Jun 21, 2010

Why We Love The Recipe Writer's Handbook

At Camp Blogaway, Denise had a chance to get reacquainted with an old friend and culinary contemporary, Barbara Gibbs Ostmann (that's Barbara on the right). Barbara was a fellow presenter, doling out invaluable advice on recipe writing, copyright and attribution.

Barbara's book, The Recipe Writer's Handbook, is literally Denise's bible when it comes to writing recipes for her own books and consulting for others' publications. Recipe writing is one of those things that seems simple, until you try to write one from scratch. To be clear, accurate and consistent is critical, especially in an age where we all have access to limitless recipe options. The other critical aspect is that the recipe works (if it doesn't taste great, who cares). Barbara devotes an entire chapter on how to effectively, and successfully, test recipes.

If you are, or are interested in the business of creating, testing, and writing recipes, this book is a priceless reference.

Jun 18, 2010

Becoming A Master Slow Cooker

In our previous post about slow cookery, we highlighted Phyllis Pellman Good's book.  She was kind enough to allow us to reprint the tips that appear in the beginning of the book.  These will answer all the questions you have about using a slow cooker, and then some.  Enjoy!

Tips for Using Your Slow Cooker: A Friendly Year-Round Appliance
by Phyllis Pellman Good, Author of Fix-it and Forget-it Cookbook: 700 Great Slow Cooker Recipes

1. What to buy
A good standard size for a household of four is a 4-quart slow
cooker. If you often cook for more, or you like to prepare sizable roasts,
turkey breasts, or chicken legs and thighs, you'll want a 6-quart cooker.

For parties or buffets a 1½ to 2-quart size works well for dips and
snacks. Cookers which allow you to program "On," the length of the cooking
time, and "Off," are convenient. If your model doesn't include that
feature, you might want to get a digital appliance timer, which gives
you that option. Make sure the timer is adequate for the electrical
flow that your cooker demands.

A baking insert, a cooking rack, a temperature probe, and an
insulated carrying tote are all useful additions offered with some models. Or
you can buy some of them separately by going to the manufacturers' websites.

2. Learn to know your slow cooker

Some newer slow cookers cook at a very high temperature. You can
check the temperature of your slow cooker this way:
Place 2 quarts of water in your slow cooker. Cover. Heat on Low 8 hours. Lift the lid. Immediately check the water temp with an accurate thermometer. The temperature of the water should be 185°F. If the temperature is higher, foods may overcook and you should reduce the overall cooking time. If the temperature is lower, your foods will probably not reach a safe temperature quickly enough, and the cooker should be discarded.

3. Maximizing what a slow cooker does best
Slow cookers tend to work best when they're ⅔ full. You many need
to increase the cooking time if you've exceeded that amount, or reduce
it if you've put in less than that.

Cut the hard veggies going into your cooker into chunks of about
equal size. In other words, make your potato and carrot pieces about the
same size. Then they'll be done cooking at nearly the same time.
Softer veggies, like bell peppers and zucchini, cook faster, so they
don't need to be cut as small. But again, keep them similar in size
to each other so they finish together.

Because raw vegetables are notoriously tough customers in a slow
cooker, layer them over the bottom and around the sides of the
cooker, as much as possible. That puts them in more direct contact with the

There are consequences to lifting the lid on your slow cooker while
it's cooking. To compensate for the lost heat, you should plan to add
15-20 minutes of cooking time for each time the lid was lifted off.

On the other hand, moisture gathers in a slow cooker as it works. To
allow that to cook off, or to thicken the cooking juices, take the
lid off during the last half hour of cooking time.

Use only the amount of liquid called for in a recipe. In contrast to
an oven or a stovetop, a slow cooker tends to draw juices out of food
and then harbor it.

Of course, if you sense that the food in your cooker is drying out,
or browning excessively before it finishes cooking, you may want to add
½ cup of warm liquid to the cooker.

