Posts tagged ‘jjwanous’

October 15, 2012

When Directing a Culinary Event for 3,000, Try This

by Jen Wanous

With walkie-talkie in hand, I entered the raw space that took up an entire city block, as ready as I could ever be. The task at hand: to set-up a three-day culinary event for 3,000 people. Set up included: six kitchens for 140 chef presenters, seven different workshop rooms, one main stage that seated 400, two walk-in refrigerators, one freezer, a tradeshow floor room for 50, two pop-up restaurants, 24 different food cart chefs, electricity and plumbing to it all…and two days to do it.

When the opening day hit, like meat in a grinder, time crunched down hard. With a year of planning now behind me, hours transformed into minutes as every request that came in needed immediate action. Crises were near boiling points around every corner. Everyone needed solutions and I was in a role to give them. Like being a chef in a kitchen, this was trial by fire. My mind ran at a fevered pace as names and schedules flew around. There was no time to write down notes; everything was one long mental note demanding immediate action. Bruises on my toes told of my speedy pace, just shy of running for the 100 hours I worked that week.

With problems popping up left and right, I honed my skill of bringing solutions. Here are a few examples.

Problem: Chef Morimoto (read: uber famous chef, aka: “The Iron Chef”) needs wasabi powder in 15 minutes.
Solution: Instruct assistant to go to the nearest store stating, “Seriously, like Super Market Sweep style, run and get it and run back now.”

Problem: Your boss, and CEO of the company (during the second hour of the event), screams at the top of her lungs at you, bursts into tears citing a myriad of crises. Problems like a sign that is not hung and a walkway that is not wide enough. Oh and also during this moment, she threatens to fire you if you take another Instagram picture.
Solution: Fix all noted problems (it takes five minutes) and definitely hold off on posting Instagram pictures until after the event. (Discovering that deep place of compassion for her helps, but may take up to a week to attain.)

Problem: Your only dishwasher breaks.
Solution: Pray.

Problem: Unions threaten to blow up the rat in front of your event and set up a picket line.
Solution: Hire a union member to be your liaison (aka: Wonder Woman) and have her negotiate the union labor needs so that everyone is happy.

Problem: Upset stomach.
Solution: Don’t eat a doughnut covered in peanut butter, thinking you’re getting more protein that way. Eat a Clif Bar instead.

Problem: Your production assistant decides to drink and then has a diabetic crash, passes out cold on the floor, and refuses medical attention then insists on going to the drug store to get meds. You don’t think that’s a good idea but then a few minutes later, you realize he’s already left. Having visions of him passed out in the street, you leave your event and run after him.
Solution: Get an umbrella (it had to be raining), call your mom (because she always knows what’s best), follow your mom’s advice to go back to your event (he can take care of himself) and then when he returns, put him in a cab home and tell him not to come back. (Did I mention cry? Crying is definitely a factor in the solution.)

All in all, I was given a job to manage something that was unmanageable. This was a three-day culinary event for 3,000 people in a completely raw space on a shoestring budget with very little infrastructure. This gargantuan feat was only made possible by the amazing talents of the team I had assembled. I gave them my trust and they gave me their absolute best.

As the Event Director, I could sure sling a walkie-talkie, but what good was that if the people on the other end were not ready on the draw?

If this were a novel, this would be my page of thanks: Candy, the kiwi intern who worked for free (free!) and added value beyond measure. Jacquie who made more than her fair share of super-market sweeps. Amy–another stellar volunteer–caught the pieces before they hit the ground. Sam was the saving grace and saving sass of this event. Layla, was the backbone of the event, her victory (and mine) lied in not needing anti-anxiety meds! Renata, Renata!, my mentor and confidant. Her grace under fire inspires me like none other.

The whole Wizard crew including, Dana, Matt, Sarah, Caryn, and the redheaded guy John. You all bolstered our faith when you helped come up with solutions and powered through each day. To the electricians, the dishwashers, the carpenters, the film crews, the security guards, the cleaning crews, the volunteers, you all are the foundation of this event.

And to the StarChefs crew, everyone rallied! Thank you for humoring me, trusting me, and helping me.

This has been one wild ride of a culinary adventure. Oh, the highs, you ask? Well, eating a deep-fried pizza made by a chef from Naples, *just* happening to be there when the wining pastry champion passes around his cake for a taste; getting Richard Blais his liquid nitrogen (and getting his cell phone number); and tasting and interacting with 140 of the worlds best chefs. Amazing. These are the things that will feed me moving forward.

Check out the official event wrap up here:

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April 30, 2012

A Brunch Date with Ramps

by Jen Wanous

Ramps are a fair-weather bunch that make their appearance for only a few short weeks a year. Being from California, I had never tried them until I moved to the East Coast where they are more abundant. Their reputation preceded them when one day I heard a co-worker proudly announce: “The ramps have arrived!”

I discovered many perks of my job in the past month; one is that I walk through the country’s largest Farmers Market to get there. I saw a small bushel of these rarities one morning and was wooed by their bulbous bottoms and their light leafy tops. With ramps in hand, my mind started turning with ideas for what to do with them.

Since this was a new vegetable to me, I decided to keep things simple and let their flavors really come through. I sautéed up the bulbs first and then the leaves with a little olive oil and salt. Part of the leek family, the aroma was like a shallot or mild onion, with a little essence of garlic too. The greens were so delicate, it only took a minute to wilt. Their accompaniments were two poached eggs and a piece of toast. This was a simple and satisfying brunch with a special seasonal addition.

The other half of the bunch, I pickled to preserve past its short window of offering. To do this, in a small jar add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Add the sliced ramp bulbs and pour boiled vinegar over it. This will keep for weeks and can be used as a taco topper or paired with any other rich, meaty meal.




November 30, 2011

Why Kale is Such a Super Food

by Jen Wanous

If you’ve been to my house for dinner, chances are that you have had my kale chips. They are like caramelized brussels sprouts–you feel like it’s too good to be good for you. For my final cooking demonstration in school, I deep fried kale in coconut oil. It was a brave move for a natural foods school, but it lent the perfect hight and crunch I was looking for.

With winter quickly ushering in, let’s be thankful for one of the season’s best bounties: kale. Rich in nutrients and available all winter, this is one staple you won’t want to leave behind.

Kale is part of the Brassica oleracea family and shares kinship with cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and collard greens. (What a healthy family!) Now, we all know that leafy green things are good for you…but here is what makes kale so super fantastic: it’s rich in beta carotene, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium and lutein. Kale also has a super food chemical called sulforaphane that gives it cancer fighting power. As if that weren’t enough, kale also has a chemical called indole-3-carbinol that boosts DNA repair in cells and blocks the growth of cancer cells. Pretty good stuff, I’d say!

When shopping for kale, there are a few different varieties at our local grocery stores. I personally like the lacinato (or Tuscan) and curly leaf kales. Look for the brightest, biggest and perkiest bunch you can find. It will usually keep in the fridge for a week or so. If it goes floppy on you, you can still use it (just don’t use if it turns yellow). When you prepare kale, always remove the stem. The stem has a bitter flavor and tough texture.

Below is a simple recipe for my kale chips. You can also add things like parmesan, smoked paprika, tamari, curry powder, garlic powder–go crazy with your kale! I have used kale in a couple other posts like tuscan kale soup and a bacon sandwich with kale. Enjoy.

Kale Chips


5-8 stems of kale

2-3 teaspoons olive oil

generous sprinkling of salt and pepper

optional: add ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika


1. Pre-heat oven to 350°. Rinse kale and shake off excess water. Tear approximately 2” x 2” pieces of kale away from the stem. Arrange on a large, rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (and smoked paprika, if using). Toss vigorously with your hands, making sure that each leaf has some oil.

2. Bake for 8 minutes then shuffle the leaves around and pop back in for 8-10 more minutes. They should be just slightly browned and perfectly crisp.

Eat alone or as a topping for any main course.

Here is a quote from my Aunt Arlette, who has a great raw kale recipe to share:

Hi Jen,
Read you Kale blurb.  Very informative, I like the info.  Wanted to tell you I’ve been into whole raw foods lately.  Kale makes a wonderful salad with fresh garlic, olive oil, fresh lime squeezed and whatever else I have in the frige to make a nice salad.  I remove all stalks and a friend told me to crunch it up with fingers to soften it, but I find by removing all stems, it is great as is.
Love reading your blogs.  You are a special person.  I love you.
 Auntie Arlette
October 9, 2011

On a Chilly Morning: Granola

by Jen Wanous

A fellow friend from California just told me that she is in denial about winter coming. We walked out of a dinner party, it was brisk out, but she didn’t put on her sweater. She said that if she put it on then it would actually mean that the season is changing–and she wasn’t ready.

