First Week Frenzy

I’ve never quite understood why educational institutions choose to start new school terms in the middle of a week. In some cases, it can take 2 or 3 days for students to become acclimated to their new surroundings, much less to try and work their way through stacks of syllabi and textbooks, or Heaven forbid…even manage to finish homework assignments during the first 2 days of class. Whew…I’m exhausted just replaying this past Wednesday in my head! I need a break already. OHhhh…maybe those people who thought of having a short starting week really DO know what they are doing!

Despite the crazy schedule, this first week of classes really did rock my world, as it offered me the opportunity to step outside of my creeping depression and get active in life again! I do think I’m beginning to heal, because I noticed that my attitude was much more “glass half full” than it’s been over the past few months. For example, the ongoing construction at the Appleton campus has caused a temporary lack of parking spaces. It’s not overwhelmingly horrible, but it’s apparently enough of a hassle for some people that they voiced their negative opinions and grumbled quite a bit in the halls on Wednesday. However, I was NOT one of those grumblers. Instead, I parked in a remote corner of a lot and walked clear across campus, soaking up the glorious weather along the way! The opportunity even afforded me the gift of realizing that we have a nature preserve area just north of the entrance 10 parking area. Oh my GOSH…I was SO excited! If I hadn’t been on my way to class, I would have stopped for a walk right then and there. Instead, I will grab my camera and take a walk over there this weekend so that I can have some good exploration time.

Oh, another awesome thing happened to me this week, too. Far be it from me to hold back on happy news….

In last week’s post, I talked about my stage fright and how I feared there would be greater expectations of me as a second year student. Well, I was right. My very first class of the semester was a cooking rotation class called “convenience bakery”. As is the case with all culinary rotation classes, I’ll spend 3 hours per day, 4 days per week learning about a specific culinary area. That rotation runs for 3 weeks, and then I’ll move on to the next rotation class. In the convenience bakery rotation, I’ll learn the ins and outs of making convenience pies, pastries, cakes, cookies, soft desserts, and heart healthy products. (Are you drooling yet?) There are competencies in each station that must be achieved in order to pass the class, along with a written exam, and class participation points. That’s all challenging, but reasonable to achieve with hard work and dedication. However, Chef Jenn threw me for a loop when she assigned me to be her sous chef for the next three weeks! For those that may not know what a sous chef is, you can check out this awesome video produced by eHow.com that explains it well:

What Is A Sous Chef

I’m super excited about the adventures and learning experiences that are in store for me as I work with Chef Jenn. Yesterday, I helped her take inventory and place an order. I was AMAZED at the amount of product that is ordered solely for the bake shop. However, after realizing that the school bakes for at LEAST 6 catering events a month, in addition to the needs of the cafeteria, and the supplies needed for the bake shop culinary courses, I had a much better understanding of why we were ordering 25 pounds of shredded coconut!

LET THE BAKING BEGIN! In case you’d like to bake along with me, here is my homework assignment for the weekend. It’s a recipe from the heart healthy station of my rotation class, and I’ll have to bring in samples to share with the class next week. Practice makes perfect, so I’ll probably make several batches of them.  THe fact that they’re delicious AND healthy is just a juicy bonus!

Morning Glory Muffins

Have a wonderful week. I hope to see you back here soon!

Becca

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Stage Fright


For the past couple of weeks, I’ve thought a lot about my course load for the fall 2010 term. Against my better judgment, and the advice of my advisor, I initially enrolled to take 21 credits worth of classes. I had hoped to pack on the credits so that I could graduate next December, but I had no way of knowing at the time of class registration that my unemployment benefits would be ending.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened 3 weeks ago. Unless the Wisconsin unemployment rate jumps up above 10% again (Lord, please do NOT let that happen again!), there’s no chance of my benefits being reinstated. What does that mean? I’m flat busted broke. I’ll be living off of my financial aid disbursement when it arrives in mid-September. So, I’ve come to my senses and reduced my course load to 16 credits so that I can simultaneously tackle my school work AND a part-time job without losing my sanity. Plenty of others have paddled through similar waters, so I’m confident that I will manage to do so as well. I’m just going to make darned sure that I have one hefty oar so that it is less likely to break on me in the middle of rough waters. How will I do that? By making sure that I get enough sleep, eat well, and trust in God to see me through this rather than relying solely on my own ego-ridden self to do so!

Anyway, the point of this post was not to rag on about my unemployment status. I was actually thinking about how NERVOUS I am about being a student this term. Here’s why:

I was sitting in the commons a few days ago. As I peered through the cafeteria and into the kitchen, I saw a group of bright-eyed, bushy tailed incoming culinary arts students. Dressed in their crisp white kitchen coats, ugly as sin hounds tooth pants (eww!) and shiny black kitchen shoes, they were attending the culinary “boot camp”. It’s a required 4 hour orientation and tour of the FVTC culinary department for all new culinary arts students. The culinary instructors were all on hand to explain their rules, regulations, and expectations. As I watched, I realized that I’m no longer the “new kid on the block”. I’m embarking on my fourth term as a culinary student. That means there are higher performance expectations for me to deal with. No longer will I be permitted to get away with mistaking a teaspoon for a tablespoon. Heaven help me if I don’t know exactly how many ounces are in a gallon (for the record, that’s 128… THANK YOU for the instruction, Chef Jeff!), and I’ll be expected to know how to make a hollandaise sauce without it “breaking” (executing a perfect hollandaise sauce is actually part of the final exam for one of the courses). Frankly, I’ve now got a bit of “stage fright”! I think I will go re-read about the science of emulsions now and then FACE MY FEARS head on!

Before I head off, I’ll leave you with a recipe for eggs Benedict…perhaps you’d like to fear the emulsion with me.


