Sad Panda

9 11 2011

This is a post I wrote back in August, I wanted to publish it for my memories…

My boss told me 2 1/2 weeks ago he was leaving the Academy. Talk about a gut punch. I cried the entire day after he told me… the week after was hard because everyone was like OH NO DON IS LEAVING ARE YOU OKAY?? No motherfucker, I am NOT okay. Stop asking me if I’ll be okay!! A loss is a loss, and I am grieving.

I don’t think people understand how awesome of a boss Don has been. I know I gush about him constantly, and it isn’t because I’m a kiss up…he has been more than a boss. He’s been a mentor the past 3 1/2 years, a total polar opposite of my previous boss (aka Satan). He never scolded me for messing up, he only asked that I don’t make the same mistake twice. He nutures his employees to be their own boss and to be proud of what they do. I’ve never had a boss like that, the past I have felt like all my bosses held me back and would micromanage, not thinking I was capable of doing my job. And look at me 3 years later, I am a kick ass assistant because he let me be me and do my job, with the help of his guidance when I needed it. He knew the potential I had, and he let it out. After 10 years of working as an assistant, I was scared I’d never find a boss like this.

I feel like a lame ass because I am so upset. I was okay last week, but when I came in this morning to his packed up office, I got upset. All day today people have been like “ohh Rachael are you okay??” #@)(*$)@($*# Now that he just took everything out to his car, it hit me and I started to cry again. To me, this is a sign of weakness…I have never been able to control this, and I hate it. I feel like I should be professional about this. I feel bad about chastising someone else for being upset over their boss, but their boss is STILL HERE!! They just moved departments. I guess a loss is a loss, but it’s not the same.

On a happier note, I think he will love his going away gift. I ordered him a Lamb Chop puppet:

The back story behind this is Don calls me a lamb chop when he wants something lol. “Rach, would you be a lamb chop and get me a coffee??” I love it honestly, and I think he’ll get a kick out of this. The puppet also talks, just like my yappy self.

I also wrote him a letter and tucked it into the present, separate from the card I got him, so it’s kind of a double whammy because I tend to write things that make people cry…not in a bad way, I’m just good at expressing myself in written word.

Don,

It’s difficult to know where to start, you have been not only an amazing and supportive boss, but a mentor I have looked up to since I started at the Academy. You have made such an impact on my life, not only professionally, but in my personal life as well. You have given me a perspective on things I never thought I would have. You’ve helped me look beyond petty issues and see the bigger picture, which is a challenge I have battled with. I am happy to say that because of you, I struggle less and less each day with this and hope that what I’ve learned from you will influence others that I work with. The Academy is a successful and sustaining business thanks to your guidance. I could go on and on about how awesome you are, pages I tell you!

I am jealous that LA has stolen you away from me and the Academy, but I know that this is an incredible opportunity for you, so of course I am extremely happy for you. LA is so lucky to be getting you on their team, and knowing we will continue to work together beyond the Academy is a comfort, even if you aren’t sitting next to me. I have no excuse to avoid southern California anymore, and I look forward to seeing you at the end of September!

I hope he knows how much he has changed many lives of people here in San Francisco, he is an inspiration and a person I know I will be friends with until the day I die!





Starting a new chapter in my life…

7 09 2011

I started this post last Thursday, but it being the last day my boss was in the office, I decided to postpone until I was a little less emotional. Anyhow… a couple of months back I was at a point where I was just fed up with myself.  I have put on all but 5lbs since my surgery 4 years ago, and while I am generally active, I haven’t enjoyed exercise for a while.  Gus started running back in the spring, and I thought it would be fun for us to do it together.  Trail running is all good, but once I hit the pavement, I was sore for like 3 days after the run, unable to run the days after because of the pain.

I was looking through the Kaiser online services and came across this program called Medical Weight Management.  After reading up on it and deciding it was time to do something, I signed up for the orientation in July. Leading up to the first meeting, I was pretty excited.  A vacation from food sounded awesome!  Not having to worry about what to eat for 16 weeks was a dream since I struggle with it daily.

The first meeting was an introduction to the program, and it was a relief to find out we didn’t start the food replacements until the second week.  Our facilitator, Kelly, is a really nice lady and is really upbeat and has a great energy.  I even like my classmates!  I’ve been in group settings before and I can usually find one person that will bug, but this group seems to be super awesome so far. I was worried about starting this new program having so many big changes going on in my life right now (Older brother living with me, 1st wedding anniversary coming up, my mega super awesome boss leaving the Academy), but my good friend, Bea told me that it’s good to have a bunch of changes going on at once, and big ones like this are the best motivator to keep going.  I hope she is right!

