‘Know thy food’

Fresh summer salads, information about eating healthy shared during potluck dinner

Published in Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 29, 2015 issue

Community members were treated to an assortment of healthy, fresh summer salads that were made step-by-step last week by the co-owner of The Sanibel Sprout during the monthly potluck dinners at the Community House.

In addition to teaching those in attendance how to prepare summer salads and homemade dressings, Nikki Rood provided some information about why it’s important to fuel the body with healthy foods.

Nikki Rood2

Rood, who owns the shop located near Bailey’s with her mom, moved to Sanibel from Miami three years ago when her mom was suffering from Leukemia. The two decided to work on her mom’s diet to see if that would help her health.

“I said do you want to try and tackle this and take this on and see what a plant based whole food, no chemical, diet might make a change in your condition,” she said. “She was completely game. For a month every single morning I cooked for her or prepared for her all plant based (foods.)”

In three months time, a visit to her mother’s oncologist confirmed that a plant based diet was beneficial.

“In three months she went to her oncologist and her numbers were fabulous. The guy wanted to know what she did and we just laughed all the way home,” Root said. “She has never turned back and it is now three or four years later.”

Rood, a firm believer that food is medicine, shared her philosophy with the crowd, “Let food by thy medicine . . know thy food.”

Before she took those in attendance through the preparations of chilled almond curried salad, arugula and fresh pear salad and island coconut quinoa confetti salad she shared some information about the role food has with health.

“Everyday there is new research coming out on how our food sources have been poisoned if you will,” Rood said. “This isn’t sensationalism. This is proven fact. The rash of the epidemic of chronic disease, like cancers and autoimmune disease, inflammatory diseases, it’s starting to look like the food source has been a large part of the problem. All of the problem, no. As a civilization there are many things going on. But I think if we move back towards the way we used to eat . . .good healthy nutritious organic food that isn’t sprayed and manipulated and processed and sitting on a shelf for five years before we even touch it.”

She told the crowd that there is vitality in fresh food that offers an aliveness, which translates to the body.

“When you eat it you can feel the difference between eating a fresh vibrant salad and fit and a McDonald’s burger,” Rood said. “You can feel the heaviness in your body or you can feel the light.”

The dialogue of fresh foods, she believes should continue, so people can take the power back from big farms and big agriculture entities.

“Everybody’s body is different and for me to sit up here and tell you, you should eat a certain way is disingenuous,” Rood said. “I am here to show you some healthy options and some fun ways to make some tasty foods that are really going to fuel your body instead of harm your body.”

Information about acid alkaline, and wheat and gluten were discussed while she prepared the various salads.

Lemons are a great source for acid that is good for the body. A glass of water with a slice of lemon, Root said is a great way to start the day.

She said more and more people are forming allergies to gluten and wheat because an individual’s digestive tract becomes compromised from a lifetime of ingesting various chemicals found in foods.

“You can get a heavy feeling or it can actually cause depression, inflammation,” Root said. “If you are feeling not well in many cases you may be eating an inflammatory diet without recognizing it and that will wreak havoc to your sleep cycles and your digestion.”

‘Recipes to CROW About’

‘Recipes to CROW About’

CROW set to launch first ever cookbook

Published in Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 29, 2015 issue

A unique fundraising effort that includes the public’s participation of an original idea created by one of CROW’s volunteers is in full swing.

072915 ISLANDER

Cecilia Tweedy, head of the CROW cookbook committee and longtime volunteer, said the idea of creating a cookbook surfaced in February after brainstorming fundraising ideas. She said on a whim she created a proposal and shared it with the executive director of CROW, who told her to run with the cookbook idea.

The adventures of figuring out how to put a cookbook together began as she visited stores seeking information and ideas about what paper to use for the cookbook, as well as which printers to use.

“They were explaining things in a different language,” she said laughing. “I don’t understand bond and thickness, all of which I had samples of.”

With not fully grasping all the information that was shared, Tweedy decided to contact The Sanibel School and ask if she could meet with someone from the art department. The phone call put her in touch with Tylor Stewart and 10 fifth grade students.

Tweedy said Stewart and her students were writing an organic cookbook at the time because they have an organic garden at the school.

“I met with the children at the school and was honestly overwhelmed,” she said.

After arriving at the school, Tweedy was greeted by 10 kids with folders who introduced themselves through a handshake. She said after she explained her problem the kids opened their folders and one at a time asked three questions, some of which included what is your marketing plan and what size cookbook do you want to use.

“Throughout the whole process these 10 children, who have submitted 10 recipes, have been totally supportive of this book and of CROW,” Tweedy said. “They helped me choose the bond and the size of the cookbook. Incredible. Incredible.”

Since the children became supportive of CROW she asked how many had visited the facility, which resulted in about half of them raising their hand. On Feb. 19, the 10 children were led on a tour of the entire facility, which resulted in them becoming bigger ambassadors and supporters of CROW.

“Their power, plus the proposal got me going . . . got me on track and I knew where I had to go,” Tweedy said.

From there, she formed a committee of folks who volunteer at CROW who met on a weekly basis. On April 24, the committee felt they had a great handle on how the cookbook will look and what it will contain.

The philosophy of the cookbook is “healthy recipes written with clarity.”

“From the design of the cover to the separation of categories, to the dedication is just spectacular. It’s going to be a legacy for CROW, honestly,” Tweedy said. “It’s going to be really wonderful. We chose great colors and I think everybody is going to be really thrilled with it.”

The cookbook, which bares the name “Recipes to CROW About featuring Taste of the Island Restaurants,” will contain 250 recipes from such groups as the 27 restaurants who participate in Taste of the Islands, CROW volunteers and the general public.

The community can submit recipes by emailing them to crowrecipes@gmail.com. Tweedy said those interested should include the name of the recipe, ingredients and their name in the email. The committee is taste testing the recipes before they are formatted for the cookbook.

Those who wish to contribute are asked to send the recipes as soon as possible, so they can be formatted for the cookbook.

“I got 27 recipes from Facebook,” Tweedy said Thursday morning. “Most of which are from island people and volunteers.”

The cookbook is split into five categories – appetizers, main dishes, vegetarian dishes, soup and salad and dessert. Throughout the cookbook five inserts will be included providing helpful hints for cooking.

Tweedy said she hopes to launch the cookbook at Taste of the Islands.

“The profits will go towards CROW,” she said, adding “Not only are we going to produce a cookbook for $20, but it’s an eBook as well. You can take your cookbook anywhere you want.”

“Recipes to CROW About,” will also be available on Amazon.

“It will be a healthy contribution for CROW in terms of profit because we all have done the work,” Tweedy said.

‘It bloomed and I was hooked’

Exotic orchid blooms on Sanibel

Published in the Sanibel-Captiva Islander June 17, 2015 issue

The coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the "bucket orchid."

The coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the “bucket orchid.”

Joe Salatino was pleasantly surprised last Wednesday morning when he walked outside and noticed his exotic orchid in bloom for the first time since planting it more than a month ago.

The coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the "bucket orchid."

The coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the “bucket orchid.”

The Sanibel resident found a grower in northern California after researching the coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the “bucket orchid,” online. He said he wanted to take a chance and see if he could get it to grow.

The bucket orchid is a native of South America and has a scent similar to licorice.

“This is the most complex, interesting and beautiful orchid I have ever seen, or grown,” Salatino said.

Joe Salatino holds his bucket orchid.

Joe Salatino holds his bucket orchid.

Once the flowers bloomed, an euglossini bee, which is green in color, began flying in and around the “bucket orchid.”

“It opened and the bees started showing up and pollinating,” he said.

While living in southern California in the 1960s, Salatino used to drive past an orchid greenhouse with a sign that read “exotic orchids of the world.”

One day he finally decided to stop and the owner showed him around the greenhouse that expanded more than an acre and explained every orchid to him.

Six months later he returned to the greenhouse and stumbled across the cattleya orchid.

“I was stunned of how beautiful the orchid is,” Salatino said.

He was given instructions of where to place the orchid in his apartment, as well as how to water and take care of the flower.

“It bloomed and I was hooked,” Salatino said.

Soon after purchasing his first orchid, he came across a book that read “welcome to a journey that many people begin and few finish,” on the front sleeve.

His journey continued in Dallas, Texas, with more than 1,000 plants in his greenhouse. Salatino now has 175 plants on Sanibel at his home. He designed an outdoor space that fits into the environment where the orchids either hang or sit on a table.

Salatino said a lot of the orchids have different needs, some which are specific nutritional needs. A number of his orchids are kept shaded with a fan pointing on them because they strive better in cooler environments.

Once the orchid is placed in the best climate, Salatino said you can pretty much leave them alone.

“I love to find exotic orchids that are challenging to raise and get them to bloom,” he said.

The hobby that began in 1975 has brought a tremendous amount of joy to Salatino and his family and friends.

“It’s a wonderful hobby to share,” he said.

Salatino is a member of the American Orchid Society, Sanibel-Captiva Orchid Society and Southwest Florida Orchid Society. While living in Texas, he won many awards for his orchids and provided speeches to further educate others about the flower.

“Orchid people are pleasant and we have a mutual love for these plants,” Salatino said. “It’s a very peaceful hobby.”

“Gallery Hopping”

Gallery Hopping

Take a Trip through the local art world

Published in Cape Coral Community Lifestlyes November/December 2014

Gallery Hopping1Southwest Florida offers a variety of art galleries representing works of art from the 20th century to present day. Make a day – or evening – out of it, and gallery-hop to several fantasticlocal exhibits and displays throughout the area.

There are many opportunities to indulge into the art world through monthly exhibits, independent films and a casual stroll through galleries highlighting talented artists from around the country – and the world.

Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center: Downtown Fort Myers

A building that used to house the U.S. Post Office in the early 1930s was eventually turned into an art center that offers a great deal for residents of Southwest Florida throughout the year.

Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center Assistant Director Devon Parker said the building that houses the center was built in 1933. From then until 1965 the building served as the U.S. Post Office before serving for the federal system as a courthouse until 1998.

The building was eventually purchased by the City of Fort Myers and leased to the nonprofit organization, Sidney & Berne Davis Center, under the conditions that it would be restored and used as a multi disciplinary art center.

“The art center has been opened since 2008,” Parker said.

IMG_4061_stitch-2The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center offers everything from monthly fine art gallery shows to cutting edge theater and independent film, to classical and popular musical concerts, fashion shows and culinary arts, as well as playing host to several networking events throughout the month.

Parker said the center opens a new gallery show on the first Friday of the month during Friday Art Walk.

Last month’s art show featured Stage 16 by Arturo Correa and November will feature Art by Veterans. The last show of the year will be comprised of Abstract 9, a show by students of Florida Southwestern College visual art students.

The center is featuring a new event this season, First Taste Dinner at the Davis, on the first Thursday of the month through June before Art Walk. Individuals will have the opportunity to view a new art exhibition that is paired with a dinner prepared by the center’s new Executive Chef Mike Gavala.

The Ghostbird Theater will feature an original piece “Wooden Mouth” in November, the last one of this year. Independent films are shown on the first Monday of the month and the 5th annual Fort Myers Film Festival gets rolling in March. The concert series, which is always popular among attendees, showcases an array of renowned musicians.

“We have a strong classical concert theater,” Parker mentioned.

The center also hosts an annual fashion show every winter that has grown since its inception.

“We will be entering the third year of the fashion show,” Parker said.

This year it will be held the last weekend of January, Jan. 30 and 31.”

A fundraiser, Cooking for the Arts, was another special event held earlier this month. Parker said it is an interactive cooking fundraiser where attendees helped cook their own dinner with Gavala.

The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center is at 2301 1st St., downtown Fort Myers, and available for rentals for special events for individuals or groups. For more information, visit SBDAC.com, or call 239-333-1933.

Reverie & Rock Art Gallery: Downtown Fort Myers

Owners of KMK Publishing, Inc., which publishes Happenings A&E Magazine and Lee Family News Magazine, opened an art gallery downtown in October 2012.

Reverie & Rock Art Gallery Owner Jamie Kuser was among one of the creators of ArtWalk in downtown Fort Myers and was the co-chair for nearly six years. After his wife began doing digitalsurrealism artwork, the idea of opening up a gallery blossomed.

“In the past two years she has sold 75 pieces,” he said.

