Friday, February 25, 2005

Austin Country Limits

A friend directed me this morning to Austin Country Limits. Austin, Texas is my home away from home. I first went to Austin in 1989. The moment the plane landed, and I walked out of the airport, I felt home for the first time in my life. It was a great feeling, and I miss being there. Not that SoCal isn't a great place too, it's just different! It is a wonderful city full of life, food, art, and wonderful people.

Austin is part of what Texans refer to as the Texas Hill Country and is the most beautiful place to spend time. It is homey and inviting. There are lakes and wonderful trees, parks and hilly areas to go for a nice afternoon drive. You can also dine at almost anytime of day or night on almost anything your heart desires. Take a stroll down sixth street to hear some live jazz and have a plate of mudbugs, or slip quietly into Louie's 106 and have some great pasta. On North Lamar you'll find Threadgill's with all the music history and a good plate of Southern Fried Chicken. Then talk a walk down the block (or drive a bit) over to Guadalupe and grab some Amy's Ice Cream for dessert. You can pop into Lammes Candies for pralines or a fresh dipped chocolate strawberry. Mmmm. Then head down to South Lamar to Waterloo records and possibly catch an impromptu concert by Lyle Lovett like I did one afternoon. You name it Austin, gives it. South By Southwest is coming up soon, if you like music, and you haven't been before, book yourself a reservation and go!

Ahhh. Good memories. Good friends. Good times.

I am adding a link to ACL on my sidebar. If you're anything like me, and get homesick for bluebonnets, birds and the sights of Austin, this will help take you home occasionally.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Nature's Best Food

An LA Times article draws attention to a health scare today. It's about breast milk. Nature provides an excellent food source for babies that has been the focus of breast feeding advocates for years. It helps build the immune system. It has all the nutrients a baby needs. Granted those are some very good benefits. HOWEVER, breast milk - in samples taken nationwide - has been shown to have high levels of a chemical found in rocket fuel. Levels higher than those found in cows' milk. The levels are such that a one month old baby can have health problems associated with his/her thyroid by consuming breast milk tainted with this chemical.

I called my daughter as soon as I read the story. We have a six month old granddaughter. She is cute as a button. She's very healthy and doesn't breastfeed. She hasn't had a drop of breast milk because her mom had some medical problems making breastfeeding impossible. Her mom has been made to feel, in circles of other mothers, to be "less than" a good mother. She gets the nod, the oh, the simple "oh my goodness" facial expression when she explains she doesn't breastfeed. I called her to tell her that now she can feel better about not feeding her child rocket fuel, and choosing to use just plain old soy formula.

Tessa Ann

While I make light of the subject, it really isn't funny. If you know a mother who is currently breastfeeding, please direct her to this LA Times (registration required) story. It may not affect all babies, but it may make a difference in the life of someone's little one.

By the way, I may occasionally use articles from places that require registration. If you don't want to register, but still want to read the article, go to They'll give you a sign-on name and password to use in lieu of registration.

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School Lunches

school lunch
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
There has been an amazing amount of press lately about what children seem to be consuming at school.

We have the proponents at the USDA doing all they can to support school lunch programs while also supporting farmers who produce the items they want children to eat. We have the "America is obese" crowd running about banning vending machines in schools. Then there are the quasi nutrionally minded trying to get in on the action of helping children make better choices with their lunch and snack dollars.

Recently an article mentioned the inability of schools to spend all their allocated monies on fresh fruit and vegetables. Money is there, it just isn't being spent. Another article mentions the introduction of fruit smoothies by nationally recognized smoothie companies. While I do like a smoothie occasionally - this is where the quasi nutrionist comes in - smoothies, while being made of fruit, are REALLY carb heavy. It would seem that the sugar build up in a childs system from a smoothie would be as difficult to deal with as, say, a twinkie.

The Philadelphia school system seems to be making inroads to this sensitive issue in positive ways. Without all the brewhaha, or media fanfare, the district has quietly begun to evaluate meals and standards for school lunches.

They have axed hundreds of snack foods: those heavy in sugar, salt or trans fats. The snacks that have stayed have been re-worked. A chocolate chip cookie is still available. It is, however, been put on a reduction program itself - the recipe re-worked has it at a svelt 164 calories instead of the 492 it used to have. Size has been taken into consideration and portions have been tightened up. They are offering baked chips instead of fried. All drinks with added sugar have been eliminated. Kids are being offered whole fruits instead of sticky sweet candies. Gone are the days of the hotdog on a stick with ketchup and fries. The district is adding back those thing that have been missing for so long - vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.

The good news is - the kids like what is being offered! And it was all done without anyone taking note. They didn't have to have a city wide ban on soft drinks, or vending machines. Children are still allowed to make lunch and snack choices, however they're better choices.

I think the rest of the nation should give the Philadelphia school district a call. I think though, the answer they'll hear is that they put the kids first, and everything else fell into place.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Yountville & Indio - A Famous Connection

Dates. As I mentioned before my favorite date is the Medjool. It is soft, chewy and has a wonderful flavor of brown sugar. It is the least famous of dates, yet my grandmother used to make her wonderful Sandollar cookies with Medjool dates. The very thought of them brings back wonderful memories.

However, the title speaks of a connection. A famous connection. Every three weeks or so a guy I know gets a call. The call is from Yountville, California. From none other than that well-renowned restaurant: The French Laundry. It seems that Thomas Keller and I have something in common. He too, likes the Medjool. Not just any Medjool however, only the best will do for him. So he calls and orders an 11 pound box from a grower in the valley. Big, plump, perfectly grown and harvested Jumbo Medjools. They appear on the menu as "Maine Lobster Tail, cuit en sous vide au beurre de Vermont - (vacuum cooked in Vermont butter), Poached Medjool dates, Caramelized Salsify Root and Champagne Emulsion". Mmmmm. As always, his impeccable taste has paired Maine lobster with poached Medjools. I have not eaten there, as I am not close by, however I can imagine the wonderful flavor of the lobster being enhanced, not over-powered, by the suttle flavor of the medjools.

I must make a trip to the bay area! However, before I go, I must make a reservation. Two months in advance! Anyone want to go along? It will also give us a chance to go by the CIA at Greystone.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

Chocolate & Walnut Dates

Chocolate & Walnut Dates
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Friday afternoon treats - Dates with chocolate and walnuts. Simply put this is a pitted date stuffed with walnuts, then dipped in semi-sweet chocolate. If you use milk chocolate it will be too sweet. Dates are filled with natural sugars and don't need any added sugars, however a dip in chocolate makes a nice simple treat.

What's really great is the nutritional analysis you can do: Date are high in potassium, higher even than bananas. Walnuts are heart healthy, sloughing crummy stuff from your veins as they are digested, and semi-sweet chocolate has also been shown to be heart healthy due to the antioxidants. The raising of endorphins always is a benefit. So any way you want to spin this, these little morsels are a heart healthy snack! Much better than a candy bar and it tastes much like a snickers!

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Start with some tall trees.

Deglet Noor Tree
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Dates. To some they are the food of the gods, to others they are a strange little "dried" fruit.

The are several varieties of dates grown in the desert regions of the US. The tree pictured is of the Deglet Noor variety. It is the most recognized date around. It is sold in supermarkets nationwide in small containers or sometimes in bulk sections of a produce department. It is sold whole, pitted, chopped, diced and extruded. It is a very versatile little fruit.

Other varieties of date are: Khadrawi, Black, Barhi, Honey and Medjool are the most popular. Most people I know love medjools.

So how does one grow a date? It begins with the tree of course. A date palm takes 13 years to produce dates in any real quantity. The trees produce a crop once a year. Care must be taken to ensure you have a crop to harvest in late Spetember or early October.

The heros of the date business are the Palmeros. They take great pride in keeping their trees. Six times a year they climb to the top of those tall, tall trees to do maintenance and upkeep to ensure a good crop. In January and February they de-thorn the trees. In March and April, pollination takes place. In May and June the seed pods are covered with paper or gauze sacks to protect the birds from getting to the dates. In July and August the trees are checked for good growth and moisture levels. In September and October the harvest takes place. Then in Novemeber and December the trees are "cleaned up" and readied for the new season to come.

How tall? Some can be up to 100 feet tall. Wow! How do they climb up to the top? Ladders. If you take a ride around the desert region - Thermal, Indio, Salton Sea - you see the trees. Look way up to the top and you'll see ladders attached to the trees near the tops. These are added as the trees grow. A standard tree ladder only goes so far - 50 to 70 feet - but these trees continue to grow so the Palmeros have improvised by adding ladders to them. This way they can get to the top and get their job done.

It's worth a drive to the desert at least once to see the trees. Along the way you'll see other farming operations, as the Coachella Valley is home to some of California's finest vegetable and fruit growers.

I'll talk more about dates, how they're processed, how to cook with them, and why they are so good for you next time!

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

It's that time of year again!

Yes, ladies and gents, it is time for Riverside County's Date Festival! Over the next week or so I will be bringing you more info on dates than you ever expected to know...

First off, a hat tip to Pat Saperstein of Eating LA. She held a moment of silence for Shield's Date company a week ago because they had decided to close their doors as of April 1. Well, good news Pat and all you other date lovers, Jewel Date bought Shield's. Well, not the land or the building but the name and some processing equipment. Jewel also runs a packing house in Indio, so when the land and building are sold, they'll consolidate the operations. Good news though is that they are licensed to use the Shield's name and that ever so famous film!

One thing Jewel bought was the knowledge of processing date crystals. Very few companies are making the crystals these days. Jewel is about the only local company I know where the crystals can be purchased. The crystals are a great thing to have on hand when you can't buy fresh dates. They can be reconsituted and used as fresh dates would be used in cooking. They store great and can be a handy addition to a pantry.

I have been around dates for about 6 years and have had the great opportunity to see the Date Festival close-up. In fact I even built a couple of displays for one of the companies out in the desert for the festival. It was a great time and I learned a lot about the industry working with them.

Watch for continuing info about dates in the next few days.

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choc cocoa confectionery
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Chocolate, Cocoa, and Confectionery: Science and Technology by Bernard W Minifie. Wow! I have been looking forward to owning a copy of this forever. So occasionally I check with all the usual suspects to see if they have a used copy of the book.

It's been a couple of months since I last checked. This $200, list price book, can usually be found for anywhere from $165 to $126, new or used, which is still a bit rich for me. Well, happy as a clam I am! Tuesday I went looking again and was able to point and click and purchase this amazing book for the mere sum of $26!!! Yes $26 big ones. Yahooo! Someone didn't find it all that interesting and let it go for a song. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

So sometime soon that little chocoalte factory in my kitchen will begin experimenting pretty heavily! Smile!

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Eglu, eglu, Who's got the Eglu?

I saw this last month and have been meaning to write about this neat little marvel. It's called the Eglu. It is for all of the modern city farmers out there wanting to have their own fresh eggs. The Eglu is designed for city farmers or others wanting to adopt a "living small" attitude. It holds 2 laying hens and comes with its own private secure garden run. Included with the Eglu is a fenced area designed to keep those pesky foxes out of the hen house! We probably won't need to worry too much about the foxes, but just in case you've got them in your area, it's good to know your hens are safe. Just put it up in the backyard, and buy a couple of hens and in no time you'll have fresh eggs!


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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

It's a Small World

I read an article that caught my eye this morning. Two, in fact. One was talking about a new convenience store being introduced to the US. FamilyMart is one of Japan's largest convenience stores. The first will open in July in upscale West Hollywood, a part of the "golden" area of Southern California.

FamilyMart isn't your average convenience store. Most Americans look at a convenience store as a place to pick up snacks for the road while gassing up the car, a quick soda or a newspaper. Japan's FamilyMart will freshen the idea of "konbini" - convenience. FamilyMart is viewed as an extension of a customers refrigerator. They will sell 140 food items including Bento Boxes, rice balls, sushi, and bread. It is well maintained and young women can feel safe, alone, in the store late at night. FamilyMart will target high end shoppers, offering them convenience and quality you don't find in regular convenience stores.

FamilyMart is concentrating on the West coast for now hoping to open 200 stores by 2009. The East coast will be developed gradually. Many analysts aren't viewing this expansion with a lot of confidence. They are not sure Americans will appreciate the new idea of Japanese convenience. I think they are wrong. (are these guys publicly traded???)

The second story was in the Toledo Blade. This article is extolling the virtues of many of Toledo's small ethnic grocery stores. "The customers that frequent these stores aren't especially concerned about self check-out lanes, the lowest prices. or even an advertised special" to quote the article. This article tells the story I have been developing with my GIANT store series. These stores offer something else to their customers: a place to feel a bit of home, hear a native language and a connection with the "neighborhood" in which they live. Thirty percent of the average ethnic store customer is "American".

The stores cater to Indian, Pakistani, Asian and Mexican Americans in nearby neighborhoods. Most of their customers shop them for the language connection, but largely for the variety of foods carried. The GIANT cannot begin to compete in these areas. GIANT stores must make money. They must turn their inventories over quickly. If they carry ethnic foods that will rival the small purveyor of these items it would certainly bring down the "turn". Shelf space is costly and GIANT stores cannot allow the shelf to be filled for any length of time. Their overhead prevents them from being everything to everyone.

According to the Food Marketing Institute,nine out of ten GIANT stores carry ethnic varieties. However, when I go into the GIANT to pick up a favorite ethnic food from say the Bayou state or a Danish dessert preparation, the item I want is not carried. Let's go back to that "turn" factor. If I am the only foodie in a 50 mile radius that has found that most wonderful glaze for tarts, the GIANT says "buy the case or don't buy it at all. We are not here to fill your every need. We are here to fill the needs of the average consumer". Basically, they are asking me, their customer to shop at a small ethnic grocer.

So will FamilyMart make it? I think so. Just as 14 or so ethnic grocers in Toledo have found a way to succeed, so will the FamilyMart. In my small community, a GIANT store has 6 stores, many other GIANT compeptitors have come and gone. They state they cannot compete with this GIANT, so they leave and give this GIANT his due. An interesting phenomenon has taken place however, in the past two years, Cardenas, a local ethnic grocer is succeeding where other GIANTS couldn't. Why? Because they know their customer and give them what they want.

Don't be too quick to dismiss that small ethnic food store down the block. Go over, take a look inside, you might find that longed for ingredient you tasted on that exotic trip you took! You'll be happy you did, and so will the small store owner.

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine goodness!

iPod Shuffle
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
This wonderful little piece of technology is what I received from my valentine! The big guy knows how to go right to the heart of things and is a hopeless romantic. :-)

It came with a preloaded song - Bryan Adam's When You Love Someone.

Oh, and if you can't get my attention, or if I'm singing loudly off key, or if I'm dancing in the aisles, don't bother me - I'm doing the shuffle!

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In Search of the Holy Grail - White Cake from scratch

The past couple of weeks I have been on a quest. I have added cakes to my catering service, including wedding cakes. I have baked a white cake in the past but have never been fully satisfied with the result. Sometimes the cake is dry, other times it is flavorless, and even sometimes it has the taste and consistency of corn bread. Ugh!

So I went to my favorite place on the web eGullet and began a search. Wow! I didn't know there could be so much discussion about cake! I finally did find a thread talking about white cake and it's use in wedding cakes. There were about five different recommended cakes and I decided to try them all. One interesting fact was that the most popular was found in a simple, yet proven, cookbook from 30+ years ago.

So I spent the better part of two Saturdays baking white cakes. There were recipes from famous cookbook authors, one from the King Arthur website (which is fun on its' own), a couple of recipes that had been re-worked by the offering chef, and then the simple 30 year old cookbook recipe. We tried them all. The King Arthur cake was second runner up. It was the white chiffon cake. I learned you can cook a chiffon cake without an angel food cake pan! The cake had an excellent flavor and would be great in a small wedding cake. However, the size cake I am doing is large and I felt that the weight of the other layers would crush the bottom layer, so I continued on trying other recipes.

Finally I turned to the 30 year old recipe. It is found in a Betty Crocker cookbook. This will do my sister's heart good. She and Betty go way back! In my old cookbook it is known as the Silver White Cake. The recipe on eGullet refers to it as Rich White Cake. The only change I made was to increase the vanilla by another teaspoon and adding a teaspoon of almond extract. I did this because the bride is asking for a completely white cake. No fruit fillings or any other flavors. So by adding the small amount of almond extract i was hoping to add a little dimension. I also increased the salt from one half teaspoon to a full teaspoon.

Well I found the Holy Grail. It is from Betty. How did I know the cookbook from my early childhood and teen years would result in the best cake? A couple of others at eGullet found the same to be true. So, if you have a wedding cake to do just look up Betty, she's got the perfect recipe.

