Tuesday, October 24

It Takes A Village

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I think there are many things that concept applies to, as well.  Getting healthy is one of those things. Not long ago, I met a couple of friends who have helped keep me on track, especially after binges like I described in my last post. Those don't really happen that often, but, when they do, I can always count on my friends Kristen and Sherry to steer me back in the right direction.

My friend Kristen loves the outdoors, and is always up for a walk, or hike. So, today we took a beautiful three mile walk around a lake that is close to my house. The leaves were stunning, as they reflected off of the water, and the air was crisp.

My friend Sherry loves nutrition and fitness, so, she is like my cheerleader when it comes to eating right, and the benefits.  One thing Sherry does that I love is monthly salad parties.  All you  have to do is sign up to bring one or two salad ingredients, along with four large mason jars for your salads. Other people do the same, and if you have several people contributing, you leave with four beautiful salads for the next several days.

The dressing (always homemade), goes in the bottom. Next, you layer something that will not get soggy, like red cabbage, and afterwards,you add the rest of the ingredients of your choosing.  It is always fun to see what people will bring that you would have never thought to put in your salad at home. I love combinations like quinoa, apples, celery, sesame seeds, chick peas, and other yummy ingredients.  The main thing you have to remember is to leave room for some greens at the top It is wonderful to just have to make a main course, and have your salad already made. You just pour your jar upside down, ad the yummy dressing makes it's way to the top, and coats the other ingredients in the process!

Monday, October 23

This Week's Menu

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been sick for the last month. Since I didn't feel good, I didn't want to cook, however, I still had the itch to bake. I tried to give away most of what I made, however, the unfortunate result of having all of these goodies laying around was I didn't want to waste them, so they became my breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not good...

I went to the doctor on Saturday morning. She asked me if there had been any changes in my diet...blushing slightly, I told her I had basically been eating substantial amounts of tiramisu and biscotti throughout the day for the last several weeks. She mentioned that might not be the best way to fight whatever was going on in my body without shaming me too much. I realized she was right, so decided if I wanted to start feeling better, it would be a good idea to cook some healthy foods, and get back to my regimen.

I use several cookbooks when I am figuring out the week's menu. My two favorite ones for healthy cooking are called Nourishing Meals, by Alissa Segersten, and Tom Maltese, MS, CN, and 100 Days of Real Food, by Lisa Leake. Nourishing Meals is a gluten free cookbook, that uses a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and 100 Days of Real Food emphasizes the use of non-processed foods, so all recipes are prepared from scratch. She emphasizes using whole wheat flour, instead of white, maple sugar and syrup, instead of white sugar, so 100 Days of Real Food isn't quite as conservative as Nurturing Meals. I like the approach of both, and use many recipes from each.

Both cookbooks talk about the benefits of using homemade broth in cooking. "Homemade stock made from animal bones contains nutrients that strengthen digestion, heal the intestinal track, and sooth joints-specifically gelatin and the amino acids, proline, glycine, and glutamine. Homemade stocks also containment minerals in an easily absorbable form, including calcium, magnesium, and fluoride. " Nourishing Meals 

Just reading that made me want to go out and buy a whole chicken, along with a nice mirepoix to make a homemade chicken broth, so that is what I did. Since fall is in the air, homemade soups are my favorite things to prepare on cool, crisp evenings. Tonight, I will make some homemade lentil soup, using the chicken broth from last night, instead of water that the recipe called for. I can't help but believe I will feel much better eating this way, as opposed to the previous weeks! Even chefs have their weaknesses :)

Thursday, October 19


I have had some kind of flu bug going on four weeks now, and it has made it hard to get motivated to write, cook, or do much of anything. I am definitely not a good patient. When I am sick, everything pretty much comes to a halt. Feeling physically off tends to spill over into every other  part of my life, as well, so maybe that is part of the reason I have been feeling nervous about this new business venture.

I think today I have finally turned a corner on this sickness, though, and sleeping in until noon was extremely helpful in getting well. Despite feeling sick, I have not slowed down for long, and allowed my body to heal until today.

Now that I am feeling physically better, I am ready to jump back into my work of finding a client or two. That is all I really need for now, and I feel very confident that they will come at just the right time.

On a side note, in my quiet reflections this morning, (or, afternoon, since I was in dreamland this morning), I was thinking about identity, and how regardless of whether or not I have a successful business, my true self is not measured in that way. Others may judge me based on how "successful" I am, but I will not.

Oftentimes, it is too easy to judge ourselves and other people based on external things. Does that mean I don't want my business to succeed? No, not at all. I guess what I am trying to say is whatever happens, I am rooted in the woman God has made me to be, and not my performance.  I find this to be liberating.

Kind of along the same lines, I find self-promotion to be a big challenge. I was always taught to be humble, and to "let others compliment you, rather than bragging on yourself" This is a proverb from the Bible, which is  my guidebook for life. When you work for someone else, you don't have to worry about getting your name out there, and promoting yourself. However, in starting your own business, there is a need to prove yourself, and how great you are.  This is very counter-intuitive for me.

