Granola- Everything but the kitchen sink

Sometimes you just gotta mix it up! I feel less guilty about making my own granola, now that my friends have sold their very cool granola company (still delish). Inspired by another blogging foodie, Nekisia Davis’ granola proves to be today’s new adventure. This Brooklyn babe has been packaging and selling her Early Bird granola for quite some time, starting out as a farmers’ market fave which has now progressed into an entrepreneurial journey.

My take on granola: whatever you’ve got, add it in. It’s everything but the kitchen sink, if you so choose. The beauty of making your own is you determine what hits the right spots and what you can do without. I used this recipe as a guideline, adding my favorites (cashews, dried cranberries, sans coconut s’il vous plait) to amp up the granola excitement, making my taste buds dance with happiness. Make sure you’re checking on it along the way- nothing like too much time in the heat to ruin the delicate taste.

 

Oh happy day, put on some tunes and have fun with the oven!

 

Growing Up with Grilled Cheese

Ham and Cheese lovers paradise;Parma, Italy

Simple things in life give me great pleasure. One of those simple pleasures is a glorious indulgence knows as grilled cheese. Cheeseheads around the country are smiling, I can feel it.

Growing up in the Midwest is a wonderful place to nurture a love for dairy. One of my fondest memories as a child is having a special night in with my Dad and sister, while my Mom was out, embracing a kid-less world for a night.  I’m sure she was way overdue.

Meg and I would begin to craft our own sandwiches, testing different cheeses and flipping styles in a well-buttered pan.  Utensils were nowhere near necessary, even though I am sure I demanded the sandwich was to be cut in half, with a knife. A cold glass of milk and chips on the side were welcome companions to this delectably gooey dinner.

Lately, I’ve been reminiscing about my love for grilled cheese. I’ve let it grow up a bit, adding spinach and tomatoes, whole wheat bread and aged Havarti. Add an egg for breakfast, prosciutto for lunch. Whether you choose to be classic or over the top, a grilled cheese never disappoints.

Fully Capable Cooking

Feeling Spice

There is beauty in canned, pre-packaged vegetables and legumes. And believe me, I pull a semi-homemade Sandra Lee every once and a while. Yet, there is such fun in creating something simply delicious from scratch!

Roasted red pepper was always a perceived premium in my world until I discovered I could roast my own! Also, I was overzealous in the produce section this week and the nearly shriveled red pepper is sparking inspiration. Embrace your inner Rick Bayless and add some fiesta to your life!

What you need:

  • An oven/broiler or grill
  • 30-40 minutes

Stick your red pepper on a baking sheet in the broiler or directly on the grill. The objective is to blacken the pepper over the course of time, so keep an eye on it to ensure all sides are charred. Add some tomatillos to the mix, too!

After pepper is entirely blackened, let cool completely. Cut out stem and peel away charred skin. Slice into strips to garnish your meal. Puree the tomatillos to create salsa or quarter and add to a salad.

Restaurant Review: “Harvest” in Louisville, KY

Ciao foodies! I had a wonderful dining experience at Harvest in Louisville, Kentucky and thought you should know.

As a lover of new food adventures, I did a quick Yelp search to help pare down all that Louisville has to offer (which, in terms of food, is a great deal)! I found a few cool places but Harvest seemed to fit the bill from a food and wallet perspective.

The simple, open space is inviting whether you have a table or a stool at the bar. Very rustic, very farmer. The story is inspiring, as four farmers formed lines for miles at the local farmers market. Serving the freshest of produce and the most savory pastries, the patrons encouraged them to open a restaurant. And when you can put your money where your mouth is, life is good. After posting a sign up sheet at their market stand, eager epicureans vowed to financially back the restaurant. They’ve been packing a full house since April 2011.

The exciting part of dining at Harvest is the map on the wall, showcasing the location from where your brunch and dinner are sourced. Nearly 85% of everything in the kitchen comes from within 100 miles of the restaurant. As you peruse the restaurant, you will find the black and white faces on the walls are familiar, as they are the founding farmers themselves serving and busing surrounding tables.

If you’re looking for local and fresh food with southern flair, head to Harvest. Enjoy!

Embracing Change, Staying Hungry

After many months of revisiting my passion and motivation, I’ve taken a leap of faith and left a job that was no longer fulfilling. The best part: I know it was the right decision.

