Innovation Chef, Jenna Johansen Shares a Family Favorite for National Applesauce Cake Day

(Photo courtesy of AllRecipes.com )

(Photo courtesy of AllRecipes.com )

In honor of National Applesauce Cake Day on June 6th, Innovation Chef, Jenna Johansen shares one of her all-time favorite family recipes with us.

One of my absolute favorite summertime sweets to make is chocolate applesauce cake. I love our handed-down family recipe; moist and delicious, and I usually always have the ingredients on hand. This version needs no frosting, so it travels easily and sits on a picnic bench perfectly, which is just what a hot summer day calls for.

I have fond memories of my mother making it often as a kid and we never had leftovers for long because everyone loves it! This version came from my Great Grandma Pearl, handed-down over generations. Today, she is 106 years old, living in Fargo, North Dakota. Maybe applesauce cake has more benefits to it than just good taste!

I like to pick the chocolate chips off the top. As I was growing up and doing a lot of the baking, I would use WAY more than the specified 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and you may want to, too!

Applesauce first came into vogue during World War I and the Great Depression when many rations were scarce. Now, I think of applesauce as being the perfect use for the fallen apples from our tree. I just peel, cook and puree to have my own homemade applesauce, so easy and simple.

P.S. This recipe pairs perfectly with corn on the cob, deviled eggs, cold beer, potato salad and anything that’s cooked on the grill!

My Mom’s Chocolate Applesauce Cake

Ingredients:
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs cocoa {I love the baking cocoas from Savory Spice}
1 can of applesauce
2 unbeaten eggs
2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Topping:
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips {my mom uses semi-sweet but I like to use milk chocolate}

Directions:
Mix all cake ingredients well.
Pour into a greased 9″x13″ cake pan.
Sprinkle the top with topping ingredients {I always add more chocolate chips}.
Bake 350 F for 30-40 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Epicurean’s Larry DiPasquale Granted Honorary Doctorate from Johnson & Wales University

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Larry DiPasquale, founder and chief executive officer of Denver’s most well established Epicurean Group, received an honorary Doctor of Business Administration in Food Service Entrepreneurship from Johnson & Wales University (JWU).

JWU is one of Denver’s premier, private institutions serving more than 1300 students from all 50 states and 8 countries; students prepping for careers in the food, travel and business markets.  DiPasquale has served on JWU’s President’s Council for 10 years is proud to have many graduates in upper management on his team.

DiPasquale launched what would be known as Epicurean Group in 1984, after moving to Denver from California with his wife, Jill. Epicurean Group has since grown to a multi-million dollar company acting as exclusive caterer for The Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Palazzo Verdi and SoCo Clubs. DiPasquale, along with his business partner, Sharon Magness Blake, opened their first restaurant, Mangia Bevi Café, in 2008, to rave reviews. DiPasquale and Epicurean continue to receive many awards, including being named as one of the Top 25 Caterers in the World by Special Events Magazine, Visit Denver’s Tourism Hall of Fame inductee, and Colorado Meetings & Events Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Still, DiPasquale’s greatest reward is serving the Denver community; DiPasquale and his Epicurean Street Cuisine food truck can be found several times a month downtown, feeding the hungry and needy.

DiPasquale, along with Richard Sandoval of Richard Sandoval Restaurants, received the award at JWU’s graduation, on Saturday, May 23, 2015 at the Colorado Convention Center’s Bellco Theater. DiPasquale’s family, including his 81 year-old Italian father, step-mother, wife, and daughter, who inspired his love for food and friends and family, were in attendance.

Larry with his wife, Jill and daughter, Christina.

Larry with his wife, Jill and daughter, Christina.

Epicurean is an organization that has grown to become one of the top catering and special event companies in the world, winning over 20 local and national awards.  Dr.  DiPasquale, along with his executive team of Greg Karl and Paul Aylmer have set the benchmark as Denver’s catering, restaurant, and venue group.

Happy Hummus Day!

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To commemorate National Hummus Day, we’re sharing a healthy and delicious Roasted Red Pepper Hummus recipe created by our Executive Chef at Sports Authority Field, Nikki Olst.

 “We love this in the kitchen for a number of reasons; the touch of spice and tang from the roasted red peppers, how easy it comes together, and it goes great with everything!”

-Nikki Olst, Executive Chef at Sports Authority Filed

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Yields 2 cups
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes {includes 30 minutes of chill time}

Ingredients
1 {15.5 oz.} can chickpeas, rinsed
¼ cup roasted red peppers
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ tsp salt
pinch cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions
Process all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 45 seconds.  Transfer to a serving bowl & chill until the flavors have blended, at least 30 minutes.  Serve cold with assorted crackers, tasty veggies & pita bread.

5 Filters to Help You Snap the Perfect Food Pic on Instagram

Last month we hosted a two-day, all out photo shoot to showcase some of the great recipes Epicurean Group will be releasing this fall. We were very fortunate to be able to work with an extremely talented freelance photographer, Laurie Smith for the third year in a row!  Lauries’ specialties are food and travel and she’s absolutely incredible. Visit her website if you can! (lauriesmithphoto.com)

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Often when you see a great photo, you stop and admire the beauty but fail to consider the amount of work that went into creating the shot. I am here to tell you firsthand, it’s A LOT of work! From planning the recipes, to preparing the food and selecting the props, there’s much work to be done. Luckily we had our Inspiration & Celebrity Chef, Jenna Johansen available to guide the way.

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Jenna had a clear vision in mind which was extremely helpful considering we were pressed for time. I’m sure you’ve heard of the clever tricks companies use to market their food such as using glue instead of real milk which can have a blueish hue to it. If you’ve ever eaten a Lean Cuisine before, you know that the photo on the outside of the box doesn’t even begin to resemble what’s actually inside. For our shoot, we didn’t use any of those tricks. We used actual, real food and because of that, timing was everything. Capturing the frothy foam on an espresso is an art form and must be done within a certain time frame before it melts away. Same goes for freshly cracked eggs.

Once we got the final pictures back from Laurie, we were ecstatic! While it might have been a grueling process, the final product was well worth the effort!

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For all of you amature food photographers such as myself that love to post #foodporn on Instagram, here are five filters you can use to make your food pictures more appetizing:

1. Amaro

This setting will brighten a dark photo, which could be helpful if you’re taking a pic in a dimly lit restaurant or bar. But if you’re documenting your kitchen adventures, this could make your meal look like it was cooked under florescent lighting–or worse–in a cafeteria.

2. Rise

Rise adds a soft glow to any image. It is forgiving when documenting anything with a blemish. For example, the fruit salad you made with the banana you forgot to pack in your lunch last week, but are too cheap to toss out. However, if you are indulging in a vibrantly colored dish, why mute its colors?

3. X-Pro 11, Lo-Fi, and Hefe

Have a photo that’s in need of some drama? All of these filter could work. If used on images of crispy cheese or baked goods, you’ll have your viewers drooling. These filters, though, may be a bit much with photos that are already full of depth and color. We don’t want your food looking like it came out of a Little Tikes play kit.

4. Earlybird

Want to give your food pic a vintage feel? This is the filter for you. Afraid of making your dish look like it should have been thrown out weeks ago? Maybe avoid this….

5. Brannan

Perfect when in need of some sharpening and contrast. Brannan will define the photo you blurred while trying to balance your spatula, frying pan, small child, and camera. However, this does add a metallic and muted tint; if you are working with vibrant colors, it could dull down your image.

Peters, Jolie (2013, November 20). Best and Worst Instagram Filters for Food Porn (Martha, Please Take Note) [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://www.epicurious.com/archive/blogs/editor/2013/11/instagram-filter-blog.html

To Celebrate Earth Day: 5 Ways to Save Food at Home from Going to Waste

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While today officially marks Earth Day, at Epicurean Group we believe it’s important to celebrate the environment every day which is why we use a number of green practices in our kitchens daily. By creating partnerships with organizations like We Don’t Waste and Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises, more than 90% of our annual waste output is recycled. Last year at Sports Authority Field at Mile High we donated 63,364 servings of unused food to people in need and we provide approximately 500lbs of scrap food to the Alpine Waste & Recycling Compost program each week.  We’re also recognized as a Colorado Proud company for souring locally and have a Bronze Level certification from the Environmental Leadership Program.

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Did you know that the average American household wastes $1,600 a year on food that gets tossed in the trash? Not only is wasted food bad for the pocket book but once it hits the landfill, the spoiled food releases methane gas which has been linked to global warming. Yikes!

