Friday, January 30, 2009

Slippery when wet : zero calorie Valentine's Day gifts and more...

Greetings everyone! Thank you so very much for all those inspiring comments on my previous post! I am indeed touched and have that "warm" feeling inside me when I hear that you also miss me when I am gone ha! ha! I had no idea. Well the feeling is very mutual! You are my support system!

I have been busy with Valentine's Day soap baskets and also a few baby showers ( all these moms- to- be are going to have boys!!! I had to work really hard during these past two weeks so that I could go skiing on the weekends! Let me tell you, I have been making soap in my sleep! These soaps have Goats milk, olive oil, shea and cocoa butters and essential oils.

A Recollection

I still remember the day, I wanted to attempt the art of saponification( soap making). I had the audacity to think that it was not that hard to do. Boy! was I mistaken! It can in fact be very laborious and dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. I, for one, do not like to resort to an absurd hyperbole and discourage people from trying, by saying that it is so difficult, it will break your entrepreneurial spirit. All I am trying to convey here is that when you follow certain precautions, have a " mise en plus" work ethic and little bit of inspiration and patience, will your anticipated results turn out half way decent and not like crap! Hey, even if the result turns out to be a piece of crap, you will get over it and start afresh!

I would like to think that I am actually a soap diva ha! ha! especially since I spend so many hours making them. Let me tell you when I want "to turn down the volume and tune out annoyances," I turn to this satisfying hobby. It keeps me sane!

A message for my South African and Dutch friends:

Ek kan nog altyd onthou die dag toe ek wou leer hoe om seep te maak. Die vraag was hoe swaar was dit werklik? Wel, ek het my lekker misgis want verseping was nogal nie so maklik nie! Ek will ook nie oordryf en se dat dit te swaar is om te leer nie. Wees verseker my doel is nie om u te ontmoedig nie "Probeer is nogmals die beste geweer."
Voorsorg maatreels moet toegepas word en met geduld en n' bietjie inspirasie kan jy hierdie kuns vermeester en leer liefkry. Wees ook gereerd vir uitslagte wat sal misluk!
Verseping is n' stokperdjie wat ek terdee geniet en dit is ook n' wyse van inkomste vir my!

If you are looking for love, then two Cupids are
better than just one! Hope you have a swell
Valentine's day!

A Chanel#5 type of fragrance!

If Cupid can't do the job, then maybe these cupcakes will set that amorous tone!
Chocolate and mulberry fragrance ( cupcake swirl)
Click on this picture!

This "ball and claw tub" served the purpose of my
Valentine's gift baskets. A zero calorie cupcake while
soaking in the tub! What more does a girl want?
Seduction in the making!!! Work it girl! .........and boys?

Here I used a leather tool to "write" on the
soap. Click on the picture to see the words
more clearly.

One of my customers' wanted this pina colada fragrance
pineapple soap in the basket. Who am I to question?
Ask and you shall receive! I kinda dig this pina colada


"Its a boy" Yay!!!!!Soaps for the baby

Chocolate and vanilla fragrance ( cupcake swirl)

Banana and pineapple fragrance ( Finally a bug that I like!)

Platypus and duckies( baby powder fragrance)
Click on the picture !

Click here for older baby soaps

Please enjoy!
Nazarina A.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Grass-fed, organic beef cooked low and slow and fru-fru potatoes: It's what's best for dinner!!

Just like a steamy cup of Milo( malted cocoa) and that infamous ritual robe can evoke a fuzzy sense of security on a cold winter's night, so too, can a pot of beef cooked low and slow and not forgetting a crispy potato topping, capture that efficacious effect. Yes, patience is truly virtuous when adopting this mode of cooking. Intense rich gravies, juicy rumps and tender loins are but a few of the many rewards when" slaving over a hot stove." In this case your "pot runneth over" with flavor and goodness and who knows who will join you at the dinner table! I can assure you that even a raucous "obligate carnivore" ha! ha! or even a meat loving motor head for that matter will be on his/ her best behavior just to get a piece of this pie no matter how fru fru!

Here the cook will be graded if you will on this slow cooking method and the love put into the dish and not the intramuscular white fat content found in grain-fed beef which is all the rave with certain restaurateurs and others and frankly may very well be the cause of modern health concerns. For me the slogan"more fat, more flavor" which is revered by so many is far from the truth! I can assure you that you will achieve the same "ta da" with a minimal ingredient list and grass-fed organic beef because here the beef actually taste the way beef is supposed to taste!

A condensed translation for my Afrikaans and Dutch readers:

Net soos n' warme koppie Milo en n' rituaale kamerjas op n' koue wintersaand, so sal n' heerlike en stadige gekookte organiese biefstuk bredie jou troos. Hierdie stadige metode is n' beloning vir enigeiemand wat bereid is om die heeldag voor n' stoof te slaaf. Bo alle twyfel, hierdie ryk en lekker vleissous is waar jy sal gradeer word en die slagspreuk "meer vet meer geer" is nie rerig n' waarheid nie, nie vir my nie. In elk geval, vee wat gras vreet is meer gesond vir ons as vee wat graan vreet. Ten slotte, daar is talle ander bestaandele wat vir jou geer kan verseker maar vir my is liefde die vernaamste. As daar niks liefde is nie, hoef jy nie moeite maak nie.

Beef cooked low and slow in a rich gravy with crispy fru fru potatoes

The potato topping is crispy and has a hint of lemony spicy goodness.
As you bite into it, it just melts in your mouth! The beef is as tender
as can be and that rich gravy will have you singing for more!

This is also known as a "bredie" in South Africa. ( Snyboontjie bredie)

Slow cooked beef, fresh green beans and crispy star shaped potatoes over fragrant basmati rice and mustard seeds.

What are these? They are not what you think they are!

Stuffed with roasted and then pickled beets in a creamy garlic Parmesan sauce

These are actually pear-shaped potatoes ( made from mashed potatoes)

Please use organic ingredients when possible

  • 2 big onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 lbs organic grass-fed stewing beef, cut into cubes, washed and drained in a colander
  • olive oil
  • 1 whole ball garlic pounded
  • roasted bell pepper seeds
  • 1-2 dried red chilies
  • about 5 big potatoes( I made fancy cutouts, but you can just peel and slice thick rounds)
  • some crack black
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • lemon pepper ( I make the lemon part from scratch, will show in another post)
  • kosher salt
Saute the onions and the garlic in 2 T olive oil until caramelized. This has to be really golden in color but not burnt. Add the beef, roasted bell pepper seeds, chilies and kosher salt and then cook until the meat is tender( about 2 hrs). Keep stirring and add water if the meat looks like it is going to burn. The meat has to reach a deep golden color. Then add the balsamic and a few turns of crack black and cook for 5 more mins more , making sure that there is enough water for the rich gravy to develop. turn off the hot plate and leave to cool. While the meat is cooking, peel the potatoes and slice into thick rounds or cut with a cookie cutter for the fancy shapes. Boil the potatoes until just tender with a little kosher salt and then drain.
Grease a casserole dish with olive oil, spoon the beef mixture into the dish and pack the potato slices on top. Brush the potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with lemon pepper and bell pepper seeds and bake in a 375 degree convection oven for a further 20 mins or until the tops of the potatoes are golden.

For the green bean version:
Follow the same procedure as for the cubed beef casserole but add the green beans to the cubed beef mixture in the pot and cook further until tender( another 20 mins). Bake the star shaped potatoes in the oven, with olive oil and the lemon pepper and bell pepper seeds until crispy 375 degrees for 25 mins and then just place on top of the meat and green bean mixture when you are ready to serve.

Pear- shaped baked potatoes:

  • 1 lb floury potatoes
  • 1 egg plus an egg yolk
  • 3 oz grated Parmesan
  • 3 T fresh chopped cilantro
  • some bell pepper seeds
  • some raw spaghetti to represent a stalk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1T grated Parmesan
  • 1 extra beaten egg
  • some panko
  • some flour

Peel and cook the potatoes until tender 7 mins. Do not forget to salt the water with a little kosher salt. Drain and mash thoroughly. While the mashed potato is still hot, gingerly add the all the beaten eggs, 3oz Parmesan, bell pepper seeds and the cilantro. Divide into 12 portions on a tray and refrigerate for an hour. Flatten each portion on the palm of the hand, place one teaspoon of the beets in the center and then close this filling tightly.
Shape these portions into a pear shapes , dust with flour, dip in the beaten egg and then the panko, stick a small piece of spaghetti into the potato for the stalk and refrigerate for another 30 mins.
Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a pre-heated 375 oven until golden( about 25 mins.)

Creamy Parmesan sauce:

Cook the cream and the, 3 cloves of chopped garlic until reduced down just a little and then add the Parmesan and cook until creamy about 10 mins. Spoon over the baked pear shaped potatoes.

Pickled beets

  • 1 jar organic small dice beets/ or you can roast 2 in the oven
  • chopped green chili
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 T balsamic
  • 3 T rice vinegar
Prepare the beets by draining all the red liquid and add to the chopped shallots and the green chili. Add the vinegars and a little kosher salt and set aside.

I never make all these dishes on one day. One dish per day!

Please enjoy!
Nazarina A.

Chicago Sun-Times

Monday, January 12, 2009

South Florida vacation

I trust that all my blogger friends had a joyous Holiday season and a very grand new year! I am back and ready to dazzle you( or not ha! ha!) with my culinary creations but first I share with you, my vacation in South Florida!

South Florida could very well be a playground for sun seekers, especially if one wants to escape the snow and the cold, even for just a little while. Unwinding and having fun comes to mind and is this not ultimately the premise of a vacation?

While this destination boasts the sun, surf and clubbing in South Beach ( mind you activities of which we did and enjoyed), it was actually an exhilarating helicopter ride that was the highlight of our vacation this time! At times it was pretty unnerving, flying over tall buildings because the airflow can become turbulent and cause the helicopter to "sway "from side to side. This did make me a little giddy! The view from the helicopter into the blue ocean was spectacular and I swore I saw a shark but quickly dismissed the thought for fear of trusting my vivid imagination which can be quite overactive during extreme bouts of fear coupled with pleasure.

Miami to me is the gateway to South America and most of all, Cuba. There is a jamboree of nationalities that screams warmth and good times and they have this profound naivete' ( I mean no disrespect!) that South Florida is the best place to live. I, on the other hand, love the mountains, skiing and the four seasons.

En route to the Florida Keys

Flying over West Palm Beach

Even though, I had fun with my family and friends in South Florida, I missed my home in Colorado. Some would exclaim that I am the one being delusional, preferring an icy Tundra above a tropical paradise. Why shovel and scrape snow when you could bask in the lap of the sun and the surf! I say, "home is where you hang your hat" and Colorado surely for me is where I lay my head!!!

This is the sun room in the front part of my home

Scraping the snow from our truck, comes with the territory!

You decide! Where would you rather live in Colorado or in Florida?

Nazarina A