Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas

As I sit on the chair in my front window, with the dog snuggled behind me, I finally have a moment of peace this holiday season.

The shopping is (mostly) done, at least for the folks coming for dinner tomorrow, and there are just a few random items to pick-up at the grocery.

I'll be baking some bread, mostly because I've become obsessed with the Zoe Francois book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. In fact, this book is so fantastic and revolutionary that I gave it or the newer version, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day to each member of my staff, along with a batch of dough I whipped up ahead of time for Christmas. BTW - They loved it. I'm going to go with some brioche dough so that I can make the kids cinnamon rolls for breakfast and maybe another version of something else buttery and yeasty for dinner rolls.

Christmas dinner will be the usual holiday fare:
  • Shrimp cocktail (my people love it)
  • Roasted vegetable puff pastry wrap (a TKS special)
  • Beef Tenderloin with an herb crust and Bearnaise
  • Ham (because my dad freaks if he doesn't get ham on Christmas)
  • Baked, creamy leeks
  • Green beans with almond brown butter
  • Twice-baked potatoes
  • White chocolate-espresso buche de noel
  • Key lime pie

It seems like a lot once I've got it written down, but I don't think it will be too much. We eat early and I love to have everything made for both meals of the day, plus my family is casual and I can wear stretchy pants. Besides, with this fancy new bread-baking method, I feel very posh. Freshly baked bread for Christmas? Who's the rockstar now I ask you?

Have a happy Christmas, may all your holiday wishes come true, and here's hoping Santa really does put that new version of the immersion circulator under your tree. :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recipe: Best Leftover Turkey Soup EVER

I finally made Thanksgiving dinner - woo hoo!! So after my family graciously cleared the table and washed the dishes, I knew, staring at all of the deep-fried turkey remains that I just HAD to make some turkey soup.

My sister-in-law Laura unknowingly threw down the gauntlet when she arrived on Wednesday. "Last year you made the BEST turkey soup!" I'm a bit competitive and knew that this year, I had to make more and it absolutely HAD to be even better. It's a cook thing.

So, in my effort to keep things easy breezy, partially because I'm burnt out from cooking the big dinner and partially because I'm, well, lazy, I wanted to keep it really easy, with no measuring or real effort. Here's the recipe (feel free to ad lib as you like):

Christine's Absolutely Fabulous Leftover Turkey Soup

Start by taking your turkey carcass (ours had been deep-fried) and various bit and pieces and throw them into a stock pot (mine was 6 qt., but 8 or 10 would work great too). Cover the turkey parts with cold water and place on the stove. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for a few hours or however long you have-longer is better (mine simmered for 3 hours or so Thanksgiving night, then in the fridge, then back on the stove this morning for another 4 hours). When your liquid drops by an inch or two, add some more water and keep on going (I did this a few times). It helps to concentrate the flavor and give you plenty of broth.

Once the broth smells really rich and has a gorgeous golden tone, set a colander over a large bowl and strain the bones etc. out.

Place the pot back on the stove and toss in a tablespoon or two of butter. (This is where you can get creative). Add any leftover vegetables, without sauce, to the pot and saute until tender, about 5 minutes or so. I used green beans, cut into pieces, sliced raw carrots, a few diced shallots, and a sliced leek.

Pour broth back into the pot. My family eats Kluski noodles on every major holiday, so I took a huge handful of cooked noodles and threw those in the pot too. Add a teaspoon or two of crushed dried thyme and generously salt and pepper it (some fresh parsley would be nice too, but we were totally out). Pull turkey from the bones and toss in the pot as well. We also had leftover carved turkey, so I put some of that in too.

Allow the soup to simmer a half hour or so, or until everything is soft and soup-like. Keep the pot on the stove if you like or gobble it all up right away (see what I did right there? Gobble. Get it? Like a turkey. Tee hee)

Even though this soup seriously cooked all day, it required very little maintenance - more like just some alone time on the stove. We were home, so it wasn't a big deal. When we left to hit Frosty Friday downtown for a few hours, we turned the soup off. When we got back home, we turned it back on. See? Easy.

And that's it. Turkey Soup. The house will smell great and you'll get turkey part deux with a smidgen of the effort of the day before.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Introducing Gotta Break Some Eggs!

I have a super new web site/blog I've been working on:

Gotta Break Some Eggs is a blog focused on getting teens and tweens cooking on their own. There are simple recipes for the beginning cooks and cool videos to demo some of the recipes too!

If you're a parent, you'll want to take a look at the section we've got just for you with tips and tricks for working with young cooks. Here's a tip: Relax. You can see what I mean right here.

Want to show the kid in your life a simple way to make a smoothie? You can see a video demo right here.

Soon we'll also have awesome kitchen equipment on the site that you can even buy for the young cook in your life.
I'm just thrilled to get this started and can't wait to hear your feedback and questions. Be sure to post any questions you have on that section of the site and we'll get right back to you!

So, on your to-do list for today? Visit! And thanks!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Planning: Giving Up Control of The Turkey (or Why you should Deep Fry your Turkey this year)

I'm gonna catch some heat for this, but I think that you should deep fry your turkey this Thanksgiving.

Now, I am a huge fan of walking into the house and having the aroma of a gently roasting (humongous) bird wafting through the air, but this year? It just isn't gonna happen.

Though I love the idea (and flavor) or a roasted bird, doing the deep fry offers certain advantages:

1. Your oven is free to make all of those fabulous, wonderful side dishes that are really the centerpiece of the event.

2. Whomever is in charge of the deep-frying, and yes, it's usually the guys, is out of the kitchen and out of your hair.

3. By allowing someone else to take control of the bird, you're letting And let's be honest here, everyone wants to help. To contribute.

You may be sacrificing the roasted bird, but it will still taste fantastic if done right (and who doesn't like to research and have a little bit of a challenge) and you can make gravy another way. Plus, you can still brine the heck out of that sucker if you want.

If I had a fancy oven at home (or two) and the space to roast, without a doubt, that's the way I'd go. But I don't. And I have one of those stupid flat, glass cooktops too, which is really different from cooking at The Kitchen Studio and my glorious 3 ovens and 10 burners of power.

Let's not forget, in all of the pressure of creating the right meal with the right menu and perfect timing is just a small part of the holiday. Sharing the work and being with folks you love, while simultaneously trying to not kill them, is the real joy, whether it sounds cliched or not.

As an extra added bonus, they have smaller 3-gallon containers of Peanut Oil at Sam's Club right now for less than $20. And you know that you know someone who has a turkey fryer but won't use it, so feel free to borrow or try to hit up Freecycle and see what you can find. It will be worth it in the end.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Holy Grail: Planning Thanksgiving Dinner

After all these years, it's finally happened. I'm making Thanksgiving dinner for the family. Woo hoo! Yippee!

Wait a minute...WHAT did I get myself into?

Last year, I blogged about never having the opportunity to make Thanksgiving dinner. As someone in the food biz, I view this holiday like the Superbowl of food, and I'm always sitting on the bench. You can read that post/whine-fest right here.

So this year, I finally decided that it was time to take the reins. My lovely sister-in-law Laura has hosted dinner the past several years for the whole crew. Laura has a beautiful home and the ability to schedule and plan like no one else I know. She's a natural for this and never seems to sweat even a little bit. But, Laura and family live a few states away and I was hoping to stay closer to home this year. My dad isn't in great health and my brother Todd and his super-duper prganant wife will not be making the trip, so the timing seems right. The fact that my brother-in-law Ed always wants to do a project in our house when he visits had nothing to do with this. I swear. Pinky-swear?

