Berry Banana Pancakes

with maple syrup

Berry season is maybe the time of year I’m most excited for. You can get apples, bananas, oranges and whatever else all year long, even sometimes strawberries, but blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are special and really only taste delicious in the summer time. You don’t bite into a strawberry in December and have to run to the sink to avoid having the juice that’s running down your arm drop onto the floor. You don’t pick through a basket of raspberries in February, looking for the one that’s a little orange and a little red because you like how it looks a little tie-dye and is therefore that much more fun to eat. And you barely even see blackberries or blueberries in the colder months – maybe in warmer states you’ll find them, but in New York, you will usually only see them start to peek out in April and by September, they’re gone until next year. The one thing I will miss about working in Manhattan is walking through the farmer’s market in the mornings and knowing what’s in season because you can smell it, and there’s nothing as fragrant and wonderful as the smell of summer berries. It almost makes up for the putrid subway smell. It’s almost like the berries were my reward for wading through the stank of the subway, and man, it does not get more polar opposite than summer time NYC subways and summer time berries. But let’s not focus on that, shall we? It’s berry season and I want them on my yogurt, spooned over fresh whipped cream and, more importantly, on top of a big stack of pancakes. Banana pancakes, if possible.

berry banana pancakes

When ALOHA contacted me recently about partnering up for a recipe, at first I wasn’t sure. I don’t consider myself to be a super healthy blogger. I would never use the hashtag #fitness or #workbitch or whatever it is that people who live in Lululemon like to tag their photos. But, hey, I figured, why not try something new? They sent me some of their ALOHA smoothie packets and some of their coconut oil based chocolate. First of all, as someone who generally tries to watch her carbohydrate intake (see: starts crash dieting like an idiot a week before she knows she has to go to the beach), the chocolate was freaking awesome. It was low in sugar and low in carbs, but I still felt like I got to enjoy some rich, dark chocolate. Once I tried that, I was like, okay, maybe these ALOHA guys aren’t so bad after all. Then I got to the Berry Blend packet – I threw some in a cup of plain yogurt to see what it was all about. And I was sold. It was really good and it’s packed with lots of vitamins and nutrients and all that good stuff. I didn’t want to make a regular ol’ smoothie or anything with it, though, so I figured I’d meet the health and fitness world halfway and throw this good-for-you powder into my favorite breakfast food: pancakes. As previously stated, banana pancakes are my pancake of choice (surprisingly – nay, wrongly – Kramer prefers regular pancakes), so in some sliced bananas went. I of course had to use some fresh berries as garnish, because not only are they juicy and beautiful, but there’s nothing quite like juicy berries drenched in sweet maple syrup. It’s heavenly.

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Flaxseed Caramels

chewy + nutty

In true Sydney form, I’m sharing some photos that are a few weeks old. I don’t know where my time goes, but it definitely doesn’t go into editing photos as often as I’d like to. Besides, I screwed up something in my back and being on the couch in front of the computer for too long is really painful right now. I have appointment number two with the chiropractor this morning, and as much as I don’t really believe in that kind of thing, I hurt my back in a similar fashion a few years ago and the only thing that helped was having someone twist and crack my back in ways that would normally make me think someone was trying to kill me. Anyway, I really hope that today’s appointment sets things straight, as it were, because god dammit my back hurts. So, yeah, I haven’t been sitting in the fetal position with my laptop close to my face as much as I’d like to, and that’s why these photos from our breakfast sandwich crawl earlier this month are only going up now. Donny, once again, led a group of all-too-eager food bloggers on a breakfast sandwich tour of Brooklyn. This group included Stephanie, Summer, Phi, Molly, Talia, Hannah, Stella, Alana and a few others who popped in and out. We had a few breakfast sandwiches from Defonte’s and Court Street Grocers, pies from Four & Twenty Blackbirds and finished everything up with beers at a local bar. The more determined of our group continued on to Mile End Deli, but I left to go meet up with Kramer for a cocktail party followed by more drinks with friends. I definitely did not feel like eating the next day, though somehow I found the strength to grab some barbecue at Arrogant Swine. Life is hard, guys, but I do this for you. It’s all for you.

