Friday, February 27, 2009

the little things in life

haven't you noticed that it isn't the major things that happen that will affect you the most?  it seems to me that it is always the little things that will make you react the strongest.  it's amazing how your temper can flare or your patience can evaporate over the most trifling of details.  on the other hand, sometimes, the most inane occurrences can get you out of your seat for a victory dance.  

sad but true, this is my life.  honestly, there is nothing fun about working in a busy restaurant.  it is noisy, stressful (at times), physical (lots of lugging and lifting), and at times, dangerous.  in performing restaurant work, you may cut yourself and may need medical attention.  floors can be greasy or wet and falls become inevitable.  most commonly, you will get burned.  funny thing about stoves and ovens, they get hot and so do the metal pans you use with them.  especially if you are also lifting and lugging them around a crowded and busy kitchen.  but even so, i really can't imagine what else i would do if i didn't bake for a living.  nicks and burns aside, this is what works for me.  

did i mention the part about getting up at 3am 4 out of 5 days a week.  sad but true, i get up willingly at 3am most days and even earlier if necessary.  with that in mind, you would think that the one morning of my workweek that allows me to sleep in until 5 would be my favorite.  it's not, there is nothing worse than walking in to a busy and hectic restaurant that is in full swing for the day when you normally arrive hours before this to silence and calm.  but the chance to sleep...hey, sleep is over rated!  isn't it???today, my usual late day, i had the chance to go to work early.  an opportunity to beat the rush and get to work before the rest of the crew and the deliveries arrived.  this thought excited me.  i could get to work at 4, leave at 12 and go to the gym and ... you get the picture.  it's the little things, and this is my life.  gotta love it, me the non-morning person excited about rolling out of bed at 3am and baking pies.  

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Fudgy Valentine-2/28/09

even though i am a creature of comfort, i enjoy challenges too.  it seems that i get bored easily.  this combination generally has me multitasking to get through things as quickly as possible so i can move onto new things.  one of the things i find myself doing is following food/baking blogs to see what people are up to in the culinary world.  this habit ultimately led me to the daring bakers, a baking forum that holds a monthly baking challenge.  i just had to join.  what better way to entertain myself, stave off the boredom and do something i enjoy.  of course, my family gets the benefit of a freshly baked dessert.  when the challenge for february was announced, it would be my first to participate in; i was off and running to get started.

The February 2009 Challenge is hosted by Wendy 
of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad~Baker&Chef.  
We havechosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by 
Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm
and a Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe from Wendy as 
the challenge.

this month's recipe comes from the book, Chef Wan's
Sweet Treats and it is available on amazon, follow the link above to see it.

since the theme was valentine's day, darry and i decided to make a nice valentine's day dinner for the girls and their dates; a fancy dinner for 6 at chez huntsman.  on the menu was a lovely roasted beef tenderloin, mushroom sauce, scalloped potatoes and green beans almondine.  very classic, very simple and very tasty!  the night before, i baked off the cakes, made the sauce and froze the ice cream.  

before i could do anything, i had to decide on a chocolate to use in the flourless chocolate valentino cake.  if you've shopped for chocolate recently then you know that it can be a challenge to choose from the many types available.  i looked at so many.  some were flavored with caramel, nuts, coffee or chili.  others had cacao contents of 65-80% making them dark and bitter.  then there was white and milk chocolates.  oh, the choices...keep in mind, i haven't gone anywhere but the local grocery store, never mind the internet where i could have found so much more.  in the end, i made a trip to an international grocery store in search of ibarra, a mexican chocolate.  they did not have it so i chose corona, a columbian chocolate that is flavored with cinnamon and cloves.  if you've ever seen ibarra, then you are familiar with the grainy-sugary consistency of the chocolate.  corona is much the same but it does not have the almonds that ibarra has.  in the end, the chocolate gave the cake a mild flavor, not too dark and nicely fudgy with a slightly spicy finish.  if i ever use this recipe again, i will add sugar to the egg whites to stabilize them and allow them to fold in to the batter more smoothly.  for visual impact, i baked the batter in individual hearts and using the instant read thermometer did not help.  next time, i will go by feel instead-25 years of experience must be good for something.  

all of the ingredients measured out on the counter, ready to be made into little heart shaped cakes.

for the ice cream, i chose to make a coconut milk ice cream.  it was simple to put together and it was a delicious match for the chocolate.  to complete the dish, i made a syrup from both sweet and sour cherries with a little sugar and cinnamon to punch up the flavors.  cherries and cinnamon compliment each other very nicely and if you combine that with chocolate and coconut-WOW!!! for visual purposes, i added a little purchased caramel sauce so i could do some sauce painting.  

we ate well; from start to finish, all was savored and enjoyed.  at the end of the meal, there was a large stack of dirty plates but not many left overs.  it was fun to use my training to entertain the family. even better was having it so well received.  so bring on the next challenge, i'm ready for just about anything.  look for my next culinary adventure on march 14, when i post my first challenge with the other forum i joined-you want pies with that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

free at last

in 1997, we opened a small wholesale bakery.  it was a lot of work but it was a great little business.  we  were the only wholesale biscotti bakery in the area.  we quickly picked up about 40 clients around town and a few out of the area that we shipped product to.  in 1999, we expanded to include a second location, a retail bakery cafe.  in 2002, we dumped the first location and just concentrated on retail, no more deliveries or wholesale accounts  we were doing great for the time being, then the economy began to tank.  it was dying a slow death and it was taking businesses like ours with it.  in 2004, we sold the contents of the business to the owner of the location and walked away.  we both had jobs with other companies and with reluctance, we set about paying back the loan on the business we no longer had.  it wasn't easy and the bank made it worse.  when we told them that the $1600 monthly payment was unmanageable, they advised us to "just make the payments..."  we were finally able to negotiate a second loan with them and that brought the payments to $460 a month.  not an easy sum to part with, but better than the previous payment.  today, i paid off the loan!!!  

free at last, what a wonderful feeling.  and no, i will never do business with that bank again.  their customer service sucks and they were not the least bit supportive when we honestly told them we were going under and needed to renegotiate the loan.  so now, it's on to new challenges and paying new bills.  one kid in college and another waiting in the wings.  one new car and one that will eventually need to be repaired or replaced.  one old house needing lots of work.   the list goes on and we go to work...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

wish list

it's thursday, again.  the days are flying by and soon it will be spring.  actually it is only 29 days until spring.  here's to hoping the change in seasons also means changes for me.  my wish list, 

1.  another book deal
2.  a bountiful garden
3.  minor downsizing in the waist department

it's not a large wish list, just an honest one.  possibly, a realistic wish list.  stay tuned for the results!  another reason to stay in touch, my first challenge for the daring bakers will be posted here on the 28th.  i'm so excited about it, it was a lot of fun to do. 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

turning back the clock

all of my life, i have always felt like i needed to be responsible.  seems my mother did a good job of drilling the sense of responsibility into me.  combine that with stray cats and it is a good chance i will befriend them if i can.  when a neighbor moved out last summer, she left behind at least two cats.  we did not realize that the desperate little cat that was howling outside in our carport was one of them until another neighbor informed us.  shortly after that first starved cat showed up, another arrived.  one was friendly, one was not.  both were hungry and abandoned and we couldn't help but feed them.    we quickly grew attached to them, and they were more than happy to stay out in our carport sleeping on the cars or in the little bed that darry made for them.   it was also obvious just how attached to each other they were.  they would follow darry and sugarbear every time they went for a walk.   it was a common sight to see the little parade of man, dog and cats strolling down the street.  the neighbors would watch shaking heads and laughing as the procession passed.  those two cats were a sight to see;  they would bump heads with tails entwined as they walked together.  

