Springtime in October

October 4, 2007 on 7:39 pm | By | In Food Musings | 3 Comments

Veggie springrollsBefore I get to the spring rolls, I just have to say I have the best husband there is. Not only did he dash out for some sesame oil just as I was starting my food prep (HOW I managed to run out, I’ll never know), he also saved our house from collapsing in a fiery heap.

You see, our humble abode was built in 1906 (by drunken carpenters, according to my darling). Although we eventually hope to tear the thing down some day and rebuild (believe me — given the cost of homes in Seattle, that would be the most inexpensive way to go, especially if we want to stay in our neighborhood), for now we’re happy with the status quo. Sure, we’ve done a few small remodeling jobs — a little paint here, some new flooring there — but we’d rather save up until we can afford a tear down.

However, lately the house has started to show its age. We’ve known from the start the wiring was wonky — we can’t run the dishwasher and our toaster oven at the same time without a circuit breaking — but said breaker has started to sputter and heat up considerably, emitting a weird smell. My darling has always joked our house problems would be solved with “a can of gas and a drifter,” but once fire seemed a foreseeable risk, the joke was no longer funny.

Things came to a head today as another circuit breaker cut out once we turned on the heat. We could no longer ignore the problem. But my darling, putting himself at considerable risk, managed to swap out two of the aging circuits, thus saving the house — and us — from certain demise. My hero! (Given his bravery I could probably even forgive him should he decide to sneak a burger).

But back to the spring rolls.

Continue reading Springtime in October…

MFaM — Days 2 & 3

October 3, 2007 on 5:57 pm | By | In Food Musings | 3 Comments

A successful marriage requires patience and compromise; you have to be willing to forgive minor transgressions. For my darling and me, that means forgiving him for eating shrimp last night.

I really can’t fault him. I was the one who came up with the “rules” for our Meatless for a Month (MFaM) experiment, and although I said we MIGHT have fish on occasion, I figured it wouldn’t be until later in the month when we really started craving protein other than vegetable-based. But when I talk to him about food, he often hears what Charlie Brown hears when adults talk to him — Wah waah wah wah. So I’m calling it a legitimate misunderstanding. Besides, when he goes out to buy me cold medication and Creamsicles when I’m laid up on the couch with a 100-degree fever, how can I begrudge him a couple of shrimp?

In my last post I said I was fighting off the last vestiges of a cold, but not only did they not want to leave me, they came back with a vengeance. So not only am I not up to cooking, I also haven’t had much of an appetite. My breakfast and lunch have consisted of an apple with peanut butter and a big bowl of popcorn; for dinner last night I mustered up the strength to make another quesadilla (my darling was out on a photo shoot). Tonight he’s making pizza with the last of the eggplant sauce.

But I’m hoping tomorrow I’ll be well enough to make Heidi’s baked spring rolls. They’re loaded with mushrooms (I’ll be using cremini and shiitake), tofu and spinach. She claims they get as crispy as those that are deep-fried; we’ll see about that!

Leader or Follower?

October 1, 2007 on 9:44 pm | By | In Food Musings | 2 Comments

So here it is, the first day of our Meatless For a Month (or MFaM for short) when I happen to pop by BlogHer. What do I see as the very first headline?

“Today’s World Vegetarian Day”

That’s right — October 1 is World Vegetarian Day, the kickoff to the North American Vegetarian Society’s Vegetarian Awareness Month. What a bizarre coincidence! I suspect I’ll be checking out the site frequently as we forge ahead on our quest.

But back to today’s meals.

Breakfast was typical — a bowl of Optimum Power cereal with black coffee — but temptation reared its ugly head the moment I hit Whole Foods. They’ve gone at LEAST a week without offering samples in the meat department (I never turn one down), but of course today they had a heaping platter of Polish sausage bites.

sigh

Must. Resist.

I also made the unfortunate decision to prepare roasted corn chowder for my client. Now you may think that would be allowed — it’s corn after all — but to make it extra tasty I fry up a quarter pound of diced bacon until crispy, then use some of the drippings to saute the onion and celery. Normally I’ll take a bite, or two, or, um, 10, of the bacon, but today it sat draining on a paper towel, taunting me with its salty, crispy baconny goodness. I finally had to throw it in the pot as the potatoes cooked for fear I’d lose my resolve (I didn’t even lick my fingers after throwing out the paper towel. Not that I’d EVER do that).

Continue reading Leader or Follower?…

Eating his words

September 30, 2007 on 9:37 pm | By | In Food Musings | 6 Comments

Despite seven years of wedded bliss, my darling and I sometimes find ourselves needling one another. He never folds the laundry correctly, I never tighten caps on bottles. He has a rather dry sense of humor, and I often mistake his “jokes” for personal attacks. This sends us into frivolous arguments that, once they’re over, cause us to question what the big deal was in the first place.

One thing that has particularly irked me is his portrayal of me as a carnivore. Mind you, I DO like meat, but I’ve consciously reduced my intake, especially when it comes to red meat. In fact, many of our dinners are vegetarian. So when I hear him say, “My gal LOVES her meat!” I assume people must think I spend my entire day gnawing away at huge hunks of dead flesh.

This all came to a head the other night. We were out with a few of his now former coworkers celebrating his last day at work (his freelance photography business has taken off so he had to give up his “secure” newspaper gig). They ordered several rounds of appetizers for the table, and one coworker says to me, “We ordered a bunch of meat, so we’ll make sure to send it your way.” HARRUMPH!

I was still fuming about the comment the next day so I confronted him at lunch. Of course, I had blown it all out of proportion — he only meant that given all my running, I need a lot of protein, and my preferred form is meat (which admittedly is true). But then he asked rhetorically, “Could you go a month without meat?”

I don’t think he was prepared for the answer.

“Why not?” I said. “In fact, let’s go meatless for the month of October!”

The look on his face spoke volumes: perhaps HE’S the one who will have the most problem!

It’s going to be an interesting experiment. I’ve already earmarked a lot of recipes from Heidi Swanson’s book, plus I’ll be making many of my standbys (pasta with vegetarian sauces, meatless pizza, bean & cheese tostadas). I’m a bit concerned about our protein needs, but fortunately we love beans — despite their odiferous aftermath (ironically, we’re less socially acceptable after eating red meat than we are after consuming beans. I know, I know: Too Much Information).

We’re still going to eat eggs and dairy, and may allow fish on a couple of occasions. We’ll also be taking a “bye” next Saturday as I promised our house-sitters a French feast (chicken liver mousse, salad Niçoise, beef carpaccio). However, other than the three pieces of prosciutto we shared, today’s menu was meatless. But tomorrow we start in earnest. Check back often to see how we’re doing!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast: Homemade egg muffins with cheddar cheese & prosciutto
Lunch: Edamame and English muffins with peanut butter
Dinner: Whole grain pizza with eggplant sauce, olive tapanade, grilled artichokes and fresh mozzarella, served with a green salad

A Paris sojourn

September 25, 2007 on 7:45 am | By | In Food Musings, Medoc Madness | 6 Comments

Eiffel Tower

 

I can’t believe more than a week has passed since I was sitting in a Paris bistro sipping café noir and taking in the sights and sounds of the street.

*sigh*

The primary reason for our trip to France was to run the Marathon du Medoc — 26.2 miles through the chateaux of Bordeaux featuring the wine and food of the region (for a race report, click here). But considering the race was a week before our 7-year anniversary, my darling and I decided to tack on a few days in Paris. He’s been promising to take me there ever since we got together and finally our day came. It lived up to — if not surpassed — all my expectations.

We lucked out on our air travel, having secured a nonstop flight on Air France from Seattle to Charles de Gaulle. The flight leaves Seattle at 5 p.m. and arrives in Paris the next morning at 11:30. Although we both got limited sleep on the plane, we were determined to stay up until at least 7 p.m. in an attempt to stave off jet lag.

It was cool and overcast when we arrived — perfect running weather! We took the RER from the airport to the Notre Dame station, then walked the 5 blocks to the St. Jacques Hotel on rue des Ecoles. The hotel was recommended by our friends and is in the heart of the Latin Quarter. After checking in we set out for a bite to eat before our run.

In planning our trip I scoured the Internet searching for recommendations for good eats in Paris (as if they’re difficult to find). David Lebovitz was a treasure trove of information, as was Serious Eats. However, those would have to wait; we were hungry and decided to just find a place nearby. But given we were in the Latin Quarter, we had plenty of options from which to choose.

I had a hankering for moules frites and soon spied a quaint place offering a special (10 euros, including a beer). But I didn’t want to settle on the first place I saw, so we meandered down the alley to the next bistro. They too offered moules frites, but the price was a bit higher (12 euros). And just when I was about to say I thought the first place had better ambiance, I saw the name:

Le Marathon

 

How could we NOT eat there?!!! While the moules were delicious (they were much tinier than what we get here), the frites were merely so-so. No matter; I knew there’d be other opportunities.

After lunch we changed into our running togs and took off toward Notre Dame. The streets were packed with tourists, but once we reached the Seine the crowds thinned out somewhat. The Voie Georges Pompidou closes to automobile traffic on Sundays, so we ran along that until we reached the Louvre. We continued through the Jardin des Tuileries and back down to the Port des Champs Elysées until we were across from the Eiffel Tower. C’est Magnifique! Pictures just do not do it justice.

Continue reading A Paris sojourn…

Pie is berry berry good to me

August 26, 2007 on 7:43 pm | By | In Food Musings, Recipes | 3 Comments

Black & Blue PieI fully intended to write this post while berry season was still in full swing, but life got in the way. I made this pie as dessert for our marathon training celebratory lunch but obviously only had the stamina to write about the lobster rolls. Besides, I’ve been a bit scatterbrained. Not only have I been consumed with our training, I headed to Philadelphia for five days for the national conference of the U.S. Personal Chef Association (for which I also had to conduct a presentation on “A Day in the Life” of a personal chef). I returned to a full week of client cook dates, then had to prepare for the Danskin Triathlon. Another full week of cook dates followed, as well as a rehearsal dinner for 25 and a sit-down dinner for 11. Oh, and did I mention we’re going to France? Holy FREAKIN’ Moley! I have six days to pack, pay bills, clean the house for the house-sitter, finish my costume, figure out how to auto-respond to my email (hopefully without also sending emails to all the spammers), make a list of restaurants/food shops to visit in Paris, write a blog post on my costume on Eat Drink Run Woman, record outgoing messages on my business line saying I’m out of town, craft a proposal for a 60th birthday buffet, come up with dinners for the week that use up the food in our fridge, stop the newspaper, make copies of our house keys for our house-sitter and our neighbors and learn French. Oh, AND I have clients every day THIS week. I mean, really, who has time for all this…

Oh wait, where was I? PIE! That’s right, PIE!

I recently listened to a culinary podcast where they posted the question, “Pie or cake?” Both have their merits, but I’m definitely more partial to pie, especially berry pies. I’m not huge on sweets, and therefore prefer the tartness a berry pie provides.

I’ve been a berry girl ever since I was young. Raspberries are my all-time favorite, and I’ve been known to steal a taste whenever I can. The pea patch at the end of our street posts warning signs that the produce is only intended for those who have contributed to the upkeep of said patch, but the raspberry bush beckons me as I return from my runs around Greenlake. I rationalize my larceny by telling myself the berries would just rot on the bush if not picked. And doesn’t picking the berries assure they’ll come back even stronger the next year?

But given I was preparing the quintessential Maine lunch, blueberry pie was in order. Of course, the blueberries we get here on the West coast aren’t quite the same as the smaller, more flavorful berries of Maine, but they’d make do. (Hush up — I know what you’re thinking: FIRST I’m not satisfied with the hot dog rolls available out here; only the New England-style ones will do. NOW I’m not happy with the berries. I suppose next I’ll be saying that the fall foliage is WAY better in New England — more colors and brilliance. Well, if you’re so much happier with New England, why don’t you move there, Betsy? Or marry it? Huh? Huh?)

Ummm, where was I? (See — I TOLD you I was scatterbrained).

Continue reading Pie is berry berry good to me…

Comfort and Joy

August 6, 2007 on 9:27 pm | By | In Food Musings | 5 Comments

Lobster RollA reporter for a local newspaper was conducting a reader poll recently and posed the following question: “What is your favorite comfort food and what memories does it evoke?” As a chef and food lover, it was tough to nail down an answer. But I eventually decided upon lobster. Now, lest you think me Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat lobster!”), I chose it specifically for the fond childhood memories.

Every summer our family would load up the station wagon and head to our cottage in Trenton, Maine. Our luggage would be strapped to the top; mom and dad in the front seat, my sisters and brothers squeezed in the back seat. As the youngest, I’d get to sprawl out in the rear with a blanket and pillow (this was before seat belts were mandatory). The trip from our home in Connecticut took about 7-8 hours, but our whining would begin about halfway into the trip. “How many more minutes? How many more miles?” (My dad had the patience of Job).

Our excitement grew as we crossed over the Piscataqua River and saw the “Welcome to Maine” sign. We’d overnight at my paternal grandmother’s house in Waterville, then continue on to Trenton where my maternal grandparents would be waiting at the door to the cottage. It was one of several summer places along a 2-mile stretch of the Bayside Road called “Shady Nook” where generations of families would come to relax and play. My maternal grandmother — we called her Aga — summered there as a young girl, and she continued the tradition with her kids (my mom and her brother). They bought the current place in the 1950s, eventually giving it to my mom (my uncle bought a place less than a mile down the road).

Our first stop in Trenton would always be the Seavey General Store for penny candy. The Seaveys were quintessential Mainers: simple, down-to-earth folks with Down East accents as thick as molasses. We’d arrive in Shady Nook just as the nightly softball game in the Haines’ field was getting underway. We’d hug and kiss Aga and Grandpa, then rush down to the field for the game. Everyone was welcome, no matter what the age or athletic ability (I personally enjoyed hanging out in far right field eating green apples more than actually playing).

Shady Nook was kid heaven, offering numerous opportunities to explore — from the barnacled rocks and seaweed in the bay out front, to the ancient cemetery next to the ball field, to the woods where we’d go snipe-hunting (our youngest cousin always fell for it!). We’d tire ourselves out swimming in the bay and running along the beach; come suppertime we’d drag our salty, sandy bodies to the table, ravenous.

And oh, the food!

Continue reading Comfort and Joy…

On a roll

July 29, 2007 on 7:57 am | By | In Food Musings, Train to Eat | 2 Comments

This coming Saturday my darling and I will embark on our longest training run — a full 26.2 miles — in preparation for the Marathon du Medoc. We’ll start at our home near Greenlake, wind north through the neighborhood and down to Golden Gardens, head along Shilshole to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, cross over to Commodore Park, head south along the train tracks to Myrtle Edwards, continue along the waterfront to Jackson where we’ll head east to Lake Washington Blvd. We’ll continue along the boulevard, hopefully catching glimpses of the Blue Angels. We’ll then head up Madison to the arboretum, then over to UW, where we’ll pick up the Burke-Gilman trail. Cut through Cowen Park, then make our way back to Greenlake. Run around the north end, then stumble our way back home.

So, WHY is this relevant to a food blog? Well, I determined over a month ago what we’ll enjoy for our victory lunch: lobster rolls! The one problem — you can’t find traditional New England-style rolls here on the west coast. They’re the ones that are split at the top, with flat sides for grilling. But fortunately a quick call to Mom and Dad rectified the situation, and here’s what landed on my doorstep yesterday:

New England rolls

I’ll be sure to let you know how they turned out!

My, how the time flies

July 25, 2007 on 7:33 pm | By | In Random Musings | 5 Comments

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I’ve launched this blog. Where DOES the time go?

When I first started writing, I envisioned a catch-all for musings on various aspects of my life: my personal chef business, my culinary creations, my food philosophy, my fitness shenanigans and anything else that struck my fancy. I certainly had no aspirations for becoming a famous blogger and getting a book deal; heck, I wasn’t even sure if anyone else other than my family would read it. I was just looking for another creative outlet.

My posts have been fewer and farther between, but that can be attributed to a number of factors. Summer’s here, and I’d rather be out enjoying the weather than cooped up in the kitchen cooking (and then writing about it). Plus my marathon training takes up much of my time. My fitness musings have migrated to my other blog, Eat Drink Run Woman, so Ovens to Betsy will only be culinary related.

Aside from not having much time to devote to writing, I’m also stymied by my stomach. Even if I’ve prepared the most yum-scrumptious, blog-worthy meal, I just don’t want to take the time to make it look pretty for a photo; I’m hungry! Sure, I could write about it without photos, but where’s the fun in that? In addition, my kitchen is notoriously cluttered, and there never seems to be a clear spot to take a photo (when I actually do take the time to photograph my creations, it tends to be outside on my front porch, which typically is devoid of clutter).

As I write this, I just discovered at least one of you has found inspiration in my blog and has even awarded me with the “Thoughtful Blogger” and “Power of Schmooze” awards; thank you Caffeinated Cowgirl! As I read the criteria, they truly sum up what I have hoped to create:

The Thoughtful Blogger Award is for “those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others’ feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping other bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.”

The Power of Schmooze Award is for bloggers who “effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello — all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship.”

Although I absolutely love being a personal chef, it can be quite lonely. On one hand, I don’t have to worry about obnoxious, back-stabbing coworkers, but I also don’t have partners in crime to hang out with over a beer to kvetch about the boss. I cater Christmas parties rather than attend them. Meeting friends through blogging fills that void.

I don’t know how this blog will evolve, but that’s okay by me. While some may say you should have definitive goals and direction, sometimes it’s fun just to see how things progress. I’m giving myself time to develop my voice and focus. While my writing isn’t as prolific as others, I certainly hope you continue to visit. Your comments energize and motivate me, and I hope to continue to inspire you to try new things.

Crazin’ for a Braising

July 8, 2007 on 5:28 pm | By | In Recipes | 4 Comments

Braised oxtailsThe other day I was overcome with client envy. No, it wasn’t their lifestyle I coveted (although I’m sure I could get used to it); I yearned to have a refrigerator full of chef-prepared meals. All I’ve been getting lately are bean tostadas and pizza. (Okay, so they have been pretty tasty, and yes, they were prepared by a chef. But she’s been increasingly lazy with our dinners).

The one dish in particular that piqued my taste buds was my adaptation of the CIA’s Korean braised beef short ribs served at St. Andrews Cafe (it’s one of four student-run restaurants on campus and features healthy cooking techniques. I attended one of the culinary bootcamps a couple years ago and dined at St. Andrews our first night). All of us who enjoyed the ribs that night did nothing short of swoon. The beef was fall-apart tender and cloaked in a velvety smooth sauce. You would never guess it didn’t contain an ounce of butter.

I was surprised they agreed to share the recipe, but once I looked at the ingredients and preparation, I knew I’d have to make several modifications if I were to prepare it in a home kitchen. It not only was for 30 servings, it called for gallons of veal stock and consomme — ingredients most home chefs don’t have at their disposal. But I was determined and after several tinkerings I believe I’ve come up with a reasonable facsimile. They’re not as sublime as the original, and to save time I’ve included some beurre manié (butter kneaded with flour) as a final thickener.

Continue reading Crazin’ for a Braising…

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