Sunday, March 16, 2014

Napa Valley Conference - Day 4

Today was the final day of the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference in the beautiful Napa Valley. While the days were extremely long, and some of the talks rather boring (for me personally), I'd say all in all it was a fantastic conference and the highlight of it all was definitely today.

This morning we decided to sleep in until 7:30 and skip the breakfast (truth be told we wanted a real breakfast...which we had here at the hotel...can you say Biscuits and Gravy!). We made it to the conference for the 3rd in a series of four talks this morning. These talks are very much tailored to physicians and in this case the dietitians as for me it was a bit dry and too much for me to really understand.

At around 10 AM we broke out of the big group for our kitchen session on "Healthy Cooking with Nuts & Legumes." I'm not going to lie, going into this I felt a bit cheated because I really wanted to do the grilling session. tune QUICKLY changed. Why you ask? Because I got a chef's hat. Want to see a picture of me in it? Well too bad...I didn't want to mess up my hair. So you'll have to wait for one of my videos. HA! :) The best part of it...Michael wore his...sadly I didn't get a picture of him with it on...I was too busy fighting for counter space with the woman next to me who thought her lamb dish was more important than my pesto. But I'm getting ahead of  myself.

So we walked into the kitchen and this is what we saw...

Nuts and Legumes
Isn't that enough to get you excited? Wooooo! Honestly, at this point I still hadn't found my chef's hat and was still a bit miffed that I was in the nuts and legumes session. But as I said, that quickly changed when I found the hat and Chef Rebecca Peizer started talking to us. She was a fantastic teacher, and talked to us about the ways to use nuts to thicken sauces, use them for their texture as well as using legumes for the same things.

Chef Rebecca doing a demo.

She demoed a few things like a grape/cucumber gazpacho...a wonderful cocktail with peanut butter in it...and fried chickpeas and almonds. We got to sample all of these things and it wasn't long into it that I knew we were way better off than the poor saps that got stuck in the healthy cooking with fruits session on the other side of the kitchen. Seriously, I could see them looking longingly over at us while we were chopping veggies and making our wonderful dishes as they cut up melon to make smoothies. Okay I don't know if they made smoothies...but seriously unless you are carving a watermelon into some fancy boat...stay on your side of the kitchen. :)

After Chef Rebecca finished her demos, she had us split off to our own cutting boards to start our recipes.

Our apron, kitchen towel, chefs hat and some recipes.
Sadly, Michael and I weren't at stations that had fridges under them so we didn't know what we were cooking. So Chef came over and said, "Come with me." She took us over to another table and gave us things to make. She gave Michael things to make babaganoush, and me things to make broccoli pesto over pasta. Now the kicker...there weren't any recipes! My husband loves to cook as well...but being Type A...he is a strict adherer to recipes. So this was going to be a wonderful challenge for him. I was so happy to see that he didn't only make it...he made a DAMN GOOD BABAGANOUSH! I'm not sure if you recall when I made babaganoush several years ago...but that was THE worst thing I've ever made and I threw it in the trash! So kudos to Michael for making this wonderful dish!

I had the broccoli pesto. I was a little concerned with this...especially when she told me to boil the broccoli until it was soft. But I managed to get that boiled off, the pine nuts toasted and everything in the Vitamix blender with some cheese and olive oil...and it made a fantastic pesto! Oh...she had me add tarragon to it! What a wonderful addition, and the raw garlic cloves gave it just the right amount of bite at the end. There was a wonderful older woman from Minnesota (of all places...God I loved it!) who kept coming over to us to see what we were making. I asked if she'd like a taste of my pesto, and before I even finished asking she ripped a tasting spoon out of my hand! LOL. She asked what was in it and I told her how to make it. She said she was making it as soon as she got home!

Chef Rebecca was such a good instructor, and Michael even commented on how she told us what to do and then just had us get to it. There weren't any scenes from "Worst Cooks in America" either! LOL! We all had a lot of fun, and the best part was to come. We all made our dishes, then presented them on a table so everyone could taste them. Wowowowow. There were some amazing dishes!

Michael's babaganoush with crostini

My broccoli pesto over pasta

Me and Chef Rebecca...can you say Big Gay Pose...holy!

I know that I went into this cooking session like a Debbie Downer...but I truly came out of it with a totally different attitude. I can't wait to get back into my kitchen and share these recipes with you all! And believe me...if I can make these things, so can you!

After our cooking session we headed back upstairs for the final talk. Again, it was a good talk, but didn't really hit on much for me. After that talk they had prepared a final lunch for us out on the Herb Terrace. It was a wonderful day today, the sun was out, and it was the perfect temperature in the shade for me lol.

All in all, this conference was something that I am happy that I had the chance to attend. Michael and I both agree that we wish there were more "in the kitchen" sessions in place of some of the talks...but we understand why they did it the way they did. While I don't feel that I came away from this with a wealth of new knowledge, I will say that I came away with a ton of wonderful recipes that I can't wait to add to my repertoire.

After lunch we made our way back to Yountville to relax a bit. Well I ended up falling asleep for two and a half hours! I think I am battling sinus infections because I'm tired all the time, and it is very reminiscent of life pre-sinus surgery back in 2009. But sleeping felt good! We got ready and headed to Ciccio for dinner. I had a wonderful spicy sausage and pepperoni pizza and Michael had a whole fish. But the highlight of the dinner was this romaine salad that we shared. I can't wait to share this with you all! (Don't you hate it that I say I can't wait to share this with you...then make you wait! lol) It had pancetta and a wonderful warm vinaigrette. It...Was...Heaven! I guess you will just have to stay tuned to my blog and my YouTube page in order to find these recipes! :)

Here are some other pictures from today.

There were hot air balloons in the air this morning! Such a great day for it!

Our final day.

The chandeliers in the atrium were so beautiful!

Tulips here in Yountville on our way to dinner

A FANTASTIC coop and run here in Yountville! Oh how I wish this were mine!!!

Fluffy butts and feathery legs! So cute!!!'s time for me to finish this glass of wine and crawl into bed. We have all day tomorrow off before we head to Nevada City on Tuesday. We aren't really sure what we are going to do...maybe go to Six Flags to scream our heads off on some roller coasters! :) Always fun to act like a kid! :)

Until next time...Keep Cooking!

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