Thursday, February 16, 2006

Swimming in a Sea of Love


When I was in college I worked in a flower shop. All through college I slung roses and answered phones. The shop was a great place to be.... it smelled fabulous, was always busy busy busy and was a haven for creative minds. Dawn, the lady that owns the shop is such a cool person. She has excellent taste, is extremely creative and is one of the kindest people you will ever meet. She and her 3 daughters are like my family.... I have watched the girls grow up and become beautiful women and I am so proud of all of them.

As you can imagine Valentine's Day is THE day in the flower business. It is absolute insanity. Craziness beyond belief. I have been a part of Valentine's Day every year for 10 years now with the exception of VDay 04, when I was 5 days away from my due date... my cankles were swollen badly and my doctor told me there was NO WAY I was allowed out of the city limits. So I skipped that one but have been there cranking out dozens every year other than that. It always cracks me up when I tell people I go to work at a flower shop on Valentine's Day. They always say "Oh how fun! I bet that is a blast!" Well...... yes and no. I mean I love to be there all in the action again.... but come midnight when my poor little feet are throbbing, my fingers are bleeding and I can barely see straight.... I am ready to call it a day.


The preparation comes weeks before the big day.... all the ordering has to be done. This year it was over 3,000 roses. Red Roses. I have no idea how many colored roses were there. Then a week before the big day all the roses come in and they all have to be cut and stripped of their thorns. You may think there is some fancy machine that does this.... but no. Just some girls with a knife.... and many many band-aids. The roses have to be cut several times after that to keep them fresh. And again... 3,000 roses cut by hand. Vases have to be filled with water, ribbon has to be cut and the floor has to be filled with stuffed animals, balloons and candy. Then February 13th rolls around. That is when the action really starts. The phone is ringing ringing ringing off the hook... and we are up to our eyeballs in roses. We always use eucalyptus as a fill flower and our fingers all end up black and sticky from the "tar" that comes out the stem..... mixed in there is a little blood from the occasional thorn overlooked and of course from the knife nicks. Around 10pm or so we start taking arrangements up to the greenhouse where they will be put in sections according to where they are to be delivered. That is where the magnitude of Valentines Day is really seen. You walk up there and open the door to an absolute sea of roses. An occasional balloon pops up from the red, but mostly it is roses for as far as the eye can see. It's really cool..... It's just neat to know that you had a little part in all of it.


After we are done for the day/night on the 13th, we all stumble to bed bleary eyed, and dream of nothing but roses. Well.... all of us except Dawn. She barley sleeps getting up several times to check on the temperature of the coolers and the temperature in the greenhouse. She lives right next door to the shop so she runs over in her pajamas to check on it all.... This year it was a close call. It was really cold in Alabama and she had to put a heater in the greenhouse to keep the temperature above freezing. The propane tank actually started freezing up and there were a few tense moments..... but we all awoke to beautifully fresh roses. Not a frozen one in sight.


Now, the 14th really isn't such a bad day. We all have the feeling of having all the orders complete and all of the front coolers filled for walk ins. Anything we do that day is just sort of considered extra. We rarely answer the phone that day... which NEVER stops ringing. Not for a second. When we do answer the phone it is to break the news to the poor bastard on the line that we cannot take anymore deliveries but he is more than welcome to pick something up and take it with him. That never goes over well.... We usually take between 300-350 deliveries for that day.... With 3 vans that is around 100 deliveries per driver. They have to get them all out in 8 hours so it averages out to about 5 minutes per delivery..... crazy. But the drivers get it done! The day finally ends around 6pm... and we are relieved and exhausted but have a delirious sense of happiness. Another successful year over.....

Now, while we play cupids for the year, we eat like raging lunatics. Customers bring in cookies and cakes and we order pizzas and eat nearly anything that comes into the shop. We have to keep our strength up! So of course I had to make SEVERAL contributions this year. Here they are.....

Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

Crust
1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/3 cup margarine, melted

Filling
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
1/4 cup water
4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (room temperature!)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream (room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs (room temperature)
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Combine the raspberry preserves with 1/4 cup water in a medium microwave-safe bowl.
Heat for 1 1/2 minutes on high in your microwave.
Stir until smooth. Strain to remove the raspberry seeds, and discard seeds.
Allow strained preserves to cool, then put the bowl in the refrigerator until later.
Measure 1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (or crush 20 Oreo cookie wafers-- with the filling scraped out-- in a resealable plastic bag) into a medium bowl. Mix in 1/3 cup melted margarine. Press the crumb into a 9-inch spring form pan that has been lined on the bottom and side with parchment paper. Put the crust in your freezer until the filling is done.

Use an electric mixer to combine the softened cream cheese with the sugar, room temperature sour cream, and vanilla. Mix on the lowest setting for a couple minutes or until the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and then add them to the cream cheese mixture. Blend the mixture just enough to integrate the eggs. Remove the crust from the freezer and sprinkle 4 ounces of white chocolate chunks onto the bottom of the crust. Pour half of the cream cheese filling into the crust. Drizzle the raspberry preserves over the entire surface of the filling. Use a butter knife to swirl the raspberry into the cream cheese. Pour the other half of the filling into the crust.
Carefully place the cheesecake into the water bath in the oven.

Bake for 12 minutes at 475 degrees, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top of the cheesecake turns a light brown or tan color.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven to cool on a cooling rack.

When the cheesecake is completely cool, cover cheesecake with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to sit overnight.


The Holy Grail Brownies (from October 05)

1 2/3 cup soft unsalted butter

13 ounces of very fine chocolate

6 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 2/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350.

Line your brownie pan (13x9") with parchment paper. This is a little extra step but makes the brownie a breeze to get out of the pan....Melt the butter and chocolate together over medium-low heat. Let this cool a bit after melting. Mix together the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.

Measure the flour into another bowl along with the salt. Mix together the cooled chocolate/butter mixture and the eggs/sugar mixture. Add in the nuts. Mix in the flour and beat to combine smoothly and scrape into lined pan.Bake for 25 minutes and be vigilant. Brownies can go from delish to dry in about 2 minutes.... They will continue to cook a bit as they cool....

Orange Dream Cookies

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, soft
½ sup sugar
½ sup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup vanilla or white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars until smooth. Add egg and mix well. Add the flour mixture and beat well. Stir in the orange zest and vanilla chips. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookies sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A VERY VERY VERY Good Thing


I just want to say that I am so very proud to be a part of the new website called Very Good Things. Ali from Something so Clever put it all together and it looks so very beautiful this month! Please head over to the site and check out all things Martha.
Thanks Ali for a really fabulous job!