Friday, December 31, 2010

Sending the year out...

...with my own little culinary bang...I know I gave up on the holiday gluttony earlier this week, but since I was off today...and we all know I like to spend my days off in the kitchen, I decided today would not be any different...

...I even managed to make it to the gym 4 days this week...back on schedule, just as I wanted to do...I've got muscles aching here and there, but it's good...it's all good...

...for anyone interested...I'm not making any resolutions for the year..yes, I've got goals I want to meet...2011 is going to be a better year, because I'm going to make it that way...time will be spent doing some serious research on the food business (particularly in Los Angeles/CA)...I still don't know if I want to enter the fray...I know I want to find something more soul- and life- satisfying than the retail track I'm in now...if you follow this little blog of  mine...you'll be able to see what progress I make...and you're always welcome to comment and tell me to get my ass in gear or make suggestions...I'll listen!

...breakfast/lunch/brunch was the German pancake...this time around it ran up the sides of the pie  plate by a good 2-3 inches!...it was quite the sight...I called it the Mile High Pancake today...just wish the photo could justify the height...because it doesn't...I bought blueberries and blackberries yesterday and made a sauce/syrup to accompany it...(all this decided while I was working out!)

...I've been planning on lasagna since last week when it was going to be Christmas dinner until I had other plans...the cheese mixture was a small container [15oz] of ricotta, about 1/3 cup of grated carrots, maybe 1/2 cup of chopped spinach, 4 oz of shredded mozzarella, crumbled feta [maybe 2 oz], a little salt, a little pepper, a little crushed garlic, and held together with a scant pour of fat-free half and half (I don't use egg like a lot of people do).

...I opened a bottle of bubbly around 3pm today and still managed to dye my hair, make pita chips, and do laundry.  The big question to answer was:  Champagne, cava or prosecco? ...yes, I had all three and upon looking in my liquor cabinet, I seriously need to do some re-stocking this year...I decided upon the prosecco and I just might have the bottle finished off by the end of this evening...

...okay...ending the year on a good note...photos of food and the 'recipe' for the syrup I made...

Black and Blueberry Syrup

4 oz container of blueberries
4 oz container of blackberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon orange zest

In a saucepan combine all ingredients over medium heat until it comes to near boil, lower heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Just that easy...like ringing in the new year with a glass of prosecco and chocolate truffles...

Cheers and Happy New Year...here's to a fruitful 2011 to all of us...



Saturday, December 25, 2010

Buon Natale....Merry Christmas...Joyeux Noel....

...for the past couple of weeks, I have hardly been in a holiday or festive mood...in fact, I was no where near enjoying Christmas this year....I'm still not entirely sure why...I have spent a huge amount of time over the past few weeks just bursting into tears and feeling sad and depressed and just not having fun at all...even my baking wasn't really doing it for me...I think this season in retail has really been the last straw...I found people to be more rude and exuding their sense of entitlement attitude in full colour...I let it get to me and it's been a weird state of mind...

....so I was thrilled for the day off...no alarm...slept in until 10:30 a.m...Skyped with the family for 2 hours which was ABSOLUTELY amazing and fun and emotional...it put me in a better mood...made me look forward to dinner at a friend's and excited about making something fun to bring for dessert...

...the results were fabulous...and have now turned me on to checking out more of Alice Waters...which I haven't done before...most of my cookbooks are pretty generic...I don't have collections by any one cook or chef...but today's Cranberry Upside Down Cake...well, it's opened up a little spot of curiosity...

...more importantly....I enjoyed Christmas...


Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Own Worst Enemy....

...yes...I do believe that...I am my own worst enemy...my harshest critic...my standard-setter to (perhaps) unreachable heights...

...Christmas baking is underway....I'm hoping to have it all finished by this Wednesday...and I am totally trying to decide if I'm happy with any of it...I don't know why I'm doubting myself...they taste great...maybe it's because I've felt generally  unmotivated for the past couple of weeks...why?....not quite sure...but I think it's the day job...I always tell myself I'm going to get out of retail...and year after year...here I am...even after getting a degree...here I am...and you know what?...it's fucking draining...I guarantee you a lot of people will say...what's so hard about it?...if you're talking about what it takes to do the job...not too much...I always say, 'it's retail, not rocket science'...and that's true...it's not difficult...I do it because it's my comfort zone...though I will tell you...most days/nights I come home and feel absolutely drained from having to be 'on'...the nights I pull into my lot at home, sit there for a few minutes and keep myself from breaking down are too numerous to count...

...what does this have to do with baking?...maybe not a damn thing...but I believe that you shift energies around in your life...I want to take the energy and joy I have when I cook and bake and put it into the less than stellar moments of daily life....I'm afraid I'm doing the exact opposite and taking all the drain and exhaustion and it's dampening my energy in the kitchen...no bueno...not at all...

...okay....time to buck up...and hunker down...step back...BREATHE....and make a serious shift...

...what do you get out of it?....a few photos...before I head to bed, I'm going to whip up a batch of wine biscuit dough and let it chill overnight...I happily have a couple of hours to bake tomorrow...



Thursday, December 9, 2010

GQ has recipes...?!?!?!?

Imagine my surprise while looking through the December issue of GQ and coming across a recipe...I know, I know...that sounds truly sexist...as though men don't cook...but colour me a little shocked...I know it's the 21st century...I watch 'Top Chef' and follow the food world...I know men cook...I just didn't expect to find a recipe there amongst the pages...

So you're asking, 'what was the recipe?'...I'll tell you...The German Pancake....or as the author coined it, 'The High Rise'...I originally came across a recipe for it a couple of years ago in Cooking Light and never made it...I don't know why, because it was a huge mistake not to.  I made it this past Sunday and let me tell you...this is amazing...I had eaten something the size of a dinner plate in about 10 minutes....this may be an exaggeration, because it may have been (much) less...damn! Buttery, a little sweet, a little tart, gorgeous and absolutely delicious!

Supposedly, the traditional way to serve it is with a squeeze of lemon and confectioner's sugar....who am I to mess with tradition???...that's how I had it and I'm not a huge fan of confectioner's sugar, so I was a little light with the sugar and a little heavier with the lemon.  As of this date, GQ still doesn't have the recipe posted on it's site, but I found it on another blogger's site...thank you, Glenn Fox!

The German Pancake

3 tablespoons butter
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of nutmeg
touch of vanilla extract (if you like, I did!)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Put butter in an oven-proof pan or dish.  I used a pie plate.  Put pie plate in oven to melt butter.  Whisk together remaining ingredients.  When butter is melted, take pan out of oven, add the pancake mix and return to oven.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until pancake puffs and edges are lightly golden brown. The pancake will rise up the sides of the pan.  Like a souffle, but it won't collapse! Remove from oven and squeeze with lemon juice and dust with confectioner's sugar.

Glenn used maple syrup, the Cooking Light recipe layered thinly sliced apples and baked it.  In my opinion, you could add whatever you want to serve it.  But try it with the lemon juice and sugar.  The only thing I may adjust in the future is lessening the butter.  Blasphemy, maybe...but I think it would be just as decadent with 2 tablespoons of butter.

Out. Of. This. World.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fennel, Onion and Basil...oh my!

...I am feeling decidedly domestic tonight...it's been a very home-oriented day...I did some serious cleaning...a little organising...put up the Christmas tree and a couple of decorations...ran a couple of errands...and made dinner with a latte for dessert...

...I was texting with a friend today, talking about Italy and decided to make pasta for dinner...I remembered that I had a bulb of fennel in the fridge that needed to be used, so I grated it...sauted it in olive oil with some red onion, threw in a tablespoon of butter for good measure...like bacon, you can't go wrong with butter...usually I roast fennel...the saute was a change and I really loved it...it reminded me of celeriac...the taste was milder than when it's roasted, red onion adding even more sweetness then a dose of brightness with basil...rotini was the shape of choice tonight and tossed it all up with olive oil and Grana Padano...

...on the stovetop right now is a big simmering pot of turkey stock...smells amazing...tweaked with a bouquet garni of rosemary and lavender...yes, lavender...I'm not sure what will be made with the stock yet...but it's a good thing to have on hand...




...the more I think about it...the more I believe today was one of those days where I needed to take care of myself...it was a success...

The Mundane...

...does not have to be boring...I'll let you in on a little secret...I'm a creature of habit...many times I am very happy with the same routine...one might even go so far as saying it's a rut...maybe, maybe not...but I will admit to eating the same things day after day...not really the same thing...but a variation on a theme...

...I work a lot of late shifts at work...when I get home I usually want something good...but quick...I don't want to spend a huge amount of time making something...I'll tell you what my go-to is...panini....how much do I love my foil-wrapped garden brick that has a permanent home in my oven?...let me tell you...anything that's heavy enough to weigh down two pieces of bread and contribute to a fancy grilled sandwich is okay in my book...

...I didn't even work late tonight...but by the time I came home from the gym, it was getting late...so panini was the answer...I stepped out of my box last night and bought smoked gouda...realising it had been ages since I had it...the very nice deli lady sliced it almost paper thin...you could smell the smokiness through the white butcher paper...my Matnakash was thick, soft, and fresh....and guess what?...Thanksgiving leftovers are still filling my fridge!...so I sliced some turkey almost as thin as the cheese and grabbed my jar of roasted red peppers (I'm a little obsessed with them these days!)

...butter melting in the pan....one side of Matnakash slathered in butter...a hot flame...a big brick...a few minutes later I had a fabulous sandwich...with another new favourite:  Russian style dill pickles...

...I present to you...the Mundane...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Lull...

...well, I guess not really a lull because the holidays are on a full run now through the end of the year...more like a small cooking lull...thinking of what the baking arsenal will be this year...who's on my Naughty or Nice lists...you never know when something might be in your mailbox or on your table...

...Thanksgiving was good...quiet...dinner was excellent and it finally hit me that regardless of how amazing everything you make is on that day...it's the stuffing (or dressing) that makes or breaks that dinner...why is that?...I think it's always been that way for me and this year was no different...mine was a lovely melange of cornbread, sausage, celery, onion, dried cranberries, granny smith apple, and wild mushrooms...sweet, tart, savory all rolled into one pan...

...wrapping a turkey breast in pancetta?..you bet! ...thank you Food and Wine magazine for that one..there was something truly fabulous about having a slice of turkey and then crunching on a crisp curl of bacon...almost verging on wrong...no green bean casserole, but steamed and tossed with a little olive oil, lemon zest and almonds...carrots roasted with the turkey...cranberry relish and smashed potatoes...definitely a pretty traditional dinner...but then, isn't Thanksgiving dinner close to the ultimate in comfort food?

...photos?...of course...





Monday, November 22, 2010

Old habits...

...die hard...I was at work the other day and was running down the list of what I'm making for Thanksgiving dinner and someone turned to me and said...'why aren't you a chef?' ...so I spent the drive home that night thinking about what she said...and have been thinking about it for the past couple of days...and it comes down to this...

...I don't have nearly enough faith or belief in myself as some people do...most people, probably...which is why I still work in a mindless retail job...it's my comfort zone...it's what I know...even though I am bored to tears...I need to give myself permission to break out of that comfort zone and force myself to try and possibly even fail...there...that's the big one...failure..

....it's been long and slow coming to the realisation that I have to give into that...and try new things...at least I consider it...baby steps, right...?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If I ever have kids...

....beyond the furry kind...I think I'd be one of those parents that send out 'care packages.'  I'll admit it...I love that my parents still send them to me...call me spoiled and I won't deny it.  It's such a sweet gesture...to show someone you're thinking about them...sending favourite things and little surprises.  I also think my Mom is the only person left in the world to wrap a box in brown craft paper and tie it with twine...though it was also in a Priority Mail box (probably cheaper to send that way)...and I guarantee that was done at the post office...Today's box was a bright point in my day...with the best goodies...Asiago cheese, pepperoni, sopressata and these:


...what you see is a 1946 copy of 'The Joy of Cooking' and a 1914 copy of 'The Boston Cooking School Cook Book.'  I am so excited to have them....I love finding other pieces of paper between the pages...because in a cook book you usually do...recipes cut from newspapers, notes...all those personal imprints...they lend the books so much more character...their own personality...

These are what I get when I put out a request to Dad for vintage cookbooks for my notecards when he goes yardsaling...but he already had them stashed in the garage...no, I'm not about to tear them apart...but I will peruse and try out the recipes...I also can't wait to see how different the Joy of Cooking is compared to my copy (which is much more recent).

You know what they say....it's the little things...and it's true...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

...it tastes like Autumn...

...but in L.A. or back East?...maybe a little of both...I couldn't let a day off go by without doing a little baking...I actually didn't get as much done as I had planned in my head...but the alternative was more than worth it...

...so this evening, while doing a mountain of laundry...I also found the time to make Jewish Apple Cake...I asked mom for this recipe a year or so ago but didn't make it until today...I also hadn't realized that she gave me two versions...which were pretty darn close (just a matter of less of this, more of that between the two)...I also looked online and all the photos I came across showed this cake made in a Bundt pan....which I don't have...at least I don't think I do...god knows, it could be in a box somewhere here...but I figured a loaf pan would be just as fine...and you know what??...it absolutely is...


My Daruma Doll...


...when a friend came over today, we were talking for awhile...and she once again (for about the millionth time) made me realize that I constantly talk myself out of taking chances, trying to figure out where I want to take myself, and essentially freezing myself in place because of Fear...this has been a hard habit to break...and I'm talking years...for the better part of my life...it's the choice I find myself making over and over again...you'd think I'd figure this crap out by now...but no...


...she's right...as she usually is when it comes to me...for the most part...I love how well she knows me...and sometimes it makes me nuts...so later this afternoon, I was thinking how a few weeks ago I felt as though I was getting better at stopping myself from the self-sabotage...then...it started all over again...so here I am...stopping the pattern again...

...which brings me to this: my Daruma doll....

...it was in September when I put my Daruma into play...when I was stopping myself from delving into fear and trying to be more positive and move forward constantly...that was my goal...and I had begun...then I had a relapse...so I'm putting my Daruma in a new place, so I can be reminded of my goals...and strive to move forward...here's a little background...

-----The Daruma doll, also known as Dharma doll, is a Japanese traditional Buddhist omocha, or toy, used in goal-setting and wishing for good luck in achieving that goal. The dolls are fashioned after the Zen Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma.
These dolls are typically red in color, rounded, and bearded, made of papier mache and hollow; though a wide variation in style and decoration can be seen. The dolls are weighted on the bottom so that when tipped they will return to their upright position, a sign of persistence and overcoming adversity.
Facial hair decorations on the Daruma represents longevity, the eyebrows shaped like a crane and the hair on the cheeks symbolically appearing as the shell of a tortoise, two animals known in Japanese traditions to mean long life.


Use of the Daruma in Goal-Setting

When a Daruma doll is purchased, it has two white blank areas for eyes. A goal is set by the owner and one eye is colored in while wishing for help in achieving that goal. When the goal is achieved, the other eye is painted in. At the end of a year, all Daruma dolls are collected and taken to the temple where they were purchased to be burned in order to complete the tradition. Thanks is given for the help of the dolls and new dolls are purchased for the next year. The burning ceremony includes the appearance of the monks, reading of sutras, blowing horns, and burning the thousands of daruma dolls together.-----


...and here he is...



Saturday, November 13, 2010

...a quickie...

...my first thought...my next job will have weekends off so I can fully enjoy the gorgeous day that today is....sun's bright...the morning chill is fading...I've got a cup of coffee next to me...and I'd love to be walking through a farmers' market right about now...

...my second thought...a friend back East just reminded me of fall, cider, and a general feeling of warmth...which leads me to think of apples..which takes me to wanting to make Jewish Apple Cake...my mom used to make it when we were kids...I have the recipe...I've never tried it...I'm thinking it's time...

...thanks for the inspiration, Mike!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Here's a crazy idea...

...to add to the current list of baking business and/or cooking business, food truck, bricks and mortar establishment, food blogger....how about opening up a grocery store???

...when I opt to take surface streets home from work, I am always looking around....sometimes I think I'm best sitting in the passenger seat because of all I miss when I'm driving...so I noticed a couple of months ago, that there's a closed grocery store in North Hollywood...I have to take a photo of it...it's not part of a chain...it was called Valley Food Market, right near the corner of Victory and Lankershim...pleasantly located next to a bar, across from a U-Haul truck rental and gas station.  It looks fairly large...

....so now every time I pass it...including tonight, I start thinking...a gourmet market...in North Hollywood...could it work?...it's not a 'hip' area...I don't know why or when this one closed, so I know nothing of clientele.  It would be bright and open.  Bakery. Cafe. Massive olive bar.  Cheese.  Charcuterie.  Salumi.  Huh...the more I think about it...the more I see something along the lines of Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.  Is this the reason it closed?  Couldn't keep up?  I don't know.  More research.  Always research to do...

...speaking of which...Frysmith posted a great series of articles on their website about starting a food truck...I posted it on Facebook...and I'm posting it here too...sage advice...realistic view...always good to have a rough idea of what you might get yourself into...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving...

...I can't stop thinking about it...here we go...the start of the 'Food Season'....forget 'Holiday Season' we know what's it's really about...last year I waited until Christmas to make turkey...this year, I'll be making myself a feast for Turkey Day....and Food and Wine magazine has given me my base... Pancetta Wrapped Turkey .  Really now?...can you go wrong with anything involving a pork/bacon product?...I think not...though I'm making a turkey breast and not a whole bird...it is just me, after all...

...now for dressing/stuffing...well, I'm still figuring that out...maybe involving chestnuts or sausage...cornbread...apples...I don't know....endless possibilities, right?  Cranberry relish will be made though I can't resist getting a can of Ocean Spray's Jellied Cranberry Sauce....how can you ignore a wiggling cylinder of gelatinous cranberries with portioned lines in place? ...mashed potatoes or roasted?...it's a small debate...anything but mashed seems unconventional...loaded with butter...sour cream...mmmm...

...this is also the day where I'm going to take inventory of my pantry baking supplies and begin thinking about what cookies/sweets I'll be whipping up in the kitchen this season...the King Arthur Flour site's homepage has a link to Eggnog Cookies today...they sound good and easy... They'll be a 'go.'  ...biscotti...Italian polenta cookies,  something involving lots of chocolate...maybe a savory or two...

...and a tease to what it could look like...

Monday, November 8, 2010

wow 98 to autumn in 3 days...

...that's what was tweeted about an hour ago from someone I follow on Twitter ...and it's true!...we had rain last night and it was lovely...one of the best things about rain in L.A. is the following day...the rain washes away all the grime and smog (if only for a little bit)...the sky is a bright blue, the sun shines clear....as though L.A. gets another chance...at almost 9:30 a.m. it's only 61 degrees and breezy...this makes me happy because it means I can wear a jacket and scarf today..truly it's the little things...

...I made a crustless spinach quiche last night to take to an after-store hours work meeting...I wish I had taken a photo...not the first time I've made it, but it did look pretty...I had a piece about the size of a dime when I unwrapped it...I had eaten dinner before the meeting so I wasn't hungry, but wanted to see if it passed muster with me....I shouldn't have worried...the quiche was demolished...devoured...sliced up and GONE in about 5 minutes...some people didn't even get to try it...crazy...I should keep that as a permanent item in my repertoire...

...bean soup was made yesterday...though I forgot that black beans will overcolour everything...it's kind of odd to see shredded turkey a deep indigo...but it tastes good....


...and speaking of turkey...I'm leaning towards having a Thanksgiving for myself this year and making a turkey breast...cranberry relish...potatoes...yum...so many options...


Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Proposition and a Quiet Sunday....

...I made these little guys Friday night....plantain cornbread muffins....they're really good....believe it or not...my first time using plantains for anything...still have one left and probably won't be able to resist making plantain chips....

...took them into work and was approached by someone asking me why I don't have a baking/cooking business..replied that I've considered it...but logistics...financial backing, finding commercial space, etc has been a hurdle...well, I was talking to someone who has the means to back me....and would be very interested in doing so....now....here's where the serious thought comes into play...IF I do this....I need to streamline what I want to do...I'm going to do some playing around with numbers, ideas, locations, opportunities...and see what happens....is this the beginning of the jumping off point?...just maybe?....I have a few trepidations...but I have to stop fearing...maybe taking the plunge will do me a world of good, and if I fail, at least I tried....but first I need to see some concrete figures...updates to follow....

...I have most of today off...except for about a 3-hour meeting later for work...the bad thing?...having to head up to work on my 'day off'...the good thing?...it's overtime...OT is a definite good thing...so I've got a few hours to myself...and I'm going to make bean soup...the weather is cooler today, there's a chance of showers, and I have a lot of turkey stock in my freezer from last Thanksgiving...not to mention a LOT of beans...

...the visual department decided for Fall that using 'contextualizers' would add a earthy, natural touch...we spent close to $80 on beans (multiply that number by 350, kids...that's a lot of legumes for one company!)....navy beans, lima beans, pinto beans, red, white and black beans, natural lentils, black lentils, red lentils, and green chickpeas...and let's not forget the 4 lbs of white popcorn...a huge amount...I know this because I was the one that shopped for it all...so 2 weeks ago they send out an email saying 'you can dispose of it all.' ....REALLY?...what a waste!!!....so I was given the okay to bring home what I wanted...most of it spent time in large glass vases and compotes...and I figured, well, you're supposed to wash/soak beans anyhow...so I brought them home....hence...bean soup!...remember my mention of the black lentils with my chicken the other day??...yes!  'Contextualizers' at their finest!...

....voila!...beans for bean soup!...soaking as I type!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sometimes I think....

...I have a problem with food...no, I'm not anorexic or bulimic...never have been...believe me, I remember the days as a little girl shopping for clothes in the Girls' 'Husky' department at Sears...matching top and bottom sets of polyester...hmmm...there's a tangent to pursue on another day....

....I try to budget....god knows you have to these days...I also tend to forget that I'm buying food for one person....yet I'll come home...unpack my groceries....look at the shelves in my fridge and think...'what the fuck?...can you possibly eat all that food in less than a week?'...thankfully, most times it's a resounding 'yes'...this is because:  1.  I don't have a ton of disposable income; and 2.  I really dislike spending money on food...i.e...fast food or snacky kind of stuff (restaurants are okay...though that rarely happens these days).

...I am always looking for recipes online...and sometimes I just make things up as I go...I'm going to share what came out of the kitchen today...for dinner, it was through a smoky haze...how I wish I had a range hood...this hole in the ceiling is just weird to me....

...it looks like fried chicken...it tastes like fried chicken...and I guess it kind of is...though I only used a tablespoon of olive oil and a lot more of TJ's Olive Oil cooking spray...I made my own bread crumbs yesterday (did I mention I hate wasting anything??) and wanted to use them...red onions that I sauted then added back to the pan after the chicken was done and I had added the remainder of a bottle of Malbec and orange juice...it was good...though I should have used a thickener...see espresso cup...because it's not coffee in there!...oh and those are black lentils with carmelized onions and tomatoes...case in point about cooking and being single...I made two cups of lentils the other night....I should have adjusted...have you ANY idea how much that made????...days worth of leftovers!



....the last photo is lunch...hard-boiled egg on Barbari with sauted spinach and bacon...because bacon makes everything better...

Another food blog....REALLY?

Really??...yes really...

Why not?...sometimes I get tired of all the thoughts running around in my head...so I've decided to share!...sharing is good...sharing is fun...sharing is caring!...and hey, you might enjoy it (or not)...but I hope you do.

Let's see where this ride takes me, us, all of them too...