“Just as passion burns deep within, fire ignites the flames”

For an introduction in my Capstone course in order to fulfill my requirements to (finally) graduate, we were required to compare ourselves to an inanimate object and create a “brand” for ourselves. Although labeling is not something that I find truly appropriate, it is necessary in this day and age in order to seek employment opportunities.

It had me thinking – how will I be remembered? Of course, I have to say “I don’t care”, but I know deep down, I do. I want to be remembered and appreciated for the life I bring about in those I come in contact with and for the inspiration I create. I want to be remembered for the greatness I ensue, not the mistakes I have summoned. And in a way, that is why I decided I will pursue culinary/pastry arts after graduation. I may be a beginner, unexperienced and clueless…but in due time, I will no longer be that. I want people to thoroughly enjoy my creations. To remember the feelings conjured within them…the people they are with at that exact moment. The way to the heart is through the stomach, and even if it takes years, I swear to myself, that I will at least remember that I worked towards my goal…even if I fail at times. I swear to share my gift with others, and although it will take full dedication, I will stay positive. I will be remembered for being me…an individual with full potential, much like everyone else in this world with something many people forget they possess.

I could compare myself to any inanimate object that possesses only positive qualities, but that would be unrealistic. I am flawed. Flaws that I wish to work on, but flaws that make me unique and will one day help me succeed. I cannot fathom how I would be at this exact moment in time if not for my mistakes and past experiences. I only hope that stand out above the crowd by favorable means, encouraging others to do the same.

This is what I wrote for my introduction:

With a variety of meanings and interpretations, I see myself embodying ideals of the element of “fire”.  Fire possesses many attributes and purposes in different cultures, unique to each. I am a source of energy. My heat is intended to warm the hearts of others. I contribute to inspiration, encouraging others, but also heartening myself. As a part of spiritual enlightenment, I possess authority in leadership and a mind of creativity. A symbol of divinity, I burn to sustain wisdom and knowledge. I illuminate and ignite the soul. I am a source of protection, defending those who call on me. Rebellious and extroverted, my personality has the ability to bring out bravery in others. As a light within a realm of darkness, I possess the courage needed to take on relentless tasks, and the enthusiasm to complete them.

Although characterized as a symbol of pain and death, I have come face to face with fire (literally) in past experiences, from which, I have grown. It feels like an appropriate comparison in order to overcome the traumas of my past and reign hold of it for my future. I wish to kindle myself, and take control of my instilled powers and find a balance. Authority, creativity and passion are necessary to dedicate myself to health and to motivate me to continue my education in a new domain that is unfamiliar to me. Without fire, my future in the culinary arts would not exist. I retain the passion of a fire and the ability to transform positively. The devotion and purification fire holds will free myself from contamination, negativity and aversions I have and will continue to face.

I feel that fire describes me perfectly – and although it can be construed negatively – so be it. The power and force behind fire and its flames is far stronger than the water that will put it out. Man created fire to survive. A natural disaster that may leave many weak, it purifies the world, cleansing it, leading the way for new beginnings. I hope that, metaphorically, I can develop these positive traits and be in control of my own inner fire. I am humble, but I am a leader in the making…I know that much for sure.

To any readers out there….what earthly element would you compare yourself to? We are all spirits trying to make a connection in a limitless realm, and every element works in conjunction with one another…it is only natural to let ourselves feel free enough to be who (or what) we feel we are.

Berry Good!

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Ingredients

approx. 12 small to medium sized strawberries, cleaned and cut in half

1/2 to 1 medium sized banana, sliced

1 (serving) vanilla Yoplait light (or dannon light) yogurt (minus 2 teaspoons) (or any non-fat yogurt)

1 to 2 tablespoons light agave nectar

1 large glass of ice cubes

Directions

1. Slice strawberries and banana and add to blender.

2. Add yogurt.

3. Add a bit of light agave nectar.

4. Add 1 glass of ice.

5. Add a bit more light agave nectar.

6. Mix on “smoothie” setting until blended well and no ice remains. About 2 minutes.

7. Add more light agave nectar to sweeten.

8. Pour into a glass and enjoy this delicious smoothie! Garnish with a strawberry for a nice clean decoration.

Suggestions:

  • Try other fruits and berries – including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries – or any fruit you like
  • Use frozen fruit if you do not have access to fresh
  • For a non-dairy alternative, replace yogurt with apple juice
  • Add flax or hemp seed as an enhancer

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Gettin’ Saucey

Vodka Sauce (With Shrimp & Baby Bella Mushrooms)

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I have made this three times, and each time I used different tomato sauces as the base. I will share the ingredients I felt were most successful in the completion of this dish. My tip: use up what sauces you have in the kitchen pantry – the texture may be a little different each time, but it does not stop you from enjoying what you intended to do in the first place – make a delicious, home-cooked meal! 🙂

Originally found on, and adapted from, Rocco DiSpirito: http://www.oprah.com/food/Penne-Alla-Vodka

Ingredients:

16 ounces (one 1 lb box) Barilla pipette pasta (up to preference) (The amount of sauce being made can withstand 1 1/2 boxes pasta, if you would like a higher pasta to sauce ratio)