The gallery is split into two sides, the Reverie showcasing Kathy’s work, and the Rock highlighting Jamie’s photography.

gallery hopping2A magazine graphic designer of 10 years, Kathy puts together fantasy and mystical worlds through placing up to 500 images together to create a specific scene of more than 600 layers. Jamie said his wife will use techniques like lighting and shadows, so the image looks like someone took a picture of a fantasy world.

The prints are done on canvas and often include photographs she has taken at various locations. Jamie said one of her pieces included a picture of a manmade lake and a brick.

“She likes to hide things in the photos,” he said. Jamie, who has photographed live concerts for national performers for almost 20 years, has his work displayed in the gallery, as well. Some of his photography has appeared on tour T-shirts, VHI’s Behind the Music, the Associated Press Archives, as well as Happenings Magazine.

“People look at them and say ‘I have seen them in concert,’” he said. “It provokes memories.”

Before moving to Southwest Florida, Jamie photographed many concerts in Ohio and Michigan.

“I have a preference to 80 rockers,” he said, of who he enjoys photographing.

The genre of music has changed to country music performers since moving to Southwest Florida.

Reverie & Rock Gallery is open one night a month, during ArtWalk. It is also open by appointment. For more information, call 239-278-5236. The gallery is located at 1528 Jackson St., Fort Myers.

Watson MacRae Gallery: A Sanctuary of Art: Sanibel Island

After Maureen Watson had a business in New York City for many years, she left and studied painting.

“I learned a lot about painting and about art, what it takes and what a good painting looks like,” she said. “I learned a lot by doing it. I painted for about three years and I realized I wasn’t going to be good enough to make myself happy.”

gallery hopping3Watson eventually started an art school with artist Hollis Jeffcoat, which remained opened for three years. She said she learned a lot about business and found that her real love was owning a business.

A New York City native, who had lived in Naples for a number of years, had visited Sanibel from time to time before moving back to New York City. She said after hearing that Southwest Florida needed a fine arts gallery, she thought about Sanibel.

“Everything just worked out perfectly,” Watson said of opening Watson MacRae Gallery: A Sanctuary of Art. “It’s a wonderful community.”

The gallery started its seventh season this year on Sanibel, at 2340 Periwinkle Way, Suite B3. Watson said the gallery has been redesigned, providing an opportunity to show additional artists.

Watson MacRae Gallery is a fine art and contemporary craft gallery that features 30 to 50 artists from around the country. Each month during season, October through the end of August, a new themed exhibit graces the gallery.

“I mainly look for people that do things that are very well done,” she said of artists located all over the United States. “That has soul and is visually and emotionally engaging and that can be work in wood or glass.”

Watson said it is like an adventure finding new artists.

“Many are represented in museums, which is a criteria you look for when you look for good artists,” she said. “Sometimes they are in other galleries.”

The first two exhibits of the season will open on Nov. 11. Entitled “Jewelry: More than Adornment,” it will feature seven award winning artists. The exhibit will showcase contemporary handmade jewelry.

“It is an introduction to the expanded jewelry that I am going to show,” she said.

The second show, “Multiples,” will feature an artist’s series or sets of pieces of artwork with nine to 12 pieces.

“Each artist that I am going to show will have at least nine pieces of their work,” Watson said.

The gallery is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 239-472-3386, or visit WatsonMacRaeGallery.com.

 

“A Christmas Carol”

Fox 10 weatherman McCloskey brings Scrooge to life

Published in SanTan Sun News Dec. 6, 2014 issue

For years, Cory McCloskey dreamt of playing Ebenezer Scrooge, but he never believed he looked old enough to pull it off.

Despite that, the popular Fox 10 Arizona Morning weatherman decided to audition for the role in “A Christmas Carol” at the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert. He figured he would try out and leave the rest up to theater staff. Apparently, they believed in him. He serves in the role in the “red” cast, while the “green” group features Mark Kleinman as Scrooge.

A Christmas Carol“I think people who know me from television will be shocked at how disgusting I look in this role,” McCloskey says.

“A Christmas Carol” runs Monday through Saturday until Wednesday, Dec. 24, at the Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Ave., Gilbert. There are 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. performances, as well as matinees at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Tickets range from $20 to $36 and can be purchased by visiting www. HaleTheatreArizona.com.

“This has been a thrill and a half for me because I really haven’t thrown myself into a complete role in a show in 25 years,” McCloskey says. “I’m enjoying this so much.”