I hear you sister! Winters are scary for us West Coasters. This will be my fourth galosh-wearing winter on the East Coast. Though my jacket that resembles a sleeping bag does give me great me peace of mind, I’ll never quite adjust. My mom has never owned an umbrella. I saw snow fall for the first time when I was 22. On a San Diego Christmas morning, I’d be playing on the driveway with my new toys, no jacket required.

Like my post from last week reminded me, there is magic that happens when you’re outside of your comfort zone–and by golly, if winter doesn’t get you out of your incubated comfort zone, then I don’t know what would. The gift of magic that comes with that trade off is a big one. Serenity, glitter and introspection. I’ll have to keep these things in mind as I zip up. For now, I know we’re not quite there yet, with an entire fall to savor.

Here is a recipe to make when you get up in the morning and it’s chilly but you don’t want to turn on the heater yet because that would mean that the cold has really come. It uses olive oil as the base, which I find I always have on hand, and the health benefits are far better than other commercial oils. You can switch it up to use different sweeteners like agave or brown sugar. You can also switch up the additions, like pistachio and apricot or cashew and cranberry.

Olive Oil Granola With Walnuts and Raisins

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or nutmeg

1/2 cup dried raisins

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, maple syrup, honey, olive oil, salt, cinnamon and cardamom/nutmeg. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

2. Transfer granola to a large bowl and add raisins, tossing to combine.

Yield: About 6 cups.

September 13, 2011

Unveiling the Mystery Behind Gluten-Free

by Jen Wanous

Is it just me or has every other person you’ve met lately gone gluten-free? Tons of people seem to be giving up bread and pasta and it’s not just because they want to go cut out the carbs. Their lives appear to be sincerely changed by this dietary modification. Improved digestion and more energy are just some of the many benefits cited by hoards of gluten-free converts. But before we all hop on board the gluten-free train, let’s back up for a second to cover some of the basics.

What is gluten?  Gluten is the common name for the proteins found in ALL forms of wheat. Gluten brings structure, elasticity and a chewy texture to products. This includes  wheat, spelt, rye and barley.

What is Celiac Disease?  CD is an autoimmune disease that attacks normal tissues when gluten is eaten. The angry immune system response is to attack the tiny finger-like villi that line your small intestine, which are responsible for nutrition absorption. When villi get stomped out by a gluten-intolerant immune system, the body loses its ability to absorb critical nutrients.

How do you know if you should get tested for CD? If you are having adverse gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and/or low energy, then it’s time to ask your doctor to do a blood test for Celiac Disease. (You have to be eating gluten for four weeks prior to the test for the results to be accurate.)

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, one in 133 people have Celiac Disease and 97% do not know it.

What is Gluten Sensitivity or Gluten Intolerance?  It is the less severe sister to CD. It means that your body has adverse reactions when gluten is introduced, more like a food allergy. It is not as destructive as CD because there is no immune system attack on your intestine wall. Symptoms pass as the gluten leaves the digestive system.

What to do if you suspect you are Gluten Sensitive or Intolerant?   Read up on where gluten lurks and take out all forms of gluten in your diet for two to four weeks. Carefully note how you feel. If you see improvements, then you best get on board the Gluten Free train!

Obviously, when planning a gluten-free diet, you have to be vigilant with all the processed products you eat. Just because something says it is “wheat free” doesn’t always mean that it is gluten-free because it might have spelt, rye or barley. Things can get tricky because gluten pops up in unexpected products such as soy sauce, ice cream, ketchup, supplements and beer, just to name a few. However, if you keep things simple and plan ahead, these lifestyle and diet modifications will not seem quite so daunting. Below is a recipe I made in school for a chocolate brownie. Gooey and rich, you and your friends will want more of this treat.

Click here for a link to the Celiac Foundation, it has a ton of resources.

Here is a link to the Gluten Free Girl, for some great recipes.

Gluten-Free Goodness Brownies Topped with Sea Salt

Makes 12+ servings


3 cups walnuts

Hearty pinch of salt

24 dates, pitted and chopped

2/3 cup unsweetened cacao powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 tablespoons agave or maple syrup

Coarse sea salt for topping


1. In a food processor add the salt and walnuts until finely ground. Add the dates, cacao powder, vanilla and syrup until well combine (about 1 min).

2. Press mixture into a pan and refrigerate until chilled. Top each piece with a pinch of course sea salt. Cover with plastic wrap to store.

This recipe is adapted from Raw Food Made Easy by Jenny Cornbleet.

