Soup on Sunday

Every year on the last Sunday in January, the Culinary Arts Department at Central Piedmont Community College hosts a fundraiser “Soup on Sunday” to raise money for Charlotte area Hospice.

35 restaurants make at least 5 gallons of soup, stations are set up  in our teaching kitchens, dining room, classrooms and hallways to offer up various tastings of soup, breads, pizza, desserts, drinks and pottery.

“To taste only” is misleading – you get to eat 35  two-ounce samples of soup. That is over 1/2 gallon of soup! Not to mention the breads, pizza, desserts and chocolates. So you  actually get stuffed or stuck on your favorite things.

Local potters make bowls for the occasion. Buying a bowl is part of the tradition. If you like, you can use your bowl to sample the soup or have a big bowl of your favorite.

The event is fun, exciting and raises a decent amount of money for the cause. This year tickets sold for $40 which includes your choice of bowl or $30 to taste only.

We expect over 700 people this year, maybe more since the weather is amazing. 2 years ago we had to reschedule due to snow and then we competed with the Super Bowl when we finally got to host the event. This year will make up for that!

Local culinary schools like The Art Institutes and Johnson & Wales show off their wares in desserts and chocolates. It is fun to watch the students “strut their stuff” at events like these.

Additionally students get involved with volunteering. A concept some have never considered yet is so important for a vital community.

Hospice is a great cause for end of life care. I am glad we can do something for them who do so much for us when needed.

What do you volunteer for that helps build your community?

Our Director of Sanitation Maneuvers

Applesauce Cake with Oatmeal Streusel

Applesauce Cake

Applesauce Cake

This applesauce cake goes together quickly. The cake is moist and delicious and ever so yummy. A dollop of whipped cream or ice cream makes it irresistible!

  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup applesauce – smooth or chunky
  • 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Oatmeal Streusel Topping

  • 1-1/2 cup uncooked old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Thoroughly combine the ingredients in a bowl; the mixture should be crumbly.

Set aside to top the cake batter before baking. Save any left over streusel mix for another use.

To make the cake:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F (175°C)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

On low-speed, add applesauce and vanilla.

Measure flour and spices into a bowl.

Add nuts and raisins to the flour, stir. Add flour mixture to the wet mixture. Mix until just combined.

Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch square cake pan. Pour batter into the cake pan.

Top with Oatmeal Streusel Topping.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Top with whipped cream or ice cream, serve warm.


Watermelon Radishes

I am a big fan of radishes. I love all kinds of radishes from daikon to french breakfast radishes, I never tire of crunching on them.

Sometimes they get steamed and called  ‘Baby Pick Turnips‘ so as not to put anyone off by saying ‘cooked radish’.

When I go on a road trip, the typical snack food is some nice crisp radishes and salt right there for snacking as I roll on down the road.

(Far better than junky road food!)

Do YOU like radishes?

French Radishes

Small Snack

Hand Pies

We don’t have birthday cakes around here, we have birthday pies because we like pies better than cake. What better way to have pie than to have a hand pie?

NOTE: No innuendo intended with “hand pies”. That’s what we call them. The guys often giggle and I won’t quote a recent comment. Although they did say the hand pie was better. . .

What is a hand pie?

Cherry Hand Pies

Hand pies are small individual pies you can eat in your hand without a knife or fork or even spoon for that matter. It is highly recommended you do have a napkin.

Hand pies are sweet or savory and  filled with anything your heart desires.

If you think of savory ones like mini calzones and sweet ones like small turnovers, you will have lots of ideas on how to fill your lovely hand pies.

I had these cherries left over from another project and thought hand pies would be perfect since there wasn’t enough to make a regular sized pie.

There were several apples in the refrigerator that needed to be used so I diced and sliced them up and created some apple hand pies too.

Warm apple hand pies are a real treat, eating bite by bite, while sipping a hot cup of coffee.

Here are some Savory ideas:

  • Chicken and cheese
  • Broccoli and cheese
  • Your favorite pizza toppings
  • Spicy pork (from BBQ to Cuban style)
  • Tomato and herb
  • Black bean and corn with salsa and cheddar
  • Scrambled eggs with herbs and cheese
  • Cheese steak and grilled onions

Sweet ideas:

Any fruit pie filling from apple, cherry, blueberry and anything you can dream up.

