Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blueberry Pancakes

To me, there are few talents in life quite as important as being able to whip up a good, satisfying breakfast at a moment's whim. I mean, if everyone went around making pancakes for each other on lazy Sunday mornings, the world would be a better place. It's just a fact. Which is why I'm trying out new pancake recipes and improving on old ones on a pretty constant basis.

This classic Martha Stewart recipe for blueberry pancakes is easy as can be, and best of all, it can be executed as soon as the mood strikes, unlike other recipes that sometimes require that you refrigerate the batter overnight. Pancake-making needs a little room for spontaneity, in my humble opinion. xo

Blueberry Pancakes
From Martha's American Food, by Martha Stewart
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more, softened, for skillet and serving
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons neutral-tasting oil, such as safflower
1 cup fresh blueberries, plus more for garnish
Pure maple syrup, for serving

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons oil to combine, then whisk into flour mixture (do not overmix, batter should be slightly lumpy). Fold in blueberries.

Heat 1 teaspoon softened butter and remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, pour in 1/3 cup batter per pancake. Cook until small bubbles form on the surface, about 3 minutes. Flip; cook until underside is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add more butter as needed between batches. Serve warm with butter and syrup, garnished with additional blueberries.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pink Pony

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the lovely people at Ralph Lauren recently sent me this personalized Pink Pony polo. You've got to love a brand that puts such a heartfelt emphasis on giving back, and Ralph Lauren is a definite standout in that category. Pink Pony is their way to help in the fight against cancer by making sure that patients in underserved communities get proper treatment. In the US, 10 percent of the purchase price of Pink Pony products benefits the Pink Pony Fund of the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation to support programs for screening, early diagnosis, treatment, research and patient navigation.

So you get your name on a polo, AND you get to feel good about supporting such an important cause. xo

All photos by Mark Iantosca.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weekend Bits: Illy Welcome Park

Here are some of my favorite shots (by Mark Iantosca) from the illy Welcome Park at the NYC Wine & Food Festival this weekend, including a perfect cup of illy coffee, Marcus Samuelsson in action, and one of illy's signature bright red machines. Love.

The MonoArabica single origin coffees were a big hit as was the GIVE HAPPilly Coffee Amnesty program, in which illy exchanged old cans of coffee from visitors for brand new MonoArabica tins, and donated all the old, unopened coffee to the Food Bank of New York. Pretty sweet deal for everyone involved. xo

Thursday, October 11, 2012

MonoArabica (One Bean)

So very excited for the New York City Wine & Food Festival happening this weekend, most notably because one of my most favorite chefs, Marcus Samuelson of the Red Rooster, will be there with illy, one of my most favorite coffee companies. Double win. Samuelson happens to be the brand ambassador for illy's delicious MonoArabica line of coffees, in which they took three of their absolute favorite beans from their main line, and developed three outstanding single origin coffees (hence, the name Mono), one from Guatemala, one from Ethiopia, and the last from Brazil.

illy was gracious enough to send me the coffees to try out, so I spent the morning wrapped in my favorite oversized cashmere sweater (from The Row), getting a serious caffeine high. Yum. But back to the point--I think you, dear readers, should all get yourselves to the illy Welcome Park at the Food & Wine Festival this Saturday and Sunday to try all three of the MonoArabica coffees. If you bring any old tired container of coffee you have laying around and collecting dust in your cabinets, illy will take it off your hands and replace it with a brand new tin of MonoArabica. AND if you Tweet and Instagram something you discovered at the tasting using the hashtag #MonoArabica, you'll automatically be entered to win lots of good prizes. Details HERE. See y'all there. xo

All photos by Mark Iantosca.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Maple Bundt Cake

A good friend of mine celebrated his 30th birthday this weekend, so I decided to bake him a cake. I wanted it to be simple and sweet and special--something that would make the transition into a new decade a little easier. I remember turning 30 myself and thinking that I would feel incredibly old and panicky about the whole thing. Instead, it turned out to be a real turning point for me, in the best ways possible. I grew up a lot, got rid of some bad habits, picked up yoga, started running in earnest, started a company with my best friend, got into a serious relationship, left a serious relationship, decided to finally start working towards my MA, and learned a heck of a lot about myself in the meantime. I'm happier now than ever before, and I hear it only gets better from here. That's the funny thing about aging--people dread it but it gives just as much as it takes. The more time you spend on this earth, the more wisdom, clarity, consciousness, and serenity you get. Getting older is a beautiful thing.

Now back to this cake. It's a maple bundt cake that is just about perfect for any sort of fall gathering you may be planning (in fact, the word "bundt" is a variation on the German word bund which means gathering). Maple syrup is mixed into the batter, and also infused into the whipped cream before being drizzled generously over the finished product, so that every bite is loaded with the taste of Vermont in the fall. The only thing that would've made this cake even better would've been a scattering of autumn-hued sugar leaves (like these) across the top. Next time. xo

Maple Bundt Cake
From Martha's American Food, by Martha Stewart
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, plus more for drizzling (I used grade B)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cold heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan. Dust with flour and tap out excess. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Cream butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1/2 cup maple syrup and the vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream and beginning and ending with flour; beat until just combined after each addition.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into middle of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes before turning out onto rack to cool completely.

Just before serving, whisk cream until soft peaks form (I used an electric handheld mixer for this). Add 2 tablespoons maple syrup and whisk until soft peaks return. Spoon whipped cream over cake and drizzle with more maple syrup. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Classic Chicken Soup

As I've spent the last week and a half battling a particularly persistent head cold, my chicken soup game has gotten considerably better. I've made a total of three batches within a time frame of seven days. That's a lot of soup, people. The upside of all the sniffling, coughing, and general self-pity, is that I can now whip up a super delicious pot of classic chicken soup with my eyes closed, which is a pretty handy skill to have in your proverbial tool belt.

Here's my foolproof, super basic recipe for a chicken soup. If you want to spice things up a bit and make it even healthier, you can add in some torn kale, Swiss chard, or escarole at the very end, boiling them in the finished soup until the leaves are wilted. Or if you're craving some carbs, you can cook some pasta separately and stir it in, making it a chicken noodle soup. Oh, the excitement. xo

Chicken Soup
Serves 6-8
1 whole organic chicken, 3-4 lbs
2 stalks celery, sliced into 2-inch pieces
2 whole carrots, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, quartered
1 parsnip, coarsely chopped
10 whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a large pot with 4 quarts water; place over high heat and bring to a boil. Add chicken, return to a boil, skimming off any foam that has accumulated at the top. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, uncovered, for 2 hours.

Add celery, carrots, onion, parsnip, peppercorns, and parsley. Continue cooking slowly, uncovered, for 1 hour, skimming off fat from surface as it rises.

Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Remove the layer of fat that has formed on top of the soup overnight and discard. Place soup in a large saucepan and slowly heat before serving.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Buckeye Candies

If there's a food combination I love most, it's got to be peanut butter and chocolate. (Although pretzels and caramel run a close second.) Which is why it breaks my heart a little that I don't like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. At all. The peanut butter always crumbles weirdly and has the texture of powder, which makes me think of artificial ingredients and preservatives. I've never even dared to look at the ingredient list or the label. So, when it comes to peanut butter and chocolate candy, I tend to err on the side of caution and make my own.

I love Alicia Silverstone's vegan chocolate peanut butter cups that have become a staple in my kitchen, and I've recently added buckeye candies to the rotation. This is one of the simplest recipes in the world to follow and, as a bonus, it gives a nod to college football and all the Ohio State fans out there. The peanut butter mixture is mixed by hand, rolled into balls, and dipped in melted chocolate, leaving just enough filling exposed to make sure that the candies end up resembling the nut of the buckeye, the state tree of Ohio. xo

Buckeye Candies
From Martha's American Food, by Martha Stewart
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (not the natural variety)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 cups confectioner's sugar
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment. In a medium bowl, beat peanut butter and butter with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes. Gradually mix in confectioner's sugar in batches, kneading with your hands to form a smooth dough, about 10 minutes.

Using the palms of your hands, roll mixture into 1-inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover and chill in refrigerator, about 2 hours or up to overnight.

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth; stir in vanilla. Working with one at a time, insert a toothpick into chilled peanut-butter balls and dip into melted chocolate, leaving the top bare. Return to lined baking sheet until set, about 15 minutes. Smooth tops to cover holes from toothpicks. Buckeyes can be refrigerated in a single layer in an airtight container, up to 1 week.)

Makes 68