Jul 7, 2014

Visualizing Your Career

I'm getting ready to speak at the United States Personal Chefs Association conference later this month, and wanted to share a few thoughts in case you won't be able to make it (and if you do, please come say hi!):

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a writer. My mother used to type my stories for me on her typewriter, and in 4th grade my story entitled "Growing Poppies" won second place in the first ever creative writing competition at The Bernard Hoffman elementary school in Terra Linda, California.

A different path found me, one that I was passionate about and felt called to: cooking. I don’t regret the choice as its brought me joy, prosperity and most importantly, great stories. I never stopped collecting them even though I dare not call myself a “writer.”
In 1993, I got a call to write a how-to book from Globe Pequot Press. They needed a catering expert and I filled that slot. I had never used a computer before so I wrote my first book and learned to use a PC at the same time. It could never have happened without the help of my lovely second husband. He told me I had to write this book because I had valuable advice to share. 

He kindly taught me to save my words. Get in, be clear, and get out. I experienced the flip side of the coin with the editor, who was mean. When I finally had pages to turn in to her, she'd tell me how awful they were. Not constructive, but anyone who knows me knows that above all else, I persevere. What I lack in intelligence, I make up for with stubbornness.  

I wrote my first book. I got the tiniest advance in the history of publishing, but I did it. With great pride, I now announce that the 7th edition of my catering book is due out this month, with added information, forms and menus. The life of my little catering book is alive and well. 

And guess what? I've sold over 100,000 copies and it has paid me (modest) royalties for twenty years. Most importantly, I receive emails every month from people who tell me that it changed their lives. A little book that helped them, inspired them, brought them income. I am humbled and grateful. 
So as you visualize your career, I invite you to feel more than you see. Do not get caught up in details and in thinking it has to look a certain way, because you may be standing in the way of your own greatness. My initial vision was about being creative and expressing who I am in a way others could enjoy. I’ve gotten that back tenfold and I know all of you can as well!

Jul 3, 2014

Avocado and Shrimp Tacos


The first cookbook I ever bought was "Easy Mexican Cooking." Don't know who published it but it was a pamphlet cookbook that was close to the checkout register in my dad's store. It cost ninety-nine cents.

I started working as a cashier in my dad's grocery store in June during the summer I was thirteen. I didn't want to, but it was either work there or go to summer school. Or the worst choice of all; helping my mother weed her huge garden and paint our house, in the hot sun, for weeks. I chose being a cashier, and the fourteen dollars a day my dad paid me would surely make me rich. (Just so you know, gas was twenty-five cents a gallon and part of the deal was my sister had to drive me to the store everyday. She had a car. It was her gas.) I would be so very rich by August.

Working eight hours a day and learning the produce prices, seeing what customers were buying, and learning to make change kept me busy the first week. As soon as I grew 
comfortable, I began to see food in a different light. Not only did it make me think about cooking, I wanted to try new things. I wanted to taste more. I wanted to learn about food.

The first thing I learned to cook out of my new cookbook was tacos. I bought ground beef, corn tortillas, cumin, cucumbers, lime, then I diced tomatoes and shredded cheese. I realize now the recipe was Americanized, but hey, I'm American and so were the people I cooked for, so we thought this was very exotic.

The first night I served tacos to my family, my mother was impressed. And she was extremely calm when I threw the hot oil filled fry pan into her sink and turned on the water. The new clock she bought totally hid the scorched wallpaper. Cooking is an adventure; I discovered that early.

Eventually, I added chopped avocados to my tacos. And if I can say anything with out reservation, it's that avocados are a perfect food. Eat 'em plain, mashed up, even make sorbet! It doesn't matter; they are delicious.
I thought for the Fourth of July this year, instead of heavy BBQ or burgers, I would go back to my roots and make tacos. I was inspired by the shrimp tacos I've eaten in Mexico. Soft corn tortillas or crispy, whatever you like best. It takes but minutes to fix.

If you want to know more about avocados and how they are grown, please enjoy my friend Chef Debbi's blog. In this particular post, Debbi discovers our mutual friend Mimi's avocado ranch. I am so rich this summer!

Avocado and Shrimp Tacos

Makes 12 Tacos

2 15-ounce cans of black beans
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
12 corn taco shells

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs. (16-20 per pound size) peeled and deveined shrimp
1 8-ounce clamshell of cherry or pear tomatoes
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro, just leaves no stems

3 limes
2 ripe Hass avocados, cubed
1 tsp cayenne pepper  
Whole cilantro leaves for garnish

1.Open both cans of black beans, drain, mash and mix with garlic and cumin. Heat in a microwaveable bowl for 2-3 minutes. Swipe some beans inside of each taco shell.

2.In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil until it ripples, then add shrimp, cook two minutes. As they are turning pink, add the tomatoes, and continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes. Shrimp will be curled and pink and tomatoes will have blistered or popped. Sprinkle in the cilantro. Squeeze one whole lime onto shrimp mixture. Divide between taco shells

3. Take remaining limes, cayenne pepper and gently toss with avocado. Toss onto tacos.

4. Serve with extra cilantro and additional limes, if needed.

Excellent with cold beer, white wine, tequila, margaritas, Coke...oh never mind. Pick your own poison.