Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Complete Meal Planning and Preparation

Each of the girls was asked to plan a meal consisting of an appetizer, an entree and a dessert.  They had to create recipes, build and ingredient list and prepare instructions.  Then each picked a day to lead the preparation of the meal.

I was very impressed with their combination of creativity paired with techniques they had learned throughout the unit study!  One decided to make an asparagus salad, scallops and pasta in a mornay sauce and a lemon tart with raspberry sauce.  The other decided to make an asian slaw, a pork and raman stew and pear ice cream.

Each had to gather their ingredients, plan out the coordinated preparation, assign work to their sister and plate and serve the meal on a nicely set table.  I was thrilled to see how organized they were with their setup and how they continually cleaned up as they went along to keep their workspace manageable.  They each showed that they could provide directions to the other and manage a number of different tasks at the same time.  

The result was two very delicious meals served on a table set according to Emily Post and with a sense of wonderful hospitality to make Danny Meyer proud!  

Bon appetit! 

Marble Maze

Played around with Legos to make marble mazes for each other!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Taking a Restaurant Tour

I wanted to girls to get to see the inner workings of a professional kitchen so I reached out to an friend of a friend who recently opened a restaurant nearby.  And he agreed to show us around!

We had a delicious lunch (as you can see there was nothing left!) at Graze in Little Silver, NJ and then the chef and owner, Junior Chamon, brought us back into the kitchen.  It was really exciting to be in a restaurant kitchen while the cooks were finishing up lunch and prepping for dinner but even better was that Junior gave us a really in-depth tour of his kitchen and gave the girls lots of great culinary information.  

My favorite part was talking to him about the walk-in.  He butchers all of his own meat so he showed us all the great parts of a pig he just did and even showed us the proscuitto he is curing.  He showed us a piece of beef he is dry aging and the girls were delighted to see that it sat above a bed of salt which they learned from our our lessons was to help dehydrate.  He showed us the vegetable he had and where he got them.  They girls noted that, just like Alice Waters, Junior sources his ingredients locally and talked to him about how his menu changes based on what he can get.  

The girls were very impressed by the elaborate mis-en-place and the giant salmon about to be filleted.  

And when the girls asked who washes all of the pans, Junior showed us how the dishes get washed!

The girls were really impressed by how clean and organized a professional kitchen is and totally surprised by how small!

Thanks to Junior for showing us lots of cool things today!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Art ... String Art

A few nails and some string ....

Density Experiement

We took a look at density this morning using a few kitchen ingredients!

First we measured and weighed a variety of liquids from around the kitchen.  Then I asked the girls to find the density ... density = mass/volume... and make a guess as to how the liquids would stack up on top of each other.

Then we poured them all in to a jar one by one and watched as they layered themselves out!  Then we added a few solid objects to see what their density was.

We only used honey, syrup, milk and oil but you could have loads of fun adding whatever else you can find!

Molecular Gastronomy

My favorite topic so far!  And theirs!  So much science, creativity and artistry!

Today we learned about molecular gastronomy.  I like to think of it as the abstract art of food.  Once you have mastered realism, then flip it on it's ear and make it something totally different using science!

We visited El Bulli and made a crazy twist on eggs benedict with Wylie Dufresne.

Then we made raindrop cakes and mango spheres using agar agar for gelification and made powdered Nutella by dehydrating it with 

Then everyone made their own deconstructed salad.  It was great to see that they used what they had just learned by using agar agar to make their dressing thick enough to decorate the plate and using maltodextrin to dehydrate olives.  I was also wonderful to see them trying to use things in lots of new ways and problem solve any issues that came up.  Best project yet!  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Creative Writing... Concrete Poetry

Today we tried Concrete Poetry.  Concrete Poetry is defined as "poetry in which the meaning or effect is conveyed partly or wholly by visual means, using patterns of words or letters and other typographical devices."

The girls picked a topic and then drew a picture and wrote a poem about the topic.  Then combined the two.  Beautiful!

The Science of Bread

Today we learned how you make bread rise to be so nice and fluffy, keep it from being too chewy and how to get a nice crisp crust.  Not only did we learn to make a nice loaf of bread, we learned how small changes to a chemical equation, like temperatures, amounts of mixing or waiting and measurements of components can make huge changes in the final result.

We watched a great video that explained the scientific reactions that happen between the ingredients in bread.  Then the kids embarked on making their own baguettes.

We first mixed our yeast with warm water and salt.  We made one batch with sugar added and the other without.  The kids got to witness first hand how the sugar is essential to feeding the yeast and making it release gas!

Next they added the oil and flour and started kneading. One was a little smoother than the other and one took on a bit more flour than the other. 

We let the dough rise and they got to see all of the little air pockets that were created when we split the dough in half.

After the bread baked we got to try each loaf and discuss how they differed and what might have made the impact.

And then the girls made the bread into Thomas Keller's Tuna Tartine!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Alice Waters and Local Food Lunch

Alice Waters and her adorable book, Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious inspired us to try to make an entirely local meal!

The girls went to Whole Foods with the mission to make us lunch entirely from products grown or made in NJ, NY or PA.  They decided on Vietnamese Pho, salad and maple ice cream!

They were able to purchase green leaf lettuce from NJ, mushrooms from PA, cilantro from NJ, bok choy from NY, pasta and broth from NY, beef from PA, maple syrup from PA, and cream and milk from NJ.  

I was pretty impressed at their determination to find a local noodle and stock and winter veggies... not easy to find!  They couldn't find a local Asian noodle but were creative enough to check for pasta instead.

They made the entire meal without assistance which was great for building planning and organization skills.

  Delicious meal!  And now they are learning a the valuable lesson of washing and cleaning up entirely after themselves!

Food Origins Pursuit Game

During the day we talked about local foods, I wanted to kids to think not only about how local foods are better because they are fresher and therefore more nutritious but to also think about how local foods are the reason for local cuisines.

So I made up a game using a this little game board and a list of foods we commonly eat.  When the girls landed on a colored square they needed to try to identify the origin of a food from the category.  

They used their knowledge of foods they eaten and climates and even some books to deduce where they thought the food originated.  Avocados make guacamole, chickpeas make hummus, apples were mentioned as far back as Snow White, cranberries are served at Thanksgiving.  

Here is the list of foods we used...

  • Pumpkins (North America)
  • Beach Plum (North America)
  • Blueberries (North America)
  • Cranberries (North America)
  • Avocado (Mexico, South America)
  • Apples (Europe)
  • Pears (Europe)
  • Pomegranate (Mediterranean)
  • Fig (Mediterranean)
  • Grape (Mediterranean)
  • Coconut (Asia)
  • Citrus (Asia)
  • Kiwi (Asia)
  • Mango (Asia)
  • Watermelon (Africa)
  • Yams (Africa)

  • Chili Pepper (Mexico, South America)
  • Corn (Mexico, South America)
  • Tomatoes (Mexico, South America)
  • Cucumber (Middle East)
  • Lettuce (Middle East)
  • Onions (Middle East)
  • Cabbage (Europe)
  • Radish (Europe)
  • Turnip (Europe)
  • Eggplant (Asia)
  • Shiitake (Asia)

Oh Nuts!
  • Pecan (North America)
  • Chickpea (Middle East)
  • Lentil (Middle East)
  • Almonds (Middle East)
  • Peanuts (South America)
  • Walnuts (Middle East)

Sweet and Salty and Spicy
  • Maple sap(North America)
  • Chocolate (Mexico, South America)
  • Vanilla (Mexico, South America)
  • South America (europe)
  • Turmeric (India)
  • Black Pepper (India)
  • Caper (Mediterranean)


  • Rye (Europe)
  • Coffee (Africa)
  • Rice (Asia)
  • Oats (Europe)

Wanderlust Journals

We have decided to keep a tiny record of all of our travels, big and small.  Just a few notes and a token of everywhere new we go. We are calling them our Wanderlust Journals!  We filled in the very last pages with our "Lust Lists" of place we want to go and experiences we want to have.

"Julie & Julia"

We sat down one rainy morning and watched one of my favorite movies, "Julie & Julia".  If you haven't seen it, it is the story of a writer, Julie Powell, who got herself out of a funk by cooking every recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and blogging about it.  We follow Julie through her struggles and triumphs in the worlds of cooking and blogging.  Interspersed with Julie's story is the biography of Julia Child.
Image result for julie and julia

Our discussion after the movie centered around Julia's quote, "Find something your passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it."  

We talked about how Julia Child became one of the icons of American culinary history not because she wanted to be a great chef or cookbook author but because she was looking to learn something.  While in France she was not working and first tried hat making to find some joy and then moved on to try bridge.  While she liked both, they did not bring her the joy she was looking for.  She then tried a cooking class but the pace of the class was not quite right so she continued looking for the joy she sought by asking for a more challenging class.  She ended up in a professional class full of men and instead of giving up when she struggled she just kept learning and enjoying.  Because her focus was on joy and journey and not on an end goal, she found great achievement and opportunity at every turn and was able to move through challenges with determination. 

We talked about the similarities of Julie Powell's experience.  She began her blog and cooking challenge not as a way to find fame as a writer but entirely for her own joy.  And like Julia she worked with determination through her challenges of burned beef, loose eggs and no readers.  

It was a great lesson not only into history of Julia Child and insight into some fabulous recipes and techniques, but a great lesson on doing what you love with passion and determination!

We also used some book discussion questions over our lunch of supremes de volaille a blanc and buttered asparagus from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".  And of course the chocolate pie from the movie!

Oh, and before watching the movie we read Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures together.  It gave a readly fun overview of Julia's life and we loved spotting all of her special people, places and things that we had learned about when we watched the moved.

Writing a Recipe (aka Instructions)

I think one of the most important things to be able to do is to give people clear instructions.  

So I asked the girls to write out the instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I asked them to write the instructions for a very young child, someone who had never cooked before.  And then I followed them.

The instructions were wonderfully detailed.  Until we got to the part where you put the slices together!  Each girl forgot to mention that it should be peanut side to jelly side!

The girls learned that you need think carefully about what you think your audience knows and if you are not sure if they know something, you need to spell it out!  Because if you don't sometimes you end up with a pretty sticky sandwich!

We also talked about how you might write a instructions for people with varying skill levels by providing more detailed instructions at the end and referring to them in the main instructions for people who might be unclear.  This way you are giving all of the information one person needs while not losing the attention of the person who already knows all of the technique and just needs to understand how to put it together for this particular project.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Kitchen Brigade

Each day during our culinary unit study we have been preparing a lunch inspired by the chef we studied that day.   We have had classic french sauces and preparations, processed foods, famous Julia child dishes, farm-to-table menus, and modern gastronomy creations.  

The recipes were all great and we learned lots of techniques but the best part was that each day we each filled different roles in a kitchen brigade!  Every day we each picked 3 roles and filled them while we prepared lunch.  Since there are only 3 of us some of the roles were a little redundant so we combined a few.

Here is what we might be on any given day....

General Manager (runs restaurant)

Executive Chef (runs kitchen, creates menu, orders food)

Chef Garde Manager (runs pantry, oversees prep work)

Prep Cook (prepares food)

Chef de Cuisine (manages line chefs)

Sous Chef (second to Chef de Cuisine, trains new cooks)

Line Cook (cooks food)

Pastry Chef (baking)

Expeditor (checks food before serving, does final garnish)

Maitre D (runs front of the house)




It was a great way to understand the jobs within a kitchen, take full responsibility for your work in the kitchen, coordinate with each other and do something new or unappealing.

Great exercise!