The Moveable Feast Food Blog

The Moveable Feast is a Personal Chef Service that serves the Hampton Roads area of Southern Virginia. This blog is an extension of my web site and will go into more details about food and any food service industries. Any pictures and or recipes that are published here are all the property of The Moveable Feast unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging #38
Head over the Eat Stuff and see lots of lovely kitties from all over the world. Thanks for hosting all of us Clare!

I am a new knitter and my family will benefit from it, but I think Bailey thinks she will really benefit. She is a rescue from our local city pound. When I adopted her she had no hair on her body except her head, the tip of her little skinny tail and some on her paws. When they found her she had a collar so they kept her 10 days. She was two days away from kitty heaven when I applied to adopt her. I think she was a well loved cat who got out of the house and the owners flat couldn't find her. She had be declawed (please no comments about that) and was spayed. If the dog catcher hadn't picked her up I think she would have starved to death.

We dearly love our rescue kitty. She is so grateful to have been saved and she returns that by putting up with four dogs who always want to tackle her and lick her all over. Bless her heart!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Weekend Dog Blogging
Thanks to Sweetnicks for hosting our puppy pictures. Hope you feel better soon!

Edward is thinking that watching Olympic curling and mom knit ranks right up there with watching grass grow... See what did I tell you?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Wanna Be Bread Bakers...
I forgot to post the wheat bread recipe the other day so I here it is. It's extremely easy and you really can't screw this up unless you don't knead the bread the way it says to. Having a themometer really helps so that you don't have the water too hot thus killing the yeast.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Yield: 2 loaves
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water, 105-115F
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening, melted
2 cups whole wheat flour
4-41/2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in water in a large mixing bowl; let stand for five minutes. Add the next 4 ingredients. Stir in whole wheat flour; beat well. Stir in bread flour to make a smooth dough. Turn onto floured board; knead 10 minutes adding flour as needed. Turn into clean, greased bowl; let rise on hour until doubled in size. Shape into two loaves. Place into greased pans; let rise utnil doubled. Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes or until golden.

I wanted to comment on the ingredients that I used. I had just enough freezer burned whole wheat flour to do the 2 cups, but I also had some bread flour too. So I used the 2 cups of wheat flour, 2 cups of bread flour and 21/2 cups all-purpose flour.

The melted shortening grossed me out but I did have some and used the non-transfat stuff. It's only 1/4 cup so I did use it. When I greased the bowl for the first rising I used olive oil. I like that insead of canola oil.

So there is a pretty simple Whole Wheat bread for a beginner or a rusty bread baker like myself. This recipe came from The Best of Honey Recipes by Beatrice Ojakangas

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Let's Break Bread
Last week on Friday the all knowing weather man, Jon Cash, was predicting 1-3 inches of snow. I thought that with some firewood and some good rib sticking food, we would be snug as two bugs in a rug. So I got inspired. I have a bread machine but there is something about bread that has a whole in it that just isn't appealing to my eyes. So I took a HUGE leap of faith in instant rise yeast and made bread from scratch. I got a little mini cookbook from my mother-in-law some years back. I saved it hoping that some day I could make something from it. It's day had come. I have a huge array of honey. My palate is not made for too many wines but for some reason I have some super palate for honey. Who knew? So armed with my little honey cookbook, I was ready to tackle bread.

I used to be an assistant baker at a large bakery here where I live, but honestly that was from 1995-97 and I think forgotten most of what I learned. Baking in a commercial bakery is way different from baking at home. I had to scale down my expectations just a bit about space and equipment, but mostly the rising process and the oven.

To start off I have to say that I did bake this bread on the spur of the moment and if I had been prepared better, my bread would have been better...well maybe. I usually freeze my flour to keep the flour bugs at bay. I have tried the bay leaf trick, but it is a wives tale for sure. So I went to the freezer and found myself some wheat flour. Honestly, I had no idea how long it's been in the freezer. My best estimate is over 18 months. Do I hear bread bakers shreiking with horror? I should have and at the end I did.

Here is the bread after it was given an hour for the first rising. I turned on the oven and set the bowl with a towel covering it next to the oven venting burner on the stove top. I had hoped that the warmth would help to make the rising much better than it turned out. It took 90 minutes to double in size.

The recipe said it makes two loaves. I decided that I didn't want to put them into a loaf pan so I just divided them and shaped then into oblong loaves. This is before the second rising.

Okay, I confess...I couldn't not help but peaking and seeing if the second rising was going well. I did time this for an hour and they did double.

I used the baking stone that sits idol in my oven most of the time to bake the bread. I never use this and you can see from the black spots I am a messy oven person. Here is a picture of one of the finished loaves. The texture is just like the kinds of wheat bread you buy in the store only more dense. Lessons that I have learned...don't keep your flour in the freezer more than a few months. The bread had that funny freezer taste to it. It didn't stop me from eating it but I can taste my freezer in every bite. think I would bake this bread in the loaf pans next time so that all the pieces will fit in the toaster. So I guess I am not a total failure at baking bread, only baking it with that $50 bread machine that I bought!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

It’s Vegas baby!!

I recently had to make a four day trek to Vegas for a board meeting. I was there last year and ate the most fabulous meal at Bouchon. When one of the chefs made our reservations on line, she mentioned there would be three or four personal chefs for dinner. Bouchon responded by giving us a table by a window and service that would knock your socks off. While I would love to think that we got the service simply by the very mention that we were all chefs too, I could see that service is Bouchon’s “thing”. What a good thing that is. The food was indescribable. I have never eaten a meal that made me so happy in a restaurant. Now that could either be a good thing, or a bad thing. Sadly it was bad.

I know that sounds odd but now my standards are high and I couldn’t shake that experience at Bouchon’s from my head. Again, one of the chefs I was with made reservations at Mesa Grill in Vegas. I had eaten at Mesa Grill in NYC back in 2001 and thought it was a good meal, although I can’t remember what I ate. I was taken aback by the prices, but I live in VA and this after all was THE New York City. So I had to temper my sticker shock.

With hungry bellies, we piled into Mesa Grill and couldn’t wait to get a hold of that menu. I looked at it briefly and my socks were not knocked off. Somehow I felt let down and not even close to wowed. What on earth was wrong with me? I was so not wowed. I had the I ordered the Grill Tuna Steak with Apricot Mustard Mint Glaze with Green Chili Pine Nut Couscous. I was disappointed. One of my other dinner companions was sorely disappointed in her meal too. The other two chefs at the table went with the house specialty; New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, and theirs was was kicky and spicy. Why or why didn’t I order that? No, I wanted to see each fish. I NEVER eat fish. See what I get for trying something new? Disappointment all the way ‘round. I am sorry the pictures here are so dark. It was really dark in the restaurant and if I had used the flash, I would have blinded the other diners at the table next to us. The funny thing about all of this; the other diners were even less wowed than I was. We all compared our dinners and the only one that got even close to a good review was the pork tenderloin dish.

I am a dessert girl. I love desserts in restaurants and really wanted to try something that would redeem my disappointment from dinner. No such luck. Everything on the menu looked the same as any other dessert I have ever eaten. Blah. I am not a picky eater but this just lacked the luster I was hoping for. Should we have eaten at Bouchon? Hind sight is 20/20. I paid $35 for a piece of tuna that I could have cooked on the grill at home. Mesa Grill in Las Vegas was a disappointment. WOW. I feel like such a heel saying that since I went with such expectations.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Chicken Pot Pie
Here is the recipe for the Chicken Pot Pie that I made a while ago. It turns out great and you can cheat and use ready made crust and you can put it on the bottom and on the top. If you use either a lightly beaten egg or some milk, the crust will has a sheen to it.
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 3/4 cup chicken or turkey broth
2/3 cup milk
1 package frozen peas and carrots
2 cups cut-up chicken or turkey

Heat margarine (butter works much better) over low heat until melted. Blend in flour, onion, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in broth and milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Bil and stir 1 minute. Stir in chicken and frozen vegetables.

Pour mixture in a casserole dish (spraying with non-stick spray will help to make clean up easier) then lay the pastry crust over the mixture. Cut slits in the crust to allow steam to escape while baking. Bake at 425 uncovered until crust is browned. It will take about 30-35 minutes depending on your oven.

Okay, let me talk about the ingredients first. I always use more onion than it calls for and I don't use frozen carrots. I do however use frozen green peas. Sometimes I throw in sliced button mushrooms. When I made my CPP I put chicken breasts in water first to boil. I took the chicken breast out to cool so I could cut it up or pull apart by hand. Then I added the vegetables next, saving the liquid (so I can use it for the 1 3/4 cup of broth and then add more water to it and made chicken stock from there) If you would like to kick up the flavor a notch, then add 2-3 tablespoons of sherry to the finished dish before baking.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Quick Chix Juice
I am all for saving time when cooking as long as I remember the fruits of my labor. The perfect example of saving time was my frozen Basil Pesto cubes. Now all I have to do is pop them into a sauce and watch all the green goodness melt down. Often times I do these time saving things and completely space out and forget that I have them. Example number two is...homemade chicken stock...well sort of.

In culinary school you go through this whole process of making beef stock by roasting the bones and then cutting up all the mise en place ( MEEZ ahn plahs-a French term referring to having all the ingredients for what you are cooking, all prepared and ready to go at any point in the cooking process) for the beef stock. Chicken stock is done with raw bones although you can roast them too but they are much better when you can have the albumin (al-BYOO-mehn-the protien portion that comes from an egg but is also found in milk, plants, animal blood and seeds) come from the bones on their own in cold water which later turns into the most flavorful base for everything liquid.

I am all for roasting and simmering for hours, and skimming the scum ( Depouillage), but honestly who on earth has the time to do all of this for the tasty end result? I know that even though I cook for a living, I don't have time to do all of that fancy stuff. So I do the next best thing, I cheat.

A while ago I posted the making of Chicken Pot Pie.
What I didn't post was the short cuts that I took and the rewards I reaped. After I cooked my vegetables in cold water to get ready for the Chicken Pot Pie, I didn't want to waste one ounce of that liquid. That liquid was chalk full of flavors from mushrooms, carrots, onions, celery, and peas. It would be a crime to pour all that down the drain. Since I like making my own chicken stock, I seized the moment and did my cheat thing!

I rough chopped up more onions, celery and carrots and dumped them into the hot liquid. Then I grabbed a hand full of Telicherry peppercorns, three or four stalks of fresh parsley and sprinkled some dried thyme in pot, slapped on the lid and let it boil and then simmer during dinner and prime TV watching time. Who could ask for anything easier??
The end result is then strained and cooled in an ice bath and frozen. I usually measure out the stock into 1 cup bags, label them and put them into the freezer. There they will sit until I dig around and remember making them. It happens...frequently. LOL!

Monday, February 13, 2006

I am sorry that I have not been around for the last few days, well nearly a week now. I was out of town doing some business and have just now recovered from my travels. I have a few days off this week and will post the Chicken Pot Pie recipe and have some photos of my eating adventures in Las Vegas. I ate at some pretty nice places and they got mixed reviews by myself and my dinner companions. I promise to write about them soon. Here is a tease...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Creamy Comfort Food
I am a huge fan of fixing comfort foods especially in the winter months. I usually gain a few pounds over the winter and then shed it with fresh fruit and veggies come spring and winter. I have tried eating those things in the winter months but my body craves those heavy meats, sauces and carbs. One of my most favorite comfort foods is Chicken Pot Pie. I have memories of eating those little mini ones from Swansons when I was a kid. My mom used to buy them in chicken or beef and I loved them both. They had that nice flaky crust on the top and bottom of the little tin. I think now-a-days they only have the crust on the top. Sadly I have also followed suit with only having crust on one side. It does cut down on the fat content some...

I have had this cookbook since I have been married about 27 years. I really can't remember where I got it, but I think I bought it through some book club I used to belong to. It was a great foundation for me as a new bride and cook. I wish I could open it and show you how all most all the pages have some gravy stains, grease stains and comments on my most treasured recipes. One of my favorite two are the Chicken Pot Pie and the Chicken a la' King. I have them memorized. I have modified them due to becoming Lactose Intolerate many years ago. I use the Lactaid milk instead of heavy cream or half and half. It does make the recipes a little more liquidy but it's worth not being sick over.
I started my chicken pot pie by cutting up all the vegetables. Then I sauteed the onions in the butter until they were tender. The picture is a bit blurry but that is from the steam coming from the skillet. I made a roux (half real butter and half fat free Lactose milk). I boiled the rest of the vegetables in some water and when they were just about cooked, I added them to the sauce.
. I used three boneless, skinless, chicken breast. They used to come four to a package but for some reason they have dropped down to three. That's probably just as well since I am only feeding two people these days. I saved the water from the boiling vegetables and then dropped my chicken breast in that water as soon as it came back to a rolling boil. Once the chicken breasts were cooked and cooled; I chopped them into smaller bite sized pieces. All the ingredients were mixed in the skillet to be sure and coat everything in the sauce. Then I sprayed some non-stick spray on my Corningware and everything from the skillet was put in there for baking. Here is the finished pie before baking. I had some left over pie dough and decided to use a cookie cutter to cut out the state of Texas and put them on top. I brushed the whole thing with an egg. Use can use milk to do the very same thing as the egg. Using the egg or milk helps to give the crust an extra shine to it and makes the brown much nicer. I will post next weekend.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

That thing that I do…Part 2

After reading the manual that USPCA sent to me about how to build a Personal Chef business, I rushed down to city hall and applied for my business license. I didn’t have any clients and sure wasn’t going to tell my boss that I was systemically plotting how to quit one job to take on another. With every pay check for about two months, I bought equipment for the business. I bought the cheapest things that I could find, not understanding what kind of wear and tear I was going to put on them. Boy was the first year an eye opener about what a beating my equipment was going to take.

When I had all the equipment that I thought I was going to need, I handed in my month’s notice at work. The head chef was disappointed I was quitting (they usually feel that way about slave labor). He said that my job was there waiting for me when my business failed. FAIL??? That wasn’t in the manual and certainly not in my business plan!! Kiss my…well you know…I have never gone back.

The premise of this job is based on what is called a cycle menu. Hospitals, schools and businesses that feed their employees are all based on this system. A cycle menu repeats it self anywhere from 5 days to weeks on end. The USPCA model is based on 5 days.

Once I get a call to enlist my services I do a face-to-face interview with the client and sometimes a room full of relatives and onlookers. I bring a food survey that has evolved over the last 8 years, a new client packet, and a Service
Agreement... I have the client fill out the survey to see what their food preferences are and then we discuss what their expectations are. Sometimes what I can provide is not exactly what they are looking for. I have the client sign the Service Agreement for several reasons. I really am not looking to lock anyone into a relationship that might not work for them. I want them to understand that I am there to cook-not let their dog out, answer their phone, receive packages from UPS or baby-sit their children or elderly relatives. I am there to cook. I also tell them what they can expect from me and what I expect from them; no bounced checks and no canceled services less than three days before their service date unless it’s an emergency. I need their vital statistics and an E mail address so that I can E mail them a prospective menu.

When I go home I put their preferences into a special computer program set up just for Personal Chefs and then start looking through the program’s recipes that might interest the client. If the client is not a picky eater I can send them at least 10 choices that include, beef, chicken, seafood, pork and vegetarian entrees. When I E mail the suggested entrees, I ask them to pick 5 main courses. I usually reserve the right to choose their side dishes according to what they have chosen for their entrée.

I will use a couple as the example of how the service works. Since they pick 5 entrees, I cook 5 different things but 4 portions of each entrée. That means they are now eating from the cycle menu where the week repeats. So for example if I make Chicken Cordon Bleu, I make four of them. Two of the Chicken Cordon Bleus are in one package and the other two in another package. Each package has a label telling the client what is inside, the thawing and reheating instructions, the date the dish was made and how many portions are inside. So there will be two packages of Chicken Cordon Bleu. In all the clients will have 10 sets of two entrees and then 2 sets of a side dish that will go well with an entrée?

I do the shopping for the clients menu the same day that I cook. I bring my own equipment so that I don’t have to use anything that belongs to the client. Besides, I am used to my own knives and keep them extremely sharp. I like using my own equipment.

When I arrive the there are two things that I do first. I always and I do mean always open up the oven door to be sure that the client is not storing their bread or pots and pans in the oven. When all is clear I get the oven turned on. The second thing that I do whether or not I need to is get a pot of water boiling. I then carry in all the groceries and equipment and do my thing.

Doing what I do is like being a “line” cook in a restaurant. The object is to get everything to get done in a timely manner without burning down the kitchen. I can usually keep 4 burners going at all times while prepping for what is next.

I wanted to call everyone’s attention to a great blog and Podcast by my friend Mark Tafoya at The ReMarkable Palate. If you go to his blog you can click on to his link for his podcasts. They are both interesting and educational. Mark recently did an interview with John Moore from The United States Personal Association. He is the Executive Director. You will learn more about the USPCA and how many Personal Chefs there are industry wide . You will also get a link to find yourself a Personal Chef for any occasion.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Knitting and Spinning...part 2
I tried last night to post all the knitting and spinning pictures but think that I went over my quota of pictures. Maybe it was the size? is the rest of what I tried to post last night.

I left off last night with a rather dark picture of a ball of roving. Here is the same ball sitting on my dining room table. The roving is spun on to the smaller bobbins. Then two of those bobbins are combined and spun into what most of us think of as yarn. The larger bobbin is the "plying" bobbin. I happen to have some plied yarn on this one pictured. Here are the fruits of my labor. The darkest one is from the ball of roving that I have shown before. The other three hanks are from the same ball of blonde roving. Each hank needs to have a tag on it reminding me of the yardage, weight, kind of sheep the wool came from and the date that I spun it. Knitting as well as cooking, has tools...okay toys that you need to get the job done. Here is my stash so far. My mother-in-law sent me a huge envelope with needles and do dads to get me started. So thus far I have only really paid for classes and some yarn. This is my very first finished piece from my first knitting class. Now this looks like a real sweater front, but looks are deceiving. It's a cotton dish cloth. The Knitting Corner where I took my lessons uses this as a beginner class to teach you the stockinette stitch, seed stitch, knitting, purling, cables, ribbing and decreasing. So I got a lot from the class. It's too bad someone isn't here with me right now to show you my bald spots where I ripped out my hair trying to get this perfect. Someone in the class suggested that I frame it so that years later I can look back and see where I started. ugh! Okay, now back to cooking.