Archives for category: Gluten Free

Jan 20 2014 035

Last year I started working for a new client and taking a job with this group was truly a game changing decision for me.

The definition of a game changer is:  an event, idea, or procedure that affects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.

Working with the Unreasonable Institute was a game changer for me because it caused a significant shift in my current manner of thinking about nearly everything and how I live my life.

How can catering for a group of people change me so much?

The people who are involved with the Unreasonable Institute are good people.  Like I always tell my kids, “who you hang out with is important.”

I have never been around such a committed and positive group of people in my life.

The people who work at the Unreasonable Institute are good people, doing good things and having great success at it.  They are supportive and encouraging people who work tirelessly at the things they believe in.   Good people.  I can go on but that statement pretty much says it all.

Now, I am a much better person than I was before.  I am happier and work harder and it is all because I responded to a Craig’s List posting that I was not sure I wanted to respond to.  I did not want to take on retreat catering clients but I am sure glad I did for this group.

Here is a bit from the Unreasonable Institute website.

What is the Unreasonable Institute?

We exist to give entrepreneurs tackling the world’s greatest challenges an “unreasonable advantage.” How do we do this? Each year, we match a dozen carefully vetted ventures from around the world with 50 mentors (including the Chairman of Whole Foods, a guy who’s helped over 20 million people out of poverty, and a Time Magazine Hero of the Planet) and 100+ funders at 5-week bootcamps.

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After the five weeks, we provide entrepreneurs with pro-bono executive coaches, support in sustaining their relationships with relevant mentors and funders, guidance and connections from a dedicated team whose main job is to get these ventures funded, and access to our network of 250+ partners, 100+ mentors, 250+ funders, and 82 ventures from 37 countries. Our goal is to help each of these ventures scale up to meaningfully impact the lives of over 1 million people each.

I get to cook for these people and it is the best job I have ever had.  It is a privilege and an honor to work for the Unreasonable Institute.  I am cooking for my second summer for the amazing ventures, mentors, investors and Unreasonable staff and having a blast.

My granola is popular at the Unreasonable Institute so I decided to share the recipe.

Make your own granola.  It is super simple, tasty and cheaper than store bought granola.

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Make your own Tasty Granola

or

Unreasonably Easy and Tasty Granola
Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried fruit like raisins or cranberries

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Mix everything in a big bowl.

It is that simple.

Spread it out on a large cookie sheet that has been sprayed lightly with non-stick spray and bake for about 1 hour at 250 degrees.

Turn your pan around, in oven, every 20 minutes.  Stir up the granola.

Finish baking.

Feel free to get creative with your ingredients.  Add chocolate chips or make it healthier by adding hemp harts, chia seeds or flax seeds.

Jan 20 2014 010

This picture was taken last year.  I will post some great pictures in my next post of some of the wonderful people at the Institute this year.

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white chicken chili indian eggplant 032Kale is the new black.  It is so trendy I even saw a kale soda by Hansen’s on the shelf the other day.  My local market has lacinto kale, red winter kale, green kale, baby kale and many packaged snack foods made with kale.  If you go to the market late in the day where I live in Boulder Colorado it is likely the kale display will be picked over and only a few sad bunches left

The mustard greens are often left untouched.  Mustard greens are part of the cruciferous family of veggies that are powerhouse vegetables for phytochecmicals that are beneficial in a healthy heart.

Mustard greens are quick cooking and add a wonderful slightly bitter flavor to dishes.  Grab some instead of kale.

My favorite way to prepare mustard greens is a light saute in olive oil or hemp oil.  Mustard greens are also great added to soups or stews.

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A  veggie popular combination I make for my clients is a combination of baby kale, chard and mustard greens that are lightly sauteed in hemp seed oil or olive oil with just a dash of sea salt.  I remove the greens from the pan when slightly under done so that the carry over heat finishes the cooking process while the greens rest.  Mustard green take only a few minutes to saute unlike full grown kale or collard greens that take longer to cook.  Pair sauteed mustard greens with pasta, curries, soups or as a healthy side dish.  I  like to thinly slice mustard greens and add them to a salad with a sweet component such as dried cranberries or dried cherries to balance the mustard flavor.  Mustard green salads are great with dried fruits, roasted fennel or roasted sweet potatoes and can be dressed with a sweet balsamic.

