Quick And Easy Shortcuts Inspired By The Kitchen

Season 3, Episode 9: Kitchen Confessions

Marcela: store-bought salsa

Sunny: pancake mix

Katie: whipped topping, but she doctors it up with sour cream

Jeff: whipped cream in a can

Geoffrey: peeled garlic

These are the shortcuts that the stars of the Food Network show, The Kitchen, use in their cooking when they need to get something on the table fast, and don’t have time to whip up all the components from scratch. (For those of you who watch the show, this is an old episode that I was watching the other day; Marcela is no longer on the show now.) They were very ashamed of these secrets, and I was hysterical laughing as I watched this segment. Anyway, they might be ashamed of them, but they don’t mean they’re not good chefs; I mean, I might not be a chef on Food Network, but I am a teen chef who uses shortcuts a lot (mainly because my mom doesn’t want me to make more of a mess than I already do, but still, some are just better for all of us). There’s canned beans (something that most of us probably use often because we don’t want to bother soaking dried beans overnight and letting them cook the next day for multiple hours), canned/frozen fruits and vegetables (certain canned ones actually taste good; I like canned corn, artichokes, hearts of palm, peaches, pineapple, mandarin oranges, etc., and there are frozen fruit/veggie mixes made for smoothies and stir-fries, etc.), pre-made pie crust (I bet most of you use it just like me; I make homemade pie crust every once in a while, but it’s just not something that I want to make all the time because it can be time consuming), jarred sauces (I make some of them homemade a lot now, like marinara and basil pesto (my favorite), but I use these ones on occasion, very little, though), condiments (so, you can certainly make homemade mayonnaise and ketchup and barbecue sauce and stuff like that, but so far, I haven’t, so you don’t have to either, although I have made flavored mayos for sandwich spreads and sauces, and I’ve also made a sauce similar to barbecue sauce, but it has some different flavors to it), etc. These are just a few of so many different kitchen shortcuts you can take, some of which are farfetched, so just know that (I’m talking about the condiments). Speaking of which, when I comes to making sauces, I learned a trick from Guy’s Grocery Games (well, I saw it on an episode, but I probably had the trick in my arsenal before then): when you can’t afford a lot of things or whatever it is, you can always use some store-bought sauces to create your own sauces, and I find that it goes beyond just doctoring it up sometimes (sometimes, not always, but still: I think this could be helpful). So, yeah, I find that these are just great tips, and definitely, when it comes to cooking, shortcuts are the way to go if you want to make things that are quick and easy, and I think that especially for people who are really busy, which I think is most of us, these would be most helpful.

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A New Perspective On The Science Of Baking

So, as most of you know, I like to do my own thing and kind of experiment in my baking, and I’ve previously said that I wanted to work with fondant and start branching out into working with more tools and things to just have more fun and become a better decorator. As of now, I’ve worked with fondant, marzipan, an ISI cream whipper (siphon), and I have a spiralizer in my house (it’s for cooking, but still), as well as a food saver (it keeps food for a longer period of time by sucking air into it, and you can use it instead of a vacuum sealer to infuse flavor into food (it’s great for marinating) in seconds; it’s also less expensive), but the molecular gastronomy episode of Kids Baking Championship (season 3, episode 9, titled Molecular Kidstronomy) that I just rewatched at a few hours earlier (there was a marathon on all day today because the first episode of season 4 is airing right now; I’m currently watching it) has inspired me to want to do more. I want to start working isomalt, which is a sugar substitute, and just sugar in general, like making caramel and candies and stuff, which means I’m going to be working with a candy thermometer as well, which, now, I don’t think I’ll be against. I also want to work more in depth with chocolate, like tempering chocolate, modeling chocolate, maybe even making it because from what I’ve seen, it’s not that hard, and in order to do that, I’m might start working with a corn syrup. I think I’ve always not used it and would always rather use honey because I just don’t really keep corn syrup as a staple in my house, but we always keep honey in my house. Anyway, I also already tried one of the techniques shown on KBC yesterday: I worked with tapioca maltodextrin, which dehydrates fats when grinded with them and resembles snow that tastes like whatever fat you use. Spherification chemicals is another one that I want to try. It creates little pearls, “caviar”, out of liquid by using sodium alginate and calcium chloride. I also want to create foams and gels and work more with gelatin and other gelling agents, like agar agar, and I think I can do foams with the siphon (and possibly the gels, but I’m not exactly sure), so at some point, I want to learn how to do that, as well as the gels like I said. So, I think that’s all I got for this post. This is all really cool, and I’m excited to see what other baking ideas I can come up with in my free time!!!!!

Brunch, Baby: I’m A Brunch Girl Now!!!!!

I just got back from Florida where I spent my week’s worth of winter bread with my grandparents, my sister, and one of my brothers. I got to spend time with my aunts and uncles and cousins that I don’t see all the time, and it was a lot of fun!!!!! As usual, I sat in front of the TV day in and day out whenever I wasn’t playing golf and tennis or eating lunch at the country club in our development or going out to dinner at various restaurants. Speaking of which, the country club in the development where I stay, called the Polo Club, has great places for us to eat lunch. While you can eat outside at the Barefoot Cafe, most people prefer eating inside at the popular lunch place there called Steeple Chase, and it’s no surprise considering their awesome buffet. All you have to do is get a table, order drinks, and off to the buffet you go, with its array of delicious choices, from a special of pancakes or waffles every day to an omelet bar where the chef cooks it right in front of you, and you can tell him what you want in it to a salad bar with a variety of options. I swear, it’s so hard to choose. I mean, not only that, there’s bacon, sausages sometimes, sometimes mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, these are foods that change every day. One day, I remember it was Asian with chicken and rice and all sorts of stuff, and then, there was the Christmas brunch, and they also have soups every day, like matzoh ball soup, as well as sandwiches, and, of course, a dessert bar. You just can’t have this kind of a buffet without a dessert bar, right? And, that’s as good as it gets, but it’s really good. I got the special of pancakes or waffles, depending on what it was that day, every day, except for the last day when we were rushing because we had to get to the airport to fly back home, and I wasn’t in the mood for my usual lunch, so I got a hot crab po’boy instead. For those of you who don’t know, a po’boy is a New Orleans, Louisiana sandwich that usually consists of meat or seafood and sometimes a remoulade sauce. Mine just had crab and ooey gooey melty cheese. It actually reminded me of grilled cheese, just with an addition of crab, and I love shellfish now, so, of course, I loved it. So, the reason I say now that I’m a brunch girl is because I occasionally watch Brunch @ Bobby’s, and now, I’m obsessed with Beat Bobby Flay, so I figured that I might as well start watching it more because I like him more (I’m also obsessed with this new show, The Bobby And Damaris Show, because, I mean, you have Bobby, the Iron Chef, and Damaris, the nut job who I always get a laugh from, and they just work so well together)…well, that, and the fact that the food that I got at the club every has helped me rediscover how much I love brunch food. I never eat breakfast in the morning because either I don’t have time, or I’m not in the mood for it, or whatever, but now, I’m starting to remember how much I love this stuff. I just saw an episode this morning called The Savory Side Of Brunch, where Bobby added savory flavors to sweet brunch items, which is right up my alley because I like savory food more than I do sweet. He made things that I just wanted to eat right through the TV: of course, he made a cocktail, a verde mary, the one thing I didn’t want because I’m only 15, but what I did want was everything else he made, which consisted of stuffed French toast with Gruyere, mustard greens and double-smoked bacon that just looked like a savory French toast sandwich with a spicy crème fraîche Dijon spread and caramelized red onions soaked in a Parmesan custard with the perfect choice of sourdough bread, McFlay McScones that were biscuit-shaped, flavored with smoked ham and Muenster cheese, and turned into a sandwich (which is what I was hoping for) with herby oven-roasted plum tomatoes, watercress, and, of course, you can’t have a Bobby Flay brunch sandwich without a fried egg, and a savory yogurt bowl with chickpeas, cucumbers and beets, made extra healthy and delicious with tahini, acid from lemon juice and vinegar, and spices and herbs, and he used this Icelandic-style Greek yogurt, something I’ve never heard of before, but it looked good. Now, I don’t know if I’d be into the yogurt bowl, but my mom sure would, as for the McFlay McScones, I surprisingly don’t really like fried eggs, so take those off the sandwiches, and I’ll probably eat a few, and when it comes to the stuffed French toast, I would probably just eat it as a sandwich without soaking it in the custard and pan-frying it, but I also might try it that way because it seems kind of cool. So, that’s my story for today, and I’m going to be posting a few New Years creations later. I’m having some of my friends over and so are my parents and my sister and my brothers, and I’m really excited!!!!! Happy New Year, everyone!!!!!

