Oy Vey! Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

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Last week was pretty great. I get to do a lot of pretty great things working where I work and living where I live. The only bad thing about great things is that they rarely happen in your backyard. So because of this, I have to do some travel throughout the year. The only problem with this is, the more you travel, the more likely you are to have a miserable travel experience. The only good thing about a miserable travel experience is that it usually makes for a pretty good story. The past three years have left me with a handful of miserable exploits excellent stories. First, there was that time 8 of us got stuck in the Chicago airport for about 8 hours (maybe I'm exaggerating... but c'mon after like 4 hours, anything is ridiculous). We were stuck, stuck, there was no updates, we all had checked bags, doing something wasn't going to be an option. At one point earlier that day there had been talk of just renting a car because the airport situation was a mess at 8 am and we knew there was going to be a few delays, but we went for it anyway - hindsight 20/20, we should have gone with the car. Now I love the people I work with, I really do, but 8 hours in an airport after 4 days of non-stop interaction during a meeting was a little much, or so I thought in hours 2-3.  At about the 3.5 hour mark, we started to have a little more laughter than tears (there were never any tears externally, but internally we were all a mess), we had eaten, accepted we were stuck, and just sat down to wait it out, maybe it was delirium, maybe it was just us all trying to make the best of a bad situation, but I was really having, dare I say it, fun. At one or two points I was laughing so hard I cried. You get to see a different side of people when you travel, but you really get to see a different side of people when you travel and get stuck somewhere. I feel like we all bonded that trip, it was kind of good for morale, at least for a couple of weeks. So all in all, yes, it was exhausting, yes, it was sort of miserable, but it wasn't all that bad and I was home and in bed before 3 am.

Then there was that time that time that the whole northeastern seaboard closed down for a snow storm. Let me tell you it was a mess, and I was supposed to be going to Arizona for work. I was only supposed to be spending 3 days in AZ, so when my flight got delayed 24 hours, it got interesting. It was a mess, I went to the airport only to sit for 5 hours to come back home and do it all again the next day. Now, I kind of (secretly) love layovers,and sitting and waiting in the airport, if I know it's just temporary and will not last more that 1.5 hours (that's my max), especially the D.C. airport. There's never a dull moment, there's always some self-proclaimed VIP, foreigners that you can always pretend are spies, some strange what-are-you-doing-in-the-D.C.-area wierdo, some family that just really has no clue what's going on or how they're going to get home (tourists...), or some group that can always somehow blame the delay on the government.  However, as much as I love to people watch, day one in the airport was filled with ANGRY people and no hopeful answers from the gate agents, so by day two, I reallllly needed to get to Arizona and I was totally over all the airport had to offer, that is until I picked the seat across from two very interesting men from the NRA, at first I was just entertained by their conversation, but then they let me join in and we really had a great time, and then we got on the plane and all was fine I was headed to Arizona only a mere 32 hours late.

So I guess what I should have remembered last week is that as difficult as it some times is, I always make it home. However, somehow I thought for sure this time I wouldn't. Last week I got the amazing opportunity to go to GE's leadership development center, Crotonville, in New York. The setting is absolutely beautiful, all in all it was amazing.  I learned so much, it was dare I say, relaxing? So after a great experience, who would have thought what happened next would have happened? Now we all know, all over the country, there have been major storms here and there for the past couple of weeks. Well, last Friday, they hit D.C. then New York, then D.C. and then New York, and there I was with four other co-workers sitting in New York trying to get to back to Washington.  It was a mess, we sat for over an hour without notice of a delay or anything, then they walked us out to the tarmac (it's one of those small planes you walk up the stairs to get on, they don't have a gate in the whole place), then after sitting out there for 30 minutes, they brought us back inside where we sat for probably 2 hours waiting for an update. Finally, the weather let up, they loaded us on the plane, and taxied out to the runway.  We all thought we were home free, then the plane stopped and that's when the real adventure began.

Did you know there's a law that you can't sit in a plane on a runway for more than 3 hours? You know why I know that? Because I sat on a plane, on a runway for 2 hours and 45 minutes, yep, they got us off just in the nick of time! You may ask, what the heck do you do for almost three hours on a plane just sitting there? Well theres a couple of things you can only hope will not happen.

  1. You can HOPE you won't be seated by a nervous woman with some sort of medical condition.
  2. You can HOPE you're not seated in the window seat.
  3. You can HOPE you've brought some snacks along, even though it was only supposed to be an hour flight.
  4. You can HOPE you're not seated next to a baby

Want to know how lucky I was on this wonderful little (almost) three hour tarmac-sitting adventure? Of the above I struck out on three of the four. It's interesting how much you can tell about the people around you in the first 15 minutes of a "crisis" (I guess that's what you could call this).

