Sunday, October 23, 2011

GHA Farmers Market

Come visit me at the GHA Farmers Market this Sunday, October 30th from 1-5PM at Gilliland's Heritage Alpaca Farm in Hoschton, GA. I will have some great Halloween and fall-inspired treats.

Stay tuned later this week for pictures of all my sweets you will find there.

Good cooking is all the chemistry

Check this out! Found in the Gwinnett Daily Post Sunday October 23, 2011

LARSON: Good cooking is all in the chemistry

It's a funny thing how memories are triggered. I was strolling through the Lilburn Farmers Market last month when I saw what I thought to be a high school girl selling the most beautiful little truffles, brownies and pies I've ever seen. It made me think of all the times I'd subbed in advanced placement gifted chemistry classes. Invariably a student would ask me, "Are you a real chemistry teacher or are you just a mom?"

"I'm just a mom," I'd reply, "but I'm so glad to be subbing for a class full of such highly intelligent students, because I have a question you might be able to answer. When I bake cookies, I always use the same ingredients, but sometimes they puff up in a mound and sometimes they are flat. Why is that?"

No one could ever give me an answer.

So just to be a wee bit devilish, I asked the young lady how she got her little pastries to come out so perfect each time. She went on to explain in far more detail than I could possibly understand.

It turns out this young lady, Loren Myers, is a research technician at Emory University with a master's degree in biology and chemistry. Her work involves studying the development of the gut in premature infants. Somehow, her side business seemed to connect in a weird sort of way for me, but Myers said that was no so for her co-workers."

"They thought it was strange at first that I would be so interested in cooking, but if you can follow a science experiment, you can follow a recipe. It's all about consistency, quality and keeping good notes," she said.

Myers started baking with her mother as a child and always had a curiosity about the scientific aspects of what happens in the oven or on the stove.

"I made my first cake in fifth grade and the icing didn't look as nice as my mother's. I later realized I had cooked it too long," Myers said.

Over time she became more and more interested not in cookbooks, but in technique books.

"If you know the physics behind baking, you can experiment because you know why things happen."

Myers named her business Sugar Bear Sweetery, after her mother's pet name for her when she was growing up. All her little sweets are scientifically developed in her kitchen and scientifically tested in the lab by her co-workers.

"They all love it when I bring my latest experiments to work and there are a few foodies who give good feedback because they totally analyze things."

If you'd like to learn more about Myers' science projects, visit If you'd like to do some scientific research on your own, the Gwinnett Library has several good books on kitchen chemistry.

And I wonder: Do you think we could get Jeff Foxworthy to host a show called "Are you Smarter than an Advanced Placement Gifted Chemistry Student?"

Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn Email her at

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sweet Potatoes!!!!

I had a small space left in my garden this summer and for some reason though that sweet potatoes would be a good idea to plant. I wasn't paying a lot of attention to the space requirements and as the summer went on, the sweet potato grew..and grew...and grew. Before I knew it, the vines took up almost half my garden, killing off my cucumbers.

I tried a few weeks ago to dig up some sweet potatoes, but no luck. I was really disappointed. I went on vacation and forgot about them. It rained the first few days after I got back, so I didn't go look in my garden. Well, yesterday I finally got a few minutes to really look through my garden. Lo and behold, I saw two sweet potatoes starting to break through the surface. I grabbed my trowel and started digging.

Before I knew it, I had a huge pile of sweet potatoes!!! I was dancing and doing my best Oprah 'sweet potato' impression. Probably a little more excited than I should have been, but it felt like such an accomplishment to harvest my sweet potatoes.

The bowl full of sweet potatoes isn't even all of the potatoes out there. I ran out of room to keep them, so I left the rest in the ground. I probably still have just as many left to harvest. YAYAY!!!!

And as the picture above shows, I also have a watermelon or two in there, too. I should bring them inside, even though they are still a bit small since it looks like it will be getting very cold the next few nights. I have loved my garden and everything I have grown tasted so good. Not only because it was fresh from the garden, but also because I knew that I worked to produce it. The sense of pride and knowing just where my food came from is truly empowering.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup

I have started a collection of local cookbooks whenever I travel, so of course I was looking for a Disney related cookbook. There are a few out there and my sister in law bought one that had recipes from the Disney cruise ships. It looked interesting, but I wasn't sure if it was quite right. Then we saw the cookbook for the festival and I knew that was it! It contained recipes from several of the dishes we had tried and also had some of the cocktail recipes. When I was flipping through the book, the first thing I looked for was the Canadian Cheddar Cheese soup...yes! It was there and the book was mine! I can't wait to try it out!

My husband's brother and sister in law kept mentioning this 'beer cheese soup' they wanted. That was the top of their priority list when it came to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, going on now through November 13th. We made it around to the Canadian booth and had to try it. It was a huge hit for my husband!

Even if the book hadn't contained that specific recipe, I could have found a copy on the Festival's website. So I reprinted it here in case you want to try it at home.

Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup:

Makes 6 cups

1/2 pound of bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
4 cups milk
1 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup pale ale, room temperature
Chopped scallions or chives, for garnish

1. Cook bacon in a 4- or 5-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Add onion, celery and butter; sauté until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour and stir constantly for about 4 minutes.
4. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add milk and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Do not boil after adding milk.
6. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and pepper until cheese is melted and soup is smooth. Stir in ale. If soup is too thick, thin to desired consistency with warm milk.
7. Serve hot, garnished with scallions or chives.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival

I was lucky enough to spend last week in Orlando, experiencing all Disney and Universal Studios has to offer. My husband and I signed up for the Food and Wine Festival Half Marathon Relay. That was the only way he could ever get me to participate in a half marathon. I had to run about 5 miles and his leg was 8. It was an event to kick off Epcot's 2011 Food and Wine Festival and started at 10PM. Yes, PM, not AM. But that meant that the after party in Epcot was filled with lots of food and wine options.

Epcot's Food and Wine Festival is a tapas-type event where 29 different countries/stations offered a few different small plates plus some beer/wine/cocktails that suited their nationality. After the race we only tried a few places, but we also spent an entire day in Epcot eating around the world. It was so much fun and a perfect event for someone like me that enjoys trying lots of different things. To make it even better our parents and my husbands brother and his family were all there. That meant that I didn't need to buy every single thing I wanted to try, we shared a lot of the dishes, which cut down on the price (and just a few of the calories...but hey, it was vacation, they don't count!!).

Here are some of the delicious plates I tasted:
- Mexico: rib eye beef tacos, delicious!!
- China: black pepper shrimp with Sichuan noodles, pork pot stickers...both were big winners!
- South Korea: lettuce wraps with roast pork and kimchi slaw, Boolgogi BBq beef with steamed rice and kimchi...I discovered I am not a fan of kimchi. I have always wanted to try it, but now I know it isn't my favorite.
- Germany: goulash suppe, Nuernberger sausage in a pretzel roll
- Italy: Di formaggio all'Emiliana (baked cheese ravioli with creamy beef Bolognese sauce, Parmesan cheese, and melted mozzarella)
- Hops and Barley: Linda Bean's perfect Maine lobster roll. Another dish I have been looking forward to trying, even though I have not been a big lobster fan in the past (I grew up in seafood beats crab in my opinion). I know lots of people really like this dish, but it wasn't as good as it was hyped up to be. I liked it, don't get me wrong, I was glad I tried it, but it won't be making a repeat appearance in the future. My curiosity was satisfied.
- Singapore: beef Randang (coconut-braised beef) with jasmine rice
- Japan: spicy tuna roll...without a doubt a favorite with my husband. How do I know? I only got a tiny taste before it disappeared!
- Morocco: Kefta pocket (ground seasoned beef in a pita pocket), Harissa chicken roll...both very very good.
- Belgium: Belgium waffle with berry compote and whipped cream
- France: Sparkling pomegranate kir, Parisian Cosmo slush (Ciroc vodka, Grand Marnier and cranberry juice)
- Ireland: Cheese assortment (aged Irish cheddar, Dubliner and Ivernia cheeses) with apple chutney, chocolate lava cake with Baileys ganache
- Canada: Canadian cheddar cheese soup (more on this in the next post), chicken chipotle sausage with sweet corn polenta
- Desserts and Champagne booth: white chocolate macadamia mousse with dark chocolate pearls

This festival lasts until November 13th, so if you are in the Orlando area, be sure to check it out! Its a great time with lots of great food and drinks. I bought a cookbook with a bunch of the recipes in it, so I am sure it will be used often!