Help the Chocolate Room in Park Slope, Brooklyn!

Hello readers!

A few years ago, I posted about my love for The Chocolate Room in Park Slope Brooklyn. Their sinfully delicious chocolate desserts have been my favorite for many years. And now, they need our help!

As some of you may have heard, after 10 successful years at 86 Fifth Avenue, the
owners of The Chocolate Room are seeking to move their Fifth Avenue
institution to a new location (51 Fifth Avenue, in the former Mega Glass
and Mirrors space).

The move is going to be really good for the avenue but, unfortunately,
it’s also going to be VERY expensive. They’ll need approximately $200,000
to replace older equipment and to pay for new design plans, permits,
plumbing, flooring, electricity, and more. They are also building an
outdoor patio space in the new location, something they’ve always dreamed
of! (Eating dessert outdoors? Yes, please!)

After years of positive contributions to our community, the owners of The
Chocolate Room are seeking some help to defray the cost of the move. They
are seeking to raise $40,000 (20%) through a Kickstarter campaign. Please,
consider helping this important Fifth Avenue shop move and expand.

If you’d like to help, click the link to their Kickstarter page below. The event ends Nov 25, 2013! Thanks so much!
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/459027659/the-chocolate-room-relocation?ref=live

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Another Year, Another Successful Bake Sale!

nycbakesale2013

Hi everyone! A little over a week ago I join Ken and Lillian and a team of fabulous blogger/bakers for the second NYC Blogger Bake Sale. Again, it was a hit! With all of your help and support, as well as that of the other sponsors, volunteers, bakers, and donors, we were able to meet and exceed our fundraising goal of $3,000 for No Kid Hungry! I’ve been told that funds are still coming in, so I will update you all when we have a total. For now, check out the posts and photos my fellow bloggers shared about the event:
Sweets by Silianah

Chip Chip Hooray

Cookbook Archaeology

Donuts, Dresses & Dirt

Hungry Rabbit NYC

Jackie Gordon

Jennifer Baker

Laurel On Health Food

Making Michael Pollan Proud

The Dusty Baker

Ugly Food Tastes Better

Wilde in the Kitchen

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Women of the Grill Event with Robyn Lindars and Land O Lakes!

womenofgrill1

This past week I had the great fortune of attending the Women of the Grill event, hosted by blogger and grill expert Robyn Lindars, in partnership with LAND O LAKES® Deli Cheese. On a rooftop in midtown overlooking the water, I spent several hours with other bloggers and test kitchen experts, drinking wine, eating and learning the basics of grilling!

womenofgrill4With new friends, Melissa and Katie (photo credit: Melissa L)

Robyn, the ‘Grill Grrl’, began her foray into this form of outdoor cooking after she and her husband purchased a grill for their Florida home. Soon, she began hosting grilling parties for her friends in her backyard and learned along the way that many women don’t grill because they simply don’t know how! When a survey reported that 57% of women would begin experimenting with outdoor cooking if they knew how, Robyn decided to team with LAND O LAKES® to teach more ladies how to be more confident (wo)manning a grill!

womenofgrill2Robyn Lindars

I, personally, was very grateful for the lesson! Growing up in New York City, we didn’t grill often. When we did, my parents always manned the BBQ while my sister and I prepped the meal. This past Wednesday night, however, it was my turn to step up and hone my skills!

womenofgrill6(photo credit: Katie H)

Robyn taught us how to make four different kinds of grilled pizzas, using LAND O LAKES® Deli Cheese as an alternate idea for ways to add flavor to your meal. Along the way, she shared with us some of her best grilling tips. These were the particular highlights for me as a novice griller (though you can check out all her tips and recipes on her blog):

1. There are two types of heat on the grill: direct (which means placing your food directly over the charcoal) and indirect (meaning your food cooks on the grill, near the source of the heat). Essentially, indirect heat is like baking something in an oven. When grilling pizza, you can use the indirect heat to ‘bake’ your dough!
2. Charcoal grills will give you smoky flavor while gas is more convenient. You can still obtain the smoky flavors of charcoal grilling by adding foil packets filled with wood–though I personally prefer charcoal!
3. Using an instant-read meat thermometer will help ensure that your meat is neither under or over cooked. You can also take food off of the grill a few minutes before it reaches the desired temperature, as it will keep cooking after it is taken off the grill.
4. Starting burgers and other meats over direct heat and moving them to indirect heat (and adding cheese) will help give the burgers a little char, while allowing the cheese to melt simultaneously and before the meat finishes cooking.

womenofgrill5(photo credit: Melissa L)

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After we finished grilling, we got to eat! The LAND O LAKES® folks and their agency were amazing and helpful; they even provided me with gluten free versions of the pizza we made! We also delighted in grilled caesar salad (made by test kitchen expert, Amber) with crunchy bacon and grilled cheese croutons to start, and finished off the meal with grilled cheese dessert sandwiches: Cinnamon bread filled with American cheese and nutella, topped with confectioner’s sugar. They are so creative!womenofgrill3

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We finished the night with a grill tool gift set and new aprons and recipes. Amazing!! Thanks LAND O LAKES®!

womenofthegrill4

I so enjoyed being a part of this event and urge you all to read Robyn’s blog for grilling tips, Grill Clinic dates and recipes! I personally am going to test her Mexican grilled pizza with gluten free dough this summer! What are your favorite things to grill?

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The NYC Blogger Bake Sale is Back! On Saturday, May 4, 2013!

4th Annual Food Blogger Bake Sale

Last year I posted about the NYC Bake Blogger Bake Sale.  The bake sale supports No Kid Hungry, a great org that provides food for kids when they are not in school (summer breaks, etc). See Food Network’s doc Hunger Hits Home!

Well….WE’RE BACK!

That’s right, THIS SATURDAY, MAY 4, 2013, from 10am-5pm,  you are invited to join us at the Bake Sale, hosted at the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene on 176 Lafayette Ave. I’ve made a variety of cupcakes with my mom for this year’s event (gluten-free and gluten-full) and we will be volunteering in the morning along with some amazing baker/bloggers and our fearless ringleaders Ken and Lillian.

If you can’t make it, you can still be involved by making a donation (and we also have raffles!!) Visit http://bakesalenyc.tumblr.com/ for all the info or tweet us using the hashtag #NYCBakeSale.

Please spread the word so we can help these kids! No kid hungry!

Thank you!!
Emily

One Year Ago: Gluten Free Humor

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Meet Jen and Jaime of allergen free Starry Lane Bakery!

Over the summer I had the pleasure of meeting Jen Schwartz, who co-owns Starry Lane Bakery with her sister Jaime. Starry Lane is a vegan and allergen free bakery located in Santee (San Diego), California. That’s right, allergen free! No nuts, gluten, dairy, soy and eggs–in any of their products!

After sampling some of their goodies (I loved the shortbread and the linzer cookie!), I got the chance to interview Jaime and find out how she became inspired to take on such a project, where she found her passion for allergen free baking and what the first year of business has been like for the sisters. See excerpts of the interview below!

(And happy anniversary to them–they opened one year ago today–November 1, 2011)

MGF: So how did you come up with the name Starry Lane?
JS: My mom actually did. We grew up in PA, on Starry Lane, and she suggested we use the name of the street. It’s very comforting, having this name.

MGF: When did you open?
JS: November 1, 2011.

MGF: How did your first year go?
JS: It started out slowly, a little stressful. But, we’ve gotten a lot of loyal customers who’ve been telling their friends. It’s all about the customer recommendations. You know, you trust your friends. If your friends tell you they had something and it was wonderful, they believe you and they come in. We get customers who come in once and they try something and two days later they come back. It’s definitely our customers and their loyalty that have made us successful.

MGF: How did you decide to open an allergen free bakery?
JS: I had graduated from Rutgers with degrees in anthropolgy and biology which have nothing to do with cooking. Then I decided I wanted to go to culinary school. I graduated and was working as a pastry chef and while I was working I developed my food allergy to tree nuts–specifically cashews and almonds. My sister, who is my business partner, suggested trying to do allergy free. You know when you taste these allergy free foods you find out most of them aren’t good and I have a biology degree and I thought, I can do better than this.

MGF: That’s a lot to take on- what were the biggest challenges you faced at first?
JS: Recipe wise, the eggs. You don’t realize the huge role they play–they are a huge protein source, bind food together, give texture. They play a different role in each recipe so you can’t just put in the same substitutes for each goodie so that was really really difficult. The first cookie we did was a chocolate chip, because everyone loves a chocolate chip cookie. And it took me about 1 ½ yrs to do a chocolate chip cookie. I was giving samples to the mailman, the gardener, my parents, my friends, sending things to my sister. Everyone tasted the cookies and a lot of them were really bad.

It wasn’t until the 12th or 14th batch that I realized cookies don’t spread without eggs. So now we mold all of our cookies. And there are some recipes we won’t try–like obviously we can’t do a sponge cake or pastry creams. But one of my employees came up with a really good egg-free lemon curd, so we’re gonna try to do something with that.

MGF: Has your science background helped?
JS: Honestly, if I didn’t find the link between science and baking, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I’m a giant science nerd. It’s only because I see it as a giant science experience that it works.

MGF: And that’s great. A lot of people are afraid of baking, but once you break it down…
JS: No I agree! Once it’s not a magic trick, once you know what the ingredients are doing–that if you do this, you are going to get this result, its not as scary.

MGF: How did you choose the suppliers?
JS: We go through multiple suppliers for different items. For example, a lot of people make rice flour, but only one company makes rice flour that is guaranteed free of soy, dairy, eggs, gluten and nuts. So that was difficult for us. We have one company that makes one thing and one company that makes something else and we don’t have a lot of choice between suppliers.

MGF: How do you know your products are completely allergen free?
JS: We send out our products to be tested to make sure. There is an Eliza test we use. They break down the cookie into its proteins and they see which proteins are present, so they can tell you how many parts there are of gluten, of dairy, of eggs and we have none.

MGF: What about your staff? How do they help ensure that the goodies stay allergen free?
JS: I’ve only hired people who have graduated from culinary school because they understand about cross-contamination. They know that they can’t eat peanut butter toast and walk into the bakery. They’ve taken all the safety classes. My customers….I have to guarantee their safety. We don’t even let people come in with outside food or drink.

MGF: Cost of allergen free food is a big concern for customers. How do you handle that?
JS: A normal ounce of flour costs 7 cents. The average of ours is 17 cents per ounce. Our products are more expensive, but I think and our customers have said that we’re more reasonable than our competitors. Just because you have a food allergy doesn’t mean you have an unlimited amount of money. It’s not a choice– it’s a medical condition–so we figure out how much these cookies cost and then
base price strictly on that.

MGF: So let’s go to some fun questions. What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
JS: Hmm. I’d have to say the cinnamon swirl cookie. It’s a cinnamon shortbread dough and we dip it in a light cinnamon glaze. It’s a perfect cookie to have with coffee in the morning. There’s always a reason to have a cookie for breakfast.

MGF: Do you like working with your sister?
JS: It’s really fun. It gives me an excuse to talk to her ten times a day!

MGF: What do you love most about your job?
JS: Every once in awhile we get a family that comes in and the kid asks what’s dairy free and we say everything. And their eyes light up because they’ve never been able to have the freedom to choose anything they wanted before, because their allergies are so severe. It makes me really happy.

MGF: With all of these allergen free products do you think you’d supply to stores?
JS: Absolutely. We’d love to. We aren’t big enough yet. We’ve been talking to local bakeries and cafes about giving them packaged goods. And eventually, I’d love to market to airlines because it’s really hard to take a long trip and not have anything to eat, and this way people can eat safely.

Starry Lane Bakery is located at 10769 Woodside Ave in Santee, California. They are open Tuesday- Saturday and ship all over the country. For more information visit http://www.starrylanebakery.com

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Cheesy Blended Potato Blintz for Land O’ Lakes and Kitchen Play!

About a month ago, Casey of Kitchen PLAY, approached me about creating a recipe for the SideCarseries, “30 Days of Outdoor Dining“. She asked that the recipe be specifically designed for summer dining using new Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend. I loved the concept and was extremely honored to be one of the 30 bloggers chosen for the assignment!

Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend, as I discovered, can be found in the deli department of most grocery stores. It brilliantly combines four flavors of cheese: American, Asiago, Parmesan and Romano. I love the idea of using an ingredient that packs the rich flavor of aged cheese while still resembling the melty, creamy cheese I grew up eating in sandwiches. It’s a really fun combination, especially since you can taste each variety of cheese in every bite.

 Side note: In my family, I’m known as the ‘Romano’ girl, because I used to eat giant chunks of Pecorino Romano for snacks when I was little. I strongly encourage you to try this as well. So addictive!

