that's forking good

adventures in a culinary neophyte's kitchen

Archive for the ‘notes’ Category

welcome, 2014!

Posted by culinaryneophyte on January 2, 2014

In the past, I’ve done a year-in-review post just before New Year’s Eve, recalling my favorite posts throughout the year. Sadly, this year was very light on posts, and if I made a Top 10 of 2013, it would basically contain every post I wrote this year, because I’m not sure I got that deep into double digits.

This would make sense if I hadn’t spent much time in the kitchen, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. (My Instagram can back that up. I pretty much only take pictures of food.) It’s just been a matter of time… well, I guess more a matter of priority. If something is important to you, you’ll make time for it. Writing fell by the wayside in 2013, and that breaks my little writer heart. I miss crafting posts and sharing my food fun with you. This blog was such a big part of my life, and I want it to be a priority again. I haven’t been big on New Year’s resolutions the last few years, but maybe a New Year’s aspiration?

2014 sparkler

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sexual tonic herb?

Posted by culinaryneophyte on October 13, 2013

A little love for your Sunday here… goji love! High in protein, fiber and vitamin C, this superfood has powerful antioxidant properties to boost your immune system. Oh, and the package says they are “among the most revered sexual tonic herbs.” Yowzaaaa

IMG_0367

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tfg enters the toddler phase

Posted by culinaryneophyte on September 9, 2013

Today marks my blog’s third birthday. When I look back at where I was when I started this thing, I simultaneously can’t believe it’s been only three years and it’s been that long.

A few things in my life have remained constant — family, friends, my ability to mess up seemingly innocuous tasks. (Oh, and my beloved car, which also celebrates its birthday this week.) But then, so much has changed. When I started, I baked and wrote to take my mind off the crapstorm my life had become. I was pecking away about mac n’ cheese in my secluded cubicle cave at a failing newspaper, and spending all of my free time on foodgawker. Sometimes I’d be sitting in the dark, the bedroom illuminated only by the laptop, scrolling through the endless trove of food porn until 2 a.m. When I got laid off that winter, I had even more free time to experiment in the kitchen — my roommates often coming home to some strange plate of food on the kitchen table. They would have eaten it regardless of how it tasted or what adjectives I put to it, but it appeared I actually had a smidge of culinary talent despite my sometimes… unconventional methods (or “brilliant” shortcuts that led to burnt eyeballs and broken appendages).

(Not even kidding… As I write this, I just realized I left a wing sauce on the stove for about 15 minutes too long and it is now a burnt, sticky substance at the bottom of my pot. I got lost in my little blogging world over here. Writer > chef.)

The three biggest developments of this last year started with the purchase of my condo in December, which marked the real beginning of my “big girl life,”  No more roommates — just me, on my own. Yes, that meant bug killing duties rested solely on my shoulders, but I now had free rein of my [bigger] kitchen and the foreign task of cooking for one.

Once I got settled, I started looking for a new “thing,” and that’s when I fell into a brand new “fitspo” world. Well — not entirely new because I have always been active, and at that time, was playing on three soccer teams, but I wanted more. I joined kickboxing. I started consistently doing “Insanity.” Shaun T became my best friend. I became my downstairs neighbor’s worst enemy. I felt great and knew moving my diet even further along the healthy spectrum would only improve my life. I started “clean eating.” (Enter my friends mocking my “#cleaneating Instagram posts.) I cut back on the bread. I cut dairy almost entirely out of my diet. I relished the challenge of making people drool with things that were actually good for them. Now, I’m teetering on the edge of being “one of those Crossfit people,” but I make no apologies for feeling stronger (both physically and mentally) than I have at any other point in my life, and much of it comes back to the food.

The last development builds on last year’s mover and shaker: Pinterest. In last year’s blogiversary post, I made it my goal to make one Pinterest meal per month. I actually did a double take when I went back and read that. Per month?! I’m doing, like, three per week. I will always have a place in my heart for foodgawker, but Pinterest has become my new food porn purveyor. And it helps a Type A-person like me organize everything into neat little boards. Many of my favorite creations have been inspired by something I’ve found in Pinterest.

This past year has brought about a lot of changes. Some good. Some bad. Some itty bitty. Some monumental. I’m in a much different place now than I was when that’s forking good turned two, but for your sake, a few things have stayed the same… I still love writing. I still love cooking. I still love taking pictures. And I still haven’t conquered corn soup.

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3rd Annual Cupcake Smash

Posted by culinaryneophyte on May 11, 2013

PrintNow that the cupcake calamity has subsided, I’m ready to recap the rousing day that was Cupcake Smash 2013.

In case you’re new to this fabulous event, here’s a quick overview:

PYT is a crazy burger joint in Philly known for putting bacon and/or booze in basically everything. (Their rise to fame skyrocketed when they came out with the Krispy Kreme burger with chocolate-covered bacon, and gained nationwide notoriety when they started selling taco shells made completely of bacon.)

Philabundance is a nonprofit food bank that serves Philadelphia, Jersey and Delaware, and it’s the largest such organization in the region. In an effort to raise money for the food bank and “squash” hunger, Philabundance and PYT joined forces to create Cupcake Smash — a competition that challenged area bakers to create a cupcake based on one or more of PYT menu items.

On the day of the event, cupcakes invade the Piazza at Schmidt’s, served off decked out stations. Last year, I was inspired by PYT’s “Adult Cereal,” and made a Fruit Loop-flavored cupcake with a Loopy Vodka buttercream, and served the minis in individual cereal bowls with tiny spoons. It was enough for me to be voted People’s Choice among all attendees, so naturally, I had to defend my title…

Like last year, I made just about 10 test batches of different cupcakes based on assorted PYT items. Unlike last year, nearly all of these were relatively successful. (Last year, I had some pretty questionable results, including one that tasted like an ashtray.) This turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing because while all of the test batches were “good,” there wasn’t one among them that I tried and said, “THIS. This is it.” My taste testers’ feedback was all over the place, and I was fretting as the submission deadline loomed. I sent in what I intended to make with a giant, worried sigh.

cinnamonkey setup 2Our fabulous Cupcake Coordinator, Melissa, organized a happy hour for the competitors to meet up, and I had such a wonderful time meeting everyone, hearing their baking stories and sharing our excitement for the big day. I spent most of my time talking to Jamie from Luscious Bakery, a rocket scientist (legitimately!) who left that line of work to open her own business! Totally in awe of this girl, but it looks like it was the right move because she ended up taking first place among professionals this year with her “Brass Monkey” cupcake!

In between the chatting and buffalo bleu cheese fries, I spotted a special on the PYT menu — the “Monkey Bread Milkshake,” made with bits of monkey bread, vanilla ice cream and RumChata. On the way home, I started wondering “what if…” and got some materials together to try just one more test batch.

I had no idea what RumChata was, so I did some research (both via Google and imbibing) and discovered it may very well be the best liqueur ever made. A mix of Caribbean rum, cream, cinnamon and vanilla, a shot tasted like a smooth gulp of liquid Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I got to baking, toted around some test batches and discovered I finally had the one — a cinnamon-sugar, pull-apart cupcake base with RumChata buttercream, topped with a Cinnamon Toast Crunch crumble.

Once the entry was finalized, it was time to devise a theme. I recruited my design-inclined BFF, Laura, to apply her talents and bring our ideas to life. After a monkey-centric brainstorming session, we decided that Cupcake Smash is “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” and that we wanted to nix the standard serving table and display the cupcakes on actual barrels. Only problem was you empty barrels are hard to come by, especially on a budget. On a long shot, we stopped in a garden store that didn’t sell barrels, but by the grace of God, a darling employee pointed us to a local shop that sold potting containers that looked just like barrels. Flipping one on top of another yielded the perfect faux barrel for our display. To add to our monkey theme, Laura incorporated cupcakes into the “Speak No/See No Evil/Hear No” monkeys for our T-shirts.

cupcake smash shirts

Detailing all the madness that went on in the 48 hours prior to the event would make this longer than it already is, but some highlights: buying 50+ pounds of ingredients at the supermarket, the senior citizens’ reactions to my 50+ pound purchase at the supermarket and carrying those 50 pounds and construction materials up six flights of stairs. Oh, and that time the liquor store clerk asked me if I was 16 or 17 after selling me two bottles of RumChata. After some monkeying around (come on, I had to go there at least one), Laura and I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. constructing and baking — didn’t quite realize at the time of conception that rolling 1,200 balls of monkey bread dough would be so time consuming. Yup. It certainly was.

But hey, it proved to be worth it because my CinnaMonkey cupcakes won People’s Choice! With the warm weather and lack of shade, my cupcakes were little cinnamony puddles about 10 minutes in, but people dug what we were serving enough  for me to take home my second consecutive title. Congratulations to the other winner: Luscious Bakery, Watts for Dessert, 2204 House, Cammy Cakes and the Midnight Baker!

cupcake smash trophy

Thank you everyone who came out to the event and helped to raise money for Philabundace. We doubled our total from last year, raising enough to provide 20,000 meals to those in need!

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shake your monkey maker

Posted by culinaryneophyte on April 27, 2013

cupcake smash 2013 setup

 

 

Cupcake Smash 2013 is in the books, and I am proud to announce that I am now the two-time consecutive Cupcake Smash People’s Choice winner!

I am so excited to share my experience with you… but unfortunately, my excitement is not strong enough to overtake the extreme exhaustion setting in as my adrenaline winds down. I can barely keep my eyes open whilst typing this. I’ll have a much better recap for you soon, but I had such a blast and feel truly blessed to have so many people supporting me. A big thanks to everyone who attended today’s event.

Check back again soon!

 

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cupcakes! booze! philanthropy!

Posted by culinaryneophyte on April 26, 2013

Oooooh my goodness. My life is a whirlwind right now, capped off by the impending task of baking 500 cupcakes tomorrow. Yes, you read that right: Several hundred cupcakes. In one day. In my relatively small kitchen. Why? Because I’m helping Philabundance “beet” and “squash” hunger in the tri-state area as part of the third annual Cupcake Smash this Saturday at the Piazza in Philadelphia. 

You may recall I won People’s Choice last year with my “Fruit Loopy” cupcakes, but the competition looks tough this year and I’m hoping I can deliver on these grandiose plans I’ve created. I’m not divulging anything just yet, but would love for you to come check out the event yourself. Online ticketing closes Friday at noon, but limited tickets will be available at the door. All the details can be found here, and the official press release is below. Hope to see you there!

Cupcake Smash To Take Over The Piazza in Northern Liberties
Tickets available for Cupcake Smash, the premier cupcake baking event at PYT benefiting Philabundance

Print

Philadelphia, Pa- April 10, 2013- Philabundance, the Delaware Valley’s largest hunger relief organization, is throwing the third annual Cupcake Smash at The Piazza at Schmidts on Saturday, April 27th from 2pm-5pm. Philabundance and PYT are joining forces with The Piazza to raise money for people in need of food in the Delaware Valley. Professional and amateur bakers alike will vie for the tastiest PYT themed cupcake to be deemed #1 by celebrity judges and the “People’s Choice.” Advance tickets are on sale now for $25 and can be purchased online or at the door for $30. All proceeds benefit Philabundance.

Cupcake Smash will be held in the middle of The Piazza with Wendy Rollins, Radio Host on Radio 104.5 emceeing. Celebrity judges include Nima Etemadi and Lily Fischer, co-owners of A Cupcake Wonderland and winners of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, Zoë Lukas, owner of Whipped Bake Shop, Caroline Russock, food editor of Philadelphia’s City Paper , Tommy Up of PYT, Chef Nathan Volz of 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge, Wendy Rollins and Tony Luke Jr., of Tony Luke’s. Judges will vote on the best cupcake for the amateur and professional categories, while attendees will vote for the “People’s Choice.” 

DJ Jay Yo will be on the ones and twos while complimentary beverages and snacks will be provided by
Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, KIND Healthy Snacks, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Philadelphia Distilling, and White
Mule Farms Spodee. Uber, “everyone’s favorite driver,” is offering Cupcake Smash attendees a free ride from the Piazza up to $20 with a special promo code.

“Cupcake Smash has been such a huge success over the past two years thanks to the enthusiasm of
the bakers, judges, sponsors and of course, attendees,” said Marlo DelSordo, director of marketing and
communications at Philabundance. “More than 20,000 meals were provided to people in need because
of cupcake smash and we know that this year will be the best one yet.”

Philabundance is experiencing 29 percent more people coming to them for food compared to last year
and a 98 percent increase in need over the last three years which is why community support is needed
more now than ever before. Last year’s Cupcake Smash raised more than $7,600 for Philabundance
helping them provide more than 15,000 meals to people in need, surpassing the 10,000 meal goal and
doubling the amount of meals provided the inaugural year of Cupcake Smash. The goal for the third
annual Cupcake Smash is to raise enough money to provide 20,000 meals to people struggling to put
food on the table.

Cupcake Smash is made possible by The Piazza at Schmidts, PYT, Philadelphia City Paper, Radio 104.5, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, KIND Snacks, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Philadelphia Chocolate Tours, Philadelphia Distilling, White Mule Farms Spodee, Uber and Yelp .

For more information, please call 215-339-0900 or visit http://www.philabundance.org.

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