Archive for the ‘random musings’ Category

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

What I Did this Spring

Sometime back in February, I fell off the blogging grid. Where was I? What was I doing? Well, here’s a recap (with lots of photos):

I threw an epic Momofuku Dinner party with Bo Ssam, Sous Vide Hangar Steak Ssam, home-made Kimchi, Rice, Roasted Cauliflower and a whole mess of sauces. All from the Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang. Wow! Oh, and I created some specialty cocktails too, the Cucumber Bliss (cucumber infused vodka, ginger liqueur, lychee juice and meyer lemon bitters) and the Ginger Collins (ginger vodka, lime juice, orange bitters and club soda).

Since it just happened to be one of my good friend’s birthdays, I topped dinner off with the Apple Pie Layer Cake from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tossi. One of my guests declared it the best cake he had ever eaten. I’m not sure he was wrong.

Just a couple of weeks later I upheld my tradition of cooking dinner as my gift for another set of my friend’s birthdays (they’re a couple and their birthdays are on two consecutive days). I made giant ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and an egg yolk, plain cheese ravioli for the kid’s, Caesar salad (my friend loves my version) and home-made foccacia bread.

I finished that dinner off with another cake from Milk, the Confetti Cake. Not quite as good as the Apple Pie Layer Cake, but still tasty (and fun, especially for their kids).

Next up in my trio of birthdays was my own. I wasn’t planning a celebration this year but my husband insisted. We hosted a small group of friends for a crab boil, Dungeness Crab, Spot Prawns, Mussels, corn, potatoes and some Andouille Sausage that I made, stuffed and smoked myself. I also made all the crab dipping sauces found in Becky Selengut’s cookbook Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast. While the avocado herb sauce and lemon panko sauces were both good, the soy caramel made me want to pick up the bowl and lick it out when the meal was done. I’m not even joking a little here. And of course there were custom drinks including the Arecibo Sidecar with pear-infused brandy, triple sec, home-made limon-limettachello and meyer lemon bitters in a sugar-rimmed martini glass (and in case you’re wondering, Arecibo is the name of our house).

One more birthday, one more excuse to cook from Milk. For my own birthday I decided to make the carrot layer cake. I really wanted to make the pistachio layer cake (because I love, LOVE pistachios) but just a couple of the ingredients totaled $80 and I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that. Happily, the carrot cake was really good (even though it didn’t set up very well because I undercooked the liquid cheesecake). Moist and not overly sweet.

Once we finished dessert I found out why my husband was so insistent that we have a party. He had been working for weeks (maybe months) on an edition of Trivial Pursuit personalized just for me (as in, all of the questions pertained to trivia about me). One of the sweetest things he’s ever done.

He also bought me a PlayStation with lots of video games. I lost a lot of March to Skyrim. Some people say video games are a waste of time but as my husband is fond of quoting “Time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted” -John Lennon

I managed to pull myself away from video games long enough to cater a couple of big parties.

We dog sat (that’s our dog Rupert on the left and the one we were dog-sitting, Penny, on the right).

I made some slap-yo-mama good Balsamic-Mint-Strawberry Jam

Somewhere around here I started feeling under the weather. Which for me means one thing, my (not so) secret shame, cup noodles. Something about them is magical when I don’t feel good.

While still not feeling 100% I co-hosted a baby shower. Since I was sick I had a lot of time on my hands to make some custom decorations. As for the food, we made pesto chicken salad, Mediterranean tuna salad, pasta salad with preserved zucchini and tomato confit, greens topped with strawberries, goat cheese and pecans, roasted asparagus with aioli and pinot noir syrup, confetti cookies (again from Milk) and cake balls and pops. I spent a lot of the party having coughing fits (and drinking shots of vodka to try to calm them, wheeee).

And since time marches on whether you feel good or not, we had this delivered, 27 cubic yards of dirt (for reference, there is a 16′ x 20′ tarp under there).

We dog sat again.

After three weeks I finally gave up and went to the doctor…

…twice. Thank the maker for modern medicine. Curse you asthma-riddled lungs.

Meanwhile my husband (and some friends and hired guns) were moving all of that dirt. I helped some by pulling weeds. A lot of weeds, actually. And I did some planting in the one area that now had all the dirt it needed.

