Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Onward He Goes and End of 2021




2021 has been a no-entry quiet year here for me on the blog. I apologize. It's been a struggle. In January my eldest Son went into the hospital and has been in and out with some health issues the entire year. In April my doctor told me that my brain tumor doubled in size. I haven't been really vocal about it on social media, but I've been quietly dealing with the reality that I'd have to be facing a higher level of pain for the rest of my life. It is still benign. Thankfully, but it will cause me pain. June hit and covid came to our family. I was out with pneumonia that comes with it for almost two months. Somewhere in the midst of it, I asked the Lord why I was still permitted to live. Yes. It got that bad. I am still recovering. My lungs are weak. However, something good has come. For at the end of this struggle, we have this miracle. 
 
 In 2008 when I started this blog, my baby was not even in elementary school and I was just struggling for sanity. Many of my faithful followers have been with me through all of the changes and challenges of this baker Mom's life and seen this little dude basically grow up on the blog. He's been such an amazing influence in my journey and inspired me to do so many hard things. From my first TV spot on local TV on raising kids on whole foods to getting out and teaching moms how to cook. 

Later when he and his brother were in school I started working a full-time job and supporting the family so my husband could be a full-time care provider for his parents. That was hard.  This little dude was always part of the fabric of the blog and the family, bringing joy to the food and the fun ideas to the recipes we would create. Often we'd teach homeschool classes with other children. Both of my boys were always involved in that part of what I did with the recipes. Back then I called him Face on the blog. His name is actually Luke. 


At age 18 Luke now has an Associates's degree in Business Accounting and has graduated from Seminary. He is determined to go into Horticultural Science and Agronomy when he returns in two years. January he will start something else. I mean he will be growing but in a totally different way. 

Sunday I'll be speaking in the church at a send-off service. In two weeks, Luke will be devoting his life to serving Jesus Christ and God as a full-time missionary in Denver, Colorado. In this day and age, it is a brave and honorable thing to devote any portion of one's life to that level of service. We're very proud of him. I admit that I'm nervous to see him go. Sad even, as I've relied so heavily on Luke for so many things over the last few years, but I am so thankful for his willingness to serve the Lord. 

Other updates.

My husband Ace is still the primary care provider for his mother, who lives with us here in the mountains of Arizona. It's probably the least appreciated job on earth, but he does it every day without complaint and with kindness.

Our eldest son Sam is still here with us as well. After a year of health struggles and stuff, I'm seriously grateful for that. His health has not permitted him to serve as a missionary. He loves everyone. He is a kind and good man with a bright mind and wonderful thoughtfulness in everything he does. He brings me so much joy. Sam has finished his Associates's degree as well and continues to pursue his personal goals. 

So 2021 ends with some pretty wonderful news and some miracles. We're all still here. Luke leaves soon for Denver. Sam is alive and smiling. I'm still working at a job that I adore.  I've been with them for 5 years and they've continued to be an answer to prayer time and time again. 

Ace continues to cheer for all of us. Oh. That's my favorite part. Ace continues to be the best darn Dad and husband a family could hope to have. He's also about the kindest and most thoughtful son he could be to his mom. In a crazy world full of insanity, this is all we can hope for. 


There you go. Merry Christmas to all. I hope your year has been full of adventures and joy. I've missed updating here, but please know that we are well. 

Always My Very Best,

Chef Tess






Friday, November 20, 2020

 



Tis the season for Gingerbread! My little family has been enjoying some killer gingerbread cake this week as I have been wanting to get in the Thanksgiving mood and obsessing just a little about getting the recipe just right for a delicious cake. I wanted a pound cake gingerbread. One that would stay moist and delicious for at least a week. I also wanted one I could freeze easily and give away over the next few weeks for Christmas. Eeek. I can't even think about the holidays yet, but it seems that they are coming soon! 

This recipe for gingerbread pound cake makes a rich, dense cake with a tender crumb. The sponge of the cake is a fine texture with a silky finish. It stays moist for several days and is heavy with spice and a hint of warm black pepper. The flavor profile is classic. I top this cake with a browned butter glaze that is loaded with crisp toasted pecans. It is a heavenly dessert combination. I use Panhandle Milling flour in this recipe, but King Arthur all-purpose will work as well. My cinnamon of choice is called Cinnamon Plus. It contains all the spices of the season including ginger, nutmeg, clove and orange. It is only available until Dec. 31st on my site. 

 

Gingerbread Pound Cake with Browned Butter Pecan Glaze

1 ¼ cups butter softened

2 cups packed brown sugar

½ cup molasses

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

3 cups Panhandle Milling Organic All-purpose Flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 Tbsp. cinnamon Plus 

1 tsp. ground black pepper

½ tsp. salt

1 cup sour cream

 

Glaze:

¼ cup butter

1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup half-and-half cream

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

 

Garnish:

Dried cranberries or apples as desired

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 10-in. fluted tube pan.

Cream butter, brown sugar, and molasses until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, spices, and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beating after each addition until combined.

Transfer to prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the glaze:  

Brown the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, continually stirring, until butter is light golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Stir in confectioners' sugar. Add vanilla, salt, and enough cream to reach drizzling consistency. Fold in the toasted pecans.

