Time Off

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Friday, June 18, was the last day of school and we got done cleaning the lab around 10am and I headed home. Marc sent me out to the store to pick up a couple of things so we could finish cleaning since my parents were coming on Sunday. We had been planning on making a family trip down to Orlando to stay with Marc's cousin and to see my best friend who was going to be in from Ohio for a cruise that was leaving from Tampa. We had all these fun plans with Marc's cousin *food related, of course!* and then my parents, who were also in Orlando for a conference, were going to drive back to Jacksonville behind us on Sunday. Then a hiccup came when our car started leaking massive amounts of water into the floorboard on the passenger side. We decided, hesitantly, to not take the trip so we could get the car fixed.

So Marc messages me while I was at the store and tells me to please hurry home because the kids are driving him crazy and he was about to freak out. I rush home and, as I walk into the living room from the hallway, see a figure out of the corner of my eye. KATIE WAS HERE!!!!!! I threw myself at her, bags in hand. I missed my best friend SO FREAKING MUCH. Marc had also taken the kids to a sitter so we had the whole day to ourselves. We went to Jimmy John's for lunch, and then went home and took naps. *I know, I felt like I was wasting time with Katie but I knew if we didn't nap, we'd be crashing at 7.* When we woke up, Katie and I went out shopping. I miss that. I miss just going out with her and browsing through stores. I miss trying on clothes together and taking funny pictures in the dressing room. I miss just being us girls. Even the girl friends I have here just aren't the same. Katie has known me since high school. She has been with me since before I had kids. She has transitioned with me from the quiet, reserved, insecure, religious person I once was to...well, whatever you want to call me now. She's been with me through my brother passing away, teenage struggles with parents, breakups, and new love. Katie knows me. Katie knows my emotions. Katie knows that I'm crazy and loves me anyways. Katie and I can not see each other for massive amounts of time, and still be able to just pick up where we left off. We are going to be old, purple haired ladies sitting in rocking chairs stuffing our faces with desserts because we are so old it doesn't matter anymore. I like knowing that. I am so lucky to have her in my life.

Anyways, so we went shopping and then went to my school to pick up my graded Skills final. I got an "A", by the way. The only person in the class to wind up with an "A" in the class overall. Some got "A-" but I'm the only one with a solid "A." And I made it on the President's list again. Yay!

It was so much fun to show her my school and let her see all the places I'm talking about all the time. We took this fun picture in the elevator.

Then we went out for sushi. We had THE BEST sushi EVER. I believe the place was called Sushi House and it is right near the school. Definitely going back there. The 2 rolls that are orange were the best rolls. Crunchy something or other. Yum!

We played poker with Tom, Jacob, Curtis, and Phillie later that night. Then the next morning we went out to Panera for breakfast since that is ALSO one of our things and then did some more window shopping at one of our favorite places, Artsy Abode. After that, we picked up ice cream to take home to the girls and she hung out with them for a few minutes before she had to leave around noon. A short visit, but one that I needed SO BADLY! I'm SO thankful I got to recharge my Katie batteries!!!

Since then we have been spending time getting all the little errands done that we don't usually have time to do, so they get put off. Things like getting my eyes checked, going to the library, going to the beach, etc, etc. We've been working really hard on reading with Harmony and it's paying off! She is getting SO much better at it and is extremely proud of her new skill. We also have Layla completely daytime potty trained! She takes her day naps and even goes out of the house on errands in panties and tells us she has to go at the store, the restaurant, the park, the beach, etc. We are SO happy about it and she's proud of being a big girl! Down to only 2 diapers a day! One for each kid at bedtime!!!

I also have started Cookies for a Cause back up and have started selling them at Doing Dishes, a Paint Your Own Pottery Studio, as well! So feel free to place an order or go to Doing Dishes to scoop some up and to paint some pottery to stay out of the heat and keep the kiddos busy, too!

Last but not least, I made a tutu. I know this is supposed to be my "food" blog, but I love crafty stuff, as well, so I'm going to go ahead and put this up here. I've wanted to make tutus for awhile, mostly for the girls. I saw a picture, though, of a chick in a corset with a tutu and loved how it looked so I wanted to make one to wear to the Marion Crane show this past weekend. I love how it turned out and it was SO EASY! I'm thinking of having a girls party over here where we all make them...for us or for our kids. We had alot of fun at the show, Marion Crane was amazing, as usual, and we got a much needed night out. Pre-show, I went with Jaime over to Bree's house and we all hung out as girls for awhile and finished getting ready. As noted earlier, I miss girls time, so this was a really nice treat!!!

So far, the time off from school has been wonderful. I've been able to unwind a little and take a breath. I am missing all the cooking, though, and missing all the people at the school. I've started to work on some of next quarters reading so I will hopefully have a little jumpstart on the work and material so I can focus on the projects that I am sure I am going to have in at least two of my classes. I may or may not write before I start back, July 12, depending on if anything extremely exciting happens before then.

Last week, quarter TWO!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

*Breathe in, Breathe out*

Ok. Last week is almost over. I have one more written final tomorrow in my Skills class *AKA Fundamentals of Classical Techniques* and then we deep clean the lab. After that I am off for 3 weeks.


I already know I earned a 110% on my Baking final on Tuesday. I earned WELL over a 100% overall in the class. I'm sad that I won't be taking a baking/pastry/sweets class next quarter, but I want to let the advanced pastry class get up and running before I take it. I think I will learn more that way since others will have gone through it and CJ will have had a chance to work out some of the kinks.

I am still not sure what I earned on my Cost Control project or the final but I will let you know as soon as I find out. Grades have to be turned in tomorrow, I guess.

Today was the practical part of my Skills final. We made Chicken Chardonnay with whipped potatoes and glazed carrots. We also made a veloute sauce to go with it, even though the chicken chardonnay made a sauce that we used on the actual dish. We served the veloute on the side. We then made pot roast and tourneed carrots and potatoes. I'm getting MUCH better at tournes. The knife and not starting out with a square makes it SO MUCH EASIER!!!!!! We also had to show our knife skills by producing 7 different cuts. I'm fairly certain I aced this part of the exam but I won't find out until tomorrow.

To help prepare for the cooking final today, I sat down last night and took all the recipes I was going to be using today and went through all the ingredients. I made a master list of the quantities of each ingredient I would need for all the recipes total so I could just go gather ALL my mise en place at once and not have to run all over for the same items for each recipe separately. This helped ALOT. I also made a list of the tasks I needed to do in what order so things finished in the proper time. I got up at 5am, left at 5:45am, and made it to the school by 6:15am. The doors opened about 2 minutes after I got there, and the few of us who got there early, as recommended, swarmed the kitchen to get ourselves set up for success. I am thankful I prepared. I felt much more calm and confident and was able to keep things pretty well organized throughout. I set up half sheet pans on my speed rack with the recipe card for each dish so once I gathered bulk mise en place, I separated them into the amounts/cuts that I needed for each recipe.

I also prepared by practicing making my pot roast and potatoes one night for Marc and fabricating and cooking the chicken chardonnay another night. I also used the chicken bones to then make chicken stock. It made a whole gallon! Now that I can fabricate the chicken myself AND make chicken stock *which I seem to be going through ALOT of here at home these days* I think I will begin buying whole chickens. It seems like I will get more for my money. Marc love, love, loved the pot roast and potatoes, as well as my glazed carrots and the sauces that went with the pot roast and the chicken chardonnay. The chicken itself wasn't very flavorful when I practiced it at home but I nailed it today at school.

I am ready for this three week break. I'm ready to spend some quality time with the kids!! I miss getting to JUST HANG OUT with them. It just seems like every free moment is taken up with errands or stuff we HAVE to do, and in the few moments we don't HAVE to be doing something, we just want to sit down and BREATHE for a minute. This doesn't make for quality time together. Harmony has been doing amazing at learning to read. She is picking it up so fast, and her confidence is growing with each new word she sounds out and gets right. I love the glow that in on her face and the twinkle in her eyes. At first it was like pulling teeth to get her to sit down and work on reading, but as she gets better and better, she begs us every five seconds to sit down and listen to her read. I am so thrilled to see this love of reading developing. It was the biggest joy of my childhood, teenhood, adulthood...I LOVE reading!!! She was especially excited to get a package of early readers in the mail from her "favorite" cousin, Delaney, this week. She carries them all around in her backpack to keep them safe from Layla's less than gentle hands. I cannot wait to be able to sit down with her and let her read to her hearts content to me.

I also cannot wait to sit and color with Layla for hours. This kid...LOVES to color. She loves to use markers which is only allowed under direct supervision, but she gets so excited when you lay on the floor and just color away with her. She chatters on about this and that and it's some of the best moments of the day......as long as you don't have a million other things pressing for your attention.

One last thing that I am REALLY looking forward to is getting back in the consistent exercise groove. I've still managed to squeeze it in at least twice a week or so throughout school, but not in any routine fashion. This week I went running three days in a row, and I'm hoping it's a kickoff to what I can do once school is out. My goals are to exercise 5 days a week while school is out, to make sure I am drinking enough water, and eating plenty of fruits and veggies. My other weakness is eating too late at night, so I am planning on working on that, too. Big plans!!

I'll probably post some things here and there during break about things I'm making around here, but they won't be as often as during school.

Week 9 Skills

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ok, I'm copying and pasting from my journal again because I know some people need the pictures off of here so I need to get this entry up.

Thursday, June 3, 2010
Objective: Beef Tenderloin au Poivre, sugar snap peas, tournes of potatoes and carrots, chicken pot au feu

Utensils used: Chef’s knife, slotted spoon, tongs, filet knife, bird’s beak knife
Today I learned:
-how to break down a tenderloin
-that tournes are much easier for me when starting with a round product
-to shallow poach, the water should be 160-180°F
-Sear steak and hold in refrigerator to stop cooking process
-Put steak in the oven right before plating to finish the cooking process
-that everyone makes mistakes

Personal observations: Today we watched Chef break down a tenderloin into individual steaks. He showed us the usable vs unusable parts of the meat. He showed us how to butterfly the steaks that are smaller around to make normal looking steaks so that we don’t waste product. At our table, we each got two steaks to work with. I used salt, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and turmeric to season my steaks and then coated them in olive oil and let them sit for a few minutes while I gathered the mise en place for the sauce. I made sure that the pan was very hot and seared both sides of the steak. I then took the steaks and placed them on a half sheet pan and held them in the refrigerator to stop the cooking process while I made the sauce and other items for the plate. When the other items and sauce were almost ready, I put the steaks in the oven to finish the cooking process and immediately before plating, placed the steaks on the grill on the presentation side to give it nice cross markings. Chef, Curtis, and Natane all loved the steak. Richard actually moaned.
The sauce for the steak was also AMAZING. I wanted to just eat it plain, it was THAT good. I used brandy to deglaze the pan and demi glace with beef stock to get the right consistency. I did not need to use a roux or a slurry.

I also got much better at tournes today. I learned that when I start with a round product, it is much easier for me to get the 7 sides. I think this is because I have more of an artistic eye and can just gauge it easier that way.
We broke down chickens again today and it was even easier the second time around. We then cut up the chicken breasts into cubes to use in the Chicken Pot au Feu *I keep wanting to call it pate a choux.* This did not turn out well. We aren’t sure if the chicken stock used was rancid or what exactly happened, but everyone’s had a funky smell...and taste. I tasted just a dab of the sauce and it was definitely off.

Friday, June 4, 2010
Objective: Yankee Pot Roast, Coq au Vin, potato pancakes, carrot tournes

Utensils used: Chef’s knife, slotted spoon, tongs, bird’s beak knife
Today I learned:
-How to make a pot roast that is tender in a fairly short amount of time
-How to make potato pancakes
-To use oil instead of butter for pan frying because butter will burn

Personal observations: Today we made pot roast, coq au vin, potato pancakes, carrot tournes, and sugar snap peas. We trussed the pot roast and the recipe said to season and dredge it before searing all the side to seal in the flavor. We did this, but once it was braised, the flour breading got soggy and pretty much just fell off when we cut the meat. If I were to do it again, I don’t think I would bread the roast at all.
I have ALWAYS wanted to make potato pancakes but just never have. I was excited to give it a whirl and was thrilled with how simple it was. I adored the flavor and scarfed down way too many of them with the amazing pot roast gravy as a condiment. I almost forgot and used butter to pan fry the pancakes, but thankfully Chef caught me before I made the mistake.

We had kind of a hard time plating today. The pancakes kept sliding all around and not letting us layer the slices of meat like we wanted to. We also made a mess out of saucing the plate but next time I’ll do better.

I am feeling much more confident at the end of this class cooking real food. I am confident that I will continue honing my skills, especially my knife skills. I am more passionate about real food than I was before this class and am more open to the idea of cooking in a “real” kitchen as opposed to JUST a bakery at some point *probably the starting point* in my cooking career.

Week 9- baking

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Well, as if I haven't been making enough cookies around here, this week was cookie week in Baking. We made coconut macaroons, carrot cake cookies with a cream cheese filling, oatmeal raisin, chocolate jumbles, chocolate chip, and flourless chocolate chewies. Yes. That's alot of cookies.

The coconut macaroons turned out pretty, but the texture wasn't correct. CJ said that it wasn't our fault, though. She's pretty sure the recipe wasn't right. Many of the recipes that we take from our On Baking book need to be edited, as it turns out. The cookies ended up being hollow on the inside and, if not extremely careful taking them off the pan, the bottoms would fall off and it would just be a hollow top of a cookie. They looked pretty, though. The original recipe was for lime and pineapple coconut macaroons but we chose to make the variation that called for eliminating the lime and pineapple and using jam in the centers instead.

The carrot cake cookies also didn't turn out QUITE right. They ended up being VERY cake-y and were too fragile to pick up and sandwich in the full size. We, instead, cut thee baked cookies with cookie cutters to make them smaller and then sandwiched them with the cream cheese filling.

I didn't really care much for the oatmeal raisin cookies, either. The taste was really yummy. It called for orange juice concentrate, which we were out of, so we substituted pineapple juice instead. That gave it a really nice flavor, but they weren't the texture of oatmeal raisin cookies that I enjoy. Most of the cookies we made were not the texture I like. I think part of it was that I prefer smaller cookies, and we were using these huge scoops to make these, so the cookies ended up extremely large, so we had to cook them longer for the centers to set up which gave them a crispy outside. I like chewy cookies, not crispy cookies. It's all a matter of preference, though.

The chocolate jumbles came out fine, but I was a but underwhelmed with them overall.

I was hoping the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies would be amazing. I have YET to find a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I love. I have HAD great chocolate chip cookies, but haven't been able to make them from scratch that I am satisfied with. I like it when the cookies stay more compact and, again, are VERY chewy and soft. The ones I have always made end up spreading alot and getting crispy on the outside edge, very brown on the outside edge, and are really thin. I asked CJ and she said to chill the made cookies on the pan before baking. They still spread. She then said that I may just need to mess with a recipe and figure out through trial and error a recipe that works for me. I will do that one day. In the meantime, I have sugar cookies to make. Haha.

The one cookie that I really enjoyed was the flourless chocolate chewies. They had walnuts in them and were light and almost meringue-y crispy on the outside but super chewie on the inside and the nuts gave it a nice texture contrast, as well. I know I said I don't like crispy cookies, but this was a whole other crispy. It was kind of a flakey crispy, not a well done crispy. I gave a few of these to a guy who ordered a "mixed bag" of cookies from me and apparently his wife devoured them to the point that he is planning on making a bunch of them himself over break.

One more week of actual Baking and then we have our final and cleaning. At this moment in time I have 100% in this class plus 13 reserved bonus points. I suggested that the person with the highest grade should get the reward of not having to clean. Haha. Not happening, but it was worth a shot.

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