Getting to Know: Sam from The Cheesecake Girl

Samantha Strange has based her career around one sweet specialty: cheesecake! After graduating college with a culinary focus and anointing herself The Cheesecake Girl, she’s developed a local brand that you should definitely get to know. You can pick up Sam’s cheesecakes in regular or mini sizes at Smidge and Pinch or The Hills Market, plus you can order treats directly from her online in varieties like jelly donut, Girl Scout cookie, or puppy chow. She also participates in pairing events all over town, where she pairs cheesecake flavors with everything from beer to coffee flights. Read on to learn more about the “girl” in The Cheesecake Girl:

Web: https://www.thecheesecakegirl.com/
Instagram: @thecheesecake.girl
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecheesecakegirl

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

What motivated you to start a cheesecake business? Why cheesecake instead of another dessert?

I really just love cheesecake! So when I decided to minor in culinary in college, I started experimenting and letting friends try out the cheesecake creations. When I moved back to Ohio after college I kept baking for fun, family parties, my parents’ friends’ events and stuff like that. Then it just spiraled out of control into where I’m at today! I couldn’t be more happy with it. We are actually working on adding more desserts to the menu so it won’t be just cheesecake for long!

How did you transition into baking full-time?

It was hard to take the leap. I finally realized it was time when I had to turn orders down. I hated the feeling of telling people I didn’t have time for their orders. So I started looking at The Cheesecake Girl as a full time possibility. I re-launched the website, re-branded everything & went for it!

You bake so many tasty flavors! Where is your favorite place to find inspiration?

Honestly, Pinterest. I love to sit and scroll and see what everyone else is inspired by. I usually find flavor ideas through other recipes. For example, I love Boston Cream Pie, but I’m not The Pie Girl. So I decided to take all my favorite desserts and turn them into cheesecake flavors!

What is (in your opinion) the best variety you’ve ever made?

That’s a tough one because there are so many! One of my go-to flavors is German Chocolate Cheesecake, or Monster Cookie Cheesecake!

How many total cheesecakes do you make a day? I’ve seen your Instagram – those dishes must pile up!

Each day is different! On average I would say we bake around 6 full cheesecakes a day + 8-12 dozen mini cheesecakes a day!

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

Can you tell us about your worst kitchen disaster?

Our worst kitchen disaster actually wasn’t my fault (surprisingly) – I had just pulled out 4 dozen mini snickerdoodle cheesecakes from the oven. It was the last order of the day. I put them down on our cooling rack and went to start cleaning up when I heard the crash! An employee in the kitchen I bake out of was rushing by the racks and bumped all 4 dozen upside down on the ground. I literally couldn’t say anything I just stood there trying not to cry. We cleaned everything up and got back to work, that employee brought me a gift card and an apology letter the next day so all is forgiven!

Which local restaurant do you frequent more than any other?

I basically live at the Sunny Street Cafe in Upper Arlington. That’s the kitchen I bake out of and the owners are good friends! You’d think I would get sick of eating there…but I still eat breakfast & lunch there almost every day!

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

What is your favorite Columbus-based product?

There are so many fantastic local products! I love Ridiculously Good Salsa though, you can tell how fresh the ingredients are and it’s a great snack!

What is your adult beverage of choice?

Summer Sangria from Powell Village Winery has my heart. But I also would never turn down a Moscow Mule.

Can you share your go-to recipe to cook at home?

With the hours I work I rarely have time to cook at home! I do have a recipe I make every now and then when my friends & family get sick of cheesecake! I went to a Zac Brown Band concert (one of the 10 I’ve been to!) and they do an Eat & Greet instead of a Meet & Greet. The band serves you their favorite foods made by their tour chef and you get to chat with them. It’s really neat. Well they served a bread pudding that actually made me like bread pudding!

Do you have any fun hobbies or talents, other than making wonderful desserts?

Any free time I get is spent on friends, family & being outside with my dog Bo! I collect records as well & love going to concerts!

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

Do you have a charity that fans should know about and support?

I’m actually working with Easterseals this year for their Romancing The Grape event! Other than that I usually give leftover cheesecake to fire stations & police departments!

