Dani in Chef Hat

In exactly one week from today, I will be attending my first day of culinary school!

HOLY COW, I am excited, nervous, and feel like I want to throw up all at the same time.

Since I’ve started this blog, I have come to realize that I have a small obsession with food.

  • I am constantly following new restaurants that are opening up in the city, and dragging Derika all over so that we can give them a try.
  • l research the heck out of all of the restaurants when we are traveling, and take an embarrassing amount of photos of our food while we are there so that I can blog about it.
  • I spend hours scrolling Pinterest looking at recipes and forever adding them to my Recipes I Want to Make list.
  • I love whipping up new and healthy dishes in the Glitter Spice test kitchen. Some make it to the recipes page and some are just things that should never be made again. Thank you Derika for being my guinea pig. 🙂

I have been blogging for over two years now; it is something that I do almost daily that I really truly love. It has also caused a fantasy of culinary school to slowly creep into my mind. The problem is that I don’t love school, I have no interest in going back to school for another 2 years to get another degree, and I was nervous about having to cook weird mystery meat. So I put my culinary school dream on the ‘it would be nice, but it is never going to happen‘ list, and never expected anything to come of it.

Then…in walks the Natural Gourmet Institute.

At the end of January I found myself up late one night scrolling through The FaceSpace, when I came across an ad for a culinary school in New York called the Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI). I got sucked in and followed the link and spent the next hour speed-reading through the school’s website, all along getting more and more excited. So here’s the deal, if I were to create a culinary school this would be it. If I was living in another state and heard about NGI, I would wish that I lived in NYC so that I could attend this school! Basically, I was doing somersaults in the bed!

Here is the first thing that I read that got me ALL of the excited… NGI calls it their ‘MANIFESTO’ and I like it!

Preparing

food that is: seasonal, local, whole, traditional, balanced, fresh and delicious.

Embracing

that what we eat significantly affects our physical, mental and spiritual well being.

Understanding

that each individual thrives on a diet unique to their specific needs.

Providing

exceptional, innovative and interdisciplinary education.

Empowering

individuals and communities to take charge of their own health and well-being.

Creating

a professional and nurturing environment where students and employees are able to realize their full potential.

Supporting

the creation and maintenance of a sustainable food system by building connections with suppliers and taking on broader advocacy initiatives.

All of this is like music to my ears and makes me so darn happy and excited!

Guess what else!?

The full-time programs is only six months (so I will be done by the end of summer…AWESOME!), it is mostly vegetarian and when we do cook meat it is local and sustainable (BRILLIANT!), and the values that are taught are very similar to the values that I use in my every day life (HAPPINESS!).

By the time that Derika got home from work the next day. I had already arranged for a meeting at the school, signed up for the open house, registered us for one of their Friday Night Dinners and started working on my application. Basically you can say that I was a tad bit excited! I just needed to tell Derika about my plan, which I did at dinner that night. Since she is awesome, it was super easy and she was super supportive and excited about my new adventure. #bestwifeever!

The next day I started securing letters of recommendation (Thank You Sarah and Shannon!!), applying for scholarships and finishing up my application. All of this was buttoned up and sent out in about 2 weeks time, and by that time we had already gone to our first Friday Night Dinner, which is BYOB by the way :)!

I was nervous and excited to go to this dinner. I was nervous, because I was already so excited about this school, and if it sucked then the air would be taken out of my sail a bit. I was excited, because I would get an opportunity to see what I would possibly be doing soon! I kept on telling myself to not get too excited, because I was not even accepted yet! Derika and I ended up having an amazing time at the Friday Night Dinner. She even made a comment during our meal that if all vegan food tasted this good then she could easily be vegan, and I totally agreed with her. Over the course of the evening we enjoyed an amazing salad with chickpea croquettes, a great vegan tempeh jambalaya and an awesome orange sorbet.

After all of the amazing food, we got to meet the chefs and ask them a few questions about the meal. I asked waaaaay to many questions and ended up leaving more excited than ever!

Now all I had to do was wait to see if I got accepted…which was the worst.

Thank goodness, exactly one month later, I found out that I got accepted into NGI and as I have already mentioned…I am super-duper excited!

The next day I headed to the uniform shop downtown and picked out my chef coat, chef hat, pants, funny looking clog shoes and apron and I have just been waiting anxiously to get started.

Chef Coat

So there you have it! This is the story of how culinary school has finally become a reality in my life. I have no idea on what I am about to get myself into, but my goal is to share as much as I can. I am not setting my expectations to high, but I am going to try my best to document it on my blog the best that I can. I think it will be good for myself to document this new adventure in my life, but I also think that it would be a great resource for anyone else that is thinking about taking the NGI leap. I hope you enjoy the ride!

Here’s to taking chances and following your dreams!

Cheers,

 

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Does the bright yellow squash in the produce section make you wonder how you are going to turn something squash-like into something spaghetti-like? Well, you have found yourself in the right place.

Ok, so I have to be honest. Spaghetti squash does not taste completely like spaghetti noodles, but it does a little bit. The key to making it convincing is how you use the spaghetti squash after it is cooked. If you’ve never cooked with spaghetti squash and are looking for some ideas, you should check out my Baked Spaghetti Squash and my Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai recipe. I am constantly thinking up new and creative ways that I can use spaghetti squash. So I thought that since I plan on making more things with this amazing squash, it would be easier to have this recipe here for easy access. Spaghetti squash is a great substitute for noodles if you are looking to eat a little healthier, or if you are cooking for one of you gluten-free friends.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil

Directions

1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. Be careful, go slow, and cautiously slice the squash in half.

2. Scoop out and set the seeds aside (bake them like pumpkin seeds…yum yum yum.  Check out my seed recipe here).

3. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

4. Brush the inside with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You don’t have to be too careful here: just slather, sprinkle, and it’s ready!

5. Place squash halves cut side down on a heavy-bottomed roasting pan.

6. Roast the squash for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until a fork punctures the flesh of the squash easily.

7. Remove squash from the oven and allow it to cool just enough so you can handle it, about 5 minutes. Scrape the flesh from the squash into wonderful, stringy “noodles” with a sturdy fork and place in a small serving bowl. If some of the strands clump or gather together, simply separate them using your hands.

Scraped Squash

8. Set spaghetti squash “noodles” aside until you need them for your recipe.

Spaghetti Squash

I can’t wait to hear what you make with your spaghetti squash!

Happy Spaghetti Squashing!

What I Ate in Thailand

The food scene in Thailand is no joke! I literally ate my way through Thailand and I am not sad about it one bit, as a matter of fact I was constantly blown away by the food that I was chowing down on. As a result I decided to do a completely separate post on the amazing and random things that I ate while I was traveling through Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Krabi. This list is going to be a combination of some of my favorite food places and some of the unique and delicious things that we ate at those places. I hope you enjoy the adventure.

Taro Chips for Miles!

Chips for Miles!

Thailand Cooking Classes

I can’t take you on our culinary adventure without talking about the Thai cooking classes that we took while we were in Thailand. This is the first time that we have ever taken cooking classes on our travel adventures, and I have to say that I am a huge fan. I loved learning how to cook some of my favorite Thai dishes, because it gave me a better appreciation and understanding of the food that we were snacking on. It also made me realize how different the food could be from region to region within the country. All of the classes that we took were AMAZING and I would highly recommend any of the schools that we attended if you are planning a Thailand trip. Below is a quick recap of the cooking schools that we attended and the food that we got to make in each class. Stay tuned for recipes from our trip, such as this amazing and simple Chiang Mai Curry!

Bangkok – BaiPai Cooking School

The BaiPai Cooking School was located in an open air building in Bangkok…I basically wanted to live in the building that the school was in! The chefs were super friendly and offered a ton of veggie options for this vegetarian, so I was a happy camper. We grilled, mortared and pestaled, simmered and seasoned our hearts out! Over the course to the afternoon we learned how to make tom yum soup, chicken/tofu satay, red curry and mango sticky rice.

Chiang Mai – Four Seasons Cooking School

In Chiang Mai we stayed at the Four Seasons hotel just outside of the city. We took our cooking class inside of our hotel at the Four Season Cooking School. Similar to the BaiPai Cooking School in Bangkok, the Chef would demo all of the dishes first, which left room for questions and made learning and cooking the dish so much easier. Over the course of the afternoon we made a young green chili dipping sauce for veggies and pork, red curry paste (which was totally different from BaiPai’s red curry paste) and a Chiang Mai curry, which was my favorite!

Krabi – Rayavadee Cooking School

The cooking school that we went to in Krabi was actually located in the Rayavadee hotel that we were staying at. We were supposed to have the cooking class outside, but since it was raining they held it in the open-air part of the restaurant, which was perfect. They partnered us up, introduced us to the Thai chef who runs the restaurants at the resort and we started cooking. The cooking class was neat, because this was the first time that this chef has ever hosted a cooking class for a group. This class was also a bit different from the other Thai cooking classes that we had taken on this trip, because this class was structured like a Top Chef episode, which was a fun twist. We were given instructions on how to cook each dish, the Chef would float around and offer cooking suggestions and tips, and then she would come back and taste each group’s dish and pick a winner. At the Rayavadee Cooking School we made fried chrysanthemums, a prawn curry and fried soft shell crabs.

Now let’s move onto the amazing and bizarre food that we snacked on during our adventure.

Bangkok

Even if you are not staying at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, you should definitely plan to have at least one meal at their Verandah Restaurant in this hotel along the River of Kings. Some of our most memorable meals were enjoyed at this hotel. A few of our favorite things that we ate during our stay was a spicy basil fried rice, a shrimp pad Thai, the best green curry that I have ever had, a pad see ew and one of the most epic breakfast buffets that I have ever seen!

 

Ayutthaya Temple and Market

We saw a lot of temples on our Thailand adventure, but Ayutthaya was one of my favorites. You can read more about the temple in my Bangkok post. On our way back from the temple we strolled though an amazing Thai market that had a ton of interesting Thai foods that we got to try. Derika and I ended up trying some salty taro sticks, some peanut brittle and some banana chips. The salty taro sticks were so amazing, that I ate a whole bag after sharing some with the group I was with!

My favorite thing that we picked up at the market was the cotton candy! This is not your ordinary light and fluffy cotton candy. This cotton candy actually looks like Barbie Doll hair, and comes with a sweet kind of tortilla that you roll the cotton candy strands into!? I know it sounds so strange, but it was soooo awesome! It tasted amazing and was one of my most favorite and bizarre things that I ate the whole trip!

Chatuchak Market aka The JJ Market

We went to the JJ Market to check some of the 8000 booths that are at this market, and to try some unique Thai delicacies. We tried things that looked like cherries and miniature vegetables, but were actually not a fruit or a vegetable at all. These mysterious looking fruits and mini vegetables were made completely out of mung beans!? Look how cute they are!

You could also find these unique mung bean delicacies in the shape of pearls and were floating around in our coconut cream desserts.

Coconut Cream Dessert

Derika got brave and tried some Durian. Durian is (I pulled this right from Wikipedia) a fruit whose “edible flesh emits a distinctive odor that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage. The persistence of its odor has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.”  I think it has a bad rap, but I think that you get the point. :)

Derika Eating DurianMy favorite thing that we tried at the market was a fruit called a rose apple. It is a bizarre zombie looking apple that tasted a little like a pear and a little like an apple, but was just a touch sweeter than an apple. They were sooo good even if they are creepy looking!

Apple Pears

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

At the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Bangkok, we sampled some grilled bananas on a stick that came with a sweet honey-like dipping sauce. You can also read more about the floating market in my Bangkok post.

Grilled Banana on a Stick

Also at the floating market we hopped off at the only shop you could walk around in and tried our hand at making and taste tested some palm sugar mounds. That little man in the photo made about 30 mounds to my one. He was super nice and so friendly; I wanted to hang out with him all day.