Friday, 7 December 2012

Tis The Season of Thankschrismakah

I love this time of the year. I enjoy crisp, fresh wintery days. I love the lights and the crowds shopping for holidays gifts, mostly with smiling faces. I can't wait for the family to be all together, eating, drinking, opening masses of presents and playing lots of games. I especially love winning those games. As I tell my kids, I am a good loser, but I am an even better winner.

This is my second marriage, so I have what some may call a blended family.  Mr Yummy celebrates Christmas and I celebrate Chanukah.  I also celebrate Thanksgiving, we all do now! Thanksgiving is a holiday having nothing to do with religion, just a celebration with family, good friends and lots of food. A feast in every sense of the word.  Every year on the last Saturday of November, I make a Thanksgiving to remember. Even though Thanksgiving is really on the last Thursday of November, we do it on Saturday, allowing everyone to enjoy themselves to the max and not having to work the next day. This year we had 21 adults and 3 little ones and after an intervention from my girls, I was organised enough to sit down and eat when everyone else did!  It was perfect! I love Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2012 Yummy Yank Style

Before Mr. Yummy, I never had a Christmas tree except for one at my father's pharmacy.  I loved decorating that tree. When my girls were young, we never had a tree either, but every Christmas Eve, we went Christmas viewing to see the incredible decorations in various areas around Baltimore. We also went carolling with good friends every year around their neighbourhood, ending up at their house having eggnog and cookies. Such magical times.

Mr Yummy and his girls aren't religious but they love the magic of Christmas, so we now have a tree and stockings and the sparkle that goes along with it. I admit I go overboard, but we have so much fun. I love a big, full tree and enjoy going to the nursery to pick out a tall and perfect one. The smell of a live tree brings with it the vision of warm fires and happy faces.  I can't wait to pick out this year's tree, if I ever have a day off  to do it.  It signifies the continuation to the mayhem that is Thankschrismakah in our home.

And so it begins!

But before Christmas this year, it's Chanukah. This year, we light the first candle on the menorah (a candlelabra) tomorrow evening. Chanukah isn't a religious holiday, it is a festival to celebrate the miracle of light. A celebration back in the days of the Maccabees where the oil burned in the temple for eight days when there was only supposed to be enough to burn for one. We light a candle for each of those 8 days and give a gift on each of those days as well. However, since the family are spread out, we do it over the Christmas break when everyone is off of work. It takes a full day to go through the ritual of stockings and gifts.

It's customary to eat something fried in oil over Chanukah. Some make donuts, some make potato latkes, also known as potato pancakes. I do the latter.  In fact, I made my latkes today because my youngest daughter wanted my recipe. Actually, it's my father's recipe. Nobody made latkes like him! He is one of the namesakes of The Yummy Yank. My dad's nickname was Yummy! And his latkes are just that!  I made the latkes today because I don't measure my ingredients and in order to give my daughter a proper recipe, I had to make them, measuring everything out. I then had to eat them because they are delicious and they bring back such happy memories with my wonderful father!

Here is the recipe. You don't need to be Jewish to enjoy these.  They can be eaten on their own or even with a roast dinner. Enjoy!

Potato Latkes

Makes 6 large latkes.

Pour a large amount of vegetable oil into a deep sided pan, these need to be deep fried. Preheat the oil over medium heat.

3 large baking potatoes
2 eggs (in photo, it looks like 3, one had double yolk)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 Tablespoon ground pepper
1 Tablespoon salt

Grate the potatoes by hand on the smallest holes of the grater. A food processor just doesn't work as well.

Add eggs and mix well. Add flour, pepper and salt. It may seem like a lot of salt, but potatoes soak up salt and they need it.

Test the oil by dropping a small drop of water in the oil. If it bubbles, it is ready.

Drop by very large spoonfuls, adding another spoonful of mixture on top of the first, into the hot oil.  Fry until they puff and turn golden brown. Flip the latke and do the same on the other side. They will become golden and crispy. Don't rush this step, it they are browning too quickly, reduce the heat.

When completed, drain the latkes on paper towels, plate up and serve with soured cream and/or applesauce.  So delicious!  Enjoy!

Happy Everything Everybody! You all have made my 2012 an absolute blast and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

As always, thanks for reading and y'all have a nice day!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

He's Da Man!

People come and go in one's life on a regular basis! They enter your lives for a reason and then for another reason they go! That's part of life.

Then you have people in your life who remain a constant.  People who are there by your side through thick and thin, though your ups and downs, highs and lows.  These people can be family, friends, colleagues.  Again, they are there for a reason.

Sometimes the people who are always by your side tend to get overlooked in your every day routines.  They are a given. We may forget to thank them or tell them how much we appreciate them, but we hope they always know.

I have several people in my life who I am lucky enough to have by my side all of the time.  They don't have to be physically there, but emotionally they are there 24/7. My children, who are now all adults are my prize possesions.  I hope they know I am always there for them no matter what! My love for them is unconditional! Each and every one of my 5 girls make me so proud! They have all accomplished so much both in their professional and personal lives. As much as I am there for them, they are also there for me and I thank them and cherish them!

But this blog is about one person in particular.  He entered my life 16 years ago at a time when he was clearly needed to enter. He has showed me constant support, laughter, companionship, friendship and love. This person is Mr. Yummy!

The fact of the matter is that there would be no Yummy Yank if it wasn't for Mr. Yummy! No, he doesn't bake, he is not the face of The Yummy Yank and no he is not American! He is a Brit through and through and very proud of it. So why couldn't this business go on without him?  Quite simple really! He encourages me, he drives me, both figuratively and literally, he comes to every market and where needed erects my stalls.  He loads and unloads, he packs and unpacks, he cleans, he slices & cuts, he sells, he labels, he creates, but most of all he encourages!  In Mr. Yummy's eyes, I can do anything I put my mind to and I can do it well, even if I question myself.  He is the driving force behind The Yummy Yank! The behind the scenes visionary perhaps.

I do thank him, I thank him constantly because I know how lucky I am! I thank him because he works so hard. He has a job besides The Yummy Yank, one where he has a two and a half hour drive, 5 days a week, but yet nothing is ever a problem. If I run out of an ingredient, he stops on his way home from work to grab it for me.  If I have a market on a weekday, he comes to set me up and then heads on to work. If I need new logos or something done marketing wise, he is right there researching and problem solving.  He is my accountant, my logic, my person who keeps me grounded. And the best part, he does it all with a smile on his face and a gentle manner that is second to none.

What does he get for all of this? He certainly doesn't get a weekend anymore, but he does get to eat the leftover samples after a market, which quite honestly makes him very happy!  He gets to see what started as a hobby for his wife turn into a real and profitable venture. He gets the title of Mr. Yummy which makes him beam with pride. Most of all, he gets my utmost love and appreciation! So Mr. Yummy, this blog is just for you! You are da man!!!

As always, thanks for reading and y'all have a nice day!
Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A Day in the Life of Me, The Yummy Yank - A Photo Shoot for Sainsbury's Magazine

Yesterday could have been a very typical Tuesday with me prepping for my upcoming market at The Source in Leeds City Markets, catching up with paperwork, doing the necessary things I do on a day to day basis.  But yesterday wasn't a typical day at all!  It was as untypical as it could possibly get.  I had a photo shoot for Sainsbury's Magazine.  They are going to do a case study of me in an upcoming issue.  Exciting?  I'd say so!  I was jumping out of my skin!

This all came about several months back when my daughter,( ) introduced me to a journalist who had an idea for an article about successful home baking businesses, took 3 case studies to the editors of Sainsbury's Magazine for approval and voila, the article was accepted and so was I!  I had the interview back in March or April and the photo shoot was to be arranged.  I finally got the call saying that Lisa Linder, the fabulous photographer would be making her way to me on the 14th of August.  I was so excited and so nervous!

I was very organised.  I baked my little heart out on Monday prepping for the photo shoot.  I made all of my different variety of bars, cake layers and cheesecake layers.  They wanted to start the photos with me baking, as well as shooting my normal daily Yummy Yank routine. 