You recently started selling your creations at the Smidge and Pinch storefront in Powell. Can you tell us more about that and what else is coming up for The Cheesecake Girl?

Yes! The store owner, Angie, is fantastic and I have loved being business partners with her! There is always cheesecake available inside her store along with every baking supply & cookie cutter needed. Up next for The Cheesecake Girl is hopefully another storefront! We’ve been working on it but it’s about good timing!

Take a peek at Sam’s website to see a small taste of the flavors she creates: https://www.thecheesecakegirl.com/. You can custom order your own culinary creation with creative crusts, toppings, and fillings. If you’ve tried The Cheesecake Girl, let me know your favorite find in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

*All photos courtesy of The Cheesecake Girl

Want more dessert content? Sam’s cheesecakes are also featured in this post about some of my favorite local chocolate treats, or take a peek at some of the other Baker Babes interview features here.

Cravings Cafe

Cravings Cafe
114 N Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215
614-670-4439
http://www.cravingscafe614.com

It took a long time for Cravings Cafe to relocate from their original home in Italian Village to their current downtown digs. But having finally made it to the new site of the breakfast and lunch hot spot, it was entirely worth my not-so-patient waiting. Cravings is still on the smaller side, but don’t be shy about ordering your meal ahead or getting it to go. And although the shop isn’t huge, there are fun prints on the lovely exposed brick walls and it’s a cozy place to sip your morning joe.

There are so many menu items to discuss, but I’ll begin with brioche. The buttery dough is the base of cinnamon rolls, burger buns, and French toast at Cravings, and the stuff is sheer heaven. It’s even used in some unexpected ways. For example, the bronuts from the previous locale are still on the menu. Don’t be afraid, this isn’t a fraternity term; a “bronut” is a mashup of “brioche” and “donut.” Truly the best of both worlds, the bronuts are thick, chewy, and not too sweet. The flavors of this treat change often, ranging from blueberry to funfetti sprinkled to cinnamon sugar. They’re not available every day and sell out quickly, so call ahead to ensure you snag one of these beauties for yourself.

For main dishes, I’m not even the biggest fan of chorizo, but when I tried my husband’s breakfast burrito, I begged him to go halfsies with me and split entrees. This monster wrap is bursting with green chile chorizo, scrambled eggs, crispy taters, cheese, and salsa with just a hint of heat. The falafel burger is also tempting, or go traditional and try the Breakfast Roll, a morning sammie that hits all the right notes: thick bacon, a fried egg, cheddar, and rosemary aioli on the signature brioche bun. Add the Greek potato hash on the side for the ideal savory side.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how wonderful the daily specials are as well. These limited offerings are an ever-changing swirl of brunch entrees, such as loaded potato soup or a pork torta filled with braised pork, Swiss, pickled red cabbage, jalapenos, and tomatillo avocado salsa on sourdough bread. My last visit featured a brunch burger: locally butchered beef, cambozola cheese, a drippy egg, caramelized onions, and rosemary aioli, all on a house brioche bun with shoestring fries on the side. Just go ahead and order two if you see this on the menu.

Cap off your visit with a just-baked cookie or muffin, they’re just as craveable as everything else. Or pair your meal with a Thunderkiss coffee; I must recommend the coconut cream cold brew variety.

Have you tried Cravings Cafe yet? Tell me your favorite thing to order by sending me a tweet!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Check out a few of my other favorite brunch joints:

1. Skillet
2. Forno Kitchen + Bar
3. The Market Italian Village

Maple Molasses Cookies

Don’t save maple flavors just for fall! One of my coworkers was kind enough to recently gift me with a whole quart of maple syrup, plus there are all kinds of maple tree tapping festivals finishing up around Ohio. The combination of those two things led to the birth of Maple Molasses cookies. Being the Cookie Monster that I am, I cannot resist molasses cookies anytime of year, but the addition of maple syrup puts them over the edge. I hereby banish thee, over-baked, too crispy confections; these gems are soft and chewy, just like a cookie should be. Make sure not to skip rolling them in granulated sugar – you’ll want that textured sugar sparkle on the exterior!

