Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy birthday, Molly!

Yesterday was my older sister's 30th birthday, so I wanted to make her something special. After flipping througha few books for inspiration, I found one that didn't require a trip to the store, was pretty user-friendly, and would look pretty spiffy. It has 4 alternating layers of chocolate and vanilla spongecake, with a ribbon of strawberry bavarian cream in the middle of it all, topped with dallops of whipped cream, cherries, and dark chocolate curls. It looked and tasted very good, just the thing to make her birthday special. Money's still a little tight, so I haven't gotten her an actual present yet, but I feel better about it having done something for her at least. My hours have started to get better at work, so things will even out soon. I'm very happy with how the cake turned out, it looked just like the picture in the book :-)

Saturday is my Grandma's birthday, and we're combining it with our extended family Christmas in Wisconsin. I've been recruited to bring a dessert; luckily, I got that cookbook for Christmas that should give me some ideas of something special to make. I haven't seen this week's schedule yet, I'll find out tomorrow, so I'm hoping for an evening shift. If nothing else, I can either ask the chef to switch me or just ask one of the other people on my station to swap shifts with me. It's not like I'd be asking for the whole day off, just part of it, and I'll be available after 4. Or maybe I'll get lucky and that's what I'll be down for anyway! That would simplify things.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas! (a little late)

Last night I drove home to my parents' house for our family Christmas. It had to wait a few days because of the freezing rain. It was definitely worth the wait! I got off work a little after 3, getting me home at 6 just in time for Christmas dinner! I wish I'd gotten home earlier to help, but Mom and I will have today to do some baking together, that should be fun. We always talk about getting together to cook together, so hopefully today's the day.

Anyway, last night was awesome, the big one for me was a stoneware Le Crueset covered roasting pan, it's beautiful cobalt blue, I had them save it behind the counter for me months in advance (yeah, it wasn't a surprise, but that's fine with me). I also got a nice new Cuisinart waffle iron, some coffee from Ka'u, a big book about herbs, Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess", the first season of "The French Chef" on dvd, new dish towels and pot holders, a ladle (my old one was inevitably sucked into one of those pesky black holes that devour things when you move to a new place), some new shirts, and all the episodes of Star Trek with Q in them! This morning I made waffles with my new waffle iron and I was very pleased with it It's been a good Christmas :-) I can't wait to get baking with my mom, we have a few things on our to-do list in that regard. I'll definitely post about the results

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fortune favors those who dare

On Monday night I wasn't in the best of moods. I was getting hungry but nothing that I had on hand sounded like what I wanted, I was lazy and generally grouchy. I knew what I was hungry for, I had a craving for Chinese takeout but I didn't want to make a special shopping trip when I'd settled in for the night. After pondering this for several minutes, I thought...I have a turkey fillet in the freezer that I need to use up...I have a wok, and I've done stovetop deep-frying at school a few times...I could make my own sweet and sour turkey, it should be pretty close to chicken. I just hoped that I wouldn't cause a grease fire and burn the house down. Finally, I got up the courage to give it a try. If teenagers at KFC can do it, why can't I? I put a few scoops of regular shortening in the bottom of my wok, which has a handy clip-on rack to put fried foods on once they're finished, started heating it up, and was happy to see it melting without a smokey mess! I thawed and cut up my turkey fillet, and after a standard breading procedure I dipped the first pieces in the hot fat. They turned golden brown, and cooked all the way through, I was almost beside myself with amazement! I threw the rest in, turning them over and draining the done ones, and made some rice and veggies to go with it. Dousing each piece in sweet and sour sauce, I sat down with my prize, feeling very self-sufficient and clever. As I was finishing up, the possibilities dawned on me. I can deep fry at home! Without burning the house down! What's the next thing any sane person would make after such an important discovery?

The next day I had off, so I awoke with one purpose in mind: I'm going to make doughnuts. I had a pretty simple sounding recipe in my Larousse Gastronomique, I had everything on hand, and I was ready to go! I halved the recipe since it was just for me, I didn't want to subject anyone else to my experimental cooking at this stage, so in a short while I had a bowl of yeast dough rising in my barely-on oven. I remembered when I was a kid I'd read the "Little House" books and I knew that in one they mentioned something about making doughnuts with a twist so they flip themselves. Well, either my dough was too heavy or I didn't have enough hot fat, but they didn't flip themselves. Oh well, I'd tried. I flipped them over with two spoons, careful not to spray grease all over the place, and figured it's not bad for a first try. I ended up making six, some were cinnamon twists, and some were the regular round with a hole in the middle. I made a basic powdered sugar icing with almond extract and drizzled it all over them. While they weren't exactly what you'd get at Krispy Kreme, I figured it was all right for a beginner. Next time I'd make the full batch, that might have thrown something off, I might also try kneading it a little longer. Oh well, you live and you learn.

Another cool thing that happened on Tuesday is that I found an ad in the paper, for experienced baristas. I called them up and set up a time to interview the next day. They're a small business that's looking to expand into another location, so the lady interviewing me was interested to hear that I have a degree in management as well as some experience in the field. They didn't promise anything, but just that they'd call me back on Friday either way. I like my job at Champps, but they're just not giving me enough hours to stay afloat. The chef has encouraged all of us to start looking for other jobs. It's too bad, but business has still been slow, and I'm lucky at this point to get more than 20 hours a week. Plus, I have a few years of barista experience, it would be nice to get back to my roots, as it were. I'll never stop pursuing a real restaurant career, though. Once people can afford to eat what I want to cook, I'll be able to find a job at a more upscale affair. Until then, I'll do what I can.

Tonight, I was trying to figure out what to do with the leftover turkey that I didn't cook on Monday. I only ended up using half of it. Then I was laying in bed thinking, and the idea for turkey sausage came into my head somehow. After reading up on it, I figured I could do it, so I went to the store tonight for some extra fat to cut into it and I was off to a good start. After finely mincing the meat and fat, I tossed it together with salt, pepper, allspice, poultry seasoning, caraway seeds (just a bit, they're a bit strong for me) and tarragon. I oiled my saute pan and threw it in, it turned out to be very good! Then I found I had some cranberries, and decided to make a cranberry chutney, which is pretty much the same as cranberry sauce only it's made with vinegar, brown sugar, and some extra spices. Now that I have those both made, once it gets closer to supper time I'm going to make turkey sausage crepes with cranberry chutney. Now how does that sound?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Keeping warm

Yesterday morning we got our first real snowfall, so I had to get out the door extra early to get to work on time. I was in such a rush that I didn't have time to have breakfast. When I got to work, I got a good start, I was cutting and portioning my chicken for the day, when one of the cooks, Juan, started throwing a bunch of veggies in a pot. I didn't even know what else was in it, he even cracked a few eggs into the pot and whisking them around. I asked him what it was, he said "egg soup". Since we didn't have anything like that on the menu, I was curious what he was up to. Then, just before opening, he told us that it was ready, to start dishing up, he'd made that soup for us! I was so happy, especially since I missed breakfast that morning. It was very spicy but I liked it. It had chipoltle and jalapeno peppers in it, so it had plenty of heat for a cold day! He claimed that it was a good hangover cure, but David and I both figured that it could be a good preventative measure against colds and flu, too. We were surprisingly busy for the lunch hour, considering the inclement weather, but I was able to keep up. After the lunch rush was over, I had a few little things to do before heading home, one of which was to make candied pecans. They smelled so good as I boiled them, it made me think in holiday cliches. Then I coated them in powdered sugar and dunked them in the deep-fryer. I wonder if I could do the same thing at home, only roasting them in the oven. That would be a treat!

I have the day off, thankfully. It's been steadily snowing all day today, they're talking about it reaching blizzard conditions tonight! I did some grocery shopping yesterday after work so I wouldn't need to go outside, watching it come down like this makes me especially glad I did. Not to mention being extremely grateful that my younger sister gave me her entire sweater wardrobe before moving out to California this summer. I can stay warm all winter and not wear the same three sweaters over and over. After work yesterday I picked up a few things at the store in case I decide to make beef stew for supper. It certainly seems like the right sort of day for it. That sounds good right about now. Hmm, tempt me!

So here I am, sitting at the computer with my hot chocolate, watching Everyday Italian, and enjoying a winter day indoors. Hope everyone stays safe and warm this winter! I'm ready for it!