Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It Caught On in a Flash

Last night was confusing. The storm was not quite one event. It was more of a series or system of happenings matched with non-happenings. The winds were super loud. They came in waves, and actually sounded a lot like waves crashing on our window sills if you can imagine, sort of frightening and violent.
After it got later, we'd been waiting so long for this thing to come and even the news casters were running out of ways to scare us. The most exciting thing was when the power went out and we lost communication. I began texting my city friend H who had lost power turns out for days and days and was getting freaked.
P fell asleep way early that night but me, I laid perfectly still listening to every sound with my full attention until I too musta dozed off. The next morning we weren't sure what to think. We were all still here. At first look outside, all was normal-ish aside from all the leaves and branches on the streets and the fact that no one was outside walking yet. The TV was turned on immediately and we tried to absorb all the updated news. Manhattan had major power outages and New Jersey really got hit. P needed to check on the building that he manages downtown Manhattan. So we rode out there. Our bike ride was strewn with downed trees and very few cars on the road. Brooklyn and Manhattan was eery and deserted. The streets empty aside from the not-as-well-dressed hipsters holding on to their last drops of cell phone juice and looking more wide eyed than normal.
We couldn't find any place to eat. All restaurants and businesses were closed up but here and there some little diners were allowing people in to sit and they were making what they could on powerless devises. We decided to tough it out and eat at home later. God knows I over prepared on the food end.
Honestly at this point, it still wasn't clear what had really happened. It was too unreal to fathom what had happened on the Jersey shore. But even what occurred just blocks from where we were in the city was unclear. Let alone, in Battery Park, Red Hook and in Staten Island, Coney Island, the Rockaways. So many areas. The main coverage was of New Jersey and Breezy Point. It wasn't until later that we began to really see the scope of the damage. The subways were still closed and the internet pictures were starting to pour in of the massive flooding that came in the night. At that moment we had no idea the power would remain off for a whole week in Manhattan and that the subways would also remain shut down. That people wouldn't have power or heat or water in many places for more than two weeks.
Matter of fact I'm renaming this storm the Creeper. You know how that nasty creeper weed used to hit you way later past the time you thought you'd dodge the whole paranoia stage? And then surpassed the level of high you'd signed up for in the first place?? There you sat, couch-locked until you finally regained some of your wits praying no one noticed. That's exactly what this storm was like. That surge just slithered in like a snake, up over all the vulnerable areas. The water flowed in and down inside all the basements and first floors, quickly and without warning. Since the power was out the news crews couldn't capture much if any of that. It was dark, it was late and it came after most of us thought the whole thing was over.
Several people that I work with lost their homes and lots of things that we were blessed to keep. It feels as though we dodged a bullet. We're so grateful to suffer no damage but also feel guilty and more compassion for our fellow New Yorkers and neighbors than we probably ever have felt. Nothing brings people together like a good horror fest. Thanks Frankenstorm!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Waitin' For the Fall Out

In case of emergency: bake. The night before Sandy was to hit, I made a nice low-cal apple crisp and some loaded oatmeal cookies with walnuts, raisins and chocolate chips.
All the meteorology tracking reports were in this morning and Sandy was still on course to take that sharp left turn straight into New Jersey. There was no going back, only ways to process the news. Try to understand exactly what it all meant. There were possibilities of 50 foot high waves crashing onto the shores and affecting us in the New York harbor, to what extent, it was hard to pinpoint. Then the winds were going to be up to 100 mph and that could possible take out many windows in the highrises and send debris sailing down to pedestrians. Definitely lots of old beautiful trees which is so sad to see but certainly the least of our worries right now. Then there was the surge that was the biggest threat, raising the water line to flood great portions of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island as well as so many rivers and streams in Jersey. Subways could be under water, shutting down our systems for days. None of this good news.

But the newscasters still broke away to their cheery segments like Halloween costumes for pets and things of that nature. Were we all gonna die in a few hours?! Or worse, sit and watch a majority of others die and then have to fight our way out of this concrete jungle without food and power, swimming alongside the giant rats and nuclear cockroaches?

All unknowns yet this calm morning. P and I went to walk the neighborhood to get a reading on the fear levels. Not many people out and it hadn't started blowing too much yet. The streets were pretty deserted and businesses were closed all along Fulton Street. Except Academy Diner. God bless 'em. They were open and happy even if it was a nervous happy. However it did sort of feel like that scene from The Birds right before all the seagulls tried to come crashing through the windows. I was spooked but not enough to not enjoy my Club Sandwich and fries. Again, we were eating very poorly but if not now, when???

