Thursday, November 19, 2009


Tonight is the premiere of a certain silly movie and my sisters and friend Lindsay are going to the midnight premiere. I'm only jealous because they'll have fun without me. As a treat I made them some vanillekipferl to munch on throughout the evening. This recipe I procured from Gwyneth Paltrow's weekly newsletter "GOOP." Her neighbor in London is an Austrian woman who loves to cook and is a holocaust survivor. The woman, whose name is Evi, gives a brief history of the cookies:

"On the 12th of September in 1683, after years of occupation, the Turkish Army was defeated by the Austrians and retreated from Vienna and Austria. To celebrate this event the Austrians created the ‘Vanillekipferl,’ shaped in the form of the Turkish flag."
She goes on to say that although there are many kipferl recipes out there, this one is the real one. Here it is:

YIELD: About 10 dozen very small cookies (mine only made about 3 dozen, so obviously hers are a LOT smaller than mine were. I made them bigger because I had no idea what it was really supposed to look like and also was short on time and cookie sheets)
· 1/3 cup superfine sugar (when looking for this, I first went to Williams-Sonoma, and found some Creme Brulee superfine sugar, but didn't buy it because there was no one at the counter. It was $5 for a little package. I then went to Target and found a carton of the stuff priced the same as regular sugar and got it there. Thank goodness Williams-Sonoma was understaffed today! If you don't want to buy it, you can put some sugar in the blender until it's really fine, but not too fine)
· 1/3 cup ground almonds (they only sell them slivered that I could find, so break out that blender again and grind some up. We don't have a blender so I chopped them finely with a knife and it took forever but had good results)
· 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I always seem to have trouble getting things at room temperature. I got the butter out early but it was still really cold and hard, so I microwaved it, then it was too runny, so I put it in the freezer, which made it all weird, so don't do that. Just get it out like an hour or two early.)
· 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour*
· pinch of salt (I didn't use this since I made the self-rising flour and it was salty already)
· 1/4 cup icing sugar (DON'T PUT IT IN THE DOUGH, IT'S FOR LATER!!!)
*If you can’t find self-rising flour, simply measure out one cup unbleached, all-purpose flour and remove two teaspoons. Add a half teaspoon salt and one-and-a-half teaspoons baking powder. (This means for the whole 2 1/2 cups of flour, you'll put in 2 1/4 tsp salt and 3 3/4 tsps baking powder)

Mix the superfine sugar, almonds, butter, flour and salt together in a bowl with a wooden spoon or your hands. Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. (I covered it in plastic wrap so it wouldn't dry out)

Roll the dough into half-inch thick ropes and cut into quarter-inch thick slices. (I made the mistake of putting the powdered sugar in the dough, so mine was drier than it should've been and therefore un-rollable. I just pulled off crumbly chunks and shaped them that way)

Shape each slice into a small crescent and place on ungreased cookie sheets. You can space them quite close together as they don’t expand that much. (They really don't, mine were like a centimeter apart)

Let the cookies rest for half an hour. (I only let them rest about 15 minutes and they were fine, but I was on a tight schedule)

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350ºF. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes (until they’re barely browned), rotating the trays after six minutes. (For some reason my oven wasn't actually as hot as it claimed to be, so the first batch had to cook about 20 minutes. The second batch I cooked for 16 minutes but it was a bit too long because it darkened the bottoms a little too much)

Move the cookies to a wire rack and let cool for ten minutes before sifting over the icing sugar. Allow the cookies to cool completely before eating. (I found that the sugar stuck better if added when the cookies were still hot, so you can do that. Also, they're kind of better warm, but that's just my opinion.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

My little brother Ian is my favorite brother. Okay, so he's actually my only brother, but he's the best. Such a gentleman. Anyway, he makes the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I asked him if he would do a guest post on this blog and he (somewhat to my surprise) said "Sure," so without further ado, here is what he said (though it's a bit brief, I'm glad he did it at all...thanks Ian!) :

There's a lot of history behind this recipe. When we were kids, we had them all the time (apparently; I don't really remember) and then, for some reason, I started making them again in high school. I got really good at them after tons of practice. I even memorized the recipe. Usually, I try to get other people to try them and ask their opinion of how it could be improved. Mostly, they tell me to add more cinnamon and that might be a good thing to add to the recipe. Also, in my senior year of high school, I had to make a how-to video for my TV Tech class. My friend and I got together and made a little cooking show in which we made these cookies. Everyone in the class wanted to try them after watching the video. That's about all the history behind the famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. By the way, the dough is just as delicious as the end product.

