Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kale Chips

Kale chips; have you heard of these? Have you tried them? I hadn't but for some reason after I heard Gwyneth Paltrow talk about making them on Ellen, I was determined.

And I don't even really like Gwyneth Paltrow.

People will tell you, "These taste just like potato chips!"

They're wrong.

Yes, they're thin and crunchy, and yes they're salty, but the curly leaves have a very distinct texture that you'll either really like or won't be able to stand (sadly, I was in the latter group, which is such a shame because I'd much rather stuff my face with leaves than calorie-ridden fried potatoes).

I only started eating kale recently, but I usually love it sauteed with some chicken stock and apple cider vinegar to give it that yummy acidic bite. Cooked this way, it almost takes on the texture of cooked broccoli. I'll try to remember to jot down the recipe the next time we make it so I can share it here.

A few things to note about kale chips:

Don’t be shy with the olive oil. The last thing you want to be doing is scraping dried kale off your sheet pan.

Then again, don't over oil them or they won't crisp. If you take them out of the oven and they still look a little oily, remove the chips from the sheet pan and let them drain on paper towels before transferring them to a serving bowl.

You can season your chips however you like (although I recommend always using some kosher salt). You can stick to simply salt and pepper, you can sprinkle on some curry powder, or, one of my favorite combinations I tried was salt, chili powder, and a little cayenne. I've even seen some people sprinkle on brown sugar. Try lots of combos and pick your favorites!

I’ve heard rumors that little kids love these, and are too young to figure out that what they’re eating is also healthy. Plus, the recipe is super kid-friendly: it's quick, there’s no chopping involved, and raw kale has this great scrunchy texture that makes it really fun to squeeze, so if you find yourself faced with entertaining a small child, make these. Plus, they’ll be out of the oven by the time you’re done cleaning up. Instant gratification? Yes, please.

Kale Chips


5-6 leaves kale
olive oil for drizzling, 3-4 Tablespoons
salt and other spices, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Wash kale leaves and dry thoroughly. My salad spinner worked awesomely.
3. Tear or cut the leaves from the woody stems, and into pieces about 2-3’’ big.
4. Arrange leaves on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with seasonings. Use your hands and toss to coat. Arrange the leaves in one layer on the baking sheet. If the sheet pan is too crowded, the kale will steam and will not crisp properly.
5. Bake chips for 11 minutes or until leaves are slightly shrunken and edges are dark green.
6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with more salt, to taste.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Byrd House Farmer's Market

On Tuesday we visited the local Byrd House Farmer's Market and essentially gorged ourselves on fruit and vegetables.

 Here's what we came back with:
1 watermelon
1 canteloupe
3 ears of corn
1 pint sungold tomatoes
5 white peaches
1 bunch sunflowers

Here's what we did not come back with but what I wish we had picked up: Natural and organic Short Ribs & Brisket. Mmmm slow braised meat. Oh well, next time. For now, look at my pretty sunflowers!

White peaches & Sungold tomatoes

For those local in Richmond, it's every Tuesday from 3:30-7:00. Go! You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Peanut Butter & Snickers Cookies

In honor of the temperature dropping from 104 to a balmy 84 degrees today, I decided it was time to crank up my oven and indulge in some freshly baked cookies. Nothing says summer like peanut butter, chocolate, and nougat, right?

You've all seen the new Peanut Butter Snickers, I'm sure. If you haven't tried one yet, well, I'm sorry. Unlike pretzel M&Ms (which, ew) Peanut Butter Snickers offers a new and delicious (if not entirely inventive way) to shame you into eating salad for your next 3 meals. I won't go so far as to say they're better than the original, which, I mean, hello:

It's like a cross section of candy perfection

But in my book, you can never go wrong by adding a little peanut butter. This new twist on my favorite candy bar was the basic inspiration for these decadent cookies. (Although, after baking these, I must admit the peanut butter flavor is actually pretty subtle. If you wanted to leave it out all together, I say do it. And then send me one so I can sample it too. I think as a pastry chef, that's part of my job.)

You should know, when peanut butter is involved, there's generally a lot of this happening in my kitchen:

followed by some of this:

Don't worry, that spoon went directly into the dishwasher. Which left me with no way of getting the peanut butter out of my measuring cup and into my mixing bowl. Poor planning.

Afraid you don't have the willpower to have twenty of these addictive cookies in your house at one time? Well, you have two choices. Give some away and increase your popularity. Or, go the selfish route and do what I did:

Go ahead and roll all the cookie dough into balls, but transfer some to a baking sheet in your freezer. Or, if you're me, a pizza box.

Once the dough is firm enough, transfer the balls to a plastic bag and continue to store them in the freezer. Then, when a late night craving hits, preheat the oven and take one (or five) straight from the freezer and pop 'em in the oven. The baking time should be about the same, but when you rotate the pan halfway through, you may need to press lightly on each cookie with an offset spatula or butterknife so it spreads and cooks evenly.

This works with any type of cookie dough, so the next time you come across a recipe for four dozen chocolate chip cookies (I'm looking at you, Nestle), don't halve the recipe; instead, freeze the dough and you'll always have access to a warm, freshly baked, chocolate chip cookie.

Dangerous, right?

Peanut Butter & Snickers Cookies

Makes 21 cookies

1 1/4 cups All-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Snickers bars, chopped
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and peanut butter (or whisk vigorously by hand) until smooth and no butter lumps remain.
3. Add both sugars and mix to incorporate.
4. Add eggs and vanilla; mix to incorporate.
5. With the mixer off, add all the dry ingredients. Beat on low for just a minute or two. The dry ingredients should not be full incorporated.
6. Add the chopped snickers and chocolate chips. Using a rubber spatula, finish mixing by hand so all the dry ingredients are incorporated and the chocolate pieces are distributed evenly.
7. Portion dough into 2 oz. balls (about 2 heaping tablespoons) onto silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets. Press down lightly with the palm of your hand.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating pans midway through baking. Allow to cool completely on baking sheets. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Inspired by Brown Eyed Baker

Monday, July 25, 2011

Heatpocalypse 2011, a DC Survival Guide

I drove up to DC this weekend to visit my sister. In an effort not to melt our faces off in the heat, we did a healthy amount of drinking, quite a bit of eating, and lots of sweating.

We didn't see any monuments, but we did see the last Harry Potter movie (although even that outing was almost thwarted by broken A/C. You know it's hot when it's almost too hot to go to the movies).

A sampling of our weekend survival guide, if you will:

 Refreshing drinks at Circa in Clarendon

My sister's idea of grocery shopping for my visit...

 ...Directly leading to my first taste of the infamous Whole Foods Chocolate Chewie

"Frickles" at Old Glory in Georgetown
(that's fried pickles and jalepenos for all you Northerners)

Pitt Dogg with collard Greens at Old Glory

Brunch at Birch & Barley: scene of the doughnut hole massacre, 2011

 Bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit from Birch & Barley 
(clearly my sister's breakfast since I think eggs are gross and she, well, doesn't)
I must admit, the Whole Foods Chocolate Chewie was disappointing.

That's right, I said it. I wanted fudgy chewiness and instead got crunchy chewiness. And I was not a fan. Sorry Whole Foods, not a winner in my book.

But if eating a mediocre chocolate cookie was the low point of the weekend, I think we can categorize it as a success.

Besides, all that sweating surely counteracted all the drinking...right?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Secret to Cellulite Worthy Fried Chicken

In case you're just joining us, here's where we left off:


Well, not so much the pickles, but the pickle juice. Most fried chicken recipes will tell you to marinate your raw chicken overnight in buttermilk to tenderize it.

They're wrong. What you really want to do is brine your chicken overnight in pickle juice. Now, I'm generally not a big fan of brining. I just don't really think it brings anything to the table. But using pickle juice is 1) super easy and 2) gives your fried chicken that subtle pickle flavor that a certain Southern fast food chicken chain has up their sleeve. You know the one I mean.

But really, just try it. You've probably already got the half-empty jar of pickles sitting in your fridge and what are the odds you have a quart of buttermilk? One without chunks.

So, once you've eaten all your pickles and brined your chicken overnight in the juice, drain it in a colander. Next, you're going to season it up. You can go simple with just salt and pepper, but I really like Alton Brown's spice rub because it's salty and spicy:

2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 Tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Once it's good and seasoned, dredge each piece in flour and shake off the excess. Make sure your oil is nice and hot (about 350 degrees) and fry em' up. Now, I can't really speak to the frying process since it's not really my area of expertise (although check out Alton Brown's recipe on for a great video tutorial). What I can say, is that it helps to have the REAL secret ingredient for perfect fried chicken: a sexy man to do the frying for you. Luckily, I brought my trusty boyfriend and co-chef along for the weekend, so I surrendered the frying pan and he took over.

I KNOW, I KNOW, here is where I should insert a picture of him manning the stove, but alas, I was delinquent in my photographing responsibilities. But give me a break ok, I mean, did you SEE the cake?

Now, once your chicken is hot and crispy, it's time to dress it up. Sure, you can eat it plain or dip it in ketchup, but here's what I suggest:

drizzle it with some of this

and add a few drops of this

What do you get? Sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy HEAVEN.

Of course, I can't take complete credit for this genius idea. I had my first taste of it here and actually tried this particular combination thanks to one of the chefs at work. And now, I'm addicted. Don't think I could eat fried chicken any other way. In a way, I'm sorry to do this to you.

But I think we've finally hit the jackpot with this one. Good thing too, since it's sort of becoming a July 4th tradition.

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 4th Festivities

Happy July 4th!

What's that you say? I'm about 3 weeks too late?

Dammit. What can I do to make it up to you?

What about the secret to the most AMAZING fried chicken you've ever had? (Yeah, stay tuned for that one).

Or, I know, how about a piece of cake?

No, not enough?

Ok, how about a whole cake?

Still no, huh.

Well, how about a cake with a surprise inside. Want to see it?

Hi, I'm a flag cake!

Ok, who saw that one coming? I know, the Flag Cake sort of blew up the blog world this year, and I wasn't immune from the fever.

I originally emailed this idea to my mother as a joke. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided it was really do-able. And would be fun and festive.

Unfortunately, I wasn't really planning on blogging about it, so I didn't take any in-process shots, but I basically followed these instructions and used a homemade white cake and homemade vanilla buttercream.

It was quite a showstopper. And pretty delicious too.

Here are the basic instructions (although without pictures, I think it's hard to follow so definitely click the link above if you want a more comprehensive tutorial). Warning: lots of words with no pictures ahead. If you get bored, feel free to scroll on down to get a peek at what that secret ingredient I mentioned earlier is.

You're going to bake four 8-9'' cakes: 2 red, 1 blue, and 1 white. Note, you're going to need an obscene amount of food coloring to get your colors really bright and vibrant. Don't think, just do.

Cut the red and white cakes in half horizontally just like you would if you were making a 2-layer cake.

Start layering. Place a round of red cake on the bottom of a cake board or your cake stand. Fill with vanilla icing. Top with a layer of white cake. Fill with vanilla icing. Top with a second layer of red cake and fill with vanilla icing.

Now it's time for the blue cake. Use a small, 4'' circle template and cut out the center of the cake so you're left with a doughnut of blue cake. You can discard the center. Or eat it. Whichever.

Place the blue doughnut of cake on top of your last frosted red layer. Place a very thin layer of icing on the interior of the circular cutout of the blue cake.

Using the same circle template you used for the blue cake, cut out 1 circle of cake from the remaining white layer and one from the remaining red layer. You want to keep the small circles and discard the "doughnuts" or scraps. You will also have one layer of red cake leftover. You know, to freeze and save for later. Or snack on as an appetizer before dinner. Whatever. I don't judge.

So, you have two thin, small circles of cake, one red and one white. Now would be a good time to sort of test your layers. You'll be stacking them inside the blue cake and you want the top of your cake to be flat, so if your red and white layers are a little thick, now is a good time to trim them down.

Place the white layer inside your blue doughnut. Add a thin layer of icing. Top with the red layer. Press lightly to flatten if you need to. Now frost the whole cake with more icing. If you really want to keep the element of surprise, try not to get any crumbs in your white icing. To achieve this, do a thin crumb coat of icing first and put the whole cake in the freezer for a few minutes so the icing hardens. Feel free to get as many crumbs in this coat as you want. The crummier the better!

Once your crumb coat has hardened, ice the cake with a good even layer. Decorate as you wish! I kept mine pretty simple since the inside is really the fancy part.

Plus, I kind of hate decorating cakes.  

I know, I'm such a delinquent pastry chef. How can I make it up to you?

How about the secret to awesome fried chicken? Here it is:

Like I said, stay tuned.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Catching Up

So, hi.


It's been a while.

Here's what you've missed.

I finally had brunch at Balthazar. I ate French Toast.

 Blanketed in bacon. Sounds delicious I know, and yet, Meh.

I also had french fries.

The best in New York according to Bobby Flay. And yes, they were addictively good. I would like some more right now pleaseandthanks.

And speaking of Bobby Flay....

I also ate at Bar Americain.

Oh, and got a haircut. Isn't it cute? I had the American classic, fried chicken and biscuits.

Chelsea had mussels. (And more fries, because yes.)

And it was here that I discovered my favorite way to eat fried chicken: with honey spiced with pink peppercorns. AHMAHGAH so good. Try it. You'll like it. I am currently aching for it.

We did have dessert, but it was lackluster and the pictures I have are not cute. Believe me, you're not missing anything.

What else do I need to fill you in on? Oh yeah, one more little minor thing, what was it, what was it?

Oh, right. I moved and got a new job. I'm back living in Richmond, working as a pastry chef in the place I always said I would want to work but never thought I would have the chance. It's a lovely hotel, if you're curious.

So that's what I've been up to. I did make a pretty fun cake for July 4th, but it's so special it gets its own post. Coming soon... What have you been up to? Did you miss me while I was gone?
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