The Obvious Option

by jenna on July 25, 2010

We finished up the Creative and Mindful Cooking Workshop yesterday, working again with Miraval’s executive chef, Chad. Our final session together was more hands on than the previous sessions and we spent the bulk of our time working with Chef on vegetable chopping skills.

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In my culinary daydreams, large baskets of every kind of vegetable would be laid out and I would be given the best knife around to just slice, dice and play. Oh wait, that happened yesterday! I thought Chef had decided to finally put us to work chopping vegetables for the entire resort, but it was just practice. Chef even laid out band-aids in preparation for an emergency!

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After chopping random onions, avocados, tomatoes and cilantro, I realized I had the pretty good makings for salsa so I threw some quickly together. Chef showed me how to use a little bit of the white pith from inside a jalapeno to add more heat and then his sous chef, Justin, came out with tortilla chips for all of us to enjoy.
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And, speaking of heat, check out the size of these chilies!

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Aren’t they just the most adorable things you’ve ever seen? They pack quite a punch though…just half of one of those babies is enough heat for an entire dish!
Chef also helped me finally conquer my fear of chopping tomatoes. But that’s another post for another time.
Okay fine, I’ll tell you.
So I’m in culinary school back in 2007 and midway through my Basic Skills 1 class. My chef instructor was this ex-marine who fondly referred to me as “the enemy” after I announced to the class on the first day that I wasn’t in culinary school to be a chef—I wanted to be a food writer and restaurant critic. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Anyways, on our second practical exam that November, we had to put our knife skills to the test by concassing and chopping a tomato. It wasn’t a terribly difficult task. However, for every tomato SEED that Chef found while grading, he would knock you down a letter grade. Apparently tomato seeds are the devil, if you didn’t know, and add a whole lot of bitterness to the dish you’re cooking. It took me almost an hour and a half, but I successfully removed all the tiny seeds from my final product. However, that night I found a tomato seed in my ear. And I haven’t chopped tomatoes since.
Story over…wasn’t it great?
Back to yesterday—we ate and ate and ate and ate…and then ate some more.

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Quinoa salad with fire roasted vegetables

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Thai shrimp risotto

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Chocolate cherry risotto! This ended up being my favorite because it was dark chocolate to the max. Chef said he usually serves this alongside fish but I think I would like it for a dessert, maybe even with a little warm milk or cream poured over.

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Cactus salad with jicama and oranges. I was completely intrigued with the idea of cooking cacti.

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It tastes sorta like bitter green beans…..in a good way!

When the workshop was over, Chef sent us home with cute cooking certificates and a bag full of goodies, including a new microplane, some measuring spoons and an off-set spatula. Personally, I protect my microplane with my life. It’s my very favorite kitchen tool and I sleep with it on the pillow next to me.
Last night I was still so full from the earlier risotto extravaganza that I went with a simple and plain approach to dinner.

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Chocolate creme brulee. The light and obvious option.

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**I don’t really sleep with my microplane next to me. But I’ve thought about it.

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate July 25, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Your sarcasim is getting tiresome and seems forced, as if you are trying to adopt the style of the naturally witty mama pea. I miss the authentic Jenna’s voice that many of us fell in love with originally.

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Mom July 25, 2010 at 3:50 pm
Mom July 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm

sorry : ( is what is was supposed to be. Jennifer ~ Thank you for your beautiful writings and including us in your eperiences Love you!

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Suzanne de Cornelia July 25, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Love your writing Jenna, it just gets better and better. Your zest for life, cooking, writing, taking chances– is so inspiring and it’s amazing to how you just continually blossom and grow. Thank your for your witty, joyful and generous heart. You make so many people happy, which is why your site has outrageously high ratings of 34K out of 400M!

It occurred to me to look up the definition of ‘naysayer’ sparked by an example few posts up. (Just love those bitter bitter folk that must rain on someone else’s parade). Found this apt quote instead,
“”Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain.. and most fools do.” — Dale Carnegie. It’s also totally graceless.

Thanks again for the great coverage and photos. Miraval is at the top of my list of places to go!

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Marla July 25, 2010 at 5:56 pm

I have been a fan of Jenna for a long time and keep coming back to her blog since she is an inspiring person to me for a couple of different reasons.
I do find the writing lately a different style and that is Jenna’s choice to change,evolve and be creative.
I personally loved her previous natural style that drew me to her blog but that is just MY personal taste.But since I am a fan I realize that following a writer should be like this(the creative changes,the ebbs and flows…)and that the majority will love this style.Just because I preferred the former to the latter is no big deal-I have to say congrats Jenna on a fabulous ,beautiful blog and for radiating an inner warmth and beauty in your spirit to us strangers out here.
I am not a naysayer-I just realize my tastes are a bit different and it is good for me to learn to be openminded about these things. And I do admire when successful people make changes and take risks-that shows a passion for their art and I salute Jenna!
(and who knows?Perhaps I will become more open to what I like/dislike…and that would ba a GOOD thing!)

Vive la difference! Thanks Jenna for hopefully understanding my confusing comment ;)

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Sarah July 25, 2010 at 7:35 pm

If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

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Hillary [Nutrition Nut on the Run] July 25, 2010 at 9:03 pm

@Suzanne What do you mean by 34K out of 400M? Just curious.

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Suzanne de Cornelia July 25, 2010 at 10:02 pm

@ Hillary Alexa.com is the ‘go-to’ for ranking about 400M global sites. I know of sites that have large staffs and spend millions of dollars a year on site content/admin etc that don’t have Jenna’s ratings–a huge accomplishment among her many others.

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Marla July 26, 2010 at 4:13 am

I do like Jenna’s blog!

Don’t you ever read a book where you how parts of it are written and not other sections?

It’s only natural and is in no way any reflection on the very talented writer in this case-she’s a star and draws us all in :)

I am a musician and even my dearest friends will tell me when they lied my playing or when it wasn’s a performance they cared for…..but for me anyways it is how one critiques that makes a difference to me.For me,I personally would not care for it to be said/worded how Katie did(that would upset me!)

But if it is a bit of constructive opinion in a kind way ,I will listen to it and consider(but of course may not agree,because it is my perogative to follow my art in my way,as it is Jenna’s!)
Anyways I was hoping that the people who have some differing opinions might rethink how they word things.(perhaps some are simply naysayers of course!) An opinion is one thing,being negative is another.

Anyways,just my two cents ;) Cheers all!

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Marla July 26, 2010 at 4:16 am

PS sorry about my typos and missed words!

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Kelli July 26, 2010 at 4:57 am

In my personal opinion, the criticism stems from the fact that Jenna has been so inconsistent. Unlike other bloggers who we develop an online relationsship with over a period of time, Jenna’s personality and food habits have changed dramaticially. Who is the real Jenna? It’s as if she’s trying on different identitiies. Furthermore, she doesn’t dialogue much with her readers, which really puts us at arms length. It’s rare for her to answer a question posed and if she does it is a very brief response. This contrasts with bloggers who make a concerted effort to engage with their readers in a sign of respect. She’s always raving re. one thing or other as her “the best” until the next comes along. Shes’ all over the map, sort of like a teenager with new whims every five minutes, often related to the company most recently sponsoring her. Lately, every other sentence is an attempt at funny. A sense of maturity and stablility might be demonstrated (she is twenty five after all!) and would help her earn trust among those of us who want to trust her, but find her inconsistency puzzling.

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jenna July 26, 2010 at 7:03 am

I’m sorry you feel that way!

Marla July 26, 2010 at 7:21 am

PSS I do NOT agree with Kelli

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Janna (janna's keeping it real) July 26, 2010 at 7:25 am

If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Easy peasy.

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jenna July 26, 2010 at 7:31 am

this was the longest comment thread in the history of Eat Live Run–good job, guys!

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Kelly July 26, 2010 at 8:19 am

Take it as a compliment, Jenna :) When you are as popular/successful as you are, negative comments are bound to happen. It’s all in the numbers! I’m sure 99% of your readers disagree w/the original post :)

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Suzanne de Cornelia July 26, 2010 at 9:44 am

Amen, Kelly. 99.99%. :)

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Jessica @ How Sweet It Is July 25, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I have never heard of chocolate cherry risotta. That sounds incredible!

