Sunday, February 27, 2022

On a Clear Day, Rise and Look Around You

On a clear day, you can see forever.  Some days nature wakes up sharp and it's easier to maneuver through her terrain.  Nothing feels that difficult when your mind wakes up clear either, even though everything is the same, as say the day before when you were wallowing in some mysterious misery.  These little moments of clarity show us how insane we operate on the day to day, many times, simply based on thoughts that flood our mind out of nowhere.  

For those days, I have started the Sam Harris Waking Up Meditation app (you can try it for free).  Only 25 days in, I can see how changing your identity to thought, alters your whole life in every way.  How you deal with others, how you process experiences, it is like the keys to the whole gaht'dang kingdom!  This allows me to get out of my own way.  I wouldn't promote doing psychedelics as a kid but I think the fact that I did experience them early on, I got a glimpse into this discovery that we are not the one behind our face.  We are not the who, we think we are and staring at yourself in the mirror while in a full on mushroom trip will make this abundantly clear to you, among other things.
I got a new phone, which takes better food pics and you can highlight the green beans (as above) or the chicken (as below).  Shake and Bake highly seasoned thighs baked over the chick peas on a rack and then sauteed green beans in shallots and mushrooms with ginger, garlic, soy and sesame oil, finished with toasted sesame seed.
Whatever you focus on today, if a bad thought comes to mind, just notice it and then let it go and watch it disappear like a butterfly. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

Wrap it Up, I'll Take It

In the winter, my sister in Colorado sets up what she calls her bird cafe.  She puts seed and water out on her porch and bird bath.  All the little ones come to feast on cold winter days.  At night the deer might come and she'll set out pieces of potato or fruit, leftovers.  In the morning flocks of geese, like loud party goers will overtake her yard by the dozens and eat and poop, leaving a mess for her to clean up afterwards.  

I too run a lunch crowd and small business in that I am preparing meals in containers for anytime eats.  I work varied hours and can now leave prepared boxes of one portion meals for anytime.  People with children most likely have already evolved to this modern way of dining, but I am slow to obvious ideas.  But it's been a game-changer.  The concept is, when time allows, I make pots or sheets of a protein and vegetables, then pair it with a grain, box it up and freeze a couple and leave a couple in the fridge for an anytime meal.  This way there is a never-ending source of dinner options and variety.  Below is shrimp with red peppers over barley.  
While other grain prices have sky-rocketed, barley remains super affordable.  You can add herbs and seasonings, cook it in broth.  It has a toothy bite and yet a comforting soft exterior.  Barley provides fiber, protein and micro-nutrients and is budget friendly.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Has the Ocean Lost it's Way

How do you like your spaghetti?  Drowning in sauce?  Do you butter your noodles?  Do you like them thick or thin? Do you add meat, mushrooms, onion, garlic.  How about tomatoes.  Do you cook down your tomato paste or maybe you use jarred sauce or whole canned, perhaps fresh.  Are herbs your thing, the aroma of basil and oregano?  The best pasta for me, is every kind.  I don't think there is a style I don't like.  Al dente preferred but an overcooked noodle in some beefy ragu would not put me off. Even diner spaghetti gives me joy.  Noodles simply dressed with olive oil and sauteed garlic, or thin, swimming in a broth, these are all gifts from the gods.

Speaking of gifts, a new occupant has taken over the old Smoke Joint, Peaches spot around the corner.  A colorful sign lead me to believe finally, someone with an easy, relaxed vibe and delicious food has come to save us.  The Island Shack, sounds promising, but it looks as though they are very proud of their curried goat, meaning it's a little out of the price range for a fun take out option.  I will await their lunch offerings, which will undoubtedly come because like it or not, you must bend a bit on these crazy prices if you want to welcome your neighbors for more than a special occasion.  Maybe it's so good, they deserve every penny.  This is one of the major changes in New York, the immigrant food options that were once abundant and unbelievably cheap, have been replaced with high-priced dine-in joints, not so much servicing the neighborhood but inviting outsiders to travel to, and experience the area, like a tourist attraction.  This is another way that New York is like the ocean, in that you can never feel at ease or home, you are only where you are out of sheer luck of the draw.  A big wave could come any minute and wash you away.  Time you've spent surviving buys you nothing.  Everything has a value, except you.  As a tenant in a neighborhood, you are nothing but a grain of sand on the beach. 
Then, lo and behold, a week later, a $12 lunch special. There is a God. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

California Dreaming on a Winter's Day

Cooking can be like any other creative project, if you approach it with the intent of exploring and inventing.  This is just one of many luxuries we might take for granted here.  The ability to play with our food as art. I count myself lucky to have an interest that serves not just an everyday purpose but one I can also lose myself in.  
Shrimp Lettuce Tacos
Spicy shrimp on lettuce leaves doesn't sound all that impressive but there is a skill to getting the shrimp charred without overcooking.  It's fun to add color with vegetables but using ones that will compliment, not just look good.  With lettuce tacos, romaine works well because it's sturdy at the base.  Shrimp is a solid choice because they line up along the seam and stay within the fold while eating.  Experimenting is fun and I try not to look at imperfections as failure, only another opportunity to get it right next time.  In hindsight, a white salty cheese may work better and this was begging for some red onion, but otherwise not a bad attempt at adding a little springtime to this cold, otherwise uneventful, winter day. 

Coming up from the subway, on this icy 2/22/22 and my sister's view below.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Believe Me When I Tell You

Diner Split lunch - Turkey Burger Deluxe and a Patty Melt with Fries and Coleslaw
When they get it right, there is nothing better than diner food.  The crisp on the hottest of salted fries, the perfect mound of coleslaw and the pickle wedge.  A Patty Melt is the perfect lunch that you can order on a trip as far as your mind goes.  Unfortunately, for your health, the choice would be much different.  This had me wondering, what kinds of lunch meals could compete with the classic burger and fries platter, for work, that could please the mind and the body.  I am tasking myself with creating easy, amazing boxed lunches for work that feel the way this plate did but with healthier ingredients. 
Did you ever make yourself a promise?  If you did, did you ever consider who is the you, making the promise and who is the you, you're making it to? And if you don't follow-through, who is to blame and who is the victim, if anyone?  And if it really is all just thoughts, as many believe, do the results matter or make any difference in the world whatsoever?  I like to believe the answer is yes. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Limitless Undying Love Which Shines Around Me Like a Million Suns

There is sadness or hardship around many of the days in winter I imagine for most people, especially in cold weather towns.  I'm not sure how others feel but also getting older wouldn't be so bad if you didn't look so haggard, feel like crap half the time and more people you loved hadn't passed.  Today was another death anniversary, my father's.  These days are inevitable but come with loads of emotion.  This morning I watched videos and remembered my dad's giant sense of humor and big love of food.  On these sad occasion days, one must work at not filling up with self deprecating thoughts instead of simply honoring the deceased. 

Make your own chips and salsa but when you can't, these brands are second best
I thought a Taco Salad for lunch could be made more memorable by adding roasted grape tomatoes and chick peas.  I put tons of cilantro into the lettuce mix, sweet onions, black beans, cheddar cheese and chips.  I used a great salsa for the dressing and I think my dad would have said, That's all you're making?!?  and most likely hated it. There in lies the humor.  
Using salsa as dressing is so much better than you'd imagine.

Food wise it was hard to impress my folks but to their credit, they were such great cooks both of them, like presenting a song to Paul and John. 

Everything feels related to the Beatles in one way or another since watching Get Back, the Peter Jackson documentary.  It's comforting to obsess on subjects in order to work through tough times in your life.  So I continued the trend by watching one of my favorite movies, I Am Sam which features accurate witty insightful Fab Four related gems by Annie, played by Dianne Wiest, an awesome Beatles covers soundtrack as well as being filled with tear-jerking zingers.   It was 65 degrees in February today but I felt more comfortable in a dark room being still and getting my feels out.  

Annie is relatable in that she is comfortable giving advice from her home but struggles with leaving it.  This movie is a must for Beatles fans. 
During this period, P handmade a frame and Ringo was erected in order to recall the calm Tao of Pooh vibes that he emitted in the footage above all 4. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

If Your Time to You is Worth Saving

Roasted herbed-up Chicken drumsticks and what I'll call Coleslaw Hash.  Potatoes, onions, apples, cabbage grated and fried up with an egg as binder.  Think stir fry using potatoes instead of rice.  Lots of black pepper, soy and garlic pepper sauce to finish.  Loved this.  This could be a full One Pot meal by adding Brussels sprout shavings and ground turkey.
By watching cooking TikToks and shows, I guess cooking has taken a step in evolution through this pandemic as we all have.  People like shortcuts and even when you love to cook, using one pan or less clean up is an optimal use of our time.  No one wants to spend more time cleaning up.  Getting your vegetables, grains and protein into one pan is nothing short of genius.   Another benefit of the One Pot wonder is you can box it up for work lunches, something I will spend more time highlighting here in the coming weeks. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Introduce Your Heart to Mine

Intensely deep flavored French Onion Soup - Broth to die for!