flaxseed caramels

This month’s issue of Saveur magazine had a recipe for flaxseed caramels that I was totally intrigued by. I usually try to avoid making caramel at all costs, as I had an incident a few years back where I burned an entire pot of caramel, like all the sugar and cream turned totally black and I had to throw the actual pot away, so I think of that day every time I go to make caramel and it sends shivers down my spine. The key to making caramel, I guess, is to do this little thing called “watching the bubbling sugar and stirring it every so often”. Who knew? Either way, I set aside my caramel PTSD and got going on these caramels. They really are amazing. The crunchy, nutty flaxseeds add a depth that you wouldn’t normally get with just regular ol’ caramels, and it’s surprisingly delicious. Flaxseeds have a ton of other good stuff in them too, like fiber and vitamins and all that, so I guess you can lie to yourself and say that these are almost-healthy caramels (though we know that isn’t true). Wrap these bad boys up in a little wax paper and bring them to work – your coworkers will be as surprised by their amazingness as you were. Trust me here – I wouldn’t steer you wrong!

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Dijonnaise Chicken

an easy summer marinade

A couple of weeks ago, our friend Lily texted us about something so awesome I don’t know if words can do it justice. She said that her parents would be in town soon, and that they were going to make authentic phở at The Ramen Lab in conjunction with Ichicoro Ramen. Then she asked if I wanted to come eat with a few close friends and family. Uh, duh. I’d had phở before, but I knew that this was going to be the real deal, especially after all the stories I’ve heard from Lily about all the time and effort that goes into her mom’s phở. I brought Donny along, of course, because I thought he’d appreciate it just as much. After standing around, waiting, watching her parents put the finishing touches on everything, smelling the broth simmering away and gazing at the fresh herbs laid out on the table, it was finally time to eat. I stood eagerly as Lily’s dad poured broth into each bowl, watching the bright red beef cook as soon as the liquid hit it. Lily’s dad served each of us, then taught us how to put different herbs and condiments into the soup, along with her mom’s amazing pickled vegetables. I can’t quite explain how good this phở is, so I’m sorry. It was incredible. The depth of flavor, the richness and the downright deliciousness is unmatched. I’m ruined for phở for the rest of my life, even in New York. Our friends, Alex and Anh, who also came with us, were equally blown away, and Anh is also Vietnamese. Lily’s mom even gave me a giant beef bone, filled with fatty marrow, which Kramer and I happily split and ate until our stomaches were more full than I can remember them being. I’m always going to remember this meal as one of the best in my life, and I’m so thankful to Lily and her parents for sharing it with us. This bowl of phở, more than anything, really showed me what it means to take food seriously, to cook with love and to be proud of what you’ve made. Lily’s mom knows her phở is the best, and that confidence comes across as soon as you take a bite.

dijonnaise chicken

In a total 180, I figured I’d share a recipe with you that, unlike Lily’s mom’s phở, takes almost no time at all to make. I try to pack lunch for Kramer and myself each day, mostly because I am cheap and hate spending $12 on a sandwich, but also because I try to be somewhat healthy in my day-to-day eating so I can go to town on a big plate of fried chicken or a sloppy egg sandwich on the weekends. I got a surprise box from my friends at Sir Kensington’s a month or so ago, filled with a few new products, but the one that stuck out to me was this dijonnaise. I love mayonnaise and I’m not afraid to share that fact about myself – mayo is delicious and if you don’t think so, you must have had some kind of bad mayo-related experience as a child to turn you away from one of my favorite condiments. And I feel bad for you. Dijonnaise is just dijon mustard and mayonnaise combined, and you can make it yourself at home by doing just that. I marinated chicken thighs in this mixture, along with some olive oil and lemon juice, then threw them under the broiler until they were just slightly charred in parts. If I had a grill, I’d prefer to cook them on that, but alas, I live in Williamsburg with no access to a (legal) outdoor space to do so. These thighs go perfectly on top of or alongside an arugula salad or maybe with some equally charred broccoli. Throw this into your recipe rotation and let go of any mayo hangups. It’s good to try new things!

