Friday, March 16, 2012

Leave the boring brownies, grab this minty fresh baking tip!

In honor of St. Patty’s day, I thought I’d share this tip to make your brownies good and minty green.

You ready?

First, begin to prepare your brownies as usual.

(Side note: I baked brownies from scratch for years before I learned that my grandmie, the best baker I know and woman who makes the absolute best brownies in the world, uses a boxed mix. Yep. Mind blown. So there’s no shame in picking up a box of Pillsbury’s finest. My grandmie and I prefer the triple chocolate chunk.)

Back to the minty brownies. Still with me?

Right before you stick you pan in the oven, place pieces of Andes Mints (!) evenly in the batter. Then, bake. 

The result is a gooey, fudgey brownie with a fresh mint, candy green center. (P.S. if you're short of Andes Mints, I've used Ghirardelli mint squares in the past, and the result is equally rich and delicious. You just won't get that pop of green.)

These are sure to be a hit at any party, St. Patrick’s or otherwise.


Leave the spring pastels, grab the tangerine!

We’re just about in the throes of spring, fashionistas—why not spark some life in that closet with a pop of tangerine? Now before you get worried you’ll look like the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown, remain calm. It might not be the typical color you look for during this time of shamrocks and Easter eggs, but tangerine has become the hottest hue this season.

And with good reason, too. Tangerine compliments any skin tone (bright shades especially flatter darker/olive skin tones, softer, muter tones look great on paler skin tones). Really, as long as you avoid the prison jumpsuit orange, you should be good.

Whether you sport a tangerine mod-inspired dress, or add a tangerine handbag to your casual look for a spark of color, you’ll instantly inject some pizzazz to any outfit. 

Check out these cute tang-looks to inspire you:

1. Michelle Williams at the 2012 Oscars

Photo: Ghetty Images

 2. On the Runway

Photo: Marc by Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Tam and Jennie Packham Spring 2012 RTW | Elle      

3. At H&M  

 4. At Charlotte Russe

 5. And this cute dress I found at Forever 21 (ignore the bf's arms in the background)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Leave the movie, read the book!

The book turned film. It’s not a new phenomenon by any means, but lit-based cinema seemed to be a noticeable theme this year.

 Some titles made the transition successfully, such as Oscar nominees The Help, The Descendants, and Hugo. Others didn’t fare so well. (I’m looking at you One For The Money. It’s not a good sign when your best review includes the sentence, “It will have you groaning between yawns.” But I digress….)

If you’re looking to ditch the Netflix and grab a good page-turner for the night, I recommend the following stories so entertaining, they inspired other mediums:

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1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The first book in Stieg Larsson’s famed series entertains and intrigues. While this dark tale starts out a bit slow, it builds momentum when Larsson gets to the 40 year-old murder mystery, the troubled investigative journalist hired to solve it, and the badass, pixie-sized heroine. It’s a veritable “book noir” filled with suspense, passion, and corruption.

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2. I Don’t Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother
Okay--the recent SJP movie may have been subject to lackluster reviews, but the book is surprisingly delightful and poignant. Set in London and narrated by a clever protagonist, Allison Pearson’s debut novel recalls the charm of Bridget Jones’ Diary. And while this tale includes hilarious episodes similar to those in the aforementioned title (Reddy mangling store-bought mince pies so they’ll look homemade for her daughter’s school party to name one), it’s also filled with ever-relevant musings on how to succeed as a working parent. Wrapped in a sharp, witty package, the book is philosophical and interrogative at its core.

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3. The Help
If you haven’t jumped on The Help bandwagon, what are you waiting for? Yes, the film is touching and filled with exceptional performances. But the book is better. The strong narrative voices heighten both the endearing and heart wrenching moments, creating one of those wonderfully rare novels you don’t ever want to end. Kathryn Stockett has masterfully crafted unique characters that move through a rich story about bravery, oppression, resistance, friendship, and hope. It prompts important reflection on historical, political, and personal levels. Dare I say it’s the To Kill a Mockingbird of our generation? Better not—my fellow lit peeps will have my head. But it’s pretty darn close.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Leave the take out, grab these Super Bowl recipes.

The big day is fast approaching, and you’re gonna need some tasty munchies to go with all that football and beer.

This year, forget the frozen appetizers and try these easy-to-make party faves: New York cheesecake brownies (for those Giants); Boston cream cupcakes (for the Pats); and grape jelly turkey meatballs (just ‘cause they’re delicious).

First, let me share my go-to recipe for any sports gathering, my grape jelly turkey meatballs. It may sound weird, but these sweet and sour, deliciously tangy meatballs go like hot cakes (see recipe three for some actual “hot cakes.”). I forget where I first found this delightful recipe, but I’ve modified it over the last few years.

(Random side note: If I remember correctly, these meatballs actually began long ago as beef meatballs. And you could definitely use ground beef if you’d like. But if you’re like me and want to make at least one of your dishes somewhat healthy, no one needs to know they’re made of white meat.)

Grape Jelly Turkey Meatballs:

1 lb ground turkey
1 cup minced onion
1 egg
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp Italian seasonings
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground pepper
¼ cup butter

1 bottle chili sauce (12 oz)
1 jar grape jelly (1 ½ cups)

In a large bowl, mix turkey, breadcrumbs, and milk. In a small bowl, whisk egg, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasonings, salt, and pepper. Mix well into turkey mixture. Use your hands to shape meatballs in the size of an inch or so. (Oh yeah---we're gettin our hands dirty.)

Heat a large frying pan over a medium flame. Melt butter and brown meatballs. At the same time, mix chili sauce and grape jelly in a medium-sized saucepan. Heat over a medium flame until the jelly is melted. Pour sauce over meatballs and simmer until meat is thoroughly cooked.

Now for my favorite kind of food—dessert. Everybody likes a good theme, and I’ve found the perfect dessert recipes for game day this year. The best part? They’re both of the semi-homemade variety, so you don’t have to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen pre-kickoff.

New York Cheesecake Brownies (recipe from

1 package brownie mix (I prefer Pillsbury’s products)
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup white sugar

Preheat oven to temperature indicated on the box and prepare the brownie mix as directed. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Beat the cream cheese, egg, and sugar using an electric mixer until smooth.

Spoon the cream cheese mixture evenly on top of the brownie batter. Swirl together using a knife or skewer.

Bake according to manufacturer's instructions. Brownies will be done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in the pan, then cut into bars, and serve.

1 package of yellow cake mix (I prefer Pillsbury)
1 (3 oz. box) French vanilla instant pudding
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsps vanilla extract
¼ cup powdered sugar

Chocolate ganache
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare yellow cupcakes as directed on box.

In the meantime, prepare the vanilla filling. Combine the instant pudding mix and the half and half in a medium-sized bowl. Beat heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar at medium speed until soft peaks form (just as if you were making whipped cream).

Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until it is fully mixed and smooth.

When the cupcakes have cooled, remove centers using a handy cupcake corer (see picture), or a small melon scoop. Fill with spoonfuls of vanilla filling.

Works like a dream!

When all the cupcakes have been filled, prepare your ganache topping by combining the heavy cream and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; cover and let stand for 8 minutes. (If the chocolate has not completely melted, return the saucepan to low heat and stir constantly until melted.)

Stir in the vanilla extract very gently until smooth. Cool the glaze until tepid so that a spoonful drizzled back into the pan mounds slightly. (You can refrigerate the ganache to speed up this process, stirring every few minutes to ensure even cooling.)

Dip the tops of the cupcakes in the ganache. Place glazed cupcakes on wax paper or a cookie sheet to dry, as the ganache will drip.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Leave the reality TV, see The Artist.

Okay, I love my guilty pleasure shows like the best of them (see my future paper entitled, “The Kardashians: Austen’s Bennett Family of the 21st Century?”).

But if you want to watch something truly entertaining, lovely, and powerful, put down that remote and go see The Artist.

The film follows a silent film star, George Valentin, through the changing landscape of Hollywood in the late ‘20s, early ‘30s. As the miracle of sound hits the cinema and movies become “talkies,” we watch Valentin struggle as his celebrity status turns to obscurity.

Supported by the adorable new Hollywood darling, Peppy Miller, and a particularly loyal canine, Valentin must find a new role for himself in a world that is quickly changing, with or without him.

