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McDonald’s Unwrapped – Dinner at the Culinary Academy

6 Oct

Renowned Chefs of the Greater Bay Area Use McDonald’s Ingredients to

Create Gourmet Charity Dinner

I never thought I’d go to an event like this but sometimes you have to put aside your preconceived notions and just jump. A donation was made on behalf of each guest in attendance, which adds to the $2 million that local McDonald’s restaurant owners have already contributed to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bay Area over the past two years. I was a little more inclined to participate because of the donation. The dinner was held at the California Culinary Academy, where I went to school. Oh, and my photos are horrible, I blame it on the wine!

Southern Onion Soup & Parmesan Puddin’ Angus beef brodo, Big Mac Streusel

The dinners premise was that three chefs can make a gourmet meal from McDonald’s ingredients, and did they ever! Chef Ryan Scott, executive chef of Market & Rye in San Francisco and “Top Chef” Season 4 contender was the lead. Chef Beverlie Terra of Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz and Chef Sophina Uong of Picán in Oakland were the other two chefs. Dishes at the event included a Chilled Roast Tomato Soup Sip and Three-cheese Panini made with McDonald’s tomatoes and cheeses, a 24-Hour Braised Mickey D’s Sugo including gnocchi created from McDonald’s hash browns, and a Chocolate Hazelnut Chess Pie that used poached strawberries and an ice cream cone crust.

“I was excited to participate in this event so that I could put my creativity to the test and design three unexpected and enjoyable courses,” said Chef Ryan Scott, executive chef of Market & Rye in San Francisco and “Top Chef” Season 4 contender.

“The quality and variety of available McDonald’s ingredients really allowed all the chefs to create inventive dishes worthy of any of our restaurants while supporting great causes.” The chefs had access to the full range of quality ingredients used in McDonald’s restaurants to create their three-course menu. The multi-course dinner highlighted McDonald’s 100 percent USDA-inspected beef with no fillers or preservatives, white meat chicken, and quality ingredients used in restaurants everyday such as USDA Grade A eggs, dozens of types of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, blueberries and milk.

The charming Ryan Scott hugging my table mate one half of the cute site called

I have to say that this dinner has made me think a lot about fast food and how it fits in our culture. Fast food was developed years ago, as a nation we were not as savvy about nutrition and science as we are now, we just didn’t pay attention. We just knew it tasted good and it was cheap. Generations have grown up on fast food and taste buds have been trained to crave these foods. It is also affordable and easy, don’t forget how easy a drive thru is. Yes fast food is one of the reasons that Americans are overweight, I will say that, but it is also the individual’s responsibility to eat healthfully and not overeat. A restaurant can’t be responsible for a persons choices.  I am not saying that I would or wouldn’t eat there or have my family eat there I am just saying if you do, make smart choices. They can make it easier to make good choices and I do think McDonald’s is trying but changing the brain chemistry of millions of Americans isn’t going to be easy! A recent study of children showed amazing results. When shown a set of logos from popular companies, the pleasure area of the brain was immediately activated. They went right to pleasure when looking at just a logo, not Nike but food it is the trigger!

Poached egg, with pickled blueberries, buttered croutons and warm bacon vinaigrette

It is easy to over eat when the food is salty and sweet and when it is what you know, it’s what you go towards. Parents have to take responsibility for helping kids make correct choices. When you go to a fast food restaurant give a choice…of the healthier options. Your kids may react badly but they will come around eventually. Watch portions sizes too, kids are growing up thinking a large soda is ok for them and it’s not. 6-8 ounces is enough, soda is not necessary, give them water. Think about this, when you get a burger at a burger joint, not at a McDonald’s but a local place, how do you know what you are eating? because it is only one restaurant not a chain it may not be as “picked”on as a large corporation.

Chocolate Hazelnut Chess Pie. Bruleed meringue, poached strawberries, ice cream cone crust.



