What’s on our plate lately

What’s on our plate lately? A handful of things, but mostly too much food!  Cooking, eating, and taking photographs is all we’ve been doing for the last 2-3 weeks.  This is all for the sake of our e-cookbook, which we’re hoping to get done soon.  The photographs were one phase, which is now completed.  And now we have to work on our layout.  We’re currently brainstorming about how we can make this e-cookbook special and uniquely ours.  So that might take us a while.  But we’ll keep you updated with our progress.

Meanwhile, what’s next?  I’m currently typing this blog entry late at night, with bleary eyes and a mushy brain while scrambling to race the clock.  We’re going to be boarding a plane to California in a matter of a few hours, and I have a sneaking suspicion I may be pulling an all-nighter.

But before we left, we wanted to post a quick vlog update.  So by the time you see this, we’ll probably already be in California.  No…we’re not moving back.  We’re going there for a family vacation.  Joe’s brother’s family is visiting from Korea, so we’re all going together.  But we’re also going there for work!  Turns out that I will be a featured chef at an event called the Foodie Happy Hour at Youtube Space LA!  SQUEAL!!! 

Watch our quick video below to hear more about it:

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Shooting our cookbook

The last two weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of food, photography, and WAY too much eating.  My stove has been getting a serious work out as a result of us shooting our first e-cookbook!  This is a reward we promised to our Kickstarter backers, who made it possible for us to produce Season 1 of Bits & Pieces, our online cooking show.

But once we reward our backers, we plan to make this available for sale as well.  Since it’s a “self-published” e-cookbook, and not a professional printed version, honestly, we could probably be a little relaxed about it, take freeze frames of our videos, and call it a day right?  But you know us, and that’s not how we roll!

We want to be proud of everything we “throw out there” into the world.  So we went all out and re-shot 15 of the best recipes from Season 1, in order to include clear step-by-step photography, interesting bonus tid-bits, and better final “beauty” shots of the food.

Call us crazy, but we always aim to give you our best work and keep up with our own high standards.  So we’re treating this e-cookbook exactly as a “real” published cookbook produced by a team of people, when in reality, it’s just us doing everything again.

It was fun trying to be creative and shooting in our own unique style.  But it was also stressful because in order to get this cookbook done as quickly as possible, we shot two recipes a day, everyday for 10 days.

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No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes with Strawberries : Behind the Scenes

This episode was one of our easiest recipes we’ve filmed for Bits & Pieces, and yet it took me the most time to prepare.  Since this was our last episode for season 1, I was extra picky about it… yeah even more than usual.

Right off the bat, I had in mind to make a dessert.  I really wanted to make something with Nutella, and after searching online, I became intrigued with the idea of a no bake Nutella cheesecake.  In my gut, I knew this was it.  But of course I decided to ignore myself!

I could’ve saved myself a lot of trips to the grocery store, effort, and wasted ingredients if I had just listened to my gut.  But instead, I decided to make brownies.  They could’ve been good.  There was peanut butter and BACON involved.  The taste was pretty interesting, but the texture, balance, and look wasn’t perfect.  So that got scrapped.

Then I moved onto the idea of a no fuss chocolate cake.  I saw a recipe that allows you to mix and bake a cake all in one pan.  So I tried that too, and as convenient and easy as it was, I wasn’t satisfied with the flavor. UGH!

So after a string of failures, you guessed it…I finally went back to my original idea!  I never learn.

That’s how I ended up making individual No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes with Strawberries.  It was a great decision, but the process getting to this point was a nightmare.  You can hear more about it as well as our thoughts on Season 1 in our Behind the Scenes VIDEO:

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No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes with Strawberries

All I gotta say is darn you Pinterest! (Insert visual of me shaking my fist in the air).  I was perusing through the addictive website we all know and love, looking for inspiration of what to make for our last episode of Season 1 of Bits & Pieces.  That’s when I stumbled across a few pics of fluffy and magical No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes.

Nutella Cheesecakes

If I was a normal person, I could’ve stopped researching right there, because it seemed like the perfect thing…a quick, easy, and low maintenance summer time treat featuring Nutella!  I actually was searching for something to make with Nutella, ever since we walked through the Nutella bar inside of that Italian market, Eataly, the last time we were in the city.

Nutella Cheesecakes

So what’s the problem Julie?  Well, since I felt like there were already several people posting pics of something similar, I felt like I couldn’t post about it too!  Told you I wasn’t normal.  So instead, I played around with making weird brownies…then chocolate cake.  Both flops.

Nutella Cheesecakes

So back on Pinterest I went, and there were those darn Nutella cheesecakes again, calling my name and haunting my dreams!  UGH okay! (Insert visual of somebody twisting my arm).  Finally I decided to test out a general recipe that everyone seemed to be using.  It was pretty good, but of course I couldn’t leave it at that.  You know I had to add my own Julie tweaks!

Nutella Cheesecakes

For instance, I decided to put mine in cute little wide mouth 8 ounce jars because jars just make things look more special, don’t you think?  You get your own little portion and it makes you feel like you’re eating a present.

Nutella Cheesecakes

Secondly, I don’t make a hard crust like most people do.  Usually, the recipe calls to mix melted butter in with some Oreo crumbs.  Then you press it into the bottom of your serving dish and it hardens in the fridge.

Nutella Cheesecakes

Personally, I found that this was unnecessary and kind of annoying to eat, because I ended up stabbing the rock solid crust with my spoon repeatedly to try to get it out of the container.  So instead, I omitted the butter and just used loose cookie crumbs.  So it ended up becoming more like a mousse-like cheesecake trifle dusted with glorious Oreo cookie rubble…. um… yum.

And then I threw some strawberries into the mix because we all know that Nutella and strawberries are best friends.  The fresh juiciness of the fruit helps cut through some of the rich chocolate creaminess.  And don’t forget the chopped hazelnuts.  That savory nutty crunch adds the perfect texture.

Nutella Cheesecakes

The truth is though, it’s all about your preference.  This recipe is so easy and flexible that it’s practically impossible to mess up, so make it your own!  You can see how I whip up my version of these easy creamy and dreamy No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes with Strawberries in EPISODE 20, our LAST episode of Season 1, of Bits & Pieces:

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Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad : Behind the Scenes

I’m so thankful that our friends John and Heather were visiting Chicago this past weekend from New York.  We got to spend a lot of time with them and even have some deep heart to heart talks about passion, creative work, and calling.

John is in advertising and he was mentioning how when he’s trying to come up with new ideas and concepts for ads, he’s constantly second guessing himself.  He’s always pushing himself and trying to come up with something that’s ground breaking and impressive.

I can TOTALLY relate to that.  Since this was episode 19, of Bits & Pieces, I knew that I only had 2 episodes left to make an impact before Season 1 was over, so I started beating myself up… going back and forth between different ideas and second guessing my instincts.

It also didn’t help because I asked Joe what he thought about me making this Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad.  He gave his honest opinion and said that he thought the idea was “okay,” but wasn’t sure if it was that impressive.  That’s what you get for marrying a fellow creative person.

But in a way, I understood what he was saying.  The recipe itself is very simple, and I got the inspiration for it from another recipe I found in a magazine.  Joe is a huge activist of me coming up with original recipes on my own.  I try to do that, but sometimes I just run out of creative juice.

But eventually, after trying to think of alternative recipes, I went back to my original idea and settled on doing this one anyways.  Shortly after we filmed, we met up with John and Heather.  That’s when John said, “for creative work, you just gotta stick with your gut.  Your gut is usually right.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself, John!  I was so thankful to hear that from him and get that affirmation.

Creative differences and being married to your coworker is what makes shooting our show difficult sometimes.  But 19 episodes later, we finally feel like we hit our stride!  You can hear us talk more about how our shoot went see some bloopers in our Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad Behind the Scenes video below:

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Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad

Avocado lovers rejoice!  This one’s for you… or should I say, this one’s for me?  I LOVE AVOCADOS and if you do too, you’ll be fist bumping me after you try this Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad.  First off, if you’re scared of the apple in this recipe because you’re one of those, “I don’t like fruit in my savory dishes” kinds of people, don’t walk away just yet.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

The tart Granny Smith apple kind of disappears into the background and adds just the right amount of sweetness, as well as a great texture and refreshing crunch.  Trust me, along with the creamy cool avocado, it just works.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

Next, let’s talk about the buttermilk avocado dressing.  I just so happened to have leftover buttermilk sitting in my freezer from the time I made my Buttermilk Bacon Biscuits.  But if you don’t, don’t fret my pet.

Just use regular milk, fill a measuring cup up to almost the amount you need, and top the rest with vinegar.  I always try to share that tip because I know I used to freak out when a recipe called for buttermilk and I didn’t have it on hand.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

I took the extra few minutes to cook up some chicken breasts, but if you want to make your life easier, use the breast meat from a rotisserie chicken.  I totally would’ve done that too, but I didn’t have one on hand.  Actually, I take that back, because my chicken was well seasoned and juicy, so I think it only helped the situation.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

I chose to use toasty Italian bread as my vehicle to transport the chicken salad to my mouth, and I think that’s the best decision I’ve made all year.  But you can go low carb and load it up on some lettuce and eat it as a regular salad with a fork.  You won’t be disappointed either way.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

This makes such a simple summer time meal, but it would also be awesome as an appetizer.  So watch how I make this easy Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad step-by-step in EPISODE 19 of Bits & Pieces:

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