I had the joy of being seated next to an 80-something jewish grandmother who was about to miss her grandchild's graduation... from 6th grade. Oy vey! That's all I have to say (not really, obviously I'm going to tell you all about it). Over the course of the three hours, I found out she had low blood sugar, I found her food for her low blood sugar, I taught her how to use her iPhone (who gives an almost 90 year old an iPhone?), I learned all about her family (it was a BIG family, you'd think they were Catholic), I got to talk to one of her son's on her iPhone - let me tell you that was interesting, and I heard about her sweet husband's passing. Now, all of these things are fine and you would imagine to get to know the person next to you a little better when you're sitting next to them for almost three hours, but just believe me, it wasn't a conversation.

I don't think I've ever heard someone talk that much.  The only break I got was when she got up to go to the bathroom, and then when she got up again to get her phone that she had left in the bathroom. (Are you getting the picture by now?) Everyone on the plane found out that she had left her phone because she yelled it as she walked down the aisle (the plane held less than 100 people, I'm not sure all the yelling was necessary). When she told me her son had been waiting at the airport for almost two hours I said "Awe, poor thing! That's terrible!" She replied, "Poor thing? He's not the poor thing, he's headed home right now and will have warm Matzo-ball soup in his belly before we get off this plane!" I laughed, she did not.

Once we hit the 2 hour 30 minute mark, the airplane started to taxi back to "the gate" and by the 55 minute mark we were all inside trying to make plans on what to do next.  It was about 9:30 p.m. by now, and we had gotten to the airport at about 2:00 p.m., give or take 30 minutes (it's all a blur). All any of us wanted to do was get home, we checked the trains, they were all booked, we were not about to stay over night, even if we had, all the flights were booked for the next day, so our last resort was to drive the 4+ hours and just get home, which we finally did. We all grabbed some coffee, piled into the mini-van, and hit the road. We finally arrived safe and sound at around 3:00 a.m., believe me, I have never been happier for my bed! So, like always, it worked out, I bonded with co-workers, met new people, and I've got a pretty great story. So in honor of my New York adventure, and my new jewish grandma, I've decided to make Matzo-ball soup and share the recipe with you!

You Can Make This In Less The Time Than I Spent On A Runway Matzo Ball Soup Recipe.

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This is a small recipe, it can easily be doubled. Thanks Ina Garten and Bobby Flay for the inspiration for the matzo balls!

Ingredients:

Soup Base

  1. 2 cups soup starter (celery, onions, carrots - all diced), salt, pepper, and garlic powder (optional) it really helps intensify the flavor
  2. 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  3. 2 chicken breasts cooked and shredded - or use a rotisserie chicken they're great for stuff like this
  4. 4 1/2 cups chicken stock
  5. couple of drops of siracha (optional) - I know it sounds crazy but it just adds a little depth to the broth

Matzo Balls 

  1. 2 eggs - separated
  2. 1/4 cup chicken stock
  3. 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  4. 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  5. 1 tablespoons chopped dill
  6. 1/2 cup matzo meal
  7. salt and pepper to taste

First step... make your matzo balls! 

Chop up some chives and dill...

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combine yolks, chicken stock, chives, dill, salt, sprinkle of pepper and butter...

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add a half cup of matzo meal to your mixture, stir until well combined...

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beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form...

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stir egg white into matzo meal mixture, cover and refrigerate... IMG_41121IMG_4115

 Next, make your soup...

sauté your veggies...

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add some crushed garlic...

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add your chicken to your veggies...

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bring your chicken stock to a simmer and make your matza balls...

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add your matzo balls to your boiling water and cook for 15 minutes...

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add your sautéed veggies and chicken...cover and simmer...

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check your seasoning, serve and enjoy!

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Step-by-step:

Prepare matzo balls

  1. combine egg yolks, chicken stock, butter, salt (about a pinch), pepper, chives, dill in a large bowl
  2. stir in matzo meal
  3. beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form
  4. stir egg whites into matzo mixture
  5. refrigerate for 15 minutes or until firm... while you're waiting, start the soup base

Prepare soup base

  1.  melt some butter/olive oil in a pan and cook veggies with salt and garlic powder for 4 minutes
  2. add crushed garlic and cook until veggies are tender
  3. while veggies are cooking get chicken stock simmering

Make your Matzo Ball Soup

  1. form matzo mixture into small balls quick tip: use a cookie scoop
  2. turn the heat up on your chicken stock and get it boiling
  3. once the stock is boiling, drop your matzo balls in one at a time, make sure they don't clump, reduce heat and bring stock to a simmer
  4. let matzo balls cook for 15 minutes and then turn them over
  5. after the flip, add veggies and cubed/shredded chicken breast, and the optional siracha
  6. cover and let simmer about 10 minutes (or until chicken is hot) - matzo balls should be puffed and fully cooked, make check your seasoning, add some more salt/pepper if you think you need it
  7. serve and enjoy!