The role of Scrooge is nonstop. He has to have the “pedal to the floor from scene one to the curtain because Scrooge is on the stage every scene whether he is speaking or not,” McCloskey explains.

He enjoys playing the character because Scrooge evolves from being unpleasant to generous.

“The journey is rather grinding for him and for an actor, too,” McCloskey says.

His favorite moment in the play is when Scrooge sees himself as a young man in love. McCloskey describes the scene as heart-wrenching and powerful.

“I love doing it,” he says of the scene. “It still hits me very hard every time.”

McCloskey explains “A Christmas Carol” is a special production because of the many magical moments.

The musical version of Dickens’ classic is full of special effects, stunning costumes, talented singers, dancers and actors.

“It is going to be an exciting show to see,” he says.

McCloskey recounts his journey of acting as that of a typical high school kid growing up in a small Pennsylvania town. After discovering he enjoyed musicals, he performed in his first community theater production of “Camelot” in his 20s.

“I was spotted there by a director of another theater, a dinner theater,” he explains. “She approached me and told me they needed a young man of my type for a few shows for their upcoming season. (She asked) would I be interested in coming on board and she said we would pay.”

That was a selling point for McCloskey. When he moved to Philadelphia, he was referred to a modeling agency, which led to an eight-year career.

“It was a city in the 1980s that had a few large, family-owned department stores that had enough work to keep a few men pretty busy,” he explains.

During that time, he traveled to New York  to audition for commercials and films.

“I had some moderate success,” McCloskey says. “I had a small role on a soap opera ‘Another World’ and sang some jingles.”

He also toured with a company that did children’s productions, all the while earning his Actors Equity Association card. Soon, his inspiration changed.

“We were sitting in the living room one night watching the evening news in Philadelphia and the weatherman came on,” he says. “I remember saying, ‘You know honey, I think I can do that job.’ The way (wife) Mary Jane is, she said, ‘Well call him up and see how he got his job.’”

The initial conversation with Philadelphia WPVI Channel 6 weatherman Dave Roberts turned into career move.

The couple moved to Illinois where McCloskey landed a part-time job, for which he learned how to work the camera. He then moved on to weatherman. He relocated to Arizona and has been a popular weatherman at Fox 10 Arizona for 13 years.

“The acting was just the best preparation, at least for me, for that job,” he says.

“We gave them a lot of attention”

Chandler mom returns from volunteer opportunity in Peru

Published Nov. 1, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

Photographer Rachel Tabron traveled abroad for the first time to Peru, where she spent time volunteering at an orphanage.

She witnessed extreme poverty and poor living conditions, but the Chandler resident would go back in a heartbeat.

“Overall the experience was very positive,” Tabron says. “Easy travels for the most part, met a lot of nice locals and learned a lot. (It was) very different economically wise of course, but still many beautiful areas and things to see.”

Tabron lent a hand to El Arca Orphanage, outside of Cusco, where she stayed with a host family. The two-week visit was set up through International Volunteer HQ.

“Each day they would tell us about the area and cook us Peruvian food,” she explains about the three meals a day. “I think being around them we got to see more than the average tourist.”

The orphanage housed 45 children that ranged from 2 to 17 years old. She spent her time serving lunch to the kids, hanging laundry that was handwashed in buckets and helping with homework.

photograph taken and provided by Rachel Tabron

photograph taken and provided by Rachel Tabron

“We gave them a lot of attention,” Tabron explains.

She says they spent about five hours a day at the orphanage. Although there was a language barrier, her friend Viviane Gomes de Souza spoke Spanish and helped translate.

Besides helping with everyday activities, Tabron shot photos for the orphanage’s website, http://www.elarcafam. org, which is used to attract sponsors. She says the kids “had a blast” posing for photos.

Tabron took headshots of all the children, as well as action shots of them playing, and detailed photographs of the orphanage, the building, cooks prepping food and the clothes being washed.

“I documented it pretty well,” she says.

The orphanage was basic with a few rooms for the kids, she explains.

“They had triple bunk beds and divided the rooms up for boys and girls and one little kitchen area and basically a little shack with a shower in it,” she says. “For the most part it was so organized and the kids were well taken care of.”

Tabron says it felt like one big family at the orphanage, founded by Americans Alan and Laura Lenz. Tabron says she and her group raised $2,500 for shopping money for the orphanage.

“We were able to get them a lot of groceries, supplies for the orphanage and a large stove,” she says, which was all on their shopping wish list.

Only one burner on the previous stove worked.

While Tabron was in Peru, she had the opportunity to Skype with her three small children.

“They learned a lot from it and why I went,” she says.

Tabron also spent time showing the Peruvian orphans photos of her children.

She says it was also apparent how lucky she is as an American. Peru’s pollution, noise and economic standing stuck out during her time in the country.

“They were really poor down there,” she says.

For those interested in seeing more photographs, visit Tabron’s website at http://www.arayaphotography.com/peru.

 

‘Satisfying that sweet tooth’

Untitled

Sweet Treats

Satisfying that sweet tooth in Cape Coral

Published in August/September Cape Coral Community Lifestyles

Everyone loves a sweet treat from time to time. Cape Coral offers a few sweet treat destinations where individuals have an opportunity to indulge themselves with some incredibly tasty artisan chocolates, fudge, cookies and cupcakes, which will satisfy their sweet cravings.

Rosie’s Gourmet Fudge

Rosie’s Gourmet Fudge has been a part of the Shell Factory for more than 38 years, offering sweet goodness to its customers at the 2787 N. Tamiami Trail location.

Fudge master Kim Corbett said they offer 30 different varieties of fudge, all hand-made at the shop. She said the 45-minute process begins by pouring ingredients into a copper pot and cooking it at 230 degrees.

After the fudge is done cooking, it’s poured onto a marble slab table and shaped into loaves of bread with a little spatula. Once shaped, the fudge is put onto trays that are then moved to the store’s display.

“I make four to five batches a day,” Corbett said.

page 23Fudge is made daily except on the weekends – all without preservatives. Since the fudge is made without preservatives, it can be left out for two weeks or put into a freezer for up to a year. The fudge, however, cannot be placed in the refrigerator because it will harden.

“On Monday we make it again and start fresh,” she said. “I try to make up a good selection.”

On average, there are 20 different flavors of traditional and gourmet fudge.

Some of the varieties include maple pecan, plain maple, Butterfinger, Snickers, chocolate raspberry, mint chocolate chip, Health Bar, cookies and cream, chocolate walnut, vanilla with pecans, coconut, and peanut butter banana. Another favorite is penuche, which is old-fashioned brown sugar fudge, offered both plain and with walnuts.

Corbett said the fudge has nuts rippled throughout, as well as inside. The candy fudge is made the same way. Chocolate-covered Oreo cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels and chocolate-covered marshmallows are also offered to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.

Rosie’s also carries homemade ice cream, made in Sarasota from an Amish family. There are 28 flavors offered. Some of those include peanut butter cup, cotton candy, rocky road, pistachio, Oreo cookies, Superman, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and two sugar-free flavors.

Banana splits, sundaes, root beer floats, coke floats and milk shakes also grace the ever-tasty menu. Corbett said Rosie’s offers specialty waffle cones and a variety of toppings, as well.

For further information about Rosie’s Gourmet Fudge, visit Et sy.com/ shop/Ros iesGourmet Fudge or call 239-997-5555.

Miz Catherine’s Dessert Cafe

A business reopening their doors on Santa Barbara Boulevard is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth with its gourmet cupcakes, cookies and variety of cakes, at 3032 Santa Barbara Blvd., Unit 201.

Catherine Hoggs-Perez reopened her store, Miz Catherine’s Dessert Cafe, earlier this month after closing at the end of April. The cafe originally opened on Nov. 2011.

page 24“I’ve been baking since I was a young girl,” she said. “I always baked with my mom and grandmother. It is something we have always done in my family and we bake from scratch.”

Hoggs-Perez spent time taking classes in New York at a culinary school, primarily to acquire some new decorating skills.

Her bakery consists of cupcakes, cookies, cake pops, wedding cakes, custom cakes and birthday cakes.

“It’s just a sweet shop,” Hoggs- Perez laughed, which is all made from scratch.

She hopes to add cobblers, slices of pie and parfaits to the menu to provide a variety of desserts customers can choose from while enjoying a cup of coffee.

