Week 3- World- Middle East

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I've been pretty stressed lately with the amount of work that I've needed to get done for all my classes. When I feel stressed or out of control, I organize. In this case, I organize my schoolwork. It's kind of odd that I feel compelled to do this, because in reality all it does is add to my workload. I've felt a little rushed and out of control in World because things are so hectic. I especially felt that way because last week 2 of the girls did not complete all their dishes. If they don't finish, we don't get complete points as a group. Obviously, I hate that. I figured if I went ahead and split up the menu between the four people in the group in a way that everyone had about the same workload, made complete ingredient and mise en place lists for everyone for their dishes, and made a list of what should be done in what order so that everything would get done, I may feel a little better about the whole thing. I thought that even if the people in the group didn't want to do it that way, I could at least take one set of the four and have MY ingredients, mise en place, and timeline, and everyone else could split up the remaining dishes among themselves and do their own thing.

I have this ingrained fear of being considered "lazy." I don't know where it comes from and why I fear it so much. Because of this fear, I have found that I tend to overcompensate and swing too far in the other direction. So much so that it sometimes frustrates the people around me. In my mind, I am helping. Let me lighten your workload so we can both relax later. Apparently people don't appreciate this as much as I would if someone were helping ME out in the same manner. As I was preparing the lists, I had the thought that maybe this was helping "too much." But then I thought, "If they don't want to do it my way, that's fine, they can still divide the dishes up among themselves and no harm is done." Yeah. Well. Not so much.

My group this week was made up of two of my friends and one guy I had never met before. One of my friends and the other guy were fine with the lists. I received a little ribbing for being so rediculously OCD, but they went with it. My other friend was not so easygoing about it. I kind of got flipped out on. "What the F*** is this??" was said about the lists. I said they could split things up how they wanted. I didn't mind. Then Chef went through with the class and made a timeline for ALL the dishes, and told us that this week she wanted us to completely work together as a team instead of taking individual dishes to complete. Ok. So my lists were out the window anyways. At least I have them to show I did the work. So we began at the top and began passing out the first duties and said as you completed something, just check it off the list and initial next to the next task you were going to be working on. There was a miscommunication because the first item was "dough" and there were TWO doughs. So I was taking a dough and my one friend was taking a dough. The next two items were left to my other friend and the guy. My other friend didn't understand at first that there were two doughs and in the end kind of flipped out. "God, you're SO ANNOYING!" "I can tell you are frustrated. What can I do to help you feel better?" "Just stop f***ing talking to me."

Now, if this was some random person, or even the other friend, I would have been able to just let it roll off my back. I mean, who cares? The other friend is a jerk all the time and that's just how it is. I'm a jerk right back, and I know we don't mean it. This friend, though...it hurt my feelings. I walked away under the pretense of getting our sanitation bucket and cutting boards and used the opportunity to wipe away tears and take some deep breaths. When I was more composed, I headed back to the table, and didn't talk to the friend. Later the friend started talking to me as if nothing had happened. At this point I have a choice. I can either let it go and act like nothing happened and avoid confrontation but risk letting the friend think it's ok to treat me that way, or I can not let it go and confront her by saying that it isn't ok to act like that. There is also option C: the passive agressive route. "I love you, Heather." "Oh yeah? That surprises me." "What? Why?" "Because earlier it seemed like you didn't like me at all." "God. You're so SENSITIVE. Geez." Yeah. Ok. So it kind of got confronted but not really. I guess you get one semi-freebie, but after that I will stand up for myself. I'm writing this one off as a bad day, though.

Onto the cooking. This week was the Middle East. We made hummus, baba ghannouj, arabic flat bread, a fish omelet, spinach pies, cracked wheat and herb salad, lamb and okra casserole, rice and lentils, dried fruit compote, and arabic coffee.

Hummus is a pretty familiar item, I believe. Baba ghannouj may not be as familiar. In short, baba ghannouj is hummus made with eggplant instead of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). I was thrilled to discover this because up to this point, I had yet to discover a dish with eggplant that I actually enjoyed. The dish came out a little tart which my tablemates and I decided was probably a little too much lemon juice. Chef also said there was too much tahini in it, but I followed the recipe exactly. She even had me show her on the measuring cup what line I filled it to. I jokingly commented that I wasn't sure whether or not I should be offended. In any case, I, personally, didn't mind the tahini flavor, but did agree it was a little over on the lemon. Another reason we thought the flavor may have been more intense was that I may have lost more weight on the eggplant during roasting than I had anticipated which would make the other flavors stronger.I would also cut the seeds out of the eggplant before combining everything if I were to do it again, as I did not enjoy the texture of those in the final dish.

I prepared the khobz, or Arabic flatbread, as well. This was simple and tasty. I believe I will make this at home in the future for Harmony, because she loves tortillas and khobz is the same softness and size, but is whole wheat and contains none of the "bad stuff" if I make it at home fresh. We served this with the hummus (right) and baba ghannouj (left).

Natane created the lamb and okra casserole. I didn't mind the taste of lamb in this dish. I was happy about that considering the huge FAIL that Marc and I had when trying to prepare lamb at home previously.

Rodrick prepared the rice and lentils.

Curtis prepared the spinach pies, which were absolutely delicious and I believe I am going to have to have those on my menu when I open a place of my own. Natane made the fish omelet. This was an interesting dish. It had a decent flavor and texture. I would not have thought to put fish in an omelet on my own, but was pleasantly surprised. I probably will not make this at home, but it was a good experience. I began the cracked wheat and herb salad and Curtis finished it up while I was finishing off the flatbread.

Rodrick prepared the Arabic coffee...which was NOT Arabic coffee which uses cardamom pods, but instant coffee instead. I found that kind of funny.

Rodrick also made the dried fruit compote which was quite tasty. We enjoyed it on the Arabic flat bread, too, even though that wasn't how it was instructed to be served.

Overall it was a decent week, at least as far as the food went. In the end my friend and I let things go, and managed to turn out good food. That's the most important thing. What adventures will be had next week?

Harmony's 5th Birthday

Monday, July 26, 2010

Well, my baby is FIVE. I cannot even believe it sometimes. She is growing up to be such an amazing young lady. I cannot even begin to tell you how proud I am of this girl every single day. She was SO excited for her birthday. All kids are, I know, but this year she REALLY was even more excited than any other year. She was pretty much just zooming around until the party began, and then until the party was over. It was the first time since school was out that she has seen some of her school friends, so that was even more exciting to her. Marc helped me out ALOT this year. We all went together to the party store to pick out party supplies, which was alot of fun.

I always let the kids pick out what kind of party and cake they want. This year Harmony wanted a dinosaur party and a triceratops cake, because triceratops are her favorite, "because of the frill." She wanted chocolate AND white cake. She showed me with her hands, making the layers stack up, "You know, Mommy? Like, chocolate, then white, then chocolate, then white...?" The cake was to be shaped like "A real one. That LOOKS like a triceratops. Not a triceratops ON the cake." She even got to pick out the colors and I had to make sure I got the number of toes right, too. I think he turned out pretty well, and Harmony was THRILLED.

When she woke up, Marc and I had the table all set up and the balloons all ready. She took a good little while to shake all the gifts and try to guess what was in each one. Then her and Layla raced around the house until guests arrived, despite our efforts to get them to calm down a little bit by putting on Dinosaur Train.

Overall it was a successful party, I think. Harmony got a TON of dinosaur items. Here she is hugging a dinosaur book and asking, "How did you KNOW I love dinosaurs???" Well, Harmony. I think anyone who has met you knows you love dinosaurs because you will probably roar at least once during the conversation.

We finished off the day by snuggling as a family and watching the DVD my parents put together when she was first born with a ton of birth and newborn pictures backed by "Let Them Be Little" by Lonestar. She really enjoyed that and spent awhile yesterday rewatching the video over and over. She tells me it's her favorite DVD.

She is growing up TOOOOOOO fast. I love seeing the changes, though, and like she always tells me, "Mommy, I CAN'T slow down. I am just growing up." Yes, Harmony. Yes, you are.

Week 2- World

Monday, July 19, 2010

We were still on Spain this week in World Cuisine. I did so much work ahead of time, gathering a complete mise en place list for all the recipes and checking with my team mates on which dishes each of us were going to do so I could make a list of what I needed to do in what order to get everything done.

Then I got to class. Chef had split us up into new groups this week but I managed to get the same dishes I had wanted to prepare anyways. However, I thought we were going to be cooking paella but she ended up just giving a demo on it instead. This made my mise en place list null and void, pretty much. So we split up the recipes among up and each gathered our own mise en place. I made Chicken with Almond and Saffron Sauce, and decided to make Saffron Rice to go with it. I also made Pears with a Caramel Coffee Sauce.

The chicken tasted REALLY good, and the recipe was easy to follow. There were ALOT of steps to it, though, and I definitely think that a normal home cook may have some troubles with this one, just because of timing. One thing that was challenging about this one was that the recipe called for about 2 1/2 lbs of chicken, cut into 12 pieces. I took a whole chicken and began breaking it down as you would for most recipes. By this I mean that I began taking the chicken breasts off the bone and removing the skin. Chef caught me and asked if the recipe CALLED for boneless, skinless chicken. No. But it didn't specify bone IN, either. Apparently, bone in is what was needed. So she showed me how to break down a chicken for bone in recipes. Yikes. Cutting through bone with my knife makes me anxious. She recommends me getting a cleaver for that particular job. I'll add it to the list.

The pears were really good, as well. Those were a simple, easy dish that surprised me in the depth of flavor for how simple it was. All I had to do was peel the pears and slice them in half. Once I removed the seeds, I place the pears, cut side down, in a pan sprayed with pan spray, and sprinkled them with sugar. Then you bake them at 450 degrees in the oven for about a half hour. Once they are soft, you add 3/4 cup heavy cream and 2 Tb espresso. Continue baking this for another 10-15 minutes. Remove and cool a little, then top with 1/4 cup heavy cream whipped with 1 tsp powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

Chef was extremely frustrated today with the amount of dishes people were leaving in the pot sink. Things always seem to be extremely hectic in this class, for some reason. We never seem to have enough time and this makes me really anxious. I understand that kitchens are fast paced, but the cooking part isn't where I get anxious. The end of class is when we are supposed to be doing all our "bookwork" stuff and it all just seems really rushed and I don't feel like I get everything as completed as I would like. We just got light boxes in the labs to use to take pictures of our food in. I didn't even get a chance to MAYBE take food over there to take pictures because everything was so rushed. Also, she set up a beautiful table with different olive oils, paella, and cheeses to taste, but we were so rushed that we didn't get to really experience them like I would have liked. In the same spirit, two of my new table mates *Natane was still in my group* didn't get some of their dishes done, which reflects on us as a group. Natane and I got all our work done, but I guess I need to be watching my table mates from now on to make sure they are doing what they need to be doing. Rookie mistake, I guess, assuming that people are going to complete a set of tasks given to them.

That was my day, today. I know the first couple of weeks are always rough in labs, especially when it's a new teacher and you aren't really sure how things are supposed to run in their lab. Things will smooth out, though. They always do.

Quarter 3- week 1

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This week has been a little crazy. I usually will only have class Monday, Wednesday, Thursday but Marc had a class he had to go to for work in Orlando this week on Wednesday, so I had to take the other sections of the two classes I am supposed to have on Wednesday.

Monday was World Cuisine. I really think I am going to like that class, even though it is going to be ALOT of work. I am so excited to experience food from all over the world, and that I am going to not only get to TASTE it, but I am going to get to learn how to MAKE it. This week we had nine dishes to make. As a group of three, we each took three dishes. I made churros, stuffed olives, and squid with caramelized onions. These titles sound much fancier when you say them in Spanish. Oh yes. I may have forgotten to mention that the first two weeks are focusing on tapas from Spain. I'm sorry the pictures (and hot chocolate mug) are so sloppy but we barely had time to taste everything today because we, as a class, were running out of time.

Next week we will be cooking with rabbit and snails. I've become a much more adventurous eater and I am looking forward to at least being able to say I've tried these items. They've got to be good or these recipes wouldn't still be around, right?

I am also in Nutrition Science which I went to on Tuesday this week instead of Wednesday like I will usually. I'm looking forward to understanding better how to tweak Marc and I's eating habits to make them even more healthy. We do pretty well, I think, but we can always do better. This week we watched Super Size Me, which I've seen, but it was good to see it again. I also learned that every week we take a walk in that class in an attempt to get some fitness into our lives. I was looking forward to taking Wednesdays off from exercise since I'll have been in class all day long, but I doubt a walk around the pond REALLY counts as exercise, right?

Thursdays I have Menu Management. I am actually happier about that class than I thought I would be. I get to do my project on a pastry shop and we have to plan an actual menu for the restaurant, so I am really giddy over that. My mind is whirling with ideas. Since Katie and I have been talking about opening a bakery for so long, we obviously have SOME idea of what's going to be on the menu, but now I get to make specifics. We will also be making a floor plan for our restaurants, as well. I am also enjoying the fact that from the get go, the teacher has everything all laid out for us as far as requirements and what he is looking for. This makes me happy because the OCD side of me can start working on this in any spare time I have NOW. I don't have to wait until week 8 to have all the information to do what I need to do. Yay!

Tomorrow I will have my Product ID class. I will usually have this on Wednesdays.

This week has also been a little taxing because I was just put on a new medicine for anxiety. I quit taking it today, under direction of my doctor, because I was feeling extremely fuzzy headed and I couldn't focus well or remember pretty much anything. I felt like I was walking around in a haze. I was looking out of my eyes, but my body didn't feel like mine. It was like I was watching someone elses hands and feet moving. The kids would be talking to me, and I would be trying to load the dishwasher, and I literally could not do both things at once. Yeah. That's obviously not going to work in everyday life much less in a busy kitchen. I was having problems Monday when the teacher was trying to talk to us while we were supposed to be copying recipes and I couldn't do both. I had to stop and listen to her instead of doing the recipes. It was a very frustrating feeling. On top of all that, it wasn't helping (maybe it just didn't have time to) with my anxiety in the slightest. If anything, all the problems it was causing was giving me MORE anxiety and I was also feeling a bit paranoid. So back to the doctor I go to see what else they can do for me. This is not a good quarter for me to be having anxiety issues.

On THAT wonderful and uplifting note, I'll post more next week! :)

Last Update Before Quarter 3...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

This is mainly going to be a picture blog with a few short captions to let you know what I've been working on since my last post.

I'd like to start out by saying that I AM still doing Cookie for a Cause so please feel free to place orders! All your orders have come together to help tremendously as my sister notes in her recent post Loaves and Fishes. Thank you so much for all the support. They are facing upcoming surgery, and my sister's fibro has really been growing worse due to lack of sleep in part because Danica is having pain at night, and in part because of her work at home job. They could really use continued support so that my sister has the ability to at least temporarily take a hiatus from working to maintain her own health so she has the ability to fully focus on caring for Danica. I've been messing around with new ways to decorate the cookies and this style (although I also do other icing and heart colors) has become my recent favorite:


Here is my sweet, almost five year old daughter, Harmony, snuggling with me:

It is so hard for me to believe that she is about to turn FIVE years old! She is growing up in so many ways. She is learning self control and kindness that comes from the heart (although, like any almost five year old she has slip ups, but the majority of the time, she is sweet like cookies).

Last year, for her fourth birthday, we had a Care Bears party and I made her a special shirt to wear on the big day.

She surprised me this year by asking me to make another special birthday shirt for her. You never know what things are going to be the most special to kids and she let me know by asking for another shirt that this is one of the things that makes her feel special. She has asked for a dinosaur party this year, and triceratops are her favorite *because of their frill!* so I created this shirt for her:

Her face lit up when she saw it and she threw her arms around me with a huge, "THANK YOU, MOMMY!" It is now hanging in her closet, front and center, awaiting the big day. I wanted to get it done early so I schoolwork wouldn't interfere with me getting it done...or vice versa.


On the 4th of July, Layla decided that Mommy needed to paint her toes. Mine needed done, too, so I decided to go with a patriotic theme. Harmony isn't pictured because a.)she only wanted her fingers done and b.)she wanted teal and yellow, not red and blue. Painting nails is one of the many little joys of having girls, for me.

We were invited to Jaime and Tom's house for the 4th of July to celebrate with a cookout. I decided to bring a dessert and after many red, white, and blue ideas swirled through my head, I finally settled on this.

Cookies AND cupcakes! What could be better? This cupcake is a supremely moist white cake with cherry jello poured over it while it was still hot from the over and after I poked holes in it with a chopstick. I then chilled it thoroughly and made the topping out of thick vanilla pudding with Cool Whip folded in. I topped that with my famous sugar cookies *yes, the same ones I make for Cookies for a Cause. I tinted the small star blue with food coloring before baking and I topped the large star with red sugar sprinkles before baking. I love how they turned out. This is a cool, light summer treat and everyone enjoyed them.

One day over break, Marc and I took the girls to a sitter and went to the beach. They were SO good while we were gone, that we decided they deserved a reward. Marc took Harmony out for ice cream, and I stayed home with Layla and gave her a special treat. I gave her two colors of leftover cupcake topping, 3 kinds of sprinkles, and some mini marshmallows to decorate a cookie with. I let her choose a cookie cutter and cut out her cookie and then eat it however she wanted. She choose to dip her cookie into the topping and then eat the sprinkles afterward. I, personally, think her treat was better than ice cream, but I think I'm more of a cookie girl.

I start back to school Monday, so soon you will be getting delicious World food posts. I can't wait to share it with you!

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