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Thursday
Apr262007

cocoa bar - Indulgent Gifts for Mother's Day

For moms with a big sweet tooth, Brooklyn's famous cocoa bar offers perfect Mother's Day gift ideas. Famed for their signature truffles, chocolate drinks and pralines, you can create the same choco magic with their custom gift box selections. Choose from their extensive bon bon collection, coffee blends, exotic teas, decadent hot chocolate mixes, port-soaked figs or chocolate-covered pretzels.

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I recommend including at least one of the assorted chocolate bars in the gift box. The unique flavors will make mom smile for sure. Try Tea Time, a lovely milk bar infused with Earl Grey tea, or get the Nutmeg Nibble, a dark bar with carmelized cacao nibs and nutmeg. My personal fave was I Like it Spicy, a dark bar with cayenne pepper and pasilla chile. Whoo-whee, it sure made my mouth fiery!

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For more info, go to: www.cocoabarnyc.com

-See you at the chocolate bar,

The Sweet Life

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Monday
Apr232007

Shower Mom With Love From Dancing Deer

Mommy dearest knows best, and if she knew about Dancing Deer, she'd be all over the buttery cookies, flavor-packed cakes and fudgy brownies. Show how much your love her this Mother's Day with their latest Spring collection:

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Those who love a super buttery cake with a moist pound-cake texture will love the Strawberry Shortcake. A thick layer of stawberry jam is laced throughout the dense cake, with a healthy layer of strudel topping. A small slice is enough to hit the spot, but who's watching...I'd sneak in a second slice with a nice cup of tea. Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream. It's that mmmh mmmh good.

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If strawberries are not your thing, try the tropical Toasted Coconut Lime Cake. Toasted coconut flakes enhance the mild lime accents in the buttery cake, made with buttermilk and yogurt to heighten the moist crumb factor. If you're still undecided, you can't go wrong with the pretty A Dozen Chocolate Roses. Twelve chocolate shortbread cookies are adorned with pink icing and elegantly hand-stenciled roses.

Happy Mother's Day!

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Thursday
Apr192007

La Cocina Gives Emerging Food Businesses Ingredients For Success

San Francisco has always been an incubator of food entrepreneurs. So it’s no surprise to see the ambitious La Cocina Community Kitchen assisting budding low-income food businesses. The nonprofit organization, located in the city’s Mission District, provides the tools and services that a start-up culinary venture requires, but at a much lower cost than it would normally take.

Just over two years old, La Cocina has nurtured over a dozen program participants who have needed an affordable professional kitchen to expand their small, woman-owned businesses.With the fiscal support of The Women’s Foundation of California and private donors, the 4,400 square foot commercial kitchen has been stocked with every type of food preparation equipment imaginable. La Cocina also provides technical training and marketing support to those who need it.

Like all staff members at La Cocina, Program Coordinator Caleb Zigas recognizes the difficulties in starting a food-related business. “The benefit of an organization like this lies in our ability to make food and business work together in a sustainable way,” Zigas explains.

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“We are looking for the ‘hidden entrepreneurs’, the women who make food that tastes like home for the communities and sub-communities within the Bay Area,” says Zigas. “The work we are most interested in not only creates a viable business but also encourages entrepreneurs to use their food to connect to a larger community.” It’s this aspect of the program that people most often experience when they are in the kitchen or tasting the food, he explains.

Many of the participants began simply by cooking food in their own homes. Most of the women, like Yumna McCann, have used the familiar dishes of their own cultures to create a bridge to their lives in the Bay Area. A native South African, McCann missed the savory pies from her mother’s kitchen, so she launched her company Mystipied. She now runs a very successful business, with accounts such as Rainbow Grocery.

“La Cocina is a great program offering guidance to start-up businesses,”McCann says. “The most amazing thing for me has been the opportunity to meet industry professionals such as Barb Stuckey, Traci Des Jardins, Patricia Unterman and Rob Zaborny.” Barb Stuckey is a San Franciscoo Professional Food Society member and Vice President of Marketing at Mattson, Inc.

The San Francisco Professional Food Society is currently establishing a mentorship program, matching its members with La Cocina participants. “The partnership,” says SFPSF member John Birdsall, “shows that our members value a thriving local food scene and honor the life histories of the La Cocina entrepreneurs.”

SFPFS member and Principal of Torani Syrups & Flavors Lisa Lucheta has seen her involvement come full circle. One of the early volunteers, she feels fortunate to have had La Cocina participants help her with her business. “I’m pleased to share my experience through the mentoring program,” Lucheta says. “I expect it to be a mutually rewarding experience and look forward to learning from someone with an entrepreneurial spirit in the early stages of her business.”

For more information or if you’d like to get involved, visit www.lacocinasf.org or call 415-824-2729.

(Photo credit: Victor Wong)

The Sweet Life

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Thursday
Apr192007

Allie's Edibles - True Comfort Indulgence

If you're a fancy sweet tooth like me, you might at times get tired of the growing tidal wave of gourmet chocolatiers springing up across the country. Sometimes we just need some basic comfort indulgences, such as the Allie's Edibles line. With six goodies to choose from, it's hard to stop with just one treat. Whether you choose the buttery Chocolate Covered Butter Nut Toffee or the fudgy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, you're guaranteed to sink into something luscious. If nuts aren't your thing, you might get addicted to the Chocolate Covered Caramels or the pillow-soft Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Bars.

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Using simple recipes and and local ingredients, these sinful treasures are perfect for tea time, or as a pick-me-up when you're having a bad day. The generous servings are individually wrapped, so they can make nice little prezzies for friends and colleagues or as a housewarming gift.

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Available online at: www.alliesedibles.com

The Sweet Life

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Thursday
Apr122007

Scharffen Berger's Limited Series #8: Cuyagua - Get it now!

Another limited series chocolate bar to lust after from yummy Scharffen Berger! The latest addition, only 700+ cases of the #8 Cuyagua bar were made. Deep earthy tones and wild blackberry notes in this complex 75% cacao bar originate from the old-growth cacao trees of Cuyagua, a small village west of Caracas, on the coast of Venezuela. Pair with a good wine as a stellar upscale dessert duo, or nibble by itself as an indulgent snack.

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Available at Whole Foods Markets, Scharffen Berger boutiques, and at: www.scharffenberger.com

See you at the candy store,

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Tuesday
Apr032007

Living the High Life with Pie in the Sky

Have an altitude problem? Say goodbye to slumpy pies and goopy cakes with Pie in the Sky, Susan G. Purdy’s successful effort at demystifying the trials and tribulations of high-altitude baking. With colorful travel anecdotes describing Purdy’s baking adventures, this award-winning baking expert has taken the guesswork out of making apple pies and chiffon cakes.

The first book to effectively tackle the atmospheric difficulties experienced by bakers living in high elevations, Purdy presents each recipe at five different altitudes (from standard sea level to 10,000 feet). She also debunks the myths surrounding high-altitude adjustments, such as whether or not to raise the oven temperature (the answer can be quite different for each altitude).

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With easy-to-read reference charts and a multitude of tips, amateur and expert bakers alike will enjoy these innovative recipes. From the Alpine Angel Cake to the Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie, readers are presented with precise measurements and instructions on how to perfectly execute delicious and gorgeous-looking desserts each and every time.

The next time you make your famous soufflé at your Aspen ski home, bring this magical book along for guidance. I promise your lovely creations will be as fluffy as the clouds sailing above you.

Pie in the Sky, Successful Baking at High Altitudes, W. Morrow/HarperCollins

Available at: www.highaltitudebaking.com, www.susangpurdy.com or www.amazon.com

See you in the kitchen,

The Sweet Life

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Thursday
Mar292007

Scharffen Berger Las Islas Bar

Cult followers of the Scharffen Berger chocolate bars will be stockpiling the Limited Series Bar #7 - Las Islas. Originating from the Caribbean, the bar is made from carefully selected cacao beans from Trinidad, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. This 72% cacao bar carries soft citrus notes with hints of orange peel (similar to marmalade) and has a long smooth finish. So hurry along to the nearest store, as only 1,200 cases of this bar were produced.

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Available at Whole Foods Markets, Scharffen Berger boutiques, and at: www.scharffenberger.com

See you at the candy store,

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Wednesday
Mar282007

Recchiuti Oeufs de Paques

Even if you're not religious, here's another excuse to celebrate Easter: Michael Recchiuti's gorgeous Oeufs de P√¢ques (Easter Eggs). These signature eggs are carefully hand-crafted to perfection by the renowned chocolatier. Savor over tea as your taste buds dance over the exquisite dark chocolate shell, with a silky center of Force Noir ganache inside.

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www.recchiuti.com

Happy Easter!

The Sweet Life

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Tuesday
Mar272007

Bake Confidently With Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours

If you've always dreamed of making your own authentic French desserts, look no further than to Dorie Greenspan's latest baking bible, BAKING: From My Home to Yours. After a lifetime of working with the best culinary authorities in the world (such as Julia Child), readers are now privy to coveted recipes, from her famous buttery World Peace Cookies to the très facile French Yogurt Cake.

Jam-packed with more than 300 foolproof recipes, you can expect to wow your guests with each and every dessert. Like a baking guardian angel feeding you tons of encouragement, this baking guru describes exactly what the dessert is supposed to look like every step of the way, with perfect descriptions of dough textures and appearances (check out the stellar brownie recipe below and you'll find out why this is a must-buy).

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TRIBUTE-TO-KATHARINE-HEPBURN BROWNIES

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons finely ground instant coffee

2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup broken or chopped walnuts or pecans

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk the flour, cinnamon, if you’re using it, and salt together.

Put the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and place the pan over low heat. When the butter starts to melt, sift the cocoa over it and add the instant coffee. Continue to cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the cocoa and coffee are blended into it. Remove from the heat and cool for about 3 minutes.

Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, beat the eggs into the saucepan one at a time. Next, stir in the sugar and vanilla (don’t beat anything too vigorously—you don’t want to add air to the batter), followed by the dry ingredients, nuts and chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, at which point the brownies will still be gooey but the top will have a dry papery crust. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the brownies cool for at least 30 minutes. (You can wait longer, if you’d like.) Turn the brownies out onto a rack, peel away the paper and invert onto a cutting board. Cool completely before cutting into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side.

Makes 16 brownies.

Recipe used with permission from BAKING: FROM MY HOME TO YOURS, by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, November 2006).

Photo Credit: Alan Richardson

See you in the kitchen!

The Sweet Life

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Tuesday
Mar202007

Spring Delights From Williams-Sonoma

Spring is officially here, and Williams-Sonoma has launched an adorable array of sweets, home decor and baking tools for our lovely amusement. Perfect for Easter brunches, gift baskets, or hostess gifts, the following sampling of ideas should inspire a beautiful Spring celebration:

Need an Easter centerpiece? Try the elegant and gorgeous Nest with Truffle-Filled Eggs for the picture perfect brunch. Made with oak moss, lavender, oak leaves,yellow feverfew and dried miniature roses, this will get the nod of approval from even the most discerning hostess. Of course, the guests might not be able to restrain themselves from eating all the chocolate truffle eggs...

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Be sure to load up on the Easter Moravian Cookies, as you can never have too many. Made from an heirloom Moravian recipe, they are ideal treats for filling Easter gift baskets or dessert plates. Shaped as ducks, eggs, and bunnies, these impossibly thin buttery wafers will make everyone smile as they happily nibble on these delicate goodies.

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The Beehive Bundt Pan will make any home baker buzz with delight. The cast-aluminum pan’s nonstick finish guarantees an easy release each time, so baking and clean up will be a total breeze. Adorned with bees, this stunning cake will definitely impress the guests, ensuring a successful and yummy tea party.

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The Sweet Life

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