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Writing a Cookbook? Guest Post from Grammarly

27 Dec

Here is a bit of advice from a grammar perspective (boy do I need that!) If I’d known I’d be a writer I would have listened more in English class!!

Cookbooks: A Recipe for Disaster?

Why are some cookbooks not successful? The road to producing a high-quality cookbook is full of pitfalls. The good news is that others have gone before you! You can learn from their mistakes. To evade disaster in your own writing endeavors, avoid the six most common mistakes made by first-time cookbook writers.

Wow, Thanks!

Everyone knows how to make toast. If you include a recipe for toast in your cookbook, ensure that there is a unique element that makes your toast better than all the other toasts. Think outside of the box. Homemade pumpkin bread toast with cinnamon butter sounds simply delicious, does it not?

The Same Game

Certain foods, such as spaghetti, are very common. There are literally thousands of spaghetti recipes in cookbooks and online. If run-of-the-mill dishes fill your cookbook, you will severely limit your readership base. Each year, cooking shows popularize trendy ingredients. I learned about sriracha sauce from the Chopped television cooking competition. Now, it is common to see sriracha sauce appear in the list of ingredients. Common foods and trendy ingredients are a risk. On one hand, people search for cookbooks that feature good basic recipes or novel ingredients. However, reflect on fashion trends. In time, basic gets boring. Furthermore, once a style is out of favor, people laugh when they see it!

Fairy-Tale Lettuce

In the food court of the college that I attended, they featured a unique type of lettuce. One of my amazed friends referred to it as “fairy-tale lettuce.” To be sure, not everyone is familiar with radicchio and watercress. For those who grew up in iceberg lettuce families, these ingredients intimidate! Limit the amount of foreign, obscure, or rare ingredients.

The Deflated and Defeated 

Before publishing, test each recipe in your cookbook. Typing errors in the proportions and omitted ingredients destroy the effectiveness of recipes. Successfully-executed recipes motivate readers to try other recipes in the book. He willingly recommends the cookbook to his friends. Your reputation as a chef is at stake. Do not allow a careless error to ruin future sales.

Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth!

Have you heard of this ancient adage? I invented a new version. Novice cooks spoil the broth! Do not assume that your audience knows how to perform complicated cooking techniques. Explain procedures within the recipe or create a special section to discuss necessary techniques. Provide the reader with details. Do you want finely chopped onion? Do you want a small, medium, or large onion? Do you prefer a white, yellow, or red onion? Pictures are powerful. Cookbooks often publish pictures of the completed product. However, photographs of the steps of the cooking process are extremely valuable.

‌Déjà Vu

After you write and test each delicious recipe, perform the final step of the process. Avoid plagiarism! Yes, you personally wrote each recipe. Yet, the small selection of cooking terms limits creative expression. Therefore, duplication is a common mistake. I am an employee of Grammarly. I examine writing tools and ways to improve English writing skills. I always recommend that clients verify that the text of a document is original with a free online plagiarism checker. Check for plagiarism before sending a document to a publisher.

Disaster is not an ingredient for a recipe book! Consider the skill level and the geographic location of the target readers. Use unique recipes with ingredients that are easy to attain. Prepare each recipe using the instructions that you provided. Explain any complicated steps. Do not plagiarize. Beware of the six prevalent pitfalls. With these tips, you possess the sure recipe for culinary success!


By Nikolas Baron




A Cheese Wiz

2 Nov

Humboldt Fog with Grilled Peaches and Orzo

melt-cover500-241x300I can’t totally recall but I think I met Stepahanie Stiavetti at an IACP conference (not the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference) it’s the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Stephanie is a food writer and recipe developer and I am excited to announce that she has just written her first cookbook.


Humboldt Fog Cheese

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of her book, Melt the Art of Macaroni and Cheese.  I get a lot of books to review and most of the time I don’t love every book I get and rarely review them. I wanted to review Stephanie’s because it’s her first and because we both like to dye various strands of our hair bright red. (Not really, but that is true about the hair, her hair always looks great!)