We started the meal replacements last Thursday (9/1), my boss’s last day in the office and the beginning of my 5 day weekend for the Labor Day holiday.  I wouldn’t recommend starting this on a holiday weekend if you can avoid it, but since I’m on Kaiser’s timeline, I didn’t have a choice.  The first day wasn’t so hard because I was sad about Don and other things at work and I was too focused on that to worry about food.  Friday was a bit harder, though I was home most of the day with Gus and my brother.

Saturday, Gus and I had dentist appointments in San Ramon, then headed to Millbrae afterward for the Art and Wine Festival downtown.  Talk about a test!! I had my 2 shakes before leaving and brought my 2 bars with me to eat for later meals.  Everyone knows why they go to these festivals…the food!! Who doesn’t want fried calamari with fries and a turkey leg on a stick??  The smell is overwhelming while we’re walking down from Alex’s house, so I stopped at Starbucks for an iced passion tea.   It’s no replacement for fried food, but it kept me at bay.  However, since I didn’t buy all that crazy expensive unhealthy food, I had money to spend on arts and crafts!!!  I left with 2 pairs of awesome earrings and some air plants, way more satisfying than a grease-filled tummy.

I went to a ping-pong tournament at my former boss’s house on Sunday.  Another great test for being around food and not being able to have it.  I brought a coffee with me so I had something to sip on while I was chatting with people.  Then I switched to mineral water the rest of the day.  People were interested to hear about my diet, too, so it was kind of nice to be able to talk about it.  At the end of the night, there was a champagne toast, so I did have a tiny sip because it was a super special occasion.  And how can you turn down a limited edition Andy Warhol Dom Perignon?? Exactly! It was the best sip I’ve ever had, too haha

As for the meal replacements, they are pretty good.  We’re allowed to add non-calorie flavorings and spices to the shakes and soups, I’ve been living off Vanilla shakes and diet orange flavoring this week!  The chocolate shake with a little cinnamon is good, too!  I can’t say I love the strawberry shake, but it’s edible and I won’t order anymore going forward since it’s not my favorite.

So far though, I feel pretty good.  Tuesday morning I woke up STARVING and it took until lunch time for it to go away, but since then I’ve felt pretty good.  Today is day 7 and per my scale I have lost 9lbs.  We’ll see tonight when I go to class and do the weigh-in.  This has to be the only time in my life where I’m excited to get on the scale!





Missing my puglet…

28 03 2011

In a week, it’ll be a year since we had to put down Greta.  For those who don’t know, Greta was my mini-me puglet.  She was me in pug form, and we were best buddies!  She was sassy just like me, and yapped away like I did when I was angry.  She was my partner in crime, and I loved her to bits.  She was also a light in mine and Gus’s lives when we lost our first pug, Ruby.

I adored Ruby as well, but I didn’t have the same bond I did with Greta.  When she got sick last year, I knew deep down it was the same thing as Ruby, and I just couldn’t accept it.  Now that we are looking to add to our furry family, I’m filling out pug rescue applications because our breeder left a bad taste in our mouth (both our pugs were from her).

I honestly didn’t think the application would be that difficult, but once I got to the question:  “Have you ever had to euthanize a dog? If so, why?”  I decided the two lines on the form weren’t enough, so I typed up an “addendum” to the application.  Of course, while I’m writing, I start to get really sad and start crying.  Even a year later, the nerves are so raw and sensitive…  I still miss her face and calling her “Senorita Sassypants”, letting her attack my arm in harmless pug assaults.  She had the cutest little bark, and barked more than any other pug I met!  I could go on and on, but I wanted to get this out of my head so I at least feel a little bit better.  I will miss her always and forever, and Gus and I are lucky to have had her in our lives for the short time we did.

Miss you baby Greta!





Breakfast for Dinner…Always a good idea!

6 03 2011

Breakfast is definitely my favorite meal, and I love that you can have it any time!!  When Gus and I were first dating, I would make a big fancy breakfast at least once a week, or we would go out for a nice breakfast.  Omelets, pancakes, waffles, scrambles…you name it, I love it!  I love going out, but making it at home is just as easy as ordering it, and it doesn’t take a lot to spruce up a tasty meal.

I think the reason it’s so well loved is because it’s so frakin’ easy to make.  I used an “easy” waffle recipe from my handy dandy Better Homes cookbook, and modified it a bit.

Oh so easy!

Here are the ingredients I used:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup milled flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

To kick this up a notch (ha!), I sauteed a diced apple in a tablespoon of butter, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and a sprinkling of turbinado sugar.  This can be left out, but it totally is worth the extra 5 minutes this takes.

Let the apples cool off before you mix it into the batter.  The raw egg in the batter will scramble if you throw this in hot.  I just threw this in freezer while I started the batter.  It was chilled enough by the time I was done!

It is super important when making pancakes, waffles or almost any baked good that you prepare your dry and wet ingredients separately.  This allows for optimal mixing with minimal effort!  I started by whisking the 2 eggs in a small bowl until slightly frothy.  Since there are no whipped egg whites with this method, you’ll want your eggs to be frothy to add volume to the batter.  Ultimately this makes for a fluffy waffle!  Then I added the milk and oil to the eggs and whisked those together until blended.

Now that the wet stuff is mixed, time to move onto the dry!  I added the flour, milled flax seed, baking soda, salt and sugar to a large bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, then add the wet all at once and mix until just blended.  Don’t over mix or your waffles will be chewy (yuck!).  Add the apple mixture to the batter and stir into the batter.  I used my trusty Belgian waffle maker purchased over 8 years ago from Amazon for like $30!  Best buy ever!  Each waffle maker is different, I love mine because there are no heat controls, just on and off.  That’s all you need, no fancy schmancy multi-heat level needed for awesome waffles.  I melted a little butter and put some in the hot iron and added about a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of batter and closed the lid.  Whatever you do, DO NOT TAKE A PEEK!  My waffle iron’s light turns off when it thinks it’s done, but I like mine crispier.  I usually let it go 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until the steam has almost stopped coming out of the iron.  The first waffle is always what I call the “tester”.  It’s like the first pancake; you have to let the pan adjust to having batter in it.  Plus it’s a nice little snack while you’re waiting for the other waffles to finish!

 

Mmmm, pre-dinner snack

Check out this fluffy waffle!

I forgot to add cinnamon to the batter at first, so I threw it in for the last few waffles.  Top this with whatever you like on your waffles.  I just used light butter Aunt Jemima syrup we have in the house with a little light margarine spread.  This would be great with a caramel syrup, or fresh brown sugar syrup, Gus tried honey.  Whatever floats your boat!

Attack!

It can be changed up with different fruit, too.  I was going to do sliced bananas, or frozen blueberries (fresh even!), strawberries, raspberries, mango, you get the idea.  If you want a meatier option for breakfast, try throwing a slice of cooked bacon (pork, turkey or vegetarian) onto the waffle iron, then the batter and cook.  It’s a savory/sweet meal you’ll go back to time and time again!

Price-wise, this is a really cheap meal.  I just used what I had on hand in my pantry, and the apple was like 50 cents.

I hope you enjoy Breakfast for Dinner as much as I do.  What are some of your recipes?





Quick Wedge Salad…oh and why I’ve been missing

6 03 2011

I’m back from my hiatus of well… honestly, I haven’t had any interest in doing anything since my wedding.  I think 9 months of crafting and planning a DIY wedding burned me out of all my hobbies and personal projects I had before becoming engaged.  Since my lazy, hanging out in a couch fort, watching all 11 seasons of Law & Order: SVU (yes, 11 seasons…in 10 days!), snoozing with my pug and new husband in said couch fort Christmas vacation, I have gradually started doing my fun/me/Rachael projects I loved doing before the wedding.  I made a few custom scarves for the craft fair at work, and a couple for gifts since.  I’ve also banned myself from buying any more yarn until I’ve crocheted everything I own.  That is a LOT of yard, you guys.  I have like 3 reusable grocery bags filled with yarn!

I’ve also started and stopped my wedding album like 3 times since the wedding.  I started using the same site I did our guest book on (MyPublisher), but it limited me to 100 pages, which is a pretty big book, but I wanted to include all the professional photos.  I got to our cake cutting and the software wouldn’t let me add more pages.  I was a little mad at myself for not checking, I had spent like a week on it, ugh!  So I moved onto Picaboo.  After I finished it (another week later), I went to checkout and it was over $400!   I decided that I’d rather get a really nice quality album that is shorter with the traditional shots, and print all the photos from good ol’ Shutterfly to put in a scrapbook album (that my *husband* suggested!).  Their prices are crazy cheap, they’re local and ship super quickly! Anyway…my long-winded commentary sums up to me being lazy and now I’m not, so ON with the food!

