cia

Jules Takes on Fundies

This week, I had a friend send a photo to me that really made me stop and realize how I have grown as a person within the last year. In this photo, a year ago this week, I was beginning one of my most daunting tasks at The Culinary Institute of America- the start of Culinary Fundamentals, or as us CIA folk say- “fundies”. As many of you know, with goals of working in Food TV and Food Media, I came to the honest conclusion that attending for culinary or baking and pastry arts was simply not for me. The Hospitality Management degree was a perfect match, as I get the foundational background of the culinary world through just a sampling of hands-on classes.

A year in to my degree, it was time to take my first of four culinary courses. I remember being so completely nervous the week leading up to the course. I know it sounds absurd to be that worked up over making stock and sauces, but I knew I was in for a lot more than that. As much as I adore food, part of the reason I was driven away from the practical side is the stressful environment many kitchens entail, school being no exception. From the moment you walk in, you are looked up and down to ensure your nails are perfectly trimmed, your socks are the correct color, your neckerchief is tied properly, your uniform is crisp white, your toque is pristinely pleated, and your hair is out of sight. When you step foot in the kitchen until the minute you leave, your mind is racing and constantly planning your every move. Absolutely every action you make is calculated, every cut you make is precise, and every move made is swift. Adding an extra level of intensity,  we were in a non-air conditioned kitchen with no windows in the dead heat of summer. Oh, and add in 20 ovens set at 400 degrees all day. I vividly remember walking out every day drenched in sweat and extremely tired. Working in a kitchen is no joke.

As the weeks began to progress, I adapted to the environment and really felt myself thriving. Yes, I was stressed, and tired, and sweaty, but at the end of the day I was doing what I do best- creating. I surprised myself in many ways during the course of that class. I learned so very much about more than just cooking, but rather communicating and problem-solving. I shined when I was given a task and had the freedom to complete it. I built confidence and felt very comfortable in my surroundings. I left that class prouder than I could’ve ever imagined (and sweatier).

 

IMG_7832From there, I went on to several more kitchens and bakeshops, each one teaching me more than the last. I am happy to say that the culinary curriculum of my degree is over, and I made it out alive despite my many thoughts saying otherwise. While I am no longer intimidated by that caliber of excellence in a kitchen, I am certainly reassured that I did make the correct choice for myself in pursing my Hospitality Degree.  I have the upmost appreciation for my peers in the Culinary and Baking/Pastry Programs, and I am grateful I was able to work in that environment firsthand in order to gain the knowledge needed to be able to understand the hard work that goes into creating excellent food. It has deepened my understanding and led me to a new appreciation of food itself. I am a firm believer that the kitchen can teach you so much about life. It is through my experiences in kitchens, that I have learned some of my biggest lessons. Making something from scratch and having it be enjoyed by others is an unexplainable feeling… this feeling being the exact reason many even enter into this profession. So as I sit here and look at this picture of myself with sheer pride on my face a year later, I can’t help but feel proud.

food

Starting a Garden!

About three weeks ago I made the decision to start a garden from the ground up. With very minimal gardening expertise I made the trek to Home Depot to grab some seeds, dirt, and paper pots. Before I knew it, my dining room turned into a sanctuary for my 120 plants, and I have begun to find so much joy in taking care of them… maybe too much. Now one of the first things I do in the morning is spray my plants. Needless to say- quarantine.

It has been such a joy to see the progress of these cups of dirt over the course of the past few weeks. Almost all of them are thriving and are a few inches tall now! I wanted to track the progress of my garden here on the blog so maybe it would give you an idea if you are bored at home. Even if it’s not gardening, we should all take this time to learn a new skill.

Screenshot 2020-05-02 at 9.06.19 AMTo me, there is nothing better than knowing exactly where your food comes from, especially when its your own backyard. Knowing that I created this with my own two hands is certainly a pretty cool feeling. I am so excited to have fresh herbs and veggies all summer long!

 

 

 

food

Quarantine Cooking: Firehouse Lasagna

Two years ago,  I was a competitor on Rachael Ray’s Cook Your Way to Culinary School Competition. That being said, I am a big fan of the show. This week, when watching Rachael prepare her Firehouse Lasagna, I felt truly inspired. With many of my friends and family on the frontlines, I have been looking for a way to show my love- and this was just the way. Food brings comfort, especially during this unprecedented time. I knew right away that making this lasagna recipe would be the perfect way to show my appreciation for my hard-working loved ones. Watch along with me for a step–by-step on how to make this hearty and delicious meal!

 

food

Quarantine Cooking: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hello there folks! It has been quite some time. Being in school full time has consumed a majority of my life, and has cut into my blogging time. Currently, I am back home in Connecticut doing school online while in quarantine. It is certainly nice to be home, as breaks are hard to come by at The CIA. As terrible as this pandemic is, it has really given me some much needed time to get back to me.

Aside from watching copious amounts of Netflix, snuggling my pups, and eating more than I should, I have also been baking up a storm, and boy does it feel good. As wonderful as it is to have all meals made for me at school, I miss being able to cook at home for myself. I think all of us are searching for things to do during these troubling times to escape the harsh reality of the world. Cooking for me and for many others has become just that- more than ever. To put everything aside and spend uninterrupted time in the kitchen, focused on creating something- is magical.

At the beginning of each week (well, losing track of time so I can’t be too sure its the start), I scour recipes and cookbooks to determine what I want to make for the week to come. That means ONE grocery store trip in order to get the necessary materials and avoid unnecessary exposure. I have made many tried-and-true recipes, but have also been using this time to make some new ones. Joanna Gaines cookbook, Magnolia Table, is a staple for me. I have made many of the recipes within it and I can attest to the fact that each one I try is better than the last.

Today I am going to share with you a recipe from her with a few modifications that I made to suit my high expectations for a chocolate chipper. Those who know me, are aware that (besides ice cream), a good ole’ chocolate chip cookie is my all-time favorite dessert. Not just any cookie though… I like a thick and chewy cookie with a hint of salt and preferably served warm. To me there is truly nothing better. At school, I reward myself with chocolate chip cookies as the bakery makes them just how I like em. Joannas’ recipe is the closest I could get to their perfect texture. Enjoy!

 

IMG_7142

PREP: 15 minutes COOK: under 30 minutes COOL: 1 hour

Makes about 40 cookies

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer), beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until blended. Add the vanilla and beat until blended.
  4. Turn the mixer off and add the flour mixture to the bowl. Mix on medium just until the flour is mixed in, then turn the mixer to high speed for a few seconds to pull the dough together; it will be chunky.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and beat on high for about 5 seconds to thoroughly and quickly mix in the chips.
  6. Drop by large spoonfuls on the lined baking sheet; don’t flatten them. Bake until lightly browned on top, 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on the pan on a rack for 1 minute, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  7. Store the cookies in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines. (with modification)

 

 

travel

Ireland 2019

Growing up, travel was never something that my family prioritized. A vacation was a week at the beach, or going somewhere close by but relaxing enough to unwind. I, however, was always fascinated with travel and felt in my heart that I was destined to explore. As a child, I was particularly enthralled with Italy, feeling a deep-rooted connection to my heritage and the beauty of the cuisine and warm, hospitable atmosphere.

When I was sixteen, I was finally given the opportunity to head abroad on a school trip. We spent two weeks gallivanting across Europe, and I was in my glory. The food, the culture, the meeting of new people- it all fascinated me. I vividly remember the burning desire I had to return, the moment I hopped off the plane.

When given the opportunity to travel- it is something I take full advantage of. I am so grateful to have been able to explore so many beautiful places, and yet I always have this insatiable desire to see more. I am of course, a college student and unfortunately do not have an indispensable amount of cash to travel in excess or luxury, but in simply exploring any new places I can make it work.

This is a long overdue post- but this past March, I decided to book a trip to Ireland. With flights being pretty cheap, and in finding a reasonable hotel- I was able to sneak in a five day getaway in the midst of my unusual college schedule.

