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Archive for the ‘Baked Goods’ Category

This will be a short post as it’s Friday and my attention span is dwindling….BUT! I wanted to start a little series called “Food Foto Friday” wherein I show you my latest experiments in food photography.

Note: I am NOT a professional photographer! I’m learning. But I’m hoping that my learning experiences will help you. Or at least interest you. You can let me know.

First up: Experiments in Natural Light with Lana Bars.

I first posted about Lana Energy Bars here. And recently I made about 18 more batches so that I could bring them to practice with me and share them with my team. I used this opportunity to take some photos and practice what I learned at the House of Brinson Food Photography workshop.

What I learned at House of Brinson: You can take awesome photos with just natural light. Even if there isn’t that much of it.

What I learned in my apartment: This is true.

Consider the below comparison image:

In the image on the left, I turned on the fancy-pants light with umbrella diffuser thingie I bought at Adorama. Holy red overtones, Batman! That seriously looks terrible. Or at least requires some serious Photoshop color correcting. Which I don’t feel like doing, people.

On the right-hand image, I turned off all the lights in my apartment. I mean ALL of them. And put this tray on the floor. Not extremely close to the window. The window is on the left side and really doesn’t let in all that much light to begin with. But look at the improvement. NO PHOTOSHOP! None, I promise.

Also, House of Brinson taught me to love my tripod, which I now do. I attached my camera and pointed it to the floor – at the tray of bars. No shaking – which is great because I had to slow the shutter speed WAY down to let in enough light.

So there you have it. Natural light is better. The tripod is my friend, and there are energy bars for all (literally):

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Looking for a dessert for Easter Sunday? Since today’s theme is being helpful, I thought I would throw this Fruit and Nut Trifle out there. You will want to eat the whole bowl. The. Whole. Bowl. Do it.

Fruit and Nut Trifle

Trifle
What You Need:
1 c of almonds chopped
2 t water
4 t sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 c dried apricots and cranberries chopped
2 t butter
2 pears cored and diced
mandarian orange segments – small can
1 Tbsp rum
4 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup confection sugar
1 cup orange juice
raspberries for decoration
sponge cake – see below for recipe

What To Do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl toss the nuts with cinamon then water and sugar and then spread on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes and toast for about 7 minutes.

Chop dried fruit and cover with hot water and a little rum and let set for 10 minutes.  Drain the fruit and add to the nuts. Toss.

In a saute pan heat the butter and add a little sugar. Add the diced pears and saute and then add the fruits and nuts.

In a bowl mix the heavy cream with the confectioners sugar vanilla and rum.  Mix until cream is whipped to soft peaks.

Brush the cake with the orange juice to make it a little moist.

In a trifle bowl first add some whipped cream and then place the sponge cake on top to cover the cream.  Layer with the fruit/nut mixture and then add a little cream.  Follow with the cake and continue to build the trifle.  Finish with the whipped cream.  For a festive look top with fresh raspberries. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Sponge Cake

What You Need:
8 eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cup cugar
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
orange juice for brushing (optional)

What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large square pan (13″x18″) and line with parchment paper.

Put the eggs into a mixer (Kitchenaid or handheld). Slowly add the sugar to the eggs, beating until they are twice the volume from when they started and a pale lemon color.

Slowly add the flour to the above ingredients and also the lemon zest.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 15 minutes.

After it’s done, you can brush the cake with some orange juice, using a pastry brush. This makes it nice and juicy, and adds a complementing flavor for the fruit and nuts in the trifle.

Try not to eat it all. Or eat it all. Whichever.

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We have reached another Friday! Gonna see a movie this weekend? We have some recommendations that pair well with food (of course)!

Our first film: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Chow down on some garlic bread with these recipes while you watch.

Our second film: My Cousin Vinny. Streak your hair, get out your leather and go to Brooklyn for grits at Egg!

Our third film: If you fry it, they will come: Hot dogs and Field of Dreams. Magic in the Moonlight.

In other news, I’ll be traveling to South Beach today for my first Triathlon of the season. You can also get the recipe for my home made energy bars at that link. Tweeting will be light as I don’t want to take out my pre-race panic attacks on you lovely people.

Come Monday or Tuesday we might have some more BIG NEWS. So stay tuned. And we will also be continuing our Meals on Reels program. Don’t forget to send us your favorite movie/food scenes! Post ’em in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

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It’s no secret Elana and I love our movies. So, for the next week or so, we are going to be presenting some of our favorite movie scenes that have a focus on food, followed by a top 15 list. We will also be combining a feature with either a recipe or a restaurant review related to the food.

There is really only one qualification, but it’s an important one: the food needs to play an integral part in the movie scene.  It cannot just be lurking in the background, or part of a good scene at a dinner table or restaurant.

Take Heat for example. Trust me, I’ve been thinking of every way possible to work in the Pacino/Deniro diner scene from Heat into this list, but despite it taking place within the confines of an eating establishment, the scene really never defers to food at any point. The same goes for other close calls, like at Tommy’s mother’s house in Goodfellas; Food is there in full force, but it never quite becomes the focus.

In light of the foregoing, we now commence our random teaser list, followed ultimately by our final countdown. Elana will kick things off while I continue to kick it in Italy.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Elana here! I am going to begin with a new-to-me film: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. There is an excellent scene in which Scott makes “dinner” for his new crush: a dinner comprised solely of garlic bread. I have to say, this is my kind of meal (CARBS!). It also happens to be Italian in nature and very easy to make.

First, you should watch the scene:

Bread makes you fat??!? I love that. Ok, So in true John and Elana style, I will offer you TWO recipes:

1. For Old-Original Scott Pilgrim Style Garlic Bread

2. For Elana’s Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia. Oh yeah.

Old Original Scott Pilgrim Style Garlic Bread

What You Need:
1 loaf of Italian bread (white)
2-3 cloves garlic, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
Butter, softened
Sea salt
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

What To Do:
Heat up the broiler portion of your oven.

Slice the baguette of Italian bread diagonally into 1 inch thick slices.

Take the garlic halves and run them along the surface of the bread (both sides!) – almost like you are buttering your bread with garlic.

Then actually butter the bread (both sides again!) with the softened butter! Place the buttered, garlicked bread slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle them with a little sea salt as well.

Toast just a few minutes on each side – remember to keep an eye on that broiler, it works quickly.

Once your toasts are toasty, take ’em out and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

Serve to your new girlfriend with the seven evil exes. The garlic breath will probably help you defeat them.

Now, let’s jazz things up with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia:

What You Need:
1 head of garlic, roasted (instructions below)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt – a pinch
Rosemary – a few sprigs
1 loaf of focaccia bread

What To Do:
For the roasted garlic:
Heat up the oven to 350 degrees.
Take a head of garlic and chop off the pointy part. Place it in a piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil, like so:

Then cover the garlic completely with the foil. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the garlic cloves are soft and easily pierced with a a knife. It will look sorta like this:

Squeeze out the garlic cloves from their papery skins and plop them into a food processor or blender. If you lack both of these implements, you can mash them up with a fork.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the pinch of salt and blend it all together.

Heat up the broiler of your oven.

Cut 1 inch slices of the focaccia bread. I used a Scratchbread focaccia that I purchased at the Brooklyn Flea over the weekend.

Using a knife, smear some roasted garlic paste onto your slices of bread. Drizzle with a little olive oil and pop them in the broiler to brown. Just a few minutes – remember how speedily-fast that broiler cooks!

Sprinkle with a few sprigs of rosemary and serve (with extra roasted garlic paste on the side, please!).

This one will DEFINITELY help you defeat evil exes. And everyone else too.

And finally, garlic that looks like this should not be used:

But feel free to plant it in your garden if you have one.

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I am almost always hungry.

At lunchtime, I stare at my coworkers’ unfinished sandwich crusts and try not to say, “Are you gonna finish that? Cuz I could put it to good use…” I keep trail mix in my desk drawers. I eat two breakfasts. Two. Once, on a date, I ate more than my companion. “I see you eyeing that extra piece of pizza,” he said. “Why don’t you just eat it?” I did. There wasn’t a second date.

I don’t have a tapeworm (at least I don’t think I do). What I do have is a triathlon team: the Full Throttle Endurance training team. I haven’t been training with them for long, but it’s made an impact on me and my appetite.

I was on the track team in both high school and college. I did some running, but my main event in high school was the discus (inherited talent from The Box – see below image). In college, I threw the hammer instead, but at 5’6″ and 130 lbs that line of work was going nowhere for me (and yes, I just announced my weight on the Internet).

It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I started running regularly. I never entered any races, but just ran for myself: my sanity and my health. It wasn’t until last year that I ran an actual race. I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon in May of 2010. I finished the 13.1 miles in 1:41:40, a time I was happy with for my first race.

After I finished the Half and just to throw everyone (including myself) for a loop, I registered for my first triathlon: The Mighty Man Sprint Triathlon in Montauk, NY. A “sprint” race (0.5 mi swim, 10.5 mi bike, and 3.2 mi run) it wasn’t an incredibly daunting distance, but there were a few problems:

Problem #1: I couldn’t swim

Problem #2: I didn’t own a road bike

Problem #3: My questionable sanity

To address problem #1, I hired a swim coach: Kacey, a recent NYU graduate and member of their swim team. On our first lesson, she told me to jump in the water and show her how I swam. So I did. I couldn’t swim two laps of the pool. “That wasn’t…so…bad….” she said. I always admired her positivity.

But she straightened me out and eventually I was able to swim the half mile without stopping.

The night preceding the Montauk Triathlon was a terrifying experience for me. I slept a total of three hours, listening to the wind howl Wuthering Heights style around my hotel while the ocean waves crashed loudly right outside my door.

But once I heaved myself in the water (thankfully a warm temperature), I stopped being afraid and started laughing at the whole situation. The water was a teeming mess of swimmers going in the same general direction but completely disorganized. Like cats swimming! People above me, below me, poking me in the ribs, kicking me in the head, spraying pond water in my mouth. So I started laughing. And then I started elbowing people out of the way.

My final time was 1:24:52. Afterward, I promptly fell asleep in my hotel room still wearing all my gear, including my number.

In November, I managed to get into the NYC Triathlon through the lottery. I had no idea how to train for an Olympic distance race (1 mi swim, 25 mi bike, 6.4 mi run).

My training efforts involved swimming at Chelsea Piers Gym where I would frequently see a team of experienced swimmers tearing through the pool like a group of synchronized dolphins. These people terrified me, not only because they all demonstrated what appeared to be an effortless skimming through the water, but because they all shouted and cheered and generally made a LOT of noise during the whole process. At 6 o’clock in the morning. Simmer down.

One morning, one of the coaches asked me why I didn’t swim with them. Concealing my terror as best I could, I responded, “Because I’m not good enough to swim with you guys.”

Turns out being good has nothing to do with it. I should know because every training day is a humbling experience. Most of the time I imagine my performance is up for review by Statler and Waldorf of the Muppets and receives the following commentary:

I have to constantly remind myself that I’m just beginning and that I need to be patient: skill will come with time. Hopefully.

In the meantime, I’ve been passed in the pool more times than I can count, been pushed into the pool, have my heart rate on display in the spin room for all to see (along with everyone else’s to be fair), been promoted and demoted swimming lanes, had my morning vitamin array investigated, been passed on the track and sent photos of the perfect “catch”:

And my bathroom has turned into a sporting goods supply closet. At any time, there are bathing suits, swim caps, bike shorts, assorted spandex, t-shirts and sports bras thrown over the shower door. See the photo below for evidence.

I would put the stuff away, but I’m usually too tired at the end of the day. I go to sleep at around 9pm because I wake up at 4:15 am in order to get to practice on time. And when I wake up at 4:15am, I’m hungry. I need some energy in the form of calories if I’m going to attempt to keep up with what my brother calls “my merry band of athletic maniacs.” So I need something in my stomach before I set out for the morning workout.

