Friday, June 30, 2006

Cherry Pie

Thanks to Moon, Stars, and Paper for showing me an easy way to pit a cherry for without a trip to Williams-Sonoma. I never would have thought to use a paper clip, but it worked like a charm!

I have been gorging myself on bing cherries for the past three weeks or so, and at the cheap price of $1.89 per pound, why not? So facing an excess of cherries and a growing disdain for them, I decided to mix it up with a cherry pie I made a butter-rich pie dough from the Joy of Cooking and lined four tartlett shells.

(I couldn't help but think of Frenchy as I made these tartletts. Last year we produced a fresh new tart every day, and he taught me a technique for a slightly higher edge around the tart to contain the filling. I also thought of him while seeding the cherries- he would have used every one, despite any sign of spoilage. He was a master of the craft of pastry, but it sickens me when I think of how he would scrape mold off a product and then serve it.)

The cherries were mixed with cornstarch, sugar and lemon juice and spooned into the prepared shells. They came out hot and steamy, crisp and buttery, melt-in-your-mouth pass-me-another-piece good.

I had a lot of pie dough leftover, so I think apricot is next. A quick word on pie dough- It's really not hard to make a tender flaky pie dough. It is hard, however, to describe in words how the dough should look and feel. The keys are- don't overmix, and don't add too much water. At first it will seem to be falling apart. Press it once or twice and it should come together. Working a pie dough is more like pressing it together rather than kneading it. Good Luck!

Cherry Pie

For the dough:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 sticks butter (cold)
1/4 cup shortening (cold)
About 1/3 cup cold water

1. Mix together flour, sugar and salt with a fork in a medium sized bowl.
2. Cut the butter into small pieces and toss into the flour. Using the tips of your fingers, squeeze the butter into the flour, breaking up the butter into pea sized pieces. Add the shortening and delicately break it up with your fingers into pea-sized amounts. Gently rub the flour between your hands, picking out any large bits of butter and squashing them. The flour will take on a lovely almond colour.
3. Add half the water and mix it in with a fork. Add the rest of the water a tb at a time, stirring gently with a fork.
4. Stick your hands into the bowl and press the mess together until it forms a ball. It will be crumbly and that's ok. If it won't come together, then add a tb more of water. Remember that this stage is where a lot of people mess it up. Don't use too much water!
5. Refridgerate the dough for at least 1 hour before attempting to roll it out. Lightly dust your pans and work surface with flour and roll out the dough to about 1/8 of an inch. Fold in half and place overtop of the pan. Gently lift the edges with your left hand and press the dough into the crevices with your right index finger. (If you want a raised edge, pinch the dough at the edge of the pan about 1/2 inch higher than the pan.) Trim off excess.
6. There is enough dough for 1 closed pie, 2 open-faced pies, or 8 tartletts.

For the filling

5 cups bing cherries, pitted
3/4 cup sugar
2 tb cornstarch
1 tb lemon juice
2 tb water

1. Mix all filling ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Spoon filling into prepared pans.

Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 for an additional 30 minutes. Pay attention to the pies, as ovens vary, and some pies will cook faster than others due to the oven and the thickness of the dough.

Recipe adapted from The JOy Of Cooking
(Best cookbook ever!!!)

Weekend Cat Blogging 56

Yes, that is Gordon Ramsey on the TV.

Well, it's the weekend and it's kitty time again. Tiggy has finally discovered the kitchen, she will lie on the floor while I'm cooking, or step up on the back of the couch and put her paws on the mantle that overlooks the living room. She will perch there, watching me wash dishes or cook. I was wondering when she would get the courage to jump up there, and then onto the kitchen counter.... and then yesterday G saw her standing on the counter, licking my cereal bowl. I'll try to train her out of it... I don't like the idea of kitty-litter paws on my kitchen counter!

