Tag Archive | pasta

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!

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8/18/16

I attempted a double today. Since it was just me, I woke up with lunch as my first meal (I wake up late), which was leftover chicken. I made fresh rice to complement it, but that’s nothing new. Growing up in a completely Asian family, you learn how to do it when you’re young.

Okay, so I didn’t technically wake up at noon; I just got out of bed then. I suppose I woke up at around 9AM? 10AM? Off to a good start, for someone who’s about to start school at 7:30 in the morning, eh?

What I tend to do is flip through my phone, first thing in the morning. Today, I was going through the short cooking videos on Facebook. I went to my usual pages: Tasty, Proper Tasty, Nourish by Tastemade, Food Envy, etc. I even went to the Tasty iPhone app, which isn’t as good, but they have…a lot of recipes, and I only say “a lot” because you can tell that there’s more. I know that I had just visited their Facebook page, but I only went because I figured there was probably an old recipe in my Favorites column in case I felt like trying it out now.

Since it was just going to be me and I have no job and school starts on Monday (I’ll tell you about that next time!), I spent my entire Thursday looking for recipes for dinner and dessert. For dinner, I wanted to go with Proper Tasty’s “Pull-Apart Cheesy Pesto Bread“. I know it’s probably an appetizer or a side, but it was just me and I wanted to try it! Plus, I LOVE PESTO!!!

Then for dessert, I finally wanted to try that Oreo cream puff that I’d seen once before, but forgot if I ever shared the link, so I shared it on Facebook again just in case I missed it or was just too lazy to scroll down. I found it on the Tasty app though: Cookies & Cream Puffs. Oh, and when they list Oreos in the ingredients, they just call it “Chocolate Sandwich Cookies”. When I wrote down the recipe so I could do my usual highlighting of ingredients I can combine during prep, I literally said, “chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos…they’re called Oreos).” I know they probably couldn’t say it for legal purposes, but just thought a little sass would get you laughing!

I wanted to focus on the dessert first, so I could chill it and it’d be ready by the time I finished dinner. That was a pretty good plan, I think. I went to the grocery store and got everything I needed for both recipes. Well, almost. We ran out of cornstarch, so I knew I had to get it today. Except right when I got to the car, I realized I’d forgotten it. Now, I definitely could have waltzed right back into the store to grab it, but it was sort of too much trouble.

You see, at the entrance, there are always people asking for money for certain things, like charity, a children’s sports team, raising awareness for something. Not the beggars though; they camp out at the perpendicular entrance of the entire shopping complex. Today, it was a couple of young men from the halfway house near my neighborhood. They needed money for…something about kids having a music program.

Usually, I never want to donate money because I don’t have an allowance anymore since my parents are pushing me to get a job. And, plus, I grew up practically in love with music. In high school, I wanted to be a singer. In college, the dream was to be on Broadway. I’m all for their cause. I just wanted to get my things, so I said I didn’t have cash on me and he said that was all right, but I should think about it. So I did my thing inside the store and I was hesitant on leaving the same way since I knew they would still be there. Again, I apologized, but then changed my mind last-minute, remembering I actually did have some cash. While I was digging out my wallet, he said he liked my purse and that his sister had a very similar one. He’d said that just one dollar would have been enough support, but I gave him all the cash I had, which was just $4. I mean, it wasn’t much of a loss for me since I was never going to use that cash anyway, but it still feels good providing those people a second chance at sharpening their artistic tools.

But anyways, back to the current dream: I ended up just going straight home because I saw that you could just substitute cornstarch with flour. Apparently, you just need 3x more flour or 3 extra cups or something like that. I figured, maybe I’ll combine it with corn meal and everything will be okay…

I didn’t use the corn meal. In fact, let’s list everything that went horribly wrong for the dessert portion only:

  1. I think I was supposed to combine the egg yolks, half & half, sugar, and cornstarch (aka flour, apparently) WHILE heating it at low. I made a note to highlight them separately, but I completely forgot, so I combined them all beforehand.
  2. I knew I was supposed to whisk constantly, but stopped to read the directions so there were lumps EVERYWHERE.
  3. The mixture had already mostly thickened by the time I added the cookie cream, so add that to the lumps and you got a hot mess.
  4. And speaking of “hot mess”, the pot turned brown at the bottom. I don’t know if it was because of the heat or the fact that it’s a very old pot, but I just thought I’d make a note of that.
  5. The cream mixture didn’t look anything like the video. It didn’t look like pudding. It looked and tasted more like grits. I tasted it a few times, but thought it was really weird that it didn’t taste sweet even though I specifically ordered “Double Stuf Oreos”.
  6. I forgot to “remove from heat” and thought that came AFTER the four eggs, so basically I ended up with a poop-colored piece of clay with white and yellow specks all over.
  7. I have no idea how to make a piping bag, so I tried making a small hole in the corner of a Ziploc bag. We have the tip, but it didn’t really work. Sticking with the poop analogy, it was like trying to push out a–okay, you probably get the picture already. So instead, I just tried rolling it up myself. It was…hot.

Here it was pre-baking.

Post-ba–OH GOD, I MESSED UP BAD, YOU GUYS! I MESSED UP REAL BAD!!

So take a look at the list of what went wrong there and can you tell me what could have made these puffs…puff? I regretfully threw out the entire thing. I’m definitely not happy about that, but garbage day is tomorrow morning and I didn’t want my parents to come home knowing I’d wasted so much time, money, and ingredients on a failed experiment.

The good one was dinner, so I at least had that to eat tonight. There’s no official recipe written down online except the Proper Tasty comment on the video, which I screenshot: 

There’s something therapeutic about kneading. I don’t know if it’s because it’s fun or you’re just mentally massaging yourself or something, but you can knead all day long and it’s like all your problems are gone. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me and I’m crazy, in which case I would need actual therapy.

The first time I was waiting for it to rise, it didn’t really expand as much as I’d hoped, but the second time was more obvious. I think that was because the rolls were smaller, so the changes looked more drastic.

Fortunately, I have half a bottle of pesto left, which is how much was required for one attempt at this. I can make it again tomorrow truly as a side dish this time, and maybe I can make a classic spaghetti and meat sauce or something. Italian cuisine level: Olive Garden.

Also, I looked up the difference between all-purpose flour and bread flour and my source says that they are very similar, but bread flour has a “greater content” than all-purpose…? I mean…does it matter though? We needed flour so I got our usual all-purpose, so why is the bread flour important? I mean, I get that it’s in order to make bread, but is that really necessary? I always use all-purpose flour for bread anyway, so… I digress.

Does anyone know what “cling film” is? I just used regular plastic film, but I suppose it was clingy. I mean, it stuck onto everything pretty well, like the unwanted ex-girlfriend who’s grown too attached. (Hehe, get it? Because it’s “clingy”?)

The only real issue I had was with the cheese. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dish where the cheese bubbled like it was supposed to. I mean, I could have, but it’s obviously not important enough for me to remember. Last time we had a cheese issue that seemed to jump straight to burning (not that it burned this time), it was the pizza I tried to make from The Blue Bloods Cookbook. It turned out that the pie was just too close to the top of the oven, so we had to set it on the bottom rack.

Or perhaps I just missed the bubbling. I set the timer to the minimum, so I doubt I skipped it, but maybe the bubbling was just for a couple minutes. I think I added a little too much mozzarella cheese though, but I wanted to finish off the bag we had which was a little more than half a cup, I believe.

My parents arrived about an hour after I finished dinner, so I cleaned up the kitchen and washed the dishes (which didn’t seem like a lot, to be honest, even though I tackled two meals in one day). Mom tried one, but Dad took like seven or eight. When he was tasting the first one, he told me it was “meh”, but when I offered him some more on a plate, he immediately said yes. Then, he grabbed a few more pieces to eat upstairs in his office and said, “What? It’s a waste.” That’s sort of an inside joke now, since my mom has (or at least had) a habit of finishing off someone else’s plate, so she’d say, “What? It’s such a waste!”

If I did the math correctly, I had about nine: five during dinner and four leftovers; Mom had one; and there was a total of 18 pieces. That means that Dad shared the other eight rolls with the dogs. Hehe, he liked my cooking this time.

Right before the second rise: 
After it rose, I was like, “OMG, it worked!”

When I might have overdone it with the cheese:

All done!

The “Omnomnom” stage:

So obviously, there were some good moments, and a lot of horrible mistakes I made… I guess that about evens it up and since the good part came last, I’m satisfied with the results. We can just forget the Oreo debacle never happened and start anew tomorrow! Just like the Grilled Cheese thing: I’m not going to stop until I get it right.

Break six eggs! But when you add in the four, take the chocolate mixture off the heat first and then apply them one by one!

7/17/16

So today turned out to include a crappy morning. I was supposed to have LASIK surgery today, but my nerves got in the way too often. (If anyone out there has ANY advice on that, my problem was I thought too much, so I could really use the help.) I felt horrible as we walked out of the building and the loopiness had finally just hit me as we went out for lunch. I think people thought I was drunk because my dad kept a good grip of my arm.

Anyways, after the Valium-induced nap, I needed to reboot my self-esteem so I found some leftover penne because we store random pasta in the pantry. Well, I think my specialty will be Italian food because I just put stuff together for pasta. I used all the penne we have, which totaled one perfect pound (3/4 wheat penne, 1/4 regular). We had tomato basil soup (from when I freaked out about when I made it from scratch and bought from the store as a backup), which I didn’t know I could use as pasta sauce, but my mom said it was okay to use.

I used a random recipe, but just as a reference as to which ingredients I might need for the standard pasta dish. I think it was pretty good, so here’s my (hopefully original) recipe, called “Ginny’s Pretty Penne”:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 turns of olive oil (or just make an “e”)
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 mini red peppers, chopped
  • One 19-oz. Progresso Vegetable Classics Tomato Basil Soup Can
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 handful parsley, chopped
  • 2 to 4 string cheeses, grated (for serving)
  • 1 pound penne pasta

Instructions

  1. Add olive oil in cast-iron skillet on high.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and peppers; lower heat to medium. Mix.
  3. After it browns a little bit, add soup. Stir. Add salt and pepper. Set aside on low heat.
  4. Boil pasta in salted water. Once almost 100% soft, drain and add to tomato soup mixture.
  5. Reset heat on medium-high and mix. Sprinkle parsley and stir. IMG_3560IMG_3561
  6. Serve hot and individually add a blanket of cheese on top (as requested by gourmands). IMG_3562

I predict that this serves 4 to 6 people. I was going to name it “Ginny’s First (Hopefully Original) Penne Recipe”, but I actually did have a first hopefully original recipe posted before. It was the one with the cavatappi.

When I chopped the onions, my mom thought it would’ve been better to mince them, so I just minced them with the garlic. I was going to go with 1 whole onion and 4 cloves of garlic, but it was way too much, so I decided to half that.

I think it could’ve used more peppers though. Doubled at least.

I know that saying “handful of parsley” isn’t really helpful, especially since I have tiny hands, but I just figured it’s the fresh green ingredient, so it doesn’t matter if you over- or under-do it. Personally, I don’t think it added to the taste, but that probably just means my palate isn’t too good yet. I just wanted the greens to make it look pretty. (Hehe, I guess that means it’s the “pretty” in the “Pretty Penne”.)

As for the string cheese, it doesn’t matter what type of cheese. Dad wanted mozzarella, but we didn’t have that. We had lots of string cheese though, so I had to substitute.

Students, I grant you permission to try this out for yourselves! If something goes wrong or you have any questions, feel free to comment!

7/2/16

Proudest moment of my life: I totally BS’d dinner, and by BS’d, I mean I improvised the entire thing (not turned everything to crap). I was home alone for a little more than 24 hours, so I was in charge of my own dinner. I figured maybe I should use the rest of that pasta from the pesto cavatappi I made for two last time (whose recipe was for four people).

We’d run out of pesto a while back, which is where the improv kicked in. I recalled we had a bit of Prego left though so I thought that would be an interesting match even though the noodles weren’t spaghetti. I didn’t want to use a recipe because I really wanted to do this on my own. My predicament on what needed to be in the dish was heavily based on a mix of the pesto cavatappi and spaghetti recipes.

Let’s see if I can figure out what I did here. I had to handwrite it first, but here it is:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup canola/olive oil (we use avocado oil)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato (or two small tomatoes), diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup milk (in substitution for heavy whipping cream?)
  • ~17 oz. or 1 lb. Prego Heart Smart Traditional Italian Sauce (1/4 of 67-oz. jar)
  • 8 oz. Cavatappi (I used De Cecco)

Instructions

  1. Boil noodles. While water is heating up, prep garlic and tomatoes.
  2. As noodles are boiling in salted water, put sauté pan on high heat and add oil.
  3. After a couple minutes, add garlic and tomatoes.
  4. When some of the tomato juice has evaporated, add white wine and milk.
  5. After stirring, let sit on medium-low heat. Pasta should be al dente by then.
  6. When dumping pasta water, rinse pasta with cold water to cool down. Set aside.
  7. Add pasta sauce and stir.
  8. When ready, add pasta and mix it all in. Add salt (preferably garlic salt) and pepper to taste.

As usual, the very final step is bon appétit! And the final cut looks like this:

Guess I’m set till lunch!

Of course, most of those details were approximations. For example, the white wine and milk? I just guessed how much I needed as opposed to how much I actually added. I might have to make a few tweaks next time I make this, but it should be a good start!

In my mind, I knew I could add more to it, just didn’t have it in the fridge or pantry, so I considered maybe ham or Spam at least (which I actually had…so why didn’t I add it?). I feel like I could’ve added spinach, and I was going to add it after the garlic instead of the tomatoes, but we didn’t have any. I knew I needed something else and, since I didn’t have any greens, tomatoes had to do.

If you are interested and decide to give it a try, please comment on your experience and tell me how it was! 🙂

5/9/16

Writing this amateur chef’s blog, you can probably tell it’s similar to the film based on a true story, “Julie & Julia”. Although it has been out for seven years now, I can tell you the premise to save you from researching yourself: a woman who makes a living off of talking to survivors or family members of those lost on 9/11 in her cubicle leans toward cooking for the sake of her blog, which she started to maintain her sanity. Her goal is to go through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days, just so she can finish something important in her life. If you’ve seen this film, you probably understand the similarities between this woman and myself, only I’m not setting any limits to myself. I’m just making what I want, when I want.

Well today, I finally made something by Julia Child. Sort of. I still think I did it wrong. See for yourself: 

It’s just the sauce, but how does it look? I used a fruit blender instead of a food processor and, somehow I think that’s why it looked like a smoothie…or is it supposed to look like that? The texture didn’t worry me so much as the color. It was so…pink…like watermelon smoothie. Well, because of this, I was especially irritated yesterday while making dinner. I just felt like nothing was going right, so while the sauce simmered for an hour, I went to the grocery store to buy backup sauce, but I obviously didn’t end up using it.

The spaghetti is a separate recipe and that didn’t go so perfectly either. I think it was stress, which is weird because I’ve made spaghetti before. Not these exact recipes, but they’re not too different from what I’ve worked with. There’s not much that you can do to spaghetti to ruin it. Except leave it undercooked. The recipe said to stop boiling when the noodles are almost ready, but not quite (still chalky in the middle). I figured, we’ll just go along with that since it’ll still cook with the oil. I tried. I really did. In fact, the highlight of this whole experience was using a pair of tongs to mix the noodles. I think of it as flipping them so the oil and vegetables could imbed themselves into the spaghetti.

This dish was supposed to go with artichokes, which my parents really want me to make because they want to learn how to eat it? I was too frustrated just by the pasta, so I’m like, “No. Artichokes aren’t happening tonight. Deal with it.”

The sauce was also the first time I’d used a “bouquet” of greens. It was supposed to stay in the pot with the sauce so I guess it was supposed to be a like filter or a teabag. Just add all the vegetables into the filter and tie up both ends and just…throw it in?

Instead of orange peel, I went with lemon zest.

By the end, it just wasn’t right. I don’t know what it was, but there were a lot of things off with it. Maybe I’ll try again when I gain more experience. I guess I just wasn’t ready for you, Julia.

4/15/16

IMG_2597

Pitch-Perfect Pizza Take 2: It was more scrumptious this time because I fixed the burning problem. Also, I doubled the amount of dough so I could have more crust. That was actually tasty as well. What I shouldn’t have doubled though was the tomato sauce.

IMG_2599

See? There was so much I had to squeeze the excess out. But at least I got to use it as dipping sauce for the crust, which was dry. I sort of expected that though, because I forgot to brush olive oil on the dough before I added the works, which I only realized after I looked at the brush I never actually used, after putting the pie in the oven.

So here’s what I’ll do next time: keep the dough doubled, but use half the tomatoes. Or the tomato paste. I’m not sure what the paste is, exactly. Either way, less tomato sauce, because look: IMG_2598It’s basically an ACTUAL PIE!

And definitely less cheese. I think I initially added the perfect amount (1 cup), but I saw too much sauce, so I felt the need to put the entire 2-cup-package into it.

Oh, and I actually didn’t have to worry about the transfer to the pizza tray this time. I just molded it directly on the tray itself. I was a little worried about the holes at the bottom, not because they’d put spots on the bottom of the crust (which I actually thought was pretty cool), but I didn’t want the dough to somehow bleed through the holes. As I was molding toward the pizza shape, I used Saran wrap between the table and the tray so I was comfortable that if the dough were to stick out, it would keep the table clean.

I was also concerned with the holes being there while the pizza was baking, but then I remembered that’s exactly how they looked yesterday, so I decided not to worry so much about that. I guess dough is tougher than it looks.

Okay, so third time will definitely be the charm as long as I follow this: keep the dough as written, but divide the tomato sauce by half, shape the dough directly on the pizza pan, brush the oil onto the dough once it’s ready, and keep the cheese at one cup. I think that’s the perfect variation for me. I just want it to look like this: 122-1 but with more crust. Is that too much to ask for? Well, I suppose the random red spots were a good sign after all.

And how are those little bubbles in the dough made? You know what I’m talking about? It’s at the top right in the professionally-made pizza. I call it a pizza cancer. I sort of want that to happen with my pizzas. WHY WON’T MY PIZZAS GET CANCER?!

4/12/16

Today, I decided to make dinner for once, so last night I compiled a few recipes and finally picked each dish: entrée with two sides. The Bucatini Puttanesca on the March 2016 cover of Cooking Light magazine looked delicious. There was also the Strawberry-Chicken Salad with Pecans on the cover of the May 2016 issue that looked easy to make. As for the other side dish, I opted to make a simple “Classic Mashed Potatoes”.

This was the third time I ever completely made dinner solo (with some help from my mom for the search of ingredients and how to correctly handle an ingredient). From what I remember the first time, it was spaghetti, chicken parmesan, and green beans. The second time was rice, steak, and green beans. Or vice versa. Either way, both times included way too much meal, so I learned the valuable lesson of portions and being conservative with how much to make.

For those of you who don’t know, the Bucatini Puttanesca looks like this: 1603p99-bucatini-puttanesca_1.jpg

I didn’t get to snap a pic as soon as it was done, but here’s a shot of the leftovers: IMG_2580

Overall, my dinner was actually really good, but if I had to choose the experiment that failed most of all, it would be the pasta. I know exactly what went wrong too. The biggest culprit was timing. I wasn’t very prepared with this (which was the same issue with the pasta last time): so the garlic and spices were burnt because I hadn’t added the pasta or the chicken broth in time. I was going literally step by step rather than planning ahead and opening the pasta and chicken broth beforehand (and the chicken broth comes from cans!).

I also substituted penne for the spaghetti because my mom told me to use the pasta we already had, which I guess worked. I mean, it doesn’t really matter since it’s still a pasta type, right? (Right about now, I’m guessing that any hardcore chefs who are serious about Italian cuisine are flipping me off the European way, to which I say in my best Brooklyn accent, “Hey, I’m tryin’ here!”)

For dinner, it was just three of us–my parents and me–so there were some leftovers (which I later ate half of). I’d still say that was a good amount of food that I made. After all, leftovers are good, right? It means you can save some of that goodness for later. Won’t be as fresh, but…taste will still be there.

The puttanesca was tonight’s biggest challenge, but I learned that cooking, when you’re following the instructions, is like a test: you should study for it the night before to get an idea of what you have to do, and then once you start the physical process from the very first step, it’s game on. Often times, cooking is time-sensitive, so you’ll rarely have time to either fix your mistake or redo a part of your dish. That’s why you should certainly plan ahead so your time isn’t wasted, hesitating with confusion.

This here is the Strawberry-Chicken Salad w/ Pecans:1605p20-strawberry-chicken-salad-with-pecans.jpg

And here are the leftovers: IMG_2579

Making this dish taught me how to use my time productively. While I was busy waiting on something for the mashed potatoes (I opted to work on that first since they gave me directions on how to keep them warm until everything was ready), I decided to cut the strawberries first. I cut up the amount I needed and then gave the rest to my mom to snack on. 🙂

I was a little nervous about the chicken because last time, I messed it up. What happened last time? Exactly what happened this time, only the screwup didn’t taste so badly. I mean, it was fine the last time too, but I feel like the chicken was better this time. The mistake I made today was just because I got confused by a word: in one of the first directions, it said to heat a medium skillet and then move the chicken to a pan. I didn’t realize that “skillet” actually meant “pan” too. I mean, I knew it, but it just didn’t register with me at the time since I was still new at the culinary arts. So, instead of prepping the chicken and pan separately, I sort of put the chicken on the heated pan first and then embellished the chicken…hehe. Hehehe…

My mom and I really liked the salad dressing though. I made everything from scratch, so it was interesting to figure out what was actually in it. The dressing was actually the reason why I wanted to make dinner tonight. Yesterday, I saw one of those brief cooking clips on Facebook (I’ve become obsessed with those now and I’m still on the hunt for them, so if you’ve got ’em, please feel free to comment me suggestions!) and it was actually very similar to the dressing on this recipe. The clip was to make “Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing”, courtesy of Nourish by Tastemade. Okay, so just the salad was similar, but I wanted to make my own salad dressing, man.

Anyway, my mother liked it so much that she wants me to make it again tomorrow. We have leftover cooked chicken so I should be able to skip that step and just cut them julienne. I sort of can’t wait to make it again actually!

My dad liked today’s dinner too. In fact, the only thing he said was, “You should quit American Sign Language and go to culinary school instead.” And I think I’m honestly going to consider it. Except I love ASL and only like cooking, and to be frank, I’m only good at it because I follow directions. Almost. I still slip up because I misread a step or take too long.

During dinner, my mom and I were the ones who were really discussing the dishes and ingredients. She gave me tips on what to do next time and complimented me, especially on the salad dressing. I think she said it was perfect, so she told me to keep the recipe. Way ahead of you, Ma. 😉

As for the Classic Mashed Potatoes (which I’m sure you know how they look, so I don’t need to find a picture of it), I got the recipe from The New York Times Cooking app, which is one of my personal favorites…as far as cooking apps go anyway. I just wanted to make mashed potatoes because I knew how easy they were to make. That’s because I’d seen a short clip of how to make those smiley-face French fries that they made for lunch back in school. Its simplicity is what got me interested in making it tonight.

Looking at the recipe, my mom thought it was way too much for three people. Since the recipe said it served 4 to 6 people, I felt we’d have a comfortable amount of leftovers. She convinced me to go for half, meaning cut all the ingredients down to half as well. I wasn’t sure if you had to cut down the time in half as well and my mom wasn’t sure either. She just told me “watch it carefully”. Fortunately, the only time-sensitive step was boiling the potatoes and I felt safer about over-boiling because even the recipe stated that it was better to over-boil than under.

So I suppose that’s it. I have some advice for you though:

  1. The puttanesca involves a lot of oil. Like, a LOOOOOOT (that’s supposed to be “lot”, but “loot” works too). Not just the actual ingredient, but apparently, the anchovies are already bathing in oil because of the container it comes in. That and the capers. And the kalamata olives.
  2. Put together your very own cookbook with Microsoft OneNote. You can have a single notebook and there are tabs on top for different types of pages (i.e. meals). Then, within those tabs, you can create multiple pages (i.e. dishes). I added a photo of each dish first so I know what to aim for, then however long it should take based on my recipe source, ingredients, instructions, and then nutrition facts (including the serving size). When they list the pages at the side, if there’s an image that goes with the page, it also shows up next to the title, so that really helps too, if you’re searching for a specific recipe. Oh, and it’s free for your devices. Apple, anyway, which is especially helpful because I have a MacBook, iPhone, and an iPad, all of which I use for cooking: iPad to find recipes, iPhone to find ingredients, and laptop when I actually cook (since I also watch TV at the same time).

I guess that concludes my very first entry of my cooking blog. As I said, tomorrow I’m going to make the Strawberry-Chicken Salad again. I also want to make crab cakes because I know they’re delicious–we had them last Thanksgiving, but it was from a frozen package. Pre-made, so it doesn’t really count as making it.

Here’s a screenshot of what my OneNote cookbook looks like, in case you’re interested. Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.50.48 PM