Friday, January 30, 2009

Soooo Worth It!

I feel like I've been advertising a lot lately.  I've had many links to Gourmet Magazine, pastry school, and lots of fun little (and big) kitchen items to buy.  Please know that no matter what I write about that I mean it. 

Now, those of you who know me well also know that, next to God and my personal relationships, my three main loves in this world are as follows:

1. Toby (my dog)
2. Food
3. Shopping

Hence the links and posts of many a great thing that I have bought or wish to buy.  Believe it or not I am discerning about the things I purchase.  I only buy what I love and/or what makes me very happy to own.  So, I will tell you, what makes me very happy to own is this:

Bob Kramer for Shun 8" Chef's knife from Sur La Table. 

I received this for Christmas this past year, and I have to say it is one of the awesomest Christmas presents I have ever received.  If you are curious who Bob Kramer is, he is pretty famous among chefs for being the last of his kind.  He hand makes knives to personally fit each and every buyer for a very costly price.  Bob Kramer had a 3-5 year waiting list, until he cut off orders completely.  In order to keep up with demand, however, he teamed up with the Japanese knife company Shun (and apparently Sur La Table, also), taught about 100 Japanese dudes everything he knows, and put them all to work hand making the knife you see above- my beloved knife- and others.  

So you still may be thinking, "A $350 knife!? What the heck is the big deal?"  If you've ever had a nice knife, you know the big deal.  It's like the difference between a Fisher Price stethoscope and the ones the doctors actually use (I know you know what I'm talking about).  It made all my other knives feel like toys.  So, what's a girl to do?  Save up all my pennies until today came, when I finally had enough to go out and buy my knife's 'mini me.'  

Shun by Bob Kramer 3 1/4" Paring Knife

With this duo, I am unstoppable.  I feel like the super hero "Knife Girl."  I really don't think I need anything else in my kitchen.  Except maybe the bread knife from the set... and the honing steel....

I know, I know not everyone can, or cares to, go spend this kind of money on cutlery.  Please, though, take my advice and buy the best you can, and care to, afford.  There's no one who doesn't love a good knife...once you know what a good knife is!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Domino Magazine Closing!

BOO! Next to Gourmet, this was my favorite magazine!

I suppose that I should feel blessed that my favorite magazine folding is the worst I have experienced in this recession thus far. But it's still very sad! Domino is the only magazine of it's kind. There is a HUGE market for young, urban decorators with a mid-income level, and Domino is (was) the only one magazine for us!

Every Domino issue always had a great section about entertaining. What I loved about it was that it always focused on eating food with friends, and enjoying the time with people around you. Not to mention the recipes were really good (like the blueberry tart pictured above). I was just about to cut up my stack of 30+ Dominos for my book of inspiration. I think now I'll keep them whole!

Go to the website and print your favorite recipes for as long as you can!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Remembering the Worth of Baking School

Notice how I said, "baking school" and not "pastry school?" The program was actually called, "Baking and Pastry" and yes, there is a difference. Honestly, I am much more for the baking (breads, doughs, cookies, scones, pies, tarts, etc...) than the pastry (decorations, tiny fancy restaurant desserts, arty show pieces, etc...). So much, in fact, that once someone called me a "non nonsense baker." And I know just what she meant. I am in no way willing to sacrifice taste for looks. That show Ace of Cakes
on the food network, although tres inspirational, often bugs me because half of the cake is not actually edible.

Now on to that mouth watering photo of that beautiful roll. This, and other rolls, is (are?) on the cover of February's Gourmet Magazine. I was so excited when I got mine in the mail, and this is an issue I would encourage you to go get. You really don't have to go to pastry school, baking school, or any school to be able to make bread. What I did learn in my baking school was how to give bread some TLC. And I do love it. Baking bread is my absolute favorite thing to do. I love the smell of the yeast, and watching my Kitchen Aid mixer hook kneading a floury mess of ingredients into a tight little elastic ball (no, we bakers don't knead by hand. Too much work). I truly feel a rush of joy when I come back to my dough 2 hours or so later and it's become a puffy, happy little loaf from the partying that the yeast has been doing. And nothing, I tell you, beats the small of fresh bread when it's done.

Being busy a lot make baking your own bread take a back seat, but when I saw the cover of the magazine all these feelings and memories rushed back to the front of my mind, and I just had to bake! I am not going to give you the recipe for the rolls pictured above, that's how much I want you to go buy this issue. But I will tell you that they were as good and better than the picture may lead you to believe. When it comes down to it, you don't really need any more time than mixing a batch of cookies. The lengthy part the dough does all by itself. And be grateful to the dough, because it works very hard for you. Love your dough!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Terrible, Wonderful Habit

I am a very busy person lately, as many of you are. This is the last thing I needed to add in my life, I tell you, but it happened on accident!

First I'll tell you the problem I've developed: I can't drink regular orange juice anymore- only fresh squeezed. DO YOU KNOW HOW DIFFERENT THIS TASTES?!? I had no idea, that is, until I started drinking the fresh squeezed OJ from Jamba Juice. At $3.50, it was becoming a very expensive treat to have every day (or at least every other). That's $108.50 a month. On orange juice. Clearly, something had to be done.

So I bought a juicer. This one. It's not a super high end one- it only cost me $19.99. It works ok- it does the job, anyway, with minimal effort.

My problem now is, this saves money, but not a ton. Maybe if I lived back in California, in the house I had growing up, with quite a sizable orange tree in my back yard. It was wonderful. And I was a silly little child, taking it for granted and not having any idea how amazing it was to have that kind of fruit growing right outside of my kitchen, alongside of an apricot and a pomegranate tree. Sigh.

I don't need to remind anyone of where I now dwell- in the land of leafy greens and root vegetables, and a few late summer berries if we're lucky. Well, except blackberries- did you know that the city of Seattle officially named blackberry bushes a "weed of concern"? What does that even mean?

Anyway, a full glass of juice takes about 3 navel oranges. At $3-$5 a pound, there's no way I can make organic juice. Even non-organic can cost $2-$3 a pound. Now I live my life completely at the mercy of grocery stores and costco, endlessly looking for specials on navel oranges and stocking up with pounds of them.

Like I said, I don't have time for this....but it's so delicious I can't stop!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Orla Kiely For Target!

Right now home design and fashion blogs across the internet are peeing their pants in celebration, and I'm about to join them! (In the celebration- not the pants peeing). Orla Keily, a unique and fairly popular designer (well, I guess VERY popular now) has collaborated with Target to make one of those designer-label-for-cheap lines that gets people very excited. Except this is all for home and kitchen!

Orla Keily is most known for her was adorable prints- like the print on the wallpaper in my living room.

They are sort of things that Anthropologie sells, and I've seen her purses at Nordstrom and other department stores. In my very humble opinion, some of her stuff, although oh so cute, is pretty overpriced, which is what makes this so darned fun!

They go on sale in February (a good break of color and happiness for this depressing time of year, I think). I guarantee this is going to fly off the shelves into the hands of crazy, design obsessed recessionistas all over the country. Go get it, but no biting!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Leftover Ham

I am still stuck on Edna Lewis. This morning I used one of her recipes to make breakfast, and I think it's one of the best ideas ever. She used a simple biscuit recipe, but in a very southern manner added a half cup of cooked minced ham to the recipe just before adding the buttermilk.

This morning we had it with eggs and fresh squeezed citrus juices. What a lovely breakfast it was! Again, you don't really have to use this specific biscuit recipe, but it did come from Edna, herself.

Biscuits (with ham, see above) by Edna Lewis
  1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1/3 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening (or butter), cut into pieces
  6. 1/2 cup buttermilk
  7. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. In a bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingers, work in the lard just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the buttermilk just until moistened.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times. Roll out or pat the dough 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet. Pat the dough scraps together, reroll and cut out the remaining biscuits; do not overwork the dough.
  3. Pierce the top of each biscuit 3 times with a fork and brush with the butter. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Serve at once.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Leftover Zucchini

I can't find it, but I am absolutely sure that somewhere along the line I shared with you my recipe for vegetable pancakes. Whenever I get out my Cuisinart food processor to do any task (in this case grate veggies), I like to make sure it is worth my time washing and cleaning all those darn pieces afterward. In this case, I always (whether purposefully or accidentally) grate a bunch of extra zucchini. This way, I can make zucchini bread and the hardest (or most annoying, anyway) step is already done!

You don't really have to use this specific recipe for your zucchini bread. The only thing I require in my humble opinion is that it has HAS to have pineapple in it to make it worth eating. This one does.

Zucchini Bread with Pineapple


3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini
1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins


1 Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixer, beat eggs. Add oil, sugar, and vanilla; continue beating mixture until thick and foamy. With a spoon, stir in the zucchini and pineapple.

2 In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. A third at a time, add dry ingredients into wet and gently stir (by hand) after each addition. Add the walnuts and raisins, blend gently.

3 Divide the batter equally between 2 greased and flour-dusted 5 by 9 inch loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.

Makes 2 loaves.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Leftover Spaghetti

This week will be simple and straightforward. The theme is fun things to do with leftovers. I was inspired when I made one of my favorite dishes (the recipe for today). Though I love it, I always thought it silly and unrefined. That is, until Raj took it to work the next day for lunch, and called me because a few women in his office saw it and wanted the recipe.

And so, with this recipe and others for the week I honor the recessionista by wasting not, and still doing it fabulously!

Note: There's something about this recipe that is so tasty. The spaghetti gets all crunch on the outside, and the eggs make me feel like I am eating more than just carbs for dinner. Especially if my leftover spaghetti had ground sausage or something like that in it.

Pizza di Spaghetti (by Giada De Laurentis of Everyday Italian)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnishing
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups leftover spaghetti with olives and tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Add leftover spaghetti and combine well.

In a large 10-inch non-stick skillet, heat extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add spaghetti and egg mixture, spreading evenly and pressing down in pan. Cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Carefully invert onto plate, add a little more oil to the pan, and slide mixure back into skillet and cook the other side for 6 minutes. Turn out onto serving platter and cut into wedges and serve warm.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Quick Note

Hello! I am just stopping by to tell you what I've been up to....You see, since the holidays I have been in quite a food slump. Ya know those times when you walk into the grocery store and know that you need food, but still have no idea what to buy because you are totally uninspired? Well, that's how I've been, anyway.

I have a little confession to make. Last month I wrote a quick note about Ms. Edna Lewis, the late and renown southern chef/ cookbook author. Well, although I have heard the name of Edna Lewis many, many times, I had never actually read any of her books. Until now.

The other day I order through amazon, The Taste of Country Cooking, and now I can officially say this is a MUST HAVE for any household. Even if you don't cook. Seriously, I have been taking it to bed with me for my night time reading. It is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read- let alone cookbooks. Ms. Lewis supplements all of her amazing recipes with stories about the way things were. It gives me that kind of cozy feeling like I had when reading Little House on the Prairie as a child. It makes me want to be living on the farm, harvesting greens and eating them with the ham and biscuits and home canned peaches that she writes about. I want to be the little girl in Freetown, Virginia, making apple pie with mama and serving it with coffee to the guests that come by the house.

But don't take my word for the book yourself!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Organic Junk Food

I enjoy good food, ooooh yes I do.  And I detest low quality food.  Today I am here to break stereotypes.  No, I'm not going to tell you that something low quality is actually good, but rather that there are higher quality versions of these common foods that you, yourself can buy! Some of these things I love.  They are not fancy or gourmet by any means, but they can still be healthy (ok, sometimes), organic, grass fed, all natural, and made with care.  If what I'm saying is confusing you, let me give you my list of simple foods that I just happen to love.

-Microwave popcorn
-Hot dogs
-Toaster waffles
-String cheese
-Ground beef tacos
-Sea salt and vinegar Kettle Chips
-Pre packaged oatmeal

Raj and I jokingly call this stuff "organic junk food."  Except in my opinion, most of those foods listed are a perfectly fine as long as fruits, veggies, and greens are added on to it.  Some you can even eat as much as you want to!  Except the sea salt and vinegar potato chips, which still have as much fat and calories as regular ones.  But I can't eat too many anyways, because the vinegar makes my lips lose feeling.  

So don't feel guilty if you eat a hot dog.  Just buy an organic one, or at least all natural, and eat it on a whole grain bun.  Add organic ketchup (which has 5 times more nutrients than conventional ketchup and no high fructose corn syrup), and eat with broccoli and pineapple.  Now that's a complete meal! Wow!

String cheese is commonly low in fat and high in protein. It's a great snack, and I like to eat it a bit of ham around it.  My my!

I know that giving myself an extra 45 minutes in the morning to boil steel cut oats is better for me, but I also know that it's never gonna happen.  That's why I'm glad I can get "just add boiling water" packets of unflavored oatmeal and add a bit of maple syrup and banana.  Oh joy!

Friday, January 09, 2009

My Rainy Day Off

For the first time in a loooong time, I have had the chance to take a day and do only what I wanted to do all day.  I wish that Raj had the day off also, so we could spend the day together, but sometimes it's nice to even do the things that he doesn't enjoy as much as I do.  For example, using a Christmas gift certificate on a facial, and spending close to two hours piddling around the aisles of Target.  After I finish this blog I plan on going through my home decor magazines and cutting and pasting pictures in my book of inspiration.  Also, I am going to sit down and read my new Gourmet magazine.

But this is food related, I promise!  Since this is a day for me, I wanted to eat something delicious.  I also didn't want to spend much time or thought on it or leave the house.  It just so happens to be one of those "what the heck is there to eat?" kinda times in my fridge where there happens to be a lot of random ingredients, but no real meals.  When I was standing and staring at my fridge, I was inspired by a leftover baked chicken breast, and  I came up with the perfect mathematical formula for a great chicken salad sandwich!  Just for you!

Annika's "what the heck is there to eat?" Chicken Salad Formula

-1 leftover chicken breast shredded or chopped- baked, roasted, boiled, whatever
-1/4 cup fruit sensible for chicken salad diced very small- apples, pears, grapes, or you could use dried fruits also.  Get creative!
-A scant handful of any chopped nuts if you want them
-1 teaspoon whatever herb is sitting around from the package you bought when you only needed a tiny bit and now you don't know what to do with the rest (this happens to me ALL the time)
-About 3 tablespoons of mayo, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a good grinding of pepper, and a scant teaspoon of whatever mustard you may have

Mix it all together and put it on whatever bread you have, with whatever greens you may have, and you have a healthy, yummy sandwich!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My Pastry Career Thus Far

The new year always makes me think of where I have been. Almost exactly 3 years ago today I was starting pastry school in California, and beginning my pasty career. It feels like yesterday and it feels like 20 years ago, all at the same time. Despite how I feel, though, in relation to an entire career in baking and pastry three years is nothin'. I remind myself of this when I am feeling sad or disappointed that I am not yet a world famous head pastry chef or mega successful bakery owner.

Three years, though, is definitely enough time to be able to look back on where I've been.....

Honestly, I've been a bit of a floater as far as actual jobs go. In a nutshell, I started at Whole Foods, and then moved my way to Cupcake Royale. After that, future financial goals determined that I ought to find a non-baking, higher-paying job, and begin working on projects on my own. I have learned a ton at all these places.

I decided long ago that the restaurant scene was not the place for my personality type. My good and firm goal is to one day run my own business. Two of my favorite ideas are a bed and breakfast and a gourmet donut shop (in California...the market in Seattle is too saturated). For now I continue to bake, research, dream, and wait for the right time.

In conclusion, I am very pleased with my pastry career so far. I have no regrets, and I am still so glad that I went to pastry school.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Little iCandy

There is a grand old website, maybe you have heard of it, called You can register to your local region or city (LA, Seattle, NYC, Miami, etc...) and get regular emails of interesting goings on in that city. They send emails about big sales at local stores, concerts, and other events. What I love most about Daily Candy is that it has introduced me to some of my very favorite restaurants in Seattle when they opened.

It seems Daily Candy had gotten ahold of my last grocery shopping list, because I was planning on making potato-leek soup the other day. Sadly, I could not find a recipe that turned my crank. Lo and behold that very same day, Daily Candy sent me an email with a very nice sounding recipe. Now, normally I would not pass a recipe on to you without trying it first. However, this one seems simple and low risk enough, and I don't know how you could go wrong with the ingredients. Warning: it's a pretty girly recipe (I'm making it tonight, since Raj is at school). I am going to use milk instead of cream. I'll let you know how that goes.

This Spud’s for You
Scott Lent’s Leek and Potato Soup
mm mm good!

Is there anything cozier than being home for the holidays? Yes: a pot of Bin Vivant chef Scott Lents’s creamy comfort soup.

Leek and Potato Soup
Serves eight

1 tbsp. butter
2 bunches leeks, sliced thin crosswise
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 c. vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. cream
½ c. goat cheese

1. Melt the butter in a heavy casserole dish or stockpot.

2. Add leeks and thyme. Cook over low heat until soft.

3. Add potatoes and vegetable stock.

4. Season with salt and pepper.

5. When the potatoes are soft, add cream and bring to a boil.

6. Transfer contents to a blender in batches and carefully blend until smooth. (Make sure to cover the blender lid with a kitchen towel.)

7. Add goat cheese to the last batch of soup to be blended.

8. Strain soup to remove lumps.

9. Add more salt and pepper if needed. If soup is too thick, thin with water.

10. Garnish with lemon zest and lobster meat. Other possible garnishes are black truffles or sliced smoked duck.

11. Pair with a chardonnay (Bin Vivant wine tender, Yashar Shayan, suggests the 2006 Buty from Columbia Valley).

12. Prepare for things to get steamy.