While I may sound stressed out about these things, please know I am not. For me, following this dream has been confirmed in so many ways, I believe it will happen. I may not know the "when and how," it will work, but that's okay. I pray daily for wisdom, and that God will bring me the right client. I don't want just any client. I want to have the right fit when  it comes to this job. I need someone who will want to grow with me, as I am still learning. I am even more excited about following this journey than I was in the beginning!

Tuesday, October 17

Doubtful Days

Right before I officially announced I would be starting my own business, I saw a job listing on Craigslist for a part time Social Worker at a nearby Senior Center. It is a very reputable place I am quite familiar with, so I thought I would apply just to see what happened. I didn't think I would hear back from them, however the job seemed like a certain fit, and despite the fact I was seriously leaning towards starting this business, I decided to put in an application.

The next day after submitting the application online, I heard back, and they asked me for a phone interview the following day. I accepted, still thinking they wouldn't want to hire me, or I wouldn't be drawn to work for them, but the phone interview went extremely well. To my surprise, they asked me to go for an in person interview the following week.

The in-person interview felt like sitting in a room of long-time friends. I can only describe the time as effortless and comfortable. The job seemed to fit like a glove, and the people I would be working with would be amazing. In a mater of days since applying, they offered me the job. Since I had been dreaming about this small business all summer, I was immediately faced with a major decision. The Social Work job was something I was comfortable with, working in an environment with other Christians with the same values, that would use my strengths. I was so honored that they believed I was the right person for the job.

On the other hand, starting my own business was a big risk. Instead of a guaranteed, steady income, I would most likely have to invest money, at least in the beginning. I knew this would be unknown territory. I prayed a lot over this decision, weighing the pros and cons, and despite all of the reasons for taking the social work job, following my heart and passion felt like the right decision.

Up until now, I have felt a rush of excitement, with so many thoughts going through my mind; dreams, ideas, recipes.  But, this morning, maybe because the sun was replaced by a layer of gloomy clouds, my first thought was, "Who do I think I am?" "What was I thinking?" I can't start my own business!  That is called the impostor syndrome.

This issue of fear and doubt is addressed in my "Business Bible" that I mentioned in my first post called Business Boutique. So, I decided to take it out and read the entire chapter dedicated to these issues.  It was encouraging to read about famous people who also struggled with this syndrome. Maya Angelou said, "I have written eleven books, but each time I think, Uh ho, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out." Kate Winslet also said she struggled with thinking she was a fraud before every shoot.

The most reassuring thing the author said is that fear is normal. She quotes her friend Pete as saying "Fear establishes the limits of your life. The bigger your fear, the smaller your life. If you're scared of heights, you'll stay low. If you're scared of the outdoors, you'll stay indoors. If you're scared of failure, you'll never try anything. " Fear wants me to live a small life, but God never created us to live that way. God wants me to have life and have it abundantly. In fact, the Bible says "fear not" 365 times-one for each day of the year. Those words encouraged me to keep moving forward.

After reading this chapter, I went downstairs and asked my husband if he wished I would have taken the Social Work position instead of chasing this crazy fantasy.  He smiled warmly, and said, "absolutely not!" You haven't even been at this for a month, and you are not going to give up now! I am taking his advice, one day at a time.

Saturday, October 14

Mission Statement..What I'm About, and Why

Last year when my son was in preschool, his teacher asked him what his Mom's biggest talent was, and his answer was "making blueberry pancakes!" Weekends are the perfect time to enjoy this simple pleasure, so I have tried to have a tradition of making fresh blueberry pancakes on Saturday mornings.  Since I like cutting out processed foods, I have a mixture of dry ingredients that I mix together, and when I am ready to make the pancakes, I just add the wet ones, and mix up a batch. They turn out fluffier and tastier than the boxed mixes, and I feel better knowing which ingredients go into them.

This morning, while mixing ingredients, and pouring batter onto sizzling butter,I was processing some things to write about today. Hopefully, it will all come together somehow, without sounding too scattered.

One of the things that is a big challenge for me is finding a name for my business. It doesn't sound like a difficult task, however, names are so important. It is the first impression to my clients, and it has to describe who I am, and what I'm about in just a few words. It seems like every time I think of a brilliant idea, when I google it, someone has already claimed it.

That being said, I am currently a business without a name. Oh well, "Roma non fu fatto in un giorno!" Rome wasn't built in a day.

I believe it is important to put my mission statement out there. Why do I want to start this business? The first reason is because of my passion for food and feeding people. My Grandmother was a very key person in developing my love of cooking. She was Italian, and her kitchen was always full of mouthwatering aromas. She only made a few things, but made them well, and I never grew tired of eating them. To me, memories are built around food. It could be good food, or even mediocre food, but when we think of smells and tastes surrounding what we grew up eating, it always brings up visceral reminders from our pasts.

