Thursday, April 30, 2009

EastPack- Just Like Unwrapped and Mr. Rogers

Whenever I catch Food Network's show, Unwrapped, I am always fascinated by the behind-the-scenes clips they show of the manufacturing facilities that make everything from Peeps to cereal and chocolate. Similarly, anyone remember the episode of Mr. Rogers, where he visits the Crayola factory to see how crayons are made? I think this was where it all started for me. There is something so entertaining and utterly amazing about seeing large, sophisticated and robotic-like machines neatly and quickly produce items, whether edible or not. If you missed this episode of Mr. Rogers, you can watch a video clip of happy little crayons moving down a conveyor belt below. Boy, I miss that red button down cardigan.

In about a month or so, we'll be heading to EastPack, which is one of the nation's largest trade shows related to packaging and learning more about automating manufacturing processes for a variety of industries, including food products. The prospect of seeing these machines live and in person is thrilling (nerd alert, I know) and what's even more exciting is the thought that we will be able to check out some equipment that will help us produce and package our Cupola Cookies & Clouds more efficiently. Here's a little preview of what we'll be seeing at EastPack (click on image below to view video clip), if you're curious. My favorite part is the robotic arm that's stacking the Legos!

Product Review- Melinda's Fab Life!

Looks like we're on a blogging roll this week. Melinda, from Melinda's Fab Life posted a review of our Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds today. Her favorites were our Smoked Gouda Cupola Clouds. You can check out Melinda's review here.

We've been really happy about receiving interest from many foodie bloggers about our products. Since our products are available only at a limited number of retail locations (mostly on the East Coast), it's been great to be able to share our products with curious folks in other parts of the country too!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Product Review- Running with a Recipe

We've been blogged! Sammie, from Running with a Recipe posted a fantastic review of our Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds- if you're curious, check it out here.

Thanks Sammie- we're glad that you were able to try our products in a variety of ways, including in your yogurt and on your salad (which, by the way, looked delectable- I wanted to reach right through my computer screen to take a bite!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama's Plan for Small Businesses

About a month ago, President Obama announced a $15 billion plan to help small businesses secure the loans that many have needed to keep their companies up and running. The plan was met with mixed reviews- some people felt the plan would be put into action quickly and enable companies who had previously been held at an operational stand still to pick up where they left off, while others felt the plan was a positive gesture, but that small businesses would not necessarily benefit as much as the administration proposed.

In the months leading up to the announcement by President Obama, many small businesses have been having trouble securing loans from banks in this economic downturn. Even those with stellar credit have been unable to get the cash needed to stay afloat. We experienced this first hand, after trying to apply for a loan late last year, only to find that even though we have a very good credit history, we would only be able to receive funds if we put my parents' house up as additional collateral. This was really the only option we were given, so in the end, we decided to hold off and self-finance for as long as we could.

Among the benefits outlined in this new plan to help small businesses:
(from "Obama vows to help small businesses," March 16, 2009,
  • Currently, the government guarantees up to 85 percent of SBA loans below $150,000, and up to 75 percent of larger loans. Under the administration's plan, the government temporarily will increase the loan guarantee to 90 percent as an incentive to banks to lend.
  • The second SBA program, the "504 program," guarantees up to $4 million worth of economic development projects for small businesses. The administration temporarily will eliminate fees for lenders and borrowers on any new 504 applications.
  • The administration also temporarily will eliminate the upfront fees for 7(a) loans that banks charge borrowers. These fees go up to 3.75 percent for larger loans.
We have yet to revisit the idea of securing additional funds through a bank loan, but I do wonder, if we were to approach our bank now, if perhaps there might be more opportunities for us to obtain funding.

Any of you entrepreneurs out there have a recent credit or loan experience (good or bad)? We'd welcome any thoughts or comments you might have on whether you feel the program put in place by the Obama administration is really working.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Something to Chew On- Edible Reads

You know how there are always those books that you hear about and make a mental note to pick up and read when you have time? I always feel like I'm doing this and then never getting around to actually reading them. When I go into a Barnes & Noble or Borders, my brain goes into overload because there are way too many titles I want to read that I lose track.

Below are the top 5 food-related books I'm planning on checking out sometime in the near future:

1) The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - I initially started reading this book last year, but got so busy I never finished it. This New York Times bestseller is summarized best in the synopsis provided on the author's site:

"In this groundbreaking book, one of America’s most fascinating, original, and elegant writers turns his own omnivorous mind to the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. To find out, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating. "

2) Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl- A charming, touching and honest account about acclaimed food writer Ruth Reichl's experiences with food in many contexts- among them, eating, cooking and entertaining.

3) My Life In France by Julia Child- The classic memoir by one of the world's most most beloved and heralded chefs.

4) The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg- From Publishers Weekly:

"Dornenberg and Page's follow up to their award-winning What to Drink With What You Eat certainly compliments its predecessor (part of the intent), but works equally well as a standalone reference for cooks of all skill levels. An alphabetical index of flavors and ingredients, the book allows readers to search complimentary combinations for a particular ingredient (over 70 flavors go well with chickpeas; over 100 are listed for oranges), emphasizing the classics (chives with eggs, nutmeg with cream, sardines and olive oil, etc.). . . Regional tastes are well-represented in broad entries for classic German and English flavors, as well as the more fine-tuned flavors of, for example, northern France or West Africa."

5) Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads by Nancy Baggett- I haven't tackled bread making yet and figured this book would be a good place to start.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mad About Mushrooms

All day yesterday we spent in Cleveland, to introduce our Cupola Cookies, all three flavors, at the Whole Foods in Cedar Center. I bought a bowl of the hot white chicken chili there and loved it.

We did a lot of walking around Shaker Square and the University area (Case Western University) . It was a beautiful day for a farmer's market, and in Shaker Square, there was one, with fresh vegetables, including mushrooms.

I was fascinated by the Blue Oyster and Lion's Mane mushrooms- they looked very fresh (firm and dry). I have never tasted such fresh Oyster mushrooms. I have cooked with Oyster mushrooms before, but not ones this fresh looking. So I bought some of the Oyster and the Lion's Mane.

Are these cotton balls? Nope- they're Lion's Mane mushrooms. Fluffy and white, when cooked they take on a meaty texture and have a rich flavor.

Being curious, I cooked these mushrooms, plus some left over fresh Shiitake mushrooms and the Japanese asparagus last night. The easiest saute never disappoints me. Take some slices of onions with 1 tbsp of olive oil, add in the cuts of asparagus and saute for 3 minutes (Japanese asparagus has tougher stems than the regular green asparagus). Lastly, add the mushroom mix, along with 1 tbsp of Memmi (Japanese noodle soup base that is a less salty version of soy sauce). The result was delicious. These two mushrooms are precious. They taste like meat, but with a lighter, fresher flavor, especially the Lion's Mane.

What a day!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Demo Road Trip- Whole Foods Cleveland

Whole Foods in Cleveland (technically located in University Heights, OH)

Demo days can go two ways- really, really great, or really, really disappointing. Today was a really great day. On this warm and beautiful spring day, we loaded the car up with samples and drove out to Cleveland. It's only about a two hour drive to the Whole Foods there. When we arrived, I was so surprised to see that a table and display had already been set up for our demo- it was really lovely!

I have to tell you, that when I first started doing demos with our Cupola Cookies about a year ago, I had pretty thin skin. I say this because there were times when people who tried our products were very honest and didn't like them. At first, I was a little hurt, but I quickly came to realize that of course, taste is very subjective, and there is no way that everyone would like our products. Even if you're selling an incredibly mainstream product like chocolate chip cookies, there will always be some people that don't like chocolate or don't like your specific recipe. Similarly, there are certain foods that I don't necessarily care for, like olives (yes, I know, I must be crazy, because most people like olives), but I have friends who could eat a whole jar of them.

These days, I am more mentally prepared if someone remarks that they don't care for our products during a product demo. I keep a positive attitude, take it in stride and appreciate the honest feedback, whether it's positive or negative. I think it helps both my mom and I to remember that our Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds are very new and unique products to the market and it is always a challenge to introduce something to people that's different and maybe a little unfamiliar. After all, different can be a very good thing (channeling Martha Stewart here).

Overall, Clevelanders love our Cupola Cookies! They especially liked the Chai Pistachio, which was the top seller today, followed by Chocolate Cashew and Espresso Walnut. Thanks again to the Whole Foods team at the Cedar Center, especially Dave and Nadine, for being such wonderful hosts!

