Tag: Health and wellness

Take the Leap

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s a phrase I heard many years ago in a motivational speech and it has replayed in my head over and over again, countless times since.

I’ve now been working at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio as a kitchen assistant for almost five months. (Is that even real?! How is that even real??). I’m still pinching myself and I probably will be for a long time. My glass is definitely more than half full but I’m still trying to find my confidence and footing in a professional kitchen. As they say, all good things take time and I know this journey is no different. However, until that confidence is gained, I’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, with making mistakes, receiving honest feedback… and, truth be told, I’m starting to.

Anyone that has ever begun something new, knows the feeling I’m talking about. You want to be helpful but you’re not entirely sure what the next move is and you’re pretty sure you’re just getting in the way. Push through it. Much of the time, it’s just you overthinking anyway.

I listened to a podcast recently that resonated with me and I want to share a few snippets with you:

“Rejection… it’s just redirection… how often do we compare the behind the scenes crap to other people’s highlight reals and go, oh well, forget it then. You know, they had it and I don’t… [They’re probably] doing exactly what I’m doing and it just worked for them faster. No. You didn’t see the fifteen albums of garbage before they got signed. You don’t see all the work.

Ed Sheeran says, ‘Everybody looks at my work now and goes, Wow, every song you write is amazing. First of all, that’s not true. You don’t hear all the songs I write that don’t get released. When I started writing music it was like this brown sludgy water and I had to stomach how uncomfortable I was when the music wasn’t what I wanted it to be the first, second and forty second time. I had to sit through that feeling.’

Ira Glass says there’s a gap. You have good taste but then your ability to make the thing that you can identify as great is going to take a second. So really, if we could be way kinder to ourselves, maybe there is so much brilliance that we could uncover. Maybe the trick is to make mediocre things and keep making things, seeking out that feedback, and perhaps you’ll be that next brilliant maker. But you might need to give yourself five whole minutes. Maybe that’s okay.” – Cathy Heller, episode 215 on the Creative Pep Talk podcast by Andy J. Miller.

Pretty good stuff, huh?

I want to stress the importance of feedback for a minute. Feedback is integral to growth but it can be a scary thing. If I were to pick out one thing that holds me back and I’m consciously working to change, it’s not fear of feedback itself but more fear of the failure that feedback might reveal. No one wants to be wrong and no one wants to look stupid. I am by far my toughest critic.

I’m fortunate to be in an envrionment where a wrong answer or a mistake is not a condemnation (though not often, I’ve been in situations where it is… it makes true learning very difficult if not impossible). Instead, it’s viewed as a learning opportunity and something that paves the way for future growth. And yet, even with this, sometimes I still hold back… an answer that I’m not certain about, a question that I have but perhaps should know the answer to (or maybe not). Every so often I let the fear of being wrong, of potentially looking stupid slow me down and I shouldn’t. Neither should you.

(Also, if you happen to be in an environment where you spend 8-12 hours a day, 5-6 days a week with the same people, they’re bound to see plenty of your mistakes and listen to loads of your dumb questions anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose by giving it all you’ve got).

One night at work, not long ago, as we were finishing up for the day, almost through with our daily “break down” routine, I was talking about some of my recent mishaps and mistakes with the guys. I was a little down on myself and they knew it. As usual, their advice was spot on.

Keep in mind, they reminded me, that you’re comparing yourself with people who, combined, have over three decades of experience in the industry. They are great at what they do. That experience doesn’t come all at once and the knowledge is acquired over years and years of hard work and research. There are endless concepts to explore but first, you MUST learn how to hold the brush.

Spot on.

Last week I stepped down from my position at Wooden Horse Corporation to devote 100% of my time and energy to this new passion and way of life. It was hard because I loved what I did with the Equicizer and while I’ll still be involved from afar, I was at a crossroads and something had to give.

Summer is coming and things are really picking up at CVI. When you’re working 50-60+ hour weeks at one job and still trying to juggle another, they are both going to suffer. It’s not fair to your employers and it’s not fair to you. So, I made the leap. One down, so many more to go. Bring on the mistakes, the feedback, the opportunity for growth. I’m ready. I’m all in. Let’s do this.


Cooking Up A Storm

Now that I’m pursing a career in the culinary field, I often get asked what my favorite thing to make is. The truth? I don’t have one! (No one is satisfied with that answer.) My favorite thing to make is the thing I haven’t yet made. Yeah, that’s definitely an oxymoron but it’s true.

We all have our go-to’s, those make up the majority of our weekday lunches and dinners. When we exhaust our list of staples, what do we do? We run through them again. My week is usually pretty packed and the meals I make reflect that. They don’t take long to make and they’re pretty simple (I think I’ve said it before, but leftovers are SO underrated).

Baking with Grandma and little sis, Emma (right), circa 2004

The kitchen has always been a therapeutic place for me. Whether I was baking with my grandma’s or concocting my own creations; I was constantly coming up with substitutions for ingredients (like eggs) because we were often short of something integral to a recipe (I write that with a smile on my face – love you, mom!). The kitchen is, in many ways, a safe haven for me. A place where creativity can shine and memories can be made.

Right now, I have the best of both worlds. Technically, thanks to my day job, I work in a kitchen all week long, and I love it, but it’s different than cooking in your own kitchen. It just is. The environment is faster paced and mistakes come at a higher cost. It’s where I go to learn, to push myself out of my comfort zone and to grow. It’s expanding my mind in so many ways, yet, I still crave that quiet time in my own kitchen.

My kitchen is where I go to clear my head and de-stress. From a professional standpoint I’m still very much in the stage where I don’t know what I don’t know and everyone knows it, which is something I am very aware of. I’ve been graced with such a patient, open minded learning environment but that fact also makes me want to try harder. It’s a total blessing to have people investing time and energy into teaching you but it makes me want to show up tenfold in return. At work, I take things very seriously, myself included.

When I have a day or two off sometimes other things take priority but I usually find time to cook up at least one or two new recipes. Those are my favorite ones. So many people get in the rut of making the same meals over and over and over again… year after year after year. If that works for you then keep on keeping on, but it just doesn’t jive with me. There’s so much potential, so many different kinds of food. I actually freak out a little when I think about all of the ingredients I pass in the grocery store that I’ll never notice or get a chance to try.

A few weeks back I took advantage of an extended weekend and immersed myself in the kitchen. I come across a lot of recipes online that I put aside for an opportunity when I can make them, or I’ll see one in Bon Appetit, the monthly magazine I’m subscribed to. More recently, as I continue to learn about different kinds of foods and various cuisines I’ll challenge myself to come up with something I would normally only get from a restaurant or buy from the store, then I’ll do some research and make it. Easy as pie, right? Not always, but it’s a learning experience and that alone makes it rewarding.

These times in the kitchen, by myself, with the music blaring – no where to go and nothing pressing to do – will always be some of my very favorite. On my own, I love to experiment and lost in my own thoughts, I’m free to do just that. The recipes, for now, provide an often needed guide but liberty is always taken and so are lots of photos (because nothing’s better than the chance to combine two of your passions).

I just bought my first chef’s knife and it is SO SHARP. (I’m told – repeatedly – that fingers grow back so there’s not much to worry about.) Honestly, I can’t wait to put it to use. My knife skills are sorely lacking and I’m more than ready to remedy that situation. I look forward to continuing to share my journey and my food, with you, the reader. I regularly share posts and story updates on my adventures in the kitchen (at work and at home) via my Instagram and Facebook pages. Follow along and send me a photo of your latest creation! Check back soon for some of the things I’ve been cooking up recently.


Busy is a state of mind.

Yes, but you are busy, I get it. Just hear me out. Someone I have a lot of respect for recently asked me about my blog. They were curious why I hadn’t posted an update in a while. I kind of brushed it off with the usual “I’ve just been really busy.” (That’s a cope out, by the way). Without missing a beat they replied matter of factly, “Busy is a state of mind.” I didn’t know what to say and I thought about that statement for hours afterwards. I’m still thinking about it. Busy is a state of mind. Is it really? I mean, I am busy… I think…

If it weren’t for the fact that the person who said this to me is one of the busiest people I’ve ever met, I might not have thought much more of it. My mind has replayed my own current daily agenda over and over as I’ve analyzed that statement for days on end and tried to figure out how I could sneak some more time in to my days.

Photo Creds: Michelle Demuth-Bibb of
http://www.michelledemuthbibb.com/

On a weekly basis, between my two jobs, I work on average 4 days that range from 10-14 hours each and an additional 1-2 days with a more typical 8 hour window. On days or evenings that I’m not working I try to catch up on life, spend some time with my horse, cook up some things in the kitchen, work on my blog, do some culinary related studying and relax my brain. I’m busy. Aren’t I? Aren’t you? Aren’t we all??

Busy is a state of mind. The more I thought about that statement the more I came to understand it, in my own way. Let’s stop for a second and think about what “being busy” really means. When someone says they’re “busy” the connotation is usually a negative one.

Don’t agree? How often do you hear someone exclaim how “busy” they are with a pep in their step and a smile on their face? Never. It doesn’t happen. Busy is usually followed by “I can’t” – “I don’t have time” – “I’m just too busy right now”. At one time or another, we’ve all used “busy” as an excuse. Valid or not. The negative association is strong and as such cultivates feelings of anxiousness and stress; a ball and chain type of mentality. It is indeed a state of mind.

How many of us spend a majority of the day thinking about how much we have to do and how little time we have to do it? I bet it’s more than most of us care to admit. From a mental standpoint, we’ve already set ourselves up to fail. Busy is a word that we need to retrain our brains to think about. On top of everything, some are busy just for the sake of busyness (we all know this person). Others feel like they’re living their life on a hamster wheel, in which case perhaps a step back for a moment of re-evaluation is necessary. You have the power to change your life if you’re truly unhappy with it.

Shortly after, I was discussing the subject with a friend. He agreed. Most of us have a lot on our plate, and I’m not taking that fact away from anyone, but the manner in which you approach that fact can really dictate how you live – and how much enjoyment you get out of – your life. How many of us go into a frenzy when we have a list of things that need to be done?

By most standards, yes, I am busy. You are busy. We’re all busy. But maybe it’s not about cramming more hours into the day – that’s impossible, by the way – or cutting corners – which, for me, isn’t and hasn’t ever been an option I can live with anyway.

If we really stop to think, a lot of us can probably come up with at least one way we can make our productive hours, well, more productive. I’m not saying you should always be in the “go gear”; I strongly believe in the importance of giving our bodies and minds a chance to recharge, ideally, on a daily basis… even if it’s just a couple of minutes at the end of a long day. We should, however, make sure that the times we are “on” are put to the best uses possible.

When faced with the dilemma of what to tackle next out of a list of options, I’ve started mentally rating them on a scale of one to five, with one being the most important and five the least. Sometimes laundry takes precedent, other times a book (or bed) does. It’s helped me prioritize and realize what’s the most important in that moment (point in case: sometimes it’s clean clothes, other times it’s a well rested mind). To be fair, that’s dumbing it down a bit but I’ve started using this strategy for almost everything and I’ve found that sometimes, the most trivial things are the ones I need the most help deciding between.

Don’t get me wrong, life is undeniably overwhelming but we all have a choice to make it more or less so. If you can re-wire your brain to think about your life and the responsibilities there-in differently, I really believe it will make a huge difference. You might find that you’re more productive and that you do indeed have some extra time to spend on things you feel you don’t currently have the time for or maybe you’re already at 100% efficiency and you don’t see any changes at all on that front (I think you will).

If nothing else, with time and persistence, a little conscious re-wiring will most certainly improve your mental and emotional well-being. The trickle down impact of which can not be overstated.

Lobster… and More.

Last Thursday I had to face one of the challenges I knew, entering the culinary field, would present itself sooner or later. We had a two day Valentine’s Day dinner event. The menu? Some of our Valentine’s Day favorites.

Course 1 included a Chef’s Garden Salad with crouton, parmesan, shaved ham, carrot, cucumber, nasturtium and dijon emulsion.

Course 2 was a creamy bisque with lobster, carrot, celery, chive, chervil and tarragon.

Course 3 was prime beef new york strip steak with an accompanying veggie plate that consisted of sunchoke purée, carrot, confit potato, brussel sprout, beet, root spinach and amaranth.

Course 4 was called Textures of Chocolate and included a delicious dessert showcase created by visiting Pastry Chef, Melania Castegnaro. Pliable ganache, pistachio mousse, warm chocolate cake, aerated chocolate and chocolate tart made up this final course.

The problem, for me, was the lobster. Forty of them.

If you’ve ever bought live lobster you know what I’m talking about. As a highly empathetic person and an animal lover to boot, I have a hard time killing anything. Let alone a rather large, squirming crustacean. Times forty. I learned that the boiling water method is one way to go about it but it’s arguably more inhumane and drawn out than simply swiftly putting a knife through the creature and carrying on from there. Either way, I struggled with the task but I did it. And I learned how to properly clean and utilize the entire lobster from there. That’s quite a lesson and one I’m grateful for.

Honestly, the entire process really made me think. I’ll be completely transparent, I stuck with rice and veggies for dinner that night. I couldn’t stomach anything more with the knowledge that it only gets harder from here. And we go about it in the most humane, non-wasteful way possible (if you haven’t heard me say that I LOVE my new job, you’ve had your head buried in the sand).

I love how conscious and appreciative the chefs I get to learn from are for the ingredients we use to create our dishes, from the most common ingredients to the most underrated ones. They really care and I think due in part to their awareness, are more grateful for the sacrifice that’s made and more cautious about accruing waste than anyone I’ve ever known. It’s definitely made me more mindful as well.

This, however, leads into a subject that I want to delve into a little deeper.

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What about the rest of the meat we as a population eat? The meat we are not humanely raising and killing ourselves, which is, like, all of it. So many people want to indulge with blind eyes. And for a long time, I’ve been one of them.

A stock in the works for the base of our lobster bisque.

I’m not saying you need to be able to slaughter your own animals to partake guilt free in tonight’s dinner. Not by a long shot. All I’m asking is that you eat with awareness. Eat with the awareness of the sacrifice that was made so that you can have that 12oz steak and with the awareness that there are humane ways to go about it and there are very inhumane ways. Which are you supporting? Consciously or not. Every time you purchase. These are questions I’m now asking myself.

Over the coming months I’m planning to take the plunge and educate myself on the process that is carried out prior to meat being delivered nicely packaged into our grocery stores. Factory farming is something I’ve been wanting to dig into but it’s been something I’ve been putting off learning more about because I know that once I do, I can’t un-do. I feel like a hypocrite.

I do make an effort to buy meat that is organic, grass fed and if possible free range. It doesn’t always happen, it’s not always available, but I’ve been buying organic whenever possible for a while now. Now that I think about it, I’d like to actually learn more about what “organic” “grass fed” and “free range” really mean. It sounds pretty self explanatory but what are the requirements that have to be met in order to be able to label something “grass fed” or “free range”? I’m curious.

I don’t have a problem with eating meat that was humanely raised and euthanized. I do have a problem with supporting an industry that does not abide by those standards. I would never quiz anyone on the sourcing of the meat they’re serving, I’m not that person and as I already said, I don’t always abide by the standards I strive to live by myself. My goal isn’t one of judgement, but rather one of expanding an awareness.

This summer I’m also going to be looking into partaking in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically, you purchase a “share” from a local farm and get a varying weekly bounty of fruits, vegetables, meat and more directly from the farm you’ve chosen. I’ve done some research already and there are tons of family owned, organic farms near me to choose from. I bet there are some near you as well. You support the local farmer and in return, you get fresh, seasonal, sustainably harvested food. It’s a win/win! If you’re interested in learning more, this article breaks it down nicely.

The Chef’s Garden also offers home delivery with an insanely large supply of fresh vegetables to choose from year round. These are the very same vegetables we use at the Culinary Vegetable Institute and that are used in fine dining establishments around the world. I highly encourage you to check them out. I have never seen or tasted more beautifully delicious vegetables. Their quality is of the very highest. And that’s the truth.

The point of this blog post is not to upset or start controversy but to simply make people think. It took killing nearly forty lobsters to push me to finally acknowledge something that I’ve been avoiding for a long time. To make the decision I need to learn more about an industry that I’ve been pretending doesn’t exist. An industry that makes it so convenient to forget where the food you’re eating even comes from. We can all do our part, as large or small as that is, to make the world a better place to live in. Step one, I believe, is the awareness that we have the power to do so.

New Year, New You?

New Year’s Resolutions. Did you have any? Have you stuck with them? Statistically speaking, according to one poll, 80% of New Year’s resolutions have fallen to the wayside by February… 80%!! Only one month in. That’s tomorrow, by the way. February starts tomorrow. How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along?

I always liked the idea of New Year’s resolutions, maybe for some of the same reasons you do. The idea of a blank slate after what’s often been a long year full of ups and downs as years are prone to have, is refreshing (I’ve noticed that for some reason, the downs seem to stick out more prominently in people’s minds when reflecting on the year that’s passed).

I think the concept offers a mental cleansing for many of us. But it also comes with a heavy load. What happens when February 1st hits and you’ve either not started or not consistently kept up with those New Year’s resolutions? What if you’re part of the 80%?

Perhaps you’re thinking this is a little late in the game to be talking about New Year’s resolutions. After all, by now, you’ve either made them or you haven’t and most likely, you’ve stuck with them or given up until next year. Which is precisely why I wanted to have this discussion now. One month into the New Year.

At this point, clarification might be helpful. It’s important to constantly strive to improve yourself and your life, in whatever ways that be needed. If that manifests itself in your mind in the form of making a resolution, so be it. But don’t set yourself up to fail. Don’t get trapped into the mindset that the New Year is the key to beginning again.

The only “New Year’s resolution” I’ve made this year is one of an open mind and a continuing commitment to self love and acceptance. These are areas I’ve already made progress in but ones that I constantly want to be aware of and work to strengthen. Instead of beating myself up over areas I wish I were further along in, I’m choosing to stop stressing and start doing… with the awareness that the goal might change and the timing might not be right and that has to be okay. All the while, always keeping in mind, it’s never to late to start fresh or to start over. January 1st is just a date on a calendar.

My goals with my health remain the same, to continue working towards balance, listening and learning from my body as I go along. It’s also very important to me that I continue to push myself out of my comfort zone. That’s where growth happens and it’s something that gets easier with practice… and the last year has provided opportunities to practice. I ended 2018 and began 2019 grateful. For life, for health, for you – my friends and my family. I hope you’re able to stop and reflect on how blessed you are too.

What “resolutions” are you making?