery flavour with remarkable orange notes. It was and is the perfect pairing for sweet pastries. Full disclosure, I loved it so much that I wrote an email to the owner of the company.  He generously sent me several more bottles of some of the finest olive oils on his website, including the Wild Groves Robust Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil (that recently won one of the most prestigious rewards in the country at the LA International EVOO Competition). It won Best in Show Northern Hemisphere in the domestics category! Woot! Way to go!

Anyway, I used the orange olive oil on my pretzel bites. It was a huge, sinful, blessed mistake. If something sinful can be blessed? Can it? Not sure.  I just know that the mistake is that they are freakishly addictive! Evil. Evil. Evil. Gooooooooood.

Enters...the Orange Cinnamon Roll Pretzel Bits of glory and honour. 

These little nuggets of love have all the flavour of an orange infused cinnamon roll without having to zest any oranges or make any cream cheese frosting. The dough is soft and slightly chewy, like a pretzel and made in the same way that most deli-style pretzels are made.  For an authentic pretzel flavour, I use an alkaline solution of baking soda and water. To save on the mess...I don't dip the dough into the solution. Instead, I lightly brush the pretzel ropes in the solution. To save time, instead of rolling the pretzel dough into a knot, they are cut into 1-inch bites. They're perfect for snacking, travelling, and enjoying warm or cool.

Orange Cinnamon Roll Pretzel Bites

1 1/2 cup Milk
1 Tbsp. Active Dry Yeast
1/4  cup Sugar
2 tsp salt, fine 
1/3 cup baking soda

Cinnamon Sugar Mixture
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon or Chef Tess Wise Woman of the East Blend

Directions: Combine the milk, yeast, sugar, Olive oil, bread flour and salt. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic on a lightly floured surface, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a large baking sheet. Punch the dough to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. If the dough seems tight, cover and let rest until it relaxes. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll and stretch each piece with the palms of your hands into an 18-inch rope, holding the ends and slapping the middle of the rope on the counter as you stretch. Form each rope into a long snake on a parchment lined baking pan one inch apart. 
Dissolve the baking soda in 3 cups warm water in a shallow baking dish. Gently dip a pastry brush in the baking soda solution and paint each pretzel. Allow to dry slightly and "paint" again.  Cut the ropes into 1/2 inch segments using a pizza cutter/roller. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. 

Combine the cinnamon sugar mixture in a small bowl. 

Lightly brush the pretzel bites with the Wild Groves Blood Orange Olive Oil

Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Roll the parchment paper up and turn over the pretzels into a pile. 

Drizzle with additional orange infused oil and cinnamon sugar if desired.

 Serve warm. Serve them anywhere anytime. You'll be freakin' happy! 

There you go.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Country Wedding Cake for My Nephew

I have been a little out of the loop the last few weeks, but I have to share the photos from this wedding cake I did for my nephew Andre and his new wife Lydia. The wedding was the last week of December and it had a "Country Winter" theme.  The pictures really don't do it justice. The base is 16 inches wide and 8 inches tall, so it was really a good size. Lydia wanted it to look county with edible burlap on the top layer. The second layer we made to look like a Birch tree trunk with their initials carved in it.  The base was to be sculpted buttercream of a winter mountain and Pinetree scene. 

The biggest challenge was trying to get the three layers to tie together, but I think the addition of the edible burlap on the base of the cake as well as using some as leaves, made it work. 

Here's a better look at the finished Birch tree trunk layer...

Here's the sculpted buttercream base. I did this one all free-hand.

Here's the edible burlap and lace top layer, minus the bride and groom topper.

The best part was seeing the look on the bride's face when she saw the cake. 

Of course, it really was never about the cake. It's about these two finding each other and building a life together, but I was really happy to be part of it all. Congratulations Andre. She's a great addition to the family!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend 
Chef Tess

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Southern Christmas Chicken and Rice Gumbo Meal in a Jar

Several years ago I visited my son's 4th grade classroom to share some regional foods of America. It was a lot of giggles seeing kids try okra for the first time and explore some of the southern foods they don't get to have often here. One of the class all time favorites (with bells, whistles, several helpings and begging for more) was this chicken gumbo! Who knew?  Well, the irony of this one is that it was all made from freeze-dried food. It was all dried including the okra.  I still can't find it freeze dried anywhere besides my friends at North Bay Trading Company!  However, I'm having a hard time actually not eating it!  It's like popcorn, but good for me! 

I love fresh tender okra too. I swear, I should have been born in Georgia. Wait...did someone from Macon  lose a daughter in Logan, Utah in the mid 70's? If so, she's been living quite comfortably with the Mormons and needs more okra! Okay. Admittedly, I seriously belong in my family. We have some southern relatives back in the family tree so that probably explains my okra-fetish. Admittedly, I'm also out of okra. That's embarrassing.  5 years later, this is still a favorite around my house. I'm making these again this year for Christmas! 

This  is a classic chicken Andouille gumbo. Using freeze-dried sausage along with the smoke and spices in this recipe mimic the andouille sausage traditionally used in good Southern Gumbo. I get all my freeze-dried ingredients from my own website: Thrive Life Chef Tess and the powdered sauce mixes from a place called Firehouse Pantry Store. 

Chef Tess Chicken and Rice Gumbo

2 T ultra gel or cornstarch
2T worcestershire powder
2T dehydrated parsley flakes
1T dehydrated minced garlic
½ tsp buffalo wind sauce powder
1 ½ tsp chicken bouillon powder
½ tsp hickory smoke powder

In a Quart Sized Jar layer the ingredients, shaking the powdered ingredients into the solid ones. Top with an oxygen absorber and close tightly. 

