Tag Archive | salad

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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8/30/16

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.

8/27/16

Previously on Chef’s Delight: I have the house to myself for about a week, so that means I’m in charge of my own food. In turn, that also means that there will probably be more entries, or at least more paragraphs in these entries. That would make me excited, except I’m also back in school, which starts early in the day for four days straight, meaning I won’t be devoting my nighttimes to these updates, hence dedicating all weekday updates to Fridays, which is my day off.

For lunch, I just had ramen noodles. I wanted to make something for dinner, but I didn’t know what I was in the mood for, yet at the same time, didn’t know what I just felt like cooking. I combed through the videos on Facebook, but I just found mostly the same things since I didn’t want to go to the beginning of each page, trying to find something appetizing and worth trying out. I tried the cooking apps on my phone, but nothing really stuck to my interests.

That’s when I decided that maybe steak was an option. We don’t have it in our fridge, so I would have had to go out and buy it. That’s when I said, “Screw it, there’s still a whole raw chicken breast left from yesterday, so I’ll just eat that like a steak with a side of rice and the leftover salad.” It was a variation of last night’s dinner, which was just a chicken salad (it was very simple, so not worth discussing).

I didn’t want to fry it this time because I always end up burning the top and bottom, waiting for the internal temperature to turn 160°F. Instead, I looked up how to bake a single chicken breast and most of them said 30 minutes at 400°. Looking at that one chicken piece, I didn’t want it to be dull, so I added some lemon juice directly to the pan and then after inserting the meat, sprayed a little bit on top. Then, I added some cilantro (which one of my Facebook friends was complaining about yesterday for some reason?) in each corner of the dish. I covered it with plastic wrap and let it marinate for about 15 minutes (until the oven finished preheating) and then baked for half an hour.

(Are you supposed to cover it with foil when you bake it though? I didn’t even think to, but I see them do it all the time in the videos. How significant is it in this process?)

Toward the end, the only portion of the cheese that burned was the outline of the chicken, which was completely white and maybe very slightly uncooked. Like a teeny tinge of pink was still visible. When I looked at the meat thermometer, it said, like, 161°F or something, so I figured it was close enough, since the safe number is 160° or 165°, right?

Isn’t she a beaut? I know that on a balanced plate, veggies are supposed to take up half the plate while the grains and protein each take up their own quarter, but who’s counting?

Again, the chicken was total improv. I used garlic salt on the chicken before putting it in the oven because I freaking love it, especially more than regular salt.

As far as the lemon juice goes, I’m predicting that I added approximately a tablespoon of it total maybe? I’m a horrible guesser when it comes to volume. For the cheese, I can safely say that I used up 1/2 cup. I just wanted enough to completely coat the entire chicken breast.

Well, that was dinner! Quick and sweet. Speaking of sweet, when I had the cucumber with the Fuji apple salad dressing (courtesy of Panera Bread), I couldn’t help but notice that it tasted like a green apple-flavored lollipop. It was just that first taste though, so it was probably the dressing, but I specifically tasted the lollipop, not just some other apple-related food.

Anywho, break an egg!

5/13/16

In celebration of my brother getting into medical school, I made a cheesecake–or rather, my mother suggested it and got the ingredients for me. For the record, he has made it before and it actually did look and taste like an actual cheesecake, which is why I think my mom wanted me to make that specifically. What that also means is that he’d naturally compare mine to his, so there’s that pressure point.

Looking at the recipe, I’m proud to say that I have finally completed a dish that The Food Network itself has claimed “Intermediate”. I’m not quite sure what determines difficulty level. I mean, it’s The Food Network, so obviously they have high standards, which means they know what they’re talking about. Picturing myself going through each step and then actually doing it, I found it to be easier than most of the recipes I’ve done in the past.

Obviously, cheesecake was for dessert. Dinner was nothing special. Just the usual chicken salad. Only this time, instead of strawberries, I added an orange. It wasn’t really by choice though; mostly because we don’t really eat oranges, but the recipe for the cheesecake included orange zest. That’s why my mom told me to buy just one single orange from the store.

So I assume we all know what a classic cheesecake looks like, but here’s an image anyway: Classic Cheesecake Why? I noticed that this particular recipe includes a topping, which I thought was weird because usually, the cheesecake is just the cake part and the crust. In this case, I actually noticed there’s a whiter layer on top, which I thought was part of a typical cheesecake. Why shouldn’t I? It’s literally called “Classic Cheesecake“.

Here’s mine: 

  1. Trying to mix the solids with the butter, I expected it to be more…moist. That’s why I used a mini whisk. Didn’t really work. I ended up just mixing it up with a spoon like I would Korean bowl dishes with rice (i.e. sashimi bowl, a.k.a. my personal favorite).
  2. This is the second time I’ve used the 9-inch springform pan. The first was my mother’s red velvet birthday cake.
  3. Spreading out the graham cracker crust was actually pretty fun. I have no clue why. Just was. I used the same spoon I used to mix, to flatten the crumbly layer.
  4. I baked for 15 minutes and just assumed it was a good shade of golden brown.
  5. You know, when my brother first told me how making the cheesecake was, he mentioned that there was so much cream cheese involved. I’d forgotten, but went ahead with it anyway. Two pounds equals 32 oz. That means four 8-oz. sticks.
  6. I didn’t do as much ingredient prep as I’ve advised to, but it didn’t really matter. The recipe wasn’t time sensitive, so I took my time measuring and adding ingredients.
  7. Still on the mixer step, one thing I forgot to use the scraper to make sure I got all the cream cheese stuck on the sides that the beaters couldn’t reach. I don’t think it was that big a deal though. I realized it sooner than later, so I managed to mix it with the rest of the cheesy “batter”. Looking at it though, I think it was still in clumps, which isn’t very cheesecake-like.
  8. When we first read the step about the boiling water, my mom had never heard of that when making a cheesecake. The recipe she uses didn’t mention it yet she always found that the ones she makes always break apart. We agreed that the boiling water was probably a key factor in keeping it together, but later, it says, “[The topping, I assume] minimizes the risk of the dreaded crack in your cheesecake.” I don’t know, maybe that’s just the outside of the cake instead of the entirety.
  9. That being said, I don’t think the topping was absolutely necessary. Before that, it at least looked perfectly fine. Next time, I’ll skip that step. And besides, the cake had way too much sugar and I think the topping was a factor in that.
  10. Speaking of an excess amount of sugar, according to my mom, you don’t have to substitute sugar if you plan on using less of it. If you want to reduce the amount of sugar, just do it. That being said, I think I’ll cut it down to 75% and see where that goes. Looking at the recipe, I might have to figure out 3/4 of 1 1/4 cups… I don’t math very well, but I think I get fractions: 3/4 times 5/4? Right, since “of” means to multiply? 15/16, which reduces to… Nope, I don’t want to do that. Never mind. I can’t math.
  11. Because I started this entire process at 2PM and my brother arrived at around 8PM, I knew that I wasn’t going to refrigerate it for “at least 8 hours” as the recipe wanted. As expected, when we ate it, it was lukewarm.

Next time, I want to add fruit. My mom went to the store and bought strawberries, blueberries, grapes, different fruits that could work with a cheesecake (I’m questioning the grapes though). I think I’ll go with strawberries next time, just because it’s already a common addition to the dessert. I might need strawberry syrup to go along with it though.

This experience wasn’t too bad. I’d recommend this to a friend (therefore I recommend it to you). As usual, my biggest piece of advice is to always plan ahead. I didn’t get enough of a heads up in order to do this perfectly, but that doesn’t matter. There’s half of that cheesecake left in the fridge and tomorrow, I’m finishing my slice for breakfast. Because I am turning 23 in three days. So I can do whatever I want. Don’t judge. I’m adult.

5/6/16

So there’s a culinary institute here and, based on what the students and alumni say, it’s a decent school and the job prospects afterwards are really good. That’s why I’m going to try to get into that school (although it’s a community college so there’s not really much to be unqualified for–I graduated from a university). While doing some more background research on this school, I saw that they had posted several recipes. I don’t know if they are originals or variations, but they say that those dishes are the ones that show up during class from time to time.

Naturally, I decided to try one, because might as well see what I’m up against, and get a head start on some of the lessons. I went through all of the recipes and decided that the Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts were the easiest to start with. By “easiest”, I mean with the simplest ingredients to access and manageable instructions to work with.

I learned something valuable that probably ruined my risotto, since it was so full of greens: fresh parsley is NOT the same as dried parsley. The mistake wasn’t even thinking that I could substitute it because cooking it would somehow make it fresher because that’s totally the opposite of dried, as we’ve all learned in kindergarten; my thought process included the fact that it was still parsley. That’s it.