As for me, the house is a bit smaller so I'm a little crunched trying to figure out where to put everyone, because this isn't a balance it on your lap kind of meal.

Also, I tend to bite off more than I can chew task/menu-wise. I like to show that I really can cook, and try too much fabulousness, thus making dinner late and people grumpy.

My own family is not known for gourmet feasts, but more of a homestyle traditional PA-type dinner (gravy on everything), but my husband's family is more adventurous, though I did find out that I am required to serve corn. Okkkkkkkkay.

So, for the next 3-1/2 weeks, I will use this space to plan, recipe test, and sort out the details, culminating, of course, in fabulous photos of a wonderful, perfect meal.

The first dilemma is this: How do I plan a meal that pleases everyone and can be executed with ease? Planning will be paramount, and I know I'll have to keep myself under control. Right now I'm wrestling with all of the fabulous cooking magazines scattered about my living room with a million different versions of the same type of recipes.

I'm actually swooning over the latest issue of Fine Cooking, one of my very favorite cooking magazines, and the spread of sky-high gorgeous cake recipes provided by one of my favorite bakers, Rebecca Rather, the Pastry Queen, of Rather Sweet Shop down in Texas. This Hot Chocolate Cake with Homemade Marshmallows has me all a-twitter just thinking about it. My goodness, have you ever seen such gorgeousness????

So how do you do it?

How do you plan a successful, delicious meal while getting the house ready (time to move my "office" from the living room back to the spare room), making the table look great, and accepting the generous offers of food from family? You just know they will offer to bring something and it's important to say yes yes yes, while keeping things in-line with the meal you want to serve. Plus having other folks bring things? Makes dinner soooooo much easier. Am I right or am I right?

So how do YOU do it? How do you make a great meal and keep everyone happy? What's your trick? Your tip? Your surefire way to keep it all movin' along.

Tomorrow, my first tip. Gobble gobble. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vietnamese, Sushi, & Indian Foods Classes at The Kitchen Studio!

Looking to spice up your culinary repertoire? There's no better time at The Kitchen Studio!

We have three great International classes coming up that you're sure to love! We've even lowered our class prices, so you can bring a friend! Check these out:

Vietnamese Street Foods this Friday, October 30 from 6:30-9:30, $55. Join Chef Caroline McAllister as she teaches you the flavors and techniques used in simple Vietnamese cooking. You will prepare and enjoy Quick Pho, Hue Chicken Salad, Rice Paper Summer Rolls, Rice Noodles with Stir-Fry Vegetables, and even killer Vietnamese Coffee. I'm always amazed at how delicious this food is and how great Caroline is at teaching every little detail. You can register for this class here.

Sushi 101, Friday, November 6 from 6:30-9:30, $55. This one is mine and has been hugely popular this year.I'll teach you how to make your own sushi rolls at home. You'll wrap and roll your way to sushi heaven, I promise! You'll learn the techniques to making perfect sushi rice and the tips and tricks to successful rolls. We'll have fresh fish and veggies ready for you to roll the night away. Register for Sushi 101 here.

Small Bites from India, Friday, November 13 from 6:30-9, $55 Join instructor Rajni Hatti of Simple Indian as she teaches you how to make delicious Indian appetizers to spice up your holiday, or any buffet. You will prepare and enjoy: Curry Puffs (puff pastry dough with a savory potato mixture), Tandoori Chicken with Yogurt Mint Chutney, Spiced Nuts, Chikki (cashew brittle) and even Samosas! Rajni seriously has it goin' on, and you can register for her class here.

By taking a class at The Kitchen Studio you'll not only learn new tips and tricks in the kitchen, but you'll also meet great people and enjoy some seriously slammin' food. So check out a class and give us a visit. You know you want to Come Play with Your Food!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I've got Moxie, How 'Bout You?

By now, you've surely heard about Moxie, yes?

Moxie is a delightful, brand-spanking-new cafe/bakery located on North Market St. just between 6th & 7th St. Moxie is the retail shop for Cakes for Cause, a snappy new social enterprise created to train youth in a practical skill. Aw heck, here's what I lifted from their site:

Cakes for Cause operates a social enterprise bakery/café that provides job training and support to vulnerable youth in Frederick, Maryland. Our primary purpose is to give youth options for their future through vocational services.

Our apprentices go through an intensive 6-month curriculum that teaches basic bakery skills alongside restaurant service skills in an energetic and fast-paced café that serves the community at large. More importantly, the role of Cakes for Cause is to help vulnerable youth internalize change—in their surroundings, through their employment opportunities, and within themselves.

Last Friday, October 17th, the shop officially opened, and boy, is it cute. And yummy-smelling. And happy!

Three days, four visits.

I must say, I love a good cappuccino more than I should, and have had several in the past few days. The espresso comes from Dublin Roasters in New Market and is rich and delicious. I'm a little bit of a cappuccino prima-donna, and for those who are particular about their milk, Moxie carries skim and whole milk only. I've been giving in to the whole milk, but know that can't last or I'll have to make the move to all elastic pants. NOT a good look.

The pastries I've had so far (pain au choclat, various scones, pain au Nutella, & lemon meringue tart) have been lovely. Fresh and tasty, and due to some excellent timing, even some right out of the oven. There's not a dud in the bunch! Perhaps this could be more of an elastic waistband warning than the whole milk thing. Hmmmmmm.

Service is warm and friendly, and can be a bit unhurried, but don't let that throw you. These folks are working their butts off and are running more smoothly with every passing visit, not that I've experienced any bumps in the road. Not too shabby for only being open a week! I've taken the time to ask questions and the wonderful staff has actually taken the time to answer them, which I love.

For now, the folks at Moxie are figuring out the best hours to be open, and as of today it looks like Tuesday through Saturday 6a-7p, Sunday 10a-3p, and closed on Mondays. Be aware though that the schedule can change as they figure out traffic flow. Personally, since Sundays are usually my only day off during the week, I'd love to see them open earlier so that when I'm walking the dog, I can stop in for my early morning coffee-lovin' and pastry. But that's just me.

I'm excited to see how Moxie develops and how things run in mid-November once the kids come on board. Elin Ross, the executive director and pastry goddess extraordinaire, has assembled a great space, a great staff, and wonderful pastries. So visit Moxie, sit back, relax, and soak in the atmosphere of butter, sugar, and a little bit of happiness. I'll be ordering another Pain au Nutella just as soon as they open back up again on Tuesday.

See you there?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fab New Recipe: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Can you tell that I've been having a little bit of a butternut squash/bacon thing lately?

It must be the cool, fall weather.

I love fall.

And fall food.

But I really love bacon.

I had some leftover bacon (I know - HOW does that happen?) and an errant butternut squash rolling around, so I thought I'd make some salad. "Cause, y'know, salad is better with bacon. And bacon fat. Just sayin'.

Anyway, here's what you want to do:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Peel and cube a butternut squash into 1" or so pieces. Place on a baking sheet with sides and drizzle some olive oil on it (maybe 1 T., but whatever feels good to you) and a generous sprinkle of salt & pepper. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, gently stir, and roast another 15-20 minutes, or until brown and tender. Set aside.

While your squash is cookin', go ahead and saute 4 or 5 or 6 pieces of bacon in a medium skillet. I like to cut it into pieces before I saute because it makes it easier to nibble. Don't tell anyone.

Remove the bacon and set aside on paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, remove all but 2 T. bacon fat from the pan. (Save the remaining bacon fatty goodness, just in case).

Slice 2 or 3 shallots thinly, then saute in the bacon fat for 4-5 minutes, or until soft and starting to brown.

Add 3 T. olive oil to your pan and swirl. Add 2-3 T. cider vinegar, 1 T. Dijon, 1 T. sugar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then swirl again until the Dijon is dispersed through the pan. Set aside.

Place 6-8 oz. spinach is a big bowl. Toss in your crumbled bacon, your roasted butternut squash, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I like Craisins). Toss gently.

Now, and this is your money shot, pour the warm dressing over the salad. Toss gently again.

Your spinach will get a little wilty, but not turn into mush.

The first time I made this, I used arugula and it was wonderful. I switched it up because I wasn't finding great arugula lately and spinach is a little less expensive.

And that my friends, is the awesomeness of the roasted butternut squash salad with warm bacon dressing. Sha-zam!

Looking for other variations on the theme? It seems like warm bacon dressing is all the rage this month. You can check out Pioneer Woman's Spinach Salad recipe here or Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen's version with feta and other assorted yumminess here. There seem to be a million of them floating around this week, so if you've got another that you're loving, let me know!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Explaining Yeast to Kids

One of the most popular kid's cooking birthday party options we offer down at The Kitchen Studio is our Pizza, Smoothies, & Cupcakes menu. And one of my very favorite parts of the class is explaining how yeast works to kids. To be honest, for inexperienced adults, it's a great way to remember it too. So here are a few tips on working with yeast:

First thing you want to do, is think of yeast like a dog.

Really. Like a sweet little doggie living in your house. Yeast is the same sort of thing, just without the cuddliness.

1. A dog is alive, and so is yeast. Of course, yeast is an organism and isn't going to jump up and give you the love, but it is alive and needs to be treated with care.

2. You feed your dog, so be sure to feed your yeast. I like a little sugar or honey just to make sure the yeast is working at full power and give it five minutes or so to proof. Your mixture will get a little foamy and bubbly. That's how you know your yeast is working. It's a double-check and not always totally necessary, but it's how I roll.

3. Dogs need a bath, and so does yeast. You don't want to give your doggie a hot bath, you'll burn it. And you don't want to give a dog a cold bath, because that dog will want nothing to do with it. Yeast is the same way. You body temperature runs at 98.6 degrees or so. Run a little water over the inside of your wrist, just like you would do with a baby bottle. If it feels warm, you're all set. Hot? fugedaboutit.

4. Dogs like to nap, and so does yeast. It gives you the rise time you need. This ties in closely with #5, our money shot...

5. Your dog toots, and so does yeast. Kids crack up at the thought of farting yeast, but it's a great analogy and one that's really simple to grasp. Plus, they'll giggle like crazy when you tell them.

So there you have it. Isn't that a super-simple way to remember how to work with yeast?

Yeah, I thought so.

You're welcome.

Now go make some cinnamon rolls, or focaccia bread, or soft pretzels with the kiddies. It will be a snap and jr will learn a little something in the process.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Butternut Squash & Bacon Pasta

Because seriously? I am totally ruling the kitchen today. Here's what I did:

Put on a pot of water and cook around 3/4 pound pasta while you make the sauce. I like penne or mini penne.

Saute 5 pieces of bacon in a large saute pan (non-stick, stainless; doesn't matter)

Remove bacon when crisp and set aside. Nibble a little, but save most of it to add in at the end.

Saute 1 or 2 minced shallots & 1 medium butternut squash, cubed into 1" pieces or smaller, in the bacon fat. You'll probably need to do this in two batches so that you don't crowd the pan. Once just golden brown on one or two sides, remove from pan and add in the second batch. Cook 'til golden brown, then add the first batch back to the pan.

Add 2 T. flour to the pan and stir well to coat.

Add 2 cups chicken stock to pan and swirl to combine with squash/flour mixture. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to medium. Throw in a few handfuls of washed baby spinach. If you like (and I do), add a splash (maybe 1/4 cup) of heavy cream because yes, I do keep that in my fridge, so there. You can skip it though. That's ok.

Grate in a metric ton of good Parmesan cheese (or whatever suits you) and stir, stir, stir.

Salt & pepper to taste, and don't be shy.

Toss pasta with sauce in pan. Add in crumbled bacon and stir well. If it gets a little thick, just splash in some water or a little more chicken stock to thin it out.


Serves 6 hungry people or 8 or 10 as a first course.

Fall food. It's my very favorite. :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Just a little trip to San Francisco: BlogHer Food '09

Oh yeah baby, that's right. Guess who got to take a little weekend jaunt to the City by the Bay? Moi! Meeeeeeeeeee!!

So here's how it happened:

I was spending a Sunday afternoon avoiding work and doing a little surfin' on the 'ole web, trying to find a little info about blogging, food blogging, and how to reach new audiences (I have a super awesome new project that I'm working on right now and was looking for a little extra input). Anywho, I stumbled upon the BlogHer site, which is essentially a blogging community for female bloggers. I started going through the site and saw not only that they hold conferences, but they were even holding one targeted just toward food bloggers. In two weeks! In San Francisco! A note indicated that the conference was sold out, but they were taking names for a waitlist, so I went ahead and put my name on the list (I know - I'm a wild woman :).

Just putting my name on the list got me thinking about whether or not I would even really go. Let's be serious here: the conference was in two weeks, and I'm a real planner when it comes to this stuff, it was in San freakin' Cisco, (which is not inexpensive to get to or stay in), and really, was I that serious about it?

I thought I'd send a little email asking the folks at BlogHer if they thought I had a shot at getting in.
Un-uh. Not gonna happen.

But then, just a few minutes later, after sending another nice email, I got another response. Someone had a ticket for sale, and guess who could buy it? Yup - me.
So I did.

Quick check on plane tix to SF (surprisingly not ridiculous on Southwest), transfer of a room reservation (also not ridiculous), a few days of closed schools, and we were set. I even got to bring the hubby along. And not the kids.

So what was the conference like?

Intimidating (so many people I didn't know, so very loud, and a bit awkward for mingling and meeting new folks).

Educational (A big shout out to Jaden at Steamy Kitchen for keeping it realistic and Kalyn at Kalyns Kitchen for pushing on even though her time was up, and Pioneer Woman because I just love her blog and could just tell how awkward she felt, which made me like her more - I swear I am not a stalker)

Eye-Opening (The conference was limited to 300 people. That's 300 people with food blogs. That's a lot of food bloggers, and almost every single one of them was West Coast-based. Almost all of them were recipe sites too, which was a totally surprising to me.)
Swag-a-licious (The amount of free stuff I got from so many vendors borders on the absurd. In fact, I'm even going to have a little giveaway here in just a few days courtesy of one of the vendors. Curious? Well, just stay-tuned!)

Really, really FUN (and I'm talkin' to you JeanneBee, My World on a Plate new BFF)

Even though they fed us Bertolli frozen meals for lunch, complete with celebish chef Rocco Despirito running though the room flirting with all the ladies (more on that AND how I offended said chef in less than 90 seconds coming soon in another post...), it was wonderful. And I'm glad I went.

The very best part of the weekend? No doubt, it was the chicken liver pate & panzanella at Il Cane Rosso, a cafe in The Ferry Building (also knows as Foodie Heaven - helloooooo Scharfen Berger!). A perfect cool evening sitting by the bay, watching the boats go in and out as the sun set while eating the perfect relaxed meal with a kind, wonderful waiter, and super delicious, well, everything. I think that with very little effort, I could become a California girl. To clarify: A Northern California girl. I don't have the thighs to be a SoCal type.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pumpkin Throwdown - Fredrock Style

Sooooo, I've been asked to judge a pumpkin recipe contest being held at Summers Farm on October 10. Never one to turn down good food, I totally said YES. I am all about fall food, and pumpkin is a favorite. Think you've got the goods to win? Here's the info on the contest:

"Calling all bakers! Come and participate in Frederick’s only pumpkin recipe contest at the Maryland Pumpkin Festival. Start working on your recipe because you will soon be able to register! A panel of local chefs will be judging your creations, which must use pumpkin and be an original creation. You will create your masterpiece and bring it to the Maryland Pumpkin Festival on Saturday, October 1o for judging and the awarding of prizes. Please visit for more information on how to enter."

And on a personal note, don't feel that you need to provide yet another recipe for grandma's pumpkin bread or go crazy with raisins. BE CREATIVE PEOPLE! I love savory pumpkin dishes and know that you can rock it out. So do it. 'K?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Save 15% on Spanish Foods!

Do you looooove Spanish Foods? I'm talkin' about Serrano Ham, Manchego cheese, and of course, gorgeous Spanish olives. If so, it's your lucky weekend!

Firestone's Market on Market is offering 15% off all Spanish foods this weekend only, September 5th & 6th. Want the extra-special news? You can even taste these goodies if you drop in between 5-9 on Saturday night during First Saturday. Rumor has it you may even find a little bit of Spanish music going on too.

So, wiggle your little buns down to Market St. this weekend, between Church & 2nd, and just a few doors down from Firestone's and The Tasting Room, grab a taste, and buy some yummies. You'll be happy you did. Ole!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How 'Bout a Free Cup of Coffee?

Don't know if you've heard or not, but Baltimore Coffee & Tea, located over in the extended Westview area off of Crestwood Dr. is offering FREE coffee & tea this month at their new Frederick location. As in All. Month. Long. For real. Trust me; I do not joke about caffeine.

I was lucky enough to pop on by today for their grand re-opening/ribbon cutting/fancy people sighting and got to not only check out the place (bigger than I thought, super cute and not what I had originally pictured), but taste a little bit of their yummy iced coffee (as good as I thought it would be).

Three things I liked:
  1. The staff was totally friendly, and I'm thinking not just because of the folks visiting for the event (the owners were even there and helping out as much as they could and the girls behind the counter were getting hit pretty continuously and were still perky and nice)
  2. There must have been a hundred open burlap sacks full of roasted coffee beans ready and waiting to be scooped and smelling, uh, yummy
  3. Simple syrup, ready and waiting to do it's sweetening magic (just check out here for my ode to this little bit of deliciousness)

So here's the deal with the free stuff: you can get a 16 or 22 ounce hot or iced brewed coffee or tea once a day (don't you dare be greedy and try to snag two - that's just not nice) every single day in September. Just walk your little buns on in, visit the register, and they'll give you a card to use all month long. How lucky are you today??

While you're there, just every couple of visits or so, why don't you actually, y'know, buy a latte or something. Give 'em a little something back, 'k? It won't kill you, and besides, you're gonna be caffeinated on them all month, so it's a nice thing to do. And they'll appreciate it.

And while I've got you, keep your eyes and ears wiiiiiiiide open for an upcoming cooking class on cooking with coffee and tea. I think I may have sweet talked just enough to get them to share some of there goodies so that we can make something fabulous with them.

**sigh**. I love my job.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shall We Have a Little Private Fling?

This fall, I am starting to notice a serious trend, and I like it: Private Cooking Classes.

I just loooooove private classes! Not only do we get to have some fun with menu planning, but we also get to work with a wide variety of groups. We're talkin' neighbors looking to have a night out without the kids (fun), bachelorette parties gettin' it goin' with our slinky aphrodisiac menu (woo hoo!), and even companies either looking for team-building or to wine & dine clients or staff.

We've got so many cool things going on this fall that I'm bursting a little. Not only are we headed up to York, PA for an on-site culinary team-building session, but we're also headed into some private homes to host hands-on cooking classes, as well as hosting several at The Kitchen Studio. We still have space for you to schedule your event, and it's never too early to think about the holidays. See? The first cool days arrive and I'm already thinking December!!

Bored with your book club? Host a meeting at The Kitchen Studio and we'll whip up something related to your book and give your meeting a whole new spin.

Know someone getting married? We've already got a bachelorette party in the works, but we've also hosting bridal shower brunches (how well does that fit in with a kitchen theme? Duh!) and have the bride help with all of the cooking.

Want to pull your team together at work? Get out of the office and into the kitchen! Culinary team-building is a hoot and can go from an easy demo class to our Iron Chef-style challenge, which is always a blast!

I know, I know - Stop talking about The Kitchen Studio CVB, we're not here for that! BUT, if you are thinking about having a little get-together this fall, keep us in mind. We'll throw down for you as seriously as we can, help you learn a little and laugh a lot, and all for around the cost of a really nice dinner out in Frederick. Plus, we do the dishes. And I ask you people, how awesome is that?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday Night Pizza

If I'm not teaching a class, Friday night means one thing: Pizza Night.

Moving to this pretty little hamlet from NYC, you can imagine the difficulties the husband and I initially encountered finding decent, not good, but just decent pizza around these parts. It took years of sucking it up and buying crappy pizza from crappy chains before my dear friend Erica introduced us to Bellisario's, over at 934 North East Street.

Bellisario's? FANTASTIC pizza. The best around in fact, and I have eaten more than my fair share of pizza around here, so I know what I'm talkin' about.

Bellisario's has real pizza made from homemade dough and sauce, and blood, sweat (lots of that) and tears from owner Nikki and her crew. If you are looking for excellent pizza, every single time, tell Papa John to bite it, Pizza Hut, uh, yeah, no, and Dominos, I mean really? You're ordering from Dominos? Come on now. It's time to grow up a little, right? And let's not even get into supporting the local guy, or gal as the case may be.

Now don't get me wrong - this is not some froofy goat cheese and arugula grilled pizza place (You can go here if you're looking for that). This is authentic pizza with the basic toppings (ham & pineapple is about as exotic as it gets), subs, calzones, and the only Wedgie you'll ever want (as opposed to that underpants-related wedgie, which no one wants).

Size vary from the 10" mini (4-slices-$6.35 and great if you have someone in the family who loves anchovies on their pizza because you just know that anchovies infect the entire pizza and ruin it for those of us with good taste, eh-hem, but I digress) the whole way up to the 20" Killer (16 slices-$13.35). It's economical and tasty, which is sort of a win-win, dontcha' think? Plus, there are often some sort of specials during the week.

Here are the quirks: CASH ONLY. Forget about credit or debit cards (plus, the fees small businesses pay for credit card processing are insane and on a $10 pizza, well, that just won't work). There are no exceptions to this rule, so don't bother. Hit the cash machine before you head over. I'm the queen of the debit card and I make it work, so you can too.

SALADS. Never gonna happen. Nikki wants to focus on one thing, and that's pizza. She doesn't want to whip up some chef salad for you, even if you are a regular customer and beg her just a little bit every single time you go in. Let her do what she does well and don't even think about asking her.

NO DELIVERY. I know that we're in the age of everything being brought right to our doors, but it's really not that difficult to drive right over and pick-up the pizza yourself. It keeps costs down and lets them focus on making the pizza, not bringing you the pizza. The result? Hotter, fresher pizza. And that's good enough for me.

You better not hate the STEELERS. See Nikki? HUGE Pittsburgh Steelers fan. And she's not shy to let you know it. So if you're a fan of the Ravens or the Browns, suck it up and wish her well, because Bellisario's is a shrine to all that is the Steelers. You can put a rivalry aside for good 'za though, can't you? If not, you have bigger issues than pizza my friend.

CLOSED ON SUNDAYS. I'd like to say that even God rested on Sunday, but deep down I'll bet it's probably got something to do with catching Steelers games. But I'm just guessin'.

