Friday, January 21, 2011

The Republic

We knocked another one off the list! Yesterday Donavon and I joined a pre-marital bible study and before hand he asked me if I would go to dinner with him. Obviously, that is not really a question and I said yes. He didn't tell me where we were going though so I knew it was going to be a bigger deal than just normal dinner. And it was! He took me to the Republic Steakhouse and it was wonderful! It was the one left on our list that I have been anticipating with the most excitement. The environment was very nice and fairly upscale but not snooty. We also sat in the more formal area. There is a bar area that is a little more casual. Apparently they have live music several nights a week and as we did not have room for dessert this time, we plan to go back and sit at the bar, listen to some music and have dessert. Our waiter was very nice and the service all around was great. It was not one of those places that is so quiet you have to whisper, but it was quiet enough to have an easy conversation. I liked that. Right after we sat down they took our drink order (I got san pelegrino which made me pretty excited, not gonna lie) and a few minutes later brought us French bread and delicious citrus-y butter. Then we ordered an appetizer of lump crab cakes. It was wonderful! It was a little tower of crab cake, bacon and chive potato blini (which I learned is a potato pancake, essentially), and spinach and drizzled around it was lemon beurre blanc, a yummy lemon sauce that we dipped every bite in. For our entrees, I ordered Pan Seared Wild Striped Bass which came with Three Cheese Herbed Risotto, Corn and Crab puree and Smoked Bacon Shallot Brussel Sprouts. The fish was good but not absolutely amazing. The sides on the other hand, were wonderful! Best risotto I've ever had and the Brussel Sprouts were different than I've ever seen and marvelous. The corn and crab puree was basically little pieces of crab meat in a creamy corn sauce, also good. Donavon ordered Pan Roasted Maine Diver Scallops which came with Pancetta Orzo, Savory Glazed Forest Mushrooms, Crispy Fried Potato nest, and had Blackberry Grastique drizzled around the edge of the plate. The Scallops were delicious and a little sweet. The Pancetta Orzo was fine but nothing compared to my risotto. The Fried Potato was yummy and interesting but not any different than you'd imagine fried potato being. The Forest Mushrooms were really good and different than any mushrooms I've ever had. They had a very fresh taste to them, opposed to the more earthy flavors I usually associate with mushrooms. The Blackberry Grastique was good and sweet. Also, the portions are very big for this kind of place. We got very full. Yes, it is a little expensive. Not the kind of place we can frequent unless it's for an appetizer, salad or dessert. It was not hands down the best meal I've ever had but everything was very good, some of it was amazing and we had a great time!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My three day journey to a Mocha Torte

Photo 1. Parchment lined baking pans. I read that in order to line them you should cut out a square of paper a little larger than the pans. Fold it diagonally until it is in little triangles. Hold it with the tip pointed into the center and cut a round edge to fit the curve of the pan on the other end. Unfold and lay into the pans. I would warn you though, to make sure it is the perfect size and laying as flat as possible because mine ended up making bubbles on the bottom of my cakes.

Photo 2. Mixing the first of the ingredients.

Photo 3. My first ever double boiler!

Photo 4. Mixing in the dry ingredients.

Photo 6. Filling the pans.

Photo 7 and 8. All baked, a Vanilla sponge cake! The base for my torte.

Photo 9. Heating up the Kahlua syrup..mmmm

Photo 10. Painting the sponge cake with lots of syrup.

Photo 11 and 12. Spreading the Chocolate Italian Buttercream Frosting on the Sponge Cakes. (That was the hardest frosting I've ever made and never actually got it exactly right. I had to add powdered sugar to it in the end..I will try it again though. It was also the most delicious frosting I have ever had!)

The final product: A Mocha Torte! AKA Two Vanilla Sponge Cakes, painted in Coffee/Kahlua Syrup, Covered in Chocolate Italian Buttercream Frosting with Chocolate Covered Coffee Bean accents!

mmm mmm good!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Applying 1st Samuel

I've been reading through 1st Samuel and it's been really interesting. As I've been reading, I've been trying to see how I can apply it to my life. Every time I open my Bible I pray that God would help me understand the stories of how He helped His people back then and how it applies to me right now. I guess I went into it hoping to find encouragement but ended up finding conviction. Funny, how that happens.
I was reading the story of Israel asking for a king and Samuel warning them that they didn't actually want what they were asking for. I was thinking through why it was wrong of them. After all, a king isn't always a bad thing. What was the real difference in a judge and a king? Why was one right and the other wrong?
As I read I realized that it did apply to me. It applied to me because a king, in and of itself, is not wrong, just the way that all of the good things I fill my mind and time with, aren't wrong either. What is wrong is when we replace God with those things. In my case, I replace God with God's will. Weird, I know. But I've always had a tendency to make finding God's will more important than finding God.
The Israelites were wrong for wanting a king because they wanted to follow a king instead of following God. They weren't looking for the opposite of God, but they weren't looking for God. Samuel told them that if they continually looked toward God for direction and didn't forsake Him, He would continue to bless them. But, if they started looking toward other things, they would lose God's blessing.
We can't just live and expect God to be in our lives. We can't look for things and expect to find God. We can't just walk and expect to be on His path. We have to chase after Him. We have to be intentional about seeking Him, not just intentional about seeking something good and occasionally thinking about Him, hoping He's just somehow included. Being intentional about never seeking what is blatantly wrong, is not the same as always seeking what we are supposed to. As in, seeking God.
Some times I feel God leading me towards something and then I get obsessed with it and seek so hard after what I think is His will, that I put Him on the back burner. I ignore Him because I don't have time in the middle of His will to continue to seek after Him.
I repented of this today as I read. I know He forgives me every time but someday I hope to follow His will without forgetting about Him.
Good thing He's patient with me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Great Importance of Planning What You'll Eat

I cook for my family. I have 10 people in my family and often times 10+ over for dinner. I do almost all of the cooking and almost all of the grocery shopping. I love doing it and my parents not only allow me to try new recipes on them, they actually give me an allowance for doing it! They said they would pay me for 5 meals a week so I do my best to supply them with just that. Since the holidays, things have been more up in the air and I haven't gotten back to my schedule. I might be working another job soon so I really don't know how much I'll be able to cook at home at that point. The last couple of weeks I think I've done more like 3 meals a week. This week I'm hoping to do 5. This post is really more how I did things last semester and how I hope to do them again. But to be completely honest, I'm not quite there right now! It's really fun most of the time but it does turn into quite a bit of work. Being organized helps immensely! Planning ahead even helps me cook healthier meals since I can use fresh ingredients and take a little more time to decide. There are really two reasons I'm writing this post. One is just to give you a little more information about me and what I'm always talking about. And the other is to tell you how much it has helped me to be organized and some of the ways that I do that.

If I waited until just before dinner time to figure out what I was making we would always end up eating macaroni and cheese. I mostly enjoy cooking when it's fun, exciting, new, interesting kinds of meals. Now, they're not always that way, but they would never be that way if I didn't plan ahead! Therefore, on the weekends, I do my planning. I write out my family's general schedule for the week so that I know when I'll be cooking. I always try to cook when the most people will be home. My dad's schedule changes all the time so I always find out what meals he will be home for and that is the main frame for the rest of the scheduling. I try to cook mon-fri but if there's a day that I'm too busy during the week I try to cook over the weekend to make up for it. This also helps me know what kind of food I can make each day because if I don't have a lot of time, it can't be too complicated. Not only do I have to be home, I have to be home with enough time to cook whatever it is. I also have to schedule in my grocery shopping trip. This usually happens on Sunday evening or Monday afternoon. If I'm cooking lunch Monday then I have to go before then. I then start trying to come up with a meal plan. I usually try to cook something like two to three chicken dishes, one fish, one beef, sometimes a vegetarian or pork. I am constantly trying to learn to cook new things but I try to only cook one completely new recipe a week. My family is trusting me to cook food they will like and I try not to disappoint but I also want to expand their pallets. A new recipe can be a safe option if it is made with mostly familiar ingredients. But the more out-there ones, have to be spread out. Anyway, once I get a meal plan I make a grocery list. It must include all of the ingredients for the meals and anything else that we will need that week. I have to try to make the meals with the most fresh ingredients at the beginning of the week or else I will have to wait to buy some of them until mid-way through the week. I try to schedule almost my entire week during the weekend before. Not only meals, everything. Then I try to prepare as much as possible ahead of time. Then my week goes so much smoother. Anything that I know ahead of time goes into my pre-week schedule and I try to stick to it. This has made me a million times more productive and I actually get to cook almost as much as I would like to! Anyway, just thought I would share a little more about what I do. Here's the plan for this week:

M. Polenta Lasagna, Caesar salad

W. Beef Tacos, Sherried Tomato Soup (from Pioneer Woman Cooks)

Th. Baked Flounder, Mexican Rice (from Authentic Mexican Food) and Spicy Pinto Beans

F. Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, Green Peas

S. Roast, Red Potatoes, Carrots, Rolls

Just so you know, I also made a Cranberry-Lemon cake that was delicious and I'll hopefully be posting about that soon!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Genghis Grill

It's not on the list because it arrived in our little town after the creation of the list. But, it should have been. So, for the sake of our curiosity, we acted as though it was, and went there. It was really a neat place! I had a lot of fun because they let you participate in the preparation of your own meal. It's nothing too fancy, but it was fun and quite yummy too. When you walk in, they hand you a metal bowl and lead you to your seat. The server takes your drink order and explains how things work and then you're on your own. It's set up like a buffet but nothing is cooked. Awesome, I know! So the first counter you come to has all of the meats and you choose whatever raw meat you would like and plop it in your little metal bowl. Then you come to a little section of seasonings and spices where you have the option of seasoning your meat. I had sliced beef and seasoned it with a sort of garlic and ginger mix. There are not too many options in that section but plenty to get something good especially since you'll add sauce later. Then you continue down the line and pick your vegetables. There are quite a few different ones to choose from and as long as it fits in your bowl, the skies the limit. If you wanted, I suppose you could skip the meat and have only veggies or the other way around. We were not that lame, so we picked lots of vegetables and piled them on top of our meat. I had cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, broccoli, little corn thingys, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts...and probably some other things that I can't remember. A lot of mine were sort of Asian-esque choices, but there were enough that it didn't have to be. Then you come to the sauces. You get another little cup and dip out whatever sort of sauce(s) you want into that. I got a peanut ginger sauce and Donavon got a spicy, signature blend. Then you take your bowl of raw food and your cup of sauce and walk over to this counter that surrounds a huge hibachi grill that a chef is working at. He walks over, takes your food, asks if you want rice or noodles and gives you a number. Then he throws your food on the grill and starts cooking it for you. I'm sure he gets a pretty good laugh out of the combinations people hand him! Then you go back to your seat and after a short wait, especially for this kind of food, a server brings you your custom dish. Sounds fun, right? It was. Yes, it is a chain and no it's not the best Asian food you can possibly find, but it was good, lots of food, and lots of fun. I would go back! :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bodega Coast

Last Sunday Donavon and I knocked another one off the list. We actually drove to Maddens hoping to eat there only to find, again, that it was closed. We should really look that up next time. Anyway, we ended up eating at Bodega Coast, a new-ish seafood grill and bar. I love really good seafood but considering the fact that we are at least 3 hours from any coast, it's not very common here. My bar was raised when I had Miso Seabass at was like a dream..but that's beside the point.
So, Bodega Coast. It was interesting. The atmosphere is nice, comfortable, and casual. The menu is pretty expensive for the atmosphere it goes with, but not completely outrageous. The whole experience was one of mismatches, I feel. It's kind of weird to eat expensive grilled fish and be watching a football game, ya know? There is a bar and a separate dining area which helps a little but they're only partially separated and there is a TV in both rooms. It wasn't too loud though, which was nice, and nothing is wrong with being casual, it was just an interesting mix.
Which brings me to the food. I got Seared Snapper with crawfish+tequila butter sauce and dirty rice. Donavon got Blackened Mahi Mahi with agave nectar+chipotle drizzle and he substituted garlic mashers for the black beans. They bring you chips and salsa before hand and every entree is served with a side of stir-fried veggies.
So, I started out with Mexican (chips and salsa) and then had Asian vegetables on the side of a French-type entree with Cajun rice. It just threw me off a little. My fish was very, very good and so was the butter sauce. I really liked the veggies, even though they didn't seem to fit, but they were pretty generic for stir-fry. The dirty rice was not very good. Plain tasting for how much seasoning it appeared to have. I liked the salsa, Donavon did not.
Donavon's fish was good, I liked mine better, but it was good. The garlic mashers were good but I couldn't have eaten very much because of the amount of garlic, it was pretty strong. And for me to say that about garlic, really says something!
Overall, not our favorite, especially in the price range. Kind of an odd ensemble of everything, and not the best sides. Still enjoyable and the fish was very good, especially compared to the other seafood available locally.
Now, I want to go to the coast and eat something fresh!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Julie and Julia

A few nights ago Beth, Everly, Fairlight and I watched the movie Julie and Julia. We had all seen it before but it was so worth watching again. It was the perfect movie for our girl's night. It's so cute! If you haven't seen it, it's the true story of a girl who decides to cook her way through Julia Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year and blog about it along the way. The movie takes her story and matches it with similar things that happened in the life of Julia Child many years earlier. I love it for several reasons. First off, obviously, it's all about food! It's about Julia Child, who was an amazing chef and her part of the story is so entertaining. And I love the dynamics between the two different couples. There are several scenes in the movie that remind me of Donavon and I. For one, we're always cooking together. But also, a lot of times I feel like I'm just as crazy and frazled as the female characters in the movie and he's just as sweet and level-headed as the husbands. :)

And, it's about blogging, which inspires me to do a better job here. It's an all around inspiring movie, even if you don't blog. If you haven't seen it, watch it. It's super cute, a true story, funny, and sweet. I must say, the fact that Julie cooked all of those recipes in one year while balancing a full-time job and a marriage is incredible! It's all I can do to make 5 meals most weeks and I'm not married or working full-time!

Now, watching this movie led to a couple other funny events for us..

The first one was that half way through the movie our dvd player stopped working. We were dead-set on watching this movie so that didn't stop us! We told our dad about the problem, because that's what we always do, and he said he could come help us in a minute but he was busy. So, we told him he didn't have to and we decided we were perfectly capable of fixing the problem. Ahem. We took the dvd out and cleaned it. It still skipped. We turned it all off and back on. It still skipped. We blew into the place the dvd goes in just like we used to do when playing Mario Bros on nintendo... and it still skipped. That was pretty much the extent of our ideas to fix the dvd player and none of them worked. So we eventually gave up on that and decided to watch it on the computer that's in the same room. Only, the computer is behind the couch. So we began the process of moving the computer and realized there were a lot of things plugged into it that we weren't so sure could be unplugged.. frankly, we didn't really know what all of it was. So...we decided to leave the computer where it was. This lead to our truly brilliant idea that I'm afraid our father was not expecting to be our solution when we walked in to check on us a few minutes later.....we moved the couch! It was a perfectly logical way to remedy our problem. And most importantly, it was one that didn't require being tech-savvy in the least! So eventually, after rearranging our entire den, we finished our movie!

Then I went to bed. I only thought the movie was over. Little did I know it would continue my head all night long. No, I didn't dream of the characters in the movie. Nor about if I was one of them. Nor about the way that Donavon and I are similar to them. What did I dream about all night long? The food. Yes, I spent all night literally tossing and turning over a recipe. I woke up multiple times out of frustration over my own Boef Bourguignon. If you don't know, that is beef stew that is discussed a lot throughout the movie. I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed about trying to make this recipe. The funny thing was, even in my dream I knew that I didn't really know how to make it. I do in fact have the Julia Child cook book that the movie is framed around( I used it just the other day to make yummy baked cucumbers!), so I do have the Boef Bourguignon recipe. But, for some odd reason, I was not using it in my dream. My dream was more of a half-awake kind of dream where most of the time I knew I was laying in bed and just thinking about this recipe. But that's what was so frustrating! I would think and think and think about it, trying to decide if I had enough mushrooms etc. only to remember that I was not going to figure it out by thinking about it while laying in bed! When I woke the next morning I couldn't believe I had lost so much sleep by stressing in my half-conscious way about Boeuf Bourguignon. I believe I shall have to try this recipe now that it haunts me so.