My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New "cheffy" stuff (+ cake update)


BW and I stopped exchanging Christmas gifts several years ago. Instead, we usually buy ourselves a splurgy thing for the household, often for the kitchen. This year we considered getting a Vitamix, a manual grain mill, a food dehydrator, or a piece of LeCreuset enameled cast iron cookware (which has the added benefit of doubling as weight-lifting equipment!) But then we decided nah... we'd gotten our new iMac and new high(er)-speed ISP in the fall, and that would do. (Though we may revisit the LeCreuset when Valentine's Day or our anniversary rolls around!) ;-)


But that doesn't mean we didn't get a few new kitchen goodies! Robyn gave me a Tofu Xpress for Christmas (I've only used it a few times so far but am mighty impressed with the mighty Xpress and already wonder what I did without it!), and I used some gift money from my mom to buy the cookbook Color Me Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goodreau.


BW and I also went on a fun little shopping spree at our local kitchen shop right after Christmas with gift money from one of BW's customers. One of our purchases was a Cuisinart PrepBoard, which comes in three shapes: round, rectangular and square. Our kitchen shop just carries the square ones, but that's the shape I'd have chosen anyway. As you can see, it's perfect for serving an 8" square cake...


The cake in the photo is similar to the cake I made for my birthday, only this time I added 1/2 cup of shredded coconut to it and reduced the walnuts to 3/4 cup. I also spread it with a variation of Andrea's Simple Orange Glaze, which didn't turn out as "solid" as hers did, probably because I used maple syrup instead of evaporated cane juice, and a teaspoon of homemade vegan sour cream since I didn't have soy yogurt. But it was delicious, with a lovely orange color that looked especially nice with some coconut sprinkled on it. (The photo sucks of the cake, because I had to photograph it with a flash under artificial light. But it does a good job of showing how perfect the PrepBoard is for serving a square cake, which was my main intention!)

The PrepBoard isn't impervious to slicing and chopping activities - just like my bamboo cutting boards, it shows the knife cuts. But it's great for cutting juicy, liquidy foods like pickles, tofu, citrus fruits or cranberries since it catches all the liquid, and makes a pretty serving tray for more than just square cakes (as long as the food on it covers the knife scratches). ;-)

We also bought a pretty dish towel and a set of four nice table spoons we were very much needing, along with this Pot Minder, a little clay disc that sits in the bottom of a pan to keep it from boiling over. I cook a lot of potatoes, and invariably I also clean up a lot of potato boilover messes. Or I did, till I got this handy little gizmo! (It works well for pasta, too!)


But the face on the Pot Minder kept bugging me (especially when it's looking up at me from the bottom of a pot of boiling water!) He looks... familiar somehow. I couldn't shake the feeling that I know his face from somewhere. But where?

And then it came to me. The Swedish Chef from The Muppets! No really, check it out ~ they're practically twins! They even have the same mannerisms, with the très magnifique hand gesture!


I think it would have been funny if the Pot Minder came with a little waterproof, heatproof microchip in it that made it sing the Swedish Chef's "Bork bork bork!" song when the water came to a boil! :-)
In completely unrelated but slightly interesting news, today was my errand-running day in town. (That's not the interesting part. This next bit is.) When I left this morning it was 29ºF at our house. When I got down the mountain to town, about 15 miles away, it was 0º. When I left town 4 hours later it was 6º, and when I got back up the mountain to our house, it was 35º.

And that, my friends, is what a good altitude can do for you!
(snork snork snork!) ;-)


17 comments:

  1. Haha, you crack me up with your terrible joke :)

    We usually do our splurge gift to ourselves when our tax refund comes in. Last year, my one & only request was to get the Vita-Mix, and I have not regretted it one bit. Now you have me thinking about cookware though, because my pans are looking kind of depressing!

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  2. Georgia ~ I'm sorry, could you be more specific? LOL - most of my jokes are terrible. It's part of my charm! ;-)

    Everyone I know who owns a Vita-Mix says the same thing, but we just haven't quite been able to take the plunge! YET.

    Good cookware can sure make a big difference! We've invested in a few really good pieces and they make cooking (and clean-up) such a pleasure. I hope you'll post about what you end up splurging on with your tax refund... I'll leave a terrible joke about it in the comments. ;-)

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  3. LOL! yer crazy, love all the pics:) tath little chef man is exactly like the swedish chef! i never knew his name though.

    walter and i will sometimes do the same thing. this year and last year (for christmas) i got kithcen stuff. i need something wrapped up or else!!hahah

    have you seen a nut butter maker? im assuming its like a grain mill but it makes nut butters. i think that would be fun. but a vitamix would do the sme thing. THATS (blender) been on my wish list for a LOOONG time:)just like you.

    need to go check out that tofu xpress thing:) ttysoon

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  4. Your posts always make me laugh — even when I'm stressed out because something I want to do WON'T WORK. Please excuse the raised voice.

    I found a new-looking 5-quart Le Creuset French Oven in a thrift store for $25, but I doubt that can happen more than once. Then my son found a 7-quart one on Craig's list the next day for $7.50. There goes your odds down the toilet.

    I'm sorry your glaze wasn't thick enough, but maybe it's better to have a thinner glaze on a square cake so it covers the top nicely.

    The prep board is slick. What's it made of? And the pot minder — dead on copy of the muppet. That should make cooking potatoes so much more fun.

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  5. DD ~ I love getting kitchen stuff for Christmas, though I would have found it annoying in my pre-vegan days. So what did you get this year?

    I agree, it's fun to have something to unwrap, and I do exchange gifts with a few friends so the urge to tear pretty ribbons and paper off a box does get satisfied. :-)

    That grain mill I linked to also grinds nuts and seeds into butter, and I think you're right that that would be fun. No doubt the VitaMix makes nut butter in a Jif! (Haha, get it?) I think every vegan I know either owns a VitaMix (and loves it) or longs for one but still has their noses pressed to the toy store window. I've heard you can get good deals if you go to a VitaMix demo, but I live in the way-out willy-wags where no such thing ever happens. Maybe we should check eBay or Craig's List for one. Or better yet, get Andrea and her son to do it for us! They're clearly ace bargain hunters! :-)

    Andrea ~ Stressing out because you can't get something to work - yep, that sounds familiar! I've been known to hurl some of my choicest, nastiest insults at inanimate objects (often my computer - or Blogger!) because they won't work as directed. And of course, being inanimate they can't even appreciate how artfully I've crafted my abusive tirades! (Such the pity). So no need to apologize just for raising your voice a wee bit! I'm sorry you've been experiencing such a frustration, but am glad the Swedish Chef and I were able to make you laugh in spite of it. :-)

    I can't believe the bargains you and your son found on LeCreuset goodies! And a mere day apart! You should have run out and bough lottery tickets with a run of luck like that! You DID nab both those bargains, didn't you? I checked eBay, but no such LeCreuset bargains exist. I'd check Craig's List too, but am afraid I'll be unwittingly roped into some drug-smuggling, cash-laundering, gun-running, serial-killing, cross-dressing prostitution ring the minute I start browsing their LeCreuset ads. Or am I over-reacting to a news story or two that I've read? LOL

    The glaze worked great on my cake. Next time I'll try it with the sugar just to see if that makes it harden, even though it's not necessary for a square cake. Sometimes things can act funny at this altitude, too... some things won't thicken or set up properly, no matter what. (A neighbor had the entire filling of her pecan pie boil out of the crust when she baked one for the first time up here. She was from Memphis and damned proud of her pecan pies, so you can just imagine her consternation. Bet she would have commented about it in all caps, too!) ;-)

    The prepboard is made of polypropylene. It is quite handsome, has a slight pearlescent sheen to it. Washes nicely. too.

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  6. So you've got the Swedish Chef boiling with your potatoes now. Leave it to you to come up with something super fun like that! He has always totally cracked me up.... :D CakenSmoosher...total LoL

    Love all your new kitchen goodies, and glad you found the perfect presentation medium for square cakes. You certainly won't need any CakenSmooshers around with that.

    Andrea did find some good bargains on Le Crueset. I've always had great luck on Craig's list, but have never looked for Le Crueset. I actually bought a set for a comparatively cheap price a year or so ago...but only three of the pieces were made in France the rest were made in Thailand. You're right, it does double as weight lifting exercise.

    How is it that it can be warmer up the mountain?

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  7. Rose ~ I bought two bags of organic red taters yesterday, so that little hottie Swedish Chef and I are gonna have some fun in the kitchen soon, yeah baby! lol

    Ya sure, mit da new preppen-boarden caken pan ders no needen da caken smøøsher now! I can take the caken smøøsher money I'll save and put it toward the Le Creuset! ;-)

    Can you tell any difference between the pieces made in France and those made in Thailand?

    "How is it that it can be warmer up the mountain?"
    It's caused by a temperature inversion and we get them pretty frequently in the winter. But this was the biggest temperature difference I remember seeing.

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  8. P.S. Is "the Le Creuset" redundant?

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  9. Mike and I don't exchange presents anymore, either, and do the same as you & BW. It's so much nicer that way!

    You got some really nice kitchen things! I especially like the pot minder and need to get one of those. We're constantly boiling stuff over. What a cool gadget, made even cooler that the guy on it does indeed look like the muppet chef!

    A big LOL to your last "altitude" joke. ha!

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  10. Oh, that's good to know...as long as it's a normal thing and not some gov't experiment.

    I think the extra "the" is perfectly allowable. :D

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  11. You must have the same inversion thing going on that's been happening at my house. I live on a mountain and it is warmer than the valley - so strange.

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  12. You certainly are a kitchen witch -- that is a complement in our family. My mother-in-law was known far and wide for her fabulous ways with things in the kitchen and so we dubbed her the kitchen witch and even gave her one of those kitchen witch fetishes to hang in her kitchen, You are lucky to have such an interest.
    -- barbara

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  13. Molly ~ I agree it's much nicer this way. It works so much better for us and it's always fun to decide what to get and buy it as a team. (We always sucked at trying to surprise each other with something we'd come up with on our own, anyway!) :-)

    Oh yes, the Swedish Chef Pot Minder is just what you need to help you out! Works like a charm!

    Thanks for laughing at my altitude joke! Your latest post sure had me guffawing, so it's fun we traded some yuks!

    Rose ~ LOL - no, I'm pretty sure it's a nifty Mother Nature bait-and-switch rather than a government conspiracy. ;-)

    Okay, "the Le Creuset" it is, then. Unless any of my French readers would like to weigh in on this? :-)

    Jamie ~ I didn't know you lived on a mountain too! And out here in the Rockies as well, right? So I'm not surprised that you experience inversions too. I like how it's balmier up here than the valley below in the winter sometimes, and always cooler in the summer.

    Barbara ~ Oh, I totally take that as a compliment, thanks! :-) My mom had one of those kitchen witches... a comical stuffed one that hung above her sink. Though she was no kitchen witch - she was just a witch when she had to be in the kitchen! ;-) (Plus she was born on Nov 1, so my grandmother always liked to say Mom nearly came in on a broomstick!)

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  14. I love the dancing penguins!! And also the "good altitude". You find the cutest animations--I always enjoy them!

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  15. Daphne ~ Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed the dancing penguins! I've always loved those guys. :-) And it's nice to hear you enjoy my animations! I've had a lot of them since way back in my homepage days, and it's fun to find new uses for them here, and to find new ones that seem perfect for one of my posts. AdventureJo compares my blogging style to scrapbooking, because of all my photos and clipart. LOL

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  16. I'M BACK!!
    My goal is to get in at least one blog per day this week to make up for my long absence.

    This one was fun and I thought it was unusual that we hadn't covered any of this material on the phone. I think the cake looks scrumptious - especially since I'm starving right now! That prep boad looks awesome - I only have a flat board and lots of things are very juicy and it gets everywhere.

    I'd seen pot minders but I frankly didn't think they would work - I'm glad to know they do - but of course now I want to know the scientific reason why!! You see a sweedish chef - I see a mystery!! :-)

    As I scrolled down to this blog, I couldn't help notice the scone - I love scones so that'll be my incentive to catch up.

    Fort Wayne was one big eating fest. Michelle was our chef. She sauteed some veggies in a little oil and at the last minute, drizzled them with balsamic vinigar - that's it - and it was wonderful.

    I guess I better go eat - I have food on the brain. Thanks for sharing yours with me!

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  17. Jo ~ Yay! Welcome back! :-) I hope you're able to achieve your goal. You'll catch up pretty quickly that way, since I don't post nearly that often!

    I had to LOL at your comment about being surprised we hadn't covered any of this material on the phone, because I wasn't sure how I would have, really! It seems much more suited to a blog post than to a phone conversation ~ how could I have shared all the photos and links to products and recipes? And I certainly hope you wouldn't have expected me to sing the "Bork! Bork! Bork!" song over the phone. ;-)

    The cake was delicious, and I've been thinking of making another one soon. And the Cuisinart prep boards are so handy, we bought a second one. You neeeeeed one! :-)

    I'd shied away from buying a Pot Minder before too, for the same reason. But I'm glad I finally got one because it works great. And the Pot Minder manufacturer must have anticipated there'd be inquisitive engineer types like you out there, because they tell how it works in their FAQ section:

    The principle behind the Pot Minder's function involves a ceramic product with a carefully designed surface, size and density to modify the formation, size and number of bubbles rising from the bottom of the pot. This results in less vigorous boiling. When boiling begins, the Pot Minder will also chatter on the bottom of the pot and act as a reminder that boiling has started. It is interesting that for centuries, our ancestors used small river rocks in pots to serve the same function.

    And yes, scones (and tea, another goodie you're fond of!) await you!

    Michelle's sautéed veggies sound really good (we do something similar with portobello mushroom caps), and I hope you were able to fit in a little scrapbooking between servings. ;-)

    All this talk of food has made me hungry as well, so I'm heading upstairs soon to make some pumpkin-cranberry bread. I have some thawed cranberries to use up, and am wanting pumpkin bread to go with our Teecchino in the morning! :-)

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"