Business is Cooking Along

Meadballs opened its doors – officially as an inspected and certified kitchen – on August 4, 2017. Bits and pieces of construction continued for another month, and I had a lot of kinks to work through.

Anyone who has moved will be familiar with some of this story. And anyone who has started a business will be nodding as well. First, I had to put everything away. And then I had to move it after I didn’t like where it was. I still can’t always locate things – and the kitchen is less than 1,000 square feet.

There were things I found I needed along the way. Like all new pots and pans. I don’t have a range – or open flame – because I didn’t want to have to vent with a kitchen hood (think $10,000). So I have induction burners. Which are great – but require a particular material and pot bottom to work. 

Then I bought the wrong sized sheet pans for the ovens.

Then it was soooo hot that the freezer kept sweating – even more than I was.

But after about 6 weeks, I started to get the hang of the place.

From a business standpoint, there are always things to work out. And from a personal point, I know it takes a minimum of six weeks to learn a new routine. Indeed, it took about six weeks to figure out what that routine was.

Originally, I thought I would deliver food on Thursdays and have the weekend to myself. Hah. Most people go out on the weekend. They want food for the week – meaning Monday. So that means cooking on the weekend.

Do I go to the farm on Thursday, or Friday? When do I get the other stuff? How do I know what I need? 

There’s a big difference between sometimes cooking for 20 people (family gatherings), and always cooking for 20 people. My sister didn’t mind sometimes getting the short-end of the salad bowl. People who pay do mind.

Then there were the times I would load up the bags and just cry. I was tired. I was dropping things. I had to reopen containers that I thought were finished and add the finishing touches that I found in the refrigerator just as I was about to leave.

Then there were the dishes. Loads of dishes. Mounds of dishes. Piles of dishes. And no dishwasher, except me. Because dishwashers for commercial kitchens are expensive. And I am not. And I would still need a 3-bowl sink whether I had a dishwasher or not. Sometimes I cried just looking at the dishes.

And then there is the farm, Post Farm, in North East. Where they are incredibly generous with their knowledge. And helpful. And pretty much anything you could ask for in a farm. But it’s a farm and there are things on the farm that I am allergic to. Only I didn’t know that. So one week – the first week they trusted me in the fields by myself – I had on shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. By the time I finished with the broccoli, welts covered me. Up my arms. Down my legs. And I was crying again.

Keep in mind, I am 54 years old. I have started 4 magazines. I had to close one of them. I have done financials. I have done budgets. I have cooked since I was 9.

And I’m crying.

Because being in business for yourself is hard. You can put something off until tomorrow, but it is still waiting for you then.

But I love it.

I love the freedom to  paddle board on Lake Erie when I have something i

n the oven for an hour. I love that I can walk the dog along Walnut Creek each morning before I start business. The dog does not go into the kitchen.

I love my customers, who look at my menu sometimes and ask if I really meant to add cheese to every single dish. Politely. And with concern – that perhaps I might be clogging all of their arteries and then I would have no customers. And then I can laugh. And adjust. And thank them.

And crying is OK. And hard work is OK. And washing the dishes is OK. And mopping the floors is OK. Cutting myself is not OK, but now I put down the knife when I realize I am too tired. And I make bread. Because making bread is about the most relaxing thing I can think of some days (after walking the dog on the beach).

And you realize the world doesn’t end when you have welts all over your arms and legs. Take 2 Benadryl and go to sleep for 14 hours. You will be amazed at how you feel. And how thankful you are to have a lovely 15-year-old daughter who brings you a ginger ale. And who doesn’t think you are crazy for starting a business. And incredibly supportive parents who let you convert a basement space into a business (that you paid for out of your retirement stash).

And you are thankful that all these people believe in you. Indeed, they actually pay you to make them dinner. And deliver it.

I am blessed.

Thank you all.

And if you want to order, just message or e-mail me on Facebook from Meadballs Meals.

Best

Marnie

Marnie@Meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Business is Cooking Along
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
pancakes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
pancakes
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Crazed Chef Craves Squash (really!)

Things have been a little hectic here in the Meadballs kitchen. Big news is that I am finally certified. This seemed liked the hugest hurdle back in the spring. But when the day finally came on Friday, Aug. 4, it really was just he beginning. Because of three things:

  • Most of my pots and pans didn’t work with induction. So I had to buy new ones.
  • I have to wash dishes now. (Dishwasher not in the budget).
  • The ventilation project wasn’t totally finished.

