Bloggers We Love: Birdcage Bakeshop

birdcagebakeshop_logo_JPG - CopyWe are all about fine gourmet food and connecting the people who love it with the people who make it. In that spirit, we begin a new blog feature: a monthly highlight of food bloggers who share our devotion to all things artisanal, local and gourmet.

First in our lineup is Jaleah Colón (or JC for short), the recipe developer and baker with Birdcage Bakeshop and the adroit writer behind Recipes from the Birdcage.

JC’s introduction to the local food scene came several years ago, when she started baking familiar treats with a twist and selling them through the Four Seasons farmers market in Richardson, Texas. The popularity of her red velvet Oreo cookiespeanut butter banana bottom cupcakes and espresso chocolate almond pudding proved her genius in every bite.

But JC was no tight-lipped baker, hoarding her recipes like some sort of patent-pending trade secret. She was open-source, spreading the details of her kitchen innovations and the sources for her ingredients to all. That was the motivation that led to the companion blog to her bakeshop’s website, which shows what she makes and how she makes it, all captured in photos.

“It really didn’t take very long into my blogging adventure to realize that I had a deep admiration and passion for local artisans and I needed to embrace that,” JC says. “I figured that if I’m using their products religiously at home and in blog posts, I really needed to give them a shout-out by providing photos of their goods and links to where readers could get their hands on them.”

“I also realized that I love photography, and have worked really hard at capturing the artistic beauty I see in finished products,” she continues. “Cooking is an art form that actively engages our senses, taste, touch, sight, sound and scent. I really don’t think it gets much cooler than that.”

Birdcage PuddingAmong her more popular posts is one detailing how to make her espresso chocolate almond pudding, one of JC’s personal favorites. “I made it with items available at Green Grocer, as well as Noble Coyote Coffee, which is my favorite coffee,” she says.

Not only a baker, JC has also channeled her talent into developing several mealtime dishes, including vegetarian and vegan options. Her French Mediterranean Saute, which features Texas Olive Ranch products and comes together in about 20 minutes, is especially popular. But the one dish that she continually strives to perfect?

“My favorite thing to cook is chili,” says JC. “I make a pretty mean bowl of chili, even though I’ve been told that real chili doesn’t have beans.”

JC is reluctant to pick a favorite local artisan, but says if forced, she’d have to go with Bisous Bisous Patisserie.

“I love traditional French pastry, and chef Andrea Meyer continuously impresses me not only with just how delicious her pastries are, but also how aesthetically gorgeous they are,” she says. “Her Framboise cake is to die for; the best part is the pillowy, silky meringue she uses on the outside. On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I tried macarons from about five different bakeries. None of them compared to the macs from Bisous Bisous.”

When not cooking up something in the kitchen or revealing her inspiration through her blog, JC enjoys raising her two daughters and exploring local restaurants, bakeries and museums.

To sample JC’s creations yourself, you can find her at one of her weekly venues. She sells her seasonally rotating items some weekends at the Four Seasons Market on Campbell Road in Richardson and some weekends at FarmShop Center in Fairview; she has baked goods available for purchase in the bistro as well as in a booth. But the best way to track her down, she says, is through Facebook or Twitter.

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Amber’s recipe for beer cheese soup

SONY DSCMost recipes for beer cheese soup come to us from the Midwest—mainly Wisconsin, as you might expect. Other than the beer and the cheese, the ingredients vary a little, but tend to include dominating flavors. In this recipe adapted from Food & Wine, you get the unmistakable kick of jalapenos along with onions and garlic to bring out the smoky slab bacon.

This soup is best served with thick slices of garlic toast made for dunking. And don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you; this is a quick dish that should only take a little over 30 minutes to complete. Paired with a salad, beer cheese soup is a savory, satisfying addition to your dinnertime meal plan.

