Tuesday, 6 September 2016

“Making the Car a Mobile, Connected Workspace”: An Interview with Carlos Ghosn

Crlos Ghosn has made a career out of handling crises. In the 1990s the celebrated car executive essentially saved first Renault and then Nissan, and for the past 11 years he’s served as CEO of both. A Brazilian-born Lebanese-Frenchman—the very embodiment of globalization—he somehow manages to be a hands-on executive on two continents.
He is also among the most recognizable figures in the industry. By restructuring Renault and restoring it to profitability, he earned the nickname “Le Cost Killer.” For his success in overhauling Nissan, which formed an alliance with Renault in 1999, Ghosn won the sobriquet “Mr. Fix-It.” And he is famously portrayed as a superhero in a Japanese comic-book series.
But technology can humble even the most successful executives, and Ghosn these days is focused on trying to remain an innovator. Dramatic advances—electric cars, vehicles that operate with significant autonomy, fully self-driving cars—threaten to shake up the industry. Upstarts like Tesla and even Google are now in the automotive business. The transformation is sure to crown new market leaders and ding some incumbents. “We expect major disruptions in technology,” says Ghosn, “which will change the product mix.”
The challenge seems to have energized the 62-year-old leader. He has invested billions in electric-vehicle development at both Renault and Nissan. He took a big gamble with the Nissan Leaf back in 2010. But although the Leaf is the industry’s top-selling all-electric car, with more than 200,000 units on the road, its overall sales are at least four years behind initial expectations. The problem, Ghosn says, isn’t with the product but with the slow development of the supporting infrastructure. But it’s a problem nonetheless.
And so Ghosn is scrambling to find ways to maintain his track record: tapping into synergies within the alliance, cutting costs, being the public cheerleader for his companies. In May he concluded another big deal, as Nissan invested $2.2 billion for a controlling 34% stake in troubled Mitsubishi Motors. The now-triple alliance presents Ghosn with further opportunities for cost savings—through shared work in engineering, production, and other areas.
It’s a complex managerial challenge, and investors have wondered aloud if anyone other than Ghosn could handle it. Renault and Nissan’s combined worldwide car sales last year totaled 8.5 million units. Add in the 1 million that Mitsubishi sold, and Ghosn’s companies are approaching sales of 10 million cars a year—making the alliance the world’s fourth-largest carmaker, after Toyota, Volkswagen, and General Motors.
Ghosn took a break from it all recently in New York City to talk with HBR’s editor in chief, Adi Ignatius, about the future of the auto industry.
HBR: A lot of the innovation in cars these days is coming from Google and others in Silicon Valley. Is that worrisome for the auto industry?
Ghosn: I’m not worried. Sure, it’s interesting to talk about Apple or Google making cars. But we have a long tradition of taking technology from the outside and putting it into our products. Automakers are architects. We assemble parts. We assemble technologies. We assemble know-how—all to make a product and bring it to the consumer. Our big challenge is, How do you put new technologies into a car while continuing to deliver on classic expectations?
Do you fear the rise of new manufacturers?
If a tech company wants to become a car manufacturer, it will buy an existing automaker and transform it according to its own criteria. But I don’t think that’s what tech firms are looking to do. The fact that new players are developing technologies to help make cars more attractive is good for us, because we never want to become a “commodity.” We want the car to continue to be a high-tech, exciting product that people desire. Today that comes from design, driving performance, and the quality of the materials. Going forward, we want to add more connectivity, along with more autonomous-driving functions.
What’s your vision for autonomous drive?
We’re introducing sophisticated functions to empower the driver, who can decide when to drive and when not to. And if he or she decides not to drive, we’ll have the technology to ensure that it’s in a safe and low-stress environment where the driver can be doing something else.
What does “empower” mean?
It means giving you options. I don’t hear anyone say, “I love driving in traffic jams,” or even on highways with miles and miles of road ahead. But people love driving in the countryside, where they can enjoy the car’s performance. In the future, when you’re bored, you can give up the driving. And when you are excited about being behind the wheel, you can take back control. We know that consumers want that.
What are some of the most promising of these self-driving features?
We already have single-lane autopilot. When your car deviates from the lane, the system brings it back. We have an autonomous braking system. If you get too close to the car in front of you, the car brakes without your intervening. The car is making decisions, for safety reasons, without you. And there’s autoparking. Cars will be able to park themselves. The ultimate step is for cars to be able to handle city driving.
How close is the industry to producing these kinds of advanced autonomous vehicles?
It’s coming in waves. Cars today already have a lot of autonomous functions. People will really notice it when these functions combine to offer drivers the full possibility of giving up driving. We plan to bring such a car to market in 2020.
Will competitors beat you to it?
According to their statements, yes. But the reality? We don’t know. We’ve heard a lot of claims. Some carmakers said they’d be mass-marketing fuel-cell cars this year. Come on! Selling 500 cars is not mass-marketing.
I assume these innovations will create tricky new liability issues.
Not with autonomous cars. Because at the end of the day, the driver is responsible for the vehicle, even as he or she has more ability to give up the driving. There is a robust and important dialogue taking place about this, but ultimately drivers must understand their legal responsibilities while behind the wheel. At the same time, automakers must take steps to educate customers about how much control they can cede to the vehicle. The manufacturer is responsible if the car malfunctions. The confusion starts with driverless cars, like Google’s, where you have no one inside calling the shots.

