Friday, March 22, 2019

Foodie Friday - The Irish Table

My Irishness is with me all the time but for the week of St. Paddy's Day,  I emphasize it.  I read  a little from James Joyce to enjoy the genius of  his language structure, pull out my Yeats and Seamus Heaney to enjoy their lyrical tones, and  make Irish Scone to enjoy the culinary sweetness of the culture.  And today I have a special treat for all of you.
Last week I attended a cooking class at the Sweet Basil Gourmetware and Cooking School in Scottsdale. This shop  is a wonderful venue for the culinary arts and it also has a cafe and a wide variety of kitchen gadgets and cookery items in the shop area.  If you're in the Phoenix area and enjoy cooking in your kitchen then you should treat yourself to a class at Sweet Basil.

  The class I took was The Irish Table.  It's not the kind of class where you sit and take notes, you work and Chef Linda Martin is there to guide the way. It was fabulous. I enjoyed it immensely.  Seven items were on our menu for the night and we could choose or were assigned which item to cook.  There were at least 10 people in the class and my task along with another woman was the salad - the easiest task. The one I wanted (hand pies)was already taken. Everyone was enthusiastic and ready for the experience.  And Linda kept everything running smoothly.

Linda is a Le Cordon Blue trained chef who enjoys sharing her craft and knowledge with those who attend her classes.  As a kitchen designer I know Linda from attending events in various showrooms throughout the Valley.  Linda would often demonstrate the brilliance of cooking on the appliances such as Decora at the design industry meetings.  The menu items were always delicious.

The Irish Table Menu: Beef Pasties (Hand Pies), Purple Cabbage & Pecan Salad, Irish Lamb and Vegetable Stew, Cottage Pie, Traditional Soda Bread, Colcannon, Apple Cake with Whiskey Hard Sauce.  Yum.   We couldn't wait to get started.  One of the nice things about taking these classes is that Linda hands out recipes so you have a copy of  them to take home.

My First Helping

We all did a super job with fun conversation, a good show of humor and a great display of team work.  And Linda went from work station to work station and kept an eye on everything we were doing and kept us on schedule.  The food was all so good.
 I'll share one of the recipes with all of you.


2 1/2 c of flour
3/4 c + 2 TBSP sugar, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3/4 c buttermilk
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and roughly chopped
Powder sugar for dusting.

1/3 c sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c Irish whiskey
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 inch cake pan with cooking spray
and line it with a circle of parchment.
Combine flour 3/4 c sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles damp sand.
Stir in eggs, one at a time.  Add buttermilk and mix on medium high for 60 to 90 seconds, to aerate the batter and build the cake's structure. 
Fold in the chopped apples and transfer to the prepared pan. Top with remaining 2 TBSP sugar.
Bake for 45 - 50 min. or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cake cool for at least 10 min before turning onto the serving platter.

Making the Sauce:

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a small  pot and whisk.
Slowly drizzle in the cream while whisking.
Stir in the whiskey
Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally, until boiling and thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Before Serving: 

Dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Serve the sauce on the side.

Good food and good conversation, you can't do better than that.

Slainte (good health).

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Top O' the Morning to Ya - 2019

Happy St. Paddy's Day everyone.

They say it's a great day to be Irish, but I think everyday is a great day to be Irish.  I have my rituals for this day.  My day starts off celebrating the culinary aspects of my ancestry with the making of Irish Scone.  Then I move onto the literary genius of the Emerald Isle by indulging myself in poems by Yeats.  I am a writer so everyday is probably a celebration to this aspect of the Irish culture.  At some point I will don an appropriate tee and head out to get an Irish coffee or at least a whiskey drink.

Anyone who knows me,  knows that I'm proud of my Irish mother, of her courage to sail to America and begin a new life.  Like many Irish women of that era she sailed alone.  In fact, the first immigrant to go through the immigration process at Ellis Island  was an Irish woman traveling alone - Annie Moore.  Annie Moore was 15 when she made that trip.

My scone is out of the oven.  If you go out tonight, be safe and call an Uber if you take in a little too much whiskey/Guinness.  Slainte.


Friday, March 8, 2019

De-cluttering is a Powerful Tool.

Never underestimate the effect of clutter in your life.  Clutter can strangle you.  It can absorb your energy as soon as you enter a room.  Sometimes it's best to dispose of everything and start anew.  This is not always necessary and not always a good idea.  What is necessary is to know what items in your home give you support and energy and what items stagnate your energy.  Healthy energy tends to flow unimpeded which often makes de-cluttering a necessary process at some point in time.  I have helped many clients decide what stays and what goes in their homes.  

I have a wonderful client who is the midst of de-cluttering.  Like most of us, she has acquired a lot of stuff.  She had six children all living at home at one time, so you can imagine all the stuff.  She has recently completed  a major task of clearing out and reorganizing a row of cabinets above her peninsula.  The cabinets can now be removed which will open up the kitchen to other living areas in the home.  Now, that's success.
As a designer I always think of de-cluttering as a task necessary to keep life simple, your energy healthy and moving, and the energy in your home alive and welcoming. And I have advised many of my clients that if  you are constantly tired or feel stuck then clean out your closet.  Recently I've run into this process in a different way. 

As a writer, I attend various book related conferences and festivals throughout the country.  Last weekend I attended the Tucson Book Festival and the very first workshop/presentation I attended (drum roll please) was, you guessed it, about de-cluttering:  Whack Wordiness, De-cluttering your Writing.  I had to laugh when I saw it in the brochure and, of course, I had to attend the session. It was fun and worthwhile and when I'm done my rough draft and start the revision process, I will take heed of her instructions.

So, my point is that de-cluttering is a powerful tool which can effect every part of your life.

Have a healthy and happy Friday everyone. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Foodie Friday - The Beet Red Devil Cake

Happy Friday everyone.

I found this great recipe in the  Movie Night Menus Cookbook and today is a perfect day to make it.  I've never made a chocolate cake using beets before so I am excited to try it.  The weather is nasty out and we probably won't be going to dinner or happy hour, but not all is lost.

This beautiful looking cake just came out of the oven.  It still needs to cool and I still need to make the icing and then  put it all together so I'll add a picture of the actual cake when we sit down to dessert tonight. It pairs well with a raspberry gin cocktail.

Below is the recipe.  I fussed over this cake more so than most cakes made from scratch but I'm sure it will taste superb.

For the Cake:

1 can of sliced beets (15oz)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 c veg oil
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c white flour
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat Oven to 350 deg.  Butter & flour two 9" cake pans.

In a blender, puree the beets along with 1/2 c of their juice.  Add eggs and blend until frothy.  Then pour the contents into a large mixing now and add sugar, oil, vanilla and salt.

In a smaller bolw, whisk together flour, cocoa and baking soda.  Sift these dry ingredients into the egg mixture in 4 stages, mixing well between each addition.

Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool, then run a knife around the edge of the pan, like you would for  any other layer cake,  before inverting.   Make sure it's cook before frosting.  In fact, you may want to stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to make sure.  That way it won't tear when you are spreading the frosting.

For the chocolate frosting:

12 OZ bittersweet chocl, if using bars then chop it,
1 3/4 c heavy cream
1/2 sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
Fresh raspberries for garnish

In a double boiler warm the choc and heavy cream over simmering water. Stir until completely melted,
Remove the pan from the burner and cool about 10 min.  Then add the sour cream and salt.
Stir until combined.
Set the frosting aside until it reaches room temperature. Then whisk it just until it thickens and turns a shade lighter in color.
With a small spatula spread the frosting on the top of  bottom layer first, then the top layer.
Garnish with raspberries if desired.

 The cake taste so good.  I had plenty of icing but I prefer lite icing on a cake.  Normally you put about an inch in the middle.

When eating this you would never know it was made with a vegetable like beets. According to the cookbook, the red devil cake was popular during the 1930s and  made extra moist with the addition of beets.

 Buon Appetito.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

In The Woodworker Shop - The Closet

Our workshop is full of wood in various stages of becoming something else. We have three projects going on simultaneously that involve shelving of some sort.

Projects work out better when you begin with a thoughtful plan that gives the client a vision of what the space will be like when completed.  While people agree with that when it comes to kitchens, bathrooms, offices they often just want to put shelves and rods randomly in the closet space. Resist the urge. Plan the closet space.

Closets are all about storage.  It helps if you know what you want to store in the closet before you start construction.  There are basically only two types: wall or reach-in closet, or a walk-in closet. Regardless which type you have in the room, think about what you want to store in it before you start any modifications. What you need to store will determine what you need to build. 

There are basic components that you will need to include:  Rods for long and/or short items,  open shelving of various heights, and some shoe space.  Think about whether or not you need drawers.  A wall closet is only 24" deep so that will be all wall but a walk-in closet could include drawers if you need them. If you have a lot of scarves than you may want a drawer, but scarves can also go on hangers with the blouse they accessorize or on open shelves or hooks.  Drawers are optional and need space for opening them.  Another issue with drawers is that they tend to be expensive compared to just shelves and rods.  Drawers need hardware - full extension glides and knobs/pulls. Our clients were right on top of their storage needs, so we just had to build, paint  and install.

The pictures on the right shows the various pieces necessary for this project. This job will be built on site. The shelves are done and the gray paint is being applied.  We spray paint our cabinets/shelves.  We have about 30 shelves with these units.

Installation day:

Wall Two
wall three

wall five
Wall four

  Lots of storage.