Almond Butter Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe)

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Look at that scrumptious cookie!  If you are like me, you love cookies.  I am sure I have the Cookie Monster’s DNA coursing through my veins because I rarely pass up a cookie.  I have to admit though, I was tempted to pass this one by, which is amazing in itself.  But, I am not a gluten-free gal and I was fearful it would be something less that great.  So, with hesitation, I gathered the ingredients and got started.

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Black Bomber Cheese by Snowdonia

– it’s freakin’ awesome  

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The day we discovered Black Bomber and its other  amazing flavors, was a glorious day indeed!  

We were in Scotland, enjoying the countryside and stopped by Smith Farms for a bite to eat. It promised to have good food (which it did) but it also had a small, but impressive display of cheeses for sale.  Among all the wonderful cheeses was Black Bomber, made by Snowdonia Cheese, the cheesemakers in Wales.

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Get Your Buzz On with Barely Buzzed Cheese!
Barely Buzzed Beehive cheese

I have to take a moment to share with you a truly unique cheese that is really outstanding to have on your cheeseboard for all to enjoy or splurge and make a deliciously cheesy snack of it for yourself…. That is just what I did today! I haven’t tasted Barely Buzzed by Beehive Cheese for awhile, but today I opened a wedge and it knocked me over (again) just how good it is!

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How to Eat Stilton 

the King of British Cheeses!

Stilton

Ready for a delectable cheese plate?

Try Stilton Cheese. A rich, exquisite blue often called the King of English Cheese.  Stilton is a special favorite in the U.K., particularly at Christmas.

But what is Stilton? And why is it so good?

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Just How Do You Write The Perfect Personal Note?


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You’ve decided to celebrate someone important to you by giving them a gift!  Great!  Half your work is done.  Now it’s time to add a personal touch… a little sentiment to make that person smile and let them know they’re important.  Writing personalized notes is a declining art.  The simple act of taking the time to jot a quick little “something special” down means you will already be a step ahead of the rest.   (more…)

Mix It Up with Holiday Cocktails


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Isn’t this just about the time we all start thinking about the Fall and Holiday parties we want to host or have a few friends over for a little holiday cheer?  I know it is for me, so I start from the top thinking of what luscious and elegant cocktails I am going to serve to help put a little zing into the evening.

So, with this in mind, I set out on my quest to sample, choose a few stand-outs and then tweak cocktails to my liking.  I have revived 3 wonderful classics that maybe have been forgotten that deserve to come to the fore-front and by added some modern twists to them it makes them fresh, tasty and new again. (more…)

What’s the Difference in Sheep, Cow and Goat Cheeses


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Since you’re reading this article, you probably already know that cheese is one of the most delicious foods in the entire world. You may also know that not all cheeses are created equal. Cheese comes in a huge range of textures and flavors- from tangy and tart bleu cheese to smooth and creamy chevre- the cheese world is expansive! The diversity of cheese is not only due to how its made, but flavor profiles and appearances are also influenced by which animal the milk comes from.  Additionally, the animal’s diet can subtly influence cheese flavors. (more…)

2014 American Cheese Society Awards


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SPECIAL CONGRATULATIONS! 

to all the latest 2014 American Cheese Society award winners
for outstanding effort and product!

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Every year around this time, the American Cheese Society (ACS) convenes for it’s annual cheese competition.  Over 2000 cheese entries from all over the country are accepted to be entered into the competition.  Highly credentialed prestigious judges are assembled and they spend the next few days meticulously tasting and rating cheeses.  From there, out pops the new winners for 1st, 2nd and 3rd, in each class of cheese distintion!  And then… the final ‘piece de resistance’ – The Best of Show overall are determined.    (more…)

 The Big Huntsmen Burger


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What do we do in summer time?  Barbecue, of course!  And what is easier or more delicious than to cook up some burgers on the grill.  (Or if you want your burgers extra juicy – skip the burgers right on the grill and get the cast iron skillet out and cook in the skillet, either on the stove or the outside grill – try it, it will make a believer out of you.)
Anyway, I love burgers in the summer.  There is nothing better than sinking your teeth into a thick juicy burger.  With every bite all the stuffings of the burger start to ooze out – Simply Delicious.  With something as divine as the good, old-fashioned American burger, how could you make an improvement from there.  Well, I think we found it!!  

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How to Prepare and Grill Artichokes


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Grilled artichokes are the BEST appetizer or side dish for your summer meal… or anytime artichokes are available.  They are the perfect accompaniment to a fantastic dinner, or if you love them as much as we do, be ready to have them anytime- breakfast, lunch, and dinner… Well ok- maybe not breakfast.   (more…)

 American Top BBQ Styles


In my last post I talked about experimenting with different barbecue mediums (i.e. gas, charcoal, hardwoods) to develop your own signature flavor.  There are a few regions in the United States where people have developed signature flavors so distinct and delicious that they’ve earned a name.  You’ve probably heard of barbecue competitions and claims that certain regions have the best barbeque, but what do they do that sets them apart? Here is a list of a few famous barbecues and what makes them stand out – but don’t get too excited, each region keeps a secret behind their magic that not even Clever Hen can get its hands on.

