Tag: Cooking

Movies, Ramen & Ha Tien Super Market

I’ve been getting over that flu/cold thing that’s been going around the Twin Cities this winter. At least it’s given me time to catch up on TV shows and movies.

Now, The Good Place series finale is how you close out a show. 

Back when my mom passed away, a friend lent me his DVD set of Six Feet Under, an HBO series that chronicles a family of undertakers. Watching it start to finish helped him come to peace with death and he hoped I’d feel the same. Six Feet Under remains one of my favorite series ever, but The Good Place got me closer to where Six Feet could not.

I also watched Booksmart which is a movie streaming on Hulu. It’s painfully relatable if you were also a nerd like me coming to terms with spending your grade school (and college) years like Amy. Now we’re all Lisa Kudrows and Jason Sudeikis’s.

Finally, I curiously watched Midsommar streaming on Amazon. I had already spoiled this movie for myself so I kept my finger on the fast-forward. It’s completely upsetting and creepy, but also beautifully filmed and compelling.

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10 Things I Learned In Culinary School (That I Still Use Today)

It’s been three years since I attended culinary school in Moorhead, Minnesota. We were offered the opportunity to move to Iowa for my husband’s job right after I completed my first full-time year. While I have decided not to jump back into school again, I learned a lot that year that I continue to practice every day in my happiest place, my home kitchen. Here are some of my favorite tidbits of knowledge our culinary instructors taught us:

The first rule of culinary school: A falling knife has no handle. Seriously, friends. If you drop a knife, just step back and let it fall.

Be patient and let bread rise twice, once for flavor, twice for structure. Don’t rush the process unless you want messed-up bread. If you’re going for flatbread, that could be a different story.

Purchase “dry” or “dry-packed scallops.” Dry scallops are scallops, plain and simple. Wet scallops are soaked in sodium triphosphate solution that adds water weight and affects the flavor. Because wet-packed scallops absorb the solution, they are waterlogged when thawed and difficult to sear. Don’t hesitate to ask your fish monger or seafood department manager if they are selling wet or dry scallops. If he or she doesn’t know, buy them from someone who does (or a clearly marked package).

How to prepare dough by feel. Preparing pasta, bread, and pie dough became less intimidating when I could feel when the dough was ready. Our culinary instructors walked us through the processes, but the rest of the learning came from practice. Eventually, you will just be able to handle a dough and tell if it’s too wet, too dry, or just right.

Pie crusts aren’t scary! I didn’t attempt making pie crust before culinary school because I was afraid I’d ruin it. One morning in baking lab, I made pie after pie alongside my culinary instructor. It was one of my favorite learning experiences. I loved how she didn’t handle pie and scone dough too delicately. Her approach was not to stress too much. “Many people get themselves into trouble because they don’t add enough water,” she shared. Instead of sticking to recipe’s strict number of tablespoons of ice water, I add it until the dough holds together.

Make the leftover pie crust dough into something special. The excess pie crust you trim will become too tough if you try to roll it out again into another pie. Simply, do as our instructors taught us: Roll the dough into a flat sheet and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar. Bake and enjoy!

I can make roux in my sleep. At the time, I wasn’t enthusiastic about my soup and sauce class. Twice a week, we raced to the back room to drag out the portable gas burners and made roux-based sauce after roux-based sauce. It was the last class of the day, and so we always tried to pair-up with a competent partner and make that day’s assignment as quickly as possible. In hindsight, I have no idea why we were in such a hurry. The best part of this class is that I can make a creamy, roux-based sauce in my sleep. Biscuits and homemade gravy? No problem! A complex, savory veloute made from the drippings on the bottom of my crock pot? Easy enough. Mac & cheese sauce? Got it.

Cool down big pots of soup, safely, in an ice bath. Food safety class was a trip. Our ServSafe Food Handler book literally instructed us not to vomit into food. While this advice was really obvious, other details weren’t, such as the correct holding temperatures of food served inside vs. outdoors, the time frames of how long food can be held at the correct hot and cold temps, and the order food should be arranged in the fridge. Sometimes I wonder if I now too much about food safety for my own good. For example, I take special care to cool down pots of soup as quickly as possible before storing them in the fridge. There is actually a two-stage cooling process to minimize harmful bacteria in which food must be cooled from 141-70°F within two hours and from 70-41°F within four.

Parchment paper is your best friend. Taking the time to trace and cut out parchment paper to line your baking pans ensures easy removal and no damage. I roast my veggies on parchment paper, too. Potatoes have a tendency to stick to my pans. Flipping my baked fries is a breeze when I line my sheet pans with parchment paper.

Many foods can be fixed. There were so many times we ran to our instructors fearing we ruined a dish. They were almost always able to fix things. A few baking disasters were lost causes, but most of the foods were salvageable after playing with the seasonings and textures. Don’t give up. At least, not right away.

What’s your favorite piece of kitchen wisdom? Has a family member, friend, or employer ever given you a piece of cooking advice that you find yourself returning to frequently? 

My Readers & I Share Our Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

My readers opened my eyes to the world of kitchen gadgets.

I had originally thought I was biased against single-purpose kitchen. If I need to peel, cut & de-pit an avocado, I just use a knife. Or my fingers. Or a spoon! My parents loved to use their apple wedgers, but I’ve always found them difficult to press into the apple and they always left chewy core on many of the wedges. So yes, I was kind of biased.

Out of curiosity, I challenged my readers to change my mind and they shared their favorite kitchen gadgets that make their lives easier and more fun. I was surprised to find I didn’t even know many of these tools even existed. Anything that makes cooking enjoyable for someone has value. For now, I’ll continue to rip apart lettuce leaves by hand and remove corn kernels from a cob with my knife, but if I need to pit lots of cherries for a pie or make curly noodles out of vegetables, I know where to turn.

First, here are my favorite tools (besides my faithful knives):

  • Salad Spinner: Jake gave me a salad spinner for Valentine’s Day one year and it’s one of my favorite kitchen tools ever. Soggy salad is the worst and this is a must have if you break down whole heads of lettuce. I also use the spinner to dry cabbage or farmers market spinach.
Salad Spinner

I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean for this to look like a salad spinner maternity shot! I do love my spinner, though.

  • Microplane: I use these all of the time for finely grating garlic and ginger into pastes and making delicate showers of parmesan cheese.
  • Handheld Immersion Blender: We received this blender as a wedding gift and I use it to make soups. I used to carefully ladle hot soup into our blender and hope the liquid wouldn’t explode everywhere. Now, I can quickly puree soups right in the pot. I also love that this blender is easy to assemble and clean.
  • Vegetable Peelers: I find myself peeling a lot of carrots. A Y-Peeler allows you to make thin strips of a vegetable without a mandolin.
  • Spice Grinder: Indian food is one of our favorite cuisine’s. I kept wondering why the Indian dishes I made were so bland until I prepared a coconut chickpea curry from Raghaven Iyer’s 660 Curries. His recipe instructed me to toast and grind the spices and I can’t tell you how much of a difference this made. My curry was intense and spicy. Now that I’m not intimidated by this grinder, I’ll use it more often. It’s also easy to clean and the grinder container contains a lid for storage.
  • Box Grater: I use this frequently to grate cheese and vegetables.
  • Kiwi Pro Slice Peeler: This tool makes long shreds of vegetables. I only use it when I want to make the cucumber-tomato salad that we eat with laab, but it’s inexpensive and worth it for this purpose. I bought mine at an Asian market.

Veggie Shredder

Here are my readers’ favorite kitchen tools:

 

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