Taking the cake

OMFG, it has been a busy week! Even the puppy is exhausted, and he has frosting all over his furry little ears. So do I, for that matter, though it’s probably made its way directly into my brain at this point, since I don’t have a luscious coating of golden, velvet fur to protect my ear canal like Willie does. I took on a LOT of projects for other people, and am currently stalling to avoid beginning the cleaning of my house for a dinner we’re hosting at our house tonight for a guy from Chris’s department and his wife (and possibly their baby, though I haven’t received confirmation of such, making me wonder if I need to mash up a banana and stop eating all the Cheerios in the pantry to feed said baby.) I’m doing a beef burgundy (boeuf bourgignon?) from my Cordon Bleu book, which I’m excited about. Also, I’m serving up my Baker’s Challenge, which I still can’t tell you about, but will take plenty of pictures for July 30th posting!

The whole “posting on craigslist” to make cakes for people has taken off like wildfire. I made 11 cakes this week. ELEVEN. So I’ve taken some pictures of a few to show you:

So this is the most bizarre request. A guy emailed me, using very, very formal wording, to request a cake that didn’t contain soybeans or peanuts because his wife is very allergic to them. His email address contained the word “alien” and he wanted his cake to be “alien themed.” His reasoning for this was that his daughter, for whom the cake was being baked, acts as though she’s from Pluto. Yeah, guy, whatever. I’ll make your cake. So I labored to find ingredients that didn’t have soy, as I’ve previously mentioned, and made a delightful alien cake with handwriting on it that doesn’t look quite so obviously as though it were applied by an epileptic (as mine usually does). Good for me! He picked it up yesterday and looked EXACTLY LIKE THE ALIEN ON THE CAKE. Seriously. Chris saw him and agreed with me completely. His face was all pockmarked and narrow, and he wouldn’t make eye contact with me. His wife was in the van with him (yeah. A van.) and was the size and shape of Jabba the Hut, which I thought was weird, since the guy was sooooo narrow and stringy-looking. I figure she probably decided early on that she was allergic to soy and has determined that, since she can’t eat tofu on a regular basis, she will eat butter that has been SHAPED into slabs of tofu. Huuuuuuumongous. They took the cake, which is also mostly comprised of butter and is, if I say so myself, completely delicious. I hope they like it. I also hope they don’t come back, kidnap me, and probe me in a sacrifice to their alien warlord. Because they looked like the kind of folk who do that to unsuspecting blonde girls…

So I am really proud of this cake. You can’t really tell from this picture, but it’s really detailed and brightly colored. It’s Dora the Explorer themed, and is for a 2 year old girl’s birthday party tomorrow. They’re picking it up tonight at 6, and I’m really excited to see their reaction. I don’t know much about Dora the Explorer, except that she’s a little Mexican girl, and is incredibly irritating because WHO DECIDED that Dora the Explorer rhymed?!? I’d respect it so much more if it were, like, Dora the Explora and it was just assumed that it was Mexebonics. Why people want their children exposed to this kind of laziness is beyond me. My kids will watch Carebears and TMNT (Turtle Power!) and that’s it. Because at the very least they don’t contain shoddy rhyming.

Ta-da! My first wedding cake! It’s a tiny one, just meant to be a centerpiece on the head table, but it’s kind of cute. The secret is that the flowers on top are NOT edible flowers, because I couldn’t find any on such short notice. The guy at the florist assured me they hadn’t been sprayed, so they’re “safe”, but to be honest the guy looked like he didn’t know the difference between pesticide and chocolate milk, so who knows. I guess WE will,when I post my blog about the lawsuit for poisoning a lucky couple! The good story about this one is that, like the rest of my “clients” who are scanning the “free” ads on craigslist, the woman who called was quite clearly poor. She wanted a wedding cake for $20, and when I asked if a lime buttercream was okay, she asked if that was just frosting to which I added lime juice. I gave her a really condescending answer, but it was via email so she couldn’t exactly detect my disgust.

These are twin cakes for a Mr. Carlos. He asked for a black forest cake, which was exciting to me because I absolutely adore black forest cake. Moist chocolate cake soaked in kirsch (a cherry brandy), filled with cooked, sweet cherry goo, and covered in whipped heavy cream and chocolate shavings. *Drool* I told him that I’d be happy to comply, and then mentioned kirsch, at which point he requested one without for the children. Whatever. Kids behave much, much better with a solid dose of brandy in their tiny systems. I didn’t assure him he’d have a better time if he fed the kids boozy cake, but agreed to make one with and one without. So they’re identical, except the boozy one is bigger because I respect it more. The downside is that I am DESPERATE to eat these cakes. Right now. I wrapped them in foil to freeze them up so they’d not have all their whipped cream melted off from the Texas heat en route to his party. He should be here this afternoon, and I hope he’s appropriately grateful for my restraint in not pre-eating them.

Finally, Chris was in charge of a big lecture this Friday (and the next two Fridays) and part of that involves bringing food. Normally, this would make me ecstatic, but this week was extra busy so it was a slightly less joyful chore for me. I still enjoyed it, though, I won’t lie. I made him a big pot of homemade green chili with melted jack cheese mixed in to the point of becoming a fundido (Spanish for “fondue”). I call it fundido instead of queso because I loathe traditional queso in all of its repulsive, processed-cheese-glory. Ugh. It’ll go with corn tortilla chips, and is currently bubbling away in the crock pot cauldron in Chris’s office. I also made him a big batch of chocolate butter pecan bars, with a layer of homemade caramel and two kinds of Guittard chocolate melted over the top. I wanted to eat them, too. Actually, I’ve been on a diet this week, and have lost a pound or two despite being bludgeoned with sweet foods all day, every day. To be honest, the effort of not stuffing my face with various cakes and frostings has me worn out. Nobody should have to bake this much without getting to eat it, right??

Okay. I can’t put off dusting any longer. Except possibly to bake bread, which is what I think I’ll do instead…

Kristie, MD

I didn’t take this photo, just so you know right off the bat. I found it on Google images. But it is, essentially, what I had for dinner last night at Morton’s Steakhouse. Which was fabulous.

Allow me to brag for one moment:

I got half of a prime filet mignon (beautifully rare), a chicken paillard (piece of chicken pounded very thin, breaded, and pan-fried), roasted garlic green beans, creamy mashed potatoes, Caesar salad, NY cheesecake, and unlimited glasses of chardonnay for FREE and I didn’t have to sleep with anyone to get it (unlike the typical dinner date). I guess if you want to be totally technical about it, this is a perk I’m getting BECAUSE I’ve agreed to not sleep with anyone outside of my immediate marriage for the rest of my life beginning next May, but I’m not going to look at it like that. Nor will I be passing ass around like Halloween candy between now and next May, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that major drug companies take doctors and qualified medical persons out to fancy-schmancy restaurants and pay for everything in exchange for those medical persons pretending to listen to them yammer on about prescription medications that their company produces and/or pimps. It’s called a drug-rep dinner, and it is my new favorite hobby.

This particular piece of bribery was provided by a company that makes a certain type of asthma inhaler that I will not name. I couldn’t name it last night, either, because I was so hopped up on good white wine that I kept accidentally referring to it by its competitor’s name. Only Chris heard me, so it was fine. Also, EVERYONE was getting drunk. On my left side there was a rotund old man with a walrus-esque mustache who kept announcing, through bites of his dinner, “where’s supper?” I loved that guy. Across from us were two women who complained about their steak not being medium-well, and I took that delicious opportunity to tell them that they were, in fact, fools.

You may now be asking yourself, how did Kristie finagle an invitation to a dinner for medical persons, given that she is only a medical person in the sense that she likes to take certain medications. Like percocet. And rum. Ahhhhh, there’s the key. My genius of a fiance got invited, then told the drug rep that I work as a allergy nutritionist, and apparently this qualifies as medical personnel. It is also not a lie, in the complete sense of the word, because I am AS WE SPEAK baking a multi-tier birthday cake for a woman who is allergic to both nuts AND soy, and soy is in freaking everything, including non-stick spray, shortening, and buttermilk (so far). So there.

Anyway, now we have multiple invitations to these things at the best restaurants in town, and we just get to cherry pick the ones we want to go to, selecting for ones where there are a lot of people getting drunk and not asking me questions about medicine. It’s AWESOME.

Side benefit: When Chris finishes his fellowship he is allowed to sell out to these drug companies for a night to speak at these dinners, and they both: pay him a bazillionty dollars AND feed both of us without me having to masquerade as a professional of some type.

I am one lucky, lucky beeatch.

Asian-Texan fusion

This will be short, as I’ve had a hell of a day. The reason for this is the Daring Bakers’ Challenge for this month, which I’ve been working on all day, including a small episode wherein my iPhone ended up submerged in a pot of water and broke. I fixed it, btw, but putting it in a bag of rice and leaving it out in the sun for 4 hours to draw the liquid out and it miraculously works. Gen-ius! Also I did a circuit training class that whooped my butt, mostly. And bought cake supplies.

Anyway, I made 4 cakes, a pound of buttercream, two types of ground “meal” that I can’t divulge (challenges can’t be posted on the blog til July 30th), and some dinner.

Behold! Salad and spring rolls gone wild. Romaine lettuce topped with black beans, poblano peppers, jalapenos, caramelized onions, and cilantro-lime-buttermilk dressing made up the salad or “useless healthy portion” of the dinner. Spring roll wrappers stuffed with smoked chicken and spicy barbecue sauce made up the unhealthy or “awesome” portion of the dinner. Both were quite tasty and full of protein, which is a good thing for building muscle, providing you lift weights.


Revenge of the crisper, and a project for Sundays

This is our dinner for today. Tomorrow is the last day of this week’s budget, so I thought I’d start to clear out the crisper, forcing all the lazy, pot-smoking, living-in-their-parents’-basement veggies that haven’t found jobs in the course of the last week to BE something already. Also, there was a package of split chicken breasts lurking behind the ice cream threatening to turn them into something healthy, or worse (according to the American Cancer Association) allowing their skins to get freezer burn (due to inadequate FPF in their lotions). God, my brain is all over the place today.

Anyway, they got seared, had half a bottle of previously opened chardonnay poured over them, and were thrown unceremoniously in the crock pot along with the ne’er-do-well veggies (random assortment of leeks, two chunks of partially-used onion, three celery stalks, some tarragon, half a tomato, two cans of San Marzano tomatoes, and a half-empty container of garlic marinated kalamata and green olives from the deli). A tetra-pack of chicken broth went into the soup and the lid was closed to allow them all to sit on the low setting until I felt they’d learned something about MOTIVATION. Eventually they turned into something with flavors similar to a nicoise salad, and made a quite tasty soup. I added whole wheat orzo about an hour before we ate and served it with a hunk of warm bread.

I, in the meanwhile, began one of my infamous weekend baking projects. After the gym, of course. I’m not a TOTAL waste of space. I was feeling a case of the baking blahs and needed something to “pimp my ride” so to speak. I went to leaf through my motley collection of cookbooks and saw a checkerboard cake and thought of my second favorite all time treat ever sent over from Britain (Lion bars hold the title firmly, though I have never made a Christmas pudding or a Charlotte Russe or a proper trifle, so the luscious Lion bar may get knocked over like the thin kid at the ice cream truck any day now).
My brother introduced me to these a couple of years back. They’re sort like the English version of the Twinkie, showing once and for all that we should have remained happily colonized by the geniuses across the pond. SO much better. Tiny strips of pink and white vanilla cake, glued together by apricot jam, wrapped in a ridiculously tasty drape of marzipan. *drool*

Anyway, they’re meant to be served with a sweet, strong, milky cup of black tea. So they were.

Kobe, and why I’d be okay with THAT brand of assault

Holy. Crap. Just cooked my very first kobe (okay, it’s the American version known as “Waygu”) beef steak ever. A beautiful NY strip, marbled with hundreds of wisps of cocaine-white fat interspersed by striations of fresh, plump redness. OMG. I should have taken a before picture, because unlike, say, one of your favorite fashion models, Waygu looks best when it isn’t cooked, airbrushed, dressed, or fussed with. It was breathtaking. And while it meant some frugality in other areas of this week’s menu (since the cost is about what you’d expect to pay for unicorn meat), it was absolutely worth every succulent penny.

We were really nervous that one of two things would happen:
A) We would screw up the cooking of said steak
B) We would fail to appreciate the difference between the Waygu steak and a regular NY strip

Miraculously, we sidestepped both of these potential hazards.

Kobe beef is a Japanese beef that is made from the special Waygu cattle. A Kobe cow is fed on fresh grasses, Japanese beer, and sake. It’s given massages and has its coat brushed with more sake. It is slaughtered very carefully, and they charge HUNDREDS of dollars per steak for it. The American Waygu beef is the same cow, raised the same way, but all of it is done in America. I’ve been told the differences do exist, but it isn’t appreciable for the cost difference (a single Waygu steak is a modest $40 as opposed to the aforementioned hundreds they charge for the Kobe). The problem with this gorgeous, delicate, marbled-within-an-inch-of-its-life steak is that if the very delicate fat strands melt out, you’re left with a tough, flavorless meat. The fat has a lower melting point than traditional steak, so the cooking method is very different.

We cooked it by heating our grill to very, very hot. We seared it on one side for a minute, then seared on the other side for another minute, then pulled it off and let it rest for 10 minutes next to the grill. As you can see, the slices are almost like carpaccio in the middle, preserving the marbling and allowing for a flavor that was unlike any I’ve ever had. It was extremely fresh, and slightly sweet with a texture that melted on the tongue like butter–no chewing required. Even the aftertaste was fresh and sweet. Chris and I just sat there and moaned, probably sounding a lot like the cow from whence it came. Bar-none, the best steak I have ever, or will ever, have.

We served it with a lime and butter basted corn on the cob and some fresh, steamed haricots verts (skinny green beans) that were simply salted and covered in whisper-thin flakes of parmigiano reggiano. Mmmmmmm. Those sides were ridonkulous, but they were lost in the glory that bathed the perfect steak. Religious. That’s the word I’d use.


I used to be able to do this with my MIND, you know, until I moved to Texas and got all dumb and started sayin’ “y’all” and “fixin-ta.” Kidding. But it would be awesome if I could. Instead, I have to rely on my BLOWTORCH.

Dinner is still cruising around the neighborhood of Healthy in its hoopty ride of Nutrition, trying to avoid getting the headlights of Good Figure smashed out by the gangbangers of Fat and Sugar. So it’s a grilled flank steak marinated in lime, ginger and garlic served over a salad of mango, cucumber, roasted pepper, grilled onion, carrot and napa cabbage, all drizzled with a honey sesame vinaigrette.
I am currently eating a lollypop and trying to convince my body that the dinner wouldn’t have been better served with fried rice. Basically, the cravings section of my brain is a pirate hooker who wants to roll around naked in a pot of Haagen Dasz. I need a food lobotomy.

Some old food pics…

Here are a couple of pictures from our first smoker project. Brisket. Mmmmmmm. The smoker takes all friggin’ day, so it doesn’t happen super often, but when it does it usually makes a TON, which we freeze in batches to enjoy during the week, or to throw into a pot of baked beans and corn (as you’ve seen). I love smoking meat. I also love that last sentence…hehe. OH! And there’s also a picture of when I tried to make buffalo turkey drumsticks and the Pyrex dish EXPLODED in the oven. Like all the way exploded. It was ridiculous. I bitched to Pyrex and I think they just wanted me to shut up.


Dinners, lately

As a result of the baking frenzy that has been taking place in our kitchen, as well as the cake decor class I have in the evening on Wednesdays, it’s been fast, easy dinners for a couple of days now.
That’s Wednesday’s dinner of grilled hamburgers with grilled onions, fresh tomatoes, and tiny buns (not unlike what I’m trying to achieve). The side is just an ode to my fryer–fried potato slices with sea salt. They were more glisteny before I left for class, but I think Chris delayed taking the pictures for me until they had grown cold. At least he remembered to take them…I wrapped mine in foil and attempted to eat it on the way to class, aborting the mission three bites in because I was afraid I was going to chomp down on a hunk of foil and have to kill myself.
That’s my healthy dinner from last night. It was really tasty for being devoid of the seasoning I like to call “meat.” Pan-seared tofu with a soy-mirin glaze over a chop salad of jicama, radish, carrot, and English cucumber, with a side of pan-fried udon noodles coated in a coconut-peanut sauce. See, Aunt Tracy? Vegetables!


Holy crap, have I been busy. You wouldn’t think I’d be able to find ways to fill my days down here, what with none of my old friends or jobs or school or anything, but I have found a way! I’ll give you a hint: it’s food related.

This spiderman cake is the first step in my most recent venture. I was tired of eating all the stuff I’ve been baking, and then having emotional “state-of-my-behind” addresses when I was getting into the shower. Baked goods aren’t going to win any swimsuit competitions any time soon. That’s a sad fact I’ve realized. Also, I was spending well over a thousand dollars a month at the grocery store, which seems excessive. Sort of. But I need to keep baking to stay honed for school, which is coming up soon, and my wedding, which is coming up relatively quickly as well. So I posted an ad on Craigslist offering to bake for people for just the cost of ingredients. The response has been TREMENDOUS. In the last two days I’ve taken on 12 cakes for various events, including a wedding cake, and 100 cupcakes decorated with fresh flowers.

Since I’m charging just enough for ingredients and a small wear and tear charge on my bakeware/electricity bill, people feel like they’re getting some awesome deal, and I get to keep practicing without the negative effects. Also, I’m getting some killer references by the people I help, which I’m hoping I can translate into actual business when I finish school. Oh! And I’ve agreed to teach cooking lessons to a boy and his nanny for a month (though I’m not doing THAT for free). So I’ve been busy. What do you think of the cake? I’ve never done a character cake before, nor have I ever done any freehand cake sculpture, so it’s a little wonky. But it’s free, so nobody can complain, right? She’s picking it up tonight. Oh, and I’m also making homemade cheese right now. I’ll post pics later.

Dessert for Docs

Lately, given our move to a new area, I’ve been entertaining doctors a lot. I mean, that’s IT. Solely doctors. All the men, all the women, and likely all of their offspring, have medical degrees. One would think this would make me feel insecure, like a big failure for being a lib-arts girl from CSU who likes to bake pies. At first, it really did. And then I felt stupid for contributing to some of the conversations they had. In fairness, I’m pretty well-read, medically. I managed a pharmacy, have extensive veterinary tech training, and have been living with and discussing things with Chris for over a year now. I’m obsessed with internet research, and have occasionally ranged into a little bit of a hypochondriac (though never in a creepy and sad way). I’ve actually BEEN RIGHT on occasion when I’ve argued medicine with Chris (and if you don’t believe me, I’ve saved the text message where he admitted defeat). So I’m no greenhorn, and I’m pretty friggin’ competitive, which has made the whole “conceding that I don’t have any actual human medical training” thing kind of difficult.

But then it was pointed out to me by Chris, and then again by the universe, that I may not be able to *legally* dispense medicines and medical advice, but doctors need to eat, therefor all of these people need ME to some extent. They’re fun to be around, interesting, funny, intelligent, warm, and humble (sometimes). They come over to eat and drink, and I like having people to feed. Once we’ve all got a glass of wine, we’re all on the same playing field, and I like that sense of comradery. So, the people we hang out with right now have all spent a lot of time doing things like dissecting people, and I’m okay with that, because I like them, and because they’ll eat my strawberry Grand Marnier petit fours and be really excited. Because I’m an MD too…a doctor of MMMMMMMMM.