Tuesday, June 14, 2022

No You're Never Gonna Get It

One Pan Pork and Cauliflower
Ground pork with a slightly sweet and spicy sauce can really add excitement to riced cauliflower. If you're in the one pot club, then this recipe is great for a light, easy dinner from Eatwell101.com  I used ground pork instead of turkey for a change of pace.  

I was noticing that trying to be more conscious is like wearing braces on your teeth.  At first I likened it to training wheels but that's not right.  It's nothing you'll ever achieve but it's in each minute of the day, where you could steer wrong but instead must quickly auto-correct your actions and thinking.  You can't get it right in any finished way but its important that you allow the braces, meaning the practice of staying in the moment, to do it's thing.  
Bad thoughts, negativity, the brain is that pushy obnoxious friend that has keys to your apartment.  She's there all the time and is relentless.  
What she doesn't know about life is a lot.  Poor little thing.  

Monday, June 13, 2022

Summer Lovin' Happened so Fast

Giant Cobb Salad
I'm talking huge.  This was going to be dinner and lunch box meals for the week.  If Hungry Man made salads, this might be what it looked like.  Bacon, ham, and chicken went over a bed of herbed-up greens, along with red onions, boiled eggs, bleu cheese, celery, tomatoes and avocado.  I served the lemon vinaigrette on the side so nothing would get soggy.  After frying the chicken and bacon, the rest is just chopping and it all came together very quickly. 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

So Many Roads to Choose

Baked Tostadas
So, skip the comal or frying each shell one by one in oil.  Instead simply brush the raw corn torillas with oil and top with cheese and meat, in my case beans as well, and arrange on a flat baking sheet in a ripping hot oven, 450 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes.  Your shells will be crisp and toasty, the cheese will have melted and you can then add your cold toppings and serve.  This way, everyone eats at once.  I learned this from the ladies at America's Test Kitchen and am applying it to many Mexican dishes. 
You can do things for decades the same way without questioning. It's humbling to learn a new way, that you didn't even consider before, especially when it's a simple change.   I will always experiment and love the taste of a truly just-fried tortilla or tacos melted and folded stove-top, even steamed torts can be incredible, but this way is definitely more efficient.  
Small changes are in order, for example, I often say, I love this actor or this musician.  A small change is going to be that I now proclaim, I love their music, I love his voice, I love her work, which I always felt must be part of the person. That inside, they surely hold some kind of specialness, unique to them. That could still be true, but it's not always the case.   In previous years, because of all the public shaming, telling biographies, we know the people behind much of this big talent are just like us, all flawed and imperfect, some even bigger assholes or fools.  So it feels more appropriate to differentiate the art from the person even more.  However, I hold on to the hope that the fact that these folks found a way to connect to the muse must show some ability to stand in grace, which is an awareness that we all have but don't always utilize.  Perhaps for some it's not enough to flow into their day to day lives.  

Breakfast Burrito Scramble with Ham

Thursday, June 9, 2022

We Gotta Get Out of this Place, If It's the Last Thing We Ever Do

We are so affected by media, even when simply scrolling through your phone for a short time.  We absorb so many thought pathways, roads of information to consider, explore but many times fear.  Which makes me wonder, why do we keep doing this????!!!  What could possibly be worth sifting through all this mental muck when seldom there are stories that bring beneficial news.  It's a lot of tales that leave you completely uneasy and stressed out.  We're already so jittery by what is true or what we perceive to be true in our real world.  I should be informed, lest it affects me in some way, that's how I justify it but really, the best days are internet free.  Most threats I can do little about anyway. Bad news will be constantly regurgitated so even taking days off from the news, you never really miss anything.  If it's bad enough we'll hear about it regardless of the medium, over and over.

Fear mongering?  A lot of new and second time around COVID going on right now.  Monkeypox is now some sort of state of public health emergency here in New York as of 8/2/22.  Gay Men and also men who have sex with men are the main targets.  Wait, for one, did I miss a new scategory?  Isn't that the same man?  But they go on to stress that anyone can get it and it's spread with prolonged skin to skin contact but unsure if it's sexually transmittable. I don't quite get it, but that's going to be some cause of discussion in straight households I'll betcha.   

