Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Coconut Butter Thins (in the snow), Tuesdays With Dorie

Coconut! I love coconut everything, and I loved these cookies!

This week Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch chose Coconut Butter Thins on page 145 on Baking, From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.

These cookies were a delightful combination of lime,

butter (two sticks),


(sorry, no picture)

This recipe was easy and fun to make, I loved the technique of rolling it out in a zipper bag, chilling it, then cutting the bag away.

These were so great, I almost did not notice the several inches of snow that got dumped on us Sunday morning.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Two25, A Treat

Last night, I was among a group of bloggers who went to Two25 for dinner. (Edit: This dinner was provided free of charge by Two25 in exchange for writing a review.) Rotund Reader and I were the first to arrive and sat at the bar. I ordered a Grey Goose and tonic. When a few others arrived, we moved to the table, and were soon joined by the rest of the bloggers. Manager, Shane, thanked us for coming and told us about the upcoming wine flights the restaurant will offer starting next week. (More info in the Journal Star article here.) He introduced us to one of the co-owners, Bob Eid, one of the owners of One World Cafe (one of my favorite restaurants in Peoria).

At the table, I ordered the Dark Horse IPA, on the recommendation of Problems Are For Solving. I didn't order an appetizer, (the only vegetarian appetizer was baked brie, which I love, but I knew I was ordering Fettuccine Alfredo and felt that would be too much creamy-cheesiness for one meal.) The other diners near me sampled each other's calamari, escargot, and crab and artichoke dip, and seemed very content.

I had a small house salad that was fresh, crisp, and perfectly dressed with a red wine vinaigrette. I liked that the menu offered size choices for the salads. There were a variety of salads to choose from as well as French Onion soup and soup of the day.

I chose the Fettuccine Alfredo with a side of steamed asparagus as my entree. Shane verified from the chef that the Alfredo was vegetarian. The pasta was perfect and the sauce was creamy and rich. I ended up mixing my asparagus in the dish and it was heavenly. I had a glass of the Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel ordered by PAFS and it was delicious; not too sweet, not too acidic.

I ended the meal with a lovely creme brulee. The whole menu can be found here. I was a little disappointed there were not more vegetarian offerings, especially after learning that Eid is one of the co-owners, because One World is a vegetarian Mecca here. But between the pizzas, pasta, and salads, I could eat here many times without being bored.

The highlight of the evening for me was the great service from our server, Sam. I know from experience it can be a challenge to wait on large groups arriving at differing times, ready to order at different times, etc. Sam was perfect as far as I could tell. His wine presentation was great. He got everyone's order correct, as far as I know. He was helpful describing items such as the 30 layer au gratin. The meal was timed perfectly and he was prompt with drink refills and offering cracked pepper. Also, he was pretty cute. I'm sure it is a joy working in such a well thought out and unique restaurant. Thanks, Shane and Bob, for inviting us to experience Two25, and thanks Sam, for making our experience wonderful.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If You Ain't Got No Money, Take Your Broke Ass Home

We have been singing that refrain a lot at work lately. (Well, I mean aside from the fact that every dancer wants to dance to it, and it is played several times a day, and it gets stuck in your head.) It really has become kind of a theme song.

I used to think that The Club was pretty much recession proof. Until pretty recently, the news about the economy was not really manifesting itself in my work day. We still had big crowds, big spenders, and big tippers. Maybe we still do for the most part. I don't work the busiest shifts so I am not sure my experience can be extrapolated to say how business is doing overall. But I have noticed some trends.

Many drinks cost $7.75. It used to be, customers would tend to hang on to the quarter and tip a dollar. Now, many hang on to the dollar and tip the quarter. Many do not tip at all.

At night, patrons pay a cover charge. They can come in to watch the show without buying any drinks or spending any money. That used to be somewhat rare, but has been increasingly more common lately. One practice that is frustrating for a server is when a group of ten guys come in together, then each sit at a separate table, alone, and do not order anything. They have taken up the whole section, and the server has no hope of making any money as long as they stay, which is usually for several hours. We have started "arranged seating" when this happens and making them sit together, or stand, so they are not preventing paying customers form sitting in a server's section.

During the day, there is no cover charge, so customers have to buy a drink (technically two). Some people get REALLY upset by this and think it is completely unreasonable. But if we did not enforce this, where do you think the most popular place to loiter might be? I hate it when people complain that I am trying to make them buy a drink and they say, "but I don't have any money", like that is a perfectly legitimate excuse to sit there, making the dancers go on stage and dance and get naked for free.

Yesterday I worked the day shift and had to make a few guys buy a drink or leave. We had a total of ten customers in the 8 1/2 hours I was there. Towards the end of the day, a gentleman had gotten a couple of dances and wanted to open a credit card tab and put the dances on there. No problem, we take the credit card and the license and keep them behind the bar. He also decided to order some food and have another drink. He wanted to close out his tab, but his card was denied. He didn't have another card or any cash. He asked if he could try to get money out of the ATM, so I gave him his card. A dancer wanted a glass of wine and I needed to look for a wine key, so I said, "let me know if that guy runs." About five seconds later, I heard, "He's running!" The DJ went out one door, and a security guy went out the other, so he had no where to go and came back in. The security guy called the police and four officers came and guarded him while he called everyone he knew to try to get someone to bring him the $55. An hour later, he finally got someone to bring him the money, his wife. Hopefully she thought it was better to come pay his stripper bill than to go pay his bail for theft of services.

All in all though, it is still a pretty good gig. Most days, I get a couple generous tippers that make up for the lack of tips from others. I know of a couple other servers who have gotten very generous tips recently. One got $1500 for coming in on her day off to wait on a very demanding customer. Another just made $500 for flashing her breasts. Such windfalls are probably a combination of talent and timing, and I am sure I will get my turn too. (And FYI, I am more than happy to flash my breasts for $50, so if you all want to start forming a line, that will be fine.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blueberry Crumb Cake; Tuesdays With Dorie

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie Recipe was chosen by Sihan of Befuddlement/ Walking In The Rain. The recipe can be found on her blog or on pages 192 &193 of Baking, From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.

I baked this cake twice. Sunday, I was going hiking with some friends, Lemur, Coyote, and Jennifer, and I thought I could get it done before I left. I was kind of in a hurry and made a couple mistakes.

This is my fairly new food processor. I can't decide if I like it. It is a Food Network Brand that I got at Kohls. I had about $100 to spend and couldn't afford a Cuisinart. This one seemed similar in horsepower and features, so I got it.

So far though, I think I liked my 15 year old Black and Decker Power Pro better. (Unfortunately, I found one of the blades all bent up after Husband had shoved a bunch of frozen food through it, making food for the sugar gliders. I told him to never do that again. The next time he made sugar glider food, the other blade turned up missing. I suspect it ended up all bent up and got thrown away.) I am still open minded about this one, as I realize some unsatisfactory results are due to operator error. Like when I hit pulse one more time making the topping for the recipe, and the crumbles turned into a dough.

Also, I could not find an 8" X 8" pan and put my cake in a 7"ish X 5"ish dish. It took longer to bake than I thought it would. So I pulled it out of the oven, took a quick pic, and ran out the door to hike.

When I returned, the whole cake was almost gone. The family liked it a lot and wanted to know when I would be making it again. Last night, I made it in an 8" X 8" pan, didn't overmix my topping, and pulled it out of the oven about 10:00. Grandma and I had a warm slice with vanilla ice cream before bed. When I got up this morning, most of the cake was gone, so I am thinking this one will be a favorite that I will make again and again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

French Yogurt Cake; Tuesdays With Dorie

This week, Liliana, of My Cookbook Addiction chose French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze on pages 224-225 of Baking, From My Home to Yours.

This recipe was exciting because there were so many "playing around" ideas. I will definitely make this again and try the Riviera version with olive oil and rosemary. I decided to make mine like a party cake, filled with lemon cream and frosted with whipped cream.

I used coconut oil in the cake. Coconut oil can be bought either virgin or refined. Virgin oil smells and tastes coconutty. I used refined oil which is flavorless. Coconut oil can be tricky to bake with because it solidifies at temperatures 76 degrees or cooler.

I melted the oil in the microwave and warmed the batter in a sink of hot water so the oil wouldn't solidify. (I should have added flour to that batter before the oil. Oooops.)

My favorite part of this recipe was rubbing the zest in the sugar. It was so fragrant and pretty.

Here is a mystery though. A few weeks ago, Jennifer made a lemon tart using Dorie's lemon cream. I really did not care for it. It tasted metallic to me. I thought maybe it was an effect of her tart pan, or maybe I am just weird because I do taste metallic sometimes when others don't. I decided to go ahead and make this lemon cream because I had never made it and wanted to give it a try. Out of the blender, it was heavenly. I ate a spoonful and kept scraping the blender to get more. It was soooo good. I almost just ate the whole batch, until I thought about the 10 1/12 ounces of butter I had just put in in there. I refrigerated it and put it between the two cake layers. (I made 2 nine inch cakes.)

When I tried it, it tasted metallic! I loved it fresh and warm, but chilled, it tasted completely different to me. My kids liked it, and my grandma liked it. My husband mentioned the metallic taste, so I don't think it is just me. Once I slathered it with whipped cream though, it toned it down and I enjoyed the cake too.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Artisan Bread in Five

If you like fresh bread, you have to get this book-

I got this book about a month ago and have been loving it. It has an easy method of making large amounts of bread dough, that can be kept in your refrigerator for two weeks. When you want fresh bread, you just take out what dough you need, let it rest a bit, and bake it. It is SOOO easy and delicious. What is also absolutely cool about the book is the authors have a blog, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day , which they update frequently. They post new methods, ideas, and recipes, and they respond to readers comments and questions. There is a wealth of information on the site. I am still sorting my way through it. Also, they often have giveaways of their book.

Yesterday I had some olive oil dough I wanted to use up. You can use this dough to make foccacia, pizza crust, pitas, calzones, and lots more styles of bread. I decided to make calzones. I made some alfredo sauce and steamed some broccoli and garlic. I had a half a container of ricotta, so I just mixed an egg right in the container.

I rolled out the dough and filled them with some sauce, ricotta, broccoli, and a sprinkle of shredded italian cheese mix.

So, in about a half hour's time we had these delicious calzones.

I am having a lot of fun with the Artisan Bread book and am still learning and experimenting. Next I am going to make some whole wheat bread for sandwiches. I will keep you posted.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Little E's Muse

Little E performed his solo today for IMEA solo and ensemble contests. He asked for this particular piece of music for his birthday in December. You can't complain when your 13 year old son asks for sheet music, theater tickets, and piano lessons for his birthday. (You can make gay jokes, Husband and Rotund Reader, but I am quite proud of his talents and interests.) He wanted to play Pachelbel's Canon. This was a little difficult for his skill level, but I thought he did a great job and wanted to share. (The first 2 seconds of this are him trying to ask his accompanist if he can warm up a few notes, since his performance was delayed. It is kind of funny.)

What is also funny is his inspiration for wanting to do this song. He likes this routine by Rob Paravonian.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lemony Fun; TWD

This week for our Tuesdays With Dorie assignment, Jennifer and I collaborated and baked together. We made Lemon Cup Custard, chosen by Bridget, from The Way the Cookie Crumbles. The recipe is on page 387 of Baking, From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.

My kids had spent the night at Jennifer's. Being the gracious host she always is, she was preparing dinner when I arrived. She had chosen a duochromatic theme, serving food in the hues of pink and yellow. We had ham, apple slices, smoky macaroni and cheese, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots in cheese sauce, and banana pudding for dessert. I unwittingly created another theme, having brought the game Bananagrams to play. We played Bananagrams while having banana pudding, our first dessert.

Making the lemon custard was pretty straightforward. I got it started while she was finishing dinner. Neither she nor I had a complete set of matching six ounce custard cups. We combined our resources and tried to divide the liquid evenly among them.

They baked while we ate dinner. We tasted them before they chilled and decided they were like lemony eggs. Interesting. Some other interesting tidbits from the afternoon: Jennifer may have had a chest hair on her milk bottle (which I was not going to mention but since she posted it, I'd say it's fair game). She also told me she wore clean socks to yoga last week, and while her son struggled to fit "queer" into his crossword, my son succeeded in fitting "ass" and "sex" into his. Another day of good clean fun in Jennifer's Kinky Kitchen.

(I was hoping these little tins I got at the Goodwill would form pretty custards. I did NOT mean for this picture to look like pock marked breasts.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chocolate Armagnac Cake- full of chocolate, liquor, and flaming prunes

This week, Lyb of And then I do the dishes chose Dorie's "Chocolate Armagnac Cake - The Cake That Got Me Fired" on pages 279-281 of Baking, From My Home To Yours.

Dorie tells the story of getting fired as her first job as a pastry chef, for "creative insubordination", after making this cake in place of the whiskey raisin cake the restaurant normally served. I was glad that Lyb chose this, because at first glance, there are a couple things about it that may not inspire confidence that it will be delicious, like the little part in the title about "the cake that got me fired". Or one of the main ingredients, which Dorie calls "the world's most misunderstood fruit", prunes.

I had my helper, Little E with me when I went shopping, and he was tired of running errands. I told him I needed to run into the store for a few things and he asked what we were getting.

Me- "Cat litter, pecans, prunes, milk."

E- "What do you need prunes for?"

Me- "Ummm, it's a surprise."

E- "But I don't want a pruny surprise."

Me- "Well, what if I told you we get to set them on fire?"

E- "O K!"

Making this cake was really fun (although in my version, it is 'Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake- The cake that makes a lot of dirty dishes'). Not only did we get to light prunes on fire, I got to use my new digital scale. (No, I couldn't have just guessed what 7/10 of the chocolate chips were to get 7 ounces.)

What I really need is a new camera. When I took this picture, there were flames coming out of the pan, but they are like vampires apparently, and don't show up in pictures.

When we were done, we made some Grand Marnier whipped cream. Everyone liked the cake a lot, even my picky teenagers, prunes and all.