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I’ve been meaning to give you a baking school update, but going to school full time whilst still working part time is a combination that makes you feel like crud. I’m up at about 5 am each morning, and then I’m at school for the day (sweating, crying, etc.). In the afternoon, I head home to do homework/study, or I’m off to work. Saturday is spent at the studio teaching, which means the list of things to accomplish on Sundays is absolutely ridiculous. I’m totally wiped. Chores have been neglected, lists have been made and left untouched. I wear the same four outfits repeatedly, and all involve yoga pants. Our house looks like a biker gang has moved in.
But since it’s been weeks, I will give you a
little really long update. I didn’t want you to think I’d been sucked into a 60 quart mixer and maimed by a dough hook. So, here’s how things are going down at school: we work in teams, and we rotate through different stations – or, areas of trauma. When I arrive at school in the morning, I usually feel like barfing. I’m assuming this will go away one day – perhaps the week of graduation. Also, when my chef instructor says, “this is going to be fun,” I know that it will not, in fact, be fun.
Let’s break down the past few weeks, shall we?
Week 5: a crap-load of stuff made with pumpkin. This was the week leading into Canadian Thanksgiving, so there were apple pies and pumpkin pies – a bazillion of ’em – which meant lots of pie crusts. My first attempt at pie crust in the previous week was so pathetic, that it became the standard for worst pie to beat. But it’s also the first time I can remember my chef instructor laughing that hard, so that’s something. Week 5, combined with 4.5 million blog posts about pumpkin-anything on the interwebs, has created such an aversion to pumpkin that the mere sight of it makes me feel like I’m gunna greet my guts.
Week 6: Bakery Outlet. My program runs a bakery outlet on campus to help us get some real-world experience – the products we make in the kitchen are sold in there. Part of our program is business based – we learn about the basics in customer service, marketing, running a bakery, etc. We also take a course in entrepreneurship, so by the time we leave, we will have a business plan in hand. It’s pretty cool. Week 6 was also my first week with a new team. There are three of us (making us the smallest team in the class). We span three generations – our youngest team member is 20, I am 40, and the oldest is 62. My teammates are both dudes. I like to think of myself as the rose between two thorns. I doubt my teammates would agree.
Week 7: European Breads. French baguettes, pain de campagne, pain d’epi, Italian loaves, French loaves, fougasse. Turns out baguettes are not easy to roll – baguettes are bastards. There was another batch of dough turned black, but it wasn’t me this time. And there was a disastrous day – a day when we failed as a team, and completely fell apart. This, invariably, happens. As soon as I feel confident about something at school – anything – it is immediately followed by a colossal failure. On the plus side, there was a food drive victory – thanks in part to you. Some of you even called in cash donations! I was amazed by your generosity, and will be forever grateful. We got some people fed – people who hadn’t been fed in days. In fact, I’m still collecting food – because there are still hungry people, and because when you’ve had a bad day in the kitchen, it’s nice to remember that things could be worse.
Week 8: North American Breads. Whole wheat, raisin, cheese, and kaiser. Kaiser doesn’t sound very North American to me, but I’ve learned to stop questioning these things. This was supposed to be the easy station, because we’ve got the most experience in this area. And for the most part, my team did well. This was the week that I learned that there are “no dumb questions.” And also, “that’s a dumb question, you should know that by now.” So… there was confusion.
Week 9: Quick Breads. Cinnamon rolls, country tea biscuits, morning glory muffins and French apple pies. One of the most dreaded stations in the rotation – and not just because morning glory muffins have raisins and pineapple in ’em. I know what you’re thinking: what’s so hard about muffins and stuff? Well, let me tell you: when you go to baking school, your ability to think for yourself, utilize common sense, and draw on past experience completely leaves your body. You lack confidence, and you start second guessing everything. So, a country tea biscuit could be on fire, and you might find yourself standing beside your chef instructor asking, “do you think that biscuit is done?” But I guess that’s okay because there are no dumb questions. (Unless your question is dumb.)
So, there you have it. An update. And now, some soup. Because soup is basically what I’m living on these days. This chicken soup might be considered a stoup – because there’s lots in it, and it’s quite hearty as a result. There are veggies in there to make you smarter. Chicken to release the serotonin you so desperately need. And it is easily adapted to help you get rid of whatever that bike gang left in your veggie crisper.
This week I hit the final station in our first rotation: cakes. The most feared station of all. Wish me luck…
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Chicken, Veggie and Rice Soup/Stoup – print and make
Serves 6-8 people, depending on serving size.
- 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (for cooking the chicken)
- 2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 2-3 large carrots, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 tomatoes, diced
- 1 medium sized zucchini, chopped
- 2 x 900 ml. boxes (roughly 7.5 cups) sodium reduced chicken broth
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 3/4 cup rice
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1-2 cups frozen cauliflower pieces
NOTES: this recipe adapts easily to fresh or frozen vegetables. Put fresh veggies of your choice in at the beginning of the cooking process (as indicated below), and add any frozen veggies in the last 20-30 minutes of cooking time. This recipe requires a large Dutch oven or soup pot.
In a large Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and begin to cook the chicken pieces. After about 3-4 minutes, add the celery, onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes and zucchini. Cook until the veggies have softened a little (about 5-7 minutes).
Add the chicken broth, wine, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and thyme. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for at least an hour.
After at least an hour of simmering, add the rice, frozen corn, peas and cauliflower. Allow to cook for an additional 20-30 minutes – the cooking time will vary depending on the sort of rice you are using. For example, I like to use brown rice, and this takes longer to cook than white rice. Be sure to check the doneness of the rice before serving.