Monday, September 28, 2009

Grand Opening at Back Door Bakeshop

This past Friday was one of 'those' days; too much to do and not enough time to get it done. My oldest daughter needed to come home from school, the Celtic Classic was starting and my neighbors at Back Door Bakeshop were having their Grand Opening.

I had to make a decision which was most important to do first, and the picking up of my daughter was at the top of the list. Hey, that wasn't an easy decision to make, either. I'd heard fabulous things about the tiny one-room building across the street and I didn't want to miss my chance to stop by and snag some delicious treats - along with a few photos. The writer in me wanted to spend the entire afternoon there interviewing attendees and sitting back on the warm grass with an iced tea in hand watching all the goings-on.

As life would have it, I had to be elsewhere during ribbon-cutting time and so I had a very few spare moments with which to meet, greet and snap. Ah, well - it was far worth it.

Basket of goodies overflowing

The day was so beautifully sunny (after threatening rain) that it seemed to have been ordered for the occasion. The ribbon was cut in the presence of our mayor, John Callahan and the tables were loaded with goodies both for sampling and sale. I don't think there was a face without a smile on it when I came strolling by.

This is the ENTIRE kitchen! Can you believe so much goodness comes from such a small space? Amazing.

I was able to get photos inside and out and I made sure to take away some goodies. I grabbed Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Espresso Cookies along with a jar of Hot Pepper Jelly. Those cookies were gone as soon as I hit the front porch (that's about 50 yards away) and not just because I have a bajillion kids - they went so quickly because they were AWESOME cookies! I had to hide 2 Chocolate Espresso cookies so hubby and I could each have one.

Another bountiful basket

As for the jelly - I had some tonight on a lightly toasted English muffin and man, oh man, if you get the chance to pick up some of this ruby red gem-in-a-jar, do it! You'll have clear sinuses for sure, but in such a sweet way, you'll go back for more even if you're tearing up.

The jelly you don't want to miss

So, where do you get these delectable treats? At any one of these six spots in the Valley:

Gail Lehman, owner and baker extraordinaire and Dina Hall - her partner in more than just crime - make one dynamic duo, and although I'm sad that the business is wholesale only (well, hey - I live right behind them!) I think of it this way: It's like having six Back Door Bakeshops across the valley!

Check out Back Door Bakeshop online at their website: and be sure to follow them on Facebook.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ile de France Cheese of the Month: Roasted Pears with Saint Agur

For anyone who grew up during the 70's and 80's in middle America, bleu cheese was only consumed in one way; salad dressing. Not that there's anything wrong with bleu cheese dressing, it's necessary for hot wings and a staple on salad bars, but there is so much more to the blue-veined cheese that it really should be tried, if only once, as-is or with something other than a lettuce leaf.

There is more than one variety of bleu cheese, though and not all are created equal. The Ile de France bleu cheeses are a perfect example of quality and variety. Saint Agur, for example, is a wonderfully rich and creamy bleu rather than the usual crumbly type. It is deep in flavor and the texture is beautifully smooth; the perfect complement to roasted pears. It melted perfectly with little heat and remained very flavorful even after cooling.

Roasted Pears with Saint Agur
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

4 large pears, halved and seeded
1 Tabespoon olive oil
8 ounces Ile de France Saint Agur Bleu Cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Coat the bottom of a non-stick roasting pan with olive oil.
Set pears, cut side down, into pan. Roast for 20 minutes, or until pears soften.
Set pears right-side-up and top with cheese.
Let stand briefly as cheese melts. Serve warm.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Soup

The soup I'm going to be sharing with you today is not just any soup. The recipe comes from my friend, Danny, the man to whom this marvelous concoction owes its existence to.

I made up a half batch of it today (and you'll see why I only made half - it's huge!) and the whole time I was putting it together I kept thinking that it seemed familiar, and it does. Back in the late 80's to early 90's (that's 1900's, kids) there was a soup that everyone in the world who was trying to lose weight made. It started with tomato juice and built up with veggies until it was a seething mass of who-knows-what. It wasn't bad overall, but it lacked any real flavor that would keep a person wanting more. It was rather bland, as soups go, and for all that was dumped into the pot, it really should have had more 'oomph' to it.

Enter Danny. I'll let you get the story in his own words in a moment, but - in a nutshell - he took a similar soup and morphed it into a very fusion-flavored thing that actually leaves you feeling full for longer than the requisite 30 minutes that other 'diet' soups give you.

This soup is a thing of legend among Dan's friends and acquaintances, and having not been shared until now, has been carefully guarded by Danny himself and I have been lucky enough to have him share it with me and then allow me to pass it on. I know there are people out there who have been waiting for this.

Without further ado - here's the scoop:

The story is that many years ago, my doctor put me on a very low sodium diet and, with my background as a sous in Philly, it got me back into cooking by necessity. I went back to complimenting flavors between acidic and sweet, savory and tart, etc.. Given that I needed something to fill me up, but not high-calorie, I started with a vibe of a "Hobo Stew," but without the meat. My brother had something similar in his fitness diet that seemed like a good idea, but I knew that I could blend some flavors in ways that would provide more flavor and health benefits. The idea was to take a big pot of water and start tossing fresh vegetables into it and see what happens. Personally, I use low sodium V8 and I like to toss in a few gulf shrimp at the end with a pinch of mozzarella cheese when serving, but it's great over rice, noodles or just plain, too.

Over the years, I found myself tweaking this without ever writing down what I'd done, but my doctor (who LOVES this soup, by the way) suggested that I offer the recipe to other patients online. The mix of sweetness, citrus, spicy, savory, and the ability to be seasonal made it right for anything from gumbos to curries to vegetable soup with barley so I began to cook it for friends as well. Once that happened, people began to demand the recipe and, given that I wanted to share it through someone I know and trust, I found my way to you.

I'm told that it needs to be shared and that's the nature of a good soup, I think. This, like so many soups, is one of those that gets better on the second and third days. My friends continue to say that my soup rocked their worlds and/or changed their lives (especially if they are patients of some specific care who all seem to be able to eat this with little modification), I'm very proud of this particular recipe. It is energizing, both filling and light at the same time, plus good for you. A cup in the afternoon, late at night, or as a meal in-and-of-itself. To me, it's just my soup.

Thanks mucho!!


No, Dan - Thank YOU!

Here's the soup...

Daniel East's Rock Your World Veggie Chowder
Most people THINK they may not like this...until they taste it. Don't look, just cook!
Printable Recipe


1 Lg bottle V8 juice (low sodium or regular ok)
2 cups water
4 med tomatoes diced
2 cups sliced oyster mushrooms
2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
2 cups sliced portabella mushrooms
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
2 cups chopped or sliced fresh carrots
2 cup chopped broccoli
2 cup chopped cauliflower
1 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic
2 small cans black beans – drained (not black bean soup - if you have time to soak dried ones,
even better)
1/2 cup of finely grated fresh ginger
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
3 tbsp Liquid Summer Hot Sauce -
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sugar or 1 pk Splenda®
NOTE: if you must add salt, use sea salt or kosher salt to taste.


• Using a 8 qt or larger pot, pour in the V8 & water with heat on HIGH.
• Add all veggies (except ginger) and bring to a rolling boil.
• Stirring often, continue boiling until foam begins to appear.
• Add the OJ, vinegar & black beans.
• Once mushrooms have reduced, add all remaining ingredients & continue boiling/stirring for 1 hr until veggies are tender.
• Reduce to a simmer and cover. Once it thickens (approx. 1 hr.), check seasoning for taste.
• Continue stirring and serve while hot.

NOTE: DO NOT add too much pepper as it expands when heated and may get fairly spicey!
ALSO: Each time you heat and reheat, the mixture thickens and continues to break down.
ADD ONS: Great over brown rice or with a little shredded cheddar, shrimp and/or meat, etc.

Copyright ©2003-2009 Daniel M. East. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Review: Notes on Cooking

When I first started school for my culinary diploma I was a tad haughty in believing that I didn't have much to learn. I was a good cook at 24, had been married for 3 1/2 years and had 2 children. I was old and wise and the biggest hurdle I had at that time was how to get everything on the table at the same time and at the right temperature. That I would need an education beyond that never even crossed my mind.

I, of course, received quite a surprise once classes were under way. I learned things I didn't know were even possibilities and became equipped with a knowledge that I found afterward to be very vital in owning a food service business.

While in school we took notes on everything and I kept everything neat and in order and in color-coded binders. Once school was over and I went back to raising a family, my notes were misplaced, as old school notes tend to be, and I still have no idea exactly where they are.

Lucky for me and anyone who loves to cook, Lauren Braun Costello kept notes, 217 to be exact, and is now sharing them with the rest of us along with the help of Russell Reich through Notes on Cooking, A Short Guide to an Essential Craft.

Whether you're a complete novice in the kitchen or a 5-Star chef, there is something to be gleaned from the pages of this small and unassuming book. There are things in here that I didn't know, many that I did, and many more that I had forgotten that I knew and I'll wager that even the most educated and talented of all chefs would have to agree. In fact, when I replied to the review query, my exact words were, "It's like culinary school in a book!" and I was right.

This book sits on a shelf in my kitchen ready to be snatched up at a moment's notice when needed, and there it will stay. The chapters are broken up into every imaginable area of cooking from ingredients to cookware to the most important tool- the cook - and cross-referenced where need be so that there is a fuller understanding of what is being conveyed. This is truly an indispensible book for the home cook or the trained chef and small enough to keep by your side.

Find copies of Notes on Cooking at:

The Notes on Cooking website or at

Friday, September 04, 2009

Half Hour Meals Wants You!

Have you been to Half Hour Meals yet? If you're looking for fast and delicious meals, you'll want to stop by and check it out. If you love to cook, but don't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, you'll find a plethora of fabulous recipes to help you get out of the kitchen fast. Categorized by course, ingredient, cuisine type and others like meals on a budget, gluten free or vegetarian, it's easy to find exactly what you're looking for.

Recipes aren't all there is to Half Hour Meals, though. There is also a blog showcase - a spot for food bloggers to list their blog to be found by others and a fabulous community forum filled with foodie discussions on everything from dining out to favorite chefs to our guilty food pleasures.

Head on over today and join the community, whether you're a blogger or not, and feel free to add your own great recipes to the database for a chance to be in the spotlight on our blog, Food For Thought. If you've joined and would like to be featured, let me know - I'm blogging there now! Don't foget to check out the Half Hour Meals Twitter page at - See you there!