The Loss of a Culinary Icon

When I awoke this morning, picking up my phone to turn off the alarm, and read the news that Anthony Bourdain had died, I was stunned. To have lost another travel loving person to suicide struck a chord with me. If you’ve read my blogs, or know me, you’ve heard about Leanne; my bright, shining friend who took herself away from living on this earth. The correlation between the two runs deep.

I was given a paperback copy of “Kitchen Confidential” by my Father for my birthday. I hadn’t heard about it, or seen it before I opened that gift. I came to the party late in that regard. I knew of Tony though, I’d watched “No Reservations.” Ironically, I didn’t pick up the book to read it until I was on the plane to Ireland a few weeks later. My first trip out of the country, and I chose that moment to read a book by a guy who would end up being the epitome of a travel junky. Of someone who is a proponent of travel and learning about people and their culture. I didn’t finish the book on that trip in 2007, but the trip, and then the book made me want to keep traveling more. When Tony went to Ireland, I felt like I was there with him. When I travel now, I always want to learn as much as I can about the people. Who they are, where they come from, where they’re going. When you stand somewhere and think, “how many other people have been to this exact spot on this planet as I am right now?” it’s awe-inspiring.

So rest in peace, Chef. Thank you for showing the people of this world how to engage in the human endeavor. I’m sorry there was something fighting inside you that you couldn’t find any other way to heal. Your presence will be truly missed. Say hi to Leanne. Make her a meal for me please? She’ll sing you a beautiful song in return.

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9 Course Tasting Menu

Jan. 2016

Back in October 2015, I had just moved back to Colorado (Woohoo!) and was trying to heal my heart. I knew I needed to get out of the house, and helping my sisters’ friend, Stacy, move was the perfect opportunity. Myself, and 7 others met up at her old place, loaded up the moving truck and set off for the new place on the other side of town. We stopped for lunch at Proto’s Pizzeria and got to talking. Stacy’s boyfriend, Tyler, used to be a chef (there’s a lot of us leaving the industry lately). Stacy’s best friend, Adria’s fiance, Andy, loves to cook. Somehow over the course of pizza and beers Andy had the idea of the three of us-he, myself and Tyler cooking dinner. See, every year around the holidays, my sister and her friends get together for this big pot luck, caroling, hoopla. The idea this year was to have the 3 foodies prepare the meal; a 9 course tasting menu for all to enjoy.

I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but within a few weeks I was invited to join the Facebook event page in which was written this,

“Hi Jenn, Hi Tyler. I’ve tossed this idea around a couple of times over the course of the past two weeks and I think that during our Annual Holiday Sing Along, it would be great to do a Chef’s Tasting Menu. So if you guys are interested, let’s hash out what we’d like to do, and then send out invites to others. I was thinking at a high level we could each do a Starter, a Main, a Dessert, and a Cocktail. (So three of each between the three of us). What do you guys think?”

I have to admit, I was a little intimidated by these two. I hadn’t been up on my cooking skills lately. In fact, I hadn’t menu planned or prepared anything close to this in almost 2 years. See, I let the ex cook most of the meals. Mainly just to avoid arguments and disappointment. When I’m in the kitchen, sometimes it’s nice to just BE in the moment. To get in the zone, and think things through, and then just cook. It got to the point though, in our tiny Florida kitchen, than I couldn’t find my zone. Bombardments of questions and offers to help interrupted what was going to be a quiet, zen moment for me. So I just stopped, and let him cook. It was heart breaking at times, and I lost my mojo. When Andy sprung this idea on me I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to live up to my Sister’s hype. I love that girl, but sometimes I don’t feel like my food is worthy of her bragging about it.cheesecakes-2

But as Elizabeth Gilbert says, you have to “put fear aside and just create.” So I thought, and thought, and let inspiration strike. First came the savory mini cheesecakes; dill and chives, with lemon marmalade. It’s something I’ve done before, and I made a few tweaks-better to go with something you know for a starter. For the second course I chose to do the Vegetarian option.


French Lentils, roasted tri-color beets, Marcona Almonds, micro greens, and as I was shopping, a last-minute inspiration of watermelon radish. In the end, the dish I created was not only Veg, but dairy and gluten-free without even trying (though, note to self, some creamy, tangy Chevre would have damn tasty).  Third course, dessert. I wanted to go with a Wintry theme, so I tried a recipe I had made before, but had notes for adjustments after the fact. I’m constantly editing recipes in order to perfect them. Which, if you think about it, is an oxymoron. Food is never perfect. It comes from living, breathing, organic matter, and just like us humans, it is NEVER perfect. It is change and experimentation incarnate. There is always something you could have added or taken away. So my Gingerbread Soufle was an attempt at a redo. That, and a chance to finally try this recipe I had found for something called Naughty Whiskey Sauce. I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat that!?

The 3 of us decided that we’d pair our cocktails with a course. Andy chose his to go with his Main, Roasted Cornish hens with fruit and nut stuffing paired with a cranberry orange Prossecco Spritzer. Tyler went with the App’s course and paired a traditional Kir Royale with his pan-fried risotto cakes with wild mushroom ragout he made. That left me with the Dessert course. I made a Whisky Pomegranate Punch to go with the souffle.

3-chefsWhat an interesting evening. Once we got to Andy and Adria’s place we really got going. The boys on one side of the island, me on the other.

All of us moving and vying for space, “I need a cutting board.”

“Whose got a peeler I can borrow? Salt? Pepper? Fresh Parsley?”
As each timed course went out, the empty plates were cleared and washed for the next round. 21 people (including the 3 chefs) eating plate after plate of food. We barely had a chance to sit down and eat each course ourselves. I suppose we should have all remind each other that it was a tasting menu because what we ended up having was actual portion sizes. Nine courses plus alcohol feels like you’re eating a second Thanksgiving when you don’t remember to use a tasting  portion size.  By the time the last dessert was served we were exhausted. But oh, so happy.  Everyone at the table were in serious, delicious food comas.

It was such a fun experience. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so restorative. I’ve made some new friends that share a similar passion to me, and we respect each other. Each of us bringing something different to the kitchen, but we each bring something similar too. An open mind and a thirst for the knowledge of something creative and new.

Rumor is we’re now going to have to cook for everyone every year. I’ll cook with these wonderful gentlemen, for this great family of friends, any time.


This entry was written in Jan/Feb of 2016, and is just now being posted. ~Jenn


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Some kick-ass granola bars


About a year ago, I started eating more packaged granola bars-like 1 a day. I had moved back in with my family whilst house hunting and saving money on rent, and the drive to work went from 10 minutes to 35+. I needed something easy to eat on the way to, or when I finally arrived at work. So I took it upon myself to find the best bang for my buck. Real food, oats and other grains, nuts and/or peanut butter, no HFCS (that’s high fructose corn syrup). And I did find a few, but I always thought, “I could make something better.” Especially since I had to constantly read labels. Being allergic to a few nuts and agave makes it difficult when looking for a good, healthy bar.

I found a recipe last winter, but never had the time to try it out. I was in between two places at that point. A few days a week at the family house, the rest at my boyfriends apartment across town. So making something with multiple steps that takes a while to cool down wasn’t in the recipe cards.

Cut to now in Tampa. As of yet I still don’t have a job (cross your fingers for all the apps and resumes I’ve put out) which means I have plenty of recipe testing time on my hands. The first attempt I stuck to the recipe for the most part, except one item that changed the texture of the entire batch; chocolate chips. I added them to the mix too soon and it just melted. So instead of lovely chunks through out my bar, it was in the entire mix, holding it together (yay!) but changing the flavor and texture into something totally different (boo!).

Yesterday I tried again. Changing up a number of things. Baking time, mixing method, ingredients, and even the pan I put them into. The original recipe is OK, but I feel like the changes I made take them to a-whole-nother level.


3/4 c maple syrup + 1 heaping T of orange marmalade

then, after it’s cooked down, add 1 T honey, I like local, raw honey if you can find it

I then used: 1/2 c slivered almonds, not whole ones, 1/4 cashew pcs, 2 T each chia seeds and amaranth, 1/4 c sunflower seeds, 1/2 c pepitas, the salt and I threw in a few golden raisins, about 1/4 of dried cranberries. Mix that altogether, and add the reduced date mixture making sure to coat it very well.

The pan: I used a 1/4 sheet pan instead of the pan they use. The first time I tried it, they were SO THICK. 1/4 sheet pan, or a 9×13 would work best. Use parchment, spray EVERYTHING or even the parchment will stick. Put half the mixture down and spread it out, then sprinkle that layer with however many chocolate chips you want. PRESS FIRMLY, I used a rubber spatula. Then add the rest of the oat mixture and repeat.