Drizzle glaze over the cake, allowing some to drip down the sides. Garnish with additional whole toasted pecans if desired. Let stand until set. Wait at least 2 hours before slicing


There you go. Make some amazing gingerbread!


Always My Very Best,

Your Friend Chef Tess



Friday, August 7, 2020

Giant Sunflowers and Faith

Faith is the principal of action in all intelligent beings.

Flip a light switch, why? Faith that it will turn on or off. Plant a seed why? Faith that it will grow. Faith in God is so real. It is something that actually has power to move mountains. I I bring this up because of these sunflowers. We have been a little obsessed with some of the giant varieties as of late and ordered some seeds. I had no idea if these Mongolian Giant and Sunzilla varieties would get as tall as the 15 feet that they were advertised to grow. After all, everything on the internet isn't true and someone could have just put that random sunflower seed in a package and charged us, not thinking we'd actually follow-through with the planting. Right?

Well. Here's the truth. I didn't really know it would happen, but my son put these support poles in place just as the baby 6 inches sunflowers had emerged. He knew without a doubt that these babies would grow BIG! I'm pretty sure he prayed for their success. He watered them. He made sure the had enough fertilizer. Yes. We actually had the conversation, because I had no idea that was a thing and he had researched all the successful growing methods for big sunflowers.

His faith amazes me. His actions to back his faith amaze me too. It inspires me. and it most definitely paid off.

Faith doesn't fall upon us by chance. Most certainly, this faith was not by accident. It was by choice.

 So this is your reminder: 

Not everything on the internet is a lie. There are life-changing truths that you can find.
Faith is a real principle.
God is most certainly in charge of things.
Oh...and God is super smart. Seriously. How can a seed do all leaves and the stem and the giant flowers and well aaaaaall the plants in the whole world?! 
I'm going to trust Him a whole lot more, especially in this crazy 2020 world. 

Faith is a deliberate choice. Think about that.  Choosing to believe and backing that belief with action, is what truly will make a difference in the world.  In just a 6 short months my son will be leaving home and serving the Lord as a full-time missionary. While my heart aches at the thought of not having his amazing soul near me everyday, I cannot wait to see all the results of his remarkable Faith as he goes forward. 

Neil L. Andersen said: The Savior perceived the strength or weakness in the faith of those around Him. To one, He said approvingly, “Great is thy faith.”1 He lamented to another, “O ye of little faith.”2 He questioned others, “Where is your faith?”3 And Jesus distinguished yet another with, “[In all Israel] I have not found so great faith.”4

I ask myself, “How does the Savior see my faith?”

I ask you, “How does the Savior see your faith?”

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not something ethereal, floating loosely in the air. Faith does not fall upon us by chance or stay with us by birthright. It is, as the scriptures say, “substance …, the evidence of things not seen.”5 Faith emits a spiritual light, and that light is discernible.6 Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe7 and as we seek it and hold on to it. 

Your faith is either growing stronger or becoming weaker. 

Faith is a principle of power, important not only in this life but also in our progression beyond the veil.8 By the grace of Christ, we will one day be saved through faith on His name.9 

The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice.

I am choosing Faith.

Your Friend in Christ,

 Tess


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Stove-top Ratatouille



We moved to a small town in Northern Arizona
 about 18 months ago. 
I needed a change of pace and a better housing situation. I'm still close enough to the city that I can take a short day-trip if I need to be in Phoenix for work meetings or TV shoots, but far enough away from the crazy heat and hustle of the city to enjoy a more country life.  I've always been a very simple gal, and I don't really need anything fancy. It's been a perfect fit and we're thriving here. It's a whole new world.  We bought an acre and are really enjoying the cooler weather and totally different growing zone for our garden as well.

Many of you are aware of my avid love of gardening and this new part of the state has been just what this gal needs. We've had a couple of very successful gardening seasons compared to Phoenix where the heat is just relentless and well...evil. This year, around March, my youngest son (now 17 years old and in college) helped build a greenhouse to extend our growing season a lot and also to get experience with a greenhouse ecosystem. He's seriously considering a career in Botany and Horticultural Science...and I couldn't be more thrilled about that! So really the greenhouse is for school right? I mean I learn something everyday and this has been a learning experience for sure. 

So here's the journey. We started with a 16 foot by 20 foot greenhouse kit. Some good soil, 100 cinder blocks and lots of anchors (about 6K pounds worth of cord and screw-in-the-ground things) to keep it from flying away in our very, very windy mountain town. 