I’ll start by telling you that unfortunately cheese is not my friend, I love cheese but it really hates me. UNLESS of course…’s very expensive, made and by hand from Pygmy goats in an obscure smallish town somewhere. Are you still with me? When I looked through Melt I instantly knew what recipe I would make, one that was kid friendly and made with a cheese I was very familiar with.


Humboldt Fog Cheese

About 8 years ago my husband and I did all the photography for Cypress Grove Cheve Cheese Company. No joke, we had about 100 pounds of cheese to shoot! In that in that excessive amount of cheese were three wheels of Humboldt Fog deliciousness. We ended up having a party and inviting strangers in to take cheese home! That’s when the love affair started with a beautiful creamy wheel of snowy white goat cheese. Humboldt Fog could be mistaken at first glance for Blue cheese, but it’s so not a blue cheese. Cheese maker Mary Keehn of Humboldt County, California invented this cheese named for our famous coastal fog. We have toured Mary’s cheese making facility in Arcadia and it is fascinating, they make some of our favorite cheese. The story goes that in the morning the cream would be set into the molds and then a layer of charred vegetable ash laid atop the cream to separate the cream from the afternoon milking, creating a distinct dark green blue line of ash in the center of each wedge.

Now that you know the back story about my slight obsession with this cheese, I can tell you about the yummy recipe I made from Stephanie’s book.


She even spelled her name in Orzo and alphabet pasta!

Yes, Yes I know it’s not peach season but the weather is warm and the grill is right out front and begging to be used. I was lucky enough to find peaches, really beautiful ones locally and I was also trying to pick a kid friendly recipe to share from Melt. I knew my family liked grilled peaches, we usually make them for a sweet dessert with whipped cream, we haven’t eaten them in a savory dish.  Another way I thought I could to add a kid zip to this dish was to use alphabet pasta mixed with the orzo, this was a hit!


Juicy Grilled Peaches

We left out the mint but could have added it just as easily, ours was sad and brown and better left alone in the garden to wither. We all loved the dish, with sweet hints of peach, tart vinegar and creamy sharp cheese flavors mingling together. I loved the addition of pistachios, the kid could have done with out them but I think the added saltiness and crunch was needed. I highly recommend this dish for a summer party, I repeat summer, don’t be a seasonal rule breaker like I am! I like Melt it’s good for a twist on Mac and Cheese and is full of other great ideas.

There is a great MELT giveaway here be sure to go over to The Culinary Life and enter win a set of Le Crueset cookware

Humboldt Fog with Grilled Peaches and Orzo


What could be nicer than a blushing peach? The sun-kissed color, the ticklish feel of the fuzz, the sweet-as-sugar-cane flavor. This simple orzo salad lets these traits shine—and without the nuisance of peach juice dribbling down your arm. Summer in a bowl, this is.


Peaches awaiting the grill

Serves 4

3 freestone yellow peaches

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

S ea salt

10 ounces orzo (or 5 oz orzo and 5 oz alphabet pasta can be cooked together)

¼ cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

¼ cup chopped spearmint

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces Humboldt Fog, rind removed and crumbled into large chunks

1. Using a barely damp paper towel, lightly scrub the peaches of any extraneous fuzz. Don’t wash the peaches, as they will soak up excess water. Using a sharp knife, cut each peach in half lengthwise around the pit, using the peach’s crevices as a guide. Discard the pits.

2. Set the peach halves in a zip-top bag and toss with honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Allow the peaches to marinate for 10 minutes.

3. While the peaches marinate, cook the orzo in some salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside.

4. Once the peaches are done marinating, reserve the marinade and place the peach halves on a hot, oiled grill, cut-side down. Cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the peaches are soft and have developed some charming dark grill marks. Roughly chop into bite-size pieces and set aside.

5. Combine the peaches, marinade, orzo, parsley, spearmint, and pistachios in a bowl and toss. Add a bit more sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper to taste. Plonk in the Humboldt Fog and toss once or twice, just enough to bring everything together.

Overmixing will melt the cheese, and our goal here is to maintain its chunky texture.

Alternative cheeses: Though Humboldt Fog is widely available, a good stand-in would be Goat’s Leap Eclipse, Bermuda Triangle, or any stellar chèvre.