Maple Molasses Cookies

Yield: 30 cookies

Ingredients
2 and 1/4 cups flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 and 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin by mixing together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a large bowl until well-combined; set aside. In a second large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together with a mixer, until the sugar is incorporated into the butter. Next, using a rubber spatula, fold in the molasses, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla until incorporated.

Using the mixer again, slowly add the dry ingredients from the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until combined. Place the bowl of dough into the fridge for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, remove the dough from the fridge. Roll dough into balls, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place the remaining 1/4 c. sugar in a small bowl. Then, roll each ball in the sugar and place them on cookie sheets greased with cooking spray. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until dough is just set. Allow the cookies to cool completely and then store in a covered container; they stay surprisingly soft and fresh for days!

Have a favorite comfort cookie recipe? I love hearing from you. Send me a message and let me know your go-to dessert source.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction: Seriously Soft Molasses Cookies

Looking for more dessert recipes? Try a few of my favorites:

1. Top Secret Chocolate Chip Cookies
2. Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler
3. Sweet and Salty Cookie Skillets

Pin It

Maple Molasses Cookies
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 30
 
Don't save maple flavors for fall! One of my coworkers was kind enough to recently gift me with a whole quart of maple syrup, plus there are all kinds of maple tree tapping festivals finishing up around Ohio. The combination of those two things led to the birth of Maple Molasses cookies. Being the Cookie Monster that I am, I cannot resist molasses cookies anytime of year, but the addition of maple syrup puts them over the edge. I hereby banish thee, over-baked, too crispy confections; these gems are soft and chewy, just like a cookie should be. Make sure not to skip rolling them in granulated sugar - you'll want that textured sugar sparkle on the exterior!
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1½ sticks butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ c. maple syrup
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Begin by mixing together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a large bowl until well-combined.
  3. In a second large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together with a mixer, until the sugar is incorporated into the butter.
  4. Next, using a rubber spatula, fold in the molasses, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla until incorporated.
  5. Using the mixer again, slowly add the dry ingredients from the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until combined.
  6. Place the bowl of dough into the fridge for 1 hour.
  7. After 1 hour, remove the dough from the fridge.
  8. Roll dough into balls, about 1½ inches in diameter.
  9. Place the remaining ¼ c. sugar in a small bowl.
  10. Then, roll each ball in the sugar and place them on cookie sheets greased with cooking spray.
  11. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until dough is just set.
  12. Allow the cookies to cool completely and then store in a covered container; they stay surprisingly soft and fresh for days!

 

Third Birthday Extravaganza: Highlights, News, + More Truth Talk

How have I been blogging for 3 years already? This fact alone makes me feel pretty elderly. This post will be the 169th here on Columbus Culinary Connection. To be honest, some weeks I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my thoughts down on paper; others, it has been hard to make myself sit down and write. But I’ve loved every minute of connecting with each of you.

To shake things up a little bit, I’m in the process of working on a website redesign, and I can’t wait to share the end result. Hang in there if a link is down during the process or if the site’s formatting isn’t quite right. My husband is uber-talented at teaching himself WordPress, and he created this current website plus the one to come. There will be more pictures, more searchable posts, and more opportunities to connect. One thing I’m most excited about is the Caroline Currently page, which will be a live, ever-changing page of what’s happening now: what I’m craving, what’s trending in town, recipes I can’t stop making, and answers to questions submitted by you.

In honor of this anniversary, I also need to take some time to laugh at myself and how far I’ve come. Specifically, in the area of photography. I don’t have a “real” camera, and so it’s been fun to see how much my skills at capturing food with my cell phone have improved. Practice makes perfect, as has reading books and articles on this subject. I have to credit The Wonder Jam too, for their fun and informative class on honing that prowess. When I first started blogging, I didn’t have an Instagram account (now my biggest social media following by far) and I naively didn’t fathom how essential taking good photographs is to putting out quality posts. Just take a peek at some “then” and “now” comparisons below. I still have a lot of work to do, but some of these early shots are downright laughable. Too many filters, bad lighting and props, and so much blurriness.

Cookie Skillets: before and after

Click here to see the full Cookie Skillets recipe.

101 Beer Kitchen: why did I think would anyone care about the sign?

Read more about 101 Beer Kitchen.

Rockmill Brewery: wasn’t doing this beautiful spot justice

Learn more about Rockmill Brewery here.

Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler: do I even need to explain this one?

Click here to see the Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler recipe.

Lava Cakes: note the shadow and salt shakers in the corner…

Lastly, I wanted to share with you the all-time top five posts on the blog. Of course, you all love Fox in the Snow (how could you not) but some were surprising. Who knew so many of you shared my obsession with white BBQ sauce? Here are the 5 most visited blog posts to date:

Thank you as always for following along with my food journey. I’m incredibly humbled when someone takes the time to read content I’ve produced. Please let me know what kinds of posts you love best, so I can focus on those topics this year. Or shoot me a message and just say hi!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Caroline’s Picks: 5 More Chocolate Treats to Try

When I picked 5 of my favorite cocoa confections for a Valentine’s Day post earlier this year, something horrible happened. It was too hard to pick just five local items highlighting chocolate. So, here we go again! Below you’ll find a few more of the sweet treats that I love best.

Chocolate Cheesecake – The Cheesecake Girl

https://www.thecheesecakegirl.com/

My husband is cheesecake-crazy, but I’d never been an aficionado until I sampled The Cheesecake Girl’s cheesecake. Try all kinds of chocolate-packed types such as puppy chow, Oreo, and even brownie. You can also custom order your own cheesecake with all the chocolatey toppings you can imagine; think Reese’s cups, ganache, and cookie dough. Find Sam and her cheesecakes at North Market pop-ups, Local Roots and Smidge and Pinch in Powell, and at all kinds of pairing events.

Chocolate Cremeaux – Tupelo Donuts

https://tupelodoughnuts.com/

While I await the opening of Tupelo’s Worthington shop, I’ve been stalking their trucks all around town to swipe their Chocolate Cremeaux donuts. This pastry is stuffed with a deep, dark chocolate custard, dipped in glaze and then drizzled with more chocolate, all adding up to a sugar-lover’s dream. Check their social media pages to see where to find the truck and order ahead – this donut sells out fast!

Chocolate Bars (various flavors) – Ohiyo Chocolate

https://ohiyochocolate.com/

Crafted “bean to bar” in small batches, Ohiyo’s offerings will delight chocolate purists and adventurers alike. All kinds of chocolate are produced, with additions like salt, coffee, and sage, as well as traditional 75% cacao versions. Ohiyo also recently did a beer collaboration with Pretentious Barrel House, so be on the lookout for this chocolate beer combo too! You can buy the bars online, or I pick mine up at Wholly Craft in Clintonville.

Nutella Pancake Balls – Katalina’s Cafe

http://www.katalinascafe.com/

Who says you can’t have chocolate for breakfast? Every pancake ball offering from Katalina’s is utterly craveable, but if you haven’t tried the Nutella version and then dunked it in bourbon barrel maple syrup, you’re not living your best life. Gooey, warm Nutella oozing out of a bite-sized pancake is something that everyone must experience, especially with a side of spicy bacon.

Chocolate Croissant – Pistachia Vera

http://www.pistaciavera.com

The German Village bakery’s Pain au Chocolat consists of a flaky, buttery dough wrapped around semi-sweet chocolate batons – simple and perfect. Make sure to microwave the croissant for maximum melt factor if you eat it at home! Wash your chocolate down with an iced mocha featuring Hartzler Dairy’s chocolate milk to get a double chocolate hit.

Want to bake a chocolatey treat of your own at home? Check out these recipes from the blog: Top Secret Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies and Magic Chocolate Stout Cake.

Have another favorite cocoa goodie that needs to be included in Part 3 of this chocolate saga? Send me an email and let me know!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Brunchin’ it Up: Vaso Dublin

Vaso
6540 Riverside Drive
Dublin, OH 43017
(614) 698-2525
https://www.vasodublin.com

I can’t seem to stop gravitating towards the new Bridge Park area in Dublin lately. All of your local Cbus favorites appear to be popping up in this new complex: Local Cantina, Cap City Diner, Pins Mechanical, Fukuryu Ramen, and more. Go ahead and add Vaso to this mega-list, as my new go-to brunch locale. Perched on the top floor of the AC Dublin Hotel, Vaso’s lounge is churning out a Spanish-inspired brunch menu that will make you melt. Every dish is familiar, but new ingredients and preparations will keep me coming back for more. I should also note that if you’re like me and obsessively photograph your meals, the glass-encased dining room makes it easy to capture Instagram-worthy snaps. I also can’t wait to visit Vaso in the summer so I can enjoy my brunch on the enormous rooftop patio, filled with fire pits and an outdoor bar!

