Bringing every woman back into the workforce

Yesterday, our Community Consulting Team presented it’s final deliverable to local non profit client, Every Woman Works. We had started the project earlier this year. Three volunteers, five months and a lot of hard work later, we were able to give Ms. Tillie, her board and her staff some concrete recommendations to take Every Woman Works to it’s next level.

Running a small organization in the suburbs of Roswell, GA with limited resources is not easy. The staff here has a strong passion for what they are doing i.e. helping other women (who have been in prison, drugs, or adversities) get back on their own feet. They provide an intensive curriculum that focuses on self empowerment, responsibility, dressing for success, interviewing and basic job skills. Most of the women are placed in a job even before they graduate. Needless to say, they are helping change people’s lives, so our consultation is very valuable to them.

The marketing project that our team focused on advised Every Woman Works to improve three broad areas – their web site, database and corporate sponsorships. We created a step-by-step plan that analyzed their current state, needs and an optimal future state as well as how to get there. In the next few months, you will see them re-haul their web site that is more donor-friendly and informative. It will have videos and testimonials. Their database is already under construction and it would be easier for them to stay in touch with their donors, volunteers and graduates. You can even start getting email newsletters from them soon.

Founder, Ms. Tillie and board chair, Michael Sinclair were very impressed with our work. They asked us to continue providing consultation to them throughout the year. We are very excited for the future of Every Woman Works and would be happy to provide ongoing support as needed.

If you are reading this and thinking “I want to help,” here are some ideas for you.

Every Woman Works is looking for a larger location so that they can offer their classes to more women. They have the demand but are constraint due to their physical limited capacity. If you know someone (such as a church, community center, real estate builder, etc.) who has empty space to offer, please contact Every Woman Works.

Make a monetary donation. It’s tax deductible. Also, if your employer has a partnership with United Way, you can chose Every Woman Works as your charity.

Have your company become a corporate sponsor. They are in dire need of large sponsorships from corporations. Donations ranging from cash, supplys to equipment can be very useful to them.

Get involved with their activities and events. If you are in the Atlanta area, make sure you attend their fundrasiers such as the Bee Ball, the Bee Extravaganza and other fun programs. For more information, contact them directly.

The Go Eat Give movement

Over the past few weeks, a lot of people have asked me “What is the idea behind Go Eat Give?” “Is it just a web site or more?” “What do you hope to achieve through it?” and “How can people get involved?”

I have answered some of those questions in my recent radio interview and media coverage, but here is a special edition just for my readers.

I started the Go Eat Give web site as an outlet to my stories. I have been writing about food and travel for different magazines, but this gives me a constant medium to express my passions. The “Go” stands for travels, “Eat” for food and “Give” for community service.

As I talked more about the site and what I was doing, it became the start of a movement. The Go Eat Give movement is about exploring the world through food and community service. I am encouraging people to travel (just as they would do for a vacation) but to a different part of the world, experience the local culture (not as a tourist) by working alongside the locals in the community. This can be done by doing volunteer work for as little as two hours a day. And lastly, explore the cultures the rest of the year while at home, through food. “Why food?” you may ask. Because food is one thing that brings us together. When people come together for a brief meeting or a special occasion, we always gather around food. We are social animals that want to be in a community and take pleasure in what we eat. Think about how exposure to international cuisines had broadened our horizons about different cultures.

Everyone talks about how the world is becoming a smaller place. We are more connected than ever because of the internet, media, transportation, etc. There is also much discussion about the human race entering a new era of enlightenment. It is expected that if we abandon our recent habits of competition and consumption, and tap into our inner spirits, the world will become a better place. In order to get there, either we hope lightning strikes on 12.21.2012 that raises collective consciousness or we make an effort to love and understand our brothers and sisters around the world.

This is where the Go Eat Give movement comes into play. It is here to enhance the evolution process, create mutual understand and raise awareness of who we are. I am not asking you to abandon your lifestyle, move abroad or make a huge commitment. All I am pronouncing is that stop being a tourist in your own world and start paying attention to your global community. Go Eat Give is about connecting people, places and palates!

Making Gelato at home

Making Gelato at home takes time and commitment. It is not difficult, but needs some advance planning. Here is a basic recipe to make your own Dulce De Leche Gelato.

The first step is to make a base. This can be plain (which will be used in most flavors) or chocolate.

1. Combine 2 cups milk and 1 cup heavy cream in a saucepan, with a cooking thermometer attached. Place over medium-high heat and cook stirring occasionally, until it reaches 170F.

2. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whisk 4 egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar, until mixture is thick and pale yellow.  Temper the eggs by adding the milk mixture one soup spoonful at a time, while whisking constantly.

3. Return the custard to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 185F. At no point the custard should bowl or form skin on the top.

4. Pour the custard through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. Let cool at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight. At this point, your freezer bowl (if using one) should be kept in the freezer overnight.

5.The following day, blend half of the custard mixture with ½ cup of Dulce le Leche (I use Nestle) but you can make your own with condensed milk. Blend until smooth, then whisk in the remaining custard. Pour into the ice cream machine and let it churn for 30 minutes (or as directed by your particular machine).

6. Warm ½ cup of Dulce le Leche in a microwave safe bowl. Drizzle it over the churned Gelato and let it churn for another 5 minutes. Transfer to an air tight, freezer safe bowl. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

7. Enjoy with a cookie, over a dessert or by itself!

Tips on making homemade Gelato

          I have been making my own Gelato from scratch since last summer. It is a two-day labor-intensive but very rewarding process.  I have a new appreciation for it now that I am making my own. First thing I learned was Gelato is relatively healthier than ice-cream. Whereas ice-cream is made with 100% cream, Gelato is 1/3 cream and 2/3 whole milk. Also, one of the ingredients for Gelato is egg yolks, so it is not a strict vegetarian dessert.

Gelato making process is very similar to that of custard. In fact, some places in U.S. serve Frozen Custard, which is a similar concept.

It tastes best fresh but needs to be consumed within a week of preparation. Obviously, if you add preservatives and store in commercial refrigerators, different rules would apply. In casa mia, Gelato è servito fresco.

Gelato can be made at home in small batches only. I have a small machine that makes 2 Quarts max. I usually make 1 Quart at a time which fits comfortably in the freezer bowl and the storage containers. It serves 8-10 scoops.

I use only fresh ingredients – no frozen fruits, or pre-ground nuts. You can definitely taste the flavor of the ingredients. Occasionally, I do cheat and use grated coconut flakes or dulce de leche from a can. I have also tried alcohol in my Gelato and it tastes goooood!

Lastly, ice in Gelato is bad. When I go quality testing (for fun) at other Gelato shops, my two pet peeves are – creaminess and iciness. The texture of the Gelato should be creamy (like Greek yogurt) but not thick like ice cream. Often, you can taste bits of ice particles in the Gelato (a drawback of the kind of machine you are using for churning or freezing), which is a huge turnoff. I am in love with Gelato, not Sorbetto!

My next post will give step-by-step instructions on how you can make your own Gelato at home.

Declaring my love for Gelato

Revealing my secret today-I have always had a thing for Gelato! To me, it is better than ice cream. It tastes softer, creamier and richer in flavor. Moreover, some of my favorite flavors – pistachio, hazelnut, mango, fig – are more readily available in Gelato, than ice cream.

This quest for Gelato has taken me on a long journey. In 2008, I travelled to Italy, where a large portion of my meal budget was spent on Gelato. On my first evening in Rome, as I was walking past a café, I ordered myself a large scoop of mixed berry gelato. I had to ask the cashier twice when he billed me for 10 Euros (approx $20 at the time).  Well, I was hooked right from the first bite. For the next seven days, I substituted breakfast, lunch and many dinners, with chocolate, hazelnut, lemon, strawberry, pistachio, coffee, stracciatella and many more flavors of Gelato.

After I returned home, I searched for all Gelato vendors in Atlanta. I tried the fresh stock at Whole Foods, Alon’s Bakery and Paulo’s. I even ventured into the frozen isles of upscale grocery stores. Not many options available and whatever I did try, it didn’t come close to what I had in Italy. Needless to say, I have been looking for the perfect Gelato in every city I visit.

Europe by plane is not Europe at allSpring of 2010, my boss and I were in Tucson, Arizona attending a Human Capital conference. We ate dinner one evening in a local shopping center and decided to have dessert at a Gelato parlor next door.  It was packed on a Sunday night and rated highly in the area. During our conversation and my declaration for the love of Gelato, my boss mentioned a place in Hilton Head in South Carolina, called Pino Gelato that he frequently visited. It was next door to his vacation property and he claimed it was one of the best he had tried. I had to find that out for myself!

Next thing I knew, I was talking to the owners of Pino Gelato in Hilton Head, tasting their product, touring their facility and learning about how to purchase a license from them to open a store of my own in Atlanta. The owners, John and Ramona were very passionate about their Gelato and managed their operations hands-on. Even the other license owners I talked to were very happy with their business.

I decided to put the business idea on hold for the time being, but not my love. Once I returned from Hilton Head, I bought an ice-cream machine, a food thermometer, a coffee grinder, several air tight plastic containers and the Ciao Bella recipe book.

Which takes me to my next post on Tips on making homemade Gelato

Why I volunteer…

I wrote this for my family and friends a few months ago and decided to share it with you too…

I lived in India with my grandmother till the age of 17. She was a professional volunteer social worker for most of her life as her husband did not want her to work for money. As a child, I would accompany her to blind schools, orphanages, Rotary clubs and many other places. Once when I was 10 years old, we were at Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Chandigarh, where I overheard a comment that got tattooed in my brain. The nun who was running the orphanage said that they had about 99 baby girls out of 100 kids at any given time. When my grandmother exclaimed, “Why no boys?” she said the boys get adopted right away but nobody wants the girls. That day I decided that when I am an adult I will come by and adopt a baby girl from an orphanage in India. If not that, at least I would try to impact their lives in whatever way I can.

Did you know that 1 million children get orphaned in India every year, followed by Russia and Africa? This fact alone led me to my journey to Russia in summer of 2009. I found a volunteer program offered by Cross Cultural Solutions that involved an Insight to Russia where one could take a volunteer vacation. The volunteers would be working in orphanages for 4-6 hours a day and get to experience the country in evenings and weekends. Since it was my first time doing something like this, in a far away country, by myself, I signed up for the 1 week program. Closer to my departure, I was told that the placements at Yaroslavl had changed a bit due to the Government interventions. Nevertheless, we would be working with children during our trip.

During my week in Yaroslavl, I went to an orphanage, a boarding school, a woman’s mental hospitals and an elderly ladies facility. I enjoyed playing with the kids, teaching them new crafts, taking their Polaroid photos for them to keep, and bringing ear to ear smiles to their faces. The elderly women were eager to make conversation with me and wanted to know how I like Obama’s new government! The hospital was a grave site to watch. The women had battered beds, got communal showers and got to eat oatmeal for every meal. One thing I recognized from this experience was how similar we humans are in every part of the world. The people I met lived in a far away country, but shared the same aspirations, desires, needs and problems as they do here. I met a 19 year old girl who had a crush on her college professor, another young woman who started drinking heavily after her mother’s death, and a grandmother who kept inviting me to her home where she was thinking she was going to after being released from the psychological facility.

Be it in India, in USA or in Russia, we all share the common thread of humanity. We want to have a good life where we are able to have access to necessities, have good health, peace and happiness, be recognized at work or communities, have someone to share our love with, and be close to our families. Those are the most important things in life!