So here's what you need.
2 and a half sticks of butter (1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup of white granulated sucre
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon of vanilla
3/4 cup of white bleached whatever flour
3/4 cup of wheat flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
about 2 cups of oats
1 regular size bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix sugars and butter in a large mixing bowl.
Add egg and vanilla.
And in flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Throw in oats and chocolate chips.
Form dough into 1-2 inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 9 minutes.
*For high altitude, refrigerate for 15-20 minutes and add a little extra flour.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Days 5, 6, and 7 + Closing Thoughts

Day 5
-egg, cheese, and leftover potato omelette
-turkey chili
-Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread (from mix)

Day 6
-Dinty Moore stew
-DeBoles' rice penne with chicken, pesto, and grated parmesan cheese

Day 7
-chicken and black bean nachos from Cafe Rio
-egg, cheese, veggie sausage omelette
-apple sauce
-hot chocolate

Thoughts on Day Five:
-I finally found a repetitive thing to have for breakfast that doesn't involve bagels! For me, breakfast pretty much needs to be the same thing every day or it's weird to me. Just 'cause I'm weird.
-I'm really glad there were leftover potatoes, since they're really good in an omelette.
-The chili was pretty good (had to check it for wheat products since I'd already purchased it before the challenge, but it was clean) and I was taking a little gamble with the cornbread mix, and it was actually pretty good and really close to "real" cornbread-- yellow, grainy, and not cooked enough in the middle. That was the only bad thing about it. It didn't cook properly for some reason and browned and crisped very well on the top and sides, but the inside was a gooey mess inside the shell of the crust. I ate the top, but since the price was pretty high, I expected it to be a little better quality. However, I recognize that gluten-free baking is difficult, so if you're used to baking this way, you'll probably have better luck.

Thoughts on Day Six:
-Again with the breakfast.
-I bought the stew in a portable, microwaveable container and I'm really glad I did because I was able to take it with me to a babysitting gig in Lehi. Accompanied with the apple it was a great lunch-sized meal.
-This meal had the potential to be very tasty. However, the pasta I used was rice pasta, which I guess I'm just not used to, because I cooked it for over the recommended time limit (even though it said not to) but the noodles were still sort of crunchy in the center, and it was a little gross. I would've cooked them even longer perhaps, but I was running late for an evening engagement (institute), so I didn't have the time. However, the taste was pretty good and close to that of wheat pasta. The pesto, chicken, and cheese were also a yummy addition.

Thoughts on Day Seven:
-My bananas are super ripe. Two of them fell off the bunch when I picked it up. But the third (and last) is still good, so yum.
-Lunch was nachos...the chicken was so-so, but I was glad for the wheat-free option at Cafe Rio. Although those huge fresh flour tortillas were so incredibly tempting...
-Out of ideas really for wheat-free dinner meals, so I went with an omelette. And I know that the veggie sausage has some wheat derivative in the vegetable stuff it's made from, but I needed the protein because we're going on a dive trip tomorrow and I'll really need the calories, especially since the water will be cold.

Closing Thoughts
Overall, I'm really glad I decided to take this challenge. It wasn't actually all that difficult until it came to going out to eat, since options are slimmer, especially at specialized establishments. Also, when it started getting towards the end of the week, I started running out of ideas.

While shopping for groceries, I noticed that Target had about 4 options for gluten-free baking mixes, and all of them were for sweets. Can't they carry a more diverse selection for all their shoppers, including those with particular food needs that don't force them to resort to sugary desserts instead of breads and things? The same can be said for the pasta aisle-- DeBoles was the only gluten-free pasta they carried. I had a little more luck at the Sunflower Market. They even had gluten-free options labeled with special tags on the shelf! They also had a slim selection of gluten-free baking options, but did have "healthier" things like pancake mixes, pizza crust dough, and of course my cornbread mix. They even had some all-purpose baking flour that was gluten free! I believe it was also Bob's Red Mill.

Over all, I think that stores need to be more conscious about their shoppers' needs when they choose what products to carry. Before, it was where to find a vegetarian-friendly product, then vegan-friendly, and now I am more conscious of the need for a wider variety of gluten-free products for all our celiac, wheat-allergic, etc friends out there who want to eat normally just like the rest of the world. It is important for stores and restaurants (and everyday people too!) to realize that there are people out there who have special dietary needs, whether it be avoiding gluten, lactose, meat/animal products, sugars, or anything else. However, I have also learned that while living a food-conscious lifestyle can sometimes be difficult, especially in social situations, it doesn't have to be stressful.

As for my personal health during this challenge, I don't feel like it really changed much, but I do feel better knowing that I've eaten more fruit this week than I've probably eaten in the past two months, especially if you don't count applesauce. I sure love the stuff though.

Anyway, tomorrow morning I'll go back to eating bagels for breakfast and having macaroni and cheese for dinner-- although I would like to try spotlighting some "alternate" foods or baking methods on this blog occasionally from here on out.

If you are thinking of trying the challenge for yourself, or just want a few more tips on finding something gluten-free to eat, Kelly just gave me a few more tips on things she does:
Remember to be reading all labels, things you might not expect to have [wheat] do, like more common brands of soy sauce, gravys, some candy, some granola bars, some brands of chili, SOME ice creams even have wheat products in it. But luckily for me, I tend to have only have a reaction to common wheat not other types of wheat I have tried like durum wheat, that type of wheat is what a lot of your pastas are made from, but still read the label on those too, the kraft mac and cheese, top ramen and a lot of other pastas and noodles are made with the common wheat. But remember you can have all the corn, rice, and potato you want. I use corn tortillas instead of flour and rice crackers instead of other types. You can find pre-made wheat free breads, but I haven't found any that I really like yet and they are usually pretty expensive compared to regular breads so I rarely buy them."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Days 3 and 4 + A Recipe

Day 3
-maple & brown sugar oatmeal
-corn chips
Lunch (from Ultimate Broiler):

-spiced roast potatoes
Dinner (from Cafe Rio):
-black bean, rice, grilled chicken burrito

Day 4
-maple and brown sugar oatmeal
-kimchi dumplings
-herbed rice
-baby red potatoes roast in olive oil and italian seasoning

Thoughts on Day Three:
-This morning I felt sort of queasy so I couldn't finish the oatmeal, even though there wasn't that much to begin with. While I was babysitting I started getting very hungry so I scrounged through the kid's parents' cupboards for something free of wheat and found the corn chips! Yay.
-I usually go to lunch with Adrien on Mondays and since it was my turn to choose where we ate, I picked the Ultimate Broiler Greek Restaurant or whatever it's called. I wanted to get just their tasty potatoes and falafel, but it was about $5 more than the lunch special, which put the falafel into a pita in the form of a sandwich, so I got that instead. However, I didn't want to waste the pita, so I ate about half of it. Shame on me again for not keeping my standards.
-I did it again at dinner. Since I was at Adrien and Eric's and they were getting dinner to-go from Cafe Rio, I had to get something from there. I wanted to get nachos but it didn't work out, so I got the burrito instead. And yes, it was a flour tortilla. So I messed up again twice (again) in one day and feel guilty, but things happen I guess. I'll just have to do better from now on (again...)