Let’s get to the cuisine though. The chef here excels at sauce-making; every course I tried boasted a flavorful aioli, vinaigrette, hollandaise, or other liquid delight. The Tortilla Española, a Spanish potato omelette, had dollops of craveable garlic aioli and a lightly dressed side salad. The almond and red pepper-based romesco accompanying the fiery lamb meatballs was divine. I loved the Brussels Sprouts salad as well, featuring two preparations of sprouts: one raw and thinly sliced as a “Caesar salad” and one deliciously crispy and fried. Be gone, boring avocado toast – Vaso’s version has the addition of crispy peas and a drippy egg for texture and flavor. The shrimp flatbread has succulent shrimp, but also a surprising slather of white bean puree and tomato jam. My favorite dish was the Benedictino del Sur, an Eggs Benedict redux consisting of an English muffin layered with ham, braised greens, and poached eggs, then topped with a generous ladle of pimento hollandaise. There’s even more to the menu, such as hangar steak, grilled octopus, and chorizo hash that I’ll have to sample soon.

Wash all this fare down with some brunch-ready libations. I’ve never been a Bloody Mary fan, but I have to admit that I found the Red Snapper, Vaso’s slightly spicy twist, enjoyable. The use of house pepper mix, ginger, and Watershed gin instead of vodka made me a convert, in this case at least. Watch your drink being made live at the corner Bloody Mary cart, overflowing with fresh fruits and veggies. Traditional Bloodys and mimosas are also available, but my favorite cocktail was the Madrid Old Fashioned (Oloroso Sherry, simple syrup, lemon, and rum) all shaken up and poured over a giant ice cube with the Vaso logo, a nice touch.

Culinary Clues: Vaso is also a stop on the Celtic Cocktail Trail. In this passport-style program, you can collect stamps for visiting select Dublin restaurants and earn rewards like koozies and t-shirts along the way. Additionally, Vaso is part of my 2018 Dining Bucket List; read more here.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: Vaso invited me to try their new brunch in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

The Keep

The Keep

The Keep
50 W. Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: (614) 745-0322
https://www.thekeepcolumbus.com

One of the restaurants on this year’s dining bucket list that I was very eager to sample was The Keep. Having experienced a meal here, that excitement hasn’t waned. Nestled inside one of Columbus’ most identifiable skyscrapers, the LeVeque Tower, this swanky spot is the ideal locale for cocktails with friends or a fancy night out before a show at the Palace Theater.

I don’t normally focus on the decor of a space, but the ambiance inside The Keep is worth noting. Every detail was considered in the design of the interior, from the torch-like gas lamps on the walls, the beautiful gold artwork, and the coves in the bar that are perfect for lounging.

Just as appealing to the eye are the cocktails. The LeVeque 75, a local twist on the classic French 75, is crafted with Watershed bourbon-barrel gin, bubbly, lemon, and simple syrup. As someone always partial to bourbon, I was also fond of the Keep-Easy Walnut Manhattan (The Keep’s special Maker’s Mark, nocino walnut liqueur, chocolate and orange bitters, vermouth, and a cherry) and the In Brasserie Fashioned (bourbon, St. Germain liqueur, and a bitters ice cube with an orange peel and a cherry encapsulated in the middle).

Chicken and Waffles - The Keep

The curated menu at The Keep has French leanings, and there wasn’t a dish that I sampled which I didn’t enjoy. Start with the tender Braised Short Rib, accompanied by the best grits I’ve had in awhile, or the pink-hued, beet-cured salmon with a pop of cranberries. For entrees, the Chicken and “Waffles” is a fun dish, a caper-sauced concoction of thin, crispy waffle-shaped potatoes atop breaded chicken. The Pork Cheek was another delectable selection, slow-cooked pork with collards, black-eyed peas, andouille sausage, and corn nuts for crunch. The Steak Frites were served up with an generous portion of craveable fries, and the scallop and green tea noodles had just enough sear and spice to be perfect. Our party didn’t have time to savor one of the signature Shellfish Towers, but next visit will have to include one of the heaping seafood platters overflowing with Creole shrimp, oysters, chilled lobster, ceviche, and smoked whitefish. I will have to return soon for beignets and the brunch menu too!

Culinary Clue: Don’t miss a chance to sit at the bar around the open kitchen in middle of the main dining room. It’s so interesting to watch the care going into every meal as it’s plated.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Getting to Know: Freedom a la Cart

When you can devour cookies for a cause, what’s not to love? In this segment of the Columbus Culinary Chronicles, I’m getting the scoop on Freedom a la Cart. If you aren’t aware, Freedom a la Cart is a local charity supporting human trafficking victims by teaching them skills in the food service industry. They have a wonderful catering menu, and also have a mini cafe in the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library selling baked goods. Learn more about this wonderful organization, with responses from Executive Director Paula Haines and Head Chef Jessica Levy below.

Paula Haines
Photo Credit: Freedom a la Cart

Can you tell us a little bit about Freedom a la Cart and how it got started?
Paula: Absolutely. In 2009, our founder, Julie Clark, established Doma International as a community-based support program for adult survivors of human trafficking. Two years later we expanded the program to fill the void between restoration and economic independence, and purchased a food cart as a workforce training tool for survivors. While Doma offered supportive services toward restoration, the Freedom a la Cart social enterprise gave survivors a job and means to live. Freedom a la Cart became the vehicle – literally – through which survivors began the ever-important first steps to self-sufficiency.

In 2014 we dropped the Doma International name and now operate both our supportive services program and our thriving catering & box lunch business under one name: Freedom a la Cart.

In the past two years alone, Freedom has provided supportive services to 326 survivors of human trafficking – an annual increase of over 80%. 55 survivors received workforce training and 20 survivors transitioned from our program into sustainable employment in the community. 85% of survivors that have been in the program experience no new criminal charges.

The majority of your employees are human trafficking survivors. How has working for Freedom a la Cart benefited them?
Paula: I would love for you to hear a response to this questions from one of our survivors! They are beautiful, strong woman who work hard to keep their life on track; and it’s exciting for us to watch them transform before our eyes. Freedom helps them see their worth, find their voice and become more confident, and self-sufficient. These women are getting their driver’s licenses, buying cars, paying taxes, attending college, moving into permanent housing and regaining custody of their children. They are gaining employment as office assistants in law firms, as treatment assistants in recovery programs, and as chefs in restaurants. Life changing, generational impact.

Freedom a la Cart’s Instagram account (@freedomalacart1) features lots of delicious baked goods. What’s your favorite treat to make?
Jessica: Thank you. That is always such a difficult question for me, the ‘favorite’. I have such a deep love for making pastries. I enjoy making them all and getting to practice different techniques and methods. Bringing new items to the menu is my probably my favorite time because it is all about the research and development. It means I get to play!

I know I’ve made plenty of kitchen blunders. Do you have any cringe-worthy kitchen disasters you’d like to share?
Jessica: Haha, I actually don’t have any super crazy stories. About 7 years ago, my family asked me to make dinner rolls for Thanksgiving. which I had actually never made, but I wanted to go all out and make the most amazing dinner rolls in all the land. So I researched and found the best recipe by a chef I idolized and thought they had to be the best. So I got home the night before Thanksgiving from working a very loooong shift and started making my rolls. The first batch did not turn out, so I tried again.. Well, batch two wasn’t going well either and I was sitting on the kitchen floor staring into the oven cry-begging my little rolls to rise and bake in the oven. It just wasn’t happening. So long story short, it ended with me buying good ol’ Sister Schuberts frozen dinner rolls Thanksgiving morning at Kroger with dried tears still on my face.

