Monday, October 31, 2011

Where have I been

It hasn't been for lack of cooking that has made me ignore this blog totally, (bad blogger, bad), the truth is that for the past couple months I have been interviewing for a new job. My position at my old company was being terminated and my contract was not going to be extended so I needed to find a job before Thanksgiving (happy holidays asshole, here's your walking papers); so I've been neck high in interviews and all the crapola that goes along with it. The sad part is, I made some pretty fanfuckingtastic recipes along the way too, but I just didn't have time to blog about it. I drank a shit ton of wine as well and didn't blog about that either. Goo news, I found an amazing new job, but as luck would have it, I started my new job today and hop on a plane tomorow to DC for three days, so I guess there is no rest for the weary here, and the blog will have to wait a few days to be resurrected.

Thanks to everyone who emailed and called to see if I was still alive....that includes you too Nanascilla, Uno told me you were asking about me.

I'll be back!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Garden Pasta with Grilled Tuna

Garden Pasta
Mmm no recipe here, it was the kind of night where you grab a glass of wine, head out into the garden and say, "whatdaya got for me?" this night the garden gave me two japanese eggplants, two squash, two zucchini and a handful of San Marzano tomatoes to I took all the vegetables and sliced them the long way into thirds, put a little olive oil on them with salt and pepper and grilled them each side four minutes. I also took some tuna steaks and gave them the same treatment at the vegetables. 

While those were cooking I took a red onion from the garden along with a handful of basil and tarragon - I sauted the onion in a bit of butter and olive oil, added some garlic and when they were soft added two spilt of champagne  - when that had cooked down a bit I added the herbs to make a nice champagne herb sauce - yes, it tastes as good as it sounds. 

While the sauce was doing its thing I boiled a box of rigatoni to all dente. When all were cooked I cut up the vegetables and tune, and in a large bowl combined the veggies, tuna, pasta, and herb champagne sauce - mixed it all together gave it a little salt, pepper and parmesan cheese and a great dinner was on the table - so simple, so easy, so awesome to get almost all of it out of the garden. I must, repeat must move to a state with a longer growing season, one that has fig trees - that will be my barometer of the locale...

Me: "excuse me, realtor person, would it be possible to have a flourishing fig tree in the backyard here?"
Realtor: "No ma'am, this zone would not allow a fig tree to grow here year round, you'd have to cellar it in the winter."
Me: "I've seen enough - we'll continue either south or west from here, thank you for your time."

I got a manicure today - so of course I cut the nail with my big knife while chopping swiss chard, that's the way things always go, I never stub my toe unless I've just paid $30 for a manicure, and you always have the best hair dat of your live the day you are going to get it all chopped off.

Rating = Damn Good (and local too)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Cucumber Gratin | Vegetarian Times

So, if you haven't yet tried cooked cucumbers, go for it, its really good. As I mentioned before, I've got a virtual porno flick of cucumbers growing in the garden so I needed to get a little creative, and I didn't want to make soup or another salad or just eat them plain, I wanted to dress them up a bit. The latest issue of Vegetarian Times had an article on using cucumbers in multiple ways, and this was one of the recipes. I am lucky enough to have an awesome herb garden growing along side the vegetables, so I pretty much used two to three times the amount of tarragon and dill than the recipe called - and it was great. 

This recipe is based on a Julie Child recipe, and really, who doesn't love Julia. If you try it, let me know if you like it, also, let me know how you might dress it up a bit to make it a little more randy.

Cucumber Gratin | Vegetarian Times
2 Tbs. unsalted butter (use vegan margarine/butter)
2 English cucumbers or 3 garden cucumbers, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 2-x1/2 inch strips (about 4 cups)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh dill
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use vegan Parmesan cheese)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Cook 3 minutes, or until beginning to brown.

2. Toss cucumbers in 13 x 9 inch baking dish with 1 Tbs. brown butter, salt, and sugar. Bake 25 minutes.

3. Remove dish from oven, and preheat the broiler. Add chives, tarragon, dill, and lemon zest to cucumbers, and toss to coat. Season with pepper, if desired.

4. Stir together breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and remaining 1 Tbs. brown butter in bowl. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over cucumbers. Broil 2 minutes, or until crumbs are golden brown.

Per 1/2 Cup Serving: 85 cal.; 2 grams prot.; 6 grams total fat (3 grams sat. fat); 7 grams carb.; 13 mg chol.; 355 mg sod.; <1 gram fiber; 2 grams sugar

Rating = Good

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wine Snitch Wine Blog

Because I have been doing so much wine tasting, traveling and general imbibing I've created another blog dedicated purely to wine. Its called Wine Snitch and I just posted my first review today. Please check it out.

I may have planted too many cucumbers | Japanese Cucumber Salad

Japanese Cucumber Salad

Last year my cucumbers performed miserably. I don't know why, but it was frustrating as I think nothing is as good as a fresh cucumber with a little salt on it in the middle of a hot summer afternoon. This year, I clearly overcompensated for my cucumber failure last year because I literally walk out of the back door and get slapped in the face with cucumbers, which exploding overnight are testing the endurance of their vines, begging to be picked. 

Sunday was Hot As Balls and I was not about cook, so I broke out the trustee mandolin slicer and made this quick and refreshing cucumber salad. Super Simple and Refreshing, that's really the best way to describe this salad, which I found on the Eating Well website located here.

Let me know if you make it, and also if you have any favorite cucumber recipes, I'm gonna need them, also, Japanese Eggplant, mine have become almost as big of a nuisance as the cucumbers.

Rating = Good

Friday, July 15, 2011

Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli Rabe

Now that I have three summers of organic gardening under my belt I have discovered a few things that should be filed under "Shit That Is Not Worth Growing On Your Own!" and, Broccoli Rabe is one of them. I love it and its kind of spendy in the market, but you know what - don't plant it jut pay for it. From last years garden adventure, watermelon and broccoli are added to that list.

Over the winter I became mildly addicted to the brocolli rabe with mushrooms and red pepper flakes in the prepared food part of Russo's in Watertown so I decided instead of paying $6 per pound for it in the summer I would grow my own and I would be in Broccoli Rabe heaven all summer. Not so much, I can't seem to get to the rabe before it bolts and flowers, and at that point it's too bitter to eat - the picture above is broccoli that was harvested in my garden right before it bolted, and it was still very bitter. 

I tried to recreate the dish by sauteing red onion (home grown) with a little garlic and then adding quartered button mushrooms and then adding the broccoli rabe (blanching it first) and then at the last minute adding salt and a good dose of red pepper flakes. It tasted like what I buy from the market, except for the fact that the broccoli rabe was so bitter.

So - I'll just continue to buy it,  Boo Hiss! And I will rip up the rabe and replace it with Swiss Chard because I cannot get enough of it now.

Also, on a complete side note, if you happen to go out for sushi and end up eating about two pounds of seaweed salad because it's so good and you just can't stop yourself - your bathroom the next morning will indeed smell like Casey Anthony's trunk. Just saying, open a window, give it five or ten minutes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Swiss Chard Erin's Recipe

Swiss Chard

This conversation between Chris and I should give you a little insight into how many times I have cooked Swiss Chard since Chris and I have been together.

Me: I hope you like Swiss Chard because that's what were having for dinner tonight?
Chris: Swiss Chard, Is that a fish?
Me: (blank stare) - (I mean I guess there is a fish called Artic Char, so maybe its not that big of a leap to think Swiss Chard might be a fish.)  - (Yes it is, that was terrible Chris)

So I made Erin's recipe that is in the comments with just a few minor tweaks due to lack of ingredients, I used sunflower seeds instead of almonds, a red onion from the garden instead of shallot, and cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, and you know what? It rocked. I ate the whole thing....I can't wait to make the other suggestions that were left in the comments or sent to me, including the rolled stuffed grilled chard and some sort of card augratin that someone told me about.

Seriously, I would have this as a side dish everyday of the week. I didn't plant chard, I've been eating my neighbors while I tend to her garden while she is away. Next year, chard will be front and center in on of my raised beds.

Next challenge....KALE, we've got lots of it, suggestions?

Rating = Damn Good

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Swiss Chard

Picked it yesterday. Never made it before. Going to try tonight. Send recipes if you've got em.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grilled French Toast with Stone Fruits and Pineapple

God, I know, this picture is atrocious! That's what happens when you are running around putting on Fathers Day brunch and you ask your husband to take a picture with his Iphone. Sorry. Please, take my word for it, this french toast rocked the brunch hard - it was so awesome, and grilling it made it so cool and charred and man like. (Insert fake growl sound here, and that stupid claw hand know, like, Rawwwrrr and you paw with your right hand. [No, just me, well]).

Therapy. Real quick, a lot has happened, and its going very well, but I have been diagnosed with Perfectionist OCD. A hard thing to hear for sure because there are a lot of negative stereotypes about people with OCD, and there are so many ways in which OCD presents itself, but nonetheless, that's my diagnosis. The day I was diagnosed I came home and at the dinner table told him that Dr. Diana had diagnosed me with OCD, and without skipping a beat, he just looked at me and said "Ya Think". So, he's not surprised, and everyone else I have told seems to think that perfectionist OCD is a spot on diagnosis for me. So, from here, I learn how to control it - or better yet, not let it control me - and then we'll figure out why I have it. I can hanker a guess, but I don't want to jump to conclusions here, I'll wait for the doctor to do that.
So, for the grilled french toast I used this recipe from the ever popular Sandra Lee (yes, that was sarcasm you heard in my voice) Grilled French Toast I didn't use Grand Marnier, I added cardamom and vanilla to the egg mixture, and instead of strawberries we grilled peaches, plums and pineapple. So good, I highly recommend that you try grilled french toast - it was really awesome.

PS. If you have not tried a Zumba class, get your ass to a gym, it is so much fun. I can't wait to go again tonight with my little sister, its the most fun in a workout class you'll ever have.

Rating = Damn Good


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Back - so much to discuss!

JB Wine Caddy
The trip was in a word, awesome. It's been a couple years since we went on a wine trip, and if I ever needed a glass of wine in my life, it's now. 