as time passed, we noticed that patches was spending much of the time elsewhere, only appearing for meals in the evening while lubie remained with us in the yard most of the time.  after a while, patches stopped coming altogether and we hoped that she had been taken in by whom ever was keeping her the rest of the time.  we were sad to see her go, so was lubie; she missed her buddy a great deal.  we encouraged lubie to stay with us.  we made sure she was well fed and even provided her with a heated bed that was enclosed so she could stay warm as the weather grew cold.  still, we worried about her following the dog for walks and we even took to sneaking out so she wouldn't follow us.  our little timid friend had grown to trust us and would greet us when we arrived home and loved to follow us for walks because she had adopted us and figured we would take care of her.  

when we began seeing the coyote in the neighborhood, we never thought about the safety of the cat.  he didn't hang around long and didn't seem like much more than a fluke visitor.  at the time, we didn't really notice the decline in cats or rabbits either.  but that coyote was watching lubie and after a while, he knew where to find her.  we had been having bitter cold weather and it was necessary to bring lubie indoors.  she couldn't mingle with our other cats and she had to stay in the basement but that was okay.  she found a warm spot and made it hers, content to stay inside with a litterbox and avoid the frigid cold.  then the weather suddenly warmed and lubie wanted to return to the outdoors.  the coyote was watching and he saw her.  late last saturday, alix and tanner went outside and the cat seemed very spooked; they weren't aware the coyote was watching.  that was the last time any of us saw her.  we can only hope it was quick and that she didn't suffer too much.

lubie on the left and patches on the right.  they would love on each other continuously.

such sweet kitties

two best friends, both victims of an irresponsible pet owner and the over population of coyotes.

my favorite picture of lubie, sitting beside the herb garden.  most likely, she was watching the songbirds since she was quite the hunter.  even though i know that i did what i could for her, i still feel like i should have done more.  perhaps if i had let her in that night or if i had taken her to the shelter when we realized that she had been abandoned.  but as they say, hindsight is always 20-20 vision and there isn't anything i can do now.  but if i ever see that coyote... he better not be standing in the road when i am driving and who knows, maybe we will get a gun.  after all, it is open season on coyotes in tennessee and it is perfectly legal for us to kill one any time and any place.  but any one that knows us also knows that we could never do that, but there are people who would and we may just call them...

Monday, February 9, 2009

dressed to the nines

it's prom season.  or perhaps i should say prom dress shopping season.  that sound you heard was the collective groan of moms everywhere reliving the experience of shopping for "the" perfect dress with a teenager.  actually, for me, this time around it has been easier.  the first time, when alix needed a dress for her first trip to the prom, she tried on everything in every store and could not find "the" dress.  as a matter of fact, the prom was less than 3 weeks away and she was still looking.  we went on a trip to the mall as a last ditch effort.  every store had relegated the dresses to the clearance racks and what was left was a:  ugly   b:  huge, only the large sizes were left  and c:  damaged from so many girls pawing through them and trying them on.  we almost gave up hope but gathered up a collection and trudged on to the dressing room.  the first pick, a handkerchief hemmed-tea length dress in bright fuchsia.  go ahead, say yuck real loud, but believe it or not, it looked great on her and it ended up being "the" dress.  the fact that it ended up costing $17 did not hurt either.  the next year, alix found a dress in february and we bought it at full price, i did not go shopping with her but i did go with her to buy it.

when devon told me, or i should say alix told me that devon was asked to the prom, i was a little nervous.  she is so much pickier than alix and i knew this would be tough.  i was very pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  we have only been in two stores and it looks as if we are settled on the dress.  it has been somewhat painless and i am hoping that the rest of the outfit comes as easily.  

some day, all of this practice will come in handy.  with two daughters, we will probably have to plan two weddings which will require at least two dresses per event-one for each of them.  sounds like double the fun doesn't it.  let's not even get into the mother of the bride dresses.  now that sound you just heard, that was me hitting the floor.  i just can't even give that a thought right now!