Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Early Morning Riser

Early morning riser how do you get motivated? 

What does the key look like that unlocks your ordinary ability to open your eyes during the stillness of shadowy pre-dawn hours.  What helps you initiate the movement of your bones to an upright stance as you stretch your warm toes onto a greeting with cool floorboards?

 Do you ever reflect on your ritual, habitual, and natural activities before daybreak?  The reflexive actions of outstretched arms, arching your back, lengthening your calves, and ever-reaching for that warm prickling sensation that courses through your rested muscles as they awaken and respond.

Is there a renewed hopefulness that creeps into your imagination and expectations? Do you think about all of the potential that a new day offers in its youth?  When does your first smile appear?  What are you looking forward to?

How wonderfully different is every single morning, your own individual phenomenon of awakening.   Do you start your mornings with a thankful heart?   Today is a brand new day to navigate and exist.  You have no way of knowing for sure if it will be an easy-going day or one full of challenges but that shouldn’t really matter.  Either way you’re getting a fresh plate to fill and create whatever you want.  What will you decide to produce with the ingredients that are assigned to you?  How will you combine these with the ones you already have on-hand.

It is going to take a practiced ability, instinctive knowledge and inventiveness to present your best next step forward today.  How you begin your day will be the catalyst to the chain reaction that carries you through the remainder of your waking hours.  Take the time to make it a good start early riser.  Its going to be another great day.

Go ahead and yawn
Make sure to stretch
Spend an extra minute or two in the shower if you can afford to
Turn on some good music and drink a hot beverage
Eat a delicious breakfast
Get out the door on time
(share some love and hugs with happy kids)
Take the time to watch the sunrise

Wear comfortable shoes

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Harvest Time

Hi again!

What does a girl have to say....
When it has been some time now since I have shared my thoughts, my ideas, my confessions as a food lover...
I think that I need to stop making it seem like such an impossible task.  Stop looking at it as a task.  At first  it was only a week from the last time I had made a post- then two- and then before i knew it- almost ten months later I am sitting in front of this screen and finally ready to share...

I'm confident this is a good way for me to jump back in- I have not stopped writing just so you know (smile)  I have just been using more traditional methods of pen and paper up until recently.  Sometimes it just feels good to sense the ink meeting the paper, the sound it makes as it glides across the page and transforms into the story of my heart.

Here is a taste of what I have been creating lately, its just an "amuse" so to speak, a way to get your palate started.  A way to introduce you to what I have been practicing and creating lately in the kitchen.  We will get back to more heartier confessions soon.  This is the first "harvest" I have shared in a while so thank you for being patient with me my friends.  It feels good to share again and make something good!

The Harvest...

In the midst of harvesting... ok stealing all the tootsie rolls from my kids halloween loot bags after they went to sleep on Halloween night I was actually thinking about tomatoes.

 Funny that I would choose this to be my focus while I unwrapped a twisted end to one of the tootsie wrappers and quickly popped the waxy chocolate deliciousness of my youth into my mouth.  Tootsie rolls are one of the last retro candies out there that still seems to make it into kids halloween bags, bank candy bowls and its also tootsie rolls that maintain themselves as the cheapest piece of candy still available at 7-11 and gas stations.  The classic tootsie roll has always been and still is my favorite candy at Halloween.  Forget the crazy flavored, cherry, vanilla and lime- those all taste terrible to me, but not the original.  My kids know how much i love tootsie rolls too.  Riley saved me a whole bag of them from the last birthday party he went to.  I will have to eat them soon since tootsie rolls are really only good when they are fresh and new.  The older they get the harder they are to chew.  I can't stand how Tootsies will stick in your teeth really bad once they get too stale and old too.

But lets get back to the tomatoes...

Especially the cherry or grape variety.  These are about the closest thing I can come up with that is like natures candy to me.  A much healthier choice for sure but that is a reason very far down the list for why I love them.  To me these little gems are like treasures- their annual vine sweetened arrival is a phenomenal event for me now.
(Truthfully, I had  never really liked raw tomatoes of any kind until much later in my life)

My discovery of this ruby red delight in my later years of my lifetime has been a spectacular reawakening of my palate.  I simply love a handful of grape size tomatoes as my treat.  Even finding just one ripe one off the stem is enough in the beginning of the early harvest to exhilarate me and give me a giddy happy smile.