Wine pairings: rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer

Additional pairings for the cheese: plums, cherries, balsamic vinegar reduction

Breakfast in Bed (kind of)

30 Jul


 “Noosa Finest Yoghurt would like to serve you an Aussie-style ‘brekkie in bed,’ hand delivered to your door on a morning of your choice.”

Um OK, who doesn’t like breakfast in bed? When Noosa decided they wanted to drive to Novato to serve us brekie we said heck yes-sir-ee!! We usually eat eggs but I made an exception for this morning. I set the alarm for 7:30 and on the dot at 8 the van rolled up. Out came the most bubbly delivery gal, the sun wasn’t out but it didn’t matter she was so sunny and cheerful.

Not only did we get yoghurt hand delivered we got, organic granola, fresh juice and fruit brought right to our door. She unpacked her cooler onto the breakfast table and then we went outside to take photos of the van. She drove back to San Francisco and we dug in. We opened all the flavors right away, tasting them and giving our opinions. The raspberry was a hit even though I didn’t think I would like it, I loved it.   I really loved the honey flavor and so did Claire. The fruit purees are delicious too, not gummy or overly sweet. Noosa yoghurts stay away from artificial ingredients of any kind, including flavors, colors and preservatives, it just feels like good homemade food.

contact-page-sb-img1I had seen them at the store but I never picked one up but now I will, for sure, in fact when we were in Nantucket last week I grabbed a few at the market there. Noosa uses the best seasonal produce the market has to offer, and pack it in clear tubs so you can see for yourself the lusciousness of what you’re about to enjoy. And it was lush, I am used to lactose free yogurt so this to me was like the most creamy luscious treat.  I had never had Aussie style yoghurt, it has a uniquely sweet/tart tang and thick, velvety texture, I’m hooked. Noosa is made in small batches, on-site at the family-owned Morning Fresh Dairy in Bellvue, Colorado, and infused with locally produced clover alfalfa honey.images

We decided that we could get used to this breakfast delivery thing. I think this would be a great business for someone, I am lazy in the morning, just ask my husband! Once a week can someone can come over and bring breakfast to us,  I would be so in to that?

Yoghurt has roots all over the world, India, Greece, Bulgaria, Switzerland, France and so on…..It’ s used in savory and sweet dishes you can read more here.

Lets clear up this spelling thing…yogurt or yoghurt?

The word is originally derived from Turkish, to be curdled or coagulated; to thicken. There are many variations of spelling but they are mostly all pronounced the same so spell it however you want. Just don’t forget to try Noosa!!




Sorry Noosa I don’t think I’ll be tasting the Vegemite anytime soon…I’m sure it’s delicious 😉


Who doesn’t love ice cream?

8 Jul





Yes was the answer….when Tillamook wants to send you free ice cream you just say yes!
Before the Fourth of July a large box arrived on our porch, full of ice cream! I knew that I was going to give it away at the parade but we couldn’t resist getting in to it the very night it arrived.
We got, strawberry, marionberry pie (my fave), s’mores, chocolate peanut butter, mud slide (my other fave) and vanilla. Luckily I have two freezers or this large delivery would have been an issue!
Yes, the truth is that we chipped away at it for a few days, we just couldn’t help ourselves.


On the fourth, I set up outside our art gallery and started scooping, it as about 99 degrees out, I scooped fast. I yelled out “free ice cream” and it worked, I had a bit of a line but managed to give it all away. One man took what was left in the bottom of one of the gallons and added all the flavors right in to the container.  It put a smile on everyone’s faces, ice cream just does that. You can’t help but love this happy food, especially when you can get all six flavors from some stranger in the street, for free.
I don’t really buy ice cream and wouldn’t have thought about Tillamook but I have to tell you, this stuff is really good. It’s creamy and not too dense, not to airy, just right. Some companies have more over run than others (that’s ice cream lingo for air added when mixing) this one got it right. I would buy this again for sure. Thanks ice cream fairy for delivering this to us and letting us put smiles on other people’s faces.

Tillamook has a contest going until July 16 th, get in on the action here!

Horchata – Rum Spiked or Not?

