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August 2016

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Chicken 101

I hadn’t been to Weight Watchers in two weeks, so I had no idea how my weigh in was going to be.  Working two jobs last week every day meant my eating was all over the place.  Not that I ate bad necessarily, but there were times when I ate a late breakfast and lunch, and got home late and never ate anything for dinner because I was tired and didn’t want to eat right before going to bed. 

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Down 2.8!  It was then, that I realized, I didn’t binge at all the last two weeks.  It feels as if getting this new job my life feels a bit more settled.  Quitting my desk job was the easy part, but the emotional roller coaster of the last six months of not knowing how this was going to turn out made me doubt my choices.  I worked my first class last night and any doubt I had has vanished.  And it feels great!

My WW leader was talking about this wrap that is only 2 points at a grocery store by the meeting.  I literally left the meeting and went right to the store to pick some up.

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Each giant wrap is only 80 calories and 2 smart points.  I had some leftover steak and made a steak/egg white/spinach breakfast burrito.  The texture of the wrap is kind of chewy, so after I wrapped it up, I brushed the wrap with a touch of olive oil and pan fried it a bit for some texture.  This was delicious!

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I didn’t eat this until nearly 11 a.m. since I went to my meeting first and then to the grocery store.  I didn’t have to leave for work until 3:00 and I wasn’t hungry to eat lunch before I left.  I found this package on my stores discount rack and cooked this up for my side dish for lunch.  Hannah absolutely loved it – not sure why is was on the discount rack because the sell by date wasn’t until 2017.

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My friends at Beef It’s What’s For Dinner are promoting another 30 day protein challenge.  You can check it out here.   To help spread the word, they sent me these collapsible containers with plastic ware.  I packed 1/2 a cup of the jasmine blend (5) with 4 ounces of chicken breasts sauteed with zucchini and 1 tsp. of grapeseed oil (5). 

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I couldn’t wait to get started for the Chicken 101 class I was doing after I ate.  Basically my job is to get everything together that you might need for the class so that the class runs smoothly and on time.  We were preparing three different chicken dishes with three different sauces.  My trainer Jess and I gathered all the ingredients together and based on the amount of people we had attending, had three different groups so we put everything together times three.  Here is an example – this is the mise en place for the grape tomato and caper relish that went on the pesto grilled chicken breast.

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The kitchen is so organized – everything dated and perfectly labeled and super clean.

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All of the appliances they use are residential grade so that you can recreate the recipes at home and get the same results that we have at the cooking school.   Students get 10% off anything in the store if they attend the class, and 15% off “hot ticket” items – or basically the tools they used during class.  We put a little set up in the front:

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I love that Maldon sea salt.  It’s flake salt, and the company in UK has been making it for nearly 130 years.   When my discount kicks in, that is definitely one of the first things on my list of things to buy. 

One of the things I have been doing for the last few years is spatchcocking a chicken – now don’t let you mind go to the gutter – it’s just cutting out the back bone of the whole chicken so that it can cook more evenly and faster.  The Greek chicken was one of the first dishes we put together because it took an hour to cook.  It was paired with a cucumber mint yogurt sauce.  The chicken was rubbed under the skin and on top of the skin with a compound butter.  Perfection!

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Here are all the dishes:

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All the guests were lovely, we had two birthday celebrations, and the night flew by in the blink of an eye.  Because students pay $85 for the class, they get to take all the leftover food home with them if they chose to, and because it was all delicious, they took everything home.  I am definitely making the pesto chicken soon – it smelled amazing!

I got home around 11:45 p.m.  So funny I went from being an early bird to a night owl!  I was super hungry by the time I got home, and had half a grilled cheese and bologna sandwich and an ounce of ranch Doritos.  Hannah cleaned my pantry while I was at work too – so then I could actually see that I had Doritos!  That plate was 10 smart points.

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This week is unusual because two of the trainers are off later this week before the labor day weekend, so I don’t work again until my farmers market on Saturday, and then do inventory at The Chopping Block on Sunday night, have Monday off – and then work the next six days in a row, so I am going to take advantage of these few days off.  It’s absolutely gorgeous today – 70 degrees, no humidity and blue skies.  I’ll definitely get my walking shoes on today and I plan on hitting the gym later this afternoon.

I am also going to be recipe developing for Divine Chocolates!   They sent me a giant assortment of their chocolate bars, and I am going to try to make savory recipes with the chocolate, since that’s my flavor profile.  I am going to try to make a bbq sauce with their ginger and orange chocolate bar.  In my mind it turns out great, but we’ll see! 

Alright, time to get this day going.  I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy after I got home from work, and didn’t wake up until 9 a.m. this morning!  Love.

Make it a great day!

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Is This Real Life?

I think I fell asleep dreaming about the brisket I had at my company BBQ.  And not a shocker, I knew I was going to incorporate it into my breakfast somehow.  Lordy, was this a delicious breakfast toast!  1.5 ounce sourdough bread toast (3) 2 ounces of the brisket chopped (3) scrambled with egg whites and topped with 1/2 an ounce of cheddar cheese (2) topped with crisp romaine with one of the best peaches I’ve had in my life.  This giant plate of food came in at only 8 smart points.  I cooked the brisket along for the first couple of minutes, so the little fatty pieces got all nice and crispy.  Yum.

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Yesterday I had my first employee meeting that they have every quarter.  The first meeting was just all of the Chef’s and Class Assistants.  I loved that the first several minutes were spent giving “shout outs” to people in the group.  Mentioning everything from singling out people who stayed after their shift to help out in some way, or someone else thanking another employee for taking his shift so he could go to an event, which meant that person had to do a double.  Loved starting out a meeting with such positivity!

I have already been asked to join the Gift Card Team, which helps promote our gift cards.  That meeting followed my first meeting, before the official all employee meeting.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to eat, if food was going to provided, etc., so I had time because I got downtown early to stop at Subway and have a late lunch.  Black Forest ham sandwich with giardinera (8 points) with a bag of baked potato chips (4).  I initially was only going to eat half the bag, but ended up eating the whole thing.

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Initially when I took the job I thought that I was going to be taking the train downtown.  Going down is no problem, but if I miss a train at night, I have to wait a full hour for the next one, and because it’s late at night, there is no express train, so it makes every stop and that train ride alone is an hour and 15 minutes.  So I’ve been driving the 40 miles to work.  After driving through all of Chicagoland this summer with the farmers market, driving 40 miles seems like a breeze!  With traffic, it takes me about an hour and 15 minutes to get to either location.  Coming home though only takes me about 50 minutes because there is no traffic.

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If you are not familiar with Chicago parking, it’s ridiculously expensive – like $38 a day expensive.  But I have an app!  You know I am crazy for all my iPhone apps.  It’s called SpotHero, and I can park a block away from the Merchandise Mart for $10 a day.  I pay via the app – it gives me a bar code to get in and out of the parking garage.   I highly recommend this app for anyone who needs to park in Chicago for any length of time.  Just put in the address you need to park near and it pops up with all kinds of parking garages to choose from.

If you’ve never been to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, it’s a HUGE building.  It was built in 1930 and at the time was the largest building in the world.  It has FOUR MILLION square feet of floor space, and has about 20,000 tenants and visitors in the building each day.  This week they have a display called “Canstruction” which is a competition in which Architecture and Engineering firms create structures made completely from canned goods that are then donated to the local food depository.

 

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Here is my new office!

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Looks are deceiving from the outside, because the inside of the space is pretty big.  This location has four separate cooking areas that can be rented out at any one time.  The first night I worked, on a Monday no less, there were four separate parties – one party of 70, a party of 30, a party of 40 and then a small chef’s tasting of 8 people.

I should have know for a cooking school that there would be food!  After my second meeting, a couple chefs and a class assistant prepared the food for dinner.  Look at all this deliciousness!

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This looked delicious, but I never tried it. 

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And guess what?  I tried salmon and I liked it!  I’ve tried it in the past, but it’s been several years.  I am not sure how it was cooked exactly, but it wasn’t overly “fishy” like I remember salmon tasting in the past.

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Those green beans were probably some of the best I’ve ever had.  I need to get the recipe for them.  And the jambalaya was the bomb.com too. 

After dinner was the actual employee meeting.  The first few minutes were spent recognizing company anniversaries and birthdays.  They have an employee of the quarter and everyone votes for who they think should get it that quarter.  The girl that won was really cute – people wrote: “she always has a smile on her face and makes the guests feel welcomed.”  “she is the most improved employee and I love her enthusiasm for her work.”  You get the idea, but I absolutely love the positivity and enthusiasm everyone has for this place.  The owners goal is to make this job the best job you’ve ever had, and she strives on a daily basis to make everyone want to love coming to work.   How awesome is that?!

And after the meeting we had a wine tasting at five different stations.  Since we are coming into the busy season with the holidays right around the corner, more people tend to have drinks at a cooking event and we got to try two reds, two whites and a sparkling wine.

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Oh, and I forgot to tell you that I won a $25 gift card at the BBQ on Sunday night!

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As I was driving home I nearly had to pinch myself.  “Is this real life?!”  Having a job that I can’t wait to get to?  Being able to work with food, learn from amazing chefs, and help customers to get in their own kitchens and cooking?  I am so excited to start this new chapter of my work career!

I work tonight at Lincoln Square.  On the menu is Chicken 101. 

  • Pesto Grilled Chicken Breasts with Fresh Grape Tomato and Caper Relish
  • Fried Chicken with Tabasco Honey Butter Sauce
  • Lemony Greek-Style Roasted Chicken with Cucumber Mint Yogurt Sauce

The skills the students (and I!) will be learning:

  • selecting chicken
  • grilling, frying and roasting chicken
  • how to breakdown a chicken
  • determining meat doneness
  • making pesto
  • balancing flavors
  • working with spices and fresh herbs
  • brining

Is it time to go to work yet? Open-mouthed smile

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It Feels Like. . .Home

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know by now that I have a new job!  I accepted a job as a Class Assistant at The Chopping Block in both their Merchandise Mart and Lincoln Square locations, and I think this is the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

But let’s back up a bit, shall we?  Several weeks ago you may remember that I got to my Lincoln Square farmers market and realized I didn’t have a knife to cut our wraps.  I knew that The Chopping Block was just down the street and bought a $10 knife, and when I got back to my market, I took a picture of the cut sandwich and tagged them to thank them for saving my market.  They quickly liked the post and started following me on Instagram – sweet!

I wrote about it in my blog post the next day, and blog reader Kelly wrote this:

Nom nom nom on that T-bone, Biz!! Excuse me while I catch my drool!!

PS….any chance you can choose who you work with!? Or maybe report him? Seems very irresponsible, that guy! Go fill out an application w/ the knife store!

“Go fill out an application with the knife store!” Huh.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but I forwarded my foodie resume to them, and about a week later I got an email inviting me to an open call for a job as a class assistant.  Wow!   When I got there, there were about 15 people all applying for the same job.  I wrote my name on the sign in sheet, sat down, and realized . . . no one was talking.  So I just blurted out “we are all here because we love food – what is your favorite thing to cook?”  It got the ball rolling.  As each person’s name was called to go in to interview, I’d clap “good luck Aaron!  good luck Katie!” as they went in to interview.  We were told that the initial interview would only last about 5-7 minutes.  My interview lasted 35!  I took that as a good sign.

A day later I was called back to meet at the Lincoln Square location with one of the GM’s and one of the head chefs.  We sat on the back patio, which has no less than five green eggs, two giant gas grills and a pizza oven.  Swoon!  We talked for 90 minutes, and I thought it went very well, and was thrilled when a week later I got an email offering me the position.  Later that week, I met at the corporate headquarters just minutes from the Merchandise Mart, signed all my papers, and got my shirt and hat.

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Um, I really need to whiten my teeth!   That is Nathan, my direct report and one of the GM’s.  He’s super nice and I know we are going to get along great.

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So the reason I didn’t blog at all last week was because I was working both jobs last week.  Monday and Tuesday I worked at the Merchandise Mart working private parties and training. 

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Wednesday and Thursday I did my normal farmers markets.  Then Friday I worked at the Lincoln Square location learning retail.  I wanted to touch all the pretty things – and pretty much did in the six hour shift I worked there.

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Then Saturday and Sunday I did my normal markets as well.  Yesterday was my last Sunday market with my buddy Alberto.  I will miss him dearly, but I will not miss having to get up at 3:45 a.m. on the weekends!

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Then last night was The Chopping Block’s company BBQ.  There were having a cooking contest for side dishes – I entered my baked beans, which I realized I never took a picture of, but I used my pineapple garlic sriracha BBQ sauce in the baked beans.  My secret ingredient though?  Candied bacon in the baked beans!

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The Chopping Block provided all the beverages and proteins, and we all brought the side dishes.  Um, there was some damn good food there!

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But the brisket??  Out.of.this.world. 

Chef Carrie said she put it in the Big Green Egg at 8:00 a.m. yesterday morning.  This was stunning.  Melted in your mouth, the fat was rendered perfectly, and I may have brought home a leftover container of brisket that I am going to figure out how to incorporate into my breakfast today.

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And I love this comment from The Chopping Block on Instagram:

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I work 14 shifts of training before I am assigned as a Class Assistant on my own.  I cannot wait.  Being able to show people the love I have for cooking is just a dream come true.  And that I get paid for it, is icing on the cake!   I have a feeling that I’ll be at this job for a long time, and I think this is the best move for me as I enter this next chapter of my life. 

The owner of the Eating Well as sad to see me go, but he told me it would be selfish of him to try to make me stay.   But I feel that my summer working the farmers markets only prepared me going into this job.  The shifts are only six hours long, but you are constantly on your feet, moving stuff, carrying dishes/pots/pants, etc.   The two shifts I worked already went by in the blink of an eye – it didn’t really feel like work at all.  Love.

I am working the next two Saturday’s at the farmers markets training two new people, and then I’ll be working full time at The Chopping Block.  I love being in the city again, and since most of my shifts start at 3:30 or 4:30, there is still plenty of time to work out, recipe develop, etc.  And I can delete the 3:45 a.m. alarm on my cell phone. 

And while it took six months to find my dream job, I could not be happier with my decision to leave the desk job behind.  My new job feels like home!