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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ 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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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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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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Hello again. Your weekly Valentine’s Day reminder, here. Today we are going to focus on a homemade treat: breakfast.

This Valentine’s Day, instead of dashing out the door, hair half-brushed, pants mostly on, with half a Pop Tart clamped between your incisors, sit down at the table. On chairs. And eat. With utensils.

And let’s eat French Toast!  For those of you who approach cooking with a fear and anxiety equal to Hunter S. Thompson on a Death Valley escape from Las Vegas, I have also provided a beginner-level option. Make no mistake: BOTH versions involve actually heating something up. Let’s start with the beginners:

Heart Shaped Toast with Honey Butter for Beginners

What You Need:
4 thickly cut pieces of a nice fluffy bread. Brioche works nicely. I got mine from Balthazar Bakery
1/2 a stick of salted butter, left out on the counter for a while to get soft (but NOT melted)
2 tablespoons + extra drizzle of your favorite brand and flavor of honey
A toaster or broiler (which is in your oven – it’s that drawer at the bottom)
A pinch of sea salt
A large heart-shaped cookie cutter

What To Do:
Once your butter is suitably soft (you should be able to easily mix it with a spoon), place it in a bowl and using a regular spoon, drizzle the 2 Tbsp. honey over it. Mix the honey and butter together so it’s all incorporated. Sprinkle a little sea salt over the top. I really like the punch of a sweet-salty flavor mix (like salted caramels). But if you don’t, you can skip that part.

Cut thick slices from your Brioche bread loaf (like maybe about 1.5″ thick) and toast them up to your desired level of toastiness. I like a nice golden brown, but you’re not making this for me, are you? Are you??

Once your toasts are toasted, place them on some nice plates (yes, you do need to use plates) and spread some honey butter on top. Serve with extra honey butter on the side.

If you are more advanced, or feeling adventurous, you can move on to: French Toast Sandwiches with Nutella Mascarpone Filling. Oh yeah.

What You Need:
For the French Toast:
4 thickly cut pieces of a Brioche bread (1.5″ thick)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
Cinnamon (a dash or two)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of butter to grease the frying pan

For the Filling:
4 ounces of mascarpone cheese
4 ounces of Nutella spread

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Tools:
A large heart-shaped cookie cutter
A frying pan
A spatula

What To Do:
First make the filling. In a small mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese and the Nutella. Mix until well integrated. Give it a taste and see if you would like to add either more Nutella or more cheese.

Crack the two eggs into a wide bottomed bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of milk and a dash or two of cinnamon and the vanilla extract. Using a fork, mix everything up so that you now have a light yellow mixture with swirls of cinnamon.

Using the heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out hearts from your bread slices.

Heat up a frying pan on medium-low heat and melt the tablespoon of butter in the pan.

Dredge both sides of the heart shaped bread slices in the egg and milk mixture, and then add them to the heated frying pan, cooking about a minute on each side. Place the cooked French Toast slices on plates (here we go again with the plates).

Using a knife, spread the Nutella and mascarpone filling on top of one of the French Toast Hearts. Top with another French Toast Heart to make a sandwich. Repeat with the other two slices.

Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and watch the sparks fly!

Up until now, I have been giving you good-smelling Valentine’s gift options like flowers. Instead, you may want to choose something that smells equally good (or better) and that you can drink: COFFEE! If your honey likes his/her breakfast caffeinated, these options are the cream of the coffee crop in my opinion:

Intelligentsia Coffee (You can only find this in Chicago and Los Angeles, but you can click here to find locations)

Irving Farm Coffee (I recently visited their West Village coffee shop and with thrilled with my smooth latte)

Stumptown Coffee

San’Eustachio

Oh yeah, DON’T throw away the extra bread pieces left over from the heart cut-outs. I’ve got something you can do with them. Something tasty. More details later in the week…

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My Aunt Emily sends me a birthday card every year. But it’s my responsibility to IMMEDIATELY call her upon receipt of this card. Or else. I’m done. Seriously.

On my last birthday, I received my card as usual. So I called.

“Thank you for the card, Aunt Emily,” I shouted (you may recall that she can’t hear very well), “How are you?” Demerits are also given for not immediately asking how she is doing.

“Oh I don’t want to talk about that. I want to hear about someone special.” Translation: She wants to know about my love life.

Really?

“There’s no one special right now, Aunt Emily,” I responded, still loudly, and through gritted teeth.

“Well you’re just getting fussy,” she decides.

Fussy? I have two things to say about this:

1. The last time she asked me this question, I happened to be dating someone. When I told her this, she took me aside and whispered in my ear, “Play the field.” Huh.

2. Yes, indeed, I am fussy. Here’s why:

I will demonstrate with the use of pie charts (this is a food blog, after all).

As demonstrated above, I have a perfect right to be fussy. There aren’t many guys that fit into that narrowest pie piece. And I feel the same way about food. Do you have a favorite food? Just one? Would you eat it, if you could, every day?

Why would I eat sub-par pasta? What’s the point? I’m not looking to fill a void (although my stomach is frequently empty). I want those calories to count! As the above chart suggests, I do have a few foods that I would eat every day.

Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Cranberries

I actually do eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. Add that to the list of things you really didn’t need to know. Usually, my cabinet is stacked with this brand, but recently I decided to give baked oatmeal a try. What resulted was the equivalent of a giant, chewy oatmeal cookie that filled my apartment with the aroma of cinnamon and warm blueberries. Here’s the recipe, which was inspired by this one at Fresh and Foodie.

What you need:
2 large eggs
1/2 cups sugar (you can use brown sugar)
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons ground flax seed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
3 cups rolled oats
As many blueberries and cranberries as you want to throw in there. Or none – your call.

Top with: Nuts, and warm milk

What To Do:
Lightly grease an 8″x8″ baking dish (I actually used a round one).

Mix eggs and sugar in the bottom of the dish, whisking to remove lumps. Add melted butter and carefully whisk to combine. Add baking powder, vanilla, ground flax seed, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt directly to the dish and whisk well. Add the milk and stir to combine.

Stir in the toasted coconut and oats, folding into the mixture, making sure everything is combined well. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the oatmeal for approximately 45 minutes, or until the edges are brown. (I actually woke up, popped it in the oven, set my alarm for 45 minutes and went back to sleep. When I woke up breakfast was served!)

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then cut yourself a piece, top it with milk and whatever else you want. Make sure you get some of the crispy edges in your slice.

Lunch: Sweet Potato Fries with Arugula Salad (AKA Working French Fries into Your Daily Diet)

I get a little overwhelmed when I try to express my love for french fries. Where to start? The salty, crispy outer shell or the inner mushy, slightly sweet center? I like all varieties: original, sweet potato, truffle flavored, those Old Bay seasoned ones you get at the Frying Pan…A perfect food. Except for all that business about the health detriments of fried food. What’s a fussy girl to do? Make my own roasted sweet potato fries, that’s what! Then stick ’em in a salad for some leafy-green balance. Here’s how:

What You Need:
(serves 1)
1 sweet potato
Handful of arugula (enough to cover the bottom of a pasta/salad bowl
Sun-dried tomatoes
Roasted brussels sprouts (recipe here)
Sprinkling of goat cheese

Dressing: Balsamic vinegar mixed with extra virgin olive oil and a touch of sea salt.

What To Do:
Heat up your oven to 400 degrees. Peel your sweet potato, then either cut into wedges or use a mandolin to make waffle fries! Place your cut, raw potatoes in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Space evenly on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven. After about 15 minutes (for wedges – less time for thinner cuts), flip them over so the other side can get nice and brown). Use a spatula, please. I don’t want any martyrs or burn victims. Roast for another 10 minutes or so, keeping a sharp eye the whole time. Take them out, let them cool slightly.

Prepare your salad by starting with a layer of sun dried tomatoes on the bottom of the plate. Then pile on some arugula, a layer of your sweet potato “fries,” and brussels sprouts. You should now have a nice tower of vegetables. Top with crumbled goat cheese and if there is some white wine wandering around your place, pour yourself a glass of that too. OK, not for lunch. Well, maybe.

Dinner: Pasta Cacio e Pepe

When I was in Rome this past October with Marmo, I had my favorite meal at Roma Sparita: their Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe which was served in a bowl of fried cheese. Fried cheese bowl! What’s not to love? You can see the original here.

I decided I needed to make this for myself. It’s such a simple dish and a very traditional Roman one too. The main ingredients are just Peccorino Romano cheese, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. However, it feels luxurious. A little swirl of reserved pasta water added to the cooked spaghetti gives the dish a creamy texture. Swirling this pasta around my fork, I pretend I’m sitting at Roma Sparita’s blue-checked outdoor tables with the sunshine gleaming through my decanter of wine.

I purchased the cheese at Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker where the helpful cheesemongers picked out a nice sharp variety with a dark rind. The cheesemonger BEGGED me to eat the rind (please, PLEASE eat the rind, he said). So I did. When I grated it on my pasta, I made sure to grate the rind as well. It added pretty flecks of brown and gray to the the dish, as well as a bit of texture.

Here is the recipe I used, which is based on this one from Smitten Kitchen:

What You Need:
Serves 1-2 (depending on how much you eat)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 pound dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (don’t forget the rind!)
1 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt (optional)
Reserved pasta water (about a cup)

What To Do:
Cook spaghetti in well-salted boiling water in a large, wide-bottomed pot. Drain spaghetti, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Dry out your pot, then heat the olive oil over high heat. Add drained spaghetti and 3/4 cup of reserved pasta water and watch out as the pot is very hot and will make the water splatter around a bit.

Add butter, cheese, ground pepper and cayenne and toss together with tongs. Taste, adding more pasta water, cheese, pepper or salt to taste. Be careful adding salt as Peccorino is a salty cheese.

Serve immediately, sprinkling with reserved cheese and an extra grind or two of black pepper.

I’m still working on the fried cheese bowl…

Got a food you would eat every day? Tell us about it in the comments section. The fussier, the better.

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