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That’s a Wrap… Not the Food Kind…

That’s a wrap! Which is ironic, as a wrap is not one of the foods I tried to make for my project, next time! I cannot believe that the spring semester is coming to a wildly quick close. I know this is a short semester, but it truthfully feels like we just got the ball rolling. For my Learning Project I decided I would do picture perfect meals and honestly had a blast with the creations I got to try. I saw much success and really learned the importance of finding the right recipe and following it closely. I really wanted to shy away from packaged food and do my best to create meals using real ingredients. Now were the meals picture perfect? I don’t know, an assessment might be hard for this and frankly maybe it has to do with the quality of camera I had access to. In any event, I’m proud of what I have created, I served meals to both my family and guests which were well enjoyed, and I have a few keepers that I will continue to use for years to come. I grew to love certain platforms for finding recipes which I had little appreciation for in the past and it is quite likely I will continue to use the internet for the finding of recipes and cooking techniques. I’m not one for clutter so it is nice not having to have a pile of recipe books laying around, although, I do still have a couple of my favourites.

Throughout my adventure of making picture perfect meals, I really came to appreciate the importance of real and fresh ingredients. For example, garlic, it is so easy to use garlic powder (which has its place) or even the minced garlic in the oil but for this project I bought heads of garlic and crushed my own. One of my favourite cooking tools I found throughout this journey is one that has sat in my kitchen drawer, untouched, yet so simple to use. The tool is my Pampered Chef garlic press that I probably felt obligated to pick up at a party years ago not knowing that in 2022 I would need it for my favourite project of my education journey. This garlic press is easy to use and better yet, easy to clean and does exactly the job it needs to do. Fresh garlic cloves provides so much flavour to meals that garlic powder or the minced garlic in oil can simply not compare to. To be completely honest, there were not a lot of “flops” or negative things I found along the way of my cooking journey but more so many things I will take with me into my cooking future. 

I used a number of sources for finding the recipes I chose to make and almost as if it were a research project, I found myself scouring multiple recipes for the same thing to find what I deemed to be the best set of ingredients. I typically found that most recipes were fairly similar ingredients, but some had more of this or more of that and on occasion some would have some extra ingredient which added a special spin to it. My go to place seemed to be Pinterest, although I’m not fully convinced, I know how to properly use that platform. I would go to the platform, type in what it was I was looking for and then take my favourite from the bunch and start my creation. I liked Pinterest because it brought up numerous pictures and of course I could count on the fact there was a recipe to go with the yummy picture and not just the false hope of a picture. I also found Pinterest then led me to other sources like blog pages, YouTube, Instagram and even Facebook. For my blog posts I mostly used images however I did get to play with Canva a bit and a screen recording tool on the iPhone in order to speed up a video. 

Although I can say I’m not a huge fan of blogging, I’m more of a simplistic blogger. I like things to be clear, simple, and concise with not too many flashy things happening. I like things to look organized and pretty and I like the focus to be on the right area. I suppose this is my life in general and I believe this is how a classroom should be organized too for its students. This is also what I’m interested in looking at when I’m looking at blog pages or Instagram posts. In creating my recipes, I did try using other bloggers videos they posted to guide me through, and I found this worked well too! For the purpose of this assignment, I tried to follow the feedback to make longer posts, however, in general I find I’m attracted to post which have pictures, they’re short and sweet and to the point. If I do notice a long post, I’m typically not likely to engage with it at all, I don’t find I will even skim it.

All in all, creating this learning project was so much more than learning to create meals with real ingredients. Learning to engage with technology alongside something I was interested in was rewarding and really show cased an assignment that could easily be transferred into the classroom. My skills with technology and blogging in general are now stronger from this assignment and I certainly have a new appreciation for those that choose to blog and post often. I can’t say I will continue on with my blog in the future but I will also only say that this is good-bye for now!

Cheap and Easy!

Ok so this week I needed another meal for a group of people and I was hoping to have something fairly easy and hands off. I had in mind that I wanted to do something in the slow cooker but I often find that meals from the slow cooker don’t always look “picture perfect”. After much thought, I set my sights on a recipe I found for pulled pork, as it always seems to be a crowd pleaser and can certainly be dressed up to be picture perfect. The recipe I found this week was located on a website tilted: Kims Cravings. I decided I would serve pulled pork with coleslaw, salad and honey butter corn for sides. The coleslaw and salads, again, were both cheats from the bag but the honey butter corn was a quick recipe I found on Together as Family

The making of the pulled pork was so easy; minimal effort for maximum results. I first made the rub, coated the pork shoulder, browned each side in the frying pan as per the directions and then I tossed it into the slow cooker. I added a little bit of chicken broth, topped the pork with diced onions and set the slow cooker to low for 8 hours. The recipe didn’t call for the chicken broth, however, there were a number of comments saying they added it. When the pork was close to done I started on my honey butter corn. Everyone raved about the corn but I personally thought it was a little too sweet and that it could use something a little more. I would still call the corn a win but I definitely would change it up a little bit the next time I make it. 

The pulled pork recipe did mention that the BBQ sauce at the end is optional, so I decided to keep my pulled pork naked and allow the guests to decide if they wanted to add sauce to their bun or not. As much as I did not necessarily enjoy the lengthy writes ups by the bloggers prior to their recipe post, I have actually come to appreciate this section. I have found that there are helpful hints and tricks to try, which one may not find if the recipe wasn’t posted publicly on the internet. For this recipe, it was mentioned that the BBQ sauced did not need to be added in so I took this piece of advice and would do it again this way. I have also found it helpful when choosing recipes to take a look at how many people have commented and what they have to say about a meal. Again, traditionally, one would not necessarily know to avoid a recipe or make adjustments to the recipe with simply having it in a cook book. 

Using technology to find the recipe and make it have really been my forte and will likely always be my “go-to” but actually remembering to take pictures or videos is a whole different story. The internet is a wonderful resource for free recipes, cooking techniques along with different tricks and tips. I have found the experience of blogging to be a good one, however, I’m not convinced it is something I would be able to continue with on the regular. Some of my favourite people to follow post daily or multiple times daily and this is just not something I could see myself doing. For example, I’m on Instagram almost daily but my last post was made on March 12, 2020. I love to see what others are doing but I definitely find it hard to find the time to share what I’m up to and then I often wonder who really genuinely cares what I’m up to anyway. There is definitely a lot more to creating the perfect blog with the perfect pictures etc. than I ever would have imagined and I absolutely have a new appreciation for those who take the time to do it.

The ingredients!

Into the Slow Cooker!

Shredded and Ready!

The finished product!

Rib Famous

This week was full of new recipes and boy oh boy were they ever a hit! I knew we would be hosting guests on the weekend, so I saved up my learning project meal, to hopefully shine in front of a crowd. This week I incorporated not one, not two but THREE recipes into my project. I chose to make ribs with scalloped potatoes, garlic toast and salad. I have to be honest, the salad was not a creation of my own, as it is hard to beat the salad kits available now days. Although I have said I’m trying to make meals from real ingredients, I do find the salad kits a nice quick way to add veggies to a meal and most that I have found are actually not terrible ingredients. I digress, let’s get chatting about the parts of the meal I did make!

This week I hit google hard, with searches like, “big meals to impress a crowd”, “crowd pleasing dinners”, “BBQ favourites”. First I found my recipe for ribs and from there I picked the sides which I thought would go best. I love potatoes of all kinds so it was natural to toss those in there and of course garlic toast fits in so well, that it would be a shame to cut it from the meal. I knew I would have my work cut out for me because this was going to be my day for guests to try a new meal of mine. The timing of this meal was certainly something for me to really consider as well, as the ribs needed to cook for a total of two and a half hours in the oven and the scalloped potatoes would also need the oven. I do have a convection feature on my oven but the temperatures were different between the potatoes and the ribs so I decided to use a plug-in roaster oven for the scalloped potatoes, that I’ve had stashed away in the cupboards.

The ribs appeared to be the easiest recipe and also the part that would take the longest, so I got together the ingredients and began to make the rub. Once the ribs were prepped and in the oven, I got to work on making the scalloped potatoes. Making the scalloped potatoes was quite tedious but having a video from the recipes blog page to work from was nice; especially when it came to making the sauce and getting the consistency just right. Once I had the scalloped potatoes in their tray and in the oven, I began to make my garlic butter for the garlic toast. For this, I actually combined two recipes, picking out the things I like best about both of them to make one. Once mixed up, I spread the garlic cheese butter on the fresh loaf of French bread I picked up from our local grocery store and waited until the ribs were done in the oven to toss the garlic cheese bread in. 

