Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Recap on Seattle's annual VEG FEST!

This past weekend, Seattle's Annual Veg Fest, happened at the Seattle Center. What is Veg Fest? A gathering of veggie peeps trying new vegan and vegetarian food from veg-friendly companies, business, and vendors.

Am I vegeterian? Nope. Yes, I used to be. Currently, my diet is 75% vegetarian and I am proud to say it! Why? It cost less and keeps me healthy and energized. Trust me, I work every day and need my spirits UP. A well-balanced diet keeps me mood and body right. And, a vegetarian diet helps me do that!

Of course the "big veggie players" were there: Boca, Garden Burger, and Field Roast brands. Many healthy and organic snack treat brands handed out full-size servings to the community. Plus, many 100% juice and smoothie vendors were quenching everyone's thirst. Afraid to try meatless meat? You can at Veg Fest, many "veggie" meat companies were offering samples. My fave: the samples of coconut water and vanilla soy ice-cream bars.

The festival was PACKED, even in late afternoon. Seattle is a very veggie-friendly community and we are open arms to anything new and healthy. This was my third year attending Veg Fest and I love getting new samples to try and inspirations for dishes.

Happy Baking,

Monday, 26 March 2012

Why you NEED to eat more SWEETS!

Us pastry peeps, chefs, bakers, cooks, and foodies have it hard...we need to convince people to EAT MORE. Plus, the food we are promoting is "not-so-healthy". Chocolate, sugar, cake, and butter is not on any doctor's "must eat" list. We are constantly informed by medical professionals, media, and the community to "watch what we eat," only choose healthy choices, and avoid excess fat and sugar.

Then, WHY are more and more cupcake shops, coffee cafes, and fine dining restaurants are appearing in our local food scene? It is OK to indulge. In fact, I urge it. Limiting foods to a "complete no" will only make you want to eat it more. Tip #1: Never limit yourself, is it ok to fest in your life!

Make sure when you do FEST like a king or queen, you choose wisely. Only eat the best! You do live once and you should enjoy what you eat. I like real butter over fake fat, real sugar, and a 100% homemade baked good over a store-bought treat. Tip #2: Eat only real foods! Foods that other countries would recognize!

All that food will cause you to bounce off the walls with energy. Don't worry, with the outdoor scene in Seattle, you can walk around Greenlake, play frisbee in a nearby park, or play hoops with your neighbor. Want to stay indoors? Try yoga, circut training, or rock climbing. Tip #3: Stay active. Being healthy and physically active will make you mentally and physically sharp. Plus, it will burn off any extra calories you may be enjoying!

Overall advice: Make smart food choices 80% of the time, and for the rest of the 20%, indulge in delicious food. Stay active and fit. Live life and don't be afraid to try new food, activities, and diets!

Happy cooking,

Monday, 19 March 2012

My top 4 baking ingredients that have a DOUBLE USE!

Did you know some baking/cooking ingredients ALSO DOUBLE as gentle, eco-friendly cleaners? No harsh chemicals and not another "thing" to buy. Plus, you can get more use of your ingredients.

Here are my top 4 favorite ingredients that double as everyday cleaners:

1) BAKING SODA: Double as a gentle cleaner for non-stick and stainless steel cookware.
How: Make a "paste" with baking soda and water. It should be thick like wet sand. Rub that on the stain on your cookware, leave it for 15 minutes, and wash off with regular dish soap and soft sponge. Repeat this process, 2-4 times, if the stain is very bad and harsh. Forget those "special cleaners" for cookware, baking soda and regular dish soap is all you need. Want that nice stainless steel "shine" back, on your cookware? Use a stainless steel polish on the exterior of your cookware.

2) DISTILLED WHITE VINEGAR: Double has laundry cleaner to remove "very stinky" smell from clothes.
How: If you have very bad smelling clothes, from gym/sweating or outdoors, soak your clothes in a solution of water and distilled white vinegar. (3 parts water: 1 part vinegar) Avoid "wine vinegars." Only use wine vinegars in cooking/baking. After soaking, rinse with water, and wash as you normally would.

3) LEMON JUICE: Double has a cleaner for stainless steel stain remover.
How: Did you burn something in your lovely stainless steel pan, and now your pain is fried and burnt? Let the pan cool to room temp, FIRST. Then, filled with a solution of lemon juice (1 part) and water (2 parts). Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour the water-lemon juice solution down the drain and wash the pan with regular dish soap. Repeat, if the stain is very bad. Don't have any lemon juice on hand? Use distilled white vinegar!

4) HONEY: Double as a skin scar cream.
HOW: Have a minor (NOT major) burn, scab, or scar? Try putting honey on it. Yup, HONEY. It naturally has minerals and enzymes that will help the healing process. First, clean your scab (with hydrogen peroxide) and with a cotton swab, spread a thin layer of honey on the scab. Put a bandage over the scab. Repeat until it is healed. Have a more serious infection? See a doctor or medical professional.

I learn these "special" tricks from: product warranty information, grandmas, and fellow social media buddies (example: tweeples and blogger peeps). Before you starting buying more and more cleaners for your house, check out if there is any "other ingredient" you can use first. Do you have a serious stain? Then, a store-bought cleaner may be the answer.

Happy baking,

Sunday, 11 March 2012

SWEET SUCCESS: Gender Revealing Cupcakes for a baby shower!

When Liz and Sherwin found out they were having TWINS, they wanted to reveal the gender in the the form of a CUPCAKE! That is right, a CUPCAKE. Outside, the cupcake will be custom decorated and inside, the center will be blue or pink. Thank you to the host, Liz, for the creative idea.

I made 4 custom-made cupcakes:
"Lemonade Cupcake:" Lemon cake with lemon and vanilla buttercream.
"Blueberry Summer:" Vanilla cake with lemon buttercream and blueberry compote.
"Double Chocolate-lish:" Chocolate cake with rich chocolate frosting and pink-strawberry buttercream.
"Caramel Swirl:" Chocolate cake with caramel and vanilla swirled buttercream.

The cupcakes were a hit! All the close friends and family that attended loved the idea of "revealing" the gender in a cupcake.

...and SURPRISE! It will be GIRLS! TWIN GIRLS! Congrats to Liz and Sherwin.

This is another event to show off custom made cupcakes for your extra special party.

Happy Baking,

Monday, 5 March 2012

A homemade cupcake versus a store-bought cupcake: the details!

Homemade cupcakes and other baked goods cost more than store-bought ones. There, I said it. What it cost for me to make 2 dozen cupcakes is different than a large chain grocery store to make 2 dozen cupcakes. Many people do not know the details WHY it cost more for a small, independent baker to create delicious treats versus a grocery store.

Here are the top 3 main facts:

1) Ingredients: Ingredients are costly, esp. dairy. I make my own cake, I do not use a cake mix. Many large chain grocery stores will use an "all-purpose baking" mix from a box, "just add egg and water" brownie mix, or frozen cookie dough. Why? To keep product control correctly. Not only are the baking goods for their store, but every other store will have to have the exact same treats.
Also, since they use mixes, we never "know exactly" what goes into your cookies, brownies, and breads. Some mixes will have extra special ingredients that are not-so-great for your body.

2) Time: It takes more time to create, mix, and bake cake versus dumping cake mix in a bowl and baking it. Plus, since I always butter my baking dishes (versus using a non-stick spray....ewww.), that action takes more time. And well, time IS money in a large business.

3) Custom decoarting: I always custom decorate to the host's special request. I may be making mini roses on top of mini cupcakes, baking cookies for a nice cupcake topper, or add toasted nuts for a crunch!
Most grocery store will be limited in custom decorating. If you do request something extra special, they may not have a staff member that is able to do it.

I know price is an issue when buying delicious baked goods. There are many local grocery stores that are, now, carrying in-house baked goods and making custom made cakes. Make sure everything is MADE in-house, not just BAKED in-house.

Happy Baking,