Category Archives: desserts

An Interview with South African Gourmet Baker Kari Mansfeld

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Have you ever eaten something so good it stopped you in your tracks? When I was at the Fancy Food Show earlier this year I tasted one of the most incredible things in the world. It was Kari’s South African Tea Cake from Kari’s Desserts.

This recipe I later discovered was passed down through the generations. Kari Mansfeld, the founder, like so many other female entrepreneurs in the gourmet food industry was working in retail when she decided to realize her passion.

Kari was encouraged to start a business to sell the desserts she made for her friends and family at dinner parties.

She “fell” into the gourmet food industry just out of passion for baking. I had never seen anything like what she made, and was absolutely enamored with the desserts I tried. I’m not the only one who has discovered Kari’s Desserts. Malva Pudding is the favorite dessert of Nelson Mandela. Art Smith and Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef.

Women like Kari who take a big risk by leaving steady corporate jobs to pursue their passion are my heroes. She answered some questions for me at the Fancy Food Show. Check out our interview below.

What got you interested in the food industry?

I was never a very good cook – at least not in my opinion, and was very happy to source out easy and delicious alternatives to actually making something myself. But when I did cook, it was dessert as I always liked it. I served my desserts at dinner parties and finally enough foodie friends said that I should make it and sell it.  I set about producing the first Kari’s Malva Pudding.

Where did these recipes come from?

The recipes for Kari’s Malva Pudding and Kari’s Chocolate Malva Pudding are based on traditional South African recipes. It took a while to come up with one that really tasted just the way I liked it and came out consistent in production. The recipe for the Kari’s Fridge Cake is my granny’s. My granny used to make it and then my mother made it all the time, and I have been making it the same way my whole life.


Kari, at the Fancy Food Show 2012, is on the left.


Do you feel you were ever treated differently because you were a woman, in the U.S. and in South Africa?

I do not feel really like I have been treated unfairly in either place, but have some simple observations. When I first started working in South Africa, I was designing bathing suits for a very large international brand in the South African division. I worked with all women on the textile end, but all men (with the exception of one secretary) on the footwear end.  It never struck me as odd at the time, but I know that I would not have had the respect as a designer if I had been constructing the complicated athletic sports shoes – it was understood that I could make a bikini, but I would be out of my league with a rugby boot.  Truth be told, I think we were all doing what we were best at, it just was very sexually divided. I never knew if the footwear designers were getting paid more or the same as I was.  The administration in the company was all male.

When I moved to the States, I also worked for a large sports company and the administration was all male with the exception of one woman.  She definitely was constantly fighting for herself and as a result, was always under attack and scrutiny. The men in the office she reported to were always finding reasons to fault her methods.  It was very hard for her.

Now in the food industry, I have found that the male buyers are all more relaxed than the female buyers. The male reps do not work as hard as the female reps. People are very careful in the demographic where my products are sold (natural and specialty food stores) and I also believe that professional and working Californians in general are very conscientious and do their very best to be as politically correct, culturally and sexually accepting, and fair as possible.

Although it is not the most important thing, I have been treated differently because I was a woman – In South Africa, a man will always hold the door open for a woman and have her walk through it first, but here in the States, he will not want to offend her, and may not do so as a result.

You can find Kari’s incredible desserts at Whole Foods market. Follow Kari on twitter at @Karisdesserts.

Winter Berry Cobbler

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No dinner party is complete without dessert.

As a food lover and fan of Alice Waters, about six months ago I made a purchase on Gilt Groupe–it was a tour of the Alice WatersEdible Schoolyard in Berkeley. I’m interested in sustainable farming, gardening and of course cooking so I thought it would be an adventure. I got a signed copy of Alice Waters’ new cookbook In the Green Kitchen. The book is laden with simple easy to make recipes. I chose two for our small dinner party last night.

The cobbler recipes calls for two things I left out. Instead of using peaches or nectarines which aren’t in season, I opted for more berries. I replaced strawberries for the nectarines–a mix of fresh and frozen berries. I got meyer lemons from the farmer’s market which are the most beautiful type of lemons available.