Valentine's Day Black Forest Brooklyn Take Out - House made sausages over apple and wine-brined sauerkraut and roasted garlic mashed potatoes.  Chicken Brat basket below.
Valentine's Day is a bogus holiday and it's origins are vague, so I don't buy in, necessarily.  But as an excuse to order take out and try to make an impromptu party, I'm all for it.  Party of course is stretching the word a bit but I did find an amazing thriller-crime series called The Outsider based on Stephen King's novel with Ben Mendelsohn and Jason Bateman, that we binged and loved.  
Romance isn't something you can create by lighting a candle or handing a bunch of red flowers to your mate.  It's elusive and mysterious.  But you can celebrate your bond with your mate and friends, which is a healthier way to interpret this holiday.  Being in love with life services your mates and palentines more than anything and it's also a gift to give yourself because we must first put on our own oxygen mask before we could help anyone.  


Thursday, February 10, 2022

But I'm Still, Willin'

Fairly Quick Chicken Cacciatore
  • Roll a pack of chicken legs in seasoned flour and brown in olive oil before setting aside
  • then add chopped mushrooms, onions, carrots, garlic into a deep pan in the chicken fat.  
  • After the vegetables are cooked through, add a huge tablespoon of tomato paste, cook that a bit until browned
  • then, add back in the legs and all juice, a can of whole tomatoes, oregano, some stock, stir and stick in oven for an hour at 375.  
  • Ten minutes before finishing, I added a bag of frozen spinach (optional).
This is a quicker way to get to the end but if you leave in the chicken fat, it has all the richness and is not missing the depth of a wine sauce.  The other shortcut was getting the polenta mixed and bubbling before also throwing it in the oven to finish out. It's remarkable that on the stovetop, you must stir constantly in order to achieve a creamy velvetty consistency, yet in the oven it just occurs.  A good stir, a dollop of butter and cheese if you're sexy, afterwards and it's finished.
This was the day after my 60th birthday and for anyone heading to one of these milestones, I am here to report, as you might imagine if you stopped for a moment to consider it's just another day, nothing really changes.  There was a slight fear of death approaching the door to serve me papers the days beforehand, so there was unnecessary stress build-up.  I also thought that I'd awaken to an entirely different mind.  Turns out, no. Surprise silly girl, just like 50, outside of a handful of people, the world could care less that you're older and you shouldn't either. 
But more than the day itself, it is a new knowing that you are no longer of interest to 87% of the population. A harsh new reality, but I'm here to tell you that can be like the fond at the bottom of your pan.  At first you think it's all burnt gook but you add a little liquid and it's flavor gold. I'm serious about this.  Being slightly invisible is a hidden perk when slinking through life!  But you do work harder to be heard, which is slightly irritating. Old Jewish ladies like me more and more but that's about the extent of any new popularity.  I too care less and less about the thoughts of others, but there's no denying my star is fading.   I have a marked signpost of the time left to accomplish whatever the hell I'm supposed to do here.  Time is running out, in other words.  And the scariest thing is that I have no more idea of what that purpose is, then when I was 4. But my will is good.  
Keeping track of friends gets tougher as we age too, like galaxies drifting apart.  Maybe that's because at this point, we all realize we have to do life on our own. But at least we can try to be of some help or support to each other.  Yep, it's a new chapter, another decade of mystery.  A whodunnit film, a comedy play, a bad TV sitcom.  It's a life. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Tumbling Blindly as They Make Their Way Across the Universe

Nightmare Alley Movie at Alamo Drafthouse in Manhattan from my favorite director Guillermo del Toro. 
Giant Cheeseburgers and fries later from a local eatery
Tender Fried Calamari

Partially desolate scenes from Manhattan on a Wednesday morning.

The best gift was the universe mocking the carnival atmosphere of the movie with a coincidentally empty theater to ourselves to watch the brilliant matinee in an equally uninhabited feeling high-rise building where you enter via 3 giant white walled abandoned lobbies down escalators to one lone ticket taker pointing us down to yet another floor.  Here, unlike the Brooklyn theater, you press a button and hot coffees and treats are served to you by crouching ninjas like magic from some undisclosed location.  Dreamlike craziness that was highly enjoyable. 

As a new traditional I pose with gifts sent from friends and family and send the pics back to them, to thank them and also because we often wonder what the actual thing looks like in real life when we shop online, so it serves two purposes.
60th Birthday