Food Snob, Baker, diagnostic cooking, entertaining. I create food.

  • Location: Northeast
  • Favorite foods: Anything italian, good kosher deli, cake and all things baked, cheese, bread
  • Last bite on earth: Cake

A Closer Look at Your Italian Bakery's Cookie Case

I love Sweet Maria's baking book's and they are great if you are an experienced as a baker. If not you will not be pleased there are only illustrations of cookies and other baked goods in Maria's other books. It is the one down side. If you do not know what a cookie is supposed to look like finished you are SOL. I have said this a baker's dozen times. Maria your books are wonderful have someone photograph them and republish the books.

American Classics: Grasshopper Squares

An amazing dessert and green for St Pats. Amazing!!! Love love love it!!!

Catering an event need help pricing!

When I cater I have specific menus which have a cost per person. You have to figure the cost of your ingredients/supplies then put a gross margin on it to cover time and make a profit.
You want to do at least 39 points (or more) aka Gross Profit % per person.
This is how you build a clientele. Once you get more regular clients/events
you can raise it from 39 points to 45 etc etc
Math: if you did a few finger foods 2 hot/3 cold (locally sourced and purchased/wholesale) and cost was kept to under 22.00 per person you will charge about 39.99 per person this is a gross margin of approx 45 points. So you are charging 39.99 per head for 50 people your gross profit would be about 900.00. I personally never mix the food and wine per person rate. I would invoice this separately. For wine you get about 5-6 servings per bottle so for 50 people (not all will be drinking wine so figure out if you need beverages of another kind) you need 2 pours per person about 17 bottles (approx 9.99 per bottle) 5.00-6.00 per person should give you a good margin. If there is dessert invoice this separate also and another item to price out. Now I am not sure how elaborate your menu is going to be or if your client will pay 39.99 per person. I am just trying to illustrate how you price it out in the easiest form. Make as few stops as you can. Source locally and ask for 50% deposit up front which will cover your food costs. Write a contract that is non refundable unless they cancel a full 8 days before.
I do not believe in charging hourly or for mileage if you work 10 hours on it as I wrote it up your profit is good for a finger food cater with wine.
Look over the calculator and play with excel and figure out your costs versus your profit margin. Pad your per person for paper products. I always used cater trays which I showed up and took back with me to reuse. Make sure your client knows you want them back.

What was the first thing you ever baked?

I was 6, it was sugar cookies and my mother had never made them before. At school they had a book fair and I picked up a book called my first cookie book. I made her make every cookie in that book with me. She had literally never made any of those cookies. She remembers it as me testing her patience, I remember it the same way only her testing mine.
They were very American cookies. In my family we never made those things.
So I went off the radar and the rest is history.

Chiffy's Southern Style Banana Pudding

I found some interesting things when I make this. I subbed out nillas for lorna doone cookies once. They were not even the real ones but the fake ones. People loved it. I am a meringue nana puddin person. The very southern lady from NC who taught me in 102 degree heat always topped hers with merginue. If its too hot here I go for the whipped cream.
Alison, pudding from scratch is soooo good and as Chiffy says add the vanilla bean it makes all the difference.
I once took half a pan of leftover and put it in my ice cream maker. It was very good.

What Can't Be Frozen?

I freeze cheese all the time, all kinds of cheese. They key to keeping your cheese from changing its texture is how you wrap it. Kitchen sealer works really well for drier cheeses. I freeze everything. American slices, shredded, Italian grating, chunks of blue cheese. No one can tell the difference. I bring home whole wheels of brie and they go right in the freezer. If you spend time prepping it and wrapping it properly no one can tell. Friend of mine waxes hers then freezes it. I have 6 lbs of feta in my freezer, thawed its exactly the same perhaps a tiny wee bit drier which to me is perfect. Expensive cheeses, the most expensive I freeze is big chunks of gruyere. Comes out fine.

Aluminum Fry Pan - cleaning and seasoning

If you are a low budget newbie home chef in training following a professional chef's professional opinion is not very good. Firstly they cook on giant high BTU cooktops, you do not. They pick cheap aluminum cookware because they beat the $%^& out of it and toss it out.
Go pick up one of these 3, calphalon unison (can go in a dishwasher) tfal has to be hand washed or a simple old Martha non stick. I always use non stick for eggs/breakfasts. Why? It is easy to clean. If you are feeling pricy Scanpan is my pan of choice. The Unison is the cheaper version of the same baked on versus coated non stick. You get a good sear with the baked on finishes.

Pecorino perception

I love locatelli. I make a mix for baked pasta dishes of parmiagiano and romano, it is called "the blend".

Ever froze cookie dough? Help me!

slicing makes thin crisp cookies. Make dough balls next time and watch your time and color. I never slice dough unless I want thin crisp cookies.

My Friend Nora Ephron Is Dead: The World Has Lost Someone Very Special

I was hooked since Heartburn came out in print. I am saddened.

What do you leave OUT of the fridge? Food safety

I do not refrigerate ketchup, mustard or any bottle sauce unless it has some dairy in it. I never have and no one got sick ever.
Tomatoes out of the fridge but use them fast.
Beans out of the fridge is the perfect growth medium for a trip to the hospital.
Anything starchy will grow bacteria, rice, beans, bread. We do not keep bread long enough for it to go bad. Cake with icing that has dairy in it goes in the fridge, bring it out for 1/2 hour and let it get room temp before you serve it.

British Food

I believe Go Fish is a real business a chip shop in Delaware. I have been there.

Onions and lies

I think a lot of things factor into this. The sugar content of your onions, the size and construction of your pot, the temp you use even the humidity of your kitchen. I make a lot of carmelized onions and it never is the same amount of time all the time.

First time cooking for the SO

I made a lot of first time I cooked meals that were awesome and all of them were something I knew hot to make really really well. Lasagne, ravioli and sausage, fried chicken, fajitas (a real show stopper) and beef roast. I made all the sides and all the desserts. I recommend something you can mess the kitchen up and while its cooking you can clean and and go get ready.
Make something you know cold because you will be wanting to impress and not stress.

Help For Dense Banana Bread

I freeze my bananas, then I thaw them and put them in blender or food processor, it loses some starch, still tastes good, still has the fiber but less starch.

Appetizers: 2 days ahead/last in a cooler for a 400 mile drive?

8 hours in a cooler is a tough one because you have to make sure you have 8 hours of frozen insurance. Perhaps some dry ice in the cooler is just the thing. It keeps frozen for 2 days. Be safe.
I would not buy anything that needed chilling and go with what you can make once you are there. My food drive limit is half yours. 4 hours. If it cannot be chilled to appropriate temp for 4 hours I just do not do it.
Bake some things and pick up your cheeses and cold items there.

Perfect Martini - Gin to Vermouth to Water ratios

I like the old way of doing it. You swirl the vermouth in the glass a few times and then tip out quickly then add your shaken cold vodka and with your mix spoon grab a giant olive with juice and all and drop her in.
DONE. The ice is water you do not need more water.

Switching Temperatures Mid-Baking in a Gas Oven

There is no difference an oven is an oven is an oven.

Taste Test: Jarred Pasta Sauces from Celebrity Chefs and Restaurants

Someone made a baked pasta dish and shoved it at me. Taste this! Ok its good so what. It is a jar sauce, no kidding. Rao's. It tastes very much like my quick sauce. So yes I have bought it. When making a baked ziti on the quick for someone who is not a sauce picky person I always go to Rao's. This year we tried the sausage and mushroom version and it was very good.
I was pleased it was good and in a jar and shocked.

What is happening to TALK?

@gourmetgal you are dead on!!! There was a change and when it happened it is not the same. It is easier to talk to our SE friends on FB.
Also easier not to talk to people we do not want to talk to LOL.
I am not a FB fan either. It is just easier.

"not your grandma's cookies"

It is a phrase which means your grandmother would never use these flavors, meaning its new, its hip, its not the same old same old.

Our Secret List of Banned Words

I like the word zing, sorry but I do and I use tang too. Not tangy but tang.
I like the word mouthfeel because I am talking to people who put things IN their actual MOUTHS. Overthinking sometimes shows lack of context. Zing is not for everyplace but it is sometimes needed for describing measures you might use trying to concoct taste.

side dishes for baked ham

I skip around a bit. I change it each year. Some years we do fettuccine alfredo or mac and cheese or scalloped potatoes or a savory kugel or potato salad.

