I’m not usually impressed by celebrities.
Unless it’s George Clooney or Jude Law inviting me to the Oscars and offering me a free Vivienne Westwood wardrobe, I don’t consider myself star struck (wait…did that sound shallow?).
I once had a boss who told me that PR pros should always “treat celebrities like regular people and treat regular people like celebrities.” I agree.
Throughout my public relations career, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great singers, actors, actresses and TV personalities.
The only times I’ve felt a little star struck are when I’ve met culinary celebrities.
This summer, when I was working with a wonderful talent agency, I mentioned in passing that I have a blog and they offered to introduce me to one of their clients who happens to be a chef on the Food Network.
Aaron McCargo Jr. is a Food Network chef and winner of season 4 of the Next Food Network Star.
He’s also from New Jersey (like me!) and is a married father of four children (um, not like me!).
Aaron and I met at Olives in New York City to talk shop about food. And blogging. And the Food Network. Aaron has always loved cooking and owned a restaurant in Camden, NJ from 2003-2006.
Though some of Aaron’s specialties are quite different than mine, his bold breakfasts and barbecue-inspired roasts, stews and pizzas are easy and fun for anyone to cook. His philosophy is that cooking can be fun: anyone can do it. Now, where have we heard that before?
Aaron was as down-to-earth as a Food Network star could possibly be and I was excited to learn that we shared many of the same perspectives on cooking.
His show on the Food Network, Big Daddy’s House lets him show off his carefree cooking style and laid-back attitude towards all things culinary.
“If you eat good food in moderation, you don’t have to diet,” he said, referring to the bowl of spiced tater tots that we were snacking on. “I just have one or two. You can enjoy them and not overdo it.”
So, that’s what I decided to do with his Killer Hazelnut Brownie Bites. 25 perfect little chocolate-y, hazelnut-y squares that you can pop into your mouth and finish in two bites.
Good luck stopping at one or two.
- 1 stick butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- ½ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- ¼ cup cake flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup chopped hazelnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease and flour.
- In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together, butter, sugar, vanilla seeds and vanilla extract. Add eggs and mix until well incorporated.
- Mix together the dry ingredients and slowly add it to the egg mixture. Mix until well incorporated.
- Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread evenly, add hazelnuts to the top.
- Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until brownies are set and begin to pull away from the side.
- Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. Once cooled, remove brownies from pan and cut into 1½-inch squares for individual bites.