Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing a business plan + Vegan gluten free oatmeal trailmix cookies!

Have you ever written a business plan?

If not, have you ever written an essay on something you don’t have all the research on yet, and it needs to be done in 8 hours?

Take that feeling, and the subsequent feelings that come along with it: feeling ravenous on a full stomach, the incessant and irrational need to shove chocolate down your throat when your head is already pounding from the sugar you already ate, feeling so antsy that you want to get up and walk around every other minute, your mind drifting off and following the random thoughts that float into your brain - you get the picture.

Keep that picture in your head, and insert my face. That has been me for the last 7 days. I knew writing a business plan wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t think it would evoke such emotion in me, and cause me to have moments of insecurities I wished and thought were behind me.


After having a few meltdowns, and spewing out verbal diarrhea to anyone who would listen (those poor, non assuming people who, bless them, innocently asked how I was doing and how the plan was coming along), I have come away with some wisdom: I’m not alone.

Come again?

After a few heart to heart chats with some entrepreneurs I admire wholeheartedly, I learned that everyone (or at least, many people) reaches the point in their business plans that I did last week: being utterly discouraged, questioning their original ideas, and being lost as to what direction to continue in, ultimately causing them to walk away from the plan for a minute (or a few days). Contrary to the powerful inner dialogue I was having with myself, this road block in fact makes you stronger, and lends to the business’ success once it is funded, up and running. Best to run into this road block now, and answer these tough questions now, before any bricks and mortar and funds have been acquired.

For those of you who have been reading my blog from the beginning, you know how much I hate (definition: am terrified to) to write about my fears, insecurities, and negative thoughts. That said, if being vulnerable and honest about my experience in writing this business plan can provide even one of you with the support and encouragement you need in any similar experience, than this vulnerability is worth it to me.

So there you have it! I’m feeling much better about the business plan this week, and as a result of last week, am much clearer, and if it’s even possible, even more excited about opening Delectable You!

And, as you might have guessed, those times that I walked away from the computer, I didn’t get very far - I went straight to the kitchen! I baked 108 cookies,  88 doughnuts, and 62 cake balls for, all vegan and gluten free, of course. And I ate them all.

Just kidding.

It was for a one year anniversary party 5 Point Yoga, a wonderful yoga studio in Malibu :)

I even tested a new recipe: vegan, gluten free oatmeal trail mix cookies (made with dried cranberry, dried cherry, raisin, sunflower seed and walnuts). Check out the recipe below :)

Thank you for lending me your ears, and your hearts!

With all my love,


Lauren’s Vegan Gluten Free Oatmeal Trail Mix Cookies

1 ¾ cups coconut flour
1 cup vegan sugar
½ cup gluten free oatmeal
¼ cup ground flax meal
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup melted refined coconut oil
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
½ cup raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried cherries
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and combine. Add the fruit and nuts and mix until combined. If you find the mixture is dry, add some applesauce, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you the mixture sticks together.

Scoop out the batter, 1 tablespoon at a time, roll into a ball, place on parchment paper lined sheets, and squish down with the heel of your hand. Bake for 6 minutes, then rotate the pan, and bake for another 5-6 minutes until barely lightly golden. Cool. Eat and enjoy :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Grilled asparagus and cauliflower with roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh basil oil

Oh my goodness, friends.

Last week, I tested one of the best vegetable recipes I think I have ever come across! I modified it a little, but the basics were what made it so wonderful. I was so blown away by it that it took me a few days to remember how to form a sentence that didn’t include “mmmmm” and “oh my god!” Thanks to my great friend, Kevin Gibson, who shipped me his favorite cookbook, Ottolenghi, all the way from England, my taste buds were screaming with joy, and my nose was left wondering what that glorious fragrance was coming from the kitchen.

I wish you could have smelled the grilled asparagus as it sizzled on my new stove grill. It took me right back to the countless family bbqs we use to have as kids in Montreal (don’t you love how smells can take you back to a specific time and place in your life, literally putting you in an exact moment in time? I can literally see my father, bbq tongs in one hand, a cigar in his mouth, shorts, bare feet and an apron that my sister made for him when she was about 5, mom leaning out the back door with the newly washed corningware my father needed to put his masterpieces in....but I digress). I wish you could have seen the vibrant green asparagus with it’s beautiful black grill marks glistening in the light of the kitchen. Food art, for sure.

