Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

It’s been awhile since I posted to my blog although I’ve have been active on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. People have asked me why and the answer is simple. Since I discovered Jamie Wagener using theblissfulkitchen my culinary enthusiasm derailed. The legal activities resulting from the discovery have been exhausting and perplexing. I’ve archived the original site on a private server and retained the blog. It’s hard to believe that one person would decide that circumventing an existing trademark for glossy aspirational purposes to establish a synthetic online ethos was a good idea. But, we are in an age of fake news, fake branding, and endless fake lifestyle gurus.

Nonetheless, authenticity will always trump imitation so I’m proud I created Blissful Kitchen in 2003 and it is solely my creation despite Jamie Wagener’s fallacy that adding an article makes it her “creation”. I have discovered a path forward and I shall take it.

Now, back to the food! I typically have a weekend routine that includes preparing a few items for the work week. I have to admit that although I spent so many years cooking professionally, I don’t always enjoy meal preparation during the week. Here are a few things I like to make in advance so that lunch preparation isn’t such a chore. Save time and prepare your lunch ingredients on Sundays. This week I made garbanzo beans, soba noodles, and yellow beets.

Garbanzo beans, soba noodles, and yellow beets


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Brand protection

A carefully conceived and designed brand defines a business. Branding from simplistic to cutting edge establishes an expectation of what customers can expect from your service or product. I’ve been thinking about the importance of branding and paying closer attention to it especially when I’m traveling. Like most consumers I can easily identify my favorite brands and take notice when I see striking similarities in brands. Copying branding is now pervasive given the infinite access to everything online.

While in Dublin last year, I had the great pleasure of having lunch with a friend at Eathos a fashionable and trendy café. I was immediately struck by a very familiar brand, actually more like the look-and-feel of a specific brand. The food was artfully presented with free-form elements and very appealing plating. The food styling was so familiar to me that I took a few pictures to ensure the familiar look wasn’t just my perception. That familiar style was popularized by Yotam Ottolenghi , a talented London based chef and food writer with an exceptional palate and a keen eye for colour and presentation. He popularized North African and Middle Eastern flavors whilst demystifying the ingredients and encouraging meatless meals. Ottolenghi continues to inspire me to expand my palette and discover more about the flavors I’ve been working with for many years. Ottolenghi’s restaurant has been very high on my bucket list so I was thrilled to finally visit his Belgravia location in London.

Looks like Ottolenghi but it’s Eathos!

Beautiful Eathos desserts

Immediately upon entering the Belgravia location, I was stunned by what I saw. It was almost a mirror image of Eathos’ food display. I remarked to the server that “I was in Dublin earlier and I swear I saw …” but before I could finish my sentence she said “Eathos, yes they’ve copied us, we know all about it!” The Ottolenghi team wasn’t concerned about it. There can be a competitive and psychological advantage to being first in a marketplace but I was irritated on their behalf. There is a clear difference between being inspired by and copying another brand. What’s even more surprising is that if you expand the pictures the two stores have almost the exact broccoli and roasted butternut squash dishes! Frankly, I started laughing so hard because it paralleled a similar experience I’m having with my brand.

The real Ottolenghi

Ottolenghi desserts, stunning!

Not that long ago I discovered www.theblissfulkitchen.com operated by Jamie Wagener. I was shocked because I registered the domain name in 2004 and trademarked Blissful Kitchen in 2008. In order to prevent brand confusion, the United States Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) offers classifications (goods and services categories) so you can obtain a trademark possibly with the same name but different class. For example, Blissful Kitchen chef and catering (food) services would not compete or cause consumer confusion with Blissful Kitchen (goods) vacuum cleaners. However, Blissful Kitchen food service could confuse a consumer if The Blissful Kitchen is also a food related service.

