Archive for the ‘Experiments’ Category

Pierce's Park, Baltimore Inner Harbor

I wrote a couple of days ago about the importance of learning multimedia skills to be a successful freelancer today, and a recent article on Ebyline’s blog gives 4 tips on how to become a multimedia journalist, including advice on building photography, audio, and video skills.

Although I’d like to experiment with video and audio, photography is the easiest place for me to start building these skills. At the ASJA conference, writer and photographer Gina DeMillo Wagner mentioned that there is a 365 Project in which photographers take a picture a day and upload the results to Flickr and photo sharing sites for feedback. I plan to sign up.

To get a jump on the project, yesterday I took Kenny to Pierce’s Park in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, a new interactive patch of space that looks both industrial (lots of steel) and verdant (a tunnel threaded with leaves, bright green grass) to practice taking pictures.

Here’s a few basic tips that I’ve heard about taking better photographs, as well as the results from our trip to the park.

Continue Reading “5 tips of taking better photographs (and Pierce’s Park in Baltimore)”

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Ingredients for home Chopped challenge

What is the best way to get creative in the kitchen while cleaning out your fridge at the same time? Hold a Chopped-style challenge with two or more players right in your own home.

For those not familiar with the show Chopped on the Food Network, it’s a four-chef, three round culinary competition hosted by Ted Allen. In every episode, each chef is given a mystery basket filled with four foods that don’t necessarily go together. For an appetizer round in 2009, for example, the boxes were filled with watermelon, canned sardines, pepperjack cheese, and zucchini.

The chefs have to find a way to make all these ingredients work together or they could be the chef who is “chopped.” One chef is eliminated in the appetizer, entrée, and dessert rounds until a $10,000 winner prevails.

Faced with a fridge of odds and ends a few weeks ago, Kenny and I held our own Chopped event at home. With only two players, it wasn’t a competition, but rather a fun way to stretch our culinary creativity.

For Kenny’s ingredients, I chose tofu, strawberries, spinach, and Heritage Heirloom Grains cereal.

Kenny gave me pickles, tempeh, whole wheat hamburgers buns, and – the real curveball here – coconut milk.

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Shrimp and vegetables in a coconut vegetable broth, my final cleanse meal

Shrimp and vegetables in a coconut vegetable broth, my final cleanse meal

Last week I completely overhauled my diet. I went on a whole foods spring cleanse with Baltimore Health Coach, avoiding processed foods, dairy, soy, gluten, and sugar.  The idea was to eat clean for a week to improve digestion, release weight (I had picked up a few winter pounds), and increase energy. All of that sounds great, right?

In reality the cleanse was much harder than I thought it would be. I ate a lot of grains, vegetables, beans, fruit, some fish, and a few fun “extra” foods that were part of the plan. I thought I would be high-wired all day from all this clean food, just walking laps around the neighborhood because I had so much energy. But a four mile run two days in had me gasping for breath. It felt like 40 miles. I didn’t have the energy to do anything I didn’t have to do, which is why I didn’t blog all week.  

But now that the cleanse is almost over, I’m glad I did it.  There were some good results too.  If you’re ever thinking of going on a cleanse, here are a few thoughts about my experience of the process.

Continue Reading “Detox, Digation, and Spring Cleansing”

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Candy Corns

Do you ever get the want to make something creative in the kitchen that’s inspired by the Food Network’s Chopped?  If you’ve never seen the show, here’s a summary:  contestants make meals with mystery boxes, creating innovative dishes like gummy bear and kiwi wontons.  In honor of Halloween, I used candy corns as my “secret” ingredient and experimented with making a candy corn sauce.    

But first, a bit of history.  Candy corns have endured for a whopping 130 years.  Yep, that’s right; they’ve been around since George Renninger of Philadelphia’s Wunderlee Candy Company invented them in 1880.  Then, everything but the candy corns’ taste made them popular.  Farmers liked candy corns because they are shaped like corn.  (Which sounds crazy to me bccause, come on, they don’t really look like corn.)  Others liked the orange/yellow/white color combination, according to the website, Candy Corn Wonderland: “The three color [sic] on a single candy was revolutionary in its day – the masses went bonkers for candy corn.” 

I wonder if those same masses would have gone crazy for candy corn sauce.  My version is just candy corns melted in a pan with some water.  Couldn’t you just melt some sugar in pan? you may ask, thinking that candy corns are just sugar in tri-colored form.  No, no.  This candy is slightly more complicated than that.

Continue Reading “Candy Corns, Chopped Style”

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Several weeks after I mentioned that the very fun-sounding Cooking for Geeks book was sold out on Amazon, I was looking for blogging inspiration in my library’s food section.  As the stars or Kismet or the higher powers would have it, I stumbled across another food science book instead:  Robert L. Wolke’s What Einstein Told His Cook 2.

I’m not a science person, but, strangely enough, I love to think about the science behind food.  For example, this question has been bothering me for weeks:  why are Bon Appetit Hon’s chocolate chip pancake muffins both a pancake and a muffin???  (Is it the ingredients?  The cooking method?  Someone tell me, please!).  With Wolke’s book, I knew I had the answers to important questions like this.   

