Friday, February 26, 2010

Can You Believe I Took a Cooking Class?!??!

It's true, I took a cooking class  One of my Christmas presents from Helen, which we attended last night.  It was called Crepes for You.  The instructor began by asking our names and why we were taking the class.  (I was next to last in line, so I listened intently to them all.)
They loved eating crepes and wanted to see if they could learn to make them.  They were already making them and wanted to see if they were doing it right.  Someone gave them a box of mix, which has long since run out, so they wondered about a recipe to make more.  One gal wanted to fix something for her picky toddler that wasn't hot but wasn't cold; the fact that there would be no crusts would be a bonus.
Finally it's Helen's turn and she says how much she loves to cook.  So of course I say how much I hate to cook, but this class is a gift from her, so we'll see how it goes.  It gets a huge laugh from everyone, like I was joking. 
Hello?!?!?  It's not a joke.  Don't let that brand new kitchen with all those fancy appliances fool you!
She proceeds to tell us all we ever wanted to know about these crepe makers, and she's brought one to sell... for $130!!!  Are you kidding me?  And no one says a word, so of course I pipe right up and ask whether I can make these things in my everyday skillet I use for cooking pancakes. 
Turns out that yes, you can, and she has two tiny skillets over on the gas burners to prove that point.  Tiny round skillets about the size of a dessert plate.  Mine is much larger and square I say.  She wrinkles her brow and twitches her nose, telling me she'd be worried about it not being round. 
Honey, it doesn't worry me one iota.
We began by watching her make perfect crepes which she filled with different things at each different station.  She also did different folds at each station.  Now we all know I'm a firm believer that presentation is everything, so I'm really into that portion of the class.  That portion that included her making perfect crepes and perfect folds.  That is not to say that mine were perfectly round or perfectly folded, but boy were we having fun!
Station 1 was at the stove with the skillets.  First up was ham & cheese folded into a quarter of the original circle, with the promise of ham & shredded cheddar cheese in every bite.  SOLD!!  I liked everything about it, especially the filling.
Next was a knock-off of Chicken Cordon Bleu.  Make the crepe, flip it, and layer swiss cheese, slice of ham, small pieces of cooked chicken, and then roll.  Drizzle Grey Poupon Mustard/Mayo blend from squirt bottle inside before rolling and outside as a topping.  Again, I'm liking it a lot!!
Station 3 was lovely to watch but not anything I'd ever eat.  Cooked spinach with garlic, spices, ricotta, etc. for the filling.  This fold was an envelope.  Place spinach in the center in a line, fold overcrepe one third, then the other third, and then fold over the two sides/ends.  Now it's completely enclosed and really does make you think of a gift packet or envelope.  Marinara sauce is added on top.  So I'm thinking browned hamburger, mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce!
Station 4 was dessert #1...strawberries & whipped cream.  We learned the butterfly fold and the nest.  Helen snatched up the butterfly fold and the two of us ate it before the whipped cream had a chance to melt.
For the butterfly fold you add the sweetened, chopped strawberries into a quarter of the crepe before folding.  A dusting of powdered sugar, a spoonful of strawberries and a lot of whipped cream finished it off.  What's not to love about that?  The nest is made with a crepe folded in half with no filling, the ends brought together with the 2 spatulas, and then strawberries & whipped cream added into the middle.  I'd gladly eat either one.
Next was a crepe with Nutella drizzled on one half before it's folded.  Then powdered sugar is added on top and more Nutella drizzled over it.  Hazelnut is not for me, but I liked the idea of it.  I'm thinking chocolate syrup would work just fine.  And I'll let you know if I'm right.
After all the demos we set off to try both the skillets and the crepe makers.  Mastering that little wooden rake on the crepe maker was easier than I expected.  Using 2 spatulas is the key to success let me tell you when attempted the folds.  All in all I had fun, I learned something new, and I absolutely would make crepes at my square pancake skillet.  Perfectly round crepes are not required by me.
Now if I'm in a restaurant and I have a choice of a ham & cheese crepe or a ham & cheese club sandwich made on a croissant, I'm going for that croissant.  Truth be told, I'd go with the croissant at home too.
I understand I can make my mix ahead of time and prepare them for guests, making the presentation and wowing everyone.  But we'd all starve to death, watching one person eat at a time.  But I think I could do it just for the two of us, beginning with the ham & cheese and finishing with the strawberries.  But first I have to buy 2 of those slender little spatulas...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And a Scottie Wins Best in Show!

Don't believe people who tell you that dogs can't see images on TV screens.  For the last two nights Mini Cooper and Mercedes have watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.  Okay, I admit it, they didn't watch it non-stop, but they'd watch for 5 minutes at a stretch and then be distracted by something actually in the room.  But sure enough, they'd be sitting up, ears perked, and watching it again moments later.
So in our house where the Scottie rules, we're thrilled that Sadie won best of show.
You go girl!!

The Passing of My Two Favorite Authors

Back in the very early 1980's I discovered a British author by the name of Dick Francis, who wrote incredibly entertaining mysteries revolving around horses.  It might be a jockey or stable hand or trainer featured as the main character or it might be a yarn about transporting horses overseas for races, but each one had me hooked mere pages into the story.
My favorite character, Sid Halley, was featured in 3 of his novels.  So if you have the time to visit your library in person or on the web, request Odds Against, Whip Hand, and Come to Grief.  Once you're hooked on this guy you'll want to read all the others.
I not only own everything he's ever written, but there are favorites that I've read 3 or 4 times each, such as the ones featuring Sid.  If you wait a few years between readings, they're familiar, like family you see only at funerals or enjoy they're company, but you can't remember who-done-it, and once again, you can't put them down.
His son Felix helped with the last 4 books and while they're different, they're still good, so today I look forward to what Felix has in store for me in the years to come.

My second favorite author, only because I discovered him in recent years, was Robert B. Parker.  While in California last month I learned of his passing and again, I felt it as a personal loss.  I've read all his Spenser novels and enjoyed each and every one.  As a matter of fact I finished one 2 nights ago that was written last year but tells about the childhood of the character Spenser, to give you a background into what made him the man he was to become. 
And I'm on the waiting list for his latest at the library and anxiously await the email announcing that it's finally my turn to read it.

I have more news to post later today, including the 3 classes I'll be teaching at Stampaway, with photos!!  But it was important to me that these two very talented men be acknowledged for the delight they've brought into my life.

I do love to read a book, or two, or twenty.  Can't imagine my life without books.  Which is why today I can't imagine my life without the characters these two talented men brought into my little corner of the world.

Friday, February 5, 2010

TGIF; let's think about Valentine's Day

I have so much more to tell you about CHA and all the new goodies, but not today.  I've dragged 4 heavy suitcases laden with product and samples up to the studio, but you've seen the mess in that room, so they're just inside the door. 
Last night the roads were clear enough that we could finally go collect Mini & Mercedes.  Ahh, to have the babies home where they belong...  Both have put on TONS of weight, (thank you Mother for feeding them from the table) and both need haircuts, which are scheduled for next weekend. 
I began flipping the pages of my new Martha Stewart Living magazine today and I was calmed by the soothing colors page after page.  I also flipped the pages of my new House Beautiful, which is all about the color blue, and again, certain shades drew me in.  Alas, too late.  No more painting in my house!!! 
Although having said that, I do plan to do something different in the studio.  It will be lovely, but it will also be a while.  Can't think about that til the room is cleared.
Meanshile Valentine's Day is a week away and I want to do something crafty again this year.  Last year I wrapped large Hershey bars with scrapbook paper, which was inexpensive and still nice.  But I'm feeling more adventurous this year. 
I can certainly repackage seeds to give as gifts.
And I can use decorative paper to wrap boxes of chocolates or cans of hot cocoa mix.
I can actually reach my stash of brown paper bags in the studio, so adding a tiny potted plant inside and tying on a ribbon or bow is within my power. 
I bought a new roll of wax paper yesterday so punching tissue paper hearts to sandwich between 2 sheets and iron would be no trouble.  I can always bake more tiny loaves of my pumpkin bread to tuck inside.  No one ever gets tired of that little treat!
And we all know I have hundreds of old rusty keys.  This idea from Better Homes & Gardens is something I can manage.
But why not make lots of paper hearts in all shapes and sizes and scatter them around?   Leave one in a neighbor's mailbox or tucked under their door knocker...under windshield wipers if the rain ever stops...tuck one into the pages of a library book...leave one with your tip next time you're out for dinner...mail an envelope full to the doctor's office or to the vet...
You get the idea.  Be clever.  Be kind.  Be back...