September 6, 2011

How To Beef Up Your Kitchen Stock!

by Jen Wanous

I found an immersion blender on the street just now when I was taking my pup Jaxson for his evening stroll. There are few things better than finding a bargain and what can be a better bargain than free!? One of the many reasons why I love New York! Of course, I steer clear of any plush material that might harbor any slumber party bugs, but by and large, there are some good finds out there.  A friend once told me that I was “crafty” as I plucked a couple of basil leaves from her plant for dinner, though I read her subtext loud and clear. Fickle, frugal, or just plain cheap, call it what you will, I’m one resourceful lady who makes the best out of what I have.

I took my new found emersion blender (and ice cube trays!) home and dunked them all in warm soapy water. It got me thinking about how I have equipped my kitchen. Half of my kitchen is outfitted with odd and ends that I’ve acquired from California to Florida. I cherish my grandmother’s stainless steel pots that I use daily. My homemade hummus would not be nearly as good without the aid of my mini food processor, found on the corner of Sterling and Vanderbilt. And then there’s the white Pyrex bowl with an asterisk blue border that reminds me of one my mom used to have in her kitchen. I built my collection with found and acquired items alike and some coveted big-ticket items that make for one highly functional (yet tiny NYC) kitchen.

My friends Robin and Ben were just over and they said they needed to better equip their kitchen. “We have one good thing in all our kitchen stuff, like one good knife and one good pan.” That’s a great place to start! Here are some other tips on how to beef up your kitchen stock.

1. Have one good (very) sharp knife. You can take your knife to a sharpener or get this device that will help you keep it sharp. If you’re feeling ambitious, watch this on how to sharpen your own knife.

2. Get things that are multi purposed. Try not to get equipment that serves one function like a bread machine or an egg slicer. Your kitchen is too small for those random things. Instead, build out the basics and use them creatively!

3. Make a wish list for your birthday or holidays. This way you can stock up on some fancy items like a blender or that sharp knife (see above).

4. Have a zester! I love my Microplane. I add lemon or orange zest to things from cobbler to pasta. You can also use it for fresh ground nutmeg (adds that sophisticated touch to your food). I travel with mine and am always afraid security will confiscate it. :)

5. Read up on how-to. Cookbooks come in many varieties. Two of my favorites include the Joy of Cooking and Supper Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. (Also, check out her blog here.)

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August 15, 2011

Serving Cilantro Ice Cream: Believe It.

by Jen Wanous

A dear friend of mine from California, Ms. Kati Bissonette, celebrated her 30th birthday in the Big Apple. I love bringing people together in celebration and what better way to do that than with food! With a guest list of 10 for this dinner, I knew that I had to get a bigger table. I have the rare New York City luxury of having a large living/dining room.  I hopped on Craig’s List and found a folding table that would fit 10. A car trip and a tour inside a Brooklyn artist’s apartment later, I was the proud owner of a flea market-worthy six-foot long folding table.

Now, on to the dinner. I have started a tradition of creatively crafting a menu based on the guest of honor’s five favorite ingredients. I asked Kati what her fave five  were and this is what she said:

1. truffle oil

2. seared beef

3. pumpkin

4. cucumber

5. cilantro

Good ones, Kati! This gave me a lot to work with. I set out to my local co-op grocery store and picked up ingredients for the menu:

  • Drink: Lemongrass, lime and rum cocktail
  • Appetizer: Ginger butternut squash soup with truffle oil crutons
  • Dinner: Beef laarb, cucumber som tom and sticky rice
  • Dessert: Chocolate, coconut cake with cilantro ice cream
I know, cilantro ice cream is a bit out there. The guest of honor was skeptical too. Much to her amazement, the flavor won her over, and she gushed about how good it was. The combo of chocolate, coconut and cilantro paired nicely. It was sweet, decadent, creamy and refreshing in its herbal complexity. Happy 30th birthday Kati!

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Cucumber Som Tom
Many years ago I lived in Bangkok and I loved this salad. This is a modified version of a Thai favorite from when I lived there.
Serves 4-6
1 clove garlic
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
hearty handful green beans, cut on a diagonal
1/4 cup peanuts, roasted
1 tablespoon fish sauce
juice of one lime
thai chili pepper to taste
2 large cucumbers, cut into long matchsticks
1. Using a mortal and pestle or bowl and wooden spoon, smash the garlic with the salt and sugar. Add the tomatoes and green beans, pound a few times, bruising them.
2. Add all the other ingredients and mix well.
Cilantro Ice Cream
Yields 1 Quart
2 big bunches cilantro
2 cans coconut milk (28 oz, don’t use “light”)
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
Equipment you’ll need: blender, fine mesh strainer and ice cream machine.
1. Blanch and shock the cilantro: Clean cilantro, dip in simmering water for a about 15 seconds, move to an ice bath, drain.
2. Add cilantro and coconut milk in a blender. Blend on high speed for a minute or two. With a fine mesh strainer, strain out all the solid pieces of cilantro.
3. To the liquid, add sugar and salt until dissolved. Freeze according to your ice cream machine guideline.  (about 20 mins)
July 26, 2011