What I learned at the McDonald’s Unwrapped event was that the produce is fresh, no it may not all be organic but the lettuce and blueberries arrive fresh just like the ones you buy in the store. “It is true that many of the ingredients found in the restaurants are the same you’d find in your own refrigerator including the more than $375 million of California agricultural products purchased by McDonald’s in 2011.” I had the extreme pleasure to sit with two local franchise owners who are real people who care greatly about the community they serve. Kimberley Byrne is an owner of three McDonald’s two on Alameda and one in Oakland, she composts, she has no styrofoam in sight and she knows exactly what is in the food she serves. She was able to tell me where each item was grown and what was in most of the food. I was invited to tour her restaurant any time, and I may just go do that.

This opinion is all mine, I did not receive any payment to write this post.

Hamantashen, to fold or to pinch? (that is the question)

5 Mar

Hamantashen Cookie

Making cookies is always fun for kids but for us, these are especially exciting to make.  The familiar shape of the triangular cookies shows itself every March, it is the official cookie of Purim, a Jewish holiday geared toward the kiddos. (You definantly don’t have to be Jewish to make these!) We first tried a recipe that seemed to have good reviews but they came out too cakey, I needed another try and I knew exactly where to look for the perfect recipe.

I went straight to Claire’s old Preschool, the ECE Preschool at the Marin Osher JCC  A place where baking and kids is perfectly natural! They use tried and true recipes passed down from Bubi to Bubi and they really work.  If 100 preschoolers can make Challah or Hamantashen taste good then I know the recipes work! When I visited, the Director handed me an adorable colorful printout of the Hamantashen recipe. Let’s back up a minute, I know you are wondering what’s up with that weird name and why is the cookie shaped like a triangle?

The Origin of Hamantaschen
“Hamantaschen” is a Yiddish word meaning “Haman’s pockets.” Haman is the villain in the Purim story, which appears in the Biblical Book of Esther. In the story, Haman is the Grand Vizier of Persia and a rabid anti-Semite. When Mordechai, a Jewish member of the king’s court and relative of Queen Esther, refuses to bow down to Haman, the Grand Vizier plots to have all the Jews in the kingdom massacred. However, Queen Esther and Mordechai discover Haman’s plot and are able to foil it. In the end, Haman is executed on the gallows he planned to use on Mordechai.
Jews eat hamantaschen on Purim as part of the celebration of the holiday, which commemorates how Jews escaped Haman’s dastardly plans. One explanation for the triangular shape of these pastries is that Haman wore a three-cornered hat. (excerpt from )
There are some other facts about Purim that the kids really love one is

There are four good deeds that people try to carry out at Purim time.

1) To hear the reading of the Megillot Ester (Book of Esther) at a group gathering. This developed into a custom several hundred years after the real event took place.

2) To enjoy an atmosphere that encourages celebration with food and drink.

3) Helping out at least two people who are less fortunate than we are (charity) by giving them gifts on the 14th of Adar.

It has also become a tradition (Machatzit Hashekel) to give 3 half-dollar coins to charity to commemorate the half-shekel given by each Jew in the time of the Holy Temple. This good deed is usually done in the synagogue.

4) Giving gifts to a friend who is not necessarily poor. These ready-to-eat gifts might take the form of a fruit basket (Shalach Monot), pastry or beverage.

The best part of Purim is the dress up, the kids dress as Esther, Hamen or any royal. Purple is often used in decoration because it is the color connected to royalty.  The celebration is kind of like Mardi Gras and Halloween all wrapped up in one, lots of sweets and lots of fun!

Now that the history part is out of the way we can get on to sweeter things..

This recipe was great to use, a parent form the school made it, I have no clue who, but thanks because it is so handy!

