Archive for ‘Soul-Food’

October 15, 2012

When Directing a Culinary Event for 3,000, Try This

by Jen Wanous

With walkie-talkie in hand, I entered the raw space that took up an entire city block, as ready as I could ever be. The task at hand: to set-up a three-day culinary event for 3,000 people. Set up included: six kitchens for 140 chef presenters, seven different workshop rooms, one main stage that seated 400, two walk-in refrigerators, one freezer, a tradeshow floor room for 50, two pop-up restaurants, 24 different food cart chefs, electricity and plumbing to it all…and two days to do it.

When the opening day hit, like meat in a grinder, time crunched down hard. With a year of planning now behind me, hours transformed into minutes as every request that came in needed immediate action. Crises were near boiling points around every corner. Everyone needed solutions and I was in a role to give them. Like being a chef in a kitchen, this was trial by fire. My mind ran at a fevered pace as names and schedules flew around. There was no time to write down notes; everything was one long mental note demanding immediate action. Bruises on my toes told of my speedy pace, just shy of running for the 100 hours I worked that week.

With problems popping up left and right, I honed my skill of bringing solutions. Here are a few examples.

Problem: Chef Morimoto (read: uber famous chef, aka: “The Iron Chef”) needs wasabi powder in 15 minutes.
Solution: Instruct assistant to go to the nearest store stating, “Seriously, like Super Market Sweep style, run and get it and run back now.”

Problem: Your boss, and CEO of the company (during the second hour of the event), screams at the top of her lungs at you, bursts into tears citing a myriad of crises. Problems like a sign that is not hung and a walkway that is not wide enough. Oh and also during this moment, she threatens to fire you if you take another Instagram picture.
Solution: Fix all noted problems (it takes five minutes) and definitely hold off on posting Instagram pictures until after the event. (Discovering that deep place of compassion for her helps, but may take up to a week to attain.)

Problem: Your only dishwasher breaks.
Solution: Pray.

Problem: Unions threaten to blow up the rat in front of your event and set up a picket line.
Solution: Hire a union member to be your liaison (aka: Wonder Woman) and have her negotiate the union labor needs so that everyone is happy.

Problem: Upset stomach.
Solution: Don’t eat a doughnut covered in peanut butter, thinking you’re getting more protein that way. Eat a Clif Bar instead.

Problem: Your production assistant decides to drink and then has a diabetic crash, passes out cold on the floor, and refuses medical attention then insists on going to the drug store to get meds. You don’t think that’s a good idea but then a few minutes later, you realize he’s already left. Having visions of him passed out in the street, you leave your event and run after him.
Solution: Get an umbrella (it had to be raining), call your mom (because she always knows what’s best), follow your mom’s advice to go back to your event (he can take care of himself) and then when he returns, put him in a cab home and tell him not to come back. (Did I mention cry? Crying is definitely a factor in the solution.)

All in all, I was given a job to manage something that was unmanageable. This was a three-day culinary event for 3,000 people in a completely raw space on a shoestring budget with very little infrastructure. This gargantuan feat was only made possible by the amazing talents of the team I had assembled. I gave them my trust and they gave me their absolute best.

As the Event Director, I could sure sling a walkie-talkie, but what good was that if the people on the other end were not ready on the draw?

If this were a novel, this would be my page of thanks: Candy, the kiwi intern who worked for free (free!) and added value beyond measure. Jacquie who made more than her fair share of super-market sweeps. Amy–another stellar volunteer–caught the pieces before they hit the ground. Sam was the saving grace and saving sass of this event. Layla, was the backbone of the event, her victory (and mine) lied in not needing anti-anxiety meds! Renata, Renata!, my mentor and confidant. Her grace under fire inspires me like none other.

The whole Wizard crew including, Dana, Matt, Sarah, Caryn, and the redheaded guy John. You all bolstered our faith when you helped come up with solutions and powered through each day. To the electricians, the dishwashers, the carpenters, the film crews, the security guards, the cleaning crews, the volunteers, you all are the foundation of this event.

And to the StarChefs crew, everyone rallied! Thank you for humoring me, trusting me, and helping me.

This has been one wild ride of a culinary adventure. Oh, the highs, you ask? Well, eating a deep-fried pizza made by a chef from Naples, *just* happening to be there when the wining pastry champion passes around his cake for a taste; getting Richard Blais his liquid nitrogen (and getting his cell phone number); and tasting and interacting with 140 of the worlds best chefs. Amazing. These are the things that will feed me moving forward.

Check out the official event wrap up here: http://starchefs.com/cook/events/icc/2012/wrap-up

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March 28, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons: Make a Citrus Dipping Sauce

by Jen Wanous

I have been on a bit of a hiatus for the past few weeks, and with good reason — I took the plunge and submitted myself to a 9-5 (or 6, or 7). You see, post-culinary school I enjoyed my days of piecemealing jobs together, working with a variety of small food businesses- from cookie baker, to Korean taco restaurant consultant, to ice cream sales person. I loved this exposure, but I needed something more consistent to pay for the Le Creuset I’ve been wanting (paying back my culinary school loan and health insurance would be nice too). I was excited to see the posting for a job as an Events Director at StarChefs because the position perfectly combines my background in event management with my culinary training.

I started the position a few weeks ago and, as ideal as the position sounded, it has proven to be a hard transition. I have been taking big gulps of air to stay afloat in a work culture that is filled with chaos and urgency (think The Devil Wears Prada meets Top Chef). It’s a small office of 18 people with an open work space — no walls. I have been tasked with executing a 3,000 person, three day culinary symposium with workshops, demos and culinary competitions. The event will host 90 star chefs, 80 sponsors and a large staff and vendor battalion to keep everyone full and happy. The event is called the International Chefs Congress and will be held in the last week of September.

I am confident in my ability to execute this major production and I even get glimmers of optimism when someone from the office brings a daffodil for everyone or has a staff tasting of homemade beer. Wading through a new workplace environment can be very complex. Trusting myself and staying hydrated has been key.

Through all this, I am definitely learning a ton, which I am grateful for. I consider this to be another great chapter in my culinary adventure book. So, stay tuned for more posts, from workplace triumphs to kitchen adventures, I hope to write now once a month now.

Sushi Party on the Fly

I recently had a couple friends over for dinner and we had an impromptu Sushi Party. With a few simple improvisations to the traditional methods, it’s fun and easy to host your own.

The idea is to do a build-your-own sushi hand roll. Hold the sheet of nori seaweed in your hand (like a diamond), then smear the inside quinoa (not too much) and fill with fresh accompaniments. Fold the tip of the diamond (closest to you) in (like a burrito) and drizzle on different sauces. Every guest will be having fun making their own unique sushi hand roll.

Serves 4

Essentials

Package of Nori sheets (big sheets of seaweed)

Quinoa sticky rice sushi-style (recipe below)

Optional Accompaniment Ideas

– Sushi grade raw fish such as salmon or tuna

– roasted tofu (recipe below)

– avocado

– mango

– cucumber

– threads of green onion

– pickled carrot (recipe below)

– Sesame seeds (toasted)

– thin slices of jalapeño

– Suracha mayo dip (1/4 cup may plus 1-2 tbs Suracha)

– pickle ginger (click here for how to make)

– wasabi (can reconstitute powdered wasabi)

Quinoa – Sticky Sushi Rice Style

Ingredients

1½ cups quinoa, rinsed

3 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup brown rice vinegar

Procedure

1. In a medium pot, combine the quinoa and salt with the cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 20 mins. Remove lid and stir in rice vinegar with a fork.

Citrus Dipping Sauce

This recipe was inspired by a favorite cookbook author and blogger: Heidi Swanson.

Ingredients

Zest and juice of 1 orange

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons agave syrup (or sugar)

2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar

Procedure

1. In a small pan, combine just the citrus juices and agave. Bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 mins, add the soy sauce and vinegar. Return to a boil, cook another min or two. It will be slightly thick. Stir in the zests.

Tahini Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

½ cup tahini (ground sesame seeds)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 inch ginger minced

1 clove garlic, chopped

s&p

Procedure

1. In a mini food processor, combine all ingredients. That’s it.

Tofu Planks

Ingredients

1 block firm tofu

2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon olive oil

s&p

Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut the tofu block into ¼ thick pieces that are about 1×3 inches.

2. On a rimmed cookie sheet, combine all ingredients. Slather on the tofu. Bake on 350 for 20 mins, flipping half way. Cut to thin threads (about the width of a chop stick).

Quick Pickled Carrots

Ingredients

2 carrots, julienned (cut long and thin)

¼ cup brown rice vinegar

couple drops sesame oil

salt to taste

Procedure

1. Combine ingredients and let sit for at least 15 mins, up to a few days.

December 29, 2011

My Grandma Clea on How-To Make Raviolis

by Jen Wanous

Ah, the holidays. It’s a time like none other to come together with relatives and chosen friend families alike. We risk our cozy comfort zones for the promise of the magic we find in connecting with others. There is so much hope (and quite a lot of pressure, too). There is the gift-giving, the long travel days, the money issues, the inevitable tensions and, of course, the self-medication (food, alcohol, shopping, TV-watching, Xanax, you name it). Congratulations, you have survived!

Through all of the stress that surrounds holidays, perfect moments peek out. So many times I’ve wished I had a camera in my hand to capture these moments: my niece growing from a toddler into a Justin Beber-obsessed girl, for instance, or my mom recounting stories of my family’s history. In 2004 I spent the last Christmas with my grandmother and happened to record one such moment. We made our traditional raviolis for Christmas Eve dinner. In the video, my grandmother explains how to make the pasta and (with some prying) the filling—as well as how not to dry out the “noodle dough.”

As the oldest of two in a first-generation Italian family in New York City, my Grandma Clea thrived, survived her many bumps in life’s road, and still managed to answer the phone with a cheery, “Good afternoon!” As a career seamstress and master chef she took homemaking to a professional level. After she moved to Florida, I visited her in the summer months and we spent time mapping out road trips, exploring new places, and visiting friends and family. If I was lucky, we would stop and get Reese’s peanut butter cup sundaes at Friendly’s. We packed lunches with plums and nectarines wrapped in paper towels. We made homemade ice cream with rock salt. And the special treat for breakfast was always French toast.

Multiple sclerosis slowly claimed her active life. I was so blessed to be with her the day she passed in the 84th year of her life. I miss the times when I would call her to ask how to make a meatloaf or other times just to hear about how she was feeling. My grandma Clea is my greatest culinary inspiration and her raviolis are perfection stuffed into a pocket of pasta, memories of which will always fill me.

My grandma Clea would always bring people together with her food and it’s her spirit of culinary adventure and culinary love that continues to inspire me on my path.

December 8, 2011

Sweetening the Deal – How to integrate natural sugars and why

by Jen Wanous

The other night, I was perusing (desperately searching) the isles of Trader Joe’s for a sweet treat. This was not a time when an apple or any other non-crack-like sugar would do. I went for the dark chocolate covered marshmallows…seasonally peppermint, of course. I proceeded to eat nearly the entire box. I say “nearly” because I offered a few to friends, who just had one or two, and I left two, so that I didn’t eat the entire box.  Dizzy and crashing hard soon after, I realized (yet again) that this needed to stop.

Sugar is so addictive! I’ve been struggling with regulating my sugar intake for years. It’s a vicious cycle that feeds into itself: starting with just a piece of pie and then, before you know it, you’re in a dark ally looking to score a Twix hit. To wean myself off, I usually tell myself no chocolate for one week, no refined sugar for one week and then usually I’m back on track and not totally obsessed.

In culinary school, we learned the origins of sugar and its effects on the body. Refined white sugar is the extracted juice of sugar cane or beet sugar. It goes through an intense series of high-heat filtration processes that strips it of all color and most nutrients. The product is then pure sucrose, which is a simple carbohydrate and can easily throw your body’s balance out of whack. Here is an explanation from the founder of my school, Annemarie Colbin in her book, Food and Healing:

To metabolize refined sugar, [the body] draws the missing companion nutrients (needed in the digestive process) from other sources. These sources can be either other foods present in the same meal or the body’s own tissues. for that reason, when we consume straight white sugar, we lose B vitamins, calcium, iron and other nutrients directly from our own reserves. This siphoning effect of sugar is also what lies behind the gnawing hunger it can produce in some people; since the hunger is for the missing elements- fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, water-it can provoke great binges as the sugar eater searches to satisfy it.

One way to help your body out is to eat sweeteners that are closer to their natural state. These sweeteners below have more of their natural vitamins, mineral and fiber intact – they are also more flavorful. I have also included some technical baking information on how to use the sweeteners as a substitute for white sugar. Most of the liquid sweeteners, you need less of and you need to increase the baking powder. This information is from the baking master: Chef Elliot at the Natural Gourmet Institute.

Brown Rice Syrup – is half as sweet as white sugar

  • Baked goods made with rice syrup tend to be hard or very crisp. Use in cookies, crisps, granola, pies and puddings. Substitute 1 1/3 cups for every one-cup of white sugar. Per cup of rice syrup, reduce liquid by ¼ cup and add ¼ teaspoon baking soda.

Date Sugar – ground, dehydrated dates

  • Can substitute like amounts for white sugar. Can use in crisps, some baked goods and sprinkled as a topping. Careful as it tends to burn easily.

Natural Cane Sugars – Sucanat (pure dehydrated cane sugar) and Rapadura

  • Relatively low cost; Use one for one of white sugar. Replace ¼ teaspoon baking soda per cup Sucanat.

Honey – 20% – 60% sweeter than sugar

  • Can use in all baked goods. Use ½ the amount called for in white sugar. For each ½ cup of honey used, reduce liquid by ¼ cup but if there is no liquid, add 3-4 tablespoons of flour. Also add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda and reduce the oven temperature by 25°.

Maple Sugar – is from dehydrated maple syrup. Con is that it’s very expensive.

  • Can use in all baked goods. Use one for one for white or brown sugar. Per cup of maple sugar, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda.

Maple Syrup – it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup (that’s why it’s so expensive!)

  • Can use in all baked goods. Substitute 2/3 to 3/4 cup of maple syrup per cup of white sugar. Per cup of maple syrup: reduce liquid by 3 tablespoons and add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.

Other alternative sweeteners include: agave(preferably low-heat processed), coconut sugar and stevia.

Sweeteners to Avoid:

-Artificial sweeteners like: Splenda, Equal and Sweet’n Low

-Brown sugar (is just white sugar with molasses added back in)

-White granulated sugar

-High-fructose corn syrup

‘Tis the season to cut down on refined sugar! Not likely, but here are a couple non-refined sugar cookie recipes that you can add to your mix this year.

Peanut Butter Balls

These couldn’t be easier to make: no baking required! It’s fun for little helpers to make too. Yields about 20 balls.

Ingredients

1 cup natural peanut butter (creamy or chunky, your choice)

1/3 cup honey

¼ – ½ teaspoon salt (depending on your taste and weather or not your PB is salted already)

1 cup crisp rice cereal (I used “Koala Crisp”)

Coco powder or powdered sugar for sprinkling (hey, it’s only a little bit. ;)

Procedure

1. Add the salt to the honey then, in a large bowl, combine with the peanut butter. Add the rice cereal at the end.

2. Using a tablespoon or mini ice cream scooper, scoop out batter and roll in the palm of your hand.

3. Using a fine mesh strainer, add coco powder or powder sugar, holding above the balls and tap the side of the strainer gently until they are covered.

 

Almond Cranberry Cookies

Yield 20 cookies.

Ingredients

1 ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour (can use regular flour too)

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, room temp

1 cup sucanat

1 egg

1 teaspoon almond extract

zest of one tangerine or clementine or orange

¼ cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup slivered almonds

Procedure

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease two cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.

3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sucant until fluffy (about 5 mins). Add the egg and beat for one more minute. Add the almond extract and zest. Next, on medium speed, add the dry ingredients, gradually, doing 1/3 at a time. Once combine, manually stir in the cranberries and almonds (so you keep their shape intact).

4. On your prepared cookie sheet, place about 2 tablespoons of dough. Bake for 8-10 minutes until light brown. Remove from the cookie sheet and place on a cooling rack.

November 22, 2011

The Story of How I Recovered Ruby – plus a Turkey Day leftovers recipe

by Jen Wanous

There is nothing like pumpkin pie that gets you thinking about all the things you are grateful for.

This year, one thing I am thankful for is a stolen item being returned to me. You see, this past summer, my 1980’s red bike, Ruby, was stolen from her U-locked spot on a busy Brooklyn street. I was so bummed; my gem of a bike was gone. Walking was way overrated and slow. Since the theft happened two weeks before my birthday, I had a: “Get Jen a New Bike for Her Birthday” fundraiser. The outpouring of support from friends and family heartened me. With over a dozen supporters backing me, I found Dusty Rose my new pink rider, the exact same make and model as her darker hued predecessor, Ruby. With summer in full effect, I was back on two wheels, cycling through the city.

I would sometimes think of Ruby and wonder where she was. My eye would catch on red bikes, and I even perused Craig’s List thinking someday I would find her. Well, that day came when one night I was walking on Flatbush Ave., one block from where she was last parked. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her. She mustered out a wink from the grime-covered stars on her handlebars. I stopped dead in my tracks, hardly believing my eyes. Much more dirty and now with a thick link chain wrapped around her, there was no doubt about it, that was my Ruby!

Overjoyed, I thought through the options that were before me. I could either a) get the cops involved and get her back, b) stake out the location and confront the thief, or c) let it go, and avoid any potential drama. I posted these options on Facebook and had an overwhelming response for option A. With friends and family urging me along, I marched into the local precinct, proclaiming that I had recovered stolen property! The uniformed woman at the desk hardly looked up, scoffing in that beastly bureaucratic way, where you know the odds are against you. She didn’t want to hear about how the bell is the same silver one or see the picture of my dog in the basket. She said that I had to have a receipt with a serial number to prove ownership. Since that didn’t exist, I decided to take the law into my own hands.

With the best lock money can buy, I went over to Ruby and reclaimed her as mine, locking her frame to a pole. I left a note that read: “Hi-this is my bike that was stolen. I want to avoid getting the cops involved. Remove your lock if you want to save it.” Low and behold, the next day, I went back and the bulky chain of conquest had been removed. Ruby was mine again!

Reconciling loss is no easy task. Even with replacements, you still miss the original that your heart fell for. With a deep tenacity of spirit and the support of loved ones, it is possible to discover hope in new openings of opportunity. And when the rare opportunity presents itself to take back what is yours, you fight for it. I have learned many lessons about loss in my life and I am so thankful to have this experience of recovery as part of my story.

Pumpkin Curry with Turkey

Here is an answer for what to do with some of your leftover turkey. This Asian-inspired dish gives a spicy American nod to the festive season. You can use any left over vegetables to add in. You can also easily use baked tofu for a veggie alternative.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

16 oz coconut milk

16 oz pumpkin puree

½ cup broth or water

2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 hearty pinch ground nutmeg

1 hearty pinch cayenne (could be more, up to you:)

ground pepper to taste

juice of one lemon

1 cup cooked, pulled turkey

1 cup kale (or other green vegetable)

cilantro for garnish

Procedure:

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until glassy, to really release the flavor. Add coconut milk, pumpkin, and broth until combine. Add seasonings: curry paste, salt, soy sauce, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, pepper and lemon. Then add the turkey and kale. Bring to a boil, simmer for five minutes.

2. Serve with brown rice or soba noodles. Garnish with cilantro.

November 1, 2011

How to Have a DIY Spa Day

by Jen Wanous

At the first sight of snow, I retreated indoors for a DIY (do it yourself) spa day. Who better to do this with than two of my lady friends? We watched the snow fall out the window and shook our heads in disbelief. It was October after all. Who said it could snow before Halloween!? Cozied up on the couch, warm rose and chamomile tea in-hand, we let the easy conversation of friendship guide us on our day of self care.