Beer Cheese Soup
Makes six to eight servings

  • 1/2 pound piece of slab bacon, sliced 1/3-inch thick and cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • One 12-ounce bottle lager or pilsner
  • 2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 pound sharp yellow cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  • 4 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Garlic-rubbed toasts, for serving

Directions
In a large saucepan, cook the bacon over moderate heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 7 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a bowl. Add the celery, onion, jalapeño, garlic and thyme to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring until softened, about 8 minutes. Add half of the beer and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer.

In a small skillet, melt the butter. Add the flour to make a roux and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Whisk the roux into the soup until incorporated and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 8 minutes.

Add the heavy cream, cheddar cheeses and the remaining beer and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bacon and season with salt and pepper. Add a few more tablespoons of broth if the soup is too thick.

Serve the soup with garlic toasts.

Amber’s tips: A dash of cayenne pepper will do for those who like everything extra-spicy. Garnish the soup by topping it off with crumbled bacon and some microgreens or chopped bell pepper.

Enjoy!

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Our favorite cold-weather comfort foods

A few warm February days might lull us into putting away our sweaters, but make no mistake—brisk winter winds and the threat of freezing rain are always ready to send us right back indoors to wait out the cold.

Fortunately, we has just the thing to get you through the annual wait for spring. To remedy your cabin fever, we’d like to share our favorite comfort foods to cook up or order in.

Bacon Mac & Cheese

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This recipe for Bacon Mac and Cheese is our favorite way to fight the winter blues. First, the Applewood Slab Bacon from Hirsch’s Specialty Meats gives the dish its distinctive smoky flavor. Then the Parmesan Reggiano Bonati and Gruyere from Scardello bring this dish into gourmet territory, adding the saltiness and creaminess that only comes from fine cheeses. Cook up enough for your family and a few friends, and you’ll soon forget why you wanted to venture outside in the first place.

Beer Cheese Soup

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The active flavors in Beer Cheese Soup come from—you guessed it—beer and cheese. Take a half-pound of slab bacon, a bottle of pilsner and toss in some garlic, jalapeños, butter and cheese, and you’ll be on your way to flavors a can of chicken noodle could never dream of. If you want the details on this recipe, check back with us next week. It’s so full of flavor, we decided to devote a whole blog post to it.

Green Chili Stew Pie

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For those chilly days when you’d rather have someone else do the cooking, Butterfield Gourmet’s Green Chili Stew Pie is stuffed with satisfying beef, potatoes and Hatch green chiles kept warm under a flaky crust. The kick in this stew can be intense, but we like it that way.

And For Something Sweet…

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Jack’s Southern Comfort Food’s signature breakfast biscuit has garnered a cult-like following—and with good reason. The buns are rolled with brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans and walnuts and then baked in maple brown sugar, which produces a warm, delicious sticky bun perfect for lazy weekend mornings spent in your PJs.

Stay warm!

Posted in Breakfast, Butterfield Gourmet, Community, Dallas, Desserts, Entrees, Food Products, Hirsch's Specialty Meats, How-to & Tips, Jack's Southern Comfort Food, Recipes, Scardello, Side Dishes, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amber’s sweet picks for February

Unknown-1What would life be without sweets? Our artisans prove that you can enjoy a sweet treat that’s as wholesome as it is indulgent. This month, Artizone’s Market Operations VP Amber Dietrich has chosen to highlight five artisans whose confectionary creations make life that much sweeter.

The name Cheesecake Love tells you all you need to know about this artisan’s offerings. Founder JoAnn Sitton starts every order from scratch, from the buttery cookie crust to the creamy, melt-in-your-mouth cheesecake filling. She started her business by selling her Creamy Original cheesecake through a small deli near her home. So rich was its flavor that customers craved more, so she expanded her lineup to include desserts like Triple Chocolate cheesecake and Sweet Nuttin’ Caramel Pecan cheesecake, as well as a classic key lime pie she calls Key Lime Love.

Sucre SucreSucre Sucre by Lucia offers the renowned French macarons of pastry chef Lucia Merino. From blood-orange jam and cherry ganache to Valrhona chocolate and salted caramel, Sucre Sucre’s macarons are as delicious to eat as they are beautiful to look at. Merino’s resumé includes her work at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Key Biscayne, Florida and the St. Regis Resort and Spa in Bal Harbour, Florida.

Made by self-described “nut snobs,” Texas Brittles come chock-full of Spanish peanuts from Oklahoma and pecans from West Texas—no skimping here.The small-batch family recipe, known for its crisp bite, is made with organic, locally sourced ingredients. Bonus: the brittles are gluten-free and are made with no preservatives.

SONY DSCBefore she launched Kimber’s Cookieseveryone who sampled Kimber’s delectable crunchy-chewy chocolate chip cookies told her she should sell them. So, with the help of three friends who also happened to be bakers, that’s just what she did. Just warm these cookies-from-a-kit in your oven, and you’ll enjoy freshly baked cookies in minutes without the mess.

Wackym’s Kitchen started out selling cookie flavors of the week in Dallas-area weekend farmers markets back in 2008. The shop now bakes its confections for home delivery throughout the week, offering customers greater access to its popular Ginger Orange Cookies, made with fresh ginger and a pop of orange; its Lemon Cookies, made with real, fresh lemon juice; and its Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies, which are a chocolatey variation of the original best-selling Wackym’s Salted Caramel Cookie.

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The health benefits of dark chocolate

Crack in a Box imageIf you’re thinking of giving the gift of chocolate to the one you’re sweet on this Valentine’s day, go ahead—it’s good for them.

For too long, chocolate has had a bad rap for being full of calories and fat. But as a small indulgence after a meal or at the end of the workday, dark chocolate packs plenty that’s good for the body and mind. Take a look at these sweet nutritional facts for a 100-gram serving of dark chocolate:

A Good Source of Key Minerals
Iron: A serving of chocolate has 67 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron. Our bodies typically do a good job of recycling the iron from our blood cells once they’re used up, but we all need a steady trickle of iron from our diet (women more than men).

Potassium: With 21 percent of the RDA for potassium, chocolate is equal to a banana for this electrolyte.

Magnesium: You can’t build bones without magnesium, and a serving of chocolate contains 58 percent of your RDA.

Phosphorous: Essential for strong bones and teeth, phosphorous almost makes up as much as of our bodies as calcium. Chocolate has about a third of what you need per day.

Copper and Manganese: Chocolate provides for about 90 percent of the RDA for these two essential minerals. (Who needs a multivitamin, right?)

Calcium: A serving of chocolate will never topple dark leafy greens as the king of dietary calcium, but at seven percent RDA, it’s an added source not to be ignored.

Excellent Source of Fiber
You keep hearing that we all need more fiber in our diets. At 44 percent of your RDA for dietary fiber, a chocolate indulgence may be just what the doctor prescribed.

Good for the Heart
Chocolate has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind) in our bodies. This lowers our risk of cardiovascular disease. And because cocoa has antioxidant properties, it scours our bodies of damaging free radicals.

Good for the Brain
Dude Sweet choc.Because the flavanol in cocoa appears to improve blood flow to the brain, it’s likely that chocolate consumption improves our cognitive abilities, especially as we grow older.

The take-home message is that if you like chocolate, you have every reason to feel good about your small indulgence. Several Artizone artisans specialize in this cocoa confection, which makes it all the easier for you to enjoy the benefits of high-quality chocolate.

For smooth, salty caramel inside a dark chocolate shell, look to Chocolate SecretsSea Salt Caramel Filled Chocolate Bar.

Dude, Sweet Chocolate’s Loco for Coco, with its nutty notes and lingering flavors of honey and coconuts, can be considered your prescription for dark chocolate’s health benefits. For a break from chocolate in bar form, witness their FDA Chocolate Salami, which is made with dates, dried figs and cocoa nibs.

Enjoy the flavor and benefits of both dark chocolate and almonds, pecans and hazelnuts in La Duni’s made-from-scratch Chocolate Almond Clusters.

Rounding out this chocolatey lineup is the Frans Grey Salt Dark Pack from Scardello. These organic, award-winning chocolate-covered caramels harmonize the flavors of dark chocolate, buttery caramel and grey salt.

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