Gratitude

These past few weeks gratitude has been on my mind heavily. To me gratitude is overlooked. We tend to focus on the failures never really appreciating the journey that takes us to our destination. These days I have a lot to be grateful for. The one thing that I am most appreciative of is my life’s story. I’ve shared a piece of my story in the #lovenotes mission statement (see website). The whole reason that I began the campaign is because I have lost a best friend to suicide. I went through a really rough period in my life where I also felt that suicide was an escape. Today, I am grateful that I am alive and able to tell my story to help others.

In terms of my own life’s struggles, I am glad that they existed. I had a rough life, I survived where others generally don’t. I am grateful that my life’s experiences have developed a warrior’s spirit within me. I have overcome the victim mentality which has helped tremendously in being resilient through adversity, something that I face daily as an entrepreneur. Lately I have about 3-4 events a week and do not have a car. Public transportation in this city is not the greatest. I have been relying on amazing people to help me get by. I did not have a phone for about 2 weeks, in this business it’s hard to respond to customers and confirm meetings without one. The difficulties have been tough, but not once did I miss a meeting, a deadline, or an event. When you are grateful for what life has to offer you can get through anything.

All too often we fall into this happiness trap. The idea that we are supposed to be happy all of the time. Constant happiness is a fallacy. We experience an array of emotions as a human. These experiences and emotions allow us to truly feel happiness when it does occur. Yes, it is easier to sit around, sulk and play the woe is me game but that’s now how we grow. Real growth is when you stand up in the face of adversity and say, “Not today, I will not be Defeated. I will Survive.”

Despite whatever circumstances you are facing, there are plenty more to be grateful for. Put some gratitude in your attitude and watch the world around you change. Take some time today to stop and smell the flowers, unless they are edible, then eat them!

“You’re only as good as your mentors” Robert G Allen

The people whom you habitually associate with are called your “reference group” and these people determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life. The most significant factor in any person’s environment is the people. We become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most. If you change nothing else in your life for the better than that, you will have increased your chances of success tenfold. Think long and hard about whom you are spending the most time with, for wherever they are headed so are you. In other words “Too many Urkels on your team that’s why your wins low.”

When it comes to growth we tend to think that the journey is traveled best alone but this is far from the truth, not if you want to reach your full potential. We can’t get where we want to go on our own. We need the help of others to guide us on our way. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, it means that you are strong. It’s imperative that you surround yourself with people with more experience than you so that they can help you reach their level. You can learn only if others are ahead of you, which makes it well worth the discomfort. Always ask questions. “The questions that you ask are far more important than the things that you could ever say.”-Elmer Wheeler.

I’ve met many people on my life’s journey and they have all impacted me in some way. In the past I would let toxic people into my life. People who wanted to use me and take advantage of me. People who didn’t have my best interest at heart but theirs. As I continued down my path of self-growth, I began to be more protective of myself and who I associated with. If they aren’t adding value to your life, they don’t need to be in it.

Recently I had an altercation with someone I thought was a good friend. In this moment they tried to demean me, talk down to me and devalue me. They said things like, “You aren’t that special.” “Who do you think you are?” among other negative things. I told them that I am special and I know my worth and I won’t accept the negative talk from them because I don’t even accept it from myself. This person had offered me a ride home because the bus stopped running, then had the audacity to try and speak negatively on me. These are the kind of people that I no longer wish to associate with. They are a waste of time and energy. They are energy suckers. They want to bring you down to their level of insecurity, don’t fall into the trap.

Surround yourself with positive people. People who will support you. People who cheer you on. People who will be there for you when times get rough. People who will promote you. People who will uplift you. Loyalty is hard to come by these days but find someone who is loyal and maintain that relationship. I have significantly changed who I associate with and the growth has been tremendous. Most of my current friends are my mentors. Seek the people who will help you grow and don’t let squares into your circle.

Make everyday your masterpiece

One of the fundamental keys to success is time management. Time is one of the most valuable resources as once it’s lost its gone forever. How we choose to use our time has a direct effect on everything that we accomplish. Staying organized helps significantly. You either run the day or the day runs you. Every hour of my day is planned out months in advance, meetings, clients, writings, emails, events, family time. I personally like to use Google Calendar, to stay organized.

I once read that in terms of an 8 hour work day, “Everything that you have to accomplish at work should be able to be done within those 8 hours.” Which is true. When you learn to prioritize your time and make it work for you, the possibilities of what you can accomplish are endless.

The biggest factor in terms of time management is EFFICIENCY. When we work efficiently we accomplish a whole lot more. All too often we try to “multi-task” and fail epically. Every. Single. Time. The problem is that we cannot fully engage in two tasks at once. One of the tasks will receive less attention.

We have to schedule our priorities. I always select one task that I MUST accomplish no matter what, that is typically my priority for the day. Then I follow my commitment to myself, self-growth. On a typical day I allocate 3 hours to reading. 1 in the morning and 2 at night before bed, or I accomplish a majority of my reading while on the bus. Generally multi-tasking is inefficient but it works in this case, what else would I be doing? The other 11 hours are used to their best benefit. I prioritize by allotting a certain amount of time per project, whether it is prepping for an event, writing a blog post, or cooking for a client. I plan my day according to what needs to get done. I set a time limit for each project. I figure out how long I think it will take then I add an additional 30 minutes to an hour depending on the level of difficulty required just to be safe.

When we prioritize we factor out all the bullshit. Once you begin to prioritize your time you will see how much is wasted on minor things that probably are not doing anything to help you reach your goals anyway. Let’s be realistic, balance is also important. We can’t be all work all of the time but when you prioritize your time, you have more time for yourself. I schedule at least one task a day that I enjoy doing, swimming, hiking, listening to music.

I first learned the value of time while working in the kitchen. Time is very important, everything you prep, cook, plate and clean in a kitchen has to be done with efficiency and that is achieved by prioritizing. You almost have to plan every move to make sure that you are operating with the highest level of efficiency. If you need to grab two things at once you always reach for them with both hands simultaneously. If you don’t manage your time in prep or cooking you can quickly put yourself in the weeds and bring the entire line down.

I also learned to be punctual in the kitchen. It is better to be two hours early then one minute late. Typically you are expected to be in the kitchen dressed and ready to go 15 minutes before your shift. When you have a pre-shift meeting it is pretty obvious when you are late. When everyone comes back from family meal to scrub the floor before dinner service, it is obvious when you are late. Being late also shows a lack of respect.
When it comes to achieving your goals prioritize your day put first things first and make your everyday your masterpiece.

Cold Soba Salad

This week has been quite the challenge. We launched our #LOVENOTES Suicide Prevention Campaign this past Monday. I generally don’t like to plan events and sale food because it is a lot of work. I had some people cancel on me and had to come up with something with less than 24 hour notice. I wanted to do something nice and easy so I could focus on ensuring the event ran smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves.
I had planned on covering sautéed cucumbers as a technique this month, as we generally associate cucumbers with being raw. However, they are delicious cooked. Summers in Texas can be extremely hot. At times you want something nice, light and refreshing. I have a passion for Asian Food, specifically Japanese Food. I decided that I was going to make a cold Soba for the campaign launch and what better way to utilize the cooked cucumbers.
I love Asian Cuisine because there is so much depth to the flavor of the food yet everything is fresh, natural and light. For this salad, I precooked the Soba Noodles, sautéed the vegetables in a wok, then tossed everything in a white miso peanut dressing.

Soba Noodles
Soba is a Buckwheat Noodle it can be gluten free but sometimes flour is added to help with elasticity. Typically it is found dry in specialty grocery stores. I have only seen it made fresh when I was working at NOBU. The art of Soba as with any pasta is a beauty. You have to be calm and relaxed, it’s almost as if the noodle can sense your frustration and anxiety and absorbs it. Traditional Soba is served cold with a side of dashi, but I decided it to make this one into a salad for easier serving. Plus it’s delicious.
To make the Soba you bring water to a boil and add salt until it tastes like ocean water as with regular noodles. This allows the pasta to absorb the flavor of the salt. Dry soba cooks in about 5 minutes, it’s pretty quick. Stir immediately to prevent sticking. You want to have some ice water nearby to shock the noodles and stop the cooking. Soba has a lot of starch, it’s recommended that you rinse it a few times to remove it, this prevents the gumminess. I like to toss the soba in a little bit of sesame oil to prevent sticking. Use a small amount as sesame oil is very strong.

Vegetables
I began with the Bok Choy as it takes longest to cook. Bok Choy is a member of the cabbage family. I like to sauté it to start the cooking process then let it steam to finish. The leaves cook fast but you want the root to be nice and tender as well. Separate the leaves from the stem. Sautee the stems first, once tender add in the leaves, a drop of water and let them steam to finish. Once the Bok Choy is done, remove from the wok and reserve.

As with most cooking you want to add depth to the dish by cooking in layers, building upon the foundation of the previous ingredients. This allows the flavors to come together a lot better. I then started with sautéed fresno peppers, once they were nice and soft I added freshly chopped ginger. This method also leaves a nice flavor on the pan to build that foundation of flavor.

Next I threw in the cucumbers until they were cooked but not too soft, then you add in the green onions until they get soft and pliable. Last I added fresh daikon as you still want the crunch but some of that rawness to be removed from the residual heat. Cool all the vegetables and toss in with your noodles. Finish with the dressing, pour the dressing around the side of the bowl not on top of the noodles. If you pour dressing directly on top it will make the noodles soggy. A bowl works best as it allows you to fully incorporate and toss the ingredients in.

Garnish with sliced scallion bottoms and wakame.

White Miso Peanut Dressing
Miso is one of my favorite ingredients to make a dressing with. Umami is the flavor profile that I enjoy the most. For this particular dressing you really only need a few of the Japanese pantry staples: Miso, Rice Wine Vinegar, Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, and some Sugar (you can also use Honey or Agave). I like to start with the base which is most forgiving, the Peanut Butter. I add in a little miso as the flavor is pretty strong. I balance the flavor with rice wine vinegar for acid, soy sauce for the salt, sesame oil for that depth and sugar or sweetener of your choice. I like to encourage people to experiment, learn and develop their palettes on their own. So I will not include the recipe for this particular dressing but experiment and create a dressing that you enjoy.

Cold Soba Salad
1# Soba Noodles
2 Fresno Peppers- sliced
1 2” Piece Ginger- finely diced
2 Heads Bok Choy- Leaves and Stem separated
2 Cucumbers- We used Row 7 Experimental Cucumbers you can sub with Kirby or (1) Hot House
1 Bunch Scallions- Greens 2” sticks, Whites sliced and reserved for garnish
1 cup Daikon- Julienned
Wakame- Julienned
White Miso Peanut Dressing

Pickling Cucumbers

Pickling Cucumbers

The exact origins of pickling are unknown, but the practice has been around for thousands of years, dating as far back as 2030 BC when cucumbers were pickled in the Tigris Valley of Mesopotamia. The word “pickle” comes from the Dutch “pekel” or northern German “pókel”, meaning “salt” or “brine”— both very important components in the pickling process. Pickling originated as a preservation method.

While you can pickle almost anything from Beets to Swiss chard stems to Strawberries, for the sake of this month’s theme we will focus solely on cucumbers. Pickles are created by immersing fresh fruits or vegetables in an acidic brine, a typical ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar. The cucumbers sit in the liquid until they are no longer considered raw or vulnerable to spoilage.  Cucumbers commonly come to mind when we think of pickles.

Pickled cucumbers are often lacto-fermented in a saltwater brine. During this process, lactic microbial organisms develop, which turn the naturally occurring sugars of foods into lactic acid.

The recipe below is a simple guide, but the flavor of pickling brine is versatile as long as you maintain the 2:1 ratio of water to vinegar. Once you get the hang of it, you can interchange the vinegar, sugar and spices to fit the flavor profile of your choice. Glass jars work best when pickling cucumbers as the flavor of the brine is absorbed in plastic.

Vinegar: Vinegar is important in the preservation of the Cucumbers because the acidity makes it impossible for the food to spoil. Choose light bodied vinegars as the acid intensifies the longer that the cucumbers sit in the liquid. Apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, wine vinegars such as prosecco, red wine, moscato vinegar, and flavored vinegars such as chipotle vinegar would do well. While white balsamic vinegar is an excellent choice, do not use balsamic vinegar.

Sugar: Sugar serves to balance out the acidity of the vinegar. Each sugar has its own flavor profile, while white is the typical sugar used, you may substitute brown sugar, muscovado sugar, coconut sugar, palm sugar etc.

Spices: The good thing about pickling is that you can add pretty much any spice, again, depending on the flavor profile that you are going for. Also be cognizant of the amount of spice that you are adding. Some spices are pretty heavy and flavorful.

Basic spices include: all spice, bay leaves, celery seed, cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, fennel seed, juniper berries, mustard seed, peppercorns, and pepper flakes.

Herbs: Herbs also add flavor to the pickling liquid, but you want to use heavier herbs because something light like chives wouldn’t work.

Some basic herbs include: dill, fennel, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, summer savory, and thyme.

Produce: Incorporating flavorful produce also adds a level of depth to your pickling spice.

Some basic flavor enhancers include: chili peppers, garlic cloves, ginger, jalapeños, lemon, and onion.

Basic Pickling Liquid

Ingredients:

4 cups water

2 cups vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon clove

1 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 bay leaves

1 bunch dill

Instructions:

  1. Bring the water and vinegar to a boil; this helps to dissolve the salt and sugar and allows the spices and herbs to release more flavor.
  2. Add in the sugar and salt; stir until it dissolves.
  3. Add your herbs, spices, and produce.
  4. Let sit for 10 minutes. This lets the flavors meld and cools the liquid. (Adding boiling hot liquid in glass can cause it to break.)
  5. Place your cucumbers in a container that will allow them to be completely submerged in liquid. Pour the liquid over and let sit for 2-3 days.  

What are your favorite spices for pickling?

Champions do daily what losers do occasionally. 

 

There are three things that separate someone who is successful from someone who is not. These three things are discipline, consistency and not giving excuses. Excuses are tools of the weak and incompetent, those who excel in them are seldom capable of anything else. Excuses are what prevent us from reaching our full potential. They may seem small at the moment but excuses add up pretty fast. The more excuses you give the further along you become from reaching your goal.

We all have goals in life that we would like to achieve. Writing these goals down and coming up with a plan are easy enough. I urge you to take it one step further. Be completely honest with yourself. Write down your biggest excuses, the reasons why you continuously don’t follow through on your goals. Take these excuses and terminate them. If you think one of these is a valid reason, find a resolution to overcome it. Stop making it easy for yourself to quit. Only through discipline do you have the capability to achieve your dreams. Refuse to be denied your destiny, especially at your own hands.

What you are going to be tomorrow, you are going to become today. It is essential to begin developing self-discipline in a small way today in order to be disciplined in a big way tomorrow. If living in New York City taught me anything it’s never let anything get in the way of your dreams.
While in Culinary School at the French Culinary Institute, I could not afford both rent and to take the subway to and from school. I knew that my dream was bigger than any excuse that I could give. I found a way to make it work. Every day I would leave my house 30 minutes early and walk to the subway. I would then ask people to swipe me onto the train. One day a homeless man swiped me on. While I was apprehensive about taking from someone who had less than me. I accepted his offer. I was never late to school. I always showed up with freshly pressed whites, never a stain. I didn’t own a washer or dryer. Everything was soaked in a bucket with oxiclean and bleach, air dried and ironed the night before. I volunteered at the James Beard House every chance that I had. I helped there 8 times while in school, eventually earning a Community Service Award at graduation. I did this the entire way through school until I landed my first job at NOBU. I then didn’t have to worry so much, but at the same time I developed a love for Muay Thai.