I know in my heart that I cannot fool myself, and for that I am grateful. Too much time was spent on convincing myself that I was just having a bad day, week, month. All was true, and I couldn’t let it go on for much longer. I was having a bad time- a change was necessary.

The things you do may not seem ideal at the time, such as leaving a job without the next lined up, but as Steve Jobs famously noted, “Stay foolish, stay hungry”. In the eyes of many, I may have been foolish in my decision to take a risk and a leap of faith without a safety net, but I’ve never  been hungrier. Hungry to learn, to connect and to grow. I’ve been preparing for a change for quite some time, meeting with others who are eager to help connect and motivate. Many have followed their dreams and are working for themselves; they’ve reassured me that failure and challenges are parts of the process but it’s been worth it. Excited to jump out of bed every morning, ready to take on a new challenge and exert your energy for something you love is rewarding beyond belief. And very, very possible.

I’m searching for my next big adventure. Staying foolish, staying hungry.

“Caminar con Dios”

My favorite shaggy-maned Starbucks barista bid me adieu with this lovely farewell today. When I asked him what it meant, the English translation is “Walk with God”. Now that I think about it, I could have figured that one out. Regardless of religion or bias, it made me think- life is good, that was nice, sir. (Side note: I still maintain a male coffee enabler should be called ‘baristo‘).

How often do I find myself ready to flip someone off for driving like an freak (it’s always them)? Often. How frequently do I say hello or wish someone well with intention? Not often enough.

Today has been a day of re-invigoration and reigniting a fire for my passions. I had a great breakfast with an incredibly unique and motivated individual named Kevin M. We discussed career moves, new and exciting paths in personal and professional life and asking yourself ‘why not’ more than ‘why’. What a worthwhile thought!

As someone who likes to plan and is not always the best at following through, the idea of going after my Masters degree without a specific intention or focus seemed wasteful. Yet in a different light, Kevin encouraged me to seek out certifications for my passions (cooking, writing, planning). I don’t have to brush aside the cooking classes I take because I like them- I can make them work in my favor too.

Like Steve Jobs said, you can only look back and connect the dots. You cannot look forward and know that everything will make sense. But I do know that everything will work out. Caminar con Dios.

Pitching yourself on sales

What’s not to love about being completely in control of you potential to earn? Constantly meeting a new challenge each and every day? Talking as much as your tonsils allow?

For many, there’s a lot to love. For others, myself included (at this stage of my life), sales is a hovering black cloud of shouldacouldawoulda. Potential is a terrible thing to waste, and it comes alive after an experience in sales. As I prepare for a session with my entire management team this week, I think of all the things I would have liked to accomplish/done differently/achieved. While that can be purposeful at times, it can also be debilitating. Such is true for me.

I took pride in the fact that you were solving a problem and making money at that same time- sales makes the cash register cry “cha-ching”. But that driving force of a sales, that intrinsic passion to move from one account to the next, knock on door after door to sell a widget, that doesn’t resonate with me. However, the importance of sales should not be undermined by preference and passion. I’ve sold many ideas (encouraging a friend that she can do better than her current employer has stated), visions (raising funds for one of the best places on earth for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities) and dreams (my future). What I currently lack is the passion behind my product, my service, my “widget”. To sell something you are not passionate about becomes a job, and one that nags at you without fail.

The link below reminds me to pick apart the sales aspect from the idea, the service, the widget and reconnect with my passions. It will come naturally and will be more sincere when you can’t wait to tell someone about this great, new (INSERT AMAZING REASON TO LISTEN HERE).

Fashion Startup Goes Viral: Entrepreneur.com

Focus While Juggling

There is something about lists I love. The satisfaction of checking an item off your list of to-dos fulfills me in extreme ways. I firmly believe that stems from my unorthodox way of life. Perhaps it’s typical to some, but I have little to no “methods”. Analytics and order are not at the top of my list of strenghts. (There I go with the list again). But connection and communication are– which make up for my lack of order.

As I re-evaluate my passions, my strengths, my habits; I’ve looked to my weaknesses, to comply with the Robinson-Patman Act, of course. I thrive when surrounded by energy and positivitity. This applies to the environment, the people and the underlying current of any place you spend time. Your workplace, your bedroom, your coffee shop.

Specific to work, I can be a master juggler. However, because one can do does not mean one loves. While I can complete many tasks, rearrange priorities accordingly and change direction at the bat of an eye, I don’t work best in those scenarios. I don’t know many that can– unless they are parents. For me to accomplish the above means I accomplish in a mediocre way. Mistakes are made, unintentional errors are committed, and I feel shitty. I am tired and questioning my ability to do my job well. To be on the defense, or feel that way, is exhausting. One an error is made, it must be rectified. Admitting is the first step, but after that, no one is at fault. Everyone is on edge. That has been my experience, but I firmly believe it doesn’t have to be that way.

I am pledging, over these next (hopeful: soon-to-be last) weeks at work to forge ahead with confidence. Attempt to commit to tasks you can firmly state you will have done on time. If not, state why that’s not the case, then get over it. I am one person who does well with a few things on her plate. I will take my time with each item because it demands my time and effort, not because it’s another thing to add to my list. And when I am finished, I will reward myself with a check: complete.

Things I love

Cooking School, Firenze

I love food. Questions may arise– how so do you love food? To which I respond- E: All of the above. I love food in all ways possible!  I love prepping, slicing, chopping, sous-cheffing it up. I love putting together the puzzle of a meal- adding cranberry juice instead of alcohol to a really nice pork roast for a really nice occasion. (Can it be done? Indeed it can, she happily reports.) And the entertainment aspect. It’s so nice to prep and sweat and present for more than one (moi). If you’re fortunate to have friends like mine, it’s a real joy to entertain and spend time with them. And great food is always a welcome accessory.

This admiration for all things culinary became a part of my life in Florence, Italy. It was the year 2008 and I was living in the epicenter of all things lovely, expensive and va bene. Prior to my four month attempt to fit into Italy (I am incredibly pale, of Irish decent and speak perfect English), I had never dreamed of being entranced with such a chore-food. It’s a means to an end. For my time is precious, valuable and at the sage age of 22 years, cooking and dining were polarizing ideas. While I appreciated delicious food, I would have much rather someone else spent her time putting a meal together than me. Enter my mom: cook extraordinaire. Also, I considered food, cooking and entertaining the foundation for domesticity.

But my parents so graciously agreed to save me from debt for the next 20 years of life. And I was awarded a trip to Italy, to “study” in a classroom with other American kids- how cultural! That was the sell-in process. I was not dropping out of school, I was just taking an eight hour flight to another country to continue my junior year of college. There will be books! And there were… mostly written by Rick Steves. I don’t think my parents were worried, for sake of failure, but worried I would never come back to the US (possible reasons: love, Albanian capture, love). Please note: I am typing from Cincinnati, Ohio– not the breathtaking city of Fiesole. Jealous?

When our very chic and multi-lingual program coordinators led us around around the city like American ducklings, I knew that a place so beautiful held the opportunity for incredible experiences. I took my fair skinned, dark haired self to buy a) Italian boots, b) Italian scarves and c) a blank trench. Pronto- I stood out less than I had a week earlier. Not that my lime green NorthFace had anything to do with it…

An expedition I was happy to embark upon was one to the fresh food market. Il mercato is a haven for anyone who has ever eaten anything fresh, delicious or fresh and delicious. Again, I’ve always liked to eat- so this was cool. The people are what made it all real. There were Italian grandpas lovingly shouting across the aisles about blood oranges. And eggs and meat and pasta were at your very fingertips. But the adventure came to life in the kitchen- at an Italian cooking school in Altro Arno (the other side of the Arno River- where the real people live). Holy Mario Batali! I chopped, wisked, floured and sprinkled until I could not cook any more. To make the connection from market to kitchen to table was a remarkable one. The potatoes we used for gnocchi were from the neighboring vendor of the blood orange grandpa! And it was heaven. To eat. And make. And I didn’t feel like June Cleaver in pearls… intriguing.

In order to keep my spending within reason and embrace all the fresh food surrounding me, my six roommates and I prepared nearly every meal we ate in Italy. We experienced great restaurants, but as more of a treat or because we didn’t get to the market before close. Or, because there was the cutest pizza place down the street from us and the guys there loved us as if we were family. But I applaud my roommates and all of Italy for converting me into the impromptu chef and foodie in training I am today.