It’s Been Forever…and Here’s Why!

It’s been almost two months since I’ve published my last post, and I’m finally checking in today to share the biggest news ever!  In the past, whenever I would mention “having news”, people would always say, “Oh, I thought you were pregnant”…seriously, a girl in her 30’s can’t mention “news”, gain a few pounds, or skip a glass of wine without raising eyebrows. That used to bug me before, but now I really do have “that” news to share…there is officially a bun in the oven!
 
In truly one of the busiest years of my life, I figured, “hey, why not throw a new family member into the mix?” I have a knack for great timing, eh?  I know this news comes as absolutely no surprise to those that follow me on Instagram, but I’m finally taking the time to share the news here, along with a few details about how things are going so far…
 
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How I’ve been feeling…

I owe huge thanks to some greater power out there in the world that bestowed zero morning sickness on me.  It’s like, they knew I had absolutely no room for sickness in my life, and I am eternally grateful for this hall pass.  I couldn’t imagine getting through these past few months of work and school, if I also had to deal with sickness and nausea. For anyone that’s ever witnessed me with a hangover, you can attest to my tolerance for nausea (pretty much nonexistent).
 
There have definitely been some very tired days, but now that I’m into my second trimester, I’ve gotten some of my energy back.  But naps are also my new best friend, and I give myself permission to take them every chance I get…like the good kind, where you get in pajamas and crawl into bed…not the crappy kind curled up on the couch.
 
There may be some moodiness happening from time to as well, but (ahem) you’ll just have to ask Kevin about that…
 
 
The body situation…

I’m just at 19 weeks now, and there is no denying that the belly has arrived. It is the strangest thing to see these early changes, and mind-boggling to imagine how much further there is to go.  It’s pretty much a nightly occurrance that I stand to the side, showing the roundness to Kevin, saying “isn’t is it weeeeeeeeird?” Because, I know it’s a beautiful thing and all…but it’s also super weird.
 
I’ve sort of always known I wouldn’t be one of those “I love being pregnant!” girls…and, while I can confirm that this is turning out to be true, I also don’t totally hate it.  Although, I could stand to pee about 10 times less a day (not joking).
 
 
Food & drinking…

One of the most common questions people ask me is whether I’ve had any weird cravings, and, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure. I’ve definitely been on a serious noodle kick (any kind of Asian noodles will do), but I’m not sure if it’s truly “cravings”, or if that’s just my excuse to eat noodles up the wazoo. I’m sticking with the cravings story.
 
The drinking situation has been a total surprise. I thought I would miss those precious glasses of wine after a long day at work, but I really don’t miss drinking at all.  Every now and then, if Kevin’s having a glass, I’m like “let me just smell it”, and then I’m like “meh”.
 
I will say though, those early days of pregnancy where you can’t share your news yet and you have to hide the “no drinking” thing…kind of my nightmare, and I pretty much went into hiding. Seriously, if you ever witness a female not drinking, just cut her a break, don’t call her out, and pretend like it’s the most normal thing in the world. We all know you know the truth, but just pretend for her sake.
 
 
The deal with culinary school…

The school situation is definitely about to get interesting (that’s code for “holy crap”). My last day in the classroom will be August 24th, but that’s not nearly the end. Immediatly following that, I start an externship, where I’ll put all my fancy new skills to use actually working in a restaurant…for 240 hours!! I’ll be about 5 months preggo at that point (and hopefully not too humongous), and the plan is to just start cranking out those hours as fast as I can. I really want to finish up before the baby comes, but I’m going to just do the best I can. If I need to finish next year, so be it. My mantra is to just “take it day by day”.  (Still waiting to hear where I’ll be placed, btw…should know by the end of the month).
 
 
How Kevin’s handling things…

Um, like a champ. Seriously, he has been a picture of calm. It’s almost eerie. We even went into one of those monstrous baby stores, and I was waiting for a spaz out moment…which never happened. I asked him, “how can you be so calm right now?” And he was like, “I don’t see how stressing out would help the situation”. Damn, he can be so rational sometimes.
 
He has also been COOKING!!!, which is one of the biggest surprises of my life. We started ordering the Blue Apron dinners, and one night he asked if he could take a stab at it. I was like, “this should be interesting”, but he kind of nailed it and hasn’t let me make a Blue Apron meal since. It’s actually really nice to get some help in the kitchen, and pretty cool to see how much he loves it.
 
 
On blogging…

I’ve had a few people ask me if the blog is donezo, and I promise it’s not! I’m sure this post sheds a little light as to why I’ve been so nonexistent of late, but I’m not ready to be done with Serving Seconds quite yet! I’m still thinking about what it all will eventually lead to, but those are decisions for another time. For now, I’ll just keep popping in whenever I can…which will hopefully be a bit more often than it has been.
 
 
PS…finding out the gender this Thursday, which I’ll be sharing on Instagram!
 
 
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Zesty Lemon Strawberry Shortcake…and a Giveaway (Closed)

If there’s one thing I’m religious about in the kitchen, it’s whipping my own whipped cream.  There are certain things I’m willing to cut corners on, but nothing beats the heavenly fluffiness of just whipped cream. It’s one of those tasks that sounds a lot more complicated than it is, but it actually happens really fast…especially with the help of a mixer…the job is done in less than a minute. Which brings me to an exciting announcement…not only do I have a yummy Strawberry Shortcake recipe to share with you today, but I’ve teamed up with Hamilton Beach, and I’m giving one lucky winner TWO fabulous mixers (more details on that below!).

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I prefer shortcake that’s not overtly sweet.  While I do add a bit of sugar (adjusting the amount, depending on the sweetness of my berries), I also add some fresh lemon zest and juice along with some chopped mint to give it fresh and zingy flavor.

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Let all those ingredients sit together for a bit, and the strawberries start oozing a luscious syrupy juice. It’s divine.

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With a stand mixer, it doesn’t get much easier than tossing whipped cream, sugar, and vanilla into the bowl, and letting the machine do all of the work for you. I loved testing out this great little machine. It’s sturdy, but still lightweight so it’s easy to manage, and it was completely simple to operate. Plus, it’s easy to dismantle, and I had just two parts to wash after…the bowl and the whisk attachment. (The cream could easily be whipped with a handheld mixer as well).

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Here’s a little tip for testing the doneness of whipped cream….you know when they say beat till “stiff peaks” form?  Well, sometimes it’s tough to tell when you reach that point, but if you flip over your beater, and the cream stand in a stiff point (instead of dropping over), then you are good to go!

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Zesty Lemon Strawberry Shortcake

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound strawberries, cut into bite-size pieces
  • About 1 tablespoon sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 5 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound cake (or other cake of your choice)

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To prepare:

  1. In a bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon, lemon zest, and mint. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes so the juices release.
  2. (optional) Using a ring mold, cut circular shapes from slices of pound cake. (Or serve with the whole slice of cake).
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, add the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla.  Beat at the highest speed until stiff peaks form.
  4. To serve, arrange the pound cake in the center of a plate, pile on a generous serving of strawberries, and top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 4-6

 

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Giveaway Details – CLOSED

 

***Congratulations to contest winner, Heather D!!  I’ll be reaching out via email with more details!***

Now’s your chance to get your hands on the Hamilton Beach 6 Speed Stand Mixer AND the SoftScrape 6 Speed Hand Mixer.  I’ll be giving BOTH to one lucky winner!!

mixers

There are a few ways to enter, such as leaving a comment or tweeting, but you must be logged into Rafflecopter for tracking purposes. You can log in below via Facebook or by entering your email address. The giveaway ends on Sunday, June 8th at 12:00am, and the winner will be contacted via email. U.S. entries only. Must be 18 years or older. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

As a brand ambassador for Hamilton Beach, the products I tested were provided on a complimentary basis.  All opinions are my own.

 

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Anatomy of a Culinary Student

One of the most surreal moments I’ve experienced at San Francisco Cooking School was on day one, with the donning of my chef whites. Even today, over three months into the eight-month program, it still feels like “wait, am I really wearing this?” Each class, I get a little thrill out of buttoning up that boxy coat…pulling on my baggy elastic-wasted pants…and shoving my feet into clunky chef clogs. It may not be the sexiest getup I’ve ever put on my body, but I still love it.
 
Now that I’m spending 14 hours a week on my feet in a large commercial kitchen, I have a whole new appreciation for comfort, function, and safety when it comes to kitchen attire. You may not realize it (I didn’t really, until starting culinary school), but a chef’s uniform isn’t just a fancy getup that looks really cool on a cookbook cover. Each part serves a  purpose and protects hardworking cooks in what is actually a pretty dangerous workplace with lots of hot, sharp, heavy objects moving about. So here’s a little breakdown of what this outfit’s all about…
 
chef-coat
 
For starters, we never show up to class in our uniform. We show up in street clothes, and change in the locker room before class starts. This is not only a sanitary practice, but also prepares us for how things work in the “real world” of restaurants. Think about it…if you’re tromping around on the streets in your chef attire and shoes, you’re bound to bring some of those icky street germs into the kitchen, and that’s the last place you want them. So, if you ever see chefs hustling down the street in their coat and pants…well, ew. Restaurants should provide a place for their cooks to change on premises, even if it’s nothing fancy. (Oh, and PS…our locker room, like most restaurants, is coed. You have the option to change in the bathroom, but I just go for it and have sort of mastered the process of “no exposure” changing amongst the group…hah!).
 
The chef coat is probably my favorite part of the whole uniform. It’s just so pretty, isn’t it? (It also helps that my school has the cutest logo ever). Have you ever heard why the coat is double-breasted? Apparently that is so chefs can cook up a storm with it buttoned to one side, and then they when they leave the kitchen to speak with guests, they can re-button it on the clean side. (Thanks to Gail Simmons for that little tidbit). The long sleeves are there to help protect your arms from burns, which I’ve thankfully managed to avoid thus far!
 
hat
 
Next comes my trusty little hat. I gotta admit, it’s not my favorite part of the uniform, but I totally get it’s purpose. After all, there is seriously nothing worse than a stray hair falling into food…or maybe worse, a bead of forehead sweat. For those of us with long hair, it’s a must to secure it in a bun or a braid…I go the braid route, mostly because it’s an excuse to show off my mad french braiding skills (hehe).
 
Hair and sweat…I know this is all kind of icky stuff to talk about, but doesn’t it make you happy to know chefs are taking these kinds of precautionary measures to help keep gross stuff out of your food?
 
chef-getup
 
Over the coat goes a gleaming white apron, which usually only stays that way for about a minute in the kitchen. Of all my uniform pieces, the apron definitely takes the biggest beating. And I’ll have you know that the apron never enters the bathroom with us. We have hooks outside of the bathroom, and that’s where we leave our aprons. Again, one more more way to avoid little germs making their way into the kitchen and potentially into the food. As we learned on the first day of class, our number one job is to not make people sick, and then it’s to make delicious food.
 
tasting-spoon
 
There are a few accessories that we alway, always, always keep on hand…and that would be a sharpie, a pen, and a tasting spoon. Most chefs carry these things, but some, if doing a lot of meat prep, might add a meat thermometer to the mix.
 
The sharpie is used to label, label, label. It’s pretty much a kitchen sin to put any single item in the refrigerator without labeling and dating it. Maybe I’ll remember that I put a huge tub of duck stock in the fridge, but how is the next shift to know that it’s not chicken stock or when it was made? It’s a way to manage inventory efficiently, and it’s another way to protect customers by knowing when to toss out old food.
 
The pen is used to take loads of scrupulous notes. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time in the kitchen, dang, I am not the greatest listener. I’ve had to really train myself to pay attention to the details, and I seriously write everything down. Put tarragon in the dressing? Dishes should be ready by 1:15? Nuts get toasted at 400 degrees? I write it all down.
 
The tasting spoon is one of the most important tools we use. Now, you may think we go around double dipping our spoons in everything we’re cooking, but that’s not the case at all. The way it works is whatever larger utensil is being used to make something (say, a wooden spoon for making soup), we use that larger utensil to put a little dollop onto the tasting spoons. And it’s perfectly game to taste other people’s dishes. We don’t all get the chance to make every recipe in each class so we’re encouraged to be nosy and scope out other student’s work.
 
notepad
 
All notes go into a little notebook that is always in my right back pocket. Whenever instructions are delivered, my hands immediately grab for pad and pen, and I start scribbling away. Again, this is pretty standard for chefs and something I know I’ll do regularly when working in my externship later this year (erm, more to come on that later).
 
Speaking of back pocket…how bout those pants? I must say, there’s some kind of bootylicious action going on here, and I’m just going to embrace it (although, I think we’re all aware that this print’s never done anyone any favors).
 
jumping
 
Wooo, gotta kick up those heels when you’re rocking the clogs! Seriously, the clogs? Godsend. I can honestly say I’ve had zero feet issues since starting school, and that’s completely due to these utilitarian boats on my feet. The loose fit does wonders to prevent blisters, and the toe tip is rock solid, which obviously protects your little toes from getting stabbed or smashed.
 
Ok, last thing here…you see that little dish towel tucked in my apron string. That lives there. Always. Because get this…in culinary school…there are no potholders! Towels become our potholders, and are also used for constantly cleaning and wiping up our work stations.
 
As I’m sure you’re picking up here, it’s all about cleanliness and safety when it comes to working in a kitchen…although, I still sneak my lip gloss into class as well (vanity dies hard).
 
PS…huge thanks to my amazing photographer, who somehow didn’t laugh when I said “ok, now get me jumping in the air”. Totally normal food blogger wife behavior.
 
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Friday Round // Week 14

I couldn’t resist posting another picture of our pretty little Golden Gate Bridge today. I snapped this pic last week when Kevin and I took an evening walk along the waterfront. Seriously, that view never gets old. It was fr-fr-freezing cold, but I’m not going to complain about that! As long as I live in the Bay Area I will never tire of seeing or driving across the Golden Gate Bridge (or GGB as my niece calls it).
 
In other news, guys, my friend Amanda made this chicken sandwich last week, and it was TO-DIE-FOR good. I seriously recommend this recipe. I drooled over that magazine cover when it arrived about a year ago and was so stoked that she made it. I am definitely hanging onto this recipe for future reference. (PS…how gorgeous was her version?)
 
I’m shipping off for another quick work trip next week. Travel’s been kind of quiet as of late, but next week I’m going all the way east. Been a while since I’ve done that cross country flight. Thinking of dipping into this read to pass the time…anyone read it? What did you think?
 
That’s it for my random rambling this week…enjoy some of my fav links below!
 
happy-weekend
 
Just pre-ordered this book…she’s my fav!
 
Speaking of reads, this memoir was full of fun industry insights and TopChef tidbits.
 
This unique SF food & film fest is happening now!
 
Twilight Off the Grid looks so fun (cabanas!).
 
Food blogger friends, who’s going to IFBC this year? I’m in!
 
My cooking school pulled off the best April Fool’s prank ever.
 
Tyler Florences new digs…WOW! (Ps…his old house was pretty amazing too).
 
And finally, in un-food related news, counting the minutes until this awesomeness.
 
 

Have a great weekend!

 
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