Sweet Shop Success

Sweet Shop Success

Anytime is a good time to give back. I tend to scatter little contributions everywhere and throughout the year. One such small act is making homemade merchandise for my church fair’s sweet shop. Sweet shops or bake sales are a great method of fundraising. It’s easy to set up and manage and easy for people to contribute donations or “merchandise.” As far as contributions go, sweet shop donations are very affordable on effort, time and money. Don’t underestimate the power of a bake sale for fundraising. If you help add to the high quality inventory, cakes, cookies, pies and more will bring in more than you expect.

I almost always contribute a big pound cake, or several small ones, and my oldest daughter makes her specialty – traditional chocolate chip cookies with double the chips. This year I’m also throwing in some sweet pepper jelly for those customers looking to fill the sweet tooth cravings that hit before dinner.

If you want to your homemade goods to move and at top dollar, presentation is key. For the cake, I buy one of the cake boxes with a clear window in the top. If you want to make smaller cakes, there are some square cupcake boxes with clear tops that will work just well as mini cake boxes. Tie the boxes up with a little ribbon or bakers twine and they’ll fly off the shelf in no time.

Package small items like brownies or cupcakes in clear boxes or bags tie with a ribbon. Be sure to place enough to a serving or two depending on the size of the treat. For medium to smaller cookies, put four cookies in the bag. For larger brownies, package two or three. This will help those setting up the shop to price and sell them as individual servings.

Another tip for moving sweet shop merchandise is to include the recipe. There are so many different, dangerous and complicated food allergies out there; no one can be too careful. It’s a great help to shoppers for contributors to include the recipe so they can see exactly what’s in the treat before they buy it (or avoid it if they have to). Print the recipe on a cute little card and tie to the top of the package or write the recipe down on an index card and attach it to the box, bag or other container. Be sure to let everyone know if there are nuts involved because, all allergies aside, not everyone is into nuts.

Making your sweet shop donations as appealing as they can be and making it easy for shoppers to see what they’re buying will make your contributions top sellers. Be sure to volunteer some time to work the sale, too. No one can sell your famous fudge better than you can.

We have had more than our share of fundraising needs over the past few months in our city. A simple little sweet shop or bake sale is a great way for anyone of any age, to contribute in some small way to the charity or cause of their choosing. While they may not equal a celebrity telethon in funds raised, the treats and social interaction of a sweet shop bring smiles and lift spirits.

Read more in City Social. Pick up a copy around town or read the Sept/Oct issue online now.

Swamp Pop Pound Cakepoppoundcake2
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Swamp Pop Praline Cream Soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream butter, shortening and sugar in a large mixing bowl. While mixing at medium speed, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Alternate adding flour and soda, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice. Pour batter into a well-greased Bundt pan. Bake for one hour. Check until a cake tester comes out clean. If the cake needs more time, lay a sheet of foil over the cake to prevent it from browning too much. Once done, cool in the pan for 10 minutes then gently turn the pan out onto a cooling rack. Yields one large Bundt pan or 4 petite Bundts.

pepperjelly1Sweet Red Pepper Jelly
4 cups sweet red peppers
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 bottles Certo

Remove seeds from peppers. Mince in food processor. Bring sugar, vinegar and peppers to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Add Certo and boil hard for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour into warm sterilized jars. Yields 6 to 7 half-pint jars.


French Bistro Supper Club

The lazy days of summer give us more time to spend with friends, which means it’s a great time to kick off a supper club! All you need are a few willing couples to agree to take turns hosting the group for dinner.

I set the recipes below to follow a French bistro theme, simply because I needed to reign myself in to a menu. Your supper club menus can be as casual or as formal as your group prefers.Have your guests help out by bringing wine, beer or cocktails that might complement the meal.

IMGP8748Croque Monsieur (Serves 4 to 8)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Pinch of nutmeg
5 ounces Gruyère/Swiss cheese, grated
6 rolls or 12 slices white sandwich bread
6 tablespoons Blackberry jam
Dijon mustard
1 pound Black Forest ham, sliced, but not too thin
2 cups arugula
Dijon mustard


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and stir in the flour all at once. Stir constantly until the flour absorbs the butter. Slowly pour the milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1 cup grated Gruyère and set aside. Butter the insides of the rolls or bread. Layer the jam, ham, arugula and some of the remaining shredded Gruyere cheese. Spread Dijon mustard on the bottom of the top bun and place it on top of the sandwich.