Hardware and Software

It seems that you now have to manage a couple of cycles: the car-design cycle and the technology cycle, which I presume turns over more quickly.
Yes, but it’s manageable. It’s like the smartphone. You have hardware, which can last for a while, and software, which adjusts all the time. The car is going to last five or six years, while the software inside can be updated far more rapidly and from a distance.

You can’t afford people who are doing just OK. You need high performers.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016


Apple Butter Cupcakes – a deliciously easy cupcake recipe with apple butter in both the cupcake and frosting for lots of great apple flavor.

Although it’s not quite fall and we’re still enjoying the final bit of summer that remains, I must admit that I’m looking forward to fall. It has been so hot in Georgia lately – between 95 and 100 degrees most days – that I’m ready for some cooler weather. Not to mention apple treats, apple picking, apple cider and all the flavors of fall.

Living so close to the Georgia mountains, it’s really easy for us to head up to the mountains and go apple picking. It’s always a lot of fun, with a variety of fresh apples and plenty of apple cider to go around. It’s also the time of year that I really start digging the use of cinnamon – one of my very favorite spices to bake with and eat – so warm and spicy sweet. And of course apples and cinnamon are just meant to be together.
These cupcakes are made with plenty of apple butter in both the frosting and the cupcake. It’s perfect if you’re ready to start baking with apples now, before apple picking season is in full swing. Apple butter is one of my favorite spreads and it works wonderfully in these cupcakes.
The cupcakes are super moist, light, fluffy and bursting with apple flavor. The frosting is smooth and creamy with a mix of cream cheese and apple butter plus a kick of cinnamon for added warmth. I finished them off with some dried apple chips, which work perfectly on top. They were a big hit! So cute, fun and tasty! I had to share them as soon as possible so that I didn’t eat them all.


(makes 12-14 cupcakes)

For the Apple Butter Cupcakes:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons apple butter
2 tablespoons milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) and prepare a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add sour cream and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  4. Add egg whites in two batches, mixing until well combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  5. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl, set aside. Combine the apple butter and milk in a small measuring cup.
  6. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until well combined. Add the apple butter mixture and mix until well combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  7. Fill the cupcake liners about halfway. Bake for 17-19 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs.
For the Cinnamon Apple Butter Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons apple butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12-15 dried apple chips

  1. Beat the cream cheese and butter together until combined and smooth.
  2. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
  3. Add the apple butter, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon and mix until smooth.
  4. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
  5. Pipe swirls of frosting on top of each cupcake, then top them with a dried apple chip.
Store cupcakes in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Marbled Peanut Butter Chunky Skillet Cookie

The swirls of chocolate that dance throughout this peanut butter skillet cookie will make you want to dive right in. I know because I could barely wait for a bite once I took this big beauty out of the oven.

The ingredients you’ll need are: flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, vanilla, salt, eggs, baking powder, vanilla and chocolate syrup.

