C is for Chocolate Chips

This past Wednesday was National Chocolate Chip Day, a holiday I can support without question.  If it were up to my children we’d probably sprinkle chocolate chips on everything… needless to say I am a huge fan. It all got me thinking about where Chocolate Chips came from.  As you might have suspected, the creation of the chocolate chip came about for a cookie recipe.  Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts added cut up chunks of a semi-sweet Nestle chocolate bar to a cookie recipe.  They were an immediate success.  Wakefield reached an agreement with Nestle to add her recipe to the back of their bags in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate.  That was in 1939 and Wakefield lived until 1977.  That is a LOT of chocolate.  It was around 1941 when Nestle began producing chocolate chips, before that they added a cutter to their larger bars.  This creation changed cookie making as we know it.

These days it is difficult to find a traditional bakery that doesn’t have some sort of chocolate chip cookie on their menu. While the Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe is  a staple at home, here are some of my favorite chocolate chip cookies to eat when someone else is baking.

Bouchon Bakery Chocolate Chunk – This cookie is crisp on the edges and chewy in the middle. I had my fair share when I worked at Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center for over two years. Sometimes quality control is part of the job and I wasn’t complaining.

Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies – These cookies are HUGE and sinful.  They are pretty gooey on the inside with just the right balance of richness from the chocolate and crunch from the walnuts.

Jacques Torres Chocolate Coated Chocolate Chip Cookie – This chocolate chip cookie is coated on the bottom with 60% dark chocolate… WOW!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Shots from Dominique Ansel Bakery – Cookies and milk are a great combination and this one allows you to have your milk in your cookie.  It literally is a cup made of chocolate chip cookie. 

If you missed National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day do not worry, there are chocolate chip cookies made everyday.  Pick one up at your favorite bakery and let us know why it is the best!

Happy Friday,

Julie

A Mother’s Job

Messy Kids

                                                                                                                                   

Motherhood and parenting definitely comes with some positives and negatives. I love when you see a job posting for the position of Mother. It may read something like this:

Title: Mother

Description:

  • Long term, energetic team players needed, for challenging permanent work in a busy and often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call.
  • Successful candidates are given a few hours sleep per night for the first few years increasing to more as you remain in the position. Even during sleeping time, successful candidates should be able to wake up and resume normal duty at a seconds notice.
  • There are ‘bathroom breaks’ permitted but these will be accompanied by small people. Be prepared to answer any questions they may ask while doing this task.

Responsibilities:

Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs something. Must be willing to bite your tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a lion and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small toy repair and stubborn zippers. Must maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have the ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, and an embarrassment the next. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the building.

Compensation:

None! You pay! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when clients they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. The strangest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

Benefits:

While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life. There is one day per year allocated for you (it is marked in the calendar as Mother’s Day)

Needless to say being a mom is really hard and so is running your own business. I am very proud to be a mother and business owner. I have even more pride in the fact that Julie’ Beet supports other women entrepreneurs who are also mothers. 

Chantal Coady founded Rococo Chocolates well before she had children. Now she is the proud mother of two and is still running a very successful chocolate company.

Lucy Benjamin started Lucy’s  Granola due to the overwhelming response to her granola at her daughter’s bake sale.  Lucy is the proud mother of three and makes way more granola compared with the back to school days.

Stefanie, from Due Celucci is the proud mother of two sons and one dog.  She makes her sauces to taste like home-made so the only work you have to do is opening the jar and cooking the pasta.

Daniela, from Farmhouse Lab, also had two children. According to Daniela, her children are excellent taste testers.  We have them to thank for all of the delicious dressings

Leah, from Semolina Artisanal Pasta, is also a mother of 2.  She loves to bring her children with her when she is out ‘working’. Leah is `a renaissance woman often switching gears from mom to pasta maker in an instant.

 

I want to wish all of the mothers out there a very Happy Mother’s Day.  Take some time for yourself today… fingers crossed the children will agree with that plan too!

Happy Friday

Julie

Do Your Kids Eat Veggies?

Everyone says kids are picky eaters and sometimes that is true.  Since my children were born, all three of them, I have put a lot of time and effort into introducing them to healthy foods and preparing them healthy meals. From breast milk to home-made purees, I started them early.  They all liked their vegetables, some fruits and for the most maintained a healthy diet.  Sometime about 2 years ago that slowly started falling apart, especially for my oldest son.  He now doesn’t eat any fruits or vegetables.  When he turned five he made the bold statement that he would start eating vegetables but I’m still waiting for that to happen.  My middle son, who is 3, is the best eater of the bunch. He loves fruit, specifically berries, and will eat greens like kale and spinach(not always but sometimes). My little one who is 1 ½, has started in the right direction and I’m really trying to hang on.  He does get macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers with French fries but he also eats yogurt, nuts, applesauce and a variety of other healthy items.

As a parent, and a chef, it disturbs me that my children don’t want to eat everything in sight. Also, that they don’t appreciate the effort I put in to prepare their meals but that could be a whole other issue.  I’ve turned to the internet many times for tricks to get my kids to like a variety of foods and most say exposure is key.  All of my boys like to cook with me, so they are exposed to everything from spinning kale in the salad spinner to making banana chocolate chip muffins and everything in between.  Because we cook together, it isn’t so easy for me to ‘hide’ fruits and vegetables in their food.  In an effort to get out of our weekly cycle of meals, I’ve turned to the internet again for suggestions.  Here are some good ones I found.  Follow our Pinterest Board, Kid’s Meals, where I will add more tips and recipes as I find them.

Choices: Kids love being in charge so instead of saying we’re having carrots with dinner tonight, offer a choice…  “Would you like carrots or cucumbers with your dinner tonight?” By being ‘the boss’ of what they eat, mealtime is more likely to be successful.

Serve a family meal: It is really nice when a family can sit down and eat together and even nicer when you all eat the same meal.  Kids look at their grown-ups for cues so if you are enjoying something sitting next to your child, there is a  higher probability they will try it and like it too.

Reward ‘good’ Eating:  My grandmother used to say “There is no such thing as I don’t like” and if we complained we would get more of whatever we didn’t like.  We got smart and started complaining about dessert.  She didn’t fall for that one but it is true that kids like sweets and treats.  Offer dessert for finishing dinner or even tasting their vegetables.  You’ll be surprised how motivated a child gets over a small treat like a chocolate chip or a mini marshmallow.

Do Your Best:  Don’t get frustrated if a meal doesn’t go as planned. Kids are unpredictable at best so what gets eaten one night might get turned down another.  Keep trying and something will stick.

If you have any other tricks that work for you please let me know. I’m all ears when it comes to getting kids to eat something that isn’t sugar coated or fried! On that note, have a great Cinco di Mayo this weekend!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Four Years(Plus) in the Making

This week Julie’s Beet celebrated its 4th Anniversary.  It is hard to believe that it was just four years ago that I had boxes of products stacked in our apartment.  And when the weather warmed up and all of the chocolate moved into our bedroom(for the air conditioning) my husband suggested I move Julie’s Beet to its own location.  I moved into our showroom on 80th Street shortly after Julie’s Beet launched online.  Since then we have continued to grow and change.  A few of our products have come and gone but it is nice to see friendly faces(items) remain on the website year over year because you love them as much as I do! I’m proud of how we have grown at Julie’s Beet but also proud of the way we have maintained what is important to us…

We have posted to our blog weekly since Julie’s Beet began.  The blog is a just one way we add a personal touch to the website by telling you family tales and sharing some of our favorite recipes.  It is not an easy feat to come up with something new and interesting to talk about week after week.  Please let me know what you’d like to see up on the blog. And if you’re reading this you’ve found our blog.  You can also follow the blog by simply adding your email here and you’ll get our blog posts sent directly to your inbox.

I’m very proud that we continue to support smaller producers from around the world.  We’re constantly looking for the next artisan who will join our roster of talented producers.  I continue to love telling the stories behind the products to anyone who will come in and listen. I also love sharing the joy when our artisans are recognized for all of their greatness. 

My love of food and cooking has never been stronger. Nothing brings me more pleasure than putting a smile on someone’s face through the gift of food.  Whether it is something home-made or a beautiful gift set or a bite of a really special bar of chocolate, food has a power over people and I love being able to spread that joy. Being a business owner has its fair share of challenges but the return on the investment is well worth it.

As I look ahead to the next four years, I get a little tingly thinking about all of the possibilities for growth. I cannot wait to try what you or your neighbor might be cooking up and I cannot wait to tell the story behind that very special product.  Here’s to more culinary adventures around the world!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Egg-cellent Round Up!

Spring is here… images of bright flowers and eggs are everywhere. The egg is a classic symbol associated with Easter and a roasted egg is also part of the Seder Plate for Passover.  While we see lots and lots of hen eggs around, we don’t see too many other eggs out there. I decided to do some research to see if we are eating the right eggs or if we should switch to something like an ostrich egg. 

Here is what I found:

Chicken Eggs – These are the most common eggs found as they have a mild flavor and contain lots of vitamins and nutrients.  The shell varies color depending on the type of chicken it comes from.

Duck Eggs – A duck egg is very similar in size to a chicken egg. The differences are that it has larger yolk giving it a richer taste and also providing more fat and protein compared with a chicken egg. The shell on a duck egg is also thicker than a chicken egg, allowing them to stay fresher longer.

Turkey Eggs – These eggs tend to be pretty rare as farmers find more value in raising a large turkey compared with selling the eggs.  The eggs are similar in size and flavor to a duck egg.  They have a thicker yolk and white giving them a creamier consistency.  Turkey eggs are favored for pastries for this reason.

Goose Eggs – Goose eggs are twice the size of chicken eggs. They are also rare, like turkey eggs, but for a different reason.  A goose only lays about 40 eggs per year making them hard to find.  Goose eggs are heavier than a chicken egg and provide more protein.

Quail Eggs – These eggs are tiny and delicate. They are often found poached or fried atop a fancy salad in a fancy restaurant.  Don’t get the real quail egg confused with this chocolate version by Rococo chocolates. The flavor and nutritional value of a quail egg is similar to a chicken egg but you would need to eat a lot more to get the same benefits because of their smaller size.

Pheasant Eggs – Pheasant eggs are similar in size to a duck egg but have a gamier flavor due to the flavor of the bird.  The taste is light and rich like a quail egg.

Ostrich Eggs – Ostrich Eggs are 20x larger than a chicken egg.  That would be very convenient if you are making eggs for a large group.  The egg has a similar yolk to a chicken egg but their hard shell make them difficult to open.  A single ostrich egg packs about 2000 calories… a single egg would cover your suggested daily intake!

After all of that research it appears that we eat lots of chicken eggs for a couple of reasons… they are easy to produce in large quantities and they have a mild flavor while providing us with lots of nutrients.

I hope you have an egg-cellent day!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Eat your Heart Out… Charleston

Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Charleston, South Carolina for a weekend away with my sisters.  Before heading down south we did some research about the destination. As we are all pretty busy, we chose to divide and conquer the activities. I, of course, was in charge of planning our meals. Luckily I had some great recommendations from friends who had recently been to Charleston so I can say our meals were pretty spot on. Here are some of the highlights…

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit: A trip down south isn’t complete without a biscuit so we decided to start out trip with one.  This biscuit outpost in City Market was the perfect fueling station to get us through the afternoon.  We had a fried chicken biscuit(savory) and also a birthday cake biscuit(sweet).

Hominy Grill: I never get to sleep in so I insisted on a late start on Saturday morning. I got up just in time to catch brunch at this local favorite.  We had to wait a little while for a table but they have bar service on their patio so the waiting didn’t seem too bad.  I ordered a hodge podge of items for breakfast including fried green tomatoes, griddle banana bread and a biscuit. It was all wonderful and worth the wait. 

Husk:  This is the one restaurant everyone I spoke with recommended and it didn’t disappoint.  The restaurant strives to highlight local ingredients but not necessarily in the traditional manner.  We did have some pimento cheese but also had the chefs take on chicken and dumpling which involved sous vide chicken and the best potato gnocchi I’ve had in a long time.  Put husk on your list and if you can’t make the restaurant, there is a super cute bar/patio next door with it’s own amazing menu.

When we weren’t eating we were pretty much walking around so I didn’t feel bad about the not-so-healthy southern cooking I was consuming.  Charleston is a great city to explore on foot and we had the perfect weather for it.  I learned a lot about history, ate some great food and had a fun weekend with my sisters.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Dunk and Dip

We’re about a quarter of our way into the first weekend of March Madness and I’m looking forward to seeing how the brackets unfold.  I grew up in a household where we supported Purdue University and remember going to lots of Purdue Basketball games at Mackey Arena. I was a season ticket hold through my 4 years of college. Today, I’m embarrassed to say that I cannot name one player on the Boilermaker team but that doesn’t keep me from cheering for them in this whirlwind of basketball madness.  They are the #3 seed and played Old Dominion last night in the first round. I have yet to check to see who won… the game started at 9:45pm and there was no way I was going to stay up until the end.  Purdue should have won but they always manage to mess up in this tournament.

Hopefully I’ll be able to sit back and watch some more basketball this weekend and in the coming weeks as we look to see who will be number one.  While it is fun to watch my Boilermakers play, I am not too particular on who the 2 teams are.  What I am particular about is what I’ll be snacking on while I’m watching.  In honor of March Madness and National Chip and Dip Day tomorrow please find below two of my favorite chip and dip recipes. One is so simple and the other not quite so, but I guarantee both are crowd-pleasers and pair great with just about any kind of chip out there.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Sour Cream and Onion Dip

Ingredients:

16oz sour cream

1 packet onion soup mix, such as Liptons

Method:

-Mix sour cream and onion soup mix together until combined.  Serve with your favorite chips.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:

8 oz cream cheese

2/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 ½ cups grated mozzarella cheese

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

½ cup grated Gruyere Cheese

10 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

1 can artichoke hearts, chopped

Method:

-Preheat oven to 375°F. 

-In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. Mix with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.

-Stir in Parmesan Cheese, 1 cup Mozzarella Cheese, Gruyere Cheese, spinach and artichokes.

-Place in a 9 inch square baking pan and top with the remaining Mozzarella Cheese.

-Bake 25-30 minutes or until mixture is browned and bubbling.

-Serve with our favorite chips!

This is 40!

Today I am celebrating a milestone birthday… forty years!  It is amazing to look back on the journey that got me to where I am today.

In my 20’s I graduated from college and headed off to culinary school.  Originally, I thought I would be a chef on a cruise ship. That dream quickly changed after having an instructor that had worked on a cruise ship.  She and I didn’t get along and that made me question the whole cruise thing.  Last year I went on my first (and maybe last) cruise and I have to say I am glad I didn’t pick that route.  Then I set my goals higher, I was going to be the head chef of a catering company by the time I was 30.  I moved to New York City at the age of 25 to learn from the best chefs in the world and with that came a bit of a reality check. I worked at some great restaurants, db Bistro Moderne and Eleven Madison Park were the big two.  I did some catering work on the side and quickly realized maybe the kitchen, or the catering business weren’t for me.

When I turned 30, I was a manager at Bouchon Bakery and Café in the Time Warner Center. Basically, I was doing everything there but cooking. The hours spent at the bakery gave me a lot of exposure to what happens behind the scenes in a food business.  I learned a lot and after a few years I was eager to get something of my own started. I was used to working really hard and thought who better to work really hard for than myself.  That is when the seeds of Julie’s Beet were started.  The concept originally had a prepared meal delivery aspect to it along with all the wonderful artisanal food.  Everything changed when my soon-to-be-husband got transferred to London.  (I met my husband at 29 and we got engaged when I was 31 and married at 32).  We moved to London together less than a month after we were married and stayed there for about two years.  I put Julie’s Beet on hold for the time being and explored some opportunities in London.  I landed at Rococo Chocolates in the fall of 2012 as their Events Manager. I over saw the chocolate school where I taught chocolate lovers of all ages about making and enjoying chocolate.  If that hadn’t happened, I probably would not be working with Rococo Chocolates today.  When I returned to New York, I knew my business had to have Rococo Chocolates as part of it. 

The rest of my thirties were a bit of a blur.  Our family grew from two to five in under four years. But somewhere in there I knew I needed to get Julie’s Beet up and running. I wanted to keep my mind sharp and have something else to talk about outside of poopy diapers and the newest stroller on the block.  I officially launched Julie’s Beet at the age of 36. I was finally my own boss.  The business is more than I could have imagined. I love working with the amazing artisans we have in our market place. I love telling you all about the wonderful products and working with them in my home kitchen.  I also the love the feeling of accomplishment every time an order comes in and is shipped out successfully. We’re a few weeks shy of our fourth anniversary and that makes me smile a lot!

As I look ahead to my forties, it is hard to predict what the future will bring. On a personal level, I hope my boys continue to make me proud in and out of school.  On a professional level, I hope that Julie’s Beet continues to grow and mold into an amazing business.  I want to continue spreading the stories of amazing artisans and delivering quality gifts to you and your loved ones. 

Happy Friday,

Julie

Small, Charming & Snowy

There is nothing like a week at home with three kids to get you craving a vacation.  We survived(and enjoyed) President’s Week with a bit of a stay-cation.  We went to a few museums and had dates with friends.  I put just the right amount of activity on the calendar to keep the kids busy enough that they wanted to go to sleep every night!  Last week I wrote about getting away to somewhere warm.  When I started to think about it, I realized some of my best vacations have been in places where it is cold and there is lots of snow on the ground. 

