Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
I think that cooking for kids can be a great opportunity to get a little creative in the kitchen; a chance to hone your culinary presentation skills. As many of you know, sometimes this can mean all the difference in whether or not a child will even try a dish.
My take on this has always been to deny our foremother's convention: Go ahead...play with that food!
There was a span of time where a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich was a staple in our home and I will never forget the time that Simon introduced Jake to "Beans on Toast" (this is an English breakfast staple, using Heinz baked beans- these aren't at all as sweet as our American version) Jake (age 7) looked at me, incredulously, and when Simon's back was turned he mouthed the words "do I HAVE to eat this?" I nodded yes in reply. Heinz Baked Beans have been a favorite in our home ever since that fateful day.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1tsp. baking powder
½tsp. baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups sour cream (You may also use 1 cup of sour cream with good results)
Butter or canola oil for greasing the pan
Jam, maple syrup, and powdered sugar for serving
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and milk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat by hand or with an electric mixer until smooth.
Heat a cast-iron ebelskiver pan over medium-low heat. Place a tiny bit of butter or canola in each mold and spread it evenly around the molds before filling each mold with a spoonful of batter. Cook until light brown, about 2 or 3 minutes. Turn gently with a fork or skewer and brown the other side. Transfer to a platter and serve hot.
**Adapted to the book The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis Hearne.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I know that it is also the easiest to skip. Lets face it- we have busy lives and sometimes just getting out the door in the morning is all we can muster! I can defiantely relate-but I have adopted a new motto:
The best time to take a break is when you don't think you have time for it. (and I think the same is true for break-fast)
I took another vacation day on Friday (all part of my evil plan to finish grad school with my sanity in check) At this rate I probably won't have any vacation left come June when school is done and I really need a vacation, but then I may not have a job then either since I keep taking these vacation days every week.
Balancing home, work, my health and school has been difficult. As I said before, Simon has been an absolute dream. Jake is a rock....he appears unphased by the chaos in our home-as long as the fridge is stocked and he has clean clothes, he tends to be pretty happy.
On Sunday I got up early and made breakfast for my men. For Simon, I made smoked salmon scramble- this is a quick and easy egg dish that I adapted from brunch at a Marriot hotel. For Jake, I made some ebleskivers (I will share a recipe for these in my next blog) It does my heart good to be able to do something domesticated and something nice for my guys.
Smoked Salmon Scramble
Melt butter in a small skillet, add onions. I prefer green onions, but only had a yellow one on hand.
Add a some chopped smoked salmon to the mix:
And a couple of beaten eggs...
Scramble it all together:
Add a bit of cream cheese. I cut these into little centimeter sized cubes. They combine better that way.
Sprinkle with a little bit of dill and salt and pepper. In the spring I use chives from my herb garden. Pretty easy, eh?Bon Appetite!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
When I think that the bag is going to burst its seams, she starts to fill the new bag with groceries, but stops when she reaches a loaf of bread and a bag of sandwich rolls. She places these right on top of the already full bag. (Note: she could not put them in the bag because it was full- she literally rested these on top of the bag! ) And she seemed a bit proud of herself at that point for being so economical in her bag useage.
(Photo Note: "The suspect bag"...this is a reinactment- but it is an actual representation. It includes of all items in the bag when we got home, plus all the items I had removed to a second bag from this bag while at the store)
I am watching as she starts filling bag number two and looking at this bag in my cart thinking:
- Why would she fill that so full?
- Has she not considered how heavy that is going to be? And finally...
- The second we lift that bag, the contents are going to spill out everywhere.
So I pulled off the two loaves of bread and requested that my husband hand to me another one of the cloth bags, and I begin shifting groceries, explaining “hmm, I am a little worried about getting this bag from the cart to the car without it spilling…let me just move a few of these to another bag”
“Okay, “she said, “but just so you know...I can only give you the discount on the minimum number of bags that I am able to fill”
I continued to shift groceries, “Well, I am more concerned about being able to lift the bags than I am about getting back 5 cents.” and I sort of winked at her (OMG, was she serious?)
She continued to lament about "some" customers that come in with a pile of bags and expect that you spread their groceries amongst ALL of them, so they get the full discount for all of their bags.
At this point I just stopped and stared at her in disbelief. I was thinking three things…(so I may have been staring at her with an evil eye for a minute or so!)