Finally through the miracle of antibiotics (and the best cough syrup I’ve ever had) I started feeling better. We celebrated with a day away from the garden.

And some plant shopping.

Eventually, we got to the fun part of the gardening project, the planting. Made slightly less fun because it had to be done in the rain, but we’re troopers. And, lets face it, there are times in Seattle where if you wait for it to stop raining, you are never going to go outside.

We spent the night at a friend’s house and she made us Dutch Baby Pancake for breakfast.

We went to a BBQ where we ate brisket and drank bourbon.

We piled the dog into the car and drove to Boise to visit my mom and mom-in-law.

We spent the day at my mom’s cabin. What a view.

Back in Boise we ate some pretty great Basque food at Epi’s. Chorizo with pimentos, ham croquetas, Txerri Txuletax Pipperrakin (pork chops with pimentos) and gateau Basque for dessert.

We celebrated Rupert’s 6th Birthday with a ride back to Seattle.

I went to the BlogHer Food Conference in Seattle (meh), made some fun new friends and ate this (they called it potato salad). How about we all agree to stop “deconstructing” food, hmmm?

We went to a Dodgers vs. Mariners game and had a beer (or two) in memory of my Dad (the Dodger’s were his favorite). I’m pretty sure the grand slam hit by the Dodgers was just for him.

We dog sat. Again.

We finished the last of the gardening (except for the never-ending weeding) by planting a few vegetables in my new raised beds.

And last weekend, since we were rained out from camping, we took a drive to Mt. Vernon to retrieve our newest backyard decoration from our friends at Bistro San Martin who had wrangled him for us. We call him Chicken Boo (you’ll get the name if you ever watched the Animaniacs). I love him. Our dog is scared of him.

In between all this craziness, I still managed to work, teach classes, swim and even, occasionally, do house work.

I can’t wait to see what summer will bring…

xxx

 

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Where Did My Mojo Go?

I seem to have lost my mojo. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had way more fails than successes in the kitchen. A lot more.

I don’t know what’s going on. Usually I walk in to the kitchen, sometimes without even an inkling of what I’m going to make, and it just happens. Something tasty just comes out. But it’s just not happening.

I made a potato gratin. It turned out as potato soup.

I made fudge for friends. It turned out grainy.

I made fudge again. The chocolate didn’t melt completely and it was lumpy (I quickly added some nuts which made it at least passable) .

I made bean soup. Then burned it.

The only real bright spot has been some marshmallows that I made using a recipe from my friend Nazila. She told me they were fool proof and luckily she was right. I made the vanilla version and then dipped some in chocolate and some of those in some crushed candy canes.

I’m going to give it another go today. I’m planning to make a lasagna to have on hand in the freezer. And then I’m going to make Asado de Bodas from a recipe found in Saveur for dinner tonight. I’m crossing my fingers that some of my marshmallow mojo rubs off.

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Things Change

Sixty-three hours ago I started some beautiful short ribs cooking sous vide. I thought a little Saturday night fancy food would be great. Now, with nine hours of cooking left, all I want is comfort food. Fried chicken and macaroni and cheese to be exact.

Sixteen hours ago my husband and I made the decision to euthanize our dog Jones. His health had been declining. He’s suffered from hip dysplasia for years and years and in the last few weeks he had started falling. A lot. He’d be walking in from outside and his back legs would just collapse beneath him. Our hardwood floors didn’t help the situation. Over the last year we’d placed rugs throughout the house in all of his favorite spots so that he could get up and down, but we could tell it was getting to hard for him to get around.

Not that he would ever tell us though. Jones was best described as simple. As long as he had food and head scratches he was just happy to be. You know how towards the end of Marley and Me John Grogan asks Marley “you’ll let me know when it’s time, right?”, well, we knew Jones would never tell us when it was time. He would keep smiling and wagging his tail until it was too late.

So when we woke up yesterday and he couldn’t stand, much less walk we took that as a sign. For selfish reasons, we had been putting off the conversation until after Christmas. But we know that we couldn’t put it off anymore. We made the decision.

Jones had a good last day. While my husband had to go to work in the morning for a meeting, I sat with him in the living room doing my best to keep him calm and happy. When my husband came home Jones got to enjoy a rawhide, followed by a couple of ice cubes (one of his favorite treats that we had to stop giving him a few years ago because his teeth were breaking) and a few chocolate chip cookies while we waited for the vet to arrive. There were lots of scratches and many tears as we said goodbye. You can’t help but wonder if you are making the right decision, but ultimately we know this was the best thing for Jones.

So tonight, while Jones is reunited with his old pal Cuba for a game a chase at the Rainbow Bridge, we’ll set the fancy food aside. Sorrow calls for comfort and comfort calls for mac and cheese.

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Vegetable Terrine with Goat Cheese Inlay and the Final Challenge

Here it is. My last Charcutepalooza post. The challenge for this, the final month in our year of challenges? Show off a little. Basically, have a party, invite a bunch of friends and feed them until they are ready to burst.

Of course there were a few more guidelines than “just feed people”. A list of items (using at least four) that our meal needed to include: something smoked, cured or brined, something made with pork belly, a pate or terrine,  rillettes or confit and sausage of some kind.

I pulled out all of my trusty charcuterie books. For days I pored over them, considering my menu. A few items easily made the list (my buffalo chicken rillettes and pork belly confit) but some needed more consideration.

Finally, after days of adding something to my list only to replace it with something else two hours later, I settled on the following menu:

To start:
• Scotch Eggs
• Baguettes topped with Bacon Jam and Tomato Confit
• Buffalo Chicken Rillettes
• Baguettes topped with Goat Cheese and Lonzino

Dinner:
• Vegetable Terrine with Goat Cheese Inlay (based loosely on the version found in Charcuterie, recipe follows)
• Brined Pork Loin with Cured Lemons (from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home)
• Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Maple Syrup and Pecans
• Jim Drohman’s Pork Belly Confit with tender and bitter greens, mustard vinaigrette and sous vide eggs (pork belly recipe from Charcuterie)
• Polenta with Parmesan

And of course there was dessert (I served a nut tart I picked up at Will Bake for Food) and many plentiful cocktails (including a take on a lemon drop that included lavender and rosemary)

Ninety percent of my friends (and my husband) work at a the corporate office of a major corporation that does not allow anyone to take the day after Thanksgiving off work. So, that is the day I settled on for my gathering. Guests started arriving as they got off work and I started feeding them right away. And then I kept feeding them for the next four hours.

It was a glorious night of gluttony. Think about it, how often do you get to eat pork that has been prepared six different ways. The pork belly confit, which was cooked with cinnamon, cloves and allspice than deep fried was my favorite dish of the night, though the still-pink and meltingly tender pork loin was a close second. But then again, those brussels sprouts were pretty good too. Oh, and the veggie terrine…

I’m sad that my year of Charcutepalooza challenges has come to a close though I’m grateful for the new skills I’ve gained and the community of meat-enthusiasts that I have found. I plan to continue my learning and experimentation. Making my own bacon, grinding and stuffing my own sausage, whipping up a rillettes, just because. And now that I’ve got my curing chamber up and running, cured muscles and sausages are again within my grasp.

Vegetable Terrine with Goat Cheese Inlay
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
This vegetable terrine was a welcome addition to a very meat-centric meal. Add or subtract other vegetables as you see fit, just be sure to think about color transitions as you layer them in you terrine. Make sure to season each vegetable as you prepare it.
Ingredients
  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 4 red pepper
  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • 1 handful green beans
Goat Cheese Inlay
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 6 ounce Goat cheese, softened
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh soft herbs (parsley, basil, etc)
  • salt and pepper
Gelatin Vinaigrette
  • 2 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 3 Tablespoon Water
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Slice the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices. Shake of as much liquid as you can. Spread the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven for 2-3 hours or until the tomatoes are dehydrated. Once cool, cut into ¼ inch pieces. (This step can be done 1-2 days in advance)
  2. Heat the grill or preheat the broiler.
  3. Slice the eggplant, zucchini and squash into ⅛ inch slices. Toss the slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and grill or broil, turning once until tender. Set aside to cool. Repeat the process with the mushrooms and green beans. Roast, peel and deseed the red peppers, leaving the pepper pieces as large as possible.
  4. Stir together the diced tomatoes, herbs and goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper then spoon the goat cheese onto a piece of plastic wrap and use it to form the goat cheese into a log shape the same length as the mold you plan to use.
  5. Heat the water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and allow it to bloom. Heat the bloomed gelatin over low heat until dissolved. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining vinaigrette ingredients. Add the bloomed gelatin to the vinaigrette and set aside in a warm place.
  6. Line a terrine mold with plastic wrap leaving enough overhang on the two long sides to cover the terrine. Lay the eggplant slices over in the mold so that the ends hang over the sides. Brush them with the gelatin vinaigrette. Repeat the process with the zucchini. In the bottom of the terrine add a layer of green beans, followed by mushrooms, and red pepper, brushing each layer with vinaigrette. Spoon the goat cheese in a line down the middle of the terrine. Layer green beans and squash along the sides of the goat cheese. Add a layer of red pepper. Fold the zucchini flaps over, brush with vinaigrette and then finally fold over the eggplant flaps, brush with any remaining vinaigrette. Fold the plastic wrap over and refrigerate overnight.
  7. Remove the terrine from the refrigerator. Open the top flaps of plastic and turn the terrine onto a cutting board. Remove plastic and cut into ¾ inch slices.