Italian Meatloaf - America's Test Kitchen Recipe
Back in the physical world, rave reviews were received for this Italian Meatloaf effort!  Julia Collin Davidson is a hero, along with her cohort, Bridget Lancaster of America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country.  Especially with old recipes, they have reworked every step to perfect the process and the end results.  They changed my life with their Crunchy Shrimp Taco method.  Meatloaf is good, but this was great!
On my grill pan, I toasted a corn tortilla, and topped with leftover sauteed vegetables, and added a poached egg to make yet another incredible personal breakfast tostada.  These are cook's secret moments when you create a little something just for yourself, quickly and using leftovers in your kitchen.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

It's Not Right, But it's Okay

Chicken and Rice
Dump Casserole
I'm an advocate for dump casseroles but feel they are in serious need of a sexier name.   The word dump doesn't get me hot for dinner.  This is a challenge to come up with new branding for this pretty incredible method of throwing ingredients in a pot.   Any chicken and rice flavor combination works with this template.  It's time saving and so incredibly satisfying.  Brown the chicken in oil for 3-5 minutes on each side.  This is the part where you can do extra steps or simply dump in stock, cut up vegetables and uncooked rice (3/4 cup), bring to a boil and then stick in oven for an hour or so and then let sit covered on stove for an extra 10-20 minutes before removing the lid. 
The extra steps consist of taking out the chicken, setting aside, cooking your vegetables and browning the rice in the chicken fat along with garlic and any other spices you'd like to bloom.  Then, deglaze with your stock, tomatoes, wine, beer, or water.  Add back the chicken on top, bring to a boil and stick in oven with tight fitting lid for an hour.  I found it's best to let this rest and...
....It's a bit of a miracle when you lift that lid and find a gorgeous pot of deliciousness.  The vegetables lock in their juiciness and the rice absorbs all of the combined goodness. I am trying this entirely stove top today and will report results.  No one wants to turn on that stove in this summer's heat. 
Dump:  to toss, fling, cast, chuck, ditch.  Mainly you make these recipes in a heavy Dutch oven.....so, Dutch Ditch?  That's not much better.  Dinner Fling?  That's a little more appealing. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Moment You Own It, You Better Never Let it Go

Shrimp Fajita plate
If you're trying not to eat beef, pork gives you headaches, you're allergic to fish, and you've made one too many chicken dishes this month, a good alternative is frozen shrimp!  You can make Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp with Grits, Shrimp tacos, Shrimp Po'boys and on this night, a shrimp fajita plate.  This is a lightened up version and not exactly authentic.  
An incident at my local Mr Mango market reminded me that I am also not exactly genuine.  I was purchasing my vegetable booty at the counter, when my cute young cashier and her coworker had an exchange about a price discrepancy, an angry customer believed the price was lower than charged.  They were speaking Spanish and became excited and finally began laughing hysterically.  The other cashier left to attend to her customer when my gal looked at me with a knowing grin. Thinking that I understood what went down, thinking that an obviously Latin girl, would obviously speak Spanish.  She felt so comfortable in fact, that she began recanting the story to me, with such delightful animated joy, apparently explaining why it was so darn funny.  She was so happy and I was so....not understanding a word she said.  Yet, could not bring myself to admit that I am the only Latino in New York that can not speak a lick of Spanish.  I wanted to be in her club.  I wanted her to see me as a fellow compadre.  Instead of confessing my inability, I simply broke out into instant 'I get it' laughter and head nodding, as if to acknowledge that was quite the story, and then quickly wished her a great day...in English.  I sped out of there shameful of my actions. And now I shop temporarily at the more expensive corner store until this nonsense blows over. 

I would love to learn to speak Spanish and most likely will make the time to do so someday.  But until then, I have to be okay with being this oddity in New York.  Chicago, Los Angeles, Colorado, you name it, this would not be an issue.  There are plenty of third generation Mexican-Americans everywhere else but here.  Somehow that's the one group that has managed to elude this city.

Refried beans and Mexican rice normally accompany a good fajita platter.  But I don't do traditional too often either. Someday I will find my tribe and they will say, no it's not weird at all that you paired your shrimp fajitas with cumin toasted quinoa. 

And a spicy lunch box the next day

Thursday, June 2, 2022

We're Not Gonna Take It, Anymore

Many journalists got the mystique of the Johnny Depp defamation trial all wrong.  I've read countless articles that miss the main point of the common (wo)man's intrigue.   First of all, a lot of young, brainless trolls are making Tik Tok videos mocking Amber Heard. That type of gotcha nonsense doesn't exist and should be ignored.  I wanted to hear her story. I had no idea she was bonkers. I hoped Depp wasn't a wife beater but was ready for any outcome.  Amber Heard was whacked out on that stand and it was entertaining in a sick sort of way.  I didn't feel good about it, but I couldn't not watch her squirm inducing testimonies without shaking my head and for the first time in a while, feeling glad my life is so simple.  

But here was a man that didn't take being brought down unfairly without a fight, even if it meant airing his worst behavior through audio and pictures.  His addictions on full display.  That took a lot of guts, especially for someone who is so private.  His reasoning and explanations, rang true for the most part, even though it also revealed many revolting parts of his character.  

This trial consumed me for many of the reasons some articles point out.  The world is a scary place right now.  Name your worst fear and I'll bet it exists in some form today. Of course we want to escape in a mystery with a good plot, with likable characters and a villain.

Of course an emotional trial featuring one of our most treasured actors being accused of heinous acts is by itself intriguing enough.    Frankly, Ms Heard was already suspect in her motives and when our coveted actor married her, many of us believed it would end poorly but could never predict this.  During the trial, she clearly lied about so much that to try to dig for morsels of truth, became pointless.  But, I'm sure it's there.  Something probably did happen, but it's nothing like she's telling it.  Regardless of all the obvious appeal, and that our interest in this particular celebrity couple is multi-leveled, the core fascination goes much deeper.   This story also connects to our current boiling point from the progressive bullying and redefining of reality.  We're ready to fight back ourselves, before we see another man go down unjustly, in ways we never agreed to operate. 

If you were paying any attention, you saw this was a blatant set up.  Amber taped her marital conversations, said things on the recordings that were clearly framing and throughout was paving a story line straight out of the Gone Girl movie. Could someone play the world for such fools under the cloak of the #metoo movement and get away with it?  Then, the ACLU helps her to write a story to bring a powerful man down, tagging on their own agendas to this damaged girl.  But the joke was on them because they probably never bothered to check her sanity level.  If it was good enough for the British courts, right?  Wrong.  We covet our stars.  We get into the crevices of their personalities.  Johnny Depp was guilty of a lot of things but just not the ones she was serving up.  Instead of uncovering his criminal deeds, this trial publicized Heard's own sneaky physical abuse and their toxic dynamic.  We heard a man trying his hardest to walk away when she became violent, locking himself in rooms like a vampire so that he doesn't attack her back.  

Articles this morning say the win was about who had the most Star power.  Way off!  Had she been sincere and copped to some of her own crazy, she would have support.  But her stories were unfathomable. She went beyond the beyond.  Further proving she was not only falsifying each encounter in some way but was directly operating maliciously and calculated, for years!  Alternately, he bared his worst moments and we saw the real Johnny, stuttering, broken at points, but he was no wilting flower and was not going to let her take him down.  It took too long, but he did fight back, in court.  We heard him beg her to stop the legal mess before she regretted it, that they could settle amicably, which told me he understood it was two-sided, and neither was innocent.  Meaning both were guilty. 

This story is huge because a man stood up to the dark side of the #metoo movement. One that has turned irrational with their demands, just like it's radical creators.  When Vogue recently wrote the ridiculous, It's time to believe all women piece, it became clear to me why many of us took this trial as a final test to see if the world had gone entirely mad.  This is serious, Vogue got that part right.  Believe all women as they state it doesn't serve common logic.  Believe all victims, might be a better statement.  Either way, unfortunately women and men lie, batterers absolutely do, but occasionally women lie.  Especially scorned, mentally ill starlets suffering from abandonment issues, apparently.  It still doesn't change that most normal women who will come forward with physical and sexual abuse charges mainly tell the truth.  We're talking about Amber Heard specifically, the woman who should not be the spokesperson for women's causes.  

If what I believe is true, Amber Heard did a terrible injustice to the #MeTooMovement and also committed perjury.  If that's the poster child, then the movement has become radicalized.  Women should be calling her on it.  Not demonizing her on TikTok but not allowing corruption in our own circle.  This soils our attempts to correct past injustices on women.  Instead, now the movement is blaming our court system, blaming us.  We do have a responsibility to be considerate and thoughtful.  I believe my sins provide a hell suitable for my crimes and no one has the right to judge my character but these things are changing our lives and we can't let them keep happening.  This has nothing to do with Amber's rights to act or model.  I would never consider taking that from her, or assume I have any right to do so.  

I don't believe Amber Heard nor Johnny Depp will stop actual victims of domestic violence from coming forward.  If anything they've only shed light on unique rich people problems that most of us wouldn't have the luxury of suffering.  Their marital oddities were simply a leech on the skin of the real issue.  Powerful men do get away with too much and we'd all love to bring some down.  This was just the wrong woman to do the job.  

Johnny heard his rants in these recordings, calling his wife a cunt, screaming obscenities and vile things at her. He did do that and it's inexcusable behavior.  He'll have to live with that.  Is it abuse punishable by law?  In many circumstances, yes.  That's why I think Heard botched her case by coming with such preposterous tales.  She had a shot if she could have just been more credible and honest with her own faults. It makes you wonder why she was so ill advised.  I think her inability to lose some ego, lead to giant holes in her stories. How can one get raped on a table by maybe a broken bottle and not know, then bleed and not get medical help.  Could you have also been so high on drugs that the night became a blur and you're not sure what happened?  That could be understand by a jury but to go take a long nap and then come down to tend to your rapist's 'self' wounds cannot be. 

Why does any of this matter to us beyond entertainment?  Many of us can no longer give consent to unsound logic just because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  There is only the truth and no one gets to have their own in opposition to reality.  

This trial is what happens when people believe we can hold individual truths.   If Amber would have spoken 'the' truth, she may have won because many of us believe there was abuse but instead she didn't, she doubled-down on her fabrications. It's not 'time' to believe all women as Vogue would have you believe.  It's time to get honest.  Granted, this time with more mindfulness of all the past hatred that made us so skittish of words that we became silent.  We should be able to say that this 'woman' who painted herself as Mother Theresa lied on the stand and was herself an abuser that labeled herself a victim, which is insane and disgraceful.  That doesn't say anything negative to actual victims, it doesn't send any message at all.  We can still stand with honest women.  In the end, we, the middle, lost a lot of ground by being complicit in our silence through the last years.  It is far better to give the straight dope than placate people. It's more respectful to them.   

At every turn from the silent kneelng to marching for Police brutality, these organized movements have taken our good nature, put words in our mouths, and took some out.  I never said I want cops dead. I am not obsessed with celebrity.  And now after what sure looked like perjury to me, we're supposed to shut down our reactions because it's going to stifle some housewife who's husband kicks the shit out of her if his baseball team loses?   Nope, not buying this half-baked logic any longer.  Just like the passive mom that finally loses her shit when that last straw finally sends her over the edge, we are done with this tomfoolery.  

This cowering started because we wanted to support the rights of people that have been bullied or abused, made to feel inferior.  Because we do have tons of compassion and understanding and lots of stuff was going on that wasn't right.  Of course we wanted to stand by folks that needed help.  Good people have gone along with these organized movements but now we're living out the equivalent of the Emperor's New Clothes story of our childhood.  More and more is asked of us, it keeps coming, getting harder and harder to swallow.  Now it's playing us for fools.  Amber gathered all her cultural weapons thinking we'd fall in line and remain compliant.  We are that mom now, saying, this stops Right Now!  We can no longer go along with a blatant disregard for reality.  THAT is why this trial was so important.  That's why we followed along as if it affected us, because it does.  Johnny Depp is that last straw.  He may be a highly imperfect person, a terrible husband at certain points but he sobered up enough to realize that baloney could have gone on forever.  He ended it, painful as it was.  In fact, as he was an abuse victim too, he displayed key noble acts in attempts to save the marriage and correct their vial behavior by paying for round the clock nurses and psychiatrists, therapists and counselors.  His was an ugly truth, but at least it's real. 

a recent customer survey question
Corn Porn Tacos

Handmade 'style' torts, softer and flexible

Monday, May 30, 2022

Won't Take Nothing But a Memory

An unusually barren beach view from a Red Hook construction site. 
Simple, yet perfect combo of Mock Shake and Bake Chicken, with sweet corn and my mom's potato salad. Everyone has their own version of the perfect potato salad.  Did your family use Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing, maybe it was sweet.  Ours was made with a boiled egg and yellow mustardy mix, along with pickle brine on the warmed potatoes, diced egg white, pickles, the smallest chop of celery and no onions.  Paprika only for garnish and salt, no pepper as I recall.  I've not been terribly successful in the past, creating this from memory but finally cracked the code.  
Learned lessons:
  • Ensure potatoes are drained entirely of water by leaving them on the stove on low until all water evaporates.  My mom boiled them whole and we peeled them after they came out of the water.  This way they don't get water logged and keep a rustic flavor.
  • Pour on pickle juice, enough to flavor while the potatoes are still very warm so they absorb all the flavor.  
  • Salt the water generously when boiling potatoes.  Cut the potatoes to the bite size that you prefer, which for me is not too big, but not too small and the pickles, eggs and celery to about 1/2 that size. 
  • The mustard to egg yolk ratio is to taste but error on the side of less mustard until the final mayo is added because it too is tangy.  Remember, you can add but you can't take out.
Mom's Potato Salad

