Thursday, November 25, 2010

Attitude of Gratitude

Greeting VEGAN Thanksgiving that is!

I had a few orders to fill this Thanksgiving week (yay!) and was busy in the kitchen. A gal who almost had wedding cupcakes from me (wedding got cancelled sadly) ordered holiday cuppers from me. She got some vanilla bean cups with vanilla buttercream frosting, and pumpkin spiced cups with cinnamon orange buttercream, topped with a spiced maple candied pecan. Another woman I've met in the San Diego vegan community ordered an apple streusal cake. What a fun week!

Here's some pictures of the dearies and their process.....

My favorite vintage Bakerex Crownware cupcake pans and my coveted jar of vanilla beans....

the spice gang and their friend Mr. Microplaner

Here are millions of vanilla specks infusing the batter! This is one of my top favorite smells right here btw. Also, Big Red in action :)

The finished cuppers in their boxes ready to be eaten!

The cutest lil loaf of apple streusal cake.

Well, happy thanksgiving everyone! I will surely be cookin up a lil storm tomorrow, so I'll fill you in on the goodies. Until then, enjoy the holiday and remember to share your gratitude with those around you!

"Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel." ~Author Unknown

Thursday, November 18, 2010

All stocked up

Well, firstly, I dont know if you know about vegan MoFo (month of food) or not. I, as a vegan chef and blogger, feel like I should- but I don't. What rock have I been under eh? I found their wordpress site today which has a list of about 600 (!) or so other vegan bloggers, much like me, documenting their vegan culinary encounters. My god, I suddenly feel so small and unheard! I only got to lookin at about 20 of them and was then exhausted of bloggery. Well, here's the answer to my question, I guess I feel at home with them :) Yah MoFos!

I had good intentions in starting my day off today- I got right to work on a big beautiful pot of stock in which to make some sort of delicious soup for dinner tonight. At work I scored a big bag of plucked shiitake stems bound for the trash (sacrilege!). I tossed them in a pot with a couple of onions, head of garlic, a few carrots, some fresh parsley, black peppercorns, celery, a couple old scallions, and a few sprigs of thyme from me garden. Made my house nice and steamy and smellin goooood on this crisp November day!

Alas, I had many errands to run also today. One of which was to pick up the Beaujolais Nouveau! Yay! I scored a bottle of the french delight at whole foods this evening, and I'm waiting for my sweetie to get home to enjoy the first taste! Beaujolais Nouveau comes out the third Thursday of November every year. It is a young wine only having been fermented for 3 weeks, but it is a juicy yummy wine that I enjoy greatly and have been looking forward to! This years bottle is sure to be a great one, much like 2009 which flew off the shelves and was short lived. I may have to stock up on this years'.....

Another errand was to go to the Co-op to descend upon their bulk spice section. I've been out of several spices for awhile, and I finally stocked up. Sage, peppercorns, basil, onion powder, cumin, dill weed, thyme, and punkin pie spice mix. YAY, love getting new spices! I also went to the store hungry, which we all know is a bad idea. It was then that my soup making was thwarted. I ended up buying some elbow pastas and Wayfare Foods "we can't say it's cheese..." cheddar-y goodness. Hello instant mac n cheese! It's been AGES since I've had mac n cheese. As if that wasn't enough for a night of cheating in the kitchen, I also got some Gardein strips of breaded comfort food. Oh well, every chef needs a night off every now and then. It was easy and delicious so there. I did pair it with a lovely Malbec, too! ha!

I did end up with a nice 4 qt. cambro of delicious vegetable stock, ready to go for tomorrow. I can't decide what soup I'd like to make- creamy potato cauliflower or a more hearty mushroom barley. My inclination of course is the barley soup, as I have all of those shiitakes infused in the stock. Yes, there it is, I've decided. Mushroom barley it will be! Enjoy the pre-holiday weekend and the crazy shopping ventures! Happy cooking everyone!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In a sauer mood

My kitchen stinks, literally. Actually I somewhat like the smell of fermenting cabbage, but when I come home, open the door, and get a first whiff of the trapped vapors, it can be unpleasant for a moment. 2 days ago, I started my second batch of delicious kraut! Thank you Suzie's Farm for providing such beautiful cabbages!

This time I thought I'd do a mix of red and green cabbages. I know it'll all be a beautiful purple-y pink in the end!

If you are indeed a kraut fan like I am, and would like to try this fun in your very own kitchen, I am going to explain what I did. But first, did you know sauerkraut (and almost all other fermented foods) are jam packed super-foods? Ads should be saying Got kraut? imagine? With little dangling hairs of kraut on the celebrities lips, hehee. Anyway, you can read some of the wondrous capabilities of kraut here.

There's probably just as many methods to preparing kraut as there are people making it, but go with whatever sounds right for you. You can put most any veggies, spices, herbs, and even certain fruits into your kraut! I used about 16 cups of shredded cabbage. I chopped it all into thin shreds with my sharp knife, but if you have a mandolin or veggie shredder, that would work just as well. For my fermentation vessel, I use an old genuine crock just like my grandpa used to. I scored it at a flea market in Wisconsin this spring with my sister and mom. I was on the prowl for the perfect one that wasn't too small, but wasn't too huge that I couldn't take it back on the plane either. Most antique stores have them, but make sure if you find one, that it has a nice intact glaze an it's not cracked or chipped. One could also use plastic buckets, but NO metal. Apparently the brine can leech out metals into your kraut. Ick. I'm tellin ya, kraut has super powers! If you have a slow cooker with a ceramic insert, those can often work well, too. I sterilized mine by pouring boiling hot water over it before I began.

Into the crock is a layering of the ingredients. Your most basic kraut is cabbage and salt. I of course like to add a couple of other seasonings. This time in addition to the 3 T. sea salt, I added 1 T. dried dill, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 T. mustard seeds, and 1 T. caraway seeds. Total experiment, and we'll see how those flavors all worked together in a few weeks! Onto the layering..... 4 cups cabbage in, sprinkle some salt and some spices and punch cabbage down (i used the tamper for my blender- but use whatever you want- fist, wooden spoon, etc.). This forces water out of the cabbage creating its' own natural brine. Repeat layering and punching down 3 more times. The cabbage should be good n juicy by now!

Now for the pressing.... Find a plate that fits inside, preferably ceramic or glass, and push down on top of the cabbage. Next you'll need a weight. I used a glass gallon jug filled with water. Fit the weight on top of the plate, cover the whole shebang with a towel to keep out debris and bugs, but so it can also freely breathe and VOILA! You just made kraut my friends! In a couple of weeks it will be ready to enjoy!! Keep this stinker in a well aired place if you can, not too hot and not too cold. The warmer it is the faster it will be ready, and vice versa if you put it in a cold spot. You can leave the crock in a cool place for months to get it REAL good and fermented! When I made my first batch this summer I think I only waited 8 days and she was ready. It was warm in my kitchen, so it didn't take long at all. Now it's averaging around 55-65 degrees here in my kitchen in this San Diego November, so I'll probably let it sit for a few weeks. Every few days you can check in on it. Scrape off any foam or mold that might develop, rinse the plate and weight and replace it back on top of the kraut. This website has great info on all things fermented, should you be gripped with curiosity!

You can decide when your kraut is tasty enough to devour. Throw it on sandwiches, tofu dogs, salad, or just reach in and grab a fork full as a snack. It's so delicious and as you know, nutritious. My favorite is to eat it on fresh sourdough bread with avocado, YUM! Tempeh reubens, too of course- my all time favorite :) I'll post pics and updates as i "harvest" my kraut and jar it up. For now, I'll just enjoy its' perfume.....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

unfurling and reinventing

I love the idea of blogs, i really do. I'd never consider myself a writer, but rather a sharer. I love sharing and showing people possibilities. Which is why I started this blog in June when I had an epiphany about a vegan reuben sandwich I made. While being high on the Russian dressing I ingested, I wanted to share my love and enthusiasm about food and the vast loving ways it can be made! After that, my summer sort of declined a little bit, and I quickly lost inspiration of sharing. phooey!

I'm gonna be an open book here and give you my low down quickly. 11 years ago (2000) I graduated from culinary school in NY, moved to AZ, then to CA working as a chef in a few restaurants, then as it turned out, not really liking working in a restaurant atmosphere so I stopped. I'm just not cut out for the stressed out, repetitious, burned out, egomaniac environments that are typical of most kitchens. That was in about 2003. So since then I've still been trying to pursue my passion of vegan baking and cooking wherever possible- trying to keep it on a nice low simmer on that back-burner of my heart's desire, and at the same time working front of house in various restaurants over the years. I've always wanted my own business, and now 11 years later I feel like I finally sculpted a form of what I'd like to do and that is to be a Vegan Personal Chef and baker. Just me and the client. Cooking and baking by myself, shopping for fresh ingredients, creating exactly what the client needs and endless possibilities- this is great right? I'm really good at something and I know what I want to do with my life!?

So knowing this is what I've decided I'd love to do- along with being fueled by quitting my stressful job this spring, being completely penniless and then having sent 70 some-odd resumes with no results..... This past summer I figured, hellooooo Craigslist! I then proceeded to post ads religiously to Household Services to drum up some cash for myself. "Vegan Personal Chef for hire" That quickly brought in 5 clients and boy was I excited. My first clients! Creating menus, doing the shopping, getting my own key to the house, having consultations- I was actually doing it!! Everyone loved my food, called me back week after week, gave my name to friends, it was going great! It really only helped me out financially a little bit, and in reality I still needed a full time job- who was I kidding!? Livin in California ain't cheap! My rent alone is over $1,000 a month, add truck payment, gas, phone, internet, auto insurance, credit card payment, and my cat's mouth to feed, SHEESH! Having a couple clients was a HUGE learning experience, but again, I needed a job. sadface. After the long and painful wait, I finally got a job at a great restaurant making tips again.

So that brings me upto date. Since I got the full time job I've been tryin to get back on my feet, catch up, and survive and still daydream about and chip away at my Personal Chef career that isn't too far off, I hope. I still have one client remaining whom I cook for once a month, bless her heart! Also made a vegan wedding cake last month which I'd also love to get back to doing (Berkeley back-burner for 5 years). I haven't posted on Craigslist or hung up flyers since I got my job in August though, hello- now i work 40 hours a week again and have hardly any time available.

So why am I not taking the plunge? Oh my god, I'd LOVE to and I like to think I am already! Does anyone KNOW how difficult it can be though to start a business???? Have you ever tried?! Being an entrepreneur is HARD! I know that, and I'm ready for the job- but moreso than being merely difficult, it is expen$ive!! Permits, fees, licenses, advertising, equipment, liability insurance, renting space, getting approved for this and that, computer programs, etc etc etc. It's a laundry list I tell ya! I suppose if I got a huge loan or grant tomorrow I could swan-dive on in! WEeeeeeeeeeeee!

So thus begins my journey, and from this moment onward, my blog here about being a workin woman trying to get by and at the same time follow my bliss and get my own business running here in San Diego. After all, this is why I attended cooking school, and moved to California from Wisconsin away from my beloved family. I want to make a career for myself and I want it to be my heart's passion which is vegan cooking and baking. CREATE CREATE CREATE!!!

I just want to reinvent myself on my blog, or better yet in my LIFE! To simply express and get it out there into the universe that I'm only human and I can't be so hard on myself and maintain this perfect blog image of cooking immaculate cuisine every day of my life like some sort of imaginary Betty Crocker.

So I thank you- for reading, maybe understanding, and accompanying me down this path as I learn, grow, unfurl and hopefully create and flourish. Some days may be mere grunts of frustrations in getting another late fee on my credit card, or it may be a huge triumph or photos of beautiful food I made for a client. I'm ready for it all, this is my life!