Cooking Pizzas and an informal luncheon (Independent living series 27)

It was a busy day at my school; we all met in the technology lab for a class meeting. Our cooking teacher told us that members of the public would be taking a tour of the school and then having an informational luncheon. Pizza was on the menu. Our teacher divided us into two groups: those that would be helping prepare the pizzas and those that would be staying in the technology lab. I was asked to help cook.

Once we were in the kitchen my teacher went through the ingredients. He then organized how the 16 pizzas were going to be cooked in a timely manner.

It was time to start preparing the pizzas. The first pizza was made by our teacher. First, he added a little bit of olive oil to the crust, then he added about a teaspoon of pizza sauce, then he added a little bit of oregano and pepper. The final step was to add the cheese.

The students then got their own pizzas. I made a pepperoni pizza. The olive oil was slippery as I spread it on the crust. Then I added the sauce, oregano and pepper. I must admit I felt like I added too much oregano. Then came the cheese. Once I finished adding the cheese, I asked my teacher if my pizza looked okay; he felt that I missed a spot and I needed to add a little bit more cheese. I did. Once that was finished, I added the pepperoni. I felt like my pizza looked good. Once the rest of the students finished their first pizzas the teachers took our finished ones and put it to the side. Then we all started our second pizzas. This time we had a rhythm to getting the pizzas ready. It was more like an assembly line as we passed the ingredients around and helped one another as needed. We really do have a great group of people in our class. The last pizza I did I needed help pouring the sauce, so my teacher helped me. Preparing the rest of the pizzas was easy. Once the pizzas were finished the teachers were able to put them into the oven to cook. The students were then able to sit and chat quietly about the class party and other topics of interest.

Soon it was time to eat. During the luncheon, the public got to experience what it is like to eat while totally blind because they were wearing blind folds. One of the members of the public asked, “How do I pour my drink?” As I watched, I wanted to go up to him, introduce myself and show him how it was done. However, I let him figure it out on his own. While we were eating our director talked about the five programs and how they had an impact on the community.

I wanted to stand up towards the end and talk a little bit about what the program has meant to me. As a student, I can honestly say that these classes have helped me grow as a person. I can cook, use technology such as my Alexa, and ZoomText, and I can travel independently. With the help of the dedicated staff and teachers, I am no longer relying on my grandfather as much as I used too.

The director emphasized the fact that most of our funding that runs the school comes from donations from the public.

Once lunch was finished all of the staff and students cleaned up. I have to admit I enjoyed the pepperoni pizza better than the cheese pizza.

Then we went back to our lessons. I had Orientation and Mobility. Three of us worked on sighted guide and how to shoreline when we were doing routes. It was a great day.

 

 

 

 

Cooking Quick Chilli (Independent Living Skills Series 26)

I had to be picked up by my computer instructor due to my bus pass being expired. I got to the center with some of my classmates early enough to have a chat before class. Today, before we started our lessons, we had a class meeting. The class has decided to have a pot luck/gift exchange party before Christmas break. Over the next week we will decide who is going to bring what to the party. I’m excited to have some fun after all the hard work we put into our lessons. 😊

After our meeting, my teacher, classmate, and I went into the kitchen to decide what to cook. Since it was a cold day, I suggested we have soup. Quick chilli was on the menu. We quickly got a school car and went to Publix. When we got to the store, I found out that my favorite chocolate chip muffins were on special. Buy one get one for free at the price of $4.99 was something I could not pass up. After I had gotten my guilty pleasure we went to the deli and picked up two loafs of Italian bread; my classmate and I got to choose two types of meat for sandwiches. I chose Black Forest Ham and my classmate chose sliced Boars head chicken.

We then moved on to the seasons section. We decided to get the McCormick Mild chilli spice, then we reviewed the ingredients that we would need for our dish. We would need meat for the chilli so we headed over the meat department and we picked up one pound of 90% lean hamburger meat. Then, because we were getting lunch for the rest of the students and staff we went and picked out two kinds of chips. I chose a Mexican style chip that could be enjoyed with both the chilli and the sandwiches, and my classmate chose a regular flavored potato chip.

The last two ingredients that we needed for our chilli was a can of tomatoes and a can of Pinto beans. Since they were in the same aisle, we were able to find them quickly. Once we had all the things on our list, we checked out quickly and headed back to the center.

While my teacher got ready for our lesson my classmate and I sorted our groceries, and we washed our hands. Once our instructor was able to join us, we were able to get cooking. First, we made things easier for ourselves and gathered all our cooking equipment. The first step in cooking was to open our meat. I learned how to open a package of meat without getting the juice or raw meat touching my hands. Open it on the side and then peel the packing back. We browned our hamburger meat on medium heat for about 20 to 30 minutes. Then we drained the grease by putting the meat into a colander and draining the grease into a small bowl. We then put the meat into another pot and we added McCormick Mild Chilli spice to the meat. Then we stirred the meat and spice together. We then added the tomatoes and beans to the meat. We let the ingredients simmer for ten minutes. Once the chilli was done cooking the staff and students made sandwiches, and we enjoyed the chips and chilli.

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Chilli I made @independence_for_the_blind yesterday.

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Making Pimento Cheese (independent living skills series 25)

I was excited to get back into the kitchen at school. My teacher, classmate and I went into the kitchen and she told me all about the Pimento Cheese ingredients and where to find them when you are at the grocery store. After this, my teacher helped my classmate open a package of cream cheese. We left it on the counter. We got out our cutting boards and cheese graters. I chose the black cutting board and silver grater because the contrast of these two items are easier for me to see better. My teacher went over the different sizes of panels; we used the largest and medium-sized ones.  She showed us how to grate the cheese. I found that grating is simple.

Once half of our block of cheese was grated, we went to the medium-sized panel. I had problems with my panel because of the way my cheese was ending up. Instead of getting grated my cheese was getting smashed into the holes and getting stuck. I had to switch to a handheld grater. Once all of our cheese was grated, we put in all it one giant bowl.  The next step in our lesson was to practice using a measuring spoon to measure our miracle whip and softened cream cheese. Once it was all measured out, we added these ingredients to the bowl. We mixed all three of the ingredients together.

In the morning, our principle ordered pizza for lunch  for all the students and staff. Our pizza was delivered right on time.  The pizza was delicious and all the students and staff enjoyed this treat. Once we cleaned up from lunch, including some of our dishes from our lesson, we got back to it.

We added the Pimentos to the bowl. Then we stirred the cheese. It was time to clean the carrots that we were going to use to dip our cheese with. Cleaning the carrots was easier. My classmate peeled and cut half of the carrots. Then it was my turn. I had never cut carrots into slices before so my teacher had to teach me how to do it. What made this easier to remember was how I rocked my knife back and forth to cut our homemade pizzas. This was the same kind of process.

Lastly, my teacher placed the cheese on a plate and added some of the carrots. We then had a small discussion on how to plate cheese, vegetables, and crackers for a party.

My classmates, teachers and I all enjoyed our snack. It was a lot of fun making this simple snack.

Next week I will be learning how to make chicken salad and chocolate dump cake.

A toothache, Orientation and Mobility lesson, and pizza (independent living skills series 18)

I woke up an hour after missing a call from a friend from overseas, and I was tired. The past weekend I had a toothache. I was ready for school even though I really did not want to go. When I got to school, I talked with my classmates and I helped clean up the student meeting room. Soon we all had our assignments for the day. I had another Orientation and Mobility lesson. I forgot my sunglasses at home. Because of that fact, and because I wanted to work on working in a crowded area, my teacher and I went to the mall.

First, I had to find a landmark and I had to use a map to find the first store I wanted to go to, Ross. I started off heading in that direction, mind mapping along the way. The store was easy to find. I had a fun time looking at all the clothes. I even thought about buying some thin ankle socks, but in the end I decided not to buy anything.  I backtracked my route to find Old Navy. I enjoyed seeing what that store had to offer and I even found some clothes I could wear for a job interview.

From there my teacher had me go to the food court. I had to look up and follow the signs. I used my environmental clues. Just had to follow my nose 😊

Then we went to Belk. While I was mind mapping to find a variety of departments my teacher told me how to find percentages off for when something is on sale. Believe me, the store had a lot of items on sale that day. Soon I felt comfortable doing the math and learning how much I would save on any of the great sales that were going on.

Our last stop was Dillard’s. We went around the store, having me learn the routes and how to mind map along the way. I have to admit I was getting tired because of the soreness I had in my mouth. We went up and down the escalators a few times. On my first attempt I was fearful; after a few rounds I felt confident. My teacher challenged me to go up and down two times on my own. I felt so confident when I did it on my own. I feel like I am no longer afraid. By now my tooth was really hurting and I was tired and hungry.

We went back to the center. When I got there, I was able to join in a daily living activity of making pizza. My teacher, one of our assistant daily living skills teachers, and I made the last pizza. My pizza had sauce, cheese and pepperoni on it. We cooked it for a while and when the cheese wasn’t melted my teacher broiled it for a few minutes. I had never cut a pizza with a chef knife before so I was taught to cut it by pressing hard and rocking my knife back and forth, then moving my pizza to the next section. I did not feel that comfortable doing it the first couple of times, so our main cooking teacher had to step in to help me. I love learning new things. 😊 While we were cooking our pizzas the director of Division of Blind Services stopped by. I was able to tell her about how things were going and what I felt like I needed. I felt listened too.

Soon our pizzas were done and everyone who had a piece enjoyed it. There was some left over so I grabbed one to take home to my grandpa.

After our lesson my classmates and I cleaned up the kitchen and the student lounge.

Since I was still hurting I called my grandpa. When I got home I went to the dentist. I am okay, and I have some medicine to help me feel better.

Even though I had a toothache and an added dentist visit I still had a good day.

 

 

 

Bargain Shopping and cooking fish and whole- grain biscuits (independent living skills series lesson 9)

I was early for class; I was also eager to get my orientation and mobility lesson started. Come to find out, it was cancelled again. That made me feel disappointed because I really enjoy my lessons on travel.

On top of class being cancelled, many of my classmates were out for one reason or another. So, two of my classmates went to the technology lab for a lesson, and I went and had a one on one lesson with my cooking instructor.

For those of you who do not know I am on a special needs diet known as “The No White Food Diet.” This diet basically eliminates all white food such as sugar and flour. My instructor knows about my dietary needs and he looked up a whole-grain biscuit recipe. The recipe was simple and it used some of the same skills that I had learned from the previous lesson.

Our mission was simple, go to Ever’man Cooperative Grocery & Café and get the ingredients.

The shop was busy with people and I was fascinated by the variety of products they had. If it was not for the prices of some of the products, I would shop there regularly. It felt like they had everything I would want to eat on my special needs diet, however the prices were so high.

My instructor got a small bag of coffee, and we also got the flour that we needed for the biscuits. Before we left the store, we looked at the bread, meat, produce and the vitamins. We compared prices per pound for some of the items. My instructor pointed out that since this store was a specialty store it would carry some specific items, like the flour, I would want to buy for the price they had listed, however some items, like vegetables or meat I could shop elsewhere and save money.

Once we got the flour and coffee, we went to Bailey’s Produce & Nursery. We looked at all the fresh produce like peaches, plumbs, squash, and corn. We talked about certain recipes that I could cook and how buying from a store like this would be healthier and better for my wallet. While we were shopping, one thing kept coming back to me in my mind, “How does someone like me, who has limited public transportation go get groceries?” The answer was simple, buy what I can with Amazon and buy fresh fruit and vegetables when I go shopping. Living by a bus line or using Uber would be helpful.  Pushing my feelings aside, we stopped by a fast food hamburger joint to get me some lunch.

We had one more stop to make to a discount grocery store. While at the discount grocery store I got milk and baking soda. Before we left, we stopped by the meats and produce and compared prices from the notes that I took from the Everman’s. This discount store had a lot of items that were a lot cheaper.

Once we got back to the center, we put all my ingredients into one bag. I got a special treat, I got to watch my instructor cook a piece of fish, then he told me how to peel and dice an avocado. He also diced a tomato.

His lunch looked better than my hamburger and fries. It was a great day and I learned a lot about how to be a successful visually impaired person.

P.S. Once I got back home I went ahead and baked my biscuits. They came out great. 😊

 

Inspiring Visually Impaired Youth and Cooking Breakfast (independent living skills series 8)

“Hey Amanda, you want to join us outside?” my Orientation and Mobility teacher asked as she, another Orientation and Mobility teacher and a small group of visually impaired children waited by the door. “Sure, let me grab my cane.” I responded.

After grabbing my cane, we all headed outside to a nearby field. Seeing the children laugh, run and play made me feel good.

Everyone was fine until one student said he did not want to play with the ball because there were spikes on it.

My Orientation and Mobility teacher tried to reassure the child that he was not going to get hurt and that the ball was soft. He was still hesitant, so I stepped in. “You guys know that I have sick eyes too.” I said to the children. “Let us look at this ball. See the ball is soft.” The boy was still scared that he was going to get hurt. “I can touch it, and I am not getting hurt.” I said as I patted and touched the tactical ball.

At this point, my Orientation and Mobility teacher chimed in, “It is tactical so you can feel it.” The student was still nervous about getting hit in the face, so to combat that fear I had another student throw the ball. After I caught it and threw it back, the student’s fear was relieved and they started playing again. Joining the teachers again, we talked about the Children’s summer camp and about Jingle Ball. As we talked about these things and as I watched the children play it made me stop and reflect on my own childhood. Sadly, when I was growing up I was not involved in these kinds of programs. I wish that I was because I know that these programs help children build confidence and independence early.

Soon my cooking teacher and some of my classmates showed up. So, I went back into the student conference room. I hoped we would be baking a cake, like I requested, however instead we were going to cook a simple breakfast which included; biscuits, eggs, hash browns and sausage.

To start the cooking class off, another classmate and I peeled some potatoes. I had already previously used a peeler when I peeled some carrots, so I felt confident about this task.

After the potatoes were peeled, we had to cut and dice the potatoes. I had used a chef’s knife before, so I had some confidence already in my ability to complete this task. However, I went to fast, and I had to remind myself to slow down while I was dicing. While the potatoes were being prepared and put into a large bowl another student started making biscuits. I was curious about making biscuits because the last time I made biscuits they came out harder than rocks. I was hoping for a better outcome this time.  When it was my turn to make my batch, I was nervous and I felt unsure with my cooking abilities, and I lacked confidence which was heard in my voice as I talked to my teacher.  The dough felt sticky as I kneaded it. I did not like how the dough stuck to my hands; and I was glad when my biscuits were on the cookie sheet. Once that was done, I was relieved when I could wash my hands. I then had to face my fears and I had to place my cookie sheet into the hot oven. Before I did that, my teacher gave the whole class some tips.  I was able to put the cookie sheet in the hot oven without any problems. The battle was won. While my biscuits were in the oven I watched another student cook sausage. I was then instructed to crack and whip some eggs into a bowl. I had cracked eggs before and that was no problem. However, I had to be taught how to use a whisk. Because of my Cerebral Palsy I could not be as fancy as my teacher did it, however the way I beat the eggs got the job done.  While this was going on my teacher went from station to station checking on each student. Soon, the meat, the first batch of biscuits, and the potatoes were done. All that was left was my biscuits and the eggs. The timer beeped and that meant it was time to take the biscuits from the oven. I too had to take up this challenge and get over the fear of the heat. Before I took the biscuits out of the oven, my teacher gave us a lesson on how to safely remove the pan. He also allowed me to do a practice run of where I would put the pan before I actually took it out. I took the pan out with ease. My confidence rose. I still have a lot more pans to pull from a hot oven before I get my full confidence, however I will get there.

Once I was finished with this task, I transferred the finished eggs to a serving dish. I felt good about myself at that very moment.

It was time to eat, and the staff, and all the students enjoyed the meal.

Cooking Mexican (independent living skills series lesson 3)

After a short bereavement period, I decided to return to school in my grandma’s honor. I was nervous the night before because I had missed class the previous week, but I had a lot of support from the staff and classmates.

Today we were learning how to cook Mexican. We had the choice to make: Small or large quesadillas, burrito, or hand corn tacos. During the lecture part of the class, we discussed shopping on a budget, getting assistance while shopping, and basic types of spices that would be useful to have at home.

We were all eager to get cooking. For those of us who needed practice cooking meat, we got to brown the hamburger. I was one of the students, (3 of us) cooking it.

I learned to start cooking meat on high heat, then once it’s mostly cooked, it sizzles, and you can turn the heat to medium.

While the three students were cooking the meat, the remaining students chopped onions, bell peppers, and peeled and mashed avocadoes. The students who cooked the meat learned how to use paper towels on a plate to drain the meat. We also chopped vegetables too. I chopped an onion, tomatoes, and tried to peel an avocado. During the vegetable prep, the director of Division of Blind Services stopped by. It was nice to meet her, and to be able to show off my new skills, as well as share my professional achievements.

Once all the ingredients were chopped and the meat cooked, we got to choose either tacos, quesadillas, or a burrito. I had two hard-shell tacos, and I made a quesadilla for my grandpa. I had fun with this lesson and as always I look forward to advancing my cooking skills.