3/21/17

Apologies for this huge hiatus. Long story short: I wasn’t myself during that time, but now that I’ve made some changes that allow me to resume my merry ways, I’m happy to announce that I am back! One amazing thing happened while I was away though–more recently now, since I haven’t officially started yet–I have a job! An actual paying job that will allow me to cook for the elderly.

Getting hired was a very easy process (only for me at this particular establishment). The people are super nice there and right now, I’m in the middle of the hiring process, but I handled all the medical stuff today (drug testing and the physical). They should be getting those results back, I don’t know when. That’s not my concern. Once all that is handled, I have to go back in and start part two of the hiring process, I guess, which is a two-hour appointment with more paperwork.

Anyways, so now that I’m getting on my feet, I’ve decided last-minute to make dinner, for old times’ sake. I’m currently taking a break because I wanted to serve Tasty’s Shrimp and Asparagus Stir-Fry, with rice, which takes time to make fresh–about an episode of CSI‘s worth. The wait is only until I have ten minutes left (oh, we have our own rice pressure cooker, which tells us how much time is left to cook and then how long this batch has been cooked). That way, we don’t have to wait till the rice is finished if I just jumped right into cooking.

I did do most of my mise en place however: prepping the shrimp, asparagus, and lemon juice. This was the first time that I’ve learned that shrimp sometimes comes with poop. You can buy it without it, apparently, and with or without skin. I had to buy two trays’ worth of large shrimp, just so I could get an entire pound. I have a little less than a pound though, for both shrimp and asparagus, which means I should take out some of the lemon juice too.

The video shows the chef squeezing in the juice themselves directly out of the pulp, but that confuses me, because what about the seeds? I squeezed out the juice into a small bowl and then used a handheld strainer to separate the liquid from the seeds.

BRB–I’m down to four minutes. Better get cookin’!

And…at least 15 minutes later, the finished product:  The first bite was a little too salty, but not painfully. Overall, the dish was absolutely delicious! I’d definitely make it again. I just did it exactly the way the clip showed it (except I might have forgotten the lemon juice even though I prepped it–oh well, I’ll just save it).

This yield was the perfect amount for the three of us, in my opinion.

I think I might know why the dish was slightly too salty. If I recall correctly from class, lemon juice equalizes saltiness, so I think if I had remembered to put it in before service, it might have made the dish less salty. Maybe. Don’t quote me on that. I learned something like it during the first week of class when we started on vinaigrettes. The point of the exercise was to get creative with our vinaigrettes and make adjustments based on the chemical reactions, I guess? I was never good at science. If something is too salty, add lemon juice, or vice versa–that way, they balance each other out.

Again, don’t quote me on that; it’s just what I remember hearing in class.

So that’s what I had to say about that! Bon Appétit! And break an egg!

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11/3/16

I actually wasn’t going to write anything today, not only because it’s pretty late and it’d take hours to get you up to speed on what I’ve learned these past couple weeks (which I’ll get to some other time), but right now, I’m in a mood. Not an angry-rant-type of mood (that was earlier), but in the middle of a minor depressive episode. I never used to have these until after college; I’d be sad, sure, but still functioning.

You’d think that depression is like being stuck in this super deep hole with no way out, but it’s a little more cruel than that. The way I see it, depression/anxiety is like being in that same hole, only it’s not as deep. You can see a little bit of what’s happening above ground; there’s a swarm of people hustling about, minding their own business, constantly running into each other, but never stopping to offer their hand to help you up. Because the hole is literally just that deep: you can’t get out yourself, but with someone else’s assistance, you’ll make it.

I had Intro to Production & Bakery today, which is six hours long, but at least the stuff we do there is fun. Today, we baked a simple, white cake. It was really sweet, I got 18/20 on it, which was the score I gave myself, but Chef agreed and logged it in his grade book.

It first started when one of my classmates was concerned with how my buttercream (the icing to my cake) turned out, but I knew that I just needed to chill it for five minutes, tops. Because I didn’t completely know what I was doing, I was irritated enough that I was, once again, going to be one of the last to move on with their cake from the icing stage. What definitely made it worse was my classmate was a little more worried about my icing than I was, which made me even more anxious. Adding fuel to the fire, you know? I mean, I appreciate that the person cared, truly, but the panic in their voice just wasn’t what I needed right now.

About an hour later, I was doing something in another part of the kitchen and just had to pause for a minute. That’s when I realized that I was drowning. Call it dramatic, but that’s the best way to describe my mood: drowning. I mean, chances are, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way in that kitchen, but that’s my truth right there. Call it drowning, being stuck in that semi-deep hole; that was how I felt.

To top off my bittersweet, emotional cake, since it was just the two of us, Mom said I could pick up ingredients on the way home and make dinner. It wasn’t going to be too fancy, just the copycat Noodles & Company recipe, without the chicken and done half-recipe. Mom agreed to that, but then she got worried that it’d be too much for me, so she backed out and wanted me to pick up a pizza instead. I said, okay, how about Little Caesar’s since it’s on the way from the culinary building to my car? She didn’t like it, so she wanted me to pick up Round Table pizza.

Is this a selfish act though? Listen to this: I don’t like Round Table, but since Mom didn’t like Little Caesar’s, I figured the most obvious answer was the pasta. I ended up telling her that if she wanted pizza, she should order for delivery since I just wanted to go straight home. That was the point where my mind was all jumbled up and I would’ve felt better with some culinary therapy, but Mom obviously didn’t want the pasta that night so she settled for ramen noodles. (Actually, she ended up just eating the cake. According to her text anyway.)

So now I’m here, expressing emotions that not all chefs feel, but sharing my feelings anyway. One of my best friends, who goes through these in more serious bouts, calls it anxiety. I didn’t see it before; I thought it was just a small chunk of depression (I’ve had it when it was really serious), but I think the hole is deep enough for me to finally understand why he’d consider it more anxiety-driven.

I don’t know what my lesson here is, to be honest. To tread carefully when you see that one of your classmates might be in “that” mood? To understand that while you may be the one in the bad place, stifle yourself so you don’t take it out on others?

I don’t understand these feelings, which I suppose is what mental illness does: it makes you feel horrible for no reason at all. Nothing triggers you, but you know that if something else happens, minor or not, you might do something you’ll regret. The only thing I know 100% is I have to wait. As a writer, I’m just documenting everything, which, I guess, is the biggest reason why I’m telling you all this. Time doesn’t completely heal all wounds…it just makes things better until the next time your guard is down.

But anyways, sorry for the negative energy. I’m not trying to bum you out. I just felt like some of these things needed to be said. Like you needed to know that depression and anxiety go away through time, no matter where you are.

Right after my classmate gave me their spiel of worry about my icing, my body told me to just get out of that situation. I thought I needed to get something, but I think it was really my gut telling me to walk away and get some air. I didn’t leave the room per se, but I needed air from somewhere that was not in that negative zone.

I suppose the official lesson here is, if you get to that point in any situation, walk away and take a breather. You’ll better within minutes, even if you think that whatever you’re emotionally responding to is very minor.

Well, break an egg, everyone!

Here’s a photo of the first official cake I’ve ever made (in the professional setting)!

10/20/16

Not a lot of people realize this, but we’re very selective about the help we get. For example, we would gladly accept it from the teacher because he is the one who knows everything about the class and you’re the student. That’s obvious. It’s when our peers offer advice where we store a little more doubt in our hearts. Depending on our mood, it either sounds helpful or nagging. It’s all to do with your attitude around your acceptance of the extra tips.

I feel like it’s really been a while, huh? Being a culinary student, of course I’ve been cooking a lot. In fact, we just started the second round of the fall semester’s classes. I was busy with exams, so I figured I’d hold off on this update until afterwards. I’ve gotten back two out of four final grades, both A’s, so woot-woot! Although for PCB, the class is literally called “Professional Cooking BASICS”, so Chef Michael said you really had to try if you wanted to fail the class.

He’s got a point there too. Like most other classes, the biggest part of the grade is attendance and participation. As long as you go that far and try, you’ve got a great chance of passing.

My worst class was most likely Sanitation & Safety since I never really studied the material until the day before, and even then, I knew that what was probably most important was foodborne illnesses and how to avoid them. My notes on all the names was really funny. For example, for staphylococcus aureus, because “aureus” sounds basically like “Oreius” (one of the centaurs from “The Chronicles of Narnia”), my note was, “Oreius got sick from a serious staph infection.”

Also, there’s a toxin called “histamine”. In order to prevent a customer from getting sick, you need to avoid time-temperature abuse (basically, keep food out of the Temperature Danger Zone during the Time Danger Zone, which is 41°-135°F and 4 hours, respectively). Therefore avoiding time-temp abuse is an antihistamine. I know, it’s bad, but if it’s enough to remember the important stuff, then it’s good! Still, I got an A in Sani & Safety, but only because I did the extra credit I could: I wore my uniform for at least five classes and then showed Chef Christine my Food Handler’s Card (I’ll go more into detail later).

Okay, I’m going to list this stuff the way I have it here. I’ve got at least 15, but I’ll try to leave out the ones that don’t need to be said:

  1. It’s okay to cook poultry and beef on the same grill as long as poultry is cooked where poultry was last cooked as with the beef. As long as they don’t cross, they won’t contaminate. This was after my comment on how the waiters at the restaurant I went to in LA were grilling our food in front of us, but failed to switch the grates after each layer of food.
  2. There is no janitorial staff in the kitchen, mainly because the chefs have to clean up their own messes, probably. Or, at least, whomever is assigned scullery duty (in our class anyway).
  3. Is it okay to touch food with your bare hands to check status? While making pancakes, I noticed that one of my classmates would use her entire hand to check the doneness. All I could think of was, Whoa, isn’t that contaminating the food? I then asked Chef Michael if it was okay to use our bare hands to set up the food on the plate and he said it was fine. I still wasn’t sure about using it to check the doneness. Not with your entire hand anyway. Don’t you just need a finger to feel it?
  4. People are coming up with creative ideas to make this culinary fusion. One of my classmates in Culinary Arts Survey was talking about how she had the idea to basically be a private chef for clients who don’t have time to cook, but care about what they put into their bodies. The first person I thought of in my life who might want to hire me was my sister since she’s a doctor and she really is a health nut when it comes to her eating habits. She’s always on a diet, but cheats when she comes home because I always want to cook. It’s pretty funny, actually. So I figured that was a really nice idea and a good business to pursue. My personal goal was to be a private chef for families, but maybe I can add something a little extra to my résumé: expert in nutritional values. I’m not though. I mean, whenever I crave sweets, I’m motivated to go out and get it.
  5. The new classes I’m taking are Meat & Sauce Prep, with Chef Michael, and Intro to Baking & Pastry with Chef Doug (I literally just misspelled his name to “Dough” :D). Remember in this entry when I discussed this professor? Well, he doesn’t own it anymore and he hasn’t visited in years, so he doesn’t know how it’s doing, but it’s good! He’s very nice and makes baking fun, which, for a career like this, should be the case. Whenever I saw him around the building, he reminded me of John Malkovich, but since I sit in the front during class (and this may be my CSI-marathon getting to me), but the bottom half of his face looks more like Ted Danson’s. Even sounds a bit like him, but maybe with a slightly higher pitch.
  6. So the Food Handler’s Card! At least in California, you pay $9.99 after you pass the test, which consists of Safety & Sani questions. It’s really easy; you just need common sense, honestly. For example, they asked when it’s best to wear gloves. All the questions were multiple choice, so the options were, like, “After you wash your hands”, “Before you wash your hands”, “Before you put on hand sanitizer”, or “In lieu of hand washing” or something. If you think about practicality, obviously, the first answer is correct because why would you need to wash your sanitize your gloves? It wasn’t the final option either, because it’s basically a no-no to wear gloves if you’re too lazy to wash your hands. If you’ve used rubber gloves before though, your hands need to be dry in order to put them on easier. Once you’ve got the first one on, the other hand slides on more smoothly, for some reason. For the record, I got 85% on the quiz and I think you needed at least 70% to pass. As usual, I’m an average student.
  7. If you’re a student, then you probably notice how the syllabus is always so strict, but most of the time, the professors are more laid back. First of all, there’s probably the school policy over stuff like plagiarism, which is definitely prohibited and grounds for expulsion. However for cell phone use? First, there was my Knife Skills teacher who took that seriously, but I guess was more lenient. It was more like she gave up because we always used our cell phones during breakfast anyway. I mean, what’s the harm in that? It’s not really class time since she’s not officially teaching us. Not even Chefs Michael or Doug are (argh, I said “Dough” again!!!) strict about it and they have more power in the program. Although, apparently Chef Michael is NOT the head of the department–it’s Chef Jim, who I don’t personally know. In fact, the only contact he and I have had is when he offered me a bread sample from the bakery. (Ah, the perks of being in the culinary world: constant free food, although you’d think that as a culinary arts student, we’d have more time to actually eat.)
  8. Here’s a fun little exchange! So in PCB, during the class time right before the exam, we basically played a game similar to the show Chopped! I’ve never seen it, but if you’ve seen Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef, you know that they oven have those Mystery Box Challenges. This was basically that, except we don’t get extra ingredients, not even if they were already in our boxes. So if we had eggs, we needed approval for more. One of the ingredients was “Gochujang” and, being Korean and always eating Korean food, I was like, “I KNOW THAT!!!” In fact, when Chef Michael said, “If you don’t know what Gochujang is, use your phones and look it up”, I replied a little too excitedly, “Pepper paste!” Then he smiled and said, “That’s right. Well, you’d know. It’s good, isn’t it?” I was so proud.
  9. If there’s one thing I learned through this experience in the professional kitchen, it’s that timing isn’t everything as long as you know what you’re waiting for. That’s pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? As a professional, you just need to train yourself to recognize the texture you need to look for in your food.
  10. I also learned this in the Mystery Box Challenge: when plating noodles for the importance of presentation, use tongs to place them in a spiral. They form this little anthill, which is cute. You can also place something in the center or on the tip; some kind of garnish.
  11. I think this goes without saying, but cooking games are totally inaccurate. Even during the start of my culinary education, I’m still playing those stupid games like Restaurant Story and Bakery Story (same company, different game). I was pretty far ahead the first time I played both, but I quit, assuming that if I wanted to take it up again, it’d save since it connected to Facebook. Nope. I was stupid enough to pay a lot of money for extra coins and gems and all of that is gone now. I missed the game though, for some reason, so now knowing this, I don’t pay for anything anymore unless I know that it’ll last. Anyways, in those games, it takes just two ingredients to prep and then you just wait. Once it’s ready, you need one more ingredient and then you can serve it. However, in that game, the food spoils, I’m predicting if it’s been out the same amount of time it took to make, but not often. Well, that’s not accurate, because of the Time Danger Zone. 4 hours. The Temperature Danger Zone is where bacteria grows, which is why the fridge has to be 41°F or lower. In this case, the food spoils too easily. Just sayin’.
  12. My PCB practical final was sort of a mess. The over-easy egg was perfect, but the other six were less than perfect. I think I had two “unacceptable” grades and the rest were either adequate or pretty good. The worst grade, I think, was in the red beans. It takes, like, an hour to soak them and then there’s another step to cook it. I didn’t cook it for the sake of time, which turned out to have been a waste. My entire urgency was a waste because I still had at least an hour left of cooking time. The rest would have been perfect if I had just not rushed, which I didn’t have to do because of that extra time. SMH, huh? Still. I have an A in that class, so as long as the lesson is learned, right?
  13. If you need to take over for someone because they’re lazy, is that your loss or theirs? You get the experience, which makes your career that much richer.
  14. Dropping jewelry in food is a good comedic tool (i.e. Yolanda in Young & Hungry and Rachel Greene in FRIENDS), but not ideal for the professional kitchen.
  15. During the first day of Intro to Baking, we also discussed the difference between the professional and the laid back kitchen settings. Chef Doug (ha! I said “Doug” this time!) made an interesting comparison: it’s like symphony vs. rock band. Someone who plays in the symphony would be completely comfortable in the rock band. However, someone from the rock band wouldn’t really be comfortable in the symphony. He explained it better, but you probably get it, right? I just wanted to bring it up.
  16. Get in the habit of sifting flour. I’ve always just dumped flour into the bowl, but apparently it makes a difference when you send it through a strainer.
  17. When baking, always keep one hand clean. This is actually true for breading food as well. It only takes one hand to drown your food in flour, egg wash, and panko crumbs. It’s a lot neater when you have one hand free since you don’t need to keep your hands up like a surgeon trying to get to the nearest sink to wash off.
  18. In our kitchen, the only jewelry acceptable are wedding bands because they don’t fall off easily. Watches are okay, as long as they are worn on the jacket on the buttons. I’ve however never heard of earrings that you screw on. The girl who was almost not allowed to cook said that they DON’T come off? I thought that’d be okay, since the purpose of that rule is the risk of them falling off and into the food, contaminating the entire batch. I didn’t say anything since I figured Chef was aware of that. A few minutes later though, I saw the girl’s ears and her jewelry was off. So it’s not impossible for them to come off, but it’d be a hassle to. Still, if you want to get into this line of work, you have to get used to it.
  19. In the first 8 weeks of classes, we had to memorize culinary math: how many tsp go into a Tbsp, how many Tbsp go into a fluid ounce, etc. There’s even a so-called “phone number” that we memorize: 3, 2, 8, 2, 2, 4. That’s basically this:  As you can see, I also wrote down 16 oz = 1 pound. In other words, 16 oz = 1 lb. When you write out the latter, it looks like you have one 16 on each side of the =. To me, it does, which is how I remember how many oz go into a lb. It’s simpler for me to think that way, I guess, similarly to the “aureus/Oreius” thing. It’s one of those things that nobody else would get, even if they knew how my brain worked.
  20. So remember my mise en place idea where, if the recipe calls for adding multiple ingredients at the same time, I just put them all in one small bowl anyway? According to Chef Doug, at least with baking, that’s more of a professional way, not because it’s so advanced, but because we’re still beginners, we should add ingredients one-by-one just so we know what it should look like. I still want to limit the amount of dishes that go into the scullery, but that’s just me.
  21. Speaking of cleaning up, need to clear up multiple eggshells? Just stack them! 🙂
  22. Apparently, you can’t microwave lasagna because it explodes. That’s why on Melissa & Joey, Joe and his daughter, Dani, threw a fit when Mel said something about microwaving leftovers. (04X11: Gone Girl…I think.) I microwaved it anyway because I don’t follow rules, but it was covered. So I bend the rules.

And here is the update for my home cooking:

  1. Thursday, Oct. 6: Lasagna with a Twist (Recipe)
  2. Friday, Oct. 7: Quinoa and Rice Bowl with Kale, Kimchi and Egg (Recipe) This was actually a recipe my dad chose. I wanted me to try it and my first response when I saw the video was, “Easy…” Once we tasted it, it really was like the Korean dish “Bibimbap” (if you’ve eaten out at a Korean restaurant before, you’d probably recognize it the way it’s spelled in English). But, like I said, easy. We had extra kale, so I personally used it for leftover lasagna. I just chopped it up and garnished it like this: You can barely taste the kale, but I suppose that’s good because apparently kale is gross. I’ve never had a kale smoothie before, but the actual vegetable itself isn’t so bad.
  3. Sunday, Oct. 9: Honey Garlic Chicken (Recipe
  4. Friday (Oct. 14th) was pretty special. My sister was visiting for one night, so I wanted to show off that I actually had improved my culinary skills, so I went with Lasagna with a Twist again with another shot of Bruschetta, and as an extra for dessert, Honey Banana Muffins Here are the Honey Banana Muffins, since you haven’t seen what mine look like:  Too dry though, for some reason, so it’s better as a bread.

Well, that’s all I made. Here’s a funny thing though: what do you do when you find THIS at the store? Leave it alone, definitely, but is the entire container done for?

Here’s a nice way to end an entry after so long: so for Knife Skills, one of our last assignments was carving. We decided as a group what our set-ups would look like. Here’s ours:  And guess what I made: 

Break eggs, everyone! And remember: if you want to clean them all up in one swoop, stack the shells!

10/4/16

Halloween is officially upon us now that that first number in the title bumped up to a 10. Now that I, the youngest of the immediate family, am all grown up, there are no children in the household (that is, unless you count the two dogs who we think of as our babies). That is why Halloween is no big deal to us anymore. We still pass out candy in a certain period of time and used to be that house who passed out pretzels. I was never really devoted to Halloween either. In fact, I was so lazy that I got a Harry Potter costume one Halloween in high school, and then used that same exact outfit about four consecutive years after as Ginny Weasley. (Why Ginny, specifically? That’s my name!) Because of my glasses, sometimes I went as their kid, pre-Deathly Hallows when we actually found out who their children were.

Because I love to bake so much, I’m considering maybe doing something, but since we live in a neighborhood surrounded by younger families, I’d probably end up making too little of whatever I end up deciding. Not only that, but if the parents decide it’s not safe to eat something that an adult made from scratch, they won’t give it to their kids. (I mean, the parents might eat it themselves though…I would, if it were my kid.)

Still, some parents are trustworthy and actually grateful for gestures like this, so I want to bake cookies. I’m thinking sugar cookies, but I’m not very good at pastry decorating. My cursive might be font-like, but not when I’m using a piping bag. Also, if I end up committing to this at the end of the month, I should probably stick to something simple if I want to keep it nice and personal. Chocolate is a safe way to go, but chocolate chip seems too cliché. I mean, I know that’s a crowd favorite, but I can get a little more creative than that. Just something to think about.

I didn’t make anything this weekend since I went to LA with my parents. My relationship with LA is really funny. Before I found this knack for cooking, my dream was to become this famous actress/singer/writer. I used to fangirl whenever we went, because that’s where all the celebrities live and work. Like any teenager, my dream was to become famous and then marry someone famous (one of the multiple celeb crushes I have would be ideal).

Because of the dogs, I couldn’t go to LA the past several times, which wasn’t a huge sacrifice for me. I hate long car trips nowadays and my grandma lives at a retirement home in LA, so visiting her once a month is the only time that Dad gets to see his mother. I went this time because LA is where I get my haircuts, apparently, because we go to a guy who personally knows our family.

In the professional kitchen, you’re supposed to wear your hair in a bun, if you can, under your hat. That way, there are no loose hairs that can fall into the food. Braids are okay in some classes, but the official policy is you need to wear it in a bun. I could never do buns correctly because they would always end up loose and weak, because I would use hair ties. If I didn’t feel like wrapping the entire band around the actual bun, I would make a bun myself by tying it the usual way and then stopping the final loop halfway through the ponytail.

That’s ridiculous though, and since I’ve always wanted to try hair as short as a man’s, I decided to experiment. Since I have so much hair and it’s very thick and naturally curly, both Mom and the hairstylist warned me that it might not look as good as the photo I showed them of Anne Hathaway post-Les Mis filming. I was aware of the possible repercussions, but wanted to go forward anyway, just to experiment. He was still unsure, but went forward anyway knowing that he warned me enough not to be held responsible for whatever the end result would be.

I wasn’t in love with it, but at the same time, was relieved that I finally got rid of that ponytail (which we are donating). I’m learning to accept it though, even if it doesn’t look exactly like Anne Hathaway’s post-Les Mis look. Instead, I think it looks more like the haircut that Yunjin Kim had in Mistresses, which I actually like, since she looks SO much like my own mother.

At this point, while I’d point to something else next time, I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about that bun for several months. However though…I did just buy a brand-new hair curler and wanted to learn how to use it before getting rid of all that hair… Oh well. That’s the beauty of hair–the silver lining for everybody who has had a bad haircut–it grows back.

I still have yet to update you on notes I came up with last week and, since I have just a couple hours before my next class, I’d better get to it:

Firstly, for some reason, last week I sort of had a mini-freakout. I don’t know where it came from, but it was like I felt like I couldn’t get through it. I don’t usually have moments like that since I’m more of a “one-step-at-a-time” kind of person, which is why I’m confused. A part of me says it’s no big deal, that it was just my mind playing tricks on me. The other (I assume the one that told me I wasn’t going to make it) said that I might have a serious problem and should just shut down now. It’s not a question of if the path I’m going down is right. In fact, my parents say my food is getting better because of my classes.

I don’t know, man. I’m just glad is over though. Once I started cooking though, I repeated to myself, “One step at a time.” Quick steps, but one at a time is the point.

Second,  according to the PCB professor, only one person bombed the quiz and I expected it to be me, but when I got mine back, it said I had four points off from the actual quiz, but then got them back because I got four extra credit points. So yeah, that one bombed quiz was obviously not mine, thankfully. You could imagine how relieved I was.

During Knife Skills, I knew I needed to cut my nails again already and I like growing them out. Obviously, I can’t in the kitchen, but I sort of came up with my own compromise: cut my non-dominant hand’s nails short whenever I can, but keep the dominant hand’s nails short (up to the school’s standards anyway). That way the non-dominant nails don’t dig into the food I’m trying to cut, as I think I’ve mentioned the first time I talked about cutting nails for the kitchen.

Ahaha, this one is a big one: so in Knife Skills, all we do is cut. So one morning, I decide to put on lotion for some reason. I feel like looking pretty and since I can’t put on makeup (both in the kitchen and just in general), lotion is probably the way to go there. Well, there’s no way for me have known this at the time, but we were dicing onions that day… For me, at least, whenever I have on lotion, I have to be careful for it not to get into my eyes or else I get tears. Lotion + Onions = Sobbing. I actually had to step back and rub my eyes on my apron (they advise us not to wipe our hands on our aprons, which is why that wasn’t a bad idea). So note to self: unless you’re a baker, don’t put on lotion at the beginning of a cooking day.

I thought of a new chef goal during Knife Skills too: successfully dicing tomatoes. They’re always so juicy and when we first worked with tomatoes, they talked about how to avoid the juice, but I’ve diced tomatoes to no avail. I use my chef’s knife and hand to scoop up the excess juice from the board, but that’s not even the issue. There’s still so much left inside the actual fruit, but you don’t want to completely crush it, so it’s like…what, do I need to spend more time wringing it out?

When I was in LA, the night before my dramatic haircut, we went out to a typical Korean restaurant where they cooked the meat in front of us. It wasn’t a hibachi. First of all, that’s Japanese, and secondly, it wasn’t a show. I’ve bore witness to this process pre-culinary journey, but obviously, now that I know what they’re doing, I can’t help but itch to jump in and take over, you know? Well, the servers did a fine job, obviously. It’s their job, they have to do it right.

I learned something new while observing them though: because it was done on a grill at the center of the table, when they came back to move the meat around, they didn’t flip it first. Instead, that switched both ends of the first side before flipping it and it didn’t take long for me to figure out why: because it’s a grill, the entire heat source isn’t the same temperature. By switching sides, it allows the first side to even out. I felt a sense of pride, figuring that out myself, hehe.

I found one flaw in the way they do things though: they switch grills after a couple of layers of meat, but really what they should have done was switch off after every layer. I know it’s time-consuming and maybe they considered this, but with beef, you don’t know what diseases it carries and I’ve learned from Sanitation & Safety that heat doesn’t destroy all bacterias.

Oh, and, I just thought of this right now, they used the same pair of tongs for each raw meat. I suppose I could file an informal complaint, but at the same time, they could be aware of these things, but choose not to. On the other hand, diseases.

For that exact same class, I’m supposed to go out to a restaurant and observe how the kitchen works, and report back to my professor as extra credit. I’m wondering if this could count, even if we’re not actually in the kitchen. I’ll ask. That’s my next class anyway.

And now for this week’s blog update points, or at least halfway. I still have four more classes before the week is over. I came up with a few points though, so since I have time, I may as well.

  1. Steaming does NOT mean boiling. I specifically mean for vegetables, especially green beans, when I use them as sides to mashed potatoes and steak or something. In fact, the official definition for steaming food is “ONLY in contact with the steam emanating from the pot of boiling water”. What I’ve been doing is boiling them directly in the water, mainly because it saves me from an extra portion of the pot to wash. I may stick to boiling for that reason though. Just wanted to clarify that because I literally thought there was no difference.
  2. Something that might get you thinking, “Are you on something?” is why potatoes feel so soapy when you peel and chop them. I only just noticed this when we were chopping them in Knife Skills during our first timed assessment. That’s why I thought that someone in class just didn’t wash them correctly. Now that I’ve started noticing it at home though, I think it’s just foam from the potato. It makes it slippery though, so be careful cutting.

The following two points I learned today in class: 1. If you accidentally moved someone else’s burner (adjusted the temp), the official policy is, if you’re unsure what degree it was on, don’t just guess. Turn it off and call over whosever it was and have them readjust it. 2. If the math gets too hard, switch to an easier unit. For example, one of my group mates and I had to figure out how to divide 1 pound plus 8 oz by 3 because we had to divide the entire recipe by 3. Well, since 16 oz go into a pound, the original amount is actually 1.5 pounds of white stock. Divide by 3 and that’s half a pound of the stock.

As far as personal cooking goes, I didn’t get to do anything over the weekend, considering we were in LA, but I’m hoping sharing what I noticed from the restaurant makes up for that gap. I did, however, make something yesterday because I wanted to replicate what I had learned in class. The recipe calls for a certain kind of fish, en papillote (which I know sounds really fancy, but only because it’s French. It literally translates to “in paper”). However, we ended up using Pacific Lingcod. Because the grocery store I go to doesn’t have that, I ended up substituting with a fillet of Alaskan Cod. (That’s right, right? The label said “Cod Alaskan Fillet Prev. Froz.” I assume the last part is “previously frozen” since it was, well, previously frozen.)

This recipe involves quite a bit of origami, which is fun! You have to use parchment paper to completely cover the fish and let it bake.

The sides I used were green beans (to practice actual steaming) and mashed potatoes (which would’ve made dinner the second time I made it yesterday).

Here it is pre-baked. I wanted to show how I folded it into itself at the bottom there in order to keep it together. I’m not sure how Chef Michael finished the folding process, but I figured at the end with that last flap, fold it onto one of the previous pockets. I used the second-to-last pocket because it was the closest one in order to make it perfectly stable. I don’t think there’s an official recipe for the way we did it, but I followed that: 350°F for about 10 minutes. Then, unsure if how raw it still was, I left it in the oven as the actual oven cooled down, so it would get the residual heat.

Monday night dinner: Alaskan Cod Fillet en Papillote. 

The only flaw was the fish was too small. I got one single strip and divided it into good portions that I thought were even as far as filling went. Both Mom and Dad complained that there wasn’t enough. So that’s a good note for next time: when the guy in the fish section of the market asks if one is enough for me, ask for three.

I just got out of PCB and made two dishes myself: the mashed potatoes again, in order to make it a side to the Hungarian Goulash. I noticed as I was making it that it looked a lot like Kimchi Stew, which is a family favorite. I actually did a presentation on it in Culinary Arts Survey. We had to find a foreign dish and talk about its history and how it affected the culinary world today. I think I’ll get into that tomorrow after Knife Skills since that ends at noon and I have a full day today, hence I’m hanging out in the library every Tuesday for two hours.

Anyways, putting together goulash was easy and I think I did it all by myself. If not, then I had help here and there by my teammates. The biggest factor in cooking stew (especially beef bourguignon) is patience. For this recipe (which was not Julia Child’s) had us (actually, someone else in my group) to bake it for 2.5 hours, so we had to get that one started first if we wanted to have it ready by 11:45, which is when we take a lunch break.

I also had a helping hand with the risotto (Gordon Ramsay’s favorite dish!), mainly from the one time I actually tried it. The idea with making risotto is you gradually add the stock and that’s what adds the sponginess to the rice. Well, that’s a common misconception at least, that it’s important to go little by little, but you can add the entire stock all at once and it’ll taste just the same. There’s a longer waiting period, but it’s the same exact process anyway. The stock evaporates or something, so you still end up with a risotto.

This one, however, stuck into the plate after about half an hour of sitting out. The person who was going to take ours in a bag actually hung it upside down and the risotto just stayed put. Didn’t make much sense to me because it was still mushy, but maybe it was just super sticky.

I don’t usually post dishes that we made as a class, but since I made both parts of the dish myself, I figured it was safe. I think usually, the side of mashed potatoes comes in a separate plate, but because I’m so used to combining stew with rice in the same bowl, that’s what I did here. Chef Michael said it was a perfect combination and that it looked beautiful. So…ha!

Dad wants to try it though and since the leftovers I’m taking home will get cold and I was planning on eating them for dinner before my last class, I decided I’ll just try it again this weekend so he can get a chance to taste it.

Also, one of the joys of being in a culinary environment is that most of the time, everybody’s small talk involves stories about food. When I was packing up for the library earlier, I heard two strangers talk about pastries and their personal experience with it. Then again, that may stem from questions like “what class do you have?” or “what did you make in this class today?”

Well, that’s about it. If there’s anything I forgot, you know I’ll post it in my next entry.

Break an egg, folks!

Update: So I just completed today’s Sanitation & Safety class and a brief conversation ensued between my professor and myself when I asked if I could talk about when the waiters cooked our meat in front of us as the extra credit outside kitchen observation assignment. Firstly, she said it was okay and she was actually interested in what I wanted to say. I can’t remember exactly the order of meats that went down, but she says it’s not as big a deal if the tongs go between poultries or beefs. That’s why I’m trying to remember what they specifically cooked because sometimes I think they first cooked pig meat first and then moved onto beef, which they did switch the grill for. However, they still cooked two layers of meat between switches, so I’m not 100% sure if they’re still in the clear.

9/25/16

There’s a lot to cover, especially from the smaller lessons I’ve learned in class, so I’ve decided to post weekly every Friday or Saturday. No worries: I have a little notebook that I carry around, which I’ve started using as a planner (something called a bullet journal?), since cell phones aren’t allowed in any of my classes. It wasn’t that big a sacrifice for me since I love to write, especially in cursive (except that isn’t the font I am using for this personal datebook for some reason).

Well, thanks to my bullet journal, I have just been notified that I have a quiz tomorrow. No big deal, but I should still devote some time to brushing up on a few things since then. I also have to catch up on reading Julie & Julia, which I’ve chosen for my culinary history class. The paper on it is due next week, so hopefully I can immerse myself into it long enough before the irrelevant parts get to me. (No seriously, the first thing she talks about is her struggles to get pregnant, so I’m thinking, Honey, I feel for you, I really do. I love babies just as much as the next maternal soul, but the only eggs I want you to talk about is how to properly cook them as you’ve learned it. I don’t need to know how you got your sexual education from a French sex dictionary, because the only connection that has to your story is the French.)

Anyways, I have an entire section of the bullet journal to the “Blog Update”, so I guess I’ll start from the first point: about a week ago, probably on Monday, we were in the kitchen and as usual, everyone was hustling and minding their own business, asking to borrow certain tools or ingredients in order to do our tasks. In the middle of all the chaos, I was at the stoves and since the kitchen was so big, all the stoves are connected side-by-side (although according to them, they didn’t come they way, just arranged them like such). Then, behind each stove is an extra burner, I guess to keep food warm, but it has its own dial so you can set the heat. There was one chef on each side of me and the one on my left was finished with his stove portion of the dish, so he moved on.

The next person to use that stove pointed out that a plastic measuring cup had melted on the back burner. It basically looked like the Titanic, the way the spout was sticking out. Everyone wanted to know who was guilty and, while I knew exactly who the culprit was, I didn’t want to say anything since that person is human and it happens. I knew they probably felt badly enough about it, or at least humiliated even though nobody knows their identity. But I do know the man or woman responsible, so if he or she reads this by any chance, just know, “I know who you are and I gotta say, don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.”

Second point: in Knife Skills class, I told you about that adorable grandma who’s been teaching us. That class is always the same, especially at this point: cutting. Chopping, dicing, slicing. I mean, what else do you expect? The first few days of class, the homework was to read and then literally every lesson after that says, “Practice and Perfect” with a quiz or timed assessment here and there.

Well, we were chopping carrots into diamonds and during the demo, she joked, “Ladies, you might want to look into the size because this is one karat.” She said something like that so I had to include that moment. Not that it’s so funny now…or original even, but I felt as if it was something to note. I’m sure it would’ve been a better execution if I had the time to revise it.

Three: dumplings = pasta. That’s pretty clear-cut and dry. I had no idea that dumplings were considered pasta, but apparently, they are.

Fourth note: go get your meat thermometer. If you don’t have one or just don’t feel like digging it out, Google Image search. You know what? Just look at this one: Thermometers.jpg

This is the exact one I have. You see the hexagon? Apparently, if you slide the clip to the other side, the hexagon (not the clip, the actual hole) is free. That’s so you can slide the thermometer through the hole and on the other side of the dial is another hexagon, which fits perfectly into the one on the clip, causing them to click perfectly and stay together. #TheMoreYouKnow

Next: thermometer calibration! The dial can easily be manipulated, which is why it’s always important to calibrate before and after you use it. The Safety & Sanitation professor was so clever. She wanted us to twist the dial and then said, “Oh no! But you completely ruined the calibration! Here’s what you do…” I told you: clever.

So here’s what you do: since our class is in an actual classroom, we didn’t have access to boiling water, so we used the ice method instead. She basically gave us ice water and then all we had to do was stick it into the cup and set the dial to 32°F. Looking back at my notes on it, I specifically said, “I held it so the needle ‘pointed North’ and dragged the gauge so the needle pointed at 32°F.” That is essentially what you want. 32 to be “North”, like on a geographic compass.

Sixth point is sort of gross, but on Thursday’s Knife Skills class, we actually got to do something more than just cut. We had to chop roasted red bell peppers and we had to roast them ourselves on the stoves or the grill, which was a challenge, but I pushed through it. As always, I was the last one to use them and the last one to finish with them.

The roasting process is completely finished by the time the entire vegetable is black. That’s when you take it back to your station and tear off the burnt skin. I have to tell you though: once the skin is off and it looks all pink…it seriously looks like a tongue.

Speaking of disgusting things, this wasn’t actually on my list, but since I apparently never mentioned it before, I’ll tell you now. So, kids, you might want to look away because this is more for adult humor. I realize that makes you want to read along even more, but if you have any self-control, I advise you to skip the next paragraph.

In Knife Skills, the professor had a tip–I should NOT call it that and you’ll learn really soon why–it was a valuable piece of information. There. She says that if we chop off both ends of a cucumber and rub together the meat that was once connected, it lets out this foamy, white stuff (and that’s apparently the acid being released). And, I mean…the way you rub them together is okay, but think about it: you’re rubbing the tip of a very…interestingly-shaped object…in order to get white juice to…come out… Yeah, I know, it’s pretty gross and probably something you’ll never do to a cucumber, if you never knew about it before. Hey, maybe that’s why they call it a cuCU–never mind.

Okay, it’s safe to read from hereon out, kids. Point #7, I briefly mentioned earlier in this post: Julie & Julia, I expected to be 100% about cooking. Julie Powell’s experience in the project which she devoted a whole year of her life to, making every single recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook. I love the movie and, as expected, thanks to Nora Ephron (may she rest in peace), the film focused on the cooking. Because of this, you expect the book to do the same. Now, I know that the film is an adaptation of the book, which means whatever flaws were in the book were corrected in the film. That’s why I prefer the movie over the book, which isn’t something you would often say about book-to-film adaptations.

I’ve only read the first few chapters, but more than half of what I’ve read so far has only been about Julie Powell’s personal life, which makes me think that it’d fit more as a therapeutic journal. I mean, seriously, she described her sexual educational experience by flipping through this sex dictionary, which was in French. That just makes me wonder, Were her parents okay with her publishing that? It’s way too personal for me to be comfortable with. Just get to the parts that involve food and, if you need a filler, don’t talk about your–or even worse, your parents’–sex life. Not only is it any of our business, but we don’t want to know.

And that makes me question whether or not to move forward. But it’s for a grade, so I have to buck up and push through for just one more week. If not, I’ll just copy and paste what I just said about it and maybe that’ll be my review. I mean, when she talks about food and how obsessed with Julia Child she is and her personal relationship with this cookbook, yes I want to know that personal stuff. Just not certain other personal aspects of your life.

Point number eight: the strict cell phone policy. The official policy for the program is we are only allowed to use our cell phones upstairs during breaks. The kitchen we use for my classes so far is on the first floor. The head of the department teaches Professional Cooking Basics and on the very first day, he said that he could spot a cell phone in a pocket from a mile away. In fact, he actually said that if we’d stood up at that moment, he’d be able to tell who had a phone in their pocket. Policy dictates that we keep our phones in our locker and on silent.

The only professor who’s really uptight about this is the Knife Skills grandma (and I don’t mean “grandma” in a rude way–she really does look exactly like my grandma so I feel endearing calling her that. Here, of course, not in public). In fact, everyday she writes on the whiteboard and the first thing she writes is “Quiet!” (because our class has a habit of talking loudly about anything but the cooking) and “No cell phones in classroom!” Still, most of us take out our cell phones, at least during breakfast break (which we devote about 30 minutes of our class period to).

The thing is, we can at least use our phones during breaks, which is basically a pause in the class, right? Grandma isn’t so lenient about it, even during breakfast. I mean, we still take them out, but I suppose less nowadays because she takes note and marks us down. She only just notified us of this on Thursday, so I know I was marked down a couple times. I’m not too worried about my grade though. I feel as if the only way to truly fail the class is from the precision cuts. She’s slightly more strict about that, of course. I could think it’s perfect, but then she checks it on my ruler and it’s too small.

Speaking of the whole “Quiet!” thing, also on Thursday, she wrote down a little more than that on the board. She then added, “Or go home!” The head of the department actually interrupted our class and then talked to us about how the lack of talking about anything but the food shows more respect for the teacher. I’ve been itching to shut up the two guys in my group who are so talkative and just want to make conversation, but the three of us are quiet and try to focus on the precision cuts. The problem with me whenever I confront someone is something always goes wrong and we end up laughing at something I said, which is why I never confront. I just keep quiet and take it.

As much as I hate that it got to the point where the PCB instructor came in (especially since he’s a tall, old, white guy with clear authority while she is a petite Asian lady whose vocal strength matches her small stature), it seemed to have worked, since class was a lot quieter the rest of the day and that’s what matters. He pointed out that the more we talk, the less precise the cuts would be for the people around us. Honestly, I remember Grandma mentioning that a couple weeks ago, but obviously nobody listened. I don’t want to be the person whose first thought is always racism whenever there is an imbalance in the system, but I can’t help but think that that’s a small part of why her words didn’t impact the class, but did when those same exact words came out of his mouth. If it was a racist thing, it certainly was unintentional, since the biggest factor in why he would have more of an impact on the class is because he is of higher authority, not because of his skin color. Also, she has a pretty thick accent, so it’s sometimes difficult to understand her, but how many times does a woman have to say the word “quiet” or write it on the whiteboard in all caps before it sinks in? I mean, she’s the one who learned English as the second language, not us.

Anyways, that wasn’t even the note. There’s a rule in the kitchen–although I’m not sure if it’s in the general culinary world, but it should be–where, if it gets too loud in the kitchen, we do a thing called “Quiet Kitchen”, which we practiced that day. Basically, it’s where “the only talk around the kitchen that should be happening is if it pertains to the task at hand.” Simple for some of us since that’s all limit ourselves to anyway, not as easy for others. The discussion about Quiet Kitchen though was one of those “come to Jesus” talks as my college voice teacher calls them, which is apparently what a lot of other people call them too, but that’s when it really stuck with me. (I’ve had many “come to Jesus” talks, but never placed a name to them till college when it was obvious I hadn’t been practicing my singing.)

10: Since I’m gone all morning, the dogs get lonely even though my mom stays behind. Still, because my personal dog, Coco, has long nails (which reminds me, I should set up a grooming appointment for him), when he scratches me… I don’t know, man, they’re like for life. I had to wear gloves in the kitchen because hot water hurts the broken skin and I figured that since I was in Knife Skills, some of the juices (i.e. peppers or oranges) would sting. Like. A lot.

Point number 11: Remember in the movie “The Incredibles”? They have a Leftover Day, which is pretty self-explanatory. Well, knowing what I know now about how fresh a food should be in order to eat it…is that really a good idea? I was thinking they were eating leftovers from the entire week, but now that I think about it, finishing off week-old meals? Maybe for the past couple days, I could see. And, honestly, it’s a really good idea. For example, today was my own leftover day. I’m on an awesome streak of amazing dishes (the past two nights anyway…Mom cooked tonight so I could catch up on schoolwork and the blog). I’ll get to what I made in just a second because I have one more point to get to.

There’s an adorable children’s cookbook out there by Rachael Ray. There are cartoon versions of her making the dishes and they have fun names. It was probably in middle school when I got mine, not that I was into cooking. I didn’t start cooking until after college. Before then it was just ramen noodles or boiling water. Actually, that was for the ramen noodles. I had no real interest in cooking; just attracted to the colors, really. I never used it, so I threw it out, especially as I grew older because those were kiddie recipes. The only thing I remember is the Chicken Cacciatore, which she renamed “catch-a-tory”, so the kids could pronounce it. That’s literally all I remember.

Let me see if I can track down that book though. It shouldn’t be hard to find. I mean, how many children’s cookbooks could Rachael Ray have published since then? (Watch there be an entire library devoted to recipes specifically for kids.) Aha! Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids. And it’s $4 on ThriftBooks! Whatever that is. Here’s the cover: 51HHFPR5BVL._SL300_.jpg

It’s pretty cute, right? Well, I was so inspired that one night, I wanted to be like, “Ooh, I can be a chef, too!” I had this plan to set up menus and I’d cook whatever they’d want. Of course, I was unprepared for any of that: not just with what ingredients to get, but five separate dishes for one little girl? Let alone the mise en place or the amount of time it’d take to actually make? As cute as that experience was (or lack thereof), I now choose what I get to make with mere suggestions from my parents.

I  made…(let me check my awesome bullet journal since I started a list of “Dishes Made” now)…Lemon Chicken on Thursday, Pesto Cavatappi on Friday, and Succulent Chicken Parmesan w/ Bruschetta on Saturday.

Here’s the entry for the last time I made Lemon Chicken, courtesy of The Food Network’s Rachael Ray. I skimmed over this in preparation for this attempt. I made sure to add vinegar this time because of that Dad had said. I did not, however, add broccoli this time, like I wanted, but noted for next time. Sort of. If I actually read this entry first. As you can see, I added a little side salad there. Went with cherry tomatoes this time, but no recipe. I keep forgetting that this recipe tends to be too sweet. I know that’s from the lemon curd, which is store-bought. I mean, I suppose I could experiment with just half the jar rather than the whole thing, but I’m not sure if that’d mean I would need more water in order to have more chicken coating.

Friday was the Pesto Cavatappi. Mom’s best friend from high school stayed the night and I wanted to make her something good. I’d made this dish quite a few times now, so I knew the drill. Everyone said it was delicious and, while I know taste is something you must experience, judge for yourself. How does it look? Okay? 

I know I’ve made it several times before, but I don’t have the experience documented here for some reason, even when I look up “Pesto Cavatappi”. Well, here’s the recipe for it anyway. It turns out I needed a little more pesto. I thought one jar was enough because that’s how much I’d previously used, but I suppose those recipes were cut in half. Oh well. It’s pesto. I think that’s more for the taste, not the way it’s cooked.

Don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’d say the following dish was even better, mainly because I tackled two recipes at the same time. The timing is what I’m most proud of, especially since neither of them took too much anyway. I used two recipes from a site called Yummly.

First was the Bruschetta. The first time I’d ever seen or heard of this dish was when I was in a choir conference in Europe. We had toured Vienna, Salzburg and Prague. In fact, I distinctly remember visiting the chapel where they filmed the wedding scene in “The Sound of Music”–which isn’t where Maria and Captan von Trapp actually got married–and stopping by a restaurant directly in front of it and taking note of a rather handsome waiter and then posing for a picture with him. Apparently, other girls were itching for a photo with him and I was the first one.

This was in Vienna, I believe, and we were having dinner with our chaperones and choir directors. I remember overhearing a conversation taking place between our director and one of the altos and we were looking at the menu, which was still given to us even though our dishes were already chosen for us. He asked the alto, “Have you ever tried bruschetta? It’s delicious.”

So that was the first time the idea of bruschetta came to be, in my life. After that, I’d only seen them in other restaurants, but I’d never tried them. Yesterday, I was watching “Julie & Julia” for the hundredth time and decided, “Hey, why not try bruschetta?” It was one of the very first scenes where they’re talking about what Julie could write a blog about. That husband was REALLY into that bruschetta.

I didn’t expect bruschetta to be so hard–I mean, I was aware that that’s part of the meal, the toughness of the skin–but when Mom texted me that it was really good, I asked her if it was too hard and she said no. So I shrugged and said, “Okay, another successful dinner!”

Since Dad got home earlier than usual, I had to get started as soon as I got home from the store. Because the chicken needed more baking time than the bread, I decided to start with that first. (Plus, the oven temperature for the chicken was slightly lower than the bread so it was perfect since I didn’t have to worry about any cooling down period.) I didn’t really measure the panko since we had a little left. However much there was, it was the perfect amount. I mean, really, perfect. The scraps were, like, a pinch.

Also, this must be my Blue Bloods/Jamie Reagan-obsessed brain talking, but does anybody else (who watches the show anyway) think of “Janko” when they see or hear the word “panko”? I mean, it makes sense, since they’re just one letter off, but that damn name. Have I mentioned this before?

Sorry. Veered slightly off track there.

While the Succulent Chicken Parmesan was baking (the best way to cook meat, in my opinion, because my chicken always tends to be messy, dry, and burnt when I try to fry it), I got started on the Bruschetta. I was going to get basil leaves, but at the same time, didn’t really feel like it, and I knew we had fresh greens, so I took my chances. We didn’t have it at home, so instead I had an option to use cilantro or Italian parsley. I asked for Mom’s opinion and she said that for a basil substitution, she’d go with the parsley.

Bruschetta is surprisingly simple. The only ingredients you worry about is the vegetable mixture and you can mix it by hand. I thought that spooning them onto the baked bread slices would’ve also been a challenge, but you’re free to drop as many pieces as you’d like and there would still be enough leftovers to top off some pasta for the next day, which is what I did, mainly because the recipe says I have the freedom to.

Something I was wondering was which side of the bread to put the vegetable mixture on: the oily side that faces the foil or the clean side? I put it on the clean side or else the bottom would just be dry.

The bruschetta mixture took a little longer than expected, so I had to take out the chicken once it was done and then put it back in the oven after the bread was finished baking. Only while the oven was cooling down, hoping that whatever residual heat there was, was still enough to keep the chicken warm.

Janko Panko-coated chicken

Pre-baked bread slices. I was afraid of it not fitting onto the entire sheet, but it was actually perfect! Don’t you love it when that happens? When you rely solely on gut instinct and it turns out to be a happy ending?

The entire tray of bruschetta pre-serving.

And best of all: plating.

Unfortunately, the chicken did cool down, but that’s because nobody came to the dinner table in time. In fact, I had to take Dad’s plate upstairs to him because he wasn’t coming down and I didn’t want him to eat cold chicken.

Because there were four pieces of chicken and only three of us, there was one left, which was refrigerated and I ate for breakfast this morning. Since it was breakfast and I didn’t have my phone on me, and was also too lazy to get back upstairs, I ate it without taking a photo. It was too late anyway; by the time I realized it, I’d already taken a bite out.

I can describe it as best I can though: There was the chicken parmesan (half-breast), a few pieces of bruschetta, and some of the leftover pesto cavatappi. I sprinkled mozzarella all over the pesto and then microwaved it. This really helped with the bruschetta. It may be customary to eat hard, but I like my bread soft. The recipe for the bruschetta also suggests to use leftovers for pasta topping, which I did on the cavatappi.

This was my lunch, which got me thinking about that Leftover Day from “The Incredibles”. I figured maybe I can cook on the weekends and eat leftovers on Sundays. That way I can do my writing on Sundays and not have to worry about new updates. Plus, I will have time during the week to focus on school. 

But I suppose there’s only one day where I absolutely can’t cook. Since I get out in the early afternoons the other three schooldays, there’s no reason for me not to cook. The weekend thing is a definite plan though since I’ll actually have the energy to prep and execute.

For dinner, instead of eating what Mom made, I wanted to finish off the leftovers, so even more pesto cavatappi for me. (I’m gonna be morbidly obese by…there’s no end if this is gonna be my career.)

Break an egg!

P.S. If the culinary school stuff tends to be boring, I can definitely leave it out. I figured there was some wisdom I could share with you, but since I do talk a lot, I don’t want to be boring about it. Let me know, if you can! 🙂

P.P.S. I usually read over this, but it’s so long and I have to get to bed, like, now if I want to get to class by 7:30AM. Hope you understand!

9/18/16

So I was continuing my Grey’s Anatomy marathon this morning and then during Bailey’s wedding (yeah, I know, I have a lot to go through since this happened like two years ago), they served mac-and-cheese cupcakes. I thought, Oh yeah, I should see if I could make that. Shouldn’t be too hard. Just prepare small portions of macaroni (cooked, probably) and lots of cheese inside each cupcake cup and bake them. And then one of the guests suggested other types of cupcakes that could be made from common dinner items like lasagna and mashed potatoes. I can definitely see the lasagna idea, but not very confident about the mashed potatoes. I mean, I suppose you could, but I’m not really seeing how that’d work because you don’t really bake mashed potatoes. I don’t know, maybe it’s very delicious and I’m just not being very imaginative here. I’m sure there’s a recipe for it out there though.

It really did get me thinking though: what else could be made into cupcakes? You see this all the time in the short cooking clips and Tasty also has a few dinner cupcakes. I think the most recent one I saw was a hot dog cupcake.

FYI, I just learned something: I’ve always struggled with finding my drafts on the computer on WordPress. On the phone and tablet, it’s easy since they have a completely separate tab for drafts when you click on “posts”. I looked it up and even wanted to ask WordPress how to access drafts since the Drafts list only SOMETIMES shows up on the right-hand side when I look at my posts list. The problem with that was they charge you even to ask questions, so it just doesn’t seem fair. I don’t know if this is the official way that those of us Pressers who knew how to do it initially, do it, but I clicked on “Add Blog Posts” and it sends me to a brand new note, but on the upper left-hand corner right next to the “back” button is “Drafts” and then a number right next to it. I always found it weird that I had to create a new post in order to access drafts, which is why I never did it until today, but hey, at least it gets me to the list of unpublished posts.

That was just to let you guys know, if you didn’t already. It was a big struggle with me, which is why it was worth bringing up, in case someone else was wondering how. I still don’t understand why the list only sometimes shows up, but that doesn’t matter now. I can access my drafts without fail.

Anyways, there was no cooking today, but I have some notes that I learned from class. Just to let you know though, I’m not completely confident that I haven’t mentioned the first couple points before because I remember writing something down, just not sure about the specifics. Plus, I don’t recall typing any of these out, so I’ll just bring them up again:

  1. I sliced my finger in their kitchen a while ago, but I took care of it myself: cleaned up the wound, put on a Band-aid and cot (AKA the finger condom), and sanitized the knife and board, as well as throwing out the food I was working on. My question is, at what point during the healing process is it okay to work in the kitchen without the bandage? Obviously, if there is still blood visible, dry or not, keep it on, but is it still safe to work once you know it can’t bleed anymore even if you can still see the cut? Also, apparently, I was supposed to tell a professor so we could file an accident report, even if it’s small enough to be a paper cut.
  2. My Knife Skills professor, who is this adorable little Chinese lady who looks exactly like my own grandmother, wanted us to compost carrot peels because she wanted to make kimchi. Coming from a Korean family, kimchi is a part of our daily meals and we buy ours from the Korean market so there’s still some authenticity, if there is any question about it. I’ve just never really heard of carrots being in kimchi. I mean, I suppose it could be her specific variation or the Chinese variation, but it was a new thing to me. Just thought I’d put that out there.
  3. Speaking of compost, my school is all about being green. In fact, they specifically don’t have pamphlets or brochures on their program because they want to avoid printing. (At first I thought it was nice, but even my culinary history professor who is a vegan and admittedly very against printing, needed us to print out our assignments so she could have them in her hand even though we can just email her questions. I don’t know whose rules those are, man.) Oh, the COMPOST thing: they have the same attitude about the food we use and the key to avoiding waste is in how we cut. That’s why I think it’s fitting that we have that cute grandma to teach us how to use most of the fruits and vegetables we cut. She is also a vegan, so she cares a lot about waste and uses up all the edible portions of ingredients. I personally still have to learn how to “square it off”, which is basically turning it into a rectangle. For example, potatoes look like butter once you square them off. I’m a very lazy squarer though, so my ingredients tend to be uneven or slightly too large. Then once I cut off a teeny strip, it turns out to be too small, so I can’t win. It helps to have the ruler, which shows how big the squares need to be and how long the rectangles should be. I’m just not practicing, but that’s because I’m not too worried about it.
  4. While we can’t have phones or radios in the kitchen, I can’t pass the time with music unless I’m singing or humming. Logically, that is why I’ve decided to do so in the kitchen while we’re cooking. That way, not only does time pass, but everyone can hear my beautiful singing. Just kidding–it’s just so it feels less like something I have to do and becomes more enjoyable.
  5. For ten minutes at the beginning of every Knife Skills class, we must sharpen our knives. We have to hone with the steel and whetstone. (Ooh! Sample lyric right there! I think I mentioned in my first entry about culinary class, that I’ve considered writing a musical about cooking, much like the new Broadway musical Waitress is about baking.) I used the steel to sharpen both the house knife and my own chef’s knife. The sound is substantially different. For one, the new knife makes this nice little “Shwing!” sound against the steel. The sound just…follows through, which is the best way I can put it. This is something you have to experience to learn and understand what I mean.

Well, I’ve got a quiz tomorrow, so I should go. I’m just going to read through the material, but I feel like cooking school tests are easy. At first, they want to quiz you on the basics of sanitation and safety, which is really just common sense. I’m guessing that tomorrow, it’s going to be more about the specifics of recipes, but the first quiz was literally one page, one side. I don’t want to fail, of course, but I don’t want to stress out either. The biggest part of passing each class is attendance and participation, which makes sense if the class works in the kitchen. That’s the only place you’ll really learn: through hands-on experience, which has always been my philosophy anyway, making this an even more perfect career for me.

Break an egg!

9/16/16

I’ve had a pretty hard few days recently, but I’m starting to feel like myself again. (I just noticed that I’ve been feeling a lot more depressed lately, but not so deep that it takes me a while to bounce back. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that I’ve finally taken my first step towards actual adulthood…) Long story short: I have my own chef’s knives now! It didn’t take that long to choose the correct chef’s knife for me (like, the actual chef’s knife–not the general set). At the end of the day, I’m actually quite satisfied with what ended up going for. I mean, it may not be the perfect blade for me, but it’s better than what I’ve been using: those really crappy house knives.

A few days ago, I made a chicken dish I’d seen on BuzzFeed’s Tasty app. It was really good, and then the leftovers turned out to be a very delicious burrito as well! What happened there was I wanted to finish them off the following day, but actually bought soft flour tortillas with the intention of eventually making breakfast burritos after watching yet another Tasty video. The hardest part of this new creation was how much of the insides to place inside the tortilla. I remembered, from last time I wanted to make the self-improvised breakfast burrito, that the ones I bought were too small. That was because I was aiming for the mini burritos they sell at McDonald’s. I don’t usually eat there, but we used to stop by the drive-thru and order breakfast burritos, right before church choir practice so we all had something in the morning.

Today however, I’m going to attempt this chicken dish again: the Chicken and Rice Casserole. I didn’t refer to the recipe however; I once again improvised. It reminded me of the time I completely BS’d one of my previous chicken dinners. This time, it was exponentially better with the extra stuff I added before the chicken breast. Wanna see? 

Initially, I added just 1/2 a cup of chicken broth, but decided to add a little more right before placing it in the oven. Even then however, the rice dried up a bit, so I added even more, so I predict I poured an extra 1/2 cup. Also, I added garlic salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, all of which I just guessed.

That string cheese was the only cheese I had access to, so the mindset I was in was “you do what you can with what you got”: a very common belief in the modern world of rush hours and instant meals. As you can see, that worked out well.

I think it was still pretty good though. The chicken was slightly undercooked, but I only noticed a little bit of pinkness. It was the first time I’ve ever noticed that difference in the taste as well though, so I didn’t feed it to the dogs, just in case. Yeah, that’s why I didn’t give any to them. Sure, we’ll say that. Just kidding: I really did have their health in mind.

At least now though, I know what’d happen if I ate undercooked chicken, thanks to Sanitation & Safety: salmonella. I think. It’s not too serious though–just food poisoning. I know that probably shouldn’t be my attitude, especially if I want to cook food for other people, but in this case, I’m the only victim, so if I’m sick, so be it. Not like I’ll be dead. That would only be the case if I’d eaten the meat completely raw and that’s just nasty.

I took a lot of notes during class this past week. Even jotted down a list called “Blog Update”, with anticipation that I’d eventually be able to type it all out. Maybe I’ll mention it tomorrow, thanks to the weekend.

Speaking of updates, while I didn’t have time to type anything out, I did manage to take photos of my creations during my brief, educationally-induced hiatus. Here is the complete, original casserole dish I tried to replicate today–dammit, I forgot the broccoli! 

That same day, I also tried this apple bake thing, also inspired by a Tasty video

The idea was fine and I’m sure the recipe would have worked out perfectly…except the grocery store I went to didn’t have pre-made cinnamon bun dough. It was the very last ingredient I could find and I wasn’t sure if there was secretly a can inside with the dough already prepared, but took my chances anyway. Once I got home, it was all powder. I at least had the ingredients in order to turn it into a dough, but I feel as if the texture wasn’t the same or something.

By the time the dough had risen halfway, I noticed the apples might overflow because the dough was too moist to avoid sticking together. In fact, it had formed into one giant dough ball again, so the cinnamon sauce barely managed to go between the failed cracks even though I tried to form smaller rolls like the recipe advised. I had to stop baking midway in order to stuff the apple cubes back into the plate. Nothing fell out, but only because I took the liberty to shove it all back onto the platter.

I mean, it was good, but…still underdone. Hopefully the other store I go to will have it, so I can make it right one of these days.

Apart from the stuff I wanted to bring up from class, I think that’s all I have to say. Maybe I’ll find time to provide some insight on what I learned tomorrow. I mean, it’s not that I don’t have time, since I have Fridays off, but I had previous passions which haven’t been forgotten. I spent most of today on my Grey’s Anatomy marathon, prepping for the new season starting next week. If I wasn’t doing that, I was singing karaoke on the piano (I know that sounds redundant and silly, but there’s a freestyle feature on the app I use, which is just the recording function). So as you can see, I still want to live my life and practice my passions while learning about culinary arts. Cooking as actually become one of those passions, in fact, but I still love those other activities, so there’s no way I’m giving that up.

Break an egg!