Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Obsessed! In the best possible way!

I had a pin on Pinterest for a link to something called "quick ramen bowl."  It looked good, greens, mushrooms, scallions, sriracha, an egg, ramen.  All the stuff I love.  I never really looked at it, which I am kind of famous for when it comes to Pinterest.  I tend to go, "Ooh!" and forget to look at it again, unless it's one of my cake boards which I refer to almost daily when I'm at work.  I was thinning out a board that got bogged down with too many subjects and I came across the link.  I went to the blog and... it sounds crazy, but... my life is changed!

I have been trying to save money and cut down on my grocery bill in particular.  I burn a lot of calories at work.  Like in the "just ran a marathon" category.  I'm hungry All. The. Time.  Figuring this out has helped me realize what I need to do to lose weight (hello, starvation mode! eat more!) so lately, my grocery bill has become astronomical.  What to do?  What to do?  I've found some good resources for budgeting at meal time, but a lot of those folks don't eat like I do.  No offense, really!  It's just that the bulk of my groceries are from the produce department.  And I eat a lot of Asian food.  A lot.  I also don't have kids, and many of those blogs are geared towards family-friendly meal time.  Soooo, enter Budget Bytes.  What's the first thing I make?  The Dragon Noodles, of course!  I made a couple changes, but I don't think it got me too far off the $1.02 cost per serving!  (Whattt?)  I added a bag of frozen stir fry veggies that were $1 at Kroger and an extra egg.  I needed a bit more sauce, so when I made it the second time, I used a little fish sauce and and a little garlic chile sauce.  It gave it a little more of a Vietnamese flavor than just straight up "burn down the house."  I also used angel hair pasta because I had a half of a box which was perfect for this.  Dudes, this was easily one of the best things I've made recently.  And it took 10 minutes.  It had the perfect amount of heat for me and was filling!

Do yourself (and your wallet!) a favor and hit up Budget Bytes for a recipe or 15.

I was half way through the bowl of noodles before I realized I needed to document the deliciousness.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Quiche! With hash brown crust!

On Pintrest, I found a recipe for a quiche with a hash brown crust.  There are a ton of them.  The one I referred to was a Martha recipe.  The crust is basically a bag of frozen hash browns thawed and drained well, a couple tablespoons of butter melted, an egg, and some salt and pepper mixed together.  You press it into your pan and bake it for about 15-20 minutes.  You don't need to weigh it down like you do a traditional pie crust.  Win-win!  Easy-peasy!  Faster, in fact, and less messy than a regular pie crust.  

Pumpkin waffle mix, optional.

I used a traditional quiche pan instead of the springform pan Martha wants you to use.  I also used 365 Brand hash browns from Whole Foods, so I'm not sure if that made a difference.  My crust didn't quite come up to the top of the pan.  No biggie.  I have grated swiss, thawed and squeezed frozen spinach, and this amazing Nieman Ranch uncured ham steak (also from Whole Foods) that I couldn't stop eating.  I was hungry and it was just... so... tasty.

A traditional quiche batter is one large egg to one half cup of dairy.  Traditionally, it's heavy cream.  Oof.  I can't do it.  I can't help but equate that to a giant serving of whipped cream.  Double oof.  Don't get me wrong, I loooove whipped cream, but I don't want to eat a pint of it.  I use whole milk.  It makes a lighter quiche and I don't miss the fat, personally.  You could use anything from skim (but why?!) to heavy cream.  A nice touch is to whiz up your batter with a stick blender (or real blender).  It smooths out the eggs and gives it a nice texture.  But don't go crazy, you just want to combine those things.  For this recipe I used four eggs and two cups of whole milk.  I added a stray egg white to this since I needed a yolk for the egg wash for my cheddar dill bread that I'm also making (tune in tomorrow!).  If you end up with a bit of extra batter, never fear!  I added it, a little cheddar, and a little dill to a small baking dish.  Et, voila!

Dinner is served!

In my crappy apartment oven, this baked for about 40 minutes.  Your (nicer) oven time and temp may vary.  Another point worth mentioning, if you make a cheese quiche, use a little less cheese than you might think.  If you really load it up, it gets hard to cut when it's done as copious amounts of cheese make it really soft.

The verdict?  Delicious!

Now, get cookin'!

Friday, February 1, 2013

More Cake!

These were a few of my cakes for Christmas/Winter/New Year's Eve.

Snowflake cake

Cosmic Christmas

Cardinals in a tree

Snowflake cake

Reindeer cakepops

Owl with Oreo eyes

Partridge in a pear tree

Tiny cakes and a fire extinguisher

Happy New Year!

Polar Bear

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fall Cupcakes

Just before Thanksgiving, I made a few trays of cupcakes for the case.  These were a few of my favorites.

Forest floor with log, leaves, and we mushrooms.

Thanksgiving dinner with caramel gravy.

Vegan Thanksgiving dinner with mashed potatoes and peas and carrots.

Roasted turkey cupcakes.  Adorable.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I started a new job decorating cakes at the end of September.  It's not my favorite thing to do, but it pays the bills and can be fun and challenging.  We only use buttercream, not fondant or gum paste.  Gum paste, I don't mind.  Fondant makes me swear.

One of the challenges we often see is when someone brings in something and they want their cake to look exactly like that!  Can you do it?  Here's an example.  If I remember correctly, it was for an engagement party for Ph.D.s.  The woman that brought in the book was super cool, in that kindred-science-nerd-spirit sort of way.  And she was pleased with the cake.  Overall, I think it turned out well.  I still hate printing on a cake since it always looks a little shaky.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A return to ice cream. And blogging.

France loves ice cream. It's everywhere. As a snack from a street vendor, a couple scoops as dessert from a brasserie, even as a fancy coupe (what we call a sundae) from a more upscale restaurant. When I was in Carcassonne, there was an ice cream vendor around the corner from my hostel with a big selection of homemade ice cream everyday. It was 2.50 Euro for a scoop in a waffle cone. It was more expensive than the other vendors I saw, but it was clearly made by hand in small batches and not from an ice cream company. It was worth every cent. I fell in love with their tiramisu ice cream. The one day they didn't have it, they had a caramelized fig sorbet in its place. It was delicious. I'm not sure why it was called a sorbet because it very obviously had a milk base. I've been thinking about that ice cream since I got home.

I have a love-hate relationship with figs. On one hand, they are so good for you, packed full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, their texture is, let's face it, downright weird, and the flavor is so subtle that it easily gets lost if paired incorrectly. Most American folks' first encounter with the humble fig is the ubiquitous Fig Newton. Dry, processed, occasionally stale and barely tasting of figs, this is not a good first impression. The fig is not my favorite fruit by any means, but nearly all of the memorable desserts I've had involved figs. Why is that? It perplexes me. Perhaps I need a food therapist to help me sort out my complicated relationship with figs.

I'm cooking dinner tonight with two new friends. Like all of my friends, they love food and love to cook. Of course, I offered to bring dessert. I decided to attempt to make the caramelized fig ice cream. It's in the freezer right now. The flavor is not what I had in Carcassonne, but it's darn good. My obvious problem is the kind of figs used in France. I need to find out what kind are available in the southwest of France and if they are available here.

Tonight this will be paired with gingerbread.

Caramelized Fig Ice Cream

2 TBSP butter
1 quart brown turkey figs (or whatever brown fig is available to you)
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup dark Kayro syrup
1 TBSP molasses
1oz. marsala

Cut figs into quarters lengthwise then cut in half crosswise. Melt butter in deep saute pan. Add figs and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add sugar, corn syrup and molasses, stir well. Let simmer until the figs are soft, the sauce is a deep golden brown and thick. Be sure to stir occasionally so it doesn't stick. Add the marsala and stir well. At this point, I transferred the mixture to a bowl and whizzed it lightly with my stick blender. It's your choice. I wanted more of a swirl instead of a fully mixed ice cream and I wanted something more smooth and less chunky. After I pureed it lightly, I put it back into the pan and sauteed for a few more minutes. Ultimately, the fig/sugar mixture should be thick like caramel sauce but almost a light milk chocolate color.  Let this cool.

Use your favorite vanilla ice cream recipe and freeze in your ice cream maker as usual.  Place half of the ice cream in a loaf pan.  Layer all of the caramelized fig mixture, then top with a final layer of vanilla ice cream.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon or spatula, insert it into the pan through all three layers in one corner and drag straight across the pan.  Pull up, reinsert into the pan just below where it was pulled out, drag across the pan.  Repeat this process going left to right in rows, then repeat from top to bottom in rows.  This will create a swirl of the fig mixture.  If you want easy, just add the fig mixture to the ice cream in the final few minutes of mixing.  Fussy or easy, it's darn tasty.

Semester Two: Let the games begin!

Last wednesday was the first day of my second semester. What a day it was! I'm in class from 9 AM to 7 PM with no breaks, except for the time it takes to get from class to class. My day began with two lecture classes and continued with two labs. My labs were a lot of fun. In Garde Manger, we made garnishes for a few hours, tomato skin roses, radish roses (or as my brother calls them-cracked radishes), celery and green onion garnishes. It was fun. Tomorrow, we get into herb identification and salad dressings. Garde Manger, for those who don't know, encompasses the cold kitchen. We'll cover topics like garnishes and salads, but also sandwiches, platters for buffets, even sushi. In Garde Manger II, which I plan of taking, we'll cover butchering and sausage making and advanced garnishes including ice carving. My class is taught by my department head. He's awesome, hilarious, knowledgeable, and tough. I'm looking forward to the challenge of getting an A in his class.

My second class that day is Hot and Cold Desserts. We also jumped right in with cheesecake and custard desserts, rice pudding and bread pudding. My bread pudding didn't turn out well at all. I followed the instructions and ended up with too much liquid. Oh well. My cheesecake came out great, however, which is what matters since it is supposed to be served as a dessert in our restaurant. Apparently a lot of what we make in this class is production for the restaurant. Everyone in the class is great. Everyone worked hard, had a good time, and generally enjoyed the whole process. At the end of class, we critiqued what we made. We all talked about hat worked, what didn't, how it could be served or fixed. The vibe in the class was so much better than in Baking I. Everyone wanted to be there and not because Food Network makes it look so fun. I'm really going to love this class. I have the same instructor that taught my sanitation class. I really loved her. She has a ton of experience in most aspects of the hospitality industry. She really wants her students to succeed. She also told us that we can be as challenged as we want to be in this class. She wants us to think like pastry chefs. For example, we don't have to make our cheesecake in a round traditional pan. We could use a muffin pan for individual servings or a long rectangular pan. We can make deconstructed desserts, different flavors, etc. It's going to be a good semester.

Yesterday was Day Two. The day is a little longer, but I have a break in the afternoon. I started the day with Cake Design and Decorating. We had to bake two types of cakes with which we will practice decorating or the first part of the semester. We used the same ingredients and measurements but two different mixing methods. The first was the creaming method, which most people know, especially if you'd ever made a pound cake before. You cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, then alternate the dry ingredients and wet ingredients. This makes a nice dense cake that holds up well to the weight of a large cake. The other method was the Two Stage Method. I was not familiar with this, but I like it. You add the dry ingredients, the sugar, butter, and a little of the liquid (in this case the milk and eggs combined). You mix until fluffy then add the liquid in two stages... hence the name! It makes a lighter, fluffier cake.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Check-in

Hi folks. Things are crazy busy here at Chez Meg In The Kitchen. Classes started this past week. I have two pot luck cookouts this weekend. The cookout today is a fundraising effort for a local group started by some friends. They approached me about doing something special for the cookout. Of course I said yes! I'm bringing 4 batches of ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet plus waffle cones! I can't wait to show and tell you all about that one!

I had originally planned on four classes this semester. The first day of classes someone dropped their place in the Petit Fours class. I had wanted it, but thanks to Web Advisor I didn't get it. My advisor and the department head were kind enough to save that place for me. Now I have five classes this semester. If I don't lose my mind before Fall Break it'll be a miracle. However it also means that I can definitely finish this program in two years. Two years! I remember when I started I thought two years was going to drag on. Ha! It's flown by!

I'm really looking forward to this semester. I posted my schedule to the right. I'll post more about each class later this week. I'm really excited about these classes. I feel like I will not only be challenged, but get more time with certain products. We started my Dessert and Bread Production class with a laminated dough. Huzzah! I definitely wanted more time with that.

I'm off to cookout number two! I'm still weeding through the France trip photos. Happy Sunday!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How the French do breakfast.

Cafe Creme, freshly squeezed orange juice, a croissant, half of a mini-baguette slathered with butter and a tiny jar of apricot preserves.

Pretty brilliant if you ask me.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I am back from France. I am missing the cafes already.

I spent the last 3 weeks in France. Okay, there was a lackluster weekend in Amsterdam too, but the rest of the time was spent in France. It was an amazing and long vacation that at times didn't seem real. The whole country looks like a movie set. I wanted to touch everything I saw to see if it was real or just a movie prop rolled out for the tourists. Turns out, it's all real. Go figure.

I have pictures to share with you. Boy howdy do I have pictures. 2600 to be exact. It's going to take time to weed through all of them and to find the best ones to post for you. It will also involve a trip to the Apple store for Genius help. The computer is not cooperating. In the meantime, I leave you with a list of things I noticed the French love.

1. All things tiny. Coffee, dogs, cars, trains, etc. There's even a museum/themepark outside Paris with a tiny scale model of the country and landmarks.

2. Shredded carrots. Alone, in salads, whatever. They love 'em.

3. Pink toilet paper. It was everywhere. It makes me smile.

4. Badminton.

5. Floating Island dessert. Here in the US, it's such an old school, 1950s cruise ship dessert. In France, it's on nearly every menu.

6. Scooters and motorcycles.

7. Yogurt.

8. Lace curtains.

9. Apricots.

On another note, I'm back to moderating comments. I keep getting spam comments and I'm getting sick of it. Until they leave me alone, all comments will be moderated. Sorry for the hassle.