August 31, 2014

Great Snacks Can Come in Small Packages!

Being 5’1″ tall, I’ve always liked the saying “great things come in small packages”, so I’m especially pleased to find that great snacks can come in small packages as well! Of course it took getting me out of my normal environment for me to notice, but on a couple of recent trips I discovered some tiny morsels of cheesy goodness.

It started with a trip to Trader Joe’s where I bought a small mesh bag of bite sized Brie rounds individually packaged in small plastic tubs. I paired these with fresh golden cherries that I stored in the mini fridge in my hotel room. The packaging makes tiny Brie an easy-to-carry airplane snack, but these didn’t last long enough to make the return trip.

When I returned home, I took a look at the local grocery and discovered that there are small serving cheese snacks here too. Not only can I buy Brie bites, I can get fresh mozzarella in this cute little packaging.
Small package

I’m excited about this because I often need just a tiny bit of mozzarella and don’t want to have to invent ways to use the rest of a large package before it spoils. Last night, I took some fresh yellow tomatoes to a Labor Day party. They were homegrown and bursting with such flavor that I really wanted them to star as my contribution to the menu, but I also wanted them to look like a finished dish.

I sliced the tomatoes, sprinkled them with a small amount of salt, then sliced a snack package of mozzarella and placed it over the top with a few snips of fresh basil. The result was beautiful and delicious. The cheese and basil added a nice finishing touch without overpowering the tomatoes themselves.
Tomato with mozzarella

This morning, I grabbed a snack bag of cheese chunks out of the fridge to eat for breakfast. It’s the perfect size for a meal that includes the word petit, which it does when we pretend we are sophisticated and speak the 5 words of French we know with a heavy accent. Hey, sometimes we sing our every move as if we live in an opera, too. You can never overestimate the silliness that occurs in our kitchen, but I digress.
Bags of Cheese

I discovered these little bags of cheese when I was meeting my Mom for lunch the other day. She lives about 3 hours away, and I was driving through town, so we met at a health food market that serves lunch. Lucky for me, they sell cheese snacks, too. I couldn’t seem to manage to buy just one bag for the road resulting in plenty of left for un petit déjeuner treat.

Today I’m heading out to do some shopping. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for even more mini fun. Let me know below if you have a favorite snack that comes in a small package.

Happy Labor Day!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

August 21, 2014

Having Trouble Figuring Out How to Include Cooking in Your Daily Routine? Embrace your limits!

Having trouble figuring out how to include cooking in your daily routine? Embrace your limits!

Today’s tip comes from my lifelong deficits. I have an inability to type faster than anyone else, swim faster than anyone else, or sprint faster than anyone else. In spite of this gaping lack of ability, I have been chosen for typing contests, advanced swim instruction, and participation in track meets. Why? I am ploddingly consistent and rarely know when to quit, but even more than that, I am willing to look my limits in the face.

I think it took me a whole summer to learn to slalom ski. While I’d popped right up on two skis when I was 10. I didn’t try again until I was in my 30s. It still wasn’t difficult to get up on two skis, but I wanted to slalom. The boat driver instructed me to get up on two and then drop one off. And so it began, I’d get up on two, try to drop one, and fall. Then I’d try again…and fall. My kids thought this was both funny and boring because it went on trip after trip after trip…until I finally found my balance point. Once that happened, I quickly learned to get up on one ski. The balance point had been my limiter. Had I not stuck with the process until I found it, my choices would have been to ski on two skis or drive the boat. By finding my limiter, I eventually expanded my options.

How does this relate to cooking? It relates in the same way that it relates to anything that feels difficult to conquer – once you find the primary thing that holds you back and deal with that one thing (okay, it can be a small list of things), you will find you have more options.

I’ll give you another example. I sometimes walk in the mornings with a neighbor who is always looking for an excuse not to show up. If I put on my walking clothes & carry my shoes downstairs immediately after I get out of bed, I am 90% more likely to walk whether he shows up or not. Why? My mental limiter is having to make a trip back up the stairs. I can’t tell you specifically why that trip seems like such a big deal, but I don’t really need to understand this. As long as I know and face this fact about myself, I can make a choice that will lead to me feeling like I CAN instead of I CAN’T!

If you don’t think you can find the time to cook for yourself or your family, start observing how you feel when some informed expert gives you facts that indicate fresh food positively affects your health and you think, “I really should cook more, but I simply…can’t, don’t,”…whatever comes to mind. For me it could be: “If I cook I’ll have to clean up the kitchen & I really don’t want to do that tonight. I need some time to do nothing.”

For you it will be a unique set of limiters. Way down deep, you will feel your limit. You may feel silly about it, or ashamed, or inadequate that, if you’re me, you can’t get your mind around a single trip up the stairs. Often, we won’t let that feeling come to the surface and become a conscious thought because it makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us – especially when it seems like something small that’s impeding our progress. So instead, we remain in a kind of limbo that keeps us stuck making no progress, or if we let the thought form, spend our time beating ourselves up for having that limit. Often we construct elaborate scenarios to keep ourselves from admitting a simple truth about ourselves that we view as negative.

So, here’s the tipWhenever you feel like you just “CAN’T” cook, walk, say no, say yes, etc. – follow the path your feelings take. Let those feelings lead you to the thing that’s limiting your progress. Trust that the process will bring you insight, and insight will bring you better choices. In other words, you’ll have more choices when you embrace your limits!

August 10, 2014

What’s Happening at Cooking2Thrive

Here’s what’s happening at Cooking2Thrive…This weekend I’ve been baking bread. I have new neighbors, so I took them a warm loaf – gluten-free of course – yeasty, hearty, and multigrain. Nothing can make the smell of new paint seem more homey and inviting than the added smell of freshly baked bread.
multigrain bread

Yesterday’s bread didn’t rise quite as high as I wanted, so today I’m going to add a tiny bit more yeast, knead 2 minutes less and allow the dough to rise higher in the pan before it goes in the oven. I’ve baked bread off and on for over 30 years. Today’s exercise isn’t really necessary. I know I can play with the science, get the recipe perfect, and still the bread will vary.

Bread is affected by the temperature in the house, moisture in the air, really everything around it. The best bread is made by feeling your way through the process. Does the dough look moist enough? Should I let it rise a bit more even though I’m past the window in the recipe or does this height feel right? The more you bake, the easier it is to end up with the bread qualities you want even when you change things on the spot. Baking is as much art as it is science.

Nonetheless, we’re dedicated to providing you with recipes that are as perfect as possible. We put all of our recipes through a minimum of 3 levels of testing. The breads and crackers often go through many more rounds to get the taste, texture, and look just right. Of course that means we’re way behind where I’d like to be…way behind where I thought we’d be…in launching our full website.

So, where are we? I’m excited to say that we have several unique products produced and ready for the photo shoot that will give us images for the online store. We’re only 3 recipes away from having or first 2-pack ready to print. Our unique recipe boxes are on the shelves ready to fill with printed recipe cards. We’re designing the electronic version that you will be able to download or purchase on a credit card style USB drive. The educational portion of the site is built. We have several episodes of our cooking show edited and ready to post, and video interviews with a chef, MD, and life coach are ready as well. All of that feels great!
recipe box

And it feels frustrating. I feel like the closer I get to the home stretch, the further away I get. I’m familiar with the process. I’ve been a business owner for almost 25 years, but my other business feels more scientific. My clients originate the projects. All I have to do is finish out a narrow portion of each project in the manner that meets industry standards and pleases my clients. My timelines are based on their deadlines and they are rarely flexible. It is always a juggling act, but with a very routine flow.

This process felt totally organic in the beginning. It evolved naturally almost without effort because we could allow it to grow and evolve away from the public eye. It didn’t feel like a business. Now we’ve hit the point where other priorities enter the picture and I am struggling to get the art and science in balance. I have a vision for how I want things to happen and the sort of work environment I want to create. I know that as long as I keep baking, the bread will turn out fine. I’ll have perfect batches and I’ll throw some in the trash. It’s the process of all things creative.

And while I know that, I feel frustrated and discouraged and annoyed right now because I can’t wait to give you access and I have no idea what the real launch date will be. I feel bad that I’ve been so off on my estimated timelines up to this point. While I believe it’s important to have things working correctly when we launch, I feel like I’m letting you down somehow by taking so much time.

I am grateful for your patience, grateful that I’m excited about what we will offer you from the moment we launch, and grateful for all the hard lessons I’m learning in the process. I am – all foot stomping, silent screaming, frustrated tears included – grateful.

That’s the Cooking2Thrive update for today. How are things going with your endeavors? Feel free to share triumphs and trials below!

August 2, 2014

Why is it so hard to take care of ourselves? A Lesson from Stewart…

Why is it so hard to take care of ourselves? It’s a question I frequently ask myself. Why does it seem like too much trouble to cook dinner when I’m home alone even though I’d happily throw something together for the kids? Why will I run an errand after work for a client while my To Do list grows and grows?
Stewart

This week, I’ve been asking this question a lot. My granddog, Stewart, is staying with me for the first time. He has no problem prioritizing what he needs. When he’s hungry, he eats. When he’s thirsty, he drinks. When he wants to go for a walk, he stands at the door, looks me in the eye, and moves his head forward. When he wants to go for a ride, he runs to the car and stands by the door. If he wants to sit on my lap, he scoots my laptop with his head to make room. He glares when he’s mad. He growls and entices when he wants to play. He’s cooperative when I tell him no, but he remains clear on his goal.
eating

Yes, I know Stewart’s life is simpler than a human’s. Yes, I know that I can choose myself as a priority and say no more often, but watching Stewart proudly stride toward the gate at the Governor’s mansion during his walk as though he has total confidence that he belongs there reminds me that we all come into the world with this sort of belief – this level of presence. Then most of us learn to be less than.

Once we’ve embraced the concept of limiting ourselves, we encourage others to be less than. When they choose their truth as a priority, we often talk amongst ourselves about how they should behave differently. We call them selfish or self-centered and as a result limit ourselves to the shoulds we have bestowed upon everyone else.

Stewart has no concern about how much another dog eats, how far he can walk, whether he barks more or less. He may be curious, but it doesn’t affect how he manages his time or prioritizes his needs. He is happy to accept other dogs and other people as he experiences them in the moment. I can’t help but be struck by the simple wisdom there is in living in each moment and allowing those around us to do the same without condemnation.

I know that my choices are more complex than Stewart’s, but what decisions can I make that will bring me closer to living fully instead of as less than?

In this moment, when I am hungry I will feed myself fresh, delicious food. If I am limited on time, I will feel satisfied to eat raw fruit or vegetables, nuts, cheese, or leftovers. When I am feeling stiff, I will go for a walk or a swim. When I feel sad, I will sit with my sadness. When I feel afraid, I will not bury my fear in busyness, or a To Do list of shoulds. Instead I will sit with my fear with the confidence that it will dissipate before it consumes me.

I will accept the flaws in others because this will give me the capacity to accept those in myself. I will allow myself to be compassionate toward others when they fail me so I can feel compassion for myself when I fail. I will refuse to accept the notion that any of us are less than. I do not accept the idea that making a healthy choice limits my options. I will not use my time to make things more difficult than they are. I will humbly and strongly speak my truth secure in the knowledge that I am contributing to the collective wisdom around me. I will express gratitude because I am truly grateful.

I will practice, practice, practice because I will never be perfect. For that, I am grateful.

As always Stewart’s look says it all, “Are you crazy? I know I’m perfect!”

crazy