I had such a fun weekend.  It started out early on Friday morning.  I had to catch the 7 a.m. train to Chicago to get to the train station by 8:00 a.m. – and that’s the express train, which will show how far NW I live from Chicago – 55 miles to be exact.  I had to be to Kendall College by 8:30, so I knew that would give me enough time to jump in a cab and get to the school by 8:30 a.m.

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There were 33 kids that were paired into groups of three.  The high school students knew it was going to be one of three possible menus, but wouldn’t know exactly what they would be making until they got there.  They also got paired with kids they didn’t go to school with – basically like being thrown into a restaurant kitchen not knowing anyone.  That woman I am with at the bottom is my friend Alison’s friend Theresa who is the Culinary Arts Instructor at a local high school here in Chicago.  Not only does she get to cook all day, but she also is the director of events like this one – how fun is that?!  And while she isn’t smiling in this picture, she was super friendly and very passionate about what she does.

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I obviously couldn’t post any pictures of the students, but each one had a number on their back so that we could judge not only the team as a whole, but each student individually.  Three of us were asked to oversee the food and production portion of the cooking competition.  Each team had 30 minutes to prepare their mise-en-place – it gave the kids a chance to put a game plan together on how they would prepare all their food in the 60 minutes that followed.  They couldn’t do any cooking in the first 30 minute phase, but what I found interesting is that almost immediately in each group one person would take charge and assign different tasks, almost acting like a head Chef!

Once it was time to cook, they were off.  The teams used two kitchens at Kendall, so I kept walking between the two kitchens, watching to see if they were using the proper equipment, tools, and techniques to prepare the food.  I saw some kids resting a cutting board on the side of a work station, some using a boning knife to cut a sweet potato.  Another group used a skillet with hardly any poaching liquid to poach pears.  We also observed if the teams were following the recipes in the proper sequence to complete the plating in the time allowed.  And last to see which teams worked best together to get the job done.

As you’ll see in the photos above, there were lots of interpretations of how the dish should be plated.  The top right group had the best visually appealing meal.  Some didn’t even plate items on the same plate like the lower left hand side.  And some used LOTS of sweet potatoes!  And sadly, even after 90 minutes one team didn’t get all their meals plate in time like the team in the middle on the far right.

But they all had determination, they were focused, albeit some more than others, and I found something positive to say about every student.   I had to laugh though, because one girl five minutes in looked at me and another judge and declared “I am never going to culinary school!”

My job was done by 1:30.  Other people were judging for taste, and the winners of this group going to sectionals, and then “state” which is back at Kendall college after Easter.  It was a wonderful experience.  I couldn’t believe how fast the day went, and for obvious reason – I was around food, and all these industry professionals and a part of me wishes I could go back in time and do it all over again and go to culinary school.   Back then though, I would have had no idea how diverse the culinary world could be and how many different directions it could go: food styling, event planning, public relations, marketing, corporate dining, catering, test kitchen, and nutritionist, just to name a few.  All I know is that I felt alive on Friday and it was an awesome feeling.

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Since I was done so early, I got to go visit my twin sister at her office.  That lower picture in the middle with the flag poles?  That is the front door of Kendall College – my sisters office? 3.2 miles away, and I never gave it a second thought to catch a cab.  It was about 40 degrees and partly sunny, and there is so much to see while walking in Chicago – the 45 minute walk went by really quick.

It’s funny because being a twin as an adult is different.  We have two completely different lives, and it doesn’t normally come up in a conversation at work that “oh, did I ever tell you that I have a twin sister?!”  My sister works for a large company, and their office is wide open, yet surprisingly not noisy!  I walked by my sisters desk, and people start popping up one by one because they see “another Jennifer.”  We talk alike, our mannerisms are the same, and it basically freaks people out when they only know one twin.  We were able to grab a cup of coffee and go hand out at the Palmer House hotel lobby while we caught up for a bit.  While we talk on the phone and text a lot, we don’t actually see each other in person as much as I would like.  Before Friday I hadn’t seen her since Christmas!  It was nice catching up with you Jenn!  We’ll have to do our downtown birthday together in March like we did last year.  And I realized when I got home I never got a picture of us together!


Saturday night was my bosses dinner party that a catered.  I’d had my game plan on paper for quite a while, but Friday night after I got back from Chicago, I did all my grocery shopping and did about an hour and a half of prep work Friday night.  I baked the Mexican Chocolate cupcakes, made the Mexican meatballs, shrimp ceviche and poached the chicken for the chicken enchilada soup and white chicken enchiladas.

Saturday morning I got up at 6:30 to put my barbocoa beef on – I had 8 pounds of boneless pot roast that had to roast for 3 hours at 325.  Don’t worry, I went back to bed for a couple hours!  I then got up around 8:30 and continued the rest of the food preparation.  Again, I had my music going, had the dogs at my feet, and just cooked the morning away and it went by so fast.  My timeline was perfect.  I was done and had everything ready to go a couple hours before I had to get to her house.  Hannah helped me chop onions and helped me pack up stuff and came with me to drop everything off.  We spent an hour at my bosses house and I left her with a timeline on what to do when.  She asked me to have my phone handy just in case, but I never heard from her, so I am assuming no news is good news!

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Yep, those were my food stained notes by the end of my cooking spree.  I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures because nothing was ever completely done, as my boss was putting together the final product, but I will post a few recipes in the near future.

I will share one recipe though today.  When I took the barbacoa out of the oven on Saturday morning, Hannah and Jacob were just waking up and Hannah mentioned “what smells so good?!”  I said “it’s beef, so you won’t like it.”  She walked over and took a tiny bit of the fork tender meat and said “can you make this for us?!”  I nearly fell over right there – Hannah is so picky about beef I never would have guessed in a million years she’d like it.  So while I doubled the recipe for my bosses party, this recipe below is for a standard size family, and you will still have leftovers.

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I had 3 ounces of pot roast (7 sp), 1/4 cup pinto beans, 1/4 cup cilantro lime rice and used a 1 point tortilla that my sister told me about on Saturday – it’s super soft and almost burrito sized.  After I took that picture, I just threw everything into the tortilla, added hot sauce and called it a day.  So while this was a 10 smart point dinner, the stats come in at:  531 calories, 23 fat, 51 carbs, 16 fiber and 38 grams of protein.

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And if you made it all the way down to the bottom of this long post, today is my first WI after my first week on the new WW plan.  I was a bit nervous because I didn’t use all my weekly points, in fact going to bed last night I left 18 points on the table.  But I ate really good food, and didn’t feel deprived at all.  Even enjoyed a burger out Saturday night!

For those playing along, January 1: 177.9  January 15: 174.1   February 1:  172.8 and today . . . 170.1!  Ah, so close to the 160’s, but I’ll get there next week.

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So –2.7 for my first week on WW, and I ate a lot of really good food!   And I got my minimum of 10k steps in each day, I did strength training three times a week, so all my ducks are lining up, and the results are showing up on the scale.   I’ve lost 7.8 pounds just over 5 weeks – not too bad!

Alright, time to get this show on the road – happy Monday – make it a great day!