Face worked really hard to make this happen. 
Then we installed soak hoses and planted all the seedlings that we had been nurturing inside under the grow-lamps. We planted 3 carrot varieties, beets.  Peas that will climb. There are 25 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  There are herbs like mad for my shenanigans in the kitchen including basil, cilantro, tarragon, dill, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, chives and 3 varieties of sage. I also wanted to try my hand this year with leeks. 
Things started to grow really well! 
We even put in solar powered lamps so I could just weed in the middle of the night if I wanted to do so. Don't judge me. I really love being in this place. Sometimes I say I'm weeding, but I'm just sitting out here reading a good book or listening to some good Gospel tunes. It's really good for my soul. 
Now everything is pretty huge! We had to take out the zucchini and we're putting in our second crops for Fall. Other things like the broccoli have bolted like mad, but I'm saving the seeds so I'm just using the extra leaves for coleslaw and low-carb enchilada or lasagna bakes. Our cilantro went to seed so I harvested the large branches with seed pods to dry for spices and also to replant seeds in the spring (or indoors during the winter). 
As our adventures in gardening continue I decided that I really needed to be a chef and actually make a version of Ratatouille that didn't require using and oven. I wanted one that also used a lot less oil than most traditional recipes, since they tended to be heavy. So with our Japanese eggplant, zucchini and honkin' huge load of heirloom tomatoes coming into full ripeness...this was a must! 
Pick the eggplants young and tender to avoid lots of thick seeds and to minimize the sponge effect it has on oil in cooking. If you aren't growing your own tomatoes, be sure to pick firm and ripe varieties. I used both large chopped tomatoes as well as the smaller cherry varieties. 

We have a few things outside the greenhouse too...
Face built a few grow-boxes in the yard. There is space for all his side projects. Yes. He built all of these from scratch. I'm so proud. 
Now. For the recipe...

My Stove-top Ratatouille 

1 medium globe eggplant, peeled, coarsely chopped

1 large zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more

¼ cup olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh thyme

1 large onion, halved, sliced ½ inch thick

1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 pints cherry tomatoes

2 large tomatoes, chopped 

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup fresh torn basil leaves 

Directions:

Toss eggplant, zucchini, and 2 tsp. salt in a colander. Let sit 30 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels. 

Heat oil in a large heavy Dutch oven or other heavy ovenproof pot over medium-high. Add eggplant and zucchini and cook, stirring constantly, until vegetables begin to take on color, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook another 5 minutes until clear. Add thyme and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Cover and slow cook on very low heat for 10-15 minutes more. 

Transfer to a serving platter and top with basil.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, March 6, 2020

Chef Tess and the Culinary Channel


I can't even express how awesome it is to work with this remarkable man. Bill Rogers is the owner of Culinary-TV (48 million viewers nationwide on Warner Cable) and my producer over the last 18 months.  If you've missed me, it's because I have been completely distracted with this new direction in my life. 

As life would have it, things have been 100% busy with my job as Panhandle Milling's Corporate Chef...already. Add to that filming and you have one nutty life. I currently spend a good 2-3 weeks a month on the road either working with bakeries or filming with Culinary-TV. I have been guest hosting several segments every other month on my visits to Denver, Colorado as well as working on a huge upcoming project with them that will soon be announced on the Culinary Channel's Roku platform. So...I apologize if I haven't been as good at posting here as I have in the past, but I will definitely be doing more as this project comes to fruition. 

All I know is I have truly found a place where I feel appreciated, adored, respected and treated like an integral part of a team. Those of you who have been along for the journey, know all the work and heartbreak that have brought us to this point. I appreciate all the love and support that y'all continue to show me. Yes. I will probably be hiring an assistant to help with everything going on, but in the meantime, I will keep moving onward and upward! 

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess




Saturday, June 15, 2019

The 2019 International Symposium on Bread with Peter Reinhert

At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, my dear friend Ajith from Fire Within Mobil Wood Fire Ovens introduced me to my favorite author and bread guru Peter Reinhert. I was honored to be able to spend a quiet evening in a private dinner with him and just a few close friends talking about bread and life and even more surprised to receive an invitation to attend the International Symposium on Bread this week in North Carolina (only 60 people from around the world get to attend)! It was quite unexpected and a huge honor!  This auditorium was soon filled with all the bright beautiful minds of yeast and flour!
When I arrived I was blessed with a private tour of Johnson and Wales from Peter himself!
I can't really put into words what a blessing it was to learn from some of the most brilliant mind in the world of bread!

But I can say it was epic! I followed this guy around like a puppy...
I took the course on sprouted grain breads working with chef Richard Miscovich for 3 days in hands-on workshops. We made rye bread with sprouted grain flours. Chef Richard is on the board of directors for the Bread Baker's Guild, and a seasoned instructor at Jonson and Wales University in North Carolina as well as an Author. His instruction is world class.
 There was a lot of science involved...and he was pretty intense about it!

Not unlike the sprouted grains we've discussed often here on the blog...but a lot more detail!



We even used sprouted chia seed!

I loved seeing other students from around the world asking questions about the sprouting process and hearing the responses as well.
Richard was an incredible instructor.
We also got to have pizza from Fire Within. This is Ajith. He's amazing. I've come to respect him greatly from working closely with him in Denver. He truly has a heart of gold!
We worked on fermentation method using four different dough and it was interesting to see the results.
 We also saw the distinct differences in the dough of the structures.
 The process was cool to participate in as well...
 Dough slashing...
 Artisan dough turning...
 The results...


Overall, this was one of my top baking experiences, bar none! I feel like I learned so much in a short amount of time and I can't put into words what it felt like to be there. I'm so appreciative for the experience. Thank you Peter and to all who made this experience possible!

All My Very Best,