Brownie Points. And Delicious Cookbook GIVEAWAY

Cooking with kids is a total sh*t-show.  As much as I would love to put a cotton candy twist on it, cooking, baking and eating with my two children is a challenge.  Kids are messy.  Most are picky.  They eat the chocolate chips out of the bag before we can add them to the cookies. They want to ‘help’ with E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. And they quickly lose interest once the initial excitement wears off.  I feed my kids the finest ingredients but cooking with my wee ones is the greatest food-lover challenge I have faced thus far. Yet, at the same time it’s worth every bit of the chaos that ensues.

 

 

So when I was heard about Alice Medrich and  Artisan Books sent me a copy of her latest book, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts. I decided that the most rigorous test of their cookbooks would be to see if I could make their recipes with my kids without losing my mind.

A few days later I received Alice’s masterpiece in the mail.  I was floored by the beauty overflowing the pages. The photos are as if you are walking through a museum of fine, food art. And the recipes are gourmet but wonderfully simple, hence the name.  Most dishes only rely on one bowl or the use of a food processor. Truly, any busy mama’s sweet dreams come true. Or as Alice relishes in her blog, “Love to cook,hate to bake?” It is also the perfect fit for us savory toothed, non-bakey types.

With Alice’s book in buttery-fingered hands, we set up our learning tower.  We found a recipe for which we had all the ingredients. Cocoa brownies with walnuts and brown butter seemed like the perfect fit. We gathered plenty of snacks to keep the troops interested. I drew a fresh batch of patience from my mother’s well.  And we boldly set out to where most moms dare not bring their kids, the kitchen counter. Dunn. Dunn. Da. Dunnnn…

Credit: “Excerpted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012.”

Cocoa Brownies
with Walnuts and Brown Butter

Makes 16 large or 25 small brownies

 

Deeply chocolate walnut-laced brownies with the fragrant flavor of browned butter. The batter is thick enough to spread with deep swirls and the result is soft, gooey brownies with slightly crusty tops. These brownies are thin, and I like them that way.

Ingredients:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup (2.4 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably natural

Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cold large eggs

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup walnut pieces

Equipment:

8-inch square baking pan

Directions:

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and all 4 sides of the baking pan with foil and coat with nonstick vegetable spray (or use nonstick foil).

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and continue to cook, whisking gently, until it is golden brown and the milk particles suspended in it are reddish brown. Remove the pan from the heat and stop the cooking by immediately adding the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, water, and vanilla. Stir to blend. Let cool for 5 minutes; the mixture will still be fairly hot.

(photo credit: definingdelicious.com)

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula after adding each one. When the mixture looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add all of the flour and stir until you no longer see streaks of flour, then beat vigorously for 50 to 60 strokes with the wooden spoon or the spatula. Stir in the nuts.

4. Spread the batter in the lined pan, swirling the surface if you like. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges almost clean (the brownies will still be soft and gooey even if the toothpick looks clean). Cool in the pan on a rack.

5. Lift the edges of the foil liner and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Slide a metal spatula under the brownies to detach them from the foil (or invert the brownies and peel off the foil, then turn the brownies right side up again). Cut into 16 or 25 squares. The brownies keep stored airtight, for 2 to 3 days.

 

At the end of the adventure we made it out alive gooey, buttery brownies. Keeping in mind we made these little brown-beauties with 4 sugar-coated, “helping hands,” under the age of 4, ours turned out like this…

 

But they tasted like this…

(Photo Credit: Sang An of Artisan Books 2012)

Needless to say it was an experience…*cough*And I would do it all over again. Those brownies were well worth it.

A few side notes:

– Ironic as it is, I highly recommend the use of snacks while attempting to make more snacks. These little gems work well and don’t be shy, give yourself the fermented version.

 

– If you get distracted and add double the amount of butter. Yes, DOUBLE. Whoops. I encourage you to become crafty and make buttered popcorn out of the leftover browned butter. True Story. Again, it’s all about the snack to get to the snack.