Oh …  and some miniature semisweet chocolate chips don’t hurt either. Once the batter is mixed, stir them right in for a double dose of chocolate.
Spread half the batter in the bottom of a greased 10-inch cast iron skillet.
Now … yum … pour some chocolate syrup all over the top.
Good stuff.

Then spread the rest of the batter on top of the syrup like so.

Now, gently swirl a thin knife through the batter several times. Be careful not to over mix or it will lose some of the marbled effect.
Okay, let’s bake this baby.

Beautiful. And even better with a big scoop of ice cream on top.

Dig in with friends and several spoons or cut into even slices to serve.
Marbled Peanut Butter Skillet Cookie
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 – 1/3 cup chocolate syrup

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Generously grease a deep 10-inch cast iron skillet.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl and set aside.
  • Using a mixer, beat butter and peanut butter until combined. Add both sugars and beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time beating between each addition. Then add vanilla and mix.
  • Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture and mix until incorporated. Stir in mini chocolate chips.
  • Spread half of batter in bottom of skillet. Pour syrup on top. Gently spread remaining batter on top of syrup. Using a thin knife, gently swirl syrup through batter.
  • Bake 45-50 minutes. (Note: You can also bake in a 13 X 9 inch pan for 35-40 minutes.)

Enjoy with ice cream and more syrup if desired.

Peanut Butter Chunky Chocolate Cookies.

I used a big scoop for these cookies. ?? inches wide that yields 12-13 cookies from the dough. But feel free to use a smaller scoop for more cookies.

Look at these great big balls of cookie dough though.

Before baking sprinkle a little sea salt on top to make them taste extra special.

Oh my … so much melty chocolate.

Speaking of melty. If you can’t wait for these to cool like a certain sweets-loving person I know, then be prepared to enjoy puddles of warm chocolate with a tall glass of cold milk.
Peanut Butter Chunky Chocolate Cookies
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
12-18 oz semisweet chocolate baking wafers (I used these.)
sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Using a mixer, cream butter, peanut butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Add vanilla.
  • Add flour mixture and slowly mix until combined. Stir in chocolate wafers.
  • Scoop dough using a large 2-1/2 inch scoop (yields 12-13 cookies) a few inches apart onto a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle the tops lightly with sea salt. Bake 14-16 minutes and let cool.
    Note: For more cookies, use a smaller scoop and bake for a little less time.

King Cake Kindergarten

his is what a vegan Apple Cheezecake King Cake looks like all raring to go.
The King Cake I love (there's a French version that's very different) is eaten in New Orleans, Louisiana throughout the season of Carnival.  Carnival begins every year on Twelfth Night (January 6th) and ends on Mardi Gras Day/Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins).  Even though I no longer live in NOLA, making King Cakes during this season is a ritual that helps me feel closer to the friends, culture and city I miss.  

During Carnival in NOLA, you can find this special cake at all bakeries and stacked tall at the supermarkets, but when I was living there, a vegan version was only available at the Whole Foods up on Magazine Street (made by my awesome vegan pals).  These days I've read about more vegan (and even xgfx) versions popping up around the city.  The more customary flavors of King Cake are lemon, apple, cream cheese, cinnamon, or a simple fruit filling.  Nowadays, you can even find cupcake versions, personal sized minis, and wackier flavors by the slice like "The Elvis" (bacon, marshmallow, banana and peanut butter).  Absolut makes King Cake flavored vodka, too.  So, hopefully a King Cake iced King Cake paired with a King Cake Mojito and/or King Cake agar shots will appear in my near future. 

King Cake is made from a rich yeasted dough, similar to a brioche or cinnamon roll dough.  It's rolled out into a large rectangle, filled, formed into a coiled log then shaped into a ring and baked.  Once baked, it's thickly glazed, bedazzled with purple, green and gold sprinkles (the colors of Carnival symbolizing justice, faith and power) and outfitted with a magickal baby (symbolizing Jesus), who resides inside.

Making King Cakes at home is really fun and satisfying.  My favorite part is making them as crazy and over the top as possible, sharing them with friends, showing them off at parties, or peddling them at benefit bakesales.  While they're not too difficult to pull off, they do require a bit of finesse and a whole lot of different parts and steps (sorta like model airplane kits).  I wouldn't ever make one if I were rushed for time, and the xgfx version is even a hair trickier (gluten-free doughs can be bitchy if you're not used to them, as they're more delicate and stickier than traditional wheat doughs).

