Sunday, October 24, 2010

PFB Challenge #6: Work It, Girl!

From stay-at-home mommy to...*poof!* overly-excited-80's-styled-PFB-cooler-carrying-career-woman!

First question, where did my eyebrows go in that "mommy" picture? Dumb questions aside, are you ready to go back in time with me? How about the 1980’s? Ready to ride the wild culinary ride of a Foodie House reinvention? Think above and beyond a chef salad with French dressing served alongside a Tab with a straw. Think era appropriate fine dining, shook up, re-configured and formulated into a fabulous (and possibly “rad”) lunch, fit for any corner office with a view. Think Beef Wellington, raspberry vinaigrette, white chocolate and a fruity spritzer. Make you cringe? It should. But I’m going to change your mind with this menu fit for any lunch, 1980’s or not.

The lunch... the bag.

Challenge #6 for Project Food Blog is entitled Road Trip. The guidelines were to create a meal consisting of an entrée, side, dessert and drink that all has to fit into the cooler that they provided. Things like plates and cups did not have to fit- phew.

(Shhh. I found the plates and cool drink bottle for 98 cents each at Target and the napkin is a bandana I got at the craft store for $1.98. The piece of hot pink ribbon was free- just found it laying around the house.)

I’ve been wanting to do a throw-back type post for a while, but nothing seemed to fit the bill until now. What could be more fun than reinventing some classic dishes and flavors, transforming myself into a stylish career woman and making it all (well, the food anyway) portable? It wasn’t until I got knee-deep in preparation for this post that I realized how much work this was going to be. I was in desperate need of a pep talk. So I popped in Working Girl and got myself re-focused. (Que Carly Simon's Let The River Run and goosebumps)

One of my Top Five Fav 80's movies!


Beef Wellington Sandwich - Seared Filet of Beef, Duxelles Mayonnaise, Roasted Sweet Pepper and Alfalfa Sprouts on a Croissant

Asparagus Salad with Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette Topped with Feta Cheese and Crumbled Bacon
Day Glo Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Cream and Neon Buttercream Frosting

Pom Spritzer with Fresh Mint


I’ve always been intrigued by Beef Wellington. I mean, it’s mysterious. Beef wrapped up in flaky pastry? No wonder it was so popular. Translating the flavors of a traditional Beef Wellington into a sandwich, had to have three main factors: the beef, which is the tender, low-in-fat filet, a flavorful paste that goes on the outside of the beef (some made with liver and others with mushrooms- I prefer the mushroom version) and the flaky pastry. So I used the same cut of beef, seared it to a medium-rare temperature, made a duxelles (mushroom paste) and mixed it with mayonnaise for a flavorful spread on the sandwich and a croissant to play the roll of flaky pastry. From there, I added a couple of my personal favorite sandwich toppings: roasted sweet pepper and alfalfa sprouts.

Beef Wellington Sandwich

3-4 oz. seared filet of beef, thinly sliced
2-3 pieces of roasted red, yellow or orange sweet bell pepper
2 tbsp. duxelles mayo (recipe below)
1 handful of alfalfa sprouts
1 croissant

Assemble sandwich to your liking, but I put mayo on both sides of the croissant, meat, pepper then alfalfa sprouts. Wrap in parchment to keep the sandwich from falling apart. Fit into a small cake box.

Duxelles Mayo
Duxelles is loosely adapted from Tyler Florence's Ultimate Beef Wellington Recipe

8 oz. cremini mushrooms (or whatever you like)
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, using leaves only
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. mayo
salt and pepper

In a food processor, place all ingredients, except for butter, mayo and olive oil. Blend until the ingredients are almost to a paste consistency. In a pan over med-low heat, add butter and olive oil. Add mushroom mixture. Cook until all the water has evaporated and the mushrooms are brown and fragrant, about 10-15 min. Cool and then mix with mayo. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill.

Salad consumption is a blast!

Okay, we have to have a salad to go with this sandwich. Giant salads, as well as their partner in crime- raspberry vinaigrette, were plastered on every good restaurant's menu across America in the Eighties. For the Asparagus Salad, I wanted to do a couple of things: make a fresher version of raspberry vinaigrette, not use iceberg lettuce and switch out blue cheese from the Cobb salad with feta cheese and keep the bacon. As I read up on recipes for the raspberry vinaigrette, I couldn’t find one that used fresh raspberries- all of them called for raspberry infused vinegar. So I came up with my own version, which turned out pulpy and a vibrant red. Delicious!

Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette

1 handful fresh raspberries
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
5 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

Mash raspberries with fork. Add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk together. Stir before dressing salad.

Asparagus Salad

1 lb. fresh asparagus, blanched, chilled and cut into 1" pieces
1/4 c. feta cheese
1-2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4-5 tbsp. Fresh raspberry vinaigrette
salt and pepper

Mix asparagus with dressing and salt and pepper to taste. Top with feta and bacon. Toss before serving.

While some keep Jack in their desk, others keep cake.

Do you remember how many “Death by Chocolate” type cakes there were in the Eighties? Do you remember how white chocolate snuck into every known dessert and covered every Christmas-time treat in it’s waxy, faux-vanilla flavored coating? I remember ice cream shops and frozen yogurt places all having some form of white chocolate mousse flavor or white chocolate macadamia nut combo on their list of treats.

It's obvious that the cake is horrible.

I personally really dislike white chocolate. It’s too sweet for my taste, but for this challenge, I put it in a context that my palate would receive it willingly. I made dark chocolate the star and white chocolate the supporting actor. I used one of my favorite recipes for chocolate cake, sliced the cake in half, filled it with a white chocolate pastry cream and topped it with neon buttercream frosting for a special Eighties flair. I must say, I was surprised by how yummy the white chocolate pastry cream turned out. Let’s just say, that that bowl was pretty clean by the time I took the spatula to it.

The frosting? Well, what would any Eighties inspired dessert be without something neon? It's a nostalgic reminder of every windbreaker, t-shirt, scrunchie and pair of jelly shoes I ever owned. It's Eighties fashion in a pastry bag.

Day Glo Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Cream

For the chocolate cake:
Divvies Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
I've adapted it to work as a cake

Oven: 350 degrees
makes 1 8x8 cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8x8 pan with parchment and spray with pan release; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water until well combined. Add flour mixture to the mixer and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Batter should look and feel more watery than normal cake batters.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating pan halfway through cooking, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 37-39 minutes.

Let cake cook 10 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

White Chocolate Pastry Cream
an recipe

6 egg yolks
 5 tablespoons white sugar
 1/4 cup cornstarch
 2 cups milk
 1 vanilla bean, halved
 2 tablespoons butter
 3 ounces white chocolate


In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Whisk in corn starch. Set aside.

In a stainless steel saucepan, bring milk and vanilla bean to a boil, remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Stir a small amount of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Return milk to heat and while constantly stirring with a wooden spoon, slowly add the egg mixture to milk. Mixture will thicken.

Allow to just come to a boil, remove from heat and stir in butter. Put mixture through a sieve into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (this keeps mixture from forming a skin over top). Cool slightly.

Stir in melted white chocolate, cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble cake.

Day Glo Frosting
this is a halved buttercream recipe from
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
 4 cups confectioners' sugar
 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk

In a mixing bowl, cream butter. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Add milk until frosting reaches desired consistency.

Divide the frosting into as many colors as you want to make. Add your food coloring. McCormick brand makes neon food coloring. That's what I used. The pink and green. 7-10 drops of each. Just play around and make what you like.

And finally, the spritzer. Basically, I'm thinking a non-alcoholic, better version of the wildly popular Bartle and James wine coolers. Now, if this was not a workplace meal, we would just go ahead and make it a real wine spritzer, but in keeping with company policy, no alcohol permitted.

She's far away from the office...

Pom Wonderful had sent me a case of their pomegranate juice, which I happily received. This was the perfect time to make a sassy little drink out of it. The club soda offered the “spritzer” element while the fresh orange juice and shredded mint mingled deliciously with the tart and tangy pomegranate juice. Top everything off with an umbrella, and you’ve got yourself a refreshing and borderline cheesy drink. We are, afterall, talkin’ about the Eighties.

