Personal chef Quinoa Bars 122

A common mental image of a “hacker” is a computer geek who uses his computer to get unauthorized data.  Thankfully. the term “hacker” no longer applies only to computer geeks.

This term has a completely new meaning that I embrace and embody in my everyday life and my career.  It is a beautiful thing.

The term hacking can also be used to describe someone who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities.  Now that is what I am talking about!

My darling friend Cesar asked me to make some food for a retreat he was organizing.  He wanted some delish and healthy meals and snacks.  I wanted to try something new for snack ideas.  Here is a picture of Cesar enjoying one of my meals at the Unreasonable Institute retreat this summer.

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My other darling friend Pascal has a recipe on his fridge for quinoa snack bars.  I did not have a copy of the recipe but could remember the basics of the recipe and decided to give it a hack.  You should check out Pascal’s website Make Awesome Shit Happen.

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Using ingredients I had in the pantry and pulling out my food processor I got to work.  I was surprised at what a “healthy hack” this snack turned out to be.  “Healthy hacking” means when you get a result in the kitchen making fantastic food with beautiful ingredients that does not take hours of time or years of skill.  I delight in finding recipes that are similar to expensive convenience items and are simple to make and cost a fraction of the retail price.

These healthy and tasty bars are a great “kitchen hack.”    Packed full of ground flax seed, organic toasted nuts, dried organic fruit, dried coconut flakes, Justin’s almond butter and agave nectar this is a powerhouse snack.

Personal chef Quinoa Bars 123

TRY THIS RECIPE.  Kids love it, you will love it and give some to your friends and they will love you more!

I urge you to step into your kitchen and hack away.  No, I do not mean you should wield you knife in an unsafe manner but approach your cooking with a mindset that  embodies excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration.  Have Fun!

This a gluten free, paleo snack that is also vegan.

Quinoa Fruit and Nut Bars

Makes 12 Bars

Prep time 10 minutes

10 minutes to set

20 minutes to enjoying a yummy and healthy snack.

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Ingredients:

3 cups dried fruit, you can use apricots, cranberries, raisins, dates or any other moist dried fruit

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 cups nuts, I used almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds and you can toast them or use them raw for a healthier hack

1/2 cup organic quinoa

1/2 cup organic flax seeds

1/4 tsp sea salt

2 tbs agave nector

4 tbs Justin’s Almond Butter, I could say to use any almond butter but for best results use Justin’s.

A great kitchen hack for baking and prep is to use a flexible cutting board, silpat baking sheet or parchment to measure out your ingredients.

Then you can just lift up the flexible surface and pour into your food processor or mixer without a mess or losing any ingredients.  So easy and simple

1.  Grind the flax seeds for about 2 minutes.

2.  Add Nuts, Quinoa and dried fruit then grind for another 2 minutes.

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3.  Add coconut, salt, agave and nut butter and mix for 2 more minutes.

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4.  Line a 11 x 7 inch rectangular pan or any other similar size pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Spray lightly with non-stick spray.

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5.  Add quinoa bar mixture to the pan and press it flat.

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6.  Set pan in freezer for 10 minutes or refrigerator for 1 hour to set the mixture and make it easier to cut.

Lara Bars and Bread 032Bars may be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month or in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Personal chef Quinoa Bars 126 About a week after the retreat I received this email from Cesar.

Connie,

Here is a photo of both my sisters and one of their fiancees with your snack bars in Argentina!  I brought the left over ones as a travel snack and had enough to share, and the girls loved them  would you mind sharing the recipe with us?lara bars girlsThis was a very nice email to receive.  I love the fact that those healthy bars made it down to Argentina to these beautiful young people!!!

Since we are on the subject of hacking let me tell you about a happy discovery in my life.  My husband recently found a hacker space in our town.  Solid State Depot is the hacker space here in Boulder Colorado.

What is a hacker space?