Spread the cheese sauce on the top of each sandwich, sprinkle any last Gruyère, and bake the sandwiches for 5 to 8 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 2 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and browned. Serve hot.

Truffled FriesIMGP8732
4 large potatoes, peeled
Oil for frying
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons truffle oil
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 tablespoon parsley, minced


Cut the potatoes lengthwise into thin strips, about 1/3-inch in width. Soak the potatoes in ice-cold water for 1 hour, drain, and pat completely dry. Heat the oil in a deep fryer or deep skillet to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and fry the potatoes, in batches, for 2 minutes. Drain the fries on paper towels. Fry the potatoes for a second time, in batches, for 1 to 2 minutes more. Drain the fries on cooling racks lined with paper towels.

Place the fries in a large bowl. Season them with the salt then drizzle them with the truffle oil. Then toss them until coated. Sprinkle them with grated cheese and fresh parsley and toss again until seasoned. Reheat on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

HoneyCremeBrulee1Hazelnut Crème Brulee
8 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla puree
1 teaspoon hazelnut extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar for caramelized tops


Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar together until thick and pale yellow. Add cream, and vanilla. Line a glass casserole dish with paper towels or a dish cloth. Set the ramekins on top of the towel. Strain egg and cream mixture into bowls, skimming off any bubbles with a spoon. Pour water into the bottom of the pan until it reaches half way up the ramekins. Bake for 50 minutes or until the mixture is set around the edges but slightly loose in the center. Let the ramekins cool in the pan. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours up to 2 days.

When you’re ready to serve, spoon enough granulated sugar over the tops of each ramekin. Heat the sugar with a kitchen torch or place under your oven broiler until the tops are browned slightly, but not scorched. Serve immediately or chill for no more than 1 hour.

The Importance of Dining With Friends and Preserving Relationships

Most of us women, by nature, are social creatures. We like to nurture and be nurtured for our own mental and physical health. Sharing a healthy meal together is one way to do that. Spending time connecting socially, whether chatting over happy hour specials or sharing a table with friends at a restaurant or at home regularly has been shown to increase happiness and lower the risk of depression. The simple act of gathering around the table helps establish connections, which studies have found are important in staying happy and feeling a sense of belonging.

Because we live in a 24/7 environment today, we often find that we’ve put productivity over pleasure for too many days. Sharing a meal with your friends is a great excuse to slow down, stop, sit still and simply catch up. Sitting at a table together talking and eating may be one of the few times we are ready to put aside work or household business and take time out of the day.

Don’t let another week or month go by where you haven’t seen your best friends. Make a plan today to gather some people together around food, sit down together, talk, eat and enjoy each other’s company!

Read more in City Social online or pick up a free copy around town today!

BeetSalad2Beet Salad
3 beets
1 tablespoon orange juice
3 tablespoons avocado oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Steen’s cane vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 black pepper
2 cups mixed greens
1/4 cup toasted pecans
1/4 cup bleu cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the beets, pat the dry and wrap in a foil pouch. Bake beets in foil for 1 hour. Once cooled, peel the beets and slice into 1/4-inch slices, then cut the slices in half.

While the beets are cooling, whisk together the juice, oil, honey, vinegar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Toss the beets and dressing together with the greens. Top with toasted pecans, crumbled bleu cheese and freshly cracked pepper and serve.

Strawberry Snap Pea SaladBerrySnapPeaSalad2
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 black pepper
1 cup sugar snap peas, cut into segments
1 cup strawberries, sliced
2 cups spring greens
1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Place the cut snap peas and sliced strawberries along with the fresh greens in a bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat lightly. Top with almond slivers and goat cheese crumbles. Add extra freshly cracked pepper, if desired.

Blueberry Mascarpone Cups
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoons almond extract
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 cups fresh blueberries

Stir nutmeg into mascarpone cheese, then spoon an even layer of cheese into four dessert dishes. Divide berries between the four dishes on top of the cheese. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together juice and sugar. Simmer rapidly until slightly syrupy and reduced by half. Remove from the heat and add almond extract. Drizzle warm syrup over berries and cheese. Sprinkle with almonds and orange zest. Serve immediately.

Perfect Pasta at Home

It doesn’t look like I’ll be swirling authentic Italian pasta around my fork in Italy anytime soon, so I’ve looked into making my own. After trying out a couple of methods, I can say for certain that anyone can make a very basic, very versatile pasta at home.

The method is rather simple, but there are several different ways to make pasta, ranging from the types of flour you use to the shapes you cut it in to the type of dish you want to make. However, most start simply with whisking together flour and eggs. You can do this either on your counter by making a well in the flour and slowly incorporating the eggs from the center; or you can run mix the dough in a food processor. Then you’ll need to gradually roll the dough thinner and thinner.

Once you’ve made your pasta, you can cook it right away, dry it or freeze it for later. When you do cook it, remember that homemade pasta cooks much more quickly than the dried pasta you buy. Give it about 3 to 5 minutes in salted boiling water, taste it, and keep checking in one-minute increments until the pasta is al dente (just tender).

It’s a simple as that. Just like with most things worth doing, making your own pasta does take a little time, but it’s fresh flavor and tender noodles are well worth it! Enjoy! Read the full article and more at CitySocial.com or pick up an issue around town!

Simple Very Basic Pasta
3 cups all-purpose bread flour*

2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water

Pulse flour in food processor twice to aerate the flour. Add the eggs and the salt. Run the processor until the dough is crumbly. Add 1 teaspoon of water while the processor is running. The dough should form a ball. If it is still crumbly, add 1 teaspoon more water. Remove the dough ball and knead for two or three minutes until smooth and pliable. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

After resting, cut the dough into four sections. Roll out the first section to about 1/4-inch thick. Crank the dough through the first setting of a pasta machine. Fold both ends toward the center like a letter. Run the pasta through the machine again, then fold again. Repeat this process at least 5 times. Now, move the setting to or the next setting up and run the pasta through, without folding this time. Then, move up to the next setting and so on and until your pasta is nice and thin and you have a strip of dough 2 or 3 feet long. Cut in half, then cut with a ravioli cutter or run through the pasta machine’s cutting attachment to make spaghetti or fettuccine.

Drape of a pasta rack or the racks in your oven to dry up to 5 hours before storing or cooking. Cook in boiling water for about 3 to 5 minutes and serve with your favorite sauce.

*I used Gold Medal “Better for Bread” flour to test.

SpinachRavioli2Spinach and Pine Nut Ravioli
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 pound fresh spinach
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the pine nuts for 4 to 5 minutes or until just lightly browned. Cook the spinach until fully wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes, season with sugar, salt and pepper. Let cool, then drain and dry the spinach to remove all the water. In a food processor, combine the toasted pine nuts, spinach and ricotta until it is the consistency of a fine paste.

Whisk together the egg and water together in a small bowl. To assemble the ravioli, brush the egg over a sheet of pasta. Drop teaspoon-sized amounts of spinach mixture on the dough about one inch apart. Cover the filling with the top sheet of pasta, pressing out the air from around each portion of filling. Press firmly around the filling in whatever shape you wish and then cut them apart. Press the tines of a fork around the edges of the pasta to seal each.

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the ravioli, stir gently, and return to a boil. Cook uncovered until the ravioli float to the top about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot with your favorite sauce.

Baby Bellas and Butter Cream SauceMushroomFettuchini
8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 cup whole milk

In a heavy, deep skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Sautee the mushrooms and shallot until mushrooms are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Season with herbs (reduce measurements by half if using dried herbs). Add salt and pepper. Pour in milk and stir to coat the mushrooms. Serve over freshly made pasta.

Life Is Salty, Love Is Sweet

Wedding guests, or all party guests for that matter, love a favor they can savor later. If you or someone you know is planning a small wedding at home or even a large wedding this season, consider a “life is salty; love is sweet” theme for favors and send your guests home with some sweet and salty popcorn.

Beautifully packaged and tagged with this clever saying, simple popcorn sweetened with a crunchy coating of sugar and sprinkled with a few salty nuts, or even bacon, makes for a thoughtful parting gift. These cute little popcorn favors are simple to make and easy on the wedding budget.