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National BBQ Month – and all about Jakes’ BBQ sauce


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It’s National BBQ Month!

We are now in the midst of the official start to the BBQ season.  In addition to what will hopefully be a wonderful summer, ahead of us is Memorial Day weekend, Father’s Day, 4th of July, and really any warm sunny day that beckons for you to clean off the grill, break out your BBQ tools, grab some meat and veggies, and most importantly- decide which seasonings and sauces to adorn them with! (more…)

Barbecue Series – Gas vs Charcoal, Is charcoal worth it


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Summer is in the air and familiar summer scents are close behind.  Fresh cut grass, the ballpark, and barbecues forecast long summer days and memories to be made around good food.  If you haven’t caught the unmistakable scent of a barbecue in your neighborhood then you will soon. This BBQ season, we want to help you be the neighborhood expert with a mini series on barbecuing.  First, the debate between grilling with gas and grilling with charcoal.

Spoiler alert: gas grilling is for convenience and charcoal grilling is for enthusiasts.  We think charcoal is better, but it’s not always the best choice because, well, who has time for that? (more…)

Double Chocolate Brownies


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Today is National Chocolate Chip Day.  Instead of celebrating with the traditional (albeit yummy) chocolate chip cookie, the Double Chocolate Brownie gets my vote.

Over the years I have tried so-o-o-o many brownie recipes and there are some good ones, don’t get me wrong!  But I always return to my family’s all-time favorite – Double Chocolate Brownies.  They are rich, gooey in the center and chocked full of melted chocolate with bits of crunchy chocolate chips thrown in for good measure.  Isn’t that the definitive answer to the best brownie?

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Mom’s Favorite Homemade Blueberry Muffins


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What could be better than a weekend breakfast with Blueberry Muffins coming straight out of the oven to the table?  These muffins are a fond memory of my childhood.  Mom used to make them often since they are quick to whip up and pop in the oven.  The flavor and texture of these muffins are AMAZING!  The muffins are bursting with lots of blueberries and have a simple but tasty sugar top too.  (Just by-the-by, they are really yummy with a crumb topping too) (more…)

Just How Should You Care For Your Favorite Cheeses? (Helpful hints for Care & Storage of Cheese)


ch-misc-cheese1CHEESES SHOWN (STARTING AT THE BOTTOM, MOVING CLOCKWISE):  BEECHIVEMIDNIGHT MOON, & BEEMSTER

When it comes to cheese, there are nearly as many options as there are fanatics. From “cheese” out of a spray can on a Ritz cracker to an award winning Raclette paired with cabernet – all types of cheeses have their fans. You don’t have to know what Raclette is to indulge in something new, but you may want to know these cheese buying, storage and care tips to get the most bang for your buck and your palate.  (more…)

Triple Chocolate Shortbread


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Double Chocolate Cherry Delights (Cupcake Recipe)


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Since this is the month of hearts and flowers (and for that matter is the month of cherries too-you know…George Washington chopped down the cherry tree), what better way to celebrate than whipping up a batch of super yummy, double chocolate cupcakes, all topped with a Cherry Buttercream that is to die for!  This recipe was inspired by the folks at Tea Time Magazine.  We had to add our own little touches, including jazzing it up a bit with more chocolate (of course) and crazy good cheeries.  The frosting on the cake (literally) is adding our American Spoon Sour Cherry PreservesChukar Dessert Cherries and cute little Guittard Real Chocolate Sprinkles, making these cupcakes one of the best ever – certainly fitting for a charming and delightfully delicious Valentine surprise or a tribute to our first president.  (more…)

Seattle and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (plus great recipe) 


Recently, we took a little excursion to Seattle, Washington. Seattle is the largest city in the great Pacific Northwest and home of the famous and iconic 1962 Century 21 Exposition centerpiece, the Space Needle. The Space Needle is pretty fun to visit and has beautiful gardens surrounding it that make for a quite enjoyable time.  But it wasn’t the Space Needle or the beautiful mountains and water, it was the thriving (with a capital T) artisan food and craft movement we had heard about so often. With our group always on the lookout for the best in the foodie world, this was a natural to go and check out the scene.  (more…)

Ring in the New Year


What better way to Ring in the New Year than to enjoy a hot whiskey with a twist of butterscotch.  
 