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Celebration Cookies

with chocolate & sprinkles

So – it has arrived. Today is the first day of my new job. I’m starting as the social media producer for MUNCHIES at VICE. Obviously I’m really excited – the first day of anything is always a fun day. I’m a little nervous, as anyone would be when they start somewhere brand new, but my experience with everyone there so far has been awesome and I know today won’t be any different. Plus, I finally get to focus on food all day, every day. I don’t think it gets much better than that. I figured that these cookies would be a good way to transition into the next phase. I make some version of these same chocolate chip cookies more often than I probably should, but they are perfect and the easiest thing to make when I don’t have a ton of time on my hands but still want to present something impressive. But how do you improve on what I consider to be a nearly perfect cookie? With extra chocolate, sprinkles and M&Ms of course. When you’re celebrating, you should be allowed to get a little whimsical. Break out the colors and the funfetti and whatever else you have on hand. I do, in fact, have edible glitter in my cupboard, but I decided to show a little bit of restraint, so consider yourselves lucky. I brought these cookies to Business Insider on my last day of work to say goodbye, and they were gone in a heartbeat. I added just a little bit of corn syrup for texture, and I really think it went a long way, so if you’re not one of those people who’s afraid of living dangerously (oh corn syrup, you’re so misunderstood), go ahead and squeeze a few tablespoons in for an extra chewy texture – you’re already using candy and sprinkles, so why not? Even if you opt out of using corn syrup, though, these are still some seriously wonderful cookies. Chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside, with tons of texture from the chocolate, M&Ms, sea salt and sprinkles – there’s no way you’ll be able to resist.

celebration cookiesBrigitta and Kim enjoying blue skies on the ferry to Governors Island.

This past weekend, we went to Rockaway Beach, but a few weekends ago, we got a group of friends together to go to Governors Island. The island is like a giant Central Park in the middle of the water, but with more to do. There are food trucks, free history and art museums, and even hammocks. We try to get out there a few times every summer to have a picnic, hang out and do a lot of nothing. It’s great. My favorite part is that you get to take a ferry there, so it feels like this big trek but in reality it’s not far away at all. We lucked out the day we went – it wasn’t too hot, the sun was shining and the sky was crazy blue, as you can see from the photos. Kramer and I brought some cheese, meat and bread from The Bedford Cheese Shop, and everyone else brought along a little something, too. These cookies probably would have been an excellent addition to an already outstanding spread, but I guess they’ll have to wait until next time.

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Tequila-Lime-Berry Crisp

with almond streusel

Today is my last day at Business Insider. It’s super weird! I started working here two and a half years ago, fresh from being a research assistant at a mutual fund (previously an admin at a hedge fund) and not really sure what my next move should be. I just knew I had to get out of finance. It was a soul crushing place to be, where I didn’t feel respected or appreciated. I had reached out to a recruiter and I went on a few interviews, none of which worked out and I was feeling really depressed. Then my recruiter called me and said she’d like for me to go an interview at Business Insider. Initially I said no, believe it or not. I was so crushed from being rejected that I didn’t think I had the energy to do it all over again. I remember being in a cab with Kramer on our way back from dinner and sighing and just saying no, I can’t. She was persistent, though, so I ending up going. Twice. And miraculously, I got the job. I was thrilled, and rightfully so. It’s true that every job has it stressful aspects and there are always things that I wish I were better at, but overall my time as Business Insider has been fantastic. I’ve made countless new friends that I know will actually last outside of work, I’ve grown into my role and I think I’ve accomplished a lot. The company has nearly doubled since I’ve started, we’ve moved offices and announced some pretty great things, and I’ve gotten the chance to be there for all of that. I’ve even gotten to do a few food videos and run some Crepes of Wrath content on the site. I’m generally not an overly emotional person, and don’t think I’m going to start now, ya dummies, but I will say that I definitely feel at home at BI and I hope that they continue to do awesome things in the future. Please enjoy the few sentimental photos I’ve posted below and imagine some Wonder Years-type music playing in the background. I start my new gig on Monday and I couldn’t be more excited.

tequila lime berry crispFriends at the company holiday party last year.

