Stepford Ct Wife

Stepford Ct Wife
Art by Anne Taintor

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lesson 1.5 How To Make Vegetable Stock

 The quickness and the ease of the vegetable stock is a good reason to start making your soups with a vegetable stock. You also do not have to get organ meat nor do you have to boil for hours bones. I think however it would be wise to start off with the lessons for cooking soups with a vegetable stock. It is quicker and easier which would be the better way to understand how to make stock. Another thing that would be helpful for new cooks would be the weight or a visual size of what is a large onion. I think that was one of my down falls in the French Onion woah! Onion! soup. 

   This recipe made me so happy because I could make the stock then soak the cannellini beans overnight in the fridge (8 to 12 hours). Then that would mean the beans and the stock would be ready the next day for the Minestrone soup. Martha warns that you need to use fresh ingredients and avoid ingredients that have too strong a flavor but does not explain why. I am guessing because when you boil the ingredients the "less than fresh" or strong flavor can over power the soup and make it only taste like that regrettable ingredient. She gives advice to not use in multi-vegetable soups Cauliflower, cabbage, or broccoli which is good to know.

   I was happy with the vegetable stock and it was so simple to make. It really made me think that perhaps all of my future from scratch soups should be vegetable based.

Cookies From the Cookie Making Party

Cookies (start from the upper right cookie and then clockwise): Sticky Fingers , White Chocolate Oreo Bark, Cupid's Regret, and Stratford Toll House

 While I was looking through my pictures for the Cream of Broccoli Soup and the Minestrone Soup I found the pictures of the Cookie party that I hosted January 23rd 2010. I spent a lot of time making the night before/into the morning two different bases of cookies. I was thinking my guests could meet up at my condo and then we decide what to mix in the cookie batters the day of the party. I did not budget my time well which caused me not to get much sleep. I also spent most of the party in the kitchen next to the stove shoveling in cookie pan after cookie pan. Even with all of that wear on my body I have to say that it was great to have a lot of people together to make cookies.

  The process goes by so much faster with good friends and helpers! You also get a variety of sizes, variety of details and all with cookie recipes you have been making for a while. Also you get to introduce new people together that live near by and you get to catch up on all of the gossip. I am thinking about doing it again for around Christmas. Maybe have people bring either batter or cookies they have made ahead of time.

Cookies Top right are sugar cookies in the shape of the the Alphabet and the lower half are Cupid's Nipples
Left side cookies are the Crazy 8's and the right side cookies are Cupid's nipples

  It was really nice and convent that we did the cookie party. At the end of the night the guest left with different types of cookies and it was not as much effort as if I did it all myself. Cookies, especially Christmas cookies, have taken me forever in the past to make in my small/inefficient kitchen. When the remodel is done there will be more counter space and more areas to sit down and create. I spent a lot of hours the last two Christmases on my feet. My back would hurt, there was not a lot of space to work so I could not get a lot done and it was just exhausting.

  Not only did I give out some cookies to my guests but also for Valentine's Day to my friends/family that were in the local area (ie in the Northeast and two in Canada which is kind of local if you really miss the people that live there). It looked like I spent a whole week doing all those cookies but for the time I spent on two batches I got eight or ten batches. Of course I made sure to include the ingredients and the names of the cookies along with the names of the cookie party guests. It was worth the all the cookie scooping and the oven slave labor at the end.

  I packed the cookies  in small  inexpensive white pails with a covers that I got at the container store which I sent home with the dutiful cookie makers and out to the cookie fans. Now I know why Martha Stewart can do it all because she has all of those helpers. I would love to get for Christmas some interns or helpers because imagine all that I could do with all those helpers! Hubby if you are listening if you can fit two or three interns under the tree that would be fantastic! I just need them after Thanksgiving to plan and make the cookies. Or readers once again if you like cookies and cleaning then Stepford CT Wife has a spot for you!

  The advantage of baking with a group of people is that people have different strengths and make cookies differently. I do not have much experience with using cookie cutters and I like to make big hunky cookies. While my friend B was really good at doing details, made delicately detailed/small cookies and taught me how to use the cookie cutters correctly. M was very different from her wife. She wanted to get the cookies done as quickly as possible and helped a lot because she was very fast at making the cookies. Also she was very helpful in cleaning up and doing the dishes-- my kind of lady! M2 made medium sized cookies and did the crazy 8's and that led to a new cookie I named the Cupid's Nipples (a pun on Nipples of Venus the French Candy and they had little Cinnamon hearts in the middle of a round sugar cookie). Also M2 noticed that we were working on wax paper not parchment paper. Wax paper is not oven friendly at all. So that was discovered rather late so we had to transfer the letters/number and the big heart that B was making for M onto the silicone baking mats. Without that discovery there would have been a lot of mess and less cookies for the guests/ cookie fan club. Now I have more silicone baking mats so everyone should get those next time plus I have extras. It is true that too many cooks can be bad in the kitchen but outside the kitchen friends scooping out cookies/helping to clean up are just right.

