BlogTalk Radio: B.R.E.W. FIU

Oct 200comments

Local Beer made in Florida?  Yes, it’s true and you can learn how!

Florida International University’s Advanced Brew Club’s mission is “to brew fantastic beers with exotic flavors to educate students and consumers alike to all the possibilities of the beer world.” Click here to view photos of the process.

On November 4, 2012, B.R.E.W. FIU will highlight 15 local breweries, environmental stewardship and in the beer arena, bread and German pretzels made from grains used in the beer making process served with beer butter and beer mustard and more at their 2nd annual Biscayne Brewer’s Bash.

Zhilong Yang, Vice President of B.R.E.W. FIU, shared that he looks forward to serving B.R.E.W. FIU craft beer at the future on campus restaurant.  After satisfying the quantities required at that restaurant, the goal of selling to the public would be next on the agenda.  “Z” mentioned several times during the interview time, care, and dedication to the process elevates craft beer’s taste above the national companies.

Do you enjoy craft beer?  Which companies? What style and variety?

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BlogTalk Radio – Nothing Bundt Cake

Aug 040comments

While shopping for pet supplies, I saw a witty sign for Nothing Bundt Cakes. My friend and I entered the store to investigate. Founded in 1997 by two women in Las Vegas, Nothing Bundt Cake has grown into a thriving franchise business in thirteen states.

Monica Reckart left her corporate employment to try something new. She attended a show for franchise opportunities and decided on Nothing Bundt Cake because she believed in the quality of the product. Marrying a hint of nostalgia with an expanded line of cards, serving pieces, clothing and of course bundt cakes, Monica felt the time was right to open in South Florida.

The moistness of the bundt cake lingered in my mind long after finishing a sample of the chocolate chip flavor with vanilla icing. Monica commented that all the cakes were baked fresh daily with only the freshest ingredients. Seasonal flavors join established favorites to keep customers returning to try the new and the classic. With two new stores in the works, and a nation looking for comfort foods, Nothing Bundt Cake will sweetly address a timely craving.

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BlogTalk Radio: Watermelon – Not just for Picnics

Jul 280comments

Who can’t picture two triangular slices of watermelon on a paper plate? You pick a slice up, bite the apex and immediately find juice running down your elbow as you enjoy the refreshing, sweet, watery flavor swishing around your mouth. Whether your watermelon flesh is reddish pink or yellowish orange, has seeds or not, weighs eight pounds or one, you can’t this standout summer fruit.

Over the last decade, chefs have stretched the old parameters of how to serve watermelon. Now, you can easily find watermelon gazpacho, watermelon sorbet, watermelon based salads and even grilled watermelon.

Tired of Eggs Benedict? The National Watermelon Board scrambles that idea and provides a recipe for Watermelon Benedict! Using a lowfat granola base, a disc of watermelon, Greek Yogurt as dressing, and slices of kiwi on top, your Sunday brunch guests will register surprise at your creativity.

For one of my diabetic support group classes, I prepared a Minted Watermelon Sorbet adapted from a Popsicle recipe . I substituted stevia for the sugar and churned the mixture in my ice cream maker instead of making pops. Requiring five ingredients; watermelon, sugar, mint leaves, lemon zest and salt, you can put this recipe together quickly and enjoy it for days.

Watermelon pairs well with goat cheese in the creamy, log form or flaky feta. Mix greens like arugula with watermelon cubes, sprinkle some goat cheese, add a bit of chopped tomato, top with crunchy toasted nuts or seeds and boom you have a great summer dinner salad or a main course for lunch.

Imagine starting your meal with a cool pink hued watermelon gazpacho, with red pepper, cucumber, a drizzle of balsamic, a touch of shallot and garlic, topped with a few croutons. Or cut a think triangular slice, rub it with olive oil, caramelize the edges on the grill, and top with a tomato relish following the clever recipe from renowned Chef Jose Andres.

Of course you can always toss some watermelon balls in a bowl to snack on… or… you can stretch your watermelon horizons with one of the new watermelon offerings!

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BlogTalk Radio: Interview with Jessica Benzadon – Owner of Clarabelle’s Cupcakes and Other Creations

Jul 140comments

What makes a female executive shift into Cupcake entrepreneur? When your daughter has a metabolic issue which prevents her from eating dairy! Jessica Benzadon began baking dairy free for her daughter, Claire, now seventeen. Jessica refused to believe that dairy free, (which also fulfilled part of their Kosher dietary laws) equaled tasteless.

After creating her own recipes, friends and family, followed by wider circles, began asking for her confections. Jessica mentioned to her husband that she thought she would like to open a dairy free/Kosher bakery. Next thing you know, he found a great location and Clarabelle’s Cupcakes and Other Creations debuted.

Fast forward to present and Clarabelle’s sports an eye-catching pink and purple truck, prepares over 100 cupcake varieties (red velvet still rules), and addresses other dietary needs such as gluten free and vegan.

Keep up with Clarabelle’s either by visiting the bakery, connecting with their social media or following that pink truck!

To listen to the interview, click here.

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BlogTalk Radio: Mangos, Champion of the Fruit World

Jul 080comments

Did you know that mangos rank as the world’s most popular fruit? How did a native fruit of India for over 4,000 years multiply into 2,500 varieties grown in most warm weather countries? Human travel most probably. Since mango seeds cannot disperse in wind or water due to weight, historians believe humans dispersed seeds via trade routes such as Portugal to Brazil and Africa to the Caribbean Islands.

India and Southeast Asia continue to account for about three quarters of the global mango production. Mango trees can attain heights of 100 feet and belong to the same family as poison ivy. Perhaps that explains the frequent occurrence of people allergic to mango sap, skin, and/or flesh.

Mango cultivation began around 1860 in Florida. Over one and a half centuries, mango varieties have blossomed in our state with the Haden variety serving as one of our bases. Ever searching for fiber free, sweet, juicy mangos, our very own Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has led the research and propagation of new varieties suitable to contemporary lifestyles and conditions.

Next weekend, Fairchild celebrates their 20th Annual Mango Festival. The jam packed weekend features:

  • Lectures,
  • Grower’s summit,
  • Tastings,
  • Mango centric brunch with top chefs,
  • Mango auction,
  • Mango marketplace,
  • Mango tree purchases, (for top selections, arrive as the gates open Saturday morning, trees sell out like tickets to Game 5 of this years NBA finals!)
  • Food demonstrations and more.

I’ve attended and demonstrated in several festivals over the years and I’m always amazed at the thousands of people willing to weather the extreme heat for the love of mangos.

Each year, Fairchild’s Mango Festival highlights a region or a specific country’s mango varieties. They offer tastings and saplings of those mango varieties. I had the opportunity to taste a variety of Asian mangos about five years ago and found I enjoyed the Nam Doc Mai variety the most. Known as a fibreless, dessert, great fresh eating mango, my tree sporting 4 leaves five years ago provided a glorious harvest of about 15 perfect, sweet, juicy, slightly spicy mangos this year.

What to do with an abundance of mangos?

Try: (click on italics for recipes…)

What do you make with mango?


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BlogTalk Radio: A Visit to Tropical Smoothie Café

Jun 300comments

Donnise DeSouza may wear a legal power suit by day; however, you may also find her in jeans and a Tropical Smoothie Café T-Shirt chatting with customers at one of her two Tropical Smoothie Café locations in Miami. Donnise, decided to expand her business horizons by entering the food business a few years ago. She wanted a franchise that offered healthy options, with high quality fresh ingredients.

What I noticed about the café location I visited was the conviviality of the guests. Donnise confirmed my observation stating that many customers visit daily or even multiple times in one day! Expecting a menu centered on smoothies, I found instead a broad menu of flatbreads, sandwiches, wraps, salads and even a breakfast menu! Of course, I tasted the delicious Jetty Punch (strawberries and bananas) in honor of my Kitchen K9, Jetty.

The ambiance of the café sends you immediately to the Caribbean; from the artwork on the walls to the design of the tabletops. With smoothie names like Sunny Day, Mango Magic, Blue Lagoon, Strawberry Beach and Paradise Point, who needs a plane ticket to the Islands?

Stop by the Metrozoo/Deerwood Tropical Smoothie Cafe location or the downtown Tropical Smoothie Cafe Miami location and let them know The Kitchen Counselor sent you! Listen to our conversation here.

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BlogTalk Radio: Celebrating Fatherly Traditions – Part 1

Jun 160comments

Today my radio segment , Lorna and I chatted about fatherly traditions. Whoever the male role model has been in your life, whether a father, uncle, grandfather or someone else, Father’s Day provides that moment to let them know what they’ve meant to you. If by chance, your role model has passed on, you may acknowledge the role modeling of your children’s father, your brother or another man you are connected to in some manner.

