Month: September 2014

I Surrender! Let’s Pumpkin Spice ALLLL the Things!

Not really. Not all of them. For instance, while I was in Seattle, I saw this:

The gentleman behind the counter assured me it’s delicious, but I just can’t get on board. Sorry.

However, there is a time and place for pumpkin spice things, and in my humble opinion, breakfast is one of them. A pumpkin-y breakfast is a great way to start your day!

Did you know that 1 cup of mashed pumpkin contains 200% of your recommended daily Vitamin A? PLUS, it has beta-carotene, the stuff that makes it orange, which your magnificent body changes into even more Vitamin A. Know what Vitamin A is good for? Your eyeballs. Especially when they need to see in low light, say, when you’re waking up at 6am in the winter.

If you’re one of those people I don’t understand at all who gets right out of bed and goes to the gym, having some pumpkin in your post-work out breakfast can help replace some of the potassium you lost–even better than a banana!*

Anyhoots, what I’m saying is, eat some pumpkin in the morning. Do yourself a favor.

Maybe you could try these pumpkin polenta bars? They’re pretty easy to put together the night before, and one batch should last you at least a couple of days, and maybe all week, depending on how many people are eating breakfast at your place.

1 medium sized pot
1 saute pan
1 wooden spoon, for stirring
can opener
9×9 baking pan (you might call it a brownie pan)

1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups water
1 cup polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 T cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar + 1 T for the topping
3/4 cup panko (I used honey panko, but regular is fine)
1/3 cup rough chopped walnuts or pecans
1 T butter + some to butter the pan

Preheat your oven to 350°. Butter the pan lightly all over the bottom and at least halfway up the sides. Set aside.

In your pot, combine the water and maple syrup and bring it to a boil. Add the polenta, sprinkling it in a bit at a time as you stir to avoid lumps.


When all the polenta has been incorporated, lower the heat to a simmer and stir for about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add the pumpkin, cinnamon and sugar, and stir it all in well.

NOTES: 1) Polenta gets hot… like molten lava hot, so keep your heat low and don’t stand right in front of the pot or you’ll get splattered and that’s not fun. 2) Make sure you are stirring pretty constantly to avoid scorching. If you need to walk away from the pot for any length of time, go ahead and remove it from the heat until you can get back to it. The polenta will keep thickening without the heat. If you come back and it’s a little too thick, just add a little water back in to loosen it up and keep stirring until it’s cooked.


This isn’t an overly sweet breakfast bar, but at this point you can taste the polenta and adjust the sugar and cinnamon as you see fit. Continue stirring until the polenta is thick, but not stiff. It should still be loose enough to spread into your pan.

Pour the polenta into your buttered pan and spread it around to even out the thickness. Set aside.

In your saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium low heat until the bubbles have subsided and it just starts to brown. Add the panko, the nuts, and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and stir to combine with the butter. You’re basically just trying to toast the panko and the nuts slightly.


Top the polenta with the panko mixture, and pop it into the oven for 15 minutes.


The polenta won’t brown. You’re basically baking it to set it up so it can be cut into bars.

Take it out of the oven, let it cool, cut it into squares, and viola! Portable Pumpkin Polenta!


*Source: Huffington Post 

IFBC: When The Universe screams in your ear, you better listen.

When I headed to Seattle for the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC), I expected to be educated. I expected to eat some great food. I expected to try some interesting wines. What took me by surprise was the validation.

I know, I know, that sounds just a teensy bit melodramatic. Validation? Really, Jordan?

Hear me out. Let’s recap what happened in the weeks leading up to this trip. I said, out loud, that I wanted to quit my corporate gig and go work in food for real. I did the first thing, and got a job that fulfills the second thing. I said I wanted more time to focus on school and the blog. The new job gives me that. I’ve also had the chance to work with and talk to some really great local chefs over the past month or so. Once I made the decision to finally follow my bliss, The Universe answered.

And then I went to IFBC. I had the sessions I wanted to attend all mapped out, and then I ended up going to completely different ones that turned out to be exactly where I needed to be, hearing speakers that so loudly echoed all of my most recent decisions that I had no choice but to pay attention. Two sessions really spoke to me on a pretty personal level.

It started right off the bat with the Keynote from Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, authors of The Flavor Bible and the soon to be released Vegetarian Flavor Bible.

If you  had been watching the IFBC tag on twitter, you’d have seen the same quote tweeted out from nearly everyone in the room at once:

“Being a good writer has to do with living an authentic life.”

Seems like that message hit close to home for a lot of us. Page and Dornenburg encouraged us all to follow our chosen path regardless of how popular/unpopular it might be, and to keep walking it no matter how many times we fall or get pushed down. They showed us samples from rejection letters they received from publishers telling them that their first book idea was too narrow, and wouldn’t reach a large enough audience to be marketable. They kept trying, and eventually they got that book deal. Needless to say, that book (Becoming a Chef) sold well, and won a James Beard Award.

They also encouraged us to taste everything. Every taste, every texture, every smell goes into our taste memory, ready to be called up, “like a song in a jukebox.”

The next big food trend? Vegetables! More and more people are moving to a plant based diet, and chefs are paying attention. They’re treating veggies like meat– braising, smoking, grilling, and curing them, just like they would meat. For vegetarians and vegans that’s good news, especially when they go out to eat. They won’t get stuck with some boring rice and veggie skewer dinner. It’s also pretty great news for us omnivores, because it means that we can order veggie based dinners and get the same kind of satisfaction that we’d get from one with meat as the main event.

They closed out their session by reminding us how powerful we can be as food writers, and leaving us with an important question, one that’s really got me thinking, “What kind of world do you want to create with this power?”

Joe Yonan, Food & Travel editor for The Washington Post, was another speaker whose message resonated with me. His story, one that started with a confluence of not so wonderful events, led him to make some big changes in his life and his approach to writing.


He took a year off from the paper to write a book and spend time working on his sister and brother-in-law’s homestead in Maine. He spent mornings working on the farm, doing just one task at a time. It was difficult at first, he said, to focus on “uni-tasking,” and to avoid the temptation to constantly check his phone. But over time, he found that he began to enjoy the opportunity to focus, and when he set out each afternoon to work on the book his head was clearer.

I really loved his sense of humor. While telling us about his obsession with keeping the chicken coop clean, he likened it to “being a Lilliputian in the world’s biggest catbox.”

Well, maybe you had to be there. 🙂

When he went back to work, he continued making changes, and decisions, that helped him keep his perspective. He encouraged us all to think about the changes we can make to keep ourselves happy and passionate about what we’re doing, to give ourselves time away from the craziness (whatever that craziness is for us), to pick a day to unplug from all our technology and just be in the moment, and to learn new things by doing, not just by reading about it or watching a video about it.

I feel like there was so much more covered, but I’m still ruminating over all of it and trying to figure out how to apply all of this great advice. I’ve already picked Sunday as my “unplug” day. I’ve never considered myself a social media addict, but as a food blogger every time I’m around food, or someone cooking, or the farmer’s market, or a hundred other places, out comes the phone so I can take a picture and try to turn it into a writing opportunity. I feel like much of what I heard over the weekend said, “Don’t force it. Be yourself and there will be plenty to write about.”

Last, but not least.

I’m going to go backwards when telling you about my weekend at IFBC in Seattle. This first post is actually about my last meal.

I did not take a photo of my last meal in Seattle.  I did not Instagram, or Tweet, or even Facebook.  I did not “check in” to the little French bistro where I had brunch at the almost silly hour of 2pm.

That was not my original intent.

After wandering through the Pike Place Market for over an hour, snacking on crab cocktail and flipping through stacks of vintage this and handmade that, my plan was to go eat somewhere, take a ridiculous number of pictures of my meal, and check myself in with a photo of the glass of sparkling whatever-was-on-the-menu to which I was treating myself. Then, I noticed how low my phone battery was getting.  As I looked around, charger in hand, for a place to plug in, the hostess walked over and offered to plug it in at the hostess stand for me. I panicked. I was at a bit of a crossroads here. Do I take Joe Yonan’s advice from that morning and unplug, or did I grip my phone to my chest with Gollum-like protectiveness and just do as much social networking as I could before the phone died? I mean, I hadn’t even taken a picture of my plate yet!

Ultimately, I handed over my phone.

I spent the next hour sipping bubbles and enjoying the delicious house cured salmon in front of me. It was the best decision I could have made.

After an entire weekend of live tweeting and Facebook posts and taking pictures of every single morsel that went into my facehole, that one meal was mine. I’m going to keep being kinda selfish and not even describe it to you now. What I will tell you is that through the entire meal, I didn’t think about anything else. I didn’t think about the weekend, or the blog posts I’d do after I got home, or how many page views I’d get after publishing them. I just ate my food. And you know what? It was really, seriously, truly, lovely.

Thanks, Joe, for the advice. I expect I will be using it a lot from now on.


IFBC Opening night

Hi all!

I just wanted to do a quick check in to say hello from Seattle. I’m about to head out for our first full day of IFBC activity. Last night’s opening night party was so fun! I tried a couple of products that were new to me and that I loved. I’ll be writing about those late in October.

Coolest thing so far? Checking in and receiving an apron with the name of my blog embroidered on it from the folks at Aneto stocks. It was a lovely surprise for all of us.

I’m off the the train for Day 2. More to come!

News! and IFBC! and Things!

Hi folks! I’ve made it through the Menu Management project with most of what’s left of my sanity in tact. I actually had to stay up all Tuesday night to finish my presentation, just in time to give it in class Wednesday. I was so sleep deprived at that point, I can’t even tell you what I said, but I think it went ok. I guess I’ll find out when Chef posts the grades. The nice thing about giving my presentation this week is that next week I get to just sit back and listen to everyone else’s stuff. And then, just like that, the quarter is over. Needless to say, this month on the blog has not gone at all like I wanted it to, but I have a week off of work coming up and this place, and you lovely readers, are at the top of my priority list.

Also, I have a little news to share.

Since I started school in January, I’ve had this grand plan to work until the end of March next year, and save up a bunch of money to get started on this burgeoning culinary career thing I’ve got going. Well, The Universe conspired to expedite the plan by  six whole months. About three weeks ago, I started looking for a new job, something food related, and I’ve been offered a very “low on the totem pole” kinda gig working for Colorado’s largest catering company. Getting that job meant that I could put in my notice at this corporate thing I’ve been doing for about five years and finally start gearing up for the rest of my life. I’ll be a production cook, so lots of potato peeling and vegetable chopping and cookie dough mixing, and needless to say the money is significantly less than what I’ve been making, but I’m SO excited!

I’ve never heard of a Baby Step of Faith. It’s a leap, or it’s nothing at all. So here I am, flinging myself out into the world to do the thing I’m passionate about instead of just earning a paycheck doing something I happen to be good at. What’s weird is that I’m not even a little bit scared. There have been so many signs pointing me in this direction, and I’ve been kind of turning my head away, believing that I wasn’t ready for such a big move. But tell me this… what makes someone ready for that? I think you just have to do it. So, I’m doing it.

Step one was getting the job. Step two is sucking every single bit of experience and knowledge I can out of it.

Now, let’s move on to the more immediate excitement… the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle! It starts tomorrow night with the opening reception, and runs through Sunday afternoon. I am beyond excited about this. It’s my first food blogger conference ever, but all the veterans I’ve talked to have been so welcoming and warm (at least, as warm as you can get over Facebook) that I know it’s going to be a great experience.

IFBC’s sessions are broken into three tracks– Food, Writing, and Tech. If you look at the Agenda online, you’ll see that there’s a LOT of information being covered, and I’m still not entirely sure which sessions I’ll be attending. There are a couple of time periods where there are two sessions I’d like to attend (Learn about butchering beef or about Bordeaux wines? I want to do both!). However, what I think I need the most help with is the Tech side. Luckily, some folks from WordPress will be there to hopefully answer some of my questions about the actual process of making my blog more reachable, but there are other sessions on Branding and using Google + that also sound like they’re going to cover stuff I really need to know. Google + especially feels like the Wild West to me, so I hope I can learn how to make some sense of it.

I’m also really hoping to make some new friends, and get some time to meander around the city a bit.

I have a recipe ready to share (about damn time, right?!) when I get back, as well as an interview from a guy who owns and runs a local ice cream shop. He has a great tip for those of us who aren’t blessed with access to an industrial sized ice cream maker that I think you’ll all appreciate. And, now that all the madness has died down, I’m going to share the menus I created for this fictitious restaurant I’m never going to open. Plus, of course, I’ll be sharing lots of details and information from IFBC.

Thanks for bearing with me folks. Have a great weekend!