By the end of the first day at the King Arthur Flour Blog & Bake I was exhausted. After madly taking notes on everything from how to make bread rise perfectly and the difference between flours, to Sara Moulton’s herbed spaetzle and how to properly debone a chicken breast, I had absorbed just about all I could. Following our elegant dinner at The Norwich Inn I turned in for the night and slept soundly until my alarm the next morning. Pizza dough was the first order of business on day two. We had begun making the dough starter the day before and set out to finish it in time for lunch. I was so glad to go through this exercise because I’ve always loved making pizza at home. I usually make it on a baking sheet in my oven and it works well, but I was eager to try the gigantor King Arthur Flour in-house wood burning pizza oven:
I had the sincere pleasure of attending Blog & Bake at the King Arthur Flour headquarters in Norwich VT earlier this week. And when I say it was a pleasure, I really, truly mean that. You all know how I love to bake. Being invited to spend two days learning tips from the pros was an unbelievable opportunity. Some people may wonder why I would take basic baking classes when I just wrote a book with a whole baking chapter in it, but that is one of the best parts about cooking. It is impossible to know how to do everything perfectly. There is always more to learn about the craft, more techniques to know. The teachers at King Arthur were, in my opinion, unparalleled. Our two days of classes covered the basics: white bread, pizza dough, pate brisee (butter crusts), pate sucree (sweet butter crusts), and flour. Even though I’ve made all of these many times I learned all sorts of useful tips from the best way to make a make a flakey pie crust, to how to knead pizza dough so that is produces a perfectly crispy crust every time. We even got to take home everything we baked, including our gorgeous tomato pies.
In addition to the baking classes I learned a lot more about King Arthur Flour as a company. I’ve always used their flour because it works so well and I strongly believe in using unbleached flours. (Bleaching is an unnecessary process which adds carcinogenic chemicals to flour.) Since my experience I have redoubled my affection for their products. King Arthur is committed to maintaining very strict criteria about the flour they sell. All of their wheat is purchased from farmers committed meeting their high standards, and they really make an effort to get to know their growers (just check out these cool videos!) They are also very particular about protein levels in their products. Protein levels in other commercial flours can vary greatly which means you can bake the same recipe with the same brand of flour, but from two different bags, and get completely different results. This won’t happen with King Arthur, their flours behave the same way every single time you bake with them. I thought it was neat that the company is 100% employee owned. Everyone I met had a smile on their face and demonstrated a tremendous amount of pride in their work.
It is impossible to cover all of the great tips in one post so I’m going to break out my experience into two parts. One this week, one next week. So, let’s get started.
This is sponsored content from BlogHer and Folgers.
With a toddler there is no sleeping in. My day begins bright and early at sunrise no matter how many light-blocking shades we install in her room. Luckily, I am a bit of a morning person so I don’t mind waking up early as long as I’ve gotten a decent night of sleep. When we wake up I try to focus on a good healthy breakfast and a nice dose of caffeine for me to get the day started.
Since breakfast is always our first priority in the morning my husband focuses on the coffee maker while I whip up whatever hot meal we are going to have. I know it is extra effort, but it makes such a difference to kick off the day with oatmeal, eggs, waffles or pancakes. They pair so well with juice and coffee and I firmly believe that a solid meal starts off the day right.
Once our breakfast plates are wiped clean and our coffee mugs are empty we kick off the rest of our daily routine. Work for my husband, the gym for me and my daughter. Then, she is off to school and I am back home to work. I’ve tried to start our morning routine many times without our normal breakfast and it simply doesn’t work.
Folgers wants all families to start the day off right with a solid breakfast and a great cup of coffee which is why I am so excited to be helping them spread the word about their Folgers Jingle Contest. To view the entries share your opinion go visit the “Best Part of Wakin’ Up Contest” site and check out the entrants. Best of all, when you vote you could win a some great daily prizes! For rules about voting be sure to check out the rules section. Then come back here and tell us which is the best in your book! I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks!
For more great articles about Folgers be sure to check out this great round-up on BlogHer. In the mean time, happy breakfast!
The other day my daughter and I set out to do “mixing” together. That is our code word for baking project. That is also my code word for “way messy project coming up.” Obviously I don’t let the prospect of major clean-up time deter me from doing our projects together. She is still very young and messes are to be expected and maybe even encouraged. I love the look of glee on her face when she sees that she has created something wonderful, so keep the messes coming if that is what I get as a reward.