This recipe is brought to us by Chef Lori Baker of the Baker and Banker Restaurant, Forbes Magazine and the wonderful, all natural Butterscotch chips by Guittard.  With so many of us facing a dreary, bitter cold winter, this will bring a warmth to your belly and soothing to your mind.   (more…)

Braised Lamb Shanks 


Proudly we present another fine episode of Mike’s, Its Good Cookin’

This is an easy, delicious recipes for Braised Lamb Shanks.  But don’t let the ease of this recipe fool you.  It is filled with incredible flavor combination that excite the taste palette.  The addition of the Sonomic Cabernet Sauvignon “Almost Vinegar” drizzled over the top of the cooked lamb shanks and a drizzle on the potatoes wake up the flavors, intensify and add a wee bit of sweetness to the already rich, deep flavor of the tawny port broth the shanks are cooked in.   (more…)

 Pork and Shrimp Rice Soup (Kao Tom Moo)


Got a cold?

 According to legend, this is suppose to cure it….I don’t know about that but I do know it will chase the drolldrums away  and give you an innovative, delicious soup.  Mike serves it with his classic grilled cheese.  Try it with any favorite sandwich or alone for a warm-the-belly tasty meal. (more…)

Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi Served with Pot Roast


Perfect meal for the cool, brisk days of Autumn…

If you haven’t tried making Gnudi, this video will give you an easy step-by-step instruction on making these tasty, all cheese dumplings.  Just the thought of a cheese dumpling …mmm, good!   They are a great compliment to pot roast.  Like Mike says in the video, just make your favorite pot roast recipe.  If you have a slow cooker, this is a good time to use it.  It makes the making of a pot roast super easy and is  no fuss cooking.  It also makes the vegetables and the meat tender.  The meat is literally falling apart. (more…)

Homemade Chili and Cornbread


What a great idea!  Cornbread baked right on the chili.

Not only does it make it one-stop cooking but look how delicious it looks.  Rich, thick chili with a cast of yummy ingredients simmering together to make it extra good — then the crowning glory, Baked-on-Top Cornbread with Grated Cheese.  That does it for me –  it puts it over the top.  It is a must-do recipe for a chilly Autumn day.

Since there are so many ingredients we have listed them below. Feel free to adjust the spices in this recipe to your liking.  You will note in the video that Mike comments that they add a bit of cocoa and cinnamon.  This is Donna’s secret to making an extra special chili.  Try your hand at experimenting. Mix in spices, flavor to taste.

The grated Beemster Gouda adds just the right amount of salty to compliment and contrast the sweetness of the cornbread. (more…)

 Homemade Broccoli Soup & Kicked Up BLT


Looking for a warm and cozy meal for cold Autumn days…easy too!
 

Delicious, easy, good-for-you Broccoli Soup,  And what good soup would be complete without the perfect sandwich accompaniment?  A scrumptious BLT sandwich, with a kicked up, dazzling twist of O Olive Jalapeno and Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade mixed with mayonaisse spread.   WOW! That knocks the ball out of the park in flavor — like Mike says, “Nobody is eating as good as you when you are eating like this!”  No  truer words have been spoken,   (more…)

Grilled Lamb with Planked Camembert Cheese


Once again, Mike does not disappoint!  

Today it is a creamy, melty Camembert cheese dish you can do on the grill, accompanied by grilled lamb chops with Chukar Cherry Chipotle Sauce and Jake’s California Grilling Blend seasoning rubs.  Check it out…you will see that he makes everything super yummy!  with a twist of his own special brand of tasty cooking.  I can’t wait to try it myself!  Mike always has so many delicious and innovative ways of preparing food.  Here at Clever Hen, we are always anxious to see his next YouTube video of “ItsGoodCookin”.  So stayed tuned for more….  but in the meantime, fire up the grill and get cookin’! (more…)

Good News About a Popular American Snack – Peanut Butter 


I never thought much about peanut butter as a kid.  It always seemed to be the one thing you could find in the cupboard.  Now that I look back on it, that was more of a feat than I ever gave credit, especially since I come from a family of 10 kids and 4 of them boys.  My mother would often say, “There is no hungrier job than feeding growing boys.  I am certain they tried their best to decimate the entire supply of peanut butter daily, but my parents were one step ahead, keeping massive amount of that thick, addictive, stick-to-the-roof-of-the-mouth food on hand.ch-blog-pbkids1

I carried on from there, so when my kids were little I branched out to ants on a log, which they remember to this day, and cute, fancy shaped cut-out peanut butter and jam sandwiches, not to mention the countless cookie and bar recipes I made with peanut butter (and of course, it’s faithful companion, chocolate).  Back then, we paid less attention to food additives and how they affected our health, let alone the good and bad cholesterols. I was a young mother wanting to feed my children balanced meals but there was much less awareness then of the growing corporate food industry and what it had done to our food. (more…)

 Step by Step Video Instructions for Super Easy & Tasty Peanut Butter Cookies


Ready, Set, Video Time for Cookies

A few posts back, our web guru guy, posted a Super Easy & Tasty Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe.  Mike, our BBQ and resident expert in the kitchen, took it one step further with a great video to show you how to make them, plus a cute way to make a decorative top.  Just follow along with Mike and Donna with this tutorial and you will be on your way to making delicious Peanut Butter Cookies.  We recommend that you use all-natural Vermont Peanut Butter.  

What makes VTPB so special is that it only uses certified organic peanuts, no preservatives, is 100% natural and watches over every move by making it all in their own factory.  It’s pretty cool to find peanut butter, this all time favorite American snack, made with such care.  Finally, a peanut butter that is way healthy and is absolutely the best peanut butter on the market! To make it even more fun, Vermont Peanut Butter has created a bunch of great flavors – check them out.  You can use any of them in this cookie recipe – they are sure to make a hit.

Want to learn more about peanut butter, read our latest post. (more…)

Super Easy & Tasty Peanut Butter Cookies


All-Natural with only 3 ingredients and Gluten-Free besides
                                                                                                          
This is a recipe that anybody can do!  I know, because I don’t usually bake or cook but these are a slam-dunk for me to make.  And everybody loves them.

It only has 3 ingredients (all natural)  so making the dough is a snap, and baking doesn’t take much time either.  You can use any kind of peanut butter.  I like to use a natural peanut butter.  To do one better, try the Vermont Peanut Butters.  They have outstanding flavor and they are available in creamy or chunky but also are available in different, subtle flavors that you don’t normally find.  My favorite is the Vermont Peanut Butter Avalanche.  It has a bit of white chocolate in it to add to the creaminess and taste.  Another great one to try would be the Vermont Good Karma Peanut Butter.  Besides having a cool name, it will give you a smidge of good karma knowing that you are using something very good for you.  For the chocolate lovers of the world, Good Karma has a bit of dark chocolate in it.   (more…)

 Mustard-Crusted Pork Tenderloin


Looking for a fantastic Sunday Dinner recipe?  
 

Look no further, Mike, our master chef and chief BBQ guru, has done it again.  HIs has adapted a recipe from the fun titled book, Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey with his own special touches to create a winning recipe for that dinner with the fam…or special friends.  Along with the mustard sauce (and marinade) made from one of our all-time favorites, the award-winning Whole Seed Mustard by American Spoon and apple cider, you can create your own majestic dinner fit for a King. (more…)

Mike’s Quesadillas


Need a quick snack for the hungry game crowd?

Look no further….these are fabulous, fast and easy!  What more could you ask for?  

If you are a quesadillas addict as I am, then you will see that they are brilliant on the grill.  Those yummy grilled vegetables and chicken, all spiced up with Jake’s California Chipotle Magic Rub, smothered with warm, melty cheese…add your favorite toppings (sour cream, salsa, etc.) and you have the makings of a perfect crowd pleaser.  

So fire up the grill and get cookin with Mike and ItsGoodCookin! (more…)

Chicken Wings with Mustard Cream Sauce 


Awesome Chicken Wings!  Another fabulously tasty concoction by our resident BBQ Wiz.  Mike gives a step-by-step instruction on how to make these chicken wings for your next BBQ.  He has masterfully used the gourmet The American Spoon Whole Seed Mustard.  This mustard is very special with the whole seeds giving a ‘snap, crack, pop’, bursting with tons of flavor.  One bite of this mustard and you know why it has won so many awards. (more…)

 Is Microwave Popcorn Safe to Eat?


We, at Clever Hen aim to champion some of the unsung food heroes of the U.S.  Why? Well, the simple answer is that we care about our families, friends and fellow earthdwellers.  We want a world that will be safer and cleaner for our, and everyone else’s grandchildren.

The popcorn story, more specifically the Microwave Popcorn story is downright scary but hang in there, get to the end.  Because this horror story has a bright, clear light at the end of the tunnel.  Popcorn is an easy subject for me because, to put it simply, I am a Popcorn fanatic.  I love popcorn, all kinds of popcorn as do millions and millions of others. It’s the AllAmerican snack.  Millions in the US on average each consume a whopping 52 quarts a year, and much of this is from microwave versions as Rodale News reports in their article of “The Truth about Microwaveable Popcorn”*. (more…)

 Grilled Ribeye with Asparagus & French Fries


Are you hankerin’ for a thick, juicy ribeye steak, seasoned up all nice with Jake’s Tri-Tip & Rib Rub to give it exceptional flavor, then finished off with a generous glazing on the grill with Jake’s Blue Oak BBQ Sauce & Marinade?  Well, leave it to Mike to make it happen.  He is always full of great, delectable dishes you can make at home.  

Mike has set a handsome plate of grilled steak & asparagus accompanied by crispy french fries…Just look at the deliciousness on that plate.  It makes your mouth water just looking at it.  Don’t forget to accent your fries with Jake’s Famous Ketchup – it’s always a winner! (more…)

Spare Ribs smoked in Mesquite


Here at Clever Hen, have BBQ Fridays for the staff and guests.  Once we saw Mike’s video, we couldn’t resist grillin’ us some spareribs for our Friday BBQ.  

The use of the mustard, then the seasoning Mike says is a old Grill Master trick to add flavor and help with tenderizing the meat.  So just like the video, we got out our Jake’s Tri-Tip Steak and Rib Rub and the Original Mild Barbeque Sauce by Jake too.  Followed the video to the letter…..well almost.  We were missing Mike, Grill Master Extraordinaire! But we stumbled along though and had a delectable plate of ribs to offer to our hungry lunch crowd.

Please note Mike has his ribs to the side of where the coals are so that it is cooked indirectly.  Cooking for 3 hours with indirect heat and adding the sauce at near the end is the tip of the day.  It makes the ribs tender, moist and filled with flavor. (more…)

Mike’s Ruby Red Stuffed Stilton Burger


We recently shipped off some Stilton cheese to a customer, Mike M in Cleveland a little while ago and he was kind enough to let us know what he was up to.  Mike has a recipe for a killer burger and has submitted it to the “Man Cave Eats” Summer Burger Blast Video Contest on youtube. 

The Ruby Red Stilton Stuffed Burger looks awesome. We all enjoyed his video (I’m pretty sure I could smell the port reduction as he cooked it down) and wanted to share it with the rest of the class. If you’re any kind of carnivore you’ll want to try it out immediately. Vegetarian? well, a nice big portobello would be a fitting replacement for the burger.  (more…)

 Mike M’s Pineapple Chili Chicken Kebabs with Cornbread


Well, Mike has done it again.  He is a whiz at the BBQ grill.  Take a look at his latest adventure on YouTube (link below) using the yummy American Spoon Pineapple Chili BBQ Sauce and the flavorful California Grilling Blend rub from Jake’s.  He has done one bang-up job with these kebobs!  They are mouth-watering, lip-smacking good.  We encourage everyone to try his recipes and techniques-he really has a knack for making mighty tasty food. (more…)

 Mushroom Burger on the Griddle


My favorite burger….scrumpshee-umpshee-delicious!
 

Who wouldn’t enjoy a perfectly cooked burger, grilled mushrooms, all seasoned up nice with artisan made, Jake’s Southwestern Hickory Rub and finished up with a generous dollup of Jakes Famous Ketchup?  I love the way Mike gives little tips for us grill novices to put the cheese on the ‘just turned’ burger so you have the hottest side up to help the cheese melt.  He has quite the knack, everything always looks so perfect and delicious.   (more…)

In the Henhouse: Chickadee


ch-blog-chickadeeChickadee is Clever Hen’s resident photographer and all around “go to” person for just about everything.

Birthplace:
San Francisco Bay Area

What are some of your favorite foods?
There is nothing better than warm chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven with a cold glass of milk. But chocolate soufflé, homemade mac and cheese and filet mignon all come in a close second.

Favorite books?
Any book written by Dr. Seuss

Movies?
I enjoy a wide variety of movies. But if there is a James Bond movie on I will always stop to watch, especially if Sean Connery is playing Bond.

 

Who inspires you?
Definitely my daughter, as cliché as it sounds. She truly inspires me to be a better, kinder, more patient and understanding person. There’s nothing like a toddler to bring out the best (and worst) in you!

What are your favorite Clever Hen Foods?
Where do I begin? The Lake Champlain 5 Star peanut bar is like a nugget of heavenly goodness. Anything with cherries… Chukar Cherries Nuts over Bings, chocolate covered cherries, American Spoon Sour Cherry Marmalade, Lake Champlain Cherry Chocolate bar. And oh yeah, I can’t forget Divine Bovine beef jerky. That stuff is so addicting. I can scarf down a bag in 5 seconds flat.

What would be your perfect meal?
That depends upon what mood I’m in. Right now I feel like a hearty beef stew with a big piece of crusty sourdough bread and a glass of red wine.

What was the first job you ever had? How much did you make?
My first real paycheck job was at a bakery/deli when I was 17. I started making coffee and espresso drinks and working the pastry counter making $4.25/hour. As silly as it sounds, I really wanted to be the person making the sandwiches. I only worked there for two weeks before quitting, I got a better offer working in the family business.

 

In the Henhouse: Robot Rooster


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Robot Rooster is our resident web Guru Extraordinaire. Founder of Retailkit.com, his indefatigable efforts and extensive experience with e-commerce have given CleverHen a real boost.  Robot Rooster is someone that no company should do without–he’s the best!

Birthplace:
Vista, California

What are some of your favorite foods?
Fruits, veggies, and more fruits. I’m on the Steve Jobs diet.

