Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nourish Personal Chef + Catering Feature: Black Bean and Mushroom Bowls

I basically ran out the door to pick up ingredients for this fabulous dish from our feature chef, Stephanie Ito of Nourish Personal Chef + Catering the moment I opened her email. Here's what Stephanie has to share about her favorite dish from the month of July, Black Bean and Mushroom Bowls:

This month I surprised myself by the recipe that I chose as “the best thing I made this month”. I made it at the beginning of the month, and then again less than three weeks later. That NEVER happens in my house. I am always trying new recipes, and I like a lot of variety and not to eat the same thing all the time. But, this recipe is so delicious and satisfying and healthy that I wanted to have it again. The first time I cooked it for myself and my husband for dinner, I ate it that night and then the next FOUR days for lunch. And I am not a fan of leftovers - this was definitely an exception to that rule.

I might not have made this recipe at all, not being a big fan of black beans. But, I made this in burrito form (the original recipe that I adapted to get to the bowls) for one of my clients. One of the cardinal rules of being a chef is that you have to taste everything – to make sure the seasoning is right and everything tastes good. I was surprised when I LOVED the filling. Since there are also a lot of mushrooms in the dish, the texture of the beans (which is what I object to) was not overpowering.

This is an easy meatless meal that is a snap to put together. It takes one skillet and a rice cooker or saucepan. On its own it is even vegan (if you don’t add cheese and sour cream like I like to). Using purchased salsa as one of the ingredients adds a lot of flavor with a minimum of fuss, so it is perfect for a weeknight meal. (I like the Frontera Grill and Salpica salsas for this dish if you can find them in your grocery store.) When I made this dish this week for dinner, it took about 20 minutes start to finish. This recipe can also be adapted in lots of ways. For example, when I made it this week I didn’t have any red peppers on hand, so I used chopped baby carrots instead. Use your favorite vegetables, and enjoy this easy weeknight dinner! I think I’ll have the last of our leftovers for dinner tonight too.

Mushroom and Black Bean Bowls
Adapted from Bon Appétit, January 2003
Makes 4 generous servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
10 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
10 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup purchased tomatillo salsa
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 cups cooked white or brown rice

Additional ingredients for garnishing (optional):
Reduced-fat Mexican Cheese Blend
Reduced-fat sour cream
Chopped Avocado
Chopped Tomato


Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add next 3 ingredients; sauté until onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder. Sauté until juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Add beans and salsa, sauté 3 minutes. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

In each bowl, mound about ¾ cup rice and top with the mushroom mixture. Garnish as desired with cheese, sour cream, avocado and tomato. Enjoy your burrito-in-a-bowl!

Nourish Personal Chef + Catering provides customized meal services in the Chicago area, offering the convenience of ready-to-eat meals with the taste and nutrition of home-cooked food. We can save you hours each week that you would normally spend preparing meals and going out to eat! We use only the best and freshest ingredients to ensure that your meals are not only delicious, but also well balanced and healthy.

Our services are designed for busy people in all walks of life: professionals with no time to cook, families with children and hectic schedules, older adults who have special dietary requirements, athletes with specific nutritional needs, new parents, and those who just don't enjoy cooking but do enjoy good food! All meals are made just for you - based on your likes and dislikes - and special requests are always welcome.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Connections: Playful Chef

Today's featured Connection is Lisa Ligon and Playful Chef. I met Lisa last week at the Chicago Gift Show...and immediately fell in love with her cooking kits for kids. Here is what Lisa has to share about her very successful business.

Describe your product/service?
Playful Chef Cooking Kits for Kids. Our kits come in a snazzy backpack and include 11kid sized tools, a tool belt apron, and six laminated recipe cards.

Why did you create it?
To help kids learn healthy eating habits through the fun of hands-on cooking projects.

Why do you produce locally (made in the USA?
Unfortunately, we have to go overseas to get a product that was reasonably priced. Playful Chef is both toy and FDA tested to ensure we provide a safe experience for parents and their kids.

What are you most proud of?
I've gotten so much positive feedback that kids LOVE their Playful Chef kits, and that it incredibly rewarding.

What is your big thought (next bit step) for your company?
In 2009, we will be launching the Playful Chef Cultural Series, featuring food traditions and recipes from around the world. Our first sets will be The French Baker & The Mexican Fiesta.

Thanks for sharing Lisa!

Friday, July 25, 2008


The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor. - Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer Sidewalk Sale!

In celebration of our wonderful summer weather, we're having our first SUMMER SIDEWALK SALE!
Good thru Sunday, July 26th at 6pm, Hand Picked Pumpkin is offering 25% off all orders. To redeem this very special offer, enter SIDEWALK in the coupon section at check-out.
Happy shopping.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Connections: Resa Design

Today's featured connection is Resa Troyer of Resa Design. Resa called me last year to talk about my experience at a celebrity swag event. Since then we've exchanged emails about all aspects of running a small business. As a small business owner I am so grateful to have so many new friends like Resa to exchange ideas with. As you'll see from her site, we've got very similiar taste in fabric too!
Here's what Resa has to share with us about Resa Design.

Describe your product/service?
Resa Design offers baby accessories and clothing made for YOUR BABY in YOUR STYLE. No ducks for sheep allowed! Only super modern and stylish prints on everything from bibs to "un-cheesy" Sibling Tees. Hand made by mom’s in the USA.

Why did you create it?
When my son was born in 2004, the baby market was a sad sad place to shop. I couldn’t find accessories that fit my style and were affordable. I was looking for a compact changing pad that would fit in my very un-diaper bag (aka purse). I couldn’t find one, so I made my own. I’ve always kind of ran that way. Can’t find it, make it. Most of our products have developed this way. Resa Design became a ‘real’ company in 2005 after I gave away so many changing pads and a blanket I made at the time, people were asking to buy them. The rest is water under the bridge.

Why do you produce locally (made in the USA)
I’m a control freak. Seriously, the thought of even having our products sewn in someone else’s house keeps me up at night. Ok, well I don’t really loose sleep, but I do think about it a lot. I am proud to employ other moms, grandmas, and right now some college students. We want to continue doing this as much as we can. At some point, we might need to look into larger manufacturing options, but this wouldn’t work for all our products. If you own a Resa Design product purchased between 2005-2007, it’s most likely that I made with my own hands. I kind of think that’s part of the fun of it all. Besides, the business side of Resa Design, makes my head spin.

What are you most proud of?
Besides my wonderful husband and two creative boys, I’m proud that I stepped out and started this company. I remember the days of it’s inception. Late nights brainstorming with my husband. At one point he said, “Just do it. Take the chance. If it fails, we haven’t lost that much money really.” It was a chance I’m glad we took. I can’t count how many mom’s have told me how they wish they could step out and follow a dream they have too. I hope that I’m a role model to other parents, and young women, to follow your gifts and see what they have for you.

What is your big thought (next bit step) for your company?
If I told you I’d have to..... Just kidding. Right now we are trying to figure out how to grow without loosing control (told you I’m a control freak). We are working on a redesign of our web site, hiring local mom’s to support us, and we do have some new products in the works. Be on the look out for a blanket that’s worth keeping, more custom items, and great new fabrics.

Thanks for sharing Resa!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Many thanks to's Stephanie Brown kindly mentioned HPP last week in her Babies and Toddler's blog. Here's her Link Love for the week of July 13th.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Never underestimate the power of simple courtesy. Your courtesy may not be returned or remembered, but discourtesy will. - Princess Jackson Smith

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chicago Gift Show: Living and Giving

If you are visiting the Chicago Gift Show: Living and Giving, be sure to visit us at Market Suite Temporary 8-3062A Saturday, July 19th thru Tuesday, July 22nd.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kind words from Baby Luxe

Many thanks to Baby Luxe for this great review of Hand Picked Pumpkin posted last week.

As a mom of two boys, I’ve never really gotten into the whole “boutique” clothing trend. Never a fan of Jon-Jon’s or monogrammed bubble romper’s for my boys; I am proud to outfit my boys in more rugged wear, made to stand up to my rough and tough boys that wear them.

However, my entire mindset changed when we were approached by one fabulous hand-made boutique; Hand Picked Pumpkin! What is so great about Hand Picked Pumpkin? Well, like yesterday’s post, it is designed with you, the “creatively-challenged” mom { and gift-giver} in mind!

Choose from many custom-designed or ready-made outfit combinations, all made with a select handful of perfectly coordinated color swatches. I actually did some cute custom-designed shorts & a ready-made top, which matches perfectly {Alex’s outfit is almost identical to the one shown below}. Let me just say this: custom designing is addictive! Choose your garment, size {up to 24 months} interlocking fabric color, and several different trim options, right down to the flap on the back pocket & the snaps on the overalls.

My package arrived wrapped like a present - what a joy to open, and so perfect for a new baby gift! After weekly washing & wearing for over a month now, the little shorts set we have is still in perfect condition. The material is so soft & forgiving to my little busy-body’s high level of activity & he looks downright adorable in it!

Handpicked Pumpkin also offers a fun twist on the usual playdate, moms night out or baby shower: trunk shows! Show off the amazing designs & let your guests have fun customizing something special. Hostess’s earn discounts too! Check out the site for more details.

Friday, July 11, 2008


"All people smile in the same language." Proverb

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Featured Guest Chef: Stephanie Ito

I am so excited to introduce Notion's featured guest chef, Stephanie Ito!

As you can tell from all my Thursday posts I love food. And love to share recipes.

So I was super thrilled when personal chef Stephanie Ito of Nourish Personal Chef + Catering gernerously offered to contribute on our blog. Stephanic will be sharing "The Best Thing I Made This Month" how fun and yummy is that?!

So turn on the grill and try her Chutney Turkey Burgers and Roasted Sweet Potato Fries tonight! Here's what Stephanie has to share with us:

Turkey burgers are a great meal for summer – you can cook them on the grill or you can broil or pan-fry them. Any way you cook them, these Chutney Turkey Burgers from The Joy of Cooking are some of our favorites here at Nourish Personal Chef + Catering. The turkey stays moist, and the combination of spices and mango chutney (which you can find near the mustards and condiments in most supermarkets) give the burgers an unusual, slightly sweet, and international flavor.

Since turkey breasts have less fat than beef, these burgers can be a healthy alternative to ground beef burgers this summer – but make sure you look for ground turkey breast at the store. Some packaged ground turkey has as much fat as beef because it includes skin and dark meat along with the breast.

The perfect accompaniment to these turkey burgers is baked sweet potato “fries”. They are super easy to make, and absolutely delicious. They get a little crunchy on the outside from roasting them at a high temperature (especially if you cut them nice and thin) and have a wonderful sweet-and-savory flavor, thanks to the natural sugars in the sweet potatoes and the garlic powder that you dust them with.

Not only are these great barbecue dishes, or perfect for a weeknight dinner, they also provide you with lots of high-quality, lean protein from the burgers and also lots of nutrients (including vitamins A and C in particular) from the sweet potatoes. This is a meal you can enjoy and feel good about eating.

I hope this has inspired you to give these simple recipes a try!

Chutney Turkey Burgers
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

For the sauce:
½ cup prepared mango chutney
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the burgers:
1 pound ground turkey breast
3 tablespoons prepared Mango Chutney
2 scallions, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Additional ingredients:
8 slices of sourdough bread (or 4 hamburger buns)
Lettuce and thinly sliced red onion

To make the sauce, stir together the mango chutney, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice in a small bowl, and set aside.

To make the patties, combine turkey breast, chutney, scallions, cumin, coriander, and salt and pepper in another bowl and shape into four patties. Grill, broil, or pan fry, turning once, just until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes on each side. (If you are nervous about getting them cooked all the way through, use a meat thermometer and cook them to 160˚ - much higher than that and they can get dried out.)

Meanwhile, spread the chutney mixture over the bread, and top 4 slices of the bread with the lettuce and onion. Place the burgers on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Sweet Potato “Fries”From Nourish Personal Chef + Catering

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, scrubbed well
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Non-stick spray

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Cut the sweet potatoes into French-fry sized matchsticks (leave the skins on). Combine the sweet potatoes, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss to coat.

Coat a large baking sheet with non-stick spray and then arrange the sweet potatoes on the sheet. Roast the potatoes for about 25 – 30 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking. The sweet potatoes should be slightly browned and soft inside when you take them out.

Nourish Personal Chef + Catering provides customized meal services in the Chicago area, offering the convenience of ready-to-eat meals with the taste and nutrition of home-cooked food. We can save you hours each week that you would normally spend preparing meals and going out to eat! We use only the best and freshest ingredients to ensure that your meals are not only delicious, but also well balanced and healthy.

Our services are designed for busy people in all walks of life: professionals with no time to cook, families with children and hectic schedules, older adults who have special dietary requirements, athletes with specific nutritional needs, new parents, and those who just don't enjoy cooking but do enjoy good food! All meals are made just for you - based on your likes and dislikes - and special requests are always welcome.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Visit HPP at The Atlanta International Gift Market

We're selling our Fall/Winter Limited Edition ready-made line and brand new Essentials for Baby layette line
July 8 - 15th at the
Mama Mia Showroom
250 Spring Street Building 3 -13E109A
Atlanta, GA 30303
Be sure to visit us if you are in town!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Connections: Four Peas

Today's featured Connection is Casey Baca of Four Peas. Sarah and Sarah of Custom Made for Kids introduced us this Spring. One week after meeting Casey in Chicago we caught up at ENK where she invited Hand Picked Pumpkin to join the Mama Mia Showroom. Casey has been helping me expand the wholesale side of my business. Besides introducing me to the Atlanta showroom Casey has invited Hand Picked Pumpkin to join Four Peas at the Chicago Gift Show later this month.

Here's what Casey has to share with us about her line of designer bags.

1. Describe your product/service? Four Peas offers a great variety of hip and cool bags for kids. We offer toddler, school and lunch bags as well as
messenger bags that are even loved by adults.

2. Why did you create it? Four Peas actually started with a different idea,and the backpacks were just a part of the "big" plan. But people loved the unique designs so much, the company is not focused only on bags.

3. Why do you produce locally (made in the usa)? We work with a
manufacturer in Oak Park, IL but do such volume that we produce with their
affiliate in China.

4. What are you most proud of? My children. I feel extremely lucky to have had four beautifully healthy daughters, and that I have such great help and support that I am also able to run Four Peas.

5. What is your big thought (next bit step) for your company? We are going to expand into even more types of bags. We launch new designs each year,
but will roll out many more in 2009 than we have in the past, and we are
working on other great, stylish, but still very useful bag ideas. We will
also be working with a new company to bring in charms that match the bags
"characters" that will hang from the zippers on the bags. They will be
super cute and also a great collectible for the kids.

Thanks for sharing Casey!

Monday, July 7, 2008

July Pumpkin of the Month

Here's Brady, our newest pumpkin of the month! His mom Sarah added this note:

"Brady received his first HPP outfit from his Aunt Karmen this Christmas - since then we've added three more HPP custom outfits to his wardrobe!! The fabrics are unique and wash SO WELL - they are still soft after months of wear!! Now if I could just convince you to make toddler clothing so he can continue wearing them as he grows!! "

Congratulations Brady and Sarah on receiving a $50 hpp gift certificate!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Connections: Ruffle Butts

Today's featured Connection is Amber from Ruffle Butts. I introduced myself to Amber after seeing Hand Picked Pumpkin mentioned in her blog. Turns out Amber learned of Hand Picked Pumpkin via a mutual friend. Since that first email exchange, Amber and I have had many a conversation about marketing, press, local production and sales. Although Ruffle Butts is based in Florida, we've actually interviewed many of the same Chicago manufactures.

1. Describe your product/service?
RuffleButts is a fun & frilly clothing line for little angels. Bringing back the diaper cover of my childhood, this brand is designed to bring a smile to your face! We also offer personalized RuffleButt Bloomers on our website, which makes for a fabulously unique baby gift.

2. Why did you create it?
I have always wanted to start and run my own business, but when I had my "light bulb moment" with RuffleButts, I knew this was what I was meant to do. The little angels of today were completely deprived of their little ruffled bloomers, and I just couldn't allow that to happen!! I also love the big smile that inevitably appears on the faces of moms and grandmas alike as soon as they see their little angel decorated in rear ruffles. After working in other industries, it was important to me to create a business that was based on strong ethics and business principles. With all of the responsibilities that come with business ownership, also comes the control to do things "the right way" and that is an incredible opportunity.

3. Why do you produce locally (made in the usa)?
Unfortunately, we manufacture most of our products overseas. The majority of our production is done in the Dominican Republic, with limited replacements made in Chicago. Although, all of our fabric and trim is sourced here domestically. I wish I could say that we proudly manufacture USA, but it has been extremely challenging for us to find a reliable and affordable manufacturer here in the states. It has been challenging overseas as well, but so far, that has been our best option.

4. What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact that I run my business by the Golden Rule, and with everything I have experienced through this start-up, I have held strong to this belief. I am also so very proud when I receive pictures of our adorable little customers in their brand new RuffleButts! It is the customer satisfaction and joy that gives me that sense of satisfaction at the end of the day and keeps me going to the next.

5. What is your big thought (next bit step) for your company?
We are finally at a point where I feel like I have a handle on production and daily logistics. My next big step is to bring on larger retailers to share our products with more wonderful moms and little angels around the world. We just received a huge shipment of inventory, so I am ready to sell, sell, sell! We have been so blessed with the fabulous response we have received to our products in this first year, so I am very excited to see what lies ahead for our little ruffled brand.

Thanks for sharing with us Amber!