Market Monday – Vail Farmers Market

Warm temperatures and rapidly melting snow means we are shifting to seasonal spring and summer foods.  I don’t know about you, but visiting a local farmers market makes me feel like a kid in a candy store! The Vail Farmers Market starts on June 18th – and boy am I excited!  Walking past all of the fresh and vibrant fruits and veggies, I can’t help but pick up a few goodies to take home and create wonderful dishes.  One thing I learned about farmers markets is to go in with an open mind.  Don’t have a recipe or specific dish in mind; rather, pick up what looks fresh and delicious to you.

While there are so many beautiful dishes you can make with your farmers market bounty, a simple salad seems to be a quick go to on warm spring days.  Before you reach for that bottle of grocery store bought dressing filled with who knows what, let me share with you how to make a simple vinaigrette.  I promise you may never reach for that bottle of goop again! It’s really so simple and you can “dress” it up to your liking.  While there are steadfast culinary ratios for making a vinaigrette, it really is subjective to your palate so, don’t be afraid to veer from these guidelines. Some people prefer a 3:1 (oil to vinegar/acid) ratio while others favor a 2:1 (oil to vinegar/acid) ratio.  Play with the portions and find what works for you and your family.

Basic Vinaigrette:

3 or 2 parts Neutral Oil (grapeseed, canola, sunflower, etc.) or Olive Oil

1 or 2 parts Vinegar/Acid (sherry, red wine, apple cider, balsamic, rice etc.)

Season to taste (see what I did there?!) with salt and pepper

What they would tell you in culinary school is to whisk the vinegar, salt and pepper (and other non-oil ingredients) into a bowl until well combined.  Then, slowly drizzle in the oil in order to emulsify the vinaigrette.  However, don’t tell my chef instructor, but you can just take an empty container with a secure lid (I save glass jars) pour all the ingredients into the jar and shake it like a Polaroid picture!

That’s all!  Really! Put any leftovers in your fridge and use for about a week.  Make sure you take the dressing out about 30 minutes before you use it as the oil will coagulate in the fridge.  As long as you’re making extra vinaigrette for the week, you might as well chop extra veggies and lettuce so you have a go to salad every day as well!

Other variations and ideas to try:

  • Puree some fresh raspberries for a raspberry vinaigrette
  • Add in chopped fresh oregano and basil for an herb vinaigrette
  • Citrus – of any kind!
  • Add in Dijon mustard and honey – this is my go to with a little squeeze of lemon added as well
  • Blanch some garlic and add along with some plain Greek yogurt for a creamy garlic vinaigrette
  • Bacon?! Who doesn’t love bacon? A warm bacon vinaigrette is simply delicious
  • Add pureed carrots and fresh ginger
  • Play with the type of vinegar you use – you will be amazed at how simple of a change can drastically change the flavor

What are your favorite farmers market finds and dishes you create?

Transition Thursday

As I sit down and write to you all, it is from a snow-capped mountain and not the electric blue Bahamian waters as it was last time we talked.  I’ll call that a win-win in my book though! Some of you may know that we, hubby, fur babies and I, recently traded city life for mountain life and haven’t looked back!  As we settle in to our new mountain community in the Vail Valley, this also means growing my personal chef business in a new mountain community.  I am up for the challenge!  I get to meet a myriad of beautiful new souls while peppering them with delicious food. I love it!

One of the first events I attended in my new community was a business women’s networking event.  While I did have business cards to pass around that evening, I took it one step further and handed out dark chocolate cherry almond bark to accompany my business card.  I’m guessing the ladies will remember that long after my card may have, inadvertently ;), ended up on the bottom of a pile who knows where.  You only get one chance to make a first impression.  For myself and my business, I strive to make it a memorable and pleasant experience. Lucky for me, most people love food, especially when accompanied by a warm smile!

With a new community comes new opportunities.  Apart from the women’s networking event in Vail, another one of the top business ventures I’ve encountered thus far is cooking for a multi million dollar open house.   I was honored to be hired for this event by our Vail Valley Realtor (he also happens to be the photographer behind some of these amazing shots from the open house).  I’ve been hired as the chef for many open houses, but this was a first in the real estate business. The clientele were mostly other local brokers perusing the home before bringing in their clients.  I had so much fun at this event. It was an amazing opportunity and I was able to interact within my new community.  It didn’t hurt that the home was breathtaking and situated right on a creek next to Beaver Creek Resort!  And, check out this kitchen! On the menu that day was a Greek Vegetable Salad, Prosciutto, Aged Gouda and Apple Sandwiches, House Made Ricotta and Heirloom Tomato Sandwiches, Pork Carnitas Tacos, Veggie Tacos, Carrot Cake Bites and Dark Chocolate Dipped Macaroons.  I look forward to the next open house and creating more delicious treats for Vail Valley!

Needless to say, this transition to a new mountain lifestyle has been filled with amazing new people, fantastic aromas and melt in your mouth food.  The best part, we are just getting started!  I can’t wait to share all of the adventures with you!

 

Seas The Moment

I know the suspense must’ve been killing you on the name of the yacht.  Seas The Moment.  I felt it was quite fitting for the experience I embarked on and thought I would share with you some of the things I learned as a private chef on a yacht.

Take chances! Some things seem to be way out of our comfort zone but isn’t that the point? To push yourself and become a better version of you all while enjoying the ride of life? When I agreed to chef on the private yacht, I was more anxious than I would like to admit. Not to mention that I had only been on a yacht once in my life for about 3 hours total, but I worried about sourcing food and providing delicious gourmet food to people who have likely dined in Michelin starred restaurants more than the average person.  However, I accepted the challenge to cook on this yacht for a month and you know I was not going to let my fears get in the way of creating beautiful and delicious food.  I cooked up a storm for about 21 days straight and it felt good (and exhausting!)  I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around how amazing of an opportunity and experience I just lived through. While I, without a doubt, missed my hubby and fur babies, I am proud of myself that I “Seas(ed) The Moment” and can now say I have been a chef on a private yacht in the Bahamas!

 This is a view from the galley where I spent the majority of my time over the last several weeks!  Not a bad office view! I had a few moments when I wanted nothing more than to put down my knife and just go jump in the water.  But, if you’ve been following along, you know I spent plenty of time enjoying the beautiful islands! I do know that I have no desire to ever work as a chef in a restaurant.  I never want to get burned out on something I love to do!  I want to continue to share this passion and my food with others.  I also have a feeling that I will be back on board in the future serving up scrumptious food to yacht guests.  Sounds like the perfect gig during mud season…

For now, I am back in the Colorado mountains gearing up to serve locals and visitors delectable dishes!  Thank you to those who followed along on my cooking adventure in the beautiful Bahamas!

Exumas: Part 2

The owner and his wife provided much appreciation and praise for my cooking. She especially loved how flavorful my food was but also how light everything was by not bathing in heavy sauces. I’ll chalk that up as a win! That and the fact that they insisted I go out on their daily excursions with them once all my prep work was done!
They seemed to truly have an interest in me seeing these beautiful cays and waters! I’m pretty sure that’s not normal to have the guests urging you to go snorkeling, swimming with piggies, jet skiing, etc. I soaked up every minute! Out of all the activities I was able to enjoy while working was Thunderball Grotto, where two James Bond movies have been filmed, and snorkeling off Norman’s Cay, where an old drug plane had crashed just before reaching the almost 5,000 foot long air strip. I’m sure the crew enjoyed me snorkeling that as well seeing as I was continuously swimming in circles doing perimeter checks for hammerheads that happen to breed in the lagoon directly south of the site of the plane crash! I also did love Rachel’s Bubble Bath until the ocean wrapped me in one of her ferocious waves and spit me out into coral. (Let’s just say if you ever get a scraped by coral, do not take it lightly! It is bacteria ridden and I’ll be going home with a nasty infection.)
 
 
I know what you’re thinking right about now. Am I reading about a travel blog or a personal chef blog about someone who is supposed to be working on a yacht?! Well, the phrase work hard play hard is the epitome of yacht crew life! So, back to the galley for me where I’m whipping up stone crab Benedicts with handmade hollandaise for brunch. 
Then for dinner, the menu was as follows: Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup for a starter; papaya granita intermezzo; herb encrusted rack of lamb and a Boston Creme Pie for dessert (Captain’s choice as it was her birthday!)

Exumas: Part 1

We pulled into the Staniel Cay marina after the sun had set, you know, since we had to make a pit stop to go buy a chest freezer. Waking up that next morning, I saw my first glimpse of some of the most gorgeous waters I’d ever laid eyes on! That and Nurse Sharks, which they say are friendly and you can swim with them. However, days later I saw them being fed hot dogs near another cay and the were quick to lunge themselves on top of one another with a wide open chomp splashing back down into the clear electric blue water.

The second group of guests arrived that morning. These guests happened to be the owner and wife of the yacht. A tinge of nerves came over me in preparation of their arrival. Of course, I wanted these people to like me and the food I would be preparing over the next 10 days. Those nerves quickly faded away just as the ocean goes to low tide. They greeted me with a hug and smiling faces.

Earlier that day, we had approached some locals to go out spear fishing for spiny lobster and either grouper, tuna, wahoo or snapper. They came back about an hour after the owners climbed on board. They were not empty handed. They pulled out 5 of the largest live lobsters I’ve ever seen! (Yes, I m from Colorado so this might not have much validation!) But, see for yourself!

   

 

Since the larger lobster tails tend to be more tough, I prepared the smaller tails for the guests and reserved the larger ones for the crew and myself.

 

My previous dinner plans for that first evening quickly got put on the back burner and lobster tails for dinner it was.

Of course after their stone crab claw with mustard sauce starter that is! You know you have hit the yacht crew jackpot when your Captain offers to crack the claws for you!

 

 

 

To show you just how large some of these local (and amazingly delectable) crustaceans can be, below is one of the claws in comparison to my hand!

Yep, the food and life as a chef on a yacht is oh so sweet!

Yacht Chef Odds and Ends

I have decided that I am officially adding “Traveling Chef for Hire” to my resume! Anyone need a personal chef for their vacation in Hawaii😉  I’m your gal!


I received one of the greatest compliments from one of the guests a few days ago, which made all this hard work worth it! (Well, that and the fact that I am cooking in the most beautiful place!) This guest told me that she puts me up there with the yacht’s former full time chef who now happens to chef for Mitt Romney on his yacht. What a humbling compliment! Not sure what dishes she loved the most. We already know it wasn’t their welcome dinner seeing as they have no recollection of that evening!

But maybe it was the shrimp two ways. Citrus Shrimp in an Avocado over Dressed Greens and Asian Shrimp Cakes?!  Or possibly…

Marinated Steak with Herb Butter over a Mojo Sauce and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies?!

I realize these pictures (mostly the scenery pictures) don’t do it justice. They never do! But take it from me, this continues to be one of the greatest experiences of my life! And, I’m a firm believer if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

Well, were off to Staniel Cay now.  Google this place immediately if you’re not familiar! Just as soon as the compressor in the freezer is done being installed. Yes, the same freezer is still down. A guy came yesterday to install a new compressor and I kid you not, he showed up with just his flip flops! Not a single tool! Oh Island life! Talk to you all soon(ish) I’m losing wifi for the foreseeable future.

Just Breathe

After having been here one full week so far, I finally feel like I got my groove! Oh, but wait! The freezer broke with all of the fish, other proteins and odds and ends that I had provisioned! We caught it in time for the food not to defrost and be spoiled but fixing it has proved to be an endeavor! The compressor broke. Luckily, that part was found and could be overnighted to Ft. Lauderdale!! Awesome! Right? Well… it was to arrive by 10am where someone who was hired by the captain to pick it up and fly it down to Harbour Island to us. Of course, it didn’t arrive on time and the guy missed his flight to Harbour Island. There are no evening flights into this airport. New flight booked for him tomorrow afternoon. And we still need to find someone that can install the compressor. Did I mention that we were supposed to leave first thing in the morning for Staniel Cay where we were picking up the next guests, who happen to be the owners of the yacht!