Please know, the recipe calls for fresh biscuits, but if you don’t have time to do everything please feel free to cheat by purchasing ready-made biscuits from Trader Joes. Shhhh!

Ingredients:

1 package of Trader Joe’s buttermilk biscuits
1 cup sliced nectarines (or 1 cup strawberries)
2 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup whipping cream
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Prepare the biscuits in advance. Bake biscuits which are pre-cut for 18 minutes until browned. Cut them in half. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the fruit in a large bowl. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour, and salt, and stir into the fruit. Add the lemon zest and juice, and mix well.

Put the fruit in a large dish. Bake the fruit for 8 minutes or until the fruit just softens. Remove the dish from the oven. Brush the biscuit tops with the cream and sprinkle and sprinkle lightly with the remaining sugar. Place the biscuits on the fruit in rows and return the dish to the oven. Bake the cobbler for 35-45 minutes, until the biscuits are golden and the fruit is bubbling. Let the cobbler cool and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

I altered the color of this photo, but before you serve the individual servings it should look somewhat like this.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pecan Kitty Cupcakes

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You know what I love about food blogging? I love that it’s 3:30pm and today I feel like writing about food–and I can do that. This is one big thing I’m grateful for. Now that we’ve gotten my gratitude out of the way, let’s get to the cupcake!

The other night we were having guests for dinner. And instead of trying to make everything from scratch I dressed up a Trader Joe’s baking mix and made it into a playful and decadent Halloween pumpkin cupcake.

I loved putting these little creatures on top of my cupcake, largely because it’s creative. I LOVE to make things with my hands. If cupcakes were better for you I would do this every day.  The little guy below was my inspiration for my Halloween cupcake.

Making these ugly little Halloween creatures made me really happy. For 20 minutes as I fumble with toothpicks and candy, I am 12 again. Play is something we all need in our lives. None of us is one dimensional. This is my multi-dimensional self debuting.

My scary Kitty cupcakes–Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pecan yummy-ness. This is the keeper of the kittens, Mr. Pumpkin Persimmon [I realize this probably seems very childish, but I don’t care].


image source

  • 1 box trader joe’s pumpkin cake mix
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped in a bag
  • pam or olive oil spray
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grape seed oil (or canola oil)
  • 1 cup water
  • chocolate frosting (any brand will due)
  • gum drops (I used black and red)
  • black licorice (sliced in half)
  • toothpicks

Directions for pumpkin cupcakes

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a big bowl mix cake mix, eggs, oil, pecans, and water. Mix til the dough doesn’t have any bumps in it. Spray muffin pan with your pam spray. Pour an equal amount of your mix into the cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 400. Continue to check oven after minute 14 or so as all ovens bake differently. Don’t want to burn the cupcakes!

2. Take the cupcakes out of the oven. The cupcakes should slide out easily. Allow cupcakes to sit and cool. Set aside and take out candies. Stick one toothpick down two black gumdrops. Break one gumdrop in half for the head. Break up the black licorice and stick the licorice with toothpicks for ears, arms and tail.

3. Once cupcakes have cooled, dress with your chocolate frosting and stick your figurines on top.

Now all you need is some quiet time to enjoy this treat. On the other hand, enjoy with some friends so you don’t eat them all yourself. Remember to have fun and play.

Upside Down Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cheesecake

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love fall, I love sweets and I love dressing up. What’s not to love?

I couldn’t miss this pumpkin recipe as it’s got some of the texture and flavor of the original cheesecake. It’s not quite Junior’s New York Cheesecake, but it’s still pretty yummy.

The crispy graham cracker tastes delicious against the cool creamy pumpkin filling that has a custard-like quality.

I adopted this recipe from Hungry Girl, also known as Lisa Lillien who tries to make yummy food low calorie. This recipe was more like a pumpkin mousse rather than a pie, so let’s hope you aren’t feeding pumpkin cheesecake purists. This recipe doesn’t exactly replicate the cheesecake, but it’s a fun and convincing waste-line friendly copy.

Lisa Lillien’s original recipe calls for sweetener and tons of cool whip but I’m not a fan of splenda especially so much of it. So this is my play on upside down pumpkin cheesecake, with a little chocolate for those of you, like me, who have a hard time eating “diet food.”

My grandmother Phyllis gave me this serving spoon. She has an adoration of antiques and she would be glad to know I’m serving with it. I miss her always and this makes me think of her.

Upside Down Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cheesecake Ingredients:

15 ounce can pumpkin
1/2 cup Fage 0% Yogurt
8 ounce container fat free or low fat cream cheese
7/8 cup fat free or low fat sour cream
3 1/2 sheets graham cracker, low fat honey, crushed
1/2 cup honey or agave (add more if sweeter flavor is desired)
2 tablespoons pumpkin spice
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

And if you dare:
chocolate chips, any kind
top with light whip cream

You can get all of these ingredients at Trader Joes!

Directions:

Blend together all ingredients except graham cracker in a bowl with an immersion blender.
Put ingredients in a pie pan and coat the top layer with graham cracker
Add chocolate chips and serve cold
or
Melt chocolate and drizzle over the top

Autumnal Jujube Jam

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I was walking through the Lakeshore farmer’s market one day and these circular brown apple impersonators caught my eye. They were hiding in a bin looking forbidden, so of course I went right over, picked up a handful, and asked myself what I could do with this forbidden fruit.

The jujube is a Chinese date that looks like a small brown apple and tastes just as sweet and a little tart.

Speaking of dates, this fruit is quite the charmer.

Apparently throughout Chinese history the fruit was believed to make teenagers fall in love. In the Himalaya and Karakoram regions, in order to impress the ladies, men would skip cologne and put the Jujube flower stem in their hat.

So perhaps all you fellas out there reaching for your Hugo Boss cologne, you might actually find what you are looking for at the farmer’s market.

Lastly I now know in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, historically the jujube was used in the newlyweds bedroom as a good luck charm for fertility–an invocation to “have an honored child soon.” In the Jewish religion we just brake a glass. Everyone has their tradish.

Jujubes are a great way to cleanse the palate after a meal. They are are rumored to help with sleep and stress. So with check marks in the love, rest and overall health category, you really can’t go wrong with the Jujube.

Today for you I made a Jujube Jam recipe. Say that three times fast.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 30 Jujube fruits
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon flour or quick-cooking tapioca
  • Grated zest of one lemon (juice of half a lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt (if you have lavendar salt use that-not completely necessary)

Jujube Jam Recipe Instructions

1. Chop jujubes so you cut the stems and seeds out.
2. Combine Jujube fruit in a steep pot or slow cooker.
3. Add all ingredients and cook on medium heat stirring every few minutes. Use lid if necessary.
4. Once jujubes are soft and mixture looks ready, take off the heat and let sit to cool
5. When the mixture is cool, put in food processor and mix on chopped. Grind down until smooth.
6. Serve

Here you see the jam served over greek plain yogurt with a small blueberry muffin. Eat on toast or, if you are throwing a party this season, serve with cheese and salty crackers! Enjoy.

The Chocolate VitaMuffin Weapon

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Why is dessert stressed spelled backwards? It’s because eating food with no nutritional value stresses us out. We feel guilty.

But because I don’t want to live in a world without chocolate, if I cheat—which I do—I try and find desserts with some nutritional benefit.

I was in New York this week to speak at a conference. While I was in New York I was reminded of all the things I did when I lived there (five very fast-paced years). The conference hotel was across the street from Rockefeller Center where I used to attend my beloved Weight Watchers meetings.

The girls in my Weight Watchers meetings were not all overweight. Many of them were just trying to lose a few pounds. But I think secretly more than anything we just loved to talk about food–because (shhh), we enjoy it. We loved our Monday lunch meetings where we would laugh the guilt away, trade tips and tricks and offer compassion when life got tough (trading stories not food related).

Every meeting at least one person would volunteer a new top secret product he/she had found and we would all lean in for the scoop. Free money. That’s what we all want. Desserts that don’t include stressed!

