Tag Archive | Cooking

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!

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!

9/4/16

One of my favorite sitcoms is Melissa & Joey, which was on Freeform (née ABC Family) and in an episode of their very first season, Mel and Joe–oh yeah, her name is weird because the character’s full name is Melanie, not Melissa–go to a fancy restaurant and their funny scene happens. Then the very last line is of Melissa Joan Hart smiling and saying, “You know the best thing about this whole ordeal? Untouched crab cakes.” She takes a forkful from the plate in front of her and sniffs it.

Ever since I saw that, I’ve wanted to make crab cakes, but when I saw the recipes, I thought, Yeah, I’m not ready for this yet. Well, I read the most popular recipe on the Food Network app and regained my faith in Paula Deen. (Those of you who’ve read my Southern Fried Chicken attempt know what I’m talking about. That was a really bad day.)

The recipe isn’t too complicated. In fact, the hardest part would probably be finding the right ingredients. I remember combining the garlic powder ingredient with salt because I wanted to use garlic salt instead. I was aware that there would be more garlic than the recipe wants, but it’s definitely a personal preference decision.

As I watched my hands chopping the green onions, my eyes started tearing up, which reminded me of the onion-dicing portion of my knife skills class. I learned from a classmate that it helps significantly if you breathe through your mouth as you do it. Because I prefer to breathe through my nose (I think it’s the singer in me), I have to constantly take breaks to use my mouth and remind myself to do it.

I had no idea what Worcestershire sauce was, but based on my brief research at the store, it is most commonly used as a salad dressing. I even checked the entire aisle, but nothing resembled it, so I looked up substitutions and Google said that BBQ sauce and soy sauce were good ones to use instead. We had both, but I chose to use BBQ sauce and went my way. Except…when I reached for the BBQ sauce in the fridge, guess what it was: Worcestershire sauce. So that was a good five to ten minutes wasted at the grocery store.

As far as the crabmeat went, I thought I had to ask someone for it and I get very anxious when I talk to other people. That’s why I looked up what it looks like online and searched under “shopping” when I couldn’t find it at the window of the meat department. It turns out that they come in cans, so I went straight to the canned foods section and clear as day, right at the center of the aisle were multiple cans of crabmeat. I had to do some math because I needed one pound. I’m still working on memorizing weights and measurements, so I had to look up how many oz. go into a pound. The cans held 4 oz., so I needed 16 to get what I needed. I grabbed four cans and went on my way.

I think the hardest part of actually cooking it was keeping it together. It was so moist and juicy that I had to drain it whenever I saw white liquid (which I assumed was the mayo, but it also could have been from the crabmeat since I didn’t drain it all that well). The recipe doesn’t specify how much flour you need, but rather “for dusting”, which implies you use just a little bit, right? A handful at most? Personally, I used the flour to keep the patties together.

I managed to form and cook eight…and then drop one, so I ended up with seven cakes. The recipe says it takes four to five minutes each for both sides to cook, but I thought it took longer, even at medium heat. You need to keep adding oil in order to keep it moist though, especially if you’re going to cook them in batches. My pan wasn’t too big, so I had to cook them four at a time.

When I told my mom, she said she’d eat one so the rest of us (Dad, sister who’s visiting for one night, and myself) could each have two. Mom and I ate first and since Dad is working 24 hours, we had to take dinner to him, especially since that would be the one of the only opportunities he and my sister would have to see each other. Mom said it was really good, which made my sister excited.

Once we got to Dad’s work, my sister took the food she was going to eat like a buffet because we had to combine the two servings and bring them together in a plastic container. She knew that he was probably starving, so she only took one patty and waited to see if he’d eat the third one.

He did. So I guess he was that hungry. We talked, laughed, they shared stories about their vacation to the Grand Canyon, and then we left about half an hour later. They both said it was really good, so that’s awesome.

Since most of the patties were ugly and I packed the prettier ones in the plastic container, I took a photo of what his plate would have looked like if he were to eat it the moment I packed it: 

So by now, I’m sure you notice my pattern: rice or garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, and my meat of choice. That’s my go-to meal, I suppose, even if I need to improvise. In fact, I think I’ve said this before, but if I were on Death Row, this would be my last meal: rice, green beans, and my mood-based meat.

Something I forgot to mention a few days ago is what I noticed with the pen markings on my jacket after the washer when I accidentally left my pens on my chef’s jacket. The pink color wasn’t pink after all; it was red. That was because the red pen was a click pen, so even if it isn’t technically open, the tip is still exposed so the ink could be sucked out. That’s why the pens with the caps didn’t open.

Speaking of pen trouble, during PCB (which my Sanitation & Safety professor was subbing), my pen started bleeding during the lecture, so it got all over my hands. Because this was an actual cooking course, I was worried that because it wouldn’t come off easily after a few attempts in the sink, I would end up wearing gloves in the kitchen. I asked my Sani & Safety professor, Chef Christine, if it was okay for me to work in the kitchen without gloves and she said it was fine as long as I washed my hands regularly while cooking. She specifically told me that at that point, the ink was already embedded into my skin so it wouldn’t affect the food. I was like, “Okay, good to know.”

And also, I cut myself again while chopping a tomato. Same place as the more serious time, but it was very minor–a paper cut at best. I took care of it myself: washed my hands with soap, put on a bandage, placed a cot over my finger (which is, let’s face it, a finger condom), trashed the tomato, and then washed the board and knife. When I got a fresh bandaid later right before Sani & Safety, Chef Christine ended up having to let me into the kitchen next door to the classroom since there wasn’t a first aid kit in the classroom. I told her that I had cut myself in the previous class and then taken care of it without telling anyone.

She didn’t find it too big a deal, so she let me slide, but she told me that I still should have told her so they could fill out an accident report. Honestly, I don’t think it was that serious, especially since I took care of it myself. It wasn’t like I saw a bit of bone peeking through.

On that note, break an egg!

9/3/16

I actually made this a couple days ago, but my entire learning process lasted about 24 hours and I’m only now writing this down after gathering all my thoughts together. I’m sure nobody would object to an original cupcake recipe with Nutella frosting. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? It actually was, but…

It’s dessert, so obviously, you can’t really mess it up. The taste anyway. I think the only way you could screw up is by messing with the texture. Which is sort of what happened to me. The actual cake was delicious. Its recipe was originally just plain old vanilla cupcakes, which I wanted to do because I had the idea to add chocolate chips at the center (which I expected would melt in the oven, but it didn’t, even just after I took it out). Then have Nutella frosting on top.

There was a recipe for Nutella icing on the Food.com app (which was released by The Food Network, I think…I didn’t get a good look at it, but it seems to be for home cooks to post their own recipes). The home chef who created it said it always worked for her and then she added a note saying that she’d gotten feedback that it was too runny (which I think is just a term for liquid egg yolk, but it also feels right here).

Anyways, her note was that she expected the issue to be with the whipping cream. I read this, so I was aware that I had to get the right kind of whipping cream. She said “not the ultra-pasteurised stuff”, so I just got regularly pasteurized cream. I guess it isn’t supposed to be pasteurized at all…it was still very runny.

It held together when I put it in the piping bag. Well, sort of. If you call “able to stay in shape for a few seconds as it drips out of the bag” together. I’m sorry if this ruins Nutella for you, but it was basically like the bag had diarrhea… Delicious, right?…

I mean, that’s close enough, right? (Cringes.)

Instead, I used a knife to spread out the Nutella soup on the cakes just to cover up the entire surface. So yeah, it was a messy experiment and usually, I could just have the dogs clean it up, except chocolate is poisonous to them so you’re sort of on your own in that department. Well, at least it’s Nutella, so it’s delicious…if you just forget about the diarrhea reference.

So this is what it looked like at the end. Messy, but still pretty cute. You can see a chocolate chip at the edge there. As I said before, I expected it to melt in the oven, since it melts so easily in your hand, but it didn’t so I’ll have to figure out what went wrong there. I also wanted the cake to be more fluffy and initially, I thought that had to do with how much batter I put into each cup of the muffin tray, but I thought about it and realized the texture would still be the same–the cupcakes would just be shorter.

As I was pouring the icing onto the cakes (yes, I said pouring, because let’s face it: that’s what happened), I noticed that the angle of the piping bag matters. Because I’m so short, the curves I made were sometimes straighter than I wanted, if you know what I mean. I think the bag is supposed to be perpendicular to the surface or at least close to it. It’s hard to find an example in the picture I just showed you, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Like I said before, this learning experience lasted an entire day. The next morning, I looked at the refrigerated leftover icing and it was pretty solid. Like, enough to be able to put on the cake and have it stick, as long as the cupcakes are also refrigerated till ready to serve. I conducted an experiment that consisted only of waiting and the chocolate melted back to its original form.

Because of this result, I will probably have to either find the “real” whipping cream as the chef advised, or just pick another recipe. Or maybe figure out my own recipe. When it was more solidified, it really did look like actual frosting, so for now, my only hope is to refrigerate the icing overnight and then apply it the next day. This wouldn’t work if I wanted to bake these cupcakes for a family get-together two hours away however, unless I kept it in an ice box during the road trip. What would’ve definitely helped is if the chef, or some of the reviewers whom this actually had worked for, also provided suggestions or substitutions for the heavy whipping cream. It’d be a lot easier to find a specific brand rather than hunt one down at your local store and just guess it’s correct.

That just seems like too much of a hassle, so I’d either have to find another recipe or create my own. Or just spread Nutella directly onto the cupcake. There’s always the lazy way.

So overall, as delicious as this was, there were a few flaws: the most important was the frosting. Second, the cake seemed too thick and heavy, so I would probably need to make alterations on that. Thirdly, how to make the chocolate chips melt. It is certainly possible that they could have melted a bit and then hardened again in the fridge, so I might have to let go of the chocolate chip idea altogether. I don’t want to add Nutella to the center too. That’s why I thought the chips were the way to go.

As far as the taste goes, I thought it was decent. Not professionally ready, of course. My parents came home very early in the morning (at around 4AM), so my mom tried it. To her, the only flaw was it was too sweet so she suggested to use less sugar, but the few times I ate more cupcakes after that, I realized that most of the sugar was from the Nutella, which was obviously store-bought, so I couldn’t change that or else that changes my excitement. (The Nutella frosting was the whole thing.) Although with her and baked goods, what else is new? Everything is too sweet to her. 😛

Well, break an egg!

8/30/16

Today is my busiest day of the week–Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, I only have a single class each while Tuesdays I have two lecture classes a couple hours after the first. I considered going back home last week, but during the drive back to school (which my mom did since I had car trouble, so no need to worry about parking), the middle school also gets out and since none of them drive yet, their parents have to pick them up. I figured I could use this time to update Chef’s Delight even though I have a quiz tomorrow night over stuff I wouldn’t ace if I took it at this very moment, but it’s not like I have just a little bit to talk about. This is cooking school, so there’s a lot to cover, even with the list of lessons or thoughts I made.

Still, my priorities venture elsewhere in this lonely habitat of cyberspace. It’s difficult though–since my parents are still out of town, I had to leave the dogs home and it’s for the entire day this time. They’re big boys, so I know they’ll be fine. We’ve done that before when visiting relatives a couple hours away, so they can survive. (Probably sit around, napping all day.) I left them with two bowls full of food and a large bowl of water. They have plenty of room to run around and play in the kitchen, and their bathroom crate is right in the corner and they know to go there (for the most part). I also left the lights on in order to keep a sense that they’re not alone. I should probably devote at least an hour of studying though, so I’ll try to make this quick with the stuff I do have written down:

When I look for recipes either on Facebook or the Food Network app, I realize I either have or should start to find something that can cater (no pun intended) to my specific needs as a culinary arts student when I make food for the family. If I need to practice chopping methods, salad might be the way to go. Not only do I have to be a better recipe hunter, but I also need to think about what I still need to learn while I have people who can teach me in the professional setting.

One small thing that I noticed while chopping in Knife Skills was how long my nails were. The way they determine if it’s short enough is if you look at your palms; if you can see the nails over your fingertips, then they’re too long. For me, when I’m cutting and using my non-dominant hand in the claw position (pretend you’re holding an egg), my nails feel like they dig into the food and that’s not exactly comfortable. That’s why I cut them a few days ago–it just feels more sanitary that way too, because scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds doesn’t guarantee you get every little piece of dirt out from under those nails.

If you’re a reader who either studies everything I say or at least skims through my entries, then you’ll be familiar with one of my biggest questions in cooking: when you have to cut a recipe in half, is time also affected? For example, if I have to cook 2 cups chicken broth, but want to cut that down by half, obviously I’d have to cook just 1 cup, but would it take as long? That’s a really stupid example because the obvious answer is, yes, it would take less time to cook, but you get the idea, right? If a recipe says to bake three chicken parmesans, does that heat affect all three with the same amount of heat as if I’d bake one? There, that’s a better example: would I have to punch in a shorter time for just one chicken instead of all three? The official answer was “yes, but not always.” It depends on the ingredients, temperature, and I think even what tools/appliances I use.

This morning, I also came up with a new study technique that probably won’t catch on: spending each night at the awkward stage when you’re already in bed, but waiting to fall asleep…flipping through the material you need to know. Not skimming, but actually reading and processing all the information–soaking it all in repeatedly everyday so you gain more retention. I’ve heard that the brain either is a muscle or it’s like a muscle; you need to exercise it everyday so it can get stronger.

I have a quiz early tomorrow morning, so that doesn’t do me much good at this point, but it’s a theory. I take photos of everything I think I need to know from the textbook–diagrams, tables, photos, side definitions, etc.–and so I just have to swipe left when I’m done with the page. (Anyone else think of Tinder just now, because of the “swipe left” thing? I’ve only used it once, but don’t have it anymore, but because of that app, the only thing that my generation at least, applies the act of swiping left to that social network. Sorry. Sidetrack.)

Anyways, then, on weekends at around the same time you’ve been looking over the material, quiz yourself on what you remember. Then, if you need to look at it again, it’s right there.

I also made Key Lime Pie last night. I’d gotten home from class and was like, “I’m probably set for dinner”–which was rice, steak, and salad–“so if I want to make something, it should probably be dessert. I want cake. Or at least pie.” So I flipped through the Tasty app (which needs improvements), the Food Network app, NY Times Cooking app, even some new ones I just signed up for called Kitchenbowl and Yum-Yum. I wanted something delicious yet simple. I aimed for what was easier because I’d already spent a good hour on it and I was starving.

 

I tried following the recipe exactly, but I feel like there was too much graham cracker involved. I remember from last time I made a pie crust using these exact same crackers, but they didn’t use the entire box, but the recipe told me to. That’s why I added the top garnish, and that was about half of what was left of the crust and I wanted to use as much as I could.

The butter also seemed scarce. Also, tip: butter pops in the microwave so make sure to cover it. I didn’t think it was too important even though that wasn’t the first time I’ve microwaved butter. Oh, I still have yet to clean the kitchen… Tomorrow after class. Maybe. I hope.

Anyway, you see how the crust didn’t stick together very well? Otherwise, it was good though! That’s what matters, right? And apparently there’s a difference between lime juice and key lime juice. We had two bottles of lime juice so I just substituted with that and, honestly, it tastes exactly the same. I think. My tastebuds aren’t quite trained enough to be able to distinguish that.

Speaking of training your tastebuds, in this morning’s class, one of the activities is to taste basically an entire pallet of all five or six flavors. (The sixth one is oleogram or something, which is the oily, rancid taste.) Through experience, I learned that often times, you can correct something if it’s too bland by adding something to literally spice it up a notch. This may have been obvious, but it goes deeper than that: the lesson was to try something else besides salt to un-bland a dish. I can’t tell you any more since I left my notes in my locker at the culinary building across the street and my memory sucks. I’ll fill you in next time, if I remember, but like I said: my memory sucks.

Back on track, the next point on my list was the PCB quiz I told you about (probably): it took about ten minutes total and we went over the answers after we turned them in. I got 10/10 and two of them were guesses! Although I don’t suppose they were guesses, since they were mostly multiple choice, but he was very flexible on the answers: if it was multiple choice and one of the answers was very close in theory, he accepted both.

The questions were really easy too and only like two of them covered sanitation while, like, four covered weights/measurements, which are both what he said they were on. The rest of the questions were about cooking eggs. One of the questions was literally “list three types of eggs we learned to cook in class.” I’m just like, “Take your pick.” Just list all the basic breakfasts where the egg is the main ingredient and you’ve got your answers right there.

One question that I’m still kicking myself for missing was one of the extra credits. There were two, and one of them was a measurement one that was like “how many oz. in a pound?” I recalled the number 32 somewhere so I took my chances and wrote that down. Turned out to be 16. I feel like that’s close, considering you just have to double to get my answer.

The big question that really got me described how to cook something. We had to answer with what the dish was. I knew that it was clarified butter, but for some reason, I can never think of the word “clarified”. I knew it started with a “c”, but I couldn’t picture what it was called: “Chlorinated?” “Colonized?” “Classified?” My brain was even convinced it was “Solidified”… I mean, at least it was an extra credit question, so I didn’t get any points off for leaving it blank. Maybe I should’ve written down “butter” with an underscore right before it, just to imply that I knew what it was, but couldn’t think of the word. Then I’d at least get .5 extra credit.

I also wondered why some classes were at least five hours long and others were two or two-and-a-half. It took actually attending all of my classes that first week, to realize that the regular-lengthed classes are– how is “-lengthed” not a word?–are actually straightforward lectures. No kitchen work is done because it’s just like any other class that involves an actual classroom with pen and paper. The stinkin’ long ones involve cooking and it takes a lot of time to cook and clean. For us, we have to devote at least half an hour to cleaning up the kitchen, even with everyone working together.

And final point even though I know I have lots of other things to say: so right now is around the same time where I felt really overwhelmed last week about everything happening at once. I was depressed and unsure if this was what I wanted to do and even considered dropping everything. Of course, I didn’t do that because smart, sane me said, “Wait a few more days and you’ll be over it. Soon, waking up at 6AM won’t be such a big deal to you. You just jumped into real life too quickly.” So fortunately, that’s all it was. I do get excited when working in the kitchen, especially with my classmates, who help out a lot. As long as this is the main feeling and it lasts all day, that’s fine.

I know there’s a lot more to say on that, but we’re down to one hour left and I should look over the material for tomorrow’s quiz. Not that I have anything on my person to study over, but that’s why some dude invented the Internet!

We cook everyday now and we’ve gotten more into how the kitchen works on a regular day, but I’m still making mistakes, which I know is fine since it’s school: we’re there to make mistakes and learn from them. I’ll see if I can list each one and talk about it next time too.

Till then, break an egg!

For the record, all this took, like, two hours, which surprises me. It feels like only an hour has passed.