I didn’t learn how to ski until I was in my 20’s. Shortly after that I moved to Denver, Colorado to go to Johnson and Wales for Culinary School. I learned a lot at school but also learned that I love the mountains and specifically skiing!  I don’t actually have the genetic make up of a good skier… I get cold really easily and I also get altitude sickness.  Once I figured out a few tricks to get over those obstacles, I really started to LOVE skiing. I would take trips up to the mountains and ski for the morning before heading into work for the dinner shift.  It was a great! My first trip with my husband was to Vail, Colorado; making it very fitting that part of our honeymoon would be spent on the slopes in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

To this day, one of my all-time favorite vacations was to a little town in northern Italy called Selva Val Gardena.  My husband and I were living in London at that time and knew we wanted to go skiing in the Dolomites in Italy.  I found Hotel Laurin through some online reviews and our trip was set.  We would fly into Venice, Italy and then drive up to the mountains for a few days.  We would end our trip walking and boating through Venice. It all sounded very romantic and it was, once we finally arrived at the hotel.  We hit some snow on the way up, to Selva Val Gardena; which was awesome in the context of skiing but not awesome in the context of driving a tiny car up a mountain.  Long story short, we were installing chains on our tires in the dark on a Saturday night in some small town in Italy.  The good news is we finally made it up and over the mountain and arrived at the hotel safe and sound.

The rest of the trip was amazing.  The Hotel Laurin was just what it advertised, small and charming.  The owners were very hands on taking care of our needs from espresso in the morning to cocktails before dinner and a night cap before bed.  You could book the hotel with dinners included but being the foodies that we are we decided not to do that as we wanted to explore other options.  It turns out that was a mistake, the food at the Hotel Laurin was amazing and plentiful and the only other dining options in the town are other hotels. When your hotel has an amazing restaurant you don’t want to venture out too much.  The next year when we returned we took all of our dinners at the hotel.  The food was a mix of Italian, Swiss and German.  It wasn’t fancy but it was just what you needed after a day on the snow.  I still remember an evening where we had fondue… meat fondue.  They specially prepared a broth for us which we used to cook different meats. It was amazing.  The trip was so great we returned the following winter to the same hotel.  I hope someday to return to Hotel Laurin with all of our children in tow but it will be a few years before they are all able to ski.

Winter holidays in the snow are just as fun as those in the sun.  Food plays a big part in any vacation I take and the food on the mountains in Selva Val Gardena, and most mountains in Europe, surpasses the expectations set by the cafeteria style eateries you find on the mountains in the states.  I’ll probably fall asleep tonight dreaming of the mountains, skiing and fondue.  I’ll wake up to reality here in NYC and maybe with some snow on the ground.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Escape from the Cold

This time of the year I start to long for an escape from the winter in New York City; especially with the mixed bag of weather we have been having.  Should it really go from 20 degrees to 50 degrees in less than 24 hours and then right back down again? And how about that snow/sleet/rain we had this week?  That is enough to make anyone want to catch the next flight out of town (that is once the airports are back on schedule).  My first instinct is to head somewhere warm and sunny but I also think about going somewhere with lots of white snow (more on that next week). 

One of my favorite warm weather destinations this time of the year is Florida.  I know it doesn’t sound exotic but it is called the sunshine state for a reason.  Florida is actually very big from top to bottom so you really have your choice of environments when you visit.  Back in my grade school days, my dad loved taking us to a destination and then piling everyone in the car and exploring what it had to offer.  I remember taking a trip to Florida one spring break.  We must have started in Orlando because I remember spending a few days enjoying Mickey Mouse and all that the parks had to offer.  Then we piled in the car and headed south.  We stopped in the Everglades leaving me with memories of the great outdoors. I vividly remember staying in some sort of cabin with lots of Mosquitos outside and the urgency to close the screen door quickly so they would remain outside.  From there we continued south to the Florida Keys.  We all got outfitted with snorkeling gear and used it to look at fish and shipwrecks in the ocean as well as the bottom of the pool.  Swimming is one of those activities that can be entertaining forever, huh?  I still love to hang out in a pool for hours on end.  We finished our trip with a visit to Key West. It isn’t the same when you’re under 21 but still pretty cool. Frozen drinks are fun at any age even without the alcohol. Then we had a long drive back up to Orlando before heading back to the cold in Indiana.

Another one of my favorite memories of Florida is visiting my grandparents at their condo in Naples.  My sisters and I would fly down without our parents and spend a long weekend just with our grandparents. Talk about getting spoiled. Beyond all of the excitement in their retirement community of golf, swimming pools and tennis we would venture to the beach and of course go on shopping trip.  I remember eating at a place called The Dock and Michelbob’s was the place for ribs either before or after mini golf.  The best part about Naples is that my dad now has a condo there.  I hope my children will get to create the same memories with their grandparents that I was able to.

So whether you are off to a sunny destination this holiday weekend or already live in one(Lucky You), soak up some sunshine for me. I’ll be here in NYC enjoying whatever mother nature throws our way.

Happy Friday,

Julie