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Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is finally upon us. I have been working like a madwoman trying to get everything ready for the bewitching hour. There are last minute decorations to be placed in the yard today and one pumpkin left to carve of the dozen brought home from the pumpkin patch.

Thankfully I live in a community that doesn't freak out about Halloween making it akin to devil worship. Instead, it's a fun time for kids to dress up like Spiderman and load up on candy. Just like it was when I was a kid and that's the way I like it. My particular neighborhood also has a tradition of trick-or-treating for adults with adult beverages left in a cooler next to the kids candy bowl.

Last year our house was the biggest scare of the neighborhood. Hopefully the word will get around and that will draw a few more trick-or-treaters this year. I have one of those fancy fog machines and despite the fancy price tag it doesn't seem to be working properly after several attempts yesterday. I'm giving it one more chance today and hopefully it will come around and play nice. Last year MrG scared the costumes off some of the kids in the neighborhood with The Talking Skull. He put it beside the candy bowl and when the kids had taken their candy, the skull said, "Happy Halloween" with a result of much shrieking.

Searching for a last-minute costume idea that fits your foodie personality? Check out these sites.

spaghetti and meatballs

The beet is cute and clever but not sure other kids would know it. From Better Homes & Gardens Unfortunately, it looks like you have to pay for a full description and pattern.

Martha Stewarty tomato, pea pod, pumpkin

At work and at home I've been listening to non-stop Halloween music of all different sorts. I've made a few different Halloween CDs, some scary and some funny for different moods, but they usually get played back to back as they likely will for trick or treaters. The new The White Stripes album has 3 songs on it that pretty well scream Halloween: The Ghost, As Ugly As I Seem, and White Moon so The White Stripes have made it into the CD player a lot in the last few days as well.

I'd love to post photos of the decorated cupcakes, cakes, cookies and truffles I've made recently but dropping my digital camera a few weeks ago made this impossible. I took a few non-digital photos but I won't be able to post them until after processing. Such a pain.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Food TV: We Love To Hate You

Food bloggers. We are a funny and fickle bunch aren't we? We have our food opinions and we love to show them to the world. That is what blogging is about, of course, showing the world (potentially) what one thinks of anything and everything imaginable so it is not surprising to find so many bloggers passionate about food and things relating to food.

I have been a fan of
The Food Network for a long time. Much longer than I have been a fan of cooking and MUCH MUCH longer than I have been a professional pastry chef. I have seen chefs and shows come and go from the Food Network on a regular basis since I began seeing FN on cable more than (egads!) 15 years ago. Some memorable shows that I truly miss like Death By Chocolate with Marcel Desaulniers and How to Boil Water with various hosts (which I do still see pop up on the schedule occasionally) and some shows that I said "good riddance" to like: Malto Mario with guests who sat around and never said anything while Mario Batali hacked up tiny octopii to drown in cream sauce.

Prompted by a
post at Too Many Chefs, I began thinking about all of the 'celebrity chefs' that have made their way into our conversations and thought I would just mention a few of them and see what sort of response I got from readers. I began to list those I felt should be mentioned and the list grew much larger than I anticipated and so, perhaps instead of making one abbreviated post I will make this an ongoing project.

You should expect to see (and I hope you will add your thoughts on) discussions about:
Rachel Ray
Alton Brown
Jamie Oliver
Paula Deen
Tony Bourdain
Low Carb and Loving It
Cook's Magazine (America's Test Kitchen)

If you have a chef you would like to see roasted uh... skewered erm... discussed, post a comment here and I will do some research so I can look like an informed dope instead of an uninformed one.

While not a Food Network personality (yet!), Julie Powell of the Julie/Julia Project is getting a lot of notice. I saw her mentioned at
The Amateur Gourmet, Mona's Apple and via comments:
Something So Clever, Accidental Hedonist, and haverchuk to name a few.
Some of the comments I saw about
Julie's book and new blog:
The main character in the story was constantly swearing or crying. The cleanliness of the kitchen was questionable, which was making me lose my appetite for the French food being prepared. The only eggs I want to read about in a book about cooking are the kind that come from hens. I really did not want to know that the main character was able to pay off her credit cards by selling her own eggs - twice!
There were good reviews of the book as well:
Powell is a talented writer, and her blog remains one of the better examples of that medium to this day. Her writing style --- confessional, self-deprecating, occasionally rambling --- is really well-suited to the blog space, which makes the book version of her story occasionally feel like it's veering off-center. When she's hard at work in the kitchen, her writing is sharp and self-assured --- but Powell strays off-track a few too many times into less central aspects of her life (and especially her friends' lives) that, frankly, aren't that interesting. One wishes she would keep her focus on the food --- but when she does concentrate on that, Powell is so good you're ready to forgive her the errant lapses (at least until they happen again.)
Well, the reviewer gave the book 3 out of 5 stars, anyway.

She misses the whole point of blogging, to my mind - the act of sharing something important with other people. If I didn't want anyone to see or read my journal entries, I'd write them in Word or use one of those actual pencil-thingies to jot everything down, far away from the peering masses. But I *do* want to share, to dip my toe into the kitchens, the craft corners, the homes of other bloggers while laying mine a bit open as well. There's a sense of community, of shared experience, of simply getting to know other passionate people and watching along as they learn and discover. THAT's what brings me here, and what keeps me writing and photographing away on my own blog.
Sad she missed the very best part of blogging. Her loss, but all of our gain.

Nicely put, Kathy.

I admit that before today I don't recall hearing about Julie Powell and had never visited the Julie/Julia Project while it was in progress. I read her last entry written the day after Julia Childs' death and found it to be uninteresting except for the blast of cursing near the beginning. While I myself have moments when a $0nofab!tc# or a f*c& is effective in conveying a certain feeling, I don't think it should be relied upon as a writing tool. Julie obviously disagrees as her posts (and apparently her book) are reminiscent of a visit with one afflicted with
Tourette Syndrome.

This Celebrity Chef Love/Hate discussion will continue. I welcome your comments. Agree or disagree or just mention a chef you feel is important.

A Little Whine, A Little Cheese, A Little Blogging, If You Please

You may roll your eyes, it's okay. Rhyming post titles are lame in the worst way but *I* am the worst way (or perhaps being German it is the wurst way).

The Whine:
I have been busy. I do enjoy the blogging experience but it takes time and I am prone to laziness on occasion. My blog's former description, "A procrastinator's view of blogdom" was perhaps more appropriate. I would like to say, I'll try to post more diligently but really, you do get what you pay for.

The Cheese:
I know you can't get enough cheese. And since my blog is The Power of Cheese, I should have a thoroughly cheesy post once in a blue moon.

Nothin' says lovin' like a message written in cheese from a can. Patrick's Cheese-o-matic can seems to have temporarily run out of the glorious orange goo but see the fun messages written by others.

Send a
virtual cheese greeting from Cheese of the Month Club.
Or try
this virtual cheese from the Tillamook, Oregon Cheese Factory.

Wisconsin they don't allow you near the cheese... But in Vermont they don't seem to mind your tootsies wriggling through the whey.

Someone once gave me this book as a joke and I actually read it. Now they need a cartoon mouse to tell you how to deal with change? But, a site that lets you click a cheese for more info... well, who wouldn't love that?

Blessed are the cheesemakers, for even they are affected by the wrath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Cheese Market News tells us that, since as much as 70 percent of the North American supply of polyethylene and polypropylene resins used to make packaging for cheese, milk and other dairy products are manufactured along the Gulf Coast, recent hurricanes continue to spell big trouble for the dairy industry.
[A side note that has nothing to do with food other than your ability to cart it from the market, reduced availability of polypropylene will also affect the production and cost of new vehicles made in the US in the next couple of years. Interior door panels, dash boards and many bumpers as well as numerous clips and clamps that hold cars together (though most people never see or pay attention to these things) are manufactured using plastics including polypropylene. I know this tidbit of info because of my former life in a plastics factory. So, if you're in the market for a new vehicle, get it soon.]

So finally after a short break you have a post on your plate. What will you do with it now?
I'm being too weird aren't I? I believe I may need more sleep... or perhaps more coffee.

I recently broke my digital camera but MrG has endeavored to buy me a new one... isn't he a doll?

Check out the Halloween links on the sidebar.
Also not found on the Halloween sidebar but worth checking out: Martha's last minute costume ideas. Love the jelly fish!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Google Me

As said by Memoirs of a Married Mad Man:
Egregiously lifted from Views from the Back Row who pilfered it from Ago-go, who stole it from the lovely Kalani, who stole.....

Directions:Go to Google and click on the images link. Type in the following and post the first (or your favorite - I did first for each) picture the search engine finds.

- The name of the town where you grew up
- The name of the town where you live now
- Your name
- Your Grandmother’s name (pick one)
- Your favorite food
- Your favorite drink
- Your favorite song
- Your favorite smell

The town where I grew up

This is really a gorgeous picture of it. You see where the St. Croix meets the Mississippi River.

Where I live now

(In that cloud somewhere, I think.)

My name

I'm a Finnish Wolf? That's cool.

My nickname resulted in this

But my nickname actually comes from this

My Grandmother's name

I'm sure she'd be pleased (yeah, right!).

My favorite food

My favorite drink

I don't do whipped cream, but it looks pretty.

My favorite song

Boop boop be doop.

And finally.... my favorite smell

I promise to have original thoughts flowing again very soon. No, really!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Weekend Cake Contest

I am willing to learn by the seat of my pants. Every job I've ever held was learned in this manner. Every thing I've ever done was done with little or no professional training in a classroom setting.

The extent of my schooling to become a pastry chef was two weekend classes at my local community college before I jumped in headlong and went to it the best I could, listening and watching intensely those around me who had experience and the knowledge I needed to gain.

I've been a pastry chef and cake decorator for just over 1 year. Think about that, 1 year. I decorated this cake my first week of my first decorating job.

This is a lot of beginner's luck and a little bit of art (painting) experience. And a whole lot of listening to those who knew what they were doing when I didn't know what I was doing.
I finally feel like I'm beginning to know what I'm doing but I'm not ready to get cocky about it just yet.

I received a notice of a cake contest a while back and my boss suggested that I enter. I declined to enter but I felt I should go and see the contest to know what the competition was like if I decided to go for it next year.

The contest turned out to be much smaller than I anticipated. I'm debating whether the small number of entrants would be a good thing or a bad thing. See, with less competition, it may be easier to win, however, while the contest had a small turnout, so did the crowd who came to see the contest.

I'm not really looking to build a following since I doubt my ability to own my own pastry company. I particularly doubt it after seeing a former employer lose herself and what her company stood for in the early days to become self-propelled by greed.

Making the decision to enter a decorating contest would be purely for a professional pat on the back. (In other words, it looks good on the resume'.) The problem with that is, does it really look good to a potential employer? If the contest is no big deal, it's less likely to make an impact to the potential employer whether I won or not. Either winning or not winning, I would be putting forth a ton of effort that I may not have to spare. But this is all just a lot of projecting, now isn't it? Let's get to the cakes already.

The contest had two categories for entry: individual and professional. I found out at the contest that by professional, they meant companies doing business and not, as I wondered, by professional decorators at home. There were also two categories by which the cakes would be judged: most original and best tasting. The theme was Birthday.

These were some of the cakes made by individuals. While I was there, I found out the judging for 'most original' was actually done by the crowd(?) attending, by which they would put a tiny pompon into a cup labelled with the person's name. Not exactly the most precise of systems. This cake was clearly in the lead at the time I was there:

Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but if the votes are to be cast for most original, well, there seems to be another Alice in Wonderland cake right along side this one. This one is beautiful and must have taken literally hours to decorate, but it is not most original (also note that I was considering a Wonderland theme, if I were to enter).

Then we have the professionals. Area companies that put their name on the line in the eyes of anyone who attended the contest. The restaurant I work for had considered entering but I don't think they ever actually got around to sending in the entry fee.

All nice and worthy of the crowd's attention. However there was this one:

I realize it's hard to see more here than a beach scene. What you can't quite see are Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers in the water portion of the decoration and (this is the part that made me cringe, as a professional) on the beach and in the water are Teddy Graham cookies with bathing suits painted on. Now, don't get me wrong, Teddy Grahams are great for a home baker to put on a kids cake, but for a professional, this just seemed so... chintzy. Is that too harsh? Am I simply missing out on the new craze in what customers want from their bakery? I don't have an answer to that, but I do know one thing, if my owner won't allow colored sprinkles (aka Jimmies), there's no way she's allowing Teddy Grahams on her cakes.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Lemming Tell You Something About Food

I don't know who David Lebovitz is, other than a guy who wrote a chocolate book and blogs about food. From what I can gather (in the amount of time I have spent reading blogs the last few weeks, which is very little time, actually), he's a generous sort of guy and friendly with The Amateur Gourmet.

So, why am I writing about someone I know very little about? Because he put one of those fun listy things on his blog and invited me (well, not just me, but anybody who was reading) to make one of my own listy things and it looked like fun.

Mr. Lebovitz (because I doubt we're on a first-name basis, seeing as how we haven't been properly introduced) called his fun listy thing:

Culinary Confessions

I smell everything before I eat it.

I slurp my soup and scrape my teeth on my fork.

I have a peanut sensitivity but sometimes I eat peanut butter anyway because I love it sooooo much.

If no one is looking, I lick my dessert plate.

I use the same coffee spoon every day for a week, without washing it.

I have eaten the same thing for breakfast nearly every day for 3 years.

I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for over 15 years, which caused me to develop a peanut senisitivity.

I have an unopened box of graham crackers in my cupboard with an expiration date of March 2004, and I refuse to throw it away.

I work in a restaurant surrounded by other people every day but I feel claustrophobic if anyone else is in my kitchen with me at home.

I watch contestants starving on Survivor while I have a glass of wine, crackers and cheese.

I think it's hysterical when people make up food allergies to avoid eating something they don't like. (Some day I'm going to have a 'tap water' allergy.)

If I convince myself that a cookie is healthy, I'll eat it before breakfast.

I like my cookies a little burned.

I often replace salted butter for unsalted butter in recipes because I like salty and sweet together (I'll usually take out any additional salt called for in the recipe, though).

I've eaten fish I knew was bad and I didn't get sick.

Active yeast scares me.

I'm a food segregator (I don't allow different foods on my plate to touch) and my favorite plates are the ones with compartments.

I drink instant coffee.

So there is my fun listy thing. Now it's your turn.
And just so you're aware, due to the amount of comment spam I have been receiving, you must now copy those weird stretchy letters that never actually spell anything into the little box before your comments will be accepted. I know, I hate those things too but I also hate getting all the messages about the best car insurance out there. I hope that this doesn't keep my pals from commenting, just the spam scum.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Blogging By Mail2

Samantha of The Samantha Files came up with a great way for bloggers to get to know each other: Blogging By Mail. The idea is that bloggers from all over (meaning, the world) express interest in sending packages of food items specifically from the area they reside or homebaked items that would travel well and keep fresh long enough to endure shipment along with some background information (recipes, or where sent items came from)... i.e. blogging by mail.

I received my Blogging By Mail package today from Lulu of Lulu Loves Manhattan.

The items didn't travel well in the FedEx bag. Marzipan cookies became crumbs and the raisin hazelnut flute bread was quite dry and unappealing by the time it arrived. Lulu's items came from Le Pain Quotidien bakery in Manhattan. Lulu didn't say whether this is a bakery she frequents or if this was simply a passing fancy.

Hopefully, Lulu will check in and let us know some background info on the items she sent.
Thanks, Lulu!