Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daring Bakers August

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Here is mine:

This was a good challenge for me because as I have said earlier, layer cakes are not my thing. The torte is a wildy rich dessert and on top are supposed to be caramel wedges. They ended up being soggy and gross and a dreadful topping to this decadence. Oh well. I don't know what I did wrong, but since it dragged me away from reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I guess I rushed it. Bummer. It would have been just fine without them and more sprinkled hazelnuts on top. I just really wanted to like the caramel mess even though for sure it was a failure. The torte turned out well, but best served at room temperature. I had to keep it in the fridge because it has just been too warm here for a cake to live on the table.

All I've got to say about this one is 10 EGGS?!? The recipe called for 10 eggs. Um. I'm having a cholesterol test tomorrow and it is possible that this cake alone has put me into a danger zone. This was the type of cake that you could only have a thin slice of. However, if you have several thin slices over a week you are in trouble. I am in trouble.
How to resist such a thing?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sloth and Chocolate

Unemployment is interesting. Not a single day has gone by without eating chocolate. I really believed that I would spend every morning in yoga class and every afternoon in the kitchen. Instead I have spent every morning and afternoon on the couch.

Since I missed last month's Daring Baker's challenge, I thought I would make up for it with these Milano cookies. I actually forced myself to get up and make these. The recipe came from the food network and they turned out ok. Not marvelous like I was expecting, but ok. What I liked about them is the orange rind in the chocolate and the lemon oil in the cookie dough. I expected them to be more crunchy but mine turned out too soft. Ah well. It was a good try.

Even if I don't particularly love my baking I tend to eat it anyway. Let me tell you, I ate a ton of these. It seemed like a good idea to eat chocolate while laying on the couch and watching Days of Our Lives. The soap was rather unsatisfying because I don't know all the new characters and the same couple that always has their children kidnapped were dealing with that again. Hmm. I watched it everyday last week anyway.

I have to say that it's not that I am sad I left the office I was in but I feel rather sad in general. It feels like I have wasted a colossal amount of time there. Looking back I believe I could have been catatonic at that job and it wouldn't have mattered. I have been counseled on this topic by many friends and luckily they have reminded me that it's important to focus on the bottom line: my paycheck and ability to support myself. You can't rely on your boss to tell you that you are doing an excellent job or not, you have to tell yourself. I think it has really hit me hard that this office and all my jobs after college really have been the definition of underemployment. I tried to make it different at this one because it seemed like what I was doing really did matter sometimes but it didn't. It wasn't worth the effort. These thoughts are clouding my mind lately and I can't seem to make it go away. I can't wait until this is part of the past and the cast of characters are only in mind for a comedic memoir.

One extraordinary thing that happened once I gave my notice was that people started to really talk to me. It seemed as though many people needed to express their discontent with the office and their personal lives. It was easy to choose me as the venting release because I was leaving. I heard many things about how the job just wasn't for them and they felt stuck. I heard one person admit that they are too comfortable and while they would like to leave and try new things they don't have the courage. They would rather stick with what they know even if they don't like it. I heard complaints about different people and the general sense of having no real purpose there and no sense of accomplishment. The most common problem was the fact that people didn't tell you that you were doing a good job. They only told you about the problems.

It was overwhelming and I was moved a couple times. How does one un-stick themselves from an unhappy situation? Is it part of adulthood to merely get through for that paycheck and always feel underemployed and unappreciated? On the other hand I heard a few people talk about how happy they were with their salary and benefits and how I should look into other jobs within this department for the future. Doubtful. It was a supremely weird couple of weeks.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Wind Changes Direction

I am moving. It's harder than I thought. I am currently sitting among piles and piles of clothes, papers, books, and dust. I am remembering everything that I like about Seattle and I am becoming afraid of being far away from this life I made.

What were all the good things that I will miss?

having my own kitchen
not running into people I didn't want to see
seeing mountains instead
freedom, independence
not needing to drive
pale ale
local fruit
Alaskan salmon
Greenlake walks
best yoga studio
The White Horse Bar
the Macrina Bakery
the Sound
pale pink orange roses by my front door

Top five lessons learned in Seattle:

5) Your co-workers are generally not your friends. Don't get too involved with them.

4) Beware of drama.

3) Don't ever talk to womanizers or any sexist idiot that is condescending or constantly flirtatious. This includes your boss.

2) Yoga is the secret to health and well being.

1) Sunshine is essential.

It was two years of life lessons that I hope I have grown from. Now I go home to regroup. It is something both scary and necessary. I hope it means that I will grow more and find my way back to creativity and a clearer path ahead.

Best dish I made while living here: Naleshniki with meat (explanation later) and fig pie with pistachio crust. Or maybe the Napoleon. Or the fig raspberry pie with bay leaves and thyme. Hmmm.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Little Something Sweet

This is a Honey Cake which is traditionally made for Chanukah, but delicious all the time. My grandma makes this cake often and I used her recipe for this one. It looks nothing like hers and didn't taste like hers either, but was good. Something was missing and I don't know what. She thinks that I didn't put enough black tea in it or enough honey.

It was ok for a first try, but I miss the taste of hers. I miss everything she makes.

I feel homesick today which isn't something I have felt much since moving to Seattle. I used to just miss certain things about home but never wanted to go back to live. Today I feel the strange need to go home and it is overwhelming.

The thing is that I miss my grandma. I want to go home and hang out with her right now. I called her today but she didn't answer. Later on I saw that she called me back but somehow I missed it. Then I tried her again but she turned her phone off and was probably asleep. I called my dad too but amazingly my parents are going to a tango lesson tonight with friends they made at the wedding. They didn't have time to talk to me and usually I have to tell them that I need to get off the phone. Geez. It's a lonely Saturday night for me and that situation calls for a little something sweet.

When I was visiting home recently I had a very serious heart to heart with my grandma. She is worried about my mom's incredibly high blood pressure and smoking habit. She said that they often get into screaming matches that make her cry. My mom's perspective on this is that it's good for them to passionately argue because it keeps my grandma feisty, but hearing her side of the story wouldn't make that the case. Grandma started to cry when she was telling me about how she kicked my mom out of her apartment for saying mean things to her. It was almost funny because she told my mom not to come back to her home but she lives downstairs so it's impossible and ridiculous. Still the whole conversation brought tears to my eyes and I try never, ever to cry in front of her.

Out of nowhere she says: "Hey. How bout little ice cream? I tink we gonna have little someting sveet. Better sveet than sour."

As usual she is right about everything. A minute later we are eating ice cream and laughing. It's incredible how a little bit of sweet can lift your spirit.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thank you, Julie

I was lucky enough to get a free ticket to see this movie early. I met Julie Powell at a book signing in Seattle two weeks ago and she was giving tickets away. Julie Powell inspired me to write this blog. Granted I had spent nearly every Sunday in a cafe writing in a journal, but it didn't have the same sense of accomplishment that this does.

Something that is brought up in the movie is how blogging is essentially narcissistic. Certainly I don't need to be more self involved than I already am but I do like this project. It's funny though, I realize that I write this because I think that I am interesting and some of my writing is worth reading. Does that make me a complete narcissist? Maybe it's just healthy to have projects that people can comment on and give you advice? I don't know, but I do like it. Recently a friend put up a comment about layer cakes that was super helpful and will come in handy this weekend...

When I met Julie I asked her what she thought the best way to market a blog is and she said that she didn't have to do much of that. People found her because she was doing it at a time when there weren't many out there. Now everyone wants everyone else to know what they think about every little thing. I don't really take the time to check out as much as I would like and then again I find that I just don't care about every damn blog I come across. It's so selfish that I expect people to read mine!

There are a couple food related blogs that I check on from time to time for fun and inspiration. If you can recommend some food/family/art/travel blogs I would look into it. On the flip side I often try recipes online that are recommended, or have a bunch of good comments on them and then it turns out awful. Just because a lot of good comments are on something doesn't make it good. Even the Daring Bakers let me down last month because one of the challenges was to make marshmallow cookies. Yuck. That doesn't interest me at all.

In this movie they do such a nice job of showing how important Julia Child's book was to her and how important Julie Powell's blog was to her. The fact that other people got involved and enjoyed the product was a bonus. I loved the back and forth and the beautiful idea of achieving your goals in whatever medium suits you best.

I really enjoyed the movie and for whatever its worth, would totally recommend it. It was much better than I thought it would be and I appreciated the glimpse into Julia Child's life.

I will definitely be trying Julia's boeuf bourguignon recipe soon.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kitchen Experiments

So sometimes cooking isn't my forte. I much prefer baking as I find it to be a relaxing fun and often delicious hobby. However, I always want to try new things and I constantly find recipes that I think are worth a try. Occasionally an idea pops into my head of something I haven't tried before and I must go for it regardless of expense or time involved. Usually I do pretty well, this time not so much.

This is a pan fried (mistake) swordfish fillet with rice pilaf and sauteed asparagus. It sounds good but the pan fry idea was all wrong. The taste was ok as I put white wine, paprika, and lemon juice on it but the texture was mushy. It was bordering on gross for me but I ate it anyway since it was a healthy meal. This was a good learning experience. The fish smell in the house was tremendous and lasted for about a week. I definitely have to buy a grill.

Once I got it into my head to cook duck. I found a recipe for duck confit with sweet potato gnocchi and Swiss chard. Now that ended up a success. The smell was nice, the meat was juicy, and the taste was excellent. Granted this was a heavy fat laden meal so maybe that is why I liked it so much. The gnocchi needed some work but for a first try I was pleased. The whole meal cost around $30 to make but I fed 3 people with it. If we ate it at a restaurant it would have been $30 each.

I saved the bones from the duck and made a stock with it thinking that I would avoid waste. I found a recipe for soup with duck stock. I called it Duck Duck Soup. It required quite a lot of vegetables and creme fraiche. I worked on this for a long time and was very excited to make the most use out of the duck but then it all went in the garbage. It was terrible bland and just plain yuck. Oh well.

Still it's good to try new things. Failure or not.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Disaster Cake

I actually made this mess for a birthday. It was my second try too. While I was supposed to have made a White Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake, I really made what my Grandma would call a "moosh mahsh." Disaster.

Layer cakes are a huge challenge for me. They always come out lopsided or I lose a bunch of it when I take it out of the pan. There never seem to be enough cream for the outside and then I never know if I should refrigerate or not. I like them a lot and they are certainly a good challenge so hopefully I'll get better at this one of these days.