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To choose perfect mustard greens look for leaves that do not have any yellow or brown spots.  Leaves should also be firm and spring back to the touch.  The color should be a bright green color for the freshest greens.

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Next time you are at the market choosing greens add some mustard greens to your cart and you will be glad you did.

May 13 2014 052

There was a  barrel of little tiny eggplant at Sprouts market recently.  My teenage daughter was with me and she delightedly exclaimed.  “Mom, look at the tiny aubergines.”  She loves to call eggplant, aubergines since she found out that is what they call them in England.  “Can we get some?”  This question surprised me so I said to her that she did not like aubergines.

Her response was to tell me they would be great in pictures.   She really knows how to get me to do what she wants.  I often purchase food just because of its photo worthy qualities.

I don’t use eggplant often in my private chef service as many people find the interior texture of cooked eggplant to be unpleasant.  Eggplant can  get a bit mushy inside.  I thought I would try these new small eggplant and see what the flavor and texture were like.

I cut the small veggies  into half and tossed them in olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar and sea salt and let them marinate for about an hour and grilled the eggplant at a high temperature.

The interior texture was firm and flavorful.  Most of my eggplant haters loved these tiny aubergines.  I found out they were called Indian eggplant.

I can see why these smaller eggplant are used in Indian cuisine.  They hold a firmer texture in sauces but still soak up the flavors.  The larger eggplant sold in grocery stores would not be very good in a thick sauce since the texture of the spongy vegetable would become too mushy.  Try these little veggies next time you are making a curry or grilling.

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Ribs, Paleo Meatloaf, asp veggies 071Every time I make this dish it is always a little different.  The flavor combinations of green chile, creamy white beans, tender chicken and earthy cumin come together perfectly in this light summer chili but my earlier versions of this dish were good but not great and I wanted  to keep tweaking the recipe until it was amazing.    I have finally found the perfect combination of meat, beans, smoky veggies, spicy chile and flavorful cumin with this latest version.

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The first change I made was to use ground chicken instead of diced chicken.  This chili recipe is good with diced grilled chicken thighs  but the cumin permeates the ground chicken and creates a  chili  with an amazing taste.

The next change I made was to brine my beans before cooking.  I  like the flavor and texture of  beans from a can where the beans have a whole structure with a creamy interior and great flavor.  When I cook dried beans to get them as tender as canned beans I would usually have to cook them until they fall apart.

Then I found out about brining  beans before cooking.  I often brine meats before cooking especially if you buy free range chickens or fresh heritage pork.  These meats are not commercially brined and can turn out tough if not cooked  carefully.   Brining  will also distribute flavor through out the meat and help your meat  stay tender.  Same technique evidently works with dried beans as well.   The bean will stay whole and the interior is creamy and perfectly seasoned.

This is a link to an earlier post on brining meats.

 Cider brined chicken and the trans-formative power of salt.

Brining beans is a new technique for me and  is one of those kitchen skills that is useful for making perfectly cooked foods and saves money.  Cooks Illustrated has this great video on the how and whys of brining beans.  I highly suggest you try it next time you cook dried beans.

You are welcome to use canned beans but I just wanted to share this bean cooking revelation so when you do have extra time or want to save money you can cook dried beans perfectly.

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Amazing White Chicken Chili with Grilled Veggies, White Beans and Poblano Chilies

Serves 8-12

2 lbs ground chicken (I use a combination of thigh meat and breast meat)

1 large red onion cut into large circles

3 medium zucchini sliced lengthwise in half

3 bell peppers cut in half (I like to use a combination of red, yellow and orange)

4 poblano chilies or 1 cup fire roasted green chile from a can like Hatch Fire Roasted Green Chile

3 carrots peeled and cut in half lengthwise

2 15oz cans of white beans or 1/2 lb white beans brined and cooked ahead of time

1 24 oz can of Muir Glen fire roasted and crushed tomatoes

2 tbs avocado oil, canola oil or olive oil

1 tbs ground cumin

1 cup chicken broth, stock or water

fresh cilantro, sour cream and jack cheese to garnish

Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Heat the grill to cook the veggies.  While your grill is heating start browning the ground chicken in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot with 1 tbs avocado oil and season with sea salt the pepper.

If you do not have a grill you can use a grill pan, roast your veggies in a hot oven or buy them grilled at Whole Foods or your local specialty store that has such wonderful luxury items as grilled fresh veggies.

Toss the veggies in  1 tbs avocado oil and season with salt and pepper.  When you grill your veggies for the chile make sure your grill is very hot because you will just be marking the veggies and getting a good smoked flavor in them.  The veggies do not necessarily need to be cooked through on the grill since they will finish cooking in the chile and if you under cook your veggies on the grill they will hold together better in the chile.

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The  poblano chiles should be cooked much longer than the rest of the veggies since you want to get the outside skin blackened over at least 60 percent of the chile.

While your veggies are cooling add broth, beans, cumin, roasted tomato, to the ground chicken.

Dice the zucchini, onions. bell peppers and carrots into a small dice.  Peel the black skin off the poblano chilies and dice into a small dice as well.  Here is a good article on roasting and peeling bell peppers and chilies.  How to peel poblano peppers.

Add diced veggies into your chile and taste for seasoning.

Add salt and pepper as desired.

Let chile simmer for about 10 minutes and serve hot topped with cheese, fresh cilantro or sour cream.

 

Just a quick note on a new pantry item that I cannot do without.  I buy this tasty oil at my local Costco.  Hope you can find it in your local store or buy it at Chosen Foods online.  Avocado oil makes perfect salad dressings and is also great for high heat cooking.  Popcorn turns out sublime when made in avocado oil.  It does not have a strong flavor but adds a nice creamy flavor to foods.

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Personal chef Quinoa Bars 122

A common mental image of a “hacker” is a computer geek who uses his computer to get unauthorized data.  Thankfully. the term “hacker” no longer applies only to computer geeks.

This term has a completely new meaning that I embrace and embody in my everyday life and my career.  It is a beautiful thing.

The term hacking can also be used to describe someone who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities.  Now that is what I am talking about!

My darling friend Cesar asked me to make some food for a retreat he was organizing.  He wanted some delish and healthy meals and snacks.  I wanted to try something new for snack ideas.  Here is a picture of Cesar enjoying one of my meals at the Unreasonable Institute retreat this summer.

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My other darling friend Pascal has a recipe on his fridge for quinoa snack bars.  I did not have a copy of the recipe but could remember the basics of the recipe and decided to give it a hack.  You should check out Pascal’s website Make Awesome Shit Happen.

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Using ingredients I had in the pantry and pulling out my food processor I got to work.  I was surprised at what a “healthy hack” this snack turned out to be.  “Healthy hacking” means when you get a result in the kitchen making fantastic food with beautiful ingredients that does not take hours of time or years of skill.  I delight in finding recipes that are similar to expensive convenience items and are simple to make and cost a fraction of the retail price.

These healthy and tasty bars are a great “kitchen hack.”    Packed full of ground flax seed, organic toasted nuts, dried organic fruit, dried coconut flakes, Justin’s almond butter and agave nectar this is a powerhouse snack.

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TRY THIS RECIPE.  Kids love it, you will love it and give some to your friends and they will love you more!

I urge you to step into your kitchen and hack away.  No, I do not mean you should wield you knife in an unsafe manner but approach your cooking with a mindset that  embodies excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration.  Have Fun!

This a gluten free, paleo snack that is also vegan.

Quinoa Fruit and Nut Bars

Makes 12 Bars

Prep time 10 minutes

10 minutes to set

20 minutes to enjoying a yummy and healthy snack.

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Ingredients:

3 cups dried fruit, you can use apricots, cranberries, raisins, dates or any other moist dried fruit

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 cups nuts, I used almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds and you can toast them or use them raw for a healthier hack

1/2 cup organic quinoa

1/2 cup organic flax seeds

1/4 tsp sea salt

2 tbs agave nector

4 tbs Justin’s Almond Butter, I could say to use any almond butter but for best results use Justin’s.

A great kitchen hack for baking and prep is to use a flexible cutting board, silpat baking sheet or parchment to measure out your ingredients.

Then you can just lift up the flexible surface and pour into your food processor or mixer without a mess or losing any ingredients.  So easy and simple

1.  Grind the flax seeds for about 2 minutes.

2.  Add Nuts, Quinoa and dried fruit then grind for another 2 minutes.

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3.  Add coconut, salt, agave and nut butter and mix for 2 more minutes.

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4.  Line a 11 x 7 inch rectangular pan or any other similar size pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Spray lightly with non-stick spray.

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5.  Add quinoa bar mixture to the pan and press it flat.

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6.  Set pan in freezer for 10 minutes or refrigerator for 1 hour to set the mixture and make it easier to cut.

Lara Bars and Bread 032Bars may be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month or in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Personal chef Quinoa Bars 126 About a week after the retreat I received this email from Cesar.

Connie,

Here is a photo of both my sisters and one of their fiancees with your snack bars in Argentina!  I brought the left over ones as a travel snack and had enough to share, and the girls loved them  would you mind sharing the recipe with us?lara bars girlsThis was a very nice email to receive.  I love the fact that those healthy bars made it down to Argentina to these beautiful young people!!!

Since we are on the subject of hacking let me tell you about a happy discovery in my life.  My husband recently found a hacker space in our town.  Solid State Depot is the hacker space here in Boulder Colorado.

What is a hacker space?

From the website LifeHacker I found this description of a hacker space.  They also list hacker spaces around the country.

“Great DIY projects  are often easy to do at home, but many require tools and space that you may not have. Just because you don’t have a basement workshop doesn’t mean you don’t get to scratch your DIY itch. Odds are there’s a hackerspace in your community, stocked with tools, plenty of space, safety gear, and knowledgeable people willing to help you. These spaces offer would-be makers a place to go and safely experiment, tinker, and dream. Here’s how you can find and get involved with one near you.”

Check out your local hacker space today!

Pad ThaiLast week I cooked for the folks at the Unreasonable Institute again.  You gotta love catering for a group of people where most of them give you a big hug when they see you!   Makes the job so much nicer.

I decided to make Pad Thai.  This is one of my favorite foods.  Quick and easy, Pad Thai is a great week night supper.  This dish may seem complicated with its unique Thai flavors but is actually a pretty simple dish to make.

Since Pad Thai makes use of the veggies you have on-hand and eggs it is a simple and inexpensive dish.  Eggs are a great source of cheap protein.  You can also prep your ingredients up to a day before and assemble and heat the day you serve the dish.  I will make up a bottle of Pad Thai sauce and keep in the fridge for 2 weeks to make salad dressing and other Asian dishes.

To further simplify this dish you can buy a roasted chicken at Whole Foods or one of those yummy cheap ones from Costco and even go so far as to buy the pre-cut veggies in the produce section.  This way you can  cook the noodles, saute your veggies and make sauce.

How to cook rice noodles:

Rice noodles cook differently than wheat noodles.  They are more delicate.

Bring a pot of about 4-5 quarts of water to a boil.  In another pot add your noodles.  Pour hot water over noodles and let sit for about 8 minutes.  You want to under cook your noodles a little bit as the noodles will finish cooking in the sauce when you stir fry your Pad Thai together.

Give your noodles a taste after 5-6 minutes and drain when they are tender but still seem a bit underdone.  Toss with sesame oil, canola oil or olive oil and set aside.  Make sure to toss noodles well in oil as you do not want them to stick together in a huge clump!

Prep what ever veggies you may have on hand.  I shred carrots on a cheese grater with the big holes.  Thinly slice celery, onions, bell pepper, mushrooms or bok choy.  If I add broccoli I will par cook the broccoli ahead of time until just tender crisp and pull apart the broccoli to make small pieces.  Wash your mung bean sprouts, cilantro and fine dice some cucumbers before cooking.  Toppings on Pad Thai give it bright flavors and intriguing crunchy bits like fresh cucumber or chopped peanuts.

I like to use chicken thighs in Pad Thai.  Roast bone-less  skin less  chicken thighs in the oven and dice them in a small dice.  This step can be done up to 1 day ahead of time.  I will usually plan to make a dish with chicken the day before and reserve 4-5 thighs for the Pad Thai the next day.

You can use shrimp, roasted chicken, sautéed and diced cooked chicken breasts or any other protein you enjoy like diced extra firm tofu.   Pad Thai is a great dish to clean out the fridge and just use what you have on hand.

