From brittle to cookie

This weekend was very long. I spent the last three days baking in the kitchen. It was exhausting!

This week’s assignment was baking chocolate chip cookies- from scratch. Sounds easy, right? Hah! Think again! I had to make them a few times before they were to my satisfaction and acceptable to submit to my chef instructor. So glad they turned out in the end. Baking is not my forte, but my hope is that I’ll improve my baking skills throughout this course. I want to be well-rounded in all areas of culinary arts.

There were a lot of emotions I encountered during this experience. Frustration, confusion, annoyance… Despite those feelings, there were also some positives that came out of this event. Gotta look for the silver linings in every event.

So, I’m two weeks into my pâtisserie course and I’m finally using my food scale. I’m familiarizing myself with the different measurements. Last week, we measured in ounces. This week, it’s all in grams. Measuring everything in grams was simple, thanks to the food scale. However, when the recipe stated 90g of eggs, I was very puzzled on how I would accurately measure that. 90g of eggs is basically like 1 tsp, LOL! That doesn’t sound accurate at all! Baking recipes always requires at least a couple of eggs. I took matters into my own hands and guesstimated. I tried adding just one egg to the dough mixture. I had to test the waters somehow…

Let me share the recipe and instructions before I talk about the end result of my first attempt at baking these cookies. This recipe yielded 20 (2 oz. size) cookies.

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 120g dark brown sugar
  • 4g Kosher salt
  • 90g eggs
  • 5g vanilla extract
  • 300g pastry flour
  • 4g baking soda
  • 300g chocolate chips
  • 120g chopped walnuts and macadamia nuts (or pecans)

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

2. Prepare a cutting board and chef knife to chop macadamia nuts.

3. Mise en place ingredients (basically, portion and measure ingredients so they are ready to go).

4. Prepare a stand mixer.

5. Cream butter and sugar until it is a sandpaper-like texture.

6. Add one egg at a time, as well as vanilla extract. Slowly incorporate into the mixture.

7. Prepare a second mixing bowl and sift dry ingredients.

8. Combine dry ingredients and combine the creamed mixture.

9. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.

10. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

11. Use cookie dough scooper to scoop dough onto baking sheets.

12. Bake between 8-12 minutes.

13. Let cookies cool before serving.

This is what transpired from adding in one egg.

It’s a brittle!!! 😱 But it was darn good!

The first thought that came to mind was “they’re burnt!” No, they’re actually not. My cookies turned into a brittle, which was really crispy and delicious. The color is really dark because of the dark brown sugar. I really enjoyed it, but that’s not what we were going for this week, so I remade the assignment.

I spent a good amount of time reflecting on what I did incorrectly and pondered what I could do differently to change the outcome of my baked cookies. I had a deep feeling it was the eggs, that I didn’t add enough. I followed my gut and added another egg (two total) to the dough mixture during my second attempt. Thank goodness, it worked!

Now this is what I’m talking about!
Doesn’t this cookie look delicious? My mouth is watering!

Overall, baking is not as simple as cooking. Everything is precise and cannot be altered like cooking can. Further, you can’t always bake by taste, like with cooking. Once the baked dish is ruined, the entire process needs to be redone.

To conclude, here’s how cookies are made more crunchy and/or chewy.

Until next time… Thanks so much for reading, liking, commenting, and sharing. I appreciate all your support!

Take care,

FS x

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Hola! Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15th-October 15th. In honor of this celebration, we’re featuring salsa verde and empanadas this week. Ironically, these are the dishes I made for my first week of my new course on culinary and pâtisserie. Whoo hoo!

Let’s start with salsa verde- ‘coz it was simple and pretty quick- hehe!

Ingredients (yields two cups):

  • 1 oz Canola oil
  • Bunch of cilantro (or parsley)
  • 1 Garlic
  • 1 Lime (juiced)
  • 1/2 oz Onion
  • Salt- to taste
  • 1/2 of Jalapeño or serrano peppers
  • Tomatillos (canned or fresh)
    • 1 canned 13oz
    • 5 fresh (I guestimated since I couldn’t find canned tomatillos at my grocery stores)

When using fresh tomatillos, be sure to remove the husk. Also, before blending, fresh tomatillos, they should be blanched or broiled. I did both.

  • Blend all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor to desired consistency.
  • Heat canola oil over medium high heat.
  • Season with salt.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Salsa will keep fresh up to five-to-seven days.

I’ve never made my own salsa before. I couldn’t believe how simple and quick it was. I would love to experiment in making other salsas like pico de gallo and salsa roja (red salsa). Ooh, I can’t wait! I’m on a salsa kick! (I’m doing my quick salsa dance right now 🤪💃🏻). My university had a ballroom dancing course that I took. It was pretty cool, but definitely had its challenges. Salsa was a bit difficult to learn. My favorite dance was the foxtrot. It was the first dance we learned and was the easiest.

Onto empanadas… Empanadas are basically Spanish turnovers. They can be filled with either a savory or sweet filling. We’re filling them with savory ingredients.

Ingredients (yields eight servings)

  • 2 oz bread flour
  • 1 oz cake flour
    • *NOTE: can substitute both flours for all-purpose flour (3 oz total)
  • Canola oil (optional for deep-frying)
  • 1/2 oz lard or vegetable shortening
  • 2 oz monterrey jack cheese or mild cheddar, shredded
  • 1 poblano pepper (roasted, seeded and diced)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 oz warm water
  • Sift flours into a mixing bowl.
  • Add lard or vegetable shortening and blend into flour (I used vegetable shortening).
  • Dissolve salt in warm water before pouring into the flour mixture.
  • Knead dough until smooth.
  • Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile…

  • Scrape the filmed skin off the poblano pepper, using the back of the knife.
  • Remove seeds and cut into dices. (The seeds will make the flavor more acidic)
  • Combine cheese and pepper into bowl.

30 minutes later…

  • Weigh the dough on a food scale and divide into eight equal pieces.
  • Sprinkle flour on surface and rolling pin.
  • Roll dough into a ball and flatten with a rolling pin, creating a circle.
  • Place cheese/pepper mixture on one side of the circle.
  • Fold the other side to create a turnover.
  • Press dough around the filling and crimp edges with a fork.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper and bake in a 375ºF oven until golden brown.

Happy October! Wishing you a great week ahead. Until next week…

Peace and wellness,

FS x

Please check out my social media platforms for more posts throughout the week!

Braised chicken & risotto

Yesterday, marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. I remember that day… I was in high school. I remember being woken up by my family. I was informed about a terrorist attack New York. I didn’t know about the other attacks in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon yet. I got ready for school and joined my dad in the dining room, where he was finishing his breakfast and watching the news. Watching the clips of the attack felt surreal, as if I was watching a movie. I couldn’t believe what had happened. That morning, traffic was extra heavy going to school. What usually took 30 minutes with traffic, took almost three times as long that day. My first class was Japanese. Before class began, we had a moment of silence. That day changed our world. It changed the way we traveled. It changed a lot of things. Let’s take a moment to reflect…

This week, we learned to braise a protein. I braised chicken thighs. Braising is similar to slow-cooking, but without using the slow-cooker (i.e., Crock Pot). Speaking of Crock Pot really quickly… I love it! It’s so convenient and simple. My dad sometimes makes roast pork in my mom’s Crock Pot. It’s so delicious! The meat is tender and juicy. Ooh! Making my mouth water! Anyway, back to braising. Braising is done using wet and dry heat. First, the protein is seared in a pot on the stove-top. After it’s golden brown, it’s taken out. In that same pot, the sauce is made. Onions are sautéed with canola or vegetable oil. Next, a roux is created by adding all-purpose flour. This will thicken the sauce. Then, tomato purée or paste and chicken stock are added and mixed thoroughly. Finally, aromatics: bay leaves and thyme. Salt and pepper can be added at this point as well. Voilà! There’s the sauce! The chicken is put back into the pot with the sauce, covered with a lid, and put into a 325ºF oven until the meat is tender (approximately between 60-90 minutes).

While the chicken was baking in the oven, I made risotto. Ah! Another rice dish cooked on the stove. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I made rice pilaf in July. I made it on the stove-top and then finished it in the oven. I had to make that dish twice because the first attempt was very mushy. I’m so used to using the rice cooker to make rice. It’s so easy and convenient. But, before there were rice cookers, people made rice on the stove. My grandma and her children grew up cooking rice on the stove. While there are challenges making rice on the stove, I know there’s a purpose to why these particular dishes are made on the stove-top, compared to in a rice cooker.

I was nervous to make the risotto. Risotto may look like overcooked rice, but it isn’t. The short grains of the rice give it that starchy texture and look. Long grain rice is not recommended for risotto. One can overcook the dish if left on the stove for too long. I watched a recorded demo of the chef instructor while making my risotto at the same time. To my dismay, it came out mushy. Shucks! It tasted good, but it didn’t look entirely appetizing. In some ways, the first attempt’s risotto reminded me of grits. The second endeavor was a lot better. The grains were in-tact. Yay!

Making risotto is time-consuming. Each venture took between 45-60 minutes to make. Risotto is a dish that requires constant attention. A chef instructor called it “babysitting.” Once left unattended, even for a couple minutes, the rice will start sticking to the bottom of the pot and can burn. I don’t think it would be pleasant eating burnt risotto. Be prepared to constantly stir the pot of rice for a long amount of time. Also, the creaminess of the risotto comes from adding the hot chicken stock to cook the rice. NOT milk or cream! Another chef instructor called that “cheating!” Haha! Butter and fresh Parmesan cheese are added at the very end and make it more creamy.

Have a splendid week as we head into mid-September. Golly! Before we know it, Christmas will be here again. I’m starting to feel in that holiday mood again.

Take care,

FS x

A break this week…

There was no cooking assignment for culinary school this week. We just had to fabricate a whole chicken and freeze all the parts. We’ll be using them for the next six weeks. Exciting! I can now say I’ve deconstructed a whole chicken. Yay!

I have to say, I didn’t enjoy the process. Working with raw meat, especially poultry grosses me out. I usually buy already cooked chicken or specific chicken parts (i.e., thighs and drumsticks). It’s much easier and cleaner to work with. As I was fabricating the raw chicken, all I could think about the entire time working was wanting to sanitize everything. Wash my entire kitchen with soap and hot water. I usually wear gloves when handling raw poultry, but I was advised not to wear gloves because it’s actually more dangerous. People are more prone to cutting themselves more easily when wearing gloves. Shucks! So, I had to use my bare hands. I washed them like I had OCD! Seriously! My fingers were pruned by the time I was done. I washed all my equipment and tools several times, as well as cleaned the counter and sink area multiple times. I had to make sure everything was sanitized. Salmonella, food poisoning, bacteria spread is NO JOKE! It’s important to practice safety and good hygiene, especially when working with raw poultry.

August is birthday month. I spent my birthday weekend in the kitchen and with family and friends. My loves! The perfect trio!

Last week, we celebrated my aunt’s birthday. We had the whole chicken with gravy, and carrots vichy and brussel sprouts for her bday dinner. My sister made Oreo-stuffed chocolate cupcakes for dessert. Yummmmm! In my featured image, I created a collage of all the yummy food I ate this weekend. My dad and sis made a feast for dinner. We had tossed salad, steak, chicken, Portuguese sausage, mashed potatoes with boiled eggs and olives, and shrimp and oyster tempura. Wow! We celebrated with strawberry, chocolate, lemon, and coconut cupcakes for dessert from Sam’s Club. Sam’s Club makes some pretty yummy cakes. My dear girlfriend took me out for brunch at the La Hiki at the Four Seasons at Ko ‘Olina. We went there two years ago and had a fulfilled delicious, out-of-this-world buffet brunch experience. However, since COVID, buffets have not reopened, and restaurants that once offered buffets, had to get creative. This restaurant created a pre-fixed brunch menu. The food was yummy, but you can’t beat that buffet. I can’t wait till the buffet reopens again. It was one of the best brunch buffets I’ve ever eaten at. I would love to take my family there to experience all that superlativeness.

Have a great week, All! Please stay safe. This pandemic is getting outrageous!

FS x

Bawk Bawk!

As the Olympics come to a close, it’s always a bittersweet feeling. What an incredible experience, every time! I love how the world comes together to compete in these terrific sports. It truly brings us together. I couldn’t believe how many sports there were this year. Astounding! Congrats to everyone who participated; those who took home medals and those who didn’t. Everyone’s a winner! They’re the best in the world, no matter what! I certainly admired the awesome sportsmanship throughout the games. It was so touching and beautiful to see. Those were the most memorable moments to me. It meant more to me than ever. 2020 gave us a lot to reflect upon and appreciate. Cherish one another; love each other, and be kind.

It was a busy weekend in the kitchen, cooking and roasting up a storm! This coming week is my aunt’s birthday. In celebration of her birthday and for my culinary assignment this week, I’ve roasted a young whole chicken and made gravy from scratch. Good ol’ comfort food. Yum!

I was so nervous because I’ve never roasted a whole piece of poultry before. I usually buy a whole chicken that’s already cooked. It’s so much easier to work with!

In my readings this past week, I learned that roasting and baking are one-in-the-same. Though, I’ve never heard someone say they’re going to roast a cake. I found it very interesting that both terms mean the same.

Before roasting the chicken, I had to truss it. Trussing entails tying the chicken legs and wings snugly together with butcher’s twine so that they are close with the body. Trussing is important for the chicken to cook evenly in the oven. It also prevents the legs and wings from burning. I lathered my chick with butter (olive oil is fine, too) and seasoned with good ol’ salt and pepper. I also seasoned the inside cavity as well. I cut onions, carrots, and celery to create a mirepoix bedding to lay the seasoned chicken on. The mirepoix, a French term, is cooked slowly with the liquid and fat from the chicken. This will be used to make the gravy afterwards. The end goal is for the chicken to be golden brown and for the skin to be crispy. It took nearly two hours for the chickie to cook. The thermometer finally read 165℉; she was cooked thoroughly. Hallelujah! The chicken was juicy, tender, and oh-so-flavorful. I was stoked!

Onto the gravy… I used the mirepoix and the juices from the chicken to first make a roux. I added flour to create a thickening agent. Then added chicken broth to create the gravy. I poured the contents into a mesh strainer, and voilà! Homemade gravy! It was pretty simple and oh-so-good!

For my aunt’s birthday I made a mocha jelly dessert dish. I initially saw a video on Emmymade’s Facebook page on chocolate jelly. I, of course, altered the recipe and made it my own. It turned out to be more of a pudding texture, but it tasted fabulous. It was very rich. Next time, I’ll add more gelatin.

Emmy loves to make unique dishes. This link has some pretty wacky stuff: https://www.emmymade.com/7-wacky-retro-recipes-for-you-to-try/. Not sure if I’m totally game to trying them. Some of them are quite strange. The 7-Up mayo jello salad and the rainbow sherbet snowball cake look interesting. She’s got some interesting stuff on her Facebook. It’s quite entertaining.

Have a marvelous new week! Cases are rising everywhere. Stay safe and healthy!

FS x

Happy Pi 𝝿 Day, 03/14!

Today, we’re featuring a ground turkey pot pie (see image) to celebrate 𝜋 day! Pi, a mathematical term, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159, or 3.14, as most commonly known.

Did you know that pi has been computed to over one trillion numbers beyond its decimal point? It’s an irrational and transcendental amount, and will continue infinitely without recurrence or sequence. That’s pretty trippy! The number goes on and on and on… Wow! That’s math for ya. Very mysterious and beguiling!

Visit https://www.piday.org/ for more information.

I’ve always found math fascinating, especially beyond simple arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There’s so much in the mathematical world that I don’t know about. I learned from a former tutor that there’s math beyond calculus. I always thought calculus was the end of math. Nope! There’s so much more out there. It’s amazing!

I took Kumon at a young age. I was always ahead in my math classes at school, which was such a blessing as I reflect back. Kumon made it easier for me to understand math, especially in school. But the math got harder and eventually, I couldn’t keep up with my Kumon homework and school homework. I stopped taking Kumon around middle school. When I got to high school, I struggled in math throughout my four years. I decided to re-enroll in Kumon, in hopes that I’ll understand the material better, but it was too late. Because I wasn’t ahead anymore and was basically doing the same level of math in both Kumon and high school, it was too overwhelming and I ceased the program again.

I appreciate the Kumon program so much. I think every parent should enroll their children in Kumon for both math and reading. It really does help the student thrive and excel in those key school subjects. I also took Kumon reading for a few years, but not as long as I took the math program. I wish I stuck with Kumon throughout middle and high school, even though the math was getting harder. It would’ve helped me a lot as I learned a new math subject every school year.

While I was in high school, my personal goal was to take AP Calculus in my senior year. And during that time, I thought calculus was the end of math. I tried so hard to get there throughout my four years, but I didn’t. I made it to pre-calculus, which was a great accomplishment, nonetheless. That was a very hard class. I’m not sure how I would’ve survived calculus. Even with extensive tutoring, I just could not grasp the concepts of the pre-calculus equations. It literally felt like a foreign language to me. I felt so lost.

Moving on…. Let’s talk pies now! Literal pies that we can eat and not calculate and contemplate on. These homemade pot pies are simple to make, but do take some time. There’s a lot of prepping involved. But in the end, it’s so worth the time and effort. They’re so hearty and yummy!

I was first inspired to make these pies from an AllRecipes recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/26317/chicken-pot-pie-ix/. My aunt’s friend shared the recipe with her. Overtime, I made the recipe my own, as I always do. I love modifying my recipes and give my personal touch to them. The picture above is a ground turkey pot pie. I love making my dishes very hearty. I added various veggies, including Okinawan sweet potato to the pot pie mixture. It changed the taste and texture of the mixture and made it scrumptious! Better than the original recipe.

I wish you a celebratory day with a lot of pies!! Happy eating and computing for all you math lovers!

Pai! Get it? Hehe!

FS x

Nineteen of 20 Things 2020 Has Taught and Reminded Me + Chicken and Waffles

Happy New Year’s Eve Eve! The week has flown by so quickly! It’s been super busy. I’m looking forward to relaxing during the next holiday weekend, and welcoming in 2021.

We’re onto the 19th fact that 2020 has taught and reminded me. Let’s get to it!

19. Listen to your gut and body.

This has been a constant mantra for me. Trust my gut. It knows best. Most times, when I listen to my gut, I tend to be right about certain situations. I feel like it’s a way God’s connecting with me; speaking to me, guiding me, protecting me…

I live with my body and my body lives with me. I need to listen and take care of her too. If I’m in pain or am exhausted, I listen. My body is trying to tell me something. I’ve had history of overworking my body countless times and that results in negative consequences, like sickness, pain, weakness, and exhaustion. We’ve only got one body. It’s important to give him or her TLC, tender-loving-care.

I was first introduced to chicken and waffles (see featured image) when I was in college in Southern California. My resident assistants took my dormmates and I to Roscoe’s in LA at the end of my first semester. I dined there again years later with friends. That place is bomb! I wanted to make my own chicken and waffles at home. I love the strawberry Eggo waffles. It’s my number one favorite. I had baked chicken thighs. Seasoned it with garlic pepper. It was very basic and simple. I served the dish with some good ol’ green beans, tossed with olive oil and garlic pepper. Yum!

Last post for 2020 tomorrow. See you here.

FS x

Sixteen of 20 Things 2020 Has Taught and Reminded Me + Brick Oven Pizza

It’s sweet 16.

16. Recognizing that everyone deals with crises differently.

We’ve gone through an ordeal of crises in 2020. I came to understand that everyone has dealt with the tribulations differently this year, including myself. While I was feeling motivated and optimistic, others around me were feeling stressed and depressed. As a compassionate person and licensed social worker, it’s in my nature to empathize and imagine myself in other people’s shoes to understand how the certain situations and multiple factors affect their emotions. Things like: familial discord, financial struggles, loss of vocation, lack of socialization and personal interaction, loneliness, and uncertainty of the future… This year’s circumstances immensely attested to our emotional and mental health. But we will rise from this. We always do. We are resilient. We come out better and stronger.

Overtime, I’ve experienced going through the spectrum of emotions this year. I started off feeling positive and driven, but those emotions slowly turned into frustration and despair. I had to practice a lot of self-talk, self-motivation, and self-love to get myself through the year.

I was searching the internet and came across a colorful wheel of emotions. This pretty much explains the entire year, and then some…

Last Christmas, my colleagues and I went to our boss’s house to make pizzas in her man-made brick oven (see featured image). It was a beautiful oven. The pizzas we made were delicious. I made a pesto base with spinach, vegan cheese, onions, and garlic. It was scrumptious. Yum!

Wishing you all the best last week of 2020. Let’s go out with a BANG!

FS x

Seven of 20 Things 2020 Has Taught and Reminded Me + Holly Cookies

Happy Aloha FriYAY! It’s one week before Christmas! Spending this weekend baking and finishing up my Christmas shopping and wrappings. It’s crunch time! There’s so much to do! I’m pumped! I’m determined! Let’s do this!

The seventh thing that the year has taught and reminded me is:

7. To be loving, understanding, patient, and kinder to ourselves.

We need to take good care of ourselves. After all, we’re living with ourselves for life. We do everything with me, myself, and I. It’s important to love ourselves. If we can cherish our family, friends, and acquaintances, why can’t we reciprocate treating ourselves that same way?

I had experienced many moments of frustration with myself and with the world this year. All that has occurred in the world had affected me in both positive and negative ways. I recall the first couple months of quarantining went well. I was pumped and motivated. I had created a to-do list of tasks to accomplish while we were abiding by our state-at-home order.

That “honeymoon” period came and went. By the third month of the pandemic, this “new” lifestyle became tiring and mentally exhausting. There were moments of anguish, anger, and irritation. I had wanted to return to my regular life. Then I asked myself, “what was ‘normal’ now?”

It’s been a constant reminder to be more loving, understanding, patient, and kinder to myself. Give myself more grace. Forgive myself for mistakes. Not being so hard on myself, especially when goals and tasks haven’t been met. To create a happier me, I’ve reminded myself countless times to set smaller and reasonable goals and to do what I can. And if there are days where I don’t feel like doing things, that’s ok. It’s ok to veg and be lazy. Literally, when I tell people I’m taking it day by day and one step at a time, I truly mean that. This is the new way of maneuvering through life. We had to undergo a lot of changes this year. It’s been an adjustment.

I love holly cookies (see featured image)! They’re so yummy and cute. And, they’re super easy to make. No baking required. Yay! Perfect to make during the holidays, or anytime, really.

Guide to making these wonderful cookies: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/9498/holly-christmas-cookies/

Ingredients needed:

  • Marshmallows
  • Green food coloring
  • Corn flakes
  • Red candies
  • Powered sugar
  • Butter (softened)
  • Vanilla extract

It’s the weekend, All! Have a great and safe one.

FS x

Three of 20 Things 2020 Has Taught and Reminded Me + Cookies

Happy Monday! It’s day three and I’ll be sharing the third thing that this year has taught and reminded me. Plus, we’ll be talking about some yummy holiday cookies.

3. To keep on persevering, even through the challenging times.

The word, perseverance, has been the central theme of my life these days. It’s not always easy to be tenacious, especially during tough times. We often feel like giving up; throwing in the towel, and just say “forget it.” I know I’ve felt that way many times. But at the end of the day, I keep reminding myself to persist and endure, no matter how hard the fight is. I’m a fighter and I don’t give up! I’m a conqueror!

The new Taylor Swift album, folklore, has been powerful. Her lyrics have a deeper meaning than ever before. One song in particular, “this is me trying,” immediately resonated with me as soon as I heard it. I thought about many people across the globe who are trying their best every single day. I think as long as we’re trying and doing the best we can in life, that shows courage, fortitude, and stamina as an individual.

Ok, let’s talk cookies. Over the last few holidays, I’ve been trying to perfect a butter cookie recipe that my late grand auntie used to make when I was growing up. She didn’t write the recipe down; only the ingredient list that was actually created by my grandfather. It took multiple tries to get the cookies down-packed. I felt like I was doing a science experiment project. Eventually, I was able to make the cookies my own, which was my ultimate goal. Baking is not like cooking. It’s very important that baking recipes are followed to the T. Too much of this or too little of that, will turn your baking dish upside down.

Until tomorrow… Keep persevering.

FS x