Lisa, the photographer arrived at 9.30am.  We sat down and wrote a list of how we were going to proceed.  First I would bake.  I made my peanut butter brownies. As part of my prepping and organising, I had all of my ingredients measured out and ready to prepare.  Nothing was in packages, everything was in bowls, making my life easier and less chaotic.  I am somewhat of a chaotic baker, in fact, chaos could be my middle name, so this really helped everything move ahead smoothly.  I'm beating my eggs with the rest of the ingredients by hand, pouring my rich dark chocolate into the bowl, being told to pour in slow motion to get good shots, mixing, dabbing, mixing, blending, getting the pan into the oven.  Every move was documented on camera.  So far so good!

Next I took the layers of my Legendary Chocolate cake, along with the layers of my Peanut Butter Cheesecake, made my chocolate frosting and proceeded to assemble my cake.  I was praying it would all go to plan.  My cake/cheesecake combination cakes can be somewhat tricky and it would be my luck it would all go horribly wrong.  Again, every step was photographed,  First I made the frosting, step by step was shot, then one layer, frosting, next layer (hoping cheesecake cooperates and comes out of the pan easily) frosting, next layer, frosting and then the final layer of cheesecake.  All to plan so far.  Then I trimmed around the whole diameter of the cake, evening it all out so it stands nice and straight.  All the scraps went onto a piece of foil and photographer Lisa ate them.  After all, they were just going to get tossed!  That job is all done and now I frost.  Since the cake was just right, frosting it is a piece of cake - literally!  After I frost with my Legendary Chocolate Frosting, I drizzled my chocolate ganache and peanut butter in a chaotic, but artsy fashion over the top with the two cascading nicely down the sides.  On top of that, all kinds of delicious goodies just to finish it off nicely.  Gorgeous!  The cake looked impressive and turned out just as I had hoped. Phew!  Reading back this last paragraph, oh my, I am possessive of MY ingredients! Have you ever noticed Yummy ends in MY?  Just saying!!

Next was to photograph me in business mode.  This article isn't just about baking, it is about how I turned my baking into a successful business.  I labelled bags, made gift bags, which I have to admit, Mr Yummy Yank does so much better than me.  He is meticulous and guess what, I am not!  However, they were fine.  I took my wicker hearts, raffia, labels and created the gift bags.  No problem!  Invoices were on the table along with business cards, boxes with my logo on top, price lists, schedules - everything to do with The Yummy Yank!  Again all to plan!  Except when I ran upstairs to get my iPad for the next bit of this journey, I noticed I had a huge streak of chocolate going down my right cheek! Typical!  Let's hope they can Photoshop that out!

After the photos at home were complete, we took a ride to The Happy Camper in Bishopthorpe, where I supply brownies, peanut butter brownies and pecan pie bars.  This is a lovely site.  It consists of a campsite and is also home to York Marine services, where one can rent a canal boat and travel along the River Ouse.  Sitting on this site is a wonderful American style silver Airstream camper, where lovely Tyler and co serve up food, drinks, ice cream and my desserts.  On this part of the photographic journey, we were shooting me making a delivery, handing over the invoice, getting paid, everything to do with a wholesale delivery.  However, I didn't really have a delivery to make there, as we delivered there late last week.  We pretended and smiled and chatted and hammed it up for the camera.  With a setting like this in the sunshine, you can't help but have a good time. 

After we finished with the delivery photos, Lisa the photographer had me go to the decking down by the river and work on my iPad.  I don't really have to sit at my desk anymore and work on my computer, have iPad will travel and I did.  I took my shoes off, dangled my feet in the beautiful Ouse River, had a drink by my side and "worked" on my iPad.  What did I do?  I tweeted!  I tweeted about my photo shoot.  I have to admit, I don't usually work with my bare feet dangling in the river, with ducks at my feet in the glorious sunshine.  I wish I did this on a daily basis, but sadly I do not.

