Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Turkish Food Journal

Mr. Bee and I had the chance of a lifetime to take a trip to Turkey this summer for my work.  It was amazing -- A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  While I really enjoyed the people, the scenery and the history of the country, the highlight of the trip was the food.  We stayed in 5-star hotels, but we also ate in small, out of the way cafes.  Regardless of the establishment, the service was superb.  Turkish people prepare their food as if it were a gift.  So, in tribute of my new favorite cuisine, here is my foodie journal...

Fresh fruit on every corner.  Cherries are the national fruit.  Spices in bins to smell and purchase as much as you want.  Shopkeepers are meticulous with the presentation of their produce.

 We enjoyed this meal seaside.  Hot naan bread, hummus and fresh, roasted vegetables.



 This meal was one of my favorites.  It was panko crusted goat cheese with a citrus, berry salad.

 I don't remember what this was, but it was delicious and beautiful.

 Fresh fruit finished every meal.
Turkish honey.  Honeycombs hang on racks and you just go up and pull a hunk down.  I had homemade toast every morning with this liquid sunshine spread all over it.

This is what a hunk of honey looks like on the plate.  Pure, clean and yummy tasting.  Turkish bees have got it goin' on.

This is Pide.  What would be equivalent to a cheese pizza in the U.S.  But, this is better.  Warm dough baked with heavenly cheese on top.  I love how they serve them on individual bread boards. Wouldn't that be a fun idea for a party!

Baklava.  Everywhere.  And so much better tasting in Turkey than in the U.S.

Turkish Coffee.  It's a bit strong for my taste, but you have to try at least one cup while you are there.

The presentation of the food is meticulous.  Plentiful and fresh.

Homemade bread with every meal.  This particular restaurant was making bread in outdoor ovens on the patio.  It was so inviting.

Olives.  Fresh or served with olive oil...and bread...and cheese...

Every afternoon we had apple tea and some kind of treat.  These were the cookies the cook on our yacht made for us.

So in summary...

Then End.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cake Boss Mixes -- Are they Buzzworthy?

I love to bake so when I find a ready made cake mix I like to see if they can come close to homemade.  When I was in Michael's recently, I saw that the beloved Buddy from Cake Boss had a line of mixes and icing.  I bought the yellow cake mix and the chocolate frosting.

The cake mix calls for water and eggs and comes with a custard pouch you add in.  The mix smelled like vanilla but as I started stirring the ingredients it all started to smell like chemicals.  By the time I poured it into the pan I was not hopeful.  I just couldn't get passed the overwhelming smell of what I assume were preservatives to increase the shelf life of the product.

While the cake was baking, I stirred the tub of frosting.  Let me first start by saying, I am very picky about the frosting that goes on a cake.  I am a purest and 99% of the time I only eat cake with butter cream frosting -- as in made with sticks of real butter. The only time I use tub frosting is when I am baking cupcakes with Miss Bee who cares more about the sprinkles than the frosting.  Tub frosting has come a long way and isn't totally awful.  That being said...

The Cake Boss frosting was pretty bad.  I stirred and stirred it and just couldn't achieve a level of creaminess that you usually find in tub frosting.  It didn't spread onto the cake with ease and it tasted again like it was full of chemicals.

I cut the cake, took a bite, and I really hate to hurt Buddy's feelings, but it wasn't very good.  The cake was really spongy, not dry, but very bouncy like.  It looked like a prop cake, something not to be eaten but would hold up during a set change.  I finished my piece, but I was done with any more sampling.  Mr. Bee liked it, but he's not a cake person.  Miss Bee took a bite with a fork and said it smelled funny.

I looked up the information on the cake mixes and they are manufactured by Dawn Food Products, Inc. and are based on Buddy's recipes. I hate to sting people with a poor review, so I will give positive points for the pretty yellow of the cake.  On a scale of 0-5 bees (with five bees being over the moon amazing), I would give this one bee.  I'm so sorry, Buddy.  It's not you.  You're great.  The cake mix, not so much...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Treating Your Family Like Guests

Yesterday, I wrote about my fun time at the Hosted event I attended (read about it here).  One take away, in particular, from the class that really resonated with me -- "host" dinner for your family. 