Hoggs-Perez said when creating and decorating cakes, she takes individual’s ideas, and adds her own sweet touch, making masterpieces.

“The bride sends me pictures and we chit chat of what their dreams are and come up with something special for them,” she said.

In order to make a wedding cake, Hoggs-Perez said she has to have at least six- to eight-week advance notice, unless the cake is less intricate, which can then be made in less time. With birthday and theme cakes, she needs at least two to three weeks advance notice.

“I just love doing them,” she said of making wedding cakes.

The cafe will also offer gluten-free and vegan cupcakes for customers, in addition to the 25 flavors that already grace the shop.

“On a daily basis, I do between seven and eight flavors,” Hoggs-Perez said of the cupcakes. “After two days I rotate to two new offerings.”

Some of the gourmet cupcake flavors include mint chocolate chip, classic red velvet, coconut chocolate chip, cherry pistachio, pink lemonade, classic tiramisu, lemon raspberry and blackberry delight.

The cafe also offers an assortment of cookies, which regularly rotates. The cake pops, which she said children really love, come in such flavors as key lime, chocolate, lemon, pumpkin and peanut butter.

For more information about Miz Catherine’s Dessert Cafe, visit MizCatherines.com, or find the cafe on Facebook by searching “MizCatherinesADessertCafe.”

Send It Sweetly

If artisan chocolates and gourmet popcorn is among your cravings, stop by Send It Sweetly in South Cape Coral to satisfy that sweet tooth.

Ande and Shane Grant opened Send It Sweetly a year ago on 47th Terrace after making sweets in the Phoenix area for a while. Ande said although her husband has played with chocolate his whole life, due to working in restaurants since he was 15 years old, he has been creating chocolate flavors for the past four years.

The couple purchased the 6,000- foot building, 1309 SE 47th Terrace, and decided to give it a facelift by re- painting the exterior and putting up new signs, so customers know precisely where they are.

sweetsThe couple makes artisan chocolates, custom candy bars, more than 50 flavors of gourmet popcorn, half-pound jumbo cookies and half-pound Belgium brownies.

Boutique wines from small vineyards are also available.

“My stuff is the best that is bad for you,” Ande laughed about the ingredients they use for their Noela Chocolat.

She said they carry Belgium chocolates in dark, white and milk chocolate in close to 100 different varieties. Some of the flavors include pistachio, chipotle cinnamon, honey caramel, green apple, strawberry and raspberry.

The purees are pure and natural, and the business uses fair trade chocolate whenever possible.

“We try to use fair trade because they help the farmers; it is organic and kosher,” she mentioned.

Ande said the one thing she and her husband take pride in, is when customers bite into their chocolate, they know what the flavor is without looking at a cheat sheet.

“If you bite into orange (flavored chocolate), you are going to know exactly what you are eating,” she said. “We put a lot of product inside of them. We don’t skimp on them. That was how we started tweaking our chocolate so people know … there is no doubt in your mind.”

The couple also makes customized candy bars in bright colors like yellow, metallic, silver, purple, red, copper, green, gold and red. The copper, for example, includes a variation of honey, caramel and walnuts, while the green has pistachio and caramel and the silver candy bar includes gooey marshmallows and graham crackers.

“My husband I like to play with stuff,” she said of creating new flavors. “We are constantly trying new and different things.”

The gourmet popcorn includes such tasty flavors as orange cheese mixed with caramel corn, pretzel toffee crunch, green caramel apple and regular caramel drizzled with chocolate. Ande said she uses coconut oil to make the popcorn.

The Grants’ shop is geared toward gifts and personalization. The business’ specialty is personalizing the sweet gifts by using an engraving machine on the merchandise.

Customers can personalize their chocolates by placing a business logo on top, or if someone gets married, their wedding date can be added to the chocolate. Boxes and wine bottles can also be engraved with whatever the customer chooses, as the business offers many customized boxes of selected chocolates.

“It’s a personalized sweets factory,” Ande said. “If someone walks in, we can turn the logo-ed chocolates around in 48 hours.”

Shane has his own transfer sheets on premise, so nothing goes out, everything is made fresh and in house.

To see a collection of what the Grant’s offer, visit SendItSweetly.com, or call 239-793-3859.