It’s time for a quick GOOD IDEA/BAD IDEA with STK Out— a to-go outpost of the famous STK restaurant from The One Group. I’ve been eyeing this place for so long since I pass it often on my way to work and decided to stop by today.
GOOD IDEA: PARMESAN TRUFFLE FRIES
Parmesan truffle fries, $5
My mantra is fries are always a good idea. Parmesan truffle fries, an even better one. The best part is neither the truffle nor the parmesan just sit on top — it’s evenly spread throughout the serving of fries. Even if it is 9713298 calories, I devoured it to the end. BAD IDEA: GRILLED VEGGIE WRAP
What was left of my grilled veggie wrap, $6
I feel like I just got punk’d. I fixated on the “grilled” part, not realizing it was a cold wrap. I was just all sorts of thrown off. I’m generally not a fan of cold carbs, and it even crossed my mind after I ordered to ask if this was a cold wrap but I figured it was too late. The ingredients sounded promising (hummus, zucchini, tomato, lemon vinaigrette rolled in a spinach wrap), but I could barely finish half.
Fun story: There was a point in 8th grade where I would come to school every day with a different nail polish design…to the point the private school I went to sent a letter home specifically about banning nail polish of any kind.
CoverGirl Outlast Stay Brilliant Nail Gloss in Black Diamond, Lasting Love, Constant Caribbean, and Grapevine
Our family get-togethers are like a Very Brady movie with a lot more food and an army of kids running around. The night ends up getting divided into a few parts: early dinner, real dinner, post-Taboo-playing snacking, and the after midnight meal. Something like that. But as you can imagine, with that many people who come with big appetites, we’re pretty good at making sure there’s no shortage on the food front. For our holiday potluck dinner, Heba (our resident fashionista/stylist/PR maven), said these Sugar-Dusted Macaroon Trees were the only dessert she was set on making from the beginning. Not only are they are delicious, she said they were extremely easy to make. And they make a festive presentation for a holiday party, so I had to share!
Sugar-Dusted Macaroon Trees
Heba with her masterpiece
SUGAR-DUSTED MACAROON TREES Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart Living
Prep Time 15 minutes; Total Time; 40 minutes; Makes 18
2 1/2 cups finely shredded unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly combine coconut, granulated sugar, egg whites, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl using your hands or a wooden spoon. Form 2 tablespoons of the mixture at a time into 2-inch-tall trees with your hands, using your fingertips to make pointed tops. Transfer each tree to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart.
2) Bake until edges are golden and trees are firm, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet on a wire rack at least 15 minutes. Cookies can be made up to 1 day ahead; dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
All photos courtesy of the Hebs.
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A couple weeks ago, I was invited to join a panel of judges for a community Iron Chef competition. It was truly one of the most fun, and inspiring events I was asked to be a part of. I lucked out by having the easy (and fun!) job of taste-testing appetizers, entrees, and desserts, all creatively using the secret ingredient: kiwi. That included dishes of tilapia, sea bass, roasted chicken, even lamb chops! But more than that, I was completely blown away by all the talent in one room. There were over 20 dishes to judge, and every single team used the ingredient in such complicated, interesting ways.
Judges' plates, each presented with our initials -- cute!
There was definitely some stiff competition, but in the end, a few teams came up on top (and I’m hoping to share all their recipes here soon!). This dessert, Cheesecake topped with a Kiwi-Berry Chantilly Cream, won the People’s Choice award that evening. Every layer of it, from the roasted-almond crust, to the kiwi-berry chantilly cream, and the cheesecake itself, was like a symphony in my mouth. Try it yourself at home!
Team 19 – Participants:
Khurram Ali Khan
Slice of cheesecake
CHEESECAKE TOPPED WITH KIWI-BERRY CHANTILLY CREAM
Roasted Almond Crust Ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1 cup of butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup almonds
A few tablespoons vegetable oil
Eat good, feel good. Clairolspokeswoman, celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis invited us to an intimate cooking demo at The Kitchen NYC in midtown where she shared how to make some truly delicious (and healthy!) holiday nibbles: salmon cakes, arugula pesto pizza, Thai turkey lettuce wraps, and chocolate avocado mousse. If avocado and chocolate sound questionable together, rest assured it ends up working: The avocado keeps the texture thick but still dairy-free, and all you taste is the chocolate-y goodness. The trick: don’t tell them their dessert has avocado!
Giada De Laurentiis
After the demo, De Laurentiis stuck around to talk to me about how she gets through the holidays and keeps her hair looking fab: Beauty and the Feast: How do you keep yourself from over-indulging at all holiday parties? Giada De Laurentiis: The worst thing is to be on a diet during the holidays! I don’t overdo it, I just eat beforehand. I’ve been loving quinoa lately. I do a little stir fry with a little chicken or fish, and throw some greens in it spinach or arugula. Mix it all together and get a nice meal with carbohydrates, protein, and greens. When I get to the party, I just nibble, and have a nice glass of champagne and I’m good to go. That way, I don’t look like a party pooper. If you don’t drink alcohol, I always say to ask for sparkling water and add some berries or lime so it looks festive and bubbly. You got to try to assimilate and work yourself in a party.
BATF: What’s your go-to hair style for the holiday? De Laurentiis: Lately, I like to put my hair up in a bun. I got these sparkly rubber bands to pull my hair up with and then I just pull out my bangs. It’s just fuss-free and don’t have to curl my hair all day. My daughter loves the sparkle and we wear our hair the same way! BATF: What about your makeup? De Laurentiis: I go for lots of shimmer eyeshadow, and I love my CoverGirl mascara. I say to women if you can’t do anything else, just apply some mascara and a nice lipgloss and go out the door, and you’ll be fine. That’s the bare minimum. When I have a party at my house, I have a little drawer in my kitchen where I keep a little mascara, a little powder, and lipgloss in case I need a touch up so I don’t have to keep running up and downstairs.
Natural Instincts hair color
BATF: What makes you and Clairol a good fit? De Laurentiis: What I love about partnering up with Clairol and Natural Instincts is that we both have the same philosophy in our brand. Natural Instincts wants to empower women through their hair color, and I want to empower women through the kitchen. I want women to feel good about themselves and I think women are really in tune with their hair. If you’re having a bad hair, you’re pretty much having a bad day. We’re very attached to our hair. As a women gets older, we get a few of our gray friends and they come to visit more often as we get older. I get highlights done in salon a few times a year but in between appointments, I use the box. It’s just 10 minutes, and it covers the grays and brings out the highlights even more.
Giada whipping up some desserts
BATF: What color is your hair this time? I noticed it’s a little darker than before. De Laurentiis: This time, I colored my hair with Navajo Bronze which is a little more red than normal. Last time, I did Toasted Almond. But I think it’s kinda nice to go a little darker in the winter. But I think my absolute favorite thing about Natural Instincts is the ColorSeal Conditioner that it comes with. I’ve bought the box JUST for the conditioner. My hair goes through a lot when I’m working, a lot of blow outs and heat styling that really dries my hair out. I use this conditioner once a week, and it keeps the shine and bounce in my hair.
Even Giada's nails were tricked out for the holidays!
BATF: What are some foods that are good for your hair? De Laurentiis: Avocado, lots of greens and water, almonds, and plenty of olive oil. I have a lot of olive oil in my life! It’s a really great fat. As you get older, our skin dries out, so it really keeps your skin bright. I have oatmeal in the morning with olive oil and salt. BATF: With New Years around the corner, do you have any resolutions? De Laurentiis: This year, it would be fun to take more vacation. I’m dying to go to South America! I’ve never been. It’s so funny because I go to Europe a lot, and I just came back from Thailand and Hong Kong. But I’ve never been down south! That’s my next exploration. That, and to go on a safari this year!
Below are Giada’s holiday recipes!
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
Avocado chocolate mousse
Yield: 4 (3/4-cup) servings or 6 (1/2-cup servings)
Prep Time: 10 minutes, Cook Time: 3 minutes, Inactive Prep Time: 3 hours
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli
4 very ripe (8-ounce) avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup agave
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
Fresh raspberries, for garnish
Alas! I finally got a chance to take stock of some of the amazing limited-edition holiday offerings from a few of my favorite brands. If you’re hard-pressed for gift ideas, take a minute to be inspired:
Twenty gorgeous shades of Bare Escentuals eye colors in jaw-dropping velvet and satin finishes. Gorgeously packaged in a row with blendable, buttery textures that can be mixed and matched. Worth $220 but available in a limited-edition for a fraction of the price, there’s just no way to go wrong with this gift for the beauty junkie.
Do yourself a favor and stop by Target, because they have the most ingenious gift ideas, like this Elf Nail Cube. Not only does it have 14-holiday friendly colors of mini-nailpolishes, but it’s presented in a cute cube that displays them each beautifully. How can your resident polish enthusiast not appreciate this?! Plus, it’s a wallet friendly $10.