Thoughts on Day Four:
-I forgot I'd bought the bananas for breakfast, so today was a pleasant variety!
-My roommates and I spent the whole day cleaning, and when I finally got the chance to eat and had that apple, my roommate made kimchi dumplings and offered me some. I didn't even think since I was so starving, but I think now they might've been made with rice something instead of wheat, but I could be wrong. I can't check the ingredients on the package because it isn't in English.
-Ah dinner. I love these potatoes. And of course the rice. I'm still a little hungry though, so I might go have some apple sauce for "dessert."

Also, a recipe for you! (These potatoes really are great)

Roasted and Spiced Red Potatoes
adapted from a recipe from my sister Ellen
-Cut some red potatoes into chunks (not too small or they will shrivel and become more like crispy fries) and note that they don't have to be baby reds, but that way you get more skin on each chunk.
-Put them into a small baking pan and cover in olive oil.
-Sprinkle with spices of your choice. I usually use garlic salt, black pepper, rosemary, basil, thyme, and oregano. Ellen used salt, red and black peppers, paprika, and garlic powder. Both ways of preparing the potatoes are delicious.
-Pop into the oven preheated to 400 degrees. Cook for about 40 mins.
-Eat with fish, chicken, rice, or any combination of those. They're also really good as leftovers the next morning if you cut them into smaller, bite-size pieces and have them in an omelette. Yum.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Days 1 and 2

Right now I'm marking off the end of day two in this wheat-free week.
A recap of what I've eaten so far:
Day 1
-omelette with parmesan cheese, garlic salt, and black pepper
-glass of orange juice
-apple sauce with cinnamon
-apple with peanut butter
-costa rican-style beans and rice
-hot cocoa

Day 2
-oatmeal with maple and brown sugar
-orange juice
-leftover beans and rice
-egg, cheese, potato, veggie sausage frittata
-oatmeal cookies

Thoughts on day one:
-Breakfast was pretty good, although I hadn't gone shopping yet so I had to use Parmesan, which, although tasty, was not what I'd preferred in a breakfast omelette.
-After buying groceries for the week (and making sure I had enough wheat-free food for the week) I realized I'd gone over my weekly grocery budget by about $10 or 15 and it's barely the beginning of the week. Crossing my fingers that I don't find the need to go to the store again this week.
-I ate lunch a little late (around 2) and all I had was the apple. I'm pretty hungry. Can't wait for dinner.
-Thank goodness for beans and rice. I might just make it. In fact, I'm stuffed.

Thoughts on day two:
-Oatmeal gets nasty in large quantities. Tomorrow I'll make less so I don't have to gag it down. Also, I'm running out of orange juice. Lame.
-Thank goodness again for beans and rice. And that it still tastes good the next day.
-Ian wants me to make him dinner. We're going with a frittata and I know it will be delicious. I'll skip the toast and jam I normally have with it.
-Ian has made his famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I've already ingested two when I remember that (duh) these have flour in them. I feel guilty and stupid but eat two more anyway. On my way out the door I look at the ingredients of the veggie sausage and see that they were made with a vegetable something-or-other that has wheat gluten in it. I messed up twice today. Time to get back on track.

P.S. Ian promises to guest blog about those cookies of his! Something to look forward to after the challenge. Or maybe before, since I won't be making them, eh?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Walking In Someone Else's Shoes

A couple of weeks ago, my cousin Kelly N posted something on her facebook:
"Let’s walk in someone else’s shoes for a week. I can't eat common wheat, (durum wheat that is in a lot of but not all pastas doesn't bother me so I eat that) so I want to challenge someone to walk in my shoes for one week and try someone else’s challenge for a week. It just would have to be something I could do and not cost money, at least not much. Remember you would have to check every label of everything you put in your mouth, you would be surprised how many products have wheat and that includes if you go out to eat with friends. No fresh yummy rolls for you, unless they are wheat and gluten free, but good luck finding gluten free bread at a common restaurant."
I then told her I'd be interested in taking her up on the challenge and she said this:
"I just don't eat things like bread, when I really get craving something that I can't eat I try to find some kind of gluten free substitute, there are some decent muffin mixes out there that I like, but a lot of what I do is just avoiding those foods. Like instead of having a sandwich making a salad out of what I would put in one, or only eating the insides of it. Or something I eat to replace a craving for peanut butter and jelly is peanut butter and fruit, like an apple."

