Ten Years into the New Millennium – What’s Next? & Moroccan Chickpea Soup

Where did the time go? Sometimes it seems like it was only a year or two ago that we entered the new millennium with a lot of hoopla and fanfare. And while the ten years passed in a flash, it also seems like lifetime ago. When 1999 slipped into 2000, I was still living in Switzerland. From my apartment outside Geneva, I could look out and see the French Alps. I was traveling somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 miles a year, managed a team of sixty or seventy sales people and had a cell phone permanently glued to my ear.

There was a great deal of excitement and anticipation as we approached the end of 1999. There is nothing like a new century to get people excited, thinking about change and the promise of a brand new era. Along with the excitement, giant red flags were raised and dire predictions that computer systems around the world would crash, taking hospitals, stock markets, airplanes and most businesses down with them. Not sure of what to expect, many people filled spare containers, including bathtubs, with water, stockpiled food and topped their gas tanks.

I was working for a computer company and as we approached December 31st, all the executives in my group were on high alert. Assuming the phones would work, we were assigned shifts to take calls from customers. Since I am technically illiterate, my job was not to fix anything; just make reassuring noises to irate big-wigs to convince them that we were both sympathetic and working on their problem. Since I was in the States on vacation I got the most critical shift, midnight to 6 a.m. central European time (6 p.m. to midnight in New England.)

I dutifully phoned the call center in Vienna at 5:30 to make sure they could reach me with any emergencies. For the next hour my phone remained silent. Not a beep, not a buzz, not a ring. I called back. Nothing was happening. No frantic customers. No escalations. It was the biggest nonevent in IT history. By 8:00 I decided it was safe to relax, enjoy a glass of champagne and think about my plans for the new millennium.

I made three resolutions for 2000. The first was more melodrama than drama and quite simple to achieve. I decided it was time to change my look and cut my hair. Before the twelfth day of Christmas had come and gone I had several inches of my curly locks chopped off. Next, I took to wearing skirts and twin sets. I called it my Jackie Kennedy look.

The second and third resolutions were indeed major life changes. I decided that it was not only time for a new job but after almost two decades abroad it was time to move back to the United States. These two goals took a little longer but by August I had a new assignment in California, by October I had closed on a house and by November I was packed and on a plane.

It was just the start of a decade filled with change. In spite of my new assignment, my enthusiasm for corporate life was waning and before long I was more than ready to flee the West Coast. Seeking the familiar, I returned not to Switzerland but to New Hampshire, my childhood home away from home. I became a corporate dropout. With a muddled mix of confidence and enthusiasm, fear and trepidation, I began my new life as a writer and cook.

Wishing you a wonderful new decade filled with new adventures and happy changes. Happy New Year and bon appétit!

Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup
My years as a road warrior took me to all four corners of the globe. I have many wonderful memories of delicious meals and interesting conversations in four-star restaurants and humble street cafés. This soup is full of flavor and budget-friendly; perfect if you are feeling the pitch after the holidays. Enjoy!
Serves 6

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon or to taste sweet paprika
1 (14-16 ounce) can chopped tomatoes
3 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces frozen leaf spinach

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and bell pepper and sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the spices and garlic and sauté a minute or so.
  2. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir well. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and gently simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. Remove the soup from heat. Use a potato masher to smash some of the chickpeas and thicken the soup. Stir in the spinach and let heat through, check for seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve soup, drizzled with a little extra-virgin olive oil, if desired.

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One Year Ago –  Penne Gratin

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For lots more recipes visit my website at www.susannye.com. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

Pajamas at Work & Chicken Provencal

It’s a busy week; taxes are due. More important, in case you’ve forgotten, Wednesday is National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day. Maybe it’s part of the thank-goodness-I-got-my-taxes-done-on-time celebration or a light hearted protest against a crazy hectic life. Some of us don’t need a holiday to wear our pajamas to work. We wear our pajamas to work on a regular basis. Like almost every day.

You may be wondering, who are these pajama clad workers? And how do they get away with it? Some are part of a new invention, the telecommuter. More than fifteen million telecommuters have been delighted to dump the cubicle and ditch the traffic. Instead, they shuffle into their home office every morning. Fiber optics links them to their employer, colleagues and customers. Like air traffic controllers, headsets are permanently affixed to their noggins. They may look like ground control but the headset is just an extension of their telephone. Most telecommuters split their day between talking on the phone and tapping away on their keyboard. Come to think of it, a good part of the time they are doing both; which may explain all typos, misspelled words and grammatical errors. Not to mention the hemming and hawing when asked a direct question during a conference call.

I used to be a part-time telecommuter. I’d go into the office on Monday, just to make sure that no one forgot what I looked like. Then I’d be gone, on the road for three, sometimes four, days. Fridays, I’d work from home. Working from home was great, especially if I didn’t get in until late Thursday night, which was more or less every Thursday. If you don’t have to drive to the office or worry about looking professional (details like combing your hair and putting on a suit), you can manage at least an extra hour of shut-eye, probably two.

I spent the day tethered to the phone, checking spreadsheets and writing emails. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I had a little extra time late in the day. When that happened, I took a break and picked up my goddaughter at preschool. By some lucky chance, her school was two doors down from my house. We shared a little time together, maybe took a turn on the swings and slide or squeezed in a story or project before her mom collected her. Then it was back to conference calls, spreadsheets and emails.

I still work in my pajamas but I’m no longer a telecommuter. Now I’m the other kind of pajama-clad-work-from-home person. We are freelancers, consultants and small business owners. What kind of businesses? Really small businesses, so micro that it’s a one-man or one-woman show operating out of a garage, basement, kitchen or spare bedroom. In my case, a spare bedroom and sometimes my kitchen.

And my look? Most of my work ensembles are not technically pajamas, meaning I don’t actually sleep in them. Unless of course I accidently doze off in the middle of the day. However, when I’m writing my attire could easily be described as bedtime. No, not silky “I’ll slip into something more comfortable” nightwear, I’m much more ratty-tatty. When sitting down to write, my outfits are best described as anti-fashion statements. When it’s cold, I favor baggy sweatpants, old turtlenecks, misshapen sweaters, fleece, heavy socks and slippers. In the summer, I rely on old shorts, sloppy t-shirts and flip-flops. The kind of clothes your mother never let you wear out of the house or even in the yard.

Whether you toil in PJ’s, earn your living buttoned up in suit or something in between, I hope you enjoy your day at work today and every day. I know I do. Have a great week!

Bon appétit!

Chicken Provencal
Just because you stay in your PJ’s all day, doesn’t mean you have to eat breakfast for dinner. Why not try this quick and easy dish; it’s filled with the sunny flavors of Provence. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6

10 – 12 black oil-cured, Greek or Niçoise olives
1 1/2 – 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
Pinch of chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 anchovy fillet, mashed to a paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
16 ounces canned crushed tomatoes (in season use fresh plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped)
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 tablespoon finely chopped, fresh basil
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Pit the olives. If you are using Greek olives cut in quarters, if Niçoise cut in half. Reserve.
  2. Combine flour with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Pat the chicken dry and dredge it in the flour, shake off excess flour. 
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat; cook the chicken, turning once, until golden and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a platter and cover.
  4. Add the onion, chili pepper and herbs to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and cook for another minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits. Stir in tomatoes, stock, capers and olives. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 8 to 10 minutes.    
  5. Add the chicken and any juices back to the skillet and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve. 

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Do you work from home … and do you wear your jammies? Feel free to share an idea, a few thoughts or opinion or ask a question. Let’s get a conversation going. I’d love to hear from you! To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

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Feel free to browse around my website. You can learn more about my philanthropic project Eat Well – Do Good, link to magazine articles, find more than 200 recipes and more. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010