Monday, April 27, 2015

Listen To What the Man Said

A B C.  A always. B, be.  C, cooking.  Always be cooking.  Actually my motto is now always be doing something, but it doesn't fit to the reference here and not a fun quote.
Wasted free time is a bit of a sin, or at least a type of failure to utilize our short passing moments here on earth.  Idle hands are the devil's workshop. I'm someone who could daydream their whole life away given the chance, so I give myself lists.  Constant lists. So many lists. I get so much out of cooking.  It allows me to shop for groceries, create, produce, experiment, take photos, write.  All fun things that I love to do.  And then you can eat your own art!
If you look at cooking like being a musician, then one thing I know for sure from being a lonely companion to one, is that you must constantly play, practice, write.  Again, always be something.  The growth comes with the process.  For me sometimes I love to just sit and think about food.  Think about what's good, what I want to eat, what's in season, ideas for future meals, ways food all ties into my whole life past and present.  I wonder what my friends and family is eating.  I also consider ways I could have cooked past meals better.  So I justify my constant daydreaming basically by making it part of the progress.  Spin your weaknesses.  Why beat yourself up.
On this day I thought of my mom and her home cooking before the restaurant.  There was a chicken casserole type dish she made with zucchini and mini corn on the cob pieces that soaked up all this delicious flavored rice with a bit of chicken fat to make it all glisten.  One of my favorites.
Due to time and also to trying to slim down recipes, I made my version with quinoa, skinless chicken, and left some bite on the vegetables to keep color and vibrancy.  No one can cook like my mom, except maybe my sister Rachel so I'll say this was me giving a nod to my mother's dish.
Always be cooking.  Always be eating.  Always be creating.  Always be doing something.   For all we know it will grow into something good.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Where Is My Mind? Where Is My Mind?

I go back and forth wondering if I'm depressed or just kinda boring now.  I really don't want to do a lot of extra things outside of my regularly scheduled programming on most days.  Sometimes I'm up for anything!  But full disclosure, that's true only in theory.  I usually hate the idea, at first.  But I can be talked into things very easily.  Well, I guess that's not all the way correct either.  Listen, I enjoy many occasions. I do like to go on walks.  I like eating at restaurants.  I love being in the movie theater.  I love live music and would go more often if P would also enjoy it.  But you know at this point we have these like rider lists where it's all good but, with conditions.  For example, at a live show, I need to know there are bathrooms accessible and nearby.  P wants confirmed seating and is not down with all day outdoor concerts anymore.  Stuff like that.  So sometimes when you want something to happen you gotta sort of negotiate with your spouse.  It's like an honest business transaction, usually easy enough but also very easy to blow off.
Especially when you really don't care either way.  And that sounds sad but actually it's just a testament to how content I am a good portion of the time, until I'm not.  I do my thing.  I work full time and we have scattered hours from each other, so each week is different and when we connect we have fun and laugh.  We've been together 25 years, so we've done the date nights, we've had hundreds of romantic times and have lived spontaneously, we've fought and took it out of each other.  Now, we sort of play it by ear.  Let the chips fall where they may.
I fall deeply in love with my alone time especially when P is in the house doing something himself. It's the best of both worlds.  I love space to nurse an idea leisurely, like what to make for dinner.  I study the ingredients and finally make the dinner as the actual activity.  Eating is the bonus finish and then I'm pretty much good.  If I can accomplish one task like that after work, exercise, shower and clean up than I consider that a good full day.
I have these silent experiments and afterwards go back and quietly critique my own work.   I'm always considering stories and how it relates back to the meal I just made.  I write myself continuous emails & notes.  Those singular thoughts that will form a ball at some point. If I'm trying something new or special, then I'll photograph it all angles, all lights.  Do you know how hard it is to get an appetizing food pic?  Let me tell you it's not easy and sometimes damn near impossible.  It's kinda weird to do all this but I seem to enjoy it.
I can't smoke or grill in this tiny apartment so a jerk rubbed chicken and vegetables was as close as I was gonna get to authentic.  Roasted cauliflower, chick peas and brussel sprouts also jerk spiced were the perfect bed.
I think my conclusion is that I am neither boring or depressed but possibly an eccentric recluse who likes to cook.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Never Going Back Again

We haven't eaten pizza for a bit but were craving it so I had to find a way.  When shopping for a firm yuca on this day, I stumbled upon this display of Cassava Bread, made of 100% yuca pulp! What luck!  I've done the cornmeal pizza crust. That was a semi-failure but will try, try again.  I made mini pizzas with cauliflower. That worked and completely transformed the grated and baked veggie.  But this 'bread' was good to go, a time saver and I was anxious to see if it could stay crisp after baking without burning.

