This week I felt like a true with a capital “T” chef! I cleaned and filleted squid and fish (was not excited about that) and broke down a “whole” chicken. We were basically giving a chicken with its head and feet still attached and we had to essentially butcher it. I detest using that word, but that’s what we did. Before we did any of this, we all said a prayer and gave our blessings to these sea creatures and birds.
To be honest, I was not looking forward to either of these days. I went into sea creature day, all green and cringing at the fact that I was going to have to touch raw squid and fillet a fish, head and all. I’m not a huge fan of seafood as it is, so this wasn’t my favorite day! I almost bowed out of dealing with the fish and squid, but then I said to myself, “Jackie, you came here to challenge yourself and to learn, and the only way to truly learn and grow is to step out of your comfort zone.” So I did, I stepped out of my comfort zone and filleted a fish, about 12 squid and a whole chicken, and you know what? I felt really great and peaceful after both of those days. I’m not a vegetarian, so I don’t have an issue with meat, but to take apart a whole chicken and break it down into thighs, wings, drumsticks and breasts is not easy, and it makes you appreciate the whole process, as well as the bird. It’s an enlightening and spiritual experience, at least that’s the way my classmates and I felt after both days.
I think we all lose sight of it all when we go to the grocery store, fish market or butcher and everything is laid out neatly and presented to us in pieces. We never really think about the whole animal or sea creature before it came to the butcher, or actually know what goes into the whole process and the skill it takes. So today I give thanks to all the butchers, farmers and fisherman! You guys rock!
Also, when we broke apart our bird, we used the whole bird. There’s no waste! We will use the feet, fat and bones for stock, we used the liver and made chicken pate (which was super tasty). When I cooked up my thighs that day and ate them, I felt this sense of pride and peace. I’ve never had better tasting thighs, and I think it’s because I cut them myself and had this spiritual connection to the whole process that I’ve never experienced before. We all felt this sense of connection to the bird and earth that day. It’s strange writing about it, but it’s how we all felt.
I think what I’m truly learning is that becoming a natural chef is really getting back to the roots of what our ancestors did, and what our farmers do today. It’s all about getting back to the basics and acquiring the skills and techniques that our great grandparents did, and then passed on to their kids generation after generation. These days we’re not teaching and passing on those techniques to our kids. Most of our children think that meat comes from the grocery store in cute little packages and that milk comes from the dairy fridge. I want to change that in my house and actually pass on some of these “old school” techniques to my kids, so they understand what goes into the whole process, and have a better appreciation for it all. I want to butcher a whole chicken with my kids and have them see the process and learn. I guess it’s funny saying that today, because I never thought I would want to touch and break down a whole chicken, but this experience has given me an appreciation for it, and taken me out of my comfort zone, and that’s pretty amazing and ultimately rewarding.
Remember last week when I talked about balance and taking breaks when needed? Well, last weekend Steve and I piled the kids into the car and went up to Tahoe for the night (mini vacation) just to get a break from it all and to get the kid’s fitted for ski boots. It was absolutely breathtaking up there. Tahoe still had some snow in the higher elevations from the recent storm, so we all decided to stop off at Donner point and build a mini snowman. Isn’t he the cutest, and isn’t that view amazing?
Here’s a photo of the kids and I! I may use this for a Christmas card if I can get my act together 😉
Here’s a photo of all the kids! They’re crazy, but super cute!
We then drove on over to Start Haus to get the kids fitted for some ski boots. If you live in the Bay Area and ski in Tahoe and are in need of ski boots, get your ski boots at Start Haus! These guys are the BOMB! They are total pros when it comes to skis and boot fitting. They’re the guys/gals that fit the boots for the US ski team, so they are legit and totally know what they’re doing. I got my boots here last year and they are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever skied in. I’m a size 8 and they fit me in a size 6 boot, and they’re SO comfortable! I would have never thought that I would need to go down 2 sizes in a boot! The guy even trimmed down parts of Zoe’s boot to give her a more custom fit, awesome! Seriously, I highly recommend these guys if you’re in need of ski boots! Here’s Eli showing off his boots!
Another super cool thing is that Zoe got to drive in Tahoe. Yes, she’s got her permit, super cool! I have to say that she’s very focused, which is a great thing!
So after that mini get away I was ready to get back in the kitchen and cook. I made this amazing dinner the other night of braised chicken thighs with mushrooms and shallots, and paired that with oven baked brown rice and curried cauliflower with red onions. It was awesome and such a perfect fall dinner. Zoe came home from school and saw these ingredients on the counter and was so excited. She’s said, “mom, this food is absolutely beautiful, and the colors are SO vibrant, I can’t wait for dinner.” This is how I wish every kid could feel, I want every kid to come home see real food and get excited. It’s an awesome thing!
Since becoming a natural chef, I’m starting to get a bit crazy over here. This week I made my own coconut milk, so easy and requires only 3 simple ingredients.
I ground up raw buckwheat groats into buckwheat flour. Did you know that buckwheat is gluten-free? I have an amazing recipe that I will share with you all soon that uses both of these ingredients, and it’s a breakfast treat (hint: pancakes)!
You all know that I’m a HUGE breakfast fan! It’s my favorite meal of the day, so this morning I made a batch of buckwheat porridge! I used my homemade coconut milk to cook the buckwheat, tossed in a cinnamon stick, and it was amazing!
I will be posting all of these recipes in the next few weeks. So yes, I’m slowly turning into a natural chef and it’s pretty cool. I’m going back to the basics and it’s simpler than I thought to incorporate and create a natural foods pantry.
Also, I want to slowly show YOU all how to do these things, because there are SO many additives in anything you buy packaged at the grocery store these days. When you realize how simple it is to make your own nut, coconut milk and flour, you will start doing so as well. It’s also a great thing to teach and pass onto your kids. One of the things I’m thinking of offering to local peeps is to help them stock their own natural foods pantry. I’ll come to your house and teach you how to do it all, and take the stress away from having to figure it out for yourself. I’ll help stock your kitchen and pantry with the essential tools needed to become a better chef and cook! I seriously can’t wait to get us all back into the kitchen cooking, teaching and passing on the skills to our kids! It’s vital and important that we share this knowledge and pass it on…
Ok, I’m off to the gym! Have an amazing Sunday everyone!