We had a little to explore a little before heading to the store, so below are some other interesting images of Cleveland.

Shaker Square is a charming neighborhood located in the eastern end of Cleveland. Lots of great little shops, restaurants and home to the North Union Farmers Market.

Dewey's Coffee House- fireplace inside, patio outside and great organic fair-trade coffee. What more could you ask for?

Beautiful brown oyster mushrooms at the North Union Farmers Market.

Japanese Asparagus- I had never seen this type of asparagus before, so we bought a bunch to try.

Look- a cupola! Stumbled upon this one on our drive out of Cleveland.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring Walk

Today we got our 1st day of warm weather (82 degrees) since the 1st day of Spring. We took a walk in a neighborhood near a shopping area. For a while I looked around and at once I saw, felt and smelled a perfect Spring ; the flowering trees, tulips and daffodils, children talking, the aroma of barbecue . Over a fence I noticed a plate full of grilled asparagus. Yes, it is now the season for this crunchy green. I can think of some of my favorite sauteed dishes already, just whole asparagus with onion and lemon juice or prosciutto plus black pepper and the other one roasted garlic plus balsamic vinegar. Farmer's market is now one of my weekend destinations.

A Study In Healthy Snacking

I'm a self-admitted snacker. Some people are fine to eat three big meals a day and maybe will occasionally have a little something to munch on in between those meals, but I always have something to eat between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner. Part of this has to be because I love to eat and the other part is that if I don't eat between meals I end up over eating at meals because I'm so hungry. I end up regretting it afterwards, and so does my tummy.

In my quest for new and healthy snacks, my current love is Fage (pronounce fay-eh), the brand of Greek yogurt that you've probably seen popping up in grocery stores everywhere these days. I'm a little embarrassed to say I first tried Fage only a month or two ago, but with good reason. Greek yogurt looks so rich and creamy that I always assumed it was really heavy and rich in fat. Boy, was I wrong! Turns out that Greek yogurt is all natural and in many cases lower in fat, calories and sugar than many other kinds of yogurt. It's gluten-free and vegetarian to boot.

Here's some photos of the snack I had today, made with Fage (the 0% kind), fresh strawberries, a little lemon curd and Chocolate Cashew Cupola Cookies, which I crushed and sprinkled on top.

creamy-fruity-light-refreshing-good for you

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My 1st blogging and recipe sharing

I spent a whole hour filling in all columns to join this blog. I know it'll be worth the time and I've become more and more committed to computer lately (my daughter has changed my lifestyle).

This morning I spoke to my sister and we talked about vegetarian dishes that she needed to make for her friend. Well, for an easy appetizer, I like to use phyllo dough, egg roll wrappers, lumpia wrappers or even wonton skins and fill them with diced carrots and potatoes, green peas, fresh shiitake mushrooms plus spaghetti squash(after being baked and scraped). Saute them together with diced onions, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Fill the wrapper with this mixture. Lightly brush with olive oil. They can be baked at 350 degrees until golden or fried.


So mom (Theresa) and I have been talking and we think our blog needs a makeover- both in content and in style! Lets face it people- up until now my posts have been kind of boring and I think that's because I was in a bit of a blogging rut. I'm really not a boring person, I promise. A dork, yes, but not boring. The thing about blogging is that you have to kind of just let yourself go when you're writing- something many good bloggers and writers know how to do, but apparently I am still in the process of grasping.

I was always taught to really edit what you write- be professional, stick to the point, etc. But I think what makes blogs so interesting is that they are conversational, right? I mean, a blog can be the portal to someone's inner most thoughts on anything from politics and social issues to food, art, music- anything really.

Our shiny, new and improved blog is going to be 10 times- make that 100 times more interesting, engaging and funny. Guaranteed or your money back!

What's that? You're not paying anything to read this blog? We'll gladly take tips or donations. Kidding, just kidding. Mom is going to start blogging with me and she is hilarious- Just ask any member of my family.

Stay tuned to our first dual post! In the meantime, the British site, Times Online published an article called "50 of the World's Best Food Blogs" earlier this year. Warning: You may try to eat your computer screen when you visit some of these sites and see the mouth-watering photos of pastas, cakes and other delicious delights. My favorite blogs and ones that I regularly turn to for recipes and advice are: