Sunday, 27 March 2011

When Good Things Happen.....

You may be surprised to find out that this blog isn't ALL about food.  I know, right!!!  (as shock and amazement ripples through you)

I do work, I do have a family and friends - I just think that you may not be interested in the regular, every-day stuff that goes on.  In fact, I'm somewhat bored by it.

However, one of those days comes along and brightens up even the darkest time. 

I had been be-moaning my grief about not being able to do any travelling one day to a co-worker.  I feel like I REALLY need a vacation.  I'm exhausted and not just in my body - in my mind too.  I can absolutely take holidays and stay home during the summer and enjoy activities like golfing and lazing on the deck reading my book or hanging out with friends.  And I've done it before.  But it always seems that chores linger on the wings waiting to make their entrance.  When I take a holiday, I want to leave my home, stay somewhere where there are NO chores or errands!

Two days after this conversation with my co-worker, my Mom called.  It seems she has the travel bug....  And in a few months time we're taking off for a vacation!  And it's very affordable and we'll have a terrific time!

(I'm very close to my parents.  My Mom and I have travelled together before and we always have fun!)

And before that.  (If you don't like Too Much Information - STOP READING!  lol!)  There is a website that I look at daily to see if there are any daily deals that may interest me.  They had previously had laser hair removal deals and I tossed the idea around for weeks.  Then I decided that the next time a laser hair removal deal came up - I wouldn't let it pass me by.

Well - there it was, the deal I'd been waiting for.  1 voucher = 6 sessions of laser hair removal.  Yes.  To get a Brazilian, it costs 3 vouchers.  I paid $270.  It's a SMOKING good deal.  I figured it out - if I don't have to pay for waxing for 5 years I will save myself $2600.  Hopefully the laser removal will live up to my expectations and I will be happier than a pig in poo.

I can't believe these two very nice things came up in the same day!  Especially when I'd been so busy throwing myself a little pity party.  I'm feeling incredibly lucky.

This is The Cane Girl - signing off.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Disasters in The Kitchen and then Redemption

After the success of yesterday's Banana Bread and the possibility of a terrific Lamb Stew and previous wins, I had much higher hopes for today.  But along the way it turned into what I feared was an Epic Fail.

I started with a Guinness Chocolate Cake topped with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting.  When I looked at the recipe, I had no idea how it would fit into three 8-inch cake pans or 1 bundt pan.  It did bring up a big question mark behind my eyes, but I dove in.  I followed the recipe to the letter (from simmering the beer and butter to mixing all the dry ingredients separately), but as everything started to go into the mixer bowl - that question mark just got bigger.

I pulled and prepped my 9-inch cake pans (that's all I have, my kitchen equipment is somewhat lacking).  I finally got around to using the Wilton Cake Strips as well.  Sadly, the cake strips would not just hold on - but I made it work anyway.  Turns out they actually work! 

Moving on.  I filled my cake pans - probably too much, but live and learn.  Slid my cakes in the oven and set the timer.  30 minutes is generally the proper cook time for 9-inch cake pans, I think.  I actually only used HALF of the batter.  What could I have done with the rest?  In the end I pitched it in the trash.

45 minutes later, the toothpicks came out clean.  But something didn't look quite right.  Took the cakes out of the oven, to cool on a rack.  Ten minutes later I dumped them out to cool the rest of the way.  And freaked.  The sides were moist and felt uncooked.  I even cut bits out of the bottom and center to check.  It looks cooked, but it almost seems UNDERCOOKED.  45 minutes!  It's GOTTA be done!  One of the cakes was very delicate and was starting to fall apart as it cooled. 

Oh geez.

I also decided on a white soda bread with caraway seeds.  The dough was actually really quite tough and I was wondering how it would come out.  After it was finished baking it had a very golden crust and was hard as a rock.  Another disaster.  Ugh.

On to the icing.  I KNEW looking at the recipe that something was out of wack.  I was right.  The icing was incredibly hard to spread and because the cake was so delicate it totally fell apart and ripped every time I tried to ice it.  I actually ended up kind of schelacking (sp?) it onto the cake with my hands.  It may be the ugliest cake in the history of the world.

I went on to de-fat the stew and cut up the lamb into smaller pieces and remove the fat.  That went pretty well.  Heating it up took forever though...

The Results:

The lamb stew was terrific!  I should have added an extra potato and thrown in some celery, but it was lamby and delicious.  I was totally thrilled to discover that my company LIKES lamb, so I shouldn't have been so worried.  Subbing in the Guinness for the wine was a fantastic idea.

The cake itself was absolutely rich and filling and decadent.  Moist and dense.  Yum.  The icing could have definitely been waaay better, but my company enjoyed it so that was the most important part.  I should have re-done the icing.  In my own opinion.  I'm not sure why I didn't just re-do it.  I didn't really have any time constraints.  Oh well.  Live and learn and move on.

The soda bread - after cutting through the crust, the inside was dense and thick - totally perfect for sopping up the stew juices.  Yum again!

In the end - the only thing I wasn't 100% happy with was the icing on the cake.  It always seems to work out that way though - there always seems to be ONE thing that I'm not happy with.

Today I've learned that I need to follow my instincts with recipes...  I've read enough recipes that I should recognize when something is off and look much closer.

This is the Cane Girl - signing off for now.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Bananas, Lamb, & Goat

I know, I know.  Twice in one day.  I've got time on my hands.

First I have to talk about the Banana Bread.  This recipe has 1 package of cream cheese in it.  Mix it all together, portion some of it into two pans, sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar on top, top with the remaining banana mixture.  Bake. 

It came out beautifully.  Moist and delicious.  I did notice that there are bits of cream cheese throughout, but that happens if you overbeat cream cheese - which I think I may have done.  Oh well.  It's wonderful.  5 stars from me!

Next up: Irish Lamb Stew.  I'm having my friend Dee and her boyfriend over for dinner tomorrow for a St. Patrick's Day dinner - we went out on the actual day, so dinner was postponed until tomorrow. 

I am somewhat nervous about this stew.  It may be the smell.  But I have learned that sometimes smell has nothing to do with taste (ie. Whisky Butter Sauce - smelled gross, tasted amazing).  I grew up eating elk, moose, and deer so I have no idea what "gamey" meat smells like - but I'm pretty sure this is it. 

The lamb is somewhat fatty, but my plan is to keep the fat on the lamb for the flavour.  Since I'm serving it tomorrow, I'm making it tonight so the flavours have time to meld.  Tomorrow before I heat it to serve, I'll skim off the fat from the top and pull the lamb and trim it into smaller pieces and trim off the fat.  I don't like fatty meats.  Ugh.

The recipe calls for wine, but I'm subbed in Guinness Beer, which I'm hoping will deepen the flavour of the stew and make it that much more delectable.  So, being entirely freaked out about the waste I was about to incur, I threw in the beer, vegetables, thyme, and bay leaves.  The smell that started to eminate from my stockpot was - in one word - heaven.  I think I may have burnt my nose by getting too close to get a smell.  Oh. My.  But I'm still nervous - good grief.

Keep your fingers crossed that it's not terrible and we won't have to order pizza.  Lamb is very expensive.  Whew.

Lastly, Goat Cheese.  I picked up three different kinds of Goat Cheese from my local grocery.  Chevrita - a soft, ripened cheese, Rondoux - another soft, ripened cheese, and the third doesn't really have a name, it's a soft unripened cheese.

The Chevrita is very gooey enclosed in a rind.  The Rondoux is more like a Brie in texture.  And the unripened cheese - well - I would say that it's like a dry Ricotta.  In fact, I'm considering subbing it for Ricotta in a couple of recipes.  Yum.  Cheese and crackers for dinner tonight - keeping it easy.

Well, the dishes are done, the stew is cooling in an ice-water bath so I can get it into the fridge soon and dinner has been taken care of.  I'm ready for some chilling of my own.

This is The Cane Girl - signing off.

Getting To Know You

I have to admit something.  This is my first blog.  Ever.  I even consider myself to be quite technical, but in all this time, I've never even considered a blog.  Then a friend, we'll call her Kay, suggested it.  Then a co-worker suggested it as well.  That I write a blog about my "culinary" adventures (and the more hilarious "life" adventures when they happen).

After A LOT of consideration, I finally got up the guts to set it up.

The sad part of it is - I have done some REALLY great cooking.  And have had some GRAND disasters.  And I've bored my mother and friends to tears telling them all about it.  I won't recount what I've already done, we'll just start from here.


Anyway, let's move along.

I enjoy being in the kitchen.  I love to make things that make you close your eyes and say "yum".  I'm very technical and literal - I don't create things on my own, I actually CAN'T.  But I can follow a recipe.  Probably that's why I'm a pretty good baker - it's science and math.  It's this + this + this = that.  I like that.  The first time I make something and it comes out perfectly - it makes me feel awesome.

I'm probably starting this blog at the absolute worst time - although summer won't touch down in Alberta for a while yet (okay - like three more months), I can feel myself preparing for it - I've been eyeballing my golf clubs like a thirsty man looks at a glass of water.  And perhaps you won't hear from me for weeks on end - but I'll be back.

I've just realised that I have no idea how I should sign off.  You know how at the end of all the cooking shows, the host says something like "Stay Hungry!" or "That's it for this episode" or whatever they say?  I have no idea how to finish.  Well - let's leave that part for now and if you can think of anything - let me know.