 

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Will Bake for Food

The reasons I cook vary from day to day. Some days I feel like experimenting, so I spend hours in the kitchen perfecting something new. Some days I just need to eat so I’m in and out in under half an hour. Some days the only reason I’m in the kitchen is because someone else is paying me to be there. And then some times there are days like today when I’m in the kitchen, stereo blaring, dancing in my slippers and cooking with joy in my heart, knowing that what I am creating is going to help someone else.

This Saturday, November 12, I’ll be at Will Bake for Food, a food blogger bake sale to help fight hunger in our community. The basic premise is, you bring canned food (or cash) which can then be traded for tickets which can be used for delicious baked goods from some of Seattle’s food bloggers (and trust me, there are a lot of us). Last year we collected one ton of food and $1000 (and sold out in just 90 minutes).

In order to get ready for the sale, today I’m baking Streusel Jam Tarts made with either Peach Lavender or Cherry Jam (home canned of course). Here they are just before going in the oven.

I’ll also be bringing some of my Grandma’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (well, it’s her recipe, but I’ll be baking them) and some of my Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal Brittle.

The event is being held at University Heights Center, 5031 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105 from 11-2 (or until the baked goods run out). Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The Willows Inn on Lummi Island

Back in January, after reading a New York Times wrote an article titled 10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride, I began plotting our trip. I figured, if it’s worth a plane ride, it must be worth a two-hour car trip. Looking at our calendar (and the hotel’s calendar), our first chance would be … September. Oh my, such a long wait. But again, if it’s worth a plane ride, it has to be worth waiting nine months.

Finally the time was here. Lummi Island is normally serviced be a car ferry, but for three weeks every September the car ferry is dry docked and the island is only serviced by a passenger ferry. If we had been staying more than night, I might have been disappointed not to have a car, but since ours was to be a very quick trip, and the hotel was very nice about picking us up at the car ferry, we decided to just go with it.

We arrived with enough time to relax in our room for a while before heading down for pre-dinner cocktails. It was a gorgeous sunny day so we decided to relax on the deck with cocktails and snacks.

My favorite of the drinks I enjoyed was the Spotted Owl made with Aviation gin, nettle purée, Douglas fir eau de vie, lemon, simple syrup.

Tangy and refreshing with a shocking green color. Our options for snacks were marinated cheese or turkey confit. Since I am mad for cheese, that is what we decided to have. I absolutely loved the simple presentation of the cheese presented in a jar.

Finally it was time for dinner. At our table we were greeted with menus detailing the five-course meal that was to come (and some sparkling wine). I am a strong believer that when you’re having a tasting menu, unless you have an actual sensitivity to certain foods, you should eat what the chef prepares. I may not be the biggest fan of fish in the world, but it just doesn’t make sense to me not to eat what the chef feels he cooks best. That being said, I was a little relieved to see that there was only one course that would have fish. Then I started looking over the back of the menu, where the provenance of the ingredients being used were listed. Salmon, clams and oysters were all listed but they were nowhere to be found on the menu. That’s when we found out about the snacks.

They started bringing out plate upon plate of one- to two-bite snacks. Many of them fish, most of them delicious (you never know what you might find out you like).