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Here are 5 Ways to You Can Save Food at Home from Going to Waste:

    1. Make a Plan & Stick to it! –Before going to the grocery store, write a list keeping in mind if you have any plans throughout the week that may prevent you from cooking at home. Buy only what you intend to use and cut recipes in half for fewer servings. Look to the meat counter, bakery and bulk food bins where you have the ability to choose the quantity you buy opposed to prepackaged goods.
    2. Start a Compost-Create healthy and fertile soil for your garden by decomposing unused food scraps. To learn more about composting and how you can do this at home, click here.
    3. Repurpose Your Leftovers-Did you know you can make homemade broths using leftover meat bones that are loaded with health benefits? Bacon grease can also be saved and added to virtually any vegetable to give the flavor an extra boost!
    4. Just Freeze It! –Lots of meat and produce can be frozen and used at a later date. During meal prep, freeze and store portions to be used later on. This will save on those busy days when there’s no time to cook!
    5. Donate Unused Food-Many local food banks and shelters accept canned and non-perishable goods. Check with local churches and food banks for more information.

(*Sources cited: http://www.epa.gov/foodrecovery/)

 

Epicurean Sports Featured at Flavors of Denver 2015

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Chef Nikki and Juan getting ready for Flavors.

Last night our very own chef, Nikki Olst, Executive Chef at Sports Authority Field at Mile High was invited along with a few other top local chefs to prepare a multicourse dinner to help fund the research, education & advocacy efforts of the American Liver Foundation.

The event, Flavors, was held at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum and showcased signature dishes from culinary experts beyond traditional restaurant fare and encouraged guests to “unleash their inner foodie.”

“I’m truly overwhelmed by how grateful I am to be apart of this culinary world! The passion and drive I witnessed tonight was very special; it’s not everyday we get to step out from behind the curtain (or shall I say stove) to cook tableside for 10 guests.”

-Chef Nikki Olst, Executive Chef at Sports Authority Field at Mile High

One course Chef Nikki was particularly excited about preparing was the faux oysters, a dish that consists of oyster lettuce, ginger prosecco mignonette, apple chip & fig. Nikki was introduced to oyster lettuce on a recent trip to Napa.

Overall, the event was a great success and everyone including Nikki had a great time!

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Champagne Bar: Two of the Loveliest Words in the English Language

Come warm yourself by our champagne fireplace.

Ain’t that the truth?

Earlier this month we shared some ideas for a Hot Chocolate Bar; after doing extensive research on DIY stations, including ignoring my children and eating an entire bag of butterscotch chips, I couldn’t resist creating a mini-series on this idea of DIY stations for guests.

Today’s Treat: Champagne

Service with a smile.

Service with a smile at Union Station.

Just writing it makes me happy.

Nothing says ‘celebrate’ quite like champagne. My friends, family, and that one know-it-all guy at Corridor 44 who thought I should eat something before having another glass of the nectar of the gods can attest that champagne is, by far, my own personal favorite drink. But you can’t drink it all the time. Because those other mothers at preschool would be jealous concerned.

I don’t need to add anything to my champagne – like dinner – but this is not about me. It’s about you AND me – and anyone else who appreciates a glass of bubbly. Like all of us at Epicurean Group. Parties are our game. And our job. Put those in whatever order you wish.

Let's pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

Let’s pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

The holidays are a perfect time to create a self-serve station for your guests. It allows for more socializing and less stressing. Always a good thing.

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later...

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later…

Today is New Year’s Eve so if you are hosting a soiree or simply want to do something special on New Year’s Day, may we introduce you to the MmmmMimosa Station? Simple elegance, with an emphasis on simple.

Yum.

Yum.

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

MmmmMimosa Station

Ingredients and Accouterments:

  • Ice buckets or other large bin filled with with ice
  • Four containers for fruit (try IKEA or the dollar store if you don’t have any on hand – or use the coffee cups from your wedding china set because, let’s face it, you’re not drinking coffee when champagne is available)
  • Four glass bottles for juice
  • Labels (for labeling juice and for guests to tag their glasses – I use paint sample cards – free! And any color you want. And did I mention free! )
  • Glasses (one per guest)
  • DIY labels
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Champagne or prosecco
  • Sparkling cider
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Raspberry lemonade concentrate
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple (feel free to improvise)
  • Sugar cubes
How sweet are these sugar cubes?

How sweet are these sugar cubes?

Paint samples make great labels.

Paint samples make great labels.

Directions:

  • Chill champagne, prosseco, juice and cider overnight or in an ice bath
  • Pour juice in glass containers, write or print out labels and tie to the bottle
  • Place champagne in an ice bucket on the table
  • Place glasses, fruit, napkins, juice, labels, sugar cubes, and marker on the table

Pour yourself a glass and say hello to 2015 (and maybe a tiny-but-worth-it-headache)!

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford