Monthly Archives: May 2011

Granola-Yogurt Parfaits

I almost clicked on the “Weeknight Suppers” category for this post featuring Granola-Yogurt Parfaits because, to be completely honest, this is one of those breakfast meals that I’ve had more than a few times for dinner.  It is light, refreshing, and reasonably healthy so it makes a quick evening meal.  Of course, it is a wonderful breakfast, too, especially with all the gorgeous, ripe summertime fruit and berries coming into season.

The basic component of this is a granola recipe that I found in Bon Appetit and adapted to my own tastes.  Molly Wizenberg (aka Orangette) talks about a recipe inspired by one that she got from a spa that her mother had visited.  My mother wasn’t the spa-going type, and, as far as I know, never made her own granola.  I don’t even remember eating it when we grew up.  She did, however, make her own whole wheat bread from scratch for a stretch so I guess on the hippie scale of things, that sort of counts.

Golden Brown crispy, crunchy, sweet granola

I’ve had my own granola phase for a while over the past few years.  It is actually an excuse to make me eat more yogurt, as I generally don’t really like it very much, even though I know how good it is for me.  It also helps to get an extra serving of fruit, fresh or dried (in the wintertime I like dried cherries or cranberries with this) into my diet.  I just love the toasted, nutty, sweet crunch of this granola, and often have to stop myself from eating it plain and dry so that I can have enough to cover me for breakfasts during the week.

Granola Yogurt Parfaits

Serving Size: 4 portions

Prep Time: 10 minutes (minus time making granola)

Ingredients:

1 Mango, cut into small pieces

16 Strawberries, hulled and cut into slices

You can really use any seasonal fruit that you like in these.

8 Tbsp plus 4 tsp. plain Yogurt

1 cup Granola (recipe to follow)

Assembly:

In each of four wineglasses, parfait glasses, or, uhem, margarita glasses (like the above), place several pieces of mango and one strawberry’s worth of slices.  Top each with 1 teaspoon yogurt.

Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of granola, per glass over the fruit.  Top with more strawberry slices and mango pieces, distributing them evenly among the four glasses.

Put 2 Tablespoons of yogurt in each glass on top of the fruit.  Sprinkle the remaining 1 Tablespoon of granola per glass over top of the yogurt and fruit.  Serve immediately.

Granola Ingredients

Homemade Granola*

Serving size: Makes about 4 cups

Prep time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups organic rolled Oats (you don’t want the flakes to be small)

1 cup chopped Pecans

1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded Coconut

1/4 cup Sunflower Seeds

1/3 cup Pumpkin Seeds

1 tsp. ground Ginger

1 tsp. ground Cinnamon

1/4 tsp. Salt

2 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar

2 Tbsp Canola oil

1 1/2 Tbsp high-grand Maple Syrup

1 Tbsp Honey

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a large baking sheet with sides with parchment paper.  In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (oats through brown sugar), mixing them together thoroughly.

Pour the oil, maple syrup, and honey into a microwave-safe measuring cup in that order.  The oil will make for easier pouring and cleanup.  Heat liquid on beverage setting for 15 seconds.  It should not get overly bubbly.  Pour liquid over dry ingredients and stir to coat completely.

Dump out wet-dry mixture onto the parchment paper-covered baking sheet.  Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to spread the mixture evenly over the sheet.  Place in the oven to bake.  Set the timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, remove the tray from the oven without turning off the heat.  Stir up the mixture and redistribute it evenly over the sheet once again.  Place the sheet in the oven to bake for 10 minutes more.  Repeat this stirring, distributing, and baking step two more times, so that the mixture has baked for a total of 40 minutes.  This method might seem odd, but it keeps the mixture from clumping together and ensures a more even toasting overall.

