The Essence of Responsible Food

The connections we create in our personal lives help define us: the people we work with, our families, who we come home to. These connections all shape aspects of everyday life. Choosing to broaden these connections outside of our work and personal lives often leads to a more fulfilling place in our communities. Connecting to the food we purchase, cook, and eat – either by buying from local farmers or eating at restaurants serving farm-fresh food – opens up a world of connections that become deeply fulfilling.

Essence Restaurant Group has made this connection their topmost priority. In addition to being the first B Corp certified restaurant group in the world (a rigorous, third-party verification that measures things like employee turnover, volunteer efforts, carbon footprint, and ethical hiring practices), Essence and its restaurants serve farm-to-table meals designed to honor and elevate even the most humble ingredients. And by doing so have created a dining experience where the connection from farm to table reflects truly exceptional food.

One of Essence’s restaurants, Grove, is a beacon for this outlook on crafting farm-fresh cuisine. Since opening in 2011, Grove has continued to emphasize their commitment to focused dishes that are responsibly sourced, prepared with purpose, and brought to the table with impeccable service. These pillars of integrity and respect will continue under the guide of newly appointed head chef Jeremy Paquin.

Chef Paquin (pictured) originally came to the Essence group from Mia and Grace in Muskegon. Mia and Grace paved the way for respected, farm-to-table dining in Muskegon, and caught the attention of fellow chefs working for Essence restaurants. After his tenure at Mia and Grace, Chef Paquin accepted the role of Sous Chef at Bistro Bella Vita.  His influence and passion for elevating simple yet elegant ingredients brought about the decision to make all of Bistro Bella Vita’s pasta in-house. And now, as the head chef of Grove, he is looking forward to reintroducing some older dishes, and keeping the focus on quality ingredients made impeccably.

Chef Paquin’s core beliefs line up well with the values and mission of Grove: that by placing importance and worth on farmers who treat their food well and with care, our dining experience becomes elevated – either in a restaurant or in our own kitchens. And by placing trust in the people who raise and grow our food, we should trust that food outside our normal range of expectation can be delicious. It’s a connection Chef Paquin likes to utilize.

“If I introduce something unusual in an interesting but familiar way, guests are more apt to order it,” he says. “It triggers something in your mind.”

While Grove might not the only restaurant to serve farm-to-table food, they distinctly stand out in their preparation and treatment of local ingredients. And it’s this vision, this sense of worth and determination, that Chef Paquin will carry forward. 

For mouth-watering pictures and news of all happenings at Grove, follow their Twitter and Facebook.  For specials, happy hours, and more information about their sustainable practices, visit



Broccoli is a popular early summer and fall crop. When eaten fresh, it is loaded with vitamin A, C, calcium, potassium, and iron.

How to Prepare:

Soak head upside down in cold, salted water to remove any hidden field pests. Remove lowest part of the stem if woody or tough.

How to Store:

Broccoli is best used within a few days. Store in a plastic bag in the hydrator drawer of the refrigerator. For long-term storage, broccoli freezes well. Cut into florets and slice stems. Blanch for 3-4 minutes, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process, drain, let dry, and place in an airtight container such as a zip-lock freezer bag.  

How to Cook:

Broccoli can be enjoyed raw, steamed, sauteed, or stir fried.

Information adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini



Broccoli Salad


  • 8 ounces bacon
  • Salt
  • 5 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ½ cup sunflower kernels
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Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over medium heat just until crisp; drain on paper towels. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and blanch until bright green and slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Drain well, run under cold water to stop the cooking, and drain again.

In a mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, onion, sugar and raisins. Add the broccoli and toss the coat with the dressing. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Just before servings, fold in the sunflower kernels and the bacon pieces. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of The Food Network


Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Toasts


  • 1-½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 bunches broccoli (about 3-¼ pounds), stems and florets chopped separately into ½-inch pieces
  • 7 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated or crumbled (about ½ cup)
  • 8 thin slices crusty baguette
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Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion, garlic, and broccoli stems; cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Add stock and salt; cover, raise heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

Add broccoli florets; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, until florets are just tender, about 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat, and let cool, about 10 minutes. Fill a blender no more than halfway to puree soup in batches until smooth. Return soup to pot; stir in milk and cayenne.

