sunday with my husband

“i need your help, dessert help”…it was my husband speaking; it was also the end to any plans i may have had for sunday.  such is the life of a pastry chef whose husband happens to be the executive banquet chef for a university.  i packed up my gear, grabbed my cookbooks and out the door i went to give him a hand.
 he was busy making wraps for the 100+ campers staying at the university.  
 while he arranged the various fillings, 

and then rolled them up, 

 i got busy with the desserts.
 chocolate trifle with strawberries; i made the cake, the chocolate mousse and macerated the berries
 i also made a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
and like the amazing woman i am, i cleaned up my mess and hit the road as quick as i could.  it was sunday and i had some serious lazing about to do.   now that things have quieted down in the demonstration garden and the show preparations are done, look for me to be back here baking up whatever strikes my fancy.

thali restaurant, decatur

while i enjoyed the rainy weather during my trip to atlanta, i enjoyed the food even better.  we ate out every night but only once did we take photos of the food.  in decatur, there is a large indian population and judging from the restaurants, many of them are vegetarian.  we stopped at one strip center where 3 of the 4 restaurants proclaimed they were vegetarian-indian restaurants.  not a problem for us.  we walked in to thali restaurant and were seated, handed menus and like a couple of tourists who don’t speak the language-we sat there lost.  luckily for us, a nice young man came over and explained to us that we didn’t need to worry, the menu was prix fixe and all the dishes would be chosen by the chef-all we had to do was eat.  so, eat we did!  and by the way, we have no idea what we ate; we took comfort in the fact that it was vegetarian and that at least it would be plant parts and not critter parts.

  a snack to start with-fried crunchy snacks that were a bit spicy when dipped in the sauces

  the appetizer platter.  i tried it all and i enjoyed it all too

 the main course.  i loved the breads and the potatoes.  the soup and the dal were tasty too, i ate a lot

the third course was beans and rice and sauce.  i liked the beans, they were creamy like refried beans but they were probably mung beans and not pintos.  our fourth and final course was a scoop of ice cream with saffron, pistachios and fruit-it was tasty.  we finished up, paid the check ($37.08 for 2 with a $5 tip!) and we rolled (literally) to the car…had fun and i can’t wait to go back!

mega mart, atlanta=mega amazing!

parents dream of the day that the kids move out and they finally get the house to themselves.  then, in the blink of an eye, it happens and parents don’t know what to do with themselves…what you do is you pack a bag and go visit them in their house-you take up space, eat the groceries, watch all the wrong shows, sleep in their bed and complain a lot.  just a thought.  i recently went to atlanta to visit alix in her new home town.  she and i spent a lot of time wandering the shops and one of the best stops was mega mart.  the korean community is huge in atlanta, so are many other ethnic asian communities, and the variety of shops that cater to each community is huge!  after visiting a bunch of places, mega mart made the biggest impression on me and i look forward to going back to shop there and at another similar store, h mart.  between you and me, mega mart has more to offer but h mart has better prices.  like tourists in disneyland, we took lots of photos-gotta love the iPhone! 

 one of the cleanest produce sections i have ever seen and certainly one of the largest as well.

 off to one side of the produce section is one of those little walk-in fridge sections that had an amazing selection of noodles, tofu and miso

 just look at the different kinds of miso-have you ever seen so many to choose from?

 the fresh seafood selection was impressive-so are the prices.  amazing what being 8 hours from the gulf can do to prices.

 i don’t care what you say, monkfish are ugly.  so ugly that they are not at all cute…

 grouper-try and find that in nashville

 i loved these packages-fish soup kit.  all you do is put it in a pot with water and cook-instant fish soup!
providing you like fish soup.

 for those of you not likely to purchase a whole fish, no problem.  they had the largest selection of cut/cleaned fish i have ever seen in a grocery store.

 no trip to the market is complete without checking the bakery case.
 gorgeous cakes!

the rest of the store looked like this aisle.  wide, neat and clean.  can’t wait to go back.  i will share more of my trip to atlanta-i did plenty of eating there too!

baking sweet memories with my daughters, part 2: crumb topped apple pie, #43 of 52

in my previous post, i baked a tart with my daughter alix; a sort of all growed up/movin out on my own party for the two of us.  this week, i was given the opportunity to do the same with my daughter devon.  you see, she too has moved out and is now in california where she will be attending school.  it was important to me to take the time to teach each of them a little about baking with the hope that they will take this new skill and use it to make their lives a little sweeter.  and in devon’s case, it was a chance to pass a baton;  apple pie is my father in laws favorite pie and since she is now living with my in laws, it is something that she can make for him.