And since I didn't have to take all the time to make the crust, I spent time on the sauce and the toppings.  I roasted broccoli ahead of time and sliced the sweet onions nice and thin,  to cut the calories I used ground chicken with lots of fresh herbs. The mushrooms went on top with some good olive oil.  This is always a last minute conundrum. Cheese on tippy top or leave one topping showing to entice the eyes?  Put the cheese right on top of the sauce and everything else over the cheese to make the slice look bountiful?  
What to do, what to do?  If only these were the real problems in life.

In the end the crust was like a cracker, did not get soggy and kept it's integrity without getting burnt in the high heat.  Duly noted!!  I will use again and this will help me to stay away from the pizza slices from Not Rays.  Must. Stop. Wanting fatty pizza.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What a Fool Believes She Sees, No Wise Man Has the Power To Reason Away

I love that we're looking at these common vegetables a whole new way.  Cauliflower is the new it girl when a few years ago, would sit on the shelves waiting to be added to a summer salad. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  But now she's front and center in pizza crust and this dish, Chicken and Peppers starring, Grated Cauliflower as Fried Rice!
The texture is so great and this was super light and easy on the gut.  I'm tackling a little gerd.
Common vegetables are only as happenin' as you make them, I'm learning.  Everyday, regular, doesn't have to be synonymous with humdrum or standard.  They can be like when that girl at school that everyone ignored until one day she came in with that mini skirt on and then you all realized she had amazing legs and all the sudden she was all that with mystery and mystique.   I was never that girl.  I stayed dwarf-like until way too late to be lusted after.  But my mom tried to get us girls primped up at least for photo day at school.  This one year knowing I was a hopelessly shy pathetic mess, she told me all day that orange was my color.  I even had a semi-matching barrette to go with this fetching sweater.  All day I tried to stay upright as not to muss my quaff.  And I've kept that good memory that I was sorta stunning that day because my mom made me believe it.

...Until a few weeks ago when I was scanning pics of all us siblings and I found a pic of my sister, who by the way is 8 years older than me, in the exact same sweater!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I Guess I Got What I Deserved

Coming from Fort Wayne Indiana, any celebrity encounter is thrilling because when you grow up away from the coasts, your chances are limited to see famous people, let alone converse with them just because they aren't milling about. And before the internet, it was TV, movies and magazines only so their mystery was kept solid. As I'm writing this it's April 22nd, Glen Campbell's birthday.  I love Glen Campbell and his music.  I grew up listening to him and watching him on television.  While working as a front desk receptionist at the Hacienda Resort and Convention Center in Fresno California, he stayed in our hotel.

He was playing in town that night and asked me to come to his room after my shift as he was having a little 'party' after the show. Something about the way he leaned in and the way he spoke.  I was 22, and definitely considered it but was not naive.  I knew it was possible someone like Mr Campbell had processes in place to keep himself entertained all through his tour by methods as simple as friendly invitations.  I didn't find him attractive and as I recall he was bloated and bearded at that time.  But I would have loved to hear his stories, to talk to him about music and what it was like to be a successful entertainer, something that I wanted to be. But not if it meant shtupping him. Nonetheless I drove by his room slowly at the end of my shift in my navy blue Volkswagen.  He did indeed have a little party happening in his room. In my slow motion memory he was on his balcony looking out as I slumped down in my seat trying not to be noticed.  I always wondered what would have happened if I knocked on that door.

I laugh because now, 30 some years later I have my three stories that I file in a mental folder called 'I could have slept with this celebrity'.  And the funniest part is the other two are Rick Springfield and Mel Brooks.  The fact that this is my final 'list' is hitting me so funny today.  And really they could have all been innocent invitations to share a drink and laughs. But I'm pretty sure these were cases where I was reading the signals correctly, which admittedly I'm terrible at generally.  So Rick Springfield did an in-store appearance at Virgin Megastore where I worked.  Afterwards we were talking in the office alone and his publicist came in to say they needed to run.  He was locking in on me and seemed to find me fascinating the way I'd imagine he'd done many times before to other women longing to be desirable.  Housewives, young bored mothers, chubby plain Janes, shy insecure girls like me.   Even I don't like me that much, so it seemed a little off, all the sudden enchantment.  But he is a handsome man and basically anyone who pays attention to you like that is probably going to get a positive response.  Once he left, the spell was broken and I thought it would be a good story to race home and torture P with.  Then I got a phone call.  It was Rick Springfield!  He said he left his son's jacket in the store and would I be willing to do him a huge solid and drop it by his hotel room, giggle giggle.   His phone voice had hands!  It was saying all kinds of other things with it's tone.  Well I was thrilled and ran to tell everyone. But of course I didn't go.

But my all time favorite was Mel Brooks.  He also did an appearance for The Producers Broadway Show soundtrack and I am a huge fan.  I found everything funny that he said and was acting like a school girl around him, which I think he was eating up.  Before he left, he told me to come meet him for a drink after the show that night at the bar next door to the St James Theater.  He held my forearm and pulled me in just a little but just enough. The familiar lean in.  I'll never forget that little sparkle in his eyes. But the funny part is me and P were such huge fans that he was almost willing to pimp me out, with supervision.  I had tickets to the show which was so awesome, so afterwards we both headed out to the bar to scope it out, waiting in the lurch.  From the stage door, out came Mr Brooks alone and he went into the bar and sat alone in the back room just as he'd promised.  P was nudging me but I didn't go in.  We just snuck off.
We had in-stores with attractive people all the time, but no such stories to tell.  Johnny Depp with Hunter S Thompson drunk off his ass bringing a case of vintage wine and Ed Bradley.  Their party was contained and restrictive.  Our only interaction was me asking him to please not smoke cigars and acting as their gopher all night. This all seems fitting now actually. I wouldn't trade my three stories no matter how lame they are.
Some of my best food accomplishments are just as random.  I was very hurried on this night, an after work meal.  I'm trying not to eat so late but my schedule makes it difficult.  To save time, I chopped the baby kale and included it in the ground turkey along with lots of garlic and grated onion.  It was great and left it vibrant green but tender enough.  And simply thin sliced Vidalia onion and green apple with arugula made the best side salad.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Express Yourself, Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey

I'm so impressed by how people come to New York from every country and learn the language and just get at it.  Accomplishments of immigrants are vast, yet not acknowledged much.  They are more expected and accepted as 'what you do'.  I have half-heartedly tried to learn Spanish through the years dozens of times and failed miserably, even seemed to regress a bit, not even able to curse.  At my job there is such diversity in our consumer base.  Hearing every type of accent all day long and walks of life, people communicating their needs in all levels of ability.   I am in constant awe.  That is when I'm not hating on everything.
I am fascinated with the art of communication too but have my own handicaps with conventional means.  I fear the phone somehow and even have a slight phobia with calling people I love.  I love writing but people are busy and don't have time to read my nonsense half the time.  I like talking with close friends but in the flesh and when we really have time to get into it.  I'm not good with small talk.  I like to show how I feel through pictures and music, movies and my favorite, food.
Food is the international language.  Even in pictures of meals, I see what is happening - there is a story in the dish or the pot.  And for me, it's such a treat to see someone else's plate. This morning an extra warm embrace was needed for breakfast and nothing harsh would do.  The day had to be met with a soft cloud of comfiness.  Fresh boiled tomatillo sauce blended with an avocado and a little greek yogurt to temper the heat of the jalapenos.  Poached eggs on top like pillows to rest my weary mind.  This pretty much said it all for me.

And then I was prepared to enjoy this beautiful day and appreciate good things like colors and flowers and blue skies!  All because I relayed an easy calm meal to start it.