Catalyst Cooks

Make. Food. Happen!

The New Lifestyle January 26, 2011

Musings on the changes we’ve made here at the Antila household (compared to one year ago).

Purchased > Homemade  (Buy > Make)

Eat out > Eat in

Pay for it > Do it ourselves (like cleaning or shoveling or lawn mowing)

Follow someone else’s rules > Make the rules

Rote > Creative

Normal > Experiment

Go out > Host here

Rigid schedule > Flexibility

Follow someone else’s plan > Make my own plan

Wear Business Casual > Wear an apron

What change are you a big fan of?  What should I think about doing next?


Catalyst Cooks ® January 10, 2011

Happy New Year!

One year ago, in January 2010, I….

  • said goodbye to my old way of life: rise, try to shine, feel less than sparkly, go home, sleep, repeat.
  • said hello to feeling shiny – and happy, and joyful! – by doing what I love.
  • figured out what ‘doing what I love’ means

(What are you doing in this new year to celebrate you?)

That soul-searching led me, of all places, INTO THE KITCHEN.  Who knew that the quest of happiness would take me from cubeland to the kitchen??!!?

Four months later, in April 2010, I had an idea and a name.  Catalyst Cooks!!!

You may have noticed a few changes to the website… little Rs with circles and such….

that is because, over 8 months after applying for a trademark for Catalyst Cooks ~



Anyone out there have a trademark, or know someone who does?  Is there anything I should be doing next?

Woo hoo!!!


Plateaus and the Beekeeper’s Dream October 21, 2010


A leveling out.  A period of relatively little or no change.  Flatness.

That’s what I think about when I think about a plateau.  I feel like I’m on one. 

Some days I feel like napping.  Resting.  Flattening out, myself.

Why?  Why did my energy dip?  Is it the chill in the air, the hard work I do on the weekends at the winery, the additional exercise I’ve committed to doing each day?

Is it that I forgot to rest when I was Saying Goodbye to old things and Saying Hello to New things?  Did I forget to stop and take stock in the middle, as the Transition grid says I should?

Michelle says there isn’t a wrong way to do this entrepreneurial thing.  Or, for that matter, there isn’t a wrong way to do your life.  So I have taken the past couple of weeks since my last coaching session to accept this gift of a period of rest.  I’ve settled into the comfort inside my four walls and embraced my down blanket with the soft, suede-like skin and wrapped it around me.  I decided to enjoy this plateau and changed how I perceive this stage.

Merriam Webster actually defines plateau as “A level of attainment or achievement.”  Take that, Jen the Catalyst!  Enjoy and savor what you’ve accomplished, and get fueled up for the next climb!!!

So I had a dream the other night.  I was at the Orchard, digging through the beehive to get at some delicious honey. 

But the Bees kept stinging.  It hurt, and I wanted to stop.

But the voice in my head said- “Keep going!  Even if it stings now, if you keep trying, you’ll get some luscious honey at the end.”

Golden, sweet honey. 

In my dream, I kept going.  I kept trying.

My dream will conquer my brain.  I know it!


Make Hummus (or hummous, as you like) from scratch June 3, 2010

I love to have business meetings at my house.  We get the panoramic view of what’s happening on the street, in the backyard, and at the neighbor’s from my office.

Yesterday I was lucky to host Faith, wellness coach and woman of action!  We shared some stories, brainstormed some ideas (look for a Catalyst Cooks collaboration coming soon!), ate lunch…. and stumbled on a recurring theme that I need to personally remind myself of pretty often.

That is- I forget my life before I learned how to cook.

I forget how I didn’t know how to grocery shop for healthy, basic foods.  I forget that I didn’t know how to plan a menu for my week.  I forget that I didn’t know what saute means!

I also forget how I used to buy pre-made things because I didn’t know how to make them.  Since then I’ve learned- making a lot of things is pretty fun.  and, once you get the hang of it, pretty easy too!

So today, I’ll cover something easy to make, that I used to buy (a lot).  Hummus.

Hummus starts with Garbanzo beans

The main ingredient in hummus is garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas). 

I used to always buy the canned version.

I learned that canned Garbanzos can be found in multiple places in my grocery store, but that they are cheapest in the Mexican section of the store.

