Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesdays Top Ten: The words in my heart

My blog, Confessions of a food lover started out as a place to share my ideas and thoughts about something I have known my whole life....

I love food!  
I love eating food.  
I love talking about food.  
I love making food.  
I love making food for others.  

My grandpa used to call me the "bottomless pit" when I was little and I remember thinking that was must be cool.  "Give me more" because I always had room for seconds at the dinner table.  My mom made really good dinners, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too.  I loved all of it, and wanted to try it all, eat it all, love it all.

My first real job I worked at an ice cream store where I first got the opportunity to play with food and eat all the mistakes " oh I'm sorry sir, you didn't want hot fudge on that, I will make you a new one". You can't save ice cream really or reserve it once it has been scooped so of course I ate those "mistakes" and enjoyed every bite.  This was the beginning of many adventures in exploring flavors and combinations to come.  I was the queen of making the most creative flurries and milkshakes back in my high school years.

About my writing: At the beginning I figured it would be fun and easy to write about all my kitchen adventures and my passion for eating.

I had no idea when I started putting my thoughts into words on a page that it would become a filing cabinet for my mind and experiences.  This place for my thoughts now has many more categories than just storylines for food loving. 

When I picked up my chefs knife for the first time and made the decision to devote my creativity to the endless possibilities that ingredients and practice could produce, I also learned I could relate the skills I was practicing to much more than a delicious dish.  My life and everything in it has become a lot like a kitchen, with ingredients, tools, decision making and choices- I can create whatever I want and with practice I can produce some pretty amazing things.

 I have related so many of these regular tasks of the kitchen to my life in general and found interesting and wonderful correlations between so many of the routine practices that a chef is required to know how to do in order to be successful.

In the process of writing my stories and sharing them I have seen how this place for all the words and thoughts in my head has become something even more than I ever realized it could be.  I am feeling inspired more than ever again to start writing my stories and sharing them.  I hope to continue making connections, not only with food, family, and life but also to understand better my experiences each day and in the process become more aware of just how great a gift this life is.

If you are reading, thank you for following along.  I hope that these stories and thoughts are fun and interesting but most of all that they add to you my community, a voice to relate to.

Happy Tuesday and in the spirit of my previous blogs here is a "Tuesday's Top Ten"

Tuesdays Top Ten Favorite Words right now that will give you insight to what i am thinking about most right now

1. Family
2. Community
3. Hygge
4. Thankful
5. Challenged
6. Listen
7. Patience
8. Support
9. Love
10. Brave

Do you have a top ten words you have noticed you have been using a lot more lately than any others?  What do those words tell you about where you focus is right now- how will they transition and change as you get ready to go into this next season?  I must confess, I am inspired by what my top ten are saying to me right now and excited about what lies ahead.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Return on investment: confessions of a food, family, career and life lover.

Finally discovering my place and its a beautiful community I live and share in.

Return on investment....

Am I happy with how I am investing my time? How do I measure if I am successful?  How do I do it all?

I am the president, the CEO of how my time gets invested. At the end of the day I am not allowed to point a finger at everything else out in the world and try to place blame if I am unhappy with the return on investment I perceive I am getting for all the time and energy I share, and expend.  (To illustrate, try this now: Think about a current roadblock you are facing, something that is getting in the way of your happiness or success.  Now, take your right hand, hold it up and out in front of you and use your pointer finger to point towards this roadblock you are feeling or experiencing.  Point at it as if it were standing in front of you right now ) Do you see what just happened when you tried to blame and point a finger at whatever is getting in your way?  Automatically three fingers are pointing right back at you showing clearly that the numbers are 3 to 1 - when I do this exercise regularly it always gives me clarity about what is really happening and here is how.   The three fingers pointed back at me could represent me being my own antagonist, enemy, opponent against myself.  When this is happening I realize it is time for a reset and a reminder to turn those adversarial thoughts into empowering thoughts like the following:

I have the control. 
I am capable of making the choices.  
I know better than anyone else if things are working or not in my daily life.  

For me, working on my own time management and figuring out how I'm going to invest my minutes and get stuff done every day is not always easy. I am by no means feeling like I've got my #@$! together. I still don't have an answer for the most common question I get every single day: "how do you do it all?" This comes from so many people in my life which see me taking on many many responsibilities and tasks.   I don't have an answer for this question, all I know is that I am doing the best I can.  However, each day I'm becoming more and more a master of my own life. I am better recognizing the things that do and don't work, and which things should be repeated and which should not be repeated. The optimist that I am has a hard time when things don't work out the way I expected because I've already invested so much time and energy into believing that it could be great. Accepting that certain choices I have made in my lifetime might not have been the right ones takes a lot of truthfulness and leveling with myself.  However, I find moving forward becomes much easier when I'm honest with myself about what's working and what's not.

I also know a little something about giving and getting that is the ultimate source of my daily ability to be happy. I know if I want to get happiness and smiles and love in my life I have to give out happiness, smiles, and love. If I want to get support and help in what I am doing, I have to give help and support. If want to get recognized for my hard work, I have to give my best in all that I work for and recognize the people around me who are putting in hard work too.  I have determined if I want to get more time in my life to be doing the things that I love, I need to give more time to those things in order to get them to happen. What I mean by this is whatever I choose to be applying my precious time to, I have realized I am actually getting the return I had hoped for.  I often need to take the time to stop and realize the return on my time investment is truly happening even when it is not completely obvious.  This phenomenon on getting what I want by giving is just one way I am achieving "doing it all" because most of what I am choosing to do each day are things that I want to be doing, and they make me happy.

This is the real talk that I have with myself every single day as a reminder that I am doing the right thing if I believe in my choices.  It also means I have to stay accountable to saying yes to the best and no to all of the rest. My mom said to me the other day "whatever you say yes to, means you're saying no to something else." What that means to me is I better be OK with the things I say yes to because if I'm not then maybe I'm not saying yes to the right things.  

How do you measure your return on the time you're investing everyday?  How do you know if you're getting back 10 times what you put into it and if it's fair to even expect that. My guide for knowing I have made the right choice is when I can identify that I got exactly what I wanted or needed. Happy, thankful, loving appreciation and support from the people who give me the affirmation I crave.  This is why I'm doing it all in the first place. It's a hug and "I love you" from my kids.  Its "you can do this" from Jonathan.  Its a "I'm so proud of you" from my mom.  It is clients and coworkers who say  "thank you, we really appreciate all that you did to make this successful."  The return is beyond all of my expectations and I know that what I put into it and what I got back from it is successful when the people in my life who support me recognize and tell me these things.  

I am not perfect, and I have made mistakes. I'm in tune and hypersensitive about my responsibility in my own life.  If I'm not happy with the way things are going it's up to me to figure out what needs to be done to make it better.  There are still things I have to accept daily that happen that I have no control over, that I can't change. For those moments I just work on adjusting my reaction. There are also things I must have the courage to change when I become aware of them and know that I can do something about it. God grant me the serenity and the wisdom to know the difference for what i can change and when I need to let go.

I attended a professional retreat this weekend called Hygge. When I left to go home after a very fulfilling weekend away, I started to analyze what I taking away from my weekend that would be meaningful moving forward in my life and career.  I couldn't get the words "return on investment" out of my head. Yes, I invested money to go to this retreat, but I also invested my precious time to be there. The kind of time I usually don't allow just for me.  I also was thinking how I found myself in a place that I don't believe I've ever been in before as I was the oldest woman in the group.  I know that my age doesn't really matter, however with each of the women I had the privilege to share my time with this weekend I saw a piece of my younger self and of my own life's experience. Listening to their stories I know without a doubt that each one of them is on a journey that's only going to get more and more amazing because I have been in their position before.  What I know is that they are going to have to pay attention to themselves and really intentionally go after their dreams and fully understand their role in achieving them too.  

I know I have a long ways to go but I do feel like I am living proof that you can have the things that you want in your life if you believe that you can have them. It's a messy and beautiful journey and not always easy but it's worth it because this is the one and only life that I get and all the time I choose to invest it's up to me to recognize if I'm getting the return I want or not. How I achieve this may not be the same way that you will do it.  I know if I am firm with my goals I will have a much easier time achieving them.  Knowing exactly what I want to result from all of my precious time investments I am going to make will help me stay positive and confidently focused on making them happen.

One last thought I would like to share is that after my retreat this weekend I made a big discovery during on of our sessions called "The Emo Stuff". I recognized that I am the largest investor in my own happiness and life's success but I have even more investors that I may not be recognizing enough every day.  When I review my best returns, I have such an enormous amount of thankfulness to discover that I am not a team of one.   I realize that my support system is a collection of some really amazing people in my life that I am forever grateful to know and call my team. They are my family, my friends, my co-workers, the people who tell me "you are doing a great job Stephanie" and I know they mean it.  I feel fortunate to have added 14 more amazing talented and lovely ladies to that team in less than two days at my retreat this past weekend.  I know without a doubt they will be behind me now to cheering me on all the way too and I will give them the same support.  The return on investment for a weekend I chose to attend for myself proved to be one of the best investments yet as I expect to see even more growth and happiness enter my daily approach.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Its up to me....

The spring rain is perfect today.

It symbolizes so many things... restoration, rejuvenation, a transition and encouragement for refreshment, a beautiful insurgence of new energy and nourishment, and a natural process for washing away the debris of a more dormant time period. 

I have decided I am going to be like this season today and purposefully make choices that encourage the same results as the intention of a April shower.  Its a silly thing to say I am sure but "April Showers bring May flowers"- right?  I will compare my choices to take a much needed day for myself as the same inspiration and today can be a beautiful transition for me- an opportunity to feel a renewal of my spirit, my energy and my overall perception of balance.

I'm taking a day for me- the kids are all covered, my clients are all aware, the loves of my life are encouraging me to take this time that they have known I have needed for awhile- and they are helping me in everyway possible to do it. I confess, I have known better all along these many months that I have not taken advantage of the opportunities the way I should.

Just as much as food nourishes the physical demands of living life, and being able to thrive- so too does intentional time for oneself.  I love to give and care for others- its the most important reason why I am mother, but I know better than to go too long without fulfilling just the right balance of care for myself too.

Its a beautiful spring rainy day, and its a beautiful day to live, to smile, to love, and to be good to oneself.  I know I am thankful today for some time to breathe and rest. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday- What is your favorite homemade juice???

I haven't done a "Tuesdays Top Ten" in years.  With that idea creating a theme for me this morning, I realize I haven't used certain kitchen tools that I own.... In a number of years too. (Or at least not as much as I used to).

My April 1st resolution has everything to do with rediscovering  the healthy and amazing ways that I can help nurture and sustain my loved ones with the power of food and beverages.  

I confess that convenience has crept its way into some of my weekly routines over the last couple of years.  It's a type of convenience that I have never really wanted to subscribe to- and I'm not going to bore you with the details of it either.  As I would like to say I am making the healthiest choices everyday that I know are right for us, I simply just think I could be doing better- having a baby grow out of infant phase has helped too.

Once upon a time I was going to school to become a Dietician.  I was really serious about this endevour too.  I took every chemistry and psychology class I could.  I even took Statistics (a prerequisite math class) that almost wrecked me and my GPA.  My determination to become this type of professional stemmed from my love and dedication to being a mother.  I wanted my children to have the brightest, happiest, and healthiest start ever.  I knew from the moment they were born it was my responsibility to lead by example, teach them about good choices, and that with a little patience you can discover the most amazing things.  Of course all my energy to accomplish this went into how food could help us achieve these goals.

My mantra was established during this time "We all have to eat to live, so make it something good."  This was a derivative of another mantra we all are familiar with I am sure... "You are what you eat!!"  

Little did I know as I coursed ahead to become a leader in the world of nutrition that a little nagging feeling I had been experiencing would soon take over and send me down a parallel path instead.  I had always wanted to go culinary school and when the College I had applied for put me on the waiting list to start my final years of becoming a dietician, I took that as a sign that maybe I should instead pursue the career that included foods and cooking that I was truly passionate about.  A new idea and mantra swelled to life as my mindfulness to what I truly loved about food came to a full understanding.  I did not want to "tell people how to make good food choices."  What I really wanted was, "Make and create good food choices that people wanted to eat!"

Along this journey I have practiced and practiced and practiced.  I have taken time to understand what works and what doesn't in the kitchen.  I have learned how to work with a team to create some amazing experiences for guests.  I have found ways to transfer these skills to my home kitchen too and be able to quickly whip up a tasty dinner for starving children.  It all brings me back to why I started this concentration on food in the first place.  My children.  

With growing kids it's a daily challenge to provide enough, a balance, and especially complete these tasks with something they actually like to eat.  I am fortunate that we had an early start with a variety of flavors, so that I have children with very developed and adventurous taste buds.  They amaze me now with so many of the things that I showed them when they were little- they have very developed palates for kids I think.   They also have these habits and understanding of making intentionally good choices that I think will help them the rest of their lives.  

It's my hope that as they grow up- even if they get caught up in being busy and having no time that they will remember these practices and choices and always fall back on these things I have shown them.

 I realize now that it is ok that I had to dust off the juicer this morning.  It may have been a while since I have used it intentionally to have a healthy start to our day, but I made a great choice and that is all that matters.  I watched our 9 month old baby's eyes light up with her very first tastes of raw apple carrot juice this morning.  That's proof enough for me to start dusting off even more of the memories and skills I have learned over the years of practicing nutrition and culinary artistry.   I'm excited to explore and practice and this is what leads me to my top ten today:

Top Ten Juice/Smoothie Flavors I want to try and make:

1. Apple Pear Parsnip
2. Blueberry Cherry Blackberry Sage
3. Pear Ginger 
4. Mango Banana Coconut milk with mint
5. Green Juice: Parsley, Swiss Chard, Beets, bok Choy, Carrots,etc....
6. Clean the refrigerator juice- you know when you have produce that needs to get used sooner than later :)
7. Citrus ginger juice- oranges, lime, red grapefruit
8. Beet apple
9. Lemon thyme apple juice

Now here is where I need your help friends......

10. Please share with me your favorite juice combination!!!

Cheers Friends!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

This is really something special to me that I want to share......

Harvest Dinner Series at Black Star Farms is Wednesday March 12th, 2014 at 6:30 and there are still open seats available. I am inviting you to join us for this memorable and unique dining experience that I am apart of!

 It is certainly an interesting time of year to think that we are coordinating a dinner that is featuring what is in season on our farms-especially when we are currently buried under 5 feet of snow still and the temperatures have hung out in the single and negative digits over the past month regularly.

Photo Courtesy of Greyscale Group

"The Harvest Dinner Series" used to only be a dinner series that was open for our guests to attend May through October.  It was very easy to pick a featured harvest in these months because naturally everything is growing nicely in this area from late spring to early autumn. From "Morels in May" to "Squash and Apple" Dinner in October we had a beautiful array of vibrant and beautiful products to work with.  It was too easy to create the menu really- and so the challenge of producing a specialty dinner in the winter and early spring months transformed from our passion to show people that the Harvest can be featured every calendar month.

  This is the first year that we have expanded the monthly dinner series to 11 months with the hopes that we could share with our guests and friends the beauty of the harvest year round.  The methods of storing, canning, curing, pickling, freezing and preparing foods in the bountiful and verdant harvest months for the use of them later is as old as our world- and a practice that is important to our survival in these northern areas where our land becomes mostly dormant and sleeps under a white blanket for sometimes almost half the year.

The things that we are doing on our own to work with what we raise and grow requires planning and intention, knowledge and work to assure they will make it through the months to be available later.  When we want to work with food sources outside of buying the industrialized products and vast array of fresh produce transported from thousands of miles away, we have to work with our community if we want to work with variety.

Photo Courtesy of Greyscale Group

I love this part because it involves building relationships and developing friendships with people who are working to achieve the same thing as we are- a sustainable community of people and products.  A community with skills to create a food system that provides everything we need to be healthy and happy.

So what in the world will we feature in March for our Harvest dinner.  This one is really cool in my opinion and I can hardly wait to share it with all who will attend in a few days.  The March Harvest dinner is featuring "Goose and Winter Greens".  Five courses with a wine pairing experience that is dedicated to displaying what can be creatively made from everything goose and everything greens.  Even the dessert will have greens and goose!  Trust me when I tell you that it really is quite a challenge to create a goose and winter green dessert compared to October's dinner when we use apples and squash.

Geese who were born and raised on the farm this past summer will be used.  These are geese who ate our prep kitchen veggie trimmings and played in the mini swimming pool on the hot August days.  Who were harvested last fall with much honor and appreciation for giving their life.

The winter greens that we will work with really are a specialty because they grow in hoop houses (a beautiful system that farmers build to capture the solar power and warmth of the sun to extend the use of the soil year round)  Micro greens are another winter green that are found at the winter farm market and grown lovingly by farmers who understand our need for the vitamins and minerals that come from leafy green plants.

Chef Jonathan Dayton really devotes his creative imagination into the building of these harvest dinner menus.  He uses his experience and understanding of flavors to build dishes that are truly innovative and definitely delicious.  We have the fortunate opportunity to then pair these special dishes with the wine that is created by the talented Black Star Farms winery team for an food and beverage experience like no other.

I have helped host these dinners for the past few years now too, and it is an honor to represent our agricultural community at these dinners.  It is easy for me to share with the friends and guests who attend the Harvest Dinner Series what I know to be true about every part of the menu that is being presented to them over the course of the dinner experience. 

I confess it has taken me some time and lots of learning to understand how I could become a helpful member of my community.  To be able to work together with others to share the best of "what I am able to do" and develop it to fit into "what we can do".  

I want to be apart of a team that represents thoughtful care in everything that we pursue.  The Harvest Dinner series may ultimately be just a monthly dinner, and another chance for people to eat good food and drink good wine together.  I tend to think it is just a little bit more than that though when you consider all of the people who are involved in making it even possible.  That is the true spirit of community to me and one that I definitely want to be apart of.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Beautiful Surprise

Have you ever eaten a chestnut?

I ask this every time we serve these super seasonal delectable little gems at dinner service to a new customer.  I ask this because 9.9 times out of 10 the answer is "never".  

Our repeat guests know what to expect now that we have been serving this fall harvest item for three winters in a row.  However most guests first reaction to chestnuts is to tell me they have never experienced eating a chestnut even though they know the holiday song by heart.  Typically the whole experience for our guests who are new to chestnuts starts by singing the song - I sometimes join with the ones who sing aloud "chestnuts roasting on an open fire...."🎶. 

From across the dining room in the open kitchen I can see Chef roll his eyes at this singing scene.  His expression is followed by a warm smile though because he knows this is part of what makes the chestnuts special.  Eating a chestnut for the first time IS an experience.  

I confess I was almost 30 years old before I had my first delicious experience with this holiday famous nut.  It has become one of my favorite but it really is very different than what I would normally  associate with a roasted nut.

This is how I lead the conversation for my guests who are going to enjoy chestnuts for the first time:

I say~ "Have you ever tried roasted chestnuts?  No?  Oh you are in for a real treat then my friends. 

We serve them hot out of the oven so please be careful for the first few minutes not to burn your fingers, but you will want to eat them while they are warm.  

This is truly what will make your first time most menorable.

Chestnuts don't have the crunchy texture of the roasted nuts you are used to.  

They are slightly sweet and soft.  

Please make sure to take the shells off- it's easy to do where they have popped open on their tops.  

Everyone I serve these to always looks a little disoriented at first when I set them on the table.

When I come back to check on my guests table 2 minutes into their first chestnut experience the smile on their faces is proof that my confidence in these delicious golden treats was right on.  

Typically the very next thing I am asked is for the recipe.  It's usually hard for people to believe how simple it is to make these.  I feel like I am sharing a secret.  

-a handful of chestnuts- 
-a little melted butter
-375 degree oven

** with a knife score an "x" pattern on the rounded top of the nut.  If you don't do this the nuts will explode in your oven.
** put the nuts in a bowl with melted butter and toss and spread on baking sheet with the x side up.
**sprinkle salt
** bake 10-15 mins or until shells open up
**let cool a few moments then enjoy!!

My favorite story about serving chestnuts is about the guy and girl who came to dinner and it was obviously a special date because I could easily tell he was looking to impress his lady.  

When I told them I would be bringing roasted chestnuts out in a few minutes as a starter I followed up my statement like I always do by asking "have you ever had roasted chestnuts?"

Without hesitation he answered- "oh yeah, they are good- we will definitely have an order of those."  I assumed by his responses that he knew what to do so when I delivered the warm nuts to the table, I smiled, and said "enjoy!"  It was busy in the dining room that evening so I welcomed the opportunity to not have to do my whole presentation if they already knew what to do.  It gave me time to tell the other tables who had not ever tried them and his opportunity to impress.

When I returned a few minutes later I noticed that the chestnuts were half gone but there were no shells on his plate.  She had one on her plate, untouched.   It took me a moment to make sense of what I was witnessing before I asked "how do you like the chestnuts?"  

I followed up my initial question nervously- "Did you eat the shells too?" I asked..... (Now my cheeks were getting flush, embarrassed to realize that this guy just ate the shells and the nuts.  

"Oh yeah" he said.  "I always eat them that way."  My surprised look must have prompted him to add to this response-"but I bet they are great without the shells too."

His date with a sweet smile immediately started peeling the nut on her plate, and now I confess:

 I always make sure my guests know to peel off the shells so they can always enjoy the best chestnut eating experience!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Three ingredients

The endless possibilities with three ingredients......

One thing I confess as a food lover that I love to do with my writing is make comparisons of food and life. The ideas I align usually involve food or practices related to my kitchen and then parallel the bigger picture of my life experience.

My mantra "we all have to eat to live, so why not make it something good" describes very accurately what type of thoughts are nestled in my daily experience and how I relate to the world around me.

This newest correlation I'm gonna share hit me pretty hard and i just LOVE IT!

~Crisp white apron wrapped around me and tied in a bow feels like a hug from an old friend. Its time to immerse myself in my own personal wonderland of baking, and start by gathering up my ingredients from the walk in cooler.

I'm being efficient in the 6 hours I've banked with grandma and grandpa's help baby sitting today. So it's a balancing act and a great shoulder and bicep workout back to the kitchen with 4 dozen eggs, 5 pounds of butter and a quart of heavy cream all in my arms. No time for extra trips to the outdoor coolers if i can help it.

Mise en place: Turn the oven to 350, gather up bowls, sheet pans and parchment, kitchen aid mixer, cutting board, flour, and my knife.

The main ingredients:

Butter. Flour. Eggs.

I shake my head and smile when i think about how many of my baking adventures start with these three players. Sometimes they invite other friends to the party- sugar, water, cream, fruit or nut but these three are almost always the faithful foundation of something delicious.

The main focus:

Love. Thankfulness. Smiles

A lot like the main ingredients I start with in a recipe, if I have all the above three above to start with in the right proportion then I can almost guarantee myself something great of my day too.

Whether its baking or living the best part of these main ingredients in each recipe or day is that I can share the happiness they all bring with the people in my daily life too.

I confess the smiles that are returned whether I share a cookie or a hug is affirmation enough for me that these things should be apart of every recipe I use inside my kitchen... In my life.