Major Changes!

25 Nov

So…I’ve talked a little bit about teaching on this blog. When I left Ración last year, I was totally lost and confused about what I was going to do with my life. I was so fed up with the restaurant industry. Don’t get me wrong, I still love food, and dining out, but I couldn’t work in the industry anymore. I learned a lot of good things from working in restaurants. But I also learned a lot of stuff I don’t like.  Some people are meant for it, and some are not. I am not one of them. I was sick, and miserable, and frankly, I wanted a life. I never saw my friends,  and I am still holding onto hope that one day I will have a family.

Working in a restaurant is the opposite of conducive to having a family, unless you have boss like Alice Waters who truly makes an effort to promote those values. Most places are too understaffed and too over-focused on the bottom line to be accommodating unless you’re at a management level. And even then, it’s hard. Most people I know at the management level, including myself, are way too committed to their jobs. They are on call ALL the time. They answer emails and panicked phone calls from staff at ungodly hours, because they don’t know how to stop. And then shit hits the fan and you end up in the emergency room in horrible crippling pain because your body has given in to the stress. And then you get fired for being in the emergency room. And because restauranteurs are all crazy, they call you in 2 months later and ask you to come back and work for them. Yeah.

Basically.

Having kids like that? Nope? How would I be able to pick them up from school? I’d already be at work? Seeing them in the school play? Yeah, right. Managing to get out of bed in the morning to make them breakfast and pack their lunch after getting home from work at 1am? Nope. And who watches the kids while you work? Especially if your partner is in the industry? Some of this stuff was BRIEFLY touched up on in the response to TIME Magazine’s “Gods of Food” article. Teresa Montaño, who I worked for, is quoted talking about family. Just knowing how she and her partner work, I can’t imagine them finding time to raise kids. It would really be a struggle. I would like to see this idea of balancing family in the restaurant industry explored more. I think it’s valuable, and I think it speaks to many larger issues that are present in the restaurant industry.

Additionally I also felt like I wasn’t offering the world anything by doing restaurant work. Who benefits? People who can afford it, especially at the fine dining level. There’s nothing wrong with eating at a restaurant. I do it often. But I wanted to feel like I was DOING something…something that in my own small way, would help change the world. I had no idea what this was, but I wasn’t going to find it managing another restaurant.

I explored the idea of nursing. Then I realized sometimes nursing is really gross. And while I know a lot about medicine (I had a doctor ask me if I had a background in medicine recently…) actually dealing with it, is not so much my cup of tea.

Then I thought I wanted to be a 911 operator/dispatcher. I thought that would be a kind a job where I could help people, albeit somewhat indirectly. I started looking into it, but I guess it wasn’t really my thing because I didn’t pursue it too strenuously.

In the meantime I had started volunteering at a church as a faith formation teacher, and realized, I LIKE THIS! And it kinda snowballed from there, with a little help and guidance from a very pushy (in a good way) friend and my faith formation boss ladies, into helping during summer school and also taking on Sunday school. (I talked a little bit about summer school here.) I was hoping to get a position at the school but that didn’t work out, although I did get on the substitute list and got a couple calls for that.

Then there was a networking event for alums of my high school, and I mentioned I was switching careers. I got put in touch with a couple different people, and one of them being first grade teacher at a (different) Catholic school in the area, who happened to have an aide who was leaving. Next thing I know I’m hired!

I split my day between 1st and 3rd grade, and although my day isn’t that long, and so far I’m really enjoying it, I find that I’m EXHAUSTED all the time. Since I’ve started I haven’t really been to ballet because I’m usually asleep! But between this, and teaching Sunday school and confirmation classes, I really think I’ve found my calling.

It’s funny because I avoided it for SO long. People used to tell me as a kid I would make a great teacher and I should think about it when I got older. I always gave them a look of disgust and rolled my eyes. I was never going to teach. It was a lot of work, kids are brats, and the pay is terrible. But I totally have a new perspective. It’s fun, and I like seeing a kid’s face light up when they have a “lightbulb” moment. I like planning lessons and activities. I like feeling like I’m doing something that directly contributes to the future of our world, hopefully for the better. I like organizing and crafts and all that teacher-y stuff. And the bad stuff? Well it’s still early, so maybe I’m just not overwhelmed by it yet.

I still have SO much to learn. I think my next step will be to at least take the CBEST. Haven’t done that yet. I’m a little freaked out, because I was looking at some practice math questions and some of that stuff I haven’t done in a really long time, and truth be told, I was struggling a little bit. Then I need to find a credential program that works for me so I can move on to a real teaching position eventually. I’m really enthusiastic, though, about this new path.

Next week, coming back from Thanksgiving, the first grade teacher will be out, recovering from a tonsillectomy. She requested that I fill in instead of an outside sub. I feel like that’s a huge vote of confidence. I am a little nervous, but incredibly excited. Wish me luck on that!

I just hope I don’t get sick. Kids are like petri dishes of airborne disease just waiting to infect you…

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Easy Vegetable Quiche

30 Oct

This quiche is so easy. SO easy.

I threw this together based on what I found on multiple different sites and multiple different recipes. I had my Sunday school teaching partner over for breakfast so we could plan our curriculum the week before classes started and because of my poor planning this is what ended up happening. And it was awesome. I should poorly plan more often. Okay, not really.

But seriously, I just took what I had in my fridge plus one quick trip to the store for pie crust (because yeah if I’m poorly planning, I’m NOT making pie crust) and cream so it was really just run in/run out.  I usually have a random mix of veggies, and almost always have shredded cheese on hand (I like quesadillas).

Use what you have, get what you don’t, change it up, add or take away, this recipe is so versatile. Also? Leftovers for dinner…

Here I’ve got tomatoes, broccoli, baby spinach, onions…oh and cheeeeeessseeee…yum….

Easy Vegetable Quiche

2 tbsp butter

1 large onion

1 broccoli stalk

2 cups baby spinach

2 medium tomatoes

Fresh green onions, diced

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (+plus a little extra)

1 refrigerated pie crust (enough for a deep dish pie/tart pan)

8 eggs

1 1/4 cup half and half

salt and pepper to taste

—————————————–

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Remove pie crust from packaging and allow to come to room temperature.

In a pan melt 1 tbsp butter and caramelize the onions. Set aside.

Chop the broccoli so it’s just the florets (I made the pieces on the smaller side), and add the remaining butter, the florets, and the baby spinach to the pan just long enough for everything to soften a little. Mix in the onions and the green onions, and set aside.

Slice tomatoes lengthwise and remove seeds. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat the eggs and half and half. Mix in salt and pepper.

Roll out the pie crust if necessary and press into your deep dish pan.

Layer some of your veggie mix and sliced tomatoes on the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with about half the cheese. Layer more veggies and cheese. Pour your egg and half and half mixture over everything, and then lay the remaining tomato slices on top so they look pretty. Press down a little on the tomatoes so they’re “secure.” Top with your “little extra cheddar cheese.” (Note: If you have a ton of egg/half and half mix, don’t overfill! Then you just make a mess and things burn, and smoke detectors go off, and well…)

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.  If at 1 hour the quiche is still really REALLY jiggly, cover loosely with foil and put back in the oven for slightly longer.

Remove from oven and let it set ten minutes before serving.

Thomas Keller’s Chilled Salad of Haricots Verts and Tomatoes

9 Sep

These past couple of weeks have been so SO hot here in So Cal. I mean unbearably hot. And the last thing I really want to do when it’s hot, is cook. Standing over a stove, turning on the over, or even running a crock pot all day just seem to add to the stifling heat in my home. So salads it is…

This is a beautiful salad that I pulled from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook. I mostly find this book incredibly intimidating. Not only because it’s Thomas Keller, but because the book itself is overwhelming. It’s big, and has a LOT of text. The pictures are glossy and artsy fartsy.

I feel like looking through it (or any of his cookbooks for that matter) is like when I was a kid and I would just stare at the strange pictures and big words in the sets of encyclopedias we had in my house growing up. Figures that the one thing I would be willing to try is a salad…

It really is just a Salad Niçoise…with a new fancy name in English. So here is Keller’s recipe, translated into my much less intimidating way of saying things, you know…without all the fancy words that scare me.

Chilled Salad of Haricots Verts and Tomatoes

OR

Salade Fraîche de Tomates et Haricots Verts

12oz haricots verts (I used just regular old green beans…)
1 small red onion
1 small fennel bulb
Kosher salt
2 tsp Pernod
2+ tsp EVOO
Enough heirloom tomatoes to have 16 slices
Black Pepper
3 hard boiled eggs, quartered
20 Niçoise Olives
4 boquerones anchovy fillets (these are the Spanish style ones. I think we couldn’t find any at the time we made this – it was a while back, big surprise –  and just used regular anchovies. But the Spanish ones are yummy if you can find them – more vinegary than salty…)

Dressing:
1/4 c basil puree*
1 tbps + 1tsp Bouchon House Vinaigrette**
1/4 c minced shallot
1 tsp tarragon leaves
2 tsp minced chive
1 tsp chervil leaves
1 tsp Italian parsley
Kosher Salt and black pepper

1. Prep the green beans (You know…do that thing where you snap off the stemmy ends like when you used to watch your Grandma do it. Wait was that just me?) and then throw them into a pot of boiling water for 3-6 minutes, take them out and then and plunge into an ice bath. Chill in fridge until you need them.

2. Chop an onion in half through the root-y end and then chop so you have those nice long onion pieces. About 1 cup worth. Chill in the fridge. (It’s called a CHILLED salad remember…)

3. Cut off root and stems of the fennel and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the core. Slice crosswise nice and thin. You also need about a cup of this. Toss in a bowl with a little salt, the Pernod and 2 tsp of EVOO. Chill in the fridge.

4. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a little EVOO. Chill in fridge.

Once everything is chilled, you’re going to put everything together.

5. In a bowl, throw the green beans, all the “dressing” ingredients, the onion, and the fennel mix, and toss.

6. To prep one plate: place 4 tomato slices on the bottom, mound 1/4 of the bean/onion/fennel mix on top of that. Then it gets 3 egg quarters, and 5 olives. Make it look pretty. Top with an anchovy fillet. Repeat 3 more times because this recipe is supposed to serve 4.

Easy Peasy, right?

*Keller makes a house basil puree…and he makes it sound complicated. It’s not.
Basil Puree
8 oz basil (approx 4 cups)
A couple cloves of garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup evoo

Throw everything except about half of the evoo into a blender or food processor and whirl. Not too fast. (If you’re using the FP just pulse) Once the stuff starts breaking down, slowly add the rest of the oil and keep whirling until it’s pureed. Seriously. Not hard stuff.

**House Vinaigrette
1/4 c dijon mustard
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1 1/2 c canola oil

I like my stick blender for this because it’s easier to slowly incorporate the oil. But a food processor or a blender works for this too. Throw the vinegar and the dijon together and blend. While blending, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of the oil. Then transfer to a bowl and slowly whisk in the rest of the oil. If you do it too fast the vinaigrette won’t emulsify properly. (Okay okay I used one fancy word. But I linked you to Wikipedia so you can understand it!) Chef Keller suggests that this will keep 2 weeks in the fridge, and if it separates you can re-blend in the blender.

You can buy the Bouchon Cookbook here. (I don’t get anything out of plugging it, btw. I’m just suggesting it’s a beautiful book with beautiful recipes and you should buy it.)

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