On the Heels of March

Hi Friends,

Can you believe it?  We're on the heels of March.  For me, February has been a month of refresh, renew, and plenty of research in preparation for a new adventure.   In March, I'm joining the team at Lake Theater & Cafe in downtown Lake Oswego overseeing all things pastry (desserts).  Below is a peek at a couple of recipes I've been working on..

 Black Onyx Gluten-Free Brownie

Black Onyx Gluten-Free Brownie

 Creamsicle (Orange Juice Jello & Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta)

Creamsicle (Orange Juice Jello & Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta)

In addition to the restaurant dessert menu, I'll be preparing concessions and banquet desserts.  There's been a steady supply of caramels, caramel corn, apple hand pies and cookies at my place all month.   Caramel corn is great for Sunday game day by-the-way.  It's going to be fabulous, right!

But, amidst the excitement around this new adventure, there is a bit of apprehension around my ability to disconnect from that stuff at home and focus on things like making dinner.  I'll admit it- I haven't exactly been bringing my A- game when it comes to grocery shopping, making dinners and that sort of thing.   You are more likely to catch me watching the candy thermometer than checking on the chicken.  I'm starting to believe that it's possible I enter another dimension of being once I start thinking about pastry.  What do I mean?   Well, I could be on the phone with a friend (yes, it could be you) and you might say something about a book, a place or anything really and whatever it is, my brain finds a connection to food, specifically to dessert.  Then, there's a split and the thoughts go off into all different directions (like  that movie Pulp Fiction).  Then, I start imagining different possible components and flavors and begin pulling those back together to design a plated dessert.  It's a bit of a distraction.  But, maybe you do this too?  My friend Jennifer calls it "the creative process".

It hasn't been all research though, there's been some refresh and renew.  For a friend's potluck, I brought out a recipe I've made only once before.  The last time I made it, I was living in a tiny apartment in Lake Oswego, soon after having my daughter, in the process of looking for a house.  My friend Sunni and her husband were planning a visit.  I wanted to make something special, apples were aplenty and I thought it likely that I'd be up all night anyway so why not try this simple yet interesting-sounding recipe I found that required baking throughout the night, right?  So, I made Anne Willian's Apple Gateau Le Fey.  

 Apple Gateau Le Fey

Apple Gateau Le Fey

 And, I took a little caramel sauce to pair with it.

And, I took a little caramel sauce to pair with it.

Yep, that's exactly what it looks like, very thinly sliced apples, layer after layer, piled high and baked overnight.  My only changes were combining fresh orange zest in a spice grinder with granulated cane sugar and sprinkling it sparingly between each layer.  And, flipping the whole thing over onto a prepared pastry crust and adorning the top with some pastry leaves.

So, back to my A-game.  This month, Justin and I plan to be a little more mindful about grocery shopping and preparing meals.  Each week in March, I'll post about what we bought, what it cost, what we made and how we did.  We'll call this week the TRIAL-RUN WEEK Groceries.  This week we bought: 2 organic whole chickens, 3 (1.3lb) organic tomatoes, 2 organic Haas avocados, 2 bunches of red-leaf lettuce, 2 bunches of organic carrots, 2 (1.36lb) organic yellow onions, 2 (1.33lb) organic yellow potatoes, .72 lb organic green beans, 1- 6pack organic extra-large eggs, 1- 10 oz tub roasted garlic hummus, 1 pint organic half-and-half and 1 Frontera Mexico City Peanut Mole Sauce.  We shopped at New Seasons Market in Lake Oswego and the TRIAL-RUN WEEK Cost was $66.72.  That being said, we had quite a few staple items in the home to start off with.   We always keep Illy espresso in the house.  Justin drinks the medium-roast and I drink decaf.  Not every day, and usually only a cup on the days we have it.  We always have a variety of tea in the house.  Justin and I drink A LOT OF TEA, all day long!   And, we always have chocolate in the house.  You may suspect that I'm exaggerating about this but I assure you, I am not.  An inventory of the chocolate in our house at the present moment..

We also always have pantry staples, including baking ingredients, honey, organic virgin coconut oil, olive oil and red wine in the house. Let's look at TRIAL-RUN WEEK What we made.. 

 Roasted chickens.  Put the chicken necks into a pot of filtered water with the ends of celery stalks, brought to a boil and reduced to a simmer while the chickens were roasting.  Later, I'll add the neck stock to a large stock pot, along with the drippings from the roasting pan, the chicken carcasses, filtered water, mirepoix, a tablespoon of two of Bragg's apple cider vinegar and a bouquet garni to make a nice big pot of stock!

Roasted chickens.  Put the chicken necks into a pot of filtered water with the ends of celery stalks, brought to a boil and reduced to a simmer while the chickens were roasting.  Later, I'll add the neck stock to a large stock pot, along with the drippings from the roasting pan, the chicken carcasses, filtered water, mirepoix, a tablespoon of two of Bragg's apple cider vinegar and a bouquet garni to make a nice big pot of stock!

 Prepared mirepoix and 2 bouquet garni for stock, soups, etc.

Prepared mirepoix and 2 bouquet garni for stock, soups, etc.

TrialRunWeekRedLeafLeetuce.jpg
 Rinsed the greens in filtered water and separated into containers.

Rinsed the greens in filtered water and separated into containers.

 Peeled and rinsed the carrots.

Peeled and rinsed the carrots.

 Separated the two chickens into: a container of 2 chicken legs & thighs and 2 chicken breasts, a container of sliced chicken breast meat for sandwiches, or to add to soup or salad, a container of shredded breast and leg & thigh meat from one of the chickens for taco/enchilada filling and put the remaining parts, including the cavity of both birds, skin, and neck stock into stock pot (see above ingred.).  I let the chicken stock simmer overnight so the apple cider can work it's magic on the bones.

Separated the two chickens into: a container of 2 chicken legs & thighs and 2 chicken breasts, a container of sliced chicken breast meat for sandwiches, or to add to soup or salad, a container of shredded breast and leg & thigh meat from one of the chickens for taco/enchilada filling and put the remaining parts, including the cavity of both birds, skin, and neck stock into stock pot (see above ingred.).  I let the chicken stock simmer overnight so the apple cider can work it's magic on the bones.

 This is the delicious stock we use primarily for soup and braises but can be used to make risotto, in exchange for water to make rice or to make gravies, etc.

This is the delicious stock we use primarily for soup and braises but can be used to make risotto, in exchange for water to make rice or to make gravies, etc.

I've been a little lax about making my weekly almond milk but got back into the groove this week. I like to make it myself because who really knows what "carrageenan" is anyway?  I add almond milk to my coffee and sometimes, my black teas, so would it be safe to drink the store-bought brands that contain the stuff?  Hmm..better to be safe.  I've found it a good practice to buy an abundance of organic almonds from the food bins at Whole Foods Market when they're running a sale and freeze them.  When you have them on-hand in the freezer, it just takes a little planning and a little time; planning = remembering to soak the almonds overnight and time = blanching the almonds and popping them out of their little skins.  It goes by pretty quickly though, especially if you have help.   

almondsforalmondmilk.jpg
almondmilkyum.jpg

Because it's only mid-week, I'll follow-up with the TRIAL-RUN WEEK How we did later on.  Granted I spent some time on Saturday prepping things, it has made it so much easier and quicker to put a delicious dinner together during the week.  And, I have time to make dessert too!