Monday, September 30, 2013

33 or Bust

Dear Readers,

It has been awhile since my last post but I've been rather busy over the past year. My grand Yakudoshi experiment has truly been an "adventure." What did I do? Here are some of the highlights:

February 2012 - Certification in I guess I have some credentials now.

March 2012 - Traveled to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, The Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Expanded my knowledge of European cuisine.

April 2012 - Planned and cooked lunch for 300 at Defending the Gate. SO MUCH FOOD and they ate most of it.

May 2012 - Started culinary school.

September 2012 - Went home for the Okinawan Festival and learned how to make andagi.

September 2012 - Volunteered in the Green Room at Intervention ( and was asked to return as staff next year. Catered the BSR ( party.

December 2013 - Hosted DBF's parents for Christmas for the first time.

January 2013 - First SCA feast as head cook in 10 years. Lunch and dinner for 50ish and came in over $100 under budget. Got my money's worth from those whole chickens.

April 2013 - Took over as head retainer to the Baron and Baroness of Bright Hills. Many "light lunches" in my future.

May 2013 - Traveled to the Barony of Madrone, An Tir (Seattle, WA) to work in my friend's kitchen at Crown Tourney. Packed my knives and had a great weekend in a camp kitchen.

May 2013 - Invited to be Kaffeeklatsche Chef (set-up and refresh the coffee and snacks) at Balticon (

August 2013 - Pennsic! First time in over 7 years and I spent the long weekend cooking. Worked with House Blackstar/Barony of Bight Hills to do Mongolian BBQ night, dinner for the King and Queen of Atlantia and guests, and Baronial Meet and Greet/Baron Chirhart's Birthday. Plus I decorated two cakes on-site...decorating with butter cream while camping!

August 2012 - Ran the Green Room, Enabler Party, and BSR ( live broadcast party at Intervention (

September 2013 - Traveled to the Shire of Ballachlagan, AEthelmearc (New Manchester, WV) to work in Master Huon's ( kitchen.

I did some other, non food related, things as well. There's so many things that I want to share with you and I hope you stick around to find out how this story unfolds.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Yakudoshi Year

With my 32nd birthday just a couple of months away, I may as well explain the yakudoshi project. Like many of my previous projects, it is grand in scope and not realistically achievable. But I should start at the beginning. What the heck is a yakudoshi? In Japanese tradition it's a year for struggle, change, and realizing ones purpose. For men it's 42 (41 by western reckoning) and for women it's 33 (32 by western reckoning). I was going to just take a trip to Japan to be blessed and then the opportunity to go on the whirlwind Europe trip last March landed in my lap. I was going to say that going on the trip would be enough because I was home for New Years and I received blessings at the shinto shrine...but this is me and I don't do anything by halves.

Perhaps we should go back even further for the origin story of the largest piece of the yakudoshi project. Back to September 2011 at a hotel in Rockville, MD. I was doing my "FEED ALL THE PEOPLE" thing at the Bomb Shelter Radio party at Interventioncon and I heard that a rumor was spreading about this professionally catered party...the party I was attending...the party that I was feeding. Wait? The food that I threw together in my kitchen last night? Professionally catered party? WTF? I went home and thought about it...and thought about it...and applied to culinary school. But I was going on the whirlwind Europe vacation in March and I didn't want to miss a week of class during my first semester so I waited until the summer to start taking classes. And I survived my first lab class. And I'm happy.

What I'm finding is that cooking feeds my soul and work feeds my bank accounts. I defined myself as an office drone for most of my adult life because I didn't have any other way to answer the "what do you do?" question. Saying "I'm in culinary school" makes me smile and it's a much more interesting conversation than "I'm an office manager." Don't get me wrong. I like my job. I respect my employer. I'm not leaving the corporate world to be a chef...but I don't want my day job to define who I am.

So you're going to culinary school...what else? There's the 1,000 cranes project that probably won't be completed in time for my birthday. I have about 200 folded and it's slow going because I bought 3.5" paper and it makes my hands cramp up after about 10 cranes. So that might happen eventually...or not at all. Yes, I can buy larger paper but I already spent the money and I don't have space for a giant cascade of cranes.

I'm getting rid of things that make me unhappy. Well, the specific items don't make me unhappy but the clutter does. I desperately want to be a minimalist but I collect collections so it's difficult. But it's getting better.

I haven't been writing in this blog, that's for sure. My life is ripe for blog entries and I'm too tired/lazy to write them. Bad penguin, no shrimp. I have pictures of the food I ate in Europe and the food I cooked in class.

Gratuitous wiener schnitzel picture.

What else have I been up to? I planned a lunch for 300 people back in May. That was definitely outside my comfort zone. And that's the point of the project, to push myself out of my comfort zone to see if I can thrive. I hate risks and I love order (though you wouldn't know it to see my house right now) but that's not real life. This is my year and I'm testing my limits.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Out back eventually

I'll leave you with this picture of tonight's dinner. Cock-a-leekie soup and rastons. A sourdough loaf stuffed with bacon, brie, and green onion then baked until the brie becomes melty. Thank you Madrone Culinary Guild.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Takuwan; My Favorite Pickle

You're at your favorite local sushi joint and there's this salty limp yellow disc on your plate or maybe there's a long skinny piece of it in your roll...that's takuwan.

There are other recipes on-line that are more
involved or, perhaps, more traditional but they make a product similar to those salty limp discs and I don't like commercial takuwan; I like Grand
ma's takuwan (are you noticing a trend in my food preferences?). What makes Grandma's different? Well, they're crunchy, they're ready to eat the next day and this recipe is at least four generations old.

The Recipe:
1 c sugar
1/4 c salt (Hawaiian or sea)
1 c Japanese vinegar (aka rice wine)
3 lbs Korean daikon (this is what makes the takuwan crunchy)
Yellow food coloring

Peel and slice the daikon into 1/4" half moon pieces and put them in a large heat safe container (I use a big glass jar). Boil the sugar, salt and vinegar until everything is disso
lved then add a few drops of the food coloring. Pour over the sliced daikon and push the slices down until they are mostly submerged, they will shrink down from the heat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Grandma and I like to pack up the finished takuwan in clean peanut butter jars; that way you aren't giving away your nice mason jars when you share your takuwan with friends. This is a fresh pickle so please store it in the refrigerator and eat them quickly. I have eaten some that were six plus months old but they had started to discolor, they turn brown.

Do you have a favorite pickle?

Happy Cooking!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Wisdom from Grandma: The last bit in the bottle

My maternal grandmother is one of the most influential people in my life. She lived with us for the first 14 years of my life and continues to live next door to my parents in the house that will one day be mine. Grandma was my babysitter when mom was at work. Grandma taught me how to cook, sew, crochet and balance a checkbook to the penny.

Grandma makes energy bars. She is famous for them, friends of the family purchase ingredients so she will make energy bars for them. It isn't a care package from mom unless energy bars are being used to fill up extra space in the flat rate box. Energy bars are grown up rice krispy treats with oatmeal, raisins, peanuts, peanut butter and sesame seeds. Grandma uses a lot of peanut butter and peanut butter is not a cheap ingredient so she has a method for getting the very last dregs from each bottle...toss in some marshmallows and use them to srcape the sides of the bottle.

The same can be done with potato/macaroni salad and mayonnaise.

Do you have any tricks for getting the last drops from a bottle?

Happy Cooking!
- KP

Friday, April 1, 2011

News from the Penguinery

Spring is here, I know because I just bought sweet potato leaves at the Asian market (more on that later). The great processed food purge continues at KP HQ. There is one last bag of brownie mix and most of the pancake mix is gone, the last of the dry mixes. (Isn't that what I said in the last update?) Shaking my dependence upon canned goods has proven more difficult. What can I say? I LOVE SPAM! Bread baking is...not my forte.

I am happy to announce that DBF has not, to the best of my knowledge, purchased breakfast from the deli in his office building once this year. I've kept him well stocked with waffles, banana bread and the occasional container of hash. In fact, he complains when I don't have something that he can take for breakfast. There are a lot of homemade waffles in my freezer, I just hope he doesn't get tired of them before we eat them all.

We are, for the most part, eating better...or at least not eating out as often. My grand declaration of not eating out more than once a week hasn't panned out but it hasn't been for want of planned meals...I admit that I'm lazy. We're getting backed up on leftovers and I'm starting to rebuild the homemade microwave meal collection.

I am about ready to give up on using the stand mixer to knead dough because my eyes don't know when things are ready. My hands, however, know how to make a passable pizza dough and plain loaf of bread. Yes, I can start the dough in the mixer and finish it by hand...but it doesn't work that way for me. Or, at least, it doesn't work that way for me right now. I do own a bread machine, minus a part, thanks to a dear friend not having space when she moved. Using a bread machine feels like cheating so it sits in the garage while I contemplate if I want to toss it or buy the missing part.

After ten years of dreaming I finally have a bicycle. While my body didn't forget how to ride a bicycle after a 20 year break, it also didn't forget that I'm a sedentary office worker. The first goal is to ride around my neighborhood for 15 minutes without being sore and tired. The reward is buying a pretty basket for the bike if I make it to the farmers' market for opening day in May. Well, the reward is being healthier but the tangible reward is a nice basket.

What have you been doing?

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who's got two thumbs and...

...another prescription for antibiotics? This girl!

Sick=mindless cooking=no blog content=lame update...

I did make two batches of Good Eats Waffles that were promptly bagged, tagged and thrown into the freezer for quick breakfast food.

I've been checking out the recipes at Eating Well to get some meal inspirations. DBF can be difficult to cook for, what with the aversion to most green vegetables, so I've been perusing the "Kid's Recipes" and found an alternative for the homemade hamburger helper (ground beef, macaroni, onion, mushrooms & brown gravy mix). Hamburger Buddy will be gracing the Blackbird Tavern dining table this week.

DBF also reminded me that I agreed to make a Reuben pizza so that will need to happen before I abandon him, yet again, for my island paradise. Speaking of my island paradise, I'll be on Oahu for a long Presidents' Day weekend. I'll be attending a class, Valentine in Paradise, with my mother and grandmother. The class is about cardiovascular disease and prevention so, hopefully, I'll have something to share when I get back.

What's on deck: Port wine (kit) and Rock Hopper Penguin Stout (my recipe).

Warm Wishes,