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Archive for June, 2012

Hotel Buffet 101: Everything You Need to Know

Hotel Buffet 101

The buffet is a time-honored tradition. Though known historically for its pomp and circumstance at lavish dinner parties in sixteenth-century France, today they’re more often associated with long lines and spotty service. Though every buffet offers something different — from cheap, gluttonous fare to extravagant fine dining — they can all run into the same problems. At Oyster, we’ve seen some of the best of the best (and the best of the worst) when it comes to the all-you-can-eat fest at hotels. Having learned quite a bit about when to steer clear and when to chow down, we thought we’d offer you some pointers — and let you in on some of our favorite buffets around the globe. Next time you hit the food line, make sure to ask yourself these five questions — and if all’s good, hunker down with your first (of many) dinner plates.

Rule #1: Are your servers in sight?

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Cookbook Giveaway: Martha’s American Food

Mix up a big bowl of Classic Potato Salad from Martha's American Food for the 4th of July. This all-American picnic salad is an iconic summer staple.

There’s no better way to celebrate America then to explore the amazing culinary diversity we enjoy across the nation. We’ve delved into regional traditions in-depth here at Cooking Channel, crowd-sourcing favorite dishes and developing them into our feature Across the Country in 50 State Dishes. Martha Stewart’s new cookbook, Martha’s American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation’s Most Treasured Dishes, from Coast to Coast, runs with this same idea, uncovering treasured local specialties and delivering classic recipes for iconic dishes. Along the way, through food, she uncovers interesting nuggets of American history, stories of immigration and beloved regional flavors.

Martha’s American Food begins with recipes for all-American favorites like blueberry pancakes, hamburgers, meatloaf and peanut butter cookies – you can never have too many recipes for these standbys, and Martha’s versions look fantastic. And then she divides the country into five regions: Northeast, South, Midwest, Southwest and West, with recipes, stories and fabulous photography capturing the uniqueness of each – it’s a culinary road trip!

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Thirsty Thursday: Celebrate with a Sparkling Wine Sangria

Sparkling Wine Sangria

It’s more than just alliteration; it’s a statement, a proclamation that Thursdays are when the weekend should really start. Kicking it off right is the key, and what better way than with a cocktail that not only takes the edge off, but tastes good too. A hard thing to disagree with, we know. Drink up, get down and go to sleep happy.

There will be beer — liquor, too — but when toasting to the 4th of July this year, try sipping on something a bit more celebratory. After all, this is a special year: the Olympics are just around the corner and the 4th falls on a Wednesday, which, naturally, means not one, but two weekends-worth of outdoor festivities. Celebrate in style with summer berries, sparkling wine and a new take on sangria.

Bottoms up, folks.

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Red, White and Blue Velvet Cake for the 4th of July

Red, White and Blue Velvet Cake Recipe

Red Velvet cake has become an American favorite, because of its lovely texture and fun color. Add blue and white for a show-stopping dessert this 4th of July. The inside of the cake is as striking as the decorative icing. Bring it to your holiday picnic and it will outshine the fireworks.

Red, White and Blue Velvet Cake
Makes: 12 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 30+ minutes
Decorating Time: 1 hour
Level: multiple steps, but all of them are easy

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Food Fight — Magic Mike vs. Juicy Lucy

Magic Mike Channing Tatum vs. Juicy Lucy

If you can't handle the heat...strip down to your buns.

As this Friday’s release of Warner Bros.’ Magic Mike approaches, stripper/actor Channing Tatum and his greased-up sidekicks have got us thinking: Do we have something that can match their level of hot, beefy goodness?

Yes we do, and her name is Lucy. Our Juicy Lucy Burger is ready to challenge Mike for the title of Hottest Sizzling Beefcake of the Summer (HSBOTS).

WHO WILL BE CROWNED THE HOTTEST SIZZLING BEEFCAKE OF THE SUMMER (HSBOTS)?

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Sifted: Yellow Cake Pie, Cinnamon Roll Pancakes and Patriotic Salad

Yellow Cake Pie with Chocolate Mousse by Foodie Crush

5 Hot Links We’re Loving:

  1. Are you team cake or team pie? Filled with chocolate mousse and topped with whipped cream, Foodie Crush’s inventive yellow cake pie doesn’t make you decide.
  2. We love Grilled Cheese Social’s latest sandwich sensation: Broccoli, bacon, and ale cheddar cheese pressed between buttery focaccia.
  3. Make your pancakes extra special this weekend with Number 2 Pencil’s sour cream cinnamon roll pancakes. With a buttery cinnamon sugar swirl and a rich maple coffee glaze, this recipe is a winner.
  4. Confessions of a Bright Eyed Baker had trouble sharing these ice cream cupcake peanut butter cups. With these dreamy chocolate treats, who wouldn’t?
  5. How do you make potato salad patriotic? Chez Us uses purple and red potatoes. Okay– it may not be the classic red, white and blue, but the bright colors and the vibrant flavors, make this a perfect side for next week’s celebration.

Craving More?

Root Beer-Flavored Frozen Yogurt to Replace Root Beer Floats? (A Review)

Root Beer Flavored Yogurt

We live in the future. Mostly everything that had been imagined in the middle of the 20th century already exists, from robots that vacuum our homes to portable video communication devices to the ability to push a button to dispense food. You can also pull down a lever to dish out something to eat — in this case, a dessert. All you have to do is grab the handle.

There are 16 handles at the aptly named frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles, which has let customers extrude their own choice of frosty desserts for the past few years — not that frozen treat dispensers haven’t been around for decades. But their latest flavor is a bit indicative of our “futuristic” times: Like the 1930s’ vision of entire courses of food coming in pill form, 16 Handles has eliminated the prep time of making a root beer float by combining all its tastes in a single frozen yogurt flavor, aptly named Frosty Root Beer Float (112 calories for 4 oz.). The result is a tasty and creamy treat with the flavor of root beer. Additionally, if you opt for the recommended topping of vanilla clodhoppers — vanilla fudge-coated graham wafer clusters — it becomes a crunchy dessert you can sink your teeth into.

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Retro Red, White & Boozy Jell-O Dessert

There’s something about Jell-O — chilled, jiggly gelatin in an array of fruity flavors and colors — that screams summertime. The easy, from-a-box dessert is perfect for hot summer days, transforming from spoonable treat to cool liquid once it hits the tongue. Set the gelatin in some shapely molds, mix in a few surprising ingredients and — voila! You’ve got yourself a perfect warm-weather party dessert with a wow factor.

To kick off my series of posts for Cooking Channel, and to celebrate July 4th, I’ve created a Jell-O mold with an elegant, adult twist (think: Jell-O shot meets dinner party dessert). Strawberries and blueberries are suspended in boozy, effervescent, ginger ale-laced gelatin, and topped with whipped cream for that full red, white and blue effect.

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Meatless Monday: Zucchini Parmesan Subs With Tomatoes and Basil

zucchini parmesan subs
Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

I’m kind of over Eggplant Parmesan. In the 15 or so years since I gave up meat, I’ve probably eaten it 300 times. It’s the default vegetarian option at almost every wedding or banquet I’ve ever been to. It’s often the only meatless meal on restaurant menus, and my family members — those who don’t try to convince me that poultry is vegetarian — make it for me at nearly every family event.

But just like chicken isn’t the only meat that can get the Parmesan treatment, eggplant isn’t the only vegetable that can get Parmesan-ed. Zucchini Parmesan is just as good as, if not better than, Eggplant Parmesan. The hearty vegetable (is it actually a fruit? I think so.) holds up well to the breading, frying and cheese-topping. You can substitute zucchini for eggplant in the traditional casserole, or make Zucchini Parmesan subs, topped with fresh tomato sauce and provolone cheese.

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Rightside Up

Rightside-Up Pineapple Cake Recipe

Have you ever made a pineapple upside-down cake and had all the goodies stick to the bottom of the pan? I have. I hold my breath as I invert the pan and then sigh with either frustration or relief as I unveil the cake. Granted, prying the caramelized fruit from the pan and carefully putting it back on the cake easily remedies it, but there is a touch of disappointment nonetheless. Here is a simple and elegant solution — bake the cakes in jars and leave them rightside-up.

And if you really want to serve them upside-down, just flip the jar over onto the plate.

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