fun with food

Upcoming Event: Boston Cake Experiment!

Last year Dane and I participated in our first cook-off competition with the Boston Pie Experiment. We had such a blast prepping and serving our Beer Chicken Pot Pie with all the other contestants and attendees. We got to meet some awesome people and try some delicious dishes.

This year I was contacted by The Food Experiments again, but will sadly be out of town the weekend of the competition. Even more sad for me, this year the competition is the Boston Cake Experiment, and we’re going to miss it! I wanted to share the information I got about the event this year because it was truly an awesome experience for us and something we’d recommend to other home cooks looking to try something new and different!

From the press release:

Since its inception, The Food Experiments competitions have consistently been met with sold-out crowds. Each Experiment features roughly 25 local amateur chefs who have prepared a unique creation incorporating the food theme. In a variation on last year’s sold out and decadent Boston Pie Experiment, the 2012 Boston Experiment will feature inspiration through cakes. These samples will be served to the 350 food enthusiasts and local cake-experienced judges. The first judge released on the esteemed judging panel will be Chef Rich Garcia, executive chef at 606 Congress. Additional judges will be released as the Experiment approaches.

Also exciting? The winner from every food experiment gets flown to Brooklyn for the national championship cook-off!

If you’re not sure about being a contestant, definitely consider checking out the event. You get to try a ton of different dishes and help decide some of the winners. Totally worth the $15 ticket.

Here’s the details on how to sign up, either as a contestant or attendee:

WHAT: The Boston Cake Experiment
WHEN: Sunday, June 24th, 2012
TIME: 6pm – 9pm
WHERE: Middle East Downstairs, 480 Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02139
JUDGES: Chef Rich Garcia, 606 Congress
TICKETS: $15 – includes a Brooklyn Brewery pint & a plethora of culinary delights. Half of the ticket proceeds will go towards charities that promote sustainability and local culinary education for disadvantaged children and teens.

To sign up just click this link!

Minnesota State Fair Part I: Food on a Stick

For my birthday a few weeks ago I went out to Minneapolis to visit my amazing friends, Sam and Jason, and their awesome pup Everett. One of my goals for this year was to get to the Minnesota State Fair, and it just so happened that the first day of the 12 day fair was on my birthday. Right after they picked me up from the airport, we were off to the fair.

I ate way too much delicious food to write about in just one post, so first up is foods on a stick. A major theme of the fair food was just about anything “on a stick”. You name it. Pickles, fruit, nuts, desserts, fried things, and even mashed potatoes. I feel pretty confident most foods taste better when they’re on a stick.

Pronto Pups were up first, hot dogs which are battered and fried. Similar to corn dogs, but the batter is totally different. I’m not a huge fan of corn dogs, so I wasn’t sure if I’d love these, but Pronto Pups definitely made me happy. There were 8 different Pronto Pup stands throughout the fair because it’s so big. No matter what section of the fair you were in, you were bound to be pretty close to a Pronto Pup stand.

Fudge Puppies are another fair favorite. Belgian waffles on a stick, coated in chocolate and topped with whipped cream and sprinkles. Granny’s Kitchen Fudge Puppies has been around for 21 years. We hit the stand at just the right time, when the line wasn’t bad at all. This was definitely a popular one and the line was crazy a few times when we passed by.

Big Fat Bacon, 1/4 pound of maple glazed bacon that’s seasoned and served on a stick. Probably the most unexpected thing I found on a stick at the fair. But one of the most delicious, if you could just put out of your mind that you’re eating a hunk of bacon that’s probably close to a billion calories. The things I do for my tastebuds.

Then we lightened it up a bit with chocolate covered fruit on a stick. It was smothered in chocolate, so not really healthy, but after Big Fat Bacon it did make me feel slightly better.

Totally milking the “on a stick” thing in the Agriculture building. No joke. Things on sticks were everywhere.

Jason just had to get a Nut Roll on a stick. Peanuts + Chocolate + Stick. He obviously enjoyed it.

And why not a pickle on a stick while we’re at it? It was actually kind of refreshing after all the fried food we had been eating. My stomach was beyond confused at this point.

And last, but certainly not least, beer on a stick! Summit Brewery, a local brewery near Minneapolis, had a sampler served on a stick. Had some Extra Pale Ale, Horizon Red Ale, and Oktoberfest and loved that I could just carry it around as I wanted on a stick. Best idea ever Summit.

Crazy enough, this was not even close to everything we ate and experienced at the fair so Part II will be coming in the next few days to highlight some more fair food. Two days at the fair definitely meant some major eating and drinking! More to come!

Boston Pie Experiment Recap

A few weekends ago Dane and I competed in our first ever cook-off competition with the Boston Pie Experiment, hosted by the Food Experiments. We had no idea what to expect, but prepared enough food for about 300 samples, picked our team name, and got ready for the big day! Our recipe was Chicken and Beer Pot Pie – a variation on our regular Chicken Pot Pie Recipe that uses half beer and half chicken stock, instead of the full amount of stock. We upped it a notch by also marinating our chicken in beer. Obviously we used Brooklyn Lager, since the event is sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery.

We cooked for about 8 hours straight the day before the event preparing our pie filling and making the pie crust so it would be ready to bake on Sunday morning.

Anyone that knows us can tell you we are a little nerdy (in a good way, at least I like to think so). The Boston leg of the Food Experiments was focused on pie and Dane came up with our team name: Pie 2-D2. And we were actually one of two Star Wars inspired teams.

We went all out with t-shirts, signs, and even brought along our Star Wars picture we had taken two years ago when we visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Yes, that’s Dane and I superimposed on Han Solo and Princess Leia.

When we arrived we got our table and started setting up. We had about an hour to heat our pie filling and start making our samples. Everyone got straight to work on heating or setting up their recipes.

Right at 12pm the doors opened and we were flooded with people coming to taste all the different entries. We also started to get called up team by team to present our food to the panel of three judges: Eunice Feller, Chef & Owner, Bread & Chocolate, Paul Schiavone, CEO & Creative Director of BostonChefs.com, and Gerry Tice, Executive Chef at Parker’s Restaurant at the Omni Parker House. I brought three samples on stage and introduced our recipe and had time to answer any questions from the judges. I was nervous about the event, but mostly this part since I had no experience with this sort of thing. Luckily we were about the 4th team to present so I didn’t have to be nervous for very long.  And the judges were lovely, nothing to actually be worried about.

Then for about 2 hours we served our samples. Non-stop. It was awesome to talk to so many people and get such great feedback on our entry. People seemed to enjoy it and we were just happy we got to participate. Our friends Greg and Brittany came out to support us too! They said it was close, but in the end we did end up getting both of their votes. Those two are tough to please (and by tough to please I mean they are our friends and we fed them chicken and beer pot pie – can’t get much better).

At the end of the time, they announced the winners of the Judges Choice and Audience Choice. It was awesome to see these home cooks get some recognition! And the winning team could not have been more excited. They had the best reaction ever. Congrats to Gee One Point Four for their winning Pissaladière!

I was happy to just be in the company of all these fun people who brought their love of cooking out for the afternoon. Yes, I’m taking pictures of the crowd from the stage. Never thought I’d be up on a stage at a cook-off competition.

I hope the Food Experiments bring the tour around again next year. Now with one competition under our belt, who knows? Maybe there will be more in our future.

Thanks to Nick and Theo, founders of the Food Experiments and congratulations to all the competitors and winners!

Christmas Eve Dinner with the Family

It was great having some time off over the holidays to spend with both mine and Dane’s family. This time of togetherness always means some great gatherings and plenty of food to go around.

One thing my sisters and I haven’t outgrown yet (and probably never will at this point) is being silly at the table. It drives my mom nuts, but it was Christmas Eve and we don’t get to spend nearly enough time together with them being in NY and me in Boston.

I made panko crusted chicken with a pink sauce, along with garlic bread. It’s my mom’s favorite and somehow our fun at the other end of the table seemed to go unnoticed…

Even my cutie pie niece enjoyed her “magetti”. That’s two year-old for spaghetti, for those of you who don’t speak fluent toddler.

We might be getting older, but I’m pretty sure the scene at dinner will always look something like this.

I guess with faces like these, you just can’t stay mad for too long. Even after 20-something years of joking around at the dinner table. Love you Mama Bear!

What’s it like at your dinner table over the holidays? Hope you all had as much fun as we did!

Top 5: Food (and drink) Experiences for 2011

With 2010 drawing to a close, I’m already thinking ahead to all the fun food and drink experience that await us in 2011. We still have a ton of restaurants to try on our Restaurant Wish List, new recipes in the making, and events to look forward to. In no particular order, here are the Top 5 Food Experiences I can’t wait for in 2011!

2011 Minnesota State Fair
Our bestest friends, Sam & Jason, live in MN (I think I’ve mentioned that many times, but anyway) and absolutely raved about the Minnesota State Fair held in August each year. I’ve never been to a state fair before. It wasn’t really something you heard about living in NY growing up. But two words make me want to go more than anything else: fried pickles. And looking at Sam’s post on the fair in pictures makes me wish it would happen every day. I’m pretty determined to make it out to MN this year at the end of August for at least a few days to experience a true state fair with my best friends!


Meet-ups with the Ladies of MA Girls’ Pint Out

This past year the fabulous Rebecca brought a chapter of Girls’ Pint Out to Massachusetts. Started in Indiana, this beer appreciation group (for the ladies only!) is really exciting to me. I’ll be contributing to the MA GPO blog and helping to plan some upcoming events. I love getting to explore the world of craft beer with the girls!

New Addition to Our Kitchen
I recently came to the conclusion that I can no longer survive without a KitchenAid stand mixer. Dane has been talking more about learning to make breads, and I’m finding that it’d be significantly easier to develop these skills if we had an appliance to help out. Now I’m on the hunt for a great deal, even though I know it’s really tough to find a sale on a mixer. Wish me luck. I hope to add a new KitchenAid stand mixer to our home soon!

Learning to Make Fresh Pasta
I have always wanted to learn how to make my own pasta. Pappardelle, ravioli, fettuccine. When it’s fresh, it’s even better. I don’t know what I’ve been waiting for, but in 2011 I want to teach myself and make some fabulous dishes with Kristen and Dane’s homemade pasta. (Conveniently, you can buy a pasta attachment for a KitchenAid stand mixer. The possibilities would be endless.)

Sugaring Season in Vermont
Again, one of my goals involve our friends Sam & Jason. Last year Sam’s dad built a sugar house, which is used to collect sap and make maple syrup. We got to see it in the works, during construction over the summer. While we talked with Sam’s family we learned all about sugaring, including that the sugaring season happens in late February and March. They were sweet enough to invite us back up for the sugaring season, and we hope to take advantage of the invitation this year to see maple syrup in the making!

I hope you’ll follow along as we (hopefully!) get to have these experiences in 2011. Cheers to the wonderful things that 2010 brought, and best wishes for a delicious new year in 2011!

Cake Pop Cutie

Just look at this munchkin. A few weeks ago I made cake pops for my Grandma’s 80th surprise birthday party and luckily I had this little taste tester around to help me out.

I totally fell in love with cake pops when I first saw them. For my Grandma’s party, I used white cake with vanilla frosting and green chocolate. Each cake pop was individually wrapped with ribbon and a hand stamped tag with a clover on it. My Grandma is Irish, and loved the personal touches and details.

By the way, Bakerella has a book out now (in case anyone needs to buy me a present. hint, hint) with some really fun cake pop designs in it. These just add such a fun element to anything. Everyone from my 90 year old great uncle to my 2 year old niece loved them! Try some for your next holiday gathering!

Fun with Kitchen Accessories

Show ‘em how it’s done guys…

And then I fed a lemur an ice cream cone…

OK, this post is only vaguely food related, but I needed to share this. I got to cross off an item from my Bucket List that wasn’t actually even on my Bucket List because really, who would even think of this?

At a conference I met two volunteers with an animal rescue and conservation organization. They actually brought in different animals during the conference, and I just couldn’t stay away. Of course I struck up a conversation with them the first time I visited their booth, then kept coming back.

At one point I went over eating an ice cream cone and they brought out Felix the ring tailed lemur so I could meet him (since I had already met the owl and the lynx). Ed told me to save part of my ice cream cone, because apparently Felix really likes ice cream and sugar cones.

Then this happened.

Seriously. I fed a lemur an ice cream cone. That is definitely something I never thought I would be able to say. And he loved it!

Lemurs and ice cream. Enough said.

Connor’s Farm, Danvers

All of a sudden it was the end of November! Let’s just get these end of fall posts out of the way, then on to the holidays!

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One weekend I came into the living room to see Dane had a To-Do List made for us of things he wanted to do that weekend. At the top of his list was the corn maze at Connor’s Farm in Danvers. I couldn’t help but think it was pretty cute that my husband wanted to go to a farm, so of course I agreed and we drove up to Danvers.

Connor’s Farm is small, but busy, especially during the fall. For the fun seekers, enjoy the jumping pillow and the corn maze. For the barbeque lover, there’s Bob’s Barbeque Pit. For the passive aggressive types, try the corn cannon and shoot a corn cob into the pond. There’s a little something for everyone.

First up for us, the corn maze. Every year they do a different maze with a different design. We loaded up on apple cider and cider donuts before going in, just in case we didn’t make it back out.

While we wandered we stumbled upon these clever little signs. Kept us distracted from the fact that we had no idea where we were going (and weren’t really paying attention to our path). Corn all starts to look the same.

We did make it out eventually, and headed right over to the jumping pillow. There was not one adult on it, but really, that was not going to stop me from having fun. Look at how much fun those kids are having! Why should they be the only ones?

After less than 5 minutes I was exhausted! That thing was a much tougher workout than I had thought. I have no idea how kids have that much energy. On to the hayride. No jumping involved.

We headed over to the farm store after all our fun and loaded up on fall goodies. They have fresh produce, local food, and local dairy products. If you’re looking to shop local, definitely give Connor’s a try!

We had a blast being kids for the day at Connor’s Farm. We’d definitely go back (if not for the awesome cider donuts, then for the corn cannon, which wasn’t working when we went for our turn). I’d love to go back as the holidays get closer and get some homemade pies.

Thanks for a fun day Connor’s!

Apple Picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards

Every year we make it a point to go apple picking in the fall. There’s nothing quite like those fresh apples from the orchard. We planned our trip this year about a month in advance, which meant a month of excitement leading up to the weekend. It doesn’t take much to make us happy, and I had big plans for those apples we were going to pick.

The past few years we’ve gone to Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, MA. There’s always some apples to pick, and afterward we enjoy some cider donuts, caramel apples, and cider. Plus, the all important hay ride. On a weekend in October, it was definitely busy at the orchard but some patience will get you through while having fun.

We went with a group of friends, which always make the trip more fun, including Tasha and Clint who had never been apple picking before! We brought them into the apple picking world.

We spent a while walking through the orchards, climbing to the top of the tree to get the perfect apple, and trying to get a few of every type of apple that was offered.

Then we found this crate. And my immediate inclination was to climb in it, just to see if I would fit. I did, and was actually quite comfortable. Then Dane decided to join me, and it was a bit of a process.

All for this picture…

We also learned a few things while we were there. I’ll leave it to Scott to show you.

After a long day at the orchard, we headed back to Becca’s house for dinner and dessert. And I made these little guys.

And they were really yummy. I had a mini apple pocket pie mold from Williams-Sonoma that I wanted to try, and it worked great! These little guys were the perfect end to an apple filled day.

Honey Pot Hill is fun, but I will warn you that during October on a weekend you definitely need to have some patience. There were crowds and lines at the concession area with the cider donuts and hot dogs were really long. We were in no rush, so we took our time and had fun with it. In the orchards there is more than enough space for everyone, and the first weekend in October had more than enough apples to go around.

We had a ton of apples coming home, and you’ll see more posts coming up with our apple recipes!

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