Tuesday, January 10

Winter (Squash) Is Coming

Soup. In my opinion it’s best when the weather drops under 30°F (-1°C). So this Monday it was at a bloody low 20°F (-6°C)and this summer baby whipped out ingredients to make Curried Red Lentil & Winter Squash Soup.

The history of this soup comes from a co-op that I worked at a few years back. It was during a time where I really didn’t know where I sat at in the culinary world. It was fun. The store was filled with all types of people [hippies, hipsters, stay-at-home moms and dads, 9 to 5ers, conservative republicans, and Wiccans]. In this one place in the universe everyone got along.

So watching my co-worker and friend make this soup I eventually memorized a few recipes. I’m no genius, this soup is incredibly wholesome, rich, and easy to make. Also it’s vegan and gluten free.
  • 1 small Winter Squash (I prefer butternut squash)
  • 1 cup Red Lentils
  • ½ chopped Onions (Spanish, Yellow, or White)
  • 2 - 3 chopped Carrots
  • 1 quart Vegetable Broth (preferably from scratch, but store-bought is okay too)
  • 1 can (13.5 fl oz) coconut milk (regular and not the light version. Make sure it's unsweetened!)
  • 2 Tbsp. Canola Oil
  • Fresh Cilantro (a tablespoon worth)
  • 1 tsp. Curry Powder
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Coriander
  • Salt to taste ( I recommend salting at the end. You do it once, you will soon learn why. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED)
  1. Cut, gut, and slice the squash into chunks. Pan spray a tray and place the squash on the tray skin up. 
  2. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350°F or (176°C) until very soft.
  3. When cooled (don’t burn your hands), scoop out the flesh into a bowl for later.
  4. Place the canola oil in a big pot on a medium low temperature. When the oil is hot (NOT SMOKING) add the onions and carrots and sauté until tender.
    It doesn't matter if the cuts are professional. The carrots and onions are going to get pulverized anyway.

  5. Add the Red Lentils and stir until they are coated with the remnants of oil.
    Uncooked Red Lentils

  6. Add the Vegetable Broth and cook the mixture until the Red Lentils are soft and cooked.
  7. Include the remaining ingredients and mix occasionally for 45 to 60 minutes. I usually place a lid on the pot and clean up my prepping mess at this point.
  8. When done take an immersion blender or food processor and go to town until smooth. Please not that I like my soup on the chunkier side. Don’t worry if you want it completely smooth. If you do, strain it through a China Cap.
  9. Salt to taste.
  10. Pour it into a bowl, add some cilantro (or parsley) to garnish, and enjoy.
    Time to eat!

 If you make it, let me know what you think!

Monday, January 2

Obligatory Statement of New Year's Resolution

2016 for me has been a year of learning.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I started vending at a farmer's market. I learned that people like my baking and I would do even better if I had a actual location. After the election it seems nothing is a sure bet though.

I'm hesitant because I don't even own a house yet. Do I even want to stay in Philadelphia? A brick and mortar place means I'm sticking around. So many questions, but I do know what I want in 2017. 

What I want to do this year:

  1. Get back to my mission statement. My focus is retro desserts and I gone way off in my attempt to please everyone. 
  2. Go out more. I stupidly felt that going to nice restaurants meant going with a companion. Considering that I'm chronically single waiting to go to nice restaurants meant I rarely went nice restaurants. Well that's stupid. I should go to nice restaurants when I fucking want to.
  3. Getting back in shape. Less snacking, more moving.
  4. Travel. Oh I missed traveling. I met terrific people this year, but the open road is calling me.
    4a.  Major travel goal: Malta ... of course if I'm THAT close to Italy it would be rude not to visit that beautiful country.
    4b. Definitely going to visit because it's awesome: Montreal 375th Anniversary 
At least I learned that people really appreciate my baking and services.  At this age and watching so much Kitchen Nightmares and Bar Rescue I don't know if I want to use my savings for a bakery. The two things Philadelphia doesn't need any more of are bakeries and banks.

There's a lot to consider and do in the new year.

Friday, September 2

What I Did This Summer or My Farmer's Market Adventures

Like I said in my previous post, there isn't really an instruction book on how to open a food business. So I started vending and I learned a lot. Yes, mistakes were made. Of course they were not devastating or I wouldn't be here blogging. I'd probably would be crying in my car with the lights off.

The Positives:

The Upper Merion Farmers Market - During my search of vending options, I came across this weekly market. Many other markets I searched in my area were booked it seemed 6 months prior. UMFM welcomes both weekly, bi-weekly, and occasional vendors.

I made way too much for the Memorial Day weekend. I thought this was a "light" selection

My fellow vendors were all from the 100 mile radius of the area. I saw what they were selling and how they marketed their product. I realized I had to packaging my items to catch the eye of my customers.