I wish you could have seen the beautiful color of the cherry tomatoes as they came out of the oven. And oh, the smell. I forgot how much more flavorful those beauties get when they are cooked - sugars caramelize and turn them into tantalizing little candies!

And the basil oil - oh - how do I explain the basil oil, and what it will do to you when you try it?

Better still - drizzle the basil oil over the grilled asparagus, roasted cherry tomatoes, and add grilled cauliflower - toss is all together, and what you have is a mouth watering, healthy vegetable dish that deserves a standing ovation (is it weird that I gave it one as I stood on my couch in the living room, making “mmm” sounds that might have left the neighbors scratching their heads? Perhaps...).

Kevin Gibson? You deserve a standing ovation for introducing me to this recipe, and the many sure-to-be wonderful recipes that I have yet to discover in this book. Thank you for this gift that will keep on giving! You are just lovely!

With love and gratitude,

Grilled asparagus and cauliflower with roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh basil oil

350g cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tablespoons olive oil
24 asparagus spears
1/2-1 whole head cauliflower (depending on my much you like it)
Salt and pepper

For the basil oil:
75ml olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
25g basil leaves
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place halved cherry tomatoes on a pan (it doesn't have to be lined with aluminum foil, but for easier clean up, you can do this). Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over top of them, along with salt and pepper to taste. Use your hands to toss them around to ensure they are completely coated with oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 40 minutes.

In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Clean off your asparagus, and blanch it (place them in boiling water, and once the water returns to a boil, after about 1 minute, immediately place the asparagus into ice water). Chop up cauliflower into desirable sized pieces (large enough to grill) and follow the same blanching procedure.

Place the blanched cauliflower and asparagus into a bowl. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons of oilve oil, salt and pepper. Ensure they are all coated. If you need more oil, don't be shy - add some more!

Heat up your bbq or grill pan. Place the vegetables on the sizzling hot grill, turning them after about 1 minute. They should have beautiful grill marks on both sides. Once done, place in a bowl.

To make the basil oil, blitz all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

Remove tomatoes from the oven and place in the bowl with the other vegetables. Pour the basil oil over top and toss. Serve warm. Serves 4-6.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

40 4-inch round red velvet cakes with cream cheese icing

I might have just completed the baking mission of my life.

Well, at least, to date.

A month ago, not knowing how I was going to do it, much less knowing if I had the courage to attempt it, I agreed to bake 40 4-inch round cakes for a 50th birthday party. One month, 7 days of baking, 43 cakes, 5 batches of cream cheese icing, 2 amazing helpers, and 1 unforgettable experience  later, I am still standing, albeit with a slight hunch,  and perhaps with a few new gray hairs! The birthday party is now 5 days behind me. Did it go off without a hitch?


The tasting:

I showed up at my client’s house for a tasting about 3 weeks ago. I  brought 2 cakes - 1 chocolate (my specialty), 1 vanilla. I wanted to do chocolate with buttercream frosting, fresh roses, and happy birthday written on the top of each one. I left having agreed to do red velvet with cream cheese icing, a 50 written in melted chocolate, a mini white rose, and detailed piping with chocolate pearls on the top, with white chocolate pearls along the side. Um, was I insane? Cake decorating is not my forte, so what the heck was I thinking?

The details:

The cakes were to sit on glass stands that stood about 20 inches high, with lids to cover them. So I would have to bake the cakes in my kitchen (as opposed to a commercial kitchen), transfer them onto baking sheets, drive the cakes over to the house (gulp),  and then do the final transfer and touch ups on site the day of the party (double gulp). That’s a lot of touch ups, friends, which means a lot of potential for disaster!

The week before the party:

I raided an amazing restaurant supply store and 3 different grocery stores (on several occasions throughout the week, I might add)  for all my ingredients and supplies. Hundreds of dollars later (once again, thank you visa!), I was set. Oh - except that I could only find three 4-inch round cake pans in the city. That meant I could only bake 3 cakes at a time (I didn’t want to take the chance and bake with different sized pans and then cut the cakes down to size because uniformity would have been a challenge I didn’t want to deal with). Fun times

I had a 20 square foot sized kitchen, a  few inches of counter space, a standard sized oven, and a standard sized fridge. Not ideal for baking 40 cakes, but by gosh, I was going to make it work! It just meant that I was going to have to eat my way through the fridge and freezer in order to make space. No big deal.

Monday June 6th - 3 hours. 7 cakes baked. Saran wrapped. Into the freezer.