The timing of my meal worked out quite well and the trusty portable oven did too, my biggest worries were behind me. Our guests absolutely loved the meal, so much so, I had them asking for the recipes. I’ve always been the type to try my best to look on the bright side and I have to be honest, although the covid virus was a horrible thing in many ways, it did seem to really impact the online learning world. Going back to school as an adult, while still trying to maintain my current career, while I finish school, was not the easiest decision but learning online has made it a significantly different experience than it would have been otherwise. Now a few years later, I’m no stranger to learning online and it is something I have actually really come to enjoy. When it came to picking recipes for this meal, I was easily able to surf a number of recipes until I found something that sparked my interest and had the ingredients which sounded the best to me. So far throughout this journey, there has been no need for costly cookbooks where there is only a handful of recipes I love but a plethora of whatever I want, right there for free, on the internet. 

I have now changed my iPhone screen to stay on until I turn it off for the ease of using it for the recipe while I cook. It is also quite convenient that I can Google quick “how to’s” (like removing the membrane from the ribs) before cooking or while I’m cooking. I have found that I have been doing a lot of screen shots for recipes, especially with using multiple recipes just to make it easier to switch back and forth while making a meal. It would be nice to have a better place to save these recipes so I can easily access them in the future; if anyone has an idea, please reach out and comment below!

Best Ribs EVER!

Sooo Cheesy!

The more garlic, the better!

Okay, its from a bag, but it was good too!

Almost a Disaster!

This week was a LEARNING CURVE to say the absolute least. Honestly making the actual recipe was the easy part, it was the technology that really had me going. I started this week with a vision, I really wanted to do a video where the viewer would see the pan, see all the ingredients added to it and see the whole meal be cooked. I would then take this video and speed it up to make in more enticing to watch; sometimes watching onions brown for 5 minutes, is about as exciting as watching paint dry. In any event, my skills and technology are somewhat limited, so I began the process with my trusty iPhone 11. About halfway into making the meal my phone simply stopped recording and I received the famous “your storage is full” message. What a disaster! I was about 20 minutes into making the meal and could not simply stop, to frantically try and free storage, on my phone. In that moment I decided I would take pictures of what I could, and I would include them in my video which would feature video clips and still pictures.

For this week I made Pork Fried Rice and other than the whole filming issue, the recipe itself turned out fantastic. I found the recipe via Pinterest on a bloggers page titled Self Proclaimed Foodie, you can find it here. The recipe had a 4.96 star rating from 45 votes so it only made sense that I tried this one out. Also, I suppose it was convenient that I had most of the ingredients on hand that needed to be used. I did make a few adjustments, I added corn to the recipe, the same amount as the peas, I used left over cooked Costco pork chops and I used everything bagel seasoning instead of the sesame seeds. The flavours came together quite nicely and although I’m sure not quite traditional, it was the best pork fried rice I’ve had.

After creating the recipe and having a bit of a hiccup with what my plan was to showcase my work, I decided to use the platform Canva. Canva provides templates which are easy to use and to adjust to the project at hand. The template I chose was completed with music and spaces for both video clips and still pictures. I changed up some of the colours and the font to align better with the type of video I was creating, I did pay to use Canva but to me the extra cost was worth saving on the headache, of not having certain features to make things as smooth as possible. I had already had one major curve to my plan so naturally I was looking to avoid another.

In the end, I created a video of my cooking experience which I am quite proud of, especially given my limited experience with technology! As mentioned, I included both pictures of the ingredients, and ingredient list and the steps to make the recipe. I wouldn’t say that a viewer could use simply this video to make the recipe but it might give them some ideas while they are reading along and following the recipe from their kitchen.  Take a look and let me know what you think!

Pasta Perfect!

One of my favourite things to eat has to be pasta, of all kinds, so it was only natural that’s what I decided to explore for this week. I have been following Tieghan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest on Instagram for quite some time now and was intrigued when I saw a post for “One Pot French Onion Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto”. I loved the idea that the recipe had “one pot” in it’s title which signaled to me, it might not be too terribly complex, for a beginner.

This recipe had quite a number of ingredients and certainly took longer to put together than what I’m used to for a pasta dish, but all of the effort was absolutely worth it. The recipe does call for the use of burrata cheese which I was unable to find but a simple Google search let me know, mozzarella is a great substitute. Does anyone know where to find burrata cheese in Regina? Following the recipe closely (minus the burrata cheese issue), did not disappoint and yet again I have found another dish to keep In my supper repertoire. I did make one crucial mistake while making the dish and that was not turning on the hood fan over the stove. It turns out, if you don’t, your home will smell like onions for days to come; awkward.

I loved Tieghan’s website and was drawn in quickly with her pictures on Instagram which were also included on her blog. Like a typical recipe blogger, Tieghan has a lengthily write up before each recipe but there is a “Jump to Recipe” button, and even better yet, a “Print Recipe” button. With that being said, Tieghan’s write ups are worth the read, if one has the time, as she packs them with hints, tricks and substitutions. The Half Baked Harvest Blog is easy to navigate and packed with MANY picture perfect and free recipes! For anyone looking for a delicious and picture perfect meal, Tieghan Gerard is your girl!

Kickin’ it off Healthy

Pretty much anything with the title “Buffalo Chicken” has me excited these days, so when finding a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats, I knew I had to try it. My hunt for this week’s recipe took me to Pinterest, where I began with searching “Buffalo Chicken”. I truthfully do not know how to use the Pinterest platform to its fullest advantage, but I do know I can find full length recipes when using the search bar. On my not-too-complex search for anything buffalo chicken, I stumbled across a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats. I was redirected to the website where the recipe was easily found.

I liked the fact that this recipe was fairly simple, which made it a great start for my project. I also knew that it was a healthy option that would be exciting and carry great flavour. I followed the recipe exactly as posted and even incorporated the recommendation of garnishing with blue cheese and green onion; opinions on blue cheese anyone? What did I find? Well, not only was the recipe quite easy to follow, it packed a punch and will be staying in my repertoire of supper favourites.

Although the recipe was quite simple to follow, I did find the webpage it came from was riddled with advertisements with no “Jump to Recipe” option. I understand that many recipe bloggers have a write up about their recipe but sometimes it’s nice to get straight to the point. With that being said, the write up before this recipe was not terribly lengthy and scrolling to find the recipe wasn’t a bad experience. The added recommendations were appreciated, and they definitely helped with making this meal picture perfect!

The ingredients

The extras
The result!

Snap, it’s Picture Perfect!

Was cooking something you were taught or was it something that became an obligation with age? I began cooking when I was in my later elementary years and it all started with a box of Kraft Dinner. I have since grown my boxed macaroni tastes to Presidents Choice White Cheddar and to this day, my sister (and even a few others), think I make an unreal box of macaroni and cheese. Growing up, I would describe myself as a pretty picky eater and I was certainly the one to ask for my meal to be customized to my liking when going out to eat. I was not a fan of sauces, I liked things to be pretty plain and there were a number of foods one couldn’t pay me to try. 

Upon moving to Calgary in my early 20s, I discovered a food scene that I simply could not escape. Part of my job at the time including socializing with my clients, which often meant lunch at some local and fancy restaurant with items on the menu far more extravagant than my simple chicken fingers, no dip. I found myself scouring the menu in advance of lunch dates to find what would tickle my plain-as-can-be taste without looking ridiculous in front of my clients with excessive customizations. As I became accustomed to going to the latest local spot for lunch, I also had a realization that there were highly trained chefs who really understood flavour combinations. Once I realized that, my world to food opened up greatly and my interest in cooking definitely took off.

For our learning project, I have chosen to do “Picture Perfect Dinners” where I will explore making more complex meals with real ingredients. To do this I will focus on recipes which are centred around real ingredients rather than “cans of this and cans of that” while creating meals deemed to be restaurant worthy. Through the project I hope to find new techniques and create meals full of flavour and picture-perfect worthy!

Chef Dayle Deck, reporting for duty!