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Anya @ Fitness & Sunshine July 25, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Those chilies are tiny. Aww!

Chocolate cherry risotto sounds glorious.

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Maria @ A Healthier Maria July 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm

hmmm chocolate with fish….I can’t even imagine what that is like!
p.s. just ignore the first commenter & enjoy the rest of your va-cay :)

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Chelsea (Chelsea's Chew and Run Fun) July 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I have a bit of a knife-phobia so I tend to hold my breath when chopping anything. I could really use one of those tutorial classes.

Those risottos look out of this world, as does that cactus salad and creme brulee. Never in a million years would I think to eat cacti, but the dish you made makes a strong case to try it!

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Liz @ Tip Top Shape July 25, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Haha, if I found a tomato seed in my ear I would be wary of chopping them, too!

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Annie@stronghealthyfit July 25, 2010 at 2:08 pm

What the heck is a microplane? And is that a labyrinth? That place looks amazing.

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Dorry July 25, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I’ve SO enjoyed your posts over the past few days. The tiny peppers are the cutest little things. I love mini-things. Such unique food and flavor combos. I’m drooling over the chocolate cherry risotto. Amazed.

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Amber K July 25, 2010 at 2:13 pm

A full letter grade for one seed? That would probably bring a panic attack for me! lol

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The Wife of a Dairyman July 25, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I was grocery shopping with my 5 year old son the other day and he spotted cactus in the produce section and SO wanted to buy and cook it…..I was too afraid, but maybe I’ll give it a shot now….Thanks! (p.s. I love your wit and sarcasim)

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Allie (Live Laugh Eat) July 25, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I had cactus when I was studying abroad in Mexico–I need to find some to make for my family. Love the story :)

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Krystina July 25, 2010 at 2:38 pm

That cactus salad looks so fresh and divine.

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Jaya July 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Between the microplane, my julienne peeler and my cast iron pan, I feel that world domination is within reach.

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Lola July 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm

In Mexico, it’s very common to eat “cacti” or nopales, as we called them. We cook them in scrambled eggs, salads, red chili sauce, etc.

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Staceyhttp://stacey-healthylife.blogspot.com/ July 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Interesting tip about the tomato seeds, never knew that. Sounds like this weekend was made for you.

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Lisa (bakebikeblog) July 25, 2010 at 3:02 pm

oooooh my – what a wonderful day! And such wonderful food!

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Courtney (Delightful Devours) July 25, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Oh I am so jealous! I desperately need to take a chopping lesson! I would probably also need the band-aids though…

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Heather (Heather's Dish) July 25, 2010 at 3:15 pm

those chilis are the TINIEST i’ve ever seen! no wonder they’re so spicy :)

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Jaime July 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Why is #1 so mean? Please don’t listen to her! Can I just say… all that food looked amazing and your life, right now, in that beautiful resort, eating all the food you want, looks amazing! :) Enjoy!

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nita July 25, 2010 at 3:37 pm

do they have a cookbook? the food looks amazing.

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Tina July 25, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I cannot get over how fabulous all of that food looks! And your tomato story intrigued me. I think school horror stories are always fun. Well, when looking back…not when they happen.

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Sarah July 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Your wit and sarcasm is great and is totally a product of your growth and maturity as a writer and as YOURSELF. I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now and find your new sense of self wonderful. SO jealous you’re at Miraval! Glad you’re learning a lot, eating and cooking great food and having fun!

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Camille July 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Everything looks amazing!
And fyi, your writing style is one of my favorites of all the bloggers I read. I look forward to your humor and honesty every day… don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

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Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin July 25, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I love the little band-aid bowl. I need one of those. :P

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Rachael July 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Cactus, fish with chocolate…keep the ideas and inspiration a comin’!
I’ve been cooking in and out of restaurants for years, but I’ve never been formally trained…my knife skills are a little lacking, and my onions don’t also manifest into the neatest diced bits (cue the world’s smallest violin).
Hot peppers are both delicious and beautiful – I am a spice fiend. I’m also a big fan of sarcasm (and apparently not alone). Keep that coming too -in whatever way is authentic for you :)

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Cynthia (It All Changes) July 25, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I’m currently reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and the chef you describes sounds like Chef Bernard from the E room. Your sarcasm about that made me laugh.

Cacti is interesting to eat but I love interesting food…and the fish and chocolate risotto really sounds interesting.

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Janna (janna's keeping it real) July 25, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Cactus salad?!? Why I never… Looks like a fantastic day!

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Susan July 25, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Hmmm, makes me want to take some cooking classes. Thank you Jenna, you inspire us all.

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marie @ marie would July 25, 2010 at 6:10 pm

you should tell more stories from your cooking school days! little bit(e)s here and there, like that teacher sounds hilarious. also, that salsa? i want now : (

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theemptynutjar July 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm

So…I have no idea what a microplane is. Hopefully not sharp (if it keeps in your bed!).

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Gretchen July 25, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Chocolate creme brulee for dinner. You are my kind of girl!

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Rosey Rebecca July 25, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Chocolate cherry risotto? WHAT? You just made my LIFE.
Can you post a tomato cutting picture tutorial? That would be amazing! :-)

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Exercise and Eat July 25, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Your writing is the shiz-nit. Ignore commenter #1.

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Kimmy July 26, 2010 at 7:30 am

You know I am on Facebook too much because i went to “like” this comment! LOL

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Jackie (Peaces of Earth) July 25, 2010 at 7:26 pm

I am in love with my microplane. I sometimes sleep with it as well.

Everything looks SO good. Chocolate cherry risotto sounds too good for words.

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Sarah July 25, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Perhaps you should sleep with the microplane under your pillow, like Laura Croft in Tomb Raider?

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M July 25, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I actually came to comment to say that I think you’ve really grown into your “new” writing style as of late. (And this was BEFORE i saw the first comment).

Don’t let the haters stop you from doing your thing!

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April July 25, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Beautiful Pictures and Beautiful FOOD!!! YUMO

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Laura (Starloz) July 25, 2010 at 9:20 pm

You’ve been in a food heaven this week, I’m jealous.

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Becky July 25, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I’d love a tutorial in how to de-seed a tomato
without totally mutilating it! I have no idea how you are supposed to do that!

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MissieOz July 26, 2010 at 12:44 am

#1 “sarcasim” umm, maybe you meant s-a-r-c-a-s-m? Those who can–do—those who are obnoxious, criticize. Your standard is stagnation? Why evolve in anything then? By your ‘standard’ a person’s writing/everything should remain exactly the same from when, high school to the grave? 411 #1: the entire basis of the universe is change. ‘L’

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Stacey @ Tipping the (Kitchen!) Scales July 26, 2010 at 3:51 am

It looks like a fun-filled day!

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Ilana July 26, 2010 at 4:53 am

Oh those adorable teenie chilis…I met them in a cooking class in Thailand last summer and they are literally called “mouse shit chilis” .. because they look like…well, you know.

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Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) July 26, 2010 at 5:31 am

What a positively perfect day! I never realized that you were supposed to exclude the tomato seeds either, but I can see how that would have been traumatic…haha. :mrgreen:

Love all the pics, Jenna! :D

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RhodeyGirl July 26, 2010 at 6:07 am

1. After reading your recaps on Miraval I am DEFINITELY trying to recruit a group of friends to go. They want to go to Maine… I am voting Miraval. Seriously.

2. For the record, I am obsessed with your writing style. I find it to be very natural to how you are in person, and it always keeps me interested.

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Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman July 26, 2010 at 6:21 am

I hate chopping tomatoes, too, but it might have more to do with my dull knives than seeds in my ears. By the way, I love your writing. Food photos are nice, but anyone can post their dinner. Your wit and sharp writing is why I read.

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laura July 26, 2010 at 6:21 am

no judgements if you do sleep with the microplane next to your bed :) And, I love your writing — it may have changed, but that’s life and it is still wonderful. Keep writing Jenna, however you feel and want to!

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Espie July 26, 2010 at 9:47 am

I just read the first comment and needed to say that I love your sarcasm. Personally, I think the California air has gotten to you (in a good way, of course). And I can say this because I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I also know that the experiences you are having in CA (ie DMV) are toughening up your skin and negative comments will only strengthen your writing skills.
Keep up the great work and know that you are entertaining to others that don’t necessarily share the same blood.

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