Right now, our family's weeknight routine is very easy.  Miss Bee has tennis everyday until 5:30 p.m. and Mr. Bee picks her up.  My schedule affords us the opportunity to have a sit down meal most days of the week. I try to get ideas from them each Sunday on what they might like to have for weeknight supper.  So, I have the "making dinner" part down when it comes to hosting a dinner for your family.  But, what Katherine was talking about are the special touches we often save for guests.  Like using china, flowers, candles, serving desserts on fancy plates, etc...

During the week, I always use the same white dishes, place mats and cloth napkins (no, I don't use paper napkins.  I'm Southern).  I was inspired last night to prepare a meal with brand new recipes, served on my new dishes I had put on display.  Miss Bee's boyfriend was over so it was the perfect opportunity to make my family feel like invited guests to dinner.

I prepared Spaghetti Pie, Spinach Salad with Basil Green Goddess Salad Dressing, Garlic Bread and Outrageous Brownies.

I'm speechless.  It was probably one of the best home cooked meals I have prepared in a long time.  Everyone had seconds, licked the plate and wanted more, but we knew we had to save room for the decadent brownies.

I served the meal on World Market's new line of dishes.  I had ordered these about a month ago because I have an addiction to collecting dishes.  I didn't need them.  I just loved the colors.  I wanted a pop of color to mix and match them with my white everyday dishware.  Plus, they reminded me of my trip to Turkey this past summer.

Right now the dishes are on sale.  I purchased a set of four in the dinner and salad plates and the bowls.  The footed bowls are my favorite.  I love how each one is different and they are the perfect size for cereal.

Back to the food.  I want to share Katherine's recipe for the Spaghetti Pie.  Miss Bee's favorite food groups are pasta, beef and cheese.  So this was right up her alley.  It made a huge 9x13 pan.  We ate half the pan and I saved the other half of the casserole and put it into two separate containers for the freezer. You may not want to be this generous and share it because I bet it tastes even better when you eat it the next day.  While I was making the casserole, Mr. Bee was making the garlic bread and doing the herb chopping for the salad dressing.  It was so much fun to cook with him in the kitchen while the kids watched TV.

Katherine's Spaghetti Pie

1 pound of spaghetti noodles
1 24-oz jar of Prego Traditional Spaghetti Sauce
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 8-oz packaged of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 16-oz container of sour cream
4 green onions, finely chopped
12-oz grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a large stockpot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the meat sauce. Choose a pan large enough to hold the ground beef and spaghetti sauce.  Cook the meat, 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp. of pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder over medium-high heat until well browned, crumbling meat with a metal spatula as it cooks.  Turn off heat.  Stir in spaghetti sauce. Set aside.

Prepare the cream mixture in a bowl large enough to eventually hold the pasta.  Combine the softened cream cheese, sour cream, and green onions.  Mix until all the ingredients are smooth. Set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, add 1/4 cup of salt before adding the pasta.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions (about 9-12 minutes).  Remove the pasta from the water and add it directly to the bowl containing the cream cheese mixture.  Stir until all the pasta is coated evenly.

Pour the pasta into the prepared pan.  Top with the meat sauce.  Add the grated cheddar cheese.  Cover with foil that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake covered for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and cook and additional 5 minutes.

Your homework this coming week:  What is something you can do to make your family feel like invited guests to the dinner table?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Putting "Class" in Hospitality

I attended a fun class last night hosted by Katherine Sasser from the Hurley House.  Katherine and I met a few years ago when she catered an event I attended.  In my business, I am always seeking new caterers to prepare yummy food.  I knew right away I would like her because we speak the same language -- Butter Cream!  She is the maker of these fabulous gems...the Sparkle Sandwich Cookie..a spritz cookie filled with butter cream frosting.

Katherine has created a series of Hosted classes to provide "truths about hospitality with real-world hosting plans that include a menu with recipes, skills, resources and personalized answers to your hospitality questions."  Each class is $40 and includes a folder full of resources, oh and a sandwich cookie. This would make the perfect GNO -- have dinner out, then go to class for dessert!

As guests arrived to her home she had the tables set with "classwork."  White linen cloths and cute polka dot wrapping paper as the table runner, soft turquoise folders filled with handouts and recipes and cute, kelly green pencils.

She had her dining area set with two different kinds of homemade cake (her specialty), champagne (my favorite), coffee and sparkling water.

I fixed a glass of bubbly, garnished with a blackberry, a slice of white butter cream cake and found a seat at the table.

