By: Shannon Smith | Category: Restaurants | Issue: March 2020
World traveler and professional chef, Shannon Smith.
If I was asked the most important lesson I have learned in my life, it is to be kind. I was born with a deformity on my face. Nearly every day I was asked what was wrong with my face, and I answered the way my parents taught me, “I have a birthmark.” Of course, it bothered me when people asked, but I got somewhat used to it. Most people were just curious, but others were mean. It affected my self-confidence my entire life, but it also taught me some very valuable lessons.
In grade school I was often teased and bullied, but I tried to use humor as my shield. As a result, I had a lot friends who accepted me for who I was and what I looked like. Most of them told me they didn’t notice my flawed face, and that the real beauty was inside. The last week of my senior year in college, I met with my advising professor to tell her I had been accepted into graduate school. She told me she had something she needed to tell me. “Shannon, if you don’t get your face fixed, you’re going to have a very hard time getting a job.” I remember just nodding in agreement, and going back to my dorm room to sob. That day I decided I would prove her wrong.
I did get a job out of college. It was in a fabric store where I sold expensive fabrics and sewed custom clothing for wealthy women. I was still asked about my face, but I had become so used to it, I brushed it off. I had made friends in my new job, and many of them are still friends after 30 years. I’ve taught my children to never question someone who looks different, and to always be their friend. In my travels I’ve met many people on every economic and social level, and I try to treat every person with kindness. It’s how I want to be treated, so why wouldn’t I do the same?
At age 48, I found a surgeon who would attempt to repair the deformity on my face. It was a difficult choice because it was very dangerous, and I was worried about what people would think. I’m not asked anymore about my face, but I’ll never forget the lessons I learned. I learned that I wasn’t going to be happy if I worried about what people thought about me all the time.
I also learned that most people have something they don’t like about themselves, and I should say something positive and encouraging at every opportunity.
Today, I have a job that allows me to stand in front of people and teach what I love the most, cooking. I do my best to share my skills with others because it doesn’t cost anything to be kind to others. Kindness is never wasted, and there are opportunities every day to give it to others. One of my favorite ways to show kindness is with food, and bread pudding is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face. Here is my recipe for Blueberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding.
White Chocolate & Blueberry Bread Pudding with Amaretto Cream Sauce
I’ve made this bread pudding so many times for dessert, breakfast, brunch and parties. It is one of the most requested recipes I have, and it is so easy to prepare. The use of fresh blueberries and dried blueberries add two different flavors and textures. Be sure to use high-quality white chocolate and never use whole-wheat bread for this dessert.
Amaretto cream sauce:
For the bread pudding, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place torn bread on a baking sheet and let sit out to dry overnight. Alternatively, you can put the torn bread into the oven at 200 degrees for 45 minutes to dry. (The dry bread will absorb the custard better) Butter a 9”X13” baking dish with 2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the half-and-half, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Add the bread, chocolate, blueberries and dried blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and almonds; stir in butter and mix well. Let sit for 30 minutes so the bread will absorb the egg mixture. You may need to add more half-and-half, so the mixture is very moist, like a thick cake batter. Pour into the prepared dish. Bake until firm when pressed in the center, about one hour.
Amaretto cream sauce:
In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the Amaretto and whisk until smooth. In a medium saucepan, heat cream and sugar over medium heat. Add the Amaretto mixture to the hot cream and constantly whisking, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, whisking for 30 seconds. Let cool to room temperature before serving with the bread pudding.
I’m Chef Shannon Smith, creator of chefshannon.com, a website where I share my travel adventures, cooking experiences, jewelry creations, life stories, world travels, recipes, cooking classes, and jewelry art. In the past ten years, I’ve traveled to 52 countries, and I hope to add at least that many more over the next ten years. In every country, I am blessed to meet interesting people, learn new cultures, and try all kinds of delicious food. I take cooking classes, join food tours, meet with chefs, and often dine with people in their homes or restaurant kitchens. I’ve lived in Tulsa for over 30 years, and I love teaching people how to cook, especially dishes learned while traveling around the world. Some of my favorite cuisines are Indian, Moroccan, Turkish, Israeli, and Italian, although Indian is the cuisine that makes me the happiest. I’ve collected numerous recipes and methods for making delicious food, and I share those recipes on beadsandbasil.com. I teach classes several times a month when my travels allow. Those classes are advertised on the website but are almost always filled within hours after posting, so I also occasionally teach cooking classes to private groups. My readers and viewers get to learn about my cooking adventures, utensils and appliances. At last count, I have eight grills, two tagines, 22 knives, and ninety-four thousand serving dishes - at least according to my husband. My refrigerators are filled with nuts, cheese, and dried fruits I’ve brought from other countries. And my spice cabinets contain a menagerie of exotic and odiferous seeds, pods, and dried herbs that I use so many ways. Jewelry art is my other favorite activity. I create jewelry from beads and trinkets collected on my travels, including amber from Russia and Estonia, glass from Murano, Italy, paper beads from Rwanda, and old Yemen prayer capsules from Israel. I have an Indian friend who has some of the most beautiful semi-precious stones that he cuts into beautiful shapes. Several times a year, I attend national bead and jewelry shows where I search for unusual items to complete my creations. Many more adventures are planned for the future, and I’m excited to share them with you in my monthly column in Values Magazine, including recipes, cooking tips, interviews with my favorite Tulsa area chefs, cookbook recommendations, travel stories, my favorite local food trucks, and ways we can give our time and talents to our fantastic community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram at Chef Shannon.
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