Tuesday, December 25, 2007

School Update Weeks 3 - 5

The ServSafe exam went well. There are only two questions that I feel iffy about out of 90. I will get the results on the 27th. I also received my Magmt certificate. Yea for me! And now we are into the basics of cooking. It is an intense amount of material to cover in a short period of time. We cover as many as three chapters in one session. Uggghhh...

The flu made it's presence known the last week of classes. I made it through Monday's class, no problem. Tuesday was a different matter. Bleh! So, I missed three days due to illness but maintained email contact with my instructor who assured me that even with the three missed days I was still in the 90% for my grade. Mom picked up my uniforms for me on Wednesday. We got them early so that we can press and hem them in preparation for going to Poverello House on the 15th of January. As a class, we will be preparing upwards of 800 meals in the Poverello kitchen to be served to the homeless that day. We will get to draw duties and go over the menu the day before.

Tht's all for now...


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Week 2 - Parasites, viruses, and bacteria, oh, my!

We finished our Management/Supervisory unit this week. The final for this section was written by the American Culinary Federation as a Certification Final. Once passed you would receive a certificate for a 30 hour Hospitality Supervisory course. We took our final on Wednesday and everyone in class did really well. I got the best grade in the class at 98%. Pretty cool!

We pounded some chests on Thursday (CPR) and earned a HeartSaver certificate. Now we are into our ServSafe unit. Parasites, microbes, and viruses, oh, my! :o) All sorts of wonderful information about bodily fluids, toxins, and bacterias! Whoo-hoo!

We will finish that unit on Wednesday or Thursday. Too sleepy to remember at this moment. I hope life is going well for all of you out there.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Culinary School - Week One

Day One - Overview of what to wear, what not to wear. No jewelery except a plain wedding band (only exception is a medic alert necklace that can be tucked under your shirt. I put my wedding ring on it also.) We will receive one uniform before we break for Christmas and the other our last week of Mod One. Our knife kit and towels will be handed out the first week of Mod Two.

The first Module is Concepts of the Culinary Industry. Supervising and Leadership, Kitchen Math, CPR, ServSafe, and Interviewing chefs from different aspects of the food industry are all things we will cover in the first mod. Each Mod is 5 weeks. The Culinary Arts Specialist is 7 months long. The Culinary Arts Professional, the program I am taking, is 15 months total. The last 8 months are covering specific types of cuisine with the last mod being an externship.

Fannie Farmer

Life was complicated by health problems for Fannie Farmer but with perseverance and encouragement from her family she overcame them.

Fannie was born in 1857 to a middle class family in Boston, Massachusetts. The eldest of four daughters, education was prized in Miss Farmer’s home. Fannie attended high school and graduated at the age of 16 years old. Shortly after her graduation she suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed. Unable to walk, her doctor’s discouraged her from finishing her formal education.

She remained in her parent’s home where her intelligence and creativity found an outlet in the kitchen. She became a mother’s helper and eventually regained her ability to walk.

At the age of 30, her parents encouraged her to attend cooking school. Fannie enrolled at Boston Cooking School. BCS taught more the theory of cooking rather than the actual practice of cooking.

Fannie excelled at her studies, including taking summer courses at Harvard Medical School, and graduated in 1889. She was then invited to stay on as assistant director at Boston Cooking School eventually taking over the head directorship in 1894. Fannie published the Boston Cooking School Cook Book in 1896, giving the cooking world a much needed update. Previous cookbooks had used measurement amounts such as “…a piece of butter the size of an egg” or “a teacup of milk”. Her update gave us more standardized measurements of level cups and level teaspoons so that recipes would turn out with more consistency.

The BCS Cook Book covered recipes from basic milk toast to more classical items including Zigaras a la Russe, an elegant puff-pastry dish. Also included were articles on housekeeping, nutritional information and drying and preserving foods. The book eventually became known simply as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

In 1902, Fannie left the Boston Cooking School and started Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery. The new schools focus was on the average American homemaker. Fannie began by teaching the basics of ‘plain and fancy’ cooking but eventually was led into developing better cooking styles for the ill. She eventually published her work in a second cookbook, entitled “Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent.”

Miss Farmer advocated the necessity of attractive and well made food for the ill, understanding better than most that good tasting, attractive and nutritious food was an important part of the healing process.

Her influence was felt far and wide. She was published in newspapers and a national magazine, entitled Women’s Home Companion. She was also invited to lecture at Harvard Medical School and taught doctors and nurses about nutrition and diet for their patients.

Fannie Farmer was creative and innovative; truly a woman ahead of her time. Sadly, her life was cut short at the age of 57. Her impact on the world of cooking and nutrition for the sick and convalescing, however, is not forgotten.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity, Jig...

Y'all, probably thought I had forgotten you, huh? Mmmm, not quite! I came back home from Sacburg and promptly went into T-day countdown. We turned the parlor into the dining room and the living room/dining room combo into one big great room/family room. In attendance were Mom, Jimi(DH), Andrew(DS) and myself. My father and stepmom came over and brought games and goodies, my sister and her infant grandboy, Austin came over. His mommy, Shemia, suprised us around 11 a.m. or so. We thought she had ship duty on Tday and weren't expecting her until late Thursday. She is in the Navy stationed in San Diego. My nephew, Jason, and my niece, Alicia, were there later in the day as well as Alicia's friend, Natasha. So, quite a family day was had by all.
Lots of eating and fun...

Our menu consisted of:
Appetizers -
Served from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm
Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Cheddar-Mushroom Spread
Apricot Glazed Meatballs
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Lil' Smokies

Main Meal
Served at 6:30 pm
Turkey Roasted with Sage and Butter
Sausage and Sage Stuffing with Apples and Cranberries
Green Bean Casserole
Southwestern Scalloped Corn
All the usual victims
Rum Baked Cranberries and Apricots

Friday, November 9, 2007

Good Old Sacramento

I am in Sacramento visiting my niece, LusciousChica for the weekend. Sacramento may not seem like a big deal to y'all but it has some definite sentiment for me.

I grew up here in the good ole 60's and 70's. Lived in a nice little yellow house with white trim. My best friends lived two houses down and across the street from me. Brenda and Kim. Tomorrow I am going to drive to the old neighborhood, maybe take a couple pictures for my walk down memory lane.

Go visit a few touristy things, run some errands wih LusciousChica, play Scrabble, maybe a couple other games. Maybe meet some of her friends. Just hanging until my DH flies in Tuesday morning.

In the meantime, here are a couple of pictures to tide you over. The dog is Olive, a doggy friend of LC's. The ships, well just looked cool as I was driving over a bridge. The lantern looked cool, also.


Safety Is as Safety Does

On her blog, Stepping asked, "What makes you feel safe?" It started me thinking about a few incidents in my life. A purse-snatching, a robbery at gunpoint, those were actual events that made me change the way I do things. I latch my purse into the grocery cart with the child safety belt or put it in the bottom of the cart covered by other items. I do my best to stay aware of my surroundings due to the robbery. Funny thing is...every other safety 'check' I do is because of what happens to others. Multiple friends being raped, houses being broken into, robbed and vandalized, general apathy of the 'criminal' element not caring about anyone else's safety.

It occurs to me that when I feel the safest my guard is down. So, doesn't that defeat the purpose of acting in a safe manner? Unsafe safeness? A conundrum, to be sure! Hmmm, too existentialist for my own good...

Wrapping my self in a cocoon so no one can get to me and I can be truly safe...but then isolated...is there no in between?

So Over Breakfast...

Me: Hey, honey....who are the Toastmasters?


DH: Well, they are...uh, people who have mastered the art of crisping bread...


Yes, indeed, that is what I get to wake up with, willingly, people! I absolutely adore my hubby and his sense of humor. He then proceeded dazzle me by giving me the true definition of a Toastmaster.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Amazingly Creative....

Check out both the Animator vs. Animation videos.

Animator vs. Animation by *alanbecker on deviantART

Animator vs. Animation II by *alanbecker on deviantART

For more creativity, go here: http://alanbecker.deviantart.com/gallery/

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Do YOU Know the Way to San Jose?

Flowers at the hotel... and a visit to Fry's. I love Fry's! They have everything but lasagne there. When I get it I will post a picture of the front of the store. A veritable Indy Jones adventure walking into that place. :)

UPDATE: Sadly enough I didn't get a picture of the front of the store. I am so sorry to dissapoint you. :(

Saturday, November 3, 2007

One Person's Success is Another's Excuse or....

it's all in our perspective.

We all make choices. That's how we learn ~ our mistakes and experiences conspire to teach us a lesson. Hopefully, if we are open to it, we see/find/act on what we need to learn. Every person defines these lessons for themselves. For some it might be as simple as failing a test or getting a bad review at work. Others might need more drastic spankings like a divorce, or loss of a job. For some the lesson never comes.

I am learning a lesson in perseverance right now. How to stick with/to something even when it gets difficult or life throws a curveball. Curveballs typically make me freeze up. Knowing my propensity for freezing up, I am 'reliving' some of those more infamous moments and analyzing them. Hoping that on the other end I will find some solutions, alternatives to running when things get difficult.

Hmmm, more deep thought later.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Merry Halloween

Beware the ferocious child eating spider...

Mom and Wench committing Halloween hary cary on pumpkins.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NaBloPoMo...No Problemo ~ Day One

The spotlight sits glaring at the mic stand as the nervous woman steps up warily... {tap, tap, tap} Is this thing on? Um, hello, can you hear me? Anyone?... My name is Tamara, my nickname is Wench (along with several variations like RiceWenchie and QueenWench). So, this is quite intimidating... the thought of HAVING to do something EVERY day for a month, well it's just outright....scary. I am not one for routine. As a matter of fact, I go out of my way to avoid a schedule of any kind. The whole marriage thing is not a problem because it includes sex and money. If only it was all that easily defined. Hehe.

I realize that it is going to take a while for me to find my voice here. No one reads right now but I am still going to do this for myself and hopefully gain an "audience" along the way. :)

The laundry list of Tamara:

1. I am married to a first generation American, full-blood Scotsman.

2. I love to cook and be cooked for.

3. I collect recipes and recipe books.

4. My husband and I met at The Blue Moon tavern in Seattle, Washington twenty years ago.

5. I love taking pictures.

6. I love my doggy, Olivia, a rat-chi.

7. I am starting culinary school the Monday after Thanksgiving.

8. I am a people pleaser that is trying to learn how to stand on my own.

9. I LOVE to shop.

8. I hate to shop for clothes.

9. My favorite stores are Sur La Table, Williams Sonoma, and farmer's markets and craft fairs.

10. I have an 18 year old son who loves anime, heavy metal, writing, movies, and has Aspergers Syndrome.

11. I have a 14 (15 on Nov. 20)year old daughter who loves CSI (all of them), Law & Order: SVU, and X-Files. She was Mulder and Scully's love child for Halloween last year.

The End

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mwahahaha, Happy All Hallow's Eve!

Hello, Friends

I have discovered a renewed love of Halloween. I spent a better part of the day decorating my front yard, arranging one ghoulish display after another, planning for the maximum effect of scary and yet fun. My mom carved three pumpkins, I carved one. We created an arch with lots of lights and spiderwebs. A huge spider took over the swing, contained only by caution tape and regular feeding of little kids. Hehe... We installed black lights in the outdoor lamps and lit tiki torches in the garden. Orange and purple string lights draped through the bushes and flowers gave an eerie look to the yard. What fun...

I will post pictures in the morning.

Beuno Nuit, Avec Amour

Monday, October 22, 2007

To Soup or Not To Soup

My hubby was sick a couple days ago, nasty cold, cough, cough, ahhhhchoo. One of his favorite soups is Beef Barley Soup. And canned soup is just not good enough for my man...so, off to the store I went for beef, barley and veggies.

Here is my creation:

Jimi's Manly Beef & Barley Soup

1 cup barley, uncooked
4 cups water

Olive oil
2 1/2 lbs stew meat, cut in 1/4 cubes (approx)
1/4 c flour
salt & pepper, to taste
3 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 small minced onion
10 to 12 cups beef broth
1 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
4 c. assorted frozen veggies (peas, carrots, green beans)

1. Put barley and water in a pan and bring to boil, allow to boil for approx 30 minutes.

2. While barley is cooking, dice stew meat into small bite size pieces. Toss with flour, salt and pepper.

3. In a dutch oven, heat olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes; then add the flour-coated stew meat until stir til nicely brown.

4. Drain barley and set aside.

5. Add beef broth, veggies, spices and barley. Simmer for 45 minutes.

This was a quite tasty and quickly prepared soup. Next time I am going to roast fresh veggies and meat to add a more caramelized rich flavor.

Bon Appetit

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Splash of Vodka Here, A Pat of Butter There

In anticipation of beginning culinary school on Nov. 26th, I have been ferreting out new kitchen adventures. Reading blogs where no blog has been read before...mmm, yea. Whatever! So, one of my favorite online magazine sites is Cook's Illustrated. They have this wonderful experiment kitchen where they actually use science to explore it's effect on food. Pretty cool!

Their test kitchen confronted the sticky and frequently too stiff issue of homemade pie crust. I have always been a bit apprehensive when it comes to making pie crust. I have made a couple of traditional pie crusts and while they turned out okay, they were nothing to write home about. Cook's Illustrated did an awesomely simple study of the effect of the liquid used in constructing a pie crust. Their goal was to find a liquid that could be used instead of water, to be able to still affect the gluten in the flour but not turn it into a pasty or stiff mess. The science behind it is actually quite fascinating. They discovered that alcohol could replace the water in the recipe. Alcohol contains a percentage of water with the ethanol wearing off during cooking. So, you get the 'wetness' of the liquid without all the effects of the water. Hence, the Vodka Pie Crust...

I used the recipe, sans sugar, to create a crust for a chicken pot pie. This crust was buttery, flaky, tender, absolutely the best crust I have ever had in any pie. It was silky, pliable, and easy to work with. It is a very forgiving recipe, since I didn't follow it exactly word for word. It will be my main pie crust recipe for the rest of my life. Truly, I am so excited to actually not be afraid of making pies anymore. My brain is already making a list of things that can be put in a pie. Sigh, the possibilities are endless!

In the article, they also point out that other flavored alcohols can be used to substitute for the water, like bourbon for a pecan pie or brandy for a peach pie. Mmmmm, yum! Read the article, it was a learning experience that will increase my baking time in the kitchen!

Bon Appetit!

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.....er, umm, Brown Cow?

I got me a hankerin' for Shepherd's Pie today. So, I made it for lunch and it was yummy! I am quite proud of myself as this recipe used only two pans...I am usually the one to use every pot and utensil in the kitchen while free-form cooking. I used a large oven proof frying pan and a small stock pot for the potatoes. If you like your food with a spicy kick, you could add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes while cooking the ground beef. Also, some of the measurements are approximate because I don't usually measure while free-form cooking. So, feel free to adjust where needed. And if you are wondering about the title, traditional Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb while this version is made with well,...cow, er, beef. :o) Somehow though CowHerder's Pie just doesn't sound as appetizing. :o)

Tam's Shepherd Pie

12 medium red potatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk
1/2 cup margarine
salt & pepper to taste


1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 small minced onion
salt & pepper to taste
1 pkg au jus mix
3/4 to 1 c. water
1 small bag frozen peas and carrots


shredded cheddar cheese, about 2 cups or so

Put the red potatoes in small stock pot or large sauce pan. Cover with water and boil until a knife slides into them gently. Drain potatoes and put back in same pan. Add cream, margarine, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mash them puppies up. Set aside.

Preheat oven broiler to 450 degrees.

In large frying pan, heat the olive oil and brown the ground beef. Add garlic, onion, salt and pepper, cook for a couple of minutes allowing onion to soften. Drain oil. Sprinkle the packet of au jus powder over the ground beef and add water, stirring to dissolve the mix. While cooking the ground beef mixture, add the peas and carrots. Allow this mixture to come to a boil and then turn heat down to medium high. You want to reduce the 'gravy' so it doesn't overwhelm and water down the other flavors as well as cooking the veggies til they are tender but still crisp.

Once the sauce has reduced some, pull it off the heat and make sure the mixture is spread evenly in the pan. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the ground beef. Then sprinkle cheese on top of the potatoes for a nice cheesey cover. Place pan under broiler until cheese is bubbling and brown, maybe 5 - 10 minutes.

For a complete meal, I serve this with a green salad and sourdough.

Bon Appetit

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Bananas & the Chocolate

Once upon a time there was a lonely bunch of bananas just aching for a more meaningful life. Looking around from it's perch on the countertop, it spied a tin of chocolate but not just any chocolate...Scharffen Berger Powdered Chocolate. One of the finest chocolates in all the land. That is when the banana bunch knew what it's purpose, nay, destiny was to be... Chocolate Banana Bread. Here is a link to the original recipe at Joy of Baking ~

Alas, I didn't take any pictures (it wasn't around long enough). :o) Be careful to fold the ingredients together until just moistened. This will keep the chunkiness of the bananas, chocolate and nuts. It also keeps the crust glossy instead of dull. This stuff is eye-rolling yummy!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cold Day Warm-Up

I found a recipe in Woman's Day magazine for an easy four ingredient Sausage and White Bean Soup....this is not that recipe. Alas, I was at the doctor's office and so the magazine had to stay there. But the idea stuck in my head until today. I woke up to find a somewhat cool and blustery fall day in this here the bellybutton of California. Voila, one perfect made-for-soup day! So, soup I did make...this is only the second time I have made soup truly from scratch so I was quite pleased when it came out so well! Enjoy!!
Italian Sausage and White Bean Soup

2 c. dried white beans, prepare according to pkg
2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 – 2 tsp sea salt


3 lb. mild Italian sausage
1 yellow onion, diced
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 beef bouillon cubes, dissolved in ½ cup warm water
10 cups of water

1. In the last stage of cooking the beans, add 1 – 2 tsp sea salt and 2 tbsp Italian seasoning.
2. Brown sausage over medium heat until almost done. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add diced onion to pan and sauté until soft. Drain on paper towel. Set aside.
4. Seed and dice tomatoes. Set aside.
5. When the beans are done with the second cooking, do NOT drain.
6. Add 10 cups of water and three beef bouillon cubes.
7. Add sautéed onions and diced tomatoes. Bring to simmer.
8. Slice sausages into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to soup and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

I served it with fresh cornbread. You could also garnish with green onions, sour cream, or shaved parmesan.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Raspberry, Cherry and Peach, oh my!!!!

So, my first post is going to be about alcohol. But, not just any alcohol...

Sweet-tart raspberry yumminess! Framboise ~ that nectar which is surely of the Divine! If you have never had Framboise, it tastes like a mouthful of tart raspberries with the edge of savory ~ truly best served in a dark Brit pub over Scotch Eggs and fresh Crisps. Delicious! My favorite by far is the raspberry but the cherry, or Kriek, is quite a tasty treat, too. This lambic creation is also available in peach, or Peche. Lindeman's is more sweet than tart, which I prefer.

"Framboise (from the French word for raspberry) or Frambozenbier (Dutch) is a Belgian lambic beer that is fermented using raspberries. It is one of many modern fruitbeer types that have been inspired by the more traditional kriek beer, made using sour cherries.

Framboise is usually served in a small glass that resembles a champagne glass, only shorter. Most framboise beers are quite sweet, though the Cantillon brewery produces a tart version called Rosé de Gambrinus that is based on the traditional kriek style. The Liefmans brewery uses Oud bruin beer instead of lambic to make its high quality framboise beer, resulting in a very different taste. Recently, Framboise has become popular outside of Belgium, and can now be found in pubs and supermarkets all over the world." ~~ Wikipedia

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