Category Archives: Random

not food-related

My Favorite Things

 

One of my favorite things - taking a walk. Peyman bites my ear more than kisses me. That's how he shows his love and affection...

My sister Riva introduced me to an application called Pinterest so I can gather all my ideas together without cutting and pasting ideas into MSWord.  This is because about 2-3 months ago I compiled images of wedding inspiration into a Word doc.  I sent it to my sisters for them to see, and Riva sent me the invite to Pinterest.  Oh my, was it life-changing.  I feel more organized and less scatterbrained.  Thank God for it.  I can easily click on my pinned images and be sent back to the websites where I spotted links. Not only that, I can search for certain topics and pin others’ pins onto to my boards too. It’s amazing and yet can be a big time-waster, like Twitter can be.

On Pinterest I’ve posted some wedding planning ideas, a few items on my bucket list, party planning ideas, and a few other pieces of useless information.  Having a “my style” board is pretty useless since I don’t really dress up much anymore :(.. Plus, who has time to look for clothes online?  I’d rather look for inspiration for home, kitchen, garden decor and for ideas on sweet things to do for my loved ones.  It’s a good place to remind myself of a few of my favorite things.

Check it out, http://pinterest.com/yvonnemrod/

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What I baked this week…

Frangipane Pear Tart

Pear Frangipane Tart

This week, I made more delicious pastries, and my loved ones that live in LA were all smiles and very happy as a result.  Of all the baked goods I made in this class, I loved the Pear Frangipane Tart and the Cheesecake with the Berry filling from the American Berry Pie the most.  The Pear Frangipane Tart was also Peyman’s favorite of all my baked goods.

Friday’s conclusion of my first baking class was bittersweet.  I’m happy that I won’t intake as many calories every week, however, ending every meal with a rich and sweet confection was wonderful…I will miss my variety of sweet goodness.

IMG_0075My friend, Erica, is having a birthday gathering on Friday.  I think she’d appreciate and enjoy it, so I’ll either take a fig frangipane or a pear frangipane tart to the party.  I also think I’ll make this tart for every major holiday until my loved ones get tired of it.  What I love so much about the Pear Frangipane tart is the combination of flavors.  The pears were poached in red wine with and some interesting spices such as cardamom, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, cloves…then they were soaked over the weekend in the liquid, which made them even more potent and exciting.  The filling of the tart is a rich almond base with a hint of vanilla and rum and zest of lemon.  It’s not terribly sweet but it is sweet.  When paired along with the deep, full-bodied flavor of the poached pears, it is sublime!  Really, it’s so good that it sends shivers down me spine.

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Cookie Platter: Palmiers, Linzer Jewel Cookies, Linzer Window Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans

My holiday cookie platters don’t normally look like this.  I had to space the cookies out on my class cookie platter well enough so that when a party-goer picks up a cookie, he/she would not touch a neighboring cookie.  This was not the final cookie platter that I put together.  At the last minute, I replaced the Palmiers with a version that was less brown and carmelized.  Before I could take a picture of the final cookie platter, I took a bite out of the paler cookies.  They were very nice.  My chef instructor told me I made the right move- Palmiers shouldn’t be this dark.  I made more than a dozen of each of the cookies.  I ate about 5 total this week and gave the rest away.  I think they may all be eaten by now.

My very first Lemon Meringue Tart.

My very first Lemon Meringue Tart.

Growing up, my sister, Janet, would make lemon meringue pie.  In high school, she worked at Sears department store so that she could buy her own stuff, including ingredients for this special treat of hers.  I remember trying the filling and not enjoying it.  I’m not a big fan of very sweet and tart desserts, so this was my first crack at making a lemon meringue pie.  I was inexperienced with the tips and wished I had used another.  Below, is the lemon meringue tart I made for my final.  I was pleased with it.  My chef instructor told me the filling was very good, the peaks of the meringue were very nice, like kisses, but I need to watch the tips… if they burn or catch on fire, I need to remove the charred tips.  Hahaha… I was in such a hurry during the final, I noticed the burned tips, and don’t understand why I didn’t remove them… I guess I thought that she probably wouldn’t have noticed.

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Cream Puffs with Sweetened Chantilly Cream and Strawberries

Cream Puffs with Sweetened Chantilly Cream and Strawberries

Pate A Choux means “Cabbage Paste”… it’s what we use for cream puffs and eclairs.  I had such a great time making cream puffs and eclairs.  If I had used the right tip, I would have made these look more dramatic… My chef instructor liked my Chantilly Cream (cream, sugar, and vanilla) and the lightness of the pate choux.  We scooped some macedoine sweetened strawberries into the cream puffs , which I will never do again.  In a cream puff, I think cream is good on it’s own.  If anything, I’d put strawberries and cream on poundcake.

Eclairs

Eclairs

My chef instructor, Chef Knight, liked the mignadise (minature, bite-sized) size of my eclairs.  They were filled with a chilled pastry cream and dipped in chocolate.  They were really good.  You know that saying, “once you pop, you can’t stop”..well, that applied here.  So good.

Meringue Drop Cookies

Meringue Drop Cookies

Meringue Drop Cookies with Japonaise/Meringue Noisette and Coffee Swiss Buttercream

Meringue Drop Cookies with Japonaise/Meringue Noisette and Coffee Swiss Buttercream

My sister, Riva, was very excited about these cookies.  We both think they taste like the Filipinio dessert, sylvana, only with Hazelnut.  If I had a bakery, I’d sell these… they are so sweet though… I’d want to make them smaller in size so as to not overwhelm someone.

American Pie Dough with Berry Filling... American Berry Pie

American Pie Dough with Berry Filling... American Berry Pie

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American pie dough is quite good. It reminds me of Paula Deen because there is lots of butter and shortening in the dough.  This is the biscuit of all pie doughs… it’s nice and flaky and oh so good!  I didn’t think I’d like the pie, but to my surprised, it was so good!  I made a very good filling with about 24 ounces of berries, lemon juice, and sugar.  The berries were perfect and actually went perfect with the cheesecake.

The first cheesecake I ever made

The first cheesecake I ever made

I like cheesecake a lot!  I’ve never made one before because in my past life (my life 3 months ago), I was a health nut (at home).  I used to only eat nonfat dairy products and fake butter…. All has changed… I am now open to eating real butter and real cheese and I almost feel like I’m living again… almost like when I first had organic produce..I’m tasting the real thing and it is so much better than their artificial, mass-produced counterparts.  My key to eating what you want while staying a slim size is to eat in moderation and to get some exercise.  Life is good.  I have no complaints.  I can’t wait till my next baking class!  Baking, I miss you already.

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“Passion. Ambition. Butter. Do You Have What it Takes?”

IMG_9515What a coincidence that the movie, Julie & Julia premiered the same month I started culinary school!  I didn’t even know the movie had been made until I was invited to a special screening for it early this month.

The movie’s tag line is so ME right now on so many levels, “Passion. Ambition. Butter. Do You Have What it Takes?”.  Here’s why… As you know, my passion and big source of happiness is from food and entertaining friends and family.  I am an aspiring cookbook writer, executive chef, and Food Network contributor.  Butter… butter was not part of my vocabulary until I started culinary school, 5 pounds less ago.  And, I have what it takes.  I’ve got the chops to prove it… and my chops are tasting even better with the help of the Le Cordon Bleu program.

I can just imagine the many parallels in my life, Julie’s and Julia’s lives.  I, too, am looking for joy in my life through cooking.  I am hoping that my career in culinary will make me an independent woman- emotionally, mentally, and financially.  I really want to feel a sense of fulfillment and empowerment, and I think I can get it through my culinary career.  I have felt a glimmer of it already, and I like it.  My life has already improved.

For those of you who know me, you know I’ve been on a long journey to find happiness in a career.  I’ve had many careers (too many) that I’ve had little to no passion for.  I was once an accountant, an accounting/finance recruiter, a real estate agent, an extra in movies and television, and concurrently with culinary school, I’m an executive administrator that handles HR, billing and invoicing, recruiting, insurance- you name it.  You wouldn’t believe that in the past year, I became a certified residential care facility for the elderly administrator, and I also almost became an early childhood development teacher.  For the past 10 years of my life, I’ve been on a quest to find a career that’s respectable and that would make me a lot of money.  I should have added happiness to the equation long ago.

Fortunately, I work for Peyman.  He is somewhat flexible with my schedule and with my work location, so for a few months now, I have been working from home.  While at work/home, after the presidential election, I would switch the Food Network on almost 24/7, and I’d experiment with recipes.  I soon started preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for Peyman everyday.  Soon, my life was becoming very food-based and I was gaining happiness from it.  While working for Peyman, I decided to pursue a different career in education/child care.  After getting CPR certified to become a preschool teacher, I realized that I didn’t want to wipe boogers or change diapers of my little students –  I wouldn’t be happy.  I realized that I had to pursue a career in something I loved; something dealing with food.  Golly, I deal with food everyday, I’ve always enjoyed learning new recipes and making people happy with my creations, so a career in culinary, I thought, would suit me perfectly.  That was when I contacted the California School of Culinary Arts – Le Cordon Bleu.  It was the best call I made in a long time… I have been pleased with the decision ever since and hope this is the last change in career for me.

As the youngest of six daughters, I’ve always wanted to please my parents the same way my older sisters did, as students and professionals in medicine, law, and business.  That’s the reason I went into accounting in the first place.  To my parents, it was a respectable profession.  Cooking, not so much… so I thought.

In retrospect, I think my dad was trying to give me a hint about what I’d end up doing career-wise.  My father passed away in 2001, while I was in college.  At my oldest sister’s medical school graduation party, 2 years before his death, he delivered a speech, of course, mentioning his children.  He was so proud of us (well most of us, I always thought).  I will never forget what he said about me… “And my daughter, Yvonne…the youngest.  Yvonne is in her 2nd year at UC Santa Cruz.  She has not decided on a career yet, but decided to major in business.  She mentioned that she wants to be a business woman, but I’ve always thought she’d make a good chef or a supermodel.”  Comments such as those would easily hurt me because I was under the impression that my parents raised us, hoping we’d be doctors, lawyers, or engineers…something great.  I always took his comments as insults.  I guess I wanted to be like my sisters more than I thought.  Looking back, I see some truth in what he had to say – now I see that he WASN’T trying to hurt me with his comments.  He was right.  My father knew best.

If only I had experienced food the same way I do today, and also if we had the Food Network back then, I’d pursued this career earlier on.  Giada De Laurentiis, Batali, Morimoto, and all the other Food Network chefs make the culinary arts very respectable and a bit glamorous.  I consider chefs to be great people.  It’s an awesome profession.

As I try to recollect whatever my dad would tell me, the more I realized he loved me and supported my happiness.  My dad didn’t randomly say I would make a good chef or supermodel.  Here is some background.  First off, I wasn’t the best math or science student growing up.  As a teenager, after school, if I wasn’t at cheerleading practice, at a student body leadership function, or performing in a talent show, I’d be in my parent’s kitchen.

In my very early years of life, I noticed my dad’s incessant complaints of my mom’s food- he’d complain of her lack of seasoning.  My mother grew up in a provincial town in the Philippines where fresh fish and seafood was readily available.  The food was so fresh that very little salt and pepper was needed to complete a dish- just add a tomato, onions, garlic, and it was done.  My father, a city boy, from Pasay City, Philippines, grew up poor, eating flavorful pork, beef, and who-knows-what dishes.  Now that I think of it, the food he ate was probably so flavorful to mask the rotting flavor of the meat.  On weekends as a youngin’, I’d tag along with my dad to work (he owned a real estate company in San Diego).  During these times, my dad would take me out to eat and we’d order the same food.  I developed a similar palatte to his because of this.

In high school, I learned my mom’s staple dishes, started whipping up some recipes from the Good Houskeeping Cookbook, and after a while, I took over making dinner or just seasoning my mom’s dishes for her.  I considered myself to be my dad’s personal chef.  Since I knew I couldn’t please my dad with my grades in math and science, I tried to please my dad’s palatte.  I always wanted approval from him, and in cooking I’d get his nod of approval.

Now quickly, why did my dad mention I might be a model?  When I was a teenager, my sister, Riva, would send pictures of me to modeling agencies and to model searches, mostly without my knowledge or consent.  Mind you, in high school I was thin and 5’6″ tall.  For an Asian, 5’6″ is considered tall.  She thought I’d make a good model, haha.  As a result of Riva’s efforts, my parents received phone calls for interviews at modeling agencies.  We went to an interview once but they wanted my parents to pay for modeling lessons like catwalk struts and makeup application.  My parents thought all agencies were gimmicks and not legit, especially if there was an initial fee.  There was a model search where I was told I was sponsored by either Sprite or Squirt.  I was supposedly a “finalist”.  In order to attend the finals, I had to leave town during my final exams.  My parents were for education, so end of story.

Back to my culinary story, like Julie and Julia of Julie & Julia, I hope my career in the culinary field will be fulfilling and everlasting.  As I mentioned, I want to write a few cookbooks, be a chef at a high-end restaurant (like Lucques in Los Angeles), and maybe someday I can be a Food Network chef.  I think I’m a few steps closer since I kicked butt in my first class.  I think my dad would have been proud.  Although he is no longer physically here, I still feel very connected to him, and that his spirit and energy is still very much alive in me.  Cheers to you Dad.  I will always love you.

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My birthday week – week 2 of culinary school.

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Last week was a very busy week.  Not only was it my week 2 of my academic culinary career, it was also the week I turned 30.

Since it was my birthday week, I was very fortunate to have been taken out to my favorite Downtown LA restaurants, and to receive a rich and beautiful red velvet cake made by my sister, Riva.

On my birthday, Peyman took me to Water Grill- a wonderful restaurant that serves up some of the freshest seafood in Los Angeles.  They also have an amazing wine list –  they even won an excellence award from Wine Spectator magazine.  We started off our memorable meal with a glass of Pinot Noir and a red Zinfandel, then we devoured the oyster sampler.

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I loved the presentation, with each oyster in it’s original shell – some looked manufactured even, like Ariel’s bikini top in the little Mermaid.  The 3 sauces that were served along with the oysters were mouthwatering…I’m salivating as I type this.  My favorite was the champagne sauce.

After the oysters, we asked for the waiter’s salad recommendation.  He easily convinced us to order a lovely green salad with apricots and bread crisps.  It was beautiful and delicious!IMG_9168

For our main courses, Peyman ordered and loved the Chilean Sea Bass, and I ordered the swordfish, which was excellent.  My swordfish was cooked perfectly, with mini beets on the side with a sweet potato puree that I found to be very nice and surprising.

Swordfish

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We finished our meal with a scrumptious dessert that consisted of a cheesecake, vanilla bean ice cream (I think it was vanilla), fresh fruit and a delightful guava glaze sauce.  It was so good. Between the cheesecake and the ice cream were fine pieces of cheesecake crust, which added great texture and another element of surprise, along with the guava sauce.  This was paired with the recommended dessert wine.  Not sure what it was, but it was sweet, and very satisfying.  Peyman sang the birthday song to me.  It was a lovely meal.  I was a happy 30 year old!

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The next day, Riva and the twins invited me over for a surprise.  They made me beautiful birthday cards and a red velvet cake that I’ve been wanting to try – Bobby Flay’s recipe from his show, “Throwdown”.  He beat the legendary Cake Man Ray with this recipe.  It was good, but I still love the red velvet cake from Lisa Bon Appetite and Every Bundt Cakes.  I am so lucky to have such a loving, caring, and sweet sister that loves to bake and buy baked goodies to share with me!IMG_9218

On Saturday, my friends arrived from Northern California, Orange County, Pasadena, and Santa Monica to celebrate my big 3-0.  We went to my favorite sushi restaurant in Downtown, Izayoi.IMG_9207IMG_9206

I, of course, ordered my favorite green salad with the magical, feel good salad dressing.  Can someone figure out what’s in the dressing?  I love it!  I want to eat it everyday!  I also order my typical yellow tail sushi varieties.  I don’t enjoy tuna as much anymore and I’m allergic to shrimp.  This yellow tail is fantastic!  We paired our Japanese fare with sake, pitchers of Kirin, and I had a Sopporo.  I was happy to hear that everyone enjoyed their meal, well maybe not everyone… Rosy ordered a very authentic Japanese dish that is unusual and strange to outsiders – she ordered sweet potato with a raw egg sauce… when she was moving it around in the bowl, she didn’t make it look very appetizing.  Who knows, she may have liked it.  Like I said, besides Rosy, everyone thought the restaurant was a hit.

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After dinner, we headed over to the mysterious and “exclusive” club, the Doheny, where cameras and cell phones (texting ok) are prohibited.  We met a few folks at the Doheny from school, Bryan Hustle Bowens (the DJ) and Brian (formerly known as Bob).  We danced to House, Deep House, Techno – electronic music.  It was a great time!  Aside from eating delicious food and spending time with all those I value most, I love dancing with this group of girlfriends…we all have interesting styles and everyone’s a great dancer!

As for drinks at the Doheny, I stuck to those with vodka since I don’t get hangovers with vodka.  I forgot the unusual names of the drinks…when I ordered my drinks, all I said was, “I want the best drink you can make with vodka”.  They were very good, sometimes a bit too sweet, and very strong.  After my 3rd drink, I couldn’t believe I couldn’t dance anymore.  My balance was off!

Although I couldn’t continue my love for dance on Saturday night, I was so happy to share delicious food and memories with those I value highly and love very much.  I am thankful and very blessed for all the goodness in my life.  Thank you, God!

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Tribute to Michael Jackson

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Today, Thursday, June 25th at 2:26pm, the legendary pop icon Michael Jackson was pronounced dead.  He died after suffering cardiac arrest.  He was only 50!  1958 – 2009.  I didn’t expect he would live such a short life.  This is a major event, as major as Elvis’s death.  Farewell to our King of Pop.

When I heard the news this afternoon, the song Ben started playing in my mind.  After watching his movie biography in 1997, I learned that the song Ben was about his childhood friend- a mouse that he shared cheese with, a mouse he named Ben.  Michael would chat and play with him while everyone was sleeping, until one night he was surprised to find him caught dead in a mouse trap.  Poor Ben.  So sweet that Michael wrote a song in memory of him.

As strange as Michael Jackson seemed in his later years, I was quite fascinated by him.  I found joy in his last album, HIStory.

He had so many hits.  The song Ben will always remind of sweet innocence and friendship,  I want to rock with you will always trigger the dancer in me, the Earth Song will always bring back the introspective side and modern dancer in me, and Remember the time will always exercise my memory as I do my 8th grade drill team dance routine to the song.

Michael Jackson’s favorite foods included sushi, Mexican, KFC, spicy food, cheese potatoes, and M&Ms.  As a tribute to Michael Jackson, tonight I will enjoy some of his favorite foods… sushi, a sake, and some M&Ms.

Cheers to you, Michael!

My prayers go out to you and your family, especially your 3 children.  You will be missed and you will be remembered.  RIP!

For your listening pleasure, here’s the song, Ben

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