Rowena’s and my winning recipe!

I first discovered Rowena’s almond pound cake many years ago when I had a little sample at some show I can’t even remember.  I was in love and totally hooked!  At the time, it was just my two children and I so i would buy the little loaves and we would freeze them so we could have them all the time.  It never occurred to me that we could actually go to Norfolk and buy more.  We became Rowena Almond Pound Cake Horders.  They should have made a show about us.

You can imagine my delight when I saw there was a contest Rowena’s was hosting on National Pound Cake Day.  I really didn’t have anything that I made with pound cake so I was a little nervous about attempting this, but what did I have to lose?  I loved their pound cake so I did something that was so unlike me…..  I actually entered the contest.

And guess what?  I WON!!!    Wow…never did I expect to win in a million years!  This was one of my most exciting moments EVER! (i think i actually cried a little I was so happy)

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I was equally surprised when I received the package from them.  Not only did I have the winning options of almond pound cake and lemon curd (which also happens to be the best lemon curd), but I also had several other items that I’m excited to try in future recipes.  Raspberry curd, Lavender sauce and Jalapeno Ketchup, to name a few (the ketchup might actually help me to win in next year’s Don’t Let Your Meatloaf Party!)  I was also fortunate to receive Patrick Evans-Hylton’s new products that he is starting…the Historic Hot Chocolate and Chesapeake Bay Seasoning.  Can’t wait to try them all!

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You really need to buy an almond pound cake from Rowena’s for yourself.  If you love almond you will love this cake.  Just opening the package is an aromatic experience.  The almond scent is better than…..dare I say it?…..yes, for foodies, better than sex.  The cake is so moist and so flavorful that it takes all the self-control I have to not eat the entire thing myself.

This recipe is so easy to make.  It is great for a dinner party or if you’re all by yourself.  The only stipulation I have is to make sure you have a Rowena’s almond pound cake if you’re going to make it.  Any other would be a total disservice to this dessert.

Bon Appetite!

CHOCOLATE

Who doesn’t like chocolate?  I, for one, cannot live without it and when I heard there was a chocolate festival in town this past weekend, I had to get tickets.

I think i expected something else but there were some interesting and tasty booths at the event.   There were a couple of local businesses there and if you are ever in need of good chocolate, check them out.

The Royal Chocolate
The Royal Chocolate

The first was The Royal Chocolate, located in the Town Center area in Virginia Beach.  Among other items, they have chocolate and caramel covered apples in many varieties and chocolate covered strawberries.  I tried their chocolate and bacon…amazing!  My absolute favorite is their caramel and chocolate covered popcorn.  It’s made with belgium chocolate and so addictive and yummy I have to get the small bag because I will eat the entire amount and I don’t share.  Whatever your taste they probably have it.

The Royal Chocolate can be reached at www.theroyalchocolate.com or by calling 757-557-6925.

Trafton's Chocolates
Trafton’s Chocolates

Trafton’s Chocolates is another local company located on Central Drive in Virginia Beach.  They had the cutest little Easter rabbits and chicks.  I couldn’t walk away without getting some for gifts.  The chocolate is silky and smooth and melts in your mouth.  I spoke to one of the owners, Susan Landeche, who was very helpful and truly loves what she does.  I love that her business card shows how chocolate outweighs antioxidants over many other foods.  My kind of girl.

Trafton’s can be reached at www.traftonschocolates.com or by calling 757-412-7922.

South 'n France
South ‘n France

Finally my third favorite was South ‘n France.  It’s a husband and wife team that make bon bons in many flavors.  I had the pistachio….very yummy.    They are located in Wilmington, NC and it’s definitely worth the drive.

South ‘n France can be reached at www.southnfrance.com or by calling 910-762-6882.

Of course there were many others that were just as good.  If you’ve never been to the event, I would certainly watch for it and try it out next year.   Chocoholics everywhere should make the trip….you won’t be disappointed!

 

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes with Rum Flavored Cream Cheese Icing

I make cupcakes.  The funny thing is, I don’t really like cake.  I don’t make the big cupcakes that are all the rage now – the ones where it’s loaded with a pound of sweet icing and you can only eat a half of one and even that makes you so full you can’t even finish it..   No, I make the mini ones.  It’s one bite and you get all the flavors together.  You can even eat two if you like them enough.

I got the idea for this by watching a show on the food network.  Pineapple upside down cake in a cupcake.  Genius!  That got my mind racing.  Tropical, rum, coconut…it all goes together very well with pineapple.  And that my dear friends is how this cupcake came about.  I hope you are going to love it as much as I did.  YUM.

Forget Take-Out

My husband is sick and I am not a nurse. In fact I’m pretty bad at it, but I called him during the day to see how he was doing and he said he thought he might be feeling a bit better.  He was a little hungry.  He didn’t have a cold, but my first thought went straight to chicken noodle soup.  Hmmm….that really wasn’t going to work for me but I had to make something that would be easy on his stomach.

I thought I had heard somewhere that ginger was good for the stomach.  Well, it sounded like a good idea anyway, but remember I’m not a nurse. And in my opinion, wonton soup is like chicken noodle soup and I remembered when I was looking at the new Fine Cooking magazine there was a recipe that had me interested. It was in the category of easy dinners.  This was perfect!

I came home with all the ingredients I needed for the soup and there he was lying on the sofa, just like any man who thinks he is dying.   I told him I would make him some soup and he would probably feel much better.  This was so easy to put together that even my friend Emily would be able to make it and so fast I think I beat a really good Chinese delivery.  Plus I had the added bonus of witnessing a medical miracle.  My husband was about to rise from the sofa and proclaim good health once again.

In no time at all I had the soup made and poured two wonderfully aromatic bowls, offering one to my husband.  However, in a really sad voice said he wasn’t hungry.  Wow…perhaps this really wasn’t drama. Perhaps he was really sick.  So I poured him a glass of ginger ale and I sat down alone and devoured my wonton soup. It was so good!  I felt bad that my husband had to miss it but I throughly enjoyed it.   It was like take out without the wait.

On the downside, it was not the medical miracle I anticipated.  My husband went to bed without any dinner. On the upside, it was a great bowl of soup and not a lot of trouble, ranking a very high YUM on the taste thermometer.

Make it some night when you want a light dinner,  playing nurse or just wanting take out without the wait.  You’ll be glad you did.

Roasted Fennel and Sausage Orecchiette

Pasta has always been one of my favorite go-to comfort foods.  it’s probably not the best thing for my diet, but on a cold night there is nothing better.  For someone like me, however,  the basic tomato sauce can be a bit boring so I’m always trying to find something that ranks a little higher on the taste thermometer.

I think I found something.

This had everything I was looking for…ingredients that could stand alone individually on flavor, lots of color and it was not your typical spaghetti and red sauce.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over with my husband…he is after all, a sauce man and you typically cannot change is mind.  The pressure was on…..

I adapted this from Giada’s cooking show.  One of the things I changed was the sausage.  You can use whatever sausage you like but I opted for a sausage made at Whole Foods.  Chicken sausage with red peppers and garlic..  One of their best in my opinion with a lot of zest and flavor.  And for me, I roasted the fennel just a bit longer than the time given, only because I like mine a bit more charred.

The aroma when cooking this meal was amazing, the colors were beautiful and the taste was so flavorful.  I don’t think my husband even realized there wasn’t a sauce.  I must have changed his way of thinking because he went back for more!

I love this meal and I think you will too.  Pair it with a nice salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got a comfort food that your guests will all enjoy!

Mini Blueberry Pies

I’ve never made pie crust.  Ever.  I was the girl who would buy it in the grocery store, unroll it and bake.   My mom always made good pie crust.  Everyone loved her pies because the crust was always good and flakey. I just never learned.

I don’t know what made me decide to try it after all these years but I thought I finally would.  I wanted to make these little mini pies that looked so cute….but I needed to learn crust in order to do so.  Crust was my nemesis.

I thought I was going to lose this challenge.  It was almost an epic fail.   However, to my surprise, mixing the crust turned out to be the easy part.  It went together so effortlessly and it appeared to turn out as the instructions directed.  However, when I went to roll it out, it was like the crust was fighting back.  It was sticking to everything!  The cutting board, the granite, the rolling-pin, my hands…!Perhaps I was afraid to use too much flour or perhaps it didn’t go together as well as I thought….  whatever the reason, it got to the point I wanted to trash everything and quit.  I almost cried.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

This being my first time in making the crust, it wasn’t pretty.  I really thought it was going to taste like a big handful of flour. But it didn’t. The texture and the flavor were just like I had hoped.  Flakey and light, not tough and thick like I expected.   I know I have a lot more to learn with making a perfect crust, but in the end I’m glad I challenged myself.   Perhaps it was a little difficult, but certainly not as hard or as scary as I thought it was going to be.

What did I learn from this?  Don’t be afraid to use flour, and don’t give up.  It might not turn out exactly like you had hoped but nothing ever does the first time.  Practice makes perfect and I hope there will be a lot more practice with this recipe.  I loved it and everyone else did too.

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