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DIY: Ace of Cakes

July 20, 2010 at 10:32 am , by

NicoleDevonDuffNeither Devon nor I had ever made a cake before.  While we were very excited to spend the afternoon learning about Ace of Cakes Chef Duff Goldman’s new baking products, we were a little hesitant to do it ourselves. The Astor Center in New York City was set up like a kitchen with hundreds of personal cakes waiting to be covered in buttercream fondant and frosting.  We were given the choice of chocolate, vanilla or yellow cake, and handed an apron to aide us in our first semi-professional cake decorating pursuit.

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With the Food Network star only a few steps away, we struggled with the first simple step of merely placing the fondant in the microwave to soften it.  Luckily, the cake master himself didn’t see us! Instead of just ten seconds in the microwave, it took about thirty-five, and from there it was a piece of cake!  Rolling fondant is a lot easier than we thought.  After a few attempts, we learned that small imperfections can easily be reversed with a smidge of water, a touch of frosting or Chef Duff’s edible cake tattoos–the kind parents would prefer to the real ink!  We opted for the flower patterns over the animal prints and other graffiti inspired designs.

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In less than an hour, our finished cakes looked like they could be displayed in a bakery window.  With just one flower-shaped cookie cutter and blue sprinkles, our black and red fondant cakes bloomed to life.  No one would have guessed this was our first time!

For more Ace of Cakes insight, check out Food and Entertaining Editor Tara Bench‘s interview with Duff himself!


Simple Calorie-Saving Swaps Can Prevent Diabetes

May 5, 2010 at 9:45 am , by

At a recent lunch event, I didn’t notice there wasn’t any bread on the table until Chef Franklin Becker mentioned it. I was too busy noshing on homemade giardiniera (pickled vegetables) and marinated mushrooms, trying very hard not to make a fool of myself in front of him and Howard M. Shapiro, M.D., the authors of Eat & Beat Diabetes with Picture Perfect Weight Loss. As Chef Becker explained that bread has too many carbs that can raise blood sugar, a mushroom rolled off my spoon and onto the white tablecloth. “Don’t worry, it happens,” an editor from another magazine said to me. (Here would be a good point to note that I’m an intern.)

My mushroom mishap didn’t stop me from chowing down on the diabetes-friendly food that was being served at Abe & Arthur’s (a restaurant in the Meatpacking District in New York City). It was lunchtime, and I was at a weight-loss book launch where the main course was salmon with misoyaki marinade and stir-fried vegetables. It sure sounded good, but I wasn’t sure it would fill me up. (I’m used to turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch, not fish sans carbs.) According to Dr. Shapiro, however, a simple switch like this can help maintain a healthy weight and prevent the development of Type II diabetes, the sixth most potent killer of Americans.

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A Peanut Butter Sandwich Worth $25K

March 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm , by

$25K PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHPeanut butter and mayo isn’t a combination I’d normally try, but it sure is creative—so creative that it earned one 10-year-old a $25,000 scholarship from Jif and four other kids a $2,500 scholarship. The kids were competing to come up with the most creative peanut butter sandwich in Jif‘s 8th annual Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest.

Grand prize winner Rachel G.’s “PB & Fruity Say “’Let Us Rap,’” (complete with mother and daughter posing back-to-back after serving the wrap), impressed the judges the most—but she had tough competition from other creations like Stephanie H.’s “Chickenchita” and Lauren W.’s, “Peanut Butter and Banana Quesadilla with Fresh Fruit Salsa.”

During the competition, the sous-chefs (aka parents!) said that cooking together was a good way to encourage their kids to explore their creativity and help parents and children communicate better. After all, how else could Maria M. come up with a “Peanutty Cristo Breakfast Sandwich” if she didn’t have the opportunity to prepare and test different recipes alongside her mom in their kitchen?

Kids often get attached to wacky food combos—what kind of unique recipes have you and your kids come up with?


My Summer Countdown: DIY Herb Garden

March 25, 2010 at 5:11 pm , by

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Late March to mid-April is the best time to start thinking about your summer herb garden. Here, on the east coast, the weather just started to get warm after several snow day-worthy storms. There’s still a bit of frost in the air, so starting to grow seedlings indoors is a good idea to get a head start.  Homemade caprese salad isn’t as far away as you think.

A few herbs that are easy to grow include parsley, thyme, mint and basil.  Even you notorious plant killers with limited space shouldn’t be alarmed.  You can buy different varieties of seeds at a local gardening shop, and plant them in containers you find around the house — old pots, kitchenware and even cleaned olive oil cans poked with a few holes in the bottom for drainage work great.  Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell, author of Grow Your Own Herbs in Pots, suggests placing the growing plants near windows with plenty of light and moving them outside (in their containers) once the weather permits.  She notes that it’s important to transition the plants slowly to avoid overexposing them to the sun and causing them to dry out.

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