Dr. Seuss Day Fun with Kaleidoscope Cake

Dr. Seuss Day Fun with Kaleidoscope Cake

On this day, 116 years ago, Theodor Seuss Geisel was born – or as we all affectionately know him, Dr. Seuss. If you do car pick up at a little one’s school, this day on the calendar all but guarantees you’ll see a Cat and the Hat…or two….

Dr. Suess stories are filled with crazy colors, bright swirls of truffula trees and green eggs and ham. The books are a little psychedelic when you think about it…kinda groovy.

It got me thinking of the most colorful recipe I know, my Tie-Dye or “Kaleidoscope Cake”. Because of the half dozen bright food gel colors in the recipe, it’s kind of like looking through a kaleidoscope when you make it, or when you’re eating it. Forkfuls of this cake feel like play-time, no matter your age.

Believe me, you would eat this cake in a boat…or with a goat! Here’s how it looks before I ice it!

And while it bakes, here’s a little game you can play with your children or grandchildren.

Ask them a food they’d never eat and steal a little rhyme from Green Eggs and Ham.

Example: “I would not eat Brussels sprouts here nor there, I would not eat them anywhere.”

And if you can, use this special day in American classrooms to volunteer to read to the kids.

I have, and it’s an out of this world feeling wherein my heart grows even bigger than the Grinch’s when he gives back Christmas.

Here’s a volunteer organization that helps match readers with schools across the country.

If ReadingPartners is not available in your state, inquire at your child’s school about getting a background check and cleared to volunteer.  And if you’re a busy bee and would rather donate to a worthy cause, I can’t think of a better one than Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which gives the gift of literacy to children who need a little help coming by books.

Have fun with your groovy, tie-dye Kaleidoscope Cake as we all March onward to a happy Spring! XOXO

Kaleidoscope Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves 8 to 12

20 minute cuisine, plus baking and decorating time

For the Cake

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon table salt

6 large egg whites

¾ cup milk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, or 1 ½ stick, room temperature

1 ½ cups all natural granulated sugar

6 bright gel food colors

 

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Coat the bottom of 2 (9-inch) diameter cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Cut out circles of parchment paper to fit into the bottom of the pans and spray again.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together the egg whites, milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in another bowl.

Use the paddle attachment of an electric mixer to combine butter with the granulated sugar until fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in 1/3 of the dry ingredients and ½ of the wet ingredients into the creamed butter and sugar. When combined, mix in 1/3 of the dry ingredients with the remaining wet ingredients. Finally, mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

Divide the batter into 6 bowls. Color each with a gel color. Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls into the pans. Start at the outside of the pan and circle into the middle. Bake until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Remove parchment paper.

For the Frosting

8 tablespoons (1 stick), room temperature

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Place the cream cheese and remaining stick of butter into the bowl of an electric mixer to combine. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Place one of the cakes onto a cake plate. Spread frosting over the top. Place the second cake on top of the first. Spread the frosting on the sides and top of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for up to 5 days.

New Year, Old Friends and the Birth of This Book

New Year, Old Friends and the Birth of This Book

Canvas and Cuisine: the art of the fresh market is available for pre-sale directly from the publisher and will be available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon at the beginning of the year.

 

My dear friend, Sue Fazio and I decided to collaborate on what we call our “kitchen table book”, and, after two years of feverish painting, painstaking recipe testing, and a deliberate and dedicated publishing process, it’s finally here!

Canvas and Cuisine: the art of the fresh market is part coffee table book and part travelogue. It is a visually delicious, delectably readable cookbook that pays tribute to what may be the world’s most important treasure: fresh, locally grown food.

This book is SO MUCH FUN!! Here’s a picture from its pages:

Cobblestone streets, winding down the Italian seaside town of Positano where merchants run their farmer’s markets. The burst of color, and depth of texture shows a certain zest for life.

You can take your finds at these open air markets and make mouth-watering food. Canvas and Cuisine ensnares the senses of both the cook and the artist. You don’t have to be one or the other to appreciate fresh ingredients at the heart of every recipe; this is but the preface of a great culinary tale.