I only baked it for about 42 minutes, and I definitely recommend using a foil tent, otherwise your oats will get super dark, almost burnt. Take the tent off for the last 10 minutes, but keep and eye on it.

The beauty is you can add or take away what ingredients you want/like. I wish I had more cranberries (my favorite) but you could do anything-blueberries, more raisins, tropical fruits. Next time I might try adding a little peanut butter to the mix some how. Or even peanut butter chips. Now I have something healthy to eat around the house while I wait for that phone call and interviews. Enjoy!


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Have you ever had an experience with food that sticks in your memory? One that was so memorable, vivid, and personal that you can say it was a turning point in your life, that it is a portion of who you are? Something that becomes more than about the food but about human experience and interaction.
The other night I was at a restaurant/bar here in town with the Boyfriend. It was a poetry reading. Not my first, by any means. It jogged memories I had forgotten about when my girlfriends and I would go to a local venue and watch Slam Poetry. One of those girls on stage was a neighbor of mine, and I would hear her rehearsing from the front stoop, through open windows in our un-air conditioned, 100yr old building. Poetry readings are funny. The way they’re read or performed aloud. How the Author’s voice, when reading, becomes either integral or a hindrance to how the listener perceives the poem. Last Fridays event was hosted by a non-profit publishing group and they held a raffle to help fund their organization. Boyfriend and I chipped in, and bought 6 tickets. “I never win these things” I tell  him, “and if I do, it’s usually things I don’t want or need.” Guess who won something? It was a set, one issue of a writing magazine, the other a compilation book of poems and short stories of both fiction and non-fiction.
“What are we going to do with this?” we ask each other. “I know, you can put it in someone’s mailbox at work, that guy did to you the other day.”

So we left the event with our “prize” and drove home in the rain. We talked about the poems we heard. How some of them were great, some of them OK, and some of them I did not care for at all. We talked about all the cliché things poems can be about and how a select few words are mentioned so many times in poetry that they make a good poet sound like a beginner. Words like, God, Love, or comparing things to rivers, oceans and the sky. If you use those words in a poem, that poem had better be damn good. Saturday though, I was flipping though the book, wondering what the heck might be inside. That whole “never judge a book by its cover” ringing through my head. Perhaps there was something good in it. Turns out, the first thing I flipped to was wonderful. I found it well written, thought-provoking, and just a joy to read. Granted, it was about food, about childhood memories and family, so it was right in my wheel house. Titled a word I had never heard before, it made me curious. What the heck is a “gagoots” anyway? When you look it up you find two different meanings, which is the funny thing about poetry, the double and triple meanings behind the words written on a page. Is it about just one thing, or about the other thing, or both or neither. Poetry is supposed to make you feel something, make you think, make a moment or a memory come to life. Words are powerful tools, so is food. Put the two together watch what happens.

And now, I give you, Gagoots.


We met when I was seven

on the common ground

of a good bowl of spinach.

You couldn’t have known

that I was the one who had once spate

out her Beechnut brand squash at

the babysitter.

Had you been in the picture back then,

you would have brought home

some fresh

zucchini from your father’s garden

and made gagoots for me.

You would have cooked them to life!

You would have turned

the seeded round slices

into parmesaned mystical morsels.

You would have given me credit

at the wise age of one

for detecting

processed veggies

with no taste and dulled color.

Sensing an openness at eight,

you introduced

sautéed escarole,

a bitter but totally rewarding

two-toned winter green,

fixed with garlic and olive oil.

I slowly savored

and admired

your elegant and heath-conscious taste

buds and craved

the delicious vocabulary

you were teaching me:

elephant ears, chick peas, fennel, pepperoncini.

For some unknown reason though,

I drew the line at fava beans.

But had we had more time together,

I bet

you would have made even them, vicia faba,

my new favorite,

since, according to tradition,

when all other crops failed,

they kept the Sicilians

(like you kept us –your famiglia)

from starving.

Carol Ann Moon

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A Journey East: From 5280 to 50

It’s been a long time and I shouldn’t have left you, left you without a dough beat to bake to, bake to.

I kid. Sorry I’ve been absent from this blogging world. A LOT has happened in my everyday life since that last post. Hi Leanne! Hope you’re smiling down. I have done some pretty wild things since February. For starters, I left my job of almost 15 years and moved to Tampa, FL with the BF. He’s in Grad school and I want to go with him. So far it’s been an adventure. Packing up all our belongings into two wooden crates, living in a house with 4 other adults for a month (thanks Family!), driving across the country from Denver to Tampa via KC, STL, Nashville and Savannah over the course of 5 days. That’s close to 2,200 miles because we took the scenic route through to Savannah, GA. savanah streetTotally worth it, Savannah is gorgeous! Staying with the BF’s Grandfather for a week while we found a place and waited to move in. Making our apartment livable with a few pieces of furniture, and getting settled into the school routine.

I haven’t lived outside the state of Colorado since I was 5 yrs old when we moved from Utah to Denver. It’s an entirely new experience for me, and after about 6 weeks I’m starting to get the hang of it. I can’t help but compare the two. Colorado is open, drier, has seasonal weather, and all the places and people I grew up with and know and love. Florida is warmer (darn hot some days), humid and rainy, and the traffic lights are mind numbing-ly long.

The first culinary test was to see if following the instructions on the back of a packaged meal would result in a finished product. Turns out cooking at sea level really does make a huge difference. I followed the instructions and boom! 10 minutes later my meal was ready. It really necessitates getting your mise en place together ahead of time.

The second test; baking. Everyone always talks about Georgia Peaches They’re widely known and touted as being the best, plus it was August and they’re in season so I decided my first baked good would be a peach pie. I peeled, pitted, and sliced my peaches, tossed them in some seasoned sugar and flour, made my dough and built my pie. It looked great, even smelled great, taste wasn’t so bad, but the texture……..there’s something wildly different about peaches from Georgia than the ones I’m used to from Palisade, CO. Palisade peaches win. “Colorado-1, Georgia-0” as a friend and fellow baker of mine put it. Georgia peaches are very firm, they hold their shape really well when you cook them, too well in my opinion. I miss the beautiful, luscious way a Palisade Peach melts onto your tongue when you eat it. I miss their flavor. Georgia peaches taste like the ones you get from a can, even when they’re fresh. georgia peach pieThe other sad part about that pie is that our apartment oven SUCKS! It’s not good. I kind of want to chop off the hand of the person who designed it. The lower heating coil is recessed into the bottom of the oven, and that seems to not facilitate the heat circulating properly to cook anything well. Peach pie, chocolate chip cookies, chicken, roast veggies, I’m not happy with it, and in all honesty I kind of wish it would break so the leasing company would need to replace it with a new one. I’m not counting on that however, so I must go back into adjusting mode. In Colorado it was adjusting for elevation, here in Florida, it’s adjusting for a crap piece of machinery. But I’m a professional, so the cooking continues.

One great part of living in the South (yes, Florida is the South in my book, I drove all the way here watching billboards along the highway) is the access to Molasses. I’m a huge fan of the stuff, and as we were grocery shopping to stock up the pantry I noticed they have it here in miniature milk jug sized bottles, for about the same price I would pay in Denver for the smaller, glass bottle. Which meant, I could make my own brown sugar!!!!!! Mix together Organic Cane Sugar and Molasses in a mixer for a few minutes and voila! homemade brown sugar for all your baking needs. That makes it CO-1, GA-1.

Eating out hasn’t happened as much as the BF and I were used to back home. When we both still had jobs and knew all the great places to eat. We’ve visited a few decent places; the Fish and Chips at Tampa Bay Brewing CO were pretty good, I had a burger at a place called Gaspar’s in Temple Terrace that was alright. We found an amazing Greek place near home, which was suspect when we showed up and it looked like a bad fast food joint. Instead we found a hidden gem. The guy behind the counter, we assume is the Owner or Manager, spoke at least 4 languages (English, French, Spanish and Arabic), knew most of his regular customers by name, and treated us like he really believed in his product and wanted our repeat business. We both had Gyros and Greek Salad and some fried mushrooms. It was all FANTASTIC. It’s the only place we’ve been back to more than once. It will be a semi-regular during our stay here. If you come to Tampa, and want some fast-casual Greek Food, go to Zeko’s on Busch Blvd.

Overall I’m glad I’ve begun this new adventure, it helps knowing the person I’m with it worth any hassles that creep up along the way. Really it’s about letting go of fear and just trying. Whatever is put in front of you, just try to go for it and see what happens. You might just be surprised at the outcome and wonder what you were waiting for all those years. Next step might be something with yeast, so see what happens when humidity is a factor, stay tuned.

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What a difference a year makes

My gorgeous friend

My gorgeous friend

If you had asked me a year ago what I thought the coming year would bring I would have told a completely different story than what has actually happened. The last year of my life, and those of my close friends and family, is one for the record books. It’s one that I could literally write a novel about and no one would believe it’s the truth.

A year ago at this moment, I was 1/2 way around the world in Mumbai, India celebrating not only my 33rd birthday but the wedding of a wonderful friend and making new, life-long friends in the process. I don’t have most of the answers as to why the year following progressed the way it did. And some of the answers I did have came crashing down around me in the last 5 weeks. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the answer to “Why?” for the most recent life altering change, and I’ll just have to deal with that. What I do know is that there is NO WAY I’d be where I am right this second if those things didn’t happen, and I cannot regret that for a second.

In India I met this amazing couple. They were in the middle of a 22 month long trek across the globe and I spent 8 days getting to know them, bond and basically become best friends with an amazing woman. I cried like a baby the night they left for Africa; she and I cried together, hugging and not wanting to let go of one another. The good news was I was going to get to see them again. They lived in Denver and would be back there in 11 short months. All we had to do was wait, to be patient, to take care of ourselves and wait.

After my 2 weeks in India (click here for those posts) I was kind of a wreck for a few months. My trip changed me, took away all the shields I’d built around my self, my outer, protective persona, and stripped me down to what we all essentially are; human beings who just want to be appreciated and cared for. To be loved and love in return. So for the next 11 months she and I would write to one another. Me telling my sob stories, my frustrations on life and work and my hopes and dreams, my excitement for her and her husband to return so we could build our friendship. To give each other the longest, hardest, most heartfelt hug in the entire world. She would write to me of her travels, of the people they met, of their experiences both good and bad. Being on the road that long is as exhausting as it is wonderful, if not more so. I worried about her, about them both. Eating properly on the road is a challenge in the U.S. it’s even more so in 3rd world countries that involved mountain climbing and 20+ hour bus/train rides. Lack of good nutrition will really mess with you. Combine that with lack of sleep, constantly worrying where you are and where you’re going, for your safety and that of your loved one, getting clean water to drink and knowing when the next bathroom break is, and your body and your brain take the toll. B vitamins play a significant role in keeping our brains alive and functioning, as do many important minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium etc. Without a properly functioning brain you’re susceptible to anxiety, stress, depression-often severe, hallucinations, paranoia, and thoughts of suicide. My friend was a tiny, petite little flower who maybe weighed 100lbs, with a powerhouse, larger than life personality. She was the kindest, funniest human being I’d ever met. But being so small in stature means any long lasting lack of good nutrition affects you more quickly, more severely than it would someone who’s say, 50lbs heavier. I had a hard enough time not eating in India very well for 2 weeks……imagine 22 months of it.

I’m not a doctor, so I can only speculate, but having experienced a tiny fraction of what I can imagine she went through I can say that it very well might have caused what led to her tragic, untimely exit from this world. I am so sorry my friend. I’m sorry I couldn’t feed you sooner, couldn’t teach you to cook and take care of you the one way I knew how. We were going to have so much fun in the kitchen! All I ever wanted was to get you home safe so that I could take care of you the way you took such good care of me this time last year. I hope you knew just how much I love you, just how awesome I thought you were. Rest in peace now, sweet friend. I’ll see you in my dreams.

to see just how amazing my friends are:

for more information on links between nutrition and depression: or search “how lack of nutrition can cause depression”

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Please help find my friend

My gorgeous friend

My gorgeous friend

My dear blog followers: I write to you in a great time of stress and concern. I have a very dear friend, Leanne, and she’s gone missing. She went for a walk Friday afternoon, Jan 17th and never returned home. She’s staying in the Garden Ridge area of Texas and I need your help to find her. Spread the word, be on the look-out. Her husband is absolutely distraught as are the rest of us. I first met Leanne in India back in February and we became great friends over the course of just one week. I need to get my friend home safe and sound! #findleannebearden

more info can be found here:

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