Musings from a Seattle personal chef
Archive for March, 2007
With my current personal chef client schedule I don’t have much time to teach cooking classes or cater dinner parties. That’s fine with me, as the latter can be much more stressful. With my personal cheffing gigs, I don’t have to give up nights and weekends, plus I don’t have to be “on.” I’m typically in the home alone and my meals get packaged for the refrigerator or freezer. The client then heats them up long after I’m gone.
With catering and cooking classes, however, I’m on stage. The host/hostess and guests often mill around the kitchen as I’m preparing the food, and timing is crucial — side dishes and entrÃ©es must be ready at the same time, and ideally there should be no more than 15 minutes between courses.
If I forget an ingredient during my day job, it’s not a problem; I just head back to the store. (Unfortunately these “senior moments” happen all too frequently; I once had to hit the store THREE additional times during a cook date). Whereas with catering/cooking classes, if I realize I’ve forgotten an ingredient once the event has started, I have to wing it and hope either 1) the host doesn’t notice, or 2) is too tipsy to care.
Last night, fortunately, I had the latter in my favor.
I’m hoping all you faithful fans of Ovens to Betsy (all five of you) will enjoy my new blog devoted entirely to my fitness shenanigans: Eat Drink Run Woman (a play on one of my favorite foodie films, Eat Drink Man Woman by Ang Lee). Ovens to Betsy will continue as my food blog, and there’ll most likely be some crossover posts.
Why the change? While it made sense to me to intertwine my passions — food and fitness — I realize there were disparate audiences. Those of you who enjoy my posts on running & fitness don’t necessarily care about my culinary creations, and those who come for recipes and cooking techniques may not give a rat’s ass about my finish time for the Mercer Island half marathon.
Let me know what you think!
Okay, so yesterday’s Mercer Island Half Marathon was only my fourth, but I must say I kicked some serious butt. Sure there were probably hundreds of people who finished ahead of me, but I don’t care about that — I compete against myself and yesterday my bad self whipped my wimpy self all over the course.
Although my finish of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 35 seconds was about six minutes behind my Seafair finish, the aftermath was much more pleasurable. Yes, I was sore and in need of some serious couch time immediately after the race, but I feel fine today and even mustered up the strength for a 4-mile walk. Conversely, after Seafair my darling and I only had enough strength to collapse on our deck chairs for an hours-long nap, and I pretty much took off the entire week following from any type of exercise.
I attribute my success to Jeff Galloway‘s run/walk program. I know it has some detractors who say it’s cheating if you don’t run the entire way, but for this 40+ body, it’s a godsend. It prepares me both mentally and physically; I have no doubt I can run 13.1 miles since I’ve already gone farther than that during my training program (14+ miles). By incorporating walk breaks from the very beginning, I can finish the race strong (in fact, I was faster during the last half of the race than in the beginning). I’ve decided I don’t need to prove anything by trying to run a sub 2-hour half marathon; I’m just looking to have a good time and keep my body healthy and injury-free for the next race.
The Mercer Island Half was particularly significant for me as it’s a fund-raiser for colon cancer awareness: my dad is a colon cancer survivor, although unfortunately his dad is not. I know diet & exercise play a crucial role in one’s risk of developing colon cancer, so that was a primary impetus for me to get back on a healthy track two years ago. Early detection is also very important, especially given my family history. But my doctor and I have butted heads (tee-hee, I said “butt”) about when I should get a colonoscopy. I thought I could wait until I’m 45, but she’s insisted I get it done ever since I turned 40. I’m 43 now, so obviously I’m a little behind (giggle). I know I need to do it, but let’s face it: it’s not a fun procedure and I’ve been putting it off. I guess I’m just a cheeky (snirk) old gal. My bottommost (chuckle) concern is the stuff you have to drink to clean yourself out. But I refuse to let fear rear (snigger) it’s ugly head and have scheduled an initial meeting with a colorectal surgeon on April 16. I’m sure it’ll be a gas (yuk yuk yuk)
(Yes, I’m actually only 12).
I hate it when people steal my ideas.
With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, my plan was to post about my corned beef — which I must say is the best darned corned beef I’ve ever had (I’m SUCH a modest chef). Thinking it would be the perfect aprÃ¨s Dash treat, I prepared it this past weekend. I snapped a few photos of the process, but by the time the brisket was fall-apart tender, I was too famished to waste any time being a shutterbug.
The next day, while everything still was delicious, it was far from photogenic. Besides, I now had eight famished runners waiting to scarf everything down. With no photo, I felt I should change the direction of my post. Granted, if you’ve seen one photo of corned beef, you’ve seen them all; most comfort food won’t win any beauty contests. But I feel if I’m to blog about a particular food, it should include photos of said food.
Back to the cutting board.
I did, however, manage to take a quick shot of the Irish soda bread. Although I recall we always had corned beef and cabbage each St. Patrick’s Day, what sticks in my mind was my mom’s Irish soda bread. Frankly, I always felt it was best hot out of the oven (left to sit it got rather dry), but it still brought back such fond memories. I’d never attempted to make it myself, so this year I decided to give it a shot. I found a 4-fork recipe on Epicurious that sounded promising and got to whisking. My only deviation from the original recipe was to use currants instead of raisins.
Let me tell you, this bread is to die for. Tender, moist and sweet enough to be dessert, it no where near resembles the soda bread of my youth. My darling and I tried to use some restraint (I intended to save some for the next day), but we gobbled down half the loaf. I was thrilled to find out that our hostess for our gathering already had a couple of loaves, as that meant I could keep the rest of my bread for ourselves.
My darling and I try to tame our sweet tooths (teeth?) as much as possible, limiting our treats to nibbles of ultra-dark chocolate, a piece of mochi ice cream, a cup of rice pudding or perhaps a bowl of frozen mixed fruit.
Then there are the days when light and healthy just don’t cut it.
The other evening, after I quaffed two of my favorite libation (dirty vodka martini with double-stuffed olives) and my darling knocked back two shots of Lagavulin, we were jonesing for something sweet. The half dollar-sized piece of Theo Chocolate nib brittle? Merely an amuse-bouche. Only the truly decadent would feed our fix.
Recalling the partial bags of white and dark chocolate chips in our pantry, I thought cookies would do the trick. Unfortunately, we were out of eggs. Driving clearly was ruled out due to our impaired state, and neither of us were up for walking. What to do, what to do.
I spied a ripe banana in our fruit bowl and the gerbil in my brain arose from its slumber. I found some shredded coconut and a handful of walnuts in our cupboard, and the gerbil started spinning its wheel. I then remembered the ball of pizza dough in our fridge and the gerbil broke out into a full-on sprint. Seeing the crazed fire in my eyes, my darling knew he was in for a treat. But he also knew better than to get in my way; I was a woman driven.
I somehow managed to toast the coconut and walnuts without scorching them (or myself, for that matter). I rolled out the dough, sprinkled it with the white chocolate chips and topped them with the banana slices. The pizza went into a 500-degree oven for five minutes to caramelize the bananas. I then sprinkled on the dark chocolate chips and the toasted coconut/walnut mixture and placed it back in the oven for three minutes.
Can you say Ooey Gooey Rich & Chewy?
Last Sunday’s long run was SOOOOO tough… (all of you, in unison):
“How tough was it, Betsy?”
I had to call on Helen TWICE just to make it through.
Normally I do my long runs on Saturday, but after consulting the forecast, I decided Sunday would be much more desirable. Besides, I was preparing a make-ahead service Saturday morning for a dinner party that evening and wouldn’t finish up until early afternoon. As I dipped the asparagus and Asiago-stuffed chicken breasts in Parmesan-panko breading the pounding rain outside the client’s kitchen window confirmed I made the right choice to postpone. (Call me a wuss, but if I have to run 12-13 miles, I want to be relatively comfortable).
Sunday morning dawned, and while it was still cold and overcast, at least the rain had stopped. Perfect day for a long run! But as with all Sunday mornings, I lounged on the couch with the Seattle Times and coffee in hand; I felt no need to rush. Eventually I made my way to the stove to prepare my steel-cut oats, loaded up the iPod and did a bit of stretching. By the time I was dressed and ready to go I looked out the window to see steady droplets falling from the sky. DARNITALLTOHELL.
My darling’s foot was bothering him, so not only would I be running in the rain, I’d be going solo for much of the run (he would join me for the first 2 miles, then meet me for a burger & beer lunch at the Red Door in Fremont). As we started out Dylan forewarned me to “accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.” Thanks a lot, Bob. Rub it in. Fortunately I was bundled up and we began a pleasant meander through our neighborhood. I kept the sound down so I could converse with my darling and allowed him to choose the street on which to turn. As I kissed him adieu in Ballard the rain started pelting with increasing intensity. But I was a woman determined; I jacked up the volume and continued at a steady 7 minute run/1 minute walk pace.
Back in my PR days I was compelled to attend the monthly luncheon meetings of the Public Relations Society of America under the guise it was best way to “keep my finger on the pulse” of the industry. In reality I just wanted to bag off work for a few hours, even though I had to endure rubbery chicken while listening to someone blather on about “connecting to their publics” (yes, that’s really the term many used). I’d listen with feigned enthusiasm, hoping the PR muckety-muck at my table would be impressed with my dedication and offer me a job (I was ALWAYS looking for a new job).
Thank God I gave that up.
While I still view membership in a professional organization a terrific way to stay involved (I’m a member of the U.S. Personal Chef Association), I no longer have to put up with insipid meetings. Take our recent chapter function: eight personal chefs trying to out-yummy one another with our resident wine connoisseur, George Marinovich, on hand to pair our treats with an appropriate wine. I love my job!
Our wine & food pairing meetings (this was our third) are always a favorite. It’s so much fun to see what other chefs whip up — not only the food but also the presentation (I’ve stolen many ideas). George has an incredible knack for choosing the most complementary wine for our dishes, despite the fact we’re a flighty lot who changes our respective minds at the last minute about what we’re to prepare.