One day someone very enthusiastically brought up a little known treat called the VitaMuffin.

The VitaMuffin is low calorie and high fiber–so it keeps you full. It comes in a variety of flavors but the best one is chocolate. Heat up this chocolate delight in the microwave or the oven. A “diet” dessert becomes a satisfying mouthful of chocolatey goodness.  I will warn you you might want to arm yourself with skim milk to wash it down.

Jacob (partner in food crime and boyfriend) and I tend to split one. We heat it and take about a third a cup of low fat coffee frozen yogurt and mix the two together. I will warn you, dessert will never be the same. And why go to Cold Stone and bankrupt your week’s allotted cheat points when you can eat healthier versions of things that are equally satisfying! Here’s to decadent dessert!

Healthy Choco-Oat Cookies

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Last night I turned what was supposed to be a healthy indulgence into an umhealthy disaster.

Never, under any circumstances, put your finger near the blades of the immersion blender. I did this and accidentally hit on. Painful cooking lesson that ended with a trip to the ER to get “sutures.”


Me in the ER after stitches at 2am last night.

Don’t worry the cookie mix was spared.  Of course before all this I finished making the cookies.

Priorities people!

Everyone loves cookies. If someone tells you they don’t like cookies–even healthy ones–you know they are lying.

A lot of my friends are staying away from gluten.

While these cookies are probably not gluten free, they were made with the intention of having something sweet in the house that wasn’t too unhealthy.

Here is what you will need for my Choco-Oat Cookies!

1 cup fake Peanut Butter (Trader Joe’s)* I used half a cup and half a cup of chunky apple sauce.

2 eggs
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons of Agave (natural sugar replacement)
6 oz chocolate chips (I used extra dark. It’s better for you)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup I can’t believe it’s not butter
3 cups rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix together the sugar, agave, butter and beat until creamy. Watch your fingers if they are near an immersion blender! Add eggs, vanilla and baking soda  and mix. Add in fake peanut butter. Then stir in oats, chocolate chips and nuts. Add teaspoons of dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet (olive oil spray) about two inches apart. Let bake for about ten minuted. Remove from the oven and set out to cool (or put in fridge for a short amount of time).

Tastes awesome alone or if you are if you are feeling decadent–broken up and sprinkled over frozen yogurt.

Mom’s Apple Pie: The Ultimate In Comfort Food

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Apple pie is a big deal in my house.

If my mom is the ultimate comfort to this planet, her Apple Pie is the ultimate comfort food to accompany her comfort.

During Thanksgiving when I was a kid, we would drive four hours to the Idyllwild woods nestled in the California San Jacinto mountains. We would spend the week there with another family eating, hiking, playing games, watching movies, and eating some more.

The moms would spend all night and all day cooking for Thanksgiving.

My mom’s Apple Pie is always a highlight of Thanksgiving.

Her version is amazing in that it’s not too sugary sweet, it’s tart, and it tastes deliciously fresh–not processed or store bought. The crust is flakey and obviously home-made.

Mom’s apple pie [it’s Mama if we are in Savannah–sigh I have become Southern] is its dense arm goey inside, covered with a flakey crumbly crust–not too sweet. Now that I am a grown up she has passed on her “secret recipe” to me, and now I share this with you.


(I didn’t have a pie pan at the time so I made it in a regular frying pan with foil). Forgive the pic-I’m getting a new camera soon!

Pie Ingredients

  • 1 pie pan
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups crisco (or half butter half crisco)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup of sugar (a little more)
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons of ice water
  • 3lbs green apples
  • Cinnamon
  • Flour
  • Vanilla Bean Ice cream (optional)

Apple Pie Crust Directions

  • Put Flour, salt sugar in large bowl and mix with fork.
  • Cut in crisco/butter till dough is like little marbles. (Using Crisco and Butter gives the dough a nice consistency and makes it crispy and flakey).
  • Add in iced water and mix quickly with fork.
  • Divide dough into 2 parts one for the top and one for the bottom.
  • Put dough in fridge while you peel the apples. this helps it get a bit sticky.
     