When I make my grandmother's homemade sauce, it takes me back to when I went to her house after an afternoon playing on the beach. I would be starving from playing in the water under the hot sun, and savored every bite of her spaghetti or lasagna, stuffed mushrooms and fresh salad. After I couldn't eat anymore, she served fruit out of a can, and homemade custard. As far as I know, the canned fruit was the only thing she didn't make. Even though I was more stuffed that one of her mushrooms, to decline eating the rest of my food was simply not done!

I loved my grandmother because she was the type of person that just wanted to make sure everyone was fed, right down to the mailman. She often gave freshly baked biscotti or whatever she had on hand to whoever stopped by.  She probably didn't cook because she was passionate about it, rather, she had a husband and three sons. That is what she did in Italy, and it was the tradition she brought to the US when she came. She used food as a way to show people she cared about them.

When my Grandmother passed away, my parent's church prepared a meal at the reception. It was pure comfort food...Ham, scalloped potatoes, rolls, salad and dessert. I remember feeling so loved and cared for. The people who prepared the dinner would not let us as family lift a finger to help out. This blessed me beyond words. When I returned from her funeral, I immediately signed up at our church to help organize memorials so I could do the same for people. I received so much from doing this.

Cooking for people matters to me, because of the way food speaks love into their lives.

Now, my pancakes are complete, and I need to get started with my day. My heart is full knowing my husband and son enjoyed my best talent of making blueberry pancakes! In addition to that, I had an idea for a name and mission statement.

"Home-cooked in the city" Slow food in a fast paced environment. 
Just a thought :)

Wednesday, October 11


I am thankful for so many things today; There are the usual things like a home, family, friends, etc..., but three things stand out to me that are all connected.

1). My husband
2). Amazon Prime, and lastly,
3). Cookbooks

What do these things have in common? Well, after I let me husband sample the dessert I made from the other day, he jumped on Amazon and ordered this amazing cookbook for me! That happened on Monday, and it was on my doorstep today. Now, there are several more recipes to try. In addition to these things, I am just feeling happy to have found a career I love, doing what I enjoy most, which is feeding people.

This cookbook is by Yotam Ottolenghi, who has another one called Jerusalem, which has lots of good Middle Eastern recipes.

Well, time to get my little guy to bed! Good night :)

Tuesday, October 10

Sticky fig pudding with salted caramel and coconut topping

I intended to write a post yesterday, however,  Monday is my work day, and from the time I got up until the time I get my son to bed, I couldn't think of anything except for laying my head down on my pillow, and falling into a deep, peaceful sleep. And, that is exactly what I did.

On Mondays, I get to have some paid training on being a personal chef.  For four hours, I help a friend who is a professional caterer and personal chef prepare meals for her clients that she cooks for. I can't believe I actually get paid to do it! What a thing of beauty. 

She has six clients, so we prepare their meals for the next several days that they are able to refrigerate, and freeze.  The day is packed full of chopping, cooking things on the stove top, getting things in the oven, and then assembling and labeling meals to deliver. 

There are so many logistics, as to the right timing, and doing things the proper way. Since I have never cooked professionally, many things are new to me. I am so used to taking my time in my kitchen where I know where everything is, and not being on any tight schedules. I am still learning the rules of safety in the kitchen, when it comes to using knives properly, and proper food handling. I just passed my test for my food permit last week, however, there is still so much to learn!

Already, in the last week, I have cut two of my fingers with the blades of professional grade knives, burned the skin on the top of my hand in a hotter than usual oven, and ripped half of one of my fingernails off, trying to open a container. And, we're off to a great start!!

At this point, you may be asking what the title of this post has to do with absolutely anything I have written so far. I promise, I am almost there...just wanted to give you some background into my crazy Mondays! Well, yesterday, I got to make this amazing dessert from a cookbook called Sweet, and it was one of the most delicious desserts I think I have ever had! If you like apples and figs, they are in this moist delicious "pudding," with a caramelized topping of shredded coconut, brown sugar and butter. Heaven on a plate, as far as I'm concerned! 

I have an event to cook for on Sunday, so I think I will make these little gems!  

Italy trip

I have been going through my pictures, and have enjoyed looking at this album of Italy. I was able to go over last year to attend a conference. This was the first time I have been back in twenty years. The pictures are made up mostly of places we lived as a family. My brother and I were able to go together, and we were graciously hosted by some friends of ours from language school in Perugia. I feel such a sense of nostalgia when I look at these pictures. I miss Italy so much. It was strange to go back as a tourist knowing I would be returning to the US after such a short time. Tonight I made cookies with Nutella in them, and I remembered how much I enjoyed the simple pleasures. Fortunately, you can find it here! Saturday, we are going up to my brother's house to celebrate a late Thanksgiving, only we will be making homemade tortellini instead of turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!