Sunday, August 7, 2011

Empty Cupboard Meal: The Breakfast Burger

Around 7:00 p.m. everyday I arrive back at my apartment and do the same routine: check the mail, switch footwear from chefs clogs to slippers, navigate my way to the kitchen and figure out a dinner plan. 

The issue with this -- we've been making some cutbacks lately (by lately I mean forever) and regularly going food shopping is a task we do not take part in as often as we would like to. Other things we have cut back on include our lack of cable and internet which leaves for a pretty boring household when you're all alone. And when I'm bored, I like to cook. 

I think the look of an empty fridge turns people away from cooking altogether. I realize all that white space drains motivation but if we look past it , sometimes there are enough resources in this "empty kitchen" to still make a great meal. 

My latest hobby: searching my fridge, freezer and cupboard to find some hidden gems. 

Alas, The Breakfast Burger

What I found

In the fridge: eggs, onions, turkey bacon, butter

In the freezer: burger slider patties

In the cupboard: light brown sugar, rolls, maple syrup, pepper

I caramelized the onions in light brown sugar and butter. Turned the bacon into maple pepper bacon by brushing each side with maple syrup every 5 minutes of oven baking and seasoning with pepper. Thought the only way to make this breakfast themed burger complete was to have some scrambled eggs on top.

Together, it created a strange yet exciting mix of sweet, salty, buttery and ... meaty.

And no complaints, just empty plates. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Greatest Things Since Sliced Bread

"The greatest thing since sliced bread"

I've heard it a million times before and can't help but agree. Sliced bread is a pretty damn great idea. But since its debut in the 1920s, I think there are a couple other inventions in the food industry that deserve some praise of their own.

The Spork
           I would be lying if I said I haven't spent a significant amount of time in line at a barbecue debating whether to grab a fork or spoon to enjoy my fruit salad. I need something with teeth to grab those watermelon and pineapple pieces, but the grapes are nearly impossible to stab without sending your entire plate flying. Alas, the spork was invented, and that time we wasted over the grueling task of utensil choosing can now be spent going up for seconds.

Stacker Marshmallows

           As my favorite purple dinosaur used to say "there called s'mores because once you start eating them you always want some more!"You don't have to be a hardcore camper to enjoy a good s'more. And as I was walking down the isle in the grocery store recently, I came across an invention I think is pure genius. Everything related to the s'more is square -- square graham cracker, square Hershey's chocolate bar -- and now thanks to stacker marshmallows, the best part of the s'more is square too. All we have to worry about is not catching the marshmallow on fire and flinging it into the woods (because I have in fact done that before.)

Squeezable Peanut Butter & Jelly

           Peanut Butter & Jelly with a tall glass of milk is one of the simplest and most delicious sandwiches there is. Only issue --  it's also one of the messiest. No knife ever made could properly navigate its way inside a jelly or peanut butter jar without major messy wrists or a lot of waste at the bottom of the jar. This problem is now solved with the invention of squeezable jellies and peanut butter.  The movement started with ketchup, mayo, mustard and some of our other favorite condiments converting from glass jars to the easier squeezable option, and I would like to give a big squeeze and thank you to whoever started this trend.

And last but definitely not least ...

           They make them for your beer can, beer bottle, wine bottle, hot coffee, iced coffee -- I've seen them with a glove attachment so you never drop it, on a necklace so your drink can hang free. Do you like a sports team or band? There's a koozie for that. Need a clever giveaway at your wedding, shower or bach party? How about some koozies? Everyone will use them for one beverage or another. Designers like Lilly Pulitzer and Vera Bradley are selling koozies.  The best part about koozies is there simple purpose -- to assure your beverage stays at its optimal temperature longer and prevent condensation from touching your hand. 

           The point of this post -- to remember the thing we got right over the years and how great these food inventions are next time you're enjoying an icy cold koozie'd beverage with your side of stacked s'mores and squeezed PB&J on sliced bread. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Delicious Day of Eats

My blog decided that since I was on vacation from school, it deserved to be too. Oops. I began that summer laziness that hits every "student." And I have another good excuse -- my computer did produce some sparks and smoke the last time I tried to turn it on.

The posts are going to start happening again, and this time they are no longer limited to all things sweet. While there will always be a special place in my heart (and stomach) for desserts, there is so much more I want to explore, write about and more importantly, eat.