Eggs Benedict (serves 4)

2 English muffins, halved horizontally
4 slices baked ham or Canadian bacon
4 whole eggs for poaching
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons coarse salt (sea salt is wonderful in this recipe!)
Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe below)
Fresh parsley or chives, for garnish

Toast English muffin slices until golden brown and spread with 1 teaspoon butter. In a large frying pan, cook ham or Canadian bacon slices until lightly browned and place them on each English muffin half.

Use a pan that is at least 3-inches deep so there is enough water to cover the eggs and they do not stick to the bottom of the pan. NOTE: To prevent sticking, grease the pan with a little oil before filling with water. Add vinegar and salt to the poaching liquid; bring the poaching liquid to a boil and then reduce to a simmer before adding the eggs (bubbles should not break the surface). HINT: When you poach eggs, adding a little vinegar and salt to the water will help the egg to hold its shape. Without it, the eggs will become skeins of protein tangling up in the water.

Break each egg onto a saucer or into small cups or bowls. Slip eggs carefully into simmering water by lowering the lip of each egg-cup 1/2-inch below the surface of the water. Let the eggs flow out. Immediately cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Set a timer for exactly three minutes for medium-firm yolks. Adjust the time up or down for runnier or firmer yolks. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, depending on firmness desired.

Remove from water with slotted spoon. Lift each poached egg from the water with a slotted spoon, but hold it over the skillet briefly to let any water clinging to the egg drain off. Drain well before serving. Top each English muffin half with one poached egg.  Spoon warm Hollandaise Sauce over eggs and garnish with a small parsley sprig or chopped chives.


Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 pound (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

NOTE: If you use salted butter, delete the salt from the recipe.

Stir egg yolks and lemon juice vigorously in medium saucepan over very low heat.  Add butter and white wine and stir constantly with whisk, until melted.  Add white vinegar, salt, and pepper and continue vigorous stirring until all butter is melted and sauce is thickened (be sure butter melts slowly so eggs have time to cook and thicken the sauce without curdling). NOTE: If the sauce begins to separate, add 2 teaspoons of water to the sauce mixture and whisk briskly until the mixture has combined together to form a creamy sauce.

Keep warm until ready to serve. HINT: I put mine in a small thermos to keep it warm.

Have a wonderful week. I hope to see you back here soon!

Becca

End of Summer Fun

It FINALLY happened! I had a week of NO homework, no pressing chores, and a couple of hours to spend in the great outdoors…

My boyfriend’s been kicking his sales into high gear at work lately, and his performance paid off big time last week. He earned a pair of tickets to the Green Bay Packers family fun night game. We are both huge Packer backers, so the opportunity to watch them scrimmage was a blast for us. (The opportunity to drool over a few of my favorite players wasn’t such a bad thing, either!)

In addition to the fun times I had this week, I also experienced some unwanted stress… Since losing my job in the fall of 2008, I’ve been receiving unemployment insurance benefits. When my initial benefits ran out, I was given the opportunity to apply for a special UI program, where I would continue to receive benefits for an additional 2 years, while I obtain an education that will make me better suited for employment. I was elated at the opportunity to realize my dream of attending school! To be able to put 100% focus on my studies without worrying about the student employee “burnout” I hear about so often made the situation all the morning appealing. Unfortunately, the program ran out of funds at the beginning of June. I waited nervously, along with thousands of other people, for the federal budget to be passed. Fortunately, that happened, so 2 weeks ago I was awarded a few weeks worth of back benefits. However, I received a letter this past week telling me that all further benefits have been exhausted. I am trying to keep a clear head and focus on how I will manage a full course load (required to be eligible for financial aid) AND find the time to find, apply for, AND work at least 20 hours per week. Nobody ever said life was a piece of cake. I’ll just take one day at a time and trust in God to see me through this. He’s opened doors and windows for me in the past, and I am faithful that He’ll do so again!

Oh, speaking of CAKE… I did a bit of stress relief baking last night. I have no clue why standing over a hot oven makes me happy, but it does, and hey, whatever works, right?! At any rate, I was craving chocolate something fierce, so I pulled out the most delightfully rich cupcake recipe in my database. I baked up a batch of bad boy cupcakes that I’ve aptly named “The Sinful C’s”… because they are Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting!

I also took the liberty of calculating the nutritional information for these yummy wonders. I’m not sure if it’s because I am trying to be a responsible, healthy eater, a helpful blogger to my weight watching readers, or if it’s because I’m a glutton for punishment. In any case, here are the details… read ’em and weep (or be prepared to work out HARD to burn the calories off!) Keep in mind that this nutritional info is ONLY for the cupcake. I don’t even want to know how ungodly unhealthy the frosting is! I hope you have an opportunity to bake up a batch and enjoy them for yourself. If not, maybe you can just dream about them…or am I the only person who dreams about sinful food?!

The Sinful C’s

Recipe By : Becca Heflin

Serving Size: 12 muffins     Prep Time: 10 minutes

Amount Measure Ingredient

——–      ————     ————-

3/4 Cup         all-purpose flour

3/4 Cup         unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2      teaspoon    baking powder

1/4      teaspoon     salt

3/4 Cup         Unsalted butter – room temperature

1      Cup         sugar

3      whole     large eggs

1 teaspoon    vanilla extract

1/2 Cup         fat free sour cream

3/4 Cup         semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. Into a medium bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Pour batter into cups, filling each 3/4 full.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  6. Cool in pan 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:
Per Serving: 297 Calories; 19g Fat (53.1% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 33g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 90mg Sodium.

Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 3 1/2 Fat; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

Have a FANTASTIC week, and I hope to see you back here again soon.

Becca

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