6 Potatoes - boiled, peeled and chopped
4 Eggs - properly boiled and separated
1 heaping tablespoon - Yellow Mustard - don't get fancy, use plain 
3/4 cup Hellman's Mayonnaise
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup pickles & pickle juice

Chop potatoes into bite sized cubes. Immediately add pickle juice, from 2 tablespoons to a 1/4 cup.  
In separate bowl, mash the egg yolks whipping in the mustard a little at a time.  I go for creamy, tangy.  Add mayo until just the right level of Mmmmm is achieved, about 3/4 of a cup.
Get a big bowl and add in celery, pickles and egg whites along with your brined potatoes.  Stir in the dressing mixture until every bit is coated.  Stop when you reach your desired creaminess.  Add salt and paprika to taste. Refrigerate until cooled and married.  Before eating, add one more dollop of mayo to revive the party.

A glorious toasted Everything bagel with tomato, onion and cream cheese - the perfect breakfast. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

You're Running With the Caravan of Fools

 I fried up an excellent dry rubbed bone-in pork chop that I paired with garlicky spinach and mushrooms after work.  I came home to process the news that I had lost yet another 'boss', which in these times holds a very different definition than before.  This time, a familiar company gal, fairly young, who's management style surprised many of us that held high hopes.  It's hard to know why people fail in their new positions, whether it be their own shortcomings, or their inability to follow basic definitions of the job, to lead a crew.  These days, especially in retail, it could be many things out of their control.  Managing people is no longer valued.  Instead, it seems they are given a laundry list of unrelated duties to get accomplished in an insufficient amount of time, and then each day they are called away to put out equally extraneous fires.  Either way, she decided to leave without telling us and we found out by reading the now tired, 'with regret we announce, so and so has moved on' email.  And collectively we reacted horribly, as we tend to do, taking turns sputtering her faults out like discarded sunflower seeds.  I liked her, rooted for her.  She spoke to me very inappropriately and even yelled at me once, which shocked me but somehow didn't piss me off too much.  It was uncalled for so all I could see was her weaknesses, as if I became a mirror.  I was lucky to see others yelled at beforehand and saw their angry reactions.  I realized then, how age helps so much with idiotic behavior.  
It's as if time stops like in Bewitched when Samantha froze the room in order to figure what to do next.  Seconds stretch out and the mind shuts down so that I can see the person in front of me, sometimes as a trapped animal, a scared human, other times an ignorant fool.  Why get upset?  In fact, lately I wander back to when I was in their similar position and ALL the stupid mistakes I made, which I made more than my share.  We're all basically idiots fumbling around mistakenly ignoring our real selves in order to control this man-made facade.  It's a beautiful thing to connect again with our childhood selves that hold such deeper knowledge and better tools to view our days.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

You Surround Me with Your Boundless Love

Before I pass over, I'd like to conquer as many chicken recipes as humanely possible.  As with soups, many follow a template, which I'm learning very late may be the case with a lot of cooking.  Brown the chicken on both sides, remove from pan, add vegetables then deglaze with some type of slurry, wine or stock.  Afterwards, the oven proof pan is put in at 450 degrees, along with the added chicken to finish.  Often, a pan gravy is then made, as was the case here.  
It's fascinating how simple twists can transform everyday yardbird into something special, like adding apples, honey and mustard.  The natural sweetness combined with the tartness of the mustard came through deliciously in the sauce.  Serving with a bitter garlicky green was bonus.  A mashed cauliflower could have been nice with this as well.
So many things can be wrong in the world and atrocious news is being broadcast each moment.  For many of us, it is becoming overwhelming. You can't ignore it nor can you do much about it.  So, when I look down into my Le Creuset Dutch Oven, and see loving abundance, a new creation, a usable art, I feel comfort and soul-nurturing satisfaction.  I resist the urge to worry and try to replace angst with gratitude that my needs are being met in that moment.