Instagram Faves – Meet Angela Brooks-Van Niel

When you get to meet one of your favorite Instagrammers in person, it’s a real treat – literally.

Angela Brooks-Van Niel and I meet for the first time in Redlands, California

I had the pleasure of meeting Instagrammer Angela Brooks-Van Niel earlier this year while on a business trip in Redlands, California. She came bearing sweet treats from her repertoire of tasty offerings she features each week at the Redlands Farmer’s Market. That bag of goodies bowled me over.

Angela has garnered many awards as a artisan baker and was voted the Best Bakery in the Inland Empire in 2015 and 2016. I can clearly see – and more importantly taste – why.

Simple Fancy Cuisine Farmer’s Market Menu

I’ve been following Angela on Instagram a few years now.  When we meet, the connection was instant. The same enthusiasm and passion that radiates from her page came to life when we met.  Yes, she’s one of my “faves.” I hope she becomes one of yours too.

Oh, and if you happen to be in Redlands, California on any given Saturday morning, stop by and see her and try  her delicious desserts and dishes.

Instragmer:        Angela Brooks-Van Niel , since 2012

Focus:                  To share culinary related information and photos, to inspire and get inspired by others, as well as to gain professional business connections and growth.

City:                      California transplant residing in the agriculturally rich community of Redlands, California in the  Inland Empire.

Business:          Simply Fancy Cuisine started in 2012 after the passage of the California AB 1616, Cottage Food Operations bill.

Instagram:       @SimplyFancyCuisine

Other social:       Website: www.SimplyFancyCuisine.com, Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter.

Online Store:     https://squareup.com/market/simply-fancy-cuisine

Books:                Simply Fancy Cuisine: International Cuisines, and Simply Fancy Cuisine: Just Desserts

Books authored by Angela Brooks-Van Niel

Recipe:           Sweet Pie Crust (featured below)

Angela’s Sweet Pie Crust, lattice style

Secret Sauce

Some may say it’s her Southern charm, her drive and determination, her love of her community and her repertoire of amazing desserts and entrees.  I say beyond all that, it’s the light that shines in her eyes, the grace with which she speaks, the sincerity in her smile and her persona of supreme thankfulness that envelops her. I experienced it firsthand when we met and have developed a friendship with her that will be long lasting.  After you read about her journey of recovery and how she arrived at where she is today, you will see how incredibly special and amazing Angela is.

Her voice, her story

The longest day prepping for the Farmers Market can’t dampen Angela’s natural glow

My culinary influences started in the south with my fabulous grandmother, Mamie Denson-Tisby of Jacksonville, Florida. She was a wife, mother, lunch lady and entrepreneur. She and my grandfather, Roscoe, opened a successful combination beauty and barber shop in their community. Her motto was,”There’s a lot of ugly out there in the world, but I’m glad what I do adds a little beauty into the mix.”

My grandmother lived during a time when there were insurmountable challenges and she lived with things that she couldn’t change. But she believed that by pampering hardworking women of color, she could make them feel beautiful so they could go out and do beautiful things.

Early culinary experience

By the age of six, I was serving as my grandmother’s sous chef for weekend meals and  special celebrations and holidays. I spent many summers next to my grandma at her stove getting an education and history lessons not taught in the classroom. She gave me a rich and sturdy culinary foundation on which to grow and build upon.

Blueberry cobbler – among the many recipes she learned as a child – is featured among Angela’s offerings at the Redlands Farmers Market each week

My mom BeLinda and I were part gypsy.  We moved frequently just for the adventure of discovering new places. My mom was raised in a predominantly black neighborhood. She often sought out new things and the unknown. We were usually the only black family in our neighborhood. So I saw this as a smaller version of a cultural exchange program. I later shared what I had learned from the stove top of my grandmother with others, and in return learned to make Mediterranean dishes from my Italian and Greek neighbors.