- I am one of “the customers” who brought in a “pile of bags” and I am also one of your customers who is willing to pay $7.99 a pound for shitake mushrooms….do you think I give a $#!+ about a 5cent refund?
- What brainiac in charge has decided that this would be good policy? (I could just envision the crew meeting where management told their cashiers to be a bit more liberal in filling customers cloth bags, "every nickel counts in these times, you know", and "the job you save may be your own") I am sorry but grocery stores are one business that are not going to be as impacted by this bad economy- people are still going to buy food- in fact they may even eat out less and shop for groceries more!
- I pay over $100 each week for groceries at this store and you are thinking that damaging that relationship is worth 5 cents. Where is your manager?
I realized that I was not dealing with someone who had any authority, so arguing with her would be useless. I wanted to find a manager to enlighten them with my opinion, but my kinder, gentler, more level-headed husband (who I married for all those loveable traits) persuaded me to choose my battles. I brushed the chip off of my shoulder and followed him out to the car.
(Okay, truthfully, though, I gave in this time only because I knew that when I got home I could blog about it.)
Now...in all fairness, before posting this scathing blog with the store’s name in shameful bold print for the entire world to see (well at least the 12 people of the world who take the time to read my blog!)...I did call the store and I was able to speak to a manager.
I actually had a very nice conversation with her about this incident (even a few laughs, since I had taken some time to get simmered down before calling the store.)
The manager was emphatic that this is NOT store policy. She seemed very concerned that one of her clerks would do this and promised me that she would speak with her "associates" to ensure that their bag refund policy was correctly understood so that my negative experience would not be repeated. So it all ended well, and no companies were forced into bankruptcy, and no one was fired for being stupid. (And I will definately let you know if there are any lapses at this establishment in the future!)(This is everything that came out of that bag...there is a bottle of OJ behind the milk, 1 loaf of bread, 1 pkg of sandwich rolls, 4 healthy choice entrees, 6 clif bars, 1 box of tea, 1 pkg of burritos, 1 lb of cheddar, 1 can of chili, 1 pgk hot dogs, 1 smoked salmon (Love it!), and 1 pint of heavy cream...now that I look at it, I realize that this really does not look like a healthy bag of groceries...the other bags were full of all of our vegetables and unprocessed stuff - honest!)
One final note on customer service that you might find as interesting as I do….
I may have been a bit oversensitive today with the whole bag thing (and maybe a bit empowered too), because the topic of customer service was discussed in my marketing class today (and I LOVE my marketing class!)
Like most of you, I have been amazed and frustrated over the years by the lack of customer service that many businesses provide. It seems that too many have forgotten that customers are pretty essential to their existence (they are the ones who give you money so you can stay in business…duh!). Accountability has been painfully absent.
My take away from class today is good news for consumers. As the web becomes more and more social with sites such as YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and personal blogs, people are using technologies to get the things they need from one another, rather than from companies. Yet, it is not just creating competition; the web has become a highly effective medium whereby consumers are defining their own perspective on companies and brands. Companies have no choice but to listen up and act wisely. Happily the balance of power is shifting from the business to the consumer. In my opinion- it should have been that way all along.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
- We aren't easily parted with our money. I buy what I need and products I believe in - not what is in style, or new, or what everybody else has.
- I am fairly brand specific- when I find something I like, I am not easily persuaded to switch brands.
- New technology is interesting, but I cannot help but view it with a little skepticism: I certainly would not want to invest in something that isn't proven or that will soon be replaced by something more advanced.
- I usually wear something out before I give in and replace it. (Cell phone, slippers, favorite sweater)
- I love getting a bargain.
This is not to say that I never spend money. I rarely buy objects impulsively, though, unless I know that it is a deal that I cannot pass up. I am more apt to spend on experiences (trips, shows, fine dining). I am also more likely to spend a little extra on what I perceive to be quality.
I have two great "bargain" experiences to share with you and two frugal pointers.
The first great experience was my most recent. I was in William Sonoma on Sunday browsing through all that cooking stuff, (Lord knows I love browsing thru cooking stuff!). On my way out the door (empty- handed) I spied a 15 inch Le Creuset cast iron skillet in red - a perfect match to the small but growing Le Creuset collection I have at home.
