Friday, November 21, 2014

Where Do You Get Your Ideas

II'm often asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" To be honest, some pop into my head, full-blown, much like Athena from Zeus' head, while others are sparks by a news program, or something I hear on a radio program. There have been times that old family stories jog the creative process.
The same thing happens when I run across a recipe but I can never leave things alone. I mess with it, change things around, totally change out ingredients until it's a new recipe. Other times I get a notion of what I want and begin throwing things together. Sooner or later, it works
Tilly mentions her Caramel Pecan Macchiato Trifle recipe in the book. I’m a retired chef and I was curious about how her fictional recipe would translate into the real world. The Women’s Ministry at church had a ladies meet and greet, so I whipped something up and used them as guinea pigs. The results? My large trifle bowl was empty when it was time to go home, leaving my poor husband to scrape the sides for a small taste. Success, rave reviews, and happy faces told me it was a hit.
First let me tell you, I usually do everything from scratch, but this is one of those recipes that really works with off-the-self mixes. Consider it a time saver. We can all use a few extra minutes for a cup of coffee while we sit down with a good book.

Tilly’s Caramel Pecan Macchiato Trifle

This will fill a large Trifle bowl. You can halve this for a smaller recipe. Use three cups of whipping cream instead of a quart. Two cups for the Bavarian Cream and one cup whipped for the top of the trifle.

2 large boxes of instant pudding mix
1 quart of heavy whipping cream
16oz carton of whipped topping (Extra Creamy works best, but the regular will do.)
1 ½ cups of milk
Chocolate Syrup (ice cream topping)
Caramel Syrup (ice cream topping)
2 cups chopped pecans
Powdered espresso mixed with water to taste (some people like a stronger coffee flavor)
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
1 angel food cake cut into small cubes

Bavarian Cream:
Empty the two boxes of instant pudding mix into a large bowl. Add the milk and stir until the pudding is very thick, but not lumpy. If it appears lumpy, add more milk until it is smooth and thick. Add water to powdered espresso until it reaches the strength you prefer and mix into the pudding mixture. Add the whipped topping to the pudding and stir until incorporated. Whip 2 cups of whipping cream until very stiff. Fold in the whipped cream and gently stir until everything is smooth and creamy.
Whip the remaining of cream with the sugar and vanilla until stiff,

Assembling the Trifle:
1: Place some of the angel food cubes into the bottom of the bowl
2: Put 1/2 of the espresso flavored Bavarian Cream on top of the angel food cake.
3: Add a layer of whipped cream
4: Sprinkle with pecans
5: Drizzle both chocolate and caramel syrups over the top
6: Repeat the steps until all the Bavarian Cream is gone. Top with whipped cream, pecans, and drizzle syrups on top to finish the Trifle. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
7: Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Scoops of Love

Great things are happening in the next few days. All very hush-hush and delicious. Keep watch, but in the meantime, I wanted to share one of my favorite things. Recipes.
In my past life, and no, I don’t mean anything dealing with reincarnation, I was a personal chef. I loved to cook for people and enjoyed the way they told me how much they loved what I had prepared. To be honest, I still get a kick out of watching someone’s eyes go wide with pleasure when they bite into one of my gluten free cream puffs.
 Writing is much the same. There’s nothing more that I like than entertaining someone for a few hours. Every comment on my work is taken into account. It’s wonderful when the reader loves the book, but some of my most interesting and entertaining comments makes me search myself as a writer. What can I do to make this a better story? How did it fail? So, the point is this—there are never any bad reviews. Please note—this doesn’t count for those people who troll the internet to spout hateful comments merely for the sake of hurting the author.
So, having said that, let’s get back to the recipe I wanted to share today.
Many people think they can’t make decent ice cream. It can be time consuming, but not in an onerous way. There are a few steps with time in-between. Like writing, I’ve developed this recipe over time, taking the basics of the original old fashioned recipe and adjusting it for my own. It gets my granddaughter’s seal of approval and believe me, she a vanilla ice creamanista.
Vanilla Ice Cream ala Andromeda
For two quarts:
The day before, or early the day of making the ice cream. You will need the following:
4 cups half/half
2 cups heavy cream
1 ½ cup sugar
4 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
One vanilla bean (split with the seeds scraped out)
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract (1 ½ teaspoon if you can’t find a vanilla bean)
2 tablespoons of corn starch
¼ cup water
Table salt, sea salt, or rock salt.

Add the half and half, one cup of heavy cream, sugar, and salt into a saucepan. Stir and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla bean seeds and pod to the mixture and let stand until lukewarm. (twenty to twenty-five minutes)
Next separate the yolks of four eggs. (I freeze the whites to use later on for angel food or chiffon cakes.) Beat the yolks into a froth and slowly add some of the warm milk mixture into the eggs to temper them. Add the eggs to the milk mixture, along with the cornstarch which has been dissolved in water, and the vanilla extract. (Yes, the vanilla bean pod is still in here.) Cook this until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add more half and half if the mixture is too thick. It needs to be the consistency of a thin pudding.
Put one cup of cream in a large bowl. Place a fine mesh sieve (I’ve even used clean spatter screens) over the top of the bowl and strain the custard mixture into the bowl. You will be surprised how many lumps this catches. Mix well. Take out the vanilla bean pod at this time.
Now comes the fast cool down. Put ice in a bowl that’s larger than the bowl containing the mixture. Sprinkle salt on the ice and set the bowl with the mixture into the ice bath. Stir the custard until it can be put into the refrigerator overnight, or until cool. Note: I have sped up the process by replacing the ice in the ice bath, over and over, until the base mix is cooled somewhat. It takes a bit longer to freeze in the canister. It can sit on a counter until it’s cooled down, but I prefer the ice bath.
I use an electric counter top ice cream maker. They come with a canister that can be keep in the freezer until it’s ready for use. A regular ice cream maker is fine.
Fill the container according to the directions of your ice cream maker, turn it on, and forget about it for a half hour. Now you will have lovely soft serve. It’s always better to put the soft ice cream in a container and into the freezer to ‘ripen’ for several hours.
Scoops away!
Until next time. Nom the world.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Taking Baby Steps--Learning New Technology and Eating Habits

I've sold another book and plan on self-publishing two, possibly three by the end of the year. Yay me! Until I realize that now come the hard part--marketing. Bookmarks are no longer enough. I have to dig into the nitty-gritty of trends, algorithms, keeping track of sales, and the sheer amount of number crunching that goes along with the new publishing paradigm. It's a do-it-yourself world.

I feel overwhelmed.

I'm an old dog--I admit it. My husband takes me into an electronic or computer store and I immediately break out into a rash. It's taken me years, do you hear me, years to learn to cut and paste, copy and save a file, not to mention set up a page. My writer friends gush about new numbers on their dashboards and techniques to keep sales numbers up. I panic.

There is one thing I've realized. I'm on unfamiliar ground with technology. My husband is IT, born and bred. Computers listen when he speaks. They fear him, because he will dig in their guts to find whatever problem plagues their user. He is GOD-guru on duty. He understands all those above mentioned writerly things which scare the bejesus out of me.

So, what does that have to do with new eating habits. Yes, I have you scratching your head.

Let me tell you.

I've decided on going gluten free for health reasons. My joints hurt, and I was told this was a way to alleviate some of the inflammation. This isn't easy. Yes, there are a lot of GF foods on the market, but I can never find what I like. This is a challenge. But I love a good food fight. I'm a retired chef an I love delving into recipes, or even making up my own. Most people are scared and put off by the idea of baking their own bread, cookies, and other pastries. Not me, I love cooking. I'm in my milieu. It's comfortable. Words like braise, meuniere, and sautee have people's eyes glazing over when I talk food. It's second nature to me.

It's then I realized that if I were to ask my husband to cook something with just the recipe, he might not get it right. A lot of cooking and baking comes from years of trying and failing, until you know what the dough is supposed to look like, feel like. It's something that you can't explain. Just as I struggle to understand technology and how it can enhance my writing career.

So, long story short, my first instinct is to pretend I don't have to learn about sales trends, marketing techniques, street teams, and the list goes on. No can do. This is vital marketing information that I can no longer turn away from, just as I can't ignore my aching joints. That means going gluten free. The only way to survive this brave, new world is to gird my loins, take up my mouse, and learn to deal in this new reality.