Snacks:

Smoked reefnet sockeye salmon
This was served in a closed wooden box with something burning beneath it so when the lid was taken off the box a delightful little puff of smoke came out and filled the air.

Salmon roe roll
Salmon I can live with, enjoy even. Salmon roe on the other hand is often a little too “fishy” for me. However, the crispy roll and the cream filling were very tasty.

Potato chip with homemade sauerkraut and black cod
Not much to say about this one. The title of the dish pretty much tells you exactly what it is. Didn’t love it or hate it.

Farm basket with herb emulsion
Basically a deconstructed salad with a basket of greens and vegetable tops, hazelnut “dirt” and herb dressing served in a little terra cotta pot. Fun, but a little messy. We got “dirt” crumbs everywhere.

Butter clam, cucumber, geoduck and potato, served with frozen horseradish
I liked all the components of this dish, but the horseradish “snow” that was served with it was my favorite part. It’s a little hard to describe, but picture a spicy snow cone and you’ll come close.

Kale toast with black truffle purée and rye crumble
My favorite of the snacks, the combination of crisp cooked kale (not sure if it was fried or baked) along with the truffle was fantastic.

Pickled oysters with garden sorrel

The presentation of this dish was just stunning. River rocks frozen in ice with the oysters atop. Unfortunately oysters are one of the flavors I really don’t like. I know I’m supposed to (it’s one of those things chefs are supposed to just like) but I have never met an oyster I enjoyed. But I’ll keep trying…

So, now we’re seven plates in and we haven’t even started dinner. Oh my.

First course
Organic grains with pickled mushrooms

The grains in question were emmer, barley, farro and spelt and they were in a slightly bitter sauce (made from watercress, I think). The pickled mushrooms added a nice counter balance.

Second course
Squid with kohlrabi and seaweed and an oyster emulsion
I’ve never had squid before in any form other than fried. I liked this dish (except for the oyster emulsion) but squid probably isn’t going to become a “OMG they have fresh squid I have to order that” kind of thing any time soon.

Just when we thought they were done bringing out snacks they brought out one more.
White anchovies with pickled elderberries in a brown butter sauce
The look on my husband’s face when a whole anchovy was sat down in front of him was priceless. While I’m not a huge fan of fish, my husband really doesn’t like it. But, being adventurous eaters we went for it. I was pleasantly surprised (and I really liked the brown butter sauce) while the husband, well, not so much.

Third course
Nettles farm hen’s egg with summer vegetables and lemon verbena sauce

This was described as every vegetable currently in season on the farm served with a poached egg (though technically it was a sous vide egg yolk not a poached egg). This was my favorite dish of the night. Perfectly ripe vegetables, some pickled, some cooked, some raw surrounding a perfectly cooked, creamy egg yolk. Each bite was a little different depending on which vegetables happened to be on the fork and the yolk and lemon verbena sauce made for a totally tasty dressing.

Fourth course
Slow roasted pork shoulder with grilled onions

There were at least three different types of onions surrounding a tender piece of pork shoulder. The pork had a slightly sweet, tangy barbecue type sauce as well as an onion au jus. Outstanding.

Before the dessert course they brought out a single paper husked cape gooseberry as a palette cleanser. So much better than sorbet.

Fifth course
Green apples with buttermilk and licorice

This had apple sorbet topped with buttermilk foam and surrounded by very (very) thin slices of apple and some kind of licorice gel chips. A very intriguing combination.

Finally, because we hadn’t had nearly enough, we were presented with flax seed caramels. Yes.

After dinner I was allowed to go into the kitchen and chat with the chef for a while. I am always amazed when I go in a kitchen and it turns out to be tiny (and without much special equipment). For most of the meal, the doors to the kitchen were left open so I got to enjoy watching the staff assemble all of our delicious plates. I’m always surprised when a kitchen is so calm and quiet when they are producing that kind of food. P.S. the chef said that my idea for sous vide paté was genius (which I have to say made me feel pretty darn good about myself).

Finally we made our way back to our room where we were greeted by chocolates on our pillows. The hot tub was calling my name but the bed called louder.

The next morning we returned to the dining room for breakfast and then the concierge gave us a ride up to visit Nettles Farm. I love that all of the vegetables, herbs, berries and flowers that we ate throughout our meal came from a farm less than a mile away. We spied on the chickens and pilfered a few tomatoes from their vines.

 

With that we walked back to the Inn and then got a ride back to the ferry. Our quick trip suddenly over.

So, was it worth the wait and the drive? I would answer with a resounding yes as this will get a place in my top ten meal list. Though I’m not sure I would make the effort again (I like to spread my fine dining experiences around a little).

 

The fish-hating husband, however. Well he had a different take. You can read all about how a non-fish eater with the palette of a five-year old copes with a meal like this right here.

 

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie, for Mikey

Between my second and third year of college I spent the summer working at a Lutheran summer camp, Camp Perkins, which is about 45 minutes outside of Sun Valley, Idaho. It was the summer camp that I went to growing up and it still holds a fond place in my heart. I was a counselor assistant and spent most of my time in the kitchen. Each morning, a rotating group of counselors and counselor assistants would meet early, before breakfast, for morning prayers. Generally, our time was focused on a story or topic that one of the counselors had found. One story, even after 20 years, still sticks with me.

The (true) story was about a couple. Since the day they had fallen in love, they had made a habit of saying ” love you” every time they parted. Sometimes, of course, this was hard. The story related how even at times when they had been arguing, the last thing they said to each other was “I love you, even if it was through gritted teeth. It almost became a game, just a silly thing that they did, but every time one said it the other knew it was true.

On the morning of the accident, her husband was running late. He had an important meeting to get to and was in a hurry to get on the road. He left the house and got in the car, just saying goodbye. His wife came after him, in pajamas and curlers, and ran to the car. He laughed and said “I love you” and she said it back.

That was the last thing she ever said to him. He never made it into the office that day. Another driver hit and killed him on his drive. Even though her heart was shattered, she felt a sense of peace knowing that the last thing she said to him was “I love you”.

 

Earlier this week, a food blogger from New York, Jennie Perillo, suddenly lost her husband and father to her two small children. Even though I’ve never met any of them I found this news incredibly sad. Although I’ve seen this kind of loss before, when my mom lost her husband (my dad), I have a heard time comprehending what that would be like to go through firsthand.

Jennie wrote a short blog post. She’d been meaning to make him his favorite pie but there was never enough time in the day. “Ill make it tomorrow” she said. But now, suddenly all the tomorrows are gone.

She asked simply that today, if you wanted to help her heal, you make a peanut butter pie and share it with someone you love. So today, I made a pie for Mikey, with healing thoughts and prayers for Jennie and her family, and I’ll be sharing it with my husband, the love of my life. The man that I have made sure to say “I love you” to (sometimes through gritted teeth) every time we part. Because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

 

Get the recipe here: www.injennieskitchen.com

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Lavaman 2011. Fail.

For the second year in a row, I spent the winter training with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training group for the Lavaman Olympic distance Triathlon in Waikoloa, Hawaii. And, for the second year in a row I have been let down by my body.

This year’s let down actually started with the repercussions of last year’s ankle failure. I started the training season still recovering from the ankle reconstruction that I had last April. I had some pain, but neither my surgeon or my physical therapist believed that I would hurt myself further, so I persevered. By December, things were coming along nicely, my swim was going great, I was finally getting some good distances on the bike, and all of my fund raising was done. I saw no reason that this year’s triathlon wouldn’t go as planned, so the husband and I bought our plane tickets for our trip to Hawaii. Then, in January, as I was leaving a party that I had been catering, I rolled my right ankle (the good one) as I walked to the car. Training came to a halt.

A couple of weeks later, it felt better. Not great, but good enough to resume training. I got back on my bike and started working again towards the 25-mile distance that would be required on my bike. This is when it started to occur to me that this whole thing might not work out. Again.

By February, I felt resigned to the idea that I may not be able to finish this triathlon. After a few tears, and a pep talk from my coach I adjusted my thinking. Sure, I may not be able to finish, but I could easily do the 1-mile swim, and at least half of the bike. This race was, after all, being run in honor of my dad. When he was sick, undergoing chemo and radiation for his non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he gave it his all. It seemed like I should do the same.

Then, in March, the shoulder pain started. I’d felt this pain before, 12 years ago just before I had shoulder surgery. I decided to attack it head on with trips to the chiropractor and deep tissue massages. If I could just get it to calm down a little, I could still race. Then I lost the feeling in three of my fingers (and the pain still persisted). It was obvious to me, that I needed to see someone new. In the last couple of weeks, Dr. Chan has been able to get the feeling to come back to my fingers (though I’m still getting “pins and needles” throughout the day) but there is some question as to just what is wrong with me. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that racing at this point could cause enough damage that it would be my last race.

So, as the rest of my team is running their race, I will be team cheerleader. It seems like the next best way to honor my Dad, who was always one of my biggest cheerleaders. I’ll greet each of my team mates at the finish line with cheering, clapping and a huge smile. And I’ll lift at least one “post-race” beer to my Dad. I think he’d like that too.

The post above was written before the race. The photos were taken by friends on the morning of the race. Though I absolutely enjoyed watching my friends and teammates cross the finish line, it took a bigger toll on my psyche than I expected. It also inspired me. The 500 or so Team in Training participants raised $2.8 million dollars for patient care and blood cancer research. Amazing.

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Stepping in to 2011

So far, 2011 can suck it! My year started with a New Year’s Day trip to the Apple store where an obviously hungover “genius” informed me that my computer was down for the count. It has since been shipped off for repair. Three days later I had my first ever root canal. Even though I was introduced to the pleasure of dental care while receiving nitrous gas, the root canal did not go well. I have a huge swollen cheek, a very sore mouth and I haven’t eaten solid food in over 48 hours.