I went to a Jewish school and learned several different Jewish delicacies from my Jewish classmates and teachers. I lived all over Florida, so I learned several island (Cuban and Puerto Rican) cuisines and fares. All of the cultural dishes from our many neighbors, travels and jaunts have influenced and inspired me to be the foodie person I am today.

My journey

The road to becoming an culinary artist and artisan baker has not been a straight line.  I started out in the banking industry and was a bank manager for many years. My interest in finance and real estate lead me to become a California realtor, which I still am today.  After attaining a graduate degree in theater and education, I  had a opportunity to teach theater arts and dance in underserved communities.  But after my serious health scare in 2008, all those occupations took a backseat.

A life changing diagnosis

The health scare was a disease called  Paraneoplastic syndrome, and it was identified after many failed and frustrating misdiagnoses.  It’s a disease that attacks parts of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves or muscles and is the consequence of cancer in the body.  In my  case the cancer discovered in my body was ovarian, and the Paraneoplastic syndrome disease caused me to suffer a collapse and left me in a coma.

The surgery to remove the cancer was a perilous undertaking for my surgeons who said my heart stopped six times while  I was on the operation table. In addition to that, during the surgery, doctors found a second cancer, lymphoma type B.

The surgery was successfully, and the cancer was removed. I woke up from my comma 4 1\2  months later,  just in time for my son’s high school graduation. But unfortunately,  the disease had erased certain parts of my memory which I had to work hard to rebuild.

Top: Angela, son Jonathan, and husband Pieter. Bottom: Fur baby Jade.

My team of doctors and surgeons call my complete recovery a “miracle.” It was the  the love of my son Jonathan,  and my husband Pieter’s stalwart advocacy, loving support and watchful eye during my recovery that got me through.  I had to learn such basics things like how to sit up and walk again. Pieter fought vigorously for my medical care and treatment during this difficult time,  and his advocacy made all the difference in my treatment and recovery.

Her life today

Angela’s collection of journals and recipe notes

After my recovery, I wanted to challenge myself. I enrolled in graduate school and got my master’s degree in theatre.

I later taught dance and theatre classes in Compton. But though my continued practice of journaling and my passion for recipe development, it became clear that what brought me the most joy wasn’t standing ovations, but it was more about oven creations.  It was a calling I could no longer ignore.

Today running and building my culinary SFC Empire is my #1 j-o-b. It’s the one job from teaching that brings me total joy. I truly am a one woman operation handling the shopping, prepping, recipe developing, marketing, COO, CFO, CEO and the head/only baker.

Many of my offerings are made with fresh, organic and local ingredients I get from the various egg, honey and berry farms in the agricultural rich Inland Empire. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to use the best ingredients while supporting local businesses. And the support my community and customers have shown me has been amazing. I am truly blessed in so many ways.

Hobbies

My hobbies are gardening, writing (plays, poems and short stories), collecting dishes/plate settings and interior design.

Limited edition, coffee bean bag totes

I also enjoy upcycling.  It’s the process of transforming old or discarded materials into something useful.  My line is a limited edition totes of created out of repurposed coffee bean bags. These are handmade, unique items. No two totes are alike.

Click on this link for more information:  https://www.facebook.com/R3BagsandTotes/

Cookbook she cannot live without

Irma & Marion Rombauer’s American culinary bible, The Joy of Cooking. It was one of my first cookbooks that graced our bookshelves at home. I’ve read it from cover to cover like it was a Nancy Drew mystery book.

Where her recipes have been published

Press Enterprise, The Redlands Daily Facts and the Inland Empire Magazine.

Here are a few links:
http://www.pe.com/articles/niel-689417-brooks-redlands.html
http://www.redlandsdailyfacts.com/lifestyle/20150605/june-is-jumpin-series-in-redlands-to-open-next-friday

The best thing that has happened because of Instagram

Having instant contact and making a connection with my celebrity foodie idols and with my fellow foodie friends.

What’s new, what’s next

Simple Fancy Cuisine menu offerings at Farmer’s Market (the macaroons are my favorite)

I plan on rewriting my cookbooks by combining the two books into one. I’m also looking to grow my business within the next 2 years by taking the leap into a brick and mortar store.

Sweet Pie Crust

Apple pie.  Cherry pie. Blueberry pie. Fruit tarts and cobblers. Angela knows pies. The secret to her award winning pies is a decadent filing and killer pie crust.

Angela shares her recipe for her Sweet Pie Crust.  It’s flaky goodness and once you try it, chances are it will be your go-to crust recipe for all your pies. She also notes that this recipe can be made by hand, with a dough mixer, or with a food processor.

Angela's Sweet Pie Crust

  • Servings: varies
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

This will be your new go-to crust recipe.

Ingredients

2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
2 sticks cold butter (cubed, slice into ½ inch and then cut each slice into quarters, so each square is made of 4 little squares
½ cup water (ice cold)

Directions

  1. Place the flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a large bowl.
  2. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture.
  3. After the butter and flour are roughly incorporated, add the ice cold water –  one tablespoon at a time – until the dough binds together.
  4. Divide the dough in half.
  5. On a floured surface, knead each dough for 5 minutes, the form them into a ball.
  6. Flatten the dough out into a round disk.
  7. Wrap each dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  8. When ready to bake, remove from fridge, and then roll out the dough to desired size.

Los Angeles Based Food Blogger Launches New eRecipe Book Series With A Little Help from Samsung Galaxy S7

Los Angeles, CA – Since her appearance on the Food Network show “Clash of the Grandmas,” Veronica Hendrix has been very busy.

Writing her widely read blog Collard Greens and Caviar, developing recipes for Real Eats, working on an upcoming live food event, and writing a new recipe book series entitled Collard Greens and Caviar Pop up eRecipes  have keep her buzzing. The recipe book is now available on Amazon.com in Kindle download and paperback.

For those who have been following her,  this is exciting news because the recipe book contains what she calls her “most coveted and closely held recipes” teased on her social media sites – including her highly sought after SoCali Chicken Croquettes recipe debuted on the Food Network.

Featured Recipes – Top: SoCali Chicken Croquettes. Left: Tarragon Panko Coating Mix. Right: Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Praline Topping

But for Hendrix, what’s really exciting is pioneering and forging a new approach to create and deliver recipe content. Her latest project shatters the traditional publishing paradigm and delivers concise content using tools such as self-publishing platforms, social media and leveraging the power of her Samsung S7 dual–pixel camera – which takes pictures whose quality meets the high production standards for self-publishing platforms.

“The picture quality that results from the advanced features of my Samsung S7 is the depth and resolution I need to bring my recipes to life,” said Hendrix

Move over traditional cookbooks

Traditional cookbooks have their place. For most it’s on a shelf after the reader is overwhelmed after thumbing through one hundred or more pages of recipes after recipes.

Traditional cookbooks take time to publish. The average cookbook project can take up to a year or more to get it into the hands of anxious cooks.

As a self published, epicurean entrepreneur, Hendrix has not only taken on the challenge of creating and publishing recipe content faster but also in publishing content in digestible bites using the simple rule of threes. As stated in the introduction of her recipe book:

“As a food blogger I have an eclectic collection of recipes I’ve developed that have never been featured on my blog. Many of them have been teased on my social media sites and my followers have asked if the recipes might one day appear in an upcoming cookbook. I’ve always said they might. Publishing an anthology of those recipes is a great idea. But to publish them quicker, I’ve created an eRecipe book of pop up recipes.

This eRecipe book features three of my most closely held and coveted recipes. Why only three recipes at a time? Well, as the “rule of threes” purports, when information is presented and viewed in threes, it is more regarded, interesting and memorable.”

For interview requests or additional information, contact eXude Communications at (650) 822-7271.

About Veronica Hendrix

Veronica Hendrix is Los Angeles based journalist, cooking coach, recipe developer and Food Network finalist. She is the creator of the widely read blog collardgreensandcaviar.com where she shares recipes and tells stories featuring food enthusiasts and culinary experts in addition to her own forays into the kitchen. She was the project manager and co-writer of the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper “Taste of Soul Cookbook” published in 2013.

