Mystery Baskets & Cooking Utensils…

IMG_2723It was another beautiful sunny day when I got in the truck to head to good ole Dallas Texas. I knew that this event was going to be an awesome experience. I was headed to the State Finals for the FCCLA Mystery Basket Contest. FCCLA stands for Family, Career, Community Leaders of America. It is an organization that youth can become involved in at their high-schools. The Mystery Basket contest is just one of the many events at FCCLA competitions.

I knew this was going to be a special event because not only was it the State Finals, but I had the privilege of attending almost all the regional events. I had seen most of the contestants compete in order to make it to the State Finals and it was going to be interesting to watch them compete again to see the different dishes that they were going to make. The Mystery Basket event is sponsored by Johnson & Wales University and the Texas Beef Council. This year I had the honor of working with Elena Doerrie and Martin Stout from Johnson & Wales. They are amazing people and if you are interested in going to culinary school they would be excellent people to contact and speak with. I can also help get those contact numbers if needed, or you can check out their website at

https://www1.jwu.edu/

For the Mystery Basket contest the contestants are given a bag that normally contains a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. They have no idea what is going to be in the bag until the start of the competition. They are then given twenty minutes to plan a dish and then given an additional forty minutes to cook the dish. Texas Beef Council provides the mystery basket items and additional pantry items that are used to make the dishes. This ranges from fresh produce, to milk, to pasta, all the way to seasonings for their steaks. Let’s just say I learned my way around the grocery store extremely well in the last couple of months! Who knew that butter lettuce existed?!? I am so very thankful that I had this opportunity to learn about some fantastic foods that I had no idea existed. Throughout the year, we had a variety of different items in their bags at the regional events. Some of those items included: carrots, celery, red bell peppers and avocados. More importantly we always included a steak in the bag! For the final event, we pulled out a huge surprise by putting an eggplant in the bag along with our steaks. During the contest the contestants are being judged the entire time, and then at the end the food is tasted and judged as well. At the end of the event the person with the most points wins.   At the finals, we had two separate rounds of students competing. My job was to help make sure the “pantry” stayed stocked between the two sessions along with making sure the students were safe with all of their burners going. I will say this event had definitely intrigued me into wanting to learn more about cooking!

No matter who the winner was, I congratulate all the students that made it to the finals! I know it was not an easy task and it was extraordinary to see how well they performed over the last few months. This was a great event that the Texas Beef Council puts on helping support the youth. I will definitely miss doing this next year.

Psalm 31:24 – “Be Strong and Take Heart, all you who Hope in the Lord”

Sandy Creek…

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This is my Happy place.

A place where you can forget about all the hustle and bustle of the daily life. Where all of the inner struggles can be set aside. Where you can sit back and think about all that you have achieved so far and know that you are capable of so much more.

My happy place is where expectations are not in sight. A place where there is no one expecting something from you. A place where all of the worries that you have can be removed from the present mind. A place where you can sit and the silence can speak so many words. You can listen to the breeze blow through the trees and the birds sing as they fly around. Where the fish jump in the pond and the ripples float all the way to the shore. Where the ducks will land for a swim, while the turtles pop their heads up.

My happy place is where you can walk in the sandy creek and watch your bare feet sink. Where you can lay on the sand hidden away from the rest of the world and watch the clouds drift by. Minutes ticking by to hours as you lay there forgetting everything, only listening to the sound of nature. Where the start of a four-wheeler engine disturbs the silence and just for a moment you are taken back to the reality of things; until you look around and realize that the happy place is still there. A place that reminds you of all the wonderful things God has done for us and continues to do for us on a daily basis.

This simple place is my happy place. A place where you only get one or two channels on the old television. Where cell reception is fuzzy depending on where you are standing. Oddly, I look forward to no cell reception. Being happy. Where memories have been created. Where new memories are made and shared. Where your daughter learns the same things you learned when you were a child. Where the generations all come together and enjoy each other’s company because you never know when it might be the last time.

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Find your happy place.

Find the place where you can let the world go and find the joy in the little things. Find your happy place and take the time to go there often. Find your happy place and share it with your loved ones. Find your happy place and do not it go. Life is too short to be always burdened about what comes next.

Take the time to live in the present.

Enjoy that happiness and see things, really see things for the beauty of what they are. I have had my ups and downs, my trials and tribulations just like everyone else. It is the way you look at the outcomes of things that shapes you as a person. It has taken me some time to understand this but being at my happy place makes everything clearer.

So find your happy place, wherever or whatever it may be, enjoy it and take the time to appreciate it and all that it does for you.

 

 

Isaiah 40:31 –    ” but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

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Good Ole San Antonio Texas….

As I climbed into the big truck to head out of town April 1st, I knew it was going to be a great weekend with the whirlwind of events we had planned. The Texas Beef Council team was headed to good ole San Antonio Texas. I was pretty excited about this event as I have been to San Antonio before but I have not experienced the Riverwalk or downtown San Antonio. We were headed to the Alamodome to set up for the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown Finale.

I am pretty sure you are probably thinking, “H-E-B Slim Down Showdown? Now what is that?” Well, it is an awesome opportunity that H-E-B puts on for their employees as well as people from the surrounding community. Slim Down Showdown (SDSD) is a 12 week competition where the contestants are competing for $10,000. While some may consider this a competition when they first begin the program, this is more of a life changing event. After a while it no longer becomes a competition but a better way to live a healthy life. The kick off of this event started 12 weeks ago on January 10th with a 7 day Fit Camp which included fitness and nutritional training along with cooking and meal training.  What an awesome way to kick start a program; with a group of people who are there to help you and support you on this new journey.

At the end of the 12 weeks the contestants came back for a final weigh in. This took place at the Alamodome. As we arrived at the Alamodome, we were able to drive in to set up our booth. It was a pretty awesome feeling driving in and setting up knowing that in just a few hours we would get to witness and hear some of the greatest stories about the changes that these contestants had made.

Morning came and we arrived at our booth. Texas Beef Council is a sponsor for this great event, and we were also there to inform consumers about the benefits of beef in the diet. Did you know that it is recommended to consume 25 to 30 grams of protein at every meal including breakfast, lunch, and dinner? This also helps cut those afternoon sugar cravings. If you are interested, there is a really neat challenge called the 30-day protein challenge. If you would like more information on this program please check out

http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/proteinchallenge.aspx

The hours flew past at the booth while we were meeting people and sharing information. I looked up and the time had finally arrived. We were going to be able to see the contestants and they were going to announce the winners. Before the contestants came out, they each shared part of their story. Learning about the reasons they were doing this program was heart-warming. From wanting to be around for their children, to building more confidence, each story touched my heart in some special way. As the contestants walked out, the physical changes were very obvious. For me, it was the changes on the inside that brought me to tears. You can only imagine all the blood sweat and tears that they endured during the 12 week program and each and every one was so proud, happy, and thankful.

I am so incredibly humbled and overjoyed for all the contestants at this year’s SDSD. While not every contestant won the money, I believe they were all winners in the end. Watching this contest helped me open my eyes and put a new perspective on life. You only have one body and it is very important. Make sure you take care of it, so it will take care of you. If you would like some more information on the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown please visit

http://sdsd.heb.com/

You can even read some of the contestant’s blogs on the website. I suggest taking some time to read a few of them to learn about all the hard work they put in.

“But it’s the little things, the little things not expectation, That make life worth living, worth living “ – JJ Grey & MoFro – The Sun is Shining Down

I felt that these lyrics from this song fit perfectly well with the SDSD challenge. It is the little things that the people changed about them that is the best part of all of this.

Until next time….

Song of Solomon 4:7 –  “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”