Stove Top Popcorn
1 cup popcorn kernels
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon seasoning blend of your choice (optional)

Put coconut oil in a in a 3-quart pot with a cover. Add one kernel. Heat over medium high heat until the kernel pops. This should take about 4 minutes. After that kernel pops, the oil is ready. Pour the rest of the kernels into the pot covering the bottom. Sprinkle in the salt, and any additional seasoning you may like, over the kernels. Cover with the lid, but not completely. Leave a little space for ventilation. Continue to cook until most of the popcorn has popped, about two minutes more. Pour into a bowl and serve or mix with ingredients for flavored popcorn.

BaconMaplePopcorn2Maple Bacon Popcorn
4 slices bacon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick salted butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups popped popcorn

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking pan with parchment paper. Cook the bacon until crispy. Crumble, then set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt brown sugar, salted butter and syrup until just boiling. Reduce heat to medium and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. Pour the hot sauce over popcorn and stir gently to coat. Spread out in the prepared pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool and serve or package as favors.

SweetPeanutPopcorn3Sweet and Salty Peanut Popcorn
2 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
4 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup roasted peanuts

In a saucepan, melt butter and sugar with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil 4 minutes more. Remove from heat. Place popcorn and peanuts in a large bowl. Pour the sugar mixture over the popcorn and peanuts and stir to coat evenly. Spread onto wax or parchment paper and let cool before serving or packaging as favors.

My Favorite Things Party

For the past few years, I’ve found holiday gift giving among friends increasing difficult. We all have what we need, many of us just pick up what we want and we’re all accumulating things before we even realize it. The stress of finding something my friends could use and don’t already have led me look for some kind of get-together that helped us all unwind and included gift ideas that were out of the norm. That’s when I came across a “my favorite things” party.

A my favorite things party, no matter what theme you choose, is a fun way to celebrate the season with friends. It’s also a great way to get to know your fiends even more. The things they share will show a lot about them and what makes them happy. Above all this season, try to relax, laugh and enjoy the company of the friends and family you love. Happy holidays!

Read the full article on CitySocial.com or pick up a free copy on stands around town! 

LettuceWrap3Thai Peanut Lettuce Wraps
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound chicken tenderloins, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup carrot, shredded
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup Thai peanut sauce
1/4 cup crushed peanuts, lightly salted
8 ounces thin rice noodles, soak if directed on the package
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 head butter lettuce
Green onions

Sautee chicken in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, add carrot and cabbage and sautee for about 5 minutes. Stir in peanut sauce and crushed peanuts. Remove from heat. In a skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons rice vinegar. Heat rice noodles until tender and clear. On each leaf of butter lettuce, spoon noodles then meat and vegetable mixture. Garish with green onion tops and serve.

CucumberDip3Cucumber Dill Dip
2 cucumbers
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dill

Cut one cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, then shred and place in a medium mixing bowl. Mix in cream cheese, sour cream and seasonings. Stir in dill. Chill for at least one hour up to overnight before serving. Slice the second cucumber. Serve as a dip with cucumber slices and crackers or as canapes or finger sandwiches.

Cooking with Craft Beer

Cooking with beer is a unique culinary experience and one easily mastered with a few guiding ground rules.

Beer provides similar cooking properties as wine, but with an even larger variety of flavors. Cooking with craft beer will lend a slightly different result than mainstream beers. You’ll need to consider carbonation and yeast levels when choosing your cooking beer. Usually brewed in small batches, craft beers have more concentrated flavor profiles and sometime higher yeast content. Beer is a natural tenderizer for meats, which makes it perfect for braising or slow cooking large cuts of meat. And, beer is great leavening agent for baking fluffy breads, rolls and biscuits.

Wheat beers and pale ales with their crisp, almost fruity flavors, pair well with breads, cheeses and seafood. While porters, a mellow combination of pale ale and stout, add an earthy flavor soups, stews and meats. Stouts are smooth in flavor and texture, lending them to fit in best with dessert dishes. As a general guide, use light for light, such as pale ales in fish or chicken dishes, and dark for dark, such as porters with red meat. Avoid lower calorie and high hop beers because low calorie beers have lower levels of flavor and hops become even more bitter throughout the cooking process.

A word or two of caution…cooking with alcohol also has effects on your dish outside of just the beer flavor. Depending on cooking method, temperature, time, amount added and other factors, some of the original alcohol in beer can linger in the dish. Also, the alcohol in beer could kick spicy foods up a notch. So, you may want to dial down the usual level of spice you add to your recipes when cooking with beer.