I didn't bring the recipe with me. Look for an update. I'll post it here later.


Silver White Cake

Betty Crocker Silver White Cake (with a few changes)

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unslated butter (softened)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp almond extract
4 large egg whites

Mix together dry ingredients. Mix in butter. Pour in milk, water, and extracts. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Add egg whites to mix and beat for 2 minutes. Pour into two eight inch round pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until done.

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Ahh, breakfast.

Busy weekend. Saturday was spent running errands to finish up preparations for the wedding I'm catering in March. So I got up real early and made my way out to avoid crowds and to grab a bite to eat after a majority of the errands had been done. I decided to stop by a favorite breakfast place and enjoy someone else's cooking.

Let me tell you: If burned pain perdue, watery eggs, overdone sausage and not really cooked red potatoes (disguising themselves as homefries) is your idea of a great breakfast I recommend Mimi's Restaurant on Hospitality Lane in San Bernardino. This is not the first experience of a less than stellar meal with them so I had to write and let you know about it. If you are into really mediocre food, this restaurant is the place. Other Mimi's I've been to in the past have been good (I don't mean great, but good) and their breakfasts are usually the best. I really believe it is the general manager's lack of leadership that puts this specific location on my "not to return" list. Maybe not, but I do believe in top down leadership, setting the pace for successful businesses.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Comfort Food

Comfort food. It brings to mind all kinds of culinary delights. It truly depends on the mood you're in as to which food really fills the need. It can be simple, homey or elegant fair. Comfort food invokes a sense of well being.

This, of course, feeds all those things a therapist and nutritionists worldwide work against. Food should not be a replacement for emotion. Repeat until it becomes your mantra. LOL. While I don't believe one should squirrel themselves up and make food their reason to live, I do believe there are foods that do lend comfort when consumed in moderation.

What kinds of delectible delights would you call comfort foods?

Mine, simple stuff. A cold crabcake and a slice of sourdough bread. Coupled with sitting at the beach with the waves pounding the surf and the wonderful smell of salt water in the air. You see, most of my comfort, also comes from the surroundings.

Chicken Jeruselem from Datilo's. It's a wonderful blend of fettucini, mushrooms and chicken in a marsala sauce. At home on a cold evening with a fire. It's usually cold outside and I need a little warmth.

My grandmother's goulash. With fresh baked bread and real butter, in my mom's kitchen surrounded by my sisters. That one hasn't been reproduced in a long time. I long to sit around a table with both of my incredibly talented sisters and have a bowl of goulash. We'd spend the afternoon talking of old times. Mostly remembering throwing all of our childhood belongings into yet another moving box and heading for who knows where, but it would still be good to connect.

Oatmeal. Not restaurant oatmeal. The real thing. My grandmother could cook a bowl of oatmeal everyone could love. It was her tried and true technique that made this wonderful breakfast delight. She never shared her recipes, so I have had to experiment to get it almost perfect, like hers.

Grandma's Oatmeal:

2 cups of water
1 tsp salt
1 and 2/3 cups of rolled oats

Add salt to water. Bring water to a boil. When boiling, add oats. Gently stir until just moistened. Remove from heat, cover with lid and let stand for about 8 minutes. Serve with your favorite oatmeal mix-in. (Brown sugar, butter, raisins, fresh fruit, milk or whatever you'd like) Serve.

This method should produce a flaky wonderful bowl of cooked oats. A bowl where almost every oat has its' own space in the bowl. It's not sticky or goupy, just flaky, light and very wonderful. Hope you enjoy it.

Now, what are some of your comfort foods?

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Etouffee on Fat Tuesday!

Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Mardi Gras has long been a favorite holiday. In a sense it is not a religious holiday for most that celebrate the day, however, it does make for a great dinner.