I bought about a bajillion berries two weekends ago, with grand plans to do something amazing with them, but of course, I ran out of time and then started stressing out about how they might go bad. In hindsight, I guess I could have just frozen them to use at a later date, but of course my pea brain didn’t think of that and instead, I decided to make this tequila-lime-berry crisp around 8pm on a Monday night while Kramer and I watched reruns of The Office. I got this recipe out of Andrew Carmellini’s book, which I think will now be a running theme as Kramer and I got a new bookshelf and my cookbooks are all now much more accessible than they were before. As you may or may not know, I love tequila, so I was pumped when I flipped to this page. I don’t think that the crisp is overwhelmingly tequila-y (that’s a word..), but the lime zest and juice helps give it a margarita-y (yep) vibe. It’s summer, and all I want are fresh, juicy berries, sunshine and margaritas, so I recommend eating this crisp at a picnic or barbecue, preferably with some whipped cream or ice cream if you can swing it. The sweet, seasonal fruit is tossed together with just the right amount of sugar to make it lip-smackingly good, then paired with a crunchy, cinnamon scented topping. It really is the perfect way to quickly and easily use up any berries in your fridge, and keep you from worrying that your beautiful berries will go bad.

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Charred Broccoli Salad

with radishes & lime

So last week was the 2015 Saveur Blog Awards. And I didn’t win. Womp. But I’m not as sad as I anticipated being, because the events and panels were so much fun, and the people I met made me thrilled to even be in the same room with them. I’m not inherently competitive, but one would assume that a large group of people put together in a room who are all stacked against one another, hoping to win, would make for a somewhat uncomfortable situation. This, perhaps surprisingly, was not at all the case. I was initially dreading the welcome party and cocktail hour on Day One, but I walked in and was immediately greeted by big smiles and hugs. I, not really being the touchy feely type, was sort of taken aback by the way in which I was welcomed so quickly. A lot of the time, you go to these things and people are silent, making awkward chit-chat and having a hard time connecting, especially at online meet-ups, of which I am not too proud to admit that I have been to many (see: many, many, many). But not this time. I think we were all just stoked to be there, drinking and eating together, joking about how insane it is that we are all just a bunch of nerds who like to take pictures but are being honored in a way that makes us so incredibly happy. It sounds like I’m making it into this big, huge thing, but it kind of is! When anyone congratulates you on the hard work that you’ve put into something, it’s both humbling and exciting, and that feeling is only exacerbated when every which way you look, there’s another blogger or photographer whose work you admire. So, yeah, I lost, but I had a phenomenal time and met so many awesome people. Plus, this just means I get to [hopefully] go again next year, and you can look forward to my begging for you to vote for me in 2016. On top of all of the festivities, the week ended with a Breakfast Sandwich + Pie Crawl, hosted by the incomparable Donny Tsang, where bloggers from all over the country got together to eat sandwiches from Defonte’s and Court Street Grocers, pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds and more. All of that good food and drink helped to soften the blow (and my belly), so at least there’s that!

charred broccoli saladMaybe my favorite photo ever [featuring Stephanie, Molly, Hannah & Summer] taken by Phi.

After eating all of that food, it’s time for some vegetables. I love a good broccoli salad, especially when the broccoli is slightly blackened. I discovered charred broccoli not too long ago, but it’s my favorite way to make every child’s least favorite veggie. You won’t find a steamed floret in my apartment. Crank that oven up to 500, rub your broccoli in some oil and seasonings, and burn, baby, burn. I mean, it’s not really burned, but it’s close. Just close enough to be delicious. Even better, you can make this ahead of time and serve it room temperature or chilled for a tasty summer side at a picnic or as a quick workday lunch that you can pair with anything from chicken breast, salmon or even a few hard boiled eggs, if you’re trying to offset a heavy week (like me). Add some chili flakes or maybe some paprika, finish with lemon instead of lime, but whatever you do, keep the radishes – they add a refreshing, peppery bite to compliment the deep flavors of the charred broccoli. Plus, check out those colors! Green and pink were meant to be together on a plate. Kramer and I happily ate this salad, cold and straight from our lunch containers, for three days straight, and if I can get Kramer to actually utter the words, “We should eat more broccoli,” then you know it’s got to be good.

