February 10, 2019 | Posted by Stephanie Banyas
I love baking from scratch. In fact, the last time that I probably used a boxed mix was when I was in college (many moons ago.) It was a brownie mix and I ate those brownies while still piping hot directly out of the pan with a spoon. They were delicious. Then again, that was almost 30 years ago...
Lately, though, I have noticed an onslaught of high-end boxed/bag mixes on my grocery store shelves, in specialty markets such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and in upscale kitchen supply stores like King Arthur Flour, Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table that have piqued my interest. The labels list high quality ingredients such as pure cane sugar, Dutch processed cocoa, bittersweet chocolate and real vanilla extract. Even the old school brands such as Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker have up’d their game and now feature gourmet versions such as Red Velvet, Triple Chocolate Fudge, Butter Pecan, Rainbow Chip and Tres Leches.
The directions are easy: Add eggs, fat (oil or butter) and water and mix and viola, in less than an hour, you can have warm delicious cookies or quick breads or muffins, brownies, cakes and cupcakes. No chopping or creaming or folding needed and no fancy equipment or mixer required. If you own a mixing bowl, a measuring cup, a whisk or a mixing spoon, you are pretty much good to go.
I think that these mixes are really kind of perfect for the person who has limited baking experience or simply doesn’t like baking (umm, hello our boss Bobby Flay.) They can also serve a purpose for the busy man or woman who loves having a freshly made “homemade” dessert at the end of their meal or for the Mom or Dad who wants to bring something a step-above store bought for their kids bake sale at school but doesn’t have the time to make it from scratch. So, being the curious person that I am and more importantly, being a lover of all things baked and sweet, I decided to try some of the different mixes in stores today.
In the past few months, I have tested high-end versions (ranging from around $12 up to $25 a box.) and also more affordable, easier to find versions (ranging from about $3 to $8 a box.) I have tested cookies, biscuits, muffins, quick breads and cakes and in the coming months I will share my results along with a recipe that I have created by using the mix as a base.
Since a new Trader Joes’ just opened on my block in Manhattan (lucky me!) I decided to give a few of their boxed baking mixes a try first. I started with their banana bread. I love a quick bread and one of my all-time favorites is banana. I have a killer recipe for homemade Brown Butter Banana Bread (given to me by a dear friend by the name of Susie Vu) that is pretty much perfect. I knew that this (box) version had no chances of living up to that (homemade) version but that isn’t the point of this post. Here is what I wanted to know: Does it taste good? Does the banana flavor come through? Is the texture dense or light as air? Is it moist? Is it worth the money? Does it taste good enough to serve to a good friend?
The bread comes together easily: Pour the dry mix into a bowl, add eggs, oil and water. Whisk until just smooth then pour into a loaf pan and bake (the box says for 40 minutes) however, our office test kitchen oven baked it in about 30 minutes. I took it out when a toothpick inserted into the center came out with a few moist crumbs attached. It had a lovely golden brown color and a moist, slightly dense crumb. What it did not have was the smell or taste of banana. The ingredient list does contain banana flakes which I am assuming are dehydrated bananas processed into flakes. As a banana bread, I did not love it and it did not pass my test but I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet!
The next day, I decided to do a version of the recipe listed on the back of the box for Caramelized Banana-Upside Down Cake. Since this recipe included bananas (for the topping,) I knew at least this version would taste of banana. But how would the bread mix itself stand up as a cake?
The first thing that I did was swap out good old H2O for strongly brewed coffee (adding a flavored liquid in place of water in these mixes is one of the best tips for increasing the flavor.) The coffee flavor is not in your face, it really just rounds out the banana and adds a deep toasty flavor that I love. I also added a good dose of pure vanilla extract (because vanilla is like salt in that it brings out flavor in things that don’t really have any flavor) and a good dash of ground cinnamon (for that Bananas Foster thing) I kept the oil in the mix because the topping was very buttery and because oil, in my opinion, will always yield a moister cake than butter.
The recipe on the box called for making your own caramel by combining butter and brown sugar in a pot…I had some leftover dulce de leche in the refrigerator from a milkshake recipe that I had tested for Bobby’s Burger Palace a few weeks ago so I combined that and unsalted butter and a good pinch of sea salt in a pan and cooked it until melted and bubbly. I transferred the topping to a well-sprayed 9-inch square cake pan and then topped the caramel with sliced, very ripe, banana (important for flavor). I spread the batter over the topping and baked until golden brown and a few moist crumbs on the toothpick. The box suggested 55 to 65 minutes, once again, my office oven baked it in about 40 minutes.
I let the cake rest on a baking rack for about 10 minutes to allow the caramel topping to set slightly then I carefully inverted it onto a platter. Not being able to wait just like with those brownies all those years ago, I ate it while it was still very warm. The verdict? It was delicious and I would be happy to serve it at my next brunch or dinner party and yes, even to a good friend. Give it a try and let me know what you think by sending your reviews or questions to me at email@example.com.
January 14, 2019 | Posted by Christie Bok
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Green juice does not have to be intimidating. Neither to drink nor to make. Since kale and spinach have been the “it” green for what seems to be forever and the most commonly liquefied into fresh-pressed juice, I thought about giving Swiss chard its well-deserved fifteen minutes.
Fact: Swiss chard is every bit as healthy as kale and spinach and is an extremely nutrient-dense vegetable. It’s super high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Potassium and Magnesium, and I’ve always loved it. My mom, who I swear brought home a different vegetable every time she went grocery shopping when I was a kid, added chard to soups and sautes and even snuck some into smoothies. Once I started cooking, I began to appreciate how beautifully chard wilts down and its slight bitterness, which I find adds an extra layer of flavor to any dish it’s in.
If you walk right by Swiss chard in the grocery store and beeline for kale or spinach, I can’t say I’m surprised...thanks to popular culture, that is. Beyoncé helped popularize kale when she wore a sweatshirt with (K-A-L-E) written across it in a music video, and we’ve all known spinach with a little help from our sailor friend, Popeye.
The next time you’re at the grocery store, look for a leafy green with large, sturdy leaves, colorful stalks and vibrant veins. That’s Swiss chard. Once you know what you’re looking for in the produce aisle, I think you will find that chard is actually hard to overlook. It’s absolutely gorgeous. When it comes to the color of the stalk, green, red, yellow, purple and white are all possibilities; AKA “rainbow chard” when sold in a bunch.
I’ve been a fan of juices for several years and try to supplement *not replace* my meals with a big glass of green every few days. What I am not a fan of, is the price. A standard 12-ounce juice in NYC (think kale, spinach, parsley, apple, and celery) can cost between $8 to $12 before add-ons like ginger and turmeric that tack on an additional dollar or two. Yikes.
It all starts with the fresh juice.
I’m talking straight-up chard blended with a hint of cucumber, a squeeze of fresh lemon and water. That’s it!
So, how do you turn Swiss chard into the emerald green juice that won’t break the bank? There’s no fancy juicer required. Just a solid high-powered blender and a fine mesh strainer to separate the pulp will do the trick. But wait, don’t throw out the pulp just yet. Though most of the nutrients are in the juice itself, the pulp contains all of the fiber. Save it and add to soups as a natural thickening agent like Stephanie does in her Green Minestrone, or to the base of a homemade bone broth or even a vinaigrette.
Tightly covered, the juice can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. However, you can pour the juice into an ice cube tray and store in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw the frozen cubes as you need them or mix a few into a smoothie to make any smoothie green. If you’re looking to supercharge your day, try a glass or shot of the juice each morning. Be prepared, though, it’s going to taste green. If that’s not your thing, don’t worry, because when lightly sweetened with ginger-mint simple syrup, this juice becomes a delicious mocktail. Enjoy it as an afternoon pick-me-up or as a way to ease yourself into the green drink world. I wouldn’t be opposed to adding a splash of Prosecco for a fun brunch drink, either.
The options are really endless once you’ve made the juice. Get your green on and give Swiss chard a shot!
January 1, 2019 | Posted by Sally Jackson
Make no mistake, the bowl is definitely having a moment. Açai bowls, grain bowls, savory porridge bowls…all the cool kids are eating them (at least that’s how it appears on Instagram). Is it trendy? Yes. But is it also an awesome, endlessly customizable, easy method for delicious clean eating? YES. I’m definitely on the bowl bandwagon.
December 12, 2018 | Posted by The B-Team
Holiday season is well underway, and you know what that means: people are BUSY! With that in mind, I developed a festive recipe that's quick enough to serve on a weeknight (with some make-aheads), and beautiful and impressive enough to serve as the centerpiece for a holiday meal.
October 25, 2018 | Posted by Sally Jackson
What’s pale yellow, great with Bolognese, and perfect for twirling around a fork? Not pasta, but one of my favorite winter ingredients: spaghetti squash.
October 22, 2018 | Posted by The B-Team
Pomegranates are a hallmark fruit of the holiday season. They look like an edible Christmas ornament -- one with an incredible inner architecture of bright, gem-toned seeds, bursting with flavor. One small problem: pomegranates can be a total pain in the you-know-what to deseed...if you don't know the trick, that is! Once you know the technique, less than a minute of work stands between you and a bowl of juicy pomegranate seeds.
October 10, 2018 | Posted by The B-Team
Gorgeously vibrant, orange-hued persimmons are the perfect color for a fall tablescape. But what do to with these autumnal beauties beyond piling them in a bowl for a centerpiece? We've devised a handful of ways to easily enjoy these underappreciated fall fruits (and not just as eye candy).
June 17, 2018 | Posted by The B-Team
You’ve undoubtedly heard of Carolina Barbeque and Texas BBQ but have you ever tried Santa Maria Barbeque? Unlike the aforementioned styles, Santa Maria Barbeque doesn’t involve a long, slow cooking method or sweet sauces, but is instead a menu featuring a well-seasoned California tri-tip cooked over native red oak coals on a special hand-cranked grill, accompanied by pinquinto beans, salsa, green salad, and garlic bread.
March 31, 2018 | Posted by The B-Team
If you celebrate Passover, you probably already know the simple pleasure that is a warm plate of matzo brei. If you’re like me, and you’d never even heard of it (matzo brie? Like the cheese? No, BREI, as in rhymes with “fry”), then here’s a surprisingly tasty, homey new breakfast for you to try!
March 4, 2018 | Posted by The B-Team
The B-Team loves Saint Patrick's Day (Bobby is Irish, after all), mainly for the reason we love all holidays: the food! You won't find green beer or even green clothing in our office...but you will find green soup -- and some beautiful Irish brown bread to dunk in it.
March 1, 2018 | Posted by Stephanie Banyas
Growing up a good gentile girl in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, I had never heard of a Hamentashen, much less eaten one. I didn’t experience my first triangle-shaped, fruit-filled cookie until I was 28 years old -- and it was love at first bite!
November 16, 2017 | Posted by The B-Team
An all-new cookbook is now available for pre-order! Cook, eat, and be fit with 200 recipes from Bobby Flay, whose approach to healthy eating is all about flavor—NOT eliminating anything from your diet.
November 8, 2017 | Posted by Stephanie Banyas
We know what you are thinking…another pumpkin spice flavored recipe? Well, in all fairness, over the past few years, we have really only offered up one to devotees of www.bobbyflay.com. And while this recipe does contain pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice, it is so much more than that. It is a breakfast treat, a mid-day pick-me-up or just something really delicious to make with all that leftover butter, flour, spices and pumpkin puree from the holidays.
This recipe is also something else, it is easy. NO yeast or rise-time required so you can have these mixed up and baked off in about an hour.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays from the B-Team!
October 9, 2017 | Posted by The B-Team
We love radishes sliced in salads, served with butter and salt on a baguette, and garnishing a Bloody Mary. But we especially love our radishes roasted. (Yes, roasted!)
May 22, 2017 | Posted by The B-Team
Any excuse to have Mexican food is fine by us! As I am sure you can imagine, on any given day at the Bobby Flay office, there is a lot going on. Our typical day includes quick lunches at our desk while working. Every once in a while, however, for holidays and occasions, we like to make lunch a little more special.
April 25, 2017 | Posted by The B-Team
A rainbow of fresh chiles has hit the tables of the Union Square Farmers Market, just down the street from the B-Team's New York headquarters, and dried chiles are staples in our cooking (and Bobby's, of course!). Want to learn to master chiles in your own kitchen? Follow this handy guide, excerpted from The Mesa Grill Cookbook, and you'll be a chile whisperer in no time...
December 22, 2016 | Posted by Sally Jackson
It seems there are a million variations on the humble latke, from the outlandish to the old school. The one thing that everyone seems to agree on: you can’t celebrate Hanukkah without them (that and that their grandmother’s latkes were the best around…).
November 22, 2016 | Posted by Sally Jackson
Leftovers might just be the best part of Thanksgiving dinner. Once the food coma has lifted and the those words “I’ll never eat again!” are long forgotten, a secret trip to the fridge for just one more serving of poached pears, or just a teeny sliver of gratin is always in order. And Bobby’s favorite Thanksgiving sandwich (see below)? It's enough to send you into a sweet tryptophan oblivion.
July 1, 2016 | Posted by Bobby Flay
This holiday weekend, like most weekends in the summer, you will find me in front of my grill doing what I do best...cooking for a crowd...Friends and family will drop in and out all weekend and they will all have one thing in common...empty stomachs that need to be filled! So this July 4th, I am serving up juicy Crunch Burgers, Spiced Rubbed NY Strip Steaks with Sherry Vinegar Steak Sauce and instead of the usual pickle and mustard based potato salad, (not that there is anything wrong with that) I am thinking of something a bit more flavorful... grilled new potatoes, crispy bacon and green onion tossed in a garlicky buttermilk dressing...YUM! And, since no celebration is complete without a fabulous cocktail, there will be pitchers of Rose Sangria, scented with summer peaches and raspberries, in the fridge all weekend long! Make it!
Be safe, drink responsibly, and take a few minutes to thank all those brave men and women who fought hard and gave their lives for our freedom! Happy July 4th!
May 18, 2016 | Posted by Stephanie Banyas
May is all about vegetables on bobbyflay.com and one of the most popular springtime vegetables is rhubarb. That’s right, I said vegetable. Did you know that rhubarb is actually a vegetable, not a fruit?