Apple Mix Directions

  • Take your 3lbs apples, Green (you can mix in other kinds if you like).
  • Core and Peel.
  • Scant cup of sugar.
  • Cinnamon ( I dump some on…about a tablespoon but to taste).
  • Tbs of flour or more if the apples are very wet.
  • Mix well in large bowl.

Pie Instructions Continued (don’t worry about it looking perfect–it’s supposed to be a little uneven):

  • Take the dough out of the fridge, when cooled, and roll out half the dough on floured surface. I like to roll the dough between a couple of sheets of floured waxed paper. I put a little flour on top of the mound of dough and some under it so it does not get too sticky.
  • Put in pie pan. pour in apple mixture.
  • Dot with butter.
  • Roll out other half of dough in same manner. put on top of pie. pinch sides together and prick top of pie.
  • Put in oven 385 for about 40 minutes…or till bubble. I usually stick in a sharp knife to see how soft the apple are.
  • You should put a layer of foil under the pie as it bakes so it does not drip and get the oven all dirty.

Allow the pie to cool, cut a generous slice, top with Vanilla Bean ice cream, and serve with strong coffee. The ultimate in comfort food.

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When we visit my mom in Savannah, she starts scheming her Apple Pie months in advance. In fact Jacob, my boyfriend, will be meeting my mom for the first time (not via skype) in a few weeks, and she is already excited about the cooking she will do for us (him). :-] He can’t believe there’s a woman out there who cooks more than me. My mom is a great baker, and a great mom.

Pretty In Pink Rose Sugar at the Farmer’s Market

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Today I went to the Farmer’s Market and I stopped by my favorite salt and sugar provider, All Star Organics.

The beauty of the Farmer’s Market is the consumer’s ability to interact with the actual farmers. So Janet actually grows the rose petals that she makes the sugar with. Watch our interview to find out more!

Check out the three sugar products below.

Crisp Apple Cobbler

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The reason the creation of the “cobbler” has become a traditional culinary art is because it’s universally loved. Who doesn’t love warm gooey fruit topped with a crunchy flakey topping?

Thank God for the slow cooker–now I can actually make wonderful treats packed full of flavor with less work. The flavor from the slow cooker decreases the chef’s reliance on flavor steroids like oil, butter or any kind of cream—I know I can have that without starving my sweet tooth.

The slow cooker I have is pictured below–referred to me by Jacob’s mom Ella. This is a really affordable purchase considering the value. This small powerful machine makes your life much easier!

Cuisinart PSC-350 Programmable Slow Cooker - 3.5 Quart

Ingredients for Crisp Apple Cobbler:

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3 large red/orange organic fuji apples
2 baby granny smith apples
2 heaping tablespoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar (you can use agave or honey). My dear friend Simone gave me fancy honey which was a treat.

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2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup oats
1/3 cup of light coconut milk

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1/3 cup of Kashi cereal (any kind will due but preferably low sugar)
1/3 cup chopped walnut pieces
1/3 cup apple sauce

Directions to cook Cobbler using the Slow Cooker:

For the apple mixture:

Heat the slow cooker
Peel and cut all apples into bite size pieces
Put them in a bowl
Mix in 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, honey or brown sugar
Put apples in slow cooker on high heat

For the top of the cobbler:

Mix in oats, cereal, walnuts, apple sauce, coconut milk, and one teaspoon vanilla extract. Add or subtract according to your own taste (add raisins, or other various nuts. Use interesting oils other than vanilla (almond oil etc).
Pour over the top of the fruit in the slow cooker.

It’s supposed to be a lil messy! Here’s a photo of mine from tonight…

Let it sit for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The trick with the slow cooker is the longer you wait the better it tastes.

And wallah.

It’s warm and flavorful on the inside with that hearty crunchy kick on top. Add some 0% Fage yogurt or Trader Joe’s fat-free frozen yogurt and you will be in heaven.

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Here is what mine looked like below (notice dessert always includes Tea).

A little bite of heaven…