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always bring a spare sara(h)

i'm the kind of person that likes to think that everything happens for a reason.  let's just say i believe in signs.  and by signs, i don't mean the ones in west hollywood that trick you into thinking you're not going to get a ticket.  and by signs, i don't mean these:

...which warn you that someone is about to steal your purse.

i'm talking about the kind of signs that remind you that you've fallen right into the place that the universe wants you to be at that exact second.  if you read my recent blog post about reaching out into the universe, then you know that i've been graced with the opportunity to help an independent caterer prep for a big event.  even though she enjoyed the witty greeting and whimsical blog posts that i sent her, she of course wanted to meet with me first to make sure that by "i enjoy cooking", i didn't mean "i own an easy bake oven."  as i nervously stepped into the dim lighting of the trendy bar where i would first make the acquaintance of the woman behind belly bliss catering, i couldn't help but wonder...

*hello carrie bradshaw moment*  

what would she think of me?  would she get my sense of humor?  would she think i was talking too much?  would she be impressed with my endless knowledge of food network shows?  as we began to chat, i instantly felt more comfortable.  she even revealed to me that she receives lots of emails from strangers, but hardly ever writes back as there is really not much heart or love behind their words.  i felt even more humbled to be in her presence let alone be asked to participate in one of her foodie adventures.  just as she began to fill me on the details of the event...there it was.  right smack dab in front of my face, instantly blanketing my entire being with a sense of calm.

my sign.

"other than my small staff of five who help me with the prep work, i have someone who does beautiful flower arrangements for the tables.  
oh!  and then of course there's chocolate sarah."

as she began to dive into the details of her close friend whose entire career is based around making handmade chocolates, i couldn't seem to wipe the smile off of my face.  let me explain.  my great grandmother was fannie ginsberg, and i have the honor of carrying her name around today.  her sister's name was sarah--which was bestowed upon my older sister just thirty short years ago.  it's not just that we're the second generation of "fanny and sarah", it's that i believe it was in my destiny to have a sarah by my side at all times.  about four years ago, at a very unhappy place in my life--my sister i were separated by thousands and thousands of miles.  even though we talked constantly and remained as close as ever, my sarah wasn't as near as i would have liked.  coincidentally, it was at that very point that another sara (this time without the H) fell into my world and turned it upside down in the best way i could have ever imagined.  this sara came in the form of a best friend, but was as close to my heart as someone i had known for lifetimes.  all of that being said--the name sara(h) has always been somewhat magical to me.  it finds me at times when i need it most, even if i don't realize it.  on the scary first day of a job or hanging out with a brand new group of friends.  on the day i decide to stand up to my boss or the first meeting with someone letting me into their professional kitchen.  it's as if the universe always knows that an anxious fear will hold me back until the name sara(h) is sprinkled over the conversation and my walls come completely down.  the moment that sacred word came tumbling out of anna's mouth, i knew that everything would be okay.  i was no longer worried about what she thought of my scarf or if i was saying the words giada delaurentiis too much.  i was no longer intimidated by my lack of experience or the fact that i still call my dad to ask how to boil an egg.  she could have said "sardine sarah" and i still would have felt that rush of tranquility.  to me, that one comforting word was like a giant hug from one of my sara(h)s--who are now both thousands of miles away--telling me that i was exactly where i was supposed to be.  so, my piece of advice for all of you today is to find your magic word.  find whatever it is that brings you peace, and know that when it does make an appearance, it's completely on purpose.

speaking of advice, my "recipe" for you today is all about tips.  this is a food blog you know!  geez fanny.  the reason for the quotation marks is because i've decided that instead of giving you a full recipe today--i would like to offer you some of my most valuable everyday foodie tips.

let's begin!

if you're the kind of person who desires a yummy crunch in your salad or an extra pop in your granola, but would break out in hives if a-salted (get it?!) by a peanut then this tip is for you.  i have recently found myself with a slight sensitivity to nuts, yet i refuse to give up on having that crunchy texture in my salads.  what's my back-up plan, you ask?  no.  it's not olive's dry food.  it's sunflower seeds!  not just plain old sunflower seeds.  those are for birds and boring people.  i'm talking about homemade honey-roasted sunflower seeds.  it's as easy as this: toss plain sunflower seeds with a good drizzle of honey (or agave), brown sugar, and a sprinkle of salt.  roast at 350 for 3-5 minutes.  your nose will certainly tell you when they're done, but keep an eye on them.  nobody likes burnt things.  try them in a salad with goat cheese or on top of your favorite yogurt.

some of my favorite foodie tips involve interesting ways to make foods lower calorie, but without sacrificing any of the flavor.  i don't know about you, but i never have heavy cream on hand.  unless i'm making a white russian, which is.....0% of the time.  that being said--i still love the flavor and the look of sauces with a creamy, velvety texture.  i generally keep light cream cheese on hand, which is also great for stirring into your favorite marinara sauce.  however, some plain greek yogurt is another wonderful way to put some oomph behind your homemade salad dressing or chicken marsala.  you don't need much to achieve that luscious texture, and nobody will ever know that you weren't out back milking a cow to amp up your dinner.

there is a leprechaun sitting with a bowl of parsley.  i truly believe that a little color can change the entire atmosphere of your dinner.  have you ever gone out to a nice restaurant and been so hypnotized by the bright twists and twirls of sauces on your plate that you forget you're even at a table with other people?  no?  anybody?  just me?  anyway, the point is that by simply dusting some fresh herbs or a reduced balsamic drizzle over your dish you can achieve that restaurant-quality looking meal.  wait, hold on.  put that lunchable back in the fridge.  i'm not telling you to sprinkle basil over your bologna and cheese lunchable--some classics are meant to be left alone.  i'm just suggesting that the next time you prepare dinner for a friend, or a parent, or a significant other--take the time to really assess your plate.  if you're serving chicken and spinach and all you have is green and white, imagine how it would look with some diced tomatoes spread over the top.  i once again blame my mom for this silly habit--as she's known for hopping up from the dinner table with her plate (loveseat in front of the TV) and shouting the words "it just needs some green!"  

that's it, you're officially schooled.  now go out, find yourself a sara(h) and a bunch of fresh herbs.  just watch out!  there's a lot of nuts out there.

speaking of nuts, olive would also like to share with you her favorite tips: