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Jennifer Woods brings comfort to winter chef series at Phoenix Public Market

Posted on: February 14th, 2012 by Taryn Jeffries No Comments

This Saturday, February 18, Phoenix Public Market will be featuring local favorite, Jennifer Woods in their Winter Chef Series. For a mere $55 per person, you will be treated to a cooking demonstration as well as a 3 course meal paired with 3 drinks. Jennifer is a writer for Chow Bella as well as a marketer at Crooked Sky Farms and will be serving up a very exciting menu.

While our hope is that you have had the opportunity to make it to one of the amazing dinners already featured in the Winter Chef Series, if you have not, this would be the one to make it to. I am sure that Jennifer will be doling out a healthy dose of knowledge about local produce, CSA’s, and being charming and entertaining all the while!

The Phoenix Public Market is located at 14 East Pierce Street in Phoenix.

I had the opportunity to ask Jennifer Woods a few quick questions about her upcoming demo:

Taryn Jeffries:  Amy and I are both so excited for you and think this is such a great series.

Jennifer Woods: Me too! I was so excited to be invited to participate.

Taryn: What is your menu planned to be for the evening? Of course, only if you are allowed to share beforehand.

Jennifer: A warm bacon dressing over a bitter greens salad and poached egg. (It’s the classic Salad Lyonnaise — Arizona style.) Individual pizzas with Fossil Creek goat cheese, an olive and Crooked Sky greens sauce, toasted pine nuts and dates.And, brownie bites studded with candied seville orange peel and whipped creme fraiche (for dipping).

Taryn: Is there anything specific that inspired you to choose the items on your menu?

Jennifer: I wanted to feature a few favorite ways to eat greens. Working for a CSA farm, I learned recently that some of the pick-up locations have struggled with renewals due to members’ challenges eating the big leafy greens. I wanted to host a class to share ways to get them into meals that were easy and super tasty. I’m also sharing my no-knead “amazing bucket of dough” that makes almost instant pita bread, rolls, pizzas, artisan loaves. It’s the best. I love having this dough at the ready for anything. It’s a great vehicle and addition to meals that makes them feel special with very minimal cost and effort.

I also wanted to share how to candy citrus peel. We have so much growing in people’s backyards in Phoenix that I had to share. And who doesn’t like brownies?

Taryn: Being a working mother, how do you face the challenges of creating healthy meals for your family when you have a million other things on your plate?

Jennifer: Being a member of a CSA has changed my kitchen completely. It really forces you to eat seasonally and you learn to prioritize your time in the kitchen planning and prepping the food. I base all my meals around the vegetables – and not the proteins. We eat mainly vegetarian meals in my home and it’s so easy to “put an egg on it” to create a meal out of an outstanding vegetable dish.

For both planning and presentation reasons, I painted my main wall in my kitchen with black chalkboard paint. I use the whole wall to mimic a French bistro with my kitchen’s dinners scribbled on them. As we eat the meals during the week, we erase those meals so we know what we can make for dinner just by looking at the wall. I make sure to star the meals that need to get eaten first – based upon the shelf life of the main ingredients. I also use that wall as my shopping list. Whenever I get close to running out of a staple I write it down. Then before heading to the store, I take a picture with my smart phone and use that photo as my shopping list at the store.

Taryn: Are cooking/planning duties shared between yourself and your husband?

Jennifer: While my husband is very much that hands-on dad that jumps in head first with anything in the household or the kids, I’ve pretty much laid claim to the kitchen. He is such an appreciative eater who doesn’t have as strong opinion about what we should eat as I do, so I think it works out perfectly. He does cook but it’s mostly midnight snack type food.

I think one of the most romantic things a man can do for you is make you a meal. I was quite sick with a cold or flu one winter and after watching a movie together, he asked how to make chicken soup. I told him the basic steps to the best of my ability (in its tired and feeble state) and he came back with the most delicious chicken soup. Food tastes so much better when it’s made with heart.

We both struggle over dishes, and tend to share those duties. He’s the table clearer and rinser and I manage the dishes in and out of the dishwasher.

Taryn: Do you have a ‘go to’ meal when you are really strapped for time and creativity?

Jennifer: Absolutely, though what I make always changes with the seasons. Right now, I almost always have a quart container of vegetable soup. So, that zapped with a piece of crusty bread toasted (straight from the freezer) and smeared with goat cheese or butter is a common one. I like having vegetable soup for lunches. At dinnertime, we often go to breakfast with an egg, toast and fruit.

I’m also on a big brown butter kick. While pasta cooks in boiling salted water, I’ll brown a bit of butter for a sauce and cook an egg in the butter. Once the pasta is done, I’ll drain it, toss in some handfuls of soft greens (like spinach or chard) to wilt and top with the egg, butter and shaved parm. It feels so fancy and it’s so dang easy with only 4 ingredients.

Taryn: What is the best meal that you have ever had? Maybe one that you have created yourself and one you had while dining out?

Jennifer: I think the best meal is the one that fits your craving at that moment. Given that, I’ve had a lot of best meals. Some of my most memorable ones are from being a kid in California. One I remember fondly was from a restaurant at the mall in San Diego near where I grew up. They served a dish called Crepes Cordon Bleu with Apple Delight Crepe. It sounds like what it was: ham and cheese crepes with Swiss cheese and a cream sauce AND a dessert crepe on the same plate. The apple delight crepe was filled with butter fried apples and topped with finely chopped nuts. I was crazy for this and would always list it as a favorite meal when asked on elementary school “about me” questionnaires.

The best burger I ever had was at a cafe halfway up the mountain at Heavenly Ski Resort (the cafe might have been on the Nevada side of the ski hill). I think I was about 10 or 12. It was one of those places where you order a burger and they hand you a raw patty and point you toward the rows of outdoor grills. I have a feeling it was a combination of the hunger from all the skiing and the cold crisp mountain air that made the simple salt and pepper seasoned hot-off-the-grill burger with mayo, pickles, tomatoes and onions the best burger I have ever had or made.

Taryn: Do you have picky eaters in your house, and if so, how do you deal with that?

Jennifer: In general, I would say we don’t really have any picky eaters at our house. I think it’s because we make it an adventure to try new foods but never something you’re forced to eat. You try it, you talk about the flavors and textures and that’s it. There is no fighting over finishing food. I make sure that whatever is on the plate is something I know is good for them and if they don’t eat it all, they’re probably not hungry. I certainly nudge in certain directions if all they’re doing is holding out for the fruit during the day or something, but as a whole we haven’t had any major struggles.

I think jumping over green vegetable hurdles with kids can be hard and a good gateway experience is to have a mint plant in your backyard/porch to let your kids pick from and nibble. It has a pleasant sweet flavor and is fun for them to pluck on their own. My 4 year old son loves to visit Crooked Sky Farms with me and chomp on a big Swiss chard leaf as we walk through the rows. He doesn’t necessarily gobble down a big pile of sautéed chard at home, but at least he isn’t afraid of it. He likes to eat his “leaves.”


About the Author - Taryn Jeffries

Editor and Chief Eating Officer of PhoenixBites, 2017 Food Writer of the Year (Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame) Taryn grew up in a small town in Illinois with a doting Grandmother who taught her the way around a kitchen and that food is representative of love. Her current quest is to find the love in local dishes and the chefs behind them. In addition to running all things PhoenixBites, Taryn is also a freelance writer, sharing her insight on the best dishes and where to get them each and every month.

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