In honor of this years Fat Tuesday I offer, Etouffee. Etouffee is my favorite Cajun food. It is spicy, filling and can be made with various meats. Traditionally it is made with Crawfish. Shrimp is a good substitute and as you can see in the picture chicken works well too. Etouffe is served at our house at least once a month, we don't wait for Mardi Gras to enjoy this great meal. It is a simple recipe to make and I encourage you to give it a try:

8 T butter
1/2 cup of flour
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 lbs Crawfish tails or peeled Shrimp
3 T lemon juice
2 cups of fish or chicken stock
1/2 cup chopped scallions
Cooked Rice


1. Melt butter in skillet. Add flour and stir on low heat until flour is browned.
2. Add chopped onion, celery and bell peppers, garlic and cook uncovered until tender. About 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper and cayenne.
3. Stir in meat, lemon juice and stock cook for an additional 15 - 20 minutes until gravy is formed.


In flat bowl mound rice in center. Surround rice with Etouffee mixture. Garnish with scallions.

Enjoy! Mmmm. This should be a spicy dish with just a little heat.

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Monday, February 07, 2005

Good Food = Good Times

Now there's a title I think we can all agree upon. Good food does equal good times. Once a month my husband and I have the unique opportunity to gather with about 80 young people. They are all between the ages of 18 and 30 and meet once a month to mingle and strengthen each other as they meet the world head on. It's a Sunday night and we meet at a local church. Our purpose, in being there, is to make sure they're fed.

It is an easy task. These young people don't expect a lot. They don't expect fancy. However, after years of the dinner being summarily reduced to "we'll make what ever we can to get you fed" ideology by others, we were called in to see what we could do. Well, I enjoy feeding a crowd. I enjoy being around young people. So I was excited to step in and take over the reigns of this position. After evaluating the SOP established over the years I was not impressed. It seemed a Potato Bar, Baked Stouffer's Lasagna, or Cold Cut Sandwiches was what qualified as a good meal. The Potato Bar was the least appetizing to me. Bake 80 potatoes, bring along sides of butter, cheese, sour cream, chives, chili and various other potato fixins and call it dinner, ugh! Presenting this as a balanced dinner is abismal at best, in my opinion. Get a grip folks! These are young people. Young people who seem to have a good grasp of nutritional studies and the ill affects of junk food in their lives. I took it as my personal quest to improve this menu. People said "this is the way it has always been done." To that I say "oh well, now we're doing it differently". Gasp! How will it be received????

Well, the first dinner I hosted was quite interesting. I must mention that part of the 'entry fee' for the dinner is an empty tummy and something to add to the dinner. Something, such as, croutons, dinner rolls, possibly cupcakes for dessert. A week in advance of the dinner I post a menu. Along with the menu is the acceptable add-ons. It is expected of the young people that if you're coming to the dinner - at least bring a supporting item. There is no cost and about half attending will show up with something. I'm not irritated if they come empty handed. I'm just glad they're there and I don't have leftovers. So even empty handed they're welcome.

Back to that first interesting dinner. I chose to serve Chicken Ceasar Salad, with dinner rolls. At first the mention of salad for dinner was a bit foreign, especially to some of the guys. The best comment of the evening was by a 19 year old young lady, "I didn't even know I liked Ceasar Salad until tonight". That was all I needed to hear. After years of potato bars and lasagna I have a break out to real food. Even green food! Yay! It has been an interesting few months. Last night proved to be the best yet. I knew I was competing with a 'sacred cow' trying to get young people out on Super Bowl Sunday. The food was going to have to be good. I chose a well known favorite of mine: Smoked Beef Brisket, Cole Slaw and Chips. Chips mostly so the kids would have an item to bring. There was no way I could rely on one of them to bring cole slaw. It is easy to do in mass quantities and I could do that with the brisket. Needless to say the crowd was a bit smaller. However, we still had about 65 attend. Everyone raved about the food and was very complimentary. There wasn't a bit leftover. There were seconds for all who wanted them and there was a group of five that didn't get anything at all. I told them next time instead of being 45 minutes late maybe they'd be on time or at least not so late. Their dinner was eaten by the seconds group of guys that couldn't get enough of Texas barbeque.

