Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just as grateful on a Tuesday

Well, one of the problems with this "Post x on this day of the week" is that it is painfully obvious how late I am.  All the time.  Anyway.

31.  My KitchenAid mixer that powers through endless batches of chocolate chip cookies, bread dough and, now, meringue.
32.  Neil Cavuto.  (I know, I just think he seems really nice and super smart.)
33.  The rawhide my dog gets so much joy from.
34.  My sons' Sunday School teachers.  Actually I love all my children's teachers, a fortunate position, but I'm feeling the love for a couple in particular today.
35.  Rain.  How better to appreciate the sun when it comes?
36.  Smart doctors, although I'm getting tired of being grateful for this one.
37.  My own healthy family.
38.  A cleaning service. 
39.  Smart bloggers and the millions of voices you can hear, thanks to the Internet.  The less-smart ones are also fun, and sometimes hysterical.  I should share some of my guilty pleasures sometime.
40.  Boy Scouts.

Often this list feels so banal, but it is fun to come up with ten things that I stop and appreciate, just for a second.  I've been at this for a month, not always on a Monday, but I think I'll try to keep it up.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dang it, late again!

My French Fridays with Dorie posts are rapidly devolving into "French some-days or other whenever I can get around to posting and Dorie probably won't be waiting around for me anyway" posts.  I will point out that I actually made this on Monday/Tuesday of last week.  Was it good?  Double-chocolate mousse cake did not make it past Tuesday at my house.  Yummmmmmm.

The "cake" is actually chocolate mousse, cooked in a springform pan in two stages.  First, the chocolate is melted in a double boiler, and then the coffee, sugar and egg yolks are added.  Here is the dense chocolate mixture after the last egg yolk is added:

Then the egg whites are whipped and folded in.  No pictures, sorry.

At this point you have dee-lish-us mousse, and actually I would have been fine stopping here.  (And eating it all straight out of the pan, thankyouverymuch.) But now you put about 1/3 into a springform ring placed on a cookie sheet:

This bakes into a soft "crust" that forms the basis for the next step.  You can either place the remainder of the mousse into the crust, unmold and enjoy; or place the remainder into the crust, bake, and enjoy; or place the remainder into the crust, bake, chill again, slice and enjoy.  I did the full monty for two reasons: first, it's Dorie's favorite; and second, I'd know if it would be worth the extra steps and time the next time I make this, because there WILL be a next time. 

If you look very closely you can see that there is a bottom "crust" that is more dense than the top part.  I served this with a little dollop of whipped cream.  It is dense and chocolatey, really delicious.  Four thumbs up from the kiddos plus big thumbs up from Bill.  One son said it tasted like a brownie, and he's kind of right.  But this is perfectly smooth, not grainy or gooey at all.  Next time I think I'll stop with the uncooked filling, well-chilled.  It is fluffy and light and so chocolatey.  (Yes, I know about eating raw eggs. I'll eat it all myself, if necessary.) This week was definitely a winner!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday--time to be grateful

We just finished five--count 'em, FIVE--snow and ice days here, which means that the kids have been out of school for ten straight days.  (They have today off for MLK day.) This week has been a high-wire act of schedule-juggling.  I suppose I have plenty to be thankful for:

21.  Grandparents who can watch the kids while I man the shop.
22.  And neighbors.
23.  Canned soup.
24.  My husband's four-wheel drive vehicle.  Somehow he never missed a single day of work.  Oh, wait.
25.  My friend Ann's excellent white blood cell count which enabled her to have chemo last week, after a three-week wait.
26.  Bayville Blue paint in my girls' room.  So pretty, and if I can find my son's camera I'll add a picture so you can actually see it.
27.  Peppermint sticks and the
28.  Ponies who love them.
29.  Giggly girls.  I know it won't last forever but it is music for now.
30.  Homemade chocolate chip cookies, with pecans from my uncle's trees.

May you have a wonderful and snow-free week!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gnocchi Thank You!

Just because all the dishes are dirty doesn't mean the food's worth eating!
A little late this week with my French Fridays with Dorie post, in which I, along with a couple hundred other crazies, am cooking my way through Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.  This week:  Gnocchi a la Parisienne.

Right up front:  Fail.  Big time.  But you know how it is--the good dishes are all alike.  The bad ones are each interesting in their own way.  And away we go...

Wow!  Need to use a filter on these pictures...my beater is white!
This is a two-part dish.  The "gnocchi" are really a pate a choux, the same dough used in the gougeres and cream puffs and eclairs.  Here is the glossy dough.  Can you hear it?  It's saying, "Make the pastry cream!  Ganache, too! We'll be ready!" Sadly, though, it was not to be.  The gnocchi are made by dropping little pieces of the dough in hot salted water for a few minutes, like pasta, and then scooping them out to dry.  I tasted one.  It was a little doughy, with a cooked exterior.  Then I had to taste several more, and even though they were oddly habit forming I can't say they were good.  Rather what a boiled flat cream puff ought to taste like.

The little gnocchi are coated with the second part of the dish, the bechamel.  Bechamel is one of the classic four mother sauces and is made by making a paste of flour and butter, cooking it, and then adding hot milk.  Then I added nutmeg, salt and pepper.  It was very, very thick, more like a paste or goo than an actual sauce.  I don't think that was right but I figured I'd take a chance.
Run away, little gnocchi!  The Bechamel is coming!
Here is a picture of the gnocchi being attacked covered by the blob of bechamel.  This dish was not looking good.  I forged ahead.  At this point about 3/4 of the pots that I own were dirty, so why not?  (This is one of the recipes that makes it obvious that Dorie has someone else cleaning her dishes.)  So there was a topping of cheese, grated Emmentaler and Parmesan in my case.  And a further dotting of butter. 

Just out of the oven,  lovely!  Dorie called it kind of a French version of mac-and-cheese, comfort food.  But I found it heavy, too rich and a sad waste of choux paste.  As for the kids, J loved it, but he loves almost everything.  D was lukewarm on it, while for M and P one bite was plenty.  And Bill, he just said, "That was the most complicated macaroni and cheese I've ever seen." 

No gnocchi in our future.  But that's what this FFwD is all about, stepping outside my comfort zone.  I think very little of this was due to the my cooking; it just wasn't the kind of food we like.  What do we like?  How about this mac and cheese recipe, for starters.  Oh, and it all goes down better with a Winter Mojito.  Cheers!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Morning Gratitude

A great time to stop before the week gets underway.  Actually today we have a little enforced leisure because of...

11.  Snow!  And ice, of course.  You can't have snow in the South without some ice on the side. 
12.  Pets whom we love and who love us. 
13.  A wonderful sermon which gave me a week's worth of thinking in the first five minutes.
14.  Handknit hats.
15.  Snuggling on the couch with the kids to watch a movie.
16.  The paperwhites which bloomed.  This is the first time I've successfully forced bulbs in the in winter.
17.  Brownie mix. 
18.  Photos.  We are so documented now.  Have you ever stopped to think how amazing it is that we have gazillions of images of last week, last year, ten years ago?  Imagine what it was like 150 years ago, when you only had your memory.
19.  Watching my children grow and nurture friendships.
20.  Emergency workers who are out working to make sure we are safe, even though the roads are really bad today.  (I got the road report from my husband who is at the office right now.)

Time for the second cup.  One child has still not emerged from his room.  I'd say that is taking full advantage of a lazy day!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Revisiting "Open to Buy"

I don't "shop blog" much.  Oh, the stories I could tell--maybe someday.  But a little while back I blogged about a way of managing my buying, called "Open to Buy."  I wanted to offer a little insight into how it is working out.

Wow...a budget!  It was tough to get used to having to pick and choose what to purchase.  There are tons of nice items to choose from, many would actually sell and more that would be nice to have in the shop.  But OtB forced me to prioritize--what do I have to keep on hand to keep people coming back?  What can I push to the next month?  Have I exhausted the demand for that item?  Hard questions sometimes.

We made it through the fall and Christmas rush very well, though.  I over-spent, by just a little, a couple of months, but according to the OtB system you need to do that as you head into your busier months.  Then you pull way back as you head into your down season, so that your inventory leads your sales more closely.  I am thrilled to say that we have come into the new year in a much healthier cash position than we had six months ago! 

Right now I'm assessing where we go in the waning months of winter and into our down season, late spring and summer.  I have time to add some fun things for winter yet, but I'm also keeping an eye to what I need to pick up for spring.  Unlike last year, I've given myself a framework to make decisions from.  It really limits the shop in some ways, but it ensures that we'll be around for busy seasons yet to come. 

One additional good point is that even when I've taken some riskier positions in inventory, I've been able to manage that risk by knowing how the position compares to the overall sales of the shop.  I've taken more calculated risks this year.  That includes holding sales--I've known how a sale is going to affect my inventory levels and thus my following month's purchasing.  Very interesting. 

Enough shop talk...time to gather the kids and head to church.  And if you ever want to visit a really cute yarn shop in Peachtree City, Georgia, you can google just that and come and see us!

Friday, January 7, 2011

French Friday with Mushrooms

I'm back with my next recipe from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.  This week it was Paris Mushroom Soup.

This is how my girls sliced the 1-1/2 pounds of mushrooms that go into the soup.  The egg slicer makes quick work of the mushrooms with no risk of little fingers getting sliced.

Once the soup has simmered a while, making the whole house smell warm and yummy, you can either use an immersion blender or place the soup into blender.  This was the inaugural job for my new RED immersion blender.  While it was chunkier than it would have been had I used the blender, it was super fast and only made one dish dirty.

This is the finished soup.  The book doesn't have a photo (that I saw) and I think I know why.  It isn't very appetizing looking!  But the taste:  wonderful!  Musky and warm, perfect for an overcast and cold winter evening.  All the kids tasted it and enjoyed it.  J had two full bowls and M had one.

We served this with a small green salad, and the leftovers of roast chicken from the night before.  Delicious.  I'll make it again!

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Monday Gratitude

I have a friend whose blog I follow, and she's been posting things she's grateful for each week. It is a good exercise and, since I'm completely unoriginal, I am going to copy her. But of course I'll aim lower...for now just ten things I'm grateful for each week. Seems pretty pitiful considering my abundant life but you have to start somewhere.

1. The town I live in--our neighborhood had a couple of break-ins over the holidays, but I must have gotten ten emails that were passed around as soon as it happened, and the crooks were caught before Christmas. People like to complain but that is pretty quick!
2. My cool keyboard that I'm typing on right now, that goes with my iPad. Not sure how blogging from the iPad will be but I'm game for a couple of posts. There's an app for Blogger that I'm not using...maybe next time.
3. New rooms for all my kids. The boys and the girls each shared a room until three days ago. The girls had wanted to split up, but that required new carpet, blah blah blah, but then finally they were ready to make the move. Then out of nowhere the boys wanted to split up, too! I'm reeling from the change, and upstairs looks like a tornado hit, but I'm looking forward to seeing how their individual personalities are revealed in their own spaces.
4. The very delicious coffee my husband makes for me each and every morning with the French Press.
5. A final day off before school and the real-life whirlwind begin again. Time for that last little bit of coffee and then cleaning up.
6. The cool pancake squirter that lets me make very good happy-face pancakes in the morning. I'm afraid that a picture will have to come later. J is also thankful for that.
7. A cat who somehow always ends up on my bed, snuggled by my feet, in the morning.
8. Children who are bookworms.
9. Exact change.
10. A new page on the calendar and a fresh start! We are excited to see what 2011 brings.

Have a wonderful day. I will try to make this more link-y as I go along, especially to link to the other blogs!