I had just picked up the Cast Iron cookbook (using an instant recognition award from work), and so the need for a cast iron skillet was on my brain. I assumed that I would just find a well-seasoned one at a local thrift shop, but once the Le Creuset one caught my eye, well, I knew that I needed that one. William Sonoma Price tag: $179.00. Hmm, tempting, but I just could not justify that.
When I got home I decided to try eBay and found the same skillet at $20 with 2 hours left before closing. Simon and I talked and determined that $80 would be a reasonable top bid. I watched the price rise to $42 and at the last minute I put in my top bid. I ended up buying the pan for $62.00. (SCORE!) My other great experience was that I was out yard sale hopping a few years ago and I picked up a tattered old cookbook called "ice creams and cakes". My thought was that this would be an interesting addition to my cookbook collection- I had thumbed through the text and found a couple of enticing old cake recipes....cool.
About a year later I was surfing and found copies of this cookbook on an antique book website for sale: $140-$450. My purchase price: 25 cents. (AMAZING!)
Two quick frugal tips for finding bargains:
- Never pay full price for books. I always note the author and title when I find a book I like. Amazon.com, eBay and Half.com are excellent on line sources for just about any book you could ever want. Don't be afraid to buy used from sellers that have high ratings. Check out your local thrift shop and yard sales too!
- Shop purposefully. I usually have a few specific items that I am looking for at any given time. When I shop the local thrift shops I make it a point to look for these items. It took a few trips but I eventually found my salad spinner (25 cents) and a really cool metal collander (new, Le Creuset, red for $2.99).
Monday, February 16, 2009
I think I may be a Pioneer Noseshaping Specialist in my own right. However, I care less about the appearance of the nose than I do about what shape it is in....specifically, can it smell stuff?
One of my favorite "noseshaping" exercises is wine sniffing. Pour some wine, swirl it about in the glass and then put your nose to it. What does it smell like? Vanilla? Cherry? Chocolate? Oak? I always like to guess, and then I check the bottle-usually it tells you right on the label what little delicacies have been added. Sometimes I hit it right on, and sometimes I have to take another sniff before I get it (and another taste) (or two). At any rate I look very sophisticated when I do this and everyone who sees me do this certainly must think I know a lot more about wine than I actually do.
In honor of the month of love I have decided to share the "top 10 smells I love"....(the first one is the only one that is in any particular order, really...)
1) Simon Cook
That would be my husband. He has several colognes (or "smellies" as they say in England-or at least this Englishman says that), but my favorite is Old Spice. I know, I know what you are thinking-not very sophisticated. But that smell really comforts me...I can't help it.
2) Fresh baked mincemeat
Apples, spice, nuts, citrus, brandy all simmering in a baking dish. This is the best Christmas time smell...I'll take mine with a dollop of brandy butter too!
3) Hot Fudge
Yes, this requires no explanation. I just love chocolate. I love chocolate fondue, hot chocolate, chocolate lava cakes, chocolate fountains, warm chocolate pudding....(**heavy sigh)
4) Vanilla & Almond
These are great cooking smells- from cookies to cake- vanilla or almond smell and taste great. I also prefer vanilla scented candles (Learned that from me mum.) and almond scented liquid soap. I have a (peculiar?) theory that you tell the quality of a particular establishment by the scent of the soap in the restroom - almond soap always gets an A++ rating from me. (L'Occitane used to carry a liquid almond soap, but I hear it has been discontinued...anyone know a good almond liquid soap I might like?)
5) Lilacs on a Hot day
Don't experience this much in Seattle, but on the other side of the mountains where I was raised it does get quite warm in the summer and the lilacs perfume the air.
When I was pregnant with my son (yikes- over 18 years ago!) this was my one luxury - lavendar bubble bath from crabtree & evelyn....the scent of lavendar is very relaxing. Jake was a mellow baby - I wonder if there is connection there.
7) Pumpkin Spice
Another very homey scent. I read an article a while back that touted pumpkin spice as a scent the triggered good feelings and attraction in men...might be something to dab on if you are single. The same article said that men find the smell of licorice a bit of a turn off. (that might be useful information too)
What woman doesn't find that smell lovely. I have some pretty yellow roses that smell like roses with a hint of vanilla. (The deer love them, too). I plan to try these soon in baking. I have never tried rose water, but I keep finding recipes that tempt me.
9) That Clean Baby Smell
Emphasize "clean"....I just love the smell of a freshly bathed baby.