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My World Is Empty Without You (Lays)

Hurricane Sandy was predicted to hit shore the next day and all the news stations were using scary words like emergency preparations, go-bags and water rationing. We've been through some New York disasters before so we were still in the honeymoon stage of this storm. When its kind of exciting and almost fun, like something unique is about to happen to you, even though it could also be horrific. A silent thrill.
I wanted to save all the food in our fridge in case we needed to hole up inside the apartment for two weeks while the city was powerless and running savage on the streets. We took off to Target for what we didn't know, it just seemed the best place to be around here if you were preparing for something bad. P was worried about his corner beer store losing cooling abilities. People were pushing anything into their carts, hoarding canned soups and bread, eggs, milk. Even the beer shelves were low so we knew people were taking this seriously. While other people were calmly shopping for new clothes and unrelated items. Clearly they had not just watched 24 hours straight of Fox 5's FRANKENSTORM coverage and been scared out of their wits by all the elaborately described possible scenarios. The high winds toppling the skyscrapers, subways flooding, storm serge rising to unthinkable heights. And the power outages, one of the more scary events because that's when people can begin getting truly feral.
For me though at that moment, my worries were running more along the lines that if we were to die tomorrow, what food did I crave the most or need to have so I could pass over contently. Since the small bags of Lay's regular chips were my one last guilty pleasure and since P forbid me to eat them after we thought those and maybe cheese was the cause of my migraines months ago, it was becoming clear why God had lead me here to Target's bountiful snack aisle. P granted me the allowance of a chip trifecta if you will but insisted we only get the single serving tiny bags to share. I made big salami and ham sammies, which we also don't eat anymore because of the nitrates, on rye with mayo and served them along with a big pickle slice and my carefully chosen trio of chips. Ruffles with ridges, Cheetos Crunchy and Lay's Kettle Cooked Jalapeno.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sometimes I Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me

Who can cook with these freaky eyes on this tree staring at cha all day??! The tree has been there but its only around Halloween that I notice these eyes. Am I right?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This Magic Moment, So Different and So New

I love Brooklyn in the fall, just as the leaves are beginning to change. The old architecture mixed with the fallen leaves and cracked sidewalks. Its the perfect setting. Its crisp and you no longer smell the urine in the air. Ah, Autumn in New York!
But I also get sad when all the green leaves go away so I made a nice ground turkey tomatillo chili, or green chili. I love this because it contains mostly green ingredients like tomatillos, green onion, green peppers. This time, poblano and jalapeno peppers, lots of cilantro and cumin, garlic, sweet onion.
You know how to make chili so this is not a recipe per say, just another road to go down instead of the usual red chili. Its more tart and tangy. With fresh lime squeezed over top and a dollup of Greek yogurt and Mexican oregano to finish.
Soon all the leaves will be gone and the sky will be grey for months.
The temps will drop down to sub zero and everyone will be under huge bubbly jackets and boots.
For just a couple of months though, we have this amazing not too hot, not too cold weather where you can walk the streets comfortably in a warm sweater or light jacket. My hair looks much better in the fall, no longer frizzy. I sweat much less and tend to be less cranky.
The holidays are still far enough off so you can look forward to them and not dread them.
I love this part best because it hasn't happened yet. Just like the moment before you open your presents or right before you taste a bowl of slammin' good chili. The 'just before' period.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ain't Nothin' Going On But the Rent

I work most Sundays now thanks to the cruel retail gods. And nights to boot. Sometimes it feels like all the hours in the week are filled just to grab that paycheck. Never a way I wanted to live.
But when I'm trying to remain positive I dig deep for the benefits of going into work at the time that I normally would be settling in and finally relaxing.
I didn't say it was easy but if I had to name one good thing its that I can still make a breakfast and have coffee with P in the morning.
And somehow through these last two or three years, breakfast has become a favorite meal to experiment with on weekends.
We often skip lunch so I like a big hearty breakfast to start the day. This was a Kitchen Sink Stovetop Fritatta. Often you have leftover veggies and meats in small quantities that you need to use up and this is the perfect way. Potatoes, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and cilantro.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Since I Lost My Baby

