It Costs How Much??

IMG_9283I can not tell you how many times I have heard this question.  It costs how much?  Of course it doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen.  Good quality things are not cheap.  We have all been there too many times at the store, looking for the less expensive item.  We buy it, bring it home, and wish we had bought the other one that costs a little more.  No, this doesn’t always happen but it happens more often than not.

I would like to explain why I charge what I charge for my food.  I want to do this because I really don’t want to charge anyone for more than I deserve or for more than my food is worth.

First, everything I make is fresh.  I am a one woman show with a little sprinkle of help from other fabulous people that have the same quality standard.  When I make a salad for a party, the lettuce is washed and cut the day of the party.  The cucumbers and onion are sliced the “day of” as well.  In most restaurants I have been in, I know that they have to cut their vegetables in bulk and most of them don’t sell it all that day and it will be used the following day or even the following few days.  Is this going to kill you?  Probably not.

I know that some places don’t carry extra virgin olive oil.  It is expensive and to cut corners they will buy mixed oils.  Even though you get a healthy salad you may be getting an oil that isn’t very good for you.  I use extra virgin olive oil for every dressing I make.  I am not making a fortune on millions of hamburgers sold at a cheaper price.  I am not even making a fortune- yet- but I think this is the premise- keep the quality of the product, no matter how big you get, or just don’t get big.

I know this eliminates some customers.  But, I would like you to think about food as health insurance for a moment.  What we eat can effect our overall well being.  If we all ate a little better and put a few extra dollars into something that could keep us healthy, why wouldn’t we?  We pay hundreds of dollars each month preparing for the moment that we get very sick.  What if you put just $50 towards eating healthier and more likely to not becoming sick?  Seems like a no brainer to me!

For example, I made a side garden salad today.  There were a couple of bad grape tomatoes in the bunch.  If you have ever had a bad grape tomato, you know it is one of the worst things to ever put in your mouth.  I can’t taste every grape tomato but I will throw that bunch away because the possibility of others tasting bad is higher.

I buy organic, sometimes.  I used to read up on what is best for you and what is not.  The problem with a lot of the information that comes up is that it is studied again, and then you are given another statistic that is telling you to do the opposite.  And who is doing the study?  Many of the times, a big paying company wanting you to buy their product.  I use my common sense that I have been given (which isn’t always grandiose), the little bit of knowledge I have (no high IQ here), my eyes (20/20), my taste buds (pretty damn good) and how I feel a couple of hours later (personal preferance).  To me, some organic products taste better (like an organic strawberry or tomato).   Some organic products are more readily available (like organic spinach).  However, some organic products are (in my humble opinion) not worth the money (like organic phyllo dough).

Pimento BLT

Pimento BLT

I try to keep the quality of my food exceptional.  I don’t want to sell anything that I wouldn’t want my children to eat or myself.  If I am making a BLT for family or to sell and there are no good looking tomatoes at the local Publix or Kroger, then I will take my happy self to Whole Foods and proudly drop a few extra dollars for some beautiful heirloom tomatoes.  It is worth every penny.  I love Holeman & Finch‘s breads, and I will spend a little extra to buy that too.

That is my dealio.  I hope it helps you to feel a little more comfortable in throwing down that extra dollar!

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The Real Me

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I am struggling these days on what to write!  I was reprimanded on a blog that I had written a few weeks back and now I am feeling shy!!!  This is no good!  I am not a shy gal.  I read a blog from a woman called Moms Who Drink and Swear.  She is hilarious but can be a little crass.  I am a mother, I am a hard worker, I am sweet, I don’t intentionally hurt anyone, I get angry, I make fabulous food, I help others, I listen to Lil Wayne, and I love dancing with my girls in the living room on a Saturday morning.  I cry when I am sad, I cry when I am angry and I cry when I am overwhelmed.  Sometimes I cry so much I am sure it is annoying.  I can make the same mistake 500 times before I stop doing it.  I love a good bottle of wine, sometimes all alone.  I like me!  People who know me like me.  And all of this, every bit of this, makes up a really good me in the kitchen!

( I am sorry Mom and Dad if I have offended you and embarrassed you.   Thank you for loving me and supporting me even when you aren’t so proud.  I know you aren’t going to read this because you are still on dial up internet and it takes 3 hours for the internet to pick up)

There, I said it.  So now that you know a little about who I am, let’s talk about my menu for a dinner party I did this week.

We started with my Asparagus Straws.  I found this recipe from Martha Stewart.  These have been on the menu for a few years.  They are excellent for any occasion but especially good during the holidays.  You can make them a day ahead and bake them right before the guests arrive.

You start by blanching your asparagus.  Put those aside while you get your ingredients arranged for an assembly line.  The ingredients are grated parmesan cheese, melted butter, phyllo dough sheets, prosciutto, and your blanched asparagus.  Place one phyllo sheet on a clean surface, brush it with melted butter, add another sheet on top and brush it with butter.   Then cut your sheets into four rectangles.  You place one piece of prosciutto on top of each rectangle.  Add your asparagus on top and then sprinkle each rectangle with parmesan.  Roll’em up, seal with a little melted butter, and place on your baking sheet.  Make as many as you need.  If you are making these in advance, wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden and crispy.  Allow them to cool a bit because the cheese inside will burn your mouth but they are so good.  It is hard to wait.

Asparagus Straws

For the main course we had a Garden Salad with Grilled Chicken.  And for Dessert we had brownies with ganache icing.

Cheers to being yourself, loving yourself, and laughing at yourself- especially over a good meal with great friends who can laugh with you!

 

Brownie with Milk Chocolate Icing

Brownie with Milk Chocolate Icing

 

Lingering Sundays

Granola, Yogurt, Fresh Berries and Mint

Granola, Yogurt, Fresh Berries and Mint

Do you ever think about the perfect morning?  I do.  I think about a Sunday morning when it is raining outside.  I think about lingering in bed with my loved one, listening to the rain hit the sky lights.  I think about no worries like what I need to do in respect to work, or what errands I need to do for the children.  It is a day off.  I was just talking to a corporate mother/grandmother who was just saying she was going to have to make time for herself.  We do have to actually schedule these things in our busy calendars and plan them out.

One way to plan your lingering morning, is to make granola before hand.  This way you can lay in bed as long as you would like, then when your hungry you can eat it in bed while listening to good tunes.  If you have kids, have then bring it to you!   Not only will the relaxation be amazing but days afterwards you will feel refreshed and renewed because your spirit has been nurtured.  

I found this recipe in the Neiman Marcus Taste cookbook by Kevin Garvin.

Ingredients

4 cups rolled oats

2 cups shredded coconut (I use unsweetened if I can find it)

1.5 teaspoons cinnamon

.5 cups honey

.5 cups light brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups mixed dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, and/or dried blueberries)

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix top three ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix honey, sugar, veg. oil, and vanilla.  Pour the wet ingredients into the oat mixture.  Place uncooked granola on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.  Bake for 30 minutes, mixing around every 10 minutes.  After granola is cooled for 5 minutes, add dried fruit and store in an air tight container.   No need to refrigerate it.

The Parfait is made by layering granola with fresh berries and yogurt.  Then you can top it with mint and pistachios.  The little salty of the pistachios with the sweetness of the granola is superb.

This weekend when you are sleeping in with your significant other,  I urge you to linger in bed a little longer.  Bring your lover a Granola Parfait.  Life is too short to always rush around.   Then, years to come, you will remember (and so will he/she) that special Sunday that was so simple but so amazingly wonderful.

Bon Appetit!

Simple Things

Raspberry Lemon Bar

Raspberry Lemon Bar

It is that time of year again.  The crisp fall weather is just barely in the air but you can feel it ever so slightly in the breeze.  I love it.  With the wind comes a thousand memories of times past.  As I sit and relish in this moment of peacefulness, I can’t help but wonder what tomorrow will bring.  Isn’t it fun to think about where you were last year and where you are now?  Of course there are moments that were really wonderful and some not so wonderful.  However all of those memories make up this present moment of who you are.  What will happen that will shape who you are today?  What choices will you make to better yourself?  I think it is supper exciting.

I am not swimming with the dolphins  today but I am going on a walk with an old friend.  I am not feeding the President but I am making Raspberry Lemon Bars for the Atlanta BBQ Festival that will feed some judges and some children.  No need for all the pressure of big things today.  I am peaceful and happy with the little simple things.

These Raspberry Lemon Bars are the bomb diggidy.  I made my crust first by mixing a half pound of butter that is room temp a half cup of sugar and two cups flour.  I chilled it for a few minutes before baking it off for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the crust bakes, I make the filling.  On the stove I cook down two pints of raspberries in water and half cup sugar.  It gets kinda syrupy.  I strain the raspberries into my mixing bowl with a cup of fresh squeezed lemons, cup of flour, lemon zest, three cups sugar and six room temp eggs.  After the crust has cooled a bit, I pour the filling on top and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

You will love these.  You will enjoy something really simple and delicious, and this doesn’t take a lot to put a smile on your’s and your loved one’s face.  Enjoy your Raspberry Lemon Bars outside with the crisp breeze and this moment, too, will be in your memories for years to come.

Pump the Brakes

Pasta with Tomato Basil Chicken and Feta

Pasta with Tomato Basil Chicken and Feta

I am a full speed kinda gal.  I get going on one thing, get pretty fixated and BOOM, realize I need to “pump the brakes”.  I really need a lesson on pumping as well.  It is usually a full on slam!

I have been focussing all my energies on getting my business up and running.  It has only been a little over a couple of months that I have been going full time with Grits and Honey.   In my irrational mind, I think I should be opening my 100th franchise.  In my realistic mind, I couldn’t be happier with what I have accomplished.  Companies  wanting to include me as a full time weekly vendor.  Clients wanting to me to cook for them personally twice a week.  I still have to pinch myself.  Me?  Don’t they know I do not have a clue and that I am just following my heart that doesn’t think.  I am a romantic.  It really is a strange concept.  I hope the bank will be so loving when I ask for that business loan.

So, in order to go enjoy lunch with a friend, I decided to make a simple meal of Pasta with fresh Tomato, Feta and Basil for the girls.   I made a little extra for them to take to lunch the following day.  This is also a favorite on the catering menu.   I like to add grilled chicken, kalamata olives or fresh grilled squash and zucchini.  This can be made in advance so if your lunch goes to two glasses of Pino you don’t have to sweat what is for dinner.  It is already done!

All you do is cook your pasta of choice.  Add fresh chopped tomato, fresh chopped basil, chop some grilled chicken, chop your olives, and mix it all together with extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle the top with crumbled feta and Viola!

I need reminding to enjoy life through the hectic day to day as mother and business owner.  We can all get smothered with stress.  I hope you will be reminded to take a moment and enjoy whatever it is that gives you peace.  Pump your brakes!

The Salad

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Garden Salad with Shrimp

I love a good fresh salad.  I am not talking about the lettuce in the bag here.  I want a fresh head of romaine, red leaf, or green leaf lettuce.  With fall now here, lettuce is now in season.  We have great farmers markets here in Atlanta to scope out the new seasonal vegetables.  I think it is always worth the trouble and time to find one you like in your area.  The flavors are worth it.

There are so many different flavors that you can add to your salad.  You could make it with an Asian flare with a ginger soy chicken and a ginger dressing.  You could make it with an Indian flare by adding curry shrimp and chic peas.   And don’t forget the Taco Salad.  Omit that nasty taco shell but pile the lettuce high and add ground beef with cumin, salsa, fresh lime and cilantro and a dollop plain yogurt.

I could eat a salad for every meal.  My favorite all time salad is a Garden Salad with Shrimp.  I would preface this salad as American.

I first get the best looking heads of lettuce as I described above.  I then add what ever ingredients I may have in the refrigerator or pantry.  Sometimes I add artichoke hearts or hearts of palm, tomatoes or dried cranberries, cucumbers or bell peppers, and finally a cheese, which is usually Maytag Blue Cheese or Feta.

I pile all this in a large bowl and then I top it with my sautéed shrimp.  Another great protein is grilled chicken breasts.  I like to season it with soy or sometimes a jerk seasoning if I am filling frisky.  There are some great wet jerk marinades in jars.  I prefer the jar instead of making it myself.  If you have ever made a jerk rub, you know that it takes every spice in the market.

For the dressing I mix a half cup virgin olive oil, 4-5 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (I like extra), a little dab of dijon mustard, minced garlic and a squeeze of half a lime.  This is fresh and it has no MSG.  Have you ever looked at what is on the labels of salad dressings?  No good!

To me, salads are so refreshing and can be just as filling as a hamburger.  It can take a little extra work but I believe it is well worth it.  Try saving a little left over salad in a zip lock bag for the following day with your protein in a separate bag.  It is the perfect simple lunch to take to work with you.

Just wait- your body with thank you because you feel so good!