Friday, November 27, 2009

The post- and pre-game wrap-up

I'm ending my contract at Mackenzie today, a week earlier than I was originally scheduled for. The big project that the other contractors and I were hired on for went to press last week, and this week has been an exercise in finding enough interesting stuff on the internet to keep me awake, whiling away the hours. Understandably, my manager has asked all of us if we'd be willing to end our contracts early. This is generally a good thing to do, as it shows clients that you don't want to waste their money. To the best of my knowledge, I'm the only one out of the five of us who has agreed to do so.

As part of an ongoing tradition of mine, I've baked something for my co-workers as a way of expressing my gratitude. This Chowhound discussion of the best flourless chocolate cake recipe seemed like a good fit, as one of the other contractors here is gluten-intolerant. I decided to adapt Martha Stewart's Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe so that the dairy-intolerant among us (i.e., I) would have the opportunity to try it out as well. I baked a small sample in a ramekin last night to try it out, and am pleased with the results. It's chocolate-y, without seeming too much like ganache, apparently a common complaint for flourless chocolate cakes. Also, the interior is moist and spongy. The texture is surprisingly cake-y, without being heavy. The cake top is fascinatingly crispy, I wish all cakes had this top.

While it's possible that I might be returning to Mackenzie for the year-end version of the project, next September, I think it's safe to say that I'll have other things to concern me for the interim version, which wraps in April. Still, it never hurts to leave a good impression at a place you enjoy working at.

In the meantime, my December looks like it will mark a return to the gift-wrapping gig for charity which I undertook two years ago. It was a great job, and I'm very much looking forward to returning to it. My first day is — get this — next Monday.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Radiohead - House of Cards (live)


Friday, November 13, 2009

Apparently, a common misconception is that shepherd's pie is made with mutton or lamb, whereas a cottage pie is made with beef. According to the Wikipedia entry for cottage pie, however, it seems that this is an example of folk etymology. Whatever the case, it makes for another great feeds-many, not-too-overly-pricey food.

My last attempt at shepherd's pie happened shortly after moved out on my own, and was an oddly flavourless concoction. This, despite being moussaka-inspired, using cinnamon amongst its seasonings. I attributed the blandness to the lack of onion. Thankfully, I wasn't keeping a food-related blog at the time, and so, didn't feel obligated to report on its failing.

My most recent attempt, assembled on Wednesday night, turned out much better. Recipe follows.
  • approx. 1 lb. organic beef roast, minced in the food processor

  • two organic yellow onions, chopped

  • approx. 1-1/2 cups beef stock (I used reconstituted concentrated beef stock)

  • chopped organic carrots

  • Ontario peas, pre-frozen

  • 8 medium-large organic yellow potatoes, peeled and halved

  • vegan margarine

  1. Put the potatoes in a large stock pot, add water until just covering potatoes. Boil until potatoes are fork-tender.

  2. Drain potatoes, add margarine (or, for you dairy-ingesters, butter and milk) and mash until smooth. Add salt to taste. Set aside for later.

  3. Brown the onions in a large skillet/sauté pan, set aside.

  4. In the pan which cooked the onions, brown the beef. Avoid adding salt. Once the beef is browned, add the stock, onions and carrots.

  5. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the stock has mostly evaporated. Turn off the heat and stir in the peas.

  6. Spoon/pour the beef mixture into a casserole dish, top with mashed potatoes. Cook in a 350º oven for about an hour. Allow shepherd's pie to cool.



Saturday, November 07, 2009

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming... least until my energy levels start to drop again

Risotto's one of those dishes where my fussy attention to detail really shows through. I also really like that the variations are endless as long as your finished product includes what is effectively a thick rice soup (which makes it similar to congee, but usually with richer flavours).

So, to breakdown how anal I can get about my food, here's a rundown of the ingredients I used this time around:For a dish like risotto, you don't really have to use a lot of "premium" ingredients for the flavour to really shine through. My favourite type of food to cook, I've realized, can feed many, uses a variety of ingredients and doesn't need a lot of expensive items to taste good.


Monday, November 02, 2009

What's new with me... doesn't get any newer than this!

This is also why I haven't been posting with anything approaching regularity for the past month. Frankly, I'm surprised I was able to keep up the charade of normalcy for the first two months. As it turns out, the first trimester of pregnancy is exhausting. I barely had energy to pack lunch, never mind whip up anything challenging on the culinary front.

My energy levels are returning to normal now and I hope to be able to post more frequently. I don't know how much cooking I'll be doing in the midst of all the unpacking I'm going to be doing over the next few weeks, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.