Thursday, March 18, 2010

My "new" cousin Evelyn

After my dad passed away in October, I began having my his mail forwarded to our house in California. I received a few Christmas cards from folks who hadn't gotten the news, so I wrote them back and thanked them for being a part of my dad's life.

One of the people I wrote to was my dad's cousin Evelyn, who as it turns out, lives less than 45 minutes away! We'd never met, but Brett and I went to meet her last week. We weren't sure what it would be like to meet her, but we ended up staying hours longer planned. She was fascinating.

As a 20-something in the 1940s, she left the Schenectedy, NY area to teach overseas. She lived in Japan (and visited Hiroshima after the bomb), Paris (before DeGaulle kicked NATO out of France), and Germany (during the rebuilding years). She even took a tour of Russia during communism.

She also had some stories about my great grandmother (who apparently wasn't a very nice lady), a family member who emigrated from Germany and lost a young child on the voyage, and favorite family recipes that we still make today. She was especially happy to learn that I had kept all of my grandmother's pans for making some of those special treats.

I learned that her birthday is June 22nd and the she hasn't had a Dobosch Torte in 60 years. Let's just say I have a new birthday written in my calendar, and my pans are ready :-)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My love of Shamrocks

My mom loved her shamrocks, and because of her, so do I. She had two ginormous plants in our dining room, and when I moved to DC and got my first place, she took some from her pots and hand carried them on the plane when she came to visit.

I promptly killed that offspring, and after watering the dirt for a few weeks (mom's suggestion) - one lonely stalk came back. She promised it would grow. Then I shut my blinds at work and accidentally clipped the pot, chopping the fledgling stalk in two. At that point I gave up. Maybe they aren't so lucky for me....

I was shamrock free until Saturday when I saw this fat plant at Trader Joe's. I'm going to try it again. Wish me luck....and Happy St Patrick's Day Mom :-)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My failed (1st attempt) at French Macarons

I've been wanting to make French Macarons for a while, but after reading up about all the issues people have had with them, I've been procrastinating. Unlike brownies where you just mix and bake, macarons require some solid technique. Technique I apparently don't have. My goal was to make salt caramel macarons. I was off to a good start with the salt caramel filling....

....and it seemed like the macaron shells were ok (though a bit big given my limited piping abilities)...

But when it came time to assemble the baked cookies, it was clear something wasn't right. Some of the cookies had the desired "foot" while others didn't, and they were crunchy like meringue. Not crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Plus - some cracked while others didn't. Sigh. They taste ok, and they appear to be sucking some moisture out of the caramel filling, but I may just have to buy my macarons in the future. Either that, or obsess until I get it right.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Our new kitchen island

Ok, Ok. I know most people don't get excited about things like kitchen islands, but for me, I was thrilled when this was delivered from the local restaurant supply company. It gives us TONS of work space, is virtually indestructible, cheaper than Ikea, and it reminds me of my volunteer days at cooking school. Perfecto!