1 jar Francesco Rinaldi Hearty Tomato sauce

1 jar Francesco Rinaldi Tomato & Basil sauce (or Traditional Tomato & Basil sauce)

1.5 oz (one shot or more) Kettle One vodka (any brand of vodka can be substituted, up to preference)

8 ounces (1 container) mascarpone cheese (Beligioso)

1/2 tsp or more ground and/or crushed red pepper, up to preference

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Oregano, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

6 tbsp Italian cheeses

1 tbsp heavy cream (optional)

12 or so extra large shrimp (26/30), cooked and deveined (optional)

3 Baby Bella mushrooms, washed and sliced thinly (optional)

Directions:

1. In a large pot, cover salted water and allow it to boil. Cook pasta according to boxed directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium to large saucepan, heat both jars of pasta sauce on low to medium-low heat.

3. Heat through, add vodka. Stir well, and allow sauce to simmer.

4. Add spices (crushed/ground red pepper, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper).

5. Add mascarpone cheese and stir well. Sauce should be a light red color, not yet blush.

6. Spice more to taste. Too much red pepper will overwhelm your palette, so be sure not to add too much unless you are ready to sweat! As an option, add heavy cream to make more of a blush sauce.

7. Add shrimp and/or mushrooms to sauce. You can also sauté the mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil first, with a few dashes of salt, pepper, and garlic.

7. Toss cooked pasta in sauce. Mix well. Sprinkle with Italian cheeses. Enjoy!

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One Roux to Rule Them All

Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

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This is my first attempt at my very own mac and cheese. I followed a similar recipe I had found from the Food Network (by the Neely’s) as a basis to get mine started. Rich and luxurious, this mac and cheese will surely fill you up. The mild Gouda gives it a distinctive taste, while the mild Gruyère calms it down. In addition, the intense, four-year aged white cheddar gives it a sharp taste to your buds, and the goat cheese adds a much needed creaminess. I found my cheeses at Wegman’s. With their distinctive and plethora of imported and domestic cheeses, I knew I would surely find some to give my concoction a much needed flare.

Ingredients:

1 lb (one box) whole wheat pasta shells (or pasta of choice)

4 tablespoons (1 half stick) of unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 teaspoon shallots, diced (I used jarred)

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups heavy cream

2 or more cups 4 year-aged Cheddar, white

2 cups organic mild Gouda (origin: Holland)

1/4 or more cup Goat cheese (classic chèvere)

1 cup mild Gruyere

1/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc White Wine (Sutter Home, California)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (more or less to taste)

Ground red cayenne pepper, to taste

Paprika, to taste

Thyme leaves, to taste

French bread, toasted (to make into bread crumbs for topping)

Parsley (for topping)

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Directions:

1. Cook choice of pasta according to box directions. I like to cook it while I make the sauce, so the pasta does not sit for a while without being tossed. Cook until al dente.

2. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 13×9 (aluminum) pan with unsalted butter.

3. Meanwhile, on low heat, make a roux.

How to make a roux:

  • Melt butter in a medium to large saucepan.
  • The butter should bubble and become frothy. Add garlic and shallots. Be sure not to brown the butter too much – a light brown color is alright.
  • By the tablespoon, whisk in the flour. [Equal amounts of butter to flour is a safe ratio to use]. Be consistent in whisking, so the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. A thick paste should form.

Tip: You can also use a wooden spoon if you do not want to whisk the roux

For extra assistance: http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/culinaryfundamentals/ss/roux.htm

4. Once the roux has finished forming, add the heavy cream. Allow the mixture to boil, on low to medium-low heat.

5. After it boils, add the Sauvignon Blanc white wine. Allow it to cook off for a minute or two. Whisk/stir frequently.

6. Add spices: black pepper, red cayenne pepper, paprika and thyme. In this instance, the cheeses act as a substitute for salt. However, if you feel the need, add a dash of salt.

7. Add the variety of cheeses (shredded): cheddar, gouda, gruyère and goat cheese. Whisk/stir frequently. The sauce should thicken up by this point. Add any extra spices. I added a bit more ground black pepper, because the nuttiness and intensity of the cheeses can overpower any previously added seasonings.

8. Toss the pasta into the sauce pan and make sure it is completely covered with the gooey, cheesy deliciousness.

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9. Pour the cheese-covered pasta into the greased pan. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and finely chopped parsley. You can also top it with bread crumbs after it goes into the oven. (To make the bread crumbs, all I did was cut a few slices of French bread into 1 inch cubes and allowed them to toast in the oven).

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10. Into the oven it goes, on 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, to bake through, for about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow the top of the casserole to brown up a bit before serving. Sprinkle with extra parsley and/or bread crumbs if desired.

11. Enjoy!

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Bunny. Eats. Design. has invited me to share one of my recipes in the May 2013 Our Growing Edge monthly blogging event (hosted by Sonya)! This event is aimed at helping inspire and connect food bloggers across the World Wide Web. I am truly honored! Thank you!

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