A Girl and her Pig & Me

2013? already, time flies! I have been a bad blogger or should I say non blogger. You know the drill, life gets busy blah blah blah. Last year I was stuck in regards to my blog, so I just let it be for a while, waiting for something to inspire me, to ignite my yearn to learn and push myself. Here it is.ImageThis lovely book was a birthday gift. I’ve been following April Bloomfield’s career, loving her path to this book and the well deserved accolades that followed its launch. I imagine myself in my 20’s, moving to New York to beg for a job at one of her restaurants. Since my 20’s were forever ago and I already did that leave home thing, I’m going to blog her entire cookbook. I know… I know… sounds familiar? Tons of people have blogged entire cookbooks and then movies were made…not what I’m after. I want to do this for a few reasons. The structure of the project will push me to blog more often. There are several recipes in this book that will require me to cook items I’ve never worked with or tasted. Mostly I want to cook with April and learn from her.

Here are the stats for this project.

Total recipes 103 = 2 per week…..ideally ūüôā finish date my birthday this year 12/28

I hope to have guests join me in the fun, fellow chefs, foodie photogs, hungry people, brave eaters, and this goes without saying…….any and all dishwashers are always welcome.

Bring on the Lambs Head!

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Home…Busy….Excited

I am home…..so happy to be here – back on the coast – in my house with my man and my dog….life is good.
My last week in Yosemite was great! James came up and lived in my dorm room with me for a few days. He got to experience my life in the Valley…..he also saw a Bear!! Check the picture below, right in the center of the shot…a cute little Bear.I’m there for months and I never see a Bear and he rolls out for a walk his first morning and see’s a Bear! ¬†not bitter…..really I’m not! ¬†Our last night was spent at the Ahwahnee and it was amazing. We were treated like royalty, beautiful room, a Birthday gift waiting for me in the room from the manager of the hotel, a box of truffles and a fruit basket, with cheese and more chocolate! A wonderful send off. If you ever get a chance to stay at this hotel…DO IT!! All the people who work there do everything they can to make your stay unforgettable.¬†The GM Brett Archer is taking great care of this beautiful historic gem and I take comfort in knowing its in his hands.

My time in the valley was very interesting. I love this place so deeply and to spend this time there was a gift. I realize now being home for a couple of weeks that I learned a lot more than¬†I thought….about people…myself… food….being isolated and braving the COLD.

Here are some photos from my last week in the valleyThis is the eastern view from Glacier Point- looking at Nevada and Vernal Falls in December!! This is where I was on my 45th birthday- not a bad spot to hang out- the road up here hasn’t been open in the winter in over 20 years.

This is the upper Bridal Veil river before it falls into the valley….Frozen. We had a little picnic here. The temp was about 59, crazy warm for December, what little snow was up there was melting fast.

James and I hiked up to Devils Bathtub – it is a natural spring that streams down the rock walls and pools into a little natural bathtub. Awesome view right at the tree line.Here is a shot of the spring water coming down the rock wallsHanging at Devils BathtubThis is my roommate and her husband…. love these two, we were at Christmas Day Dinner in Curry Village. She is seriously the nicest person I met in the Valley and I thank the stars for her! I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate.

So I’m home….now what?

I’ve been busy busy and I’ve got some exciting news to share…..soon, very soon.

Soaking up the valley

Since my time in the valley is coming to an end soon, I’m out braving the cold to see as much of it as I can. Still no snow but plenty of ice……. burr!…after awhile your face gets numb…seriously you can’t feel it. Here are some shots from my four mile stroll yesterday, it was 36 and brilliantly sunny.This is the view from our favorite camp site, yes that is the iced over Merced River……its cold.No snow…. but thin layers of ice on everything.This is over on the Curry Village side of the valley, the sun shines for about 20 minutes in the mid morning and that’s it for the whole day. It is so much colder over there. Check the shadow ice from the fence…..so cool.

This tree fell in the recent wind event we had, now it’s part of the river shore.Baby forest growing up to be tall someday.Look its me!! FREEZING…have I mentioned that its COLD.

Ok now for some food pornBon Bon’s with painted white chocolate garnishTartsTarts againTarts for days!

It’s been nice being here during the Holiday season, it’s so calm here…no malls…no traffic. Happy Monday and Happy Birthday to all my fellow December babies out there, it’s the best month to be born! …….. Julie K, Julie P, Claudia and her brand new baby boy, Chris O, Kris & Ash, Addie aka Ernie, Stella & Nico and their Nana…..kisses and hugs to you all.

A shift in the journey……

As the holidays scream upon us here in the Valley, the mood is concern. There is no snow at all. It has been slow and COLD, not many visitors. This should change soon with school being out…hopefully….but still no snow.

The work has been pretty much the same for me, lots of pancake flipping, waffle making and muffin baking. I have been allowed to work the occasional event, which by far has been my best time in the kitchen. Watching the kitchen staff plate 250 dishes in 5-6 minutes for 4 to 5 courses is very cool, precise team work at it’s best. I worked the line on a couple of courses and it was cool to be a part of it…… very cool.

Here are few pics of the last couple weeksChocolate Spice Cake topped with Fromage¬†Blanc custard and caramel sauce. White chocolate lemon curd, citrus segments w/citrus sauce & a black and white sesame tuile. This was a dessert for a vintners dinner.Maple Leaf Tuiles….. I made 200 of these last nightand here is how they were used. This is the steamed pudding dessert for the Bracebridge dinner.¬†Here is a shot of the line, plating a course for BracebridgeHere is a shot of the servers waiting for their cue to enter the dinning room, see the guy in the red coat and tails…hand up meant silence….I’ve never heard a kitchen so quite. It was interesting to see this well choreographed event go down. This year was the 84th time it’s be done.

I tried to get more pictures of the other courses, but it all went so fast and I’m rarely let out of my little pastry corner of the kitchen ūüė¶

I’ve decided to go after some work opportunities back home. I am invigorated and motivated to keep learning. I will be home by the end of the year, can’t wait to start the year with new experiences.

My time here has given me courage, strength and made me so thankful for my education, my husband, my family, my home and my friends. The support you all have given me while I’ve been on this journey has been my lifeline. All of you that were my sounding boards while I moaned about being homesick, whined about the cold and sent me all the snail mail… you totally rock. I bet the post man is going to miss my silly squeals….. I love all you madly!

Chilly in the Valley

The last couple of weeks have been full of craziness. My 5 year old laptop hard drive died, first Apple product in 25 years to fail on me. This required a trip to Fresno to visit the Apple store. I was thrilled by the people in this store, they took care of me same day and it didn’t cost me more then $180, new hard drive, new keyboard, pretty much did the full tune up and all in 90 minutes. I thank the stars for Steve Jobs…. you will be missed- just finished his biography….read it.

Another interesting adventure has been trying to get wifi in my room. ATT is the provider and as with everything up here they move just as slow. Hopefully before I leave it will be up and running.

and now for your viewing pleasure………It’s been COLD in the valley, very dry and cold. The falls are freezing, this is Bridalveil Falls.This is part of the Merced River down by El Capitan about ¬† 7am and 26….burrrThis is a great spot in the summer for swimmingAnother shot in the early AM, frozen Yosemite FallsWe got some crazy wind last week, almost had to be evacuated. This is the courtyard for my dorm buildings, after the wind it left a carpet of pine needles and branches. The trees were swaying and singing for daysHere is my cute little post office, this is where I shriek with delight at all the mail I’ve been getting….the postman thinks I’m bit nutty….Thanks so much to all that have sent me stuff, it truly makes my day!!Jim this ones for you……look closely, it’s where we spent 5 hours one day back in SeptemberAnother for Jim….. a natural spring…not hot though, very cold.Christmas is starting to show up the valley, this is the entrance to the AhwahneeAhwahnee Tree

Hope you’re all doing well, I miss EVERYBODY!! Still homesick, hoping for a big snow storm or something……

Secret revealed! My winter adventure at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite

So I’ve been keeping a secret……well kinda….. some of my people are cracking up right now as they read this. These people know that is has been next to impossible for me to keep a secret …. period. I’ve definitely gotten better as I get older. Moving on……..big news…….. drum roll…….Ben help me out here.
I am going on an adventure starting early November. I will be doing a pastry internship at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park this winter for 4 months. I am so honored and thrilled to have this opportunity. Especially honored to have been chosen to learn and work at this amazing historic hotel with an extremely talented crew, let alone work in Yosemite Valley. This is once in a lifetime stuff for sure. Here are some details to my immediate future as I know them now. I will be living in the mountains where it snows. I will be living in either a dorm room , cabin or heated tent cabin – size¬†11 x 12¬†with a roommate. ¬†I will leave my Husband, Home and Lily to fend for themselves…..sniff.It’s only four months….they won’t even miss me…well Jim might…..not sure about Lily. I am so incredibly¬†fortunate to have a husband that is so supportive and encouraging. He totally believes I can do this “live-in-the-snow” thing…..hahahaha. He is also a very good cook, so he and Lily will survive just fine. I do hope all my local peeps will invite him out, stop by and visit, drop off food- he’s a good cook but a busy working man, say hi to Lily too! I will miss the tamale party ūüė¶ and what about the cookie party?? Who’s going to pick up my reins and carry on the tradition? SOMEONE has to!

I do hope all of you can come visit. If you’ve never been to Yosemite, what have you been doing all your life, get your *ss going!! If you’ve been…. you know. It’s hard to put into words, you must see, feel, walk, listen and enjoy it at least once in your life….seriously. I will blog this adventure as best I can, we’ll see how the wifi is in the valley. I’m still thinking this is happening to someone else….

Graduated!

It was six months ago that we started this adventure. I can hardly believe it’s over, I’m sad and relieved all at the same time. Taking this journey with these people as been an amazing and very entertaining experience. There were times of stress, frustration, relief, anger, exhaustion, but mostly I remember how much we laughed and laughed. I want to thank you all for being who you are and bringing such a great mix to our class. Schellie, Gina, Rebecca, Amy, Matt and Sam you guys are Awesome! Chef, Carla, Laura and Brenda, thanks for EVERYTHING, you will forever be in my heart for all you’ve given me. OK moving on before I get all boo hoo.

Rumor had it that we were going to get cool new hats!
Graduation was on a clear crisp chilly Sunday. Lots of family converged on the area to get a peek at the rumored new hat. This is a photo of us waiting to start the ceremony.
There was a reason we were all looking a bit nervous and or anxious. We were all curious to know our final scores and if we would graduate with merit or distinction. Chef made it a surprise or you could say he likes torturing us. Making us wait until the very end to announce it in front of our families, I’m going with torture. So we wait tortured….. merit? or did we make it to the top….. distinction?!
So here we are, Best Class Ever!!!
Sam graduated with completion.
Schellie, Rebecca and Matt all graduated with Merit.
Gina, Amy and myself all graduated with Distinction.
How cool are the Hats?!?!?!

Here is a shot of the #1 student this session and second highest score EVER!
Me!! 
Thanks to all my classmates, Chef Laurent especially, you will always be my Chef.
Big GIANT thanks to my James, for supporting me with your love and being the best friend and taster any cook could have. I love you madly.
So now what? Stay tuned!

Salad/Sandwiches/Cheese and BBQ

Salads, dressings, sandwiches, visit from a Cheese Monger aka Chef Starr and to finish the week BBQ.¬†We had a day of totally creative freedom and one day of copying others EXACTLY. Chef Starr Cornwall came to chat with us about CHEESE, she was awesome! Here’s the photo story for this week.


– Classic Salads –¬†
We had to use all the proper ingredients, 
but we could present them in our own way.
Waldorf Salad
Greek Salad
Spinach Salad w/ Bacon Dressing

Next up for Salads, we had to copy a picture out of a book and make it exactly like the picture. 
My version and the picture from the book
Lobster Artichoke Salad
rounds of artichoke hearts, filled with mustard whip cream, chopped lobster and artichoke hearts, floating in saute verte with lobster medallions and claw meat
My version and the picture from the book
Asparagus Salad
center is filled with roasted eggplant puree, 
floating in vichyssoise w/ caviar
Classic Club
Classic Ruben
Classic Croque Monsieur
CHEESE! Chef Starr was a blast, she taught me A LOT.
KR this is your night cheese !
This feisty little guy was trying to step to me. 
My chef knife and me won the battle.
Grilled delight.
this is our protein assortment for BBQ day, it was a feast for many
tri tips, chicken breast, quail, lobster, shrimp, filet mignon, salmon, mahi mahi, pork medallions, cornish game hens, top sirloin, lamb chops
grill feast is ready

Mystery Basket #1

Last week was our first mystery basket week. We’d get 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete 2 plates with 2 different proteins as well as a starch and a veggie for each plate. The protein was revealed right when the clock started.¬†It was an amazing learning experience, little scary, super fun and kind of freeing. We could cook anything we wanted with what we could find in the walk in fridge and we had use of the entire pantry. I thought for sure this week would kick my ass, but as the week went on I felt like I was doing the ass kicking. Learned a lot and had a blast. Check out my creations.
Herb Crusted Salmon w/couscous & asparagus 
and lemon butter caper sauce.
Poached Seabass in a lite lemon thyme broth.
this one needs some work. LOL
Pork Skewers w/ Fennel Orange salad 
and chili dipping sauce.
Lamb Loin crusted with Fennel and Caraway seeds
and red wine mustard sauce.
Spicy Shrimp Skewers w/ purple cabbage slaw, soba noodles.
and sweet chili dipping sauce.
Prosciutto wrapped Scallops w/ sun dried tomato basil sauce
over a bed of micro mustard greens.
Grilled Veal Chop w/ Orzo corn asparagus salad 
and Porcini Gorgonzola sauce.
Isn’t she the cutest thing EVER ?!?!? My cousin Amy sent me this outfit she had specially made for Barbie. I squealed like a 6 year old when I opened this. Thanks AMY ! you rock.

Foods of Asia

Hey All – Sorry for the late posting, I’m trying very hard to post weekly on Saturday’s, but our Asia week got split up and I wanted to wait until we’d done all 5 days. Asia is HUGE and this week we lightly touched on the core, in regards to regions, spices and local foods. Enjoy the photo tour, it won’t be nearly as good as smelling and eating it all, but lovely to view for sure.
Khayanthee Thoke (Burma)
this was like Baba Ghanoush, but spicy. super yummy.
Keema Kofta (India)
Spicy Lamb Meatballs
Rendang Daging (Malaysia)
Coconut Beef OMG delish !
Tom Kha Gai (Thailand)
My most favorite Thai soup ever and it was so easy to make.
Lumpiang Shanghai (Philippines)
classic Lumpia
Spring Rolls (China)
Ooolong Sea Bass
To ready us for mystery basket week, Chef gave us Sea Bass, Soba noodles and zucchini and cook however you want, but do an Asian spin on it. I LOVE the Oolong Sea Bass at PF Chang’s, so I did my best to replicate it. I topped it with mustard micro greens.¬†It turned out AWESOME.
Sushi day!! This is my first crunchy roll.
Caterpillar Roll and Spicy Tuna Roll
Cucumber Ocotpus Salad and Tuna Poki

Next week is mystery basket all week, wish me luck.