I used Tin Roof Brewing Company’s Voodoo Bengal pale ale in the biscuit recipe that follows. Their Parade Ground porter is available in the winter, in the meantime Founder’s Porter worked well for the chili. Of course, you can use any brand you can find and there are quite a few to choose from in grocery stores around town.

Read the full article at CitySocial.com or pick up a free copy of the magazine around town!

BeerChili1Beer Brisket Chili
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
5 pound brisket
2 onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 chipotle pepper, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 12-ounce bottle of porter or stout

Combine cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Shake the spices over the brisket and rub into the meat. Place the brisket into a slow cooker. Top with onions, bell peppers, garlic cloves and tomatoes. Add the chipotle pepper and teaspoon of adobo sauce from the can or jar with the peppers. Pour the porter or stout over everything. Cook covered over low heat for 8 to 10 hours. Shred the beef and stir to incorporate. Serve the chili topped with sour cream, chopped green onions and grated cheddar cheese.

Garlic Cheddar Beer BiscuitsBeerBiscuit2
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 cup coconut oil or shortening
3/4 cup pale ale
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheeses

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk in flour, baking powder, salt and garlic powder. Cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Stir in beer into the flour mixture until fulling incorporated and the dough is sticky. Fold in shredded cheese until fully incorporated. Grease a cast iron skillet or baking pan. Pull off palm-sized pieces of dough and roll it into a rough ball. Place each ball in the skillet with a half inch or gap in between. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and baked through. Serve warm and buttered with chili or soup or in place of dinner rolls.

Fabulous Figs

Figs in all shapes colors and sizes will be ripening in trees all over the South this June and July. I can remember crawling under the canopy of my grandmother’s enormous fig tree and pretending I was hidden away from the world. I also remember her firing off a whole pack of Black Cat firecrackers to shoo the birds away so they could not eat her figs before they were ripe enough to pick. Thankfully I was inside watching the show from the window, fig preserves and biscuit in hand, of course.

While she has yet to employ the firecracker method against the birds, my mother has managed to grown an impressive Brown Turkey-type fig tree of her own. I always look forward to fresh figs in the summer and her jarred figs with lemon to tide me move till the next season. I hope you get your hands on some of these plump delicious fruits this summer and find new ways to cook them in your own kitchen.

IMGP3415Fig, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Flatbread
2 store-bought flatbreads, about 7 by 10 inches (or use your own recipe if you have time)
1 small onion
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup fig preserves, divided
1 3-ounce package prosciutto
1 cup arugula
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles

Cut the onion into thin strips and cook it in the butter until dark brown and slightly sweet. Remove from heat and set aside. Toast the flatbreads on a griddle or grill over medium heat for 8 minutes. You can also do this on an oven rack at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread half the preserves over each flatbread, then sprinkle with onions. Top with strips of prosciutto and arugula. Finally, sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles. Place the flatbreads back on the heat for another 8 to 10 minutes to melt the cheese and slightly wilt the arugula. Slice and serve.


IMGP3571Baked Brie with Fig and Bourbon Pecan Sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons bourbon
8-10 whole preserved or dried figs, halved
1/2 cup pecans, chopped coarsely
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounce double cream brie

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt butter and brown sugar in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat at a simmer, add bourbon, figs and pecans. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir in the vanilla. Skim the white rind off the Brie with a cheese plane. Place the brie in a small round baking dish. Pour the fig and bourbon mixture on top, mounding it if needed. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until softened but not melted. Serve with water crackers.


IMGP3440Fresh Fig and Lemon Mascarpone Tart
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup fresh figs, sliced
1/2 package Biscoff ginger cookies, finely ground
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixer on low speed, mix together sour cream, mascarpone, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Chill covered while you make the crusts. Grind the cookies finely with a food processor then pulse in the melted butter and salt. The consistency should resemble damp sand, if not add one more tablespoon of melted butter. Grease individual tartlets or one large tart pan. Press the crumb crust into the pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool the tarts in the pan for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then carefully remove from the pan onto dessert plates. Fill with mascarpone mixture and top with slices of figs. Drizzle with honey and serve or chill to serve later.

Eat More of This – Healthy Foods for Women

Eating the right combination of fresh produce, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy will give a woman the energy she needs to not only keep up with a hectic lifestyle, but also to protect herself from chronic diseases. Eating a variety of these foods will help reduce your risk of everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, the list of foods that keep us healthy is long and full of great tasting ingredients you can cook with at home without a lot of time and fuss.

The recipes included with this article are quick and easy to make and include several healthy ingredients women need. Try them on the go for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack. Perfect for us busy girls!

Read more at http://www.citysocial.com or pick up a free copy of our May/June issue around town!

PS – I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to this magazine for 11 years now. The publishers are giving us all a voice in how the magazine can better serve Baton Rouge. City Social Magazine has partnered with LSU Research Lab to conduct a readership survey; and to show appreciation for your feedback, all participants are eligible to win a $500 Shopper’s Choice gift card. Please click on the link below to take the brief 10-minute survey. Thank you for your time and we appreciate your opinion! www.survey.lsu.edu/citysocial

OatmealBrkfastBarOatmeal Flaxseed Honey Bars
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup flaxseed, finely ground
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup local honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line one 13 x 9-inch baking pan with lightly greased parchment paper. Whisk the flour, oats, flaxseed, baking soda and salt in a large bowl then set aside. Beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy. Beat in the honey and vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low, Using the paddle attachment or a spatula, stir in the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Stir until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Spoon the batter into the baking pan and spread evenly. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Let the bars cool a few minutes in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Cut into squares or bars and serve warm or room temperature. Store in a sealed container.

Smoked Salmon Salad with Creamy Lemon Caper DressingSalmonSalad
1 cup baby spinach
1 smoked salmon filet
3-4 stalks fresh asparagus
1 boiled egg
1 thin slice red onion
1 medium lemon
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons drained capers, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

Place the spinach on a salad plate. Lay the smoked salmon over the greens then top with asparagus, wedges of boiled egg and onion. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the remaining dressing ingredients and drizzle over smoked salmon and spinach. Top salad with lemon zest. Season with fresh cracked salt and pepper to taste and serve.

TrailMixWalnut Super Trail Mix
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
1/4 cup pepitas
1/2 cup raisins
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat with olive oil. Store in an air tight container or portion into 1-cup servings in bags or containers to go.

Paella Party!

While many people travel the world to sample its distinctive cuisine; several of us need only travel as far as our own kitchens to taste the different flavors of far off lands. Because we don’t have any trips to Spain booked, we made our own take on Spanish paella that was fit for company and our Louisiana-born taste buds. 

Paella originated in the early 1800s in the Valencia region of Spain. Traditionally, paella is saffron-infused rice cooked with a variety of meats, seafood and vegetables. The most traditional recipe is paella valenciana, which is made with chicken, rabbit, snails, broad green beans, white beans and tomatoes. But much like Louisiana jambalaya, countess variations to this dish exist. You can make an all-seafood paella, one with chorizo sausage or a vegetarian version – the possibilities are endless!

Read more in our March/April issue at www.citysocial.com or pick up a free copy on stands around town.

VegPaellaVegetable Paella
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups paella (Bomba) rice or Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 can artichoke hearts, quartered & drained
1 cup kale, roughly chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring water to a boil in small saucepan. Add saffron, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet or flat-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add bell pepper, onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is clear and peppers are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in rice until coated with oil. Stir in saffron water, artichokes, stock, kale, tomatoes and seasoning. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes and serve.

Louisiana Seafood PaellaSeafoodPaella
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound andouille sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup rice
1 1/2 cups seafood stock
1 pound large Gulf shrimp, peeled
1 pound Gulf oysters
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon seafood blend

Bring water to a boil in small saucepan. Add saffron, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. In a large skillet with a lid, brown the onion, pepper, garlic and sausage in the oil until the onions are clear, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and saffron water and stir to coat. Stir in the broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Fold in the shrimp, oysters and seasonings. Cover and continue cooking until the shrimp are pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve warm in the pot or pan.

SangriaDouble Sangria
1 lemon
1 lime
1 ruby red grapefruit
1 orange
1 cup blackberries
1 cup rum
1/2 cup sugar
1 bottle Yellow Tail Sangria
1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice


Slice the lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange into thin rounds. Place the slices and blackberries in a large glass pitcher. Pour in the rum and sugar. Stir in the wine and grapefruit juice. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours to develop the flavors. When ready to serve, crush the fruit lightly with a wooden spoon. Adjust sweetness to taste.