What ever style you make, make sure you have the fillings cold.

You can buy the ready-made pie dough or you can make it. Since it is so ridiculously easy, there is no reason not to make it yourself.

Basic Pie Dough

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional for sweet pies)
  • 8 tablespoons or 1 stick or 4 ounces of butter cut into 8 pieces
  • up to 1/4 cup ice-cold water

Best method is to use a food processor. It is simple and super fast.

If you don’t have a food processor, you can use an old-fashioned pastry cutter or even two knives to cut the butter into the flour.

Add the flour, salt and sugar if using to the bowl, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.

Add the water a tablespoon at a time to bring the dough together. You may need all of the water, or just some of it and if the dough feels dry, you may need to add more.

Note: Some people like to sub half of the water with vodka or white vinegar claiming it makes a very flaky crust.

Try it and you be the judge.

As long as you do not overwork the dough by kneading it or over mixing, and you can still see bits of fat in the mix, your dough should turn out flaky. Just mix the ingredients until they come together, and keep the dough cold.

You are not making bread so don’t knead!

After mixing the dough, flatten the dough into a disk, wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

To make the hand pies, roll the dough, cut desired shapes. I chose to use round cutters to make half-moon shapes. You can use whatever shape you want.

Here are a couple of filling recipes:

Cherry Hand Pie Filling

  • 1 15 oz can sweet canned Big cherries reserve juice
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons instant tapioca
  • t teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch of salt

Re-hydrate the dried cherries in cherry juice from the canned cherries. Mix everything together in a bowl and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes for the tapioca to soften a little.

Roll out the dough, cut into shapes, egg wash, fill, fold and pinch the seams closed tightly.

Egg wash the outsides of the pies and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.

Apple Hand Pie Filling

  • 1# Granny Smith Apples, peeled and diced into medium dice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon instant tapioca
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to mix the juices as they develop. Make and bake the hand pies as described above.

The hardest part is keeping them around until they cool; hands come from all directions and these lovely morsels disappear almost instantly!

Cut the shapes and place the filling in the middle

Fold pies in half and pinch to seal; egg wash and sprinkle with sugar

Apple hand pies

Food Safety

English: Template for Template:Food safety

Image via Wikipedia

Nearly every day we hear of  food safety related issues in the news: salmonella, Listeria, E coli, norovirus, hepatitis a,b,c, Shigella contamination and food recalls. While most people think these issues are concern only to the commercial food industry, the truth is these issues matter at home too.

Food safety is a passion of mine. We all expect restaurants to handle the food they prepare safely and not transmit any food borne illnesses. Protecting  public health through training and education is expected, encouraged and required by laws and regulations.

The general public has a notion of what they expect from a restaurant as far as sanitation standards are concerned but neglect to apply those same expectations to their home kitchens.

How well do we do at home?

Food borne illness outbreak investigations begin in the victims home. Often it is found we have made ourselves sick.

If we look at the top five areas the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified as the most likely to produce a food borne illness, we can analyze how to do better at home.

1. Buying food from unsafe sources

2. Failing to cook food adequately

3. Holding food at incorrect temperatures

4. Unclean equipment and utensils

5. Poor personal hygiene

Let’s take a look at each area and see what we can do to improve the sanitation of our home kitchens. A little knowledge can save a lot of discomfort while preventing a food borne illness outbreak.

1. Buying food from unsafe sources

Know where your food comes from. If you buy from farmers, ask about their agricultural practices. Are they organic? Do they have documentation to prove it? Can you come visit the farm?

For grocers and other markets, look around and see how clean it is. Notice handling habits of employees and don’t be afraid to speak up when you see something you think should be corrected.

Transport your food from the store to home in cooler bags and properly put the food away as soon as you get home.

Use the rule of 2 hours or less out of refrigeration. This includes walking around the store, taking it home, unpacking and putting it away. Do it quickly. Don’t buy groceries and then just “run in for a minute” anywhere. Food has the priority over just about anything else short of a medical emergency.

Remember this rule: Any food that has been out of refrigeration for 4 hours or more has to be thrown away.

Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph sh...

Image via Wikipedia Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

2. Failing to cook food adequately

Cook poultry well done. That is at least 165°F (74°C) for 15 seconds. There should be no pink or red juices and no red or pink near the bones.

The inside of muscle meat is considered sterile until pierced. So don’t go poking your fork in the steaks for the grill if you want them on the rare side. Poke them only after the outside has been seared.

3. Holding food at incorrect temperatures

Hot food hot and cold food cold. The temperatures are 135°F (57°C) for hot food and 41°F (5°C) for cold foods. Anything in between is optimal for bacterial, viral and parasitic growth.

DO NOT thaw frozen proteins on the counter or in the sink. Thaw in the refrigerator, or under lightly running water that is 70°F (21°C) which means the water is cold, not warm or hot!

Always sanitize the counter, sinks, tools, towels, aprons etc. after handling proteins using a bleach solution of  1/8 tsp bleach to 1 quart of cold water.

4. Unclean equipment and utensils

After each use and before starting another one, all used equipment must be washed, rinsed and sanitized before starting another task. Run things through the dishwasher on the sanitizer cycle with heat dry.

When was the last time you cleaned out the refrigerator and washed all the drawers, walls and shelves? Do this task on a weekly basis and daily as spills occur.

None - This image is in the public domain and ...

Image via Wikipedia

5. Poor personal hygiene

Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. When handling food, you can’t wash your hands too much.

If you have a wound or injury that has broken flesh, cover the wound with a bandage and wear a glove.

Do not prepare food for other people when you are ill.

Sorting out your home refrigerator

If you know what order foods should be stored in, you can avoid the risk of causing a food borne illness in your home.

Here is a simple rule I call “Swim, Walk, Fly”

From the top down designate areas for:

    • Ready to Eat (vegetables, salads, cakes, fruit, drinks, cheese)
    • Things that swim (fish, shrimp, seafood – fresh and salt water)
    • Things that walk (Beef, pork, lamb roasts or steaks)
    • Walking things that are ground up (Ground beef, ground pork, ground lamb)
    • Things that fly (chicken, quail, turkey, duck, pheasant, squab, eggs)

All flying things are to be on the very bottom. Keeping items in this order will prevent any cross contamination. Teach your family how to properly store things in the refrigerator too.

Cover and label all food correctly.

Date when things go into the refrigerator and then throw them out after 7 days.

Cool food before placing them in the refrigerator. Remember to cool food quickly – four hours or less or else throw it out.

Use ice baths, cut into smaller portions, increase the surface area by spreading the food on a sheet pan are all methods to cool food quickly before storing.

Pack groceries carefully. Keep all proteins in separate plastic bags.

Do not mix muscle meats with ground meats; keep them separated.

Keep all poultry separate from everything.

If you use cloth bags for your groceries, be sure to wash them once a week or more often if they become soiled or stained.

Designate different bags for meat and bags for produce.

Food Safety is not just for professional food handlers. It is for everyone.

A little bit of knowledge can go a long way in preventing some pretty serious food borne illnesses.

Implement your own food safety program at home today.

If you need any help as to how to get started, let me know. I’ll be glad to help.

Must Have Mustard


I love to make condiments! I must have mustard in many forms in my pantry. Honey Mustard, sweet, savory, mild, smooth, chunky there are so many ways to make gourmet mustard at home

Mustard is so fun and so diverse from sweet to hot, savory to fruity, there is no limit.

Mustard ingredients

This post will give you a recipe for a grainy dark mustard and an apricot mustard. Both are spectacular and very diverse in how you will find ways to use them.

For both of these recipes we use whole mustard seeds. Yellow mustard seeds for the apricot mustard and brown mustard seeds for the grainy mustard.

So here, are the recipes. The method follows both and is the same for both.

Grainy Brown Mustard

1 cup whole brown mustard seeds

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar or honey

Additional water if needed for processing

Apricot Mustard

1 cup whole yellow mustard seeds

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup white wine

1 cup dried apricots, rehydrated

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

Additional water if needed for processing from rehydrating the apricots

Soak mustard seeds overnight

Method for both:

Soak the seeds overnight in the water and wine. You need to make sure the seeds are totally covered by liquid. Add more liquid if you need.