Eat, Drink, and End Hunger at the NYCWFF

OMG!!!!!  I’m finally going to get to tell you about the best day of my life: today, I went with my mom to the New York City Wine And Food Festival sponsored by Food Network and Cooking Channel.  All proceeds go to the Food Bank For New York City and No Kid Hungry.  It was their 10th anniversary, and for the first time, there was a section of events for families for the first time this year called Family Fun!, so people of all ages could go; you didn’t have to be at least 21.  The event that my mom and I went to was Culinary Demonstrations Only at the Grand Tasting presented by Shoprite.  There were tons of food to eat, people to see, books to sign, and so much more!!!!!

I started off the day at 12:30 seeing a cooking demo by Jason Smith, the most recent Holiday Baking Champion and Food Network Star.  He made pan-seared pork chops with apple chutney, that, of course, included bourbon.  His Southern charm makes everyone smile, and I was so glad when I got the opportunity to have him sign my NYCWFF shirt that I bought and take a picture with me.

Next was Debi Mazar and her husband, Gabriele Corcos.  They have a show on Cooking Channel that I don’t really watch because I’m more into Food Network, so I didn’t go to their demo, but I love seeing Debi play Maggie on one of my favorite TV shows, Younger.  I went to their book signing where they, also, signed the back of my shirt and took a picture with me.

Then, Alex Guarnaschelli, The Queen, if you will, as the other superstars refer to her on Guy’s Grocery Games during his Superstar Tournaments.  I mean, she’s the Iron Chef, ICAG they called her (short for Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli), she’s a Chopped judge, she’s just a legend in the cooking world.  I had to choose between her and Marc Murphy’s demos because of the conflicting times, but I planned to go to both of their book signings anyway, so I went to Alex’s demo.  She made some chicken breasts with a sauce and pineapple upside-down cake with pink peppercorn caramel.

I was going to Marc Muphy’s book signing, another Chopped judge, but a guy said that he already left, and Alex’s started a little bit early, right after her demo.  Since I was going to Alex’s signing anyway, I still went to hers, and as I expected, the line was really long, but my mom and I still waited in it because I really wanted to meet her (oh, and she was wearing an ICAG shirt, from, of course, Guy Fieri, and a family of three was also wearing #ICAG shirts: lolz).  She, too, signed my shirt, and we took a picture together.  She also signed a piece of paper for Gabby because we were talking yesterday, and she asked me to try and get a signature from Alex for her.

Valerie Bertinelli: what can I say about her?  I think she’s one of my new favorite chefs on FN, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, and, I mean, she went from actress to Food Network chef, and even though I didn’t see her act on any shows, I really enjoy watching Valerie’s Home Cooking.  Her fights with plastic wrap always get me riled up.  Lolz.  She’s also a co-host of Kids Baking Championship, which I love to watch.  Anyway, my grandma got me one of her old books, which I think at the time had been her most recent (her latest book was just released a few days ago), so I brought it for her to sign in addition to my shirt.  For her demo, she made scalloped potatoes.  When she asked if we wanted to have some, I went up, but by the time I got up there, they’d unfortunately ran out of it.  Once again, she signed my copy of her book that I told you I got, and just like everyone else, she signed my shirt, and we took a picture together.  And, just like Alex, my other friend, Hannah, wanted a signature from her, so she wrote one on a piece of paper for her.

Finally was Katie Lee, Southern gal and co-host of The Kitchen.  She made cauliflower chicken fried rice with a little help from her Z100 friend, Elvis Duran.  I went to her book signing, and she was so sweet, not that everyone else wasn’t.  She signed my shirt, took a picture with me, and then, that was the end of my day.

During each demo, people had asked questions that were answered by the chefs that were cooking, and in between each event, we, of course, walked around and sampled food, everything from spinach and kale pesto to cheesecake to arancini balls and pizza.  It was all sooooo good!!!!!

I thanked my mom over and over again because it was truly an amazing experience to get to meet all my favorite chefs, and I just had such a great time.  I was even put on the NYCWFF website!!!!!  Oh…and I forgot to tell you guys, at each person’s book signing, I gave them my business card.  Yeah, I have a business card that I created for this blog.  It’s in the collage that I used for this post’s picture.  Anyway, that was my unbelievable day!!!!!  Next year, I hope Gabby can come with me; I think she would’ve really enjoyed this.  Bye.

