Conversing in Converstions: Metric System 101

11 Oct

One thing that is vital when cooking is understanding food measurements. Whether you’re reading a foreign recipe or buying deli meats and cheeses at the market, a lesson in conversion is pretty helpful. This blog post would have seriously come in handy for me last year when I was studying abroad.

While studying in Montreal, my friends and I decided to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, and I was left with the task of cooking the turkey (probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever cooked before).

Oh Canada!

When I went to the grocery store, I had come thinking I need a 14 pound turkey to serve everyone. I was surprised to find that I could not buy things in pounds—thanks to America’s alternative to the metric system—but I had to figure out 14 pounds in kilograms. Needless to say, I was lost.

I asked a man behind the butcher counter if he could tell me the conversion, but he responded something in Quebecois French that I could not decipher, and then proceeded to show me a pork leg.

“No,” I said. “Nevermind.”

I called my Dad, who was on the road , if he knew the conversion and that was another deadend.

“Maybe you should call your mother on this one,” he suggested.

So I called my mom, who was just home from work, so she was a little on edge as she settled back into my chaotic house. “Mom, I am at the grocery store, and I have no clue how big I should get my turkey. Can you look up the conversion online for me?”

She searched on my home computer conversion charts for pound to kilo and found all kinds of numbers and equations to help solve my turkey problem. “I think you multiple .45 to whatever the poundage is, or maybe it’s division. Wait a sec this website says something about ounces. Are there ounces on the a label?”

The overload of multiple kinds of information was not helpful. I ended up just picking up four or five turkeys and just guessing.

Though when it came time to cook the turkey, it was a lot more hassle not knowing the weight of the bird. If you’ve ever cooked a turkey you know that for every four pounds of poultry, you cook it for about an hour and a half. I had no idea what the size of my turkey was except for the not-so-exact measurement: big.

So confusing!

To make matters worse, the turkey cooking instructions were in Celsius. Kill me now was all I could think.

In the end, the turkey came out amazing thanks to a lot of patience, intuition, and the motivating smells of deliciousness.

To make it easier on all you studying abroad, however, I’ve included a link to a website that explains and calculates conversion way better than I ever could.

http://www.france-property-and-information.com/metric_conversion_table.htm

http://www.calcul.com/cooking-conversion

Why America? Why?

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Inspiration Stations

30 Sep

One of the most fun things to do when you’re bored, hungry, and uninspired is to look at food. Yes, looking at food is a great way to build up a repertoire of recipe ideas, inspire yourself in the kitchen, and develop your recipe reading comprehension.

Here are a few places to get your ogling on:

 

Feed your eyes: pumpkin bread

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich

These websites, blogs, and recipe sites are fantastic resources for any cook. They have won awards and been recognized by numerous outlets for their effectiveness, professionalism, and deliciousness.

WARNING: If you recognize symptoms of hunger: growling stomach, drooling, licking of lips, or pangs in your belly region; this seek immediate culinary attention. Get off your butt and cook.

 

 

 

Chicken cutlets

23 Sep

Wondering what you should cook this weekend?

Well now that you have a bit more time to cook and swallow your food before running off to your next class or homework assignment, it’s time to put some of your cooking skills to the test.

This weeks recipe is chicken cutlets

For the chicken cutlets you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-4 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup panko or Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • OPTIONAL: grated cheese of your choice, milk, various spices, salt, pepper

Directions:

  1. First, create your mis en place (a french cooking term meaning everything in its place).
  2. Measure out your flour onto a dinner plate (OPTIONAL: add some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and any other spice you might think would be good) then set aside.
  3. Measure out your breadcrumbs onto another plate and set aside.
  4. Crack your two eggs into a bowl and whisk them up (OPTIONAL: if you have a favorite cheese, grate some into the scrambled egg mixture and add a little milk) then set aside.
  5. Add your vegetable oil to a pan on medium heat. (HINT: don’t allow to overheat, you WILL set your fire alarm off)
  6. Take another dinner plate and put a piece or two of paper towel on it, and set aside.
  7. Open up your package of chicken breasts and lay the pieces on a cutting board. Get a large chef knife and cut the pieces of the chicken breast into smaller cutlets. (TIP: the reason you cut the chicken into smaller pieces is because it helps them cook faster, taste more tender, and portion more efficiently. Here’s a how to video below if you would like learn how to cut chicken)
  8. Take your cutlets and cover them lightly in flour.
  9. Next, dip the cutlets in the scrambled egg mixture.
  10. Without dripping too much, bring the cutlets onto the plate with your breadcrumbs and cover them. Press the crumbs into the chicken coating them well.
  11. Once your chicken is layered with those three things, your ready to cook them.
  12. Test your vegetable oil. Take a drop or two of leftover scrambled egg mixture and drip it into the oil: if it sizzles your ready to go. If it doesn’t it’s not hot enough–wait a few minutes and test again. If it’s very loud and sizzles like crazy it’s too hot–remove your pan from heat for a few minutes and then test again.
  13. When your oil is ready, carefully lay your cutlets  into the oil (TIP: lay the chicken away from you so you don’t get burnt by splashing oil) and space them so each piece isn’t touching. You will not fit every piece all at once (maybe 4-6 at a time) so be patient.
  14. Watch your chicken. When the edges turn white or the part that’s face down becomes a golden brown, you can flip the piece. Move pieces around and check to be sure you’re not burning them.
  15. When a piece is golden brown on both sides remove from the pan and place the cutlet on the plate with the paper towels on it. (TIP: when cooking any kind of meat in a vegetable oil [NOT olive oil or butter] you want to use a paper towel to remove any excess oil from the meat).
  16. Repeat until all of your chicken is cooked.
  17. At this point you can do whatever you’d like to your cutlets. Here are a few ideas:
  • Chicken parmesan: just add marinara sauce and cheese
  • Chicken sandwich: put the cutlet on a roll and add your favorite sandwich fixings
  • Chicken francese: put the chicken in a clean pan with butter and lemon juice
  • Or just add your chicken cutlets to a favorite salad or pasta dish to make any meal feel heartier.

Chicken cutlets are very versatile and can be made to fit any meal with a little creativity. Try the recipe out and make it your own.

What Every College Pantry/Fridge Should Have

16 Sep

Now that you’re on your own in new place, cooking for yourself for possibly the first time can be a challenge. If you go to your local market and pick up the following items, you’ll be ready to whip up just about anything.

1. Pasta, and lots of it! Take your pick of regular, whole grain, Smart Balance, penne, angel hair, spaghetti, or all of them. Try different kinds, explore the possibilities.

2. Olive oil. This may be the most expensive thing on your receipt, but it’s vital to cooking anything and everything, especially if you like Italian food.

3. Garlic. A jar of pre-chopped garlic is the best for those who are more concerned with the length of the their prep time and not picky about freshness.

4. Frozen Vegetables. Buy in bulk cause they won’t go bad for a long time. One of the fastest, healthiest things you can buy.

5.Eggs. A vital ingredient in most baking dishes, and most breakfasts of champions.

6. Milk. Even if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, milk is accessible and great for cooking, baking, and, of course, cereal.

7. Rice. You’ve got lots of options to choose from: brown, white, wild, long grain, basmati, arborio, jasmine, etc. Try different kinds and pair it with different vegetables and proteins.

8. Tomato sauce. An easy topping for meats, pastas, and Italian dishes.

9. Spices. I’d say the most important ones are: salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, cinnamon, and Italian seasoning (a combination of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram). These spices will come in handy for just about anything you might want to cook.

10. Sugar. Sold in various forms: powdered, fine, brown, light brown, molasses, agave nectar, etc; sugar is a vital ingredient in baking and coffee enhancement, so think about getting some next time you’re out at the market.

11. Flour. All purpose flour will come in handy for most things you cook/bake in the kitchen. Wheat flour is a good healthy alternative.

12. Vegetable oil. Though it’s not the healthiest ingredient, if you ever want to make a boxed cake mix, fried food dish, or thanksgiving turkey, you’re probably going to want a medium-sized bottle of vegetable oil just in case.

13. Butter. Who doesn’t love butter? The famous cook, Julia Child once said, “Fat gives things flavor.” Depending on how healthy you want to be you can use it sparingly or go all out; either way, butter is a valuable ingredient to have in your fridge, just in case.

14. Bread. Yup, bread is an amazing thing. Wherever you go in the world, bread will be there in one form or another from pita to naan, french to tortilla, hoagie to dinner roll. Try different forms of bread at your local bakery or market each week and see what different things you can do with it. Tip: freeze your bread to keep evil mold from attacking it before you’ve finished enjoying it.

15. Cheese. Depending on where you are studying abroad, you may not be able to find cheddar like you’re so spoiled with in Vermont. Cheese is one of the most versatile dairy products. Get whatever kinds of cheeses you like and try them in different dishes like homemade mac n’ cheese, fondue, grilled cheese, nachos, poutine (for those Montrealers), or whatever you feel like.

16. Fruit. As one of the major food groups on the new MyPlate (designed by Michelle Obama, it replaces the established Food Pyramid concept), it’s important that you get about two cups of fruit in your daily diet. Make weekly trips to your local farmers market or favorite produce seller and buy fresh fruit to snack on. Additionally, get frozen fruit, yogurt, and a thick fruit juice (like Naked or Odwalla) at the grocery store and make fruit smoothies for a delicious breakfast.

17. Frozen burger patties. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, a flexitarian, or an all out meat lover, it’s super helpful to have a box of frozen burger patties that can be ready to eat in ten minutes or less and won’t go bad.

18. Local delicacies. Now that you’re abroad, you need to go out an try new things. Explore your area for unique markets, restaurants, and specialty shops.

Now go out there and get your pantry and fridge ready because next week there will be a delicious recipe here to try…

Hey Study Abroad students, and food lovers everywhere!

9 Sep

So a new season of worldly exploration begins. Now that you’re off in a new place, some of you may be missing the familiarity of certain grocery items, fast food, and maybe even the college cafeteria. You’re cooking for yourself—for a few people, it’s heaven; for others, not so much.
With a few skills and lessons from this Champlain Foodies Abroad blog, you’ll be just fine. Take a look around and check out our recipes, tips, restaurant suggestions, and other neat ideas to fill your stomach and mind.

Jean Talon Market in Montreal

3 Jun

Montreal is home t0 Jean Talon Market – one of the biggest outdoor markets in North America with about 300 vendors during the peak summer period between June and October. Taste samples and buy fresh fruits, vegetables and local and international food and products at this open-air market all year long. To get to this favorite Montreal spot, take the metro to Jean Talon station and follow the green signs forJean Talon Market – or just head in the direction of all the people returning with shopping bags.

Jean-Talon Market is Open 7 Days a Week:
Monday to Wednesday: 8: 00 am to 6:00 pm
Thursday and Friday: 8: 00 am to 8:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am to 6 pm
Sunday : 8: 00 am to 5:00 pm

Starting Your Own Herb Garden

11 May

Herbs can get expensive. A single bottle of something such as basil could run you five dollars or more, depending on the brand and size. Being a college student, you have to really pick and choose what you’re spending your money on, especially if you’re cooking for yourself. This, however, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste. There are steps you can take to finding less expensive ways to get the same results with cooking. One, for instance, is growing your own herb garden. Now, before you argue that you have no time to cook let alone maintain your own garden let’s look at some quick numbers.

A packet of basil seeds from Burpee will cost you roughly $4.00 (taken from Burpee.com). From that $4 dollars, you can have an infinite about of fresh or dried basil if you maintain it. You can dry the basil yourself, which is incredibly easy, and whenever you need fresh herbs, you just pluck however many leaves you need off the plant, and don’t have to worry about the rest going bad or wilting.

A medium sized container of dried herbs will cost you about $5.00, and a container of fresh basil will cost you from $8.00 to $11.00. The fresh basil after some time will go bad, and the container will run out, which means not only do you now have no basil, but you have these plastic containers that now have no use other than being tossed into the trash to be dumped into a landfill somewhere. Theoretically, if you use these every day which you might because basil is not only tasty but versatile, you would have to replace the dried herbs every two months, and the fresh ones roughly every two weeks. That adds up after a while, not to mention that you’re not helping much by tossing those plastic containers away after you’re done.

These numbers of course have some flaws, as most numbers do, but the fact of the matter is you’re saving some money by planting your own herbs. Money that can then be spent on other things like concerts, video games, Ben and Jerry’s, and all that other good stuff. It’s not just theoretical number crunching. It’s a scientifically proven fact. Well, maybe not scientifically proven, but J.D. Roth the author of Your Money: The Missing Manual has tried it himself, enough so that he even tried it twice.

Burpee CEO George Ball told the Wall Street Journal that a $1 worth of Burpee seeds produces about $75 worth of beans. That’s quite a big gap for it to be unbelievable, but when Roth tried some home gardening it added up. In 2006, Roth spent $318.43 cents on seeds and supplies (that’s soil, pots, gardening tools, etc) yielded $606.97 worth of food. Granted, they grew a full garden which would explain why the amount spent on seeds and supplies was so high but from that yield, $20.10 of that was in herbs. If you had bought one container of dried basil and one of fresh only once, that would be at the lowest about $13. And that’s only for one herb. Imagine buying a few others, and depending on what they are the prices do vary.

Roth attempted this project again in 2009, and almost doubled his initial investment in seeds and supplies.
That’s quite a bit of money saved.

Even with all this money saved the question still stands “How hard is this going to be to do and how much time will it take?” The answer is not at all, and very little.

An herb garden is the easiest way to start growing your own food, and when you succeed it’s satisfying to see that you were able to produce something usable from a tiny seed and dirt. So without further delay here are some steps to starting a quick and painless herb garden in your own home/apartment/dorm room.

Step 1:
Find out what herbs you use the most. No point in growing things you aren’t going to use. I recommend starting out with 3 of your most used. Buy the seeds for those herbs.

Step 2:
Find or purchase containers for growing. You may not even realize it, but there are things in your home already that you can use such as Dixie cups, egg cartons, yogurt cups, pasta sauce jars, pretty much anything that is deep enough to hold a few inches of soil.

Step 3:
Purchase soil. This is the only thing that I would recommend spending some money on. Soil may be the most basic part of gardening, but it’s the most important part of it. Soil provides all the nutrients your plants need to grow, so make sure you’re getting them the type of soil that they need. I recommend organic matter soil. It usually has the most amounts of nutrients since it’s made of decomposed matter.

Step 4:
Get planting! Yeah, that’s pretty much it. The only thing left is to have common sense. Water your plants, keep them in a sunny spot, and don’t forget to replant them when they get too big for their containers.

Here are some helpful links for those of you more curious about the process of herb growing.
http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/04/how-to-start-an-herb-garden-plants-thyme-rosemary-sage-seeds.html
http://dealseekingmom.com/growing-your-own-produce-does-it-really-save-money/
http://herbgardens.about.com/od/dryingherbs/a/DryingHerbs.htm
http://containergardening.about.com/od/vegetablesandherbs/a/Herbcontainers.htm

-Written by Maureen Bonsignore, Digital Film student who spent the past semester in Montreal

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