Personal Triumphs

My first post in 2014 is one that’s going to be a little different than all of my other posts. Many of my real-life friends read this blog, as do most of my family, and this is an easy way to communicate out important ideas. And if you happen to be a random internet viewer, please read on, not only this post, but my actual food-related posts because that is my passion. Not to mention the reason for this blog in the first place. Another warning that this will probably be a long post (I know I could just add this line in after I write the darn thing, but that’s not how I work.) There is also no real food talk in this post, so keep that in mind too. And now, onto the good stuff.

I’ve struggled with my weight for several years now and I never really cared until semi-recently. In high school, I had crazy high metabolism and could eat anything and have no effect. As it usually does, that changed as I started to get a little older, and I would only really recognize my disgust in photos. I don’t know exactly when it happened, or when I noticed it. I *do* remember a certain mini vacation that I took to Atlanta and took some pics at the Georgia Aquarium. Even to this day, I refer to those photos as “the worst of it.” Again, I don’t know exactly, but my best estimate is that I had somehow managed to reach about 210 pounds. I know this is all relative, but for a guy my size, that is quite a bit of extra padding, if you catch my meaning.

I tried numerous times to get in shape…though I was never really “in shape.” I was just skinny. I did a round of P90X, and though I gave it my all at the time, the results were lacking. I had to use resistance bands for the weight training, since I couldn’t afford the dumbbells, so keeping track of my weights was a little tricky. I didn’t finish P90X, despite my best effort. I probably completed about 75ish days of it, and then culinary school happened. Working full-time and going to the school full-time left me wrecked with no energy, not to mention no real time to do anything. And, since it’s culinary school, I gained back all the weight I lost, of course. I knew it had gotten bad when, towards the end of my time there, I saw…someone… and that person commented “Wow, you’ve gained some weight!” I knew I had, but it hurt to hear that. And of course, I’m keeping that person anonymous to protect them.

Since that time, I tried taking matters into my own hands. After I graduated, I had free time again so I was able to go to the gym again. I would try to go often and tried to watch what I was eating and I was seeing some results. It was enough to keep my going but it never really clicked with me. Something was missing.

I started a new job in September that’s located right behind gym where I workout. At that point, I knew that the time would never be better for me to finally get my ass moving and in shape. I started texting my good friend, Matt Doman, and he pointed me in the direction of the Body-for-Life system. I immediately bought the book, read it, and was committed. I started the 12-week plan on 10/14/2013. I weighed around 194#. I was ready to make a change in my life. Matt has been an amazing resource and mentor for me through this process and I can’t thank him enough. He gives me motivation when I need it, support when I don’t expect it, and advice selflessly. I would find it to be very difficult for to have had any level of success without his help.

Admittedly, it wasn’t easy. I had a few more cheat meals than the plan allowed. But I’m just human, and I love food. I still tried the best I could and the results have been pretty amazing.

For example, the plan had you doing cardio 3x per week for 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes are broken into intervals based on personal intensity level. So, minutes 0-1 are at whatever a level 5 intensity is, minute 2 is 6 intensity, minute 3 is 7 intensity, minute 4 is 8 intensity, minute 5 is 9 intensity. Then it drops back down to 6 intensity and repeats the intervals. It does it again. Then, on the fourth round of intervals, a level 10 intensity is added for one minute, and the final minute is a cool-down minute to bring the heart back down. Then you’re done. I detailed all that because I want to share where I started and where I was this morning on my run. I do all of my cardio on the treadmill I have in my garage, so I get a nice controlled environment for my run.

10/15 was my very first cardio day on the plan. My intensities were: (5) 3.8 mph; (6) 4.3 mph; (7) 5 mph; (8) 5.5 mph; (9) 6 mph; (10) 7.5 mph. I hit my first mile at 11:10, and I covered 1.7 miles, running a pace of 11:45.

I ran this morning: (5) 5.3 mph; (6) 6 mph; (7) 6.7 mph; (8) 7.3 mph; (9) 7.8 mph; (10) 8.6 mph. I hit the first mile in 9:09, and I covered 2.28 miles. I ran a pace of about 8:45.

The numbers don’t lie. I’m running my first 5k this month, too. I’ve had great gains in my weight training too, but those are a little less dramatic than that cardio info. The lowest I saw my weight drop was down to 176#. I almost fainted because that’s the lowest number I’ve seen since at least 2004. Then it jumped back up and is hovering around 183# right now. Something I’m not too terribly worried about. I *did* hit some rough patches during this time, causing me to re-do 2 weeks of the challenge since I got sick. Twice. It was miserable. Not to mention, it was Christmas and I was all hopped up on meds and such.

Why am I putting all this out in the world? It’s because I’m proud of what I’m doing right now. I recognized where I needed to improve and I feel really great about where I am right now. Having a great support system has also been priceless. Also: you don’t need to wait for the new year to make changes in your life. Sure, everyone has that goal, or that resolution to make a change, but if you want it so bad, just go out there and do it. I’m going to keep pushing harder and harder until I reach my goal. And then I’m gonna keep pushing. I know where I’d like to end up by the end of the year, and I have a whole year to work on it. I’m excited to see when I get there.

I’m going to try to keep the blog going as much as I can this year since it’s easier than filming and editing the videos on YouTube. Ultimately, I would prefer to do those, but time being what it is, I don’t know how often that will happen. So, if you happen to see a new video post to my TastyTechniques channel on YouTube, cherish it, because I won’t know when the next one will come out.

I’m also going to be purchasing an exciting food cookery tool at the end of month that I think is going to change my life, no kidding. I look forward to sharing the recipes and techniques with you in 2014!

Thanks for reading, subscribing, or whatever it is you do to read this. I know this post was a little different, and a little exposing, but I just like to keep things honest.

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Sometimes, Things Just Go Well

I think the title of this post really says it all. Also, I’m going to go ahead and throw in a *long post warning* since I know that’s inevitably what’s going to happen.

Clearly this post is about Thanksgiving, because what kind of food blogger would I be if I didn’t write about how my holiday went? I’ll go ahead and just jump right in to the pieces one by one and go through it like that.

The Turkey. Was awesome. I had a 12-pounder, took the backbone out on Tuesday night, salted it well and stored it in my fridge, on a rack on a sheet tray. I even made my turkey stock on Tuesday night. This was a prep-step I took to cut down on things I needed to do later, besides, I already had the neck, and now I had a back bone to work with too. I seared the turkey parts in some oil, added some mire poix (onion, carrot, celery) along with some thyme and bay, gave those a little color and then added in my (admittedly already very good) chicken stock and let it simmer for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half. I blasted the turkey in the oven at 450 on Thanksgiving day, and the result was a turkey that was done in less than 80 minutes. I had to put that in bold so you got the full gravity of what I just said. Traditionally, a turkey that size would take upwards of, what, 2-3 hours to cook? Then you’re left with bone-dry breast meat, and leg meat that’s cooked through. Not so this time, friends. My breast meat and thigh meat was done at the same time, cooked perfectly, and beautifully browned. In fact, it looked something like this:

Turkey2013I mean, just LOOK at that! Perfectly browned from edge to edge. And the gravy, oh, the gravy. Since my stock was already done, all I needed to do was make a quick roux and add the stock. The result was one of the most delicious gravies I think I’ve ever had. Certainly the best one I’ve made. It had a great depth of flavor, vegetal, meaty goodness. Complemented the meat and stuffing very well.

Speaking of which, the stuff/dressing/bread pudding. These also turned out very well. I cut up the bread a few days ahead of time, let it stale, dried it out in the oven and made the custard. Loaded the pudding up with mushrooms, fennel, onions, and celery. Stuffed handfuls of the bread mix into a well-greased muffin tin (so it IS stuffing) and baked until golden. I did that part on Tuesday night. I almost wish I would have saved that step for Thursday morning because in the tin, the breads puffed up while baking and formed nice rounded tops (like muffins)… but then deflated after removing from the oven. It would have been a nice, dramatic presentation, but alas that did not happen. What did happen was a perfectly executed side dish that was slightly crisp on the outside and creamy on the side. And with the gravy? Oye. It was so darn good.

Green bean casserole. It was, admittedly, my favorite part of the meal. Going the extra mile to make my own crispy shallot topping was the best thing I could have done. The beans still had some snap to them, the creamy base was deliciously rich, and also loaded with some of those crispy shallots. Then topped with a bunch more of the shallots, it was fantastic. Rich, creamy, and just the slightest hint at healthy because of all the beans and mushrooms involved. It was not healthy in the slightest. Things in casserole form don’t typically make great photos, and this one was no exception, but for the record, it looked like this: beans2013Mmmm crispy goodness.