I tell that tale in anecdotes of our travels, and Sue tells it with her paintbrushes. I’d give you a few hints of the crazy stuff in this book, but I’ll leave it at this: Sue and I make Lucy and Ethel look tame!

But, here’s the most important thing of all to say about this book. It would not have been possible without our great influencer, Marti Huizenga.

If you’re very lucky, once in your lifetime, you’ll meet a person that molds you into the somebody you want to become, simply by example. That person will have such a positive impact on you, that you will be forever changed.

Sue and I are lucky to have known and grown through our friendship with Marti. Together with her husband, Wayne, she hugged us into their circle, bringing us along on their adventures. (And, man, were there a ton of adventures!) All the way, they were demonstrating their generosity. Their legendary monetary generosity is well documented. But not everyone was privy to Marti’s generosity of spirit, her compassion for critters big and small and most important, her generosity of friendship.

It is because of Marti that Sue and I met so many years ago, and it is because of Marti’s inspiration and influence, that Sue and I proudly donate the proceeds from Canvas & Cuisine: the art of the fresh market to our charities, the Boys and Girls Club of Hendersonville, North Carolina and Hospitality House of Avery County, North Carolina.

Marti and Wayne are no longer with us. They are basking in the love and light that keeps them together eternally. We have dedicated Canvas and Cuisine to Marti, with love and wonderful memories of a life well-lived. Her voice is forever in our hearts.

We are truly hopeful that you will enjoy the book as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

Love,

Jorj & Sue

 

 

Cookin’ with Love for Boone, NC!

Cookin’ with Love for Boone, NC!

I’m front row, left: this is at Linville Ridge Country Club where we cook for Hospitality House.

Twice this summer, residents of Linville Ridge will invade our Chef’s kitchen and cook dinner for over 100 clients of Hospitality House. This past class, we had over twenty-five participants (including a much loved, precocious 9-year old), and man did we do it up!

The menu included dense cornbread smothered in a cinnamon and honey-butter glaze, a tortellini pasta salad that has been my summer picnic go-to for decades, my (award-winning) chunky pork and butternut squash chili, and a nutty, chocolatey biscotti cookie for dessert! You can find all of these recipes in Sunday Best Dishes and at Jorj.com.

Here it is plated:

This is how we do it. First, I organize the cooking into stations; one station for each dish. Because we’re feeding so many, it’s easy to find enough chores per dish to include five or six people at each station. My secret is to take everyone out of their comfort zones. I find out who loves to bake, and scoot them over to the salad station. Those who love to sauté move right over to that bad-ass mixer. The idea is that everyone learns a little something new to play around with at home. Everyone samples the meal and takes home the recipes. There are aprons and cookbooks as party favors. I am always overwhelmed by the generous donations.

They are necessary! We’re about to embark on a new project: helping Hospitality House upgrade their kitchen into one that is not only functional, but that can support teaching culinary skills and perhaps even help feed others in our community. It’s ambitious…. so, I’ll keep you posted!

Here is the tortellini recipe I made with my class. Enjoy as a light supper, or as a satisfying side dish. Easy preparation allows for all of the ingredients to be tossed with the vinaigrette and chilled until you are ready to serve.

Pasta Salad with Southwestern Vinaigrette
serves 6 to 8
45 minute cuisine

For pasta:
1 pound cheese tortellini
½ pound hard salami, cut into ½-inch chunks
½ pound sharp white American cheddar cheese, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 (7-ounce jar) roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
For vinaigrette:
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 medium lime (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ small red onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh cilantro
¼ cup fresh spinach leaves
¼ to ½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Cook the tortellini according to the package directions. Rinse in cold water and place into a large bowl. Add the chunks of salami and cheese, and the roasted pepper and tomato halves.

Place the red wine vinegar, lime juice, red onion, garlic, honey, cilantro and spinach leaves into the bowl of a food processor and blender. Pulse to combine. Add the olive oil through the feed tube, a little at a time. The vinaigrette should be thick and completely emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour ¾ of the dressing over the pasta and toss to combine. Chill the salad until you are ready to serve.