We flew into Seattle and were greeted with just the most amazing weather. Thanks to a heft does of Xanax before the flight (I hate flying) I pretty much slept the whole way and arrived in Seattle ready to take it all on. We meandered through the streets, and spent a relaxing afternoon taking in the local sights along the water. Nighttime brought a great happy hour at a bar called Alibi, then an amazing dinner and a carafe of wine at The Pink Door, we had a roof top table, outside, so great. The next day as we walked to Pike's Place the smell of warm butter beckoned us into a little bakery where we shared the lightest flakiest raspberry croissant - note, this is almost half of operation champagne and croissant (not there yet) but close, right? Sort of? Friends we haven't seen in years joined us for breakfast, then we walked through the sculpture park (is it just me, but I don't get or like sculptures or sculpture parks, like the fact that there was just a big & symbol as a sculpture - just that - why does one need that in ones life). I digress.

After the sculpture park, we made our way to Pike's Place Market to see some fish tossing. Good thing I've got bony elbows, they were a most useful tool as I jabbed and forced my way through the crowds - it was like the whole world woke up and decided to go to the market that day. Crazy, but amazing. We hit a fruit stand to make a goodie bag for the trip to Yakima and headed out of Seattle for the start of some serious wine tasting. We spent the next 4 days tasting our way through Yakima, Prosser, Walla Walla and Woodinville. The ride from Seattle to Yakima (and int he reverse direction) is an amazing sight, as the lush green hills and snow capped mountains give way to more arid, farm lands, the scenery changes before your eyes, its hard to describe, but amazing to experience.

We met some really amazing people while we were there, including two female wine makers, Dawn and Mary of DaMa wines in Walla Walla, we had such a great time at their tasting room that they invited us over for dinner the same night. We spent the night eating great food, drinking their fabulous wine (including some 10 year old wines out of their basement), and making a fire pit out of spent wine barrels and sipping wine by fire light - this was the highlight of our trip. We had private tours and tastings and got to meet the winemaker Pepperbridge, Grammercy Cellars, Foundry Vineyards, and Chateau St.Michelle. We really could not have asked for a better more relaxing trip. This trip meant so much to both of us, as a celebration of the 1 year anniversary of opening Chris' Architectural Studio. I want this trip, over and over and over again. I can't wait for our next journey.

PS. Back to all the therapy bullshit later. Its going well, and I have a lot to discuss in regards to that, but not today...tomorrow maybe.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Across the country, glass in hand

I'm spending the next 8 days wine tasting....NOTE: the woman in the picture is not me...yet.
See you on the other side of this adventure.

Be Well. CHEERS!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Rapture Skipped Me (so I ate) Spaghetti with Anchovies and Bread Crumbs (Spaghetti con Acciughe e Mollica)

Linguini with Anchovies and Breadcrumbs

The rapture never came, and boy am I relieved because we all know that had the day of reckoning really come I'd be smelling in the sulfur and brimstone. I'm not a bad person all the time, but on a daily basis I have fits of bitch that just take over. I blame most of these fits on my commute and the asshole drivers that I am faced to deal with for at least two hours every week day. 

Or, like when you are at the grocery store, at check out, and you spend a few moments deciding which lane will move the fastest - and then you realize that you picked the lane where the check out person is incapable of doing more than one motor function at a time and doesn't give two shits about the fact that you want to get out of the store because they are going to be there all day anyway so why shouldn't you.  And who pays by check at the grocery store...why is the person in front of you paying by check. And if you can't decide if you want paper or plastic I will most likely yell at you for not bringing your own God Damn Bag, don't you care about this spinning circle you live on called EARTH.

But, then there are the times when I should be calm like in yoga, and I spend the entire class wondering why the Indian girl in front of me sucks so bad at yoga. I know wrong wrong wrong, but when an Indian person comes into class I prepare myself to be schooled in all yoga postures and I'm floored when the person just outright sucks at yoga. I actually wanted to tell her to get to the back of the class if she couldn't balance on one leg because she was throwing me off.

But, then I don't feel too bad about this thought because I came home from class last time and our neighbor Vibs who is Indian was over and I asked if that was an inappropriate thought to have about the Indian girl in front of me and his immediate response was..

"No, she's Pakistani"

I was dying after that.

Spaghetti with Anchovies and Bread Crumbs (Spaghetti con Acciughe e Mollica)

6 salt-packed anchovies or 12 best-quality anchovy fillets in olive oil (see Notes), divided
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 small fresh or dried hot red chiles such as peperoncini or Thai, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

If using salt-packed anchovies, rinse them under cold water. With your fingers, pry them open along the back and lift out backbone to yield 2 fillets. Rinse fillets again to remove any fine bones; pat dry on paper towels. If using anchovy fillets in olive oil, lift out of jar or tin, leaving oil behind (no need to rinse oil-packed fillets). Finely chop 6 fillets; set aside. Cut remaining 6 fillets into 4 or 5 pieces each; set aside. 

In an 8-qt. pot, bring 5 qts. well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender to the bite, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put olive oil, garlic, finely chopped anchovies, and chiles in a deep 12-in. frying pan (with at least 2-in. sides) or wide pot and cook over low heat, stirring, until anchovies dissolve. Stir in parsley and remaining anchovies; turn off heat.

When pasta is almost done, set aside 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain pasta and transfer to pan of anchovy sauce. Toss quickly until all the strands are well coated. Add some reserved cooking water if pasta seems dry. Set aside 2 tbsp. bread crumbs, then add remainder to pasta and toss again.
Divide pasta among 8 warm bowls and sprinkle each serving with some reserved bread crumbs. Serve immediately.

The number of go backs that Chris has on a certain dish usually helps me rate the recipe. Chris went back for four servings of this. He really liked it.

Rating = Damn Good

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Smoked Salmon Cucumber Bites with Cilantro Lime Crema

Smoked Salmon Crostini

Therapy, she's a getting hairy....but I'm doing all the crap my therapist is telling me to do, and although I don't like it, I think that Ph.D knows what she's I do what she says. When she analyzed my stress journal she noticed that there were a few things that constantly affect my stress level, one being weighing myself in the morning, so for the past week and for the next week I am not "allowed" to weigh myself in the morning, so then we can see if this helps my anxiety level at all. I tend to think not, considering I've pretty much run for an hour to an hour and a half a day since we started this little experiment, like I've just shuffled the attention and compulsion into more running, I'm not sure that is what she meant to do. This woman must see dollar signs when she reads my anxiety journal, "cha Ching....this girl is going to be in therapy for years, book the vacation honey we can afford to go anywhere with her billings."

Anywho, such a super simple and really attractive appetizer, I made these for mothers day, but really they are perfect for any gathering and so easy to throw together. The cilantro lime crema I used was left over from the fish tacos recipe that I posted last week. So simply cut cucumber on a bias, place some smoked salmon on top put on a dollop of the crema and top with a little caviar and a chive sprig. So pretty.

PS am I the only one that finds it hard to watch Mad Men without a drink?
PPS am I the only one that also things that Air on the G String is a horrible name for a song that is often used in weddings.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

two recipes for the price of one | Mango Avocado Salsa and Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Crema

Its Wednesday, I love Wednesdays because I go to the psychologist, then I go to yoga with Angela and then we drink wine. Its therapy cubed, I've got my mental therapy, my physical therapy and then of course, my liquid therapy. Angela and I call it Wine and Yoga Wednesday, our Italian yoga instructor calls it our Detox/Retox, he's a clever one that yogi master. 

I'm a little late on my Cinco de Mayo recipes.  Woops. 

We had a great little dinner party last week to celebrate, I was in charge of the healthy recipes and Rick and Lisa were in charge of the Spanish wine. 

I made 

The salsa and the rice came from Skinny Recipes and the Fish Tacos came from Cooking Light. Links provided above.

Everything was great - although I didn't get any salsa because it disappeared in about four seconds, someone may have actually liked the bowl, I can't confirm that, though it would not surprise me. 

The fiesta lime rice, I thought it actually needed a little sushi vinegar in it, I think that would have perked it up a bit. 

The tacos were awesome, use the rub recipe that it calls for (delicious) - I couldn't find red snapper so I used mahi mahi - it was a perfect substitution.

We paired the salsa with a nice bright white from Spain and tacos with a nice light Rioja - then we had a much richer meatier Rioja after dinner. Perfect.

AM - If you are reading this - have you ever been to the Pink Door in Seattle for dinner? We are going in a few weeks - just wanted to get your thoughts on it. Thanks

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Garam Marsala Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Garam Marsala Oatmeal Cookies

I have dreams of going to India. I know its dry, dusty, crowded and I'll probably end up with volcanic shits while I am there, but I want to go. I don't know exactly what my pull is, but I'm sure it has something to do with the spices. I am in love with the aroma of Indian food. My neighbor Angela went to India in December and brought me back her grandmother-in-laws special garam marsala spice blend. I've been doing nothing more with this bag of spices other than sticking my nose in it every few days and taking a big whiff; you see, I've never cooked with garam marsala before, and I've been at a loss. That was, until the other day when NPR did a lovely little article on garam marsala in their Kitchen Window segment titled Garam Marsala - a taste worth acquiring.

This article was so well timed, as it came out the day before Angela's birthday. So, Saturday I woke up early in the morning hauled out the mixer, tubs of flour, brown sugar, baking soda, all my baking ingredients that have been waiting patiently in the pantry for me to quit my pity party already and get back to baking, and that's what I did, I got back to baking. The house for the first time in way to fucking long smelled of fresh baked cookies with a hint of Indian spice. I made the batch, kept a few for Chris and wrapped up the rest for Angela - she loved them. Chris loved them too, but he would have preferred that they were oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with garam marsala, not raisin, he thought they were a little too savory for a cookie...I have to concur - next batch will have chocolate chips in it. There will be a next batch, these were very good. 

Check out all the garam marsala recipes here:

Rating = Damn Good

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Therapy Thought Monitoring, and White Wine Risotto for Dummies

White Wine Risotto

What do you do with a $2 half bottle of Vihno Verde? Well you sure as shit don't drink it, you cook with it. But first I bring you Therapy Session #3.

It was a really good therapy session, in the sense that there were a few moments where I felt like saying "out of my comfort zone" and "not ready yet" but I think that's the point, she's getting me started, but not pushing me. This week I have to continue with the stress/anxiety journal, except this time in addition to writing down the level of stress from 1 to 10 (again 10 being "I feel super awesome) I need to write down the thoughts that accompany these numbers,l for example, like when I wake up in the morning and my stress hovers around a 4 I need to write if its because I feel like a fat cow, and I have all this work to do, and when will I have time to get to the store to get some damn groceries. Its okay if the thoughts are random, I just need to write them down, so that we can do "Thought Monitoring" which I've learned is when the therapist looks at my thoughts, analyzes them, determines if they are wrong and then tells me why they are wrong. This should be fun, you know, about as fun as stubbing your toe really. 

I shared with my therapist a little story. Last summer I was sitting outside on the deck reading a wine magazine. There was an article that a woman had written chronicling a trip she  had taken through France, the article was about food, wine and travel. One day on her trip she wrote that she woke up and for breakfast had warm croissants and paired them with a beautiful champagne. She went on to say that this was the best breakfast she can ever remember eating, and that "you just haven't lived until you've had croissants and champagne for breakfast." I remember this article because I remember saying to myself, "well that's something you will never experience, because there is no way that you would allow yourself to let alone, have a croissant, but to pair that croissant with champagne, in the morning no less, because why don't you just blow your entire caloric wad before you even leave the house." My therapist thought this was very sad, that I wouldn't allow myself, this (in her eyes) minor indulgence. This led to her tell me that at some point we would have "Operation Croissant and Champagne" and I would indeed be testing this theory of self loathing if I allowed myself this moment. But not now, because she knows Julie ain't ready to take on Operation Croissant and Champagne just yet. 

I also shared with her that I was scared to run my half marathon this weekend, because I had trained to finish it in 1:45 and I was afraid that I would be depressed if I couldn't make that time. She asked how I would feel if I didn't make it, and I didn't have an answer. 


I just got back from my race, and I finished in 1:45:11, so technically I didn't make my time, running a 1:45 means doing it in that time or under, not 11 seconds over. But you know what, after being a little peeved at first, I just don't give a shit, because I had a great time with family and friends that day. I had cheerleaders and an amazing pink sign with my name on it created by Brenna, Anna and Steve, and I had a fabulous time going out to lunch with them after the race. That was what that day was about, not 11 seconds....not 11 seconds. That 11 seconds can kiss my sweaty, salty ass.

My therapist asked if I thought I was a good runner. And I can't believe after 15 years of running I've never told myself that I was good at it. Well, today, I came in 145th out of 1,000. Today I am a good runner. 

And here is the recipe - it literally is from the "For Dummies" book, and it was good, its a really good base for a generic risotto, but with all the fresh herbs and peas and asparagus popping up now, I'd play with the recipe a bit, I'd make a spring pea and mint version, or maybe a lemon thyme version or an asparagus version, don't just stick to this carrot celery version, it needs something more.
Here is a link to the recipe.
Rating = Good, will be Damn Good with a little doctoring.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lemon Mint Vinaigrette

Lemon Mint Vinaigrette

Really nothing more to post than an amazing dressing recipe. When I was in New Orleans a couple weeks ago I had a great arugala, watermelon, strawberry salad with mint vinaigrette at Emeril's restaurant NOLA. It was amazing and I knew I had to recreate it as soon as I got back. We were having dinner at a friends house on Friday and I offered to bring the salad just so I could make this. I looked around the internet and found a recipe that seemed similar to the one that I had  - I think I got it from Eating Well or Cooking Light, I can't remember, but here goes.

Mint Vinaigrette
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
This makes enough for a very large salad and then you will still have some left over. I am going to make this for Mother's Day brunch in a few weeks - its such a great refreshing salad and dressing. Dress up the salad with slivered almonds and goat cheese if you want to beef it up a little on the protein side. 

Please let me know if you make this and if you like it, especially you NanaScilla.

Rating = Damn Good

Friday, April 22, 2011

Therapy, Crying in Public, Angry Shavasna | Skinny Creamy Spinach Dip

Skinny Creamy Spinach Dip

I don't cry much, at all in fact, most of my friends can probably count the number of times they have seen me cry on one finger, or less. I think Chris and I were together for four years before he saw me shed a tear. I don't know why I am so averse to crying, but it probably has something to do with growing up with a Nana who who belittled crying, stating every time that I cried "that only babies cried, and I was no longer a baby, therefore crying was not acceptable." There was a lot of "I'll give you something to cry about" statements when the threat of tears showed on my face. I guess it made an impression...

One of my main fears of therapy is that in one of the sessions I will cry. I am petrified of this. Crying when you are alone in your car is one thing, but crying in front of someone else, someone who themselves is not crying scares the shit out of me. Handicapping vulernablility is the only way that I can describe it. In today's New York times there was a great opinion blog post about crying in public, titled Look at Me, I'm Crying. I absolutely love this blog post, it makes me think that at some point, I'll be able to cry without personal stigma. Read it, its a great post, especially when she comparing crying in public to tripping and falling in public.  Great.

I went back to therapy this week, it was an okay session, most of it was setting up my background information with questions like "have I ever been hospitalized for a mental illness, suicide attempt, etc, has anyone in my family had mental issues, what do I think my strengths and weaknesses are, etc." Apparently when insurance pays for your therapy they do a thorough background check on you first.

