Take Me Away on a Caribbean Cruise

My Riderwood rotation is coming to a close this week, which IMG_0801finishes out all my food service requirements for the internship.  I have learned a great deal from working in food service, more than I expected.

During Riderwood, my biggest project was to host a theme meal.  This sounds simple, right?  Well, we started from scratch.  From start to finish we had to:

  • Come up with a theme
  • Research recipes that fit the theme and worked well together
  • Forecast attendance and then scale our recipes accordingly
  • Determine what to charge based on cost of food
  • Develop marketing materials to build resident interest
  • Film a commercial to advertise
  • Sell tickets and interact with residents
  • Decorate the venue
  • Cook all of the food

Not so simple.  We definitely got the full experience and have a greater appreciation for how much work goes into a single meal.  But it was so worth it to see the final product.

The theme that we decided on was “Caribbean Cruise Buffet”.  We served on January 18th, right in the middle of winter, after the rush of the holidays.  For our meal, we wanted to take the residents away from the snow and cold (which arrived just in time) and let them get a hint of a vacation.

To harness the tropics, we included a lot of fruits like mango and pineapple as well as traditional seasonings like jerk and chili.  Here is our menu.

Caribbean Cruise Menu

And here is my TV debut with our commercial.  We filmed right at Riderwood and their TV studio staff edited it.  They did an excellent job and were really fun to work with.

So after 4 weeks of planning and marketing, we actually got into the kitchen and made everything.  We planned for 150 people, so you can imagine, we had a lot of food to make.  For Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Melissa and I did most things on our own.  The regular chefs were there, so we used them as resources when needed.  On the day of, we got some more help because timing was so important.  Once everything was cooked, we trayed it up, set up the buffet and then mingled with our patrons while going back and forth to the kitchen, just to make sure everything was running smoothly.

Here are some highlights from the day.

Cruise Collage

Something that was extra special was that my mom and grandfather made the trip down from Connecticut and Massachusetts respectively to come to the meal.  We are all pictured below along with Laryssa, a former intern who now works to help run the program.  It was great to see my family and it meant a lot that they were willing to make the trip just for a meal! (they said the food was worth it.  High praise indeed!)

IMG_0813

Overall, the meal was a success, we ended up making money and we got a lot of great feedback from the residents.  This project definitely had its stressful moments, but I ‘am a stronger person for it and I now have a much greater appreciation for food service employees.

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What is Gluten?

Lately in the media, gluten has gotten a lot of attention.  Most of this has been in relation to gluten-free diets.  The conversation about gluten arose from an increase in the awareness and treatment of Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder in which gluten damages the intestines which can lead to numerous health issues.  Celiac is very serious and currently, the only treatment is a completely gluten free diet. 

With all of this attention being paid to gluten, it has gotten the attention of another audience outside of the medical community, dieters.  There is anecdotal evidence that going gluten-free can improve health and aid in weight loss.  All of the hype surrounding this food component begs the question: What exactly is gluten?

Baby Expressions

A good friend of mine sent me this question so I thought I would set the record straight.  Because gluten has been vilified in the media, she was under the impression that it was some kind of sugar that could really hurt your body.  MISCONCEPTION!

Definition

Gluten is actually the protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  Unless you have Celiac or a gluten intolerance( this is more similar to an allergy), then there isn’t scientific support for avoiding gluten.  If you do notice a lot of gastrointestinal symptoms (that’s dietitian for tummy troubles), mention it at your next doctors visit.  Celiac can go undiagnosed for a long time so its better to know.  That said, less than 1% of the population has celiac so if you have an upset stomach, don’t fear the worst. 

Gluten Collage

Applications

In baked goods, gluten is a vital component of any recipe.  It dictates texture and consistency.  When you knead dough, it activates the gluten.  A small amount of kneading results in very little activation which will lead to a lighter, airier bread.  Often low gluten flours are used for pastries.  On the other end, intense kneading will produce much more, which is used for denser breads that are chewier. 

Gluten can also be isolated from the rest of the bread and prepared as seitan.  It is commonly added to stir-fry and other Asian dishes as a source of vegetarian protein.  Try the experiment below to see how to isolate the gluten. 

seiten

Experiment

To see the difference between pastry flour and bread flour try this experiment! We did it in my undergrad food science class and it was pretty neat. 

That’s all I have for you on gluten today and I hope that cleared up what gluten actually is. 

Do you have any tricks for kneading dough to get the right amount of gluten activation?

The Perks of Walking

I mentioned in my Possible New Years Resolution post that walking might be a good thing to add into your life.  While at UConn, I had to walk to classes, to friends apartments and to activities on campus. It was no big deal and just a part of life. After graduation, if you don’t live in a city, walking takes the backburner to driving.

The tundra was UConn for most of the year.  And we still walked it.Walking UConn

When I first moved to Maryland, I was unsure about going for a run because I didn’t know the area.  So, I decided to explore while walking, without the intent of exercise.  I have to say, it was really nice.  It became a leisure activity.  Rather than bustling to class, or setting out for a jog, walking is very relaxing and just makes you feel good both mentally and physically.  Here are my top reasons to start walking.

1. Fresh Air

Today, everyone is plugged in.  The internet is great, it brings you The Baier Necessities.Smile  But it also makes it much easier to stay inside for a whole day, or even an entire weekend.  By staying cooped up, you may be missing out on the perks of fresh air.  According to the EPA, indoor air can be twice as polluted as fresh, air outside.  If you think about it, the air in your house is being recirculated , the oxygen is being consumed and pollutants like dust and pollen are concentrated.  Outside, air is constantly moving around, and pollutants are dispersed.  By breathing deep outside, you get increased oxygen which can help your lungs, give you a more restful nights sleep and improve your mood.  This article goes into more detail on the benefits of fresh air and proper breathing.

2. Stress Reduction

Have you ever been working on a project at home that just stresses you out?  This could be homework, something you brought home from the office, or just trying to plan a large family gathering.  Sometimes you just need a break.  I find that I cant truly relax if I stay in the same place.  It just reminds me of what I still need to work on and increases my anxiety, rather than reduce it.  By physically leaving that space, you can distance yourself from the stress.  Taking a walk can allow you to casually be distracted by other things or give you time to contemplate a problem more slowly.  I usually find that if I take a walk to clear my head, I come back much more relaxed and ready to refocus on the task at hand.

3. Being Social

Jaunts around the block don’t have to be a solitary adventure.  You can use it as an excuse to catch up with friends or family members, free from distractions at home.  If you have a dog, take him along.  You may even get to know some neighbors.  During one of my walks, I met a young dad who told me about the state park near us.  At this point, I had been living here for 2 months and I had no idea it was there.  You never know what tip bits you might pick up!

My family on vacation in Boston, getting our walk on.Walking Social

4. Physical HealthIMG_0778

The general recommendation is to get 10,000 steps in a day.  This can be from activities of daily living such as getting ready, going to your car or grocery shopping.  It can also include scheduled physically activity such as running or going for a walk.  The original recommendation came from the Japanese as a way to sell pedometers, but research is supporting the medical and health effects of taking on the 10,000 step challenge.

An article in the American Journal of Health Promotion outlines a study done with 56 overweight and obese individuals who had previously led sedentary lives.  They took on the 10,000 step challenge and showed improvements in weight, BMI, body fat, waist circumference, hip circumference and cholesterol.

To the right is a screen shot of my pedometer app on my iPod Touch.  It’s a great way to track you activity for free.  You can also purchase baseline pedometers for less than $10.

5. Whimsy

To quote Dr. Sheldon Cooper, “What’s life without whimsy?”.  You never know what you might find.  It may be some beautiful scenery, an impeccably decorated house, a new town project, or just some fun decorations along the way.  Its just fun to be surprised by what is out there.

Some things that I have seen while out and about. The bear mailbox was a neighbors’ prank turned mailbox.  The carving is from my hometown, where they  are turning the stump of a fallen tree into an art installation. Walking Whimsy 

Walking is a great activity for you mind as well as your body.  If you slowly incorporate more steps into your day by taking some walks, you can reap all of these benefits.  When going for walks, make sure to wear appropriate shoes to avoid injury.  Happy walking!

Do you like to take walks and do you have any suggestions?

Possible New Years Resolutions

It’s that time of the year again when people evaluate their lives and identify room for improvement.  I generally don’t make resolutions, but I know plenty of others do.  Here are some changes that I have made inWalking my life over the past couple of years that I think have definitely improved my overall wellbeing.

1.  Start Walking

Walking is great.  Its an excuse to get out of your house,  get some fresh air and just clear your mind.  Its also a great way to catch up with friends.

 

2. Drink More Water

Most people don’t drink enough.  And what they are drinking may be sugar/calorie     heavy beverages.  Make it simple and just carry a water bottle with you wherever you go.  You will realize how thirsty you get during the day and be thankful for some reprieve.lego-water-bottle

water bottlewater bottle 2no tv

3.  Don’t eat while watching TV

This is something that I recently started and its working pretty well.  While watching TV, you tend to snack mindlessly.  Try and designate a spot, like sitting at the kitchen table to help remove the temptation of grabbing another cookie.

 

If you chose to do a new years resolution, my advice is to do it in a moderate way.  If you never work out, vowing to go to the gym 5 times a week is unrealistic and sets you up for disappointment.  Use the resolution season to gradually build up to realistic goals.  Good luck to everyone and a happy new year!

My Running History to Date

Growing up, running was one of the most stressful things in my life.  I hated it.  In elementary school, I definitely cried over having to run the mile.  Things slowly got better when I started doing organized sports in high school, but it was something that I endured rather than enjoyed and I thought people who ‘ran for pleasure’ were lying to themselves.  How could you love to do something that hurt and wore you down?

After high school, I started to form a sort of admiration for runners.  It was something that I was terrible at, so I saw them as supreme athletes, someone to admire for their athletic prowess.  I tried to start running a little in college, and it never really took off.  I got up to doing 2.5 miles on the treadmill, but that was exhausting and I never sustained it.  This past summer, Eric encouraged me to give it another try.  He was definitely a better runner than I was and brought me along on his runs.  When I got indignant and insisted on stopping, he would push me to go a little further, and showered me with positive encouragement.  After going on runs pretty regularly, I built up my stamina to doing 3 miles.  The distance was an achievement in itself, but do you want to know the biggest change?  I liked it.  It was no longer something that I did because I knew it was good for me.  After a run, I had that high people talked about.  And it was awesome. 

At this point, I still wouldn’t have classified myself as a runner, but I felt I could hold my own when talking about it.  While adjusting to life in Maryland, I took a bit of a break.  I was used to running outside on trails, and this area was completely unfamiliar.  I didn’t know if it was safe or what routes I could use.  After about a month and half, I found my bearings and started up again.  I got to the point where if I missed a day, I actually missed it.  Now I really had the urge to enter a race.  I felt confident enough to do one.  I was consistently running about a 5k so I knew that I wouldn’t embarrass myself if I entered.  Thanks to Melissa, I found the Rudolph Run, sponsored by Bullseye Running. It was a 4 mile race through the state park near my home.  It was a 2 mile loop done twice or in a relay.  Originally, Melissa and I were going to do it together, but she got sick that weekend.  Undeterred, I still went.  And I am do happy that I did.

Rudolph 2

That’s right, I ran my first race.  On December 15th, I ran 4 miles in 46 minutes and 22 seconds through the woods with a bunch of other people. It was so much fun, and now, I finally feel like a runner.  It was such a great experience.  There were spectators lining the course at points, cheering you on, even if you were a complete stranger.  (TIP: Wear a shirt that has some identifying mark.  I was known as “Uconn”, so I kept hearing things like, “You got it Uconn!”, “Looking good Uconn.” A little encouragement goes a long way)

Rudolph

My goal was to finish in under 50 minutes because I had actually never run a full 4 miles before.  I figure if they expect marathoners to run 6 more miles than they trained for, the extra fraction of a mile couldn’t be too tough.  Overall, I had an incredible experience and I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in entering a race to do so.  There is such a comradely among runners and you may meet some really nice people while achieving personal bests.

Do you run? What’s your story?

Vacation Update

Hi there! I know I took a bit of a holiday from The Baier Necessities, but in case you were worried I had fallen off a cliff, fear not. The main reason for this is that I was on vacation!  We got two weeks off from the internship and I went home to Connecticut, where I am from.  It was so nice to see my three F’s: family, friends, and fiancé.

I was able to see my entire immediate and extended family over break, including both of my sisters.  Jessie was going to school in South Carolina, and Rachel is currently living in Paris.  As you can see, we cover a lot of geography, so its pretty miraculous when we all can manage to get into the same house.  It was awesome to catch up with them, in addition to my parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

I was also able see Eric a lot while I was home.  I even got re-proposed to! My engagement ring was a little lose so over thanksgiving, I left it with him to get it resized.  My first night back, we went to a nice restaurant and he did the whole thing over again.  It was so much fun reliving it in a very different way (aka public restaurant vs. private beach).  I think we made our neighboring diners nights because they were all reliving their engagement stories.  Other than that, we were able to hang out a lot, catch some movies, go out to eat and see each others family’s.  Eric’s sister has an infant son, whom I adore, and I was able to spend a lot of time with him.

I was also able to see my girls, a mix of my close friends from high school and college (some of them both).  It was a hectic few weeks but I was able to see everyone.

One highlight from my vacation was that while in New Haven with Sarah and Meredith for lunch, we got hit by a snow storm and we physically trapped in the city.  The predicted 2 inches turned into 8 and for safety’s sake, we crashed at a friends place nearby.  It was such a happy accident because I was able to spend more time with my former college roomies. It all works out.

New Haven Snow

Another perk of being home was that Eric and I went wedding venue shopping!  Overall, we checked out 7 venues and currently two are still in the running. Since we got engaged right before I left for Maryland, we haven’t had much of a chance to do serious wedding planning, mostly just browsing Pinterest and magazines.  To actually go to the venues was really exciting and drove home the fact that I get to get married Smile Here are some photos from our tours.

Wedding Collage

And that about sums it up! Now that I’m back in my routine, I will be posting more regularly.