Bring to room temperature, and toss with the remaining salad dressing for maximum flavor explosion!!!

Fundraising Walk for South Africa Came With New Found Love for Hot Tea & Bobotie

Fundraising Walk for South Africa Came With New Found Love for Hot Tea & Bobotie

This blog is posted with World Water Day in mind, March 22, 2017

I love to get involved in philanthropy because I find that the more generous I am, the more I learn about the world – and the more fun I have! Case in point, I sponsored a friend on her fundraising walk for South African women, through Care.org. On the tails of this global effort comes Word Water Day, created over 20 years ago by the United Nations. Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. While my friend raised just shy of her goal, she was still proud, acknowledging:

 

At first, a small amount seems inconsequential, but then again…any amount of money or awareness raised means something. Every full bucket is filled with many drops!

 

The CARE Walk benefited women and girls who lack easy access to fresh water. Every day they lose time from work and school, setting off on foot to find and carry home around five gallons per day. The walk, my friend told me, averages about 10,000 daily steps for these women – that’s about five miles! The fundraising campaign was called #WalkInHerShoes. For a week, my friend walked in solidarity with the people of South Africa, toting back gallons of water. Along the way, she learned several things; among them: doing this gives one more toning and weight building results than you can get at the gym; that she and her fellow Westerners are incredibly lucky, and last but not least, African cuisine is darn good!

 

Just to mix things up, and carry a suitable amount of weight back on one of her journeys, my friend walked to a South African grocery and café in Ft. Lauderdale, called A Meal in A Pie, and had them pack an order of traditional Bobotie – to go!

Bobotie, pictured above, is a classic in South Africa – it’s both savory and sweet, and so delicious that my friend tells me her pie did not make it home intact. If I have any South Florida friends reading this post, you can easily check out this grocery store, near Oakland Park and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Again, it’s called Meal-in-A-Pie, and is tucked away in a beachy neighborhood. There is no website, but I’m told the food speaks loudly enough for itself.

You can also get DELICIOUS herbal rooibos tea there – it’s so sweet, the honey aroma of it lingers long after the kettle is drained.

So much of South African cuisine is blended with Great Britain’s. In Bobotie, imagine, a shepherd’s pie with the sweet tang of chutney, and the yummy crunch of almonds. In this recipe for Bobotie, I found that you can swap the apricot jam with my own recipe for apple chutney.

Tea time is just marvelous with apple chutney slathered on club crackers. You read it here first! But if you don’t want to do any of the work to taste South Africa, there’s always BOMA restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. Further south, there’s a four star South African restaurant, called The Big Easy that just opened in the Brickell City Centre of Miami. I’ll keep an eye out for Anthony Bourdain! Cheers, and here’s my recipe for chutney.

Jorj’s Apple Chutney

12 small apples, peeled, cored and diced, about 8 cups

2 small white onions, peeled and diced, about 2 cups

1 (4-inch piece) fresh ginger, peeled and grated, about 4 tablespoons

2 cups orange juice

1 ½ cups cider vinegar

2 cups brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground mustard

½ teaspoon ground red pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups raisins.

Place apples, onions and ginger into a large pot. Add the OJ, cider vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, red pepper and kosher salt.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

Stir in 1 ½ cups raisins.

Store in an airtight mason jar and keep in the refrigerator once opened. The chutney should last as long as the jellies and jams you may have in there.

The Nana Network Gives Back: We Loved Helping Vance High’s New Golf Team!

The Nana Network Gives Back: We Loved Helping Vance High’s New Golf Team!

Most of us contribute to charities, school fundraisers, community projects and our churches on a regular basis. “Giving back” is part of our culture; but, every once in a while, an opportunity for “hands on help” presents itself.

Me, Jorj (second from the right) with Coach Smith and trio of new Vance High School Golfers!

