Monthly Archives: January 2011

Tweeting to Tweetup

Alright everyone, lift up your hand if you know what a “Tweetup” is? I’m guessing some of you do know what it is, some of you have done it yourself and some of you have heard about it but are thinking to yourself this must be one of those Twitter things that just doesn’t make any sense.

A “Tweetup” comes from the Twitter-world and it is people who meet up in person from their Twitter relationship. I’ve written about Twitter before and how I have met phenomenal people due to it. Unfortunately, due to geographical issues, meeting face-to-face is difficult. However, when you enjoy 140 character chats with someone and you have the opportunity to meet, a “Tweetup” just makes sense.

I had just the opportunity this weekend for a “Tweetup” in Michigan to meet up with Kirsten_Al who lives in Charlotte, but was in Michigan to shoot a wedding. The plan was to hang out, talk photography (since Kirsten is a professional photographer and check out her website to see how good she is), shop at Meijer’s, eat a great burger at an Ann Arbor legend called Blimpy’s and have some laughs. And other than not shopping at Meijer’s, that’s exactly what happened.

For those who haven’t joined the Twitter world or for those who have, but haven’t yet done a “Tweetup”, there’s always going to be some apprehension about meeting someone you’ve never met in person. And while the apprehension is totally acceptable, don’t dismiss it entirely, because at least in my experiences Twitter allows you to meet wonderful people who can become real friends.

 

Hanging out with a photographer inspired me to look for nature's subtle beauty.

Action shot and she doesn't know I took this. Now she does.

If it's good enough for Guy and Triple D, it's good enough for me!

I'm working on my "Hunch" while attacking a double patty with a fried egg, mayo, pickles, green olives, banana peppers and a ton of onion rings!

 

 

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16 Comments

Filed under Guy Fieri, Michigan, Tweetup

My Double Chocolate Cheesecake Birthday Cake

This past Sunday, January 16th, 2011 was my birthday. I have a feeling you may already know this since I was overwhelmed with the number of the wonderful friends out there that either called, texted, Facebook”ed” or tweeted me this weekend to wish me a Happy Birthday and for that I thank you.

I had never thought of making my own birthday cake until recently. With this upcoming year being one that could go any number of ways for me, I was excited at the opportunity to set up the perfect conditions for my birthday candles. You see, I’m slightly superstitious so I wanted to make sure that my candles were in the perfect environment for when I were to make my wish and blow them out. And I couldn’t think of a better environment than a Double Chocolate Cheesecake.

As for the card, since it says “Son" at the top, you would be correct if you said it came from my parents! I think those three thoughts, “Celebrate, Honor, Take Joy” sum up much of what life is all about, so I thought it was appropriate to shoot the cake with the card.

There is just something so comforting and decadent about cheesecake. I also happen to like some crunch to my cake, so when I stumbled upon Anna Olson’s Double Chocolate Cheesecake, I know I found the right one. As you can see, the cheesecake portion is chocolate and the bottom brownie layer is also chocolate with some white chocolate thrown in for fun since calories don’t count on birthdays…


Confession time. I got to challenge myself on this project. I’ve never made a cheesecake of any type and I’ve never used a springform cake pan. Yes, I know, I’m showing my newbie baking status by admitting to that but I’m proud to say I’ve conquered both now. And whoever invented the springform cake pan is brilliant!

As for the wish, it’s a really good one, but it has to stay a secret for it to come true. I’m superstitious, remember?

Double Chocolate Cheesecake (From Anna Olson’s Sugar on the Food Network)

Ingredients

Brownie Layer

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Cheesecake Layer

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2×8 ounce (250 g) packages of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 ounces white chocolate, melted

Directions

Brownie Layer

  1. For brownie layer, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch springform cake pan and line bottom and sides with parchment paper.
  2. Melt butter and pour into a larger bowl. Sift cocoa into butter and stir in sugar. Add eggs to mixture, blending well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt (do not sift). Add to cocoa mixture and blend. Stir in white chocolate chips. Pour into pan and bake for 35 minutes, until firm. Cool completely before filling.

Cheesecake Layer

  1. For cheesecake layer, place chopped chocolate in a bowl of a pot of gently simmering water (be sure bowl does not touch the water) and stir to melt. Remove from heat. Beat cream cheese until fluffy with electric beaters or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on high speed. Slowly add sugar while mixing and beat in vanilla. Pour in whipping cream and whip into cream cheese on high speed, until mixture becomes firm and holds a peak. Scrape chocolate into mixture and blend quickly. Scrape filling onto brownie base and spread evenly.
  2. Chill cake for at lest 2 hours before slicing. To garnish, remove springform pan and drizzle top with white chocolate.