The traditional filling of the Hamantashen is poppy-seed but we love strawberry or apricot preserves. I also sliced up fresh strawberries and added a slice to each one for a fresh taste.  The method is much like making sugar cookies, you roll out the buttery dough and chill. The triangle starts with a circle, imagine that, stay in school kids, the wonders of math never cease! Use a cup or a round cookie cutter to cut circles, drop a bit of filling in and then from your triangle (recipe below)

Raw chocolate chip dough

I butter

There is a debate in the land of Hamantashen about the correct way to seal up the Hamantashen, to fold or to pinch. I was always a pincher but I recently tried a recipe from Cupcake Project, while her tashen looked and tasted good, her suggestion of folding was intregiung to me. Folding the dough can produce a beautiful cookie but we had problems. Our dough was cracking with each fold although our cookies came out pretty we were discouraged by the cracking.

When we used the recipe below we pinched, you may have to use some water on the dough to make it stick but the pinched ones came out perfectly! So I say, depending on the recipe, your oven and your skill level pinching may be the way to go. **Note- for gluten free see bottom of post.

Lizet’s Hamatashen Recipe

preheat oven to 350˚ƒ
4 1⁄2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Mix together in a large bowl

3 sticks butter (1 1/2 c).
soften in a bowl
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
beat eggs in a bowl, stir in vanilla.
add eggs to flour mixture, add butter, stir, then dump on clean surface, knead briefly until sticky.divide dough in quarters.  ( I wrap and chill at this point)
roll to 1/4 inch thick on floured board.
Cut circles using a cutter or cup.
Place 1 tsp filling in center of dough.
Fold or pinch 3 sides to make a triangle.
Leave some filling showing in center. 
Bake on cookie sheet about 15 minutes.

Filling: use jam, or mix 1⁄2 lb. Prunes with 1⁄4 c. strawberry jam in a food processor. Or try making your own poppy seed filling…

Mohn (Poppy seed filling)

2 c. poppy seed, finely ground

1 egg

1/3 c. honey or sugar

1 Tbs. lemon juice

1⁄4 c. chopped nuts

Wash the seeds well, them grind them in a food processor or place the seeds in a cloth and pound them with a mallet. Mix with the remaining ingredients. chill.


Folding the dough on a cookie sheet avoids the transfer disaster.


When we made these goodies with for our third grade class we needed a gluten free recipe. I tried a pie dough mix and it was terribly unsuccessful. As you can see it the photo they were like sand and not folded or pinched, we just dug out a space for the jam..

One of the moms made up a batch of GF cookie dough from Pure Pantry sugar cookie mix and it worked really well for the Hamantashen. I only have a photo of our ugly ones because the better ones got gobbled right up!

Ugly duckling gluten free cookies

30 Apr

After spending a week in Portland, at IACP (The International Association of Culinary Professionals) My time was spent with, chefs, writers, cookbook authors, activists, entrepreneurs, photographers, stylists, food historians and many more. I have finally gotten time to digest what I saw, learned and how to put it all to use.

The connections I made are invaluable, it seems as if we all have a mission and a cause and that creates a giant energetic wave that ran through the conference. You could feel the energy and drive from the presenters to the organizers and the participants. Small change, one step at a time is all some of us can do, but when you get almost 1000 of us together there is no telling the outcome.

Not only did we learn from professionals like Michael Rhulman, Ruth Reichl, Brad and Adam Farmerie and Deborah Madison we also got to talk with them and share our ideas, everyone was accessible and open to a conversation. With new friends like Bryant Terry author of GRUB and Vegan Soul Kitchen and Vanessa Barrington author of Heirloom Beans and soon to be released DYI Kitchen how could I go wrong! I met so many amazing people too many to name (you know who you are) I am looking forward to next years conference.

And then there was the laughing…not only did I get a creative jolt at IACP I got a good spoon full of laughs. Us foodies like to have a good time and we certainly did. My friend Dan and I got a little wild but all in good fun. Don’t miss his web shows at Renegade Kitchen he’s all about cooking for allergies you can get great ideas for your kids on his site. And then there was the eating…Pok Pok with its spicy sloppy noodles and delicious crispy fish was a lunch treat. Higgins was another amazing meal, the food in Portland is fresh, seasonal, handled and grown with care. It showed in all the food we ate that people care and want their product to be the best it can be.