It is highly recommended to soak the mustard seeds overnight due to how hard the little seeds are. If you tried processing the recipe without soaking, it would take forever to get those seeds broken and start turning into a paste.

Rehydrate the apricots in hot water for 30 minutes, reserve any excess water for processing.

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend for 3-4 minutes for the apricot mustard to become somewhat smooth and 2-3 minutes for the grainy mustard. If you want more whole seeds in the grainy mustard, do not process as long. Add additional water as needed to make a smooth consistent product.

Store the mustard in a glass, stainless steel or plastic container; not aluminum. The mustard will mellow after about a week. The flavors will develop and become nice and tasty.

I use the apricot mustard for ham, pork or chicken. It makes a nice glaze, marinade or spread.

Use the grainy mustard on sandwiches, in salad dressings or to dip pretzels.

How do you use mustard?

Apricot Mustard

Dark Grainy Mustard

The Beauty Of Pollination

The Beauty Of Pollination

This is spectacular! If you don’t know about ” TED Talks” this is a beautiful introduction.

Please enjoy this video.

Chive Blossom Vinegar and Vinaigrette

Onion chive blossoms

Chive blossom vinegar isn’t a normal thing to be making in January, but my wish for chive blossoms was realized.

This winter had been on the warm side for us. It was just last night the geranium and the jalapeno plants bit the dust to freezing.

While making a salad for dinner the other evening, my thoughts turned to chive flowers and all the yummy things I could do with them.

I thought how nice it would be to have some chive blossoms to add to the salad, or sprinkle some over the baked potatoes.

I was thinking about making more chive blossom vinegar but alas, being January, my desire would have to wait until spring.

Chive blossoms have a delightful onion or garlic flavor, depending upon which type of chive you have. Onion chives have lovely purple flowers that I really like; garlic chives produce white flowers.

But look at what I found!

As I rounded the corner towards my office, right there in front of me was a lovely plot of blooming chives in the schools herb garden.

Yay! Wish granted!

( Now I wish for a million dollars)

I picked as many as I thought I needed and ran home to toss them into the evening salad and make some Chive Blossom Vinegar for salad dressings in about a month.

Chives are quite simple to grow and actually are perennial so they come back year after year. I have both garlic chives and onion chives growing in my garden. They definitely are not flowering now. In fact they look quite pathetic until a bit of warmth cradles them a bit.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Prepare the blossoms 3 ways: with stem, no stem, single flowers

Use a funnel to fill the bottles

Chive Vinegar

Wash and dry the chive blossoms. Prepare the chive in any of the following ways:

  • Leave as much stem on as you want
  • Use only the tiny flowers
  • use the entire flower heads in tact; no stem
  • leave some stem with the flowers
  • chop some chives to add with the flowers
  • any combination you want

The goal is to make it look pretty and attractive.

  • Place prepared blossoms into an attractive bottle.
  • Boil enough white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar to fill the bottle.
  • Use a funnel to fill the bottle with the hot vinegar.
  • Cork or seal the bottle.
  • Label with the date you made the vinegar.
  • Let steep for 30 days.

After the flavor has developed, open the bottle and experience the fresh aroma of the chive blossom vinegar.

Use it to make a simple vinaigrette.

Chive blossoms on baked potato

Chive Blossom Vinaigrette over Tomato, Onion, Cucumber Salad

  • 1/2  cup chive blossom vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups of olive oil

Place all the ingredients but the oil into a bowl and whisk to combine.

Whisk in the oil and serve.

This is a temporary emulsion which means you will need to whisk it before using as it will separate.

Tomato, onion, cucumber salad with chive blossoms

Tomato, Onion, Cucumber Salad

Serves 2

  • 1 medium tomato, wedged into 8 wedges
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced thin
  • Chive blossoms

Toss the sliced vegetables in a bowl and then arrange attractively on salad plates.

Sprinkle the chive blossoms on top

Drizzle Chive blossom vinaigrette over salad and serve.

To make this go over the top, drizzle a few drops of truffle oil over the salad too.