Rethink Sweet with Buddy Valastro & Whole Earth Sweetener Co.

Buddy Valastro has recently partnered with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. in a campaign to Rethink Sweet, featuring new and exciting ways to make tasty treats using Whole Earth’s line of sweetener – and if the Cake Boss says it’s good then you know it’s good! Whole Earth Sweetener Co. offers a line of lower calorie, non-GMO sweeteners that have 50% fewer calories per serving than their traditional counterparts. Fortunately for me, I was able to see the sweetener put to the test firsthand when I was invited out to the Lackawanna Cake Factory & Filming Studio out in Hoboken a few weeks ago. I don’t often find myself in that neck of the woods, but I don’t think twice about crossing state lines when cake is involved.

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First off, the inside of the factory/filming studio smells insane! Like butter and sugar and everything good and lovely to eat. If you don’t know (I didn’t!) the factory is where all of the Cake Boss cakes are made. This means not just the wedding cakes, but the store-bought Cake Boss cakes that you see at other bakeries and places like BJ’s. Basically they bake up all the pieces of the cakes and pastries and send them off to be assembled closer to the location of where you would buy them.

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We were given a tour of much of the factory, which was super exciting. There were giant mixers, a room where we saw employees rolling out innumerable pastries, and so much more – but my favorite had to be the decorating room.

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I actually tried my hand at cake decorating a few years ago and it is hard work, and I for one do not have the knack for it. While I’ve resigned myself to the life of a mere cake-eater, I have such an appreciation for the decorating team at Lackawanna Cake Factory –  if you’ve seen the show, or have been on their website, then you know that their work is beautiful.

Buddy also stopped by to tell us a little about why his partnership with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. –

“As a fourth-generation baker, quality and taste are a top priority, and Whole Earth Sweetener Co. uses ingredients sourced from nature, like stevia and monk fruit, which are crafted and manufactured into a great tasting line of lower calorie sweeteners that you can’t find anywhere else. Not only do Whole Earth Sweetener Co. products taste great, they also let you indulge in the sweet foods you crave and love, but with fewer calories.” – Buddy Valastro, Cake Boss

He also spoke about working with Whole Earth’s Sweetener and how he went through a testing process of using the sweetener and altering some recipes to accommodate any changes in the final product. He really stressed how that was most important to him – that what you bake tastes good, which is why he really loves Whole Earth’s sweeteners because it is a lower calorie sweetener that was still an excellent tool for him as a baker to make great treats.

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After having a couple of slices (yes, it was that good and I have no control over what happens when me and cake are in a room together) of cake made with the sweetener, I was completely sold! We also decorated these cute gingerbread men that were also made with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. – I put my, albeit limited, decorating skills to the test and created this little gingerbread man who is clearly ready for colder weather.

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Whole Earth Sweetener Co.’s range of products feature a Baking Blend, Turbinado Raw Cane 50, Whole Earth Sweetener Honey 50 and Whole Earth Sweetener Agave 50 – which are now available in 45 states from more than 60 select retailers as well as on amazon.com. To find out more about Whole Earth Sweetner Co. click here.

What’s On My Kindle: The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes

As much as I love the feel of an actual physical book, I live in NYC where space is something I don’t have – so I rely on extensively on my Kindle to store all of my favorite stories. The most recent addition to my digital library is The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen by Frances Mayes. The author of the acclaimed Under the Tuscan Sun (from which the movie starring Diane Lane was based) has published this collection of inspired recipes.

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I saw Under the Tuscan Sun when I was in middle school and I fell in love with the sweeping views of Tuscan countryside, the field of sunflowers, the dilapidated but incredibly charming villa Bramasole, the parade of characters. But there was one scene that got me everytime (besides when Frances begins renovating her house), when Frances begins to cook. Bread, pastas, artichokes, wine, and poached pears only manage to rate two minutes of the movie but it always stuck with me. The food all looked, well, welcoming – which is why I was thrilled to read The Tuscan Sun Cookbook.

Frances writing style has always appealed to me, and her narration of this cookbook is as warm and enchanting as ever. The cookbook includes more than 150 recipes, with Frances guiding us through each. The recipes do not come across as complicated, instead they capitalize on the heart of Tuscan cooking – where ingredients are “left to shine, not combined with a list as long as your arm or tortured into odd combinations”.

The photographs make me wish I owned this in hardcover – where it would be much loved, and quite possibly end up with sprinkles of flour between the pages along with other wayward ingredients.

If you’re in the market for a good cookbook with simple recipes and an engaging narrative, this one is for you. Find it here.

Enter to Win a KitchenAid Mixer!

I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the most exciting things about the cooler seasons is all the baking I get to do. There’s nothing like having cookies and cakes and pies cooking in the oven. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no Martha Stewart, but I get as close as I ever will during the fall and winter. At the top of my list this year is a proper KitchenAid stand mixer – I’ve always wanted one! They seem to make cooking so easy and efficient, and definitely cut down on time. If you’re like me and have always wanted to mix up your holiday dough with a KitchenAid Mixer then you’ll want to keep reading!

Welcome to the KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer Giveaway!

We’ve joined forces with a great group of bloggers to bring you this amazing giveaway. One lucky person will win a KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer, valued at $350.

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Easily make your favorite cakes and multiple batches of cookie dough with the 5-quart stainless steel mixing bowl with comfortable handle.

With 10 speeds, the stand mixer will quickly become your kitchen’s culinary center as you mix, knead and whip ingredients with ease. And for even more versatility, the power hub fits optional attachments from food grinders to pasta makers and more.

Features:

Power Hub
The power hub turns your stand mixer into a culinary center. With more than 12 optional attachments use the power of your stand mixer to help you make fusilli pasta from scratch, shred a block of Parmesan cheese in seconds and so much more.

5-Qt. Stainless Steel Bowl with Comfortable Handle
5-Qt. stainless steel bowl with comfortable handle offers enough capacity to mix dough for 9 dozen cookies, 4 loaves of bread or 7 pounds of mashed potatoes in a single batch. The bowl is also dishwasher-safe for quick and easy cleanup.

59-Point Planetary Mixing Action
59-Point Planetary Mixing Action means 59 touch-points per rotation around the bowl for thorough ingredient incorporation. The beater, dough hook or wire whip rotates around the bowl, giving incredible bowl coverage for comprehensive mixing.

10 Speeds
Powerful enough for nearly any task or recipe, whether you’re stirring wet and dry ingredients together, kneading bread dough or whipping cream.

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[View Full Product Details at Amazon]


Enter to win a KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer.

Complete the tasks below to earn entries into this giveaway.

Refer your friends using your unique link to earn even more chances to win.

One winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.

Winner to select their color of choice. Color options based on availability.

Open Worldwide.
Ends at 11:59pm ET on September 30th, 2014.

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This giveaway was coordinated by Giveaway Promote.
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My First Time Frying

I’ve been pretty competitive ever since I was a kid. I used to read those tween girls magazines and see those stories about 12 year old geniuses – girls who won awards and medals, traveled around the world by boat, and invented prosthetic arms for handicap pigs in third world countries. Ironically, those stories were meant to inspire us young readers, instead it left me with an overwhelming feeling of ineptness. Like “why could she do that and not me?” Suffice it to say, at eleven years old I had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that I had yet to do anything really impressive. I couldn’t wait until I could find something special that I could do well.

Then when I got to middle school I was bit by the cooking bug. I read Ruth Reichl’s memoirs and was inspired – I started consciously watching my mom cook, taking notes in my head about how things looked when they were cooked and what smelled spicy or sweet. Ruth Riechl made her first souffle when she was 12, I turned out my first chocolate souffle when I was 13. Ever since then I’ve been sort of competing with myself to see what’s the most complicated or tasty recipe that I could turn out (in my spare time that is).

As it happens, fried chicken has been my home cook’s Moby Dick. I’ve watched countless hours of Food Network programming involving someone frying chicken – however, it always looked so complicated – a multi-step process full of pitfalls and potential disasters. Overheated oil results in burned (yet raw) chicken. Do you or don’t you use buttermilk? Do you season before or after dredging? And when exactly is the right temperature to drop your poultry in the pan?

For a long time I put off frying chicken, I figured I’d get around to it once I researched every single eventuality and had determined a safe and secure exit strategy. And then just a few days ago I stumbled upon a recipe from Lee Brian Schrager’s (Founder and Director of NYCWFF and SOBEWFF) newest cookbook Fried & True – I’ve linked the recipe here, for those of you who are ready to fry.

Following (most) of the directions, I have to say, for my first frying it was pretty spectacular. There were a few moments where, full of trepidation, I wondered if I should dump the expensive peanut oil down the drain and call it a night – but alas, the sirens call of crunchy, golden, juicy, tasty chicken was too hard to resist.

Here’s a pic of my final product:

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What was the first impressive dish you ever made? Do you have experience frying chicken, a really great recipe, or handy tips – let me know in the comments below!

Getting Chatty with Ted Allen after The View! #TedAllenG2K

This year has already started off with a bang for me! I recently was invited to attend a live taping of The View, and afterwards had a chance to chat with Food Network star and host of hit TV show Chopped – Ted Allen!

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My ticket, pretty cool, huh? ;)

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The show was co-hosted by Kadee Strickland (Private Practice)

Look! It’s Kerry Washington (Scandal)!

It was so crazy and interesting to see how everything came together behind the scenes of the show. Because the show is live the set and props department have to be on their toes, moving the set around, hauling couches, and even a whole piano! The girls were so cool the whole time, not seeming to notice as props and makeup people buzzed around them.

The part of the show I liked the most was the Unilever cooking segment with Ted Allen, Sherri, and a special guest – who was actually an audience member who was selected to be featured on the show to commemorate “The Year of the Viewer”. They made a quick, easy, and healthier (thanks to I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter!) version of Jalapeño Corn Bread- check it out here!

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I also loved the performance by Andrea Bocelli and music producer Tom Ford – my grandma is such a big fan of Andrea Bocelli, I couldn’t wait to call her up and brag about seeing him perform live!

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After the show my friend Cinny (from Whirlwind of Surprises) and I had a chance to chat with Ted, and take a couple more pictures. Ted was so genuinely nice and took the time to answer all of our questions.

One of the best things about being a Food Network star, according to Ted, is that whenever he has a cooking question he can always call up one of the other Food Network stars and ask them what to do! How cool is that?! I would totally take advantage of that if I were him – I can see myself in the middle of making an delectable eggplant parm and speed dialing Giada de Laurentis, “Giada, dear, how much mozz-ah-rell-ah is too much? And do you mind if I drop by the set of your show tomorrow, I’d love your opinion on this new olive oil blend I’ve been making at home?”

See, wouldn’t that be awesome?! Ted also revealed one of his favorite food is mustard (well, more of a condiment) – I’m a mustard connoisseur myself, so I can totally relate. The weirdest thing he’s ever seen on Chopped? Whole chicken in a can from Swanson. How long does it take to pull together a cookbook? Four and a half months, followed by over a week of chefs and food photographers destroying his kitchen to remake the recipes and properly photograph them.

Ted has partnered up with I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter and created a number of yummy recipes, to check them all out click here!

* I attended a live taping of The View. All opinions presented here belong to The NYC Talon, and are not influenced in any way.

Michael Angelo’s and a sweepstakes not to be missed!

Food has always been a source of comfort for me. Maybe it’s because I have such a culturally rich background, or maybe it’s because I spent many hours at my mom’s elbow learning how to bake, cook, and create good food. But for me, the most comforting of all the foods that I’ve eaten is Italian. My mom taught me early on how to bread and fry, chop onions, mince garlic, brown braciole, how to make Italian (sometimes called marinara, or Sunday) sauce, and how to make parmigiana.

But then I grew up, and now as a full time student and blogger, finding time to make my favorite Italian meals is hard. Having tried many of the frozen Italian meals available at my local supermarket, I was pretty disappointed and figured the only time I’d eat good Italian food was during the Holidays when I would have time to cook them. However, last August during BlogHer I finally discovered Michael Angelo’s.

For 30 years (I know, how did I not know about them until August is still a question I’m asking myself) Michael Angelo’s has been creating high quality Italian entrees for the freezer aisle. Michael Angelo’s created there products in small batches- ensuring freshness of taste, and quality excellence. Founder Sara learned her recipes working at her grandmother’s elbow, as I learned mine at my mothers, and has shared that tradition and love of food and feeding people with her customers.

I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I was with Michael Angelo’s frozen entrees. Cooked for about 45 min in a 400 degree oven, everybody in my family are now HUGE fans of their food. I was lucky enough to try their eggplant and chicken parmigiana, as well as their chicken piccata. Now being part Italian, and having grown up cooking and eating authentic Italian food, I figure I’m a pretty darn qualified critic. The chicken piccata was so good I was stuck standing at the stove nibbling from the tray – it almost didn’t even make it to a plate (let alone the table). And the eggplant parmigian is perfectly rich and just incredibly tasty – I couldn’t believe that I was eating a (formerly) frozen entrée!

The chicken parmigian was literally better than the chicken parm that I once had from a popular Italian restaurant on Arthur Avenue (which is like Town Square for East Coast Italians). Michael Angelo’s really is authentic Italian food. It tastes fresh and delicious. The chicken was juicy, and the portions generous. The sauce was beautifully made, and the piccata was easily some of the best I’ve had. Now I don’t have to wait for the Holidays to have great Italian – thanks to Michael Angelo’s I can have it anytime I want!

What’s even greater is that right now (up until November 4th) you can enter to win a trip to Italy- a culinary adventure courtesy of Michael Angelo’s! Enter here – and remember you can’t win, if you don’t enter!!!