Blog

Hello, friends.  Just a quick note to keep you in the loop…Since Plan to Plate’s website was hacked a few weeks back, I’ve decided to merge the website with the blogsite.  You will be seeing changes occur over time, improving the format and quality of the site as a whole.  I will continue to post to the blog on a regular basis, and I appreciate you bearing with me while I revamp the site to effectively provide information about Plan to Plate in addition to sharing the process of creating fresh, seasonal meals.

Many thanks to my friend, Matt McKenzie, for donating his time and energy to help me get back on the path to success.

Happy cooking and eating,

ashli

 

Yesterday, my tiny town of Decatur, Georgia was flooded with love and admiration.  Yes, it was Valentine’s Day, and plenty of people donned red outfits and bought balloons, flowers, and chocolates for their sweethearts.  But there was a lit-tle something else brewing in our progressive community that caused many folks to wear blue.

President Barack Obama came to speak about Early Childhood Education in City Schools of Decatur, spotlighting our small, city school system as a model of excellence in high quality preschool programming.  Since I used to be a teacher in Decatur, most of the people standing behind the President during his speech were once my colleagues.

POTUS in decatur

(Photo from City Schools of Decatur’s Facebook Page)

When I tell you that the buzz around town was palpable, that is a serious understatement.

kira and welcome sign

My teacher friends clutched their red and blue tickets, smiling with electric pride.  Roads were closed.  Secret service agents were spotted in line at local coffee shops early in the morning.
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Well, helllloooo, February!  So far, you are just as confusing weather-wise as January was.  Some days are sunny and 70 degrees, and then I find myself wrapped up in blankets, wearing my snuggly winter hat.  It’s no wonder that the flu and various strains of colds have been going round and round.  What this translates to in my cooking and menu planning for clients is a schizophrenic-looking collection of recipes.  I’ve been vacillating between fresh salads with grilled proteins and hearty soups and healthful comfort foods like turkey meatloaf and veggie-bean-oat loaf with homemade ketchup.  You know I am partial to the sunnier, warmer days.  And, although it feels a bit strange to be grilling out in the middle of winter, I’ll take it over freezing my butt off any day of the week.

final plate

Today I share with you a delicious meal inspired by fresh, locally grown, winter ingredients:  Grilled Turkey Kebabs with Farro Grain tossed with Roasted Rutabaga and Arugula and Winter Slaw.
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Hot Damn!  I’ve got a surprise day off, and my body is thankful!  You know, I’m not as young as I used to be, and cooking multiple meals for several families on the same day is a pretty intense workout.  Sometimes, I create three soups in one cooking spree, and I’m at a point where I consistently make about 3 quarts of chicken or veggie stock every morning or two.  Hauling giant pots, scraping the bottoms of big ole’ bowls of salad, and shlepping bags full of love-drenched food causes my triceps to burn and sometimes, my back to ache.  Cooking is not for sissies.  I am glad for the opportunity to push my body to be strong on a daily basis, especially since I haven’t set foot inside of a gym in longer than I can remember, but a moment of rest is appreciated as well.

So, I’ve got myself a cup of hot tea, the laundry train is working, French Food at Home is on the telly (I heart Laura Calder!), my dog is snoozing on the bed, and I can share this scrumptious quiche with you.

perfect slice of quiche
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That’s right, people.  Bouncing back is just what I am doing today.  From what, you ask?  From several punches in the gut, courtesy of January 2013.

1.  I’ve been sick this week.  My nose was stuffed and running at the same time.  My ears, clogged.  And my brain, foggy.  I self-medicated with loads of soup, homeopathic remedies, a couple days of Sudafed, liquids, and rest, by way of sleeping in late.  Since there is only one of me, and I am the boss and the peon in this company called Plan to Plate, I had to work on through the yuck.  Kindly, my clients offered me days off, but I found joy in creating meals for them- even while operating below 100%.  Lucky for me, any inner frown I may have, generally turns upside down when I play with the beautiful colors, shapes, and textures of food.

pretty salad
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Happy 2013, Y’all!  This millennium is no longer a tween, it has officially entered its teenage years.  And, since I last wrote, I have entered my late thirties.  Aaaahhhhh!  So bizarre!  But true.  I hope that your holiday season was full of joy and love.  Ours sure was.  December was packed with celebrations.  Hanukkah came first this year,

menorah night one

and Adam was my present each of the eight nights.  : )  We tend to not exchange gifts during these big holidays.  I think that stems from being broke for a really long time.  But, to me, a kind and loving husband really is a gift every day.
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Any dish that involves vegetables floating in a pool of cheese makes me excited.  And I’ve been trying to find time to share this Cauliflower and Kale Au Gratin with you for weeks now.

In years past, the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas have been slow for me and Plan to Plate.  Since I typically help my clients stay on track with fresh, healthy meals during their regular busy work/ life schedules, they tend to require less of me amidst holiday parties and travel- when all of our calendars are turned on their ears.  Happily, there has been absolutely no lull for me this time around.  Instead, I’ve been managing my caseload, welcoming a new client, fielding referrals, granting gift requests, donating to school auctions, networking with other local business owners, and planning to cater a small holiday gathering hosted by a friend.  I also visited the outdoor Decatur Farmer’s Market on a Wednesday not too long ago, which I hadn’t done in eons.


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It’s Thanksgiving week!!!!!!!!!!  As you can probably guess, this is my very favorite holiday of the year.  It’s all about family, friends, food, and expressing gratitude.  My cup of tea.  Traditionally, we feast on turkey and a multitude of seasonal veggies.  And starch, starch, and more starch.  Of course, there must be rolls, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes.  And macaroni and cheese never hurts.  Down South, we welcome grit casserole and cornbread dressing too.  It is a festival of eating, inspired by the abundance of the harvest.

Miraculously, I am ahead of the game this year.  Maybe it’s because I plan menus daily and this sort of preparation is natural and fun for me at this point.  But, mostly, I think it’s because I am about to explode with anticipation.  My mom is coming to town in a matter of hours, and I haven’t seen her in entirely too long.  In fact, this is the longest stretch of time that I have ever not seen her.  Or hugged her.  I may be thirty-almost-seven, but I still want my mama!!!  I have visions of myself holding onto her ankles when she tries to leave on Sunday…but I’m not going to think about that now.
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Hey, Y’all!   I write you today from a room full of spirited (read angry) screaming football fans.  Yikes.  I could personally live quite happily without ever watching a football game again.  I think it’s boring- what with all the stoppages in play every two seconds.  What?  A flag on the play?  Shocker.  But, folks love them some football, and I really enjoy hanging out with my peeps.  So, I figured I’d try to multi-task and write you, while I block out the hollering and occasionally glance up to see the yellow leaves raining down outside.

I kicked this past weekend off with some work.  Work?!?!?  Yes, I was asked by a client/ friend to cook for a family whose little girl has been sick.  Although I knew it would be a real pilgrimage to travel to the burbs on a Friday evening, I also knew that dropping off delicious homemade meals to a family in distress would make a giant difference in their healing process.  As if I needed a reminder or some encouragement, this Thank You note showed up in my kitchen around 4pm Friday afternoon.

I am incredibly lucky to be able to touch people’s lives through food.  It swells my heart with goodness.  Empowered by those words, the trek up north was an easy one.  My “Food Fairy” drop-off was incredibly rewarding, as the little girl danced around the kitchen while I showed her all of the goodies.  She immediately grabbed and downed a banana muffin, pilfered a strawberry out of the fresh fruit container, and dunked her finger straight into the golden mashed potatoes.  Fabulous how food can evoke enthusiasm even from the smallest and sickest beings.  Love.
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Well, they say, “When it rains, it pours.”  And they (whoever they are) were not joking.  Sandy came through and thoroughly trashed the Northeast- including my beloved home beach town of Sea Isle City, New Jersey.

My brother, his wife, and three sick children, are holed up in a South Jersey hotel- the second hotel of the week- so they can have power to run the nebulizers the kids need every four hours.  And they are aware that their situation is not nearly as dire as that of many others whose homes were literally washed away.  In times like these, I am encouraged by the strength of the human spirit and the kindness of strangers

and made incredibly aware of just how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, warmth, and good health.
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