You might want to grab some coffee…it’s a long one.
Let’s talk about reinvention.
For the past year or so, I have been wondering both to myself and out loud to my friends what my “next act” might be now that we are mostly empty nesters. It feels like I have reinvented myself several times over the course of my life, some reinventions born out of necessity and some from circumstance. Reinvention seems to be a theme among many of my female friends of a certain age who have reached a point in their lives where their children need them less and they are looking for more. But what does the “more” look like exactly? Many women I feel struggle with this question. The lucky ones find an answer.
I started my post college life as a banker. I remember one of my male friends saying to me after graduation that he was disappointed in my decision, suggesting he thought I would do something more creative with my life. But banking led me to so many wonderful things, including my husband and some lifelong friends so perhaps it was ten years well spent.
Thankfully, I was able to access my creative side by attending culinary school where working with your hands was equally important as exercising your mind. I was so happy donning my chef’s coat, pants and clogs for each exciting lesson over the course of a year. But at that time, the culinary field was vastly different than it is today. My options when I graduated from school were pretty much to work in a restaurant. Having a baby at home, one on the way, and the expectation (both self-inflicted and put upon me) that I would “stay home” with my children, I returned full time to the roost. It was a hard transition.
While I am aware of how incredibly fortunate I was to have that time with my children, I missed the mental stimulation that came from having something outside of the home to focus on.
So for quite some time, I moved into a new space that many women like myself find themselves in – the land of volunteering. PTG, sign me up! Local non-profits, count me in! Class Parent with one of my best friends – sure, why not? Scholarship committee at my church, sure. A cookbook for my daughter’s school and a local farm – jackpot! I was inspired and energized, using my brain and engaging with my community. It sounds whiny to say, even Sally Field-like (Oscar speech reference), but I found some validation from all of these activities which for women who chose to stay at home found hard to find during the day to day. Can anyone relate?
But the volunteering had its evolution and like all good things, tailed off as well. The timing was purposeful so that I could embrace my children’s high school years and help them navigate their way to college, although they undoubtedly wished I had kept out of their hair!
So there I was, a Mom and wife who was a former banker turned culinary student turned “professional” volunteer as I like to call it. I was 49 years old and my older daughter was a senior in high school with my younger only 2 years behind. It was a good time to prepare for the next chapter and once again reinvent. I found an opportunity to teach culinary lessons to children that proved to be really fun. I thought this might be my way of putting my toe back into the workforce, one cookie at a time. I was on my way!
The universe had other plans for me, however. As I’ve mentioned many times on the blog, The Kitchen Scout was created as a vehicle for me to survive my mother’s death. There is something that is hard to describe about becoming an “orphan” for lack of a better word, even at 49. For me, there was a collision course among my devastation, my own mortality, the realization that my story tellers were gone and an unexplainable feeling of tremendous guilt. I also felt like I was really good at being a daughter and suddenly that role was eradicated from my life. Starting the blog was a way for me to catalog and share my memories with my children and whomever wanted to read. It was a God send. I had a destination, and a focus to my week. The “food” played a supporting role honestly. The blog saved me. The blog reinvented me once again.
Three years later, I am finding that the stories are playing more of the supporting role now and the pressure to create the food is more omnipresent. Scrolling through Instagram can sometimes lead to feelings of inadequacy because I just can’t dedicate the time to my photographs that others can. I’ll admit it, there’s a little bit of lazy in there, but there is also a part of me that just wants to do other things!
While I will be honest and say that I don’t think the blog is a forever thing, I am not planning to give it up just yet. I want to stay in this space, but somewhat reinvent how I am doing things. Here’s what I am thinking about that I wanted to share with you.
First, I want to be pleased with the content being produced. Going forward, while a weekly post will continue to be the goal, I will skip a week if I can’t provide content that is worthy of your time. Second, I am going to try to bring back some more thoughtful posts from time to time (case in point, today) so that I can go back to my true love of writing while also sharing recipes that I am making in real time in my kitchen. I am going to get back to the process of doing some redesign of the blog that I had started back in January. And lastly, I am really hoping that starting in September I can introduce a new feature to mix things up once in awhile. If I can pull it off, it will be really fun so stay tuned.
So the next reinvention is more of a fine tuning of my current space if you will. I always thought I would raise my babies in my thirties and forties and find a way to return to work eventually. Things haven’t exactly worked out that way so far, and I am still trying to figure out where reinvention will take me next. In the meanwhile, The Kitchen Scout is where I will be on my terms and having the support of my loyal readers means the world to me.
I love to write, and to cook from my heart and take some average photographs. Thanks for coming on this adventure with me.
Now let’s talk food.
When my mother went to the Armenian markets, she always came home with gorgeous dried apricots. I loved them for a little snack then and still do. Sometimes, I dice up a handful and add them to my chocolate chip cookie dough just to keep things interesting. But for some reason, we never had fresh apricots which is a little ironic. Perhaps it was because their growing season was relatively short and my mom preferred to load up on other stone fruits like plums, peaches and nectarines, the last two being my father’s personal favorites. Peaches paired with some fresh blueberries and a tiny sprinkling of sugar for breakfast? There was nothing better in the summertime.