I was given two assignments this week. Each day I need to perform a Progressive Muscle Relaxation series, (there are literally tons of videos on this on YouTube if you are interested) at least once, preferably two times a day. And I also need to keep an anxiety/stress journal. Each morning, afternoon and night I need to write down what my anxiety/stress level is on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being the best score (like the Olympics). I asked if I needed to write down what was altering my stress levels and was told that that would come later, we aren't at that point yet (well, phew, because I am not ready to face the things that alter my stress levels just yet, thank you very much). 

I go back to the doctor next Friday, I'll be interested to see what my anxiety/stress journal shows, and also to see if I can get a handle on how to do this progressive muscle relaxation thing the right way.

Okay, now onto the recipe.

I love spinach dip. Creamy spinach dip, but let's be honest its strappy dress season and no one needs to be knocked in the face with my arm waddle, so here is a low fat version that I got from Gina's Skinny Recipes. The recipe as it is is 2 weight watchers points (the old points) for 1/4 of a cup. Here is a link to her blog, and also her recipe below.

Servings: 8 • Serving Size: 1/4 cup • Old Points: 2 pts • Points+: 2 pts
Calories: 79.4 • Fat: 6.2 g • Carb: 3.3 g • Fiber: 0.9 g • Protein: 3.2 g
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 5 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup scallion, chopped
  • fresh pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Can be made one day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Makes about 2 cups. 

Now, I have to be honest, I left out the raw garlic because it does a number on my stomach, and with the IBS I don't need to go pissing of my insides anymore than I already have. When I tried the recipe as is, I thought that it had way too much mayonnaise in it, so I added another 1/4 cup of sour cream, this helped, but I still thought it was a little bland so I added some seasoning that I had. That helped, but I still have to be honest, I still think that 5 tbsp of may is too much, I think you can get away with increasing the sour cream and reducing the mayo to 3 tbsp. I'm not sure what that will do to the points value, but it can't alter it too much. I'm bringing the dip to a friends house tonight with a fresh veggie platter, I'll see what the crowd thinks tonight, maybe they won't have any issues with it.

Rating = Good

Shit, I almost forgot the angry shavasna part. On Wednesday I went to my community yoga class that I just love love love, and I haven't been able to go in almost a month due to traveling. It was an awesome, ass kickingly hard class and at the end I was just spent, and was so glad that I could just lie back and enjoy my shavasna with my lavendar eye pillow and the soft music. Just as I was settling into it, the bitch in front of me...her f'ing cell phone starts ringing. Are you serious, you brought your cell phone into class with you. You are an asshole. I just spent an hour and a half trying to find inner peace and now all I can think of doing is donkey punching you because you are a terrible, horrible, person. Thanks. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

I'm leaving on a jet plane

If any of this crap going on in my body is attributed to SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, I'm about to go all ape shit on it. I'm leaving on a jet plane, first for Florida, and then for the Big Easy. Nothing but warmth and sunshine in front of me. I'll try to blog from the road, I just don't know how feasible that will be. But I'll try.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Not So Happy Pills AND | Fruit and Nut Tabbouleh

Fruit and Nut Tabouli
I had my yearly physical on Monday. I was glad that the appointment was this week as I wanted to let my PCP know that I had started therapy and also that I had been dealing with a rather bad stomach ache for the past few weeks. Its not a constant ache, but one that seems to come and go, but gets worse after I eat (sometimes while I'm eating) along with this ache are some serious noises in my belly, the kind of growling swirling noises that make people look at you in meetings, like their wondering if you you're going to have to excuse yourself to go shit your pants.  So I explained the stomach issues, the stress issues, the I'm in therapy issues and the doctor along with a battery of questions asked if I was "happy". I had to be honest with her and reply "I've been happier." 

After my physical she asked if I would talk with her in her office. Dum, dum, dum. So, I took of my johnnie, put on my street clothes and walked into her office and shut the door behind me. First, she wanted to let me know that my stomach issues were most likely caused by stress induced Irritable Bowel Syndrome, great, so not only is my throat filled with polyps, my head is going in a hundred different directions, now my colon has decided to join the party and get pissed off too. I picture my colon as an angry old man with salt and pepper hair sprouting from his ears, clenched fists and a horrible screwed up face like he just walked into someone elses fart. 

It was after the IBS conversation that she asked me if I wanted a prescription for an antidepressant/anti anxiety medicine. 

I was crushed. 

I do not want to be looked at as the type of person who needs the help of pharmaceuticals to be happy, I want to be happy on my own, on the inside, without help. I explained to her that I have a stigma when it comes to drugs, my father was not part of my life because he was addicted to drugs, heroin to be exact, and he's dead because he couldn't stop, because the drugs and the alcohol killed him. Its too close to me. I've always prided myself on being the strong one, the one who didn't need the things that other people needed to get by, I'm the girl who wouldn't take the Vicodin that my doctor prescribed when I broke my pelvis, I didn't need it.

I refused the prescription, and walked out of the doctors appointment with what felt like the scarlet letter of depression tattooed on my face, like everyone could clearly see now that I needed help.

It just so happened that I had a nice calming bikini wax scheduled right after this  appointment, lovely. There's nothing like the first bikini wax after a long cold winter, and yes, I'm being facetious. As I disrobed from the waste down and hoped up on the waxing table, placed the soles of my feet together, I realized that the position that one gets in for a bikini wax is quiet similar to the yoga pose Baddha Konasana - see below.

So, basically you do this, but then lay down on your back. So, I laid back, in my modified yoga pose and said to myself, "I can relax, I can deal with stress, watch me, I'll be the best yogic bikini waxer ever", so I closed my eyes and felt no pain. Which is no easy feat as the woman who was doing my bikini wax clearly had nothing to do for the rest of the day, and took her sweet time, going over spots that I swear she had gone over 2 or 3 times before. At the end she commented to me that I never flinched or said a word, or seemed to feel any discomfort at all. No, no I didn't, because I don't need no stinking pills.

We're had dinner at a friends house Saturday, a married couple who are also in therapy, although they go for couples therapy. I think it's funny that Chris will be the only one at dinner not in therapy, its like he's the one thats weird.

I'm made a Mediterranean grilled vegetable appetizer platter to bring over and I thought that this would go perfectly with the roasted vegetables and hummus. This recipe comes from the Vegetable Planet Cookbook that I bought last summer, which has just been waiting patiently for me to give it some lovin'.

Dried Fruit and Nut Tabbouleh
1 cup bulgar wheat
2 1/2 cups hot water
2 seedless oranges peeled, segmented and chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsely
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 cucumber peeled seeded and diced
1/2 cup onion finely diced
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 clove minced
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup currants
1/4 golden raisins
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Combine the bulgar and the boiling water and cover for 20 minutes, strain through a fine mesh strainer after and put in a large bowl. Add the orange segments.

2. Combine the rest of the ingredients into the bulgar and oranges, mix to combine. Enjoy warm or cold....its great either way.

Rating = Good

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

First things First....and Amazing Roasted Asparagus (really amazing)

The Best Roasted Asparagus

I will start this post, the first of my recovery and rejuvenation journey with a confession; on one of my really, really bad days "inside", I actually Googled "How to be Happy". Really Julie, like it's that easy, why hadn't I thought of this sooner, I'll just find the answers to my problems on the internet.

Place that jewel of higher intelligent thinking up with self diagnosis for physical medical conditions including vaginal pain and swelling of the tongue, answering spam emails about winning a lottery in Bangladesh, and drunk texting your boss after attending the Wine Riot (that one actually happened, thank God my boss loves me and loves wine too or that could have been a disaster.)

So here I am...learning how to be Happy. Chapter 1.

I don't have much to write today as this meeting, was our first face to face meeting, and was similar to 8 minute dating, in the I like you, you like me, I think we can work together kind of way. I spewed what my major issue are and she told me how she works with people and did that sound good, etc. Aparentley I'm really good with the psychology language because I was using the right words to describe what was happening with me, including the "what if" mentality and "catastrophic thinking". I learned that people with cognitive behavioral disorders, read: me, have issues with Behaviors, Thoughts and Feeling - negative feelings leading to negative behaviors leading to negative thoughts: BINGO, DING DING DING, WE HAVE A WINNER!

I also learned that what I have was caused by the upside down U stress curve, basically if you take the letter U and make a Bell's curve out of it (turn it upside down) and look at it as a line for stress, its a good thing when your stress level is on the right hand side of the U, meaning that it is a positive force in your life, pushing you to do better, be more alert, etc. What happens with people like me is a force of some sort has pushed our stress level over the top of the upside down U - we're on a virtusal slip and slide down the other side of the U, causing cognitive issues, changing your life, behavior, etc - this is what has happened to me. I need to get on the other side of the U. I think that's going to be a long slow haul, but I've got my hiking boots on and I'm going to kick the shit out of that upside down U - at some point.

One nugget of info she gave me was a beautiful way of putting what can happen to the outlook of people who are on the other side of the U. She said we tend to look at the world through "shit colored glasses." People, is this my kind of therapist or what, she swore in our very first meeting. I love her.

Sooooooo, how bout that asparagus?
Really I'm not shitting you when I say that this is by far the best way to make asparagus. I even made a little drizzling sauce from scratch, like without a recipe, what what.

Ok, so asparagus put it on a lined baking sheet and either drizzle with olive oil or spray with olive oil spray (that's what I did) sprinkle with salt and pepper and then grate some Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake in a 450 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus. You can eat just like this out of the oven or you can hanker a try at this little sauce type thing I made in which I took molasses, balsamic vinegar a little bit of water and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and cooked it down in a sauce pot over low heat until it thickened a little. This sauce was awesome, and I dare say it was even better the next day when I drizzled it over fresh sliced strawberries.

Therapy = Good
Food = Damn Good

Saturday, March 26, 2011

And away we go….tofu and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Tofu Spinach Shells

I got into the kitchen the other day with the same vigor and enthusiasm that I used to have, back when I wasn't batshit crazy. It felt good; the washing, the chopping, the weight of the knife in my hand as I gave the vegetables the business side of things. I haven't wanted to cook in so long, and the smell of something home made filled the house with that warm cozy lived in essence. This activity was spurned on by the tremendous outpouring of love, encouragement and "at a way girl" that came from everyone who commented or emailed or just listened to me one on one. I cannot thank you enough, I repeat, and I mean it, I cannot thank you enough for all being part of my life and for caring. Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve such amazing people in my life, I honestly still haven't figured that out, but I'll take it, that's for damn sure. 

Since I posted last week about my troubles and my decision to seek help and start therapy I've noticed a real sort of pick me up in my mood, sort of like the day that you are going to go to the hairdresser and get all your hair cut off, you will inevitably have the best God damn hair day of your life, just to fuck with you. But, I'm no fool, I know that this increased state of happiness has an expiration date if I don't get help, so the countdown is on, just a few more days. I will have to make something extra special fancy for that post…

So, Borders, poor sad Borders is closing some of its stores and yes, my store is one of the ones that will be vacated, so everything is on sale. Now, I usually turn my nose up at the recipe books with 1,001 anywhere in the title, purely because anything with 1,001 things in it clearly has not been vetted enough, but it was on sale so I thought what the heck and went ahead and bought a book titled 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes: Delicious, easy to make, healthy meals for anyone.

My first foray into this 1,001 recipe odyssey was this recipe, chosen purely because I had a block of tofu in the refrigerator threatening to walk away on its own if I didn't do something with it soon. And my suspicions were correct, these recipes will offer you the base for a great recipe, but tweaking will be needed to make them really good. I made this recipe according to the instructions and Chris and I both decided that the recipe would have been much better had the stuffing mixture been blended in a food processor instead of being left chunky, so - if you make this recipe, do as you want, but we both thought that it needed to be processed to make the recipe really good.

Shells Stuffed with Spinach and Tofu

1 1/2 cups chopped onions
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 package (10 ounces) baby spinach
3/4 cups finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 package (14 oz size) firm tofu finely chopped
1 1/2 cups (6oz) fat free mozzarella cheese (I used low fat or part skim)
2 tbsp grated fat free Parmesan cheese (I used regular)
20 jumbo pasta shells (6oz) cooked, warm
2 cups tomato sauce (I made sauce from scratch with diced tomato, tomato paste, garlic and onion)

1. Sautee onions and garlic in a lightly greased skillet until transparant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add spinach, parsley and basil and cook, covered, over medium heat until spinach is wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly; stir in tofu and cheeses.

2. Stuff each shell with about 3 tbsp cheese mixture. Arrange shells in baking pan and spoon tomato sauce over. Bake 350 degrees, loosely covered, until hot 20 to 25 minutes.

Rating = Meh, I really think this could be much better if everything was processed and perhaps fresh basil was used, throw in some sun dried tomatoes…you get the picture, I'd make it again, I's just tweak it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Cleaning...this blog going forward, at least for a bit

This blog going forward, for now, will be twofold. You may have noticed over the past months that I haven't been blogging that much, there are a myriad of reasons why this is, including an increased travel schedule and helping Chris with his new business, but mostly its because I just haven't been that into cooking and or writing. If you have been reading this blog for a bit of time, you might remember an entry mentioning the fact that I had been diagnosed with vocal chord polyps, a side effect of an increased stress level. At the point that I was diagnosed I knew that my stress level had gotten to a stealth like point within my body, it was attacking me and I didn't know how to stop it. I tried a number of things to try and alleviate the stress, I downloaded meditation podcasts, started doing yoga again everyweek and began listening to meditation and chanting music in the morning while I got ready for work. None of this helped, in fact, I've just been getting worse the stress has grown and evolved into a part of me, a second voice, talking in my head all day, and its no longer just about the stress of work, or Chris' business, the only way I can describe it is, it's like the stress opened up a wound inside of me, a wound that has always been there, maybe I always knew it was there, maybe I ignored it, maybe I was unaware, but whatever the case, I've become incapable of being "okay". I wake up every morning wrestling with the thoughts of what I did wrong the day before, all the things that could I could have done better. I drag myself out of bed, look in the mirror and belittle myself for the not taking better care of myself, for having had that second glass of wine, "why couldn't I have had just one?" and don't even get me started with the self loathing that happens every morning when I get on the scale, and yes, I get on the scale every morning no matter what - and that inevitably causes a heated inner dialogue about how much easier and better life would be if I wasn't such a fat fuck. There are days when I actually think I can feel my body expanding into the fat suite that I wear subconsciously all the time. And sometimes, when I am alone, my chest, my heart, it just aches and I cry, because I just want to be happy. I just want to be able to enjoy this life I have worked so fucking hard to create. I want to wake up and not have to tell Chris that I am "having a hard day, inside."

This, what you have just read, is so very hard for me to write, please know this, but, what was even harder was admitting that I needed help, that I cannot conquer this alone. So, I have indeed reached out to a therapist who specializes in stress and anxiety disorders, I start therapy on 3/30. I'm anxious, nervous, excited and scared, but most of all I'm relieved.

It is my hope that I will see her regularly, and then blog about my experience and my journey; being as honest and forward as I can be. All the while, staying true to form within this blog, meaning, this blog will still be about food; well, me and food. Getting back into the kitchen, getting back to cooking, something that I love to do is - is far overdue. I love this blog, I've strayed from her, from me, from everything for long enough. 

So, here I am, at the beginning of this journey, follow it if you want, I promise the recipes at least will be good.