Important variables to remember that don't show up in recipes:
The fuller your slow cooker, the longer it will take its contents to
cook. The more densely packed the cooker's contents are, the longer they
will take to cook. The larger the chunks of meat or vegetables, the more time they will need to cook.

4. Debunking the myths
Slow cookers are a handy year-round appliance. They don't heat up a
kitchen in warm weather. They allow you to escape to the pool or lake
or lawn or gardens -- so why not let them work for you when it's hot
outdoors. A slow cooker fixes dinner while you're at your child's
soccer game, too.

So don't limit its usefulness. Remember the dozens of recipes-beyond-
beef-stew in this collection!

One more thing -- a slow cooker provides a wonderful alternative if
your oven is full -- no matter the season. You can overdo food in a slow cooker. If you're tempted to stretch a recipe's 6-hour stated cooking time to 8 or 10 hours, you may be disappointed in your dinner. Yes, these cookers work their magic
using slow, moist heat. Yes, many dishes cook a long time. But these outfits have their limits.

For example, chicken can overcook in a slow cooker. Especially
boneless, skinless breasts. But legs and thighs aren't immune either.
Once they go past the falling-off-the-bone stage, they are prone to
move on to deeply dry.

Cooked pasta and sour cream do best if added late in the cooking
process, ideally 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time if the
cooker is on high; 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time if
it's on low.

5. Safety
A working slow cooker gets hot on the outside -- and I mean the outer
electrical unit as well as the inner vessel. Make sure that curious
and unsuspecting children or adults don't grab hold of either part.
Use oven mitts when lifting any part of a hot cooker. To prevent a slow cooker from bubbling over, either when its sitting still on a counter, or when its traveling to a carry-in dinner, fill the cooker only ⅔ full.

If you're going to exceed that limit, pull out your second slow
cooker (what -- you have only one?!) and divide the contents between them.

The above is an excerpt from the book Fix-it and Forget-it Cookbook:
Revised & Updated: 700 Great Slow Cooker Recipes by Phyllis Pellman
Good. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text
from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional
errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the
finished book for accuracy.

Reprinted from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. © by Good Books
(www.GoodBooks.com). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Author Bio
Phyllis Pellman Good is a New York Times bestselling author whose
books have sold nearly 10 million copies.

Good's cookbooks have also appeared on the USA Today and Publishers
Weekly bestseller lists. She is the author of Fix-It and Forget-It
Lightly: Healthy, Low-Fat Recipes for Your Slow Cooker; Fix-It and
Forget-It 5-Ingredient Favorites: Comforting Slow- Cooker Recipes;
Fix-It and Forget-It Recipes for Entertaining: Slow-Cooker Favorites for
all the Year Round, and Fix-It and Forget-It Diabetic Cookbook: Slow-
Cooker Favorites to Include Everyone (with the American Diabetes
Association), all in the series.

She and her husband, Merle, live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

For more information about Phyllis Pellman Good, visit www.Fix-ItandForget-It.com
and www.facebook.com/fixitandforgetit.

Jun 13, 2010

Ready To Be A Stockpiling Mom?

One of the highlights of our time at Camp Blogaway was meeting amazing bloggers with true entrepreneurial spirits.  Among our very favorites was Melissa Jennings of Stockpiling Moms.

Melissa is hosting a giveaway on her site where you can enter to win an autograph copy of one of Denise's books currently in print.  Exciting!  Click here to get you some.

Because we found Melissa's success story so inspiring, we asked her to divulge, and she indulged us.

MM:  When did you start the site? 

MJ:    I started the site in August 2009, however it was private for friends and family only through Blogger.  In December, my best friend joined the company as a full business partner and on December 12, 2009 we went public.  In February 2010, we migrated from Blogger to Word Press/Self Host.

MM: Any stats you are willing to share? 

MJ:   We average 2,000 page views per day, we have 3,150 facebook fans, 850 twitter followers and 1000 feedburner readers.  In April 2010 we had 18,490 unique visitors.