Next stop was Kirkstall Abbey where I do two markets a month. Of course there wasn't a farmers market on a Tuesday, as Kirkstall Deli Market happens on the last Saturday of the month and is also happening on the last Sunday of the month as well.  However, wonderful Mark Kilvington, who organises the markets, set up a stall for me in the middle of the cloisters of the Abbey and I set up, just as I would do on a farmers market day.  Again, I was photographed every step of the way.  Photographer Lisa took shots of us unloading, setting up my stall, putting up my banner, had my cakes and bars sitting against the gorgeous old stone of the Abbey walls, capturing all that goes into a market.  The setting is magnificent and I have to say, my cakes looked gorgeous with the cloisters as their backdrop.  As I was setting up, people who were visiting the Abbey came up to my stall and bought, which made for nice photos, but also was a nice little bonus for me as well.  I wouldn't mind setting up shop there on a daily basis.  The setting is just so beautiful and the people are so lovely.  After we finished with the stall, Lisa took photos of the banners advertising the markets and pictures of me and Mark chatting with the beautiful River Wharfe in the background. By this time it was after 4pm and we still had another stop to make!

Our final stop was to Leeds City Markets in Leeds City Centre at a stall called The Source.  The Source showcases local producers and their products and I have a regular twice a month slot.   I'm there on the first and third Saturdays of the month.  Again, this was not a Saturday, so we had to act.  Since we were running so late and had such a full and productive day, we didn't open up The Source, but just shot me carrying in a tray of my pecan pie bars.  The market in general was the backdrop and since The Source is across from Brian's Flowers, Lisa took photos of me talking to lovely Lydia who is a florist there.  Again, the building is magnificent and it was photographed in all of its Victorian splendour.

We finished up the day at nearly 4.45pm with Lisa having only moments to catch her train back to Kings Cross Station in London.  She made it, leaving me to beam with pride and generally feeling very pleased with myself!  It was a fantastically fun day!  It wasn't over yet.  While going home, I had my handy little iPad with me, so I checked my email.  In and amongst all the junk that I receive was a mail informing me that my Pecan Pie Bars have qualified to the next round of The Yorkshire Taste Awards.  How exciting is that?!!!  My day was going from great to "CRAZY GOOD."  It just doesn't get any better than this.

I don't have an issue date yet for Sainsbury's Magazine and I don't know if my Pecan Pie Bars will go any further in the Taste Of Yorkshire Awards, but I can promise you one thing, I will keep you updated about both!  The article in Sainsbury's Magazine is a given, I will be featured!! YAY!  Let's hope my bars go on to the next step as well.  I felt like a real celebrity yesterday and it sure felt good!  All of my hard work is paying off and I love it! I have the best job in the world!

As always folks, thanks for reading and Y'all have a nice day!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Monday, 13 February 2012

What's Next? I Know - A Competition

The year 2012 holds a lot of questions for me.  Mostly on my mind is which direction do I want to take The Yummy Yank?  Do I want to stay as I am and continue along happily doing farmers markets across Yorkshire?  Do I want to expand into the wholesale market?  Do I want to maybe one day open up a Yummy Yank restaurant?  It's even been suggested to me to get an Airstream and turn the brand into a proper American diner type of place.  Another suggestion, believe it or not was the possibility of franchising.  I really don't know where I want this all to go.  I do know that I enjoy every minute and I love meeting everyone who supports The Yummy Yank.  Lovely people love lovely desserts!

I'm now meeting up with a wonderful networking group consisting of business people and other incredible local food producers.  It's so refreshing to bounce ideas off of each other.  Lots of brains working together opens up a whole new world of ideas and opportunities.  In addition to being so helpful, I have met a wonderful group of new friends as well.  We'll meet every month and who knows, maybe in time,  I will figure out where The Yummy Yank is going to change, if it changes at all!

I decided one way to spread the word about The Yummy Yank is by having a simple competition.  The winner gets a sampler box of mixed goodies of my choice.  I'm pretty confident everyone will be happy with the prize.  It's open to all UK residents, will be posted anywhere in the UK and ends on the 14th of February, 2012 at 11.59pm.  The prize will be posted by the 12th March, 2012.

All everyone has to do is to tell me why they think they deserve to win the prize.  Simple really!  It can be heartfelt, funny, touching, whatever you choose to write.

