Summer is coming

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This time of year my eating shifts.  I’m sure yours does too.  I get excited about fresh salads and lighter meals.  Tonight I made a simple Thai inspired fresh meal.  The kids enjoyed it, eating the noodles on the front steps of our house before being rushed off to evening classes.  IMG_6882.JPGTo make

Cook one package of thin rice noodles.  While they are cooking and cooling you can do the following.

Spiralize two carrots, one cucumber and four radishes

Toss vegetables with cooled rice noodles

Add Thai basil, roasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, 2 chopped green onions and salt

Toss together and add a dash of fish sauce, and then 4 tablespoons of sesame oil and 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar   At this point I always taste and then decide if I want to add a little more oil or vinegar

Since my kids don’t like spicy I served it with spicy pepper purée.   You can also add your own Asian hot sauce too, if you like, at this point

 

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Business insight

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People often ask how my business is doing. That they see our chocolate more places. I can honestly tell you that starting a businesses is the fun and easy part. It’s easy to spend money and buy equipment, create a space to work and retail out of. What’s hard is the day in and day out of making the products. Of keeping to your standards and being consistent. It’s hard to build a brand. As much as you might think your product is fantastic and others should enjoy and appreciate it. It’s hard to convince strangers of that. It’s hard to not take it personally when your friends don’t support your product and you’ve never seen them in your business. It’s hard to “sell” and not come off as pushy. It’s hard on your relationship with your spouse\biz partner. For all the hardships it’s rewarding when they pay off and it’s a lot of fun when you get to open your doors on a Saturday and serve crossiants, or invite a food truck to your location for a weekly summer party, or pack off a large order of chocolate bars to one of our retailers. This weekend marks the anniversary of two years at our small shop. It’s a great accomplishment and I’m so proud of what Tim and I have been working on.

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“Do you share your recipes?”

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Tonight I had the In laws over for a Dinner.  It seems like i haven’t cooked for a crowd in a while.  I do miss it.  It’s work but it’s also very gratifying. Cooking for me is about making something delicious and sharing it.  Its pretty basic.  It’s not about my ego.  Just really nice to be able to share my passion,  Tonight I wanted to make some Risotto.  I had Lobster Stock in the freezer just waiting for a purpose.   My Sister in law asked if I share recipes, so here you are Jenn!   The 7 year old set the table too.

Here’s  the basics for a simple Seafood Risotto This can be modified to suit your needs.  In a large pot bring about 3 litres of stock ( i used Lobster) to a boil and reduce to medium heat.  In a separate Large Pan  with deep sides sauté on high heat two finely chopped onions and Garlic.  Add about 500 grams of Arborio Rice.  Saute till Rice becomes translucent. Add two ladles of stock. Stir and let rice absorb liquid.  Continue in this fashion till ha;f the stock is used.  Add 6 cups of mixed greens (i used PC organic Kale, chard and Spinach mix).  Continue adding stock and stirring.  Grate rinds of two lemons and add juice of one.  Add a lb  raw baby scallops.  Keep stirring and adding the stock.  Add 1/3 cup chopped cilantro and 4 chopped green onions. Check to see consistency  of rice.  It should not have  a bite when it is ready.  Lastly add a lb  of cooked shrimps.  Keep Stirring. Season and serve   I served with a side of Fennel that was cooked under the broiler with olive oil, salt and pepper

 

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Meal planning

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I have always been the type of person to just go to the store and buy things. It has been the most ineffective way to feed my family. I never have the ingredients I need and I end up throwing out food. I made a decision a few weeks ago. I was going to plan meals. Look up recipes and buy what was needed for them. I wasn’t going to care about cost. I figured that I would save in the long run because there would be less waste. So far it has been a success in my home.
Maybe, I’ll even get organized enough to share my endeavors.

Lick the spatula

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There is something timeless about handing your child the big spoon. We all remember that time when our mom did this for us. For me it was the mix master beaters that my mom used to make icing. I can still recall the shape of them and the feel of them as I would wrap my little tongue around the metal. I would work at it for ever, getting every little bit of icing. As I handed Olivia the jam spatula I was taken back into time. I had to stop and just watch her enjoy.

Notes from a mom

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On Saturday I got a call from my younger sister. She recently had her second child. I could hear the distress in her voice. She had reached that point where life had changed for her and she was no longer on top. I’m not suggesting this is a bad thing but for those of us who have had more than one child you know what I’m referring to. You need to come up with a plan to make life less complicated. For many of us before children life was simple and meals were not always eaten at home. When you become a mom suddenly there is never food in the house and always a meal that needs to be made.
Here is my advice for all you moms. (Keep in mind that I am very fortunate to have a husband who loves to cook. That being said, he does not grocery shop so meal planning is up to me.)
1.Always have breakfast food on hand including stuff for smoothies and milk.
2. Always have crackers, cheese and fruit for simple lunch and snack options
3. Always have a loaf of bread or bagels in freezer
4. When shopping if you see something you enjoy on sale buy a few
5. Meal plan when you shop don’t just buy random stuff.
6. Plan on 4 dinners at a time so that you don’t overwhelm yourself with planning too many dinners.
7. Don’t freeze leftovers. I know shocker right? Good intentions that are rarely eaten.
8. Do freeze meat. If you are like me and buy quality meat at a speciality store or market buy a few different things and freeze. You can meal plan later around them.
9. When you cook make more than you need so that it can be eaten the next Day for lunch.
10. Cluster shop. Shopping can be overwhelming. Do focused shopping, like shopping for smoothie stuff or stuff for making kids lunches.
11. Have a few kids meals on hand.
12. Always have peanut butter if there are no nut allergies
13.Talk to your friends, find out what they do for meals.

I’m not suggesting that I follow these rules to a tee but I have found that when I do life seems to be more enjoyable.

Return to food

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I admit it”s been a tough three years for me. Six years ago my husband and I opened a small retail bakery in Kitchener. The first few two years were very tough,  but we stuck at it until it just wasn’t working for us. We had one child at the time,  and really wanted a second. Owning a small business means no maternity leave. The business wasn’t generating enough income for me to hire someone to work in the bakery, and for me to stay home and raise a baby.  I feel strongly about staying home and raising my children in their first few years of life.  A choice had to be made.  It was one of those life decisions that you think about forever. That “what If” decision, that still haunts me today.

We decided to sell the bakery and pursue our goal of having another child and exploring things other than food. Within a week of the sale I was pregnant and looking for work. It was really stressful and challenging to be in that position. I found a few things that gave me enough hours to qualify for ei, which was not very much in the end. My husband spent the next few years exploring things other than food. I spent my time raising our two kids and working part-time in a very rewarding food retail environment.

Last fall we realized that we really missed the food industry. We knew that we wanted to be a part of it again,  as entrepreneurs and business owners.  As a food service worker, in general you get paid very little, get no sick days, benefits or holiday pay. You work hard long hours in hot environments on your feet all day. So if you are up for it you might as well tough it out as a business owner.

We decided that we wanted to focus on wholesale. Wholesale is what got us through our first business. It would allow us to produce items when it worked for us and allow us to still spend time with our family. We were fortunate to find a small space that we could build a commercial kitchen in. It had retail zoning which gave us the idea of doing pre ordered pastry once a week using social media to gain customers. It has only been a few months and we are very happy with the response. I am excited for the future and to be part of an exciting food industry that is growing in the Waterloo region!   I feel that I am finally at peace with the loss of my first business.  Please take a minute and check out our new bakery.

http://www.ambrosiapastry.com