Yesterday proved to be an excellent start to this new & improved eating. I started off the morning with a walk into Davis Square to Diesel Cafe where I had a delicious Iced Chai Latte and a bagel from Iggy's Bread. Iggy's is a local bread maker I am a big fan of and I was very excited to see their bagels right down my street.

By lunchtime, Sheree and I were walking around Harvard Square and decided we craved sushi. We both whipped out our phones and used our Yelp App to direct us to Takemura Japanese Restaurant. It was tough to find being tucked in the corner in a basement space on Eliot Street. Our favorite roll was the unagi eel roll topped with teriyaki sauce, and our least favorite was the spicy tuna because it was (for lack of a better term) too fishy. I am happy we did discover it though because it was quiet and the fastest sushi service I have ever received. We were in and out in 30 minutes -- which was just enough time to run back to the car and discover one of those lovely Harvard Square parking violations. 

As late afternoon approached, we headed to Margarita's for a couple (or 5) delicious celebratory drinks accompanied by bottomless chips & dip. I'm pretty simple when ordering a margarita --  house tequila, on the rocks with salt. Sheree's was much more exciting with a red sugar rim and 5 different kinds of alcohol, which when all was said and done tasted like purple Kool- Aid. Both fun and dangerous.

It was a great Monday off from work and I was happy to experience a delicious day of eats from a broad range of categories. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

100 Pounds: Croissants, Ice Cream & Tables of Food

Since I'm attending a professional pastry program I knew I would be surrounded by desserts all the time. The good thing about this is I don't have much of a sweet tooth. However like most Americans, I can always make room for ice cream. And two weeks ago, we spent two days making the most delicious ice creams and sorbets. My group in particular made a coffee flavored ice cream, which sounds pretty simple. Except the fact that we put white & dark chocolate hazelnut chips in it that put Ben & Jerry's chip size to shame. One of the more interesting flavors in class was a Tomato Sorbet paired with a Pine Nut ice cream. Together the nutty-ness mixed with sweet tomato compliment each other so well. After a week of eating ice cream I was looking forward to hopefully taking a break ... and I had no such luck.

For the past two weeks it has been nothing but croissants. And if there is one weakness I have in this world, it is for croissants. How can someone not like them? They are pure butter (In a good way) and can be made into a variety of different flavors to please anyone. There is your basic rolled butter croissant which was extremely rich. Since we let the dough rest overnight, they developed a great flavor. An almond croissant which is oozing on the inside with almond cream and topped with sliced almonds & powdered sugar. And my personal favorite -- the chocolate croissant. We were lucky enough to be able to save some raw dough to freeze ... Therefore I can bring some to my family on Easter Sunday (And I am beyond excited for some family time!)

Between ice cream and croissants, I had the opportunity to work an awesome charity event through school called Taste of the Nation. It is an event put on by the Share Our Strength organization who dedicate their time to ending childhood hunger. The event was held at Hynes Convention Center and when we weren't busy working behind the pastry table to represent school, we were walking around table to table sampling food from hundreds of restaurants in the Boston area. It was great to be a part of such a cool event which raised a ton of money for a great organization. And of course, I felt fortunate to be eating all the amazing food prepared by Boston's finest.

I have been eating so horrible the past three weeks and I'm convinced I have gained at least 100 pounds. Oh well. I have to work on the whole exercise thing ... because the only form I've been getting is the effort it takes to lift up a piece of food and put it in my mouth.

My ice cream pictures wouldn't work, but below enjoy some images of various viennoiserie: croissants, danish & puff pastry.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Important Food Lessons I've Learned (And Who Taught Them To Me)

Someone recently asked me what my hobbies were and I didn't have an answer.

I thought about it some more. Do I really not have any hobbies? I certainly don't collect anything and ever since I was young various "hobby worthy" activities have come and gone. I never stuck with those guitar lessons or dance classes. Sometimes I read or workout but I don't consider those good hobbies and don't have any time to do much of either. I realized during my 23 years on this planet there is one thing I've always stuck with and loved.

And that's food.

Anyone who has met me is well aware of my obsession with food and throughout my life I've learned some important lessons from some valuable sources regarding this favorite subject of mine. 

Lesson #1: The Right Way to Cook Just About Everything
Taught by Aunty Alex (a.k.a. Dar) 

Dar was the first person who taught me everything I needed to know about food because, well ... she knows it all. Due to her knowledge and my obsession, together we have discovered a variety of interesting food through cooking, serving and eating it. Together, there is nothing we won't try and thanks to her there is nothing I can't cook (without her help/recipe)

When I was younger Dar owned a great deli and she told me I used to love to come in and knock on the deli case glass to wave to her. Now, I work behind a glass bakery case where I watch little kids do the same. 

