Friday, June 27, 2008

Graduation!

It's amazing what can take place and how much can change in the span of a year. One year ago, I was skinnier and better rested, that's for sure, but I had never tasted homemade croissants straight out of the oven, I had no idea what gum paste was, and I certainly never tempered chocolate before. One year ago, culinary school was a dream, but certainly not my reality. My, how things have changed!

Last weekend, I graduated from Kendall College with a Certificate in Baking and Pastry. The experience of going to culinary school was certainly a dream come true. I met amazing people, had incredible experiences, and learned more than I can ever tell you. The graduation ceremony was just the icing on the cake, pun very much intended. When we received our certificates, we were also given a red rose. It was later explained that the rose was to be given to someone who really inspired or encouraged us along the way. As a teacher, I really love this kind of cheesy stuff and spent some time thinking about who inspired me...

My husband, for sure- for encouraging me every day, especially when I was tired and crabby from long night of class on top of longer days of work. For being patient with me and my lack of free time. For trying all of my homework assignments with a smile on his face and lots of compliments, even when I may not have deserved them.

My friends and family- for giving me a more than generous grace period in which to return their phone calls. They were so incredibly nice to me even when I was crazy busy and seemed MIA. I really appreciate all of the support and encouragement.

My teachers and classmates at Kendall- because they are what made the experience for me. I really looked forward to class each night to spend time talking, and learning, and laughing with these amazing people.

But in the end, I think that I do owe that rose (cheesy thought it may be) and a big thank-you to my Aunt Ellyn, because without even realizing it, she helped to set all of these events into motion. Over two years ago, she and I were sitting with our glasses of wine at Thanksgiving and she was telling me all about blogging. She is a person who's very much in the know and I was so impressed by what she had to say. It got me thinking that maybe a blog would be a great way to get me cooking more- trying new recipes and maybe even writing some of my own. From that first blog entry to culinary school to exciting career aspirations, so much has changed. So, Aunt Ellyn- and all of the awesome people in my life- thank you!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cooking Camp

If my stained apron, the bags under my eyes, or the odor of onions emanating from my clothes are any indication, it was a productive week.  It was also a great one.  Really great!
For those of you who are wondering, a while back, I decided to run a summer cooking camp out of my school.  This is, after all, why I enrolled in culinary school- to teach kids how to make and love great, healthy food.  I figured that I'd start with the kids I already know and love so that it would be a good learning experience but fun too!

My theme for this summer (if you know anything about me, you know how I feel about themes!) was "A Trip Around the World."  It was inspired by some vintage travel stickers that I picked up when shopping one day.  Each day, we "visited" a different country to learn about how they eat, the ingredients they use, and we made a complete meal based on that country.  The kids kept their recipes, chef's hat, and aprons in "suitcases" I made from expanding file folders, ribbon, and scans of said travel stickers and each day, I decorated our classroom to represent the country we were studying that day.  Did I mention that I love themes??

The best part of doing this camp, though, was being in the kitchens with those kids.  I had great help- I had to- with the 15 kids in the morning and 15 kids in the afternoon.  We worked in stations that the kids rotated through, meaning that every kid had an opportunity to make every recipe.  I was so impressed with how well the campers did with the recipes, and how they were willing to try things they've never tried before- like hummus.  That didn't mean that every recipe was their favorite, but I had some pretty adventuresome palates in my group. Honestly, the hummus wasn't super popular- but they tried it!

Favorite recipes of the week were sweet and sour chicken from China, Croque Monsieur from France, and kebabs from the Middle East.  The hands-down favorite, though, was definitely making bread.  We did this in honor of France, naturally.  There was something the kids loved about the mixing, kneading, smelling the yeast, watching the dough rise, and tapping the baked bread to see if it was done.  (It should sound hollow.)  I even caught out of the corner of my eye one of the little ones sneaking a taste of yeast (straight) when she thought I wasn't looking.  Too funny!

I'm so grateful to have has this experience.  I learned so much and had a great time doing it.  I'm ready to start work on the curriculum for session 2 of camp, but in the meantime, you can enjoy my session 1 pictures here.