As the granola bakes the scent of toasted nuts and oats and spices will fill the air, giving your home a well, homey feel to it.  This is why it is so hard to resist snacking on it when it comes out of the oven, but you must.  At the 40-minute mark, remove the tray from the oven and it set aside so that the granola can cool down.  To store, pour granola into an airtight container and put it in the refrigerator.  It should keep for at least a month.

Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tip

This would be an easy and tasty recipe to get kids involved in the kitchen, as there’s lots of measuring and pouring.  If you cut up the pecan pieces for them (or buy them pre-chopped), then there are no knives needed in the preparation.  They would need assistance with the microwaving and baking part, but in the end, they could feel as though they’d helped out by putting all the initial ingredients together.

Madison Square Eats

On a tiny sliver of pavement and park between Fifth Avenue and Broadway near 24th Street, about a dozen and half food vendors and a few craft stalls have been making their home and feeding the hungry local hoards for about the past month.  I stopped by Madison Square Eats yesterday to check out some of the delicious treats being sold there.  It wraps up this coming Friday, June 3rd, in time for Madison Square Park to turn itself over to the masses for the 9th annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party next weekend.

This was definitely an excursion where I didn’t stray from the foods that I’ve really enjoyed during the past year.  After taking a few photos, I treated myself to a Sigmund Pretzel Shop Cheddar Cheese and Truffle Pretzel and a hearty helping of their robust housemade mustard.  A soft, chewy pretzel with baked, crusty cheese and a dusty of earthy truffles dipped into the sea of spicy, golden mustard was the perfect snack.  They also have several other types available, including another of my picks, the Feta and Black Olive Pretzel.  I spotted a lunch special with something served in a pretzel bun but decided to hold out until I evaluated my other options.

Calexico was serving up gourmet Mexican street food from a truck at the entrance to the market.  They had a pretty long line, so I decided to see what else was on offer.   I could have gone the Italian route as Piccolo Cafe had several pasta dishes and gelato (ideal on a hot, sunny day).  There were also several choices of places to get sandwiches like Resto, Ilili (whose delicious, savory fries dusted with garlic and sumac I tried at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market), and Meunier Gourmet Specialties.

My next stop, instead, was the line at People’s Pops for one of their cool delicacies.  The midday sun had started to make me wither a bit, like the frailest of Southern blossoms.  I needed some refreshment before I continued taking more pictures of food vendors.  Most of the folks in front of me were interested in their shaved ice, which is done by hand from a solid block of frozen water.  From having talked to them at the Brooklyn Flea, I’d found out that they actually have this delivered to them by one of the few ice block makers still left in the area.

My heart, however, was set on having one of their renowned pops.  Blackberry and Mint was my choice for the day.  Cool berries blended perfectly with peppery mint so that each bite was filled with sweet-not-too-tart juicy fruit flavor.  The challenge was to finish it all before it melted completely and to keep all the purple goodness from dripping on my clothes.  Thank goodness I just managed to make it on both counts.

Then, I looped around to the other half of the market, hoping to be able to make a decision about what to eat for my main meal.  On the way, I saw lots of great things, like pizzas coming out of the oven set up by Roberta’s and burgers on the grill at Bar Suzette (where they were also serving crepes).  Eataly had delicious-sounding heritage pork ribs on their menu, but I wasn’t up for more messy eating after having had that pop.

On the sweeter side of things, there were plenty of choices.  Milk Bar had cookies, their famous crack pie, and other goodies for sale.  The folks sitting beside me at the picnic table where I finally grabbed a seat were sharing and enjoying one of the Stuffed Artisan Cannolis.  A new vendor that I haven’t seen at any previous fairs was Cookie Panache.  Some of the items in the case looked really interesting, but I was once again starting to feel the need for some liquids.

Beverage choices also cover the gamut at this food fair.  The folks at Breezy Hill Orchard have juices for sale (as well as some of their cookies).  Spices and Tease not only had dried herbs and mixes for sale but also brewed teas in several flavors.  More typically known for their chocolates (and for having a nice spot to take a respite while shopping on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn), NuNu is selling beer in growlers as well as by the glass.

None of these were really what I had in mind.  I’d tweet-promised Anton of P&H Soda Co. that I’d stop by for a drink at his stand.  Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to catch each other, but I had a chance to sample a flavor that I hadn’t tried before.  The Hibiscus Lime Rickey was all that a summertime refresher should be.  Lightly sweet, mildly tart, bright-tasting, with citrus-herbal fruit tones, and a slight fizz are all reminiscent of a great Rosé or a fresh Bellini, just without the alcohol.  I might have to track this down at every one of the markets at which I run into him this summer.

At this point, I also knew that it was time to make a decision about what to eat for lunch.  After much soul-searching and staring at other people’s food, I went again with something I’d had once before but was eager to try again.  Those of you who know me well have probably never seen me eat a hot dog.  There’s one simple reason for that: I don’t really like them all that much.  In fact, my father once had to threaten me with not giving me a ride home from a soccer picnic to get me to finish one.  This all changed when I had my first Asia Dog at the Brooklyn Flea this winter.

Loaded with great combos of fresh ingredients that lay atop your choice of beef, chicken, vegetarian or organic beef dog.  These are not the same limp meals in a bun that you’ll find on any street cart.  Once you chomp through the cool and spicy seasonings and relishes, you hit the snap of the exterior of the meat and your mouth is filled with a whirlwind of flavors that hit all of your taste points.  Each bite is better than the last with heat, crunchy, salt, sweet, savory, sour until you realize there is nothing left but a few specks of condiments that you greedily lick off of your fingers sighing in contentment.  Or maybe that is just me, after I’ve chowed down on one of their Vietnamese-inspired Vinh dogs (near one in the last photo).

Whichever meal that you chose at Madison Square Eats, I don’t think you can go wrong.  The only issue is that you’ll need to get there in the next week before this installment of the fair closes forever.  Just a slight warning, though.  It gets very crowded during peak lunchtime hours so it’s best to plan to arrive outside those times.  There are picnic tables and seating in the market area as well as in the street’s median.  As I walked by the park on my way back uptown, still feeling the slight sting of the peppers on my lips from my hot dog, I didn’t feel any envy at all as I saw the long line at Shack Shack snaking around the back of the park.

Buon appetito!

Eat, Write, Retreat 2011 Conference Recap

This past weekend, I attended the Eat, Write, Retreat food bloggers conference in my hometown area of Washington, DC.  It was an amazing experience filled with great food to eat, informative and dynamic lectures and workshops, and really nice and wonderful fellow food writers.  Having never been to one of these events before, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, and I walked away feeling completely reinvigorated about the writing on my own blog as well as totally inspired by my fellow attendees.

I’m still trying to process some of this experience, to be honest, as well as trying to get back in the swing of my usual crazy, hectic life.  Having gotten to listen to and interact with some of the food folks whose writing and recipes that I’ve followed for years was just part of this fantastic conference.  Now, I have to go through my notes, business cards, and materials to try to sum up what I took away from it all.  The word that keeps coming back to me at the moment, however, is PASSION.

From the moment we checked for the weekend at The Madison Hotel to saying our goodbyes and promising to be in touch on Twitter, Facebook, and in the blogosphere two days later, the passion for the topic of food was tangible in the air.  Fran Brennan kicked off the conference on Friday night with the story of how her media background led her to create the incredible culinary news aggregator website (and newsletter) Food News Journal.  We heard from other authors and writers throughout the panel discussions about how their personal paths and drivers drew them into this new wild, and sometimes wacky, world of writing and blogging about food.

We had advice from Monica Bhide (photo above) during our writing workshop about how to describe what we taste, touch, smell, and hear about what we see and experience.  She talked to us about how to keep our blogs fresh and alive and full of the joy that made us delve into this topic in the first place by testing our senses and our memories and our vocabularies.  Shauna James Ahern of Gluten Free Girl and the Chef and others emphasized writing on subjects about which you care and which mean something to you; don’t fake it as your readers can tell.  You need to protect your brand, as Jennifer Perillo from In Jennie’s Kitchen pointed out.

Whatever your topic is, be authentic.  Listening to our own voice and communicating that through our own words also came up several times.  As Domenica Marchetti pointed out, there are lots of blogs and cookbooks out there, but maybe your unique point of view has not been expressed yet.  For sites that post recipes, making sure that they are written correctly and accurately is a responsibility that bloggers have to their audience.  Personal stories were interwoven with useful tidbits and words of wisdom.  I made several pages of notes so that I wouldn’t forget any of them.

The workshop on food photography and styling by Lisa Cherkasky and Renee Comet taught us how to visually express what our words try to say about our chosen subject matter. Remember, we eat with our eyes first, as the saying goes, doesn’t it follow then that our readers devour our blog posts by what they are drawn into by their appearance?  The two photos below show the before and after shots of Lisa’s careful editing of what our group was trying to convey with the foods that we picked out from the product displays.


In addition to the sage advice from established writers in the field, we also got to hear from the other side – the people who hire food-oriented types to product articles and material for them.  The PR and media speakers Brona Cosgrave of Lewis & NealeJoe Yonan of The Washington Post, and Justin Schwartz of John Wiley & Sons pressed some of the previous points further as they gave us tips about how to work with them as we seek to move beyond our blogs into the larger food writing arena. Even the basic things like grammar, spelling, or getting someone’s name correct can determine whether a pitch is accepted by a publication, even before an email or letter is considered for the content within.

From the social media angle, Priya Ramesh from CRT/tanaka gave us a presentation about using electronic communication to promote our sites.  This last topic dissolved a little bit into a discussion of numbers.  The short answer given by all of these panelist is that, yes, your numbers do count.  Firms want to see them when they are taking on a new writer with whom to work.  At the same time, as figures don’t always tell the whole story, depending upon the relationship a publication or PR agency is seeking to build with a blogger, your statistics might just be part of the whole package that they consider when evaluating your influence and standing.

As this was a conference about food writing for food bloggers, you’re now thinking that I left out the most important part – what I ate all weekend.  Lots of good things is the short answer, as my Facebook photos can attest.  I’m going to start off with the best thing that I think I tried, which was, no surprises here, a dessert.  This is the Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake with Mascarpone Cream at McCormick & Schmick’s, which we had for lunch on Saturday as part of a wine pairing put together by the restaurant and another conference sponsor, Mirassou.  It was paired with their 2009 Riesling, but I think that it would have been more appropriately matched with the first wine that we had, the 2010 Moscato.  Still, that didn’t stop me and the others at our table from wiping our plates clean.  The richness of the cream sauce matched perfectly with the sweet-tart compote and thick slices of juicy macerated strawberries.  The shortcake held its own as well and provided the perfect soft, slightly crunchy platter from which to enjoy all the gooey goodness of the other ingredients.

We also had a chance to do some cooking this past weekend at CulinAerie.  This is a relatively new space in the heart of downtown Washington.  Susan Holt, one of the creators and founders of this enterprise, has cooked in some of Washington, DC’s notable restaurants (like 1789) and was an instructor at L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland.  From her, participants learned new skills and in the space of an hour or so, we were taught how to make three dishes using a conference-sponsoring ingredient endive.  Again, I’ll send you to my Facebook photos for all of the results, but one dish that I thought was unique and especially interesting was this Braised Endive with Gremolata (we didn’t actually do any of the braising).  Soft, delicate, mild-tasting leaves, livened up by a bright, garlic-herb-citrus topping that had a slight crunch to it.

For my first experience attending a food writers conference, I have to say, I don’t think that I could have picked a more perfect setting, a better group of people with whom to spend a weekend, or a more interactive atmosphere.  Everyone’s passion for their chosen topic was evident and positive-energy generating.  I have to pull out a quote from a fellow attendee, Diane Eblin from The Whole Gang, there were No Divas.  The conference sponsors and speakers participated in the sessions alongside the bloggers, which was great for us as it allowed for better networking and a keener understanding of how we all interact together in the wider food arena.  Traffic size didn’t matter at all when working next to someone in the kitchen area or trying out the varieties of Goo Goo Clusters (another sponsor).

I found new sites to follow and also have more helpful resources to add to my stable of referrals for gluten-free and vegan cooking ideas.  Several of us have met on Twitter or elsewhere electronically and were thrilled to match a face with an avatar.  I can’t wait to keep up with everyone’s progress and to see where we all might be in 2012.  Thank you so much to Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict for pulling together a terrific group of panelists, sponsors, and participants. Please sign me up already for next year!

Buon appetito!

Here’s a list of posts from some of the other attendees with their photos and impressions. You can also follow these folks via Twitter and Facebook.  For a complete list of the conference program and sponsors, please see this link.  We received samples in our goodie bags from several food companies, as well as cooking utensils from Oxo and Calphalon.

52 Sweets

A Nesting Experience

Always Order Dessert

Asian in America

Celiacs in the House

Comet Photo

eat. drink. smile.

Eat Well Eat Clean

Eat Write Retreat 2011

Eating is Art

Flamingo Musings

Food & Wine 365

Fork You! No, Fork You!

Girl Born Hungry

Good Cook Doris!

Good Food, Good Wine, and a Bad Girl

Good Spoon

Healthy Delicious

Healthier Kitchen

The Kitchen Minions

Kumquat

Lighter and Local

Live Laugh Eat

Maroc Mama

Penny Pinching Epicure

Souffle Bombay

The Spiced Life

Tastes Better with Friends

The SIMMER Blog

Travel Wine Dine

The Whole Gang

Verses From My Kitchen

Way More Than Cheesesteak

We Have a Memorial Day Cookout Pack Giveaway Winner!!!

Congratulations to Ed Nemmers whom the Randomizer selected as the winner for this prize!!!!

It was so interesting to see the responses in my informal survey of favorite cook-out dishes. Thank you to everyone for your comments.  Meat definitely won over veg, although @CindyMerrill, your husband’s coleslaw recipe sounds delicious and could have swayed the balance!  Ribs seemed to be the meat of choice but burgers (my personal pick) were not far behind.  I loved seeing that scallops and fish and other proteins were also represented on the grill.  @Christine, Old Bay is definitely a winner at any barbecue, I agree.  The Mermaid Inn, here in New York makes some delicious Old Bay French Fries that are definitely worth the trip downtown for me.

Thank you so much to Schoolhouse KitchenNuts+Nuts, and Herbin’ Spoonful for their generosity in providing these items.  You can reach their websites by clicking on the links above to find out how to order these great products for yourself or to see where you can buy them at your local markets, where available.

I’ll be posting a roundup of some of the cookout recipes I’ve posted on this site later this week to give you even more great ideas as to how to kick things off this holiday weekend!

Buon appetito!

Special Discount Offer from Calphalon

Just to clarify, this is not a post sponsored by Calphalon.  It is, rather, an exclusive special offer for 10% off of the purchase of their products that they are sharing with me and readers of this site as a followup to their sponsorship of Eat, Write, Retreat, which took place this past weekend in Washington, DC.* I’ve been a long-time user of their pots and pans and was really excited at this chance to introduce you to their cookware, if you aren’t familiar with it.  The promotional code for Calphalon.com is: C95926 (click to link to the site where you can use the code).  Thank you so much to them for sharing this opportunity with all of us!

(Clearance Items and Gift Certificates do not qualify. Excludes John Boos & Co. Cannot be combined with other special offers or applied to previous purchases. Terms subject to change. Offer valid through June 6th, 2011.)

In our goodie bags for the conference I attended this past weekend was a 12″ round non-stick griddle from the Unison line (above).  Just when I didn’t think that I needed anything else to add to my cookware collection, I decided to give this a try.  One of the most appealing points is that it can go in the dishwasher.  This means that I could have left it in the hands of my parents.  It also means that I can safely let other folks cook with it without having to give the care instructions that I always have to impart.  For those of you who have used their products in the past, you can recall that grey film that is instantly recognizable on the slate-colored surface of their pans when someone has washed them in the dishwasher.

When I was at my folks’ house after the conference, I took the opportunity to test-drive this pan.  Truthfully, I was too intrigued to wait to get back to New York to try it out.  One of the dishes I’ve always wanted to attempt is a potato-wrapped fish dish.  I could have cooked it in a regular non-stick skillet, but I thought that this might just be the perfect pan in which to make it.  I took a recipe that I’d seen Ann Burrell do on The Food Network and adapted it a bit.  Instead of the halibut, I used sockeye salmon.  Pretty much every other step was exactly the same.  So, it probably isn’t completely perfect in the placement of the potatoes, which is more my skill level, but I thought that the gorgeous crispiness of the exterior and the richness of the salmon went together perfectly.  Look at how beautifully it came out:

The pan was so easy to work with and cleaned up without any fuss at all.  I can see it being useful for all sorts of cooking projects.  The high sides  would make it ideal for cooking sauces. The nature of the technology is to conduct heat efficiently, so that you can cook at lower heats but still get the same lovely crusts and browning that you might have to work harder at with other pans.  At the 12″ size, it is roomy enough to hold several pieces of fish (like below) or meat or even cheese sandwiches to heat up.

As I mentioned, I’ve been using Calphalon for many, many years.  Their pans were the first high-quality cookware that I purchased when I was putting together my kitchen battery when I was living on my own after college. I’m not all that kind to my pots and pans (although I do religiously wash them by hand), and these have stood the test of time. You’ve seen the 10″ non-stick pan holding a Greenmarket Fritatta.  The stovetop grill pan is perfect for the Curried Lamb Burgers with Grilled Veggies, and the 8″ non-stick pan is just the right size for whipping up the Eggs with Sauteed Mushrooms, Spinach, and Taleggio for a special-treat breakfast (or even dinner).

Recently, I’ve also used some of their bakeware.  Buying their muffin tin for my Spiced Pumpkin-Pecan Muffins was a great step up from the battered non-stick one I’d had for years.  Brownies and Magic Cookie Bars have been baked in their 9×13″ cake pan, making lots and lots of people very happy.  Countless batches of cookies have reached that perfect crispy exterior/chewy, warm interior combination tickling the tastebuds and brightening even the most gloomy of days after being cooked on their non-stick jelly roll pan.  So, if you have been thinking about an upgrade to some of your baking materials, I can also attest to how well those work.

I haven’t really talked much in the past on this site about my favorite cookware, but I have to say that I’ve always found Calphalon products to work well and to be incredibly reliable. I also like that they are designed, if cared for properly, to last pretty much forever, unless you have a roommate who destroys them, as one of my former ones did.  This is why I am so happy to share with you this opportunity to add some of their products to your kitchen.  They are definitely worth the investment, as I discovered many years ago.

Buon appetito!

*By way of disclosure, I would like to add that Calphalon has also entered the participants in the Eat, Write, Retreat conference into a drawing for a dream kitchen giveaway.  If I win this, I will definitely share this result with you, my readers.

New “Tanzen Dame” Label from Bloomer Creek Wines

While I’m Washington, DC for the “Eat, Write, Retreat” food bloggers conference, I wanted to share with you an article I wrote last September about a great New York State wine that I discovered at their label release party. Recently, I was reintroduced to it at a wine tasting.  This piece was originally written for another site, but it is now not available there.

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