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Post-Grad Life

Last Friday, I graduated from college. My days of cooking in collegiate kitchens are over. Like most American post-grads, I’ve moved back in with my parents and have begun scouring the web for employment and writing slammin’ cover letters as if were my job.

In the attic, all of my kitchen wares have been packed up and labeled, awaiting the day I move out. Including the Burnt Pot.

2011 was a crap year. Mom had cancer, Grandma died, and various other things that didn’t help the situation. I am very glad that 2011 is over. 2012 has certainly been wonderful. Mom is healthy again, I’m done with school, a family wedding is just around the corner, and summer is just beginning. The whole year is certainly going to be a metaphor for new beginnings.

Dad ordered my coffee-maker to be packed away with everything else, as he does not want the smell of brewing hot coffee lingering in his house. (My new ‘roommates’ are difficult sometimes.) I needed something yummy and economically savvy, since I can’t afford daily trips to DD (Dunkin Donuts) anymore, and that doesn’t make the kitchen smell like DD.

So, in honor of the onset of summer (and the coffee addiction I have developed since completing student teaching) I give you the awesome recipe for Cold-Brew Iced Coffee from the Pioneer Woman. So Good!

The Pioneer Woman’s Cold-Brew Iced Coffee

Mr. DeMille, can I finish whisking this?

“Don’t breathe.”

I now have empathy for the poor cast members of “America’s Next Top Model.” Though, I believe have more cause for frustration under light and lens because, unlike the models of reality TV, I have my own task to accomplish at the same time. The taste and appearance of my final dish depends on a process, and timing. Trying to do all that and work with a photographer, with his own tasks, is vexing.

“There’s the money shot.”

Mad props to my photographer, whose commission was paid in Chicken Crunch with Cap’n Sauce. The pictures came out fantastic! He spent many an hour afterward adjusting and tweaking.  The results of such effort warrant a sushi trip later this weekend.

“Hold it right there.”

So, advice on taking pictures of food: get up close and personal. Really get into the detail of the food. Play with light. I took the desk lamp from my room and clipped it to a chair. For about 20 minutes, my kitchen was a movie set. Since I can’t cook and shoot at the same time, investing in an enthusiastic photographer was a good idea. Have the patience to really get the aforementioned “money shot” instead of making haste due to hunger. Hint: macro.

“To the left a little.”

For the undeveloped tastes, from the kid to the collegiate

Let’s face it, our parents tried their best to keep us on track and eating right when we were still young and malleable. Then it happened… Somewhere between recognizing the Pink Power Ranger on a box of fruit snacks (yes, I was a 90s child) and trading the bag of Doritos for a Dunkaroos at the lunch table in 5th grade–we developed our own tastes.
Somehow, with some, this taste has evolved very little, and still made its way into the collegiate arena. Mini fridges stuffed with frozen, processed chicken nuggets and stacks of EasyMac lining the bookshelves,  its disappointing. Colleges don’t ask, “Hey, what did you have for dinner last night?” on applications. Wouldn’t it be nice though?

As a former picky-eater, I’d like to say, the broadening of a palette is a life skill, like playing poker and driving manual transmission. My father used to ask me what I was going to do when I was 16 and a boy took me to a restaurant on a date. I couldn’t very well say, um… pasta, with sauce on the side? (Mind you, I was 10.) I couldn’t let that happen, I liked boys much more than I liked pasta.

So the question remains of what happens if one of these primitive palettes comes over to hang out? (Moms: this goes for you too!)

The psychology behind picky eaters has been a topic of puzzlement for moms since…well, the beginning of time. To reach an answer to this problem, remember these things: texture, simplicity, and familiarity. Sometimes, we simply don’t like the texture of what we eat. I know I hated meatloaf because I could never chew it to the point of my being comfortable with swallowing it, and by then the taste was gone. So to combat this problem is to simply change up the texture. If they don’t like your tomato soup because it’s chunky, toss it is a blender, and over time don’t pureé it as well until you don’t have to do it anymore.

Next, is the simplicity problem. Imagine you’re looking at a plate of nachos. Everything but the kitchen sink is on these nachos. You like X, Y, and Z on your nachos because you know its what you like. Suddenly, you get OCD. Oh no! These can’t be good nachos. They got messed up! (Think like a 10 year old…)

Last is familiarity, we’ve touched on this in the previous two. Kids like to stick to what they know. So when they get the impromptu courage to taste something new, do NOT make it a big deal. Especially at a restaurant. Having them assist in the kitchen can help too. Involving them in the cooking process will help them understand exactly what they are eating, and its like Toto ripping the green curtain away, revealing the man behind the “Wizard.”

Or you can just be sneaky about it and dangle social humiliation over their heads, like Dad.

So if what they like is chicken nuggets and EasyMac then bring it on.

A chef’s brazier and my brassiere are two very different things…

I learned this a long time ago from a very good friend who ended up in the culinary business. Imagine the sort of awkwardness that came out of that spell of confusion!

It’s one week until I move back to school for the spring semester. I spent winter break scouring mother’s arsenal of cookbooks for new recipes to try. Preparing them exactly as they appear in the cookbook/on the recipe card will be difficult, and who does that anyway? I don’t have a mixer, Crock-Pot, Cuisinart, immersion blender, and worst of all I don’t have a dishwasher. However, Santa must have thought I was a good girl this year, as he put a blender and hand-mixer under the tree. When some college kids see a blender, they think “Oooh! Where’s the Margarita mix?!” I see the perfect way to puree my tomato basil soup.

When I moved in, there was a refrigerator, sink, and an oven with an electric stovetop. Not what I was used to. Thankfully I had a mother that began collecting kitchen gadgets for me since I was 15, so I had some pots and pans, cheese graters, and measuring cups to work with.

Do you know who Percy LaBaron Spencer was? Well, I’ll tell you. He discovered the radar waves that melted the candy bar he had in his pocket. Thus leading to the invention of the microwave oven. Bless him. I acquired a microwave using a bit of eyelash batting on previously mentioned “cheffie” who did not need it.

I cannot remain true to the purpose of this blog if I cook in my mother’s kitchen, the stovetop itself could launch the Discovery space shuttle. So I will wait until I get back to school to post my first working recipe.

Coming soon:

Spicy Coconut Shrimp with Ginger Mousse
Pork with Thai Peanut Sauce and Simple Salad
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Homemade Corn Bread and Chili
Cap’n Crunch Chicken with the “Special” Sauce