Yes, The Artist is in black and white, and it’s mostly silent (a fact that made two fellow movie-goers leave the theatre after the first 5 minutes). But these features actually enhance the film, highlighting the performances, direction, and script that are both hilarious and moving.

By employing both classic and modern cinematic techniques, The Artist at once celebrates the medium and lovingly pokes fun at it with cutesy winks to the camera and silly minstrel gags.

It highlights the pain, the comedy, the necessity of innovation and transition, not only in the film industry, but in technology, and in life in general (much like fellow Oscar-contender, Hugo).

It toes the line between realism and stylistic illusion in a way that will impress both the analytic film student and the couple desiring some fun, light-hearted entertainment on date night.

And did I mention it contains the most adorable dog in the world and a healthy dose of tap dancing?

The result is a piece of art (no pun intended) that can still entertain and touch a mainstream audience; an impressive feat, indeed!

Leave the Bisquick, grab the red velvet waffle.

Leave it the great city of Los Angeles to make breakfast food cool and sexy.

I’m talking about The Waffle, a chic diner (oxymoron?) located on Sunset Blvd.

From the baked-in applewood smoked bacon waffle, to the cornmeal jalapeno waffle, these folks aren’t messing around in their quest to upgrade the morning classic. (And breakfast lovers should know, the waffle isn’t the only a.m. staple this place innovates).

But before I digress, let’s get to he crème de la crème on this menu: the red velvet waffle. Yes, you read that correctly. A red. velvet. waffle. A delicately-toasted creation that perfectly embodies the rich, cocoa-y goodness and deep blush color of a red velvet cupcake. And, did I mention they top it off with a dollop of “melty” cream cheese frosting?

It’s dessert for breakfast at its best. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pondering Pasta

Let’s talk “pasta”— a word I would designate as a food group if the proper authorities would let me.

As a gal recently recovering from wisdom-tooth extraction (as well all the necessary corresponding jokes about losing my intelligence), soft foods are a must.

Lucky for me, a bit of noodles and sauce work wonders for those with sore gums and a hungry tummy.

...Or for those with just the hungry tummies.

Pasta is versatile. It fulfills meat lovers, vegetarians, picky eaters, and foodies alike.

And with so many easy recipes and surprisingly healthful/delicious pre-made meals out there, pasta is also perfect for a girl getting back to a busy week after a dentally triggered hiatus.

As I ponder about the wonders of various Italian dishes, I’ll spare you the crazy philosophical musings that spring to mind (i.e., perhaps pasta is the perfect metaphor for life: We are merely a hodgepodge of noodles, all slightly different, yet fundamentally made of the same stuff. We’re rooted to one plate, immersed in every sweet, spicy, tangy, creamy sauce of life, trying to absorb a healthy balance of flavors while maintaining the integrity of our carby-interiors). 

Uh, right…heavy stuff.

Instead, I bring you The Food Life’s “Where to” list, pasta edition:

1.    Where to find the best pasta I’ve EVER eaten:


Yeah, I’m sure you saw that coming. But honestly, when you eat any type of pasta in Italy (or any type of FOOD in Italy, for that matter), you get one of those “Ah ha” moments Oprah always talks about: “Ah ha! THIS is what pasta is supposed to taste like.”

And as most travelers know, the best culinary experiences come from restaurants far from tourist hot spots. The first time I went to Italy, I visited a small coastal town called “Rimini,” and every restaurant offered top-notch plates of food.

From the handmade, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi, to the silky smooth and velvety linguine (insert any type of sauce, meat, seafood, cheese, and wine to pair with it), meals don’t get better than this.

2.    Where, in the U.S., to find the best pasta I’ve ever eaten:

Okay, so most of us won’t be heading to Europe anytime soon. Therefore, I suggest sampling:

The pennoni al ragu at Canaletto, a restaurant located in the Venetian hotel in no other than LAS VEGAS BABY!

The pennoni, imported from Italy, is surprising soft and light (no carbo-loading here). Yet, it perfectly holds up the traditional meat ragu, a sweet and tangy sauce of finely ground beef and a delicious blend of garlic and basil. They top it all off with some Grana Padano, a subtler cheese than your traditional Parmigiano, which adds a bit of nuttiness, while not overpowering the palate.

