Bringing Liquid Gold To The Silver Screen

Maddy and I have been working with Lynch Strategies and Shop Class Creative for almost a year. Lynch has helped us to develop our brand, business strategy, and basically the entire professional identity of Taking Stock Foods.

Shop Class Creative has helped us to hone our visual identity. We worked closely with Katherine Lamm to translate all of our feelings about Taking Stock and what we hope it can be into a portfolio of logos, packaging, pictures, and videos.

Finally, I have uploaded our videos and they can be viewed by the broth loving public!

On our Youtube channel you can see Maddy and myself interviewed. In addition, you can watch us prepare potatoes fondantes and our winter warmer broth, the two recipes we’ve been handing out at our farmer’s markets.

We look forward to continue to develop our web presence with the help of Shop Class Creative and Lynch. It’s hard not to feel unstoppable in their capable hands!

Cleanse

Taking Stock Foods evolved from a now defunct restaurant concept called The Twin Cities Stock Exchange. TCSE was a soup restaurant that would have featured delicious, vegetable focused soups and food. We began our business concept as a restaurant because Maddy and I have been working in restaurants for years and feel very at home in cramped, sweaty, fast paced kitchens.

It took some soul searching and a willingness to venture out of our comfort zones to evolve the soup restaurant into a line of retail products. This change set us on a path that has lead us to encounter many wonderful people in professional fields far beyond our own.

One such person is Connie Sheehan, of PUSH fitness in St. Paul. Connie was a classmate of ours, and is now one of our closest business and personal contacts. Her studio has a mission to meet the fitness needs of African American women. PUSH offers great classes including Gospel Spin on Sundays, and outdoor bootcamps during the summer months.

Taking Stock had the great pleasure of promoting our broth at a week-long cleanse that PUSH Fitness and Valeesha Halmon, a nutritional specialist, hosted in March. I found myself inadvertently going on the cleanse, and learned a ton of new things about our broth that I hadn’t known before.

Coming from a restaurant background, eating for health has not been a huge priority for me. Although I love light, nuanced foods, the basic pull of butter and a medium rare steak have often trumped my devotion to ‘clean’ foods.

Maddy and I came at Taking Stock Foods from a culinary perspective. Our broth’s recipe was developed out of a desire to create an adaptable product that could lend itself to any cooking style. However, this characteristic of the broth has made it very suitable to cleanses. Taking Stock broth has a minimal ingredients list and an extended cooking time. This affords people who are cleansing a high protein, easily digestible food that makes modified eating more tolerable.

It was while I participated in the PUSH cleanse that I really became interested in drinking our broth. I woke up every day with a new, inspired ‘breakfast broth’ idea. I fell in love with our broth all over again, because I was using it in a different way than I had been doing.

I am grateful for the connections that Taking Stock Foods has instigated. Every day, this business shows me new sides to myself. I am also proud of the product that we are making, and look forward to introducing more people to its wholesome and nourishing qualities. We are not just growing our business, we are growing ourselves every day, and I couldn’t be happier.

A Primer For Enhancing Drinkable Broth

I like to add aromatics to my broth. Ginger is one of my favorites; the sensation of drinking a ginger-rich broth is always a sensual treat.
If you plan on drinking broth on a regular basis, consider investing in a small mortar and pestle. I have found them for a good price at Ax Man Surplus on University Ave in St Paul. Second hand stores are also a good place to look for them. Using this kitchen device crushes your ingredients instead of cutting them. This releases more of the aromatic oils that create an enveloping fragrance. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle and aren’t ready to invest in another kitchen gadget, consider using a (not sharp) kitchen tool with a sturdy wooden handle turned upside-down as the pestle and a small bowl as the mortar. Here are some ideas to take into consideration when making your broth infusion:

– Bring your broth to a simmer before drinking. Add your extra ingredients while bringing the broth up to temperature. The longer the add-in ingredients sit in the hot broth, the more powerful their flavor will be.

– Fresh herbs and ingredients are going to be more juicy and picante but less potent than dried. For example, you need a tablespoon of raw ginger root to create the same burn as a half teaspoon of powdered.

– For a less intense effect, consider leaving your add-ins whole. Adding whole large pieces of ginger or turmeric root, whole coriander or cumin seed, and whole cilantro or parsley stems will make a lighter infusion than if you minced the same ingredients. Mashing them in a mortar and pestle will produce a very concentrated flavor.

– If using a mortar and pestle, chop the ingredients up and add a pinch of salt to the basin before beginning. The salt will help mash the ingredients, and add a nice flavor to the broth. We recommend using unsalted broth when using a mortar and pestle for this reason.

Example Infusion Recipe

8 ounces unsalted chicken broth
1 Tablespoon raw ginger root, skin on, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric root, skin on, roughly chopped
1 pinch of salt

Place the chicken broth in a saucepan, and heat it on a medium low stove.
Add the ginger, turmeric and salt to a mortar and pestle. Smash it until it creates a juicy, vibrantly hued paste.
Scrape the contents of the mortar into the chicken broth. Pour a small amount of broth into the mortar, swirl, and pour back into the sauce pan to capture all of the paste.
Heat the broth to a simmer. Pour broth through a strainer into a mug. Enjoy!

Other Ingredients to Consider. Mix and match adding up to three ingredients to 8-ounces of broth:

1 Tablespoon Fresh Orange, Lemon, or Grapefruit Juice.
1 teaspoon whole Coriander, Cumin, Cardamom, and Fennel seeds.
1/2 teaspoon dried Turmeric, Cinnamon, and Ginger powders.
1/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika and Cayenne Pepper powders.
1 Tablespoon fresh Parsley, Cilantro, Basil, Sage and Tarragon.
1 teaspoon fresh Oregano, Rosemary, and Thyme.
1 Tablespoon Lemongrass, Ginger, Galangal, and Turmeric roots.

Check out our recipes for drinkable broth inspiration and ideas!

Chicken Tinga

DSC00965Maddy and I do research and development cooking sessions as often as we can. We love to cook together! We anticipate these days with excitement, usually rounding out a great meal with an old movie and lots of laughs.

This month, I wanted to make something exotic but homey. I remembered a fantastic dish that I made in culinary school. Conceived by Chef Tatum Barile, the dish was called ‘pork tinga.’ It was a slow cooked pork stew, with a hodgepodge of ingredients including orange juice, milk, and coca cola. I had never seen a recipe like this, nor have I ever since.

I wanted to revisit the flavors of this delicious stew, but using more natural ingredients. I decided to create a chicken crock pot dish. I researched the secret Coke recipe, and was excited to see vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and lots of citrus building its famous flavor profile. To round out the tinga, I added fresh jalapeño, onion, and garlic. I omitted the dairy, because I was unsure of its purpose.

The resulting shredded chicken stew is unctuous and incredibly satisfying. The richness of the chicken thighs and the heavy spices is countered by the hefty amount of citrus. We served the tinga over steamed sweet potatoes, and garnished it with avocado, radish slices, soft cheese, and cilantro. This is a dish you can eat with your eyes, but you’ll be happy that you don’t have to stop there.

View the Crockpot Chicken Tinga Recipe »

Luminary Loppet

The Luminary Loppet, an evening cross country skiing event hosted by the Loppet Foundation, is a real Minnesota gem. I attended it as a pedestrian, with a hot thermos of chicken broth of course. I was aware that I had stumbled into a unique winter spectator sport that few people across this country have access to.

As the February light was starting to fade, I parked my car by the Lake of the Isles in Uptown, Minneapolis. My thick boots with sturdy treads led me onto the icey, snow dusted lake, where volunteers were putting the finishing touches on the event. A cross country skiing track was carved into one side of the lantern lit path. I chose the pedestrian lane on the other side.

As the light became more dusky, bonfires carved out small alcoves of assembly along the way. I came up to an islet that was made brilliant by several glowing ice sculptures and fairy lights in the trees. Later on, a parade of hollow ice trunks were glowing internally from the flames of many candles.

Being outside in the depth of winter is a under appreciated thing. If it’s cold enough, the stars are forcefully bright. There is a special silence that hushes the soul.

Adorning this contestable season with a spectacular luminary display must have been the idea of a romantic, winter loving person. I am grateful to them, the volunteers and all of the competitors who made the Luminary Loppet available for the likes of me. Encore!

Letting My Ego Go

I attended a really fantastic yoga class last night at the St Paul Yoga Center. The instructor’s name was Carlton. He lead the class, interjecting it with wisdom and wise cracks. At the opening of the class, he read a passage from a book about the origins of fear and how they are closely tied with our ego’s inability to exist in the moment.

This was my first class at the St Paul Yoga Center, and the first yoga class I have attended in many, many months. Yoga is not my preferred form of exercise, and I was appreciative of the meditative nature of yoga that Carlton was emphasizing in our practice. In particular, the reading’s relevance to my life right now was very compelling.

I am learning to juggle, metaphorically speaking, right now. I have a fledgling business that pulls both myself, my business partner, and our families, in unquantifiable directions. I am in the midst of buying a house with my life partner. I am a naturally sociable person and am scrambling to spend quality time with my lovely friends. In addition, I am constantly trying to improve my health, my happiness, and other amorphous quantifiers. My ‘ego’ is attempting to prepare for all of these things, and I admit to often feeling quite anxious.

Carlton reminded me yesterday that meditation is about being present in the moment. It is easy to feel compelled to focus on the future to the detriment of real-time responsibilities. It is easy to make an excuse for distractedness or aloofness because you have ‘bigger things on your mind.’ But, when I hear loved ones saying these types of things, it always makes me feel insignificant in their lives. To be in the moment is to let those outside things fall away and focus on what’s right in front of you. This is very hard to do. But if I work at it, the people and things around me will be grateful, and I will be more fulfilled.

Feel Good Workplace

As small business owners, it is inevitable that Maddy and I must invite our work into our personal lives and spaces. Because of this, we strive to make our work as enjoyable as possible. The old adage ‘if you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life,’ is a little rose colored for my taste, but it is a nice thing to keep in mind.

One of the reasons that we decided that we wanted to start our own business is because we believe that we can create a positive, reinforcing workspace for ourselves and our employees. An article from Forbes online by Meghan M. Biro titled Happy Employees = Hefty Profits opens with, “I can walk into a company and tell within seconds whether or not its employees are well treated and happy on a basic level. The level of employee engagement, warmth and sense of a shared purpose is palpable.” This statement is an affirmation of our ideal workplace. Maddy and I already incorporate ‘fun days’ into our work weeks, usually once a month. On these days, we watch movies or get to do some cool research and development cooking projects. As we grow our workforce outside of ourselves, we will continue to evaluate what makes a company a good place to work for.

This is even more important because we are a company that manufactures food. Borrowing from the theme of the film Like Water For Chocolate, I think that food is an empathetic medium. Food represents generosity, caring, nourishment and care taking on many levels. We vet our vendors and consultants to ensure that they consider these principles in their own places of work. When we hire employees, we want them to Take Stock in our products and understand the philosophies we developed around this company.

At this moment, our company consists of Maddy and me with significant reinforcement coming from our partners, friends and families. As we grow, we strive to be able to show our hired employees why the work that we are doing is important, fun, and purposeful. I look forward to reflecting on this blog post when we have employees, to see if my current optimism will translate into a reality. Wish me luck!

Making a Meal Spectacular

When eating a meal, there are endless factors that contribute to its enjoyability. Having worked as a cook in casual and fine dining establishments, I have often reflected on what sets a restaurant meal apart from one eaten at home. A wonderful meal is not only marked by the quality of the food, but by extraordinary service. A waiter will set the pace of the evening. They can also set the mood of the meal: a formal table side manner will feel more weighty than a chatty, personable one will. Good waitstaff are detail oriented. They set up the same way every night, marking tables, lighting candles, turning on music and tempering the volume. Obviously, I respect their hard work. As the old saying goes, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Here are 4 suggestions on how to make an evening at home feel special, without having to leave a tip.

1. Give yourself time between cooking and serving your food. If the dish has a finishing step, take 5 minutes before you do it to comb your hair, straighten your glasses, and smooth your apron before completing it. Especially if you have been cooking for 30+ minutes, giving yourself breathing room will allow you to transition from cooking to eating more seamlessly, and help you to enjoy your hard work.

2. Take the time to stage the room. This is something your dining companion can easily do. If you are eating by yourself, use the same precision that you would if you were entertaining company. At the very least, wipe off the table that you will be eating on. Add a table cloth and paper or cloth napkins. Polish your cutlery with a dish rag to get rid of water stains. Light candles, unscented mind you, and stagger them around your eating area. Turn on some audio. If I’m eating by myself, I love to listen to The Moth podcasts. If you’re with someone else, try listening to something new. Sometimes I like to type “Italian dinner music” into Youtube and play whatever comes up that’s longer than 30 minutes. Don’t leave the TV on. The visual/oratory combination is distracting, and it will make it harder for you to focus on the food.

3. Plate your food beautifully. Take the time to warm up your dishes in a low oven if the meal is served hot, removing them at a temperature that you can comfortably touch it with an open palm before putting food on it. This ensures that it isn’t so hot that your sauces will congeal when you put them on. Place your plates/bowls in the refrigerator if the meal is cold or you are planning on serving a chilled dessert. Type ‘food porn’ into your search engine to get some plating ideas. Or look at the plating technique of a dish similar to the one you cooked. Use tongs! Make a garnish! Get creative with your food presentation!

4. Clean up after yourself. Cleaning is the inevitable conclusion of cooking. Most of us do it begrudgingly. It’s the reason many of us enjoy eating out. To alleviate this necessary evil, clean as you cook. Try to eliminate as many dishes as possible before you even sit down for the meal. When you have finished eating and have cleared your plates, turn the radio up, pour yourself a little more of whatever you were drinking, and make it fun. One word to the wise: if you have been imbibing, leave the Riedel glassware, the family heirloom serving platter and the handmade pottery for tomorrow. Know your limitations!

Special meals can be hard to pull off. In my home, we are working towards intentionality and being present. It helps that cooking is a big hobby for myself and my partner. Every time we practice setting the scene for a nice dinner, it becomes more natural. We enjoy incorporating new meal rituals into our lives, so we’d love for you to share your routines with us! Bon Apetit!

Facing Our Launch

I identify myself mostly as a creative type. I was drawn to becoming a chef because I saw this job as way to share my creativity with a large audience. Cooking professionally, though, is much more than a cerebral occupation: it is a grueling physical job. Ask a professional cook that you know to see their muscles and their scars, these are their badges of honor. I’ve been out of full service kitchens for almost a year now. I miss the comradery of the back of the house staff and the thrill of a knock out service. I learned so much in my years on the line, and now I have the energy to apply this knowledge to my own pursuits.

It has been a joy to take the hard earned experience I gained when working in professional kitchens and applying it to my own line of products. Maddy Kaudy, my business partner, and I have been using our 25 years of combined cooking experience to create a product that we trust and love. We have visited the farm and the production facility of two of our key ingredients. We are also painstakingly improving our business concept to reflect our values and goals. This past year, we have revised our business plan three times, completely changed our concept once, and both worked full time on this project since January. We have attended seminars, workshops, and courses put on by Women Venture, the James J Hill Foundation, The Minnesota Cup, NAWBO, and SCORE to name a few. We are doing everything in our power to get our business off the ground. And now the time is here.

The December launch of our product will be incredibly cathartic for Maddy and myself. So far, this idea has lived inside of us. Now it is time to present it to our communities. We tip our hats to all the hard workers, in the cooking profession and otherwise, who are realizing a dream this December. Keep us in your hearts as well.

Christmas Traditions

Most people who love to cook can trace the roots of their passion back to someone in their lives. I learned to love cooking from my mother and father, as well as my maternal grandmother. Traditions handed down are, in my opinion, the best inheritance a person could receive. I cherish all of my familial cooking memories, especially those that include loved ones that are no longer here.

My mother’s family has had a Christmas tradition that dates back over 50 years called ‘Belch and Holler.’ It is a holiday cookie party with plenty of libations and a stationary caroling element. I have hosted a Belch and Holler for the last 8 years in Minnesota. Other than the traditional Christmas Caroling books my mother photo copied for me, it is a secular event. Last year the music was accompanied by a tuba, a guitar, and an accordion. The downstairs neighbors were warned ahead of time, and of course, invited. My partner conveniently had to work that evening. Needless to say, Belch and Holler isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.

What should be for everyone is my grandmother’s recipe from chocolate bottomed Florentines. These lacy cookies are studded with nuts and candied fruit. The batter is cooked on a stove and is made up mostly of butter and honey. Once they are cooked and cooled, the bottoms are painted with bittersweet chocolate. As a child, I considered this a magical food. My grandma, Mutsi, would bake hundreds of cookies. Some were not magical, like her Danish ‘rocks.’ My siblings and I got to create the cookie trays that were placed throughout the entertaining rooms. There were usually less Florentines than Mutsi remembered baking. She was a benevolent woman with a generous heart, and wouldn’t scold us too much for chowing down on her bounty before the party began.

This year, I am going to serve hot chicken broth instead of hot cider at Belch and Holler. I had this idea a while back and haven’t tried it out yet. Hopefully, this new tradition will go over well. I will also make hundreds of Florentines to honor Mutsi’s memory. There will be some emotional moments as I make this magical food, my hands being an extension of her legacy. My hope is that you are able to reflect, with love and gratitude, on your family traditions this December as well.