Recipe yields about 3 cups sauce.  Use within two weeks or freeze for later.

1/4 cup Yoshida Sauce or other sweet teriyaki sauce

1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup good tomato paste

2 tbs soy sauce

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

2 tbs fish sauce

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

1/4 cup minced fresh green onions

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tbs good toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup canola oil

1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce (just one chili not the whole can!) This adds a nice smokey and sweet taste to your pad thai sauce.   It is not traditional but very yummy.

Put everything in a blender or food processor and pulse until blended but still a bit chunky.  I will add the cilantro and green onions at the end and just pulse a few times after adding the herbs if I use a food processor.

Pad Thai Recipe

1 box thick rice noodles like Annie Chung brand.

4 eggs lightly scrambled

Veggies diced all the same size if possible up to 4 cups

I will use bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, carrots, onions, chard, cabbage or anything else  you have on hand.

4 cooked chicken thighs diced

2 tbs canola oil

Cook noodles as per directions on box and set aside.  Make sure to toss noodles in 1 tbs oil so they do not stick together.

Sautee veggies in 1 tbs oil in wok or large skillet.  When veggies are tender crisp but not fully cooked add chicken and sauce.  Stir to mix.  Bring to a simmer and add noodles.  Toss to coat and serve.

I like to serve Pad Thai topped with ground peanuts, mung bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, fresh lime wedges and diced cucumber.

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For the past 5 or 6 years I have been working 60+ hour weeks.  I did not get much time to spend with my kids.  I have remedied that.  It is important to me to spend as much time with both of my kids as I possibly can.  I am also spending as much time exercising as I can.  I have decided to combine the two activities and so my son and I are starting to hike the trails around Boulder nearly every afternoon.  Like all 12-year-old boys my son loves sweets.

March 14 2013 084I can often tempt him on a long and arduous hike if I promise a treat.  My son loves Gelato.  This is always a good temptation.  He wants to tour Italy and review Gelato.  Seriously, and he is only 12.  I love this kid.  I told him that we first had to start reviewing local shops that serve Gelato.  Our first choice was Lucky’s Bakehouse in North Boulder.

March 14 2013 069First we hit the trail above Wonderland lake and after a one hour hike headed for gelato.

Lucky’s Bakehouse opened in our neighborhood last year in November.  We have been there several times.  They make all of the baked goods from scratch with great ingredients.  Everything is creative and pretty.  The Chef Jen Bush is a creative baker who designs beautiful as well as tasty pastries, cakes, pies, bars and other treats.

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Ben sampled several gelato and ice cream flavors.  Lucky’s makes all of the gelato and ice cream in-house from scratch and uses local ingredients as much as possible.

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Ben chose Mango Gelato.  Ben described this gelato as not too sweet and a little tangy.  He said it was cool and refreshing after his hike.

March 14 2013 093Light and fluffy he said the gelato had a strong mango flavors and tasted as if it were made with fresh fruit.

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Next week sampled Two Spoons Gelato Shop on Pearl Street.   This place is really great.  Every flavor we sampled was excellent.  They also use local ingredients and organic as well.

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Ben chose  the raspberry lemon gelato.

March 28 2013 157Ben says this gelato made him feel alive.

March 28 2013 151He said it was bright with clean raspberry and lemon flavors.

March 28 2013 148Powerful flavors and not too sweet.  Very tangy and lively.

March 28 2013 174He said there was the right amount of sweet and tangy.  This gelato got two thumbs up!

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Before visiting Two Spoons we walked up the Boulder Creek trail for over an hour.

As for the two gelato shops Ben’s opinion was that he liked Two Spoons better.  Maybe it was the bigger serving?  Ben also said he liked Lucky’s since he could get other things as well, like a donut.  This kid loves his donuts.  We have heard that the Justin’s Peanut Butter ice cream at Lucky’s is literally to die for so maybe another long hike and visit to Lucky’s needs to be scheduled.  When going for gelato we will be heading down to Pearl Street to visit Two Spoons.  When my daughter read this post she wanted to leave and go to Two Spoons right away.  I am making her hike Mount Sanitas first!  For those of you familiar with this hike you know she will be earning her gelato.

I love to combine exercise, time with my sweet kids and food reviewing all in one.  It just does not get any better than this.

March 28 2013 180I have made many flourless chocolate cakes in my career.  I love the ease of a flourless chocolate cake and when you use exceptional chocolate the result is a dense and flavorful cake that all of your guests will love.

I can finally say that I have developed the perfect flourless chocolate cake recipe.  I have made many recipes from Martha Stewart to Rose Levy Barenbaum and this recipe takes all of the best parts of those recipes to create not only a delicious cake but an easy cake.

This cake is so easy you would not say it was unreasonable at all.

The people who I served this cake were definitely unreasonable in the best possible way.

I was catering recently for a group from the Unreasonable Institute.  If you have not heard about this group, check them out.  Amazing….is all I have to say.  I spent at least 3 hours just looking at all of the entrepreneurs they have helped with their program the first time I went to their website.

This is what it says on their website:  “We get world-changing ventures and entrepreneurs what they need to scale their impact. Each year, we unite 10-30 entrepreneurs (called “Unreasonable Fellows”) from every corner of the globe to live under the same roof for six weeks in Boulder, Colorado. These entrepreneurs receive customized training and support from 50 world-class mentors, ranging from a Time Magazine Hero of the Planet, to the head of user experience at Google X, to an entrepreneur who’s enabled over 20 million farmers to move out of poverty. In the process, they form relationships with corporations and international organizations, receive legal advice & design consulting, and get in front of hundreds of potential funders. Our goal is to bring all the resources to accelerate these ventures so they can scale to meet the needs of at least one million people each.”

How cool is that..

Here are a few of the ventures they have helped out:

Worms 4 Change

Replicable vermicomposting production and training model to promote health and development in rural and urban communities

Initiative for the Development of Former Child Soldiers (IDEFOCS)

Restoration of peace & security in West Africa through Former child soldiers’ rehabilitation & reintegration.

Lili Dairy

Empowering Women Through Dairy Farming

The list goes on and on.

I had the privilege to cater for this group and the one dish they raved about most was the flourless chocolate cake.  I agreed to share the recipe.

Very Simple Flourless Chocolate Cake

8 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
8 oz 60% cacao chocolate chips (I used Costco Brand which I love..)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup very hot and very strong coffee
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons unsweetened organic cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli again)
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tbs vanilla extract
1 tbs whiskey (I used Jack Daniels)
Instructions:
 Pre heat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 10-cup Springform pan by lining the bottom with buttered parchment
Break up the unsweetened chocolate into pieces and put the chocolate into the bowl of the food processor or blender. Add the chocolate chips as well.  Pulse until the chocolate breaks up into small bits. Add the sugar. Pulse until the chocolate and sugar turns into a sandy grain.
Pour the hot water or coffee slowly into the feed tube as you pulse again. Pulse until the chocolate is melted.
Add the butter pieces and the cocoa powder, and pulse to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla, whisky and process till smooth. The batter will be liquid and creamy.
Pour the batter into the lined Springform pan. Wrap the outside of the whole pan with a big piece of foil. Bake at 350º  in the center of the oven, till puffed about 45-55 minutes.
Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove from pan and let cake cool on rack for 1 hour.  Best when refrigerated over night wrapped in plastic wrap.  Top with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar or berries.
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Poppy Cafe Scallops, brussels, etc 366

I would step into the kitchen when I worked at Lucky’s Market my eyes would narrow when seeing Fernando.  You could cut the tension in the air.  He would glare back at me.  We would work together with minimal pleasantries but only because that was the professional way to handle our mutual dislike of each other.

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Here is Fernando making  perfect potato latkes.

Why did we dislike each other? I am not going to venture to guess.   Too many chefs in the kitchen?

We are now the best of friends.  It is funny to see the look of confusion some people at Lucky’s Market get when I come in to see Fernando and usually bring him a treat like some home-made bread or caramel candies.  I am  glad we are now good friends.

Fernando is a talented chef whose palate is educated.  I love eating with him because he has great input on reviewing food.

When we were eating at a local restaurant recently we decided to go out more often and then I said “why don’t we do reviews on my blog together?’

Any excuse to go out to eat with friends.

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The restaurant we visited on Tuesday evening is a newer restaurant in Boulder.  The Poppy Cafe opened in November of last year.  The menu is designed as mostly gluten-free but you cannot tell unless you are looking for gluten-free.   The Poppy Cafe offers healthy, scratch made food using only the best ingredients.

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Fernando and I agreed that of the dishes we tried the brussels sprouts were our favorite.  Honey glazed brussels sprouts with rosemary and walnuts are a sublime combination.  The sprouts were roasted to perfection.  The sweet glaze and earthy rosemary mingled in my taste buds.  This is truly a happy making dish.

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We also tried the crab stuffed, bacon wrapped shrimp.  Of course this dish was excellent. The slightly crunchy and salty bacon gives way to sweet shrimp and then you taste even sweeter crab meat.  All of this deliciousness are napped in a pesto cream sauce.  Oh my….

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The sesame scallops were seared perfectly with a light sesame flavor that still allowed you to taste the fresh flavor of the sea in the scallops.

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We had a small plate of gorgonzola cheese, olives and walnuts which are some of my favorite foods combined.  I think I ate most of that dish.

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The petite Beef Wellington in a demi glace were delicious.  This classic dish with tender beef  wrapped in puff pastry with mushroom duxelle and served with demi glace is made perfect at the Poppy Cafe.

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The quality of the food is not reflected in the prices.  This restaurant offers fantastic food at very reasonable prices.

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During happy hour they also offer bottomless glasses of wine.  The house wine is Douglas Hill so those bottomless glasses of wine go down easy!

The Poppy Cafe is located at 38th and Arapahoe in the beautiful Peleton complex in Boulder Colorado.

March 5 2013 161

I happened to hear a conversation my daughter was having with one of her friends.  The girl who was visiting us said to Maddy, “You guys don’t have any snacks?”  They were looking for something to eat in the cabinet.  My cabinet is filled with foods to make snacks but nothing prepared.  Sure, we sometimes have chips or pretzels but not all of the snack foods most people have in their houses.

This statement made me laugh because I remember when I was about 14 and my friend Jenifer was over to visit.  We stood in our huge dry storage area of the converted farmhouse my family lived in.

This was my mother’s domain.  For those of you who do not know my mother she is a formidable force of nature.  We grew up on a 5 acre subsistence farm.  We grew or raised most of what we ate.  My mom did most of the work.!

Jenifer was saying, “your family does not have any snacks.”

Our dry storage contained big huge bags of flour, big bags of beans and beautiful canning jars full of produce from our garden.  I remember loving to see how the light played off of the different colors in the jars.  Red tomatoes, dark green beans, yellow summer squash and purple beets all lined the shelves.  There were no Doritos.

When I would go to Jenifer’s house I would feel as if I stepped into the Plaza Hotel.  They had individual slices of cheese in plastic, single yogurts and chips and crackers.  How very fancy it seemed to me.  Don’t get me wrong, Jenifer’s mom fed her great food but it just seemed so fancy to me to have snacks.  My family could not afford these things for all 5 of us kids.  Sliced deli meat was a luxury that only came once or twice a year.  Grapes from the grocery store were descended on like a fallen gazelle by a pack of lions when my mom dared to bring them home from the store.

My need to make snacks from scratch also arises from not wanting to pay the grocery store prices for snacks but also that I want my family to eat well.

Making chips from scratch is a breeze if you have a mandolin. This is the one that I have but there are much cheaper ones that work great as well. French Mandolin.   I use my constantly.  It makes things much easier.  If you hand cut chips or fries it takes too long!  At least for me as a chef I cannot stand tasks that are too laborious or slow.  I am usually moving in high-speed.  I will slice the potatoes and let rest in extra cold water for about an hour.

Then I will place a rack over my sink and let the potatoes drain for an hour or so.  I also do this for fries. March 5 2013 159

Then you do not need to pat the potatoes down with a bunch of paper towels and all of the water evaporates off.

I pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Oil a pan with coconut oil.  Do not use too much oil.  Coconut oil is great because you do not need to use much.  I only oil the bottom of a cookie sheet and do not toss the chips to coat.  When they are half way done I just flip the chips to crisp the top when the bottom is crisp.

This will take about 15 minutes.  When chips are hot out of the oven add garlic, shredded parmesan and salt or any other creative flavors you can think of but add when hot so it sticks.

Let cool on a rack and enjoy.

March 5 2013 174

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