Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve

Today's projects were to make a couple of pies (for tomorrow) and prepare our Christmas Eve feast. I'd made the pie crust and roasted the sweet potatoes for a chocolate sweet potato pie already so all I had to do was roll out the crust and mix up the filling. I got out of work early today and that allowed me time to get the pies done before the ducks had to go into the oven.
Chocolate Sweet Potato Pie
The ducks are becoming our own tradition, which is terrific. The traditional Christmas dinner at my parents was always beef tenderloin and baked stuffed shrimp. Instead we have gravitated to duck which my husband always roasts to perfection. This year he roasted 2 ducks, enough food for the four of us and some meat set aside for soup. The bones will be made into stock, the livers into paté, and I have almost 4 pints of rendered duck fat for cooking.

When we stopped by the grocery store this evening they were out of eggnog. This was a calamity! Fortunately, I found this recipe for eggnog which was really terrific. I only made half the recipe and the other changes were that I used half and half instead of light cream and we used cognac instead of rum.

The elderchild artfully folded the napkins for our Christmas table. None of us wanted to unfold them, they were so nicely done.
After our lovely dinner, we ate ice cream (eggnog and peppermint-hydrox flavors) and watched The Year Without a Santa Claus. Tomorrow, the presents!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tools of the Trade

Remember how, at the beginning of 2015, I wrote about changing jobs and going back to school? Well, the going back to school part is finally happening. It's been a long process as I had to wait to get settled in my new job and for there to be enough staff physicians to free up enough time. Then I had to apply and wait for the final confirmation, which was last week.

Don't get me wrong. I love being a doctor. But it has become clear over the years that life has more to offer. People develop additional interests and passions. Sometimes people change gears entirely. I almost did that but then in my new job I was rejuvenated and reminded of what I love about practicing medicine. Connecting with people, bringing comfort, reassurance and care. Working with talented people who share these priorities in a supportive environment that allows for one's personal and professional lives to thrive. Where I am now provides all that, giving me time to finally do this thing for me:

I am enrolled in the Certificate Pastry Program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Orientation is in two weeks and classes start shortly after.

Today was my uniform fitting and I brought home almost all of the equipment. My coats and chef knife will come later but this is the bulk of it. As soon as I have the full uniform I will post a photo. For now, this will have to do.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Wee Little Lemons

Tablespoon for scale
The other day I brought a holiday gift to our mason and his family. It was nice to see him, as always! He took me out to the greenhouse and picked 4 tiny Meyer lemons off one of his trees and handed them to me. It was just enough for a half-batch of curd.

This morning I zested the lemons and squeezed them, getting 1/4 cup of juice. To this I added 3/8 cup sugar and 1 egg and whisked over a double boiler. Once that was properly mixed, I added 4 T. of unsalted butter and continued whisking and cooking until it was thickened. I now have two tiny jars of curd, about 4 ounces each. I won't be canning them; they can stay in the fridge and I expect they'll be eaten in a few days.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Still Very Warm

The other day it was 65 degrees. Yes, mid-December. All of us in New England are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's like we're collectively shaking our heads, saying, "We are SO in for it next month!" However, the bees are probably the most confused. We went to check on them and my husband took some photos of them flying around. I can't tell if they are foraging as there really isn't anything for them to forage. They were flying slowly. Several of them landed on us and just sat on us for a while. They are eating the fondant and likely some of their own honey and are still numerous. There is plenty of fondant left. I have high hopes they will make it through the winter.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Not Quite Right

Ever since Lisa sent along this recipe for gingerbread cookies I've wanted to make it. Well, the cookies plus the royal icing are truly an all-morning affair. I think it took me three hours to make all the cookies and ice them.
First, the cookies. Lisa said the dough was sticky and she was right. Also, the only holiday-themed cookies cutter I had was a star. As I didn't have enough parchment paper to make it easier, I needed to find a way to transfer the stars to the cookie sheets. I used a pastry scraper. In the beginning they ended up looking like starfish that were running away from something. As time went on, the dough became a little less sticky and it was easier to transfer them and then they looked more as intended. Also, I baked them for only 9 minutes after the first batch which, thankfully, was the batch that looked like fleeing starfish, came out a little toasty.  Some of the more toasty ones became my practice cookies for the icing.

The cookies cool very quickly and so I was able to do the icing at the same time. I probably could have used a wider tip on my decorating bag but I have limited options. Regardless, I made many variations on a star pattern and here they are.

Why is it not quite right? Well, I'll tell you. I spend a chunk of time this morning at the store picking out little tins that were not dented from a larger supply of very dented tins. Yup, you guessed it. The stars don't fit.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Again With the Cranberries

Today's batch of Cranberry-Rhubarb Compote does not contain ghost peppers. I now have another 9 jars for my gift stash. Hopefully I can make some cookies tomorrow; I am hoping to send both jams and cookies this year. More later!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cranberry Problem

If you looked into my spare freezer you would think I have a serious condition with regard to cranberries. I keep buying them when they are on sale and tossing them in the freezer, figuring I'd use them eventually. Well, I think I have 8 bags in the freezer as of today. Fortunately, it's the time of the year for making Cranberry-Rhubarb Compote and filling out the gift stash. My list is maybe a little smaller this year but I'm sure I'll keep coming up with names so I'll likely be back up to the 60+ jars needed in no time.

Today's double batch of compote is spiced up with 1/2 teaspoon ghost pepper powder (thanks to Roxanne) and came to a total of 9 half-pint jars. They are processed for 15 minutes in the boiling water bath and then rest for 5 before cooling. This brings the gift stash up to 38 jars. I have enough ingredients for another double batch of this compote which I'll make another day, without the spice.