Life’s Mise en Place: Gratitude

The French term mise en place (meez ahn plahs) literally means “everything in its place.” In the culinary world, it means gathering and prepping the ingredients needed for cooking. It also includes going a step further and includes assembling the tools and equipment needed to cook them. The concept is simple: A chef should have at hand everything needed to prepare and serve food in an organized and efficient manner.

There is a popular saying, “If you stay ready you ain’t gotta get ready.” I have always liked that quote. Number one, it makes complete sense. Number two, a person can say it in a loud voice with great enthusiasm and it is usually received as motivation by whoever is in earshot. I have found it makes people want to get up and do something!

I have spent the past few days in silence. Not because I really want to; merely because there is not much to say. I cannot say there was a lot to do, because I thought I had done as much as I could until given my next steps. The steps I had taken clearly did not align with my plans (least not in full) because I found myself in the same place. Literally. Time to retrace my steps and see what happened. Joy.

In the culinary world, mise en place differs in every position, and definitely from restaurant to restaurant. A banquet chef’s work may differ every night, while a sauciers work in a restaurant is more than likely identical night after night. A personal chef’s mise en place is dependent upon what the client needs during their time together and might vary day to day. Regardless of the number of items needed or the complexity of the recipes being prepared, the focus of mise en place requires careful planning, efficient organization and attention to detail.

Usually when unexpected silence comes my way, I try listening very closely to what is being said. I also try listening and comparing things to the culinary world, because it sheds a new perspective on how to handle tasks (or gives me more to do.) I find myself eager to do anything connected to food because it is a joy to be around it. I’m generally a Chatty Cathy, so when I have nothing to say (especially when I should) life sure does. Today Life screamed at me: JOY. THANKSGIVING. TRUST. 

I am in a place where my life’s transition has been met with a serious attitude check. More than one chapter was being closed, an entire volume is complete. I had not complained about the tasks given, for the goals and next volume is an exciting one. When I found myself missing out on the first stop of the next phase, I had to reevaluate things quickly; and since I had completed the necessary steps all that was left was my attitude. I cannot take with me the same feelings I had in the last chapters. They were pained, disappointed and cautious. I wrote a book to place everything there and leave it in an honest and respectful way. What I forgot to do was replace those feelings with something else, so that they would not come back. Feelings such as joy. Thanksgiving. Trust. 

If there is one thing I do know is the more prepared in the culinary world, the better. When something goes awry, or a situation occurs that one has zero experience in, at least they are as prepared as can be. Allowing the chance to operate quickly and with a clear head. The same thing can be said about life; it dishes out an incredible amount of ‘entrees’ for us to sample. Some taste good, others lack flavor. Some days you may want to spit out what’s been given without a second thought, while other times you may find yourself trying to develop the flavors and richen the experience. The lesson I have found is to approach life with my own mise en place: An ounce of joy, a dash of thanksgiving…a sprinkle of trust. Gratitude. So when something tastes sour, I don’t have to spend longer than necessary adjusting my attitude- I was ready. And who am I kidding? The more gratitude, the better. Sprinkle that $hit everywhere.   🙂

From My Pot to Yours,

The Smitten Chef ❤

 

Follow the roads and signs that will take you places!

IMG_9340 Iceland Road Leading To 2016.JPG

 

 

 

A Letter to My Sister: Goodbyes Sprinkled with Hellos 

Hello Sister,

Today marks one year since you passed away. I thought I was going to be curled in a ball all day, but you have not allowed that. I also thought I would have plenty to say, however the words that started my day ended up being silenced and turned into action steps. Everywhere I went I could feel you. Then I remembered a quote by Rumi which says: goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation. It was this quote which opened the door for so many wonderful thoughts to share with you.

1. Everywhere I go, a butterfly follows me. Most days it is the same yellow and black one; the other days I just laugh thinking about your love for costumes & welcome your change of clothes. 

2. Whenever I go to the coffee shop, they play songs we used to jam to. What’s even better is when it is your turn to sing, a random customer nearby is humming your favorite parts. 

3. I saw what you did there by the mailbox…blooming overnight. Showing me it is truly possible to do in the most subtle way, while encouraging my own growth. The flowers look lovely. 🌺

4. Thank you for giving me a different reason to count the hours this week. 

5. You have caused me to open my eyes to life and take everything around me in. I search for you, and in my findings so many unattractive things are now beautiful in their own way. 

6. Today, Prince passed away. 

7. Sometimes memories of you sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks. Don’t fret, some moments are sheer laughter.

8. The word of today is litany. The first definition says it is a prayer consisting of a series of invocations and supplications by the leader with alternate responses by the congregation. In my personal litany, I speak of all the great ways you touched my life and influenced those around you to be our very best. I whisper thank you. 

9. In full effort of remaining odd and cracking lame jokes, I marry the two by stopping this list now with a riddle I told the Awesomes. “I just ate a piece of cheese…it was soooo gooood;ahhhhh! Can you guess the kind by my reaction?!” (Babygirl guessed, but I’m certain the other two ignored me on purpose.) Answer is Gouda. 😂😂😂

There is an anonymous quote on friendship that says, “A friend who understands your tears is much more valuable than a lot of friends who only know your smile.” My ideal would be to not have ever said goodbye to you with my eyes, but only a friend like you would take my tears and understand how to awaken my soul to find your new “Hellos.” Fly High Sweets. You are missed. 

Purple Will Always Reign,

The Smitten Chef 💜

 

* When we used to search for the softest clouds. *
 * Bloom where you are planted. *

* An inverted picture of the mailbox flowers that I love! *  

A Letter to My Sister: Timing 

“Listen more often to things than to beings.” -Sweet Honey in the Rock

Hey T-Lady,

WordPress notified me the last time I posted a blog was in October. Shame on me; I have had plenty to say. I’m sure all my bleeding journals agree. I was walking the other day and tried to interpret time. How it is measured and is it accurately depicted in said moments? We are all given the same 24-hours, so why do some days ‘fly by’ and others drag along? It is in my walks time manages to stand still in a way I understand and can relate to. I surely appreciate a clock but certain moments, thoughts and actions even defy those. Nevertheless, let me fill you in on things that have filled this six month gap of space. 

1. Dad has been learning and studying how to photograph the stars and moon. He posts them on Facebook under a title, “Learning to photograph the heavens.” His shots are great (but we knew that), and the title always make me think he is photographing upclose bites of what you see. 

2. The other day it took me well over 45 minutes to clean the blender to my standards. I have now dedicated and labeled a toothbrush as its Secondary Blade Cleaner. It is capitalized because there are instructions to the usage of it. Your brothers think I am a gem (not) and I can totally picture you cringing upon me showcasing this to you to as if I discovered gold. Your kids? They’re going to love me too, hehehe. ❤️

3. Speaking of your brothers, they have come to me at random to share stories of coincidences…they then walk away saying that there really aren’t any, it is just ‘divine timing.’ 😊

4. Speaking of timing, your birthday and our writing buddies birthday are one another’s half birthdays! Coincidence? I think not. 

5. I have been studying food theories and must say I LOVE IT!  Absolutely fascinated by it. Totally worth making a spreadsheet/PDF of my findings and incorporating it into the business. There is one called the Ayurveda diet (it’s a lifestyle but there’s a food portion to it as well) that makes me think of you. I feel it would’ve served you well; then again, so would anything that vindaloo falls into alignment with. 😊

6. The word of today is vagary. It means “an odd or eccentric idea or action.” Can people live their lives as vagaries?!? It comforted me. 

7. I cannot WAIT to hang with the girls in California! Beaches, spas, great food, better company. Every experience with them lifts my spirits. I already know my hairstyle and nail polish color. Ha!

8. I made a face mask for the past three nights! 1TBSP honey, 1/2 organic lemon. Put my face over a bowl of hot water to open my pores before placing the mask on. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Rinsed with warm water to remove the mask, then patted my face down with cold water to close my pores. My skin feels amazing! I did it because I had pimples and even those are silky smooth. Gives an entirely new meaning to when we would say, “Lemme eat your face.” 😂😂😂

9. Some days I am a vegan, other days a full blown carnivore. It is the moments in between I’ve learned not to judge anyone- listen to your body. 

10. My photography has gotten better! I still have zero idea of this photo jargon, but I’m hoping to have nailed it before capturing the Northern Lights!

11. Two words: Dierks Bentley. How I missed this gorgeous specimen I do not know; but you can bet several dollars I’ll know at least one of his songs by my birthday! #GoodGracious #HeIsSoHandsome #IWantedAReasonToHashtagSomethingAndThisIsIT! 

I went for a walk about two Tuesday’s ago. This particular tree had bare branches. On Wednesday, it had two or three white flowers on it. By Thursday, the entire tree had blossomed. The following week, this past Thursday to be exact, it had shed its petals and was GREEN through and through! I caught the news that day and they spoke on how fast plant life was developing in patterns we have decided for nature. I am in no way an expert on plant life nor snub scientific discoveries, but having watched the transformation of the tree everyday from a nature lovers perspective, I feel it was in direct alignment and timing of what it was placed on this earth to do: BLOOM. Only time frame it followed was Mother Nature’s. Imagine that. 

I miss you Butterfly! 

Everything is Everything,

The Smitten Chef. 🌟🌟🌟

***Below are some photos I took during these walks.***
   
  The bird let me get within a hands reach! So cool.  

📝 A Letter to My Sister 💜

Hello Love,

I was just watching an episode of TED Talks. This gentleman spoke on positive psychology and how he studies the links between happiness and success. I won’t butcher his lecture/information by trying to quote him, but I will tell you about one section of things people could do to participate and “train our brain.” He gave the assignment to do five things everyday for 21 days:

1. 3 Gratitudes: (different ones each day cause the brain to get in the habit of scanning the world for the positive instead of the negative first.)
2. Journaling: writing about one positive experience that has happened in the past 24 hours causes the brain to relive a happy moment. 
3. Exercise: it teaches our brain that our behavior matters. (I loved that.) 
4. Meditation: allows our brain to learn how to focus on the task at hand. (Which is a beauty since our society praises multi-tasking.) 
5. Random Acts of Kindness: praising or thanking somebody in our social support system. 
I loved his presentation and felt if I wrote you, I could do all five at once. It has also always been easiest to talk with you.  I then used typing as “exercise,” laughed hysterically and began squatting while typing. I lost my balance and figured I will do 4 of the 5, thereby proving meditating on what to say to you should in fact be my only goal.😄

1. I am thankful for the weather. I am thankful for silence. I am thankful for chocolate. 

2. I have been very quiet since you passed away. There’s not much to say & when there is, I want it to be of importance. Plus, not many get my humor. Jokes are even less funny when you have to remind people to laugh! 

3. Speaking of funnies, I tried sharing hilarious memes with others. It wasn’t the same, so now I keep them in a treasure box of randomness I will share with you when we meet again. 

4. In an effort to be romantic, I asked a gentleman his favorite color. He answered, “The color of money.” Probably the worst color for cookies, but he stole my heart nonetheless with his answer. 🙌

5. I have a newfound culinary admiration! I call him my virtual mentor. (BTW, Chef S is currently doing his thing around the country and it is so wonderful and inspiring to see!) This chef I recently discovered is named Eric Ripert. He is from France & went to culinary school there, but now lives in NYC and is one of the greatest chefs. His flagship restaurant is named Le Bernardin, which I believe opened in 1986, specializing in seafood and is in the heart of the city. He and the restaurant have won so many awards and he has also gone on to open other dining establishments; but what stands out to me is his humility & passion for culinary arts. I also enjoy his uniquely elegant approach to cuisine, and also being child-like in his learnings yet still being able to explain proper classical techniques. . .I found out about him from re-reading Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential. There he mentioned Chef Ripert (something along the lines of how Chef Ripert wouldn’t be calling him for ideas on tomorrow’s fish special) and I put the book down and began my research. I am still learning, but he is fantastic, and extremely talented. And get this shit: THEY ARE SUPER GOOD FRIENDS NOW! Chef Ripert called him and as Mr. Bourdain said, “Things were different, boy, I could see that now. My heroes were calling me up.” 😊 The entire moments that lead me to finding him are a beauty. I actually watch television now too because of him, ha! God is funny. 

6. I found the land of love. I’ve landed…love still eludes me. Or perhaps I’m not great at expressing it. We shall see. 

7. On your birthday, the word of the day was xeric. It means characterized by, relating to, or requiring only a small amount of moisture. 

8. Culinary wise, it has been very difficult to get back into the kitchen. All kitchens. So I have found ways around being in the kitchen yet still lovin’ on food. I think you’ll be proud of my decisions and shifted goals, but I hope that when it all comes together, I will be able to share my love and knowledge of food in the way you & I shared our professions with one another: with genuine enthusiasm, wildly entertaining and with respect of the craft while dishing out relevant/relatable information. 

9. Imagine a WORKING lottery ticket. Yasssss. 

10. The world is a lot colder with you not here. The thought of you warms me up. You are missed. 
The last portion of the exercise was random acts of kindness. Send a thank you letter, email or call someone and tell them how wonderful you think they are or they made you feel. So I will close with this photo I took about a month ago. Our brother’s birthday I believe, but don’t quote me on that. I saw some purple shooting through the sitting room window, ran outside and looked up: A RAINBOW! Where the hell did it come from?! Grabbed my camera, took some shots and then as the sunset, grabbed me another. I like to think it was you. So here I am. Thanking you for your random act of kindness. You’re a beaut & I am grateful. 

*Italy’s been calling me every night. It whispers, “Hey Sicily!” 😂🙏😂* 

Until We Meet Again, 

The Smitten Chef 😘
  


     
 

Rebuild Me. 🙏

Top of the Morning to You Food Lovers!

It is 3:13 in the morning and a FRYday…my favorite day of the week. I am up trying to make food label templates. So far, no good. It’s okay though, because during a coffee break I decided to log into my blog. It has been one hell of a year. From breaking through an alcohol stronghold to losing several loved ones in a couple of months, a minor slap in the face was not being able to write. I didn’t have writers block…I just had no access to the actual blog. Minor in the grand scheme of things, major in some moments because I needed to go back and read some of the writings for specific reasons. I thought the entire blog was gone. After completely leaving it alone for months, something nudged me to try again; and here we are. Sweet. 🙂

I don’t have much to say these days; I more so sit and listen to what is being said to me. All I know is that I am grateful for this day and the people who are in my life. I have shed a lot of toxic energy in the forms of people, places and actions. It has made room for more love and guiding lights. Less unneccessary competition and all other types of B.S. in between. My life has been forever altered and my heart and mind are working on ways to properly heal. I am learning new things while breaking old habits. Some days are spent under covers drenched in tears, while other days angels are pushing me out of the bed shouting, “Get up! I will help you.” Each day is real though. Winston Churchill said it best: if you’re going through hell, keep going.

It’s good to be back. No need to start over; just rebuilding my strength. My hope is that this finds you well.

May The Spirit of Your Mind Be Blessed,

The Smitten Chef  🙏🍷🙏

 

🙏🙏🙏

 

Kiwi Lotus Flower: A Tribute to Sam Cooke 🎤

…Hey Food Lovers!

Today marks the birthdate of the late and forever great Mr. Sam Cooke. I woke up this morning, whispered a hello and sent my friends the blog I wrote about him in 2013. About one year after I wrote that entry, my goal was to either add a recipe to each blog, a food photograph I was proud of, or both. It was already in my mind not to write about him again in detail because I still feel the same way. So I decided to choose one simple item, photograph it and perhaps send you to a link I listen to of his famous song, “A Change is Gonna Come” upon close.

I chose kiwis (also known as kiwifruits & Chinese gooseberries) as my photography source. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked! They are one of my favorite fruits; easy to eat, sweet, and small enough to bring places when on the go. And they are BEAUTIFUL!!! Reminds me of paradise, the colors contrast naturally and without competition. Not to mention when I opened up the fridge there were two staring directly at me. 😉

So I got my camera out. Looked for good lighting. Thought about the angle I wanted to capture- emphasis on the fuzzy brown skin and bright green fleshy inside. Wondered if it needed a prop; a napkin or a spoon? Took a few photos…assessed the depth of field to what my mind was envisioning. Then in the midst of my critique I remembered Mr. Cooke: and I knew capturing the moment was all I needed to do. The rest is up to the audience to enjoy.

I present to you, a kiwi lotus flower! My first time making one. My first time making any fruit into a piece of art. I had fun trying. Thanks to Mutita EdibleArt on YouTube, for the tutorial and inspiration.

To Paradise,

– The Smitten Chef 🍴💋

The inverted version; because the purple looked pretty.

 

My Kiwi Lotus Flower

 

QUICK SMOOTHIE RECIPE:

Ingredients:

• 1 banana, peeled & chopped
• 5-7 strawberries, tops removed
• 1 kiwi, peeled
• 1/2 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
• 3/4 cup pineapple/orange juice

Directions:

1. Place the banana, strawberries, kiwi, frozen yogurt, and pineapple/ orange juice blend in a blender. Blend until smooth.

2. Enjoy!

Sautéed Kale…with Beer?

Happy FryDay Food Lovers!

I have always wondered what kale would taste like if beer was added to it…this week I did 2 tests and guess what? I love it! Whilst I already fancy kale, it is beer that I don’t drink. I do use it for marinades and thought kale would be a great stepping stone for possibly marinating veggies or just a new flavor for people who want a new twist on the green.

It worked! I didn’t measure anything, but what I did notice was how fast the leaves dissipated once the beer was added to the pan. What I was hoping would be three servings, turned into one…the good news is if this happens to you, just add more chopped kale to the pan and voilà: you’re back to being able to share. 😉👍

Let me know if you try this, or use a different beer. I am not too familiar with brands of ales, but I do know the flavors range like wines, so I will include the specific one I used. My favorite thing about this dish is the fact that no meat was added to it for flavoring.

INGREDIENTS:

• 1 TBSP of Olive Oil

• 1/2 red onion

• 3 garlic cloves, chopped as fine as you’d like.

• Sprinkle of crushed red peppers

• 1/2 bag of Kale (I used half the bag of the precut and bagged type)

• 6 oz. Heineken Beer (I used the one from the bottle)

• Agave nectar, optional.

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat large sauté pan with olive oil on medium high heat.

2. Add the red onions, garlic and red peppers to the pan. Stir frequently and until all sides become a nice golden brown.

3. Turn stove down to medium. Add the kale into pan, one handful at a time. Stir until it cooks down; add another handful. Repeat process until all kale is added.

4. Add beer to pan. Cook until greens get tender and a large portion of the beer is absorbed into the kale.

5. Taste the greens: if too bitter, add a few drops of agave nectar to the mix and keep cooking. If the greens are still too chewy for you, add your liquid of choice: water, broth or more beer.

* What I learned: if you completely cook the greens down to where there’s no more beer in the pan, it makes for double sautéing. Nice accident & those greens were used for a pesto pasta salad! *

Worth A Try,

The Smitten Chef 🍴😉

2015/01/img_6738.jpg

2015/01/img_6812.jpg