Treat yourself to a road trip like no other: We found America’s best spots for chocolate lovers, from coast to coast.
1. Use room-temperature cheese: Grate the cheese straight out of the fridge, then let it come to room temperature before melting.
2. Keep the heat low: Overcooked cheese is tough and rubbery. Melt it slowly, stir constantly and don’t let it come to a boil.
Food Network Magazine found a year’s worth of wacky races that test your endurance — and your appetite.
Go Nut Donut Run, Greenville, S.C.
If you think running four miles is tough, try doing it after eating six glazed doughnuts at the two-mile mark. This event, held for the first time last January, was designed as a training run for the 2011 Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh, N.C. (Competitors at that famous seven-year-old February race have to eat a dozen doughnuts at the halfway point.) But the warm-up run was such a hit last year that organizers are making it an annual event. January 15; malonecoaching.net
International Pancake Day Race, Liberal, Kan.
While people in New Orleans are celebrating Fat Tuesday, locals in this Kansas town partake in a different Shrove Tuesday tradition: a pancake race. Since 1950, women in Liberal have been competing against a team in Olney, England, to see who will be the fastest to flip a pancake in a pan, run 415 yards on an S-shaped course while holding the pan and then flip the pancake again near the end. Right now, the score stands at 36 wins for Liberal and 25 for Olney — but who knows what will happen this year? February 21; pancakeday.net
We’re not in the business of doling out financial advice, but we hear gold is up in value — all the more reason to buy some for your next batch of brownies. Get a booklet of “transfer” edible gold leaf (about $40 for 15 three-inch-square sheets; lagoldleaf.com), then brush the top of already-baked brownies with warm honey and, starting in one corner, place a sheet gold side down on top. Gently rub the paper until the gold transfers onto the brownies. An 8-inch-square pan takes about $14 worth of leaf — a downright bargain for a gift of gold.
Instant coffee makes for a great cup of Joe, but it’s even better when added to both sweet and savory dishes. This month, Leah Brickley, Andrea Albin and Bob Hoebee infuse this morning must-have into a steak-rub, a classic breakfast and dessert.
These gingerbread houses look like they could be from a holiday episode of Food Network Challenge, but they’re not the creations of a pro baker or sugar artist — they’re the handiwork of 11-year-old Lydia Gentry, who has snagged first place in her age group at the National Gingerbread Competition in Asheville, N.C., for three years running. Lydia’s mother, Michelle, credits her daughter’s gingerbread skills to the family’s ongoing remodeling projects: Lydia helped put an addition onto their real house. “After that, constructing a gingerbread house isn’t hard,” Michelle says. The only catch is that entries have to be 100 percent edible, so Lydia has to get creative with her supplies. This year, she won her fourth title with a holiday-themed cuckoo clock. Check out the winners at nationalgingerbreadhousecompetition.com, or see them in person at The Grove Park Inn in Asheville (290 Macon Ave.; groveparkinn.com) through January 1.
Serve coffee with a holiday twist: Make your own Christmas-themed sugar cubes. You’ll need small silicone candy molds, granulated sugar and food coloring (we found our molds at firstimpressionsmolds.com, starting at $8). Mix 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cold water and 12 drops of red or green food coloring, then fill the molds with the mixture, pressing down with your fingers to pack it in. Let dry overnight, then carefully remove from the molds.
Creamed corn is a staple around the holidays, but how do you jazz up the canned version without doing the same ol’ boring thing?
That’s where Loan Malonzo, Santos Loo and Leah Brickley come in. These three chefs transformed this old-fashioned classic into corn puffs, tamales and ice cream.
Coming up with 50 of anything for Food Network Magazine’s monthly 50-recipe booklet can be daunting — in the past, the booklet has featured 50 salads, 50 pizzas and 50 cookies — but this month, Food Network Kitchens tackled a single ingredient: bacon.
To dream up dishes such as Bacon Guacamole (No. 1), Bacon-Beer Mussels (No. 22) and Bacon Muffins (No. 32), testers went through hundreds of ideas. “We don’t put things in for shock value,” tester Leah Brickley says. “The recipes always taste good and have appeal.”
The chefs developed their own version of the trendy Bacon Explosion (see the original here), but in the end, decided it was a little too over-the-top to make the cut.