Tuesday June 7th - Happy anniversary mom and dad! - 3 hours.  7 more cakes baked. Saran wrapped and into the freezer.

Wednesday June 8th - no cakes baked - life was too busy that day!

Thursday June 9th - 4 hours. 15 cakes baked. Saran wrapped. Into the freezer.

Friday June 10th - 3 hours. 7 cakes baked. Etc. Butterflies are starting to form.

Saturday June 11th

The day starts at 7:30am. All the cakes come out of the freezer. 7 more cakes to bake - I need extra to account for mistakes.

Then the icing starts: I first cut each cake in half, iced the bottom half, put the top half back on, then did a crumb layer (this is a beautiful technique where you use limited icing to just cover the cake and capture the crumbs, then stick it in the freezer to harden. Then you can easily to do a perfect final layer, free of crumbs). In the freezer to harden, and out of the freezer 3 minutes later for the final layer of crumb free icing.

Repeat 40 times.

Oh my.

I’d like to take this moment to give a shout out to my new cake turntable. Without you, I might have ripped out my hair! Thank you for your brilliance and grace.

A few weeks before this day, silly me had agreed to direct a project from 2pm-6pm today. Um - not my smartest move! Butterflies now fluttering like crazy in my stomach, I was starting to get scared that because of this 4 hour “break” from icing and decorating, I just might not finish the project in time for the party the following day. But I am a woman of my word, and a commitment is a commitment. So at 1:30pm, I left the kitchen with only 8 cakes fully iced. Oh my god.

I was back by 5:30pm. Sweater off. Tank top on. Apron on. Let’s do this!

My wonderful boyfriend, Ted, walked in the door at 8:30pm. Knee deep in icing, he offered to stay up with me all night if I needed him to. Be careful what you wish for.

I started the decorative piping at about 11pm. Then came the chocolate 50’s. Ted said maybe it looked a little boxy. So I tried cursive writing. And it got worse. It looked like a 5 year old had written it.

I was close to a nervous breakdown. The 50 was the focal point of the cake! If I couldn’t make it look nice, I was screwed. And I was usually good at this! Seeing the worry in my face, and despite being exhausted from his work day and obviously wanting to going to bed, Ted plopped back down on the couch. Uh oh, I thought to myself. If he’s this worried about me, I must be worse off then I thought!

It was 12:45am. I had to leave the house at 10:30am the following morning to deliver the cakes, and they still needed 50’s, chocolate pearls on the top, and white chocolate pearls along the sides. Plus I needed to transfer them all to 4 giant sheet trays. F*$%! (sorry - there is no other word I could use at that moment). I hated these cakes. I was worried that they looked horrible, and what would I do if t hostess hated them too?

Welcome to my irrational mind after 14 hours of cake decorating at close to 1 in the morning!

Ted suggested I go to bed and wake up fresh in the morning. I knew he was right.

After having nightmares of the top shelf in the fridge falling down and taking out the 27 cakes sitting below it, I finally fell asleep and awoke on my own at 6:30am.

Exhausted and feeling nauseous because of it, I had a chat with myself, and attempted the 50’s again...


Next came the chocolate pearls - thank you, Ted!

Then the white chocolate pearls - done. Roses. Done.

10am - my friend Steph arrives to help me. Cakes transfered. Check.

One of them bit the dust as I took it out of the freezer for a touch up. It was bound to happen. Good thing I made 43!

Cakes go into the car. It’s go time!

We got the cakes transferred onto their stands in the service kitchen at my client’s house, and fixed any imperfections. Then we stuck around, and helped bring the cakes out as someone played happy birthday on the saxophone. I was so focused on getting the cakes down that I didn’t hear the “oohs” and “aahhhs” as the ladies saw the cakes (Steph and Ted told me later).

So, the cakes turned out beautifully, and they tasted good too.


Thank you Steph and Ted for your help that day! Without you guys, I surely would not have been able to do it!

So now the event is behind me. The swollen legs, sore back and lack of sleep from worry are behind me. What’s left is the satisfaction of having completed this challenge that not only scared me so much I thought I might throw up, testing my belief in myself at every turn, but that also tested my ability to think on my feet and keep my composure in a situation that made me extremely uncomfortable.

In the end, it was all worth it, and despite my irrational and emotional threats in the wee hours of the morning to, "never do this again!" I'm ready for the next challenge. Bring it on!

You crazy friend,