To give you an ol' project overview, a standard King Cake involves the following:
  1. Prepare dough, filling/s, glaze/icing, sprinkles and procure wee baby and tinfoil covered cardboard tray.
  2. Roll dough, fill, form, bake, insert baby, ice, decorate and transfer to tray.
  3. Wheat version also requires extra time set aside for dough rising.
  4. XGFX version requires some steps applied without breathing, so you might need to train beforehand.   However, any negative effects from oxygen deprivation will surely be repaid tenfold as the gluten-free version is much faster to make than its traditional cousin.  Faster to make = faster to eat.

This is a xgfx Cinnamon Apple Creme King Cake. You must train for its completion. 
Practice tip:  try changing your underwear without breathing and as you get good at this, adding socks and then other under-pinnings.
You can see from the picture, the xgfx King Cake looks a bit more rustic than the one made with wheat.  When you form the ring, you will most likely get a few cracks, and it will definitely crack in the oven, but it will still taste sexellente.  Once you glaze it, Jesus it, and sprinkle it, no one will even notice.  Except for you, because you will be eating King Cake for the first time in maybe ever!

A slice of strawberry cheezecake.  NOT pastrami.
Here's what a slice of King Cake looks like.  I tried hard to find an appropriate inside shot to show off, but apparently, they're hard to come by.  For some reason, the ones I have on my computer are all filled with strawberry cream cheeze, and for some other reason, strawberry cream cheeze King Cake innards look like pastrami.  And, Pastrami, if you don't know, is gross.

The best way I know to travel with or serve King Cake is on top of tin-foiled cardboard.  It works great and afterwards, you can wrap up any lefties with the salvaged foil.  I usually just tape it down in a few places on the back and call it a day.

Be like Dazee and use leftover colored sugar on your oatmeal.
To make colored sugar sprinkles, put about 1/4 cup unbleached granulated sugar in a bowl and add a tiny smidge of food color paste (I think Wilton works best, and it comes in purple).  Work the paste into the sugar with a spoon, have patience, and after a minute or so it will start to blend together.

Woo!  I think that's everything you need to know to prepare yourself!  Recipes forthcoming!

❤ Peanut Butter Cup King Cake (gluten edition)
❤ XGFX Peanut Butter Cup King Cake
❤ 2008 Update (contains gluten) 
❤ Apple-Praline King Cake

Straightforward Cashew Lemon Cheezecake
Makes 1 cake, 8-12 slices

To get the best results, you need to use a high-speed blender. You will need a 6-, 7-, or 8-inch springform pan that fits inside your pressure cooker. If you don’t want to make an oat crust, use your favorite raw crust.

Kittee Tip: Instead of purchasing a small springform pan, I lined a regular 6" cake pan with parchment and pressed the crust in on top of that. It worked like a charm! Just refrigerate the cheesecake and once chilled and set, use the paper to pull the cake from the pan...

What You Need for the Crust:
  1 cup quick oats (I used rolled oats)
  ½ cup walnuts
  ½ cup chopped dates, soaked in ¼ cup water for 15 to 30 minutes, drained, but reserve soaking liquid

What You Need for the Filling:
 1 cup cashews, soaked in 1 cup water for 2 to 4 hours
 ½ cup coconut flour
 ¼ cup coconut palm sugar
 ½ cup vanilla nondairy milk
 1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
 2 tablespoons lemon juice
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
 ½ cup fresh raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries; or 6 figs, sliced; or other fruit to top the cheesecake

1. Add 1½ cups water to your pressure cooker and add a rack elevated above the water. Create a set of  helper handles to enable you to remove the pan.

2. To make the crust: Combine the crust ingredients in a mini food processor and process briefly until the mixture comes together. If it seems too dry, add a tablespoon at a time of the date soaking liquid
until you have a cohesive “dough.” It should be firm but not gooey. Press into the bottom and a little
way up the sides of a springform pan that will fit in your pressure cooker.

3. To make the filling: Drain the cashews, reserving the soaking water. Add the cashews and half the
soaking water to a high-speed blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add more water, if necessary. Add the coconut flour, palm sugar, milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla to the blender or processor. Blend well. Add the arrowroot and blend again.