Cook over medium heat until heated through (do not boil). Heat broiler. Divide cheese among bread slices; toast under broiler until melted and golden brown, 45 to 60 seconds. Divide soup among bowls. Top each bowl with a cheese toast, and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart


Broccoli and Pepper Stir-Fry


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets (6 cups)
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • ¼ cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
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In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper, broccoli, and scallions and cook, tossing often, until the broccoli is crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the hoisin sauce and ¼ cup water and cook, tossing, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Recipe courtesy of Real Simple


Green Pizza


  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough, preferably whole-wheat
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • ¼ cup water
  • 5 ounces arugula, any tough stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup prepared pesto
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
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Position oven rack in the lowest position; preheat to 450 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about the size of the baking sheet. Transfer to the baking sheet. Bake until puffed and lightly crisped on the bottom, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook broccoli and water in a large skillet over medium heat, covered, until the broccoli is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in arugula and cook, stirring, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Spread pesto evenly over the crust, top with the broccoli mixture and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake until crispy and golden and the cheese is melted, 8 to 10 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Eating Well


Roasted and Charred Broccoli with Peanuts


  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1½ lb.), ends trimmed, stems peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup unsalted, roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, plus more
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
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Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice broccoli stems on a diagonal ¼ inch thick. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, toss with oil, and season with kosher salt and pepper. Gather up loose pieces of left-behind florets and finely chop.

Roast stems until browned around edges, 15–20 minutes. Add vinegar; toss to coat. Meanwhile, heat a dry medium skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Add florets. Season with kosher salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until bright green and lightly charred in spots, about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low; add peanuts and sugar. Cook, stirring, until nuts are golden brown. Stir in 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast; season again. Serve broccoli stems and florets topped with scallions, sea salt, and more yeast.

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit

Livin’ La Vida Local: Local First’s New Neighborhood

Local First has relocated their office from Wealthy to Fuller. The team and the work to be done had outgrown the former space, leading Local First to start looking in a new neighborhood. “This move is taking Local First to a whole new level,” says Executive Director Elissa Hillary. “We are so grateful to everyone who contributed their time and efforts to creating this space.” The new space is sharp in design and the location was chosen with Local First members in mind. The updated office is near Local First member, The Cheese Lady and just up the street from the freeway.

Multiple Local First members have chosen to take root in the neighborhood. The Cheese Lady, a specialty cheese shop moved to the area in 2012. Owner Heather Zinn says, “We could do anything with the space and we were excited because we were really familiar with the neighborhood and the convenience of the freeway makes where you would least expect to find a specialty cheese shop a fortunate drive by.” Join The Cheese Lady in the fall for their 3rd Grilled Cheese Showdown.

Priority HR, a HR Outsourcing firm chose the neighborhood for access to their clients and the convenience of the Downtown community up the street. Owner Jim Cox believes “The Local First initiative is strong, we [here at Priority HR] are true blue locals and choose the local routes in business.” Cox says, “Priority HR really stands behind Local First.” As a 6th generation Grand Rapids resident Cox made sure Priority HR was a shared economy company full of local support.

There are many other local opportunities and businesses in this area. For more information about Local First members in this neighborhood check out our online directory.

How Small Businesses Can Capitalize on the Pokemon Go Craze

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week, you have probably at least heard something about Pokémon Go. It was released on both the Apple and Google Play stores last Thursday, and it quickly became one of the top downloaded apps on both platforms.  The app has become a viral sensation among teens and young adults, already overtaking Twitter in number of daily users. Of course, all the '90s kids are geeking out over this app, but, surprisingly, this app has actually attracted an even broader audience than the original games ever did. However, you don’t have to rely on the amount of downloads this app has to judge its popularity; just head downtown on any given evening and you are sure to see twice as many people as normal hanging out down there, phones in hand. This is a very interesting trend where Google and others are diving foot traffic via gamification: give people a game to play and they will beat a path to your door.

I know, you might be groaning at yet another app that has young people’s faces buried in their phones. But, this app is actually different! It is one of the first games that is actually forcing people to get out and about. There are a lot of features in the game that require the player to actually go outside and walk around! It is also bringing people together as people are walking around, gathering in ad hoc groups and just stopping each other to start up conversations about Pokémon. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself! Take a walk downtown and start asking random strangers to explain the game and help you get started and you will be sure to meet some great new people.

In case you haven’t already checked the game out for yourself, the Pokémon Go app turns the real world into a massive Pokémon hunting ground using your phone’s camera and GPS. Players use little red and white balls, which are called Pokéballs, in order to catch the Pokémon and build their collection. This app also transforms local landmarks, and businesses into Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops. Pokémon Gyms are places where higher level players can train their Pokémon and battle against other players and teams, while PokéStops are places where players of all levels can stock up on Pokéballs and other necessary game items.

While this phenomenon is cool and all, what does it mean for small local businesses? Simply put, there are going to be a LOT more people out and about, walking, biking, and visiting areas that have a high concentration of landmarks, like downtown. You will see these people wandering around phone in hand looking for those rare pokemon characters which can spawn in a variety of locations in the real world.

Here are some things to do in order to utilize this opportunity:

1.) Download the app and take some time to check it out, so that you know what it is all about. If you are unsure about some of the games features, or how to play, you can always ask some of the young people hanging out to help you.

2.) Check out what PokéStops or Pokémon gyms are located at or near your business.  If your business location is within range of a gym where Pokémon battles are fought that is even better because people will want to hang out longer.

3.) Welcome them. You may not know what to do with a bunch of people hanging around faces buried in their phones but instead of looking at them skeptically, why not welcome them and make them feel comfortable. Why would you spend money for a downtown retail location if you didn’t want to have a lot of foot traffic?

Check out what Orange Leaf in Holland did on their Facebook Page:

4.) Use lure modules! Lure modules make a regular PokéStop into a hyper wild Pokémon spawning location for 30 minutes attracting Pokémon hunters to your doorstep. You can buy a Pokemon Go “Lure Module” through the game or you can offer some free product to anyone else who drops a lure module on your stop. Store owners can also purchase lures for as little as $1.19 an hour. 

5.) Organize events, contests, scavenger hunts, and post them on social media. One person without a lot of planning or forethought posted a Pokémon gathering at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids on Facebook, and within 4 days, 5,000 people said they would attend. Realize that since Pokémon is really hot right now, anything that you do that you can tie to the Pokémon craze will probably be big right now, too.

6.) Use social media to strike while the iron is hot. Before people begin experiencing Pokemon burnout on Facebook and Instagram, post to your page or account rare or unique Pokemon that have been found at your place of business.  

7.) If your business is a Pokemon Gym, or close to one, people will probably spend more time there having battles, so what about allowing them to come inside? Set out refreshments, allow players to connect their phone screens to a TV during battles, so that everyone can gather around and watch. The app tends to drain phone batteries and use up data pretty quickly, so you could even allow people to come in and charge their phones or use your Wi-Fi.

If you are still reading, I have to acknowledge that these ideas might be a little crazy, and that they are just that: ideas. This is a craze, it’s a fad, which means you can sit back, watch all these crazy people, and wait for the dust to settle on this fad. That’s a perfectly rational thing to do because you, with your years of experience, have seen these things come and go. But why not leverage these things, why not take advantage of this gift? Realize that if you wait until it’s figured out, until you have all your ducks in a row, then the opportunity to leverage it will be gone.
nSo try being an early adopter of this craze and use it to your advantage.

Seth Getz is a small business strategist in Holland, Michigan. Check out his blog here

Teamwork and Talent On Stage at this Year’s Piano Cottage Rocks Concert

The DeVos Performance Hall stage has been graced with talented acts such as James Taylor, Jerry Seinfeld, and Dave Chappelle and has served as the home for Broadway Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Symphony. On July 21, students ranging in ages from 6-17 will take to the same stage in the Piano Cottage’s 5th Anniversary Piano Cottage Rocks performance.

“The talent in there is mind boggling” says Jody McCarger, who with her husband Wright founded The Piano Cottage music school in 2008. The school, based in East Grand Rapids, offers high quality music education. Many of their students go on to high level music schools and professional music careers. Piano Cottage Rocks is their annual showcase and the competition to perform on stage that evening is high. This year 150 students auditioned for the show with 26 acts chosen to perform. Students who not chosen were added to supporting the bands or to the chorus of 80 students.

This is the first year that the show will be held at DeVos Performance Hall. In previous years, it has been held at the Wealthy Theater and last year, at Frederick Meijer Gardens. Not only have the venues grown, but the overall talent has as well. At the first Piano Cottage Rocks the school brought in outside musicians to help perform the songs. Now, it’s all the students. Not only that, but the students are also planning the show’s production, arraigning, and lighting plans.

While the show serves as a great showcase for the musical talent at the school, it also teaches the students teamwork. McCarger said that many of them practice and take lessons individually, and the show offers them the opportunity to perform as part of an ensemble. Instead of practicing alone, they are practicing together and becoming good friends! The show is also a reunion as former students love to return and help out with the event.

So what can people expect when they come to the show? McCarger said that the show is two hours long with a 15 minute intermission after the first hour.  The show is well paced, builds towards a climatic ending, and features familiar songs, which sound unique coming from voices you don’t expect! The show is Thursday July 21 and starts at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $15-$20 dollars and can be purchased at the DeVos Center box office or If you’d like more information about school, please visit

Photographs courtesy of The Piano Cottage Studios

Thinking Outside the Shopping Cart

There are many reasons to shift your food dollars towards supporting your local farmers. Here, John Hendrickson, farmer at Stone Circle Farm and one of the founders of the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, has highlighted just a few of them.

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    In the conventional food system, food travels 1,500 or more miles on average from farm to table.


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    Only about 10 percent of the fossil fuel energy used in the world's food system is used for producing the food; the other 90 percent goes into packaging, transporting, and marketing. Locally produced food is more energy-efficient, with the majority of energy use going toward food production.


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    Only one in ten children ages 6 to 11 eats the recommended five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. Surveys of CSA members reveal that by becoming CSA members, households significantly increased their consumption of vegetables and fruit.


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    Since the turn of the 20th century, 97 percent of fruit and vegetable varieties have become unavailable commercially, replaced by only a few uniform varieties. CSA farms are extremely diverse, growing 30 to 50 different types of crops and hundreds of different varieties. Many CSA farms grow heirloom varieties known for their taste rather than their ability to withstand shipment across the country and globe.


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    Only one quarter of all Americans know their next-door neighbors. CSA farms re-create and build community by bringing people together around farms and food. CSA pickup sites promote interaction among neighbors and neighborhoods.


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    In a typical year, more than 10,000 new food items are introduced in grocery stores-mostly highly processed, packaged convenience foods. Many CSA farms introduce people to lesser-known crops such as sunchokes, fennel, and celeriac as well as unique varieties of common vegetables such as purple potatoes, yellow watermelon, and beauty heart radishes.


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    Conventional farmers receive less than 25 cents of your consumer food dollar on average. CSA farmers receive 100 percent of your consumer dollar, and this helps keep small family farms in business.


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    The average U.S. citizen spends less than 12 percent of his or her disposable income on food. A CSA membership is both a great value and a great way to support the local economy with your food dollars.


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Content compiled by John Hendrickson from From Asparagus to Zucchini



Peas are most certainly a seasonal treat. Nutritionally, peas are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K, and the Bs. They are also high in the minerals iron, potassium, and phosphorous.

How to Prepare:

Three basic types of peas are available seasonally and locally, shell peas, snap peas, and snow peas.

To prepare shell peas: Blanch or steam shelled peas 2-4 minutes. Watch for color to heighten, and be careful not overcook.

Snap peas: Snap off stem tip toward the flat side of pod and pull downward. You can eat young peas raw.

Snow peas: Simply rinse and enjoy.

How to Store:

Use as soon as possible. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for 4-5 days minimum. Storing peas sacrifices some of their sweet flavor and crisp texture. Peas freeze well, but will lost their crunchy texture. Peas freeze well, but will lose their crunchy texture. Blanch all kinds of peas for 2 minutes (shell peas must be shelled), rinse under cold water to stop cooking process, drain well, and pack into airtight containers.

How to Cook:

Peas can be eaten raw, sauteed, deep fried, steamed, or stir-fried.

Information adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini



Pea and Parsley Soup with Golden Caviar


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped onion (from 1 large)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 cups shelled fresh English peas
  • 4 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 2 bunches)
  • ¼ cup creme fraiche, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • Golden caviar, for garnish
  • Pea shoots (optional), for garnish
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Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and 2 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in peas and return to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and creme fraiche. Puree soup in a blender, working in batches, until very smooth. Transfer to a clean pot and stir in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm until ready to serve. Divide soup among bowls and garnish with creme fraiche, caviar, and pea shoots.

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart


Peas and Pea Shoots with Spring Onions and Mint


  • 1 pound frozen peas (4 cups)
  • 1-½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium spring onions (bulbing), sliced ¼ inch thick (3 cups)
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups lightly packed tender pea shoots or small watercress sprigs
  • ⅓ cup fresh mint leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
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In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the peas until they are just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain.

In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the peas, cover and cook until heated through, 1 minute. Stir in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove from the heat and stir in the pea shoots until wilted. Stir in the mint, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Food and Wine


South Indian Curry-Mashed Potatoes


  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. Asafoetida
  • ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 20 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 small green Thai chiles or 1 serrano, halved
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1-½ tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • ⅓ cup chopped cilantro
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Cook potatoes in boiling water until just tender, 25–30 minutes; drain, peel, and cut into 2 inch pieces. Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high. Cook mustard seeds until they pop, 1–2 minutes. Add asafoetida, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves; cook 1 minute. Add garlic, chiles, and onion; cook until golden, 8–10 minutes. Add potatoes, the peas, coriander, turmeric, ginger, salt, and ½ cup water; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until potatoes are tender, 8–10 minutes. Uncover and stir, mashing lightly; cook until slightly dry, 4–5 minutes. Stir in cilantro.

Recipe courtesy of Saveur


Chinese Fried Noodles


  • 2 (3 ounce) packages Oriental flavored ramen noodles
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • vegetable oil
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and grated
  • ½ cup green peas
  • ¼ cup red bell pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • soy sauce
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Boil ramen noodles for 3 minutes, or until softened, without flavor packets. Reserve flavor packets. Drain noodles, and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet. Scramble eggs in a bowl. Cook and stir in hot oil until firm. Set aside.

In a separate skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Cook and stir green onions in oil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened. Transfer to a separate dish, and set aside. Heat another teaspoon of cooking oil in the same skillet. Cook and stir the the carrots, peas, and bell peppers separately in the same manner, setting each aside when done.

Combine 2 tablespoons sesame oil with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a separate skillet or wok. Fry noodles in oil for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat, turning regularly. Sprinkle soy sauce, sesame oil, and desired amount of reserved ramen seasoning packets over noodles, and toss to coat. Add vegetables, and continue cooking, turning frequently, for another 5 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of All Recipes


Mushroom Risotto with Peas


  • 8 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-½ cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice
  • ⅔ cup dry white wine
  • ¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ⅔ cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional
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Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms and garlic. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth). Stir in the peas. Mix in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Recipe courtesy of The Food Network

How to Market Your Business on Snapchat

With over 100 million active daily users, it’s no surprise that Snapchat is quickly becoming one of the top social media sharing sites in the world. In fact, over 150 million people now use Snapchat to watch 10 billion videos every single day.

For those unfamiliar with the app, here’s what you need to know: a person/business on Snapchat can send photos and videos—called Snaps—to their friends and followers. These snaps are viewable for a duration of 1-10 seconds after which they disappear. The filters, effects, messaging, and other playful functions have made this app wildly successful with people of all ages.

While this may seem ideal for teens and adults to stay connected with friends, what can this mean for your business?

Snapchat has recently added new features for its business users. Several different paid marketing options are now being offered to meet the specific goals of your business.

Snap Ads build awareness by catching the attention of your ideal audience. A Snap Ad is a 10-second, full screen video ad that appears between Stories. According to Snapchat, the swipe-up rate for Snap Ads is five times higher than the average click-through rate on comparable social media platforms.

Geofilters promote user engagement by allowing users to communicate the “where and when” of a Snap in a unique way. Geofilters are special, decorative photo overlay options. On-Demand Geofilters start at $5, and depend on the size of the location and the time period chosen. Sponsored Geofilters can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but are ideal for those with a larger budget seeking to reach users all over the country.

Sponsored Lenses drive an increase in future purchasing intent among users. As Snapchat explains on their website, “Sponsored Lenses offer a completely new take on brand activation, offering not just an impression, but play time. When finished playing, it’s easy to send Lenses to a friend or post one to your Story.” On average, Snapchatters play with a Sponsored Lens for 20 seconds.

As effective and time saving as these options are, if you’re not quite ready to put your advertising budget toward Snapchat, there are still many other great ways to use Snapchat for business—for free.

Offering incentives to followers by sharing coupons on Snapchat is a great way to attract followers. Because snaps are temporary, users will actively follow your business on Snapchat and act quickly if they want the coupon or deal you are offering.

Taking followers behind the scenes of your business with daily snaps is exceptional for connecting with followers. It helps humanize you (or your brand) and allows users to connect with you and your business on a more personal level by building brand trust, and it gives them a great reason to interact with you and your company.

Using snaps to tell a great story is exceptional for generating awareness. Snapchat Stories are compilations of images and short videos that last for 24 hours. Users want to share the best stories with their friends regardless of origin, so businesses of all sizes have an equal opportunity to build their following with an effective, creative storyline.

With its new features, Snapchat for business is only going to get more popular. Choosing to promote your business on Snapchat will not only generate positive results, but provides business owners with a variety of effective options; many of which are sure to help save time, effort, and money—3 things every business owner could surely use more of.

About Stingray Advisory Group LLC: Stingray Advisory Group LLC is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan and a proud Local First member. By creating dynamic customized solutions for business growth, we empower businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools to further their development. To learn more or schedule a consultation, visit Follow us today on Facebook, LinkedIN, Google+ and Twitter for more helpful tips!

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