For more kitties, go to masak-masak.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Baked Potato Soup

G is away on a another business trip (sigh) and so it is soup night again here in Torrance. Tonight I'm making Baked Potato soup, for three reasons: 1. Soup is easy for one person. 2. I'm Irish, so potatoes are my comfort food. 3. G isn't here, so I can cook BACON!!

And the only hard part about this soup is resisting the urge to snack on the crispy bacon before the soup is ready!

1/4 cup diced onion
1 tb olive oil
2 tb butter
2 tb flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup diced potato
4 cups chicken stock or water
4 rashers bacon, fried until crisp
2 stalks fresh thyme
2 tb grated cheddar cheese
1 tb minced green onion or chive

1. Saute onions until soft in a medium sized pot over medium heat in the oil.
2. Add the butter and stir until melted. Stir in the flour to make a roux.
3. Deglaze with the wine.
4. Add the stock 1 cup at a time, while stirring.
5. Bring to the boil. Add 2/3 cup diced potato and the fresh thyme.
6. Simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes. Process soup in a blender. Return to pot.
7. Add the remaining potatoes and cook an additional 4 minutes, until they are soft.
8. Chop the bacon into large pieces.
9. Serve with bacon, cheddar cheese and green onions sprinkled over top.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


This delicious chocolate bar traveled 8262 kilometers on two international flights to get to me yesterday afternoon. At least once a year, my dad travels to his hometown of Belfast, Republic of Northern Ireland, and the one and only thing we all request is a bar of British chocolate. This bar is pretty big, weighing in at 650g, or nearly 1.5 pounds, but it is not even the biggest bar they sell. Some years, if I'm lucky, I get a 1 kilo bar. Whenever my dad, brother or I travel back to "The Auld Country", each of us will bring back at least 8-10 bars, and it is a real consideration when packing to be sure and leave enough room in the suitcase for all the chocolate. The best, most requested flavour is "Fruit and Nut" which is packed with raisins and almonds. But the biggest reason for the hub-bub is that the chocolate is different than that which is sold here in North America. My dad swears it's because they use higher quality beans, and I don't know why it tastes as good as it does, but I can say for sure that it tastes less sweet and more creamy than the Cadbury bars sold here. If pressed for a guess, I would say it must have more milk ingredients to make it taste so creamy. One square melts on your tongue and cover your whole mouth with creamy chocolately goodness. My mouth is watering.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging 55

I bought a harness for Tiggy after reading about the success Claire from eatstuff had training Kiri. But a at harness was too big for my tiny little kitten, so I made a second trip and bought her a ferret harness. It fits really well, and she's being good about tolerating it, but she gets really wild and crazy (more then usual!) You can see the anger in her face on the first one!

For more kitties, go to EATSTUFF.

And for cutie pie baby animals every day, go to CUTE OVERLOAD This site is awesome! I check it everyday for cute pics of hamsters, bunnies, kittens, puppies, lambs, oh really any cute little furries!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Stock- Part 1

According to, there are 24 definitions for "stock". I'm mostly interested in numbers one and nine.
1. A supply accumulated for future use; a store.
9. The broth in which meat, fish, bones, or vegetables are simmered for a relatively long period, used as a base in preparing soup, gravy, or sauces.

Stock is so essential to the kitchen, there is always a tupperware container of chicken stock in my fridge, and a ziploc bag full of frozen stock 'ice cubes'. It really is simple to make, but like pie dough, something simple in ingredients and preparation can still be difficult to pull off.

The prep cooks and my college, George Brown, certainly didn't know how to make a great stock. I remember at our exam day, I collected everyone's chicken bones and whipped up a stock, because what they had given us to work with was grey and disgusting. And stock can go from rich and flavourful to grey dishwater easily. But if you follow my tips, it will taste fantastic.

For chicken stock
1. You're going to need some chicken bones. Backs make the best stock. When I'm grocery shopping, I buy those small whole chickens, then when I get home, butcher them into 9 pieces. The back is just for stock in this house. But any bones will do, and use an appropriate sized pot. For instance, if you've just got 1 chicken back and a couple breast bones, then use a six- or ten- cup pot. Also, you can use cooked leftover chicken bones. The best taste comes from raw bones, but if you've got a carcass from a roasted chicken, that will make a great stock too! It might need to simmer a bit longer. Also- throw any extra skin into the pot too. Don't worry about the fat content, in the end your stock will be fat-free, but for now, that skin has a lot of flavour.

2.Start with cold water and plenty of it. Throw in your chicken bones in the pot and cover with cold water, to 1 inch below the top of the pot. You're going to need to replenish this water as it simmers away, so fill up your kettle while you're at it.

3. Add the essential veggies. Absolutely essential are : carrots, onion, celery, garlic. Throw in 1 or 2 carrots, chopped into big pieces (don't worry about peeling them), 1 or 2 stalks celery (this is a great way to use up the inedible tops and bottoms), 1/2 to 1 yellow or red onion, peeled and chopped into 4 and about 3 peeled garlic cloves. Smash them on the counter with your fist to crush them. Make sure to add these ingredients in proportion. They all have strong, distinct flavour and too much of any one ingredient will cause it to over-power the stock.

4. The rest of the veggies. What adds depth to a stock is a variety of ingredients. For a basic stock, add parsley, tomato, fresh thyme, or rosemary. You'd be surprised how much parsley brings to the table. I usually save the stems just for stock. If I'm making a stock to be used as a base for an Asian soup, then I will also add to the stock ginger, cilantro and lemmongrass.

5. What not to use. Don't add any acid, such as lemon or lime. This will contribute to a nasty taste and grey colour. Don't add any bell peppers. They will make a stock oily. Also stay away from veggies that are particularly pungent, such as parsnip. Oh, and don't use any potatoes, ok?

6. Dry goods. Finally, add a pinch of peppercorns, a couple bay leaves and a tablespoon of salt. Oh yeah, don't be shy. This is what will help bring out all the flavors of the chicken and veggies. If you don't add some salt right at the beginning, it won't taste like much.

7. Light my fire. Put the pot on the stove over high heat until it boils. Reduce the heat to low, and let the stock simmer for 2-3 hours. Make sure to skim off any foam that rises to the surface- this is the impurities from the chicken bones and skin, and you want to get rid of it. Usually most of this stuff comes to the surface in the first 15 minutes of cooking. As the level of water in the pot decreases, add some more fresh water. You want to keep the bones and veggies submerged. Another important point: Don't stir the stock! You can stick you spoon in there and wiggle it to move around the veggies, but if you stir it too much, the fibers and bits and pieces of the veggies will break down and you'll have a cloudy mess. On the same note, don't let it boil vigorously.

8. Finally, after a few hours, you can strain the stock and stick it in the fridge for tomorrow. Make sure you strain into a bowl and not down the sink! Throw away that nasty veg, or compost it, but don't eat it ok?

9. The next day, check out your stock. It should be yellow in colour, thick and with a slight jello-like consistency. You can thank gelatin for that. On the surface of the container, you'll see a thick white substance. That's the fat, and go ahead spoon it off into the garbage. It should be easy to lift it off.

I think that's it. What a mouthful!

Monday, June 19, 2006

True Life: Kitchen Stories.

I just finished watching "Waiting.." a mediocre movie starring Ryan Renolds. I just wanted to clear up any misconceptions anyone might have over the topics in the movie.
When you go out to eat, could one of the kitchen staff spit on your food, drop it on the ground, tea bag your drink or use your food as a sanitary wipe? Yes. If you are a raging B, it is possible and more likely if the cooks are teenagers. Actually, you don't have to be a B or an A, necessarily. You could just be unlucky. I have seen it happen. Well, I've done it myself, ok?

