Friday, March 29, 2013

Culinary School Week 25

This week we covered some fun stuff, soups and sauces in hot foods, where I made a really good coconut chicken curry soup and cheese making, melon carving and fondue in Garde Manger where I discovered that melon carving and cheese making are not my forte. However fondue eating, that is my forte. That is totally my forte. It's crazy to think that the end of the semester is quickly approaching. Only 4 weeks and I get my life back for the summer! Time with my husband again! Home before the sun goes down! No more stinky kitchen smelling laundry! It's going to be glorious. But in the meantime I'll continue to soak in all this cooking business as I continue down the path of getting my associates degree in dish washing science culinary arts.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Culinary School Week 24

Last week was a hectic one, we did a lot of competition practice in my hot foods class and in Garde Manger we catered. The competition was Friday afternoon and it wasn't until I was about a block away that I felt the nerves start. I walked into the kitchen and was over come with butterflies. I was certain that I was going to catastrophically screw something up. And believe it or not I didn't. Nothing went terribly wrong, I wasn't late on my presentation, I didn't drop anything, I didn't burn anything (except my hand...oophf). I just showed up and cooked some really good food. The seasoned and very experienced chefs judges, flew in from all over the US. During my cook time the chefs walked around the kitchen and observing our techniques and asking us questions. It sounds much more nerve wracking that in was, in fact I enjoyed that aspect of it. One of the chef's admired my preparations and reminded me to salt the backside of my chicken. More than anything it was cool. Upon the completion of my plates a steward took them to the judges table with minutes to spare. I waited impatiently until it was time for my critique. The judges were kind and full of advice for me. Most of their notes I received were positive, except for those about my risotto from the born and raised Italian chef. Of course I would make an Italian dish for an Italian man, and of course it would be wrong. His biggest note for me was not to toast my rice in butter before adding stock, that's the authentic way of making it, the way his mama made it, the way he makes it - not the way that I learned. Other than that he said that my dish was nice and well thought out. After everything was said and done the chefs encouraged me to keep it up and reminded me that I had done excellent for my first competition. I was awarded a bronze medal for my dish, and was shocked to find out that I was only 1/3 of a point away from a silver. I was proud of myself and went home happy.
Roasted Chicken Breast Jus Lié over Parmesan-Mushroom Risotto with Thyme Buttered Carrots & Lemon-Garlic Haricot Vert

New Home

Sorry for the brief blogging hiatus. I feel like so much has happened in just a short amount of time. We are all moved in to our new apartment. Well, technically it's a house. It's the upstairs of a house. A darling 2 bedroom house in Orem, to be specific. I'm still getting used to living there. The creeks and beeps and squeaks are so unfamiliar, and I jump at everything. Hopefully soon that will  go away. It's weird I know it's ours and all of our things are there, but I still feels like we're having a sleep over at a strangers house. I love it though, I particularly love having a second bedroom, I love having a bath tub, I love the brick wall in my bedroom, it's just so charming, and comfortable. It's a sweet little place and I'm happy to call it home.

Friday, March 22, 2013


My husband the fish, all smiles, the best place for tacos,
stoked, sunset on the beach, low tide, tulips, and toes

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Four Things

1. On Friday I have 90 minutes to cook and plate a perfectly executed meal. 1 protein, 1 starch , 1 veg, and a sauce. Two master chefs will be digging into said dish. And I'm not talking about the TV show here, these people are the real deal. I'm petrified.
2. I have been spending a fair amount of time on google street view. Familiarizing myself with the city I'll be in next month. (!!!) Also talk to me about how tough the french language is to learn. All I have down is hello, thank you, and where's the bathroom.
3. Mustard jeans. Why has it taken me this long to realize that mustard colored jeans are in fact a necessity? Especially when they're on sale at urban for $19.99!? Win.
(Sorry that this photo looks like the top half of me is drowning in floral print peplum...)
4. We are moving into a house with a PEACH TREE in the back yard THIS WEEKEND. I'm excited. Hello blossoms. Also I hate moving. I hate it so much right now.
(photo of the new casa to come)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Southern Style Pulled pork

That guy I married loves bar b que. After ice cream it's his favorite food. It makes sense because he's had some of the best bar b que in the world (and now so have I! ) I knew quickly after we got married that I would have to up my repertoire in bar b que cookery. And so I have. I'm not a smoking-wood chip soaking-grilling master, but I can make a dang good pulled pork sandwich. And I'm proud of it.
The pork is rubbed down with a bunch of spices, and left to rest. Then it's cooked at a low temperature for several hours in a shallow flavorful bath until the meat becomes tender enough to pull apart. The pork is served plain or topped with a slather of your favorite bar b que sauce. Adam has given this pulled pork two thumbs up and asks me to make it all the time - which is a big deal. I serve it on a bun, along side funeral potatoes and a big green salad. If you have a crowd to feed in the near future give this tasty pork a try.

Southern Style Pulled Pork

Dry rub:
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
4 pound shoulder pork roast

Cooking Liquid:
2 cup apple juice
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1/2 tablespoon liquid smoke
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

To Serve: 
6 soft hamburger buns 
Bbq sauce

In a small bowl combine dry rub ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pat pork roast with a paper towel to remove excess moisture and rub the spice mixture onto the meat. Take plenty of time to work it into the meat covering the entire surface. Place the pork into a large bowl and cover to rest in the refrigerator over night. The next day preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a dutch oven whisk to combine the cooking liquid ingredients. Place pork into the dutch oven (the liquid should only go up about a quarter of the way, the meat should not be submerged completely.) Place the dutch oven into your preheated oven and cook for 4 to 5 hours, basting with liquid every hour until it's easily pulled apart with a fork. Remove from dutch oven, remove the fatty pieces, shred coarsely, and serve.

*Pork can be made in a crock pot if that's what you prefer. Cook it on low for 8 hours until the meat is tender and can be pulled apart.

* Do not mix bar b que sauce in to the cooked or cooking meat. It's against all things good and holy in my opinion. Use the sauce as a condiment.

* If you need to feed more than 6 people get a larger roast. Be sure to double the ingredients, however you may need to use two dutch ovens (or crock pots) to cook.

*This meat is slightly spicy if that's not your thing half the cayenne pepper

*If you can't find (or don't want to buy) liquid smoke, that's ok simply omit it but know that you'll be missing out!

*This meat is very hard to screw up if you need it to cook longer or have people coming and going and it needs to keep hot, leave it in the dutch oven/crock pot at a low heat and it will be fine.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekend trip to California

 We returned home from our trip to California this afternoon. It was such a fun weekend spent with my family. We spent most of our time in Newport Beach exploring the sites and eating tasty food. We had breakfast one morning on the beach - it was wonderful. The beignets were my favorite!
 Later that day we rented beach cruisers and a big 4 man bike cart. It was mostly hilarious and only slightly dangerous. We had so much fun riding the boardwalk.

 We found the most adorable candy shop where we loaded up on salt water taffy, and gorged ourselves on random flavors (maple bacon taffy!?) of the chewy stuff for the remainder of the trip.

My cute mom and step dad Todd smiling on the beach.

We wandered around a cute seaside town,  and wished we never had to leave such a charming place.
 Spending a long weekend in California was just what the doctor ordered.
We're back to real life now - with a big week ahead of us, moving into a new apartment and participating in a cooking competition at school are two of the notable events coming up.
Really though I'd rather just go back to California.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Food Adventure: Nevada

Nevada's state food is a little strange. It's not really a specific food, it's more of a food experience. And it makes sense because buffets are a dime a dozen in Nevada, or at least in Las Vegas. Buffets aren't really my "cup of tea." (It's something about the endless piles of food sitting under heat lamps.) The exception, however, is breakfast. I love breakfast buffets. Endless amounts of carb heavy dishes, fresh fruit, omelet bars, etc!? I'm into it. I knew that our food adventure for a buffet had to take place in Las Vegas, and I knew that it had to be at the Bellagio, and had to be for breakfast. The buffet at the Bellagio is actually called The Buffet and is pretty amazing. There was just so much food. I think our favorite part of it was the omelet bar. Pick your fillings and a chef cooks up (a really delicious) omelet before your eyes. I highly recommend going to The Buffet for breakfast, but I have no doubt that it's great for lunch or dinner too, I know I'll be back. It was such a fun morning stuffing our faces and enjoying each other in Las Vegas.



On our "yumm scale" we rated The Buffet at the Bellagio a Super Yumm.
For your reference the "Yumm Scale" :
1. Yuck
2. Yu...
3. Yumm
4. Super Yumm
5. Holymolycanoliyumm!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Soft Sugar Cookies

In elementary school my mom was famous. Not for her good looks or ability to kiss boo boos goodbye. No, she was famous for something much more...delicious. Her sugar cookies were known throughout our school district. People begged and pleaded for the recipe, but she kept it secret. As I got older my friends and boyfriends fell in love with my moms sugar cookies. High school parties were never complete without a big platter of my moms "half dips" the term lovingly coined for the famous cookies my mom dipped half in delicious melted frosting. Her cookies are truly a science that she has perfected over the course of a lifetime. The recipe I am sharing today IS NOT her recipe, however it has some similar components and is also very delicious. Like hers, these cookies have a subtle almond flavor and come out of the oven soft as a pillow (and stay that way for days). These sugar cookies are topped with a thick and creamy frosting, perfect for licking off and have hints of lemon throughout the dough. No better or worse than moms - just different. But most importantly delicious! If you're looking for a great sugar cookie give these a try!
Soft Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon) chopped finely
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon zest; mix. Add two cups flour, baking powder and salt. Mix. Add remaining flour and mix just until flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and soft, being careful not to over mix.
Dust the counter with flour and roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thick, maybe even slightly thicker than that, it's your preference. Rolling the dough thick is the important step to get the soft chewy cookies, rolling the dough too thin will make them crispy and unappetizing. Cut the dough into shapes using cookie cutters or even the rim of a cup. Place the cookies on a lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Gather up the scraps and repeat the rolling process until all your dough is used up.
Bake for 7-8 minutes. The cookies won’t appear browned on top (or on bottom) when they are done baking so don’t let them over bake! I find 6 to 7 minutes is about perfect but if they are even lightly browned on bottom, I decrease the time by 30 seconds. If they are still really shiny and doughy looking leave them in the oven for an additional 30 seconds.
Cool the cookies completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

If cream cheese is not softened to room temperature, put it in the microwave for 30 second intervals until it's very soft to the touch. In a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. Mix until very smooth and light and no lumps remain. If you are adding color to your frosting do so now to the cream cheese mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the cream to stiff peaks. Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture folding in with a spatula, being careful not to deflate the delicate whipped cream. Mix until well combined and smooth, adjust color if you need to by adding more food coloring and folding gently in. Spread over cooled cookies, and eat refrigerate any left overs.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Italian Sausage and Peppers Ragoût

Last week I mentioned that we made sausage at school, and said that over the weekend I wanted to use it up. I knew I could make an awesome lasagna, or meatball subs, but instead I decided to try something a little different. I pulled a couple different recipes and mashed them together and came up with this beautiful, chunky, Italian mess of noodles and peppers and fresh herbs. I called it a ragoût because that's what it's reminiscent of but technically a ragout is more like a stew that cooks for a long time, so maybe I should call this a quick ragoût. Or maybe I should just call it freaking delicious. That may be more effective. 

Italian Sausage and Peppers Ragoût

Olive oil
1 lb Spicy Italian Sausage
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 orange (or green) bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
½ cup white white, chicken stock or water
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, julienned, divided
8 ounces rigatoni, uncooked
Shaved Parmesan Cheese

Place a large, heavy-bottom pan or braising pot over medium-high heat; add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and once the oil is hot, crumble the spicy Italian sausage into the pan in small chunks (you want to keep the sausage fairly chunky), allowing it to brown in the oil for a few moments on each side; once the crumbled sausage is browned, remove it from the pan/pot with a slotted spoon and place into a small bowl to hold for a moment; next, add the sliced onion into the pan with the sausage drippings, and allow it to caramelize and become golden for roughly 5 minutes or so, stirring to keep it from burning (add a touch more olive oil, if necessary); once the onion starts to become golden, add the salt, Italian seasoning and cracked black pepper, and stir to combine, then add in the sliced bell peppers, and allow those to saute with the onion for about 2 minutes until slightly tender and golden. Next, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the white wine (broth or water) and allow it to reduce for a few moments, until almost completely reduced; next, add in the diced tomatoes with their juice, and return the browned spicy Italian sausage back into the pan, and gently fold the mixture to combine; allow it to gently simmer for about 3-4 minutes to blend the flavors, then turn the heat off; add in the chopped parsley and about half of the julienned basil; stir, and keep warm while you prepare the noodles.

Prepare the noodles according to instructions on package, under cooking by about a minute so that they're still a bit firm. Drain the noodles well, and add them directly into the sauce, using tongs to gently toss and combine the rigatoni noodles with the sauce and all of the ingredients in it; check the seasoning to see if you need to add any additional salt or pepper.

Finish by serving with shaved Parmesan and remaining basil to top pasta. Enjoy!

*You could also use sweet Italian sausage if your family doesn't love spicy food. Or even try it with ground turkey or beef if that's your thing. Remember to season those types of meats with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning so that it has some of flavors that a sausage would contribute.


Pasta making at school, denim on polka dot denim,
the mess only a practical exam could cause, pesto ravioli,
spagettie dinner date at home, chocolate chip cookies to ease the woes of the week,
a muddy face mask, a vintage market on Saturday afternoon. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Culinary School Week 23

This week we catered two events, which means I have very little to talk about. We prepped one day, served two days and made sausages on our day off. Sausage making was, ahem, interesting not the most appetizing of culinary procedures if you ask me...something to do with the meat grinder...and the just...I don't know...weirds me out. But the finished products were great and that's all that counts. We made spicy Italian sausage, chorizo, and a Swiss veal sausage, all were very tasty but I especially liked the Italian sausage, I think this weekend I'm going to make something delicious with it. Mmm pig. Other than that the semester is moving a long quickly. Before I know it, it will be the end of April and I'll be off to Europe!! Truth. I'm euro bound in a little more than a month - Adam is sending me on my merry way to meet up with my long lost Canadian Friend in Amsterdam.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

I love me a good trifle. I thought my favorite trifle recipe couldn't be topped but over the weekend I tried a new recipe, and it sort of blew the original one out of the water. I made individual trifles, because I wanted to use my little dishes but of course you could use one large trifle dish, or if you don't have a trifle dish tall drinking glasses would work too. The winning part of this dessert is the rich chocolaty custard. I think in the future I'll forgo the trifle idea and just take a spoon and the bowl of custard with me to my closet, where I'll close the door and hide from the world, while I eat the entire thing while watching reruns of the bachelor on my computer. Heaven. That's my heaven. Anyway, the chocolate raspberry combination is delicious and I love the various textures, the chewy brownies, the airy whipped cream, the juicy raspberries. It's perfection in dessert form.
 Chocolate Raspberry Trifle
For the Brownies
For the Chocolate Custard
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
pinch salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
5oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For assembling
1-2 pints fresh raspberries
bittersweet chocolate shaved or roughly chopped for layers and/or topping

Begin by making a batch of brownies, as they cool start on the custard.

Custard directions:
In a large bowl, mix together granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in 3/4 cup milk. In a large saucepan, bring remaining 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream to a boil over medium heat. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into cocoa mixture. Return it all to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking gently, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. (A simmering bubble or two is O.K., but do not let it boil.)

In a medium heat-resistant bowl, whisk yolks. Whisking constantly, very slowly dribble about half the cocoa-milk mixture into yolks until fully combined. Pour yolk mixture into saucepan with remaining cocoa-milk mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking occasionally, over medium-low heat, until thick, about 5 minutes. (Do not let mixture come to a simmer. If pan begins to steam thickly, remove from heat for a few moments and stir well before continuing.) Let cool slightly.

Melt 5 ounces chopped chocolate with butter. Stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Cool 5 minutes, then fold into thickened egg mixture. Place plastic wrap directly against pudding (to prevent a skin from forming), and chill until set, about 3 hours.

Whipped cream directions:
Just before assembling, with an electric mixer, beat remaining 2 cups cream with 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until it forms mediumpeaks. Scraping sides to incorporate.

Assembly directions:
Cut cooled brownies into 1-inch squares. Fit a layer of brownie squares in bottom of a 4-quart trifle, glass, or other bowl. Top with half the pudding, a third of the whipped cream, a third of the remaining chopped chocolate and a third of the raspberries. Repeat layering until all ingredients have been used. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to 24 hours before serving.
*Pudding and brownies can be made up to 5 days ahead, and refrigerated. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Culinary School Week 22

This week classes consisted of cheese and a practical exam. In Monday classes we made various kinds of fresh pasta and had a cheese tasting. The apple walnut smoked cheddar was fabulous, and I even tried Limburger (it really doesn't taste as bad as it smells). My classes later in the week were a bit more stressful, our midterm practical exam was crazy. I had 4 hours over the course of two classes (2 hours per class) to complete 2 rolls of sushi, 4 different types of hors d'oeuvres for 4 people for 1 hour, shrimp cocktail, 2 green salads with 2 different vinaigrettes, potato salad, cole slaw, a ruben sandwich, and scallop ceviche, I get tired even typing all that, let alone actually doing it. But, I did it. And now it's done and I can breath until the next one. To be honest I'm actually really amazed and impressed with what I've learned and what I am capable of. At one point or another during the high pressure exam I would take a step back and think "Wow, really? Did I really just make that? It tastes so good! And looks so professional." The good grades are nice but actually seeing improvement and watching my techniques become fine tuned is a pretty sweet experience.