Meeting Jacques Pepin

A couple of weeks ago I saw that Jacques Pepin posted on his Facebook page that he and his wife Gloria would be spending a few weeks on Amelia Island. I joked to my husband, Mike, that it would be cool to go to Amelia Island and stalk him. Totally kidding of course about the stalking. Anyway, this past Tuesday he posted that he would be doing a book signing at the Amelia Island Book Festival today. I was determined to go and relieved that I wouldn’t have to resort to driving all over Amelia Island hoping to catch a glimpse of him.


Jacques Pepin is truly inspiring and I highly suggest reading his autobiography The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. He worked in his parents restaurant, he worked in Paris and trained under renowned chefs, and even became the personal chef to Charles de Gaulle. Jacques came to the United States in 1959 and in 1961 Howard Johnson hired him to develop food lines for his chain of Howard Johnson’s restaurants. He later went on to teach cooking all across the United States, host a number of TV shows on PBS and author over two dozen cookbooks. In addition to being a world-renowned chef, he is also an accomplished artist – see The Artistry of Jacques Pepin.

My little blurb above is only a tiny fraction of his amazing life and career which is why you should definitely check out his autobiography.

Me meeting Jacque Pepin and getting my cookbook signed.


Most people can probably handle themselves when meeting someone famous. Not me. I get completely star struck, flustered and googly-eyed. After I meet someone famous I literally cannot recall what I said to them or what they said to me. And then I feel awkward wondering if I just asked them if I could touch their hair or something. This is what I’m pretty sure I said to Jacques Pepin when I met him today: “It’s so amazing to meet you. Your life and career are so inspiring.” Not too bad and I think I even managed to get that all out in a complete sentence without stumbling over my words. Also, he said my name “Michelle” with two “L’s” is the classic French spelling which was kind of cool.

Some of Jacques’ art featured in the Cookbook “Heart & Soul in the Kitchen”

“To Michelle – Cook with Love – Jacques Pepin”


Jacques Pepin was a delight to meet. He was warm and seemed to genuinely enjoy meeting and chatting with people. At 81 years old he still seems to have a great passion for life and food. This was an amazing and probably a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll always remember and treasure.

The Pioneer Woman’s Hamburger Soup

I didn’t want to say too much about it until they officially closed on their house because I didn’t want to jinx it, but my Mom and step-dad Dave just recently moved to Jacksonville, Florida from Indiana. My Mom is originally from Jacksonville, but the move is probably going to be quite an adjustment for Dave because he’s originally from Louisville, Kentucky. It’s so weird (in a good way) to be able to see my Mom pretty much anytime I want. She hasn’t lived here for over 15 years. We were in Sam’s this past weekend and they bought me the Pioneer Woman’s Dinnertime cookbook. I’ve been wanting one of her cookbooks forever and wasted no time making one of her recipes.

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It’s been kind of chilly here in Florida so I decided to make her Hamburger Soup recipe last night (see recipe below). I omitted the celery and green bell pepper because I’m really not a fan of either. Everything else I did pretty much by the book and it ended up being super yummy! It’s hearty and the recipe makes a lot! We’re probably going to have it for dinner again tonight.

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Browning the hamburger meat with the onions and garlic. I also seasoned my hamburger meat with a little salt and pepper. (You would add in the celery here as well, but I decided to leave it out.)

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Adding in the carrots, bell peppers and tomatoes.

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Next, I added in the potatoes, beef stock, and the tomato paste.

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I added in a little more tomato paste (just my preference) and all of the seasoning (salt, pepper, oregano, cayenne, parsley). Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

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All done….and it’s delicious!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • One 14.5 ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
  • 5 large red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 cups beef broth, more if needed
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher, salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Steps:

  1. In a large pot, combine the meat, onion, celery, and garlic.
  2. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat until the meat is totally browned, then drain off and discard as much fat as you can.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juices, bell peppers and carrots.
  4. Then add the potatoes
  5. Add in the beef broth and tomato paste.
  6. Add the salt, black pepper, parsley, oregano, and cayenne.
  7. Stir everything together, then bring it to a boil.
  8. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender but not overly mushy. If the soup is too thick add in additional beef broth until it’s the consistency you like.

Enjoy!

One Voice Among Many

My blog has never been about any one particular thing. Everyone always says that bloggers should find their niche and stick to it because, readers and money or whatever. That’s not me. I didn’t create my blog with any crazy thoughts of being able to quit my day job. I blog about recipes, life experiences, geek related things, random stuff and the occasional rant. I’ve never been one to try to brand myself in a particular way with the hopes of attracting thousands of readers. My little slice of the internet is random, quirky, sometimes awkward and maybe even a little boring. Just like me. This post is wordier (not a word probably) and more opinionated than most and I’m aware that not everyone will agree with me. And that’s ok. I’m going to say it anyway. Because I created this space first and foremost for me.

I’ve been quietly reflecting on recent events and have come to a point where I’m not sure where to go next. My current course of action has only proven that I do not have the emotional stamina to debate people who do not have the capacity to look outside of themselves and are unable to realize that totally disregarding the feelings of their opponent diminishes their own argument. I am well aware that what I have to say and my feelings on certain subjects is not exactly monumental or groundbreaking, but I do have opinions all the same. All I want is to be taken seriously. Is that too much to ask?

It used to be that I only felt out-of-place in my own skin. However, social media which used be a safe haven for me has now become just another place where I feel I don’t fit in. There was a time when Facebook meant catching up with high school classmates, living vicariously through a friends vacation photos and staying in touch with out-of-town relatives. Those things are now so far and few between and have been replaced instead with drama and vitriol. I am guilty of it myself and have made an honest effort (although I slip on occasion) to stay away from it. When I see something I don’t like or disagree with I keep scrolling and rarely comment my opinions because more often than not they are not met with the best reception. We’ve come to a place where no one wants to listen to opinions/feelings which are not in line with their own. Why do we find it so hard to sympathize? It is ok to disagree with someone but still be able to sympathize with what they’re feeling and be understanding to why they feel that way. Disagreeing and the ability to be understanding are not mutually exclusive.

The current political climate has made it acceptable for both parties to taunt and ridicule the other to heartbreaking extremes. For someone to say they have no tolerance for mean people and then say things ridiculing the appearance of others or their beliefs lacks compassion and is just cruel. Sadly, it is now commonplace on social media and there are people who take it to the extreme without a thought of how someone else might feel. Let us not get so wrapped up in political drama that we forget we are all human beings who are all affected in some way by what is going on in this country right now and we all (regardless of political affiliation) deserve each other’s respect and kindness. 

My views on social and political issues have changed and I’ve become more open-minded, accepting and tolerant of those who don’t look like and live like I do. It hurts when I see people portray themselves as good people only to contradict it with how they treat others. Tolerance is a bad word to many people, but only because it means moving outside their comfort zone and realizing that not everyone is like them. Tolerance starts with simply being kind and treating others the way you want to be treated. Basic human kindness and allowing others to live their lives without interference and judgement goes a long way towards being able to coexist peacefully.

My thoughts are all over the place at the moment and maybe this doesn’t make any sense to you, but honestly, it really doesn’t need to make sense to anyone but me. I just needed to take a moment and put some of my feelings into words. I think what is really bothering me right now is that we only listen just enough to respond and the ways in which we respond to each other aren’t always as compassionate or as kind as they could be. This isn’t an attempt to say that everything should be watered down or sugar-coated. That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m just looking for kindness. Basic human kindness. Be opinionated, speak your truth, but do it in such a way that people feel compelled to listen. Not with hate, or name calling, but with intelligent responses and a mind that is open to other points of view.

My voice is just one more in a world full of loud talkers, but it is a voice that matters. Whether you agree or disagree, all I’ll ever ask is to simply be heard. I am not so naïve to think that I alone can change the world or that what I say will have any affect on how others conduct themselves, but I do believe that I have the ability to give something of myself to help make it a better place. Maybe it’s through words, maybe I’ll volunteer somewhere. I don’t know. I haven’t exactly figured out what that something is yet, but I will. And when I do, you can be sure it will be with an open mind and an open heart.

As always, thanks for reading. If you feel moved to comment, feel free, but please do so respectfully. 

50 Random things for which I am Thankful

It’s that time of year again where social media is all a buzz with posts dedicated to giving thanks. Instead of doing a daily thanks, I decided to put them all in one blog post. I am thankful everyday for all of the blessings in my life but here (in no particular order and not to be considered all inclusive) (also they are meant to be silly and light hearted) is a random sampling of the things for which I am thankful.

  1. Sunrises and sunsets
  2. The moon and the stars
  3. Lazy weekends
  4. Never having slept with Charlie Sheen
  5. Good hair days – which only occur on cut/color days. (See #40)
  6. When a celebrity replies to my tweet
  7. Cat videos
  8. Bacon – the main reason I could never go vegan.
  9. Toilet paper – this one should be obvious.
  10. People who say “Bless you” after I sneeze
  11. Music
  12. When I get 11 chicken nuggets instead of 10.
  13. Rude people. For reminding me how not to treat others.
  14. Cake.
  15. People who actually answer their phone instead of letting it go to voicemail.
  16. The block button on social media.
  17. Pasta.
  18. Memories. Good and bad.
  19. Fake friends. They have shown me what real friends should be.
  20. Florida/Being a Floridian. Because all of the crazy stuff happens in Florida.
  21. Audiobooks. Because I’m too lazy to read.
  22. Pumpkin everything. #basic
  23. Free wi-fi.
  24. Instagram. Where else am I going to post pictures of what I eat? Oh, that’s right, Facebook!
  25. Movie theatre popcorn – and liquid butter. It’s glorious.
  26. Singing loudly in my car – when it’s just me, of course.
  27. Movies that make me laugh.
  28. Movies that make me cry.
  29. A perfectly made cocktail.
  30. The Chinese restaurant that always knows my order when I call.
  31. The internet. Thanks, Al Gore! 😉
  32. My job – because, money.
  33. Loyal and honest friends.
  34. A warm bed to sleep in.
  35. My iPhone – I’d be lost without it.
  36. When the cashier opens a new lane just as I reach the check out.
  37. Cakes that don’t stick to the pan.
  38. Handwritten letters.
  39. Random acts of kindness.
  40. A good hairstylist. (Megan rocks!)
  41. Deep fried anything.
  42. Facebook birthday reminders.
  43. HGTV/DIY Network – for making me feel like an interior design expert.
  44. YouTube – Makeup tutorials are wasted on me, but I now know how to properly roll up an egg roll.
  45. John Legend & Chrissy Teigen – because #relationshipgoals
  46. Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter/Instagram feed – she’s a troll slayer extraordinaire and she loves food.
  47. Flip flops.
  48. Andy Capp’s Hot Fries. Omg.
  49. Zantac (see above)
  50. Caffeine

And of course many, many thanks for the most important people in my life.

My husband – for trusting me with his heart. His laugh and how he’s always happy. How he gets me. His incredible patience and the way he loves me.

My parents – for giving me life, their wisdom, their advice and also for putting up with my crap and still loving me unconditionally.

My step-parents – for their friendship, solid advice and loving me like their own.

Mike’s parents – for raising an amazing human and being such wonderful people. They’ve had ample time now to discover just how awkward and weird I am, but they still love me.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for?

Ladies, we’re all in this together so let’s stop tearing each other down

I haven’t posted anything in months and I’ve been meaning too, but you know, life and stuff happens. Something has been bothering me and I felt moved to write about it. Everywhere I look I see women tearing each other down and it hurts all the way to my soul. Women need to stop hating on other women. Period. I’m guilty of it too and it’s wrong. 

We compete with each other over everything…..men, looks, child rearing, Why? And when does it stop? We are competing for approval and being a woman is hard enough without the constant insanity of other women telling us how we’re getting it all wrong. 

We are raised to believe that women are the weaker sex which has led to this constant need to prove ourselves worthy enough to be taken seriously. The pressure from society to compete for equality with men has led to us distancing ourselves from other women. 

We didn’t just all of a sudden decide to hate our bodies. Society told us to. It doesn’t help that women look at each other and automatically think of negative things to say about their appearance, choice of clothes and makeup. We should be building each other’s confidence without regard to size or shape. All women are beautiful.

Mothers need support and constructive advice. What they don’t need is some internet warrior telling her she’s holding her baby the wrong way or she’s not handling her screaming toddler in the right way. Why is mom shaming even a thing? Why is there overwhelming pressure to be the “perfect mom?” Because society tells us we have to be.

We spread rumors and degrade each other, and challenge and undermine each other in aggressive ways. When women decide it’s ok to degrade each other it only gives men the ok to do it as well. 

We’ve all been on the receiving end of cattiness and it doesn’t feel good. And, if we’re willing to admit it, we’ve been the ones to dish out judgment without stopping to think about how it’s affecting someone. It has to stop.

The presidential election has forced me to think about what it means to be a woman and how people like Donald Trump think it’s ok to say the things he does about women. It’s not ok, and what makes it worse is that there millions of women supporting him in spite of it. 

This is all just my personal opinion. I may have this all wrong and this post is all over the place. I don’t know. But what I do know is that it has to stop. Talking shit about each other’s bodies, hating on each other’s successes, belittling remarks about the way we dress, etc. It all needs to stop.

It’s only been recently that I’ve really stopped to think about what all of this means and what it means to me. I’ve never considered myself a feminist, but I support the cause and the ideals of acceptance. I don’t, however, support radical feminism and the way they criticizes other women for conforming to the traditional female stereotype. We should all be able to live our lives however we choose without fear of criticism or judgement.

Womanhood is a multifaceted journey and we face so many challenges simply for being a woman. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all support and encourage each other along the way? 

We all have the capacity to love, support  and lift each other up. Jealousy and hate are wasted emotions. We need to do better. I need to do better. Let us all be positive examples for little girls and the young women who look up to us.

Stop tearing each other down.

Enough is enough.