Friday, October 24, 2008

Snickerdoodles with the Little Guys

Thought I'd share some pics with you from our Little Guys (2 to 4 year olds) Snickerdoodle class we held this past Tuesday.

I get a lot of calls from parents who are ready to get their kids cooking while they're still in diapers! Seems a little soon to some, but I love that even kids this young can get in on the action in the kitchen. This is the first one of these that I've held, mostly because everyone's schedule is so crazy, I'm never sure when to put it on our class calendar.

I thought it would be best to prepare a really simple recipe for our first outing: Snickerdoodles. It doesn't get much easier than that (butter, sugar, flour, eggs) plus the kids get the extra-added bonus of rolling the dough balls in cinnamon-sugar before baking.Remember, with little kids it all has to be about the action. Children this young have a difficult time sitting still and always want to stir, whisk, and roll, so it helps to measure everything out ahead of time. When you're 3, you have no idea what a fraction is, so measuring 1/4 of a cup will bore you to tears. But holding a whisk (even if you don't really need one), now THAT is exciting stuff!

Here we are getting ready to turn on the mixer (watch those fingers!) and get our dough moving.
When my own children were younger, we used to give them their own cupboard that they could go in and out of and play with pots, pans, bowls, and large wooden spoons until their heart's content. I think that helped to give them a certain comfort level in the kitchen and it also helped me to learn how to work around them. Not to scare you, but don't forget how dangerous the kitchen can be. As you start including your kids, pick simple recipes that don't use the stove (ovens are ok, as long as you're the one going in and out), have lots of action, and of course, taste yummy!

A great resource for working with kids is I've mentioned it before, but it really is good for finding age-appropriate activities. I'm actually working on my own book for teens and tweens, but I'll give you more info on that later.
On a side note, please check out our class calendar down at The Kitchen Studio at We certainly appreciate your business and would love to plan a class that interests you and your friends. Just let us know what you're looking for class-wise and we'll see what we can come up with. We're even hosting a bachelorette party in a few weeks, so there is a multitude of possibilities!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My New Obsession: The Chef Jeff Project

This morning I was checking out the tv to see what fabulousness recorded over the past few days. I've recorded a ton of new Food Network shows and was excited to see new Ina Garten (I LOOOOOOVE her!) and some of the other new offerings, including a show I had briefly read about called "The Chef Jeff Project".

Here's the show synopsis from the Food Network's Chef Jeff page: "Jeff Henderson grew up on the tough streets of South Central L.A. and San Diego. At 19 he was running a $35,000-a-week cocaine operation. At 24, Jeff was arrested and sent to prison, where he spent the next ten years. While incarcerated, Jeff discovered a passion for cooking and the drive to turn his life around. Jeff became Executive Chef at Café Bellagio in Las Vegas, wrote a bestselling book, and now he is focusing on giving back. In The Chef Jeff Project, he takes six at-risk young adults and commits to turning their lives around by putting them to work in his catering company, Posh Urban Cuisine. He arms them with the knowledge, the skills and, ultimately, the opportunity for a new life with a culinary career." So basically, guy is bad, goes to jail, learns a skill, gets out, gets good, wants to help at risk kids to not make the same mistakes. Interesting idea, and almost a little well, deep, for TFN. But let's get something straight -- I really like this show, and I've only seen the first episode!

There are 6 "kids" who have either been in jail (all the boys), been on drugs or sold them, a 24-year-old woman with 4 (!) children, and another who, at just 18 is living on her own with no support from home. They're tough but vulnerable (Adam scares me a little, but I loved his "South Central Sushi" with Spam. If he can control his temper and emotions, he looks like he could be a great asset in the kitchen).

For more info on Chef Jeff's catering business, Posh Urban Cuisine, check out this link to his website: For info on the show, click here:

I don't know what it is that excites me so much about this show, except that Chef Jeff seems like he's really trying to do some good. Nowadays, kids come out of culinary school think that they are all executive chefs. Really, they're just dishwashers with skills, but don't try to tell them that. Respect and skill in the kitchen is learned over long, tedious hours doing absurd grunt work and being smelly, dirty, and generally in need of a good shower. Culinary school, while a great way to get a leg up, no more qualifies you to be exec chef than a bachelor's degree entitles you to be a corporate CEO. Chef Jeff is starting these kids even more basic than c-school. They are production cooks, a sous (though not officially the title on this show), and a dishwasher (Kathy-she is my favorite as the show gets started).

New episodes of The Chef Jeff Project air Sunday nights at 10p on The Food Network. Check it out and let me know if you think I'm being a little Pollyanna about the show. I'll be that you'll be hooked.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Food & Gas

I just got back from the grocery store (shopping for today's awesome Italian classes for kids and teens!) and had a thought. Everyone is going crazy right now for Costco's $2.69/gl. gas. There are long lines waiting for this "bargain" fuel. Well heck, just take a look at my grocery receipt and you'll see that in the past 12 months, I have saved over $1,100 in gas. That's right -- $1,100+ in FREE gas.

Giant Eagle, as I'm sure most of you know, has their "fuel perks" program (here's a link to all the rules etc. For every $50 you spend at the store, you earn $.20 off per gallon of gas at your next fill-up. I think that it's usually .$10 a gallon, but has been doubled here locally since the program started a while back. So, spend a hundred bucks, get $.40 off per gallon. How cool is that? Of course, my business is food, so I may spend a little more than you, but probably not that much because I use a number of different sources (Costco, Sam's, Asian Supermarket, etc.) for different things.

Regardless -- if you're not shopping at Giant Eagle -- why not??? Everyone has concerns about the economy, and everyone is trying to pinch pennies. Why, in heaven's name wouldn't you do everything you can to save gas money when it is soooo easy? It just seems like such a no-brainer to me. They have two gas stations in Frederick, Rt. 40 right off of Rt. 15 and 7th St. near the entrance to Ft. Detrick. Trust me on this one -- it's well worth the time and energy to learn a new grocery store to save this kind of money. Plus, as a bonus, you'll really like the food and the staff too, so it seems like a win-win. Don't you think?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Here's One for Starbuck's Lovers...

For those of you who can't get enough caffeinated goodness from Starbucks (and yes, I still love locally-owned shops!), there's a bargain going on at Costco right now.

As Starbucks desperately tries to increase sales and make things start to happen for the upcoming holiday season, they are offered 5-$20 gift cards for the price of 4 (actually $79.99) at Costco. I had read about this a few days ago on YumSugar ( but hadn't seen anything at our local store. Low and behold, when I visited today, there they were. You receive 5 cards with 5 gift envelopes for your 80 bucks. If you're a die hard Starbucks fan or just like to give out the gift cards during the holidays, hit Costco soon. Who knows how long this may last!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Have You Ever Had a Paw Paw?

Okaaaaay -- am I the only person who has never heard of this wonder fruit?

On Sunday, we joined our fab neighbors Harriet & Richard to enjoy a Paw Paw. Now, I had never heard of one of these, and truthfully, I was excited to try something new, especially if a lovely glass of wine was involved.

After dutifully showing off the aforementioned fruit, Richard let me play touch-feely with it to see what it was like. It was about 5 inches long and was just a bit thicker than a mango (though not thicker on one end; it was more evenly proportioned). From the outside, it had a distinctive citrus smell and was much softer than I imagined. Here's a picture:

Richard then took the "custard apple" and cut it into quarters while Harriet gathered some spoons. I thought that this would be a little crunchy and apple like, but it was unlike anything I had ever tried before. You really, really had to eat it with a spoon right out of the peel. It was soft and a little squishy, but not in an unpleasant way, plus, it didn't taste citrusy at all. Check out this pic:

There were a few oval, black seeds each about an inch long, but we cast those to the side (Harriet is going to try to grow a paw paw tree -- how cool is that???).
So, does anyone know where you can find a paw paw around here? Harriet and Richard snagged theirs at a farmer's market in VA, but I'd love to find another one of these a little closer to home. Have you tried one? What did you think? I looooove finding cool new ingredients and trying to figure out what to do with them, but this one escapes me. If you want more info, check out the entry on Wikipedia: I pulled the pics from there, so they'll look familiar.
Pawpaw lovers...unite!