My Day at the Farm

Do you ever think about where your food comes from?  You probably do.  What do you picture?  What does a farm look like in your mind?  Today I had an opportunity to visit a farm and I jumped at the chance.  The company is B&W and what they farm is watercress and arugula.  Even better than ordinary arugula, what they farm is a species of arugula more common in Europe, known as Rocket (Raw-KET) or Roquette.  They have farms up and down the east coast because these greens are more than a little finicky where weather is concerned.  Right now, however, the farm in Florida is in full swing and I was thrilled when one of my sous chefs asked if I’d like to take a tour.

My day began in the office of a VP.  I commented that the packaging looked familiar to me and learned that B&W ships to HEB and Central Market.  We talked a little about the grocery business and waited for the other members of our party to arrive.  Once everyone was gathered, we jumped on an old bus that brought back memories of church camp and being broken down on the side of the road and headed out to the fields.  B&W leases their land from AgSun – a company that deals mostly with citrus.  The fields that we looked at were surrounded by orange groves and judging by the sweet smell in the air, they’re just about ripe.

Rocket field ready for plowing

Rocket field ready for plowing

photo (43)

Rocket

Rocket

First we stopped by a roquette field.  B&W owns several 350-acre parcels and their crops are rotated through, giving the land a rest when it needs it.  What is the difference between arugula and roquette?  Arugula leaves are a bit broader and the tips rounded.  The flavor is bitter but mellow.  Roquette, however, is shorter, spikier and more peppery.  Their roquette takes about 45 days from sowing to harvest.  They use an exclusive seed that they purchase from California which is produced specifically for B&W so you won’t find the same product from anyone else.  Refrigerated seed banks are keep the seeds chilled to the ideal temperatures at all times for optimum success.

Watercress being harvested

Watercress being harvested

After a short Q&A, we boarded the bus and headed to the watercress field.  B&W produces three types of watercress.  One is a food service grade that is sold mostly to Asian outlets.  It’s larger, heartier and will hold up to cooking better than the other varieties.  Evidently Asians cook and consume almost twice the watercress of other cultures.  Another is smaller and what you’d probably more commonly see at HEB – more delicate and ideal for consuming raw.  The third was red watercress.  Beautiful, delicious.  I had never seen red watercress before and it was, by far, my favorite.  We were able to pick and sample the varieties of everything right out in the field.  While arugula grows in traditional plowed fields, watercress grows in beds of flowing water.  For this, beds are laser-leveled to be perfectly flat and then the grade is altered to provide a very slight slope.  A water source is placed at the high end of the bed and water is allowed to constantly flow through during the growing process.  Since this farm is just west of Vero Beach, water sources come from a series of canals that have been dug around all of the beds.  This also allows for easy nutrient delivery as they can be placed directly into the water.  Today they were actually harvesting watercress for bagging so it was fun to see that process.

Red Watercress

Red Watercress

photo (48)

Freshly harvested and ready to head to packing.

As I mentioned earlier, there are 6 seasonal  farms up and down the east coast, stretching as far north as Pennsylvania.  B&W hires only full-time legal workers as they believe that this gives them better quality control and a better product.  As the farm activity moves, so do the workers.  B&W provides them with year-round housing and transportation at farm locations.  All employees are provided with fair wages, insurance and education incentives.  From an agriculture standpoint, I found this commendable.

I was also constantly aware of the waste.  Slightly discolored roquette leaves, bruised watercress, etc.  They actually produce several tons of green waste each week.  It turns out that a good-hearted person has also leased land from AgSun and developed an elephant refuge for former circus performers and other long-trunked pachyderms passed their prime.  He takes all of the waste from B&W and the elephants live out their elder days feasting on delicious bitter greens.

Once we were done in the fields we headed back to the plant to see how the greens go from farm to market.  I was first impressed with the attention to sanitation and safety.  We were asked to remove all jewelry and leave all personal items behind.  Then we donned lab coats, head covers and scrubbed our hands up to the elbows.  The inside of the entire plant is kept at a constant 34 degrees.  Sadly, we were not allowed to take photographs here.

The process is pretty simple and yet remarkably high tech.  The greens are brought in from the field and immediately placed into a vacuum cooler that will cool them to 34 degrees almost instantly.  Heat is the enemy and all crops when harvested develop whats known as “field heat”.  For every one hour of time that the product stays above 35 degrees, it supposedly looses one day of shelf life.  B&W knows that it’s product will take some degree of abuse after leaving the facility (truck doors left open, etc) so it does everything it can on it’s end to get it cooled fast and keep it cold.  Once the vacuum cooler has done it’s job the greens are fed into a sorter that uses state of the art laser technology to measure chloroform in each leaf and identify those that do not meet the predetermined standards.  A puff of air then takes out the less desirable leaves and drops them to the floor.  Once the greens have made it through there, a worker goes through by hand and removes any other pale or bruised leaves that were missed by the laser. A Quality Control person takes handfuls every 15 minutes and checks them.   The conveyor takes them into the next room where they’re washed with purified water and then sanitized with a slightly chlorinated water.  The leaves must then be dried.  They go through a belt dryer that first shakes water and then blows them.  Usually greens are dried in tumble dryers but these leaves are so delicate that this can cause bruising.  The belt dryers work well.  We were able to look in the dryer windows and see the leaves as they passed through.  From here, the leaves are carried up the belt to packaging, where they are bagged, once again checked by employees and packed in boxes on pallets, ready to be shipped.  When it’s time for the trucks to be loaded, they back into the dock and then a special seal inflates to the size of the truck.  The doors can then be opened with no warm air creeping into the building.  The drivers are not allowed into the loading area but they go into a special waiting room with monitors where they can watch the product being loaded via cameras.

The entire process was fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the tour.  When we were done with the plant, we, once again, boarded the bus and were taken to a secluded picnic area in a grove of palm trees and fed lunch.  Sandwiches with watercress, roquette and pea tendrils (another of their products), salad, chips and cupcakes.  A wonderful relaxing end to a great day.

Our sweet little lunch spot.   It was perfect.

Our sweet little lunch spot. It was perfect.

I hear that there might be a tour of a strawberry farm coming up in February and I’m excited.  Hopefully I’ll get more opportunities to learn about how our food goes from farm to fork.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Kopy Kat Kung Pao, Pei Wei-Style!

I love Pei Wei.  Before we left Texas one of my favorite date nights was a quick dinner at Pei Wei followed by a couple of hours rummaging through $1.00 vinyl records at Half Price Books.  My very favorite dish at Pei Wei is the Mandarin Kung Pao Chicken (or Tofu).  It’s very different from most Kung Pao recipes, which are generally over or under cooked and swimming in sauce.

In the age of vast internet information, I was surprised to not find a close copy cat recipe.  Even those I found that reference Pei Wei were not really the same.  So I set out on a mission to create a similar Kung Pao.  I thought it would be a perfect recipe for home.  Quick and inexpensive (once you have a collection of basic Asian ingredients) and oh so delicious.

First I took the time to assess what I really love about Pei Wei’s Kung Pao.  First of all, the chicken. Pei Wei uses fairly large dices of chicken breast – unlike others I’ve that make use of the inexpensive thigh meat.  The chicken has a very nice, defined texture, which has a lot to do with the cut and the cooking method.

The second thing I love about it is that there are no undercooked pieces of green bell peppers.  Instead, they use the far superior sugar snap peas and carrot rounds.  I was surprised that no recipes I came across took this into account.  Those peas are perhaps the most lovely thing about the dish.

The third thing that sets Pei Wei’s Kung Pao apart in my mind is the amount of sauce – it’s low and not at all soupy as some Kung Paos are.  I had a friend at Le Cordon Bleu who worked at Pei Wei.  He said that they only use about 3 oz. of sauce per recipe.  This allows the other amazing flavors to stand out instead of being drowned in the sweet gooey sauce.

Fourth, water chestnuts.  Honestly, I can’t remember if Pei Wei uses them or not but I love those things.  And so they made the recipe.  I love the texture.  If you don’t, just omit them, it won’t hurt my feelings at all.

And so this is what I came up with, and it was good.  Very very good.  Maybe not exact but close enough to count.  It was also easy.  So enjoy and you’re welcome.

A NOTE ON SALT:  I made this to not be very salty and then adjusted once on the plate by adding low-sodium soy sauce to taste.  If you’d prefer to have the dish a bit more seasoned before serving, a little salt can be added to the chicken before cooking.

Kung Pao Chicken

MAKE THE SAUCE:

Combine, whisk together and then set aside:

1 teaspoon red chile paste

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon Mirin

1 teaspoon seasoned rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

FOR THE STIR FRY

1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ cubes

1 egg, whisked

1/4 cup cornstarch

4 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 cup frozen crinkle-cut carrots

1 cup sugar snap peas

1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts

10 dried red chile peppers (if you want a bit more spice you can also add a dash of red pepper flakes)

4 green onions, sliced, including green parts

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup water chestnuts

Dip chicken in egg and then coat with cornstarch.  In a wok or large skillet over medium high heat, heat the canola oil and brown the chicken on all sides until cooked through.  Remove to bowl and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan and saute sugar snap peas and carrots. This will go fast – just a minute or so.  Remove peas and carrots and add to chicken.

Add more oil, if needed and saute peanuts and chile peppers, just until peanuts turn dark (very, very fast).  Add peppers and peanuts to chicken mixture.

Add a bit more oil if needed and saute green onions and garlic just until you smell the garlic.  DO NOT LET GARLIC BURN.

Then add all of the previously sauteed ingredients back to the pan and add the water chestnuts, if you’re using them.  Add the sauce and continue cooking until the sauce thickens.  Serve over brown (or fried) rice.

About 4 servings.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pucker Up!

Every cook has those things that she (or he) love to do.  Things they make to relax, to de-stress.  Things that bring them peace in everyday life.  For many, this comes in the form of baking.  Baking is an exact and scientific process and the procedures can give great comfort to those wishing to escape from reality for an hour or two.  While I love to make breads and such, I don’t derive similar pleasures from making cupcakes or anything similar.  That kind of thing feels like work to me and, as you can imagine, I like to keep my home cooking feeling as little like work as possible. Make no mistake, however, I do have my “things”.  I love cooking projects – things that take a little effort and a little time before the payoff.  I love to pickle, can and preserve.  I love making homemade treats that one doesn’t usually think of making at home (look for an upcoming post on homemade candy corn).  So about a month ago on a day off, I was reading about preserved lemons and decided to give them a try.  I wanted to tell you all about them then but I really wanted to wait and see if the payoff was worth the time and effort.  Let me assure you, it was.  These things are delicious and every one of you should make them – TODAY!

Preserved lemons have been a staple of Moroccan Cuisine.  My goal, however, is to find alternative ways to enjoy them.  While I do plan to make a traditional dish with them at some point, I don’t plan to serve tagine on a regular basis.  Last night I opened my first jar of preserved lemons and used it in a pasta dish that everyone agreed was amazing.  The lemons added a brightness and a bit of acidity that made ordinary fettucini delicious.  And the entire dinner took less than 15 minutes to make.

For my preserved lemons, I went to the blog of David Lebovitz (www.davidlebovitz.com)  If you don’t follow him, you should.  An American in Paris who (I think) is incapable of making anything that isn’t completely perfect.  Every recipe I’ve tried from him has been incredible.  I did something a little different with the spices and it worked but the heart of this recipe is his.

On his suggestion, I used organic lemons.  Since you’ll be eating the actual peel of the lemon, it’s really best.  He puts his lemons in a large jar but I used several smaller jars and it worked great.  So here you go… your life is about to get a bit more tasty:

Preserved Lemons
About 10 organic lemons, washed and scrubbed well
Kosher Salt
Additional lemon juice (you can either buy extra lemons or if you’re near a Central Market, pick up their freshly squeezed juice in the produce department.  DO NOT used canned, bottled grocery shelf juice.  Just don’t)
Bay leaves, whole allspice, whole coriander, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and small dried red chilies.
A large jar or several small jars.  Make sure these are very very clean.  I sterilized mine in the dishwasher before using.
  • Cut off the little rounded bit at the stem end if there’s a hard little piece of the stem attached. From the other end of the lemon, make a large cut by slicing lengthwise downward, stopping about 1-inch from the bottom, then making another downward slice, so you’ve incised the lemon with an X shape.
  • Pack Kosher salt into the lemon where you made the incisions. Be generous with the salt – it’s the key.  Use at least a tablespoon per lemon.
  • Put the salt-filled lemons in clean glass jars with a tight-fitting lid. Add a few coriander seeds, a few allspice berries, a couple of cloves, a bay leaf, a dried chili, and a cinnamon stick to each jar.
  • Press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get the juices flowing. Cover and let stand overnight.
  • The next day do the same, pressing the lemons down, encouraging them to release more juice as they start to soften. Repeat for a 2-3 days until the lemons are completely covered with liquid. If your lemons aren’t too juicy, add more freshly-squeezed lemon juice until they are submerged.  I had to actually add quite a bit of extra lemon juice.
  • After one month, when the preserved lemons are soft, they’re ready to use. Store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for at least 6 months. Rinse before using to remove excess salt.
  • To use: Remove lemons from the liquid and rinse. Split in half and scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into a small dice. You may wish to press the pulp through a sieve to obtain the flavorful juice, which can be used for flavoring as well, then discard the innards.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Key Lime Pie, Mojitos and other Miami Vices.

Howdy all!  I’ve missed you. Things in Florida have been busy but good.  We’ve been working and baseballing and schooling.  I’m a little bummed that we’ve missed the cool jacket weather that Texas has been enjoying but we’ll get some eventually.

Last weekend I was a bit under the weather for a couple of days.  Just a viral thing that was going around the kitchen where I work.  I basically laid on the bed or the couch for two days.  By Monday, I had a day off from work and was suffering from cabin fever.  So when Ty casually suggested that I could join him for a day trip to Miami, I was game.  He had a gig at The Four Seasons but I was certain that there would be enough to see in Miami to keep me busy.  One of the things that I most looked forward to with this move was being able to see new things.  I had never been to Miami, aside from a quick in and out before and after a cruise in 1986.

The drive down was lovely.  It’s an easy tollway between here and there.  Not much to see but I love road trips so with Spotify on the iPad and a couple of nifty road apps, I was set.  Something that I love about road trips is that my mind feels a bit freer.  Ideas come quickly and I’m so easily inspired.  Another thing that I love about road trips is the food from little independent places.  These two collided when I realized that there is a huge deficiency of quality road food apps out there.  Roadfood.com is a standard site I use to find great places but I’ve noticed a lack of growth there lately.  I need someone who knows how to design apps to partner with but I think it would be a very fun project.  And who knows, with what apps sell for, we might become hundredaires!  Anyway… my head was wrapped around this little idea for most of the 3 1/2 hour drive so it passed quickly.

We did make a short stop just north of Miami, near Ft. Lauderdale.  This place was called Bob Roth’s New River Groves.  It’s an actual grove that once supplied oranges.  Due to pest infestations, most private groves have been shut down but at Bob Roth’s, they grow other things and will let you pick your own during season.  What interested me most about Bob Roth’s was that I had read post after post naming them as having the best Key Lime PIe in the state.  We both love Key Lime Pie and I was intrigued.  We stopped and I instantly loved it.  It was fun in a kitschy, Florida sort of way.  They sold all of the farm stand traditional stuff like jams, jellies, boiled peanuts, and pies.  Oh the pies.  We bought some coconut water, boiled peanuts and a pie and found the nearest picnic table.

The pie was good, no doubt but I think I prefer the one I’ve been making for years.  This made me feel good.  I have a few other places to try a “best” Key Lime Pie but for now, my tried and true recipe is holding it’s own.  I’ve included it here so you can try it yourself.

Once we left Bob Roth’s New Orange Grove, we headed into Miami.  Ty didn’t have long before he needed to set up so he took me to South Beach and dropped me off.  Between the amazing food and the art deco architecture, I was in heaven.  I spent the evening at an outdoor mall where I met a special man named, Birdman Crenshaw.  Birdman was sitting on the sidewalk looking for a bit of money.  He (like others there) was painting.  What made me so interested in this man were his arms.  They were severely underdeveloped.  When I was pregnant with Camden, I contracted Chicken pox.  The biggest risk to him was this exact defect.  For months, I had ultrasounds as the doctor carefully tracked the growth of Camden’s arms.  Obviously and thankfully, he was not affected by the virus but seeing Birdman sitting there tugged something in my heart.  The other thing that was amazing was that Birdman was drawing with his foot.  He had small canvas boards and a selection of markers.  He liked to paint faces and was so happy that I stopped to talk to him about his art.  Turns out he grew up in El Paso and was homeless (I wasn’t surprised but loved the joy he had despite his issues).  I told him how he and my husband shared a passion for painting faces and offered to buy the only finished piece he had there with him.  I ended up walking away with a piece of Birdman, not only on that canvas but in my heart as well.

I spent the rest of the evening doing a little shopping and made late dinner reservations at a Cuban place that’s been serving since 1957.  This place is called Havanas and when we finally ate dinner there after Ty’s gig, we knew why it had been in business for so long.  We had a slow roasted chicken, the special of the house and a pork tamal.  The chicken was heavily but beautifully seasoned with strong toasted cumin overtones.  The traditional Cuban accompaniments of black beans, yellow rice and plantains were perfect.  The best thing, however, were the mojitos.  Crisp, sweet enough but not too sweet and easy to drink, they were the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

If you want a good Mojito recipe, you can find one here… https://thegourmetgirls.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/holy-basil-batman/

The basil is delicious but just substitue mint for the traditional Cuban drink.

This next weekend we get to go back to that area for a couple of days.  Al, Ty’s best friend and honorary member of this family is having a Halloween party.  I have a couple of goals for that weekend.  I’d like to eat at Joe’s Stone Crab, drive to Key Largo and maybe make another stab at the state’s best Key Lime Pie.  Until then, however, I’ll be more than satisfied with this one…

Key Lime Pie

Graham Cracker Crust:
1/3 lb graham cracker (or 1 cup plus 2 1/2 Tablespoons graham cracker crumbs)
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

Filling:
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons grated key lime zest
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice

Topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

For the crust:.
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9-inch pie plate. Break up graham crackers, place in processor and process to crumbs (if you don’t have a processor, place crackers in large plastic bag, seal, and crush using a rolling pin). Add melted butter & sugar and pulse until combined.Press mixture into bottom and up sides of pan, forming a neat border around the edges. Bake until crust is set and golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside on wire rack; leave oven on.

For the filling:.
Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3-4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add lime juice, mixing until just combined.
Pour mixture into crust and bake for 10 minutes, or until filling has just set. Cool on wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15-20 minutes before serving.

For the topping:.
Whip the cream and the confectioner’s sugar until nearly stiff.

Cut pie in wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with a dollop of whipped cream.
Garnish with a slice of key lime if desired.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Just an Update

Lately I’ve heard a little bit of grumbling over the lack of blog activity here.  I’m flattered, humbled and apologetic.  It’s not that nothing has been happening…. I think it’s that EVERYTHING has been happening.  Crazy and new seems to have become our “normal”.  So much so that it doesn’t seem important or noteworthy.  But things have been happening.

