Gardening Adventures 2!

Hello! So, in my previous blog, I told you about my interest in growing my own food and the garden we have started for our homeschool science class. Well, it wasn’t really a garden yet when I wrote my last blog. We planted a bunch of seeds in red solo cups and they had just sprouted up. But now our seedlings have grown a lot bigger! They were growing too big for the cups so it was time to plant them in the back yard. We planted some in the ground and some in pots. I’m so excited to see how they turn out!
They are doing really well so far. We have lost a few along the way though. Two of the roma tomatoes died in the cups and the lavender isn’t doing very well outside but other than that, all the plants are growing beautifully! We have been checking on them, watering them, and making sure they have enough sun every day. We bought some expensive worm castings from the farmers market for the plants and we even talk to them! I think it’s funny how a garden has become part of our family. Stay tuned for Gardening Adventures 3!

Gardening Adventures!

Hello everyone! I just came back from visiting my grandparents in Florida. My grandparents have a farm with an orange grove, a garden, and a cow. So today I’d like to take a break from just writing about my adventures in baking and tell you about my interest in growing my own food! Most of my memories from when I was a little kid are of playing with my cousins in the orange grove, picking oranges, helping my family in the garden, and feeding the cows. So I guess I have a little bit more experience with things like that than other “city kids” but I always want to learn more. I’ve always been pretty fascinated with where food comes from and how vegetables and fruits grow.

While I was in Florida, I helped my grandparents plant corn and pick tangerines. I also got to taste the first orange from a baby orange tree. I learned that the first oranges on orange trees aren’t very sweet until the tree matures a little bit. Oranges really amaze me. An orange is a food and a drink all in one! It’s so cool to peel an orange and look inside at all the little sections and veins and juice sacks. God made them already separated into bite sized sections for us! I’m a bit off topic now but my point was that things like oranges grow in nature. They’re all natural with no preservatives or additives, just nature’s fruits. I think that’s really cool especially because you can grow them in your own back yard!

Our Plants

This year, my family and I have started growing a little garden for our homeschool science class. We are growing three different kinds of tomatoes, three different kinds of peppers, parsley, basil, lavender, and lemon cucumbers. We started them as seeds in red solo cups with soil and water and now they’ve grown into little sprouts! We water them every day and keep them inside by the window where they get lots and lots of sunlight. They are getting pretty big so soon, we will plant them in the ground outside.

Growing our own plants has been really fun so far but I’d really like to get some more experience with gardening. I have been thinking about volunteering and becoming a member at NOLA Green Roots. NOLA Green Roots is a nonprofit organization that teaches people how to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also a community garden and a little farmers market. My family and I took a tour of their garden and it was really cool. They have all kinds of vegetables and fruits and they even have chickens! They let us try a carrot from the garden and a little bit of cauliflower and we bought some fertilizer for our plants, some eggs, and some cauliflower. I think I’m going to register to be a volunteer there very soon.

I think it’s really cool that you can taste the difference between vegetables from the store and vegetables you grew yourself. In my culinary class we talk about things like that a lot and they really encourage us to grow our own vegetables and stuff. It’s so much healthier without all the chemicals and pesticides and genetic modification and all that scary stuff. We watched a video in class one time where a man was picking strawberries and he was required to wear a hazmat suit because of all the chemicals. Isn’t that scary? Things like that make me want to just grow everything for myself. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have my own farm!

Fire truck cake!

February 11th, 2010, a little boy named Caleb Paul Jeffries Hyman was born. This little boy is my little brother! It’s hard to believe that Caleb is already 4 years old. It seems like just yesterday I was holding him for the first time at the hospital! He can be a little loud and crazy sometimes but he really is a good boy and I love him so much!
Last Tuesday was his birthday and I wanted to make him a special cake! Ever since I made my other brother Levi’s Minecraft birthday cake, Caleb has been asking me to make him a fire truck cake for his birthday. He wanted “a chocolate fire truck cake with strawberries inside” so that’s what I made! I used the same fudge cake recipe that I used for the Minecraft cake (in 2 round cake pans instead of one big rectangle) and I made a strawberry filling. For the strawberry filling I cut up some strawberries and brought them to a boil with some sugar and then added corn starch to thicken it. It made something sort of like a thin strawberry jelly. I used the Wilton buttercream icing recipe for the icing. I love this recipe because it’s easy to make and its perfectly white so it’s easy to color.

When the cake was done and cooled, I put a thin layer of icing on top of the first layer of cake so the filling wouldn’t soak into the cake. I also put a ring of icing around the outside of the cake to prevent the filling from spilling out but I soon learned that this method does not work when you accidentally put to much filling in the cake. The poor little wall of icing was no match for the wave of strawberry filling that came out as I placed the top layer of cake on it. Long story short, it took almost all day to ice the cake because every time I would ice it, the filling would seep out and I had to scrape it off and try again. Finally, I got it to look half way descent and covered up the mistakes as best I could with cute little flames. Then it was time to draw the fire truck on top. I kinda cheated on this part. I drew the fire truck on a piece of paper and traced it on parchment paper with piping gel. I transferred the piping gel to the cake and traced that with the icing that I colored black, red, blue, and yellow. (Here is a tutorial on how to transfer piping gel.)

It took forever to make but Caleb loved it so mission accomplished! Happy Birthday Caleb!!! 🙂

Caleb blowing out his candles!

Restaurant R’evolution!

Restaurant R'evolutionSo this past weekend I had my first real fine dining experience! My mom and my step dad’s boss, Mr.Greg and his wife took them out to diner at Restaurant R’evolution as a gift and invited me! I didn’t quite know what to expect. In my imagination, fine dining places were all like the restaurant from the Disney movie Ratatouille. I knew that it would be nice but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was about to experience.

When we got there and we were waiting for our table we went out into the courtyard. There’s a courtyard right in the middle of the restaurant! There was a beautiful fountain and beautiful trees and plants. It was amazing. Before, when I walked down the streets in the French Quarter, I always wondered how people stand to live so close to the street. Now I know that a lot of the houses have cute little courtyards! Walking into that courtyard made me feel like I was being transported to Old New Orleans.  I wish I had a courtyard in the middle of my house!

Finally a waiter led us to our table and pulled out our chairs for us. The staff did pretty much everything for us. That was a bit awkward for me at first but I got used to it. When they seated us, they gave us these cute little cushions to put our purses on! It was so cute! The drink menu was an iPad. I thought that was really cool and modern despite the “old New Orleans” feel of the restaurant. Our waiter, Kevin was awesome. I’m obviously not old enough to drink so Kevin told them to make a drink specially for me. It was like a citrus ginger thing. After we got our drinks, they brought out the amuse-bouche (I was the only one that knew what that meant because I made some at Carnivale Du Vin. Hehe.) Then we ordered our appetizers. We got beer battered crab beignets, hog’s head cheese, burrata cheese with caviar, and the trio of seafood. I was a bit reluctant to try some of it but I tried a little bit of everything and it was all good. My favorite was the crab beignets, they were amazing. My least favorite was the caviar. I’m not a fan of caviar.

Turbodog Stout Chocolate Cake

Turbodog Stout Chocolate Cake

Next we got our entrees. I got the blackened gulf shrimp risotto and it was so good. Shrimp is my favorite seafood and the risotto had a perfect flavor with a perfect balance of spice. I also tried a little bit of everyone else’s entree. My mom got the triptych of quail and that was reeeeaaallly good. I was very surprised that I liked it so much. My step dad got the seared sea scallops and foie gras. I surprisingly liked the foie gras but I’m really not into scallops. (To me it feels like eating a giant earlobe or something.) Mr.Greg’s wife Mrs. Barbara got the risotto like me but Mr.Greg got rotisserie duck and that was probably my favorite of the entrees. It was really tender and you could really taste the good rotisserie flavor.

Finally it was time for dessert. At first we were so full that we thought we didn’t have room for dessert but then we saw the dessert menu and we had to have some. My mom and I shared the turbodog stout chocolate cake with turkish coffee ice cream and fresh raspberry salad. I’m definitely a dessert person so this was my favorite dish of the night. The cake was so moist and fudgy and I’m a real sucker for coffee ice cream.

John Folse and IWhile we were eating we talked to our waiter and told him that I go to NOCCA for culinary arts ad this was my first real fine dining experience. He said that he could give me a tour of the restaurant and the kitchen and maybe let me meet John Folse! (See, I told you Kevin was awesome!) So when we were finished eating he introduced us to John Folse. We told him that I go to NOCCA and that I want to be a pastry chef. He was so friendly and kind to us and he said that I could come and work at his restaurant on weekends! I was kinda speechless! That would be such a great experience! The desserts there were amazing and if I worked there I would be making some of those amazing desserts! I’m really nervous though! The first time I ever go into a fine dining restaurant, the owner offers me a job! What are the odds?

So after we talked to him, Kevin gave us a tour of the restaurant and the kitchen. The interior design of the restaurant was so amazing. Each room had a different theme and it was so pretty. He took us to the chef’s table which is also the chef’s office. It’s a room with a full view of the kitchen. Inside the room was a big table and bookshelves with big books and autographed things from famous people who have been to the restaurant. The kitchen was awesome too! All the equipment in the front was a really unique shade of red. Kevin told us that the color is called “R’evolution red” and it is owned by restaurant R’evolution. (Yes. Yes, you can own a color.) When we went in the back of the kitchen I got to meet some of the pastry people and see what it was like back there. Everyone was really nice and it was amazing.

I’ll never forget my experience at Restaurant R’evolution and I hope that I can go there again. Maybe next time I’m there I’ll be “behind the scenes”. 🙂

Brownies!!!

Brownies!!!

Brownies!!!

Hello there! So today I’d like to tell you guys a lovely little brownie story and share my lovely little brownie recipes with you! I don’t know about you but I love brownies. I actually only know of one person who doesn’t love brownies. I mean how can you resist that chocolate fudgy taste and texture of a good brownie? (If you know a way to resist, please tell me. Brownies are my weakness.)

When you discuss brownies you have to address the great brownie debate. The question that has come between different brownie lovers since the dawn of brownie time… “Fudgy or cakey?”  I personally prefer a fudgy brownie but if you make fudgy brownies, some people will say things like “These brownies are too rich!” or “I prefer a cakey brownie”. If you make cakey brownies people will say things like “Is this supposed to be cake or brownies?” or “I prefer a fudgy brownie.” If you make both then people might argue over which one is better or you might have a room full of fudgy lovers and the cakey won’t get eaten. I’m a people pleaser so I always make sure that my brownies are the perfect combination of fudgy and cakey. Boom, everyone is happy.

Last month I was asked to make brownies for my mom and step dad’s work Christmas party. I was so excited, the only problem was that I had 2 different brownie recipes that were perfectly fudgy/cakey delicious and I couldn’t decide which one to use. I had one recipe that was a bit fudgier with a glaze and chocolate chips on top and one recipe that was a bit cakier with chocolate chips on the inside. So, I made both recipes at home and brought them to NOCCA to ask my culinary classmates which one they liked better. They all liked both of them but said that their favorite was the fudgier one with the glaze so that’s what I went with. The only downside about this recipe is that in my experience, it doesn’t double very well. I had to make 2 separate batches at the same time but that was ok because they turned out great. My mom said that everyone at the party loved them.  Here are the recipes:

  • Best Brownies (winner):
    • 1/2 cup butter
    •  1 cup white sugar
    •  2 eggs
    •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    •  1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    •  1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    •  1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powderIcing:
    •  3 tablespoons butter, softened
    •  3 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder
    •  1 tablespoon honey
    •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    •  1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    •  1 tbs water (If needed)

(I usually top these brownies with a few chocolate chips, M&M’s, or nuts.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.
  4. To Make Frosting: Combine 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. If still dry add 1 tablespoon of water. Frost brownies while they are still warm.
  5. (optional) Top with Chocolate chips, M&M’s, nuts, or whatever topping you want.

Best Bombshell Brownies:

  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl. Gradually stir flour mixture into the egg mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove, and cool pan on wire rack before cutting.

These recipes are adapted from these recipes from Allrecipes.com :
Best Brownies
Brooke’s Best Bombshell Brownies

Tips:

  1. You don’t have to use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder but I prefer it for brownies.
  2. If you grease your pans with butter and flour then try using cocoa powder instead of flour so it doesn’t leave white residue on your brownies. It makes messy dishes but beautiful brownies.

 

I topped these brownies with some sunflower seed candies. These brownies taste great with or without topping but I think toppings really bring them to life (especially colorful toppings like this). Don’t you think? 🙂

Brownies

Brownies

Brownies topped with sunflower seed candies

Brownies topped with sunflower seed candies

Best birthday ever!!!

Hello! As you can probably tell by the title of this blog, I had the best birthday ever! On December 7th, I turned 16! Every girl looks forward to their 16th birthday. Its the birthday where most girls have a huge blowout sweet 16 party and its also the birthday where you are old enough to get your licence! Well, it wasn’t exactly like that for me. I’ve never really wanted a normal huge sweet 16 party because I wanted to be different (but really because I cant dance) and I never got my permit because I was too busy with NOCCA to take drivers ed so no licence for me this year. Since I didn’t want a huge party and I didn’t get my license I was worried that my birthday wasn’t gonna be very special. Boy was I wrong! It was a perfectly amazing birthday full of surprises!

The first surprise was my Nana! Nana is my grandmother on my moms side. She lives in Florida so I don’t get to see her very often but she flew in for the week of my birthday! I was so surprised! She met us at Cafe Du Monde and when I saw her I was so surprised I didn’t even know what to say so I just hugged her. She spent the week with us and it was so nice to have her here. My mom and Nana planned a surprise party for me.

All I knew about the party was that there was gonna be a party and it was gonna be a gourmet experience. I invited all my friends from my culinary class and a few of my other friends. I was so excited and so anxious to see what was gong to happen! When I woke up on the day of my birthday I went to brunch at The Ruby Slipper with my mom, my Nana, and a close friend of ours Mrs. Janet. I had the red velvet pancakes with cream cheese icing (with a side of bacon of course) it was so yummy. After brunch I went to get ready for the party with my best friend Lauren. We got our hair done and our nails done and then we went back to her house to get dressed and do our makeup.

outside

hors d'oeuvres

hors d’oeuvre 

When it was time for the party and we arrived at my house, some of my friends were already there. My mom came out of the house and told us to go around to the back yard. It was decorated so beautifully! The waiter (a close family friend named Cyle) came out and brought us sparkling grape juice, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, and brie on crackers while we were waiting for everyone to arrive. It was pretty cold outside but everyone was still enjoying the hors d’oeuvres and getting to know eachother. When everyone had arrived, the chef (my step dad) came out to introduce himself and tell us what we would be having for dinner. He also talked about his restaurant experience and where he had worked like Le Ruth’s, Emeril’s, and Commander’s Palace. Most of the people there were my friends from my culinary class so they were all very impressed.

The tableFinally it was time to go inside. When we got inside it was so beautiful! I was so surprised! They had decorated the house with candles and lovely white table cloths and purple decorations and balloons. Everyone loved it, especially me. We sat down and they brought us our food one course at a time. It was just like a real restaurant but all for us! We had 8 courses; crab meat St.Francis, oyster and artichoke soup, hearts of palm salad, champagne raspberry sorbet, filet mignon, snow peas and mushrooms, brabant potatoes, and baked Alaska cake for dessert.

Fillet Mignon

Fillet Mignon

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

 

I had never tried most of the food before so it was cool to be able to try some new things. Everyone loved all the food but there was so much of it that my mom gave us all cute little to go boxes. While we were eating, my mom asked everyone little questions about me for prizes. It was cool to see how much my friends really know about me. Everything was absolutely delicious and I had a lot of fun and got a lot of cool presents but I have to say my favorite part of the party was the cake. It was a huge baked Alaska cake that my step dad made. It was so delicious but it was actually kinda scary at first. When he brought it to the table it was still on fire and it almost caught my dress on fire! Thankfully my dress was safe and the cake tasted amazing.

Everyone had so much fun and they were still talking about it for weeks after the party. We had a really good photographer at the party so here are some more photos taken by Michael Deris :

DinnerDinnerMom and ChefHugsSilly PresentsHSM jump!Me

Thankful for pie

Pies

Apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and raisin pie.

Hello lovely people! I know it’s a little late but how was your thanksgiving? Mine was turkeytastic! It was so good to have some of my family and friends all together to enjoy a lovely thanksgiving meal. We had about 15 people come over but we started cooking a few days before so we had plenty of food.
Everyone chipped in a little bit. I was in charge of the dessert! I made 5 different pies. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pecan pie, and vinegar raisin pie.

If you didn’t already know, this thanksgiving was also Hanukkah so I put a little pie crust menorah on top of the apple pie (that also helped to cover up some of the places where I ripped the pie crust. It was my first time making a pie with a top crust.) I used a recipe for the filling but I thought it needed something so I added some fresh squeezed lemon juice. It turned out delicious and most people said it was their favorite of all the pies I made.

I also made a vinegar raisin pie with a vodka pie crust. I got the recipe for it from one of the chefs at NOCCA. It was her family’s recipe. We made it for our pie of the month a few months ago and I knew I had to try making it at home. It’s a delicious pie but it’s a bit hard to explain. Most people just decide they won’t like it as soon as they hear “vinegar raisin pie” but you don’t really taste the vinegar. The only reason for the vinegar is to balance out the sweetness in the pie. I think if I make it again I’m just going to call it raisin pie because that’s really what it is. My brother is pretty picky so I just told him it was raisin pie and he loved it.

Most of my memories of pie are of pies made by my aunt Heather. Her pies have always been my favorite so I asked her if I could use her recipes for my pie crusts and my pumpkin and pecan pies. She said yes! She felt so honored that I asked her for her recipe but I felt so honored to be able to use her recipes! They turned out great! I used the crust recipe for all of the pies I made except the raisin pie. Her pumpkin pie recipe called for evaporated milk and I didn’t have any so I used half milk, half eggnog. The eggnog made it taste really good.

I had extra filling from the pumpkin and pecan pies so I put them together and made a pumpkin pecan pie. I had tried a pumpkin pecan pie before from We’ve Got Soul where the pumpkin and pecan was layered so I attempted to layer the fillings by cooking the pumpkin in there for a few minutes before I put the pecan in but when I put the pecan in the fillings just mixed together. It still tasted great though. I’ll definitely make it again next time.

Even though we spend most of our thanksgivings cooking and eating, the real point of thanksgiving is to be thankful for what we have. This year I’m thankful for food and the great opportunities I have at NOCCA. I’m also thankful for my family and friends and that we’re all healthy and happy. What are you thankful for?