Which Columbus establishment do you frequent more than any other?
Jessica: Kroger! You can literally find me there everyday. But that probably wasn’t what you were looking for. I live in German Village, so I typically stick to my little bubble- South Village Grill, Skillet, Club 185, The Blind Lady Tavern, Fox in the Snow are a few of my go to spots. Vernacular for shopping.

Jessica Levy
Photo Credit: Freedom a la Cart

What is your favorite locally made product?
Jessica: Hmmm.. there is that ‘favorite’ question again. That is truly a tough one, there are so many great locally made products. Columbus really is such a wonderful city and it is continually growing and expanding especially with new talent and products. So I will give a shout out to a non-food place that I love which is Honest Carry Goods. They make such beautiful products, love their bags.

Can you share your go-to recipe to make at home?
Jessica: I am pretty simple when it comes to cooking at home. I try to prep my food for the week on one day. So typically I just chop up a bunch of veggies to have throughout the week. I just have them cut up in the fridge and ready to cook throughout the week for whatever meal I feel like making that day. But I do eat a lot of roasted vegetables for dinner. I grill or bake chicken and put that over greens for salads or with rice and beans to have for lunches throughout the week. And I medium boil eggs to have for breakfast with either yogurt, a granola bar or a protein shake. I genuinely enjoy hosting people, so that is when I like to go all out.

What is your favorite kitchen tool?
Jessica: Commercial stand mixer, rubber spatula and bowl scraper…these are a few of my favorite things.

Rumor has it that there is a Freedom a la Cart cafe in the works, in addition to the Columbus Metropolitan Library location. Can you give us the scoop about what’s coming up in the future?
Paula: Well, we’re not ready to announce a location quite yet. But we are currently raising funds, and talking with property owners for a near-future Freedom a la Cart cafe. In the meantime, we’ll be expanding into wholesale business this year. And you may even see a Freedom a la Cart pop-up cafe.

Tell us about any major fundraising events supporting Freedom a la Cart.
Paula: Our annual fundraiser – Eat Up! Columbus – was on Saturday (February 10th) at St. Charles Preparatory School. We have a talented team of 10 local chefs, led by the amazing Catie Randazzo of Ambrose & Eve [and Challah food truck!] who collaborate to prepare a 5-course dinner with drink pairings. Master mixologist Cris Dehlavi crafts a signature cocktail and selects the drink pairings. It’s such a fun night! Everyone tells us it’s their favorite event of the year! And of course, we agree. Eat Up! Columbus raises over $100,000 to support our work to empower and employ survivors of human trafficking.

Photo Credit: Freedom a la Cart

What else can people do to support this cause, whether through donations or volunteering?
Paula: Friends of Freedom can support our mission by:
1) donating online at freedomalacart.org/donate-now/
2) order our delicious box lunches or catering at freedomalacart.org/menu
3) visit our mini cafe located on the lower level of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Northside Branch at 1423 N. High St.
4) volunteer to be a personal mentor, bring a meal to CATCH Court or assist in the Freedom kitchen. Visit freedomalacart.org/give for details.

Have you tried Freedom a la Cart’s cookies or catering yet? If not, make sure to pick up some goodies soon and keep up with them on Instagram (@freedomalacart1)!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

*All photos courtesy of Freedom a la Cart

Caprese Prosciutto Cups

Caprese Prosciutto Cups

I’m crazy for Caprese! I love Caprese sandwiches, Caprese kebobs, Caprese pizza, salad, you name it. That got a little too Bubba Gump shrimp, but you get the point. I’m always looking for a new way to devour the tomato, basil, and cheese combo, so for Christmas this year I developed this bite-sized version. Minimal effort is required, but this fancy-looking appetizer is a sure-fire hit.

Caprese Prosciutto Cups

Yield: 24 mini cups

Ingredients

2 packages prosciutto, 12 slices
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 container mini mozzarella balls
1 T. basil, chopped
3 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees. Next, separate the prosciutto slices and cut each in half crosswise to create 24 squares. Tuck each slice into the holes of a mini muffin tin, pressing the edges as high up on the sides of the holes as possible to create a cup shape. The prosciutto will shrink considerably in the oven. Bake the prosciutto shells for 7-9 minutes until firm and crispy. Place them on paper towels to drain any excess grease.

