There’s a spring in my step

All good things must come to an end. And this right here, this is the perfect photo finish. It’s funny that I marked my “revival” with an entry about beginnings. In the cycle of things, an ending is essentially a beginning in itself. We’ve all heard the adage.
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I can still remember the first day of cooking school. Everything in between was filled with so much highs and lows, and of course, food. Now this is the part where I’m about to place a period in the sentence because my time in cooking school is almost over. Classes are done, and to cap off the baking part of the program, our comprehensive exam had us create four identical plated desserts, the dessert being a strawberry mille feuille. It has components that we’ve all learned, from the puff pastry, joconde sponge, mousseline cream, to the tempered chocolate.

The night before I was a hot mess. If there was a single component I was afraid of it was the cream. There’s a glaring difference between thick and thin and try as I might I always end up with thin cream when it’s supposed to be thick.

After stress eating (because I do that occasionally, when push comes to shove), saying a prayer at the local church and talking to my mom (she basically encouraged me to stress eat), the big day has arrived.

We had two hours and thirty minutes to complete the four plates, and with around ten minutes to spare I was done. Everything was so vivid, it played out like an action movie. I couldn’t have picked a better time to just shut up and do it, because I really did well if I do say so myself. Everything was all me.
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We still have a major project coming up and then I’m off to do my internship (I’m crossing my fingers), but right now I’m just too happy. The partial proverbial weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

I had a conversation with one of my best friends last night. I’d like to believe we have a shared optimism when it comes to certain things in life. We both agree that it’s done in bad taste to make people wait. We also think that when you’re passionate, you could move mountains because relatively speaking, impossible is nothing.
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It’s strange to think that four little pieces of dessert have gotten me so riled up but what the heck, I’m rolling with it.

Bouncing back

I dislike roller coasters and long road trips. People who know me pretty well have seen me at my worst when the nausea sets in. When we visited Hong Kong Disneyland, the only ride we experienced just happened to be the worst rollercoaster ride on the planet. Strangely enough my friend (on a separate vacation) raved about it with a passion. I came out of it sweaty, disoriented and just about ready to spill my guts on the pavement.

Poets (and probably life coaches) allude life to a rollercoaster. Songs have been written about it, heck, even tumblr and pinterest are flooded with platitudes of self-improvement. There are twists and turns, highs and lows, and yes, you might find yourself leaving with a high, or kneeling down to puke.

When I’m down, I’m in serious deep and introspective shit. I think aside from being gifted with a body that screams “hug/pinch me!”, being able to emotionally and mentally detach myself from less than stellar events can also be counted as a gift. In short, I can bounce back pretty quick. People bounce back. Even Britney Spears clawed her way out of rock bottom.

Enough of the heavy stuff. Let our eyes feast. There is happiness yonder in them hills.
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Can you believe this chicken?
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This may not look like much, but today I had a plate of extremely delicious roast chicken served with a really great pan gravy. I left school a really really happy boy.
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And just to prolong the positivity, I needed to have a plate of peach waffles from The Pancake House. The first time I tried these waffles was a few months ago, when I was with one of my best friends. We flew a thousand miles just to get our driver’s licenses (long story), and these waffles made us happy campers during the moments when we weren’t joining the throngs of people trying to get on the transportation office’s good side.

Peach said it well when she told me that “foodies are a tough bunch”. I’m going to add to that by saying we can take “stress eating” to a whole new level.
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I’m used to eating alone (do I hear a collective “Awwwww”?) but this book kept me company. It’s the follow-up to Rick Riordan’s successful book, “The Son of Neptune”, part of “The Lost Heroes” series (of Percy Jackson fame). I’m a dork who reads children’s fiction. Hollah! (it’s The Mark of Athena, and apparently my webcam is a mirror through and through). The gauze on my hand is covering a rather large and painful blister that formed when I accidentally touched a hot pan and reacted too late. The wound was already “weeping” serous fluid. Gross, really.

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Expect me to tune in this weekend with a new dish. You have my word.

Rice Day in Black and White

Here are some random shots of yesterday’s rice and vegetable lecture & demonstration. Apart from most of us bringing digital cameras to take photos of the food (I’m the only food blogger in the group though!), our tasting spoons were put to good use as it became a full-blown feast for 12 when the paella was done. True to form, Filipino are voracious voracious voracious rice eaters.

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It still feels weird sometimes, to peruse my photo roll and look at photos of this new life that I stepped into. It’s really surreal. There’s not a lot to say about these photos, except that it’s during these moments that I know what I live for. (Rice, of course!) The experience may be stressful, physically and emotionally draining, but I’ve never felt so alive.

I think this is hollandaise

For our lab last week, we were making sauces, specifically veloute, allemande and hollandaise. I decided to make the hollandaise after I made the first two because I knew it was a slightly meticulous process. When the first two sauces were done, I set out to make that which is so deceptively simple but incredibly dreaded. A few minutes in, as I was whisking the egg yolks, the unthinkable happened: it became scrambled eggs! Now I’m trying to sound like some dude who sees everything half full: all I need is rice and beef tapa and I’m all set. And, at least I now know of another (albeit impractical and downright unnecessary) way to cook scrambled eggs.

But long story short, I didn’t have any hollandaise to present. My ass was kicked.

I couldn’t really go through this process without vindication learning from my mistakes. I want to put it out there: I know how to make hollandaise! (and it won’t be the death of me).

I don’t have a lot of kitchen space and equipment, so the setup is rather cumbersome. I added some water to simmer in a pot, and used the steamer that came with the rice cooker to help stabilize my bowl. In went the butter for it to melt. (confession: I used cheap, not so real butter).
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Then I combined vinegar and minced shallots in a pan. Set it over low – medium heat to let the liquid reduce. After it has reduced, I took it out of the heat and “refreshed” it with a bit of cold water, then placed it back over the heat. I then strained it over a bowl.
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In that same bowl I added two egg yolks, then whisked it over the simmering water. Obviously, this was my pressure point. Thankfully, the heavens parted and yolks didn’t scramble (!!!). You’re looking for minimal froth and a thicker consistency. I took it out of the heat to finish the process.
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Slowly and carefully, I ladled a small amount of butter at a time into the yolk mixture and whisked. I continued that process until the mixture is thick, coats the back of the spoon, and I can lift the whisk and draw an infinity sign over the surface. (not pictured)
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I finished it off with a few drops of lemon juice, because I didn’t want it to be sour. I think the mixture could have been thicker but overall I was pleased with the outcome.
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Yes, that’s the back of a clean plate. At least I hope it was clean. If I turned back time and tried to make this during lab, I don’t know if the result would be the same. This was practically the first time in a long while that I’ve made hollandaise, and yeah, I could say that I redeemed myself a bit. I may or may not have danced like an idiot after it was all done. I’m not saying.

Earlier this morning our instructor made hollandaise again, just to emphasize a point that it can be done. I think it was the best hollandaise I’ve had so far because he brought hollandaise home – it’s a butter sauce after all, and it tasted like butter and so much more. It wasn’t painfully tart, and I could totally imagine that kind of sauce with eggs benedict. In other words, my weekend will be filled with hollandaise.