Phin & Phebe’s: an Ice Cream Company to Lookout For!

by Jen Wanous

On this historic day of same-sex marriage in New York state, I would like to give a shout out to a local gay ice cream company!  Last night, I met with Crista Freeman, co-owner of Phin & Phebe.  Crista and her partner, Jess, started their ice cream company on a whim with late night ice cream cravings and creative ideas for fun flavors.  They started selling their pints in local markets, packing their car with dry ice and would sell out every time.  They since have decided to ramp up their production when Whole Foods came knocking on their door.

Take a look at their Kickstarter video, it’s really cool.

I picked Crista’s brain on the ins and outs of starting up your own company. She had so many great tips to share; like don’t start an ice cream biz because it’s a logistical wormhole to figure out storage and transport!  She suggested sticking to baked goods.  She also had some good leads for food scientists, lawyers, how to prepare your taxes and city permitting.

I feel like I’ve just landed on the tip of the iceberg in terms of starting to make my way in the artisanal food business.  There are so many bases to cover, but companies like Phin & Phebe make it seem possible.

*Side note #1 – In honor of the gay festivities, I would like to offer my services for catering and event planning.  Let me know if you know of anyone who is tying the knot!

*Side note # 2–  My finger is healing well.  Thanks for all your support!  I am halfway through my internship at ABC Kitchen.

July 18, 2011

A Day In The Life of a Culinary School Intern

by Jen Wanous

Chef Ross asked me to drop the mirepoix I was working on to grab crates filled with mushrooms.  Like any good intern, I quickly assisted him.  Eagerly, I watched as he fanned through cap and stem, showing me exactly how he wanted each of the three different types of mushrooms cut.  I took my knife in hand with confidence, knowing that the pizza guy upstairs was ten minutes into service and needed these mushrooms ASAP.  The mushrooms were big, ranging from the size of my fist to my forearm.  I had never seen mushrooms like these before; exotic fungi that were clean, white and utterly sponge-like.

I was moving along swiftly, thinking how uniform the slices were looking. I was going pretty fast and then–slip–the knife carved out a nice little portion of fingertip.  The shock was immediate and a loud gasp escaped my lips.  Damn it.  With many coworkers looking on, I went over to the hand washing station, all set to announce that it was fine, no big deal…but shit…half of my fingernail was gone and the blood was steadily dripping.  I wrapped a paper towel around my finger, held it tight above my head and then the tears came.  I didn’t want to be a big wimp, but crying is such a rarity for me and I wanted to be present enough to just feel the shock and pain in the moment.

When the chef came over to assess the situation, I tried my darndest to pull it together.  He quickly put on latex gloves and administered first aide.  He took on a doctor’s technical skill but still kept the bedside manor of a chef, saying sternly, “That’s why it’s always safety first.”

I was thoroughly embarrassed. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to find a small crawl space under which I could nurse my mangled finger and my wilted pride.  A ray of understanding and support came from my fellow NGI student, Marta, who is also interning there with me. When my ears were swooshing and I didn’t know what to do next, she helped me cover the basics like getting a ride home and getting my stuff.

The Chef told me that I should probably go to the hospital to have it checked out.  Ugh.  I gathered my things, feeling like I was asked to pack my knives and leave a la ‘Top Chef.’ With five Band-Aids affixed to my middle finger I gathered my things and said, “Thanks Chef, I’ll see you tomorrow.”


ABC Kitchen is where I am doing my internship for culinary school.  The James Beard Foundation recently named it Best New Restaurant in the Country.

Oh and my finger will be fine.  I just have to walk around with it gimpy and gauze-wrapped for five days!

July 11, 2011

Favorite Five Ingredients for a Birthday Dinner (psst: a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake recipe is here!)

by Jen Wanous

Pick your favorite five ingredients.  I know, it’s like choosing between children.  Don’t worry, the artichoke won’t be offended if you don’t pick him and garlic is always a given.  To make things even more interesting, your “ingredient” can be a dish too, like: “my grandmother’s ricotta and spinach stuffed ravioli”.  Is the cream rising to the top?  I’m sure there are some standouts.

