The “Whole Foods” Attitude

Whole Foods Market

Recently a new Whole Foods Market opened here in Charlotte. While I was initially looking forward to going there, I have changed my mind by attempting to shop at Whole Foods.

The store is quite nice with a nice variety of things to choose to fill your pantry. While prices are a bit high on most things, if you look and study the shelves, you will discover some bargains.

My biggest issue with the store is something they can do nothing about. The attitude of some of the people who shop there is one of a self-absorbed, selfish and horribly rude individual. Unfortunately those with this nasty attitude spoil the entire shopping experience.

Yesterday, while attempting to shop, I was checking out the hot food lunch bar. My cart was literally one side against the counter and there were boxes stacked for some kind of display on the other side. I was walking forward, looking at the lunch offerings, when a nasty attitude woman rammed her cart into the front of mine in an attempt to push me backwards so she could get by.

Another time someone smashed my fingers between the carts while trying to pass a really tight spot that was already full of people trying to go in one direction or another.

English: Customers waiting in line to check ou...

English: Customers waiting in line to check out at the Whole Foods on Houston Street in New York City’s East Village. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) These folks look as if they know how to behave in a crowded shop. Charlotte shoppers, take note!

Each time I exclaimed “There is no need for this kind of behavior! For Christ sake, you are not the only one trying to get through.”

How I would have loved to punctuate the ending with “BITCH.”

So rather than finishing the shopping I had just started, I left the madness behind.

I went to Earth Fare instead. They have better prices on the same products with the same kind of earth/health awareness we like in a grocery store.

There is plenty of parking which is another nightmare at Whole Foods. When it opened, I couldn’t get in for an entire week. The roads leading into the lot were backed up with people just waiting to drive around the lot, let alone find a spot.

Parking is such a nightmare, it inspired a You Tube Video from Los Angeles.

I will not be back. Shopping for food should be an enjoyable experience, not one where you get bashed up, run over, or yelled at for shopping for food. Whole Foods in Charlotte is the most unpleasant place to shop for food.

It would be nice to be able to enjoy some of the specialty bars they offer but I can’t stand the attitude of the shoppers.

They should sample chill pills for the shoppers as most of them need it.

I’ll be going to Earth Fare instead and sipping ounce glasses of wine at home.

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Our White Dinner Event

Below is our post on the most recent White Dinner Event we hosted. It is copied from our blog whitedinnerevents.com

The September event, when it finally happened, was a great success!
Saturday, at the initial scheduled start time, the sky opened and it not only rained but thunder and lightning.
We did a quick survey and since most people were available on Sunday, we rescheduled.

Getting ready to attend a White Dinner!

Sunday was gorgeous weather! Behind the storm front, came lower temperatures and less humidity, which made it very pleasant to be outside. We washed and scrubbed the tables then set them into place. It took a team of us to blow up balloons. Next time, we are letting the professionals do it. While it was fun doing it, we could all see how it would be a tiring chore at every event.

Setting up, getting ready for the guests


After so many moving parts, the hour was finally upon us.

Setting the tables

6:30 the first guests arrive to begin the table set up. They are excited and having a lot of fun setting their tables.

Beautiful Table Settings

Carved pineapples,candelabras, lanterns, candles in glass jars and a tree full of white twinkle lights set the stage for a magical evening.

Lovely, elegant tables
And a candelabra!


People arrived as strangers and left as friends.

Opening Toast! Notice the white gloves and candelabra


The light during twilight was an amazing blue.

The sky was Maxfield Parrish blue as twilight waned. You can see it in the sky in some of the photos.

Champagne and Hibiscus

We put hibiscus flowers in champagne. The flowers were preserved in syrup and a luxurious touch. Such a nice treat; Thank you ladies!
After it got dark, each table got a box of sparklers.
Everyone lit their sparkler at different times and it was so much fun!

The sparklers made a soft light making for some nice photos.

The sparklers lit up faces for great photographs. Each sparkler lasted for 1-1/2 minutes.

You could see everyone having a great time.

The Candelabra Ladies!

We talked, exchanged information, numbers and so many names!
It was great to meet the names we have been corresponding with in e-mail.

If you are interested in attending a white Dinner Event, send an e mail request to whitedinnersincharlotte@gmail.com. You will be kept informed of upcoming events.

Also, be sure to visit our website: www.whitedinnerevents.com

NEXT EVENT: Saturday, October 27, 5:30-7:30~8.00 Table set up begins at 5PM
Location not yet determined.

FAQ:
Why 5:30PM?
The events center around the time of sunset. We schedule the event to begin an hour before sunset, move through twilight into night. This is why we schedule them on Saturday; so there is time to rest on Sunday.

Bob’s Paleo Bars

Teaching culinary school certainly has perks. One of the best perks is everyone around you has an interest in some aspect of food. Some grow great gardens, some make cookies, share fish they caught, bread, pickles, wines, liquors, there is always something going around.

A favorite activity for me is taking part in recipe development, especially in the cookie department. While attempting to come up with the “World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie” it became obvious that ‘world’s best’ is a matter of perception.

Bob’s “Good Health Balls”

Some like cookies crunchy, some soft, others cake like. Then there are nuts or no nuts, milk chocolate or what degree of dark chocolate; 50% 75% 80% cocoa? Or sweeteners, honey, sugar or agave?

I hope you can start getting the picture that “world’s best” is only world’s best to that persons mouth. Certainly their taste buds aren’t speaking for everyone in the world.

Bob is our division director and quite an interesting person. He is very health conscious, an avid practitioner and teacher of Yoga (I don’t know what kind) and is careful with what he puts into his body.

Bob is the person responsible for getting me started in baking our own bread again. He gave me a bit of his sourdough starter last year and I have kept it going and feeding without any issues. The starter makes great bread!

He found a recipe for “Paleo Bars” somewhere that he began playing with to create his own version of what he calls “Good Health Balls”

Perhaps the name needs a bit of work, but the bars are delicious. I don’t think Bob would have appreciated a post title:

“Bob’s Good Health Balls”

Nope, not going there.

They go great with coffee or tea!

Good Health Balls 

  • 1 cup               toasted chopped almonds
  • 1 cup               toasted chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup             toasted chopped sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup             toasted pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup             toasted pistachios
  • ¼ cup             hemp seeds
  • 1 cup               chopped dried dates
  • ½ cup             shredded coconut
  • 1 cup               almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon    cinnamon
  • ½ cup             chopped dark chocolate (optional)
  • ¼ cup                almond butter (Other nut butters can also be used)
  • ¼ cup                coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons     pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large               eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon  organic blue agave

Pre-heat oven to 350°F while making the mixture.

In a large bowl, combine the almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, hemp seeds, figs, coconut, almond flour, cinnamon, and chocolate.

In a separate bowl, combine the almond butter, coconut oil, vanilla, eggs, and agave. Whisk together well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until the dough is moist and blended.

Form the dough into 1-ounce balls, lightly press onto a silicone or parchment paper-lined cook sheet.

A 1-ounce ball is 2 tablespoons. Make the balls all the same size, the weight isn’t as important as even size. If you adjust the size larger or smaller, you will also need to adjust baking time.

Use a small muffin tin lined with cup-cake liners instead of a baking sheet, if you like.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Balls will lightly browned on top.

Makes approximately 36  1-ounce morsels.

Notes: 

  • The dough balls can be successfully frozen.  This allows you to enjoy as many treats as you like.
    Store unbaked dough in a zip-lock freezer bag.

    Bake frozen balls for approximately 20 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven.
  • If you have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood, try their 72% dark chocolate.
  • Costco is a great source for hemp seeds

To your health!

 

 

How To Section Citrus Fruit

Cutting citrus fruit into sections, also called a supreme, is a basic skill.

Culinary students should learn this skill in the first class they take.

However, with that said, I find it odd that in class some students don’t know how to section citrus fruit, even in an advanced class.

I also observed this student who once shown how to do it, passed it on to another team-mate to complete. They in turn, did something else. Not being my class, all I could do is observe and makes notes to myself.

Note to self: Knife Skill Test; Measurement Test for class. If you are a student, consider this heads up!

The process is quite simple and the technique applies to all citrus fruits.

If you are going to want the zest for anything, remove the zest before removing the peel. Personally, I like to dry the zest and keep it handy for quick flavor blasts in a bland dish.

Cut the top and bottom from the fruit.

Cut the peel down the side, removing the pith and exposing the inner fruit.

Cut the peel away all around the fruit.

Work over a bowl to catch all the juices that drip while you cut the fruit sections out.

Remove the sections

Using a sharp knife, cut between the membranes and slide the cut section into a bowl.

Continue all around the fruit until all sections are removed. Squeeze the juice into the bowl with fruit sections.

Discard remaining peel, any seeds and membrane.

All used up.
For total mileage, roll it in salt and give your copper pots a polish.

The sections should be free of seeds, pith and peel.

Use them in salads, salsa, on grilled or fried meats or poultry or seafood.

A bowl of citrus segments is really nice with vanilla ice cream or to accent fruit desserts.

Orange and lemon segments

Refreshing!

Baking from a Box

 

My friend Joanie asked me if I would make up a batch of cupcakes from a box mix. She was curious about whether they would live up to the name associated with the high-priced mix.

“Would it be the same if I made it vs. a professional chef?” she asked.

Presenting me with the challenge of using a boxed mix I told her I would give it a whirl.

She wants to know:

Would I make any changes to the directions?

Is it easy like baking from a box promises?

Are the results as promising as the names on the box: in this case, Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa and the German Chocolate Cupcake and Frosting Mix.

The mix is distributed by Stonewall Kitchens although nowhere on the box does it say where the mix was put together.