-If you are trying to become a famous gastronome photographer, don’t try to win your Pulitzer with brownies. In fact, just eat them and leave the photos for the honest pros.  Personally, I cannot take a picture of brownies that doesn’t look like a pile of cow dung.

# 1 FAIL

My personal brownie-dungish photo. I’ll spare you the other 200. Just remember if your brownies don’t look exactly like the ones in the book, if you follow Alice’s recipe, I’m sure it will at least taste like a cloud in sugary heaven.

-And at the end of the day, your kitchen floor may have seen better days.

 

-Your counters will be covered with crap (speaking of crap).

 

But who gives a hoot? You can clean-up any mess, right? It will be worth the mommy brownie points and the thumbs up from your little loves.

 

And as if that wasn’t enough to get you out there baking with your family and swooning over Alice Medrich, enter here to win a copy of Alice’s Sinfully Delicious Cookbook. Yes, YOU! And trust me you want this book. Here’s how to enter…

-Like Artisan Books and Defining Delicious on Facebook (if you’re already fans, thank you! Please leave a comment below to be entered).

-Follow Artisan Books and Defining Delicious on Twitter.

-Leave a comment below about your best and/or worst family-baking moments.

Subscribe to our email updates.

Winner will be chosen on June 30th 2012. We want to ensure Delicious goodies being a part of your 4th of July picnics.

Thank You. And remember if you are what you eat, be Delicious.

 

* Full Delishclosure- I was given a copy of Alice Medrich’s book, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts . However, all opinions are my own. In fact, I was so inspired I have already bought 4 more copies  and her cookie book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy…Ps. I love you, Alice.

50 Ways To Feed Your Mother (Lover, Wife, Sexy Lady, Amazing Goddess).

If you’re like me you are the bread n butter of your kitchen. I love to cook, it’s my passion and my creative outlet.  And I’m really good at it.  But like most things we love, a little space is nice too. And if you’re like my husband, you may need a Mother’s Day re-do. Perhaps, you forgot to make today as special as your wife wanted. Or maybe you thought it was a special day but it ended in tears. Either way, let’s give all the Moms out there a few more gifts. How about, 50 meals!? No,don’t get your boxers in a bunch, not all at once, 25 for now and 25  for later. I say, let’s sprinkle them throughout the year.  As always, we at DefiningDelicious.com have the bar set quite high.  No hot dogs and burgers stinking of lighter fluid and wrapped up in cheap buns.  These ideas are food-lover worthy but they’re perfect for your partner who might not be a chef like you.  Bookmark this page and when you’re tired of being the James Beard Award winning chef that you are, cut and paste from this post and email the meal that you want to your partner. Note: there are a lot of, “click HERE’s” in this post. I wanted to give you information and ideas without being 50 pages long, I hope you enjoy. This is my gift to you and your partnership. Happy Mother’s Day! And thank you Pinterest for some of meals-piration.

1. Make something. Anything!  Even if it’s cold cereal it still counts as something, just don’t forget to clean-up. (Don’t worry ladies, we’re just getting the ball-rolling, gotta start somewhere, right?)

2. Toast and cheesy eggs are a simple, yet tasty step-up from the cereal meal. For a great tutorial on how to scramble the perfect eggs click HERE. If your feeling fancy, try poaching them. I swear you might ‘get some’ if you succeed or even try.

3. Frittatas are a simple healthy step up from cheesy eggs. Stir Fry some veggies (those colored things in the fridge, probably towards the bottom) start with onions, a dab of butter, and then a couple handfuls of chopped veggies. Add 6 whisked eggs, some grated cheese and voila you have a gourmet meal in an insanely small time-frame. You may even have time to take out the trash or change a poopy diaper or both.

4. Tuna Melts – Grab a can of tuna from the pantry, dice some onions and red peppers, add some salt and pepper, put it on top of an English muffin. Slice a ripe tomato and add some cheddar cheese on top. Put it in the toaster oven and you’ve got a great meal.

5. Sauteed Fish: and some boxed rice (again, baby steps). Coat a pan with olive oil on medium heat, put a nice piece of salmon or white fish in the pan, cook for about 4 minutes on each side (thick-cut fish may take longer) add some spices and fresh garlic and serve. HERE is a great tutorial.

6. Turkey Burgers – Simple.  Mix ground turkey, a couple handfuls of feta cheese, crushed garlic, some spices and cook on the stove or grill. Don’t forget your favorite buns (pun intended).  Seriously, the buns are as important as the meat.  Get high quality buns that match the meat in deliciousness.

7. Eggplant Parm:  A simple recipe HERE

 

8. Sweet Potato Burgers I know it’s vegan, but give vegan a chance. You might like it, and it will make your sweetheart’s soul sing that you tried. (photo credit: lunchboxbunch.com)

 

9. Tacos: Depending on where you live, you may be able to get great homemade tortillas at your grocery store.  Get some taco seasonings, ground meat or beans and sliced tomatoes, onions and fresh lettuce.  If you’re feeling fancy make some fresh guacamole (HERE is a great recipe). Make it special by making a margarita or a mojito (HERE are some ideas).

10. Leftovers: We don’t want you hurting yourself with all this cookin’.  I’m quirky about microwaves.  I don’t have one and I don’t like them so I won’t recommend you use one either but however you reheat I encourage you to improvise.  Add a little twist to your leftovers to spice up your evening and to score extra points.

11. Meatloaf – Central Market has a great ready-made loaf. Or try THIS recipe. I still remember making this with my mom when I was a kid. So, add the kids (not to the meatloaf) in on the fun and serve with potatoes and frozen peas.

12. Portobello Burgers – Look in the pantry for something called, “balsamic vinaigrette.” Coat the mushrooms with said vinaigrette and put it in the fridge for a bit. Heat up that grill. While you’re waiting for the grill to warm up, saute some onions. Grill the mushrooms, add the onions and some cheese like feta or Tilamook cheddar.  I recommend you avoid American cheese.

 

13. BBQed Corn with a side of steak. You’ve been working hard.  Go ahead, you get a steak pass.

14. Make your own pizza but make one for Mom too.  Tell her to enjoy a bath and or a book while you and the kids go to town with some pizza dough some sauce and veggie toppings (again, those colored things at the bottom of the fridge).

15. Chicken Divan:  I love Paula Dean, HERE is one of those creamy comfort food recipes

16. Meatless Meat Balls: A friend of mine, Ellen, writes this great blog, The Hip Vegetarian, with quick and easy meatless recipes. This one is great, and even includes some grape jelly. Click HERE

17.  Make your own sandwiches for dinner but don’t forget to make one for Mom. I love a roasted turkey sammy, with provolone, avocado, and a bright-green smear of pesto.

18. Make dessert while your love is making dinner. I think this one counts. It’s so fun to cook together, get messy and include the kids if you can. Even if its a box of Ghirardelli brownies.

19.  Pasta and Sauce. Just some pasta from the pantry and some sauce on top. If you want to get a little fancy add some herbs for a homemade twist. Or  if you’re feeling like you got some mojo, try THIS  recipe for a creamy tomato and chicken pasta. It’s from one of my favorite blogs, In Sock Monkey Slippers.

20. Mac N Cheese try THIS recipe.   If you’re in a pinch make Annie’s but add some broccoli and fresh grated cheese, everyone wins.  I recommend you do something unique with this dish because just Mac N Cheese out of the box isn’t going to score many points.

21. BLT’s:  Add some avocado and pesto ( are you catching my pesto whiff, yet?) for an upgraded version.  I add it to almost all of my sandwiches.  Save some bacon for meal number 22.

22. Buy a rotisserie chicken and you can make three meals! That’s right three. First night, try a Cobb Salad. Shave off about a cup of chicken add it to a bed of lettuce, some fresh tomatoes, an avocado, hard boiled eggs (read how to HERE) and those leftover pieces of bacon.

23. Night 2 of rotisserie chicken- BBQ pulled chicken sliders- de-bone the rest of the chicken. Put one half away from lunch tomorrow and the other half for dinner. In a pan, add the chicken and a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce, cook until melded together and you’ve got some slider meat!  Most grocery stores carry mini slider buns.

24. Meal 3 of Rotisserie Chicken, Chicken Salad Sammys – I add crushed walnuts, sliced grapes and some mayo, fresh herbs if you have any and you’ve just made three meals out of one chicken!

25. Halfway there.  Make another meal on the GRILL, it still counts.

 

 

A few hints to makes these meals true gifts: don’t forget to clean-up. Let me be clear, ALWAYS clean-up after making a special meal for your love. It doesn’t count if your sweetie has to clean-up your mess after enjoying her so-called gift. But the good news is you get to make a mess. I repeat, “make a mess but clean it up.” We all win.

Check back soon for the next 25! I didn’t want to overkill a good thing.

Thanks for stopping by and if you are what you eat, be Delicious.

 

For More MEAL-SPIRATION find me on Pinterest or Facebook

 

What it takes for a Mama to go to a Food and Wine Festival…

A week ago today I was hobnobbing with Gail Simmons, so I know you are all eager to hear the verdict. Was the first annual Austin Food and Wine Festival a Feast-ival or a Fest-evil? Before we get to the final verdict, let’s put together some of the pieces. First, I must thank my husband, my second mama (V), and my soul-sister (Brit) for helping to make this weekend a possibility.  It takes a village of eager supporters to go on an adult-centered-weekend of eating and drinking when you have young children.  Between the deluxe hotel suite, the refreshing hotel pool, the pedicab rides, and lots of family love we were able to make everyone happy for the whole weekend.  And like most good things in life, it took a lot of chutzpah to get there.

 

To prepare for Austin Food and Wine, a few days before the festival I did this (hence, why it has taken me so long to post):

 

 I was trying to make a ‘perfect’ sweet potato gratin and the rest is history, including half my thumb. All is well, because the incredible woman who is my ‘otha’ motha (my mom’s best friend, V) was coming for a visit the following day. V is a rockstar and she has two thumbs.  She even helped keep the kids clean after a run-in with grape preserves and she taught me how to make homemade gnocchi in 20 minutes.  Check back soon for her 20 minute homemade gnocchi recipe. Seriously, 20 minutes!

 On Friday, we packed our bags and headed for the road. We had our cowgirl boots, lots of snacks and plenty of water.

 

Once we arrived in Austin, we had dinner at Second Street Bar and Kitchen. I highly recommend this place to any food lovin’ family. The meal was delicious and they have a wonderful 2nd floor patio with fluffy turf-like carpeting and kid-proof railings. Their staff was very family-friendly and accommodating to our group despite the busy pace of the restaurant.  A highlight for me was the tagliatelle pasta dish with crisp shaved fennel, plump seasonal mushrooms surrounded by zesty veal meatballs. Truly a dish that your Italian Grandmother would approve of.

 

On Saturday morning, we had breakfast at Jo’s coffee and set sails for the Austin Food and Wine events.  Jo’s is also extremely family-friendly.  I loved every sip of their robust blends and even enjoyed a dripping sunny-side up egg sandwich with a tender, grilled tomato on homemade sourdough. I plan to come back for their full lunch menu another time.

 

Finally, we reached the event field. I was overwhelmed.  It was hot and dusty with way too many hungry foodies and wineies (pun intended) roaming like grass-fed free roaming bison in the hot sun. I heard a lot of wining (pun intended, again) about the long lines.  I started to doubt the nature of this event.  Just when I was about the take my press pass and go find a more worthwhile and air conditioned place to dine they opened The Grand Tasting.  The wine flowed plentifully and the little samples of food here and there were just enough to keep us satisfied.  There definitely were more liquids than solids but it was still fun to mingle about filling my glass and sample some flavorful morsels. I particularly enjoyed the pulled pork with fresh corn salsa bites. As much as I was there to eat, drink, repeat. I did have some stalking to do as well. My eyes were pealed for food-lovin’ stars to capture with my camera and swoon with my own food fanatic heart.

 

Lucky me.  In the midst of foodie mayhem I spotted this guy, Tim Love. Chef Love is actually is the main reason Food and Wine came to Austin. He is a culinary legend and owns top-rated restaurants in Texas.  He is known for his award-winning urban western cuisine. I thanked him for keeping Texas food standards up to the highest levels and he beamed.

  I was buzzed and buzzing, from my first celebrity catch. The next stop was Marcus Samuelsson’s cooking demo titled, “Birds of A Feather.” Marcus is known for his African home style cooking that sends you right to the Sahara.  In this particular demo he was making a coconut milk-marinated fried chicken, with garlic mashed potatoes and smoked collard greens.  I love his accent and his humble easygoing nature despite his fame.  It was worth the hour-long wait to get a seat in his tent.  Even though I ended up in the nosebleed section, I was happy and inspired by this Chef with Afro-style and an upbeat personality.

Yes, Chef Samuelsson’s cooking demo was wildly full of life with a side of collard greens. He even gave a few plates of his greens and smashed potatoes out to the crowd. I did hesitate as there were about fifty of us eating off of one plate but it was worth it. During his cooking demo he reminded all of us to make our sides taste as delicious as the main protein.  I look forward to zesting up my next side of mashed potatoes with a dash of lime juice and a sprinkle of chicken stock in honor of Chef. I also, look forward to reading his biography coming out this summer.

                                    

 

Yes, I was so eager to meet celebrity chefs. So much in fact, this guy told me he was famous and I believed him…

 

Turns out he’s just from Kansas.

I also chased down Andrew Zimmerman for a picture. He declined saying, “I’m late for a press conference.”  I immediately lost interest in Andrew Zimmerman. Press conference my ass!  Everyone else was more than happy to indulge my celebrity chef craze, I doubt he even had a press conference. Even Gail Simmons, THE Gail Simmons took time for a photo or two with me. I waited in the 100 degree blistering sun for 30 minutes to tell her how much she has inspired me. She was kind enough to pose for our picture and she offered words of encouragement to rising food writer.  Check back soon for my review of her book “Talking With My Mouth Full.

                                          

After a hard-earned day of stalking, drinking, eating and a bit more stalking we decided to have dinner at La Condesa with fellow San Antonio blogger ohmypuddin. Their menu boasts eclectic Mexican items like venison tacos and a beet cake dessert. We shared a series of divine dishes and enjoyed our night out. Beware if you sit outside, a bird may poop on you (true story).  I did, of course, enjoy the beet cake.  The accompanying scoop of homemade coconut ice cream shined pearly-white and created the perfect marriage of sweet and savory.

After our family-style meal we found our way into the VIP taco party. I was perfectly full from dinner so we opted out of the celebrity chef tacos. Although, Tim Love did make his tacos from goats bosom’s, it was Austin local, Chef Tyson Cole who took the taco crown. While the rest of the VIP crowd was stuffing their faces with beef cheeks and booze, I enjoyed  mixin’ it up with the Modern Mixologist himself,Tony Abou-Ganim,.  Tony’s passion for what he does shines like a lighthouse and he inspired me to drink more mixers and to read his upcoming book about vodka. I think I may have stalked him a bit too. Oh well. As you can tell,  I was drunk there was way more boozing and schmoozing than digesting morsels of delight, at this year’s Austin Food and Wine Fest.

So…I would call the event… A FEASTIVAL .  The best eating was to be found out on the town, which speaks to the high standards of eatin’ in Austin.  I did enjoy rubbing elbows with Chefs and Gail. However, a few kinks to work out by the organizers and next year we will be feasting like Renaissance Kings.

If you have an extra $850, I would go big and fancy – the VIP ticket really does get you some VIP treatment.  Like most great events, the first round is mostly a learning experience and given the high expectations of Austin natives I’m sure 2013 will be more balanced and refined. I hope to see you there.

 

Until the next FOOD and WINE, be well and make life as delicious as possible.