Anthony Bourdain

I am stunned and saddened by the passing of Anthony Bourdain.  We have lost a creative GIANT.  He was a man who lived his passion, wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, and was curious to the end.  I admired and respected him tremendously.

In 2003 I was at a crossroads, the life I wanted was never going to be a reality, so I needed to adjust my expectations.  I was angry at the world, but mostly angry with myself for failing, angry at the unfairness of it all.  Angry that I wasn’t in control, and no matter how much I tried, how much time, effort, sweat, blood, and tears I put in – I couldn’t make my dream a reality.  It is a hard moment to face, but face it I did, with the help of Mr. Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential. 

It was a dark, sexy, seedy tale – full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  But it was also a story about a man who was aware of his flaws, a man who owned his truth.  He didn’t shy away from showing you the ugly truth – he talked about resilience, about team work, about finding passion, he inspired me.

I picked myself up, dusted myself off, took a deep breath, and changed the course of my future.  At 33 years old, I went to culinary school.  I was the oldest person, and only woman, in my cohort.  I was surrounded by 18-20 year old boys, I was the same age as most of my instructors.  I found what I needed in that kitchen.  I regained my confidence, I honed my skills, and found my tribe, so to speak.  I thrive when I am working with people who are all focused on the same goal.  In the kitchen, I had to keep up, pull my own weight.  I was responsible for the food coming out of my station.  It played to all of my strengths.  I LOVE planning – prepping for service each night was where I found comfort.  I was in control – of everything – from how I set up my station, to where things were located in my fridge and shelves.  As a team, we all supported one another, respected everyone’s skills, and pitched in when necessary, because the ultimate goal was getting food out, hot, plated, picture perfect, at the exact same time.  It isn’t easy, it requires communication, trust, planning, and the willingness to be fully present in the moment.  If you fail, the kitchen fails, which means the servers fail, which means the restaurant failed in its service to our customers.

Working in a kitchen requires you to be a team player, without sacrificing your individuality.  It requires you to exhibit grace under pressure and to pull your own weight.  You need to contribute, to keep moving forward, striving for perfection, every single moment of the night.  I am proud of the work I have done and all of those skills have served me well in my current position of meeting planner.  I have confidence because I KNOW what I am capable of, I have been tested by fire, and I have the scars to prove it.

Thank you Mr. Bourdain – you inspired me to have the courage to try, may you rest in peace.

Memorial Weekend

How did you spend your Memorial day weekend?  I spent most of my mine in my kitchen. I was lucky enough to have five whole days off….IN A ROW, people!  It was awesome.  We traditionally host our Commencement ceremony the Wednesday  before Memorial Day.  I took Thursday off, well, because I totally exhausted from working an insane amount of hours Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and Friday was our first Summer Friday!  So, one day off = a five day weekend, YEAH ME!

I spent Thursday running errands – grocery shopping, haircut, picking up my dry cleaning….you know all the stuff that gets put on the back burner during Commencement month…AKA….May.  I picked up two flats of vegetables and herbs for my garden.  Friday morning I planted, Friday afternoon I picked up flats of flowers.

While I was getting my flowers, I checked the local farm stands for strawberries.  Because of the rain and cooler temperatures, local strawberries are not quite ready for picking.  I was hoping to make some jam this weekend, but alas, it was not in the cards.  Never fear!  I can always find a canning or kitchen project.

hot sauce

Late last year I made a match of fermented hot sauce and it was a HUGE hit with everyone I shared it with.  I have been getting a ton of requests for more, so this weekend, I grabbed a bunch of hot peppers (jalapeno’s and habaneros), along with some garlic, and spices.  It is now fermenting away on my counter.  All I need to do is burp the jars every day and wait…

Saturday we were invited to a birthday party for two of the little girls who live next door.  Their Mom decided on a taco bar as our entree so I made a batch of mango salsa and paired it with chips as a side dish.  It went over really well, slightly spicy and sweet, it was the perfect combo and a great salsa for a party with children.

mango salsa

Sunday we were invited to a friends house for dinner.  I supplied the desserts…

confetti cookie doughconfetti cookiesderby pie

Confetti cookies, because they are just fun and taste AMAZING and Derby Pie because every rainy Sunday deserves a bit of bourbon and chocolate!

Monday, I made a toll house pie for us to enjoy as our dessert.

toll house pie

Tuesday came far too quickly, I was really enjoying my time at home.  Thank goodness we are lucky enough to have Friday’s off for the entire summer.  I only worked three days this week. It was the perfect way to ease back into the job after so much time off!

Ham with Mac and Cheese

When I am tired and stressed, I crave carbs… so what’s a girl to do when she is dealing with 8000 people over the course of three days?  Indulge in some mac and cheese!

ham, broc, mac

I made a quick stove top version of mac and cheese.  I heated up two cups of cream, added shredded cheese and boiled up some noodles.   I combined the two of them together and ta-da! Mac and Cheese!   I wanted a quick protein, so I picked up a ham slice and for whatever reason, I have been CRAVING broccoli lately.  Seriously, I can’t seem to get enough of it.

I pan fried the ham slice in my cast iron skillet and steamed a head of broccoli.  Dinner was awesome, especially after a long day, spent on your feet.  The days leading up to Commencement always give me new respect for mother’s of toddlers – by the last day, I totally want to change my name and I truly want to ignore EVERYONE who calls my name.  But since that would be totally unprofessional, I turn, with a smile on my face, and ask how I can be of assistance.   I figure since I act like an adult all day, I get to eat like a kid at night.  I refuse to feel guilty about eating carbs and cheese – it is necessary, not just for my sanity, but for the folks who have to deal with me – you are all welcome.  I know my sacrifice is not in vain, bahahah!

Corned Beef and Coleslaw

WHEW!  Commencement is OVER!  I can finally breathe a sigh of relief and take a few well deserved days off.   The week leading up to Commencement is insane, we have events every day.  Normally, my husband travels this week so I don’t worry about meal planning, I use that time to contemplate just exactly how much sleep I will be getting each day, then how much caffeine I will need to function the next day.

This year, I had to add in meal planning and prep, so I was basically a zombie, but I hid it well with makeup! Anyway, I am grateful to my crock pot for helping me get meals on the table with a minimum of prep and fuss.

corned beef and pots

I made a batch of coleslaw the night before so it was all ready when I got home.  In the morning, I put the corned beef and spices in the crock pot and poured a box of beef broth over the meat.  I set it for low, walked out and went to work.

After work, I just needed to clean and boil a small bag of baby potatoes, mince some parsley and melt a bit of butter.   YUM!  Hubby was happy, I was happy to be eating a meal that didn’t require me to be on my feet for very long AND since I cooked, the hubby was on clean up duty, yeah ME!

On a totally separate note, congratulations to the Class of 2018, I am so very proud of all of our graduates!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I am really determined to clear out my freezer.  I hate food waste and if I don’t use these items up, I will end up throwing them out.  Plus, on days where I am working 12-15 hours, it is so nice to come home to a simple meal, that is on the table in record time.

spag

Between preparing for and executing events, I have been exceeding my FitBit step goal – EVERY SINGLE DAY!  I decided to celebrate by having a plate of pasta….

I know, I know, but sometimes when a girl is tired and her feet are killing her, she needs pasta!  When I make meatballs, I tend to make a very large batch and freeze them.  While the meatballs are cooking, I whip up a pot full of homemade sauce.  It is a simple matter of filling freezer bags with the meatballs, topping it with sauce and laying it the freezer.

All I need to do is pull a bag out, let it defrost overnight, then boil a pot of water for the pasta.  Easy peasy, tasty, homemade, and it totally doesn’t require me to be on my feet for very long.  This is exactly the kind of meal I need after five days of events!

Marathon Bake Session

Friday night our neighbors decided to host a cookout for a few of the families on our street.  I said I would bring a dessert, so Thursday night I made a batch of peanut butter cup blondies.  Actually, I made two batches – one for their house and one for my catering supervisor at work.  He and I had been talking about food all day, I told him I was going home to bake and he gave me these really sad eyes….sigh….I am such a sucker.  Anyway, I already had the oven on so it was a simple matter of making two batches and sliding them in the oven at the same time.

marathon bake session

While they were cooking, I also made a larger batch of chocolate chip blondies.  I was invited to join our facilities department for a lunchtime cookout on Friday afternoon.  My house smelled so amazing, it was tough to go to sleep that night, but I needed  good nights rest since I had to be at work that morning at 4 am….yes, you read that right….I was at work by 4 am. I pulled into the parking lot at 3:42 am, one hour and forty eight minutes before the Dunkin Donuts opened.   By 5:30am, I was in serious need of caffeine!

It was a busy day at work, we had four events and we were setting up for an event that was taking place on Saturday.  To say it was a long, grueling day is an understatement.  Thankfully, I had these desserts to look forward to.

All three were a hit, thank goodness! I’ve gotten requests from others to duplicate the peanut butter cup blondies again, as soon as possible, in fact.  It will need to wait until after Commencement, I just don’t have enough hours in the day to sleep in the next two weeks, let alone bake!

Banana Bread

I hate food waste, it makes me crazy.  I try so very hard to use everything in my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.  Some weeks are better than others.  This week, we had four bananas that just did not get eaten. I swear sometimes the hubby does this on purpose so I will be forced to make him banana bread.

banana bread

Thankfully it is super easy to throw the batter together, and 22 minutes later you have warm, moist, flavorful muffins to eat.

I used this recipe from Simply Recipes.  It called for 1 Tbsp of brewed coffee.  I gotta tell you, I was skeptical, what was 1 Tbsp of coffee going to do for this recipe….Oh, I was so very wrong people!  It really did enhance the flavor of the muffins – who knew…well apparently the folks at Simply Recipes and David Lebovitz.  I am a convert, a true believer, and I will be adding a bit of coffee to my banana nut muffins from now on!

My coworkers were thrilled with the unexpected midweek home baked treat.  I left some at home, of course, but the rest went into the office to be devoured with morning coffee.  It made me happy, I was able to use up my ripe bananas, the hubby got a lovely treat and I got major brownie points with the office staff – a perfect trifecta!