The Weekend Gourmet: 10/23/11 - 10/30/11 F

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Entry in Biscoff Spread's Lunch Envy Contest: Wolf's Afternoon Pick-Me-Up Sandwich...and a Biscoff Spread GIVEAWAY!!

My nephew Wolf and I have been conspiring behind the scenes lately...via telephone and Facebook...working on a covert project. The objective? To create a tasty lunchtime (or after-school) treat featuring Biscoff Spread. The Lunch Envy contest asked food bloggers and their children to create an original recipe to put a new spin the usual school lunch...a recipe that makes all your friends envious of what YOU brought to eat!! The only requirements are that it has to be a collaboration, Biscoff Spread has to be the featured ingredient, and you have to create a video showcasing your creation. 

When I was invited to take part, I initially declined since I'm not a mother. The only "kid" I have is orange, furry, and lacks the opposable thumbs necessary to help me in the kitchen. Besides...it doesn't help that this is how Lucy spends most of her days.


However, the people at Biscoff said that I could team up with my teenage nephew Wolf and enter the contest. Wolf is 13 years old and lives in Rock Creek, Ohio. Yep...that's a long way from Texas, which means I don't get to see him -- or his brother and sister -- very often. My sister, Tina, is a fantastic cook and fellow food lover...and this trait has rubbed off on Wolf. As you can see from this picture, he loves to cook. We have fun talking about recipes and different foods to try...he and Tina recently made the spaetzle from one of my Daring Cooks challenges.


Thanks to modern technology, we stay close despite the distance...we like to talk on the phone, use Facebook, etc. to stay in touch and share recipes and foods. The distance was a small challenge we had to overcome when entering this contest. We brainstormed on the phone and came up with our lunchtime creation: Wolf's Afternoon Pick-Me-Up Sandwich...featuring yummy Biscoff Spread. If you've never heard of -- or tasted -- Biscoff Spread, here's the scoop. It has the consistency of peanut butter, but it contains no nuts. That makes it a great alternative for people with nut allergies! The flavor is a bit like brown sugar-caramel, with a hint of cinnamon and other spices in the background. It's so good! Biscoff sent me several jars of the spread to work with as Wolf and I created our contest entry. We knew that we wanted to make a sandwich, but we wanted it to be anything but the ordinary...the name of the contest is Lunch Envy, afterall!

We decided to play up the cinnamon flavor of the spread by using cinnamon-raisin bread. We flavored the Biscoff Spread with a bit of honey, some vanilla bean paste, and just a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. We layered the spread with sunflower seeds for crunch. Then we topped it with sliced bananas...because one my all-time-favorite sandwiches is peanut butter with banana. It works just as well with the Biscoff Spread! This sandwich tastes great...and it gives you the energy you need to make through a busy afternoon at school OR work!!

Wolf's Afternoon Pick-Me-Up Sandwich
a Weekend Gourmet-Wolfgang Joerns Original Recipe


Step 1:  Add 1/2 cup Biscoff Spread, 2 tbs. honey, 1 tbs. vanilla bean paste (optional, but yummy!), 1 tsp. cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg to a small bowl. Stir well to combine.


Step 2:  Spread half of the spread on one slice of cinnamon-raisin bread. Sprinkle evenly with roasted, salted sunflower seeds. Press them in slightly so they don't fall out when you eat the sandwich.


Step 3:  Cut a banana in half, then cut the half lenthwise...it should be the size of the bread. Layer the sliced banana on top of the sunflower seeds.  Top with the second slice of cinnamon-raisin bread, and slice with a serrated knife. 


The combination of flavors and textures in the this sandwich is really nice...the sweet creamy spread, the salty and crunchy sunflower seeds, and the banana -- all combined with a fantastic cinnamon flavor in the background. 

The other part of the entry is a video...which is a bit of a challenge given the logistics of being in two different states. I've come up with what I think is a creative solution: a video slideshow that I'll be setting to music and posting on YouTube tomorrow. I promise to share the link once the video is live. Wolf and I hope that our sandwich recipe will be a winner...the grand prize in the contest is two iPads!! Wolf and I would use the iPads to Skype with each other and share more recipe ideas across the miles.

Oh yes, the giveaway! So...how would you like to try a jar of Biscoff Spread? I thought so. In honor of the Lunch Envy contest, I'm going to give a jar of Biscoff Spread to TWO of my readers! To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below...along with your e-mail address. Tell me how you would use the Biscoff Spread in your kitchen. I'll pick two winners using a random number generator on Thursday. It's that simple. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I'm Back...Want to Hear About My New York Trip?!?!?

No...I didn't quit my day job and move to New York (though I admit that it was a tempting fantasy...)! So, exactly where the heck have I BEEN since we returned to Texas last Monday night you ask?!?!? Well....work has been totally INSANE with some long hours since I returned. We've also had some home internet issues, which further complicated my life. Add those two things up, and food blogging literally ground to a halt the past week or so. The good news is: I'm back! I have tons of details and food pics from our fantastic weekend getaway to be in the audience of Saturday Night Live the weekend of October 15th! So, let's get started!!