The first day was the Saturday of the Memorial Day Weekend. I thought I was making the minimum. Oh heavens was I wrong. The one thing I did learn is to listen to my customers. The patrons included a good number of senior citizens. They would look and say they could not eat sugar because of diabetes or other health issues. So guess what I placed on the menu next time?

Sugar-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.
Made with stiva.

The extremely helpful managers and volunteers answered every one of my stupid questions and helping me setup my tent. Also the other vendors sold some great stuff!

Coffee. My lifeblood.

Also dogs are welcomed.


The Cons:

I decided rather quickly that I wanted to participate in a farmers' market. Much like my standard, I decided that I was going to do this and I'm doing it now! In some cases, I don't like researching too much or else I get a case of the nerves.

I've previously shopped in other markets so I kind of knew what to expect, but I've never attended this one in particular. The only research available was the listing on the website. I did not want to sell anything that conflicted with my neighboring vendors.

At my first market day I brought a big selection - regular items (baked goods made with eggs and butter), gluten free, and vegan. Now my menu has regular items, fewer vegan, no gluten free, and child-friendly sweets.

At this point my season is nearly over and I am finally getting the handle of what to make, how much to make, and other factors such as how temperature affects shopping attendance. One big revelation is that kid-friendly items attract children and it makes parents hard to say no.

Cue evil laughter.

It's the end of the summer and it's time to consider the fall menu. Oh the ideas that I have.

Thursday, June 23

Dodging Cluelessness Like Neo in the Matrix

When I look back on the past 10 years of my life, I’m slightly amused. The farmers’ market is going well. The township where it is located has definitely impressed me. When the time is right to open a storefront it will be in the area. I’m still in a stalemate between my love of writing and baking. At least at this point of my life I know what I do want. Thank goodness because I’m not young and don’t have time to waste.

I mentioned before although there are guides on how to start a business, there isn’t much to avoid the bullshit. A lot of people have misconceptions about how the food business works – even those who are starting a food business. There’s so many rules and regulations to follow to protect the business owner, customer, and if you are a caterer protecting the venue.

Catering is not as easy as creating a Facebook Business page announcing that you are now accepting orders. Also there are limits one can do especially if you are a sole proprietor. Requests such a placing an order for one cupcake and delivering this item 2 miles away at 10:30 at night is of little interest to me.

What people do not understand is that for my business that unless it's for a catering event or vending, I create desserts by order and it has to make me a profit. Therefore I don’t have an inventory items on hand. So I make a batch of cupcakes for order. What do I do with the excess? Without a storefront or café, I cannot offer them available clientele so I’m stuck eating them or giving them away to friends.

That is called a loss, ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to avoid any major losses, please.

I also want to avoid a waste of my time. If I work harder not smarter that’s my problem. If you insist I do it then you are an idiot. I’m sure in hindsight I’ll see a lot I did wrong. So far I’m doing a lot right.

The only person I need to justify my actions to is The Pastry Prophet. Also I look to people who walked the same path to give me sound advice. They know how to avoid culinary minefields and avoid the bureaucratic mumbo jumbo.

Thursday, June 2

Hot Sex in the Summertime

I know people who can eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and every snack in between if left up to their own volition. Personally I like ice cream on rare occasions and only if the good kind (meaning small batches).

So when I got my greedy hands on a chocolate liqueur an Original Bartenders Premium Selection™ called Hot Sex (a large quantity of it and aptly named), my mind instantly went into ice cream mode. Don't judge me. My mind always leads to desserts.

To be honest the weather is starting to scorch and I need to keep my ice cream skills sharp.

I hope the person who thought of this name received a bonus.

The issue with making ice cream with alcohol is that it will not freeze as hard at traditional egg and milk ice cream recipes. But I also did not want to skimp on the Hot Sex.

What made Hot Sex Ice Cream different from a Bailey’s Ice Cream is not only the kick of chocolatey booze, but the nice bite of ginger. So if you want to be technical – the ginger and ginseng herbs are really medicinal.

Your move Starbucks
I really wanted to just eat it straight from the ice maker's bowl

This ice cream elevated the mood of my office mates. Since I need both uppers and downers in legal form I made my version of an Affogato al Caffè. Yes, I know affogato should be made with espresso, but I don’t have one and I’m not using that gross K-Cup. French Press coffee is much better in my opinion.

So do yourself and your friends and family a favor and make this ice cream. Sure it is not as easy as grabbing a pint as your market, but this stuff is yummy. And if you feel like sharing everyone will think you are awesome. The truth is that you have a summer outfit to squeeze into this month.

