Friday, August 31, 2007

Cake Decorating Success!!

I did it! I decorated a cake! It even has flowers! This was truly a labor of love and it took lots of practice outside of class. I struggle with the rose and the mum. I didn't even attempt the primrose, but I don't think it will be that hard. I'll add some leaves next time. Overall, not too shabby for Wilton II.

This is the second time I've taken the Wilton series. The first time I took it in Cleveland, it just didn't take. My current teacher, Lori, is fabulous. She's really patient and explains things in an easy to understand manner. It also helps that the class is offered at her store, so she's knowledgeable about supplies and can just walk over to a shelf, pick something up and use it as a teaching aid. If you want to learn cake decorating in Chicago, I highly recommend Cake Walk Chicago!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Certainly not the Orient Express

It took almost 30 minutes to eat dinner. It's very hard to chew on one side of your mouth with the food pushed to the very back (I had two teeth extracted). I didn't even finish the broccolini. The thought of one of those floret pieces ending up wedged in stitches was too much.

I tried my hand at Asian flavors again. I had edamame with sesame oil, marinated tuna (Chinese five-spice powder, ginger, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce and sesame oil) and broccolini. I infused canola oil with lemon zest, red pepper flake, garlic and ginger and drizzled that over the broccolini. Seasoned brown rice, rounded out the meal.

I'm trying to work on my plating skills, so although it's just me, I put everything on a platter. I think I'll get a digital camera for my birthday so I can take better pictures! The camera phone isn't made for this :-)

I really enjoyed the flavors and I'm improving the meal each time I make it. Eating it was an experience!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Sunday, I tried to pull out all the stops:
  • Grilled chicken breasts with pesto
  • Sauteed spinach with mushrooms and onion
  • Rosemary focaccia
  • Tiramisu
I was on my feet for five hours (I could never work in a restaurant.) I had mixed results. The chicken was quite easy -- brine, season, grill and smear. In fact, I've come with about 10 different "flavors" of chicken breast using the same preparation method.

The spinach was relatively easy. The hardest part is getting the water out of it. (I used chopped frozen.) I was a little frustrated by the Trader Joe's sliced baby bella mushrooms because they came with a ton of dirt.
The focaccia was too die for! I have to remember to take a picture the next time I make it. I used Alton Brown's recipe in I'm Just Here for More Food. Of course I didn't realize there were recipe errors until after I made it for the first time.

The tiramisu was the disappointment! I followed the Williams-Sonoma recipe -- too much cream. I lost the taste of the marscapone. I also have vowed to layer the dish in a square pan. I love my trifle bowl, but I don't think it keeps tiramisu well.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Lentils & Lunch

I love international flavors. What I love even more is getting to use a favorite piece of equipment. I got to break out the tagine and grill pan.; it was all about Morocco.

I used the tagine to rock lentils with preserved lemon, onion and oil cured olives. I would've braised the chicken in the tagine as well if I hadn't been using boneless skinless breasts. I brined them and fired them on the grill pan. Tonight's spices included turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, paprika, cumin and Cayenne. Parsley and cilantro rounded out the seasoning. If you want a good short cut, Williams-Sonoma has a wonderful tagine spice mix.

Dinner was excellent. I usually add a salad with fried Halloumi, but this was a spur of the moment decision. I packed up the leftovers in five containers for lunch this week. Life is good.

Tools of the trade:

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Joy of Comfort Food

Yesterday was a pretty hectic day at work. I made it home early enough to cook. My weapons of choice? Shepherd's pie and cream of broccoli soup. The food was comforting to make and comforting to eat.

I don't make my shepherd's pie from leftovers. I use fresh mushrooms and carrots and frozen corn and peas. I wish there was a way for the veggies to keep their bright colors, especially the peas. It's odd, but I prefer smoother mashed potatoes in this dish, so I make them in the Kitchen Aid. I splurged and used heavy cream. Fresh thyme, rosemary and sage keep it from tasting like the mush from elementary school days.

It's amazing how good comfort food can make you feel. The day was just a little bit better because I had something warm and gooey. Even during the blazing heat of summer.