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Graham Cracker Pound Cake

with cinnamon

A few weeks ago, Kramer and I went to Baltimore to see my brothers. I’m the oldest, as you can tell by my extreme maturity in these photos, then Dane is the middle and Wyatt is the youngest. Dane goes to school in Baltimore and studies what I want to say is microbiology but it’s probably much more complicated than that. He works in labs and is always talking about some weird organism he read about or some new disease that is especially scary. I hope that one day he will work for the CDC and let me know when the next plague is about to hit so that I can prepare for the end. This preparation will no doubt involve my buying a lot of junk food and watching a lot of TV and watching New York destroy itself because, let’s face it, I’m not a survivor. But I’d still appreciate a head’s up. Wyatt, on the other hand, is now in China, teaching SAT prep courses and probably eating really delicious food as we speak. What I would give for one more xiao long bao. Wyatt, can you please throw some in an envelope and send them my way? I’m sure they’ll be fine. Anyway, I wanted to see him before he left, so Kramer and I rented a car and drove on down. I had never been to Baltimore before and I really enjoyed being by the water, walking around and seeing the town my brother lives in. There’s obviously a lot going on in the city, but my brother seems to like it and I think there is a lot of potential for it to become something great again – hopefully that will happen. We ate sushi and hot dogs, did some day drinking, took a water taxi and then headed back to Dane’s apartment to watch TV, play games and search for stupid stuff on YouTube. Oh, and then we ordered pizza at midnight. Typical weekend with the bros. Kramer and I could only stay for one day, but I’m glad we saw Wyatt before his adventure in China began, and we’ll see Dane again this summer when we go to Virginia Beach, so that’s not too far away.

graham cracker pound cakeTotally not annoying my brothers in this photo.

I made this pound cake a while back when Kramer was in New Orleans. That’s what you do when you’re home alone and bored, right? Watch Montage of Heck, have a glass of wine and make graham cracker pound cake. I brought the cake into work the next day and it was very well received. Everyone ate it for breakfast, alongside a cup of coffee or tea, and told me how much they liked it. The concept is simple: flour, butter, cinnamon and the added honeyed sweetness of graham crackers. I’ve always got a box of them in my cupboard – I don’t know why – and they lend themselves perfectly to so many things, why not pound cake? You can eat this on its own, but I highly recommend slathering a slice with some creamy peanut butter and maybe a dollop of jam. It would probably also be delicious toasted with a big scoop of ice cream in the middle of two pieces. Just a suggestion.

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Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

with chocolate chips

Another weekend gone by too fast, but we packed a lot in. We saw the band FIDLAR on Wednesday night, to start the weekend off early, I suppose, followed by a game of poker on Friday night (I lost, sadly), then a trip to Governors Island on Saturday. I’ll have photos from all of that soon enough. I wanted to share some pictures from Kramer’s birthday party this past month, though – I’ve been taking my camera with me a lot lately, mostly due to the plentiful sunshine, I’m sure, so I’m a bit behind on photos. We spent Kramer’s birthday at The Drink, among lots of friends, s’mores and bourbon pecan pies from Pies ‘n’ Thighs and pizza and garlic knots from his favorite place, Williamsburg Pizza. We may or may not have also made a pit stop at Noorman’s Kil for bourbons and grilled cheese, but who’s to say? You weren’t there. All in all, it was a great day of day drinking (the best kind), eating and obviously a lot of laughing, as you can see from the pictures. I hope he had a good birthday, but holy hell it’s already June and there are many more birthdays ahead.

peanut butter swirl browniesGot down with some grilled cheese at Noorman’s Kil for Kramer’s birthday earlier this month.

This peanut butter brownie recipe is a combination of my two loves: the brownie recipe from King Arthur Flour and peanut butter. I sometimes just grab a big spoonful of peanut butter for breakfast if I’m running behind in the morning, or it’s a quick snack after work if I need to stop home and then run out again. I even use peanut butter medicinally. If I feel nauseous or tired, my first plan of attack is to have a spoonful of peanut butter. I would say that does the trick about 50% of the time. I know that it’s probably all in my head but it works for me. It’s the most perfect food, and even more perfect when paired with rich, fudgey brownies. This brownie recipe, on the other hand, is my favorite for a number of reasons, but foremost is that it teaches you to melt your butter and sugar together. This helps dissolve more of the sugar, creating the flaky, shiny crust you want on the top of your brownies. I also love how fudgey they are – if I want a cakey brownie, I’ll eat a piece of chocolate cake. When I think brownies, I think rich, dark chocolate with a gooey, wash-me-down-with-a-glass-of-milk texture. These fit the ticket, especially with the peanut butter. I brought them to a party a few months back (I know, I know) and they were very well received, if I don’t say so myself. I know it’s summer and everyone’s trying to look good, but why not make these for your next picnic or barbecue and see how many forgo their summer diet for a bite of peanut buttery goodness.

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