December 30, 2013


When is your birthday?
What do you usually do for your birthday?

This year I spent the morning donating blood on my birthday
for the American Red Cross Blood Drive hosted by the  Philadelphia Eagles.

This year I was surprised by cousins, siblings, family and friends 
and I was able to enjoy cupcakes, dinners, and multiple cakes...
so many cakes this year that I wasn't even able to capture 
a picture of all the cakes!

This year has been a great learning experience.
I also lost a family friend who I knew since I was 5 years old
along with my grandmother who left us at age 96 last week.

Philadelphia In Home Cooking Classes  Birthday class

These cupcakes were home made from my sister in law.... 
they were  SO good!

This was a fondue spread that one of my best friends 
from elementary school made...

This is me before cutting into another home made cake for me.
Philadelphia In Home Cooking Classes Birthdays

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food

December 29, 2013

Shake Shack - King of Prussia review

Shake Shack: Hot Dogs, Burgers, Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Shakes and Beer

Did you know that Shake Shack innovated itself from a hot dog cart?
Yup! Shake Shack's journey all started from a hot dog cart in
Madison Square Garden in Manhattan for 3 summers where lines of crowds
gathered to get their burgers, hot dogs and such.
Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) created the cart
to help support Madison Square Park's Conservancy's first art installation.

Go figure right?  It's always interesting to see where things sprouted from.

After the 3 summers (2001-2003) the store front was established in 2004.
and as Shake Shack says:  "the rest is burger history"

I've tried the one in the city (Philadelphia) and I will say
I didn't really enjoy it. I'm not sure if it was because of all the buzz
about it and my expectations were so high or what but it was just so-so.

I recently was able to experience the one in my back yard.
It's right outside of the King Of Prussia Mall across from the movie theater.

I decided to try it again when the first snow fall of this winter started.

The burgers this time around were way better.
I had the single Shack Burger and it was super juicy and flavorful...
it was heavy on the salt.
I prefer things a little saltier than the average person so it was ok for me.

The fries with the cheese were pretty good as well. Nothing spectacular
but they didn't disappoint like many other places do.

They also have custard among many other goodies to choose from.

The custard was very good but a note to Shake Shack... 
I don't recommend giving out free samples... 
the samples are on the large side--- 
(the picture above is not a sample size or a custard for that matter). 
It's a single size concrete. I saw 3 people in front of me taste a sample 
and not order one simply because their sample was enough for them not
to purchase one.

I'm not sure if it was because of the fact that there was snow outside 
but the inside of the Shake Shack felt almost like eating inside a ski resort. 
Maybe it's the tables... their tables are pretty cool looking.
They have hamburgers branded into the corners of the table.

They are actually part of a bowling alley lane. WHAT!?  Kinda cool.

I would recommend trying Shake Shack but I have a little bit of mixed feelings.
It's a little on the expensive side for what you get but it's worth trying it out!
check out their website for more info and menu options!
In Home Cooking Classes Philadelphia area

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food

December 23, 2013

Tea party desserts

Is it someone's birthday?
Are you getting together for the Holidays?
Do you need a snack made with everyday items but not in the norm?
In Home Cooking Classes Philadelphia
You can easily create these tea party tea mugs out of candy and cookies.
The handles are made of jelly rings cut in half.
The mug itself is an ice cream cone as you can see. They can easy be cut down
by using a small paring knife. Set them on a cookie  (the 'saucer'  for the 'mug')
Use a whole jelly ring candy in between the 'mug' and 'saucer' to allow
them to stick together as well.

And then simply add any candies and goodies you'd like. 
The smaller the better in this case.
I hope you have a great tea time break with a cute little loved one!

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food

Root beer Reindeer

Sometimes after a long, hectic work week we go for a drink of some sort, whether it's wine,
a favorite latte, beer.... or even a root beer!
I love creating things with food but I also love arts and crafts. With Christmas around
the corner and seeing and decorating all things Christmassy....

I took brown pipe cleaners, googly eyes with glue dots and a small red pom pom
and made reindeer with bottles of root beer!
It was certainly a giddy moment. Thanks Pinterest for the idea!
Here are 2 of the root beer bottles BEFORE.

Here are the bottles AFTER.  They really were cool. It totally brought a smile after a long,
tiring work week!  I will certainly be making these for many Christmas/holiday related get togethers!

They are also great to take to someone's house!

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food

December 16, 2013

Snow man Fruit Tray

Ah, don't have the same old fruit dessert...
cultivate it and make it fun!

Find  the smallest watermelon, cantaloupe and honey dew you can
during the winter season. Cut them in half, scoop the center and seeds out.
Flip it over so that the flat cut end of the fruit is on your cutting board for easier cutting.
Make some straight slices and then flip it over and place it in the center of your
tray that is lined up with lettuce or some type of veggie so it looks a little prettier.

Once your 3 melons are lined up in the shape of a snow man-
you can cut  your desired fruit and simply place it on the sides of the 3 melons.
Take some grapes (black and red work best) and use them to make eyes, buttons etc..

The snowman's hat can be cut from the rind of the watermelon.

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food

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December 13, 2013

Easy fake out strawberry whoopie pies

Another  SUPER easy dessert to make during the winter season is...... whoopie pies.
After hearing Cake Boss say that he uses cake box mixes from time to time...
that's what I will often use.  Especially when there are a lot of things going on...
which is pretty much all the time right!?

I like using Pillsbury cake box mixes the best because someone always seems to
comment and say   "that cake is so moist" when using PIllsbury.

I took some strawberry cake mix (prepared it the way it says on the box.

And I simply laid some parchment paper on a cookie sheet and scooped out
some cake mix about 3 inches apart measuring and using an ice cream scoop.

Once they cook for about 7 or so minutes-- take them out and lay them on a cooling
cookie rack so that they cool top and bottom.

Once they have cooled down to room temperature  (at least 30 minutes)
you can take any kind of icing or cream  (I used Pillsbury cream cheese flavor)

Take a spoon or a spatula and spread some icing on one piece and then make 
a sandwich with a 2nd piece.  Tada!   That's really it.  
A fake out baking dessert can't get much easier than that! Right?

The types of the whoopie pie itself and filling (icing) are endless.
You can even use food coloring to dye it in festive colors as well.

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food

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December 12, 2013

Christmas tree your vegetables

Who wants a boring salad!?      .......................  no one answered yes.

Who wants the same old boring veggie and dip? ....................... still. no one answered.

Here is a way you can create a great centerpiece for your table AND it's edible too!

Take a styrofoam cone (you can get one from any craft store) and use that as 
your base and foundation. Take a few layers off of your head of lettuce or cabbage also 
---you will wrap it around the cone and as you stick the veggies with a tooth pick on one end-- 
the other end will go into the lettuce or cabbage then into the styrofoam cone.

The lettuce/cabbage is to prevent your veggies from sticking to styrofoam particles 
and simply to make it look a little nicer than seeing random spaces of green styrofoam.

Oh, you definitely want to purchase a GREEN cone shaped styrofoam piece
rather than a white one. 

A couple of quick tips:
~ having your veggies cut first will save you time 
~ having toothpicks in several cut pieces will help you get a good foundation as well
~ you want mostly broccoli to start with (the tree part)
~ cauliflower will help cover the  "tree" and make it look like snow
~ strips of bell peppers, little salad tomatoes and baby carrots can be used as ornaments
~ make sure you put the veggie pieces close together or you will have a tree that is very
    hollow and empty looking

You also want to have some salad dressing or dip to dip your veggies into.
If you have a smaller number of guests for dinner- you can make little
individual ones per person or have a larger one as a center piece if you have a larger group.

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food

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December 10, 2013

Go Popcorn Company review

This past weekend we had a Bumpball event at 12th Street gym in downtown
Philly-- in the Midtown Village section and as we were driving to the gym
we passed a popcorn shop and said 
"we have to stop there and check it out after the event."
and that's exactly what we did!

The popcorn shop's name is Go Popcorn Company.
It originated in Pittsburgh-- the other great city in Pennsylvania.
This location is their 6th location and first in the Philly area.
The exact address is 112 South 12th Street.
This is what it looks like from the outside.

As you walk inside-- you will not only smell the aroma of fresh popcorn but you will 
see this fun carnival- theater-esque-ness (I know that is not a real word)  
The store size is not huge but there is enough space to handle the lines of the crowds.

The interior design and placement of items of the shop 
is really beautiful and perfect for a popcorn shop.
It really gave that nostalgic feeling of being at a carnival or theater 
while being inside a store front though. Even the light fixtures and ceiling tiles
matched the whole atmosphere of the shop. It gave that warm and cozy feeling.

There is also this little old fashioned popcorn cart to the side that
was very cool to see as well and made me think about how long popcorn
has been around and what it has become today. 
Do you think people thought that a simple kernel of corn
could be popped with heat to be made into a delicious snack and than years
later to fill an entire stores worth of space being the main product?

Corn kernels are able to be popped because they have a hard moisture-sealing hull and
with the combo of the dense starchy interior- pressure is able to be built up inside
the kernel allowing for a small explosion (or pop) to then be made into popcorn.

They say that there is evidence of popcorn dating back to 3600 B.C. in Peru.
WHAT!?!!   I guess popcorn has been around a lot longer than I would of guessed!
It was also a great way for farmers to stay in business during the Great Depression. 

These are some of the machines that make the delicious popcorn. (below)
We even saw Rob that day. (The owner Rob & Genalle Day)

Some of your choices can be...
Oh! and I forgot to mention that the prices have great pricing points as well.
The pricing is a fair enough price that people can come back for more and more
which I'm sure you will when you are in the Market East part of Philly AND
they will give you samples to try as well!  YES! right!? Who doesn't love a free sample!

Peanut Butter Cup

Buttery Movie Style

Thin Mint flavor

Brown Butter Caramel

Real Wisconsin Cheddar

I highly recommend stopping by Go Popcorn.  You won't be disappointed.
The scent of fresh popcorn, the great lights and fun atmosphere really puts you
in a great mood along with having great tasting popcorn!

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food

In Home Cooking Class Philadelphia        Birthday gift present activity cooking class

December 6, 2013

Christmas Tree Brownies!

Most of us have heard that 'stressed' spelled backwards is 'desserts'...

I've also heard people say that desserts has two 's's simply because
you should never only enjoy one but you should have 2 cookies or 2 scoops of ice cream
or 2 small slices of cake etc...

When it comes to brownies- I don't even cut them into squares anymore  
to count if it's 1, 2 or more little squares of brownies that I'm eating. 
It's just a matter of cutting and braking off pieces!

With these cute Christmas tree brownies... make sure you don't eat them all
but share them with your co-workers, your children's classmates, your nail salon,
your neighbors, etc.

Christmas tree brownies are super easy to make and decorate yourself or with the kids! 
It's not too messy for kids to decorate either!  
Simply bake your brownies and rather than cutting them  into small rectangles 
or squares -  cut them into larger rectangles and then cut them in half 
diagonally to make a longer triangles (pine tree shape)  

The stump of the tree can be a pretzel or a candy cane to make it really festive!
You can use icing, M&M's, skittles, Reese's any kind of candy you favor to decorate.

It's always fun to take common food items and fancy them up. 
I always find that when you see food in a different way-- it tastes better.

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food