Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Neat Way to Organize Your Books and Noodle Making

Truly nothing that we have cooked has been particularly "blogworthy". With two seven year olds and a two year old who are quite happy with dishes like meaty spaghetti and Kraft mac and cheese, that shouldn't be surprising. But I don't want my blog to become too stagnant. I was reading my bloglines, and I saw this cool picture on The Scent of Green Bananas page. She has her fiction organized by color! I thought it looked neat.

Also, I saw this video of one way that they make noodles in Insa Dong in Korea. I wondered if I could ever master this skill. I'm sure it is one of those things that take years to get really good at. My only concern would be the cleanliness of the floor where they do this. It is three and half minutes long, but as soon as the red bar is at the end, just scoot it over to the right.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cooking For Kids- Sushi

How perfect for this blog- a kid's video about seaweed and rice!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cauliflower Popcorn

I am supposed to be going back to Phase I of South Beach. Puddleglum made pizzelles tonight, and I ate several. Tomorrow is a new day, right? Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen has been posting some great recipes for Phase I. I found a couple of videos on YouTube that were very appropriate. I found this one that showed how to roast spaghetti squash which really isn't complicated. He also does this one about popcorn squash which is something I'd like to try. I had read this post on Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks about Cauliflower Popcorn. It sounds good, and I thought if I planned ahead, I could have a batch of this ready for me on those movie nights when Puddleglum and crew are munching on that high carb kettle corn that they love so much. I also found this very sweet by sort of long video about making cauliflower popcorn. I try to keep my favorite videos as those that are under three minutes, but this one is an exception (it's six minutes). It sounds like the cauliflower is tastiest if it is very well done. Since my food blog is more of the "mommy" variety, I thought this video was very fitting. I know I haven't done an original post in a bit. Yesterday (Friday) Puddleglum made grilled salmon, spinach, brocolli, and seaweed & rice. In the middle of the meal, I remembered that I should have taken a picture. Then today we made chicken and dumplings, but I have already done a post about that. I need to start thinking like a food blogger.

The Dream Kitchen of Tomorrow

This is a cute video. I just wish it were under three minutes. It's five minutes and twenty seconds long. If you watch about half of it, you've seen the best parts anyway, so just read through my blog while it finishes up.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

My Kitchen

When I read on Kalyn's Kitchen that Ilva at Lucullian Delights was hosting a blogging event, I thought it was probably time to become a participating food blogger and enter my first group effort. I will use some photos from old posts, but I did take a couple of new ones today.

Here are the before and after shots of my kitchen. I won't go into all the details, but when we bought the house we were looking for something fully wheelchair accessible, and our house was built for a paraplegic. It has large rooms, but everything was outdated. The dining room was crazy big, so we made the kitchen bigger and reduced the size of the dining room. In this shot with the pumpkin muffins you can see the stovetop and the oven and our awesome red Korean rice cooker that talks and sings in Korean. At some point I would like to have double ovens. My husband put the brick backsplash up. He used individual sealed paving bricks. My original idea was to make an Italian kitchen. I wanted to put up a brick wall between the dining room and the kitchen with a wide arched doorway, and I wanted our stovetop enclosed in a brick archway and maybe even have a brick oven in addition to double ovens, and I wanted lots of hanging plants and ivy and maybe even stained glass here and there, and all stainless appliances, and I wanted... Oh. Sorry. Got away from myself there. Fundage was a problem, so it never came to fruition. Oh well. While looking for kitchen shots, I found this cute one of my two older boys taken a couple of years ago. I was so into Italian sodas back then that I kept several flavors of Italian syrup that you can see in the background.
Now I'll show you what is to the left and right of me as I cook. To the left of me while I am at the stove is my hodge podge, quite messy kitchen utensil drawer. Look at it. You could play I Spy with this picture. We also keep four kitchen utensils hanging on the wall behind the stovetop for convenience; a spatula, a slotted spoon, a ladle, and a pasta server. Then to the right of me is my spice drawer (and I also keep the bamboo maki sushi roller here). Don't try to read the spices. It's a terrible shot, but I was in a hurry, and I didn't want to use the flash because then the shot would have looked all washed out, and my guess is no one cares what brand of curry powder I use . Anyway, my point here is that it is convenient to have the spices there. We do keep pots and pans hanging over our island, but I also keep some pots and pans in the cabinet under the stove. The cabinets to the left of me below the cluttered utensils drawer are more cluttered kitchen accessories of varying use, and this is also where we keep our new Waring Pro Waffle maker. To the right of me under the spice drawer are my casserole dishes and some other cookware.One thing that I love about my kitchen is the view. This (picture below) is the view out the dining room windows from our kitchen. The picture, which is from this post, doesn't do the view justice, but you can see the horizon beyond the trees. There is a magnolia tree right outside the window above my sink which adds a nice green touch to my view. It's an east view, so I can watch the sunrise from my kitchen as I drink my morning coffee. For those of you who live in the mountains, this doesn't look like much, but I live in a very flat part of the country, so we're thrilled to have any view at all. You can read more about our view and the ridge we live on here and here.Now the shot with the spaetzle I can explain. When we bought our new refrigerator, there was one silly feature that was the deciding point. It's those blue lights which you can see if you click on this photo to enlarge it. At night when I get up to get a drink of water, I love those beckoning little blue lights. Silly. I know. But what Lola wants, Lola gets... except an expensive Italian kitchen.

Okay, this is a cute one minute video about someone's dream kitchen.

Beignets Ruined my Weight Loss Weekend

You may or may not have seen my previous post about Puddleglum's beignets. They are fabulous and wonderful. The problem is that I am supposed to be back on South Beach Phase I for a while because of my holiday splurging. The other problem is that Puddleglum tried a new recipe that wound up making a gajillion beignets. How could I eat just one? Well, I couldn't. I ate several while he was at the stove making them, giving him feedback about the texture and the taste. Then I ate more while we all sat at the table. Then I snacked on them throughout the day. Because I had been so bad with them, I tried to be careful about everything else that I ate and get some healthy protein in. This morning I was surprised to find that I hadn't gained any weight, but that my percent body fat was up. I have no idea how those scales work, but I think they must be pretty acurate. I would tell Puddleglum not to make them anymore, but the boys love them. I just need to learn self control and moderation.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

My Restaurant Resume

(I've noticed that this post gets the most hits on my statcounter because so many people are writing a restaurant resume. If you are looking for tips on how to make your resume look professional and stand out, go to the this webpage. My advice is that perspective employers want to know about two things; any training that you have and about your experience. If all you have is a high school diploma, well, that's okay. Just put that on there so they know you have your diploma, but if you can think of any other training- a seminar at your church about how to work with the elderly, a seminar at your last job during an employee meeting about food presentation or table side cooking, a food safety course you took for your last job, a customer service lecture, whatever- just put it down. If you have no experience, then put down any volunteer work. Explain at the bottom of your resume or in your cover letter that although you have no restaurant experience, that you are dependable and that you are eager to learn. The fact is that there is high turnover in the restaurant world, and sometimes the hiring manager is so desperate that they'll hire someone with no experience hoping that you'll learn fast. If you've never stayed at one job for very long, then you should explain why (ie the jobs that you worked at were in low volume restaurants and the tips were not substantial, etc). One word of advice- NEVER, NEVER talk negatively about former employers or coworkers. It just makes it sound like YOU are difficult to work with. Don't say that you left your last job because the executive chef was a jerk (come on. They're ALL jerks sometimes). Say that you enjoyed certain aspects of your last position, but that you are interested in a change because you didn't feel that it was the "right fit" for you. You should emphasize that you are looking for the "right fit" for you in a "long term" position. Again, sometimes the hiring manager is so desperate that they don't care that you've never stayed longer than three months at any one place. At least you're trained. Don't talk about the negatives. Emphasize the positives (I show up on time. I dependably show up for work as scheduled. etc etc). I suppose the best place to give this big push is in a cover letter rather than in the body of the resume itself. Assume that the person reading your resume or interviewing you WANTS to hire you, but you need to give him reasons why so that he when he approaches the general manager, he can justify wanting to hire you. On your resume, in my opinion, they don't care if you roller blade and collect stamps, but if you want to put down your hobbies at the end, that is kind of the traditional thing to do, so go ahead. It's possible that the hiring manager may also enjoy bird watching or whatever, and maybe that will help you. If you've been in the restaurant business for a while, then you know how hard it is. If you are a newbie and looking to get your first job, then I want to warn you. It's late nights and your schedule is always different. You can make some money, but it's a lot of work. I will tell you the Monday through Friday 9 to 5 is easier. But if you really want to do this, best of luck, and I hope you get the job you want...).

My waitressing career started when I worked for Marriott Foods and ARA at the age of 18 working banquets when I was in college. My next job was at a Chinese restaurant called the Peking. The best food I ate there was not on the menu. It was when the owners had a Chinese New Year party, and I was invited. The owner/chef made the most amazing food I had ever eaten. I guess the good stuff was not reserved for customers. I spent a summer at home, and got a job working for Griggs, which wasn't bad (except that I was working full time and taking General Microbiology and Anatomy & Physiology during the same Summer session and they both have labs). Griggs probably does make some of the best flat, red enchiladas out there (don't forget the fried egg on top). That year I also worked at a pub as holiday help when I was home for Christmas.

Then when I got into grad school in the big city in the early 90's, I got my fancy shmancy job in a fine dining restaurant that, in it's hayday, was really something special (from what I've heard, it's changed a lot, and not for the better). It was called Vargo's, and it was here that I learned what the restaurant industry is really about. I waited on Louie Anderson, and President Bush (the older not the younger) came in while I was working, but they gave him to the top waiter. I was one of only four waitresses who ever worked the dining room while I was there (it was an almost all male staff). There were three executive chefs that came and went; the first was not great, the second was fantastic but ran the kitchen cost up so far they couldn't afford him, and the third was good but crazy. The first one eventually was rehired. He wasn't the best, but he could keep food cost down. The sous chef was there the entire time. I wonder if he's still there. Vargo's really was a neat place to go to because it overlooked a few green, lush acres with a "lake" and trees and a small "river" with two bridges, a gazebo, swans, and peacocks, and the azaleas were gorgeous when they were all in bloom. It was a beautiful place to have a wedding. Too bad the least talented chef was the chef for most of my stint there. He actually had "salmon bella" on the menu. I'll never get that dish. Don't people realize it sounds like salmonella?

I also moonlighted at the Houston Racquet Club which had a great Swedish chef. It was actually a much nicer environment, and the food was better, but the money was not as good. It was cool to see how wealthy people do up a party. One of the fanciest dinners was for about fifty people with five courses where a dinner bell was rang and all the fancy, shiny plate covers where removed at the same time. The food manager was really nice. He let me tend bar. He sort of looked like Weird Al, but with a heavy New York accent. He wound up taking a job at a resort in Austin. I hope he's doing well.

I will say that there is a lot of drama in fine dining. I once was screamed at by the manager for telling a customer we were out of hot tea on a night where we were so busy it's a miracle any food got out at all. Everyone was running around like chickens without heads, and the manager stops to scream at me for what seemed like a full minute (which is a lot of time on a night like that) in front of the entire kitchen staff near the kitchen door, and I'm sure it could be heard in the dining room. That's not the only drama. Don't get me started on the drugs, the parties, the soap opera dating, the philandering matre d' who just couldn't keep his... well, you get the picture.

I had a great idea for a screenplay about the world in a fine dining kitchen, and of course, someone else got that idea and actually did it. Vargo's had waiters and kitchen staff from Iran, Nigeria, Mexico, South America, Cuba, Austria, Germany (East and West), Ireland, and we even had a former Miss District of Columbia work in the party room, and a former pro baseball play tended bar in the lounge (he played pro ball in the 70's before they got paid millions). Everyone had a story. Maybe someday I will write that screenplay. I know it's been done and redone, but mine would... nah. I'll never write that screenplay.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Bad Housewarming Gift

A respected couple in our community has built an enormously fancy house in the lot across the street from us. It's simply gorgeous. We have found out that the husband is a vice-president at one of the local universities. On Wednesday when we got our mail, we found that the post woman had placed their Sears card bill in our mailbox. So I thought it would be a great idea to send a housewarming gift from us when we took it over to their house. I have an abundance of loose tea leaves. I purchased the peppermint leaf, alfalfa, nettle, and raspberry leaf for a tea recipe where you throw it all together and brew a nice cuppa. After I mixed the dry, green leaves together so the wife could brew a "spot of tea" whenever she wanted, I placed them in a bag to be delivered. That's when I looked into the baggie and realized what it looked like. "Puddleglum, we can't send this gift. Look at it. What does it look like to you?" I believe this gift would have left an erroneous impression of who we are. Fortunately I also have an abundance of Korean chili powder and sent over a jar of that instead.

Monday, January 1, 2007

New Years Day Meal

We made the traditional Southern New Year's meal- black eyed peas, cornbread, and greens. We always have a ham for Christmas dinner so we can save the ham bone for the black eyed peas. Last night I soaked the black eyed peas with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda. The reason you soak the beans and then discard the water and rinse and drain them is that it gets rid of most of the indigestible sugars that are in beans thus reducing flatulence. The baking soda helps get rid of even more. I cooked the peas with the ham bone, ~3 tablespoons bacon drippings, ~1/4 of an onion (chopped), and the rest of the leftover ham from Christmas cut into cubes. At the end of the cooking I added salt and pepper to taste and a good sprinkling of curry powder. Southerners eat black eyed peas for New Year's because the peas swell, and this ensures luck and prosperity. The greens ensure lots of cash will come your way, and the cornbread ensures lots of gold. We're not superstitious, but it's still fun. Tae wouldn't eat the peas, but he liked the ham and drank lots of the broth. Baby played in everything and ate a little. Jax didn't eat a ton, but he did eat some.