Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Birthday Cake

I now know where the idea of Neopolitan icecream came from. It came from someone like me who either couldn't make up their mind or was trying to make a desert for someone who doesn't express opinions. Which is probably how I came up with the Neopolitan cake for Holly's birthday. It turned out beautifully. Of course that was after having to throw out the top layer and scape off the first attempt at pink frosting. But after some SNAFUs and a lot of help from T we finished a gorgeous, HUGE neopolitan cake. And due to the big pink bow on top, it was a huge hit.

So, who's ready for cake?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Strawberries and Stripes

T's daughter is here, and thus we are doing lots of kid-friendly food. Which, as I'm sure you can guess, is not my most favorite type of food to cook. But we did come to a good compromise with a red velvet ice cream cake with strawberries and blueberries. And while the fresh fruits don't work quite as well in an ice cream cake, the effect was beautiful and the cake and ice cream was excellent. We put the strawberries in lines and the blueberries in the requisite square to make the flag. In all, a hit.

Not much cooking has been going on due to both traveling and general craziness. Its also due to not having very many friends and being on a diet. And even though my german party went well, I still feel kind of self conscious about having people over after my friend Thy made the comment about me entertaining because I was trying to get people to like me. It still makes me feel a little like a loser to invite people over, so I just don't feel like doing it. And, of course, with T and I on a diet its hard to cook for just 2 people.


The one good thing I did lately was going to McCrady's for wine and appetizers with Thy (yes, I know she made a mean comment, but she appologized). They had the most amazing cheese plate. We had a choice of 4 cheeses or the whole 12 cheeses. Well, I chose the 12 cheese plate and it was amazing. It had some really good stinky cheese, and while not as good as in Europe, still the best I've seen in the states. I guess American's just aren't that good with really stinky cheese. Well, here's to the red, white, and bleu.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Job

I started a new job, and the first thing I did was..........yup, you guessed it.......I went on travel!

No, no rounds of applause. Since the new job takes me to Army posts I don't think I'll have a ton to write about culinarily. For those that don't know why, let me tell you the un-official Army motto "we do what sucks the most." At least this is what I've heard from several of my Army friends. And this extends to the places they put their bases. And while this isn't true of all bases, 2 of the 3 I've been to in the last 2 weeks qualify. And the 3rd is in DC, which lots of people think is a pretty bad place to be.

The one culinary adventure I've had on this trip (PA, NY, DC) was when my traveling partner got to pick the dinner location. After driving for 5 hours together in a car we arrive at the hotel relatively unscathed, check in, check email, and meet for dinner. Upon starting down the street my traveling partner decides he wants to go to Ruth's Chris because he saw an add for it in an airline magazine and it looked good. And while I'm in a ratty t-shirt and jeans, I'm not one to discourage experimentation. So we go, and I guess I didn't prepare him well enough because he was a little take aback by the $42 steak without any side dishes. And of course he got all uncomfortable when I announced that I don't eat steak. But we weathered that storm, had our crab cakes (for me, pretty good, but nothing to write home about) and steak (for him, with a side of gin martini......I think we'll get along just fine), only to get caught in a major downpour on the way home. Ah well, life in the south.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Death by Dessert

I have made, in my own humble opinion, the best dessert yet. It was from a recipe, so my success is partly owed to the excellent writing of the reciepe. It was a Devil's Food Cheesecake designed by Junior's Cheesecake, one of New York's earliest and still best cheesecake bakeries. It had cheesecake (perfectly soft but not mushy), devil's food cake (moist but still firm), and fudge frosting (yummmmmmmm......). While it wasn't bakery quality yet because I can't decorate cakes worth a darn, the layers came out mostly even and with enough fudge frosting smothered on it I was able to make it look straight and pretty even. And of course yummy.

Did I say it was good? No? Well, let me go taste some more to see if I still like it.

Yup. Still good. Anything else I should say?.......Nope, time to eat more cake!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ode to a Sandwich

If I were a poet, I would be writing lyrical verse regarding a particular sandwich. And while those of you who don't know me well may think that only a "guy" could be so bewitched by a sandwich, let me tell you that given the right set of ingredients, toasted-ness, and overall satisfying composition a mere sandwich can, in fact, inspire a girl to exclaim "DAMN! That's a GREAT sandwich!"

See.......that's why I'm not a poet. But I do love Max's Broiled Rock Shrimp, Spinach and Cheese Melt. I have had dreams about this sandwich. I have even tried to replicate is a few dozen times, never with any success. It is like the best of a grilled cheese and Oyster's Rockefeller on a perfectly toasted french bread roll. Which I realize sounds completely bizarre now that I write it, but it is a really great sandwich. I only get to have it once ever year or so when I go home to visit my parents.

And visiting my parents brings me to the fact that my little brother just graduated from pharmacy school. When they called his name, they called him Doctor Snell. Which made me pause. This new doctor, is he really the one that put my head through the ceiling in the kitchen? Is he really the one that chased my mother around acting like a velocaraptor? Is he really the one that hid under my bed until really late at night and woke me up by pushing my matress up and down to convince me it was an earthquake? Is he the one I tried to throw off the edge of the Grand Canyon? And then the ceremony ended, and we met up with my brother, who's first words were (in reference to the tree nut lei he was wearing, gifted by one of the alums) "so, how do you like my nuts?"

Yup, that's my brother, the pharmacist. An engineer and a pharmacist, contributing members of society (kind of). Who would've guessed?

Monday, May 5, 2008

A $50 Breakfast

T and I spent a long weekend in Key West. I was expecting beach and sun and some nice bars. What I wasn't prepared for was how I just wanted to sink into the culture, to sit on the deck of one of the restaurants until I was wrinkly and grey. Not once did I look at my watch, although come to think of it, I'm not sure I we ever had any clocks, cell phones, or other time-keeping pieces with us. Although the roosters got us up in the morning, I had no problem with getting up that early so we could get a table at one of Jim C's recommendations. While all the food was good, the breakfasts were the most memorable. They were at places that had nothing more to them than corrugated metal and some scattered pool chairs.

It was at one such place, sitting in rickety old pool chairs, underneath a big with over-sized tropical leaves that I had my $50 breakfast. T ordered pancakes (nope, not made of gold, and not outrageously expensive either). The coffe was good and hot. And my only complaint was that I had this persistent fear that the roosters were going to peck my toes to get at my breakfast. I had the guilty pleasure of a lobster and shrimp benedict. Yes, that's right, I had buttery lobster and perfectly succulent shrimp with poached eggs and the most decadent key-lime hollandaise sauce I have ever had. Lets see......lobster, shrimp, eggs, english muffins, key lime juice, and BUTTER!


And worth every penny, I may add.....

Friday, April 18, 2008

Freuhlings Fest

Its been almost a year since I was at Fruehlings Fest in Stuttgart. And it was one of the best times I've had. T and I rodes rides, played carnival games, drank beer, ate chicken, and danced on tables. I still have the green gorilla that he won me. I kept it suction-cupped to my mas all night long. And while I can't relive that night, I am going to throw a German-style beer party at our house. We have enough beer to serve almost a whole tent worth of people, but I'm just hoping for a porch-full. I'm still working on the menu, but I'm thinking that it will be some combination of the following:
  • Wurst (weisswurst if I can get it)
  • Jagerschnitzel
  • Kase Spatzle
  • Potato Salad
  • Suggestions?........
This time we are combining T's co-workers and my friends. We'll see how that goes. Hopefully it won't be too strange. I'm a little afraid that people won't want to talk to me. I'm afraid that I'm not very interesting. I also feel strange around T's co-workers. I'm always self conscious about whether they are looking down on me because I'm young, or afraid they think I'm not very smart. Well, hopefully I'll have enough of my friends there that they will talk to me.

Well, time to make my shopping list for the party and finish my class.

And in other news, I got below 130 lbs. this morning. It helped that I didn't have dinner last night, but I'm still pretty happy that I'm starting to finally lose the weight. I guess part of being an engineer is being results-oriented. So I'm pretty pleased about hitting a mid-way milestone. Of course the beer and wurst don't help with the weight loss, but hopefully I'll jabber so much with everyone that I won't eat as much as I normally would.

Here's to the weekend! PROST!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On the Porch Again

Its finally getting warm! Its really windy, but at least it is sunny. So I'm sitting on the porch working on a menu for Wed. A couple friends will be coming over, one whom I've never cooked for. So I'm allowed to go a little over-the-top. Which of course means it will be a heavy, fattening, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal.

Because C. likes red meat, and I like seafood, and T. likes anything I cook, I think the menu I have thus far will meet all requirements:

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
Filet Mignon Wrapped in Bacon
Lobster Thermidor
Purple Potato Gallette
Mini Lemon Cheesecakes with Strawberries
Mini Chocolate Mouse Cups
Cheese and Port Board

Some of those things are repeats, but it is a Wed night and I really do want to impress them. The purple potatoes are hard to work with, so those will be my challenge. Plus the mini cheesecakes and mousse are going to be difficult to put together. With T and I on a diet, I don't get to cook like this very often. So I'm going all out for this one.

UPDATE (Posted April 24):
I nixed the potato gallette for french browned carrots (trying to make things a little lighter). And I didn't serve the cheese and port board. But the best thing I did was to substitute my two mini deserts with a traditional Grand Marnier Souffle. It was beautiful and light and fluffy. I spent a ton of time looking at souffle advice. Souffles are easy, kind of. And don't take that long to make. I think I made the base too thick, because it didn't puff as much as I wanted, but it did puff nicely and it tasted wonderful. Trudy loved it, so that made me really happy. And the lobster thermidor is always my favorite (plus the popovers). On the whole, really, really nice evening. Plus the wine was good. T. picks really good wine, which is surprising for someone who didn't know anything about wine until he met me.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Trifling of Sweets

I want to make something sweet. I don't know why. I don't even really want to eat it. I just want to make something. I'm going crazy. With T and I watching what we eat, I feel so stymied. So I decided to make Spiced Pear and White Chocolate Trifle. It turned out beautiful, and not all that hard to make. It was a very light desert. Very refreshing, in a way.

I also made the same red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting that I made for my birthday last year. I haven't cut into it yet, but I know it will be good. I think that even though I want to make the most complicated, over-the-top things my taste still runs to the basics, good cheese, good wine, good cake, and the occaisional fried food. Ugh, this diet is hard.

Well, here's a picture of the trifle. Back to my veggies and fiber.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy Birthday T

T turned "not older" this weekend, and we went up the The Cliffs in Northern South Carolina. It was partially for a work trip for him, and we extended it into the weekend to look around the area. The coolest part for me was the helicopter ride. Having never been in a helicopter the feeling of slowly lifting off and turning was rather unsettling, but exhilerating at the same time.

The other cool part about the trip was seeing their organic farm that supplies the restaurants in the developments. Lots of work, it looks like, which makes me feel better about paying $3.50 for a single organic bell pepper. I like the philosophy of the developments, trying to maintain as much natural land as possible, encouraging hiking, serving organic food, and giving back to the community. Of course the world-class golf courses don't interest me in the least, but if it helps support things like organic farms and public school eduction on nutrition, then who am I to complain?

The food we had was exceptional. T had a beet salad that was to die for, and I'm not usually a person to swoon over vegetables, but this one was amazing. I had a portobella mushroom with onions, goat cheese, and greens over parsnip puree that was excellent. What was the most interesting was getting to taste salsify. It was kind of bland. But I'm always up for trying something new.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Flattery will get you everywhere

Well, Greg is in town, which means I'm cooking. How can I resist when he tells me that I have the best restaurant in town? And of course I'm going to try to do something amazing. I'm thinking about doing the below:

Balsamic roasted portobello mushrooms with carmelized onions and goat cheese
Orange and herb crusted lamb chops
Marscapone mashed potatoes
Strawberry cream cake

Since this wasn't actually posted on the day it started, let me tell you how the meal turned out.

The lamb was perfect, the mushrooms were EXACTLY what I wanted, and the cake turned out so beautifully. It was a full 4 layers of cake, with jam and buttercream between the layers, and fresh strawberries on the outside. I was actually the most proud of the cake. And of course I got lots of compliments when I took it in to Thy and Estelle the next day.

I think I did some sort of vegetable, but I can't for the life of me remember. It must have been at least a little healthy, which is why I always forget. The healthy stuff just isn't interesting enough to warrant space in my memory. Well, at least not that often. But Greg loved it, which was the whole point. And of course told me what a good cook I was. I know, I'm a sucker for flattery......

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stars and Stew

The 3-star general was in town, so everyone has their proverbial panties in a wad. It wasn't that bad, but it made me feel very young, and rather like an outsider. The culinary highlight was an authentic shrimp boil. And while it was good (shrimp, potatoes, corn, and anduille sausage, what's not to like?), I don't really see the appeal. But I went. I feel very strange being at those things. I know I'm welcome, and its kind of an ego boost to know that all I have to do is ask for something and people will help me, its also strange to be at T's work.

We also went out to one of the local seafood places on Shem Creek, T's senior staff and spouses were all invited. That wasn't bad, but I got to sit next to the general and it was really clear that he didn't want to talk to me, that I was way too young, and how dare I have a career instead of suplicating myself at the feet of T's prestigous rise to fame and fortune as an officer. Well, I guess that's a little mellow-dramatic. But it was still strange to be in that situation.

As a break from the culinary discussions, I do want to say that I am really proud of T and think he has a great career. He is a wonderful leader, and I love to hear about what he is doing. And of course I want to be supportive. I just feel strongly that supportive doesn't have to be keeping a clean house and making sure there is dinner on the table, I feel that supportive can also mean being a backboard to toss ideas against, a non-judgemental listener, and a different perspective. I guess that also means that sometimes dinner isn't hot and the house isn't clean. But I think we have a pretty darn good arrangement.

Well, time to go pack for another trip to Tampa. Luckily the food is good there

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Grit-y Week

Its been one hell of a week. I'm taking a week-long class on project management with the world's most annoying group. The guy next to me keeps a running commentary on everything the teacher says. On top of that, work doesn't stop because I'm in class. I'm just ready to quit. I'm tired of my job, tired of Charleston, tired of all the hassle, tired of feeling like an outsider on everything that I have to do.

T took me to 82 Queen last night. The food was good, at least pretty good. I think my standards are going up. Their shrimp and grits are good, but they just don't put enough of the cheese and BBQ sauce on as I think they should. I guess I should learn to just order things that I wouldn't or haven't made at home. I know my own tastes well enough to know what I like. Which, unfortunately for me, usually means higher fat content. Oh well. I do make a darn good shrimp and grits. And the cheese and BBQ sauce seem like an odd combination, but they are, in fact, excellent.

Its just been a rough week. Its about time for a weekend.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chinese New Year

Happy Year of the Rat!
T. and I held a Chinese New Year cocktail party this weekend for his office. There were about 50 people, which is about as many people as came to our wedding........ I guess being the boss has its benefits. The menu was pretty good, although we had decided to make it a little more generic (ie. no whole fish or super long noodles) to appeal to less sophisticated tastes.
Crab Mousse in Cucumber Cups
5-Spice Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
Chicken Curry Cups
Shrimp with Sweet and Sour Sauce
Orange Chicken
BBQ Short Ribs
Mini Egg Rolls with Spicy Mustard
Coconut Shrimp with Mango Sauce
Pot Stickers with Ponzu Sauce
Teriyaki Sausages
Key Lime Cheesecakes
Kahlua Coconut Rolls
Mango Gelee
Fortune Cookies

The party was a success, although no one really knew what to say to me so I was pretty nervous. Everyone said they had a good time, which was the point. T helped with the decorating, and the house looked great. I was so rushed that I didn't get a chance to take any pictures, but it did look good. And I didn't quite plan well enough, so I was kind of late getting all the food on the table. I wanted everything to be fresh, so I guess I squeezed things a little too much.

The party was fine, and I think the food was pretty good. I guess I'm just not feeling very inspired lately. T is on a diet, and I need to lose weight, and I'm hardly ever home anyway. And I just don't have any friends to come over and eat the food. While T has plenty of work people we could have over, that is always nerve-wracking and I end up drinking too much and I don't have any fun. I guess I'm just feeling really isolated, and it kind of shows in my cooking. Maybe I'll try doing something elaborate for myself for Valentines day since T will be getting in late.

I don't even have the energy to write anything interesting. I'm just too tired, or worn out, or something. I'll try this again later.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Unfun Party Planning

I am planning an un-fun party. We are planning a cocktail party for T's office, or at least the 20-30 that he deals with the most. And I actually hope that they will have fun, but as T is the boss, this falls into the "mandatory fun" type of events that people go to not because they enjoy them but because they have to. Since we didn't get a chance to do a holiday party (neither Christmas nor New Years nor any other December-scheduled event that the EEO trouble-makers keep complaining is getting second-fiddled), we are going to have a Chinese New Year party. It allows us to welcome people into the new year, kind of, and avoids any "you are discriminating against the Unity celebration for Zimbabweans on Dec 22."

As this is going to be, we estimate, 40-50 people this will be the biggest party I have ever thrown. I'm considering renting glassware and plates, so that I don't have to do paper. But not sure yet. And while I love Asian food, of many kinds, I don't think this crowd will be particularly fond of things like whole fish cooked in salt, squid appetizers, or duck tongues, which my friend insists are known to bring longevity and contain lots of antioxidants.

So, planning is still in progress, so I'll let you know what we decide. I'm starting to experiment. Or, I would experiment if the kitchen wasn't so dang cold. So instead I'll watch FoodTV, make some notes, and get ready for my trip next week. Any ideas on what types of food one would make for the year of the rat?.......ratatouille?

Monday, January 14, 2008

French Classic

French cuisine, especially the deserts and the seafood dishes, have an aura of being difficult and complicated, and......well........snotty. So, pour yourself a glass of wine Ms Child and let me show you how we do it at my house......

Proscutto Wrapped Zucchini
Mini Peppers Stuffed with Anduille Sausage
Lobster Thermador
Braised Lemon Thyme Game Hen
Potatoes Florentine
Chocolate Espresso Tort

My crowning achievements were the Lobster Thermador and the Chocolate Espresso Tort. For the tort I actually went through several cakes to get them right, and ended with one that was just tight enough to stand up to the 3 layers, but was still fairly fluffy and tender. The espresso buttercream was done in as a traditional French Buttercream with separated eggs, simple syrup, heating, cooling, whipping, folding, and repeating for several iterations. The result was one of the most luscious buttercreams I have ever tasted. Actually better than our wedding cake.....

I used to think that the richest seafood dish I had ever had was the Crab Imperial at Palace Cafe in New Orleans. But I think now that I have actually done Lobster Thermidor, the classic (read long, difficult, complex, and rather snotty) way, I think I have a new winner. I couldn't get pre-cooked lobster meat, so I steamed my own tails, made lobster stock, made the roux, sauteed the mushrooms, cooked in the brandy, assembled, bakes, replated, and finally topped with Parmesan cheese. It was the most decadent seafood dish I have ever eaten, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed.

The game hens and the popovers came out fine. The potatoes florentine were a little under cooked. So, don't think I've completely lost focus on my own meager talents. But I do have to say that I was impressed with the tort and the thermidor. And I think our guest were too.

So, what do you think Ms Child? Do I get a gold star for this one?