One of things I love about traveling is finding new places to eat and restaurants to explore. It is always interesting to find places that are the hallmark of a particular region like barbecue in the South, or tacos in Southern California. However, when I am traveling with kids on a dreary day down a major highway sometimes I just want to eat at some place that is familiar. Not as in golden-arches familiar, but a restaurant where I know we can get healthy food that will be nourishing and delicious.
As you can guess, last week when we were on a little road trip this very scenario happened to me. The weather was less than stellar, my daughter was grumpy with hunger and I needed a place to stop and rest. As luck would have it I spotted a Panera Bread sign on 95N just as I was reaching my limit and we pulled off immediately. Entering Panera was like entering a familiar, happy restaurant I knew would cure all ills. My daughter was ecstatic to start in her grilled cheese while I protein-loaded on the new Thai Chicken Salad (yum!). We both gulped down our lemonade (I am addicted) and then I got a hot chai to go while my daughter indulged in an iced Easter cookie.
Our stop took all of thirty minutes, but it was a thirty minutes that made all the difference. We had entered grumpy and frustrated at our long road trip, and left calmed and happy after a healthy, fulfilling meal. We leave for vacation next week and I am sure there will be some Panera locations where we visit. I am glad to know they will be there.
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Last week I participated in a great cooking class with The Motherhood regarding picky eaters. It was so much fun to spend an hour chatting with friends and guests about ways to placate picky eaters and expanding their palate. Here is a summary of the show. It included so many great talking points, here are a few of my favorite take-aways I hope will help you!
Picky Eating is Normal!
As Stacie from One Hungry Mama said:
– There’s an evolutionary explanation for some picky phases. (some phases come at times of increased mobility, when baby might be exploring places without mama or papa immediately nearby to protect them. Pickiness, natural skepticism of new foods, prevented the cave baby from putting just about anything – like a poisonous berry – in baby’s mouth)
Just Try It
Many participants use the “one-bite rule” to get their kids to try a food before simply refusing it.
“Our rule is you just need to take a full size bite, chew, swallow and then say, ‘Yes, please’ or ‘No, thank you,’” said host Jennifer Leal, Savor the Thyme.
And Keep Trying It
“Always introduce food several times in several forms,” said host Kelsey Banfield, The Naptime Chef. “Kids will pick up on it eventually.”
“It can take upwards of 6-10 tries for a child to accept a new food – so it’s super important to the course by repeatedly serving healthy foods (openly!) and modeling eating them, too,” added Stacie Billis. “Even when they say they don’t like them!”
One of the great things about Panera Bread is that it is always open for lunch, no matter the weather. The other week when there was a snow day and my babysitter couldn’t make it in I needed something to do with my daughter so we went to Panera for lunch. I always steer clear of taking her to junky fast food restaurants, but Panera is one place I never even think about driving to. I know each time we go our meal will be made fresh with quality ingredients. That kind of assurance as a diner and a mother is priceless.
Like my friends at Big Girls, Small Kitchen, I think that breakfast is often an overlooked opportunity to woo a loved one. I mean, dinner and all that is great, but breakfast is the best way to start off the day. Why not start it off right with a delicious romantic meal?! Our breakfasts are rarely romantic these since our daughter is often munching away on her cereal while chatting our ears off about her upcoming day at school, but no matter. I just include her in the mix and go all out with a fabulous meal anyway.
This Valentine’s Day I’ll be serving some fabulous heart shaped waffles for breakfast. Does this relate to naptime cooking at all? Yes! Because I make my homemade mix during naptime the day before. I used to use my mix to make regular shaped waffles on the waffle maker I borrowed from my parent, but then I received this amazing heart shaped waffle maker from my friend’s at King Arthur Flour and the whole game changed. Now I mix up my favorite batter and cook our waffles into heart shapes. My daughter gets a kick out of the whole thing and my husband graciously accepts my cheesy romantic overtures in waffle form. What can I say, sometimes being breakfast is the perfect occasion for silly romance!
Since I think we all should be getting in the spirit of romantic breakfast I am giving away a heart shaped waffle maker courtesy of King Arthur Flour! Entering is simple and fun! Also, stay tuned for some great waffle recipes this coming week. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Congratulations to Brenda Y., the winner of our Mediterranean Inspirations Giveaway!
Here is a great video I did for the Tyson Chicken Sandwich Challenge. I submitted my recipe for the Cooperstown Club Sandwich, a recipe inspired by the local ingredients in my hometown! Please visit this site and vote on the right hand side bar!
The best part about voting for this sandwich is that, if I win this contest, Tyson will donate $5,000 to my charity of choice which is my friend Jen’s charity Socks-n-Undies Sunday. Jen and I met when our children were just 4 months old and we’ve been friends ever since. She and her mother started this charity which collects, you guessed it, socks, underpants, undershirts and pajamas for the homeless. It is all about the providing the most very basic necessities in life for those who need it most. She spends a lot of time forming relationships with homeless shelters, non-profits and faith-based organizations and ensuring that every garment donated is swiftly distributed to those in need. I took my daughter shopping for our Christmas donation last year and she picked out Princess socks for a little girl. A little girl who might not have had any socks at all if we hadn’t stopped in to TJMaxx to buy a few pairs. Just imagine how many garments the Tyson chicken donation could purchase!
I was recently contacted by a Crisco representative about their new Mediterranean Inspirations Recipe and Essay Contest. I learned that from January 17 through March 18, Crisco is inviting home cooks to submit their favorite recipes at GetInspiredwithCrisco.com in the Crisco Mediterranean Inspirations Recipe and Essay Contest for the chance to win a trip for two to Italy. They are looking for recipes that use one of the three Crisco Olive Oil varieties: Crisco 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Crisco Pure Olive Oil or Crisco Light Olive Oil; plus, two ingredients commonly used in Mediterranean-style cooking, including tomatoes, garlic, olives, pasta, yogurt, legumes, fresh herbs, lentils or cheese.
I was intrigued by this contest since I love Mediterranean cuisine. I am always cooking with olive oil, artichokes, pasta, tomatoes, herbs and cheese. In fact, here are some of my favorite Mediterranean-style recipes in case you are looking for inspiration: Artichoke Lasagna, Artichoke Rosemary Pizza, Caprese Summer Pasta, Artichoke-Lemon Pesto, Perfect Pesto, Orange Olive Oil Pine Nut Cake
To entice you to enter their most excellent contest, (I mean seriously, why wouldn’t you enter this contest, you could go to ITALY!!!), Crisco is generously providing a prize pack for one of my readers. Entry requirements are below.
The best part about this prize pack is that it is incredibly generous and contains all that you need to feel like you are cooking in the Mediterranean even before you’ve even arrived.
The prize pack contains:
1. One set of 4 gorgeous pasta bowls from Williams-Sonoma (pictured above)
2. A set of 3 Crisco oils, all of which you can use in your everyday cooking
3. Salt Pig from Crate & Barrel (pictured above)
4. Herb Scissors from Crate & Barrel
5. Bamboo Spoon from Crate & Barrel
6. Grown Your Own Pesto kit for growing basil and herbs to make your own pesto
7. A pack of fabulous recipe cards for great Mediternean dishes to make at home.
To Enter to Win the Prize Pack:
1. Leave a comment telling me your favorite Mediterranean inspired food.
2. Sign up for The Naptime Chef Newsletter (upper left corner of this screen)
3. Become a fan of The Naptime Chef on Facebook.
4. Contest runs from January 21st at 9:30pm ET through January 31st at 11:59pm ET.
5. Winner will be chosen using Random.org.
You all are well aware that I love to cook and eat great food. But you also know that I occasionally like to go out to eat as well. I am not averse to date night with my husband at a great restaurant or even taking my daughter out for lunch after swimming class. I mean, just because I like to cook doesn’t mean I cook every meal a day, seven days a week. However, when we do eat out we won’t eat out just anywhere. I like to patronize the restaurants I know serve good food and care about quality and customer service. There are certain, a-hem, drive-through style establishments that I wholeheartedly boycott. Someone even took my daughter to one recently and she refused to eat anything they offered her. Guess I taught her early!
One of the places we happily eat regularly is Panera Bread. It has a great selection of food and beverages, is clean, kid-friendly and is generally pretty efficient. Being a carb junky I usually order one of the paninis. When we went the other day it was the ideal lunch because it was so cold outside. I also got a lemonade for the kiddo and I to split, as well as a hot chai to go for me. My daughter got a grilled cheese – her favorite – and chips. Her to-go treat was a giant chocolate chip cookie the size of her head. As a mother I will take this moment to ask the Panera management to consider making smaller chocolate chip cookies for kids so we don’t have to spend and hour policing our child as they work their way through a mountain of sugar and get chocolate all over the car. But that’s another story.
When I was there on my most recent trip I did notice that there were some great new items on the menu I want to try when I go back soon. I think I might go for the Thai Chopped Chicken Salad or the Breakfast Power Sandwich. It will most likely be the former, it is rare that we are out early enough to pick up breakfast.
I am working with Panera on a project for the rest of this winter and into the spring. I look forward to sharing more of my Panera adventures with you. I also have to share some of the recipes I made with the bread I brought home, that’s a whole different post in itself!
*This was a compensated post which is why it appears on my ad-free Products Review Page