The harvest of tomatoes is complete now.  The colder weather is tip toeing into the scene, exposing early morning frost covered landscapes.  Their is not much in the way of anything being produced anymore, and basically all of the fruit bearing vegetation is turning in for the season. This is not surprising ever, but always bittersweet to me.  Its hard to say goodbye to the vibrancy and beauty of the gardens, the boxes and boxes of farm deliveries with their golden, verdant, and sometimes even fiery treasures.  All the  amazingly delicious treasures that can be eaten straight from their vines or branches.  I find myself savoring these flavors a little more emotionally.  Closing my eyes as I taste the complexities of the final crops of 2011.  Its been a really great year.


The oven door is left open to spread its remaining traces of warmth into my kitchen as I finish plating dinner.  Their are no fresh tomatoes on my menu tonight.  I am ok with that.  Instead I've already started to reach into my winter storage, the soil laden root crops that I squirreled away these past few months in anticipation of these cooler Autumn evenings.  I don't spend too much time on plate presentation this evening except to make sure the plates are nice and hot to carry my expectations to the dinner fork. 

 Tonight its a table where two of my biggest critics, slash fans await rather impatiently for their meal.  They have already took their turns walking in and out of the kitchen several times, stirring the contents of the saute pan,  and stepping way back by my instruction as a great accumulation of steam releases into the atmosphere during my check of the oven contents.  They have made their guesses, helped make last minute seasoning adjustments and overall kept me company as I prepared this meal.  After I present their plates and go back to the kitchen to pour their apple cider, I instantly smile at the sound of the silverware musically meeting the dishes.  

Returning to the table to join them I get instant feedback.  Riley is fidgeting in his seat as he always does, never sitting still he is up on his knees in his chair and resting on his elbows over top of his place seating.  He is looking into the plate of food as he scoops up his next bite and then he flashes me a sweet sizeable grin... I know he will clean his plate tonight. Yes!  I look over next to me and see Lauren is exploring through the flavors of her dish.  She agrees that I could have been a little more creative with the plating but that the flavors are perfect.  She likes the drop of honey she added to the brussel sprout saute at the last minute for me .  It was a very good call.  She also says I should think about signing up for the Food Network Show chopped in which I reply I could use some more practice.  She reassures me that if I need help with plating ideas that she has always liked to make smiley faces with her food and the judges might like that.  We all laugh and eventually everyone's plate is turned into the dish pit without the need for scraping.

(Dinner tonight:  Brussel Sprout, Mushroom and caramelized onion Saute with Farm raised Smoked Bacon over  Smashed Yukon Gold and Butternut Squash with feta. ~ Could have maybe had a sauce but tonight it tasted great without one too) 

This is it.  Production yields smiles and a memorable experience.  

Tootsie rolls are instant and everywhere, all the time.  They are taken for granted so that in order to enjoy them I have decided for myself that I have to be willing to not think too deeply about what they are made up of.  They are ok once a year I guess.

Tomatoes are special and their flavor profile changes with the intrinsic fusion of the season they belong to.  While they can also be taken for granted when their harvest is good and plentiful, their capacity to make a meal completely special and memorable is powerful.  They are one of my favorite tastes of sunshine.


the first vine-ripened gem sliced in half
delicate splash of seasoning
now close your eyes
go on a taste journey
simple complexity
of sunshine
and rain
the language of pure flavor
It demands your attention

scarlet beauty
communicating clearly
pleasure filled moment
Luscious memory.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Present-Tense Thinking.

The sunrise through a busy morning intersection.  

Put your right hand directly over your heart.  With focused intention feel the sensations of your one and only heart's automatic and rythymic pulse as it gently imposes its force through layers of internal and external protections.   

Take a deep breathe in.  Now with a measure of control release the consumption of your lungs.  As you do this be totally aware of every part of you that has to perform in perfect unison to activate this normally involuntary reflex.

 This is the natural synchronicity that is meant to support your days and years of accumulated life.  Generally these utility systems of energy exchange within us, continuing in their functions with little or any purposeful prompting by any of our own original thought.  Circulatory beauty, our body is designed to take care of itself.  Our bodies also have abilities to give us subtle, and even acute messages in times of certain needs.  Be it hunger, thirst, a particular nutrient, or sleep, if we are healthy and in tune to these messages we can meet our own needs and progress.  Once we have met these basic needs we have the freedom to devote more energy to the moments of passionate experience that we crave.

I believe it is important to slow down and connect with the heartbeat and breathe often.  Its the most immediate and easiest way to be present.  Being present is important to be able to understand the truth of what is going on around you.  To become a better listener and create a stronger awareness of the atmosphere you are being surrounded with.  Breathe in...

Is this where you want to be right now?  Its up to you to tell your feet where to travel.

Is this what you wanted to do?  It takes honest decision-making to match up your current attendance to where you truly hoped to be today.          

Are you happy today?  That is a choice.

Are you thankful for anything?  Gratitude, appreciation, comprehension of what is good about your life and taking nothing for granted is essential to recognizing your happiness potential. 

 Breathe out...

Practice being present for your life.

Today is always an opportunity.  Today I spent most of my time at school...

For me I wanted to be enrolled in and graduate from culinary school.  I made a choice to be here.  I want to make the most of this educational journey.  I am happy to be apart of a team with established goals.  I am thankful for the ability to practice and hone my culinary and professional skills, and also for the guidance of my instructors.  I will be successful here because I am intentional about achieving my purpose.  I want to share my passion and excitement for food to help people feel healthy and happy and thankful.

I can apply this kind of presence to every part of my life...


 adj \ˈpre-zənt\

Definition of PRESENT

: now existing or in progress
a : being in view or at handb : existing in something mentioned or under consideration
3: constituting the one actually involved, at hand, or being considered 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Importance of Precision


 noun \pri-ˈsi-zhən\

Definition of PRECISION

: the quality or state of being precise : Exactness
a : the degree of refinement with which an operation is performed or a measurement stated — 

I have learned practice is the only thing that will yield precision. 

Every single teacher I have had has made the point that a very telling characteristic of a chef's abilities starts with his/her knife skills.  It shows attention to detail and experience or practice with the craft.  As the knife becomes an extension of our hands it is important to know how to use it 
safely and with accuracy. Once this is mastered, the kitchen cutting board becomes a stage for the ingredients of every type of cuisine to be manipulated, modified and transformed into something special.  

You have to know how to take care of your knife too.  This applies to keeping the blade SHARP.  A dull knife is even more dangerous than the blade that can shave hairs from your wrist.  A dull knife will require you to use a much more force to push a blade through the items you are slicing and dicing.  If your knife is sharp, then the knife does almost all the work, allowing you to be its guide.

Its what allows us to be at the cutting edge of whatever we are doing.
Proves an attention to detail and that it mattered.
Smoothing out the rookie approach to your tasks by applying practice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Methods of Measure


 noun \ˈme-zhər, ˈmā-\

Definition of MEASURE

 : the dimensions, capacity, or amount of something ascertained by measuring : an estimate of what is to be expected (as of a person or situation) : a measured quantity 
  : the act or process of measuring
       : a basis or standard of comparison measure of happiness>
       : a step planned or taken as a means to an end

In whatever you pursue...  constant and careful measurement can become an extremely important component to understanding and recognizing your success.   Today we decided on our mission statement as a class:  

"As passionate students, we are proud to put forth our best efforts while striving for 
simple perfection."

~Spring 2011 Restaurant Class

Everyone seemed to be pretty happy with what we came up with together.  This will be one of our measuring standards to abide by for the entire time we are apart of this learning experience.  A standard that we should carry with us beyond graduation I am sure.  If we are successful in running this teaching restaurant, which I have confident we will be, then we will have met the expectations we estimated with high hopes and strived for.  There is so much more I can say about this.  Measure is a lot bigger word than I realized but for now I am going to conclude with this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

To measure up to all that is demanded of him, a man must overestimate his capacities

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mission: Impossible? I would like to think NOT!

All day I was staying open and aware to what word I might choose to explore.  Today we spent quite a bit of time together as a class discussing ideas and beliefs that would eventually be the backbone to our "Mission Statement."  At first I wasn't sure if I was just making the word choice easy or in fact I had chosen something that would require a much deeper mindfulness this time.  Developing a mission statement is a very important part for all twenty of us students to participate in.  We need to make sure we are in agreement with the statement that will define everything we strive to accomplish this entire semester.  Its possibly the most important thing we can do to bring us together for one common goal.

I kept thinking about my own experience with mission statement formation.  I am fortunate to have been involved in the formulation process of this definitive declaration with a few different groups and businesses.  I have learned how important each word choice is in the overall final proclamation, since Mission Statements will  normally become assessable to the public, who will read it with their own voice and immediately attach an expectation to it.  These expectations stem from the fact that the statement becomes like a promise.  Since it directly comes from the people, group or business that plans to achieve some form of a goal- their measure of successfully fulfilling their promises will come from the people they serve or interact with.

For every session of CUL 295- Contemporary Dining and Cuisine the class is required to decide on a mission statement together, and then agree that it states everything they plan to complete in the final semester before graduation.  This mission statement will become apart of the printed menu so it is visible to all restaurant patrons who dine at our restaurant.  It will be required that we know and understand this assertion in the case of a test question in reference to it intricacies too.  It ultimately should become something like a mantra for all of us, as we practice teamwork at its best and emerge into our roles as future chefs.

**I started to think that this might be a great opportunity to create my own Mission Statement.  Except First... What does the word mission mean and what does it mean to me??


 noun \ˈmi-shən\

Definition of MISSION

: a body of persons sent to perform a service or carry on an activity: as : a specific task with which a person or a group is charged
 : a preestablished and often self-imposed objective or purpose mission>

What could I come up with that would fit into not just my goal oriented journey in culinary school but also my everyday life. What are my objectives?? Thankfully this didn't take me too long.  I guess when it is up to only one person to decide the best fit- For me, myself and I, all who have regular conversations very very often, the final decision was simple:

Mission statement- January 18, 2011 for Stephanie:

With a Heart full of Ambition and a constant smile- I will practice Honesty, Humbleness, Happiness, Healthy Choices, be a Willing Helper, Always Hopeful, and stay full of Humility.

direct, and defining... 

Professionalism 101

Final Dessert Fall '10 Advanced Baking

Today marks the first day of the final semester to my culinary training 
at Great Lakes Culinary Institute....

In 108 days 
I will be completing my formal education.
For the time being...  
I could be easy for me to say: 
I am done forever with college-school-homework-tests... 
Except it should be noted- 
 In no way am I saying that I am even close to being done with my education and learning process.
I know in order to be successful not only as a chef but in every aspect of my life
 I need to practice 
I will still seek out opportunities to continue to grow in my knowledge and experience. 

This requires me to stay:

Open to New Ideas and Methods
Accepting of Challenges
Focused and Goal-Oriented
Optimistic and Thankful

And most importantly:

Adhere always to


\prə-ˈfesh-nə-ˌli-zəm, -ˈfe-shə-nə-ˌli-\


: the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person

In our very first class of CUL 295- better known as "The Restaurant Class" by the majority, we focused a large portion of the class on how we define this word not just in school but in all aspects of our lives.  We split up into small groups first and then came to ether as a class to share the answers that we had decided best described what this word meant to us and how it would be applied to our expectations in this class, and our instructors expectations too. We decided in part how we would participate in the course we are currently enrolled in now and beyond graduation in our own "real world scenarios".  

Instantly obvious was the fact that each and every one of us had our own unique interpretation and perception of what professionalism meant to us.  Common opinions were pin pointed too and became the foundation that would hold the framework of accountability and respect for one another and our forthcoming experience.

It made sense to all of us to point out how important it is to be aware at all times that we are being watched and evaluated.  Not just by our instructors but outside the classroom too.  Our community, friends and family, new students, and restaurant professionals who could be our future employers would all hold us to a higher standard based on our status as a culinary student.  Being mindful of all we say and do, our appearance, respectfulness, language, openness to sharing information and everything about our experience, especially upholding the basic knowledge and skill standards that are automatically expected to be known and practiced at the level we had now attained... these are just a few of the ideas we circulated as a class when defining this word, professionalism.  

What does professionalism mean to you? How do you define it not just in your job... but your life and situations?

For me professionalism begins with how I decide to start my day.  My attitude and outlook, and especially my constant striving for optimism in whatever I am faced with.  It involves a commitment to setting the best example possible in front of an Eight and Seven year old.  My sweet kiddos who are relying on me to teach them how to live in this world.  Every single thing I say and do is absorbed by these two, especially right now, and mainly because so  much of the world is still brand new to them.  How I react to everything, especially challenges and conflict is giving them an example of what to do, or not do if they choose, when faced with similar situations in their own experience.
I see that we are now in an age where hardly anything is private anymore. We have the option to be checked in to our specific location so everyone knows where we are.  We can report to a status that says exactly what we are up in case anyone cares.  Pictures get posted, people say whatever they want and people say things like "I'll facebook you later" to specify a newly accepted form of communication that is available worldwide.  These facebook profiles tell a story about who we are whether we like it or not.  Almost anybody can go on and find out whatever they want about us now.  Doesn't that make it even more important if you choose to be on these sites to protect your persona and perceived level of professionalism?  I think it most Absolutely does!!

To me Professionalism isn't just a way to conduct yourself, but maybe its more importantly 
a daily measure 
for how we carefully and thoughtfully choose to interact with our own individual world, people and circumstances.  
Paying attention to this level of communication 
that includes our attitudes, outward appearance, and purposeful contributions to all situations 
for me this is only the beginning of how we can 
define ourselves 
the qualities and characteristics 
I want to be known for.