Wednesday, June 30, 2010

3 Whole Weeks?!

Well - yesterday marked the end of my week-long birthday(s) celebration and the beginning of the 3 weeks. Nothing quite like fasting on your birthday. Oh - did I mention that the internet stopped working at around 12PM (which by default meant we had no phone-service - cause we have a Netvision phone line) and then from around 5-6PM we had no power and minimal water pressure (which is to say - none or just a very very little trickle.) Yeah - and it hit 93F inside the coolest room in the apartment. What a wonderful day.Break-fast was nice though. Luckily the power came back on in time for us to bake the sourdough loaves. (It would have been a shame to let them go to waste - considering how much work went into kneading and shaping and 4 hours of patience to let them rise...) Z had fish and I had a bowl of potato soup accompanied of course with some of the fresh bread.
This morning we walked down to the PO Box and checked the mail. I got really excited that the slip had arrived for my cute little cookbook! Ok - it's only the first of 5 and is prohibitively expensive to print - but it's soooo darned cute! Now I have to figure out who to give it to. There are just too many choices!
For some funny reason my stomach was not so pleased with the whole idea of 'eating' after the fast and as a result I spent most of the night awake and feeling - well, let's just stick with the term 'icky' to keep things as simple as possible. So - after a cool shower I put on some clean pajamas and am hoping to feel better soon.

I feel silly because I didn't do any work yesterday (granted there was no internet so I couldn't upload/download anything) but I could've done a few small things - at least until my head started hurting and the power went out anyway. Now I am thinking I should do some work but I'm exhausted (probably from being awake all night) and don't really feel well enough to sit in front of a screen for any extended period of time.

Speaking of which - I'm going to end this post now.

Til' next time...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ask Us Today!

Woke up at 8 this morning - yup late for me - but I'm gonna blame it on being awake from 2-3:30AM for no particular reason. Anywho by the time I woke up I was in one of those 'get stuff done' moods. So I turned on the big computer and stared working. Finally Z decided to wake up - so I made him a mushroom/onion/cheese omelette for breakfast and threw together some scrambled eggs for myself.

He had a final at 1PM but he left a little after 12 so that he could do some last minute cramming with friends. I entertained myself by working (I clocked 5 whole hours today) and I even made a super awesome grilled cheese for lunch. (Yup, that's homemade sourdough bread and the cheese is fresh mozzarella that I've got marinating in an olive oil and spices mixture.) I cut it into wedges and enjoyed it 100%.
At 7ish we caught a bus to the other side of town to attend a simchat bat in honor of our friends' new baby girl Meira! She's gorgeous and has got the shmushiest cheeks I've ever seen on a 5-day-old and I am totally suffering from baby envy - well, till I hear about the whole birth process and pregnancy before that and of course there's the whole never sleeping again thing... Babies. Aren't they just precious. Maybe I'll get one someday. (I'm just being wistful - don't get worried or call a shrink or anything. Seriously!)

Anyway - I'm going to bake challah and cookies for them for Shabbos. I'm so excited! Mostly about the challah because baking for someone else means I can make a full batch which means I can actually take challah with a bracha! Woohoo! Mitzvahs!!!
In other news - my sourdough starter is officially 1 month old today. (It also officially doesn't like being put in the fridge over Shabbos.)

Tomorrow is a fast-day and my English birthday.

I can't think of anything else to write cause I'm multi-tasking and my mind has officially gone blank.

Til' tomorrow!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Air in a can...

I'm officially sick of finals - and I don't even have to take them. They're just annoying and pointless and ridiculous. Yup - that's all I've got to say about that.Shabbos was nice. Z's brother was here. I had almost forgotten how gross 'army laundry' is. (Sand here, there and everywhere - not to mention the mud...) Anywho - Shabbos itself was peaceful (besides for the neighbors various loud parties) the food was pretty good and the sugar cookies were so pretty I almost couldn't bear to eat them.
The weather has been wonderful (do I keep repeating that? It's true though.) The temperature is supposed to rise again this week and 'they' say there will be 1 hot day. The heatwave is scheduled for Tuesday which is my English birthday and is also a fast day (17th of Tammuz.)
Last night I sat down and thought long and hard about the upcoming week. I even managed to figure out the menu-plan (I wonder whether I'll actually stick to it...)

Sunday: leftover chicken soup from Shabbos
Monday: buttery garlic pasta, tossed green salad & baguettes
Tuesday: tomato-based vegetable soup & however-many-seeds-I-have at Home Soda Bread
Wednesday: Tomato Rissoto & tossed green salad
Thursday: garlic mashed potatoes & little white fishies
Friday Night: roasted garlic, chumus, boring ol' always tasty roasted chicken (subject to change), roasted root veggies, rice kugel, plain rice
Shabbat Lunch: fatoush salad, lasagna, potato knishes/kasha knishes

In all of the excitement on Friday I forgot to mention that Z and I went to town to pick up my package! It was my order from the USofA and I was super excited to have new clothes (that actually fit) to wear for Shabbos!!! Yay for pretty colors!

I'm not quite sure what to do today. I've got loads of work to do - but mostly I want to procrastinate it. I could type up recipes - but there isn't much else to do because I haven't got photos to go along with them. I was going to bake cinnamon buns or coffee cake but stopped myself because there are already sugar cookies, chocolate cake and apple-pie-bars in the house. I can't really bake bread because there's a ton in the freezer and I've already got more on the menu for later in the week. I could work on the latch-hook project for Freddie, or possibly knit a bit (of one of my numerous 'started' projects.)

Z has an exam at 5PM so he's going to be studying all day. Maybe I should go to the library? I dunno. I'm gonna go figure it all out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Surprise Parties!

Today I got the bestest surprise and the funniest part was that I had absolutely no idea that it was even coming! I should have been tipped off when Sammy called from Mommy's phone asking about making desserts for Shabbos. Then I should've been more attentive when Mommy was very nonchalant about answering my cooking question.Anywho - Z announced that he was 'going to the bathroom' and before I heard the bathroom door close, the doorbell rang. So, I called for Z to answer the door. He tried to tell me to get it, and that he was going to the facilities, but I yelled back "I'm not dressed" because I wasn't wearing a mitpachat. So he begrudgingly opened the door.I heard a whole lot of whispering and shuffling of feets, and kind of wondered what was going on. Then I realized that he was letting people in - which kind of confused me - until I turned around and saw Sammy. Then I made a connection - if Sammy was here then Mommy was with her - I promptly hung-up on Mommy (who I had been talking to on the cell phone.)Suddenly everybody was there - the whole mishpacha (minus fuzz and the kitties) - in my living room - with balloons, a cake and presents!Complete and utter shock with a slight case of deliriously happy confusion. Yup - that's how I was feeling.So we had some cake, sampled the Shabbos food and sniffed Mr. Stinky (the sourdough starter.) We talked about ice and the price of ice (ice for sale, 10 cents a pail) and all about Foofoo the Snoo. Ok - that's not really what we talked about - but it was along the lines of wacky and weird. You know - typical family stuff.And we ate a whole lot of cake (which it seems had fallen apart a bit so had been doctored with a layer of deliciously chocolate-y ganache and then drizzled with a super-pink glaze.) The cake was yummy, the ganache was awesome and the pink glaze turned all of our tongues an unnatural shade of fuschia.And we took a whole bunch of pictures. Just because we had cameras and we could. Sammy even showed us the best way to get 'self-snapshots' - just turn the camera upside down! It's brilliant. (Except that then the time-stamp is upside down when you turn the picture the right way. So either don't turn on the time-stamp feature or just leave it cause it's a funny memento.)Yup - decidedly the best surprise birthday party ever.

Thanks so much guys! I really appreciated it!

Now I feel like I'm really starting off my second quarter-century in style!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spoonfuls of Sugar...

Sorry for that less than cheerful post earlier - sometimes I just need to vent (and honestly, what else is this teeny virtual corner of the blogosphere here for?)

Today didn't actually end up being as bad as I over-dramatized it to be this afternoon. After a nice 2.25 km walk to the grocery store I baked apple pie bars and sugar cookies.

The sugar cookie recipe was a new one - but it wasn't the recipe I was excited about - it was the brilliant concept. Slice & bake cookies with pretty colored sugar! Why haven't I thought of this before?! Perfect to customize cookies without a tons of extra work. Plus because they're slice & bake you can just freeze the logs of dough and at any time - presto - you've got cookies! Easy peasy, really yummy and really pretty!

Don't tell anybody that I made my very own colored sugar. (Actually I made 2 colors - because I chilled the dough in 2 logs.) So - I put about 1/3 cup of granulated sugar in a plastic baggie, then squirted in 2 or 3 drops of liquid food-coloring and mushed up the bag until the color was all soaked up by the sugar granules.
Fringe helped me with the cookies today. He was a super good helper.
Rolling chilled logs of dough was really simple and I stuck them back in the fridge again until I was ready to slice & bake.
Here they are - all sliced...
And here they are again - all baked!
Next time I need to make a fancy treat to take somewhere or give to someone - these are what I'll be making.
Tomorrow is Friday - Shabbos prep and all...

Wish me luck!

Thursday Frustrations.

Do you know those days when nothing seems right. It's not that anything in particular happens it's just a combination of everything that is. Well, today has been one of those days.

Granted - parts of it are of my own making. (ie: I should never have agreed to lay out a booklet for that client that I was whining about last week. Because it still isn't finished and he keeps calling to badger me about it - but also expects me to be a mind-reader.) I also should have dropped the 'neverending project' eons ago. I should just get over myself and go get set up as an azmait the way I was supposed to a year ago. (Yup, I've now officially been procrastinating it for a whole year.)

Other things that are bothering me include my complete disinterest in walking (and physical activity in general of late.) The fact that actually leaving my house has somehow evolved into an odious chore (didn't I swear that would never happen to me?) And the fact that I am always the one who has to bend, give-in, smile&nod, listen - also known as never having things my way. Ever.

Ok, I'm not actually so self-centered that I want the world to revolve around me - but every once in a while it would be nice. Even for a few minutes. *sigh*

Now I've got to go cook for Shabbos and work for free some more.

Doesn't that sound like fun?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fireflies!

Woke up at 7am and said g'bye to Freddie. I sent her off with an assortment of bagels and muffins.

At around 9am Z and I headed out. We walked down the mountain and through the park. Our first stop was at the hair-salon so that Z could get a haircut. (For the record - anyone who is going to ask - he got them all cut.) Then we wandered down to one of the Russian makolets to pick up some beer (for our crockpot beer & chicken for Shabbos lunch.) Next we made our way down to 'kikar hey b'iyar' to the fruit-&-vegetable store, to pick up fruits, veggies and a flat of eggs. We continued our journey and walked into mercaz rova alef to pick up the last few things on our list. By 10:30am we were at the bus stop waiting for a ride back up the mountain. All in all it was quite an enjoyable 4.5 km morning walk.

Back at Home we tasted our french vanilla cookie dough ice cream. (We finally churned it late last night.) It's absolutely delicious!
I decided to make 3-cheese pizza for lunch. I used up a container of homemade tomato sauce from the freezer and for the crust I tried out the recipe from my new cookbook (cause a little birdie told me it's a good one.)
Update on the 'cookbook' project - I finally sent the Desserts & Confections volume off to be printed. I ordered 2 copies and they should be here in the next week or so. I'll look them over and decide whether I actually like them or not.

I managed to get my hands on an A5 binder (why do I seem to be unable to find them anywhere?!) So I'm going to format a copy of the cookbook for A5 and see whether it would be more sensible to print them like that. (I like the idea of a binder because then you can always add things in at later dates.)

In other news - the heatwave broke (again) and it was delightfully cool last night. The weather today is simply gorgeous and I'd be more than thrilled if the weather stayed like this for the rest of the summer.

Now it's getting on towards dinnertime and I'm not quite sure what to make. I'm kinda in the mood for soup - and since it looks like it's gonna be another pleasantly cool evening that might just be a good idea.

Here's a collage of stars - just cause I love 'em so much and can't think of anywhere else to stick them:
Til' next time - happy trails!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

25 Years & Counting...

Thanks everybody for the happy wishes and whatnot. My 'real' birthday was absolutely great! I got presents, got visited, got called and got to go out for dinner!
Z got a present too! Isn't the wrapping paper cool?
A picture of my toesies in color-accent mode.
As the sun set on yet another day I took a snapshot to remember it by.
Here's to a happy new year...

Tammuz 10 - Again...

Waking up in 90 degree heat is a bit overwhelming. Thankfully it's only 10:30am and the temperature has already dropped 2.5 degrees. I just wish that the cool-front didn't always have to be accompanied by a dust-storm. Still, I can't really complain - so long as it cools down.

I made up a batch of half whole-wheat bagels yesterday and they're fermenting in the fridge but I'm waiting for it to cool down a bit before I crank the oven up to 450F and start baking.

The french vanilla ice-cream is in the 'custard stage' in the fridge and I'll churn it a little later too. Yum yum!

Freddie is coming to visit later and she's even going to sleep over! It's going to be so much fun! We're going to eat bagels with butter and ice cream for dessert! Go figure!

Alright - not much else to report. I've got to go tie things down to prevent them from lifting-off in this crazy wind.

Til' next time...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Crunchy Watermelon Seed Bugs

Yesterday was hot, shvitzy and so far beyond boring that I can't even begin to describe it. The most exciting thing I did all day was cook myself a bowlful of 'stars' and I didn't really even have an appetite for them. In fact the most exciting thing that happened was at 10:15PM when Freddie called me to say hello - cause I hadn't spoken to her in a week.

Last night was ridiculously hot and considering I only slept somewhere in the range of 3 hours - even though I was in bed from 12-7 - I was not overly excited when I noticed that the thermometer was already holding at 80F when I got out of bed this morning. Where is my breeze and why are there so many bugs?! It wasn't like this last year! I swear!

Since I was awake ridiculously early and couldn't think of anything better to do - I decided to 'dream-shop' - that's where you shop online and choose all the fun stuff you'd buy if someone offered you a 'shopping spree' - I was relatively careful with my choices and only spent about $100 (Ok so it was $102. Doesn't really matter it was all theoretical anyway.) What would I choose? Mostly kitchen stuff (cause I'm pathetic like that) - A huge bucket of 101 cookie cutters, a candy thermometer, some more stacking cooling-racks, gel food-coloring in awesome colors (for the heck of it) and the pedometer I've been wanting for ages (to motivate me to walk up and down the enormous mountain that I live at the top of.) Not so crazy. Ok, a little crazy. On the other hand - I stopped myself from ordering that awesome infrared thermometer (for cooking purposes) cause that's just a bit much. See? I have self-control. Well, a little. Sometimes...

This morning I also spent a few minutes separating eggs. I'm on this homemade ice-cream kick (it would be decidedly easier with cheesecloth and a fine mesh strainer - but I haven't gotten around to getting those gadgets yet.) Today I think we'll make the custard for some french vanilla cookie dough ice cream and maybe the cookie dough - since the custard needs to chill thoroughly and I'd imagine folding in cookie dough would go more smoothly if it were frozen in little-chunks before the folding began. Anywho - I've got 6 eggs in 5 containers. 2 containers of yolks (3 apiece), and 3 containers of whites (2 apiece) - I'm thinking meringues might also be in order - what with all the extra whites hanging around anyway...

However before the custard making begins we're got to go shopping for some cream.

So I'm outta here - because ice cream making awaits!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Space Cowboy Pirates...

First and foremost Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there! (Aren't Hallmark Holidays just the funnest?)

Friday morning turned out to be quite enjoyable. We attended an upsherin on the other side of town - which meant that we were in town - so we picked up flowers too. It was nice to see so many of our friends (sadly, we don't get together much - because we're too lazy to leave our mountaintop.) The client never called (and I was out of the house) so I was able to relax a bit.

I cooked all of our Shabbos food in about 20 minutes at around 6PM - (challah (from the freezer), roasted garlic, baked BBQ wings, spicy roasted potatoes, peas and couscous.)

Shabbos lunch was really nice. We walked 3.5 km to our friends the Zacks in Rova Bet. They had invited another young couple (new to Ariel) to the meal as well. After lunch we made our way over to the Lockerman's and spent the rest of Shabbos there. Z learned to play a new 'resources' game (crazy Germans with their colors and rules) and we snacked on their newly acquired American candy stash as soon as we were 'pareve' from lunch. It was a wonderful day and we really enjoyed being out. Company really helps the time pass much more quickly.

This morning I woke up bright and early (a little before 6) and after typing up a bunch of recipes for the cookbooks I decided to do some odious chores. Down on my hands and knees I got to disinfect and scrub out the shnasty cupboard under the kitchen sink. (The last thing I need is for it to start molding in there. *shudders* yuck!) Now it's all shiny and white again. Yay!

I want to put up another batch of bagels today - but I need some more bread flour. (If I'm gonna make them, I might as well make a lot of them.) This time I'm going to try the 'regular' version of the sourdough bagels - that is to say - I'm going to use a new 'sponge' in place of the sourdough starter - to cut down on the sourdoughiness.

We're smack-dab in the middle of Z's finals period so he's been super-busy studying for exams and working on projects. (I hope nobody calls me demanding that I finish work 'now' - cause Z will be using the 'big computer' for his projects for the next little while.)

Good news is that I'm waiting for 1 more photo and then I think the 'Desserts' volume of the 'cookbook' is done. It looks really cute. (Well, I'm relatively pleased with how it turned out - on the screen.) It's very photo-heavy but I think that's kind of nice. Anyway - I'm not printing it to sell for profit, it's just a way for me to compile my favorite recipes to share with my friends. (I'm going to start printing them so that I can give them to friends as wedding gifts. Personal, nice and useful - well, I think so anyway.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Post #999

Yesterday I woke up at 7 (as is customary, for some unexplainable reason) and sat down to work for a bit. The next thing I knew it was 11:00AM and two things crossed my mind, one was that I was hungry and the other was that Z was still asleep.

A little while later somebody sent me a form that had to be signed and mailed pronto so at 2:35PM we checked the bus schedule and saw that there was a bus at 2:45PM so I got dressed and we ran out the door to catch the bus.

A quick trip to town and we mailed the letter. We also visited the nuts&spices store (I picked up some seeds for a seed bread I want to try next week) and a quick jaunt to Mega to get the last of the groceries for Shabbos.

I was supposed to make noodles for dinner. I was planning on eating them plain. Why? Because that's easy Thursday night food and sometimes the easier the better. However, at some point I got this crazy idea into my head that I wanted chicken for dinner. Not just easy throw it in the oven chicken - something yummy and delicious. So I ended up rolling chicken breasts around a spiced rice,mushroom&onion stuffing, laid them on a bed of seasoned rice and concocted a reduced white wine and mushroom sauce to pour over the top. Then I baked the whole thing covered. Result: juicy chicken and awesomely flavored rice. Next time I would definitely marinate the chicken in something first. But all in all a successful venture.
As you may (or may not) remember, I'm attempting to cobble together a cookbook of sorts. After much debate and pricing-insanity I've decided to make a multi-volume set. I started with desserts (of course, my favorite) and it's almost finished. I just need to read over the 'copy'one more time and I was short 2 photos.

In an effort to move the project along I decided to make the baked goods that needed to be photographed. Amaretto Cake and Black&White Cookies. Luckily I had Black&White cookie bases in the freezer, I just had to find the perfect glaze (mission accomplished - by the way.) As for the Amaretto Cake - I can't stand making a 'big' cake when it's just the 2 of us. Even my 'small' bundt pan is too big, so I decided to make mini-bundts. Z got me the trays as a Chanukah present but I never used them. I made 1/2 a recipe of batter and got exactly 12 mini-bundts. (Each cake took 2 Tbsps of batter.)
We devoured one (ok, it wasn't so hard to do - they are 2-bite cakes after all.) Ping-Pong ate one all by himself, I left 2 out for Shabbos and bagged/froze the others for a later date. I just have to drizzle them with a glaze and that will be that.
Last night was pretty miserable in terms of rest. I fell asleep somewhere in the vicinity of midnight, got woken up at 3, fell back asleep at 5:30 and then woke up again at 7. When I couldn't fall asleep again I resigned myself to a long tired day and got up. (It's the worst on these loooong Fridays when dinner isn't until 9PM or thereabouts.)

I put a load of laundry into the machine, glazed the Black&White cookies, switched the laundry and put in a second load and thought about doing something else 'Shabbos prep' related.

Now it's 8:50 in the morning and I'm not sure where or what to start with. I haven't finished that booklet project (that's due today) because I'm having a mental block about what photos and graphics to include in it - also because the client may or may not be changing the text but hasn't decided yet and if he has then he hasn't let me know. So, chances are pretty good I'll get a call in about 20 minutes and he'll be demanding to know why he doesn't have his booklet yet and that will get me all riled up, upset and will ruin my day. I'm already anticipating it and it's making me kind of sad.

I don't have a menu-plan for tonight (because lots of things got switched around - because we're having a guest next week), I haven't cooked anything, my house is a mess, we're supposed to go to an 'upsherin' on the other side of town that's called for 10:30-1:30... I'm really just not sure where to start (and no - 'the beginning' doesn't help.)

Bright side - we're going out for Shabbos lunch, which means I don't have to cook. (Although I should probably make something for seudah shlishit.) It's just a little annoying that the people we're going to live in the middle of the city, about 3 km away from us - down down down the hill. (Which means, up up up on the way home.) I love the breeze but if I had a choice in the matter all those Anglos would move up here so they'd get the view, breeze and be closer to us. Am I selfish much?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Life as a Story...

Yesterday morning as I was busy being confused about what day it was and boiling bagels at 9 in the morning a client called me. He wanted to know when I would be finished with a project that he had sent. I was completely confused with regard to dates - and reminded him that I'd said it would take me until the end of the week. Turns out that was last week. He sent me the thing 2 weeks ago. *sigh* I must be losing my marbles.So, I sat down and started working. It's a booklet layout project. He sent 20 A4 pages of text and told me to 'format it as a booklet and make it look pretty' - I decided to scale it down to an A5 booklet so that it would look like more than just a 10 page pamphlet. Did I mention that the text is 98% in Hebrew with a smattering of random English terms thrown in?

It took me 5 hours to put the text onto the pages and format it. Why? Well, for some odd reason whenever I get work from this client, the actual text is a mess. There are extra 'spaces' between words in the middle of sentences for no reason, the 'periods' don't follow the last word in the sentence, instead they're attached to the first word of the next sentence. There are random hard-enters smack in the middle of sentences. (Are there any graphic people out there reading this? I know they taught us that it's not the GA's job to type text - but they also said that if we see typos or errors that it's 'nice' to correct them. So what am I supposed to do? Leave the 20 page document with all its extra spaces and whatnot or just place it and if the client complains say "well, that's what you sent me." Anybody? Advice?) I know I have to format the tables and stuff - but spending that much time editing the punctuation and spacing seems nuts.
I sat down to work at around 2PM, and the next time I looked at the clock it was 6:30PM so I asked Z whether he wanted dinner. He said, "yes." (Surprise surprise) - so I went to the kitchen to get it ready.

I turned on the oven to preheat and then sliced up sweet potatoes into fries. After lining them up on a tray I drizzled a tiny bit of olive oil over them. Finally for seasoning I sprinkled on some kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder. (Yay for savory!)
Then I turned my attention to the 'franks-in-blankets' - (Z specially requested them on Tuesday, so I took the hotdogs out of the freezer in the morning so they could defrost, along with puff-pastry dough.) I cut off a narrow strip of dough and rolled it out (using a little flour to prevent sticking) so that it would be enough to cover the 4 hotdogs. Then I cut it into 4 pieces, rolled up the little-doggies and used some water to seal the ends. Using a sharp serrated knife I cut the wrapped franks into 1/3rds and put them on the tray.
By 7PM the food was in the oven. I went back to work for 15 minutes and then checked in on it. Nothing much was happening but I figured 15 minutes isn't really very long, it probably just needs more time. Another 15 minutes passed and I went to check on it again. Now the food had been in the oven for half an hour so I was confused when I peeked in and the oil wasn't bubbling, the hotdogs weren't growing and the puff-pastry wasn't puffing.

Climax:
Cautiously I stuck my hand into the oven to check if the heat was on as I glanced at the temperature knobs. Finally something clicked in my head.

Moment of Clarity and Insight:
I had turned on the convection fan for the bottom oven and put the food into the bottom oven but had turned the heat on in the top oven instead.

Resolution:
I turned off the top oven, turned on the bottom oven, reset the timer and 45 minutes later we had dinner - which was nice. It even tasted pretty good.

Moral / Lesson to be Learned:
I have officially lost my mind.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An Innate Need to Share

I woke up this morning convinced that it was Thursday. (Does this seem to happen to me a lot?) I couldn't figure out where the whole week had gone. I knew a few days had passed but couldn't remember what I'd done on them or where I'd gone. Then I looked at my calendar and just sort of stood there in disbelief. The thought that crossed my mind was something along the lines of Oh, so I don't have to cook for Shabbos today - that's tomorrow. Oddly enough there was no sense of relief. More of a gnawing uncertainty that something was amiss and the calendar was somehow 'pulling the wool over my eyes' so to speak.

Yesterday was pretty nice. Z did a teensy bit of work, we made sourdough bagel dough (and decided to let it have an overnight fermentation in the fridge to enrich and deepen the flavor.) We watched a whole lot of our favorite cooking show and while drinking some awesome milkshakes. We had cookiesNcream ice cream in the freezer so we popped it into the blender with some milk and a glob of peanut butter. Then we garnished with Peanut M&Ms because - come on - they're just so delicious (even if they are 'treif' to you chalav yisrael people out there.)
Last night was a really late night. At around 10:30 Z got inspired to buckle-down and seriously tackle one of his projects. At 1AM I went to bed because my eyes were closing and I was downright sleepy. I don't think he actually went to sleep until somewhere in the region of 3 or 4. So when I woke up at 6:45 this morning I tiptoed out of the room and went to the kitchen to make some noise.
All in all I only got 16 bagels out of the recipe. They looked pretty small when I shaped them and I hoped that they'd grow. (I don't have a kitchen scale which makes weighing and dividing things a little bit challenging. Otherwise I would've checked that they were 4 oz a piece - because supposedly that's the ideal size dough-ball for a perfect bagel.)
I also tried shaping them in 2 different ways. One being the poke&stretch and the other being the snake,bend&pinch. The snake,bend&pinch is actually kind of cute. So - I think I might shape them that way from now on.

Anywho - first order of business this morning was cranking the oven up to the max (which is only about 425F according to my handy-oven-thermometer) and getting the bagels boiled and baked before the heat of the day set in.
I was a little paranoid about something going horribly awry with the process, but thankfully they seemed to handle the test well and are now happily cooling on my counter. I guess I should probably go and finish the rest of them.
Just in case you were wondering - this recipe used up 4 whole cups of my sourdough starter. So in preparation I fed it a whole lot yesterday morning. See the toothpick on the side of the bowl there? That's the level it was at after feeding it. See where the goop-level is in the picture? Well, it got a little bit higher than that before I took off 4 cups for bagel-making-purposes. (There is still about a cup and a half left in the bowl.)
What does the growth tell me? That my stinky little starter is happy to be alive and living with me.

And yes - for some odd reason that makes me very happy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Before the Heatwave

Yesterday morning was quite a lot of fun. We walked to the mailbox and picked up the petek for the post-office. Then we walked to the bus-stop and I shmoozed with Freddie until the bus came. We got ff the bus in 'town' and picked up the package (brand spanking new awesome bright blue 35 shekel 'gel' headphones) then we walked around the iriyah buildings and discovered that the whole 'opening a business thing' actually has to be taken care of in Petach Tivka. We then took a 20 minute walk to Yesh, stopping along the way in the Industrial-Area at the spice-store and a tile factory (we're in search of an unglazed tile to act as a pizza-stone of sorts.)

In Yesh we got right down to the groceries. First the veggies and then the dairy (cause that's how the store is set up. As I reached for the milk I decided to get 2 bags (that's 2 liters) because I've been collecting ice-cream recipes left and right and really want to try some. I verbalized this to Z and he seemed relatively excited - so did a nice gentleman standing nearby. So I smiled and went to choose some heavy cream. We kept passing the guy who had been intrigued by the thought of homemade multi-flavor ice creams and by a couple shopping together and speaking in English in Ariel until a few aisles later when we saw that 1 liter bottles of canola-oil were on sale. The man commented that the price was great, I agreed but noted that you had to buy 6 bottles of the stuff to get the sale price (think cheap Chanukkah sale price) but that the prospect of the shlep factor wasn't quite as exciting - especially considering the heat and that we actually wanted to buy some other stuff and then the bus etc. Anywho, as I looked wistfully at the oil (cause we're running low) the man offered to give us a tremp up the mountain if we wanted so that we could get the oil. His wife was still shopping and would be a while so it would be alright if he popped out for 10 minutes. Suffice it to say we were extremely grateful. It's one of those really nice things about living here. Turns out he's a long-time ex-South African, his wife is French and they live in Yakir out here in the Shomron. We had a friendly chat on the way across the city and it was nice to get home almost 40 minutes earlier than we had anticipated.

The rest of the day was spent at work on the computer. Typing, organizing, laying out, brainstorming, researching. You get the idea.

Today the weather is supposed to rise a couple of degrees from yesterday - which is kind of a shame cause it was really delightful yesterday. But it's supposed to keep getting hotter until the end of the week - so today I'm definitely going to do that baking that I was supposed to do yesterday.

My sourdough starter is quite large, because I haven't discarded in a couple of days - so it's time to use some of it up. I'm thinking of making these sourdough bagels. I am also on a quest to try some new grains and proteins - so I'm going to be experimenting with Quinoa. For some reason I've got a mental block against it (I think it's because it sprouts a gooey-slimy looking tail when it's fully cooked.) Anyway, I just have this idea in my head that it tastes icky - but based on my research it's all in the way you cook it - and it's a really healthful sort of food. So I'll experiment and then subject you, my dear reader, to a rambling session regarding my results. (I hope you don't mind - oh wait - if you're actually still reading this then I guess you're kind of asking for it.)

Alrighty - I'm off. Lots to do today. I'm thinking first bagel dough, the ice-cream(s), then cookies, then work.

Sounds like a plan.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ahuvati...

It's been a few days. So what's been going on?

Friday morning we walked down to check the mail but the anticipated petek from the post-office hadn't arrived yet. So instead we walked to Mega to pick up the last of the groceries for Shabbos. (Turned out to be a mistake because they didn't have any flowers, and we wound up waiting about 45 minutes for a bus to show up to take us back up the mountain.)

Shabbos was nice. Quiet and really really long. Most of it was spent wondering whether it would be really mean of us to throw ice-cubes at the yappy-dog downstairs. On the one hand maybe it would be scared into not barking for 2 minutes and on second thought, it might cause another yap-attack like the butterfly did.

Sunday took a long time to pass - but I spent all day pretending to be productive. I typed up the first 32 recipes. Then I edited and formatted them. Then I actually sat for over 5 hours and laid-out the 'Desserts & Confections' book complete with pictures. I don't actually like the way it came out - but Z insists that it looks good.

Once again I was afraid that spending Shabbos in the fridge had killed my sourdough starter, but after feeding it and leaving it in a warm corner of the kitchen it seemed to bubble a bit - so maybe there is hope. I've really got to accept the fact that sourdough starter is easier to keep alive than sea-monkeys. (Not that I've ever owned sea-monkeys.)
Speaking of sourdough starter - based on looking at the forecast and weatherman's predictions - I think I'll switch around my menu and bake today. It's supposed to be getting HOT again as the week progresses and as we've learned from experience, better to bake when the weather is cool cause when it's hot it's horrible to have the oven blasting out 400F degrees of heat on top of the 90F+ degrees from the sun.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Decisions - Decisions

Wow - so I didn't do anything today. Thursday passed me by and I didn't wash even 1 load of laundry, didn't clean the kitchen counters, still have a ton to make for Shabbos and I'm not quite sure when it's all going to get done.

We had Koplens over today. Ora had a final at 1 - so we took it easy this morning and then after her final she came back with her brother and the relaxation continued with sushi for lunch and a movie.

As far as cooking goes, I took chicken soup and matzah balls out of the freezer. I also took out chicken wings to defrost (cause I was too lazy to go shopping for other chicken parts.) Finally at 6pm I decided to make the mushroom barley casserole (just to get the mushrooms out of the vegetable drawer) and I made mashed potatoes for the pot-pie.

Menu is as follows:

Friday Night - Roasted Garlic, Chumus, Chicken Soup with Matzah Balls, Pesto Chicken, Garlic Rice and Roasted Root Vegetables

Shabbos Lunch - Chicken Pot Pie, Mushroom Barley Casserole and a Tossed Salad

I made Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle for dessert and that's that. (Although if there is extra pie dough from the pot-pie (and I'm not feeling too lazy) I might make a small Apple Pie as a special treat.)

Z is currently brewing up 6 liters of our favorite 'Not Quite Snapple'.

In other news - I've figured out how to print the first version of my cookbook. Actually I should say cookbooks. Now they're going to be a really cute little 5 book set and each book will contain 30-40 of my favorite recipes.

The topics covered will be:
  1. Breads, Soups & Salads
  2. Sidedishes, Sauces & Spreads
  3. Dairy, Fish & Vegetarian
  4. Meat & Poulty
  5. Desserts & Confections
Upside - I'm going to get something done.
Downside - It's really expensive to get a book published. (Seriously, how much do paper and ink cost?)

Anywho - when all is said and done the 5 book set will cost somewhere in the range of about 300 shekels a pop. (And yup - that's just to get it printed in a neat little book format, I've got to do all the typing and layout work myself.)

Hopefully the cuteness factor will outweigh the cost factor - you know - like it supposedly does for a baby or a puppy...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Strong Wax

Woke up bright and early this morning - but wasn't quite in the mood to make cinnamon buns. I did get out though. Went into town for an appointment (read: no more fuzzy caterpillars on my face) and then stopped off in Mega and picked up some veggies - since it was 'shuk-day' and got a sweet sweet melon for a just 4 shekels.I was about 1/2 a block away from the stop when I saw a bus pull up. Considering the hour I realized that if I missed it I'd probably be stuck waiting at least 1/2 an hour for the next one. So I did something I almost never do and ran for it. Thankfully the driver saw me and waved to say "don't worry, I'll wait" and he did. I'd call that a glass half-full morning.Last night I actually made the macaroni & cheese for dinner. It turned out wonderfully. I'm so glad I've finally gotten the hang of this "roux-making" - my white sauce comes out delightfully thickened and tasty. Look it - I caught some of the teeny macaronis in my whisk.
The sunset last night was extraordinary. The photo doesn't quite do it justice -but I'll blame that on the fact that my camera is a spazztastic point-n-shoot. (it just hasn't quite been the same since it went to the beach on Pesach.)
Tonight for dinner we're having pizza. Yup, sourdough pizza. I super-charged my starter yesterday and then again this morning so that there would be enough. (Ok - so I fed it a lot but it's doing fine.) Z helped by making the dough - he did all the tough kneading by hand (cause it's way too stiff for my mixer.) It's been rising for the last 2 hours but doesn't seem to have risen significantly. (Should have made 2 batches like last time - see, sometimes it pays to be paranoid.) Still - it's only 5:15 so we've got some time until we decide to eat dinner. Hopefully the poof-ing magic will happen and all will be well.

Ora slept over last night and will be sleeping over tonight too. (She's just finishing up her finals.)

I spent 3 hours working today - and my brain feels overloaded with layout and design stuff. Still got that booklet, book, logo and other stuff to do though. Whoooowee.

Tomorrow is already time to start cooking for Shabbos and doing laundry. Where'd my week go?