Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back from Black

November 28 was the day I planned to do something big, something I had never done, something of which other women speak triumphantly about and my curiosity was getting the best of me. Lack of experience would not stop me, I went shopping on "Black Friday". Now the truth is I really didn't need anything. I merely got up predawn on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving to see what the hype was all about.

Friday, thermos in hand I set out in the inky dark, The roads were strangely quiet, and I wondered if I was the only crazy leaving a warm bed for a post turkey bargain. Pulling into the parking lot, one glance reveals, I am not alone. The entire population of the State of California was in that store.

Contrary to what I had heard, the shoppers were not barbarians, they were not beating each other with merchandise or swiping half off toys from strollers. But truthfully, I didn't belong. These were seasoned professionals, organized teams, pack hunters pouncing on door busting bargains. I was flying solo, a want- a -be bargain maverick , who honestly felt more like a shopping desperado. I stiffly moved through the throngs hoping to catch the fever, hoping that something would scream out to me, "hey here I am, you found the Holy Grail, and I'm 50% off"!

There is no competing with pros who have already placed a team member in line to guard their loot and push it along (I actually never saw the line move). So I tell myself,' there is no shame in keeping the few bucks you have for the things you really do need." There are sales and bargains to be had on another day". Most importantly," your thermos is empty, and your bladder is full".

In the end the paltry bag of bargains slung over my shoulder, couldn't convince me to tough out the line, or any lines at any store. Breakfast was sounding better then bargains any way, and I had a chunky monkey waiting for me back at home. Maybe with proper training, or a chance to join a "sale squad" or something, I will brave "Black Friday" again.

IT'S A CAKE!, What did you think I meant? Bake this morning goodie anytime you need something sweet and delicious to lure you back home!

Ingredients: Streusel
1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips
⅔ cup brown sugar
½ cup walnuts chopped
1 tablespoon cinnamon ground
3 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 each egg
2 ⅔ cups mashed bananas
6 tablespoons buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour 12" round or 9x13 baking pan.
Stir chocolate chips (about 8 ounces), brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon in a small bowl (set aside for streusel).

Beat together sugar, room temp butter and egg until fluffy.
Beat in mashed bananas (about 6) and buttermilk.
Sift together all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Blend well.
Spread half cake batter in prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with half streusel mixture.
Spread remaining cake batter and sprinkle with remainder of streusel.
Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (appx. 45 minutes)
Cool cake completely before cutting.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

15 Thanksgivings, And Counting

Richard suggested I tell you about turkey, but I decided to tell you about him, no pun intended. Richard is my friend, partner, and the love of my life. This Thanksgiving we will celebrate the day, 15 years ago, when we chose marriage over turkey and eloped on our only day off.
In the summer of 1991, I set up a lunch for a meeting at a large corporation. Same day, same business, different conference room, lunch was brought in by House Of Catering. When I returned for pick up, my equipment was missing. No surprise that House Of Catering took it, the surprise was that the owner, Richard, was really pretty nice.
Over the next year our professional interest changed and instead of referring and collaborating on business we were actually becoming friends. The change was so subtle I was halfway through dinner one night when I realized we were on a date.
Times got tough in the next year, both business were slowing with the economy and Richard suggested merging. I struggled with the decision of giving up sole propriety but I knew Richard was right. The decision to marry in 1993 wasn't nearly as difficult as deciding to merge, by this time, I couldn't imagine a day apart. He actually never asked me to marry him, he went to the library, looked in a Vegas phone book and got the number for marriage information. When I queried, "what is this about?" he replied, "well, you want to get married don't you?"
We traded a jeweler Christmas party catering for wedding rings. Drove to Las Vegas on a Wednesday night, married on Thanksgiving, then drove back so we could cater a wedding for someone else.
Why elope? because weddings are a lot of work. They were our work.
Richard and I started a tradition of going someplace special every year at Thanksgiving and try to dodge turkey when we can (too much catering of the bird). On the way back from our '95 Thanksgiving anniversary on Catalina Island, I couldn't shake the seasick feeling when I got off the boat. Nine months later, we were in another special place, a hospital where our son was born. Happy anniversary Richard, I love you, and for you, I couldn't be more thankful!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Galley Madness

I would like to meet the guy who designed the kitchen in my otherwise wonderful house. It had to be a man, because a women would know better. I imagine him sitting there thinking, "okay I got bedrooms bathrooms, living what am I forgetting"? When he realizes the kitchen is missing he just pencils in a skinny slip at the back and... nothing more.

When the time came for some home improvements, my husband and I attacked the kitchen first. Our budget allowed for a cosmetic make over and nothing else, blowing out a wall to gain more space was not an option. Our solution for the tiny space? Stream line, modernize, and eliminate anything we could live without, like a second child. We removed cabinets, a section of counter and the pantry, creating a 9'x4' galley kitchen with the maximum capacity of one.

The updated kitchen is nice, a big improvement, but trying to cook in it is never easy. The fridge opens into the doorway thus blocking the entrance and exit, the same goes for the dishwasher. The micro got kicked into an area intended for dining which we gave up to gain storage for pots and pans. Still, many of my appliances are stored in the garage.

Really my biggest beef is with the stove/oven combo by Thermador. I wince every time I think about trying to cook anything on or in it because it hates me. A lighter is necessary to ignite the burners but only three, the fourth will never ignite no matter how much I curse at it. The lighter is child proof so my twelve year old son has to operate it or more curses. The oven refuses to kick on unless a burner is on first and when and if it does, it whirs, sputters, whoops and thumps. Did I tell you they have the nerve to call it"Professional"?

All of this whining about my kitchen only came up because a week ago I decided to bake a cake. Not just any cake, but my brother's favorite and my best catering seller, surprisingly named, "Chocolate Madness". The recipe is an old Hersey's Chocolate original, and is so easy to make unless you are working in a galley kitchen with an oven that hates you. After mixing the batter it dawns on me, I got rid of my baking pans when I closed my business, and had to bake in a spring form wrapped in foil. I can go on, but you get the idea.

I head off to my brothers, chocolate surprise and family in tow. We are celebrating three August birthday's, belated over a month. On arrival, my gleeful niece, Lily, proudly presents her cake, a professional Oreo creation she is ecstatic about. I laugh about my little amateur looking one and I sheepishly place it next to Lily's.

Cake time comes and Lily excitedly insists at running her cake out to the patio for the mandatory "Happy Birthday" jingle. Go ahead, try telling a ten year old to "be careful,"to "slow down", you know whats going to happen, it's" sit com" predictable. The cake, of course, flies gracefully out of her out stretched hands onto the waiting white carpet.

As luck would have it, we had another cake! The kitchen and the oven may conspire against me,
but the Chocolate Madness with"Happy Birthday" scrawled on it (and the carpet spotter )saved the day!

1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 each egg
1 cup milk
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 times makes 8" cake
3 times makes 14" cake.
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

3 ½ cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup cream
¾ cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sift together sugar and cocoa placed in a mixing bowl with paddle attachment . Mix in butter and vanilla.
Heat cream add and mix until smooth.

1.5 times makes 8" cake