A lot of people will ask how do you cook for such a large group? It is realtively easy when you use basic consumption rules. 1/4 lb of any meat you're serving per peson. Salad - simple. You know how large your family is, when you make a salad at home how many does it feed? Divide that by the quantity you expect and you've got how much salad stuff to buy. Many people feel large numbers of people to feed are daunting. I say - just try it once - then you'll be hooked. Feeding people, making them feel at home, are the parts of life you don't want to miss. Coupled with the accolades of how good the food is makes it very worthwhile.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Coinstar - Consumer Beware

I got an update today that told me about a great new feature they have at Coinstar kiosks. If you are not familiar with Coinstar, let me explain. They have kiosks in grocery stores all over the place and offer to save you time and trouble by sorting through your coins that have built up at home. It frees up your cash and your time! Coinstar counts coins at high speed. Up to 600 coins a minute. Coinstar then issues you a credit slip to give to the nearest cashier. She'll give you the dollar value of your coins. Wow such a deal. When you read the fine print maybe not such a good deal. Coinstar keeps 8.9 cents for every dollar in coin you drop in their machine. 8.9%?!?!?!? It's crazy.

Some of you may be saying to yourself it's worth it. However, you are probably the same people that check for coupons and deals in the local papers to save money. 8.9% is more than any Real Estate agent gets on a transaction. 8.9% is more than you'll ever pay in commissions to a stock broker, agent, car salesman or any other person that lives on commission. 8.9 cents for every dollar could easily be put in an emergency fund, school savings account, mad money account, humanitarian fund or any other worthy cause.

Back to their new great service! Now you can opt to do other things with your credit than just get cash. You can get a Starbucks gift card, pre-paid long distance card or pre-paid wireless connection card for your cash too. So that $2.70 venti hot chocolate from Starbucks just cost you $2.94!

Think about it. We all try to conserve money and spend it carefully. Well maybe not all of us, but plenty of us do. Let's not help make Coinstar successful at our own expense. Go buy yourself a little coin counter and wrap your own coins. You're worth 8.9%

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

A little update on RFID

Business Week, has an article on the RFID mandate at Walmart. The author criticizes the retail world for not hopping on to this bandwagon and riding it full force. He says many have done the bare minimum to satisfy Walmart's request while ignoring the possible dollar savings for them in the long run. The "Slap and Wrap" tag he talks about is priced at .25 each. This is a cost that is applied to each and every item to which it is applied. It may not be a lot of money when you talk about a single item, but when it is factored into say 40 items in an average grocery cart that is significant. It is actually $10 extra per cartload. I am not sure about you, but I know that expense is not worth it to me. This is oversimplification of this issue by me, however, we need to put it iterms each consumer can handle. I could fill you with all types of facts and figures about supply side managemnt and inventory control but how long would I have your attention. The whole point of the blog is to bring information on how food gets to your shelf in as easy a fshion as possible. I want to help you begin to understand why these questions need to be asked, answered and understood. If I leave it in business speak, I'll lose a portion of you. For those of you who want it in business speak, send me an email - we'll talk.

We need to, as consumers, begin to talk about this phenomenom. What kinds of costs, are being passed on to us the consumer, with the intent to save dollars at the "plant". While reducing inventory management costs, those line item budget entries will be replaced with other lines. It may reduce the labor force by 2 or 3 individuals but is it really worth it? I'd rather have the item be tagless than put some guy out of work for Walmart's sake.

But then again, I can only keep you informed. The mighty GIANT will roll forth. Shop local. Save the job of a person you care about.

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Okay, Okay, I hear ya.

I know I have been slacking since the trip and all. However, I have good reasons. I spent two days getting a contract ready and getting it signed for my first ever wedding reception catering job. Wow! This year is to be my year. The year I step out into the darkness and go on my own. I am glad to have the opportunity to have good friends help get this ball rolling and we will do great things together.

The catering part of my life will allow me to earn money while getting things set up for my own food production facility. That is where I want to end up and catering is a great transition job. I will begin to build a building hwere production will take place soon and it will need to be funded with money. So show me the jobs! I will only do receptions as they are pretty demanding in their own right. I don't want to do luncheons or dinners as there are so many variables with them. Receptions can be well defined and have a specific schedule. One of my daughters and my great sister are willing to help get this project off the ground. We have done them in the past, tons of them, however I usually did it as a gift while the parents foot the bill for supplies. But now, we'll turn this into a full fledged business. I am looking forward t the hard work.

So that is what has had me pre-occupied. I am still working on reviews of the NASFT show. I do have to have a primer on photo linkage from the big guy so I can begin to upload photos to go with all the businesses I talk about. This will get done this evening so tomorrow there should be photos to go along with some verbage. I would even like to see a photo for the Ethos campaign I'm doing.

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