Sunday, October 31, 2021

Madness Takes It's Toll

Overnight Oats
This would have been ideal for summer, cold oat cereal all softened up and sweetened for you overnight in the fridge.  It's still amazing in the fall but as the cold comes in, a hot bowl of cinnamon-y fragrant oats pull double duty in warming and feeding you, giving you that belly hug that tells you there is still love in the world.  You could wake up and heat this, but without a microwave, that would take all the ease out of things.  Oats, banana, yogurt, almond milk, honey, and then whatever you'd like to add, stirred up in a jar.  What a wonderful idea.  When I heard 'overnight oats' in the past, I figured they meant crock pot steel cut oats but this is made for folks that need to grab breakfast and run.  If you were smart, you'd make a few of them in a row. 
I added cocoa powder and dry roasted peanuts to this one,
and banana, raisins and nuts to this. *tip, less yogurt is better, because 1/2 cup tastes too sour.

Every Halloween I get so excited to document all the creativity around the neighborhoods but this year it was slim pickins'.  Not sure if that is pandemic related.  Across the street each floor featured a pumpkin on their ledge and I wondered if it was coincidental or they actually spoke about it. 
This yard was basically Halloween in one shot.  The great pumpkin patch of Clinton Hill.  
I think this year was scary enough, that the need for spooky displays was less necessary.  No one wants to conjure spooky figures. Families had their share of the morose.  We've probably been here for some time but also considering that we're at a place where kids walking at night, knocking on doors and trusting the candy coming out of even businesses, feels like a fading memory.  It'll never be and never was a perfect world, but we're like the kid in the movie, in a stolen Halloween costume, gun in hand, trying to figure out who is the real boogeyman.  

Saturday, October 30, 2021

But You Move Me Honey, Yes You Do

Dried chick peas in the crock pot, or slow-cooker if you're fancy, along with smoked turkey necks, onion, tomato, garlic and thyme and then covered with water or broth.  I used Better than Bouillon.  Of course, salt, pepper, chili flakes, bay leaves and cumin.  Set on high for 6 hours and go live your life because your work here is done.  Seriously, this felt medicinal going down, as far as nourishment and fulfillment.  This is for when you need something real.  Real food.   
If I was smarter, I'd freeze half of these types of dishes because reality is wonderful, but in smaller doses, or in this case, portions.
After eating all this truth, one will likely crave some fantasy food, like pizza or something like loaded french fries or deluxe nachos.
It's the same with life in ways.  Like this nutritious soup, you come across some work whether it be actual or spiritual, whatever, and you go through it with vigor, make a little movement in your personal migration and then there's a break.  During that gap, that space where nothing is really happening other than you are resting up but awake, noticing the world, smelling smells, watching people, listening to the birds, feeling the sun on your face.  During that time you may need desperately to let go of all of it and get moved, get wrecked, notice lightness and silliness.  It's then that I think loaded fries are essential foods. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Please Don't Bother Trying to Find Her

Accordion Chicken over Polenta
Chicken breasts with slits, also called Hasselback, filled with tomato, zucchini, red pepper, basil, onion then topped with mozzarella cheese baked on 350 for 30 minutes.  A 15 minute pre-soak in salt water and allowed to come to room temperature helps this white meat absorb flavors while baking and stay most tender.  Make sure to give that breast  a good rub down of seasoning.  The bonus of this recipe is the variety of options, as you could stuff with any vegetable and herb you have on hand and top with any cheese (or none at all).  Spinach, feta, and tomato would be grand.  

Cooking makes me feel like I'm living in the world and we need to stay living in this world. I've noticed, since the pandemic, people seem different.  It's as if they've started floating on individual i-clouds. On the busy subway, no one seems present, their eyes are so far away, like if you could zoom in you'd see them inside there, busy as bees, getting things done, happily living their lives, somewhere that is not here.  People have packed up and moved inside their own minds and no longer come out unless absolutely necessary.  They are choosing not to interact.  And part of that could be all the rules and fears in the world.  There is major distrust in almost everything.  Plus we've been shown, at least here in the city, how anyone could haul off and stab us at random, so I too, stay quiet and mind my business for the most part.  But I'm right here when you look at me.  You'd see two big eyes staring back at you if you took the time.  I can't help but feel many folks are just completely disinterested now in the physical world having been tricked into thinking it's not rewarding to communicate in live time.  Perhaps interest is only formed cyberly now.   
This isn't some old lady complaining about all the kids being on their phones either, I've noticed a major shift since the pandemic, that its gone to another level entirely.  A sea change to use a term that seemed to trend months ago and then died out.
I believe peace resides within, but this is not that.  Some things are inevitable, so perhaps living in some metaverse is our future.  But for someone caught outside of all the new technology, I notice how it's already affecting the energy in the air, how it's casting a lonely, dark, emptiness, a void where life used to be.  I just hope that it doesn't suck this busy city dry and leave it barren of it's life's blood.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

You Belong Somewhere You Feel Free

Black Bean turkey burger wraps with Buffalo Cauliflower
Baked turkey burgers with black beans that looked like chocolate chip cookies on the baking sheet.   But the real treat here was this Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower.  Another day, I would have definitely finished this off with some crumbled, softened, bleu cheese and chopped celery for garnish, not that it was needed.  In fact, another couple of minutes under the broiler to finish would have brought it over the top.  I always passed this recipe up thinking, how good could it be?  And then I opted for this lower carb version, to skip any flour coating.  Best choice!  Cauliflower, roasted anyway, is always so much better than you expect it to be.
I often expect my days off to be so rewarding, joy filled, especially after a multi workday run.  Why would we assume life would miraculously get better just because we don't have to work?  I mean, it's partially true.  Life does improves by at least 34% on average on days off.  It's the other 66 percent that ends up being the wild card.  Added pressure to make it great, doesn't help.  There is a ton of nervous energy or staring into space for hours,  the processing wheel endlessly spinning and you can't get anything off the ground, or the couch.  A plan of action is helpful but who wants rules or lists during a time when freedom should reign?  
Some days you have to wait it out, hope something comes along, an idea develops, a happening happens.  And many times it does but other days you make due with small accomplishments like this tangy, roasted white vegetable and burgers you can joke look like cookies. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

What Kind of Love is This That You're Giving Me

As if everything in the previous post was a lie about squash, this simple real spaghetti puttanesca was firing on all cylinders.  Anchovies, capers, olives, the red pepper flakes, the garlic.  But it's mainly about the actual pasta noodles. What the hell is it about them that brings so much joy to my mouth, stomach, mood, overall life experience.  The dishes are two different realities.  I suppose comparing is inevitable but useless because I would invite either plate to my table any day of the week.  I know the squash leaves me feeling invigorated and nourished, like I'm living my best life.  However, the real pasta tastes like home and the satisfaction factor is high, if only fleeting. 
How does one reconcile those feelings?  Or do they?  I think you choose both or rather don't choose at all.  Pasta doesn't even like me. It tells me oftentimes by giving me migraines and after I eat a lot of it, my belly bloats out like a balloon and I have discomfort for days.  I thought I loved pasta.  I know love is messy and no one understands it, so why try?  

I've not spent time with this theory but I suddenly believe our idea of love, many times is a huge misunderstanding.  We desire something and that is real.  It feels good to feel good and that is real.  But calling it love is not correct because when you really love something it is a selfless act, you should need nothing from it.  It should always be unconditional.  So you see, loving spaghetti is a silly notion.  I love the way I feel when I eat spaghetti.  I love the way spaghetti tastes going down my throat.  I want spaghetti for reasons I only slightly understand, more a drug that I need to score.  In fact, sometimes I think I hate spaghetti, the way it takes hold of my mind and won't let go.  
To call it love would be wrong.  To say I need it, is correct.  To call it an unhealthy obsession is most accurate, I suppose.  I've learned to invite it into my life in smaller portions and its manageable but I don't think there is ever a time when I don't wish I could eat the entire pot in one sitting and have it every single day. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Tender Age in Bloom

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Fresh tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and ground turkey sauteed in olive oil, oregano and garlic before being plopped on top of this roasted squash.  I fluffed the 'spaghetti' with a fork, added salt and pepper, a dusting of Parmesan, and a pat of butter before adding the vegetables.  Sauced squash is great but this chunky dish allows all the individual, unique flavors to pop from the vegetables, then the juice from the tomatoes becomes an exaggerated, rainbow of delight in your mouth. 
A pasta lover can eat this and get the full satisfaction of spaghetti without all the carbs and guilt. If you don't over roast the squash, it does have the right consistency. 
During a walk around the neighborhood today, I passed by a young father and small girl.  I overheard their conversation briefly.  Spell it, he said to her. B-i-l-e-s, she said.  That's right, now again.  B-i-l-e-s.  That's correct, that's how you spell your last name. That's probably an important lesson for a city kid for all kinds of practical reasons.   I thought about how children learn who they are, right or wrong, and wondered if she identifies with that name or if her young brain has yet to notice she has an inner nature and a separate idea of herself.   If I had a child I might tell them, you have been given a name but that's not who you are. I'd teach them about their spirit self and how it perfectly guides us. That it is connected to a vast collective energy that is pure and is as real as anything we know.  How it is much different than the voice that comes from our mind.  I'd explain early what we call our ego and how it can affect how you act in the world.  How you should remain an observer, even of yourself, maybe mainly of yourself.  I'd plant the seed that feelings are not who we are and sadness, fear or anxiety are only thoughts that if we notice them, we'll see we are not them therefore they hold no power over us.  I'd point out that your mind is noisy and can try to interrupt your inner peace but that it's not your enemy, it just needs to be managed.  That is it an important tool.  I'd show them the world, how it's completely alive and incredible and then speak of the other world that we can also live in, that's unseen and equally brilliant, that is stillness.   Saying this, I realize, I learned all of that from being a child so I'd imagine I wouldn't be telling them anything they didn't know but it could be important to reinforce these realities early on so that they continue to nourish and bloom and never forget what is real.   

Friday, October 22, 2021

When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall

Ranch Pesto Chicken & Vegetables
Chicken breasts and vegetables pervishly manhandled with bountiful amounts of Pesto, red pepper flakes and, here's the weird part, a half a package of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and marinate for at least 20 minutes but longer if you can.  Eventually slide it all on a sheet pan and roast for about 25 minutes at 400.  The Ranch packet is a shortcut to soaking in buttermilk and has all the right seasonings, including a tad of MSG, that in larger doses gives me major migraines but in this amount seems to be just fine.  Another winning Sheet Pan classic.  I roasted another side pan of assorted peppers and zucchini then added black olives.  A colorful plate.
The leaves are changing and soon I'll hear old winter's song.  Its hard not to get sentimental and emotional during the seasonal change.   I just left my dear sister from a visit in Colorado and now I'm missing her and friends and all the fun times that don't seem to happen. Fall is romantic and somewhat dark, knowing that the colorful foliage is one last encore before the deep dark freeze.  I love all the seasons and find joy in all of them but if I'm not careful, Fall and Winter can leave me feeling lugubrious, allowing too many painful thoughts to pour in.  And yes, I did just learn a new word that I felt was custom made from my sad ass.  But this year I will celebrate instead because I've wasted too many years listening to those sad songs.   

At least one little tree is getting into the spirit

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

What a Beautiful Time We Had Together

Sister in her element
Some people just know where they want to be and from the time we were teeny tiny, my sister knew she wanted to be by the mountains, in nature and that is where she thrives.  Being in her world is like taking peaks inside her enchanted spirit.  

It's a culinary trip as much as it is a relaxing spa resort.  I have my own sweet room with candles and warm throws, my own bathroom, fuzzy robe, teas and assorted gifts to make me more comfortable.  Each day the only problem to be resolved is what amazing food to eat.  In texts, she speaks of her Taco Bell boxes she gets on her way home from Pueblo, so that was my first request. You really can't trust fast food in New York, and it was late so from the airport, we raced to the Bell for the boxes I had envisioned in my head, chocked full of snacks.
But fate threw us a curve ball.  The employee wasn't living mas and she definitely was not having any of us two giggling girls bumbling through their order at the drive thru.  After sufficient amounts of extras were ordered, we proceeded to get our loot handed to us by one grouchy Gus-ina.  When we got safely to her house we found, the mean girl had given us 3 orders of nachos, no boxes to be found.  I had passed by all the amazing Denver airport eateries earlier and that little weasel robbed me of my grande moment.  But we had a great laugh and in the end, we knew this was the beginning of a food marathon so it was best to pace ourselves anyway.
The next morning I made an easy breakfast of poached eggs over toast with avocado and bacon.  I knew I was in the right place when sis did not flinch when I added stuffed Jalapeno olives to my plate.
Like the years before, we split orders of Stromboli and Calzone from Victorios with a side of the best meat sauce!  We took to calling me Shleprock because bad luck seems to follow me.  After an hour, we realized the delivery was late, come to find out the new girl lost our order entirely, nothing was made and nothing was on it's way.  They said they would not charge us for something or other, but when a girl with giant tah tahs showed up at the door in the freezing cold with a shirt cut down to her navel, bending over while apologizing, but still asking for the full amount, I tipped her anyway because she probably thought we were going to be guys, and had brought out their girls for good measure.  Bless her heart. 

Instead we got free Canolli that were pretty dreamy even the next morning. 
Another morning breakfast featuring her home grown potatoes, onions as well as bell peppers for this quick turkey chorizo hash with poached eggs.  Sitting at her sunny table felt like I was at a Country Bed and Breakfast. 
Sister took the cooking reins this day making this amazing Chicken Mole featuring a paste she bought on Amazon, over cilantro rice that you can barely see.  Rich goodness, followed by scary movies and beaching ourselves on the couch like tiny whales. 
Before a hike in the San Isabel National Forest, we ate the best Subway Sandwich I think I've ever had while sitting in the car at the trail head, listening to the incoming wind sounding like a freight train. 

Have I mentioned I'm deathly scared of bears?  This fresh track spotted during the hike. Shotgun Sally always forgets her gun when we go on these excursions.

This was the end of the road for us, our logic being if we DID see a bear, could we run across these boulders with any speed and the answer was no.

The cutest lady!

She's all that in a bucket hat!
Green Chile Slopper 
Worried that I wouldn't get something smothered in the area's famous sauce, on burger night, I ordered mine as a Slopper and was not disappointed even though I had to eat it with a knife and fork and only found the lettuce under the wax paper afterwards.  The sauce is made from Colorado Hatch Green Chiles in a pork gravy that basically sings or makes you wanna. 
Another night was beauty face masks and take out Spaghetti and meatballs, discussing life while our hair was treated to overnight conditioning treatments!  A full moon accompanied us again this year and I couldn't take my eyes off it. 
Sister treated us to a Feta egg scramble and toast the next day before our 5 mile walk around the lake that lives down the street, like an oasis.  Great fuel for 4 laps around this gleaming waterway filled with geese and a delicious view of the surrounding mountains.  

and on the other side, vast high desert as far as the eye can see.   Its quite humbling.

My absolute favorite dinner was the night sis grilled rib eye steaks to perfection. I tear up just thinking of that crispy fat on the edges.  I sliced her ginormous home grown zucchinis in half and filled them with tomatoes, onions, bread crumbs, Feta and garlic and roasted in oven.  The size was ridiculous as you can see, a slice was bigger than that steak. 
Another cool story:  Because the full moon energy was abound, after our hike, we drove up further and explored Bishop's Castle, as well as took some laps around Lake Isabel.  Apparently we were trying to get it all in, as our days were numbered. We were in the gift shop chatting and giggling when some mystical creature passed me and it felt as if a warm breeze had gone through my entire body, no lie.  I looked up and smiled at this young American Indian guy, dressed all in black, and as I inhaled, he passed and I only remember seeing his boots that had scarves around them or something like Keith Richards would wear.  I wondered if he was part of the film crew we passed on the way in.  It happened so quickly and I was going to keep that little flurry encounter to myself but when I went to pay for my souvenir rock necklace, the lady at the counter told me, my purchase was already handled by the gentleman.  The gentleman??? My sister ran up and was more shocked than me.  That Indian guy? she says to the shop owner?  I say, but why??!! And the lady just smiled and I immediately began crying because honestly, no one has noticed me since I don't know when and I didn't even get a good look at him.  Overshadowing that, was the pulse that happened as he passed by that stayed with me for days, like a sunbeam in my heart.  I've been studying on angels and would not doubt it one bit to find out he was one.  Many other angels came in the form of spirit animals on that trip.  Little dogs that I could not resist introducing myself to along our walks, which is not normal for me at all.  One named Webster that was just as excited to see me as he rushed to greet me as if we were old friends, and somehow I felt the same.  A familiarity that was undeniable.  The whole area is magical. 

We joked later that I should have picked out something more expensive.  That lamp was $249.  

I hate leaving my sister. it feels like someone yanking chunks of my heart out.  Somehow I got myself on that puddle jumper to Denver and in my two hour layover sat myself down and had a Chicken Basil Club and cried.  I sent sister a pic and thus began our constant texting communication again.