Last week, while infusing my early morning coffee, I watched a story on Vance High School’s coach trying to start up a girls’ golf team—the first all-girl golf team this Charlotte, North Carolina school has ever known! The girls (five of them) were present and willing, but the budget was sorely lacking. The coach made an appeal for used golf equipment, “clubs, bags, balls tees, shoes… anything.”

Ding, ding, ding! If there is one thing a mountain top golf community has it is extra clubs – but how to get the word out? It takes a village they say. Well, I say it takes a Network, a “Nana Network” to be exact. I knew I could find dozens of fellow grandparents on my Ladies Golf Association email list that would be happy to help these young ladies. The LGA list is normally used to communicate upcoming tournaments and results, but within a few minutes, the call went out for donations, and—just as I knew it would—help came pouring in!

Within 24 hours I had a garage full of equipment for the girls. Within 48 hours we had met their needs and more. Within 72 hours the cash started rolling in, and by day four I was packing up my car and driving to meet the coach.

Bound for Vance High School!

Bound for Vance High School!

It is heartwarming to know how much everyone wanted to help. It is about golf, a sport that teaches patience and etiquette, as well as team camaraderie.  But, it is also about helping a girl have a chance to learn a sport that may open a door for her later on in life.  One of the team members that I met told me that she had never swung a golf club, but she has watched a lot of golf on TV.

Now she has a chance to experience in life what she could only watch others perform.

If you are moved like I was to pay it forward and help get this cool new golf team off the ground, it is not too late!! The high school is selling T-shirts now through September 1, 2014. For $20 you can get a T that says “Vance Golf” on the front and features a list of generous sponsors (like you!) on the back. Make your check payable to “Vance Athletic Booster Club (Golf)” and address the envelope as follows:

c/o Jerry Smith / Golf Coach
Vance High School
7600 IBM Drive
Charlotte, NC 28262

As for me and my loyal band of gal pals, who like golfing almost as much as we like gnoshing, we will continue to follow the Vance High School Girls’ Golf Team and maybe, just maybe by the end of the season, they can visit our Nana Network, and give us a golf tip or two!

Knead to Feed

Knead to Feed

Many of us love to cook for children, for friends, and if you are like me just for fun! Our kids grow into adults with fast and furious schedules that lead to fast and furious meals. Dinner parties for friends evolve into, “let’s get together for cocktails and then go out to a restaurant.” Even cooking for hubby has its drawbacks – it’s hard to splurge on a rich red wine sauce and add in a decadent dessert on a Tuesday night!

Still, the need to feed exists and the hunger must be satisfied.

The statistics are staggering: millions of children go to bed hungry. Millions of seniors do not get enough nutrition in their meals. Many more millions of parents cannot feed their families. Yet there are cooks like you and me that have the means, the skills, and the passion to fill this need. All we have to do is bring together the cooks and the hungry to achieve lots of smiling faces and full tummies.

Let’s start with the basics, cookie baking. Home-baked cookies fill empty tummies with wholesome ingredients. It only takes a minute to think of someone who would love to eat a cookie or two with a glass of chilled milk or a cup of hot tea. The best part about baking and sharing cookies is that you can do it in minutes and it provides an abundance of smiling memories. Share with a friend whose family is coming for the weekend, or as a take-home thank you for a repairman that’s been in your home. How about dropping a batch to a busy mom, or a friend that’s by themselves? Cookies are perfect for everywhere you go and everyone you see.

I’ll start with an easy recipe for Ginger Cookies that I adapted from Chef Mary at Frederica Resort in Sea Island, GA. These cookies are wonderful to stack and pack, and nothing says comfort like a home-baked cookie.


Ginger Cookies

Yields 3 dozen cookies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 ½ sticks
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • Granulated sugar

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to whip the butter until creamy. Mix in the brown sugar, molasses, and egg. Add the flour in three additions until just combined. The batter will be sticky.

Use a tablespoon to scoop the batter into 1 ½-inch balls. Roll the balls in granulated sugar and place onto a parchment-lined baking dish. Bake until the tops of the cookies are golden and firm to the touch, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.