So, here goes.

First, the mix costs $13.95 for 12 cupcakes.

My first thought is “expensive”. Is it worth the money?

I notice the frosting mix contains cornstarch which is something I wouldn’t use as in my opinion, it is a cheap way out of proper thickening techniques. But we will see.

Inside the box are three bags: one contains the chocolate cake mix, another granular frosting mix and lastly, a small bag of sweetened shredded coconut.

I need to supply:

  • 1-1/2 sticks of butter
  • 2  whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks (I see macarons in the near future!)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

The directions seem to be simple enough, so I pull the eggs and butter from the fridge and go for a run while they come to room temperature.

Instead of using plain cups for the cupcakes, I am going to use the fun flower ones I found out shopping one day.

Fast forward to finished baking these. All I can say it they are definitely NOT worth the price, let alone the extra cost of a fancy paper cup. Not only did they not turn out, they were also hard as rocks one they cooled.

They also had a funny smell as they were baking. Usually when you bake chocolate, the aroma is thick in the air. The aroma from these had you checking the bottom of your shoes.

Nice expensive cupcake mix
Don’t waste your money!

Now after that fiasco, my curiosity was up, how would the normal cake mixes found in the grocery store work out?

So I hauled up to the grocery and bought one of each kind of German Chocolate Cake Mix; there were three.

All three had me supply eggs, oil and water. That’s it. Frosting was extra, but was that tiny bag of coconut in the expensive mix worth the $13? (No)

So I made each of these mixes, each mix made 24, the expensive mix made 12.

I made a quick coconut caramel frosting from scratch to frost the cupcakes with, and I used the frosting mix from Barefoot Contessa’s box. It was OK, nothing great and it looked rather dull. I’m wondering if they ever passed this box mix by Ina to see if she approved. I can’t imagine they did.

So at the end of the day, we had so many cupcakes and bowls of coconut frosting lying around, Robert was afraid of us eating them all.

I wrapped plated of the cupcakes up in cellophane and sent Robert around the neighborhood giving them to all our neighbors.

One little boy was asking his mom why they didn’t have anything good around the house to eat, like cupcakes, the night before.

When he answered the door and Robert was standing there with an entire plate of cupcakes, all he could say was “Really! Thank you! Thank you so much!” Grinning ear to ear, he disappeared into the house with a plate of cupcakes. I could imagine him hiding them in his room so his older brothers wouldn’t get any.

I love sharing the sweets I make because if I didn’t, #1, we would weigh as much as a horse, #2 I wouldn’t make them just because of #1.

And I do love to make pastries, bread and lots of great food. Sharing it is the only way to keep from wearing it.

As a side note, I did make macarons from the egg whites, I should have given away more of them. I need to add a few more miles to my running schedule.

I did figure out that if you are going to bake cupcakes, forget the boxes and make the batter from scratch. It will be cheaper by far and you will know exactly what you are eating.

My advice? Joanie, get your money back.

If you want to use a mix Duncan Hines or Pillsbury or any of the organic mixes work just fine.

My opinion is Contessa needs to go back to the kitchen to re-work her box mix.

I never would have done this if Joanie didn’t ask.

 

In My Kitchen this September

 

September already?!

My kitchen has been busy, my life busy and bustling.

School has started which is consuming me from early to late hours. Thankfully my evening class is now over. Grades have been posted and it is time to move on to other projects such as the upcoming shoot for my TV show, Charlotte Cooks.

September heralds changing weather; last night a blue moon!Full Moon HDR

I hope you all got to catch a glimpse of the second full moon in a month. The next blue moon will occur in 2015.

August life caught me in between my parents in California and the earthquake tremors (news reported over 400 in one day; they said it was ‘down below from them’) and my son being slapped around by TS Issac in Florida. I must say he holds his cool much better than I do. For anyone keeping track, his apartment renovations have been extended for an additional 4 weeks due to “discoveries” during the current re-model. They need to replace all duct work, pipes and ventilation, carpeting, appliances etc before they get to move back in.

So his cooking skills are on hold as are the “How To Cook” posts until he gets back into his apartment.

Some gifts to my kitchen this month are:

Anaida returned and brought me a wonderful carving kit from The Carving Academy in Moscow so this is new in my kitchen this month.

About a hundred German chocolate cupcakes marched through my kitchen last weekend. I am writing a post on baking from a box that will be out in a few days. A friend bought an expensive mix and wanted to know if it was worth the money.

We delivered the cupcakes and mini-cakes  all over the neighborhood to the delight of lots of children.

The most delightful Thank-You for German Chocolate came from our neighbor Suzanne. I found this hanging on our door.

What a delightful bunch of fresh herbs! They smell so good!

This August has my garlic chives in bloom. Every time I cut any of my fresh herbs, I always say thank you. Bumblebees visit the flowers every day, I like this photo. It was one of those surprises when I downloaded the photos to my computer.