10) The earthy smell after a rain shower
Basically, that wet dirt smell, but I believe that fresh, clean air is an important part of that particular scent as well!
Leave me a post and tell me...what is your #1 favorite smell?????
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I especially love to cook for Mr Cook. (Quickest way to a Man's heart, they say...)
Tonight I made a Valentine's dinner for us.
- Filet Mignon Roast
- Artichoke & Crab Stuffed Potatoes
- Sourdough bread.
Tonight's dinner was paired with a 2005 Indian Wells Cabernet Savignon. (We enjoyed this wine at the Herb Farm late last year...it was just as fabulous as we recalled)
- Chocolate Lava Cakes
- Sliced Strawberries
- A dusting of powdered sugar
Sounds like a lot of work, however I confess that I purchased the filet mignon (in marinade) and the lava cakes (ready made) at Trader Joes yesterday. With the exception of the Crab & Artichoke stuffed potatoes (recipe follows) , the rest was pretty much easily and quickly prepared. The Sourdough bread was purchased from Central Market in Mill Creek- one of our favorite grocers.
The lava cakes and strawberries were featured at the Trader Joe's kitchen...you can imagine my delight at stepping into the store (on a whim) and finding a little dixie cup waiting for me with chocolate cake and fresh strawberries....If you read my earlier post, you will recognize that this combines Simon's favorite (strawberries) with my favorite (chocolate)...so I felt it was very appropriate for our V-Day dessert.
The recipe for stuffed potatoes is from Kathy Casey of Dish D'Lish. To me, Kathy Casey is the Queen of Northwest cooking. I chose this recipe because it combines two of my hubby's favorites: baked potatoes, and crab and artichoke dip.
Cut the top third of potato off length wise and schoop out the hot potato from both top and bottom with a spoon. Leave a 1/2 inch shell. Add the scooped out potato to the mixing bowl and combine well.
3/4c Parmesan cheese
1lb crab meat
1 can (13-14 oz) quartered artichoke hears, well-drained and coarsely chopped
Spoon mixture into potato shells, piling up and dividing evenly. Sprinkle top with a little extra parmesan cheese.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The Cowboy Cookies were part of the Family Circle Magazine 1st lady cookie taste off in 2004. Laura Bush beat out Tipper Gore with these. Try them out and you will see why! They are just very GOOD.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 sticks butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 cups sweetened flake coconut
- 2 cups chopped pecans (8 ounces)
For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake 17 to 20 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Remove to rack to cool.
Makes 3 dozen large cookies.
- Bake some Valentine's Cowboy cookies for my man (his favorite)...he has been incredibly supportive- epitomizing the definition of "house husband extraordinaire". I have been working so many hours lately and he has been an absolute dream about taking over all of the household responsibilities...He cleans, he cooks, he hugs me when I get home...I want to show him that I appreciate it. (And no, he hasn't got a brother)
- Bake a Red Velvet cake for work on Thursday....yes- I know that I am just perpetuating an ugly superwoman standard by doing this- but I love to cook and it is my snow day!
- Read a pile of magazines that I haven't been able to get to.
I will post some recipes and pictures of my creations later. Until then, I need to get moving...I have a lot of "snow stuff" to do.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
These are some pictures of her enjoying her great-grandchildren...you can tell from these pictures that she was a very "hands on" grandma....
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Happily, last fall, I planted this "host" of soon-to-be-smiling yellow daffodils under one of our big fir trees. I am particularly excited about enjoying those this spring. In the chaos of my current schedule of work and school - I had almost forgotten that I had taken the time to plant these. Now there are a multitude of little sprouts appearing and I have this urge to just stand over this patch and offer up nurturing words and encouragement..."grow, grow, grow...my little darlings!". I am so very pleased with myself!
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
I have always believed that the two most beautiful words in the English language are...Chocolate Cake
- An organic, free trade Green & Black's Cocoa powder "made from the finest organic fair trade cocoa beans"
- An American staple: Hershey's Cocoa "Special Dark - dark cocoa with rich chocolate flavor"
- A not-so-well-known SaCo Premium Cocoa powder "a special blend of natural and Dutched cocoa..."(I do have three of the SaCo product in my baking cupboard, so I would surmise that this cocoa is: A) readily available in the supermarkets, and, B) probably cheap.