Archive for October, 2017

October 17, 2017

Can You Pivot?

When things don’t turn out as planned, can you pivot? Today, I thought I was going to make enchilada sauce. Over an hour into the process, I realized there was no way my combination of ancho and pasilla chiles, charred vegetables, marjoram and Mexican oregano was going to turn out like any enchilada sauce I’ve ever tasted or hoped to make. The flavors had potential, but not as the end product I’d planned.
pivot
I face similar situations regularly. No matter how meticulously I plan, things change. I can either let that throw me, or I can pivot. At those moments, I usually remember my grandmother saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Hearing that over and over let me know that it was not unusual to have to look for another solution.

Changing course is not always easy. Sometimes it requires significant physical, mental, or emotional effort. But with life throwing challenges my way, the ability to pivot has made me less wasteful, more efficient, more creative, more knowledgeable, more confident, and infinitely more resilient. This is true when I’m developing recipes, but it is also true throughout all areas of my life.

Pivoting requires engagement, flexibility and decision making. If I had been determined to end up with enchilada sauce, my efforts would have been wasted. An hour of wasted time with my current schedule can mean I must say no to lunch with a friend or rearrange anticipated down time. That would feel discouraging.

Being able to see potential in the work I’d done allowed me to make a subtle shift that turned the effort into an acceptable mole sauce that can be easily tweaked into perfection. Visualizing a different outcome is one component of a graceful pivot.

Recognizing I’m in a moment that could benefit from a shift comes even before visualization. That was pretty clear to me when adding salt didn’t head the sauce in the right direction. My taste buds called for sweet and something to mellow the bitter overtones. Honey, anise, and chocolate all fit that bill.

Connecting my taste instincts with my food knowledge led to an immediate association of the sauce on my stove and mole sauce. Exploring that thought excited me because most of the jarred mole sauce I’ve found in stores contains crackers or bread. I added a few ingredients to see if my visualized flavor profile would work as I anticipated. It did!

I recorded the changes in the recipe plus a few that I think will improve it next time. Of course, I also had to revise the dish I had planned for dinner. My enchilada pie turned into enmolada pie. It wasn’t that much of a shift and didn’t require a trip to the store.

The pivot, which included recognition of my dilemma, connection to a possible change, exploration of that change, visualization of a new end product, and implementation of the new plan, allowed me to turn a kitchen failure into a successful recipe albeit not the anticipated one.

Imagine what that did for my mood, energy level, and motivation! Instead of feeling defeated or discouraged, I felt excited about all the dishes I can make with mole. Woohoo, my mind is now moving full speed ahead!

The ability to absorb, process, and turn unfortunate events into positive momentum is what allowed a pharmacist I know to purchase and grow his pharmacy into the largest in the county seat, marry and have two beautiful children, and become a pillar of the community in spite of having had polio as a child that rendered him minimal use of his legs.

Instead of viewing his disability as something to hide, he chose to showcase his amazing upper body strength — a pivot that clearly fed positive momentum into the rest of his life. I think of his example each time I walk into his pharmacy.

A willingness to pivot is important for businesses too. If Anheuser-Busch had not reimagined its end product during Prohibition, there would most likely be no Bud Light, Franziskaner, Natty Daddy, or Rolling Rock today. Someone at Molex had to envision a future beyond flower pots and salt tablet dispensers for the company to begin to manufacture electrical appliances. We don’t always notice when a business innovates, but we certainly notice when it doesn’t. We soon become dissatisfied and move on.

It’s common to resist change. But things change whether or not we’re resistant. Hurricanes, floods, fire, and tornadoes reshape communities. Acute or chronic health problems arrive. Spouses leave. Jobs are lost. Violence touches our families. Any of these things can happen at a moment’s notice when we have done nothing wrong. It is at those moments that pivoting becomes a critical skill.

We all want to emerge from shock, trauma, loss, and grief feeling optimistic, energetic, positive, and poised for joy. We all can, but some of us don’t know that we can or don’t know how to get from A to B. That path starts with a simple pivot away from the devastation and toward the possibilities created by that devastation.

I feel fortunate that I can pivot both in and out of the kitchen, but the ability was hard earned. Some tough circumstances early in my life led me to hone this skill. While I’m not all that grateful for some of those circumstances, I am grateful for the resulting resilience. Enough so that I would encourage you to develop this skill even if you don’t see its merits right now.

Sometimes the stakes are much higher than enchilada sauce vs mole.

October 10, 2017

Trick or Treat?

halloweenIf you offer something besides candy, will the little ones think it’s a trick or treat? Halloween is swiftly approaching. I love the costumes and watching the kids. I don’t love all the candy. It’s predicted that 2.7 billion dollars will be spent on candy in the US this Halloween. That’s a lot of sugar that none of us really need.

I not opposed to occasional candy or dessert and I don’t want to take the fun out of trick-or-treating, but this year I’m going to explore some edible candy alternatives rather than giving you lists of gluten-free candy or non-candy items. After all, getting something different to eat is fun too!

ghostsGarden Veggie Ghosts and Bats

If you’re a fan of Sensible Portions® Garden Veggie Straws (which I like because they’re actually straws that you can blow air through), you’ll love Garden Veggie Ghosts and Bats! They’re crispy, salty snacks shaped like, you got it, ghosts and bats. Packaged in .05 oz bags for Halloween, these crisps have less fat than potato chips.

Popchips® Galaxy Puff’s

Who doesn’t think Darth Vader is scary? Aged White Cheddar Popchips shaped like Star Wars ships and characters are now available in .8 ounce bags perfect for Halloween. These gluten-free chips have no cholesterol and no trans-fats.

Caramel Apple Chips

Seneca 100 calorie bags of Caramel Apple Chips are gluten-free, kosher and have 30% less fat than regular chips. I like the plain apple chips, but the caramel apple flavor is a great riff on retro Halloween treats.

Popcorn Mini Bags

These look just like regular bags of microwave popcorn, but are only 1.6 ounces. Some years you can find orange and black packages especially for Halloween. Other years, it’s only the smaller size that differentiates these from regular microwave popcorn. Several brands are available online and from brick and mortar retailers.

Already Popped Corn

Snack sized bags of SkinnyPop Popcorn are GMO and preservative free. Flavors include Sea Salt & Pepper, White Cheddar, Jalapeño, and Dusted Dark Chocolate in addition to regular. If you prefer SMARTFOOD® Popcorn, the White Cheddar Cheese, Theater Butter, and SMARTFOOD Delight® Sea Salt and White Cheddar Cheese flavors are gluten-free.

popcorn ballHalloween Popcorn Balls

While we’re talking about popcorn, you may like Kathy Kaye Foods’ Halloween Popcorn Balls. This option contains sugar in a retro presentation. Remember when these were homemade? Each ball is 110 calories and 18 g of sugar. That’s the same amount of sugar as a Snickers® Miniature, but with 60 less calories and a lot more novelty.

Go-Gurt

Individual yogurt servings in an easy to carry, easy to open, package. The packages have trivia, games, and jokes on them making them fun to unpack from your trick-or-treat bag. Although each flavor contains 8 grams of sugar, it also has probiotic cultures, calcium, Vitamin D, and protein.

raisinsRaisin Mini Snacks

Wouldn’t it be great if they packaged these as monster poop for Halloween? The size is good. The raisins are sweet and healthy. The only thing lacking is themed packaging. Nonetheless, this is a good gluten-free option.

Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds

Although I love them, I hesitate to recommend nut mixes for Halloween. Seeds are an alternative to nuts. FritoLay® offers a variety pack of Spitz® Seeds in various flavors. Salted Sunflower Seeds, Chili Lime Sunflower Seeds, Cracked Pepper Sunflower Seeds, Dill Pickle Pumpkin Seeds, Dill Pickle Sunflower Seeds, Salted Caramel Sunflower Seeds, Seasoned Pumpkin Seeds, Seasoned Sunflower Seeds, Smoky BBQ Sunflower Seeds, and Spicy Sweet Chili Sunflower Seeds are all made without gluten-containing ingredients. Please note that these flavors are not made in a dedicated facility or on dedicated gluten-free equipment. Use appropriate caution.

Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos

Variety snack packs of mainstream chips are available everywhere. If you need to grab something at the last minute, this can be an easy option. Avoid Sun Chips and stick with the gluten-free flavors of Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos, and Lays Potato Chips.

I realize that some of these options may be more expensive than what you’re used to buying. Keep in mind that most of them are bulkier than mini candy bars, so children are less likely to grab a handful meaning you won’t need to buy as much to begin with.
food group
If you live in a neighborhood like mine where many children are food insecure, you can also think of this as a way to reduce hunger in your community. Spend a little more and give fruit and vegetable pouches or individual cups of applesauce, mandarin oranges, peaches, or pineapple. Put a box of raisins and an individual serving packet of peanut butter in a plastic bag (you may only want to give these to older children who can monitor their own allergies) for a do-it-yourself sandwich kit. Include individual cups of salsa along with corn chips. Give instant oatmeal cups, individual bowls of Cheerios, microwaveable brown rice, or pouches of tuna.

If you decide to give substantial food items, but don’t want kids to feel awkward about taking them, get some Halloween treat bags (Oriental Trading has a good selection) or create your own Boo Bags using brown paper bags, bag up the food and hand out the bags instead of individual items. The surprise factor will entice. Hungry kids will be appreciative. Any child who is disappointed will get plenty of candy from other homes.

Getting something different to eat is fun! Getting something gluten-free is special when you’re gluten intolerant. Getting something nutritious to eat is critical! I let this be my guide to trick or treat.

https://www.sensibleportions.com/en/products/ghosts-bats-garden-veggiechips/

http://www.sunmaid.com/products-details/raisins.html

http://shop.popchips.com/Galaxy-Puffs-Multipack/p/POP-218142&c=PopChips@GalaxyPuffs

https://www.amazon.com/Seneca-Apple-Chips-Caramel-Ounce/dp/B004981WJW/ref=sr_1_7_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1507647315&sr=8-7&keywords=seneca%2Bapple%2Bchips&th=1

https://www.skinnypop.com/our-popcorn/

http://www.smartfood.com/

https://kathykayefoods.com/collections/kathy-kaye-popcorn-balls/products/kathy-kaye-halloween-popcorn-ball

https://www.snickers.com/Nutritional-Info#SnickersMiniatures

https://www.gogurt.com/tube/

https://fritolayvarietypacks.com/home

http://www.fritolay.com/snacks/special-dietary-needs/us-gluten-free-products-and-products-not-containing-gluten-ingredients.htm

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/booooooooo-gluten-free-halloween-candy/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/halloween-treats-dont-candy/

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.”

October 3, 2017

Fun with Food – Edible Books

farewell
You don’t need to have a food fight to have fun with food! This weekend, I checked out the local library’s Edible Book Contest. You may have one of these events near you. Ours was in conjunction with Banned Book Week.

Each entry in the contest is an edible representation of a book cover and is displayed along with a copy of the book. At our event, anyone who attended got to vote on the winner. Your local contest or festival may work differently, but what can be the same is having some fun with food!

Entering one of these contests can be a great family activity! The kids can choose a book, determine the materials, and help you cook and/or decorate. It’s a good way to learn that collaboration can make an end product even better than you could imagine on your own. Not to mention, it’s just fun to put a sword in the hand of a lemon to represent Lemonade Wars, or turn raisins into flies for Lord of the Flies.

Your entry doesn’t have to be a straightforward representation of the book. It can be a clever play on words. Think: Who Moved My Cheesecake (Who Moved my Cheese), War and Peas (War and Peace), The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (hot dog), In Search of Scones (In Search of Stones), Hop on Pop (soda), Green Eggs and Spam (Green Eggs and Ham), Atlas Shrugged (a book of maps wearing a short sweater), or A Confederacy of Brunches (A Confederacy of Dunces) all made of food, or course.

We saw the simplest of simple – A Raisin in the Sun represented by a sun made of stacked sunflower seeds outlined with a bead of bright yellow icing with a single raisin sitting on it — to a lavishly constructed fondant rendition of Atlas Shrugged. While I appreciate the skill that went into the pulled sugar ice forms on A Song of Fire and Ice and the variety of materials used to illustrate Matilda, I preferred the simplicity of ham on top of an omelet for Hamlet, and the cleverness of a full pan of cheesecake next to an empty pan with a mouse asking who moved his cheesecake for Who Moved My Cheese. In the end, Who Moved My Cheesecake got my vote.

I don’t know who won the contest. I got distracted by the chocolate samples in the next room. Besides that, it wasn’t about choosing a winner as much as enjoying the creativity and coming up with ideas I might want to try.

There was a moment when I saw a book on a pedestal without an edible entry. I think the participant hadn’t shown up, but it made me wish I’d entered the contest with the book The Emperor’s New Clothes and nothing at all to represent it.

I guess that’s the point of all of this anyway. I like to laugh. I want more laughter in the kitchen, in my home, and in my social activities. If fun with food can make me laugh, then I’m all for it!

https://www.pinterest.com/staleylibrary/edible-book-festivals/

https://www.library.illinois.edu/ediblebooks/

http://swpaf.org/projects/edible-book-festival/

http://hendersonlibraries.com/edible-book-contest

http://news.lib.berkeley.edu/2017/04/19/edible-book-festival-results/

http://wnybookarts.org/5th-annual-edible-book-festival/

http://www.shorelinearts.net/event-program/edible-book-festival/

http://ncn21.com/state-news/edible-book-festival-arrives-at-the-kearney-library/

https://www.rochesterpubliclibrary.org/my-rpl/edible-book-festival#ad-image-0