The last is probably the biggest issue because it is August. And while it has been pretty chill so far, it isn’t all that cool in my basement digs with three fridges, two freezers, two ovens, and three induction cooktops going. Sometimes all at once. So the electrician returned to install a big fan, some vents in the ductwork and a cooler for the wine room. As a result, my shiny new kitchen is a mess of dust, dirt, power saws, and electrical things. It is loud and dirty. So I haven’t been in the kitchen much since I picked up my lovely certificate.

But, never fear, it should all be done by tomorrow morning and I’ll be cooking away. If you have signed up for my newsletter – there is a sign-up on this website – you will find the specials for next week. They will also be posted on the Meadballs Meals facebook page. Order by e-mailing marnie@meadballs.com, messaging me on Facebook, or by texting 814.470.8688. Orders need to be received by Sunday at noon for Monday delivery.

In the meantime, I’ve been in my home kitchen working with what to do with a truckload of yellow squash. I love this bread with blueberries. Don’t skip the glaze, it makes the cake and helps keep it fresh.

Print Recipe
Lemonade Blueberry Squash Bread
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 regular loaf pans.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. In another large or medium bowl, combine melted butter and sugar. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Whisk in eggs.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add squash and stir just to blend. Toss blueberries with the remaining flour. Add to mixture.
  6. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes.
  7. Allow the pan to cool; remove the bread and place top down on a serving plate.
  8. In the meantime, make the glaze by combining all the ingredients and mixing until smooth. Pour over top of bread.
  9. Serve.
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Counting Days to Meadballs Delivery

Just as the agricultural season is getting into full swing, so is construction on the new Meadballs kitchen. Indeed, just a week until the Erie County Department of Health inspection, and Meadballs will be open for business.

This week has been a flurry … but – and I find this hard to imagine – the most exciting thing is the concrete floor. Yes, I am excited about a concrete floor.

The kitchen space is a former playroom, which had Berber carpeting to keep the tiny knees from getting skinned. The the small noggins from bouncing off concrete. The carpeting added a bit of cushion.

The carpet has been gone for a couple of weeks, but today Advanced Concrete Floor put the design/paint/finish on. It looks spectacular. You may have seen the company’s work at Twig in the Colony Plaza.

Let me tell you, I had no idea concrete could be so beautiful. The final polyurethane finish comes tomorrow, but this is what it looks like now. It’s like Lake Erie met my basement in a good way.

There are bubbles, and waves, and sand … and it’s really cool.

On Monday, the equipment will be delivered. And then it is all about the plumbing and electrical. And I get to go shopping for things like spatulas, immersion blenders, and mixers. I expect to be moving in on Wednesday and Thursday in order to be ready on Friday.

That’s not all that’s going on. I’m still sampling in the market. Thank you to this week’s volunteers Karen Ducato and Jill Starr. Their input is appreciated. The logo bags should be arriving early next week to finish my look. Then, it’s time to start cooking for real.

This week at Post Apples CSA, the bags contained bok choy, collard greens, kale, zucchini, corn, Chinese cabbage, green beans, peppers, cucumber, and kohlrabi. I will be making more stuffed collard greens this week, along with some zoodles and meatballs, and some salads that I am still pondering. Nothing like a deadline to figure things out.

Speaking of which, my goal will be to post the week’s upcoming meals on Friday mornings. My goal is to have you contact me if you want in that week or be a subscriber. I’m working on a contact form that generates a notification to me – but the fastest and easiest way is to message me at 814.470.8688, e-mail marnie@meadballs.com, or contact me on the Meadballs Facebook page.

One of the highlights this week – other than the floor – was picking blueberries in North East at Conn’s Blueberry Farm. Took me about 90 minutes to pick 10 quarts. And 10 quarts of blueberries means pies, pies, and more pies.

 

I like this recipe because it isn’t all flour as a thickener. I am partial to tapioca starch or minute mini tapioca instead of all flour as a thickener. I also am a fan of the lattice top, so here’s an easy YouTube video that shows a hack on how to do it by making the lattice on parchment and then putting on the pie. Don’t forget to brush with egg and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar for a lovely finish.

My blueberries this year were a tad tart, which was fine with me. I don’t like an overly sweet pie. If you like your pies a little sweeter, I would suggest adding another tablespoon or 2 of sugar. But if you are going to serve your pie with ice cream, which is what I adore, then don’t add too much sugar or the combination with be more sweet than blueberry.

Happy eating

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Blueberry Pie
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees (400 if you have a convection oven). Take one crust out of the fridge. Give it about 10 minutes before you try to roll it out, or unroll it if it is a premade rolled crust.
  2. Place the crust into bottom of 9-inch pan. Trim any excess hanging over the edge. Place in the refrigerator while you complete the rest of the steps. If you have a premade crust, then take the second one out of the fridge to get the chill off so you can easily place it over the blueberries to top the pie, or cut into a lattice if you desire.
  3. In a large bowl, mix blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, thickener, sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Gently mix to combine. Pour into pie panand evenly distribute.
  4. In a small bowl, mix egg and water.
  5. Place second crust on top (or follow the YouTube instructions above to make a lattice crust). Crimp edges. Cut 2-4 slits in the top if crust covers the entire top. Brush all exposed pastry with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Place on a baking sheet covered with foil.
  7. Bake at 425 or 400 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 to 40 minutes (or longer) until the blueberries are bubbling. If the crust begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil part way through baking.
  8. Sometimes I start with the pie covered - very loosely with foil - and then take the foil off for the last 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven. Allow to cool before serving.
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Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Meadballs is in full-blown under-construction mode. I’m testing recipes and the all things online are testing my patience.

Fortunately, the contractor are busily working away in the basement doing their thing. The lights are in. The plumbing is, well, plumbed. The painter will be here this weekend. The floors will be done next week.

Curtze Foods has me set up as an account. And the equipment ordered by A. Caplan should be on the truck tomorrow.

Food and construction I can deal with. All things related to the Internet, web sites, e-mail lists, marketing, etc., are making me crazy.

Yes, I am already crazy to be starting a business, especially one in food. But anyone who knows me knows that is my kind of crazy. It’s creative. It’s uncertain at times. But I make making something.

With most things technology oriented, I know enough to make a mess. I broke my own rule and didn’t check whether the subscribe button actually worked. I put all the links it. Looked at it on the page, but never checked.

As a result, I cannot subscribe to an e-mail update to my blog. And neither could my mother. Or other people who politely asked me if I had stopped blogging.

Six hours online with various help desks yielded what I hope to be a fix. At one point, a helpful chat assistant asked me if I was the web developer. I just about spit out my Diet Coke. Of course, at that point I kind of looked like one. I hadn’t showered. I had been mainlining coffee and Diet Coke nonstop for hours. My eyes were bloodshot. And the pinched nerve in my neck was throbbing again.

If websites weren’t so useful I would have shot mine. And chucked the computer out the window.

But this is a new week. And I have close to 16 hours into trying to fix this thing. Yes, I am the web developer. And chief cook and bottle washer. And marketing director – which involved another 4 hours uploading logos for merchandise to see how it would look. And half the time the resizing tool wouldn’t work, so my bags were all going to read Meadballs, without the website or phone number.

Sigh.

Eventually, I got it. The merch should arrive next week. Patience. Try a new browser. Refresh. Walk away and water the tomatoes. Go to yoga. Lots of yoga.

As a result, this website won’t be an e-commerce site until I can be sure it will work. You will have to either talk or text me and I will have to talk or text back. I will be able to take payments via PayPal or using the Square (weekend project) so debit or credit will be available. But I’m not going to leave you hanging on trying to load a credit card on this website.

Because I tried that last week with both LECOM and the New York Times, when my automatic payments failed due to a new debit card. But after 90 minutes trying to load my CC # into the LECOM site, and another 30 with the NYT – I gave up. Two days later the NYT site took my card. I had to go to LECOM and hand it to a person to finally get my membership paid up.

My parents did not raise a fool. If two respected businesses have hitches in their online card services, I can only imagine mine.

And as web developer, chief cook, driver, and I have no desire to be the online accounting manager too.

So we will start small.

In the meantime, I tested a new salad with friends Rebecca Styn and Kate McCune-Nash (who runs a gorgeous CSA for flowers in Erie out of her lovely home, 402 Nectar).

It makes use of a bounty of bok choy from Post Apples CSA in North East.

 

Stay cool. Enjoy your veggies. And think about heading out to the Cherry Festival in North East this weekend for some of the best pie you’ll taste this summer (unless it’s one of mine).

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Bok Choy Ramen Salad
Course lunch, Salad, side dish
Cuisine American, Asian
Servings
Ingredients
Course lunch, Salad, side dish
Cuisine American, Asian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Dressing: In a small bowl whisk together combine brown sugar, olive oil, vinegar, tahini, and soy sauce. Allow flavors to blend at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  2. Salad: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering. Reduce heat to low. Add ramen noodles and sunflower seeds. Toast, stirring so they don't burn, for about 5 to 10 minutes,
  3. In a large bowl, combine baby bok choy, scallions, and ramen mix. Drizzle salad dressing over the top and toss until uniformly combined. Serve at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from CulinaryHill.com

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