Archive for April, 2010

Working Cook April 29, 2010

April 29, 2010 1 comment

If you do something once, it’s a fluke. If you do it again, it’s real. If you manage it a third time, it’s yours. I have made perfect fluffy matzo balls AGAIN. Yom tov meals will never be the same.

Okay, okay. Thursday means chicken soup Mendy-style. Got bones and drumsticks out of the freezer. Also grabbed a couple trays of chicken filets to thaw for Friday. Plus, before I even got into my normal work kitchen, I went to the other one and grabbed the fish fillets I’d stored there.

Mendy was good for everything frozen except the soup, but I was going to make rice for the other guys anyway and he was down to a couple boxes.

He also needed egg salad.

So, chicken in the big stock pot, covered with water and simmering. I put eight trays of fish (two fillets each, flavored with paprika, dried dill, onion powder, salt and pepper, plus a drizzle of oil) in the oven. I put a large dairy saucepan with salted water to boil.

Then I made matzo ball mixture – and this time I remembered to beat the liquids and flavorings first before I added the matzo meal. I took it a bit easier on the salt and pepper, too. That went into the oven to chill – this is key.

It took some maneuvering but I got a pot of water for rice up as well. The problem is 1. a small stove so I can’t always fit a pot on each burner and 2. special burners – two high output, one regular and one “precision simmer.” I like the high output ones in front. I like my fires fast and hot, but while the precision simmer is useful enough, it doesn’t get water BOILING. And the regular burner was unusable because the big stock pot took up one and a third burners, and I needed it in front and on that side so I could skim it.

So I put the saucepan on the big burner until it boiled, put in the eggs, and moved it in back, replacing it with the rice pot, which boiled very quickly then so I could add the rice and let it simmer. Then I skimmed the soup and added the (fresh) dill and parsley, and bay leaves.

I took out the fish, which was, of course, perfect.

The eggs were done and I cooled them. Then I needed to use the other front burner for the matzo balls, and the rice wasn’t nearly cooked. But the soup was. So I moved the big stockpot off the stove entirely, and replaced it with the rice pot. Then I put the small stock pot (filled with salted water) to boil.

While that was going on, I portioned out six cups of soup for Mendy and set them aside to cool. Then I took the drumsticks out of the stock and set them aside, and poured the rest of the stock into the big stew pot. Then I dumped the bones and herbs out of the stockpot. At this point I remembered I hadn’t seasoned the soup, so I added a little salt and white pepper to to each portion of stock.

I made egg salad, and also refrigerated two hardcooked eggs. I turned the fire off under the rice, and the water for the matzo balls boiled.

I got the mixture out of the fridge, wet my hands and started putting barely formed balls in the water, but then realized I wasn’t getting all of it from the square foil tray. So I got a couple of teaspoons, and a bowl of water, and began shaping the mixture with the spoons, the way one shapes a quenelle by moving it between two spoons. I kinda liked the wedge shapes I created but they weren’t right for matzo balls, so I squoshed them gently to make them sort of round. They still came out rather amorphous. But they were light and fluffy and they floated!

I covered the pot and let it simmer while I washed the big soup pot and ground up rice and cooked zucchini. And made chicken salad because the drumsticks had a lot of flavor, and I didn’t want to waste it. And Papa loves chicken salad. As Wilner the janitor commented, I made a lot of stuff today.

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook April 28, 2010

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

I got to work latish today, but I have a decent excuse – I was trying and failing to get concert tickets. Too big an act for too small a venue. Also, I had to fax something to the main office. And I had to buy milk and peas. Fortunately, I had non-frozen ground beef waiting for me.

So, I made meatloaf. Lots of meatloaf, actually – eight small ones. Grated onion, oregano, matzo meal, onion and garlic powder, two eggs, topped with marinara sauce. And I made one of my favorite potato dishes – potatoes cut, more or less, into 1/2 inch cubes, tossed with oil, salt and pepper plus julienned onions and baked. It comes out sooooo nice – they get crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

I also made tuna salad and ground peas for Mendy, cooked some extra ground beef for Misha, and zucchini for Yossi.

So I actually worked my normal hours today, but I still left during Wife Swap.

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook April 27, 2010

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I decided en route that, today being dairy day, I was going to make mac and cheese. That, plus some veggies and maybe some fish for Mendy, would get me home early. Wouldn’t THAT be nice? Okay, I’d have to buy milk, but that would be fine. And I could make mac and cheese for Mendy, too.

And it all seemed to be going well. Got the pot of water for the gefilte fish (only salt. No veg.), and weighed out the macaroni for Mendy, and cooked it and then realized I needed more, so I cooked more. Meanwhile, I got the big dairy pot cooking for the rest of the macaroni, and it was coming to a boil. Plus I had the spinach cooked and the broccoli cooking.

And the grocery order comes in. And instead of grinding vegetables or macaroni, or making cheese sauce, I’m putting perishables away, and trying to find room for everything. You know – refrigerator/freezer tetris. I end up spending a long time just finding places in three different freezers for everything. I do NOT put away the non-perishables. (And the whole wheat macaroni? Cooks thoroughly before I’m done. Yes, I got it before it over cooks.)

THEN I make the cheese sauce. And sit for fifteen minutes, and prioritize the rest of what I needed to do. I did end up finishing a half hour longer than I intended (and stayed a bit longer because somehow, I always stay for diabetes training.) And what did I accomplish? Macaroni and cheese (with a proper Mornay sauce – nothing powdered for me). Gefilte fish AND tilapia, broccoli and spinach. Zucchini. So, I’m happy.

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook April 23 and April 26, 2010

April 26, 2010 1 comment

When I walked into the home on Friday, it was beautiful – streamers, tinsel, banners and posters, many of which said “Happy Birthday!” Now, Mendy had turned fifteen just before Passover, which left Misha and Ilya. Mystery was solved very quickly when I went to the back of the apartment, where I saw a sign wishing Misha a happy 21st birthday.

But I still had to make Shabbos. I got the soup and apples out of the fridge and the chicken filets and the gefilte fish out of the various freezers. I defrosted the chicken enough to flavor it and put it in the oven, and got the vegetables to finish the soup, and got a pot of salted water going for the fish, to which I added vegetables. Then I started peeling apples.

My normal procedure is to peel the apples, make the batter and then slice them. This minimizes the browning – although now that I think about it, I can make the batter *first*. Hmmm. Anyway, I then cut the apples off their cores (I get square cores and chunks in four different sizes. It’s cool) and then slice the chunks, toss them with cinnamon and sugar (for a SIDE-DISH) and then mix with the batter. Recipe calls for pouring the batter over the apples in the pan, but I prefer this. I tried the other way and don’t like it. Bake for an hour.

At this point, I added the matzo balls to the soup. BTW, the experiment repeated beautifully. I have a workable theory of

Then I shopped for the parsley and tomatoes I needed for the Israeli salad. We only had regular cucumbers, as opposed to kirbies, but I had them so I used them, even though that meant peeling them.

Meanwhile, Shulem asked me for idea for the party they were going to hold for Misha on MONDAY. He didn’t want a meal, just party food (yes, I was invited.) I suggested chips and dip, plus veggies. He liked that (even though he’s never met a vegetable he liked. I think he lives on beef, since he also doesn’t eat turkey or chicken. And leben (a form of yogurt) when he wants dairy. This, I assume, is preference, not kashrut.)

Today is, of course Monday, and Monday means split pea soup, and so it was. Also, Mendy (and Misha) needed potatoes, so I had to get those and carrots to finish the soup. I ask for redskin potatoes but I end up buying them myself. And I got small ones to “bake” (since I bake them in double wrapped containers, they’re really steamed.) Everyone else got turkey burgers, plus mashed potatoes after I took out Mendy and Misha’s portions. I also cooked a burger’s worth of turkey for Misha and ground it for him. This made two servings. I froze one as is, and mixed the other with mayo for a “turkey salad.” I put the baked potatoes with two slices of cheese into the freezer as well, plus the mashed potatoes. And I cooked a bag of frozen peas.

Then I went home for an hour, changed into a nicer blouse and exchanged my white pre-tied bandanna for a pretty green headscarf. Then I grabbed my shopping cart and umbrella and went shopping for “baby” carrots, celery, zucchini and red peppers, plus salad dressings – Thousand Island and non-dairy Ranch. I also bought tofu sour cream, mild salsa, onion soup mix and potato chips, corn chips and pretzels, and plastic bowls.

Then I went to a remainder store and bought four oval plastic serving bowls and two compartmented serving trays – the ones six wells plus a center place for dip. I got to the home at 4:30. Misha had an appointment and was not there yet, so I had plenty of time to get things ready.

I got my apron on (no jacket or cooking shoes), searched for my good if cheap dairy knife, and settled for something else. Cut up the veggies (except for the carrots), made the dips that needed making (including mixing some fake sour cream into the already mild salsa to cut the heat even further, which also gave me room in the fake sour cream container to mix it with the onion soup mix.

And then settled down with my knitting to watch Deal or No Deal until Misha came home. As soon as he came in, I filled the bowls with nosh and people started drifting in – including one of the young couples who spend Shabbos. Which they don’t any more because they have a beautiful 2 week old named Nechama Shifra. No way can they take care of three adults (two in diapers) and a baby.

Someone else brought a small child – it was supposed to be a costume party, but few of us dressed up. I was going to wear one of my own, but I couldn’t find part of it. Thus, the nicer clothes instead. This child was dressed as a very tiny policeman. SO ADORABLE.

So, Misha was changed and dressed, and appeared wearing a plastic vampire cape, to cheers and “Happy birthday.” And the other guys came in from the other group homes – the Ruach guys told me they loved my apple kugel and matzo balls and they now wanted challah kugel. Another recipe hunt…:) Yossi had to be held to keep him away from the kitchen.

We got the food on the table and pictures taken, and passed around funny hats. Then we got the cakes, showed them to Misha, and passed it around. Misha was placed in his new wheelchair, which makes him higher and more supported than his stroller. And he got cake, too. It was pureed with soy milk, but he got cake. And Michelle said Mendy could have his dessert right then, so his counselor thawed out a piece of sugar-free cake. Mendy was therefore able to be part of things. YAY.

Then the musician arrived, and the magician (James the Vampire.)

Yes, musician and magician. Misha is 21. We joked about taking him out drinking, but he enjoyed the magician. So did the other guys, and they liked the dancing, too. I left after the magician’s second shot.

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook April 22, 2010

April 22, 2010 2 comments

First thing I had to do when I got to work today was find my big stockpot. I have two, plus another couple big pots and two smaller ones, one with Teflon, in my fleishig cabinet. But I could only find my smaller stockpot.

Okay, fine, they’re NOT mine really, but I’m both possessive and territorial and also, I’m pretty much the only one who uses them. So they might as well be mine.

Anyway, the smaller stockpot is NOT big enough to make enough soup for Shabbat. So, I went in search. Nothing in my normal work kitchen, so I went to Keshet, where I found my big stew pot sitting in the fridge. I need that pot for chicken soup days, so I transferred the lentil soup into a container and took the pot back to Kerem. Then I checked Ruach. Note that I had already gathered my meats for the day but was still in street clothes.

In Ruach, I found a dozen apples but not my stockpot. I told the janitor (I wish I had better French – it all turns to Spanish)and searched in the work kitchen again. This time, I checked the dishwasher we never use. And there it was.

I put on my whites and changed my shoes and got to cooking. Beef cubes in one pot (with some water to let them simmer a bit) and chicken bones and drumsticks in the big stockpot, covered with water. Dairy pot for hardboiled eggs. I mixed up some matzo ball mixture, and put it in the fridge.

Then I started on the vegetables for the stew – onions, carrots, celery and sweet potatoes. Somewhere along the line, I skimmed the stockpot and added the parsley and dill. Note – normally, I get bunches of fresh parsley and dill that I float in wet water (water with just a drop or two of soap, which kills the surface tension and makes dirt and things drop off, but doesn’t affect the taste of the herbs) before using them. This week, I had expensive hydroponic parsley (no dirt or bugs) and DRIED dill. Seriously. I may add fresh dill tomorrow because dried? Is tasteless, whereas fresh is delicious.

The eggs were done, so I put a big pot of salt water on the stove, and started peeling apples. When the water boiled, I dropped in the matzo balls and let them simmer. I finished peeling the apples and made the batter for the kugel. I like to let it rest a bit. Then I sliced the apples, tossed the slices with cinnamon and sugar and mixed them with the batter. It was already past noon at this point.

I turned off the soup and the stew and just SAT for a chapter of the current Oz book. Then I was up again to make egg salad and portion out soup. I then took the drumsticks out of the soup pot, poured the stock into a big pot and dumped the bones and herbs. Stock went to the fridge to be finished tomorrow (if Leon doesn’t give it all to Papa – and it’s strong for me to add more water along with the veggies if I must), portioned soup went to the freezer and the legs (still flavorful) went to Keshet.

I then portioned out the beef stew, and took the now done kugel out of the oven. I put the matzo balls (labeled “for shabbos”) into the fridge, took the kugel upstairs for Keshet, took chicken breast fillet out to thaw while putting a tray of stew in the freezer, and took Keshet their dinner.

2PM – time to go home! Took off my whites, changed my shoes. Done.

Categories: cooking, work

Working Cook April 20 and April 21, 2010

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Sorry about yesterday.

I stopped on the way to work yesterday to buy fish yesterday. Mendy and Misha both needed fish and the other guys, apparently, love it. The Ms also needed ground beef, and I had a package of it in the freezer. I was otherwise almost out of everything else. There was soup left over, though.

So. Fish spiced and in oven; except for one bag for freezer and two for pot. Ground beef in microwave. I put up a pot of rice, too. I also put up a couple eggs to hardboil. Actually, three eggs because that’s the lowest number I can cook, after I cooked a dozen tilapia fillets to death and portioned it out for Mendy and Misha. I was using the same dairy pot – my dairy cooking supplies are fairly limited.

When the fish was cooked and out of the oven, I replaced it with burgers. See, I only needed so much beef for the boys – normal spiced for Mendy, mixed with barbecue sauce for Misha. The rest I flavored and made into burgers to cook in the oven. These would go into the freezer. So, brown rice (one in freezer) and fish and peas and carrots for dinner. Mendy and Misha got ground beef and fish.

As for today – today was…interesting. The food order had arrived, so I could strategize properly. Mendy needed chicken, cake, green beans and zucchini. I had chicken, green beans and zucchini. I also lacked containers for him.

I took out all the ground chicken and a package of turkey. None had totally frozen yet, so I could use them right away. I also took out three cans of tuna (Mendy needed tuna salad).

I got all the frozen zucchini cooking, and went out to get containers and lids. Did I also get the sugar-free cake? I did NOT. I did get a cup of coffee, though. Yeah. Brilliant.

I cooked one package of chicken for Mendy, took the zukes out of the microwave and replaced it with a bag of green beans. Oh, I forgot. I also had five tomatoes and a pan of sweet potatoes in the oven. I forgot a LOT today, not just now.

I put a pot of water for noodles up to boil. I made large meatballs out of the rest of the ground poultry, and cooked them in duck sauce to which I added garlic and soy sauce. I processed the vegetables. Most of both went to Mendy, but about one cup of each went to Misha. I mixed some oil and flavored bread crumbs with Misha’s so it was “fried”, as his menu requests. Yeah, we lie, but it tasted good. I also added honey to Misha’s sweet potatoes, along with the salt, oil and cinnamon I put in for Misha. Made it “sweet potato pie.” Apparently, giving food interesting restauranty names means Misha is more likely to eat it. So, fine. I had leftover mashed sweets, so I froze that. I didn’t redoctor the green beans, though.

I mixed the noodles with parsley, oil, salt, pepper and onion powder. And at some point, I went out to buy the cake I’d forgotten to buy earlier, and cut it into twelfths.

It’s not the cooking that takes so much time. It’s the portioning, packaging and labeling. I finished over an hour late. And I have a standing appointment at 2:45. Every week. Yet for some reason, I thought it was 3:45, and had lunch and everything. *Shakes head* Realized my mistake at 3PM on the way there.

Categories: cooking, work

April 16 and 19, 2010

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I cooked up yet another Ashkenazi feast for Shabbat on Friday. I finished the soup with carrots, onions, and celery, and also put in my matzo balls and, later, a bag of fine noodles. I peeled 20lbs of potatoes and grated them and some onions and made a potato kugel. I used herbs and garlic to season chicken parts and breast fillets. I made an Israeli salad. I poached four loaves of gefilte fish. Kitchen looked and smelled like Shabbos.

My own Shabbos dinner? Chili-lime chicken, rice and peas. But then, I only ate part of the thigh. I’ve basically made lunch my big meal of the day.

Today, I knew I’d have limited resources, but I did hope to find split peas. No such luck. So I started the soup, started defrosting ground beef, and went shopping. Couldn’t find green split peas, but did find lentils. I bought those and some carrots and came back home. Left my MP3 player at home, and I’m still tired of sitcoms and Wife Swap, so I turned on CNN. I think that was the right move because I found myself very productive without any urge to see what was going on, but it was still interesting.

I got lentils and the mirepoix in the soup. I also made a box of whole wheat regular couscous for Mendy. Regular as opposed to Israeli – Israeli couscous is in larger pieces. Both are very difficult to grind, but regular doesn’t need to be ground. So it’s preferable. And this brand of couscous gave nutritIional information for cooked product. Very useful.

I cut up onions and celery, and made matchsticks of the carrots, and saute’d them with cumin, cinnamon, ginger and garlic – sort of Middle Eastern. Same spices I used for the soup, although I went much heavier with the cumin and garlic for the soup. I also started cooking the meat. I made a box of whole wheat Israeli style couscous, which requires cooking in a little oil and then covering with boiling water. I mixed the cooked meat with the veggies and more spices, and a touch of lemon juice for balance. Dinner was the Middle Eastern beef and couscous, plus the lentil soup. Mendy got couscous, Misha got soup.

Categories: cooking, work