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NYC Travels and IACP

April 4, 2012
Last week Wednesday I hopped on a plane and headed to New York for five days to attend IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). You might remember last year’s trip to Austin, in which I met the lovely Dorie Greenspan, watched thousands of bats fly at night and ate some of the most amazing tacos of my life. This year’s trip was entirely different but every bit as fun. Most of my time was spent at the conference, but during my downtime I tried to squeeze in as much fun as possible.
The first night of the stay was spent at The Premier Hotel in Times Square because it was connected to the conference hotel. The subsequent nights were spent at my company’s apartment in the city. Having access to a full kitchen and plenty of space was such a blessing since I was there for five days.
During breaks in the conference, I was able to take in a little sight-seeing, and some shopping, too. Living in Iowa means we don’t have much access to anything other than the standard lineup of stores and a handful of boutique shops. On my list of places to go: Zara, Cole Haan and H&M.

A pit-stop was also made at Crumbs to drool over their cupcakes. But something about having the calorie count posted on each cupcake made me think twice. I love being informed about what I’m putting in my body, but sometimes a girl just wants a treat without the guilt. I really wasn’t feeling cupcakes that afternoon so I walked away empty-handed. 
Getting caught in the rain calls for making pictures black and white. Try and tell me you don’t do the same thing…
Everyone I talked to about my trip said a visit to Eataly, Mario Batali’s Italian food emporium, was a must-see. I can totally see why, since it was absolutely massive, packed with everything food-related you could think of. Housewares, cookbooks, coffee, restaurants, you name it. 
Checking out the killer pasta section at Eataly. I snagged a bag because I knew I would never be able to find pasta like it at home. They had spaghetti that was literally two feet long! 
The beer section was equally impressive. Since the hubs loves beer, I brought a bottle back with me. A bottle that I’m a bit ashamed to admit I spent $8 on (for a single bottle). Insane? Yes. Delicious? You better believe it. 
A few other observations:
*I had the opportunity to have dinner with Amanda, Justine and Tara. Each one of them is as beautiful and wonderful in person as you might imagine from reading their blogs.
*The ladies behind Three Many Cooks are just plain amazing. If you’re not already reading their blog, go and do so now!
*Catherine of the blog Weelicious is stunning and seriously looks like she could be 18, despite having two children and a very successful website. Sometimes life isn’t fair. 🙂
I love visiting NYC but I’m always so happy to return home. There’s just something about fresh air, grass and my little family that makes coming back to Iowa so sweet. 

No Fat Talk Tuesday: Alaina

April 3, 2012

Today’s No Fat Talk Tuesday post is from the lovely Alaina who blogs over at The Jogging Concierge. Although Alaina claims she doesn’t really have a way with words, I would beg to disagree. Her story touched me and motivated me to continue to work towards fighting the good fight against fat talk. Thank you, Alaina, for sharing your story and helping others learn to love their bodies! – Madison
I’ve never really been the one who was extremely eloquent or articulate with words and such. When I e-mailed Madison about writing for her No Fat Talk Tuesday series, I was so excited when she took me up on the offer. Then I was subsequently anxious. I knew what thoughts went on inside my mind but how could I get them down on paper (or in this case in blog form)? What did “No Fat Talk” really mean to me? I certainly don’t call myself fat. But I used to. 
Oh, boy, did I grab every side of my stomach and thighs and curse them for being so flabby and weak. That was pretty much me during some years of high school and college. I dreaded wearing clingy dresses or bathing suits. T-shirts, XXL, and unflattering matronly dresses were the way I rolled. I always told myself that it was just the way I was. There was no getting the body or self esteem that I knew I wanted.
But in 2006, something finally clicked. I was beating myself up over something that I did have complete control over. I didn’t deserve the negative thoughts and mental beat-downs that I was giving myself. I deserved delicious, healthy food and workouts that challenged me and pushed me into a territory that I was unfamiliar with: getting stronger. It was obvious that both mentally and physically, I was weak. I let other people bring me down and that brought me down.
I knew at that point that I needed to be the one to make me happy. And it all started with discarding the “fat talk” and giving myself pep talks instead. I turned around my diet, one cookie and soda at a time. I started lacing up my sneakers and running with my then-boyfriend (now husband). Over the last 5 years, my self esteem has skyrocketed. I feel more comfortable in social situations, talking with people that I just met and wearing the prettiest thing that I own: my smile.
I always thought that I needed someone to tell me to get my life in order. I was so messed up, how could I have possibly done it myself? But uttering the words “you are special, you deserve better” really did wonders to help my self esteem. And it all started with telling myself: “you are not fat.”
Now, I’m not going to lie, there are days and times where the “fat” feelings may pop up. The negative thoughts start to creep back up, but instead of cursing my body, I praise it. I praise it for the strength it has given me to run a marathon, 4 half marathons, and countless other races. And I praise my mind for banishing the “fat” thoughts and for giving me the strength to become the person I am today.
If you’re interested in sharing your No Fat Talk story, please e-mail me ( for more information. I would love to have you share how you’ve learned to love your body and help others!

