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.

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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.

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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:

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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.  

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