10 Dec
20121210-100820.jpgI wouldn’t normally write a post about Rum, but when I opened the box from Shellback I was inspired! First off the box was personalized just for me, how cool is that? When I opened it up, inside I found a very funny certificate (pictured) about the Rum.  The packaging was flawless, each bottle nestled in a pillowed covering and unharmed. ” Sourced from some of the finest Caribbean sugarcane,20121210-095747.jpg and blended with twelve spices and other natural flavors, Shellback is a modern rum for discerning palates.” The website is really fun….check it out!20121210-095801.jpg
I thought, how can I write about booze on this blog? Then it hit me…it’s holiday time and I bet you need a break, just a small moment of peace, something that the kids will like while mommy or daddy relax too.
Growing up I never had Horchata, that sweet, cinnamon-y, creamy frothy beverage. We had Knishes, Matzoh balls and occasionally chinese take out! Mexican food in the 70’s in Upstate NY was just not something we had.  Since I moved to the Pacific coast I have been introduced to so much fun Mexican food and Horchata is one of my favorites.20121210-095755.jpg
Some say Horchata has roots in Egypt, Spain and then Mexico, Some use almonds some use rice as the base, either way it is a deliciously sweet indulgent treat. Traditional Horchata is dairy free, made only with rice or almond milk.
If you can’t have milk this recipe is easily made dairy-free, just skip the milk and condensed milk.
So make up some tacos and Horchata and for dinner and spike yours with yummy Shellback Rum! The kids can have theirs too but make sure to keep the rum all to yourselves!20121210-095816.jpg

Horchata with a Twist

This recipe will come out best if you have a high powered blender like a Blend Tech or Vita Mix but you can use any blender or food processor.
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 quarts warm water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup rum, or to taste (optional)

Mix the rice and warm water together in a bowl, and let stand for about an hour.  Drain the rice and reserve the water for later use. Place the rice in a blender, add the cinnamon and process until a paste forms. (you may want to add a bit of the reserved liquid if it too thick) Return the rice to the water and let stand at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally as the water turns milky white.

Strain the rice through a fine strainer into a bowl or pitcher. Using cheesecloth in a strainer will give you the best results. Stir in the milk, condensed milk, vanilla until evenly blended. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Before Serving toss in the blender  or use a stick blender to froth.

Pour the chilled horchata over the ice, add  even amounts of rum to glasses.

For the kids OMIT the RUM!!

If you are looking for some other rum drinks check this out.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting – 3 Book GIVEAWAY

19 May

Having a baby is joyous, scary, exciting and tiring.  When I was pregnant with my daughter my husband and I were scared to death but there was one piece of mind that helped.  This book never left my bedside, can you guess what it was?  Yes, What to Expect was my bible; even my husband got into the information book had to offer. I would read it to him, skipping the graphic details (he’s squeamish) I also remember reading excerpts over the phone to other pregnant friends, “hey did you read this, it’s crazy, can you believe what we are in for?” Squelching our fears and supporting each other, was important for us new moms. I think this book really helped us stay calm and rational, for a while anyway!  The baby came and it all worked out.

By 3 months I found myself flipping through the book desperately searching for new information. I must have been hormonal because I read that book cover to cover many times and there was no new information appearing on the page. I must have thought that some magical ink was going to appear or some new pages would materialize!

The good news was that there was another book…What to Expect the First Year, the bad news, I was way to tired to read it! It’s true people, babies make you tired! I did manage to read it and again we made it through.

Once the baby turned two I found myself again looking for the magical ink to morph into new tips on two-year olds! Unfortunately the What to Expect The Second Year had not been written yet so we just muddled through on our own.

The best part of having the two guides was that I started to think about how to feed our picky toddler and all our toddler friend’s kids. That is how my book Toddler Cafe was born, I was inspired by these baby guides and created my own book.  So, use these books for  peace of mind, and to start dialog with other moms and dads who are  going through the ups and downs of parenting. You can even use them for inspiration, once you get rid of your “mommy brain” and all your brain cells are firing again!

Visit the What To Expect site to get more information on all kid related tips! They have a Facebook page too!