Sour Cream Raisin Pie

April 2, 2012
Hello, all! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I’ve actually been away in NYC for work since Wednesday (more on that later) and am just getting home today so things have been a little slow around these parts.

But I know what you really want to know is who won the giveaway, right? It seems like I’m not the only one obsessed with Greek yogurt since over a hundred of you entered to win the free Chobani. So, let’s name the winners…

1. The case of flavored yogurts goes to Ali A.
2. The 3 (32 oz) containers go to Chelsy Ethridge.

Congrats, ladies! Please email me ( and I’ll have Chobani get your yogurt in the mail ASAP!

Oh, and this pie I’ve been teasing you with in the photos? It’s the Grandma Jacobs original, laden with sour cream and spices, yet somehow light and airy. Although I prefer the Greek yogurt version shared last week, this version is Joe’s preference. I can’t say I blame him. 

Sour Cream Raisin Pie
Recipe from Grandma Jacobs
*1 recipe your favorite pie crust (the one I used wasn’t worth sharing)
*1 1/2 cups sour cream
*1 1/2 cups raisins
*1 cup sugar
*3 eggs, lightly beaten 
*1/2 tsp. cinnamon
*1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

*Line a 9-inch pie plate with the unbaked crust.
*In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, whisking until well combined.
*Pour mixture into the unbaked pie crust. Bake in a 350 oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the outsides are set and the center is slightly soft and glossy. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a refrigerator and chill completely.

Happy Baking!


Greek Yogurt Raisin Pie and Chobani Giveaway

March 29, 2012

When Joe and I first got married, Joe’s mom, Lisa, gifted me with a recipe book filled with her grandmother’s recipes. This binder, filled with scans of recipes both handwritten and clipped from various sources, is called ‘Grandma Jacobs Recipe Book’, and boy is it a gem. Although I don’t think I’ll be making many of the entrees or ‘salads’ out of this book, the desserts immediately won me over. As someone who develops recipes for a living, I was intrigued by the different methods and ingredients used to make many commonplace treats, like cookies and pies.

As I browsed through the dessert section of this book, one recipe stuck in my mind: Sour Cream Raisin Pie. Growing up in a Dutch community in Iowa, sour cream raisin pie isn’t anything unusual; in fact, it’s a recipe that many people I know hold near and dear to their hearts. Personally, I had always thought it sounded like a strange concept. A pie developed around sour cream and raisins?

I made the original Grandma Jacobs recipe a couple weeks ago and was shocked and how quickly Joe ate the entire pie in a matter of days. I’ll be sharing the recipe with you later this week, for those of you who want the real deal. But when Chobani (Thank you, Lindsay! Your bosses should know how good you are at your job.) sent me more Greek yogurt than I know what to do with (a very good problem to have, indeed), I decided to whip up a healthier version of the pie.
Plain Greek yogurt and sour cream are nearly identical substitutes in cooking and baking, so I couldn’t imagine a more natural way to incorporate the yogurt into a healthier dessert. While the calories aren’t all that dramatically different between the two versions, this Greek yogurt version has twice the protein of the original, half the sugar, much less fat and just as much flavor.

Since I despise sour cream and love Greek yogurt (figure that one out), I enjoyed this version, complete with chopped pecan crust, much more than the sour cream original. That being said, the similarities between the two pies is astounding. And while sour cream raisin pie purists say you can serve this pie room temperature, I highly recommend serving it as chilled as possible. Somthing about the custard-like consistency just seems to call for being eaten cold.