To Prepare meal: Combine contents with 4 ½ cups boiling water. Simmer 5-7 minutes. Yields 6 cups

If you omit the rice, it is lower carbohydrate for diabetics.

There you go.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Saturday, November 25, 2017

7 Genius Holiday Cookie Jars Mixes from One Base

Is it just me, or does the Holiday season come too quickly?! It seems like there's always one thing or another that needs to be done, or baked, or delivered. The joy of giving can easily be lost in the hustle...but it doesn't need to be that way. I get a jump-start on all the gifts by making a few of these handy cookie-mixes ahead of time. That way, I don't ever feel too stressed.  For some great inexpensive very Martha-Stewart-like beautiful cookie mix wrapping ideas, see my post on Holiday Gifts of Impeccable Taste. These are also fabulous made in pint or quart-sized jars  (depending on the size of the recipe) and will be shelf-stable 2-3 years with an oxygen absorber! Wow! Right?!

What if one gourmet-quality homemade moist and chewy buttermilk cookie mix could save you a ton of money on holiday neighbor gifts and be made into 7 or more different cookie mixes, just by adding a few different ingredients?! Would that be the best cookie mix in history?! What if it was also shelf-stable and "just add water" so you didn't even need to find an egg or a cube of butter? That is evil-genius.

Here's my simple basic recipe base:

Chef Tess Bakeresse ™ 
Extra Moist Buttermilk Cookie Mix
9 cups All Purpose Flour 
1 ¼ cup Powdered Whole Eggs
1 cup Buttermilk Powder
1 cup Vanilla Pudding Mix (2 small boxes)
2 Tbsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. salt
4 cup Powdered Butter
3 1/2 cups sugar 

To make Cookie Mix: Combine all ingredients well. This mix will make approximately 20 cups of cookie mix. Use 2 cups of mix per gourmet cookie mix (or the amount specified for the flavor variations). This recipe will make 10 bags of plain sugar cookie mix. 10 quart-sized jars.
To Bake: Combine cookie mix with 1/3 cup water and stir well. Place one inch balls on a cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes.  Yield 1 dozen cookies.

This Mix will Make 7 different cookie mixes depending on what flavors you add to it. It is simple to change and very versatile. 

Raspberry Cocoa Coated Crinkles

For the mix  (pint size jar):
2 cups buttermilk cookie mix
1 tsp LorAnn Raspberry flavored oil, combine well.
1/4 cup hot cocoa mix 
To Bake: Combine cookie mix with 1/3 cup water and stir well. Form into 12 balls and roll each cookie in the cocoa mix. Place one inch balls on a cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes.

 Elvis' Blue Christmas
 Peanut-butter Banana whoopie pies

For the Mix (quart size jar):
2 cups buttermilk cookie mix
1 cup Powdered Peanut Butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. LorAnn Banana Flavoring oil

Frosting (plastic sandwich bag): 
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa

To Bake: Combine cookie mix with 1/3 cup water and stir well. Form into 1 dozen balls. Flatten lightly. Place one inch balls on a cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. For frosting, combine frosting mix with 1 1/2 Tablespoons very hot water (more or less depending on how thick you want the frosting). Spread the frosting in-between two peanut butter cookies.

Mint Cocoa brownie bites

For the Mix (quart sized jar):
2 cups buttermilk cookie mix
1/4 cup Baker's Cocoa
3 Tbsp. Mint Hot Cocoa Mix (Stephen's)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

To Bake: Combine cookie mix with 1/3 cup water and stir well. Form into 1 dozen balls. Flatten lightly.  Place one inch balls on a cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes.

7 Grain  Caramel Apple Walnut Cookies

For the Mix (quart sized jar):
1 cup 7 Grain rolled Cereal 
1 cup Buttermilk Cookie Mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Freeze Dried Apples (chopped)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp.  vanilla caramel non-fat non-dairy creamer powder

To Bake: Combine cookie mix with 1/3 cup water and stir well. Form into 1 dozen balls. Flatten lightly. Place one inch balls on a cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes.

Coconut-Chewy Hawaiian Christmas Cookies

For the Mix (pint-sized jar):
1 cup Buttermilk Cookie Mix
1 cup Macaroon Coconut
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. coconut flavored non-fat non-dairy creamer powder

To Bake: Pre-heat oven 350 degrees. Combine cookie mix with 1/4 cup water and stir well. Scoop by the rounded tablespoon onto a lightly greased baking sheet.Bake 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before removing from baking pan.

Dark Chocolate Chip Orange-Brandy Cookies 

For the Mix (quart sized jar): 
2 cup Buttermilk Cookie Mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp LorAnn Orange Brandy flavored oil
2 tsp vanilla caramel non-fat non-dairy creamer
1 cup 72% cocoa dark chocolate chips

To Bake: Pre-heat oven 350 degrees. Combine cookie mix with 1/3 cup water and stir well. Scoop by the rounded tablespoon onto a lightly greased baking sheet.Bake 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before removing from baking pan.

Creamy  White Chocolate Eggnog cookies

For the Mix (quart sized jar):
2 cups Buttermilk Cookie Mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Sour Cream Powder
1/2 tsp Wise Woman of the East Spice Blend OR 1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup white chocolate chips

To Bake: Pre-heat oven 350 degrees. Combine cookie mix with 1/3 cup water and stir well. Scoop by the rounded tablespoon onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before removing from baking pan.

There you go! Make some amazing cookie mixes this season! Enjoy my darlings!