Gratitude and Giving Thanks

10 days… Oh. Em. Gee…. 10 days?!  TEN DAYS!!

In just over a week, I will wear a black gown, place a golden colored stoll over my shoulders, and walk with approximately 600 other students across the stage of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center to receive a diploma in Food Production from Fox Valley Technical College.  What an amazing journey this has been for me!

It’s fitting that I’m penning this post on Thanksgiving eve, because I have SO much to be thankful for this year.  Among my list of personal reasons, I am so incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to better myself over these past 2 years.  I’m filled with gratitude for the financial assistance I’ve received in the way of scholarships, grants, and student loans.  Without them, a college education would have been impossible for me.

I’m grateful for the amazing instructors I’ve had, whose knowledge, passion for teaching, and compassionate demeanor encouraged me to work hard at getting the most out of every educational experience I was given.

I’m equally blessed to have had some amazing mentors and advisers along the way.  Chef Jeff, Barb Dreger, Casey Britten, and Shiela Kahler…God bless each and every one of you for your support and encouragement.

I’m thankful to have had employment opportunities during my schooling, that helped to keep a roof over my head and food on my table.  Many students aren’t aware of the opportunities for extra cash during their schooling that are right inside of the walls of the school!  I spent time and was compensated for being a student ambassador, a peer tutor, a student blogger, an administrative intern, and for assisting with food prep and catering events through the culinary program.  If you’re interested in learning more about any of those programs, I encourage you to click through the links I’ve attached below and learn more about them.

STUDENT AMBASSADOR

PEER TUTORING

STUDENT INTERNSHIPS

WORK OPTIONS TO HELP PAY FOR COLLEGE

Fox Valley Technical College is truly a one-of-a-kind, amazing place to gain the knowledge that can help you live out your personal passion and career-related dreams.  I am SO thankful that I will soon be spreading my wings and soaring to heights of greatness in my career!

In closing, I want to share a recipe with you that I feel is very appropriate.  I named it “Bountiful Harvest” and the name is quite fitting for the bounty of gratitude that I feel at this time in my life.  Enjoy…and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

BOUNTIFUL HARVEST DRESSING

Ingredients

1/2 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries

1 pound ground sausage

6 cups dried bread or stuffing cubes

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage1 pinch fresh thyme

1/3 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced apple with skin on

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 in a convection oven).

Place cranberries in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Cook just until skins pop. Drain, and cool.

Place sausage, onion, and celery in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, and cool.

In a medium baking dish, mix cranberries, apple, sausage, bread cubes, onion, and garlic. Season with parsley, oregano, sage, thyme, celery seed, ground ginger, salt, and pepper. Stir in chicken broth to desired consistency.

Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until surface is crisp and lightly browned.

Fox Valley Tech’s Best-Kept Secret

You may have noticed that I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front lately.  I took a hiatus to tend to some urgent matters. I hope you haven’t missed me too much! Sometimes it’s a healthy thing to step away from the keyboard (or phone, or iPad, or whatever device you choose) and just live your life.

As I wrap up my semester (and hopefully my college career), I thought it might be helpful to talk a little bit about one of the best-kept secrets at Fox Valley Tech: Student Employment Services.

Many of us are approaching graduation, and that means FINDING A FULL-TIME JOB!  That thought is a bit daunting for me right now. I really don’t have much to fret about though, because free job placement services are available just for being a student at Fox Valley Tech!  Awesome at its best!

First of all, Student Employment Services has a website called Wisconsin TechConnect, which is a job search site EXCLUSIVELY for students attending WI technical colleges. You can get statewide job listings that are directly related to your program. Once I applied for graduation, those job listings started showing up into my email inbox.  Truly, how much easier could it be?!   There are other job search sites they can direct you to as well.

Student Employment Services also offers mock interviews, to help get the jitters out for the real thing. They also have an expert who will take a look at your resume, to make sure it’s up to par with the competition.

If you really want to get serious, there are 2 very cool programs to help you in your job search: Job Search Investigation and Job Seekers Network (http://www.fvtc.edu/jobsearchprograms).

Here’s a video:

And the best part to all of this? It’s all completely FREE.  Even if you’re NOT a student at FVTC, you are welcome to take advantage of some of these services.

Here’s the website. Check it out. Right now. Go. http://www.fvtc.edu/ses-students. (Seriously…What are you waiting for? Get movin’ further towards success!)

An Incredible and Inspirational Man

I believe a smack across my hand with a ruler may be in order! I’ve been penning this blog for two years and although I’ve mentioned his name before, I have never once told you how much this man means to me:

Wait a minute… that picture is FAR too prim and proper to be Chef Jeff Igel…. HERE’S what my mentor REALLY looks like:

Or perhaps he’ll approve of THIS pic.

He’s in his second favorite environment. All that’s missing are a bag of his beloved Cheetos and an ice cold brew!

Why do I adore Chef Jeff (or CJ, as he’s permitted some of us to call him)? Without turning this post into a mushy affection fest, let me count the ways.

First, there’s CJ the family man. I find it incredibly inspirational that he makes room in his ϋber busy schedule to attend his son Jake’s athletic events, spend time with his daughter Cassie (who also attends FVTC), and to take his wife Paula out on a date night. As he’s said many times to his students, a successful life is about making a perfect balance of work, family, and personal time. CJ seems to be talking the talk AND walking the walk very well.

As if his ethics and moral character aren’t enough, he’s got an overall snappy happy Monday morning attitude, too. Aye carumba! I don’t know what kind of happy pills are being thrown into his Wheaties in the morning, but the man has a spring in his step and a smile on his face regardless of the nasty a** attitude that his cost controls students bring into the classroom with them on Monday mornings. He always seems to find a way to make his enthusiasm infectious. When the class starts at 8:30, we’re all grumping and bitching, but by 11:30, we’ve laughed, learned, and left MUCH better people than when we walked in the door.

I love (yes, I’m going to use that big “L” word, because “I have a fond affinity for him”, just doesn’t cut the mustard) Chef Jeff for his insatiable appetite for bringing out the very best in his students, and his talent for possessing the perfect timing to help us become better people. I’ve experienced it first hand, and I’ve also seen him do it with even the most unmotivated and stubborn of his students. He’s got a gift and he’s using it well! There have been times during this educational experience when I’ve felt defeated and was sure that I’d never make it through the semester, but Chef always knew what to say or do to keep me encouraged and pushing forward. Like last year, when he showed an incredibly inspirational video to us in his ethics and professionalism class. He gave me a heartfelt challenge to ponder what I wanted from my life and to continue chasing my dreams….so I did!  Besides that, he’s constantly making me laugh. Like the time I helped him with some administrative phone calls for the FVTC Cultural Cuisine event and he nicknamed me his “call girl”.

It’s been said that success in life is rarely achieved without first having a passion and willingness to work at making it happen.  While I believe that to be true, I also believe that an equally important step in the process is to find someone who encourages us and nurtures the seeds of self-confidence and enthusiasm that are surely needed along that long and winding road to the finish line!

Over the past two years, Chef Jeff has been an incredible source of knowledge, inspiration, and motivation to me.  He’s been my cheerleader when I needed one the most.  He’s helped me to dust the cobwebs from my brain, weed out my self-doubt, and begin to grow a beautiful garden of knowledge in my brain and happiness into my soul.

He is definitely one of a kind, and I will forever be grateful to him for what he’s done to help me along this amazing journey.
CJ, I am now and will forever be grateful to God for bringing you into my life just when I needed you the most…

In celebration of all things Chef Jeff, I think it only fitting that I share with you one of his grilling rub recipes. This rub brings the perfect flavor to a piece of brisket or flank steak and it’s the perfect treat to chow down on while watching your favorite ball game!

Chef Jeff’s Big Money Rub

Paprika Spanish                ½ Cup

Brown Sugar, light           ½ Cup

Salt, Kosher                        ½ Cup

Chili Powder, light           ¼ Cup

Black Pepper, coarse ground            ¼ Cup

Garlic, granulated or powder            2 Tablespoons

Onion, granulated or powder            2 Tablespoons

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