Below are the chronicles of my last few weeks of food science lab. People seem to enjoy these posts… so I’m glad some good has come from my and my classmates’ suffering through this class 😉
I was still Lent-ing it up and not eating any meat, plus in general kind of avoid preparing meat at home due to all the food safety drama to deal with so this was sort of a gross week for me.
One group made mini meat loaves. They were glazed and cute.
And then coming out of the oven looked SO NASTY! Hahahaha. Kind of horrifying when you think about the fact that when you make meatloaf the regular way all that orangey grease stays in the loaf and you eat it.
Another group did fajitas.
The school ovens have pretty crappy broilers, so they didn’t get the sear they’d hoped for on the steak.
It also ended up quiiiiiite rare! But people seemed to enjoy it!
Another group did a sausage dish. They precooked the sausage a little bit, then scored it and cooked it with some peppers and onions. Half cooked sausage is QUITE gross looking!
But the final dish was pretty dang gorgeous.
Another group did an Ottolenghi recipe for ground lamb with sweet and savory seasonings.
The finished dish wasn’t real glamorous in the looks department but people seemed quite excited about the flavor- it involved cinnamon, raisins, caramelized onions, pine nuts, etc.
My group did a lamb curry. There wasn’t quite enough lamb stew meat so the prof told us to round it out with chickpeas. This smelled AMAZING as it cooked.
And looked very pretty with the final garnish.
We served it with rice, and my ambitious classmate who went to culinary school threw together an impromptu chutney.
Apparently, though, the final curry ended up being kind of bland, despite the plethora of spices it contained.
But anyway, I didn’t taste anything- this was the meal I had that particular week!
Next we had Ice Cream Day… oy oy oy.
So fine, we had to learn about the science of ice cream. The RD exam is pretty archaic and there are a lot of food service questions on it. Totally get that.
What I 100% do not comprehend is what happened in food science lab. “We don’t have an ice cream maker”, announced our professor, “So we’ll be making composed ice cream desserts.”
So in my Masters in Public Health Program (ranked second in the whole United States, tied with Harvard), in the middle of the week my classmates and I were frantically studying for our comprehensive exams, in a class that ought to have been preparing us to provide practical food preparation advice to our client populations, we were… rearranging store bought ice cream into odd shapes.
It was QUITE peculiar.
Nothing like high-fructose-corn-syrup-packed Sarah Lee pound cake as the foundation for a recipe in a nutrition class, eh?
I was in charge of cutting it into layers. Oooh, aaah.
We softened some strawberry ice cream and mixed in crushed almonds and minced maraschino cherries (…?)
And then what was supposed to happen was that we layered cake, then our gussied up strawberry red ice cream, then cake, then chocolate ice cream, then cake, then pistachio ice cream, then cake.
And chill it, and let the layers set, and remove the layered creation from the cake pan and cut slices of this layered delicacy.
However, as you’ll see several times in this week’s photos, the freezer available to us in our kitchen was not particularly good, and having five separate groups putting together frozen desserts meant the door was constantly opened and closed. So when it came to our final dish…
As you can see…
It looks like cat barf, right?!
Here is a brief glimpse of what could have been…
Meanwhile, another group was turning vanilla ice cream into baked potatoes.
Let me explain.
They took scoops of the ice cream and rolled it into ovals in plastic wrap.
Then once those had chilled (ish) they rolled them in cocoa powder (the “skin” of a baked potato) and topped them with marshmallow fluff (representing sour cream) and green sprinkles (or “chives”).
They were quite cute. Might be a fun activity for like… a six year old’s birthday party. Again, though, this was a required assignment in my masters program.
Another group made ice cream “spaghetti and meatballs”.
This was accomplished by putting vanilla ice cream in a ricer.
There was a “parmesan” topping, made by shredding white chocolate.
And chocolate truffle meatballs, and raspberry sauce. RAPIDLY melting.
Another group also involved chocolate and chocolate.
Theirs involved coffee ice cream as well.
They were wise and stored theirs in the relatively-unused freezer in the break room in a separate part of the building. Thus, why it was not a hot mess.
Another group did a watermelon mold… the outside was “watermelon rind”, meaning vanilla ice cream painted with green food coloring.
Slicing it went… okay. Jenna was a trouper for taking on this task.
This inside did actually kind of look watermelon-ish. They’d mixed raspberry sorbet with mini chocolate chips.
It collapsed pretty quickly but was semi-successful?
The real highlight for the week was the sauces. This raspberry one was blissful.
Our group made a chocolate fudge one.
(I keep having to repeat that I am in a nutrition program. I feel like that is not clear, right?!)
Camille and I posed as we took on quality control.
Another group was supposed to make a butterscotch sauce but risked the omnipresent wrath of our professor by accidentally adding chocolate to it. But you know what? It was DELICIOUS!
Anyway, I was happy when that odd, odd week was over.
Vegetable Day: like, the day that actually makes sense for a nutrition program.
We began our day with a lecture from a super adorable professor emiritus. He’s done a lot of research on vitamin D and polyphenols over the year. Super interesting stuff.
Then we cooked vegetables! In a nutrition class! WHAT A CONCEPT!
One group did an experiment with cooking cabbage in an alkaline medium (with baking soda) and an acidic medium (with vinegar). As you can see, cabbage can basically be used for a litmus test! The anthocyanins (blue/purple) leach out in alkaline solution, and the (I think?) careotenoids (red) leach out in an acidic solution. SCIENCE IS EVERYWHERE YALL.
We prepared brussels sprouts by steaming, boiling, and roasting; seasoned just with oil salt and pepper. The boiled ones were SO SO BLAND. Do yourself a favor and don’t boil your vegetables.
We also made some roasted ones (at left, below) the way I like to do them, with honey and dijon and dill. Apparently we should have intuited that this was not the way we were supposed to make them, so got yelled at for awhile. Sigh. But of course my classmates adored my brussels sprouts because they are DELICIOUS.
And at right, our professor’s recipe, where they were shredded and cooked with lemon and shallot and red pepper flakes. Twas good.
Also did a variety of cooking methods for asparagus. Again, boiled was gross. Steamed and microwave were equally fine. Roasted was okay but I sometimes just want asparagus to taste like asparagus, not “roasted” (you know how all roasted things kinda taste like “roasted” and it’s good but it’s not what you want every single time?)
While we took on the green veggies, other groups were preparing various components to make a giant Salade Nicoise. Fancy culinary school grad classmate brought her mandoline which made quick work of the fennel (gosh guys I love fennel)
Another group was making hard boiled eggs, but gussied them up into deviled eggs. Using fresh eggs made for tasty eggs but painful peeling. Glad I didn’t have to do it!
They gussied up some of the deviled eggs with capers and/or anchovies.
The final dish had a TON of ingredients and was a bit overstimulating. You know how they say with accessories you should remove one thing as you’re walking out the door? It was that kind of thing.
Arugula and steamed potatoes and green beans and fennel and tomatoes and red peppers and deviled eggs with their various toppings and olives and tuna and vinaigrette and green onion and on and on!
But each individual component was quite tasty. I really love high quality oil-packed canned tuna; I forget that sometimes.
Oh and then after all those lovely veggies we also had some fruit- strawberries marinated in balsamic and sugar and black pepper. Our professor insisted we had to serve them on ice cream (because otherwise this week might actually be healthy) but I had them straight up and were tasty. This inspired a salad I made for friends a few days later- it’s a yummy combination, especially with the pepper.
Final Project Day:
Our last assignment for the class was what (in my opinion) we should’ve been doing all semester: we were to take a recipe for a “classic”, frequently made dish and redesign it to be a healthy choice for a specific patient population. We served our dishes to our classmates and everyone voted on the best final product.
Everyone laughed uproariously viewing the hilariously lengthy ingredient list one group created- all thanks to Nate, who really gets ambitious in the kitchen.
They made quite the classy meat sauce
And because their recipe was designed for people with Celiac disease, they used naturally gluten-free zucchini strips for the lasagna noodles (they salted them first so they wouldn’t get watery as they baked).
It smelled like real lasagna, despite the substitutions- meat and cheese will do that 🙂
Our group decided to create a recipe for people with chronic kidney disease, as I mentioned a few posts ago. Our tacos ended up quite pretty and popular.
Another group made meatloaf that was appropriate for the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension- a diet meant to be high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber; and low in sodium and saturated fat). They bulked up their meatloaf with oats and veggies. However, in my opinion their most brilliant idea was swapping out the traditional (high sodium) ketchup topping and instead topping their loaves with sun dried tomato pesto.
As again this week it was still Lent and I was still meatless, I didn’t eat the meatloaf but kept giving myself spoonfuls of that sun dried tomato pesto. HEAVENLY! Also, kudos to their group for managing to make meatloaf look pretty and decorative and appetizing, something I hadn’t really thought was possible.
The only group whose creation I did get to eat took on fettucine alfredo to make it work for people who are lactose intolerant. Their sauce involved cauliflower and nutritional yeast and was quite tasty. The pops of color from the peas and parsley were also quite nice.
And finally, the last group created a chili recipe for people on a low FODMAPs diet. FYI, FODMAPS= fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. It’s a diet with the basic philosophy that bacteria love to eat fermentable sugars, and if you have an imbalance of bacteria in your small intestine (your large intestine is supposed to be full of ’em, but not your small), the best way to deal with this small intestine bacterial overgrowth is to starve out the little buggers by depriving them of their favorite foods.
Anyway, kudos to this group because they made chili and traditional FODMAPs are:
- beer (and their reference recipe was a beer based chili)
So they had quite the undertaking! Anyway, their final recipe looked pretty and smelled delicious.
And then GLORY GLORY HALLELUJAH we were done with food science lab. I hope you have enjoyed these recaps. I hope that in my future there is tasty cooking with friends… but without the specter of an angry professor breathing down our necks.