I've posted the competition on Facebook and on Twitter as well and it is getting lots of recognition and wonderful entries.  It will be a hard decision to make, as there are so many people who deserve to win.  But there will only be one winner. 

Time is running out, so please enter quickly.  You can tell me in the comments section of the blog why you or someone you care about deserves the box of Yummy Yank desserts. 

I think a competition of this nature has taken The Yummy Yank in yet another direction and is expanding its horizons that little bit further afield.  Who knows where I may pop up next?  I sure don't, but it is so exciting to think about it!!

Looking forward to reading your entries and good luck!

As always, thanks for reading and y'all have a nice day!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Great American Coffee Cake

Back in November, I attended my first Clandestine Cake Club (CCC) event.  What a wonderful concept!  Lynn Hill, is the founder of this club, which has taken the UK and now parts of the world by storm.  The philosophy is a simple one - it's a place where we bake, eat and talk about cake.  Now that is a great concept!  There are no brownies, cupcakes, muffins, tarts or pies allowed, only cake!  You need to register to go to an event, you can bring a guest and the best part - you get to take home cake! Lots and lots of it!  It is a wonderful time, with lovely people who love to bake, not necessarily for a living, just because it is a passion!

The event I attended, which will be the first of many, was to raise money for breast cancer, always a good cause.  The theme was memories from your childhood.  There was such an amazing array of cakes, one better than the next.  I didn't know where to begin tasting!  I would say there were 30 or so cakes, each with a memory behind it.  Lovely! 

I made two cakes!  Why?  Simple really, I didn't think the first one turned out very well, so just to be sure I made another.  Very typical Yummy Yank!

My first cake was a cake I grew up with and is a traditional Honey Cake, usually served around the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, holidays which start the Jewish New Year.  This cake is to symbolise a good and sweet year!  My family made this cake for all occasions, not only on the holidays, but year round just because it is delicious.

I was worried the honey cake wasn't baked enough, as it has so much honey, it bakes a long time and is very moist.  It did bake enough and it was delicious, but just in case, I decided to make another cake.  I baked it so last minute, it was still hot when I arrived at the Clandestine Cake Club evening.

This cake was an American Sour Cream Coffee Cake and my goodness was it a big success!  It's one of my favourites, simple, flavourful and truly a cake from my childhood.

The American Coffee Cake does not contain coffee.  It's traditionally a cake which is to be served alongside coffee.  It is agreed that the concept of coffee cake originated in Northern and Central Europe sometime in the 17th century.  The countries in these areas baked traditional sweet yeast breads, so when coffee was introduced to Europe, these cakes were the perfect accompaniment.  When the German, Dutch and Scandinavian immigrated to America, they brought with them their wonderful recipes.

Originally more bread like, coffee cakes have evolved and changed.  They are still a relatively plain cake, perfect with that cup of coffee, but now fruits, cheese, nuts, sour cream or other creams are used in this wonderfully moreish cake.  It is a true taste of American baking! 

I was asked so many times for my coffee cake recipe at the CCC evening and I promised I would get it to you.  This is for everyone to enjoy!  It is always a hit and will become an absolute favourite in your house! I guarantee it!

Sour Cream Coffeecake

16 tablespoons (250 grams) (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 3/4 cups of granulated sugar
2 very large eggs, beaten
2 cups plain flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup soured cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups pecans, chopped
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, 180 degrees C.  Grease and flour a 10" bundt pan.

Cream together the butter and 2 cups of the sugar.  Add eggs, mixing well, then add the soured cream and vanilla.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Gently fold in the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture and beat until just blended.  Do not overbeat.

In a separate bowl, mix remaining 3/4 cup sugar with pecans and cinnamon.  (I put the pecans in the food processor to chop, not ground but chopped somewhat finely).

Pour half of the batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Sprinkle with half of the pecan/sugar mixture.  Add the remaining batter and then top with the rest of the pecan mixture.

Set on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven and bake for about an hour, or until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Serve warm!

It's great at room temperature as well, but warm is just heavenly!  Perfect for breakfast, midday snack or an elegant evening dessert!

Enjoy everyone!

As always, thanks for reading!

Have a nice day y'all.

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank