What can I say? I have a lot of ideas and I like to make things. I don't fear failure. Here are some of the things I have tried that were super fun for me (and didn't exactly work out). In no particular order.
Landing My Own Cooking Show
Here's a pic of my candied Pomelo peel. This recipe won Best in Show at the California State Fair in 2015.
I would have taught viewers how to make this and so much more! It could have been amazing!
Home canning is a great hobby, and once you start doing it you discover a lot of people are into it, too. I was surprised to learn that chefs do a lot of preserving and pickling in their restaurants. That gave me an idea: A TV show that visited chefs in their restaurants. I would arrive and get them to share their secrets! They would talk about preparation and serving ideas. It would be a hit!
I drafted a proposal (complete with advertising targets) and worked hard to network with producers and networks to produce any and all of these concepts:
1. World Preservation Day! These segments coincide with the 2012 Olympics. Circle the world and learn how different cultures use canning and preserving to define their unique cuisine. Each segment demonstrates the basic steps to create a preserved item that is typical to each culture. For example: How to make and use Moroccan preserved lemons. Advertising targets: Travel and tourism; restaurants; canning supplies; hardware stores
2. Jammin’ with Gina Kids roll up their sleeves and learn how to make easy and delicious preserved foods, like jellies, freezer jams, and super-easy pickles. We also talk about how to know when fruits and vegetables are ripe and ready to can. Other topics include the importance of a clean kitchen and how to decorate your jars so they are uniquely your own. Advertising targets: Food manufacturers (breads, coffee, teas, eggs, bacon products); canning supplies; hardware stores
3. Get Pickled! These segments are tailored to adult audiences. Here, we pair preserved foods (jams, jellies and pickled items) with beer and wine. Each segment demonstrates the basic steps to create a preserved item that can later be paired with an adult beverage. For example: Homemade apricot spread over brie and crackers pairs beautifully with a crisp Gewürztraminer. Advertising targets: BevMo; wine, beer manufacturers; canning supplies; hardware stores
4. A new kind of restaurant review These segments explore how restaurants use canned and preserved items to transform their dishes. For example, Mexican eateries often serve spicy pickled carrots and onions as a side dish. How do they make these delicious accompaniments? And Korean restaurants? How do they create their pickled kim chee? Are there restaurants out there that make their own dill pickles to enjoy with sandwiches or burgers? These segments include a visit to the restaurant and a demo on how you can make these preserved items at home. Advertising targets: Restaurants; canning supplies; hardware stores
My jar prototypes, from left to right: I kilncasted the first prototype, but flow was an issue. Next, I used a pate de verre technique that proved to be impractical. Lastly, I built a blow mold and blew glass into the mold, creating the most successful prototypes in both clear and colored glass.
In 2014, after years of giving jars of jam and pickles to friends and family I discovered these challenges:
People love to receive home-canned items, but they consider the product inside the jar to be the gift, not the jar. They returned the jar once they'd devoured the goodies inside. This meant I often had more canning jars than I had space to store, between my new jars and the ones that friends returned to me.
Standard canning jars have a practical, functional aesthetic. You can dress them up with stickers and bows, but there is nothing you can do to improve the design of the jar itself. Standard canning jars become boring to work with over time.
I love hand-blown vessels and wondered if there was a way to make my own unique jars for canning. A hand-blown jar would solve both of my challenges: People would consider my offering to be a gift from the inside, out. And I would get a break from Ye Olde Canning Jar.
I started my research. Given the precision that is needed to create a seal between jar and lid, would it be possible to create a hand-blown canning jar? Methods used:
Hands-on work with subject matter experts: I took a Glassblowing 101 course where I learned to blow a simple cup. Making the vessel shape was not a problem. The challenge was creating the rim thickness and threads to match a standard jar lid, gasket, and ring. Working with an instructor, I learned how to make molds for kilncasting and later for blow molds. I also attempted to create a jar using a pate de verre technique, which consisted of making a glass paste and patting it into a mold.
I learned... so much.
Molten glass is fickle and it cools very quickly, which makes it nearly impossible to embed with any precision the threads needed to create a seal. Even with a perfect blow mold, the glass did its own thing just enough to require sanding and cutting once the annealing process was complete.
Pate de verre requires more coldworking (sanding and finishing) than I have patience for.
I would need to use borosilicate glass to create a vessel that could withstand the boiling water bath that's required in many canning recipes. Working with borosilicate has a learning curve of its own.
When I was daydreaming about this project, I often thought that if I could perfect my method, I would produce and sell these unique, hand-blown jars. My research impacted this strategy, as I realized I could not attain the precision that home canners need to create a safe, sealed food product with a blown glass jar. I decided to keep glass work as a hobby.
Whole Foods Baking Contest
My invented dessert -- Coco Chulada cupcakes. Delicious, but not a winner.
I heard about a baking contest through Whole Foods Market -- the challenge was to develop a recipe using their 365 Everyday Value Coconut Milk for Cinco de Mayo.
I was visiting my Nana when I heard about the contest. I went into the kitchen to concoct something. I had pots and pans everywhere. She asked me, "What are you doing chulada?" Chulada is a favorite Spanish nickname. I kept cooking and thinking.
If I'm addicted to anything, it's curd. I love to can it, eat it and find new foods to slather it on. I decided to transform the featured product -- 365 Everyday Value Coconut Milk -- into a luscious, custardy coconut curd. I almost submitted coconut curd as my contest dessert (doesn't everyone eat curd by the spoonful?), but I decided to use it as a filling for dark chocolate cupcakes and garnish these little baskets of goodness with whipped cream and toasted coconut. Que rica! (And not too sweet.)
Unfortunately, I didn't win the Whole Foods cooking contest. But, I did invent a new recipe!
Here are 5 steps to making this very special Cinco de Mayo dessert.
Coco Chulada Cupcakes I make the coconut curd first, and move on to the cupcakes while it's cooling. While the cupcakes are in the oven, I make the whipped cream. I toast the coconut last since it only takes a few minutes.
Step 1: Coconut Curd Ingredients: 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk 2 large eggs 2 large egg yolks 2/3 cup 365 Everyday Value coconut milk 1 vanilla bean, scraped (If you don't have real vanilla bean, you can use a teaspoon of vanilla extract.)
Method: Using a blender on medium speed, beat butter, sugar and sweetened condensed milk for about a minute. Add eggs and yolks and beat for another minute. Add coconut milk. Add scrapings from vanilla bean. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and turn heat to medium high. Stir mixture until it's smooth. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken and is steaming hot, but do not boil. (I use a digital thermometer and bring the temperature to 180 degrees.) Remove from heat. (Inspired by my favorite Classic Lemon Curd recipe)
Step 2: Chulada Chocolate Cupcakes Ingredients: 2 cups plus 4 tablespoons cake flour 1 cup unsweetened cocoa 2 cups sugar 2 cups whole milk 2 eggs 1/4 cup TCHO dark chocolate, unsweetened 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoon baking soda
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine butter and 1/4 cup TCHO dark chocolate. Microwave for few second until butter is melted. Stir the mixture to melt the chocolate completely.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Add melted chocolate mixture. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes. Mixture should be smooth, though bubbles may appear at the surface. Line cupcake tin with cupcake wrappers. Fill each wrapper about 2/3 full. Bake for 18 minutes at 350 until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove cupcakes to rack to cool. (Inspired by Cooks.com easy chocolate cake recipe.)
Step 3: Whipped Cream Ingredients: 1 pint heavy whipping cream A few tablespoons sugar, to taste
Method: Put a glass bowl in the freezer for a few minutes. When it's nice and chilly, add the heavy whipping cream. Add a teaspoon of sugar and beat the whipping cream on high speed until peaks form. Taste the whipping cream and add more sugar to taste.
Method: Keep the oven at 350 degrees. Spread coconut flakes in a medium glass pie dish. Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Step 5: Making your Coco Chulada Cupcakes Once your cupcakes are cool, it's time to fill them. If you have a pastry bag and know how to get into the middle of the cupcake, go for it! I cut a circle into the top of the cupcake, remove it, then cut the point off the piece I remove. A hole remains in the center of the cupcake. Spoon coconut curd into the hole -- be generous! Replace the top of the cupcake. Finish the cupcakes with whipped cream and garnish with toasted coconut.