My year (and then some) in review!

A month or so ago, while a bear was stealing our delicious double-smoked bacon, my blog passed it’s one year blog-iversary! I’m very late in doing a recap. Please forgive me!

I guess if there is one thing you should know about me, I’m “chronologically challenged.” To any potential or current employers, of course, I’m only kidding. To the rest of you, I will be late for my own funeral. I think it’s genetic.

Moving on!

This year has been an amazing, wonderful, roller-coaster adventure ride! As I look through the pictures on my computer and the ones etched on my heart, I’m humbled at how richly I’ve been blessed. I have met many incredible people, taken a crazy number of cooking classes, and been fortunate enough to meet some amazing Chefs!

One of the biggest blessings from the last year is a great friendship with someone who goes along on foodie adventures, encourages every foodie whim, finds awesome opportunities and when we’re out, she never eats until I’ve taken pictures of her food. 🙂 Thanks Marie!
This is her, hiding behind a basket she won at the O.C. Chocolate Festival VIP party!
She is totally made of awesome sauce!

With over 30 cooking classes in the past 13 months, I have learned to make things like classic French Macarons (I never knew cookies could have “feet!”), risotto, rolled meatloaf, cake pops, doughnuts, pickles, frittatas, strawberry jam, potato wrapped fish, crepes, foccacia bread, Provençal chicken, grilled pizza dough, hand-made pasta and how to use chocolate in a variety of things! Like I need an excuse for that last one, right? HA! There were a couple of classes that were terrible, but in the end, they ALL taught me something. Even if that something was what NOT to do when I have my own cooking classes. 😉

Some of the best things I learned to make on my own this year, either through the internet, cookbook or a recipe from a Chef, have been vanilla extract, gallettes – both sweet and savory, bangers and mash, homemade chicken pot pie, pumpkin pie from real pumpkins, melted snowman cookies, root beer float cookies for ice cream sandwiches, chocolate dipped potato chip cookies, hot wings, cheesecake stuffed strawberries, spicy baked rigatoni, egg rolls, fish tacos, lemon curd, avocado fries, potato pancakes, seared scallops, jicima slaw, Julia’s beef bourgeon, quinoa salad and a copy cat version of Northwoods Inn Cabbage Salad. Yep, it’s been a delicious year!

I’ve followed a dozen Chefs around the Santa Monica Farmers Market through The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories – Follow That Chef series! They each imparted wisdom, great experiences and taught me how to make my own Ricotta cheese (Thank you Chef Jeremy!) how to make raw spring rolls (Thanks Kirsten Gum!) all about Lardoons (Thank you Linda Civitello!) how to make my own chorizo (Thank you Chef Paul Osher!) about fantastic Thai vegetarian dishes (Thank you Michael Natkin!) how to poach salmon in oil and make a plate look stunning (Thank you MasterChef Tracy Kontos!) different ways to enjoy heirloom tomatoes (Thank you Gwen Kenneally) not to be afraid of Kale Chips and beet salad (Thank you Suzanne Landry!) and so much more!!!

I’ve gotten autographed cookbooks from: Gwen Kenneally, Michael Natkin, Joy Wilson, Suzanne Landry, Warren Catterson, Laura Werlin, Tyler Florence, Mario Batali, and Guy Fieri! Even more exciting, I’ve met each of them, with the exception of Mario Batali, Tyler Florence and Warren Catterson. Warren and I are in the same food bloggers group on FB and we’ve chatted before, but, Mario and Tyler, if you want to meet for coffee somewhere, I’m Ok with that too! 😀

I’ve had fantastic “food experiences” this year! The IE food truck festival, the O.C. Chocolate Festival, LA Food and Wine (the first year), Brew ‘B’ Que on the Pier, The Share Our Strength Bake Sale, Taste of the Nation – Los Angeles, an audition for a TV show, LA Food and Wine (the sequel), just to name a few.

Most importantly this year, I’ve learned to be fearless in my own kitchen! I’ve developed a passion for trying different foods, cooking with fresh, natural ingredients and experiencing LIFE in each delicious moment.

These are opportunities and things I NEVER would have imagined if I hadn’t started this blogging journey last year. Next year, I’ll be taking you along to more places, more classes and more events! I’m so excited about what the next few months have in store! I’m especially looking forward to many, many new foodie adventures and I hope you’ll be joining me for each of them!

P.S. Did I mention I met Guy Fieri…. TWICE! SQUEEEEE!!


Follow That Chef – Suzanne Landry

The last Saturday in August proved to be another gorgeous day in Santa Monica! We were excited to meet another Chef to follow around the Market! You know how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Santa Monica Farmers Market and when you add a great Chef to the mix, it’s a Win-Win!

Meet Suzanne Landry – Fresh Food Chef and Educator and her equally talented son, Chef Aaron Steinbach! I love this quote from Suzanne’s web page : “Good health is within your reach. The road to good health is a joyous journey of learning. Our bodies gently teach us each step of the way. We need only to listen and learn.”

We listened and learned quite a bit as we followed Chef Suzanne around the market, starting with strawberries!

Did you know the smaller berries are sweeter? They are better for you too! Those big berries we all know and love, are processed with chemicals, we don’t all know and love! I’ll take smaller berries and locally grown from now on, thank you!

Suzanne taught us about honey and how to make sure it’s pure, not cut with corn syrup! I learn something new every time we follow a chef!

We got back to The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories, where Suzanne showed us how to make Cheesy Kale Chips.

OH MY GOODNESS! These are so delicious! She described them as tasting like the crispy corners of your baked macaroni and cheese casserole. You know what? She was right! Here is how they looked before going into the oven:

One of the tricks to making these Cheesy Kale Chips, is to use BIG pieces of Kale. Suzanne told us they will shrink more than 60%, so bigger is better in this case. Seriously, you have to try these! I’d eat them instead of potato chips any day! Here is Suzanne’s recipe:

Cheesy Kale Chips

Yum…yum…yum…yum…that’s all I have to say other than I know you won’t be able to stop at one.

1 head curly leaf kale

1 cup raw cashews (soaked for 1 hour), drained

1 whole red pepper, seeded and diced

1 lemon, juiced

¼ cup nutritional yeast

½ tsp. sea salt

1 clove garlic minced

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Optional: extra virgin olive oil.

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Strip kale leaves from stem. Whatever stem remains on top is tender enough to eat. Reserve stems for juicing or soup stock. Wash, drain and spin dry kale. Place in large bowl.

2. In a blender, add red pepper, salt and lemon juice. Blend until liquid. Add cashews and remaining ingredients. Blend on high until you get a very smooth consistency. There should be no lumps of nuts in this sauce.

3. Gently, massage the kale with both hands to soften the leaves. Now add the cream and massage the kale with the sauce until all kale is coated.

4. Place on cookie sheet on single layer. Use 2-3 cookie sheets if necessary. Place in oven and bake for 2 hours. If you have a dehydrator then place on racks and dehydrate for 12 hours.

Note: It is nutritionally better to soak the nuts but not necessary for this recipe.

Out of the oven, they look like this:

Chef Suzanne and Chef Aaron made us a fantastic Tangerine and Beet Salad! Aren’t these beets pretty? They remind me of my Grandmother.

It was fun to hear both Suzanne and Aaron share their passion for good food, prepared simply! I have to agree. I completely fell in-love with the Tangerine and Beet Salad. There are just a few ingredients and I’ve already made it twice and shared with friends. It’s THAT good!

Suzanne also made us a Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad that takes perfect advantage of those gorgeous end-of-the-season Heirlooms. With the huge, homemade croutons, you’ve got a meal!

I could give you these recipes, but they’re all in Suzanne’s cookbook “The Passionate Vegetable.” You can find a copy on Amazon! It’s filled, not only with great recipes, but Suzanne’s “Bites of Insight” which teach you about food, nutrition, and ways to better your health!

She signed my copy! Squeeee!!!

The Cheesy Kale Chips, Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad and (my favorite) Tangerine and Beet Salad were all delicious! Check out Suzanne’s web page for more information about her and her fabulous cookbook!

Many thanks to Chef Suzanne and Chef Aaron for a delightful morning! There is no better way to spend a Saturday, than by living and learning about ourselves and the ways we all share in this wonderful planet! Food is the great uniter. I am looking forward to exploring more of Suzanne’s cookbook and hopefully connecting with her again in the future!

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