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Hello? Is this thing on?

Life is crazy.  It’s one of those expressions that has been overused into meaninglessness . . . but it is crazy!  There is so much to discover about the world around me, about the things that I want and the things that I need.  I’ve decided to not get caught up so much in making plans; I want to let things happen and enjoy the ride.  I’m too much of an A-type planner, that I forget how many things are not in my control and some of life’s most exciting gifts arrive without warning.  Where will we live once Michael has completed his position at UCSD?  I don’t know, I’m just remaining open to the possibilities.  In the meantime, I just want to learn and grow in my field as much as I can.

I’ve been given a new position at work.  For the last 3 months, I have worked as a prep cook, doing the most tedious thankless tasks at the restaurant.  I have peeled thousands of artichokes, learned to slice chives ever so finely, shelled beans, all while biding my time to advance.  The time has come:  I am now working on the pantry station, which basically just means that I make salads, but this is a huge step in my career.  I am learning new things every day and I love it!  One of the most challenging and exciting aspects of my new position is making the amuse bouche every night.  An amuse bouche is a one bite appetizer that is given to each guest to awaken the senses and whet the palette for the meal to follow.  Last night I made a melon gazpacho with a red onion and jalapeno relish, it was light summery, and refreshing on a hot sticky evening.  I was pretty satisfied with it overall.

One of the things I love about my new job is that it underlines how important my last job was.  The frustrating thing about prep is never being able to see the finished product.  It’s very unsatisfying to put so many containers of prepped fruits and veggies into a refrigerator and not see the beautiful meals they transform into.  I couldn’t appreciate my new job as much if I had not worked prep for awhile.  I am grateful for the experience, and I am grateful that the experience is behind me.  I’m on to bigger and better things now.

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Rainbow Produce

Yesterday was craziness!  I worked at Nine-Ten in the morning, then went straight to the Natural History Museum for a catering gig for a total of 15 1/2 hour work day, whew!  Today I slowed things down and enjoyed a relaxing day with the husband.  After taking Taxi to the dog park, we picked up our first CSA box, yay!  Here is the loot:

For the record, Michael laughed as I set up this picture, he just doesn’t understand!  Isn’t it beautiful?  From left to right I have:  strawberries, fava beans, thyme, green cabbage, rhubarb chard, spinach, fennel, summer squash, arugula, sorrel, onion sprouts.  I’m so excited to get to work on this stuff!  I’ve already got a few ideas in mind; fava bean pesto, anyone?  I’ll be posting my culinary creations: the hits, the misses, and everything in between!

Well, I’m off!  Michael and I are going to see one of my favorite bands, the Eagles!

Taking it easy, taking it easy, don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy!

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What is a CSA?

Michael and I have recently joined a CSA.

What is a CSA? 

CSA stands for community sponsored agriculture; it’s a way of buying produce directly from the farmer.  Typically, you pay the farm a certain amount of money up front for a period of time, usually 3 to six months.  Then you pick up a box of produce once a week at a nearby drop off location.  The box contains a variety of fruits and veggies for the week.  This is a great way to get a variety of fresh seasonal produce while supporting local farmers. 

Is it expensive?

Our box is for 2-3 people, and it only costs $25 per week.  Think about it, you probably spend more than that much if you’re buying organic produce.  I’ve heard that food from CSAs often last longer because it is fresher than produce at your local grocery store. 

This is the CSA that Michael and I have joined.  We receive our first box on Sunday; I can’t wait!  One of the great things about not being able to pick out my own produce is that I’ll be forced to work with new products and get creative in the kitchen.  I will post back soon with lots of pictures of my beautiful fresh produce.  You can keep your flowers, I want a bouquet of produce, thanks!  😉

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The Frugal Foodie

The husband and I figured out our budget this week . . . ouch!  My new goal is to try to buy less groceries.  Truth be told, I throw out a lot of food at the end of the week.  I’m overbuying at the grocery store for sure!  So how does a foodie manage the grocery bill while still cooking some fabulous meals?  Here are a few helpful hints:

Come with a plan!  Have an idea of what meals you want to cook that week and make a list of ingredients.  This will ensure that you don’t forget any items and avoid overbuying protein or produce.

Be flexible, see what’s on sale.  While having a plan can be very helpful, sometimes making adjustments in a recipe can help save a lot of money!  You wanted appples, but peaches are on sale, switch it up!

Buy versitile ingredients.  I always keep bell peppers on hand because there are thousands of uses for them!

Purposely underbuy.  You may run out of something towards the end of the week, but at least your produce will be fresher than it would be if you had bought it several days earlier.

Institute leftover night.  Make the night before a big grocery shop leftover night.  Each family member is for themselves on this one.  There might not be enough chili for the whole family, but maybe 1 or 2 people could finish it off while the rest of the family finishes off something else.  This makes extra room in the fridge and uses up those random leftovers.

Use your freezer.  When I notice that chicken or beef is on sale, I’ll buy extra and store it in my freezer for later use.  It may make your grocery bill look a little higher this week, but you’ll save in the long run.  Also, when you make a big batch of something like sauce or soup, save some in a container in the freezer for a night that you’re too busy to cook (don’t forget to label and date it!). 

Get creative.  Force yourself to use what’s in your fridge.  It can be really fun to think up new recipes to use the odds and ends you have left at the end of the week.

Do you have any tips for cutting your grocery bill?

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My Dark Mistress

Every couple of months, I just randomly quit drinking coffee.  It’s never a conscious choice.  I’ll just forget to make coffee a few mornings in a row and before I know it, I’ve dropped the habit.  I’ll have the occasional cup on the weekend, but it’s just not a necessity to starting my day.  What is always certain however, is that I’ll return to my dark and steamy mistress and wonder how I ever got along without her.  Today was that day.  The coffee at my restaurant is fabulous: so rich and bitter with notes of chicory.  I’m in love ❤

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Times are Changing

Really big things are in the works for me right now.  I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but it looks more and more likely that things are really coming together.  I’m sorry to tease you, but I’m partially afraid that by telling too many people, I’ll jinx it.  Also, if I fail, I would prefer that everyone didn’t know about it.

Also, do you remember that friend that you don’t talk to anymore?  You know the one:  you either had a fight or grew apart, but you always wonder how she is, what she’s doing with her life.  Go call her right now, she’s not mad.  You can thank me for this later.

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Lessons for a New Chef

Well, the externship ended, and I have accepted a position at a catering company, Cork and Platter.  My boss is really awesome;  she allows me a lot of creative freedom, and doesn’t micromanage me.  I really like her approach to cooking and her use of lot of local and organic products.

I’ve learned lots of important lessons like how to make really awesome rice, don’t pour grease down the sink or the pipes will clog up, and my favorite: turn the hood on (kind of like a fan on the stovetop)  or the firemen will show up . . . ooops!

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