Memorable movies?
The Usual Suspects, Pulp Fiction, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Inception, if it weren’t for Keanu Reeves, I’d probably like The Matrix too.

Favorite books?
Enders Game. The Hobbit. The Catcher in the Rye. Pretty much all the books from my childhood.

Favorite musicians?
I’ve always liked the Beatles, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, and U2. Then there’s The Living End, Pennywise, Bad Religion, Sublime, and The Beastie Boys. I’m all over the map.

Who inspires you?
I don’t have any idols or particular interest in celebrities… I guess I’m impressed with particular qualities in certain people. I admire Steve Jobs’ vision and Bill Gates’ ability to seize an opportunity. Abraham Lincoln for his ability to connect with people and to tell a story.

Favorite Clever Hen Foods
Divine Bovine Beef Jerky and Lark Trio of shortbread cookies!

What would be your perfect meal?
It would have to have a lot of variety: sashimi, lobster, filet mignon, fruits and veggables, salad, etc.

What was your first job and how much did you make?
Working at Long’s Drugs for about $8/hr.

 

 2013 Winners – American Cheese Society Judging Competition – ACS


Hip, Hip Hurray!!

Congrats to all the winners of the 2013 ACS Judging and Competition
 

ch-blog-winnimere-1It is quite an accomplishment just to make it to the place where you feel you have a product good enough to enter, let alone compete against some of the very best in the North America.  And believe me, the competition is stiff!  The U.S. , Canada and Mexico have become major players in the land of cheese, creating some pretty incredible products which rival and often surpass the long traditioned cheeses of Europe.  It’s time for Europe to move over – North American Cheeses have arrived—and are here to stay!

This was the largest competition yet.  All 1,794 entries, from 257 companies came together on July31, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin to try to win a place at the First, Second and Third podium for their category.  Then, of course, no show would be without the piece de la resistance – Best of Show for all categories.  

This year the honor for Best of Show went to Cellars of Jasper Hill, VT for their Winnimere.  With 2nd Place going to Grafton Village Cheese, VT for Bear Hill and the tie for 3rd Place to Bleu Mont Dairy for Bandaged Cheddar and Bleu Mont Dairy for Blue Sky Grana.  

Just a personal word about Winnimere.  I can see why it won Best of Show.  It is only available a limited period of time of the year.  I wait, not so patiently, every year  until I can get my greedy little hands on this thing of beauty.  It is a washed rind, wrapped in cambium cut  (bark) from the spruce trees on their farm.  It matures about 2 months during which it is regularly brushed with a local beer .  This year it was washed with a beer from their friends and neighbors at Hill Farmstead Brewery.  

The wheel is about 6 inches in diameter.  It is recommended you peel away the top ring and let the bark form a bowl for the slightly runny, spoonable cheese inside.  It varies from batch to batch.   Sometimes it is smoky, sometimes fruity, sometimes mustardy, sometimes meaty—no matter what the batch is like, it never is short of  heavenly.  My first taste of it was on a visit to Vermont where I purchased a bit of it to try on the recommendation on of Dr. Montse Almena-Aliste of VIAC.

My husband and I sat in the car with crackers in hand, dipped our way to the bottom in one sitting.  We couldn’t get enough!  In short, it is a must try!

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Well, enough said about Winnimere.  Grafton Village always makes outstanding cheeses and they didn’t disappoint with their 2nd Place winner, Bear Hill.  We carry their  yummy cheddar and now I am eager to try this one.  It sounds delicious.  It is a washed ring alpine style cheese, made with 100% sheep milk with gently fruity, slightly nutty , a smooth texture with a hint of sweetness.    Alpine style cheeses are a favorite of mine and I have a strong feeling this will  become the newest addition to our cheese selection here at Clever Hen.
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And finally, Bleu Mont Dairy of Wisconsin.  Kudos for having 2 cheeses, Bandaged Cheddar and Big Sky Grana tie for Third Place—quite an accomplishment indeed! 

Please take a moment to peruse all the list of winners.  It is a daunting and tireless job of a cheesemaker to make a worthy cheese.  It takes passion, dedication and a spirit of never giving up to make it here – to the winner circle of the American Cheese Society Judging and Competition.

 

 

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Summer Drink Recipes – 3 of 3 parts


Ok, we have seen and tasted some pretty yummy drinks to cool off the summer afternoons and evenings these past few weeks.  To culminate the Summer Drink Recipe extravaganza we are making use of the Sonoma Syrups Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup.  No lemon is as great tasting as the Meyer Lemon.  It has a sweet, with a dash of tartness flavor and Sonoma Syrup does it justice.

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Summer Drink Recipes – part 2


Another glorious summer week is upon us…..and another installment of fun, exciting and refreshing drink recipes to spice up your TGIF or weekend.

