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18 November 2011

Did you miss me?

This year has slipped by me.. summer into winter, the trees didn't have time to turn. I still am growing jalapenos on my back porch, as the bush refuses to give in to the cold.
Coming up to the close of the semester, I haven't had a lot of time to sit and discuss the baking or cooking I have been doing.

We redeveloped a lot of our stations at work, adding new recipes and dishes to a somewhat stagnant menu rotation. At our Mexican line we added a dish called Picadillo to the specials rotation. This is a dish simply prepared and different than what you would expect. I added elements of Cuban and Caribbean flavors and it ended up a hit, served in tacos and taco salads.

Picadillo (my way)

1.5 pounds ground beef
3 each roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup green olives with brine
2 TB capers
1/4 cup raisins
2 tsp oregano, dried
1 TB cumin
1 TB allspice
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the beef and strain off fat, add tomatoes, garlic, onion and green olives with the brine over medium heat. Allow juices to reduce by half and add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Let simmer for 5-6 minutes, allowing most of the moisture to dissipate. Serve with tortillas, rice and black beans. You can also substitute ground turkey for the beef.

As we have come to the close of the year, the beginning of Baking Season did not allude me... I have baked something every week since Thanksgiving.

It started with Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Joy of Cooking

1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed  brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
Cream these ingredients together well and add
2 eggs
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (yes, again)
1 tsp vanilla
Combine and beat until light and fluffy
In separate bowl mix together
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps baking powder
Add flour mixture to egg-sugar mixture, alternately with
3/4 cup milk

Pour into paper-lined cupcake pans and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
You can ice them with a Maple Sugar icing or a Chocolate Ganache, I opted for the ganache.

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
in a double boiler, melt and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and dip tops of cupcakes into chocolate and place on rack to cool.
This combo is satisfying enough to quench a craving for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

This is the last week of the year. I am off work, except for a couple of hours tomorrow. New Years Eve brings company: my brother, Nick and his wife, and Steven's brother, Tim and his significant other... each responsible for a meal element... I am cooking beef tenderloin with risotto and roasted green beans. Nick is in charge of dessert and Tim, the task of appetizers. I am looking forward to a fun ass evening! This year started out rough... but it mellowed out and now will end quietly. I am thankful for that.

Here's to 2012! Just hang on, it's gonna be a bumpy one.
By the way... there are pictures to accompy this post... I will put them in later, when I get them back. STEVEN.... Oh.. Steven, honey....

11 August 2011

Summer Sunsets and Cheesecake

As summer draws to a close, students are returning to their college life here in Turlock. This weekend alone, we have 7 different events welcoming them back, all culminating on Sunday with the Welcome Back Dinner and Ice Cream Social. Over 800 students and family will pack our main dining hall for a buffet dinner of Bourbon Glazed Pork Loin, Herb Roasted Chicken and Sesame Tofu Stir Fry. I am overseeing the show... meaning my 3 Chefs de Cuisine are running it... I am merely here to make sure it goes off without a hitch and to make suggestions as to how they do it.
I have been maintaining a 60-70 hour schedule this summer, most of my employees are on summer layoff, but that doesn't mean that we don't have anything going on. There have been weddings, retirement parties, and camps. Camps, meaning that there are groups from all over California that come stay in the dorms and have activities throughout the day... cheerleaders, underprivileged inner city youth, math and music camps.. etc. You get the idea. They have to eat, right? So all summer long it has been  up to me and my very limited staff to feed them.. and if it means I work a 7 day week, so be it. It's amazing to me that we have to be serving 1600 students a day for me to get some time off. Needless to say, I am looking forward to my birthday and Fleet Week in SF the second week of October.
Right now, I am actually able to sit here and write my blog. I am waiting for 3 hotel pan sized cheesecakes to finish baking so I can go home. An item by special request for the Resident Advisers of housing. The dorms are full up too... almost 1200 students will be living on campus this year. This job as Executive Chef is getting bigger and bigger at this account, and honestly I couldn't be happier. It is growing with me.
I feel like I am really coming into my own with this job. There have been headaches and screw-ups... forgetting to put that other steak in with the President's dinner (oops!), losing a whole warmer off the side of the loading dock.... lemme tell ya, I can run and yell instructions better than some drill sergeants! But there have been some real BRIGHT spots... seeing a student that had gotten her Bachelor's but enrolled in Culinary School because that is what she really loves... and has told me that I am her inspiration. (all warm and fuzzy)... The President of CSU Stanislaus publicly thanking me for a fantastic dinner. The attitude of returning students towards their food service provider changed last semester... we gained a whopping 40% in approval rating from Fall 2010 to Spring 2011, something typically unheard of. So, I feel good. I feel positive and happy. Something I haven't felt for a long time... time to go take cheesecakes out of the oven. I will try to be more regular on my postings... but don't count on it.


30 May 2011

It's Memorial Day today. So, I will start off by saying thank you to our Men and Women in service to our Country. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice.
I slept in today... til 7am. I have finished one semester at CSU Stanislaus. Almost 6 months I have been running the food service, and it already feels like years. There is not a lot I can say "I don't know" about anymore, well except I don't know how a fall semester starts, oh and camps. Don't know about running camps yet. And big weddings. I know about big weddings... having done lots of those, but how they do big weddings is another story. So, nevermind. There is still an incredible amount for me to learn. We have done our over 1000 person event for the year.
The NCAA Track and Field Championships have come and gone, graduation is over.  I return to work tomorrow. I had 2 days off after putting in about 70 hours in 3 days. I slept a lot yesterday. Feel like I have been in a car crash, where no one got hurt.... you're just sore for days after. Talked to my Asst. Director, he felt the same.

There is a lot that goes on over the summer too, camps, weddings, dinners for the President, etc. Also, there will be canning going on because the sustainable garden will have an abundance of tomatoes! House made pasta sauce for the students to purchase...How cool is that? Hopefully it can be done efficiently. There is also a trip coming up to the Pac Northwest for a training seminar. And New Manager training in St. Louis MO sometime in July?

But, what I have been doing in the last 2 months that I neglect my blog? Learning. Learning about how to work in this new environment. Learning about people and how to bring my style of management and cooking techniques to a new level. The bar is set high in this position, they expect a lot. I find it hard sometimes to always have that extra mile in me. I try very hard to stay focused on what MY job is...even when what I am doing is completely foreign to me.

This last month has been particularly crazy... I have been working 6day weeks at about 14 hours a day since the beginning of May... and everyone has done it. It's because of events all over campus, graduation, sports championships (CCAA and NCAA), parties, dinners, employee appreciation, etc and etc.. AND, while all this goes on at work, Steven and I moved into a place of our own.

 It's been mildly stressful.  But I love it all and must say that these last 6 months have been a RIDE!!! WOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A welcome change indeed!
I have some President dinners coming up in the next couple of weeks. I will include recipes and pics as usual. I still haven't found the good camera since we moved. I just wanted to give an update as to where I have been.
Next post... Grilled Mahi Mahi, Cornmeal Dusted Sweet Potato and Asparagus Frites, Cherry Cobbler (using the cherries that grow over the back fence!!!)

27 March 2011

Sometimes LIFE gets in the WAY!

Wow.... been a long time since I wandered in here. For that I apologize, I know I have actual "fans" which is strange.. but cool. As most of you know, I have taken on the responsibility of running the food service at CSU Stanislaus, where on an average day we serve about 2200 students. It is a big job, because no only do we do that.. we also have catered events and carry the concessions for most of the sporting events at Stan State. 
I am also responsible for providing LTOs (limited time offers), corporate specials, demo cooking and nutritional advice classes. You should see my calendar... I am a busy person. But like the title of this blog says, LIFE gets in the way... In addition to all the stuff at work: I was sick with tonsillitis, am currently searching for a place to live and my camera died... so what pictures I do have I will post. Finding time to sit for an hour and write it sometimes hard to find. Today I found it... mostly because the month of March came to an end last night when we catered 3 separate events in a matter of 2 hours... I LOVE MY JOB!!! 

At the beginning of the month we catered a fund raising event for CSU Stanislaus called Vines. It is a premier wine and cheese event especially for Turlock. A lot of the local money (Gallo-Foster Farms-Duarte..) is there to raise money, taste wine and appetizers and smooze with one another for the sake of the scholarship fund. We are not the only ones who bring their 'A' game... Galletto Ristorante, Surla's, and Bacchus and at least 7 other local eateries brought theirs. I put together a huge cheese display, with offerings from local and small batch farms. I also created 4 different hors d'oeuvres: 

Edamame (soybean) Hummus with Hot Capicola and Fennel Pollen, 

Duck Confit Wontons with Sweet Chili Slaw
                                                                  Fennel-Strawberry Almond-Garlic Gazapcho Shooters
and Garlic Shrimp Skewers.

It was a successful event and should bring us some business in the next year. I had a lot of great complements and even more of "You do THAT here?"  or  "I've never seen that in Turlock". It was a lot of fun.

Here is the Edamame Hummus Recipe:

2 cups Edamame (soybeans), just the beans out of the pod
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 lemon juice
3 each garlic cloves
2 tsp Fennel Pollen
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

In a bowl of a food processor, pulse the soybeans with the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and fennel pollen, til smooth. Slowly drizzle in olive oil with machine running to combine, add salt and pepper to taste or sprinkle with smoked paprika. Serve chilled with baked pita chips or on a crostini with Capicola and sprinkle of Fennel Pollen and drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (like the pic above)

I have a few more posts to write. We have some special events going on at Stan State and I am getting a new battery for my camera. We are also searching for a place to live in the Turlock/Modesto area. That is stressful, but it will make us very happy to get to be alone. If anyone knows of anything in our area, let me know... Until later... 

Chef Bearden

09 February 2011

Warrior Fitness: Healthy Cooking Class... wait.. WHAT?

Yes, it actually happened. I taught a Healthy Cooking Class.
One of my responsibilities is two times per semester is to hold a little cooking class/demonstration for those students who signed up for Warrior Fitness (HERE). I like how it says "certified professionals"...yea, I am certified alright.
It was actually a lot of fun. I extolled the benefits of eating healthy fats and living life in moderation. I encouraged eating on the cheap and to be more adventurous in their meal choices. I also encouraged smaller portions and taking doggy bags home from restaurants. Remember, just because it's on your plate doesn't mean you need to finish it. Take it home, save it for later or feed it to the dog.
Since I am not necessarily the best person to talk about healthy cooking, I went on and checked out Giada DiLaurentis, because anyone that skinny, who eats like she does, knows a thing or two. I found a Whole Wheat pasta recipe with Lemon and Basil, took it and modified it to what I had available. The following is that modified recipe:

8 oz whole wheat penne, cooked al dente
3 cloves garlic, fresh, minced
2 tbsp Olive Oil or Canola-Olive Oil blend
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 ounces white wine
4- 4oz salmon
1 tbsp M-Ocean, by Fennel Pollen
1/4 basil, fresh, chopped
1 lemon, zested
 2 oz  fresh squeezed lemon juice

Cook the pasta as directed on package, toss with olive oil and set aside. Heat the 2 tb olive oil in pan until HOT, add garlic and saute, do not brown. Season the salmon with salt, pepper and M~Ocean,  place in pan, meat side down if using skin on salmon fillet. Cook about 4 minutes and turn, cook one minute longer and remove from pan, hold warm. De-glaze the hot pan with the white wine and lemon juice and put in the basil and lemon zest. Let liquid wilt the basil and place the cooked pasta in the hot pan and toss with the Extra Virgin olive oil. Place a pile of pasta in the middle of a plate, top with salmon! Manga!!

By the way, this recipe has a little over 300 calories... add a veggie and you have a full meal for under 500 calories!!!

23 January 2011

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio!?

I have started working again (yea!!) and I am the Executive Chef for Chartwells-Compass Group at Cal State Stanislaus in good ol' Turlock. Hence the reason I haven't blogged in almost a month (wow, really?) I am just beginning to get the feel of getting back into it... I have already introduced myself to the Sustainable Garden Engineer and collected a bucket of Meyer lemons and blood oranges. My attitude about this position is to do something "amazing" everyday. We'll see if I am able to live up to that for myself.

I don't often do seafood. There is a chunk of Ahi tuna that I was going to toss while clearing out room for things in the freezer, but I said, Hey, let's use this!! So, today we are going to make seared Ahi Tuna with lavender-fennel sea salt and blood orange beurre blanc. The blood oranges have come from the garden here at CSU Stanislaus. Talk about sustainable!!

Ahi Tuna with Lavender-Fennel Sea Salt and Blood Orange Beurre Blanc

6 oz Ahi Tuna Loin
1 tbsp Lavender-Fennel Sea Salt
1 tbsp Olive Oil

Beurre Blanc

juice of 2 blood oranges
zest of said blood oranges
2 shallots, sliced
8 oz white wine
2 bay leaves
6-8 whole peppercorns
12 oz cold butter, sliced into pieces

Squeeze and zest blood oranges and set aside. In a small saucepan, place the other ingredients over med flame. Allow wine to reduce by 3/4, or au sec (Fr, "almost dry"), add in the blood orange juice and zest, and allow to reduce by 3/4 again. Remove from heat and strain well. Return to saucepan the remaining liquid and over low heat begin whisking in butter, allowing each addition to be throughly incorporated before adding the next bit. Taste, then season to your taste

For the tuna:

Heat a saute pan on high with the olive oil til just smoking. Coat the exterior of the tuna with the lavender fennel sea salt. Place carefully in hot pan and sear all sides, maybe 30-40 seconds per side. Seriously, I counted out loud to 40 before turning the tuna. Remove and let rest. Slice thinly, 1/8th to 1/4 inch thick slices. And serve.

I love this dish. The colors and different flavors are remarkable and stunning. Cooking is not rocket science and anyone can do it. Just have some confidence.

OK. My camera died in the creating of this dish. The pics of the plating are not good quality, but I am determined to write this blog live and in person from the California State University, Stanislaus. Bear with me as I embark on my new challenge. The next couple of weeks are going to be very challenging as the new semester begins and I get to running the show there. For now, have fun and enjoy life!!