The bf and I have seriously considered driving the 5 hours to Vegas just to eat this.

For only $17.99 (a downright steal in a nice Vegas hotel restaurant), this dish is a must-have when you are in the area.
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3.    Best ready-made pasta I’ve eaten:

I admit it—while I absolutely love to cook, I barely have time to create anything but pre-made meals most weeknights.

I therefore indulge in Trader Joe’s (or, as it charmingly says on the bag, Trader Giotto’s) Rigatoni Alla Siciliana, penne pasta with an eggplant ragu sauce.

First, this pasta is legit. It’s imported by Italy and made from natural ingredients (RE: no funny chemical business on the label). It’s a great vegetarian option, and ready to eat in about 10 minutes.

And, most importantly, it tastes delicious! The large penne tubes are al dente; the sauce is filled with flavorful tomato and eggplant pieces. Its peppery, earthy taste is delightfully balanced by smooth, melted bits of mozzarella. 
All that’s really left to say is, "Buon appetito!"

Friday, January 6, 2012

It's the New Year; It's Time to Treat Yourself

"Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting."
~Author Unknown

I thought I’d start with one of my favorite dessert recipes taught to me by the best chef I know, my Grammie. 

Yes, yes, I know it’s after the holidays and we all have resolutions to be healthy and such (which is great. Really! I have such resolutions myself).

But we are only human, after all. And a bit of chocolate goes a long way in this world in my experience. These no-bake “Yum Yum Cookies" are the perfect way to treat yourself after a long gym sesh. And they contain peanut butter and oats, so you’re getting that protein and whole grain-y goodness while you splurge.

Grammie’s Yum Yum Cookies


2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup of butter (1 stick)
4 tbsps cocoa powder
2 ½ cups oats
¼ cup chopped nuts (if desired)
2 tsps vanilla
½ cup peanut butter


In a medium-sized saucepan, cook the sugar, butter, milk, and cocoa over medium heat until mixtures reaches a full rolling boil. Boil for 1 ½ minutes. (Timing is very crucial in this recipe to avoid burning, so set your stopwatch as soon as those bubbles start a-rolling!).

Remove pan from heat and add remaining ingredients. Mix well and spoon 1 tsp-sized rounds onto wax paper. The cookies will harden as they cool (about an hour. Be patient--it’s worth it). Once the cookies no longer appear glassy and adopt a frosted look, you’re good to go.

The results: A smooth, rich chocolate cookie with a hint of nuttiness.

It’s delish. It requires very little prep time. It contains ingredients I usually have on hand. Basically, it’s divine!

So go and…

“Treat yo self!” Tom and Donna, Parks and Recreation

Welcome to The Food Life

 “Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”  ~Voltaire

Welcome virtual peeps to The G Food Life, a blog about a very powerful thing indeed. The thing at the crux of celebrations, holidays, meetings with world leaders, and first dates. The thing that crosses borders, while at the same time, maintains its own cultural identity (RE: I have a HUGE craving for Italian right now. Or, wanna take out some Thai?). A thing leveled on the same plateau as spiritual enlightenment (I’m looking at you, Elizabeth Gilbert). A thing that has inspired a multitude of television networks, magazines, and, dare I say it, blogs.

Yes, you guessed it, that glorious thing we like to call FOOD. Food, glorious food! (Okay the show tunes stop now, I promise).

Yep, eating is one of those obvious universal essentials. And to take a leaf out of my buddy Voltaire’s book, it may as well be an enjoyable experience.

To be honest, I’m pretty finicky comes to my culinary endeavors. Like the new resident searching for cable providers, or a powerful single woman on the prowl, I look for the whole package.

I want comfort in my fare, creativity, healthfulness, preferably all three. It takes a lot for me to truly fall in love with a dish. I mean, the finish-the-entire-plate-and-then-lick-it-clean-without-shame-and-happily-submit-self-into-food-coma-and-wake-up-wanting-more experience only comes once in a while.

So gentle blog followers, here is my promise to you:

I will share every happy-food-coma-inducing recipe, restaurant-dish, grocery store-find I come across, in addition to some food for thought (pun intended).

Look for the next post for one of the best dessert recipes in my arsenal. Yum!