I sat with some lovely ladies, a few that were new friends to Katherine which was fun for her.  They found out about Hosted through the fun of social media.

After a meet and greet it was time for class.  Katherine had prepared lovely handouts for us to take notes.

Katherine is offering a repeat of this Hosted class on September 24 since this one sold out.  So as not to give away her secrets, I will just give you a few highlights of the gems I walked away with:

1.  Guests need to leave different than when they came in.
2.  Your heart should be part of every decision when hosting in your home.
3.  Your guests should feel cared for, considered, nurtured and loved.
4.  "Host" dinner for your family at least once a week (I will be blogging about this soon!)

Our folder included recipes for a "hosted" family dinner...Spaghetti Pie, Salad with homemade Basil Green Goddess Salad Dressing, Garlic Bread, and Outrageous Brownies. I can't wait to give the recipes a try.

There are other classes planned in the months of October and November.  Visit the Hurley House site for her menu of baked goods (she takes special orders for parties), the class schedule and link to her blog.  On Wednesdays she has "store" hours in her home from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. with a selection of homemade, beautifully packaged baked goods.  You can pop by for coffee, company and a sweet treat.  You can ask to be on her emailing list and each Sunday you will receive the sweet offerings planned for the week.

Hope your Friday is fantastic!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pocket Full of Sunshine

These lovelies are growing in my flowerbeds.  Profuse petals of sunshine.  It's all my Daddy's doing. He loved sunflowers.  Probably from his time of having a farm as a "hobby."  He'd plant seeds in the backyard and despite the fact that his eyesight was fading to the point of being blind, he would tend to his flowers.

We never got around to planting his seeds in our shared backyard once we moved in together as a combined family.  I suppose I was too busy being a caregiver and not slowing down enough to simply plant a package of seeds.

The first summer after Daddy passed away, a random sunflower plant popped up in the front yard.  A few pretty blooms, but not in a place I really wanted it.  After all, sunflower plants are top-heavy and pretty much fall where they want to.  Seeking perfection, I felt they were out of place for my manicured garden.

One day,  I stared at the toppled over plant and a thought came to me. It was exactly where it needed to be.  Front and center.  That was Daddy's personality.  Always in the middle of everything.  We left the sunflower where it was and cultivated the seeds.

Now, we have five big stalks of flowers in the backyard.  One hot summery evening, I gathered a pocket full of Daddy's sunshine.  His sunflowers and Mother's pair of Cardinals that greet me every morning are reminders of their love and presence everyday.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Buzz on CanvasPop

My friends at CanvasPop contacted me asking if I would be interested in receiving a canvas with their compliments.  The timing was perfect because our family had just had photos taken in the Texas Bluebonnets back in April (before all the rain started).

The process was super easy.  I emailed them the photo file and in about a week I received the most beautiful 16x24 canvas wired and ready to hang (they even include the nails).  I chose to wrap it in white. The high quality canvas is clear and sharp.

 The back was wrapped and hanging hardware was securely attached.

I love how it fits in perfectly with the colors of my office so I hung it right above one of the shelves next to my desk.

CanvasPop was nice enough to send me a coupon to share with my readers.

Use the promo code THEHIVE35 to get 35%  off your own custom canvas.  Be sure to visit CanvasPop to see all the choices.  In three easy steps you can customize any photo into a keepsake.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Summertime Cocktail -- Coconut Mojito

I follow Coastal Living magazine's Instagram feed.  They featured the yummiest cocktail for a Coconut Mojito that I had to try. 
It tastes like a suntan in a glass.  Remember the days when Pina Coladas were all the rage?  Well, this is her younger, hipper sister's drink.

Here's the link to the recipe at Coastal Living where this liquid treasure and other fun cocktail recipes can be found.  I've provided the recipe from their site below.

6 fresh mint leaves
3 lime wedges
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/4 ounces (2 1/2 tablespoons) Mount Gay white rum
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Malibu coconut rum
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) cream of coconut
1 cup chilled club soda
Garnishes: lime wedge, fresh mint leaves, pinch of grated coconut 

Muddle 6 fresh mint leaves, 3 lime wedges, and brown sugar in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add white rum, coconut rum, and cream of coconut. Fill shaker with ice, and stir vigorously until chilled. Strain mixture into a tall glass, and top with chilled club soda. Garnish, if desired.

Check out my Pinterest board for some other sips, too.