Sunday, February 11, 2007

Food at Last!

I finally felt like cooking! I roasted a chicken, made mashed potatoes and sweet glazed carrots.

Yumm! This is the first meal I have cooked in m y new place! Actually, it is the first time I've cooked in about a month... wow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Baking: From my home to Yours", by Dorie Greenspan

When Sara, author of one of my favorite blogs, "I like to cook" and co-founder of the famous "Weekend Cookbook Challenge" asked me to participate in a spotlight of Dorie Greenspan's latest book, "Baking: From my kitchen to Yours", I snapped up the opportunity. The author, Dorie Greenspan has published many cookbooks, and is most famous for her cookbook "Baking with Julia." Her recipes have also been featured in magazines, including "Bon Appetit" and "Saveur". Her knowledge of french cuisine and experience as a home-cook come together in this easy-to-use album of great baking.

With 300 recipes covering everything from yeast-breads to quick cakes, brownies to cookies and beyond, this cookbook will earn a permanent place on your kitchen counter. The easy-to-understand directions and full-color pictures guide even novice bakers gently through the steps. Dorie's voice comes through loud and clear in her directions and tips for a perfect product. There are recipes for any occassion, from an afternoon snack to the perfect dinner-party dessert.

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from BAKING: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Company, November 2006.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ouncs bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchmentor silicone mats.
Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well-blended. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed, or by hand with a ruber spatula, mix in the chocolate and nuts. (The dough can be covered andd refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen. If you'd like, rounded tablespoonfuls of dough, ready for baking. Freeze the mounds on a lined baking sheet, then bag them when they're solid. There's no need to defrost the ough before baking-just add another minute or two to the baking time.)

Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.

Bake the cookies- one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the midway point- for 10-12 minutes, or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center; they may still be a little soft in the middle, and that's just fine. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

These cookies were truly fantastic. Either warm straight from the cooling rack, or the next day, they are chewy and crisp at the same time, and loaded with lots of chocolate. I thought there might be too much salt, but it was the perfect amount. I highly reccomend this recipe and I'm sure to bake these cookies again and again.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Adapted from BAKING: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Company, November 2006.

For the muffins:
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For the Icing
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-sized muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrence of lemon is strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or a bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter until well-blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with a whisk or rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being through, a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the poopy seeds. Divide the batter evenly amoung the muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a think knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for five minutes before carfeully removing each muffin from it's mold. Cool the muffins completely on a rack before icing them.

To Make the Icing:
Put the confectioner's sugar in a small bowl and add about 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls of lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough additional lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizle from the tip of a spoon. You can then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely, to better get an extra zap of lemon.

These muffins are quite tasty, with a hint of lemon. I especially like that the recipe was very quick to put together, requiring no mixers at all. If I made it again, I would probably add more lemon, for my taste.

If you would like to purchase your very own copy or "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan, click this link to, or visit your local bookstore.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Hallowe'en

Hapy hallowe'en everyone! We are getting into the spirit of Hallowe'en again, as usual, so here are some pictures of our costumes:

Me: Wonder woman

G: El árabe poderoso (The Mighty Arab)

Tiggs: Playboy Bunny

Also, check out our pumpkin. I had to give it a gangsta feel this year, in honour of Los Angeles. I'm also interested to know if the kids will say, "Look, that pumpkin has a grillz!"

Yesterday we went to Mexico to renew our visas. We were in our car in line for immigration for 2 hours!!! It's a good thing we still like each other! Anyway, there were a lot of people walking between the cars, selling all sorts of stuff. This is how G got his wrestler's mask! We bought it from a real Mexican wrestler. There were all kinds of stuff for sale: rugs, blankets, banjos, magazines, baskets, not to mention all the food. We bought a small bag of churros and a cup of steamed corn (which was awful). We spent all our money on these small things, and at one point I was searching the car up and down for some change so G could get a flan. It was interesting, Tiajuana reminded me a lot of Egypt. We got a little lost driving around but all in all it was a nice day. After we went through immigration and got back to the US, we went down to San Diego's Gas Light district, which was very quaint and nice. We had dinner in a pub and watched a bit of football. I almost wished we lived in San Diego since I have yet to find a real pub in Los Angeles, and San Diego seemed to be a more casual place. We will definetly be back there.

Finally, back on the topic of Hallowe'en, Tiggy is in yet another costume contest! Please go to stuffonmycat to vote for her!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Coconut Cream Pie

G is back, and so the kitchen is open for business again. I wanted to make him one of his favorite desserts, so I decided on Coconut cream pie. I used the recipe from "the Joy of Cooking", which is my personal bible of food. I've given up looking to recipes for pie crust, however, since after you've made so many of them, your hands just know what to do.

Coconut Cream Pie
(recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold butter
pinch salt
1 tb granulated sugar
about 1 1/2 tb water* (drop by drop)

1. Mix the dry ingredients together with a fork.
2. Cut the butter into small cubes with a sharp knife. Combine with the dry ingredients.
3. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, blend the butter into the flour mixture. Once there are no large clumps of butter left, rub the flour together for about 1 mintue. You will notice a slight almond colour.
4. Stir in the water a few drops at a time. It is important not to add too much water. I find it is best to use your hands through the entire process, even mixing in the water. You can squeeze the dough together to avoid over-mixing. Once a dough is formed, turn it out onto a flour surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Place in a floured pie tin.
5. Poke the pie with a fork, and bake in a 375 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes, using pie weights or beans. Remove the weights for the final ten mintues.

