Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lately, Autumn.

Sunset from the front porch

I've been making plans for cooking soup, going on some woodsy hikes, enjoying sunsets, snuggling in with a fire roaring in the fireplace and wearing wool socks.... It must be Autumn is officially here.  This season always puts me in an extra thoughtful mood when it comes to my cooking and writing too!! New confessions on the horizon?  We shall see....

I'm a woman, I'm a girl
I'm a mama, I'm a daughter

I'm a lover, I'm a sweetheart

I'm a chef, I'm an artist 

I'm a big sister, I'm an ally
I'm a friend, I'm a companion
I'm a sunshine, I'm a daisy
I'm a teacher, I'm an encourager
I am Stephanie, thankful for all the ways I get to be me, everyday, all day, true.

My food:
Made this soup with my recent farm market treasures... Delicious vibrant harvest by the spoonful and easy to make too!

                             Roasted butternut squash soup from my kitchen~
Roasted butternut squash
Veggie stock
White wine

Sunday, July 22, 2012

30 Confessions to 34- Day #28 Poet Mindfulness

30 Confessions to 34
Day 28

Its 11:53 and I have 7 minutes to write something today if I want it to be done before day end.  I had plenty of time to write this sooner but I honestly dilly dallied and now it is quite late.  I feel like I had so much I wanted to say today...   One thing I do when I feel overwhelmed is I write poetry.  It seems to be a helpful way for me to bring all my thoughts back together and give my mind a break.

I have been thinking about being mindful a lot....

This morning I stopped to pay attention to the sun.
I noticed it doesn't ask permission to do what it knows it is supposed to do.
It shows up, it nourishes our world, it gives warmth and makes life here possible
It doesn't worry if the clouds get in the way- it still shines even if no one can see it clearly.

This afternoon I stopped to pay attention to the people all around me.
I noticed they are an infinite palette of various emotions
Many have not learned how to control their own yet.
They show up to their lives, do what they need to, want to, have to, wish to and hope to....
They worry way too much about things that they have no control over.

This evening I stopped to pay attention to my heart beat.
I noticed that I am alive and wonderfully still on my continuous journey.
I have an opportunity each day to be intentional about every single part of my life
I will not waste my heartbeats on worrying  if things don't go the way I imagined, I will accept reality and then live my waking hours as happily as I dream they can be.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Confession # 29: Refinement

30 confessions to 34
Confession #29

 Word or phrase of the day: Refinement

 Synonyms: advancement, breakthrough, enhancement, improvement, advance 

Antonyms: setback

 Today I had a revelation. It's not a new one but had a new twist, it gave me a better understanding....

 A few months ago I was cracking a bunch of eggs for a recipe. The production was large enough that I needed the 30 qt mixer, which happens to be shared equipment with another Baker named Jen on the Black Star Farms property. One part of the recipe called for a whole case of eggs to be cracked.  (For those of you who don't know, that is approx. 180 eggs.)   Jen was also present that day working on her own projects and as I was busy cracking my eggs, she seemed interested in what I was doing.  I could feel her watching me.  Then she shouted across the kitchen to me over the noise of convection ovens and the dough sheeter, "Wow, are you cracking those eggs one at a time??!!"

"Yes" I said feeing a little uncomfortable and for some reason possibly self conscience now.

 Jen replied "Well someday you should be able to crack those with one hand, and then maybe when you get good enough- even two at a time!!  It sure will save you a lot of time when you figure that one out."

 I have to admit I felt crushed at the specific moment, my immediate reaction was to think "Jeez, I am doing the best that I can here.  Why does she have to point out that I am obviously not as good as her yet."  Interestingly when I thought no one was looking I tried cracking eggs with one hand that day.

 I took her words to heart as I later thought about what she said. In no way was her intention to be cruel or rude, she was stating an obvious result of practice and efficiency. She knew that the more and more I had to prepare recipes in mass, as I was doing that day, that I would find ways to be more efficient.  She was teaching me if I was willing to listen.  It wasn't a personal attack, it was a professional insight to help me become better.

 The more subtle message in what she said, and that which I learned was "your success will be that much quicker the sooner you figure out how to do this better, faster, stronger."  This was a breakthrough moment for me and has helped me since then to push myself to be better, to improve my work day after day.

 I can now crack eggs with one hand, two hands even for two at a time!  There are still some shells to fish out of the bottom of the bowl at the end of a egg breaking free for all.  I still have to keep practicing!  Still, the time it takes to crack those eggs and fish out the few shells is far less time than cracking a whole case, egg by egg.

So the revelation:

 Today I learned from being on the other side as the instructor, that the people you think you are helping may not seem to hear what you have to say when sharing what you know.

As the teacher, sharing what I know, I will have faith that they did hear it, despite the defensiveness or the excuses. I will believe that they want to be better.  Its my opinion that in order to advance in whatever they are pursuing in career, happiness, health, or knowledge they may need to acknowledge other perspectives and ideas about how to do things.  I believe that if they are passionate and love what they are doing that they will strive constantly to be better.

 I received a better understanding today from being on the other side that through listening I can gain knowledge to be even more refined and better at what I do. The lesson I learned from Jen is what planted the seed of this idea, my experience from the reversal in roles today reinforced my need to continue listening.  I have to remind myself over and over that I still have so much to learn.  When people point things out to me that i could be better at, I need to not take it personally but be thankful they actually took the time to point it out.... and then practice practice practice!

Thank goodness, I am always still a student first.

 Continuing to pursue successfully and advance in what I love, this practice I have in the kitchen.   I constantly want to improve my abilities and skills within my culinary work.  I am open to suggestions and help, and I have to not be afraid of constructive criticism. (Though I still have to remind myself over and over to not let me first reaction be defensive or feel like I did something wrong.)  My growth as a professional will not be possible if I think I am always doing it perfectly the first time.

I will be open to the advice and wisdom of the people who I trust want to see me at my best.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

30 Confessions to 34 ~ Day 30

30 Confessions to 34
Day 30

The beginning of my journey- I walked/ran 3 miles today!- Healthy

Confession:  I start a lot of projects like this one.  Keeping up with this one "could" be challenging for me as well.

whew, that was a really hard confession to make... I guess the truest ones always are.  Notice I emphasized the word "could" because I am not going to start this out by making a negative prediction.  Instead I would like to believe I will stick to this one and find much satisfaction and reward in the completion.

The thing is I have this idea that I think is cool.  I want to document my journey over the next thirty days on my way to my 34th birthday.  The purpose you ask?  I'm not really sure if there is one, except that I would like to accomplish some different things I have been thinking about doing lately and keeping a journal was at the top of my list.

On my countdown to the next new year of my life there are some fundamental goals I have that don't necessarily have specific definitions on what it will take to achieve them.  Many of these I already possess, but if I can be fortunate enough to add even more to my overall happiness, health, knowledge and love than my life will surely be that much richer.  How could it not?

Today I focused on being mindful and the gift that I received was joy.- Happiness

I took time to get out for a walk/run early this morning in the rain- Health

I secretly looked up how to break down a salmon so that I would look like I knew what I was doing when it came time to prepare the fish that we caught on Lake Michigan the other day- Knowledge

I ate A LOT of fresh blueberries today because they are my absolute favorite fruit in the whole wide world and there is nothing more delicios to this foodlover than plain old hand picked berries!- Love

Quote of the day:

"The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same.  Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination~ Don Williams, Jr.  1968

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Classic Summer's Eve Decoupage

Wednesdays confession...

 I stood in the middle of the parking lot, in near darkness. I just stood there. Taking a deeper breathe, now listening to the mixture of night sounds and the muted conversations and laughing of the people just over the other side of  the dune. I took a panoramic scan of the scenery that surrounded me, and then closed my eyes like a shutter of a camera, quickly burning the image into my memory. What I captured was my paradise, the farwell traces of a gorgeous lake michigan sunset, the timed arrival of a glowing moon and my children 20 steps ahead of me whispering plans of how to catch fireflies and put them in a jar. A classic summer's eve.....

 A sweet musical melody of a voice beckoned me away from my trance, "Mama, did you forget where the car was parked?" came Lauren's giggling concern. She had obviously turned around and noticed I had stopped forward motion.  Her natural instincts to question my interesting stance, her curiosity is  rooted in the fact that she will be an outstanding mother someday. She's always very alert to what is happening and her caring attention to everyone's well being around her is endearing.

I waited a quiet moment to answer her which peeked her interest even more...  and now her brother wanted to know what was up too.  The shuffling of sandy flip flop feet began to make there way back to me and I answered while they were in route in a whisper only they could hear.  I said "look all around us, this is like a dream come true don't you think".  I love Lauren's reply... "Mama, do you want me to pinch you?  You know, to make sure it is really real?"

Everyone snickered and then I think we all spent the car ride home really thinking about what I had said.  It was a really wonderful day for us, full to the brim and flowing over with all our favorite things. The kids let me get my work done on the computer and the phone early since it was a rainy morning. At lunchtime I closed my computer up and declared the rest of the day would be all about us!  This announcement was accepted with lots of cheering and an out loud tally of all the wonderful things we could accomplish in a day.  We were bound and determined to take advantage of a beautiful summer's day.

The coolest part of the day for me I confess was the opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen and over our new weber charcoal grill.  For me it is a complete step back down memory lane to when I was their age and would watch my mom make our family's Armenian traditional dinner favorite. Its a meal that is truly the best when done in the hottest days of summer and after a full day of family together time. I have written about it before

Lauren and Riley's enthusiasm to learn and be apart of something culinary that is special to me is another reason why I am so thankful to have chosen my career as a chef.  Some of my favorite life memories have been centered around food.  Its these certain moments that have defined my adoring passion for food and this particular one I am going to share with you is in the top 10 for sure:

~Whether the beautiful woman knew I was watching or not, I'm not sure, but I picked up quickly on her organized process.  I noticed how she had not done any food prep until she was sure the grill charcoals were lit and heating up, except to make sure she had all the ingredients beforehand.  This preparedness is what I now lovingly refer to as "mise en place" since finishing culinary school.  My sister and I laughed while she got the fire going because the cat always came by to try and lick the grill grate she had propped up on the ground.  He never got much satisfaction since she wasn't about to let him contaminate the food cooking surface.  He would retreat quickly, his tail up in the air and obviously ticked off about her swift rescue of the grate as she lay it over the black briquets.

This meal my mom was preparing usually equaled our Grandma Rose to be sitting on the white deck chairs outside too.  She was a full blooded Armenian beauty and I was always so proud to tell people so since I had inherited her olive skin tone and dark hair and eyes features.

Its easy for me to imagine and remember Grandma's big black purse on the ground next to her feet, full of all kinds of things including a novel type book and her cigarettes.  She had on a comfy blue and white striped tank top and white linen slacks with her ballet flat type slippers and seemed so relaxed.  Grandma would come to stay with us every summer and I always looked forward to sitting outside with her and chatting... especially when I was still young enough that I didn't have to help with dinner- we would watch my mom seemingly float between the house and the patio... looking like she could use a cold glass of lemonade.  Our only job at the time was to set the picnic table while my mom got the shish kabobs on the grill, made the rice pilaf on the stove inside and put the freshly shucked corn in the water pot to boil.

When we all sat down to eat the food.... it was amazing, delicious, satisfying and yet so simple.  That's really all I have to say about it.

Yet more than the food it was the scenery I think.  All the sensations including the aromas of lighter fluid, sun screen and my mom's Le aire du temps perfume.  The evening sunlight filtering through the aspen tree shadows.  The sound of a neighbor mowing their lawn two doors down, and my friend Janelle's dog Shasta barking across the back alley.  The humidity in the air creating little sweat droplets on the sides of our noses and under our eyes as we ate our armenian feast.  Dinner wasn't even finished and my sister Jen was already asking when we would get to roast marshmallows on the last of the hot charcoal.  My mom would excuse her once she had cleared her whole plate to go find a branch to use as a marshmallow poker.  This was a classic summer's eve....

I love how some of my experiences new and old overlap from different decades and create a unique and beautiful decoupage of love and happiness. 

These are the bountiful memories of my life when I have truly just stopped to pay attention.  Wonderfully its what I am still doing more than I probably realize.  I've gotten much better at slowing down to purposefully take in my atmosphere, my life experience.  I have noticed whatever it is that makes me so completely aware of the "right now" is always followed by a silent command to take inventory of every thing happening around me.  In these moments a peaceful internal narrator speaks my story.  A story about a girl who is deeply thankful for so much in her life, everyday, all the time

check out an older story if you like

Blog Post on February 3, 2010:
My Armenian roots.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What is Culinary Artistry to me?

Completed Beauty 
and the kind of food that is reminiscent 
of going home for dinner.
 There is a noticeable extra special touch 
of detail and refinement.  
Loving attention and creativity has been 
infused into every part of it.
 It's all original and purposefully composed 
to satisfy and go above and beyond 
all of the senses of the one who will consume it . 
 It's not repetitive.
 It most likely can never truly be duplicated.  
Unique and one of a kind!  

This is what I believe defines 
Culinary Artistry. 

This is just what I do as a Chef.  
This is what I love to do.
This is what I create, the 
kind of food that I always will be creating....  
This is what I want to eat, 
its the 
only kind 
of food I want to eat.
This is how I believe seeds of 
intense food memories are planted. 

I am using what I have learned and 
practiced to share an experience which will remind you to return to my table when you are hungry.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Finding What is in Front of Me-

We start out with this idea that we think we know what we are looking for....

We know what it is supposed to look like and we have a a pretty good idea in our mind that should make finding it easy....

So when it comes time to take hold and start the next big thing we should be able to just do it, right?

What if we all of a sudden can't see the things we thought, that we envisioned so easily would just be there?

What if we arrive at that moment and we can't see what we need at all?

Maybe its time to widen our perspective and be open to the idea that what we really need might not look exactly the way we first thought it would.  It is possible that it may be completely different than anything we could have ever imagined or that we are used to?  Opening up our outlook and pushing completely outside of a narrow focus, this is how we arrive at being open to a change in how we see and do things and ultimatly how we progress.

"We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are. "  ~  Max DePree

Somehow here I am going to make my case in point:

I was making crackers today at the Inn.  This is a simple routine task for me nowadays.  I have made them so many times that I don't measure any of the ingredients anymore and I just put them together in the bowl on auto pilot basically.  The funny thing about this production is when it come time to roll the dough out.  I usually make enough cracker dough to fill 3 to 4 sheet pans.  Within this entire production I roll out the dough, add sea salt, roll it again to lock in the sea salt,  cut the cracker pieces, and arrange it on the pans to be baked.  Its such an automatic process for me now except for one thing, every single time, and sometimes between each batch that gets sent to the oven....

When I return to my station to roll out the next batch I cannot find my rolling pin!!

Now I know I just used that darn thing.

At this point I go through the whole timeline of whatever I was just doing because literally 4 minutes ago I was rolling out dough at this exact place.

I didn't send it to the dish washer...
I didn't carry it over to the oven...
I didn't do anything with it I swear..
So where the heck is my rolling pin???


Its right in front of me...  right where I set it up.... right where I left it... standing UP. (smile)

I expected it... like most rolling pins to be lying down.  I thought I knew what I was looking for, it was supposed to be easy...  Its easy for me to laugh at myself because this happens every single time I make crackers.  I always roll out the dough, cut and set up the first pan and when I return from the oven I have the hardest time finding that rolling pin.  By the way I love that rolling pin that used to have handles.  Its marble and sooooo heavy- its a beautiful tool.  I am glad the handles are gone...

I have learned I can't make crackers that are considered the bomb and a must-have delicious necessity to my customer, if all I ever do is just make crackers.  Thank goodness I am a rule breaking fool as a pastry chef with a chemistry background that allows me to know just how far I can push before regulation and laws of science and nature hold up a stop sign.  My crackers are a product of lots of prototypes.  I'm happy with how they have turned out now... I'm comfortable with the production...


 So now its time to step away from comfort again- I am facing new challenges in my career now and I am excited but also it means I have to find a whole new way to do things, meet expectations and be successful.  I sent this text recently to a friend:

Dearest... I'm stepping out of my comfort zone again. I don't need anyone's permission but my own and I understand it's not going to be easy, I have been here before.... Goodness it's going to require learning a whole new way of doing things.... But I will never get where I want to be if I stay where I've already been.  No fear!!!  Leaving my comfort zone with good shoes and hope... Another challenging climb... :). Love you my friend!!  Today I am taking a big step in my career, my life, and building courage- I'm ready!
I am certain that this next challenge I am faced with is going to require a much larger focus- the tools or guidance I need may be right in front of me sometimes and hard to see but I need to take time to be more aware.  I need to listen better and be unafraid to ask questions.  I need to remember that I have worked in a multiple variety of practices to get to where I am right now. All those things will be a part of my next success too.  I never want to get too comfortable with what I am doing in my career because that will ultimately be my end.  The only way to offer and share the best of my ability is to constantly be pushing to create something even better than what i just did.  Why not??  I have to see and recognize familiar things but in a whole new way.  
I always say we all have to eat to live, so why not make it something good.
Choose what fuels you wisely.  Please.. make it something good!  Its most likely already right in front of you waiting for your attention.  To pick it up and roll out something amazing!!