However, I realize that these are truly first-world problems. My computer will be returned, good as new (thank the Lord for Time Machine), and my tooth will heal. In fact, I should consider myself lucky for having access to good dental care and insurance to help pay for it. And can I just say, I have the best husband in the world. He has not only been waiting on me (bringing me soup and ice cream) since my root canal, but he also let me completely wipe his computer clean so that I could install my Time Machine back-up on his computer while mine is in the shop. That’s love people.

~~~

I started this blog two years ago, in January of 2009. As it is now starting it’s third year, I have decided on a few changes. My original goal was to build recipes around my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box, and I’m still going to do that in the winter (as I am lucky enough to have access to a year-round CSA). However, in the summer my produce will be coming from Farmer’s Markets. I love going to the market, picking out the very best looking produce I can find and then feasting on it for the week. It’s fun to be able to talk the farmers that are actually growing the food. It feels very different then picking up a sealed box from behind a house in my neighborhood. Plus I can buy eggs, meat, poultry, bread, pasta and so much more while I am there. I like the idea of supporting smaller farms and purveyors so that is what I am going to do.

The second change is that I have joined a group of bloggers in a year-long Charcuterie challenge called Charcutepalooza (pronounced shar-coo-ta-pa-loo-za). Each month challenge co-creators Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy will present a new meat-curing challenge using a recipe from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michal Ruhlman. I have been interested in meat curing for a while, so this seems like the perfect excuse to jump in with both feet. I won’t be posting any of Ruhlman’s recipes here. But I will show method and also how I use my finished product.

The last change, which I think everyone will like, is a concerted effort at more frequent blogging. My goal is one new recipe a week, though at times a recipe post may be replaced with a photography post and I’m counting charcutepalooza posts towards my goal. They always say goals don’t mean anything if you don’t write them down, so, here I am, putting it out there for the world to see.

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So, even though I can’t eat solid food right now, that doesn’t mean I can’t get some started to eat in a couple of weeks. The first charcutepalooza challenge is Duck Proscuitto (page 54-55 of Ruhlman’s book). I actually tried this recipe a few years ago but I hung it to dry in the back of the fridge which is colder than recommended. It ended up a bit like duck jerky so I am hoping for better results this time.

Ruhlman’s recipe is for a plain duck prosciutto, cured in salt then sprinkled with pepper and hung to dry. After a bit of reading about the recipe, it seems that there is quite a bit of room for some creativity with the seasonings. I decided to make two versions, one cured in salt with five-spice seasoning and a second using Herbes de Provence. I probably should have done a plain version as a “control” group, but that is just not how I roll.

Five-Spice mix (peppercorn, cinnamon, star anise,
fennel seed and cloves) getting toasty

xxx

My version of Herbes De Provence: Dried thyme, sage,
fennel, rosemary, marjoram and lavender.

xxx

Each mix was combined with kosher salt. and then I used each to cover two pekin duck breasts completely.

After 24 hours, I removed each breast from the salt, rinsed them, dried them, then tied each in cheesecloth and hung them to dry. I wish that I had saved a little of each spice mix to rub on to the duck breasts after their overnight stay in the fridge, but I didn’t (I blame the vicodin).

For now, I am using my pantry/laundry room as my “curing chamber”. It is the only room in our house that doesn’t have any insulation and it is cold in there in the winter. At times, it may be a little colder then the optimum temperature of 50-60 degrees (during last weeks cold snap it was only 44 degrees in there) but I am hoping it will work.

Ruhlman says that drying should take eight days but Mrs. Wheelbarrow has had good luck with shooting for a 30% loss in moisture (which could take more or less time), so that is my plan as well. My duck breasts are fairly small so it will be interesting to see just how long they will take.

Maybe, just maybe, 2011 is going to turn out okay.

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Will Bake for Food (and Why it Matters)

Yesterday as I was running errands I found myself on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Seattle. As I stopped at a  stoplight I noticed an obviously homeless man waking down the sidewalk, talking to each car. I’m not in the habit of giving money to those that stand on street corners, sign in hand. I’ve heard too many stories of scams, and frankly, I don’t know what the money I give them would be spent on.

So as he approached my car, I knew that I wasn’t going to give him any money, but what I did have was half a sandwich (leftover from my own hastily eaten lunch in the car). I rolled down my window and asked he he would like to have it. His answer, “yes, ma’am, that would be great” followed by “God bless you”. The look of gratitude for half a sandwich (that frankly I may have just thrown away when I got home) astounded me. This man was truly hungry and truly grateful for the handout. And while he was grateful, I felt embarrassed that all I had given to him was half a sandwich. Even when times are hard, I have a home, a husband that loves me plenty to eat.

There are so many people in this city that don’t have enough to eat. This man obviously lives on the street (and luckily he had a pretty good coat) and maybe he has never been to Northwest Harvest. But lots of people that do visit Northwest Harvest look just like you and me. They live in houses or apartments and have families. Families that are hungry. For some reason, hard times have made it impossible for them to get enough food.

I’m so excited to be able to participate in the Will Bake for Food event tomorrow. Over 60 local food bloggers have signed up to make delicious baked goods. You bring non-perishable food (see below for a list of the most needed items) you get to trade for home-bakes goodies. And let me tell you. I have been seeing and hearing previews of what the other bloggers are making and trust me, you do not want to miss it. I’ll be bringing two of my specialties, Chocolate-caramel covered graham crackers and Igloos.

If you can’t make it, Northwest Harvest can always use monetary donations. But I for one have my food and diaper donation ready to go. There is no way I am missing out on getting some treats for myself.

xxx

Saturday, November 20th, 2010
10am-2pm (or until we run out!)

University Congregational Church
Ostrander Hall
4515 16th Ave. NE
Seattle, WA 98105

Need more details? Go here: www.willbakeforfood.com

xxx

What types of food does Northwest Harvest need?
Northwest Harvest can use any nonperishable food or monetary donations. If you prefer to donate food, select shelf-stable food with the lowest saturated fats and refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour). We buy white rice and beans in bulk, so we encourage you to donate other items. Here are some suggestions:

General food items:
Oatmeal
Whole grain pastas
Brown rice
Tomato products
Canned vegetables
Canned fruit, especially with low sugar (but not artificial sweeteners)
Canned fish or meat
Shelf-stable milk
Beef stew, chili and similar meals with low sugar and saturated fats

Infant and baby foods:
Baby formula
Canned milk
Infant cereal
Jars of baby food
Powdered or canned milk
We also accept baby diapers

About Me

I'm a personal chef living happily with her picky-eater (but willing to try anything) husband, neurotic black lab and a red heeler puppy.

I watch way too much TV and enjoy hip-hop more than any reasonable grown-up should.

I'm an avid swimmer and sometime triathlete (whenever I'm not nursing an injury).

Find out more about me here.

About This Blog

I started this blog at a time when my personal chef business was quite slow and I needed to keep my mind busy and my skills sharp. But now, business is booming so I've had to put the blog on the back burner. So, no new recipes for now, but please enjoy my archives.

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