Friends and business

Lady’s night on the line around the time when Maddy and I first met.

Maddy and I met when I interviewed for my first job after culinary school. It was a day in April when the sky was so blue that it seemed to be pouring humidity back into the winter-dried atmosphere. Maddy was butchering primal meat cuts or preparing pastries in a windowless side room, caught up in a repetitive, never-ending project. When we were introduced, it was like a central character in my story was written about for the first time, all roads were leading to this dull room with florescent lighting, pans overflowing with prepared food, and Maddy in the center of it all.

Seven years later, I can see that windowless room surrounded by a cloudless spring day as a turning point in my life.

Years later, we’re still cooking, smiling, and getting along.

Friendship means many things, so let me define to you what it means to me and Maddy. We are fixtures in each other’s ongoing lives. We share a morbid, wacky sense of humor. We are each other’s ‘hard truth’ tellers, trusting that our relationship can withstand this unpleasant role. Our friendship is transformational – it has been a safe, central pillar in our respective lives. It is the strength-center of Taking Stock Foods, the business that we co-founded together.

We announced last week that Taking Stock will soon be introducing shelf stable broths. This announcement is the culmination of half a year’s worth of business soul searching. The decision is a reflection of our frank desire to grow Taking Stock while fortifying our values and supporting our needs and those of our employees’.

Neither Maddy nor I would say that the first half of 2018 has been easy. On the contrary, it has been a “one foot in front of the other” kind of year. Through it all, what’s been the lifeline that we grab for when our ambitions seem impossibly out of reach? Our friendship, built in trust, respect, and a belief in one another even when we don’t believe in ourselves. Maddy is the type of friend whose perspective I use when I’m being overly self-critical. Business partners do not need to have this strong of a bond, but it does help!

For the time being, I can tell you that our confidence in our collective skills and abilities is high and growing. We see a bright future for our business; one which is achievable; one that positively impacts our community. I ask you to believe in us, as we believe in each other, and to keep supporting us as we refine our company to meet the marketplace in our strongest showing yet.

Cabin cooking: Matzo ball soup

Maddy and I fortify our company by scheduling frequent and systematic reviews and planning sessions. We took this to the next level by going on a three day retreat to the outskirts of Grantsburg, Wisconsin for an annual company check-in. Over three days, we took a holistic look at the company, we strategized for the next year, and we ate.

A snowy walk by a woodland creek.

Matzo balls in Ginger Turmeric Bone Broth with a crunchy salad flecked with toasted cashews and feta cheese.

As you can imagine, this thorough check-in was demanding and exhausting. We planned our menu knowing that we would be cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen and that our supplies and energy would be limited. Foreseeing the need for quick, healthful and delicious meals, we worked pre-mixed pantry items into the menu. At one meal, we followed the package instructions on a box of Manischewitz Matzo Ball Mix and spooned the hearty matzo balls into steaming Ginger Turmeric Bone Broth sprinkled with toasted coriander seeds and minced scallions.  We served this soup with a parsley and barley salad recipe from the Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook Jerusalem. (Here’s a link to the recipe online. Warning: it’s in the metric system! Buy the book. It’s amazing.)

Matzo ball soup is a late winter food. It’s a traditional Passover treat, tailored to the time of year when the sun stays out longer and burns brighter, yet sometimes touches a landscape covered in snow.

Food is a way that Maddy and I relate to each other. Sometimes we go all out, but it’s also nice to have go-to meals that aren’t elaborate or labor intensive. Soup and salad satisfies this need.

 

Celebrate Chinese New Year (even if you weren’t planning on it)

Nature strongly influences Taking Stock Foods. We believe that there are lessons to be learned from our natural surroundings and we pay attention. Our intuitive relationship with the seasons, especially, informs the types of foods that we crave, the flavors that we choose, and the types of gatherings that we host.

When it’s frozen white outside, and daytime is short, the moon naturally shifts to the front of our consciousness. Just in time! One of the biggest lunar holidays is on Friday, February 16th- the Chinese New Year.

The new moon in the first month of the lunar calendar ushers in the Chinese New Year. Brighten your February by observing the new year with these activities, based roughly on the traditional celebrations and ceremonies marking this holiday.

  • Tie up loose ends by resolving conflicts and putting things in order.
  • Clean your home: sweep your floors and rid your house of evil spirits who may be hiding behind heavy or rarely moved pieces of furniture.
  • Brighten your home with fresh flowers.
  • Visit with friends and family.

While you’re at it, cook one of our all-time favorite recipes: Lion’s Heads Meatball Soup. The name refers to the festive appearance of rice flecked meatballs which loosely resemble a regal mane. Along with rice and chicken, these tasty meatballs have ginger, scallions, and toasted sesame oil inside. They are then simmered in bone broth with cabbage, imparting their special flavor to the whole soup. As a kid, my siblings and I sang my mom’s praises when she brought Lion’s Heads to the table. Join the party!


Support your health and wellness with deliciously restorative bone broth

Find Taking Stock at a store in the Twin Cities


While researching this post, I read this article about the Lunar New Year posted by the Asia For Educators initiative through the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. It’s a quick read, and densely packed with great info.

A simple meal to lovingly satisfy your family

We’ve got your Valentine’s dinner covered.

This two-pot pasta comes together in 20 minutes and is sophisticated enough to impress. Here’s the run down:

  • Israeli couscous is cooked in bone broth, boosting its protein content. (Set the remainder aside: it is mild enough for picky eaters to enjoy and versatile enough to combine with what’s in your fridge for a tasty meal on the fly.)
  • The couscous is tossed with sautéed kale and chicken sausage, then sprinkled with feta and roasted peppers for a decidedly adult dish. We recommend the smokey flavor of Andouille sausage, but feel free to experiment with your favorites.
  • Distracted at the dinner table? This dish will wait. It tastes just as good at room temperature as it does hot, and it makes great leftovers.

Sign up for our newsletter to hear about simple, delicious, nutrition boosting bone broth recipes to bring to your table.

 

Be prepared for the good times.

I became a dog owner this week! Zoe, our 9-week-old standard poodle, is a maniac for three hours of the day and a napping queen for the rest of them. She’s spunky, stubborn, and sweet. She adds to our family dynamic and is such a joy to be around!

Zoe, pronounced ‘Zo’, is our standard poodle puppy.

I promote cooking in bulk as a time saver. I took a page from my own book, and made sure to grocery shop and have meals prepared for her arrival.

Last night we reheated one of these meals: beef chili. The recipe is a family favorite – its popularity rivals pizza! To add a fresh pop, we threw in a handful of homegrown Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. We were able to have a one pot meal on the table in an hour, and clean up was easy.

Momentous occasions are sprinkled throughout our adult lives. The birth of a child, the final push on a promotion worthy project, a new pet, a new house; these exhilarating whirlwinds usher in a welcome change, but they are also exhausting.

Knowing this, when you find yourself with time and energy, plan for the future. I am so happy to be able to enjoy my new pet and good homemade food.

Ensure that you are cooking and reheating leftovers safely by referring to these guidelines provided by the University of Minnesota Extension.

I hope that this post reminds you of a happy, busy time in your life or of an upcoming occasion that inspires cooking for storage. Remember to nourish yourself with good food during these times so that you won’t just have wonderful memories, but glowing health as well.

How broth has changed my life.

When I’m introducing Taking Stock broth to new people, they almost always ask me, “do you use the broth every day?”

Yes, I go out of my way to drink our broth every single day. I do this because broth has changed my life for the better.

A steaming cup of bone broth with coconut milk or butter stirred in is a decadent, fulfilling snack!

When I first heard of a new product called bone broth, I was as skeptical as the next person. First of all, the name is unappealing. Tasty food doesn’t summon bones to mind. I also wondered, having cooked broths in the culinary field for years, why don’t bone broth drinkers just make it themselves?

Anyone can cook a bone broth, but results that are mild, delicious, and nutritious are hard to yield. As with many other deceptively simple foods, small missteps can reap awful results. I have personally developed and rejected many, many bone broth formulas because they weren’t palatable at all! Taking Stock broths were developed with flavor and nutrition in mind. We have heard from many of our customers, often home cooks, just how difficult it is to achieve a flavorful bone broth that they want to drink. That’s why they use our products.

I enjoy a cup of Taking Stock bone broth, often with coconut milk or lemon juice added, and sip it warm. It sates my appetite and sustains my energy level. I am always on the hunt for a filling, savory snack that isn’t loaded with carbs, processed fats, or insane amounts of salt. With our bone broth, I feel that I have found my snack soul mate! It’s always a special treat. And, unlike snacks that I used to enjoy in the past, I know I will feel better after having my broth.

Becoming a regular broth consumer has given me a newfound appreciation for nutrition, and has driven changes in my overall philosophy towards food and eating. Over the last two years, I have increased my fruit and vegetable intake, chosen to purchase meat, eggs and dairy directly from farmers, and incorporated a lot more water into my diet. In these two years, I have also seen many positive changes in my body. The correlation between my broth use and my other health initiatives make it difficult to attribute these positive changes directly to bone broth, but here’s what I have experienced;

Since I’ve been drinking bone broth regularly, I have seen a decrease in my seasonal allergies, noticed an improvement in the strength of my nails, seen a decrease in gum inflammation, and have perceptively clearer, more radiant skin. These are the benefits of broth that are often cited, so I feel somewhat assured that my experience is partially due to the golden elixir.

Drinking more bone broth and eating more vegetables go hand in hand.

I will continue to drink bone broth every day. The quality of flavor and the benefits to my health make it a simple choice for me. Write in to let me know how broth has changed your life!

Cherry musings

For those who don’t know, it is high cherry season in southeastern Minnesota. I have a prolific sour cherry on the boulevard grass next to my house. For my family, this is a really big deal.

My maternal grandparents were dedicated gardeners. Their home in southern Pennsylvania boasted a veggie plot, blueberry and currant bushes, and a grove of several fruit trees. My grandpa, knobby as the trees themselves, would adorn his orchard with silly cloth snakes to scare away the birds. My childhood impression of him was that he was a stern man, but seeing him tend to his orchard with a sense of humor and sweetness set the stage for my softer relationship with him later on.

If the cherries didn’t all go to the birds, my grandma would get to canning and baking. She was an inventive home cook, and my family benefited from her imagination and expertise. 

My mom inherited her parents’ love of foraging and harvesting, and she takes after her mother with her cooking and recipe development. In the late 90s, she and my grandma discovered a beautiful, bountiful sour cherry tree in my hometown of Cambridge, MA. They became set in the idea that they had to harvest those cherries! Using my adorable grandma as a decoy, my mom harvested the tree promptly. The ear to ear grin my grandma displays triumphantly in this picture shows that their harvest was a success.

Now I am a woman obsessed, and the build up to the cherry season is very exciting. The excitement that I feel is as much of a touchstone to the past as it is a grounding in the present. Cherries are evocative, and I pause to remember my beloved grandparents when picking them. They also are a reflection of St. Paul, and the bountiful summer we’ve enjoyed thus far.

I have harvested 8 pounds, and the tree is still producing! I’ve made little jars of cherry preserves which will be handed off to neighbors and friends. The cherries that I have yet to pick will be pitted and frozen for my mom and auntie to make pies with. The birds have been merciful, but will certainly go after some of them, just like they did all those years ago in my grandparents’ orchard.

This is one connection that I have with my family. Maddy has countless more with hers. These connections inform us, the people we are, the business that we do. The integrity with which we approach our work is a product of the way we were raised- by our parents, our families, our communities. I encourage you to look beyond the harvests you bring in this summer- be they edible or of another nature- and to peer into how they represent the past, the present, and the future.

Happy summer solstice to you and yours!

 

Healthful Hints: Pre-prepped Ingredients

How often do you eat homemade meals made from whole foods? 

If you’re anything like me, not often at all! That is, until last week when I participated in a cleanse through Push Fitness which was perfectly complimented by the skills and knowledge of Julie Johnson, a holistic health coach. It was a fantastic experience, and motivated me to prepare whole ingredients in bulk quantities, ahead of time. The ingredients are so versatile that they can mixed and matched, added to most meals and snacks.

Since I’ve been planning ahead, I have experienced a drastic drop in food waste, a smaller weekly food budget from not eating out, and a higher consumption of veggies, fruits, and lean proteins.

You can do it too! The suggestions below are a few of the uncountable ways that a couple of hours of prep can set you up to make healthy eating choices;

  1. Cook large batches of proteins to add to your meals all week. Combine 3 pounds of raw, ground turkey or chicken meat IMG_2673with 1 (2.2/2.5-ounce) container of no salt added seasoning. My suggested seasonings are Trader Joe’s 21 Salute Seasoning and Penzeys Mural of Flavor Seasoning, but any salt free mix works. Knead these ingredients together until they are combined. Rest this mixture at least at least 2 hours, or overnight, to allow the seasonings to meld with the meat. After resting, heat a medium skillet on your stove over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to each one. Working in 2 batches, add the meat to the pan, scooping it out in small quantities with a metal spoon. You are aiming to keep the scoops as even as possible for thorough, even cooking. Let the meat cook for 5 minutes, undisturbed. Flip the meat, add 1/2 cup broth, put a lid on the pan, and continue cooking. Cook until the meat registers 165, or until the meat is opaque with no pink inside. Add 4 ounces of this seasoned ground meat to salads, stir frys, and soups. This recipe creates 12 servings. Once cooked, it should be used within the week.IMG_2675 (1)
  2. Chop your veggies, and shake them into everything. Wash all of your vegetables before proceeding. Chop into very small pieces (smaller than your pinky fingernail) 1/2 head of cabbage, 4 kale leaves, 2 carrots, 4 radishes, and 1 broccoli floret. Store this chop in a gallon container or ziplock bag with a paper towel to absorb the moisture and keep the veggies fresh for longer. Add 1/2 to 1 cup to every savory dish you eat.
  3. Embrace healthful snacking. Fruits and nuts are a great snack. Processing them by adding salt or IMG_2695removing moisture (roasting or drying) will make them tastier, but can also lead to snack attacks! A portion size is 1 medium fruit or 1/3 of a cup of nuts. To help ebb excessive noshing, raw, unsalted nuts and fresh fruit, I find, are easier to fill up on and be done with. Keep unsalted, raw nuts, pre-portioned in a sandwich baggie in your bag or purse for moments when you feel peckish. Peel oranges and slice apples and keep them in a container or baggie for the same purposes. I always use my senses when purchasing fresh fruit. Here’s an article from The Kitchn about what to look for when choosing the tastiest fruit.
  4. Bring the spa with you by dressing up your tap water. Fill a reusable bottle with water, then add aromatics to make it a delicious treat. I refrigerate 2 (32 ounce) bottles in the evening to enjoy the next day. 1 (3 inch) slice of cucumber and a wedge of lemon always tastes great, but anything goes. Strawberries, mint leaves, any type of citrus, ginger root… really, you can make this your own. Three things to keep in mind. 1) Cut the ingredients in small enough sizes that they can be easily removed from your bottle, but not so small that you’re going to get a mouthful of them with every swig. Evaluate the mouth of your bottle and determine what size and shape you need to cut your ingredients to. 2) For 32 ounces of water, I normally use 1/4 cup of aromatic ingredients.  3) Drink your water within 1-2 days, to ensure the freshest flavor.
  5. Have frozen bone broth on hand for instant gratification. Bone broth is a great ingredient to get to know better when embarking on healthy eating initiatives. Its versatility is made apparent by the fact that it can be enjoyed as a savory beverage all on its own, or it can play a supporting role turning pan drippings into amazing sauces, and adding flavorful low-fat/high protein moisture to sautees, casseroles, and stews. The beauty of stocking high quality frozen broth in your home is that it can be added to almost any savory dish with great results. The best part is, you can enjoy it knowing that you’ll feel good after indulging your broth craving. What could be better than that?

Learn more about the benefits of broth

Join our growing team!

Want to get in early with a growing start up? Interested in clean eating? Enjoy being in front of a crowd?

Taking Stock Foods is hiring for the Summer 2017 farmer’s market season. We will be sampling and selling our drinkable broths at pop up Broth Bars. Our Offsite Events Operators will be launching this concept in May, and here is an exciting opportunity contribute big time to a small company.

  • Part time positions begin May 18th.
  • Entry level, sales experience preferred.
  • $15 an hour
  • Saturday and Sunday morning shifts available.
  • Additional store demo shift opportunities available.

Email info@takingstockfoods.com for a full job description. TS_Logo_Block

6 clean eating and consciousness raising practices to alleviate pain, anxiety, and stress.

Here’s a brainstorm for enhancing life.

I’ve been experiencing chronic pain for the last three months in addition to stressing out and being more anxious than I normally am. I started physical therapy today, leading me to consider a full lifestyle refresher. I wrote this list to remind myself of some basic truths, developed for a clean living reboot.

6 clean eating and consciousness raising practices to alleviate pain, anxiety, and stress.  

Eat a diet largely comprised of fruits and vegetables. Duh, right? Fresh foods require regular shopping, hands on preparation, and more money than eating processed, ready to go foods. These are the main barriers that stop us from eating this way. A trick that I’ve developed to make clean eating less tedious is to steam and cut vegetables as soon as they’re brought home, which allows me to turn them into a snack or meal in no time. When getting started, it’s important to realistically evaluate how many fruits and veggies my partner and I can go through to eliminate costly waste. Starting with a small shopping list and scaling up as we replace processed foods with fresh produce works for us.

Using UCLA’s body scan guided meditation, evaluate how the body feels once or twice a day. Shifting the focus away from the demanding, achy mental and physical parts of ourselves is helpful. My pain becomes less encompassing when I realize that most of my body doesn’t hurt at all, and actually feels good. This meditation eases you into relaxation, and offers a break from tension and stress. It is a simple free practice for enhancing your life.

Shed some pounds, maybe, but diet because you love yourself- not because you want to change yourself. Healthy eating is often about losing weight. Weight loss can be life changing. It can also take over your life. I have a great body which has always served me well. My weight has gone up, it’s gone down, and naturally ebbs and flows with my valuable, exciting life. Body shaming is a national past time, and at thirty two, I am mature enough to reject it. Breaking this cycle requires me to question my motive for weight loss. Is it to be sexier? Is there a better goal? How about being able to canoe in the Boundary Waters at seventy five? Yes.

Walk out the door and spend some time moving, completely unplugged. I got a fancy smartphone for work in 2015. It’s awesome. With DSC00752it comes an unusual urgency to engage constantly. I have made the conscious decision to spend one hour a day tech free. This gives my mind room to roam free, and allows me to observe and connect with my surroundings. I haven’t discovered a situation that can’t wait for one hour, or that can’t be anticipated by contacting a person ahead of time. I travelled for a month alone in Europe in 2002 at the age of seventeen. No cell phone. No laptop. My reasoning is, if I could do it then in a foreign country where English wasn’t the first language, I can do it now in my hometown for one hour.

The foods/drinks that are most loved are best enjoyed in moderation. I love culinary luxuries. Coffee. Hot spaghetti. Whisky. Cape Cod potato chips with Red Hots in them. I hold the common belief that if one is good, twenty must be better. Not true! When I refused to be parted with my best friend as a child and would hide in her house, my mother sang a song called “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” This can be crooned to a bag of chips or a pot of spaghetti. Consider the reworked wisdom ‘absence makes the heart grow stronger’. It’s fitting, as the toll that a regularly consumed bag of chips has on the heart is significant. Another pearl of wisdom- anticipation is a key component to enjoyment.

When experiencing pain, anxiety, or stress, focus on breathing and being present in the moment. 

The isle of Iona in Scotland... Totally worth the flight.

The isle of Iona in Scotland… Totally worth the flight.

I have struggled with an acute fear of flying for years, an anxiety connected to a lack of control. When I was flying back from Los Angeles last Friday, we had a bumpy ride. My heart started pounding, my palms started sweating. I was unbearably uncomfortable and knew that there were still hours left in the flight. What did I do? I closed my eyes and did my body scan. I slowed my breathing, then my heart rate, while clearing my mind. The turbulence suddenly felt less exaggerated, the plane felt less sinister. I was okay because I was in the moment and, in reality, I was comfortable, safe, and in a situation that was being controlled by  trained pilots and an excellent flight staff. The danger that I had created in my mind seemed real enough, but when I assessed the situation, I found it to be fabricated. Grounding in the present is a vital tool that I use when intense stress and anxiety hit me. Normally, my fear of what could happen and the truth of what is happening are divergent paths that will never to meet.

 

Bone broth shipped for free to the upper Midwest