10 days..

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lately I've been thinking a lot about culinary school. What it'll be like, how hard it'll be, what a normal day will consist of, if i'll be good at it... It's extremely stressful going into a new experience like this. I feel like it's even more stressful because it is my passion and I don't want to lose my love for cooking if this happens to be bad experience. I have to keep thinking positive though. I know that my goal is to work as hard as I can and put my entire heart into everything I create in cooking school. While talking to my parents tonight about it, I teared up thinking about how bad I want to succeed and how I hope that I am not only exceptional, but the best! I have never felt so strongly about anything in my life, and I finally feel that I am about to be doing what I am meant to do. My sister was meant to be a businesswoman.. she's confident, smart, outgoing, and persuasive. My brother was meant to be a personal trainer.. he's soo fit and so informative about fitness and nutrition and so passionate about it. Until recently, I had no idea what I was meant to do. And now I finally have my thing. If people have a question about cooking, they call me.. that makes me feel good..like I'm finally good at something.. 10 days until I start the adventure of my life..

Kale Chips

I have to give credit to my sister for introducing me to kale chips. I just put some in the oven and am so excited for some crispy greens. You would never think that kale could be so tasty, but here's the extremely simple recipe to transform boring kale into a flavorful, crunchy, melt-in-your mouth treat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Clean and chop the kale, discarding the stems. The kale should be cut into small leaves. Toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and fresh ground pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer and top with freshly grated parmegiano reggiano or pecorino romano. Bake for 15 minutes or until crispy! I'll add a picture as soon as they come out of the oven!

PUMPKIN Cheesecake

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Today I decided to whip up (no pun intended-hehe) a pumpkin cheesecake. If you know me at all, then you know I LOVE cheesecake. Over the past 2 years I have fell in love with the no-bake cheesecake. My mom reinvented the cool whip cheesecake recipe and it is my ultimate favorite healthy, light cheesecake. Here's the recipe for the regular cheesecake:

1 prepared graham cracker crust
1 and 1/2 8 oz packages of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 container cool whip (defrosted)
*Note: it is best to use all of the ingredients at room temperature to get the best cheesecake result

Whip the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla extract in a large bowl with an electric mixer until just combined. Add the cool whip and continue to whip for a couple of minutes. Pour into the pie shell and refrigerate for a few hours. Simple as that!

Tis the season for PUMPKIN, so I decided to make a little different version today. Here's the pumpkin version:

1 prepared graham cracker crust
1 and 1/2 8 oz packages of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/2 cup kozi shack pumpkin pudding/pie filling
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
(or you can substitute pumpkin pie spice, which I would have done if I had it)
1 cool whip container

Just use the same method as before, adjusting the spices as you like.

Stuffed Squash

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I made this southwestern stuffed squash for dinner tonight.  I got the recipe from an eating well cookbook, but you can also find it online at  http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/southwestern_stuffed_acorn_squash.html
It was pretty good... I cut the recipe in half since I was only cooking it for my mom and I (my dad had leftover pork chops with onion marmellata from last night).  I also used spicy italian turkey sausage that I just took out of its casing, and mozzerella cheese (because that's what I had on hand).  Next time I'd definitely use a monterey jack or spicier cheese.  

The beginning

I am beginning my journey to become a chef in 13 days!  I will be attending the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan (located on 23rd street between 5th & 6th Ave).  Culinary school is not cheap and it's not going to be easy either.. which is why I had to be 100% sure I want to pursue a career in the culinary field.  

I first became interested in cooking when I was in high school.  My mother was a great home cook and made specialties like homemade pasta and pizza, which were inspired by her italian grandmother's cooking.  My mother grew up watching my great grandma cook in the basement of her cottage in the country.  She didn't speak much english and would start making homemade pastas and doughs first thing in the morning.  My mother would simply sit on a stool and observe.  My great grandmother passed away before I was born so I never got the pleasure of meeting her and tasting her cooking, but I think my mom did a great job recreating these italian specialties.
Like I said before,  I first started cooking with my mom in the kitchen when I was in high school.  I would help her prepare dinners once in a while and help cook on the holidays.  However, cooking was not my passion and I rarely cooked on my own.  It wasn't until I went to college and missed the home-cooked meals that I really began to appreciate my mother's cooking.  When I went home on breaks I started cooking more with her and really observing her techniques.  She taught me the correct way to chop veggies, crush garlic, and season meats.  I'll never forget the first time I made homemade pasta sauce with her.  It's her own special recipe that she recreated after years of making sauce with her mother.  This sauce is so delicious and is my ultimate comfort food over some homemade rigatoni.  I know that i will carry this recipe with me my whole life and eventually teach my own kids the recipe.

Once I finally had my own kitchen in my apartment at school, I began really experimenting in the kitchen.  i was only cooking for myself, so I felt that I could experiment with different flavors without the pressure of pleasing somebody else.  This is when I really learned my style of cooking and how to enjoy myself in the kitchen.  The kitchen became my place to zone out and forget about the pressures of everyday life.  After a long day at school, cooking would really help me relax and unwind (with a glass of red wine, of course!).  

I graduated this past May from Elon University with my bachelor's degree in business administration.  Cooking was only a hobby at this point, and my plan was to spend the summer searching for a job in advertising (despite the declining economy).  Over the summer, I went on interviews and searched for jobs, yet I had very little motivation.  People would ask me what I wanted to do, and I would respond "um, well whatever job I can get... I guess something in advertising.  I don't really know".  I felt like getting  a job in business was the most practical thing to do and something that was expected of me (with my dad owning his own advertising business and my sister being the marketing manager of a major company).  

My family was quick to observe the little motivation I had towards getting a job.  I wasn't very good at interviews and I wasn't excited about any job opportunities that came my way.  For the past year, me and my mom had casual conversations about culinary school and how it would have been really cool if i chose culinary school before I went to Elon (yet I wasn't that into cooking back then).  It didn't really cross my mind that I could attend culinary school after Elon.  Then my sister casually mentioned it again, so I started looking up schools, even though I didn't think it was realistic.  I remember coming across ICE and thinking "wow! I want to go there!"  But I continued job searching in advertising and sending out cover letters and resumes to companies throughout NJ.  

Finally, one morning my mom told me I should go to culinary school.  I was like, oh come on! It's wayy too expensive and it'll take too long!  She told me that my dad agreed with her and that I should look into it, since he could tell that cooking was my passion and it made me happy.  He also agreed to pay for it if I proved to him that it was something I really want to do.  I looked into different schools in the area, including the Art Institute of Phil, the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, and the Institute of Culinary Education.  After A LOT of research, I decided to tour ICE and meet with an admissions advisor.  He took me around the school and explained that the program is a 6 month diploma program (plus a 6 week externship).  This is a HUGE bonus since I already got my degree and i do not want to be in school for another 2 years (which is what the other schools require).  After seeing the facilities and getting all my questions answered, i was 100% sure ICE was where I belong.

Since i put down the deposit back in the beginning of September, I have been spending even more time in the kitchen experimenting with recipes.  I watch the food network with a new enthusiasm, watching every technique and taking in every tip.

So, here i am... 13 days before the first day of culinary school.  I'm sooo nervous, but so excited for the journey I'm about to take.  I will be commuting from my home in Colts Neck.. by taking NJ transit from Matawan to Penn Station and then taking the subway or walking to school.  

Stay tuned to read about my days at school and the adventures I face.  I'm sure I will meet several interesting people and have some strange/disastrous food encounters.  I will also be posting recipes along the way! :)

La Bella Cucina Copyright © 2009 Designed by Ipietoon Blogger Template for Bie Blogger Template Vector by DaPino