May 30, 2010

Denise In Action: Singapore

This is an adorable video taken by Mary-Kei of Cameras and Cucumbers. She has certainly captured the spirit of our food styling workshops. Thank you, Mary-Kei!

May 28, 2010

Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. Review by Blog Mistress Mandy

It is time to get out your crock pots!  This cookbook is so much fun.  I love how the recipes are organized by specific dish.  For instance, if you're looking for a beef stew recipe, the book gives you five or six recipe options, all in a row.  You can decide what sounds tastiest to you (or what you have on hand).  When you open the book, you feel like you've opened your mother's recipe box and it is obvious that these are tried and true household favorites.  Bring on the comfort food! 

I decided to make baked beans, and just so you know, there are about 20 baked bean recipes.  I loved reading the home cooks names and what their favorite variations are.  It encouraged me to follow a recipe, but also leave room for my own creativity (which is what I always do-I rarely follow a recipe exactly).

The ingredients.  Missing is the onion, garlic, and chopped bacon I sauteed until all was golden and bubbly.  I added them to all the ingredients above in the crockpot, and walked away.

Three hours later.  Perfection!

The beans were part of a complete BBQ meal, including baby back ribs and collard greens.

I also made a super simple applesauce in the crock pot.  So good, although the recipe I really wanted to make I didn't because it called for 1 cup of red hot cinnamon candies instead of sugar, which I didn't have.  Here is the recipe I am going to make just as soon as we eat up this batch (and I drag my lazy self to the store).

Chunky Applesauce
Joan Becker
Dodge City, KS
Roseanne Hankins
Stevensville, MD

Makes 8-10 servings
Prep. Time:  10 minutes
Cooking Time:  3-10 hours
Ideal slow-cooker size:  4-qt.

8 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks or slices (6 cups)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1/2-1 cup sugar OR cinnamon red hot candies

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cook on Low 8-10 hours or on High for 3-4 hours.

May 26, 2010


                                                                                                              Singapore Sunset

After a long day (or week or month or year) of teaching and presenting, there is nothing more satisfying than receiving a thank you note from a student.  Hearing that folks gain knowledge and inspiration from something I've done makes my heart sing, and it reminds me to always say thank you when I've been touched by someone's work!

Here are a few recent "thank yous" from a Master Class in Singapore and a food styling seminar at Camp Blogaway.

Thank you for organizing this wonderful workshop. It was hands-on and covered different kinds of food handling techniques. And you made it  so much fun. Will keep you posted with all the work i plan to do  over the next couple of months. Enjoy your last day in Singapore!


I just wanted to write to say thank you for the two day course. It was so much fun and the information you gave on food, the industry and clients was so informative and helpful. It was such an honour to meet you and i feel truly inspired!!!I will be following your blog and will be putting a link to it on mine (not that i have that many followers yet!!!!)

I am so happy that i made the decision to do the course so thank you again for making it so worthwhile.  I hope you have a safe journey back to the US.


I just wanted to thank you very much for your time and patience during the workshop.
It was a real eye opener and most of all, really therapeutic being around people who have interest in food styling. For too long, I've been around people who thinks am mad spraying stuff on food...or even taking the interest in it. lol!!

I really wish I'd flown up to the US to take your course earlier, would have helped me a great deal the last year. BUT, it's better late than never and just 2 days with you has made a world of difference in how I work now.

Once again, thank you and please keep me informed for your coming classes in Singapore!

so my last parting words in mandarin will be 谢谢师傅(xie xie shi fu) meaning thank you master. ***bowwwww*****

Camp Blogaway
I just wanted to send you a quick email to say how nice it was to meet you and to thank you for the wonderful session you gave this weekend on recipe writing and food styling.  What a wealth of information you shared.  I’m looking forward to your book coming out!

Thank you again for being so generous with your time and knowledge.  I hope your travel this weekend went smoothly!

May 22, 2010

Rancho La Puerta Is The Official Oasis Of Food Fanatics

This was our home for one week at the idyllic, magical Rancho La Puerta.  The moment we arrived, we were trying to figure out how we could live there permanently.

Here is an excerpt of our welcome letter:

Greetings to you as you visit the Ranch and teach at La Cocina que Canta.  I hope your stay will be wonderful, including students who will be excited with your teaching.

Some elements of the Ranch that are favorites of mine: Crystal bowls, drumming (either kind) sculpture, bingo, morning hikes...surely you’ll find classes and meals that are special to you.

Let me know your experience. But in the meantime, just know that I’m with you in spirit.

A blissed out Cindie.

We walked the labrinth, and I almost didn't talk the whole time...

I had to ask Cindie if she had a question she was contemplating.  She said shhhhh.  Okay.

Teaching here was a complete joy.  We had wonderful help, the students were delightful, and just look at the product we were working with...

Freshly picked spinach.

I don't even like beets, and I could not stop eating these.  Truly fresh  produce is nothing short of a revelation.

The prettiest lettuce I've ever seen.  Just looking for Peter Cottontail...


The food is also excellent.  This was my last breakfast.  Yes, it is "spa" cuisine, but because all the product is so incredibly bright and fresh, I hardly missed my red wine, cheese and french bread.  I even waited at least 3 hours after leaving to have some.

We will be back in December, 2010 and again the following Spring.  If you are looking for somewhere to relax, reflect, recharge, gain inspiration, exhale, whathaveyou...I advise that you RUN to Rancho La Puerta.

Here is just a smattering of what was available to us the week we stayed, which was Feldenkrais Week:
  • yoga
  • Latin dance classes
  • concert with 5-time Grammy nominee, Suzanne Ciani
  • Tai chi
  • Dream workshops
  • Jewelry design workshop
  • Organic garden breakfast hike
  • The Art of Storytelling with Dianne Jacob (LOVED her)
  • over 25 miles of hiking trails

I could go on and on, and I have, haven't I?  I simply invite you to experience it for yourself.  Maybe I will see you in December!


May 17, 2010

Camp Blogaway. Denise Considers "Camping" Staying At The Hilton.

Denise and Mandy climbed drove up a mountain to bond, learn and briefly cohabitate with a wonderful, highly spirited group of food bloggers at Camp BlogawayPatti Londre, our fearless leader, did an absolutely phenomenal job, and the subtle terror of our bunk room is absolutely no reflection on that.  As Denise put it, we are "working princesses".

Mandy was on the top bunk, which hasn't happened since she was 13.  Mandy is a multiple times nightly kind of restroom visitor and, after having dreams about the ceiling falling in on her, she decided to camp out even further on the couch in the common room.

Not since getting food poisoning from potatoes fried in rancid oil at her grandparents cottage had she encountered such a long night.  However this time, she was happily NOT violently ill, and she stared out the big, beautiful windows into the dark sky overlooking the lodge warmly lit from within while quietly telling herself, the sun will come out tomorrow.  And it did.

Nice, big kitchen in our cabin (yes, we were staying at the deluxe cabin, fo sho).  The good folks at Zespri Kiwifruit threw an impromptu kiwi cocktail party here on Saturday night.  We were some wild ladies, drinking our kiwitails and exchanging failed recipe testing stories.

This is where Mandy enjoyed the longest night...and her kiwitail.

Our first of many, many activities was a cake decorating lesson courtesy of Wilton.  We were immediately impressed by the creativity, especially considering jet lag and altitude sickness.  We are a hearty lot!

I don't know if this won or not, but it was Mandy's favorite.

Mandy's very Virgo, minimalist decor.  This may get a few points for taste, but we're not going to win any prizes.

Denise rolled in with her stunna shades and was immediately commissioned to judge.

Caterers not in control of their own hands.  Sounds eerily familiar.  Putting peanut butter and raisins on celery.  Hysterically laughing at others is always an effective ice breaker.  They were good sports, and very, very funny.

The taters have decided they want to start a food blog, and we were all too happy to have them come along.

Country Bob's is their first sponsor.  So spicy they had to take their clothes off.

Denise with Melissa Jennings of Stockpiling Moms and Barbara Gibbs Ostmann, author of The Recipe Writer's Handbook, which Denise reverentially calls a culinary "bible".

In all seriousness, we absolutely loved our time there.  Because the blog world is so vast and ever-changing, we think it is very important to network and find your tribe so we can support each other as our blogs get bigger, better, and increasingly successful!  Getting involved in social media can sometimes be strangely isolating, and putting faces to the, um, digital faces we think we know was invaluable.

Our heads are dizzy with new bloggy information, so much so that Denise flew away to Singapore and Mandy is making cream puffs, for the very first time, for clients...


May 16, 2010

Raw Food Styling for Photography Class at Living Light Culinary Arts

Denise met Cherie Soria, founder and director or Living Light, at our Styling and Photo Techniques for Food Writers and Bloggers workshop in January and was mighty impressed with her raw food and lifestyle empire!

We are so very happy and excited to announce that Denise has teamed up with Cherie to offer a raw food styling class this August at the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in Fort Bragg, California.

Here are some details provided by Living Light:

Now you can learn from the experts how to show off your beautifully presented and photographed raw culinary creations on your website, recipe books, and brochures! It is said, “Pictures speak a thousand words” and it’s true—well plated and designed food photos can do more to build your business and showcase your talent than the most well written description of your foods possibly can.

Living Light has created an intensive 2-day workshop that will focus on the art of food styling for the media. Students will learn basic presentation skills, how food reacts under the camera, the ins and outs of propping and preparing for a shoot. This course covers the tricks and techniques for media food, building a portfolio, elements of design for photography, the importance of colors, textures, and negative space.

Day 1 focuses on various types of salads, stacks, and sandwiches—creating movement, extending the life of greens, and making foods look stunning through use of color, texture, and contrast. You will learn how to keep foods fresh and lively under the hot lights of the camera; how to layer ingredients, slicing vegetables and fruits appropriately, and using condiments.

Day 2 focuses on plating, saucing, and building height and movement into veggie pasta to make it look mouthwatering! We will also explore soup presentation and ways of capturing texture, light, and movement on an otherwise flat surface.

There will be time during class each day for student questions. Every day features opportunities for students to practice the techniques they are being taught. Students may bring their cameras and go home with photographs of their work.

Click here to learn more.

Click here to register.  Hope to see you there!

May 13, 2010

Pear Bread Pudding and Roasted Cauliflower Linguini. So hungry.

My potato babies waiting to cook it up at Disneyland.

The array of celeb chefs was very impressive.

The potato babes and I had wonderful help.

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival was a blast.  I absolutely loved it and am hoping to be asked back!  My demo crowds especially loved the Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and the Roasted Cauliflower Linquini from The Entertaining Encyclopedia.  They asked if I would post the recipes on my wish is their command.

Pear Bread Pudding


This sweet dessert is out of this world when served with warm caramel sauce.


Italian-style loaf bread works best for this recipe. A standard sandwich bread doesn't have enough backbone to hold up during baking.

If making a double batch of this recipe, bake it in a lasagna or roasting pan and increase the baking time to 55 to 60 minutes. If you need more servings, make double batches and rotate baking dishes in the oven partway through to ensure even baking.

•    13- by 9-inch glass baking dish or ceramic casserole, generously buttered
1⁄2 cup    all-purpose flour   
1⁄2 cup    granulated sugar   
1 tsp    ground cinnamon   
4    eggs, beaten   
1 cup    heavy or whipping cream
1⁄4 cup    butter, melted  
1 tsp    almond extract   
1⁄2 tsp    vanilla extract   
1 lb    firm ripe pears, peeled and chopped
1    loaf Italian bread, crusts removed,  cut into 1-inch pieces
2⁄3 cup    caramel sauce, warmed

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat flour, sugar, cinnamon, eggs, cream, butter, almond extract and vanilla until well combined. Fold in pears and bread.

Pour into prepared baking dish, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven
to 325°F.

Bake, covered, in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for about 15 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Scoop into dessert dishes and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Easy Extras

Garnish each serving with a few raspberries or sliced almonds.

Stir in 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips or butterscotch chips with the pears.

Roasted Cauliflower Linguini


This dish is rich and delicious. Roasting the cauliflower gives it a slightly sweet, nutty taste that is perfectly complemented by the salty bacon.

If you prefer, you can use 3 thinly sliced medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, in place of the green onion.

You can replace the pastry with the same amount of chopped fresh sage.

•    Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
•    Rimmed baking sheet, sprayed with nonstick
cooking spray

1    head cauliflower, cut into florets   
6 tbsp    olive oil, divided    90 mL
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
11⁄2 lbs    linguini pasta   
1    red onion, thinly sliced   
4    cloves garlic, minced   
11⁄2 cups    heavy or whipping (35%) cream
1 cup       reduced-sodium chicken broth (approx.)
1⁄4 cup    freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch    ground nutmeg  
1 lb    bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2 tbsp    chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese

On prepared baking sheet, toss cauliflower with 2 tbsp of the oil and spread out in a single layer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes, turning several times, until golden. Set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook linguini according to package directions. Drain and toss with 2 tbsp of the oil. Return to the pot and
keep warm.

In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Sauté red onion for about 5 minutes or until starting to turn golden. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add cream, stock, Parmesan and nutmeg; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off heat and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add cauliflower, bacon and parsley to linguini. Pour in cream sauce and toss to coat, adding more stock if linguini appears dry. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

Add 1 cup thawed frozen petit green peas with the garlic.

Recipes courtesey of Robert Rose Publishing

May 1, 2010

Almond Apricot Tart

Ingredients and Blog Mistress Mandy were good to go. As you can see in our "helpful hint" below, peaches are a fine substitution and since dried apricots were the only apricot option (nobody likes a chewy tart), she opted for organic peaches instead.

The cream cheese mixture was Ninja-ed and waiting to meet the pie crust.

Almond paste is kind of heavenly, don't you think? It was all Mandy could do not to start chewing on the leftover hunk. The smell alone is intoxicating, and we haven't even gotten to the honey part yet!

Time to add the almonds and drizzle with warm honey.

The result. Now, Mandy has a sneaking suspicion that the filling was not supposed to get this, um, caramelized (needed more fruit). However, it tasted like roasted almond honey marshmallow, so either she's a novice pastry chef OR a genius (maybe both).

Almond Apricot Tart

Serves 6

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

3 1/2 oz almond paste
3 tbsp granulated sugar
3 oz cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 frozen pie crust, thawed
3 tbsp sliced almonds
10 large apricots, quartered
1/3 cup honey

In a food processor, puree almond paste and sugar until very smooth. Add cream cheese, egg yolk, vanilla and cinnamon. Process until smooth.

On a floured surface, roll out dough into a 14 inch circle. Place on a heavy baking sheet (some dough can hang over edges of the sheet).

Spoon cream cheese filling over dough, leaving a 2 inch border. Scatter almonds and apricots over filling, leaving 6 inches of filling open at the center. Press edges to make a sealed border for the tart. Drizzle honey over apricots.

Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Let cool on baking sheet on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Helpful Hint

3 cups of fresh plums, nectarines or peaches are lovely substitutions for the apricots.

Recipe courtesy of The Entertaining Encyclopedia, Robert Rose Publishing