I’ve been craving big, crispy/crunchy salads and lots of raw veggies lately, so a nice big wedge of iceberg lettuce sounded so good last week.  This rendition is a little different than the traditional wedge salad (blue cheese dressing, bacon, tomato).  I was craving thousand island dressing, so I picked it up at the grocery store, along with 2 heads of iceberg lettuce.  I completely forgot to get stuff to put on the salad, but I was lucky enough to have some leftover veggies from a previous day’s dinner, score!   Anyway, this is just a quick salad and it’s great as a meal if you add some grilled chicken or salmon, yum.

Ingredients
1 head of iceberg lettuce
1/2 English cucumber
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

Quarter the head of lettuce and cut out the core.  Rinse wedges under cold water, and dry in a salad spinner.  I tuck them in center down so they don’t fall apart while it’s spinning around.  Slice the cucumber in 1/4″ pieces.  I like cutting on a slant, it looks pretty.  Cut the red onion into thin slices and break up sections and make a small pile for easy sprinkling later on!  It’s super easy to make toasted nuts for your salads or pastries.  I get a small nonstick pan and put it over high heat.  When it’s nice and hot, I add the walnuts and keep tossing them in the pan to make sure they don’t burn.  It only takes about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your nuts.  Place one or two wedges on a plate, salt and pepper the lettuce, then start adding your toppings!  I started with the toppings.   Add the cucumber and onion slices onto the wedges, then sprinkle the blue cheese and freshly toasted walnuts.  Depending on the number of wedges you are serving per person (in my case, two per person since it’s our dinner), I use about 2-4 tablespoons of dressing.  Just enough to cover the top in light layer.  It may look like a lot, but that is a lot of lettuce underneath there! I added more freshly cracked pepper, then dove in.

Price-wise, this is a really cost-conscious meal.  The lettuce was on sale for $1.50.  The dressing was also on sale at the grocery store, and we’ll use that for several salads.  The veggies were also cheap, the cucumber was $2, onion was about $1, but I got 2 meals out of each one!  I bought walnuts in a huge bag that were on sale at Safeway.  It was $4.99 for over a pound of whole walnuts!  If you’ve ever been down the baking aisle at the grocery store,





Winner winner, chicken dinner!

24 10 2010

Yes, I used a Guy Fieri quote for a subject!  I honestly like the guy (*snicker*); I like his cooking show, but Diners, Drive-ins & Dives is my absolute favorite.  I’ve found some holes in the wall around SF thanks to his show…

I’ve only cooked dinner once this week (unless you count last night’s heated up tomato soup as “cooking”), but it turned out super tasty. I had an unfortunate accident Monday morning in the local Starbucks.  I dropped a receipt so I bent over to pick it up, right next to the drink and pastry cabinet…on my way back up I smacked the top of my head into the pastry cabinet super hard.  I really wanted to scream out, but I held it in and just let my eyes water while the barista asked me what I wanted.  “Venti Pike’s please…” as a tear streams down my face.  She looked a little concerned, but I played it off and rubbed my head and walked off to get my milk.  I’m completely okay, I’ve had more than my fair share of head traumas in my life time (I’m not so sure if that’s a good thing, ha!).  As I was putting milk in my coffee, my head kept hurting and I thought it’d be best if I went home because I knew my head was going to hurt all day, no sense in sitting at my desk.  I can do emails from home, so it’s not too big of a deal.  I called my boss, left a message and emailed him from my Blackberry.  He’s quite aware of my clumsiness, as I’ve flown out of his office during the first few months we worked together.  He’s heard my stories of fainting and landing on my face, falling up the stairs at work with a tray full of cookies for a meeting, slipped down my garage stairs and landed on my lower back…oh I can go on and on.  I’m graceful like that!

I stopped at Mollie Stone’s on my way home to pick up some food for the house, including dinner.  I worked on emails and watched 80’s movies most of the day.  It’s not a good idea to take a nap after hitting your head, so I needed to stay awake.  Around 4:30pm I started dinner so it was ready when Gus got home.

I picked up a pre-marinated chicken from the store.  Mollie Stone’s has a variety of marinades, I thought lemon pepper chicken would go best with the side I picked out.

Half chickens are perfect for 2 people, and it’s super affordable (less than $4).  I preheated the oven to 400F and prepped the baking dish with foil and added the chicken.

Before...

That’s not good enough though!  That chicken needs more flavor.  Meet the trio of awesomeness:

Black pepper, garlic powder and lemon pepper salt.

I do enjoy crispy skin on chicken, I know not all people do, but I really love it!  That’s where these 3 come in.  I start with the garlic powder, lemon pepper salt then black pepper, using very generously.

After!

The oven has preheated long enough, so pop that sucker into the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.  The chicken is going to need around 45 to 55 minutes in the oven total, but there’s another dish going into the oven after that 20 minutes is up.

I picked out cauliflower while at the grocery store, it was on sale and I love cauliflower.  I didn’t know what I was going to do at the time, but when I got home I noticed we have a Costco-sized bag of crumbled blue cheese, so I hopped online and looked for a roasted cauliflower and blue cheese recipe.  Low and behold, I found this amazing recipe!  Super easy and I had all the ingredients, perfecto!  Say hello to Mr. Cauliflower:

Mr. Cauliflower

I find it easier to wash after I’ve cut it up since you can’t really count on the water getting underneath all those dense florets.  Start cutting up semi-large chunks, try to keep everything similarly sized so it all roasts up evenly.

After it’s all cut up and in a large colander, give it a good rinse with water.

After it’s been drained and dried, spread it out on a sheet pan in an even layer and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Side note: I love that little oil can in the photo.  I picked it up at an Asian supermarket in SF.  After you’ve drizzled the olive oil on the cauliflower, it’s time to add some flavor!  Garlic powder, salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Then toss it all together to evenly coat the cauliflower.  After the timer goes off, time to pop the cauliflower into the oven.  Add another 18 minutes onto the timer, then it’s time to add a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle on the blue cheese.  Bake for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.  Take it all out of the oven and admire your hard work!

yum!

I let the chicken cool for at least 10 minutes so the juices have a chance to redistribute in the meat and makes for easier carving.  Plate it all up and sprinkle some more blue cheese on top of the cauliflower.

Winner winner!

Then enjoy!!!

This is a super easy dinner to throw together and it’s ready within 90 minutes of starting.  The cauliflower is a little fancier than I’d do on a normal evening.  Generally I pick up something that is quick, like mashed sweet potatoes, fresh corn (when it’s in season), or I’ll toss red potatoes and garlic in with the chicken and roast them all together.

This meal cost about $6 total, which isn’t bad for two people.  I say it’s downright awesome!  It’s really not hard to have an affordable homemade meal every night.

 





My love of cooking and food; A History

19 10 2010

I can’t fight it, I love food!  I am by no means a glutton, but I do enjoy good food, especially when I get to make it.

I wanted to start fresh with a food blog since I do love cooking, and I think this will force me to start cooking from scratch more.  I’m no professional by any means, just a good everyday meal maker!  I grew up helping my grandma and mom (even my dad!) in the kitchen, and had already baked my first batch of cookies by age 7 (ginger snaps, yum!).  The women in my life taught me the joys of making everyday meals, and large feasts (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter…).

My dad introduced me to different varieties of foods at an early age.  He loved Japanese food, so naturally we went at least once a week (my dad being a perpetual bachelor only cooked a few times a week).  I loved going out to eat with my dad, he’d let me order whatever I wanted, and he HATED fast food.  When I was older and able to cook for myself, he’d let me cook dinner for the two of us.  This generally consisted of a grilled meat (chicken breast, ham steak or pork chops) and either broccoli (my dad hated ALL other veggies…growing up in the midwest eating crap ass frozen veggies will do that to you!) or a rice-a-roni or a box of stuffing (always my favorite!).

My senior year in high school, I lived with my grandma and niece to help out with the house, which included cooking dinner.  I started to branch out more, but when I went away to college, I didn’t need to cook as much.  I’d come home for the holidays and help cook the huge dinners.  Grandma put me in charge of fruit salad every year through high school.  One year I got to help make more than half of the meal, it was a lot of work, but I had so much fun.

After graduating and moving out in 2001, I discovered Food Network, and I was hooked!  I was truly inspired by the shows and started cooking more and more.  I’d be more adventurous and was often successful.  Living on a budget forced me to  be really creative and conscious.  When I started dating my husband, I’d trek over to Santa Cruz every night after work and make him a nice homemade dinner.  It was a nice change of pace from his typical dinner of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese!  Throughout our relationship, my cooking skills have been honed, and he’s not so bad himself!  I like to think I had a hand in his new found love of baking.

Now that I’m married and have a newly stocked kitchen of cooking and baking goodness, I really love cooking even more!  It’s amazing how different a kick ass bamboo cutting board makes chopping up veggies compared to the old plastic Ikea cutting board I used to use (thanks Heather!).  We still need to get a set of cookware and a set of knives, but we have the basics.  I can’t wait to finish up the kitchen, but I still love it as is for now :)

My husband and I at Tutti Melon in West Portal, SF.








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