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!

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

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!

Taking a Blog Break This Week

Good things are happening guys, and this week is going to be a very busy week for me.  I can’t go into details just yet, but for this week, the blog has to take a back seat to my life.  I promise I’ll share my news next Monday!

Friday I was in Chicago and my sister and I decided to try out Revival Food Hall on Clark Street.   But we made one mistake – going there at noon on a Friday!

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Yep!  That was the line at noon – the guys at the front guestimated that it would be a 30 minute wait before getting in, so on to Plan B.  She was on her lunch hour, I had an appointment, so we went to a place I used to go to on the regular but hadn’t been to in probably 20 years – Silk Road off of LaSalle.   Kung Pao chicken with non-breaded chicken.  So many onions, but it was tasty. I barely ate half though – the portions are insane.

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We had leftovers for dinner Friday night, and it was early to bed for me since I get up at 3:45 on Saturday mornings.  My boss at the shop was not there because he and his wife were at the hospital having their baby.  I was in charge, and everything went so smoothly.  In an hour and 15 minutes we had four markets packed and ready to roll.  My boss usually does the Kenosha Market, but I took his place, and too his car since mine isn’t big enough for all the stuff that needs to go to that market.  Kenosha is just over an hour drive, and my market didn’t start until 9:00, but I got there by 7:45, even stopping to get gas and coffee.

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As I unloaded the car and started walking back to my tent to set up, I saw the skies and thought “I am about to get really wet!”

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I barely got my tent up when it started pouring.  I dragged as much of my stuff under the tent as I cook, but I was soaked to the bone.  Then a cool front came in and I was freezing.  I normally have an extra jacket, shirts, etc. in my car, but I didn’t have my car.  It finally cleared up around 10:30, and the sun came out a few times, only to have the market close 30 minutes early for the next bad wave of storms.

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My hands always looked like I had just gotten out of a long bath – all pruney!

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I was so happy to come home and take a hot shower and get warm.  By the time I made it back to the house at nearly 5:00 p.m., the sun was shining and it was a beautiful 75 degrees.  Which meant grill time.  I stopped at Jewel on my way home from work and noticed that they had New York strip steak on sale for $6.99 a pound.  My steak cost $5.24.

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Those mushrooms are from the Lincoln Square farmers market from River Valley Ranch.   The girl at the stand gave me a mixed bag at the end of the market – I believe those are cremini mushrooms.  She also gave me oyster mushrooms, but I was a bit afraid to try them – they are not the most attractive vegetable.  I used my Hardcore Carnivore rub, and grilled it a total of 8 minutes – 2x2x2x2 to get those grill marks.   I added some leftover fries the kadults had in the fridge.

Sunday’s market was a complete opposite to Saturday’s.  Gorgeous blue skies, low 70’s – low humidity.  We also got some new signage which helped with sales, and we sold out of pretty much everything by 1:00 – a full hour before the end of the market.  At one point I had 15 people in line and all the other vendors around me were wondering if we had crack in our veggie burgers – they didn’t mine waiting 15 minutes in line to get frozen burgers or a veggie burger wrap.

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My buddy Alberto had to pick up his wife, so after we got everything in the store, I told him to go ahead and I’d take care of inventory and set him up for his market that was this morning.  I was home later than usual, and as I was driving home, passed by Trader Joe’s and I suddenly got the taste for their orange chicken and fried rice.  One cup of the chicken is 9 smart points and one cup of the fried rice is 6 points.  I think I only had eaten 10 points before dinner because it was such a busy day, so it’s all good.

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And last night I binge watched another three episodes of Grey’s Anatomy – now on to season 3.  Such a good show.  I don’t know why I didn’t watch it when it was on t.v., must have been opposite something Tony may have like to watch.  Who knows.  I had all the windows open.  The temp was around 60 degrees last night.  I had a light throw blanket on, a glass of merlot, and hung out with the dogs.  It was so nice.  This is where they like to sit when the windows are open – so many smells and sounds.

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I am headed back downtown today and tomorrow.  I promise, it will be worth the wait when I tell you what’s going on in my life!  I hope you have a great week – I have a feeling this week is going to be the beginning of something great for me, and I am really happy!

Ma’am–Get Back in Your Car!

After having a big dinner on Thursday night, even though I normally try to eat a big breakfast on my market days, I just wasn’t hungry at all.  I haven’t made one of my one point fruit sauce to make a 6 point parfait.  On top was butterscotch granola that I bought from the farmers market – so good!

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1 cup Chobani (3) 1 cup of my fruit sauce (1) and 1/2 ounce of granola (2).   Guess who else loves Chobani?!  The dogs – especially Roman.

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I packed my lunch and was out the door to get to work.  I was three miles from my work when I got into a fender bender.  Totally my fault.  I was merging to exit, while another car was merging onto the expressway.  But the traffic stopped dead in front of me and I hit the guy in front of me.  The damage was minor.  I wasn’t frazzled at all, but by the time I got out of my car to see if the guy in front of me was okay, he already had 911 on the phone.  I realized he had Onstar and it called for him.  He said he felt dizzy and that he was about to faint.  He asked if I had any water, so I got in my lunch bag and gave him a bottle of my water.  When I told the dispatcher that he said he felt dizzy, they went ahead and called an ambulance. 

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Most of the damage was to my car because he had a Yukon Danali, and he only got a few scratches on the right side of his bumper.  Once he was cleared by paramedics, the state police took us off the expressway to a safer place to finish the report.  I got out of my car and went over to ask this man if he needed anymore water, and that’s when the officer in the car using her loud speaker said “Ma’am, get back in your car!”  When she brought me my paperwork I told her I was just asking if he wanted any water, and she said that she’s seen it too many times where people get into fights over accidents, so she wanted to be safe than sorry.

I texted my boss and told him I was running late.  It’s lucky that our market starts at 4, because even with my delay, we still got to the market 30 minutes early.  Whew.  But because I was late, I didn’t have time to check all of our stuff, just had to pack and go.  I kept running through my head the checklist, and it didn’t dawn on me until we got to the market that I forgot a bank.   Luckily I have my own square, and there was a Chase bank across the street, so I just got my own bank and all was good.  Surprisingly though, when I got to the shop, my boss handed me a card.  I was thinking “did he already buy me a card because I got in a car accident on the way to work?”  I opened it when I got to the market – it was a nice card, thanking me for all my hard work.  Nice!

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We got new signage too, which was very helpful.  Especially when I have a lot of customers, the ones waiting I direct to the board to review and ask any questions when it’s their turn.

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I brought a sriracha turkey sandwich on a low carb wrap.  I didn’t know Dietz & Watson even made that, but it was delicious – especially with the addition of our signature mild roasted red pepper coulis.

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I was wondering on my drive home what I was going to fix for dinner.  I realized that I still had leftover stuffed shells and thought of heating those up.  But my daughter, also in tune with the waste less food, cleaned out my fridge yesterday afternoon and found ground beef that needed to be used up, so she made taco dip for dinner.  And when I got home, I was presented with this:

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Thank you Hannah!  She had a rough day too – her school stuff was all messed up – basically they said she was missing one form which held up financial aid and told her that she was a “delinquent student.”  After spending nearly two hours at the school, it doesn’t look like that last piece of paper will be approved in time for her to start classes this semester, which will put her a semester behind.  She’s always told me that the staff at her school were very rude, unhelpful, etc.  So much so that she almost stood up and ripped the piece of paper that was lacking right in front of the financial aid person and walk out altogether.  I have no idea where she gets that from?! 

Thankfully Jacob was there to bring her off the edge.  I told her it isn’t a big deal, and then started to sing her one of my favorite Peter Gabriel songs – Don’t Give Up!  That made her laugh and all is well.

I am going to Chicago to have lunch with my sister today – Revival Food Hall opened this week, and we are dying to try it out.

Happy Friyay!  I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and remember what’s most important in life:  family, friends and health!  Everything else is just icing on the cake. Open-mouthed smile

Hanging with Hannah

All three of us had the day off yesterday.  I was up around 8, and I think the kadults got up around 10.  It was nice having a quiet morning.  My store where I buy my blue corn tortillas just came out with mini corn tortillas and I couldn’t wait to make mini breakfast tacos with them.  I asked the kadults if they were up for that for breakfast – both overwhelmingly approved, until I realized I had no eggs!  So while they ran to CVS on an egg run, I got busy cooking up sausage that needed to be used up before going bad.  Still trying my best not to waste food, although I did have to throw out two avocados that got pushed to the back that were way overripe.  I got 1/4 of one whole avocado that wasn’t bad.

This is what my plate looked like:  three baby tacos at 2 points each, with fruit on the side.  However after we looked at that picture, we both thought it could be better.  (3 corn tortillas – 3; 1 egg – 2 1/2 ounce cheese (1).

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So we carried that plate all around the house trying to see which lighting was better.   I had my camera, she had her camera, and we ultimately decided the side table next to the couch was the best spot.

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And of course, the dogs are always curious!

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This was the winning photo.  When my friend Whitney decorated my house, she bought that plaque – it’s true – food is my true love!  I had to reheat my tacos because they were stone cold by the time I got around to eating them around 11:00.

Since we were all off, I decided to check out the market I normally work at and go to the restaurant I’ve been wanting to try since I started at that market.  I even put makeup on and jewelry on!

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It was interesting being on the other side of the tent.  I had to say, unless someone called me over to their tent, I would just walk on by.  We did pick up some of that Mirai corn from Twin Garden Farms.   Plan on having that for dinner tomorrow.

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While I looked at the menu before we got there, once I opened their menu and saw that they had a full page dedicated to burgers, I decided to go with a burger.  Although we did do a meat charcuterie for an appetizer.

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This was delicious.  And there was pickled fennel on the platter which was really tasty. 

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The burger was perfection.  Super flavorful meat – they were able to do it closer to medium than medium rare, but still juicy.  I chose romaine and crispy poblano peppers as a topping with a side of broccolini and a small cup of their Guiness cheese sauce.  I was only able to eat half my burger it was so filling.

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I would have loved to sit out on their outdoor patio, but it was pretty hot out, but we all agreed we’d make the 25 minute drive to go back there.

Another work day for me in Lincoln Square today.  It rained pretty hard this morning, and there is a 40% chance of rain from 5-6 which is our dinner hour rush, so hopefully it will blow over.  It was a fun day off yesterday.

Right now I am making more of my one point fruit sauce to make a parfait.  I did buy butterscotch granola at the farmers market yesterday which is amazeballs.  I never thought to add butterscotch chips to my granola before!

Hope you all have a great day!

Grilled Pork

Best Wet Rub Ever

Yesterday I was up at 7:20. Got my coffee, wrote my blog, did some computer work, when all of a sudden I looked up and it was 9:00 a.m. and I had to leave for WW in 15 minutes.  I chose to wear a hat vs. jumping in the shower (klassy) and was able to make this quick egg white omelet to go before heading out the door.  More leftover baked potatoes to the rescue.  Three ounces of diced baked potato (3), two ounces of chopped deli ham (2) with spinach and 1/2 ounce of mozzarella cheese (2) and 3/4 cup of egg whites (1).  And I bought half a big cantaloupe off the dollar rack that was probably the best I’ve eaten all summer – tasted like candy.  The smell of cantaloupe always reminds me of my Grammy’s house when we stayed with her in the summer.  I can picture myself sitting at the end of the kitchen table, swinging my legs back and forth because they didn’t reach the floor, watching my grandma cook at the stove while the front door was open and a summer breeze blowing through.  It’s amazing that food can bring you back to a place and time that you can remember like it was yesterday, and it was probably 42 years ago.

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In case you are wondering, I gained 1.4 pounds the last two weeks, bringing my total summer weight gain to 3.2 pounds.  WTF.  But, I will have to say, that being on WW helped me not gain 30 pounds this summer, so I’ve got that going for me.  But one of the things I noticed is that I almost always eat more stuff than I need to when I am alone.  Case in point yesterday.  Hannah worked the morning shift and Jacob worked the afternoon/evening shift.  Hannah and I planned on running errands together which I was looking forward to.  She said she was going to take a quick nap since she was up so early, so I finished up some chores while she slept.  She had a work event to go to at 6, which would leave us plenty of time. 

Except she slept until 5:40.  And what did I do while I was waiting for her to wake up?  Eat.  I ate a slice of cheese.  Then it was a small bag of gummies.  Then it was a few tortilla chips.  I find that when I am alone, food is my friend for the moment and I have to stop that.   I seem to eat better on the days I work.  It’s a lot easier to graze throughout the day when I am home.

In my quest to waste less food, I decided to use up some tofu that Hannah brought from her work that wasn’t going to get used and was nearing it’s expiration date.  I did a quick marinade with a tablespoon of black bean paste.  I have this dried pasta that I love because each dried nest of pasta is exactly one ounce, so easy portion control.   I did stop by the store to pick up a few things, and knowing I was going to have stir fry for lunch, picked up bean sprouts and peapods for .82 cents.

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But guess what guys. I was completely out of sriracha?!  I know, I can hardly believe it myself.  I put this pic on Instagram and said “luckily I had Thai chili paste in my fridge and used that.”  My astute foodie friend Jacky told me that, um, it’s the same thing as sriracha – doh!  Good to know Jacky!

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My friend Alison was leaving for a mini vacation with her family and wondered if I could use any of her tomato bounty.  When I got to her house and saw that she literally had three Trader Joe paper bags full of tomatoes, I thought it a shame she couldn’t reap her own bounty.  So I told her I would can her tomato sauce!

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I started with 2/3 of the tomatoes you see on the counter there, because that basically filled up my biggest pot.  When I make giant amounts of pasta sauce, I don’t really have a recipe.  Although long time readers will love that because my friend loves onions, I added onions to this sauce.  I call this my “basic” sauce, because it can be dressed up any which way.  Add ground beef to make a bolognese, use it for pizza sauce.  Stir in ricotta cheese for stuffed shells.  The possibilities are endless!  For that size pot, I added 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil, one small chopped onion (rough chop because I use my stick blender at the end), about 2 ounces of diced deli pepperoni (my secret ingredient!) with one 6 oz. can of tomato sauce.  I let that cook for about 5 minutes, then just threw the grape tomatoes in, and quartered the big tomatoes, and let that simmer on low for about two hours.  I then added about 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, 2 tablespoons of sugar (the tomatoes were on the tart side), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cracked pepper, and 1 tablespoon of butter and stirred that all together.  Then just blended with my stick blender.

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My FreshTech canner is so much fun to use.  I add my clean jars to the canner, then press “preheat.”  The canner sterilizes the jars in 12 minutes.  I then add my sauce to the jars, put the lids on, place them back into the canner and press “tomatoes” and press “1” from the programmed recipe panel.  Then I walk away, and 40 minutes later the canning is done.  The best part is that I can start the process all over again right away.  I just hit the stop/reset button, add my next batch of clean jars and repeat.   Since I got 12 pint jars of sauce from using 2/3 of the tomatoes, I decided I’ll make her salsa with the rest today.

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When I was picking up a few things at the store, I saw that they had a small pork shoulder on sale for $7.  It was 3.5 pounds.  I knew I was going to cook it on the Weber grill, but I was wondering what kind of rub I wanted to do.  The obvious choice was to use my beloved Hardcore Carnivore Black rub.   But knowing that Hannah wouldn’t eat it at all, and Jacob and I love spicy food, I decided to make a savory/sweet wet rub.

  • 1 teaspoon Hardcore Carnivore Black
  • 1 teaspoon The Spice House Milwaukee Iron rub
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • that’s it

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Whenever I need advice on BBQ, I reach out to my Instagram friend Scott of Grillin Fools.  Not only does he showcase some of the best BBQ on his Instagram account, but he also has a website.   Anything and everything you need to know about BBQ can be found on that site.  I was trying to figure out what temperature to pull the pork out, and through reading some of his posts, decided that 180 was the right temperature.  I texted him last night if he thought that it would be a high enough temp before resting, but didn’t hear back from him right away, so I just went with my gut and pulled it at 180.

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Once off the grill, I wrapped it in foil and stuck it in my microwave to rest for 45 minutes before slicing.  You guys.  This is hands down the best pork I’ve ever cooked in my life.  The meat cut like butter, it was super juicy and tender, and the bark on the outside of the pork was pork candy.  The little bit of brown sugar caramelized on the grill, and with the perfect seasoning with the Hardcore rub with the extra spicy kick of the Milwaukee Iron seasoning, it was the perfect pork roast.

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I ended up making a pork sandwich.  That is a dinner roll with three ounces of the sliced meat, topped with sauerkraut that I sautéed with just a teaspoon of my pineapple garlic sriracha bbq sauce, then topped with 3/4 of a slice of reduced fat provolone.   Perfection in a sandwich – tender juicy pork, spicy bbq sauce with the saltiness of the sauerkraut and provolone.  Swoon.  I am definitely looking forward to using up the leftovers of this roast!

So today is more getting Bizzy in my Kitchen making salsa.  I already told Hannah we’d be keeping a jar for ourselves as payment for the work, which is minimal at best.  Then we are actually going to go to the farmers market I usually work today.  Since I switched with the owner on Monday, he’s doing my usual market this afternoon.  Other than the granola guy next to me and the cheese girl on the other side, I’ve never really walked around the market before!   And after parking my car, I always pass by this restaurant, and Hannah and I will stop in for some apps and a glass of wine after checking out the market.  Fun!

Oh, and I have to share this – one of my favorite food photographers is Daniel Krieger.  And when I think I have taken a better than average food photograph, I usually tag him on Instagram.  But he has about 150,000 followers on Instagram, so I realize the likelihood of him actually liking a picture I tag him in is slim to none.  But check it out!

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Holy balls – he liked not one but TWO  of my photos.  Just check out one of his photos:

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Is that food photography perfection, or what?! 

Alright, time to get this show on the road on my TO DO list.  I didn’t cross too many things off of it yesterday Open-mouthed smile

Make it a great day!