Twenty Time Relfection

  • What did you enjoy about the experience?

I enjoyed trying something new and sticking with it throughout the year. I usually start things that I never finish learning, like knitting, piano, gymnastics, and learning Chinese. This time I was forced (not in a bad way) to keep learning and cooking. I was glad that I could cook for myself and do something nice for my family.

  • What was the most challenging aspect of your Twenty Time project?

The most challenging aspect of my Twenty Time project was finding the time and motivation to cook. It takes a while for me to cook and bake, at least an hour, and it was hard for me to carve dedicate time to really trying to do it, as an externally motivated person. I either had to do it during the weekend when I wanted to relax or during the week when I had homework.

  • What is one thing you learned about yourself by participating in your Twenty Time project?

I learned that I am not as patient as I thought I was. During this process I had to wait on a lot of things to cook and bake and I really had trouble with it. I would check on things every few minutes rather than just waiting for the timer to go off. I also found out that I hate editing which take a lot of time and patience for a very short video.

  • What are you most proud of? Why?

I am most proud of learning to cook dinner for myself. This is especially helpful since my parents are vegan and I’d rather not eat seitan (l know it sounds scary) stir fry or vegan bean chili every night. I have also been able to make chicken parmesan in under an hour!

  • What lessons did you learn from your successes?

I learned that I am capable of making successful dished from recipes online without ever trying them before. It takes less skill than I thought to cook and more skill than I anticipated to bake.

  • What lessons did you learn from your failures?

I learned that it is okay and even good to fail. When I failed I could figure out where I went wrong so I could avoid making the same mistake next time.

  • What is one thing about this project you believe you’ll remember for a long time to come?

I will definitely remember how to make red velvet cupcakes. My grandmother loved them so I will make them whenever I want to get on her good side in the future.

  • What is something the teacher could have done to make this project better?

I think Ms. Wittman did a great job with this project. The only problems I had were self generated and I think we had enough time in class to work on it.

Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot. Thank you Ms. Wittman for pushing me to try something new.

Editing Videos

This week I edited my videos from when I made red velvet cupcakes. This was my final goal for my project. Originally I wanted to make my own recipe for a dish but it changed to trying to make two versions of the same type of food (cupcakes). The videos I filmed showed the baking process for both regular and vegan cupcakes. They are different styles of videos. The first one includes my commentary and then I speed through the parts without dialogue. This helps my build my presentation skills and confidence in baking. The second video was a sped up video that just included captions of the process. This is more of a quick instructional video that is more engaging for viewers. (I have added the links to these videos to the corresponding posts.) Editing was harder for the first video since I had to adjust audio and split clip and decide which parts I wanted to cut or keep. There was less of this in the second edit. I wanted to make sure I filmed these because this was my final product for the year. I plan to make these two recipes again and bring them to class to show others what skills I have a acquired and what goals I have met during the year. It also gives me a chance to improve on the recipes by adjusting the amounts of the wet ingredients in the vegan cupcakes and figure out how to make the regular red velvet cupcakes stay moist on the second day (which is almost making my own recipe).

Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes

This weekend I made vegan red velvet cupcakes. I know that it sounds weird and almost impossible to make a baked good without butter, eggs, buttermilk, or cream cheese but I somehow made it work.

For the cake, I started by curdling almond milk. But I wasn’t quite sure how to do that. 1) I did not know what curdling was  and 2) Could non-dairy milk even curdle? Turns out that curdling is just separating milk solids for liquids and all I had to do to achieve this was to add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of “milk”. After waiting 15 minutes I realized that the milk was just sitting there, doing nothing. I poured it out and added another cup or almond milk to a bowl. This time I used white vinegar. Still, nothing happened. At this point I was feeling quite frustrated so I poured it out and started again. My last resort was lemon juice which has a similar level of acidity. This time it worked. The yucky almond solids had separated and I had made imitation buttermilk. Next I added food coloring (blue), oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract to the milk. Then I sifted together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. Lastly I mixed them together in a large bowl with a spoon. The recipe did not have the correct dry to wet ingredient ratio so I ended up with a lot of extra wet ingredients even after adding a full cup of flour.

Next I made a vegan cream cheese frosting. It was pretty easy to make. All I had to do was mix vegan cream cheese, vegan butter, and powdered sugar together in a bowl until it was creamy.

Once the cupcakes were baked and cooled, I filled a pastry bag fitted with a swirly tip (I’m not sure what it is really called) with the frosting and piped it onto the cakes. If it didn’t taste good it would at least look appetizing.

The cupcakes tasted pretty good for vegan cupcakes but they were not as good as regular ones. Next time I will try something that will make them taste more like a non-vegan cupcake.

Red velvet Cupcakes

Yesterday I made red velvet cupcakes. This time I filmed the baking process. The video will be a part of my final goal to create my own recipe. I have decided to tweak a red velvet recipe and try to make different versions of red velvet cupcakes, like vegan or gluten free. I used a recipe from Ina Garten.

First, I sifted together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and powder, cocoa powder, and salt). Then I mixed the dry ingredients (buttermilk, vinegar, red food coloring, and vanilla). After that I creamed together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Once that was creamy I alternated adding wet and dry ingredients until the mixture was creamy and all of the ingredients were fully incorporated. I scooped them into the muffin tins lined with cupcake liners and put them in the oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Fun fact: there is a cakes setting on my oven that supposedly bakes cakes with the perfect amount of air circulation and heat. Just for fun I created a time lapse of the cupcakes baking that you will see in my video when I finish editing.

For the cream cheese frosting I creamed together the cream cheese, butter, and confectioner’s sugar. Once the cupcakes were done, I let them cool and them frosted them. They were so good! My grandmother said,”These are the best red velvet cupcakes I have ever had.” (No joke.) I brought them with me to my dance dress rehearsal and the disappeared within half an hour. I guess I did a pretty good job. The second day they were a little dry but I liked the cream cheese frosting when it was cold.

Chicken Yassa and Rice Cakes

This week I made chicken in Yassa sauce and rice cakes. I wanted to try something that was a bit more labor intensive from another culture and I also made something just because I was hungry.
Rice cakes:
Over the weekend, I was hungry but I did not see anything good to eat in the fridge. However, I did see leftover rice. At first I thought, “What can I possibly to with leftover rice? It’s bland and already cooked.” Then I realized I could add other things to it to make it taste better. I google ways to use leftover rice and the recipe I used was one for rice cakes. They are easy to make and are a big hit in the Midwest for moms who do not have a lot of time to cook for their kids (according to the cooking blog). I threw together a cup of rice, breadcrumbs, two eggs, fresh parsley, Parmesan, onion, salt and pepper. I mixed it until it was smooth yet thick enough to form patties. Then I heated up a pan with about a tbsp of canola oil and fried the parties for a few minutes on each side until they were brown. The end result was as expected. Simple yet delicious (much better than rice and butter). I did need to add a bit of salt after since I was conservative when adding it to the mix.

I made chicken in yassa sauce for my presentation on West Africa. It is a popular dish in West Africa that is made with caramelized onions and habanero peppers. I used a store bought sauce made by a woman living in Durham who is originally from Gambia. She wanted people to be able to make easy authentic African dishes.
First, I cut the chicken thighs into small pieces and pan fried them. I placed them fat-side down to render the fat which makes for a more flavorful oil that is used for sautéing the vegetables. After the chicken was browned on both sides, I removed the pieces and added the red bell peppers and diced onions. [As a side note I was struggling to cut the onions since my eyes were burning so much until my mom told me to rinse them in cold water. Letting cold water run near you also works.] I cooked those until they were soft and caramelized. I then added the chicken and jar of yassa sauce. I brought it to a boil and then let it simmer covered for 30 minutes. While that was simmering I made rice. I boiled one cup of jasmine rice and two cups of water. It came out stickier than I wanted but I will try different level of water until I can make it the right consistency. When the chicken was done the finishing touch was a little bit of fresh lime juice to brighten up the dish. It tasted amazing! The onions and pepper worked perfectly together and the citrus lifted the dish just the right amount. The chicken was cooked well and the rice helped cool down some of the spice.


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Puff Puffs and Garlic Knots

This week, I fulfilled by new guidelines for my twenty time project. I made two (technically three) things and learned about their origin and culture of that place. First, I made puff puffs. They are little semi-sweet doughnut balls from Nigeria. In big cities in Nigeria, women sell these doughnuts at their booths on the street. They make them fresh for each customer and drop them into the oil in a specific way:


Photo from the website I got the recipe from:

The dough is made out of yeast, flour, water, sugar, and salt. I let it rise for an hour, but when I came back to check on it, it had not changed much. I heated up a small pot full of oil and then out a small amount of dough in to test the temperature. Here comes the interesting part. I used a spoon to drop the dough into the oil put it would almost always stretch out and turn into a log shape rather than a sphere. Then I realized why the street vendors made them the way they did. If you don’t drop them into the pot while they are already in perfect circles, they will change shape. I did not attempt to do it the traditional way because it makes a bigger splash, and I did not want to risk it. Instead I focused hard on trying to push the dough off of the spoon in different ways to find the desired result. The larger ones were lighter on the outside but too doughy and undercooked on the inside and the small ones were too dark and still too doughy on the inside. I will change the batter recipe next time and use less flour so I get lighter puff puffs.




Puff Puffs w/ powdered sugar!

Puff Puffs!

Later in the week I made pizza. It turned out okay but none of my pizza doughs since the first one have risen as high as that one. After I ate some pizza, I wondered what I was going to do with the other half of the dough. I did not want to make another pizza, my parents are going vegan so they wouldn’t eat it, and I didn’t know any recipes that included pizza dough. Or did I…? A lightbulb went off and I realized that garlic knots are probably made out of pizza dough. I google a recipe and used the one from Emeril Lagasse. First, I sautéed minced garlic in butter until the garlic browned and the butter completely melted. I set it aside and kept it warm. I preheated the oven to 375 degrees on the bread setting. I then rolled out the leftover pizza dough, brushed it with oil, and cut them into 1 and a half inch wide  strips. I tied them into knots and sprinkled them with salt. I placed them 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put them in the oven for 20 minutes. While those were baking, I chopped up about 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley. I put the shaved romano and parmesan cheese, parsley, and warm garlic butter into a large bowl. When the knots finished, I tossed them in the sauce, making sure they were all evenly coated. I tried one and I had to have a moment of silence for how good it was. The butter, romano and parmesan cheese, parsley, and garlic were dancing in my mouth like some Italian wedding party. A perfect food marriage. I will be eating a lot of bread in the future.

Melted Garlic Butter

Melted Garlic Butter

Assembling the knots

Assembling the knots

Before t

Before t

Tossing knots in toppings

Tossing knots in toppings

Finished product

Finished product

Strawberry Shortcakes

image imageI was so excited to make these and even more excited that the recipe went off without a hitch! On Wednesday, my mentor Nechama suggested that I try making a more difficult dish, a dessert. She sent me a recipe for strawberry shortcakes by Alex Guarnaschelli. The shortcake was easy to make but took a little while to prepare for it. For instance, I boiled two eggs and push their yolks through a sieve to make a lighter flour mixture and let the butter sit out to make it easier to mix into the dough. The mixture consisted of flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, cinnamon, salt, butter, heavy cream and vanilla (sounds like the heaven, right?) I kneaded all the ingredients together with my hand and then rolled them out until they were an inch and a half thick. I cut the shortbread into 2”x2” squares and put them in the oven. They took longer than suggested to become a light golden brown but they might have just been thicker than I thought. While they were in the oven I let strawberry macerate in orange juice and sugar, which enhances its taste. I also quickly “whipped up” some whipped cream with heavy cream, sugar and vanilla (pun intended). When they did finish, I took them out and let them cool. Once cooled, I cut them in half and put the strawberries and whipped cream between them. This moment of truth arrived. The taste…. They were amazing. The strawberry shortcake wasn’t just good ot okay, considering the skill of the person who made it, but actually awesome. The shortcake was crisp yet still list on the inside, the berries were soft and sweet, and the cream was the perfect texture and balance between plain and sweet. Score: Angel 1 – Failure 0. I will definitely bake this again!

Mid-Year Evaluation

My original goals for the project were to learn how to edit the videos, learn about different cultures, develop camera presence, and be healthier by cooking my own food instead of getting take out or processed foods. The end product was to design my own recipe. These goals were harder to accomplish than I initially thought. I was very excited in the beginning, but like most things I try to start on my own, I lost some interest and motivation.  The editing is extremely loathsome because it is a long and tedious process that reduces a long video on a low quality camera into a short low quality video. The editing and filming took the joy out of cooking for me since I was always consciously thinking about how I looked, talked, acted, and cooked as if I was trying to impress someone via camera. It made me very self conscious, one of my worst feelings. Without the filming and editing I could more thoroughly enjoy cooking by myself, but on the other hand I didn’t have as much proof of improvement other than photos. I also did not make as many dishes as I thought I would so I did not learn a whole lot. However I do feel more comfortable cooking on the weekends for my family and helping my mom when she makes dinner. I did not learn much about culture besides the one trip I took to the asian grocery store. In the future I will try to research the origin of more complex dishes and cook more often on the weekend. Going forward I will start trying one recipe and changing it until I like the end product. The last thing I will do is make my own recipe of a certain dish. The recipe will most likely be cupcakes, so my peers can try some with different fillings, frosting, and cake, or pizza, which accommodates an unlimited combination of toppings, sauces, and cheeses. I might make a short compilation of skills I have learned to give the audience an idea of what I have learned and/or bring food for people to try.

Holiday Cooking!

Over the holiday break I did a lot of cooking. Most of it was for a traditional christmas dinner for my family. This post will be a bit different than the other ones because I will not go into detail about the recipes of all of the things I cooked.

Exam Week: Since I was feeling a little stressed out I was craving some comfort food. In this case it was Chinese food, more specifically lo mein. I was thinking about how  unhealthy it was to eat greasy take out food and I decided to make it myself. My first trip to Kroger was mostly a failure since I could not find any lo mein noodles, but I did pick up some siracha sauce. Thinking that most of the other mainstream grocery stores would have similar inventory I went straight to an asian food store. The store was packed with just about every remotely asian food you could think of, and some that you’ve never dreamt of, but somehow I had a hard time finding the lo mein. In the noodle aisle i found: chow mein, rice noodles, glass noodles, soba noodles, egg noodles, wheat noodles, ramen noodles, and udon noodles. No lo mein. At this point I was very discouraged, yet I thought I’d look through the frozen section just to be sure. No luck. Until I looked behind a pack of chow mein to find a very frozen, probably old block of lo mein. Success? Maybe. I took it home, boiled it, added some siracha, vegetables, ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil and I was done. It tasted pretty good and had a nice kick to it. I’ll definitely cook it again, but next time it will be without a wild goose chase.

Pre-Christmas Festive Food: I made deluxe rice crispy treats, while my sister made red velvet crinkle cookies and pinwheel cookies. For the rice crispy treats I added M & M’s and oreos to take the recipe up a notch. It was a good idea, but since I had never made them before I messed up the rice to marshmallow ratio. Eating a bar of this was like chewing a thick, overly sugary shoe. I had added to many marshmallows. It took me 45 minutes to make them and I threw them out in 5. On the other hand, my sister made awesome cookies and I ate most of them. Something good did come out of this experience.

Christmas: This was the big one. I had an audience and a lot of food to cook. My mom took care of the turkey and making sure each dish was cooked properly, but I did most of the preparation. The dishes I made were: sweet potato pie, candied yams, collard greens, turkey ham (we don’t eat red meat), mac and cheese, and stuffing. In my opinion, the most notable was the sweet potato pie. Everyone seemed to like it and my dad approved, he’s quite the critic. My family and family friends liked everything and also liked the ham best, even though it required the least preparation. All I had to do was stick some cloves in it, pour honey over it, and put it in an oven bag. I put the most effort in to the stuffing. I had to put butter in sage on each individual piece of bread (an entire loaf) cut them into cubes, cut and sauté celery, add cranberries, pour over turkey gravy, and bake. A lot of work for a mediocre result. Washing huge collard greens was tedious, but they came out pretty good.

Overall: I tried a lot of new things over the break, not all of them were good, and I’m proud of how much/well I cooked.









Apple Bread

This Sunday, I made apple bread from I recipe I found on I preheated the oven to 300 degrees and I peeled, cut, and cored two apples. While I was preparing the apples, I was wondering which was more efficient to peel the apples: around in a circle, or up and down in strips? After that I mixed the flour, baking soda and salt together in the larger bowl. I mixed the sugar, oil, eggs, and cinnamon in a smaller bowl that I slowly mixed into the larger bowl. I was confused as to why this recipe did not have any butter but I ignored that until later. I learned that if you whisk the eggs before you mix them into the wet ingredients the bread is supposed to some to fluffier, so I tried that method. I mixed the wet and dry ingredients together and soon realized I had missed a salient detail. I forgot to add the apples. Now I somehow had to figure out how uniformly incorporate a bunch of diced apples into a thick dough-like mixture. I kneaded the apples into the mixture but it certainly was not easy or fun. Due to the extreme viscosity of the dough, I essentially haphazardly shoved apples into different part of the mixture, hoping that there were enough apple pieces in each part. I put the dough in a greased loaf pan and out it in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes. I just sat, waited, and prayed that it would come out at least somewhat decently. After a long time waiting, I took it out of its pan and cooled it on the wire rack. The texture was very heavy, so next time I may use less flour and sugar. The taste was fairly one-noted: cinnamon and apple. If I make this again, I will add more fruits, such as bananas or strawberries, and potentially butter just to see what affect that has on the texture and taste.