January 31, 2008

"you double-dipped the chip!"

George: "Double-dipped"? What are you talking about?

Timmy: You dipped the chip. You took a bite. And you dipped again.

George: So...?

Timmy: That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip! From now on, when you take a chip, just take one dip and end it!

George: Well, I'm sorry, Timmy, but I don't dip that way.

(Best. Picture. Ever.)

Oh, how I love Seinfeld!

If you've ever wondered if, in fact, double-dipping is really such a party foul, you should read this article from the NY Times. You might be surprised.

That is all.

read more words!

January 30, 2008

the maiden voyage

I developed my first product today! Hurrah, hurrah!

Clearly, I can't tell you all about it (lest I get canned), but I will say that it involves blueberries (oh, how I love the blueberry) and it is positively delicious. I envy the babies who'll get to eat this one. In fact, I'm sneaking some of it home with me.

What is this vaguely familiar feeling niggling at me?

Ah, yes, a sense of accomplishment and pride. I remember now.

That's nice.

read more words!

January 29, 2008

Raindancer Steak Parlour

My boss invited me to join him, his wife, and his brother for dinner last night. My first thought was, "Oh Lordy, I hope this isn't a set-up."

[Sidenote: That makes me think of my dear grandma, who's endlessly trying to find me a husband, whether he's 60 or 10. Love her anyway.]

Turns out my boss was just being kind, as his brother is 55 and married. Whew.
We went to the Raindancer Steak Parlour ("Parlour," eh? How hoity-toity is that?) in Amsterdam, the nicest place in town as far as I know (and by nicest, I mean most expensive). Apparently, they're big on steak and fish, two sources of protein that don't really do it for me. I can be flexible though (contrary to popular belief, I'm not always a Goldilocks), and I felt confident that there would be something on the menu that I could devour.

Plus, you know, life isn't always all about food. Seriously, folks. This was clearly more about getting to know my boss better and being social. The nice meal was just an added bonus...

Anyway, my initial impression of the restaurant was not that it would serve expensive dishes. In fact, it wasn't very impressive at all--Applebee's has a better decor. But I reminded myself that one musn't judge a book by its cover.

We were seated promptly since we had reservations (which were completely unnecessary--there were only about 10 other tables occupied), and I checked out the menu. Cha-ching--it was indeed expensive. And almost entirely unappealing. Lots of fishies, lots of steaks, some veal (just can't do it), very little chicken, and no vegetarian. Boo.

I ended up picking an herb-roasted chicken salad, replete with sun-dried tomatoes (one of my favorite foods of all time), pine nuts, and roasted red peppers.

Anytime I see sun-dried tomatoes in a dish's description, that dish immediately moves to the top of my list of potentials. Unfortunately, I've found that the tart little slivers of love are often paired with mushrooms, which I abhor.

Not this time, hooray! It was a terrific salad, and I was pleased. I thought $11.50 was pretty steep, but what are you gonna do?

My boss got a petite sirloin and deemed it satisfactory. His wifey got a rack of ribs and said they were good. The brother got broiled scallops and never really remarked on them. So, all in all, there was clearly nothing to rave about.

Our waitress was nice enough, but we didn't see much of her. Is it normal for a dinner to stretch out for two hours? I didn't think so. I guess I really need to learn how to sit still for longer than an hour, especially when there's food involved...

Food: A
Atmosphere: C
Service: B

Final verdict: I'd only eat at the Raindancer Steak Parlour if someone else was paying.

read more words!

January 27, 2008

studly chocolate bread

Yep, you read right—my bread is studly.

It was time to feed Ebenezer again (he's so demanding!), so I set out to find a fun and exciting sourdough recipe to test. Ideally, the end product would be worthy of TasteSpotting, but that wasn’t my main goal.

Yeah, I'm lying. That was my main goal.

I found oodles of recipes, but finally decided on this one. After all, it's National Chocolate Cake Day, and this is kinda cake-ish...

Anyway, I had all the ingredients on hand:

Yes, I used regular pepper. Gasp, shudder, cringe. I was afraid that fresh-cracked would be too much, plus I hate to waste things. Even cheap-o boring pepper.

The very first step was to feed Ebie, as I did here. He was a hungry beast once again, but who wouldn't be after two weeks of fasting?

Next I had to rehydrate some cranberries, which I did by boiling some water in the microwave, pouring it over them, and letting them plump up for about 15 minutes:

In the meantime, I chopped up the luscious chocolate…

…and combined the dry ingredients in my big bowl:

That’s only 3 ½ cups of flour, which is what the original recipe called for. I can understand when bread recipes go a little light with the flour amounts to allow for additions here and there, but come on! I ended up putting in about twice that! It wasn’t even close! Ay-yi-yi.

Anyway, when the cranberries were satisfied, I kept their wonderfully-infused water and added more water to hit 1 ½ cups. This went into the dry ingredients, as did ol' Eb.

The original recipe commanded that the dough be kneaded (in a mixer) for 10 to 12 minutes. As we know, I currently do not have a mixer, much less a kneading hook, so I got quite a workout…

Poor, poor hand.

Finally, after much adding of flour and laborious stirring, I had a satisfactory dough:

I turned it out on the floured counter, kneaded it a bit more, and stretched it out. I dumped the cranberries on one end…

…and folded the dough over:

I stretched it again and added the chocolate…

…and kneaded and rolled and stretched and folded until everything was evenly distributed:

See the studs? Hence the name.

Hunks of chocolate. Mmm. Hunka hunka burnin’ love...

Where was I? Ah, yes, my studly dough was now ready to rise, so I placed it in a greased bowl, rolled it around, covered it, and set it aside to grow.

Ebenezie didn’t let me down:

After the dough had doubled (I ended up letting mine rest for about 6 hours), I gave it a good punch, split it in two, kneaded each half a bit, and placed them into greased loaf pans:

It was time to rise once again, so I went ahead and stuck them in the oven and left them alone for another 3 hours.

With my oven at 425 degrees, I baked the bread for about 40 minutes and let it cool on a rack:

Looks good from here.

This angle’s not too shabby, either.

What does one eat on a piece of chocolate bread studded with cranberries and more chocolate, you ask? I had blueberry preserves, and it was deeeeeeeelightful:

Sigh. I don't have a lot of confidence in this one, folks. I guess I need to accept the fact that bread is just not photogenic. It had to be done, though--Ebenezer must be fed regularly or he'll kick the bucket.

But come on, TasteSpotting, give a girl a chance!!

Studly Chocolate Bread
1 c dried cranberries (I used orange-flavored craisins)
½ c water

1 ½ c Ebenezer
1 ½ c lukewarm cranberry water and water

5 c bread flour (probably more)
¾ c cocoa powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 c dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Bring water to a boil, add cranberries, and leave to cool for about 15 minutes. Drain the cranberries, reserving the liquid. Add enough water to bring the volume up to 1 ½ cups.
Place Ebenezer, water, and dry ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine. Knead for 10 to 12 minutes, adding flour as needed, until the dough is smooth, silky, and elastic.
Add the drained cranberries and chocolate to the dough, and continue kneading until the cranberries are evenly distributed. This may take some hand kneading to complete.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl, and turn the dough to cover it. Cover and allow to rise in warm place until approximately doubled.
Punch down and turn out onto lightly floured work area. Gently pull and stretch the dough into two small loaves and place in sprayed loaf pans.
Cover and allow to rise until approximately doubled.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Bake the bread 40 to 45 minutes and cool on a rack.

Disclaimer: Do not eat immediately, as this may result in burnt fingers, tongue, or roof of the mouth.

read more words!

January 26, 2008

work on a saturday? how dare they!

I had to work today. As if that weren't bad enough, I had to be there at 5. In the a.m. Good thing I'm an early riser--I knew that'd come in handy someday.

They were running some new wet cereals in production for the first time and we, the R&D (research and development) team, had to be there to make sure things went smoothly. (Of course, these products were conceived before my time here, so I was basically just observing. So when I say "our" or "we," I mean my boss and co-worker.) Any potential problems were brought to our attention and adjustments were made apace.

It was interesting. I enjoyed seeing how things run from batching all the way to filling, as well as meeting a lot of the factory workers. Of course, it was so freakin' loud in there (ear plugs are required...as well as hairnets, yikes!), I really couldn't hear a word they were saying to me. It's okay, I'm good at nodding and smiling.

For lunch, my boss took the R&D and QA (quality assurance) folks out for lunch. We went to a place in itty bitty Canajoharie called The Village Restaurant. I didn't have high expectations, and I'm sorry to say that they still weren't met. It's your typical greasy spoon diner, I guess, but it's certainly not worthy of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

For one thing, it was small and crowded. I suppose that's what one should expect in a diner, but I like serenity. Chaos makes me nervous. It wasn't particularly clean either, but again, I guess that adds to the diner ambiance...? I will say that the waitresses were very friendly and sweet and did a fine job.

I got a turkey sandwich; it was a poor choice. How could you possibly foul up a turkey sandwich, you ask? It came out on plain ol' white bread (who eats white bread anymore?) with the tiniest sliver of tomato and wilted lettuce.

Of course, I can't forget the lovely potato chips that came on the side. I'm really not a food snob, but it was pathetic. I could replicate it at home (although I wouldn't dare) for less than a dollar.

I was told after lunch that the only things worth getting at this particular diner were breakfast dishes (served all day). Thanks for the warning, guys.

Food: D+ (it was edible, after all)
Atmosphere: C (diners just aren't for me)
Service: A+

read more words!

January 23, 2008

a noble goal

I have been rejected.


And I don't like it.

I've submitted the following two pictures to the powers-that-be at TasteSpotting.

I think they're decent photos. Granted, they might not induce spontaneous drooling, but they both look pretty darn tasty.

Neither of them were accepted.

That's another way of saying that they were found completely unworthy of posting.

That's like saying I'm a failure and I won't lie, it hurt my feelings.

I'm bound and determined to have one of my creations put up on that site, so my next epicurean endeavor will be intense. I haven't decided what to make yet, but it'll be decadent. And unique. And colorful--they seem to like color.

I will succeed.

In the meantime, any suggestions?

read more words!

January 20, 2008

toffee is the tops!

Toffee is good. You can’t deny it, so don’t even try. That being said, is there a better way to improve a regular ol' oatmeal cookie than to toss in some toffee? I submit that there is not. Let’s see, shall we?

Here are the players, most of them familiar faces by now:

Fresh out of the gate, I hit a snag. I found my mixer, but where were the beaters? I looked in all my many drawers and cabinets, pulled out boxes of stuff I didn’t think I’d ever use, looked in my Goodwill pile…nothing. No one warned me that there was a beater thief in the area.

I panicked for a moment. How was I supposed to cream the butter and sugar without beaters? I opened my cabinet doors, hoping for inspiration, and my eyes came to rest upon the answer to this dilemma--my miniature food processor. (Thanks KASS!)

Henceforth, it shall be known as Lancelot, for it was my knight in shining armor.

Onward! With Lancelot’s help, I creamed the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla:

He did an excellent job.

I added the egg…

…and blended it in.

Wet team, done.

In a separate bowl, I combined the ingredients from the dry team…

…and stirred ‘em up:

Being sure to “leave no batter behind” (which wasn’t easy with Lancelot…he wanted to hold on to some)…

…I scraped the wet team into the dry team and mixed them together forming a lovely but boring batter:

Yes, some toffee was definitely needed. I guess you could use toffee bits (as the source of this recipe did), but I opted for chopped up hunks of Heath bar. Yum-diggity.

So, I added the toffee and stirred it in:

Much better.

I plopped tablespoon-sized mounds of the dough onto my cookie sheets…

…and stuck them in my oven, preheated to 350 degrees.

[Disclaimer: Sometimes, you're forced to lick the bowl to ensure that no batter gets left behind.]

After ten minutes...

...(rotating the pan half-way through), out they came.

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.



That’s what I thought.

Eat that, beater thief!

Toffeed-Up Oatmeal Cookies
(from Coconut & Lime)

3/4 c light brown sugar
3/4 c flour
1/2 c old fashioned rolled oats
1 c toffee ingredient of choice
4 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl or teeny food processor, cream together the butter, vanilla, and brown sugar. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in toffee. Place tablespoon-sized blobs of dough on cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes or until they look "set" and the bottoms are just golden. Carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Interestingly, my cookies look nothing like those made by Coconut & Lime (owner of an awesome glass!):

Perhaps I overdid it with the toffee—she only used 1/3 c.


read more words!