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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

Worthy of a Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

My dear friend came over for dinner last night.  We sat outside, had a bottle of white wine and a wonderful dinner of Healthy Chicken Pot Pie that I had frozen earlier in the week.  She is in a hard place and I understand it because I have been there too.  She feels unworthy of happiness.

What could be better than some wonderful soul food to heal us on a soul level?

Ingredients

2 tablespoons real unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

cup chopped carrots

cup chopped celery

8 ounces chopped mushrooms

3 tablespoons flour

1.5 cups home-made chicken broth

1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast or tenders

salt and pepper to taste

1 disc Martha’s Perfect Pate Brisee

Directions

Saute your onion, celery, and carrot in your butter and oil.  The oil will help the butter from burning but also keep the delicious buttery taste without adding another tablespoon of it.  When the vegetables are soft, add the mushrooms and cook for a minute or two until cooked through.   Then add the garlic.  Don’t burn the garlic!  Simmer for a minute and then add the flour.  Cook this mixture for another minute before adding the broth and whisking at the same time to incorporate.  If your mixture seems to thick or thin, add broth or subtract broth according to your own desire.  Lastly, mix in cooked chicken and salt and pepper to taste.  After everything is incorporated, pour your mixture into a pie pan and top with your Pate Brisee.  By only adding a pie topping, you are cutting out half those calories but you will never notice.  Promise!  Bake your Chicken Pot Pie for 30-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  This also freezes well.  So, double the recipe and make two.  One for a night with a friend and another for a week night when there is no time for cooking.  Don’t thaw the Chicken Pot Pie when taking it out of the freezer and cook it for about 30 minutes longer or until your crust is golden.

This post is on a little more personal basis of health.  I had been struggling with feeling worthy for a long time.  I am not even sure when this misconception began for me.  I was talking to my dear friend and healer, R. Brian Keith, and he said something that has been on my mind and so poignant that I wanted to share it with you because it is so true.

As I sat in Brian’s office, I told him how I could see this “destination” of worthiness.   I said, “I feel so close.  I feel like I can see it, touch it, smell it.  I want to grab hold of it.  But I can’t quite grasp it.”  And that is when Brian said to me, “Mandy, worthiness is a state of being.”  It isn’t a destination, it is a “state of being”.

Worthiness could mean so many things to so many people.  Am I worthy of a loving partner? Worthy of a job I enjoy?  Worthy of being paid well?  Worthy of food on the table?  Worthy of health?  Worthy of money?  Worthy of dreaming?  The list goes on.

My joy has always come from my daughters.  My joy also comes from cooking and entertaining.  When I can bring that to someone’s home, it gives me great satisfaction.  I can do things physically that heal me, like running, yoga, and cooking with healthy ingredients.  But all of this isn’t enough if I don’t feel worthy of it.  

I also thought that I could reach this “destination” at a certain timeline.  I felt like, if I do this, I will feel this.  If I don’t do this, I won’t feel that.  If I do too much of this, I will feel terrible!  Well, I don’t think there is a timeline anymore.  Because, if so, I have totally missed the boat.  I think that is what is meant by the saying “the journey of life”.   It’s not the destination.

I am not sure why I didn’t feel worthy.  I don’t think any one person has made me feel unworthy.  I think I had been in a “state of being” and that had brought people into my life to confirm my own negative thoughts.  Even those that have come into my life and thought of me as an admirable person had been ignored because I didn’t believe it.  I don’t believe myself unworthy anymore, because it just isn’t true.

I wanted to share this with you because I talk about getting healthy with the foods that we ingest.  However, as we all know, this is only a small part of our journey to living a healthy lifestyle.  And we want to do this because it helps us to feel really good on this journey of life.  But, no matter how may healthy grains, or healthy fruits and vegetables we eat, if we don’t believe in ourselves as worthy, admirable, and loved individuals, we will never be healthy.

I say today, remind yourself how worthwhile you are and remind those that are dear to you, too.  A simple way of doing this is by sharing Chicken Pot Pie with those you love.  You are a beautiful being.  You have to believe it before anyone else can tell you how lovely you are to them.  Believe it.  That is the “state of being”.  It feels really, really good when you do.   Cheers!

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!

Boxed Lunches

The first Box Lunches have been sealed, taste tested and there is not a crumb to spare.  The picture below is the chicken salad sandwich.  It is made with a whole chicken that I simmer with vegetables.  This retains a lot of the moisture and I get to keep the broth for soups.  I add mayo, sesame oil, cilantro, scallions, and celery.  The combination may sound strange but the taste is amazing.  I have been making this recipe and selling it since I lived in Charleston, SC., which was over 10 years ago.  I would sell the salad by the pound then.

I will begin delivering sandwiches next week.  Get those orders in.  Mandy@gritsandhoney.com My arms are wide open for the universe to guide me.  This is such a treat to be home with the girls, working from home, creating wonderful meals for old friends, and making new friends that I am now cooking for.  Thanks to all of you for your support and love as this next chapter begins!!

Box Lunch With Chicken Salad Sandwich

Box Lunch With Chicken Salad Sandwich