4. Pour the filling into the crust, smoothing out the top. Cover the pan with foil or a cover. Lower the
pan into the pressure cooker, using the helper handle, if necessary.

5. Lock on the lid. Bring to high pressure; cook for 20 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally. Carefully open the cooker, tilting the lid away from you.

6. Using the helper handle, carefully take the pan out of the cooker. Remove the cover carefully so any accumulated moisture does not drip onto the cake. Set the pan on a rack to cool. Place the fruit on top of the cheezecake. Let cool for at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before removing the outer part of the pan and serving.

Vegan Under Pressure 
I've been posting pretty frequently about the mad infatuation I have with the ol' Instant Pot, so when Julieshowed me Jill Nussinow's recent Vegan Under Pressure, I knew I wanted to take it for a spin and review it.

I really love this book. If you have a pressure cooker, you'll also really love this book. For any of you vegan old timers, (I'm looking at you, Andrea), her cooking style reminds me a LOT of Lorna Sass--not just the pressure cooking angle, but her style with recipes, too. She's sorta got a little macro glow.

The recipes in VUP, definitely have a healthy slant to them, in a way I really appreciate. The bulk contain millet and other cool grains, with tons of legumes and vegetables. I didn't notice any processed ingredients besides healthy oils (and those seem limited--I added a little to recipes here and there) and just a little salt (I added some of that too). There are desserts, and I was particularly mesmerized by the prospect of pressure cooking cake, fruit crumbles, and cheezecake.

I'm not new to pressure cooking, but since it's been awhile and the electric cooker is newish to me, I've definitely experienced a learning curve. This book helps so much, and will be a staple for me. The author gives detailed, thorough directions in each recipe for pressure amounts and cooking times, and specifies whether to allow the pressure in the pot to come down naturally, or if it needs a quick release. The book also includes detailed reference charts for cooking legumes, rice, grains and vegetables.

"Baked" Beans with hot dogs and 'tato chips.
Here's what I've made so far, but I'll definitely be making lots more:
Simple Vegetable Stock--This was a great basic recipe using odds and ends I pulled out of the fridge and pantry. I poured it into a pitcher and used it all week. I need to get in the habit of keeping this around, because it took practically no work.

French Green Lentils--French lentils are really easy to overcook, so I followed the cooking time for a lentil salad in the book, and they came out perfectly al dente.

"Baked" Beans--These made me ridiculously happy, because they're sweetened with dates and blackstrap molasses and came together in a snap. I'm also always looking for new bean recipes, and these are nothing like what I already had in my repertoire.

Gomen (Ethiopian Collard Greens) over cheesie grits. This combo was soOOo good.
Gomen (Ethiopian Collard Greens)--There are several Ethiopian inspired recipes in VUP, but the gomen caught my eye first, because they're cooked with berbere, which I'd never done before. These were faboo served over cheese grits (I used Follow Your Heart cheddar shreds). These will stay in our regular rotation--they were awesome.

Peanut butter chia-oats, topped with coconut flakes and Apple Berry Crisp
Apple Berry Crisp or Not-So Crisp--Pressure cooking a fruit crisp definitely didn't save me any time, but it is pretty awesome, because you can let it go without babysitting, and it won't burn or heat up your house. I loved the fruit part of this dessert, but didn't love the not so crisp topping, until I scooped it onto some chia-oats. I'd definitely make this again, but for breakfasts instead of dessert.

Straightforward Cashew Lemon Cheezecake--I find the idea of pressure cooking cheesecake titillating, so this was one of the first recipes I tried.  Again, you don't really save time by pressure cooking this, but it's pretty cool nonetheless. Jill and her publisher are letting me share this recipe, so you'll find it below--I've already made three! The first iteration I made as written with a blueberry-ginger chia jam on top, the second had orange blossom water, cinnamon and cardamon added with an orange mixed-berry chia jam topping, and the third is chocolate-crusted peanut butter cheesecake. Stay tuned for results on the last one, since it needs to set up in the fridge overnight before we can slice it. One thing for certain, these cheesecakes taste best after a few days in the fridge. I liked them the most after the second day, which makes them awesome for parties!