I am so excited to be able to give away all three of these books to one luck winner, so if you are pregnant or know someone who is, make sure and enter enter to win!

Requirements to enter the What to Expect When You are Expecting Book GIVEAWAY:

This giveaway ends on Monday, May 28th, 9am PST. The winner will be generated with

When leaving a comment make sure you leave your e mail address, if I don’t have it I can’t contact you.

1. Subscribe to my email updates – enter your email in the box on the upper right of this blog


2. Leave a comment on this blog post telling me you subscribed to my email updates. Also tell me your fears, successes and happy baby stories. To increase your chances to win and receive additional entries, do the following: 

  • Tweet about this giveaway. Add @chefjen and #playfulpantry to the tweet
  • Share on Facebook. Make sure you tell me you shared by commenting on my Facebook page that you did! Make sure to ‘Like’ my Facebook page!
By the way…my baby is NINE!

2nd birthday


A 9 year old “showing daddy her band aid!”

One winner will be chosen at random. Winner will be chosen in Novato California on November 9th 2011 at 10 am. The winner will be notified via email within one week after the draw. The winner will be required to provide an address to ship the two prizes to the address only be used for shipping purposes.

DISCLAIMERS: All federal, state, and/or local rules and regulations apply; void where prohibited by law. Jennifer Carden is not responsible for late, misdirected or illegible entries. Winners are responsible for any and all taxes associated with their acceptance of any prize. Jennifer Carden is not responsible for technical, hardware, software, telephone or Internet access failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed or incomplete, garbled or deleted computer or network transmissions which may limit the ability to participate in this sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion to cancel or suspend this sweepstakes or any part thereof should virus, bugs, unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, fairness or proper conduct of this sweepstakes, including terminating just one phase or portion of the promotion.

Laughing Cow Chipotle Cheese Quiche Cups

12 Mar

When the company asked me to come up with a recipe for a new flavor of cheese, I agreed of course.  A few weeks ago I received a box in the mail containing some  Laughing Cow cheese and other yummy snacks.  The flavor they sent over was Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle cheese, spicy and creamy I liked it right away. The spicy flavor lingers so you don’t need to gobble up a bunch, one wedge was very satisfying. With only 35 calories per wedge this is a good low cal snack.  The Laughing Cow cheeses have been around for as long as I can remember, you may have seen it in your airplane meal or in your lunch box.  Little cheese wedges are not something I usually toss in my grocery cart but I may now.  I wanted to create a recipe that was so easy anyone could make it, I also wanted to use ingredients most people have on hand.

“Made with real Queso fresco and chipotle peppers, each 35-calorie wedge adds a tasty little kick to snack time. A great way to add spice to your favorite dishes without stacking up the calories.”

This particular cheese is spicy, but if you’d like to make this for the kids try any of the other Laughing Cow flavors, Swiss or Garlic and Herb would be just as delicious. I use cilantro in this recipe so if it’s not your thing substitute with parsley, get creative. Try adding leftover diced chicken or bits of broccoli!

These would be great for a lunch box or appetizers at a party or just a game night snack.

Laughing Cow Chipotle Cheese Quiche Cups

Serves 8

An unsweetened whole wheat bread works best for this recipe but white bread will work just as well.

8 Wedges Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle cheese, un-wrapped (one box)

8 slices soft bread

4 eggs

½ cup milk

1 tsp chopped cilantro

1/4 cup diced red pepper

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350˚F

Cut crust off bread, using rolling pin roll bread as thin as you can get it.

Spray or brush standard muffin tin generously with olive oil.

Using a small glass, press bread into greased muffin tin, the bread may rip, just press it back together in the tin, mush it if you have to, it will be fine! (the kids like this part)

In a large measuring cup mix eggs, milk, cilantro, red peppers, salt and pepper.

Mix well using a fork to break up the eggs.

Place the bread cups in the preheated oven to crisp for ten minutes.

Remove from oven, while hot place one triangle of cheese in each bread cup, pour egg mixture over each.  Wait 30 seconds for egg to be absorbed and top off each cup with remaining egg.

Bake for 20 -25 minutes.  Cool slightly, eat!

“The Laughing Cow® provided me with product for this review.”


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