A business coach who does not yet know my style of business said that title phrase to me yesterday. It was a moment of epiphany for me because he was talking to me and one other restaurant owner (a man from Buffalo, NY) and while Mark and I have run our business with that thought as one of our bottom lines from the beginning, the other restaurant owner did not seem to be as sure about it. As Bill described things that we could do for our staff, customers, neighbors and community I realized that we really are different from other business owners. Nearly every suggestion that he made we have either done, thought about doing, plan to do or have done better than. It is my goal to be the boss that I never had and always wanted (some days I think I get it and some days it needs work) as well as to be a community hub; a destination for our community to have quiet time or to join together as needed. It feels good to know from an outsider that we are on the right path and our team members will be better off for it.

Another thing he said that resonated with me was that it should be my goal to ‘become a means of communication for the community’, which of course is exactly what we have been trying to do, though I had not put it as articulately as he did. We will keep on this path as well. When we ask ourselves ‘what can I do to help’ rather than ‘what can I get out of this’, it opens our heart and minds up to so many more possibilities. This year our financial contributions will have to be cut way back and we need to make our business our financial focus. That does not mean that we cannot help, we just have to think of different ways to do that. Our staff are great examples of being giving of their time: Leslie is beginning to volunteer at Planned Parenthood as sort of a guidance counselor for teens; Rheycel is a caretaker for an elderly woman who needs extra help; and Erin is a steward for animal rights and mother earth. Sharon channels her loving energy towards animals: last year she helped to care for a horse who’s owner was injured and hospitalized, then out of commission for a very long time. Mark is bowling for foster kids next month at the Sleep Country Pajama Bowl, and every one of them gets excited and involved when we have fundraisers and other charitable events at the cafe.

Asked and received! I needed new ways to give and one way I will be offering my services is at a wine tasting that will raise money for Relay for Life (American Cancer Society) at the Body Reform Pilates Studio. Janice, who owns the Pilates studio, is putting the team together (feel free to join by clicking that link on the studio name) and doing the fundraising, and when she told me about it I jumped at the chance to help. I can volunteer my time and energy, plus help get the wines, and voila! It is a non-financial, yet still great way for me to give. What can I do to help? The possibilities go on forever!

On April 30 we will have our annual Dining Out For Life event. If you are asking how you can help this one is so easy! Just come in for lunch that day and we will donate 30% of our sales to the cause. Our donations are then given to the Kitsap HIV AIDS Foundation so our assistance stays right here in Kitsap. I love that part of it! We do try to keep even our giving as local as possible, since Think Local First is our mantra these days.

Last week I said that it had occurred to me that we could all use tips on how to stretch our food dollar. Wanting to give credit where credit is due, I have to thank Jean for planting the seeds of that thought. She is who really noticed that many of us do not know what it is to stretch food into multiple meals.

This week’s recipe is Spanish Style Braised Lentils with Sausage. I hope you like it! And remember that some of the measurements are estimates on my part; I will let you know if any of the steps are integral to the recipe and you should try to follow that part of it.

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 lb kielbasa (I cut it into 4 or so pieces, then each of those half lengthwise, and you can either leave them like that or cut them more bite sized)
1 medium onion, minced
a carrot, peeled and minced
a rib of celery, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/4 tsp smoked bittersweet paprika (if you do not have the smoked you can use regular sweet paprika, or whatever kind you have. The smokiness is partly what makes this Spanish style)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
fresh thyme (about 5 sprigs) or 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 cup lentils (make sure there are no stones in them)
1 1/2 C chicken broth (if you don’t make your own try to find low sodium. I use Swanson’s Organic when I am out of homemade, because I think it has the best flavor)
1 1/2 C water
ground pepper
chopped scallions for garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet (12 inches if you have it) on medium high. Lay in the sausage (you may want to pat it dry if it is wet, lest it splatter hot oil on you.) Cook until browned, maybe 2 minutes, then transfer out of the pan.

Heat the oil back up and add the onion, carrots and celery with about a 1/2 tsp salt, and cook it up scraping the bottom as you go. The onion should be soft and will take about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika, being careful not to let the garlic burn (it will get nasty bitter), for about a minute. You should be able to really smell the herbs. Add the tomatoes and thyme and cook for anther minute. (I tie the fresh thyme with some string so I can fish it out easily, but you don’t have to, the sprigs will be evident.)

Stir in the lentils, saute for a moment, and then add the broth and water. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the lentils are almost done, maybe 35 minutes or so. Nestle the kielbasa into the lentils and cook until the lentils are completely done, about another 10 minutes. Fish out the thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with the scallions.

This recipe should serve four nicely; you can of course double it (I would!) and eat off of it for a couple of days. It gets yummier as it sets.

If you want to adapt this recipe to a slow cooker and leave it for the day, I would still brown the kielbasa just for that extra layer of flavor, though you don’t have to. Layer it all except the sausage in the slow cooker and stir it up. In the last hour add in the kielbasa pieces and it will blend in to the rest of the dish.

How does that sound?