I was searching for a different recipe when I landed on a pork tenderloin with apricot salsa on Food Network that got my attention. With little time left in the fresh apricot season, I decided to make it this week, but swapped out the pork with turkey tenderloins. The recipe also called for ancho chili powder which I neither had, nor found at the store where I purchase my spices from bulk bins (always the best for fresh spices). Since I had just completely cleaned out my spice cabinet and drawer, discovering that I may not need to buy another spice for quite some time, I decided to create my own spice blend instead using a medium heat chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika. The result is a spicy, lemony, smoky flavor that is really nice.
The recipe packs a punch of heat, both from the tenderloins themselves and the delicious salsa which I didn’t change at all. If you are sensitive to the heat, you can definitely modify the recipe by using a mild chili powder in the marinade and swapping out a jalapeno for the serrano pepper in the salsa. Look at the colors of these apricots…
The salsa is so delicious, you could just make that and serve it with chips or even on some crostini that you top with a soft cheese. Or serve it with almost any other kind of meat or even a hearty fish. If you don’t like apricots or miss the season all together, you can definitely use another fruit such as mango or pineapple with great results.
The best part? You can eat the turkey tenderloins hot from the grill, at room temperature, or even serve it cold the next day…
I think you’ll enjoy it. Please let me know if you give it a try, ok?
See you next time.
One Year Ago: Review of Trattoria di Monica in Boston, Massachusetts
Two Years Ago: Summer Squash, Corn & Tomato Gratin
Three Years Ago: Double Chocolate Loaf Cake
The recipe is adapted from Food Network.
This dish packs a lot of flavor! Spicy, lemony, smoky turkey tenderloins are paired with a seasonal fresh apricot salsa that gets its spice from one serrano pepper. To cut the heat, you can cut back a bit on the chili powder in the marinade, and swap a jalapeno for the serrano. If you don't like apricots, make the salsa with fresh mango or pineapple.
Serve the tenderloins hot from the grill, at room temperature or cold. The salsa would be great on chips or even on a crostini that was topped with a soft cheese.
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used a medium heat)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds turkey tenderloins
- Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups chopped fresh apricots (small dice), about 4 average apricots
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
- 1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped (use a jalapeno for a milder flavor)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the turkey tenderloins, combine the honey, vinegar, spices and garlic together in a bowl. Season the mixture with some salt. Add the marinade to a plastic bag with the tenderloins and toss around to make sure they are completely coated. Squeeze out as much air as you can from the bag and seal it. Place in fridge for at least one hour and up to 8.
- For the apricot salsa, place all the ingredients in a bowl and season with a big sprinkle of kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate to allow the flavors to come together.
- Grill the turkey tenderloins on medium high heat until completely cooked through (about 7 minutes or so per side, depending on the thickness of the tenderloin. If using a thermometer, it should register at least 165 degrees.
- Allow tenderloins to rest, covered about 5 minutes before serving. Serve with the salsa.
Embracing change is exciting. I’ve been thinking about the same. Have you heard of the start-up kitchen in Dorchester?
Val,There may be other food blogs, but I choose and look forward to yours each week because of your honest voice, your ideally curated recipes, your brightly styled food photos and your fun “inviting-us-along” eating out reviews.
Keep peeling the onion back for us -tears or not – we love discovering all the layers beneath with you as our chef/guide. xo
Thanks so much, Pam! You made my day!
Phew, thought you were leaving us. So glad there will be more KS!! As always Val, thank you for sharing you.
Thanks, Sal! xo
I have loved your blog from the first time I saw it. The stories, the recipes (I have made almost every one), the pictures, the restaurant reviews, the travel tips, the shoe review (I bought the driving shoes), have made my Friday’s extra special over the last few years. Sometimes I save the blog to read while I have some quiet time and can really take it in, and other times it is my go to place to get a recipe idea for dinner. Reinvention is something I think a lot about, especially with my baby heading to college in a few weeks, so thanks for this. Made my day and has gotten me thinking!
This is the best, Sue! I love that you not only are reading, but cooking from the blog – thank you, thank you! xo
I love this post Val, As always, your writing is thoughtful and inspiring.
Looking forward to discussing reinvention over a glass of (Croatian?!) wine very soon!
Definitely, Francine! xo
I love my Friday morning kitchen scout read! I really do! I also can relate to your feelings that you have about reinvention, as I went through it too, and like you, found something fun! Keep reinventing Val- you’re good at it!
Thanks, Lucy! So glad you found Stella & Dot! You inspire me!
Val-well it’s been a pleasure to be part of those reinventions with you all these years! Good luck with the next transformation and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the blog in September. I’m sure it will wonderful !!
You’re the best, Ann. Thank you. xoxo
Wonderful post! I’d be sad not to have TKS in my inbox on Fridays…but I know you can do anything you set your heart to!! Can’t wait for the next chapter!! XO
Thanks, Marte! xoxo