  Cookie parties can be expensive so I had people bring materials: Butterfingers, cinnamon hearts, Oreos, white chocolate and etc. You could also have people bring appetizers or a main meal. I made some appetizers and we order from the best Thai restaurant Little Buddha. I made two cookie bases: a sugar cookie base and a chocolate chip cookie base without the chocolate chips (if that makes sense then you know the recipe for chocolate chip cookies). I recommend having people bring different ingredients so that the party does not have to run too expensive. Also to cut down on expense/time like I mentioned before have people either bring cookies or batter that they made at home.

 So on the day they arrived we decided on what cookies we would create with the mix ins we brought. I named all of the cookies because well that is just as fun as making up the recipes!


  The Cupid's Regrets are the sugar cookie base with white chocolate and Cinnamon hearts.

   Cupid's Nipples are sugar cookies the inside circles of the 8's from the crazy 8's with a cinnamon heart in the middle. The Cinnamon hearts were great addition to the cookies and they made a sort of sugar stain glass.

  Alphabet and number cookies were sugar cookies with either cinnamon hearts, sprinkles or decorating sugars (or some combo of all three).


  Sticky Fingers uses the chocolate chip cookie base minus the chocolate chips plus Reese peanut butter pieces and mini Butterfingers candy bars smashed in the batter. The name is of course a pun on the fact that Butterfingers were in the batter and I love the Rolling Stones. In fact Sticky Fingers was the first album that my husband and I ever listened to together.

  Stratford Toll House Cookies are chocolate chip cookie recipe with coconut, marshmallows and chocolate chips.

   The Oreo Bark I did incorrectly as I learned from chocolates and confectionery recently but I am going to melt the chocolate correctly next time. You can see in the first picture that it did not have that shine that I would have had if I tempered the chocolate. It did not have that correct breaking sound and texture that I would have had if I once again tempered the chocolate. I have to say that with my inexperienced taste buds  it still tasted really good and it was enjoyed by a lot of my cookie fans. White Chocolate Oreo bark is going to be better next time. The Oreo cookie bark is made with Oreo Cookies and White Chocolate. I crushed up Oreo cookies and put them in the melted white chocolate. Then I put down on plastic wrap in a jelly roll pan a thin layer of the product. Then I put in roughly chopped Oreos and in some parts even whole Oreos. I did this because the attempts to make chocolate covered Oreos did not work. It did not work because I used white chocolate chips instead of  white chocolate pistoles. Basically I heated up chocolate and then just stuck stuff in and then let it cool in a jelly pan. When I perfect tempering chocolate I want to then chop up the Oreo Cookie bark in a cookie. I want to use the bark in both a sugar cookie and in a chocolate chip cookie base. To the victor goes the spoil.

A Cinnamon Heart Sugar Cookie that did not make the transfer to the baking sheet.

 There were some failures at the cookie party and it was exhausting but it was a good time. I learned from the people that I worked with and I got  to experiment with recipes that I knew. I came up with new cookie ideas and used ingredients that I had never used in cookies. I am hoping that I can do it another time. I am hoping to recruit more people this time and be more efficient in the upcoming new kitchen.

Soups and Stocks Forgotten About Until Now

  So I cooked two soups soups and two stocks in February while it was still cold outside. With the start of the new job and the misplaced photos I never made any entries about the soups/stocks. And then as you may or may not know from the first August post-- I could not remember which email I put the blog under. The only pictures that I have are of a finished Cream of Broccoli soup which I just labeled "Pea Soup." There are four pictures and they look like the same shot. So there are pictures missing and this is very un-Martha- Stewart-like!

 I remembered that I did these soups when 1.) I looked over my last entry in January (when I was trying to reformat) which mentioned that I did a Minestrone Soup and 2.) the other day my husband asked if I could make him the Cream of Broccoli soup again. These soups I remember going rather smoothly even though I was beyond tired. I decided that after doing the Cream of Broccoli that I would finish the soup section and forget about the Cream of soup variations, pureed vegetable, the dashi, the consomme and the Fish Fumet. I had been getting up at 4:30 am in the morning to go through traffic to get to work before 6:45 am  and then I would come back at 5:00 pm.  Those were really long days at Labor and Delivery during my job training and  I just wanted to sleep. Now it is a long day but I do not have to go against traffic like I had to in the mornings and I work less hours.