While the prosciutto is baking, slice the mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes in half. After the prosciutto cups are completely cooled, fill each prosciutto cup with a mozzarella half and a tomato half. Drizzle the oil and the balsamic over each of the cups, then sprinkle on basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

Do you have a go-to Caprese recipe? Share a link with your favorite one in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Pin It

Caprese Prosciutto Cups
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • 2 packages prosciutto, 12 slices
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 container mini mozzarella balls
  • 1 T. basil, chopped
  • 3 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
Instructions
  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Next, separate the prosciutto slices and cut each in half crosswise to create 24 squares.
  3. Tuck each slice into the holes of a mini muffin tin, pressing the edges as high up on the sides off the holes as possible to create a cup shape. The prosciutto will shrink considerably in the oven.
  4. Bake the prosciutto shells for 7-9 minutes until firm and crispy.
  5. Place them on paper towels to drain any excess grease.
  6. While the prosciutto is baking, slice the mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes in half.
  7. After the prosciutto cups are completely cooled, fill each prosciutto cup with a mozzarella half and a tomato half.
  8. Drizzle the oil and the balsamic over each of the cups, then sprinkle on basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

 

Caroline’s Picks: 5 Chocolate Treats to Try

I don’t get all lovey dovey on Valentine’s Day, but I do appreciate the power of cocoa as February 14th rolls around. Fortunately, Columbus has plenty to offer in the chocolate arena, so it was hard to pick 5 of my favorite chocolate treats.

Chocolate Mini Bundt Cake: Flowers & Bread

http://flowersandbread.com/

Chocolate Mini Bundt Cake Flowers & Bread

Instagram-worthy and the ideal size (given that you’ve likely just crammed yourself full of carbs), I must order this cake each time I visit Flowers & Bread. The bundts are coated with a rich chocolate glaze, and the buttermilk keeps the texture delightfully fudgy. The bakery also started offering them in a parfait form as well in the grab-and-go cooler!

Click here to learn more about Flowers & Bread.

Chocolate Morning Bun: Fox in the Snow Cafe

https://www.foxinthesnow.com

Chocolate Morning Bun Fox in the Snow Cafe

That’s right folks. The picture above is indeed croissant dough baked into a muffin shape, rolled in sugar, and filled with glorious mounds of chocolate mousse. Add on the fact that you can find it at one of my favorite coffee shops, Fox in the Snow, and we’ve got a winner here. For breakfast, a coffee break, or dessert, this offering is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Click here to learn more about Fox in the Snow.

Gooey Chocolate Espresso Hummus: Darista Dips

https://daristadips.com

Gooey Chocolate Espresso Hummus Darista Dips

It’s rare that a hummus company could make both the veggie-rific list AND this chocolate treats list, but I’m convinced that Darista Dips is taking over the world. Their Gooey Chocolate Espresso Hummus celebrates girl power by sourcing ingredients from female-led companies. You won’t believe there’s chickpeas inside, but you will want to slather it on everything. Plus the talented local girl boss Natterdoodle drew the label!

Dairy-free Dark Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream: Jeni’s Ice Cream

https://jenis.com

Dairy-free Dark Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream Jeni's Ice Cream

This new variety from Jeni’s is deep, dark, chocolatey goodness that would excite Willy Wonka himself. Concocted with coconut cream instead of milk, this vegan-friendly option will fill the cocoa bill. Lately I’ve loved making it a double-scoop duo with Salty Caramel to hit all the flavor notes, but it’s successful as a stand-alone too.

Seriously Big Chocolate Cake: Cap City Fine Diner

https://capcityfinediner.com

Seriously Big Chocolate Cake Cap City Fine Diner

Cameron Mitchell always proves that simple things executed perfectly are the best things, and Cap City’s chocolate cake is a classic for just this reason. You might be tempted to share the immense slab of this confection with a partner-in-crime, but I’m fairly certain I could polish off a whole piece myself. The cake is tender and packs a chocolate punch, and the icing is just as divine.

It was so difficult to narrow this list, I might have to do a chocolate treats part 2 post. Where do you get your chocolate fix in town? Let me know: caroline@columbusculinaryconnection.com

Keep Connected,

Caroline