Tuesday, June 30, 2009

4th of July

The summer is just flying by! This weekend is fourth of July, not a huge holiday but one I always look forward to spending with my family. Of course this year I can't join in the festivities ,in fact there are no fourth of July celebrations up here, no fireworks nothing! Maybe we're just a bit to close to Canada. Anyways, this Saturday, I'll be thinking of my families backyard, watermelon, BBQ, fresh corn on the cob, and fireworks! To honor this holiday I thought I might share a simple dessert with you, so in a way I can be a part of the summer fun! Hope you enjoy!

Watermelon Granita

24oz watermelon juice (to make juice put fresh watermelon in a blender, puree watermelon, then strain liquid into a separate container)
1cp sugar
1cp water

Combine water and sugar -bring to a boil to dissolve sugar completely.
Remove from heat and combine with watermelon juice.
Place mixture in a large casserole pan so liquid is distributed evenly and in a shallow layer (about .5-1'' high)
Put mixture in freezer, every half hour scrape surface of liquid ( you should see ice starting to form) with a fork until liquid is no longer apparent. Make sure you put mixture back in the freezer after each scraping!
Scraping the mixture creates a fluffy texture and allows ice crystals to form.
Once your granita is ready, scoop it into a dish and enjoy, or prepare a glass of lemonade and replace the ice with a scoop of granita for a real summer treat!

Hope you all have a wonderful fourth of July!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


As you've all noticed its been awhile since my last posting! The reasoning: transitions- literally!
The last days of my classes at Texas Culinary Academy went by as a flash of packing, projects and saying my goodbyes to Austin. The day after my last final I forced myself out of couch (my bed was already in a storage unit by then) at 6am and drove to my home town of Lubbock, TX. Once arriving, I dropped off my dog for her own version of summer camp at my family's home and picked up my parents as travelling companions for the rest of the seven state trek across the United States. Over the next four days we drove through the plains, hills and Rockies of this great country. Eventually, 2,200 miles later we turned the car's engine off in Winthrop, Washington in front of Sun Mountain Lodge.
Needless to say you can't travel that far and not notice that your surroundings have changed dramatically. The Methow valley in which Winthrop resides is surround by tall jagged mountains, some still covered in snow. Wildlife is everywhere, mainly deer- but I see chipmunks, groundhogs, fowl on a daily basis and even the occasional black bear. The trees here are old and tall, with every rain storm the smell of pine intoxicates the air. When its not raining the perfume of lilacs is carried on cool breezes along with millions of seedlings that mimic snow fall. The weather is warm during the day and dry, but with night fall the temperature falls into the 40's-50's. I won't be surprised to see snow in September, before I leave! The people here are very friendly, but also very direct- I guess I'm to used to southern gentility and the blunt nature of conversation is surprising. The people I work with are what you would expect of chefs very colorful in personality and easy to be around! Most have been in the business for only a few years with the exceptions of the pastry chef (whom I work directly under) and the executive chef. Both have been in the hospitality industry for a few decades and are a great source of encouragement and knowledge.
The work aspect has been a fun transition to adulthood- this was very shocking to me, I expected 50 hour work weeks to be waring and stressful, but its not! I have fun at work creating and getting to know my co-workers. I also get the opportunity to create my own dishes and serve them in our dining room which has a 4 diamond rating- in other words fancy. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to serve something I've created from concept to reality and hear how much guests have enjoyed it! That was really the reason I got into this career- I wanted to create and give back. Its nice to see that happen after waiting to get to this point of my adult life. So far, its a pretty good start in my opinion. :)
This job also helps me appreciate my grandfather and uncles career's as farmers in a whole new way. The work it takes to produce high quality stock and literally seeing your work come to fruition and ( in a sense) giving it back to the community. I'm happy that my talents have lead me to this point and thank God for that!
This Friday I'm helping prepare a special dessert for a seven course dinner in our wine cellar room. This room is reserved for wine tasting and special dinners only . This dinner will be priced at $90 a head! Its crazy that I'm cooking at this level and it still surprises me at times!
I'm also excited to say that I and 3 other interns are planning a culinary research trip to Seattle in July! Chef Bradshaw is excited about all of us going and can't wait to see what ideas we bring back. I'm excited to see a city I've been dreaming about for the last 8 years! Seattle, is known not only for its farmers markets, but also its innovative restaurants, and convenient location to so much fresh produce. I can't wait!
I'll try to post more frequently so you can see my weekly adventures! But I'll be honest with you the lack of Internet connection effects that plan. But I'll try! God bless you all and have a wonderful week!

Pictures: Sunset and view from my front porch! ( I'm sharing a house with one other roommate and its great! only twenty minutes from the Lodge I work at.)

My first special! Lemon-black sesame seed pound cake with citrus-ginger ice cream. mmmmm...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Bon Bombay

As promised, this post is all about our most recent and delicious assignment- create your own candy bar. Chef Marc had his plate full literally of all different kinds of flavors from the strange to the most appetizing. Many of my class mates took this opportunity to get creative with their flavors, for instance my friend Abby made a walnut brittle, candied bacon, and bleu cheese ganache candy bar. It was definitely what I would call an exotic treat, but for those of us that enjoy the unusual, we found Abby's candy bar to be a wonderful taste bud adventure! Others chose to go with a traditional combo like my friend Katy. She made a wonderful chocolate caramel with candied cashews and yummy dark chocolate delicious and definitely a classic! They were all wonderful and a great chance for us all to put our creativity on display. So, you may be wondering- what did I make?
Well, I decided to go for something off the beaten path, after all , unusual flavor combinations is kind of my style! Anyways, over the last couple of years I have come to love Indian food, the spices are so different from any traditional American flavor but seem familiar at the same time when combined with chocolate. So I created what I called the "Bon Bombay" Its four layers from top to bottom are : a curry gananche (that's white chocolate, cream and curry spices), a toasted coconut filling, cashew crunch, and sesame seed brittle all covered in a delicious dark chocolate shell. Although this candy bar is not your usual find in the supermarket check out line the sweet and spicy flavors combined with a bit of crunch and a lot of chocolate made for a winning combo- chef said it made a colorful presentation and was a well thought out combination of flavors. Needless to say I was pretty happy with the result of my "risky" choices. So maybe if your lucky I'll make you a batch sometime. :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

The beginning of the End... of classes!

Well, a lot has happened since I last posted on here. Cake block ended with our big wedding cake project and the last block has begun. This block is advance patisserie techniques including chocolate, confection and sugar work. So far we have been doing a lot of work with chocolate. While chocolate might seem easy its actually quite challenging work. Chocolate requires tempering ;a process that requires heating and cooling the chocolate to create a shiny and hard snap in the final product. In other words it brings chocolate to the peak of its own perfection. This might sound simple enough but a lot of factors can effect the out come, needless to say those with little patience might find chocolate work to be a very frustrating task! Personally, I find it more challenging than rewarding, but I'm thankful for the chance to get a taste of a chocolatiers profession.

After the first two assignments, we turned our attention to confection work or candy, which was a great relief to many of us in the class. We have dabbled in divinity and pate e fruit and fiddled with pralines and candied orange zest. I have really enjoyed the confection work and hope I can share some of the fruits of my labor in the future in the form of edible Christmas gifts!
On a personal note, I had the chance to see one of my oldest friends and her family for Easter; Noelle Preble and fam. They live just outside of beautiful Fredericksburg in a sunny house on a hill with a spectacular view. I love spending time out there, its so peaceful and the company couldn't be better. I was especially thankful to see the prebles just before I leave for my externship. Sometimes spending time with those that know your past make you feel even more confident about the future. I'm now less than a month away from moving to Washington and so many have been so encouraging about this externship, it makes me so thankful for those in my life and I know it makes me a better person personally and professionally.

This week in class will be inventing our own candy bar, so stay tuned for the next posting!

Friday, March 27, 2009


So I just received some very exciting news! As some of you know part of the program I'm in includes an externship. This portion is considered your on site education of how a real kitchen works. I applied to a few places and had a couple of offers, but today I was offered my first choice!- an externship at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop ,Washington! The Lodge is beautiful and the Chef and his staff seem like a great bunch to work with! The work I'll be doing includes plated desserts and lots of baking from scratch! I couldn't be happier! The Lodge is only a few hours from Seattle and a of hours from the Canadian border! Go here to check out where I'll be working!
Besides that school is going great! We're almost finished with cake block and then we are on the last class- Chocolate and sugar work! Its gone by so fast! I'm also excited to say that Chef Michelle is going to let me come to her morning classes the last three weeks of class so I can sharpen my plate up skills and play with some of my recipe ideas! Thanks again to all of you that follow this blog!
I'll end this post with some pics of my latest work in cake block, enjoy! I'M SO EXCITED!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cake and more Cake!

Since my last update Cake block has begun! We're now on the third week of class and have already learn so much! We've made cocoa paintings, gum paste, and of course lots of yummy cake! So far cake block is treating me well, my art back ground has definitely come in handy. Its also a big help to be so familiar with the products and mediums we use because of my job. In fact the chef ask for price checks from me on a regular basis! While, I'm enjoying the chance to stretch my creative muscles, I am surprised to find that I miss the go go go pace of plated dessert block! It makes cake block seem like a break!
Other than school, work has been very exciting lately. The local cake club recently hosted a cake show that included all sorts of classes, competitions and vendors to show their stuff. My boss, Jennifer Bartos coordinated the whole thing which meant All In One Bake Shop was head quarters for information and supplies amongst other sponsors. Jennifer even arrange for food network stars Jaquey Phiffier, Nick Lodge, Elisa Strauss, and Brodwen Weber to come down and teach a few classes and judge competitors entries. It was one exciting show and very cool to be able to meet these amazing chefs in person. I was even lucky enough to be awarded another scholarship from the confectioners club to attend the Elisa Strauss Sculpted cake workshop! The Sculpted cake project was one of my favorite savory foods: Sushi! We learn so many tricks and secrets to rolling fondant, painting with food coloring and creating a realistic look in general. We made a sushi board, sushi, chop sticks, a soy sauce dish and shrimp! It was so much fun and Elisa was so down to earth and was such a wonderful teacher. If you would like to see some of her work check out her website at http://www.confetticakes.com/ . She is known around the world for her realistic sculpted cakes, books, and of course her appearances on the food network. I am so lucky to have had the chance to learn from such an accomplished person. Even though I am not currently leaning towards cakes as a concentration in my future career at this point it certainly was an appreciated and fun opportunity to learn. One that I hope I can use in the future!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Love n' stuff-

Yesterday-Valentines Day has many interpretations. For those of us that our single, the most popular views of this day are one of two things: a painful awareness of their current status or to simply agree with the hallmark marketing conspiracy the use of a Saint's horrible death as a boost in sales in the form of pink and red candies and squishy stuffed animals that have "I love you" written across plump bellies. Then there are those of us that considered a couple that see this day as either a chance to express their appreciation and love to one another or concur with the "hallmark holiday" angle.

What theory do I prescribe to? While the Hallmark crowd has a point, I would have to say this: Valentines day is a day that commemorates the death of a saint that performed marriages in secrecy against a King order forbidding marriages amongst his people until his son would consent to marriage. Saint Valentine risked his life believing God's work to unite those in marriage and therefore love was the higher calling than a Kings command. Love is a reflection of God and what we humans have to keep us going. While romantic love has been the interpretation of this saints work, I believe all forms of love should be celebrated and appreciated year round and enjoy the reminder February 14th brings every year. It is a remarkable choice that many cultures have chosen to recognize this day as one to appreciate the gift and privilege that love is one I think we all secretly enjoy - maybe even need at times. So to say it plain although I am single I neither despise nor ignore Valentines day but appreciate what is and what it can be.

Besides the latest holiday, I have been up to quite a few projects! I've been working on portfolios, going to career fairs, working, seeing old faces,meeting new ones and looking for my next opportunity in the culinary world. For those of you that do not know, my program is drawing to an end very soon. As of May I will begin the final step in my education with an externship. Where this externship will be- I do not know, but I have a few good leads and have begun talking to a few possible employers. There is one opportunity in particular I'm interested in but for now I'm not going to into great detail but ask for you to keep me in your prayers that I have an opportunity that will allow me to grow as a person and as a chef.

School itself has been quite exciting lately, I just finished the first advanced baking technique block known as plated desserts. It was a wonderful challenge to be both efficient and creative and I will miss the rush of the timed tests amongst others things! The next block starts Monday and is what many of us have been anxiously awaiting - Cake Block. Yes, this means the construction of wedding cakes and even some sculpted cake work that you see on the food network from time to time. I look forward to it and letting you know how goes!

May God give you all a week and grace and peace!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A welcomed New Year.

A new year is upon us! I ended 2008 the way many did, surrounded by the familiarity of holiday aromas, traditions, and faces. Most of my break was spent celebrating Christmas, but I was also privileged to be a bridesmaid in my dearest and oldest friend's wedding-Holly Baker or now rather, Holly Tracy.Holly has always been a loyal and caring friend. God must have known I would need a friend like this, because she has always been such a source of inspiration to me and others for that matter. It was a beautiful wedding, and Holly was a radiant bride. The whole affair was very touching and a great reminder of how life has seems to drift by without the realization of its precious nature until moments such as these present themselves.

Shortly after the wedding, I returned to Austin refreshed and ready for the new challenges culinary school so willingly offered. The "offering" this time, being the most feared block thus far in my education- Restaurant block ( and believe me, I am not the only student that shivers at the mention of these words!). Restaurant block is "scary" because it is the first advanced block of the program in which students are expected to know procedures, methods, and use thier creativity. In addition, being efficient is a must and skill and speed become a factor in grading. While I was excited to finally allow my creative juices to flow, the intimidation of having mounds of culinary knowledge memorized and prepared for execution at the request of a master chef was swimming in my conscience. But the first day came and went with some reassurance that it would not be the mountain most of us were expecting but rather a steep mole hill.
Our Chef for this block, Chef Michelle , has been in the industry since she was in her late teens. She has worked for famous chefs such as Tom Colicchio , a well known chef and judge on the show "Top Chef". She has also worked in Chicago, New York and many other American Destination cities. Despite, her impressive resume, Chef Michelle is a very sincere and laid back Chef with a passion for food and helping others develop the same level of expectations for their own food. We all were are thankful to have such an experienced and willing teacher.
As Monday and Tuesday passed we prepared for the first "plate up" or test of the class. This first plate up had to consist of an infused custard dish, paired with at least two garnishes and perhaps an ice cream or sorbet depending on your choice of custard. Chef Michelle told us that this first test would allow her to see the level of sophistication our palates had and our creativity. I was shamelessly excited to prove myself worthy of the term "creative". For my dish I decided to create a refreshing combination of lemon mint infused Creme Brulee paired with a blueberry compote, some candied lemon zest, and finished with a honey tuile cookie. My dish turned out to be a strong one and Chef said I was very successful for my first plate up and had a good flavor combination! I was thrilled to do so well, and look forward to our next challenge - Chocolate Plate up!
So, with the first school week over, I have found that this year, 2009 has a lot of promise to it. I'm now down to 17 more weeks of classes and then I begin my externship where ever that may be! I have already started my search and have some good leads, but my hope is that my externship will be both an great experience as a chef and as a student of life. Please keep me in your prayers as I search for such an opportunity and to those of you that follow this blog I wish you a promising new year as well!