Baby's First meals

Probably talking to your pediatrician might be the best place to start.

How many is too many Strawberries?

I would imagine this person is from a local place that uses them.
I was in line at whole foods last weekend and the manager from the olive garden came in and had a cart of veggies and cheese. She flashed some card at the checkout (for a discount and explained that with the weather being so crappy they had run out of some things)
I applaud this resourcing because who wants to hear something is not available on a Saturday night.
The whole purpose for a grocery store is to sell items. Perhaps you should check out the people buying twinkies, pop tarts and cheetos. They are buying bags of them everyday. That panics me.

The Annual Thanksgiving Holiday Hullabaloo

I am officially kicking off the TG holiday today with my usual message. If you are cooking/baking for TG and you need any help, recipes, ideas food or logistics please post your questions. Every year I make a giant fuss over what is my personal olympics...Turkey Day! This year we again talk turkey and every other thing in between. This allows us to peek into your holiday kitchen, exchange ideas, recipes and share the holiday together.
Please join us as we for the 4th year take on TG. We have approx 24 days to motivate and fascinate. Let's do this!!!!

Johnny cake (not cakes on a griddle but actual cake)

There are two types of Johnny cake with cornmeal and without.
I am always mystified by quick breads/cakes and this is a growing obsession of mine. Do you have a personal encounter with Johnny Cake (Bahamian Johnny Cake and Caribbean Johnny Cake) that you can share. Which type do you like best?

Peanut butter pie dilemma

I have been working on a peanut butter pie that is not too sweet nor too overly peanut buttery. I have not reinvented the wheel yet but I think I might have to. Does anyone have a fave peanut butter pie recipe that the filling is not too sweet (cloying) or overly peanut buttery (heavy)? Also no cool whip (non dairy whipped topping), no instant pudding, the crust does matter.
Send your peanut butter pie panache this way...

CSA time approaches Yes or No?

Every year I debate a CSA and every year I question the cost.
Today I am finding the 2010 CSA are running about 20 bucks a week. Is this normal? Do you pay less? A half CSA is it worth it?

oatmeal sandwich cookie filling stable for shipping

This year I had a request for oatmeal sandwich cookies to add to the Box O Love that I send every christmas. Now usually I make it with butter which is not going to ship so well or keep so well. Has anyone made a filling that keeps well and ships well?
Lay your creme filling karma on me.

Thanksgiving Menu what is yours?

Every year I make a giant fuss over what is my personal olympics...Turkey Day! This year we again foray into what are you making? This allows us peek into your holiday kitchen, exchange ideas, recipes and share the holiday together.
What is your menu? What are you making? Do you need some help with ideas?
If someone could sticky this would be great so it does not get buried.

And now the cake dilemma...c'est finalement l'ennui gateau

It has finally happened cake ennui, oh no
I have looked at baking books for at least 10 days, I have googled, tastepotted, ran to Baking Bites and around the baking blogs. The olympics is in 13 days, I need a cake. No Bundts, no cheesecakes, pies are covered. Focus and send me your cake widsom and crumb karma. HELP!!!

Food processor feedback needed

My MIL got my cole slaw recipe and went to make it with her "old as hell" food processor and I think old choppy bit the big one. She hinted when she was here two weeks ago she wanted a new one but did not want, "one of those big things like you got..." Now I have a Cuisinart 11 cup which makes a little over 4 lbs of cole slaw in one bowl. I believe she wants a 7 cup(ish) one, but I have not looked at any of that size in near a decade. Anyone have a smaller one and if you do what brand and what do you like about it? Recommendations...

Wedding gift ideas-Foodie up to 100 bucks

Mr Tomatoes youngest cousin is getting married and he and his intended are young (him 23 her 21) and their bridal registry smacks of junk that they are never going to use and club target crap. I want to get them something they will A)love B)use C)never knew they needed D)foodie
Put your thinking caps on people. No rush we have some time. are were all young, dumb and foodies once. What did you want but never asked for?

9 yr old Niece's Birthday baking type gift what to buy?

My niece's (a bake a holic true to my gene pool unlike her mother)
birthday is coming up fast. I don't have any children so I have no idea what would be too advanced for a 9 year old as a birthday gift with a baking theme. So mommies and daddies, what would you buy her? Send your thoughts my way.

Fresh Market visit in Glen Mills

It is open now and it is huge inside. I had a real good visit this morning when they opened. Lots of the same great quality standards and friendly service. Great place to visit if you have never been to a Fresh Market before.

Christmas Cookies 2008 Pics are posted

Sharing a little bit of my work with those who like to view baking.
I just posted one of the cookie trays I set out. I made 18 kinds (including pizzelles).
I want to see more of everyone's cookies. Get those cameras out.

The Backup Dessert or what if I run out (as if?)

About an hour ago I was counting cookies and people and Chocolate cake and people and I realized not everyone wants Chocolate cake and suppose I run out of dessert. I ran to the kitchen, I surveyed the fridges, the pantry and then it hit me.
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Squares. Nicole at Baking Bites saves the day again. Who would not like a nice slice of cheescake?
The backup dessert is baking and the house smells nice.
Did you plan a backup dessert? What you didn't! OMG! Ok don't panic.

Flan cake? If you know what it is do you have a recipe?

Last weekend we had this piece of cake that was flan but with cake. Had a crust like smearcase/Baltimore style cheesecake/gooey buttercake and the body of it was flan, nice solid (not watery or syrupy) brown rum/sugar top just baked on.
It all sat in harmony no real seperation and it was room temperature.
Well I have to make this thing. First I thought it was tres leches but realized after picking at my leftover cake it was flan cake.
Color me surprised! Who knows how to make this and why have I not heard about it before. Share the cake people.
This is not just flan! Flan I know on sight.
It is a solid baked custard (no weeping, no water, no syrup) with a cakey bottom.

Rocky Road Brownies What makes them Rocky Road?

Mr Tomato calls from work at 3 PMish and says I just got a tip the VP loves Rocky Road Brownies. They are his favorite. Can you make me some for tomorrow?
Well sure I can. So off I went to cookbooks and googling and I realized that Rocky Road is an interpretation. I have teeny tiny marshmallows (small and white like the kind in cereal) I have nuts of all kinds. I even have a batch of dulce de leche carmel.
What kind of nuts? What do you put in them? I have to do these tonight. Send me your Rocky Road inspirations.

Christmas Eve or Day Hanukkah Menus/What you cooking?

Ok people we are down to a week before the wire here let's type out the Menus so those of us who want ideas can get some creative juices flowing. Those who are new or recent foodies and want ideas and recipes this is the place to ask those questions. We are ready and willing to help anyone out if they need ideas and recipes. Share the love people.
What ya cooking?

12 days till Christmas Baking Roll Call

Who is baking what? What did you already get done?
What else do you have to do?
Let's talk about that thing we do our holiday baking.
I have 2 cookies and some Dorie's Blondies done today.
I have some biscotti and pizzelles done (with my new cuisinart pizzelle maker) and this weekend is going to be a baking blitz with 14 more items to bake.
Holler out peeps!

Are you a hand former or a stamper?

Over the holiday weekend my MIL decided to insert herself into some biscuit making for the brunch on Sunday. I gasped as I saw her stamping and twisting. MIL is a steel magnolia. When I asked her not to twist she got a little irritated. She claimed because I put the biscuit cutter out she did "not know" because she is a hand former. I say she was just trying to race through it.
The verdict; biscuits like coasters and me looking smug when I managed to make 4 that were all mile high.
Tell me are you a stamper or a hand former? Do you twist? Come on admit it.

This Week's Pizza Poll: What Do You Season Your Slice With?

Walk into any slice joint and you'll likely see an array of shakers filled with pizza-appropriate seasonings—Parmesan, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic, etc. Our question today is Which of these seasonings, if any, do you shake onto your slice? Do you go nuts and amp the flavor with everything or just shake a little extra cheese on? Do you salt-and-pepper it? Or do you leave it well enough alone? More