Macaroni and cheese made an appearance at Thanksgiving this year, and everyone rejoiced. Though the final product did not come out quite as creamy as I would have liked, it DID taste very good and got Mrs. Lethal’s stamp of approval and that’s all that matters. My marriage is saved for another year :)  It had a very pronounced cheddar flavor, thanks to that delicious cheese I got at Whole Foods from Wisconsin. I also spiked it with some of that aged Asiago I bought. And then added more of that asiago to the panko topping for extra crispy, cheesy goodness. The asiago added a pleasant… funk to the dish that really set it off. It’s pretty incredible what can happen to a simple dish when you take the time to do it right, and use high quality ingredients. I think that’s pretty much my mantra as a cook. Use the best ingredients you can and you already start one step ahead.

mac2013Obligatory food porn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cranberries…were a band that was popular in the 90′s. Also, something I made. This is one item that did not quite turn out how I would have liked, but it was still okay. I added a bit too much orange juice to the mix and that kind of over-powered the whole thing. Also, my molding idea didn’t quite turn out how I would have liked. I put the hot mix into an empty can, and let it gel in there, which it did. I turned it out on Thanksgiving, and it stayed together! …Until I started putting my knife through it, then it just turned to mush. So I served it in a big pile. Not quite what I had imagined. So, next time, less orange juice, and maybe add some extra pectin to the cook portion to really get it to set in the can.

Sweet potatoes! They were awesome! I can’t wait to make marshmallows again because I learned a lot from this time. I think I over-whipped my egg whites and they deflated a little, which caused the end product to not be as fluffy as I would have liked. Also, when heated, the bottoms got a little soggy, and nobody likes a soggy bottom. All that aside, the dish was awesome. So very good. The extra punch from the rum in the marshmallow worked so well with the dish as a whole. And the slight burned flavor from the sugar caramelizing in the mallow, oh man it was good. That’s definitely a keeper.

The pumpkin chiffon pie was divine as well. Sure, it never made it to a camera, but it was light, and fluffy, and airy, and pumpkin-y, and rummy, and mmmmmm. Even my wife liked it, and she doesn’t like pumpkin! I topped it with rum-spiked whipped cream, which, I will admit I added a touch too much rum in the cream (yes, there is such a thing.) It was a little boozy, and took just a little bit away from the whole experience. BUT! The experience was still luxurious and tasty. When I read the recipe, the whole thing didn’t make sense to me. However, in making it, a light bulb went off in my head and it occurred to me that I was basically making pumpkin mousse, the same way one would make a chocolate mousse …sans chocolate.

Honorable mention goes to the dinner rolls. They kinda, well… sucked. I will admit defeat on the rolls. They were’t terrible, but I could have done a lot better. I made them on Sunday night, and froze them in ball form, which is allowed. And then thawed them on Thanksgiving and cooked ‘em. Not great. Next time, I’ll just do it all on the morning of, and save myself the disappointment.

And finally, I would just like to add that my goal time to have everything done and ready to eat was 3:00p. We ate at 3:15p. That is the closest I have ever been to serving a meal at the exact time I wanted and I was proud. Not to mention there was time that morning for me to do some cardio, eat some breakfast, and even have a little time to relax here and there. It’s amazing what a few years in culinary school will do to help one plan a big meal like that. I was even cleaning as I went, which resulted in a relative few number of dishes to wash after all was said and done.

Despite how well it went, and the week of prep, I was still exhausted. I slept like a baby that night. A very well-fed and happy baby.

 

 

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Look In My Window

The week of Thanksgiving is really a herald to proper planning and organization. You can ask my wife, I’ve got a notebook full of my shopping list, ingredients, recipes, and most importantly: my game plan. I like to think of the week leading up to Thanksgiving as a challenge of timings and preparedness. So, here’s where I’m at thus far, being that it’s Monday evening.

Saturday: I did all my grocery shopping, and I was out for several hours. Part of it was horrible because of people. But it was mostly successful. I think I only forgot one thing, which for me is a miracle. I made a mental note of where everything is in my pantry and made my dinner roll dough that I forgot to mention on my previous post. I froze the dough and it will come to room temp on Thursday morning.

Sunday: I made my cranberry sauce, and most notably my marshmallow. It was the first marshmallow I’ve ever made and I think I already know how to improve it for next time. Anyway, it is still fantastic, reeks of rum (in a good way) and will taste fantastic on my sweet potato casserole. Or just plain. They’re really good. I also cut up my bread for my stuffin…dressin…. ugh. whatever you call it. Bread Pudding muffin things. Medium-ish dice on the bread, and left the crust on to keep things interesting. The maple cashews were also done this day. Admittedly, I over-roasted the nuts a little, but with the brown sugar-maple glaze and the salt combined really add a trifecta of flavor that I really enjoy (the third flavor being semi-bitter since the nuts were a little…brown.) Knives were also sharpened, because going into Thanksgiving (or any day, for that matter) with dull knives is a huge no-no. I also took the time to clean up after myself because… that’s just the type of guy that I am.

Tonight: The only things on the plan for tonight are to stale my bread, which really is just me opening the plastic bag the pieces are in overnight. And also to fry my shallots for the green bean topping. This doesn’t seem like much, but I’ve got to mow through 1# of shallots, peeling some of the largest shallots I’ve ever purchased and then (CAREFULLY!!) running them through my mandoline slicer. Fun side note: I purchased a cut-resistant glove to wear when I use my mandolin because I have a bad habit of wanting bits of my flesh in my food, apparently. It works like a charm and keeps all my digits in tact while I slice away. There will undoubtedly be pics loaded up to Instagram tonight, so if you follow me, you’ve been warned.

That’s it for now. I’ve got my plan for the next few days all lined up so I’ll be sharing those as the days pass.

Allons-y!

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Thanks for Giving, Twenty-Thirteen

You may not be aware of this, but the Thanksgiving holiday is quite literally right around the corner for us Americans. If you’re American, and reading this, and you did not know there’s only a handful of days left until arguably the best holiday of the year, you definitely need to get your head checked. And also go buy a turkey.

Due to some recent changes in my real life, my lovely wife and I are hosting our parents this year. A lot has changed since the last time I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner, and this year will be even better than the last (which was two years ago, if I recall correctly (not making any promises on that.)) I was thinking about doing a “This year vs. last year” sort of write-up. I have decided against that. Maybe.

My menu this year consists of the following items, each with a little description to entice you into wishing you could somehow be married into my family. Unless you’re part of my family that will be joining us, in which case…Spoiler alert!

I’m starting out with deviled eggs. A bit old fashioned I know, but very very tasty. Since the last time, I’ve acquired a food processor, so my yolk mixture will be as creamy and dreamy as possible. Garnished with some super high quality extra virgin olive oil, some bacon crumbles, and a sprinkling of chives, I may fill up on these before the actual meal begins.

Alongside the eggs, I’m going to have maple-roasted cashews. These will be a nice sweet and crunchy alternative to the eggs, and will be a great thing to grab a handful of when walking from one room to the next. Lucky for me, I’ve got connections in Vermont, so I’ve got the real deal maple syrup for these which will add that extra little touch. That’s it for appetizer-related items.

What kind of Thanksgiving would it be without the turkeyFor the first year in my life, I’ve gone right to the source and picked up a turkey from the farm. Yes, you read that right. I’ve picked up a Midget White breed turkey in the 12# range and I am very excited about it. It’s presently defrosting in my fridge, awaiting surgery this Tuesday. You see, I’m going to be spatchcocking this bird. And while that totally sounds like a euphemism, I can assure you it is not. It simply means to remove the backbone so the bird lays flat. In doing this, it gives me a backbone to use and fortify my stock, and it also ensures more even cooking in about half the time. All of the meat will be done at the same time, and I’ll have crispy skin all around. Since I’m using a high-quality bird, I have forgone the wet brine that I usually am a spokesperson for. Instead, I will be dry brining, which really is just rubbing salt all over the bird on Tuesday night and letting it sit, lightly covered in the fridge to allow the salt to penetrate the meat. I don’t want to introduce any other flavors other than turkey….and gravy.

Alongside the turkey, I will be making a homemade green bean casserole. I did this one last time and it worked out phenomenally. I’m going to be using a different method/technique/recipe this year, but I have no doubt that it will be even more delicious. The key is to use the highest quality stock you can find. In my case, I have a freezer full of about 2 gallons worth of stock. Not everyone is that lucky, and I would recommend Swanson’s cooking stock, low sodium (Not sponsored, but I’m here if they want me.) If you go the store-bought route, do this to enhance it: Buy more than you think you’ll need. Put it all in a pot, along with some thyme, maybe some bay, chicken or turkey parts if you have them, and any onions/garlic/celery/carrots you may have laying around. Let it simmer for about an hour or so and you’ll have a much better product. If you wanna get super fancy, throw a packet of gelatin (unflavored, please) in there and make it even better. I’ll be frying up shallots for my crispy topping for the finishing, too. I’ll be making extra to snack on as well.

Macaroni and cheese. I could almost believe my wife would divorce me if I didn’t include mac n cheese at the dinner table. My MNC last time was decent, but not great. I’ve learned much since that time. Like, use more sauce than you think you need. And, don’t overcook your noodles. And, use high quality cheese. I’ve gotten a very nice sharp cheddar that was made in Wisconsin, and a great little aged asiago to add just a touch of funk. I’ll also toss some of the asiago with panko for the topping to give it that extra little punch.

I’m really super excited about the sweet potato casserole I’m making, too. The dish itself will really be pretty straight-forward, BUT, for the marshmallow topping, I’m making my own spiced rum marshmallow. Wipe the tears out of your eyes, because I know that sounds like a thing of beauty. In fact, I’m making the marshmallow today. It’s really a pretty easy process, just meticulous. And if you’ve never had real homemade marshmallows, they’re like OMG, and WTF, and LOL, and … just mountains better than store-bought. And I know everyone always says “X thing homemade is way better than X store-bought) but in all honesty, that’s not always the case. I’ll get off my soap box now.

It is said that a stuffing that isn’t actually stuffing is called dressing. Which I think is stupid because dressing is something you do when you’re naked, or something you put on a salad. Who am I to argue with decades of food-lore though? I’m making mine with a store-bought Italian loaf, plenty of mushrooms and fennel among other flavorings in the custard. And I think I’m going to bake it in my muffin tin so each guest can have an individual portion already made out for them. Handy dandy!

Cranberries are usually an after-thought, but I don’t think they should be. Now, my parents have special-requested canned cranberry jelly. Which I keep telling myself is fine. I’m still gonna make my homemade version because I bought a bunch of cranberries and I need to use them. I’ll at least eat it.

Dessert! I’m making a pumpkin chiffon pie with dark rum whipped cream. Don’t drool on your keyboard, you’ll ruin it. Chiffon cakes and pies use whipped egg whites to make them light and airy and I can’t wait to dig into this. That’s all I gotta say about that. We’re also gonna have another dessert available, but we haven’t decided what that will be.

And I’ll be making a brandy-apple punch to keep things interesting while we dine.

And that’s it for now. You should totally follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/imasamurai, simply because it will be easier for me to flood pics on that site than to write a blog about it. And maybe some of those pics will make it into a blog after the holiday, but for all your food-porn related needs, check me out on instagram if you don’t already. Don’t be turned off by the “other” pics I have on there of me, cats, dogs, or beer.

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Changes Coming to Tasty Techniques

Well internet, we meet again.  It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, which seems to be the norm these days, but there’s something else.  Maybe if you’ve noticed, I didn’t post a companion for the chicken stock video…and I probably won’t post a companion for the chicken pot pie video that just got uploaded.

You see, when I started Tasty Techniques, things were a little simpler, I was getting home from school at a decent hour and getting a fair amount of rest at night.  Then the semester changed.  Now I’m not one to make excuses, but with the new term meant new schedule… meaning I now get out of school at about 11:30p.  Then I wake up at around 5:15a-ish to go to work.  You don’t have to be a math genius to see that my rest amount had been cut dramatically.  The free time I have now is far less than the amount I had 6 weeks ago.  And I love doing Tasty Techniques.  I absolutely do, but in order for there to be a balance I need to make some changes.  And I care about my viewers and readers, so I want to be as forthcoming and honest with you as I can.

First, the companion pieces will be gone.  Well, for now.  I’ll try to keep up with regular posts more though, since they tend to be a little more interesting.

Second, and this is the big one…Tasty Techniques is going to become a bi-weekly show.  I can’t do it.  For instance, this last video I shot on Sunday night, ending at about 12:30a or so… and spent most of my day off on Monday editing it to much frustration.  Then I had technical difficulties which pushed back the upload to today.  I don’t want the process to feel like a job, and it was bordering that line, and I hate that.  I love cooking and I love what I’m doing on YouTube so I want to make sure I keep the integrity of the product for you guys.  Maybe as time changes I’ll get some more free time.  If that happens, I’ll re-evaluate the frequency in which I post.  But for now, I need to cut back.  For my own sanity.  I hope you understand, but if I keep it weekly, the quality will suffer, especially with these monster-length videos I’ve been posting.

And then… to piggyback on that last point.  Maybe after I see what my workload is with the show going bi-weekly I’ll look at doing companion posts again.  My goal however is to always have a show in my pocket…always staying a week ahead when I can, and I haven’t been able to do that.

So, there we are.  A little bit of a personal post today, but I need this.  The last thing I want is for Tasty Techniques to fall by the wayside.  I will continue to put my heart into it, and keep spreading the word just like I have been, it will just appear less often.

I do want to thank you dearly for reading my blog and watching my show.  It means a lot to me to see the support I get from all you guys.  I just need to try to convince another 100k people that they need some Tasty Techniques in their life :)

Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll see you soon.

-Jonathan

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Companion: Burger Time!

This was one of the most fun episodes I’ve filmed to date.  Mostly because I love making French fries… but probably because I was still hopped up on cold medicine.  Despite that, I want to try to keep this post on the shorter side since the video itself had A LOT of content.

First, it’s tough to determine how much content actually makes it into the videos.  I film for X amount of time with the hopes that I can edit it down to somewhere in the neighborhood of about 10 minutes.  We all see how that worked out this time.  Oh well.  Probably one of my most informative posts to date.

Let’s talk meat.  I used a pre-ground ground chuck from the grocer.  If I am making burgers for more than just my wife and I, I will use a combo of ground chuck and ground sirloin, equal parts.  The chuck adds the fat, while the sirloin adds flavor.  I then weigh out my patties to equal sizes and go from there.  Work quickly with the meat since the heat from your hands can make it kinda… gummy, if you’re not careful.  And don’t abuse it.  The meat did nothing wrong to you, so don’t take your anger out on it.

Cheese.  I used American cheese because it melts very well in the burger.  I’ve used blue cheese and gouda.  Gouda is fun because it gets really melty and turns the eating portion into more of an adventure.  Try to pick a good melting cheese, and you don’t have to use a ton.  Perception is key here because even though I only used one slice per burger, it seems like so much more since it is oozing instead of sitting on top the meat.

The fries.  If you have never deep fried anything before, my greatest tip I can give you is to take your time.  Do it right the first time.  Make sure you have your station all set up to begin with so you’re not flailing around at the last minute.  Properly deep-fried food is not greasy and can almost be light and fun to eat.  That is not something people typically think of when eating fried food, but I think that’s because there’s a ton of badly fried foods in the world.  The bubbles around the food in the oil is an indicator that the interior moisture is escaping.  As long as the bubbles are … bubbling… oil doesn’t really stand a chance of entering the food, and when taken out at the right time..  it’s not oily or greasy.  Just crispy and delicious.

The bacon.  Yeah, I’m giving bacon its own paragraph.  Does that really surprise you?  I used one of my homemade bacons.  It was my thyme-garlic bacon and it really added a lot to the burger.  This batch of bacon is particularly salty, but on the burger, that kind of melts into the whole flavor of everything and worked well.  I was very happy with the outcome of this and was happy to eat it as well.

Toppings.  I sliced relatively thin some red onion, which I left raw, and that large tomato.  You know what else is awesome on these babies?  Those caramelized onions from a few episodes ago.  You should look that up.  And then put them on your burger. Soooo good.  I did not do that.  I also put a small layer of mayo on the bottom bun, and some ketchup on top.  Typically, I toast my hamburger buns on the residual heat of the grill, but I opted out of that at the filming time since… well, you could see that it was crazy dark outside.

I would also like to thank my neighbors for not driving by my house with their loud cars or trucks when I was filming.  But who am I really kidding?  They don’t read this crazy thing :)  I need to address the very end, too.  I know I mentioned that I would show the interior of the burger, but after I took that bite, it seriously looked like a car crash in there, and that would not look good on camera.  Ketchup all over the place, juice dripping, tomato guts strewn about.  It’s wasn’t pretty.  But it tasted good, and that’s what matters.

Need the link?  Who am I to disappoint?

See you next week!

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Culinary Catch-Up.

Well, I figure since I am too ill to produce a video today, I will at least update the blog.  I realize that most of my energy has gone into the YouTube channel, but I hope you are all enjoying it as much as I am.  It’s really been a lot of fun so far thinking of things to teach, and the best ways to cram it into a short video.

That being said, school has been taking up a lot of my time and it’s about to get a lot worse. By worse, I mean for my free-time, not for my actual life.  I just finished a term where I was in Cuisines Across Cultures, which is exactly what it sounds like.  It really opened my eyes to many different cuisines from around the world, and the different grains and things other regions eat.  It’s already changed the way I shop for food since I have purchased different kinds of flours, both kinds of couscous, quinoa and other things and stuff.  It’s exciting to try these new things and it’s fun to eat something different other than rice or potato.

I’m sure I’ll cover couscous in a video coming up because it’s a great grain, cooks quick and sops up flavors very nicely.  Quinoa is another one.  Slightly harder to find, but it’s one of the few grains that’s actually a complete protein, that is:  a protein that includes all 17 of the essential amino acids… You could technically live off of quinoa, not that you’d want to though.

I will take this time right now to fill you in on my practical exam from the last class, since I was freaking out over it for weeks, and I happened to do quite well.  We had to pull a secret ingredient out of a hat on Tuesday, then make a menu that included that ingredient three different ways on three different plates from three different cultures.  Catch all that?  My head was spinning too.  Nobody knew what sorts of ingredients we would be given.  I drew potatoes.  Now, at first glance, I was excited… But as I delved deep into the recesses of internet recipes, I realized it was gonna be a little harder than I thought.  BUT!  I persevered and created three dishes representing those three regions.

First, I made vichyssoise.  It’s a potato and leek soup that’s served cold.  Not very difficult, but it’s all about technique to make sure the flavor is right.  Being that it’s cold, you have to over-season it while it is warm because the cold deadens your palate a little bit.  Mine was a little too thick, which I knew but didn’t have time to fix.  The chef told me that it was “damn good” with the exception of it being a touch too thick.  It really did have a great flavor, and of the 4 or 5 times I have made this soup, this was hands-down the best.  In fact, this soup didn’t even compare to the other ones I made.  I was happy.

My second plate represented Ireland where I made a boxty…it’s a potato flatbread, that gets cooked like a pancake.  In fact, it looks like a pancake, but it’s formed into a dough, not a batter.  I minced up some scallions and put them in there.  I served that with a grilled flank steak and grilled carrots.  The bread had really good flavor, the steak was cooked beautifully and I was particularly proud of my carrots.  I cut them into rectangle shingles and blanched them in boiling water to cook them through… then grilled them right before serving to heat them back up, and give them nice grill marks.  I’ll use that technique again. Here’s the kicker though…my chef only ate the boxty.  He commented on the steak and carrots and how they were cooked nicely and presented well, but only ate the bread and graded me.  Oh well.  I got a good grade so that’s all that matters.

Finally, I made gnocchi with shrimp in brown butter sauce, representing Italy.  This was my first time making gnocchi ever.  I had to make it from memory.  I did well :)  My only problem was that after I boiled them to cook them, I sauteed them in butter to crisp them up a little bit, but left them on the heat just a bit too long.  One side of most of the dumplings were at least slightly burnt.  I would say that this was my least successful dish, but that’s not to say it was bad necessarily.  I nailed the technique, just overcooked them a bit.  I plan on doing these in a video in the future since they are much easier to make than I thought, and they freeze well… So you can spend an hour making the dough and rolling them out, freeze them, and then in the future all you have to do it boil them and they’re good to go.

Did I mention that I only had 2 hours to do all of this?  Did I also mention that it had to all be from memory?  Yeah, I think I may have forgotten about that.  Regardless, my freaking-out for the weeks was simply over-reacting since I exceeded my own expectations and was left with some really good food to eat that night.  I then proceeded to come home and drink a few beers to calm my nerves.

Now I am moving into Wine and Beverage and Contemporary Cuisine classes.  In the former, we have no fewer than 3 or 4 tastings (of both wine and beer), and the latter… well in the latter we don’t use any animal proteins and we’re basically stuck with vegetarian, vegan and “other” types of food.  It will be interesting enough I suppose, but I’m just not that excited about it.  Hopefully my mind will be changed in a few weeks.

So that’s it for now.  Please keep an eye on my YouTube channel and continue to spread the word if you can.  The more people watch it, the more I am excited to continue doing it and trying new things.  On the horizon I’ve got stuffed hamburgers, homemade french fries and grilled pizza.  Just to give you a little teaser :)

Stay positive, love your life and play with your food.
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