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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Birthday Omelets

For Justin's birthday breakfast on Sunday, I made omelets. I like how this photo shows both our similarities and differences. His breakfast is on the left, mine is on the right. I gave him the fuller cup of coffee because sometimes I get headaches from too much coffee, and I take my coffee with cream. He gets a three egg omelet, I get two eggs. He gets four strawberries, I didn't even eat the ones on my plate because I had been snacking on them while cooking (I need food right when I wake up, he can wait a bit). I take butter on my toast, he uses jam or peanut butter, even on this amazing fig-anise-walnut bread. Little differences that don't matter, but I like to observe them.

On the day before Justin's birthday we had planned to hike. It looked like thunderstorms for the afternoon, so we decided to swim together at the park pool. Then, after discovering that the forecast was not as bad as we thought, we went for our hike anyways. After three hours, I curled up in a meadow while Justin ran ahead to get the car and pick me up. This pregnant girl was very tired after! 

I also made Justin salty caramel ice cream that turned out alright, but a little sweet for my taste. And, I cleaned out his closet. When I told him cleaning out his closet was part of his birthday gift, he looked really happy. "Really?" I asked. "Are you as excited as I am?" Oh yes, he assured me, his small closet had been getting out of control for quite a while, and it will be nice to have an organized closet before school starts. I love to organize, and after I finished I proudly showed him his new and improved closet. He was pleased, though not so much as me. Sometimes I open his closet door just to admire how everything is in its place.

Do you like to make omelets for breakfast? Or even lunch or dinner? They are satisfying for any meal. And you can use up bits of vegetables, half cut onions, nubs of cheese, anything you have. I love them, as I love most egg dishes. This time around, I used golden cherry tomatoes from our garden and paired it with goat cheese. I minced onion and sauteed that first, then combined it with the egg. To top it off, I sprinkled fresh basil on top.

Instead of giving you an actual recipe for these omelets, I'm going to give you tips on how to make a great omelet, and then list winning flavor combinations.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm In Business!

It has been a long, uncertain road, but earlier this week, I launched my business. Rising Up Bakery exists. Can you believe it? I can't.

Granted, that does not mean it's successful yet. One step at a time. However, it is started, and that has to come before any success.

I sold at two markets this week, one in Northeast Baltimore (Lauraville) and the other close to my house at Druid Hill Park. In spending many hours at farmers markets, sitting at my table with my wares, I came to identify different types of customers. There's the "please don't look at me I'm not interested" type that walks briskly by and avoids eye contact. There's the "I pity you so I will try a sample, but no way will I buy anything" (this is the kind I least like). Also the "I'm interested, but don't want you to know I'm interested, because I don't want to buy anything" customer, who also tries to avoid eye contact. Then, my favorite, the "I'm interested, and I'm moving my hands toward my pockets/purse because I'm going to make a purchase."

The very first person who wandered over to my table was a man who looked like he was on drugs, or coming off them. He was muttering to himself and looked rather distressed. He came over, twice. The second time I asked how he was doing in a loud voice, and he peered at me through his fingers. "Not great," he said, as if that were obvious. He won't buy anything, I thought to myself. Then, much to my astonishment, he grabbed a bag of honey squares and said, "These look good. I'll buy a bag." (!) He peeled a five off of a roll of bills and handed it to me. I was so surprised that I forgot to give him a dollar back in change. He didn't notice, but walked away, pulled out a honey square, and ate it. You just never know.

I was all set to sell granola, but people like the honey squares better, which are like little energy bars made of honey, peanut butter, carob powder, raisins, nuts, and seeds. I will have to triple how much I make next week. The granola was not as successful as I'd hoped, but maybe the more samples I put out, the more people will consider buying it. If not, then I will change my focus to healthy snacks like the honey squares.

Day two at a different market brought a different clientele. It was set in a park, so the atmosphere was more fun, and people seemed more willing to buy. Granola sold really well, as did the ginger-fig-walnut trail mix. A demographic that surprised me is that a lot of men like granola. It seemed like more men than women bought it. One man bought the Sweet and Salty (apricot pistachio) granola and was all excited. Ten minutes later, he walks by with his kids, eating it straight out of the bag. "Man, this is gooooood! I'm about to eat this whole thing."

There are many people I have to thank for helping me get in business. I have had a lot of support along the way, and it looks like it will continue. Mainly, my husband Justin supported my decision to start a business, and did not think I was crazy when I quit my job and no longer had an income (I still don't. It will take quite a while to make a profit).

I took a fabulous business class through Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore (WEB) that equipped me to write a business plan and get started. I found a church, St. Mark's on the Hill, that was willing to provide an affordable kitchen for me to bake out of. And, my friend Gloria of Gloria Shin Designs designed a beautiful logo for my business, and put up with me and my details-minded brain.

Here is my very bare bones, needs a lot of work, website. I will add more to it and may even change the design, but just in case you wanted to know: risingupbakery.com.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cooking with the Mayor

What's that? The mayor? Yes, we had a cooking date Thursday evening. Surreal, right?

It all started with the Whitelock Community Farm, which is an urban farm a block from my house that I am involved with. For the past two years, the bountiful produce has been sold on weekends right at the farm. This year was the start of a small CSA (community supported agriculture) and expanding to another market in Baltimore. Last week, however, marked the kick-off of selling produce at a corner store in the neighborhood that is mostly frequented for sugary desserts, salty snacks, and high-fructose corn syrup laden beverages. The few canned goods it carries are dusty on the shelves.

This is a partnership and pilot program with Johns Hopkins University (read more in this article), with the goal being to deliver real food to low income neighborhoods and make it accessible. Selling the produce every day at the corner store helps make it easier for people to get fresh vegetables, especially if they don't have a car to go to the grocery store in another neighborhood. Even with a rather comprehensive bus system in Baltimore, it's difficult to lug a bunch of grocery bags back without a car.

Which brings me to cooking with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. As we planned this kick-off event, which would involve the farm, Hopkins, the city, and various other bigwigs, we decided to showcase how tasty Whitelock vegetables are. Board members volunteered to make various recipes, such as dips and quiches, so people could sample the produce. I volunteered to do a cooking demonstration using farm produce. Innocent, right?