Now, I’m started to buy the dry beans.  That just requires a bit more planning, because then I soak the beans overnight. 

The benefit of using canned beans is that they are immediately ready when you are- just rinse and drain.

However, the dried beans are cheaper.  I can take out and soak just the quantity I want-  Sometimes I may want hummus just for me.

Next step is the garlic.

I like to use fresh garlic, always. 

Although the minced fresh garlic in the jar is a close second.

I *love* garlic and like to use a lot of it when I make hummus- maybe four of the larger cloves for a can of garbanzo beans.

I press each clove through my garlic press to make sure it’s minced evenly and well, although it would work fine to mince it by hand. 

Other ingredients (I assume you are using a can of chickpeas):

The juice of a lemon (be sure to reserve a slice from the middle for garnish)

a bit (1.5 Tablespoons) of Tahini (sesame seed paste- I use a couple teaspoons of peanut butter as a cheat substitute since I don’t have tahini around)

olive oil- for richer hummus, use 1/4 Cup.  For lighter hummus, use a couple of tablespoons and then add 1/4 Cup water or plain yogurt (I use fat free yogurt- I like to drain it first in a strainer over a clean paper towel to remove as much liquid as possible)

salt and pepper to taste – I use just a pinch

You can increase the amount of fat-free plain yogurt, which increases the volume of the hummus and reduces each serving’s calories.

Put everything in your food processor and pulse/blend it to your desired consistency.

I like to add a bit of paprika and my reserved lemon slice on the top of my hummus to “dress it up.”

Serve with pita triangles, cut vegetables (instead of dip), crackers… and be ready for a yummy, garlic-infused treat!

This recipe makes approximately 20 ounces of hummus.  Enjoy with friends!

And don’t forget the wine… this hummus is flexible enough to pair with just about anything.  I like it with Parley Lake Winery’s Frontenac Rosso, and I find that the chickpea and tahini allows the cherry-fruit and tobacco notes in the wine to shine.


A Teaching and Learning Week April 30, 2010

This week has been great fun.  It’s all yin and yang, back and forth.  Boomerang: throw it out there, it comes back to you.

Teach and Learn.

On Tuesday, I took the Grocery Shopping Class (led by the lovely Stacy Klone) at Byerly’s in Ridgedale.  Lee, my first paying customer, accompanied me- I wanted to pick his brain and find out what he thought about the class and what else he might want to learn as a client in the demographic I want to serve.

What a gift the class was!  I left with an important, easy rule of thumb: “if it wasn’t around 100 years ago, don’t buy it.”  Stacy gave us great tips on how to pick the best produce and seafood (from her extensive background as a food merchant); interspersed with personal stories about her weight loss journey.  I learned a lot, as did Lee- so much that we “had to go out for a beer afterward” to compare notes and make sure we had heard everything.  Lee is busy preparing for his month of hell I mean P90X- the Shopping class couldn’t have come at a better time for him, as the P90X program requires a nutrition plan that goes back to basics… whole grains, protein, and natural foods.  Thanks a million to Stacy for modeling great teaching.

On Wednesday, I graduated my first Crash Course Dinner Party class!  Guess what they got (it’s our first Catalyst Pop Quiz)?

What a milestone!  My first class!  I’m so proud- of Sarah, MI, Cathy and Terri for their willingness to take a risk and take my first class; of me for having the guts to put it out there and work through the nervousness and turn into a confident teacher; and of Neighbor Dave (as well as too many friends & family to count) for supporting me.  Thanks so much for helping me to make it happen!

At the end, I heard affirming words- that the class provided “practical solutions and advice that gave me confidence” – and that I “put the fun into cooking and entertaining”- Voila!  Exactly what I was hoping for!  WOOT!

Yesterday, I took that confidence on the road to the monthly Women Who Really Cook gathering, hosted by the fun and effervescent Lisa at QKindness Cafe.  I got to meet Sue Zelickson- she is a gem- we had the chance to go ’round the room and share what we do, and Sue demonstrated her natural gift to be a cheerleader.  She has that natural Catalyst quality to make things happen and connect people who can help each other.  I met some very cool ladies yesterday and left feeling really pumped- both to receive help and to provide it where I can.  There is nothing better!

Give and Take.

And the answer to the pop quiz: It’s the best tool in the kitchen to apply your skills and make things happen!



Catalyst Cooks Future Classes… April 29, 2010

At this point in developing the company, I’m drafting a course offering and would love your comments and feedback. 

Here goes…. take a look and please comment on what looks interesting and would bring life into your kitchen (or in the kitchens of people you know!)


My first class just graduated last night!  Congrats to Sarah, MI, Terri and Cathy.  I learned that there are different levels of experience- from ‘minimal vegetable cutting experience’ to ‘I’ve hosted before but want to do it more/better’.  So…

Beginner: Learn to have a dinner party in three easy steps: Mix your friends, plan your Meal, and Make it happen!

Intermediate: Take it to the next level.  BYOR (recipes) as food for thought and discuss how to pick the right menu and wine pairings.

Advanced: Recipe challenge.  BYOR based on a theme and discuss how to incorporate new ingredients, techniques, and levels of difficulty to amp up your skills.


I’m looking forward to testing this concept next Wednesday for a group of 6 for Cinco de Mayo!  For cooks of all levels: come together in the kitchen or at the grill to whip up a meal based on a theme, such as: Bastille Day, Summer BBQ fun, Tailgating 101, Grilled cheese party, Sushi Night, Chinese New Year, Evening in Italy (or France or Spain or Puerto Rico or…)

Perfect for Workgroup/team outings, Wedding or baby showers, Bachelorette party starter, Birthdays, Neighborhood or family get togethers… can be at my place or at yours; can incorporate teambuilding as part of the cooking experience upon request.


For adults on the cusp of cooking greatness!  Learn how to meal plan, grocery shop, and prepare meals from scratch, including (but not limited to): Bread and dough making, Homemade pizza, pasta, etc, Basic sauces and dressings, how to choose and use the best produce/meat/ingredients, and much more. 


For Kids who want to be “hands-on” in the kitchen!  Learn how to make basic meals from scratch, including: Breadmaking, pasta, basic sauces, stir fry… including knife handling safety, using basic kitchenware and tools, and introductory table etiquette.

CATERING: for folks who want the benefits of great food without the work

ON-SITE COOKING/KITCHEN COACHING and CONSULTATION: for folks who want a personalized confidence boost

To readers: what grabs your eye?  What piques your interest?  What suggestions do you have?  Love to hear your thoughts on this draft set of concepts!  Better yet, love to have you participate in a personal evaluation of a class!


Money April 22, 2010

In the birth of a business, money is very important.  I plan on getting a nice income from my business, so I need someone to help me store it and I need another person to help me keep track of it and stay on the good side of the IRS.  🙂

So this week, I reached out and set up appointments.  My title of those emails or voicemails was:

“Entrepreneur seeking Banker and Accountant.”

My first mode of attack on the Accountant side was to ask people I trust for their referrals.  I used Linkedin (My profile is HERE) to search my network for CPAs that work with small or sole proprietor businesses.  I found a few friends-of-friends and sent requests to be introduced (virtually).  I already have an appointment with a CPA next week!  It will be a good experience to see his office, and assess the level of professionalism and support he will offer.

I wanted to make sure I was armed with the right questions, so I did a little research.  Since I’m prone to brain-farts and don’t want to forget what I’ve done (for the next time I do a start-up) – and for those of you that follow this blog as a primer- here’s what I’m planning to ask the Accountant:

  • The question I won’t have to ask based on my process:  You’re really a CPA, and a recommended by my friend(s), right?
  • What are your business specialities?  Who are your favorite types of clients, and why?
  • What do you bring to a small business to help them succeed?
  • What types of services do you offer?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • Who would be my primary contact, what is the typical frequency of interaction?
  • What responsiveness can I expect for consultation outside of our “normally scheduled” meetings?
  • What are the tools/software and methodology you use to analyze your clients’ businesses?
  • What methods do you use to forecast expenses, income, growth?
  • How do you normally exchange bookeeping information with your clients (ie, how do you exchange data)?
  • What are your recommendations for setting up a Sole proprietership vs Corporation for someone like me?
  • Do you have a list of current small business clients that I can contact for referral?

I also am in contact with my bank, and Neighbor Dave’s bank to find out how establishing a business account and potentially getting access to commercial lending.  There are a list of questions for the Banker, too:

  • What is your philosophy and approach to working with Small, entreprenurial businesses?
  • What is the bank’s strategic plan, and how would small business banking fall into it?
  • Who are the main contacts at the bank for a small business?  How frequently do you typically meet with those clients?  What types of events trigger a meeting?  Will I have a dedicated business banker who understands my business?
  • What are your commercial lending policies?  What is the process for getting a commercial loan?
  • What services and solutions do you offer to small business clients?  How is your bank different than others in supporting small business?
  • What products do you offer to make managing the finances of a small business easier?
  • Do you have a list of current small business clients that I can contact for referral?

Money, money.  I’m looking forward to managing it wisely and making smart decisions at this stage of the game… these are important partnerships that directly impact my business’ prosperity.

By the way, if you have a recommendation for either a great CPA or Banker for a small business- I’m still searching and open to suggestions!


Get My Networking Game On April 21, 2010

Printed 120 of these: Business Card R4 ?


Making tomorrow’s lunches early this morning so I’m ready to go at 11am?

not quite check, but going to be checked.

Wearing my cute skirt and blazer?

check.  (could this be dangerous for the cooking I’m planning?  probably.)

Ready for Networking!

Well, sort of.  I need to set my intention for today.   No idea is a bad idea, and I NEED YOUR HELP!

1.  When someone asks me, “What do you do?”, I am going to test a couple of responses for different reactions.

1A.  “You know how…” – to get the other person in the state of mind that I want my clients to be in.  For example~ “You know how you….”

  • …want to entertain at home, but you’re not sure who to invite or what to serve?
  • …want to save money by skipping the restaurant and eating in?
  • …want to experiment making different foods that ‘the usual’?
  • … have friends from different circles you want to mix together?
  • Are any of the above your favorite, or do you have a different one that would work? 

1B.  Share a Mantra- “Well, what I do is…”

  • I make things happen through the Celebration of Food!
  • I am an entrepreneur and just started my first company.
  • I connect people through food, I bring people together through food.
  • Which one of these is your favorite (or do you have another idea)?

2.  I need to figure out who I want to meet today.

2A.  Who are my clients?  People who want to…

  • …take the classes, and will have fun doing it!
  • … start entertaining at home
  • …raise their hosting and cooking game
  • …connect people and mix it up
  • …be open to new possibilities!
  • Who else out there is attracted to what I’m doing, but would use different words to describe it? 

2B.  Who knows my clients, and could partner on referrals?

  • Coaches (like Michelle) who are working with people to bring new joy and fun into life
  • Party or wedding planners who work with clients to create a gathering- those clients may someday want to create their own party!
  • Universities/colleges where graduates are transitioning to life off-campus and a new way of living and hosting
  • …. others that you can think of?

Networking at BNI White Bear today?  See you there!  Game on!


IDEA! = Action (Activator, Maximizer) *impatience* > Experience > Patience April 20, 2010

My standard tagline this week: Welcome to the temporary home of Catalyst Cooks.  This is about me establishing this business, so you’re not in the wrong spot!  Planning for the official site is happening now… so there will be a big debut sometime soon!

OK.  Here I sit in my lovely sunporch, hearing the cardinals singing, sun shining on me. 

I might be the slowest gal in the land, but wanted to share with all of you (who were probably waiting for me to figure it out) about the skills I’ve acquired.  What a gift to know that everything works out.


For me, when I get an idea, I want to talk about it with others, and act upon it.  Now.  It’s a great idea, so why wait?  I didn’t realize that this wasn’t true for everyone.  I remember having a conversation with my friend Nancy about this.  I was sharing with her some things I had going on, some things I was doing.  She said, “wow.  I had an idea to do something like that.”

I thought she needed some tips on how to get started.  Nope.  As it turned out, she had been pondering not just when but whether or not she should take action against that idea (which she thought was a good idea) for quite some time.

What does ‘quite some time’ mean?  To me, it’s maybe a day.  For her, it was maybe a year.  or two.  Nothing wrong with that.  But it was a revelation to me about myself that the segue in my brain from Idea to Action is about one millisecond.  I want to put that idea into play as soon as I think of it, and am confident it’s a good idea! 

After having done Strengths Finders (what an upper!  Check out this post to read about it), I was given the “technical terms” for why I do the swift, almost imperceptible transition from good idea to action.  It’s the combo of Maximizer (like seeing the puzzle pieces and forming them into the best whole in my mind) and Activator (Put it into Play).  Why wait to make something better?  Then there’s…


For me, sounds like:

“I had a great idea, I want to act on it, now.  Let’s get going.”  or

“I put that great idea out there, others should see it and want to act on it too, now.”  or

“I have this great idea, I don’t know exactly how to act on it, but I want to act on it the right way.  Now.” 


Starting a new business has a rhythm all its own, is different for everybody, takes a unique path.  I’ve learned that even if I have an idea about what’s next, and I want it to happen, it will happen in due time… just at the right time. 

For example, I went to a networking event early on- probably in my second week.  I didn’t know what exactly my new business would be, and therefore I couldn’t explain it to others.  That was frustrating, both for me and the people I was talking to.  I wanted to know already!  They wanted to have a better idea of how to help me.

Well, here we are, and I know.  (that doesn’t mean it won’t change.)  But it happened, I figured it out, and I’m onto the next Idea/Action steps that need to happen (like incorporating, hiring a CPA, designing a logo and website…)  And now I know that when I have an idea about what’s next, and I want it to happen, it will… because I’ve lived the pattern before.  Which (kind of) gives me some…


Ahhhhhh.  Breathe.


My Company has a Name! April 6, 2010

I’ve been brainstorming…

and Brainstorming

Thinking about how people will feel when interacting with my business; thinking about what I want this business to represent; pondering what else is out there and how I will grab a niche; thinking about my BRAND.

Using the dictionary, the thesaurus (both traditional and visual), polling others.  (Note to special friends that have seen early versions of the business name: I didn’t go with my early, cute to me but offensive to some term!!)

No surprise to any of you that I like to make things happen.  I am in action and moving – toward something great.

Cooking is a big part of this creative adventure.

I’ve been leaning toward “C,” the third letter of the alphabet (and according to my friend Carrie K, it has the most pleasing sound to our ears).

I narrowed in.

I researched my short list of names in the US Trademark and Patent’s online database, to make sure they weren’t already taken by someone else.

I then looked up a shorter list of names on Whois to ensure that the web addresses/domains were not already in use or purchased by someone else.

With that, I was ready to pounce.  I registered my name with the Trademark office yesterday. 

 To those that are following my journey with an intent to perhaps start a business someday- it’s helpful before you register a trademark to know what types of business you may be conducting using the trademark name you are setting up.  There is a searchable database for that HERE.  I used Legal Zoom to prepare and submit the paperwork for the Trademark application.  Since I am including two concepts – Education and Catering- I needed to apply for two types of goods/service.  This step cost me about $900.  The benefit of the Trademark is that my business name is protected- I have the exclusive right to use that name (and logo, if I had registered one) to conduct business in the areas of cooking and teaching.  There will be a confirmation process, I’ll let you know when this is all official!

My next step was to “buy” the domains/website addresses that I will use with my new company. It’s pretty cheap to get domains, and  I figured that as soon as anyone caught wind of my desired name (maybe through the Trademark application process, or some other public airing of the name)- that the price to buy my domain would go up.  This is why I chose to apply for the Trademark and buy the domains on the same day.

Another note to people starting a business: after researching my options, I decided to use Godaddy to do this step- if you choose a different provider, make sure they are ICANN registered (ICANN was a cool find- it’s not necessary to work with them to do any of these steps, but if you’re interested in how the internet polices itself, check it out!).  I purchased the domain I will use as my primary Business website, and 4 additional similar sites.  I opted for a “Private” registration, which assures that my complete contact information is not published as the owner of the domains- which is a protection against lots of unwanted spam and correspondence.  Purchasing the domains cost me about $85 for one year.

So what’s the name, you ask?


Catalyst = Initiates or Causes an important event to happen.  A person or thing that precipitates a Change.  A person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic!

Cooks = Can be a Noun or a Verb.  In other words, can be People, or can be Making Food.  In other words, can be ME & YOU and also can be CATERING.

For the next steps, I’ll be needing your help…. to be continued!


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