Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

What have I gotten myself into?

So, between the time I announced my 31-recipe challenge and now, I’ve started actually reading the recipes in full (probably something I should have done BEFORE taking this on), and all I can think right now is, “What have I gotten myself into?

You see, just looking over the list and the pretty, seductive, inviting pictures, I was lulled into a false sense of security–if they can make that, I can make that. What I don’t take into account is “they” probably have a full size kitchen stocked with all the right tools, a huge island, double ovens, six burners and some blue birds to pull the cookies out the oven. I have an apartment kitchen with a tiny counter, tiny oven, drawers filled with an assortment of maybe-the-right-tool and a dog running around. I’m like Julie Powell without the gimlets or the book deal.

Not to mention, while I realize there will be a great time investment involved, I hadn’t fully taken into account the monetary investment–short ribs, whole duck, FIVE POUNDS of duck fat??? (I’m looking at you, duck confit) Those are not exactly budget ingredients. Thankfully I can pretty much subside on Greek yogurt and apples otherwise, because, as you may or may not know, I don’t exactly rake it in.

My only real solace right now is that my experiment starts promptly on February 1, which is promptly two days before Super Bowl, for which Kevin is having a party. For which I more or less demanded that I make at least two things off my list. So hopefully that can help get the ball rolling. (And no, I’m not making duck confit for Super Bowl Sunday. I know you’re all wondering.) And Kevin. Kevin loves to cook too, and he’s great at prep, so knowing I have an extra set of hands in all this is a  relief. Plus, I have a month of opportunities to wear my cute new apron.

I still have about a week to peel myself off the ceiling and bring my heart rate back down to semi-human levels before I dive head-first into what may either be one of the coolest or one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done (or both.) In the meantime, I have to refocus, avert my attention to the play I’m in this weekend (closing weekend), and BREATHE. Breathe…breathe…again…

I’m getting there. If nothing else, keep checking back in to watch my month-long journey toward mental breakdown. It should be fun, and definitely tasty!

An Anniversary and an Announcement!

I can’t even believe it, but Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness is ONE YEAR OLD today! Holy cow!

One year ago today, I decided, partially on a whim, to start a food blog. My life wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I figured, why not do something I want, then? Something that’s entirely in my control.

Looking back, a year doesn’t seem that long. But then when I look at where I was a year ago compared to where I am today, it seems like an eternity. A year ago, I was out of work, so I was serving at a Cuban restaurant full-time. While I loved my coworkers and the atmosphere and even some of the customers, overall I hated the job. I was unhappy. And I remember sitting in front of the heating vent in my old house, watching the Food Network, which inspired my very first post.

Today, a year later, I am working full-time (at my old job, in political polling), I’ve moved out of the house I grew up in and I am looking into moving again.

Hurricane Sandy happened, and I learned to truly be thankful for what I have and to count my blessings. We were incredibly lucky–we only lost power for a few days and a few (recovered) pieces of siding off our chimney. Walking out your door and seeing the extent of the destruction right in front of you, seeing beaches you grew up on decimated, is an unimaginably eye-opening experience. It’s easy to forget the fragility in life.

So, clearly, some major life changed have happened this year, and this blog was one of them. So here’s to 2013 at LLPF–it can only get even better!

*********

But now, on that note, I have a big birthday announcement to make! I’m taking on a new project here at the blog, and I figured there’s no better time to announce that than on the first anniversary!

Starting next month, I am going to undertake a 31-recipe challenge. Over the month of February, I will cook each and every dish on this list (thank you, Buzzfeed!) I will not make any more than *minor* substitutions. That is, even though I don’t like beets, I will make and try the beet salad. Even though I rarely eat fish and have never, ever prepared it, I will make miso-glazed cod. Because, when all is said and done, I might just discover that I enjoyed it!

I’m doing this for several reasons:
1. These recipes look damn delicious.
2. Accountability and a constant content source–I have been far too intermittent with this blog at times, between all the other things going on in my life (work, moving, Sandy, repeatedly involving myself in theater productions [sorrynotsorry]), but this will give me a) a consistent flow of recipes and experiences to blog about and b) accountability. I said I’m going to do this, and I will!
3. An opportunity to expand my horizons, both in the kitchen and at the table–There are plenty of things in here I have never, ever cooked before (braised short ribs, most desserts, soup) and things I never eat/don’t like/haven’t tried. But by cooking all of these recipes, as is, I will be learning new things in the kitchen and trying new foods or rediscovering old foods I didn’t think I liked. And if I still don’t like it in the end, so be it. But I may discover I like things I didn’t before.

So, there you have it. I know the list says “31 Things to Cook in January,” but I’m waiting to start until February because, well, it’s already 10 days into January, so that’s valuable time lost. Also, I’m starting tech week for a play this weekend (yeah, yeah, another one!) so my cooking time will be pretty much minimal.

I hope you’re all as excited for this as I am! I can’t wait to start!

Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year! (And Chocolate Truffles!)

I’ve been away quite a while, so I wanted to make sure I got all of my holiday wishes in there. With a new year, hopefully, comes an opportunity to blog again, now that my life is somewhat settling into order.

Lots of things happened since we last met.  Biggest of all is I moved. Now that I’m settled into the new digs, I have a new (and unfortunately much smaller) kitchen, but I’m learning to work with it. (For now, anyway–I’ll be moving again in a few months.)

New kitchen

I also received an awesomely nerdy, foodie Christmas gift that I’m so excited to share with you! (If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may already know what this is!)

Dorothy Wizard of Oz apron

For those who don’t know, I’m a HUGE Wizard of Oz fan, and when I saw this apron in a local shop, I *had* to have it. So there it was, waiting for me on Christmas morning, thanks to Kevin’s brother! Now I can pretend I’m on my way to Oz AND stop ruining my good t-shirts!

Anyhow…back to the food: what did you guess I’d be making with that big batch of chocolate ganache I showed you last week? If you guessed I’d make it into truffles, good for you! Or, you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and already saw what I made. If not, then 1) you should follow me and 2) let me know what you guessed, because I’d love new ideas!

I did indeed make a big batch of Christmas truffles (I gave them away as gifts because Kevin has a huge family), but you could make these any time of the year, and add any flavors or toppings you want.

For my Christmas truffles, I just made a basic chocolate truffle and rolled them in crushed peppermint, cocoa powder and cinnamon (think spicy Mexican hot chocolate), but you could totally add different extracts–or booze–to infuse a new flavor in, and you can roll them in just about anything you want: colored sugar, powdered sugar, spices, nuts, espresso, etc.

(P.S. Some flavor infusion ideas/substitutions: mint extract, coffee extract or strong espresso, Kahlua, rum or rum extract, Bailey’s, raspberry liquor, orange liquor, mint or cinnamon schnapps)

*NOTE: This recipe yields roughly 100 truffles (give or take depending on the size you make them.) I tripled and adapted an original recipe I had found on allrecipes.com (I had a LOT of family to feed!) If you feel like that’s a *tad* too many truffles, go ahead and halve it, third it, whatever.

Truffles

Basic chocolate truffles (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

36 ounces of good chocolate*
1 cup heavy cream
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt

1. Add cream and 1/3 to 1/2 the chocolate to a medium saucepan. Bring to medium heat, stirring constantly. Add the rest of the chocolate in gradually, stirring until smooth. **Watch this carefully, as it can burn quickly.**

2. Once the chocolate mixture is smooth, remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and the salt.

3. Transfer ganache to a medium bowl and refrigerate 1-2 hours (or more if necessary–you want it solid, but scoopable.) Stir halfway through, if possible.

4. Once ganache is cooled, scoop out small sections and roll into a ball. Roll in desired topping and refrigerate again to re-solidify.

Don’t fret if they’re not perfectly spherical. The perfectionist in me wanted perfect, round, restaurant-quality truffles, but the realist in me (the half that was already getting frazzled and realized it was the day before Christmas Eve) wanted as stress-free of an experience as possible. And you know what? Not stressing over making them perfect was the best decision I ever made. Because it simply wasn’t going to happen, and I would’ve made myself crazy. Besides, imperfection is beautiful!

*Note: I used Ghirardelli chocolate, half bittersweet and half semi-sweet. You can use all bittersweet or all semi-sweet or another ratio based on your palate. You may need to add sugar to taste, as well. I also used a combination of chocolate chips and chopped up chocolate bars to ensure an even consistency.

My chocolate mix: 50-50 Ghirardelli semi-sweet and bittersweet

Chopped chocolate

Chocolate ganache

Truffle assemble line--ganache, peppermint, baking sheet with finished truffles

If you want to roll your truffles in peppermint, you’ll need to make a peppermint powder, basically. This could be done the old-fashioned way withe a mallet or rolling pin and a zip-top bag, but I found a Magic Bullet (or food processor) works much more efficiently. Throw in some whole peppermint candies (or broken up candy canes), whir for a few seconds and, voila! Peppermint powder.

Peppermint powder-making

By the way, if you have extra of this, keep it. It mixes nicely into hot cocoa or coffee, or you can use it in place of sprinkles on ice cream and other desserts! YUM!

And there you have it! These make great gifts, or a decadent treat for any occasion. And even though these are super easy to make, there’s an elegance and sophistication associated with truffles, so everyone will think you’re simply amazing for making these from scratch! (No one has to know how insanely simple it was!)

If you want to give these as gifts, like I did, find a pretty little box, some fun tissue paper and some festive mini paper cupcake (or candy) cups. I got boxes at the dollar store that were shiny and Christmasy, along with sparkly tissue paper. (Just make sure if you’re using something sparkly that there’s either tissue or paper cups between the truffles and the sparkles, or else you’ll end up eating glitter.)

Or, of course, you know, you could always NOT give these away and keep these rich little gems for yourself. (I’m in full support of that option!)

So, again, I hope everyone had a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I’ll see you around more in 2013!

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