Friday, September 26, 2008

Team Your Place Gourmet Gets Press!

Woo-Hoo! Team Your Place Gourmet got some press! An article appeared in the Arizona Republic this week. Check it out HERE.
The print version includes a picture of Nick and a picture of Nick's mom and me, in the kitchen with some cookies. I bought an extra copy of the paper to send the article to Nick with his packages this week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Big Screen Birthday

Last week was my only child's 16th birthday, so we figured a party was in order. We held the party in our backyard. Once the sun went down, the temperatures were comfortably in the 90s and it was breezy. The kids played video games and watched movies on a giant screen, listened to music, hung out in the pool, and had a terrific time.

The screen was 16'x9' and the sound system rocked! We notified neighbors that we'd be having this party and we had a fun-filled evening with no complaints from residents and no visits by the police. The company providing the entertainment is called Celestial Nights Family Entertainment. Celestial Nights is owned by a Goodyear resident, but provide services all over - even out of state. I'd encourage anyone looking for a fun and different activity for special occasions, fundraisers, or block parties to given them a call. The owner's name is Charles. Tell him Your Place Gourmet Personal Chef Service sent you!

In addition to the fabulous entertainment of the evening, another huge hit was the delicious cupcakes. My friend, Amy, is an ultra-talented wedding cake baker and I asked her to make the cupcakes for the party. I told her a variety of flavors would be fine and let her choose.

Amy made four different flavors of cupcakes and frosting: Yellow cake with chocolate buttercream; White cake with vanilla buttercream; Chocolate cake with peanut butter buttercream; and Pink Lemonade cake with vanilla buttercream. I had never tried pink lemonade cake before, and I have to say, it could be my new favorite! The hubby also took a liking to the pink lemonade, so now I'll have competition for the leftovers. My 16-year-old, however, said he could not choose a favorite as he loved them all!

The rest of the food for the evening was simple, teen-friendly party fare. We had pizza, meatballs, buffalo chicken dip, veggie platters, and other various munchies.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Operation Baking Gals - Team Your Place Gourmet Round 3

September brings round 3 of Operation Baking Gals and I am hosting a team of my own. Team Your Place Gourmet's soldier is my friend Robyn's son, Nick. Nick is a 20 year old LCpl in the Marine Corps, deployed to Afghanistan. He is an infantryman in 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment serving at Forward Operating Base Bala Baluk in Western Afghanistan. Nick and his unit deployed to Afghanistan on April 7, 2008 and will remain there through the month of November. They are headquartered at Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.

This is how it works: Ship anytime the week of September 27th - October 6th and use the USPS for your package that will be going to a camp in Afghanistan. What can you bake? That's up to you! Just keep in mind that it will take about one week to get to Nick and will be subjected to temperatures over 100 degrees and lots of jostling around along the way.

If you or any of your baking friends want to join my team, please post a quick comment here and email me at chefkim (AT) yourplacegourmet (DOT) com and I'll send you more info and Nick's address.

The USPS has special APO/FPO flat-rate Priority Mail boxes. You can fill this box and mail it for only $10.95 ($10.50 for click-n-ship), regardless of how much it weighs. These boxes are available at your local post office and are free of charge.

Thank you for participating!
Your Place Gourmet - Personal Chef Service

Here's Team Your Place Gourmet so far:
Jen Barber of Goodyear, AZ
Brent Evans of Charlotte, NC & Personal Chefs Network
Brenda Bernardi of Goodyear, AZ
Rosa Santiago de Boyd of Goodyear, AZ
Rose Carameli of Lorain, OH
Marianne Qoyawayma of Scottsdale, AZ
Amanda Jagla-Onstott of Hercules, CA
Michelle Roles of Avondale, AZ & Michelle Roles Photography
Jennifer Wolfe of Surprise, AZ
Debbie Burgess of Lancaster, SC & The Hungry Fox PCS
Mike & Robyn Harris of Avondale, AZ
Amy Menousek of Goodyear, AZ
Linnea Cummings of Anchorage, AK & Alaska Dinner Factory
Anne Hanson of Goodyear, AZ
Traci Grisham of Litchfield Park, AZ
Heather of Brooklyn, NY & Sherry Trifle
Cat of The Cat's Pajamas
Anna of Mediocre Chocolate
Amanda Petker of Clermont, FL & The Waterside Novice Baker
Rachel Feinberg of New York, NY & Sweet Tarte
Jennifer Herman of Waddell, AZ
Kimberly Jones of Goodyear, AZ
Ginger Harmon of Goodyear, AZ
Charlene Onstott of Phoenix, AZ
Willa Epperson of Surprise, AZ
Lisa Lanza of Southington, CT

