Time to Eat

First off, I want to say that we made a Cauliflower and Tomato Coconut Curry a couple nights ago, and we are still enjoying the fruits of our labor. Thank you to A Couple Cooks for sharing that one. [On a side note, I don’t know Sonja and Alex, but I love them. I love their food, I love their photo, I covet their kitchen, I want to emulate their healthy lifestyle. Huge blog crush!]

Anyway, I don’t often follow recipes exactly–not because I’m all into experimenting or anything; it’s usually because I don’t have all the ingredients and tend to just make do. Often it works, but just as often the results are very meh! But I pretty much followed this recipe, except for substituting red quinoa for the rice. Great the first night and even better today. And there’s plenty more for at least a couple more meals. I have a feeling that as those flavors continue to meld, it’s just going to get better.

But tonight we decided to take a break from the curry and move toward northern Africa. And this time I took a recipe and totally changed it up. The original recipe actually sounds delicious as is, but … (1) I don’t have a full chicken; I just have drumsticks. (2) I didn’t want to take the time to simmer and then roast said chicken; I need to get in a meal so that we can digest our food somewhat before heading out for a late workout at the Y. (Who are we, and what have we done with our real selves?) and (3) I didn’t have all the ingredients anyway.

So, take one Chicken Tagine with Herbs and Harissa Olives, courtesy of Food and Wine, and turn it into chicken thighs marinated in mint tea with ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, onion salt, pepper, and parsley. Add a side of roasted new and sweet potatoes tossed with chopped onion and garlic and a bunch of herbs and spices: cilantro, parsley, coriander, ginger, salt, pepper, saffron (yes, I had saffron but I didn’t have butter or olives … go figure).

We cheated and microwaved the potatoes first (we have a schedule, people!) and then threw it all together into the oven. While Mr. J grilled the chicken, I threw together a spinach, cuke, pear, goat cheese salad with another delicious discovery from A Couple Cooks: 2 T stone ground mustard + 2 T honey + 2 T white wine vinegar + 2 T olive oil.

Easy peasy. And I’m happy to say that except for overdoing it a bit with the saffron and roasting the potatoes just a little too long, it was all absolutely delicious. It would have been great with that off-dry viognier chilling in our fridge, but alas, the Y beckons.

Stupid healthy lifestyle!*

 

* I kid.

Motivation

Fortitudethe strength or firmness of mind that enables a person to encounter danger with coolness and courage or to bear pain or adversity without murmuring, depression, or despondency / resolute endurance / grit, backbone, pluck, guts

Over the years, I’ve learned that I can be incredibly motivated, but apparently only in short bursts. It’s like that slow twitch versus fast twitch thing about muscles. I have the type of motivation that comes in quick little bursts and lasts for a day or two or sometimes even a week or so. But then I get distracted by something new or different, and my attention and motivation go off in a completely new direction.

What seems to be a newer trend for me, though perhaps it’s something I’ve been doing for years, is the New Year, New Me motivation. I’ve never been a New Year’s Resolution type of person, but like many people, I find that the new year is a time to evaluate who I am, where I am, what I am doing, and how I am living. This is the second winter in a row when I have been all motivated to discover my life’s purpose and challenge myself to do all sorts of self-discovery.

Last year I took part in a writing therapy group that I found super helpful. As a result, I joined a local writer’s guild and even went to a meeting. Then we started traveling and work got crazy and I totally let it all slide. Of course, I’m still a dues-paying member of that guild.

At the end of the year it was Live Your Legend that got me all amped up and excited. I did the blog writing challenge and enjoyed it. But then the holidays came along and work got crazy and I again totally let it all slide.

And, here it is … February. The time for resolutions or motivations or intentions to fade away, in typical resolution fashion. But my word this year is fortitude.  So it’s time to stick with this motivation and keep it moving on throughout the year. Continue reading

Hauling Myself Back on Track

I fell off the writing-regularly wagon … and how! The holidays, family, work, and on and on. But these are all lame excuses, because there certainly were days when I sat around and stared at the tube or colored (really) or just flipped through the various phone apps that suck up so many minutes of my days.

But I am back, even if I’m not necessarily in the best frame of mind to write. I’ve been hit with what I am self-diagnosing as a post-holidaze funk. My cupboards, mental and physical, are bare. So, in usual fashion, I am scrounging around to find something nutritious to feed my soul.

As part of that search, I’ve gotten back into exercise after much too long away. But it hasn’t been an immediate, soul-improving event. Yesterday’s dog walk turned into an exercise of patience, as we stopped every few steps to remind her who is in charge (me?!) and that pulling on the leash is not acceptable. Yes, it’s true that we got in 5 miles of walking, but it took nearly two hours.

And this morning’s attempt at making this delicious-looking Dutch Pancake failed miserably, as our light, fluffy concoction came out as thin and flat and solid as an old shoe sole. So appetizing. Apparently egg nog and milk are not interchangeable.

And yet I continue to strive to find the upbeat and positive. I have food in my cupboards, I spent two hours in the sunshine, I came home to a man I love with a dog I (usually) adore. I am able to walk, see, hear, feel, smell, taste, touch, love, share. My life is truly good, and I am thankful for it everyday.

But I’m still allowed to be grumpy. So, there.

Eating In

Scene: Our bed
Players: The Lovely Couple
Time: 8:30 a.m., 10/28/2015
The Mood: Utter and Complete Laziness

Mr. J (while reading Flipboard): Where should we go for breakfast?
Me (snoozing): Mmmmmmm??
Mr. J: Or should we eat at home?
Me: How many eggs do we have? Or maybe just cereal and a smoothie?
Mr. J: On a Saturday?!
Me: Well, we do have kale in the garden. And maybe there are still some egg whites.

(30 minutes later)

Mr. J has motivated while I debate staying under the flannel sheets all day. My internal dialogue is soon interrupted by the siren aroma of coffee and the clanging and banging of dishes in the kitchen. I am slowly lured up and at ’em.

By the time I finally make it downstairs, Mr. J has chopped up freshish peppers from the garden, ’shrooms from the fridge, those last two pieces of bacon I never did use for those Brussels sprouts, and some onion and garlic. I scramble together the last two eggs, the rest of the egg whites, and some milk, while Mr. J fries up all that goodness in an olive oil/coconut oil mix.

I venture to the garden to dump the compost material and return after harvesting some kale and arugula to be tossed into the mix. We let it all cook down a bit and then in go the eggs with a little turmeric and salt and pepper for taste. Turn down the heat and let it all cook up frittata style while I research what the hell to do with all those pounds of peppers we’ve had explode in the garden the past few weeks.

Turn on the broiler. Once the sides are a little brown and the top is almost set, sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top and throw it in the oven.

Broil it up … but don’t forget about it! We don’t want to burn down the kitchen. Check on it soon after to see the top turning to a beautiful golden crustiness. Ready to go.

Serve it up with a perfectly ripe avocado and a little Amarula in the coffee. The perfect pre-World Rugby Cup breakfast.

Encroaching Hangriness

Scene: Living Room Couch
Players: The Lovely Couple
Time: 5:30 p.m., 10/20/2015
The Mood: Encroaching Hangriness

Me (while playing Solitaire on my phone): We really need to go grocery shopping.

Mr. J (while watching Isle of Man racing videos on his phone): It’s silly to go now. You’ll just get swamped by the post-work crowds.

Me: But I’m starving and we have nothing to eat!

{15 minutes later}

I finally get up off the couch and try to scrounge up whatever I can find from the fridge. I’ll deal with grocery shopping another day. Fiddle-dee-dee.

Leftover rice salad? One egg? Frozen solid chicken thighs? No. No. No.

Dig a little deeper. Oh wait—we have some bacon! Oops, only two pieces. If I were single, it’d be perfect, but it’s not nearly enough for two starving adults.

Wait, what’s that in the back of the crisper? A package of Aidells Andouille sausage, leftover from Sunday’s overly salty gumbo. (Sidenote: The Food & Wine recipe for the gumbo was probably delicious, but I made the fatal error of using “Better Than Bouillon” in place of fish broth. Sooooo very salty!)

Oh, and look at all these veggies. Cauliflower, carrots, garlic, red onion, mushrooms.

Are mushrooms really considered a veg? Whatever, in they go!

Mr. J gets in on the action and “discovers” eggplant and banana pepper, which have been sitting in big silver bowls on our counter so long, after being harvested from our garden, that I don’t even see them anymore.

Mr. J: Should we throw in some Brussels sprouts?

Me: Nah, this is plenty. [If I can get that bacon to make it until tomorrow night, I will fry it up with those sprouts for a tasty side dish … perhaps for those frozen chicken thighs … which I should probably take out to start defrosting now.]

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a pan with parchment for easier clean-up and spray it with coconut oil. Chop up all the veggies … and the ’shrooms. Toss them with some olive oil, fleur de sel (imported by moi from France, mais oui), throw on some Creole seasoning (also leftover from gumbo night), and throw it in the oven.

Let it roast while I play with the dog, clean up the dog poop, admire the canna lilies, scrub my hands three times over (just in case), do some dishes.

When it starts smelling good, check it all out. Sizzling and getting golden.

Time to sear up those sausages!

Serve it all with the last bits of leftover rice salad, some Mr. Mustard (sent as a Christmas gift every year from Mom), and a bit of our own local winery’s (Cinder’s) Laissez-Faire white.

Another day of grocery shopping successfully averted!

p.s. Next up is to learn to be a better photographer, as there is nothing more unappetizing than bad food photos. So for now, I’m using related but unrelated images that at least look pretty.

I Say I Want a Revolution

As my last post indicated, there is so much I want to do in this world for this world. But the one that I keep coming back to is the food. I love food. I love cooking. I love sharing food with those I love. All this from the girl who 15 years ago easily burned toast and didn’t know how to fry an egg. I’ve come a long way, cookie!

Even then, when I often confused the word stove for the word oven (oh, wait, I still have to think of “stovetop stuffing” to remember that the stove is on top) and didn’t know a pot from a pan, I would watch endless cooking shows on PBS. In part because I loved watching people create good food, but mostly because I didn’t have cable, and when I came home from work or lounged away on a weekend, that’s all PBS had to offer.

So what about food do I want to revolutionize?

Nothing, really. Food is great. It doesn’t need a revolution. But our mind-sets toward food need some tweaking. I know we are all crunched for time. I know it’s a struggle just to get everything done in a day that needs getting done. But what if we looked at food preparation and cooking from a new angle.

It doesn’t have to be a chore. It is not a task for just one person in a family to do to nourish all the others. What if we treated it like settling in to watch a family movie or sitting around a board game? What if it was another opportunity to be with family and friends? I don’t have kids of my own, but I watch my good friends letting their kids get their hands dirty to help with pancakes in the morning or getting the bread ready for grilled cheese sandwiches at night. We can teach them from a young age the joy of cooking for themselves and for others.

And it doesn’t have to be a big fancy dinner each night. Even if it’s just boxed mac and cheese, why not roast up some cauliflower in olive oil and toss it in? Once roasted, that bitter flavor disappears, and if it’s broken up into pieces and coated with cheese sauce, no one will be the wiser that they are ingesting a healthy (well, not quite as healthy as it was) veggie.

But what plagues me is how do I achieve this revolution? I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a chef. I’m not even a consistently great cook. There are hundreds of great food blogs out there already. Will I just be another one thrown into the mix?

Well, I don’t know. For now, I’m just going to do some blog posts about recipes I’ve thrown together when I thought I didn’t have time or didn’t have a thing to eat or just didn’t feel like cooking … only to find that it doesn’t take much time, I often do have enough to eat and, just as with exercise, once I start cooking, I totally get into the process and enjoy it.

OK, so I’ll blog about it. But who’s going to read it? Well, that’s the next, big, scary step, isn’t it? I’ll have to let people know what I’m doing. I’ll have to share my blog with total strangers, as well as family and friends. And then I’ll have to see what happens next.

It’s not a job. It’s not a money maker. But it’s a passion!

Making a Difference

The first time I read each new LYL prompt, I instantly feel nervous and hesitant. These are big questions: what makes you angry, what’s your passion, what are you proud of. For someone who likes to stay in the background and just go with the flow, these are things I tend not to dwell on too much.

But they are important questions. And the fact that I tend not to look too deeply is probably one reason I’m still doing the same thing I’ve always done. How can I figure out what I want to do if I’m unwilling to address these questions?

Today’s question is a biggie: What difference do I want to make? I edit papers that few people other than me ever read. These papers often have things of value to say, but I honestly don’t know who reads them. So even though I help the authors convey their meaning clearly and coherently, am I really making a difference? And does it really matter if I insert a comma or delete a comma or spell out a number or use numerals?

These not-really-existential-ish questions have been plaguing me lately. Effective communication is important, and I’m glad I can help. But it’s not really my passion. (Though don’t get me started on double spaces vs. single spaces after punctuation. That is apparently something I am vehemently passionate about. One. Space. Only!)

But what is my passion? How do I want to make a mark on this world?

There are so many ways. I have no idea how to go about any of these, but here’s what I want.

  • I want to help alleviate conflict and tension on the local level. I want to help all sides see their common ground rather than focusing on all the hatred, anger, and negativity.
  • I want to help families find that time in their busy lives to come together and create good, healthy meals that they can all enjoy … without all the preservatives and fillers and other crap that goes into fast food, prepackaged products, and junk.
  • I want to encourage children to focus on their strengths and find their own passion to help them love learning. Not every child can excel in every subject, and it’s ridiculous that we expect them to. Instead, if we focus on what they love and what they are good at and what they are interested in, we can begin to build a society that works so much better together.
  • I want to work to keep our outdoors clean and pristine for future generations to enjoy–through trail maintenance, raising funds/awareness for open space, using less packaging to keep the trash we put back into the world at a minimum, and on and on.
  • I want to help others learn how to practice meditation, breathing, mindfulness, prayer, or whatever they want to call it or whatever calls to them in order to ease the stress and tension in their lives.

I know I can’t do all these things … or not all of them all the time. But they are what interest me. And they all seem to go back to calming the souls, the minds, the tensions in the world, whether through deep breathing, getting outside, learning more, or just sharing laughter over a hearty bowl of soup.