Enjoying the Beauty of Becoming

It has been 374 days since my last blog post.  I have continued on with the writing program at SCAD, expanded the weekly meal program to more than 50 families, gotten engaged, gotten un-engaged, catered many fun social events including a Buckhead roof top social of 300 people, catered the most beautiful wedding, my strong beautiful daughter graduated from high school and my sweet Lauren May left G&H after almost three years to work at a great internship.  This has been a fun-filled and heart breaking year, to write the very least.    I have so missed sitting down and writing about it.

I went a little off course, again.  The roads that led to beautiful moments only lead to more roads with the journey that is never-ending.  I lost sight of what I wanted out of life.  I had gotten to a point where I felt angry and disgust for so much – politics, murder, bigotry, oppression, family dynamics, traffic, cancer, my own mistakes and even simpler things such as burnt toast.  These things are black in my soul that follow me unless I write about it.  I was putting so much pressure on myself to be the best mother, the best partner, the best personal chef and business owner, the best student, the best friend, the best daughter and sister.  I hated myself and this beautiful earth we live on.  I hated who I was trying to become, this little miss perfect.   Trying to be the woman everyone else wants me to be- gross.  Or at least what I thought they wanted me to be- even grosser.  She isn’t the woman I am destined to be, but I know her and I hate her more than anything.  My stomach hurts by writing the word hate- such a nasty word.  And, I’ll not kid myself, I was so far from perfect.  I fought with friends and family.  I snapped at annoying but, harmless business calls.   I screamed at the girls.  I continued to bury myself deeper out of sight so that when it was forced upon me to look at myself, I had no idea where or who I was anymore.  The humiliation of this person I had become is, well, excruciatingly painful.  Everyone seemed to know what I refuse to see.  I wonder if there is no wonder.

As we were catering this beautiful wedding back in May, only a few days after my own engagement ended, the question was asked if the yard had been sprayed for mosquitos and I thought for a brief moment of rolling around in the grass to see if I could be eaten and taken off by them.  This event turned out to be such a gift.  The universe will not let me go my own scared way. It was a peaceful union of two people who adored each other and they certainly aren’t perfect in everyone’s eyes but they are authentic and loving and so imperfectly perfect in my eyes.  I am so glad I got to be there to see their union and feed them well.  The positive energy and love was palpable.   Everything about it was the opposite of what I was living and that gave me the truth to start living differently.

Grief, as every emotion, is relative to whom is feeling it. My biggest loop in my head has been “it is my fault this is awful” and I have gone over and over how I could have changed the inevitable.  But, there is no way and god and everyone else knows I have tried.

Now I am trying to flow with the current that is the least resistant.  I have been known on occasion to believe I have to struggle like hell instead of just flow with the nature of things.  Haggard and disheveled, I kick and scream against my own current and for what?  To feel absolutely beaten down.  Everything is easier said than done.  So glad that my friends are not quitters and want to throw in the towel with me.  This does not mean that I don’t have to work hard to evolve.  As M. Scott Peck says love “requires the extension of ourselves, love is always either work or courage.  If an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love.” But as I start to let go, stop the struggling internally, have faith in myself again, it does feel easier to trust.  It feels so much easier and I think I may even be loving myself a little bit for it.

Where do I go when I feel I have hit the bottom?   I look up and kick like hell the glass ceiling to get out.  Through one tear (or three), one smile, one laugh, one friendly chat on the phone, one weekly meal, one delivery, one hors d’oeuvre, one dinner party, one movie night with the girls, I get up and brush my knees off.  Sometimes I surprise even myself.  Mosquitos would have been a long and painful death.

I have seen in some eyes that they wish I would stay down.  Or we see in some eyes, “you deserve what you get”.  Someone just recently told me I should get a “real job” instead of my “dream job.”  It’s funny, that was always his encouragement and why he is where he is in his own journey.  This job isn’t my dream, yet.  It is still forming and molding.  My children will not need me at home when I can live my dream job.  For now, it is my value.  I can live no other way without that.  There are people out there that do not want the best for others.  And those people, we have to ignore and let go.  I work like hell to have compassion for those who want to harm and hurt just to make themselves feel better or for their “justice”.  I must forgive them, move on, know that I am still loved, so loved and love those who want to be loved.  This is so difficult for me to do.  We can not make people like, love, understand or accept us. I have tried and so desired it but only getting hurt in the trying.  That is my struggle I must let go of.  Accepting that putting my eggs into a basket for it only to be thrown on the floor to break just hurts myself.  So, I choose not to do that.  I give my egg basket to those who want to handle them with care.  What a corny metaphor!  My professors would have a field day with that.  I am so grateful for those professors that encouraged me to keep going this last quarter.

As I went into a yoga class yesterday, my mantra was to love myself so that I can love others.  I said it over and over through deep breaths.  I felt it through my rib cages sucking in just a little more air to fill the cracks.  I could not help but notice and admire this woman who was fit, beautiful and graceful in her movements.  I quickly wished her love and went on about my practice, not wanting to wish myself to be her.  After class, I grabbed my things and noticed she was leaving in front of me.  I chuckled to myself because I noticed she looked like me but with blonde hair.  Then I noticed when she got into her car, it was the same as mine except a different color.  I smiled again at the universe showing me my mantra.  I drove around to leave when I passed her and noticed she was born in April, like me, from her tag.  I didn’t know this woman and who knows what her story is.  But I know me, and I want to really love and admire fully who I am, the dark and the light.  I could admire this strange woman and not even know her, but admiring myself has always seemed selfish.  This was a little moment of self-love to me.  I have always confused that  self-love was selfish but I do know if we don’t give any to ourselves we are empty.  And empty to give anything to anyone else.  I believe this is an epidemic amongst women, not just in me, that I would love to see gone, forever.  If anything, I will try my damnedest to not pass this on to my own daughters.   I will claw tooth and nail to omit it- really.

One of the biggest things that fills my heart, and I get to share it, is having dinner parties and writing.  I’ve known this but I wasn’t doing it.  So a couple of weeks ago I invited a couple of girlfriends over to sit on the front porch and have dinner.  I had forgotten how much I loved having people over.  I had forgotten how much I loved cooking for people.   My home isn’t big or extravagant.  Since I sold my house I think I have been holding back because it isn’t perfect.  In fact, my neighbor has put a couch out in our front yard that the city of ATL has yet to pick up over the last 3 weeks.  My neurosis are totally kicking in but allowing my imperfections to be seen at the front of the driveway is so much easier than hiding them under my pillow or worse, my heart.   I think the last time I blogged was the last time I had someone over for dinner.  My writing is also so imperfect but it is imperfectly me and that feels so good.

I made a most wonderful, healthy, summer salad with organics from the farmer’s market and grilled chicken breast for our dinner party.  This is my ultimate favorite food, fresh out of the garden.  Can’t you just taste the sweet sun ripening the tomatoes?  We sat outside with a citronella candle to keep any mosquitos from trying to take us away.  If I could encourage others to do one thing, the thing I wasn’t doing, is to do what you enjoy, do what you love and share that light.  Don’t put negative people in your life that want to squash that.  Enjoy moments with loved ones over a meal.  Go write.  Call me if you want to have that dinner but don’t have the time to cook! 😉 I will do that for you and love myself very much for giving you that moment.  Here we are full circle.  My wish is for you to enjoy this summer with friends, a good meal, and sweet peace of mind.

 

Summer Salad with Warm Shiitake Mushrooms and Lemon Mustard Dressing

 

For Salad

Red Leaf Lettuce

Radiccio

Canned Artichoke Hearts in water

Cherry Tomatoes

Cucumber sliced

Shiitake Mushrooms

Grilled Chicken Breast or Grilled Shrimp

Goat Cheese

 

For Lemon Mustard Dressing

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup good olive oil

 

 

For salad: Sauté your shiitake mushrooms in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  After 3-5 minutes take of heat and allow to cool for a few moments.  Pile your other ingredients as big and high with all your veggies and protein that you desire.  Top with shiitake and goat cheese.

For Dressing:  Whisk everything but oil.  Then slowly, while whisking, add oil.  You can add as much or as little dressing as desired to your salad.  Toss, serve and enjoy.

 

This journey of life is far from over, ups and downs, over and under, but I am so glad I can share it with you.  Please feel free to send me your story so that together we can share it with those who may be looking for answers.  May your summer be a glorious one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tic, Toc, Tic, Toc…

IMG_8690I can not believe we are already in February of 2016.  It has been such a great start to the new year!  Things are really busy and hopping here at the G&H headquarters.

As for personally, I began school at the Savannah College of Art and Design this past January.  I love it.  But, it has not come with its challenges.  As a mom, I have felt guilt because I can not always be available for the girls.  However, the lesson has been for them and for me, to let go.  It is time to let go of being everything they want me to be and be ME!  Now, of course they would prefer that I be available when they need something immediatley.  Who wouldn’t want that?  So, I can not blame them for having some push back.  I will say time management is the biggest, best skill we are learning.  We are all learning to manage our own schedules, plan accordingly and not take advantage of one another.  Again, this is not an easy skill that comes naturally.  I catch myself being so busy that the first thing to go is the gratitude.

I picked up Emma from Lacrosse the other evening.  She hopped in the car with tears streaming down her eyes.  I said “what is wrong?”  She quickly began explaining her fear of being kicked off the varsity team because she didn’t practice well.  Emma was doing what I do all the time.  She wasn’t enjoying the moment for fear that tomorrow it will be taken away.  Light bulb!

I have been so scared that I won’t be able to juggle the kids, the school and the business that I am not enjoying the moment of all of it.  And, I do love all of it.  Each thing brings me such joy and nothing is perfect about it.  Imperfect…I feel I am right were I am suppose to be.

So, as time is ticking away, I blink and we are at another birthday.  My baby, Gabrielle is 9 years old today.   We are going to make cupcakes from a box.  Imperfect but yet, so perfect.  I’ll save the cake from scratch for my clients.

As for Grits and Honey, it has really taken off on the weekly meals program.  I just love this aspect of the business because it helps those who feel, like me, a little overwhelmed at moments.  And, if I can help you out with your time management, that puts a smile on my face.  But, it isn’t just about saving time or we would be going to eat fast food everynight.  It is about eating healthy, eating well, and eating together at home.

Here is to enjoying all those imperfect and sometimes rushed moments!  I hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

PS- Get those dates in for Spring catered events (graduations, baby showers, birthdays and weddings)… the calendar is filliing up quickly!

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A Lighter Side

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Asian Slaw

Someone told me before I moved here that Atlanta is really just a big forest.  I thought he was exaggerating, but this past week,  I’ve witnessed the forest bloom into existence. I wake up to bird babbles and pollen soaked everything. Spring has taken over the city.  I’ve even spotted some forest dwellers on their back patios sharing food and drinks, a sure indicator of warmer weather, longer days, and lighter fare.  Last week, I made an Asian inspired slaw–a delightful companion to any barbecue or sandwich.

You can use bags of pre-chopped slaw, or you can buy a head each of red and green cabbage. I prefer the latter for a few reasons. 1. It just tastes better. 2. The road to freshly chopped cabbage is much more exciting. If you take this route, PLEASE remember to stop and marvel that a red cabbage cut in half looks like a Van Gogh painting, even more than his own cabbage still lifes.  Here is the recipe!

Asian Inspired Slaw

1 head Red cabbage

1 head Green cabbage

OR a bag of pre-chopped slaw (the boring shortcut)

2 carrots, chopped or shaved

3 large scallions, sliced

2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped as  garnish)

Dressing

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2  tablespoons brown sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional ingredients:

1/2 red onion, chopped

1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1-2 teaspoons chopped Jalapeño, if you’re feeling hot

Directions:

Chop the vegetables and whisk the dressing separately, then unite in a big bowl. Garnish with cilantro.

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What’s Your Specialty?

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Chicken Cacciatore

I hear this question all the time.  What is your specialty?  I have always been a little dumb struck by the question.  Specialty?  Eh, I cook, a lot.  Well, that answer doesn’t work so well when we are trying to market this puppy.

So I have been thinking about this question a bit.  And here is what I came up with…

There are three separate entities to Grits and Honey.  First, there is the personal chef side.  This part of the business cooks on a more personal basis for clients.  I find out what your family may or may not like, how many people we are feeding, do we have health parameters, do your children eat “adult” food, and so forth.  This part can be very creative, since we change the meals on a weekly basis.  This keeps clients excited about what’s coming for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.  It is so fun to get to know clients on a personal basis and to catch up weekly.  Most importantly, I love seeing clients feeling excited to have a healthy dinner made with less stress at the end of the day.

Another part of the business is corporate lunches.  We deliver to Sun Trust Robinson and Humphrey in Buckhead every Tuesday and Thursday, some other local offices and real estate caravans in the neighborhood.   Clients get so excited to have their Organic Spinach Salad with Sockeye Salmon or Pimento Cheese BLT’s (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato).  I know what everyone wants because they get the same thing every week after almost two years of feeding them.  We are creatures of habit!  We help corporations by allowing them to work through lunch and hopefully leave a little earlier to get home and to stay out of Atlanta traffic.  Most importantly here, G&H is so much better tasting and better for you than a vending machine at half past starving!

The last segment of G&H is the weekend events that we cater.  This would include showers, weddings, birthday parties or graduations.  This takes a lot of work and preparation but are always so fun to attend.  It is wonderful to be such an integral part of these types of special occasions.  These are marked in the memory books.  We want the client to feel special on their special day.  And, I feel so privileged to be a part of it!  These events can be more stressful because we want everything to go perfectly, but that is our specialty.  We take the stress out for the client.  I have a great group of people who work with me to make the larger parties work smoothly.  There is no more satisfaction that comes from having an event end and seeing everyone leave with a smile and full belly.

All three components are really important to make G&H thrive.  But the main idea, in each, is one thing.  That thing is that I like to help people.  I specialize in helping you with your Grandmother’s 90th Birthday Party.  I help you with your daughter’s wedding.  I help you with making your family a healthy meal because life is can be so crazy busy.  I bring your neighbor, who is not well, a week’s worth of soup.  I help you eat lunch at your desk so that you can leave at 4 instead of 5 to get to your family a little sooner.  We simply want to fill your belly with fresh, delicious food and to see you smile.

This week we made Chicken Cacciatore for our weekly clients.  You can freeze the sauce too.  Just double the recipe and have dinner ready for another time.

Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients

6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

Olive oil

1 Red Bell pepper, seeded, cored and diced

1 Lg Onion, diced

1 Fennel bulb sliced

8 oz mushrooms sliced

4 Cloves Garlic Minced

1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 15 oz Can of Whole Tomatoes

1 15 oz Can of Tomato Sauce

2 Cups Chicken Broth

12 Torn Fresh Basil Leaves

1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Oregano

2 Tablespoons Capers

Sprinkle of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Whole Wheat Spaghetti cooked

Parmesan Cheese

Instructions

Pour olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pan or dutch oven that has a lid.  Add your bell pepper, onion, fennel, and mushrooms.  Sauté the veggies for a few moments before adding in the garlic.  Saute for 30 seconds more, then add chicken thighs, red pepper flakes, salt, tomatoes, tomato sauce, capers and chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer with the lid on.  You may cook this over the stove on medium heat or you may put it in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven.  Both ways will cook for about 1.5-2 hours.  The chicken will be cooked through and easily shredded.  Pour your Cacciatore over whole wheat pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Here’s to being special!  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

Lauren’s Debut

IMG_0349I moved to Atlanta with my beau in mid January. We had been here about a month and while I was slowly carving my spot teaching at yoga studios around town, I knew I needed another job. Serving is always an option, but as my love for cooking has escalated over the years, I wanted a back-of-house experience. One night, a glass of wine in sight as I chopped vegetables in our tiny kitchen, I pondered my next move. With little experience in a restaurant kitchen, I thought and said out loud, “I would love to work for a small private catering company, where I could learn the intricacies of the kitchen without being in a high pressure restaurant kitchen”. The next day, I saw Mandy’s ad mirroring what I had verbalized the night before. I had applied for numerous other jobs with very few responses, but Mandy called me back within the hour, and I knew it was going to work out. When I met her a few days later at Inman Perk, it was more of a reunion of old friends than a job interview.

Our meeting has transpired as we transition into new phases of life. This is the first time I’ve lived outside Kentucky for longer than a few months, and first time writing on a blog, though I’ve edited other people’s blogs and been a writer my whole life. After 8 years of odd jobs, travels, and soul wanderings, I’m now in my first year of teaching yoga and ready to move forward with my writing. Novels, story lines, and screenplays simmer at my forethoughts as I try on the shoes of graduate student (but I mostly write and teach barefoot). I’m not yet married, don’t have any kids, and have 3 months left as a 20-something.

Mandy is weathering a different type of transition. As she grows her business and steers her daughters into young women, she is growing, too. Not only as a business owner and parent, but as an artist. I jumped on board to help her, like any new, old friend would do. I arrive in the mornings to find Mandy in a skylit kitchen aglow, music frolicking around her as she scans her yellow legal pad of tasks. I put on my apron and we jump into a recipe. She teaches me discernment techniques, like when to buy campari tomatoes v. roma tomatoes, and we share stories, secrets, and gossip. We laugh A LOT. I get to practice operating fancy mixers, choppers, spinners, smashers, juicers and zesters, and am always astonished to see how many items Mandy can cram into the dishwasher.

When I come home to my own kitchen, I practice techniques I’ve learned or try out similar recipes. Last night, as I poured a real silver tablespoon of balsamic into the pan (I couldn’t find my measuring spoon), it reminded me of when my parents poured cough syrup into one when we were sick. This food is medicine– it brings comfort to the people that eat it and is just as comforting to make.

Another childhood memory comes to mind: sitting up on the counter as my mom makes sugar cookies in the big brown mixing bowl. After mixing the sugar and the butter, she would let me lick the beaters. Sugar and butter are a magical combination and a delightful part of the recipe. But what about trying the oil mixed with egg, yet another phase of the journey? No thank you. Transitions don’t always taste yummy, but you practice patience and keep going, because you know it’s not done yet.

This is simply the beginning and I’m grateful to be here:)

Home Stretches

IMG_9283Only 20 days left in 2014!  We are definitely in the home stretch to 2015.  This has been an amazing year on so many accounts!  G&H continues to thrive and even soar to greater heights than I could have ever imagined.  We are super excited to have been invited to cater the holiday party for the Inman Park Neighborhood this year.  This is such a great neighborhood and it will no doubt be a fabulous event.  There is a lot yet to be done to prepare for the party, so I feel pretty crazy to be sitting down for a moment to type a blog, but HEY- I love it.  And I am not sure who is crazier- me, as writer, or you as reader!

So, we have loads of crapola to do before the new year.  Most of us are sweating bullets to get’r done and frustrated as hell at those who seem to have it all together.  Guess what?  This season, too, will pass, and we will get through it.  Some of us more gracefully than others, some of us with more joy than toys under the tree, and some of us with not one gift to give or receive!  But, all is well!  It will be January before we know it and St. Nick will be gone and the credit card debt will stick around for the next six months!  Ha!  See the silver lining?

Ok- so I really do like the Christmas season.  The part I love the most is having people over to the house to spend the day eating some of the most delicious foods, drinking fabulous wine, and laughing together (mainly at each other).

I take Christmas day to cook a wonderful but simple meal, that I usually prepare for clients, but don’t always do for my family.  I want to show my love by cooking something special and they are thrilled with gourmet food.  For starters, we always have Candied Nuts lying around to nibble on.  These yummies can last weeks if they are kept in a sealed jar, for those who pre-plan and make (or call G&H) ahead of time.  As a main course, I usually make Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding with Beef Tenderloin and a lovely bed of fresh green lettuce leaves and for dessert, Chocolate Whiskey Cake or a Creme Brulé!  I don’t fuss over any of it and that is what makes the experience so enjoyable.  There really is no pressure because it is more about the time together (and time off) than anything else.

It is true, the host sets the tone of the party.  If you are frazzled, everyone else will feel that energy and run for the door.  I have been in both the driver seat and the passenger seat of that experience and I would choose to never experience either again.  UNCOMFORTABLE.  So, if you find yourself there, breath deep and think of a way to move away from that…quickly.  Call Chinese food if you need to.

Ingredients

Beef Tenderloin

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

Meat Thermometer

 

Directions

The trick to the Beef Tenderloin is a good meat thermometer.  Have I written that before?  Well, it deserves to be written twice if I have said it already.  Go get a good meat thermometer.  It will make your kitchen life so much easier which in turn makes everyone’s life easier.  Stick the thermometer in the thickest area and forget about it.  You can tell it rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, and well done.  Most Maverick thermometers have the temperature already calibrated into those 5 categories.  So, you just pick which you like and it does the rest.  There is also no trick to the tenderloin.  It only needs salt and pepper and should go into the oven at room temp.  No, it needs nothing whatsoever more.  Don’t make it more complicated than it already is around this time of year.  Just let the tenderloin sit out for an hour then add the salt and pepper all over.  Stick that thermometer in and let her tell you when she is done.  Some people sear their tenderloin before putting it in the oven but that isn’t necessary either.  The oven can be set at 300 degrees fahrenheit.   Let your tenderloin sit for some time afterwards (even an hour) before slicing to keep all those fantastic juices in the meat, not running out on the plate.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!  It has been such a pleasure cooking for and with you this year.  Here’s to many more!  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