From the website LifeHacker I found this description of a hacker space.  They also list hacker spaces around the country.

“Great DIY projects  are often easy to do at home, but many require tools and space that you may not have. Just because you don’t have a basement workshop doesn’t mean you don’t get to scratch your DIY itch. Odds are there’s a hackerspace in your community, stocked with tools, plenty of space, safety gear, and knowledgeable people willing to help you. These spaces offer would-be makers a place to go and safely experiment, tinker, and dream. Here’s how you can find and get involved with one near you.”

Check out your local hacker space today!

frittata 4 lemon chicken 099My last blog post was titled “Self Hosting Fun”  and it was not fun at all.

This is why I have not been blogging.  I regret it.  I have blog posts swirling around in my brain all of the time.  I still have not been blogging.

Why?

Fear of failure.  It really is that simple.  I tried to jump over to self hosting with a new template and failed at being able to figure it out.   I have used many different types of templates and have been pretty successful at figuring  out how to work with templates, but not this time.  I have met my match and lost the fight.  The template I chose was not something I could figure out.  I failed.

I have a quote on my fridge that says, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.”  -Winston Churchill

It is on my fridge! I see it everyday but I was not approaching this particular failure with enthusiasm.  Instead I was hiding from it.  My goal with the self hosting and new template was to create a more professional looking blog.  How could I go back to blogging until I succeeded?

My failure was not in being unable to figure out my new blog template but by not continuing to blog while I solved the problem.

I was talking on the phone to my lovely sister Shelley over the holidays and she said, “My mother in law, Doris and I love cooking the recipes from your blog.”

That was it.  That was all I needed to hear.  This is why I write this blog.  It has nothing to do with professionalism or how the blog looks.  It is about getting people to enjoy being in the kitchen and cooking healthy, scratch-made meals for family and friends.

I have not given up on making the change to a more professional looking blog but will continue to post while I approach the transition without fear and with lots of enthusiasm.

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Lemon Chicken Thighs with Thyme and Garlic

Simple and delicious, this entree is easy to make and tastes great.
Gluten Free and low carb as well as Paleo,  I love to make this dish on any night since it is quick and easy.

4-6 servings

10 minutes prep and 20 minutes cooking, but remember to let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes after baking for the lovely juices to redistribute in the chicken for the most tender and moist results.

Start heating your oven to 425 degrees for at least 20 minutes before baking the chicken.

Total time:  40 minutes to delicious chicken.

6-12 Good quality Chicken Thighs with bones and skin.

4 large good-looking lemons, preferably organic as you will be using the whole lemon with skin and all.

1 generous handful of fresh thyme chopped lightly with the woody stems cut off or 1 tbs dried thyme (if I am using dried I like to use the French thyme from Savory Spice Shop)  Remember to save your fresh thyme stems for stock, just put them in a zip lock bag in the freezer for later use.

2 large cloves of fresh garlic minced.

2 tbs good quality unsalted butter softened. 

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

Cracked pepper to taste

Get your oven really hot.  Pre-heat to 425 degrees for at least 20 minutes while you are prepping your ingredients.

Smash together in a small bowl, the garlic, ½ tsp of kosher salt and ½ of your fresh thyme and your softened butter.  Use a fork to get it all mixed together by smashing it with the tines of the fork.  

Slice your lemons into thin circles.  Remove any seeds. 

Lay the chicken out on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet.  Give the thighs a little room for the heat to circulate around them and allow for the skin to get crispy.

Lift up the skin of the chicken thighs and insert a small amount of butter mixture and one slice of lemon.  If you are making 6 thighs you will put in more butter mixture than if you are make 12 thighs.  Just use you judgment on how much you should put in.  You can measure out the butter mixture ahead of time so that you can see how much to use on each thigh.  I usually use around ¼ tsp per thigh.

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Season the top of the chicken with the rest of your kosher salt and cracked pepper.  Liberally sprinkle the rest of the thyme over the top of the chicken and bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches around 170 degrees and the skin is crispy and browned.

Let chicken rest for about 10 minutes.

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Great served with roasted Brussels Sprouts or steamed fresh broccoli.

the winner is..

The winner of a darling apron from Lulu’s High Country Kitchen is Eliot the Cat!

Lulu apron

Please contact us for details on how to get your lovely hand-made Colorado apron from Lulu’s High Country Kitchen.

Here are some lovely bakery pictures for you to enjoy and I will be back blogging this week.  Working two jobs has made it difficult this last month but now things have slowed down a bit.  I cannot wait to get back to it.  Here are some of the things that I work on every morning…very early.  I am loving the bakery work.  Great to make 600 plus croissants each morning.  Really!

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Pad ThaiLast week I cooked for the folks at the Unreasonable Institute again.  You gotta love catering for a group of people where most of them give you a big hug when they see you!   Makes the job so much nicer.

I decided to make Pad Thai.  This is one of my favorite foods.  Quick and easy, Pad Thai is a great week night supper.  This dish may seem complicated with its unique Thai flavors but is actually a pretty simple dish to make.

Since Pad Thai makes use of the veggies you have on-hand and eggs it is a simple and inexpensive dish.  Eggs are a great source of cheap protein.  You can also prep your ingredients up to a day before and assemble and heat the day you serve the dish.  I will make up a bottle of Pad Thai sauce and keep in the fridge for 2 weeks to make salad dressing and other Asian dishes.

To further simplify this dish you can buy a roasted chicken at Whole Foods or one of those yummy cheap ones from Costco and even go so far as to buy the pre-cut veggies in the produce section.  This way you can  cook the noodles, saute your veggies and make sauce.

How to cook rice noodles:

Rice noodles cook differently than wheat noodles.  They are more delicate.

Bring a pot of about 4-5 quarts of water to a boil.  In another pot add your noodles.  Pour hot water over noodles and let sit for about 8 minutes.  You want to under cook your noodles a little bit as the noodles will finish cooking in the sauce when you stir fry your Pad Thai together.

Give your noodles a taste after 5-6 minutes and drain when they are tender but still seem a bit underdone.  Toss with sesame oil, canola oil or olive oil and set aside.  Make sure to toss noodles well in oil as you do not want them to stick together in a huge clump!

Prep what ever veggies you may have on hand.  I shred carrots on a cheese grater with the big holes.  Thinly slice celery, onions, bell pepper, mushrooms or bok choy.  If I add broccoli I will par cook the broccoli ahead of time until just tender crisp and pull apart the broccoli to make small pieces.  Wash your mung bean sprouts, cilantro and fine dice some cucumbers before cooking.  Toppings on Pad Thai give it bright flavors and intriguing crunchy bits like fresh cucumber or chopped peanuts.

I like to use chicken thighs in Pad Thai.  Roast bone-less  skin less  chicken thighs in the oven and dice them in a small dice.  This step can be done up to 1 day ahead of time.  I will usually plan to make a dish with chicken the day before and reserve 4-5 thighs for the Pad Thai the next day.

You can use shrimp, roasted chicken, sautéed and diced cooked chicken breasts or any other protein you enjoy like diced extra firm tofu.   Pad Thai is a great dish to clean out the fridge and just use what you have on hand.

Recipe yields about 3 cups sauce.  Use within two weeks or freeze for later.

1/4 cup Yoshida Sauce or other sweet teriyaki sauce

1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup good tomato paste

2 tbs soy sauce

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

2 tbs fish sauce

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

1/4 cup minced fresh green onions

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tbs good toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup canola oil

1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce (just one chili not the whole can!) This adds a nice smokey and sweet taste to your pad thai sauce.   It is not traditional but very yummy.

Put everything in a blender or food processor and pulse until blended but still a bit chunky.  I will add the cilantro and green onions at the end and just pulse a few times after adding the herbs if I use a food processor.

