How To

Let Tri-C Help You Become a Knife Ninja

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My husband, Matt, is truly skilled in the kitchen and I am truly unskilled. I once made him a cake and used salt instead of sugar. That's a hard one to live down. Just recently I made a cheesecake and forgot to bake the crust, thinking it was a pre-baked frozen crust. We ate out the filling like cheesecake pudding. How can someone who lives the life of a foodie be so horrible in the kitchen? Besides my refusal to read directions, which proves to be a huge mistake in the kitchen time and time again, I just haven't put much effort into learning. Now that my husband and I plan to open our own food truck I figure I need some kitchen skills. While I don't plan to be the one doing the cooking I want to help as much as I can.

I have a fear of knives that stems from cutting myself on a newly bought knife in a sink of soapy water. Matt insisted I take a knife skills class and found a great one at Tri-C. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. The class was 2.5 hours and $39. It's been taken by everyone from chefs boning up on their skills to newlyweds getting acquainted in the kitchen. Matt joined me for the class and it made a for a fun evening.

I was very impressed with the Tri-C Eastern Campus facilities. They have a beautiful culinary studio surrounded by windows.

10.3.2013.knifeskills1 Our instructor, Chef Kellie Geiger, was also impressive. She was smart, knowledgeable and a talented instructor. I would absolutely recommend her and look forward to taking another class with her soon.

10.3.2013.knifeskills6 After being shown how to hold our knives and watching a sharpening demonstration we learned how to cut apart a chicken with our boning knives. I was a vegetarian for about 5 years and can get pretty squeamish, but this is an important skill to have. You can save tons of money by knowing how to cut up a whole chicken. The process was truly fascinating. Crack it here, run your finger along there, cut, cut and you've got two chicken breasts, two legs/thighs/wings and your carcass which they are happy to bag up for you to take home for chicken stock.

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After cutting up our chicken we got to season it with whatever we wanted, because next we would cook it up to take home! I thought that was a pretty amazing value for the class that we got to learn knife skills and take home an amazing meal. They had every spice you could imagine to choose from. It was a blast looking through them all and choosing. We went with a curry base, which wouldn't surprise you if you knew that Matt cooks mostly Asian foods. Then we browned it up on the stove before putting it on a baking sheet with chicken stock and covering in foil to bake. 10.3.2013.knifeskills7

While our chicken baked we moved on to cutting up our veggies and not cut ourselves by using the bear claw technique with our hand. I have already found these skills incredibly helpful in the kitchen. I like to make my own soda syrups from fresh fruits and vinegar and as I was slicing up my apples and melon this week I found it to be easier than ever.

10.3.2013.knifeskills8 We also learned how to make cute little veggie bundles by using a peeler to make long carrot strips to wrap our veggies in. We then took our veggie bundles and put them in a foil pouch with butter, herbs of our choosing and ice cubes, believe it or not. They came out amazing!  We had a great meal when we got home and I feel a lot more skilled and don't fear the knives so much anymore.

Check out the Knife Skills class and other Culinary Classes offered at Tri-C. There is an edible creations knife skills and even a pumpkin carving class on the list! They are also open to suggestions. I think an egg class would be great. I have an egg obsession right now and I bet there are a lot of tricks the would be helpful to learn.

 

Help Fight Hunger with the Cleveland Foodbank

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I was so excited to get invited to the Cleveland Foodbank for the August Bloggers Event. I haven't been a blogger that long and I still feel like a wanna-be-blogger most of the time while I continue to build a history and an audience. It was nice to be considered an actual blogger and I love the idea of giving back. Before being invited, I didn't know much about the Cleveland Foodbank. I had driven past it many times and always noticed the big, clean and beautiful sign that beams out towards the highway. I figured it's where the cans go after a canned food drive, but other than that I knew nothing about what was going on in the building beneath that sign.

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We (bloggers - me and Danielle of Find Time for Fun) were given a tour and rundown by the Online Communications Coordinator, Nancy Kelsey, who filled us in on all the incredible work being done.  The Cleveland Foodbank distributes more than 30 million pounds of food a year into our community. It's amazing with all the things we have in this country that hunger is an issue, but it affects an enormous amount of people in our area. One out of five of those who receive food from this organization is a child.

Upon pulling up to the building, I spotted a sea of people that stretched across the entire football field length of the building. I just so happened to be there on a day they were serving the public. The majority of the food collected by the Foodbank is distributed to agencies, churches and food pantries, but today they were more than just warehousing the food, they were giving it straight to the public.

9.3.2013.foodbank4 The next few hours we spent bagging greens, yogurts and cheese and helping people get all this food back to their vehicles. It was great to be able to interact with the people being served by the organization. Everyone was excited to receive their fresh produce they had been waiting so patiently in line for. It felt amazing to help. I was covered in water from unpacking the greens that had been packed in ice, then I was sweating from trying to maneuver the carts around the packed parking lot without hitting anything, but it felt good. I couldn't have been happier to be part of this day.  If you are looking for an amazing morale boost, just try volunteering for an afternoon.

One of the coolest things I got to learn about is how the Cleveland Foodbank is taking nutrition very seriously. They have nutritionist, Chris Vogliano, on staff making sure that children are getting nutritious meals with things like the BackPack for Kids program. Having recently battled thyroid cancer I realize more than ever how important nutrition is to our health. You can never start too early teaching kids about nutrition. It can go a long way towards building a healthy future. Chris has even built a community garden on the grounds! It was truly beautiful to see. 9.3.2013.foodbank1

With all the ways to give back there is surely some way you can help the Cleveland Foodbank. Got a little extra time on your hands? Volunteer at the Cleveland Foodbank. Pretty slammed on time, but got a few extra bucks? Donate Funds to the Cleveland Foodbank. Broke and busy, but you have some extra food laying around? Donate food to the Cleveland Foodbank. They have created endless ways to contribute and September is Hunger Action Month so it is packed with things you can do. Giving back can even be as fun as going to Taste of the Browns.

I hope this inspires some of you to give back. Feel free to let me know how you've helped. If you need a volunteering buddy, let me know and I'll try and join you. It feels great to give back.

Learn more about the Cleveland Foodbank:

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How to Season a Wok in 5 Steps

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When you bring your new wok home from the store, it' nothing more than a hunk of metal. Without seasoning it, it is worthless. Think of a cast iron pan - if you know how to maintain cast iron you know how to care for a wok. Once clean, heating and cooling your wok with cooking oil will develop a natural non stick coating over time requiring less oil to cook and opening up a host of ancient cooking methods to you. Your new wok will come covered in oil to protect it from rust between the factory and your kitchen. Without properly seasoning it, your wok will rust. So the first step is to remove the protective coating. The easiest and simplest way is with hot soapy water and steel wool. This will be the first, last and only time that you’ll ever want to use soap or steel wool on your wok. Scrub it with the soap and water until you remove all visible traces of the oil. You won’t get all of it – it’s impossible – but no worries, it will come off later. Once you rinsed the wok dry it thoroughly.

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Next heat your oven to 425. In the meantime, we want to put a very thin coat of oil on the wok – inside and out. What kind of oil? The possibilities are endless, but choose something that can stand up to the heat – so no butter or olive oil. Peanut or canola oil are good choices as is lard (but only choose lard from grass fed animals). I chose to use organic vegetable shortening this time.

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Once you cover the wok with oil, wipe off any excess and put it upside down in the oven for 20 minutes. My wok didn’t have wooden handles, but if yours does, see if it’s removable. If not, wrap the handle with a damp rag and cover it all with foil. After the time is up, open the oven door and let the wok cool for a bit.

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Then we’ll put it on the stove and heat it up. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and stir-fry some aromatics until charred. Make sure to push everything around the pan rubbing it on every part of the surface. This will help remove any metallic taste from the wok. What to use for aromatics? I used a bunch of green onions, but Chinese chives, ginger, garlic, or onions make great choices.

8.21.2013.wok4 Once the aromatics are charred, remove them from the pan, give it a wipe and you’re good to go. To maintain your wok, rinse with water after each use but no soap.  You can use a soft sponge to get off any stuck pieces. Make sure to dry over heat and coat with a thin layer of oil when necessary. Your wok will develop a seasoned look to it with time and gets better every time you use it.

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If you want more information on woks – history, use, care, lore, etc. – I highly recommend The Breath of a Wok by Grace Young.