Sunday, November 28, 2004
OK, I officially like waffles made with alternative milks better than those made with real milk.
I never, ever thought I'd say those words. I am a die-hard whole-milk-as-ingredient person.
But using the multi-grain milk alternative makes fantastic light, fluffy waffles. And pecan waffles with either the hazelnut or almond milk alterantive have a deeper, more complex flavor, rich and yummy, sweet and crispy. And for those yearning for oatmeal waffles, but hate how heavy and dense they come out - that oat milk alternative gives you all the yummy, healthy flavor and none of the density. Oat waffles with oat milk alternative come out as light and airy as the best waffles ever.
You have to try waffles made with these milks.
I highly recommend pecan waffles with the hazelnut milk.
I haven't tried the apple and almond milk combination yet, but it should be great. And other combinations, like peach and almond, or pear and oat.
I tell you, the possibilities will rejuvenate waffle eating in America.
I can just see a whole new sub-culture of waffle-eaters. Emailing lists exchanging secret combinations of milks, fruits, nuts in the waffles. Waffle making competitions.
Hey! Once we get the Cracked Cauldron in a permanent location - we could so sponsor a waffle contest!
Saturday, November 27, 2004
I've got the Board Meeting Minutes typed up and distributed to all the Board members.
I've checked out some information at Cafe Press, and am revamping the calendar we would have distributed had we been able to open at a permanent location last Ocotber.
Now, we roll up our sleeves and dig in for the next year of work.
While eating the leftover cranberry cherry pie (the cheesecake disappeared before the luncheaon meeting was adjourned). Aahhhh! The benefits of being a baker!
Friday, November 26, 2004
The tri-mushroom soup, which was good on it's own, but would be much better as the base for a hearty beef and mushroom soup. Or a fish and mushroom soup.
The baklava cheesecake, with a different brand filo we will not use again. The extra honey in the baklava portion, however, was a stunning success!
We discussed marketing and advertising goals, the results will be apparent within the next two weeks, so keep checking for all the exciting details.
We have 3 major events planned. We've touched lightly on them in the past: participating in the Zoo Friends Fundraiser, and getting booths at both the Arts Festival and the OU Medieval Faire.
If everything goes as we plan, we expect to offer a limited menu at the OU Medieval Faire in Norman, OK (first weekend of April - hint hint) consisting of Orange Cinnamon Rolls, Scottish Eggs, bready Soup Cauldrons filled with either Irish Stew or a vegetarian Potato Soup, Shortbread Cookies, The King's Tavern Cookies, a hot Pyrate's Brew (mulled coffee with our special piratey blend of spices), chilled Cloven Fruit beverage, and a chilled Brewski (a rootbeery tea).
And if we can manage the OK Arts Festival, we plan to offer the Soup Cauldrons with Italian Onion Soup, Potato Soup, or Mushroom Beef Soup.
The Zoo, of course, depends upon if we are invited to participate, as it is invitation only. I've been told we are on the list of invitees, so eventually, I'm assuming we'll be asked.
As for the rest, we discussed stock and dividends. While Manager had a much better understanding of what we were doing, I don't think I came off as too ignorant about the financial end of the business.
We dicussed financing options, pursuing the Personal Cheffing and seguing when the time came to the permanent location while making sure our Personal Chef clients are still well cared for.
While Manager works as a Personal Chef, she will also schedule continuing education cooking classes at a local college and arrange for a regular cooking show on our local cable channel.
What will I be doing while Manager slaves away in a hot kitchen? Marketing, of course. Getting the company name out there and recognized, designing the calendar, and finishing off the book for our first year in business. Several universities are using this blog as an example in their business and economic classes, and putting this blog in book form will allow us to include spreadsheets, pro formas, cost flow analysis forms, and other forms too lengthy or involved for a blog format. Just think - all our mistakes - by the numbers! Plus, we'll include actual recipes in the book and not just pictures and descriptions.
So, that's what we did today. How about you?
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
It is the business card that is currently provoking more response than the ads.
Saturday, as we shopped for a good used car, we handed out many cards. Those have produced several deeply interested responses and follow-up calls.
The ads are just now appearing, so it should be a week, really, before we start geenrating a response or two from them. We selected the papers in town which cater to the people with the most disposable income and least free time: the people who live in Edmond, Nichols Hills, Heritage Hills, and who work in the main corporate offices downtown. We've also targeted the professionals at the local hospitals. Their schedules can preclude being able to eat in restaurants but still wanting to eat well. A personal chef is just what they need
Timing is a bit off, but should pick up for the major winter holidays.
Manager did get the little Ford Focus stationwagon, paying more for it than if I'd been able to be along to negotiate the price. She didn't do too badly, though, for her first venture in car buying, getting it for $2,000.00 below the asking price. And it's good experience for her, learning to negotiate and haggle prices.
As for food: we've got her pantry installed into my kitchen, and all the mess of remodeling (such as it was), cleared up.
We've several orders of Bacon Bread to fill. Since we bake this only for people we personally know, and only for the cost of the ingredients, this isn't technically a part of the Cracked Cauldron, but it will keep them hooked on the bread and willing to buy it when we do get the funds to open the Cracked Cauldron.
We're also providing bread to make sandwiches for the homeless, and will bake pies and cookies for them on Thursday to go with the little care bags.
While we wish we could do more, we recognize our current limits.
It's hard, to adjust our thinking from giving to profit-making, but that's what we are doing. And right now, giving away the sandwiches and little care bags are the limit of what we can do.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
A close-up of the sausage stew: tiny cocktail sausages, red kidney beans, pinto beans, carrots, jalapenos, tomato juice, and broken angel hair pasta. We served it with cornbread.
We spent all yesterday touring assorted used car lots and purusing the Auto Trader paper trying to find a cheap but usable car for Manager to use.
We looked at many totally unsuitable cars: too expensive, too big, wa-a-a-ay too small, too old.
We want to get a car that's younger than Manager, mostly because if it does need repairs, the newer models will have parts easily available.
We finally ended up in a small town about 25 miles south of us, and there, we found a Ford Focus SE. It's a 2002 model, with 66,000 miles on it, and we while we haven't made the final talk to the auto dealer, it looks as if we'll be able to buy it for somwehere between $7,000.00 and $8,000.00, with a 1 year warranty on it and a drive train warranty that will extend for another 100,000 miles. He's pulling what he can find of the service record on the car. Without it, we're going to push for the lower price, as we don't know what kind of care the previous owner took of it.
We feel this is a reasonable price, as the Blue Book price for the car ranges between $6,000.00 and $9,000.00 for such a car bought through a reputable dealer.
That means Manager will be able to conduct her business safely, cheaper, and with enough space for all her equipment.
We've been spending about $150.00 a month on gasoline alone for her old car - that's the payment for this newer one (including insurance), and her gasoline expenses will drop to $30.00 a month.
No more phone calls to pick her up at this corner or that because the old car overheated or a hose broke or it just quit for some reason.
She'll be much more reliable in visiting clients, banks, and potential investors.
Maybe as a holiday gift, I'll give her a set of magnetic door signs advertising the Cracked Cauldron.
On to more interesting things - food!
Manager has 2 holiday clients - she'll meet with them after we finalize the car on Monday. Yes, this is cutting things close, but Manager can do it. We met both as we searched for a car, and told the salesmen why we wanted that particular type of car. Both want simple, traditional turkey meals: roasted turkey, oyster stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole, giblet gravy, feather rolls, pumpkin pie, apple pie.
It's much simpler than the holiday meals we normally prepare.
For ourselves, I'll be preparing the meal, as Manager will be working.
Isn't that a lovely sentence?
Manger will be working.
I won't repeat it again, because it would bore you to read it again, but that refrain is dancing through my head: Manager is working!
Anyway, what I'm preparing for the family will start with a bread cornucopia stuffed to spillage with antipasta and surrounded by hollowed vegetables filled with assorted dips. We'll also have hte now traditional Bacchus Bites: homemade crackers topped with goat cheese and black olives.
The first course will be a clear turkey soup carefully poured over individual veggie sculptures of Indian corn, and accompanied by little turkey shaped rolls.
We'll clear that with a light green salad garnished with the petals of orange and gold marigolds and the last of the lavender blossoms.
The main course will be herb coffined cornish hens that have been brined overnight - you make a wet paste of herbs and completely enclose the hens with it, bake them in the case until it dries, break it off, then brown the hens and glaze them with orange sauce. We'll have 6 sides because we're just greedy that way: tiny baby Brussels sprouts in a tarragon butter sauce, whipped potatoes with cream cheese, baby carrots steamed with dillweed and almonds, green beans with porcini and portabella mushrooms in a chardonnay sauce, a cranberry and wild rice stuffing and a cornbread herb stuffing, jellied cranberry sauce shaped like acorns, feather rolls, herb butter.
This will be cleared away with a light creamy three muchroom soup and a fruited green salad.
Then on to dessert!
This is where we really shine!
Apple cream tartlettes, pumpkin chiffon gallettes, cranberry pecan pie, brownies, ginger pumpkin bars, acorn cookies, cherry almond pielettes, chocolate macaroons, Indian pudding with a caramel sauce, and a platter of cheeses, apples, and pears with assorted olives (yes, this is a favorite dessert, especially accompanied by either elderberry or pear wine).
Of course, Friday is our shareholders' meeting, and we plan a yummy luncheon to serve at it. We're keeping the menu secret until afterwards.
We'll post photos, now we have the camera back.
A bottle of white chardonnay we plan to use to make a three mushroom soup. Yes, it does say "Vampire" on the label, and it is a Transylvannian import. And yes, we bought it for the label. We were actually looking for a sauvignon blanc from Sparks Winery when we came across this find and changed our minds.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Yup. Advertising, paid for straight out advertising, as opposed to marketing, which can be mostly free or goodwill.
Yesterday, Maanger was supposed to meet with the advertising director of a newspaper, a weekly for the wealthy. When she arrived at his place of business, it was locked up. No one answered the phone when she called, and as of a few minutes ago, she hasn't received a return call on what happened.
I suppose they have enough ad revenue to not worry about losing a client?
We have enough other options that losing out on one won't make a significant difference.
The other places where we plan to place ads are quite cooperative.
This weekend, we'll revamp and redirect our press release, and send it to a variety of newspapers and radio stations, and a local magazine.
In doing some investigative work, apparently most personal chefs operate almost entirely by word of mouth, slowly building a clientele. We scoured all the local papers and none had ads for personal chefs, even though we know now there are at least a dozen personal chefs working in the area.
We know about the personal chefs simply because Manager joined a Personal Chef network, and because we searched pretty hard for them.
This won't do for us.
We will be placing 1/10th page ads in several of the weeklies that cater to the local population that would be most likely to want a personal chef. In addition, we're sending press releases to the Food Section of the 4 major dailies in town, and the Business Paper. The business paper, we've been waffling on advertising in initially. True, it does target the people we want to target - busy executives who want home cooked meals - but the advertising price is a touch high.
The plan there is to see if they will print the press release, and if it generates interest, then we'll place ads. Of course, the press release may generate enough interest to give us a discount in advertising at first, and we'll certainly take advantage of that.
Tomorrow, we have to look for a different vehicle for Manager. Her Thunderbird will cost more to repair into a working condition than buying a good used car will cost. And it's essential she have a working car. There's a used car dealership that advertises "real swell cars", and Manager knows someone who's bought 2 cars there. And there's the place where her brother bought his truck. And a few other places. Ideally, if she can find a used Hyundai Elantra stationwagon, that should be within her price range and size needed. But anything she can afford and is large enough will do, because frankly, anything that gets better than 4 miles to the gallon and doesn't overheat when the car is driven faster than 35 miles an hour will do.
And, we'll be posting pics later of assorted holiday foods.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
The holidays are off and running!
Halloween behind us was a disappointment, as we'd planned to be open for business with a crowd of customers filling the dining area and bags of goodies leaving the store in the tight clutches of happy customers.
Well, that hasn't happened yet.
But we haven't given up.
Manager will work as a personal chef to generate income. The hours for that will still be flexible enough to give her time to continue to pursue other avenues of getting the Cracked cauldron up and running as planned.
So, with the holidays here, she's set out ads to cook for various parties. We're hoping they will generate interest quickly. And I've been spreading hte word and her business cards around the people where I work. Since I get to meet a lot of politicians and medical staff and Ph.D level teachers, this is a good pool of people from which to draw customers. Customers who will probably regret it when she switches over to the Cracked Cauldron coffeehouse and bakery.
We've discussed the transition so no one is left foodless, and through the Personal Chef network she joined, she may be able to transfer clients to new chefs. Perhaps through a mentorship program of training new Personal Chefs? That part is still being worked out.
The important thing right now is to get money coming in from somewhere, creating a stable business background, building a reputation as a cook and baker, and getting Manager a vehicle that runs.
Yes, that is a critical tool she desperately needs right now. Her car is leaking from every possible location, and now guzzles 5 miles per gallon of gasoline, the thermostat is out so it constantly overheats, and there's a damaged hose inside the transmission. Repairing that car will cost almost as much sa buying a good used car.
So the search is on for a suitable used car, stationwagon, minivan that gets decent mileage and won't need major repairs for at least 2-3 years. She probably won't keep it that long, that reliability is a must as she gets this part established and flying.
A great deal of this will be hammered out next week at the Director's Luncheon.
We'll see how the Powerpoint presentation flies, what other alternative avenues of investment we can explore, and other such exciting things.
Between now and opening the Cracked Cauldron, Manager will continue exploring new recipes, perfecting existing ones (the baklava cheesecake and the bread cornucopia, for example), and tempting people with the products of her culinary skills.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
As you can see below, we finally made the bread cornucopia.
There were, of course, a few glitches. Remind me next time to grease the funnel and foil!
We used the pretzel dough recipe, which makes for a sturdy cornucopia, but I wonder if there's a better dough to use?
We'll try it again with a different dough, and see what we come up with. Make an Italian breadstick dough - whole wheat?
This one we filled the bottom with a cheese sauce and topped it with roasted vegetables to dip in the sauce: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and new potatoes. We surrounded it with devilled eggs. I didn't take a picture of that because the camera battery is charging and no one wanted to wait for lunch.
The trials and tribulations of trying to photograph the food we make...
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Manager will be taking the Food Handler's Safety Class tomorrow.
She's been finalizing the Power Point presentation so she can tote it around to banks and potential investors. Even though she's now a certified Personal Chef, and will work as such, she is still pursuing the goal of opening the Cracked Cauldron.
Last weekend, I remodeled half my kitchen into a pantry for her use, and this coming weekend, we'll complete her Mobile Kitchen.
As part of the goal of getting the needed recognitions and establishing herself as a chef and baker in the area - more so than shse already has - she'll also teach continuing education classes in baking and cooking at local universities and vo-techs.
So, we tried the quick and easy way to open up and it didn't work. Now, we'll dig in and do it the slower, harder, but inevitable way.
We've given ourselves a goal of 3 years to open the Cracked Cauldron as originally conceived. If things fall right, it may be much sooner. Short of disaster, it shouldn't be much later.
Keep reading, because we'll post anecdotes, recipes, and news about our progress as we go.
Nowhere else will you get such a detailed and personal look at opening a bakery, and you're more than welcome to gloat over our mistakes and drool over our inventive recipes and cheer us on if we do things right.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
The recipe for the pretzels we collected in Pennsylvania is yummy, but it's much harder to shape than the sourdough recipe I've used before. So, no they weren't pretty.
But some of our guinea pigs enjoyed them very much, even 12 hours old.
I will say this recipe doesn't last well, it stales quickly, but fresh, it is wonderfully delicious. This is a pretzel you'd want to eat as soon as it was cool enough to handle, and well before it was thoroughly cooled.
However, 12 hours old, it is good dunked in chai or hot cocoa, and I've been told, coffee. I usually only drink coffee at night, so I haven't tried them with coffee yet, but the cinnamon ones would go great with a nice Viennese roast. The buttery salt ones would do better with a rich Turkish tea, hot cocoa, or chai.
I don't know why, but tea and butter go well together, and so does hot cocoa and butter.
Anyway, a bit more experimentation and a bit more adeptness, and we'll have pretty and tasty pretzels.
Monday, November 08, 2004
Didn't get made this weekend after all.
Instead, we experimented around with a recipe from Pennsylvania for making soft pretzels.
Sorry, no pictures - they weren't as pretty as they were tasty.
Because they were so fast to make, I'll try them again tonight, only this time work on pretty as well as tasty.
The recipe is short, and simple, and very fast. It doesn't allow for more than a few minutes of rise time, which speeds things up a lot.
And dipping it in butter - a move of taste-bud genius.
The first batch was made savory, with kosher cracked salt on top. Maybe we'll make this batch sweet - with cinnamon sugar or an icing of some sort.
And if they're pretty, we'll take pictures.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
We had to buy ferret food today, and the pet store is right next to a health food store.
It's been a while since we've been inside a health food store, so we went in to see what new products were available.
We found a nice journal of ethnic cuisines, and a new line of milk alternatives.
We purchased the almond milk to try.
We stopped at the farmer's market and bought some broccoli crowns.
Then we went home to make vegan cream of broccoli soup.
It was vegan because it used no dairy products at all, and no meat. We used oil to make the roux, and the almond milk to make the cream, stirred in the pureed broccoli, seasoned with thyme, garlic, and parsley. Garnished with toasted almond slivers, it was yummy.
Almond milk really goes well with the broccoli. It would also go well with cream of carrot soup.
Potato soup should have the new oat milk.
And there's also some hazelnut milk.
We've also discovered the almond milk goes well in chai and coffee.
Our next step is to bake with it.
Moving on, the new business cards should be here soon. The class on Food Safety is soon. And the ads should appear in the paper next week, so customers should soon be responding. With the holiday season on us, I suppose most of hte initial calls will be people wanting holiday cooking and baking done.
Manager is now ready to look more closely at the indie movie theater incubator, to ask questions, and see if it is still a viable option for her.
It didn't sound as if it was something she would be capable of doing after she heard the details of organizing it as a business incubator. Still, the person who presented it to her thinks something could be worked out. And Manager is willing to listen.
We'll see how things go. She's not abandoning the project, she's just not sure she can uphold what is expected of her in it.
And whether it works or not, there's no loss and no harm done.
Friday, November 05, 2004
We created a form that allows us to bake bread shaped like a cornucopia. This will be particularly apt for the upcoming holiday. Although our concept is to fill it with a spilling of roasted and steamed vegetables, we could also fill it with fresh fruits and/or veggies on a bed of dip.
We'll bake a prettier one this weekend and take a picture of it, filled with veggies.
Not all types of bread take well to an external baking form. What we learned from this will also help us in baking bread bowls. Wouldn't it be cute to bake smaller cornucopias and fill them with stew?
We already developed a lattice cornbread bowl we use for chilis, and a cracker-type bowl for chowder. A cornuopia bowl for Thanksgiving would be just darling on a serving plate - or for a Viking-type feast! Hah! Possibilities!
Now, we'll play this weekend in shaping bread dough into nifty forms. Cornucopias will be just the beginning! Imagine - Easter baskets filled with spring soups, cauldrons with spooky stews, Christmas "packages" with meaty winter salads...
Like most bread products, this will probably freeze well, but the filling will have to be frozen separately from the bread, or it will sog out when reheated.
Monday, November 01, 2004
Manager was asked about doing tea parties, so we spent a portion of the day looking at tea services.
Astonishingly enough, they were hard to find.
We found a lovely cobalt blue china tea service at an antique store for $69.00 last weekend, and a sterling set for around $800.00, but we weren't looking for tea services then.
We wound up at a small place that specializes in silver and china, and found both a Revere pewter tea service and a Baroque service - each for around $700.00.
The Revere pewter set was a tea pot, coffee pot, and sugar and creamer set on a mismatched tray, simple lines, almost informal in appearance.
The Baroque set was less expensive, had the coffe pot, tea pot, sugar and creamer with the matching tray in sterling silver. The Baroque set was larger and more formal.
The same place had a formal china tea set for under $200.00 - tea pot, creamer, sugar, cups, saucers, and plates for 6. We also found a lovely children's tea set in china that had dragonflies on it.
We didn't buy either set because we can't justify the expense just yet, but if we do start booking tea parties, we now know where to get them.
Manager is signed up for a Food Safety and Handling course, required by the state for all people who work commercially around food.
Her certification as a Personal Chef is in the mail.
And the ads have been placed.
New business cards have been printed up reflecting the temporary change in focus.
Soon, this part of the Cracked Cauldron will begin producing income, and the goal towards opening the full Cracked CAuldron will be inching closer.