Saturday, 29 January 2011

KNOW WHERE TO SPEND YOUR DOUGH: My exciting interview series continues with Michael Duncan, owner of Miked Up Productions.

KNOW WHERE TO SPEND YOUR DOUGH: My exciting interview series with local business owners!

Do you want a fun, exciting, and thriving community? Want your town to be a place you are proud of? Do you desire a great place to show off to friends and family? HELP out your community by spending your money at local businesses. Local businesses help make your community REAL, warm, and rich.
I will be interviewing local business owners to help out the community and keep you updated on what is up and coming.

My next interview is with Michael Duncan. He is the owner/operator of "Miked Up Productions." He specializes in fun lighting and music for any special event. Michael is passionate about his work and is a true professional in his field.

1) You created "Miked up Productions." What kind of work is it for people who do not know?
Miked Up Productions is a privately owned event service company. What that means is we do anything and everything from concert series lighting to helping a couple select their perfect cake cutting music. We aim to make your event as special and unique as you, the client are to us.

2) What inspired you to go out and create your own business?
I became inspired to start my own DJ company from the experience I have gained from working for friends and realizing this is what I want to do for a living. Inspiration for the lighting side of my company originally came from a meeting with Dan Connelly, a local musician. The diversity of the events I get to be a part of have kept me inspired and motivated, as I now am working with a number of different people, ranging from bands, bars, and couples.

3) Name three mistakes people do, that you've noticed, when people create their own business.
For myself and many others, organization can be a challenge. I'm constantly striving to keep all paperwork organized. The lack of design and up-keep of websites is also something I notice mistakes on when others create a business. What I mean by this is people either do not take the time to create a website, or they do not portray themselves in a way appropriate for their company. This is a feat which I feel I have just conquered. I also feel that new business need to dive farther into putting themselves out online. Facebook fan pages are always a good thing!

4) What has been the most exciting event you worked at?
I work a variety of events, which makes each event special and unique in their own way. This being said, I feel I cannot pick one event to be my most exciting. However, most are so exhilirating that I have to wear ear protection.

5) Why should people hire you versus someone else?
To put it simply, I've learned to take care of my customers. If that means planning a couple's wedding day, we can get it done. Or if it means coordinating a band's stage appearance, movements, and timing, we can do that too. I'm here to help your vision come to life in an organic and functional way.

For more information about "Miked up productions"
- Check out his website:
- Find and "Like" Miked Up Productions on facebook.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

KNOW WHERE TO SPEND YOUR DOUGH: My exciting interview series continues with Geneva Sipes!

KNOW WHERE TO SPEND YOUR DOUGH: My exciting interview series with local business owners!

Do you want a fun, exciting, and thriving community? Want your town to be a place you are proud of? Do you desire a great place to show off to friends and family? HELP out your community by spending your money at local businesses. Local businesses help make your community REAL, warm, and rich.
I will be interviewing local business owners to help out the community and keep you updated on what is up and coming.

My next interview is with Geneva Sipes, owner/founder of Geneva Diane Designs. She does amazing floral work for weddings and special events. Not only is Geneva talented, educated, and friendly, she is ready to take her business to the next level and wants to share her talent with you at your next event!

1) Explain what kind of work Geneva Diane Designs does to someone who may not know.
Geneva Diane Designs specializes in event d├ęcor and design. My specialty is floral design, but I love coming up with other unique options that are creative and fun! My education is in Interior Design, so the overall feel of an event/wedding is really important to me.

2) Why did you decide to start Geneva Diane Designs?
In college I worked part time at a flower shop in Monroe, I started helping friends with their weddings, and found that I loved it! I worked in the design industry for 1.5 years, and when the economy started to go down hill I decided to take the risk and start my own business. I was doing it on the side anyways and decided to go for it! I have loved it ever since!

3) What are the 3 skills you need to have when operating your own personal business?
1. Faith- Believe in what you’re doing, and believe in the talents that God gave you.
2. Creativity- To stand out and push your boundaries. To come up with new ideas that excite you and that will give your clients individual experiences.
3. Perseverance- Stick with it.

4) What is the best part about your job?
Meeting brides and coming up with ideas to make their wedding day unique! My favorite part is when I can “problem solve” and make a unique arrangement that fits the brides style.

5) Why should people hire you and your business? (Versus someone else)
I think I work among a lot of talented people in this industry, but I think one of the strengths is my conceptual side. A lot of vendors will look at their element as the most important, but above flowers the event has to be cohesive. I will work with a bride to figure out the best way to make the event one cohesive style.

For more information aboit Geneva Diane Designs:

-Find and "Like" Geneva Diane Designs on facebook.

-Check out her blog:

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Creaming Method: How to do it!

In the previous blog post, I mentioned the "creaming method" when baking cookies, quick breads (like banana bread), and some cakes (butter-fat based cakes). What is the creaming method you may ask? Well, if you have made chocolate chip cookies before I am sure you have used the creaming method.In the professional pastry kitchen, we have certain types of methods when making a certain batter or dough. We have a method when making biscuits, sponge cakes, and icing. When I write a recipe for cookies, under the directions I will write: "CREAMING METHOD" and I understand it without writing it all out.

The creaming method works when you want a light and fluffy product, like nice chocolate chip cookies, vanilla cake, or cinnamon raisin bread. The creaming method incorporates tiny air bubbles which are desired when you want a light baked good.
-Using a Kitchen Aid Standing mixer (you will need a mixer!), fitted with the paddle attachment (looks like a soft triangle), cream the soften butter and sugar together. The shape of the paddle attachment will bring in air to the soften butter-sugar mixture. YOU WANT LOTS OF AIR in the batter! Cream for 8-10 minutes, until light and fluffy. You should "scrape" the mixture 3 times during the duration of the creaming time. It should look uniform and not "oily."

-Mix the eggs, vanilla, and any other liquids together in a microwave safe bowl. Place in a microwave for 10 seconds. The liquid mixture should be at room temp (about 68 degrees F/hand temp). Why? You are creating an emulsion ("a mixture of two unblendable liquids!") with the sugar/butter and liquid mixture and emulsions will form together as one better if all ingredients are at room temp.
Place the mixer on medium speed, and slowly add the liquids. Scrape down one half-way. Add the rest of the liquids. What if the mixture "breaks" and lookes oily and seperated? Add some of your flour to it and slowly mix. The reason why a mixture "breaks" is because you added the liquids too fast or the liquids were too cold.

-SIFT (you read my blog about sifting!) all the dry ingredients together and add to the sugar-mixture, along with any other ingredients, such as chocolate chips or nuts. Slowly mix together on low speed until the batter is full blended. The batter should be very smooth, light, and no lumps. Scrape to make sure the batter is uniform, esp. at the bottom of the bowl.
Sometime, the recipe will call for the liquid and dry mixtures to be added to the sugar-butter mixture in an alternating matter. You do this because there is too much liquid for the butter-sugar to "hold" without breaking, thus you need some dry ingredients to absorb the liquid.

-Bake: generally, cookies should be baked in a medium oven (325-350 degrees F) for a short period of time. Cakes and quick breads need to be baked longer. The end result of the baked good will show off how well you did at the creaming method. A light, fluffy, and evenly baked good will result from properly doing the creaming method.

The creaming method requires 3 main steps: all ingredients at room temp, creaming the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, and add the liquids slowly to the creaming mixture. Learn to master the creaming method and you will have successful and tasty baked goods!
Happy Baking!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

"Soften Butter"

You have seen "soften" butter in your cookie recipes. "Cream together soften butter and sugar together." What is exactly soften butter and why do we have to soften it? What happens if it is too soft, or too cold butter? Softening butter is easy and should be done when creaming it with sugar. Read more to find out why!

When you are using the creaming method ("Creaming method" is a future blog post! Stay tuned!), you need to incorporating air with the butter and sugar. The butter-sugar mixture need to be a room temp so enough air is "creamed in" to produce a light and fluffy cookie.


-Dice the butter in 1-inch cube and place on microwave safe plate.
-Microwave for 10 seconds at a time.
-Touch the butter, does it leave a finger print in it easily? If so, the butter is soft!
-Why a microwave: because it is fast and reliable and you probably have one in your kitchen!
-Why 1-inch cube: food that is uniform shape cooks more uniform. If you stuck the entire stick of butter in the microwave, the center will become way to soft and the outside will still be chill.

What happens if my butter is too soft?
When you use melted butter or too soft butter, it is not "solid" enough to be properly creamed with the sugar to get "air" in the batter. Your cookies with "spread" when baking.

What happens if my butter is too cold?

Too cold butter will, like too soft butter, not incorporate enough air in sugar-butter mixture, thus creating a more dense and less appealing cookie.

So if my butter needs to be room temp, what about my eggs?
YES! I will do another blog post about the "Creaming Method." To create a uniform mixture, ALL ingredients should be a room temp. How do you get room temp eggs? Crack your eggs into a microwave safe dish and whisk with a fork. Heat in a microwave for about 10 seconds and whisk again. Touch the eggs, are they room temp? If not, heat again. Be careful not to "cook" the eggs in the microwave! With the eggs, you just want to take the chill off.

Soften butter is easy to do and necessary when baking cookies. You will see a lighter, fluffier and better cookie with soften butter. Happy Baking!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

"KNOW WHERE TO SPEND YOUR DOUGH!" My exciting interview-series with local business owners!

Do you want a fun, exciting, and thriving community? Want your town to be a place you are proud of? Do you desire a great place to show off to friends and family? HELP out your community by spending your money at local businesses. Local businesses help make your community REAL, warm, and rich.
I will be interviewing local business owners to help out the community and keep you updated on what is up and coming.

My first interview is with Carolann Schmidt. She is the owner/founder of Carolann Joy Salon in downtown Redmond. A great, exciting salon in the Redmond beauty industry. I asked Carolann questions about running a local business and getting into the beauty industry.

1) What made you want to get into the hair-beauty industry?Besides having a natural talent for it... I love making people feel more confident and beautiful.

2) What are 3 important skills to have when operating your own business?People skills for sure. You have to be able to deal with the not so kind people in this world with out getting your feelings hurt. Being prompt is key! You have to be on time and fast to responding to customers. Lastly I think it's important to be creative.

3) What are some things people can do if they want to get into the hair-beauty industry? (But have no experience)Go check out local beauty schools, visit salon owners and interview them... ask the ugly questions, like "what's the worst part about being in this industry" They'll tell ya!

4) What are future goals you have for your salon?I plan to keep growing! I hope to have to build a new salon in the next five years. My salon will be a positive environment where stylist love working at and clients feel valued. We hope to always keep the personal space feel we have going on now in the future salons.

5) Why should people come and visit you at your salon?People should give our salon a try because we are that sweet escape away from the business this life brings. We are that salon where women walk out refreshed and feeling uplifted.

For more information about Carolannn Joy Salon, check out their website and FB page.
The salon number to book appointments: 206-715-6993!/CarolannJoySalon

Monday, 10 January 2011

To sift or not to sift....

Have you ever baked cookies, read a recipe, and saw it said "sift the flour." Ever wondered WHY you are sifting the flour? Is it really necessary? Not only sifting flour is easy, it should be done with the majority of dry, powdered goods. Read more to find out why!

Why do you sift flour and other dry goods?When dry goods, esp. flour, is packaged into paper and plastic packages, it "clumps" up because of the tight space. Then, it is moved into delievery trucks, grocerey shelves, and people's pantry space. Yes, it will clump it! Sifting flour will make it uniform, thus creating a uniform batter/dough/product.

What do you use to sift dry goods?There are the "old-fashion" sifters, which look like a large tin can with handles. Those are out-dated and rarely used. You can used a "sieve" or "strainer." They look like a mess screen ball cut in half with a handle. I love using the strainer because it serves as a multi-use tool in the kitchen. I can sift flour, strain stock, and drain pasta. You can buy a cheap, plastic one at any kitchen store. Buying a plastic strainer makes it easy to clean and store.
A "quick" method is using a whisk to "whisk out the clumps" in dry goods. I sometimes use this method when I am in a hurry. Yet, using the strainer is just as fast as whisking the dry goods.
I have heard of people using their hands, wooden spoons, or forks to "break up the lumps." Basically, when sifting, you want to break up the lumps of dry product. I like using a strainer because it is quick, easy, and it serves as a multi-use tool.

How can you tell if you properly sifted flour/dry goods?You can tell if you properly sifted flour if your baked good comes out without any "baked flour lumps." Sifting is easy to do and master! I recommend it whenever you are baking.

What about cocoa powder and powder sugar?I recommend ALWAYS using a sifter when baking with cocoa powder and powder sugar. Why? They become very compacted when package, thus creating large lumps. Baking powder and baking soda tend to "clump" also, so sift it with the flour. You can sift it all together.

-Place your strainer over a bowl.
sure the strainer fits on top of the bowl.
-Measure your dry ingredients and place directly in the "middle" of the strainer.
-Using your hand, "push" the dry ingredients through the strainer.
-Your sifted flour is now in the bowl, ready for use!
-Bake and be happy!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Leftovers: How to make the most of your food!

Why do people cook and bake their own food? Easy: it is cheaper and, usually, healthier than dining out. People want a good value for their food and many uses for their ingredients.
But there will be times when you ask yourself: "What am I going to do with all these leftovers?!" I am here to help and make suggestions! If you are ever "stuck" and wondering what to do with all those tomatoes, look up recipes, read blogs, and check out cookbooks. Inspiration IS everywhere!

Below are three wonderful examples of what to do when you have leftovers:

1) You decide to make "Chicken Caprese" one night for dinner. Now you have left over tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil.

-Dice the tomatoes and add it to tomorrow's salad.
-With the left over chicken and cheese, make grilled paninis!
-With other leftover cheeses, add the mozzarella to a cheese sauce for a homemade mac and cheese.
-Marinate the cheese in extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Add it to a salad.
-Finely shred the basil and top it over a pasta dish.
-Make a basil-garlic mayo spread and use it for the week.

2) You have some friends over to watch some football and you decide to make some fresh pico do gallo, spicy chiptole salsa, and guacamole. You still have some leftovers after everyone is gone.
-Use the pico for tomorrow's breakfast with eggs.
-Add the pico and guac to a salad. Top with grilled chicken.
-Make giant burritos and add the spicy salsa.
-Add the salsa to a meat or chicken marinade.
-Have chiptole peppers leftover? Make a chiptole-cream sauce and add the pico for a SW-Spicy Pasta.
-Use the guac as a "spread" for a sandwich.

3)You're baking your best friend's birthday cake. You have leftover buttermilk, milk chocolate, and a ton of butter!

-Use the buttermilk in mashed potatoes or any potato dish, instead of regular milk. The vinegar in the buttermilk will add more taste and freshness to your potato dish.
-Make buttermilk biscuits for tomorrow's chili dinner.
-Have your friends over and make homemade cocoa with the chocolate.
-Make chocolate chip cookies!
-Make a savory butter to top grilled fish or chicken: soften the one stick of butter to room temp. Add salt, black pepper, and desired dried herbs. Chill.
A garlic-dill butter is great over grilled salmon.
-Using the flavored butter, add it to a cream sauce for tomorrow's pasta dish.

What else is good to have when creating dishes with leftovers? A well-stocked pantry.
What is a pantry: your food basics that you always have in your fridge. The basics. The foundations.
A well-stock pantry should contain:
-Salt (to be more specific: sea salt, kosher salt, and id ionized salt)
-Black pepper mill
-Vinegars (have at least 2 stock. I like balsamic and white.)
-Extra virgin olive oil and canola/veg oil
-All-Purpose flour
-White and brown sugar
-Baking powder/Baking soda
-Assorted dried herbs/spices (depends on which ones you use the most. The most popular: thyme, mustard, oregano, basil, ginger, clove, all spice, cinnamon, etc)
-Eggs, milk, and unsalted butter
-Garlic, onions, celery, carrots, and bell peppers are the most popular and useful produce.
-Bananas, apples, pears, oranges, and lemons are the most popular fruits and have many uses.
-Dried pastas, assorted rices, and other grains you eat. (Like quinoa, cous cous, buckwheat, other assorted noodles)
-Canned tomatoes, olives, and peppers have many uses and a long shelf-life.
When it comes down to it, your pantry depends on what you eat the most. The basics you have on hand. Keep your pantry well-stocked! Always be shopping for more items to add to it.

When grocery shopping, buy ingredients that have many uses to make the most of your food budget.
Not sure what to use a certain ingredient? Look it up, and find recipes dedicated to that one ingredient. Popular foods like onions, garlic, bell peppers, and carrots can be used in many dishes versus buy unique, unpopular foods. Stick with the basics and you will create many dishes with your pantry.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Top 5 Favorite food books!

I am a hardcore bookworm. I love to go to the library and just get lost in the 630-640 non-fiction section. FYI, that is the cooking/baking/nutritional section of the library. Many people do not know that your local public library supplies many cookbooks and food-related books. It is great for new cooks and foodies who want to expand their knowledge of food and recipes.

Books will supply knowledge for your food and cooking growth. Not only is it good to have cook books, but reference food books. Here are my top 5 must-have books for the kitchen:

1) Culinary Artistry By: Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
This book talks about what flavors compliment what. A wonderful reference book for anyone who is wondering what to do with the leftover spices or food from the holiday season.

2) The Making of a Pastry Chef By: Andrew MacLauchlan
Similar to Culinary Artistry, this book has a reference for what pastry items compliment what. This is one of the most in-depth pastry books I have found on the market.

3) The Food Lover's Companion By: Sharon Tyler Herbst
This book is a "dictionary" for food terms. A great reference for anyone who is starting out and wants to know what "deglaze" or "sweat" means. Included are helpful tips, lists, and guides.

4) The Visual Food Encyclopedia: The Definitive Practical Guide to Food and Cooking
By: Francis Fortin
I love this book because it has big, bright, and colorful pictures of food! Most people are visual learners and need to know what a certain food looks like before buying or cooking it. Not only does it have great pictures, it talks about the food itself and the best way to cook it.

5) ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover's Road Map to: Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, Getting Really Healthy
By: John La Puma
Yes, I love great food and pastries, but I also love being healthy and living a long life! This book talks about nutrition, a healthy way of living, and has helpful recipes. The author talks about which foods to eat with what to receive the max benefits of that food. This book is a bit of a "twist" from your regular nutritional books. Easy to read and enjoyable!

The more you read the more knowledge you will have! You will come across cookbooks you like, dislike and want to share with other food lovers. Go to your local library and just read a couple cookbooks, your mind will already be growing.
Happy Baking!