Now, imagine a creatively constructed three-course meal of all five of your favorites integrated in a unique way.  This meal was the gift I gave to my girlfriend, Annie, on her birthday.  Anyone that knows her knows that she has a particular pallet.  She has a strong aversion to anything small and round or explosive/oozy.  Peas, uncut cherry tomatoes and over easy eggs would not make her top five.  What did make her top five were tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, shrimp and chocolate.

These five were pretty easy to work with.  I took care of the first three right off the bat with a crostini.  On a sliced French baguette, I had the season’s first heirloom tomatoes, fresh water soaked mozzarella, Thai basil sprigs and a generous drizzle of a balsamic reduction.  I knew that steak should have made her list, but shrimp had the trump card of cocktail sauce.  For the entrée, I decided to bring on the surf n’ turf with a grilled skewer of lemongrass-jalapeño marinated steak AND shrimp.  Since we are in the middle of a New York summer, I kept things cool.  The grilled protein was propped on a dressed salad of quinoa and micro greens, topped with pickled red onions.

Dessert was the real winner, where the fave ingredient of chocolate took center stage.  I went all out and made a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake.  The kind you dream about as a kid being that it is the impossibly perfect combo of creamy, cold and cake.  And chocolate, of course!  And peanut butter!? YES!  It’s one of those amazing moments when I realized that I am a grown up and I am completely in charge of my destiny.  I can create anything I want, even a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake for my girlfriend.

I tried to get Annie to agree to a vegan version so I could eat freely too, (me being my lactard self), but she insisted it wouldn’t be the same with soy.  For the birthday girl, I bit the lactose bullet and used full-on heavy cream to make the peanut butter ice cream.  The ice cream was sandwiched between two moist espresso-laced chocolate cake layers.  Just to take things completely over the top, I covered the entire cake in a triple thick layer of chocolate fudge ganache and topped it with crunchy Reese’s Pieces. My roommate supplied full strips of Lactaid for the other lactards in the room.  (Thanks, I’ll take two…ahh…make that three.)  I was proud of the giant chocolate gift I gave her.  The smile on her face, with the birthday candles lighting her beautiful blue eyes, made the dinner so very worthwhile.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

Chocolate Cake

What you’ll need:  two 9-inch cake pans and a mixer.

2 cups cake flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ¾ sugar

½ cup butter, softened

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup milk

½ cup hot water + 1 heaping tablespoon instant espresso crystals (or ½ cup espresso)

4 large eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 350, butter and flour cake pans.  Through a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and sugar.

2.  Add the butter and with a mixer, beat on low for one minute.  Add the oil and keep mixing for 30 more seconds.

3.  In a small bowl, combine the vanilla, milk and espresso.  Add this mixture to the large bowl and mix for one more minute on low.

4.  Add the eggs one at a time beating on medium-high speed between each egg.  Batter will be thin.

5.  Split the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a rack.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

This makes a rich and peanutbutter-y ice cream that yields about 2 quarts.  Oh and, you need an ice cream maker for this, obvi.

1 ¾ cups whole milk

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter

¾ cup sugar

1tablespoon vanilla extract

1.  In a saucepan whisk together all ingredients except the vanilla.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and thick.  About one minute after you see little bubbles on the surface.

2.  Cool to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla.  Freeze in your ice cream maker, per instructions.

Chocolate Ganache

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

¾ cup heavy cream

1.  Create a double broiler using a medium saucepan and a large metal bowl.  Fill the saucepan half full with water, bring to a simmer.  Combine the chocolate and cream in the bowl and place on top of the simmering water.

2.  Be careful not to let the bowl touch the water.  Wisk continuously, just until the chips melt.  Remove the bowl from the saucepan.

The method to the madness: 

You’ll need a 9-inch spring form pan.

  1. Clear out a space in your freezer for the cake.
  2. Make the cake first.  Let it cool completely.
  3. Make the ice cream mixture, let it cool.
  4. Torte the cakes by cutting off the rounded top to make it flat.
  5. Put the ice cream mixture in the machine.
  6. Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of the spring form pan.  Cover with the ice cream (now gelato textured).  Use a spatula to pat it down evenly.  Place the top cake layer on top of the ice cream.
  7. Place in freezer to set, at least 8 hours.
  8. Make the Ganache.  Pour generously on top of the cake, making voluptuous ripples.
  9. Place back in freezer to set, at least 30 minutes.
  10.  Line plate with Resee’s Pieces.  Your ice cream cake is ready to be served!