Leaving the Island

Growing up, I lived in a circle with a radius of approximately 5 miles. I rode the school bus 4.8 miles to middle school, rode 6.6 miles to the Mall of New Hampshire, rode my bike 4.6 miles to the Bedford Bluffs where I spent every day during the summer and walked .4 miles to visit my best friend (or .2 miles if I cut through the woods).

When I was in high school, the circle expanded to a radius of approximately 60 miles. I drove 6.6 miles east to school, 55.6 miles south-east to swim practice and 73.9 miles south to visit Matt. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the car. During those days, I knew every song on the radio, perfected my ability to dance while sitting, and learned the location of every Dunkin Donuts along Route 3. I attribute my relationship with one of my best friends to the fact that we spent at least 2 hours in the car together every day, not to mention the fact that we shared a near death experience when I decided to shut my eyes for a quick second while driving to practice. We spent a lot of time chatting about school, swimming, and of course, boys.

My life is very different now that I live in New York. I traded my car in for a subway pass, my one hour commute to swim practice in for a 30 minute subway ride to Union Square, and the 3 miles drive to the grocery store to a 3 minute walk to Whole Foods down the block. While living in a city does make some things much more convenient, I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss suburbia.

Now I live on an island.  An island that is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide. A 23 square mile island with more than 1.6 million people. No longer do I live in a circle with a 60 mile radius. Now I live within a rectangle that is 10 square miles smaller than my hometown, yet has a population that is 80 times larger. I travel within a circle that has a two-mile radius and I never leave the island. That is, until today.

For my Birthday, Matt promised to take me to a cooking class. We have done this before, see prior post, and it was a lot of fun. However, instead of going back to the Institute of Culinary Education, Matt decided to try out The Brooklyn Kitchen, a smaller, “off the beaten path” location (follow their blog here). After reading through the course offerings, we decided on the Fresh Pasta Sunday course. So this afternoon, after a delicious breakfast of irish oatmeal and some time in the gym, Matt and I ventured off the island and into Brooklyn.

We arrived to tree-lined streets, buildings no taller than 5 stories and a strange, but enjoyable, quietness. We could easily walk down the sidewalks to the kitchen without having to dodge tourists and hundreds of people. I suddenly felt at home in Brooklyn.

Our class was amazing. We learned how to make the dough from scratch and worked with a pasta machine. As we put the pasta through the machine a few times, our dough grew into a long sheet. As we cranked the pasta through the machine it flattened out and grew in length. Working together to maneuver this large sheet of pasta, we were able to make angel hair pasta, fettuccine and butternut squash ravioli. At the end of class, we were able to taste the fruits of our labor and bring some of the uncooked pasta home. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to invite Matt into our kitchen at home more often. He is an amazing sous-chef!

I encourage you all to leave your island and expand your radius; you never know what you will find.

Cookie Swap

Tonight, Matt and I are going to the annual Taste Bud’s holiday party. I missed this glorious event last year and got to hear all about it from all my other “Taste Budders.” Right then, I knew this was not an event I wanted to miss again. So when I got my paperless post invite, I reserved the date on my calendar and started to get excited.

The party is a cookie swap, where everyone makes their favorite holiday treat and brings enough to distribute to the group. So you come to the party with a tray of your favorite cookies and leave with a tray containing an assortment of Taste Bud’s finest! With Taste Buds being a company that runs cooking classes and parties for kids, I knew the stakes were going to be high. I had to come up with a delicious, yet festive, cookie.

I decided to go with Gingerbread Snowflakes. These have been my “go to” cookie for the past 2 years. They are beautiful, as well as delicious, something of a rarity in holiday cookies. So after baking the cookies Tuesday night, I spent last night piping royal icing onto dozens of Gingerbread snowflakes. It was a lot of work, but my sous-chef did a great job helping out!

I will certainly capture the moments of the Taste Bud’s celebration. It is sure to be a great evening filled with some of my favorite people and delicious food!

For the  Gingerbread Snowflake recipe, please click here.

A Gift for Your Budding Chefs

Taste Buds (formerly known as Cupcake Kids) has just launched their first cooking product. If you have a small child (or even someone who is child at heart) this is a great holiday present.

The kit contains Taste Bud’s favorite cookie recipe and is easy to personalize by adding “cookie bling” (i.e. chocolate chips, sprinkles, marshmallows or more). They are easy to make and will definitely create fun memories in the kitchen, not to mention tasty treats!

While you are on the website, check out their winter class list. The gingerbread classes are a favorite among budding chefs and teachers.

Pizza Party

One of the great things about working at Cupcake Kids is learning fun new recipes. The most popular party that Jessi offers is the “Make Your Own Pizza Party.” I have to say that I became quite the expert in pizza making. Back in November/December of 2008, Jessi worked with a Charter School in Harlem to host field trips for their countless Kindergarten classes. So for 3-4 weeks straight, I would entertain groups of extremely well-dress eager chefs. We would talk about how yeast makes dough rise be releasing gas (like a burp), how honey makes the dough sweet, and how whole wheat flour is a little bit healthier than all-purpose. It was certainly a very tiring time, doing back-to-back classes for a few weeks straight, but I am now a proficient pizza maker. And last night, I put those skills to use.

I decided to make some pizza dough and use up some of the homemade marinara sauce I made Sunday for the baked ziti Matt and I enjoyed during Man Men.

Please enjoy the recipe, as written by Cupcake Kids! I highly recommend trying this at home!

Pizza Recipe-1

The pizza turned out alright, but I must admit, every time I have made it at home, it isn’t as good as the end product at Cupcake Kids. There must be a secret ingredient that the kids put in when I am not looking… oh wait, I think that is called slobber, boogies, and 5-year-old love!

Be Your Own Boss – Cupcake Kids!

When I was in college, I had a friend, Jessi Walter, who was a few years older than me, that I looked up to like a sister. She was one of the nicest people I had ever met, extremely smart, and would give me advice whenever I asked for it (which was probably too often!) I loved hanging around her room – it was clean and organized and she had the most amazing hand-painted furniture.  I always felt like I was in a real house, as opposed to a dorm room when I went over there. Whenever I was there, I just felt happy.

I am so glad that we have reminded friends over the years. She is still one of the nicest people I have ever met, extremely smart, and she still gives me advice on life. Now, instead of hanging out in her dorm room,  we hang out in the Cupcake Kids! kitchen.  Every time I walk into the space, I feel that same sense of happiness, that I felt when I walked into her dorm room many years ago.

The idea for Cupcake Kids! was born when Jessi Walter decided to combine her love of kids and food in a practical way. Jessi set out to create a company that would provide students with hands-on cooking experiences designed to provide them with the opportunity to have fun in the kitchen while learning about food and nutrition. Jessi believes that creativity and education in the kitchen play an important role in a child’s development and help kids to build self-confidence and independence. For 4 years, she has been giving this experience to the kids of NYC.

Formerly a Vice President on Wall Street, Jessi’s passion for kids and food and her entrepreneurial spirit have taken her on a new adventure. Jessi graduated from Harvard in 2003, where she earned an economics degree and was a member of the Women’s Swim Team. As one of the oldest of 23 cousins, she has a passion for kids and their development. In her previous life as a swimmer, Jessi started a company offering technique lessons for young swimmers and brought the same enthusiasm and fundamentals to the pool as she brings to the kitchen today.

What sets Jessi and Cupcake Kids! apart from other child-centered companies is the pride that Jessi takes in her work and ultimately in her company. I’ve had the pleasure of helping out with Cupcake Kids! for the past 2 years. Jessi’s focus is on coming up with lessons that entertain, as well as educate, the “budding chefs” who visit her kitchen. She wants them to walk out of the kitchen with a smile on their face and a new appreciation for food and a sense of accomplishment. They gain confidence through measuring, mixing and baking. By combining ingredients to make a delicious treat, these children are able to see their successes right before their eyes, and taste them too! The excitement that Jessi, and her teachers, have for cooking and food is passed on to the children.

 I am so proud of Jessi for all that she has accomplished. I am also honored to have been a part of it  and I can not wait to see what the future holds for Cupcake Kids!

Please visit the Cupcake Kids! website to learn more about classes and birthday parties and, visit Facebook to become a fan of Cupcake Kids!