Our team is full! Don't let that stop you! Please send an email to and put "Any Soldier" in the subject line.
Check out the article in the AZ Republic!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Operation Baking Gals - Round 2

Last month, my friend Debbie turned me on to Operation Baking Gals (gals = give a little support), where teams of bakers send soldiers baked goodies from home. In August, I joined Team Hungry Fox and sent baked goods to Debbie's soldier; her son-in-law Daryl. Daryl celebrated a birthday during round 2, so we also tucked birthday cards and other surprises into the packages sent to him. Daryl shared the goodies with the 22 airmen he works with. He is deployed to Iraq.

To check out the stories and teams from previous rounds, check out the Operation Baking Gals blog, and see how it all began. You can also find helpful hints on what to bake and how to package your goodies. Photos of Nick, our soldier for Round 3, will be posted there shortly, as well as the growing membership list of Team Your Place Gourmet.

Here is the recipe for the cookies I sent to Daryl in Iraq.

Armadillo Droppings

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine, room temperature
1-1/2 cups peanut butter
4-1/2 cups rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 cups butterscotch chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds, or nuts of choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together oats and baking soda; set aside.

Mix sugars, margarine, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add oat mixture and stir well (dough will be stiff). Add butterscotch chips and nuts.

Roll about 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball and flatten slightly onto a greased baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes.

Makes about 7 dozen.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Apple Season

Although it doesn’t feel like autumn here in the Valley, apple season is upon us. Local grocery stores carry several varieties so you are sure to find your favorite. Even better, go right to the orchard. Some places even have pick-your-own. This is a great activity to do as a family, as is creating delicious dishes with the fruit you just picked!

Once you get the apples home, you should refrigerate them for maximum freshness since apples ripen six to ten times faster at room temperature than if they were refrigerated. For optimal storage, apples should be kept at 35-40 degrees.

Check out these easy, delicious, apple recipes.

Apple Chicken Salad
1 pound of cooked chicken, cubed or shredded (using a rotisserie chicken saves time and adds tons of flavor)
1 cup apples, chopped and unpeeled
1 cup celery, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons raisins
1 cup Italian dressing (or dressing of your choice), more or less to taste
6 teaspoons brown sugar
Nuts (your favorite) to sprinkle on top

Stir together chicken, apple, celery, and raisins in a large bowl.
Whisk dressing and brown sugar together in a small bowl, then pour over chicken mixture. Toss gently to coat.
Sprinkle each serving with nuts.
Looks really pretty served on lettuce leaves
Serves 6

Apple Stuffed Squash
3 acorn squash
2 apples, chopped
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest, grated
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut each squash in half, lengthwise, and scrape out seeds.
Place quash, cut side down, in baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.
While squash is baking, mix remaining ingredients.
Once the squash have been baked for 25 minutes, remove from oven, turn cut side up, and fill with apple mixture.
Return to oven and continue baking for 20 minutes, or until squash is tender.
Serves 6

Easy Baked Apples
6 baking apples, cored (Roma work well)
3 tablespoons sugar
6 teaspoons margarine or butter
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon water

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Place apples in 13x9 baking dish. Place ½ tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of margarine into cavity of each apple.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until apples are tender.
In small bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and water and spoon over baked apples.
Cook 10 minutes longer.
Serve warm or cool.

No Bake Apple Pie Cheesecake
16 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz whipped topping, thawed
1 (0.8 ounce) package Wildtree Apple Pie Cheesecake Blend
1 graham cracker pie shell

Combine cream cheese, whipped topping and Apple Pie Cheesecake Blend in a mixing bowl and beat until blended. Spoon into the pie shell.
Chill, covered, for at least 2 hours.
Serves 8

Apple Cheese Spread
8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 medium-size apple, peeled and cored
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tsp. lemon thyme or other lemon herb--lemon basil, lemon verbena

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and lemon juice.
Grate the apple into cheese mixture. Add in the pepper and herbs. Mix well and chill. Makes 2 1/2 cups. Use on bagels, toast, crackers or apple slices.