I’m getting ready for this year to be over and headed to a New Years Party to welcome in the new one with my parents. I hadn’t planned on writing a blog today– but figured it seemed wrong to put it off till next year. Even if it is tomorrow.
It was this time last year I made it my New Years resolution to write this here blog. When I made the resolution, I had no idea what the year would hold, I just wanted to be a pastry chef and write about food. I didn’t know what I was going to write about or how to start–I thought about it another six months before I actually started.
I didn’t imagine that in the process of beginning it, I’d lose my Grandmother, My Grandfather and then– drop everything I knew, quit my job and come back home. But in the process (called “life” I’m learning)– I found something to write about. I learned that no matter how much I wanted to write about baking the perfect pie sometimes other things happen. Sometimes people die, sometimes our journey changes. It’s taught me to be an honest writer, to write about what I love, and then naturally enough, food will find it’s way into it.
I’ve never been one for resolutions, in fact this blog is the only thing to date I have any hard proof evidence of actually following through with. This year I just want to enjoy each day as it comes, spend lots of time with family and friends, travel, cook, read lots of good books, listen to good music, write and walk the dog more. I’m giving myself some options. I like options.
I wish all of you an excellent new year– filled with hope, love and inspiration.
Before the New Year came Christmas…
It was a long holiday, with a good amount of time spent in the kitchen and the latter part avoiding it. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break from the things we love.
I was given a big promotion from my Thanksgiving title of “Dessert Maker” and given the go ahead to make Christmas dinner. People often think that because I make desserts, that I only make desserts and don’t cook regular food or savory things. While at times, even to me this may seem to be my sweet reality—I do love to cook other things. I am just as content braising meat as I am baking a pie. As well as eating.
Traditionally my family doesn’t have the same Christmas dish every year. We mix it up and I like that. Also, it’s lets pressure– I don’t have to worry that my Granny’s Lasagna tastes the way she used to make it.
Even still, my family isn’t the easiest to please when it comes to food, they’re not sugar coaters, they don’t waste their time pretending to like something. They’re more than comfortable telling you they don’t like something and why. So, I decided on Paella.
My Uncle had googled it and researched it, when he arrived on Christmas day. I didn’t need to worry about filling my Granny’s shoes–just Google’s, the Food Network’s and any other recipe he’d manage to research before take off. He’d even watched the video I was using for the recipe.
It’s because of situations like this that I’ve become a Plan B sort of person. If Plan A doesn’t work, because often times it doesn’t– I have a plab B. I had braised a seven hour lamb on Christmas Eve, it had only taken 5 hours but it was perfect. If the paella was a fail–we’d have lamb. If not, we’d have both.
When the Paella turned out as hoped, I served them both– everyone wondered why I’d also served lamb. I hadn’t accounted for Plan C.
For Dessert, I made a Chocolate Pumpkin Caramel Torte with some leftover caramel I’d made earlier in the week and a jello dish my Granny famously made with most dinners. My Aunt and I have never been able to find the recipe she used, but after a bit of playing around I figured it out. Lime jello, heavy cream and canned pears, it’s a odd medley of things but it’s quite nice. I’m anxious to play around with it a bit more, but was happy to serve a bit of tradition.
Along with my dinner promotion. I was also assigned the position of Keebler Elf this year. Maker of cookies for all the land: friends, family and co-workers.
Here’s a secret about myself: cookies scare me. I love to eat them probably more than most things, but baking them is like the first day of high school all over again–terrifying and uncomfortable–filled with lots uncertainty and you don’t want your mom to leave. Plan B often comes in here, usually in the form of cake or pie. As a lover of cookies, I know when I’ve failed.
So this year, I decided to embrace my fear. After all, Keebler elves don’t make pies.
My Cookie List:
Earl Grey Short Breads
Salted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Gingerbread Men Sandwich Cookies
Lemon Sugar Cookies
I also made tea infused caramels and rockey road brownies.
I didn’t try anything too fancy, kept it simple and diverse. I made things I’d made before and hadn’t ruined. It seemed like a good tactic. I recounted bad cookie experiences and what went wrong and attempted not to repeat my mistakes.
I made some good cookies and I’d learned a thing or two. Life lessons and kitchen lessons are often interchangable.
In tribute to my fear of making cookies here is one of my favorite recipes, I’ve tweaked it a lot. First it’s incredible, you’ll have trouble saving any. Second: it never has to go in the oven– practically fool proof!
4oz sliced almonds
4oz chopped pecans
4oz peanut butter
6oz chocolate chip
1. Toast nuts and cool.
2. Melt chocolate with peanut butter and honey in double boiler.
4. Add nuts
5. Add Marshmallows
6.Using a spoon or scoop, scoop into ball on parchment lined cookie tray and leave in refridgerator till chilled. Keep refridgerated.
A busy couple of weeks have passed, and I’ve been sick for most of them.
But today is a relaxed, peaceful fall day, and my mom is back from London. We’ve missed her. I made us cinnamon rolls. We walked the dogs and talked about her trip. The orange and lemon trees are nearly ready–I can’t wait.
Before I left Portland, I decided I’d throw myself quickly into the swing of things once I was home…with none other than–a bake sale! An old family friend I hadn’t seen in years was having a crafts fair/bake sale at a climbing gym called MetalWorks. The event sounded fun, unconventional, which I like, and it was the chance to see some old friends.
I promised that this time I’d give my self an ample amount of time–I might even have some sort of schedule. I wouldn’t make this another last minute crazed baking marathon–a marathon I’m quite firmiliar with. While it genarally hails a successful, pleasing lot of goods– it usually involves a night without sleep, a day without eating, and a little bit of brain loss. The things we’d do for freshness.
All was going as planned, which is generally the point in my life where something goes astray.
My mother had just left to London to visit family for a couple of weeks. I was helping taking care of the place with my dad, doing the cooking, cleaning and watching their new Airedale puppy, an elephant of a dog, they named her Georgia after my granddad.
The same day I had planned to bake for the sale, I went to the doctors for what I thought was an ear infection, only to find out I had strep. Lucky me.
So I put off baking for the next few days. I didn’t think people would appreciate strep cakes. This would only leave two full days left to bake. Unless I decided to cancel–this was going to be a Marathon.
It took me those two full days and nights, I only got three hours of precious sleep, but I got everything done. A bit hungry and a big foggy, I was pleased with the results. I’d made chocolate chai cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream, rocky road topping, pumpkin cupcakes with a bourbon cream cheese frosting and candied pecan streusel, brown butter apple tarts, chocolate pecan tarts with a sweet curry crust, Earl Grey short breads, Earl Grey caramels, mustached gingerbread men, and finally, Meyer lemon sugar cookies.
After the usual hectic delivery, I arrived at the climbing gym, and spotted Lisa, our friend, right away. Although it had been almost 16 years, she looked exactly the same. Lisa shares the same birthday as my mom and is an amazing artist. I remembered her teaching me how to make things when I was young and our families lived across the street from each other. She was so creative in art and life. Her family had a pot belly big name Ziggy, who once bit me on the elbow. I’m still a little intimidated by pigs.
The craft fair was small, a good small. Lots of the people that came were members of the gym. They climbed all around us amid the tables where our goods were displayed. A few of my desserts were eaten on the spot, and it was nice to have the interaction of actually seeing people eat things I’d made, something I’d missed while working as a pastry chef down in the basement of a fancy restaurant. My dad who’d stopped by to see the sale and help pack up, made a nice spokesmodel sitting at the table shoving tarts down his pie hole–quality control.
Lisa’s daughters, Kira and Myka, were also at the sale–both talented like their mom. I put my table next to theirs. I had played with the oldest, Kira, when we were kids. One time when we were little I’d given her a piggy back ride across the street from her house to mine. I was five years older. My parents were having a yard sale, and I was wearing pale purple culottes. When I got to my side of the street with Kira on my back where the yard sale was and all the people were, my shorts, which were apparently a little big fell to my ankles, one of those splendidly mortifying moments that sticks with you–forever. Kira is in her twenties now and has a baby, and the youngest daughter, Myka, was only a year old the last time I saw her.
Myka was selling something I have never seen. At first, I hadn’t noticed what she was selling, because everything she makes is so small; however, I was genuinely surprised to find that she creates miniature food and jewelry… (and we are talking small small). Some of her pieces are tiny enough to pass through a standard straw. Myka’s work is, and this is not nearly doing it justice, absolutely amazing! Each of her pieces are so realisitic looking and clever, and her attention to detail is spot on. She can make anything from fish and chips to platters of raw meat. I wanted them all! A white china plate with a slice of strawberry cake was my pick. If you are a lover of food, or just want to have your hair blown back, check out Myka’s Etsy shop The Little Calorie Gallery. It is hard to believe she’s a teenager–wise and creative beyond her years.
It was a nice evening, great to see old friends and be around a bunch of creative people–I even ran into a friend from college. I was glad to be back into the swing of things, atleast for the most part.