MM:  SUPER impressive!

MJ:    Gracias!

MM:  What exactly is "stockpiling" (I'm ignorant)? 

MJ:  A stockpile is a pile or storage location for bulk materials.  In this case, it involves groceries, personal care or household products.  The purpose of stockpiling is to save money.  If you stockpile your groceries by strategically using coupons, you will never pay full price or retail for your groceries.  If you stockpile successfully, you will save hundreds a month and thousands a year!  Stockpiling is a strategic game.  The objective is to “match” grocery sale prices to your coupons to take advantage of when your groceries are at the very lowest price or what we call “rock bottom”.  This is when you stockpile.  For example, last year I saved $3600 from my families budget by stockpiling. I spend an average of $150 a month on groceries to feed my family of 3!                                                         

MM:  What is your secret for success? 

MJ:     Networking!  I am a huge believer in networking with other bloggers for success.  If you form a web-ring, you will all grow together.  I began networking through Mom Bloggers Club and other avenues from the day we launched on December 12th.  I believe that by networking we can all have success.

MM:   What does the future hold? 

MJ:      A second site is in the horizon.  We are very excited to announce that Stockpiling Dads is launching on Father’s Day! StockpilingDads.com

Jun 9, 2010

Dianne Jacob: Coach, Editor, Writer

As I mentioned before in my rapturous post about Rancho La Puerta, while I was there I had the opportunity to take a workshop with Dianne Jacob, and she lit a fire under me and my future memoir.  I especially loved a handout she gave us called Ten Great Ideas for a Non-Fiction Book, which lays out characteristics that successful non-fiction works possess.

Miss Mandy got to chat with Dianne for a few minutes recently to ask her our most burning questions.

MM:   What are 3 things food bloggers can do NOW to improve their writing?

DJ:      Use fewer explanation points, watch the tangents to keep your post on topic,  and keep posts    short, around 500 words max. 

MM:    What type of food writing inspires you the most?

DJ:       Ugh, that's like asking me to pick a favorite child!

MM:    Fair enough, I'll rephrase.  What do you read in bed?

DJ:      I love reading cookbooks in bed, I may never cook from them, but I love being enveloped in whatever world they are creating.  I also enjoy a good food memoir,  if they have something new to say.

MM:   Any suggestions for a good summer read?

DJ:     Waste by Tristram Stuart is brilliant.  

To say that Dianne is prolific is like saying I'm shy.  This woman is everywhere, empowering burgeoning authors to dive in and make the most of their writing.  If you want to write professionally, I highly recommend seeking Dianne's counsel.  Between her book, her website, and her upcoming seminars, the wisdom is limitless.

Jun 4, 2010

LA Sates Meets Denise: Burritos, Big Money, and The Love Boat

Photo Courtesy of LaSates.com                                          

LA Sates:  Los Angeles Dining Undressed, is a wonderful resource for those with a hunger for food with it's finger on the pulse of what is current, and currently delicious.  LA Sates founder and Senior Creative Editor, Ann Revorado, sat down with Denise recently to pick her brain about food styling, teaching future generations, and bringing her work home.  Click here to feel the love.

Jun 3, 2010

Menu Engineer Gregg Rapp Is Coming To Your Town This Summer!

I've known Gregg Rapp since God was a boy.  We worked pizza expos together and are praying that no pictures exist.  Gregg is nothing short of a menu genius, and I am so excited about his summer road trip where he is bettering restaurants all across America.  If you have a tired menu, Gregg will wake it right up!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                          
Gregg Rapp
Menu Engineer
(760) 323-4848

Menu Engineer Hits the Road This Summer

Book your menu engineering session with restaurant consultant Gregg Rapp as he tours 60 U.S. cities from July to September

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF., June 1, 2010—Starting in early July, Palm Springs, Calif.-based restaurant consultant Gregg Rapp is embarking on a 60-city tour—and he’s bringing his successful menu engineering services along for the ride.The 28-year industry veteran will make stops at restaurants along his 12,261-mile road trip, where he will reinvigorate, refresh and reshape menus for maximum profitability.

Rapp’s three-month tour will start in Palm Springs, then head across Texas and the South all the way down to Key West, up the East Coast to Bailey Island, Maine, across the Midwest to Denver, over to Seattle, down the West Coast to Los Angeles, and finally back home.  He will only book one client per city, given the tight time schedule.

Rapp has been featured on NBC’s “Today Show,” TIME magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and countless restaurant industry publications. The menu expert always keeps his satisfied customers coming back for more. “Whenever Gregg is in our neighborhood, I ask him to come by for a few days to educate our whole staff on menu engineering,” says John Bean of University Management in Columbus, Miss. “And each time, he re-energizes our employees and gets everyone on the same playing field and increases our profits!”

While Rapp is in their town, restaurant owners and operators can book him for his consulting services.  For $1,995.00*, Rapp will study a restaurant, run a complete menu analysis and strategically lay out different menu configurations. Then, he gives his popular “Menus:  A Profit Approach” seminar, which covers menu engineering, menu design and trends, tools for increasing profitability and menu allowance programs to the entire menu team and shares his recommendations about menu changes. A month later, Rapp runs the restaurant’s new numbers to track results and show how menu engineering = profitability. (*Note: Prices quoted are for independent restaurants; fees vary for chains and multiple unit operators. Hotel charges will be the only travel expenses billed.)

Beyond helping restaurants fix their menus, Rapp will be using his road trip to learn about dining trends and foods throughout the entire country. What’s more, he will be stopping to teach at colleges along the way, including the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where he has already lectured several times.

“I have had requests from many restaurant operators over the past few years, and this trip is a way to review operations and keep prices down, all while seeing the country,” says Rapp, who also has received requests to work in Korea, Brazil, Portugal, Spain and Bahrain. “Maybe next year I will do a ‘Round the World’ road trip!”

Keep track of Rapp’s travels on his blog, Facebook and Twitter. To see the complete list of cities on the tour, and for more information on Rapp’s menu engineering services, visit www.menutechnologies.net. Contact Rapp today at (760) 323-4848 or GRapp222@AOL.Com to make your menus profitable when he arrives in your city!
Summer 2010 Menu Engineering Road Trip and Expedition
Gregg Rapp’s route will cover the following 60 cities*:
Palm Springs, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Columbus, MS, Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Key West, Miami, Orlando, Savannah, Charleston, Raleigh, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York,Boston, Seal Harbor, Ithaca, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Indianapolis,  Chicago, Milwaukee,  Minneapolis, Des Moines, Omaha, Kansas City, Colorado Spring, Denver, Vail, Durango, Sundance, Salt Lake City, Sun Valley, Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Seattle, Vancouver, BC, Portland, Cannon Beach, Napa Valley, San Francisco, Carmel, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, back home to Palm Springs!
* Trip and schedule to change to accommodate bookings. Tentative tour dates are July 1 – October 1, 2010.
Rates:      Individual Restaurants $1,995.00 plus hotel nights.
                Regional Chains $2,995.00 plus hotel nights.
                National Chains $3,995.00 plus hotel nights.

The Most Unique Cookbook Store In Singapore: 25 Degree Celsius

I absolutely loved this little home of a cookbook store during my travels in Singapore.  25 Degree Celsius is part bookstore, part cafe, and part test kitchen.  Yes, that's right.  They actually take books off the shelves, test the recipes to make sure they work, and then feature said recipes in their cafe.

They have created a community for food lovers that makes you want to linger over coffee and pastry, nose-deep in culinary works.

 I autographed some books while I was their and cannot wait to go back.  For the month of June they are participating in the GSS (Great Singapore Sale), so if you are in Singapore, run, don't walk to 25 Degree Celsius!