Aside from lovely mishaps such as that, I am working on a yacht in the Bahamas! Life is good and funny sometimes! There is nothing I can do about the freezer so, for now, I am just reminding myself to breathe and look at this amazing view!

Breaking the Ice

I have to say that I feel incredibly thankful to have an amazing crew to work with! These people are seriously awesome! Of course, they live with each other day in and day out so they are quite close. What better way to break the ice than to do a little Saved By The Bell style aerobic circuit training in the mornings after a beach run?! (I took a video of this but unfortunately its too large to upload!) It’s also possible that I did the worm at the captain’s, Elizabeth, birthday celebration!

And, the only way I know how to break the ice with the guests is serve them up some delicious food. They arrived on the yacht to a champagne toast and a lovely charcuterie board while they settled in for the week. As you know, I’ve been doing a lot of planning so I thought I would wow them on the first night with a pistachio crusted red snapper, pineapple salsa and herbed quinoa salad for the first dinner followed by pineapples flambé, toasted coconut ice cream and fresh chocolate chip walnut cookies for dessert. While they sang praises about the food that evening, they also questioned numerous times if they ate dinner! Did I mention they had been drinking since 3 am?! Regardless of their state of mind, they were gracious and I could even serve that same meal for lunch one day and no one would notice😉

To my surprise, the ladies woke up quite early the next morning! While the men slept in, I snuck out for my morning beach run. Breakfast was a caramelized onion, bacon, Spinach and gruyere frittata! Sorry, no pictures as it was devoured within minutes! had to soak up that inevitable hangover they must’ve had from blacking out before dinner!

Good Practice for the Next Trip

While I was getting ready, or provisioning, for the first group of guests it was a bit of trial and error. I’m told that you typically go to the store one time to provision no matter the length of trip. I’ve been three times so far between Bob’s and the Piggly Wiggly! And going back today (day 2 of trip one)! To be fair, I’ve been checking out the goods at each place to see what’s available and what creative juices start flowing in my head. And, this is not the US chain store Piggly Wiggly! This one is, well, let’s just say quaint!

But, as you can tell, I had no trouble filling up the golf cart with goodies!

 

I suppose this is all good practice for the next trip where I won’t be within 100 miles to a grocery store during a 10 day trip! Luckily for me, we can fly groceries in to wherever we may be to restock on fresh produce. Yes, that is a real thing!

I guess I should also mention why the provisioning has proved extra tricky. I’m cooking 4 meals plus dessert for 8 people every day right now. That’s a lot of planning, food and cooking! But look at my “office” view for the time being! No complaints here:)

That’s right, that means the first group of guests are on board right now. I’ll catch you up as I have more free time!

Provisioning Time

So, things are getting interesting around here! I spent a lot of time menu planning prior to arriving only to get here and visit the local island grocery stores where most of the ingredients simply do not exist on this tiny island! Quick, think back to culinary school days when we were given a secret ingredient and two hours to come up with and prepare a main dish and dessert! Only this time a lot more is on the line! But in the words of Bob Marley, “everything’s gonna be alright!”

Speaking of Bob, I visited Captain Bob’s store for my first provisioning trip. The amazing stewardess, Amanda, chose to take me there first as it is “the largest grocery store on the island.” The entire store is just a modest room filled with an assortment of dry goods (some of which is only carried in high end specialty stores in Colorado and some that could be found in the smallest of 7-11s), about 6 varieties of frozen seafood, frozen mystery meat and ‘fresh’ produce.  

Fresh is a relative term here on Harbour Island as they get one shipment of fresh food per week and even that was likely delivered to a larger island sometime before then. But if you ask the gentleman there if he has fresh herbs or certain items, he will go in the back, which very well could be as large as the store itself, and says he has anything you need! Phew! A pleasant surprise to see fresh basil, parsley and cilantro! Oh, and they also seemed to carry a very high caliber of fine cheeses. Don’t mind if I do! I will, however, source the fresh fish from a local fisherman though!

Come back to hear about my second shopping trip at… Piggly Wiggly!