IMG_4343

I have a three day weekend every week for school, and without a formal spring break, I was willing to sacrifice a day of school for this adventure. I left on Friday afternoon, and returned Tuesday night. In going to The Culinary Institute of America, Stewart International Airport is only about forty minutes away from me. I booked tickets for Friday night, so that I could leave for the airport right after I got out of class and maximize our travel time. With only a carry-on, I boarded the plane and woke up in Dublin. I arrived around 7 am. local time, and were eagerly ready to hit the ground running upon arrival. I took the bus from the airport to the city center, and checked in at our hotel, Temple Bar Inn. It was the perfect location, right in the heart of the Temple Bar quarter, in a bustling neighborhood of pubs, shops, and lively action at all times of day. I began to check out the area, and sat down for a pint of Guinness and some fish and chips… at 11 am. I quickly found out that Guinness is NOT my thing, but I scarfed it down anyway (when in Ireland, right?).

IMG_4221

The first thing I learned about Ireland, is that the weather is incredibly unpredictable. Rain could come out of nowhere, clear and sunny skies turning into torrential downpours. Not even nice and mellow rain, I am taking the kind that turns umbrellas inside out. To keep the trip economical, I relied on primarily walking and taking as few Uber/ Taxis as possible. On the first day, I checked out Saint Patricks Cathedral, Saint Stephen’s Green Shopping Center, and eventually the Guinness Storehouse. I booked my ticket for the storehouse online, and was able to skip the long line upon arrival. The actual exhibits itself were informative and entertaining, but the best part is the top floor with a 360 view of Dublin. With each ticket, you receive a ticket for a free pint, so I tried my best to gulp it down, but I was over it.  I did, however learn how to properly pour a Guinness (pictured below). I was just happy to be taking in the incredible view that we unintentionally booked for sunset. Being up for 48 hours at this point, I grabbed a burger and called it an early night.

IMG_9825

The next day, I took a chance and booked seats on the Paddy-Wagon Bus Tour. A bit skeptical, met for the bus around 8 am. I boarded the bus, unsure what to expect, and quickly became pleasantly surprised when we took off with tour guide, Val. I booked the Cliffs of Moher Tour (approx. 2 hours away from us) for a mere 45 euros, and was granted admission to the cliffs and also stops at Doolin Village, Kinvara, Bunratty Castle, and the “mini-cliffs” at The Burren. Along the way, our tour guide gave a locals perspective and informed us on the history of each place we went. It was TOTALLY worth the money for me, as I was entertained from 8am-10pm, and was able to do my own thing, not being tied down to listening to a speech all day. At each location, you are dropped off, able to do whatever you’d like, and simply expected to be back on the bus at the given time. I loved the Cliffs and was truly taken aback as to how grand they are. It was pretty windy and rainy out, and very slippery. There is no fence or railing, and our tour guide made it very clear that there are no safety nets to catch you if you fall. We got back on the bus, made a few more stops, only to get caught in a rare snowstorm. Yes, as if we couldn’t escape the snow from New England, it just had to follow us across the world. This was the reason we arrived back two hours later than expected, but we still were ready to hit the pubs when we got back.

IMG_9971

 

That night, we realized that it was most economical to book another tour because I wanted to explore some other parts of the country. We headed to The Blarney Castle for day two of the Paddy-Wagon, and it was a perfect day weather-wise. We actually got to spend several hours in Cork, where my grandfathers family was from which was pretty great to see. We got back relatively early, I believe around 6ish, and got ready for our last night out. I had an awesome dinner of beef stew, mashed potatoes, and cider at The Merchants Arch. I sat on the balcony, listened to the live music, and just took in all that I had encountered so far.

For my last day, I had breakfast at a quaint little cafe, paid a stop to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, and began to pack up and head to the airport. I was there a bit early, so I had a nice lunch and said farewell to one heck of a city. Ireland was good to me.

 

cia, travel

top five spots at the CIA

As you know, I have wanted to attend the CIA since second grade. This past week, I was informed of a fifth grader from Texas who wrote to the school with the same intent, along with a little “Flat Stanley” cut-out of herself  asking for pictures of it around campus. I am so excited to share with you this little video I had the opportunity to work on showing off our pretty campus!

  1. Anton Plaza

This is the true heart of campus and probably the most recognizable location. Its scenic views and direct view of both Roth and the Hudson makes for a beautiful sight. In the warmer weather, the fountain is in full effect, making it the perfect place to relax on a bench with a cup of coffee and some homework (optional).

pm_20181207_flats_077

2. Roth Hall

Personally, I spend the bulk of my time in Roth. Each of my classes are located here as well as my job in digital marketing! Fair warning, it can be a maze the first few weeks of school. SO many hallways and corridors, stairwells and rooms, that it can be a little confusing. I am still figuring out shortcuts to classes! The only downfall to Roth is its abundance of stairs… classes on the fourth floor will have your legs crying for a break. However, I am so glad this is where all of my classes are, as in the winter weather there will be no reason for me to head outside. This is also home to several of our restaurants including American Bounty and Bocuse.

pm_20181207_flats_125

3. Farquharson “Farq” Hall

This is our unofficial “dining hall.” Yes, you may be wondering why it looks like a church… it was a former Jesuit hall and is elaborately decorated with stained glass, murals, and beautiful architecture. After grabbing food from one of the production kitchens, students can dine here with friends. It is open all day, and is famously known among students for the lovely little alcove with a plethora of plated desserts. The limitless options of free confections has proven to be very dangerous when you have a sweet tooth.

pm_20181207_flats_218

 

4. Apple Pie Bakery (& our many restaurants on campus)

Oh my… Apple Pie is quite possibly the most convenient place on campus to meet your midday snack needs. Almost every day I grab something in between classes. Whether it be a tea, some cruditè and hummus, or on the days I feel like treating myself- a lovely chocolate croissant. You can be assured that everything here is made to perfection. Students are responsible for baking and running this shop.

pm_20181207_flats_182

 

5. The Egg (+ its amazing view)

When I am not in class, chances are I am at our student center- The Egg. The gym, lots of food, games such as ping pong and pool, as well as comfy seating can all be found here. I personally am an avid yoga class participant, which occurs three times a week. Other classes such as spinning, intense workouts, and Zumba are offered as well. I get most of my meals here, and I am especially a fan of the breakfast spread that is put on everyday. The Egg serves all three meals, as well as snacks, desserts, a coffee bar, and a market to pick up some groceries or snacks for the room. This is essentially the hub of student life on campus.

pm_20181207_flats_028

food

holly dolly

Believe it or not, Christmas Eve is actually my favorite holiday. (Strange right?) Don’t get me wrong, Christmas Day and presents are great, but something about that day before really feels magical.

It always begins with waking up early and awaiting the opening of the little Italian bakery my family has been going to since way before I was born. The line often wraps around the block, and getting cannolis becomes even more exciting than usual. The crowd waiting in line is always chatty, as we make conversation in the cold. The bustling movements of the crowded little shop paired the the delightful smells of holiday confections is a sight to see.

We then visit my grandparents where tins upon tins of Christmas cookies adorn her counter, and even begin to take over various rooms of the house. Between the anginettes, greek cookies, and press cookies, I bet there’s over a thousand. The crazy thing is, almost all of them go over the course of holiday celebrations!

Following all the fun of Christmas Eve during the day, we head to my aunts for dinner and festivities. This is always such a fun time with my family and I look forward to it each year.

Today I want to share with you a cookie that is very near and dear to my heart- the “Holly Dolly.” Yes, I am aware that some may call this a seven layer bar, however my mom (pictured left) has adapted the standard cookie and made this recipe her own signature confection. Today I am sharing this recipe with you + I hope you enjoy 🙂

Ingredients:

1 stick butter, melted

1 package graham cracker crumbs

1 package chocolate chips

(optional: 1 cup nuts)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 package shredded coconut

Directions:

  1. Mix graham crackers with melted butter and press mixture in bottom of 9×13′ pan to create crust.
  2. Layer ingredients.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 25-30 minutes.
  4. Cool & cut into small bars.