Many times, the small, special gesture or moment will leave a greater and longer lasting feeling on this man’s heart by letting him know of a ritual or tradition that made or makes a difference to you. The Power of Kitchen surges in this respect.

My dad did the “single dad” thing for a few years when I was young. I remember helping him make his famous kitchen sink salads for dinner. I loved when he let me pour in the Planter’s dry roasted cashews, on top of the lettuce, celery, cucumbers, mandarin orange slices and tuna fish (our favorite.) When I make my kitchen sink salads for lunch during the week, I recall those times and smile as I chop some new additions like radishes, tomatoes and jicama.

One of my favorite things about sleeping over my Aunt and Uncle’s house as a child was knowing that my Uncle would make his famous pancakes or waffles on Sunday morning. We had to pick the night before, I always voted for waffles. He had this ancient, heirloom waffle maker which created the perfect indentations for the maple syrup, it was magical. Now waffle makers are more prevalent and reliable than ever and the recipes have moved way past the box.

Finally, I loved to watch my husband (now ex) grill for my daughter. He would know exactly how she liked her turkey hot dog, burger or steak cooked. She would linger near his legs or jump in the pool and beg him to join her as they waited for lunch to be ready. Even when I could not see his face, you could hear the smile as he interacted with her.

So tomorrow, remind the men in your life during your get-togethers, on the phone or via email about those special memories from the kitchen, the hearth of the family. Better yet, make your version of those special dishes!

Next post – do you keep the recipe as a treasure or have you updated?

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Blogtalk Radio: A Visit To Azucar

May 280comments

What would you do if your husband, a sugar mill engineer, frequently relocated the family all over Central and South America and you loved ice cream? If you were Suzanne Batlle’s abuela (grandmother), you would make it your mission to create ice cream out of every tropical fruit you came into contact with on your travels. Suzi, as she is known to her friends, carries on her abuela’s passion for ice cream making at Azucar, across from the highly regarded Tower Theater in the heart of Little Havana.

Lorna gave me the grueling assignment of visiting Azucar this week. As I repeatedly went to the back of the line as two of the typical eight daily tour bus groups visited, I surveyed the cases to see what flavors caught my attention.

  • Azucar’s signature flavor, Abuela Maria, combines guava, cream cheese, Maria biscuits and vanilla ice cream.
  • Mantecado, (Cuban vanilla),
  • Mamey,
  • Flan,
  • Passion Fruit
  • Chocolate Guiness,
  • Multadito (a combination of cinnamon ice cream with oatmeal raisin cookies, and
  • Nutella, dazzled my eyes.

I decided to try the mamey, chocolate (made yesterday with Suzi’s personal stash of Belgian chocolate from home) and mantecado. The mamey tasted like your favorite sweet potato dish at Thanksgiving, creamy, sweet in a rich, earthy way with that orange color famous in the 1970s! The Belgian chocolate gave the ice cream a lasting, luscious, deep chocolate taste. As a baker, I picked up hints of cinnamon or nutmeg or a combination of spices you would find in fall baking in the Mantecado. For those who left Cuba, Mantecado, is simply Mantecado, you know it when you taste it!

The famous Cuban singer Celia Cruz adorns the wall.

Azucar’s guests can eat their cones, cups and Havana Sundaes (platano maduro (sweet plantains), dulce de leche ice cream and caramel sauce) while sitting on cushions made of guayaberras, (traditional Cuban shirts) and resting their feet on a mosaic of authentic Cuban tiles.

Before Suzi arrived, I chatted with her scoop shop crew, Alex, Robert and Frenchy. They spoke highly of their employer’s creativity and collaborations. The crew often provides feedback on flavor ideas and is often the first to review flavors. Miami restaurants have caught wind of the ice cream alchemy occurring on 8th street and purchase bins of Suzi’s treats for their diners.

Suzi ponders new flavors daily. She will accept fruit or veggies from your backyard harvest and create ice cream confections. I asked what some of her more “out of the cone” flavors have been, to which she and her crew replied:

  • Mother’s Day – Orange blossom, almonds and Grand Marnier,
  • Rose,
  • Sweet potato ancho chile,
  • Beem Me Up – Jim Bean with candied pecans,
  • Creamed corn,
  • Willy Chirino – bourbon and cherry,
  • Sundae morning –Champagneand peaches,
  • Sirimba – Corn flakes, marshmallow, chocolate syrup mixed with vanilla ice cream.

With America’s current craze for bacon everything, I asked if she had a bacon flavor percolating in her mind. She asked me to wait a minute as she went to her office, returning with a sticky note that said… maple, bacon (and one more ingredient… I don’t want to give away her secrets!) She’s got it covered!

No dairy? Diabetic? No worries! Suzi created a fat free/sugar free (no sugar substitutes either!) pineapple sorbet. Her almond ice cream only contains sugar naturally found in cream, nothing else. Since I found her so open to ideas, I offered the possibility of trying almond milk, coconut milk or goat milk based flavors for those of us with dairy allergies, sensitivities or delicate tummies.

For those of us who live in Miami, Azucar may be coming to your part of the county. In the meanwhile, bring a cooler to take home pints, or ½ bins to satisfy your craving for Cuban ice cream.

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BlogTalk Radio: Essential Grilling Tools

May 200comments

As Memorial Day approaches, BBQ aficionados everywhere will take stock of their supplies to make sure their inventories stand in good order for the summer grilling season. Here in South Florida, grilling season goes 365 days a year. In case you’re not a Grill Master or need a refresher, here are some BBQ essentials:

  • Meat thermometer – I know, you can “tell” when your protein is done. I’m sure that’s generally true, however, sometimes your grill can sear the outside so fast, the inside of your protein may not cook enough to safely serve.
  • Tongs, preferably the locking kind will become your “go to” tool. Purchase tongs for the grill as they are extra long to prevent overly warm hands/arms.
  • Grill Forks, Spatulas, and brass brushes may come in a set. The will help the chef clean off the grates and manage the currently bbqing items!
  • Newer to the toolbox, silicone angled grilling brushes. Great for applying marinades and sauces, they clean up well and have just the right shape.
  • Skewers – Who does not enjoy a good shish kebab? Skewers no longer have one shape only! You can find round skewers too. Remember, bamboo skewers need to soak for 30 minutes and work better on indoor grills.
  • Grill topper: This tool may fall under the labels: wok, grill basket, grill bowl etc… Great for veggies, potatoes, shrimp, you can load it up and place it on the grill.
  • Grill Mop – Made of silicone or cotton, replaceable head or not, these sop mops help apply your delicious bbq sauces.
  • Need a light? From flexi lighters, to long matches start your grill right.
  • Grill Mits – safety first!
  • Want to get fancy? Purchase wood planks for cooking… great for fish!

What’s your favorite grilling tool?

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Blogtalk Radio: Mother’s Day: Gifts that Keep Giving

May 120comments

I love fresh flowers, as long as they do not fall into the class of flowers which trigger an allergy attack or my cats do not eat them and get sick. A bunch of flowers definitely spruce up your kitchen and may even brighten your mood as you cook, clean, bring in the groceries or prepare lunch for your family members. For me, I prefer to give and receive longer lasting gifts. Instead of or in addition to flowers, you can gift:

  • An indoor herb or tea plant (s) on the Mom in your life for repeated visits.
    • Try basil, rosemary, chamomile, mint, lemongrass, oregano
  • Subscribe to a magazine, these days you can find all kinds of discounts.
    • Try Eating Well, Cooking Light, Taste of Home, Food and Wine, Organic Gardening, Natural Home, Living Without (gluten free), Food Network Magazine, Vegetarian Times, Cooks Illustrated, Saveur etc…
  • Gift Card to places which would allow Mom a few visits.
    • Try Starbucks, favorite grocery store, Bagel shop, Bakery, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Department store with good kitchen department, Williams Sonoma, or a favorite lunch spot etc…
  • An appliance or piece of equipment, so Mom can enjoy her cooking experience.
    • Try: mandolins, zesters, tongs, citrus squeezers, food processors, stand mixers, pots and pans in a different material (like cast iron), whisks, spatulas and measuring cups/spoons.
  • An App for her favorite electronic device.
    • Try grocery store apps to help with lists, restaurant recommendations, wine/beer apps, nutritional apps, food safety apps, etc…
  • A cooking class – skills and recipes learned in this environment usually become keepers and the Mom in your life enjoys an outing.

For all who celebrate Mother’s Day, may you enjoy your family and celebrate in the most meaningful way for you.

Enjoy year-round ideas by subscribing to Servings – From the Kitchen Counselor, my twice/month newsletter.

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