Pad Thai Recipe

1 box thick rice noodles like Annie Chung brand.

4 eggs lightly scrambled

Veggies diced all the same size if possible up to 4 cups

I will use bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, carrots, onions, chard, cabbage or anything else  you have on hand.

4 cooked chicken thighs diced

2 tbs canola oil

Cook noodles as per directions on box and set aside.  Make sure to toss noodles in 1 tbs oil so they do not stick together.

Sautee veggies in 1 tbs oil in wok or large skillet.  When veggies are tender crisp but not fully cooked add chicken and sauce.  Stir to mix.  Bring to a simmer and add noodles.  Toss to coat and serve.

I like to serve Pad Thai topped with ground peanuts, mung bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, fresh lime wedges and diced cucumber.

Lulu apron

I have an obsession.  I usually do not tell people about it.  Like it is a dirty little secret….  I am a professional chef.  I rock the white coat and look good but I adore little frilly and pretty aprons.  Really!  The prettier and more feminine the better.  If  an apron is made with all lace I am in love.  Of course these aprons are not wearable but hang on my kitchen wall.  You can’t really cook in these creations.  Especially when your cooking can often resemble the work of the Swedish Chef on the Muppets..you know what I mean, with food flying everywhere.

My problem has been solved.  Lulu’s High Country Kitchen makes aprons that are absolutely adorable but completely wearable.  These sturdy aprons are made to not only be cute as heck, but you can actually wear them in the kitchen.  YAY!

lulu apron 2

When I met Lulu I  was delighted when she rolled up to our meeting with sunglasses on carrying a canning jar box with aprons in it.  She obviously is a hipster canning girl too!  We sat down at a local coffee shop and talked mostly about music, living in the mountains of Colorado and Jamestown.  As you all know Jamestown is my favorite place in Colorado.

Lulu is also a professional chef and she spoke of her inspiration for making cute and wearable aprons.  She is an artistic and creative person who just wanted to work in something more interesting than the usual black apron or white chefs coat.  She took matters into her own hands and designed her own line of aprons.  You just have to love a person like this!

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Those darling aprons spoke for themselves.  I fingered the professional seams and marveled at the sturdy design and fabric.  I did not need to ask much about them and the quality spoke volumes.

Lulu is serious when she says she is making a line of wearable aprons.  The quality is better than the ones I get at the restaurant supply store.

Lulu and her husband live in the mountains and are both artistic.  Her being a chef and him a talented musician.  They live a lifestyle most of us only dream about.

Lulu is happy to give away one of her darling creations to a lucky reader from this blog.  Just comment below and you are entered to win.  Pin the aprons on Pinterest or post on Face book to get more entries.

The winner gets to choose which apron they want.  Visit Lulu’s Etsy site to see all of her aprons.  Lulu’s High Country Kitchen

Good luck!

Contest ends April 26th.

March 28 2013 154

For the past 5 or 6 years I have been working 60+ hour weeks.  I did not get much time to spend with my kids.  I have remedied that.  It is important to me to spend as much time with both of my kids as I possibly can.  I am also spending as much time exercising as I can.  I have decided to combine the two activities and so my son and I are starting to hike the trails around Boulder nearly every afternoon.  Like all 12-year-old boys my son loves sweets.

March 14 2013 084I can often tempt him on a long and arduous hike if I promise a treat.  My son loves Gelato.  This is always a good temptation.  He wants to tour Italy and review Gelato.  Seriously, and he is only 12.  I love this kid.  I told him that we first had to start reviewing local shops that serve Gelato.  Our first choice was Lucky’s Bakehouse in North Boulder.

March 14 2013 069First we hit the trail above Wonderland lake and after a one hour hike headed for gelato.

Lucky’s Bakehouse opened in our neighborhood last year in November.  We have been there several times.  They make all of the baked goods from scratch with great ingredients.  Everything is creative and pretty.  The Chef Jen Bush is a creative baker who designs beautiful as well as tasty pastries, cakes, pies, bars and other treats.

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Ben sampled several gelato and ice cream flavors.  Lucky’s makes all of the gelato and ice cream in-house from scratch and uses local ingredients as much as possible.

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Ben chose Mango Gelato.  Ben described this gelato as not too sweet and a little tangy.  He said it was cool and refreshing after his hike.

March 14 2013 093Light and fluffy he said the gelato had a strong mango flavors and tasted as if it were made with fresh fruit.

March 14 2013 105

Next week sampled Two Spoons Gelato Shop on Pearl Street.   This place is really great.  Every flavor we sampled was excellent.  They also use local ingredients and organic as well.

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Ben chose  the raspberry lemon gelato.

March 28 2013 157Ben says this gelato made him feel alive.

March 28 2013 151He said it was bright with clean raspberry and lemon flavors.

March 28 2013 148Powerful flavors and not too sweet.  Very tangy and lively.

March 28 2013 174He said there was the right amount of sweet and tangy.  This gelato got two thumbs up!

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Before visiting Two Spoons we walked up the Boulder Creek trail for over an hour.

As for the two gelato shops Ben’s opinion was that he liked Two Spoons better.  Maybe it was the bigger serving?  Ben also said he liked Lucky’s since he could get other things as well, like a donut.  This kid loves his donuts.  We have heard that the Justin’s Peanut Butter ice cream at Lucky’s is literally to die for so maybe another long hike and visit to Lucky’s needs to be scheduled.  When going for gelato we will be heading down to Pearl Street to visit Two Spoons.  When my daughter read this post she wanted to leave and go to Two Spoons right away.  I am making her hike Mount Sanitas first!  For those of you familiar with this hike you know she will be earning her gelato.

I love to combine exercise, time with my sweet kids and food reviewing all in one.  It just does not get any better than this.

Back at the Boulder Farmers Market today.  I am amazed at the great products that are made in my beautiful town.

Farmers Market opening day 026The clean and fresh taste of these pickled foods from Zuke are always a treat.  Esoteric Food Company.

Farmers Market opening day 074Farmers Market opening day 072

Farmers Market opening day 078I am a huge fan of Windsor Dairy.  These folks just keep raising the bar for meats and cheeses.  Truly a model for how to run a dairy.

Farmers Market opening day 256

It used to be difficult to get great pie in the Boulder area.  Now we have My Mom’s Pie company in Niwot and I could not be happier.

Farmers Market opening day 149I love this artist.  She works with old shoes and plants….fabulous.

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More pretty greens.

Farmers Market opening day 381Farmers Market opening day 382Perhaps one of the coolest things about the farmers market.  Beautiful locally produced fiber!  Thank you Cure Organic Farm.

Happy Farmers Market Day!

March 28 2013 180I have made many flourless chocolate cakes in my career.  I love the ease of a flourless chocolate cake and when you use exceptional chocolate the result is a dense and flavorful cake that all of your guests will love.

I can finally say that I have developed the perfect flourless chocolate cake recipe.  I have made many recipes from Martha Stewart to Rose Levy Barenbaum and this recipe takes all of the best parts of those recipes to create not only a delicious cake but an easy cake.

This cake is so easy you would not say it was unreasonable at all.

The people who I served this cake were definitely unreasonable in the best possible way.

I was catering recently for a group from the Unreasonable Institute.  If you have not heard about this group, check them out.  Amazing….is all I have to say.  I spent at least 3 hours just looking at all of the entrepreneurs they have helped with their program the first time I went to their website.

This is what it says on their website:  “We get world-changing ventures and entrepreneurs what they need to scale their impact. Each year, we unite 10-30 entrepreneurs (called “Unreasonable Fellows”) from every corner of the globe to live under the same roof for six weeks in Boulder, Colorado. These entrepreneurs receive customized training and support from 50 world-class mentors, ranging from a Time Magazine Hero of the Planet, to the head of user experience at Google X, to an entrepreneur who’s enabled over 20 million farmers to move out of poverty. In the process, they form relationships with corporations and international organizations, receive legal advice & design consulting, and get in front of hundreds of potential funders. Our goal is to bring all the resources to accelerate these ventures so they can scale to meet the needs of at least one million people each.”

How cool is that..

Here are a few of the ventures they have helped out:

Worms 4 Change

Replicable vermicomposting production and training model to promote health and development in rural and urban communities

Initiative for the Development of Former Child Soldiers (IDEFOCS)

Restoration of peace & security in West Africa through Former child soldiers’ rehabilitation & reintegration.

Lili Dairy

Empowering Women Through Dairy Farming

The list goes on and on.

I had the privilege to cater for this group and the one dish they raved about most was the flourless chocolate cake.  I agreed to share the recipe.

Very Simple Flourless Chocolate Cake

8 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
8 oz 60% cacao chocolate chips (I used Costco Brand which I love..)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup very hot and very strong coffee
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons unsweetened organic cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli again)
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tbs vanilla extract
1 tbs whiskey (I used Jack Daniels)
Instructions:
 Pre heat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 10-cup Springform pan by lining the bottom with buttered parchment
Break up the unsweetened chocolate into pieces and put the chocolate into the bowl of the food processor or blender. Add the chocolate chips as well.  Pulse until the chocolate breaks up into small bits. Add the sugar. Pulse until the chocolate and sugar turns into a sandy grain.
Pour the hot water or coffee slowly into the feed tube as you pulse again. Pulse until the chocolate is melted.
Add the butter pieces and the cocoa powder, and pulse to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla, whisky and process till smooth. The batter will be liquid and creamy.
Pour the batter into the lined Springform pan. Wrap the outside of the whole pan with a big piece of foil. Bake at 350º  in the center of the oven, till puffed about 45-55 minutes.
Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove from pan and let cake cool on rack for 1 hour.  Best when refrigerated over night wrapped in plastic wrap.  Top with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar or berries.
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Farmers Market opening day 021

I love Boulder.  The farmers market is all local.  Everything.  Here are some pictures from opening day for you to enjoy.  I loved the tender spring greens.  All of the local meat and poultry farmers added this year was fantatastic.

Farmers Market opening day 031The people with this company, Zuke are truly food nerds.  The fresh and clean tastes of the pickled veggies they make are extrodinary.  Truly the best pickled foods I have ever had.Farmers Market opening day 039

Lovely Mushrooms.  Farmers Market opening day 145Something to do with your old crocs!

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Local and tasty granola.

Farmers Market opening day 072Windsor Dairy is a favorite of mine.  This high quality dairy keeps adding more tasty selections each year.  The eggs I bought from them had yokes so bright orange they looked un-real.  The taste was outstanding.

Farmers Market opening day 090These tender greens were delicious with a citrus ginger dressing.

Farmers Market opening day 280Sweet carrots.

Farmers Market opening day 355Beautiful babies.

Farmers Market opening day 007These perfect little darlings come from Street Fare.  This is a program by the Boulder Homeless Shelter that trains people in the baking industry.  I had to pick up a box of treats at this stand.

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goat_and_pecan_appI have been flirting with the idea of taking on clients for private chef work and catering again. I love this type of work and have some free time until mid-June when I will be catering for the wonderful group of people attending The Unreasonable Institute retreat this year. I am excited about this gig and looking forward to posting lots of recipes and pictures from the retreat.

shrimp_tuna_passedI find myself with some time on my hands until then so I am picking up new clients. I am excited to be working closely with families again and catering fun parties and weddings.

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My schedule is filling up quickly and the blog posts should be full of great new recipes.

Cheesecake_3My catering and personal chef service website is http://flatironschef.wix.com/yummy.

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