Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Choose your weapon!

I thought you would be interested to see the tools I need for school.

In this first photo, left to right, top to bottom:
-Digital scale, peeler on top of scale, pastry blender, 4 pastry bags in 4 sizes plus a few disposable pastry bags
-Bench scraper, bowl scraper, balloon whisk, 2 pastry tip cleaning brushes, measuring cups, measuring spoons, pastry wheel with fluted side and plain side, cake icing comb, kitchen shears
-Channel knife, zester, 3 sizes melon ballers, set of pastry tips, set of large closed star tips, set of large plain pastry tips, Bismark 230 pastry tip (the long one), a couple random pastry tips, plastic couplers, retractable Sharpie, Instant Read thermometer, and pen

The balloon whisk is very helpful for folding in stuff. I finally found the pastry tip cleaning brushes! A channel knife makes the long curls of lemon peel that you find in your Cosmo. The Bismark 230 pastry tip is for filling stuff like eclairs or cupcakes. I've been looking for one for a while. I'm required to have the pen, Sharpie and thermometer on me at all times. Along with a small notebook, it's considered part of my uniform.

Left to right:
Honing steel, small offset spatula, medium spatula, large offset spatula, large spatula, Microplane, bird's beak paring knife (also called touree knife), paring knife, 5.5" utility knife, boning knife, 6" chef's knife, 8" chef's knife, 12" bakers knife

The spatulas will be used in cake decorating the most. The bird's beak paring knife cuts those football shaped potato thingies. The utility knife will be used most in garde manger this semester to cut things like birds out of apples. I really like the 6" chef knife when I'm cutting small things like herbs and fruit. I got the baker's knife for Christmas. I learned the hard way today that BOTH sides of the blades are sharp. One side is serrated, which I knew about. The other side is just a straight blade. I have a big gash across my palm. Oops. Better I do that now than in class and look like an idiot. The serrated side is for cutting airy things like cakes, while the straight side is for cutting dense things like pound cakes.

Yes, I like red. What of it?

Here they are all packed up and ready to go! I have to carry this to my labs. The bag is getting heavy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I leave you with a video from the best Christmas album ever produced.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas meme

Christmas meme
Borrowed from S over at No Tea For You.

Eggnog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate before bed, but eggnog in my coffee. Of course, we have a local dairy, Maple View Farms, that makes an eggnog thicker than alfredo sauce. It's wicked good with Mount Gay Sugar Cane Brandy.

Does Santa wrap the presents or leave them open under the tree? No offense to anyone but I've never understood this. Wrapped!!! Santa wraps his presents!!! (In our house, Santa uses a different wrapping paper than the rest of us.)

Colored lights on a tree or white? I like white lights on a tree, otherwise I think they compete with the ornaments.

Do you hang mistletoe? Never.

When do you put your decorations up? Since I've lived on my own, I've lived with cats. Lots of cats. The one year I tried to put up a small tree, we found ornaments all over the house for weeks afterwards. I don't decorate, especially since I have my circus freak Elvis Who Eats The Un-Eatable now. My family puts the tree and decorations up after Thanksgiving.

What is your favorite holiday dish? Christmas Eve dinner is big fat steaks, twice baked potatoes, veggies, the works. So good.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Every year my dad makes this big show of how we're going to open one present an hour on Christmas day. We open presents after dinner on Christmas Eve. I like it because it leaves us free to do nothing on Christmas day, or hang out, watch football, etc.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? I have a ton ornaments, some homemade, some with significance.

Snow: love it or hate it? I LOVE SNOW!

Can you ice skate? I'm no Oksana Baiul, but I do okay.

What is your favorite holiday dessert? I can't really choose just one.

What is your favorite holiday tradition? Christmas Eve dinner is probably up there.

Candy canes: yum or yuck? I prefer the fruity flavored ones. I'm not a fan of peppermint hard candy.

Favorite Christmas show? I haven't watched a Christmas show since I was a kid. It's a Wonderful Life is one of my favorite movies and I watch it every year. I also LOVE Elf.

Wishing you all a happy holiday! See you soon!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oprah hates me.

I had a dream the other night that Oprah taught my Safety and Sanitation class this past semester. She gave me an A. In my dream, my instructor for Basic Culinary Skills taught the other 3 classes I took. When it got to be time for Chef H to turn in my grades for those classes, he got really busy. Oprah offered to help out. At the last minute, she went through all of my grades (tests, quizzes, homework, etc) and changed my grades from As in those classes to Cs and Ds!

What do you think this means????

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh the cuteness!!!!

Gingerbread houses that perch on the edge of your mug! Can you stand it? I am SO making these for next year's cookie swap!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I thought you'd like to see what I've been cooking up!

Orange Tropical Punch Grey Poupon Socks! Yummy!

Okay, seriously....

I knit a pair of socks and decided I hated the color. So I dyed them. With Kool Aid. In the crock pot. Neat-o, huh? They went from a Grey Poupon dijon color to a fiery reddish orange. And they smell good too! Go here if you want to read more.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The grades are in! Drum roll please!

I am, for the first time in my entire academic career, a Straight A Student. Yes, devoted readers, I am officially a nerd. No weggies please. All of my grades were posted today and I am happy to report I got an A in everything. Even Purchasing. It's a Hannukah Miracle, y'all. It feels pretty good. Truth be told, it hasn't quite sunk in yet. It will when I see my name on the President's List, I am certain. My school has a Dean's List if you make at least a 3.00 GPA in a semester. If you make a 4.00, your name goes on the President's List. Too bad that goes out after Christmas, or I'd frame it for my mother for her gift.

I went to a cooke swap tonight. I made two kinds of biscotti. One had cranberries, currants and pistachios, the other chocolate chips, walnuts and anise seed. They were thankfully a hit because I still have 2 dozen at home. I got some good cookies to bring home too! Yay!

My biscotti

The spread

I also wanted to include a link here to my photos of Montreal. At the cookie swap tonight, my friend JP went all fangirl on me (just kidding) (Hi JP!) and mentioned the photos on my blog. I use a plain ol' Kodak point and shoot digital. It's the Kodak Easy Share M883. I got it while working at my old job, employee discount and all, you see. For most of the food photos, I use the close up setting. The header photo I took at Le Marche Jean Talon in Montreal. I actually took hundreds of photos in Montreal, but posted some of the best ones on Flickr, which you can find here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I passed the Servsafe exam!

I just found out I got a 92. It's a high B, so I believe I can still squeeze out an A in Safety and Sanitation. I think I might actually get an A in Purchasing too! Tomorrow morning I will find out what my final grade is for Baking I. That leaves Basic Culinary Skills, which I should get by next week.

I have to go in to the kitchen tomorrow for a cleaning day for the Baking Lab. When I'm done, my semester is officially over.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Village Kabob, Raleigh

We have a new Afghan restaurant here in town. I think they've been open for a month. I stopped in today to get something to go. The service was friendly. The food was excellent! I can't wait to go back.

Mantu is a plate of onion, chickpea and meat filled dumplings with a a yogurt and meat sauce on top. It's garnished with dried mint. It's a little spicy, a little lemony, a little minty. It was very good. The portion was huge and the price was reasonable. If you are here in town, you've got to try it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cheesecake! Cranberries!

As you may or may not know, the latest season of Top Chef is coming to an end. Some friends had a few people over for dinner last night and to watch the episode. Naturally, I brought dessert. They made grilled sandwiches with cheddar, braised pulled beef short ribs and pickled onions. YUM! I brought a cheesecake. Just a plain vanilla bean cheesecake, the way the good lord intended it, and I made a spiced cranberry jam to go on top. It was a hit.

This is the New York cheese cake from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. It's a great book, I highly recommend it! Unfortunately, I thought I had more sugar than I did when I went to make it. It was also 7:00 AM and I had been to the grocery store one already (needed a cheap aluminum roaster for the water bath) and wasn't about to go back. Oh and it was raining like crazy. I still can't believe I ran out of sugar. I have four kinds of flour and malt syrup for pete's sake! Anyway, the recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups of granulated sugar. I used 1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar and 3/4 cup of brown sugar. It worked really well! It's not quite as snow white as the picture, but darn tasty. I also used cinnamon graham crackers as the crust. It worked really well. (Someone at the dinner thought I used teddy grahams. I like the idea of grinding up teddy bears to make cheesecake crust. I may have to try that.) Oh, I also used a half of a vanilla bean instead of the extract. The cheesecake baked for about 15 minutes longer than the book called for because my oven is a little slow.

The only problem with the recipe is that it made too much batter. I could have filled up the springform pan the whole way, but that would have been precarious to say the least. It just so happened that the left over batter filled 12 muffin cups perfectly. I baked these at 300 degrees, a little lower than the whole cake. I also didn't use a water bath. I wasn't so concerned with cracked tops like I was with the big one since I'll most likely be eating these in front of the fridge with the door open they are just for me. Next time I would cut the recipe in half.

This is the cranberry jam I made to go with it. It was the easiest thing in the world. Rinse a bag of fresh cranberries, place in large sauce pot. Add 1/2 cup of water, 2 cups powdered sugar, juice of three clementines, zest of one clementine, the left over half of vanilla bean, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Simmer until the cranberries begin to break down and the juice thickens. It was, like, 10 minutes. For reals. Because there is a bit of cornstarch in powdered sugar, the sauce thickened quickly. Let it cool. It made about 24 ounces.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Just checking in to let you know that I'm waist deep in final exams. Yesterday, I had a final written exam for Baking I. I think I feel okay about it. It seemed easier than I expected. I also had a final practical exam for Basic Culinary Skills. I got.... a 92. In our world, a 92 is a B. As in, one point less than an A. Sigh. Hopefully it won't impact my final grade too much. Tomorrow morning I sit for the national Servsafe exam. If I pass, which I will, I'll get a certificate that says I'm not likely to kill you. With food. This Friday is the final practical exam for Baking I. With any luck, I won't draw the card with puff pastry on it. (For the record, I'm just not that lucky.) Finally on the 8th, I have my final written exam for Basic Culinary Skills.

I'll be back tomorrow with Thanksgiving and cheesecake.