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A toast from me to you, dear readers! Thanks a million.

Just a quick note to remind you that if you’re on Twitter then you should follow me! Not only will you be alerted the minute a new Food E. post is up and get links to various food related posts around the web, but you will be able to read all of my musings on sports, things that annoy me, my travails with the MTA, and other gloriously fascinating tidbits worthy of your time.

And as a small aside, thanks to the over 2,300 people who have visited Food E. in the past 2 days! Keep reading, kids. It’ll only get better.

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These Pancakes Have a Secret

I’m about to tell you a story, but in order to read it, you’re going to have to put your judgment face away and slap on an open minded grin.

Got it?

Okay, here goes. I ate pancakes 3 days in a row. I can’t explain it. I needed something comforting and warm and salty and sweet and when I got home last night it was beautiful and snowy and I thought, “What else do people eat when it’s cold and snowy and Christmastime but pancakes?” I couldn’t come up with anything. So I made these. And they have a secret.

HEY. Remember when I told you not to judge me? Pancakes with bacon sounded good, so I thought, I will combine these beauties into one easily consumed dish.

I started by crisping up the bacon real nice, setting it aside to drain, pouring the grease out of the pan, and then making the pancakes (using this recipe*, obviously) in that same beautiful pan all ready to go and coated with bacon grease. Once I poured the batter in the pan I laid the crispy strips in the center of the pancake and cooked as usual.

Then for the sauce: I cubed some apple and sauteed it in a small saucepan with 2 Tbsp of butter, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, and 2 tsp of cinnamon. Once the apples are softened, you pour the mixture on top of the pancakes.

And then you eat your face off. Or you share. But… probably the former.

*I realized upon arriving home that I was out of baking powder. I said a few curse words, looked out at the snow, and then remembered I could make my own. 2 parts cream of tartar to 1 parts baking soda = baking powder. (For example: in this recipe you need 3 tsp of baking powder, so instead you’d use 2 tsp cream of tartar and 1 tsp baking soda) A handy trick for you in case you’re ever in the same predicament.

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A Little Bourdain for your Monday

image c/o Zimbio.com

Welcome to the new week, folks! To start your Monday off right, here’s a link to a really amazing piece from chefs Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain on fast food from The Huffington Post. If you have a minute on your lunch break (or maybe during Monday’s morning meeting?) watch and be dazzled by the snark and sass of these two lovely men.

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Why, I think it would be simply charming!

Merry Christmas, friends! I know, I’m early. Whatever. Last night I helped The Boyfriend and his roommates put up their Christmas tree while Christmas music blared from the speakers and many glasses of wine were consumed. I’d go on and on about how the scent of fresh pine makes my little heart swell and my eyes tear up, but for the sake of your gag reflexes and my dignity, I’ll stop here.

In any case, I have a new project on the horizon! It’s very exciting, and I can fill you all in next week but for now it’s taking up some of my free time. Time that would otherwise be spent blogging. I did carve out a couple hours to make these again for my parents, so if you forgot how epic that recipe is, go ahead and remind yourselves.

Tonight I will be taking an evening alone to totally indulge myself. And in honor of self indulgence, these images make me happy.

A fried egg and cookies for breakfast, the abridged A Christmas Carol, and sparkly packages. Is there anything better?

"Faith is believeing in something, even when common sense tells you not to." Miracle on 34th Street

Our (blurry) Christmas tree

(Top image: Jennifer Rakowski)

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As American As…

Although this post is not timely, seeing as it is after Thanksgiving and not very many people make apple pie for Christmas (in our family it’s cookies all the way), I do hope you’ll look at it, file it away it your mental recipe box, and pull it out when you feel the urge to bake something hearty and patriotic, because this recipe is IT. This is some goooood eats.

On the menu:
Caramel crusted apple pie
Adapted from this recipe at AllRecipes.com

1/2 this recipe for crust (the full recipe makes enough crust for 2 whole pies)
6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/8″ thick slices
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In preparation, roll out your crusts. The bottom crust goes in the pie pan. The top crust should be rolled out in preparation with decorative shapes cut out (I used a sharp knife to cut out hearts, but you can use any shape you have; or do a lattice crust if you prefer).

After your crusts are prepared and ready to go, melt butter in a saucepan and add flour to make a paste. Add water and sugars, and stir until melted. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Place apple slices in a large bowl. First toss with cinnamon. Next, pour 1/4 cup sugar/butter mixture over apples and toss until all the slices are relatively coated. Place crust in the bottom of your pie pan. Fill crust with apples, mounded slightly [don’t worry if you think you have a TON of apples; they really cook down].

Pour* the remainder of the sugar/butter mixture over the top crust, slowly and carefully so it doesn’t spill. Bake 15 minutes at 425. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for around 35 – 45 minutes or until the edges of your crust are nicely browned.

*Note: you may have to reheat the mixture a bit at this point, as it will thicken up VERY quickly.

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Guest Post!

Happy hump day, friends! Today we have a special treat. My good friend Meagan Drillinger of Travel Agent magazine recently visited Vienna, and graciously offered up a peek into the culinary aspects of the trip. Since I don’t have any big trips to Vienna coming up (unless someone who loves me is buying me one for Christmas?! Yes?! No…?) I thought I’d pass on this delicious account to you.

I’m a travel writer for a trade publication. Sure, it sounds glamorous but more often than not I find myself stuck at conferences where I don’t really get to experience whatever exotic destination I find myself in. Luckily this last trip to Vienna proved a little more exciting.

I was in town for a short three days attending the first Austria Destination Summit, a trade show for travel agents looking to learn more about the destination. I could bore you with tales from the private Vienna Philharmonic rehearsal, or the nighttime tour of Shoenbrunn Palace (which ended with a lavish banquet overlooking the city)… but I think I’d rather tantalize you with tales from the table.

Welcome cocktail and hors d'oeuvres in Vienna's iconic Ferris Wheel

Night one: Champagne and hors d’oeuvres in Vienna’s iconic Ferris Wheel (the oldest in the world). The Viennese absolutely love their smoked salmon, cheese and ham on bread. And as basic as it sounds, it does the trick. Creamy, salty smoked salmon with a dollop of creme fraiche on a soft slice of baguette? Sold. Then it was wienerschnitzel (lightly breaded and fried fillet of veal) with a squeeze of lemon and a side of scalloped potatoes, with a never-ending glass of crisp, white wine at Wagon 31, the restaurant adjacent to the Ferris Wheel. Did you know Vienna has a booming wine industry? Me neither… but I was not disappointed.

Dessert was loosely translated on our menus as a chocolate-filled dumpling with strawberry sauce. I’m not a girl with a sweet tooth, but man that sounded like a drug that I had to get my hands on. Diabetics: Avert your eyes. Picture a fluffy white cake ball filled with oozing, molten chocolate, crusted in shredded coconut and topped with gooey strawberry sauce.

Night two: A private dinner in the wine cellar of Klosterneuburg Monastery, a Roman Catholic monastery just outside of Vienna on the Danube river. The working monastery is home to not only a cellar chock full of delicious Viennese wine, but it is home to the largest cask of wine in the world (56,000 liters!). Hey, heaven. The monastery capitalizes on this by offering guests the opportunity to literally slide down the barrel. Needless to say, I could not resist after I had sampled a few glasses of the onsite libation.

The author at Klosterneuburg Monastery

Night three: A feast for the senses and a true taste of Vienna. Our hosts rented out Cafe Gloriette, part of Schoenbrunn Palace, the summer residence for the Habsburg family. It was built in 1775 as a “temple of glory” for Empress Maria Theresia. In 1780 it was transformed into a breakfast room for the Emperor Franz Josef I [Ed. note: can I get a room dedicated solely to breakfast, please?!]. Today it is an elegant restaurant boasting breathtaking views over Vienna. Arriving at night was an experience all its own as the building was set aglow with dramatic lighting. We entered to a quartet playing delicate Mozart (which later erupted into some sort of hypnotic blend of house beats with electric Mozart – odd, but it grew on me. Or maybe that was the wine). In any event I tucked into a Viennese staple: beef broth with soft dumplings, similar to matzoh balls. Following this was flaky cod and saddle of veal, all culminating with my favorite: oh yes, those chocolate-filled dumplings. What a gloriously calorie-filled bookend to an already overindulgent trip.

Despite my waistline’s better judgment, Vienna has not seen the last of me.

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Post Holiday Blues

Hey remember how great it was to spend an extended weekend (or in my case, 10 days) doing nothing but stuffing your face and sleeping in and enjoying the snow from your warm snuggly couch with a cup of hot tea? I hope to carry that feeling all the way through New Year’s and ring in 2011 plump and happy. It’s a personal goal.

I realize I’m late with Thanksgiving recipes, but this next one (and tomorrow’s) can be enjoyed all winter long. It’s just comfort food, kids. No need to put a label on it.

On the menu:
Butternut squash, leek, and apple gratin
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 5

3 small leeks, white part only (tough outer skin removed), halved and thinly sliced
3 large Granny Smith apples, halved, cored, and sliced 1/2 inch thick slices
1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/8 inch slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and 2 Tbsp of water, and sautee 3-4 minutes. Add white wine and sage, and cook 5-7 minutes until the wine has reduced by half. Remove from heat.

In a shallow baking dish, layer the butternut squash in one overlapping layer. Salt and pepper. Layer leeks over the top of the squash. Layer apples on top of the leeks. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes at 350. Raise heat to 450, remove the foil, sprinkle cheese on top and bake for 10 minutes until bubbling.

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