Saturday, December 13, 2008


10 Holiday Gifts for Foodies, Chefs and Home Cooks

Happy Holidays everyone!

I have been saving up some holiday gift ideas for you all year, and am excited to share.

Now, my sweet peaches, I know, I know. The festive light of the holiday season isn't burning quite as brightly this year. We are all looking for cheap and cheerful versus flamboyant and over-the-top.

For all these years, we have been going big, but now, we choose intimate, small, lovely. But that can be a wonderful thing indeed.

Here are my suggestions for gifts that will be treasured by your loved ones now and for years to come. I hope you like them!

1. Viva Terra Enameled Cups and Pitcher Perfect picnic-ware.

Who can resist these beautiful things?

All last summer we drank from them (ideal for a sangria or mojito or for drinks for the kiddies.) and marvelled at not only their beauty but also at how incredibly durable they are. Equally perfect for outdoor entertaining and sitting by the fire. They bring a burst of happy color in to any occasion. And when you aren't using them for bevvies, they make terrific vases!

2. Stirling Silver Utensil Earrings from the Jewelry Kitchen

Giving kitchen-themed jewelry is always fun. And I just think these earrings are too, too sweet. They are so whimsical and fun.

"No cook should be without this delicate set of kitchen utensils dramatically set in a hook earring.

Very eclectic in design, this bevy of cooking tools will delight you in sterling silver. Wear them with pride."

They also have lots of other things too choose from, so make sure to check out their website.

3. Yummyfun Kooking DVD.

Yummy Clare makes all sorts of strange and wonderful edible creations for kids of all ages in this charming and off-beat video series. I admit I ordered the Spookyfun DVD for my niece and nephew and ended up keeping it for myself (they can watch when the visit!), it's that inspiring!

4. Tokyo Recycled Glass Wine Glasses from By Nature.

I love the modern shape of these chunky glasses and that they are made from recycled glass. Perfect for everyday and upscale nights.

All you need is some biodynamic wine to pour in to them.

The company, By Nature, is only able to ship these beauties within the U.K. So save this gift for your British friends. (And they seem to be on sale right now! Bonus!) Or if you really want them, send them to a friend and have them ship them along...

5. Shiitake Mushroom Kit. Grow your own organic mushrooms from

"Shiitake is a star when it comes to versatility. This dark brown mushroom, with caps ranging in size from 2 to 4 inches, is the most widely consumed mushroom in Asia. It has been cultivated there for centuries. Its earthy fragrance and meaty texture enhances a wide variety of dishes since the results are beautiful whether they are sautéed, broiled, baked, grilled, stir fried, or sliced thin and used in salads. Shiitake mushrooms have traditionally been used to add complexity to stews or soups, and the stems create deeply flavorful stocks. Shiitake may also be stuffed and broiled"

6. Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagen.

This is the only cookbook I am asking for this year.

"Duck fat. Caul fat. Leaf lard. Bacon. Ghee. Suet. Schmaltz. Cracklings. Jennifer McLagan knows and loves cooking fat, and you'll remember that you do too once you get a taste of her lusty, food-positive writing and sophisticated comfort-food recipes. Dive into more than 100 sweet and savory recipes using butter, pork fat, poultry fat, beef fat, and lamb fat, including Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel and Rosemary, Risotto Milanese, Duck Rillettes, Bone Marrow Crostini, and Choux Paste Beignets. Scores of sidebars on the cultural, historical, and scientific facets of culinary fats as well as sumptuous food photos throughout make for a plump, juicy, satisfying read for food lovers." - Jessica's Biscuit

7. 4Mular - Ingredients for Molecular Gastronomy from Le Sanctuaire.

Do you have someone in your life who has taken "play with your food" to a whole new level? Do gels and spheres of liquids turned solid turn them on?

If so, check out Le Sanctuaire and get their chemistry kit started with things like Glycerin Monostearic, Sodium Alginate and Calcium Chloride (to make those super-cool beads of liquids) and much, much more.

8. Biodynamic Wine from Sky Saddle Wines. Sure, sure, a lot of wine is "award winning," but this wine has won awards for being eco-friendly and wonderful to drink. That makes it better than award winning by me. It makes it wine I want to drink and give as a gift.

I recommend (and have been enjoying) the 2006 Sky Saddle Chardonnay but anything from this winery is worth seeking out. And, of course, if you are in Sonoma, CA make sure to pop in for a visit.

9. Divine Chocolate. A farmer-owned fair trade chocolate company.

Come on now kids. It's chocolate and it's fair trade. What else do you really need to know?

(Well...) "The success of Divine means that farmers have a secure source of Fair Trade income that continues to grow year on year. Kuapa Kokoo has invested its Fair Trade income in building schools, sinking wells for clean drinking water to villages, providing mobile medical clinics for farmers in remote growing regions, and fostering women’s income generation projects to help women earn additional income for their families when the cocoa season is over.
The farmers' ownership stake in Divine Chocolate means that Kuapa Kokoo has a meaningful input into decisions about how Divine is produced and sold."

Buy, share, enjoy, repeat.

10. Please (as always) consider purchasing a Menu For Hope Raffle Ticket.

Tickets go on sale this Monday and all money goes to support schools in Lesotho, Africa.

The prizes (yet to be announced) from food bloggers around the world are always simply amazing and worth far more than the $10 ticket price.

Please help support this worthy cause.

Well then, that is all I have. I hope you found something you like.

Happy Holidays!


© 2008 Fresh Approach Cooking

You can also always check GOLDSTAR.COM for tickets to all the hottest events! Kids, I love this site!

The Ombudsman and I use it all the time...we get seats at plays, baseball games, and lots more all for great prices. Cant beat that!

© 2008 Rachael at "Fresh Approach Cooking" If you are not reading this at the aforementioned URL or in your RSS feed, the site you are looking at are violating my copyright. And that's rude.

This is what I suggested in years past!
2007, 2006, 2004

All of the photos in this post come from their respective websites. Credit where credit is due.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Fennel Cheesecake with Candied Carrots

I feel like getting all-kindsa serious up in here...because in some weird fashion, this cheesecake deserves it.

Without a doubt, this here slice of delights has been my single greatest culinary triumph to date.

(In the dessert realm, anyway.)

How so? Well, you see...

As a few of you astute readers may have caught on by now; for the last few months I have been working along with a friend, throwing roaming dinner parties under the guise of the Chicks with Knives Sustainable Supper Club.

It's your basic underground, moveable restaurant kinda thingy. A la the Ghetto Gourmet.

We pick a date and write a menu, send out invites and lo and behold a fantatic set of total strangers show up at a secret location and good times are had by all.

It's simply dreamy.

And my peaches? Thus far, it has been a smash-hit.

(Can I get a holla? Holla!)

We make the kinds of foods that rock our own world - being all Sustainable/Organic/Local and Ethical - and it has been our distinct pleasure to serve it to people who really seem to dig our vibe.


As an added bonus, I get to feed people the food I grow in my own garden, and the food my friends and neighbors have grown too. We serve local meats and fruits and veg and keep it as earth friendly as possible without getting preachy.

So really, it's just lovely and fun and puts a smile on my face.

Which leads me to the cheesecake...the featured dessert at our most recent and most decidedly faboo, sit-down. An insane sounding Fennel Cheesecake. More to the point, a Crustless, Franchi Fennel Cheesecake with Candied Carrot Frizzle and Tree-Tomato and Grapefruit Sorbet.

Welcome to the wackness.

And yet, it worked like a DREAM! I swear.

So much so that I have made it three times since and am still getting calls and emails asking for the recipe. Raves I tell you, raves are all I hear. Such a nice thing!

There is just something so decadant and different about it. You will just have to try for yourself and see. It's is creamy and smooth and rich and airy. All at once.

The fennel is not at all pronounced, but just lends a backround note that leaves you guessing. And if you don't tell your guests that the garnish is carrot, they may never be able to figure out what it really was. (Just make sure you use a truely sweet carrot. Taste a few in your bunch to find out.)

Now me, I used all fair-trade/organic/homegrown/local ingredients and I swear it added to the specialocity of this...but even if you aren't (like me) out harvesting fennel seeds, you can still make a good show of this...and I hope you will.

So try this my peaches, and taste the joy.

1 organic fennel bulb, small dice (about three quarters of a cup)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup organic, fair-trade, vegan sugar
1 tablespoon organic butter
2 teaspoons ground fennel or anise seed mixed with 1 T. sugar
2 pounds organic cream cheese
1 1/4 cup sugar
5 cage-free, organic eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Ouzo, Ricard or Sambuca or 1 teaspoon anise extract
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a small saucepan, combine the fennel, sugar and water and simmer until the water is mostly evaporated and the fennel is sticky and translucent. Carefully pour out on to a Silpat non-stick baking sheet, non-stick baking sheet or parchment paper. Set aside to cool. Break up with a fork a few times as it cools to prevent clumping.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

Lightly butter a 10-inch Springform pan and dust the interior with fennel or anise seed. Knock out any excess. Wrap the exterior of the pan with foil. Set aside.

Using a Cuisinart, blend the cheese until soft. Add the sugar and blend for 2 minutes, to incorporate. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then add the lemon zest (if using. I didn’t use it.), alcohol (or extract) cream and sour cream and process for another minute. Fold the candied fennel into the batter.

To create a water bath, place the prepared, foil-wrapped, Springform pan into a larger roasting pan. Pour the batter in to the Springform. Place roasting pan with the cheesecake in it into the oven on the center rack and then pour the boiled water in to the roasting pan to create a water bath. The water should come half way up the sides of the cheesecake pan.

Bake for 1.25 hours or until just set; the center should still have a wiggle to it.

Turn the oven off and let the cake cool in there for up to two hours, then refrigerate for at least six hours prior to serving.

Makes one large cheesecake.

(I served this with carrot strips that I tossed in corn-starch, fried, and then dusted with confectioners sugar, slightly sweetened whipped cream and a tree-tomato and grapefruit vodka sorbet.)

© 2008 Fresh Approach Cooking

© 2008 Rachael at "Fresh Approach Cooking" If you are not reading this at the aforementioned URL or in your RSS feed, the site you are looking at are violating my copyright. And that's rude.

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake anyone? How about a Vegan Eggnog version?

The book the Professional Pastry Chef says: "The main difference between the New York style cheesecake and the regular cheesecake, is that here, the sour cream is part of the filling and is mixed with the other ingredients at the beginning. In the other cake, the sour cream is added as a topping after the cream cheese filling is partially baked. Secondly, in the regular cheesecake, the ratio of sour cream to cream cheese is just about equal. In the New York style, only a small amount of sour cream is used by comparison. Lastly, the New York style contains approximately half again as much egg." Which I guess makes this cake NY style...

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