Pom Spritzer

8oz. Pom Wonderful
8 oz. club soda
juice of half an orange
5-6 fresh mint leaves, torn
umbrella and orange slice for garnish
loopy-loop straw (just for kicks)

Mix all ingredients together, pour into travel container. Pour over ice at destination and garnish.

A Behind the Scenes Look

Oh Friends, I started making the food on Wednesday and didn't finish until late morning on Friday. For normal, non-blogging, non-mom people this would not take that long, but in between child rearing and the endless photography sessions with nearly every step of every food process, it was taking a long time. The plan was to have all the food done by Friday at naptime, so I could transform myself and take photos while the kids slept. Oh naptime, what would I do without you? As soon as the last bedroom door was closed, I ran to plug in curling irons and break out the unused makeup that lingers at the bottom of my makeup bag. Hairspray? Check. Fine-tooth comb? Check. Really ugly red lipstick? Definitely.

I curled, sprayed and teased my hair. I assembled my wardrobe like a white chocolate tornado, attempting to stuff maxi pads in the shoulders of my husband's suit jacket and just as quickly tossing them out when they wouldn't stay. I applied my makeup, concentrating on severe blush and bright red lipstick and dashed to the specified photographing areas. Then I realized, I need a broom.

I've learned, with my new DSLR, quite a bit about the timer and how to use it properly. I use it only when I have no one to photograph me, of course. But it's not just as easy as, push-the-button-and-run-in-front-of-the-camera-and-pose-before-it-takes-the-picture. No, you must have a stand-in, so that the camera can properly focus. Otherwise, what happens (and has happened to me a hundred times and I've got hundreds of lame photos to show for it) is that you will be out of focus while the background is perfectly in focus. What I would give for a mannequin. Seriously, I would love to have one; even a dress form would work. What did I use? A broom. Not quite tall enough and very unreliable, especially when "standing" is one of the major requirements of being a stand-in. A broom turned on its handle loses its balance quickly. A broom slowly slides down the wall that you are trying not to focus on. A broom is annoying to get out of the picture once you don't need it anymore.

Pushing the stand-in out of the way.... really awkward pose.

My other wonky stand-in.

For the office scenes, an even more unruly stand-in was used- my son's play shopping cart topped off with the PFB cooler for my head. It worked great as far as focusing goes, but when it came to moving it out of the way to make room for myself, well, let's just say it was less than graceful and quiet (remember, this is during naptime, as pretty much anything is that I do for myself, so quiet is important.) I found it hard to remove the stand-in, gently set it on the floor, grab whatever food item I was supposed to be eating and pose. Some photos completely missed the mark.

Nice view of the shirt cuff, but where's my head?

The amount of photos taken to get one good one would have to be 20 to 1. The entire 2 hour naptime was filled to the brim with failed photo attempts, drooping hair and a brain thinking, “what am I going to make for dinner?”

I have nothing to say about this one.

When I think about some of the things I have done in the name of this blog, it just makes me smile. I enjoy every step of it. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, mainly because my ideas tend to waver on the grandiose-side of things, but that’s just how I work and I can’t seem to find satisfaction in anything less. I know I can push myself to do more, tap into areas that are unusual, bring a fun, alternative view to food and cooking. I always want the food to have a story. I think that is what makes the post entertaining for you, my readers.

I honestly am so thrilled to be in this sixth round. Thank you so much judges and voters for keeping me in the contest. I know I keep saying how much fun I’m having, but it’s true. I want you to know how much I have grown, week by week, challenge by challenge in this craft. It has built-up my confidence, expanded my brain (which is always good) and widened the creative outlet, which is this blog. So thank you, thank you, thank you!
Always re-apply your lipstick after a delicious, portable meal.

Love ya, Foodies!

P.s. I will send out a reminder post for voting, tomorrow!


  1. Congrats, Lauren! Another great post! You are so real, and I look forward to each one of your posts. I love that you don't try to portray "perfection" every time....way to go. Another vote for you, girl!

  2. Ah, the 80's. I have a sudden urge to dig out an old "Frankie Say Relax" t-shirt and pull my hair into a side ponytail! Excellent post--This is exactly why I think you're going to win!

  3. Lauren, you are so creative and too funny. I loved this post. I'm so excited that you are getting so far in PFB. You got this round too! Everything on the menu is totally rad but that beef wellington sandwich is so smart. Great job!

  4. LOVE it, Lauren. Classic you. (P.S. I remember when you used to wear your hair like that for realz.)

  5. You are a funny girl. I love this post so much. I have to tell you that your food looks terrific and I love the fact that you don't take yourself too seriously. You go girl!

  6. Awesome Post! The food looks wonderful :)! You must have had a lot of fun with this one!

  7. Lauren another hilarious post where your personality really shines through! I love it!!! Working girl is one of my favorite 80's movies as well :o) Your food is out of this world delicious looking! Your beef wellington sandwich is incredibly creative and is making me drool all over my keyboard. Everything you prepared looks amazing. I think you hit this round out of the ballpark as well! :o)

  8. Go, working girl. =) Dayglo cake and all!

  9. HIL-arious fun! RETRO-licious! I know just how hard it is to pull each and every post together, truly, I find myself up tapping til 3am many times because my kids don't nap at the same time *usually* - I applaud you for your ability to bring your ideas to life while being the amazing mama that you are - can't wait to vote....much love, j

  10. Okay, I seriously loved this post!! The food looks great--in fact, I'm mildly obsessed with that Beef Wellington sandwich. The mushroom spread sounds amazing, too!

    I still love TCBY's white chocolate mousse. :D

  11. You are CRAZY. Seriously, bonafide nuts. And I mean that in the best possible way. This is so silly and fun and I love it! This is my favorite post of yours to date. So creative and everything looks fabulous. Love the neon cake...hilarious!

  12. Hi Lauren - I was that girl in the eighties. Ha! You nailed it! I love that you captured the croissant sandwich, it was EVERYWHERE! You entertain me like no one else.
    Go Working Girl! Win!

  13. The hair - amazing back-combed perfection. Although I think your phone was about 4 times smaller than the one I had in the eighties.
    Just popping Back To The Future on the DVD now....
    Great job on the photos! I use one of my children as the stand in, usually the taller one, or if she's at school, you can try manual focus and the self-timer ;)

  14. This post made me laugh so hard! I love it! So makes me wanna tease my hair and watch the Breakfast Club! The food looks amazing as well! Yummy!

  15. Work it sister! You look sooo totally bitchin!!
    I just knew you'd come up with something super creative and fun! I love it! If you don't win this crazy thing then it's jigged I tell you, JIGGED! ;-)

  16. All I can say is, Melanie Griffiths, eat your heart out! Brilliant post and humor as usual, Lauren. I have the same problem with household props as stand-ins, and I'm so relieved to finally know that I'm not alone! This will be my 6th vote for you, you've totally earned it with all the good food and theatrics!

  17. Oh my goodness, this was great!!! I love your creativity, and you always include great deco ideas for cheap! love it!!

    is it amazing all you can do when they nap! you're proof of this!!!

    and the food and carry out boxes are genius! love the menu and love those boxes! will try that the next whenever we go on a picnic for sure. Look at you all Ina Garten-esque!

    Good luck!!! The hair alone should get you through!

  18. Now that I've quelled my overwhelming urge to dig out my color blocked clothes, plug in the Atari for a round of Pong and to "Get Physical", I'll pass on my adoration for al things Foodie House. Lauren, you're the best. I hope this one knocks you straight out of the park.

    More tomorrow, via email.

    Hugs and high hopes,

  19. OMG! This was so inspired I can't even deal. Seriously I want to invite you over for dinner. Can we recreate Saturday Night Fever and sip on 7&7's ?

  20. This is absolutely hilarious! I love the look!

    And the meal looks equally incredible... You have my vote!

  21. Haha, oh my goodness this was so hilarious and incredibly creative!! I just love every entry you've done. :) The meal you created looks sooooo good. I especially love the day glo chocolate cake! How fun and totally fitting with the '80's. The cakes reminds me of these crazy neon green socks I had. haha! I'm voting for you once again! :) Great job and best of luck!

  22. This was an awesome post! So funny!!!

  23. The cuffs and the bow tie are killing me. :)

  24. I am full-on child of the eighties (born in the early seventies, so I was full cognizant of all the eighties cultures and fads...jelly bracelets, neon lace hair bows and Madonna, anyone?). So I GET this post, baby. Working Girl is a classic film, I love that you use it for inspiration. That sandwich looks amazing, and the day glo icing made me laugh out loud.
    Voted for you, naturally!

  25. So fun! I totally saw Melanie G. in your mug shot on PFB. Excellent job "working" it!

  26. Hilarious post! And just as creative as always. That sandwich looks incredible, and that raspberry vinaigrette is perfection. Nicely done, friend. You have my vote, of course!

    Best of luck to you! =)

  27. Lauren, you are a crack up girl! Way 80's hair :) Great job with the challenge :)

  28. you are a hoot!!! I absolutely loved this post, great food, and what a great story you told as you had your lunch on the run!! Let me tell you with that red lipstick......hubba hubba.....
    As always Lauren you have my vote, you do such a tremendous job with all of your posts...Good Luck!

  29. I love this post! So creative and unique. Way to go creating a beef wellington sandwich- Brilliant! Then you went and did the asparagus (one of my favorites) with bacon and cheese, and finished with chocolate cake, oh my heavens that is my kind of meal! Your hard work paid off, pics are great...made me want to be there enjoying that meal with you. Good luck in the challenge. You have my vote!

  30. Ha ha ha . . you are too funny! I am also a child of the 80's so your entire post, especially the hairdo, totally made me chuckle. I love the hot pink -especially on the cake.

  31. My husband gives me a hard time, but Working Girl is one of my favorite all-time movies. Good luck!

  32. I finally had a whole hour to myself after work, after dinner and before zzz's. Posted my first blog in several days, posted a couple to FB then looked for your round 6 post. OMG, what a hoot. Loved it!!! What about putting the broom in a Christmas tree stand? Ok, zzz time since it'll be an early morning... Hugs, Kate

  33. You were rocking this! What a fun, creative post. You know you have my vote. I have never seen Working Girl but now it is on my must see list. I don't know if it could live up to this post though! Thank you for sharing, you have my full support. Now if only I could have a slice of that cake!

  34. Oh, wow! I love, love, love this. It's hilarious. First, the '80s inspired menu was spot on. I mean, day-glo frosting? Genius. Second, I love that you created a whole story around the menu. "Working Girl" is an awesome theme. Good luck!!!

  35. This post made me smile all the way through it! Such a creative meal and that Beef Wellington Sandwich looks TO DIE FOR!

  36. What a cleaver and totally funny post! I loved all your cute comments under each pic! :)

  37. I was at the Premier and studio party for Working Girl and you have brought it back to me in one pristine rush. Hysterical! My mother was looking at big hair pictures of me from 89 the other day and wondered why I didn't wear it like that anymore. You got a vote from me for sure!

  38. The idea of a beef wellington sandwich makes me veryyy happy! Your theme is AWESOME and the photos are fabulou :) Good luck!!!


  39. I think I need a hairstyling tutorial...
    Too bad about the cake because it is so cool.
    I love the duxelles mayo because I always find myself licking the spoon when I make duxelles.

  40. Wow! Your humor is incredible. Loved the neon frosting. That will take you back for sure.

    Good luck!


  41. This was just hilarious. :D Love it.

  42. Dingle ball earrings and shoulder pads- please pass the neon frosting- congrats on a job well done:)

  43. Haha you are too funny and just so creative! Such a fabulous post and that sandwich looked so yummy! Love the sprouts!

  44. Congratulations Lauren!!! Well deserved :-) You have a real shot at winning the whole thing - just a fantastic job!! And, aren't you glad you got SNAPS when you did... Happy Halloween, Kate

  45. the beef wellington sandwich looks amazing! my mouth is getting all watery now :)


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