24 Comments

Filed under Anna Olson, Cheesecake, chocolate, Chocolate Cheesecake, Food Network

Handwritten Brownies

Before there were computers, there were typewriters and before that there was this crazy thing called paper and it was used in combination with this writing instrument called a “pen” that was essentially an extension of one’s hand. By putting pressure on this “pen” and moving it around in certain directions, one was able to write in which it could be read by others. Crazy concept huh?

Now that my journey to yesteryear is complete, let’s focus on this handwritten recipe I’m obviously trying to get at. Not surprisingly, this is another recipe that comes from my grandmother’s cookbook, but it’s not her recipe. It belonged to her cousin’s wife Beverly, so they are aptly named “Beverly’s Brownies” and based on various factors, I’m pinning this brownie recipe at a minimum of 60 years old. One sure tell-tale sign is the total disregard for healthy eating with the amount of sugar in it!

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against sugar, I happen to love it, but I was struck with the amount of it in the recipe. However, since I love brownies and since I happened to find a recipe that calls begs for frosting, who am I to argue? They turned out soft and chewy with a ton of chocolate, marshmallows and the slightest little crunch from the walnuts. Beverly knew her brownies!

I was so in awe of the decadence of this brownie, I decided to measure it. This is what I came up with and even though I’m Canadian but prefer to think in miles, feet and inches, I decided to stay true to my Canadian roots, plus, as you will see the measurements work out better!

But for those who need a little tutorial. Here you are…1 centimeter (cm) = 0.393 inches.

We have 4 cm’s in total which works out to…

  • 2 cm’s of brownie goodness
  • 1 cm of soft marshmallow gooeyness
  • 1 cm of honest to goodness dentist-hating-cavity-causing chocolate frosting.

Beverly’s Brownies

(For those that can’t make out the hand-written recipe, here it is again in her own words with a few additions in a slightly more reader-friendly format)

Brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter + 1 cup sugar – cream
  • Combine to the mix 1 egg, 2 squares melted unsweetened chocolate and 1/3 cup milk and beat together.
  • Sift and add 1 cup flour, dash of salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Mix in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting

  • Melt 1/4 cup butter, add 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup milk bring to boil stirring constantly.
  • Cook over low heat for 10-12 minutes gradually add 2 squares of unsweetened melted chocolate stirring constantly.
  • Remove pan from heat. (I leave icing in pan until thick for spreading.)

Pour into greased square dish at 325 for about 25 minutes.

When baked while hot, add miniature marshmallows on top until covered and frost with chocolate frosting when cool.

18 Comments

Filed under Brownies, Frosting

The Relationship between Food Bloggers, TasteSpotting & FoodGawker

This week, I received both “a pat on the back” and “a slap in the face” for the same job. Confused? Please read on…

If you’re a food blogger or simply just a lover of great looking food, you know (or should know) about the sites TasteSpotting (TS) and FoodGawker (FG). They are sites that offer glimpses of exceptionally amazing looking food. In a nutshell, TS and FG gather their material when food bloggers submit their photos for “approval”. In turn, the pictures (with a link back to their blog) are posted on TS and FG and viewed by those searching online for some “food porn”. It’s really a brilliant idea for a site, since people tend to “eat with their eyes” before digging in with their fork.

It sounds like a win-win for everyone, doesn’t it? TS and FG get “free” content for their sites. This content allows them to drive traffic to their site which in turn allows them to make money selling ad space on their site. As for the food bloggers, they gain additional traffic and exposure that they normally wouldn’t get through their own blog.

Now, remember, I said the whole process was based on submissions and approvals by TS and FG. I’m a food blogger because I enjoy food, eating, cooking and writing. As for photographing it all, I like taking pictures, but an amateur photographer would be insulted if he/she were to hear me call myself an amateur photographer.

For a couple of months now, I’ve been submitting my pictures to TS and FG and they have been getting rejected. Needless to say, it is disappointing. Like all bloggers, I try to put all of myself in each post and then to have a photo rejected based on “composition” or “lighting” is just frustrating especially when I don’t claim to be a photographer. But I tried to take it in stride since I figured they must know what they’re talking about since they both rejected me, albeit usually for different reasons.

So, how did I get a pat on the back and a slap in the face this week? Well, because this photo of my Mississippi Mud Cookies was accepted by TS (yay!) and rejected by FG due to “photo/food composition” (huh?). Needless to say, I was pretty happy to have something accepted, but my happiness was quickly dulled by the confusion of the same picture getting rejected. I had always had a sneaking suspicion that it was a subjective process, but this confirmed it for me.

And if I wasn’t sure yet, I got another simultaneous pat and slap the next day when FG accepted my Potato & Leek Soup (yay again!) but TS rejected it due to “composition/not sharp”. To me, those seem like two completely unrelated issues. So not only was my picture accepted by one, but now the same picture is not good enough for two reasons?

I guess my point (if there is one) is I don’t mind getting my photos rejected. As I wrote, I’d been living it for a few months now. I definitely have been putting more thought into my pictures as I read other blogs and I guess my approvals this week is proof of that. I also know that some pictures of mine are better than others. When my food, plating, set-up, lighting, etc., align for me on a given day, I’m capable of something decent.

However, if sites such as TasteSpotting and FoodGawker are all about growing their brand, I would suggest they need to be more cognizant of their impact and critiques. I appreciate they likely receive hundreds, if not thousands of submissions a day, but I also appreciate that they are in it to make money. To reject a photo based on something as generic as “composition” does not help the blogger get better. It simply leaves them confused and frustrated. With slightly more guidance, TS and FG can actually further their cause and build relationships by offering a constructive critique thereby making their site potentially even more food-gasmic down the road as food bloggers learn along the way and submit even better picture which is a win-win for everyone involved.

I appreciate what TS and FG does and I think they provide an excellent platform for myself and other bloggers, this is simply my take on my recent experiences. I would welcome others to share how they feel about this topic.

116 Comments

Filed under Food Blogging, FoodGawker, TasteSpotting

Cherry Snowballs

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Well, actually, please don’t stop me, because I know you’ve heard of this before. I have in my possession my grandmother’s recipe book. Virtually each and every recipe conjures up a memory for my father and they all tend to go along the lines of  “ohh, that is very good” to “oh yes, I’d eat a platter of those” or simply “mmmm” with a smile on his face. I’ve already attempted her curried chicken, meatballs and meatloaf with great success.

For some reason, I’ve yet to tackle anything sweet and for some bizarre reason, I chose to begin with something called a Cherry Snowball. I have no idea why I chose this since I’m more a fan of chocolate desserts and surprisingly my father has no recollection whatsoever with these Cherry Snowballs.

Maybe I wanted to try something non-chocolate related or maybe I just loved that this recipe called for a “nut chopper” or maybe in the recipe itself, my grandmother refers to the nut chopper as a “dandy little hand machine”. Yes, that is definitely the reason.

While I will always be partial to anything with chocolate, the Cherry Snowball was a nice surprise, the cookie part itself is soft with a little crunch from the pecans. And of course, anything rolled twice in icing sugar is always good. The star is of course the cherry and it offers up a nice burst of unexpected flavor since it’s hiding so sneakily in the middle.

The funny thing about these is that although they are easily a one-bite cookie, people tend to bite right in the middle in order to look at the half-eaten cherry. It’s pretty much the same as eating a chocolate with some type of filling in the middle. You have to check out your handiwork and see what you’ve bitten in to.

Recipe for Cherry Snowballs

Now, I could type it all out for you, but why bother since it’s already done and come on, who doesn’t like a type-writer written recipe? And if your name happens to be Betsy, you can pretend the recipe is written out to you.

*Disclaimer* I did not want to make 48 cherry snowballs as the recipe states, simply because no one should eat 48 of anything! So I cut all the ingredients by 1/2 but the dough was very crumbly. To remedy that, I added some milk to try and bind it together. Thankfully it worked and I don’t think it affected it adversely in any way. I’m sure someone far more knowledgeable than me can tell me what went wrong, but the good news is that I managed. So, if the dough seems a little dry, adding some milk won’t be the end of the world.

Back to that “dandy little hand machine” called a nut chopper for a second. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m on Twitter and I tweet occasionally (and by occasionally, I mean a lot). When I was baking the Cherry Snowballs, I tweeted something about a nut chopper and of course hilarity ensued amongst a group of friends on Twitter since we’re about 9 years old.

Luckily, Kimberly from Full Circle Adventures knew exactly what a nut chopper is since it is a cherished item in her grandparent’s house to prepare the Pecan Pie on Thanksgiving. So a big thank you to John Baker, better known as “Poppop” for supplying the picture and even going to great lengths for setting it up with such flair. I love how that nut chopper is probably 60 years old and still going strong!

47 Comments

Filed under Cherry Snowballs, Nut Chopper