Now let’s get to the goodies and giveaway! I was excited when Chobani offered to send me some of their new flavors to try. The case they sent contained Apple Cinnamon, Passion Fruit and Blood Orange. Joe and I were both really eager to try the flavors. Here’s what we thought.

1. Apple Cinnamon: I loved it and Joe liked it, which is probably due to the fact that I’m obsessed with cinnamon and usually add it to my plain Greek yogurt.
2. Passion Fruit: I had heard mixed reviews about the passion fruit flavor, especially the fact that it contains seeds, which some people said they don’t like. Personally, I didn’t mind the seeds and thought the flavor was pleasant. Joe, on the other hand, LOVED this flavor. He said it comes in second to his all-time favorite, black cherry.
3. Blood Orange: This was my favorite of the bunch. The tart, bright citrus flavor was spot-on and made for a perfect snack on its own.

Chobani wants to spread the Greek yogurt love to more than just me; they want to send some yogurt your way, too. They have generously offered to give away a case of their new flavors (Apple Cinnamon, Passion Fruit and Blood Orange) to one lucky reader. And that’s not all. A second reader will win 3 (32-ounce) containers of yogurt (0% plain, 2% plain and 0% vanilla). 

To enter, leave a comment below telling me what your favorite flavor of Greek yogurt is between now and Sunday, April 1st at 10 p.m.

Greek Yogurt Raisin Pie

*2 cups chopped pecans
*2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
*1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
*1 tablespoon granulated sugar
*1 cup Chobani 0% Plain Greek Yogurt (or other 0% plain Greek yogurt)
*1 cup raisins
*1/2 cup granulated sugar
*1/2 cup Egg Beaters liquid egg replacement (or 2 large eggs)
*1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
*Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
*In a small bowl, combine the pecans, butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Stir until well combined. Press mixture into the prepared pie pan and up the sides of the pan. Mixture will be crumbly and just barely hold together. Set aside.
*Next, prepare the filling. In another bowl, combine the Chobani, raisins, sugar, Egg Beaters, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until well combined and smooth. Pour mixture into the prepared pecan crust.
*Transfer unbaked pie to the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling of the pie is set around the edges and jiggles just slightly in the center. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours. Makes 8 servings 
Nutrition Facts per serving: 359 cal., 23 g fat (2.8 g sat. fat), 4 mg chol., 43 g sodium, 36 g carbohydrate, 4 g dietary fiber, 8 g protein   Other notable nutrients: 330 mg potassium 

A Food Editor’s Take on How to Write a Recipe

March 28, 2012

Developing recipes, formulating story concepts and writing about food accounts for a large chunk of my day-to-day at work. That’s not to say the less glamorous aspects don’t exist. Budgets, schedules and scouring recipes for errors and misplaced commas also take up a good chunk of my day. But let’s not focus on that right now.

The point is, I’ve become very familiar with recipe structure and formatting over the past four years, since the beginning days when I was an intern at Better Homes and Gardens. Before starting at the magazine, I actually had very little knowledge about what made up a complete, well-formatted recipe. And while there are many different ways to style and structure your recipe (it really depends on the magazine or company you work for), I thought it might be helpful to do a little post on recipe-writing 101. Whether you’re a blogger who posts recipes or someone who enters recipes into cooking and recipe competitions, writing a recipe that is well-formatted can go a long way.

Let’s break down a recipe, shall we?

 I realize this is a little hard to read in it’s current form. If you click on the image, you can enlarge the photo to see the comments in closer detail. A few other things to note:
-This is just one way to write a recipe and by no means an exhaustive list of the do’s and don’ts of recipe-writing. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
 -Although I aim to write my recipes this way, I don’t always include all the information above. It’s something I’m working on doing a better job of in the future.
-I don’t include nutritional information on most of my recipes, unless it’s a recipe that is created specifically for health purposes (low calorie, high protein, etc.). If you’re looking to calculate nutrition information Spark Recipes has a great tool online that I use frequently.
-Prep times can vary greatly. It really just depends on the cook and how quickly they move in the kitchen. Most of the time, I find it takes me longer than the suggested prep time listed in a magazine. 
Happy Cooking!