Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Top 10 Valentine's Treats, Cupcakes, and Decorating Ideas

As I'm getting ready for this amazing trip to Utah this week for  a Valentine's chocolate and goodies segment on  Fresh Living (Channel 2 Utah), as well as 4 Upcoming Utah Classes and Book Signing Events, I wanted to share some of my favorite things ever in the history of the blog when it comes to ideas for decorating and getting goodies together for Valentine's day. Enjoy a trip down CTB memory lane. We've only just begun! 

1.The most inexpensive and yet thoughtful centerpieces yet:

 How to Make Glowing Crystal Ice Centerpieces

2. My all time favorite goodie bar. 

Peanut butter-cup bars...because they're evil.

3. Be fabulous...Crystal Glazed Roses...Out Of Gumdrops!

4. This one's in the cookbook...and a perfect treat for any pink party! Homemade Strawberry Almond Milkshake Fudge Mix and Peanut Butter Fudge Mix and New Packaging Ideas

5. A delightful and easy morsel of happiness...

6. A cupcake that was actually designed and made to help free slaves...Caramel filled carrot cakes with buttery coconut pecan frosting, candied pecans and Toffee

7. The cupcakes that landed me the job I have today... 

Spiced Buttermilk Peach Carrot Crumb-cakes with Maple Hazelnut Glaze

8. The cupcake decorating idea that my auntie taught me as an awkward 11 year old girl. 

Gorgeous and Easy Sunflower Cupcakes

9. The cupcake of a Chef's Mom...Mom's Best Red Velvet Cake

10. The simple way to make a party tray! Plus tips for making them food-safe!  Recycled Cake Pans, Tiered Party Trays and Topiaries...Today's Ideas!

There you go my darlings. Make some great Valentine's goodies and decorations!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

The Nitty Gritty on Grits (How to cook Grits class notes)

 It's Tuesday...and that means either a great tutorial here on the blog or I'm teaching a class...but either way, we're learning something!  Today in Chandler AZ I'm teaching a class on the Nitty Gritty on Grits at the Honeyville Grain Retail Store. I am their corporate chef, so yes, I am connected to them on the reccommendations of their products.  They don't pay me to write this blog though, so the thoughts expressed here are my own. I really love their White Corn Grits. They are really excellent. I thought I'd pass on some class notes to those of you who can't make it to class...and give you some great tips on cooking great grits. 
The Nitty Gritty on Grits
By Chef Stephanie Petersen
There are nearly 400 different varieties of corn and Honeyville Food Products is very large in corn production. Millions of pounds of corn a pass through our mill in Rancho Cucamonga, California, every week and we’re very proud of the corn we produce. It is simply the finest around! One of the corn products we produce is called a grit. If you’re not from a Southern state or from a culture that uses corn grits often, there may be some things you don’t know about making grits. Today we’ll be covering the basics on how to cook them and sharing some remarkably good recipes you can use often. Ask any number of Southern cooks and they will each tell you a different way to cook grits. Buying high-quality, stone-ground grits is half the battle. Honeyville makes white and yellow varieties. I use the white most often, as it has a less pronounced corn flavor and my family prefers them. The other half of the battle for amazing grits is patience and stirring. Lumpy grits are usually un-stirred. Cooking the grits slow and low seems to be the best method for getting a good creamy texture.
To cook regular grits:

  • Use a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight lid for the best heat distribution and heat retention.
  • Stir constantly when you first put the grits and liquid over heat, until the mixture first begins to thicken. You will need to continue stirring frequently, though not constantly, from that point on.
  • Grits cook best over low heat. Most recipes will have you start them at medium heat and then immediately reduce the heat to low once they begin to thicken. You should see large, soft bubbles on the grits' surface occasionally, but no rolling bubbles. Quick grits can survive slightly higher cooking if you are in a rush, but coarse grits truly need low and slow heat.
  •  Quick grits usually need to cook for about eight to ten minutes over medium heat. I like them most at 15 minutes.
  • Soaking. Many recipes recommend soaking grits the night before you are going to cook them. I do this on the stove in the pan I intend on cooking them in if I decide to go that route. Supports of soaking say that this reduces cooking time and also results in a superior final texture, as the corn will hold its shape better in the pot. I’ve tried them both ways and did notice a difference. The ones that were soaked overnight were indeed better at holding their shape and were a little bit creamier in texture. You will also find the cooking time is reduced to about 6 minutes on the Honeyville grits using the soaking method.

Tess' Food Storage Basic Grits
4 cups water
½ cup Honeyville instant milk powder or soymilk powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Honeyville white or yellow grits
1/4 cup Honeyville dehydrated butter powder
In a small pot, bring the water, milk powder and salt to a boil. Slowly stir the grits into the boiling mixture. Stir continuously and thoroughly until grits are well mixed. Let the pot return to a boil, cover with a lid, lower the temperature, and cook for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary. Grits are done when they have the consistency of smooth cream of wheat. Stir in the butter powder and serve.

Tess Sour Cream Cheese Grits
½ cup Honeyville powdered sour cream
¼ cup Honeyville cheese sauce powder
4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup Honeyville white or yellow grits
1/2 tsp Chef Tess All Purpose Seasoning
¼ cup Honeyville powdered butter
½ cup crumbled crispy bacon
Directions Place the sour cream powder, cheese sauce powder, water, and salt into a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, gradually add the grits while continually whisking. Once all of the grits have been incorporated, decrease the heat to low and cover. Remove lid and whisk frequently, every 3 to 4 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps; make sure to get into corners of pot when whisking. Cook for 10-15 minutes until mixture is creamy. Remove from the heat, add the pepper and butter, and whisk to combine. Serve immediately with crumbled bacon bits if desired.

Sweet variations: Omit cheese sauce powder and bacon from the recipe. Add ½ cup sugar to the recipe along with 1 tsp caramel flavored oil, vanilla, and a dash of Chef Tess Wise Woman of the East spice blend. Add ½ cup freeze dried fruit (of your choice) to the mixture once it has thickened. Turn off the heat and allow the fruit to hydrate. I love it with raspberries, apricots, and blueberries along with some toasted walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios.
Baked Southwestern Buttermilk Cheese Grits
1/4 cup melted butter
4 cups water
½ cup Honeyville buttermilk powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Honeyville white or yellow corn grits
½ cup water
¼ cup Honeyville whole egg powder
½ cup Honeyville sour cream powder
1 teaspoon Chef Tess Southwest Fajita Seasoning
1 cup Honeyville freeze dried colby cheese
2T chopped fresh jalapeno or diced green chile
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 tsp baking powder
Directions Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart casserole with 2 tablespoons of butter. Combine remaining butter, water, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. When mixture comes to a simmer, add the grits, stirring until thoroughly combined. Continue to cook the grits at a simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile whisk together water, egg powder, sour cream powder and Southwest seasoning. Stir into cooked grits along with cheeses.. Pour mixture into prepared casserole. Bake until set, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Tess Roasted Corn Grits
Recipe adapted from the Jeff Blake, Zea Rotisserie and Brewery (The Tastebuds)
5 cups water
1T low sodium chicken bouillon powder
½ cup Honeyville cream cheese powder or sour cream powder
¼ stick butter
1 cup Honeyville freeze dried corn
1 cup Honeyville white or yellow grits
Green onions for garnish
1. To grill corn, Lightly toast freeze dried corn in a dry pan until slightly browned.
3. Bring water, bouillon powder and sour cream powder to a boil.
4. Slowly whisk in the grits and then the corn.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook 20-25 minutes. Add more water if needed (about 1/2 cup at a time and stir well.)
6. Add cracked black pepper to taste. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions.

There you go my darlings! Make some delicious grits! I fly out to Utah tomorrow and will be there for then next few days with FREE Classes and Book Signing Events! I hope to see you soon! Xoxo!!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Where Do You Get Chef Coats? Shout Out!

 A few months ago I walked into a uniform store here in Phoenix. The name of the store will remain undisclosed. I had found them on the internet and they never answered their phones so I had to drive way across town. I'm a busy gal and usually pressed for time, but I really needed a new white chef coat and so far, this was the closest location with "uniform" in the title.   When I got there, I walked into a warehouse sized store full of pants and suits and anything you could imagine for the working-class. The entire uniform store had everything except chef coats. Everything. If I was a road worker I would have been set for life when it came to uniforms.  Needless to say, I had to go to my event without a new chef coat.  A few weeks ago the folks at www.chefuniforms.com contacted me and offered to send me a free chef coat to try out and review. I was excited to see what they had. Mind you, I only use them when I go to events or cook at the company kitchen, but that is often enough and the old white one I had was getting pretty worn out.  

They sent out a coat and I got it within a few days. I loved the fit and the look of it so much that I went back to their website right away and ordered 4 more! They had the Basic White Chef Coats starting as low as 10$ and from there one could get fancy and colorful and add all the wording and stuff (for a certain cost). 

 My new personally embroidered coats arrived just a few days after I had ordered them and the check-out on their site was very fast and easy. I'm just super impressed.
So, if you're in the market for a new chef coat, this is great location. The cost is right, I didn't have to take time out of my busy work day to drive across town and not find what I wanted...and the package came with a return sticker with paid postage inside, just in case there was something wrong with the size or whatever! 

There you go darlings! Get a chef coat.
 www.chefuniforms.com rocks!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lemon Vanilla-bean Spiced Sweet Friendship Bread ...and Starter...and some Love.

When I was on the  Radio Show with Jan' D'Atri there was time to chat between live sessions and we got talking about sourdough starters and Amish Friendship bread.   I had read earlier in the week what she had written on her website about her dear brother Johnny's Sweet Friendship Bread (including how to make a starter). He had passed away at a very young age and left behind some beautiful kiddos. I bawled my ever-lovin'-eyeballs out reading about it. Mind you, that is the moment that Ace came walking by and saw me blubbering at my computer.  I promised him it wasn't a female hormone disorder (yaa riiiight)...I think it was probably because I have my own dear brother Johnny who I love dearly. That fact combined with female hormones and a complete lack of chocolate turned me into a blubbering idiot...in a good way.  I couldn't imagine a better tribute to a family member than to make a starter that you share with friends...especially friends who love to bake.  Jan came to see me at work a day or two later. Aside from the absolute thrill of having a Phoenix cooking and television legend come visit me (and invite me back on her show often)...she brought me this jar of Johnny's sweet friendship bread starter that she's loved and had taken care of since Johnny's death six years ago. 
When I read the words of Momma Livia I lost it..."The bread that is meant for you, no one can ever take away." You all know how I feel about bread and the Bread of Life. It just touched my soul to have it expressed so simply.  

When I actually made the bread, I was in heaven. It is a light, creamy, tender, moist, vanilla bean loaf completely enshrouded in this caramelized buttery spiced-sugar crust that just melts in your mouth. Seriously. Look at that crust. It is ridiculous. It is a miracle. It is...evil. Yup. I'm saying it. Evil. Add to that the fact that I turned the original recipe into a lemon version by adding fresh lemon zest and some Crushed Meyer lemon olive oil. I topped this  with a gentle kiss of lemon juice for tartness mixed with a hint of Rose Water drizzled over the warm loaf after baking. It is subtle. It is sweet and fresh...and amazing.

That being said...here's the details on Amish Friendship bread starter.

Obtain a starter or make your own using the directions in the post on Johnny's Sweet Friendship Bread. I was just giddy to get some. I know some people who, if they know you have friendship bread starter, will run away from you at church...but I'm not that friend. I'm a real friend. The directions are pretty clear about how many days to feed it and how much to stir it...and I wish you could just smell it...
 The stir happens more than the feeding so don't worry...it has been a fun project but hasn't taken over my life. 
 My favorite new tool for the starter is the bamboo Spatuloon that is great for being bacteria free and stirring starter. I'm a big fan!
Bakeresse' Lemon Vanilla Bean Spiced Friendship Bread

1 cup friendship bread starter
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour
3 egg
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Natural Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste
1 box instant vanilla pudding (or one batch of my homemade instant pudding mix)
Zest of one lemon, micro-fine

3 tablespoons sugar (mixed together with cinnamon for coating pan and topping)
1 tablespoon  Chef Tess Wise Woman of the East Blend here
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (for coating pans)

After baking drizzle:

1 tsp Rose Water (optional)
1T lemon juice

Friendship Bread Directions:
 Mix together all ingredients except butter and sugar/cinnamon mixture for topping. Make sure your lemon zest is very fine grated.
The genius coating is achieved very simply. Combine the 3T sugar and 1T Wise Woman of the East Blend. The genius of this blend, aside from the fact that I love it as a pastry chef, is that it is a one bottle grab. Saigon cinnamon, spices, citrus, rose-petal and lavender. 
Grease two 8 inch bread loaf pans generously with butter and dust with sugar and spice. 
 Pour batter into loaves and coat with butter and remaining sugar and cinnamon.
 I lightly score the top of the loaf with a knife so that when it bakes it has a nice middle-of-the-road break. 
Bake at 325 for 60-70 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from pan immediately and lightly drizzle the top of the warm loaf with the lemon juice/rosewater combination. Allow to cool and slice.

There you go my darlings. Some beautiful sweet starter...and a lot of love. For more details on other sourdoughs, see my posts on Sourdough.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Just a Reminder! Today's Fox Radio Show!

This afternoon I'll be on the air live for the full two hour show with Jan D'Atri for some laughs and love for baking bread easily, shelf-stable meals and just great ideas for making your family's menu more simple and delicious! Come and hear the good stuff! The direct link to listen to the show live is Here. Please spread the word! The more who listen, the better chance I'll have of getting to do a lot more with Jan in the future! Xoxo!

To find out more about the ever amazing and fantastic adventures of Jan, visit her website :
Jan D'Atri.com

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, January 4, 2013

3 NEW Healthy Baked steel-cut Oat Meals in a Jar from One Tropical Base (The 52 Method Continues)

 Raspberry Zinger Baked steel-cut Oatmeal
This one tastes like a cross between a berry cobbler and those daggum Hostess zinger cakes that no longer exist  yet I crave.

 Pistachio Spiced-Peach Pie Baked Steel Cut Oatmeal
The addition of a pistachio flavored oil to the base lends a ton of remarkable flavor to this dish without adding the fat of a lot of nuts. It reminds me of a trip to an Italian bakery
 Mango Banana Cream Cake Baked Steel Cut Oatmeal
This breakfast reminds me of a creamy banana cake with the tart sweet addition of mango.
All of these are from a guest post I did yesterday on the Honeyville Foods Blog. Happy New year my darlings! Go see the post: Here

I am no longer the corporate chef for Honeyville but we still love them dearly. My family is greatly blessed and relies heavily on the extra money brought in by sales tracked back to this site. This is also the company that packages and sells my spice line as well as my food storage cookbooks. Thank you so very much for your support. Xoxo!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Top 10 Ways to Use Oats and Oatmeal...and LOVE it!

Wednesday is Grain Surgery 101 and  Grain Surgery™ Recipes!
Today is Wednesday. It is the start of a new year for all of us and with it comes some resolutions to love ourselves more, eat better, and reach some goals.  Today is Oat day! 
I was already addicted to oatmeal long before I came out with the Oat-Standing Oat Class (I'll be teaching that one again this Saturday (see the upcoming class information, but today with the opening of a new year and the start of a lot of people wanting to focus on health, I thought I'd share my top 10 ways to use oats along with some awesome health benefits of the versatile grain!
Versagrain.com mentions these health benefits for eating oats:

  •  Soluble Fiber
    One of the best benefits of oatmeal (or any whole oat food) is that it lowers cholesterol by removing LDL (bad cholesterol) while maintaining HDL (good cholesterol).
  •  Insoluble fiber
    Absorbs water which helps to speed the transit of food through the bowels which helps to reduce the risk of some bowel related cancers (i.e. colon cancer).
  • Beta Glucan
    A bio-defense modifier which means it will boost your immune system.
  • Vitamins and Minerals
    Additional benefits of oatmeal include Iron, Zinc, Selenium, and Vitamin E.
  • Phytochemicals
    Plant chemicals that have shown promise in fighting and preventing cancer. For example, the phytoestrogens (lignans) found in oats help to fight hormone related diseases like breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. 

Here are my top 10:
 How to Make Rolled Oats from Oat Groats (Tutorial) 
The shelf life of oats is greatly extended when you roll your own oats and many have no idea how to do so at home. This is a great tutorial!

I like my oats hearty and full of texture. This is the tutorial on how to make them less like "wallpaper-glue" and more like a delicious taste sensation. 
  Homemade Gourmet Instant Oatmeal Packets Tutorial
This just speaks for itself, but wait until you try the gourmet flavors you can make at home and still save money by going all-natural. You'll be excited!
Hearty and Comforting Oatmeal...Soup
I was personally shocked to see how simple, comforting and delightful oats could be when made into a savory soup. It sounds a little funky, but once you try it, you'll agree. It is simple and classic. 
These are delightful and a wonderful variation from the normal oatmeal cookie. I'm a fan.
Teff, Chia Seed and Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
Those delicious no-bake cookies take on a whole new healthy twist when you add the powerful punch of vitamins and minerals from Teff and Chia!
Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (No sugar added)
A naturally sweetened low glycemic cookie that satisfies that chocolate craving while still keeping the blood sugar levels even. It's a great recipe and one that I adapted from one of my readers!
 Lemon, vanilla,  and rum flavors dance around naturally sweet pears and spices. It is a really outstanding flavor combination for oats. Really.
Caramelized Onion,White Cheddar,Lemon, and Dill Risotto
I love the creamy texture of Risotto-style grains and steel cut oats make a remarkable savory side dish or vegetarian main course in this recipe. You'll be amazing what adding some shrimp or chicken will do to the flavor as well. 
This is a remarkably moist, light and tasty bread with a texture and chew of whole grain that will make you very happy. Other benefit...it's been great for lower glycemic bread!
There you go! Use more oats in your life!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess