Friday, November 25, 2011

How I am tested on my knowledge every 2-3 weeks.

My school teaches classes in blocks.  This week we finished up 2 weeks of potatoes, grains and pasta.  Once we reach the end of a block we have what's called our 'practical exam', a test where we demonstrate what we've learned about the cooking methods.  We also have a written exam that includes kitchen math, identification of product and other information out of our textbook.

My practical is coming up this Monday.  It looks like this:

Boil 1 waxy potato

8 oz. duchesse (4 rosettes)

Risotto (1/2 c. dry)

Pilaf (1/2 c. dry)

8 oz. gnocchi

8 oz. grilled polenta

1 bundle of fresh fettucine/spaghetti

5 raviolis with butternut squash filling, cooked in brown sage butter

5 tortellinis/tortellonis with spinach filling

I have 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete all the dishes.   I'll also need to turn in a time-line, my list of needed equipment and list of ingredients.  This practical is going to be all about time management.  A good part of my grade will be based on my game plan, what I choose to start first, second, etc.

The polenta needs to chill for a while before I grill it.  The potatoes duchesse need to be mixed warm.  Pilaf can be left alone to cook but the risotto requires babysitting.  Once the pasta dough is made the cranking out of the actual noodles is pretty easy.  The gnocchi can be made ahead and then poached later.

Whatever I bring to my chef instructor needs to be hot.  The bundle of fettuccine and the tortellini won't be cooked, but everything else will.

Today, I'll be spending some time getting my list together of when I'm going to start what.  Once that's done, I'll put together my ingredient/equipment list.

After I've gotten that done, I'll be practicing for the rest of the weekend.  My instructor really wants to see us prepare our pasta dough by hand instead of in a food processor.  Mixing it up by hand involves mounding the flour on a work surface, making a well in the middle and putting the liquids in the well.  Then, using a fork or your hands, you gradually pull the flour into the liquid to create the dough.  When I tried this in class my wall of flour failed spectacularly and I got egg all over my table.  I was able to smoosh it all together and save it, but I still need to get it right.  I'm going to be doing this in a pie pan at home because I don't want to have to scrape egg and flour out of the grout on my counter top.

Carbs at my house this weekend!  Text me if you want some.

I have an odd desire to yell "Abbondanza!"

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Honey can be used as a good, clarifying face mask.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Some soul searching

Yeah, so I've been off the ethernet grid for a while.  The whole mid-life realization got me bummed out and I spent the last few weeks moping around.

Before I decided to admit that I'm in the middle of dealing with the fact that I'm forty I let myself do what my instructor calls "coasting".   Doing the reading but not really studying, going through the motions in lab but not really engaging and generally putting in just enough effort to complete my tasks.  For me, this means my final grade for the last block was in the 80s.  I know, I know a grade in the high 80s isn't anything to be disappointed with but I know I could have done better.  We're currently in the middle of potatoes, pasta and grains and I've got myself back up into 'A' territory.

I'm practicing a lot at home.  I went out and got a cheapie, hand-crank pasta maker so I can make pasta from scratch.   Once you get the hang of cranking it out it becomes something of a zen exercise.  Zen and the art of pasta making.  Because I'm doing so much practicing I'm going to be update my food blog, Life and what I ate , more often.

I've been practicing a lot at home because when I get into a tizzy about my age and what that means and all that stupid crap and I don't know what to do, I've been cooking.  I know how to cook.  I'm good at it.

And I can write, I'm good at that too.  I take pretty okay photographs.  So, I've been combining those altogether into my food blog.  And it's fun for me.

Raymond Carver's short story A Small, Good Thing ends with a couple whose child has just died eating cinnamon rolls and drinking coffee with a baker who has been calling them in the middle of the night to harass them about not picking up their son's birthday cake.  When the devastated couple arrive at the bakery to scream and vent their anger at his behavior, he apologizes and then gives them the sweet, fresh baked rolls, telling them "Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this."

And I agree.  When my grandmother died and we were all sitting around in the living room of what was now my grandfather's house instead of my grandparent's house not knowing what to do we were able to focus on meals.  Neighbors and relatives came by with so much food we packed both the inside and outside refrigerators.  There was the question of what to serve at the viewing and wondering what the congregation would make for the reception after the funeral.  It gave us something to talk about.  If the garlic bread was good or if the sandwiches from Subway our cousins brought had too much mustard.

Therefore, I've been getting through this process of accepting that Im becoming middle-aged with cooking and, of course, lipstick.  I put on my lipstick and rattle pots and pans around in the kitchen.  I hug my kids when they tell me they like what I cooked.  Will isn't such a fan of the cheese souffle but Zoe loves the stuff.  They both dig homemade pasta and I'll be making them try Potatoes Duchesse pretty soon.

So, the Scorchin' Student/Hip Housewife has been looking around her house at the dog hair that gathers at the baseboards, the massive disaster that is the upper level of her home where the kids' rooms are, at the dishes in the sink and the laundry piled on the chairs in the living room and mounded on the floor of the laundry room and comforts herself by knowing that she is learning and can make a small, good thing for her family and any friends she can convince to come over and share in her experiments.  It means that she can accomplish something in a day that is of a good quality, to do something she's good at that won't be undone inside of half an hour of children playing in the house.

Today, being Thanksgiving, she's making a mince pie for the Hip Husband because it's his favorite.  The process will be up on the food blog later today.  And that's plenty for today.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Pour a gallon of milk in your bathwater and you'll end up with wonderfully soft skin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking a break from my crazy schedule to share something silly

For those of you who don't know, I love infomercials and infomercial products.  If the packaging includes the "As Seen on TV" graphic, I'll will stop and look it over.  Usually, I need to be convinced that there is no reason why I need to make pancakes in a ball shape or that I am perfectly capable of washing the bottoms of my feet without a brush that sticks to the bottom of the bathtub.  Once in a while I'm without supervision at the right moment that I end up with the Lauren Hutton Face Disc or the Epil-Stop Hair Removal System.  By the way, the Ronco Pasta Maker?  Popiel-tastic!  We had that thing for years and used it multiple times a week until it finally just gave it up.

Anyway, I'm a year late but this is my new favorite infomercial:  The Tajazzle!

Self-esteem in a sticker!

The Tajazzle isn't just a product, it's a three step system to knowing that you look good, smell good and (shhhhhh........) taste good.  First, dusting powder to keep you dry where it gets hot!  This powder will also make sure you smell good.  Then, you rub on the flavored oil stuff where you think someone might want to taste you.  (Oooh! naughty naughty!)  Finally, you slap one of their crystal stick-'em tattoos anywhere on your bod to give you that extra boost of confidence!

According to the infomercial, it will make good looking men want to have sex with you.  And, as a woman who put on talcum powder, rubbed artificial flavoring on her neck and slapped a sticker on her ass before she went out, you know they can't resist!

Because, you've Tajazzled!  Go take a look, it's 15 minutes but well worth it.  And, oh, the acting is a little added bonus.

Happy Thanksgiving my fellow Americans!  Eat sandwiches!

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Don't buy a Tajazzle.

Monday, November 7, 2011

There's food over there.

I've been alternately pissed off and depressed about this whole midlife thing.  Yesterday I combined three things I'm good at, taking photos, cooking and entertaining and had some friends over for dinner so I could practice what I'm learning in school.

I took photos and slapped them up over on Life and What I Ate:

The food's back here.


Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  get yourself some lip balm and start using it regularly now that the cold weather is coming.  Don't get chapped!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Oh for god's sake!

It's been contemplation time for the mistress of Casa de 'burbs.  As I've told everyone who will listen, I'm forty now.  Forty.  The big 4-0.  Forty.  If I had a font that dripped green slime I would use it for the word forty.

I've been informed by someone close to me that I'm experiencing midlife right now.  As in "midlife crisis". Are you fucking kidding me?  I'm the Hip Housewife!  I'm the Amazing Amanda and there is no one in this world better than me!  Midlife?

Well, yah, maybe.  Let's look online and see if we can find a list of some kind.  Okay, here we go.

1.  Change for the sake of change.

Hmmm, maybe.  I've experienced a lot of change in my life and I have the philosophy that change is good. Scary, but good.

2.  Impulsive behavior and impetuous decisions, especially about money and/or their career.  

Not seeing this one so much, but I do spend money on lipstick.

3.  Questioning everything in one's life and saying that they feel "trapped".  

Yeah, ya got me there.

4.  Changes in the sexual relationship.

My parents read this so I'm going to skip this one.

5.  Sudden obsession with appearance and spending inordinate amounts of time in the mirror. 

Sudden?  No, not sudden.

6.  Excessive reminiscing about their youth and previous loves. 

I wouldn't call it EXCESSIVE. And I don't think I do this out loud.  Do I?  Oh geez, if I do I'm so sorry.

7.  Increase in alcohol consumption.

No, not this one.

8.  Sleeping more, loss of appetite and general malaise.  

I thought that was a sign of being tired.

9.  Obsession with mortality. 

Mortality is something I try not to think about because I start to freak out..........

10.  Self-admission.  Saying "I think I'm having a midlife crisis".

Why the hell would I 'fess up to something like that?

I'm not supposed to have something as pedestrian as midlife for the love of all that is holy to whoever.  Midlife?  Jeziz.  

Now what do I do?  

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Wash your goddamn face!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Scorchin' Student vented

I met with my instructor yesterday.  It ended up being mostly a vent session on my part along with letting her know about the conflict that's developed between the other female student and me.  My teach has advised me to keep doing what I'm doing.  Since homework is now turned in, that's not going to effect me that much but I'll get credit for it now.

She did let me know that she knows she can count on me to answer questions in lecture.  My GPA tells me that I'm doing just fine.  I have to admit this stroke my ego and gives me the validation I need (I was about to lie and say occasionally) on a regular basis.  (Yeah, yeah I should be past that.  Don't judge me!)

And I'll confess I felt like a whiner, a tattle-tale and a general attention-sucking asshole.  I'll also say that yesterday's class was much more focused. Still not quick, but more efficient.  When I walked in everyone was reading their books, making sure their homework was finished and generally preparing for our day of sausage-making and cheese preparation.

But, Will threw up at school yesterday and Scott woke up with the flu.  I'm home caring for my men instead of working on pate and terrines.

I'm optimistic that things will continue to improve.  If not, I can stay calm and professional.  I'm still practicing at home.  This week will be ricotta and mozzarella.  Remember,  it says in my syllabus that I'm to be practicing on my friends and family so if you're in my area we just need to schedule a time for me to come over and cook for ya!  You supply the ingredients, I supply my new knowledge.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Now that it's getting colder, monitor your skin for any dryness that's coming up.  You may have to swap your cleanser to something less drying if you have oily skin.  For dry skin, you'll most likely need to use your moisturizer more often.