I began training consistently once school finished. I would train before work then rock out lunch. I had a one hour break between shifts so I would go run 2 miles along the Hudson after family meal, or study Japanese with the Sushi Chefs, then knock out dinner service. I registered for fight camps. I began to get serious and eventually began training two a day’s once I started my business.

While training I met and trained with some of the toughest guys that I know, like the one pictured, Codie Payne A.K.A. Kayo Codie. I followed his career from Muay Thai to his transition to MMA. One thing I can tell you this guy is, is consistent and dedicated, the true traits of a champion. I’ve seen Codie go through weight cuts, losses, wins, switch gyms, working full time while going through fight camp, anything a fighter typically faces he has been through. “Sacrifice is the operative word, I’ve given up so much in my life to just get a W. Anyone that knows me personally knows how bad I want this. It consumes my being.”-Codie Payne. The 5 years that I have known Codie I have never seen him give up, never gave excuses, continuously made improvements and continuously chased the dream and it is paying off.

Whatever your dreams and aspirations are in life, it is imperative that you put on those horse blinders and do not let anything get in the way. You must be bigger than your excuses. Stay focused, remain adaptable and push past adversity. Make and keep commitments to yourself, regardless of any obstacles that may get in your way. Any situation that you are facing is only temporary. Remain focused and continue chasing the dream!

 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are the fruit of a plant from Southeast Asia. Cucumbers originated in either India or Thailand.

There are many varieties of cucumbers. English Cucumbers tend to be longer and come shrink-wrapped in plastic. The American variety are round. Gherkin, Dill and pickling cucumbers are picked when immature and firm in order to make pickles.

For this particular recipe I am using Row 7 seeds Experimental Cucumbers which were grown for me by Veg’d Out Urban Farms. These are by far the best cucumbers that I have tasted. The flavor is intensified and the texture, they have the perfect crunch.

When it comes to selecting cucumbers always select a firm cuke with a bright green color. Avoid any bruised cucumbers with soft spots or yellow in color.

Store cucumbers in the fridge, if cut wrap them tightly as they tend to absorb flavors of other foods.

Peak: May-August

Cooking: Pickled, Raw, Sauté, Grilled, Soups (Gazpacho), Salads, Flavored Waters

One of my favorite cucumber salads that I like to make is a Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad. Its quick, easy, refreshing and delicious. The moscato vinegar provides a quick pickle, while the poppy seeds add an additional crunch. The vinegar and sugar make it the perfect balance of sweet and sour.

Works well with:

Herbs: Basil, Celery Leaves. Chervil, Chive, Cilantro, Dill, Lemon Balm, Lovage, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Scallions, Tarragon, Thyme

Spices: Allspice, Caraway Seeds, Cayenne, Celery Seed, Coriander, Cumin, Pepper (white, black, pink), Red Chili Flakes.

Produce: Bell Peppers, Celery, Chile Peppers, Frisee, Garlic, Horseradish, Jicama, Melon, Lemon, Lime, Onions (Green and Red), Romaine, Shallots, Tomatoes

Dairy: Butter, Buttermilk, Cheese (Feta), Coconut Milk, Cream, Cream Cheese, Crème Fraiche, Sour Cream

Proteins: Seafood: Fish, Salmon, Shrimp, Scallops

Cuisines: Indian, Thai, Asian, Japanese, Greek, Vietnamese

Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad

1 Cucumber halved, seeded, and sliced ¼”

1 Fresno Chili Pepper halved, seeded and julienned

2 TBS Cilantro chopped

2 TBS Moscato   Vinegar

1 TBS I Love Aceite Olive Oil

1 TBS Poppy Seeds

1 TBS Sugar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat. Let marinate for 10 minutes so that the flavors can absorb.