no matter what, i enjoyed every minute of baking with my daughters and cannot wait for the next chance to do so.  for now, i am adjusting to an empty nest and a husband who works all different shifts; in other words, i am spending a lot of time by myself.  it may be a little quiet here but it gives me a chance to do all the things that a book release requires.  my book was released the first week of september and it has been a little hectic.  since the book is out there, i decided to use my recipe for apple pie as this weeks challenge.

miss devon peeling and slicing 5 granny smith apples

tossing the apples with the spices and cornstarch
we got a little crazy and used a 7″ pie plate and piled the apples in a tall dome

the pie was topped off with the crumbs and into the oven she went.  the height of the pie made a slight increase in the baking time.  it was tasty served warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream-perfection!
arkansas sweetly spiced apple crumb pie
serves 6-8
1(9”) pie shell, unbaked
6 cups sliced apples, any variety suitable for baking
3/4cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-teaspoon cinnamon
1/2teaspoon nutmeg
1/2teaspoon cardamom
1/4teaspoon cloves
1-cup crumb topping, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a sturdy baking sheet and line it with foil or parchment paper and grease that as well.  Place the pie shell on the baking sheet and set it aside.  In a bowl, rub the brown sugar, starch and spices together until blended.  Add the apples and toss them to coat them.  Dump the apple mix into the pie shell; scrape any sugar mix and juices into the bowl as well.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pie leaving about a 1-1/2” border around the edge-as the apples bake, they will sink and the entire top will have crumbs.  If you put the crumbs close to the edges, they may run out with any of the juices that boil over and then you may not have much topping near the edges.  Bake for about an hour and 15 minutes or until the juices are bubbling and the crumb topping is lightly browned all over.  Allow it to set before cutting, although this will be tough to do, who can resist warm apple pie? 
Crumb topping
Makes about 1-1/3 cups
1/2cup all purpose flour
1/2cup rolled oats
1/3cup dark brown sugar
1/2teaspoon cinnamon
1/8teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and slightly cold
Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them gently to break up the sugar but take care not to break the oats.  Add the butter and use your hands to gently rub the ingredients together to make small clumps.  Your final result should be a free flowing mixture with some lumps that will clump together when squeezed in your hand.  This can be done in the food processor with the pulse button, a quick time saving method, but will result in the oats being cut.  It can also be done in a stand mixer with the flat beater, which is the method we use in the cafe.

so get in that kitchen and bake some sweet memories with someone you love-send me a photo and i will post it here!

they’re all growed up

lately, my posts have been a bit sporadic and i apologize to all of you who follow this blog.  you may recall me mentioning my book-the actual purpose for starting this blog (once it was finished, i moved on to pies) and the publication of that book.  well, it’s out there and doing well.  it is fun to look it up on amazon and see the ranking-i frequently find it in the top 3 for pies along with martha stewart’s pie book.  curious?   look here and scroll down to see the ranking.  some of the media events for the book have made my schedule a little tight and that is only part of the reason for my late posts.

the real reason i have not been keeping up is that suddenly, my nest is empty.  we have two wonderful daughters and this past summer, both of them graduated; one from college and one from high school.  it has been a summer full of family and parties and i have enjoyed every minute and every opportunity to see extended family from out of state.  there was tons of food and lots of baking and plenty of good wine to wash it down.  but now that our first has moved and settled in atlanta, our second is preparing to fly west; she leaves today.  and as every parent will tell you, you work so hard to get them ready for all that life will throw at them but when the time comes, letting them field the balls is the hardest thing you will ever do.  so with a little motherly worry, i will let her go.  the good thing is that she won’t be totally on her own, she will be with her grandparents.

on our last day together (until she comes home again in about 8 weeks), we did things that she likes to do.  her favorite thing-eat cupcakes!  we went to the cupcake collection and had our fill.

the cupcake collection

the cupcake collection is located in the germantown neighborhood of north nashville in an old victorian house that has been renovated to accommodate a busy bakery.  the staff is friendly and will answer your questions cheerfully.  best part-the cupcakes are only $1.50 each.  let that sink in a minute.  i fully expected to pay about $3 each and was a bit surprised.  then i realized that is why we waited in line-people come from all around the area to buy them at this price.  but the best part is that they are actually baked from scratch-music to a pastry chefs ears!!!  i’ve been to several cupcake shops and one used mixes-they were awful, one used tall towers of frosting to make the cupcakes seem gigantic and they were nothing special.  so when i tasted these-i was totally impressed and completely sold.  from now on, when it’s cupcakes, it’s the cupcake collection or make them myself!

my daughter and the loot-she picked out 6 different flavors to try

and i hadn’t even gotten the car out of park before she dove in and ate her cookies and cream cupcake.  at one point, she let out the familiar “no way!”  when i inquired, she told me the middle was filled with frosting too-what more does a teenage girl need?

so having fed her dessert first, i then took her to lunch and then home to bake a pie.  yes a pie.  last week, our older daughter was home and i baked a pie with her as well.  so my next two posts will be about baking pies with my daughters. for now, here’s more about the fabulous cupcakes.

so, i know what i like-carrot cake.  i very rarely get a piece of it so when i saw the cupcakes, i had to have one.  we also came home with a wedding cake, chocolate, red velvet and strawberry.

as you can see, they use real ingredients-those are carrots and raisins.  and what looked like not enough frosting was actually more than i needed-but don’t think for a minute that i didn’t enjoy the freshly mixed cream cheese frosting…so if you’re in the neighborhood, check them out and if not, make some and share them with your kids(if you have them).  trust me time flies and before you know it, you will be watching them fly away…

my trip to the big city

last monday, i grabbed my overstuffed carry-on bag and headed to the airport with jesse for a few days of media training in new york city and philadelphia.  first on the agenda was to check in to the flatotel for our stay in manhattan.  with that out of the way, we quickly headed out in search of lunch-trickier than it sounds but only because there were simply too many choices!

bricklane curry house

we chose the brick lane curry house and were quickly seated.  as we perused the menu, i took a few photos.

 the place isn’t much bigger than the photo suggests-maybe 8-10 tables and at the time, we were the only two people in the place.

 love the use of colanders as a light fixture!

 we ordered prawns tikka masala for me and prawns goan for jesse.  it was all accompanied by curried vegetables, dal, rice and naan.  all of it was incredibly tasty.

 nothing says i enjoyed lunch more than an empty plate
at this point, we headed out into the rain and began our first adventure-the acquisition of an umbrella for jesse…this was followed by a stop in the moma shop and a stop at the hotel for rain jackets which we both thought to bring.  after a stop in a bead shop and for a drink (well we were off the clock so why not…) we headed to our final destination-eataly and it was only 30 blocks away…
the first thing i will say about eataly-overwhelming.  too much going on in one place to take it in in an hour.  too many people trying to do the same thing as you and also finding themselves overwhelmed-lots of stopped traffic in other words.  the second thing, with all of the potential this place has to wow you, it’s a bit disappointing that you aren’t.  most of what i saw was familiar to me and nothing seemed truly unique.  as jesse stated, i can eat proscuitto anywhere-proscuitto is proscuitto.  nothing reached out and grabbed me and yelled at me to try it.  we did indulge in gelato and i can only ask that they give a little more for the price.  even so, i really enjoyed the coconut gelato and the fig sorbetto that jesse had was equally wonderful.  with that said, here are some photos from our trip into eataly.
the first thing you encounter upon entering eataly is a beautiful display of fresh produce

 mushrooms-they always catch my attention

 jesse and his $17 glass of red wine-the moral of the photo, never ask the person selling the wine to pour you a glass of their favorite wine…

after departing eataly, we headed uptown where we made stops in magnolia bakery and hill country  chicken.  both stops were to feed our eyes!  we watched the baker in the window of magnolia bakery assemble an icebox cake and we drooled over the pies at hill country chicken.   we headed back to our hotel and got ready to head out for dinner.

maison on broadway

we sat outside and indulged ourselves in mussels and salads and then called it a night, at least i did.  it was off to bed for me and i slept like a rock!  but wait, there’s more to the story!  look for it tomorrow-my adventures with undercover steve…

what’s growing on?

the more you listen, the more you hear in regards to knowing where your food comes from.  hardly a day goes by that we are not reminded of how much harm we inflict on the ecosystem with our insatiable appetites.  luckily, the movement towards growing your own is catching on.  for the last 8 years, since we moved into our home, we have had a vegetable garden and growing our own produce has been a goal but not for ecological reasons; plainly put, it is a lot cheaper to grow your own vegetables and herbs.  over the years, we have branched out and have added things like honey bees and fruit trees.  we compost everything we can in an open pit composting system out back and we gather all of our leaves each fall too.

recently, a good friend convinced me to try my hand at a few new things that can be made at home:  kombucha tea and kefir.  the kombucha is fermenting on the counter and the grains for the kefir are ready to go as soon as i get myself some raw milk.

when i read the instructions that accompanied the kombucha, i was intimidated-they seemed so technical and unforgiving.  then i found instructions online from the website  how simple!!!  that is as long as you have a friend, like anne, who is willing to give up a scoby so that you can brew your own batch.

this is the scoby pancake anne was kind enough to share with me.  she also gave me enough of the finished beverage to start/inoculate my first batch.

and here it is, the scoby in it’s new home.  i plan to flavor mine with some fruit juice and most likely, i will not let it ferment as long as anne does.  the longer it ferments, the stronger it gets and that means it gets more sour with each day.  today is day 3 and i still have a few days to go.

another of my favorite things to grow at home, sourdough starter.  i started my original batch 2 years ago using grapes from the demo garden where i volunteer each sunday morning.  from that original starter, i have a plain starter and by feeding a small portion of it with rye flour and caraway seeds, i have a rye starter too.  periodically, they get neglected and i recently had to resurrect them.

with a cup of plain starter, 2 cups bread flour and a cup of water, i had a bowl of sponge to make bread with.

there is something so satisfying in taking a bowl of goo and after a minimal amount of effort, receiving something as tasty as this loaf of bread!

and for those of you that know my husband, you know this is all his!  he is obsessive about mushrooms and we have inoculate logs around the yard which currently produce shiitakes-aren’t the gorgeous?  he recently inoculated some logs with oyster and reishi mushrooms.  
who knows what will be the next addition.  in the mean time, we’re having fun and eating lots of good stuff.

counting the hours

the photo shoot officially begins on wednesday. between now and then, i must bake as much as possible so that i am ready. also on my to do list, any components that can be made in advance-things like cookies, biscuits and sauces. considering that these are my recipes, it shouldn’t be hard to make everything-i know how things should turn out. it is also a chance to double check recipes, something i am pretty sure is not necessary given the amount of testing i did in the first place. the only hitch, it’s 9am and about 90 degrees already and i have to turn on the oven in the house. such is the life of a baker; heat and lots of it-it’s what makes it all happen…

as much as i am looking forward to the photo shoot and learning as much as i can about food styling, i am also looking forward to my former routine. one that left me with some time to myself in the afternoon and on my days off. as you may remember, our house took a pretty good hit from the flooding and it is a wreck. we had to move our home office upstairs to the kitchen table and things are in a shambles down there. the paneling needs to come off of the walls to make repairs to the block wall behind it and that will bring down the drop ceiling. then there is the floor to contend with-the vinyl was ruined and needs to be replaced. we need to have a pump installed in the crawl space and other things done to help prevent future flooding. we will need to refinish the family room-floor, ceiling and walls. and then there is the driveway culvert-the stonework needs to be replaced since it has separated and is now leaning down hill.
did i also mention that i am trying to organize a neighborhood watch? you may recall my mention of an attempted break-in here. my husband and i distributed over 100 notices to our neighbors encouraging them to organize and become more involved in the neighborhood in an effort to curb the robberies around here. so far, at least 30 families have signed up. at the very least, we will meet our neighbors and have a chance to learn just who belongs around here and who doesn’t.
also on the agenda is a yard sale to help reduce the clutter, finishing the new herb garden at the ag center and reading a couple of books. so much for having time to myself…
and one final note-to garrett, while i was crawling around picking up marbles, i may have found a few of yours and i am pretty sure i lost a few of mine…

what a wake up call

the last month has been a blur. so many recipes and so much tasting-i am over fruit desserts, honestly. give me something salty please. so much has gone on here; on 4/20, someone tried to break into the house-in broad daylight while we were at work/school. on 5/1 & 2, we had a little rain, about 16″ of it. surely you heard about the flooding? this morning, i was awakened at 5:30 to the sound of my hysterical husband screaming “i’ve been robbed, @#*%!!!!!” and so the day started. we weren’t the only ones who had overnight visitors. a neighbor who lives down the street and around the corner (about half a mile) was visited as well. as he was leaving for work, he discovered that someone had ransacked his car and taken his wallet too. then he found the contents of his wallet and darry’s out in the street. amazingly enough, i.d.’s and credit/debit cards were all intact. thankfully, he stopped by and returned darry’s i.d. and cards to me.

so my message to anyone who is listening, never mind the dog. beware of the angry woman on the verge of menopause who just may be suffering from pms this week-she’s got a mattock and she will use it…