 When I was looking through all of my posts I was wondering why there were so few entries. So I am going to make separate posts regarding those fallen soups and stocks.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Plans For The Transformaton Of The Ugly Galley Kitchen: AN ODE TO IKEA

  So I have been plotting to burn down my kitchen "accidentally" for almost two years now. That kitchen torch at William Sonoma was looking really, really, good but I was not planning to make Creme Brulee. Brulee which means to burn oh yes! But no to the cream... no.

 In this fantasy, featured in Stepford Wives Monthly, I was planning to play the confused Stepford Wife when the firemen/police came over. They would knock down the door to save me from the hideous kitchen. My hair with that perfect summer wave with no hairs out of place, the blaze reflecting in my Versace sunglasses and I would have the table set. Then I would act like I was so surprised that the kitchen was ablaze but point to the lovely leg of lamb that I had just made. It would be the best lamb they ever had and it would have only taken me 12 hours using Martha Stewart's Recipe (Well actually three years to make and raise the lamb plus 12 hours but I digress). The fire would be out. The insurance man would show up while there was still some lamb with a check just enough to cover a new dress and the kitchen. The scene I imagine would be akin to Alfred Hitchcock Presents "Lamb To Slaughter" episode. In this episode a woman killed her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and fed the weapon to the policemen so she got away with it. I personally would keep the husband but not the kitchen. I think that I could have pull off playing "dumb" like that housewife.

  For 75% of the time that we have lived in this condo I was in school. I am no longer in school nor on the same career path that I went to school for. Before getting married and moving to Stepford I was in school for a whole year. Financially it was not in the cards to immediately redo the kitchen when I moved in. We bought it for a price that could be afforded just on my husband's salary which I think is so wise. Should anything happen we can still have a roof over our heads. A lot of Americans do not know how to really budget and over commit to a new house without thinking of the possible obstacles that happen in daily lives.

  I love my husband but he does not know what things cost and he bought the condo without me seeing the condo. How do I describe my condo nicely? Besides a roof over my head it is something that has potential but needs a lot of work to fix and to be a show stopper. Part of me is getting ready with a fashionable tool belt alla 9 by design minus the kids. But the rationale sides knows we do not have the money nor the desire to stay in this 600 square foot condo for longer than seven years. The kitchen needs to be fixed and it has fallen on us to fix the kitchen because my husband got taken by the carney-like folks that used to live here. It was last updated with laminate cabinets cheaply in 1985 and in one corner a cabinet has duct tape to hold it up! Also the insides of the cabinets no matter what new product I throw at it is sticky and nothing fits in the shelves. Laminate has come a long way today but 1985 laminate was not meant to make it to the 1990s. This kitchen has to be redone for my sanity and if we are ever going to sell.

  I have champagne tastes and dreams but I budget. For my wedding I said that I did not want to spend more than $1,000 for a dress and I spent with alterations (plus I got a discount for deciding on the spot) $1,250 for the dress. But it looked so good on me and it was a good quality dress that looked expensive. I was smart to not waste money on a one night dress. For a 150-200 guest list I spent less than $1,500 (including taxes, shipping, etc) on all of my flowers by using in season flowers that were big. On my wedding day I carried an arm bouquet with three large white calla lilies, two pink ginger with banana leaves. That was a beautiful exotic bouquet but it only cost me about $80.00 at a local Kabloom flower shop. The flowers were beautiful and look like the ones that Martha creates at a higher price tag. I still do not understand why people spend thousand of dollars on flowers and a dress they can only be worn once. Those budgeted items (and the Friday night wedding 10% off of the food bill discount) helped us get the Fillet Mignon, my photo booth and the open bar at the cocktail hour. Most importantly I loved my wedding, people enjoyed themselves at my wedding and my parents were able to retire afterwards. That is how I am approaching my kitchen remodel with a reasonable and rationale mind. But like with Weddings the more you are in the process the more you realize you have to expand your budget to the realities of remodeling.

 My husband (girls sit down for this one otherwise you could get hurt) thought we could redo the whole 140 inches long by 79 inches wide kitchen (rewiring, appliances, new sink, cabinets, floors, installation and etc) for under $7,000.00! Yes that is a small ugly kitchen but still! You cannot get a hamburger for less than $20.00 here and that is at McDonalds. $7,000.00 in CT? maybe in the States where the cost of living is lower but not here in Fairfield County. We pay all the fees and taxes like we are in NY but without the conveniences of NY. I mean I do have the bums going through the recycle and the trash but none of the perks.

  Appliances alone are expensive because I have a small kitchen. Funny if I wanted a huge quality kitchen fridge it is cheap at $800. However I cannot fit that in any part of my kitchen so I need a 30 inch wide fridge but with a short profile that is $2,000. It just makes it hard to save on the appliances.

  Before looking at IKEA I was wondering how I would ever cook in my kitchen without appliances. I reminded myself that we would probably only be here at the most seven more years so it was not worth the investment. The kitchen is also so small that once the appliances go in they will not be able to go with us to the next place (because we are adding more cabinet space/ breakfast bar once the cabinets are in the appliances will not have not much room to go out of the kitchen). So I need to get appliance that will last long and look nice for resale. I planted the seed of one day getting those beautiful viking appliances but was thinking of something with a smaller price tag for now. What really helps is the knowledge that a Viking range would never fit in my kitchen because my kitchen is too narrow.

 At places other than IKEA we were looking at at least $4,000 to $6,000 for all of our appliances. At IKEA the appliance (microwave, dishwasher, fridge, and gas oven) have a five year warranty and the cost will be before taxes $2,596 which is reasonable. I got realistic and educated (just like when I was planning for my wedding) that cabinets alone were beyond expensive even for a small kitchen. We got a home depot estimate of $16,000. This was just for just cabinets, no sink, no appliances, no painting, no counters, and did not include installation fees. My husband nearly fainted and my heart dropped. I thought I was going to have to hunt and gather for food from now on. I was going to have to live worse than if I was in the computer game "Oregon Trail." I was imagining the worse where I would have to go out to the parking lot and cook over a trash can because I would never get my new kitchen.

  I learned along the way that a kitchen should cost no less than 5% of the value of your home and no more than 15% of your home. So therefore, hubby, at no less than 5% we should at least spend $11,800.00 and no more than $35,000.00. Not sure the rate of return for Stepford, CT in our condo complex but if it was as good as 80% we could add $17,600 to the value of the condo. This is if we go by a padded projected price which includes everything down to the nuts and bolts plus unforeseen expenditures of $22,000. The budgeted amount is also about 9.3% of the price we paid for the condo.  This is also with the hope that the condo is currently worth the paid amount. It would have been at least a $30,000 onward kitchen if we went with Home Depot and it would have bankrupt us making it a poor investment. So I got smart and a lot of quotes. But still as someone who is soon celebrating a two year anniversary with her husband and first time condo owner $22,000 is a lot of money! Those are a lot of $20.00 cheese burgers! That is another wedding!

  If I did not want a white kitchen with granite it might have been cheaper than what I am currently planning. But my kitchen is in a 1940's condo and we cannot open up the kitchen. Dark cabinets would not work in such a small space and it would look too cramped. We looked at a couple of other places that were smaller businesses than Home Depot but there were no real wood white kitchens either available or within our price.

  Before working with Rachel Stietzel of  Our House Design, LLC I looked down on IKEA kitchens. The advantages of working with a designer is getting the most for your space and experience ideas on what works. Also we are going through Rachel for everything from pluming, electrical, cabinets and etc so we do not have to worry about when people are coming to do certain parts of the kitchen. It is like hiring a wedding planner but luckily this result of partnership will last more than one big day.

 We looked at many options that included using IKEA cabinet backing and then putting a front with either customized fronts or even using the cabinets that were the same maker featured at Home Depot. We also looked at doing the kitchen just in the maker featured at Home Depot but that fantasy ended quickly. But for the price IKEA was right. It was like when you see that $15,000 wedding dress and you think well this absolutely stunning on and I love it. But then your rationale side kicks in and you sigh because that means I only have $500 dollars left to get flowers and a restaurant so that won't work because the bowling alley with this dress is not right. At that point if you are not rationale you could blow up your budget and be paying for that outrageous wedding forever. 

  IKEA kitchens are not bad and they have real wood in some of the styles. I was not a fan of the foils even though they looked good in the in store displays. I did not want to have to rip it down after I put it up and do the kitchen again.

  I had planned to use some IKEA products anyway and I wanted to do a high/low kitchen. I am a big fan of the big splurge and huge saves mixed in with each other. For an example I save myself a lot of money by buying online via eBay two 14 inch by 48 inch stainless steel shelves for $46.00 a piece plus shipping. This is because I named my price on eBay and worked with the seller. If I went through Pottery barn just for one stainless steel shelf that was 10 inches by 36 inches would have cost me $99.00 plus shipping/tax . For a difference of $53 I have the same quality but more shelf. The the advantage of purchasing from a large kitchen supply company is the cost is cheaper for the same quality item but because it is not a brand name(s) you save a lot of money in the end. No one is going to care when I resell if I got the shelves from eBay or if I purchased them from Pottery Barn as long as it looks good.  I learned that  fact from Genevieve Gorder of Dear Genevieve. I did it one step further by bargaining on eBay with a kitchen supply company that was local to my condo.

  I am saving money with IKEA drawers organizers in the cabinets. It is a major bump in price to have drawers in your kitchen layout which I never knew before I got into the planning of the kitchen. On top of that price if you include any type kitchen organizers the price jumps by hundreds of dollars. Are my kitchen utensils really worth that much? It only costs a couple more dollars to the design of the IKEA kitchen to include drawers/drawer inserts. Thank goodness because the rewiring and appliances are costly. Plus we are going to get granite because I am so sick of the laminate counter top and because it helps with a better return on investment.

  In any sort of renovation or plan to furnish the condo I have been lucky to be web savvy and to not be afraid to purchase from more than one website. Sometimes it does not work out but I always make sure to go to websites  that allow you to return in store or at least allow returns.

  The plans for my kitchen include from the IKEA catalogue: Lidingo white cabinets, Hjuvik faucet, framtid slide in gas range in stainless steel, Framtid Microwave oven with extractor fan, Nutid dishwasher with tall tub, Energisk B18 S, Grundtal rail hidden under one of the stainless steel shelves I purchased, and IKEA cabinet lighting.

  I am looking at Pottery Barn for a couple of items for the  kitchen. A magnetic chalkboard  I think is going to be  faster and cheaper in the long run than a chalkboard paint/magnetic paint. The hourly man hours needed to create the chalkboard on my wall requires many layers in order for the chalkboard to work. There is one layer of magnetic paint. Then that has to dry and then at least three coats of chalkboard paint. That would end up costing me more than if I just got these magnetic chalkboards in the first place. It would cost me a fortune to have the painters do the chalkboard when four of these chalkboards cost only $115 plus shipping. I am also going to get the 60 inch Milk-Glass Spotlight Kit in a Satin Nickel finish to replace the sad fluorescent 1980's office lighting in the kitchen. I also love so many things at pottery barn but another thing we are saving up for is for the living room and that is the Garret Glass Cabinet because I am so over the dorm room quality book cases and plastic bin options for storage.

   At I got drawer pulls for 25 for about $78.00. That price is a lot less than Home Depot's simular door pulls. The drawer pulls are going to go on the lower cabinets. The Upper Cabinets it depends if there is going to ever be a sale on the Anthropologie hardware that I have my eyes set on. If it does not go on sale or they are out of stock I am going to go back to Overstock and purchase these really simple door hardware which sell 25 for about $76.00. The Overstock hardware is really inexpensive which might come down to it but the pulls would look elevated with the Mercury glass Melon knobs from Anthropologie.

 If I could I would include the plans of the kitchen that Rachel and I have worked on but that is not right because the plans are her intellectual property. But what I can say is that she is great to work with. I have a lot of ideas and some cost saving things that I want to try out. I got inspired by mid century modern kitchens and especially that of Julia Child's. I also want to have my mom make the kitchen shade and I want to add my own touch to it. I want to have cupcakes on a cake stand made in a very mid century sort of Anthropologie/ french way. I want to have the cupcakes created in unexpected cloth and really look cute. I also want the name of my "baking company" Stepford, CT Sweet tooth underneath the cake stand. I think it will be cute and much better than spending a lot of money to have the same window shade as some else.

 On the right hand side of the kitchen: I am going to have over the sink a peg board for all of my baking molds. That way I can rearrange them and show case them as the art they are. I decided to have the peg board be stainless steel so that it would be more durable and to add a white molding like a picture frame. The advantage is that if the next owners do not bake they can use that spot to hang pots and pans like Julia Child's did in her kitchen. To the left side of the sink/sink cabinet there is a 15 inch wide lower cabinet with pull out drawers for spices, etc. We are adding in a dishwasher so that is just putting me on cloud nine because I waste so much time just washing dishes! To the right of the dishwasher there is an 18 inch lower cabinet set of drawers. Then a 28 inch stainless steel fridge with a cabinet above it that goes out the depth of the fridge. This allows the items inside of the cabinet to be easily accessed.  I hate cabinets above the fridge because you can never get anything out of it/in it and it basically a junk drawer in the form of a cabinet. Not so with this cabinet because I am going to have that space formatted for trays. To the right of the fridge is going to be a lower pull out pantry cabinet with door storage above it. The cabinets next to the peg board are going to be stacked cabinets. The cabinets above and across are going to to be three 15 inch by 15 inch cabinets. The cabinets stacked below will be two closed cabinet door with an open storage for cooking books in between.

  On the left side is where the problems needed to be solved. There is a long radiator that cannot be removed (even though I have never turned on said radiator) and the wall can only support the width of 18 inch cabinets etc because otherwise you would  not be able to get in the kitchen. I am also not going to have cabinets over the breakfast bar but open 14 inch X 48 inch stainless steel shelving to make the Kitchen feel more open. Underneath the shelving will be a hidden railing for utensils or for mugs to hang. Also underneath it if the width is okay will be a band of magnetic chalkboard. Then there is a 48 inch wide breakfast bar with two sets of drawers.  Next to the breakfast bar is  a 48 inch three drawer lower cabinet which has a depth of 24 inches which allows for more prep space. The stove is going to be moved from being against the wall to allow prep space on either side of the stove. Next to the stove is a 18 inch cabinet that has a 24 inch depth. Next to the open shelving are stacked five 15 inch upper cabinets. Below these upper stacked cabinets are two lower cabinets, a microwave with an open storage above it and a other smaller lower cabinet.

 I am sure that it is hard to imagine now with out the plans in front of you. But in a couple of months I will have pictures of my finished kitchen and it will no longer just be a plan but a Kitchen! One of my friend's mother who I refer as my other mother sent me a great picture of her kitchen being gutted with the words "May your Kitchen look like this some day!! It only took us 25 yrs." signed E. I have it on my icky fridge that oozes "water" and we really need to replace soon! So lets hope that we get the remodel done soon so that 1.) the fridge does not flood the condo 2.) none of us pass out from gas poisoning from the too old gas oven which sort of smells when I turn it on, and 3.) it saves me from the never ending supply of dishes to be washed! Well I have to go back to Mount Dishwalla to scale back the mountain of dishes, utensils and pots and pans so I must end this post.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chocolates over Martha

So when I started the blog I was waiting to get a job. It was a period of down time where I had time to make the chicken stock that takes about two days. At the end of February I got a job. My hours vary from evening to midnight and is on any day of the week. These hours made it hard to have set days to do the cooking. When I do a midnight shift I don't want to do anything but sleep when I get back. I call those cooking days "guess it is cold cuts tonight!"

I also forgot which email I used for the blog and the password so I have been a horrible StepfordCTWife! My husband blogs as well and it was saved on his blog about fishing and hunting. But maybe I am not such a bad Stepford CT wife? I have been saving money aggressively with my husband for my Ugly Galley Kitchen transformation into a swan. I will blog about that in yet another blog.

So what has happened since the last post? I have been trying to lose some pounds I gained in nursing school (the pounds stayed on with a lot of friends and I left program because it was not going to happen even if Saint Florence Nightingale took the final exams/clincials for me). I have been running a lot of miles on the elliptical. I work out with a trainer who went to/ and left nursing school the same semester I did. I am using Weight Watchers Online tools to track my progress.

I am still not blonde. I am still not thin. I am still not a WASP (but I am married to half of one). I still kind of do not know how to cook. I still want to be a better cook and a better wife. But it has been so hot this summer. Standing over a stove for those soups or even turning on the stove for periods longer than an hour have been out of the question. So I have been doing quick and easy recipes and being creative with items in the freezer and "pantry."

But I have been happy the last two weeks my husband has switched to evening shifts and I have luckily been assigned to evening shifts as well lately.

Now it is August. It is almost my second year anniversary. Yes it is August and I have been actually reading another book. Don't make fun of me! It is too hot to do soups and eggs right now! Also Martha is a hand full! She is not actually good for beginning home chefs because

1.) The meals are costly to make and sometimes I do not know what she wants me to get. She has different words for them and I get confused if it is the correct item. Aso a lot of the products you have to travel across the world or find a speciality store that is not anywhere near me! You do not even know what it looks like so you try to subsittute the best you can which could be deadly.

2.) The soups that I made required fresh stock and that takes a lot of work more than half of a day (plus overnight refrigeration) and then they expire within two days. You are in a slippery slope of a hungry husband saying "that smells good when is it going to be done?" times one billion. Then you have to say "It will be done in 38 hours!" That is not a good Stepford Wife answer. With Martha's book you pretty much spend a whole weekend making a start of a meal. Then you are just having naked stocks or it goes bad quickly before you can use it. It is hard to do all that work and be tired without the final product done within 3 hours or even 15 hours!

3). They are written in a language that is not for new Chefs. What did she just say? What is that? Google does not even have the answer!

But I still have to salute Martha with my William Sonoma oven gloves because the soups that I made were fantastic. My husband is requesting them for the fall and winter. If you have the time and you have a special event coming up it will be a great star. The French Onion soup I made came out so well even with the searing burn marks I recieved. But I learned to wear long Oven gloves and I am thinking about maybe later on investing in a chef jacket to prevent more burn marks.

I am reading "Chocolates and Confections" by Peter Greweling. I am learning a lot about tempering chocolate which I NEVER knew how to do. You know you cannot just take chocolate chips and then dip pretzels or fruit. So there was a reason my chocolate covering skills were so bad it was because of a couple of things. Okay a lot!

1.) You don't use chocolate chips for dipping items. This is rule #1. You use either Chocolate pistoles or really good quality chocolate that is chopped into 1/2 inch pieces so that it melts better and uniformly. Peter that explains so much!

2.) You need to Temper chocolate before you dip items.

3.) I learned what Tempering chocolate actually means (I did not even know there were things besides melting it then getting it somehow on items you want to dip). Tempering: stabilization of chocolate through regulating the temperature of the chocolate between melting and cooling the chocolate. The result is that the chocolate reaches the correct temperature to ensure that sets firm and be shiny at room temperature (

4.) Peter's explanation of the technique of Tempering chocolate with the seeding technique is featured on page 38-39 of the book. He has a great chart that makes it more scientific and easier to learn for visual learners.

A.) You only melt 75% of the chocolate at the proper temperature (120 F for dark chocolate and 110 F for white or milk chocolate). So you don't just heat up everything and then dump it on the item you want to dip.

B.) Remove from heat then add the other 25% of the chocolate.

C.) Stir for 10-15 minutes until the chocolate reaches 85 F for dark chocolate and 83F for white or milk chocolate (this is a reason they have confectionery thermometers).

D.) Then you use the back of a spoon to test if the chocolate set properly. Peter gives advice on what do if the chocolate does not set properly. On p. 41 shows pictures showing clearly when chocolate is tempered incorrectly and when it is set correctly.

So I pretty much was just burning the chocolate and then making "chocolate bark" (aka throwing stuff in the melted chocolate and let it cool) but it was just tasting good but not really looking right. Well it looked okay to me but now looking back it was not looking the way it should. My mom told me that you just melt the chocolate and add this Hebrew wax to make it shinny! Apparently it is edible and you only use a little bit. I hope it was edible. I hope never to have to use it! I could not cover anything in chocolate except for my kitchen and not what I wanted to be covered.

Also did you know that you should not refrigerate chocolate. Do you know where I was keeping my chocolate--in the fridge. Also you should not cover items like cereal or that would absorb a lot of water from the air. Fresh fruit is not the best to cover unless you plan to eat it the day that you make it. So starting off with candied or dried fruit is better. I have been doing everything wrong. So I am reading this book from cover to cover to learn from it like a science text book. Then I plan to then attack the basics then move onto the recipes. I am excited. Also Summer is not the best time to do chocolate because it does not set as well. So I guess if you are doing great chocolate work in the summer you can do it anytime? Or maybe you have a well regulated room temperature.

So apologizes to all the readers (which might just be my mom) but I do hope to continue to learn how to cook and bake along with becoming a better Stepford, CT wife.

Friday, January 29, 2010

French Onion Soup Lesson 1.32

 I have been lazy with my Martha Stewart Cooking school since I made my onion soup. It took a lot out of me and then I had crazy hard time with my personal trainer where I was in pain from squats for three days! Sitting down even hurt! Then this past Monday I made for the first time for a good close friend's mother E (I have adopted her as one of my other moms) some gluten-free and sugar free blueberry muffins. I used some honey that I got from my friend L who has a bee hive in her backyard and used it instead of sugar. I also recently made a head of time a lot of cookie dough for a cookie making party that I had over the past weekend. We made a lot of cookies in a short amount of time!

  My husband thought that he was not going to like this soup and it took a really long time! But he loved it and requested that I make it again for him. It probably was the fact that it was basically a veal soup with onions (too much for him but maybe less next time), a little bit of wine, croutons with butter ( a rare thing in this house) and lots and lots of cheese. If I gave him a wedge of bacon he pretty much be in Heaven!

 My burn are healing now but still I think it is going to be a scar. I have learned a good lesson to always wear an oven glove even if I do not think that I need one. I thought the tongs would be long enough and nothing would happen. Well I guess that proves I have been near an oven and was not so good at multi-tasking!

 The onions for me never really turned brown maybe it was the type of onion that I was using-- white onion? I cooked them for the fifteen minutes until they became clear and then a whole hour instead of the forty-five minutes because they did not seem to brown. It took me two hours plus to make the onion soup but Jon loved it and my brother Andrew (who is never interested in my cooking) is starting to think he might like to try it again!

 I will not be doing the fish fumet unless my husband catches a fish because my local supermarkets (I do not know of a local butcher, etc) does not sell fish bones. I am not sure if they sell fish bones without the fish in it? I might save this for the summer either way we were going to use the fumet for a clam sauce so... I also could not find Kombu or Bonito flakes at my supermarket so I cannot make Dashi soon. But my next soup will use a vegetable stock (it only takes like an hour! finally!) and then make a nice Minestrone soup. My husband is actually quite excited about this soup. I have to soak the beans for 8 to 12 hours in a large bowl with two inches of water above it so I better start on that tonight and do the vegetable stock tomorrow...

Basic Brown Stock Lesson 1.3

The original plan was to make the French Onion soup at my parent's house since my father adores it-- as does my brother Andrew. But my dad did not "want to have to smell the broth being made" which is very odd but to each their own... Here at my condo I thought it smelled rather good. In fact my poor husband, came home and was so excited he thought he was getting a roast (soon dear, soon let me get past soups).
So the family refusal was the cause of the delay of the brown stock until this past week. The Stock takes about 10 hours to make and it needs to be refrigerated for 8 hours before use. So either get up early or be prepared to be up late! I started this Brown Stock on Tuesday around 4 pm and on Wednesday I made the French Onion soup. When I now see the word "Stock" I should see it to mean as a "investment in time." My friend and College Roommate got it right to paraphrase "Martha has a lot of extra step, she does not make it easy but her recipes always taste good!"

I had an issue finding the veal bones because of the fact that I do not have a local butcher. I went to Stop and Shop and they are not very helpful in the meat department (in the cheese department the woman that helped me was Divine!). I got two pounds of veal Osso Buca which was mostly bone and two pounds of Oxtail which was actually Beef tail. These items and a lot of the veal and lamb was in the wrong parts of the meat department which only helped my confusion. Osso Buca was actually really expensive $12 for two pieces in a package as I learned via the web it means "hollow bone." I wonder if that was actually what I was supposed to get but I am not sure. I just tried to "fake it until I made it" when I picked up the Osso Buca.
I also decided to buy the pre-cut/ in water carrots and celery (since I knew it was going to be a long night-- but I did not know it was going to be that long) which helped cut down on waste. I bought a huge thing of carrots and celery for last soup only to see in the cookbook that I really only need like five pieces of both carrots and celery. I also buy them anyways because they are great to snack on-- you got to save in this economy when you buy $12 veal bones....
I got to try-out and use my onion goggles on Tuesday and they never left my eyes on Wednesday. They are not beautiful Dior sunglasses/glasses but they do the trick. But if I had on my new Shape-up Sketchers with the glasses then I could have looked more the part (and firmed my butt and thighs). Or at least I would have a guest spot on "what not to wear." But I did not cry and the onion goggles were comfortable for the amount of time I wore them.
Reminder out to people that it takes about 85 minutes to roast the bones. You are supposed to put the bones in for 45 minutes and then add in the vegetables. I did the reverse I added the vegetables in the beginning but burned myself on the roasting pan while I was trying to get them out of the pan. It was the part where you had to put the roasting pan on the stove top and heat it for 30 more seconds... I barely touched it but it is raw skin now. The stock still came out very well but I learned a lesson: always wear a pot holder even if you are using tongs or get a chef jacket. My forearm looks like a rebellious teenager's "revenge" and it hurts!
I was happy to know that you can deglaze a pan with just water and you do not need to also purchase red wine. I am not a drinker so getting the cognac and the Pinot Grigio (which is a white wine that I do like) was experience I had to get the Stop and Shop Wine Port (it is next to the Stop and Shop because Stop and Shop's licence will only allow them to sell beer) workers involved. I was able to purchase a really, really cute hotel size "nip" of cognac which still has enough I think for two thirds of round two of French Onion soup. I got those items when I found out on Monday during a bad rain storm/monsoon that my car battery that was just put in died. they were very kind in the store allowing me to use their phone and I pointed out where to get the cognac/dry white wines with price checks. Now I have a HUGE bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.
Martha wants you to spoon off the fat but if you have to baby sit something for eight hours then have it in the fridge at least eight hours you can spoon it off the next day. And that is what I did and the next day I had a nice thick skin of fat.