Is it worth trademarking your business?
Yes! There are several ways to avoid and prevent trademark infringement and legally pursue the infringement upon discovery. Over the next few months, I will discuss the process in great detail. The first step is to search online to verify if your potential brand name or mark is being used. If someone in a different country is using the name you should consult with the USPTO or legal counsel to prevent litigation. If the brand is clear, the next step is to apply to the USPTO for the trademark and select a specific class for your mark. The approval or denial of your mark is determined by an evaluator to ensure there are no competing marks and to remove brand confusion. Adding an article e.g. a, the, it, in front of a trademarked brand does not materially change the new brand and can be the basis for trademark infringement litigation.

For example, if I applied for The Starbucks trademark to sell smoothies, this trademark is unlikely to be approved because Starbucks sells cold beverages that include commercially prepared smoothies and consumers may believe smoothies are an extension of the coffee brand. However, perhaps The Starbucks lawnmowers might be approved as there is unlikely to be confusion between lawnmowers and beverages. Sometimes large organizations will trademark a brand in multiple classes to prevent trademark infringement and brand confusion. Often small business owners will select the class(s) that best represent the goods or services and may also add classes that will protect future expansion.

Trademark Infringement
If you suspect trademark infringement, the first step is to obtain legal counsel and potentially prepare for litigation. In my case, my attorney served Jamie Wagener two cease and desist letters. She partially complied with the second letter by redirecting her www.theblissfulkitchen.com homepage but not the cascading pages within the website.

Brand authenticity
This is an extremely valuable intangible asset that every consumer should pay close attention to. When an existing brand is copied or altered it can raise suspicions in the consumers mind about the authenticity of a brand. As a consumer, I always recommend checking various social media outlets to ensure the brand is consistently identified across all of these platforms and ensure the brand’s ethos is authentic. For example, I secured Blissful Kitchen Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts. If the service or business you’re evaluating doesn’t apply consistent marketing and branding then their authenticity can be questioned. As consumers, we all want to have faith that the goods and services we purchase are authentic and worthy of our support.

Please post comments about your experience with trademark infringement or if you’ve had something copied extensively online as I’m working on a series of posts about this timely subject.


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2016 a year in review

Last year was an exceptional year for food and travel. From crispy roast pork in Maui, to experiencing Ireland’s food evolution, magnificent lunch with a stunning view in Prague, almost fantastic mussels (actually more like salmon due to torrential rain and flooding) in Brussels, farm-stand lunch in Bergamo, and incredible everything in London.

There are many pictures and stories to share but let’s start with food trends that hopefully will not continue in 2017.

Green juice – let’s just eat real food in its natural form.

Wanna be “chefs” – folks with no specialized training but like to cook. Would you take medical advice from a YouTube trained doctor?

Copying established brands – I was shocked to see a stylized brand in Country A blatantly copied in Country B. Country A knew all about Country B but couldn’t do anything about it. I empathize with that brand.

Here’s to new exciting food adventures in 2017!

Roasted pork in Maui

Roasted pork in Maui

Agro-turismo first course of lunch in Bergamo

Agro-turismo charcuterie first course of lunch in Bergamo

Smoked salmon first course in Prague

Smoked salmon first course in Prague

Flash floods kept me from mussels in Brussels but at least I found salmon

Flash floods kept me from mussels in Brussels but at least I found salmon

Classic sausage roll and barley salad in Dublin

Classic sausage roll and barley salad in Dublin


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Pasta al Tonno

After a large poultry based Thanksgiving meal, I felt like eating something lighter but still filling. When I lived in Italy, my roommate Janet introduced me to a new dish. My mother never made tuna casserole because tuna was just meant for sandwiches according to her sense of taste and cultural custom. But Janet showed me how really good quality tuna can be transformed into something unexpected and absolutely delicious. Introducing Pasta al Tonno a classic dish made in homes all over Italy. I don’t recall ever seeing it on a restaurant menu as it considered cucina casalinga (home cooking) and it should definitely be added to your go-to list of quick meals. This sauce only has six ingredients so it’s easy to make without a shopping list. In my freezer I keep one cup packages of marinara sauce which frees me from frantic trips to the store and it tastes great over brown rice too.

Six easy ingredients

Six easy ingredients

The key to this dish is to use high-quality tuna, preferably Italian, packed in olive oil. The classic dish doesn’t have olives or feta cheese but I adore those flavors so my version includes them. It’s a bit of a Greek spin on the dish. You can choose either the classic or my intensified version. Adding diced zucchini meant I wouldn’t have to cook a vegetable and brown rice pasta gave me a bit of relief from gluten. Yes, there are times when even professional chefs are a bit lazy!

Pasta al Tonno con olive e zucchine

Pasta al Tonno con olive e zucchine

5.5 oz can of drained Italian tuna in olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup small diced yellow onion
2/3 cup small diced zucchini
3 cloves garlic crushed (chopped very fine if you don’t have a press)
1 cup tomato marinara sauce
6 Kalamata olives sliced in half
Fresh black pepper and salt to taste
2 cups of cooked pasta of your choice (reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water after draining) or cooked brown rice
Feta cheese for garnish

Place a medium size skillet on a medium flame and add olive oil. Add onions with a pinch of salt and sauté for about five minutes. Add zucchini and cook until slightly brown then add garlic and stir for about a minute. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat then add tuna, olives, and black pepper. Stir with a fork to combine and add some of the reserved pasta water if you prefer a thin sauce. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve over pasta or brown rice and garnish with feta cheese.

Makes 2 servings

Chef’s tip: removing the pan from the heat before adding tuna and olives will intensify their flavors and using a fork to combine will keep the tuna in lumps and not shreds.


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Flashback Friday!

Recently I started musing about how my blissful kitchen journey began. It was a sunny day in 2004 and I was driving north on Highway 101 just passing through Corte Madera when “Blissful Kitchen” popped into my consciousness. Since graduation from culinary school the previous year, I’d been thinking about what name would reflect my culinary perspective. What name would represent my passionate feelings about cooking and working with people in a way that improved the quality of their lives. Blissful Kitchen resonated with me and opened doors to many amazing experiences and relationships.

One that comes to mind is the time I submitted an entry into the Next Food Network Star® competition. I’d read a lot about the show and discovered that if I submitted a video with existing branding and won the competition, the network could own the branding as well. So, I made a decision not to include Blissful Kitchen®. I wasn’t selected as a contestant but we really had a lot of fun making the video. By the way, this video was taken in the fantastic kitchen in what still is one of my top five favorite client’s home. Lots of blissful times there!


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There’s never enough chocolate

I’m not a star best baker and am borderline obsessed with The Great British Baking Show on PBS. There are four or five dessert I can make really well and that’s it. Over the years, I’ve had the great fortune of partnering with Chef Diane Hom an amazing pastry chef. Her surgical precision in executing recipes and tireless testing made our collaborations hilarious and terrifying.  We were Felix and Oscar; I’m Oscar-like and she’s pure Felix. I’m very spontaneous and will change recipes and techniques mid-stream onsite which drove Chef Di nuts but always produced great results. Good pastry chefs are like scientists and they’re not to be treated lightly. Her favorite response was “oh Dorothy, I don’t think that’s gonna work” and mine was always cavalier and confidently “trust me, it will be fine!” Always producing hair-raising moments for Chef Di but tasty results for clients.

Baking takes a lot of time and creating recipes requires meticulous testing. That’s why I have a few favorite sources for dessert recipes. I adore America’s Test Kitchen but I’m also a huge fan of David Lebovitz.  When I was searching for a delicious rich brownie recipe I found David’s which is swirled with gooey dulce de leche (cajeta) which can be purchased in most grocery stores.  Use this the next time you want a blow-your-mind Dulce de Leche Brownie! 

Chef’s tip: I tested glass and nonstick baking pans and the best results came from the glass pan. Nonstick coating tends to over brown the edges and corners.

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Dulce de Leche Brownies

 12 brownies  Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway Books)

  • 8 tablespoons (115g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (25g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (140g) flour
  • optional: 1 cup (100 g) toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Dulce de Leche (or Cajeta)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).Line an 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If it doesn’t reach all the way up and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with a bit of butter or non-stick spray.Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, by heaping spoonfuls, evenly spaced over the brownie batter. Then drag a knife through the dulce de leche mounds to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly, again.Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Storage: These brownies will keep well for up to 3 days at room temperature. They can be frozen for up to two months


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Late summer Baby Shower

Carmelized Honey Peaches & Nectarines with Grilled Haloumi & Arugula


Harissa Shrimp with Chervil-Caper Aioli


 
Personal referrals are the best way to develop business. Let clients know how much you rely upon them to spread the word about your business. I’m fortunate to have outstanding clients who always keep me in mind for events and parties. This past weekend I catered a baby shower for a client who received my name from her friend. My client was pregnant and another friend wanted to coordinate a baby shower her. That shower was for 70 people in May and it was so successful the hostess rehired me to cater her friend’s baby shower. It was a gorgeous sunny day in Atherton, California where 20 guests had a marvelous time.

The menu was seasonal, light and delicious. I served: Crostini with Carmelized Honey Peaches & Nectaries, Grilled Haloumi & Arugula; Grilled Shrimp with Caper-Chervil Aioli; Farmers’ Market Tomatoes stuffed with Red Grape & Tarragon Chicken Salad; Fattoush and Fruit Salads; Grilled Hangar Steak Sandwiches with Carmelized Onions, Farmers Market Tomatoes, Sun-dried Tomato-Basil Aioli and Mixed Greens on Acme Buns; Lemon Meringue Tarts and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. Absolutely delicious menu, see for yourself! Checkout the pool furniture too, love the colours.

Grilling steak & shrimp


 

Pool lounge area

Farmers Market Tomatoes, Red Grape & Tarragon Chcken Salad


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Easy Chicken, Brown Rice and Red Chard Stir-Fry

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Chicken, Brown Rice and Red Chard Stir-Fry

Sometimes after I’ve spent all day cooking I don’t have energy left for cooking at home. That’s when my Blissfully Quick© strategy saves me a lot of time but still allows me to have a delicious and nutritious meal in minutes. It’s a simple strategy; cook multiple portions of a staple at the beginning of the week and use it in different ways during the week. Typically, I’ll cook 2-3 cups of brown or wild rice on a Sunday. I’ll also wash and slice several bunches of kale and chard to use for the following three or four days. I might also precut chicken and marinate it for up to two days in this marinade. That’s how I was able to make this delicious stir fry in about 20 minutes.

Chicken, Brown Rice and Red Chard Stir-Fry
1.5 pounds boneless chicken thighs cut into small chunks or thinly sliced
4 tablespoons Kikkoman Light soy sauce
1 tablespoon black soy sauce
4 garlic cloves crushed
2 Tablespoon canola oil
1 cup shredded carrots (I like Trader Joe’s brand)
2 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger
3 cups washed and thinly sliced red chard
2 cups cooked brown rice (reheat in microwave)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Put the soy sauces and garlic in a medium size bowl, mix and reserve two tablespoons of sauce to use to add to with the rice. Add chicken to the sauce and marinate for at least 15 minutes or up to two days. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add canola oil and ginger, then chicken and sauté until brown about 10-13 minutes. Add the carrots and chard and cook until tender, about five minutes. Put the reserved sauce in the pan then add the warm cooked rice. Cook for a minute or two tossing to mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste then mix in sesame oil.

Makes 4 main course servings

Chef’s tip: Crusing rather than chopping the garlic produces a mellow flavor and cooks faster.


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Cooking from Tyler Florence’s Family Meal cookbook

Tyler Florence at book signing with Chef Dorothy

Because I’m a professional chef, I don’t become giddy around “celebrity” chefs. I’m much more interested in determing if the “celebrity” chef applies good techniques and has an even better understanding of flavor. I can’t say that a lot of “celebrity” chefs do these days and of course, if you’re considered to be even slightly attractive nobody cares about your techniques or flavors.

However, I raced out to meet Tyler Florence at a local book signing because he really does apply good techniques and his sense of flavor is evolving into interesting combinations reflected in his menu at Wayfare Tavern, his first San Francisco restaurant. The Bay Area is a tough turf to work in. We’re incredibly food saavy, very critical and there’s so much competition, you need titanium nerves and usually deep pockets to make it here. So, I thought it would be interesting to buy his book and check out his recipes.

You can see from my picture, I’m thrilled to be sitting next to Tyler. You get exactly one minute to chat, take the picture, and have him sign your book. My strategy was to get there early because after the onehundredth book signing, I’m sure he’s ready to go and could care less about chatting. I was number 20 in line. So, I was mid-word when the photo was snapped as I rattled off my name, career, culinary point of view and gave him my card, all in one minute. Oh and as a bonus, I told him that I grew up in Mill Valley and that I’d love to cook with him. I’m still waiting for his call but I did try one of his recipes and it worked fairly well.

Now, I’ve known chefs who’ve had books published and it’s a daunting endeavor. The end product is often not fully in your control. I chose Creamed Spinach from Tyler’s Family Meal cookbook. After reading the recipe, I knew that I had to modify a technique because the recipe required you to cook the spinach until dry in a large pot. I used a large sauté pan because I know that a pan with high sides is going to evaporate liquid much slower than a sauté pan which has low sides. I suspect because of the large volume of spinach required, the editor decided a pot rather than sauté pan would be available in the average home. Nonetheless, even in a massive sauté pan over medium high heat it was difficult to cook the spinach dry. I drained the spinach and added less cream because I wanted to reduce the fat. The recipe was still delicious and I’ll try a few more from the book. Overall, Tyler Florence’s Family Meal cookbook is an easy to follow, well planned cookbook that you can use every day.


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Getting ready for Back to School Week

Freezer ready Beef and Spinach Lasagna

If your child attends school in the San Francisco Bay Area and you’re a mom responsible for that child, chances are good this week you’re charging full speed ahead. During Back to School Week, mothers are running around on fumes buying everything for school, dealing with tweens and teenagers wants and demands for school clothing and accessories, not to mention books, Ipad covers and every other thing the child either needs or wants.

It can be a miserable week. But, sunlight is on the horizon because when the little darlings return to school, we mothers can reclaim our schedules and the illusion of order should return to our lives. In spite of the whirlwind of preparations required to return our children to school, there is one way you can ease pressure the first month. We know it takes a few weeks for the family to adjust to kids returning to school and resuming regular mealtimes is part of that adjustment.

This is an area where you can really restore some sanity to your routine. Plan and make two weeks’ worth of meals this week and freeze them. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t if you plan and it will save you a lot of time during the first week weeks of school. Here are some suggested main courses that I’ve made for clients as freezer options. The idea is to have the main course ready so you only need to add a starch, vegetable and or a salad for a complete meal. If you have a crock pot or pressure cooker you can quickly make stews or soups. Simply use one of your favorite recipes or select one online and start freezing this week!

Beef and Spinach Lasagna (I made this one for a client’s freezer)
Beef Stew
Beef or Chicken Stroganoff
Macaroni and Cheese (don’t freeze with breadcrumb topping, it gets soggy)
Sausage and Broccoli Casserole (use homemade or good quality marinara, mozzarella, pasta and broccoli)
Meat Ragu (marinara sauce with your favorite meat)
Meatballs
Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Pot Pie (freeze the filling and buy puff pastry dough topping to have on hand)
Chicken Tetrazzini
Turkey Chili
Chicken Curry
Chicketn Tagine


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