This week was an easy one. We were treated to a long weekend thanks to the Labour Day public holiday.
Tuesday morning I began with shopping after our group meeting. I shopped for the green kitchen again. This week I didn’t have much at all to buy. Originally, I had planned to shop with a Kickstart staff member so that I could finish quickly, meaning that I would have time to drive around to the butcher to pick up some more rolled pork to roast before the other shoppers would be finished. Suzannah and I shopped in record time. By that time however, Jude had taken another student to the butcher instead. As I had finished so quickly Jude picked me up from Countdown and drove me back to Kickstart before the others. I was able to unpack and label my shopping and begin working on the minutes for that morning before lunch. I had been timetabled in to spend time with Barbara discussing financial things including mortgages after shopping, but we ran out of time so postponed it for another week. After lunch I had been timetabled in to prepare my pork. Like last time though, I decided to begin during lunchtime so that I wouldn’t run out of time. This was my independent roast, the last one I needed to do for my goal. I was also going to try out our new Bluetooth thermometer for the first time, which I was very excited about. During lunch I preheated the oven and prepared the pork. Before I was able to put the pork in the oven though I spoke to Jude about using the thermometer. I knew that it needed to be able to test the temperature in the centre, but I wasn’t sure if I should put it in from the side or the top. As I was using a roll of pork we decided to put the probe in the top as there was a small hole in the side where it was rolled. I put the probe into the meat and then put the tray into the oven, letting the wire dangle out of the door. Then I plugged the wire into the thermometer and set up the iPad ready to monitor the temperature. The wire didn’t seem to affect the door closing at all. The iPad app has a section where you can select meats with their required internal temperature already set. Otherwise you can enter the temperature yourself. I chose the pork well done setting, which was 71 degrees. I also weighed the pork and used my iPhone app to calculate how long it should take to cook. It estimated that it would be one hour and forty-five minutes. I used this app as well as the thermometer partly so that I could time the things such as the potatoes but also to cross-check the thermometer. I was interested to see how long it would take to reach its internal temperature when compared to the time my app estimated. Then I prepared the potatoes, carrots and broccoli. I had plenty of time so I cut up the broccoli stalk and fed it to the worms and then emptied and washed our compost bucket. After the potatoes were in the oven I cleaned the dishes, got everything out that I needed for the gravy and to serve and then relaxed. I was surprised to discover that the pork had reached its temperature twenty-five minutes earlier than expected. I took it out and let it rest while the potatoes continued cooking. I asked Suzannah to check the pork for me, just to be doubly sure as it was the first time I was using the thermometer. The juices ran clear. I was impressed at how fast the meat came to temperature. The thermometer is a great way of making sure the meat is neither over cooked nor under cooked. Each time I opened the oven to take the tray out I needed to be mindful of the thermometer. If I had have simply carried the tray over to the bench as I normally would I would have dragged the thermometer off the bench, risking either dropping it on the floor or damaging the wire. At first, I put the thermometer in my pocket and then took the tray out of the oven. I quickly discovered though that I had to remember the thermometer was in my pocket each time I walked away from the tray on the bench. So in the end I decided to simply disconnect the thermometer from the wire, letting the wire dangle out of the tray. Once it went back in the oven I simply reconnected the wire and everything was perfect. Doing that didn’t affect the app or anything and seemed to be the easiest and safest way of going about it. When it was time I served the vegetables and then got the potatoes out of the oven. When I opened the door of the oven a cloud of smoke came out. This surprised me because the potatoes had been in there for only an hour altogether at 200 degrees, which is exactly how I normally cook them. The top of the pork was a lot darker than my last two too, which I was confused about. Barbara wondered if the rack in the oven was closer to the element to normal., which might have been the case. The potatoes were very crunchy and almost burnt. Suzannah scraped the little burnt bits out of the tray for me so that I could make the gravy. I did that and then tasted it to make sure it didn’t have a burnt flavour, which I didn’t think it did. Then, to finish up serving, I set to work carving the meat with Jude’s electric knife. This started off fairly well. The slices were straight and quite thin. For some reason though as I went they seemed to become thicker and not as even. I have always struggled to judge when something is straight. Some of the pieces I had to cut up into smaller chunks using a normal knife but overall I think I did quite well with the electric knife considering it was only the second time I had used it. I put the meals and gravy in the fridge, washed my dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. I was also sure to wipe the top of the oven down with a cloth while it was still warm in the hope that it would get rid of the grease and fat that made the oven smoke after my pork last time. That night when I ate my meal I wasn’t very happy with it. The meat itself was nice but the crackling hadn’t worked out nearly as well as it had the last two times. It had not crackled up very much at all and was quite chewy. I had done everything exactly the same as I usually do. The potatoes also tasted very slightly burnt to me and in the end I could also taste a burnt flavour to the gravy. The vegetables were nice though. Overall I wasn’t very happy with the meal but I was still proud as I had done it independently and therefore achieved my goal. I know that everyone who prepares roasts has dud ones like this from time to time so I was not disheartened at all. Overall I was very impressed with the thermometer too. It was very easy to use and I can definitely see that it will be a worthwhile thing for me to buy for my own flat.
One disadvantage to my idea of writing our menu planners on the Kickstart iPad is that only one person can enter their recipes at a time. This is why lately I have been entering mine in the night before so that I can then use my time productively. As I had menus on my timetable first thing on Wednesday I used the time instead to type out a recipe from a braille book that I borrowed off of Natalie. Then I had an hour to work with Suzannah on separating my washing. All I needed though was for someone to check what I had done. Suzannah wasn’t in on Wednesday so I asked Barbara to check instead. She agreed with all of my choices, even the ones I wasn’t sure about, such as putting my pink t-shirt into my lights pile and my blue t-shirt into my darks. In the past I have always washed all of my clothes together without worrying about separating them. For my goal about caring for clothes and linen though I wanted to learn the skill. In the future I may still never worry about doing it but at least then I have practiced doing it. At times I struggle to work out which pile an item should belong to, but this is why I asked for a staff member to check. Barbara explained to me the advantages of separating my washing, namely that whites stay very bright and clear, rather than fading slightly when you wash them with other colours. She also told me how cheaper washing powder can also make your clothes fade. Then I put my washing on, one load at a time. I was glad that I had managed to separate them perfectly without needing to change any of the decisions I had made. After morning tea I spent an hour with Barbara discussing table etiquette. She had a few tips and tricks to share with me and was able to answer a couple of my questions. Then I finished hanging out my washing and ate lunch. After lunch we had another session of waiata and then I went to the gym.
I had been timetabled in to make a juice Thursday morning. However, I juggled my timetable very slightly. In the afternoon I had been given time to make my third dessert with staff supervision. However, the slice that I had chosen needed to set in the fridge for about four hours before the top layer could be put on. As a result, I decided that I would make the base and filling for the slice in the morning and then make the topping and the juice in the afternoon. That way, the slice would be able to set while I was out at filming. The slice was a chocolate caramel slice, a recipe that I found online. It is a very similar recipe to the caramel cups that I made last year. This one however, I assumed, would be easier to make and definitely not as fiddly, but still just as delicious. Only a few very slight things differed between the two and I felt that I would most likely feel much more confident in perfecting the slice rather than the cups, even though I did end up making the cups independently last year. I made the base by sifting some flour and mixing it together with brown sugar, coconut and butter. When it was ready, I pressed it into the tin which I had greased beforehand. I baked the base for fifteen minutes. While it was cooling I prepared the filling by mixing together some butter, golden sirup and sweetened condensed milk. I heated it over the stove, whisking it and making sure it didn’t stick. Once it was ready I poured it over the base and used a scraper to even it out. I had been hoping that the caramel would be runny enough that it would spread itself so I wouldn’t have to even it out, but that didn’t work. Last time I made the caramel for the cups I had a feeling it was thinner and runnier, so next time I might try and leave it on the stove for a little longer to see if that helps. Then I put the slice back in the oven for ten minutes or so. As soon as I took it out it needed to go into the fridge as I was about to leave for filming. I was concerned about carrying the hot tray on a board to the fridge without it slipping off, especially as it was too hot to hold. Suzannah had the idea of glad wrapping it to the board, which worked. That way, it would hold it still on the board but also left holes on either side of the glad wrap so that it wouldn’t cause condensation. Then we went to filming. This week, we were still working on the idea for this term’s film. We brainstormed a little as a whole group before we split up into two smaller ones. My group, which funnily enough was the four Kickstart students, were the script writers. We had to come up with ideas for characters, lines they could say and the general plot for the film. The film this term is based on Dr Seuss books, which I haven’t read, so I wasn’t much help in the session. Our characters rhyme to coincide with the theme of Dr Seuss so I was hoping to be able to help with that part, but we didn’t get to writing many lines at all. After film I checked my slice. It was setting very nicely so I left it in the fridge. During lunch I got together the ingredients for my juice. I used carrots, celery, beetroot, oranges and mint. After they were all prepared and ready to go in the juicer Suzannah joined me so I started working on the top layer of the slice. This layer was different to the top of the caramel cups. The cups only use melted chocolate on the top. This slice involved melting cremelta and cooking chocolate together. I did that in a bowl that was sitting inside a pot of simmering water. Once it was all melted and smooth I poured it over the slice. This time, however, the chocolate was quite runny and managed to mostly even itself out, although I did use a scraper to help it just a little. One corner was lacking chocolate but the rest of it looked good. I put it back in the fridge and then made my juice. The juice that I had chosen was a new one that I hadn’t tried last semester. It was really nice though. To finish off I washed my dishes and then had a group meeting. After hours Jude helped me to cut up my slice, which looked excellent. Last year whenever I baked I always asked a staff member to cut it up for me. This year, part of my goal was to actually learn how to do it for myself. I had never cut up a slice like this before which is why I asked for Jude’s help. We tried a couple of different knives for it to see which one worked best for me. To begin with, I used a large sharp knife. I found the centre up the top and then pushed the knife into the slice. Then I pulled it down slightly. Then I pulled the knife back out, moved closer towards me and repeated the process. Once I had reached the bottom edge of the slice I went back along the cut to make sure that I had cut all the way through. I had cut it slightly crooked, which did not surprise me. Then we changed knives. I tried a smaller sharp knife. I also put the blade into a cup of warm water and then dried it off before cutting. This way, the chocolate on the top melted slightly which was easier to cut. It also meant that the caramel wouldn’t stick to the knife as much. I found this much easier. I found the smaller knife easier to manage and also the heated blade made it easier to cut through. I finished cutting the slice with this knife, putting it back into the warm water regularly. I cut down the slice three times, leaving me with four long pieces, before turning the tray forty-five degrees and doing the same thing again. I ended up with sixteen, almost even, pieces of slice. Then, to make it easier to get out I used a butter knife, which I again heated first, to go all the way around the edges of the slice. Then, I went along all of my cuts again to make sure they were completely cut through. We thought that next time I might cut the whole thing with the butter knife, simply because it has a rounded end and seemed to cut the base better. Once I had made sure the slice would come out easily I used the butter knife to carefully lift out one of the corner pieces. Jude had warned me that the first piece of a slice usually ends up breaking or crumbling. I was amazed to see that my first piece was perfectly intact. It looked excellent. I was then easily able to lift out the other pieces. We all tried a piece and I was very impressed. Everyone agreed. It was delicious and had been much easier to make than the caramel cups as I had expected. I was also really proud that I had been able to cut it myself too. I am confident to make this slice independently next time, although I would like to come up with a method of guiding me so that I cut straight. I considered buying a ruler that would be especially for the kitchen for this purpose, but I will chat with other people and think about this more to see if I can come up with a better idea. After that I checked the oven in our kitchen to make sure I had cleaned out the mess from the roast pork enough. I still thought that the top of the oven was sticky and might cause it to smoke next time someone turns it on grill. So I lowered the element again and attacked it with gif and steel wool until I was happy.
Friday was a fairly easy day. We were collecting for Blind Week in two groups. I was in the second group which meant that I had the morning spare. I spent some time in the gym, worked on this evaluation and started packing for our trip next week in that time. When it was our time to collect we headed to the Warehouse in Manukau. We were there for three hours and collected many generous donations. In the time I chatted to a lot of lovely people. Collecting money like this is never easy but I am much better and more comfortable doing it now than I was when we first collected last year. Of course it is always nice to give back to the community in this way too. After we finished our stint of collecting at 3:00 we returned to Kickstart where we were able to finish slightly early.
Once again this week I have had trouble with my knee when I try to run. As we are away for the whole week next week I will be able to rest it further. If I still have trouble with it the following week however I may decide to see someone about it as it doesn’t seem to be improving.
Until next time.