I think it’s a great way to be more aware about people and also the different lifestyles, etc that people live. For this challenge, I'm going to avoid all wheat and things with wheat in them, including durum wheat and semolina. I have decided to keep a sort of journal as I do it:

This is going to require a lot of planning on my part, since I most of the time when I eat I don’t plan ahead, I just grab what I’m craving that also happens to be in my cupboard. Kelly recommended just not eating bread, but that’s really hard for me. So I’m going to combine that with some gluten-free stuff. Obviously I’ll try for more fruit. Thankfully I subscribe to several food blogs and got some gluten-free stuff from there. The challenge here will be to stick to the diet while not going over my normal budget for groceries in a week. There are some bloggers out there who are gluten-free, like Gluten-Free Girl (, so there was somewhere for me to look for more ideas, thank goodness (my usual food muse at smitten kitchen had plenty of gluten-free recipes, but they were almost all desserts, and the rest were soups, which I prefer to buy pre-made, thank you very much). Besides money concerns, another problem I hope I don’t run in to is that I get hungry very quickly (more quickly than most, anyway) and if I don’t eat then my stomach starts to eat itself, which can be quite painful as you might imagine, so I need to have good snacks on hand and also make sure I eat enough at each meal. I usually do this by having lots of bread, pasta, etc. Not this week though! Should be fun and definitely challenging.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for me since I haven’t the money to spend anyway) baking gluten-free (or without wheat flour in general) is difficult since it requires a mixture of several different types of “replacement” flours, xanthum gum which (though I admit I haven’t looked for it) I know nothing about and therefore naively conclude is not sold in normal grocery stores, and all sorts of flavored extracts, so I won’t be able to showcase any gluten (or wheat)-free recipes that I’ve actually tried, but I will try to showcase a recipe or something that is. (Hanging participle? Don’t know. If it is, sorry.)

For the challenge, I waited until a time after visiting moms and Halloween parties and the first church activity that actually sounded fun that we’ve had in a long while. In real life, of course, having to alter your diet does not wait for a convenient time. I feel sort of guilty because I did this, but we really needed the cheesecake-swirled brownies for that Relief Society sleep over, and I of course needed to sample the things I made for my mom, and of course there were cookies and candies at those Halloween parties that needed to be eaten…

1. Go gluten/wheat free for one week. That’s seven days.
2. Record/ keep track of everything I eat so I know I’m not bending or breaking any rules.
3. Update this log every day so you can be sure I’m keeping my promises.
4. Think of something Kelly can do for a return challenge that is something I do in my daily life. Suggestions, anyone?

Websites: (for a “detox” version…see, there are benefits for everyone in a gluten-free diet!)

Gluten-free restaurants:
For those who read this with a little (okay, a lot) bigger budget than mine, or that just want to eat out once in a while, there are several registries with restaurants that are either gluten-free, provide gluten-free menus, or inform the public about the gluten status in their food (which may or may not be helpful—if something has tons of gluten and they tell you, that counts, but obviously isn’t very helpful to hungry you). I’m only doing Utah since that’s currently where I hold residence and because through some of my research I find that most people don’t spotlight any GF restaurants in Utah, which is sad. (for a “hard copy” guidebook of GF restaurants in Utah)

Cheesecake Marble Brownies

Last night there was a Relief Society activity at our President's parents' condo in Midway. I used the occasion as an excuse to make something delicious. I decided on the cheesecake-swirled brownies from Smitten Kitchen, that she adapted from Gourmet. I didn't really change the recipe much except that I used a little more chocolate than she says to use because a)I love chocolate, b)you can never have too much of it, and c)the bar was 4 oz and I figured hey-what's-another-ounce.
Anyway, they were a big hit at the party (so big, in fact, they were used as ammunition in a pseudo-food fight) and were very moist and rich and just so incredibly yummy. And for some reason everyone was really impressed that I'd made them from scratch.

Cheescake Marble Brownies
from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 16 2-inch square, thick brownies (or a lot more if people keep cutting them into tinier pieces because they just know it's going to go straight to their thighs)

Brownie batter
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 (no, 4!) ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Cheesecake batter
8 ounces cream cheese, well softened (I left mine out for a while, but I didn't realize it still wasn't soft enough until after I'd added the egg, so rather than risk cooking the egg by microwaving it, I just turned the heat back on on the pot of water I was using for the double boiler and warmed it up more gently that way)
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (both Smitten and myself put the chips on top, but I only did it because I forgot I wanted to put them in the cream cheese batter. She did it because she thought it would mess up the swirling. You may do as you please.)

Make brownie batter:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Heat butter and chocolate in a 3-quart heavy saucepan — though I did mine double-boiler style, placing the mixing bowl I was using over simmering water, thereby creating one less dirty dish and melting the chocolate more gently (What I did was just mix my batter in the saucepan and not even worry about a bowl) — over moderately low heat, whisking (or forking if you have no whisk) occasionally, just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan.

Make cheesecake batter:
Whisk (although I found a spoon actually worked better to get all the lumps out) together cheesecake batter ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Dollop over brownie batter, then swirl in with a butter knife. (Here I had some problems, possibly because my cream cheese hadn't been all that soft. The cheesecake batter wanted to swirl in clumps. I ended up pulling some of the brownie batter over the cheesecake batter in order to get rid of some of the humongous white blobs, and this allowed the cheesecake to infiltrate below the top layer, which is totally fine, but perhaps does not look as pretty.)

Sprinkle chocolate chips over cheesecake/brownie batter swirl. (If you didn't already put them in the batter.)

Bake brownies:
Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is just set, about 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Warning: it took almost 2 hours to completely cool at room temperature, so if you're on a tight schedule, I'd suggest putting them in the fridge or freezer-- but be aware that something incredibly hot in the freezer will definitely start to defrost some things, so maybe wait until it's partly cooled first.)

P.S. I'm really sorry I didn't take any pictures; I'd completely forgotten until I was walking to my car. Smitten has some on her website if you're the type who needs to see what the end product looks like.

Culinary School

Most of you know that I've been throwing around the idea of going to culinary school since high school and that the main reason I moved up here a year ago was to do just that, but things didn't really work out. Anyway, I've been wondering lately if I should go through with it and decided to tour the culinary school in Sandy that I intended to attend (ha!). It was an informational and sort of fun tour and got me pumped (but also nervous) about going.

At the end of the tour, we were standing in the foyer recapping and getting handouts on scholarship information when the chef giving the tour pointed over our shoulders and said "Oh look, there's Chef Brad practicing for a competition coming up! Let's see if he'll let us in so we can watch." So we went to the door and unlocked it (the tourees were a little concerned that he didn't want to be disturbed, but our guide was insistent) and walked in. Chef Bob was apparently making his famous vinaigrette and so our guide talked to us briefly about how the competitions worked. One prepares four plates-- three for the judges to taste and one for a picture. Then Chef Billy pulled out some forks and gave them to us, saying, "Here, try it." We quickly indulged as he went back to his sauce-making and our guide told us about the food. There was a salad made with butter lettuce and curly endive (yes, that took a bit of research since not even the chefs could remember what it was called) with poached pears on the side and Chef Benny's famous vinaigrette over it all. Delicious. There was also a little seafood thing that I didn't try that consisted of a small bit of salmon topped with lobster and a mushroom cap on the side with diced celery root cascading from it, all with a seafood sauce. My favorite dish, however, was the roast chicken stuffed with a goat cheese and sun-dried tomato...stuffing...with some blackened potato slices and an artichoke heart stuffed with a spinach and bacon thing. Oh boy. I'll have to make that stuffed chicken some time. Anyway, I wanted to eat the whole plate, but I managed to maintain my composure when our tour guide said it was time to leave Chef Bruce to his practicing and get back to our wrapping-up.

I learned from this tour that:
-culinary school is very difficult and time-consuming
-it costs a lot of money but there are lots of scholarships available, especially to women
-this particular program is an unspecialized one, meaning you have to do all the areas (management, pastry, chef, etc), which is fine I suppose, except that you can't go directly into being a pastry chef after graduation if that's what you want to do (I haven't decided yet, but I was sort of leaning toward that)
-chef hats are unflattering on everyone, but there's nothing you can do about that
The program calls for 67 classroom hours and at least 2,000 paid internship hours in a kitchen where at least 51% of the food is made from scratch (and apparently there's no concern over being able to find a job like this since restaurants and such love to employ culinary students). Also, there are mandatory competitions every semester since it is an ACF school/program (in fact the only American Culinary Federation-accredited program in the entire state). There are also optional, more specialized competitions periodically. Even the chefs participate in the competitions, like Chef Ben.

Anyway, it seems like a pretty good program, I just think it'll have to wait until next fall (instead of this coming January) since it is so time intensive, and I have SCUBA courses and trips to England and things like that planned in the next few months.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


This past Wednesday when my mom was in town, I offered to make dinner for her and my grandparents. I decided to make the Ratatouille from the movie of the same name. I used the recipe and the serving suggestion from Smitten Kitchen, although when she mentioned the recipe (known here as Confit Byaldi) created for the movie by the French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley, I checked it out and decided to use a few tips from there as well in order to make it more "authentic." In the end, it was very rewarding (and delicious), but I have some suggestions/comments/tips for all of you "real" people who might not have the fancy equipment, etc that Smitten has, nor the time and patience for the French Laundry version.
Ratatouille from Ratatouille
adapted from Smitten Kitchen, with tips from French Laundry and my own revisions

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree (I used canned organic tomato "sauce," so I'm sure anything similar to puree will do)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant (Smitten said her store carries “Italian Eggplant” that are less than half the size of regular ones and thus perfect; I got my produce at the Sunflower Market and they only had the regular kind, so my eggplant slices were much larger than the rest of the vegetables, but it still tasted fine)
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper (and/or a couple roma tomatoes...or regular tomatoes, but roma are generally thinner)
Few sprigs fresh thyme (sure wish they sold these in less than 500 sprigs)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval (or as close as you can get) baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.

On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick. Note: Since I don't have a mandoline, I used the sharpest knife I could find, which was the last of 4 that I tried and was what I'm pretty sure is normally used as a bread knife. If you don't have a mandoline, try to find the sharpest knife you can and test it by first cutting the squashes, since they'll hold their shape even under a blunt knife. My slices were definitely not as thin as they should have been, but as long as your slices are as thin as you can get them, no worries. Also, cut the eggplant last! I cut it first because of the novelty of using eggplant for the first time, but it started to brown a little from exposure, sort of like an apple, which didn't effect the taste so far as I can tell, but it was a bit worrisome.

Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit. Note: I used a red bell pepper and one tomato because there were not enough slices of pepper to finish the whole pan. The tomato I used as the red slice when I ran out of pepper and nobody seemed to mind.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish. Note: Again, it seems easier said than done. The thyme took a long time to distribute because the tiny, fragile branches kept snapping under my eager pluck. Be patient and don't short yourself, because the thyme really does make the meal tastier.

Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. Note: If you don't have parchment paper, don't worry. French Laundry used tin foil anyway, so go ahead and put a piece of foil gently pressed over the pan and it will be fine.

Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.

Smitten Kitchen says: Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain. I served it atop lots of couscous only. It would have been good with some cheese though, or even with french bread on the side.
Smitten also says this recipe serves 4 as a side and 2 as a main dish. However, with plenty of couscous (I made two Near East boxes), it served four of us just fine as a main dish, with room left for pie.