Veronica has over 20 years experience in journalism, media relations and public affairs. Veronica was a syndicated columnist and feature writer of the column Veronica’s View in which she covered stories of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to gang related violence. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Sentinel; Lee Bailey’s Electronic Urban Report; and the online interactive site The Root. She has been a feature writer for each edition of Who’s Who in Black Los Angeles. Veronica has produced radio and television shows in Los Angeles and is a Los Angeles Emmy nominated producer. Veronica’s career as a journalist has also included being a reporter for USA Today and KCLS Television in Los Angeles.

Veronica has launched a recipe book series entitled Collard Greens and Caviar Pop up eRecipes  that features some of her most closely held and coveted recipes teased on her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter sites.

A kickin’ kick off dip that is sure to score

dip2

Kickin’ Cali Collard Dip served in hollowed out, round sourdough boule with baked tortilla chips & bell pepper medley.

Are you ready for some football?

The American Gaming Association predicts that American sport fans will bet about $4.7 billion on the 51st Super Bowl game match up between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.

That’s a whole lot of clams, cash, moola, duckets, Benjamins and greens.

I don’t know the odds of which team is more likely to win the coveted trophy. But I do know that if you bet your greens on my Kickin’ Cali Collard Dip, the odds are you will score a tasty touchdown.

Kickin’ Cali Collard Dip is a great departure from the usual suspect. It’s made with collard greens instead of spinach. The use of garlic and red onions compliment the greens perfectly. The crushed red pepper gives it a spark. And the secret ingredient that takes it over the top is freshly chopped mint. Yes – fresh mint. You can even add chopped bacon bits, lump crab meat or bay shrimp it you want. Let your imagination be your guide. Serve it with my tasty homemade, baked tortilla chips or a medley of sliced bell peppers as a low carb option.

You gotta score this recipe. Make it a tradition. Make it for your Super Bowl gathering. Make it any time. It’s a touchdown in taste. Give it a try and you will see how kickin’ it really is.

Kickin’ Cali Collard Dip

Ingredients
3 cups of cooked collard greens (chopped, cooled, drained well) or; 1 can of collard greens (approximately 27 ounce can)
1 – 8 ounce can chestnuts (drained and chopped)
8 ounces cream cheese, very softened
8 ounces sour cream
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
⅓ cup roasted red bell peppers, chopped (could substitute fresh for more texture)
2 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt (add more to taste)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more if you like)
Cracked pepper to taste
Optional ingredients: ¼ cup chopped bacon bits, ½ cup bay shrimp or lump crab (but you be the judge).

dip on chip

Kickin’ Cali Collard dip on baked tortilla chip and red bell pepper strip

Directions
Add sour cream and softened cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Whisk very well, until well incorporated and smooth texture.

Drain collard greens well. You may want to put them in a colander or strainer and press out as much liquid as you can.

Add greens and all remaining ingredients into cream cheese and sour cream mixture, and mix well. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Serve with tortilla chips or vegetables.

Baked Tortilla chips

Ingredients
1 – 12 ounce package corn tortillas
Lemon pepper
Sea salt
Cooking spray

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut each tortilla into 8 chip sized wedges and arrange the wedges in a single layer on a cookie sheet.

Spray each tortilla wedge until slightly moist. Sprinkle tortilla wedges with lemon pepper and sea salt.

Bake for about 7 – 8 minutes, or until the chips are crisp, but not too brown.

The year of fearless cooking

Happy New Year all!

?

Simmering pot of Fearless Seafood Chowder

It’s a few weeks into the New Year and I am sure you’ve made a few resolutions.

Let’s see, the list probably includes losing weight, getting fit, making wiser food choices and saving money.

Those are great resolutions and worthy of being on everyone’s list.

Take the challenge

I’d like to challenge you to add another one to your list – cook fearlessly.

Get in the kitchen. Make your own food. Try a new recipe.  Re-image an old recipe. Incorporate a new ingredient. Try a food hack. Bust out of your culinary comfort zone.

Here’s a bit of a food hack that can jump start your fearless foray. Its a pretty bold move, but you can do it!

I love those spicy peel and eat, New Orleans style shrimp bowls. You probably have a favorite restaurant where you like to enjoy the tasty crustaceans.

picmonkey-collage-shrimp-mussels

Left: Killer Shrimp Steamed Mussels. Right: Killer Shrimp Peel and Eat Shrimp Bowl

I live in Los Angeles and one of my favorite restaurants to visit is Killer Shrimp in Marina Del Rey. The shrimp and steamed mussel bowls are amazing. They are served with a basket of sour dough bread for dipping and sopping up all that tasty, luxurious, spicy broth.

Recharge that broth

The flavor infused broth  that remains when the meal is done – it’s good stuff

Both are absolutely delicious. When I’ve eaten all the shrimp and mussels out of the bowls, what remains is a lovely broth that most people just leave to be discarded. But not me. I have my server combine the broth into one take home container which I stash in the freezer. Why? Because this favor infused broth is a great base for seafood chowder. What if you don’t have the tasty broth? No worries, you can substitute a combination of El Pato Jalapeno Salsa  and Mexican beer to your taste.

I’ve made this chowder often and my family and friends love it. This recipe has a delectable flavor and an impressive presentation. It looks like you worked in the kitchen all day.

You can add any seafood you like. For this version, I rendered the fat from bacon and used the fat in making the roux. I also the crumbled bacon and added it to the stock pot along with the seafood.  I used whole kernel corn. If you like, you can experiment with using creamed corn,  sweet peas, celery or even chayote squash.  This is a  great recipe to experiment with because it’s very forgiving and lends itself to improvisation.  After all,  it’s just a gloried soup!

So don’t be squeamish, be fearless.  Give it a try and dazzle the loved ones in your life, or dazzle yourself.

I am gently nudging you to cook fearlessly and  eat well this year my friends. And you are very welcomed.

Happy New Year and may you have sweet mornings, tasty afternoons and delicious evenings. Now – get cooking!

Fearless seafood chowder

fear-seafood-chowder-bowl

Fearless Seafood Chowder

Ingredients
¼ cup flour
¼ cup butter (½ stick butter)
1 medium shallot, chopped
3 cloves, chopped
1 cup or more Killer Shrimp stock (Shrimp Bowl or Mussel Bowl stock)
(or substitute 4 ounces of El Pato Jalapeno Salsa with 1 cup of water or beer)
1 32 ounce carton seafood cooking stock
1  14.5 ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
5 medium red potatoes, diced
1 15.25 ounce can whole kernel corn
3 pounds seafood (shrimp, cod, salmon)

Method

Stock ingredients for Fearless Seafood Chowder – including broth container from Killer Shrimp

Add butter to a pan set on medium heat. Add flour. When butter is melted, stir mixture until it is medium in color, about 3 minutes. Add chopped shallots and garlic to pan. Stir another 2 minutes. Remove pan, and empty mixture into a large Dutch oven or 5 quart stock pot. Option:Or you can do this step in large Dutch oven or 5 quart stock pan if you like.

Add Killer Shrimp reserved broth (defrosted) , seafood cooking stock, diced fired roasted tomatoes and diced red potatoes to pot with browned flour, butter, shallots and onion roux mixture. Stir well.

picmonkey-collage-stock-steps

Left top: Add garlic and shallots to roux. Right top: Add Killer Shrimp broth and seafood cooking stock. Left bottom: Add diced, fire roasted tomatoes. Bottom right: Add diced, red potatoes.

Bring to a gentle boil, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes on low heat.

After 30 minutes, add seafood and whole kernel corn.

picmonkey-collage-seafood-corn-steps

Left: Add whole kernel sweet corn. Center: Add seafood (shrimp, Alaskan cod, salmon – crab legs are optional).

Add ½ to 1 cup of additional stock if needed. Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until seafood is done. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and lemon wedges.