I haven’t read the whole book, but the good news is I didn’t need to.  What Einstein Told His Cook 2 is a question-and-answer book – a former biweekly food columnist for The Washington Post, Wolke answers 150 of his reader’s questions – which makes it the perfect book for flipping through.

Here are a few tidbits I’ve learned so far:

Continue Reading “Food Science from What Einstein Told His Cook 2″

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Oatmeal cookies with candied ginger, chocolate, five spice powder, and sesame oil

My latest food experiment

So many times I’ve heard or read a statement that goes something like this:  baking is a science, so you should follow the recipe.  And when I’m making a more complicated dessert like pain au chocolat or a cookie that needs to be rolled out like sugar cookies, I do follow the recipe.  (Note:  sometimes this doesn’t work either.  See chocolate pie with bananas.)

But when I’m making just regular ole’ drop cookies?  That’s when I like to experiment.

Continue Reading “What’s Your Best (or Worst) Food Experiment?”

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Beer Bread Faceoff, Flying Dog Brewery beers

Ever since my family has discovered the food company Tastefully Simple, I’ve eaten a lot of beer bread made with their mix.  But even though this bread has a nice texture – a cross between cake and bread – and is buttery and salty, I’ve never tasted the beer.  

That could be because my family makes their loaves with a light beer that may not have enough flavor to withstand baking.  Still, I wondered, when used in bread, would any of the beer’s flavor cook off after 45 minutes in the oven?  

So I decided to do an experiment:  I would bake two loaves of beer bread with two different types of beer to see how different they taste.  

Continue Reading “A Beer Bread Faceoff”

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Jacques Torres' Pain Au Chocolat

Jacques Torres' Pain Au Chocolat

Photo CreditKenneth Yee, painter

First, today is quite a milestone for My Morning Chocolate – this is the 100th post!  I’m sending out a big thanks to you for reading this blog at any point over the last nine months.  One of the things we bloggers live for is our blog’s stats – you want to know that you’re talking to someone out there, after all – and the increasing views have been a great push to keep me going.  So thank you!  

I’ve been aware of my approaching 100th post for a while, and, thus, have had plenty of time to plan what to write for the big day.  When I was in my mid-20s, I wanted to open a bakery. and I spent a lot of time researching how to do that.  This led me a website where a commenter said a good bakery absolutely had to have a good pain au chocolat.  This was just one person’s two cents, but the yeast was planted in my baking brain:  I would make pain au chocolat someday.

So I finally made them, spending the whole day rolling, resting, refrigerating, filling, and rolling the dough.  My pain au chocolat were on the small side, but  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more proud of myself!

To make your own, print Jacques Torres’ pain au chocolat recipe, read it, and then follow along with this photo essay (of sorts) that will take you through the process.

Continue Reading “How to Make Pain au Chocolat (A Photo Essay)”

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Frozen Greek Yogurt

Frozen greek yogurt with maple syrup and chopped cashews

For the last few nights, I have been craving ice cream at the most inappropriate times. Last night, the craving hit on my ride home from school, and I didn’t have my wallet with me. What I did have was Greek yogurt in my refrigerator. Could frozen Greek yogurt be a quick substitute for ice cream?

Well, there’s no real substitute for ice cream, but Greek yogurt can stand in as a healthier, high-protein alternative in times of need. (One small container of Greek yogurt can have up to 18 grams of protein.) Here’s my quick recipe: I mixed one single-serving container of plain nonfat Greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon of soy milk, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, and a couple of drops of stevia to taste, then I froze it.

I tested this recipe twice and, after the first time, I learned to not freeze the “frozen yogurt” for too long.  Instead of a creamy dessert, I had a solid mass of ice!  So unless you love icees – if that’s the case, then freeze it as long as you like – check your yogurt every 15 minutes until it’s reached your desired consistency.

Once frozen, I topped my yogurt with maple syrup and cashews. The final product did satisfy my craving in a pinch, but I might still go out tonight for ice cream!

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Cathy Erway's The Art of Eating In

Cathy Erway's new book The Art of Eating In

Do you think you can eat in for an entire week?

Even for me, a person who eats most of her meals in, a full week of home-cooked food is a long time. I run out of dinner ideas, or I’m tired of doing dishes, or I just want to eat at a restaurant because I like it.  So by Thursday or Friday, I’m going out or ordering in.

But starting February 22nd, I have signed up for The Huffington Post‘s The Week of Eating In Challenge.  I love challenges like this because they add some life – a spark, if you will – to my cooking-at-home routine.

The challenge starts just a few days after the release of Cathy Erway’s book The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove.  (She ate in for two years in New York – not an easy task!)

You too can sign up for the challenge, follow Cathy’s blog, add a picture of your small kitchen to the slideshow, and use the spending tracker to see how much money eating in can save you.

I also recommend eating out this weekend – a necessary preparation for a week of eating in!

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