I am a big supporter and eater of Clif Bars. But if I can, I prefer making my own food, and I wanted to make my own energy bars too. Plus, it’s always entertaining to see just how badly I can mess up my kitchen with the latest culinary experiment.

As I was thinking what to name my particular creation, I rattled off some popular energy bar names: Luna Bars….Lara Bars….And I settled on ‘Lana Bars. You know….like, short for Elana? You get it.  And here they are:

What You Need:
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup shaved, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 scoop whey protein powder
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 egg whites

What To Do:
Heat up your oven to 35o degrees.

On a cookie sheet, spread out the 1 cup slivered almonds and 1 cup shredded coconut and toast. The coconut will toast more quickly than the almonds. It will only take the coconut about 5-7 minutes to toast. At this point, you can either toast the almonds for a longer amount of time or take them out of the oven as well.

In a large mixing bowl, put in your toasted and cooled almonds and coconut, and all the rest of the dry ingredients (don’t add the almond butter, agave or egg whites just yet). Give everything a good mix.

Then add in the 1/2 cup of almond butter and the agave syrup, and mix it thoroughly. I used my hands to do this, it just worked a bit better than a spoon or spatula.

Separate two eggs, and add in the whites, mixing until well-combined.

Line a cookie sheet (the kind that has sides) with parchment paper. This will make it much easier to remove the bars once they are baked. Spread the bar mixture onto the parchment lined cookie sheet – a wee bit more than a 1/4 thick.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Once you’ve removed them from the oven and given them time to cool, you can cut them into bars. This recipe makes 14 large bars or 28 smaller ones. I prefer the smaller ones, as they are pretty packed with ingredients, so you might not need to eat a whole bar at a time.

My first triathlon of the season, and with the Full Throttle Team is on April 10, 2011 in South Beach. As for my previously noted problems:
Problem #1: I can now swim

Problem #2: I own a road bike

Problem #3: There will be no room for sanity in my carry on with all the homemade energy bars I’ll be bringing along.

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I cheated. It wasn’t a planned thing, it just kind of…happened. You know?

I’m talking about bread. What did you think I was talking about?

Based on the unfortunate results of previous efforts, I’d become a little downtrodden. I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I had such high expectations every time – “This one will be it!” I’d think. But invariably, I was disappointed.

I’m still talking about bread.

You’ll recall that my first attempt at the Tartine bread making method had me putting the dough in my bathroom to rise in the hopes that the warmer temperature would hasten the process. No luck. My bathroom bread was flat as a Red Velvet Pancake.

On this second attempt I found myself standing over my leaven, contemplating it in distress, much as The Box regards me when I call him and say, “Hey, Dad! I just signed up for another triathlon!!!”

I thought, “What if…what if I just added a little sprinkle. Of yeast. To this here leaven.”

So I did. Just a little bit, not a whole package. And then I mixed up my dough and left it alone for 3 hours for the bulk fermentation.

When I say I left it alone, I literally left my apartment. I couldn’t stay there and wait for nothing to happen. So I went out and returned about 4 hours later. To my surprise and incredible glee (I let out a squeal which scared the dog), it had risen!

I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. I regrouped, and went through the other steps, resulting in a beautiful, risen, light, fluffy, flavorful, crusty on the outside, squishy on the inside (with nice holes to boot) loaf of bread.

I was beside myself with carbohydrate-related joy. My bread even crackled while cooling (something referred to as the Song of the Bread in Tartine).

I’m afraid this is only going to encourage me to keep cheating. With bread.

Now that I had this amazing puffed-up specimen, I had to decide what I was going to do with most of a loaf of flat-ish bread. So I made Peccorino and Herb Croutons with it!

What You Need:
A loaf (or most of a loaf) of stale bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup grated Peccorino cheese (you could also use Parmesan)
3 turns of freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped basil (dried basil actually works well in this case)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large Ziploc bag
*Optional: salt. Peccorino is a very salty cheese, so don’t over-salt these guys. Only use extra salt if you really feel like you need to.

What To Do:
Fire up the broiler of your oven and get out a cookie sheet.

Place the cubed bread in the plastic bag and throw everything else in there.

Shake, shake, shake, Senora!

Dump the contents of the bag onto the cookie sheet, and spread out all the little cubes. Toast for a few minutes on one side, then rotate the cubes (OVEN MITTS!!!) so that they brown evenly on all sides.

Eat them immediately in a salad, soup, or like popcorn!

And, yes, I’m still talking about bread.

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Two weeks ago, I had my most popular tweet ever (it beat out the old record holder, “I am in love with a squash”). I posted a photo of some red velvet pancakes that I enjoyed at the Original Pancake House in West Caldwell, NJ. People went bonkers over this picture! I received requests for the recipe (didn’t have one), pleas for descriptions, and threats on my life (not really) if I didn’t post more details soon.

This weekend I covered my kitchen in red dye, flour, and confectioners sugar in an attempt to deliver a recipe to you. But first, I will give you some highlights from the Original Pancake House.

This Christmas wreath greeted us in the Pancake House parking lot. I was immediately on my guard. I am suspicious of holiday decorations kept up overly-long. However, I persisted (fortitude!) and ordered the following: a Southwestern Omelette with a side of Red Velvet Pancakes.

Still slightly put off by the Christmas wreath, I dove into the pancakes. They were amazing: silky smooth, moist (not crumbly at all), with a hint of chocolate flavor and sweetness. I loved them. I even took the leftovers home (along with the leftovers of everyone else).

On a random side note, the Southwestern Omelette was HUGE. I think it was comprised of about 12 eggs. That were inflated. It was the fluffiest omelette I’ve ever seen or eaten, and its resemblance to a half-deflated volley ball should not count against it:

And in true Jersey diner fashion, there were post-meal gumballs.

But back to the pancakes! This is what you want, yes? A recipe! And here it is. I have cobbled this together from a few sources, and also made parts of it up as taste dictated. I hope you enjoy. I really do, because this recipe makes a cart-full of pancakes, so you’ll have a lot of them to deal with.

For the Pancakes:
(NOTE: This makes a heck of a lot of pancakes. Way more than even I can eat at once.
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 of a stick) + more to grease the griddle or frying pan
3 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Red food coloring (about 2 mini squeezy bottles worth)

What to Do:
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa and salt in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, blend together the buttermilk, eggs, melted (and cooled) butter, and vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing with a whisk as you go. Once this is combined, add in your sour cream, vinegar and red food coloring.

A note about the red food coloring: You actually need more than you think. When I first started, I thought, “hey a couple o’ drops should do the trick.” No. My first pancake was brown with a slight pink tone to it. Throw that dye in there. You can do it gradually, but be generous.

Heat up a non stick griddle or frying pan over medium-low heat, coating it with a little bit of butter. Ladle the batter onto the griddle to create pancake circles about 4 inches in diameter.

A note about cooking the pancakes: It’s better to cook these slowly over low heat. If your pancakes burn, or cook too quickly on the outside, they will brown. You want red velvet, yes? Not browny-red velvet. So go slowly.

While cooking, the pancakes will start to bubble on the uncooked side that’s facing up. This is a sign they are ready to be flipped. Break out your spatula (I love saying that) and flip them over. When you can poke your pancake in the center (GENTLY!) and it bounces back, that means it’s done. Remove to a plate to cool. Don’t shove them in your pancake-hole immediately, because they’re kind of hot. Trust me.

Dust with confectioners sugar, and top with Cream Cheese Frosting.

For the Frosting:

What You Need:
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

What To Do:
Using hand held mixer or a standing mixer, beat 12 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter and vanilla extract in large bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until smooth after each addition.

Note: Alternately, I think mascarpone cheese is a nice substitution to the cream cheese frosting.


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