Bottom line is this: Best pizza in Frederick? Hands-down, no-contest, it's Bellisario's. Give them a call at 301-662-9233 right now and order yourself a little lunch or dinner. You can thank me later.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Look at Me - I'm a Guest Blogger!

Have you had a chance to check out yet? It's a total mommy-blog written by the lovely and talented Jennifer Gerlock.

Today, I'm Jen's guest blogger as she's takes a little bit of vacation time before school starts on Monday (cue sobbing here). Go check out Jen's blog and feel free to comment, y'know, just to let her know how awesome you think it is.

Peace out peeps. I'm headed to downtown Fredrock for some yummy eats on date night. Now, where to go, where to go...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You're Gonna Top Chef, Right?

It has been all over the local media etc. that one of Frederick's own, Bryan Voltaggio, co-owner of Volt on Market St., is in the latest round of the most challenging and entertaining chef show on tv, Top Chef. The chefs on Top Chef? Kick ass. The challenges are ridiculous but really show mad, crazy skill. Just look up the vending machine challenge, would could possibly make me cry for my mommy. I am obsessed.

I'm guessing that by this point, you've given Volt a try. They've been open over a year and even though budget has kept me away for a few months, you do know of course, that food seriously rocks. And that Voltaggio can win, right? I mean, W.I.N. For real. The guy has skills and I am thrilled to watch him show off his talent on national tv.

One kicker - Voltaggio's brother, Michael is in the running as well. I have no clue as to his skill level, but I'm guessing that he got onto the show for more than just the whole brother v. brother thing. I'll bet he kicks a little ass too. I'm hoping for them going #1 & #2 in the finale, 'cause that would be awesome, but who knows how the whole thing will play out.

So, bottom-line - get off your butt and get the Tivo rolling, because Top Chef premieres this Wednesday, August 19 at 9 on Bravo (channel 273 if you're on DirecTv). If you haven't watched it before, now is the time. Cheer on the hometown guy, not because he's from our hometown, but because he's really that good. Really.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Classes, Classes, and MORE Classes

That's right folks, I finally have the ding-dang class calendar up and ready for your registrations, so you should, y'know, maybe register for some cooking classes. Like, TODAY.

Just sayin'.

But really, I (and my minions - don't 'cha just love minions) have worked hard to pull together some classes that I just know you'll love.

I hear 'ya - "What classes oh Chef Christine? Do tell." How 'bout these:

  • Makin' Bacon (you'll get to (wait for it...Make Bacon!)
  • Decorator Cookies
  • Tribute to Julia French Cooking
  • Vietnamese Street Foods
  • Pig Pickin' Good (all about smoking some piggie)
  • The Secret to Sauces ('cause seriously? I RULE at making sauces)
  • Cooking for One or Two
  • Knife Skills
  • Cooking 101 (3 class series btw)
  • Veggie Soups and Stocks
  • Fall Harvest Baking

Whew. And those are just the adult classes for the next month or two. Just wait until you see the awesomeness that is our new after-school program for kids. "Cause you know that they can (should) be cooking and helping you out. Right?

Do me a favor. Take a class. Or tell a friend that he or she should take a class. Heck, take one together. Because I promise, if you like to cook, we are the folks for you. Plus, it's so much more fun when you have a hand in making the meal, right?

Did I mention that we wash the dishes?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Julie & Julia, Again

So, you know how sometimes you wait for something and you get your hopes up and then when whatever it is you've been waiting for finally happens you realize that maybe you were looking forward to it just a tiny bit too much and you're disappointed in the end?

Well, Julie & Julia, was nothing like that.

This movie was awesome. Inspiring. Funny. Really, just the perfect movie for me to see right now.


I love it when that happens.

I took a group of folks to go see Julie & Julia tonight, opening night, as a little customer thank you down at The Kitchen Studio. I hosted a tiny little cocktail hour with a few snacks, including Julia's stuffed mushrooms, which were surprisingly good, a little bit of wine, and the chance for some folks who are all about the food to hang.

I'm going to work hard to come up with the right words to really express what it felt like in the theater, but truthfully, it's late as I write this and I've had a very long camp-laden day, so forgive me.

Tonight was a sold-out show (remind me to tell you sometime about my pseudo-scalping of tickets), which I thought could happen, but wasn't 100% on. Goes to show that you should never underestimate the viewing habits of middle-aged women, eh?

As I was sitting there, drawing parallels between my life and that of both lead characters, Julia Child and Julie Powell, I wondered if it was hubris to even do so. But the more I run it through my head, the more I see that it's ok to see the similarities in yourself to an icon, and even just a writer whose work you adore. After all, I'm not saying that I'm fab like Julia (in fact, so far from it as to be absurd), or an entertaining writer like Julie, but more so that Julia was the age I am now when she started cooking. That she had a husband she adored and who adored her right back, and from there hope to rediscover the ability to work hard and devote yourself, almost exclusively, to a project you believe in. And that Julie finally found the right thing for her, though I struggle on that one sometimes.

I laughed, I cried, I looked for inspiration, and (fingers crossed) may have even found it.

So, even if you're not a cook, see it. Now. It's that good.

And if you are a cook, why haven't you gone yet? :)

Ta ta my sweets, and Bon Appetit.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

And the Food-Snobby Winner is...

Trout! Your food snobbery impresses even me, and I've met some very serious food snobs.

I know you'll love the Ruhlman books; they are truly memorable. Just drop me an email at and we'll coordinate getting them to you. Congratulations!

Don't forget that this Friday is the premiere of Julie & Julia! We're hosting a little open house here at The Kitchen Studio and will be venturing to the Westview theater to see the 7:30 show. Delicious, Frenchy-type snacks will be served, so come join us from 5 - 6:45. Hope to see you then!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Do you Ruhlman? 'Cause I'm Giving Some Away!

One of my very favorite food authors is Michael Ruhlman. The man is a total and complete food snob, but he owns it. You gotta respect that. (Check out his blog and you'll understand what I'm talking about ).

Ruhlman is all about not good, but exceptional food, how to make it, and how to get to the point where you can make it, which truthfully, most folks don't. He's working on another level, both on his own and with the most talented chefs this country has to offer.

The first Ruhlman book I read was The Making of a Chef. The book detailed his time spent at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) taking Skills One - the building block for the culinary program. Not only is the subject fascinating to anyone who has ever harbored a secret, or not-so-secret, desire to attend the CIA, but his writing is fluid and passionate without being slick.

I enjoyed the first book so much, that of course I snagged The Soul of a Chef as soon as it came out. Same essential idea as the first, but delving a bit further into the intricacies and hazards of the Certified Master Chef exam (yowza!), as well as an endearing (to me anyway) portrait of Michael Symon, now a well-known Iron Chef on tv, before tv became part of his routine. There's also a section on Thomas Keller, regarded by some as the best chef in America, and a co-author with Ruhlman on the French Laundry cookbook (you should visit French Laundry at Home btw, the now completed blog from the phenomenal and hysterical Carol Blymire-you won't be sorry you did).

When The Reach of a Chef was released in 2006, I'm pretty sure I purchased it the day it came out. I really love Ruhlman's writing, as it's thoughtful and in-depth, and of course relates to a subject I adore. This book is a little different. It seriously addresses the commercialization of chefs in this day and age, whether it's appropriate, and what it's done to cooking. Both Emeril and Rachael Ray are subjects, but aren't addressed in the slam sort of way typical by intense food lovers. Personally, I have always thought that folks missed out on the true appeal of these two cooks. Not the "Rachaelisms" or Bam!, but that fact that these two got people cooking and can indeed, be credited at least somewhat, for the role that food and cooking has taken in our culture. Food has always been appreciated by food snobs, but not until there is mass appeal can there be a movement. Maybe the style of these two popular "tv" chefs isn't similar to my own, but I can absolutely credit them for getting cooking out there to the public. It's one of the reasons I can do what I do.


Three awesome books by one very talented writer. And I'm giving them away.

These books have been loved and are from my personal collection. Two are hardcover, one paperback, all well-loved and fabulous.

Comment on this post, and let me know something you do that may be considered a little food snobby by your friends and family. Mine? I love offal. This doesn't appeal to most folks, and they tend to think I'm a little nuts. Doesn't matter to me!

Deadline in Friday at midnight (July 31). Post on my lovelies, post on.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And the winner is...

SANDRA! I'm a sucker for a "really can't cook so had someone fake it for me" kind of story. Though, I must say, I liked all of your comments, even though there were just a few. I love to hear how folks come to cooking from all angles, whether it's poverty, love, or memories of mom. Kinda neat to see that it doesn't matter where you start, we've ended up with the same destination: a love for cooking.

Sandra, go ahead and drop me an email ( so that we can sort out getting this fab book to you. You're going to love it!

Next up: A trilogy by Michael Ruhlman, food snob and culinary writing God, that you won't be able to put down. I'm also thinking that free cookies are definitely in someone's future in August.

And don't forget about Julie & Julia on August 7. I'm taking a group of folks to the movies to catch the premiere of this fine flick, after a scrumptious cocktail hour at TKS of course. Tomorrow we'll start looking for comments to see who will join us!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Let's Have a Giveaway, Shall We?

I am surrounded by folks who love to cook. Kids, grown-ups, and everything in between. I always love to hear what got each of them into the kitchen. Why do they cook? What is it that makes them keep coming back? And I'm talking about more than "I just loooooove food!" because we certainly are more than able to find really wonderful eats right here in our bucolic little hamlet.

So today, I thought I'd giveaway a book. In fact, this book:

Chef's Story is a great read where, you guessed it, chefs talk about what got them into the kitchen. Personally, my favorites are the essays by Jacques Torres & Lidia Bastianich.

So here's what you do: Just leave me a comment and let me know what got you cooking? Parents working? (That's mine). Love for the perfect cream puff? Desperation? A strong desire to never eat Ramen noodles again?

I'll pick my favorite and declare (drumroll please), the winner! If you're local you can swing by to grab it, if not, good old first class post will help it to arrive safely. Don't send addresses yet, I'll get in touch once the winner is chosen.

All entries must be received by Tuesday, July 21 at midnight. One teeny-tiny little note: This book is from my personal collection and has been previously loved. It's in great shape and is a great read. And hey, it's free, right? Happy commenting!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Picky Eaters

So, got kids?

One of the great pleasures in my life is teaching teens and tweens their way around the kitchen. It is a total charge for me. The best part (aside from the fact that they constantly crack me up)? I loooooove when they try something new. Unusual. Out of their comfort zone. And I'm not necessarily talkin' sushi for 8 year-olds here. I'm talking about any dish they haven't tried before, be it chicken potpie, blueberry pie, or a crazy salad.


Every so often, I get one. A picky eater. And sometimes, just sometimes, they are really proud of the fact that they are indeed, picky eaters.

I don't get it.

I didn't always like what my mom served for dinner. Ham & green beans. No thanks. Broccoli in any form? Double no thanks. Some of it was ooky. But I didn't really have a choice. It was what it was and that was my only option.

Nowadays, folks tend to eat out - a lot. I was thinking about it driving home today (don't ask me why). Have you noticed that children's menus include basically chicken fingers (bonus points if it's real chicken and not pressed and extruded), hamburgers, cheeseburgers, noodles, and lots and lots of fries.


How can we expect our kids to make wise decisions as they grow, if the only options we give them are chicken tenders and noodles? All. The. Time. At home or out to dinner.

What happened to eating the dinner that was made for you.

Most of the kids I know aren't going to starve anytime soon. A meal that's not a fave won't kill them. Skipping one won't either.

When I personal cheffed for a living, I often cooked for parents only. The kids would eat macaroni et al every night while mom & dad dined on whatever I had prepared.

When did things change, and why did we let them?

Just so you know, I'm not thinking of any student or child individually here, more thinking about the state of dinner as a whole.

If I remember correctly, it takes seven times to know whether or not you really like something. I don't know if I believe this, simply because I have never, not once, liked beets and I knew that one right off the bat.

But hey - I didn't like sushi the first time I had it. Or liver/pate. Or asparagus. But I like them now. Woo boy, do I like them now.

So do this for me.

Make dinner. And have your family eat it. Without options. Just dinner. And if you go out, don't let the kids order from the kid's menu. An appetizer usually costs about the same as a meal off the kid's menu, and the options are usually cooler.

It's time to take a stand and take responsibility for children's taste buds around the world. Just try it, 'k?

Just my opinion.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Simple Summer Salad

Last night was one of those evenings where everything just comes together. The friends, the food, the Proseco...

I got home a little late from summer camps, but had a pork tenderloin I had thawed overnight ready to do something to (quick balsamic, rosemary, & garlic marinade, then popped it on the grill). We invited a few folks over to enjoy dinner with us and surprise of surprises, they all said yes!

I had a few more guests than I had originally planned for (which is almost never a bad thing) so I knew I had to whip something up that was fast, filling, and didn't require a trip to the store to stretch out the pork. Salad was the first thing I thought of. Here's what I used:

  • 5 ears of leftover corn-on-the-cob which I cut off and then milked the corn ears
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced (smallish dice)
  • A nice handful fresh basil from the garden, washed and cut into a chiffonade (long, thin strips)
  • half a box of Ditalini (I thought it would "match" the corn)
  • a good tablespoon Dijon
  • a couple of tablespoons of Cider Vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

That's it. I combined the corn, diced tomatoes, basil, and cooked ditalini in a big bowl and stirred them all together, then I made a quick vinaigrette with the Dijon, cider vinegar and olive oil. I seasoned that with salt and pepper, then tossed the whole shootin' match together and seasoned it again. The acidity of the cider vinegar was balanced nicely with the sweetness of the corn. Ahhhhhh. Really, really good.

One quick note on vinaigrettes: A classic vinaigrette includes 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. I tend to like mine a little more tart, so I usually go 2:1, oil:vinegar. Combine the Dijon and vinegar, then drizzle in the oil while you whisk. It should keep everything together so that you don't need to re-whisk or worry about it separating. Also, I like things saucy, so I made around a 1/2-3/4 cup dressing for the salad. It was plenty, and it was delicious the next day too. When I ate it for lunch. And didn't share. Bad me. ;)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Grilled Pizza in a Snap (Almost :)

I hit the Baughman's Lane farmer's market on Saturday (almost like a contact sport this time of year!) and was struck by the urge for a little grilled pizza. How the two are related (it's too early for my favorites, eggplant & tomatoes), I have no idea except to say that is where the urge struck.

So what did I do? Well, I raced home and started the dough. It's super simple, even if you're dough-challenged.

Just take 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast:

Add 1 teaspoon of sugar (yeast food):

Then add 1 cup of warm water (not hot or you'll kill the yeast - it should feel warm on the inside of your wrist) and let set in a warm place for 5 minutes:

until it's foamy.

Throw in 1 T. of olive oil and a good pinch of salt, then stir in 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour or so (you may need a little more if it's really humid outside) until it forms sort of a ball.

I used the stand mixer with the dough hook and let it work its magic for about 5 minutes or so (it takes a little longer if you're doing it by hand).

Then I gave it a good knead by hand for a minute or so(because I like to feel the dough), then threw it back in the bowl to rise until doubled. On Saturday it took about half an hour, and I covered it and put it on the back porch.

After about 30 minutes (but it could take as long as 45), Anna punched it down.

We scooped it into a flatish ball and let it rest for 5 minutes before trying to roll it (otherwise it will just keep springing back every time you try to roll it out. It needs a little r&r before you can really work it. It's just like you when you get out of bed in the morning, right? You need a few minutes to gather yourself after the harsh reality of your feet hitting the floor. Yeast doughs are the same way. But I digress...)

Once the dough has rested, I cut it into 4 pieces and patted them out.

Then, because patting wasn't really working for me, I rolled them. That's better.

Then I took them out to the grill. Now here's the trick, and please bear in mind that I am working on a hundred dollar grill here - nothing fancy at all - but it does have two zones for heat. This is muy importante.

Preheat your grill so that it's nice and hot. Leave one side hot hot hot and the other, well, nice and low, maybe even off, but we'll get to that.

Place the dough on the hot side of the grill - don't worry, it won't slip through the grate. This is a nice, firm dough.

Look at that! It puffs up almost immediately. Let it get a little crispy, then flip it over. Brush it with a little oil (I made some quick garlic oil) and top it with whatever you like.

I used some tomatoes, fresh basil from my garden, and some fresh mozzarella. I also added some chopped, grilled eggplant, mozzarella, ricotta, and fresh basil. I'm the only one in my family who likes eggplant so yeah, that worked for me.

Then slide the pizza to the low side of the grill and shut it up tight. You want all of the cheesy stuff to melt, which is awesome. If the heat is too high, you'll burn the crust. You need to work with the residual heat from the other side without over-caramelizing the bottom. Keep in mind though, this isn't really going to cook your toppings so much as melt them and warm them and make 'em yummy, ok? So if you're looking for roasted tomatoes, you'll need to do that beforehand.

A couple of minutes and you're done.

Looks like Anna liked it. :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Iced Coffee Lovin'

Coffee shops are one of my serious vices, and I love going to get a little caffeinated every morning. Of particular love is iced coffee, but it costs a fortune and just between you and me, I am watching every penny this summer.

I'm not one to just give stuff up, and let me tell you my friends, walking the dog and going to get my grande 4 pump double shot with my husband almost every morning during the summer is seriously one of my highlights. But at almost 6 bucks for 2 beverages (iced grande chai for him), well, you can do the math and see that this will quickly add up to, ummmm, a lot ($30+ per week for 8 weeks = too darn much).

So I did some research, and here's what I found:

The New York Times, a couple of years ago, came up with a recipe for cold-brewed coffee. Now this stuff is supposed to be mellow and lovely without the bitterness that you get from forcing the hot water through the grounds. I'm mellow (not!), and thought I'd give it a try. Here's what you do (and these proportions come from the Times, so I take zero credit for that):
  • Take 1/3 cup coarse ground (important!!) coffee and put it into a container (I did this the first time with a medium roast coffee and it was way too weak for me. This time - I brought out the "extra bold" and amen sister, it was!) .
  • Add 1 1/2 cups cold water (based on the size container I have, I triple the recipe each time, so 1 cup coffee grounds to 4 1/2 cups cold water).
  • Let set, uncovered (I go for overnight +, which ends up being 12-24 hours, based on when I remember I want to get the party started.)
  • Strain out the grounds (I go with 2 strainings and get the really chunky stuff the first time)

  • Place the coffee concentrate into a container and store in the fridge for a couple of days (do you love that I totally am busted with a jar of sauce in the background? Umm, it's for JVB and the kids when I'm working. I swear. Pinky swear?).

  • I add fat-free half and half (I usually hate fat-free and reduced fat stuff, but I am getting way too fat to go with regular at this point, so I have to make an exception somewhere -- sorry) and a bit of simple syrup, then shake the heck out of it (you can stir if you like). This stuff is pretty daggone strong, so you'll need to dilute it by half and then mellow it out with milk, water, carrot juice, heck, I don't care, but it's potent, so be warned.). Viola!

There's a certain mellowness to the coffee, but still with zing. In fact, my oh-so-extensive research has pointed out that the coffee concentrate is roughly twice as caffeinated as the usual stuff, just so you know. Maybe now you can see why I like it milky and sweet (we called that "light and sweet" back in NYC).

Note to self: Do not try to pour the coffee while looking through the camera lens, because there's a good chance you'll spill it all over the counter/stove and have to clean-up a big mess and waste some of the precious elixir. Just sayin'.

So there you go. Simple? Duh. Worth it? Totally. Economical? Absolutely. Super-caffeinated? Shazam!! I. Can. Do. ANYTHING!!!
Maybe next time I'll have a smaller glass.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Keep It Simple

Quick post today before I'm off on my adventures here and here, because I just have to know why oh way you aren't using Simple Syrup.

You know what I'm talking about, right? Ok, for the uninitiated, simple syrup is a sweetener that you make yourself right at home. This of course begs the question, why would I want to do that when I've got sugar and Splenda, and all that other fake junk laying around?

Simply because, my lovelies, that stuff doesn't melt in cold drinks. Y'know when you dump the sugar into your iced tea and stir your little heart out and it STILL all stays on the bottom? Simple syrup doesn't do that. Simple syrup integrates itself into your drink. Sure, it may get a little bottom-heavy sometimes, but it's easy to diffuse into your drink with a quick little stir, if at all.

I usually make some once every week or two during the summer and keep it in my fridge for my iced coffee deliciousness. Splash of milk and a splash of syrup in my travel cup and I'm good to go.

I mention this because I was at The Standard Baking Co. in Portland, Maine (no website!) yesterday and there it was, just waiting for me and my coffee. **sigh** Please don't let anyone ever tell you that it's not about the little things, because it totally, totally is (at least in my book). FYI - They also do this at The Tasting Room with iced tea, and it even comes in a sweet little pitcher.

So how to make, how to make? So easy:

Place equal parts pure cane sugar (white sugar) and water into a pot (ex: 1c. ea)

Bring up to just under a boil, just so the sugar melts, then let it cool off and pour into a little Rubbermaid container and store in the fridge.

That's it.

Seriously, how easy is that? Just use it the same way you would regular sugar. 1 T = 1 T.

Try it today - you'll thank me. :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Taste of India: Rajni Hatti

Did I mention that we have a new instructor at TKS? Rajni Hatti of Simply Indian out of (of all places) Charles Town, WV, is going to teach a beginning Indian cooking class for us on July 9 from 6:30-9. Rajni teaches a wide variety of Indian cooking classes and has been featured in newpapers, magazines, and on television in Charles Town.

I am so thrilled to have Rajni join our roster of new instructors and can't wait to try the deliciousness that she's going to teach everyone to prepare, including Mango Lassi (one of my favorite International beverages!), Keema Matar with Naan (Spiced Ground Meat and Peas), Dal Tarkari (Lentils with Zucchini), & Palak Pulao (Spinach Rice Pilaf).

I mention all of this because Rajni has a fantastic article in today's Frederick News Post written by one of our favorite food writers, Rochelle Myers. You can check out the full article here.

We've even had a few folks register today already, so if you're interested, visit our web site here. Tell 'ya what: Use the code CLASS5 when you check out and save 5 bucks on your registration. Just do it before June 30, ok? See you there!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How 'bout a Cooking Birthday Party??

When I opened The Kitchen Studio 4 years ago, I knew that I really wanted the focus to be on teaching cooking classes and offering a high quality meal assembly service. Kids were going to be involved somehow, but I just wasn't sure how much fun it would be on that end of things. You see, at that point, my own kids were 6 & 9 and as any parent knows, your own children affect you in a way no one else's ever could. So I started out slowly offering kid things. A class here or there. Build some gingerbread houses, make some noodles, just something to get them interested. Then a funny thing happened...

I liked it. I mean, I really liked it. The kids were fun. They wanted to learn. They wanted, oh my stars, they wanted to try new foods. And somewhere along the way, it got to be fun. Cracking up fun. Learning how to communicate at exactly their level fun. Really teaching them fun. So much fun in fact, that we started offering summer cooking camps. The first year, just 3 weeks. The second and third years, 4 weeks. This year, 5 weeks. And may I let you know that even in this super-sucky economy, we are 86% sold on all of our camps this year, with 5 completely sold out. How do 'ya like them apples? Perhaps an expansion of services smack dab in the middle of a recession wasn't the smartest idea, but it seems to be working out so far...

But wait a minute you're saying, didn't she title this post something about birthday parties? Why yes, yes I did. Because a few months ago, we started offering kid's hands-on cooking birthday parties, and they have been, AMAZING. Check this out:

(smelling herbs & spices)

  • We set a date for the party (they last 2 hours)
  • You show up with your kid and up to 9 guests
  • We cook
  • We clean

  • The kids eat what they make & take the recipes home
Does it get easier than that? I don't think so. We even provide all of the papergoods etc. Parties have been so popular, that we have had Saturdays where we're going from 10am to 6pm (plus tack on set-up and clean-up time on either end) and don't want to see another pot of fondue as long as we live! We even have parties booked as far in advance right now as September! Can you believe it??? I can't.

Right now we're offering 4 menus, but I'm working on a few new ones (ideas anyone??) to keep things fresh. Here's what we've got:
  • Fun with Fondue (grape jelly meatballs, pizza in a pot & chocolate fondue)

  • Spaghetti & meatballs, garlic bread, cupcakes

  • Mexican Fiesta (soft tacos, salsa, dessert nachos, Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes)

  • Pizza, smoothies, & Cupcake

Did I mention that we only charge $275 for up to 10 kids? Compared to what else is out there, even in this day and age I think you're definitely getting your money's worth. We've had so many parents raving about how easy it is and how affordable, not to mention that the kids had a fantastic time, that we're having a trouble keeping it up with it all the compliments! FYI -We also create custom menus, but charge a little extra for that.

(look at those knife skills!)

(sometimes we just get silly)

So, know a kid with a birthday coming up who just looooooves to cook? We're here for you. And your kids. And their friends. Really? Come Play with Your Food. Your whole family will be so happy that you did. :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mad Martha's Cupcakes

I picked up Martha Stewart's new cupcake book at Sam's the other day (13 bucks and change) because, well, I have a very serious cupcake problem. I've had a tough couple of days and nothin' says lovin' like two pounds of cream cheese. Am I right people, or am I right?!?!
JVB needed some sort of dessert to take to a staff party on Friday night (lucky me, I get to take 3 teenage boys to go see Land of the Lost instead, but that's another topic...), and since I am sooooo over ye olde Chippa Chippas on a personal snacking level, I thought I'd give one of Martha's cupcakes a try.

The Recipe: Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes

The Result: Completely Delicious

The Preparation: Totally painless

The Details: I chose this recipe because it was set to make 30 and I was not looking to double or triple anything the first time out with the recipe. To make these, essentially, you place an Oreo in the bottom of a cupcake liner, then mix up a very, very simple cheesecake batter, splash in some smashed Oreos (I should have smashed mine a little smaller) and bake.

The oven temp was listed at 275 degrees, which seemed a little low for me (I'll probably try 325 next time) and the cook time at 22 minutes. Mine took 33 minutes, which is 50% longer, and made me a little grumpy.

Anyway, I placed Oreos in 30 foil cupcake liners, then smashed the rest (12) and threw those into the batter. Note here, and this may have affected things, so I'll let you know if I'm wrong when I make them again. I did NOT use a muffin pan (at a 30 yield, I would need 3) and instead used the aforementioned foil liners on there own. Am I crazy or what?? If you're careful, those liners are not ony all shiny and pretty, but they'll also totally stand on their own. This could have changed the cook time because there was no hot pan surrounding the liners, but a 50% longer cook time just seems, well, too much of a darn difference.

The yield issue bugs me only because I portioned the Oreos for the bottom of the liners and easily could have made at least 4, maybe 6 more. That's wasted batter in my book; a travesty to cheesecake lovers everywhere.

Here's what they look like:

I wish you could see the fab whole Oreo on the bottom, but my mad photography skillz are lacking, despite just taking a class at FCC (instructor? fab! Student? not so much).

So, the book? So far, a BUY, but only if you're getting it at a discount (you should never, ever pay full price for a cookbook). There are several recipes in here that I am ready to bust a move on, but my spare tire is getting a little inflated, so I'm trying to watch it a bit. Are there any cookbooks that you use all the time? Let me know as I've got that cookbook buyin' itch.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Classes, Classes, Classes!

I just posted our summer class schedule, and I've got to say, I'm pretty darn excited and hope that you will be too!

I am ethnic food crazy and have added several classes to the schedule that bring those types of food front and center. Check it out:

On Tuesday, June 30, we're introducing a new instructor, Jeff Stratyner (our new veggie guru), to teach you all about International Veggie Picnic Foods. Tired of taking mayo-laden side dishes to picnics and get-togethers? Well, here you go! Jeff is going to demo Fresh Summer Rolls with Sweet & Spicy Dipping Sauce, Marinated Roasted Veggie Sandwich on Fresh Baked Focaccia, Crunchy Jicama and Asian Pear Slaw, & Jelly Doughnut Cupcakes. And did I mention that this one is BRING A FRIEND FOR FREE???

You can also join us as we welcome instructor Rajni Hatti of Simply Delicious Indian as she introduces the flavors and techniques of wonderful Indian cuisine. Rajni teaches a wide variety of Indian cooking classes and has been featured in newspapers, magazines, and on television in Charlestown, WV. In this hands-on class, you'll make Keema Matar with Naan (Spiced Ground Meat and Peas), Dal Tarkari (Lentils with Zucchini), Palak Pulao (Spinach Rice Pilaf), and Mango Lassi (Mango Yogurt Drink). Check this one out on Thursday, July 9.

I'm also rocking it out with another Sushi 101 class on July 31 (learn to wrap and roll like a pro!), and Caroline has a wonderful Make & Take Strawberry Pie class this Thursday, June 11. We need a few more bodies in the class, and at the end, you get to take a strawberry pie home with you. How sweet is that (pun intended :)?

Also on the roster is a tasty Vietnamese Street Foods class (July 10-hands-on) and my special two-day class on Farmer's Market Cooking (July 17 & 18) including a trip to the Baughman's Lane farmer's market to shop before we head back down to The Kitchen Studio to work with what we buy. This one is going to be fantastic!!! Plus, we've got one focused on College Cooking, just in time to give your college student some mad kitchen skillz before they head back to school. Give 'em a break from Ramen noodles and cafeteria food. This is THE class to make them a hit in the dorm.

While I'm at it, I'm also pulling together the calendar for the fall, so if there is somethin' somethin' that you're looking to learn, drop me a line. We'll have some veggie classes, sauces, knife skills, cake decorating & working with fondant, international classes, healthy cooking, soups, pastas, cheesemaking, special multi-week classes for kids and teens and many, many more.

We love our students and are grateful for the opportunity to work with each of you in the kitchen. I'm not joking around when I say that I want you to come play with your food, so give us a try. I think you'll like what you eat!