One of the most amazing events I was involved in was Kids Cook for a Cause workshop that the Kids In the Kitchen This was planned by the committee but proposed by Michelle Stern of What’s Cooking. Everyone worked incredibly hard to make this happen. Local kids were paired up with IACP members and cooked a great meal of Soup, pasta and turkey meatballs. We sat and ate with the kids, parents and people in need of a hot meal. It was so touching and rewarding and I cried.

So to wrap up here I am inspired and feeling the love from my community. I will be bringing you some recipes soon to inspire you and your kids to be creative in the kitchen.


18 Jan


Nu Skin’s Force For Good Mission Help earthquake victims in Haiti with a VitaMeal donation — all VitaMeal purchases through the end of the month will be directed to disaster relief in Haiti. Already, 6,000 bags are ready for immediate shipment. VitaMeal is a nutrient-dense rice and lentil preparation that will provide nourishment during this difficult time.

You may need my ID# US9663231 to donate

Malnourished children are missing KEY NUTRIENTS in their diets, which can hinder brain, bone, and immune system development. Most humanitarian food aid is grain, such as corn, which may lack certain essential nutrients for HEALTHY DEVELOPMENT.


VitaMeal is vegetarian and non-dairy, and allows for the easy addition of ingredients to fit every taste and culture. Each VitaMeal package contains 30 child-sized meals, or enough food to provide a child with one nutritious meal each day for a month.

VitaMeal provides:

· A balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber

· Essential fatty acids required for normal brain development, skin health, and immune defense

· Electrolytes necessary for maintaining normal fluid balance and muscle function

· 25 essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A for normal sight and immune functions, as well as

nutrients for normal growth and skeletal development.

Great American Bake Sale

14 May

My friend Michelle of Whats Cooking was nearly brought to tears by the enthusiasm of her friends, family and classmates when she told them about the Great American Bake Sale. What began as an attempt at getting a few families to help hungry children by baking together has turned into a series of three separate Bake Sale events…one of which will be a celebration in the park with a band comprised of parents! The details of our events are below – hopefully they will inspire you to take some steps to help hungry kids across America, too!

Holds Bake Sale To End Childhood Hunger
in San Rafael, California

What’s Cooking, a local business that teaches cooking classes to children, is organizing a bake sale, as part of Share Our Strength Great American Bake Sale, a national campaign that mobilizes Americans to end childhood hunger by holding bake sales in their communities.

Local families will be working together to make signs, bake goods and sell items at our 3 bake sales. Our students are enthusiastic about spending time together with their family and friends, knowing that they are making a difference in the lives of other children.

The highlight of our efforts will be an evening of Music in the Park on June 8. Music will be performed by several parents from Glenwood School. All families are welcome to join us for a BBQ Dinner, Baked Goods and Music, with most food items selling for just $1, each.

Why: Nationally, more than 12 million children at risk of hunger. Funds raised through What’s Cooking’s Great American Bake Sale will be used to ensure America’s most vulnerable children – those living in poverty and at risk of hunger get the regular, healthy meals they need, where they live, learn and play.

If YOU would like to contribute to the What’s Cooking Team’s goal of raising $500, but are unable to attend our events, you can make a monetary donation at the What’s Cooking Team’s Bake Sale Web Page.

About Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale®

Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, presented by Domino® Sugar and C&H®, is a national campaign that mobilizes Americans to end childhood hunger by holding bake sales in their communities. Great American Bake Sale proceeds are granted to organizations in communities across America to help provide at-risk children with nutritious meals when they’re needed most – during the summer, and after school. Additionally, proceeds support Share Our Strength’s Operation Frontline®, a chef-led nutrition education program for low-income children and families. Since 2003, more than 1 million people have participated in Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, raising nearly $4 million to make sure no child in America grows up hungry. Great American Bake Sale is supported by national television partner Food Network and national magazine partner Family Circle magazine. For more information, visit

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