Sonoma Syrup makes some mighty delicious syrups that, in turn, conjure up some cool, super yummy drinks.  Order up your syrups today….and get mixing some liquid refreshments.  Try one of these recipes or branch out and create your own.  We would love to hear and see what you came up with – Don’t forget your drink umbrellas! (more…)

Refreshing Summer Drink Recipes


Hard and virgin drinks to cool down your hot summer day!

We are deep into summer now with long, hot days and hopefully, cool evenings (for those that are privledged enough to live in the perfect climate).  Even if the evenings stay warm, what better way to enjoy a lazy afternoon or an early evening than to invite some friends over and serve these wonderfully refreshing drinks….or if you prefer a moment to yourself, make a cold one for yourself. (more…)

In the Henhouse: Saucy Hen


ch-blog-saucyhen-smallerSaucy Hen is Clever Hen’s social media coordinator, outside sales activist, wordsmith, and grammar checker. Bad grammar makes her sic

Birthplace:
San Francisco Bay Area.

Favorite Foods:
Grilled artichokes! Hands down. But if I could only eat one type of food for the rest of my life, it would have to be Mexican. Like Chickadee, I think you really can’t beat a homemade chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk for dessert.

Favorite Books:
Catcher in the Rye, Breakfast of Champions and Fahrenheit 451.

Favorite Movies:
Most movies directed by Cameron Crowe, particularly Say Anything and Almost Famous. Stranger Than Fiction would be my 3rd favorite. Yup, I’m a romantic.

Who inspires you?
Someone with a good heart whose brain and talent work in ways completely different than my own.

Perfect Meal:
I’m usually not picky, I like good company.

Favorite Clever Hen Foods:
Divine Bovine Turkey Jerky, Lake Champlain Caramel Five Star Bar and Squirrel Brand Cashews.

What was your first job, how much did you make?
My first job was as a small child rolling candy centers for Bonny Hen’s chocolate-making hobby. I guess that wasn’t a job as much as it was child slave labor. My first legitimate job was at Marie Callender’s serving pie and hostessing. I made $5/hr.

 

Lactose Intolerant? Have Some Cheese


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As part of our adventure in amateur cheesemaking, we were fortunate enough to have taken some classes at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheesemaking (VIAC).  It had been a long time since taking chemistry classes and so some trepidation ensued when reintroduced to the subject I had once found pretty interesting.  Cheesemaking is magical but chemistry is part of the magic and yes, there is math involved.  (more…)

Short History of Cheese


ch-blog-how oldThe existence of cheese predates any kind of written records. While it is not conclusively known where or when cheese originated, reliable evidence exists that cheese was being made 7500 years ago. 

 

For some time now, archaeologists have speculated that hole filled pieces of ceramic vessels found in modern day Poland are the remnants of strainers used in the making of cheese. In an article published in the journal Nature, Princeton archaeologist Peter Boguki, confirms the theory.  Chemists at the University of Bristol performed chemical analysis  on molecules found inside the pores of the ancient  ceramic and concluded that they were in fact milk fat remnants.  According to Boguki “This research provides the smoking gun that cheese manufacture was practiced by Neolithic people 7,000 years ago.” (more…)

In the Henhouse: Redundant R. Rooster


ch-blog-redundancy-1Redundant Rooster is the dependable and hardworking technological genius behind the functioning of our website. Through Retailkit.com, he invents, builds and fixes everything that is web. He is fluent in everything from web 1 to web 7. We would be impressed with this if we knew what it meant. No matter, we look forward to what he builds next!

Birthplace:
San Jose, CA

What are some of your favorite foods?
I love spicy foods! Mexican, Thai, Indian, Italian and good ol’ fashion BBQ

Favorite Books?
Reddit.com

Favorite movies?
Super troopers, Iron Man, Dark Knight, Inception, The Prestige. Pretty much anything by Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino.

Favorite Musicians?
Mostly ’90’s rock and classic rock. Foo Fighters, Rise Against, Billy Talent, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, AC/DC

Favorite songs?
There are so many good ones, hard to pick just one. “How the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin

Who inspires you?
Richard Branson is pretty awesome. He’s gone from humble beginnings to running one of the largest multi-million dollar corporations in the world (Virgin). Even with all his success he spends his time on tons of charities, exploring new technologies (like building spaceships!) and is a fairly down-to-earth guy.

What are your favorite Clever Hen foods?
Can’t go wrong with a basket of Divine Bovine Teriyaki Turkey Jerky, Cotswald cheese, American Spoon Dried Chile Salsa and Effie’s oatcakes.

What was your first job and how much did you make?
My first job was a referee for youth soccer games. the pay was actually not too bad, about $30 per game. I even ended up refereeing my little brother’s soccer games, but even with his big brother as ref, his team still couldn’t win.

What does your middle initial “R” stand for?
Redundant

 

In the Henhouse: Colonel Rooster


Colonel Rooster is neither a Colonel nor a rooster. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what it is he does here….

ch-blog-colonelroosterBirthplace:
Huntington N.Y.

What are some of your favorite foods?
Sushi, Thai food, barbecue, big salads, Mexican food, fresh corn,  good cheese, nuts, Italian food, fresh fish, fruits, pecan pie, I’m getting hungry

Favorite books?
Anna Karenina, anything by Charles Dickens

Favorite movies?
The Big Lebowski and Charlie Chaplin’s Modern times both rate high on my list. I like quirky stories with interesting characters so anything by the Cohn brothers or Wes Anderson will usually float my boat.  I like quirky characters and also Monty Python stuff: “blessed are the cheesemakers”

Musicians?
Well, the Beatles of course, Bob Dylan, The Who, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Tom Waits, Harry Nilsson, Los Lobos, Steve Earle, Jimmy Cliff, J.D. McPherson, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Robert Earle Keen, Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, Neil Young, Mahalia Jackson, Gil Scot Heron…

Favorite songs?
John Lennon’s Julia, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, those two floated to the top just now but there are really too many to even single out a hundred without missing a lot.

Who inspires you?
Well, I’m inspired by people’s talent and ability to think despite their human flaws. So: Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin. I guess I’m inspired by that whole period of time: The Age of Reason, what a concept! Continuing the list, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, Charlie Chaplin, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens.

What are your favorite Clever Hen foods?
Reading Raclette cheese, Stilton, Divine Bovine beef jerky, Lark Burnt Sugar and Fennel and Salted Rosemary cookies, Effie’s Corn Cakes, American Spoon salsas, Vermont Peanut Butter, Peppered cashews, crème brulee almonds. How about I just recite the whole product list?

What was your first job? How much were you paid?
Pounding out silver hoop ear rings and making silver jewelry. I think I started at $1.30/hr

 

 

Chocolate Caramel Bars recipe


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These bars are similar to the renowned “Better than Sex Bars,” but even better! I’m not sure how that’s possible but it surely is.  They’re super easy to make, just slightly more difficult than boiling water. Make them! Make them! Make them!

Ingredients:

½ cup melted butter
2 generous cups of  cups of chocolate wafer cookies ground to crumbs in the food processor       
1 cup Guittard Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup Guittard Milk Chocolate Chips
1 can of slightly chopped Squirrel Brand Cafe Carmelatta au Sel Pecans (more if you want it nuttier)
optional:   2 bags of Danielle Coconut Chips, slightly broken up (I love them with lots of coconut so I used 3 bags.) 
American Spoon Chocolate Milk Caramel Sauce
1 can sweetened condensed milk

                                                                     Preheat oven to 350 degrees

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Top quality ingredients make for a top quality indulgence. You could use similar products although I’m a little (ok, a lot) partial to these. Likewise with the chocolate cookie wafers, you can use any good grocery store type, see what your local bakery has, or even make your own.

Grind up the chocolate wafers in a food processor. Alternatively you can put them in a sturdy zip lock bag and use a rolling pin (or what ever is handy) to smash them up, that’s the more fun way.

Pour the melted butter into a 13×9 inch pan (I split mine into two smaller 8×8 inch pans). Then slightly pat the cookie crumbs down into the butter. Base layer done.

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Next pour the condensed milk over the cookie base layer. Try to distribute it evenly but don’t worry if there is a little variation, it will even itself out pretty well.

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Now add the chocolate chips and nuts, and then break up the coconut chips as you distribute them over the top.

Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top, pretty much too your own liking, maybe ½ to ¾ cup. Then it’s into the preheated oven. Bake until the edges brown, probably about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand until cool before cutting.

 

For an extra caramel-y version use 2/3 cup each of Guittard butterscotch, semisweet chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips instead of the 2 cups of chocolate chips.

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                            Quick, pour some milk!

Gray Area


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It seems that just too many things are decided for us, we’re fed ideas from well meaning people as well as the self serving. There aren’t always only two sides to something and often there are more answers, and questions, in the gray area.  So it’s refreshing to read about people who think things through and act with rational purpose regardless of what has been prescribed.  While recently reading about a local dairy I was struck by much of what they had to say. (more…)

Plastic Bears Tell No Tales – Altered Honey Woes


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Well it looks like we’ve got one more thing to worry about.  Most of us are aware that the bee population has been dwindling and of the potential problems this may cause for those who rely on bees to pollinate crops (all of us).  But why hasn’t there been a shortage of honey? Well it turns out that much of what is packaged as “honey” doesn’t meet the USFDA definition of honey. That stuff in the cute plastic bear has been ultra filtered to the point that it contains no pollen at all. And honey without pollen ceases to be honey. Compounding the issue is the allegation that high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners are added. (more…)