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Working Cook January 28, 2010

January 28, 2010 1 comment

Once again, I managed without shopping, although, seriously?  I still stayed way late. I started late, too.  I got there fifteen minutes late.   So I decided to knock fifteen minutes off my final time. Not that it mattered since I stayed until 2PM, but, well.

I had to start with soup, of course.  Mendy needs six cups a week, and everyone wants chicken soup for Shabbos.  So.  Wings and bones into the stockpot, cover with water, set to simmer.  And then there’s the main course. I made breaded chicken cutlets.  Flour, egg, breadcrumbs.  In the oven.  Also, all over the counter because breading is always messy.  Always.  But they looked delicious, I used the right amount of the coatings and it came out well.

Mendy needed ground beef, so I made him some.  I planned this – the ground beef was thawed.  Then the soup  needed to be skimmed – my soup is crystal clear – and I added the cleaned herbs.  Herbs need to be cleaned.  There’s grit and there’s bugs and this is the only way to go – take a pot or a bowl or even a sink if you can spare it and it’s clean.  Fill it with water and veggie wash or, as I do, a touch of dish soap.  The soap is a surfactant that will cause the grit and so on to fall off the herbs, but isn’t enough to taste.  I put the cleaned parsley and dill (YES!  Dill this week!) into the soup pot, and added bay leaves and white pepper.  And I let that simmer.

I began to cut up veggies for the soup – carrots, parsnips, turnip, celery, onion.  But it was getting late and I needed to make the apple kugel.

The Ruach individuals had gotten the dozen apples for which I’d asked.  So I made them the apple kugel for which they’d asked.  Oh, my goodness, SWEET!  This was a job.  I had to peel the apples, core them (I basically cut the apple off the core) and slice them and toss them with sugar and cinnamon.  I had to make the batter – eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice.  I had to combine the two (which broke one of my spatulas) and put them into pans. This took long enough that I didn’t get them in the oven until 12:45.  They cooked for an hour.

But people seemed to like it. It made me, honestly?  Ill.  Too sweet. Too sweet for a dessert, let alone a side dish.

Then I portioned Mendy’s soup – and a quart for Ilya.  And portioned the ground beef for him.  I poured the chicken soup into a different pot, off the bones and the herbs, and added the veggies I’d cut.  I didn’t have time to finish it, so I didn’t simmer the veg.  I also steamed some green beans.  I delivered the food where it needed to go, and I went home.

Later that night, I was walking down Ave M, and I saw some familiar faces – Misha and Mendy and their counselors.  I got a Mendy hug and everything.  I was told the chicken was delicious and that Ilya loved the soup.  And as I walked on with them (I was going in the same direction) there was Shulem, who was also grinning. I love, love, love this.

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Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook January 27, 2010

January 27, 2010 5 comments

I planned today’s cooking around the fact that our supplier (a local supermarket) is stupid.  That is, I had a very limited amount of fresh vegetables and I really didn’t want to go shopping. 

I managed very well, thank you very much.  Of course, that’s normal for my daily game of “Chopped.”  I’d taken out meat to thaw – two packages of ground beef and two of turkey.  The plan was meatloaf.  But Mendy needed turkey, so I took out a package of chicken, too, to thaw.  Because, bird = bird and also, couldn’t find another package of turkey.  I even briefly considered just cooking the chicken and calling it turkey, but decided that would be wrong, because, well. Bird DOESN’T equal bird.

Meanwhile, I got out zucchini and green beans for Mendy, and got the meat loaf prepared.  That meant a grated onion, three finely chopped stalks of celery, two eggs, a fair amount of seasoned bread crumbs, plus pepper and garlic powder.  Then I rolled up my sleeves of my chef’s jacket (sans the apron – I forgot to take an apron!  I missed my apron so MUCH) and dumped in the meat.  And then plunged my hands right in. 

My hand were clean. I wash them pretty compulsively – sometimes it seems when anyone wanders into the house for whatever reason, there I am at the sink, washing my hands.  It’s a good habit, but I do worry about chapping them. Got some nice hand cream today.   I hope I use it.