Pesky Chili Mistakes

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“Advertise Your Mistakes”, is what Alan Fox says!  I am reading a great book by Fox, People Tools for Business. I highly recommend it to anyone who works.  That could be inside the home, outside the home, as an entrepreneur, an employee or an employer.  He gives wonderful advice for business and for life.  I have a horrible time admitting mistakes.  Fox writes “there is a small part of me that still believes that the word “admit” implies weakness.”  I could not have said it better.  I feel that if someone sees my mistakes or hears me admit my mistake that I will be seen as weak or worse, a failure.  We all know this isn’t true for any of us and spending time trying to hide mistakes can be pretty miserable.  It is my fear of admitting mistakes that keeps me from connecting to loved ones, friends, employees and clients.  We are all human and we all make mistakes.  Humbling myself to admitting mistakes takes a huge weight off my shoulders because now I can be me, human, with flaws.
When I was in grade school around the age of 11 or 12 I made my first chili dish that I was going to take to the church to share in a pot luck.  I didn’t read the instructions so well.  It is a fault I still have when trying to use electronics or putting something together from Ikea.  I assumed that the recipe said one cup of salt instead of one tablespoon of salt.  Clearly, I had not cooked much.  We all know what happened to the pot of chili when I added one cup of salt.  It was inedible and dangerous for those with high blood pressure!  Instead of admitting the mistake, when I tasted it, and my eyeballs were almost sucked into my brain, I tried to fix it, ignore it and still served it.  Now I was only 12 years old so I will give myself the benefit of the doubt.  But how different could this have been if I “advertised” my mistake before everyone else tasted it?  Everyone knows when we make a mistake especially those that work with us daily and live with us.  Pretending a mistake didn’t happen can make it grow and sometimes become more painful when we do have to confront or correct it.
Three things I learned from my mistake from my early years of cooking 1)read the recipe thoroughly 2) don’t serve a mistake 3)we all make mistakes, so try not to take them too seriously.  If I am laughing at my mistakes, it will make everyone else around me a LOT more comfortable to get past the mistake.  And because I have people who look up to me, I can show them it is ok to give yourself a break when they too make mistakes, because they will.  Most importantly, life is too short waste time trying to hide mistakes.  We all want to move on from them.  It can be hard to do, admitting mistakes, but I will continue to try!
Here is my chili recipe more than 25 years later.  I just love it during these colder months.  There is nothing better in my book than a great hot bowl of chili simmering on the stove after a long day of work.  It is comforting and the smell makes the house into a home.  Just don’t go add a cup of salt!!!

Ingredients
1 lb (or more if you like it really meaty) of ground sirloin (I have also used ground bison which is just as delicious I do not like using ground turkey)
1 large onion diced(can be purple, white or yellow, use what you have on hand)
3 fresh jalapeños 2 sliced, one whole
1 green bell pepper diced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cumin (whole cumin freshly toasted and then ground in your mortar and pestle is best way to go here)
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 14oz can tomato sauce
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans black beans (or whatever beans you prefer)

Toppings
greek yogurt
fresh jalapeños sliced
fresh cilantro
shredded white sharp cheddar cheese
fresh avocado

Directions
In a large dutch oven sauté your beef and onions until the beef is brown throughout.  Add jalapeños and bell pepper and sauté for a minute then add your spices.  After your spices are mixed through, add your tomatoes and sauce.  The hard part is… to wait.  Let this simmer on low heat as long as you can. Try at least an hour before you add salt and pepper to your taste and add your beans.  After the beans have gotten warmed (less than 5 minutes), make yourself a delicious bowl of chili and add whatever toppings you choose.  I prefer a spicier chili, but the greek yogurt will cut the heat for those not so brave.

I hear next week, the temperatures are supposed to be brutally cold.  I will have some of this on the stove for when the girls get home from school.  My home smells amazing and everyone is grateful for a delicious hot bowl to warm their fingers and souls.  If you want to double the recipe and freeze some, that is just fine too!

If you are like me, I tend to make more mistakes when I am cranky and cold.  I am definitely a creature of the warm sun.  The way I think of it is this: the sooner I admit I have made a blunder, the sooner we can all get back to enjoying what really matters and move on to laughter with those we love.   Here’s to the perfect chili!

Petit Pavot Biscuit

IMG_5670It is 2:30am here in France.  I can not tell if it is the late night petite café or the excitement I am having over the most glorious dinner that I have eaten.  We traveled about 30 minutes outside of Vaison-la-Romaine to a small town called St. Cecile Les Vignes.  After a couple of wrong turns my school mate from Patricia’s cooking class safely drove us to the wonderful restaurant Campange Vignes Gourmandises.

I would like to first say, a woman, who I believe is the chef’s wife, was the most kind French woman I have met thus far.  As we all know, my french is terrible.  Her English wasn’t perfect but she took the time to explain to me what she thought was the best thing on the menu when I asked her what she thought I should get.  I agreed with her choice and got the lamb for my main course.  It was by far the best and most perfectly cooked lamb I have ever put into my mouth.  I am still trying to figure out how exactly he made it so moist and also added those delicious roasted garlic and vegetables.  The kind woman said the lamb was from the region and I am sure that it played a role in the freshness that the meat gave.  It was divine.

What also struck me as devine were these perfect little, what I will call, Small Poppy Seed Biscuits.  They were brought out at the beginning of our meal with some olives.  These little biscuits where what I think all southerners are trying to perfect when we make biscuits.  They were the size of a quarter, they were moist with butter and sharp with parmesan cheese, and light with the right touch of kneading.  These same words rang true from last week’s eating while in California’s gardens.  Was I still in heaven?  I think so, just on the other side of heaven’s earth.

At the end of the meal, I couldn’t help myself.  I had to ask for the recipe and if not, could I have a bag of those little biscuits to take back to my apartment?  To my astonishment, the chef was obliged to give me the recipe.  He had no more biscuits, of course, for me to take home, because why would any be left?  They were that good.

I must share this with all of my devoted readers.  How can I keep something this good to myself?   I haven’t made them, as I am still traveling but how hard can it be?  Just remember to use fresh ingredients and the best butter and cheese that you can find.   I’ll let you know how mine comes out when I return.  When I do get this down, they will most definitely be on the menu!  

Ingredients

1oog parmesan

100g flour

100g salted butter

25g poppy seeds (could also use sesame seeds)

1 egg yolk

Directions

Mix the first four ingredients by hand and when incorporated, mix in your egg yolk.  Make little balls with the dough and place in an oven that has been preheated to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Simple and delicious just the way we like things.

At the end of the meal, I did ask for my petit café with dessert.  Note to self, the french do NOT take their coffee with dessert.  That comes afterwards, making yet another course.

Bon Appetit!

Heaven on Earth

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Sonoma County

The saying “Ive died on gone to heaven” keeps coming into my mind. When we arrived in California, the air was the first thing to take my breath away.  It is so clean and crisp in San Francisco.  It brought me to the thought of if we are stuck in a place where we don’t experience anything more than the four walls around us, we may only think that those four walls are all that exist.  When I was growing up in the small town of LaGrange, Georgia, I didn’t know what else was out in the world.  LaGrange was a lovely place to grow up but it is also very sheltered from other parts of the country not to mention, the world.  My father wanted me to be close to home when I left for college.  I could have traveled over two states to Mississippi (I know, crazy far) to attend school but one of the reasons I chose not to was because my Dad didn’t want me so far away.  I really didn’t want to be far away from them either out of fear.  But, I remember vividly my first trip past the Mason Dixon line.  I had traveled to Nantucket and we were at a cute little restaurant in the town of Nantucket but, the waitress was from Switzerland.  I began a conversation with her and she explained to me how she and many of her friends traveled every summer over to Nantucket to work.  My eyes grew big at this new thought.  That thought was – there are so many beautiful places to see and experience in this world and there is nothing to be afraid of.  How simple is the thought?  This thought had never occurred to me and it isn’t something that can be taught, only experienced.  People are mostly kind and generous no matter where you go.  I feel lucky and grateful to have learned this.  I do know, not all of us get to travel to far away places, but if we can, I recommend it.  If anything, it teaches us to appreciate our home that we return to.

We began driving north on “the 101”  into the Alexander Valley.  The view alone is spectacular.  Our destination was a beautiful estate on a vineyard that is over 5,000 acres.  There really is nothing like it that I have seen.  In my mind, this is what heaven would be like.  Your eyes could look out in every direction and see beautiful rolling hills, blue sky, white clouds, and green grape vines.  The vegetable garden is probably 4-6 acres large with every food imaginable growing.  There are very few bugs because of the dry air.  We pulled strawberries that were the deepest red, different varieties of pears, peaches, and apples that were the sweetest, most flavorful, juicy fruits to ever come into my mouth.  I never understood the love of figs until I ate one from a fig tree and added a little almond butter and dark chocolate.  My eyes and my mouth are watering with the joy these simple things brought to me.  I want to cry with joy now as I write about it on a plane back home to Atlanta.  It was and is such a special place.  We broke off leaves of dinosaur kale and ate them right on the spot. They weren’t so bitter that you needed something to wash it down.  They were refreshing and warm with the taste of the sun that was just hitting it.  I believe we can have this in Georgia.  It inspires me to crusade for farm to table food and better food in our lunch rooms for our children.  There is no reason why we cannot have more of this here.

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Everything tangible was so heavenly, but what really hit me to be so angelic, were the people.  We were in Northern California for a wedding.  I had never experienced a wedding so beautiful before.  And I don’t mean beauty with the eyes, even though everything was beautiful to my eyes.  I am talking about two people, whom I had never met, exuding love to each other and to all those who had come to share with them their love for each other.  It was amazing.  When the female minister spoke, it was so soothing and more like a meditation than a service.  The wind that blew in the air and rustled in the trees while the couple made their own vows was like a whisper from god blessing them and all of us lucky enough to share in their moment.
There was also the family we stayed with during our visit.  Tara can make you feel as though you had known her for a lifetime.  She has this beautiful way of showing you a comfort and a feeling of being right at home 3,000 miles away from it.  She must have had a thousand other things on her mind and exhausted from being up all night with her little ones,  but she never showed it.   She inspired me to be a better woman, mother, partner and friend.

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Sweetness 

All of this experience, the vision, the tastes, the warm hearts, it is what heaven on earth is to me.  I was lucky enough to experience it.  This, I will bring back with me to Atlanta.  This, I look forward to sharing with all of you.

There is no recipe for this.  Here is to the simple tastes of eating right from the garden, to the mouth, and straight to the heart.  Cheers!

Taking the Wheel

Summertime Black Bean Salad

Summertime Black Bean Salad

I was just thinking how I haven’t had the time to sit out back in the morning, sip my coffee, do a little blogging, and get creative, which are some of the things I cherish and enjoy most and keep me balance with the daily “to do’s”.  I can see myself withering if I haven’t had a moment of creativity.  Lately, I have been doing things at full speed, not taking the time to really enjoy what I have been doing.  And then, I read the wonderful words from “My Daily Om” written by Madison Taylor. This is what she said so beautifully.

It’s easy to go through this fast-paced world feeling as if you are being dragged through your weeks on the back of a wild horse. Many of us go from one thing to another until we end up back at home in the evening with just enough time to wind down and go to sleep, waking up the next morning to begin the wild ride once more. While this can be exhilarating for certain periods of time, a life lived entirely in this fashion can be exhausting, and more important, it places us in the passenger’s seat when really we are the ones who should be driving. When we get caught up in our packed schedule and our many obligations, weeks can go by without us doing one spontaneous thing or taking time to look at the bigger picture of our lives. Without these breaks, we run the risk of going through our precious days on a runaway train. Taking time to view the bigger picture, asking ourselves if we are happy with the course we are on and making adjustments, puts us back in the driver’s seat where we belong. When we take responsibility for charting our own course in life, we may well go in an entirely different direction from the one laid out for us by society and familial expectations. This can be uncomfortable in the short term, but in the long term it is much worse to imagine living this precious life without ever taking the wheel and navigating our own course. Of course, time spent examining the big picture could lead us to see that we are happy with the road we are on, but we would like more time with family or more free time to do whatever we want at the moment. Even if we want more extreme changes, the way to begin is to get off the road for long enough to catch our breath and remember who we are and what we truly want. Once we do that, we can take the wheel with confidence, driving the speed we want to go in the direction that is right for us.

I am going to take the wheel today.  I will smell the gardenias blooming out my front door.  I will sit a minute longer with my coffee.  I will dance with my daughters while the music is playing in the background.  I will take a moment to smell each fresh herb I am chopping.  AND, I am going to get creative with a new dish!  Yum, I just tasted it.Fresh Veggies

I had some time this early morning before the girls woke up to go to the market to see and buy whatever fresh veggies struck me as inspiring.  I don’t always have the time to do this because my menus somewhat stay the same and time doesn’t always allow it.  This is what I came up with.

Ingredients

2 Fresh Corn on the Cob  (I found some beautiful white and yellow mixed)

1 bunch of cilantro chopped

1/2 purple onion diced

3 cloves garlic minced

1 avocado diced

1 orange bell pepper diced

1 jalapeño pepper finely diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes cut into quarters

2 cans organic black beans drained and rinsed

1 fresh lime

Directions

In a medium sauce pan, boil some water and add your corn on the cob to cook for 5 minutes.  When the corn is done, remove them from the water and let them cool so that you can cut the kernels from the cob. In a large bowl mix cooked corn, cilantro, onion, garlic, avocado, bell pepper, jalapeño, tomatoes, black beans, and fresh lime juice.  Let this mixture sit out at room temperature for an hour or refrigerate for a few hours to let all the flavors mix.  This can be eaten as a salad or a side to grilled fish.  Either way, the dish is excellent and another perfect dish for the summer.  With every bite, your mouth will sing.

My father always taught us when cooking to see how many colors you can get on your plate.  I think we have accomplished the rainbow with this one.

“It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”  -Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf knew the importance of dreaming and creativeness in the midst of the mundane.  I know I have written about it a 1000 times but I have to be reminded 1000 times that I have the wheel to my own life.  Here’s to driving, creativity and a damn good summer salad!  Cheer’s!