Crazy For Cream Puffs And Or Macaron Madness

When it comes to French pastry, we all know how I feel about it if you’ve read my past posts.  Now, I’ve decided that I’m still going to go through with making that croquembouche over the holidays that I told you about, but I’m not going to make macarons just yet on my own.  Here’s why:

1. Pâte à choux can be used to make more than just cream puffs, eclairs, and profiteroles.  It can also be used to make churros, Persian gnocchi, and so much more, so once I master it, I can make multiple things.

2. The piping is easier.  With cream puffs, you can pipe simply using a star tip or something to create that shape, or you can do the swirly frosting-a-cupcake design kind of thing.  I like the cupcake one because I’ve tried it before, and it just looks more decorative to me.  With macarons, you have to keep your piping bag straight up, and come off of it in a certain way and stuff or else you won’t get “feet”, and piping that is harder for me to control, I guess I could say.

3. With pâte à choux, you can make everything right away.  While you have to watch the consistency when you add the eggs, as long as you have the right amounts of each ingredient and the right baking temperature and time, you’re good to go.  With macarons, you have to wait for the meringue to be done whipping, you have to fold the batter a certain way, so it doesn’t deflate, you have to pipe a certain way, you have to let the macarons air dry before you bake them, it’s just a lot of baking labor in my opinion, as opposed to pâte à choux where you kind of get more freedom as to everything, except for the technique.

If I do it right, both would be impressive, and I love the taste of both, but I think just the fact that I’m going to attempt cream puffs, and try to turn it into a croquembouche is really cool.  And, it seems a little easier to me than macarons just because of the issues that I have with them that I mentioned above.  So, when the time comes to do it, I’ll be posting it, and hopefully, it’ll turn out exactly how I imagine.  If Katie Lee, the southern comfort food chef and co-host on The Kitchen on Food Network can do it, then I think I can, too.  Wish me luck!!!!!

Teens Baking: Sweet Adventures: Day 5: Two-Day Celebration Cakes & Ice Cream

Today, we finished decorating our cakes.  We made espresso buttercream (and Cara made chocolate ganache) for our chocolate (celebration) cakes (we cut them into 6 squares, and we each stacked up 2 squares for our two-layer cakes), and we made raspberry mousse and honey buttercream for our (golden) chiffon cakes (each group made one two-layer cake to cut, and share).  Then, we frosted and piped and cut, and it was all delicious!!!!!  This was a really fun class and a great way to finish my summer off right, and I’m excited to see what cooking (and baking) class opportunities come up for me next summer!!!!!

Teens Baking: Sweet Adventures: Day 4: Two-Day Celebration Cakes & Ice Cream

Today, we made our cakes for decorating tomorrow.  We measured the ingredients out ourselves this time, and we made a chocolate sheet cake and a golden chiffon cake (we poured it into two mini round pans: one small and one medium).  Cara told us that we’re not going to have time to make and churn our ice cream base ourselves tomorrow, so she made the peach ice cream base (it’s eggless), and we watched her demo it for us.  We had some extra time, so we made some pumpkin bread for the store.  One of the assistants made some brushettas for us to eat, and they were amazing!!!!!  I’m definitely going to recreate my own version at home (Mextalian), and I can’t wait for the last day tomorrow!!!!!

Teens Baking: Sweet Adventures: Day 3: French Pâtisserie

Today, we made French macarons.  Cara demoed how to make the French toast ones, and then, we made the (vanilla) birthday cake ones.  We whipped, sifted, folded, and piped, and while the piping part was a little bit harder for me because of my issues, Cara was able to help me, and I did as best as I could, and that’s all that matters.  After they came out of the oven and cooled, we decorated them with different frostings and other confections.  The French toast ones got the maple American buttercream and sifted Confectioners’ sugar and ground cinnamon, and the birthday cake ones got the vanilla American buttercream and all kinds of sprinkles that we got to choose from.  They tasted amazing, and I can’t wait for tomorrow!!!!!

Teens Baking: Sweet Adventures: Day 2: Bakeshop!

Today, we made frosted cinnamon rolls (from dough that was already made because it needed time to proof), English muffins, and perfect flaky biscuits (we ate it with some honey butter that one of the assistant’s made for us to spread on it).  Then, Cara, the instructor, showed us how to make the cinnamon roll dough since we didn’t get to make it ourselves.  All the sweet treats were really good, and I can’t wait for tomorrow!!!!! 

Things I Have A Thing Against (And Food Science Stuff)

So, as some of you may already know, when it comes to food, I’m kind of weird because I think about my recipes and how I make them in a different way than most people.  My illogical thinking somehow causes me to have a thing against using yeast, gelatin, corn syrup, and making French pastries (and savory French food, too, but that’s because it’s not in my wheelhouse (I got that word from Guy Fieri on Triple G by the way (that’s Guy’s Grocery Games for those of you who don’t know))) (and probably more foods/desserts/products that I just don’t remember).  So, the French pastry thing also happens to not be in my wheelhouse, but when you think about it, I’ve made mousse (sure, with whipped cream and not meringue, but other people make it this same way I did/do), I’ve made napoleons (because custard isn’t foreign to me (like I said in past posts, I’ve seen people make custard on TV a lot, and I love to eat it, too, which is why crème anglaise and pastry cream and stuff like that come easy to me)), I’ve done cool, out-of-the-box, not butter cakes cakes (because I like cake, and I like trying out different types, and they come out good).  I think what happens is (I’ve probably said this in past posts as well) I feel intimidated by some of these things people make.  I mean, macarons, duck a l’orange, whatever, it’s all French food or not, but it’s all things that just don’t seem capable by people my age that like to cook and bake, yet it is.  The kids of Kids Baking Championship make those fancy desserts that I’ve mentioned a lot, you know, and I think even though they’re not exactly my thing, I can make them if I try hard enough, see people do it enough on TV, and stop myself from getting intimidated by what I think is the level of difficulty. I tried cream puffs and eclairs the other day, and I like them now, probably because I love pastry cream, but I was fine by the shells this time (they were soft, not crunchy, I don’t know, whatever), so I said I was going to make them if I wanted to, and now, I like them, and I want to, so I’m going to try them.  I’m going to take Duff Goldman’s recipe for pâte à choux, put the directions in my own words, add a little of my own flavorings, my own recipe for pastry cream that you know of (and have seen me post on here), and make some cream puffs for the holidays that I’m going to try, and transform into a mini croquembouche.  Being that I’m still not that sophisticated and experienced in pastry, I’m going to skip the spun sugar (also because one of the things I have a thing against is using candy thermometers and make actual caramel as opposed to butterscotch sauce that everyone (including me) calls caramel sauce), and simplify the dessert (like what Katie Lee did on The Kitchen) by using melted white chocolate as the adhesive, drizzle extra on top, and I’m going to top it with dulce de leche-flavored snow (tapioca maltodextrin).  That’s where more food science stuff comes in.  Yes, I have things against gelatin and corn syrup and candy thermometers and all that, but there are some modernist techniques that I want to use, like those siphon cakes that I made.  Just using that siphon is awesome, so having watched Spring Baking Championship and figured out that I could use it in more ways than one was great.  I like using cornstarch as a thickener (because it’s a usual/typical thickener), and I possibly want to learn how to use other things (like maybe agar agar, tapioca starch, maybe gelatin and corn syrup one day, just not right now (I think it’s just because I want to figure out substitutes for them in things like caramel candy and stuff, and I could use gelatin and yeast (the thing about yeast is the time it takes to make a dough, let it rise, and bake it, and all that, and the thing about gelatin is that, actually, I don’t know, I can certainly get into it, and the candy thermometer is just annoying, but I’ll get over it (I mean, I use a thermospatula thingy now for custards, so… (yeah, for custards, I’m fine with using a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the eggs (again, I know, I’m weird/odd with the kind of stuff, and I know I’m using a lot of parentheses, so I’ll try and stop now 😂)))))) to make things like foams and stuff because they’re cool.  To me, food, especially baking (I know I’m probably said this a million times already in past posts), is all about science.  Yes, you need to be precise and accurate, but you also need to have fun, and experiment.  If something doesn’t turn out right the first time, try again, you know?  If you like science like me, maybe try, and figure out what happened and how to fix whatever went wrong.  Anyway, I might do angel food cake at some point (who knows, right?), ya know, whatever, but macarons will have to wait.  I’m making them at my class tomorrow, but I think I’m going to see what happens.  I think I want to get some more experience with them first (by watching more television, I mean 😂) (I actually think they’re easier than I thought now, but whatever; I’ll make them at some point, hopefully/maybe/I don’t know soon).  Okay, I’m done with my food ranting now, as usual, sorry if you got bored, and or fell asleep.  Bye.