Archive for October, 2011

October 6, 2011

Healthy Snacks to Keep at Work

For lunch this afternoon I had a delicious soup that I made for dinner last night (I’ll be sharing the recipe later in the week). I really enjoyed it and it left me full, but I am craving something sweet.

I’ve noticed that after both lunch and dinner I absolutely am dying for something a little sour or a piece of chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth.

I always have a host of snacks at my desk, because we tend to receive a lot of samples here at the magazine but, as I look around, nothing is just right. Here’s a list of my favorite healthy snacks to keep at my desk or in the fridge here at work.

1. Cheese. My favorite is Laughing Cow’s Mini Babybel Light. They keep for such a long time in the fridge and they don’t taste “diet-y” at all.

2. All-Natural Peanut Butter. I don’t really have a favorite brand, but I love the chunky kind. This is also one of the few things I’ll never buy the diet version of–diet peanut butter just tastes so weird to me. I especially like to fill my spoon with half honey (they have little packs of honey here in the office) and half peanut butter.

3. Oatmeal. I’ve only recently gotten into oatmeal, and the Maple and Brown Sugar instant oatmeal from Trader Joe’s is definitely a new favorite.

4. Cereal. I never really loved cereal either. I always thought it didn’t fill me up and wasn’t tasty enough to waste too many calories on. A few weeks ago, I received a box of Kashi’s Cinnamon Harvest cereal through work and it is so good. I finally cracked it open early last week, and I’ve had a bowl almost every day.

5. Tea. When I really don’t want any added calories but I want to have something sweet, I have a cup of tea instead. My recent favorite has to be Yogi Lemon Ginger with a packet of splenda for a little extra sweetness. I also like Tazo’s Passion tea.

6. Hummus. I have always liked Sabra’s hummus, but I decided to try their chipotle flavor one day while walking through the grocery store (I love all things spicy–especially chipotle flavored!), and it is so good. I love to have a spoonful of this as a snack. On days when I’m lucky enough to get some good grape tomatoes from the farmer’s market, I mix the two together.

7. Dark chocolate covered cranberries. I absolutely love the dark chocolate covered cranberries from Trader Joe’s. They are like a much better version of raisinets.

What are your favorite things to snack on at work or throughout the day?

*Note: all of these opinions are my own. I did not receive any samples for review other than the cereal which came to me through work, but I really do love them!*


October 5, 2011

Emulsified Sauces

During last night’s class we focused on emulsified sauces (sauces that don’t bind together unless you bind them with a protein such as egg–kind of like how salad dressing separates unless you add mustard or something).

Just as we were about to get started making our five emulsified sauces (mayonnaise, hollandaise,  bearnaise, buerre blanc, and sabayon) the first alarm went off. Now, you’d think the fire alarm at a culinary school would readily alert you that there is something potentially dangerous going on but, instead, it’s a pathetic little beeping noise. Anyway, we all paraded out of the classroom and down four flights of stairs onto Broadway (arguably one of the busier streets in Manhattan) in our uniforms. It was literally a sea of white. Needless to say, I now know what it feels like to be an animal at the zoo. There were dozens of people stopping and taking our picture–some people even pulled over in their cars to photograph us. It was all very weird really. Luckily, it was just a drill and we were able to return to work only about 5-10 minutes later.

I was nervous about last night’s class, because emulsified sauces can be tricky at first. They are delicate and can break (not bind together) if they get too hot, too cold, ingredients are added to quickly, and more. We made two of the sauces (the mayo and the hollandaise) by ourselves and then we made the other three in teams. I was with my semi-usual partner, Ron, again. I really enjoy working with him, because we seem to work well together, but I also really enjoy his company.





However, today was our first failure together! Our bearnaise sauce was coming together just fine and then, at the very last second, it just broke. Ron said it looked like yellow vomit. He was pretty much spot on. boo hoo. At least Chef was nice about this particular failure. He said that it was a good learning experience and that it seemed like we added too much oil and that we should have just stopped when it looked nice and thick. But, to make matters worse, we then messed up the buerre blanc–even though Chef said that was the easiest of them all and the hardest to mess up. Secretly, I think it would have been fine, but our assistant chef turned up the heat and the butter bubbled a bit. I think it got too hot after she turned it up, but I guess it was my job to monitor and it and turn it down if I thought she had made the heat too high. Oh well. The good news: The class was short on time due to the fire drill, so we somehow got away with not showing this dish to Chef.

The last sauce we made together, the sabayon, actually turned out deliciously. We made the prettiest little arrangement before plating it for chef, and he really liked both the taste and the visual appeal of our dish. It was a great way to end the night. I actually liked the sauce so much that while I was across the room, I spotted Ron going to throw away the sabayon and I literally ran over demanding he save the sauce so we could take it home. It was a weird instinctive reaction, but it was very funny and had us laughing pretty hard.

Sweet Sabayon

Sweet Sabayon

Tomorrow night we have our first test, so I’m going to spend the majority of my night locked in my room studying. It’s on eight chapters and I really just don’t know what to expect!

October 3, 2011

Fall Comfort Food: Sauces and Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Saturday seems like an eternity ago….

I was really tired going into Saturday’s class from a late night, not to mention my ankle was swollen to about 3x its normal size after a few spills. Needless to say, a Saturday night class seemed daunting.

Saturday was sauce day, so we worked on the 5 French mother sauces (named this because they are the basic sauces from which many other sauces can be derived). I got to work with a guy that has quickly become one of my better friends at school. I was glad that we worked pretty well together too.

We managed most of our sauces with little criticism from Chef, but had a harsh wakeup call when we went to make our white wine sauce. The sauce requires a decent amount of heavy cream, but there was little more than a drop left by the time we gathered our ingredients together. This was our second-to-last recipe of the night, and Chef seemed a bit less patient by this point. He basically said there was nothing he could do about the fact that there was no heavy cream left. Instead of pouring out some of the mixture to make it a bit equal to the amount of cream we had (why didn’t we think of this at the time!!), we just made do with the small amount of cream we had, but it just wasn’t enough and our sauce was far from what it should have been. Oh well! I guess we are still learning, and everything isn’t going to come out perfectly every time.

Bechamel Sauce


Besides my aching foot and the unsuccessful white wine sauce, class was pretty fun and very filling. One of the more advanced levels was hosting a charcuterie buffet—I didn’t love the stuff, but it was great to try a lot of different things made by others in the program. We also made homemade macaroni and cheese with the béchamel (creamy butter and milk sauce basically) AND we had the normal family dinner which consisted of sundried tomato and mozzarella risotto, carrots, pork, and more. Now you see why it’s hard to stay skinny and be a chef!?

Charcuterie Plate

Blurry Charcuterie Plate

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Inspired by a recipe Chef served us at FCI
Serves 8

16 ounces elbow/penne pasta

4 cups bechamel (recipe below)

4 cups sharp cheddar, shredded

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, toasted (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cook pasta according to package directions and prepare bechamel sauce.

2. While bechamel thickens, prepare toasted breadcrumbs.

3. Place pasta in casserole dish and cover with bechamel. Stir in cheese and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

4. Bake for 30 minutes.

Adapted from FCI textbook
Yields approximately 4 cups

3 T butter

4 T flour

1 liter milk

salt, to taste

cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

nutmeg, to taste (optional)

1. Melt butter over high heat. Gradually whisk in flour, careful not to let butter or flour brown (This makes what is called a roux and it is a thickening agent for your sauce). Whisk until mixture is frothy.

2. Add milk and bring to a boil (a rolling boil is imperative to cook out flour taste and help sauce thicken). Turn heat down and simmer mixture for 10-15 minutes, until thickened.

3. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.

Toasted Breadcrumbs
Yields 1/2 cup

1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

2 T butter

1. Melt butter and stir in breadcrumbs over medium heat stirring constantly (to prevent breadcrumbs from burning) until toasted to a dark golden.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese With Bechamel

Recreated the mac and cheese with bechamel for my family

 *Note: I didn’t price out any of this recipe because I didn’t plan on sharing it, but since it requires very few ingredients, it’s very inexpensive and easy to make.