Cream Filling:
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups milk
5 large egg yolks
3 tb butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut extract
1 cup toasted, sweetened coconut
1 1/2 cups 35 % cream
2 tb superfine or powered sugar

1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium sized pot. Whisk together.
2. Slowly whisk in the milk.
3. Add the egg yolks and whisk well, until there are no yellow streaks.
4. Place the pot on medium heat and bring just to the simmer. Whisk the mixture well, as it thickens.
5. Remove from heat, and scape the sides down. Mix until smooth.
6. Return to the heat and whisk constantly for 1 minute.
7. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, vannila and coconut extract.
8. Stir in the toasted coconut.
9. Pour into baked pie shell, and chill.
10. Whip the cream and sugar together until stiff peaks are formed. Spoon cream onto chilled custard.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What I miss about you

Dear Canada;
I know, it's been a while. I miss you too. We talk on the phone a lot, but it's just not the same... and it is too easy to forget about you down here in La La Land. Here's to remembering what I miss about you...

1. Tim Horton's.. I miss you everyday.
2. Pumping BEFORE paying... Oh Canada you are so trusting
3. The Seasons... bikinis in October will NEVER sit well with me.
4. The Fam... you know it.
5. The Metric system!!!! I miss you every day too!
6. Colourful money... it's not just for monopoly.
7. Proper spelling! It was meant to be colour, flavour, and lit!! Not Lighted!
8. Snow... Yes I miss winter (sort of).
9. World News! They think World News is: "An American in Paris..." "American Troops in Afganistan..." "American dignitaries in England..." "American Sanctions..."
10. President's Choice Products... there is no other.
11. Shakies on your popcorn at the movies! And huge movie theaters too.

What have I forgotton????

Change is good

There are going to be ssome changes here at "chefsarahjane". I think I need a new title to go with the new template. Also, Weekend Cat Blogging is now going to be taking place at TIGGY'S BLOG! Yes, Tiggy finally has her own blog. And MAN! She needs a lot of help with it. Sometimes she mews softly in my ear what she wants me to type. Otherwise, it just ends up looking like this:
decdhju bndjmhuden dsafsagoihgnm and so on. Something is definetly lost in the translation. Anyway, what that means is that I'm going to keep all the kitty stuff to Tiggy's blog. Also, I am eliminating my "other" blog (sweetsarahj), because I just don't have enough to say to fill them all- and the distinction between what is 'food' and what is 'my life' is a very thin and blurry line. So from now on, this page will be kitty-free, but you will be subjected to more of my personal life! You can't stop Professor Chaos! Mwahh-hah-hah-hah!

Reminder: WCB Schedule

October 21- Jelly from I Got 2 Shoes.
October 28- Linda from Kayak Soup.
November 4- Lali from Lali et Cie.
November 11- Skeezix at Skeezix the Cat
November 18- Amar at Catsynth.
November 25- Robyn and Sanjee at Hot(m)Bc
December 2 – D at The Hidden Paw
December 9 – Miz D and the Angry Cat at Belly timber
December 16- Kitchen Mage
December 23-back here at chefsarahjane
December 30- Lisa at Champaign Taste

Friday, October 13, 2006

WCB 71: Hallowe'en contest

Hi All! Tiggy and I have been very busy preparing her costume for Skeezix's and Hot(m)BC's Hallowe'en costume contests. We argued over what she would wear. After seeing Kismet in his Hugh Hefner Robe, she was dead set on being a Playboy Bunny. I'm sure some of you parents out there know how hard it is to argue with a determined teenager. Despite my protests, she did get the costume she wanted (how could I say no to that sweet little face?). I think she wanted the costume to try and win Kismet's affections. I told her that he is a grown Man Cat and probably already has a girlfriend, but it didn't stop her from crusing his blog all night. She even decided to start her own blog.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pineapple, and a lesson.

Is it crazy of me to do this to my pineapple....

I guess old habits die hard. I worked for a catering company while I was in college, called "Gourmet Greens". It was located in the kitchen of a fine restaurant named "Zoom" in downtown Toronto. You may have heard of the Rubino Brothers, Michael and Guy. They are Toronto restauranteurs and currently own the restaurant Rain. They also star-in and produce the Food Network Canada show "Made to Order". Well, they were the owners of Zoom and Gourmet Greens. In addition to being minor celebrities, they are also known within the restaurant community for big egos and the sort of staff treatment that generally goes along with that.

I'm not trying to make any allegations here, because other than being generally rude to me, I wasn't mistreated by either of them. I worked in their catering business for 6-8 months and neither of them bothered to learn my name. This is the kind of employer they are. There was a definite "You are so lucky to be working for me" attitude. I have heard stories of cooks working 13+ hour days on salary wages and even sleeping in the kitchen after closing the restaurant because they had to be there at the crack of dawn the next day. This could be only gossip, but it is not far from things I personlly witnessed at other top restaurants. There is a mentality amoung some cooks that abuses of power like these are worth it just to learn from the chefs. I have worked for ego-driven chefs, and I believe that they will treat you like garbage only if you let them. You must assert yourself!

But I digress. While I was working at Gourmet Greens, we prepared breakfasts and lunches for Bay St. Executives. Sandwiches, salads, fruit platters and desserts. I thought I wasn't learning anything. I begged the restaurant chef, Lorenzo Loseto (currently of George), to move me up to the hot line. I know that he thought I couldn't handle it. I'm not sure he realized that prior to working there, I had 3 years experience on a hot line serving 200+ people per night. After many failed promises, I quit. I remember Lorenzo telling me "You think you haven't learned anything, but you'll look back and realize that what you have learned is invaluable. Every chef needs to know how to make these simple products." Later on I realize that he was right. I know how to make the best sandwiches and composite salads due to that job. I can make a simple arrangement of fruit look stunning. I can clean a pineapple to look like a winding path up the side of a mountain. Although I wish I could have had the opportunity to prove that I was a capable cook, I'm glad I worked there and also glad I got out of it when I did. I moved on to job on the line in a restaurant and lounge in Toronto's Entertainment district.