I had to go off the cheese because we think it might be the cause of my migraines. But the urge for pizza was also getting severe.
After careful consideration, I've decided you can't call this pizza without cheese. Instead, a veggie tart or not-pizza, just like the Not Ray's Pizza place on the corner. It's not pizza, and its not even its cute cousin. Its definitely a tart but good. I made a whole wheat crust quick-style and on one I put red peppers, squash, onions and mushrooms. The other I used turkey sausage, artichoke hearts, portabello mushrooms and big red tomato slices, lots of oregano.
Appetizing, flavorful and healthy. But not pizza. I miss cheese. (insert sad face).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

That's What Christmas Means to Me My Love

Christmas came early this year for me. For foodies, when you have a big pot of something that takes time to make and then you pair that with something else of equally tasty value, then it's big fat bonus gift!
I had already made a huge pot of pinto bean soup. I have the leftover skillet cornbread and to that I made a small batch of a pork version of Chili Colorado. Chunks of pork stewed in a red chili sauce. To me, this is the best present I could ask for on a Thursday night anyway.
I used to believe you couldn't eat some of these amazing meat dishes on a week night. That they were for special occasions but if I make them on a smaller scale, they cook faster and become affordable and so much easier.
I coat the pork in seasoned flour, sear the meat in a heavy bottom pan until brown on all sides. I made the chunks smaller so they'd cook faster. I add the spices to the hot pan before hitting it with a good shot of chicken stock and tomato sauce. For the pork, I go heavier on the cumin, but a good tasty red chili powder to give it plenty of heat and rich flavor is the key. Garlic & onion powder, salt, pepper. Left to simmer with a tight lid in the oven or stovetop, the sauce melds with the meat juices and becomes magic in about an hour. So worth it with that sauce to scoop up with your cornbread.
**editors note: I've now found this dish is called Chili Adovada when made with pork. I don't remember my mom saying that word but I was still part wild dog when my mom made some of these really great dishes. Then, when I grew up a bit more and became an asshole I probably didn't pay attention.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Do You Believe in Magic?

Our friend J was to play a show for the CMJ Music Marathon. A city-wide music festival that's billed as the most important platform for the discovery of new music. Five days and nights, over 1300 bands, over 80 venues... Anyway, it used to mean something. Now, we weren't sure. Who are these industry professionals? All but a handful of retail are gone, most of sales, promotion and marketing lost their jobs at the labels and distribution centers. Radio is a joke. Who is left except all the struggling musicians with no clear avenues or support system or industry to speak of really at all.
But despite those truths, the kids were out at the clubs it seemed in full force. J's set was great, even kinda magical with the lighting and the big white piano on the stage.
And the bonus was as with anytime we have reason to be out in the city, we get a nice dinner out on the town. This time at Republic, the restaurant also with unique billing. Its said to be created like no other restaurant in America. Republic offers a non-traditional cuisine that combines a variety of ingredients, spices and cooking methods from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and China. The decor is minimal and communal but for some reason, I love it there. It's very loud and open so you don't notice you're sitting next to people. But the best thing is the food is right on time and mighty fine!
I used to go to Republic when I worked at the Virgin Union Square store for lunch and I used to attend the CMJ Marathon every year for many years. I won't bore you with the memories it brought back being there.
Instead I'll bore you with my story about how scary and ghostlike that stupid bar was. I felt like I was in a dream that if I stepped outside, I might be in another dimension. I couldn't concentrate on what anyone was saying all night.
Doesn't the lighting look like a movie set? Where the hell were we that night? The people didn't even seem real to me. More like extras in the background of a good movie, not the kind they have sitting around on a tv show. They were passable as real but yet they didn't seem to be alive.
Dead movie set extras? I don't know what kind of hoo doo was going on that night but I was spooked and thrilled when P was ready to leave.
We hailed a cab and got the cmj out of there!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reflections of, The Way Life Used to Be

This was my sister R's birthday! Even though she was hundreds of miles away, just the thought of it gave me cause for celebration. Last year I was getting ready to go visit her for the first time in Colorado. Today I had a chance to sit and remember all the fun things we did. Finally look at the pictures again too without noticing how fat my cheeks look and seeing how great it was to be with my sister.
I mentioned a while back that she turned me back on to the joys of pinto beans on that trip so tonight I made a very rich tasty pinto bean soup and garnished with yogurt, cilantro and avocados. The best! And for a dipper I made a great skillet corn bread recipe from the Pioneer Woman website. And as a personal genuflection to our childhood when we made mud pies in the backyard decorated with our mom's flower garden petals and berries from the bushes, I added fresh cilantro leaves and chopped 'penos to the cornbread batter and it baked in so pretty on the top!