I made enough for five nice sized meatloaves.  I shaped them, washed my hands (of course) and poured tomato sauce over them, and slid them into the oven.  Meanwhile, I made orzo.  And then it was Mendy time.

Zucchini – ground the bag, added garlic powder, salt, pepper and oil.  Got two servings.  Green beans – all ground, added salt and pepper and oil.  Got four servings for Mendy and one for Misha out of that one.  Then the turkey – cooked it with garlic, paprika, seasoned salt and pepper and oil.  Oil is required for this.  Shlomo walked in and said it smelled good.

Of course it smelled good.  I cooked it.

Ground that up, too.  Got five cups and a serving for Misha.

Took two turkey roasts out – one from our freezer, one from Ruach’s, and put them in the fridge to thaw for Friday.  Took out legs and bones for soup for tomorrow, and cutlets for tomorrow.

Froze three meatloaves, and that was that.

In other news – I got offered a chance to teach a class at HASC.  Just a short class – they want sushi.  We will see, but I want to do it.

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook January 26, 2010

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I have solved the mystery of the vegetable shortage.  And it’s amazingly stupid.

Today was a Mendy day, as Tuesday usually are.  My cutting boards arrived yesterday, so I took them in today.  They were rather heavy and I couldn’t zip my backpack, but once it was on my shoulders, it was fine.  And it was nice seeing the bright red plastic board next to the fleishig sink and the bright blue one near the milchig one.

I got organized – water boiling for the eggs, frozen corn cooking for the corn salad.  An edict has gone throughout the land – no one shall use disposable tableware anymore, and none shall be provided.  We are to use the appropriate real dishes and cutlery provided.  (The result? Boxes of disposable tableware that have already been purchased and are not to be unused.)  This is fine by me.  I cooked the corn in a dairy bowl.  The plastic wrap made it look laminated at the end.

So.  Tuna salad.  Corn salad.  Egg salad.  The culinary sin that is my tilapia.  At this point, btw, Mendy’s mommy (as she introduced herself) showed up.  I’d met her before.  She wore a great deal of make-up and long, straight sheitel, plus a very high-fashion (if modest) outfit at that time.  Today?  Skirt and leggings, no make-up and a wool cap over her head.  Yeah, I think that even if I had the magic of facial recognition, I’d have been confused.  Why was she there?  To bring Mendy all new clothing because he out-grew everything.  How wonderful is that?

When she left, I was pretty much done with the Mendy portion of the day, so I let the fish cool and went shopping – peppers and onions.  When I returned, I stopped by Keshet to collect another milchig pot and a bag of muenster shreds.  I put up a pot of water for pasta and began portioning out the fish.  Just then the grocery order arrived.

Let me explain how I do the grocery order.  I have a form I fill out – Shulem is very organized, and pretty much anything I’ve ever ordered is on this form, with a space for quantity and a space for units (lbs, packages, etc), often with the units filled in already.  And that works really well.

Except for vegetables.  I asked for 3 packages of carrots.  I got three carrots.  I asked for 9 lbs of onions (onions coming in units of 3 lbs.)  I got three. Onions.  Three tomatoes.  Two cucumbers.  Two potatoes.  One sweet potatoe.  Get the picture?  Yes. Amazingly stupid.

Anyway, I had the supplies I needed to make dinner for the other guys – ziti.  Tomato sauce with peppers and onions (using a really bad knife to cut them.  I need to get a dairy chef’s knife) mixed with pasta and both muenster and mozzarella cheese.  I made five trays of this, plus a pan of cauliflower.  I also took out ground meats for tomorrow.

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook January 25, 2010

January 25, 2010 1 comment

Nasty, nasty day.  I love my commute more than I can possibly say – you can’t beat a fifteen minute walk – but in pouring rain? With no umbrella because it broke before I crossed the first street?  Yeah.  Not good.  And because I woke up late (9:15.  I usually wake up about 8AM.), I barely had time for breakfast.  I always have breakfast.  It’s a rule for, well, anyone, really.  Seriously – if you want to lose weight, eat breakfast.  But it’s especially a rule for me and my Type II Diabetes.  But coffee –  not such a health necessity.  I figured I was passing dozen or so places – many with hecksher – where I could purchase coffee en route.

And, so I did, asking for my preferred adulteration – nothing at all.  I was very clear about it – “One medium, black, no sugar.”  Sugar is always a no-no, but I seriously don’t like my coffee sweetened at all.  I don’t mind milk particularly, but my operation uses rather stricter strandards of kashrut than I do, so all milk has to be officially cholov yisrael. (Actually, most of the milk and milk products I buy for my own home ARE cholov yisrael, but that’s a function of availability and, in some cases, preference in that we prefer a brand of kosher cheese that happens to be cholov yisroel over a brand of equally (to our minds) kosher cheese that isn’t.) 

Anyway, while most of the caffeine replenishment stations in my neighborhood have cholov yisroel milk available upon request, you have to actually *request*, and in this case, I didn’t request milk in the first place, let along Jewish milk.  So, after I got to work, and discovered that I had no carrots, and barely any onions and not much in the way of celery, either, and oh, mushrooms would be nice, too, but it’s raining and I’m soaked, and, oh, there’s coffee.

I got my weekly split pea soup started (filled soup pot with water, split peas and cholent meat), and started defrosting the chicken breast filets.  Then I had my coffee.  Only, as my brilliant (and beautiful) readers have already figured out paragraphs ago, said coffee had been adulterated – nay, polluted! – with both sugar AND milk – cholov hacompanies milk at that.  Down the (dairy) drain it went.  And the caffeine withdrawal was not going to be pretty. Fortunately, I have some Starbucks instant, which is tolerable.  I get a fleishig coffee cup down, because we have signs all over the place saying not to use disposables ever again – something I endorse – and make a cup, except I get impatient.  So I take the chicken I’ve been defrosting out of the microwave and heat the cup up for 30 seconds, and put the chicken back in.  And go buy vegetables.  The rain’s a drizzle at this point, so it’s not unpleasant.

After this – well, it’s veggies all the way down.  I defrost three packages of chicken, and nuke a bag of spinach for Mendy (and Misha) and two bags of peas and carrots for Yossi, but mostly I’m peeling or cleaning and chopping veggies for both the soup and the chicken stew.  Chicken stew – carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms, 8 pounds of chicken breast fillet and five pounds of potatoes, plus salt, pepper, parsley and a shot of vinegar.  I made a lot – eight trays left.  One for Kerem, two for Keshet, five for the freezer. 

I also made out the weekly shopping list, plus an extra for Ruach to fill.  They want more apple kugel, they shall get more apple kugel.

Two main dishes and two vegetable ones.  I left an hour late.  But no injuries.

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook January 22, 2010

January 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Fridays.  Sigh.

After a week when I left either on time or early, Friday would be the one day I had to work late.  This would be why I spend Thursday nights cooking for Shabbos.

We finally got the groceries delivered – at least, the meat products.  And I’d taken chicken cutlets and legs out to thaw the day before.  I got the chicken soup started (meaning I put chicken bones and drumsticks in a stockpot and covered them with water to simmer) and the chicken doused with duck sauce and placed in the oven, and then I went shopping – I didn’t get a single vegetable and I needed vegetables.  I returned with potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, parsley, tomatoes and cucumbers.  No dill available,and I had turnips and parsnip already.  I thought I had dill, though.

I also got gefilte fish out of the Ruach freezer, largely to make those individuals happy, and started a pot of water for that.  I put the parsley to clean (I put herbs in a pot with just a touch of dish soap for a surfactant.  In about ten minutes, the dirt and whatever falls off and sinks.  I take the herbs out and they’re clean.)  Then I started to cut vegetables – some for the gefilte fish and some for the soup.  Most for the soup, of course – for the fish, I sliced carrots, but I just peeled and halved the onion and cleaned and broke the celery.  By this time, the soup had thrown off a lot of scum and the water for the fish was boiling.

I slid the two fish logs into the water.  Then I skimmed the soup.  At this point, I added the parsley (the dill I thought I had was rotten) and some bay leaves and let it simmer.  I finished the vegetables. There was a weird moment as I peeled the turnips – I kept seeing red.  At some point, I injured my thumb, and I have no idea when.  I put on bandages and a glove and peeled off the red parts and it was good to go.  Because of time constraints, I chopped the vegetables for the soup small enough that they’d both flavor the soup quickly and could stay in.

I tasted the soup, and added salt and pepper to give more flavor.  I portioned out soup for Mendy, dumped the liquid portion in the stock pot to a smaller one and added the vegetables, and brought it to a simmer.  I then separated out the drumsticks, which I froze. I’ll make them into chicken salad.

And then I peeled and sliced potatoes to mix with oil, salt and pepper and bake – at this point, the chicken was cooked and the oven was empty.  Otherwise, I’d  have gone to another apartment to cook the potatoes.  And the husband of the young couple who spend Shabbat there came in, and asked me to make another loaf of fish for them. As the first batch were done, I was fine with this.  It was nearing one pm at this point.  And I had yet to make the Israeli salad and wash the pots. 

So.  More tomatoes than cucumbers, so I diced the cukes first. Then the tomatoes and a bunch of scallions.  I took the second bunch of parsley and chopped that fine – no more dried parsley in my Israeli salads.  Then lemon juice, salt and olive oil.

And I had to wash the pots, too. By this time, the potatoes and the second batch of fish were done, and it was nearing one.  I nuked some zucchini for  Yossi.  Shloimy from Ruach came to take their food, and Moishy came to tell me that they loved my apple kugel and wanted me to make it bigger.  Hello, doubled recipe.

I left at 2PM, just in time to get a quart of milk plus a cup of coffee for myself.

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook January 21, 2010

January 21, 2010 1 comment

And the grocery shopping had been going so well, too! Ah, well.  Nothing I’d ordered was in the home.

On the plus side, Mendy only needed a couple of items, and what he needed, I could get with a relatively short walk – tilapia.

When I make tilapia for Mendy, I basically commit a culinary sin.  I heat up oil in a big pot, add spices (so far not a sin) and dump in a package or two of frozen fillets.  And then I cook them until they fall apart into tiny pieces.  It tastes fine, and I use enough oil that they’re not dry, but I cook the fish to death.  Then I scoop the tiny pieces (made smaller with the side of a cooking spoon) into a cup measure, and that’s the protein for a Mendy meal.  I’ve seen him eat this with enjoyment, so I’m doing something right.

I also cooked five eggs – two egg salads and one left as is – and made a tuna salad.  For some reason, it came out very pureed. I’m not sure why.

For everyone else, I made baked tilapia, sweet potato wedges (peeled and cut into wedges, tossed with salt, cinnamon and oil and then baked) and steamed veggies – either string beans or spinach.  For Misha, I used a fork to break a baked fillet into tiny pieces, and I pureed spinach and string beans.

The other night, I did something sort of major  – I purchased two cutting boards.  I’ve been unhappy at the cutting board situation in the home – no dairy one at all, and the meat ones are wooden. I’ve stopped using wooden cutting boards entirely at home.

I went to my favorite restaurant equipment site, Restaurant Equippers, which is where I got my squeezy bottles and my aprons, and bought two cutting boards, both plastic.  One is red and the other is blue.  I’m going to be much happier – color coded boards I can sanitize!

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook January 20, 2010

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I knew it couldn’t last.  I should have come into work this morning to find a fridge and freezer stuffed full with my grocery order.  Instead, nothing new at all.  Last few weeks have been wonderful.

So.  I had food, and I’d made certain  yesterday that I had the veggies for the pasta dish for today.  Today was VERY simple indeed – pasta in meat sauce plus ground beef for Mendy and steamed peas and carrots for Yossi.  The pasta dish was onions, peppers and mushrooms mixed with browned ground beef and turkey, appropriate seasonings and tomato sauce.  At the last minute, I added a bag of frozen zucchini.  This was mixed with all the spiral pasta I could find and that was that.  I made seven trays of this – one tray for Kerem, two for Keshet and four for the freezer.

I hope I get my order tomorrow.

Categories: Uncategorized