Okay, time to list my thoughts while making this actually-pretty-decent dish:

  1. Why are there so many greens involved in cooking? What’s “marjoram”? Does anyone else think of Harry Potter’s Aunt Marge when they read that?
  2. I don’t know what they mean by “flatten chicken breasts”. I mean, I do, but with what? A meat hammer? I just used my fingers to spread it out.
  3. It doesn’t say to do this, but I had to slice down the long side of each breast in order to fit the butter mixture and cheese. Just hoped that I wouldn’t actually cut through the poor thing. (I felt like a surgeon, being a Grey’s Anatomy fan and whatnot.) But no: the other side was still very much intact.
  4. Also, I wasn’t completely sure what they meant by “cut cheese into 1/2 oz. strips”. I mean, how do you weigh a slice of cheese? So instead, I cut the square slices in half and rolled those up.
  5. I thought it was going to be a struggle to keep the cheese inside the folds, especially with the butter, but it was actually sort of fun. I just made sure to keep the stuffed side down when I was done with them, hoping that gravity wouldn’t go against me and let the butter bleed through. I actually considered using pins, but I didn’t think I had something small enough to use on them. We have long wooden pins, but those are for measuring bread to see if they’ve been baked through.
  6. How do you administer bread crumbs evenly around a piece of raw meat? The beginning was fine. But as I kept going, it got harder to avoid clumps, even as I washed my hands between each piece.
  7. Okay, so the recipe specifically says to bake for 30 minutes, basting occasionally. What I did was bake for ten minutes, three times, so I could baste in-between. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s why this took so damn long to make. My parents got a bit impatient so they wanted a salad appetizer first, which I made during these ten-minute increments. Fortunately, I’m getting much better at salads, so staring at the recipe didn’t hold me back; it’s just picking ingredients and chopping.
  8. And, uh…I don’t know–is this normal? Comment if you see it. Just for fun.
  9. I had to cut all the ingredients in half, but ended up having to create another batch of the butter mixture. It didn’t take much to make it. I mean, it was just butter and wine (I didn’t add the extra greens). I didn’t use a measuring cup this time, because it was the rest of the wine, so I figured, whatever. It’s just for basting.

Ladies and gents, the final product:

I thought the chicken was lonely so decided to add white rice. It’s weird, right? But I’m still trying to learn the ropes in this adventure, so bear with me here.

Before I officially sign off, something hilarious happened at dinner: my dad thought his chicken was defective and that I’d forgotten that cheese center. He was more than halfway through the chicken breast and he still didn’t cross paths with the cheese. I absolutely knew that I put cheese in all three pieces, so it was there. Then, he gave me one last chance: “Okay, I’m about to cut off another piece. If this one doesn’t have any cheese, I’m done eating it. Got it?”

I said go ahead and as soon as he cuts it off, guess what we find at the center of that piece. It was like a Cinnabon that aliens had abducted and conducted shrinking experiments on! So adorable! 

I mean, look at it! Okay, it doesn’t look like a Cinnabon, but his did.

Anyways, give this recipe a shot, but make sure you find some sides that go along with it. Salads, fried vegetables, mashed potatoes, whatever you want.

 

5/2/16

I wanted to replicate one of my favorite side dishes from Olive Garden: the Chicken Gnocchi Veronese. For those of you who’ve never seen it, it looks like this: Looks good, right?

Here’s mine: IMG_2814.JPGI mean, it’s sort of close, right? I don’t know why it’s brown, but I think it’s from the fact that I overcooked the vegetables a little bit.

The thing is, I didn’t plan ahead on the timing (a very common mistake I make, you’ve probably learned). We had dinner at 7:30, but I got a little nervous when I saw I had to marinade the chicken for two hours and just added an extra two hours in to my prep, so I started at 2:00, just to be safe. So it ended up looking all dry and lumpy. It was okay though. I think I instinctively knew that more milk would fix the issue. That, or when I added the milk to begin with, I was guessing because I was using it as a substitution for heavy cream.

It still definitely would have been fresher if I had waited till approximately an hour before dinner was officially served. We waited till my sister and father came home, and they arrived within minutes of each other. The meal was delicious, but there was still at least an hour where the food that was freshly prepared just stood there. In hindsight, since the directions say to marinade the chicken for “at least two hours”, I think I should’ve extended the wait period to one hour before dinner.

The final product was bearable though. It tasted the same as the soup you would find in the restaurant, just don’t ask me to work there quite yet. As you can see, my culinary prowess is not ready for their standards, no matter how illegitimately Italian they are. When I tasted it though, it felt…lumpy…but I think that was from the ricotta cheese. Although that’s from the original recipe, so I don’t understand that.

Although, as I mentioned before, I substituted the heavy cream with milk and butter, which is what I read on a cooking site. I was too lazy to measure how much I might need in order to get the full effect of the heavy cream, hence my guess that I would need more milk in order to make the soup more…soupy. The website specifically said that the butter would not mix well with the milk. Maybe the butter was the issue.

Since we still had those colorful mini peppers, I used four of those to make up one red bell pepper. I didn’t cut them the long way to at least make it seem like I used bell peppers, but I doubt it really mattered.

I had no idea what rosemary branches were before today, but they had them at Safeway. I thought I would have to chop them up or just mix them in the soup. They were only used in the marinading process. That’s it.

Speaking of marinading the chicken, because I also typically add the chicken to the salad, I opted to use it for the soup instead. I mean, I already bought the rosemary branches and I didn’t want to not take advantage of them or else it defeats the purpose of purchasing them. So for the sake of making use of them, I chose the soup.

I also substituted half a red onion for the Vidalia onion and I think I only used two chicken breasts instead of four. Two just seemed like plenty. I did slice them in half the long way so there: four breasts. Or was that correct? Did that just backfire on me?

Olive Garden (which I was surprised they posted all their recipes, because don’t they just want customers to go to their place of business when they’re craving something?) added directions on how to make gnocchi too. All that is in the link that I just posted on this entry, as a side note.

When I added the marinated chicken slices, I was wondering what I should’ve done with the lemon juice. I ended up not using it, only placing the chicken pieces inside the pot.

As for the gnocchi, once they were ready (it’s always fun how they just float to the top once they’re done–like “Peekaboo! I’m ready for you!”), I was worried about placing them inside the boiling water because of the splash. I’d had that experience before while making the tomato bisque and pasta. What I ended up doing was very brilliant that I wish I’d thought of it before: use a draining spoon. That way, I could add a handful onto the spoon and then gently place it into the water. Then, once it’s done, use the same spoon to pick up the pieces and drain at the exact same time and then just place them into the pot with the soup!

Oh, and also: IMG_2819.JPGFour servings, my ass. These are leftovers after four mouths were fed. I don’t mean to be cynical here, but is this why America has an obesity problem? Our portions are too big? Please tell me it’s just my almost one-year-old cooking brain misreading something here.

Maybe I just thought that one serving was always so little (because when I actually cared about my calories, I found that was my biggest problem), and ended up giving everyone less than one serving. After all, this is supposed to be a meal. Wait, no, this is a side. Although I suppose it could still be the entire meal. The actual meal here was the usual salad, which admittedly there was less of, because of the soup, but I still used just one head of lettuce for the four of us.

Here is everything I had for dinner tonight: IMG_2818.JPGTo quote my sister as soon as she saw this spread, “Ooh…fancy.”

Oh, damn it, I forgot the egg again! Tomorrow. Somebody remind me tomorrow…

P.S. The funny thing about the gnocchi is that it’s the only reason why I wanted to make that soup in the first place–because I wanted to make the gnocchi–and yet I still bought it from the grocery store!

5/1/16

IMG_2807.JPG

Continuing the salad streak, as my father requested, I once again made the same salad. Of course today, I decided to change things up from last time. Since my mom wanted to cook this Spam-and-honey mixture, we didn’t use chicken tonight.

I forgot to mention this last time, but there’s something about eating a piece of strawberry and a slice of pepper in the same exact bite. Not sure what it is, but it’s as if both flavors complement each other in some way. It’s really beautiful, somehow.

This salad day though, I realized something: the past few days, I’ve felt like my mom’s been raining on my parade because she’s adding her own touches to these recipes. I don’t complain directly to her face, but I’ve been impatiently letting her do it her way. Basically, I appreciated her help, but wanted to do this all on my own, and I didn’t want to completely tell her that I can do it all by myself, especially since I could skip the precautionary measures. (For example, the raw chicken specifically could not touch the fruits and veggies for this salad.)

I just wanted her to keep her end of the bargain; that when I prepare dinner, it’s “all my call”. I know that I always asked her questions at the very beginning because I had no idea what I was doing, but loosen the strings a little, you know? At the same time, I suppose she’s doing this because I’m more on my own now and she wants to make sure that I do it right. Yet, on the other hand, if I want to become my own personal chef, I’ve gotta learn how to do this on my own, even if she and Dad are my guinea pigs.

Anyways, I do know that if I had been my usual lazy self, I would’ve used the exact same cutting board without washing it while handling the chicken first, and then the fruits and vegetables second. In fact, it’s for that very reason why I don’t raise my voice to her, because what if I don’t think to do something else that could’ve prevented food poisoning, or cancer even?

What I learned throughout this mental experience was I could still use help from people who have the experience to teach me the knowledge I need to acquire. There are going to be some days where it’s not gonna feel good, accepting this information–mainly because you’ll feel as if that person is treating you like a child–but it’s necessary, especially if you don’t want to risk getting someone sick. I mean, look at your options: wouldn’t you rather be constantly reminded of how to do something properly in order to prevent injury or illness?

Dammit! I forgot to add egg! I even made a checklist on my Notes app! I guess that’s another thing to think about: if you made your own checklist of ingredients, ALWAYS CHECK IT. That’s why it’s called a CHECK! LIST! You gotta CHECK the LIST! In fact, OVERcheck the list!