We arrived in Newark around noon on Saturday and made it by train to Penn Station in New York by 100. Our hotel room wasn't ready, so we dropped our bags and headed out to the Upper West Side to grab some lunch and kill some time. First stop was Gray's Papaya for super-cheap hot dogs. They were very good...so good that we didn't take any pictures before scarfing them down! Next stop was Trader Joe's, directly across the street. I bought Lucy-cat her favorite holistic cat treats and a bag of chocolate-covered potato chips to munch on in the room. From there, we headed up two blocks to the Holy Grail of chocolate chip cookies: Levain Bakery. Hands down my most favorite choc-chip cookies in the universe: HUGE and full of ooey-gooey chocolate:


From there, it was a few more blocks up the street to grab burgers for a late lunch at Shake Shack. We got in line with the masses and waited our turn to order. We had Shack Burgers and shared a large order of their yummy cheese fries. We ate our food and watched the people...and lots of really cute dogs...walk by outside. People watching in New York is always so very fun!


From there, it was back to our room to rest for a bit and get cleaned up to head to 30 Rock. We wanted to walk the six blocks from our hotel and take some pictures before it was time to line up for our tickets. We had a BLAST at SNL...we had great seats, on the front row on the right-upper side of the stage. It was very interesting to see how things are "behind the scenes." The set crew really is phenomenal, breaking down sets and putting more up during the commercial breaks. By the time the show was over and we walked back to our hotel, it was nearly 230 in the morning...and we were hungry. Fortunately, in New York, that is NOT a problem! We stayed at the Park Central Hotel, just across the street from Carnegie Deli. We bought one of their famous pastrami sandwich to go and shared it in our jammies before going to sleep. It was amazing...tender and juicy, with just enough spice.


We slept in a bit on Sunday morning, the got dressed and hopped a subway to the Lower East Side. Our destination? Doughnut Plant...for tres leche doughnuts and chai tea! They had some great varieties on the menu that morning. I settled on a tres leche and a coconut cream.


We sat on the bench outside, stuffing our faces with doughnuts and enjoying the cool fall weather! Right next to Doughnut Plant is Kossar's Bialy, which specializes in a New York-only treat: the bialy. It's sort of like a bagel, but without a hole in the middle. Instead, either garlic and poppy seeds or onions are added to the middle before they go into the oven. They are SO GOOD, especially with a schmear of cream cheese.


We were just on the edge of Chinatown, and I had read about Vanessa's Dumpling House on Yelp. It was about four blocks up the street, so we headed out a quest for dumplings. I had read nothing but rave reviews...and at four handmade dumplings for $1, the price was right. We arrived and found a line of people waiting to order. We grabbed a menu and decided to share an order of four pork and chive dumplings since we had just had all those doughnuts! A small group of Asian women were making the dumplings by hand minutes before they were cooked and served...talk about fresh. To say these were awesome was an understatement: crispy on the bottom and steamed on top, and full of flavor. This was our best "new find" of the this year's trip!


After our morning food crawl, we made our way back to the subway to head to the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked across the bridge from the Manhattan side and took our time enjoying the gorgeous weather and fantastic views of the city! Best of all? It didn't cost a cent...we took tons of pictures along the way. By the time we made it into Brooklyn and caught a train back into Manhattan, it was time for an early dinner. We decided to grab a pepperoni and pancetta pizza at our favorite pizza place: Lombardi's in Little Italy/Nolita. They make a mean pizza...baked in a coal-fired oven. We go there for pizza every trip, and it never disappoints.


From there, it was back to the hotel to get cleaned up and head to The Blue Note for the Pat Metheny concert at 1030. The show was AMAZING! We spent some time souvie shopping in the gift shop afterward, then we grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel. We decided we needed another "late-night snack," so we stopped back by Carnegie Deli. We'd been eyeing the giant strawberry-topped cheesecake in their display case the night before, so we picked up a piece to split...and once again chowed down in our jammies before bed. This was amazing cheesecake: creamy and rich...perfect for sharing.


The next morning, we agreed that it was hard to believe our little getaway was nearly over. We checked out of the hotel, stored our bags, and headed out to take care of last-minute errands...including a stop at Zabar's to buy bagels to take back to my co-workers....and back to Levain Bakery for Michael to get cookies for two of his co-workers. We may have picked up another cookie or two to enjoy on the plane trip back home. Since we had enjoyed Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in Napa Valley, we decided to have lunch there before spending the afternoon wandering around Central Park across the way. I wish I could say we loved it, but we found it very overpriced for what we had: sandwiches and salad, essentially. The highlight of the meal was the fresh-baked baguette with fleur de sel-topped French butter that they brought to the table.


We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Central Park taking pictures and enjoying the lovely afternoon: not a cloud in the sky and 68 degrees...perfection! We spent about 30 minutes laying in the cool grass and relaxing at Sheep Meadow, also known as "the city's backyard." I took a self-portrait of us relaxing in the grass with my camera...it makes me smile, because it was such a nice little respite from all the running around we did.


Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel to collect our bags and grab a cab to Penn Station to catch the train back to Newark. It was quite an adventure to navigate Penn Station at the height of the afternoon commute, but we made it to our train 10 minutes early and successfully navigated our way back to Newark Airport. Go us! Our flight home was pretty uneventful...and long. We napped a bit...and munched on the Levain Bakery cookies we had stashed in my bag. 

Another trip to New York is over...great memories were made...and lots of good food was eaten. You really can't ask for more out of life than that: good times with the one you love! It was a quick trip, but we crammed as much as we could into that time and had a really fantastic time. We hope to go back to New York in 2012...we'll see if we can make it happen. We did learn from this trip that there are plenty of inexpensive food options in the city if you know where to find them!!



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