Happy New Year!

I’ve sat down to write at least three times in the past two weeks and something (or someone) has pulled me away, but at long last the radio silence is over!

My big project for 2017 is going to be focusing on charitable giving. Now as you may know, I’m a chef, and I’ll let you in on a little secret, we are not rolling in the dough (that just gets messy). What I can do though is give my time, and cook. Thankfully Chef Traci over at Succulent Catering is into this idea so we’re teaming up on a couple of projects, with more to come. We’ve been donating extra food to the homeless and firefighters for years (not completely connected, but I do want my firefighters well fed).

In our November planning meeting for the next quarter we laid out a short list of causes we feel passionate about and while there was some cross over, we each have a cause that we are focusing on at the moment. Chef Traci’s passion is seniors and we are cooking (see what I did there??) up a plan to offer lunch to the seniors living at Pike Place Market once a month. As for me, I have a big event coming up in a couple of weeks.

On January 26 we will be hosting an Aid for Syria fundraiser and auction at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. I wanted to be able to donate more than just a piddly little $20 to provide some relief to what’s happening in the region so I decided to invite 100 people to join me to donate. I’m so terrified about it. I’ll be honest, there’s a reason I’m a cook. People terrify me, but what’s happening in our world scares me more and I feel compelled to do something.

Other than that I’m updating the Wallingford Culinary Studio calendar this week and planning delicious classes. We have a new private dining room space so we’ll be adding some onsite dinners to our repertoire. AND I just heard there’s a new casual Louisiana style restaurant opening up near our kitchen, so I’m pretty sure that’s on my agenda this month too. I have to do some research for our Mardi Gras Dinner in February!

Hello? Yes, hello.

Well, hello there. It’s been a while hasn’t it? 2016 has been a wild year for me. Divorce, job change(s), new relationship, raising three teenagers, needing to regress twenty years and get a roommate to make the paychecks stretch a little farther, and the rest of life all caught up in the mix. It’s sort of like when you look in the fridge and make dinner with whatever’s in there. Sometimes it’s a winner and sometimes it’s good enough. That’s kind of what 2016 has been like over here.

Highlights have been trying (what I thought) was my dream job and realizing it wasn’t. Hosting the third year of the Nelson Ranch Farm dinner; five of the best friends in the whole world volunteered their time and hard work to make it the most amazing one yet. Seeing all three of my kids enter high school (and realizing I have four more years of them being children). I’ve also reconnected with my niece that I’ve been estranged from for three years, hearing her voice each week over the phone brings me joy, and I am hopeful for her again. I met a man that has a boat, loves to build fires, and smoke meat. It looks like we’ve stumbled upon something really special.

So many other ups and downs, food was made and bread was baked to heal the sad days and celebrate the good ones.

My latest adventure is part of an old one. I’ve taken a full time position as sous chef for Succulent Catering here in Seattle, Chef Traci and I have worked together for a few years and we compliment each other in the best ways. Our other adventure together is building a cooking school, currently called Wallingford Culinary School, but the name may change slightly to better suit our intent. We both love food, and even more to share food with others. Food provides comfort, sustenance, and even more, as Chef Traci said in a recent interview, “food is love.”

Live the Life You Love

Live the life you love, and don’t be afraid of the work it takes to have it. That is the lesson I’ve been working on lately.

I hear so much about the journey of coming to the realization of what is the life you love, yet not much gets said about what happens once you’re on the path. You find the dream, you start the path, and at some point it becomes a lot of effort to sustain the dream.

I’m finding myself in a transition from the excitement of school and delving into a career path that I feel excited about, to the nitty gritty of what it takes to sustain this path. It’s not always fun (work is work after all) but keeping my eyes on the prize of learning everything there is to learn about this phase to make the next phase and the next phase after that even better, that’s a skill worth learning.

Grit, sisu, determination, I’m digging a little deeper to keep it going, because the goal is worth it, even when walking the path means sweeping away the pebbles to get over the boulders that come next.

Farm Lunch

So it happened, and it was good, great even-although it’s taken me a week to get around to posting about it! The photos I have are limited unfortunately, there are more to come, but I was too busy cooking and organizing to take any myself so I’ll post what I have received so far.

The final menu was:

Appetizers (served on slates on the welcome table, which was made from a piece of Garry Oak that my cousin lovingly saved from a downed tree on the property.)

  • Crostini topped with beef liver pate and roasted red pepper–Bread Peddler baguette, Nelson Ranch beef
  • Beef tongue with horseradish creme fraichez–Nelson Ranch beef

Salads

  • Summer Squash Salad–Kirsop Farm squash
  • Red and Yellow Beets–Kirsop Farm beets, garlic, and parsley
  • Simple Greens with black walnut mustard vinaigrette–Kirsop Farm salad mix, red onions, and radishes
  • Pain au Levain and Brittany Rye bread with herb compound butter–Bread Peddler

Entree

  • Assorted roasts of beef over slow cooked kale and chard with braised sweet onions–Nelson Ranch beef, Kirsop Farm greens and onions
  • Quinoa pilaf–Rocky Prairie Vineyard peppers
  • Roasted carrots–Kirsop farm carrots

Dessert

  • Apple Galettes–Nelson Ranch apples
  • Plum Flaugnarde–Nelson Ranch green gage plums, Wells Farm yellow gage plums

Each course was paired with a different wine from Stottle Winery. It was truly a community experience as not only did most of the food come from the Nelson Ranch or it’s neighbors, but the servers were also guests. Two people had been identified from each table prior to lunch, and they brought platters for each course and collected used plates and brought out new ones for each course. Several people helped in the kitchen washing dishes or doing other tasks over the two days we had to prepare for the meal, it was so fun to be a part of this team of generous people.

Nelson ranch 037 appetizersplum custard beet salad

 

Kitchen Organization

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I helped a friend reorganize her kitchen yesterday and am heading back today to do some more for her and her family, it’s an interesting process. Having known this friend for about 20 years I am familiar with many of her quirks and habits and understand many of her problem areas in the kitchen. She’s married and has three kids, no dishwasher, loves to cook, spends a large part of her day in her small kitchen with limited counter tops, and she loves tea. When I say she loves tea, I mean really.loves.tea. The have a cabinet full of tea and packages of tea cover a significant part of the counter, and several beautiful tea pots which sit on the counter and typically only one gets used with any regularity. When I asked her if she had any tea that was older than six months, her reply was, “no.” To add to that her husband loves snacks, every time he goes to the grocery store he comes back with more snacks, even if they don’t need them. The have snacks in several different parts of the kitchen, making it difficult to asses what they do have. To get started on this reorganization we stood in the kitchen and talked about each of the problem areas. Dishes, snacks, tea, special dishes that get used once a year maybe were using up a significant portion of usable shelf space, while under the cabinet storage that is typically blocked by a garbage can and cutting board are used to store grains and legumes. The cabinet with grains and legumes also has a moth problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Shortage of storage and counter space for a family of five is a significant issue. Day One

  • Cleaned off the counter tops, put everything on the kitchen table, and gave everything a good scrub.
  • Emptied grain and legume cabinet, gave that a good scrub and moved seldom used dishes to the lower shelf. The legumes went on the top shelf there, but in a significantly better organized manner so they are easy to find.
  • All of the snacks went into two organized bins that went on the top of the refrigerator, one of the few areas that was easily cleaned and organized.

Recommendations

  • bins for tea, and a moratorium on buying new tea until it would all fit into the cupboard (not an easy request for this family).
  • stackable storage for another cabinet that contains miscellaneous baking equipment to allow for more usable space in a tall cabinet.
  • pull out drawers for deep cupboards to provide easier access to things in the back
  • height and containers are your friend for kitchen organization!

Day Two

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Coming back with fresh eyes was crucial to finish this project.

  • Cleaned out two cabinets with a variety of baking products, condiments, and a variety of other items.
  • Consolidated and arranged foods by their uses and types to make it easier to visualize what was on hand to avoid more over buying.
  • Shopped for organizational products to help with the organization. Despite planning and  measuring, some items needed to be returned, while others worked out better than originally planned, flexibility is important in this process.

Recommendations

Continuing to maintain organization that suits the needs of you and your household. That means finding solutions that work for you, which may not be what others find useful. I found some of the solutions, plastic bins for example, would work for me personally, but they didn’t work for my friend. When you find a system that works for you stick to it, but stay vigilant. Keeping organized is an ongoing process. For this family the #1 recommendation I made was keep like with like, that prevents over buying and ultimately food waste. That’s good for your budget and good for the planet, two things that are at the top of my list of reasons for staying organized in the kitchen. I will continue to consult for this family as they learn to use and develop further systems to keep their kitchen organized.

Update

The initial start has inspired my friend to organize her tea and spices in a way that has surprised us both. She admitted her tea cabinet was out of hand and upgraded from her old spice bottles, which while cute, didn’t have a lot of function once the cabinet became so cluttered.

We went from:

Cluttered countertops, spices, tea, and snacks overflowing onto the counter. Seldom used special dishes and tea pots on shelves and countertops that can be used for everyday items…

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To:

Bins for organizing cupboards, making what’s inside easier to see and therefore use. Moving infrequently used items to less usable cupboard space and moving everyday items into easy to access space. That process lead to clean countertops and more work space for cooking. Making good use of storage prevents food loss and makes cooking more pleasurable.

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