Thursday, December 29, 2005

Meat Fabrication

Ah, it's almost over. Time flies! Tomorrow is my last day in the meat fabrication kitchen at NECI. I've learned a lot, and have forgotten a lot that I was supposed to have learned during lecture. My brain doesn't absorb information like it used to. (insert old age jokes here)

When I have a few minutes this weekend, I'll write down some useful tidbits of information to share with you on this blog. Something less obvious than, "you need a sharp knife." :-)


Yep. You all knew I was certifiable, but now it's official. ;-) I took a ServSafe exam on November 29th. It's a national certification for food handlers to show that you know proper sanitation practices, safe food handling, etc. I passed! Yay!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

'Tis The Season

Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A little break

I had a 3 day break as a new class is coming in and I'll be starting my second quarter here today, Wednesday. Yesterday, I had to attend a training session for residential advisors (RA). I'm going to be the RA here at my dorm. That mostly means I unlock doors when someone locks themselves, but I also represent NECI and make sure that their rules are enforced and that the apartment remains a safe and quiet place for students to live and study.

Today I'm starting Meat Fabrication class. YES!

PM Cafeteria

This was probably my favorite class. We returned to the cafeteria at Vermont College to prepare dinner. There is a new Chef instructor there who is fantastic. Each night, she told us what the protein was and either the theme or the main dish that would be made from it, then asked us what we wanted to do for the rest of the meal (starch, veg, vegetarian option, bread, special salad, special desert, etc.) Having the opportunity to participate in the menu was so inspiring to all of us. The last night of class, it was up to us to decide the entire menu. :-)

Inventory Management

I spent two weeks at NECI's Central Purchasing location to learn about ordering, receiving, and inventory management. This is an important part of running a food business because you don't want to order so much that you have stuff sitting on costs money to store things.

We also learned about sustainable agriculture and did a report on a local producer. I visited Doe's Leap, a local farm that makes yummy organic goat milk cheeses. They also raise organic pork, chicken, and cows. It is a small company now with about 25 goats run by a very nice young couple. They were kind enough to take time out of their Saturday afternoon to show me around the farm and take me through their cheese house. I purchased some of their cheeses at the local coop and had a tasting along with my presentation.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

AM Cafeteria

The last two weeks I've been getting up at 2 AM and in class by 3:30 AM. This class was held at the Vermont College cafeteria where we prepared breakfast and lunch for college students, NECI students and faculty, and guests. This has been the highest volume production class that I've had so far. After 4 weeks in baking classes, it was good to get out the knives again. :-)

I learned how to make decent food in high volumes with very little waste. We even had a partial power outage after a snow on our second day in class. I say partial outage, meaning a brown out. The kitchen was for the most part out of power, the dining room and service had partial power, the small bake shop was lit. We weren't sent home for the day as would have been the most likely response in any other culinary school. Instead, our chef instructor taught us how to prepare meals, practicing safety and cleanliness, with limited resources. Today we all received recognition from NECI's board of directors for our response to this event. We each received a nice plaque and a NECI hoodie.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Fall Leaves

Fall Leaves
Originally uploaded by mzones.
The fall leaf season has not been as spectacular this year as it usually is. The weather just hasn't cooperated in the production. I capture this image of the leaves in a neighbor's yard on my walk to class one morning. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

First Snow 2005

First Snow 2005
Originally uploaded by mzones.
It snowed early this morning! I snapped this picture of my car with a very light blanket of snow on it. There is still a little snow on the ground, but none on the roads.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Baking 1b

I've spent the past two weeks in the bakery at the National Life office building in Montpelier. In this class we prepared breakfast pastries and muffins in the morning and lunch items such as breads (rolls, French bread, ciabatta, etc.) , and cookies for the cafeteria. We also filled orders for in-house catering (i.e. cookies for a meeting) and NECI catering for external events. We were able to reinforce what we learned in Baking 1a as well as add to that knowledge.

A fun time was had by all.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Baking 1a

I've completed the first of two baking classes that I am required to take while here at NECI. It was all about producing mass quantities of baked goods (cookies, scones, quiche, dinner rolls, sandwich rolls, foccacia, etc.) in a bakery. It was a fun class and I really learned a lot!

I am trying to think of some good tips to pass along to you and think that I will share what I learned about cookie spread. If you've spent much time making cookies, you've probably had a batch that spread more than it should have. I learned 7 causes of cookie spread, here are some of them:
  1. When creaming the fats and sugars, don't over cream. The idea here is just to incorporate these ingredients, not to incorporate air. Over-mixing will incorporate air, which is the leading cause for cookie spread.
  2. Too much leavening. If you add too much baking soda and/or baking powder to your cookies, they will generate too much air and cause cookie spread. (Also, there will be a chemical taste to the cookies.)
  3. Greasing (or over greasing) the baking sheet. The slick surface provides no resistance to spreading of the dough as it heats.
  4. Low oven temperature. Fats melt before starches and proteins get the picture.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fall leaves

It's fall leaf season here in Vermont. There is still quite a lot of green, but the change has definitely begun. The air is crisp and cool in the mornings, the temp usually drops down into the upper thirties at night. I will try to get out this weekend to get some photos of the fall leaves to share.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Food Science

My first class came to a close last Friday. It was a quick two weeks that was jam packed full of the science of cooking, theory, and lots of experiments. It was a great foundation class to begin my studies.

Cooking tips: 1.) when blanching vegetables, salt the shocking liquid instead of the cooking liquid. The result is more salt stays with the vegetable and no further salting is required.; 2.) when making stock, roast the mirepoix (veg mixture of 1/2 onion, 1/4 carrot and 1/4 celery) before adding to the pot, there is a much richer flavor derived when first roasting the vegetables. A note on roasting vegetables...don't roast the celery, it just turns into a dry nasty bit of bark with no further flavor to release into the stock.

Today was my first day in Baking 1a. Its a lot of fun so far and am looking forward to learning a ton of information and sharing some tips here.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


I have officially completed orientation! Today was the final session. Yay!

Monday morning at 7AM I begin a class in Cooking Theory and Food Science. Seems like the perfect place to begin this journey of learning with some fundamentals that will create a good foundation.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I'm here! I'm actually staying near Burlington until I can move into the dorm next Wednesday. I am getting more excited about starting school with each passing day! I know I've done the right thing. It will be interesting to see if I still feel that way when the temperature drops below zero and I'm trudging through snow to get to class. ;-) Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Planty is safely returned home

I delivered Planty to it's home. If plants could talk, I'm sure it would have shouted for joy that it would not have to spend any more time in the car. It did pretty well considering. It's now back home with its family where it belongs and I'm in Rutland, Vermont, where I decided to stop for the night. Will go on to Montpelier tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


It's been too longs since I last updated this blog! I drove from Fargo to Brainerd and then on to Minneapolis on August 19th. It was pretty much as oppressive an area as it looked on the movie. The Paul Bunyan statue from the movie was made for the movie...the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statue that really is in Brainerd is smaller than I thought, and is surrounded by a fence. Darnit! I really wanted to use it as a photo opp for Planty, but it didn't work out.

I drove on to Milwaukee on the 20th and stayed there until the 28th for the KCM conference. The conference was really good. I'm uplifted by the Word that was preached at the conference. I volunteered to help in the tape duplication area, so spent several hours during the week with that. It was good to have the opportunity to give of my time.

On the 28th I left Milwaukee and drove to Bowling Green, OH, where I visited a friend I had not seen in 10 years. That is way too much time to let go by between visits! On the afternoon of the 29th, I drove down to Pickerington to visit more friends. I got there just in time for dinner. :-) What a treat to have a home cooked meal after being on the road for two plus weeks! I ate and ran and stayed in Wheeler, West Virginia, last night. Now, I'm in a suburb of Philadelphia. Getting settled in for the night. Tomorrow morning I will be headed to NJ, where Planty lives, and then on to Vermont! :-)

This has been such a great experience! I've lost track of what day of the week it is, which I think means I'm well rested!

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Had a very nice surprise this morning as I drove North on I-29 out of Sioux exit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead! So, I did get to visit after all. I only visited the homestead, as that took about 2 hours plus the extra driving added another 2 hours. It was worth it though!

I've grown quite fond of South Dakota over the past few days. I hope to return some day. North Dakota is not having the same affect. There's something oppressive that I cannot quite put my finger on. Oh well. I'll be here for the night, I'll be on my way to Minneapolis in the morning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wall Drug

Now I can say that I've been to Wall Drug. As if the signs along I-90 weren't entertainment enough, the store includes some entertaining historic photos, articles, letters, and even a T-Rex that comes to life occasionally (visit this site to see it in action: )

I was disappointed to find the exit De Smet closed as this is the location of quite a lot of Laura Ingalls Wilder history. Oh well, maybe the T-Rex was enough for one day. ;-) I arrived in Sioux Falls just in time as it started raining about 10 minutes after I checked in to my hotel.

The rain has stopped and I'm going to clean up before venturing out to find a good spot to have dinner.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Site Seeing in South Dakota

Mount Rushmore
Originally uploaded by mzones.
I went to Mount Rushmore today. It was so cool to finally get to visit this tribute to these great leaders in person.

After Mt. Rushmore, I went to see the Crazy Horse national monument. Who knows when that will be finished, but it is already impressive.

Then it was on to the Badlands National Park. Wow! I spent the entire afternoon in this magnificent park. Check out the park site for more info:

Monday, August 15, 2005

Rapid City

I made it to Rapid City, SD, today. Yay! I'll stay here tomorrow night too cause there is a lot to see here. More about that tomorrow night.

My trip today was good. After my morning walk, I found a local coffee house in Butte that made a really good latte to fuel my drive. I stopped in Bozeman for an oil change, what a great little town with a ton of growth going on. Who knew!?!?!

I stopped off at Little Bighorn battleground national monument to check out the site of Custer's last stand. I didn't carry Planty up the hill for a photo opp. ;-)

Planty at the Columbia River

Planty at the Columbia River
Originally uploaded by mzones.
I set off on my drive to Vermont early Sunday morning and stopped at this scenic view location to stretch my legs.

I arrived in Butte, MT, at 4:30 in the afternoon. I'm just getting ready for a walk this morning before starting my drive today.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Battle Ground

I made it to Battle Ground, WA, at 11:30 AM today (July 25th). Now I settle in to enjoy unemployment! ;-)


My last day of work at PC World was Friday, July 22. PC World generously treated me and the entire Technology group to lunch at Hawthorne Lane. I was touched by the generosity and thoughtfulness of my team members who gave me a gift card to the Viking store and a chef hat. :-) My favorite part was the card with the thoughtful messages, I will keep it in a safe place for future reading when I need a lift.

I set out from the SF Bay Area yesterday afternoon and decided to stay the night in Medford, Oregon. It's a little more than half way to my destination near Vancouver, WA. :-) In a short while, I will load my luggage back in to the car and be on my way.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

It's time for a change

The title of this post is the phrase I heard in my heart. And so, with prayerful consideration, I decided to go to cooking school. My top choice, after months of research and again prayer, for this education was New England Culinary Institute. I was so pleased when I heard the news that I had been accepted.

Yeah. That's right. Cooking school. :-)

This is meant to be my cooking school blog. A place where I will post cooking tips and recipes I learn as well as kitchen antics. I start school in early September and expect I will have things to write about shortly thereafter. So, check back!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005