Makes 2 quarts

  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 2 tsp of REAL vanilla (not that McCormick’s crap
  • ½ cup Hot Sex Liqueur
  • 10 large egg yolks (Yes this is a lot. You won't be sorry)
  1. Put your ice cream maker container in the freezer two days before
  2. Combine the heavy cream, vanilla, and vanilla in a separate bowl
  3. Place your egg yolks and ¼ cup of sugar and egg yolks in your mixer and whist until foamy and leaves whisk lines.
  4. Add your ½ of sugar along with the milk in a pot and mix until sugar dissolves. Scald the mixture do not boil.
  5. Temper the eggs mixture to your milk mixture by adding the milk to the eggs a quarter cup at a time. When the mixing bowl feels very warm at the bottom pour that mixture back into the pot. If you rush this step you will end up with scrambled eggs in sweet milk (yuck).
  6. With a wooden spoon cook the combined mixture on medium heat. Once again do not leave your pot unattended or let it boil. Once your custard thickens it should coat the back of your spoon.
  7. Strain your mixture and blended it into the heavy cream, vanilla and Hot Sex mixture.
  8. Place into a container and let it cool down overnight. You can store this mixture in your refrigerator up to 4 days. If you want to rush this step put this mixture in an ice bath.
  9. Churn your ice cream mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

You do you!

Eat it any way you wish. It’s your ice cream.

Tuesday, April 12

I Know What I'm Doing

I have been a busy bee this year.

A close friend of mine underwent scoliosis surgery, so I helped carry on her online magazine Explore-Philly.com while she healed. I realized that I'm not as young as I would like to think I am and there's something else I noticed about myself. ...

When I was a teen and in my early 20s, there wasn't anything more that I wanted than a social life. Now that I'm older, my idea of a great Friday night is pizza, my Roku, and a bottle of gin.

Don't get me wrong. I had so much fun going to different events and meeting interesting people, but every night I return home exhausted by the time I had to write the story. Also I'm holding down a full time job. Promoting the social media and connecting with people made me realize that I'm nowhere near I expected to be at this point of my life.

I need to buckle down so I eliminated distractions including Facebook (my personal - not business page) and started emailing farmer markets to see if they would accept my wares. Many of the greater Philadelphia area markets are already closed to new members unbeknownst to me.

Finally one market emailed me back and sent me an application. Pending approval from a health department inspection, I'm in to sell pastries next month. 

How exciting and terrifying. I have a menu ready and need to do my cost control. I hate cost control. Is there a computer program or an app for cost control?

I am trying to avoid any potential nightmares. There are many suggestion to shoppers and visitors to Farmers Markets, but nothing out there for first time vendors. As usual I expect to make several catastrophic mistakes, so let the "What Not To Do" list begin with me. Sometimes I think my purpose in my life is to show other people what not to do.

Wednesday, February 17

Classified Brownies

A few years ago when I was a pastry chef at a small bistro in Philadelphia, my chef requested that I come up with a signature brownie. Now I can debate for awhile in what makes a good brownie, but in my opinion, it's fudgy, but not too much, kind of cakey, and definitely not dry. 


I would prefer pecans or walnuts, but I know some people would take that as a sacrilege. A brownie recipe may not sound like a big deal, but next to cookies it's my favorite American dessert. I wanted to give my customers who desired a sweet end their meal with something that rocked their taste buds.

At that time, my test subjects were the dishwashers and servers. The servers knew how much my desserts meant to me and always came back to tell me if a guest said something lovely specifically about my dessert turnout. I cooked to make the customers happy and not for reviews (which I did get phenomenal feedback there as well).

I knew I made the best brownie when a server tried it and said:

"It's like having an orgasm in my mouth!"

:: Drop Mic :: 

The kitchen dropped deadly silent and then we all erupted in laughter. She was beet red, but I left the line to hug her (it was before opening).

Now my chef was a real douche. I don't mind hard work or long hours, but this guy would wait until I came in and completed my prep to say, "I checked the books. We don't need you tonight." If he was honest and said that he didn't need me on the line (note: I also prepped for the hot side and worked the salad line if it wasn't busy on dessert), I would have been fine with it.. He didn’t think desserts were needed or that pastry chefs particularly were talented.

No, Chef Dingleberry waited until I was done so he can get the already overworked dishwashers to do the pastry line without paying them additional money. 

After several weeks of this going on, Chef D started hinting that maybe I should leave my recipes at work. This is a brownie, but I don't like it when people start getting sly and think that I'm a fool. I'm many things, but I'm not stupid.

So I left a copy of my recipes -- with the ingredients changed.

After I left that job, I went on to a bread baking position and never had an opportunity to make brownies until several years later. It's a fairly simple recipe, but with one change makes it a world of difference.

Sitting back eating a brownie with coffee makes me smile. I viewed their menu soon after I left. The brownies were no longer on the menu.