Please don't look at me like that. I didn't know any better back then. The kitchen was staffed with 17 year-olds, and the supervisor was a grand old 19 years of age. Let me put it this way: If you dropped a steak on the slippery ground, that steak wasn't wasted.

(This is also the place that cleaned every pasta pan in a bucket of water next to the stove. By the end of the night, it turned a gross yellowy-orange colour from the mix of tomato and Alfredo sauces. You could bob to get pieces of chicken, bacon or mushrooms off it's slick oily surface. Yuck.)

We weren't as bad as some- most of the time if a steak or chicken wing flew off the counter, we would "sanitize" it by a quick dip in the 350 degree deep fryer. It was more a matter of keeping the complaints to a minimum than any malice, really. Let me give you an example. You've dropped by your neighbourhood chain restaurant with two of your friends. You order 12 chicken wings, friend #1 has pizza, and friend #2 orders a burger. Every person cooking on the line has to co-ordinate to make these three dishes come up to the pass at the same time. It takes a good 10-12 minutes to fry up an order of 12 wings. While the fry cook is tossing them in hot sauce, one flys out of the bowl and onto the sticky floor.

That guy is going to catch so much s*** for delaying the order by 12 minutes for one chicken wing, he is trying to save his (or her *blush*) neck by picking up that wing and tossing it back in the fryer to 'sanitize". On the flip side, wouldn't you get pissed if your order took too long? Or if it had out minus one wing?

I'm not trying to condone it. I would *never* do it again, being older, wiser, educated, and a restaurant diner. I love going out to eat and I wish I did it more. However, I always sit with my back to the kitchen, because frankly I don't want to see what goes on back there.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging 54

Tiggy, for some kitty reason beyond my understanding, hates the kitchen. She has only entered the kitchen to investigate twice in the two weeks she has been here. It doesn't make a lot of sense: she spend most of her time in the living room and foyer; the kitchen is just steps away. The kitchen looks out onto the living room, and I was concerned that she would leap up from the back of the couch and onto the kitchen counter. She's investigated nearly everything else, but the kitchen. I think she resents the time I spend there. Look, she even attacked my favorite cookbook, "The Joy of Cooking".

For more kitties and to meet the territorial Kiri, go to eatstuff

Friday, June 16, 2006

Meat prices

I am regularly disturbed by the prices at Albertson's, my local high-end grocery store. It's like Loblaws, for those Canadians out there (although Loblaws is higly superior). But usually I'm disturbed by the HIGH prices and overjoyed at the low ones. But $1.91 for a medium-sized NY strip steak? It weighed in at 0.4 of a pound, and at $4.77 a pound, it works out right. But it disturbs me to pay so little for a slab of well-marbled California Beef. It makes me wonder why beef costs so much more in Canada. What, exactly, are they doing in Cali to make the prices so low? I guess I don't want to know.....

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Blog Party!

Here is my first ever addition to blog party, hosted by The Happy Scorceress. I read about it on a great blog I frequent called I like to cook (I have an affinity towards Canadian bloggers- I admit it!!). One of these days when I figure out how to modify my template, I'm going to give you a list of my favs, I promise! Anyway, the theme for the blog party is MAN FOOD! The obvious choice is a pork product, but seeing as my man doesn't eat pork, I decided to go with crab, because at his favorite restaurant, Captain Kidd's, he always orders a huge steamed crab and busts it open on the paper-covered picnic table with a rented mallet, spraying everyone with crab juice. Also, I love how manly men will put on a bib to chow down on a big crab or lobster.
I did something I don't normally do as well- I actually used a recipe. Well, sort of. I mean, I followed the recipe mostly, but what do want from me? I'm creative. I used a recipe from Martha Stewart's Hor D'Oeuvres Handbook (which I've had for 7 years and never used, BTW). I made "Classic Crab Cakes" and I'm sorry to say that Martha let me down. Her recipe tasted fine, but the consistency was off. I had to add an extra egg and 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs to get it to hold together nicely. I thought Martha's recipes would be triple tested!
For the cocktail, I had to go with beer. It matches a the crispy crab cakes, the heaviness of the aioli, and also TONIGHT IS EDMONTON'S LAST CHANCE! and Hockey + Beer = happy men!

12 ounces crab meat
2 slices white bread, in small pieces
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tb dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 medium jalapeno pepper, diced
2 tb parsley
2 eggs
1/4 red onion, diced
2 tb mayo
zest of 2 limes
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
3 tb canola oil

1. Preheat he oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a baking sheet inside.
2. Combine crab meat, bread and breadcrumbs in a large bowl.
3. In another small bowl, combine mustard, worstershire, jalapeno, parsley, eggs, onion, mayo, lime zest, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Stir into the crab mixture.
4. Form the crab mix into tablespoon-sized balls and flatten slightly. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Fry each crab cake in oil on both sides and then transfer to baking sheet and cook for an additional 7 minutes.
5. Serve with aioli (below).


2 tb mayo
juice of 1 lime
1 minced garlic clove
hot sauce to taste

1. Mix all ingredients together. Serve cold.

A Simple Dinner of Fish

I had a killer headache yesterday and I wanted to make some really light and simple for dinner. I pulled out some frozen Mahi Mahi and made a slaw using my handy-dandy mandoline. Gadgets like these make throwing together a meal easy. I julienned the veg with it, then minced my garlic and ginger using my microplane. Check out the pic of the mandoline- this one is the French type and set me back $200 when I bought it in my first year of culinary school. You can buy the cheaper Japanese version made of plastic for about $20.


2 pieces Mahi Mahi or and other type of fish
3 medium sized carrots, juilenned
2 stalks celery, juilenned
1/4 red onion, julienned
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tb chopped parsley
1 tb veg oil
few drops sesame oil
1 tb soy sauce
a few drops fish sauce
4 tb chicken or fish stock or water

Leftover rice
green onion for garnish

1. In a frying pan, sear fish on both sides until cooked through (about five minutes).
2. Meanwhile, in a wok or large frying pan, heat both oils and stir fry carrot, onion, celery, and garlic for about 2 minutes over medium heat.
3. Add ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce and chicken stock. Cover and simmer for approximately 3 minutes, until the carrots are soft.
4. Serve with white rice and spoon the juices from the veg over top of the fish.
5. Garnish with green onion.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cherry Muffins

So here is my first attempt at designing a baking recipe from scratch. I wanted to make something with the pound and half of cherries I bought from some dude on the corner in South Central. I decided to make a loaf cake and some muffins. Because really, a muffin is just a cake in disguise. I love the taste of cheesecake and cherries, so I got a little imaginative and mixed in a simple cheesecake batter into the cake batter to see what would happen! Well, the cake turned out really tasty, but a tad dry and heavy. Also the cheese mixture wasn't distinct within the cake like I hoped it would be. Next time I'm going to use a little less cheese, and cream it in with the batter. Also I think the batter needs more milk. It was still very tasty and the muffins were definitely better than the loaf.

For the cake batter:
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1 tb vanilla

For the cherry cheese mixture;
3/4 cup cream cheese, soft
1/3 cup sugar + 2 tb
1 egg
1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted and chopped into pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature.
2. Butter and flour either 2 9 inch loaf pans or 2 12-muffin trays.
3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir the vanilla into the milk.
4. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar for the cake batter. Beat in the eggs one at a time, at low speed, scraping the bowl after each addition.
5. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk mixture. Add the remaining flour, then the remaining milk.
6. Scrape the batter into a bowl and set aside.
7. Using the paddle attachment, cream the cheese with the second measurement of sugar, then add the egg.
8. Stir in the cherries.

Mix together the two batters by gently folding. Place batter in prepared pans and bake in the oven, rotating once halfway through the baking time. Bake the loafs for approximatly 45 minutes and the muffins for approximately 15 minutes.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Transforming leftovers

One of the marks of a great chef is the ability to make something out of nothing. Or, turn a less-than-inspirational dish into something fantastic. I remember one of the first times I ever made lobster bisque. At 21 years of age, I still found it hard to admit that I didn't know everything. So when required by my new position as Chef de Partie for the Garde Manger station to use up all the lobster and shrimp shells in a bisque, I got a few simple instructions from a co-worker, and tackled the task without further guidance. (These days I would look up a recipe or ask the chef from some specific instructions.)
After roasting all the shells, I put them together with the mise and the soup was on it's way. I would grump around the kitchen, swearing under my breath about making this complicated soup. I announced to everyone that I hated the taste of lobster, forcing them to taste and season my soup. (I think it was a form of self-preservation- if I hated the taste of lobster, then may be I could be forgiven for making a horrid tasting bisque?) Anyway, nine times out of ten, the bisque came out tasting fine. Not excellent, but passable. Until one day when I threw in a tablespoon of peppercorns with the mise, not thinking about what the result might be after the whole soup goes through the blender. So I ended up with a spicy soup. I didn't know what to do- it was exactly as I'd feared- I fu*ked up the bisque. And a huge pot of it- easily 20 liters.
So I hunted down Martin, the Executive chef and owner, and told him what I'd done. He tasted the soup and gave me a lecture. Is it bad that I don't remember what he said? He basically told me to get lost while he figured out what to do with the mess I made. You see, in restaurants, you just can't throw stuff out. You've got to find a way to use everything, or else you will go broke. The lobster shells, for example, are leftovers from using the meat. But when you use them to make a bisque, then sell the bisque for $11 a bowl, you'll make a crapload of money on something that is 'leftover'. Anyway, Twenty minutes later, Martin had added coconut cream, chili peppers and cilantro, and called it "Cajun creamy lobster soup". And we sold every drop of it.

So I was channeling my Martin when I attempted to make something else out of the Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops I made last Wednesday. They were ok, but a little heavy for me, and really not as exciting as I wanted them to be. So I had to think of something to do with the leftovers, because I certainly didn't want to get stuck eating it for days. On Thursday I pulled the lamb out of the sauce, chopped it into bite sized pieces and made "Yellow Rice", one of G's favorites. It's an Arab's version of stir-fried rice, but with less fat and more spiciness.

I still had a gallon of sauce to deal with. Using up the rich lamby sauce was not a problem. I made it into the best meat sauce I have ever tasted. Really, I mean it. It has so much flavor from the lamb, the mise, and the wine, it's perfect on top of a bland pasta, so it can really shine. I froze half of it for some night that I just don't want to cook!

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops

4 shoulder chops
3/4 cup onion, small dice
1 tb minced garlic
1/2 cup carrot, small dice
1/2 cup celery, small dice
1 tb cumin
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp dried mint
1 tb fresh thyme
1 tb tomato paste
1 cup white wine or red wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 tsp salt

1. Sear the chops over high heat until evenly browned on both sides. Remove from pan. Remove fat except for 1 tablespoon.
2. Saute onion, garlic, carrot and celery in fat until onion is translucent. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute.
3. Stir in all spices. Deglaze with wine, stirring to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Stir in salt.
4. Add chicken stock and tomatoes. Return lamb to the pot and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes-1 hour. Skim off excess fat. Taste for seasoning and serve with white rice or mashed potatoes.

Yellow Rice with Lamb

1 cup diced cooked lamb
1 tb vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tb minced garlic
3 cups cooked white rice
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp dried ginger
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan or pot. Saute onion, carrot, celery and garlic until onion is translucent. Add rice, spices, and water. You may need more or less water depending on how dry the rice is.
2. Allow to simmer until all the water is absorbed. Stir in lamb, and cilantro. Taste for seasoning and enjoy!

Lamby pasta sauce

1 lb ground meat
about 20 small white or cremini mushrooms
4 cups crushed tomato (1 large can)
leftover sauce from braised lamb shoulders
6 cups cooked pasta (shells or penne)

1. Slice mushrooms.
2. Brown meat in a large pot over high heat. Stir in mushrooms.
3. Cook over medium heat until mushrooms are soft. Strain to remove fat. Return meat and mushrooms to the pot, and add tomatoes and lamb sauce.
4. Simmer over low heat for ten minutes.
5. Serve with cooked pasta.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging

Hi Everyone!
Here is my first Weekend Cat Blogging experience. Tiggy has been driving me crazy today... she just won't stop playing, chasing my feet, and attcking everything that moves. I just want to pet her but she won't hold still!! Anyway, check out these super cute pictures. G gave her a tiny bit of his oatmeal this morning, she chowed down on it, then licked her lips!
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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Carrot Cake, and Tiny Tiger

There has been a lot of excitement in our home these past few days, since we brought home a tiny little tiger to live with us. She has monopolized my time, following me around and squeaking to get my attention. I did, however, find the time to throw together a quick carrot cake to celebrate G's return home from Hong Kong. I hesitate to bake cakes these days, since there is only the two of us and no nearby relatives to force leftovers on. Experimenting with new cakes, cookies and breads was the highlight of my last job. On the weekends when Frenchy was off, Rebecca and I would stretch our creative muscles, baking blueberry muffins, sandwich buns, pumpkin bread, and anything else we could think of. There was never an issue with using it up, whatever didn't go into our mouths ended up on breakfast trays alongside danishs and turnovers, or used as sandwich bread in the restaurant kitchen. We would sit on milk crates on the loading dock with cookbooks open in our laps. Rebecca smoked cigarettes while we salivated over pictures of chocolate cakes, brioche, and page after page of bread recipes. Then the prioritizing began: what did we have time to make above and beyond our normal work? Also, what could be made without arousing suspicion from Frenchy that we were doing anything besides what he had specifically written for us on our "to do" list. He was so paranoid that we might outshine him in one regard or another that any deviance from everyday mudane tasks was considered mutiny. Once the Executive Chef asked me to make a pizza dough for him, and with the extra dough I made a tasty foccaica bread for the staff to nibble on. When Frenchy heard the Executive Chef complementing my bread, he pulled me aside by the arm and spat at me- "Don't fuck with me!"
Alas, now that I have my own home, with no parents of chefs claiming kitchen dominance, my culinary creativity is still stifled- simply by the fact that I have not enough friends to eat all the sweet treats and breads I desire to make. So when I decided to make this carrot cake, I scaled it down by a serious amount. Scaling is always an issue with baking, you may end up with an inferior product whether scaling up or down. However, this recipe yielded one perfect 8"x3" loaf of carrot cake, which I threw together in about 20 minutes.

Carrot Cake (adapted from "The Joy of Cooking")

1/2 cup and 2 heaping tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 eggs
3/4 cup finely grated carrot
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare pan by rubbing with butter and dusting with flour so all sides are evenly coated. Shake out excess.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt in a medium sized bowl, or mixer. Stir to combine.
3. Add the oil and the eggs, stirring well to combine.
4. Stir in the carrots, raisins and nuts, until a sloppy batter is formed. Pour in to the prepared pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven, turning once halfways through the baking process. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to rest in the pan for ten minutes before unmolding.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 tablespoon soft butter
2 tablespoon soften cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature. Cream together butter and cheese. 2. Stir in icing sugar until a creamy consistency is reached. Stir in vanilla.
3. Ensure the cake is thoroughly cooled before frosting.

*Pumpkin pie spice is made by "Clubhouse", and contains: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Using this spice mixture is so much simpler than measuring out all the individual spices. If you haven't got any, then use: 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1 pinch of ground cloves.