After learning of the challenge, I immediately got to work designing a recipe with my food consultant (aka mom). We wanted to create a finger food for summer that would allow the flavors of the cheese to shine without adding too many other ingredients. Our idea? An upgraded version of our family’s tried and true, much loved, potato blintz.

Since the recipe needed to be gluten free, we replaced the traditional crepe wrapper with a rice paper wrapper and then added the Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend to our standard filling. The blintz is perfect for summer because it can be served at room temperature, making it easy to transport for a picnic. Also, it’s a fun and playful finger food! Kids will love to munch on it while taking a break from running around, and adults can relax and dip a blintz in their favorite dip, all while enjoying a conversation amongst friends and family.

With this dish we have, in essence, created our own ‘summer blend’, combining some of our favorite cultures (Asian, Eastern European and Italian) and we hope you’ll see it as a tasty, new addition to your “summer dining” experience.

Note: This cheese is not certified gluten free. For those with serious allergies, please use caution when choosing to eat.

Cheesy Blended Potato Blintz
By Emily & Karen of (Mainly) Gluten Free in NYC

Ingredients:

3 Idaho Baking Potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1/2 in. dice
2 large, Spanish or Vidalia Onions, chopped (If necessary, place the chopped onions in water to dilute the sulfuric acid irritants and then drain and dry completely before using)
1 ½ – 2 tbsp olive oil
Milk and butter for the mashed potatoes, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ pound Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend, finely chopped
Cooking spray
1 package spring roll wrappers
Paprika
Roasted red pepper spread for dipping

For the filling:
1. Pour 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large fry pan over medium heat and cook the onions until caramelized (about 20 minutes). We advise against using a non-stick pan for this.

2. While the onions are cooking, place the peeled (and diced?) potatoes into a large pot with salted water.

3. Over medium heat, boil the potatoes until tender. Remove from heat, drain and mash by hand with small amounts of milk and butter. (**NOTE: Do not use too much milk or the potatoes will become soupy. You want relatively thick mashed potatoes.)

5. When the onions are caramelized, remove from the heat and place in a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

6. Carefully fold the onions into the mashed potatoes, combining thoroughly. Add ¾ of the chopped Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend cheese and mix until well combined.

To wrap:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray well with cooking spray.

2. Follow the directions on the package for using the spring roll wrappers. In our case, we softened each wrapper individually in a round pie plate, filled with lukewarm water as we needed it. We then transferred the wrapper to a linen dish towel to be filled.

3. Place about two tablespoons of filling in the bottom third but near the center, of the wrapper. Fold the bottom portion of the wrapper over the filling and roll it slightly upwards. Now turn the outer edges of the wrapper inward. Begin rolling upwards, wrapping the filling tightly inside.

4. Place each ‘blintz’ on the cookie sheet, leaving about a 1/2 inch between each roll. Spray each blintz slightly with cooking spray and then top each roll with a sprinkle of the Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend. Then lightly sprinkle with paprika.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

6. Let cool and serve with roasted red pepper spread for dipping. Enjoy!

*Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Land O’Lakes as part of the Kitchen PLAY SideCar series. All opinions given are my own.

Be sure to check Kitchen PLAY every day for the next fabulous recipe featuring new LAND O LAKES® 4 Cheese Italian Blend or LAND O LAKES® Deli American Cheese. Then, get in on the fun by leaving a comment with your own “30 Days of Outdoor Dining” tip for dining al fresco this summer. If you do, you’ll be entered to win a lovely grilling prize pack, including one grilling spatula, one marinade brush, one set of tongs and one grill scraper. Kitchen PLAY will be giving away four prizes total, one each week!

Please visit Kitchen PLAY for sweepstakes guidelines.

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Gluten Free Nutella Cinnamon Bread Pudding

Earlier this year I decided to start making two loaves of homemade, gluten free bread at the beginning of each month so I could enjoy sandwiches and french toast as often as I liked. One to keep in the fridge for the first two weeks, and the second to freeze until the first loaf had run its course.

I thought I was brilliant.

Two loaves of bread! I’ll eat that in no time! I should make FOUR loaves of bread, because two will never be enough, said my overzealous brain. (Don’t worry, I had a long talk with myself and kept to two loaves.)

Then 60+ hour work weeks entered the picture. And trips to the gym. And errands. And endless meetings. Suddenly, I found myself inundated with loaves of bread I didn’t even have time to eat. (Yes, that’s right. Didn’t even have time to eat.)

I started panicking about what to do with this bread that was occupying my fridge and freezer. It just stared at me, wanting to be used, demanding to be eaten. But you can only consume so many PB&J sandwiches before you start being unable to button your jeans in the morning.

So I took to the internet to search for new ideas and came upon recipes for bread pudding. A while back, I remembered America’s Test Kitchen doing a slow cooker bread pudding recipe that fascinated me. The chefs had dried the bread in the oven to reduce the moisture, which I thought was brilliant. Armed with some other ingredients, I took to my own “test kitchen” to see what kind of magic I could make with these loaves of bread (sans slow cooker).

The result- a gooey yet remarkably light and satisfying bread pudding! And it’s super quick and easy too!

Gluten Free Nutella Cinnamon Bread Pudding

By Emily of (Mainly) Gluten Free in NYC

Ingredients:

7 slices of gluten free bread, cubed and oven dried (see directions below)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup nutella spread

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the bread into cubes and lay flat on a nonstick baking tray. Place in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until the bread starts to dry.Do not let it brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. In a bowl, mix the eggs, skim milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Slowly fold in the nutella spread until fully immersed in the egg mixture.

3. When the bread cubes have cooled, place them in one layer in an 8×8 inch pan. Pour the butter evenly over the bread, followed by the egg mixture. If you like, you can sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar.

4. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the bread springs back when tested with a fork. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream and fruit.

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Perfect Piña Coladas and Summertime

The piña colada, as my friends and family know, is my favorite summertime drink.  I love the combination of juicy pineapple and sweet coconut. It’s impossible to sip a piña colada and not think about sitting on a white sandy beach watching clear blue waves crash onto the shore in the Bahamas. It’s the perfect, most idyllic summer beverage.

My first experience with an alcoholic (rum filled) piña colada, however, was a horrible disaster. I had recently turned 21 and was having dinner with a friend at a local Mexican restaurant. I thought that the best way to test my newly minted ‘Over 21′ ID would be to order one of their oversized piña coladas. (You know the kind I’m talking about–the ones in the tall, hourglass shaped plastic glasses with an umbrella and giant straws peering out.)

The drink arrived, and I immediately grabbed my straw and went for a sip.

Bleeechhh. Holy rum! What an overpowering taste! Where was my juicy pineapple, my sweet coconut? I was drinking a drink, not a piña colada.

Since that day, I’ve been wary of ordering piña coladas in restaurants and have worked to figure out how to make a piña colada that contains just enough rum to have fun, without forgetting the tropical foundation of the piña colada itself. Based off of a recipe by the Queen of Delicious herself, the great Paula Deen, I have made a few tweaks to create my perfect piña colada. Enjoy!

Perfect Piña Colada

Adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen

Serves: 6

Ingredients:
Ice cubes
1/4 cup coconut rum
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup pineapple chunks, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more if desired)

Fill blender halfway with ice cubes. Add coconut cream, coconut milk and pineapple chunks. Puree. Add rum and salt. Puree until smooth and pour into individual serving glasses. Top with pineapple chunks or coconut flakes. Enjoy!

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The Bake Sale has more good news to share!

Hello readers!

Just wanted to share the fabulous news coming to me straight from our Blog Bake Sale Leader Lillian!

Share Our Strength has just named the NYC Bake Sale the #2 bake sale in the country, with a total of $3,655.25 raised for No Kid Hungry!! Amazing! And what’s more–Domino Sugar has matched our earnings, and combined with the other bake sales in the top three (Atlanta and Miami), we raised $20,399.80!!!!

I could not be happier with these results and want to send a BIG thank you to everyone who helped us out by donating their time, skills, baked goods, and money, as well as to those who spread the word! We definitely could not have done it without you!

With lots of love and appreciation,

Emily

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Happy Mother’s Day!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Mother’s Day!

There are so many great mothers and grandmothers out there, and I hope you all got a chance to spend the day with your loved ones.

My father, sister and I made dinner and dessert for our mom tonight:

B’s fruit salad!

Dad’s Salmon, Asparagus and Roasted Baby Red Potatoes

My gluten/sugar free strawberry shortcake

<3 Love you mom!! <3

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