Most importantly, a few weeks ago, I graduated from Culinary School.  Many of you sent me well-wishes and I was even able to visit with so many of you while I was in Texas for a few days.  I’m so thankful to have so many wonderful friends who cared to drop emails, give cards or just spend a little time with me on that very special weekend.  It was truly a wonderful time at home with my dad and others I care so much about.  As nice as it was to achieve what I set out to do, I was also a bit sad.  I loved the process of learning something new.  Even more, I loved the people with whom I was fortunate enough to get to know during school.  I am so proud of them and miss them terribly.  Our class was something special and it’s sad to think that I may not see some of them again.  That part of the experience was something I had not expected.  

Here is Florida things are going well.  I’m currently working at the All-Star Movie Resort.  It’s not my permanent home as I’m on a “full-time” waiting list.  But for now, it’s good.  I’m getting the kitchen experience I always needed.  I’m just now starting to feel comfortable and coming into my own.  I work with some great people, but Disney is really no different from anywhere else, so I also work with a challenging person or two.   The back kitchen (or Heart of House as it’s called here) seems to be where Disney stashes those with personalities that are not guest-worthy.  Thankfully, I can hold my own and it hasn’t bothered me too much.

There are a lot of things going on at Disney right now.  The Magic Kingdom is decked out for fall and a couple of nights a week are devoted to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Great for the little kids though mine are more interested in going to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights by Alice Cooper.  Today also marks the beginning of the EPCOT Food & WIne Festival.  As you can imagine, I’m excited about this.  Really hoping we can find time to swing by one day before it ends.  

As you all probably know, we are now in an apartment about 15 minutes north of Disney.  Collin is playing baseball for Olympia High School and Camden is doing well in Chain of Lakes Middle School.  Things are slowly getting more comfortable but we still don’t take much for granted.  There is still no dining room table, or real beds but we do have a couch, a love seat, TV and even a make-shift coffee table.  My dad has been kind enough to ship me several boxes of kitchen items so I can at least cook.  Speaking of my dad, he and his wife (and possibly her boys) are visiting us in early December.  I’m looking forward to doing the parks with Dad.  We haven’t done that since I was 16.

Ty is still working at many of the Disney resorts and has several real gigs coming up in the next few weeks.  He and his close friend, Al will be headed to North Carolina next week to work an event and he’ll be making several trips to Miami.  We’re anxious to get the gig business up and running well.  That will make all of the difference in the world.

So there you have it.  Us in a nutshell.  Please stay in touch with us and if you find yourself in Orlando, give us a shout.  We’d love to have dinner, explore a park or just meet you for coffee.  We’re enjoying our new surroundings but miss those who make our life what it is.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Today

Today there is much to say.  So much that the thoughts are circling in my head and refusing to organize themselves in anyway suitable to writing.  I apologize for that as you read this blog but sometimes things just need to be said and eloquence be damned.

Today we are a blessed step closer to having a place to live.  A place with a kitchen and two bedrooms and an address.  By tomorrow we should have a lease and be registering our boys for school.  Collin will attend the school he’s been dreaming of for months.  He’ll have a chance to play baseball for one of the best.  All of this is happening due, in large part, to a very generous offer from someone I don’t even know.  I’m so very thankful, my family is thankful and my heart is full of warmth and gratitude.  The world is still full of kind people.  I’m grateful to have so many in my life.

Today is the birthday of my hero and inspiration.  Today Julia Child would have been 100 years old.  She too blazed new trails and embarked on adventure in her 40s and where it took her is a remarkable testament to her beauty, strength, determination and humor.  If I could grow to only have a fraction of her gumption, I’d consider myself blessed.  She lived a long life but still died too young.  Thank goodness her legacy lives on. Usually on Julia’s birthday, we celebrate by having friends over for good food and good wine.  We enjoy the fellowship of others around a table.  I long for the days when I can do this again.  I look forward to cooking.  But for today, I’ll just read stories of Julia and imagine the food that I would prepare.  I’m missing my friends today.  So very much.

Today I also planned my trip to Texas.  As of Friday, I will officially be finished with school.  I’ll be returning to Dallas during the weekend of September 8 for graduation.  I look so forward to seeing friends and family again.  It will be a quick few days but days of fun and friendship and respite.  It’s been a wonderful journey and I look forward to celebrating the end..and the beginning.  If you’d like to celebrate with us on Saturday night, let me know.  There’s a great little group so far.  It will be fun night.  

Today was my last day before returning to a grueling work schedule at my new location.  Tomorrow I report to work at 5:30 a.m.  I’ll be making omelets on stage for the guests.  I’m looking forward to it and am very ready to get back to work.

Today I am happy.  I am at peace.  Today is good.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Soul Deserts, Food Deserts and Chicken & Dumplings

Different things feed the souls of different people.   For me, that food comes in the form of relationships and cooking and sharing.  And lately, I’ve been without the outlet to feed my soul.  After 2 months in a hotel room with a microwave and three boys, I’m exhausted and feel like a shell of a person.  Like the real part of me is hibernating just waiting to emerge.  In Florida, summer is the barren season and I’m feeling that in every bone in my body.  But fall is coming.  Fall, a time when the literal fruits of Florida begin to emerge and, hopefully, I will to.  Hopefully there will be an outlet to express myself, the opportunity to connect and the knowledge that I made it through the drought, better, stronger, sweeter.  I look forward to making friends, building relationships and cooking.  Oh how I look forward to cooking.  I look forward to finding someone here to share my love of food, my passion for the beauty of a fresh harvest.  I look forward to having a kitchen.

Today I start my new position at Disney.  Similar job – different resort.  It doesn’t really matter to me as they’re all much the same.  I’m paying my dues and I’m totally okay with that.  My goal was to get an ID with no expiration date and I did that.  Now my goal is to hunker down and collect my six months of seniority so I can figure out how to do what I really want to do.

In the meantime, I want to connect with the Foodie crowd here, if there is one.  I’ve seen very little evidence.  Farming is tough in Florida, outside of the ubiquitous citrus and winter berries.  The Farm to Table movement struggles and that is disappointing.  Since I’ll only be working part time for the near future, I have opportunity to plug in – I’ve just yet to figure out where.  I never thought as Florida as a food desert, but by my standards, it seems that this part of it is.

And then there’s the issue of finding a more stable place to live.  We’re working on it.  We’re looking.  But it’s not been all smooth sailing.  With the start of school rapidly approaching, the pressure is mounting.  We’re both working and the money is coming in but we’re spending so much on the hotel, convenience food, eating out… that it’s been nearly impossible to save anything. But we’ll get there.  I know we will.

So yesterday, in a step to make things a bit more normal (and give us a bit of tasty comfort), I bought a slow cooker.  I know I’ve raved about these things before.  I have a nice one in Texas that I had hoped would make the trip in June but there just wasn’t room in the car.  Today I have a 4-hour orientation at my new hotel but before I go, I’m making Chicken & Dumplings.  Ultimate comfort food and it is so needed.  Ty and the boys are spending the day on the apartment search and will no doubt need some comfort when they return as well.  I honestly don’t know why we think of slow cookers as winter appliances.  They don’t heat up your house, they’re so easy to use and the food is almost always amazing.  In the next few weeks, I’ll be researching a variety of recipes that go beyond Pot Roast and let you know what good ones I find.  Here’s what I’m doing tonight:

The “before”. I’ll post an after pic once it’s done cooking.

Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

2 cans mixed vegetables, drained (not normally a fan but they’re good in here)

3/4 can chicken broth

Seasoning salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, cumin, parsley (use at your discretion.  I don’t measure)

Red onion, finely chopped

1 can biscuit dough, torn into pieces

Put everything except the biscuit dough into your crockpot and cook on high for 6 hours.  About halfway through the cooking time, put the biscuit dough on top.

Yum!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized