Friday, February 28, 2020

Standing Here On the Ladder of My Life

One Pot Braised Chicken w/Coconut Milk, Tomato & Ginger
Damn NYTimes hides their recipes if you don't subscribe so this was my version without instructions.  The ingredient list is sufficient. Ginger, coconut milk, cinnamon, tomatoes you say?  I'm so there and will find a way to make that work and I did.  Flavors for the gods!
This was pre-pandemic but I remember preparing this meal and considering the future and what it might bring.  All the while believing there is no such thing as a future.  However, interestingly enough, as I write this over a month later, the here now did bring a whole lot of change.  But the past doesn't exist either so I'm here in today wondering about such things.  More and more, I've been fascinated with the idea that without a true identity that I'm not bound to any of my past hang-ups and shortcomings.  Throughout time, I've suffered from depression but have found more recently that I can stop, breathe,  and reboot therefore it has nothing to cling to.  I recognized it coming into my body and mind on certain days, that's when I finally realized the most important fact, that it is not me.  I don't know what it is exactly but who cares, as long as it's not who I am.  And the same with a dozen other imperfections.  And it has bothered me when people remember me a certain way that I am no longer, maybe never was but had defined me as such. My past is just stories that everyone holds different memories of, so even those are just mystery interpretations that we assume are correct. Isn't it fascinating to think no one shares the exact same memory of the same occurrence?  It's gotten me to realize everyone I know, probably considers themselves to be completely different than I see them.  I've always been aware of people's essence though, their true nature.  I've felt I had a special ability to recognize souls in this way.  Maybe we all have the skill, it's just choosing to use it.  When you meet someone, it takes only seconds to make a thousand connections that seem to go far beyond the flesh and bone.  But I have also held onto old perceptions about people.  Seeing them in my mind a certain way when they too should not be defined.  But are those connections real or also something manifested in the mind?  I've always known my intuition as the only thing to be trusted.  Sure, I've been wrong before but it's become apparent fairly quick and doesn't happen too often.  I guess it's possible that someone rooted in their ego could move so far from their essence that they become unrecognizable.
Still, when I do get it so wrong I tend to revert back to ego if only for a moment to mourn who I'd hoped them to be. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

All The Pans That I Have Made, This Is the One

Sheet pan breakfast - It Pandelicious!
You've heard of sheet pan dinners, this is a sheet pan breakfast!  Please, hold your applause but yes, I share your excitement.  Breakfast for me is the worst meal to clean up.  Disposing of the grease, the separate pan for eggs and then another pan for sides, it's all so draining.  I was thrilled to consider pulling off the foil from just one pan. No scrubbing needed.  But the benefit doesn't stop there.  This tasted fantastic!  I was able to throw in frozen spinach, potatoes, tomatoes and chick peas to make it a food festival on a tray.  Cooking the bacon on the rack above the tray allowed the drippings to fall down onto the rest and well, you can taste where I'm going here.  You can't do this with fatty bacon though but this was perfect, just a small release. Enough to flavor everything.  It was not only one pan easy clean up, but ended up being the only meal needed for the entire day. 

Drop the eggs like they're hot on top about 10 minutes before finished

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Hey She Give Me Love and I Feel Alright Now

It is not at all embarrassing that I visited a pet bereavement site as we had to put down our dearly beloved Mony Monks this Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020.  It was sudden as we did not know she was sick.  It was awful because she was put to death suddenly and we opted to stay for the procedure to hold her, let her hear comforting words in her last breaths.  I felt that was important because she showed fear and you figure one thing you could do with something so helpless is to be there.  It was tragic because a beautiful creature in the house is such a gift and when it's gone, there is only silence and empty space.

The site says it may help to write a letter to the pet to tell them how much you enjoyed them, to honor them in some way.  I realize this sounds like horseshit but if it helps ease the sadness, I'm willing to do it.  I do feel Mona got a bit of a bum deal, being taken at the tender age of 13.  I know that's not young and she did have a happy little life but when you think of it, you wake one morning and you have a hard time breathing, 2 hours later they're ending your life?  It's a good thing little kitties are always ready to meet their maker, they carry no sin, so reckoning is not an issue.

Mona, or Monkey as she was called was never yelled at, not once or ever had cause to be in trouble like her brother Billy.  He was always into something, a boy to the core.  She was such a sweet little girl presence, a pure delight.  As a young kitten she played for hours by herself, running with her toys until finally plopping down in the sun to sleep, belly first.  She just let go.  She loved our other cat when he was alive and mourned him when he passed by sleeping in his bed, which she had never done before and moped around for a couple of weeks, sniffing his things, laying next to his toys.

She later mastered the art of being comfortable.  She was a long hair so the summers were brutal. She would stretch herself the entire length along the baseboards to feel the cool air. 
Mona was my editor so you can blame her for all the grammar errors
She was a co-writer of this blog, so many times I would be stuck and she would come and give me time to love on her so my mind would clear again.  Or she would fall asleep in some ridiculous position where I had to stop and appreciate her free spirit.

It's shocking how much love these creatures emit and siphon from your cold lifeless heart.  I fell so deeply in love with her.  My husband is the cat person and the pets always take to him right off like he's Saint Francis of freakin' Assisi!  I don't know how many times I watched him carry her around years ago, like a baby, rolling my eyes inside a little.  But secretly I loved it when he lay her next to me and she stayed, so content, this black and white little snowball.  Deep down I felt I didn't deserve something so precious, so perfect.

Later when she got a little older not so spry, he wasn't as intrigued.  Don't get me wrong he loved that cat more than anything and always treated her like a queen, but that's when I felt more of a kinship with her.  Knowing full well how it feels to not be a young girl in this world, I took her on, gave her comfort in her golden years.

R.I.P. Mona the Cat, Mony Monks, Mony-Mony, Monkey, My sweet baby girl.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

Meatballs in Chimichurri Sauce with wedge baked fries
As far as inexpensive weeknight meals go, this is a winner (thanks Jo Cooks!! ).  I was thrilled to make Chimichurri again this time not as a marinade but as a sauce.  I was told by my Argentinian friend that you should never chop the herbs but rather hand tear them, which would take forever.  Instead I scissor cut them which felt less invasive than my first idea, to use a food processor.  There is an art to getting that Cinderella effect balance of garlic, vinegar and herbs as well as shallot, red pepper.  You'll know when it's right but keep working until it's magic, I promise it's worth it.
When you zero in, you can see my sloppy handiwork on these shallots but take your time to chop with consistency because this is a pretty and delicate, as Jo says, herbalicious sauce.
I'm writing this in late March, well into the Pandemic.  I haven't been able to watch the nightly Coronavirus updates from Trump, or even read quote captions.  I've been able to keep fairly positive and upbeat throughout this.  I've never once thought I needed or wanted to be lead per say.  In my adult life, I've never felt the desire to have a president chime in and ease my mind.  Tonight in a very low moment I just couldn't help but wish that Obama could take the mic, just for a few weeks, until we get over that hump we're trying to flatten.  Give us some of that soothing I'm-gonna-make-it-all-better voice.  Tell us in long grammatically correct sentences how we're going to get through this.  Wouldn't that be cool? 

Chimichurri Sauce - if you haven't, you just gotta

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Ain't It Funny How Time Just Slips Away

A great similar recipe made with beef, not chicken
Asian Lettuce Wraps
What makes this dish sing are the herbs and fresh jalapenos.  You think you know it all until you taste a bite of iceberg lettuce seasoned chicken with cilantro, mint, green onions, basil and fresh sliced jalapenos together. Oh and roasted peanuts.  You really can't beat it.  I made a Thai peanut sauce for the brown rice and it sort of worked, surprisingly.  The roasted zucchini was a misstep though, clearly.
My mom would have loved this.  I miss her.  I wish I had her to talk to today, to tell her things I've been reading, get advice about her grand daughters. I used to love to play her music because she had such a love of any type of sound and was very open to anything that moved her. 

I've playing this song several times today.  How did I not know Willie Nelson wrote it?  It's really about scorned love but it's funny how the melody and certain words of a song can suffice to help you through your own circumstance even if it's not the original intent.  My mom always told me that time flies by and to try to hear her because it's very important to recognize you only have limited chances to get things right.  Of course I was probably 15 so time was eternal and talk like that was just depressing.  I probably tried to lecture her on how to cheer up and that worry and regrets only steal from you.  Which is true and I still believe but now I wish I would have shut up, really heard her or at least asked her what she would have done differently.  Listened to her with an open heart, like she did me.  Understand why she felt it so important to tell her daughter that, other than the obvious, that it's simply true. 
Like Al Green sings, you can't know, how could you know, you never know when something or someone will come around again (or go away forever).  Nothing gets easier, only harder, not to say it all sucks, it's amazing and horrible all in a lifetime of millions of individual moments.  But I do wish I had a few of them back to relive with my wise mother today.
Heartache is a heart hurting and that doesn't change or go away so this song is probably one that many folks can relate to whatever they're going through. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

It Would Be So Fine to See Your Face at My Door

I couldn't take it one more day hearing about my sister's homemade delicious tamales.  I have made them, even a few times successfully but now it seems like a dream.  I'm not willing to put in the effort at this juncture in my life but hope to attempt many times in the future.  Other women browse clothes on-line, I browse the Amazon Fresh food aisles.  Whole Foods offered this great package of Frozen beef tamales.  I couldn't click fast enough.
Now normally when you make a huge pot of tamales, it's all about standing at the counter, waiting for them to cool from steaming and getting like 3 of them down before you even consider any kind of a dinner idea.  Actually, I don't think I ever made it beyond that.  You just eat them, as fast as you can.  But with the frozen and no hours of work and waiting behind me, I thought to put together a plate.  However, I'm also not the one to make homemade refried beans and Mexican rice this week, so I did a brown rice and opened a can of vegan beans but also included a side salad with avocado.  So there you have it, an odd Tamale dinner plate served in Brooklyn.  They were great though, of course that little extra magic that just-made, homemade gives was missing.  This was like Methadone to heroin.  It stopped me from dreaming about my sister's and that will have to suffice for now.
I miss my sister and want so much to taste her tamales.  Best case scenario would be for her to visit with a few dozen in hand. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ain't That Peculiar

Charro Beans
In a late night browse through my recipe feed I came across this incredible use for pinto beans.  And coincidentally while I had a pound soaking in water over night.  I'd heard of them only a year or so ago, never had them but I am now ready to experience this.  I think now being in the East with lots of southern influence, I tend to go towards the ham hocks, smoked turkey necks, etc in flavoring a pot of beans.  But on the other side of the country, something equally fun is happening with legumes.
Another impossible accidental occurrence I couldn't have made happen if I tried was that I had all of these ingredients in my fridge.  (Soy) Chorizo, bacon, red onion, fresh tomatoes, garlic, jalapenos, chili powder, cumin, onion powder & cilantro.
Boil up your beans like normal, here with just cold water onion and garlic. 
From Jauja Cocina Mexicana:  Excellent You Tube Channel for authentic recipes if you can get passed those bangs.  
Fry up your bacon, add the Chorizo, then garlic and onion, then the peppers, spices and finally the tomatoes. When it's all cooked together add the beans and most of the cooking liquid, boil until it reduces down, adjust the seasoning.  Too good!
Fanny doing a version of Ain't That Peculiar
Also in my feed was this video. An example of how one click can lead to a fun excursion and crash course in any direction.  Fanny, a band I've often wondered about, I knew the Runaways had thanked them early on for help paving the way but didn't know much more.  I was surprised to learn all about June and Jean Millington, the bands history and past members, the cred passed to them from the likes of Bowie, for example.  June's ability to do lead and rhythm is admirable. I don't love the band's vocal styling but I do love individual parts of their recordings and performances enough to be intrigued.  The drummer had flair and Jean reminds me a bit of Rick Danko on bass, who is super talented but his body can contort a bit clumsily when he's heavy into the beat.  Also they sort of lose control of their facial expressions, which I love for reasons unknown.  Ron Blair of the Heartbreakers had that too, maybe it's a bass player thing.   For me, June was best when she got a chance to go off into a lead in order to see her amazing gift for rhythm.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Smiles Awake You When You Rise

Ms Hope and I visited the Bronx Zoo this morning, a magical haven that exists just a 45 minute subway ride away. We often find ourselves out in the city wandering in the cold or rain, seeking a place to sit and have a chat.  I thought what an amazing backdrop to just leisurely walk and lay out our thoughts.  I've wanted to go for some time, even felt a yearning to see these animals, smell them and look them in the eye.
The most bizarre zoo creature award goes to this pheasant that you can barely see.  His tale was almost that of a fish and went straight back behind his body about 3 feet.  
It was that but also different and much more than imagined.  The animals seemed very receptive to the visit and many times were just as curious of us as we of them.  The structures are surprisingly beautiful and there is enough empty space in between that you feel like an explorer.  Sure, it's not that at all but it worked for me.  It's a little sad, but in the end, having the animals on display serves educationally and not just for kids.  They may be just as baffled by their circumstances as we are of ours but getting the chance to view them is wildly exciting and special.  If you want the peace of walking through Central Park but more of an intimate experience, I would highly recommend the zoo in the winter.  There were some groups of kids and on one hand you're happy that a family can share in the experience for free each week but I do wish there was more training on how to respect the space.  I think young children could easily be taught how to visit the animals properly.  How taunting or yelling in their presence could truly stress them out day after day if confined to a small cage.  It's easy to imagine.  It could also teach them how to live in the moment, to really stop thoughts and be observant of another amazing life form.  And to spend the entire day doing this with hundreds of species could change a child, or an adult.

The Brown Bears chose to face away from everyone.  We could totally understand that behavior.  I would most likely be in that cave all day.  We did see the big one on top walk across that bluff and you could imagine seeing him in the wild all majestic and glorious. 
Seeing a lion poop is a first especially since he was looking at me.  I'm pretty sure this was life-changing but trying to figure out how. 

Giraffes are under-rated.  They are certainly incredible, unbelievable specimens.  I've always had the eeriest feeling seeing them with the painting behind of the vast Sahara but this time, it felt very peaceful.

My personal favorite is the African Wild Dog. They follow the leader all day in some heavenly, oblivious bliss

A grilled vegetable panini and fries from the Dancing Crane Cafe.  I loved it, just the right amount of cheese, sauce, freshness.  This is a well thought out sandwich.  The fries were the good kind, crunchy on the outside, well salted, hot and flavorful.  

The tiger walking right towards Hope.  Seemed all the animals gave us a little personal touch of love that day. 

Best moment!  When the lion stood facing us and acknowledged our presence. 

Seal feeding time.  Circus-like which could be sad, but they seemed to enjoy it and what else have they got to do anyway.  They probably invite the interaction. 

The Rhinos in this Cathedral like room, quite and gigantic. I suppressed my inner 14 year old by not sharing the enormous morning wood on display as well. 

Seconds after this peaceful setting of monkeys quietly foraging for food, this giant caped Baboon comes running over the hill as if in slow motion, complete with full long-hair coat and performs the fastest rape on record.  Before we can get out all our jokes about him being the asshole, we see him getting banged by another smaller monkey by force moments later.  Confused, we moved on.
The indoor exhibits were very special as well, finding all the hidden creatures tiny and not so tiny.  
At home 8 hours later reflecting on the day, I enjoyed a huge plate of linguine with meat sauce.