Sunday, July 26, 2009
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I started thinking of this post the week after Christmas and planned on having it all ready to post for the New Year. I don't really make resolutions, but I came up with a few this year that I am really excited about. Of course, they all have to do with food and, since I came down with the stomach flu on New Year's Day, I have been avoiding the discussion of food these past two weeks. But my mouth and stomach are now back in unison and I am ready to discuss my plan for the year. (Except for Chinese food--can't quite do Chinese yet.)
I love to cook, but never seem to have the time. This year I decided I would make a resolution to guarantee I would do some of the things I have been wanting to try my hand at.
First on my list is to make sourdough bread. It is one of my favorite breads and I have wanted to try my hand at it for a few years now. I think of sourdough like cheese (a good strong cheese). There is a certain acquired taste involved. As you get used to it, you want it stronger and stronger. I still remember the first time Grandma S. served me sourdough French toast. I was probably around eleven years old, and you have to understand that French toast is probably my favorite breakfast food. So of course I was excited when it was suggested that we have it for breakfast. I was not, however, warned about this new variety. My poor little taste buds. They went into shock as I politely finished what was on my plate. (Although knowing me it was probably a crinkled nose followed by a death glare from Mom if I made any comments or faces about what was on my plate.) Well, it's been a few years and now I think the idea of making French toast out of sourdough is ingenious. I love it. I am really hoping I can make a good strong sourdough, like the kind they make in San Fransico.
I made the mistake of looking through a bread cookbook while feeling nauseated with the flu, and subsequently had a nightmare about bread the same night. There's nothing like trying to escape people shoving loaves of ciabatta and other varieties of gourmet breads at you. Needless to say, I think this first resolution will take a few months to come to fruition.
Tempering Chocolate. I've heard of it before, but this Christmas I found three different recipes that called for the process. It made me do a little research and I really want to try and perfect this technique. I'm hoping it will do wonders for my truffles this year.
And finally my blow torch. Technically it's called a kitchen torch, but I think blow torch has a much nicer ring to it. I own one of these. It was a Christmas present from Grandma S. a few years back and it has done nothing but sit in its box. I occasionally take it out and ponder all the creations I could make with it, but then I place it back for another year of abandonment. But not this year! I am going to fire that bad boy up and make something wonderful. Crème brûlée is the most obvious choice, but there will be more. Alternate solutions are lighting candles, or, with this cold weather we are having, I could keep it handy in case my car door freezes shut. Oooh...the plotting begins.....
So those are my resolutions thus far. Now all I need to do is find taste-testers.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Traditions. These are what make the holidays seem so festive. It doesn't seem like Christmas unless we...
Over the years our family traditions have changed, and this year was no exception. Hectic work schedules caused us to want to simplify things, and yet this Christmas will hold some wonderful memories.
Coming from Washington, one tradition we refuse to give up is a real Christmas tree. The first Sunday after Thanksgiving, Mom, Dad and I pile into the car, head to Lowe's *cringe* and pick out our tree. Dad scrutinizes the trees while Mom and I shiver in the cold saying "It doesn't have to be perfect. Remember the book?". And he inevitably answers, "Yes, but let's just look at one more..." This year Dad left on a two week trip to Vietnam and Nepal right after Thanksgiving. Mom and I were a little unsure of ourselves, but we both considered it an adventure. We walked into the store and began our search. The first tree we picked up looked pretty good, the trunk and top were straight and there were no large gaps. It took about two minutes to figure that out, but that didn't seem long enough. What else should we be looking for? Dad always looks at the tree longer than this. Plus, we couldn't take the first tree we saw. We just couldn't. So we went and picked up a couple more trees, twirled them and put them back. Our hands were numb. The trees were wet and had soaked through the gloves we were wearing. There's nothing like cold hands to speed up the decision making. We deliberated and decided to go with the first one. It was a success.
Chicago has a favorite chocolatier. Her name is Fannie Mae. For the life of me, I have never understood why anyone would want to buy chocolate from someone named Fannie, but hey, this is the Midwest. They also think Wisconsin produces real cheese. But that's a side thought. A few years ago a See's Candies opened in Downer's Grove. We no longer had to rely on Grandpa and Grandma Sattler to send us a pound of Nuts and Chews at Christmas. We could go pick out our own! Our annual trip began with breakfast at Egg'lectic Café. We were sitting having a lovely meal when something dropped. We looked over and saw a bowl of hollandaise splattered on the floor about three feet away, trailing right up to our table. "It's all up your back!". People were starting to head towards Dad, napkins in hand to wipe up the splatter that had gone clear up to his hair. We couldn't stop laughing. Mostly because we kept thinking of Patti Eshagpoor and her infectious laugh, and wishing she were there to witness the fiasco. I was just relieved because I had almost sat in that seat. After our eventful breakfast we headed to pick out our chocolates. The hollandaise was forgotten as we picked our pound of chocolates. Dad was especially happy because See's has this rule. You can sample as many chocolates as you like, as long as you eat them in the store. The closer we get to the store, the more frequently he repeats "Now don't forget to eat your samples". This was definitely Christmas trip we will always remember. It is the year we coined the phrase 'Happy Hollandaise'. If you think it's funny, I came up with that one. If not, it can easily be passed off as one of Dad's jokes.
Posted by Ashley at 10:06 PM
Friday, December 12, 2008
I really wanted to start this blog before Christmas. It is one of my favorite times of year, and I love to share my excitement. But then the busyness of the season began, so here are the highlights of December...
I kicked off December with an excursion downtown to a new favorite restaurant, Milk&Honey Café and then to the Holiday Renegade Craft Fair with two friends. I had Orange Brioche French Toast on my mind. Just saying it makes my mouth water. It was so light with just a hint of orange flavor. Delightful.
Later in the week I took the train downtown with a friend to see the Christkindlemarket in Daley Plaza. Apparently it is quite authentic and comparable to real German markets. I wouldn't know. This was only my second year to go down. Something about it reminds me of Grandpa and Grandma Burnson. They have a lot of those wooden windmills like the one on GP&GM's coffee table--the ones you light a candle under and hope it doesn't go up in flames watch it spin and the people go 'round. I used to love that. They also have a lot of beer steins like the ones in GP's study. I think they would enjoy this market.
In true Chicago fashion, it was so cold! And windy! Thankfully we both remembered to buy HotHands * this year, which kept our hands nice and toasty. The rest of my body was pretty numb though. After we finished at the market, we went a few blocks away to look at the windows at Macy's. It was fun to see them, but by that time we were freezing and they weren't good enough to stand around and look at. We hurried back to the station, of course stopping to get a hot chocolate from Starbucks on the way.
Well, I'll stop here for now. Hopefully pictures will come with this. I don't think I am doing it right though.
*Check this link, tell me what you think 'body areas' are...
Posted by Ashley at 10:52 PM