Long time, no see….did you miss the food?

The spring semester is over, and fall will be here before you know it. I keep checking the Fresno Fair page daily to see if they have added the competitive exhibits book for 2023. So far, no go. There’s always tomorrow.

I’ve been super busy this spring. I work full-time as an office manager for an undergraduate program at Fresno State and go to school part-time. I was accepted last year into the College of Social Services Honors program, so this spring was full of doing research and interviews, writing an undergraduate thesis, and covering both old and new desks at work. I also presented at the Southwestern Anthropological Association convention in April, where I placed second in the poster competition. I presented my project a total of four times in the span of a month, and one was recorded by the campus. Pretty cool if I say so.

I’m putting the final touches on my thesis, and it will be ready for the final turn-in within the week (fingers crossed). The topic is pertinent, and I learned quite a bit about the research and interview process. I’ve already set my sites on next year. I won’t be in the Honors class, but I can still conduct research and present it at the SWAA conference next spring.

And now, on to upcoming fun. I will have my first in-person cooking demonstrations for the Fresno County Library in June and July, plus a new video that will be released on July 1st. I think it will be a lot of fun, and the best part is snacking on the goodies afterwards. We are going to film them and post on the HFWT YouTube channel so you can watch afterwards. You can always send an email to foodgroupie@forktravel.com if there is something that you want me to make. If you are in the Fresno/Clovis area, swing by the Fig Garden or Pinedale branches and watch the demo. It’s free and open to all ages.

There’s also a fun cooking challenge that I’ll be joining in a few weeks, and I’ll post more info as it gets closer. No spoilers, but it should be a blast.

Where did the year go?

It seems strange to say the end of 2022 is only a few days away. For whatever reason, the last few months have flown by in the blink of an eye. I’ve wrapped up the first semester of an Honors program, submitted a research proposal for approval, and (mostly) managed to keep up with Meatloaf. He’s a silly dog that is continuing to grow at 14 months; he’s around 110 lbs and getting bigger. Thank goodness he’s a happy boy, though he loves driving Bella a little crazy.

Most recently, we had to make a quick scramble to find tickets to Alton Brown’s Beyond The Eats show when the Fresno performance was cancelled a week before the event. Luckily, I was able to find good tickets for the Northridge show, although I was bummed that all of the VIP tickets were gone. It worked out fortuitously though; Jet and Ali Tila happened to be sitting directly in back of us, so I was able to say hi and take a picture with them. Another chef and baker checked on my food groupie list to meet. They were very nice, and I hope I get a chance to run into them again. I didn’t get picked for Alton’s game show this time (he chose people that were in the VIP section). At least I can say that I’ve probably seen his live show (five times), and been onstage with him (three times) more than anyone. It was really cool to see his wife, Elizabeth, play bass during the show. She has gotten a lot more comfortable performing over the last year.

The new year brings in a few fun things right off the bat. Food Groupie Cinema will start in January, and I’ll post more information ahead of time. The other big thing is a new season of Worst Cooks in America! The new recruits are social media personalities, but being tech savvy does not mean they can find their way around the kitchen. Tune in to Food Network starting January 1st for the new season, and don’t forget to get your bingo cards! New cards will be posted the week before each new show.

New content is on the way

Where did the summer go? I am certainly not complaining, since we had 70+ days over 100 degrees this year. We’re now in what counts for fall in the Central Valley – 80-90 degrees, for the most part. The semester is half over (booooo, mid-term exams!) and we can waive at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Personally, I am more excited to see Alton Brown and Elizabeth Ingram when they are in Fresno on December 13th to perform at the Saroyan Theater. I’m curious to see what AB’s holiday version of Beyond the Eats contains…….and to see if I can make my way to the stage (again). If you go to the Fresno show and see me wandering in the crowd, stop and say hello.

I decided on a topic for my undergrad Honors thesis, and have been going through literature as I prepare to do the research portion and write the paper this spring. It is interesting, but this is the most intensive school project I have ever done. That being said, keep your fingers crossed and hold a good thought for me between now and May. On an even more positive note, I might be able to complete the degree a year earlier than I anticipated.

Now for the new content part. The Student Pantry on campus was kind enough to post flyers with my “Ask the Recipe Whisperer” info; students can send questions about food or cooking through a QR code or an online portal and I’ll send them an answer. One of the things that I’ve found while walking around campus is that many students have questions, but are too embarrassed or don’t know where to get the information. I have the links to the portal page to this website too, so anyone can send questions. I am also adding a “Struggling Student Recipes” section soon showing affordable and easy recipes for ingredients that are available in the Student Pantry.

Aaaaaaaand also, HFWT will be posting Food Groupie Cinema episodes on YouTube starting in November. It will be a combination of adventurous eating, mystery basket cooking, and food trivia, in no particular order. Tune in to see what I do next.

It’s Fair Season – 2022 Edition!

Over the last few weeks I have wrapped up a few crafts, helped judge homebrew, and baked like crazy for two days straight, all to get entries completed for the Fresno Fair. I wound up with a total of 24 entries (5 crafts and 19 baked goods/candies). Not my best total number of entries, but I’m very happy with what I turned in. The Big Fresno Fair runs October 5-16th, and you can be sure that I’m going to make my way through the buildings this week. I’ll wait to recap the results until after the fair is over but for those playing the yearly Home Game, here is this year’s score card. Can you find them all? Drop a comment below letting me know what you think was the best entry.

2022 Fresno Fair Forktravel home game card to track entries: Baked With Olive Oil - Saffron Raisin Cheesecake Buns,
Nut Cookies,
Pecan Pie,
Apple Grape Pie,
Pink Lemonade Pie,
Sweet Curry Cheesecake,
Miso Chocolate Pie,
Cork Art - Christmas Ornament,
Cork Art - Acorn Cork Board,
Crochet - Beer Mug Rug,
Handspun – Wool,
Handspun – Blends,
Baked With Raisins -Saffron Raisin Cheesecake Buns,,
Banana Bread
Pumpkin Bread,
Zucchini Bread,
Bacon Bread,
Cinnamon Rolls,
Specialty Breads - zucchini pumpkin spice,
Fudge, Chocolate,
Baked With Olive Oil - Sweet Muffin,
Baked With Olive Oil – Bread

Dog Days of Summer vs. Cooking

Summer in the Central Valley is generally made up of 100+ degree temperatures, so it can be a challenge to feel up to cooking or baking during the day. Other than travelling to the coast for a break in the weather, there are a few ways to minimize your kitchen heat stress besides ordering takeout. Take a look at the list and let me know in the comments if I forgot anything, or if you have a favorite method or trick for beating the heat. If you plan ahead, you can cook larger batches to reheat or use in other meals later.

  • Barbeque – Pros: this keeps the cooking heat out of the house. Cons: might take several batches; need charcoal or gas to cook (make sure you have enough before hand).
  • Toaster Oven – Pros: doesn’t heat up the entire kitchen, just the area around the appliance. Many of the newer models also have convection in addition to bake/broil/toast. Cons: smaller than a regular oven, so you can’t cook as large a dish. Depending on the size of the toaster oven, you might need to purchase baking dishes that will fit.
  • Air Fryer – Pros: crispy food; less oil needed to cook; generally preheats faster than an oven or toaster oven. Cons: take up a lot of counter and storage real estate; not necessarily “healthy” cooking if you use breading and oil when cooking; the unit gets very hot, so it can’t be used under cabinets or against a counter wall; limited cooking volume. We have a small one, and just use it to reheat/crisp leftovers. In the time it takes to pre-heat and actually cook enough for a meal, it would have been faster to use another method.
  • Sous Vide – Pros: convenient and hands-free; cooks to desired temperature or consistency without overcooking; you can cook ingredients to a set stage and finish (i.e. sear, wrap and bake, etc.) at another time; more flavorful food. Cons: not an “exciting” method of cooking; requires planning; long cooking times; needs a little more specialized items (silicone or heavy plastic bags that seal well, weights or racks to keep the bags in place or under the water).
  • Range/Oven – Pros: heats up fairly quickly; can cook or bake larger quantities than other methods. Cons: heats up entire kitchen; uses more energy.

We have been smoking meat on our Pit Boss smoker and grill combo on the weekends to cook larger batches of meat and vegetables to make dinner prep easier during the week. I also like using the Anova Sous Vide for the same reason. It does take a little more planning when you cook via sous vide, and sometimes a longer cooking time, but it is a great way to cook proteins or vegetables to a set doneness and sear or caramelize the exterior later. It will only cook the ingredients to whatever temperature that the water is heated to, so it is difficult to overcook something. There are a lot of cookbooks, applications, and websites available to get recipes or techniques from for all the cooking methods. Don’t be afraid to experiment or try new methods, or even combine them for different dishes.

What is your favorite cooking method to use to stay cool in the kitchen during the summer? Drop a comment in the section below and let me know!

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