Lesson #2: Don't Be Afraid to Try New Things
Taught by My Dog Gordy

Gordy is an extremely smart dog and I think there are a lot aspects of his lifestyle that we humans can learn from. One of these aspects would be Gordy's attitude towards food. We have fed the poor thing the exact same dog food since the day we got him, so when something drops on the ground to say he jumps at it is an understatement. And like any good dog, he's not afraid to work for his treats either.

What I really admire about the little guy is that he's not afraid to try anything. I truly have never seen him not like something. If I'm making a salad and he's begging, I'd toss him a piece of lettuce and he would eat it. He's eaten pears, tortilla chips, ice cream, cheese, etc -- there's nothing he won't try.

I like to think he's very open minded and I try to be just like him in this way.
Now only if I could take on his sleeping schedule ...

Lesson #3: The Worst We Can Have is Leftovers
Taught by My Friend Erica

I lived with Erica for two years, and we were often at the grocery store or liquor store together. Whenever we were stocking up the fridge with food or drink, I'd look at her and say "Are you sure we need to buy all that?" She'd just turn back and say "Well, the worst we can have is leftovers." And it's true. When preparing food or drinks one should NEVER under purchase. Whats the worse that can happen? We just have some leftover chicken we can throw in the freezer ... or maybe we have some extra beers in the fridge. We'll just drink them next week anyway. 

Lesson #4: Appreciate Sweets
Taught by Dad

When me my dad and my brother are eating a meal, they usually end with the two of them breaking out some sort of sweets. And anyone who's been to my house before knows which cabinet to open up & find the hidden stash of chocolate (90% of the time, peanut M&M's) While I am usually yelling at my Dad -- "You eat too many sweets,"You need to cut back, "Stop buying this junk!" I realize his love of all things sugary & chocolatey is really just an appreciation for these wonderful sweets. Desserts are served at the end of the meal for a reason -- we save the best for last!

Lesson #5 Desserts Don't Have to be Boring
Taught by The Cake Boss

Whether I'm willing to admit it or not Buddy Valastro also known as The Cake Boss had a big influence on why I decided to go to culinary school. As I started becoming more addicted to his show I started seriously debating my future in pastry. And one of my final convincing factors was when I realized how creative, fun and exciting making cakes and cupcakes can be. Thanks Buddy -- you're the BOSS

Lesson #6 Irish People CAN Cook
Taught by My Family

Things the Irish are known for: Drinking, Lord of the Dance, Leprechauns
Things the Irish are NOT known for: Their ability to cook

But anyone who believes this has never been to a holiday with my Irish side of the family. We defy the odds with amazing meals (And I'm not just talking corn beef, cabbage & potatoes -- thought we do make those damn good too) 

And the Final & Most Important Lesson:
The Food On The Table Isn't As Important As The People Around It
Learned this one all by myself!

As much as I dream about spending hundreds of dollars on fabulous meals prepared by world famous chefs .... at the end of the day I can't complain. Maybe I haven't been eating food made with the best ingredients (because those probably aren't found at Market Basket) but it doesn't mean I haven't been eating good food. And the best part of all-- my amazing friends & family who join me for these not so fancy meals.

So the most important lesson I've ever learned ... the food on the table isn't as important as the people sitting around the table. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Long Time No Blog!

Due to some serious settling in and the stresses of a new job it has been almost a month since my last post. 

Work is crazy but I love it. It's difficult to try and learn in such a busy kitchen but I'm trying hard and hopefully it all pays off in the end. And I am now officially old. I've almost been out of college for a year and I just turned 23 --yikes! 

School is amazing. It's like a vacation and I'm surrounded with people who share the same obsession with food that I have. I am so extremely happy I decided to do this :) 

Since my bedtime is rapidly approaching this is going to be short and sweet.

And now for your visual entertainment .... everything we've made this month. Enjoy! (I sure did)

My very first successful folded pastry bag
It's difficult to understand, but we need to use these a lot and everyone is class struggles with them.
I did it though! 

Called "Cigarette" Batter and is used for decorating dishes

Mint Milano Cookies infused with Fresh Mint!

Decorated by yours truly

This was known as the "Inappropriate Cheesecake" I decorated. Oops.