Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hacking Google Forms to Grade Paper

It should not come as a surprise to you that I am a fan of spreadsheets and forms. I use forms for collecting canine data, scheduling volunteers, managing birthday databases, and even grading papers.

Yes, I absolutely love using them for grading papers. Here's some examples of forms I've build in Google Docs: beer exchanges, weight submissions, and the example that I'm showing. If you haven't used Google Forms before, here's a how to guide. It is super simple and totally free.
Before I jump into the example of grading papers, here's why I love it.

1. Reduce paper consumption. I hate wasting papers. They get lost. They get eaten by my dogs. They have to be physically transported. If a student is handwriting the paper, the handwriting probably isn't as nice as print.
2. I have a digital record of when they paper was submitted. The whole "I put it in your mailbox by *insert date*" claim won't work.
3. I can check the papers from anywhere - my laptop, my ipad, and even my iphone.
4. That also means, I can grade the papers on my ipad! It is fantastic. I used to load the documents on the ipad and grade them while I'm on the elliptical.
5. Once I grade the papers by adding the grades as a column on the end, I merge them with my excel gradebook. I can also keep all their papers (each in an xls sheet) along with their grades all in a single file by copying the sheets into my gradebook.

This long screen shot is the entire form I use for paper submissions. I include all the relevant information in the description at the top. That includes the prompt, due date, my contact information, and other materials. The questions follow.

Here's a zoomed in version of the questions. I make sure that the name and ID fields are required, otherwise students will forget to identify their own work.

This is what the file spreadsheet looks like when you are read to evaluate your students' work. Everything is in a nice and handy file that is easy to merge with their grade sheets. Give it a try, save time, and be super efficient.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Maple Leaf Duck with Sonya Cote

A few weeks ago, I participated in a Twitter chat hosted by the Boston Wine Expo and Maple Leaf Farms. As part of the Twitter chat, participants were gifted with duck (YAY!) to prepare and pair with wine. Luckily for me, I was able to enlist the help of one of Austin's most accomplished chefs, Sonya Cote, to give me some advice on duck prep.  If you've been in Austin for even just a little while, you would have heard of Sonya Cote, Chef and owner of Hillside Farmacy, Eden East, and the Homegrown Revival.  

Becker Cabernet Sauvignon to go with our duck.

I'm so thankful that she took the time to show me some tips and tricks in the kitchen. During our initial conversation, I thought that Sonya was going to make a dish or two out of the duck. I was very delighted and amazed that she was able to whip up four dishes in what was literally the blink of an eye. I don't have exact recipes, but here are some of the methods. Feel free to play with these ideas to make your own duck creations. For Austinites interested in getting local duck, Sebastian from Countryside Farms at the Downtown Austin Farmer's Market is a great option.

The first dish was a warm duck bacon salad. This could not be any easier. Cook the bacon in a pan and put it on top of greens and garnished with shaved rainbow carrots for a beautiful presentation. Chef Sonya dressed the salad with an emulsion of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, salt, lemon juice, dijon and pepper. Top with a poached duck egg for an extra omph.

There goes the bechamel on the poutine. Pretty much anything on top of fries is good.
Two dishes that she came up with using the roasted duck includes the duck poutine and a duck stuffed purple potato using the roasted duck. Once defrosted, just use your hands to remove the meat from the bones. Use the bones to make a broth for the next dish. I won't go into a discussion on how to make poutine or baked potatoes as those are pretty straightforward with many variations on how to do it. However, I'll show you some drool worthy photos.

Is this not the most beautiful duck stuffed baked potato with fried parsnips you have ever seen?

Moving onto the duck breast, Chef Sonya's preferred method of cooking is to slow render the fat. You can leave the skin intact or you can score it crosshatch. Crosshatching the skin will help it render faster, but you ought to get the same results either way. Fry the duck breasts skin side down on medium heat until the fat starts to melt out. As the fat comes out, remove the fat from the pan (and into a jar or storage container for future use), and keep on rendering. The idea is to get the fat out so that the skin does not become chewy; it should start to crisp up as the fat comes out. For each duck breast, it takes about six minutes to render the fat and crisp the skin. Once the skin is done, you'd flip the breast over and cooking the other side until the duck is to your preferred level of doneness. Or you can pop it in the oven to finish cooking. And as if we  need to remind you, don't forget to deglaze the pan for some

Rending the fat of the duck breast will help you achieve a crispy skin.

Chef Sonya served the sliced duck breasts with a popcorn grits and garnished with broccolini florets. To sauce it up, she made a sauce of duck stock, green onion, orange peel, and a little red wine. Duck breast is a versatile and delicious ingredient. I hope some of Chef Sonya's dishes gives you ideas for your next duck venture!

Duck breasts, popcorn grits, broccolini and dijon mustard. Looks amazing doesn't it?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ode to Fino Austin.

By now you've heard the sad news, Fino Austin will be closing their doors at the end of March 2015. While I'm happy for Emmett and Lisa Fox, this piece of Austin culinary history will always have a place in my heart and a place in many chef's vitaes. During Fino's ten year run, the back of the house was a training ground for many of Austin's new great chefs, bartenders, and restaurants. Faces that I got to know and love at Fino include Jason Donoho now at Alamo Drafthouse, Bill Norris also at Alamo Drafthouse and Midnight Cowboy, and Josh Loving now at Midnight Cowboy and Jeffery’s. That’s just the short list. I’ve included a social graph of some of the chefs that have gone through the doors of Fino. Photos by John M. P. Knox.

While we wait for Emmett and Lisa’s new place to open, savor some past photos from Fino.

The shishito peppers are one of my favorites along with the fried olives.

Here's the mussels with a light yet flavorful broth.

This was a special. And special indeed.

This photo was from a wine ride in 2011.

Mr. Josh Loving doing his thing.

I'm pretty sure those are the hands of Bill Norris.

This was a special. A modern interpretation of meat and potatoes.

Fino was one of the first places that had a solid cocktail program. Many of Austin's great bartenders had a stint behind the bar here.

This foie was part of a chef's special dinner with St. Germain Elderflower circa 2010.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mom's Asian Cake Recipe

Here's an Asian cake recipe from my mom.  I don't know where she got it originally, but it is now her staple.  Asian cakes are quite similar to angel food cakes are they do not require a cargo load of butter, and they are fairly light and not too sweet.  This particular recipe is for the typical type of Asian cake that you'd find in an Asian bakery.  They are usually covered with light whipped cream and fruit.  Sometimes you'll see them decorated like Hello Kitty or other fluffy animals.

I'm not including decorating instructions as you're free to do whatever you like with your cake, and that you can find a simple whipped cream recipe.  I happy to like my cake straight up with no icing.

This Angry cake was at Six Ping Bakery in Houston, TX. 

Here's the recipe my mom has written down.  I'll have the English translation below in case you were wondering.

Here's the ingredients for the Asian cake: 
  • 3/4 cup fat free milk 
  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour 
  • 1/4 teaspoon
  • 3/4 cup oil 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon Almond extract (or whatever type of extract you want)
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoon powdered sugar (or you could add more if you like sweeter cakes) 
  • 7 egg whites 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  You'll need to oven ready to go when the cake is ready to bake.  You can't let the batter on this one sit around.  

2. Combine the milk, egg yolks, oil, and almond extract together in a bowl.  Mix vigorously.

3. Sift together the cake flour, salt, and baking powder together.

4. Mix the dry ingredients with the milk, egg, and oil mixture in parts.  As in only put 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the bowl and then mix.  Then put in the other 1/3 into the bowl and mix.  You get the picture.

5. Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Before they form soft peaks, add in the powdered sugar and cream of tarter.  2 tablespoons of sugar for a cake doesn't seem very sweet, and it is not.  If you like sweeter cakes, add more sugar. 
6. Combine the egg whites with the other mixture in parts.  Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the other mixture and fold gently.  Don't crush the egg white.  Then add in another 1/3 of the egg whites and fold ever so gently.  And then fold again very gently.

7. My mom likes to split the batter into two 9 inch round pans.  She also uses an angel food cake pan.  Whatever you do, DON'T oil the pans.  Mom just puts the batter in the pan straight up.  And be gentle.  Gentle with this batter.  It is delicate like a snowflake.

8. Bake for 25 minute at 350 degrees.  The cakes should be springy when you remove them from the oven.

9. Allow them to cool.  Decorate or just plain like I do.

Meet my mom's mixer.  It is about as old as I am. 

Here's the two mixtures.  The one with the egg yolks is the yellow one. 

Egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. 

And into the pan the batter goes.