We each brought a selection of pampering treats to share. I packed my bag with a mineral mask, Goddess taro cards, and a bunch of kale. My friend Aimee brought a homemade coffee body scrub. (It smelled divine and worked well to moisturize our skin.) Gretchen hosted and prepared a grounding root vegetable soup. Together, we helped nourish each other from the inside and out.

It seems so indulgent to block out an entire day for self-care but the restorative effects can reverberate for weeks. Your body deserves indulgent relaxation to heal from the stressors of everyday life. Your mind and heart need time to be in communion with friends to restore your perspective.

Below are some ideas on how to make the most out of your own spa day. I have also included  Aimee’s salt scrub recipe and a great aftershave tonic that is much cheaper than its beauty store counterparts. Even if you can just do one special spa-like thing for yourself, do it, offering gratitude to your body.

 DIY Spa Ideas 

  • Take a bath, as the water drains out, feel what you are energetically letting go of
  • Yoga- bust out your mat and do a few sun salutations
  • Do free writes on what you’re grateful for or what your soul goals are
  • Mani/Pedi- bring colors to share- your same-old pink could be your friend’s new fave
  • Watch woman-power movies. eg, Steel Magnolias; Thelma and Louise; She Devil; 9 to 5 or Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Give yourself or a friend a taro card reading
  • Cook a healthy meal together

 Coffee Body Scrub 

Courtesy of Ms.Aimee Brown

1/2 cup coffee grounds
2-3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons sea salt
1/3 cup brown or cane sugar
few drops of essential oil (try peppermint for a nice thin mint cookie / refreshing vibe)

It is easy to substitute a different oil or more/less salt and sugar depending on your desired consistency.

Shake well before using, ingredients will separate. Rub in circular motion on wet skin to exfoliate then rinse well.

 Aftershave Tonic 

This is an old gem I’ve made for years. When applied after hair removal, it wards off irritation. It does sting a little bit but the sting goes away quickly. You can even try a dab on a pesky pimple to dry it out.

30 uncoated or light coated aspirin
8 ounces rubbing alcohol
5 ounces  witch hazel

Crush the aspirin in a mortal and pestle, coffee grinder, or in a zip lock and roll a rolling pin over it. Crush until it is the consistency of a fine powder. Combine with liquids. Shake well before each use. Rinse hands after use.

October 18, 2011

Reflections on a Year’s Supply of Bacon

by Jen Wanous

Bacon changed my life.

It’s not often we’re handed pivotal moments on a platter… but one fateful day, one year ago, I won the Bacon Takedown of New York City. This set me on an irreversible path of culinary adventure.

I took the competition with my California-inspired concoction of goat’s milk avocado ice cream topped with candied bacon and sea salt. It was an ode to my home state and my favorite animal product, pork. I was an underdog novice and didn’t think I’d stand a chance against the reigning champ and fresh, fried bacon doughnuts. With a bright pink t-shirt proclaiming, “Bacon is the New Black,” in iron-on letters, I wowed the bulk of the 300 tasters who voted my dish their favorite against 22 others.

Part of my prize was a year’s supply of bacon, which quickly became my ingredient du resistance for the next 12 months. Dinner parties, potlucks, cupcakes and even Christmas stockings were tinged with the good grace of bacon. However, more than an endless supply of the rich pork product, I received an invitation to actualize my long-coveted dream of becoming a chef: the win was the universe saying, “Cook! Like, for real!”

Just after the competition, I remember sitting on the subway… coming home from my job managing events… still high from the thrill of the win… and I thought, If this one thing can bring me so much joy, I’ve gotta go for it! What was I waiting for?

I listened to the message. Just one month after the takedown I resigned from my job; 60 days after that I started culinary school. Now, after a 12-month whirlwind, my business card says, “Freelance Chef.” I love how life sends signals. I got it, loud and clear.

Today, at the annual event, I handed over my crown and sat in as an expert judge. It was an honor to be back in that role, tasked with deciphering which dish was most quintessentially bacon. The competition was stiff but I swooned for a bacon-wrapped s’more. It was the perfect salty pairing for this camping classic.

Navigating the world now, I know I’m one step further along the path of actualizing myself because I had the courage to listen to my heart (and the universe). The path isn’t always clear or easy, but it unveils many gifts along the way (some in the form of a BLT). I will anticipate the signs I know must lay ahead… trusting their returns will be just as savory.

I have included the recipe from my auspicious creation below. Enjoy.

Baco Avo Goat-Lato

(serves six)

Goat’s Milk Avocado Ice Cream

3 cups goat’s milk

1 cup goat’s yogurt

1 cup sugar

3-4 avocados

1 pinch sea salt

Procedure:

Combine all ingredients until smooth in a blender. Chill in the refrigerator until 40 degrees. Set according to your ice cream maker’s settings (about 15 minutes).

Candied Bacon Topping

1 pound bacon

1 cup dark brown sugar

Fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of coarse sea salt

Procedure:

Set oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cover bacon with brown sugar and pepper. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes (until a yummy-looking caramel dark brown color). Let cool and then chop.

Top the ice cream with the bacon topping and add a generous pinch of coarse sea salt.

October 3, 2011

Where the Magic Happens

by Jen Wanous

It’s not everyday that you have the opportunity to meet a star. Friday night I went to the Food Network’s Food and Wine Festival in New York. I was there as a culinary volunteer for their annual “Burger Bash”. There, twenty of the city’s top restaurants were set up in stations and served bites of their burgers for a ‘best in show’ award. I was set up with a Brooklyn staple, Bark. I was working with a small crew flipping buns and cranking out burgers for 600 people an hour!

It is in the places where we push ourselves outside of what is comfortable that really special things happen. I barely motivated to ride my bike down to the event on that dreery Friday night. It would have been a whole lot easier to stay home with my puppy and watch Project Runway–but I rallied and tried something new–and look–magic happened–I met Whoopi!

The challenge then is to be open to the opportunities around you; say yes a little more and have radical trust that the universe will take care of you (usually with magical things).

Here is a quote that a friend recently shared with me. It was a good reminder for me and I hope it is for you too. Of course, “God” can be replaced with whatever serves you.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I have included a recipe for a warming soup to fill you and ground you through this change of season. As always, be gentle with yourself too. Enjoy.

Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup

Serves: 6 – 1 cup servings

Preparation Time: 8 hours  Cook Time: 1 hour 

Ingredients:

1 cup dried white beans, (Great Northern or Cannellini)*Soak for at least 8 hours

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 onions, small dice (1½ cup)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 sprig rosemary, minced (1 teaspoon) or 1 heaping teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

3 carrots, small dice (1 pound)

2 stalks of celery, small dice (½ pound)

1 pound kale, remove the stems, coarsely chop

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Parmesan, grated to taste (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

1.  In a medium pot, cover the beans with water and soak over night, or at least eight hours.  Drain and rinse the beans then return to the pot.  Cover with two inches of water, add salt and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

2.  While the beans are cooking, in a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and some salt stirring until the onions look glassy.  Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for 3-5 minutes more, being careful not to brown the garlic.

3.  Add in the stock, carrots and celery.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add in the beans.  Cook for 20 more minutes.  The beans should be tender.  In the last 10 minutes, add kale.

4. Top with fresh parsley and parmesan and serve with warm crusty bread.

June 27, 2011

Working Together to Create a Memorable Meal

by Jen Wanous

A Japanese and Peruvian fusion meal was the culminating experience of my culinary education, thus far.  As part of our final, our culinary cohort of eight had to plan a dinner for 100.  The dinner ran smoothly and Annie even ate the seaweed and cherry spring roll.  Coming from the event planning world, I know that these types of gatherings take a lot of front loading. The pay offs are all in the smiles of your guests, as you stack chairs and save flower arrangements.

As the co-team leader of the group, I had the tricky job of facilitating consensus, or at least majority  (as the NY State Senate can attest, it is a possible task).  With eight refined and diverse pallets, we managed to come up with a sophisticated and flavorful meal for our guests.  Through the process, I was reminded of some basic yet profound approaches to working with others.  Although it is a struggle to follow these guidelines at all times, they have helped me to keep perspective in a wide array of situations.

1.  Have integrity with what you say.  Avoid gossiping and say only what you mean.

2.  Don’t take anything personally.  Nothing others do is because of you.  You never know what someone is dealing with from their past, or even what just happened that morning for them.

3.  Don’t make assumptions.  Express what you really want and communicate clearly with others to avoid misunderstandings.

4.  Always do your best.   You can always do your best. This applies to the hard stuff as well as simply taking good care of yourself.

These are adapted from the Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz.  You can find the book by clicking here.  

Here are some pictures of our team on the night of the dinner.

Citrus Salad with Daikon

This salad was served as an appetizer for our dinner.  Its tangy sweetness is the perfect light pallet pleaser for summer.  If you don’t feel up for the pickle, just leave it out.  Enjoy!

Pickle:

1/4 pound daikon, thinly sliced

1/2 cup golden balsamic (or apple cider vinegar)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Salad:

1 pink grapefruit

2 oranges

1 fennel, very thinly sliced

1/4 pound micro greens

Dressing:

1 lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1.  Place daikon on a paper towel and salt generously.  Set aside for about 45 mins.  Blot dry, in a small bowl, add vinegar and salt, set aside for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

2. Peel and thinly slice grapefruit and oranges into 1/8 inch thick round circles.

3.  Make the vinaigrette by combining the lemon and mustard and slowly drizzling in the olive oil while whisking.  (remember the slow drizzle while whisking is key to a good dressing. ;)

4.  Toss the micro greens with the dressing to coat.  Lay out the the slices of grapefruit and orange, layer with the fennel and pickled daikon.  Top with the dressed micro greens.

June 13, 2011

Health and Well-being: The Spiritual Side of Culinary School

by Jen Wanous

It’s hard to believe, but this is my last month of school.  The heat has really been turned up as I have been preparing for our final dinner for 100 guests and have been working in some of NYC’s top kitchens, trying to secure an internship.  Long days that turn into nights have me delirious and wobbly on my feet.  Yes, I love to be working with food…but it is dang hard work!  Through all of this, I have come to rely on some unlikely lessons I have recently learned in school to get me through.

A big component of our curriculum at school is food and its link to health.  We have gone over the basics in nutrition and have also gone deeper with different theories of healing through food.  Macrobiotic is an approach to physical and emotional wellness through food and philosophy.  Below, I have outlined the ten conditions of health according to the founder of macrobiotics, George Ohsawa.

Getting a solid night’s sleep and gently practicing the other conditions have really helped me get through this grueling time.  In alignment with the ninth condition, I would like to thank you all, who read my blog and support me in following my passion.  I hope that you too can find health and well being through taking good care of your body and mind.  You are certainly worth it.

Ten Conditions of Health

1.  Good appetite.  Things that might interfere with this are caffeine, snacking, skipping meals, too much sugar and alcohol.  Also, don’t eat when you are worried or angry.

2.  Good sleep.  What time do you need to go to bed to get eight hours of sleep?  Avoid late-night eating; try not to eat three hours before bed.

3.  No fatigue. Pace yourself and listen to your body when it needs rest.  When you start to feel sick or you injure yourself, slow down and take it easy.

4.  Good memory.  The very basic of this ensures our survival.  Remember how you felt the last time you ate something.

5.  Good humor. Don’t take yourself or life too seriously.

6.  Precision in thought and action. 

7.  Honesty.  Be honest with yourself and others.

8.  Humility.  Be open to not knowing and to learning.  It is okay to not know something.

9.  Gratitude.  Have trust in the universe that there is an infinite amount of abundance.  When you start appreciating the good things, even small, more good will come.

10.  Love.  First yourself, and then others.  Accept yourself as you are and be open to this connection with others.

 

To learn more about macrobiotics, follow this link.